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August 25, 2010

The response to antisemitic hate crimes in Montana

Some history and class from Fred Clark. slacktivist: Charleston and Billings
Billings, Mont., got hit with a wave of hate crimes -- racist and anti-Semitic graffiti, vandalism and bomb-threats directed at a local synagogue. This was during Hanukkah, and windows were broken in houses displaying the menorah. So volunteers painted over graffiti. They printed up thousands of paper menorahs and almost everybody put them up in their windows. And then they did this beautiful, beautiful thing: The closer you look at that picture, the cooler it gets. Symbolic and not just meaningful, but power-ful. This ad hoc response eventually formed into a movement of sorts called Not In Our Town.

Why Libertarian utopias are a stupid, unworkable idea

Not going Galt — Crooked Timber
. . . Once you do the math on going Galt, it’s not hard to see why no self-respecting libertarian would actually do it. Let’s start with our oppressed libertarian, paying a 50 per cent tax rate, and waiting every year for Tax Freedom Day (July 1). Say that half this money is spent (highly inefficiently) on public services and the rest is given to the undeserving poor, bureaucrats and so on. I’ll make him (gender assumed advisedly) a computer programmer, so he can continue to earn his living from the comfort of his cruise ship, island or whatever. So, immediately he makes the break for Libertopia (island, ship or whatever), his disposable income doubles. But then the problems start. The state may not do a great job providing services of all kinds, but those services have to be replaced. Libertopia doesn’t sound like a very appealing place for schoolteachers, nurses, and so on, so most public services would probably have to be supplied by external contractor. The cost of that would wipe out any savings from eliminating government inefficiency. So, the net gain in disposable income falls to 50 per cent. More generally, you have the Stross problem. Suppose a starting population of 10 000. That’s too small to provide more than basic goods and services, so everything else would have to be imported in small quantities. As everyone who has spent time on an island (even one close to the mainland), or a small remote community, knows, that means everything costs more (often double) and most things aren’t available at all. Even if all the registered Libertarians in the US (about 250 000) moved en masse they would still be heavily dependent on high-cost imports. Almost certainly, that would more than wipe out the gain from tax freedom.. . .

August 21, 2010

Troops Punished After Refusing to Attend Evangelical Concert

t r u t h o u t | Troops...

August 15, 2010

This week in Holy Crimes

Every week Joe at Joe.My.God publishes a roundup of crimes committed by religious leaders in America and around the world. Every week the list is shocking and I am always amazed that these crimes get absolutely no media attention. Joe. My. God.: This Week In Holy Crimes

August 10, 2010

That's why they call it computer science -- The First Church of Robotics

Op-Ed Contributor - The First Church of Robotics - NYTimes.com
... computer scientists are human, and are as terrified by the human condition as anyone else. We, the technical elite, seek some way of thinking that gives us an answer to death, for instance. ... All thoughts about consciousness, souls and the like are bound up equally in faith, which suggests something remarkable: What we are seeing is a new religion, expressed through an engineering culture.... But if technology were presented without metaphysical baggage, is it possible that modernity would not make people as uncomfortable? Technology is essentially a form of service. We work to make the world better.... But civility, human improvement, these are still choices. That’s why scientists and engineers should present technology in ways that don’t confound those choices. We serve people best when we keep our religious ideas out of our work.

August 08, 2010

Study finds that contemporary mosques deter terrorism

Think Progress -- Study: Contemporary Mosques Are A Deterrent To The Spread Of Terrorism
However, today the New York Times highlights an academic study that concludes the opposite of what Gingrich and his uninformed ilk are claiming, finding that many mosques deter terrorism: A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism. The study was conducted by professors with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina. It disclosed that many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts. “Our research suggests that initiatives that treat Muslim-Americans as part of the solution to this problem are far more likely to be successful,” said David Schanzer, one of the authors of the study. Co-author David Kurzman added, “Muslim-American communities have been active in preventing radicalization. This is one reason that Muslim-American terrorism has resulted in fewer than three dozen of the 136,000 murders committed in the United States since 9/11.”