Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Republicans Demand Vote on 'Holly's Law'

Republicans Demand Vote on 'Holly's Law' -- 03/29/2006:
Even the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has expressed concern about the deaths of women who took RU-486.
Even Planned Parenthood.


Right. What an offensive slur.

Putting the situation in "context," Planned Parenthood also noted that since RU-486 was approved by the FDA in September 2000, 560,000 medication abortions have taken place in the U.S., and seven women who were taking the drug died.
"Context." Quotes.


Never mind that RU-486 facilitated pregnancy prevention is much safer than illegal abortion (about one death in 3000). There's no mention, naturally enough, of the fact that childbirth is much more dangerous than RU-486 (about one death in 15,000 in the west).

"Holly's Law" (a much more effective framing than "RU-486 Suspension and Review Act") isn't about women's safety. It's about ending reproductive rights.

The RU-486 Suspension and Review Act is another special purpose law for the religious right, just like the Terri Shiavo bill that religious conservatives passed, President Bush interrupted a vacation and rushed to Washington to sign, but which was struck down and then turned away by the Supreme Court.

These people will never stop. Some of them can't because they think they have a lock on Truth. Others won't stop because of the demagogic value of the issue and other like it.

A prince must take great care [to always] appear to all who see and hear him to be completely pious, completely faithful, completely honest, completely humane, and completely religious. And nothing is more important than to appear to have that last quality. - Niccolo Machiavelli (my emphasis)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Political Drug War - SPIEGEL ONLINE

A Political Drug War in Bolivia: Is Coca the New Hemp? - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
The drug war brought nothing but violence and poverty to farmers in the region, fueling animosity toward the gringos -- US drug enforcement and military experts who consult with Bolivian security forces on eradicating the coca plantations.
We Americans have a way of pissing people off this way.

If the cause of this anger - the war on some drugs- served any purpose it might be justified, but it doesn't. Except, that is, to bolster the interests of drug producers, anti-drug bureaucracies and politicians exploiting the issue.

Meanwhile, the drug trade continues to boom.
Well, of course it does. How could it not, with stratospheric profits driven by an artificially high value due to prohibition?

Tens of billions of dollars down the drain every year, erosion of civil liberties, corruption of officialdom, disrespect for bad laws bleeding into disrespect for the law in general, governmental misbehavior like Iran-Contra, on and on and on, all because we need to protect people from themselves.

In Guatemala, drug runners are fielding their own candidates for office and airplanes are disposable commodities. In northern Mexico drug gangs are armed like Iraqi insurgents. In the United States we jail a greater percentage of our people than any other country, and a higher proportion of black males than apartheid-era South Africa. All the while, we bless drugs with a forbidden-fruit allure.

But we are intransigent in our opposition to legalization which would, overnight, wipe out the profits fueling the trade.

We are so stupid.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

ANWR in an energy context

I don't understand people who are in favor of drilling ANWR but who are against tightening up US CAFE standards by raising mileage requirements and including SUV's and light trucks.

Here's a picture (see below) that puts this in perspective. It's lifted from Dr. Rajan Gupta's presentation entitled "ENERGY in the 21st Century: Need for bold thinking and action", which is available from the Los Alamos National Labs website here (4 MB PDF). Dr. Gupta's point is not about drilling ANWR; rather, it is that we need a Manhattan Project / Man-on-the-Moon approach to addressing our energy situation. He asks whether we want a planned solution or a forced solution to what is a grave problem.

Here's the picture. See the ANWR blip on the lower right, and compare it to the projections for Total Oil Demand and Transportation Demand so far above it. Click the picture for a bigger view.

It seems that ANWR will be drilled, for better or worse. I'm afraid we actually need to drill ANWR to buy a little more time to get over the energy hump. I wish, though, that we could link drilling ANWR directly to strong measures to improve efficiency and prudence with respect to energy consumption in this country. Seems bloody unlikely, invisible-handers and all.

Hat tip: Energy Bulletin

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A response to Judie Brown the anti-abortion activist

As I try to avoid the echo chamber, sometimes I'll read something written by someone living in a different world than mine, something like Judie Brown's latest on the Renew America website: Why is it so hard to understand? The abortion pill is simply wrong. (Judie Brown is a prominent anti-abortion activist, as detailed at the bottom of the piece I'm reacting to here.)

