Bang bang shoot shoot!

One state senator I suspect will not be voting today against Don McLeroy is my own, Republican Jeff Wentworth. And it’s not simply because he’s Republican, but because he’s so far to the right that he’s actually sponsored a bill here in Texas no one but the NRA wants: SB 1164, which would allow people to carry concealed handguns into buildings on college campuses.

I’m no reactionary anti-gun lefty (no, really, I’m not, so this isn’t going to be the equivalent to those arguments you hear from right-wingers railing against sex and porn by starting “I’m no prude, but…” who then go on to illustrate in detail how big a prude they really are). But anyone sensible ought to see the flaw in Wentworth’s logic. He begins by cynically exploiting fears of another Virginia Tech massacre, where hapless students were “picked off like sitting ducks” because the law left them defenseless. In the Hollywood fantasies of Wentworth, such massacres would be stopped dead in their tracks by courageous, armed law-abiding heroes ready to leap into action like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, busting caps and saving lives.

Setting aside obvious objections to this scenario — like the extreme rarity of such shootings overall, and the presumed readiness of regular people to respond to such a crisis with the cool head of a trained police officer or Navy SEAL simply because they took a 10-hour gun safety course — you’ll notice that Wentworth immediately kneecaps his own fantasy by assuring skeptics that, for one thing, the proposed law would only apply to those legally able to own guns in Texas in the first place: people over 21. So there’s no need to worry about hordes of hormonally distressed 18 and 19 year olds walking around campus packing. It’ll just be the older and wiser seniors, grad students, and staff, all of whom can be counted on for rational level-headedness every time.

So we should support the law because, we’re told, it’ll save lives, and we shouldn’t worry about its possible negatives, because most people on a college campus wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it anyway.

Bwuh? So, excuse me, how will lives be saved here? I mean, what’s to stop our hypothetical armed psycho from simply wandering into a large class packed with freshmen and sophomores, led by a professor who has chosen not to exercise her concealed carry rights (which will be most of them), and opening up? If the nearest legally-packing senior is up on the third floor, or, say, six buildings away, how many lives will be lost in the time it takes him to sprint to the scene and do his Keanu bit?

And what of other concerns that seem not to have occurred to Wentworth at all? Like, what if a legally armed senior has his registered piece stowed in his backpack? And then he ducks out of class to go to the bathroom? And in that time, his backpack is stolen?

And as anyone who’s ever been to college knows, no one in campus dorms ever gets drunk…

It’s one thing to want to find ways to protect people from those in our society who would harm us. We all want that. But in a perfect world, while we could easily prevent all crimes simply by passing law after law to head the bad guys off at the pass every time, the truth is we don’t live in that world. If college students in Texas didn’t need the passage of a concealed carry law after Charles Whitman’s rampage (and yes, I know that sportsmen with their hunting rifles helped hold Whitman at bay during all that, but that was still after he’d mowed down a number of innocents), then what exactly has changed since 1966? Other than the NRA’s lobbying power and hold over the GOP?

Could Thursday be D-Day for McLeroy?

Texas’ official State Embarrassment Don McLeroy will find out tomorrow, hints the TFN, whether or not his appointment as chair of the universally derided State Board of Education will stand or fall. The Democrats claim to have all the votes they need to block his approval, but one should never underestimate the underhanded dealings and shenanigans of far-right Christian ideologues in Texas.

McLeroy has to go. This should be a no-brainer. But there are plenty of people in this state with no brains actively bucking for him. Why, apart from the fact he’s subjected the state to nationwide ridicule and overtly based his policymaking on his far-right religious ideals, has he been such a disaster heading up the SBOE? Well, you see, chairing the SBOE isn’t exactly the kind of place where one expects showboating political ideologues to make waves. It ought to be a non-partisan, administrative position focused on doing whatever it takes to improve the quality of education for the state’s schoolchildren, full stop, whatever this or that lobbying group with an agenda demands. Those inclined to defend Mac by saying “The Texas Freedom Network is a lobbying group too!” should extricate their craniums from their rectums long enough to note that had right-wing Christians on the SBOE not actively engaged such groups as the Discovery Institute in formulating state science education policies, the TFN could well have stayed home.

