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Old Blog Posts November 27, 2006

Subject “Atheism, not religion is the real force behind the mass murders of history”
Posted Date: November 27, 2006 – Monday – 10:35 AM
Interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor regarding claims made in Sam Harris’ “End Of Faith” and Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”:

“It is strange to witness the passion with which some secular figures rail against the misdeeds of the Crusaders and Inquisitors more than 500 years ago. The number sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition appears to be about 10,000. Some historians contend that an additional 100,000 died in jail due to malnutrition or illness.

These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.”

I would argue that hard-line communism and Nazi Arianism had all the markings of a fundamentalist religion, but that’s another blog.

I recently read Sam Harris’ book, and I’m still looking for the right angle to do a book review. I agree with his basic premise, that religion should not be exempt from criticism based on secular/humanistic ethics. All organizations and individuals, both secular and sacred, should be held accountable for their actions by society, regardless of their personal beliefs. Being religious or fundamentalist does not mean you are beyond reproach or ridicule. But neither should Atheists.

In fact, if you look at the worse mass murders in religious history, you will find that it is usually one religious group killing another religious group, or killing their own members. “Freedom of Religion” was implemented in America for a specific purpose, to make sure this behavior was not allowed in our society.

An interesting point, and one I might explore more later, is that in order for there to be religious freedom, there must be secular limitations put on religion! IE: you are not free to practice your “religious right” to burn non-believers at the stake. To put it more generically, you are not free to use your religious freedom in ways that truncate other people’s religious freedom, or in various ways that society has deemed harmful.

Most reasonable people would agree with me on this, at least in practice if not in principle. And this specific limitation on religion is enough to keep the worse excesses at bay. Islamic fundamentalists practice a religion that does not allow other people religious freedom, and this can be deemed wrong and harmful to society. We also have a fundamentalist movement in our own culture that would like to do the same with Christianity, and this should be considered unhealthy for religious freedom, and unhealthy for society as a whole.

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Subject Federal Spending per Taxpayer
Posted Date: November 27, 2006 – Monday – 8:58 AM
Quote from an article on LewRockwell’s site::

Directly and indirectly, $17,430 is what the Federal government takes each year, on average, from each American who works, not to mention the big chunk out of their lives taken through regulation. Who gets this $17,430 after it is extracted from working men and women?

  • $3,690 goes to people on Social Security and Disability.
  • $3,492 goes to people in war industries.
  • $2,166 goes to people on Medicare.
  • $1,767 goes to people on Medicaid.
  • $1,505 goes to people on food stamps, welfare (assistance), housing, and income payments.
  • $1,297 goes to lenders for interest.
  • $1,028 goes to people in transportation, environmental, space, science, and regional building industries.
  • $ 708 goes to Federal employees for their retirement.
  • $ 688 goes to people in educational industries.
  • $ 495 goes to veterans.
  • $ 402 goes to people in the Federal government for their services.
  • $ 244 goes to people overseas.
  • $ 187 goes to people in agricultural industries.

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Subject The Dalai Lama on Science
Posted Date: November 27, 2006 – Monday – 8:21 AM
Interesting article on Salon about Buddhism and Science.

“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” Dalai Lama

“Do not take my statements to be true simply out of reverence for me. But rather, put them to the test.” Buddha

It’s nice to see a religion that takes science seriously. Science needs the sort of moral guidance we traditionally find in religious experiences, so it’s a shame they are constantly at each other’s throats. If monotheistic religions cannot provide valid guidance to science than it will fall to Eastern religions like Buddhism to do so.

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Subject Thankful dot com
Posted Date: November 23, 2006 – Thursday – 5:15 PM

“Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts”
…..
“Thanks, for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business. Thanks, for a nation of finks.”

“Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.”
— William S. Burroughs, “A Thanksgiving Prayer

Health, family, friends, job, blah blah blah. Of course I’m thankful for all this crap, without it my life would royally suck. So why do I feel so unorginal saying it? Well, maybe because everyone elses lives would suck (does suck) without these things either. So yeah, I’m thankful for these things.

But I’m also very thankful for the internet.

I’m thankful for Amazon.com, for fueling my continued education. I think I read twice as much now as I did before amazon. The analog way of getting books makes it harder to find new books and authors that would interest you. Amazon makes it impossible NOT to find these things. Thank you, Amazon.

