Whom does God really endorse, anyway?

Slacktivist pointed out that no less than four Republican candidates have claimed that God called them to run.  Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain all state regularly that they are in the race at least partly due to the wishes of the Lord.

I know this is never actually going to happen, but wouldn’t it be magnificently awkward if reporters would start asking the candidates about each other’s divine mandate?  You know, “So, Governor Perry, Representative Bachmann here has said that she regularly receives assurance from The Lord that she is meant to run.  Do you feel that she is incorrect?”

We all know that there is a big social taboo against questioning any candidate’s deeply rooted personal religious opinions.  But personally, I feel like the omniscient ruler over all creation ought to be a little bit more decisive about guiding an election, don’t you think?  In a world where God really existed and actively desired the election of one particular candidate, there might in principle be a single right answer to the question of who’s really God’s candidate.  It might, of course, be an undiscoverable answer; but if all these candidates are going around claiming they know they have God’s endorsement, at least three of them must be lying or mistaken, yes?  That ought to be a fairly obvious statement even for the most hardened theocrat.

And I’d like some follow-up questions, too.  Mitt Romney the Mormon is presumed to be the likely front runner right now; suppose he wins the primary?  Is somebody please, PLEASE going to go up to Rick Santorum and ask “So, Rick, you said that God wanted you to run, but that Mormon guy sure did kick your ass.  Why did that happen?”  And if Obama is re-elected, I’m dying for all four of them to answer the question about what the heck God was up to.

Talk about last minute…

…But the Texas Freedom Network has sent the information for registering to speak at the next Texas SBOE hearings on social studies curriculum standards. So if you are in Austin and wish to speak — and the fundies who simply love the new “it’s all about white Christians!” standards will almost certainly be trying to fill the rolls — you gotta get up pretty early in the morning.

1. You have to register to testify with the Texas Education Agency. TEA will accept registration on Friday, May 14, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it is beneficial to register as early as possible on Friday. You can either register by phone by calling 512-463-9007, download a form by clicking here and fax it to 512-936-4319 or hand deliver the form to the William B. Travis State Office Building. The building address is 1701 N. Congress Ave. Austin, TX. (Click here for a google map).

2. Click here to download the form you will need to register with the TEA. Here is some information to help you fill out your form. The hearing date is May 19. Item to be addressed is Social Studies TEKS, and the grade level you will be testifying about: elementary, middle school, or high school. You will need to bring 35 hard copies of your testimony with you to give to the board members. If you represent an organization or business, please indicate that in the section marked “affiliation”; otherwise indicate “parent” or “self”. Do not mark your affiliation as TFN. TFN will have only one official spokesperson that day.

3. The hearing will take place at the William B. Travis State Office Building, 1701 N. Congress Ave., Austin. The hearing will be on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. (Click here for a google map). The hearing room is 1-104.

4. Parking is limited. There is street parking around the William B. Travis State Office Building that is metered, and we recommend parking at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum garage. (Click here for information on the parking garage).

5. We suggest you also look over the general rules for public testimony and the registration process created by the Texas Education Agency by clicking here.

6. You only have 3 minutes to give your testimony, so it is important to state your main points clearly and quickly.

7. Please click here to read the proposed social studies standards.

The narrow window is to keep the rolls thin so everyone won’t be there till one in the morning, and I’m sure the McLeroy/Leo bloc hopes they can pack it with the church crowd. If you wish to speak, well, I hope this post gets to you in time.

McLeroy’s moronity gets press across the pond

Just in time for the end of his SBOE career, Texas’ moron du jour Don McLeroy is profiled in this piece in the Times. Unlike the mealy-mouthed faux journalism of the US, where everyone is expected to play nice and all views no matter how foolish are to be accorded “respect,” McLeroy here is unambiguously painted as a pants-on-head ignorant ideologue openly attempting to politicize education. Just another reason to be grateful he’s been shown the door.

“I love science,” he protests. Of course you do, Mac. Like priests love kids.

This is our 1000th post

…and originally I thought it would be cute to waste it in postmodern fashion simply informing you of that fact. But then I realized that would basically be an exercise in irony so banal and obvious it would tip over into mere douchebaggery. So I’m much happier to spend this post in the valuable act of informing you of an exciting legal development in the ongoing fight against the theocratizing (that’s probably not a word, but screw it) of America.

