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June 30, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

Tomlinson's Mann Report on PBS identifies Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as a liberal. Right, and the Easter Bunny is a member of al Qaeda. The bottom line according to Tomlinson. If you don't agree with all the president's positions you're a liberal.

Dear Kansas Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story

In the beginning�specifically on October 23, 4004 B.C., at noon�out of quantum foam fluctuation God created the Big Bang. The bang was followed by cosmological inflation. God saw that the Big Bang was very big, too big for creatures that could worship him, so He created the earth. And darkness was upon the face of the deep, so He commanded hydrogen atoms (which He created out of Quarks and other subatomic goodies) to fuse and become helium atoms and in the process release energy in the form of light. And the light maker he called the sun, and the process He called fusion. And He saw the light was good because now He could see what he was doing. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Class Matters

The myth of the self-made man is American culture's own special heart of darkness, helping to explain both its infectious optimism and ruthless greed. The idea holds enough truth and seductiveness to make it easy to forget its delusional dangers. To reprise Marx's famous formulation, individuals, like humankind, do make their own personal history, but not under conditions they choose. But in America, we choose to ignore the caveat about conditions at our peril.

Juan Cole and Mark Fiore (flash) on Bush's speech.

I don't even know how to describe Representative Hayes.

GOP lawmaker: Saddam linked to 9/11

"Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11," Rep. Robin Hayes said.
Told no investigation had ever found evidence to link Saddam and 9/11, Hayes responded, "I'm sorry, but you must have looked in the wrong places."
Hayes, the vice chairman of the House subcommittee on terrorism, said legislators have access to evidence others do not.

June 29, 2005

George Bush On Course

Stay the Crooked Course

When the president says he is staying the course it reminds me of the man who has just jumped from the Empire State Building. Half-way down he says, �I am still on course.� Well, I would not want to be on course with a man who will lie splattered in the street.—Lt. Gen. William Odom (US Army, ret)


The President's speech was nothing new the same references to 9/11, the "coalition", staying the course bullshit. There was at least this amusing exchange between Chris Matthew's and a couple of army wives in a townhall meeting following the president's address.

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related: Prime Time For The President

June 28, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

Karl Marx takes lead in BBC poll of philosophers and there is still time to vote though I don't think it will make a difference in the final results. Whether you intend to vote or not it's worth visiting to listen to "an advocate put forward a case for each philosopher"

Julian Baggini writes campaign editorial on behalf of Hume who is currently in second place.

An interview with Tim Robbins about his play Embedded a satirical take on the madness that is our involvement in Iraq and now available as a video here Check out the clips, great stuff.

Did you support George Bush and his illegal war. Does that make you an accessory after the fact. Does it make you along with George W. Bush a War Criminal

Check out Mad Kane for new limericks and a song parody.

June 27, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Monday

Porter Goss the director of the Central Intelligence Agency says he has an excellent idea where bin Laden is. So why not go get him? Porter points to the problem of sanctuaries in sovereign states, and fair play. Funny that Afghanistan, a sovereign state, was not a problem, nor was the fact that Iraq was a sovereign state a hinderance to an invasion to "accomplish our goals.", and as onegoodmove reader Max points out not even Italy's sovereignty presents a problem. I think Chuck Hagel has it right when he says, "It's like they're just making it up as they go along," indeed.

OB at Notes and Comments suggest there are limits to respectful tolerance. It should come as know surprise to those who read onegoodmove that I share that view. No free passes even if you do hallucinate on a regular basis. You'll get my sympathy, but not my respect.

Conscious Torment

So religion makes people good, does it. Christianity makes people more kind and compassionate does it. Well, maybe sometimes it does, but all too often it (at least the extreme, narrow version of it that is so popular in the US) makes people - not just not better, but horrifying. Disgusting. So appalling it's hard to take it in.

Patrick Henry is a Christian university where the students all (shades of Oxbridge and the Thirty Nine Articles) sign a ten-part statement of faith -agreeing that, among other things, Hell is a place where �all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.�
Okay, I know we're supposed to be all tolerant and respectful, we're supposed to shut up about people's pious 'devout' beliefs, we're supposed to refrain from telling them that they're lost in the fog. But - but there's a limit. There's a limit, and with the drooling sadism of the Rapture novels and with 'statements of faith' like the above, I reach my limit. That sentence is disgusting! It's disgusting, disgusting, disgusting, and people who sign up to it and then go cheerily about their business, ironing their hair and not drinking alcohol and interning for Karl Rove - people like that are an abomination. I'm serious. If they sign up to that and seriously literally believe it's true - what the fuck is the matter with them? Why aren't they all curled up in little balls sobbing and screaming? Why doesn't that thought blight their lives? Why doesn't it give them nightmares? Why doesn't it torture them so much that they look for a way out and realize it's all a pack of lies? Why are they happy with the set-up? What is wrong with them? They seriously think that the vast majority of humans alive now and also formerly alive are now or will soon be 'confined in conscious torment for eternity'? And they don't mind? They in fact 'love' the 'God' that arranges this? The God that first creates us and then confines us in conscious torment for eternity?