Apart from the coordinated gang-rape of science education that Mac has led at the Board, he has…

  • …also injected extremist right-wing ideology into social studies curricula, by appointing outright cranks to review panels to judge social studies standards. Among these are Christian Reconstructionist quote fabricator David Barton of Wallbuilders, whose agenda is promoting the theocratic “Christian Nation” myth; Bill Ames, a “textbook reviewer” for ultra-right harpy Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum; Peter Marshall, a four-alarm wackaloon of the Fred Phelps school, who has described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for teh gayz, and demanding Christian parents pull their kids out of public school; and sexist creationist clod Allen Quist. Yeah, that’s the kind of review panel Texas education needs: a bunch of lying education haters.
  • …summarily rejected a set of recommendations, put together by experts and educators over a three-year period, for English and language arts standards, in favor of an 11th-hour quickie set of standards drafted in one night by Mac’s fellow ideologues, and rushed into a vote without adequate time for review.

Hopefully, our senators will do the right thing and, in one very small way (after all, Mac won’t be removed from the SBOE if his chairmanship is not approved, he just won’t be chair), we will begin to turn the tide and push back against the despicable, mortifying, and contemptible ignorance and arrogance that has poisoned not only education in Texas, but the reputation of the state as a whole.

Christian radio hypes gold. A lot.

I’ve been listening to Christian radio lately, and I’m hearing a LOT of commercial programs hyping investments in gold. Now, I’m not really up on current prices of precious metals. I did do a show where I mentioned Liberty Dollars, which I consider to be a massive ripoff.

I’m generally interested in scams and ripoffs, and my skepticism sensor get triggered loudly when I hear a program (1) on Christian radio (2) involving pushy marketing hype, that (3) pushes an investment that is perfect for EVERYONE, and (4) predicts financial doom for anyone who does not participate.

This last bit, as I have probably said before, is a hallmark of both sneaky advertising and religion. It short-circuits your ability to think rationally about an idea on its merits, instead cutting straight to emotions and panicking you by making you think that you’ll be tortured forever (or whatever) if you dare to even ask questions about the concept.

So in this case, what’s at stake is the total meltdown of all world markets, where stocks will be worthless and a dollar in the bank will be about as valuable as a Russian ruble. Only precious metals can save you from a fate of scraping food out of dumpsters for your children. Very, very soon now.

Look. I don’t have a problem with gold as an investment. It is indeed the case that as the economy gets worse, the value of gold rises with respect to the dollar; as, indeed, will your pounds, francs, lira, and yen. If the dollar is doing badly, it makes sense to own something that is not a dollar. Simple as that.

Unlike most stock indices, the value of gold has actually increased pretty significantly since the year 2000. With hindsight, it’s been a good recent investment.

But watch out, because after a commodity rises in value is not the best time to buy. There was a stock bubble, then a housing bubble, and the fact that gold is not rising doesn’t mean that gold is going to do well forever. I’m not saying it’s a scam, but the hype currently surrounding gold does set my spidey-sense tingling like crazy. When lots of voices start loudly pitching something, it usually means there’s money to be made — not by you, but from you. They’ve probably latched on to a pretty good gig in convincing people to shell out their money for something much more expensive than it’s worth.

Anyway, the question is, why Christian radio? Is it just because there are so many gullible people there who are already conditioned to respond to threats of impending doom?

Fundies rally behind McLeroy, give a big thumbs up to teen pregnancy

Time to get on the horn to your state senators, people. I’ll just link to the relevant TFN piece. You know where to take this from there.

In similar Christian War on Education news, the Texas house today voted down a bill that would require medically accurate sex education in the state. Bring on the teen pregnancies! Nice one, godbots.

