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56 posts categorized "Sunday Sermonette"

September 17, 2006


Dr. Steven Miles is the author of Oath Betrayed, Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror. Dr. Miles is a practicing physician and bioethicist at the University of Minnesota. He was named Minnesotan of the year in 2004.

The Talking Dog interviewed Steven Miles.

In this excerpt, TD and Dr. Miles discuss the effects of the publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs on the security of American troops in Iraq:

The Talking Dog: You've noted that prior to the Abu Ghraib photographs being published, around April of 2004, all American troops captured in Iraq were returned alive, and yet, after that, we have seen beheadings and other atrocities against our troops. (Indeed, the first, Specialist Keith Maupin, was around 2 weeks after the Abu Ghraib photos came out). One can certainly infer that, for example, the fears of the Judge Advocate General's corps that mistreatment of prisoners in our custody almost guaranteed reciprocity were realized, and Americans' giving up some semblance of the moral high ground where we needed the cooperation of the local populace for our own mission was itself not a really good idea, by and large, would you agree that most Americans simply just don't see the relationship between our mistreatment of others and the mistreatment of Americans?

Steven Miles: Most Americans see torture as a form of brutalization of a person. They do not understand that torture destroys civil society. Indeed in most cases, torture is used by authoritarian regimes with the intent of destroying civil society. To this end, journalists, activists, lawyers, teachers, students, labor organizers, and intellectuals are its primary targets. The use of torture in Iraq has made it impossible for the United States to serve as a midwife to civil society there. It has undermined the credibility of our appeals on behalf of the humane and legally fair treatment of proponents of civil society in countries like China or Myrnamar. At the largest level, promoting civil societies must be the overarching policy objective of the United States and other democracies. Such societies are necessary for peace as well as global public health and successful economic development. At the end of World War II, the international community concluded that no appeal to the needs of national soverignty could justify or excuse torture or genocide. The United States has undone that momentous conclusion. It has authoritatively introduced into international relations the precedent and assertion that a national executive with the assent of the national legislature may practice torture in the context of a national emergency.

At Phronesisaical, Helmut discusses what he calls the triangulation of torture.

Helmut and Miles both argue that the media's obsession with fantastic ticking bomb scenarios has completely skewed the public's moral and practical understanding of torture.

September 10, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Prayer at gunpoint not just for Muslims

This week, the right wing has been going on and on about Islam's long tradition of forced conversion.

I'm waiting for the flurry of articles about Christianity's long standing issues with gunpoint prayer:

ATHENS, Ala. (AP) -- A woman and two roommates are accused of holding her brother at gunpoint as she prayed for his repentance, even firing a shot into the ceiling to keep his attention.

Randy Doss, 46, of Athens said he fled the house when his captors got distracted and later went to police, who were skeptical at first because his story was so bizarre. But police said it checked out, including the bullet hole in the ceiling.

"We found where they patched the hole with caulk," said Sgt. Trevor Harris.

Police said the sister, Tammie Lee Doss, 43, Donna Leigh Bianca, 37, and Ronald David Richie, 45, who live at the Athens house, were charged with unlawful imprisonment, a misdemeanor. The two women were also charged with menacing, a misdemeanor. All were released on bond.

Harris said Randy Doss went to the house about 7 p.m. on Labor Day and at some point got in an argument with the two women about religion. When they prayed for him, he laughed.

"They both got upset and pointed pistols at him," Harris said. "They wouldn't let him leave. Bianca fired one round in the ceiling in the hallway a few feet from the victim's head."

August 27, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Bill Maher

As you may have heard, Christopher Hitchens gave Bill Maher's audience the finger. Hitchens was ranting and raving about how it's Ahmadinejad who's itching for a fight. Why that crazy dude believes that the end of the world is coming. Maher pointed out that G.W. Bush also believes the end of the world is nigh, at which point Hitch went over the edge, to the delight of television viewers everywhere.

July 16, 2006

Signs of the impending apocalypse: Hilton, Mr. T, and Atlas Shrugs

Sure signs that we are living in the End Times:

Name the Fourth Horseman.

July 08, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: The prequel

Funniest thing I've seen online in ages: Papal lizard, by Pam of Pandagon.

Also, Anne "Firedoglake called me a baboon" Althouse needs to brush up on her primate-identification skills.

In fact, I believe that FDL implicitly likened AH to a rhesus monkey. This is what a baboon looks like.

Calling Ann Althouse a baboon would be the taxonomic equivalent of switching from "Rape Gurney Joe" to "Bonobo Joe".

