Archive Page 2

17
Jan
10

Thank You For Your Service




Why It Truly is Blood For Oil

14
Jan
10

Dear Friend

I Am So Lucky Sharing People are Trying to Contact Me

I am about to be rich. Wealthy beyond what I expected, and it is frankly a complete surprise to me that this opportunity has come my way. Who would have thought that a tidal wave disaster would eventually benefit me? Here is the source of my upcoming wealth, and I am sure that you will see why I am so confident that this will work:

Continue reading ‘Dear Friend’

13
Jan
10

Reflexive Reaction to Franken Foods

Genetically Modified Organisms

I have to admit that I am not a geneticist, and I only have a background in the studies of genetics from a high school and early level college series of classes in biology and organic chemistry. I don’t deem myself an expert in GMO’s and so you are welcome to take what I write about them with a certain level of dismissiveness if you wish. Of course, you are welcome to take all of what I write with a certain level of dismissiveness. I am used to it.

I strongly support the concept that teaching critical thinking to all students and pupils and all citizens is critical, so that we can responsibly examine presuppositions and how we use them to address critical issues facing society. I don’t think that we should reflexively defer to scientists on questions, but we should learn how to read what they publish, how to sort the media’s interpretation of science and how to respond when it comes to the questions we pose our policy-makers.

You really should know that I am not a climatologist, but I am sufficiently convinced that the preponderance of data supports the fact that human activity has accelerated the overall global warming trend that we may or may not have been cycling through had nature been left to itself. I am sufficiently convinced that the processes of evolution account for the ongoing diversity of life and even can account for abiogenesis. I am sufficiently convinced that the sun was born from the remnants of a supernova, and that time started just “before” planck time and that we are still “in” the big bang as the universe and space continue to expand faster than the speed of light.

With all that being said, I am dismayed that the public attitude towards GMO foods and their research is largely colored by an anti-science and anti-skeptical denialism. What I need to remind people is that denialism is not a prejudicial function of conservatism. It finds its roots and home all across the political spectrum. Yes, Creationism and Climate-Science denial are largely confined to conservative protectionism of the status quo, but anti-GMO sentiment that is reflexive is largely a leftist movement. And, as a liberal I am frankly embarrassed by the approach of leftists on this issue. It is the same approach used by anti-vaccination autism and “toxin” screamers. If the product is developed by a major corporation that stands to make a profit, then it is automatically bad. Of course, I wonder if the people that rail against GMO are doing so from their Microsoft or MacIntosh machines.

I have been subscribing to Change.org’s e-mail updates to find what sort of activism I can endorse and participate in that I believe will make our country a better place. I also subscribe through my google reader to Truthout.org to get news from non-mainstream media. Both sources have a tendency to provide reliable journalism and reporting from a liberal (meaning reality-based) outlook. But they have been sending me action points related to fighting the development of GMO foods, crops and pest-resistant plants.

There is a great potential benefit to moving from traditional forms of hybridizing plants towards inserting genes into existing species of food crops. There are also potential dangers which must be scientifically tested, and confirmed to be safe.

The problem is that GMO denialists are absolutely opposed to any research into the development of what they refer to as “Franken Foods.” Two quick links, because I must leave for work, for you to use to identify what I am referring to. The take home message from my post is not that all GMO should be accepted uncritically. No, they should be studied methodically because the potential benefits of moving towards GMO based agricultural and tied in with organics can go a long way towards mitigating the oncoming droughts and continued desecration of the planet.

The change.org article and comments with ad homs against Robert Wager:

And a new study — which had to resort to analyzing data sets produced by studies conducted by Monsanto and another biotech firm, Covance Laboratories, and submitted to European governments because researchers couldn’t get seeds — has found that Monsanto corn impairs rats’ kidneys and livers. The “data strongly suggests” that after just 90 days of eating GM corn, rats experienced kidney toxicity and showed effects to their hearts, adrenal glands, spleen and blood cells. (The study was published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.)

And a response at David Tribe’s GMO Pundit to the faulty attributes of the study quoted:

The picture shows only one test result, but it shows it very well, telling the story of Seralini making far too much out of random variation in rat biology that occurs in all animal feeding trials.
Yes there is a difference in average relative kidney size between rats fed the GM corn and those fed its comparator variety in this feeding trial, but when the range kidney sizes of values of rats fed a variety of (non-GM) corn varieties is included, it becomes clear that this difference is within the range of normal variation.

