Sunday, January 3, 2016

Country Asks: Where Are Moderate Armed Militias?

After a small peaceful protest of militiamen and civilians from around the country took place in Burns, Oregon, over the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to actually enforce the real minimum sentencing on two ranchers convicted of arson on federal land, a "group of outside militants"—which was led by members of felon rancher Cliven Bundy's family—took over an unoccupied Malheur National Widlife Refuge headquarters building, claiming that they were prepared to occupy it for several years as a base for "patriots" across the country.

The illegal armed occupation in opposition of constitutional federal law has left distraught Americans inside and outside Oregon asking where the moderate armed militias are to denounce this act of violence.  Sarah Potter, who works at the headquarters but will be unable to return to her job, was able to speak with reporters: "Are there no moderate gunmen who think this is a problem?  I now have no job!  How will I put food on the table?"  Her husband Theodore expressed similar dismay while trying to console his wife, wondering why such people "live here if they hate America so much".  Similar reports have come in from as far away as New York and Michigan, states heavily populated by moderate militant groups, where citizens have called for their states' militias to make public statements critical of the situation in Oregon.  One woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan, expressed fury that her friend from the local Constitution Party group has not commented on Facebook against the attack, telling a reporter for MLive that this is "very unlike him".

This sentiment seemed to be shared by the two arrested ranchers (from the Hammond family) as well, who disagree with the Ninth Circuit's decision but seem overwhelmed by the support from the protesters, and now the clearly irrelevant armed occupation by the Bundy militia.  The Hammonds' lawyer said in a separate statement that his clients are "flabbergasted" that "these otherwise friendly people would resort to such tactics".  Mr. Schroeder assured the press that the Hammonds would themselves never condone acts of violence, especially on public land, and that they wanted to echo the call from their community for moderate militia groups to publicly distance themselves from this act of terror.

Journalist Laura Sage from The Oregonian has recently reported she has yet to receive a response to requests for comment from Oath Keepers of Oregon and American Patriot Party, and has interpreted this silence in her most recent article to mean that the groups approve of the takeover.  The Michigan SSA actually has had more success recently in getting word on this from "Bob" from Oath Keepers ourselves ("Bob" provided this pseudonym for anonymity purposes), who said in an email that Sage's comments "do not necessarily follow".  We are presently unsure if this means his group condemns the attack, and have emailed back for clarification.

In the meantime local police have shared with news outlets that they are currently performing reconnaissance to discover if there are any black militiamen at the headquarters worth taking out first, saying the white members have not yet made them "fear for [their] lives".

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Humanists Against the Confederate Flag

On June 17, 2015, white nationalist Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and shot nine members of that church’s black congregation. Upon being arrested, Roof was discovered to have made numerous online postings about his racial views, including photographs of him draped in the flag of the Confederate States of America. As such, the past few months have seen the reigniting of a debate which has been going on since our civil war: is it right for southern states to continue waving their flag of secession and slavery?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Michael Brakey: Picking Oopsie-Daisies

A writer for a climate denial blog named "NoTricksZone", Michael Brakey, published a blog post a little under two weeks ago mocking several mistakes NOAA allegedly made in an update to their US surface temperature dataset, namely impacts that happened in Maine.  Deniers seem to be grabbing ahold of Maine and wringing it dry because the impacts to past temperatures are greatest in that state.

Ironically, for wanting to point out these mistakes, Brakey hasn't quite done his homework and picked his own bouquet of oopsie-daisies.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What Humanists can learn from Thomas Jefferson

With the recent passing of the 239th Anniversary of the United States’ Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, it is important for Secular Humanists to look back at history and learn from our forefathers, especially those whose thoughts helped develop what we call Humanism today. Of course, in the United States, one such figure would without a doubt be Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Monday, July 6, 2015

New Atheism, Old Jacobins

On the morning of December 2nd, 2014, I woke up to find many of my activist friends sharing a recent article from Jacobin Magazine on social media. The piece, written by one Luke Savage, was titled New Atheism, Old Empire and featured the provocative subtext “The ‘New Atheists’ have gained traction because they give intellectual cover to Western imperialism.” As an atheist and leftist activist who is very strongly opposed to imperialism, not to mention one who has become increasingly disappointed in some of the public statements of New Atheist spokesmen such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I decided to give the article a chance.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Michigan Voters Stumped They Can't Vote on Fundamental Rights

Today's ruling by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges that states have to recognize and license marriages for same-sex couples has left many in Michigan wondering what sort of totalitarian Council of Nine can decide whether the voters within the state have the power vested in them by the Constitution to ignore the Constitution.

"I don't understand why my vote to keep homosexuals as second-class citizens now counts for nothing," said Cheryl Smith, 54, of Grandville, MI.  "Apparently the judges think that they have the power to apply the Constitution against the wishes of the voters of Michigan."

This sentiment appears to have risen up amongst all parts of the state now, with petitions now calling on Governor Snyder to remove the four liberal justices from their spots on the Supreme Court.  One man from the City of Novi, 62 year-old Jeffery Anderson, has decided to go door to door over the weekend, passing out flyers to notify his neighbors that their votes no longer count for anything and encouraging them to sign his own petition.  He told local news early Friday afternoon that he was "disappointed" that this decision has "removed our Constitutionally-guaranteed superiority".  His petition in particular asks the Michigan Legislature to vote to secede from the Union if the Supreme Court does not reverse its decision within two weeks.

Meanwhile in a press conference earlier today, Governor Snyder spoke about how his administration would "comply with the decision to the best of [its] ability".  Snyder's office did not respond to requests for comments on what he meant when he muttered "thank God we have Courser", before this publication.

Friday, June 12, 2015

SD v. SE (of the mean)

A few days ago I wrote an article criticizing a post from Dr. Ross McKitrick about Karl et al. (2015), and one of the points that I brought up was that Mckittrick's use of the standard deviation of sample measurements to describe the uncertainty of the mean was incorrect.  I said that the standard error of the mean is instead the correct figure to use.  Several commenters at other blogs (such as here and here, examples from I think the same person) have either asked which of us is correct, or otherwise suggested that I am incorrect.  From the comments that McKitrick and I exchanged on my post, it seems that we have an understanding that the standard error of the mean is correct; however, there are some area-weighting issues that still exist that McKitrick pointed out, and which I have very briefly talked about here.

I think some may still be confused on the difference between standard deviation and standard error of the mean, though.  This post will help to illustrate that difference, and the application each serves as.