Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

News from my home state always gets my attention, especially when it shows Arizona’s starting to lean blue:


In 2004, Bush won Arizona by double digits. This year, with Arizonan John McCain leading the Republican ticket, it stands to reason there’d be quite a bit of excitement among the state’s GOP elite.

And yet, the enthusiasm is surprisingly underwhelming. (via Eric Kleefeld)


A Tuesday fundraiser headlined by President Bush for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign is being moved out of the Phoenix Convention Center.

Sources familiar with the situation said the Bush-McCain event was not selling enough tickets to fill the Convention Center space, and that there were concerns about more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than attending the
fundraiser inside.

Another source said there were concerns about the media covering the event.

Bush’s Arizona fundraising effort for McCain is being moved to private residences in the Phoenix area.


Ah, Arizona! Finally been tipped beyond the point of tolerance, haven’t ye? Warms the cockles of my heart, that does. McCain’s popular there, and the conservative streak runs deep, but there’s only so much the good folks of Arizona are willing to take before they decide that if the state’s survived so long with a Democrat at the helm, maybe a Democrat in the Oval Office isn’t such a bad idea after all.

My absolute favorite part is that Bush & Co. is being forced to run and hide from that horrible, nasty (conservative) Arizona media and the scary (possibly conservative) war protesters. You know they’re in bad shape when they have to go to ground not in a smaller venue, but in private houses.

Serves the fuckers right.

(Psst – Obama’s gaining on you. Ooga-booga! HA HA HA HA HA!)

Might be it has something to do with McCain’s flopping like a fish on immigration:


This doesn’t make a lick of sense. On Thursday, McCain was talking to a group of business leaders who liked McCain’s original approach to comprehensive legislation, and the senator sought input on how best to rally support for his own bill (which he now says he’d vote against). On Friday, McCain told opponents of his immigration bill that he didn’t mean any of what he’d just said.

This is more than just a shameless flip-flop; it’s quickly becoming a character flaw. He’ll shovel whichever nonsense he has to say to please which ever audience happens to be in front of him at the time.

For those keeping score at home, McCain does not support “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Yes, he does.

No, he doesn’t.

Yes, he does.

No, he doesn’t.

Yes, he does.

No, he doesn’t.

Nearly all of these, by the way, come from the last six months.


Two things. First, immigration is a hot-button issue in Arizona – extremely hot. We have white folk up in arms over brown folk streaming over the border, and we have brown folk marching through the streets of Phoenix demanding some respect and solutions, and, well, it gets tense. But I don’t even think that’s the most important thing. Arizonans could tolerate a postition on immigration they don’t like as long as some reasonable solution’s being worked toward, but they absolutely cannot stand a man who can’t make up his mind. They’ll look at the list of McCain flip-flops over the course of the last six months, and they’ll see an indecisive old fart who lies like a rug and can’t be trusted with the key to the outhouse, much less the White House, and, well. They’ll decide accordingly.

I didn’t think the day could get any more delightful, but Sen. Joe Biden’s in full cry again, and my darlings, it is music:


Today, Sen. Joe Biden (D-RI) appeared on various morning talk shows and sharply criticized the notion that progressives are weak on national security. On MSNBC he responded to Lieberman, stating, “[C]an you imagine Franklin Roosevelt, can you imagine President Truman, can you imagine President Kennedy conducting the kind of policy this outfit has?” From the exchange:


This administration is the worst administration in American foreign policy in modern history, maybe ever. The idea that they are competent to continue to conduct our foreign policy, to make us more secure and make Israel secure, is preposterous.

Ever since they got in office the only thing on the march in the Middle East has not been freedom, it’s been Iran. Every single thing they’ve touched has been a near disaster.


Ah, the sweet sound of a Democrat taking the Republicons to the woodshed and mercilessly employing the Smack-o-Matic Deluxe 3000 Superpaddler. Gorgeous. Simply, gorgeous.

Almost makes me wish I watched morning talk shows, that.

One Week…

Only one week until the first ever Carnival of the Elitist Bastards. Get chore submissions in! There’s still time left.

Talking Past Each Other: A Few Simple Rules For Christians Among Atheists

So much for getting things done tonight. And here I thought I had bags and bags of time, but all it takes is getting caught up in one Pharyngula thread and time goes spiralling down into a supermassive black hole. Research: nil. Work on this blog: nearly nil. Obsession with current discussion: stratospheric. Has been instructive, though, and a few Pharynguloids (is that what we’re calling ourselves these days?) have stopped by, which is always more than welcome.

*Waves madly* Hello, you!

Right, well. In a nutshell for those who haven’t the foggiest what I’m talking about: PZ posted a little notice about an actual atheist being interviewed on a local (MN) Christian radio station, Kenny got his ass kicked in the comments thread (just as he always does, the man’s a masochist), and Karen Simon stopped by to snivel at us for being uncivilized bastards.

