lundi 7 mars 2016

Oussama Njili

Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est


Northwest High is a normal school in a normal Illinois town. It has a perfectly typical student body with a standard high school hierarchy. The cool kids are on top, the weird kids are on the bottom, and never the twain shall meet.


Except, that is, for two weeks in autumn, during the school's annual Trivia Master competition. For those two weeks, everything changes. The nerds inherit the earth. Knowledge itself becomes power. And with all that on the line, the knives come out.

That's a problem for some people. Paul Liston never intended to fight a war - just play a game with his peers. But as the king of the whiz kids, he's a target for everyone in contention. His friends want to use him. His rivals want to destroy him. And with his enemies multiplying daily, his only hope might be to sink into the gutter with them.
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Oussama Njili

Dramatis Interruptus - Conspiracy Theories and Dead Terrorists

(Blip.tv/YouTube/MP3)

On unexpected news, and the resulting spin; people who mistake reflexive denial for skepticism; the thought process of the conspiracy theorist; how partisan newsmen get rid of stories they don't like; and the Canadian connection that went unnoticed except by one crazy person.

As promised, I found some choice bits after finishing the podcast:
  • Glenn Reynolds (a.k.a. Instapundit) had a rather unfortunate article published on April 30th. Arguing for Obama's weakness, he wrote the following:
    Meanwhile, on foreign policy -- another Carter weak point -- Obama also looks worse. Carter blew it with Iran, encouraging the Iranian armed forces to stay in their barracks, while Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's radical Islamists (whom Carter thought of as "reformers") took power, and then approved the ill-conceived hostage rescue mission that ended with ignominious failure in the desert. Obama, by contrast, could only wish for such success.
    Of course, no one could have predicted, etc.
  • A lot of people seem to believe that George W. Bush isn't getting enough credit, including George W. Bush. The rest of these mooks complaining was so predictable that I didn't bother mentioning it in the podcast, but Bush complaining about his hurt feelings is something else altogether. Here's why Bush doesn't deserve any credit.
  • I predict pushback for my comments about Greenwald, so here's my final word: These arguments are not based on the actual rules of engagement. Under those standards, this was not an assassination by any standard. As always, the Manic Progressive wing is long on passion but short on fact.

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Oussama Njili

Dramatis Interruptus - Science in the Courtroom


On the anti-vaccination movement, and their efforts to use the law where science has failed them; the use and abuse of libel suits to silence bloggers; the three-ring circus known as the autism omnibus trial; why theatrics don't always work in court; and an update on Andy Schlafly's continuing slide into madness.

---

Coincidentally, I spotted a post on vaccination on a parenting blog not long ago. It wouldn't even bear mentioning, save for the fact that it is the first parenting website I've ever seen that wasn't fully in the anti-vaccine camp.

The anti-vax movement is not that large, but it does have a presence in all the wrong places. Parenting forums and sites are rife with this stuff, and those sites are visited largely by first-time mothers. Young parents are bundles of nerves, primed to believe the worst about the world. They are a prime target for the anti-vaxxer false prophets and the hucksters who follow them around. That's the tragedy - it doesn't take many people to ruin someone's life.

That's not even the half of it. The problem with preventative and long-term medicine is that if people can't see the disease, they assume it doesn't exist. Vaccines rid the United States of polio, smallpox, measles, and a variety of other disease. As a result, people who didn't grow up with those illnesses don't think of them as being that serious, so they focus on the means of prevention. We built a wall to keep the barbarians at bay, and now people complain that the wall is blocking their view. You can see the same dynamic at work in HIV/AIDS denialism, crank cancer cures, and pretty much every form of alt-med under the sun.

In sum: Vaccinate your kids. You aren't striking a blow against Big Pharma or Big Government when you take up the anti-vax banner. You're just striking a blow against Big Health.
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Oussama Njili

Dramatis Interruptus - The Rapture

(Blip.tv/YouTube/MP3)

On the history of a fringe political movement; the secret doubts of the flagrantly faithful; how the worst books ever written became huge hits; what people of the 21st century don't get about the world of the 1st century; and a joke no one will get.

---

On October 17, 2003, Fred Clark (the blogger I referenced in the podcast) wrote the following:

It's easy to dismiss these loopy ideas as a lunatic fringe, but that would be a mistake. The widespread popularity of this End Times mania has very real and very dangerous consequences, for America and for the church. ("Premillennial dispensationalism" -- the technical terms for what these prophecy freaks teach -- teaches that the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to Christians living today. It also undermines the core of Christianity -- Jesus' death and resurrection, and the hope of that resurrection. These are not tangential matters for Christians.)

This is a good primer on apocalyptic Christianity. Dispensationalism is a truly toxic worldview - nihilistic, spiteful, opposed to progress and in support of chaos. Millions of people are exposed to this worldview on a regular basis - in church, the social functions they attend, and even the entertainment they consume. Many of those people are children, fed a steady diet of End Times theology from the time they're able to read. When their leaders turn out to be wrong, these children of the apocalypse either take sanctuary in denial or lose faith in everything they've ever known.

