The war on public schools

The way that teachers and unions were attacked in Wisconsin and Ohio was really a covert attack on public schools in particular and the public sector in particular. The war against public schools is now becoming more overt:

Texas Congressman Ron Paul told the crowd government wants “absolute control” of the “indoctrination” of children. Paul spoke along with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

“The public school system now is a propaganda machine,” Paul said, prompting applause from the crowd of hundreds of home schooling families. “They start with our kids even in kindergarten, teaching them about family values, sexual education, gun rights, environmentalism – and they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American.”

Really? Children in public schools are indoctrinated to be anti-American?

Steve Benen points out other examples, including Rick Santorum:

And campaigning in New Hampshire, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, who’s homeschooled his seven kids, wasn’t subtle about his disdain for the American institution.

…Santorum took a swipe at public schools. “Just call them what they are. Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools,” he said.

Santorum added that the Head Start program is a Democratic conspiracy to bring “more children out of the household” in order to brainwash and “socialize” them.

As Benen notes, “By most modern standards, these are the kind of remarks that would bring a presidential campaign to a humiliating end, but by today’s GOP standards, it’s just Tuesday.”

As I have repeatedly said, the oligarchy seeks to destroy any sense of collective obligation and responsibility and make the US a land of individuals grabbing as much for themselves as they can. We are truly living in crazy times.

Talk: The Christian Delusion by John W. Loftus

A former preacher turned atheist, Loftus has published two books Why I Became an Atheist and The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails (winner of the 2011 About.com Reader’s Choice Award). His blog is ranked in the top 5 atheist/theist blogs on the internet today. He has three master’s degrees in the Philosophy of Religion and is a graduate of the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

His talk is on Saturday, March 26, 2011 in Wickenden Hall, room 322 on the CWRU campus. The talk is sponsored by the CWRU chapter of the Center for Inquiry.

All are welcome and refreshments will be available.

Wickenden Hall is on the Case quad. It is likely that the parking lot 1A right behind Wickenden (entering from northbound MLK Drive) will be open. If you park there, go up the outdoor steps and Wickenden Hall is the building on your immediate right.. The visitors parking lot between Crawford Hall and Amasa Stone chapel (which you enter from Euclid Avenue) will be open.

God makes you obese

That’s what a new Northwestern University study seems to find.

The study, which tracked 2,433 men and women for 18 years, found normal weight young adults ages 20 to 32 years with a high frequency of religious participation were 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age after adjusting for differences in age, race, sex, education, income and baseline body mass index. High frequency of religious participation was defined as attending a religious function at least once a week.

While the result seems pretty conclusive, the causal connection between god and obesity is not clear. Matthew Feinstein, the study’s lead investigator suggests, “It’s possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity.”

I find that unconvincing. Is the food at these religious get-togethers that bad? In my experience, they are usually potluck events, with home-cooked dishes that are actually pretty good. Even if it is bad for you, eating it just once a week seems hardly sufficient to produce this effect. It seems more likely to me that that the desire for food and the desire for god both spring from the same source, a neediness that is never satiated.

Given Americans’ obsession with their weight and their propensity to rush out and adopt any and all kinds of diet programs, perhaps atheist organizations should adopt a new recruiting slogan: “Lose god and lose weight!”

Review: The Count of Monte Cristo (no spoilers)

Long time readers may recall that I really liked the 2006 film V for Vendetta (if you haven’t seen it, you really should). V’s inspiration is Edmond Dantes, the hero of The Count of Monte Cristo and he repeatedly watches the 1934 black and white film with Robert Donat in the title role. You can see that scene here and it made me want to read the book and see that film.
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The road to ruin

The current war on Libya was sanctioned by United Nations Security Council resolution #1973 that was passed on March 17 and authorized “all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.” It should be noted that the resolution expressly excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory” which means that another resolution will be required if bombing alone does not result in the removal of Gadhafi from power and they want to send troops in.

The resolution passed with ten votes in favor and five abstentions. It is noteworthy that apart from Germany, the other four abstentions consisted of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, countries that constitute the newly formed so-called BRIC bloc, that is emerging as an economic counterweight to the US and Europe.

Immediately after the vote both Russia and China issued very critical statements on the bombing campaign. Since either of them could have vetoed the resolution, it seems highly hypocritical for them to complain now since they had to have known what was coming. (Even if they had vetoed it, the US, Britain, and France would have found some other pretext for bombing, but that is not the point at issue here.)

So why didn’t China and Russia veto the UN resolution? I wonder if they want to lure the US and its NATO allies into these wars so that they will simply bleed themselves dry by one misbegotten military adventure after another. Russia, in particular, learned this painful lesson first hand when the US lured them into a long, costly, tragic, and ultimately losing war in Afghanistan. Maybe this is their revenge.

Stephen Walt discusses how the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists in the US, supposedly on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, are actually very similar when it comes to taking the country to war.

The only important intellectual difference between neoconservatives and liberal interventionists is that the former have disdain for international institutions (which they see as constraints on U.S. power), and the latter see them as a useful way to legitimate American dominance… So if you’re baffled by how Mr. “Change You Can Believe In” morphed into Mr. “More of the Same,” you shouldn’t really be surprised. George Bush left in disgrace and Barack Obama took his place, but he brought with him a group of foreign policy advisors whose basic world views were not that different from the people they were replacing.

Libya is another example of how we really have just one pro-war/pro-business oligarchy that rules the country.

Walt also wonders if whether China may not be the ultimate beneficiary of the Libyan war, saying “And who’s the big winner here? Back in Beijing, China’s leaders must be smiling as they watch Washington walk open-eyed into another potential quagmire.”

It might seem to a naïve or conspiracy minded observer that there is some plan being implemented, aided by the political leadership, to deliberately drive America into the ditch. Look at all the efforts currently underway to defund the government and thus destroy public services so that libraries cut back, regulatory agencies are made toothless, public schools are undermined, workers are impoverished, retirement funds are looted, national parks are destroyed by development, logging and mining, roads and bridges fall apart, police and fire protections and other social services are reduced or eliminated, all the while waging more and more wars on other countries that not only cost a lot but breed anger and resentment against the US.

Of course, such an explicit plan is unlikely and is unneeded. All these things are happening as a logical consequence of an oligarchy run amok that seeks only to advance its immediate short-term interests by cutting taxes on the wealthy and eliminating any form of government oversight and restraint and doesn’t give a damn about anything else. When coupled with outside forces that seek to draw the US into expensive overseas military adventures and overblown internal security measures (these are, after all, the stated goals of al Qaeda), we are well on the path to the implosion of a once powerful country.

Truth or Treason: Panel discussion on WikiLeaks

I will be on a panel discussing WikiLeaks on Thursday, March 24 at 5:30 pm in Nord 310 on the Case quad of the CWRU campus. The other panelists will be Laura Tartakoff and Pete Moore from the Political Science department.

The event is organized by the CWRU chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty and is free and open to the public. Pizza and drinks will be provided.

The Daily Show on the Libyan war

Let the euphemisms begin!

Customized freedom packages depending on the country!