Monday, March 29, 2010

Fall of Saddam Statue Staged?

Once again I've had my mind blown by the willingness of U.S. media to go along with fakery in service of U.S. government propaganda. I watched a documentary about Al Jazeera called The Control Room. It's a pretty good movie, but nothing too surprising to me until the very end.

Al Jazeera of course was ticking off the U.S. Defense Department in that they do show corpses. This inflames anger against the U.S. according to Al Jazeera's American critics. Apparently it's not enough that the U.S. can kill whoever they want. They want everyone to be quiet about it as well. Al Jazeera also showed video of dead U.S. soldiers and captured U.S. soldiers. This really ticked off the U.S. military. I think the problem is when Americans see their soldiers dead and captured this brings home the reality of war and horrifies everyone. This of course can erode support for war.

Al Jazeera had provided coordinates of their location in Baghdad to the U.S. military, but despite that on the morning of April 8, 2003 their Baghdad office was subjected to a missile attack by a U.S. warplane. One journalist was killed. Two other sites of independent journalists were targeted that same morning according to the movie.

The following day, with independent, unembedded journalists packing their bags and leaving Baghdad for fear of further attacks, the U.S. military and a small band of 20 something Arab looking males converged on a statue of Saddam Hussein at Firdos Square. With the square safely cordoned off by the U.S. military (see satellite image here) the event starts with a U.S. soldier draping the American flag that had been flying above the Pentagon on 9/11 across the face of the statue (see a picture here). This means that we're not seeing spontaneous Iraqi exuberance, but a planned event. Finally the statue is pulled down by an American armored vehicle. The "Iraqi people" converge on the statue and slap it in the face with their shoes in a shoe of defiance and exuberance at the liberty and democracy that has just been brought to them by the benevolent American warriors. All of these scenes can be accomplished without any independent journalists revealing the wider picture, which reveals the fake nature of the whole operation.

This is supposedly evidence that the U.S. was greeted as liberators. Meanwhile the previous and much larger anti-American demonstrations of real Iraqis are covered by Al Jazeera but ignored by others. This is more of what provoked American outrage against Al Jazeera.

I watched Saddam's statue fall live. It was quite moving and confirmed for me that my original support for the war was correct. Foreign press wasn't deceived so much. For instance Robert Fisk called it the most staged photo opportunity since Iwo Jima immediately after it happened. I'm just figuring it out now.

We've seen the fake cheerful protests of Iraqis in service to Saddam as he'd walk around and enjoy watching people pretend to love him. The fake demonstrations continue after Saddam, but under new management.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Info on Drug Criminalization

Some funny historical information about how criminalization of marijuana came about is below. Also for reference I'm linking to Glenn Greenwald's white paper on the effects of drug decriminalization in Portugal. In sum by just about every measure it's been a resounding success. Drug usage down in many categories, drug related mortality and diseased decreased, etc. None of the nightmare scenarios of the critics have materialized, from widespread increases in usage to the assertion that Portugal would become a drug haven for tourists. All these positive changes while reducing the costs to the taxpayers. Not bad. We need to do the same.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Have Some Integrity, Roman Catholics

As far as apologists go I kind of like Roman Catholics. Dave Armstrong may be extremely irrational. But he's always been fairly charitable. You can't help but like Scott Hahn and Jimmy Akin. Mark Shea seems to be an independent thinker. Phil Porvaznik has always been good to me. In terms of charity it's nothing like Triablogue or James White.

Since we do see a glimmer of charity in these people, when are we going to see some of them consider the continued sex abuse scandals and their own Pope's involvement and do some re-evaluation. Is this God's institution? I'm not asking you to be an atheist. I'm not even asking you to reject Christianity. But at least consider this. Is your Pope the Vicar of Christ? Seriously?

Heck, become like Gerry Matatics or Bob Sungenis at least. Admit that the current church hierarchy simply is not of God. Keep believing in Mary and all that stuff if you like it, but reject this present hierarchy. Have some bloody integrity. If massive child rape covered up by your hierarchy doesn't get you to reconsider, then what will?

Why is Obama Unhappy?

So I guess Obama snubbed Netenyahu for dinner. Apparently Obama is sort of ticked. But why? We're to believe it's because he doesn't want to see any more settlement construction. That's what this article says. And that would make some sense. It is an outrageous violation of international law and basic common sense.