At the end of Ms. Brown's piece are seven questions she wants people to think about. I'll get to those in a minute, but first...

In her second paragraph, Ms. Brown refers to RU-486 as the "death pill". She thinks of it that way because she's a believer in the myth of the supernatural soul that exists independent of the brain. I don't mean to be insulting - if a person believes a particular myth is real then so be it. What I can't abide is the presumption of some believers that they have a lock on truth and the right to dictate it to others. So, no Ms. Brown, RU-486 is not a "death pill" except in your mind, and nobody is forcing it on you. Back off, please.

Ms. Brown complains that RU-486 is not "safe for every" "mother" who ingests it, as though the mere presence of a fertilized egg makes the woman bearing it a "mother". If the pregnancy goes to term, THEN the woman is a mother to that child. Ms. Brown's terminology is a fallacious emotional hook. As for the safety of RU-486, I wish Ms. Brown would identify anything at all that is absolutely safe for everyone. RU-486 is safe, which is part of the reason it was approved. In fact, RU-486 is much safer than childbirth. While Ms. Brown would argue that RU-486 is 100 percent fatal to the "child", that's the crux of the argument: it's not a "child".

Ms. Brown goes on to blast Planned Parenthood, where half of my bi-weekly contribution goes. Planned Parenthood is a great and necessary organization, Ms. Brown's opinion notwithstanding.

Ms. Brown blasts Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood for, in the wake of the two RU-486 related deaths, pointing out that of half a million prescriptions, seven deaths have occurred associated with RU-486. Then Ms. Brown goes on to
hear those gnomes saying, "Not to worry, folks. The loss of your loved one is a minor problem in the scope of our successes, but gosh, we are sorry she died."

Far fetched? You decide.
Yeah, far fetched. Ridiculous. Nasty. Half a million pregnancies carried to term would have resulted in about 35 dead western women. 7? 35? You decide.

...blatant lack of respect for the dead ... nary a word from the White House ... war of terror being waged on preborn children ... tragedy beyond all telling ... war on procreation ... preborn children ... affection for the elimination of "products of conception" ... ... ...
Yeah yeah yeah... This gets tiresome. Affection for abortion? Oh please.

Ms. Brown's seven questions are readily answered:

Since when are human beings mere calculations on the slide rule of life?
Slide rules and Ms. Brown's anti-abortion stance are equally antiquated. The association is apt. To answer the question, though, the question is nonsensical.

Why is it that we are living in a nation where the government is more concerned with what happens in a distant land than they are with the human destruction that is described as "freedom of choice"?
Because it's more appropriate than going back to suppression of women's individual rights, and because this is supposed to be a free, secular country.

How can it be that the agency of our government that is charged with protecting our citizens from dangerous drugs can approve a chemical that kills preborn people and occasionally kills their mothers?

Because RU-486 is safe and effective, and the killing referred to is in Ms. Brown's mind.

Why hasn't the Food and Drug Administration recalled this drug?
Because the Food and Drug Administration is supposed to be an instrument of public safety and science, not religious dogmatism of any particular stripe.

Why isn't the Bush administration demanding that the FDA do so [recall RU-486]?
Because it they kowtow to fundies much more it'll cost them politically, and that's the last thing they need.

Why aren't members of Congress cutting off the millions of dollars that flow into Planned Parenthood bank accounts?
Because Planned Parenthood provides needed services safely, efficiently and legally.

What is it that mesmerizes so many of us with a false sense of security amidst the human, psychological, spiritual and mental devastation that occurs every few seconds of every single day?
I'm not sure what sense of security Ms. Brown is referring to, but she seems pretty mesmerized herself.

As I type, there's a fellow in Afghanistan who faces trial for his life over his conversion from one mythology to another. Offended clerics of the abandoned memeplex claim sufficient power over this individual's freedom of conscience as to end it by execution unless he recants his conversion. In the meantime, the Afghan government is squirming about for ways to wiggle out of the situation, such as by saying that the man in mentally unfit to stand trial.

Ms. Brown is a hair's breadth away from these Afghan religionists. She'd do well to back off and enjoy her faith in the peace she could cultivate by leaving people the hell alone.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

War on this, war on that

BBC NEWS | Americas | Death raises concern at police tactics


Dr Kraska believes there has been an explosion of [SWAT teams] in smaller towns and cities, where training and operational standards may not be as high as large cities - a growth he attributes to "the hysteria" of the country's war on drugs.

