Friday, March 31, 2006

More On Sagan's Skepticism - A Real World Example

Here’s a real-world example of what I was writing about earlier concerning Carl Sagan’s brand of skepticism. I’m afraid I didn’t help the cause much, but maybe someone else can learn from my mistakes.

It didn’t take me as long as I had thought it would, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve pushed my lab partner too far. I claim full responsibility. I pushed too hard and apparently didn’t make it clear enough to him that he can always tell me to back off before anyone gets pissed. He didn’t.

Now, he’s pissed and I’m sad. I was enjoying our philosophical discussions, but I’d say those are pretty much over. Here’s the story, to the best of my ability:

I asked him a pretty standard question about predetermination, just to see what argument he had against it, because I guessed from things he’d said before that he would have one. We went around and around, with me trying to make him actually understand my point. BTW, that point would be “if God already knows what you’re going to do, then you have to do it, and thus have no choice in the matter”. Like I said, pretty standard fair. He, on the other hand, kept prevaricating and equivocating, making jokes and intentionally misunderstanding me. That should been the clue right there that this wasn’t going to come out well. If you can’t get at the beginnings of a straight answer right off the bat, then you can pretty much forget getting any kind of reason out of a True Believer. Alas, I didn’t pay any attention to this, and just kept on barreling through, relying on his “good faith” attempt to have a decent discussion.

When I finally got a straight answer out of him, it was this: you still have free will because you don’t know what’s going to happen, and thus are free to make a choice. Now, all those words on their own make sense to me, but string them together like that, and they become gibberish. That just makes no sense to me. None whatsoever. I kept trying to reiterate my point, using different examples to explain my position, thinking that since I was getting garbage out, I had to be putting garbage in. My second mistake.

Every time I tried a different example, up to and including a magician’s force using my fingers as the choices (allowing me to flip him the bird several times in good conscience). He still stuck to his guns that as long as he has the “perception of choice” then he has free will. I just didn’t understand. So, I asked him to explain his point. “Explain how the “perception of choice” and “choice” are the same thing,” I said. When he started to just restate his argument, using the exact same wording, yet again, I just held up my hand, fingers extended, implying that perception of choice and actual choice are different. That pissed him off. I suppose that was mistake number three.

I kept asking him to explain himself, and he kept restating the argument. We were at an impasse. I told him so, and inadvertently implied that he was being childish. I didn’t think he was being childish, just vexing. He, however, was already pissed, and thus took it wrong. I guess waving my fists in the air and telling him that all he was doing was saying “I’m right! I’m right!” over and over again was a poor communications tool.

Yup, mistake number four.

This conversation went downhill from here, and he eventually said that they were the same because God has the power to make it so because he’s supernatural. Yup, hours of conversation, frustration and skull sweat down the tubes because I backed him into a corner and didn’t let him come to his own conclusions. He shut down and threw out the S-word as the ultimate trump card. When I pointed out, quite heatedly, that saying “God can do it because He’s God” is not a logical, rational explanation, he cut me off and said that he didn’t want to talk to me anymore. I can’t say that I blame him. I’d flipped him off multiple times, implied he was childish and immature, told him that he couldn’t adequately explain himself and then accused him of being irrational. If someone had done all that to me, I’d be pissed. Especially if it were true.

This conversation should have been broken up into more bite-sized, easier-to-swallow chunks. My partner’s a good guy, smart, thoughtful and conscientious. There was a chance that I could have made some headway in explaining the secular humanist perspective to this young Catholic man. Only through such understanding on the part of the True Believers will we ever make a difference in the culture wars. As Carl Sagan repeatedly pointed out in DHW, science is unpalatable to many people because it’s not sold to them very well, not because it’s inherently distasteful. I didn’t sell my viewpoints very well, taking a hammer and tongs approach to a guy who was willing to listen. He isn’t Hovind, Robertson or Dembski, spouting bullshit despite it being explained to them at length in words of one syllable. He was willing to discourse, and I screwed that up royally.

Idiotic leadership should be pounded on, mercilessly. But that alienates the rank and file, and we should be aware of that. Which is more important: scoring points off of Pat Robertson when he doesn’t care and probably won’t even know or convincing your lab partner that maybe he should rethink some of his positions?

