Sunday, April 27, 2008

Internal turmoil...

How McCain Lost in Pennsylvania - New York Times Pennsylvania, 27 percent of Republican primary voters didn't just tell pollsters they would defect from their party's standard-bearer; they went to the polls, gas prices be damned, to vote against Mr. McCain. Though ignored by every channel I surfed, there actually was a G.O.P. primary on Tuesday, open only to registered Republicans. And while it was superfluous in determining that party's nominee, 220,000 Pennsylvania Republicans (out of their total turnout of 807,000) were moved to cast ballots for Mike Huckabee or, more numerously, Ron Paul. That's more voters than the margin (215,000) that separated Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.

For all the noise about democrats not supporting each other, the news has taken little notice of the republicans who aren't supporting McCain. Despite the noise from the press, I doubt dems will not support the ticket even if their candidate isn't on top... However, I don't think that's true of republicans: especially the "values voters"

Whoever gets the democratic nomination will win ... even if its Hillary (whom most conservatives hate - in a visceral sense)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dogmatism - there is a good kind...

I seem to get into a recurring argument with another blogger regarding my distain for religion -- and 'faith' in particular. It seems this person considers my advocation of reason and logical deduction to simply be another form of dogmatism.

Maybe it is...

But there's a simply fact that I think such people overlook: there are good beliefs (dogmas?), and bad ones. Good beliefs have a demonstrable connection to the world we live in... they attempt to explain and/or model reality in a useful fashion that - for all we can tell - appears to reflect external reality. From such deductions we can usually plan our interactions with the world in a logical way: i.e. - we can reason that walking off a cliff is not going to end well; we can use our insights into fluids, gravity, friction and energy to build an airplane. We can also use the process to deduce behaviors that will make us happy (e.g. - forming congenial bonds with one another is more likely to lead to 'happiness' than starting a feud).

Bad beliefs on the other hand aren't grounded in demonstrable reality. They may appear to serve a useful purpose - and that in itself isn't "bad" for society or the individual. For instance, believing in Santa Claus doesn't necessarily harm children. However, a life-long belief in Santa is considered to be abnormal behavior. Why? It isn't harmful right?

Such a belief is not supported by evidence and isn't "rational" given what we know about the universe we inhabit. Sustaining such a belief indicates that the belief holder really doesn't have a grasp on the mapping between what he observes (day-to-day) and what is fanciful (i.e. - imagined and maybe pleasant, but not supported by observation or logical deduction). What does that mean? It means he is failing to apply the experience and input from his life and formulate it in a consistent way. None of us are have perfectly consistent world views. But the hallmark of a rational/sane person is that he tries to reconcile the two - using (again) reason and evidence based logic. Those who don't do this are most often labeled "insane".

Anyway, if this Santa-believing-behavior exhibits itself not only in a 'self-delusional' way -- but informs the persons public interaction we quickly discount this person from positions of authority in our society: e.g. - Imagine electing someone to public office who thought Elvis is alive and well...

Hence we arrive at the crux of my problem with religion -- it not only propagates "bad" ideas, it does so in a way that informs public policy and enters our public debate. That's fine, but when you try to call people who have such ideas 'irrational' or simply 'stupid' you get your hand slapped. Somehow bad ideas that have been around for a long while under the banner of "faith" have become protected. Sam Harris put it better than I:
Now, it just so happens that religion has more than its fair share of bad ideas. And it remains the only system of thought, where the process of maintaining bad ideas in perpetual immunity from criticism is considered a sacred act. This is the act of faith. And I remain convinced that religious faith is one of the most perverse misuses of intelligence we have ever devised. So we will, inevitably, continue to criticize religious thinking.
This is the crux of my argument: religion has more than it share of bad ideas and we should openly criticize them -- esp when they are informing public policy.

Lets recount a few of these bad ideas:

1- Condom use is a sin - even in sub-Saharan Africa where HIV is rampant.
2- The Jews have a god-given right to a patch of land in the middle-east.
3- A ball of 150 or so undifferentiated cells in a petri dish is a Human being and its interests must be protected.
4- The Earth is about 6000 years old and god created all of the species that now inhabit it.
5- Slavery is ordained by god.
6- Drugs (certain ones) are evil and must be banned.

All these religiously motivated ideas impact each of us to a degree: some more than others. None of them are good ideas. None of them are supported by ANY evidence what-so-ever. Yet many many people in our society (and elsewhere) use these "facts" to inform their decisions -- including a LARGE percentage of our elected leaders.

In rebuttal some say that religion and faith can also be used to refute these very positions. That is true: when you start with arbitrary belief you can bend it to whatever purpose you desire. Besides that being the problem, there is a simpler way: a straightforward analysis (where you imagine a loved one or family member in the slaves shoes) yields the conclusion that slavery is bad. Of course, some proffer other irrational and unsubstantiated beliefs (like black people are not really people) to justify their position... but again, asking for evidence and reasons for a conclusion is always the answer to such arguments.

It boils down to demanding intellectual honesty from people. How can you argue with that?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Life without Sharia...

