Oh THAT guy?! Nevermind, not in our town.

A couple months ago, I got an invitation to participate in what would have been my first ever face-to-face moderated debate before a live audience.  I didn’t get all the details, so I’m speculating a bit. I think the idea started with a high school debate team wanting to pit theism vs atheism, and someone decided to tap me. Rather than pressing me for pointers, they decided to have me come on down and do it myself. That’s how I think this got started.

Well if I’m coming to their school to debate my position, they can’t have a student debate me; they’d have to get another adult. I was told they’d selected a minister who wanted the topic to be “the source of morality”.  Matt Dillahunty told me once that no matter what the topics of his debates are advertised to be, they always turn into that one. My wife told me not to do it because that subject is where theists always feel at their strongest. I didn’t care, didn’t matter. I was all over it. I was already salivating. I accepted the challenge as-stated, and the more I thought about it, the more I was fired up and anxious to jump into it.

The thing is, this high school was located in a little town in rural east Texas, triangulated between Dallas, Houston, and Shreveport Louisiana, equidistant from anywhere big enough to show up on my map. I’ve never been that way, but I’ve heard reports that there are churches out there who teach that dinosaurs never existed, and to rely on prayers rather than medicine. Whenever I told other Texans where this debate was going to be, they said encouraging things like, “Dude, you’re gonna get yourself shot“.  Just think about the scene in Easyriders where Jack Nicholson got clubbed to death in his sleep. It’s pretty close to there.

The next report I got was that there were three ministers competing to be the one to take me on. I was flattered. By then they had decided the debate couldn’t be during school hours anymore; it had to be an after school event, because so many parents wanted to be involved, and a lot of other citizens too. There was reportedly so much interest, they might even have to move the venue to an off-site location like one of the larger churches. I was told the local media might be there too. I was glad to hear it, and determined to give ‘em a good show.

A week or so later, the story changed. Once my three ministers looked me up online, they all backed out immediately. They said they needed to get a professional apologist. I was tickled at that. A few days later, I heard they found one. But then he checked out one of my videos, and he backed out too.

So we had the venue secured and the date was already set, but suddenly there was no one willing to debate me even on their topic of choice. Would I win by default? Where is the fun in that?

Eventually they did find someone, and I have to say, I was impressed by their choice, even a little intimidated. I was of course going to have all this recorded for my YouTube channel, and I expected to debate some bombastic evangelical idiot with a thick hick accent and colloquialisms denoting both his ignorance and bigotry. Just imagine every stupid lying bastard who was famous in the GOP last year, and any of them would have fit my bill. But that’s not who they found. They couldn’t get any of the locals to debate me, so they brought in an import. They found a 70 year-old international missionary with an eloquent English accent. He was gorgeous. No doubt he would show up with an elegant ascot to off-set his thick waves of silvery hair. Compared to him, I would be the one with the red-neck Texas accent, dang it. How would that look? A sophisticated aristocratic gentleman against a seemingly satanic southern rocker. That wouldn’t play well for me down in Mayberry.

I’ve always said that it does not matter who they pit against me, and that is still true, but what little I saw of this guy make me think he was about the best choice they could have made. I’m convinced he still couldn’t win even with an audience already in his pocket, and his demise wouldn’t have been pretty, but at least they didn’t pick someone who would have been too easy.

Today I wrote to the organizers of this event because it’s only a couple weeks away, and I haven’t seen any promotions yet. The response was another surprise. The debate is off. I don’t know why, but the high school that was so ready to roll initially have since withdrawn, reportedly afraid of political backlash. How? I have no idea. The church that was once available is now restricted. Now all the churches in town have refused to host this debate, if they responded at all. The reason that was explained to me was that this town isn’t interested in being involved in any event that promotes or permits looking at multiple sides of any issue relevant to religion. So in a sense it seems that the town shut down that debate. And it’s too bad, because I was really looking forward to this.

Tips on Evangelizing Evolution from Aron Ra

Ray Comfort noticed that a lot of atheists visited his Facebook page, and it occurred to him that he could train other Christians to witness to the “unsaved”.

“The average Christian can’t stand on a soapbox at a university and preach, but he or she can now engage the unsaved and have their comment read by multiple people, all from the comfort of their own home. It means that a stay-at-home mom can reach out to the lost during a break from the kids. It means that those who are busy at work can reach the unsaved during their lunch breaks.”

Here are a few nuggets from his page to tempt atheists to believe…

That which is considered by those who are anti-God to be hateful threats of torture, are loving warnings of justice.

He isn’t so much threatening you with eternal torture; he is simply lovingly warning you about justice. And just for fun another nugget…

Your casket isn’t the end. Think outside the box

So far, I am not convinced.  May be other atheists just groan when they hear about Ray Comfort’s antics because they are passe. Have you ever groaned when he gets a nonbeliever on the street, and they can’t answer him especially when it is well known science?

Like Ryan the agnostic in this video…

Comfort starts off with the question, “Why do you believe in evolution.”  Ryan flounders a bit about logic and finally adds that there is a similarity between chimp and human DNA.  Comfort comes back with no that is actually evidence for a common designer, who used DNA to create life. Let’s be fair to Ryan, he is on the spot and Comfort is interrupting and shouting at him.  Ryan still fumbles the ball though.

Let’s ask Aron…

This unsupported hypothetical magical designer put into our DNA genetic markers, dysfunctional genes, ERVs, sequential mutations indicating our ancestry with other apes and confirming our classification as primates?!