That sort o’ thing doesn’t play well to this crowd. Karen promptly got her ass handed to her, and things would have gone very badly for her indeed had she not apologized and explained herself. A fruitful discussion ensued. I’d like to think some progress was made, and will be made now she’s dropped by here. It’s certainly clarified a few things for me, but raised more questions than answers.

To wit: why the fuck do Christians do this to themselves? I understand the ones who come by to proselytize – it’s what they do, they’re like the Borg. But I do not understand why Christians dump their views into the thread and then get offended when the atheists proceed to pick them apart.

It’s an atheist thread, moreover one filled with science-minded atheists who can spot a flaw in logic faster than a shark scents blood. Fuck, we annihilate each other over flaws in logic. What the fuck do Christians think we’re going to do? Pat them on the head and coo over how nice their moderate delusion is? Not bleedin’ likely, guv.

I think, from engaging in this discussion tonight, I begin to see some of the difficulties. We’re talking past each other. For all we’re speaking English, we don’t speak the same language. We’re alien to each other, and alas, very few Christians come into the atheists’ territory willing to play by atheists’ rules.

Do not even begin the “but the atheists aren’t playing by Christian rules!” snivel. We played by those rules for ages, and they got the discussion absolutely nowhere. Our turn.

So. This shall develop as time goes on and I get a chance to observe more atheist-Christian interaction, but here’s what I’ve got for now:

1. Understand that in our house, you will win no converts. Atheists for the most part weren’t born or raised that way: a lot of them are ex-believers, and they’re not going to be talked back into the fold. There’s no argument under the sun you can use that they haven’t heard a thousand times before. Time 1001 will make no damned difference. So just give it up. Shh before you even begin to proselytize. And if atheists mistake your attentions, don’t get all butt-hurt: we run into so many proselytizers-in-sheep’s-clothing that we’re a little gunshy and apt to overreact. You may not have been attempting to convert, but if the atheist takes your discussion as such an attempt, apologize, clarify, and move right on.

2. Be clear about your purpose. I’ve noticed a lot of Christians get mightily offended when they say something, we snark back, and it turns into a shouting match because the Christian can’t tell us what the fuck they’re doing spouting off views not related to the thread to begin with. Explain. Don’t assume we know what you’re here for: we’ve already assumed the worst from the second you mentioned your faith. It’s habit born from long experience. Remember, we’ve probably been dealing with a bunch of incoherent rabid fundies from several threads back, and our patience has probably worn thin long ago.

3. Refrain from demanding proof of God’s non-existence. That’s not what we’re here for. Challenging an atheist to provide proof that God doesn’t exist is just as useless as us demanding you to prove his existence by the rules of scientific evidence. If either one of us could accomplish those feats, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

4. Speaking of proof, the Bible isn’t. Neither are personal anecdotes, fervent belief, or anything else subjective or self-referential. Neither is “but billions of people believe!” Billions of people once believed in a flat earth. Science PWND them. Too fucking bad. If you’re going to get into the proof pissing contest, which you shouldn’t, learn what science means by “proof.”

5. Don’t move the damned goal posts. That’s a ridiculous trick and it’ll get you spanked. If you can’t answer the original challenge, just say so. Don’t try moving the goal posts and pretending you just scored. You’ll get annihilated, and you’ll have deserved it. Evading the challenge is just as bad, by the way. Refusing to answer when you’re the one who started the discussion just makes you look like a coward. Same with being happy to scrum until someone says something you don’t like, and then falling back on the lofty, “I’m so above that, I refuse to discuss it with you” bullshit. If you don’t want to accept the challenge, don’t start it. Period.

6. No snivelling. No one’s impressed by tears, whining, cries of “You’re being so mean!” or “You’re so unfair!” or “You just don’t understand!” We’re not here to sing kumbaya. We’re not swayed by “Bu-bu-but it’s what I believe, and you’re disrespecting that!” arguments. We’re atheists: religion gets no special pleading and no special treatment here, and getting choked up over it won’t help you in the slightest. If you can’t take that kind of heat, you have no business being in an atheist’s kitchen. This extends to concern trolling about bad language, blasphemy, and other such things: you knew what you were getting in to. Your lectures won’t change a damn thing. They’ll just earn you the title of “concern troll,” so if that’s not what you came to be, refrain from snivelling and silly lectures about civility.

7. No pity. We bloody can’t stand it. Some of you religious bastards seem to think that atheism is some horrible, nihilistic disease. “Poor buggers, they don’t believe in God, how sad for them” drips from your every word. You yourself can’t imagine how one could live a happy life without God, so you think we must be miserable. Newsflash: we’re not. I have, in fact, met far more happy, unconflicted atheists than I have happy, unconflicted believers. We’re free. We enjoy life. We love our families, friends, pets, and all of the other things you take joy in. What you fill with spirituality, we fill with other things. We notice no lack, and we don’t appreciate being treated like poor victims who don’t know any better.

