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Fri, 07 Aug 2020
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The Cult of the Expert: A Meditation

eggs
© Unknown
"A system of specialization requires the abdication to specialists of various competences and responsibilities that were once personal and universal. Thus, the average - one is tempted to say ideal - American citizen now consigns the problem of food production to agriculturalists and 'agribusinessmen,' the problem of health to doctors and sanitation experts, the problems of education to school teachers and educators, the problems of conservation to conservationists, and so on. This supposedly fortunate citizen is therefore left with only two concerns: making money and entertaining himself. He earns money, typically as a specialist, working an eight-hour day at a job for the quality or consequences of which somebody else - or, perhaps more typically, nobody else - will be responsible. And not surprisingly, since he can do so little else for himself, he is even unable to entertain himself, for there exists an enormous industry of exorbitantly expensive specialists whose purpose is to entertain him."

I suppose specialization is a feature, and not a bug, of the modern, industrial economy. To run such a complex and industrial infrastructure as we have come to rely upon, we need millions of people carrying out very specific and specialized tasks. This infrastructure is made up of uncountable widgets and devices and roles that all have their own particularity and that, thus, require their own particular machines or trained humans to be run and maintained. Broad classifications of generalized and necessary economic activity have been broken apart and splintered into much more specific niches, and then have been absorbed as a fraction into a far more sprawling beast we might refer to as the discretionary economy. In today's industrial economy, the necessities of life - food, water, shelter, a clean and functioning environment, community - are now almost an afterthought to the vast and consuming industry of non-necessity: distraction, destruction, profit-driven specialization, a massaging of and attentiveness to human ego both impressive and horrifying. We have discovered an infinite number of economic niches driven not by the particularities of place and community - which would be the basis of niches in a functioning and sane economy - but on the basis of catering to the human ego by creating an infinite number of variations on conformity so that we might convince everyone that, no matter how much they immerse and then lose themselves in the base homogeneity of our culture, they truly are a unique human being, as proven by their particular combination of iPhone apps, or which of the many Nabisco snacks they prefer, or which Anheuser-Busch-owned beer they drink.

Of course, as we've created this insanely complex yet oddly generic economy and industrial base, we've come to worship at the alter of specialization. We know that we need years upon years of education and training so that we may be successful in today's high tech, globalized economy. We know that to seize the bright future that is rightfully ours, we must *insert cliche here* so that *tribal term here* may compete in today's *overtly positive economic buzzword here*. And we know this because we're told it again and again, each time with slightly varying terms, and always emerging from the mouth of a respected "leader" or, even better, a certified expert.

Cult

Great Question! Why Does Religion Always Get a Free Ride?

bible
© Shutterstock/Z-River
We try to persuade people out of almost every kind of idea there is. Why should religion be the exception? 

Why should religion, alone among all other kinds of ideas, be free from attempts to persuade people out of it?

We try to persuade people out of ideas all the time. We try to persuade people that their ideas about science, politics, philosophy, art, medicine, and more, are wrong: that they're harmful, ridiculous, repulsive, or simply mistaken. But when it comes to religion, trying to persuade people out of their ideas is somehow seen as horribly rude at best, invasive and bigoted and intolerant at worst. Why? Why should religion be the exception?

I've been writing about atheism for about six years now. In those six years, I've asked this question more times and not once have I gotten a satisfying answer. In fact, only once do I recall getting any answer at all. Besides that one exception, what I've gotten in response has been crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing by. I've been ignored, I've had the subject changed, I've had people get personally nasty, I've had people abandon the conversation altogether. But only once have I ever gotten any kind of actual answer. And that answer sucked. (I'll get to it in a bit.) I've heard lots of people tell me, at length and with great passion, that trying to persuade people out of their religion is bad and wrong and mean... but I haven't seen a single real argument explaining why this is such a terrible thing to do with religion, and yet is somehow perfectly okay to do with all other ideas.

So I want to get to the heart of this matter. Why should religion be treated differently from all other kinds of ideas? Why shouldn't we criticize it, and make fun of it, and try to persuade people out of it, the way we do with every other kind of idea?

Bad Guys

Horrible Injuries Blamed on BP Dispersant

corexit
Houston, Texas - Exposure to chemical dispersants BP used in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill left a commercial diver with seizures, unable to walk and going blind - and two members of his dive team committed suicide, the man claims in Harris County Court.

David Hogan and his wife sued BP and NALCO Co. - which made the Corexit oil dispersants - and a host of other defendants, including Halliburton, Transocean, ConocoPhillips, Xplore Oil & Gas and Stuyvesant Dredging Co.

After BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history, BP hired contractors to spray and inject more than 1.8 million gallons of Corexit into the Gulf of Mexico, according to the complaint.

Phoenix

Fireball Horror: Hundreds Injured as Gas Balloons Go Up in Flames at Political Rally in Armenia

Mass panic erupted after the hydrogen balloons exploded into a huge fireball, thought to have been caused by a smoker who lit a cigarette nearby
Image
© Getty Images
More than 140 people have been injured after hundreds of gas-filled balloons went up in flames at a campaign rally in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Mass panic erupted after the hydrogen balloons exploded into a huge fireball, thought to have been caused by a smoker who lit a cigarette nearby.

More than 100 of those injured were taken to hospital with burns following the rally, staged two days before the election by the ruling Republican Party in the centre of the city.

Nuke

Japan to Switch Off Final Nuclear Reactor (for now)

Image
© Agence France-Presse
This aerial view, taken in 2010, shows the Tomari nuclear plant in northernmost Hokkaido, northern Japan.

The last working reactor in Japan is to be switched off Saturday, leaving the country without nuclear power just over a year after the world's worst atomic accident in a quarter of a century.

