"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States

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Saturday, January 08, 2005
  Promising News
Pharyngula has a great post on this letter from UPenn faculty to the Dover school board, regarding its recent decision to include "Intelligent Design" (Creationism) in the science curriculum. This follow-up is also worth reading. I've decided to include the letter here; it's worth reading.
5 January 2005

Dover Area School Board
2 School Lane
Dover, PA 17315

An Open Letter to the Dover Area School Board:

As scientists, scholars, and teachers, we are compelled to point out that the quality of science education in your schools has been seriously compromised by the decision to mandate the teaching of “intelligent design” along with evolution. Science education should be based on ideas that are well supported by evidence. Intelligent design does not meet this criterion: It is a form of creationism propped up by a biased and selective view of the evidence.

In contrast, evolution is based on and supported by an immense and diverse array of evidence and is continually being tested and reaffirmed by new discoveries from many scientific fields. The evidence for evolution is so strong that important new areas of biological research are confidently and successfully based on the reality of evolution. For example, evolution is fundamental to genomics and bioinformatics, new fields which hold the promise of great medical discoveries.

According to the York Daily Record (November 23, 2004), you issued a statement claiming that “Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence.” This is extraordinarily misleading. While one can refer to the general body of modern evolutionary knowledge as “theory,” the same is true of all other scientific knowledge, such as the theory of relativity or the theory of continental drift. It is one of the hallmarks of scientific inquiry that all such ideas are open to testing and reinterpretation. That theories are open to testing, however, does not mean that they are wrong. Evolution has been subject to well over a century of continual testing. The result: Its reality is no more in dispute among biologists than, for example, the existence of atoms and molecules is among chemists.

Our students need to be taught the method and content of real science. We urge you to alter the misguided policy of teaching intelligent design creationism in your high school science curriculum. Instead, empower students with real, dependable scientific knowledge. They need this knowledge to understand the world around them, to compete for admission to colleges and universities, and to compete for good jobs. They deserve nothing less.

Sincerely,

Paul Sniegowski
Associate Professor
Department of Biology

Michael Weisberg
Assistant Professor
Department of Philosophy

Members of the Departments of Biology and Philosophy:

Prof. Edwin Abel
Prof. Andrew Binns
Prof. Anthony Cashmore
Prof. Brenda Casper
Prof. Dorothy Cheney
Prof. Karen Detlefsen
Prof. Zoltan Domotor
Prof. Arthur Dunham
Prof. Samuel Freeman
Prof. Warren Ewens
Prof. Steven Gross
Prof. Greg Guild
Prof. Paul Guyer
Prof. Gary Hatfield
Prof. Michael Hippler
Prof. Daniel Janzen
Prof. Peter Petraitis
Prof. Scott Poethig
Prof. Philip Rea
Prof. Dejian Ren
Prof. Marc Schmidt
Prof. Paul Schmidt
Prof. Richard Schultz
Prof. Tatanya Svitkina
Prof. Kok-Chor Tan
Prof. Lewis Tilney
Prof. Doris Wagner
Prof. Eric Weinberg
Prof. Scott Weinstein
Prof. Sally Zigmond

Associate Dean David Balamuth (Natural Sciences), Department of Physics

Contacts:

Paul Sniegowski
Department of Biology
University of Pennsylvania
Leidy Laboratories
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Michael Weisberg
Department of Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania
433 Logan Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 3:49 AM
  Noumenal Self Hits One Out of the Park
Noumenal Self's first at bat this season was unbelievable. If you still have any questions about the recent op-ed retraction, you need to read his response - it is simply outstanding.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 3:20 AM
  I'm in a Noumenal State of Mind
The Noumenal Self has returned to the blogosphere after a brief sojourn. Definitely a blog to keep an eye on.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 3:05 AM
  I Think I'm Clear Now...
The Ayn Rand Institute has released an op-ed today which is supposed to replace the original by David Holcberg. Here is the full text of the new op-ed (hat tip Kyle):
Clarification of ARI's Position on Government Help to Tsunami Victims
Friday January 7, 2005

On December 30, 2004, the Ayn Rand Institute released as a letter to the editor and as an op-ed a piece that condemned the U.S. government's use of taxpayers' money to help victims of the recent tsunami ("U.S. Should Not Help Tsunami Victims"). That piece was inappropriate and did not accurately convey the Institute's position. We would like to clarify our position.