A federal judge, Barbara Crabb, in Wisconsin has ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. I simply cannot wait for the 700 Club and Whirled Nut Daily to sound off on this, let alone the raging paranoiacs over at Christian Worldview Network, who will no doubt rush to blame the ruling on the baby-eating communopinkosocialistical policies of Barack 666Satan666 Obama, despite a flack for the administration assuring the pearl-clutchers that “President Obama intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer.” Naturally, we get a sound bite from fundie legal beagle Jay Sekulow, who distorts on cue:

“It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

Well, you see, Jay, the thing is the court did recognize that. It’s just that unlike you, the court also recognized it is the prerogative of private citizens to determine for themselves when and where and how they set aside days of prayer. It is not the privilege of the government to do that for them. See the difference? Citizens deciding their own religious observations: within 1st Amendment. Government promoting religious practice on specified day: violation of same. Come on, Jay, IANAL, and you are, and even I know that rudimentary difference.

But that is, of course, what Sekulow and the fundagelicals want: to be able to use the power and authority of the government to impose their brand of Christianity™ upon the nation. Yes, these are the same people who lose their shit and wail about “Soshullisum” when “BIG Government” tries to pass health care reform that makes it harder for your insurance company to sodomize you while rifling your wallet at will. But when it comes to pushing Jesus like he came in dime bags at the playground, oh, does the right ever love Big Government then.

Gotta heat up some popcorn for this cagematch, kids. It’ll be a good one.


Addendum: The fun begins. Nothing too mouth-foamy there yet, but there is, of course, already one falsehood present.

[Alliance Defense Fund] Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster…argued the day gives opportunity “for all Americans to pray voluntarily according to their own faith – and does not promote any particular religion or form of religious observance.”

That might have been the intent and the spirit of the NDOP on general principles. In practice, reality is much different. The Texas Freedom Network has cataloged incidents of Christians excluding non-Christians from formal NDOP events. Mother Jones also has an account of James Dobson’s (surprise surprise) bullying of those worshiping the wrong invisible man, and pluralism.org has a detailed account of Christians using legal muscle to keep a Hindu from participating in an NDOP event in Troy, MI. The idea that the NDOP has ever really been ecumenical is as transparently full of shit as Fox News’s “fair and balanced” slogan.

McLEROY IS OUT!

Okay, we had Rethuglican primaries here in Texas yesterday, and there is some good news to report on the SBOE front. What rocks is the upset of Don McLeroy by his opponent, Thomas Ratliff. It was a near thing, only an 800-vote spread, which just goes to show how powerful the extremists among the just-don’t-give-a-shit-what-anyone-thinks right wing still are, despite McLeroy’s shameless track record of turning Texas into a global laughingstock during his tenure. Now I’m sure the Ol’ Boy Network will kick in, and Rick Perry — who, I’m sorry to say, almost certainly will win another term — will find Mac something to do. But at least we won’t have to gawp at this mustachioed moron as he boldly stands up to the experts at SBOE hearings anymore.

Now, other seats look a little dicey. Ken “Piltdown Man” Mercer easily squashed his opponent, Tim Tuggey, which blows. And the vacancy left by überloon Cynthia Dunbar has come down to a runoff between Marsha Farney and Dunbar’s hand-picked mini-me, Brian Russell. So we have to hope things go Farney’s way, because District 10 will go Republican in the general election and any Democratic or progressive indie candidate cannot be expected to have a hope.

There’s more possible not-so-good news in the loss of another incumbent, Geraldine Miller, to her challenger, George Clayton. Clayton, on first blush, doesn’t look bad, with his harsh criticisms of teaching to standardized tests rather than actually engaging students to learn for real. But sadly, he is also on record boasting that he is “an educator” and then promptly pissing that cred away by saying, “It’s an impossibility to talk about evolution without mentioning creationism,” forever branding him an assclown. (Inasmuch as one might say, “Evolution is true and creationism is retarded,” George is essentially right, but I suspect that isn’t what he means.) Sorry, George, but when you’re asked a simple no-DUH question about the age of the Earth, you don’t lapse into mindless spinspeak like “I’m not going to cut [the Earth] in half and count the rings,” not after bragging that you’re supposed to be a fucking “educator,” goddammit. You answer that question by saying, “Between 4-5 billion years…next?” unless you want to be sent to the corner in the pointy hat. The last thing we need on the SBOE is another uneducated “educator.”

