Archive for July, 2008

This one should be filed under “Woman chooses to have sex with her husband, chooses not to take birth-control, credits God with her 18 children, and takes no responsibility for creating the situation”.

ABBOTSFORD, British Columbia ( July 28 ) – A Romanian immigrant has given birth to her 18th child in British Columbia, making her the province’s most prolific mother in 20 years.

“We never planned how many children to have. We just let God guide our lives, you know, because we strongly believe life comes from God and that’s the reason we did not stop the life,” said Alexandru Ionce. (Source)

Apparently, “let God guide our lives” = some confused mix of making some decisions (e.g. to have sex), and refusing to make other decisions (e.g. to take birth-control).

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Commenting on Blogs

I don’t know if anyone else does the same thing, but I tend to shy away from commenting on blogs when they have lots of comments. There’s something about it that makes me feel like my comment is always going to get buried, and there’s virtually no chance to respond to a comment, so I don’t even bother. Over the past few months, Pharyngula has become like this. I still read it, I just don’t bother commenting. It’s not uncommon for Pharyngula to get more than one comment per minute. This post has 2113 comments in just over 12 hours (that’s 1 comment every 20 seconds x 12 hours), and this one has 1480 comments. I suppose the more commenters there are, the more readers there are, but wow. Once comments get into the upper double-digits, I don’t even attempt to read them, so it’s hard for me to believe anyone else is.

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Wear Science

These t-shirt designs made me laugh.

Brought to you by the website with the “teach the controversy” t-shirts:

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Growing up Amish

Fourhourworkweek has an interesting couple posts written by a woman who grew up Amish, and then escaped. A quick excerpt:

What were the positives of growing up Amish?

-Growing up bilingual (Though I didn’t become fluent in English until after I escaped and I was always very self-conscious about my command of the English language)

-The emphasis on the solidarity of the extended family unit

-The emphasis on being hospitable to strangers, helping those in need, whether Amish or “English” (anyone who’s not Amish is “English,” no matter what language or culture he/she represents)

-Building your own houses, growing your own food, sewing your own clothes

These experiences taught me self-reliance, self-preservation, and gave me the ability to relate to non-American familial cultures much better than I might otherwise.

The biggest negatives?

-The rape, incest and other sexual abuse that run rampant in the community

-Rudimentary education

-Physical and verbal abuse in the name of discipline

-Women (and children) have no rights

-Religion–and all its associated fear and brainwashing–as a means of control (and an extremely effective means at that)

-Animal abuse

I consider these negatives as personal positives in a somewhat perverted or distorted way. Without having experienced what I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, shaped by the experiences I’ve had since. I always tell people that I’m thankful for having grown up Amish but that I’d never wish it upon anyone else.

People generally have a peaceful image of the Amish. Can you explain the physical abuse?

The Amish take the Bible verse “spare the rod and spoil the child” in a literal sense. Parents routinely beat their children with anything from fly swatters, to leather straps (the most typical weapon), to whips (those are the most excruciating of), to pieces of wood.

One of my acquaintances stuttered when he was little and his dad would make him put his toe under the rocking chair, and then his dad would sit in the chair and rock over the toe and tell him that’s what he gets for stuttering.

Even little babies get abused for crying too much during church or otherwise “misbehaving.” I’ve heard women beat their babies — under a year old — so much that I cringed in pain.

My dad got the daily paper, and my mom caught me reading it once. She beat me for what she deemed open signs of rebellion. Following that, I’d wait until my mom took her nap and then I’d read the paper from cover to cover.

Escaping the Amish – Part 1
Escaping the Amish – Part 2

I guess none of this should be particularly surprising. I’ve read about small insular communities in the past that have all kinds of problems – but people on the outside don’t know what’s going on. In these kinds of small insular communities, it seems that the “rule of law” isn’t a principle that is followed. Rather, one man, a few elders, or men in general end up being the law, and that gives them plenty of leverage to abuse people under them. This seems to get pronounced more strongly in small religious communities – where “God” has defined a social order (e.g. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:22) or one person has a special role as prophet or leader (as in cults / Mormon sects). Another recent example is from the Parcairn Islands:

The remoteness of Pitcairn (which lies about halfway between New Zealand and Peru) had shielded the tiny population (47 in 2004) from outside scrutiny. If present admissions and allegations were to be believed, the devout Seventh-day Adventism practiced by the islanders had for many decades masked a tolerance for sexual promiscuity, even among the very young, with a corresponding tacit acceptance of child sexual abuse. Three cases of imprisonment for sex with underage girls were reported in the 1950s.

A study of island records confirmed anecdotal evidence that most girls had their first child between the ages of 12 and 15. “I think the girls were conditioned to accept that it was a man’s world and once they turned 12, they were eligible,” Tosen said.

On 30 September 2004, seven men living on Pitcairn Island (including Steve Christian, the Mayor), went on trial facing 55 charges relating to sexual offences. On 24 October, all but one of the defendants were found guilty on at least some of the charges they faced.

But, I’m getting off-topic. Again, the Amish article is worth a read:
Escaping the Amish – Part 1
Escaping the Amish – Part 2

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I stumbled on a Republican website today that was selling this shirt. All I could think is ‘wow’.

(Admittedly, when I first read the shirt, I thought they were saying, “I’d rather be torturing another human being”, which is more offensive than the alternative: suggesting that they enjoy being waterboarded, and it’s not that bad.)

A quick look around the site confirms that their main intention is the pleasure they get from angering their ideological ‘enemies’. They seem to follow the Ann Coulter formula of searching for the most inflammatory thing they can say.