At the same time, there's no questioning that evangelicals - including the End Times set - have a great deal of influence over American politics. Evangelicals have been running the party machinery of the GOP for thirty years. They are an incredibly reliable voting bloc, consistently supporting Republicans even as those same Republicans all but ignore them. Beyond that, evangelicals are a major force in the culture. No one disputes this.

So why is it that it's so hard to find anyone who's willing to take evangelicals seriously? They're either dismissed as crazies or used as a source of mockery. We point and laugh and high-five each other for being smarter than the kooks, but there are millions of these "kooks." We all acknowledge that they're an influential group, but no one ever takes the time to really look at how these people live.

And that's why you need to read Slacktivist.
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Oussama Njili

Dramatis Interruputus - On Being Provocative

On the people who seek fame by offending their audiences; an ev-psych proponent who invoked the wrath of his community; why a public forum is not the best place to discuss your own dishonesty; a journalist who hates women, and the men who love him; and a series of barely coherent rants.
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Oussama Njili

Dramatis Interruptus is Delayed Due to Rain . . .

. . . or something like that. There was plenty to discuss this week, but I quickly discovered that there was nothing I could say that hadn't been said or written elsewhere. My backup was an editorial which I scrapped after realizing that it came across as hostile (something I'm trying to avoid). My choice was between doing a low-quality podcast or skipping this week and doing a better one next week. I chose the latter.

I'd like my 20th cast to be on a topic of real interest to my listeners. Therefore, I would like you to tell me what the topic should be. I don't care if you're heard every episode or if this is your first time on the site - If you have an idea for an episode, leave it in the comments. If it's something I can discuss intelligently, it will make its way into next week's episode.

Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to pimp my latest project. I've mentioned my writing before, particularly my frustrations with writer's websites. This time, I'm taking matters into my own hands. I will be posting portions of my manuscript over at Kingdom of Sharks, along with background information and rough drafts I'm workshopping. The passages are split up into nice, easy-to-digest chunks of around 500 words, so you're free to read the whole thing or just parts that interest you. As always, I appreciate your patronage.
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Oussama Njili

Dramatis Interruptus - The Wonderful World of Andy Schlafly

(Blip.tv/YouTube/MP3)

On the mind of one of the great cranks of his age; his theories on the genius of crowds, if not their judgment; a devout Christian who talks like a dedicated atheist; why you should be wary about sending homeschooled students to classes in New Jersey; and why it all fascinates me so.

-----

With a site like CP, there will often be new developments between recording the podcast and posting it. This week was no different; however, this time the development wasn't just another vandal-baiting article or weirdo Andy insight. What happened was something that managed to be both surprising and predictable.

It started with a discussion on the Main Page about Ken DeMeyer's habit of locking pages which had never been vandalized. This led to sysop Rob Smith creating the Community Portal, a project page for discussing site policy. Smith is a degenerate liar, but I can't see any ulterior motives for him to create the page. It appears to be a legitimate effort to reach out to the user base while addressing some of the complaints they've received. That was the surprising part.

Discussion on the page quickly turned to another of DeMeyer's idiosyncrasies - repeatedly deleting and recreating pages. DeMeyer does this a lot - five times in the last 24 hours as of this writing, in fact. The exact reason varies, but his intent is always to wipe out the edit history. Often, he'll delete and recreate a page he just edited, concealing the dozens of page changes it takes him to make even a small change. Other times, he'll recreate a page with a comment or two missing, thus eliminating embarassing remarks he made or inconvenient questions from other users. In short, he never does this for legitimate, site-related reasons, only to save face.

When DeMeyer deletes and recreates an article, it completely eliminates the edit history. The only edit in the new revision history is Ken's, thus making it appear that he created the article single-handed. Normally, he only does this to his own "parody" articles, so it doesn't really matter. However, on June 2nd he deleted and recreated the Sun Tzu article. To be fair, it's a shit article - under 300 words, completely unsourced and containing baseless speculation - but it's still better than most of what passes for scholarship on CP. I wouldn't be surprised if it were edited dozens of times by numerous editors. Of course, I can't tell you how many edits of editors because the revision history is gone.

Needless to say, some of the users were upset over this. The Community Portal quickly filled with complaints about DeMeyer's antics. This led Smith to take action against DeMeyer - a fairly safe move, seeing as how most of the sysops don't like or trust DeMeyer (although they hate Smith too). Smith clearly wasn't prepared to talk to DeMeyer about deleting pages, but he did leave a comment on DeMeyer's talk page requesting that he stop reverting comments on talk pages. DeMeyer responded byreverting Smith's comment, then deleting and recreating the talk page.
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