I know what my answer would be. What’s yours?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Carl Sagan's Skepticism

I know, it’s taking me forever to finish this book! But it’s pretty dense, and I’ve been working nights. Not a lot of reading time there, dontcha know?

There’s a big debate in the skeptical community about taking a “hard-line” stance a la PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins or a softer stance, a la Michael Shermer and company. Well, apparently Sagan comes down on the Shermer side, which kind of surprised me at first, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it was probably inevitable. Anyway, here’s the most recent nugget of Sagan wisdom:

And yet, the chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is in its
polarization: Us vs. Them – the sense that we have a monopoly on the
truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are
morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, you’re beyond
redemption. This is unconstructive. It does not get the message
across. It condemns the skeptics to permanent minority status; whereas, a
compassionate approach that from the beginning acknowledges the human roots of
pseudoscience and superstition might be much more widely accepted.

Notice that he never says to capitulate to the woo-woo crowd. Just treat them with a little compassion. You can respect a person without believing his particular myths. Heck, one of my best friends was a charismatic Christian when I met him. I thought he was a complete nutjob, but he wasn’t evil, just mistaken. And eventually, through his own search for answers, truths and the Truth, he came around to a more skeptical mindset. If I had hit him day after day with towering indignation that he dare be something so silly, he’d have hunkered down and set into a siege mentality. That’s human nature.

Being told you’re wrong is hard to hear. And it’s even harder to accept. We skeptics should remember that.

More from Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark…

More Wisdom From Carl Sagan
Satanic Cult Abuse And Fundamentalism
Beautiful Words From A Beautiful Mind

Cyber Nations

Ahhh....Ranson, I could smack you.

I used to play a game called.....well...its initials were NS. It was fun....for about a day. And then it got old. Fast.

So, I forgot about online, interactive nation-building. Until Ranson sent me a link to my newest form of gaming net-heroin: Cyber Nations.

Actual wars with actual meaningful outcomes. Meaningful gorvernment and religion choices. Resources and the ability to trade. A real economic system. Build-up of land, infrastructure, technology and military might. Nukes! All of it interactive, and synergistic. It's beautiful. My only problem with it is that there's not more of it. It only takes a few minutes a day to keep everything up-to-date, so it's good for the casual gamer, but you can spend hours just tooling around the Google Maps screens and checking out other players for that tiny advantage, so it's good for those of us who....obsess...a bit, as well.

All in all, Cyber Nations rocks! Like I said, it's not time intensive, but it's very fun. Check it out.

Disclaimer: I am linking to this site for shameless personal gain, but I don't care. This game rocks.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A War On Christians??????

According to this article in the WaPo, Christians have: Officially. Lost. Their. Damned. Minds!

Honestly, can anyone say that Christians are oppressed in the US? Christians? In the US?

You know, the country where the President, the Supreme Court and most of Congress are professed Christians. The country where three percent of the country are non-godridden. Three percent! I want to know just how the frak we are oppressing 97% of the country!

I want in on that. I'll take some of that Unholy Oppression Power!

Stupidity abounds.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fleeting Moments

I was on my way home from work this morning, driving north on the interstate, when something caught my eye in the on-coming, southbound lane. I glanced over, and it was my wife, on her way to work for the day. It was a completely unexpected moment, and it was made even nicer because the light was just right for me to see that she was looking at me, too.

It got me to thinking, not just about how much I love my wife, but how much I enjoy spending time with her. That fleeting moment of connection across three lanes of interstate traffic is all I will have of her until this evening. I spent the night working while she was sleeping, and I'll sleep while she works today. But that moment was enough to make my day a little brighter.

At the risk of taking the mush over the top, I have to say that we should all look for the fleeting moments, and treasure them. They're worth more than we think.

My Blog Doesn't Own Me!

Or does it.....

