Hillary and Blackwater

In an earlier post I mentioned that Romney has a connection to Blackwater. Well, so does Hillary. It's more indirect, but I thought it was only fair to mention it.

Spooky

Want a good scare? Watch this Bill Moyers report on Christians United for Israel. Famous pastors, congregants, congressmen and presidential hopefuls recently descended on DC to conduct a fiendish mixture of Christian revival and war-drum beating. John Hagee is on stage quoting scripture and calling for the US to preemptively invade Iran. Hagee is fairly certain that Iran is going to play a key role in the looming apocalypse This would be funny if there weren't so many people taking it seriously, including John McCain.

I don't know which is worse, saying that the world is going to end in a massive battle between the US and Iran, or saying that we should start another preemptive war.

It was only a few years ago that I saw some nut on TV saying that the war with Iraq would be the opening round of Armageddon. And only a few years before that, it was the Soviet Union. Even when I believed in God I thought this type of thinking was bullshit. Normally the apocalyptic worldview produces a mildly harmful fatalism ("We don't need to fix that problem, Jesus will come back soon"), but this talk of invading Iran is dangerous. CUFI says that God promised the land to Israel and there can't be a peace plan that involves Israel giving up land.

Anyone who thinks we should invade Iran has clearly not been watching the news in the last 5 years. Even if things in Iraq were going great, we don't have the people, money or political will to start another war. Not to mention the fact that preemptive war is immoral.

State blog

If you were a staff member in the US Department of State and you were tasked with naming the brand new department blog (welcome to 2001, by the way), what is the stupidest name you could get away with?

blogs.state.gov/

If you can think of a dumber name, I'd like to hear it.

(via Wonkette)

The evils of Socialism

Today George Bush exercised his veto power for the fourth time in his presidency to stop a bill that would provide heath care to around 6 million children. He said the bill was too expensive and it could be the beginning of a shift to Socialized Medicine [cue the spooky music].

Good for him. It's about time someone stood up against the evils of Big Government Socialism. I look forward to seeing what he can do to deal with this problem in other areas as well:

Education

America's children have been on the dole too long when it comes to education. It's time to cut the red tape. Bush should propose an initiative to cut all federal, state and local funding for schools. Private corporations can buy the school buildings and turn them into private schools. Rich people can send their kids to great schools, middle class students can have mediocre schools, and children whose parents can't afford private school tuition can find gainful employment at their local mine or factory.

Fire protection

Ever noticed how most fire engines are Red? Coincidence? Bush still has a year to privatize the nation's fire departments. There's no need to waste government money putting out every little fire that starts. Let people pay private firms and when a fire starts, the private FD can put out the blaze without going through any red tape (provided the homeowner has paid their fees). The poorest citizens won't have to worry about this change because they don't have homes to worry about.

Law enforcement

Right now we have socialized law enforcement. Police, judges and prison guards are all paid from the government treasury. This is a slippery slope toward Communism. What people need is choice. People should be free to maintain their own militia or bodyguards if they want protection from burglars and murderers. Once your bodyguard captures a bad guy, you can simply pay to have him placed in a nearby private prison. This could be a way for Walmart to produce more goods stateside. Those that can't afford their own protection or legal representation still have options. They can arm themselves, hide in a cave or move to a country with socialized police.

Road construction

Why do people feel entitled to roads? If Bush really wants to fight the dangers of Socialism, he'll move to privatize roads and highways. Every road will be a toll road and/or lined with billboards. But it's a small price to pay to know that we're doing it the capitalist way.

Military

Bush has already made great strides toward privatizing the military, but there's more work to be done. Sure, we have 20,000 to 100,000 armed contractors in Iraq now, but why not disband the entire Department of Defense and contract the whole thing out to Blackwater? A private company can do the job cheaper and won't be bound by international treaties and quaint conventions. Perhaps one of the possible successors to George Bush will be able to see this plan through. Mitt Romney has already brought a Blackwater vice chairman on board as his national security advisor.

Mr. President, there will be many more socialist bills crossing your desk between now and that sad day when someone else becomes the decider. I look forward to seeing you fight for our capitalist way of life.

36 Nations?

When I watched President Bush's Thursday night address, I expected to see him paint a rosy picture of the Iraq war. I expected to see him gloss over the difficulties and bend the truth as far as possible to avoid admitting that the war was a mistake. He did all of that, of course, but this time he went a step further and told a lie that is easy to debunk.

To the international community: The success of a free Iraq matters to every civilized nation. We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy.
(Whitehouse.gov)

Thirty-six nations!? Several sites have fact-checked this:

Talking Points Memo
FactCheck.org
The Washington Post
Wonkette
TPMmuckraker.com

The State Department puts the number at 25. The total number of non-US troops is around 11,000 and falling steadily.

SCO files for bankruptcy

Good riddance.