On the other hand I wonder if maybe this article is more revealing. Netenyahu brought out a flow chart showing that he was not responsible for the timing of the announcement. The timing? What does that have to do with anything? The problem is not that it was announced at a certain time, right? The problem is simply that settlement construction is an outright injustice and it is illegal by any meaningful sense of the word. What does the timing have to do with it?

The timing is only relevant if what matters is Obama's pride. You see, Biden was in the region supposedly supporting peace when the announcement was made. It's tough to pretend you support peace all the while the side you favor is basically throwing mud in the face of the other side. How are we supposed to pretend we care about peace under these conditions? Here's Biden faking his way through the motions of acting like we care about peace and you're doing things which make peace impossible. And of course we do nothing to stop you when we could.

Stopping settlement constructions seems easy to me, though maybe this is an oversimplification. Tell them that their annual $3 billion in aid is contingent on a halt to settlement construction. How hard is that? Obama has the means to stop settlement construction but isn't doing it. What's really going on?

I was reminded of East Timor immediately. Apparently Ford and Kissinger were scheduled to visit Indonesia and it turned out Suharto was preparing to invade East Timor and slaughter the indigenous people for no real reason other than that they wanted their natural resources. The mass genocide was not a problem for Ford and Kissinger. What was a problem was the fact that it might be initiated while they were there, which would sort of make them look like they are good buddies with a Hitler like person. So they asked Suharto to wait until after their visit was over to invade. Suharto obliged. The genocide was not a problem. The embarrassment would have been.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Challenging Theistic Arguments

I think you have to give C.S. Lewis some credit. He's got an argument against naturalism that in my view is challenging. Maybe I'm a bad atheist/agnostic, but I have to admit I see force in some theistic arguments.

Here's this argument from C.S. Lewis, and it was used in a debate recently by David Wood (who has banned me from his blog).

The argument goes like this (more details here if you're interested). Let's assume naturalism is true. Our brains are the product of natural selection. So why do we have cognitive capacity? Is it because our cognitive capacity leads to truth? No. That's not what nature selects for. It's simply because our present cognitive capacity apparently has some sort of selective advantage. It makes us more successful in passing on our genes. If that is true, why should we trust that our cognitive capacity leads to truth? If it was advantageous from a natural selection perspective for us to believe that pigs have wings then that's pretty much what we should expect we would conclude despite the fact that this doesn't correspond to reality.

So if we believe naturalism is true and we believe that natural selection explains the origin of species we undermine our ability to know that our logical capacity leads to knowledge of truth. Is that conclusion right?

Well, I've been hanging out with atheists for a while, and I can't help but say I just have not heard a satisfactory answer. Some think this is an easily dismissed challenge. I don't think so. This is a blog and I can change my mind at any time. My thinking is always a work in progress. My conclusion today though is that the theist is right.

So now what? Does this make me a theist? Nope. Here is how I respond (today).

I can't know that my logical thinking leads to true conclusions. I can't really trust my own atheistic/agnostic beliefs. I believe these things due to natural selection. Or at least that's what I think. Even that thought was determined by natural selection. It could be wrong and I could never know because what I think is basically determined by these natural factors.

So what do I do? Here's what I do. I follow scientific methodologies. But why? Wasn't I determined to conclude that scientific methodologies lead to truth? Yep. And I could be wrong. But what I can say is that based upon my own experience I conclude that it is better to follow these methodologies. It seems to lead to less destruction and pain. We've tried believing in witch doctors and priests. That lead to certain results. Through scientific methodologies we've been able to abandon that way of thinking and adopt a new way, and I prefer it. So I hold to the scientific method. I can't prove that it leads to truth. What I can do though is say some conclusions are based on scientific methodologies and logic and others are not. I will be accepting the former. If you prefer another method that is your choice. In the end though scientific methodologies just work better and that's about all I can say.

So when I say that a claim is "true" what I really mean is that a conclusion is logical or based on scientific methodologies. False claims are the reverse. Naturalism and atheism are logical and scientific. Theism is not. Is naturalism true in the sense that it corresponds to reality? This we cannot know. Being logical and scientific is the best we can do. But believing these things may be entirely false and yet nature has selected for a species that has come to this conclusion. If that's the case we can never know.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who's the Patriot Now?

I'm not the kind of person that thinks that only the lives of Americans matter. Of course they do matter, but so do the lives of people with different nationalities.

But for U.S. politicians it's not like that. We know exactly how many Americans are killed in any conflict. The body counts of the Vietnamese or Iraqis are much less well known.