8. Don’t take it personally. When we’re tearing apart your argument, we’re not attacking you. We probably like you just fine, especially if you’ve contributed something useful to the discussion. But your arguments about God, well, they’re going to suffer. Be prepared for it, and do try to give as good as you get. We respect someone who engages us openly, honestly, and holds their own to the best of their ability.

9. Absolutely under any circumstances never ever bring up that old “atheism is a religion too” chestnut. That’s one of the dumbest things you could possibly say. Absence of belief is not a religion. We don’t have “faith” in the non-existence of God. That’s just one of those whiny, snivelly things religious people do to try to win arguments, and all it does is make you look like a total fuckwit. If you’re here to earn any respect at all, do not shoot yourself in both legs by that snooty “atheism is religion” crap. And if you even beg
in to start with the “but you’re really agnostics” bullshit, I shall give you such a smack.

10. A ready wit, a good sense of humor, and a willingness to give as good as you get are essential. Display those things, and the acrimony will probably go right away. Have fun with this stuff. Especially here.

11. We can agree to disagree. My best friend and I do it. We don’t waste our time trying to change each other. He’s religious, I’m not. That’s the way it is. We agree to disagree on that point and move right along to the points we do agree on, which are legion (see his take on the Worldnutdaily, for starters). The point is not to win, but to play the game. Find points of commonality, achieve some understanding of each other’s views even if we heartily disagree with those views, decide how we’re going to work together for a better world without crowding each other too badly: these things we don’t need to be in full agreement for. We don’t need to have the same world view to be in harmony. Hell, we don’t even need to be in harmony, when it comes right down to it. But we do need to concede the war as unwinnable, sometimes, and get past that fact.

12 (not 11 again, sorry bout that). Finally, there’s the door. I hope you can stay, I truly do. I hope we get somewhere in our dialogue. But not if you’re miserable. If you’re deeply offended, outraged, upset, shocked, and battered, and you can’t stand how mean we are, and you’re angry at our outrageous blasphemy and godless ways, there’s an exit. You don’t have to be here. If we’re getting nowhere, you can go somewhere else. Have a nice day. We really do wish you well.

*Karen should keep in mind that while this post was inspired by the Pharyngula thread, it is not aimed exclusively at her, but at all Christians who mix it up with atheists. She’s not the only Christian who’s gotten off on the wrong foot on an atheist blog, and she shan’t be the last. This post will hopefully help them understand why we get so pissed at what they consider inoffensive behavior. And if any of them are offended by the rules, they should consult Rule #11 forthwith.

Should Karen Simon Stop By….

…show her the same respect and consideration she shows you. Should prove interesting, and perhaps instructive.

For a clue as to what I’m talking about, see here. And be sure to read past the initial outrage.

Progressive Conservative needs a friend. I think Karen’s just the ticket.

Academia: No Child Left Behind

Hello, readers!

It seems that I have neglected my promise of a weekly update. I recently asked our wonderful host for some ideas of topics that I might be able to comment on. I am only 18 years old, and never had much of a mind for politics, so most of the discussions here go right over my head.

However, there is one that I might be very qualified to reflect on. Education.

Bush has been in office eight long years now, (Eight. Christ. That still scares me.) which puts his first time in office when I was about 10 years old. That’s early elementary school, which means that I have no real recollection of what education is like without Bush in office. So it was at first difficult to figure out how to comment on something for which I have no real frame of reference, but I knew that I have always heard of the NCLB, or No Child Left Behind act, one of Bush’s little legacies he bestowed upon us lucky adolescents. So I took a few key ideas from that act and thought I’d share my thoughts.

Teacher Quality

One of the first things I came across was the idea of “Teacher Quality”. It required basically three things: a teaching license, subject expertise, and a bachelor’s degree. While certainly I agree that teacher’s should not be ignorant fuckwits who don’t actually know what they’re talking about, I find these criteria are not particularly useful in accomplishing that. Subject expertise I would say does contribute to a teacher’s ability, however with the emphasis on “teaching to the test” [see below] it is difficult to define what is expertise. Still, this doesn’t help figure out what makes a teacher a good one.

The inherit problem here is that not everyone agrees what should be taught, and how to teach it. There are paradoxical problems in education about what we “need” to know. For example, in my Junior year literature class, we had this teacher named Stephenson. Poor woman, having to teach my class. Now, she was a perfectly intelligent human being, but here’s a quick preview on our education:

The first day of class we read an article that told us that there are more than one “right” answer. Basically that any given situation could be interpreted various ways, that different viewpoints and perspectives will provide different ideas of what is “right”, and they are all equally valid. Yet, when we try to analyze events in such novels as Huck Finn or A Scarlet Letter, we were obviously being steered towards the correct interpretation. The problem was that according to Stephenson, there were only three possible correct meanings behind any given metaphor:

Life
Death
God/Jesus

Oh, and phallic symbols.