12.5 %

My weblog owns 12.5 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

More Wisdom From Carl Sagan

I’m still reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World, and every now and then I am struck by how accurate he was. Sagan died in 1996. However, in DHW on page 241, he had this to say:
Most of these figures [faith healers and other charlatans] are only after your money. That’s the good news. But what worries me is that a Carlos will come along with bigger fish to fry – attractive, commanding, patriotic, exuding leadership. All of us long for a competent, uncorrupt, charismatic leader. We will leap at the opportunity to support, to believe, to feel good. Most reporters, editors, and producers – swept up with the rest of us – will shy away from real skeptical scrutiny. He won’t be selling you prayers or crystals or tears. Perhaps he’ll be selling you a war, or a scapegoat, or a much more all-encompassing bundle of beliefs than Carlos’s. Whatever it is, it will be accompanied by warnings about the dangers of skepticism.
I wonder what he would have had to say about our current administration and its supporters. Would he have considered the President a “Carlos with bigger fish to fry”?

I think I do.

Think about it. It’s been asserted that he won, especially in 2004, because he was viewed as a good man, the kind of guy you would invite over for dinner. He’s certainly worked to develop that rough-and-tumble leader image. He wraps patriotism around his administration like a bath-towel. For years, the news establishment gave him a free ride, and only now are they starting to wake up to their responsibilities. And he has sold us a war – Iraq. He has sold us a scapegoat – Iraq.

And he is working hard to sell us his all-encompassing vision of America. He sees an America where “faith-based initiatives” are the best way to distribute government funds. He sees an America where “Intelligent Design” is good science. He sees an America where large corporations and other sources of pollution don’t spew toxins and greenhouse gasses into the environment, where the polar caps melting is a good thing, because it’ll boost the economy.

As to the warnings about skepticism, well, the millions of yellow “Support Our Troops” magnets sold in America during the 2004 election are evidence enough that skepticism about our President equates to a lack of love for this country in his eyes. Remember, this is the man who questioned a decorated war veteran’s patriotism, while trying to suppress the evidence of his own shenanigans back here in the States during the same war. Scientists who speak out about climate change are suppressed or ignored. Critics of the war are practically tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. If he had his way, skepticism, at least applied to what he wants, would be tossed out the window.

I imagine that Carl Sagan would agree with me. But like a good skeptic, I'll admit that I could be wrong.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Satanic Cult Abuse And Fundamentalism

I’ve been reading DHW by Carl Sagan, and he spends a huge amount of time on alien abduction stories and their similarities to Virgin Mary sitings in medieval Europe as well as the purported Satanic Cult and sexual abuse scares of the 80s and early 90s. He also touches on Fundamentalism (usually, but not limited to the Christian kind) and its role in perpetuating the Marian visions.

That got me to thinking. I wonder if the current spate of Fundamentalism is in any way connected with the Satanic Cult abuse and “repressed memory” sexual abuse witch hunts of that time frame. I think there’s a good possibility that there’s a connection. Think about it. A fifteen year old girl in 1980 would be forty-one years old now. A fifteen year old boy in 1990 would be thirty-one. That puts them smack in the middle of the fundies’ biggest demographic. And considering how under-educated the American populace is on all things psychological, or anything scientific for that matter, I have to wonder.

I’m not saying that that’s the only cause. After all Christian fundamentalism traces its roots farther back than 1980. But I wonder how much effect those scary “Satanic Cult Members Force Teen To Ritually Kill And Eat Own Baby” headlines are affecting the people currently driving the religiosity of this country.

For information on False Memory Syndrome, the driving force behind those Satanic Cult and other so-called “repressed memory” sexual abuse cases, check out the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Ten -- iPod Edition

I just remembered to do my Friday Ten. From my iPod's Top Rated Smartlist:

1. The Halls Of Tar Valon – Robert Berry
2. Slow Country – Gorillaz
3. Faint – Linkin Park
4. (You’re The) Devil In Disguise – Elvis Presley
5. Oo La La – Wiseguys
6. Brain Stew – Green Day
7. One More Night – Phil Collins
8. Somebody Hates Me – Reel Big Fish
9. Dare – Gorillaz
10. Re-Hash – Gorillaz

Note the triple dose of the Gorillaz. I think I may be obsessing over those cartoon primates a bit too much.....but Noodles is just to cute.

