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The blatant obfuscation and chicanery that were hallmarks of the Bush Era (or any Presidential reign) continues to taint America and her armed forces. More evidence of torture, abuse and human rights violations against the US have been uncovered via Wikileaks.  The mythological barrier that separates “us” and “them” grows ever thinner.  The war mongers hide the facts from the people because they know that the population of the US would not permit these acts to be carried out in their name if they knew about them.

“Americans turned a blind eye to hundreds of reports of abuse, torture and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to reports in nearly 392,000 documents related to the Iraq war and released Friday by WikiLeaks.

The documents say the detainees were whipped, punched, kicked or subjected to electric shocks. Six reports end with a detainee’s apparent death.”

The idea that we have some sort of moral superiority or higher ethical calling will still go on, it always does, but hopefully less people will believe the mendacity that is so kindly spun for them everyday.

“The Times said the reports indicate that while some abuse cases were investigated by the Americans, most were ignored. The reports released by WikiLeaks and dubbed “The Iraq War Logs,” cover the period from Jan. 1, 2004, to Dec. 31, 2009. WikiLeaks said the files detail more than 109,000 deaths in Iraq, including 66,081 civilians. The reports also document the deaths of almost 24,000 people labelled as insurgents, more than 15,000 Iraqi government troops and almost 3,800 coalition forces.”

The death tolls for Iraq civilians were kept.   One of the more egregious ‘oversights’ of the American military during their illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.  When humanity is stripped from an enemy, so much easier it is to do horrendous things to them.  For instance:
“In one case, Americans suspected Iraqi army officers of cutting off a detainee’s fingers and burning him with acid, the New York Times reported. Two other cases produced accounts of the executions of bound detainees.”

Embracing torture is yet another important milestone in unravelling of the rule of law and civilized society.  How can we accuse others of gross violations of international law when we (all along) violate those same laws with such impunity?
“The documents, according to the Times, also claim that Americans sometimes used the threat of abuse by Iraqi authorities to get information out of prisoners. For example, one report said an American threatened to send a detainee to the notorious Wolf Brigade if he did not supply information.

But the report also said Americans often intervened when Iraqis were being tortured”

Is there any way to deny culpability now?  The various departments of defense and state are now in their beset PR mode attempting to ameliorate the effects of these rather perverse revelations.

“U.S. Secretary of States Hillary Clinton slammed the release of the files.

“We should condemn in the most clear terms the disclosure of any classified information by individuals and organizations which puts the lives of United States and partner service members and civilians at risk,” she said in Washington, D.C.”

Thanks Hillary.  Nothing said toward what the reports actually say, or the actions of the people we are responsible for.   Just the wagging finger giving us the ‘secrets of the state’ lecture and how this may negatively effect people as a result.  How about standing up for what is right and condemning the apparatus that has allowed such egregious actions to happen in the first place.

No, that would be entirely too much to expect from an elected official as the state as opposed to the people are the interests that count.

I am going to use the discussion points found on as the basis of this feature.

Calilasseia is the author of the post and deserves many rich accolades for assembling so much useful information in one spot. This constitutes an open thread of sorts, please leave your opinions and observations in the comment section.


[22] The infamous canards surrounding “information”.

Now this is a particularly insidious brand of canard, because it relies upon the fact that the topic of information, and its rigorous analysis, is replete with misunderstanding. However, instead of seeking to clarify the misconceptions, creationist canards about information perpetuate those misconceptions for duplicitous apologetic purposes. A classic one being the misuse of the extant rigorous treatments of information, and the misapplication of different information treatments to different situations, either through ignorance, or wilful mendacity. For example, Claude Shannon provided a rigorous treatment of information, but a treatment that was strictly applicable to information transmission, and NOT applicable to information storage. Therefore, application of Shannon information to information storage in the genome is a misuse of Shannon’s work. The correct information analysis to apply to storage is Kolmogorov’s analysis, which erects an entirely different measure of information content that is intended strictly to be applicable to storage. Mixing and matching the two is a familiar bait-and-switch operation that propagandists for creationist doctrine are fond of.