I’m thankful for Wikipedia.org, for giving us an open and successful model of how to validate and consolidate information. Most people thought, and some still do think, that something as important as a encyclopedia could never be formed without strong centralized control and editorial processes. These people underestimate the human ability to compromise, cooperate, and strive for excellence without enforced hierarchies. We will see this model become more and more powerful and popular as it solves current problems in government, entertainment, ethics, and other aspects of shared consensual reality.

I’m thankful for youtube.com, for validating my decision to go into computers instead of filmmaking. I remember telling my film buddies that computers, the internet and cheap hardware were going to radically change the face of filmmaking and film distribution. Let’s mark 2006 as the year when average people stop looking at my strangely when I say this. Thank you, youtube.

I’m thankful for digg.com, for wasting hours of my life in vastly intertaining ways. I’m thankful for the new celebrity system based on click counts instead of marketing dollars. I thankful for the real instead of the processed, for the spontaneous instead of the program, and I’m thankful that millions of other people share my values here.

I’m thankful for MySpace.com, for providing us a taste of the future. In all its good and bad, social networking is here to stay, in one form or another. Lessons learned on MySpace will be important in the years ahead. I hope we tackle these new challenges as opportunities instead of liabilities. Many times a problem has its own key, if you look hard enough.

I’m thankful for google.com, for their motto to not be evil. I’m thanful for google’s amazing list of (web) applications: search, gmail, maps, calendar, desktop search, docs and spreadsheets, books, earth, talk, base, analytics, mobile, etc etc etc. Seriously, these guys are making some pretty incredible moves. Thank you, google.

I’m thankful for flickr.com, slashdot.org, boingboing.net, fsf.org, mozilla.org, sourceforge.net, fark.com, rottentomatoes.com, sorryeverybody.com, cuteoverload.com, and all the other web sites that brighten my life, but that I can’t think of right now.

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Subject The Creation Museum – Motto: “Prepare to Believe!”
Posted Date: November 22, 2006 – Wednesday – 9:34 AM
Wow, the Creation Museum is going to be a reality!

Let’s start with Proposition X. We know this proposition to be true, undoubtable, for one reason or another. We then look for evidence to support X, using whatever tools necessary. We assume that any evidence against X is invalid due to Proposition X being infallible, so we throw it out. Pretty soon, we have fairly good support for X, and we can be confident that it is true, and show that to others.

Grant you, called “Creation” scientists are not the only ones to do this. A lot of bad science has occurred in exactly this way. But this sort of science rarely holds up, because declaring yourself infallible does not make it so. Sooner or later all the “invalid” evidence you threw out will come to light, and your proposition will be discredited. This is exactly what has happened to Young Earth Creationism, numerous times, and yet it still proports to be “science”! With it’s own Museum!

These guys make the Intelligent Design crown seem like pinnacles of reason and knowledge. Here are some great quotes I gleaned off the Museum’s website:

“the fact is, every single dating method (outside of Scripture) is based on fallible assumptions..Why would any Christian want to take man’s fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? ”

Let’s look at the Biblical dating method for setting the creation of the earth, animals, and mankind. Actually, never mind, it’s kind of boring, but suffice to say it’s set to 4,000 B.C.E, give or take a couple of hundred years. This certainly is precise! And if you believe in biblical infallibility and historical records, you can’t come up with an age much different than this.

“if Christian leaders have told the next generation that one can accept the world’s teachings in geology, biology, astronomy, etc., and use these to (re)interpret God’s Word, then the door has been opened for this to happen in every area, including morality.”

He’s absolutely right. If clear evidence shows that the Bible is NOT an authority on geology, biology, astronomy, etc, then this certainly weakens the case of certain Christian fundamentalists.

Below is Proposition X,spelled out:

“Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.”

But you cannot have your cake and eat it to. If the “Creation” in “Creation Scientists” means that you must trust scripture over your experiments, then you cannot be a scientist. If you trust your experiments over scripture, then you cannot accept Proposition X. Each choice is exclusive.

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Subject Newsweek article on DRM
Posted Date: November 22, 2006 – Wednesday – 3:20 AM
Nice to see the mainstream press taking interest in DRM. I’m definitely in the thick of this debate, I’m into Creative Commons, a contributor to the EFF/FSF, a member of Defective by Design, and a subscriber to eMusic.