Obviously, the tsunami, with the thousands of innocent victims left in its wake, is a horrible disaster. The first concern of survivors and of those trying to help them is to provide basic necessities and then to begin rebuilding. The American public's predictably generous response to assist these efforts is motivated by goodwill toward their fellow man. In the face of the enormous and undeserved suffering, American individuals and corporations have donated millions of dollars in aid; they have done so by and large not out of some sense of altruistic duty but in the name of the potential value that another human being represents. This benevolence, which we share, is not the same thing as altruism.

The ugly hand of altruism--the moral view that need entitles a person to the values of others, whose corresponding duty is to sacrifice their values for that person's sake--did show itself in the petulant demands of U.N. and other officials that "stingy" countries must give more. On their view, the U.S. has no right to the wealth it has produced, because it has produced it; the helpless victims of the tsunami have a right to that wealth, because they desperately need it. This perverse view is not an expression of goodwill toward man. In generously providing aid, the U.S. government should repudiate all such altruistic demands and refuse to associate with the organizations that make them.

In a fully free, fully capitalist society--a society toward which ARI works--the government would not have the power to tax citizens and redistribute their wealth for the purpose of charity, domestic or foreign. The government would be restricted to one fundamental function: to protect the citizens' individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. To accomplish this, the government would need only a police force and a military to protect citizens from aggressors, and a legal system to adjudicate disputes among citizens who allege that their rights have been infringed. Charity would be left to private individuals and organizations, as it was successfully left in 19th century America (in even a semi-capitalist system, there is no shortage of wealth or of benevolence, as the public’s response to the tsunami illustrates).

But of all the ways in which our government today fails to uphold individual rights, providing (through compulsory taxation) short-term, emergency relief to foreign victims of a natural disaster is among the most innocuous. It was therefore inappropriate to single out for condemnation the government’s offer of assistance. True, it would be preferable to use the aid money for a legitimate function of government, such as to purchase needed military equipment and armor for our soldiers in Iraq, who are being asked to risk their lives to defend our freedom. It is likely, moreover, that the increase in aid offered by our government in the days after the disaster stemmed not from benevolence but from surrender to the altruists' corrupt demand that the U.S. had not sacrificed enough. Nevertheless, thousands of the government's actions are more damaging to our rights. Far worse, for instance, would have been to pour the aid money into government programs and agencies whose very purpose is to violate individual rights, such as into the antitrust division of the Justice Department, which persecutes successful businesses for out-competing other companies on a free market. If one wants to fight the government's growing encroachment on individual rights, such are the areas on which to focus, not emergency relief.

The crucial issue in the battle for a free society is to restrict the government to its only legitimate purpose: the protection of individual rights. (The issue of compulsory taxation, the focus of the original piece, is a derivative; it pertains to the appropriate means by which a proper government would finance its activities, and is the last issue to address in establishing a free society. For elaboration, see Ayn Rand’s article "Government Financing in a Free Society" in The Virtue of Selfishness.)
I must admit that when I first heard about this, and read through this op-ed, I was confused. But upon re-reading it, I achieved enlightenment. The crucial error made in the first op-ed is one of strategy; taxes are bad, but they are one of the last things to be abolished on the road to a free society.

Here's an analogy (though not to cast pearls before swine); I was watching Scarborough Country tonight on MSNBC. It was a segment featuring Michael Newdow, the (infamous) atheist, and another lawyer, from some group whose name sounds good, but is really just a front for the religious right. Newdow's latest lawsuit concerns President Bush having some religious figure deliver a prayer at his inaugural party. Newdow is suing to stop this, because it violates separation of church and state. Now while this may be totally inappropriate (I don't have all the facts, but it sounds like it), it is impractical and a waste of time. Chaplains in congress or at Bush's inaugural party are not appropriate, but they are one of the last things we need to fix in regards to the separation of church and state. To focus so much energy and time on this derivative issue, while ignoring more fundamental violations, undermines the effort to buttress the wall the religious right is trying to bring down. In a similar way (though certainly not in the same universe as Newdow), carping on taxes is a valid point philosophically, but not in the context of a fight to return to the principles of a free society. In that context, taxes are a derivative issue, and there are bigger fish that should be fried first.