"I get several calls a month from people asking about local incidents - wrong address raids, excessive use of force, wrongful shootings - this stuff is happening all the time," he adds.


When criminology professor David Klinger looked at 12 years of data on Swat teams in 1998, he also found the most common reason for calling out teams was serving warrants, but that the units used deadly force during warrant service only 0.4% of the time.


But Dr Kraska sees such initiatives as reflecting a changing culture of police work.

"These elite units are highly culturally appealing to certain sections of the police community. They like it, they enjoy it," he says.

"The chance to strap on a vest, grab a semi-automatic weapon and go out on a mission is for some people an exciting reason to join - even if policing as a profession can - and should - be boring for much of the time.

"The problem is that when you talk about the war on this and the war on that, and police officers see themselves as soldiers, then the civilian becomes the enemy."
Too bad for the killed Dr. Salvatore Culosi. Too bad for us all.


Friday, March 17, 2006

A Memory of October 1970

An attempt by an Ethical Spectacle reader to reconstruct faded memories of a 1970 funeral / protest in New York for one of the Kent State dead prompts a few memories of my own from that era.

In about October of 1970 I was a Spec 4 in the US Army, having enlisted in early January for no better reason than being immature and at loose ends. I had dropped out of high school in Guatemala, and had come to the States to make my fortune. A couple of dead end months as a minimum wage stock clerk at Burdines department store in Miami led me to the Army.

I had already been spared one deployment to Vietnam as a consequence of messing up the schedule by changing my mind about volunteering for Airborne training. Every swinging dick in my AIT company went to Vietnam except for those of us slated for Airborne training, but I wound up being assigned to the S3 of an armored training brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

An aside: It's a small world. It turned out that the previous brigade commander was the father of one of my friends in Guatemala. He was the military attache at the US Embassy while his daughter and I were part of the same group of friends at the American School of Guatemala.

Anyway, it was about October of 1970, and I once again had orders to deploy to Vietnam. My MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 71B, Clerk Typist, but I was going to Vietnam with some other MOS to drive supply convoys all over the country. I felt strongly that I was going over there to be hurt or killed in an ambush somewhere.

So I took a month's leave and went back to Guatemala, where I gave away all of my civilian possessions and spent all of my money. I lived it up for a month, frequently taking my friends to poolside breakfasts of steak, eggs, black beans, tortillas and beer at the Biltmore Hotel, or spending days on the black sand beach at Likin on Guatemala's Pacific coast, generally having a great time until the moment came to go.

My orders were to report to Fort Lewis, Washington, on a certain date at a specific time. However, it so happened that guerrillas in El Salvador had placed bombs at the airport in San Salvador, which delayed my flight by about 15 hours.

I eventually arrived at Fort Lewis, six hours late. I still find it incredible, but it turned out that three hours after my scheduled arrival time, three hours before the time I actually arrived at Fort Lewis, a message had come down from on high ordering that people with my MOS no longer be deployed to Vietnam. Broke my heart let me tell you.

Instead of going to Vietnam to face danger, I wound up spending three years stationed at Fort Lawton, in the beautiful Magnolia area of Seattle, overlooking Puget Sound in one direction, Ballard Locks in another, and the Seattle Center in yet another.

So, thanks to Salvadoran guerrillas for saving me from Vietnam! Were it not for their airport bombs, I would almost certainly have wound up driving convoys around the countryside of Vietnam rather than enjoying a truly choice assignment in Seattle.

I am a very lucky person. What more can I say?

Worldviews Collide


That's an ugly word for an ugly procedure raising ugly emotions in an ugly struggle. There's nothing nice about abortion. When a woman decides she needs an abortion, though, it is her absolute right to obtain one.

This post is to extend my heartiest salute to "Molly", the feminist writer behind the blog Molly Saves the Day. Molly recently reacted to South Dakota's abortion ban with a unique post on her blog: For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual. Molly's piece is not a self-abortion guide; rather, it's a medical reference that might be useful to people wishing to set up an illegal abortion clinic after the fundies drag us back to the alley.

Molly's piece is a powerful act of dissent for which I have utmost respect.

