Archive for December 1st, 2011

The dark side of the new military authorization bill

| December 1, 2011 | 10 Replies
The dark side of the new military authorization bill

Glenn Greenwald spells out the concerns we should all have with the new military authorization bill (2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)), well on its way to passage:

Here are the bill’s three most important provisions:

(1) mandates that all accused Terrorists be indefinitely imprisoned by the military rather than in the civilian court system; it also unquestionably permits (but does not mandate) that even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil accused of Terrorism be held by the military rather than charged in the civilian court system (Sec. 1032);

(2) renews the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) with more expansive language: to allow force (and military detention) against not only those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and countries which harbored them, but also anyone who “substantially supports” Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces” (Sec. 1031); and,

(3) imposes new restrictions on the U.S. Government’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo (Secs. 1033-35).

There are several very revealing aspects to all of this. First, the 9/11 attack happened more than a decade ago; Osama bin Laden is dead; the U.S. Government claims it has killed virtually all of Al Qaeda’s leadership and the group is “operationally ineffective” in the Afghan-Pakistan region; and many commentators insisted that these developments would mean that the War on Terror would finally begin to recede. And yet here we have the Congress, on a fully bipartisan basis, acting not only to re-affirm the war but to expand it even further: by formally declaring that the entire world (including the U.S.) is a battlefield and the war will essentially go on forever.

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World’s largest ship propellers

| December 1, 2011 | Reply
World’s largest ship propellers

I do enjoy the Internet for engineering esoterica, such as this photo collection of the world’s largest ship propellers.

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177 foot dive

| December 1, 2011 | Reply
177 foot dive

Diving 177 feet into water is not something I ever plan to do.

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What Christians think of “atheists”

| December 1, 2011 | 1 Reply
What Christians think of “atheists”

From the Vancouver Sun, we learn what Christians allegedly think about “atheists”:

Religious believers distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, gays and feminists, according to a new study by University of B.C. researchers.

The only group the study’s participants distrusted as much as atheists was rapists, said doctoral student Will Gervais, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

That prejudice had a significant impact on what kinds of jobs people said they would hire atheists to do.

The study is titled, “Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice.”

I don’t believe in any god, but I tend to avoid use of the term “atheist.”  I do this because when Christians use the word “atheist,” they tend to mean something much different than when non-believers use the term “atheist.”   If the subject of religiosity comes up, I describe myself by saying  “I don’t believe in god.”  If I’m asked whether I’m an “atheist,” I say yes, but then further explain that I’m not out to tell other people what to believe in their hearts, and I’m not out to ridicule them for having a personal private belief in a sentient non-physical being.    I explain that in my view it is impossible for there to be a thinking being who who lacks some sort of physical neural network.   If I’m pressed to ask what I think of Jesus, I typically say that I have some doubts that he ever existed, but if he did, I believe he was a human being, nothing more.

Based on these sorts of answers, I have almost always been able to have civil conversations and, often friendships, with those who claim to believe in God.   I doubt that many people have ever despised like they would a rapist based on my way of seeing the world.

I wonder what the above study would have shown had the it used “non-believer” or “non-religious” or “persons who don’t believe in God.”   For many Christians, “atheist” has become a word referring to a person who not only doesn’t believe in God but who is also hostile to those who do.  That is unfortunate, because many atheists are of the live-and-let-live attitude.  For many Christians, “atheist” has come to represent people who have no set of moral values and for whom “anything goes.”  This is especially unfortunate, because that is not how any atheists use the term “atheist.” Further, there are many degrees of non-belief and there are many other terms that more precisely describe the type of non-belief.   To lump all of these folks in with the cartoon version of the angry and intolerant atheist (which is the image that many Christians have of “atheists”) gives a false view (I believe) of what most Christians think of those who don’t believe in god.

Notwithstanding anything I’ve written above, I’m also convinced that American society treats atheists unfairly, oftentimes abyssmally. One especially egregious example is that those who identify themselves as “atheists” are excluded from public office.  I see this as a form of bigotry, especially given (this is my personal guess) that at least 50% of Americans who claim to believe in god don’t actually believe in god.  Rather, they believe in the importance of claiming to believe in god, and their actions speak much more loudly than their words.

I’ll end this post with a wish that someone would re-do the above study using a less inflammatory word to represent those who don’t believe in god.  If this were done, I would bet my house that those who “Don’t believe in God” would not be seen as less trustworthy than rapists.

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How to create money out of nothing

| December 1, 2011 | Reply
How to create money out of nothing

Dennis Kucinich explains how the Federal Reserve created 7.7 TRILLION out of nothing, allowing many big banks to profit while starving ordinary Americans of capital. This is a dramatic illustration of why there are Occupy protests.

Kucinich is promoting the “Need Act “to reign in the Fed: “to restore the authority of Congress to create and regulate money, modernize and provide stability for the monetary system of the United States, retire public debt and reduce the
cost of public investment, and for other public purposes.”

Here’s a more detailed description of the proposed “Need Act.” It attempts to accomplish the following:

􀂾 Puts the Federal Reserve (Fed) into the Department of Treasury (Treasury) to make our monetary policy truly accountable to Congress and the American people.
􀂾 Ends the banks’ special privilege by no longer allowing them to create our money supply when they make loans, through a simple and non-disruptive accounting change.
􀂾 Invests money to renew our crumbling infrastructure, making it fit for the 21st Century; creating real wealth and millions of good jobs at the same time.

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