June 26, 2005


"Since 9/11, we've had people like Chuck Hagel and other politicians and we've had people in the press corps and commentators who've said we can't do Afghanistan."—Dick Cheney The republicans are eating their own. The only question is how will Chuck Hagel react to his trip to the woodshed.

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Related: Hagel: "Iraq could be worse than Vietnam"

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

All of today's links are related to philosophical issues or the study of philosophy. There is no better preparation for life than a grounding in philosophical concepts and methods.
The Philosopher's Tookit is an excellent book on the both concepts and methods. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in philosophy. It is a great introduction for someone new to the subject, and is a great reference for those with more experience with philosophical ideas.

DHS grad spreads philosophy to teens

Bio ethics, death, existentialism, dreams � they weren't regular topics for some D.C. high school students until a Danbury High School graduate introduced them.
David Backer, a senior at George Washington University, developed a philosophy seminar that he ran with 10 philosophy majors.
They chose topics and led discussions so the high school juniors and seniors could learn to think more broadly about ideas at a deeper level than what is typical in high school course work. Students went to the university weekly for the two-hour seminar.

Thinking Straight

A Logical Vacation

The Basis or Morality

June 25, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Saturday

Philosophy Carnival XV

Is Cheney Alright ?

Killing germs, reducing waste, making oil: TDP might be the next big thing Doug has more on this topic here

Glen Reynolds Out-Stupids Himself

The Real News in the Downing Street Memos

Back Sliding Republicans


Tom Delay and Dan Bartlett are defending uncle Karl. Delay provided an articulate defense of the raging Rover, Dub couldn't have said it any better. Dan Bartlett on the other hand spun a story only his mother would believe. Is Olbermann right was it just Delay's failure to practice reading through the remarks before quoting them, or is this guy on something.

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June 24, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Friday

Rove responds to critics

A Moral Transaction by Bill Moyers

An honest conversation

What I want people to do is be honest.

If you will not serve in Iraq, and no one you know will serve, stop expecting someone else to do what you will not.

Therefore, it is time to stop calling for more troops, or the US to make Iraq safe. We cannot do this and even Americans are refusing to join the fight. It is time to look at your actions and realize, that despite your ideals, you oppose continuing this war. In practical terms, you have decided that this war is not worth your life or anyone you know. And million of Americans have joined you in this decision.

So, with this fact evident, it is time to call for US troops to withdraw from Iraq. Not save it, not add more boots on the ground. You have already voted by your actions. It is time that you match it with your words.

Mad Kane on Bill Frist and John Bolton and here is the podcast of the same.

11th meeting of the skeptics circle

June 23, 2005

Fuck You Karl

Other than the simple epithet I used for the title of this post I'm at a loss for words. Peter Daou has found some for all of us.

I'm devoting much of today's report to Karl Rove's vile comments denigrating half of the American public. My office overlooks Ground Zero, and I'm looking at the gaping footprint as I write this. My wife and I were in New York that day, on our way to the WTC for a morning meeting. A chance phone call dragged on a few minutes too long and most likely saved our lives. I lost friends in the towers, and when I walk past the site, as I do almost every evening, the pain is as real as it was on September 11th, 2001... I wouldn't presume to question the strength or dignity of a stranger, and I pity those who blithely push the right=strong, left=weak rhetoric. It says far more about their inadequacies than it does about the target of their scorn. Today, Karl Rove took that rhetoric to a new, filthy low.
More responses here and here and here

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Religion and the Brain

"From a scientific point of view, we can make no distinction between the man who eats little and sees heaven and the man who drinks much and sees snakes. Each is in an abnormal physical condition, and therefore has abnormal perceptions. "—Bertrand Russell (1935)

David Sedaris on Letterman

I'm certainly a fan of David Sedaris he is an excellent writer and is great reading his own material. He appeared on David Letterman last night. Here is the video of his appearance, and links to the books mentioned on the show.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

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Here is a link to another Sedaris appearance on Letterman

June 22, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

Fox know how to treat their employees Exterminate Exterminate

Remember Flim-Flam How to be a modern skeptic.

Bad Moves: It worked for me�

By Julian Baggini

"It would be interesting to see how the world would be different if Dick Cheney really listened to Radiohead's OK Computer. I think the world would probably improve. That album is fucking brilliant. It changed my life, so why wouldn't it change his?" Chris Martin of Coldplay, Guardian Weekend 28 May 2005
Our ability to predict what will happen and detect order in the world depends upon a type of argument which is strictly speaking illogical. Induction is a form of reasoning which allows us to infer general principles from particular experiences. Sometimes we have many particulars to work on: countless observations have shown water to be H2O, so the hypothesis that all water is so composed seems pretty secure. However, we often generalise on the basis of very few observations. If you have a new gadget, you press a button and something happens, and you assume the same thing will happen if you press the button again. This is because your reasoning is informed by many other similar experiences which create a general assumption about regularity in the function of buttons.
But as philosophers have long recognised, induction is a logical embarrassment. That is because, whether we base our generalisations on many instances or just one or two, we are still concluding that something is always the case on the basis of only a limited set of observations. Most fundamentally, we are also assuming that the future will be like the past, when we have no experience at all of what the future will be like.
Given the need to reason to inductively, and the great difficulty philosophers have had justifying inductive reasoning and setting out principles for its correct use, it is perhaps unsurprising that it is very easy to do it badly. The temptation to over-generalise on the basis of a potentially misleading particular experience can be almost irresistible.

