Saturday, February 28, 2009

Which Computer Skills Are Easiest To Learn/Most In Demand?

A query for the hive mind:

My brother, a draftsman, finds himself unemployed. He doesn't want to leave the area, as my folks are getting on in years, but the employment situation in southeast Missouri is bleak indeed. Suppose he were to try to acquire some computer skills that might find him some employment, e.g. something in the vicinity of "consulting". The question: what computer skills should a person in such a position set out to learn? He doesn't aim to get rich, just to get by until he can go back to drafting. So optimally, he's looking for something he can pick up more easily rather than less easily and more quickly rather than more slowly. Also something more like: high probability of low income rather than low probability of high income.

Any ideas?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Irresponsible Idiot Has 8 More Kids--For A Total of 14--While On Food Stamps

This just flat-out disgusts me. I was only vaguely aware of this ridiculous story, and I wish I hadn't found out more about it. Awesome that I get to pay for this fecund idiot's out-of-control reproduction. Imagine how happy it makes me.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sophistical Arguments Concerning the Return of Sexual Puritanism

Well, there's this.

No time for anything thorough, but let's hit the high points:

Will approvingly discusses Mary Eberstadt, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, who claims that food is the new sex. (How I long for the days when we don't have to hear about x being the new y every time we turn around...). The idea is apparently something like: we're all amoralists about sex and puritans about food. Quoting:
[Food] choices are, for Jennifer [representing folks today], matters of right and wrong. Regarding food, writes Eberstadt, Jennifer exemplifies Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative: She acts according to rules she thinks are universally valid and should be universally embraced.
Now, I haven't read (and have no interest in reading) Eberstadt. (And I'm mostly going to ignore the clumsiness of this invocation of the Categorical Imperative and just go along with it. I mean, for example, "Jennifer" does not "exemplify" the Categorical Imperative, but, say, acts in accordance with it or doesn't, tries to or doesn't.) But the strong suggestion here is:
Liberals don't think we should act in accordance with the Categorical Imperative (or any other moral principle) in sexual matters.
These are common confusions among conservatives. Of course some people are amoralists about sex, but some people are stupid about everything. What we might call the orthodox liberal position on sex is not that sex is some strange realm carved out of our lives in which moral nihilism reigns. Rather, the liberal merely holds that, with regard to sex, the scope of the permissible is greater than the conservative believes it to be. In particular, it can be good in itself and need not be limited to marriage nor aimed at procreation.

One paradigmatic conservative position is that sex is only morally permissible in marriage. Liberals deny this, but they need not (and most do not) hold that anything goes. Most liberals hold, roughly, that sex is like any other activity: we must respect the rights and humanity of persons when we engage in it. What liberals tend to deny is that there is any mysterious quality about sex that makes it subject to the inscrutable rules that conservatives believe to hold in the realm of the sexual. In particular, sex is not inherently dirty and degrading and need not be redeemed by the miracle of reproduction blah blah blah. Sex is different than other activities in certain identifiable ways, and consequently the rules for interaction are a bit different than they are for, say, basketball. But the general idea is the same: treat everyone with respect, make sure everyone freely consents to everything, and so forth. This is nothing like amoralism.

Liberals seem like sexual amoralists to conservatives because conservatives make up all sorts of fictions about sex and then put their sophistry drives into overdrive to come up with crackpot rationalizations for rules that make no sense. In fact, I've long believed that the prevalence of moral skepticism and relativism in our society is a direct result of conservative casuisty about sex. If you hear a conservative going on about morality, you can be fairly sure he's not talking about the deception that took us into the Iraq war, nor about radically unequal distribution of income, nor about civility in political discourse, nor about the amorality of the free market, nor about any other significant moral matter that faces us. Instead, he'll be talking about sex, drugs and/or rock and roll. Consequenty, when you say the word 'moral', students roll their eyes. They've learned that most appeals to morality are bullshit, and they've learned this from listening to conservative puritans.