 May be you are at a level where that is low hanging fruit for you too. Perhaps, you’ve run across a person who has been taken in by more advanced pseudoscience.

For a lot of evolution supporters there can be different reasons why you can’t answer pseudoscience swiftly and adeptly.  You may know it sounds wrong but you can’t articulate why. Sort of like how I grew up around the Vietnamese language, but I speak barely any of it.  So if someone jokingly makes fun of an Asian accent; they have a chance of getting a laugh.  I can’t joke like that because it sounds wrong to me, because I’ve heard a genuine Asian accent. It just doesn’t sound right, but I can’t articulate why it is incorrect. Similarly, evolution supporters often want to defend evolution against annoying pseudoscience especially from family members and authorities, but can’t articulate why the pseudoscience isn’t correct science.

When it comes to evolution, we all have different starting points.  Growing up in the South, I was almost completely ignorant of my own biological origins, when I met Aron in the Crevo forum of Christian Forums. I still have complete noob posts that embarrass me to this day.  The point is everybody is at different levels, which is something you have to bear in mind when you try to convince people about evolution.

Anyways, Aron often gets emails from people, who are really interested in how to answer a question about evolution that is stumping them from a believer.  Obviously, he can’t come in and debate everyone, and in a lot of cases the person is better off doing their own research because they will learn better what to say to people.

However this weekend, he has graciously in his own surly way agreed to give tips to people to help them be better defenders of anti-faith. You can post questions here on his blog or join us in a Google Hangout this Sunday at 12:00 PM. Event location: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cmgcc50rv9t5ae884sv3eh6286k

It will be my second podcast of the n0nes.

Send us your google hangout information to thenonesoftheabove@gmail.com if you would like to join in the discussion.

 

 

Inappropriate invocations of the Rowlett City Council

A few weeks ago, me and several other atheists attended a meeting of the Rowlett Texas City Council. They decided they were going to hold a public display of their Christian religious beliefs at the commencement of every meeting, posted on their agenda, and that they weren’t going to correct this practice regardless of the law or community response. That night the community’s response was exclusively secular, and representative of at least 1/3 of their constituency.

We tried to reason with them. We tried to explain why secular government is necessary. We offered a compromise explaining that a ‘moment of silence’ would be inclusive rather than deliberately divisive. Some of the testimony was heartfelt emotion. But despite the accusations of several of the city council members, we were respectful and conducted ourselves accordingly.

I pointed out how intentionally exclusionary their invocation is. I also explained how it is unconstitutional both at the state and federal level, and that it is inappropriate conduct for a few other reasons. Their response was inappropriate too. In the image above, some of them were -at that moment- facebooking derisive comments against us, calling us ‘children’ and saying ‘piss on us’, comments like that, things no elected representative should be saying at all, but especially not on social networks, and certainly not when sitting on the bench while testimony is still being delivered.

I should add that the mayor made no attempt to control the vitriol against us on his own facebook. All he did do was to warn his associates to be careful what they said publicly. So he was aware what was being said and could tell what was being implied.

Just to be clear, regardless how justified your political views may or may not be, the secular perspective is one which does not evoke or involve religion. Religious views are often asserted as fact, but -make no mistake- religious views are NOT evidently true, and cannot be verified to be accurate. Historically they’re usually wrong on many other levels too. That’s just how religion is and has always been. This is just one of many reasons why religion should not be regarded nor encouraged in the rulings of any governmental body.

I believe in posting appropriate responses. I also believe people in representative positions should show responsible conduct too. But then I also believe in accuracy and accountability and a number of other ethics not apparently shared by this not-really representative body. Perhaps I’m more of a ‘believer’ than they are.

The Evolution of Genesis

On 2013/04/11, I gave a lecture to the Secular Student Alliance of UNT Denton. It focused on certain details in Biblical fables and how they were apparently inspired by similar elements in previous polytheism.

Forgive the camera angle. There was nowhere else to set the camera in that crowded classroom, and I used what may have been the only available outlet in the room.

Camp Quest Texas

I have been crazy busy lately, but I can’t put this off any longer.  How can I possibly compete with David Smalley of Dogma Debate and Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience? One guy is a publisher with a professional podcast, and the other guy is a leader in the atheist community with his own TV show.  I’m just this guy, you know. So what can I do?

OK, so we’re all trying to win this race to raise $5,000.00 for Camp Quest Texas, to give secular kids a fun science exploration summer camp without all the mumbo jumbo of those Jesus camps. We do this every year, and everyone’s always happy. It a great activity to be involved with.

Anyway Dillahunty said that if he wins, he’ll dye his facial hair pink. Eh, big deal. We’ve already seen him in a dress. How much more Matt Dennis Rodman-ahunty do we need to see?

Smalley said if he wins, he’ll get a tattoo the gay equality symbol. He doesn’t have any tattoos, and he thinks that should be significant. If he were to get it as a tramp stamp, that at least would be funny.  But otherwise, it’s time he had a tattoo anyway, and what’s wrong with that one?

I have already shaved off one eyebrow and one half of my mustache on the opposite side all for the sake of charity, and my wife found that very disturbing. So I’m not going to do anything like that again.  She suggests that if I win, I should make a video where I recite the Lord’s prayer dressed as a nun.  As a nod to Cal Worthington, I would also be willing to “eat a bug” in the same video.  Over the next few days, I’ll probably throw in a few more stunts too. While I can see those as amusing, and I will do that, let me also offer something that will hopefully be more substantive.