So it’s hardly a clean sweep for reason and intelligence in the primaries. Ratliff could turn into the Manchurian Candidate all on his own. Yet it ain’t over till it’s over. Dems and independents could still have a chance to rally voters and cause some upsets down the road in the general election.

But damn!…McLEROY’S OUT! And that alone makes me ready to throw a block party. Hopefully Texas has decided it’s ready to start evolving after all.

Darwin Day 2010

Aaaand I hope you’re having a nice one.

Apropos of Don’s post below, I can only reiterate the threat to science education (as well as to civics/history education, and anything else the wingnuts don’t feel meshes with their ideological “white Christians did everything!” talking points) by the current SBOE. So in that spirit I direct your attention to Teach Them Science, a website dedicated to fighting the wingnut agenda.

This isn’t a perfect meeting of the minds. For one thing, it’s a joint project between Center for Inquiry and The Clergy Letter Project. The latter is a group of religious leaders promoting positive science education and resisting creationist ignorance. Now, that’s a good thing. But I can sympathize with PZ’s wariness of the group and the way they try to pretend science and religion can somehow be simpatico. Still, I can see that perhaps such a stance is a PR necessity at present. With the vast majority of the public still clinging to religion’s skirts, good science education would be a hard sell if it came with the message that “Now you can dump all that stupid God bullshit!” There’s a whole page on the Teach Them Science site that addresses the question of whether you can accept evolution and still believe in Sky Daddy, and I admit it kind of makes me cringe. But I have to remember that’s because I’ve evolved beyond superstition, and most people aren’t so lucky. So, you know, baby steps. Sure, a person can be scientifically literate and theistic all at once, though I still don’t understand why they’d want to (lookin’ at you, Ken Miller). But the point of proper scientific education first and foremost is to fill people’s heads with facts — something the currently SBOE is fighting tooth and nail — and let them draw conclusions about worthwhile philosophies on their own after they have all the facts. It’s the SBOE that wants to deny students that freedom of choice, and impose upon them not merely a Christian philosophy, but a specifically conservative American fundamentalist Protestant one.

So, mindful of the fact that sometimes war makes for strange bedfellows, I think movements like Teach Them Science stand to do more good than harm, and that the anti-science agenda of the far right needs to be fought by any means necessary.

The intellectual entirety of the Tea Party movement in one screencap

Cue the fail at the Teabagger Convention: Here’s cover girl Sarah Palin, after banking 100 large to give a speech slamming overspending and greed, answering one of the pre-screened questions by looking at notes written on her hand.

As a number of folks have already remarked, most of us were a little more subtle about this kind of cheating in junior high school, for chrissakes. And 53% of Republicans think she’s more qualified to sit in the White House than Obama!? Look, whatever you think of the man’s policies, he’s definitely not a complete paste-eating chowderhead. I knew this country was into breeding the stupid, but I’m always astounded at how polluted the gene pool has really gotten.

A day without abusing the Texas SBOE is like a day without sunshine

What never ceases to amaze me about the Texas State Board of Education is the dazzling arrogance with which they blindly soldier on in the face of almost total loathing from everyone in the state who isn’t a rabid fundagelical teabagger. This is a pretty conservative state, gang, but when you get an editorial like this from the newspaper in Denton — just a short drive north from the DFW Metroplex, so it’s not exactly the tree-hugging lefty Sodom that is Austin — you know you’ve gone so far over the top in your demagoguery that you’ve literally lapped yourself and gotten jammed up your own ass. The lead to this piece is pure win, and the rest ain’t bad at all. All you have to do to show how dire things are at the SBOE is simply to describe what they do.

Being ignorant is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is nothing to be particularly proud of either. A large and disruptive segment of the Texas State Board of Education is not only ignorant — a state that we all share at various times and on various subjects — it is proudly and aggressively ignorant, which goes beyond simple ignorance and ventures into the territory of malignant stupidity.

Gold. Of course, the defining characteristic of the extremist ideologue is to take the fact that everybody hates you as validation of your perfect and utter rightness in all things. After all, as Dan McLeroy has so bravely said, somebody’s gotta stand up to alla dem expertses!

