athelind: (veteran)
This was not our era's Pearl Harbor.

This was our era's Reichstag Fire.


After reading the responses, and being asked privately, "Does that mean you're a 'truther'?", I feel the need to restate this more clearly:

The events of 11 September 2011 more closely resemble the Reichstag Fire than Pearl Harbor, most significantly in our response to them as a nation.

Certainly, it is not a one-to-one congruence -- but the "Pearl Harbor" comparison is bandied about far more often, with few objections, and the correspondence is no more exact.

The sticking point for most respondents seems to be the identity of the perpetrators of the Fire. That's a niggling detail, irrelevant to the thesis. I find the nature of our national response to be a matter of far greater importance, because we, lashing out in terror for a decade, have done far more damage to ourselves, to our freedoms, and to the world than the people in those planes ever could have.

The Most Significant Point of Similarity is not whether or not it was an "inside job", but in the fact that it allowed the ugly strain of authoritarianism that had been seeping into into our national political culture for years to finally consolidate its power and win the hearts and minds of the public.

If you want more discussion of "the nature of our national response", feel free to consult Mr. Hicks for his opinion thereon.


athelind: (Parallel Worlds)

Evidence Emerges That Laws of Physics Are Not Fine-Tuned For Life



I admit it: even the weak versions of the Anthropic Principle make me twitch. Yes, if we're observing the universe, its physical conditions must allow us to exist; fine, that's kind of a "duh". Stronger versions get increasingly ... problematic ... as their proponents start dwelling on what a "fortunate coincidence" it is that all of these underlying physical constants line up just right for the perfect bowl of porridge rise of Life As We Know It ...

... and then they start talking about how the Universe must have arisen in such a way ...

... and then they just lapse into "GLAARGLE BARGLE PROOF OF GOD" and start speaking in tongues.

Yes, there are more sophisticated and defensible versions of the Anthropic Principle out there, but nevertheless, the concept has turned into something of a buzzword for those who want to dress up "intelligent design" in a costume that will get them into big science conferences as well as Kansas school board meetings.1

These are the people most likely to start harping on how amazing it is that the value of little terms buried deep in complex equations like the cosmological constant are exactly perfectly optimally perfectly wonderfully exact to promote the development of blah blah blah blah blah.

This is why Your Obedient Serpent uttered a joyous and most undraconic "squee" when Futurismic pointed out this article that indicates, hey, you know what, Doctor Pangloss? This may not be the Best of All Possible Worlds, after all!

Of course, as a militant agnostic, I'm just going to sit back and make popcorn as this news prompts a stampede of would-be Oolon Colluphids to get themselves run over at the next zebra crossing.


1A similar fate has befallen James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis", which has been Flanderized by both detractors and some proponents into "WOO GODDESS". The elegant systems mechanics behind the Gaia principle play an important part in my own weird version of pantheism, but that just makes it that much worse when Princess Priestess Raven Shadowscroft in beads and sequins spouts the words in the middle of some pompous Aquarian rant.
athelind: (eco-rant)
Okay, one reason, and one alone:

The United States of America consumes a disproportionate amount of the world's resources, and produces a disproportionate amount of its pollution. Even a massive socio-economic catastrophe isn't going to do more than moderate that, at least over the next half-century or so. this is an issue that I can't run away from, because the ripples affect the entire world, and not just economically.

I am an Earth Systems Scientist.

If I have any hope of having an effect on this globe-threatening situation, it's gotta be here.

I've got my lever, rusty as it may be, and I think I'm narrowing down my places to stand.


athelind: (politics)
This was originally tacked on as a footnote to my last post, but I think it needs to stand on its own.

For the record, the "Divided States of America" is only a "worst-case scenario" if the Balkanization is violent. That's not unlikely, because we're all pretty pissed at each other right now, and we do like our guns.

On the other claw, the Soviet Union managed to spin off its component without devolving into all-out war, though, even if there were border skirmishes; if the U.S. pulled off the same trick, California might wind up better off than we are now, with the Federal Government funneling money out of the eighth-largest economy in the world and into Red States who rant against taxation, welfare and government interference.


athelind: (prisoner)
Mostly for my own reference: some thoughtful and measured words about emigration.

I'll tell ya: ever since reading Toffler's predictions for the future of the two "Second Wave" superpowers in 1990's Powershift, and watching it come true in the Soviet Union less than a year later, there's a part of me that's been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Yes, I'm fully aware that this kind of apocalyptic paranoia has contributed to the paralyzing stasis of my life since graduation.

Still, there's an important truth in play: things aren't getting any better in the Untidy States, and the best-case scenario is to hope that the continual erosion of our rights and freedoms will be sufficiently gradual that we won't notice.