Click the link to donate to my portion of this competition -if you can. If I win, and yours was the highest  donation, then I will debate the theist of your choice. It doesn’t matter who that is, and it doesn’t matter who you are either. If you’re the highest donor, then I’ll debate whomever you chose -so long as they’re willing to do it.  We’ll schedule a one-hour (maximum) debate on Skype recorded for posterity, with one copy uploaded to my channel -whether I win or lose ;-).  We’ll have opening remarks, rebuttals, closing remarks, etc. Provided we can agree on a mutually acceptable moderator, the question being debated will by my opponent’s choice. Who my opponent is will be your choice.  So click the link please.

The Trouble with Religious Bullies

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Sometimes it must be hard for religious bullies to punch down as hard as they would like to on despised minorities like nonbelievers and LGBT especially when they’re asked to stop.  It seems no matter how politely you phrase it; the mere act of the mildest resistance to their authority is met with denials, outright fabrications, back peddling, character assassination, and even counter-accusations rather than a decent apology and an attempt to make amends.

I won’t go into the shenanigans Aron and I have been faced with pleading with the Rowlett City to stop using public meetings to promote Jesus in this post. That is a separate post related to the same sort of trouble with Christian privilege as this one. They don’t get that their religion doesn’t give them special authority, and sacred immunity to criticism. It is because of these conflicts with the religious majority that I am posting in solidarity with Amanda Brown and her father Roger Gorley.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

She writes here about her father’s run in with hospital authorities and his partner’s family for simply wanting to hold his gay partner’s hand. The family had no authority to ask him to leave as he has power of attorney. Gorley should have the same rights as heterosexual domestic partner to care for an ailing spouse. The reality of the situation is that that only works when people respect those rights. He was eventually handcuffed and dragged out of the hospital by the police.

You may have already heard of Amanda Brown from her work on We Are Atheism. A project that encourages nonbelievers to come out. She also helps organize Reason Fest every year in Lawrence Kansas.  Reason Fest is going on this weekend if you can make it. I’d like to say a brief thank you to Camp Quest for providing children’s activities. It helps my family make this trip more doable. Kudos to the people that sponsor Camp Quest.

Many of us are already aware of this story through social media or blogs. In this digital age, the hospital’s inappropriate actions in interfering in a patient’s legal wishes brought them unwanted attention. Did they own up for their discriminatory actions and apologize?  Heck No.

Instead they blamed the victim whilst claiming their own fairness, which is not demonstrated by their actions.

Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.

This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care.  The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.”

 

Amanda has already made a good defense of her father on her blog detailing what has been going on. I can’t imagine my reaction after caring for Aron for years being forced to leave his side against his wishes. It wouldn’t happen, because we are a heterosexual married couple with a marriage that is recognized by the state. Despite the assurances, legal partnerships do not get the same respect as a legal marriage.

I’ll be seeing Amanda this weekend, and will podcast from Reason Fest with Youtube Atheist Shayrah Akers formerly of Dogma Debate.  We are hoping to connect with her to help her spread the word of this injustice. She is raising money to help with her father’s legal fees. Hopefully, she can find some time while she is helping Reason Fest run smoothly. We Are Atheism is also promoting Atheists Giving Aid‘s efforts to do something to help the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing. At this time they are 4 dollars shy of 12,000 dollars.

This will be our first podcast of “The Nones“. We are shooting for Sundays at 12:00 PM. Our goal is to talk about issues that concern the 25 percent of us that are nonreligious. Right now, the nonreligious are practically ignored despite our numbers in this country. We are also hoping the show coming from the point of view of women will add more diversity to our community’s discourse.

 

 

Another bill to protect creationism

It never stops in Texas.  Now Wednesday April 17th, the Texas state legislature will hold a hearing “relating to prohibiting discrimination by public institutions of higher education against faculty members and students based on their conduct of research relating to intelligent design.”  What’s that mean?  Well, I’m not sure, but I would guess that it means that we can’t prosecute teachers for lying to their students with regard to evolution vs creationist pseudoscience. It can’t work the other way though. It wouldn’t unleash strong science advocates against creationism because that would be an attack on religion. It’s yet another double-standard allowing pseudoscience to skirt accountability by binding science by its own credence.

Fight HIV with Dogma Debate and Aron

Madness, Mayhem, and Charity with Dogma Debate will ensue in 45 minutes at 7:00PM central. Aron may drop in too to multiply the madness and mayhem. http://vaughnlive.tv/fighthiv

What would be worth donating to see them do or stop doing? All to help fight HIV.

International Aids Vaccine Initiative
http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/devchelle/mmc2013


International HIV AIDS Alliance

http://www.justgiving.com/MMC2013

Ebay Auction Page

http://tinyurl.com/ebaymmc

Like them on facebook
https://www.facebook.com/MadnessMayhemAndCharity

 

 

Talkin’ Politics at NAPCon

I don’t usually like to talk about politics because it is largely a matter of opinion, and I prefer to deal in matters of fact.  As an activist in the atheist community, I have noticed that people are usually happy to hear me talk about science, even though scientists are, well they have low tolerance for fools, and can be brutal judges.  So you’d better not get anything wrong!  Folks are generally happy to hear me talk about religion too.  Even the religious people, because they like to get offended –especially by someone who looks like me.  And most of my audience likes to talk about philosophy –even if I myself do not.  But whenever I talk about politics, that’s when things get ugly, and it doesn’t seem to matter who I’m talking to.  I am sometimes amazed at the differences between what someone thinks I said versus, -whatever somebody thinks I meant vs whatever I actually said, and how any perceived endorsement of a limited provision will be exaggerated in hyperbole to the most ludicrous extreme possible.  If for example, I think that the government has a role to do anything at all, whether by imposing environmental regulations on hazardous or destructive industries, or by preserving equal rights in employment or housing, then the anarchists accuse me of being a statheist, of believing in statism –as if that’s a bad thing.  As if anything the government does is automatically wrong, or as if anarchy ever got anything right.  If I say the government should do X, my critics will imagine that I said the government should everything A to Z.  This happens every time I’ve revealed any aspect of my own personal political opinions.  So while I have criticized the more outrageous proposals and policies of other people’s politics, I really haven’t much discussed my own.  However today I find myself in the unique position of addressing a new political party.  I feel compelled to share my hopes for how that evolving platform will best represent me –if I am to support it.