So, in short, the liberal view does not entail: do whatever and whoever you want, for morality does not apply to sex. Rather, it entails something like: no special, loony, inscrutable rules that don't make a damn lick of sense apply to sex; use the same good judgment you would use anywhere else; treat people always as ends and never merely as means. (Translate this into a non-Kantian idiom if you like.)

With regard to Kant in particular, conservatives often mistakenly say that the liberal view of sex runs afoul of the Categorical Imperative because casual sex which does not aim at something emotional or legal necessarily involves treating others as a means. But this involves a misunderstanding of Kant. Kant recognizes that we can and must sometimes treat others as a means--that's how you treat your waiter when you see him largely as a means to you getting your food. What is impermissible, however, is treating others merely as a means. You must, rather, always see them simultaneously as ends in themselves.

Conservatives like to harp on STDs and pregnancy when they talk about sex, but the liberal view of sex is to some degree idealized. The point is that there is nothing wrong with non-marital sex per se. STDs and pregnancy complicated the picture. I wish liberals were clearer about the fact that we do have moral obligations--both to ourselves and others--to avoid STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and unwise sex. Liberals haven't done as much as they need to to make that clear. But, again, it is a kind of backlash against irrationalist puritanism that's made the pendulum swing in the direction that often appears to approximate amoralism. Many people really are amoralists about sex because they don't think hard about anything. But amoralism is not the position of sensible philosophical liberals. Thoughtful liberals are no happier about 18-year-old college girls getting drunk and having blackout sex with an indeterminate number of fratboys than conservatives are.

That's probably more than enough on this topic for now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Alan Keyes is Insane

So, apparently after eight years of Bush--a president, remember, who genuinely did come close to usurping power in the (quasi-)election of 2000, who genuinely did seem to be unqualified for office, who failed to prevent 9/11, who elected to start an irrational and irrelevant war instead of pursuing the perpetrators of the attacks, who sold said war with patent lies and deception, who undermined the constitution, turned torture into official U.S. policy, turned the nation into a surveillance state and destroyed the economy--now, one month into the Obama presidency, it's Obama who's the dangerous possibly-not-exactly-president. Apparently largely on account of his efforts to keep Bush's economy from further collapsing.

These people are dangerously insane.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Occasional Movie Review:

In a word: crapness.

(Super-duper spoiler alert. Entire stupid movie synopsized below)

This is the kind of flick you might make it through if you were really, really jonesing for some sci-fi. But it suuu-uucks. Do not watch it unless absolutely necessary. Unless, say, your only other option is something ultra-sucky like, say, Lost in Space.

So Julianne Moore and some other people get locked up in a concentration camp for having this blindness plague, except JM doesn't really have it, she's just going to be with her blind husband. The concentration camp doesn't make any sense at all, because no doctors even come in, not even in biohazard suits, not even to do any experiments to find out why everyone is going blind. Occasionally soldiers will come in with no biohazard gear on and threaten to shoot people, and occasionally they'll shoot people outside for no apparent reason. Inside, a handful of the blind inmates are evil, and declare that they are taking over and refuse to let anyone else have food. Now, although they only have one revolver, it does have an infinite number of rounds, and never has to be reloaded. But, of course, they are blind, so the gun is useless. Except somehow it isn't. However, JM's husband and the rest of the non-evil blind people are such extreme cowards and morons that they agree to give up all their possessions for two boxes of food, apparently figuring "I guess those guys will be nice once they have all our stuff!" Then they demand all the women so they can rape them, a demand to which all the cowardly non-evil-but-extremely stupid inmates immediately acceed. In fact the women seem way, way less averse to this plan than you might think. There is something really, really creepy about either the writer or the director or both of this piece of crap. After the mass rape, the evil guys walk around taunting people, and finally the other people decide to fight back. The place burns down, everybody gets out, but by then everybody's blind and wandering the streets fighting over granola bars. Then JM and crew go to her and her husband's preposterously stylish house and have more weird naked scenes, and then there's a shitty ending.

