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Simon Singh’s Unfortunate Mistake

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I do not think Simon Singh‘s loss in the libel case brought by the British Chiropractic Association can be reversed.

If Singh’s original sentence was the following (the article has been withdrawn)

[The BCA] is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments

then the implication that the BCA is knowingly promoting bogus treatment could hardly have been spelled out more clearly.

People may argue about the opportunity for the BCA to throw itself into what was obviously going to be a high-profile case.

But if they had left Singh’s words unchallenged, surely at the BCA itself they could have open the floodgates to legal actions by unhappy clients…and especially unhappy had they learned that the BCA did not believe in its treatments.

There is a general consensus that English libel laws are just unfair and can be used in lieu of censorship. But Singh wasn’t exactly born yesterday, and must have know those laws for a long time.

Written by omnologos

2009/May/22 at 07:46:19

Inspiration And Perspiration…

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…under a different guise. Still, the concept is the same: for everything you do

Expect failure…but keep trying

(from the Skeptics Society’s eSkeptic newsletter)

Written by omnologos

2009/Apr/15 at 22:24:11

Posted in Ethics

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What To Do With Abusive Partners?

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Target practice? Practical lessons for aspiring torturers? Food and fun for killer ants?

The video was produced by DoSomething.org.

Written by omnologos

2009/Mar/23 at 22:08:04

Rick Santelli Discovers The Real World

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Written by omnologos

2009/Feb/24 at 15:46:10

Speaking Out About (Over-)Population

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There is a sizable number of people concerned about overpopulation. They are being drawn together by a new initiative, the Global Population Speak Out, aiming at undermining “a taboo of sorts against public discussion of overpopulation”:

GPSO was born of a simple idea: What if a large number of qualified voices worldwide, many of whom might not have emphasized the topic previously, were to speak out on overpopulation all at once? The strength of numbers might help weaken the taboo and bring population issues to a more prominent position in the global discussion.

You can see the efforts of the participants in this page. The main topics are the concern of overpopulation as a major driver in resource depletion (i.e. there are too many people consuming too much too quickly) and especially in ruining the environment.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I do not believe in gloomy forecasts, and particularly so in the gloomiest of them. I am also not convinced that there is a present situation of overpopulation right now: some back-of-the-envelope calculation seems to suggest full capacity would be around 15 billion people, even allowing for everybody to become a well-fed American. And who can forget that the current size of human population is the consequence of a struggle that must have lasted for a good part of the last million years?

Still, I also believe GPSO has a good point to make.

Let’s start considering their sensible attitude to past abuses of the overpopulation issue. Simply too many people have married the cause in the past because afraid of having to deal with millions of poor, black or Asian people. And still to this day, it is not difficult to find pea-brained arguments pitting children against the environment.

I do not see any trace of that in the original GPSO letter.

What I can see among the unfortunate repetitive claims about upcoming disasters, is a concern for what perhaps should not be, but still can develop in a big issue. My model for human activity in general is that of the long-distance travelers putting their stuff into the car’s trunk. No matter how much they plan to take with them, still they will more likely than not occupy the full trunk.

In other words, it is not much a matter of the size of the car, or the volume of things they want to bring to their destination: as far as humans are concerned, the whole available space is always to be wholly used. For another example, just check how many 1-h business meetings amazingly last for a full hour; and how easy it is for thousands and thousands of newspaper editors to fill up exactly all their available print areas, day after day, down to the eighth of an inch.

This ability for making full use of all resources within reach is something we should be very proud of; and wary, as there is little indication for when limits are actually reached. It always looks like there is more space in the trunk, and by speaking just a little faster more topics can be crammed in a meeting. But there is a limit, and the wise traveler will make sure loading is stopped early enough as to avoid damaging the car (or the stuff already loaded).

That’s why population should not be a taboo subject. And besides, it is also a topic closely related to personal freedom. For reasons too long to deal with now, women the world over have always seen their worth measured in the number of children they could bear. In theory, there is no actual need for that to continue any longer, and yet it still happens in one form or another pretty much everywhere.

Population sizes, from this point of view, can be seen as a symptom of an underlying bigger social problem. And who would want to make a symptom a taboo subject?