As a young man, I wasn’t much interested in politics.  I wasn’t immersed in it, I wasn’t involved, I wasn’t motivated.  I was largely unaware of most of it.  Through a series of accidents, I happened to be at the 1988 Iowa Caucuses when one of our presidential candidates was Pat Robertson, head of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, leader of the Christian Coalition, and host of the 700 Club.  Then as today, he was always quoted by the press saying something simultaneously hateful and insane.  It seems those are the only comments he seems capable of making.  I didn’t care who else was running at that time.  I just couldn’t imagine a worse president than somebody like Pat Robertson.

I had never even registered to vote before then.  That was my first time.  When I went to the registration table they asked me if I was Republican or Democrat.  I honestly didn’t know what it meant to be either one, and the girl who was filling out the forms wasn’t about to explain it.  She just looked at me through narrow eyes and said, “You’re a Democrat”, and started filling out my form.  I asked how she knew that, and she looked at me again with narrow eyes and said “Trust me”.  Looking back, I think she was Republican.

I never identified as a Democrat, although given only two choices, I have no choice but to vote as one.  If you ever saw Monty Python’s, ‘The Meaning of Life’, the way the grim reaper described Englishmen is pretty much the way I describe Democrats:  “You’re all so pompous; none of you have got any…” –well you’ve seen the movie.

For example, in 2008, I voted for a change I could believe in, and five years later, I still don’t think I’ve seen any change.

Last September, the Democratic party removed from their platform any reference to God –where the Republican platform mentions God twelve times.  But they immediately reversed that position at their national convention –against the vote of their natural majority.  They needed a two thirds majority, and that was not what they got.  They called the vote three times, because the first two times it sounded like a tie.  The third time, the nays seemed louder than the ayes, but that wasn’t part of the script, and they weren’t going to change course just because that’s how the people voted –and that is part of the problem.  How could you even call that Democratic anymore?

So I still don’t consider myself a Democrat, although I did share in their delight in this last election.  That was a fun one, wasn’t it?  My wife and I sat glued to the computer as we watched this map of gray states lighting up red or blue, and it was hilarious.  Every time one lit up red, my wife would ball up her fists and –in her Minnie Mouse voice- start cursing Romney supporters.  She was adorable, even though we are not Obama supporters ourselves.  We voted for him, but we vote for the lesser evil.  And every time the greater evil got an advantage in the vote, my wife felt outraged.  Every time a state lit up blue or the tide shifted the other way, we felt releaved.  We were afraid to go to bed because we were terrified we would wake up in a world ruled by a hand-puppet of the Religious Right.

We were primarily concerned that Romney would carry out his threat to select right-wing conservative judges like Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme court.  Tipping the balance that way would effectively end –or could effectively end our democratic constitutional republic, and bring about an American theocracy.

Honey, bring me my power cord.
This would be disasterous wouldn’t it.
Honey, bring me my power cord.
It said I had three hours, then it said I had none.
We need an adapter.
Sorry for that momentary interruption.
And I have to have a lot of notes because there’s a heckuva lot to go over. I’m sorry.

Regarding the Supreme Court, and the way those judges rule, because every bad decision at that level is irreparable, and sets a disastrous precedent, and opportunistic ideologues will seize every advantage to do even greater harm.  It bothers me that so many people in this country are so short-sighted, that they can’t see the obvious eventual consequences of their actions.  It’s as if they can’t see beyond their own personal needs of the next fiscal quarter.

For example, in the last interview that George W Bush ever gave as president –it was on Nightline .  He was asked Bush if the Bible was literally true.  He laughed and said ‘probably not’.  One of the reasons he gave for that was when he said there was proof of evolution.  So all that stuff he said about teaching intelligent design prior to that was just pandering to the votes of the Religious Right.

Back at the turn of the century, when our beloved ‘Dubya’ ran against Al Gore, inventor of the internet, I read both the Democratic and Republican party platforms, and at that time, they weren’t very different.  They were both religious, and one party was just a bit more overtly religious than the other.  Over the next couple terms, that rift has widened.  They’re still both religious, but now one is supposedly democratic and the other is theocratic.

In a video titled ‘Republican Theocracy’, I reviewed the new Republican Party platform that was specifically tailored for Texas.  That one is worse than that national one in that it is less discreet, because southern conservatives are so comfortable in their secure dominance of my state.  They’re so immersed in the safety of reassuring numbers that they feel above reproach, and will more openly speak their minds as if they won’t be held accountable for any damage they do.  I won’t give that speech again today.  If you’re watching this on video, I’ll include links to my earlier video and also where I talk about this on my blog, and provide a list of notable citations.

