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Below are the 13 most recent journal entries recorded in Not Fit To Print's LiveJournal:

Thursday, November 7th, 2002
1:28 am
privacy rambling...
Let's say you post an opinion of a product online - or of an entire company's products.

You post pseudonymously on a Yahoo bulletin board, referring to the company's products as "crap," among other things.

How many people do you think are going to listen to you? How many big investors will make their stock buying and selling decisions off of your trolling?

If you said zero, you're right. But that's not the opinion of the Virginia Supreme Court, which ruled that AOL must disclose the personal information of a subscriber who posted such things to message boards starting in 1999. Yahoo gave up the email address instantly, but AOL didn't want to. After all, what would this mean for internet privacy?

The company, a Hong Kong manufacturer called Nam Tai, says that this individual and others were attempting to "manipulate the price of Nam Tai stock to their advantage." On a Yahoo group?

Here was this guy's comment: "This low tech crap that they produce is in an extremely competitive and low profitability industry. I see see-sawing of the stock with no real direction." Now, leaving aside his personal opinion, the guy was right - the stock was see-sawing.

I'm sorry, but first of all, stock price manipulation takes a hell of a lot more than bitching about products on Yahoo. If your stock can be manipulated that easily, perhaps it deserves to be.

Second, since when is a comment like that grounds for a libel suit? What will we see next, Ford suing those who have those lame 'boy pissing on Ford symbol' stickers in the back window of their rusty Chevy pickup trucks? Microsoft going after anyone who says that Playstation 2 is better than XBox?

The worst thing is, according to this ruling, corporations can do just that. Goodbye, being able to post a fairly innocuous comment with your username - seems that companies will now be able to find it out. Imagine if you posted a flyer about a corporation and they forced the police to dust for fingerprints - or if mailing a complaint got you subpoenaed.

This is a violation of privacy rights of the worst kind. I hope the SCOTUS overturns this case.

(11 listeners | are you listening?)

Tuesday, October 8th, 2002
3:50 pm

(8 listeners | are you listening?)

Saturday, October 5th, 2002
11:45 pm
On Weapons Inspection
It’s hard to watch when it seems like your nation’s government has become the spoiled child for whom nothing is ever enough.

It appears that the current Bush administration, paired up with the U.K.’s Tony Blair, is insisting on incredibly stringent regulations concerning weapons inspections in Iraq.

It’s not good enough to have free reign in looking over almost the entire nation – they want to be able to look in the presidential palaces as well.

I wonder, at times like these, what Tony Blair and George W. would think if the U.N. decided to inspect every inch of Buckingham Palace for anthrax, or if inspectors consisting of citizens of enemy nations demanded to go through the private quarters of the White House in case there’s a nuclear missile hiding there.

But then, I know what they’d say and think. They’d say “no way, no how, keep out of our country.” This, in spite of the fact that we’re known to have far larger quantities of weapons of mass destruction than Iraq could possibly own.

You see, though, Dubya is the leader of a superpower, so he can feel free to demand that his plans be followed to the letter while ignoring other nations’ concerns. Any body that constructs any kind of national government is going to result in compromises among nations. That’s part of what you get when you sign on. Bush and Blair haven’t quite figured this part out yet, though.

The U.S. government seems so used to getting its way ever since it’s been able to say that the mean Muslim world is picking on it that we can’t accept the reality that U.N. approved weapons inspections aren’t going to be based solely on our preferences.

Without the U.N., there would not even be the possibility of weapons inspections. I am certain that Saddam would be less than comfortable with the idea of U.S. forces alone investigating his nation. This is one of those cases where the U.N. is actually doing us some good, and the current administration is fighting it tooth and nail.

Of course, this is not done without reason. The Bush administration has been pushing toward war with Iraq for some time now, and was pretty surprised to find out that, in spite of (very loose and circumstantial) evidence that Iraq supported terrorist organization Al Qaeda, other nations weren’t willing to help us.

“But,” those in the Bush administration said, “We’ve got terrorists in our midsts! Terrorists, don’t you understand?” They were met with a universal shrugging of shoulders, with several other nations urging them to “join the club.”

