First Steps

Iraq Marks Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Cities

BAGHDAD — With parades, fireworks and a national holiday, the Iraqi government celebrated the final withdrawal of American troops from the country’s cities on Tuesday, trying to exploit a political milestone to trumpet what the prime minister called sovereignty from foreign occupation.

Even with a deadly car bombing and other mayhem marring the day — the deadline for the American troop pullback under a Jan. 1 agreement — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki seized on the occasion to position himself as the proud leader of an independent nation looking ahead to the next milestone, parliamentaryelections in January.

via Iraq Marks Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Cities –

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State Supreme Court rules for Franken; Coleman won’t appeal

Al Franken and wife Franni

State Supreme Court rules for Franken; Coleman won’t appeal

Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

AL Franken, with his wife Franni at his side, talked with the media outside their Minneapolis home Tuesday afternoon.

Republican Norm Coleman ended his bruising eight-month court fight over Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat, conceding to Democrat Al Franken after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Franken’s favor.

via State Supreme Court rules for Franken; Coleman won’t appeal.

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Science and religion

Every individual has a set of beliefs – things that are true to him. Those beliefs are relative only to their individual experiences, and no two individuals shares exactly the same set of beliefs.

They refer to two main categories of things: those that can be objectivelly experimented with – the closest thing to an objective individual experience, i.e. an experience that can be shared – and those that cant be dealt with objectivelly, and can only be personally experienced, and cant be shared with anyone else, but, at best, only described.

Let´s call those groups “objective” and “subjective” beliefs.

So, every one of us have objective and subjective beliefs deep within ourselves. One can prove or disprove someone else´s objective beliefs, given everyone can experiment with them and reach the same conclusion (if they are honest, of course). Science standarizes that set of beliefs into knowledge by testing them and making sure they are consistent.

But they are still beliefs. The fact that this knowledge can be disproven and, therefore, may be false, show that. IOW, they arent “THE truth”, or “absolute truth”. They are merelly the best objective aproximation to the “absolute truth” we could manage without ever being “it”. You cant say it is right, you can only say it is probably right, at best, and that it is consistent with observation and with the already stablished knowledge, at worst.

Religion, from the latin religare, meaning “to link again” or “get in touch again”, deals with those beliefs that cant be objectivelly experimented with, but only individualy experienced in a subjective manner. The knowledge that pertain to a single individual, ie, what an individual “knows” to be true, but cant prove nor share with anyone else.

By nature, those beliefs cant be reduced to an uniform set. They cant be proven, disproven or even tested. They cant be shown to be right, but they cant also be shown to be wrong. So, they just “are”, and one can only accept and respect other´s experiences. As beliefs, they are as valid as any other, including those that can be objectivelly tested to some extent. There is absolutelly no rational way to say that one of them is naturally “truer” than the other.

Then you have organized religions, that try to do with those subjective beliefs what science does to the objective ones. Problem is, subjective beliefs cant be proven or disproven and, instead, organized religions set forth a set of “valid beliefs”, ie, the set of beliefs one needs to have to be part of that religion.

Those organizations have mitologies and rituals that have nothing to do with religion “per se”, but only to their own “brand”. They never touch the questions religion should try to answer. Instead, they give a set of pre-made convenient pseudo-answers. You will never see a cristian debating the existence of Jesus in good faith. They will only participate of such debate to defend what their organization and themselves believe in.

It would be akin to a scientist seriously challenging the validity of experimental evidence or consistency, etc. Ie, if he doesnt believe that experimental evidence is essentially valid, he isnt a scientist. Just like a christian that doesnt believe Jesus existed isnt a christian.

But neither can be proven. Jesus existence can only be proven by His own supposed words, while experimental evidence can only be proven valid by other experimental evidences.

Both are what we can call “axioms” – beliefs that cant really be proven, but only be shown to be consistent with themselves. You need to have faith in them, period.

Altho science sets forth a body of self-consistent, experimentally observed knowledge, what a scientist have inside of himself is the belief in those propositions. In the end, individually, a scientific knowledge and a religious belief are both the same thing: what one believe to be true or accept as such.

Science and religion have a lot in common. Neither can be said to have a better answer to something, because, by definition, it that something can be explained by one, it cant be explained by the other. But both are equally valid because if you dont have a way to test something objectivelly, you cant say it doesnt exist.

And even if you do have the means to test, it might still be wrong, just like a religious belief.

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Third World America?