Today, I will move on to highlight the most extreme offshoot of right-wing Republicans, the Tea party.  They claim to be for lower taxes and better economy, but appear to be all about religious extremism.  The Tea Party platform is made up mostly of misleading quotes from historic Americans who would not have aligned themselves with what the Tea Party now represents.  They quoted Abraham Lincoln ten times!  Though they obviously didn’t quote anything he said about God, the Bible, or Christianity.  They quoted several people who either never said anything positive for Christianity, or who actually said very negative things against it, men like Thomas Paine, who ever shared anything in common with Glenn Beck.  I read an article on, How Glenn Beck Warped Extreme Liberal Thomas Paine into a Teabagger –which was an interesting read.  But Paine’s position was opposite Beck’s on nearly every issue, and if he were alive today, Thomas Paine would more likely be one of us.

While I’m at it, I should cite another article listing an Avalanche of Anti-American Tea Party Legislation Since 2010.  It cites the Tea Party’s war on anything progressive, inclusive, tolerant, or otherwise liberal, and lists all the specific legislation toward those ends.  I’ll only highlight the main categories here.
·    According to the article, they have a war on women’s reproductive rights that is so extensive in so many states across the nation, that I hesitate to list specifics here.  There are too many, but a lot of them outrageous and should be read.  So I’ll be sure to provide a link when I upload this video.
·    Part of that offensive includes their war on the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC: On this matter, I should point out that today –and for the last dozen years or so- I have supported my family working for a corporate multinational –and my daughter just joined the Navy to serve as a rescue diver.  I have been continuously employed for decades.  But there was a time a quarter century ago, when I was a single dad with no job and I was the only man sitting in the waiting room of a welfare program dedicated to Women and Infant Children.  I didn’t need this sort of safety net very long, but I am sure glad it was there back then.  I wouldn’t want to deny that to anyone in that situation.
·    As their name suggests, the Tea Party are in an ideological war with the Federal Government too:  In some instances, they want local law enforcement to have presiding priority over federal agents.  In other cases, they want their own state currency, or they want to secede from the union altogether –either literally or effectively.  They don’t want any central government telling them what they can or can’t do, and they aren’t morally accountable enough to do the right thing on their own either.
·    So of course they have a war on gun control, and raving lunatics like Alex Jones make it hard for any sane person to defend the second amendment the way we used to.
·    They also have a war on Islam, specifically against the encroachment of Sharia law.  I wouldn’t have any problem with that myself, except that they’re arguing for the Judeo-Christian counterpart, Mosaic Law –which is just as bad, just as dominionist, and just as insane.  The further you integrate church and state, the more you pave the way for someone else’s religion to take over everything.  Islam is the fastest-growing religion on earth while Christianity is in a state of general decline.  The math isn’t really so difficult that you can’t see the inevitable eventually there.  History has repeatedly and consistently shown that you can’t fight religion with religion.  You can only fight religion with reason, and if you’re going to do that on a cultural level, you’ll need nationally standardized secular education provided in the safety of a securely secular government.
·    The Tea Party has a war on National Public Radio –as a voice for liberalism.  They want to censor that, and not just that.
·    They also have a War on Net Neutrality: The article says that a free press has always been fascism’s greatest enemy, and that’s why Republicans want to strangle it.  They want to oppose the safeguards of the Federal Communications Commission to allow corporate control of all internet content.  This is one of many examples of why federal regulations are necessary and why corporations should not be unleashed without restraint.
·    They have a War on Desegregation.  That’s right; they want schools and business racially segregated again.  What is wrong with these people?  Why does anyone even think like this anymore?
·    Of course they have a War on Obama: Because if they don’t want colored kids in their schools, they damned sure don’t want one for president, right?
·    That’s another reason why they have a war on the right to vote.  There are twenty-two states that are preparing, or have already passed legislation intended to disenfranchise voters in any circumstances where statistics favor Democratic candidates.
·    The war on marriage equality and the anti-gay agenda – Big surprise, they’re not just bigoted against other races, religions, nationalities, and political alignments, they’re homophobes too.  They don’t just want to ban marriage either.  They also want to prohibit domestic partnerships and civil unions for same-sex couples, and they’ve also lobbied for the right to discriminate against homosexuals with regard to housing and employment.  They’ve even argued that violence against homosexuals should not be considered a hate crime –precisely for all the reasons that define it as hate crime.  They’ve even come out and said that they have a religious right to treat homosexuals as an abomination.  In Tennessee, they’re trying to make it illegal for teachers to even utter the word, ‘homosexual’ in a classroom.
·    The War on Unions and Collective Bargaining is the War on Middle Class: It’s no secret the GOP wants to eliminate the middle class, and one of the ways they want to do this requires that they deregulate Wall Street to quickly divide everyone into the haves and the have nots.  Another reason why federal regulations are necessary.
·    The War on Immigration: In my state, some have suggested that the border be patrolled by armed vigilantes, and that we should jail anyone who hires undocumented workers, unless they’re only hiring “the help” at their own homes, which would effectively legalize slavery.
·    They have a war on technological advances like High-Speed Rail –because they want us to remain addicted to fossil fuels.
·    And this relates to their War on Science, the Environment, and Health, especially as those relate to their separate war on Education, with their Historical Revisionism: Hopefully you’ve all seen the documentary, the Revisionaries, or you are otherwise already aware of how the Religious Right fears education.  I could talk about this indefinitely, as you probably already know.  They don’t want the secular government to provide a fact-based education; they want to lie to their own children.  They want their kids deceived to believe the same twisted bigotry their parents bought into.  They don’t want anyone’s kids to know the truth of American history, or evolution, or sex education, and they don’t want their kids to have to compete with kids they see as lower class either.  So they want to eliminate free and compulsory education, so that the kids who can’t afford to pay for charter schools will be kicked out on the street to go to jail or go to work.
·    Because they also have a War on Child Labor Laws, calling them unconstitutional.  So in their ideal world, the rich kids would grow up to be misinformed minions, and their estates can be maintained by slaves, and their factories can be operated by under-aged children with no place to go –and no future worth living for.