When that happened, Bush got upset. We’ll do it on our own, then, he said. The U.N., designed precisely to prevent this sort of thing, offered to try to start weapons inspections – after all, if the Iraqis aren’t building up the ultra-arsenal Bush claims they are, there shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong.

Bush is trying to create problems in weapons inspections. By making more and more tough demands, he’s creating a situation where the Iraqi government will eventually need to say “no, you can’t go there.” Once they do, that’s all the motive he needs for an attack.

When our government digs in its heels, it’s at best an embarrassment – along the lines of the kid at the grocery store who won’t stop crying until he has his cocoa puffs and a candy bar, too. At worst, though, it’s international manipulation on a large scale – the kind of manipulation we would surely be rabidly against, were it not for the fact that since September 11, U.S. citizens have suddenly re-embraced the credo: My country, right or wrong.

(8 listeners | are you listening?)

Friday, October 4th, 2002
4:36 pm
The little president who cried "terrorism!"
The Little President Who Cried “Terrorism”

Today is a yellow day.

Every day has been at least a yellow day ever since the color system was enacted. Some days have been orange. There has been no fear of a “red” day, nor has there been the relaxing to a green or blue day – surely if we let our guard down to green, the terrorists will have already won.

We won’t be having green days any time in the foreseeable future. I predict the same, sallow, orange-yellow cast on our lives. Of course, no terrorist attacks have occurred in the past year, but that doesn’t stop us from being perpetually on alert.

Perpetual alerts, though, end up becoming nothing at all.

Ask the next person you see what today’s alert level is. Go over to the cubicle next to you, or ask the person sitting across the table from you. They don’t know, do they? Furthermore, they probably don’t even care.

In spite of the government’s best effort to tell us terrorism is just around the corner, a lot of people just aren’t buying it. We have a lot of cases of blatant stupidity causing overreaction (like Eunice Stone, the Georgia woman who started a manhunt for three medical school students who, at worst, didn’t pay a toll), and those who are so overreactive often make the whole nation seem on-edge – but apart from those few, America frankly doesn’t give a damn.

If there are valid terrorist threats, let us know. It seems as though every week, though, there’s an official saying “This has been determined not to be a credible threat, but…” In other words, they’re practicing CYA at its finest.

President Bush, I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the little boy who cried “wolf!” – actually, I’m not, but let’s assume for the sake of this column that you are. The incessant terrorism warnings, the constant state of high alert, will cause more casualties, not fewer, if and when another terrorist attack occurs.

If there is a truly credible threat, what will you do? Raise the alert to “red”? I doubt many people will notice. Say in the papers, “there’s a terrorist threat. We really mean it this time”?

See, at this point, Americans have adjusted to a “new normalcy” – a normalcy consisting of constant terrorism warnings and scares. When the average citizen hears about a new one, it’s unlikely to elicit more than a shrug.

So let’s stop this madness. The scaremongering of the past year has created among much of the population only yawns and indifference, and I’m sure that was never the goal.

If the current administration continues its current policies, one day, the president will shout “terrorists! Terrorists!” – and no one will listen until it’s too late.

(2 listeners | are you listening?)

Thursday, October 3rd, 2002
4:12 pm
Betrayal today makes enemies tomorrow - who knew?
Sometimes, in politics, people just believe what they want to believe.

And that’s fine. That’s been going on for a long time, and it doesn’t look like it will stop now. The problem is that political leaders in this nation want to believe something that ignores years of history and decades of poor foreign policy decisions.

They want to believe that Saddam Hussein is a deranged, psychotic monster with no motivation.

Now, I’m not trying to tell anyone that Saddam is a good guy – at least, not any more. But somewhere amid all the propaganda, a lot of facts about Saddam have been lost.

See, Saddam was, in fact, an extraordinarily good leader at the beginning of his time in the Middle East. He was in favor of secular government, in opposition to his Muslim neighbors. He wanted women to be able to attend school, actually instituting nationwide free reading classes for the 50% of the population that had gone largely ignored before. His policies increased the literacy rate and the number of social services in Iraq, and suddenly it was a nation of civilization and affluence.