Movie grade: D+. Warning! Do not see!

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2/22/09 Edition

So it's Obama, see, who's in perpetual campaign mode, according to Haley Barbour.

Eight years of perpetual campaigning, in which, e.g., wars are sold like tuna fish and policy is subordinated to politics, and Barbour thinks this is a perpetual campaign?

Jesus these morons are almost beyond belief.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

WTF Does That Mean?

Clinton, in China, said:

"Human rights cannot interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crises."

WTF is that supposed to mean???
It's Official

It is now impossible to foul Tyler Hansbrough. So a little advice to you teams heading for match-ups with Carolina...take a knife, take a can take a shiv to him right on the floor, and it probably won't be called. So have a big ol' time.

Seriously. This has gone past ridiculous to something approaching dangerous.
The Christian "Quiver" Movement
Lunatics and Overpopulation

Well, there's this.

Part of my reason for not having kids is that I am inclined to think that we're already doomed to overpopulate the Earth. I know the arguments for and against are rather complicated, and I won't address them here. I'm just laying out my position at this point.

So you can imagine how happy it makes me to see idiots and lunatics having children by the dozens. The more calculating religions realize that most people stick with whichever religion they were raised in. So: converting new people to your superstition is difficult. It's more efficient to just make more.

And that's the idea of the Christian "Quiverfull" movement: "militant fecundity" that seeks to create more and more "arrows" for Jesus.

Lord, save us from your followers.

And, gosh, it probably will surprise you greatly to find out that all this is tied up with oppressive, bigoted, sexist, psychotic, shithead views about women. I mean, I know it surprised the heck out of me. In particular, these asshats believe that:
the biggest threat to modern society is women's equality, and that conservative believers should fight feminism by raising large families to embrace radically patriarchal gender roles of wifely submission and male headship, and teach their daughters to do the same.
In order for a woman to be Quiverfull, she must embrace a life of absolute submission and obedience to God, her husband, and the cause of Christian revival — winning the culture wars — by having more children than the "other side."
Idiots and bigots. And that's the nicest thing I can think of to say about them. Their daughters do the housework in order to prepare them for their "future careers" as breeding devices. College is, of course, usually out of the question for the girls.

Apparently TLC has a show on one such family (TLC, one of the crappiest channels ever. Remember when it used to be like the Discover Channel? Now it's all weddings and babies. No learning on it whatsoever. And now the Discover Channel is all about blowing sh*t up. Which I'm not against, but, really, cable can't support one single channel about (even just pop) science?). Ahem. But the show is, unsurprisingly, about a very rich family of quiverers. It doesn't show the ones living in poverty, spewing out kid after kid.

So every time you turn off the lights, consider buying a hybrid, take out the recycling, or berate yourself for your profligate ways, remember that none of that really matters. Ever thing you ever do to try to help the environment is being radically outweighed by some Quiverfull jackass who's having an extra ten or twelve kids, each one of which will use more resources than you could possibly save no matter what you do. Of course, there are more of us than them, so small sacrifices by us add up fast...but shut up, I'm on a roll.

God must love idiots, because he certainly did make a lot of them. And it looks like he may be dramatically cranking up production...

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Last Ace
Mark Bowden's Ad for the F-22


We've discussed the F-22 question before here in our non-expert way. This article reads like an ad for the plane.

Non-expert that I am, I dunno. One wonders, though: if India can slap a gray-market electronics pod on a $100,000 MIG-21 and make it effective against F-15s, why we can't at least get by on JSF/F-35s.

Nobody denies that the F-22 is awesome. But at a unit flyaway cost of $178 million per (and a program acquisition unit cost of $350 million per), it is simply not obvious that it's worth it. You can improve primary or secondary education a good bit with, say, $700 million. And the consequences of that--even just for national defense narrowly construed--could be great.