Naturally enough, Molly's well-placed bomb stirred up a hornet's nest. Here is a piece from ProLifeBlogs reacting to Molly's dissident act. It is written by another intelligent, articulate woman, American Life League's Judie Brown, and is entitled Send in the Clowns: the farce, the lie and the unwavering commitment to kill. Judie Brown's piece repeatedly gets to the crux of the matter, which is that she considers abortion to be the murder of a person. This is based in the religious belief that a soul exists independent of the human brain.

As far as I'm concerned, a person is defined by the presence of a soul, but this soul is an emergent property of a complex brain. No brain, no soul, no person.

The difference between the Mollys and the Judies of the world is that the Judies think they have a lock on truth which they are willing to force on others.

I can't stand that. - Inside Move: 'South Park' feeling some celeb heat? - Inside Move: 'South Park' feeling some celeb heat?

I am not a South Park fan. It's not that I object to what little I've seen of its content, just that it doesn't tickle my funny bone. If I happen to land on South Park I just keep going after a few seconds.

When Isaac Hayes drew attention to South Park and scientology by quitting the show after nine years over an episode aimed at scientology (apparently after participating in plenty of episodes blasting other religions), I had to have a look.

So I programmed the Tivo to catch the rebroadcast this weekend, only to see this morning that someone had apparently flexed some muscle to have the rebroadcast pulled. When I checked the Tivo, sure enough, the episode was gone.

This is really annoying. Maybe we need 12 cartoons about scientology.

A little searching turned up FactNet, an anti-cult outfit, saluting South Park and offering the South Park episode for download. Here is a not recently maintained page with information and links chronicling scientology vs. FactNet. I'm not going to try to verify anything. Caveat lector.

I think I'd rather see pissed off muslims in the streets than sneaky scientologists pulling strings, but to hell with them all.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Skeptacles: OK, OK, a blog already...

I realized a while ago that it's been a year today since I've been entertaining myself with this Skeptacles blog.

I remember reading somewhere a year ago that there were something like 11 million blogs, and that the number was growing by something like 15,000 per day.

Here is a March 2005 post from David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati, showing that Technorati was tracking something shy of 8 million blogs one year ago, and that at the time they were registering 30 to 40 thousand new blogs per day (after the spam blogs have been cleaned out of the stats).

Then here is Sifry not quite a year later (February 21, 2006) reporting that Technorati is tracking about 29 million blogs these days.

That's just Technorati. Googling "number of blogs" quickly yields numbers ranging very widely, reaching as high as 50 or 60 million blogs worldwide nine months ago. Sure, some large number of those are abandoned blogs, spam blogs and other blogs that shouldn't count, but the number is huge none-the-less.

Blogging has been a fun hobby, and I've greatly enjoyed corresponding with the occasional reader. I've learned more than a little from some of the blogs I've read. My collection of blog bookmarks and RSS feeds has grown to more than I can keep up with.

I think I have validated Cas Sunstein's concerns about the internet echo chamber. One day I realized that I was only reading blogs conforming to a certain type, and that my views had been hardening - just what Sunstein is concerned about. What's worse, when I became conscious of my echo chamber and deliberately tried to avoid it, I found it quite difficult to read all that other junk. In fact, I stopped caring about the echo chamber. I still keep a few anti-echo-chamber links in my collection, but I hardly ever look at them (even though once in a while I find something worthy there).

When I ask myself why I blog, the rationalization I usually reach is that I want to be part of this complex, interconnected system from which may some day emerge a sort of global brain. Really though, I don't know why. I just do.

Onward and upward...

Atheists. Humanists. Freethinkers. AMERICANS. Secular Coalition for America

I have been a bright (detesting the term but unable to think of a better one) since shortly after the organization was founded. I later heard about a group calling itself the Universist Movement. Soon I was supporting the Universists with a little of my money, too.

Now, reacting to a mailing from The Brights (see it in the comments below), I'm also finally supporting the Secular Coalition for America, a group that's been around for four years or so.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Secular Coalition for America is to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.

