June 30, 2004

In a Nutshell

from - smijer

I hope Morat won't mind me quoting him liberally:

More seriously, it's not just Eugene here. He's not an isolated incident of fear overriding common sense or good judgment. One could point to Dennis Miller or Snitchens, for one, and I'm sure each of us knows at least on person who came partially unhinged after 9/11.

And it's nothing new. Benjamin Franklin (I'm sure you've heard of him) warned of those like Volokh: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

They're afraid, and George Bush is cynically fanning their fear, because he knows that the more scared they are, the more they're willing to give up.

- Skeptical Notion

What can I add to that?

Posted by smijer at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

Ralph Reed

from - smijer

It's because the Devil goes after the people with the most effective ministries*...

Once again proving: the moral majority is neither.

Hat tip: Atrios.

* Actual rationale presented by actual preacher

Posted by smijer at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2004

Thought for the Day

from - smijer

Through light shed on the mental process, Bacon wished to reform reasoning across all the branches of learning. Beware, he said, of the idols of the mind, the fallacies into which undisciplined thinkers most easily fall. They are the real distorting prisms of human nature. Among them, idols of the tribe assume more order than exists in chaotic nature; those of the imprisoning cave, the idiosyncrasies of individual belief in nonexistent things; and of the theater, unquestioning acceptance of philosophical beliefs and misleading demonstrations. Stay clear of these idols, he urged, observe the world around you as it truly is, and reflect on the best means of transmitting reality as you have experienced it; put into it every fiber of your being.
- Consilience, Edward O. Wilson
Posted by smijer at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2004

Incredibly Stupid

from - smijer

I've seen this on the back of actual cars, driven by actual humanoid individuals in my city. Three or four times.


I would not have thought this kind of bigotry was still so widespread in the area. Sure, I know that everybody thinks that it is "wrong" for gay people to do what straight people do with the people they were born to do it with --- because God told them so (via a man in a fancy suit holding a collection of ancient literature in his hand as reference). But I thought that - at least now, we were a little too genteel a people to be putting it on the backs of our cadillacs. If I put something like this for sale on Cafe Press, do you think people would put these on their bumpers?


Posted by smijer at 12:54 PM | Comments (1)

Why am I shocked?

from - smijer

Bush's people do something smart.

I shouldn't have to feel suprised by that.

Posted by smijer at 10:48 AM | Comments (11)

June 27, 2004

Sunday Sermon

from - smijer

When I saw the title of this editorial, my first reaction was, "not around here, it hasn't".

The power of faith enjoys a very high esteem in these parts ("power" is one of those value-laden words that project the image of faith as a dynamic and wonderful, well... "power". In fact, it is very powerful - when it comes to maintaining belief in spite of evidence. Apart from that, it is good for bolstering the image and career of church leaders, and little else).

Anyway, today's sermon is about being overly optimistic. Our editorialist reasons thus:

There is a well-established negative correlation between level of education and religiosity. As we progress as a society and become more educated, it is only natural that we will become less religious. It is not balance at work, it is evolution.

What the editorialist fails to notice is that this isn't some new trend. In fact it always has been that the less well educated are more prone to faith-based belief systems than those more well educated - and faithful cultures are not inclined to become less faithful as they become more educated. The United States is a prime example. If anything, the populace is more religious now than it has ever been before, despite being better educated. So what to make of the editorialists correlation between education and rationality? I haven't done a scientific study on it, but here is my hunch:

I think it has to do with the fact that the best educated in society are also the discoverers: the ones pushing the boundaries of human knowledge. They know first-hand the qualitative difference between things learned by discovery and things handed down from a previous generation that were not so much learned as invented. They have experienced discovery, and they have experienced the difference between an idea that is subject to confirmation through observation and one that cannot pass such a test.

To the average Joe, all knowledge comes handed down to us, and must be taken on something like faith: faith that our wizards - be they scientists, priests, or the prophets of ancient times - have or had something we do not. We don't have the first hand experience of seeing ideas tested and tried, and of only accepting and passing on the ones that stand up to the trials. We have experience of taking the ideas that have already been tested and tried (in the productive fields of science), or that have already been canonized (in the non-productive fields of religion), and accepting them on face value. Unless we put ourselves in the shoes of the discoverers (and of the charlatans) and see how human knowledge truly is advanced, we are doomed to repeat our history. To pretend that our unthinking path will take us to reason by a natural evolution is to misunderstand human nature.

Posted by smijer at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2004

Get involved

from - smijer

Looks like they are having Sunday School over at the Church of Critical Thinking. I fervently wish I could send my two youngsters (step-children, as it were) off for a week or two of fun, camping, stargazing, and classes in critical thinking. Unfortunately, the price is simply too steep, and I am the only person in the family who so strongly values critical thinking. Instead, they will get to spend a weekend or two falling backward at the behest of "The Holy Spirit", who is liable also to make them speak "in tongues", and get them otherwise worked up into a frenzy of any-thing-but-critical thinking. Such is fate.

Posted by smijer at 04:28 PM | Comments (3)


from - smijer

In a world gone crazy, I can't talk about Iraq. I can't talk about the "war on terrah", a president who is above the rule of law, an ethic where war crimes are acceptable if we feel strongly enough about our needs and rights to win a war, in a time when Republic is being subverted in favor of Empire, covered by falsehoods to lull the masses. When I first started blogging, it was all a simple thing - did Bush do the right thing for the right reasons and with enough transparency, and will he do what is necessary to clean up the mess he made. I could talk about that. After Abu Ghraib, after beheadings, after price-fixing, after scandal, after torture memos, after paradigms, after cover ups, after cover-ups... it's just too much to digest, consider, and reflect on in a public outlet (even such a small one as this).