It's good to have an airforce no one will even consider fighting. In fact, that's a most excellent thing. And our airforce does, indeed, rock the house. (One astonishing fact in the Bowden piece: U.S. air dominance has been so complete that "[t]he last American soldier killed on the ground by an enemy air attack died in Korea, on April 15, 1953.") But the Bowden piece, like so many such discussions, pays no attention to opportunity costs--there are a lot of other important things we could be doing with the (gigantic chunks of) money in question. Without a careful examination of those opportunity costs, no discussion of the F-22 program can be even vaguely complete.
Whiny Students and Unrealistic Grade Expectations

Well, there's this, according to which student expectations about grades are, well, laughable.

One of the more irritating things about being a professor is that you have to put up with a fair amount of whining, hostility and petulance about grades. You don't have to teach undergraduates very long before it dawns on you that at least a large minority of students expect good grades for mediocre work, and at least a 'C' for deigning to show up to class at all. When they find out that that's not on in my classes, they are shocked, baffled, and angry.

In a way, I have to say, I don't blame them.

Part of it's their fault, of course--many of them are spoiled, ridiculous people who have no business at a university. But a fair bit of the problem is the fault of parents, high school teachers and their other college profs. Students are, in general, not pulling their expectations out of thin air. Many of them have--or so they themselves tell me--grown up getting, e.g., awards for just showing up, and decent grades no matter what they do. They've been taught that 'A' is the default grade, and that if they really screw up, they might be given a 'B' as punishment...but that's about as far as it goes. In college, they've learned that they can drink too much, study too little, and still get respectable grades. It's the system they know. If you buck it, then you, my friend are the anomaly.

Now, there's a certain kind of professor who gets off on being mean. But we're not talking about those *ssholes here. We're talking about profs who have something vaguely like reasonable grading standards--standards according to which 'A' means something vaguely like excellent, 'B' means something vaguely like good, etc. There's a lot of territory between being a villain and being the candy man. These professors, the sensible ones between the extremes, very often feel under siege in today's university. An enraged parent called the Chair of my department an "asshole" last year because he--the Chair--gave the parent's kid an 'F' on a paper. The student had turned in a bad, partially-completed paper. When the Chair explained this to the parent, said parent cited all the money s/he was paying to the school, suggesting that the expectation was: good money for good grades. This is but one story among many.

Among the many bad consequences of the current system is that, as one of my colleagues put it, we have no grade to indicate genuine excellence. The student who does great work is lumped together with the student who does mediocre work, both receiving 'A's in many classes.

A more important consequence is: many students simply aren't really learning very much in college because we aren't making them do so. Most students--even many of the good ones--can be expected to do just enough in most classes to get the grade they think they need. They tacitly rely on us to tell them how much and what kind of work is sufficient to warrant that grade. Professors who have inflated grades are failing their students (and the rest of us) by misleading them about that. Professors set up the incentive structure, and very many of them are blowing it.

We're all of us being failed by this system because universities are turning out extraordinary numbers of essentially uneducated students. Many who graduate with honors should merely graduate, and many who graduate shouldn't. Granted, many of these people go on to take up fairly unimportant jobs where they can do little harm...but one certainly hopes that law schools, medical schools and graduate schools aren't subject to the same kinds of grading problems.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Now, I don't want Tyler Hansbrough to get any calls he doesn't deserve. And I fully admit that he frequently puts himself right smack in the middle of the action, almost inviting fouls. But a foul is a foul, and lots of fouls--sometimes very, very hard fouls--against Hansbrough are suddenly going un-called. He got a tooth loosened in the Clemson game--though I think that foul (unlike several others against him) was actually called. He got absolutely assaulted in the Miami game, getting at least three hard fouls to the head, and ending up with a concussion. At least one flagrant-seeming whack to the head went uncalled, as did many other fouls against him.