In fact, Saddam was just the kind of guy the U.S. ought to have made friends with. And sure enough, it happened, but more because of the age-old principle: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The U.S. was fighting with Iran at the time, and Saddam wasn’t too keen on the Muslim nation’s existence in general. So what did we do? We said, “Hey, Saddam, good buddy. You go in, attack Iran, and we’ll make sure you’re well taken care of.”

With that kind of backing, what’s a leader to do? Saddam spent nearly a decade fighting Iran, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. He sent his nation into poverty, expecting the U.S. to make good on its promise of support. And in exchange, the U.S. gave him weapons to fight his enemy.

After the war, though, U.S. support consisted of . . . nothing. That’s right. See, our nation, in international circles, has about as much honor as that one friend that keeps asking if you’ve got twenty bucks to spare but never gives it back. We do this all the time – have someone fight for our side, send them some weapons we would probably be surplusing in a year or two anyhow, and let them duke it out. To hell with the consequences, we don’t need to worry about those people over there.

Until we do.

And that’s what’s happening today. Saddam, faced with an impoverished country where grocery bags are used as wallets because of the incredible rates of inflation and a nation that broke every promise it ever made to him, is itching for a chance to get even. In a twist that’s made national headlines recently, he’s even been running his biological and chemical weapons programs with information and bacterial strains we gave him back when we called him “friend.”

Of course, just because someone’s got a legitimate gripe against the U.S. doesn’t mean we should all say “hey, Hussein, attack my neighborhood!” – but it does mean that we should look on recent developments in a new light.

We certainly should not compare Hussein, who was a beacon for social progress in the
Middle East for years, with the oppressive fundamentalism of Osama bin Laden. He is the polar opposite of Al Qaeda – the leader, in fact, of a government Al Qaeda stands against.

We should not declare him psychotic, evil, and unpredictable. He is doing what a lot of people, when betrayed by someone they thought was a close friend, would do. He’s working on a plan for revenge. Bad? Yes. Unpredictable? Hardly, unless you have an amazing lack of foresight.

Why does the government insist that Saddam is a psychotic evildoer, with no rationality or logic? It’s pretty scary to think that way – to think that, unprovoked, someone could just pop up and try to destroy our nation. At least, that’s how it is for most of us.

For the government, though, it’s a lot easier to think he came out of nowhere, with no cause at all. After all, if they’re blind to history, they don’t need to remember that it’s their dishonesty, their broken promises, their lack of honor that created the enemy they now face.

(5 listeners | are you listening?)

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2002
12:02 pm
ADHD and the Great Psychiatry Scam
The Law

A few days ago, I found out that in the UK, parents may soon be forced to make their children take ADHD medication. Those refusing to comply face the threat of jail time for "denying treatment."

Treatment, in this case, is defined as doping children up on amphetamines - often against their will and the will of their parents. This isn't treatment for a life-threatening disease - or, in fact, a real disease at all.


The Test: Summer, 1996

The game begins in a dark room. The technology is a decade out of date - a monochrome monitor, flashing instructions in some shade of orange that should never have existed. It is not a complex game. A large rectangle in the same improbable orange appears on the screen. Then, a smaller black square appears in the rectangle at regular intervals. Sometimes it appears near the bottom of the rectangle; sometimes it appears close to the top.

All I have is a button in my hand, the button to push when it appears at the top. This, I think, is not a very exciting game. I wish, vaguely, that I could review it. Pong was more exciting. So I slack. Why should I care about where the square shows up next? I try to anticipate it, pressing the button almost before the square appears. I'm bored and getting sleepier by the minute, but I play and play and play - not because I want to, because I must.

Where's this arcade from hell? It's my neurologist's office. The game is no game at all, but a diagnostic called a TOVA test. And it is this test that will lead to my ADD diagnosis, a diagnosis that will lead to an "Individualized Education Plan," a series of medications with no benefits and tremendous side effects, and years of trying to figure out why being different was wrong.


The Criteria: Pay Attention, Even When You're Bored!