The Queen has an iPod

American Vacation

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June 21, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

U.S. Said Delaying Saddam Interrogations

Iraq's justice minister on Tuesday accused the United States of trying to delay Iraqi efforts to interrogate Saddam Hussein, saying "it seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide."

Mike Golby is a very good writer and has been on a roll of late. Check it out.

Strange Doctrines has more on the last thores The Cheney Length and don't miss Mad Kane on the 'last throes' or listen to her podcast on the subject.

Not everyone on the right side of the isle is a partisan hack. Some are as appalled by torture wherever it is found Sullivan says Durbin got it right

Pupils taught to think about it

Lesson's are designed to promote pupil's critical skills
A scheme to teach philosophy to children in one part of Leicester is being hailed a success.
The lessons, run by the Braunstone Community Association, are designed to develop critical and social skills.

Magic vs. Modernity
In the European Enlightenment, the belief was that science and reason would soon sweep myth and magic into oblivion. For some, myth included religion while others operated in terms of some variant of Deism or even Theism, believing that there was an unknown power beyond what was known and knowable to humans. In fact, many scientists, then and now, could fully exercise their religious convictions and interpret them in such a way as not to allow them to interfere with scientific understanding. For those for whom there was no conflict between science and religion, it was because particular statements or religious beliefs about the way the things work always gave way to emerging facts and theories of scientific inquiry. Science and reason became the basis for advancing human understanding and enlightenment...
It has to be one of the great paradoxes of our time that as our knowledge has expanded in recent decades, the opposition to it has become more assertive and politically potent. One of the crowning ironies of the anti-science brigades is that groups that are largely contemptuous of each other often frame their anti-science rhetoric in essentially the same terms...
To the absolutist mindset, breeching a principle is the same as abandoning it, and therefore any concession to differing views amounts to total surrender. This helps to explain why many disillusioned ex-communists became radical conservatives...

Why does every generation consider the next less educated, less intellectual and lacking reverence for �the classics�?

Operation Yellow Elephant because ranting about liberals is safer than enlisting to fight in Iraq.

June 20, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Monday

The Ant rants about George 62 million spent on PR.

They're confused about the difference between proof and evidence.

I recall providing a link to watching a chess game but don't remember it being on this site, 3 Quarks Daily which is Richard Dawkins favorite web site according to Lara

'The Ethical Brain': Mind Over Gray Matter

Take the issue of raising intelligence by manipulating genes in test-tube embryos. Gazzaniga asks three questions. Is it technically possible to pick out ''intelligence genes''? If so, do those genes alone determine intelligence? And finally, is this kind of manipulation ethical? ''Most people jump to debate the final question,'' he rightly laments, ''without considering the implications of the answers to the first two.'' Gazzaniga's view is that someday it will be possible to tweak personality and intelligence through genetic manipulation. But because personhood is so significantly affected by factors like peer influence and chance, which scientists can't control, we won't be able to make ''designer babies,'' nor, he believes, will we want to.

June 19, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

Bill Clinton - Dave Letterman 06/16/05 torrent Interview covering by-pass surgery, Herbert Walker Bush, Tsunami relief, Korea and Kim Jong Il, Downing Street Memo, Iraq in general 35MB 23'58

A new progressive web site Patriot Daily check it out

Friendly Fire

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Memos Show British Fretting Over Iraq War

British bombing raids were illegal, says Foreign Office

A SHARP increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war �to put pressure on the regime� was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.
The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began �spikes of activity� designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.

The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was �not consistent with� UN law, despite American claims that it was.

June 17, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Friday

Billmon on torture and rhetorical flourishes.

Backstory Confirming the Downing Street Memos

OB at Butterfiles and Wheels takes another shot at the Intelligent Design crowd. It's a fun read check it out.

What's wrong with TV News What isn't ?

Last throes my ass

Insurgents have taken over much of the Iraqi city of Ramadi and used it to launch attacks against US forces while terrorising the population with public beheadings.
A huge bomb killed five American marines yesterday and showered body parts on to rooftops, fuelling suspicion that armour-piercing technology is being developed and tested in Ramadi.
US troops recovered the remains and withdrew to their base outside the Arab Sunni stronghold, leaving masked gunmen to erect checkpoints and carry out what residents said was the latest of many executions.

