Government should leave us alone

Government should leave us alone. That is the cry of libertarians and Republicans. Government should leave us alone. It’s one of those statements that, in my mind, is almost meaningless because all of us, libertarians and Republicans included, see the need for government. The political conflict that we have is because people see the need for government in different areas and at different times.

It’s Republicans, of course, that piss me off the most. They try to spin liberals as wanting a nanny-state where the government does everything for everybody, forcing legislation and regulation down our throats. Yet they are so quick to call upon government intervention where they want it. People shouldn’t be allowed to be gay married! Abortions should be illegal! We need half of our budget to go to the military! People shouldn’t be allowed to grow pot! Hell, if you drive your car into an affluent Republican neighborhood you can’t even park on the street without a permit. They love government, but only when it directly benefits themselves. With Republicans it is a politics of convenience — “I’m a socialist when it is your stuff and a capitalist when it’s my stuff”. Thus, Republicans, when they use the “government should leave us alone” argument, are complete hypocrites.

Libertarians, on the other hand, think that government has one role — protect personal property. They think the only good laws are laws that protect personal property. All other laws are just government interference in our lives.

I think libertarians are not hypocrites but they are much too willing to allow the tyranny of the majority and much too unwilling to use government cooperatively for the common good. Libertarians seem to think that, if you get sick from mishandled food at a restaurant, you should not patronize that restaurant anymore. If you don’t want to work in a dangerous mine or a smoke-filled bar, don’t apply for the job. If you can’t afford health care, too bad so sad.

While I am certainly more sympathetic to the libertarian viewpoint than the Republican viewpoint, I think it’s impractical and wasteful to not band together for the common good, it guts our economical potential and it abandons our humanitarian ideals.

My favorite Paul Wellstone quote is “We all do better when we all do better.” Our greatest economic potential is moving people out of poverty. We should do this for humanitarian reasons alone, but the economic reasons cause the initiative to pay for itself! Welfare programs that get people on a track towards economic independence are fiscally conservative. The health care “crisis” is another example where, if we increase the size of the risk pool and use our dollars more wisely, everyone benefits. A pure free-market approach to health care leaves behind the poor and costs us much more money in the end. Free markets cannot be trusted to do the right thing in the long term for the population as a whole. Free markets benefit those who are savvy and have means. They brutalize the poor.

Thus, we should abandon empty platitudes like “government should leave us alone”. In the best case its naive and in the worst its hypocritical bullshit. I agree entirely with the notion that we must be wise about what we choose to do with government. Government is the wrong tool for many, many jobs. But, on the whole, government is a force for equality, opportunity, fairness and justice. The anti-government rhetoric of libertarians and Republicans is just plain wrong and, in the latter case, is just a shallow attempt to deceive people with a campaign slogan.

Government should leave us alone

Those good ol' Republican family values

Yet another Republican hypocrite: Vito Fossella drives drunk, has a long-term affair and fathers a child by his mistress. Yet he is so full of “family values” that he shuns his own sister because she is gay.

So apparently he can’t love his own sister because of his religious beliefs but he can fuck around on his wife for years and drive drunk. I guess I missed that part of the Bible.

I don’t care, necessarily, that people are imperfect. I do care when they are lying, hypocrites who act as if they hold the moral high ground politically.

Let’s see, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) fucks call girls, Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) cheats on his wife and drives drunk. At least Elliot Spitzer (the only D in this post) had the decency to resign.

Those good ol' Republican family values

A Real Cause of Atheism

After having recently interviewed Ernan McMullin I found this page on writings by Christian scientists. These are the lot that Myers and Dawkins tend to not talk about because they make sense. I still tend to think their theology is silly but at least it doesn’t conflict with scientific principles.

I found this quote interesting from Is Evolution Atheistic? by Dr Denis Alexander:

Evolution itself is not atheistic. A robust Christian theism readily encompasses evolution as an expression of God’s creative actions. But, sadly, there are prominent scientists, like the Harvard sociobiologist E.O.Wilson, who left their earlier Christian experience to become atheists because they faced hostility to evolution. Arguably, attacks by well-meaning Christians on evolution promote rather than counteract atheism.

