Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How to make America look stupid

Apparently, it is easy. All one needs is a religious theocracy running your community. In time they will pass local ordnances geared around supporting “Christian values”. Before you know it, unmarried couples with children will not be able to live in their own houses unless they are married. Think it isn’t so? Well then, read this British newspaper article about a town in Black Jack Missouri.

The culture wars are real. We are losing.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Are Atheists evil?

Rabbi Avi Shafran thinks so. In his essay The Indignity of Atheism, he explains that if he must make a choice between an atheist and somebody who believes in a higher authority, he would choose the believer. Really Rabbi? You would choose Osama Bin Laden over Salman Rushdie? Bin Laden would cut your heart out with a rusty spoon – all in the name of his higher authority. In fact, many people who believe in a higher authority commit horrific crimes, act with moral depravity, and murder in the name of their respective religions. History is replete with examples, just look at the history of the Catholic Church for example.
His thesis: "...the notion that there is no higher authority than nature is precisely what enables ... the vast majority of the killers, rapists and thieves who populate the nightly news."
Are these criminals surveyed after they commit their crimes? Do atheists commit crimes at a higher rate than the general population? The answer is no – we atheists are guided by our own sense of morality, and the laws by which our country function. Atheists like me are imprinted with American Christian morality because that is what we grew up with. Once I came to realize there was no God, I did not throw out my moral grounding. I built on it.

If I were stuck on a desert island, who would I want with me? Well, somebody who can cook would be nice, it not a cook, then Rupert from Survivor would be nice - he was so resourceful.

Davis Sweet wrote an intersting response to Rabbi Avi Shafran: Rabbi v. Reality

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More geocaching fun

My family went for a geocaching walk in Cerritos Regional Park today. We hit three caches and left one of our own. This hobby is great fun. It gets you out of the house. It offers a bit of a puzzle, and puts your mind to work. I'll be doing this for a long time.

The caches at Cerritos Regional Park are easy to find if you use your goesense. The people who hide these things are quite inventive. I'm getting better at it. My son "blade" is a pro already.

Today we found:
Who Cached JR? (pictured above)
Nothing more than Peelings
Mellow Yellow

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I've been wrong before

…and it looks like I am again. I recently posted on a friends blog that I thought nobody would give the fictional message of the Da Vinci Code much credience. Yet my news filter is full of stories like one by Harvey Wasserman. Mr. Wesserman asserts that the Code’s fictional message is real. He does so because he wants to believe the “Greatest story ever told” is a lie. His reasoning is murky; he tries to point to his point because Millions of people have waited centuries to hear it. It is very strange.

I saw the movie with my wife and son on Friday. I saw it as accurate depiction of the book. It is a murder mystery/thriller (a slow thriller, but a thriller nonetheless) with religious conspiracy overtones. However, I saw it as complete fiction. When we discussed the movie with my eleven-year-old son, it was clear that he saw it as fiction too. How could anybody see it as fact?

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Dead and Dreaming Tribute

I picked up Dead and Dreaming yesterday. I really like it. I particularly like the cover of A Long December by Bayside. The rest of the bands are just as good. The set list is interesting. The bands are a bit obscure (at least to me). The CD came out in 2004. I have heard a few tracks since it’s release on a local station, but I have never seen the CD in a store. I happened to see it while shopping at Best Buy yesterday. I think it is a good value at $10. Especially if you like Counting Crows.

Angels Of Silences - Rydia
High Life - The Rocket Summer
Holiday In Spain - Number One Fan
Colorblind - Between The Buried & Me
Walkaways - Boys Night Out
Round Here - Punchline
Einstein On A Beach - Houston Call
Mr. Jones - Hidden In Plain View
A Long December - Bayside
Raining In Baltimore - The Junior Varsity
Rain King - International Language
Children In Bloom - As Tall As Lions

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Salvation for sale

One can buy anything at the flea market.

a personal altar,

a Brownie Hawkeye,

a odd relic of a broken life.