Can the Tea Party be any worse?  They want to take us back to the good old days of the work camps in the industrial revolution.  The Tea Party is the very reason this convention is taking place.  They –more than anyone else- created a need for a progressive secular political party.

Now everyone regards American politics as a two-party system, which it effectively is, but technically isn’t.  There are other parties active in this country.  They’re just usually like us in that they so small that they can’t field serious candidates.  They may be like us, where they’re not very big yet, or they may not be as big as they used to be.  For example, there’s still a prohibition party.  Can you believe it?  Those are the very people responsible for the prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s.  They’re still out there, hundreds of them.  So there’s the prohibition party, which sounds like an oxymoron.  And there’s the Marijuana party –which goes without saying.  I mean putting those two words together sounds a bit redundant to me.  The marijuana party is an actual political party.  If you’ve never heard of them, it’s because they don’t ever do anything.  I suspect they have no ambition, that they just sit around talking about who is sexier, Betty or Wilma.

You also have the Green party, which I don’t think I have any particular issue with.  I couldn’t understand why the environment wasn’t a pivotal issue in the presidential race of 1992.  But the green party aren’t just environmentalists.  They describe themselves as being what the Democratic party was –before the Dems started their recent shift to the right.  They’re socially conscious and progressive, and if I am to ally with any political party, they must be progressive.  We’ve got to embrace the future.  At least admit that there is going to be one, and that requires responsible preparation.  It amazes me that there are people out there –and I have known several growing up- who deny that there is even be any future to worry about.  They’re not progressive, they’re against progress.  They’re actually regressive, wanting to reject all the advantageous advances of the modern age, and retreat into some mythical ‘good ol’ days’ of hard work, discomfort and early demise due to incurable diseases.  It’s just like at the Reason Rally; where you saw people protesting against reason.  And in Europe, we’ve seen Islamists protesting against freedom.  How could anyone actually protest freedom, reason, and progress?  Only the religious.

The Constitution Party is typically considered the 3rd party, but they are not progressive.  They are not reasonable, and they are not free.  They are bound to a belief system imposing required beliefs and prohibited beliefs, both of which apparently wrong.  They are yet another collection of right-wing religious ideologues who I find indistinguishable from modern Republicans, which is of course how they vote.  The preamble of the Constitution Party platform “gratefully acknowledges the blessing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States,”.  So of course what they say about education comes as no surprise, and I will quote some of that now:

“All teaching is related to basic assumptions about God and man. Education as a whole, therefore, cannot be separated from religious faith. The law of our Creator assigns the authority and responsibility of educating children to their parents.”
…Compulsory attendance laws should be repealed. Parents need not defy the law by refusing to send their children to schools of which they disapprove.
…We call for the elimination of the Federal Department of Education.  …We oppose any federal control over the education of children.
…Under no circumstances should the federal government be involved in national teacher certification, educational curricula, textbook selection, learning standards, comprehensive sex education, psychological and psychiatric research testing programs, and personnel.”
[End quote.]

Note that all fundamentalist religious organizations are openly opposed to psychiatric analysis across the board. Why is that?  Perhaps it is because psychiatric drugs can both conjure and cure some forms of spiritual revelation.

Regarding their objection to secular education, I could not disagree more.  Just last week I spoke to a teacher in a charter school.  She told me she had just quit her job because she recognized –even in the blue states of New England- a systematic effort to de-fund and disable public education in favor of backward-thinking religious regression.  She said that charter schools are not the answer, and that Americans need to build up and improve our state-funded public education system.  I believe this is one of the few things our government should provide, and it should be standardized nation-wide.

The purpose of educating children is not so that they can be mislead, indoctrinated, demoralized or deceived.  It’s not so that parents can die secure in their own reaffirmed delusions; it’s so that children will understand reality, so that they’ll be able to do something about it.  Only accurate information has practical application, and our next generation needs that.  That’s one of the things I envy about some Asian schools, where academics actually matter to the students.  Their culture encourages that.  That’s why they have more honors students than we have students.

One of the problems we face with a population that has already pushed beyond the limits of natural support and is still growing exponentially is that we need to be a lot more efficient than we have been.  Remember that when I was born, the global population had just gotten to three billion, and that was an all time high.  It rose to four billion, five billion, six billion, and now seven just in my lifetime.  We have to rely on genetically modified foods and other advances in agriculture just to feed the people we already have.  Because even though we can send more fishing boats into Alaskan waters, they collectively take in fewer fish.  Now what does that tell you?

In little more than a single century, we’ve already consumed and exhausted most of the world’s supply of fossil fuels without regard for the future.  We can run cars on electricity, and should, because airlines don’t have that option, and there is no other technology that can compete with the efficiency of jet travel.  So we’re wasting limited resources foolishly, and it seems that no one is thinking ahead; they’re thinking behind.  Our leaders are marching us backward –in the name of religion.  And that is why we need a secular party.

I know that not all atheists are or were Democrats.  We have at least a couple Republicans –strange as that may seem.  We’re not all liberals either, and we’re not all fans of Ayn Rand.  None of us can speak for all of us.  Politically we’re all over the place.  But you almost have to be one of us to realize that.