Visitor Number 2,500

I had my 2,500th visitor since installing my sitemeter today. Here's the entry:

Domain Name: (Unknown)
IP Address: (Withheld) (Cirrus Pharmaceuticals)

Continent: North America
Country: United States (Facts)
State: North Carolina
City: Durham
Lat/Long: 35.9112, -78.9178 (Map)
Distance: 89 miles (local visitor)

Language: English (United States)en-us
Operating System: Microsoft WinXP
Browser: Internet Explorer 6.0Mozilla/4.0
Javascript: version 1.3

Resolution: 1280 x 1024
Color Depth: 32 bits

Time of Visit: Mar 24 2006 9:53:40 am
Last Page View: Mar 24 2006 9:53:40 am
Visit Length: 0 seconds
Page Views: 1
Referring URL: N/A
Visit Entry Page:
Visit Exit Page:
Out Click: N/A
Time Zone: UTC-5:00
Visitor's Time: Mar 24 2006 9:53:40 am
Visit Number: 2,500

Apparently, she didn't want to read anything I had to say today. Ah, well.

Prayer Study Tomfoolery

Okay, just when I thought I was out of wrath-juice, something monumentally stupid comes along and fills the ol' gas tank.

According to this article at the Washington Post, there are studies still being done on intercessary prayer. Jebus! I thought that whole load of crap had gone away already.

Here. I'll save millions in research money: IT DOESN'T WORK! Come on, people.

The "healers" of all stripes, along with their supporters, are doing the typical wiggle-jiggle whenever science puts the kibosh on one of their pet beliefs. What really pisses me off, although it doesn't really surprise me, is that the WP is giving this story the Fox "fair and balanced" treatment, giving at least temporary legitimacy to the woo-woo crowd.

This is a waste of time and money. But confirmation bias and anecdotal evidence apparently trump reality once again.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Broken Incredulity

I came to a disturbing, even frightening, realization a few days ago. I have stopped being outraged by what the wacko element of this country is doing. And what's really sad is how huge that wacko element has become.

Our president is a Christian fundamentalist that nevertheless asks other fundamentalists to reverse their views. Of course, those other fundamentalists aren't Christian, so they obviously aren't accurate. Apparently, Christian fanatics: Ok. Muslim fanatics: Bad People.

And that's not all the idiot does. He's mired this country in debt for decades, and maybe centuries, to come. But does Congress even blink when he asks for more? Of course not. Congress, in this case, has its hands tied. But they don't even say anything about. They just quietly widen Bush's purse-strings and go about their mid-term elections.

I don't even want to start on the Supreme Court. It's bad enough that those Kooky Christian fundies that Bush is so sympathetic with threatened the two female members of the Supreme Court. Now that the Court is even more conservative, I should be shuddering at what's to come, but I find myself...not apathetic, because I do care.....but just burnt out on outrage.

Of course, the federal government isn't the only culprit. South Dakota and Kansas are always good for a WTF Moment. The problem is that my WTF Motor is busted beyond repair. The states have gotten so bad that I was shocked when Brad Miller stepped up and showed he had a pair regarding scientific suppression by the government. I wish he represented my district.

The really sad thing is I wish my Incredulity Button was only broken when it came to the Government setting, but of course, it goes far beyond that. In the scientific realm, the cloning fakery scandal didn't bring me more than a moment of surprise. As others have said before me, it's not surprising in the least that someone would want to fudge their data in the race to clone every mammal on the planet, leading up to the apparent holy grail of clones, a HUMAN BEING! Insert nifty echo effect there if you wish.

But there are other, non-naughty-scientist outrages that I should really be ranting about. News was released today confirming that sea levels will be rising at least a couple of feet over the next century due to the melting of the Arctic ice cap, at least during the summers of the 21st century. Considering this news, I wouldn't want to live in New Orleans, or the NC Outer Banks, in the next few decades. Just getting the environmental nay-sayers to admit that it's happening, whatever the cause, is well-nigh impossible. I guess they'll finally admit it when the heads they have buried in the sand get covered by the incoming tide. What's sad is I can't even manage to work up the energy to yell about it.

And don't even get me started on the religious loons out there, both on a national scale and right here in my little neck of the woods. I could go on and on about them to no end, pointing out idiocy after idiocy. But it just doesn't matter. Pat Robertson asks for assasinations and prays for the death of justices so he can advance his political agendas. Pat Robertson, founder of the 700 Club, watched by millions of Christians in this country, mostly older ones who trust this guy to tell them the all-up, "God's Honest Truth". So, when Robertson goes off the deep end, does anyone do anything? Of course not. Because Christians have the best of both worlds.

