Sunday, November 28, 2010



Dear Beloved One,


Good day and how are you today? I hope fine? After going through your profile,
permit me to inform you of my desire of asking you to be a guardian or foster parent to me and then help me out in what I am about to tell you. I know this may sound strange to you, receiving a mail from an unknown person, but my condition has forced me to do that.

I'm Ms.Celina Toma 21 years old, the only daughter of Late Mr. & Mrs. Joel Toma my father was a very wealthy cocoa merchant here in Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d'Ivoire. He was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outings on a business trip in France, my mother died when I was a baby.

Before the death of my father on 12th February 2008 in a private hospital here in Abidjan, he secretly called me by his bed side and told me that he has the sum of six million Five hundred thousand United State Dollars USD ($6.5million) he deposited in United Nation Diplomatic Custody there in Jakarta-Indonesia, which the United Nation Diplomat will delivery it to you or you travel to Jakarta and claim it in person, because of the legal valuables Insurance.

He then strongly advised me not to seek for assistance in the investment of the money from his lawyer or any of his friends here but to seek for a foreign partner from a country of my choice (outside our country, Cote d Ivoire) that will assist me in the wise investment of the money. I have since left the money in the Diplomatic custody with the view of my making use of it for investment purposes after my education carrier. But as you may be already aware by now, our country (Cote D' Ivoire) is presently at political crises.

Rebels have already taken over the whole Northern part of the country and making efforts towards to capture the commercial center of the country, Abidjan, where I am now.

I want an investment purpose like real estate management or hotel management. Because of this I am honorably seeking your assistance in the following ways with honest:

(1) To serve as a guardian to me and then assist me receiving the money into your care.
(2) To make arrangement for me to come over to your country to further my education and then settle there permanently.

If you accept to stand as my guardian or foster parent to me, I need not discuss on any percentage with you as you have to see the whole money as yours and then assist me invest it. But if you still want a percentage, I am willing to offer you, 30 % of the total money as compensation for your assistance. Please tell me if you feel the percentage I offered is not ok by you. As soon as I receive your concrete assurance to assist me with my proposal and also your full contact address/phone number and pictures, I will give you the United Nation Diplomatic Custody contact to reach MR.KENNEDY MURRY and know their legal procedures to release and deliver it to you as I want to come over to stay with you permanently please.

You shall then be giving me information on when the transaction will be over. I shall also send my pictures to you. No matter what your decision may turn out to be, please I beg you to keep this highly secret for my safety, as I believe that those people that killed my Daddy are still after me here.
For more explanations regarding my situation here.

Thanks and God bless you.
Best regards.
Miss Celina Toma.

This phishing email has, like, a fucking plotline and everything. Bonus? This was from a email address. Côte d'Ivoire my ass.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Enhanced" pat downs

Rape survivor devastated by TSA "enhanced pat down."

An area Wiccan discovered first hand what most of us are still unaware of – many flyers are now being forced to choose between allowing a TSA agent to see them naked or to have their genitals touched and squeezed as part of what the TSA terms “enhanced pat downs.” Celeste, a survivor of rape, described her experience with the new TSA procedures as devastating.

From a quoted bit within the article:

However, when meeting with privacy officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA later that month, I was told unofficially that there were two standards of pat-downs. One for the normal situation where passengers are going through metal detectors and a different pat-down for those who refuse to go through the whole-body scanners.

With this latest announcement, TSA admits that it has been clandestinely punishing passengers for refusing to go through the invasive whole-body scans with an even more intrusive aggressive pat-down and that soon those more invasive pat-down will creep from airport to airport.

I don't even know how to comment on this, it is so outrageous. I'm generally pretty good at ranting, but I'm at a loss for words.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

being willing to be wrong

Greta Christina's new piece, "Can Atheism be Proven Wrong?"

Yes, atheists pretty much agree that no existing religion has a shred of decent evidence to support it. That's why we're atheists. If we thought any religion had supported itself with decent evidence, we'd accept that religion. That's not the game. The game isn't, "What religion that currently exists could convince you that it was right?" The game is, "What hypothetical made-up religion could convince you that it was right?"

Or, to put it another way: We're talking counter-factuals. We understand that the universe, as it is now, is overwhelming in its evidence for atheism and materialism, and against any kind of deity or supernatural realm. We get that. We're talking about alternative universes. We're asking, "What would the world look like if there were a god or gods?"

There is good stuff to be had in here about what would actually convince most atheists that a religion was presenting a reasonable and worthy picture of the world. There's also a link to this page, which gives a pretty good rundown. Where this really gets interesting is after Greta gets done stating for the millionth time that actually atheists are not dogmatic zealots who take their conclusion as an article of faith (that we do, in fact, have standards of evidence--that no religion has met despite ample opportunity). She takes the, "no religion has actually managed to present a hypothesis supportible by evidence," point one step further by cutting off those last three words.

Religions haven't just failed to support their assorted hypotheses with good, solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence. They've failed to come up with hypotheses that are even worth subjecting to testing. They've failed to come up with hypotheses that are worth the paper they're printed on.

Religions are notorious for vague definitions, unfalsifiable hypotheses, slippery arguments, shoddy excuses for why their supporting evidence is so crummy, and the incessant moving of goalposts. Many theologies are logically contradictory on the face of it -- the Trinity, for instance, or an all-powerful/all-knowing/all-good God who nevertheless permits and even creates evil and suffering -- and while entire books are filled with attempts to explain these contradictions, the conclusions always boil down to, "It's a mystery."

And the so-called "sophisticated modern theologies" define God so vaguely you can't reach any conclusions about what he's like, or what he would and wouldn't do, or how a world with him in it would be any different than a world without him. They define God so abstractly that he might as well not exist. (Either that, or they actually do define God as having specific effects on the world, such as interventions in the process of evolution -- effects that we have no reason whatsoever to think are real, and every reason to think are bunk.)

And when I ask religious believers who aren't theologians to define what exactly they believe, they almost evade the question. They point to the existence of "sophisticated modern theology," without actually explaining what any of this theology says, much less why they believe it. They resort to vagueness, equivocation, excuses for why they shouldn't have to answer the question. In some cases, they get outright hostile at my unmitigated temerity to ask.

It's too bad that lots of the so-called "moderate" religious people that I know personally are all so invested in seeming and feeling rational that they can't just admit that they're not religious because they actually believe its claims are true. It would save us all a lot of effort if they did. I'm tired of having religious people try to throw reasoned arguments and evidence at me and then eventually concede--only after we've both wasted a lot of time and effort--that they don't really find those things persuasive either.

I mean, ffs. If it was never about evidence to begin with, if it's all metaphor and "personal revelation," then why do religious people get so upset when somebody points out that their sermons and holy books are full of fairy tales? And why do they let me give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that THIS TIME, THIS ONE TIME maybe they'll present a reasonable case, if they're just going to switch gears later and admit that they lied about their worldview in the hopes of getting me to sit still and stfu while they practice the flimsy reassurances that allow them to sleep at night?

I think that's one major reason why lots of religious people don't like talking to atheists, or even about religion to each other. It's not that we're all hurtful and mean, or that we're all joyless zealots, or even that we're all oversexed radical liberal feminazi pinko commies. It's this: If Pascal's Wager (or insert your fav apologism here) is the only reason you can face your day, you need everybody around you to be reassuring you that it's sound. Every person who shrugs and finds it unconvincing is a reminder that you've built your life on terror of your life, and an unwillingness to live in the real world. That'd suck, and I guess it does make us sort of mean.