Most religious people in this country seem to think that atheists are all socialists or communists, and they don’t know the difference between those either.  I was raised to execrate both of those words and anything associated with them.  I noticed that whenever you say either word, you had to make it look as though saying it left a bad taste in your mouth.  You could insult someone simply by calling them a COMMunist or SOCialist.  You have cough up one word and spit out the other.  And if you didn’t say these words with a distasteful scowl, you’re considered suspect.  I outraged both family members and baby sitters simply by asking what socialism is.  I had some idea what communism was, an economic system contrasted with capitolism.  But the context always implied that Communism is something different than socialism.  Before I can form an opinion, I need to know the facts.  I once thought that was true of everyone.  Unfortunately the people I asked were those who believed what they were told without even trying to understand it.  So as a young child, when I asked “what’s the difference between communism and socialism”, the answer I got was always, “they’re both just as bad!”

Well, no they’re not.  Canada, the UK, and Scandinavia are all largely socialist, particularly regarding health care, and the people there seem pretty happy with that.  In fact, my co-host DPR Jones is British, and he often says that when his country adopted their national health care system after World War II, the people who protested it then in his country were the same people protesting now in this country.  Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies in particular.  And if these national health care systems didn’t work, the people would know it and the people would share that readily.  But they don’t.  To my experience, the Brits are all perfectly happy with the their health, and according to my friend, DPR Jones, “Any candidate or political party going into an election would be committing political suicide if it suggested cutting the budget of the NHS”.

Socialism is a measurement of degree, how much of whatever program the central government is directly responsible for.  The US is slightly socialist, but only by providing a few plainly beneficial programs for the public welfare.  If we had a national health care system like Europe and Scandinavia do, that would be better.  It would also be more socialist.  While this much is apparently true, or true up to this point, that does not mean that trend would continue if other programs were compiled onto this one to be entrusted to the central body.  Communism is an extreme derivative of socialism.  There are actually several Socialist parties here in the US, but only one Communist party, and there are good reasons why.

My wife’s maternal ancestors are Vietnamese.  She says that for Americans, a communist is just a word lobbed about by paranoid reactionaries.  Tea partiers like to call me Communist –without having any idea what that means.  Whereas my mother-in-law regards Communists as the people who killed a lot of her family and took away their estate.  So we’re talking about very different things here.  I believe that the government should provide a few specific benefits to its citizens.  Why else would we want to serve our country.  There should be some advantage to being American.  But I do not consider myself socialist, and I’m certainly no communist.  But neither am I an anarchist like Libertarians.

Libertarians are opposed to any national health care system of socialized medicine.  They’re also opposed to public welfare systems like Social Security and other old age or low-income protections.  They think that any degree of shared wealth at that level equals stealing.  They’re also opposed to any nationally-standardized education system.  Just like Tea party Republicans, Libertarians want inconsistent variables with no reliable or predictable standard, and they expect these to emerge naturally on their own as guided by a mysterious invisible will according to their faith in the free market.

At the Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas, I was invited onto a Podcast with the Ardent Atheist.  Do you know the Ardent Atheist?  With Emery Emery and Heather Henderson?  Penn Gillette was there with my friend, ZOMGitsCriss.  Y’all know Zoh-My-God-It’s-Criss, right?  Cristina Rad?  Anyway Penn is a brilliant orator and very passionate.  He’s very impressive when he’s on a roll –especially when you’re in the room with him.  There is so much he says that I can really get behind.  I’d like to think there is more that we agree on than not.  But there a couple things, one being the Libertarian ideal.

Penn said something that didn’t sit well with Zomgits, and she just walked off the set leaving an open mic.  I arrived a bit late and didn’t know the rules of their game.  I didn’t know that I could have sat down at her mic and had a live broadcast argument with Penn Gillette over the topic of Libertarian politics.  How cool would that be?

I admire Penn & Teller very much.  Their Bullshit TV show is one of the great gifts to skepticism, it really is, and I mean that sincerely.  They’re pretty accurate most of the time.  But it is ironic that they say their most popular episode is the one with the segment on bottled water.  It is ironic because that episode undermines everything the Libertarian party is about.

That episode showed that –despite the promises made by all these advertisers, water bottling companies often failed to meet industry standards enforced by the federal government.  Penn & Teller praised government regulatory commissions for insuring what the free market has always consistently failed to accomplish in real-world application.

Strict Libertarianism allows no role of government beyond a very limited degree of law enforcement.  They want to absolve government of all but the most minimal abilities and all of its influence.  Under the Libertarian construct, the government would have no ability or authority to preserve national parks nor federal reservations either.  Both would become the real estate of private parties and either could be sold out in whole or in part.  A Chinese power company could buy the Grand Canyon from whomever happened to take it over, and they could put up a hydro-electric dam flooding the whole place.  The Libertarian Pary Platform offers no provision to prevent this, and there is nothing any collective could legally do about it.  The owners of property have the full right to control, use, dispose of, or in any manner enjoy, [or destroy] their property without interference, until and unless the exercise of their control infringes the valid rights of others. Imagine contesting the validity of the rights of others who simply want to enjoy natural wonders that they don’t own and didn’t pay for.