This is a dangerous combination. The refs have apparently decided call things more loosely against Hans, and opposing teams seem to have decided to not just foul him frequently, but to foul him hard. In the past few games he's ended up with a loosened tooth, a sprained ankle, a bloody nose and a concussion. If this keeps up, somebody could get hurt...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bomb Threat at Carolina

Read about it at the DTH.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Joss Whedon's Dollhouse

First off, I should make it clear that (offline) I've been predicting the suckage of this show. The premise just sounds awful to me. Most of the main characters don't have the same personalities from show to show? I just don't see how this can be engaging.

So now I've seen the first episode, and I have to say: I really hate being right all the time.

The folks over at Whedonesque seem to have drunk the Kool-Aide. (Oh, heck, who are we kidding? Those folks have been mainlining Kool-Aide ever since Buffy.) But, sadly, the Dollhouse pilot wasn't good. Or at least it didn't resonate with me, FWIW.

I guess the idea is going to be that there is some "personality leakage" or something that lets their real personalities come out here and there...but, again, I just don't see how this can be sustainable. Eventually that shtick is going to get old--eventually (read: pretty soon) it's all going to have to come out; otherwise people are just going to get annoyed.

But, then, what do I know? Lost seems really irritating to me. (Here's an island! Look, a bear! See how none of this makes sense! An invisible monster! Another person you don't know, acting all superior and/or arch! Now you're traveling through time! Whoa is this crazy or what?!) So clearly I'm no judge of what'll sell. I mean, I think The Office is not merely stupid but downright disgusting. I mean, you can build a whole show around the lurid spectacle of awkward, repulsive, pathetic, socially awkward people debasing themselves and being debased by the cool kids? Seriously? I feel like I need a shower after seeing that show. Bleck. The point being: I'm no judge of what people will like.

What we needed was for, say, Firefly to have gotten a decent chance. In that case we had a show, terrific from the very beginning, canned before there was any chance for it to take off. That just added to the Whedon mystique in a way--he produced great stuff, but the suits killed it off. I'm afraid Dollhouse is going to suck, and then the rap'll be: he produces non-good stuff which justifiably gets killed off.

But I hope I'm wrong. That Joss Whedon can be one really entertaining guy, and I'd be way happy with something even half as good as Buffy, Angel or Firefly. Half as good as those things would mean about ten times better than most of the crap on the tube, and that'd be good enough for me.
The New Dumbest Thing Ever Written:
"Girls At University"
or: Why Stupid, Icky Girls Don't Need No Edjimication

Bishop Richard "All Them Jews Committed Suicide" Williamson
The Vatican's Favorite Holocaust Denier

Yes, possibly the very stupidest thing ever written. Check it out if you don't believe me. [via Metafilter]

Some of my favorite highlights:
"...because of all kinds of natural reasons, almost no girl should go to any university!"
All kinds of natural reasons, mind you!

"The deep-down reason is the same as for the wrongness of women's trousers: the unwomaning of woman."

(Warning! Warning! Self parody alert!!!)
"That girls should not be in universities flows from the nature of universities and from the nature of girls: true universities are for ideas, ideas are not for true girls, so true universities are not for true girls."
Ah, true universities and true girls...what about, say, true Scotsmen? Where do they fit into all of this?
"Survey the waste on any "university" campus today - feckless unmen and trashy unwomen whose noblest activity is throwing frisbees at one another!"
Well, that's bordering on fair actually...
"Such "universities" dedicated to the defiance of God and Nature, make mincemeat of the youngsters' Faith (if they had any), of their morals and of their common sense."
He's got a wee point there, too. There does seem to be a certain cynical, negative, "debunking" style to a great deal of university education...
His mind is designed not to be swayed by feelings but on the contrary to control them, so that while his feelings may be inferior to hers, his reason is superior. And reason being meant to rule in rational beings, then he is natured to rule over her (Gen. III, 16), as can be seen for example whenever she needs to resort to him for her feelings not to get out of control.
Hear that, girls? Our reason is superior. Yay our reason! You are meant to be ruled by us. We rule! We rule you! Even girls who are smarter than boys are meant to be ruled by boys because boys (or: true boys) are reasonally superior to mere girls (or: true girls). QED.