June 16, 2005

The Last Throes

ABC News White House Correspondent Terry Moran throws down the gauntlet.

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Q Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward. The fact that they are making great progress on the political front is significant because that helps defeat the terrorists, because the terrorists don't want to see democracy take hold. They don't want lasting democratic institutions to be put in place. And that's why we are standing with the Iraqi people as they move forward on the political front.

We're also standing with the Iraqi people as they move forward on -- to address the security situation. We are working side by side with Iraqi forces now to defeat those terrorists and regime elements who want to derail the transition to democracy. And every day we move forward on democracy and training Iraqi security forces is every day closer that we are to succeeding in Iraq.

Q But the insurgency is in its last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.

Q But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.

Q Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.

Q What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of special forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.

Q Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.

Q Yes. Is there any idea how long a last throe lasts for?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.

More Right-wing Outrage

The right-wing is outraged, it doesn't take much and Howard Dean's infamous remark about the Republican Party being the party of the white Christian is about to fade only to be replaced by the their latest cause celebre, Senator Durbin's Statement on Guantanamo. Durbin's question is a good one. If he hadn't told you it was the United States of America engaging in such despicable behavior, would you have thought it was this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Well would ya Sean. Well would you right-wing apologists for American violations of the Geneva Convention. That is the question.

Talk Left has an excellent summary of the story.

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Bush And Company, Control Freaks

Liberal Oasis on Iraq with some excellent analysis.

Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld says we don�t have an �exit strategy,� we have a �victory strategy.�

Kudos for good word choices. �Victory� does sound more satisfying than �exit.� No reason why Dems can�t adopt similar language to describe their views.

But if �victory� means winning control of Iraq�s natural resources and establishing 14 permanent military bases that the Iraqi people don�t want, then Mr. Friedman is absolutely right: we don�t want Bush to be victorious.

However, we absolutely want America's security interests to prevail and we want the Iraqi people to succeed in taking control of their own government.

The only way to acheive that is to make clear to the Iraqi people that the American people don�t want to be a permanent presence, that we don�t want to be a Syria to Iraq�s Lebanon.

That will "take the wind out of the sails" of the insurgency, allow the Iraqi people to claim their government, and allow us to leave Iraq better than when we invaded it.

The unfortunate reality is that the Bush Administration can�t do that, because it does want to be a permanent presence.

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

Steve Himmer won the
60 second story contest

A cute dog picture

EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers

There have been a number of stories about Bolivia in the news recently.

Revolution in Bolivia is one . Want to learn more this is a good source.

New Memos Detail Early Plans for Invading Iraq more proof of what we all believed was true.

Not all the news is bad House Votes To Curb Patriot Act (thanks to Dave for the link)

Chris Hedges talks to David Brancaccio on NOW about the religious right in America (Quicktime Video)

Feeling the Hate Chris Hedges article on the subject in Harpers.

June 15, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

Schiavo Autopsy

An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said Wednesday. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused.

Now if the typical right-wing pundits weren't such assholes. They would all be posting apologies to Terri's husband. Repenting to their Gods, and keeping their ill-informed bullshit out of their blogs and off the air. They won't of course, but it will be fun to watch them squirm

Yes, globe is warming, even if Bush denies it excellent editorial (thanks to Ken for the link)

The Smoking Gun must see video

Mad Kane
audio version

June 14, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

Ah, one of my all time favorite bloggers is back at it. Go say hi, savor the content, for not even Mike knows when it may end.

Anti-Evolution Gangs Terrorize Georgia Town

In recent weeks, the "Just a Theory" stickers have been spotted at dozens of venues in suburban Cobb County: on fliers promoting a talk on planetary geology at a local community college, on science books at a Books-a-Million outlet and at a little girl's birthday party at which the guest of honor was a purple dinosaur named Barney.

Kevin has an update on Julia Sweeney who many of you listened to last week. She is getting mail most of it sympathetic, but also some from a "a lot of angry, scary people"

Leave My Child Alone

Microsoft censors Chinese blogs

June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson Found Not Guilty All Counts

Talk about it if you must.

Jackson not guilty
Early Reactions to the Verdict

Franken Nails O'Reilly, Again

It's an open as question as to who is the worst "journalist" Sean Hannity who coaches his guests on how to be effective shills for the right or Bill O'Reilly who in this clip takes quoting out of context to new heights. They are two of the toadys who work for the network Howard Dean refers to as "a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party"

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A thank you to Per Madsen for the heads up on the video

June 12, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Sunday

A few to peruse on a Sunday afternoon.

Torrent of June 10th appearance of Al Franken on the David Letterman Show

Greatest Philosopher Vote Sorry George your favorite didn't make the list.


When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call thanks to Jason for the link

onegoodmove readers are starting their own blogs like Anton and Sean or Jesse who has been at it for awhile you could go say hi.