The TOVA test decides that if you press the button too soon, you must be "impulsive," that if you don't press it soon enough or tune out, you're "inattentive" - various things like that. Why are these things important? Well, ADD has diagnostic criteria that sound a bit like this: not paying attention to repetitive tasks, being easily distracted, fidgeting, not wanting to remain seated, not wanting to wait one's own turn.

But what do those mean? Is the child becoming restless and not doing schoolwork because he absolutely cannot focus no matter what, or is it because he is bored to death? Is he jumping out of his seat to look out the window because of an uncontrollable impulse, or because he figures it's more interesting?

The chief complaint against AD(H)D is that it prevents children from learning in the school environment. In the contemporary school environment, with those diagnostic criteria, it's not hard to see why the diagnosis has become incredibly common. Schools today are often places that stifle creativity and emphasize rote learning and repetitive tasks. Are children who are creative and uninterested in the bland offerings of school to blame for wanting more?

Psychiatry for schoolchildren today has gone from finding things that are truly bad and life-damaging to declaring that any student who isn't docile and willing to accept what is said by a teacher has a "disorder" of some kind.

We are also, in contemporary society, extremely opposed to allowing children to be somewhere other than in a chronological peer group. Many of the "ADD" children I have seen are ones who should not, under any circumstances, be in the grade they are in. Some don't have enough knowledge, and therefore can't follow along and would rather do something else. Others have too much, and all that is being taught bores them.

But those are not the things asked about. No ADD questionnaire says "is your child incredibly bored with his/her studies?" or "why do you think Johnny can't pay attention?" - instead, they concentrate only on surface-level symptoms without looking for a real root cause.


The Field: Bloodletting in the 21st Century

This problem is not confined to that of ADD. Psychiatry today is an absolute mess, and the new "epidemics" of depression, "anxiety disorders," and ADD show that something must be wrong.

Imagine you're in a nice restaurant, and you're eating a really good meal. You take a big bite - ok, maybe too big, because you start choking. Uh-oh. But it's not a problem - there's a doctor at the very next table! He rushes over to you.

"Ahhh, yes," he says. "I see you're coughing, out of breath. That's probably asthma. Here, have an inhaler." You smile weakly, sputter, and die.

No one would stand for that in a doctor curing our bodies - but it's exactly what we let happen with the doctors who try to cure our minds. They look at the most obvious, external problems, and they say all with those symptoms have the same problem.

Why does this stand? The answer is simple: We don't know what the hell we're doing. Often, we don't know real root causes. Psychiatry today is where physical medicine was in the seventeenth century - we are poised for major breakthroughs, but we aren't there yet. So instead, we do a lot of bloodletting and a lot of witch-doctoring, making halfhearted guesses at what problems are caused by.

Still, psychiatry insists that it has the answer. Note how many more people are diagnosed with disorders as soon as there's a medicine to treat at least one or two of the symptoms. The epidemics of ADD and depression did not start until there were drugs readily available for them. It seems, looking at the data, that the increasing number of cases is directly caused by availability of medicines.

As soon as there's an available medicine that treats a particularly damaging symptom, psychiatrists leap on it and broaden its application. Ritalin would make anyone better able to concentrate on a particular task, so when the doctors notice, oh, hey, these people with much less severe problems can be helped by it, too!

Yet using medicines in these less severe cases deny a very simple fact. Declaring that ADD is such a broad disorder diminishes the fact that memory and attention span can be taught. Instead of working on the problem for a permanent fix, a medicine becomes the quick easy alternative - and one that gets doctors kickbacks from drug companies for every prescription.


The Answer: Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down

But just because Prozac and Ritalin are the best things we have so far for "depression" and "ADD" doesn't mean that we should be using them - especially not as broadly as we are now. I'm sure everyone today would agree that bloodletting (though in the context of the time it made sense) did more harm than good.

Have you been diagnosed with ADD or depression - or even certain "autistic spectrum" disorders (which are a topic for another day)? Don't let witch doctoring get to you. Look at yourself carefully. What are the reasons behind your symptoms? Are they entirely uncontrollable (in which case medicine may be warranted) or are there deeper roots?