While it was fun to figure out how every character in Finn fits into these categories, it’s also troublesome when you are told that your opinion, your subjective interpretation is wrong.

Poor woman. We tormented her so much in class in so many ways; at one point, a student rode into class on top of a book cart, crashed into a desk and fell over in a heap. The same student would occasionally walk into class without pants. We would pass around a Spark Notes book before a test. I, meanwhile, sat in my corner and read and doodled and BS’ed my way through the tests. She ended up moving to England the last month of the school year, dumping a substitute on us. She hasn’t come back yet.

So trying to coerce your students into telling them what you want is not a sign of good teaching. However, it’s not always the teachers, its how they are told to teach, which brings me to the next point.

Teaching to a Test

In school, homework is pretty typical in most science, literature, or social studies classes. You are given some sort of comprehension assignment, usually reading, and are given a worksheet, which is usually just fill-in-the-blanks copies of said assignment. It’s a basic process of taking in the information, storing it long enough to fill in on the dotted line, and forget it. While obviously certain aspects of class are slightly more useful or engaging, this works not only for the microscope assignments but the macro-scope goal of education: score well.

Education’s entire goal is to score well on a test so that you can get into a better college. Really, that is what high school comes down to. It’s all about teaching you what is going to be on the test. If it’s not on the test, it doesn’t get taught.

Another personal example:

I am just finishing up my AP/IB Biology II class. In that, the teacher rushes through a full year college-level course, switching between a bird’s eye view of “This General Concept Might Be On The Test” to a very close inspection of “This Specific Section Will Be On The Test.” Some sections we pass over entirely if it’s not likely to be on the test, and we don’t stop long enough in any of the sections to internalize the information in order to be useful for any period of time longer than the end of the testing period. Even then, with all the days off and vacations they ambush us with, we never have enough time to get all the information anyway. One 50 minute class (usually with anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes of actual learning, due to goofing off, homework questions, and the fact we never start on time) is NOT enough time in a day to learn anything.

It’s far too often that I hear a teacher say, “We’re skipping this section because you don’t need it for the AP test”.

The most rewarding science class I have ever taken was my Sophomore year Biology I class. The teacher, an amazing man with the name “Shindledecker”, taught us how to think about biology. He’d talk with us all period long about what we’re learning, showing us different ways to approach it, how it applies to our life, and tips on how to remember them. Not memorize them for a test, but how to actually make the mental connections between what we learn in class and what we learn in life, in order to apply this knowledge in a useful way. I might not be able to give you the scientific definition of the function of the Endoplasmic Reticulum of a cell, but I know that it’s basically the “highway of the cell”, which conceptually is far more useful than knowing the jargon. One day, we walked into class and on the board was the word “Salmon” circled. A few lines were connected to it, such as “dams”, “bears”, and “fishermen”. Then we spent the entire period making connections between salmon and what it directly influences, and what those impacts would have on other factors, and so on and so forth.

However, the advanced classes, the classes in which you have the most potential to learn the most and apply it to life, are the classes which are forced to do well on tests. Thus, they must teach to the test.

See, because of NCLB, public schools only get their federal funding if they cooperate by conducting some kind of test on all students in the state as a method of measurement of educational progress. Almost all schools take the cheapest route; multiple-choice standardized tests. So they are forced to educate the students according to what these tests are on.

Now, this isn’t all bad. Reading comprehension levels have increased, and the test scores themselves have gone up, if that means anything, though the scores are a pretty hollow victory considering what we’re giving up.

However, NCLB opens up options for schools to “play” the system, such as giving the students “practice” exams, which are usually just last year’s tests, to prepare us for the upcoming exam. The focus is entirely on doing well on the tests. It’s quite ridiculous, really.

Restriction of Classes

No, not social classes. Because of the trends in education, non-core subject classes have been cut down ever year. My school used to offer all kinds of woodshop-type classes. We used to offer Russian as a language. While my school is particularly well off and still has many non-core classes, those classes as a whole have been reduced across the board. Focus on tests means that the students and staff are pushed towards math, reading, and the sciences, with a very low emphasis on arts, physical education, and similar courses.

This limits the curriculum. Let’s borrow from every high schooler’s friend, WikiPedia:

“Schools are required to use “scientifically based research” strategies in the classroom and for professional development of staff. Research meeting this label, which includes only a small portion of the total research conducted in the field of education and related fields, must involve large quantitative studies using control groups as opposed to partially or entirely qualitative or ethnographic studies, research methodologies which may suggest different teaching and professional development strategies but that do not result in evidence demonstrating efficacy”

Oh yeah, and there’s one of my personal favorite little quirks of the NCLB:

NCLB (In section 9528) requires public secondary schools to provide military recruiters the same access to facilities as a school provides to higher education institution recruiters. Schools are also required to provide contact information for every student to the military if requested.