I think it's safe to say that all the mainstream Chrisitians in this country, Catholic or Protestant, share at least eighty percent of their core beliefs. I personally think that number is a lot higher, but heck, we'll be charitable and say it's only 80%. So, whenever some churchy group does something good, that shared 80% kicks in and every Christian in the country pats themselves on the back for a job well done. But whenever a wacko like Robertson or Fred Phelps starts frothing at the mouth, the best the rest of the Christian community can do is look embarrassed and scuff the dirt with their feet while wearing a hangdog look. Usually, it doesn't even go that far.

No, usually what happens is, that 20% kicks in, and they get to go "Not me! Not me! I'm not that kind of Christian." Or better yet, they go "He's not a real Christian." That always used to get me going, saying that Pat Robertson wasn't a real Christian or disowning Fred Phelps because he does something distasteful. That's akin to Joseph Goebbels saying "Not me! Not me! I'm not that kind of Nazi!"

And yes, I just stepped into Godwin's Law territory, but I did it on purpose. Fascism is fascism, whether it uses a cobbled together neo-Norse religion to prop it up or a cobbled together neo-Judaism. PZ Myers posted something a few days ago that resonated with what I'm feeling, called It's A Beautiful Day. I recommend that you read it. And if you've already read it, then go back and reread it. But while you're doing it, don't limit yourself the way he does. Think about every atrocity being perpetrated by our political leaders, our scientific leaders, our religious leaders, hell, all our community, state and national leadership, and ask yourself if you are shocked, angered, or even surprised.

I'm not. And that's a really bad thing. By nature, I'm an angry guy. It's just part of my genetic heritage and my upbringing. But I'm just not pissed anymore. Bush and crew have won. I still care. I still want it all to change. But they don't surprise me anymore. They have destroyed my ability to be incredulous, and that scares the hell out of me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 Craziness

I'm signed up with, although I'm not a paying member. That's why I'm kinda frustrated. In the last couple of months, two old girlfriends have tried to get in touch with me through Classmates, and I'm torn.

Looked at from one perspective, I don't really need to be getting in touch with my Exes. That's the past, and my beautiful wife is the present and the future. It doesn't help any that one of these women is related to another ex-girlfriend of mine (yes, I tended to "keep it in the family" was southern WV, there are only like ten families in the whole county) that my wife absolutely despises.

Looked at from another perspective, I remained friends with most of 'em long after I broke it off with 'em, so maybe they're justified in trying to look me up. I dunno. I admit to a certain morbid fascination, considering most of my youthful girlfriends turned out to be serious psychos.

This is just more of my dithering, I guess. It doesn't help any that I don't like the idea of paying Sure they're cheap, but it rankles for some reason.

So, anyone got a suggestion?

Savage Chicken Rocks!

You must check out the Savage Chicken. It's great! Here's an example:

Beautiful Words From A Beautiful Mind

I'm finally getting to start on Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark, and I thought I'd drop a quote in from time to time as I read. I'm not looking for profundity here, just whatever strikes my fancy. In that vein, here's the first one, from pages 26 & 27:

I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us – then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.

I would say that the US has had quite a few "challenges to national self-esteem" lately and that our "national prejudices" have been aroused in the last five years. And lo & behold, the Chimperor, that God-fearing, Bible-thumping, anti-science bullshit artist still reigns supreme. We need some Carl Sagans in politics. Sadly, all we have are John McCains.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day!

I had a nifty graphic that I lifted off a poster, but apparently Blogger is being a little bitch today, and won't let me upload any pictures. Ah well.....

Happy Pi Day, anyway.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Existentialism and the Lab Rats

My new lab partner (note to self: come up with better nickname than “Fresh Meat” ... he’s earned it) is proving quite interesting. He’s spent some time with a philosophy book, that’s for sure. But he’s not very familiar with the more modern concepts. He’s more rooted in Platonic Forms and Aristotelian “yes/no” dualistic thinking, which is okay, since most of modern Western philosophy builds off those mental giants, but still…..

Anyway, I just had quite the interesting conversation with him. I haven’t had that much fun since Philoman (yeah, that guy over at Eight Geeks) was my newbie partner. We were discussing existence vs. the perception of existence. Actually, we started out talking about the reliability of eye-witness accounts and memory in general. He’s having a hard time believing that his (and everyone’s) memory is as fallible as I claim it is. I told him to look it up for himself. Hopefully, he will and we can talk again. Especially if I’m wrong! That would be fun.