And the alternatives ... well, we seem to be using all the worst clichés of Cyberpunk as a road map as it is, why not that one, too?*

I would really like to convince myself that this is just pessimism due to the latest economic downturn, but even during the boom years of the '90s, I saw the "New Democrats" quietly and casually continuing the trends of restricting the rights of biological individuals and increasing the freedoms of "corporate persons". Some oppressed groups have made a few advances in acceptance, but really, it's just welcoming them to the same Village that the rest of us live in. One step forward, two steps back.

I'm in the process of reevaluating my life, realigning my goals, and trying to get a better grip on how the "real world" works.

And around here ... it doesn't. Not very well. Not in ways that will do me any good, now or in the future.

Realistically, if I'm trying to reconstruct my present to make plans for my future, "emigration" needs to be one of my options—even and especially if I land the elusive "Real Job" locally.

The big issue, of course, is that the other Anglophone nations don't really want more USian expatriates.


This is not a post about pessimism or defeatism. This is a post about options.
*See next post.

athelind: (Warning: Caustic)
One of the recurrent themes in yesterday's discussions of "Draw Mohammad Day" was that when you deliberately go out to provoke people, there are going to be consequences.

Well, after my post about Fundamentalism and Atheism, the comment threads that followed, and my own flippant, insensitive responses, I just wound up losing one of my oldest friends.

Yeah. Go me.


athelind: (cronkite)
I was in a black mood yesterday, and posted some deliberately inflammatory things in this journal.

Some of what I posted was frankly contrafactual, and does not hold up even to a cursory examination of the evidence.


A Retraction and a Correction Follow: )

This was an ignorant, insulting mistake that promulgated misinformation about a group that receives a great deal of abuse, and I apologize.


athelind: (Default)
A comment over at [livejournal.com profile] toob's journal prompted me to finally put down in words something that I've mulled over for a very long time.

Over the decades, I've seen a great deal of evidence to support the hypothesis that, no matter what faith they might nominally adhere to, Fundamentalists of any creed have more in common with each other than they do with more moderate adherents of their own creed.

From my observations, the common keystone in the Fundamentalist worldview is this:

We and we alone know the One True and Proper Path, and those who disagree with us are not merely in error, they are evil, they are our enemies, and any abuse we can deliver unto them is not only justified, but for their own good.


All too often, this becomes the Fundamentalist's primary tenet -- the specific details of his or her faith all become a distant second to the pure, blind assertion that I am right and you are not.

This is their true religion.

Proportionally, I've seen just as many Fundamentalists who think they're Atheists as I have Fundamentalists who think they're Anything Else, and their reaction to Thoughtcrime is just as zealous.

Did that last sentence piss you off?

Might want to run some diagnostics.


athelind: (flames)
Yes, I get it. We all have the right to be assholes.

That doesn't mean we have an obligation to be assholes.


Maybe I wouldn't be in such a foul mood this week if I didn't keep posting flamebait.
athelind: (cronkite)
"Draw Mohammad Day" offends me, despite the fact that I read Gods Playing Poker, which depicts Mohammad in every single strip.

GPP is irreverent and snarky, but it isn't in the least mean-spirited, and this "crusade" most certainly is.

(Of course, it's in "defense" of one of the most mean-spirited shows in U.S. television history, so yeah.)

This little stunt offends me because it's not just aimed at the Fundamentalists; this is a deliberate slap at moderate and progressive Muslims, as well (not that many of the Draw Mohammed Day crowd actually bother to acknowledge that there's a difference). It's a wide-sweeping smackdown of an entire group, and it's saying the same damned thing that the real offenders keep saying: "all of them hate all of us."

Gods damn it, people. how hard is it to grasp? If you're really opposed to an ideology, don't let its adherents frame the argument.

I'm not saying "don't do this". I'm not saying "it shouldn't be allowed". I am saying that we need to examine the motives and sincerity behind it. So much of the output is a tedious repetition of hackneyed Prophet-As-Terrorist memes that it's hard to see it as a statement of "artistic freedom".

If this were really about "free speech", we'd be following it with "Draw Christ Getting Raped In The Nail-Holes Day".


Wow. I think that's the most Regrettably Appropriate use of the word "crusade" I've invoked in a long time.
athelind: (cronkite)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Do you think the government should have the right to censor the media? If you're generally against censorship, are there any circumstances under which you feel it might be warranted?

Unca Bob had this one down:

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

—Robert Anson Heinlein, "If This Goes On—" (1940)



That, by the way, is from a short novel about a Fundamentalist takeover of the United States after a "backwoods preacher" is elected President in 2012.1

Heinlein also said, "The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak."

Now, Unca Bob, especially in the second quote, was talking about what Wikipedia calls moral censorship2, the suppression of speech that some individuals might find offensive or immoral; that is, in my estimation, subtly different from military censorship.

It is the opinion of Your Obedient Serpent that both "moral" and "military" censorship are always wrong; however, there are instances when the latter might be less bad than the alternatives. A Fully Transparent Government would not have survived World War II, and the most likely replacement had even less regard to such niceties.