Then of course, NCLB also wants all, and I mean ALL, as in 100% of students, to perform on the same level in the areas of math and reading. It’s a lofty goal, but not one that I think we should be striving for. Students are too individual, each with their own ways of learning, to expect everyone to be on the same level as everyone else. It limits those who are advanced, and it pressures and punishes those who are behind.

I’ve gone on for long enough. There are other issues with education today, but it can be summed up thusly:

Modern American education is too centered on learning specific core subjects for the purpose of high performance on standardized tests in order to prove “educational progress”, neglecting the individual needs of many students, and not teaching us the skills and imparting the knowledge that will make an actual difference on our lives.

Bush is leaving office. I don’t know what will happen to education. Not everything is bad, of course, but if I could ask for a few changes with our new leader, it would be that education focuses less on test scores, possibly removing standardized testing for the purposes of federal financing and the goals outlined by NCLB completely.

Later, I’ll comment more specifically on some of these topics. Including:

-Should teachers be paid according to a “merit pay” system?
-What should we actually teach our children?
-The role of technology in school
-Grade inflation
-Social pressures and influences in school

I am a Senior in high school, graduating on June 14th, this year. I have about three weeks left of school, so I will be reflecting a lot about my time in high school. 4 years, 32 classes. I got a lot to write about, so you’ll be hearing from me again.


And everything changes
And nothing is truly lost.
-Neil Gaiman

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

John McCain needs an English lesson. He just jabbed his pudgy finger right into my pet peeve button:


“I believe that I have earned the right to speak out on veterans’ issues,” McCain said. “As a matter of fact I received the highest award from literally every veteran’s organization in America. I don’t know if the American people will judge Senator Obama as to whether he has military experience or not, but I think they may judge him as to whether he has experience and knowledge to make the judgment necessary to care for the veterans.” (emphasis added)

The funny thing about the word “literally,” of course, is that it has a rather specific meaning.


Carpetbagger is right. Let’s explore that meaning, shall we?


lit·er·al·ly
adv.

1. In a literal manner; word for word: translated the Greek passage literally.
2. In a literal or strict sense: Don’t take my remarks literally.
3. Usage Problem

a. Really; actually: “There are people in the world who literally do not know how to boil water” Craig Claiborne.
b. Used as an intensive before a figurative expression.


It’s b that gets people into trouble. McCain may have been speaking in the figurative sense, but the meaning of “literal” hasn’t changed despite more than a hundred years of silly bastards using it in highly inappropriate ways. It’s a stupid thing to say when it’s so ridiculously easy to disprove:


The recognition McCain has received from veterans groups is not “high awards” but failing grades:


— Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a grade of D for his record of voting against veterans. (By contrast, Obama got a B+.)
– Disabled Veterans of America noted McCain’s
dismal 20 percent voting record on veterans’ issues. (Obama had an 80 percent.)
– In a list of “Key Votes,” Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) notes McCain
“Voted Against Us” 15 times and “Voted For Us” only 8. (Obama voted for VVA 12 times, and against only
once
.)


The lesson: don’t say “literally” when what you really mean is, “nearly.” Or, in this case, “Not even close to every.”

Here endeth the English lesson.

Senator Joe Biden has some lessons of his own to teach, and he takes McCain lackey and assleach Sen. Joe Lieberman out to the woodshed for the short, sharp shock:


On Wednesday, Joe Lieberman wrote on this page that the Democratic Party he and I grew up in has drifted far from the foreign policy espoused by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy.

In fact, it is the policies that President George W. Bush has pursued, and that John McCain would continue, that are divorced from that great tradition – and from the legacy of Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

[snip]

Last week, John McCain was very clear. He ruled out talking to Iran. He said that Barack Obama was “naïve and inexperienced” for advocating engagement; “What is it he wants to talk about?” he asked.

Well, for a start, Iran’s nuclear program, its support for Shiite militias in Iraq, and its patronage of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Beyond bluster, how would Mr. McCain actually deal with these dangers? You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war. If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we’re stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.

Sen. Obama is right that the U.S. should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without “preconditions” – i.e. without insisting that Iran first freeze the program, which is the very subject of any negotiations. He has been clear that he would not become personally involved until the necessary preparations had been made and unless he was convinced his engagement would advance our interests.

President Nixon didn’t demand that China end military support to the Vietnamese killing Americans before meeting with Mao. President Reagan didn’t insist that the Soviets freeze their nuclear arsenal before sitting down with Mikhail Gorbachev. Even George W. Bush – whose initial disengagement allowed dangers to proliferate – didn’t demand that Libya relinquish its nuclear program, that North Korea give up its plutonium, or even that Iran stop aiding those attacking our soldiers in Iraq before authorizing talks.

The net effect of demanding preconditions that Iran rejects is this: We get no results and Iran gets closer to the bomb.

[snip]

The worst nightmare for a regime that thrives on tension with America is an America ready, willing and able to engage. Since when has talking removed the word “no” from our vocabulary?

It’s amazing how little faith George Bush, Joe Lieberman and John McCain have in themselves – and in America.