Learn how this science stuff works, people. PLEASE!

12
Jan
10

Reply to Dairy State Dad

Regarding Dawkins and Fundamentalist Atheism

In response to this post, I have started a comment exchange at Dairy State Dad’s blog. (DSD is a Unitarian.) His comment field is limited to 4096 characters, and I didn’t know how much I needed to trim so I brought it over here.  This comment is unedited, but left raw as I had typed it there, so I beg pardon for anything unusually worse than my normal copy.

One of the things that is important to understand is that all atheists, some of whom have to be cornered into admitting it, is that we are all agnostic. The labels “atheist” and “agnostic” are most often placed within the same scalar of belief, but they are actually functions of different belief concepts. Atheism is a function of how one responds and chooses to live and act on our lack of belief or faith that there is/are supernatural actors/creators, and is ultimately a recognition that the likelihood of such is so low as to be negligible and we use philosophies such as humanism to guide us where religion is lacking.

Agnosticism is a recognition that we can be wrong, because ultimately no one can “know” by the very definition of supernaturalism. So, atheists can be both atheists and agnostics. If you re-read even the introduction to “The God Delusion,” one thing that Dawkins spells out is the reason that he approaches the book in the way that he does, to approach largely the fundamentalist aspects of religion, is that this is what most people are familiar with in our western society; the insistence that the Supernatural Actor has an influence and interest in the natural. This can’t be demonstrated using any method of objective investigation, of course.

Were Dawkins to have fully covered all of the religious experiences and forms of expression (including liberal and moderate forms,) the book would have been twice as long.

This book was aimed at atheists, and a large segment of the religious who are intended to read it and learn about where we get our ideas and concepts rather than as a definitive scholarly work. It was intended as a popular work, to counter the prevalence of such weighty religious tomes as those published by Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and those writers who take the existence of God as “givens” not even to be seriously examined. It was not intended to be the definitive scholarly work, nor was it intended to be a daily guide for atheists. It was written to show people how to approach the ideas and discuss and engage in them at a popular level and not intended to replace the heavier works of philosophy.

Further, it is also intended to help secularists who are fighting the urge of government to give automatic deference in the forming of laws to the religious when it comes to ethical questions. I am sure that it alarms you as much as it does me that there are Bishops and ministers who are working very hard to intimidate our legislators into preventing any financial support in the health bills for the poor and working class who need access to birth control and abortions based on some misguided concepts as “dignity of life” (which is not extended to the collateral damage of children in the countries the U.S. is currently engaged militarily.)

People, even those of you who are religious yet accept your faith and its subjective experience, should be willing to challenge the source of that faith to see if in fact it is a product of societal teaching, a product of the manner in which our brains process information or even if it is a genuine experience of commune with the Supernatural Actor, without fear of approaching it.

If Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Stenger write books for the popular public, it is not to demand that society abandon religion; and that is why it is not fundamentalist. The hope is there that people will examine why faith is so pervasive, why it is not congruent with science and even to look into the current research into the role of myelin in the experience of mind and self. If there is a dualistic nature to man and spirituality, then can it be demonstrated or is there the possibility that we create it as a self-serving delusion aided by the inherent religious approach in our society that teaches children from a young age that duality is a “given?” It shouldn’t be seen as a given, and that is what these four are trying to say.

Hitchens is a different sort of writer, of course, examining the dangers inherent in clinging to religious belief and he may be the one who can most closely be described as a fundamentalist in his distaste for the effects of religion on society.

But Dawkins is accused of many personality traits he simply doesn’t have. I won’t say that we are close personal friends, but he knows me well enough that he is willing to let me introduce him to my own friends and colleagues. I have never seen him to be rude nor dismissive of anyone unless he is faced again with countering a misimpression of what he is trying to say and from a person who is attacking him personally for his own approach. He is unfailingly polite, even to the religious.