Mr. Williamson's reasoning here should clearly demonstrate to you the vast superiority of male reason to your puny helping of reason given to you by the just and wise reason-giving God who hates you. And if you don't understand that Williamson's arguments, though seemingly cobbled together by some asshat without two neurons to rub together, are actually sound, well, that just shows how pathetic your reason is, now doesn't it?
"Woman's thinking is subjective, inward, intuitive, concrete, small-scale, with a gift for loving details. University thinking needs to be objective, outward, rational, abstract, large-scale, with a drive towards the grand principles. Her thinking follows her heart. University thinking can only follow the head."
Actually, this sounds a lot like many contemporary radical feminists and feminist epistemologists. Really. So in a way, Mr. Williamson is on the cutting edge of Po-Mo-y scholarship here. Is there some kind of principle that explains the convergence of craziness?

Well, there's also some awesome stuff about why the Catholic church "
alone can create true universities, directing all study ultimately to the glory of God and the salvation of souls." ("true" universities, mind you. Not, y'know, regular ones. Mr. Williamson likes his 'true's.) But we can only take so much awesome nowlidge in one day, right? Especially you girls out there who are probably getting all confused and emotional by this point, wondering "where is my manly husband who can come and explain all this to me, or, rather, calm me down and help to conquer this unwomanly desire to understand?" Well, if you hadn't spent so much time reading Plato and playing frisbee and f*cking, you wouldn't be in this pickle, now would you? So it's not like we can feel sorry for you. If you'd have been having babies like you were supposed to, everything would be fine.

It'd be fun to go through and demolish Mr. Williamson's silly screed line by line, but I've got actual things to do, and I'm trying to waste less of my time refuting patent g*ddamn idiots. So I'm going to stick with this drive-by ridicule and go spend my time on something more important.

Peace out, feckless unmen and trashy unwomen.

Next week: all kinds of natural reasons why true people should not truly believe in the true Holocaust...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Carolina 101, Duke 87

Great game. excellent first half by dook (though to be fair, also very bad D by Carolina). But the Heels came out and methodically took 'em apart in the second half. Looked like Roy made some adjustments to the help defense and told them to get it inside to Hansbrough. Deon had a great night, as did Frasor.

In the end, it probably wasn't as close as 101-87. Carolina's got the edge in talent this year, and tonight their good offense beat dook's good defense. But in that first half, I wasn't sure we were going to come up with a solution for Henderson.

So that makes us, I think, 5 for the last 6 against 'em (the one loss was when Lawson was out with a shredded ankle last year), and something like 129-97 all-time. Not that I'm counting.

Condolences to my dookie homies, and to the wee dookies who have been sleeping in tents since January, and congrats to the dook players for a great effort. Some people hate dook, but I like 'em because they raise the level of competition in the ACC and almost always give us fun games.

Yep, that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Can The Second Law Of Thermodynamics Be Circumvented?

I'm just linkin'. I'm not sayin'...
Recently Finished: Stephen King, Cell

Stephen King had a big impact on my when I was growing up. I really loved his buddy horror epics like 'Salem's Lot and The Stand. And I think some of his short stories from Nightshift and, to a lesser extent, Skeleton Crew, will be classics of American horror.

Like many folks, I quit reading S.K. several years back, but I've always had a fondness for him. Early on in Cell, it seems like the old King might be back, but by about 1/3 of the way through, that seems less plausible. In the end, I didn't like it much...but I did finish it, which is more than I can say for most horror novels, which I just throw away or leave laying around where someone will take them.

Incidentally, Stephen King has nothing to prove to me. He wrote about a half-dozen super-enjoyable books. That's a damn sight more books than most people will write. I don't know why people think that, if you've written one good book you've somehow failed if you can't keep doing it. One good book is an impressive thing. If King never writes another book I like, I'll still think he kicks ass.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Rob Wants To Give You A High Five

Up high, peeps.