Position Statement

The Secular Coalition for America is committed to promoting reason and science as the most reliable methods for understanding the universe and improving the human condition. Informed by experience and inspired by compassion, we encourage the pursuit of knowledge, meaning, and responsible ethical codes without reference to supernatural forces. We affirm the secular form of government as a necessary condition for the interdependent rights of religious freedom and religious dissent. We come together as national freethought organizations to cooperate in areas of mutual interest and to support each other in our efforts to uphold separation between government and religion for the benefit of all within the nontheistic community. As resources allow, we will actively cooperate in projects that support our position, with priority given to political action initiatives and public relations opportunities.

Statement on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Tolerance

The Secular Coalition for America holds that freedom of conscience, including religious freedom, is a fundamental American value as evidenced by the fact that this is the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of conscience is best guaranteed by protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government. Religious tolerance, a necessary product of this freedom, must be extended to people of all religions and to those without religious beliefs.
That sounds about right to me, and I can think of many less justified uses for a few bucks than to help support their lobbying.

How about you? Please consider supporting the Secular Coalition for America.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sharp rise in CO2 levels recorded

Mankind is changing the climate.

BBC News has learned the latest data shows CO2 levels now stand at 381 parts per million (ppm) - 100ppm above the pre-industrial average.

The research indicates that 2005 saw one of the largest increases on record - a rise of 2.6ppm.

The chief carbon dioxide analyst for Noaa says the latest data confirms a worrying trend that recent years have, on average, recorded double the rate of increase from just 30 years ago.

The precise level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is of global concern because climate scientists fear certain thresholds may be "tipping points" that trigger sudden changes.

"Today we're over 380 ppm," he said. "That's higher than we've been for over a million years, possibly 30 million years. Mankind is changing the climate."

One of these days I am going to sit down and make a blog post containing my predictions for the future along with the degree of certainty I think each prediction carries. One of the predictions will be that, in the not too distant future, mankind will wake up to the reality of the climate having experienced, or clearly entered, a "tipping point". (Yeah, I know, you can't "enter" a "point".)

Among the factors that could change this outcome is a huge human dieoff. But then, even if CO2 concentrations were somehow frozen at today's levels, the warming effects will continue for some time, continuing and accelerating the release of methane from tundra. That we may have already crossed a pre-tipping point, where events were taken out of human hands, seems as likely as any other element in a credible forecast of cataclysmic things like this.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's raining!

It's Saturday morning around a quarter to five, and it's RAINING a bit outside.

It hasn't rained here since October, 143 days or so ago.

As I understand it, to differentiate rain from verga (verga is rain that evaporates before it hits the ground), rain has to leave one hundredth of an inch of water in the rain gauge at Sky Harbor International Airport, about four miles from our house.

It's only a light sprinkle coming down, barely enough to get you wet in a one block walk. Still, I'd bet the "10 mil at Sky Harbor" definition of rain has been met today, ending the long "no-rain day" spell. (I guess it's worthwhile to distinguish between "successive no-rain days" and "dry spells" or droughts. The dry spell or drought will not end with 10 mils of water in a raingauge.)

Rain coming tonight, snow falling in mountains:
The Valley's official weather station at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport has reported no rain since Oct. 18. On Thursday, the Valley also matched the second-longest period without measurable rain, which describes a few drops but not enough to measure. The longest period without measurable rain is a 160 days.
I don't follow the last sentence. How can we be setting records every day now if the record is still 15 days away? That 160-day statistic must apply to a different region.

If it's any consolation, the weather has been fantastic.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

1264 #2

A week ago I finally climbed Camelback Mountain after 20 years of telling myself that I would do it one of these days. I had a good time, worked myself out, met some nice people, but stupidly forgot my camera.

Yesterday I set out on my bicycle, intending to ride to the Echo Canyon trailhead for climb number two. As it turned out, the day was kind of overcast, not a very good day for pictures with my little digital snapshot camera. I was a little tired by then anyway, so I just decided to extend my bike ride and climb the mountain today.

Yesterday, though, I finally took some pictures of one of the neatest trees I've ever seen. This is the Tyler Cisson tree planted in a grassy area along the Salt River bed, just east of the Priest Avenue bridge and a quarter mile or so from the west dam forming Tempe Town Lake. You can actually make it out in this Google Maps overhead image - it's the rounder one on the edge of the grassy area near the upper right corner of the rectangular feature along the river bank.

(In case you're wondering why there's no water in the river, it's because in Phoenix that would be a flood.)