Written by omnologos

2009/Feb/19 at 00:13:50

Posted in catastrophism, Ethics, Overpopulation

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Why Israel Is Not The Palestinian Problem

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Many thanks to the Editorial Board at the International Herald Tribune for publishing a letter of mine on the Jan 9, 2009 printed paper, under the headline “When governments fail” (a modified version of yesterday’s blog “Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?“):

David Brooks’s analysis (“The confidence war,” Views, Dec. 7) is missing the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian Authority and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so. One side casually bombs crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical apologetic press releases afterward. The other side sends youths on suicide missions or unleashes them armed with stones to throw at armored tanks – while proclaiming that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists.”

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local governments are clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that with the way things are going, we can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

I’ll expand briefly upon that to argue why Israel is not the actual problem for the Palestinians, at the moment.

True, most of the actions undertaken during the latest conflict situation by the Jerusalem Government are at the edge or beyond the very limits of International Law and War Law. It also does look especially fishy how the Gaza invasion coincides with upcoming Israeli elections…one of the luckily few occasions where a democracy makes liberal use of somebody else’s blood for a few votes more.

But that’s less important to Palestinians than the gigantic failure of their leadership(s) to do anything positive on their behalf.

Like it or not, when there is a war one side usually shows little interest in protecting the other side’s civilian lives (it depends on the war, and on the propaganda, but the overall trend is alas towards more civilian deaths). However deplorable, if Azerbaijan declares war against Armenia (just an example) it goes without saying that Azerbaijanis will rather kill Armenians, and Armenians Azerbaijanis.

Usually, that is accompanied by each side trying as much as possible to protect its own: therefore Azerbaijan will do its best to defend Azerbaijanis, and Armenia Armenians. Sometimes that doesn’t actually work out as proclaimed (see Russian botched kidnap rescue attempts) but one can assume that at least the intention is always there.

That is not what happens for Palestinians. They must be the only people on Earth deliberately put in harm’s way by their own leaders. I am sure that even the incredibly locked-up Burmese junta, and the paranoid hermit North Korean state-wide prison, would try to lower casualties among their own citizens in case of war much, much better than Hamas (or Fatah for that matters) have ever managed even to imagine, let alone do.

In fact, just like in Communist states of old (USSR famine in the 1930’s, China famine in the 1950’s), in the world as seen by Hamas people are not people, but pawns to use for a higher ideological purpose (namely, the destruction of Israel). Horribly, a dead Palestinian child becomes more useful to them than a live Palestinian child, as it does make Israel look an abominable entity that doesn’t deserve to seat among Nations.

Whatever Israel has done or is doing, things don’t have to be the way they are. Resistance is a natural reaction to occupation, but suicide (or worse: making sure some of yours get killed for your political advantage) is not.

As suggested in the blog and the letter to the IHT, we would go a long way towards improving the Palestinians’ situation if only we could protect the people from Hamas (and from Fatah).

Now of course one would have to understand what brought Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to a situation that is perhaps worse than Somalia’s and definitely makes Haiti looks like Heaven on Earth. One would not do wrong by considering the issue of politicide by Israel, but that is as relevant to today’s situation as reconsidering the opportunity of wearing warm clothes in a snowstorm is to somebody that has already caught pneumonia.

Written by omnologos

2009/Jan/08 at 23:54:27

Are Palestinian Lives Truly Worthless?

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I am not saying that I disagree (and I don’t) with David Brooks’ definition of how to find a meaning in each Israeli-Palestinian act of terrorism or war (“The confidence war“, IHT, January 7, 2009). But what is missing from Mr Brooks’ analysis is the fact that the very strategies of successive Israeli Governments, the PLO and now Hamas have been based on the utter disregard of the value of the lives of individual Palestinians.

This has been true especially in the last decade or so, with one side casually bombing crowded residential areas from afar only to release increasingly hypocritical “sorry” press releases afterwards; and the other either sending youths to suicide missions or armed with stones against armored tanks, or proclaiming without a second thought that thousands and thousands of dead women and children are a price worth paying for victory against “the Zionists”.

As shown repeatedly during the last century, it should be the job of international institutions to push hard for the safeguarding of lives, especially when the local Government is clearly unable or unwilling to do so. But I am afraid that until negotiations get centered around politicking rather than the basic rights of individual human beings, Palestinians (and Somalis, and Darfuris, etc etc) can only expect a future made of innumerable deaths.

Written by omnologos

2009/Jan/07 at 22:53:40

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