The Summers Hottest Show thanks Matt

Story and audio on the recently discovered Bach Aria

Where Fantasy Trumps Reason

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Brooklyn Prof in Godless Shocker Katha Pollitt has written an excellent article on the subject
So it's 2005 and this is the academic question that has driven the Daily News and the right-wing New York Sun into apoplectic fits, and caused heartburn all over CUNY: Should Tim Shortell, an atheist, be allowed to assume the chair of the sociology department of Brooklyn College? You know, an atheist--someone who doesn't believe in God. An anticleric. A disrespecter of religion. A mocker of Christianity.
Besides, so what if Shortell's essay is offensive? Brooklyn College is a public, secular institution, not a Bible college. The Sun claimed Shortell's disdain for religion would cloud his judgment of job candidates, but there was never any evidence that this would be the case. No student ever complained about his teaching; his colleagues trusted him enough to elect him to the post; the student work posted on his website is apolitical and bland. Predictions of bias, absent any evidence, are just a backhanded way of attacking his beliefs. You might as well say no Southern Baptist should be chair, since someone who believes that women should be subject to their husbands, homosexuality is evil and Jews are doomed to hell won't be fair to female, gay or Jewish job candidates. Or no Orthodox Jew or Muslim should be chair because religious restrictions on contact with the opposite sex would privilege some job candidates over others.
But nobody ever does say that. As long as a believer ascribes his views to his faith, he can say anything he wants and if you don't like it, you're the bigot. Simplistic as Shortell's essay is, it does raise a useful point: Faith and morality are not only not the same, as Americans like to think, they express contradictory impulses. I believe Kierkegaard said something along these lines in Fear and Trembling in his discussion of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Or as the physicist Steven Weinberg put it more recently: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Would Weinberg be too "offensive" for CUNY?
OB at Notes and Comment also links to Pollitt's Article and summarizes nicely.
There's a real problem when the people who don't say there are invisible supernatural entities (or entity) operating the cosmos are considered reprehensible, while people who do, are considered virtuous. That's backwards. It's the wrong way around. It reverses the terms. One might as well give prizes to bullies and sadists and throw kind helpful people in prison (which is exactly what happens in some places, and let's not go live there).
The Essay that started the controversy

June 11, 2005

Moyers On Hardball

Chris Matthews interviews Bill Moyers

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June 10, 2005

Religion What is it Good For?

ob at Butterfiles and Wheels notes and comments has been on a tear recently here are three on the subject of religion that I think you'll enjoy.

First Things
In other words, why do we talk about whether or not religion is useful for social cohesion, or provides a sense of meaning, or is necessary for a sense of wonder, before we ask whether or not there's a shred of truth in it? Isn't that slightly back to front? It is, you know. Because if it's just a load of nonsense, then what good is it to say it's good for social cohesion? Lots of things would be good for social cohesion if they were true, but they're not, so what good does that do? Next time social cohesion breaks down in your neighbourhood, tell everyone 'We wouldn't be having this quarrel if Bugs Bunny were here, we'd be too busy asking him how Elmer Fudd is doing.' See if that helps.
No. The first question to ask about religion is, surely, whether or not its truth claims are true, whether there is any evidence for them or not, whether they are anything more than a human invention. If the answers are all No - then asking all those questions on the other side of the line is a little dishonest, isn't it?
Full Disclosure
All right, we've made this separation; we've put the veracity or epistemic question on one side of the line, and the consequentialist question on the other. We've further said that the epistemic question comes first: that is, that for the sake of clarity, it ought to. So then what happens on the other side of the line? How does that discussion go?
One way it goes is to say that even if there is no good reason to think religion is true (unless religion is defined so thinly that it bears no resemblance to what most people mean by the word), it still doesn't do to say so, because saying so would (to put it somewhat hyperbolically, as people occasionally do) 'rot the fabric of our civilization.' Or it doesn't do to say so because saying so might rot the fabric of our civilization. Or it doesn't do to say so because what if saying so rotted the fabric of our civilization? Or it doesn't do to say so because it is possible to imagine that saying so could rot the fabric of our civilization. Or some such variation on the theme. Which is a way of saying No, the epistemic question should not come first, the consequentialist one should; or else it's a way of saying the separation is a bad separation, and the two are not and should not be separable: that one should consider the epistemic question and the consequentialist one simultaneously.
Not Contempt but Outrage
It might be suggested on Hitch's behalf that, whether it meets such needs or not, because religious belief isn't substantively true, all it merits is contempt from atheists and humanists; and its adherents, likewise, only deserve disrespect in one or another mode. But that religion isn't true cannot be a sufficient reason for this; it is quite standard in democratic and pluralist societies to disagree in a tolerant and non-contemptuous way with beliefs and opinions we hold, or even sometimes know, to be false. Yes - up to a point. Or maybe not so much up to a point, as depending on how you define contempt. In fact that's what I disagreed about last time I disagreed - I didn't, and still don't, think that what Polly Toynbee expressed was contempt. What she expressed was something more like outrage, and it was directed primarily at the Vatican, the news media's sycophantic coverage of the Vatican, and Blair's knee-bending to the Vatican. Now, given the Vatican's murderous condom policy, I think that outrage is highly appropriate.
and keeping with the theme here is the first half of "This American Life: In Defense of Godlessness"