But that lead almost directly into the whole existential thing. He claims that he can prove something exists without a shadow of a doubt. I claim otherwise, i.e. that we can only prove that we can perceive something, not that it’s actually there. After all, I could be a real nutcase in a straitjacket and a rubber room somewhere, eating mashed up peas through a straw. (BTW, if that’s true, I hope they bring my thorazine soon. I could use a nap!) He rejects that and claims that he can prove to a delusional person that they’re delusional. (See how that ties back into the memory discussion? Nifty, hunh?)

He depends too much, in my opinion, on test equipment and so-called reason that isn’t really reason at all, but actually just experiential reality. I used the example of a little green man standing on a desk. He and I can’t see it, but a theoretical third person claims it’s standing there waving at us. My challenge to him was to prove that it wasn’t actually there. Now, I know this is a dirty trick, since you can’t prove a negative, but it was fun to watch him wriggle. Ultimately, I got around to the fact that if someone is having hallucinations, they can’t tell the difference between them and reality. The schizophrenic that hears God’s voice coming out of the toaster really believes that it’s God until someone convinces him that God doesn’t talk out of toasters. Only when he is convinced that something he’s perceiving isn’t real can he begin to apply reason and rationality to the topic. But that’s really counter-intuitive, since my new partner is trying to use the self-same reason and rationality to prove his points. Isn’t that funky?

I eventually brought the whole Deity issue into it, since he’s a self-proclaimed Catholic. He believes in some ineffable, supernatural force. I asked him to prove it. He had a hard time even formulating a response to that one, so I let it go.

The last bit we got into was causality, and the inability to prove it. What I mean by that is that you can’t prove that just because you tossed a ball in the air and it came down 1000 times that it will come down the 1001st time. But that’s a whole different post….

Hmmm…maybe Aradia should take my philosophy and pop culture books away from me.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Frikkin' Laser Beams

Let the Austin Powers jokes begin:

Pentagon scientists are planning to turn sharks into "stealth spies" capable of tracking vessels undetected, a British magazine has reported.

They want to remotely control the sharks by implanting electrodes in their brains, The New Scientist says.

It says the aim is "to exploit sharks' natural ability to glide through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails".

Unbelievable. Here's the BBC News article.

Fresh Meat Gets Frustrated

Heh, my new trainee got his first real taste of my "Devil's Advocate" routine last night. We got into some pretty deep philosophical stuff for 3:30 in the morning, so I poked and prodded at him, seeing what he really thought. I think I frustrated him some. He said I was pissing him off because I was arguing just to argue.

Heh, guess he knows how Philoman and Thug Girl feel now, hunh? Well, pal, it only gets worse from here on out.

"Watch On The Rhine" review


I have to say it again.


I just finished Watch On The Rhine by John Ringo and Tom Kratman, and I gotta say, it was an amazingly cool book. The concept of Germany having to revive the SS to fight off an alien invasion, combined with all the moral quandries involved, was pretty gripping. As usual, of late, John Ringo's (and I presume, Tom Kratman's) politics came through pretty strongly. Making the European Greens one of the human villains was maybe a bit over the top, but at least the one true, unrepentant Nazi gets his just desserts.

And lets be honest, pick a direction, throw a rock, and you'll hit a political villain, in either Europe or here in the good ol' USA. All in all, I completely enjoyed this book, and the politics, where distasteful, were at least "overlookable".

Until the last page of the Afterword. In just one page, the authors turned a good political/military sf thriller into a huge pile of political commentary dreck. Allow me to quote:

Right now, Western Civilization, however much many of its member may refuse to admit it, is involved in a world war. can you watch the news and not know this?

No, it has seen no entire cities destroyed; no trenches have drawn their scars across entire continents.
Ask the Iraqis about city destruction, there, boyos. They may disagree. But you're right about one thing. That outmoded military model, trench warfare, hasn't been reinstituted.

It is a world war all the same. Moreover, it is a world war that is putting to the test every notion of individual liberty, freedom of conscience, and rule of law that the West prizes. And should we lose we will see, or our grandchildren will, the erasure of all that is good in Western Civilization.

