Category: Politics


Justin Bieber was talked about quite a bit a while ago, and not for the normal, preteen-girls-giggling sort of way. He made some comments to Rolling Stone magazine, in which he came out against abortion. More shocking was his comment on whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape. He said “everything happens for a reason.” Now, as TheAmazingAtheist said on YouTube, the quote as a whole wasn’t very shocking, being appended by “I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

Now, I really don’t give a shit what Justin Bieber has to say. There are millions of people in this country who agree with him, and there are millions of people who disagree with him. Hopefully more people disagree than agree with him on the abortion issue, or at the very least the rape instance of the abortion issue, but what I want to talk about is his comment that “everything happens for a reason.”

TheAmazingAtheist, in the video I linked to above, replied to Justin’s remarks by saying that in a random universe, things don’t happen for a reason. He didn’t really go into this and moved on to his next topic. However, I think I would agree that, as an atheist, I do not agree with the phrase the way it is usually meant. That is, that there is some greater purpose to the universe, and that everything that happens — good or bad — is part of this purpose.

Theists would chalk this purpose up to “God’s Plan” or “God’s Will.” New Age types would probably talk about some “force” or “energy” within the universe that influences events. These spiritual-types are usually comfortable with the idea that there is something greater out there, and that that great thing or being or whatever it is has some influence over events and cares about us.

I, on the other hand, will only accept “everything happens for a reason” insofar as it is literally correct. Everything happens for a very specific reason. Why did the ball fall to the ground? Well, because you let it go and gravity had its way with it. Why did you catch a cold? Because your immune system could not deal with a certain virus it encountered. This, however, is not what is normally meant by the phrase.

This reminds me of a personal story. This was a little less than a year ago, when my father and I were shopping around for a used car. If you’ve ever shopped for a used car on a budget with a guy who has different tastes in cars than you, you know it can be a very frustrating experience. We had just left a dealership and were pretty happy with the car, but were going to check out a couple more places before going for it. Anyway, I’m not sure if it was because of my atheism or if he just wanted to impart upon me some of his philosophy/wisdom, but he told me that if we didn’t get the car because someone else bought it or whatever, it was for a reason.

You see, it is his opinion that if something doesn’t go your way, it was because something better is supposed to happen to you later. For this car shopping example, he thought that if I was unable to buy the car I wanted, then that car was not “the one for me.” The first couple times he said it I politely mumbled agreement but after hearing it about ten times (perhaps he wanted me to explicitly agree) I had to tell him that wasn’t how I saw things.

What causes people to adhere to this worldview? I am going to estimate that a vast majority of people in the world subscribe to it. I have a few ideas.

First, I think this is one of the main reasons religion and spirituality are so appealing. It is probably very comforting to believe that some higher power is looking out for you. Shit could be hitting the fan all around the world, , but you’d at least have an out in thinking that The Big Guy (or Girl, I guess; usually Guy) has things under control.

Second, it may have a lot to do with confirmation bias. A nonreligious person like me views all events as “not planned by a powerful being.” As such, my confirmation bias keeps me square in this worldview. Most people, however, see things completely differently. They are taught from a young age that whatever God they’re worshiping controls some subset of the events that take place in the universe, and that these events are directed in such a way that a divine plan is being fulfilled. Confirmation bias leads to even the most mundane events being attributed to God if they are beneficial to us, and if they aren’t good we forget about them.

The interesting thing is which things are attributed to God and which aren’t. Depending on your level of religiosity, you may attribute everything to God (even the really bad things) or you may attribute only the good things. You may attribute the motion of every atom in the universe to God and you may only attribute smiles, butterflies, and rainbows. You may take Satan into account and you may not.

The typically one-sidedness of event attribution is most easily observed through what language we use. Take the words “blessed,” “lucky,” and “unlucky.” The opposite of the word “lucky” is “unlucky.” The opposite of the word “blessed” is “cursed.” But have you ever heard someone actually use the word “cursed” in actual conversation? Use of the word “blessed” is a huge, blinking sign that a person grew up very religiously and/or is currently somewhat spiritual themselves. But they will not use “cursed” as the opposite of “blessed,” opting instead for the word “unlucky.”

Some examples: “Oh, when we were in Ireland it was really nice and sunny; we were so blessed.” (Real example from a date, at which point I’m like crap…) “He got hit by a car. Man that’s unlucky.”

Other nonbelievers and I are consistent with our lucky/unlucky usage, attributing neither good events nor bad events to the influence of some greater being. Theists, on the other hand, wish to attribute only good things to their God, and leave the bad things to random chance. I’m sorry, but you can’t do that.

This is starting to drag on a bit, so I’ll cut to the chase: we need to return to a literal usage of the phrase “everything happens for a reason.” We need to start looking at the world scientifically, empirically, and with the assumption that nobody is going to come to our rescue. They say “a pair of hands working does more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” I agree. Let’s stop begging daddy to come help us and start fixing the world’s problems ourselves.

~peace, RR

The idea for this post was provided by a reader like you! If you have any issues, subjects, or topics, specific or broad, that you want me to weigh-in on, please leave a comment below or send me an email at radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

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I swear, every time the topic of privacy is discussed, some yahoo has to bring up the old cliché “well, if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.” I’m so sick of hearing this phrase that I’m going to devote this post to BEATING IT INTO A BLOODY PULP. There are so many things wrong with the idea that it’s almost laughable.

