athelind: (Ommm)
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I am a fan of many authors and songwriters who are famous for their brevity and wit, for their pithy epigrams, for their quotability. Franklin, Twain, Heinlein, Sagan; I pepper my speech with references to all of them.

My favorite quote, however, is not a nice, tidy little soundbite. It's not an epigram. It's not pithy. I can't randomly drop make an oblique reference to it in casual conversation.

I first discovered it in a book my grandmother left me: The Ascent of Man, by Jacob Bronowski, based on his PBS series of the same name. More than any other passage, it spoke to me.



It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. This is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashed of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.'

I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.



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: (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: (We The People)

Amendment I


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Let's look at that statement in bold for a moment, for a bold statement it is.

There's a tendency in recent years for American Christians, led astray by the Fundamentalists and Dominionists, to look askance at the Wall of Separation between Church and State.

The problem is that they're taking it out of historical context.

The "Establishment Clause" and the "Free Exercise Clause" are there to keep other churches from telling your church how to worship.

It was originally written to keep the peace between competing Christian sects, and to protect any dissenters from the fallout between them.

Proposition 8 supporters insist that they're protecting "Freedom of Religion", but, whether they realize it or not*, their initiative will infringe upon the freedom of at least one major Christian denomination and many smaller ones who do accept, support, and will perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Under current law, no church is required to perform such ceremonies.

*I am sure the more fervent Fundamentalists and Dominionists are well aware that they're imposing on other people's religious freedom, but dismiss that because tehy don't consider them to be practicing a "real" religion. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the rest, however, and assume that they simply haven't viewed the question in this framework.
athelind: (Default)

Amendment I


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Let's look at that statement in bold for a moment, for a bold statement it is.

There's a tendency in recent years for American Christians, led astray by the Fundamentalists and Dominionists, to look askance at the Wall of Separation between Church and State.

The problem is that they're taking it out of historical context.

The "Establishment Clause" and the "Free Exercise Clause" are there to keep other churches from telling your church how to worship.

It was originally written to keep the peace between competing Christian sects, and to protect any dissenters from the fallout between them.

Proposition 8 supporters insist that they're protecting "Freedom of Religion", but, whether they realize it or not*, their initiative will infringe upon the freedom of at least one major Christian denomination and many smaller ones who do accept, support, and will perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Under current law, no church is required to perform such ceremonies.

*I am sure the more fervent Fundamentalists and Dominionists are well aware that they're imposing on other people's religious freedom, but dismiss that because tehy don't consider them to be practicing a "real" religion. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the rest, however, and assume that they simply haven't viewed the question in this framework.
athelind: (outrage)
It infuriates me that, while almost every prime-time show we watch regularly has at least one ad supporting the reprehensible Proposition 8, I have yet to see a single ad opposing it. What happened to "equal time"?

Or is this a situation where those foul "pro" ads work just as well to stoke up the fury of any thinking person against this?

From the bile these people spew, you'd think that they believe that if their proposition to Eliminate Rights* doesn't pass, same-sex marriage will become mandatory for everyone.


*Bless you, Jerry Brown, for renaming this Act to accurately describe what it means.
athelind: (Default)
It infuriates me that, while almost every prime-time show we watch regularly has at least one ad supporting the reprehensible Proposition 8, I have yet to see a single ad opposing it. What happened to "equal time"?

Or is this a situation where those foul "pro" ads work just as well to stoke up the fury of any thinking person against this?

From the bile these people spew, you'd think that they believe that if their proposition to Eliminate Rights* doesn't pass, same-sex marriage will become mandatory for everyone.


*Bless you, Jerry Brown, for renaming this Act to accurately describe what it means.
athelind: (outrage)
I've been trying to compose a response to this story all day: a Ramadan prayer service in Dayton, Ohio was interrupted on Friday when local thugs sprayed a chemical irritant into the mosque, specifically targeting the room where children and infant were being cared for while their parents were praying.

The DailyKos points out that this occurred shortly after a fear-mongering anti-Muslim propaganda DVD was distributed in newspapers and free mailings across several swing states, including Ohio.

I cannot consider that a coincidence.

There are those saying that comparisons to Kristallnacht are alarmist and exaggerated. Perhaps comparisons to Birmingham are more appropriate?

No, no one was killed in this cowardly assault on innocents. This is certainly a step beyond cross-burning and graffiti, however. Does someone actually have to die before Dayton police will recognize it as a hate crime?