He is not fundamentalist in the sense that he says that only atheism can save us, but he is often accused of that by people who are not willing to reflect on the possible sources of their beliefs and that is a trait of religious people from all spectra. Perhaps the label fundamentalist is useful against such atheism because it deflects responsibility for self-examination

11
Jan
10

Courage To Resist

Americanism Infecting Canada

I loved growing up close to Canada, because within a few miles was a foreign country. A border is an arbitrary line, drawn by treaty or war, of course but the amazing thing is that once I crossed that line I was in a different culture with different values than my own, in a culture with cohabiting languages.  Across that line was a town of Ukrainian immigrants who painted their houses with different colors on each side.  Across that line were different rules, kilometres instead of miles, different ways to add flavor to french fries.  The gas was sold in Imperial gallons. The money was different.  And at age 18 I could go across the border to have a legal drink in a bar.

There was something else that I encountered in Canada, too, and especially during the Vietnam War.  The government up there was not bombing Cambodians, secretly, on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  The government wasn’t dropping Napalm or Agent Orange on hamlets.  The government was providing amnesty to war resisters who had been drafted by the U.S. Army to fight a war started by the French.  In Canada, they respected the freedom of conscience to not fight an unjust war.

When I was in Texas I was talking to a parts manager at a dealership and he asked about my accent. I told him where I am from, and he said “That’s kind of close to Canada, isn’t it? I hate Canada, full of cowards who ran while I went to Vietnam.”

That’s all he knew about Canada, and that’s all he wanted to know about where I am from, and he was still pissed off about what had happened 20 years before and hated a whole country for it.

Well, Mr. Fucker in Texas, Canada is at it again.  They’re sheltering war resisters and AWOL soldiers, but the Canadian Prime Minister is not as cooperative as Pierre Trudeau had been.  Stephen Harper has decided that, contrary to acts of Parliament, he will be deporting American soldiers.  And Americans can help their fellow citizens stay were they are safe from persecution for standing up for their beliefs.  Here is a letter that you can sign and print and send to the PM of Canada, and to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Jason Kenney:

Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney

Please act immediately to cancel the deportation of Rodney Watson, who is currently taking sanctuary at the First United Church in Vancouver BC, by implementing the Canadian Parliament’s resolutions to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.

I am writing from the United States to ask that you abide by the House of Commons resolution—reaffirmed February 12, 2009—to create a program to allow war objectors, including U.S. resisters, to apply for permanent resident status in Canada and to cease all deportation and removal proceedings against them.

The recent flurry of deportation orders to war resisters, including Kimberly Rivera and her three children, and the forcing out of Robin Long, Cliff Cornell and Chris Teske, flaunted Canada’s longstanding tradition of providing sanctuary to war objectors. Upon their forced return from Canada to the U.S. military, Robin and Cliff were sentenced to 15 and 12 months imprisonment respectively. Future resisters face even stiffer sentences.

When more than 50,000 Americans refused to fight in Vietnam and emigrated to Canada, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared, “[They] have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”

On June 3, 2008, the House of Commons first voted to uphold this rich tradition by passing a historic resolution to allow war resisters to apply for permanent residence status in Canada and to halt the deportation of conscientious objectors. In addition to this parliamentary motion, according to a recent poll, nearly two of three Canadians also favor allowing U.S. war resisters to stay. Furthermore, many wonderful Canadians have opened their homes and hearts to U.S. war resisters.

I ask that the Canadian government respect the democratic decision of Parliament, the demonstrated opinion of the Canadian citizenry, the view of the United Nations, and millions of Americans by immediately implementing the motion and cease deportation proceedings against Rodney Watson, Kimberly Rivera, Jeremy Hinzman, Dean Walcott and other current and future war resisters.

Sincerely,

(Your name here.)

There resides here more information.

Since Harper was a big buddy of Bush, he wants to make sure that the bastards who don’t want to kill the innocents get punished.  Canada, which was once differentiated has a prime minister of a minority government who wants to Americanize Canada.

10
Jan
10

Net Neutrality and an Open Internet

Monopolization Fetters Freedom

In the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress is prohibited from passing laws restricting the freedom of speech.  There was a reason for that, and the main one is that information shared is liberating.  Restrictions and censorship, whether for our “protection” or the protection of those who would be embarrassed or hurt by information being available, violate the principle that through the free exchange of ideas and thought can people exercise liberty.

Oh, yawn, I know. Continue reading ‘Net Neutrality and an Open Internet’

10
Jan
10

I Am Waiting

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
Of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

 Continue reading 'I Am Waiting'