We cannot afford to lose.
One wonders how they would define "losing the war". American cities captured by the Taliban? British metropoli gutted by nuclear weapons? Or perhaps *gasp* getting the hell out of an area where we're despised.

Yet winning will have its price, too.
It always does. And in the name of Western-style freedom, it has usually been a price well worth paying, in blood and steel. I've never been forced to face that price directly, but a quick glance through a history book shows where the West could be, and I've gotta tell ya, Fascism isn't for me.

Just as the invasion John described is ordained to change humanity into something that one of Hitler's Waffen SS would recognize and call home, so too will this war change us.
It doesn't change humanity, you twits! It brings to the for something that has always lurked within the human soul. Call it strength of will, bloodthirstyness or bravery, it is there, within our race. I'll admit that not every person has the steel to blow a bridge with non-combatants on it, even if it means military defeat. But then, neither does one of the author's brave young volunteers. Maybe it's because he's French. I don't know.

Because side by side with the virtues of Western Civilization are paired by vices that may destroy us: a narrow legalistic mindset, an emphasis on form over substance, and an unwillingness to do the ruthless and violent things we must if we are to survive.
Note the two-facedness of this. They are, in essence, saying "Danger, Will Robinson! The terrorists are going to rob us of our Western goodness!" and then, in the very next paragraph, saying that we have to be ruthless and violent to ensure victory over those terrorists. At what point do you stop fighting the enemy, and become him? At what point is that acceptable. Which is more important, raw survival or survival with some sort of ideals still in place. Look to the German people. This book implies a deep-seated national guilt over the Holocaust. That's the outcome of a loss of Western ideals, a descent into savagery that only a thorough military savaging in return can stop.

I know that this is the dichotomy of war, that to stop the barbarians, we have to, at least in part, think like the barbarians. And that makes us, in part, barbarians, too. They preach about "form over substance", but then advocate abolishing both! I just don't understand that mindset.

This list is not exhaustive. Perhaps worse than these things, however, the West has nurtured at at its own breast a set of execrable, vile, treacherous and treasonous villains that seem to seek at every opportunity to do all they can to ensure its destruction.
This I can agree with. At least, I could if I thought they were only talking about the Rumsfeld-courted Saddam Hussein or the American military-trained Osama bin Laden. But somehow, I get the feeling that a certain New York Senator is included in that list, if only because I know where John Ringo leans politically.

I wish the authors had just left the Afterword out and let the book speak for itself, which it does quite eloquently. They didn't have to beat us over the head with their points. Despite what they may think, we're not that stupid. At least not all of us.

(cross-posted to Eight Geeks, due to excessive geekiness content.)

West Virginia Shenanigans

I was just perusing and came across this little nugget of nastiness:

"Police chief stopped man from saving gay friend"

Apparently, police chief Bobby Bowman of Welch, WV is being accused of pulling a man off his gay friend while trying to administer CPR during a heart attack. The victim later died in the hospital.

I have no idea about where the truth lies in this matter, but no matter what the outcome, it probably won't surprise me. For all of its Democratic leanings, there is a strong streak of social conservativism that runs through southern West Virginia, which is funny, since everyone there is so poor relative to the rest of the country that our fine social distinctions become moot when we move out into the wider world. Every one of us from southern West Virginia is a poor hillbilly to the rest of America. That's assuming, of course, that a given American even knows that West Virginia is a separate state from Virginia. I've run across an appalling number of people who don't.

Between this and the slaughtered pets thing, the good ol' Mountaineer State is going to start getting an even worse reputation than it once did, I fear.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Why Do I Even Bother?

Well, I tried really hard not to, but when PZ posted a link to the stupid anti-evolution carnival, I just had to go look. And when I saw an argument brewing in the comments, I literally stuffed my hands into my pockets to keep from posting a comment.

But the more I read, the more pissed I got.

So, yeah, I posted a couple of comments.

Nothing big, mind you. It's no big deal.

I can stop whenever I want!

What do you mean, I'm an addict?!?


Bask in the inanity: Darwin Is Dead Carnival.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mark Twain Was So Cool

Check the funny Mark Twain story over at Abnormal Interests. It's a bit longish, but SOOOOO worth reading.


"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu