Monday, March 23, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Racist Statement Against Arab Voters


I am a few days late on this but I wanted to post it because I'm unsure of how many US news outlets published this story. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just prior to the elections in Israel encouraged voters to come out to the polls because Jews needed to defeat the Arab voters who were “coming out in droves,” remarking how they were being bused in to vote.

The Times of Israel covered the story and his apology.

This merely highlights the inherent racism and Arab hatred that is infused within Israeli society, which is a factor in the continuous onslaught of oppression and murder of the Palestinians. In his re-election campaign Netanyahu stated that he no longer supports any two-state solution, which to many is not a change in policy, but is simply Netanyahu being honest for the first time.

Here is the video Netanyahu posted to his Facebook page:



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Much Needed Blog Update


Where do I begin. I have been horrible about keeping this blog updated. Life has kept me very busy as of late and that doesn't include my current blog projects. Rest assured I am working on some content but it may not be posted for a while. Right now I am hard at work reading and writing an extensive post about Islam. Specifically, it will be about my personal views about this religion and the severe misunderstandings about my views. In the past I have been accused of being an “Islam supporter,” a “terrorist supporter,” and most recently I have apparently been accused of believing that “Islam is a religion of peace.” All of these views are demonstrably false, and this future post will seek to set the record straight. The post will also serve as a defense of the billions of Muslims around the world who – ever since 9/11 – have been demonized, profiled, and murdered by intolerant fanatics and immoral and short-sighted U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

My head is about to explode with all of the reading I have been doing, and not just for this up and coming post. The books I have read recently or am in the process of reading over the last few months include:

Guantanamo Diary, by Mohamedou Ould Slahi (2015)
The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, by Patrick Cockburn (2014)
Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, by John L. Esposito (2002)
Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, by Bruce Schneier (2015)
Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, by Mark Juergensmeyer (2003)
Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill, by Jessica Stern (2003)
Why I Am Not a Muslim, by Ibn Warraq (2003)
Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by John L. Esposito & Dalia Mogahed (2007)
Islam: A Very Short Introduction, by Malise Ruthven (2012)
Islam and the Challenge of Democracy, edited by Khaled Abou El Fadl (2004)
Islam: The Straight Path, by John L. Esposito (2005)
Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect, by Reese Erlich (2014)
When Google Met Wikileaks, by Julian Assange (2014)
The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia, by Gregory D. Johnsen (2013)
The United States v.s. Pvt. Chelsea Manning: A Graphic Account from Inside the Courtroom, by Clark Stoeckley (2014)
The History of the World, (6th Ed.) by J.M. Roberts & Odd Arne Westad (2013)
And of course, the Quran and the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in their entirety

Prior to reading some of these books I did not know that much about Islam. Mostly my knowledge consisted of what Sam Harris has written and other “skeptical” critics (you know who you are...) of Islam who I have criticized in the past for their short-sighted, factually incorrect, and immoral views. It has been highly educational reading the Quran and reading about the history of Islam. The situation is certainly much more complicated than any of the “skeptical” critics of Islam seem to be aware of, and more complicated than I was aware of. Something many might be surprised to learn is that my views about Islam do not differ that much from most atheists, even those so-called “skeptical” ones. But someone tries taking an objective look at a situation and all of a sudden you are accused of being a “terrorist supporter.” Clearly, many of the people engaged in debate on this issue are not thinking rationally and are reacting with pure emotion and are failing to look at all the facts, which causes them to make horrible decisions about the possible solutions to the problem. This post will detail my thoughts on this issue. I'm looking forward to finishing it because it will help to clear the air regarding the several debates I've had about Islam within the last year.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Aljazeera: “Mossad contradicted Netanyahu on Iran nuclear programme”




Recently released cables from Israel's own intelligence agency, Mossad, to South Africa's State Security Agency noted that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” This, despite Benjamin Netanyahu's decades long ranting about Iran's' alleged progress on a nuclear bomb.

You can currently view these documents here.

I have also updated my refutation of The Irrational Atheist with this new information. You may read my extensive response (the most thorough on the internet as far as I am aware) here.

Here too is a video briefly outlining these cables:


Friday, January 30, 2015

Public Defender Arrested for Sicking Up for Two Suspects


On Tuesday, January 27, 2015 in San Francisco, police arrested a public defender for standing up for her clients' Constitutional rights. Two men were being photographed and questioned by police without any legal council present. When Deputy Public Defender Jami Tillotson saw this was taking place she stepped in and stopped the illegal actions. To the dismay of everyone, the police then threaten to arrest Tillotson if she did not move. She refused and was arrested. To make an outrageous situation even worse, even though she said “please do” when asked if she wanted to be arrested and did not move a muscle as she was being handcuffed, she was charged with “resisting arrest” by the officers. See the video below.





Apparently, even the people charged with protecting the rights of others are now having their own rights violated. How ironic...not to mention sad.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Greenwald: “Police Now Monitoring and Criminalizing Online Speech”


Glenn Greenwald has a new piece in The Intercept that really took the words right out of my mouth. It also reminded me of what happened to me a number of years ago when I too was investigated for my own political speech. In that post I noted my amazement that my views on politics and other worldly happenings were a reason for opening an investigation on me, even though I never advocated violence. Greenwald's post surprised me when he noted that “the Supreme Court ruled 45 years ago in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 'the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force' (emphasis added).” I always believed that freedom of speech, while largely free, was contained by some boundaries, one being the advocacy of violence against one or more people.

Since I began reading his columns, first at Salon.com, then The Guardian, and now at The Intercept, I can barely remember a time when I was not in complete agreement with the principles he sets forth and the rationality by which goes about arguing his case. Thank you Glenn Greenwald for standing up for rationality, truth, justice and freedom.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Review of 13 Reasons to Doubt


13 Reasons to Doubt (Onus Books, 2014) includes essays by a number of writers of the Skeptic Ink Network (www.skepticink.com). The book consists of a total of thirteen essays and one additional appendix. Contributers include: Russel Blackford, Edward K. Clint, Peter Ferguson, John W. Loftus, Staks Rosch, and Jonathan M.S. Pearce, among several others.

The book was very nicely edited by Clint, Pearce, and Beth Ann Erickson. Each of the essays were well-written, concise, well-sourced, and, quite frankly, were damn good essays on issues of skepticism. It was a pleasure to read each essay, and each of them caused me to pause for self-reflection and to recall my own journey with skepticism.

The Introduction is written by Edward K. Clint. It serves as not only an introduction to the book and the broad themes the reader will encounter, but also as an introduction to the Skeptic Ink Network itself. SIN is a relative newcomer to the skeptical blogosphere but the cadre of authors have largely proven themselves to be staunch defenders of science and critical thinking.

The first chapter is written by Peter Ferguson and is titled “A Brief History of Doubt: Great Skeptics from Antiquity to the Renaissance.” This chapter provides a concise and informative history of the European men (and women!) who had the greatest impact upon society as critical thinkers and critics of the religious and scientific thought of their time. Included are brief discussions about the views of such luminaries as Epicurus, Democritus, Lucretius, and Hypatia.

The second chapter is written by Russel Blackford. It is titled “Skepticism in an Age of Ideology.” This is a good essay about conspiracy theories, ideology, and the value of skepticism in modern culture. Throughout the essay Blackford provides ideas about how one can become more skeptical in the face of the large amounts of propaganda and ideologically-driven beliefs in our modern age.

The third chapter is written by Maria Maltseva and it is titled “Are You A Skeptic?” It is a brief essay outlining her views about what skepticism is. She concludes that, ultimately, “skepticism is just a reminder to think critically and independently, reach decisions based on the evidence, and recognize our own fallibility.” I couldn't have said it better myself.

The fourth chapter is written by Caleb W. Lack. It is titled “Why You Can't Trust Your Brain.” This chapter deals with the numerous cognitive biases that effect the human brain and can often cause errors in judgment and belief. This is a very good chapter. Lack writes that while “there is not a way to completely rid yourself of cognitive biases, there are a number of tools and methods you can use to mitigate their effects on your everyday decision making.” He continues to briefly discuss some of these methods that, while not fool proof, will greatly aid in diminishing the effect of these biases upon your ability to think critically.

The fifth chapter is written by Jacques Rousseau. It is titled “Being Suspicious of Ourselves: Groupthink's Threat to Skepticism.” In this essay Rousseau reminds readers to be cautious and not allow our tribal tendencies to overtake us, particularly in relation to the current brouhaha in the atheist/skeptical community surrounding the issues of feminism within the atheist movement.

