Archive | Op-Ed

Blasphemy Laws: A Crime Against Humanity

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Yet when it comes to disparaging the Prophet Mohammed, two additional certainties become readily apparent: first, that a wide swath of the Islamic world is immediately going to erupt into spasms of chaotic and senseless violence, and second, that their leaders will redouble their perennial efforts to have the United Nations nullify the West’s most sacred human right – freedom of expression – through the passing of a so-called “blasphemy law,” which would criminalize defamation of religion.

For the past decade or so, ever since these efforts first began in earnest, one of the prime counterarguments has been to point out how any such repressive forms of broad censorship are inevitably used to primarily punish and suppress political dissidents, or to otherwise discriminate against unpopular segments of the population.… Read the rest

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The Price of Legal and Medical Marijuana Makes the Black Market Stronger

Dank Depot (CC BY 2.0)

Dank Depot (CC BY 2.0)

I live in Maine and I smoke weed. Though, I don’t smoke as much as I used to. I’ve gone from someone who was stoned all day to someone who partakes on occasion. Still, even now that I have mellowed, I want easy access to marijuana, and where I live I have always had that. I don’t think I have ever had to go without. If I don’t know where to find it, one of my friends does.

In 2009 Maine became the 5th state to provide for dispensaries of medical grade marijuana for persons with debilitating and chronic medical conditions. I am sure I could get medical marijuana. I have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, and a card isn’t hard to get. There are all sorts of friendly doctors around that will write a scrip. The people I know who have tried to get it, from some of the boozebags I know to my lawyer, have all been successful.… Read the rest

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If There Are Gods, They Are Evil

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

See-ming Lee (CC BY 2.0)

Via Reason and Meaning:

Here is a brief summary of a piece by B.C. Johnson, “Why Doesn’t God Intervene to Prevent Evil?” It offers a devastating critique of the possibility that there is an all powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving god. 

Are there any good excuses for someone (or a god) not saving a baby from a burning house if they had the power to do so? It will not do to say the baby will go to heaven, since one suffers by burning to death. The key is the suffering.  If the suffering was not necessary, then it’s wrong to allow it; if the suffering is necessary, the baby’s going to heaven doesn’t explain why it’s necessary.

It doesn’t make sense to say that a baby’s painful death will be good in the long run, and that’s why the gods allow it. For that is to say that whatever happens in the long run is good; since if something happened it was allowed by the gods, and it must therefore be good in the long run.

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The Origin of Modern Terror and Crumbling Western Values

Peter (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Peter (CC BY-SA 2.0)

John Chuckman writes at CounterPunch:

Do you ever solve problems by ignoring them? Most of us would say that is not possible, yet that is precisely what western governments do in their efforts to counteract what is called “Islamic terror.” Yes, there are vast and costly efforts to suppress the symptoms of what western governments regard as a modern plague, including killing many people presumed to be infected with it, fomenting rebellion and destruction in places presumed to be prone to it, secretly returning to barbaric practices such as torture, things we thought had been left behind centuries ago, to fight it, and violating rights of their own citizens we thought were as firmly established as the need for food and shelter. Governments ignore, in all these destructive efforts, what in private they know very well is the origin of the problem.

Have Islamic radicals always existed?

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No, Astrobiology Has Not Made the Case for God

Via Lawrence M. Krauss – The New Yorker:

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published a piece with the surprising title “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” At least it was surprising to me, because I hadn’t heard the news. The piece argued that new scientific evidence bolsters the claim that the appearance of life in the universe requires a miracle, and it received almost four hundred thousand Facebook shares and likes.

The author of the piece, Eric Metaxas, is not himself a scientist. Rather, he’s a writer and a TV host, and the article was a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to resurrect the notion of intelligent design, which gives religious arguments the veneer of science—this time in a cosmological context. Life exists only on Earth and has not been found elsewhere. Moreover, the conditions that caused life to appear here are miraculous.

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Occupy vs. Political Parties

james j8246 (CC BY 2.0)

james j8246 (CC BY 2.0)

Via Bob Gorringe at The Daily Censored

A couple of days ago I watched a news clip of an African country in which in one of their cities a playground was being torn down and in its place a multi-million dollar development constructed. Many residents marched, and yes, had their signs (let’s remember, signs even if they’re on cardboard carry a message for all to see), and on one of those signs it was written, “Occupy Playground.”

Over a year ago I went to a party celebrating the closing of San Onofre Nuclear Plant. I met a young Japanese student who spoke faltering English and was involved in the Fukushima disaster along with his many young friends. I asked what they were doing to effect change. He thought a moment and said that they had Occupied a building in the prefecture whose responsibility it was to address the government’s interpretations of the issues surrounding Fukushima.

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In praise of agnosticism

weegeebored (CC BY-ND 2.0)

weegeebored (CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

Getting on for 14 billion years ago the universe suddenly sprang into life. I can’t actually do the math, as they say, but I’m happy to accept the word of those who can that the physics is unambiguously nailed down. But for all their undoubted brilliance, mathematicians and physicists don’t know what was going on before the big bang.

There are consequently two possibilities it seems to me: mysterious matter has always existed and spontaneously blows up on occasion; or there is some sort of animating force in the universe – let’s call it “God” for the sake of argument – that got the metaphorical ball rolling. I can’t work out which of these two possibilities seems the more unlikely, which is why I’m an agnostic.

I mention this because religious beliefs and “faith” remain surprisingly important despite the remarkable advances of science and – as we’ve seen yet again this week – a potential source of, and justification for, casually inflicted carnage on the innocent.… Read the rest

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Politicians or central bankers: who runs the world?

401(K) 2012 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

401(K) 2012 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

Global governance sounds like a good idea. Solving the sorts of “collective action problems” that are an inescapable part of geographically dispersed activities – especially economic ones – is something only some sort of supranational authority can do.

Until relatively recently we looked primarily to states to provide the institutional and legal infrastructure that allowed people to conduct commercial relationships with strangers. Now, when economic activities and relationships are increasingly transnational, states cannot provide such a regulatory framework – or they can’t on their own, at least.

Not all states are alike, of course, and some have a much greater capacity to influence the way economic activities are conducted, especially within national borders, than others. But even the most powerful states are now subjected to pressures and constraints that they’ve never faced before.

True, the US still exerts more influence over the structure and practices of the international economic system than anyone else, but even the world’s current hegemon finds its power constrained.… Read the rest

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The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve made

wef-logo

Seumas Milne writes at The Guardian:

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf in human history should be handwringing about the consequences of their own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population.

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On the Certainty of Uncertainty, or: Why there is no Skepticism beyond Self-Skepticism

handmade, scissor and glue collage. may, 2009. Joana Coccarelli (CC BY 2.0)

inner life of a skeptic
handmade, scissor and glue collage. may, 2009. Joana Coccarelli (CC BY 2.0)

It seems to me that if you ask most people, most will tell you that most people are idiots. It doesn’t matter which political, philosophical, spiritual, moral, ethical background these people come from. If you ask them, everybody else is idiotic, except for themselves, of course. Therefore, however, if most people are idiots, and most people believe that most people are idiots, then most of the people who believe most people are idiots, are idiots.

This is quite a conundrum. Mathematically speaking, most people who believe most people are idiots are, themselves, idiots. And since I’m one of these people who believe most people are idiots, there’s a good chance that I, myself, am an idiot.

To get anywhere, I have to acknowledge this fact — I may, in fact, be one of the idiots. It’s skepticism 101: be convinced that the easiest person to fool is you, yourself.… Read the rest

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