In the United States, there is a largely hidden burden of diseases caused by a group of chronic and debilitating parasitic, bacterial, and congenital infections known as the neglected infections of poverty. Like their neglected tropical disease counterparts in developing countries, the neglected infections of poverty in the US disproportionately affect impoverished and under-represented minority populations. The major neglected infections include the helminth infections, toxocariasis, strongyloidiasis, ascariasis, and cysticercosis; the intestinal protozoan infection trichomoniasis; some zoonotic bacterial infections, including leptospirosis; the vector-borne infections Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, trench fever, and dengue fever; and the congenital infections cytomegalovirus (CMV), toxoplasmosis, and syphilis. These diseases occur predominantly in people of color living in the Mississippi Delta and elsewhere in the American South, in disadvantaged urban areas, and in the US–Mexico borderlands, as well as in certain immigrant populations and disadvantaged white populations living in Appalachia. Preliminary disease burden estimates of the neglected infections of poverty indicate that tens of thousands, or in some cases, hundreds of thousands of poor Americans harbor these chronic infections, which represent some of the greatest health disparities in the United States.

via PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases: Neglected Infections of Poverty in the United States of America.

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Is The End In Sight?

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) – The top U.S. commander in Iraq said on Sunday the time is right for American forces to pull out of Iraqi cities and expressed confidence in the ability of Iraq’s security forces to take more control.

U.S. troops already were out of the Iraq’s cities before Tuesday’s deadline after slowly withdrawing over the last eight months and “overall stability in Iraq remains good,” General Ray Odierno said on “FOX News Sunday.”

The U.S. pull-out from Iraqi cities is a major step as, six years after the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, the United States increasingly turns over control to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite Muslim-led government.

The handover falls under a security pact that requires U.S. forces to withdraw completely by 2012.

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Christian faith is at odds with science : Pharyngula

I think that this says everything that needs to be said about the science vs. religion debate…

…But in a debate about the compatibility of science and religion, we have to put the argument in an appropriate context and define a specific shared purpose for both science and religion — it’s the only legitimate ground for discussion. In this case, what we’re trying to do is address big questions…about the nature of the universe, about our history, about how we function, and then we encounter a conflict: religion keeps giving us different answers. Very different answers. They can’t all be right, and since no two religions give the same answers, but since science can generally converge on similar and consistent answers, I know which one is right. And that makes religion simply wrong.

We have to look at what they do to see why. In order to probe the nature of the universe around us, science is a process, a body of tools, that has a long history of success in giving us robust, consistent answers. We use observation, experiment, critical analysis, and repeated reevaluation and confirmation of events in the natural world. It works. We use frequent internal cross-checking of results to get an answer, and we never entirely trust our answers, so we keep pushing harder at them. We also evaluate our success by whether the end results work: it’s how we end up with lasers and microwave ovens, and antibiotics and cancer therapies.

Religion, on the other hand, uses a different body of techniques to explain the nature of the universe. It uses tradition and dogma and authority and revelation, and a detailed legalistic analysis of source texts, to dictate what the nature of reality should be. It’s always wrong, from an empirical perspective, although I do have to credit theologians with some of the most amazingly intricate logical exercises as they try to justify their conclusions. The end result of all of this kind of clever wankery, though, is that some people say the world is 6000 years old, that it was inundated with a global flood 4000 years ago, and other people say something completely different, and there is no way within the body of theology to resolve which answers are right. They have to step outside their narrow domain to get an independent confirmation — that is, they rely on science to give them the answers to the Big Questions in which they purport to have expertise.(emphasis mine-t&c)

So what theistic scientists have to do is abandon the operational techniques of religion and use science to address those questions. The “theistic” part of their moniker is nothing but useless baggage which, if they take it at all seriously, would interfere with their understanding of the world. That is what I mean by an incompatibility between the two…

via Christian faith is at odds with science : Pharyngula.

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My New HET (High Efficency Toilet)

I didn’t expect to be writing about toilets, today. As it turns out, my leaky bathroom toilet opened a flood gate (pardon the pun) of information that leads to a great comparison between the Democrats of the early 90s and today’s Democrats.

Our bathroom has a hard wood floor and a wood sub-floor. When we discovered water had been standing on the floor behind the toilet we knew we had to do something, quick, or we’d have dry rot. I could just picture sitting on the john first thing in the morning and finding myself one floor lower than when I sat down. The thought of staring up at the gaping hole I’d just fallen through, pants around my ankles, water from the now-broken supply line gushing everywhere, didn’t appeal to me. It was time for action! I donned my cape and headed to Home Depot, Lowes, and local plumbing stores.

Continue reading “My New HET (High Efficency Toilet)”

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Friday afternoon, a friend showed me & others pics of himself in drag, as his way of coming-out as gay and a cross-dresser. That took guts.

I am taken aback by the pictures. He looks bizarre. I find myself torn between nodding-along to ‘support’ him as if all-is-well…

Or should I level with him and admit that I think he looks mentally ill?

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