Don't take current psychiatric opinion at face value. Remember, they only have a few broad medical remedies to cover an immense variety of issues - and when all you've got is a hammer, everything - and everyone - looks like a nail.

(29 listeners | are you listening?)

Sunday, September 22nd, 2002
5:48 pm
Rough draft...
"I'm in the walls of a cathedral," says Adrian's text message to me. "Crawled through a half-hidden door...barely have cell signal..."

Adrian Lamo, one of the world's most controversial hackers, slips through hidden passageways in corporate websites by day - and in abandoned buildings and cathedrals by night - and now I am hearing about it as it happens.

Lamo, the 22-year-old who has hacked into sites of corporations from Worldcom to The New York Times, has been talking to me for days. I'd first seen him described as "the homeless hacker" in articles that spoke of his discomfort with staying in a single place, his lack of desire to hold a job. When I found out he often stayed in my hometown, I decided I had to find out his story. Now, what had started out as a journalistic phone call - a pure interview - has turned into something more. We've started talking outside of the realm of journalism, out of the world of technology and hackers, guessed passwords and back doors.

I realize that I'm becoming friends with one of the most unique minds I've ever met, and one of the most open and notorious criminals in the nation.

He can afford to be so notorious for one reason alone. Unlike many hackers, who destroy information and deface websites, Adrian never changes anything. When he has found a hole in security, he uses it to find others in the same system, often finding information on celebrities, politicians, and CEOs. Once he's reached the end of his quest, he tells the company and offers to fix the security flaws for free. Some companies accept the help gladly; others are more begrudging. Some threaten lawsuits - and worse.

Why does he spend so much time on a quest that could easily put him in prison? To Adrian, hacking is not just a hobby, and not just for play. And while he describes his occupation as "serial criminal" ("If I ever filled out tax forms, that's what I'd write," he says, laughing), he says he is not out to commit crimes. Instead, he calls what he does a "validation of faith."

Faith? Sure, says Adrian. He tells me that he has never hacked into a site by taking his time and working methodically. Instead, each time has been preceded by strange occurrences, events so unlikely that they seem impossible. Everywhere, I've read accounts of his uncanny ability to guess passwords, find hidden ways into sites. I had assumed that these were not random, that he had planned his attacks far in advance; now, though, he tells me that they were only chance - or at least a close approximation thereof.

"I don't believe in coincidence," he says.

Because to him hacking is, in essence, a spiritual quest, Adrian abhors the idea of destroying information, calling it "sacrilege." Other hackers, though, disagree with what he does - and don't hesitate to say so, publicly. Many believe that his hacking contributes to ever-tightening information security laws. Others think he is unethical. Some play on his last name - "Is Lamo a Lamer?" asks one newsgroup post.

Adrian shrugs these comments off. "I understand why they feel that way," he says. "I don't think what I do is right or wrong, it's just something I do." And he has been extraordinarily successful with what he does, finding his way into AOL, Excite@home, and other sites with relative ease.

Lately, Adrian has lamented the fact that he seems to be running out of major corporations to explore. When he runs out of buildings to explore at night, he can always move on to the next city - but there is no next internet. For now, though, he still sees plenty of challenges to come. What will he do, I ask him, if a company goes after him? "I do commit crimes," he says. "What I do is illegal - and I could go to prison for it. I'm sure I could learn something there, though, too, so it doesn't worry me that much."

Nothing fazes him, whether it's the threat of prison, increased government regulations, or the news stories that call for him to be stopped immediately. It comes from trust - trust that things will work as they should.

While this might seem strange, or even crazy, to some, as I continue talking to him it makes sense. People find faith from all kinds of things: the amazing synchronicities in nature, the complexity of our universe, the magic of love - so why not technology? Adrian has shifted real, genuine faith into the digital age. From the beginning of time, people have wondered about the hidden parts of nature. Now Adrian has begun to explore the hidden parts of the man-made, and has found them to be as awe-inspiring as anything in the natural world. He has found his faith in the way events in hacking and the rest of his life seem to just fit together, to combine seamlessly, even when they are almost unbelievably unlikely.