I actually used a short version of these arguments on my father while visiting him for the holidays. It worked on him, and he’s pretty stubborn, so hopefully it’ll work on you too, and you can bring these points up the next time some yahoo at a party rattles off this phrase rather than giving any real thought to the issues.

First, the statement assumes that laws are static. It assumes that what is legal today will be legal tomorrow. It assumes that if people don’t need to hide something now, that they never will. I’m sorry, but this isn’t how it works. The law is most certainly not static. Sure, smoking cigarettes is legal today, and if someone knew you smoked they may say “tsk tsk, that’s bad for you, you know.” But what about ten or twenty years from now? What if cigarettes are illegal then? Then your stupid phrase comes back from the dead to bite you in the ass. I guess your only choice is to quit smoking, eh?

Which brings us to the next assumption the phrase entails: that the laws are good. Ask yourself, do you think every law in this country is just, fair, and worth having? I bet you’ve already thought of at least a half-dozen bullshit, unfair, unjust, or perhaps even unconstitutional laws. You might have replied to my cigarettes example “well yeah, we should ban cigarettes, that would be good.” Alright, how about… music? Say some quack shows that music makes people violent, irrational, emotional, and dumb. Say the government thinks its a waste of time. And, say the government starts by making instruments illegal to play. Are you going to toss your guitar in the trash just because it’s something that you’d end up having to hide?

And what about things that aren’t illegal, but are frowned upon? Things that society doesn’t like? What if the government wanted everyone to disclose whether they were straight or gay? Or how about what religion they were? Yeah, no problem for the straight Christians in this country. And probably not a huge deal for gays, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists who live in more enlightened areas of the country (i.e. the North). But what about the atheists and the gays in the Bible Belt? Why should they be forced to reveal what are very personal aspects of themselves, especially when the main result will just be ostracism from their neighbors?

But even throwing aside all those flaws with the assumptions of the phrase, we are still left with people’s need for privacy. Perhaps you’re okay with having your privacy being taken away in subways, and at airports, and sooner-or-later whenever you’re outside your home. Maybe you’re even okay with cameras in your house, as long as they aren’t in the bathroom or the bedroom. But wait, what? You mean you don’t want them to see that? But you’ve got nothing to hide! They don’t care what your dick looks like! They don’t care how big your breasts are! They just want to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal in there. Oh, and they want to watch.

Do you see? It is a fact that we need some sort of privacy. Humans may be social animals but we are not purely social. We wear clothes. We have our own rooms. We have secrets, even if they are meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

If you give the government an inch with regards to privacy, they will eventually take a mile. And once everyone gets used to the mile, they will ask for ten more. You may think that such measures will make everyone safer, rather than simply give those in power another avenue to control what we do. You might. I, on the other hand, think that’s a very dangerous gamble.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com :)

We as a species have come up against a quite a few problems, (at least) two of which related to energy. First, there is only so much energy on the planet in the form of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Second, the burning of these fossil fuels, according to research done by climate scientists, is warming our planet, which could have negative impacts on our environment in the future.

Is it even possible to solve these problems? Are the solutions to the problems related? Can we kill two birds with one stone?

I think the answer to all these questions is “yes.” The question then becomes not can, but how? How should we go about solving these problems that will come back to bite us in the future?

There seem to be two schools of thought that are most prevalent in the political debate that has formed around this topic. The first is the conservative notion that the second problem isn’t a problem at all, and to deal with the first problem is an attack on our liberty to use whatever fuels we please as well as potentially harmful to business. The second is the liberal notion that we have to do anything we can to solve the second problem before it is too late, and doing so should solve the first problem at the same time.

I would like to propose that both approaches to our energy problems are flawed, either in their premises or in their approaches (or both).

Let’s start with the conservative approach. It is wrong on its face due to its denial of global warming. The science tells us the earth is warming, and we are most likely the cause, plain and simple. (I again encourage you to check out this series on the subject, which is very well done.) The latter piece of it, a hodgepodge of offense at the idea of being forced not to be an idiot and typical conservative defense of big business (which has plenty of resources to take care of itself), is similarly flawed, because it does not even make an attempt to solve the first problem we have (that we’re running out of fossil fuels). However, I do not necessarily blame them, due to how the liberals are handling things…

The liberal approach, while at least based in scientific accuracy, is not completely based in reality. It places far too much emphasis on global warming and the environment. While it is noble to fight these issues from a liberal standpoint, it is akin to insanity from a conservative outlook. Liberals do not seem to understand that by making the issue global warming, they have given conservatives an easy out. Conservatives are comfortable with ignoring facts, especially scientific ones, so they are more than happy to turn the whole thing into a public referendum on the legitimacy of climate science.

Here is what I propose: drop the global warming issue. Not outright, because conservatives would jump on that and claim they were right all along. But over time, increase the emphasis on the need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, lest we have to bow to the Middle East to get our country to function.

If we can get the debate focused on how to solve the energy problems (be that with wind or solar or nuclear energy) instead of whether there is a problem at all, I think we can actually make some progress.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

The Paradox of War

Any pacifists out there? While I hesitate to call myself a pacifist, I am against war in general and am most certainly against the current wars in Iraq in Afghanistan. (Though I did support the Iraq war when it first started, my reasons were very poor. Not sure if I ever bought into the WMD thing but I’m sure I used the excuse to make myself feel better about our elected officials.) What I want to describe today is why I think in this day and age, war is a paradox.