In other words, the terminological switch would be like apples forcing themselves on oranges.

July 02, 2006

Supplemental Sunday Sermonette: State fossils

In honour of July 4th, I thought I'd take a moment to praise those states which have adopted official State fossils.

Unfortunately, as you can see below, only of American states have an official fossil:

create your own states with official fossils map
or check out these Google Hacks.

So, I think we've come up with the perfect wedge issue for 2006 in Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas--ballot initiatives to give these states their own official fossils. If they're going to rally their base with gay marriage, we've got to throw some red meat to the core atheist constituency.

Now, we just need to come up with a shortlist of official fossils. So, in order to do that, I'm holding an 4th of July "Fossils are Winners" Contest.

Write a blog post (or a comment) endorsing fossils for official-fossilless Sates. Explain why your favorite fossil species embodies the State spirit.

I'll announce the winners on July 4th.

Correction:PZ Myers of Pharyngula points out that, contrary to my earlier assertion, Minnesota does not have an official state fossil. There was a bill to make a giant beaver named after Ohio their state fossil, but for some reason the people didn't go for it. PZ suggests an alternative.

Clarification: Some people say that Hawaii is too young to have land fossils, but there's some disagreement on that score. If Hawaii can't have its own fossils, that's no reason not to consider adoption. Nominate a fossil that you think represents the spirit of Hawaii.

Sunday Sermonette: Oppo research edition

Nurse Lebo spots a real gem:

Kirk Cameron is taught by his Aussie guest - in two minutes or less - how bananas prove the existence of God as an intelligent creator. And in the same sentence offers proof of evolution. And in the same sentence uses more sexual double entendres than previously thought possible. You tell me if you think Kirk is blushing in the glow of another revelation related to Christ, or because he cant believe that guy just put his thumb and index fingers around a banana just so.

Watch it, heathens.

June 24, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: The Bright fight

vagina-lightbright, originally uploaded by petree.

Amanda and PZ discuss The Bright movement. Neither says anything inflammatory, but the endless secularist discussion about whether "Bright" is an appropriate appellation drives me nuts. I don't know why so many secularists keep harping on the suggestion. If you don't like the word, don't use it.

Here's the definition of a captial-"B" Bright from the group's official website.

  • A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
  • A bright's worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
  • The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview

As I said in the comments at Pandagon, I really don't understand why people are still upset about the term "Bright." I mean, sure it's a slightly dopey brand name. Then again, people probably said the same thing when Peter's Xtian Church decided to brand itself as the Catholic Church. I mean, strictly speaking, the Catholic Church is only catholic in its own over-inflated view of itself. Still, the brand has thrived to the point where the term "Catholic" has outstripped "catholic" in most people's vocabularies.

Some people say that "Bright" is a offensive because it's put-down to religious believers. Frankly, I think some religious believers are just intellectually insecure. To say that we're Bright (or bright) shouldn't threaten anyone else. When you've got people like Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, and Gandhi on your side, do you really have to begrudge the atheists a little pun that evokes the values of The Enlightenment?

I don't self-identify as a Bright. Good old "atheist" is good enough for me. However, I don't understand why fellow secularists are still rehashing this debate, years after the original essay.

So, yeah, people who are uptight about the word "Bright" can bite me.

June 18, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Thom Yorke of Radiohead on suicide of David Kelly

Radiohead's Thom Yorke has written a song about the suicide of British WMD expert Dr. David Kelly. Yorke describes the song as angriest he's ever written.

Radiohead's Thom Yorke has said a track on his solo album about the suicide of scientist Dr David Kelly is "the most angry song I've ever written".

He said he was uncomfortable discussing Harrowdown Hill out of respect for the "grieving" family of Dr Kelly, whose death led to a government inquiry.

Yorke said sleep deprivation on a world tour had left him feeling "messed up".

The song Harrowdown Hill was named after the location in Oxfordshire where Dr Kelly's body was found in 2003.

He had been identified as the source of a controversial BBC story about a British dossier on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"I'm sure they're still grieving over his death," Yorke said, referring to the scientist's family.

"It's the most angry song I've ever written in my life. I'm not gonna get into the background to it, the way I see it. [BBC]

Nathaniel at I Guess I'm Floating has the Harrowdown Hill lyrics.

May 28, 2006

Sunday Sermonette: Pope Ratz blames God for Holocaust

The pope blames God for the Holocaust:

Benedict said it was almost impossible, particularly for a German Pope, to speak at "the place of the Shoah." "In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence, a silence which is a heartfelt cry to God -- Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?"

Now that's what I call chutzpah.