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Quicktime Audio Only 6.56 MB 26'56
Here is the link for anyone that hasn't listened to the second half of the program Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney
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The Problem With Balanced Debates

Bad Moves: Contorting to balance

By Julian Baggini

"Evan Harris, Lib Dem MP and Honorary Associate of National Secular Society and Dr Jasdev Rai, Director of the Sikh Human Rights Group, discuss whether the play 'Behzti' in Birmingham should continue."
The Today Programme, BBC Radio Four, 20th December 2004

I quite often get contacted by researchers for radio or television programmes as a potential contributor to some kind of topical debate. It�s common for nothing to come of the initial discussion, but on more than one occasion the reason for my unsuitability has left me concerned. As one researcher explicitly said, and others have implied, I am not extreme enough in my views.

This woke me up to the fact that all too often, �balance� in a debate is interpreted to mean, first, giving both sides of the argument equal opportunity to present their views, and second, to represent both sides at their most trenchant. But does this really present a balanced picture?

In one sense, of course it does: there is balance because there are two equal and opposite opinions. But the point of striving for balance is surely to represent the debate fairly. And I�m not sure this approach achieves that goal.

For example, Today is BBC Radio Four�s flagship news programme, and it is always presenting �balanced debates�. One example was the discussion between Evan Harris and Jasdev Rai about the decision by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to cancel performances of the play 'Behzti' because of violent protests by Sikhs, who found scenes of a rape in a temple to be offensive. In many ways they were obvious candidates: Dr Rai stood up for the Sikh protestors (though not for violence) while Harris insisted on the rights of free speech in a secular society.

But the problem with this is that the issue is only really clear cut for those who, like the two contributors, stand at the extreme polls of the disagreement. Many others would think that there is a real difficulty here and that there is neither an inalienable right to perform whatever you want nor to demand that something you find offensive be banned.

There is something to be said for presenting a debate in terms of the two strongest cases that can be made on either side. But this can also lead to important distortions. This is particularly important in issues of great sensitivity such as 'Behzti'. For presenting the argument as a clash of fundamentals exacerbates the sense that there is a huge gulf between the Sikh community and the majority. In reality, however, most people in both camps probably agree about a great deal. Glossing over this could have the serious effect of increasing tensions between and within communities.

The problem is that the traditional way of balancing is not just one way that debates are presented, but the formula that is almost invariably followed. The cumulative effect of all these discussions is to present a picture of a society which is dominated by adversarial conflicts and huge gulfs. The moderate middle ground, occupied by the majority, is left unrepresented, and so the striving for balance actually fails to fulfil its primary purpose of reflecting the opinions that are out there.

What is perhaps even worse is that to give both sides equal weight can severely distort what are actually important imbalances in a debate. This is typical of many scientific issues, where one rogue researcher is pitted against an opponent who represents the opinion of the vast majority. This is probably one reason why the public thought the claims that autism was caused by the combined MMR vaccine were more credible than they were. The media gave equal time to both sides of the argument (or perhaps even more to the minority view), which inevitably gave the impression the issue was much more uncertain than it really was. This kind of balance tips the scales in favour of the maverick.

This is an issue not of the content of arguments themselves but how they are framed. The concern is that certain views are already granted more respect or importance than they are due simply by the way they are debated and discussed. We need to be on our guard and remember that a �balanced discussion� can nevertheless be a hugely distorted one.


This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

June 9, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

note: all the links are courtesy of onegoodmove reader Marina, who is obviously sympathetic to my computer woes. I continue to make progress on restoring my computer to where I want it to be. I have all of my daily tools back in place at least those related to video. No doubt about it its tough, its hard work, its incredibly hard restoring a disk, It is hard work. It's hard work and it's uh hard work. I understand how hard it is I stare at the blank screen every day I wish there were others to do the hard work, but I'm the computer's owner and its my job. I'm making progress. It is hard work going from a fucked up disk to one that functions properly. Its hard to go from a place where it won't even boot to a place where you see a smily face, but it is necessary work. You know its hard work to love my computer as best as I can. It's hard work everbody knows it hard work.

How a White House aide "edited" global warming reports.

Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.

How oil giant ExxonMobil, influenced Bush

President Bush tells Mr Blair he's concerned about climate change, but these documents reveal the alarming truth, that policy in this White House is being written by the world's most powerful oil company. This administration's climate policy is a menace to humanity
World Military Spending reaches $1 TRILLION. US Leading the way (by far)... rah, rah, rah, #1!
With expenditure of $455 billion, the United States accounted for almost half the global figure, more than the combined total of the 32 next most powerful nations, said SIPRI, which is widely recognized for the reliability of its data

But it all makes sense when you read this last article:
US poised to rank #1 globally on mental illness

It's not clear why Americans have such high rates of mental illness, but cultural factors clearly play a role. People who move here from abroad quickly increase their risk of mental-health problems, especially if they do not live in native ethnic communities.