It happens again a few days later. Adrian leaves a text message for me while I'm at work. "I've rescued a kitten from a storm drain," it says. As it turns out, the kitten also rescued him - he first heard its mew inside the drain as police officers were approaching him for trespassing in a vacant parking lot. Quick on his feet, Adrian said to the officers that it was his kitten in the drain. Four squad cars and a nimble policeman later, the grey, black, and white kitten was out.

Adrian tells me he's decided to keep the kitten - he feels that both he and it were supposed to be there at that moment. He tells me he's even picked out its name.

"What is it?" I ask him.

When he tells me, I laugh. "Of course," I say.

He's named it Alibi.

(7 listeners | are you listening?)

Monday, September 9th, 2002
8:54 pm
Media-made Monsters
We can do the innuendo,
we can dance and sing
when it's said and done
we haven't told you a thing
we all know that crap is king
give us dirty laundry...

- Don Henley, "Dirty Laundry"

-----

Lies, Villification, and Innuendo, or, how to be a newscaster

Sometimes, the messages you pick up from the media are broadcast not only in content, but in where each story is placed. Story placement defines whether we think a story is big or not - and even if we're likely to hear about it at all. Sometimes, looking at the order of stories and realizing what it says paints a picture of the state of the nation.

And right now it isn't pretty.

CNN.com is my venue of choice for this - it's the news source of the masses, fairly well-designed and with distinct "top stories" and lesser ones. For the past several weeks, it has been pounding out the exact same message.

Each day, the lineup has been nearly the same.

Read more...Collapse )

(6 listeners | are you listening?)

Saturday, August 31st, 2002
10:15 pm
Juvenile "Justice"
In 1998, a group of young people, because they were disrespectful to their elders, were forced to kneel, handcuffed, on a hard floor for hours, facing walls. If they slept, they were slapped awake, and if they had to use the bathroom, they had to do so right there. Some faited, others threw up. At night time, they were allowed to sleep for a little while on a thin, hard mattress, still in cuffs. When they next day began, they went through the entire process over again.

If this was anywhere else, it would be a human rights violation. But it happened in the state of California, in the state's juvenile prison system.

The situation is not better in other states. Once, I ended up in juvenile hall in South Bend, Indiana, and even there - not a state juvenile prison, but the step below - the conditions would make it impossible for any person there too long to live a normal life afterward.

Read more...Collapse )

(2 listeners | are you listening?)

Monday, August 26th, 2002
2:57 pm
Implausible Deniability...
From the Miami Herald

Regier denied writing the essay and said he later broke ties with the Coalition, and last week he wrote a letter asking again to be disassociated from the group.

Asked Wednesday why the Coalition's website still lists him on its steering committee, Regier said: ``I don't know what their problem is.''

(are you listening?)

2:24 pm
Things My Government Has Taught Me: The Doublethink Edition
It is perfectly logical to support Israel, a nation that oppresses an entire category of its citizens, refuses to allow them to get jobs, and keeps them in their homes at all times while condemning Muslim states because they are oppressing an entire category of citizens (women), refusing to allow them to get jobs, and keeping them in veils when they leave their homes.

Israel and all tactics used therein are Judaism. Being against their treatment of the Palestinians is therefore, obviously, anti-semitic.

If a nation with an incredibly large army, wealthy, empowered citizens, and sophisticated weaponry bombs civilians, it's "self defense." If a nation that has no army, disenfranchised, penniless citizens, and makeshift weaponry made in secret bombs civilians, that's "terrorism."

If your president begins to command unprecedented powers, setting up detainment camps, and holding citizens without charging them, he's "taking preventive measures against terrorism." If other nations' leaders command unprecedented powers, set up detainment camps, and hold citizens without charging them, they're "dictators."

When the United States sets up training camps for men to learn guerilla warfare, create uprisings and inspire a state of terror, those are "special forces training." When other people make camps to teach tactics for guerilla warfare, creating uprisings and inspiring a state of terror, those are "terrorist training camps."