Lieberman’s tender little ass must be stinging. And you know, I have a feeling Joe Biden’s arm isn’t even tired. He seems like he’s just hitting his stride. Ordinarily, I like to watch contests between people who are evenly matched enough to actually compete, but for this general election, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy watching the brilliant beat down the stupid.

I’m also thoroughly liking the sweaty smell of utter desperation (h/t to Sadly, No!):


The group, assembled by something called America’s Survival Inc., gathered in the basement of Ebenezer Coffee House at Second and F streets NE. They shared the stage with a big drum set, and posters documenting items they would seek to tie to Obama: an SDS newsletter from 1969 (when he was 7), and a police killing from 1970 (when he was 8).

[snip]

[T]he star of the show was the ancient Herbert Romerstein, who once plied his trade for the Un-American Activities committee. “We decided to start going back and seeing what things influenced him even before he was born,” Romerstein announced without a trace of irony, before tying Obama to the Communist Party of the 1930s in Hawaii and Soviet spies on the island. “This is the atmosphere that young Barack Obama grew up in.”


You know you have a candidate who’s almost beyond reproach, more Teflon that Slick Willy, when you have right-wing groups frantically trying to tie said candidate to events that happened when he was in elementary school – and it’s really, really pathetic when they start scraping around for events that took place before the candidate was even born.

I think Barack Obama terrifies these people. And that makes me feel happy inside. Warms me right down to the sub-cockle level. How about you?

It’s Two-for-One-Day in the Rejecting Rabid Reverends Department

This amuses me to no end:


For months, John McCain has faced questions about his associations with radical religious televangelists like John Hagee and Rod Parsley. And for months, McCain refused to disassociate himself from the extremists, even going so far as to defend the hate-filled rhetoric. McCain said Hagee had been “taken out of context”) and repeatedly say he was “honored” and “glad” to have their support.

Yesterday, after the latest revelations that Hagee believed Hitler was fulfilling God’s will, McCain gave up.

Senator John McCain on Thursday rejected the endorsements of two prominent evangelical ministers whose backing he had sought to shore up his credentials with religious conservatives.

Mr. McCain repudiated the Rev. John C. Hagee, a televangelist, after a watchdog group released a recording of a sermon in which Mr. Hagee said Hitler and the Holocaust had been part of God’s plan to chase the Jews from Europe and drive them to Palestine.

Later in the day, he also rejected the endorsement of the Rev. Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio, whose anti-Muslim sermons were broadcast on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.

I wonder how this is going to look in frothing fundie circles? Can’t look good to them that McCain dropped their pathological pastors like hot rocks just after ABC news started running segments like this:

I especially loved how ABC juxtaposed all of McCain’s smarmy praise and inane defense of this shite with Pastor Parsley’s ravings. Verily, ’twas a work of art.

Tristero said it best when he said:


But here’s the best part:


Hagee also issued a statement saying he was tired of baseless attacks and he was removing himself from any active role in the 2008 campaign.

Good idea. Memo to all christianists:

Go thou and do likewise.

Amen, brother. A-fucking-men.

An Atheist’s Long Ramble About Religion

As I’m about to dive into the night’s fiction work, I’m reminded of one of the bajillion reasons I left church behind.

The attitude of the church I went to so briefly could be summed up thusly: “I don’t know much about God, but I’d say we’ve built a pretty good cage for him.” (Oh, how I wish I’d actually seen that Simpson’s episode rather than merely hearing it described!) Not that the people I went to church with would’ve admitted the first bit. They were absolutely convinced they, and exclusively they, knew everything there was to know about God.

One of the things they knew was that every other religion not only had it wrong, but was pure evil to boot.

I wish I’d had Rowan Atkinson’s delightful A Warm Welcome to quote back then: “And finally, Christians. Ah, yes, I’m sorry – I’m afraid the Jews were right.”

I never could get the niggling sense that nobody had the exclusive claim to the truth out of my head. The life of a bleating sheep was never the life for me. You see, I had this terrible penchant for reading history and thinking subversive thoughts like, “Wow. The flood myth shows up in Ancient Sumeria – somebody’s been plagarizing.” And, “Kung Fu Tzu came up with the Golden Rule before the Jews. Interesting, that.” And, “What’s wrong with Allah? He’s God, too – says so right in the Qu’ran. Look – Abraham and Jesus are even in there!”

Point being, I enjoyed other religions immensely, and it irritated the bugshit out of me when some self-righteous little fucker would tell me that all of those other religions were just myths, or worse, lies told by Satan.

“I’ve read Job,” I’d say. “Satan and God seemed pretty tight. Oh, and did you know that in the Old Testament, Satan means ‘adversary’? That’s all Satan is – not the ultimate evil, just a speedbump.”

They never liked that much. Can’t fathom why.