I'd like to hear what anyone else thinks who's been following this. Please feel free to leave your two cents in my comments section.

UPDATE: Noumenal Self has written the definitive piece on this topic. I thought mine was pretty good, but I am an amateur next to such greatness.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:45 AM
Friday, January 07, 2005
  Cox and Forkum - Zionist Enemy
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 11:24 PM
  The Dark Side of Conservatism
Robert Tracinski has a good piece at Capitalism Magazine on the National Review's decision to republish Whittaker Chamber's "review" of Atlas Shrugged.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:31 AM
  How To Interrogate Terrorists
Heather MacDonald has an interesting piece chronicling the genesis and evolution of the detainment and "torture" of terrorists, which is a big part of all the hulla-balloo that's going on right now in Washington. She presents several examples showing how the Geneva Conventions, and our efforts to "comply" with them, have completely paralyzed our efforts to gain any information from captured terrorists. Here's some good excerpts:
Even more than Afghanistan, Guantánamo dissipated any uncertainty the detainees might have had about the consequences of noncooperation. Consistent with the president’s call for humane treatment, prisoners received expert medical care, three culturally appropriate meals each day, and daily opportunities for prayer, showers, and exercise. They had mail privileges and reading materials. Their biggest annoyance was boredom, recalls one interrogator. Many prisoners disliked the move from Camp X-Ray, the first facility used at the base, to the more commodious Camp Delta, because it curtailed their opportunities for homosexual sex, says an intelligence analyst. The captives protested every perceived infringement of their rights but, as in Afghanistan, ignored any reciprocal obligation. They hurled excrement and urine at guards, used their blankets as garrotes, and created additional weapons out of anything they could get their hands on—including a sink wrenched off a wall. Guards who responded to the attacks—with pepper spray or a water hose, say—got punished and, in one case, court-martialed.

Gitmo personnel disagreed sharply over what tools interrogators could legally use. The FBI took the most conservative position. When a bureau agent questioning Mohamedou Ould Slahi—a Mauritanian al-Qaida operative who had recruited two of the 9/11 pilots—was getting nothing of value, an army interrogator suggested, “Why don’t you mention to him that conspiracy is a capital offense?” “That would be a violation of the Convention Against Torture,” shot back the agent—on the theory that any covert threat inflicts “severe mental pain.” Never mind that district attorneys and police detectives routinely invoke the possibility of harsh criminal penalties to get criminals to confess. Federal prosecutors in New York have even been known to remind suspects that they are more likely to keep their teeth and not end up as sex slaves by pleading to a federal offense, thus avoiding New York City’s Rikers Island jail. Using such a method against an al-Qaida jihadist, by contrast, would be branded a serious humanitarian breach.

Top military commanders often matched the FBI’s restraint, however. “It was ridiculous the things we couldn’t do,” recalls an army interrogator. “One guy said he would talk if he could see the ocean. It wasn’t approved, because it would be a change of scenery”—a privilege that discriminated in favor of a cooperating detainee, as opposed to being available to all, regardless of their behavior.
And later:
Frustration with prisoner stonewalling reached a head with Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi who had been fighting with Usama bin Ladin’s bodyguards in Afghanistan in December 2001. By July 2002, analysts had figured out that Kahtani was the missing 20th hijacker. He had flown into Orlando International Airport from Dubai on August 4, 2001, but a sharp-eyed customs agent had denied him entry. Waiting for him at the other side of the gate was Mohamed Atta.