[livejournal.com profile] scarfman provided this:

*<*div align="center"*>**<*a href="http://tinyurl.com/3gag6m"*>**<*img src="http://www.the-principle.net/images/freedom-of-religion.gif"*>**<*/a*>**<*/div*>*

Copy the code above and remove all the asterisks to link to the image.



athelind: (Default)
I've been trying to compose a response to this story all day: a Ramadan prayer service in Dayton, Ohio was interrupted on Friday when local thugs sprayed a chemical irritant into the mosque, specifically targeting the room where children and infant were being cared for while their parents were praying.

The DailyKos points out that this occurred shortly after a fear-mongering anti-Muslim propaganda DVD was distributed in newspapers and free mailings across several swing states, including Ohio.

I cannot consider that a coincidence.

There are those saying that comparisons to Kristallnacht are alarmist and exaggerated. Perhaps comparisons to Birmingham are more appropriate?

No, no one was killed in this cowardly assault on innocents. This is certainly a step beyond cross-burning and graffiti, however. Does someone actually have to die before Dayton police will recognize it as a hate crime?



[livejournal.com profile] scarfman provided this:

*<*div align="center"*>**<*a href="http://tinyurl.com/3gag6m"*>**<*img src="http://www.the-principle.net/images/freedom-of-religion.gif"*>**<*/a*>**<*/div*>*

Copy the code above and remove all the asterisks to link to the image.



athelind: (fascism)
From Time Magazine:

Bush Circumvents Congress and the People To Hand Over U.S. Military and Economy To A Foreign Government



Think my headline sounds shrill? Read the damned article.

This man is arrogating authority that violates the Constitution several times over. He has no right to broker these agreements, and is doing so in violation of the law of the land.

How can we be so acquiescent at his contemptuous disregard for the laws and the people of the United States?

The candidate bound and determined to carry on his policies of torture, ubiquitous surveillance and the Continuous War with Eurasia is running neck and neck with his opponent.

Wake up.

athelind: (Default)
From Time Magazine:

Bush Circumvents Congress and the People To Hand Over U.S. Military and Economy To A Foreign Government



Think my headline sounds shrill? Read the damned article.

This man is arrogating authority that violates the Constitution several times over. He has no right to broker these agreements, and is doing so in violation of the law of the land.

How can we be so acquiescent at his contemptuous disregard for the laws and the people of the United States?

The candidate bound and determined to carry on his policies of torture, ubiquitous surveillance and the Continuous War with Eurasia is running neck and neck with his opponent.

Wake up.

athelind: (outrage)


I know posting something like this on my blog is largely preaching to the choir, but I wanted to pass it on anyway.

athelind: (Default)


I know posting something like this on my blog is largely preaching to the choir, but I wanted to pass it on anyway.

athelind: (outrage)
This was originally a response to a comment in a previous post. At the suggestion of several people, I'm expanding it to a full post.

I have heard from several sources -- including [livejournal.com profile] hitchkitty's Congressman -- a reluctance to use impeachment as a "political tool" -- by which they mean a partisan tool, a means of vindictive retribution against the opposition.*

That boat sailed ten years ago, dear reader.

After achieving control of the House for the first time in forty years, and spending more than half of that time seething bitterly over the resignation and disgrace of Richard Milhouse Nixon, the "Grand Old Party" immediately turned their vindictive pettiness on the current Democratic President. Four years of a concerted witch hunt over matters long preceding Mr. Clinton's term in the White House followed. In the end, the most vicious, ruthless, take-no-prisoners political minds in this nation could find nothing more compromising than a hesitation to be entirely candid about a sexual indiscretion that had nothing to do with the original investigation.

And now, we have reached a point where this single, frivolous impeachment has so compromised the validity of the process that there is reluctance to invoke it in a clear-cut case of multiple offenses against the laws and the Constitution of the United States.

If the highest officials in the land cannot be held accountable for their actions using the legal framework set in place for exactly that, then they are, in fact, above the law, and the pretense of Democracy in the United States is a shadow play.

Other questions have been raised in regard to the timing, so close to being rid of the Current Occupant through the normal order of things. But consider this: Mr. Bush has 224 days left in office. If memory serves, they impeached Mr. Clinton in 181 days.

Even if this action does not get him removed from office, even the first phase -- getting the Congress to confirm that, yes, at least some of these offenses listed are, indeed, "an impeachable offense, warranting the removal from office" -- is important.

It is a valuable precursor for bringing the criminal charges these actions so richly deserve, be it in a United States court, or, if I may engage in a wishful fantasy of our country ever seeing fit to grow up and join the community of civilized nations, in the International Criminal Court.

Even if it amounts to no more than a symbolic gesture, we have to make it clear, to ourselves, to the rest of the world, to posterity -- and above all, to the power-hungry motherless savages, past and future, who seek to wring the public coffers dry to polish their own tick-bloated egos -- that sacrificing all that is right and good about the American experiment for any cause is simply not acceptable.