Not even pretending anymore

As most of you probably are aware, the confirmation (or not) of Don McLeroy as chair of the Texas SBOE is pending. The SBOE is now officially a nationwide laughingstock, first with Conan O’Brien and then Bill Maher finding plenty of fodder for humor in the board’s idiocy ever since it’s been a country club for fundagelical numbskulls who believe the Earth was created more recently than dogs were domesticated.

Once the comedy gets all the way around to the likes of Dane Cook, you’ll know Texas’ reputation has bottomed out.

The Texas Freedom Network is urging every Texas resident to contact their state senators to urge them to vote against McLeroy’s confirmation. I’m nervous about this, particularly as my state senator here in Austin is loyal Republican Jeff Wentworth. But I plan to contact him anyway. You should do the same if you’re a rational Texan. Find out who represents you here.

In the meantime, fellow SBOE member Ken Mercer — the guy who keeps bringing up things like Piltdown Man — has rallied to his buddy’s defense. And sure enough, he’s playing the good old Christian Persecution Card. I mean, what else would Mercer be doing when his column has such a whiny title as “Christians Need Not Apply.” Seriously, that little card is starting to look more than a little worn and dog-eared, isn’t it?

By now, reading the angsty rants of fundamentalists scorned is a thoroughly tiresome exercise, inspiring little more than a bemused shaking of the head. But it’s worth noting that guys like Mercer are no longer even pretending not to be hypocrites any more. As the TFN blog points out, they want it both ways. They repeatedly claim (blatantly lying, of course) that their positions as board members are not in any way motivated by their religious beliefs, or the desire to pander to voters that share them. But in the same breath, if their policies and activities as board members are criticized at all, then it’s back to the old “Oh noes I is pursekuted becos I haz the Krischianity!!!!1!one!” So suddenly, the reason to support and defend McLeroy has everything to do with this…

“I wanted to write to you [McLeroy] and express my sincerest appreciation to you for having the courage to stand by your convictions during your recent hearing. It is unfortunately rare, today, to see anyone willing to clearly and calmly state and stand by their Christian beliefs, particularly in the face of abuse such as what you took.”

…even though we’re expected to go on believing that those Christian beliefs Mac boldly stands by do not in any way influence his work as chairman of the SBOE. As cons go, that ain’t very smooth, fundies.

The voting on this issue will be extremely partisan, people. Today the House voted down HB 710, which would have subjected the SBOE to periodic review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. All but one Republican voted against this common-sense bill, which would not have stripped any authority from the SBOE at all. Even simple oversight strikes fear into the hearts of the Republicans and their Christian Right masters, it would seem.

Finally, I love this little quip from the TFN blog, in response to Mercer’s comparing McLeroy’s “persecution” to that we’re supposed to think is being suffered by homophobic pageant queen Carrie Prejean.

…Mercer deserves credit for coming up with the most apt comparison to date for the level of intellectual debate at the Texas SBOE — a beauty pageant. The uninformed, vapid discourse at the board resembles nothing so much as a room full of beauty pageant contestants confidently asserting opinions on politics or world affairs. And both ellicit similar snickers and groans from the audience.

Ouch! Come on, no need to harsh on the pageant girls! They’re a MENSA gathering compared to the SBOE. And cuter too!

Patriotic irony

A few recent commenters asked what we thought about our idiot governor deciding that it’s okay to threaten to remove our state from the United States.

In case the adjective immediately preceding “governor” didn’t clue you in, let me elaborate. I may not speak for everyone here, but I think it’s ridiculously ironic. For most of the last administration, atheists, war dissidents, and other groups to which I do or don’t belong, have been casually tarred with epithets like “unAmerican” and “traitors” for criticizing a political administration, organizing protests, and mocking the president.

Yet now what have we got? We’ve had a new president for all of four months, and an extremely high profile Republican threatens an obviously, literally treasonous act, and tries to incite a do-over for the Civil War.