The Associated Press: Basra's `dark ages' lifting as hard-line grip weakens
Basra's `dark ages' lifting as hard-line grip weakens By SAMEER N. YACOUB – 2 hours ago BAGHDAD (AP) — CD shops sell love songs again. Some women emerge from their homes without veils, and alcohol sellers are coming out of hiding in the southern city of Basra — where religious vigilantes have long enforced strict Islamic codes. The changes in recent weeks mark a surprising show of government sway — at least for now — after an Iraqi-led military crackdown that was plagued by desertions, ragged planning and ended in a virtual stalemate with Shiite militias in Iraq's second-largest city. But it's unclear whether the new tone in parts of Basra represents a permanent tilt toward the Iraqi government or just a temporary retreat of Shiite hard-liners challenging the current Baghdad leadership.

A good sign ... one that I hope will stick.

Like any group of thungs, the militia's make up only a very small percentage of the populace. But, of course, with weapons and training (from Iran) they can intimidate and oppress a much larger population.

Something will eventually have to be done about them... hopefully, not by us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Warren Jeffs and the FLDS

Some excerpts from Carolyn Jessop's FLDS memoir... Carolyn was born in a polygamist camp in Northern AZ... where she was married-off to a 50 year old when she was 18... and she was one of the lucky ones.

While obviously extreme, this is why people shouldn't foist ANY religion on children. Imagine indocrinating boys in elementry school on how to treat women (as done below) ...
clipped from

Jeffs, who is currently in prison for arranging the marriage of an underage girl, exercised extraordinary control over the community even while Uncle Rulon was still the nominal prophet, and eventually became the prophet himself, when Rulon died in 2003.

Page 195: Some of Carolyn's stepdaughters were married to Jeffs, and she feared his temper. She writes: "One day he brought one of his wives into the [school] auditorium, which was packed with boys. Annette had a long braid that fell past her knees. Warren grabbed the braid and twisted and twisted it until she was on her knees and he was ripping hair from her head. He told the boys that this was how obedient their wives had to be to them."

Pages 216, 223, 231, and 234: As Rulon's deputy, Jeffs banned the color red; movies, television, and the Internet ("except for business purposes"); clothing with "large prints" or plaid; immunizations; and sex not for procreation.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The worst of crimes...

Not only did they protect pedophiles, the church threatened anyone who exposed the secret with excommunications. Remembering these are believers, it means you have an organization threatening HELL to those who try to PROTECT children.

Can you even imagine a more evil organization?

Religion IS evil...

clipped from
(CBS) For decades, priests in this country abused children in parish after parish while their superiors covered it all up. Now it turns out the orders for this cover up were written in Rome at the highest levels of the Vatican.
The document, once "stored in the secret archives" of the Vatican, focuses on crimes initiated as part of the confessional relationship and what it calls the "worst crime": sexual assault committed by a priest" or "attempted by him with youths of either sex or with brute animals."
Bishops are instructed to pursue these cases "in the most secretive way...restrained by a perpetual silence...and everyone {including the alleged victim) to observe the strictest secret, which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office...under the penalty of excommunication."

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Waste on drugs

The federal war on drugs has been a disaster from so many perspectives it boggles the mind.

Can you think of a better way to spend $500 BILLION? Not to mention filling our jails (more than 70% of people in jail are there on drug related offenses - most of them minor)...

Give the whole article a read... it's well worth it.
All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion
to fight drugs - with very little to show for it. Cocaine is now as
cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used.
Methamphetamine, barely a presence in 1993, is now used by 1.5
million Americans and may be more addictive than crack. We have
nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drug crimes - a twelvefold
increase since 1980 - with no discernible effect on the drug
traffic. Virtually the only success the government can claim is the
decline in the number of Americans who smoke marijuana - and even
on that count, it is not clear that federal prevention programs are
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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Imperial Idiot...

Memo: Laws Didn't Apply to Interrogators -
The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

How in the world can the American people tolerate this behavior? It goes without saying that a chief executive doesn't get to pick and choose the laws he wishes to obey...

Didn't we impeach a president for ordering that laws be broken? Are people that afraid of terrorists that they don't even protest when a crumb like Bush inaugurates himself King and does as he pleases?

I don't care if there are only 2 days left in his presidency - congress must take action...

Of course it won't, so they are all culpable.

After a rebellion by military lawyers, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 suspended a list of aggressive techniques he had approved, the most extreme of which were used on a single detainee at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Largely because of Yoo's memo, however, a Pentagon working group in April 2003 endorsed the continued use of extremely aggressive tactics. The top lawyers for each military service, who were largely excluded from the group, did not receive a final copy of Yoo's March memo and did not know about the group's final report for more than a year, officials said.

Thomas J. Romig, who was then the Army's judge advocate general, said yesterday after reading the memo that it appears to argue there are no rules in a time of war, a concept Romig found "downright offensive."

At least the military JAGs tried to do their jobs...

What an utter disgrace for a nation that is supposed to be the example of the rule of law. Just scare a few people and all of that is out the window. We have become a truly pathetic people if we tolerate this behavior while enthralled with American Idol and iPods.