When the United states uses dogs, cats, monkeys, and other animals to test the effects of radiation, chemical and biological warfare agents, and those things in combination and shields the public from what it's doing, that's "necessary scientific research." When another nation uses dogs in tests of chemical warfare agents and puts it on videotape, that's "disturbing images showing the dying moments of the defenseless, enclosed animals."

Protesting against Muslim fundamentalists stoning adultresses is fine - but criticisms of Christian fundamentalists go against the American Way.

If another nation's children are forced to listen to pro-government statements and are compelled to pledge allegiance to their nation daily, that's "indoctrination." If the US's children are forced to listen to pro-government statements and are compelled to pledge allegiance to their nation daily, that's "patriotism," and those against it are anti-American.

Current Mood: aggravated

(4 listeners | are you listening?)

12:47 am
The Great Atheist Conspiracy
Christians can do no wrong. Just ask them, they'll tell you. Lately, every Christian that's come under fire has used as an excuse for immoral or illegal actions a conspiracy aimed at keeping the Christians down.

Let's look at some of these, shall we?

Two cases showing the true extent of the atheist conspiracy occurred in Florida, otherwise known as "America's Limp Wang." The people in Florida are, on average, both stupider than most sponges and more crazy than Alaskans in February, if the news that comes up from that great state is to be believed. Miami-Dade county, that bastion of Floridian pride, recently arrested the head of the Miami Christian Coalition for lying about petition signatures. Also arrested was a notary who notarized his own signature.

These two individuals were responsible for mass vote fraud - entire pages of signatures were faked in the same handwriting on a petition to repeal Miami-Dade County's gay rights ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. More arrests are expected to come later. The petition drive, by "Take Back Miami-Dade," an organization designed specifically to take away the rights of gays, was filled with forgeries and other irregularities - some residents say they were tricked into signing it by people who said they were circulating a petition in favor of the ordinance.

Massive vote fraud seems to be a pretty good thing to prosecute for, especially when pages of signatures are obviously in the same writing, right? Wrong, say spokespeople for the Miami-Dade County Christian Coalition - as well as their website. A spokesperson for the organization has been widely quoted as saying that "the homosexual mafia" is responsible for the arrests (cue some lame joke about the Fairy Godfather). Their website is even worse, telling members of their organization that being anti-discrimination is tantamount to giving gays special treatment - they say "sexual preference" as if it implies preferred hiring of non-heterosexuals. Those fighting to punish those who forged signatures are called "enemies of democracy."

Funny, I thought ballot-box stuffers were a pretty big threat to democracy, too, guys.

The second, and even more lovely case, involves Florida governor Jeb Bush's appointing a fundamentalist, Jerry Regier, to be the head of Florida's child welfare agency. Not just any fundamentalist - one that thinks child abuse is just dandy. More on this in a minute. Please realize that this is the same agency that recently realized that it had lost hundreds of children who were supposed to be under its care - and now it looks like the situation for abused and neglected Florida kids will only get worse.

See, about a decade ago, Regier was co-chairman of a group that published a pamphlet saying that corporal punishment causing bruises or welts was acceptable according to Christian doctrine.

I guess I never heard Jesus saying "Suffer the little children to come unto me, that I may beat them within an inch of their lives." I must've read that part wrong. The pamphlet also says that women should be in a subservient role to their husbands and stay at home. Now, a woman being subservient, that's not always a bad thing - and I say this with a smirk. But it's obvious he's not talking about "play" here. His beliefs would keep many emotionally and physically abused children in their abusive homes.

And Florida state legislators think that's just great. "Mr. Regier is very focused on prevention rather than taking kids out homes. This is a real good marriage," says one, displaying equal command of logical thought and good grammar. Prevention of what? Not prevention of abuse, surely - prevention of children being taken out of their homes, even when those homes are causing them physical harm.

Is he fit to be the head of a child welfare agency? My magic 8-Ball said it best: "My sources say no."

But when people have called for his resignation, he has had plenty of excuses. He didn't write the pamphlet, he said, and he has no responsibility for it. Oh really? Sorry, if you're the co-chair of the place that publishes it, you're responsible for its content and should be ready to own up to it. It's like being the captain of a ship or the CEO of a company - you're the fall guy. It's part of the price of being at the top. You can't disown what you did or said then, especially not when it's so relevant to a position now.