I say in this day and age because there might have been a time in the past when war was the only option. Back when there were many relatively small tribes that could not peaceably interact with one another (for fear they would be kidnapped or killed), the only way to resolve disputes was probably war. Now, however, things are much different. We are wiser, smarter, and all-around nicer than our ancestors were.

Yes, in this day and age I think there is no need for war. It makes absolutely no sense.

In today’s world, there are two kinds of countries we could go to war with. The first is democratic countries. The second is non-democratic countries, or if you prefer, dictatorships.

You might have thought of a third target for our military aggressions, such as “terrorism.” Of course, it is not possible to declare war on a word or an idea. Today’s war on terrorism is just a ploy to keep our economy going through military spending. More Americans die each year from car accidents than all of the terrorist attacks against us put together. The threat just is not there. We do more damage to ourselves via the privacy- and rights-stripping laws we enact than the terrorists could do to us. That was probably their plan in the first place anyway.

Similarly, the “war on drugs” in this country is also a façade. A majority of people in this country have done drugs before. Nobody believes the claims made by the government about the harmfulness of marijuana. Hard drugs are another story, but seriously. The war on drugs is just a way for governments to make money, and probably to put black people in jail.

Let us examine the first of our potential targets, the democratic country. Peaceful. For the most part, run by the people who live in it. These are nations we consider among our allies. If we have disagreements with them, we can use diplomacy. Anything but the most egregious offenses would do nothing more than cause some ill will for a year or two.

The second option, the dictatorship, is essentially the opposite of the democratic country. Either openly militaristic, or plotting to be. Run by a single person or a small clique, without taking input from the populace. Diplomacy doesn’t work. Always on the brink of declaring war on you.

It’s somewhat obvious why war is not an option in the first case. But why shouldn’t it be in the latter?

To understand why, I think we should first look at the factors involved with the former case. Since democratic countries share, for the most part, our opinions on rights and the role of the people, we have much more to agree on than disagree on. For whatever reason, we like democracies. Here’s the funny thing, though: because these countries are democratic, and subject (to varying degrees) to the will of the people, wars would actually work against them! If people don’t like them, they can tell their government to back down on whatever stupid shit they’re up to. (I am assuming the United States would never attack another democratic country without that country having done something we don’t like.)

And now we see why attacking a dictatorship makes no sense. A war punishes, for all intents and purposes, the people of that country. (And in this case it would punish a people for something they did not choose or do.) A dictator is just the general of the army, not a soldier. To the dictator, the inhabitants of the country are merely pawns to be sacrificed. As we saw in Iraq, the actual war didn’t really end until we got Saddam. Since then it’s just been stabilizing the chaos we created. There is no incentive for a dictator to end a war, even a losing one, because they don’t need to listen to the people.

Therein lies the paradox. We do not need to use war against democratic countries, and war is a poor tool to use against dictatorships.

Of course, there are other reasons why war doesn’t make any sense, even against democratic countries where the leadership of the country could be changed by the populace. Any foreign enemy will increase patriotism and nationalism in a population. Lots of people would want to fight simply because they were being attacked. They would go from peaceful people that didn’t want to fight, to hardened citizens, doing their duty to protect their country from foreign invaders. This is probably a good part of what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan now.

So, you may be wondering, what do we do then when faced with a threat from a dictator? Sanctions probably also hurt the populace more, though sanctions could cause a slowdown in the plans of dictators while causing minimal damage to the people. I’d probably recommend assassination, perhaps via long-range missile into the presidential palace, combined with underground resistance efforts to cause a revolution during the following confusion. I don’t know. My point in this post was just to say why war is bad, not what we should do instead.

I shall leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein:

“He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

Some day we will grow out of this infantile tendency toward killing one another. With the power of our weapons increasing every day, far out-pacing our enlightenment, that day cannot come soon enough. Until then, do not join the military. If a draft comes, leave the country or be a conscious objector. Whatever it takes to ensure we make it to a future without war.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

A hobby of some atheists is debating with Christians and other theists. You’ll find many YouTube videos dedicated to this subject. I myself have not debated on the specific issue of the (non)existence of God in a long time, but when I did, I found it to be a quite enjoyable method of stimulating the grey matter.

However, stimulating as it is, I often find myself growing tired of the very academic nature of the debate. Who cares whether angels had free will? Who cares what the Bible says about shellfish and fabric material? Who cares if there’s a Hell or a Heaven or if we just rot in the ground, really?

I grow tired and ask these questions (to myself, not my opponents, obviously) because on a very fundamental level I consider the real issues to be solely political in nature. I almost consider atheism to be a purely political, rather than philosophical, position.

It all stems, I think, from the definition of “atheist.” For those who are not aware, “atheist” means “does not believe in a god.” It does not mean that you “believe no gods exist”, “believe the Christian God doesn’t exist”, or “worship Satan.” (Yes, some people actually think atheist means “worships Satan.” And yes, it makes my brain hurt, too.)