Kahtani’s resistance strategies were flawless. Around the first anniversary of 9/11, urgency to get information on al-Qaida grew. Finally, army officials at Guantánamo prepared a legal analysis of their interrogation options and requested permission from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to use various stress techniques on Kahtani. Their memo, sent up the bureaucratic chain on October 11, 2002, triggered a fierce six-month struggle in Washington among military lawyers, administration officials, and Pentagon chiefs about interrogation in the war on terror.

To read the techniques requested is to understand how restrained the military has been in its approach to terror detainees—and how utterly false the torture narrative has been. Here’s what the interrogators assumed they could not do without clearance from the secretary of defense: yell at detainees (though never in their ears), use deception (such as posing as Saudi intelligence agents), and put detainees on MREs (meals ready to eat—vacuum-sealed food pouches eaten by millions of soldiers, as well as vacationing backpackers) instead of hot rations. The interrogators promised that this dangerous dietary measure would be used only in extremis, pending local approval and special training.
She ends her piece with the following concession (or more accurately, eviscerates her piece with it):
In fighting them, we must of course hold ourselves to our own high moral standards without, however, succumbing to the utopian illusion that we can prevail while immaculately observing every precept of the Sermon on the Mount. It is the necessity of this fallen world that we must oppose evil with force; and we must use all the lawful means necessary to ensure that good, rather than evil, triumphs.
In other words, the moral isn't practical, but let's see if we can't somehow compromise, and give up some morality in favor of some practicality. But as Ayn Rand noted, in any conflict between two groups who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent side that wins.

And when it comes to defending America, the left and the right are both committed altruists; but the left happens to be consistent in their altruism, while the right tries desperately to smuggle some pro-life values into their repetoire. Thus it didn't surprise me today when I watched the Senate Judiciary Comittee hearing for Attorney General, to hear the nominee, Judge Alberto Gonzalez, repudiate torture wholesale. The entire questioning (except for Orrin Hatch's sychophantic ravings) consisted of the left (Biden, Kennedy and Leahy) throwing instance after instance of torture at Gonzalez, only to have him equivocate over each instance, all the while maintaining steadfastly that he and the president were totally opposed to torture, and committed to the Geneva convention.

Miss MacDonald states, "Human Rights Watch, the ICRC, Amnesty International, and the other self-professed guardians of humanitarianism need to come back to earth"; but the problem here is not these groups - they are being consistent. It is Miss MacDonald, and all those on the right, who must "come back to earth" - by renouncing the morality of altruism, which makes man incapable of living on earth.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:18 AM
  Different Universe
Every now and then I read something on the Mises Institute site that really hits home how great the distance is between us. Today they are critical of the following Q&A with Bill Gates during an interview:
Q: In recent years, there's been a lot of people clamoring to reform and restrict intellectual-property rights. It started out with just a few people, but now there are a bunch of advocates saying, "We've got to look at patents, we've got to look at copyrights." What's driving this, and do you think intellectual-property laws need to be reformed?

A: No, I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the world today than there were. There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.
That's right, against intellectual property rights. Maybe I'm just out of the loop.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:17 AM
Thursday, January 06, 2005
  Cox and Forkum - EnvironMental
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 5:24 AM
  Two Interesting Posts...
Andrew Sullivan has two interesting posts, the first ("Foie Gras and Arab Women") on the treatment of women in Arab countries (apparently they like them "well-fed"), and the second ("Euphemism Watch") on the ever-growing (and quite alarming) Christian identity of the GOP. He echoes the very worries I've had since the last RNC:
A simple question: will someone not "born again" be able to be a Republican candidate for president in the near future? The answer isn't obvious.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:01 AM
  Where My Readers Are...
I recently added a service called HitMaps to my blog, to see where people reading this blog are located. So far I've gotten visitors from the North-Western and North-Eastern United States (where are all my Red State readers?), and someone from what looks like the area affected by the tsunami. You can see the image in my "sidebar" on the right, down by the hit counters.

UPDATE: I just discovered that if you click on the image I mentioned above, it will open the enlarged image in another window! It seems that I have some South-Western United States readers, and the reader from the tsunami-affected region looks like either Malaysia or Borneo (Indonesia).