On the other hand, Jeanne at Body and Soul continues to takle these issues. One at a time, with the expected disgust, but with a grim determination, she airs them out. I just caught up with her posts for this week. Read about the new Iraq's new prelate and the disconnect between what Iraqis in Iraq have to say and what our Glorious Emperor's minions tell us about the recent strikes in Fallujah.

Posted by smijer at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2004

Crossover Republicans

from - smijer


Iacocca switches over to endorse Kerry. Four years ago, he campaigned for Bush.

Reagan brought us Reagan Democrats. W brought us any-body-but-Bush Republicans.

Posted by smijer at 10:07 AM | Comments (4)

June 24, 2004


from - smijer

They have permalinks now. For instance Not that it matters. Just thought I'd mention. Also, they are no longer that butt-ugly shade of red.

Temporary Update: I am also working on adding a plug-in to make comment links open in a new window... for now, it is making the comments go away. This should be a temporary bug... all comments should be back shortly.

Final update: Whew... its all working again, and comment links open in new window, where they have hope of being read. It's always been a thorn in my side that comment links opened in the comment window, which is not resizable, and doesn't accomodate anything but Movable Type comments with any grace. Also, enjoy the beautiful new lavendar color of comment links.

Posted by smijer at 07:49 PM | Comments (2)

Thought for the Day

from - smijer

"The skeptic does not mean he who doubts, but he who investigates or researches, as opposed to he who asserts and thinks that he has found."
- Miguel de Unamuno

(thanks to Rationalists of East Tennessee, who will likely be the source of more than one future thought for the day.)

Posted by smijer at 09:57 AM | Comments (1)

June 23, 2004

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Geneva Conventions

from - smijer


When Atrios said that there is more than a "whiff of bullshit" about the recent Bush document relsease on interrogation techniques, I'm sure he is right.

Nevertheless, Bush's selectively released documents still finger himself and Rumsfeld. Reckon what's in the part they buried?

Rumsfeld's Nov. 27, 2002, memo approved several methods which apparently would violate Geneva Convention rules, including:

Putting detainees in "stress positions," such as standing, for up to four hours.

Removing prisoners' clothes.

Intimidating detainees with dogs.

Interrogating prisoners for 20 hours at a time.

Forcing prisoners to wear hoods during interrogations and transportation.

Shaving detainees' heads and beards.

Using "mild, non-injurious physical contact," such as poking.

Prisoners at Abu Ghraib were interrogated for as long as 20 hours at a time, kept hooded and naked, intimidated with dogs and forcibly shaved. Bush and other administration officials have said other treatment at the Iraqi prison, such as forcing prisoners to perform sex acts, beating them and piling them in a naked human pyramid, were unquestionably illegal.

Less than two months later, on Jan. 15, 2003, Rumsfeld rescinded approval for those methods without saying why. He appointed a Pentagon panel to recommend proper interrogation methods.

That panel reported to Rumsfeld in April 2003, and its recommendations included prohibiting the removal of clothes, which it said could be considered inhumane treatment under international law. Rumsfeld issued a new set of approved interrogation methods later that month, disallowing nakedness and requiring approval for four techniques: use of rewards or removal of privileges; verbally attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee; alternating friendly and unfriendly interrogators in a "good cop, bad cop" method; and isolation.

Bush had agreed in February 2002 that al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were not protected by the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war because they violated the laws of war themselves.

Bush's previously secret Feb. 7, 2002, order also agrees with Justice and Pentagon lawyers that a president can ignore U.S. law and treaties.

"I accept the legal conclusion of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice that I have the authority to suspend Geneva (conventions) as between the United States and Afghanistan," Bush wrote. "I reserve the right to exercise this authority in this or future conflicts."

Source: ABC News
Photo source: The Olympian

Posted by smijer at 01:45 PM | Comments (7)

June 22, 2004


from - smijer

She saw the Janjaweed round up all the villagers, including her husband and his three young brothers: Moussa, 8, Mochtar, 6, and Muhammad, 4. "Even the boys," she remembers. "They tied their hands like this" - she motioned with her arms in front of her - "and then forced them to lie on the ground." Then, she says, the males were all shot to she says, the males were all shot to death, while women were taken away to be raped.
- source

It's happening now. We should be paying attention. If the media is too busy writing the gossip pages to notice, then we need to quit buying their product until they start noticing.

Posted by smijer at 08:01 AM | Comments (13)

June 21, 2004

Well, kids? Are you ready?

from - smijer

"We are heading to orbit sooner than you think," he said. "We do not intend to stay in low-earth orbit for decades. The next 25 years will be a wild ride. ... One that history will note was done for the benefit of everyone."

- Paul Allen, here.

Posted by smijer at 10:18 AM | Comments (3)

June 20, 2004

Test of Masculinity

from - smijer

Leave it to Paul Myers to give us a fathers' day salute to the mammalian testicle, whose development certainly earns it a place in Oolon Colluphid's list of things to ask the Intelligent Designer about if we should meet her in the restaraunt at the end of the universe.

Posted by smijer at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

Thought for The Day

from - smijer

Underlying every change in beliefs, there is a victory of reason, or a failure of skepticism.

To accompany that thought, let me tip my hat to Australia. May their skepticism win out where America's failed.

Posted by smijer at 01:54 PM | Comments (1)