Here's what the Tyler Cisson tree looks like from the ground. It provides a very nice, shady area to rest in during the heat of the summer.

The Tyler Cisson tree has a trunk well suited to its environment, with unusual veins serving a purpose I'm not sure of, and a rugged bark befitting its harsh environment.

The Tyler Cisson tree has very unusual foliage, too, allowing just enough sunlight to penetrate the tree's thick canopy.

Credit where credit is due:

I think Tyler Cisson created a pretty neat work of art out there all by itself. I hope he's enjoying artistic success today.

But back to this morning at Camelback Mountain.

The climb took me twice as long this time, but I was in no hurry, stopping to take pictures and enjoying the scenery. I started up the trail shortly before sunrise with enough light to see the trail and some pretty colors in the sky.

As you walk up the trail you come to a more challenging section to which I am unable to do justice with the camera. This view looking back toward the trailhead has been taken by many people, and mine doesn't convey the steepness either. The grab bars are there for a reason, as the caption on a similar picture at Flickr states.

This shot looking up the trail might provide a better sense of scale if not steepness.

As the pictures above may show, there's a bit of a rock overhang above the trail. Here it is again, this time looking down the trail from above.

The picture above again doesn't convey the scale of the thing. You might be able to make out the trail at the very bottom of the picture after looking at the enlarged section below, which shows the trail underneath the rock overhang, bordered by an 8-foot cyclone fence. You can use the upward pointing sharp feature at the bottom to mentally superimpose the enlarged section on the bigger picture.

I'm sure it's no big deal to some people, but that section of trail impresses me.

Viewed from the summit of Camelback Mountain, Barnes Butte and Papago Butte (in the area I normally take my weekend walks) seem wimpy. Papago Butte is on the left, Barnes Butte on the right. Barnes Butte is off limits, behind the Arizona National Guard base fence. The Arizona emergency preparedness bunker is supposed to be under Barnes Butte, right across the street from my house, which is on the plainly visible boundary this side of the buttes in the picture below. It's not shown, but off to the left Papago Park continues to the Desert Botanical Gardens and the Phoenix Zoo.

You can get some idea of the layout of the area from this Google Maps shot. The golf course in the middle of the picture is a good reference. Camelback Mountain is just north of the golf course; Papago Park is south.

Well, I guess that's enough. I'll just end with a snapshot from the summit of Camelback looking west. I think that's Squaw Peak on the right.

I climbed about half way up Squaw Peak with my son on my shoulders a few years ago. Now he's 16 and the only way he'll go with me is if I do the same thing again! ;>) Maybe I'll climb Squaw Peak next week.

I'm still not used to it, but Squaw Peak was renamed Piestewa Peak a few years ago in honor of Lori Piestewa, a Native American soldier who died in Iraq (in the same ambush in which her friend Jessica Lynch was captured by the Iraqis). There is some controversy about the renaming of Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak, something about the term "squaw" being vulgar to Native Americans and reactions by some who don't like political correctness or how it was enacted in this case.

OK, Piestewa Peak next week! Onward and upward!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Rejecting the Bad: A Muslim Manifesto

Rejecting the Bad: A Muslim Manifesto - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

UPDATE: The link below to the list of signers of the Muslim Manifesto has changed. Here is a new link.

A couple of young, modern, moderate muslims, Zeyno Baran, of The Nixon Center, and Mustafa Akyol, a journalist from Turkey, have penned a worthy manifesto.

The manifesto was originally published by National Review Online, then picked up by Spiegel Online, bearing the title: Rejecting the Bad. It is the centerpiece of, where the title is: A Muslim Manifesto Against Violence & Tyranny In The Name of Islam.

Like-minded muslims are urged to sign the manifesto, and all are invited to view the list of those who have signed it, at the website.

One of the authors, Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, also has a US-hosted blog called The White Path, where he posted the manifesto on March 1.

I think the manifesto is fine. I could live next to, or become friends with religious people like these. Unfortunately, the authors are very open about not being religious authorities. That being the case, they are as much pissing in the wind as I am when I support advocacy of rational drug policy or optimization of the application of the death penalty.

In any event, more power to Zeyno Baran and Mustafa Akyol. May they enjoy long lives, safe from the sort of muslim that kills Theo Van Gogh, threatens Ayaan Hirsi Ali and blows things up in the name of mythology.