This definition tells someone essentially nothing about your beliefs. It is only the answer to the question “do you believe in <insert god here>?” If your answer is “no,” you are an atheist. If I were going to give myself a categorical title like “atheist” that actually reflected what I believe in, it would have to be something ridiculous like “materialist naturalist secular humanist agnostic atheist.”

But then, why do I call myself an atheist? If I don’t really care that much about the theology and the philosophy other than in intellectual conversation, why do I identify with this movement?

It is exactly because it is a movement. But while many might call it an intellectual movement, I’m willing to call this a political movement.

If atheism were a political party, it would stand for separation of church and state, skepticism, reason, and science. It would be against the teaching of intelligent design in schools. It would be against public funding for faith healing, homeopathy, or other new age medicines. It would be for gay marriage (or perhaps moving everyone to civil unions and letting marriage be solely a religious issue). It would be pro-choice and for stem cell research. Looking forward past the hot-button issues of today, it would be for technological and scientific advancement, space exploration, and improving the quality of life via human efforts.

The party’s motto might be this phrase I once saw on a button: “Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.” What we want is evidence and reason to be used to make decisions, not faith and dogma. What we want is scientific advances to fix our problems, not moral edicts and church charities.

These are (some of) the issues I care about. And atheists aren’t the only ones who care about them. That’s why the atheist/theist debate is only something you think about late at night when you’re with some friends and you have a few beers in you. The real issues, the things atheists really want, are all to be found in the political realm.

So, if there are any theists out there who want to debate via email or something, feel free. Just know, however, that while that’s all good and fun, I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you aren’t trying to impose your beliefs on me via the government. If you try, that is when it will start to get serious.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

It is patently obvious that creationists are not against the theory of evolution by natural selection because they are not satisfied by the rigor of the experiments being done, or by the amount of evidence that supports the theory. If they were, they would not be attacking it from angles like “oh, a dog never gave birth to a cat, so evolution isn’t true” or “there has never been one transitional fossil found.” These objections can be resolved simply by opening a high school biology textbook or spending an afternoon on Wikipedia.

If they were really interested in the science they would be taking part in debates that are actually happening, but they are not. The childish arguments they make can easily lead one to believe that they actually know nothing about the theory they are attacking. It seems almost obvious that they have not taken a science class, let alone read one of the many thousands of peer-reviewed papers on the subject.

No, this cannot be the case. They must have taken the classes. They must have read the papers. If they could find one factual inconsistency in the theory they would jump on it like SIr Mix-A-Lot was their lord and savior. The one thing they would love more than anything would be actual documented evidence that the theory of evolution is the scam they say it is, and you know someone has been wasting their entire life digging through the journals looking for it.

Much more likely is the idea that organizations like the Discovery Institute are against evolution for political reasons. And while I do not at all agree with this approach (obviously), I do understand it in a way. (You must be wondering why the title is “I don’t understand creationists.” Read on.)

If you think about it, a lot of people might consider the diversity of life and the Bible (perhaps in conjunction) to be their main argument for believing in God. (Not the main reason — the main reason is probably that they simply want to believe. They like the idea that their lives have an objective purpose, that when they die they aren’t actually going to die, that bad things happen for good reasons, that someone is watching over them.)

The “diversity of life” or “complexity of life” argument was probably a relatively good argument back in the early 1800s and before. Now, however, it’s just plain obvious — it is evidently true — that the Bible is false. Nowadays you have to twist and turn a verse here and there, read a few lines backwards, ignore a few chapters, and squint your eyes a bit before the Bible starts to sync up with reality.

I think creationists, and a good portion of Christians in this country, are worried that evolution will take their argument away. And in a way, on a subconscious level, they know that they are wrong. This is where doubt comes in. Nobody would doubt Christianity if miracles happened nowadays or if prayer worked. People doubt nowadays because it’s very hard to take iron age philosophy seriously in this age of information. They don’t want to lose their argument.

They also probably hold some sort of opinion that if religion goes away society will not be as good as it is now. That society will deteriorate. People will be sleeping with dogs and raping children and eating people and doing drugs for breakfast without religion telling them not to. And because they are worried about that, they are then worried that if more and more people believe in evolution, more people will lose their faith and more people will find their neighbor’s wife not just sexually appealing, but appealing on the dinner table as well.

So in a sense I understand why they’re turning this into a political issue and not a scientific issue. They’ve long given up on the science. They did so because they knew they had already lost and could never come back from their defeat. That’s obvious.

Here though is why I don’t understand them at all. I know I’ve said a couple times why I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, but let me explain why even this doesn’t make sense to me once I give it more than a few seconds of thought.

Let’s say everyone in the world agreed that random mutations and non-random selection could, over time, lead to speciation (which has been observed, by the way), and that all current lifeforms share a single common ancestor billions of years ago. In other words, let’s say everyone accepted evolution. There is no reason why religious people could not still use the “magic” argument.

Right now their argument is “magic.” They’re saying evolution could not have happened without divine intervention. For example, the eye could not have evolved through natural processes. (It could have, by the way.) What difference would it be to say that God directed evolution specifically so that humans could have evolved? Or that there’s no way you can get consciousness from matter, so God used magic for that? What would be the difference!?