Yay!! a world super-power of wackos, woohoo, #1 baby!!!!! However, I did not need a study to tell you this, the last years in this country I have often felt like Alice in a f'n Orwellian Wunderland...


June 8, 2005

Joint Decision

The Supreme Court says it's no joke
You're naughty whenever you toke
     the old devil weed
     You grew from a seed
Six to three you'll spend time in the poke

And now, for the nuts and bolts of the court's thinking Mad Kane explains, in verse, why it's a Dopey Decision

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Quicktime Video 3.8 MB 3'04
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June 7, 2005


The inevitable has occured and I'm in the process of restoring my hard drive. It's backed up but it will take some time to get back to normal. Don't expect much in the way of new posts for a couple of days.

June 6, 2005


It's a huge blockbuster story, says Sean Hannity. Move over Woodard and Bernstein, it's Matt Drudge. It's the new guard taking over for the old. This Druge fellow has discovered that hard work, dedication, an indefatigable spirit, and the ability to read the news-wire is the key success in the right-wing world of cutting edge journalism.

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Quicktime Video 1.3 MB '27
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Letter to the Editor

It was not long after the 60 Minutes segment on abstinence aired that I read this letter to the editor in my local paper the Salt Lake Tribune. I couldn't resist, I simply had to respond.

Abstinence is not faith

Salt Lake Tribune

Why is it no surprise at all that the ACLU has filed a lawsuit over skits called the Silver Ring Thing, which promote premarital abstinence among teens?
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, alleges that the Silver Ring Thing, an offshoot from Guest Evangelistic Team, crosses the line by using federal money to encourage young people to commit themselves to Jesus Christ.
Promoting abstinence is not promoting a religion, but is only encouraging good habits, decency and righteousness that help to lead to happiness for a better life. When are the ACLU followers going to admit the Constitution, not the Supreme Court, is the supreme law of the land, and that the ACLU and others have reinterpreted and ignored the true words and meaning of the First Amendment to fit their own worldly desires and to destroy our religious freedom?
For years, the U.S. Supreme Court has been taking this country down the road to destruction where they have no jurisdiction. Only Congress has authority to make laws, not the courts, not the ACLU. More important, even "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
We can't help wondering, when Jesus Christ comes again in His Glory, what will the ACLU say then? Will they hide or file a lawsuit?

Rodney and Norma Sorensen

Field the whole team

Salt Lake Tribune

It is true that promoting abstinence only is not promoting religion, but had Rodney and Norma Sorensen (Forum, May 29) watched the �60 Minutes� ( /2005/05/20/60minutes/main 696975.shtml) segment on the subject they'd know that the Silver Ring Thing does promote religion. It passes out Bibles and tells the participants that they don't think they can succeed without belief in and prayer to God, and it uses our tax dollars to do it.
The fact is the program does support establishment of religion. That is why the ACLU is suing, and it's right. It is also clear that promoting abstinence only is shortsighted. It is like a baseball team that is so confident in its pitcher (abstinence) that it doesn't field the rest of the team, certainly a recipe for disaster.
The �60 Minutes� program pointed out that the abstinence-only program fails 88 percent of the time. That's not good enough and, as in baseball, we need to adopt a team approach if we hope to succeed in solving the problem of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.
A team approach means encouraging abstinence, but backing it up with realistic sex education, including instruction on the use of condoms.

Norm Jenson

June 5, 2005

Letting Go Of God

Here is an excerpt from Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go Of God" part of the "This American Life: In Defence of Godlessness" program on WBEZ
Program Date 06/03/05

Julia's faith began to crack after reading Biblical passages like the one pictured here, of Abraham about to cut the throat of his beloved son, Isaac.

I really enjoyed this. I think you'll find it will be a half an hour well spent.
Please note: Julia Sweeney now has a discussion forum here

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Quicktime Audio Only 6.9MB 30'06

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Update: Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God" is now available for purchase. It is a two disc set that includes a 102 page book with the entire dialogue of her show. Go to to purchase or for more information update click continue reading for Julia's response to the deluge of responses to the program

Julia Sweeney
June 05, 2005
Thank you so much for your e-mails

Note: this is written hastily as my daughter tugs at my shirt sleeve and I don't know how to use spell check, so keep this in mind.

I really wasn't prepared for the This American Life show to have such a big impact. I have so much to say back to each and every one of you who has written. I almost hesitate to write this because I don't want anyone NOT to write to me. I read each and every one and today has been such a grand day. I wish I could respond to everyone tonight but I can't!

Many people said they knew I was going to get a lot of e-mails from people who were appalled and angry. This is true. But I would say those e-mails represent a very small minority. I also thought that is what would happen. But, for the recond, what I have found out today is that there are lots and lots and lots of people out there who feel just like I do, have gone through the same things I have. What an amazing thing! I got e-mails from people from all over the United States, I mean all over the place. And I am soooo appreciative. Thank you so much.