But let's play this game of pretending only the lives of Americans matter. Here's something that makes Americans unsafe. U.S. support for Israel. Support for the interests of Israel costs American lives. Look at the #1 reason OBL gave for his attacks against the United States. It is attacks from Israel on Muslims done with U.S. support.

Today Netenyahu is moving forward with plans to build additional settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. This is the equivalent of Mexico crossing in to Texas and building homes for Mexicans subject to Mexican laws, all the while displacing native Texans. Obviously this is not how you go about making peace with your neighbors.

How does this affect the safety of Americans? General David Patreaus told Congress that this flares large scale conflicts, foments anti-American sentiment, limits the strength of partnerships between the U.S. and Arab governments, strengthens Al Qaeda, and improves Iranian influence in the region. All of these consequences quite naturally put U.S. troops in danger and cost American lives.

The fact is Israel's interests do not necessarily coincide with American interests. An attack on Iran would be dangerous for Americans, though the Israeli government indicates a desire to move forward with that. Many American politicians and pundits support that. It's worth noting the politicians that put the interests of a foreign nation ahead of the safety of American troops and citizens.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thoughts on the Dutko Debate

I've gotten a lot of feedback on the Dutko debate and seriously have not had one negative review. I can't say this with regards to all of my radio call in efforts, so it would appear that it went well for me. And that's the way I feel about it. I'm getting compliments even from Christians. In fact from every Christian I've talked with. My atheist friends of course also thought it went well for me. So I'm glad to hear this.

My first thought about it though is I'm once again impressed with Bob Dutko. He probably was expecting a novice. What he got was a person that does debate a lot, has experience in debating apologists on the air, and also listens to his show often enough to know the arguments going in. Despite that I was never able to really put him too much on the defensive. Clearly Bob is a skilled individual.

But I have a lot to learn still. Here is what I've learned about Bob. There's a sense where I don't think he's really hearing what I'm saying. Now, the atheists reading are saying to themselves "well duh". But what I suspect is that it's really quite a bit more enmeshed in Bob's brain than I realized, kind of like a cognitive dissonance thing. He really doesn't hear me.

So for instance notice how frequently he claims I believe something came from nothing. My 4 or 5 direct assertions to the contrary just didn't seem to matter.

That's the obvious one, but others weren't clear to me until after the debate and things were pointed out to me by commenter Jason. Take for instance my discussion about the ancient Hindu told by his priest that the earth sits on the turtle. If he doesn't have a complete theory of gravity worked out does this mean he's obligated to accept turtles? Bob's response is "Whatever you want to call it, whether turtles or Zeus or Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's all the same thing. It's pointing to spiritual realities."

I was just kind of lost with this response. It doesn't seem relevant. Why is he responding this way? What he's doing is responding to a different argument. When someone talks about the FSM and basically says that a given argument proves FSM Bob has reasoned that this is nothing more that attributing divine properties to the FSM and altering the name from Yahweh to the FSM. So he's saying who cares? Whatever you call it you're conceding spiritual realities.

But that's not my argument. My argument is that in the past you've replaced what turned out to be natural causes with spiritual causes and you were mistaken. We don't know with regards to the origin of the universe, but your argument looks to be a repetition of this error, so it's rational to reject your argument. This has nothing to do with me renaming God with a silly sounding name, like calling God a fairy or leprechaun. He's funneling my argument into a category that makes him more comfortable rather than dealing with it.

The same thing happened with regards to the subject of the Sphinx. This Sphinx is complex and must be designed, so why shouldn't we assume that the human body, which is more complex, is also designed. My response is that I agree. This is intuitive and rational. But the beauty of science is that it can overturn an intuitive truth. Look at relativity. This is what Darwin did.

Bob responded and said I'd made 2 errors. The first (though it was a blizzard of words he used to make this point) is that I'm assuming evolution is the default position even though the human body is even more complex.

I actually said when he moved to my supposed second error "I'm not sure what the first error was." He repeated it and I was still lost. Because it's not a response to my argument. The reality is I directly conceded and agreed with his so called criticism. I told him that evolution is counter intuitive and it is rational to think the human body is designed as a default position. It's only with the overwhelming scientific evidence that the default position was overturned. I could have added that the same was true of flat earth-ism or geocentrism. These are default positions. The earth looks flat from where I'm standing. Turns out we need to reject what might seem intuitive because of the science.