The sixth chapter is written by Kevin McCarthy. It is titled “Science: A Mechanism of Doubting; a Source of Reliability.” This chapter is about the usefulness of science in aiding us in sorting fact and fiction, and applying this method to our daily lives. McCarthy briefly addresses such things as Biblical claims, the effectiveness of prayer, revelation, and notes ways that the scientific process functions. He then shows how scientific methodology has been proven reliable over long stretches of time, and compares this success with the failure of religious claims.

The seventh chapter is written by John W. Lotfus. It is titled “Science is Predicated on the Non-Magical Natural World Order.” This chapter is about why the scientific method must remain completely natural, with no man behind the curtain; no gods toggling the switches of nature. Science works best when practiced in this manner, Loftus writes, because without this regularity of nature in the first place science would not be possible, and human beings would be unable to determine the outcomes of events, nor learn much of anything about the world. He also addresses some counter-claims of Christians and demonstrates their fatal flaws.

The eighth chapter is written by Zachary Sloss and it is titled “The Power of Hume's On Miracles.” This is a brief and interesting chapter outlining David Hume's Of Miracles. Sloss proceeds to explain in easy to understand terms Hume's oft misunderstood argument and shows how it makes miracles highly doubtful.

The ninth chapter is written by Jonathan M.S. Pearce. It is titled “On Doubting the Existence of Free Will, and How It Can Make the World a Better Place.” This is a very good, and thought-provoking piece. Pearce lays out his case for the lack of free will in this world relying on both sound philosophical argument and scientific evidence. Next, he outlines what this lack of free will means for society, with a focus on morality and what this means for our current system of retributive justice. Pearce explains these complex issues with skill and makes it easily digestible.

The tenth chapter is written by Rebecca Bradley. The chapter is titled “Pseudoarcheology: Seven Tips." This is a relatively brief chapter about what she calls pseudoarcheology, or “alternative archeology.” Ancient aliens, New Age hocus pocus and other highly speculative claims are addressed. If you are relatively inexperienced in the subject you just may fall victim to the sometimes convicting sounding arguments, but Bradley provides advice on how to spot good science from bad. Very helpful chapter about a subject I have not seen addressed too often in the skeptical literature. Bradley's chapter serves as a nice addition.

The eleventh chapter is written by Staks Roach. His chapter is titled “The New World Order Is Coming for You!” This was an entertaining essay about common a conspiracy theory dealing with the New World Order and wealthy bankers and other shadowy figures who are often said to pull the strings of governments and who control the world. Mr. Roach employs penetrating logic to poke holes in many of the beliefs held by these conspiracy theorists.

The twelfth chapter is written by David Osorio and it is titled “Why Beliefs Matter.” As the title implies, the author's goal is to convince the reader that beliefs do in fact matter and surely impact the way people view the world. Even more grim is the fact that should someone hold an irrational view, the person will most likely act on that belief, affecting those around him, possibly for the worst. True, blunt skepticism is the only way to combat irrationality and if more people did that, the world would be a better place, writes the author.

The thirteenth and final chapter is by Edward K. Clint. It is titled “Science Denialism at a Skeptic Conference: A Cautionary Tale.” This is probably the longest chapter in the book, and it is worth the wait. This was easily one of my favorite chapters, as I enjoy reading essays that utterly deconstruct another's viewpoint with undeniable facts and logic.

Clint, who holds a BS is Psychology, heavily researches the subject of evolutionary psychology and has written a thorough, fair, yet, scathing rebuttal to a fifty-minute talk about evolutionary psychology called “How Girls Evolved to Shop and other ways to insult women with 'science'” by famed Skepchick blogger Rebecca Watson at the November 2012 Skepticon event.

Essentially, Clint goes through the entire talk and corrects numerous misquotes, exposes many instances of cherry picking of data, sloppy research, and many contradictions. Well-researched and extensively sourced, this essay effectively corrects most of the errors made my Watson in her talk and vindicates the science of evolutionary psychology.

The final Appendix includes 90 separate quotes lifted directly from Watson's talk and breaks down the problems with what she says.

This book would serve as a very good primer to those new to atheism and the skeptical movement in general as it provides much food for thought on a diverse series of topics.

Why not buy yourself a copy and a few more for late minute Christmas gifts? You can purchase the book at Amazon.com in both print edition and Kindle.