Ron Paul also also weighed in with his own inane contribution. Paul says:

“Well, they don’t know their history very well, because if they think about it… it is very American to talk about secession. That’s how we came in being. Thirteen colonies seceded from the British and established a new country. So secession is a very much American principle.”

Um, yeah. You know what? When America “seceded” from their status as a colony, it was because they hated Great Britain. In starting a revolution, they were most definitely committing treason against that country. They were traitors to Great Britain.

That’s not to say that I disagree with their actions, that’s just a fact. They made a political calculation that they could spit in the eye of their political leaders and win, and they did win.

But come on, let’s call a spade a spade. When a small minority of my state’s leadership declares that they want to leave America, they are actually, explicitly saying that they hate America, and they would like to commit treason against this country, in exactly the same manner as the founding fathers committed treason against King George.

And hey, if that’s what floats your boat, go ahead and hate America. Unlike some pundits, I’m not calling for anybody’s execution. I’m just saying, FUCK all of you people who ever accused some group or another of hating America and are now calling for a revolution against my country. Hypocrites.

Anyway, the governor of Texas doesn’t even have the authority to make us leave. The governor doesn’t have unilateral powers to decide what the state will do. So when the legislature starts passing stuff other than finger-wagging, then we’ll worry.

No, we haven’t all died

I know, a week and a half without a new post is a long time for any blog to go, especially one with a pretty strong readership we’d like to keep. (Hugs!) It’s just one of those times when real life intrudes, I suppose, and none of us has found the time to work blogging into our schedules. I’ll do my best to improve that situation for my own part. Everyone else, well, they post rarely enough as it is, so they’ll drop by when they see fit, I’m sure. (Condescending snicker.)

I must say, it has been kind of nice to take a breather, away from the daily cataloguing of the absurdities of the righteous. Still, there are some things going on, and so it’s a good time to haul my fat ass back up into the saddle and get this old nag back on the road again.

The biggest news down Austin way has been the confirmation hearings for that assrocket Dan “Stand Up To The Experts” McLeroy. Our bold and equally rebellion-minded governer Rick “Secede!” Perry reappointed McLeroy to chair the Texas State Board of Education in 2007, but his reappointment requires the Senate Nomination Committee’s approval, apparently, and today, his confirmation hearing was held. The Texas Freedom Network liveblogged it, and they have a high old time unpacking all of Mac’s prevarications as he was up at the mic defending himself and the SBOE. It sounds as if McLeroy did an absolutely awesome job of digging his own grave today. I hope the Committee realizes that statements like this…

5:37 -McLeroy says almost everyone in his church rejects evolution and supports creationism. He describes himself as a young Earth creationist. He says he tells reporters that he wants to be up front and honest about his beliefs. “I think it’s a pretty rational view.”

…are tantamount to the man just standing up and shouting “Disqualify me!” I mean, cripes, this is like asking General Motors shareholders and board of directors to appoint as CEO of the company a man who says, “Well, I’m pretty sure that cars are powered by a combination of giant wound-up rubber bands and a couple dozen hamsters on treadmills concealed within the engine block. I think that’s a pretty rational view.”

I mean, here’s a man boasting of how totally uneducated he is, and he’s expecting Senate confirmation?

McLeroy really does appear to have been grilled. At least one senator has stated his intention to oppose Mac’s confirmation, and other senators on the committee don’t sound terribly sympathetic to him. Let us hope that the vote goes the right way, and Texas will finally start back on the proper path in how it educates its students, without extremist religious ideology and the personal beliefs of SBOE members constantly setting up roadblocks that unnecessarily impede the whole process, solely for the gratification of the egos of McLeroy and his idiot YEC posse.