With all the Catholic wafer uproar recently (IT’S A FRACKIN’ CRACKER!, Professor who threatened desecration claims to have consecrated Hosts), I have been thinking about the whole ‘I’m going to piss you off’ actions that have been going on. Other recent examples: US soldier shooting the Koran, the Mohammed cartoons, and the Kieffe & Sons radio ad, and the Blasphemy Challenge.

I think there is something cathartic and indulgent in all these actions – it’s a chance to express your own opinion about someone else’s sacred cow. Not all these situations are the same, of course. An American soldier shooting the Koran and writing expletives on it in Iraq is bound to have negative consequences for the US military and stability in Iraq. As for the Mohammed cartoons – while they were setup as a test of free-speech, they weren’t the worst possible thing the Danish could’ve printed. Dislike of Muslims is common and they’re a small enough minority, that printing anti-Islamic cartoons would provoke a mixed reaction without a huge backlash inside Denmark. Had the cartoons been racist, rather than anti-Islamic, I think far fewer newspapers would’ve considered printing them. And, of course, Iran responded by doing the easy thing: sponsoring a holocaust-denial cartoon contest – an idea that plays well among their friends (in the Middle-East) while pissing-off their ‘enemies’ (the West and the Jews). It’s always so easy to desecrate someone else’s sacred cow when it means nothing to you, and somehow that gets painted as ‘courageous’.

I remember reading one comment that these types of actions might shock sacred-cow believers into realizing how ridiculous their own actions are. That seemed highly unlikely, since it was pushing them into emotionalism, not reason. Attacking someone’s sacred cow is what it is: it’s not going to change anyone’s mind or make them more reasonable, it’s not going to improve the situation, but it might be cathartic and a chance for self-expression among the non-believers.

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Karl Rove ignored a subpoena to appear this morning before a House panel that is investigating allegations that partisan considerations entered into hirings and firings at the Justice Department.

The House Judiciary Committee had invited President Bush’s former political adviser to testify about a broad range of scandals. In response, his attorney sent lawmakers a letter outlining the grounds for his refusal to appear on Capitol Hill.

“As I have indicated to you in each of my letters, Mr. Rove does not assert any personal privileges in response to the subpoena,” Robert Luskin writes in a letter posted on the committee’s website. “However, as a former Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, he remains obligated to assert privileges held by the President … Accordingly, Mr. Rove will respectfully decline to appear before the Subcommittee on July 10 on the grounds that Executive Privilege confers upon him immunity from process in response to a subpoena directed at this subject.

A few minutes ago, the Associated Press reported that Rep. Linda Sanchez, the California Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, ruled that Rove’s claim was invalid.

It’s amazing to me that the Republicans have seized the perception of being the pro-American party. They love to wrap themselves up in the flag, complain that other people are insufficiently patriotic, and then their leaders will ignore the laws (even the constitution) of the country. It’s like a boss who constantly complains about employee theft, but then embezzles money.

Even if we ignore the current situation, their actions are setting a bad precedent for future presidents. In 20 or 50 years from now, if a bad president comes to power, he can use the Bush administration’s actions to confer legitimacy to whatever he wants to do. It’s hard not to think that all of these expansions of executive power isn’t degrading this country, and moving it irrevocably away from the checks and balances which were so important to the founding fathers. If the Republicans want to tear up the constitution and tell us that the founding fathers had it all wrong, then let them just come out and say it. Instead, under the guise of protecting the country and wrapped in patriotism, they slowly seize more and more power for themselves.

I remember reading an article a long time ago about a Middle Eastern man who moved to the US during the Nixon administration. In many places around the world, leaders are above the law, so he was amazed that the United States was a country where even the leaders were under the rule of law. It gave him a profound respect for this country. That distinction is dying under the weight of executive privilege, presidential pardons, signing statements, secret laws to allow for illegal wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus, etc. For thousands of years, mankind has struggled to free itself from the tyranny and whim of its leaders. The United States was largely founded on a rebellion against abusive power of the English monarchy, and it’s constitution reflects that – by carefully limiting government power to prevent abuse. They were familiar with what it was like to be the underdog. Unfortunately, present-leaders have no experience in being the underdog, and insufficient respect for those issues. In the war between the powerful (the rich and the government) and the the weak (the people), today’s leaders see things only from their own position, and seek to expand their power at the expense of the common people. They are slowly working to restore the monarchy’s president’s power. The Bush administration is a step backwards: an expansion of government power at the expense of the people, and paving the way for future expansion of presidential power.

Speaking of which, here’s a recent video involving John Yoo (who assisted the Attorney General as legal advisor to President Bush and all the executive branch agencies), where he is unable to answer the simple question: what are the limits to executive power? Yoo’s answer seems to be that there are no limits, but he trusts the president to act with sufficient restraint.

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Welcome to circular logic theater. There’s a Christian guy making videos on YouTube. One of his recent videos (Why Choose Christianity over other Religions), he attempts to answer the questions: “Could you do a video on why Christianity is the only true faith? Why are there so many different religions if Christianity is the only true faith? What makes Christianity the only true faith?” What answer does he give? Why, he quotes the Bible, which says belief in Jesus leads to heaven, non-belief leads to hell. So, once you accept that the Bible is true, then you can show that the only Christianity solves the problem of sin (*that the Bible says exists) – making Christianity the only religion you should follow.

Next week: proving that Islam is the only true religion and Christians are blasphemers who will burn in hell (*once you accept the Koran as the authoritative word of God).

It reminded me of Edward Current’s satire:

I think the problem is that he can’t step away from his own belief system long enough to even think through it. Funny enough, in other videos, he claims to “prove” that Christians are smarter and wiser than atheists – who are “fools”, of course. (Maybe this guy should team-up with Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.)

On that note, enjoy this circular-logic clip from Idiocracy:

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