It is all so fascinating, so totally friggen fascinating.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Three Heads

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Ex-pastor indicted on 23 counts

I am going to start tracking the various pastor-turns-criminal stories that pop up in my new filter each week. I’ll start with Lewis J. Lee, the 54 year old pastor (former pastor now) of the Christian Baptist Church in Sherburne New York. Lee has been indicted on 23 class E felonies related to his alleged abduction and rape of a 15-year-old girl. She was a former parishioner. He’s a really nice guy.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

The End Of Faith

This is a link to a video animation called The End Of Faith, by Sam Harris. this short animation is a satirical look at a Creationist Classroom. The core message - Our children are our future; let us try not to turn them into dangerous idiots.

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Nutball Altert: Kevin Barrett

A few days ago a coworker asked my opinion of the documentary Loose Change, a movie that asserts all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories surrounding the events of 9/11. Up until last week, it never occurred to me that rational people could believe that the United States Government orchestrated the horrible events of 9/11. I watched the hour long documentary on my computer. It was a waste of my time. The movie was made by people who want to believe that George Bush is an evil genus bent on world domination. Any possible theory related to the most esoteric details of the terrorist attacks is exploited and mislabled as facts pointing to Government orchestration of the attacks. Frankly – the whole documentary is a bunch of hogwash. I am not going to waste my time trying to refute the obvious logical and factual blunders in the film. There are numerous websites already dedicated to this undemanding topic.

Loose Change led me to Kevin Barrett. Dr. Barrett is another matter altogether. He is the type of nutball who is hell bent on exposing the "truth" of 9/11. His positions are baseless. His point of view twisted. His motives are insane. Barrett is acting as an apologist for Islamic terrorism. Given the gravity of the events surrounding 9/11, Kevin Barrett’s position and actions mark him as a terrorist collaborator. There is nothing noble in his work. He is exposing no truth. He is instead propagating misinformation while attempting to weaken our resolve against an insidious and unseen enemy, the very definition of collaborator. What a nutball.

Just for the record – I understand this post is an ad hominem attack on Kevin Barrett. Read his articles for yourself. His writings are the very definition of leftwing nutball conspiracy theory craziness. He calls himself a journalist and claims a Ph.D. I wonder what he really is?

I normally focus my energy on religion. Yet Barrett’s position reminds me of the blind faith of a Christian or a Muslim. He holds a position based on the faith of his convictions. He knows “we” did it. Logic and reason are subverted to his cause. He is a man of faith. It is faith in the illogical, but it is faith nonetheless. No truth will penetrate his illness.

Other Links:

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Impressive Photo Series

I installed StumbleUpon for Firefox this evening. My first stumble was an outstanding photo series of a Sand storm in Iraq. The scale of the storm is so large that it looks CG. I think it is the real thing. The storm is quite impressive.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I had the misfortune of being stuck on PCH in Long Beach this afternoon. I was making a quick run down to a local restaurant when I became stuck in traffic. I sat in the same place for 15 minutes while traffic was diverted because of a fatal accident. I tried filling my time by listening to a podcast of Science Friday while shooting a few photos. This is the best shot of the bunch. Parts of Long Beach are almost as ugly as the city of Carson.

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Atellite TV

I visited the city of Mojave California earlier in the week. It is full of classic roadside dive motels and other scary places. In addition, for some reason, the city is full of desert rat homeless types. They are everywhere. I saw several homeless people camped in tents among some of the deserted buildings.

I shot this motel on the way out of town. I thought the place was closed, but an octogenarian maid was cleaning one of the rooms with a cart that looked to be 40 years old. I guess it is still open. I think I would rather sleep in my truck.

On another note: This is my 1000th post. This milestone snuck up on me. I can’t believe I’ve pressed the “blog this” button a thousand times.

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Suicide by fasting

Misguided religious beliefs have claimed another hapless religious zealot. Rosaline Gilbert killed herselfby tying to emulate Jesus’ 40 day fast. Only, she had fasted so many times that it had weakened her. She fasted, she prayed, and then she died. It seems well… foolish.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Watching my feet

I go everywhere with me camera. Sometimes I find interesting subjects beneath my feet. Take this pre 5k chalk on a cracked sidewalk. I could not resist. I think it was the texture that attracted my interest.