It seems fitting to include a link here to the ApostatesOfIslam website.

As for me, I am a bright with Universist sympathies, and I wish my departed uncle Paul had survived to continue development of his SelfMakeover website.

Organized religions are players in a perpetual power struggle featuring myth as the primary weapon. Whereas in times past the power of myth provided selective advantage to the human species (as well as to individuals and groups), conditions are now such that the side effects of myth pose a severe threat to the continuation of civilization, primarily by preventing deliberate actions to save the biosphere of which we're a part.

Unfortunately, I don't see us shaking loose from myth any time soon. Quite the contrary, I'm afraid.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Smaller, Less Intrusive Government Please, but Bigger and More Intrusive

It seems that every time I hear right-wingers opine about "government out of our lives", in the next breath they want larger government, intrusive government, wasteful government, IN our lives when it comes to certain social issues.

Now the actor Bruce Willis, who has been in a lot of movies I've liked, displays the same characteristic.

On the one hand he says, while backtracking about being a Republican in Hollywood,
I want less government intrusion. I want them to stop [expletive] on my money and your money and tax dollars that we give 50 percent of... every year. I want them to be fiscally responsible and I want these [expletive] lobbyists out of Washington.
But then comes the usual reflex:
The 51-year-old action movie star fears little is being done to stop drug trafficking, and he's seriously thinking about challenging politicians to attack the problem head-on.
I'm talking also about going to Colombia and doing whatever it takes to end the cocaine trade.
So Willis wants government out of our lives, and he wants the government to stop being so wasteful, to stop taking so much of his money in taxes. In the same breath he also wants government to have an expensive, intrusive foreign policy, and he backs a failed, fabulously wasteful drug policy.

Mr. Willis should consider the message offered by these real cops.

One of my favorite Willis flicks was The Sixth Sense, but ...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Fuck You And Your H2

I usually find that the single most detestable thing I encounter on any given day is the sight of a Hummer going down the road, almost always with one driver and no passengers. As far as I'm concerned, the Hummer is a symbol for some of the worst aspects of our country and our species.

I had a dream one night about soliciting donations to purchase a brand new Hummer, auctioning the right to push the plunger to blow the thing to hell as spectacularly as possible for the press, and then using the proceeds to do it again.

I'm almost glad that GM is going down the tubes. I hate Hummers.

So I love this:
Untitled by Vanilla Bean

Your wallet's fat, your car is rank
Fuck you and your H2!
Each burst of speed costs half a tank
Fuck you and your H2!
At each stop sign and traffic light
Regardless if it's day or night
They'll mutter "asshole" and they're right
Fuck you and your H2!

You can't drive mud, you can't clear rocks
Fuck you and your H2!
With Chevy Tahoe frame and shocks
Fuck you and your H2!
What illness do you suffer from?
Are your aesthetic senses numb?
How does it feel to be so dumb?
Fuck you and your H2!

If I gave you what you deserve
Fuck you and your H2!
I'd cut you off and make you swerve
Fuck you and your H2!
I'd follow you across the land
I'd top your gas tank off with sand
And flip the bird with my free hand
Fuck you and your H2!

It's true you are the Tax-break winner
Fuck you and your H2!
You spent it on 'roo-bars and Spinners
Fuck you and your H2!
Full fifty-grand you can omit,
But what remains to show for it?
A four-point-three-ton pile of shit.
Fuck you and your H2!

Despite my venomous complaint
Fuck you and your H2!
I've got an atom of restraint
Fuck you and your H2!
I hope this point you haven't missed
Your car selection makes me pissed
In spite of that I can resist
Fuck you and your H2!

For 3 or more: the carpool lane
Fuck you and your H2!
But what if you have half a brain?
Fuck you and your H2!
You solo drive each day to work
That's why your friends all joke and smirk
Come Humm on THIS, you fucking jerk!
Fuck you and your H2!

That's great! So is the poster.

Then there's this opposite but funny opinion written three years or so ago (but new to me) by "paleolibertarian" Karen De Coster. Karen's picture shows a great smile! I wonder if she still sports it? She apparently didn't see the signs when she wrote the piece, but a great deal has happened since then. If she's still smiling she might consider the topic of denial.

Hat tip on FUH2 and De Coster's piece to commenters at The Oil Drum.