UPDATE II: This is the last update, I swear - I have to be up for work in 3 hours. But I also just discovered that if I click on the enlarged map, you can further increase the resolution in several places. This is so cool! It looks like that one reader is from Malaysia, probably the city of Sibu!
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:45 AM
  God Damn the National Review
I just finished reading one of the most disgusting smear jobs I've come across. What makes it worse, is that this piece of filth is nearly 50 years old, and has been exhumed, as if the rotting stench it emanates will not be noticed. I'm referring to Whittaker Chambers book review of Atlas Shrugged, Big Sister Is Watching You. I don't know whether this is a coincidence, or whether the National Review has deliberately dug this out to re-smear Ayn Rand while ARI has garnered attention for the press release on the asian tsunami. Either way, the review is atrocious, and it is unforgivable and detestable that they have republished it.

I had to laugh though, when I read the following:
Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked.
To such a preposterous statement, the only proper response would be, "Have you read the bible?".
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:27 AM
  Adventures in India
I'm currently reading about the history of India, and was somewhat interested by the following passage I came across:
It is not necessary, said the Jains, to assume a Creator or First Cause; any child can refute that assumption by showing that an uncreated Creator, or a causeless Cause, is just as hard to understand as an uncaused or uncreated world. It is more logical to believe that the universe has existed from all eternity, and that its infinite changes and revolutions are due to the inherent powers of nature rather than to the intervention of a deity.

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 420
Not too shabby, especially for an ancient eastern quasi-religious sect. Unfortunately, after reading further, I discovered that the Jains were much worse. In fact, their founder ought to be the patron saint of environmentalists:
The road to release, said the Jains, was by ascetic penances and complete ahimsa--abstinence from injury to any living thing. Every Jain ascetic must take five vows: not to kill anything, not to lie, not to take what is not given, to preserve chastity, and to renounce pleasure in all external things. Sense pleasure, they thought, is always a sin; the ideal is indifference to pleasure and pain, and independence of all external objects. Agriculture is forbidden to the Jain, because it tears up the soil and crushes insects or worms. The good Jain rejects honey as the life of the bee, strains water lest he destroy creatures lurking in it when he drinks, veils his mouth for fear of inhaling and killing organisms of the air, screens his lamp to protect insects from the flame, and sweeps the ground before him as he walks lest his naked foot should trample out some life. The Jain must never slaughter or sacrifice an animal; and if he is thoroughgoing he establishes hospitals or asylums, as at Ahmedabad, for old or injured beasts. The only life that he may kill is his own. His doctrine highly approves of suicide, especially by slow starvation, for this is the greatest victory of the spirit over the blind will to live. Many Jains have died in this way; and the leaders of the sect are said to leave the world, even today, by self-starvation.

Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, pg. 421
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 12:34 AM
  Crazy Al...
Although we haven't progressed far enough as a culture to publicly discuss abolishing the Federal Reserve, Fox News pundit Neil Cavuto at least asks a logical question:
Why do we condone a group of guys whose policy is made in secret and whose decisions which affect us all is made without one scintilla of debate?
It's a far cry from the proper questions that should be asked, but the fact that such a powerful "agency" has been allowed to operate so clandestinely should at least bother more people. Unfortunately, Cavuto only questions the clandestine nature of the Fed, and not, as he puts it, "their economics".
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 12:08 AM
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
  Making Waves
The Ayn Rand Institute's op-ed from last week on the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka, India, et.al., has generated a torrent of discussion, the volume of which I've never seen from such a press release. Unfortunately, it has received mainly negative, critical, tongue-in-cheek attention. With a (partial) exception.

All in all it is a very telling indictment of the culture, and a good measure of how thoroughly altruism is entrenched. There is still much work to be done....
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:56 AM
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
  Peter Schwartz on Separation of Church and State
Peter Schwartz had an excellent op-ed out yesterday, tying together the war on terror, Bush's "mandate" and the Christian assault on freedom: Faith and Force.
Because religion in politics is incompatible with liberty, weakening the church-state separation promotes the very evil we are fighting in our war against Islamic totalitarianism.