As technicians ready to close down the No. 3 unit at Tomari in Hokkaido, the debate over whether Japan needs nuclear power has been reignited, amid increasingly shrill warnings of summer power blackouts.

Hokkaido Electric Power, which runs the plant, said they would at 5pm (0800 GMT) begin inserting control rods that would halt the chain reaction and bring the reactor to "cold shutdown" some time on Monday.

The shuttering will mark the first time since the 1970s that resource-poor and energy-hungry Japan has been without nuclear power, a technology that had provided a third of its electricity until meltdowns at Fukushima.

The tsunami-sparked disaster forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in an area around the plant -- some of whom may never be allowed to return.

It did not directly claim any lives, but has devastated the local economy, leaving swathes of land unfarmable as radiation spewed from the ruins.

X

Arizona Bans Funding to Planned Parenthood in Abortion Fight

AZ Governor Jan Brewer
© Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
Jan Brewer
US, Phoenix - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday signed into law a bill banning abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving money through the state, her office said in a statement.

The Republican-backed Whole Woman's Health Funding Priority Act cuts off funding for family planning and health services delivered by Planned Parenthood clinics and other organizations offering abortions.

"By signing this measure into law I stand with the majority of Americans who oppose the use of taxpayer funds for abortion," Brewer said in a statement.

Arizona joins six other states with similar laws, officials said. But three of those states -- Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina -- are facing legal challenges.

Arizona does not provide tax dollars for abortion, but backers said the law is needed to make sure that no indirect monies are funneled to organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion and other health services. There were no estimates of how much money is involved.

Heart - Black

23 Dead in Day of Horror for Mexico Border City

Image
© Agence France-Presse/Raul Llamas
The bodies of four women and five men were found hanging off this bridge in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo with an apparent message from a drug gang, an army official said.
The northeast Mexico border city of Nuevo Laredo saw a brutal day of gang violence, with 14 headless bodies found stuffed in a vehicle and nine others hanging from a bridge.

Fourteen heads believed to correspond to the decapitated bodies were also found in ice boxes outside the city hall on Friday, according to local security forces in the city of almost 400,000 inhabitants across the border from Laredo, Texas.

Horrified motorists earlier encountered the blood-stained bodies of four women and five men hanging off a bridge, alongside an apparent message from a drug gang.

The grim spectacles were extreme even for Nuevo Laredo and the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which have seen some of the most gruesome episodes in Mexico's brutal five-and-a-half year drug war so far.

State security forces and soldiers cordoned off the areas where the bodies were found and gave no immediate comment.

Comment: Read about the Matamoros cult and the CIA (Part IV) to understand the ongoing horrors along the US-Mexico border:

Latin American High Weirdness: 'Hand of Death' Satanic CIA Cult Network


Cow Skull

Sacred White Buffalo Intentionally Killed, Investigation Under Way

White Buffalo
© WFAA
Greenville - Lightning Medicine Cloud, a white buffalo, was born onto Arby Little Soldier's Lakota Ranch with great ceremony.

Now, at just under one-year-old, the sacred and rare calf is dead. Authorities believe the animal and his mother were intentionally killed.

"He was the hope of all nations," Little Soldier said.

As a Lakota Indian, the birth, he said, was a symbol for the world to seek unity, making the ranch a destination for people around the country.

But now the Hunt County Sheriff and the Texas Rangers are searching for the person or people who killed the two animals. Little Soldier had thought the Lightening Medicine Cloud's father had been killed by a lightning strike last month.

But that now appears suspicious, too.

Attention

Affidavit: Tahlequah Mom Burns Baby's Testicles With Hair Straightener

Image
© Unknown
Jodi Rock.
A Tahlequah mother is in jail after authorities say she admitted to burning her 15-month-old baby's genitals with a hair-straightening iron.

Jodi Rock, 19, is being held on a $200,000 bond at the Cherokee County Detention Center on accusations of felony injury to a child.

According to an affidavit for arrest, which was obtained Thursday by News On 6, authorities were called to the Tahlequah City Hospital on April 26 for a possible child abuse case. Investigators found Rock's baby had several bone fractures to both shoulders and burns to the groin and genital area, with some of the fractures being 12 weeks old, the affidavit says.

A deputy reported seeing three burns on the baby's genital area, including across his testicles, documents say.

Family

The electorate's silent, withering rebellion against the political class

Image
© The Telegraph
The tumbleweed is just out of shot to the right
If you needed any further proof that the political class inhabits a different moral universe to normal human beings, look no further than this morning's analyses of yesterday's elections. "It was a good night for Labour," chirp Ed Miliband's delusional cheerleaders. "It shows that Cameron must re-engage with traditionalists," say Tory desperadoes. "It confirms the British public's rejection of the mayoral system," intone deathly dull political studies lecturers. All of these yawn-inducing attempts to decipher what message the British electorate was trying to send to the political class yesterday overlooks what the majority of us chose to say to them: absolutely nothing. Zilch. Diddly squat.

Sixty-eight per cent of eligible voters did not vote in the elections, a bloc of people so big it could be described as "the vast majority", or certainly "most people". Most people chose not to take part in these elections, and in doing so they implicitly rejected the political class in its entirety; its ideas, its policy proposals, its representatives - all were very publicly and humiliatingly cold-shouldered. What we witnessed yesterday was a silent, withering rebellion against the political elites of this country. A good night for Labour? Are you kidding me? Labour got roughly 39 per cent of the vote on an estimated turnout of 32 per cent. This means around 12 per cent of the eligible electorate voted Labour. To put it another way, 88 per cent of us - the heaving mass of society - did not vote Labour. If that's a good night for Labour, I'd hate to see a bad one.