So overall, I just do not understand creationists. Continue brainwashing your children. Continue lying to yourselves every Sunday. I don’t care. You obviously don’t care about facts, but we do. Creationism or intelligent design or whatever you want to call it does not help us in any way to solve problems in biology or medicine or any subject for that matter. Why don’t you just get out of the way of our facts and theories and problem solving? If your lack of interference would help us get to a cure for AIDS, cancer, and aging that much faster, I’m sure the world would thank you for it.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

Backscatter Bullshit

…or, if you’d like, “My Argument Against the TSA’s Advanced Imaging Technology and ‘Enhanced’ Pat Downs.'”

Recently, there has been a slight increase in the outrage regarding the TSA’s security policies at various airports across the country. The current policy, as far as I understand it, is as follows: At airports with the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), you may be randomly selected to use one of the machines, or may be told to use one if you set off the metal detector. You may, if you want, opt-out and instead get a pat down. However, so many people were opting out of the AIT that you now get an “enhanced” pat down, in which women’s breasts will be touched, and both men and women will have their thighs felt until the screener meets “resistance” which is touching the testicles of a man and the labia of a woman. Children were subject to this as well, but recently the TSA has stated that “modifed” pat downs will be used for children under 12. (More on this later.) You may request to be taken to a private room for the “enhanced” pat down, and also bring a friend if you wish. If you opt-out of the AIT and also decline the “enhanced” pat down, you will be asked to leave the airport and may be threatened with a $10,000 lawsuit. (It is apparently illegal to leave the TSA checkpoint without fully complying with either the AIT or the pat down if they request it.)

Now, I am against the use of the AIT scanners as well as the “enhanced” pat downs. In this post I will outline the multiple reasons I have for being against these measures, put forward what I would request the TSA do instead, and provide you with information on what you can do to help the cause if you so choose.

1. Health Risks

The TSA claims that the two varieties of the AIT, Backscatter X-ray and Millimeter Wave, do not pose any health risks to travelers. This is backed up by studies done by organizations such as the FDA and NIST. However, many scientists have since come forward and raised doubts about these claims. At any rate, there are some things we do know. First, that no amount of X-ray radiation is “good” for you. And second, due to the nature of the devices (being used for security purposes), we are unable to get the details on how much radiation they actually do emit, and are hence unable to do independent testing.

2. The 4th Amendment and Privacy

The text of the 4th Amendment of our Constitution is as follows (emphasis mine):

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In other words, you cannot search someone unreasonably unless you have probable cause that they have done or are trying to do something illegal. A policeman cannot just ask you to show him whatever is in your purse or backpack. A policeman cannot just walk into your house and walk around. A policeman cannot search your vehicle. None of those things without a warrant, and you cannot get a warrant unless you convince a judge there is reason to get one.

Yet it is quite obvious that buying a plane ticket and wanting to take a flight does not provide sufficient reason to assume you will try to do something illegal. So at this point they do not have a legal right to perform unreasonable searches. But are the searches unreasonable?

Well, you would (I assume) wholeheartedly agree that making you strip naked would be unreasonable. And while the current-generation Millimeter Wave AIT has somewhat low resolution (as evidenced by the leaked images that the TSA promised cannot be stored, printed, transmitted or saved), the Backscatter X-ray AIT has a much higher resolution. These machines are effectively giving you a virtual strip search. (And again, we cannot trust the TSA’s claims that the images will not be saved, allowing them to be potentially leaked.)

The “enhanced” pat downs also fall into this category of unreasonable searches. What is more unreasonable than someone touching your genitalia? The TSA quizzically reminds us that “you can always request to be screened in a private area,” apparently completely ignoring the issue at hand. I don’t think anyone cares if they are patted down in private or in public — the issue is the extreme nature of the pat down. Now you have to tell your children that they shouldn’t let anyone touch their private parts… unless they are wearing a uniform.

I would also argue that such a pat down or the AIT imaging is much less reasonable than having your backpack or car searched, but those things are most certainly not allowed without a warrant. Seems pretty clear to me that these airport screenings are unconstitutional.

3. Security Theater

Okay, you may now be thinking to yourself “alright, maybe the AIT machines pose health risks, and maybe our privacy is being — perhaps even unconstitutionally — invaded by these practices, but don’t they make us safer?” I think now would be a good a time as any to pass on these words of wisdom from one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin: “Those who would give up Essentially Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

But let’s address this concern on a more practical level. Bruce Schneier, a cryptology expert and security consultant, refers to the TSA’s methods as “security theater.” This is because they are just a show put on to make people feel as though the government is doing something to make them safer, when in reality the methods do not do so. He says that these methods “won’t catch anybody,” and that if the terrorist is from a well-funded group like Al-Qaeda, “nothing can be done” to stop them.

Why is this? Well, let’s think about what these machines and pat downs cannot detect. They cannot detect anything within the body. So if there was a something stuck up a guy’s ass, or surgically implanted in a woman’s breasts, no dice. And remember what I said about children under 12 being subject to a “modified” pat down? Well, doesn’t that prove it right there, that this is security theater? We know terrorists are not against using children in their plots. The reason the TSA has backtracked on this issue is because they are worried that public outrage will grow so much (after seeing videos like this) that they will be out of the job.

Not convinced by some computer nerd? How about the former chief security officer of the Israel Airport Authority? The airport in Tel Aviv has some of the toughest security in the world, and they do not have these machines. He calls them “useless” and says that he could “overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.” The Israelis use behavioral screening rather than AIT machines to improve security.