SCO is best known these days for its baseless intellectual property claims against Linux companies and Linux users, but as it became increasingly clear that the legal cases against IBM, Novell, Red Hat, and others were without merit, the stock price dropped as investors stopped betting on the cash boon they were gambling on winning. The company's stock lost 43% of its value today, last trading at 37 cents, down from around $20 a share in 2003, shortly after the company filed its first lawsuit.

Thirty-seven cents! This should serve as a lesson to any other companies that are trying to make baseless lawsuits their main source of income [cough, RIAA, cough].

(via Linux.com)

Web host search

I'm in the market for a new web host. I think we've outgrown shared hosting. Dreamhost has a good set of features and it's very affordable, but the slowness and downtime are getting unbearable. So, I'm looking to jump up to a VPS host. I would love to hear any recommendations and tips that anyone has. I'm considering vpslink.com.

See the Dragon in Google Earth

I found the locations mentioned in See the Dragon and added them to Google Earth. To find some of the spots I had to overlay Vietnam maps from the internet into Google Earth. The .kmz file with all of the locations and maps is available at SeeTheDragon.com/maps.

See the Dragon kmz screenshot

Sam Harris: Believing the Unbelievable

This 1-hour presentation by Sam Harris gives a very good overview of why an atheist chooses not to accept the claims of religion.

[gvid]-3884451176644991836[/gvid]

(via Atheist Media Blog)

Monk debunked

I know that Matt is a big fan of Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, so I decided to see what the monk has to say about why he believes in God in the first place. He has done a whole series of podcasts on the subject: Coffee Cup Apologetics. I decided to start with the first one. It's about half an hour long, but if you don't want to listen, just read on. I've pasted in Spencer's summary of his ten reasons for being a Christion:

1. It is reasonable that God might exist.
2. Further, it is reasonable (based on the evidence) that this God who might exist might be personal and therefore have communicated with human beings.
3. The world’s religions are a reasonable place to look for evidence of such communication.
4. Among those representing the world religions, Jesus of Nazareth seems to hold the consensus as the person most likely to provide convincing evidence of the God who might exist. (Since Jesus is- in some way- incorporated into all major world religions. If all the world’s religious leaders were locked in a basement until they could elect only one person to represent the best of their beliefs, I believe Jesus would be the person selected.)
5. The resurrection of Jesus is a reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity as a distinct belief system from Judaism.
6. An examination of the various alternatives and existing evidence convinces me that the Resurrection is, in fact, true.
7. If the Resurrection is true, then Jesus’ statements about himself, God, Truth, Sin, etc. (The Christian worldview) are true by deduction.
8. Based on this conclusion, I relate to the God who I now believe exists through Jesus.
9. My experience matches what Jesus describes, providing personal verification of the truth of Christianity.
10. Based on Pascal’s wager, I await eventual verification of this conclusion after death, but haven’t lost anything if I am wrong.

1. I'm not sure why this would be the case. Spencer doesn't do much to convince us of this point. He touches on the Cosmological Argument, but in a fair way. He says that something has always been here. Either it's the universe (in one form or another) or it's God. This approach at least admits that God is subject to the same questions about origins that the Cosmological Argument puts to the universe. He goes on to say that it's reasonable to believe that God does not exist and reasonable to believe that God does exist. So far, not terribly convincing.

2. The "evidence" for God being personal is that people are personal. There's obviously a connection here, but which way does it really run? Are we personal because we're made in the image of God, or is God personal because he's made in the image of humans? I find the latter explanation to be simpler and more believable. And if we're assuming that human attributes mirror God's attributes, why stop there? Is God a mammal? Does God die? Is he angry, jealous, petty, vengeful? Do his fingernails grow at a rate of 3.5 cm per year?

3. I don't see a big problem with this one. If there was a God, he would probably have some kind of interaction with people. I would expect there to be a bit more consistency between the world's religions, though. If I were God I would make sure that there wasn't a lot of confusion. But then, I would probably create a world that didn't have every appearance of arising by totally natural causes, too.

4. This may be the weakest point Spencer puts forward. It's a quick shortcut for him to glaze over all of the religions of the world and arrive at -- surprise! -- his own religion as the one most likely to be true. I don't know if Spencer considers Judaism to be a major world religion, but I'm pretty sure that Jesus is not incorporated into it.

5, 6 and 7. All three of these depend on the belief that the Bible is telling the truth about the life and words of Jesus. It's not a belief that I share with Spencer. He says that the miracle of the resurrection is the best explanation for the arrival of the Christian movement. Are the miracles of Muhammad the best explanation for the rise of Islam? Most religions and other myths make claims about miracles. There's no more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than that Muhammad split the moon.

8 and 9. These two points are really the same thing. It's fine for people to have personal feelings about Jesus, but that does next to nothing to convince me that there is reality behind the feelings.

10. I always hated Pascal's Wager, even when I thought God was real. I liked to cite Corinthians 15:17-19, which says that if the central tenet of Christian faith (the resurrection) is not true, then Christianity is futile and pitiful. And if God is real, I doubt that he would be very impressed with someone who decided to believe in him "just in case".

I'd like to take a closer look at why I don't trust the Bible in a future post.

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