Get with the 21st Century, Strib!

This is an annoying thing about newspapers: I discover browsing through yesterdays paper at the coffee shop that there is an excellent editorial cartoonist at the Star Tribune — he had a surprisingly anti-religious cartoon in the 11 June newspaper. I get online to look it up, and discover that the Star Tribune effectively buries everything other than the today’s newspaper, so I can’t find it! Can anyone out there help me out? It’s by L.K. Hanson, 11 June, on page A13 of the Opinion section — I’m looking forward to the outraged letters to the editor that will follow.

I can find examples of Hanson’s work on the web, but I wanted this specific cartoon…although it’s true that the more of his work I see, the more I like it. So why does the Strib make it so hard to see it?

Found, on Hanson’s Facebook page!

I like it.

A well informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will

Both Andrew Sullivan and Kevin Drum are wrong, but I think Drum is infuriatingly wrong.

They’re arguing over a statistic, the observation that about 46% of Americans believe the earth is 6000 years old and that a god created human beings complete and perfect as they are ex nihilo. Andrew Sullivan sees this as a consequence of the divisiveness of American politics, that they’re using it as a signifier for red vs. blue.

I’m not sure how many of the 46 percent actually believe the story of 10,000 years ago. Surely some of them know it’s less empirically supported than Bigfoot. My fear is that some of that 46 percent are giving that answer not as an empirical response, but as a cultural signifier. That means that some are more prepared to cling to untruth than concede a thing to libruls or atheists or blue America, or whatever the “other” is at any given point in time. I simply do not know how you construct a civil discourse indispensable to a functioning democracy with this vast a gulf between citizens in their basic understanding of the world.

[Read more…]

Science: it’s also a liberal code word

The other day, I wrote in some bafflement about the North Carolina legislature trying to write sea-level rises out of existence — it was like trying to legislate the value of pi, and I had a hard time believing anyone would be so stupid.

But I should have known. There are no lower bounds to stupid. This plan to bury real-world problems in redefinitions and disguising the language? It’s a thing. Now Virginia is doing it, too.

Virginia’s legislature commissioned a $50,000 study to determine the impacts of climate change on the state’s shores. To greenlight the project, they omitted words like “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study’s description itself. According to the House of Delegates sponsor of the study, these are “liberal code words,” even though they are noncontroversial in the climate science community.

Instead of using climate change, sea level rise, and global warming, the study uses terms like “coastal resiliency” and “recurrent flooding.” Republican State Delegate Chris Stolle, who steered the legislation, cut “sea level rise” from the draft. Stolle has also said the “jury’s still out” on humans’ impact on global warming.

The sea level is rising. But you can’t say that in a Republican universe.

Keep Sanal Edamaruku out of jail

The Catholic church is up to their old tricks again, this time in India. They’re trying to get a skeptic imprisoned for exposing a phony “miracle”.

Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Indian Rationalist Association, has for decades been a tireless campaigner for science and against superstition. He is widely known for his exposure of the tricks used by self-professed ‘God-Men’ and gurus and has often been on Indian television explaining the everyday science behind supposed miracles.

After one such exposure – he pointed out that the “blood” oozing from a statue of Christ at the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Velan kanni in Vile Parle, Mumbai was in fact water from a leaky pipe – the Catholic Church of Mumbai made a formal complaint about him to the Mumbai police. He stands accused of “deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments of any class or community”, an offence under Section 295(a) of the Indian Penal Code. No arrest warrant has been issued but the case is "cognisable" meaning the police can arrest without warrant at any time. He is being harassed daily by the Mumbai authorities who, under pressure from Catholic groups, are insisting that he turn himself in. His petition for “anticipatory bail” was turned down on 3 June 2012 on the bizarre grounds that he would be safer in custody. If he is arrested he will therefore most likely be detained in jail until court proceedings are concluded, which could take several years. Fearing arrest, he dares not stay long at home or work.

Go sign the petition.

A compendium of the dumbest anti-choice arguments ever

I don’t know whether it’s the content or the ghastly color design of this page. Seriously — here’s a sample of what they think looks good on the screen:

Checkmate, Pro-Choicers!

Jebus, that color combination hurts my eyes.

Oh, wait, no…it’s the content. It’s like a collection of the most ignorant arguments against abortion anyone could find — and they triumphantly present each bit of glib inanity, and follow it up with Checkmate, Pro-Choicers!

I’m not going to even try to dig into all of their idiotic cliches, but here’s a couple that represent a major pet peeve of mine — the conflation of “life” with “deserving all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of an adult woman.”

If we found something on Mars with a heartbeat, we would call it “alive.”
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

Oh, sure, and then we’d let it vote, marry it, and let it own an ice cream shop in Philadelphia. This has never been an argument about what is alive or not; a fetus is alive. But merely being alive has never been sufficient criteria for giving something human rights. We don’t even need to go to Mars to find things with heartbeats that we willingly turn into Happy Meals, poison if we find them in our kitchens, or turn into pets. We are selective in the assignment of human status, and having a pulse or breathing are the very least of them, and are definitely not sufficient.