However, the ultimate reason why creationist canards about information are canards, is simply this. Information is NOT a magic entity. It doesn’t require magic to produce it. Ultimately, “information” is nothing more than the observational data that is extant about the current state of a system. That is IT. No magic needed. All that happens, in real world physical systems, is that different system states lead to different outcomes when the interactions within the system take place. Turing alighted upon this notion when he wrote his landmark paper on computable numbers, and used the resulting theory to establish that Hilbert’s conjecture upon decidability in formal axiomatic systems was false. Of course, it’s far easier to visualise the process at work, when one has an entity such as a Turing machine to analyse this – a Turing machine has precise, well-defined states, and precise, well-defined interactions that take place when the machine occupies a given state. But this is precisely what we have with DNA – a system that can exist in a number of well-defined states, whose states determine the nature of the interactions that occur during translation, and which result in different outcomes for different states. indeed, the DNA molecule plays a passive role in this: its function is simply to store the sequence of states that will result, ultimately, in the synthesis of a given protein, and is akin to the tape running through a Turing machine. The real hard work is actually performed by the ribosomes, which take that state data and use it to bolt together amino acids into chains to form proteins, which can be thought of as individual biological ‘Turing machines’ whose job is to perform, mechanically and mindlessly in accordance with the electrostatic and chemical interactions permitting this, the construction of a protein using the information arising from DNA as the template. Anyone who thinks magic is needed in all of this, once again, is in need of an education.

As for the canard that “mutations cannot produce new information”, this is manifestly false. Not only does the above analysis explicitly permit this, the production of new information (in the form of new states occupied by DNA molecules) has been observed taking place in the real world and documented in the relevant scientific literature. If you can’t be bothered reading any of this voluminous array of scientific papers, and understanding the contents thereof, before erecting this particularly moronic canard, then don’t bother erecting the canard in the first place, because it will simply demonstrate that you are scientifically ignorant. Indeed, the extant literature not only covers scientific papers explicitly dealing with information content in the genome, such as Thomas D. Schneider’s paper handily entitled Evolution And Biological Information to make your life that bit easier, but also papers on de novo gene origination, of which there are a good number, several of which I have presented here in the past in previous threads. The mere existence of these scientific papers, and the data that they document, blows tiresome canards about “information” out of the water with a nuclear depth charge. Post information canards at your peril after reading this.

Whilst dwelling on information, another creationist canard also needs to be dealt with here, namely the false conflation of information with ascribed meaning. Which can be demonstrated to be entirely false by reference to the following sequence of hexadecimal bytes in a computer’s memory:

81 16 00 2A FF 00

To a computer with an 8086 processor, those bytes correspond to the following single machine language instruction:

ADC [2A00H], 00FFH

To a computer with a 6502 processor, those bytes correspond to the following machine language instruction sequence:

ASL ($00,X)

To a computer with a 6809 processor, those bytes correspond to the following machine language instruction sequence:

CMPA #$16
NEG ??

the ?? denoting the fact that for this processor, the byte sequence is incomplete, and two more bytes are needed to supply the address operand for the NEG instruction.

Now, we have three different ascribed meanings to one stream of bytes. Yet, none of these ascribed meanings influences either the Shannon information content, when that stream is transmitted from one computer to another, or the Kolmogorov information content when those bytes are stored in memory. Ascribed meaning is irrelevant to both rigorous information measures. As is to be expected, when one regards information content simply as observational data about the state of the system (in this case, the values of the stored bytes in memory). Indeed, it is entirely possible to regard ascribed meaning as nothing other than the particular interactions driven by the underlying data, once that data is being processed, which of course will differ from processor to processor. Which means that under such an analysis, even ascribed meaning, which creationists fallaciously conflate with information content, also requires no magical input. All that is required is the existence of a set of interactions that will produce different outcomes from the different observed states of the system (with the term ‘observation’ being used here sensu lato to mean any interaction that is capable of differentiating between the states of the system of interest).

The amount of fraternization between the Alberta Government and the Oil Industry always makes decisions such as these seem questionable.  The idea behind this three million dollar fine is more of a public relations ploy than anything

Making moonscapes here on Earth in the name or resource extraction.

else.  Consider that Government gets to look good for ‘protecting the environment’ and the company also gets to be thoroughly ‘punished’ for its environmental indiscretions.  Everyone wins!  Well except for the wildlife, the Athabasca river, the people dying of cancer because of the emissions from the tar sands the atmosphere… Well, the right people are winning gosh darn it!

“Oilsands giant Syncrude Canada will pay a $3-million penalty for the deaths of 1,600 ducks in one of its toxic tailings ponds in April 2008.