You should be convinced by now that these machines are nothing but show, but if not, consider this: the TSA has never caught anyone with them. They might say they aren’t allowed to divulge such facts, but that is (as Bruce Schneier says) bullshit. With all the horrible PR they have been getting, they would jump at the chance to show they’re actually effective. And this is the story of the life of airport security. We didn’t stop the 9/11 hijackers, so we started banning stuff. We didn’t stop the shoe bomber, so now we take off our shoes. We didn’t stop the underwear bomber. We are always one step behind, and that is because our methods are just for show and do not provide any real security that a determined terrorist could not overcome.

4. My damn paranoia 🙂

If you aren’t against these things yet, allow me make a final push by barraging you with some paranoia built up from reading a lot of blogs and dystopian fiction!

Do you want to know what I think they could be trying to do with these machines? Getting us ready for them to be put elsewhere. I mean, these things aren’t at train stations or subway stations. Why is that? Since they are used for domestic flights at airports we are assuming the terrorists are already in the country. Does nobody think they will just skip the plane and try the bus, train, or subway instead? They aren’t putting them everywhere because they are expensive (why waste the money on something you know doesn’t work) and because a little too much invasion might ruin the whole endeavor, causing a public backlash.

I’ve already talked about cameras being put everywhere. Do you know that the powers that be are trying to introduce new “security” measures that the public has not yet seen? At my place of employment I saw retinal scanners being demonstrated. This would be a better way of identifying people than fingerprints because they can be used from a distance. Think Minority Report. But do you know what’s stopping them? It isn’t so much the technology as it is the public backlash. They admitted people do not like these things. Well, how do you get people to like them? You force people to use similar measures like what the TSA is doing, and get them used to it. Over time, being used to less privacy will quell the fire that would be shown today.

Alright, if you aren’t already convinced you probably never will be. If this is the case, you better leave a comment and say why, dammit! 🙂

Now, what would I like to see done by the TSA?

  1. Stop the use of the AIT machines
  2. Stop the enhanced pat downs
  3. Implement behavioral screening from trained law enforcement officers (TSA officers are really just rent-a-cops), like we have at our borders

And finally, if you’re interested, what can you do?

Well first, Ron Paul has introduced new legislation in the form of HR 6416 that would stop all of this quite assuredly. If you want to read the bill, it is very short:

“No law of the United States shall be construed to confer any immunity for a Federal employee or agency or any individual or entity that receives Federal funds, who subjects an individual to any physical contact (including contact with any clothing the individual is wearing), x-rays, or millimeter waves, or aids in the creation of or views a representation of any part of a individual’s body covered by clothing as a condition for such individual to be in an airport or to fly in an aircraft. The preceding sentence shall apply even if the individual or the individual’s parent, guardian, or any other individual gives consent.”

Please call your Representative and tell them to support this bill! I will be doing so, perhaps today. (I gotta figure out how that works first. Never have called in for anything before.)

Second, you can sign this online petition to stop the scans.

Finally, you can participate in National Opt-Out day. It is officially November 24th, but any time you go to the airport you can opt to not get the full body scan. Do this to show people that it is possible to step up for your freedoms! And if you want extra credit, when you get the enhanced pat down, make some loud sexual noises to make the TSA scumbag uncomfortable. If anybody looks at you funny, recommend that they get a pat down from that agent, as they give a good rub!

I greatly appreciate your support on this issue. Feel free to share this post on facebook or twitter, email it to your friends and family, or just be a voice for freedom and privacy in your daily lives with the knowledge you have gained. If you don’t want to associate yourself or this message with my other posts, I do not mind if you just copy/paste the text into an email or something and send that. I just want the word out.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

My plan for world peace

Hey all, longer post today, but I hope you’ll enjoy it. Some comments/criticisms would be great, too! 🙂

Recently TheAmazingAtheist put out a YouTube video in which he criticized Obama for seeming to be willing to compromise with the Republicans on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. (I think he made the video before Obama clarified his position. Not sure.) Anyway, at the end of the video he had a really interesting idea to fix the economy:

“I’ll tell you what, America. You really wanna fix the deficit? You really wanna fix the jobs problem? Here’s what you do. You get rid of all these foreign bases that we have all over the world, but you don’t stop spending the money. What you do is you bring those troops home and put them to fucking work improving our infrastructure. Our infrastructure gets Fs and Ds across the board. Get those motherfuckers building roads, building bridges, building a mass transit system, building better schools, better hospitals, so on and fucking so forth. Get the American people employed. Take that military money and instead invest it in infrastructure.”

For being a YouTube celebrity, I think it’s actually a really great idea. The other day I was in a discussion about what to do to fix the economy, and someone suggested we could cut spending by shutting down our bases overseas. However, someone brought up a good point: what do you do with the troops that are now out of work? At the time the only response was that regardless it would probably help, but this idea from TheAmazingAtheist solves that problem and then some.

I’m not going to claim that his idea would completely fix our economic issues, but I think it would do more good than harm. A boost to our infrastructure and a cutting of costs related to maintaining oversea bases would probably be a good thing.

Anyway, this idea had me thinking the next day. I came up with a sort of continuation of his idea. But rather than attempting to fix the economy, my idea is how to achieve world peace.