For anytbody who uses an MP3 player, you should check out eMusic. They’ve got a bunch of main stream bands, and a whole lot of good independent bands. The sight helps you find the music you are looking for, just like the Apple Music Store.

cl
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Subject “An Inconvenient Truth” available on DVD today
Posted Date: November 21, 2006 – Tuesday – 10:39 AM
Go to your friendly neighborhood DVD dealer and rent this movie today! Grant you, this is a politician talking about science, so it’s not fully accurate, of course. But who the heck wants to listen to boring scientists anyway. Like it or not, people are more easily convinced with simple facts and pictures instead of complex scientific facts and figures.

I thank you, Mr. President, and my children’s children thank you.

cl

“You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.” – Roger Ebert
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Subject Bill O’Reilly: Gamers don’t deal with “Reality”
Posted Date: November 21, 2006 – Tuesday – 9:50 AM

Bill O’Reilly is a Luddite. Here’s what he has to say about gamers:

“Basically what you have is a large portion of the population, mostly younger people under the age of 45, who don’t deal with reality – ever. So they don’t know what day it is; they don’t know temperature it is; they don’t know what their neighbor looks like. They don’t know anything… because they are constantly diverted by a machine.”

He then goes on to diss iPods and other technology:

“I don’t own an iPod. I would never wear an iPod… If this is your primary focus in life – the machines… it’s going to have a staggeringly negative effect, all of this, for America… did you ever talk to these computer geeks? I mean, can you carry on a conversation with them?”

Think about this for a moment. Here is a guy who has completely missed the internet revolution. He’s never used an mp3 player, and he probably has problems with his VCR/DVD player. He’s probably never used “the Google”, Wikipedia, digg, MySpace, YouTube, or any of the other sites we frequent regularly. He knows what blogging is, and that he doesn’t like it, but he’s probably never actually read a blog that wasn’t printed out for him. This guy is a freakin’ dinosaur, what the heck does he have to say about technology?

His guest is from the “National Institute on Media and the Family”. You know…the guys who claimed to be supported by the national PTA organization, and weren’t? You know the organization that claimed a video game promoted cannibalism, when it didn’t even have cannibals in it? Yeah, those guys are definitely with it. Of course, if O’Reily actually USED the internet he’d know about these things, but that’s Fox “Reality” for you.

Come on…O’Reilly and Fox telling us who is and isn’t in touch with reality? I mean, these are the guys that created “reality television”, which is an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Supposedly O’Reilly’s show is a “spin free zone”; does anybody who watches this show actually believe that?

Now, there is a real danger in gaming addiction; we’ve all most likely seen it. But O’Reilly is certainly not someone who could have any answers to this problem. He apparently thinks this can be solved the same way drug abuse has been “solved”; make it illegal and throw people in jail for it. That takes care of that. Never mind that many “drugs” were used for religious purposes, and never mind that games have also been around for thousands of years. Asshat.

And then he lumps the internet, computers, and the iPod in with gamers, and disses on “computer geeks” in general. We speak just fine, O’Reilly…it’s you who needs to learn, not us. See, we’re ahead of you…not behind. Good God. I guess if you’re completely clueless it makes sense to lump all these people together. It’s like making two categories…”white” and “not-white”, and then assigning everyone you meet to one category or another. Sure, they’re valid categories, but what do they tell you? Not much.

Get a clue, dude. Or not…digg is having a lot of fun laughing at you.

I just finished the book “Vurt”, by Jeff Noon. Psychedelic science fiction for gamers…it was awesome! If modern computer games are addicting, imagine fully immersive Virtual Reality.

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Subject RIP, Robert Altman
Posted Date: November 21, 2006 – Tuesday – 6:04 AM
The legendary director Robert Altman died today, at the age of eighty-one. Altman started making movies in the ’50s, and didn’t ever stop. His latest movie, “A Prairie Home Companion” just came out this year, and has been quite popular.

I’ve always enjoyed Altman movies, although he was never my favorite director. I liked how he skewed standard or exploitative storylines, focusing on character development over everything else. Which is why he’s always been a favorite for actors. For anybody wanting to be introduced to Altman’s films, I would recommend the highly celebrated and often parroted movie “Short Cuts”.