Gotta like the tunes, too...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Siberian Traps and the Permian-Triassic Extinction

New evidence.

[H/T Little Bro]
Immune to Reality
V.D. Hanson Edition

You know, sometimes this stuff--though innocuous by the standards of people like our good buddy V.D., really brings home how completely isolated from reality the really nutty wingnuts are. If there's something akin to a dictionary entry somewhere for "no sense of perspective," this quote should be included as an illustration:
"We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion—and with no Dick Morris to bail him out—brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking," --Victor Davis Hanson.

I like having V.D. around though. He makes me feel smart.

[Via Andrew Sullivan]
Obama and the First Logical Virtue

If there's a first logical virtue, it's something like: admit when you're wrong.

Bush, of course, couldn't do it. That failing was a part of the whole illogical, anti-rational package that was the Bush administration. Bush and Co. would occasionally say they'd committed some rhetorical error--not making themselves clear, not selling their ideas enough (as if...). Incidentally, these are the only kinds of errors my most clueless students will fess up to. "I understood, I guess I just didn't express myself clearly..." Often my response is: "No, you expressed yourself clearly, but what you expressed was incorrect."

That admitting error comes so easily for Obama is a very, very good sign. It's the sign of a virtuous mind. And incidentally, it's the sign of genuine, admirable confidence, not the loathsome confidence of a Dubya that oscillates between cockiness and panic.

More evidence that we picked a good one this time.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Anti-Drug Fascists

You probably already know the story of Trinity Tomsic and Cheye Calvo: drug dealers had been shipping marijuana to innocent folk in Berwyn Heights in PG county, and the police knew this. They intercepted a box of the evil, evil weed that had been addressed to Tomsic and Calvo's house. Though the cops knew good and well that there was a good chance these folks were innocent, the SWAT team staged a paramilitary raid of their home (failing to identify themselves as the police), terrorized them, killed their dogs and trashed their house (including dumping their meticulously-kept files out). Oh, and then the police lied about the circumstances of the raid, and the nature of the search warrant. Oh, and as it turns out, Calvo was the mayor.

These people are fascists, and need to be stopped. Fortunately, Tomsic and Calvo are suing. Let's hope they take the relevant agencies to the cleaners, and that heads roll as a result of this.

We can't sit back and watch our country turn into a police state. The people who planned this raid--and probably some of the people who participated in it--belong in jail.
Smoke Marijuana And Nothing Can Happen To You, Too

See how you can't accomplish anything if you smoke dope?
Is Religion Bad For Us?

Well, it's epistemically bad to have unjustified beliefs, so there's that. But at least one study seems to indicate that religious societies are also morally worse than secular societies:
“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies."
No sense in trusting a single study about any subject though.

It's always been clear that religious belief was not necessary for morality, despite the fact that many Christians (Mr. Ratzinger, the current Pope, included) are fond of insisting otherwise. And if it should turn out that religion actually makes people morally worse it would come as no surprise to many of us.

Even if the conclusion of this study turns out to be correct, however, I don't see that it counts as any evidence against the truth of the God hypothesis. (And, of course, even if religion made people better, that wouldn't be evidence in favor of the hypothesis.) But I do think that such a conclusion would help to rob religion of a certain kind of psychological plausibility. I think many people do incorrectly assume that religion is the only thing standing between humanity and chaos. And so they think there is a practical need for religion, and--since they already want to believe--this is easily translated into illicit support for belief.

As a footnote, I've recently become more sympathetic to religion, especially when it's cast in terms of hope (or, perhaps, faith) rather than belief. Christianity attempts to bully its adherents into believing with threats of Hell, but this is not a necessary feature of religion...and, in fact, it seems to me that this ad baculum and the corresponding insistence on belief could be stripped out of Christianity without much loss. It'd be an improvement, actually. But there's really no need to focus on Christianity which, despite its insistence that it is the ultimate truth, is almost certainly--at best--just another fallible step (perhaps a step backwards) toward our understanding of certain enduring questions.