And when these excuses don't add up (he wrote an article solo saying many of the same things), he cries foul. Jeb Bush spoke up for him, saying, "It really doesn't matter if Jerry has a deep and abiding faith and it certainly doesn't disqualify him for public service. I think there's bigotry here and it troubles me."

I don't give a fuck if he has deep and abiding faith, Mr. Bush. He can have all the faith he wants. But when his faith causes him to allow children to be abused, he's not suitable for that position. It's not about his faith, it's about the fact that his definitions of abuse are skewed and will lead to many hurt or even dead children.

But the fundamentalist Christians say that any time you say something against one of them, you're saying something against christianity as a whole - and that simply doesn't add up. According to them, if you speak out against someone who committed a crime or is unfit for their position, you are a bigot. Under this logic, I suppose that if a fundamentalist Klansman were named head of the Department of Education and you objected, or if a fundamentalist serial killer were named Attorney General, we'd be bigoted for saying they were unfit for office.

People with views obviously intended to subvert laws should not be appointed to positions in charge of their enforcement, period. It has nothing to do with religion, it has everything to do with the democratic process and maintaining law in society.

(11 listeners | are you listening?)

Friday, August 23rd, 2002
3:20 pm
Global warming: poorly done science or outright lie?
"Hey, I'm putting twenty grand into a stock right now."
"Oh really? What is it?"
"Well, I've never heard of it before, but over the last six seconds, its performance has been great!"
"Umm, hey, just this second, didn't it go down?"
"Yeah, but that's all part of the plan. It's supposed to go down this second, then go up in fifteen."

This isn't a conversation you'd ever hear, at least outside of the failed "day-trading" of the late 90's. No one bases their stock purchases off of a few seconds of data - and surely no one would cling to a hypothesis made after only those few seconds, even when the evidence turns against it. No economist, no layperson.

That's in the social sciences, the ones where "real" scientists decry the lack of scientific method and rigorous testing. But as articles have shown time and time again, articles have shown recently, scientists - at least certain environmental scientists - are doing just that and worse.

The "global warming" hypothesis, which has been derived using approximately 150 years of reliable weather data, is one of the most shoddy excuses for science that the world has seen in the 20th century. The same people who claim that nature is ever-changing and dynamic say, in the same breath, that the only way the climate of the Earth would change is if humans caused it.

Fluctuations in the climate of this planet are normal, even on a large scale. Ice ages and warm periods alternated long before humans evolved, and though we lack specific data, smaller pieces of time would almost definitely show fluctuations as well, localized trends and atypical years. But before, nobody was around to analyze these localized trends. Even more importantly, nobody was around to profit off of their analyses.

150 years of weather data is junk on its own. Without more data from many thousands of years, it's as useful as knowing the last six seconds of stock performance. It says, literally, nothing about climate trends.

Still, some scientists insist upon interpreting the data as evidence of a huge global trend - and forecasting doom for the planet. According to them, soon we'll see the ice caps melt and the ocean levels rise to the point where Manhattan will be underwater. Take that, New York. But the problem with this whole theory is that, if you want to play the "tiny bits of data" game, the ice caps have actually increased in size over the past 20 years. This is, of course, ignored - after all, why accept a new idea when the old one's still bringing in the media attention and the grant funding?

Anyway, now, there are intense floods all over Europe. Torrential rain, incredible monetary damage - it's all very bad. And what's it getting blamed on? That's right. Global warming. The interesting thing about this is that these same scientists had predicted that global warming would lead to hot, dry summers and milder, wetter winters. So how do they say, now, that this is evidence of global warming? Easy, they twist what they'd said before. Global warming, they say now, would also lead to random thunderstorms in the middle of summer.

And that's how it always works. Any time something's said that refutes their silly hypothesis, they expand the hypothesis so that the new phenomenon is also part of it. So much for the scientific method. I hope that a hundred years from now, when Manhattan and San Francisco are still on land and doing just fine, people will look back on all this as nothing but a joke.

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