That’s how I want to go out…still doing what I love.
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Subject Door to Door Atheists in SLC
Posted Date: November 20, 2006 – Monday – 11:52 AM
This has me cracking up…this Australian dude flies to Salt Lake City to go door to door with a copy of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”, trying to convert Mormons to Athiesm. While I can’t approve of bothering anybody on a Saturday morning, even Mormons, this is tickling my irony bone.

I had a long conversation with some Mormons earlier this year. First they came by on a Saturday (early!), but I was hung over. Stupid me, I asked them to come back some other time. But we had a long and pleasant conversation regarding biblical infallibility, environmentalism, and the Religious Right.

I don’t know why, but I love trying to convert these guys away from “the faith”. Just one hint of doubt in their eyes, and I’m satisfied. And it’s funny, after they realize you’re a lost cause, they’ll never knock on your door again….Saturday morning peace restored. And if you ever REALLY want to piss them off, just keep calling them “Jehovah Witnesses” over and over again…they love that.

I don’t know why I even bother arguing with the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and other proselytizing folk. It’s like that cut on the roof of your mouth that would heal if you’d only stop poking at it with your tongue (I mean my reaction is similar, I’m not comparing religious people to open wounds).

I feel more sorry for them than anything; to waste a perfectly good life like that. Not to say that Mormons haven’t done any good in this world…they have! Their missionaries have done great things supporting people in developing nations, and they should be thanked for that. And I suppose them must be happy, to one degree or another. But still…it’s sad that we need to make up religious beliefs in order to do good things.

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Subject UMG sues MySpace: “one big poo-flinging goat rodeo”
Posted Date: November 20, 2006 – Monday – 11:21 AM
Universal Music Group has apparently taken a break from suing little old ladies, dead people, and children, and is now going after some bigger game.

According to UMG, the user-generated content on MySpace somehow belongs to them. But here’s what I think…the RIAA clan has been so busy trying to maintain their failing business model that they completely missed this new business model called “Web 2.0”. MySpace understands 2.0, at least partially, and now UMG and the like are getting scared. And they should be; you snooze you loose, suckers! While Fox News Corp. is far from my favorite organization, it’s nice to have them on our side.

As the rest of us walk into a future of blogging, podcasting, and net hyped indie-bands, the RIAA continues to over-promote crappy bands and charge $15-20 bucks for albums with one good song on them. The only reason this business model ever worked is that they’ve maintained a virtual monopoly on music distribution, to the detriment of both fans and musicians.

Not anymore…the new players are here. Sorry guys, your glory days are past if you don’t change your tune. In the future, bloggers like me are going to diss you every chance we get until nobody would think of purchasing your crappy product. Just wait and see, if you don’t believe me.

cl
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Subject Clear Evidence 2006 Congressional Elections Hacked
Posted Date: November 17, 2006 – Friday – 9:51 AM
This is what happens when you have electronic voting machines with no paper trail. I don’t mean election tampering, although that’s definitely a possibility. I mean even if there ISN’T election tampering, there will be claims that it is occuring.

Interesting to see how this story turns out.

cl
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Subject Inhofe: Don’t Worry About Global Warming Because ‘God’s Still Up There’
Posted Date: November 17, 2006 – Friday – 9:18 AM
This is the sort of destructive religious beliefs that really get to me. “Don’t worry about the earth, ’cause you are going to heaven soon anyway”. Or, “The earth will be destroyed anyway, so why save it?”

And remember, this isn’t a preacher, Inhofe is the freakin’ outgoing Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works! This guy is obviously either 1) being fed a crock of bull or is 2) deliberately lying. He is not telling you the truth; anyone who wants to check can verify that. Unfortunately, most people aren’t into verifying things…they’re fine with soundbites.

Wikipedia has a good overview of the difficulty of deducing cause and effect in weather systems. The short of it is that weather is modeled best with nonlinear equations, where cause and effect are muddled at best. In fact, Lorenz was a meteorologist, and his studies on weather were groundbreaking for Chaos Theory. Check out the Lorenz Attractor….an extremely elegant model of weather.

Due to this, any “proof” about the causes of global warming must be statistical. While scientists are fine with statistical proof, and have good reason to be; laymen aren’t so much…they want physical cause and effect proof…old fashioned and clear. Unfortunately this kind of proof is impossible by the very nature of the system.