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Monday, May 08, 2006


I’ve often wondered why American religious conservatives are so hung up on sex. Contra-Contraception explores some of the issues. The article also helped clarify a problem that has been circling around the edge of my consciousness for a few years. Why are European pregnancy and abortion rates so much lower than those in America? By the end of the article, I had my answer; Europe is a collection of secular nations. Unlike in America, religion does not get to influence the message. So, if I follow my twisted logic to its natural conclusion, conservative religious fundamentalists actually contribute to increased abortion rates.

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Evolution is a lie

I have a pious friend who believes that I exaggerate when I say I am assailed by fundamental Christians who feel the need share their views with me. The process is insidious. I encounter it in conversations with friends and co-workers. I pass billboards and placards while with the fundie message while I drive around the city. And, I run into the worst sort of nutballs at public venues who spread their brand of poison under the guise of free speech. Take this verdant nutball. He proclaims evolution a lie while his fellow devotee proclaims people like me a fool. I encounter this in one form or another everyday. Usually, it is email or an in-your-face bumper sticker. On occasion, I encounter people like this fundie who wish to "love" me to death.

I ignored this nutball. I did not want too, I wanted to confront him. Whenever I encounter people like this, I want to respond. After all, whom was this meant for if not for me? Atheists are all of 3% of the population. This means that all but a handful of people in the park were Christians already. This was an in-your-atheist-face attack on me. It offended me. In fact, it still does. The “I can prove it” implies the same old discredited Intelligent Design argument. It was like being pitched a big old softball, I could hit it out of the park every time. However, I have a policy of keeping my child away from hate and nutballs, so I checked out a photography exhibit instead. I was much happier as a result.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Geocache fun in San Diego

My family and I went on a geocaching adventure in San Diego this weekend. Balboa Park is full of cached sites. We found a few while enjoying a wonderful day in a unique park. Los Angeles has nothing like Balboa Park. I highly recommend a visit.

I shot this picture near a formal arched walkway.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

One of my favorite lines from the invasion of Iraq surfaced in the May 8th issue of Newsweek in an article about the crisis in Iran titled Iran: Tehran's Known Unknowns. When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld uttered “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” to a skeptical American public it was suppose to convey the meaning that a hidden menace was obscured behind Saddam’s incompressible and defiant actions. I believed Iraq was dangerous at the time because their actual behavior seemed to indicate that they were hiding a dangerous military and subversive religious agenda from the rest of the world. France and Russia objected to taking any direct action, as I recall, China did as well. What is different with the situation in Iran today?

France seems to be siding with the rest of Europe and the United States. Of course, they are doing it in their own special French way which means they will most likely side with Russia before the end. China and Russia are deeply involved in potentially lucrative economic considerations. China needs Iran’s oil, Russia wants free market access. Both countries motives are blatantly obvious and should be discounted when dealing with rouge counties like Iran.

Iran has a nuclear program. They have deliberately hid their activities from the safeguards of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. They have purchased machinery through illicit means which will facilitate the creation of weapons grade highly enriched uranium. The icing on this nuclear cake is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comments demonstrating a total lack of concern for any UN resolution and a strong desire to remove Israel from the map. Imho – Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. They may intend to use it on Israel or other hapless non-Islamic countries. Russian seems intent on providing the technology; China seems intent on providing the money. The UN is helpless. Must we act alone again?

I hate say it (because I am not a Rumsfeld fan), but Rumsfeld and Rice may be right. Iran is dangerous. They must be confronted and their nuclear ambitions thwarted. It pains me to side with Rumsfeld. He is too arrogant to be trusted. Yet, Ahmadinejad pushes us towards accepting Rumsfeld on face value. Ahmadinejad must be mad – he pokes his finger in the eye of a giant who has already demonstrated a devastating ability to topple governments and the unilateral resolve to do so.

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