America's war on terrorism is being undercut--by the administration's efforts to inject religion into politics.

Our enemy in that war is the ideology of Islamic totalitarianism--an ideology which holds that one's life is to be lived entirely in service to Allah, that the dictates of the mullahs must be unquestioningly obeyed and that jihad must be waged against all who refuse. Islamic totalitarianism, which pervades Muslim societies, is a sweeping repudiation of reason in favor of faith, and of freedom in favor of force. That is what makes it America's deadly enemy.

When reason is categorically abandoned, people can deal with one another only by force. People who accept reason as their sole means of knowledge can settle differences by persuasion; the one with facts and logic on his side will prevail. But if faith--i.e., the embrace of beliefs contrary to reason--is one's ruling principle, there is no peaceful way to resolve conflicts. There can be no appeal to facts, no logic, no rational arguments--there can be only the insistence that some non-provable belief be accepted. And what could back up that insistence other than fists or guns--or airplanes smashing into buildings?

Politically, if religious faith dominates, freedom will not be permitted. If the basic political goal is the secular one of defending individual rights, then each person has sovereignty over his life and is left free by the state to think for himself and to pursue his own values. But if the basic goal is to implement the will of some unfathomable deity, then the citizen cannot be allowed to exercise his own judgment and to challenge divine authority. The religionist believes there is no difference between the crime of, say, murder and the "crime" of uttering some religious heresy--both acts defy God's commandments and so must be punished. The demand for blind faith does not acknowledge the inviolability of man's rational mind.

This clash between faith and freedom is not confined to Islam. When medieval Christianity ruled the West, allowing no dissent from ecclesiastic doctrine, the Crusades and the Inquisition were part of the Church's "holy war" against its infidels. However, this despotism ended when the Enlightenment--which did not penetrate the Muslim world--demonstrated the power and the glory of the human mind, and entrenched reason over faith.

This philosophy led ultimately to the founding of the first free nation: America. At the time, religion had long been an integral part of government throughout the world, with monarchs reigning by "divine right." America's Founding Fathers, products and admirers of the Enlightenment, realized that a nation based on individual liberty had to remove religion's power. So they established the principle--the secular principle--of separation between church and state.

Obviously, there can be secular forms of unreason, which also lead to tyranny (such as Marxism, with its view that "tools of production" control the content of one's mind). Secularism is not a sufficient condition for freedom--but a necessary one. A proper, rational government is limited by the imperative not to violate individual rights. But the government envisioned by religionists--the one for which the Bush administration is laying the groundwork--has unlimited power, to be exercised whenever officials claim to be following divine orders.

Today's religionists want government to discourage research on embryonic stem cells, to promote the Biblical account of life's origins, to urge schoolchildren to pray. Why? Not because these are logically defensible, but because they supposedly represent God's will. The religionists want us to revert to a pre-Enlightenment age, when faith and force--the twin tools of Osama bin Laden and his fellow-jihadists--ruled.

In America, unlike most of the Muslim world, even the religious retain some respect for reason. They generally understand that religion should be a private matter and that church and state should be divorced. They would oppose, say, making the Bible America's official Constitution--as the Koran is officially Saudi Arabia's; they would oppose sentencing apostates to death--as Iran's criminal code demands. The extent to which reason prevails over faith is the extent to which freedom prevails over tyranny.

The presidential election should be taken as a mandate for defeating Islamic totalitarianism. Which means: destroying its practitioners, eliminating its state sponsors and renouncing its ideology of imposing religion by force. But if the election is taken as a mandate to bring faith into politics, America will be cultivating at home the very evil we are supposed to be fighting abroad.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:08 AM
Monday, January 03, 2005
  Your Tax Dollars at Work...
The AP has a story on the $1 billion dollars given to "faith-based" groups in 2003:
In New Haven, Conn., AIDS counselors don't hesitate to stop and pray anytime someone needs a boost. In Charleston, S.C., Crisis Ministries provides shelter and meals for the homeless and the hungry.

Both are on a White House list of "faith-based organizations" that together received more than $1 billion in federal grants in 2003.

