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Home country: UK
Member since: Thu Aug 17, 2006, 05:50 AM
Number of posts: 8,170

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Journal Archives

Selections from P Z Myers' panel coments at EWTS*

* Empowering Women Through Secularism conference
I've been campaigning for atheism for about 20 years now, and I have a terrible confession to make. In the beginning, I had this naive optimism that leaving religion behind would make people better people — maybe not perfect, but it would set them on the right path to reasonable lives. Obviously, I’ve been increasingly disillusioned, as it has become clear that many atheists are, well, jerks. There’s nothing about atheism that is sufficient to make a good person: atheism is not enough. But also, I would add that there’s nothing about secularism that is sufficient to make a good state. Secularism is not enough; we also have to select good secular values.

Religion is, and always has been a tool for authoritarianism. By its very nature it imposes a vision of our interactions with each other and the world that is hierarchical and ordered and linear — the orders come from above. You will obey them. And further, the concept of faith is antithetical to transparency — you cannot question those orders, because there is no path for verification. You are expected to trust but not verify, and accept without reason.

I think I can safely say that any set of values that limits the potential of half the population, that reduces the health and happiness of one gender, or race, or class, is empirically detrimental to the long-term viability of the whole. I can definitely say that there is no objective reason one could argue that being born a woman, or black, or poor should make any individual a lesser contributor to our fully shared humanity.

The whole thing is well worth a read

What you think is news is more about damaging the President

You think it is news that the US Government is carrying out mass surveillance on its nationals? Well, it is not and that is the only reason I can see for the current flood of outrage over this story is the damage it does to the Obama Presidency. I am actually surprised that DU has given in to the delirium considering that stories about this have been discussed at length on this board in the past.

Let me introduce you to a place, it's called RAF Menwith Hill

By Matt Crypto (Own work) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
[a title="By Matt Crypto (Own work) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons"

This is where surveillance of phone calls and faxes and data communications by US nationals to persons overseas has been carried out for at least the past 50 years.

Nominally it is an RAF base but the majority of the personnel are (by 3 for 1) from the US forces and intelligence services. It is also rumoured to be one of the main clearing houses for communications between drones and their "pilots".

It is a British base because, officially, the US cannot regulate what their dreadful allies can do; so they agreed to "part" fund the construction and so have a watching brief on what the terrible British have intercepted (and most definitely NOT the NSA, really-o truly-o double pinky swear, Congressman). Of course as this is intelligence "gathered" by US allies the US does not have to reveal the extent of this data gathering to Congress because doing so would shatter the delicate relationship and so restrict the US oversight of the data collection.

Excuse me I need to take a break after typing that paragraph of bovine fertilizer

You might think that this has little effect on the current shock shown by the US media except that nearly all data communications out the USA passes through choke points; notably Britain, Spain, Australia and Japan; and I believe there are similar installations to Menwith Hill in the last 3 countries as well. What is more, because any data (even digitised voice comms) do not have to travel in a straight line even internal US data packets could easily go halfway round the world before it gets to the intended recipient. My suspicion is that that packet copying and re-routing also is far more common than we know.

Now if there has been such a massive growth of digital traffic you would expect that Menwith Hill and similar satellite interception centres would have shrunk except they have expanded along with the growth of digital traffic - funny that.

So ask yourself, "Why, now, has the US media suddenly started playing the fainting dowager over this?"
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