But really, this isn't so much about me. What thrills me is that I am finding that there are so many of us who have gone through the same experience or are going through the same experience. I mean, in some ways, because of Bush, he has pushed this whole issue to the forefront, for good or bad, you just can't dismiss your views on religion anymore as being a small matter.

And of course, not everyone has jettisoned God the way I have. And I have so much to say in return.

But I will say this here: many people wrote to say that they didn't think I should have gone from rejecting the Bible to giving up on God. The truth is that I didn't do that. It was a long long journey with many other variations on God and if you could see the whole show, you would see that it wasn't just straight from not-Catholic to non-believer. (my show is two hours and fifteen minutes long and the This American Life excerpt was less than thirty minutes) It took years to explore everything and I hung on until I realized that the only God I could believe in was made up of hydrogen and helium. And then...anyway. I am so re-inspired to write the book and get the CD out and the film done. Really, everyone who has written, thank you soooo much.

Also, YES, my newsletter sign up asks for birthdates and the person's gender and that is really wrong. I don't know how I allowed that. It was a suggestion by the person who designed my website and I'm going to change that immediately. Don't feel you have to put that information in. I have never even looked at that stuff and I won't.

And also, for the Christians who wrote about what those passages mean in the Bible. Yes, I know that the passages I site have all kinds of theories and complicated layers of meaning. I know the theories. I know the ways that people explain those passages. I looked into it. But now, it doesn't really matter because when I, after a long learning curve, really understood how the Bible was put together, which stories were kept and which weren't, what political situations were in place and what was useful to emphasise and so forth, then the Bible became a really interesting historical religious document to me -- inspiring but not sacred. Very much the work of ancient man and not the inspired word of God. So, you see, telling me all about the meanings behind those stories is sort of beside the point at this point.

I am in Hawaii right now, and I am so lucky to be here. My mother is with me and she just had a knee replacement surgery six weeks ago and my daughter is here too and it's a little like having two kids to look after while I'm on a work retreat. Not that I'm complaining, believe me I am not. But my time to resond to e-mail is limited. I will try to, I really will. Because people have the most amazing stories. Everyone's story of how they woke up and saw through the workings of their religion and their faith is interesting, even if they don't give it up in the end.

Also, I got many letters from priests and pastors who told me that they too, don't believe anymore, but what can they do? They are in a profession and they have been at it a long time. This is so heartbreaking to me.

Soooo... no spell check and I'm not even going to read this over, but I felt I had to put something up on the site.


June 3, 2005

The Ten Most Harmful Books

Growing up in Utah, where the state motto is, "When the Church (mormons) speaks, the thinking has been done.", The state where the elite attend God's University, BYU, where inscribed on the cornerstone of the library is, "The Glory of God is Intelligence" his not yours, prepares one for this sort of thing. Human Events asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries The purpose of which, I suppose, is to extend the "abstinence only" model to the harmful habit of reading what you choose to read. No sex outside of marriage and no unapproved reading without a permission slip from the right. The subversive that I am I must say I was most delighted that Dewey's "Democracy and Education" made the list. A book, as the blurb points out, that teaches the value of "thinking skills" a radical idea indeed. I was disappointed that Darwin's tomes only rated honorable mention. I don't know what you think, but as the kind soul that sent me the link remarked, this looks like a summer reading list to me. Did they leave any of your favorites off the list? Are you surprised, offended, nonplussed? Speak dear reader.

June 2, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday

How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat' Bob Woodward tells the story.


Ah. The point of the test is to score how closely students resemble Bill O'Reilly. Wonderful.

Teaching the Constitution in a Post-Democratic America Some needed satire. Thanks to Cara for the link

Rage Boy that Michael Crichton didn't write the the refreshing escapist vacation I thought I'd purchased, I discovered (too late to return it) that the book was in fact an endless neocon harangue on the dangers of believing anything you've ever heard about the dangers of global warming.

Cheney offended by Amnesty criticism

Schulz responded to Cheney's comments: "It doesn't matter whether he takes Amnesty International seriously.

"He doesn't take torture seriously; he doesn't take the Geneva Convention seriously; he doesn't take due process rights seriously; and he doesn't take international law seriously.

"And that is more important than whether he takes Amnesty International seriously."

June 1, 2005

Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

Rock Stars Today from the Ant (flash)

Mad Kane has a new forum dedicated to News, Politics, and Humor and another Limerick

Patriot Act Redux, and in the Dark

The Patriot Act was passed in haste, in the angst-filled days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with some lawmakers candidly admitting they never read the details. That was one of the reasons key sections included expiration dates, so calmer heads of the future would have an opportunity to fix mistakes. Now that opportunity is here, and far from removing obvious threats to civil liberties in the law, the White House and eager Senate Republicans seem bent on making it worse.

Bush disassembles English language, again


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