 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 7:21 AM
  Great Quotes
John Hawkins at Right Wing News has compiled the 40 Most Obnoxious Quotes of 2004 (hat tip: Instapundit). Here's two of the worst:
3) "I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own." -- James Wolcott, Vanity Fair Contributing Editor

12) "...Saddam must be immediately released and escorted back to Iraq under the protection of an international delegation. At that point, (Jimmy) Carter can supervise elections with Saddam among the candidates. And yes, it’s not impossible that he might win. Is this a shocking suggestion? Yes, and I hesitate to be the first one to say publicly what so many people – including ex-government officials and long-time foreign policy commentators – have been saying privately for months. But at some point, such thoughts will become commonplace. It is a fact that this war was unjust. Releasing him would at least concede that the US was wrong to wage it. This is the first step toward ending the bloodshed and terror." -- Lew Rockwell
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 6:36 AM
  From My Horror File...
Robert Bork on individuals, and their relationship to society(from his book, The Tempting of America):
...no husband or wife, no father or mother, should act on the principle that a person belongs to himself and not to others. No citizen should take the view that no part of him belongs to ‘society as a whole.
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 2:07 AM
  A Faithful Museum
For anyone who's ever been fortunate enough to visit the Museum of Natural History in New York City, you've probably been awestruck by the vast array of exhibits and scientific knowledge (leaving aside the Margaret Meade wing). Well, there's going to be a new kid in town (proverbially speaking), who intends to compete with that knowledge. The telegraph has the story (hat tip: Pharyngula):
With its towering dinosaurs and a model of the Grand Canyon, America's newest tourist attraction might look like the ideal destination for fans of the film Jurassic Park.

The new multi-million-dollar Museum of Creation, which will open this spring in Kentucky, will, however, be aimed not at film buffs, but at the growing ranks of fundamentalist Christians in the United States.

It aims to promote the view that man was created in his present shape by God, as the Bible states, rather than by a Darwinian process of evolution, as scientists insist.
My, my, how quaint. That such a "museum" can find the funding, let alone the market, is a very gloomy development, and yet a growing sign of the increasing influence of religiosity in the American culture. Here's some more from the story:
The centrepiece of the museum is a series of huge model dinosaurs, built by the former head of design at Universal Studios, which are portrayed as existing alongside man, contrary to received scientific opinion that they lived millions of years apart.

Other exhibits include images of Adam and Eve, a model of Noah's Ark and a planetarium demonstrating how God made the Earth in six days.

The museum, which has cost a mighty $25 million (£13 million) will be the world's first significant natural history collection devoted to creationist theory. It has been set up by Ken Ham, an Australian evangelist, who runs Answers in Genesis, one of America's most prominent creationist organisations. He said that his aim was to use tourism, and the theme park's striking exhibits, to convert more people to the view that the world and its creatures, including dinosaurs, were created by God 6,000 years ago.
And don't think that this museum will be sticking strictly to science, it has a whole biblical explanation for all kinds of disasters, along the lines of Jerry Falwell's explanation of 9/11:
More controversial exhibits deal with diseases and famine, which are portrayed not as random disasters, but as the result of mankind's sin. Mr Ham's Answers in Genesis movement blames the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, in which two teenagers killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves, on evolutionist teaching, claiming that the perpetrators believed in Darwin's survival of the fittest.

Other exhibits in the museum will blame homosexuals for Aids. In a "Bible Authority Room" visitors are warned: "Everyone who rejects his history – including six-day creation and Noah's flood – is `wilfully' ignorant."
I'm sorry, but this is almost too ridiculous to bear. I find literally unbelievable that we live in a modern world where enough people actually believe this kind of nonsense. It is the closest thing I can think of to living in the time of Ancient Egypt, where priests regularly sold amulets, charms and scrolls that would help you in the afterlife. This strikes me as a very ominous development culturally. I know many Objectivists who have noted that Biology is one of the better sciences, that has not been tainted as Physics has. But if something like this can come about, without any huge uproar on the part of scientists, where is Biology going?
 
 POSTED BY THE GENERAL AT 1:22 AM
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