Syncrude lawyers and federal and provincial prosecutors presented the deal Friday morning in provincial court in St. Albert, Alta., and Judge Ken Tjosvold accepted it.”

Woo, the cordial relations between Alberta Government and the oil industry.  See, they can work together!

“Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert wouldn’t comment specifically on the court decision but said it sends a message to industry that the province will take action if environmental policies are breached.

“This whole process … shows that if there is a breach of an environmental regulation or legislation, that we are prepared to take action,” he said. “We did and the process unfolded and this is the culmination of it.”

In Vancouver, federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice said the fine was the largest in Canadian history for an environmental offence.

“I think this shows that we have strong environmental laws in Canada and that we will enforce them,” Prentice said.”

One would think that strong environmental laws would have stopped the creation of huge tailings ponds in the first

The cost of doing business.

place.  Again though, in the acceptable discourse, companies are ‘learning lessons’ and governments are ‘protecting the environment’.

CBC should be commended though as they did find room in their article to mention another point of view.

“A $3-million fine to a multi-billion dollar company equates to a slap on the wrist,” he [Mike Hudema of Greenpeace] said.

“This doesn’t send a very strong message to the industry that Alberta or the federal government is really serious about enforcing our legislation or that crimes like this can’t happen in the future.”

Exactly.  What this amounts to is a non-fine for non-important issue.  The correct notes have been played, the conductor has gesticulated in the appropriate way for the appeasement of the crowd.   The hall goes dark, and it is business as usual here in Alberta.

What Atheism can be – a Lack of Belief in gods.

It is really a shame that we are still shackled to bronze age mythology and that the Vatican, with a straight face, proclaim that based on two “miracles” they can declare someone to be a saint.
“At the time Mary MacKillop answered the prayers of a woman dying of leukaemia, there was a lot of static in the air. In China 43 million people were dying of starvation in one of the world’s worst famines.

Thirty years later in the 1990s, when MacKillop answered the prayers of a woman dying of lung cancer, 3.8 million were dying in the Congo wars, 800,000 in the Rwanda genocide, a quarter of a million in the Yugoslav wars.

My question is when the 43 million were dying where was our so called benevolent deity?  I mean really, you think a little magic toward the 43 million would save more lives than one person dying of leukaemia in Australia?   The sense of scale being established is this really setting a good precedent?

“If MacKillop were being canonised because she was a good woman who did exceptional deeds while on earth, there would be less need to be querulous about the excessive and sycophantic coverage of her impending canonisation. To many Australian Catholics it is a big event, and the media can hardly ignore it. But the issue at the heart of the canonisation is the power of prayer to bring about miraculous medical cures through divine intervention. It is misleading and potentially dangerous for the media to endorse such an idea.”

We are giving way too much attention to mystical bullcookery based reality these days.   It needs to stop.

I was surprised as anyone with the announcement by Angela Merkel that multiculturalism was a failure.  The internal pressures she must have been facing must have been enormous as one would think that changing an official program of multiculturalism could be done without such grandiose announcements.

“Germany’s chancellor says attempts to create a multicultural society in the country have “utterly failed.”

Angela Merkel said Saturday that the concept that different cultures can live happily side by side does not work”

Well at least not in the way it has been working in Germany?  Canada is a multicultural country and it seems to work pretty well here.  There are differences though, but one would think that Germany, being a strong secular democracy, could reasonably accommodate immigrants of any stripe.

“She stressed that immigrants need to do more to integrate, including learning to speak German.

Merkel’s comments came as Reuters news agency said she is facing pressure from within the party to take a stronger stance on immigrants who don’t appear willing to integrate into German society”

This seems announcement seems to be going hand in hand with the growing levels of immigration from Islamic countries.  I would have to say that if you are immigrating to a country it would be responsible on your behalf to take up said countries laws and customs.  The secular rule of law is non-negotiable when it comes to integrating into a new society.

“Immigration issues have become a hot topic, and a recent survey by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think-tank indicated more than 30 per cent of Germans believe the country is “overrun by foreigners.”

We will have to watch Germany carefully to see exactly what sort of response the government has in store.  Will it be xenophobic nationalism or a clearer definition of  what immigrating to Germany means, something in between?

It is troublesome to have the faith compare your views to theirs, when clearly they are not in the same category.  Sam Harris addresses this and the often quoted “evil three” of Atheism Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.  He does a fine job in dismantling these clunky canards.



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