This just in: Dunbar not running for another SBOE term

From a TFN email I just got:

We wanted TFN members and supporters to be among the first to learn about developing news at the State Board of Education. News reports today revealed that Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has decided not to run for re-election to her seat on the Texas State Board of Education. As TFN members know full well, Dunbar has been an outspoken leader of the far-right faction on the board, repeatedly using the state’s public school classrooms to wage her own personal culture war.

While Dunbar has not yet revealed the reason for her decision, her extremist track record has clearly made her a damaged brand in next year’s election — and TFN has been the leader in exposing that record.

  • TFN introduced the world to Dunbar’s 2008 book, One Nation Under God, in which she called public education a “tool of perversion,” “tyrannical” and unconstitutional.
  • TFN broke the story about Dunbar’s attacks against then-candidate Barack Obama, authoring an opinion column that labeled him a terrorist sympathizer who wanted another attack on America so that he could declare martial law and throw out the Constitution.
  • TFN exposed her efforts to politicize our children’s social studies classrooms and to promote creationist arguments against evolution in science classrooms.

Unfortunately, the candidate Dunbar has handpicked to be her successor shares many of her anti-science and extremist views. A blog post today at TFN Insider reveals some troubling information about Brian Russell, whom Dunbar has apparently recruited to fill her shoes on the board. So our work is not done.

Dealing with right-wing creationist d-bags is like playing Whack-A-Mole. But you gotta keep whacking.

No! Not Sarah too!

For those of you who don’t keep up with Ed Brayton’s enjoyable blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars, he has a funny post today featuring an excerpt from Sarah Palin’s new book that does a pretty fair job of illustrating why the lady hasn’t got what it takes to be elected dogcatcher let alone leader of the free world, followed by some hearty criticisms. Go read and enjoy. But I thought I’d just mention that I couldn’t help being struck by one passage from the book in particular. Here’s Sarah kvetching about how incredibly controlling Nicolle Wallace, Sarah’s official minder on the McCain campaign, supposedly was.

But something always struck me as peculiar about the way [Wallace] recalled her days in the White House, when she was speaking on behalf of President George W. Bush. She didn’t have much to say that was positive about her former boss or the job in general. Whenever I wanted to give a shout-out to the White House’s homeland security efforts after 9/11, we were told we couldn’t do it.

ZOMG! Oh noes! Did Sarah actually use the phrase…shudder…”shout-out”!?!? Dear Lord in Hebbin, she must be an inner-city gangbanger! Somebody quick…alert Brannon Howse!


PS: I never cease to be amazed at the way the GOP continues to elevate Sarah Palin to rockstar status despite her consistent ineptitude and penchant for whining and casting blame on others for her shortcomings. I have a little hypothesis as to why this is so, and it goes like this (ahem): Take a look at the kinds of people who make up arch-conservatism and the radical right in America these days — you know, the teabaggers, the Glenn Beck zombies, etc. — and you’ll see, in the phrasing of vintage Mad magazine, the usual gang of idiots. To wit, fundamentalist Christians whose favorite sport is their strident denial of anything in the world of politics and science that contradicts their cherished beliefs and ideologies. In their world, intellectualism, education and expertise are all bugs rather than features. They love Sarah because she represents them to a tee in her combination of intellectual mediocrity, hubris, and embarrassing lack of self-awareness or any sense of irony. Sarah famously could not name the three countries covered by NAFTA, and yet she’s seriously being pushed as the Republican front-runner to challenge Obama in 2012. She’s so clueless that she can actually write this in her book, about her respect for Hillary Clinton…

Compared to the guys [Clinton] squared off against, a lot of her supporters think she proved what Margaret Thatcher proclaimed, ‘If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’

…and her fans will be so clueless that they’ll read this and not immediately roll their eyes that such a remark came from the keypad of a woman who couldn’t be bothered to finish out even her first term as governor. Way to get it done, Sarah!

Well, every political party gets the candidate it deserves. And the rise of Sarah Palin’s superstardom, at a point in her career when she should be treated as little more than a joke whose fifteen minutes were up long ago, demonstrates just how low the formerly Grand Old Party has sunk. Yes, there are plenty of moderates in the GOP outside of the “base” who are groaning in dismay that Sarah has become the party’s glamour girl and hope for the future. Heck, the rising schism has me heating up the popcorn…