For more than a decade, we blockaded and starved the people of Iraq, because of their stubborn refusal to rise up against a leader who initiated a war of aggression, detained citizens and foreign nationals without due process of law, and maintaining and practicing tortue as a matter of official policy.

How can we not hold ourselves to the same standards?


*[livejournal.com profile] hitchkitty has more to say on the subject here, at the culmination of this thread.
athelind: (Default)
This was originally a response to a comment in a previous post. At the suggestion of several people, I'm expanding it to a full post.

I have heard from several sources -- including [livejournal.com profile] hitchkitty's Congressman -- a reluctance to use impeachment as a "political tool" -- by which they mean a partisan tool, a means of vindictive retribution against the opposition.*

That boat sailed ten years ago, dear reader.

After achieving control of the House for the first time in forty years, and spending more than half of that time seething bitterly over the resignation and disgrace of Richard Milhouse Nixon, the "Grand Old Party" immediately turned their vindictive pettiness on the current Democratic President. Four years of a concerted witch hunt over matters long preceding Mr. Clinton's term in the White House followed. In the end, the most vicious, ruthless, take-no-prisoners political minds in this nation could find nothing more compromising than a hesitation to be entirely candid about a sexual indiscretion that had nothing to do with the original investigation.

And now, we have reached a point where this single, frivolous impeachment has so compromised the validity of the process that there is reluctance to invoke it in a clear-cut case of multiple offenses against the laws and the Constitution of the United States.

If the highest officials in the land cannot be held accountable for their actions using the legal framework set in place for exactly that, then they are, in fact, above the law, and the pretense of Democracy in the United States is a shadow play.

Other questions have been raised in regard to the timing, so close to being rid of the Current Occupant through the normal order of things. But consider this: Mr. Bush has 224 days left in office. If memory serves, they impeached Mr. Clinton in 181 days.

Even if this action does not get him removed from office, even the first phase -- getting the Congress to confirm that, yes, at least some of these offenses listed are, indeed, "an impeachable offense, warranting the removal from office" -- is important.

It is a valuable precursor for bringing the criminal charges these actions so richly deserve, be it in a United States court, or, if I may engage in a wishful fantasy of our country ever seeing fit to grow up and join the community of civilized nations, in the International Criminal Court.

Even if it amounts to no more than a symbolic gesture, we have to make it clear, to ourselves, to the rest of the world, to posterity -- and above all, to the power-hungry motherless savages, past and future, who seek to wring the public coffers dry to polish their own tick-bloated egos -- that sacrificing all that is right and good about the American experiment for any cause is simply not acceptable.

For more than a decade, we blockaded and starved the people of Iraq, because of their stubborn refusal to rise up against a leader who initiated a war of aggression, detained citizens and foreign nationals without due process of law, and maintaining and practicing tortue as a matter of official policy.

How can we not hold ourselves to the same standards?


*[livejournal.com profile] hitchkitty has more to say on the subject here, at the culmination of this thread.
athelind: (outrage)
My daily perusal of BoingBoing exposes me to a wide range of "wonderful things" -- and, occasionally, the horrific as well. On a rare occasion, something I find there will drive me to delight and elation -- and others, to tears of indignant outrage.

This is not an example of the former.

This evening, the monotone maw of Ben Stein, star of stage, screen, and Nixon speechwriting, graced us with the following:

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.


Mr. Stein, I will not attempt a rebuttal. I have no need to do so. Thirty-five years ago, Jacob Bronowski said everything that need be said in his magnum opus, The Ascent of Man, in a scene filmed on the site of those very atrocities you evoke so wryly, as the ashy remains of his own family members and yours flowed through his fingers:


It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. This is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashed of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.'

I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.


Which of us, Mr. Stein, claims to know the Mind of God?
athelind: (Default)
My daily perusal of BoingBoing exposes me to a wide range of "wonderful things" -- and, occasionally, the horrific as well. On a rare occasion, something I find there will drive me to delight and elation -- and others, to tears of indignant outrage.

This is not an example of the former.

This evening, the monotone maw of Ben Stein, star of stage, screen, and Nixon speechwriting, graced us with the following:

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.


Mr. Stein, I will not attempt a rebuttal. I have no need to do so. Thirty-five years ago, Jacob Bronowski said everything that need be said in his magnum opus, The Ascent of Man, in a scene filmed on the site of those very atrocities you evoke so wryly, as the ashy remains of his own family members and yours flowed through his fingers:


It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. This is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashed of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.'

I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.


Which of us, Mr. Stein, claims to know the Mind of God?

November 2016

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