It makes two great points: 1) Evolution does not at all deny the existence of God; and 2) Ignorant attacks on evolution by well-meaning Christians actually undermines their aims.

A Real Cause of Atheism

Blog software update (again)

Behold, my blog is now on WordPress. Note that this is not the final design, it’s just a temporary design while Kyle finishes up the new design. You will see some weird things happen, perhaps, from time to time as we try out the new design.

If you are a frequent visitor I would highly encourage you to register. Then I can approve you so you can comment without moderation. I’m going to try to set the perms as liberally as I can without being bombarded with spam.

The old version of is here for a little while in case I screwed anything up.

Blog software update (again)

From the Ha Ha Dept. of the Insanity Division of the Institute for Creation Research

PZ points out a lovely article from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) called Evolution’s Evangelists.

It’s all pretty funny but the last line really cracks me up: “No matter where the evidence leads.“. They are implying that Dawkins, Scott and Myers, have made up their minds regardless of where the evidence might lead as if to imply that their viewpoint is unscientific.

I have a theory for you — the moon is made out of cotton candy. Now you are going to claim that we’ve been to the moon and we brought samples of the moon home with us. Or you are going to say that we can measure the density of the moon through various methods. You’ll bring up all sorts of “science” reasons why my theory is wrong. But face it — your mind is made up. You are not willing to consider that the moon is made out of cotton candy? What is wrong with you? You are some freakish zealot.

Intelligent Design (ID) has about the same amount of evidence supporting it as does my theory that the moon is made out of cotton candy. You will be expelled from science school if you believe that the moon is made out of cotton candy. There are no credible papers in scientific journals discussing the theory that the moon is made out of cotton candy.

Thus, this whole Evolution vs. Intelligent Design debate would be on entirely different footing if there actually was a theory of Intelligent Design. There isn’t one. There never has been one. The religious people hope they’ll find one someday and that’s great. No one has any problem with people pursuing their own scientific research. It’s not the fault of Dawkins, Scott or Myers that ID has no support in evidence. Poking “holes” in the theory of natural selection is not a theory.

Fer fuck’s sake, they named their institute “The Institute for Creation Science” and then they have the gall to accuse scientists of ignoring evidence? These guys predetermined the outcome of their research when the chose their name. They are complete frauds.

From the Ha Ha Dept. of the Insanity Division of the Institute for Creation Research

Big Media Companies Suck Ass

Two little rants here.

First — I think commercial television is completely untenable. You have to be a hopeless loser to sit and watch the staggering volume of commercials that these companies force down our throats. I turned on CNN yesterday at 12:47pm. There were THREE commercial breaks between 12:47 and 12:58. They would literally do one segment and then go back to commercials. It’s clear that CNN is in the commercial distribution business, not the news business. The only way I can watch CNN is to get 30 minutes behind on my DVR so I can forward through the commercials. Let’s be clear: this is network’s and advertisers’ fault, not viewers. I would sit through commercials if they were less frequent, less long and more informative or entertaining. These 5 minute commercial breaks every few minutes is insane and I don’t feel bad in the slightest that my DVR allows me to circumvent it.

Second — I’m going to pick on Showtime again. I have been waiting a year to be able to legally download season 3 of Weeds. iTunes still doesn’t have it. I downloaded a Showtime plugin for Windows Media Center and I can buy Season 1 and Season 2 but not Season 3. They are advertising Season 4 and nowhere do they ever mention Season 3. It’s like it doesn’t exist.

I can tell what is going on — some agreement was made that every other available channel was going to be exploited before they would sell it online. I can almost see the 65 year old grey haired white male who made this decision. ARE YOU ON FUCKING DRUGS? The fucking world voted and the medium that we turn to for music, movies and TV shows is the Internet. The fact that I can give Amazon $30 for season 3 of Weeds but I can’t give Showtime or Apple $30 is insane. Please, can someone fire the 65 year old grey haired white male who doesn’t understand the world in 2008?