Even as a child, I’d think unChristian thoughts, such as, “Why is the Bible supposedly true, but all the Greek and Roman religion’s just myth?” No one could ever prove to me the “truth” of one over the other. (Evangelizing Christians in the audience, open your Bibles and find the “shake the dust from your sandals” verse. You’re gonna need it if you start trying to prove the truth of God over all the other gods ’round here. I’ll sic Woozle on you, see if I don’t.)

Religion, as far as I could tell, made smart people stupid. They got so obsessed with proving God literally true and the Bible infallible that they tied themselves into complicated knots trying to explain away the innumerable contradictions in the Bible. It’s amusing, to be sure, but pathetic. Their God, it seems, was incapable of using allegory as a teaching tool. I once saw a thirteen-year old annihilate a Bible literalist. Twasn’t pretty. Someday, I shall tell you that story.

Christians who see the Bible as allegory fare a lot better, and their God looks a lot smarter. Come to think of it, that’s true for just about everybody’s gods and holy stories, isn’t it?

So. The claims to exclusive truth, the pathological fear of other religions and ideas, and the penchant of calling anything that didn’t fit a terribly restricted worldview “evil,” all of those things cemented my determination to never ever again make the mistake of joining a congregation. I felt I was missing out on a lot of interesting shit by letting these silly buggers dictate what I could and could not know, and I was right.

I mean, imagine what the next few days’ research would look like if I were restricted to the fundamentalist Christian view of things? Actually, come to think of it, there wouldn’t be a next few days’ research. I wouldn’t have the Ahc’ton as heroes, now, would I, because reincarnation ain’t part of the bargain.

I wouldn’t be slogging my way through Aristotle’s De Anima right now, and wouldn’t be making a beeline for research on the Tulku next.

I wouldn’t have Shiva Nataraja dancing on ignorance on my shelf. I wouldn’t be wondering just where the bloody hell Green Tara ran off to… shit. Oh, there she is, right beside Shiva. And there’s Ganesha. Hello, you.

Had I stayed with that very restrictive brand of Christianity that I flirted with for a few months way back when, I would still be writing insipid, theologically safe tripe if I was writing at all. Sure as fuck wouldn’t be writing a series of books that draw very heavily on Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, and Norse themes. Would’ve never experienced the pleasure of “Thou art that,” and a thousand other truly breathtaking mythological themes. Good and evil would have been in black and white rather than the fascinating shades of gray I get to wrestle with.

Yes, I have a lot of religious symbols and themes for an atheist. Being an atheist allows me to filch from whomever I like, guilt-free. These ideas are powerful. They’re interesting. They’re frequently fun.

Some religious folks accuse atheists of wanting to do away with all religion, and some atheists certainly lean that way. I’m not one. What I’d like to see vanish from the world is the pig-headedness of religious folks who think their religion is the one-and-only, and want to make sure everybody else thinks exactly the same. That’s a tragedy, to me. That’s an impoverishment and an offence against God. I’d be pretty pissed if I were the omniscient, omnipotent Divinity that kept getting stuffed into little cages, my power and variety denied. After all, if God is all, God really is all: every single human religion, past, present and future, has a little snippet of the Truth.

That’s the conclusion I came to as an agnostic, anyway, before I woke up one day and realized I’d become an atheist somewhere along the way. But I’m an atheist who loves what religious ideas say about life, the Universe and everything, about being human, about the power of ideas. And I’d like to see a world where those ideas have perfect freedom to coexist. Some religious folks seem to feel the same way. They’re just as fascinated by other ways of belief as I am. They appreciate them, welcome them, threaten nobody with hell for preferring one path over the other, and those are the religious folks I’d like to see come into power.

Would certainly be a world filled with a lot less fanatics playing silly buggers, now, wouldn’t it?

No Ray Comfort and his bananas. No DIsco. No Expelled.

…..Come to think of it, I’d lose a major source of my daily entertainment…..

Thankee gods I’d still have politicians to bash.

Click on the Ray Comfort link, my darlings. Seriously. Just swallow any liquids before you do so. Trust me, your computer will thank you for it.

What Does It Mean…

…when you start dreaming about your blog? I had a very long and involved dream this morning that Blake Stacey from Science After Sunclipse came for a visit, and I was ignoring the poor man because I had to comb the internets for appropriate tidbits for you lot. As I remember, he sat nearby making very distracting snarky comments. And ordered me pizza. Thanks for that.

For those who are wondering, his intellect is indeed as formidable in the dreamosphere as it is in the blogosphere.

Do you bloggers ever dream blog-related dreams?

Happy Hour Discurso

Today’s opining on the public discourse.

Karl Rove can run, but he can’t hide from John Conyers:


A week ago, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) casually told some associates, when he thought no one else was listening, “We’re closing in on Rove. Someone’s got to kick his ass.”

And what was it, specifically, that warranted this ass-kicking? Conyers said the committee wants Rove to testify about his role in the imprisonment of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, among other things. “We want him for so many things, it’s hard to keep track,” Conyers said.

This afternoon, Conyers made clear he wasn’t kidding.