So what Bob is doing is basically responding to me as if I made the argument he expects me to make and perhaps the argument he typically hears. Maybe atheists typically just imply that evolution is not counter intuitive. We should expect human organs to arise by natural means. That's what Bob typically hears so he simply pretends that this is what I said. He responds like an automaton. What I say doesn't actually matter. The response is mechanical and is the same no matter what.

Live and learn. You have to know your opponents arguments well enough to know the ways in which he will attempt to mis-characterize what you say. It's confusing because it can be entirely disconnected from your own words. I have to try and be ready for that.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Dutko Debate

Here's the audio. Without having listened to it yet I thought it went great. Bob surprised me in that he was totally warm and cordial both on the air and off. An overall pleasant and fun conversation. No knockout punches on either side in my opinion, but you be the judge. I'll probably have more to say later.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bob Dutko and I Debate Tomorrow

I'm in studio with Bob Dutko tomorrow (Monday) at 1:05 having basically an informal discussion about the existence of God. You can go here to stream it or I'll post it at my website after. Keep me in your prayers. I got some Scriptural encouragement from an atheist friend.

"Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them..."
-Jeremiah 1:17

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Banned from Answering Muslims

Looks like I'm banned again. It's clear to me the causes, though David Wood isn't really saying. Errors are expressed at a break necking pace over there. Exposure of that along with exposure of blatant hypocrisy is unacceptable. Here I'm going to review some of the incidents that lead to me being banned.

In this thread we're told by frequent poster Fernando that the Tamil Tigers, the most prolific suicide terrorist group prior to 9/11, in fact were 90% Muslim. This is a blatantly false claim, which I corrected with evidence. Fernando also asserted that Christians in Lebanon do not support Hezbollah, which I again corrected with evidence.

In this thread we're told by a contributor called The Fat Man that Israel was given less than 50% of designated Palestine as a result of the 1947 UN Partition. This is easy to check and correct, so I did again with evidence. Later The Fat Man (fond of using a phrase "Go sell crazy some place else, we're all booked up here) would inform us that Palestinians prompted the Gaza invasion a year ago with daily rocket attacks. I showed him his errors again. We were told by Ed the common canard that Arafat walked away from a sweetheart deal at Camp David. Once again I offered correction. I corrected various other errors in that thread.

In this thread my claim that OBL is motivated by occupation and death committed against Muslims is denied. I provide a variety of direct quotes from OBL to justify my assertion.

In this thread we're told by Fernando that the claim that the blockade is harmful to the economy in Gaza is a myth. His claim is not just false but absurd, as I pointed out.

And then the final straw. In this thread I pointed out the blatant hypocrisy of the outrage expressed at the death of 13 servicemen contrasted with the silence regarding the thousands of monthly deaths that occur unjustifiably at the hands of the U.S. and it's agents. It's the same point I made here. "Jon, go sell crazy someplace else we are all booked up here." says The Fat Man.''

Spewing falsehood after falsehood? That's not a problem. Pointing out easily corrected falsehoods and blatant hypocrisy? Unacceptable. That kind of craziness belongs somewhere other than the Answering Muslims blog.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Terror Apologists at Answering Muslims

They're outraged over at Answering Muslims about the Ft. Hood massacre. And it is a tragedy. There's no denying that. If it had been a few years back it could have been my brother Bill, who was in the military and was deployed in Iraq. I would have been devastated.

As painful as that thought is I can imagine the pain that Iraqis, Afghans, and Palestinians are going through right now. It's not just 13 dead in a given month in Iraq. It's more like thousands. I find it strange that while at Answering Muslims they are quick to express outrage over the death of 13 at Ft. Hood when you ask them about the tens of thousands killed in southeastern Turkey with U.S. weaponry, the millions driven from their homes, the untold misery carnage and devastation reigned down upon them, it seems they've never heard of it.

I ask them these questions. I ask them why, if they think Islamic fundamentalism is so bad now, why didn't they think it was bad when Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, was slaughtering hundreds of thousands of the indigenous people in East Timor? Why is radical Islamic fundamentalism only a problem when it's associated with enemies of the state, but not a problem when death comes at a far higher scale from friends of the state? Is the problem really Islamic fundamentalism? Or is the problem just the fact that certain Muslims don't do U.S. bidding?

But then they've never heard of East Timor and the critical role the U.S. played in perpetuating that crime. Why is that? George Orwell noticed the same thing:
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.