It's a key part of my ethical system, however, that being forced to do bad things to avoid worse consequences does not make them good things; when you allow yourself to frame the kind of secrecy and suppression practiced in WWII as "good", you take the first step on the slippery slope that justifies political censorship, and all the cover-ups and black projects that burden us today.

I also don't automatically equate industry ratings systems as "censorship", although the MPAA has certainly demonstrated that they can be arbitrary and putative, and big studios, finding that "General Audience" films are often ignored, often tack extra nude scenes or coarse language to get an otherwise-acceptable movie out of the "kiddie ghetto"—an ironic kind of anti-censorship. Marvel Comics has implemented an entirely functional ratings system for their comics, however; while most adult comic readers are wholly unaware that Marvel even has one, the discreet little letter codes in the UPC symbol box provide a useful guide to parents looking for suitable reading material for their children, and comic store workers attempting to assist them.

I could go on, but I expect these opinions to get thoroughly Disassembled in the comments. I haven't even touched on the idea of "hate crimes" yet.


1The same timeline has a well-established Lunar colony at this point; grumbling about only getting the crappy parts of future histories may now commence.

2Wikipedia distinguishes between "moral" and "religious" censorship; please pardon me if I consider that to be hair-splitting.

athelind: (Tiananmen Rebel)
The only place I've seen this is in a locked post, so I'm gonna put it right out here in the open:

If you're on Twitter, set your location to Tehran & your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut down Iranians' access to the internet. Cut & paste & pass it on.


I'm not on Twitter, but I know a bunch of you out there who read this are -- so help throw a wrench in the Fundamentalist machine. There's not a lot we can do from here, but this one little thing could have a disproportional impact.


athelind: (Default)
The only place I've seen this is in a locked post, so I'm gonna put it right out here in the open:

If you're on Twitter, set your location to Tehran & your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut down Iranians' access to the internet. Cut & paste & pass it on.


I'm not on Twitter, but I know a bunch of you out there who read this are -- so help throw a wrench in the Fundamentalist machine. There's not a lot we can do from here, but this one little thing could have a disproportional impact.


athelind: (YAY)

The Florida legislature has approved religious-themed specialty license plates.



They didn't get to see them before the vote, but here's a pic:



Tasteful, aren't they?

That big gap in the middle makes coming up with appropriate personalized plates a challenge that we rose to meet.

Cut for tasty, tasteless sacrilege! )
And now it's your turn!

That's what Comments are for!


athelind: (Default)

The Florida legislature has approved religious-themed specialty license plates.



They didn't get to see them before the vote, but here's a pic:



Tasteful, aren't they?

That big gap in the middle makes coming up with appropriate personalized plates a challenge that we rose to meet.

Cut for tasty, tasteless sacrilege! )
And now it's your turn!

That's what Comments are for!


athelind: (We The People)
This has been making the rounds tonight, and it should.


Edit: Embed fixed. Thanx, Cargo.


athelind: (Default)
This has been making the rounds tonight, and it should.


Edit: Embed fixed. Thanx, Cargo.


athelind: (hoard potato)
Drinkhacker.com is planning a Parade to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition on 05 December, and they're looking for a Bay Area resident turning 75 and another turning 21 on December 5th to act as Grand Marshalls.

...if they could find someone turning 96, they'd have someone who actually was legally allowed to drink on that day!


Yes, this one gets the "politics" tag, among others. The Repeal of Prohibition marked the end of the last Big Wave Of Moralizing Religious Stupidity that screwed up this country.
athelind: (Default)
Drinkhacker.com is planning a Parade to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition on 05 December, and they're looking for a Bay Area resident turning 75 and another turning 21 on December 5th to act as Grand Marshalls.

...if they could find someone turning 96, they'd have someone who actually was legally allowed to drink on that day!


Yes, this one gets the "politics" tag, among others. The Repeal of Prohibition marked the end of the last Big Wave Of Moralizing Religious Stupidity that screwed up this country.
athelind: (veteran)
There's a move to revoke the LDS Church's tax-exempt status for violating the section of the Federal code that limits the use of such organizations to influence legislation.

This seems entirely appropriate to me.

Do As Thou Wilt.


athelind: (Default)
There's a move to revoke the LDS Church's tax-exempt status for violating the section of the Federal code that limits the use of such organizations to influence legislation.

This seems entirely appropriate to me.

Do As Thou Wilt.


athelind: (His Master's Voice)


GenCon 2008 raised over $17,000 for the Christian Children's Fund -- you know, "pennies a day can feed these photogenic waifs".

That was Gary Gygax's favorite charity, and the CCF was chosen as a memorial to him.

They turned it down, because the money came in part from the sales of Dungeons & Dragons.


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