A little background before I explain my idea. At this point in history, we are probably the most imperialist nation in the world. (Only other option being China, and they are much more low key, and mostly economic in nature rather than military.) We have bases in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Central America. We are not as imperialistic as Great Britain was when they owned half the globe, but we certainly have our fingers in more pies than any other country.

We aren’t attempting to conquer other countries, but we are doing some serious stuff. We are influencing elections, assassinating leaders we don’t like, and trying to spread democracy to places that might not be ready for it. Furthermore, we aren’t primarily doing this to help these countries. We’re doing it primarily to make the world better for us.

And this breeds a lot of animosity towards the United States. I mean, when we are using drones to kill the Taliban in northern Pakistan, and kill some kid’s parents, who’s he gonna hate? The Taliban? The Pakistani government for not taking care of it sooner? Or us? Obviously, us.

Alright, now that we have a little background, step one. We bring the troops home from all these bases. Or don’t. Doesn’t matter. If anything bringing the troops home would be a simple gesture of “we’re not trying to colonize your continent anymore.” However, we’re really just bringing them home so we can… send them out again! (If you want to fix our economy before fixing the world, you can do that while they’re here.)

What I am going to advocate here is (making up terms here) “aggressive pacifism” or “imperialist pacifism” or “militant pacifism.” I’m using these terms to emphasize the active nature of my plan. You can do absolutely nothing and be a pacifist, because you aren’t going to war. What I’m talking about is definitely not war, but definitely not sitting around and doing nothing, either.

The first phase of my plan is to have our foreign diplomats, ambassadors, etc. (even the Secretary of State or President, if you want) go to all the other countries and ask them “what do you need done in your country?” Do you need some infrastructure built? Do you need hospitals? Do you need schools? Do you need some drug warlord in the jungle taken out? Do you need help drawing up a constitution?

I would focus, though, on things that are not militarily-related. We could certainly do those kinds of things. I’m not entirely against them just because they are military operations, but I’d want to avoid them as much as possible because that’s not really doing anything different than now. It would be a little different because we’d be actually asking these countries beforehand if they want us to come mess with their shit.

What I would want to focus on are the infrastructure projects. What do countries need? Broadband internet? A power grid? A nuclear power plant? A telecommunications network? A system of roads? An airport? Hospital? School system? Water sanitation plant? Water desalinization plant? That’s what I’m talking about.

They’d tell us all the stuff they want, and we’d take our troops (that we train to do these sorts of jobs), officers being project managers, and we’d go do this stuff. We’d do nice things for them, aggressively doing all these nice things for these countries. And how could you not be liked for that? How could that not lead to everyone loving the United States?

The only thing I can think of is the sort of “boo hoo, you’re helping them, but we need help!” mentality. I would first say that we have a very large military so we could certainly do more than one thing at a time. Second, maybe it’s time for compulsory military service. Plenty of countries have this. But in this case military isn’t military! Nobody’s going to get killed. It’s just going overseas and helping. And if people didn’t just up and volunteer for something like that, I bet they wouldn’t be as against compulsory volunteer work as they would be against being sent to die in the desert.

Now, some specifics. We would still need generals and the like. We would still need a Department of Defense. (Not sure if it would be renamed. I don’t care as long as it isn’t called the Ministry of Peace.) The reason we would still need a military-type structure is because a lot of strategy would have to go into deciding which places we would go first. We just could not go to Lebanon first. Hamas, Al Qaeda and other organizations would try to disrupt us because they do not like peace. We would need a very military-esque strategy in determining the order of operations.

We would select countries to help in a combination of two ways. First being what the country needs. A country that is relatively well-off shouldn’t be our first priority. Let’s focus on putting hospitals and roads places before bringing broadband internet to 2nd world countries. Second factor would be the difficulty in accomplishing the task. I am not talking about the difficulty of the engineering — I think we are more than capable of accomplishing any task. I am alluding to the difficulty in completing the job without being interrupted by terrorists.

Using these metrics, you pick off the best targets first. Do the most good for the least money (hospitals, for example) and move slowly but surely closer to areas where people do not like us. Go to Egypt and Turkey. Then to Saudi Arabia. Then move into places like Iraq, and before you know it, word will have spread and public opinion will make it easier to do these jobs in places like Gaza, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. (Focusing on the Middle East to roughly demonstrate my method of selecting countries.)

Another point of clarification: it needs to be get in, help, and get the fuck out. No more of this oversea bases crap. Again, they do nothing more than breed anti-American sentiment throughout the world, and would severely undermine our pacifist mission.

And that’s about it! Hopefully overtime, as we help more and more and more countries, people would like us more and more. And maybe (a bit of a stretch) if everyone had this common like, “I like the United States,” “oh I like the United States too!” that would be one step closer to peace.

Maybe it would spur other countries to do the same thing. Japan, China, Germany, the UK, France, these people have the resources to do these sorts of things. I don’t think they’re doing them because they don’t want to be tied up in our imperialist label. But if we do something like what I’m proposing, these countries might feel better in joining us in helping to make the world a better place. All of a sudden, there would be people doing good works all over the planet.

And if that doesn’t lead to world peace, I don’t know what would.

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

When you mix a political ideology with a philosophical or religious belief system, you often get contradictions and problems. These aren’t really inherent problems, but they are problems that seem to crop up in most cases.