Can the SBOE be abused enough? No

Another brutal editorial excoriating the Texas State Board of Miseducation appears in today’s Statesman. Now that they’ve voted to undermine evolution, the next target of the theocratic ideologues is climate change. And this is take to task by Jim Marston of Texas’ Environmental Defense Fund. Again, he exposes that the board’s seemingly reasonable “teach the controversy” position is really designed solely to allow politically motivated and ideological objections to science to be introduced into curricula as if those objections were equally scientifically sound simply by virtue of being voiced.

On its face, the board’s requirement that Texas science textbooks “analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming” seems reasonable. It’s not. Just because you can find a handful of “experts” who disagree with thousands of climate scientists doesn’t mean our children should be taught that the science is still up in the air….

But besides tainting the reputation of our children’s science education in the eyes of the world, the board’s mandate has other ramifications: It suggests to our children that their economic and lifestyle choices might have no effect on global warming, thus eroding many parents’ efforts to instill in their children the ethic that they must be responsible for their own actions.

Hasn’t Marston been paying attention to fundie rhetoric? We don’t need to protect the environment, or be responsible stewards of the Earth at all. Jeebis is coming! (Or at least, that’s what they keep saying. It looks like the right’s getting a little worried about that, actually.)

You can’t legislate reality away

While the creotards continue to try to push one anti-science, anti-evolution bill after another through their respective state legislatures, under the guise of “academic freedom,” the NCSE reports that another one of these has died in committee in Iowa. No one is fooled by their attempts to hide their true agendas — slipping Biblical creationism over the transom into classrooms — but that doesn’t seem to stop them. Poor benighted idiots.

Stem cell research at last

I’m pleased, as is anyone in the pro-science camp, at Obama’s expected reversal of Bush’s ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. I especially appreciate these comments he made.

“Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry,” Obama said. “It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

That last is another richly deserved rebuke of the Bush administration, and its kowtowing to fundamentalist ignorance in issues of science. In particular, the Right Wing Cult of the Fetus is driven berserk by the idea that “babies” are being “killed” so that mad scientists can do their freakish lab experiments. The point that the fetuses being used are among those routinely destroyed as surplus by fertility clinics is not the kind of inconvenient fact that will pierce the armor plating of their righteousness. Nor is the fact that these fetuses will still be available for infertile parents who wish to conceive in vitro.

As for the results we may one day enjoy from such research, which are also disputed by the RA crowd (Righteous Anger), well, we cannot say for sure right this minute that, fifty years from now, paraplegics will be dancing the rhumba after having their new spines installed as an outpatient procedure, or that we’ll have eradicated dozens of diseases, or what have you. But the possibility is there, and not to be ignored, and that’s why research is so vital. If we can better the lives of people, we should. That’s basic.

Still, though, sometimes I think conservatives cannot only think long-term, but literally can’t understand anything that doesn’t appear to have an immediate, tangible benefit. It’s as if scientific research isn’t worth doing if it doesn’t work like an ATM, spitting out instant gratification. Get a load of Republican Rep. Eric Cantor’s ignorant and hypocritical whimper, which he tries to couch in terms of the economy.

“Why are we going and distracting ourselves from the economy? This is job No. 1. Let’s focus on what needs to be done,” Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Once more with feeling: Cantor’s party bequeathed us this tattered economy, so that’s quite enough pretense from their side of the aisle that theirs is the party that’s all about fiscal responsibility, thank you kindly. And with the stimulus package now signed, well, let’s say that the l-o-n-g road to economic repair is, at least, being mapped out.

But what’s doubly stupid about Cantor’s remarks is his failure to understand that a country engaging in strong and well-funded scientific research is one whose economy is thriving. Not only does it put researchers to work — you know, jobs — but if their research really does bear fruit, and we begin to see real treatments emerge that we’ve never had before…well, that means money, dammit, and plenty of it. It means medicine we can export, it means more students getting advanced degrees in the sciences due to the increase in jobs in the wake of these new treatments…I mean, there’s no downside.

The only downside to scientific research is when ideology hurls itself bodily in science’s path. I’m glad that, for right now at least, we have a president who respects the role of science in benefiting humanity. And the economy.