Under the Libertarian system, our government would be prohibited from limiting or denying any individual’s human rights based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation.  But potential employers, suppliers, or service providers would have no such prohibition, because they are not so governed.  Being private businesses, they would be permitted to discriminate against whomever they want for whatever reason.  The only recourse Libertarians offer is that someone so neglected could just move somewhere else, as if that is an option for everyone –without regard for their roots or other connections, as if moving somewhere else means they wouldn’t face the same thing somewhere else.  That is not the answer.

Libertarians don’t want to have their industries restricted by government regulations either.  Specifically the Libertarian Party Platform says that we should trust individual property owners and businesses to insure that our products and our environment remain clean and safe.  They expect the free market to exert some mystic control over independent agencies inspiring them to act responsibility –without any motivation or penalty- just cause it’s the right thing to do.  Despite the fact that past experience has shown that –without imposed regulations, uncontrolled corporations will be just as amoral as any dispassionate despot.

Even if the free market really had this imagined ability to enforce compliance through emergent properties, Libertarians have inserted a giant loophole –like a bullet through their own foot- in that Libertarians support unrestricted monopolies.  The free market could only exist if smaller companies were allowed to compete independently.  But allowing unrestricted monopolies would put an end to that, because as some companies become larger and acquire more, you’ll end up with corporate networks where one company ends up owning or otherwise controlling everything.  It’s like a game of Risk: Eventually every piece on the board is the same color, and we already know that some laws know no boundaries of legal jurisdiction.  Without independent companies or competitors, there is no free market.  Their system would inevitably lead to corporate oligarchy, wherein nation states would be governed by OmniCorp.  In other words, the one world government and inarguable law of every land would soon be a corporatocracy wherein all the nations on earth could literally fall under the dominion of Walmart and its subordinate branches governing all avenues of every market and every facet of life –until you find yourself on your feet 20 hours a day, manufacturing cel phones at rapid pace in exchange for rations sufficient to maintain survival.  Because no one stopped it when they had the chance, and no one can stop it now.  We know already that is how companies will behave if unrestricted and permitted to do so –regardless of the free market.  It doesn’t matter how criminal Apple was to their industrial employees, iPhones still outsell androids.  The free does not induce ethics like regulation and litigation do.

Sadly I know that a lot of Libertarians are married to that party –like it’s some inexorable part of their identity.  I hope they find some resolution for that, because Libertarianism is an idea who’s time must never come.

I have noticed that a selfish and irresponsible attitude of “just let me do whatever I want” seems to permeate all of the right-wing factions.  They don’t want to share anything either –despite everything that Jesus supposedly said.  They don’t want to be governed and they don’t want to be taxed, and I understand that.  I’d like to keep both at a minimum too.  But you have to have respectable laws, and you have to contribute something collectively if the country is to work at all.

I think our nation should be run like a company. If you pay something into it, you get something out of it –just like your insurance benefits, 401K, and so on.  And our country should provide training for the same reason that a company would, to stay competitive and productive.

So the first thing I checked on every platform I’ve seen so far was their position on education.  What is taught and how it’s taught is a topic for another time.  What I wanted to see was whether they promote a fact-based state-funded cumpulsory national standard with the same expectations applied for every school.  That’s what it should be, and it should be designed to encourage advancement, –because the next generation has to be more informed and better-prepared than the last one was.  This is necessary not only nationally but globally.  We’re going to need innovative idealists capable of ingenious solutions to real world problems, because they’re going to face significant challenges which they’re not being prepared for now.

I don’t think we should raise the minimum wage, because inflation will follow suit.  I don’t think we should raise taxes either, but we should be much more efficient in our spending -and I mean from the top down.  I think government is bloated and could be a lot more lean and a lot more effective at the same time.  I think our technology has to be upgraded or refined because what we’re doing right now can’t work in the long term.  I think unprecedented innovations could be considered regardless of tradition, and shouldn’t pose any threat to individual happiness otherwise.  In fact that’s how our country began.  That’s why it was founded as a secular nation with a wall of separation.  Our founding fathers looked to the future, and expected corruption to come, and tried to counter it in advance.  That is an ongoing struggle.  How many times have we already breeched the 1st amendment, the 4th, the 5th and so on.  How much more will we allow?

Remember that the first symbol the founding fathers chose for this country was a rattlesnake declaring “don’t tread on me”. Benjamin Franklin, who despite his failings in many ways embodied Enlightenment ideals, said this in defense of the rattlesnake as our country’s symbol.

“I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eyelids. -She  may therefore be esteemed as an emblem of vigilance.-She never begins an attack, nor,when once engaged, ever surrenders. She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage.”

This is why I suggested a new name for our party The American Secular Party or ASP, and that our symbol to be the snake.  The ASP concerns should be vigilance and courage in the face of Americans’ rights and freedoms being trod upon by religious extremists in other parties who thump the Bible and the Constitution and it don’t understand either one.  Coincidentally, this year happens to be the Year of the Snake in Chinese Zodiac calendar. How’s that for incidental symbolism?

Almost every other party I’ve mentioned so far want to go in a whole other direction than I do; I want to go forward.

The primary reason that we need a party that isn’t just democratic, and isn’t just green, but which is also assuredly secular is that religiously-minded factions in this country are of the general impression that these are the last days.  That is their excuse for being so economically and ecologically incompetent; they literally believe there’s no tomorrow.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, because what kind of future will we leave our heirs if we continue to dominate and subdue the earth, while retarding our students capacity to correct that course?  I must accept that there will be a future –despite what these religious nuts want to believe.  They’ve always been wrong about everything anyway.  So I say we prepare for that future, and do our best to make it futuristic, so that when it comes, and we hand it over to the next generation, we won’t have to apologize for its condition.