The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday subpoenaed former White House top political adviser Karl Rove to testify about whether the White House improperly meddled with the Justice Department.

Accusations of politics influencing decisions at the department led to last year’s resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The subpoena issued Thursday orders Rove to testify before the House panel on
July 10. He is expected to face questions about the White House’s role in firing nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, a Democrat.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers had negotiated with Rove’s attorneys for
more than a year over whether the former top aide to President Bush would
testify voluntarily.


AT LAST! The little fucker’s got a choice, now: answer the supoena, or get his ass thrown in jail. I really don’t think Rep. Conyers was joking. A banner day indeed!

And to add to the sweetness, McCain’s finally taking MSM heat for the odious pastors he so enjoys endorsements from:


MORE CRAZY….Another day, another crazy white pastor. Yesterday it was an anti-Semitic rant from John Hagee (John McCain’s view: I’m “glad to have his endorsement”); today it’s an anti-Islamic rant from Rod Parsley (John McCain’s view: Parsley is “a moral compass”). Neither of these is new: Hagee’s rant was from the late 1990s and Parsley’s rant has been making the rounds of the internet (thanks to Brave New Films) for a couple of weeks. Today, Parsley’s sermon, which has the advantage of being available in nice, high-quality video, is finally being aired for a wider audience by ABC News.


I think we’re in for some serious entertainment. There’s a rumor McCain’s already been forced to reject Hagee’s endorsement: I have a feeling Parsley’s not going to be garnishing this campaign much longer either. Take that! HA!

Speaking of people who have lost support, Carpetbagger’s finally had it with Hillary Clinton’s antics and has taken the Mr. Nice Guy gloves off:


Just yesterday, I defended Hillary Clinton and her rationale for prolonging the Democratic nominating fight. Given that her own campaign chairman recently said the race would wrap up in early June, and Clinton seemed to honoring a relative cease-fire, there was no real urgency
about her withdrawing.

As Jay Jacobs, a New York superdelegate and top fundraiser for Clinton, told the NYT, “I think in the end, when South Dakota and Montana go last and have their final result, she will sit back and see whether a win can be achieved or not — and if not, she is a class act and will do the class thing and get on board with the Democratic ticket.”

By last night, Clinton had made my defense of her efforts look rather foolish. In fact, looking back, I’ve defended Clinton, more than once, when people said she was putting her own interests above those of the party and the nation.

But after seeing her tactics yesterday, I’m done defending Hillary Clinton.

A day after Senator Barack Obama gathered a majority of pledged delegates in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton defiantly sent out new signals Wednesday that she might take her fight for the nomination all the way to the party’s convention in August.

Mrs. Clinton stumped across South Florida, scene of the 2000 election debacle, pressing her case for including delegates from Florida and Michigan in the final delegate tally. On the trail and in interviews, she raised a new battle cry of determination, likening her struggle for these delegates to the nation’s historic struggles to free the slaves and grant women the right to vote.


I’m 35, and have been following politics for quite a while, and I’ve never been so disappointed with a politician I’ve admired and respected. Yesterday’s tactics weren’t just wrong, they were offensive. For that matter, they seem to be part of a deliberate strategy to tear Democrats apart and ensure a defeat in November.

For several weeks, I’ve appreciated the fact that Clinton considers herself the superior candidate, and has kept her campaign going in the hopes, from her perspective, of saving the party from itself. But after yesterday, it’s become impossible for me to consider Clinton’s intentions honorable. Her conduct is not that of a leader.

What’s so striking is the shamelessness of her reversal(s). When Florida and Michigan broke party rules and were punished by the DNC, Clinton not only supported the decision, she honored it and spoke publicly about those votes not counting. On
e of her own top strategists was responsible for making the decision in the first place. Now, Clinton is saying, “Never mind what I said and did before.”

Clinton and her campaign insisted that this was a race for delegates, as per party rules. Now, Clinton is saying, “Never mind what I said and did before.” Clinton and her campaign said the finish line was 2,025. Now, Clinton is saying, “Never mind what I said and did before.”

Instead of trying to help bring the party together — Election Day is 24 weeks away — Clinton went to Florida to argue that if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, his nomination will be illegitimate. And if the DNC plays by the rules Clinton used to support, it’s guilty of vote-suppression — comparable to slavery, Jim Crow, and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe.


Believe it or not, this is the short version. If you feel like seeing Hillary thoroughly reamed in the woodshed, head on over to Carpetbagger’s place and watch the paddling.

There’s nothing quite like the anger of someone who once respected you getting thoroughly disillusioned by your fuckwittery and taking you to task for it. I should know. I once had respect for the Clinton’s myself. No more. I haven’t unloaded my guns on the beast because I’m afraid I’ll end up having to hold my nose and vote for her, but you know what? The restraints are off.

When you’ve pissed off a sweet soul like Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report, Hillary, you’ve gone a long way past too fucking far.