But this does not change the overwhelming statistics that show what virtually all scientists are saying…the world is getting warmer, and we are a part of it. Fossil fuels, water in the atmosphere, deforestation, pollutions in the ocean…all have had their part in fueling the giant feedback system that is weather.

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Subject Democrats with a plan: First 100 Hours
Posted Date: November 16, 2006 – Thursday – 8:57 AM
Here is a link specifying what the Democrats plan to do in their first 100 hours. Nice to know that they actually have a plan! I’ve been comparing this to my Democrat wishlist.

“We will start by cleaning up Congress, breaking the link between lobbyists and legislation and commit to pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending.”

This references number one and two on my wishlist, at least partially. While I applaud the Democrats for their emphasis on “fiscal responsibility” in the light of the recent Neo-Conservative spending spree, I question their ability to do this. And while “no new deficit spending” is going in the right direction, it will not DECREASE our national debt.

And while I applaud their desire to further limit lobbiest, I question whether it’s possible for real change to come from our House; I have a feeling it will come through the initiative process instead.

“We will make our nation safer and we will begin by implementing the recommendations of the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission.”

This is huge! For those not aware of the 9/11 Commission, I highly recommend the documetary “On Native Soil“. If you’ve ever thought that the Neo-Conservative agenda was to “keep America safe from terrorism”, think again. Bush tried to get the 9/11 Commission squashed before it started, and he was only overturned due to the persistence of the families of the victims of 9/11. When the Commisions findings were complete, the Administration and Congress proceeded to ignore these findings, with potentially disastrous results. It’s nice to see this Commission finally be taken seriously.

“We will make our economy fairer, and we will begin by raising the minimum wage. We will not pass a pay raise for Congress until there is an increase in the minimum wage.”

Awesome! This was issue number 5 on my wishlist. This is a moral issue that the Republicans should be ashamed of for ignoring so long, due to their pandering to big business. There is a very high cost to low wages.

“We will make health care more affordable for all Americans, and we will begin by fixing the Medicare prescription drug program, putting seniors first by negotiating lower drug prices. We will also promote stem cell research to offer real hope to the millions of American families who suffer from devastating diseases.”

For one thing, I’m heartened to not see the word “Universal” in the above sentence. It’s true that our current laws and contracts are biased in favour of biotech and drug companies. While we need to allow as much freedom as possible for these companies to make a profit, we also need to make sure that regulations are in place to allow the the resulting breakthroughs to be used for the good of all people, rich and poor.

This is not a simple, soundbite ready issue, but it’s clear that the health industry SHOULD be regulated in a way similar to how other critical industries are regulated, like the power industry, transportation, and waste disposal, etc. This is literally a matter of life and death, and should not be left completely vulnerable to free market fluctuations.

“We will broaden college opportunity, and we will begin by cutting interest rates for student loans in half.”

We are dumb. Smart is good. We want smart, not dumb.

“We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil.”

Thank the good Lord! This is number 4 on my wishlist. This, more than any other single issue, is going to make or break this nation. Our dependence on foreign oil is a bipartisan problem every American can get behind. Except for those in the oil industy’s pocket, of course…which was the majority of Congress until this last election. Suck it, Exxon…no more record breaking, subsidized profits for you!

“We will guarantee a dignified retirement, and we will begin by fighting any attempt to privatize Social Security.”

This is a pretty typical, traditional Democrat principle, staid to the point of being boring. While the economics behind Social Security are questionable at best, it’s clear that privatization is not the full answer, and to one degree or another we’re stuck with it. This should be an interesting point of debate over the next few years. I still think it doubtful that there will be any SS money left over by the time my generation is going to retire

In in all I find this very comforting. I hope we’re seeing the “new” populist, yet fiscally conservative, Democrat; but I’m not holding my breath. I’m also happy that they’ve avoided hot button issues like gay marriage and abortion, choosing to focus on issues most average Americans can agree with, or at least not disagree with to strongly.

Here is a goal the Democrats must keep in mind…we can never let the Neo-Conservatives and the Christian Coalition run our country again.
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Subject Now THAT’S a scary tattoo
Posted Date: November 15, 2006 – Wednesday – 11:08 AM
Yipes!

On a completely unrelated note, I just saw “Shaolin Soccer” last night. Don’t know why I waiting so long, it’s awesome! Trust me…check this movie out.
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