Finally, since I’m on a roll, it boggles my mind the number of news web sites that put pre-roll ads in front of their online videos. These video players are invariably wrapped in all sorts of marketing and advertising. What moron thinks that they have to poison every conceivable piece of content with advertising? You already have me at your site and you are jamming as much advertising as you can at me. Can I just watch the damn video please?

Big media companies are idiots who are FAIL and their lunch is going to be eaten if they don’t get their shit together.

Big Media Companies Suck Ass

Framing: Duh

Over at scienceblogs there is a recurring argument debate about “framing”. My definition of framing is wording an argument in a manner that your audience is going to be most receptive to. It’s crafting an argument carefully with the goal of convincing people of its authenticity.

Using this definition its literally self-evident that if you want to convince people of something that you should approach your argument in a manner most likely to do so! That’s just obvious.

It’s a separate question whether you should have that goal or not. I.E. it would be a tedious world if everyone always spoke with utter care for maximum convincing power. I’m going to talk about religion differently if I’m with a bunch of atheists than I do if I’m at a funeral. Sometimes we preach to the choir and enjoy reveling in our superior views.

But, yes, if your goal is to convince, framing is a no-brainer.

Generally the framing debate at scienceblogs relates to the “new atheists” and the “battle of science and religion”. Dawkins and Myers alienate the people they are trying to convince, says one side. Dawkins and Myers respond: fuck you, we have every right to speak our opinions when and how we feel.

They are both right.

Dawkins and Myers do alienate the people they are trying to convince by focusing on the most radical and ridiculous examples of religion. That’s not all they do, by a long shot and I agree with them on literally almost everything. But they do alienate people. That’s a fact whether you like it or not. Religious moderates, who are an important political ally of secularists, are painted with the same broad brush as loonies like young earth creationists.

But on the other hand, and really more importantly, what Dawkins and Myers have done is say what they think. They used their best judgment. They have no responsibility to religious moderates, secularists or anyone else. Their words have been a very important part of the debate and we would be much poorer without them. We’re all grown ups and we should be able to handle it if it gets a little rough sometimes.

Framing: Duh

HOWTO: Kill your cat

First of all, I grew up in North Dakota and back in the day if you decided you didn’t want your cat or dog anymore, you killed your cat or dog. It wasn’t a big deal. You did it quick and humanely. (Although I have never personally killed a pet.) Being “put to sleep” is no more humane and, in my view, probably less humane than a quick unexpected blast from a shotgun.

I’ve loved a lot of pets in my day but I hate my cat. It’s fair, though, because my cat hates me. I think it’s fair to say we’ve always hated each other. You see, we got him first (Case is his name) and we instantly didn’t hit it off. So we got one of his brothers, too, whose name was Q. Q was an awesome cat. I loved that cat. I would have died for that cat. But having Q around did not loosen Case up. He pretty much hates all people. Oddly (or not) my dog Stella is apparently the only creature on earth that Case doesn’t hate.

I have never harmed this cat. I have tried to be friends. It hasn’t worked out. The feeling is mutual and we’re both OK with it.

But lately I have been trying to think of the best way to kill my cat, if I was to kill my cat. It must be legal for me to kill my cat, right? Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Let me know if you have others to add.

  1. Drive it out to the country and shoot it.
  2. Drive it out to the country and leave him there.
  3. Bring it to the vet for a shot in a sterile room.
  4. Put it in a 5-gallon bucket with a tight lid and let him suffocate.
  5. Fill the bucket in #4 above with water.

For #1, my cat would be freaking out (not in its normal environment) so I’d have to put it in a cardboard box and then just shoot the box a few times. But if I’m gonna drive to the country, I may as well give him a chance to live off the land (#2). I personally think #3 is really lame. If I had to kill my cat at home I think I’d put catnip in a bucket and try get him in there and all fucked up and then I’d put the lid on real tight and let him go to sleep (#4).

What do you think?


(or am I…?)

HOWTO: Kill your cat