For example, a conservative Christian has to reconcile Jesus’ love of everyone (even enemies) with the dislike (hate might be a better word) of homosexuals. A liberal Muslim has to square their liberal view of sexual equality with the very anti-woman Qur’an.

If you look hard enough at any combination of belief systems, you’ll inevitably find some discrepancy between political leanings and religious opinions.

Most combinations, but not being both politically liberal and atheist. If you are a humanist (which most atheists are even if they don’t know it), your philosophical opinions line up very nicely with a liberal political outlook.

Liberals support freedom of religion, as do humanists (wanting to keep church/state interaction at a constitutional level does not mean you are against freedom of religion). Liberals want to help the poor and unfortunate, and humanism holds that the only way to fix problems in the world is to do it ourselves (since no supreme being will help us). Liberals and humanists are pretty anti-war. Et cetera.

However, there seems to be a wrench in the works. And that wrench is Islam. Islam seems to be the one thing that is difficult to account for if you are a liberal atheist.

You see, Islam is a problem. Objectively so. (If you take issue with this, saying that it doesn’t have to be a problem, that it isn’t inherently problematic, at least admit that it is a problem in its current form.) Islam brings to the West an assault on women’s rights, an assault on freedom of speech and expression, and an assault on homosexuals. Plus violence if you care to disagree with their opinions.

This is not a problem for atheism or even humanism. Freedom of religion only goes so far. It does not mean that other people have to bow to your religious edicts. It does not mean that we have to shut up because you’re offended by what we’re saying. It doesn’t mean that you can erect your own courts that adhere to Sharia Law and trick women into using those instead of real courts that will ensure them their rights.

It is, it seems, a problem for liberals, though. Liberals tend to be cultural/moral relativists, and that would mean that the actions of radical Muslims cannot be called “wrong” or “bad.” Liberals are also very politically correct, not wanting to call a spade a spade and assign blame where blame is due. 9/11? No, not Muslims, that was a bunch of people who were uneducated and poor and had nothing else they could do! (They were actually middle class, educated people, but okay.) Fort Hood? He was just disturbed, it wasn’t because he was Muslim. Terrorists? Political extremists. Taliban? Uneducated tribal warriors.

Liberals need to drop the politically correct, multiculturalist crap and stand up to Islam. Yes, let them practice their religion. Yes, let them build their places of worship. But do not let them take our freedoms away in the name of “tolerance.”

And when those of us who aren’t afraid to stand up for our way of life and our rights speak up, please do not throw out the horribly inaccurate term “islamophobe.” A phobia is an irrational fear, and there is nothing irrational in pointing out that where Islam goes, human rights don’t last.

What do you think? Do any of you liberal atheists have any difficulty responding to Islam?

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂

Conservatives and hardcore libertarians heavily dislike taxpayer-funded social programs. They see the initiatives as wasteful spending. However, obviously most of these programs are incredibly beneficial to our society. So what is the “fiscally responsible” answer to the needs of citizens, if not taxes?

Charity. They expect that, if social programs were to be removed, people would give more money to charity. In other words, when there are people in need, people will step up to help by taking out their wallets.

Of course, this does not at all square with reality. (What a surprise, right?) There are many news stories that have been written during this recession that tell of a decline in charitable giving. 2009 less than 2008. 2008 less than 2007. This flies directly in the face of the conservative dream of a nation united by trickle-down charity.

However, the recession has sparked an upswing in one altruistic phenomenon: volunteering. You see, since so many people don’t have jobs, and don’t like sitting around on the couch all day (why I don’t know), they go out and volunteer.

Now, perhaps you’re thinking “I guess those conservatives were right after all.”

Eh, I disagree. I think this is another point for liberal social programs funded by taxpayers. The reason being that people can’t really just go out and volunteer. I mean, you could. You could just grab a bag and start picking up trash.

What works much better, I think, is an organization (funded by taxpayers, because as we have already established charitable donations aren’t cutting it) that is interested in whatever cause it is figuring out what is most urgent to do. These organizations can prioritize volunteering projects and provide resources for volunteers.

That way, instead of picking up the five pieces of trash on your street and thinking you’re doing the best you can do, you can be driven to the local wildlife reserve to clear invasive, non-native vegetation and pick up the trash left by the punk high schoolers from the previous weekend.

In short, not only does charity not make up for the cutting of social programs, but what you might think could pick up the slack only does if you have social programs already in place.

The only exception to this, I think, are churches that do a lot of volunteering. Churches are, if nothing else, a good source of volunteer and charity work.

Two responses to this: First, I still don’t think church work could make up for many social programs we currently have, especially when the social programs require education in things like ecology and forestry. Soup kitchens and brainwashing people, sure, but nothing that requires a group of people with college degrees to organize. Second, the church is going to fade away eventually. More people are nonreligious than ever. So eventually we’re going to need social programs when the church is too busy trying to get new members to do volunteer work anymore.

But, the next time a conservative tells you that charity will fill the gaps, you probably don’t have to waste your time with arguments like these. They probably won’t listen anyway. You can just do what I did the last time someone said that and say “Riiiiight.”

~peace, RR

I welcome comments and suggestions. Comments can go below, suggestions to radiantreason[at]gmail[dot]com 🙂