A zygote meets all of the scientific qualifications of HUMAN life at the moment of conception.
Checkmate, Pro-Choicers

How interesting. I’m always amused when I see these bozos insist indignantly that they’ve got science behind them. And what are these “scientific qualifications”? List them, please.

The problem here is that there are scientific markers we could use to define whether something is of human descent, but they tend to be fairly reductionist and don’t provide a good indication of the kinds of sociological distinctions we want to make with the word “human”: it’s not just the zygote at the moment of conception that is human, but so is the sperm and the oocyte, as are cancers and HeLa cells. And when you look at cells as being of human origin, that still doesn’t help you in the slightest in determining whether a cell has rights.

Waving a flippant hand in the direction of undefined “scientific qualifications” is useless. Tell me what the specifics are, and I promise you, I can shoot them down one by one. How do I know that? Because the people who put these lists together are ignoramuses, every time.

(via Pandagon)

Does anyone understand what North Carolina is trying to do here?

This is an amendment to a law, and sure sounds weird.

(b) No county, municipality, or other local public body shall adopt any rule, ordinance, policy, or planning guideline addressing sea-level rise, unless it is a coastal-area county or is located within a coastal-area county.

(c) No rule, ordinance, policy, or planning guideline that defines the rate of sea-level rise shall be adopted except as provided by this section.

(d) The General Assembly does not intend to mandate the development of sea-level rise policy or rates of sea-level rise. If, however, the Coastal Resources Commission decides to develop rates of sea-level rise, the Commission may do so, but only by instructing the Division of Coastal Management to calculate the rates.

(e) The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission. These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise. Rates of sea-level rise shall not be one rate for the entire coast but, rather, the Division shall consider separately oceanfront and estuarine shorelines. For oceanfront shorelines, the Division shall use no fewer than the four regions defined in the April 2011 report entitled “North Carolina Beach and Inlet Management Plan” published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The oceanfront regions are: Region 1 (Brunswick County), Region 2 (New Hanover, Pender, and Onslow Counties and a portion of Carteret County), Region 3 (a portion of Carteret County and Hyde County), and Region 4 (Dare and Currituck Counties). For estuarine shorelines, the Division shall consider no fewer than two separate regions defined as those north of Cape Lookout and those south of Cape Lookout.

(f) Any State agency, board, commission, institution, or other public entity thereof and any county, municipality, or other local public body that develops a policy addressing sea-level rise that includes a rate of sea-level rise shall use only the rates of sea-level rise developed by the Division of Coastal Management as approved by the Commission. If the Commission has not approved a sea-level rise rate, then the sea-level rise policy shall not use a rate of sea-level rise.

Why are they trying to define in a law precisely how you are allowed to measure a physical quantity, and why are they trying to decree that only linear rates are permissible? It sounds like they are trying to legislate reality.

But maybe some Carolinians in the know can explain the logic of their legislature.


You’re doomed, all doomed. The state is about to privatize their “public” education system, turning it all into voucher-based chaos…and the Christians are looking forward to feasting on the shambles.

At Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, pastor-turned-principal Marie Carrier hopes to secure extra space to enroll 135 voucher students, though she now has room for just a few dozen. Her first- through eighth-grade students sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains “what God made” on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.

“We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children,” Carrier said.

Other schools approved for state-funded vouchers use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.

They’re building idiocracy down on the bayou, I guess. It may be the place where the Mississippi drains, but they don’t have to take it literally and turn the place into the sphincter of the nation.

Bruce Schneier vs. Sam Harris

The debate on profiling has been going on, and is now published. I think Schneier has rather thoroughly demolished Harris’s arguments. Here’s his wrap-up, if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

The topic of this exchange, and the topic I’ve tried to stick to, is whether it makes sense to implement a two-tiered security system at airports, where "Muslims, or anyone who could conceivably be Muslim" get a higher tier of security and everyone else gets a lower tier. I have concluded that it does not, for the following reasons. One, the only benefit is efficiency. Two, the result is lower security because 1) not all Muslims can be identified by appearance, 2) screeners will make mistakes in implementing whatever profiling system you have in mind, and 3) not all terrorists are Muslim. Three, there are substantial monetary costs in implementing this system, in setting the system up, in administering it across all airports, and in paying for TSA screeners who can implement it. And four, there is an inefficiency in operating the system that isn’t there if screeners treat everyone the same way. Conclusion: airport profiling based on this ethnic and religious characteristic does not make sense.

And while you’ve objected to bits and pieces of this, the only argument you have made for this profiling system is that it’s common sense.

But here’s the real bottom line:

But perhaps most importantly, we should refuse to be terrorized. Terrorism isn’t really a crime against people or property; it’s a crime against our minds. If we are terrorized, then the terrorists win even if their plots fail. If we refuse to be terrorized, then the terrorists lose even if their plots succeed.

The terrorists have won their battles over the last ten years: they’ve got Americans pouring money into showy efforts at security, while convincing everyone to be in terror — when will we all wake up and realize that that’s exactly what terrorists want?