This Machine

Roots are neat things–they can intertwine in odd ways sometimes. I mentioned a couple of days ago that were it not for Pete Seeger, there would be no Digital Cuttlefish. Seeger’s influence, though, does not take just one direct path–Seeger influenced lots of people who (unintentionally, I assure you) shaped me in turn–Dylan, for instance, and Mojo Nixon, and Tom Waits, and Bruce Springsteen… sometimes you can see direct influences of these people in a verse I write (in such cases I usually try to apologize to Bob Dylan, for instance), and sometimes it is more subtle.

One such intermediate influence is Roy Zimmerman. He doesn’t know it, but we’ve met, a couple of times, and I have quite a few of his CD’s autographed by him (the others, not yet signed). His facility with wordplay is as inspiring as the ideas thus presented, which is saying something. Anyway, the video below was just sent out via his newsletter–if you aren’t already receiving it, click through to youtube and follow the link to subscribe (I’d link here, but I’m assuming he gets revenues through youtube as well, so give an artist some clicks)–and it is inspired by and dedicated to Pete Seeger. I’d explain the “this machine” reference, but Zimmerman does, and I don’t want to steal his thunder.

My own machine has no strings at all, but (I am reliably told) it is mightier than a sword.

All Gods Are Versions Of The One True God (Mine, Of Course)

There are thousands of gods, so the atheists claim
And they note that they all disagree;
But I’ve figured the source of their silly confusion—
And so, you can take it from me:

Some people once worshipped a handful of gods,
Like Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus
All manifestations of one, greater, God,
A reasonable mind might deduce.

When mortal perceptions, inherently flawed,
Attempt to perceive the divine
The gods that they see are distortions, of course,
Of the true God (and that one is mine).

How sad that the fact of our fallible minds
Is the cause of dissension and wars:
All gods are versions of my God, of course,
But no gods are versions of yours.

I remember my sister once (decades ago) saying “it doesn’t really matter what you believe, just that you believe. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. All gods are manifestations of the right one, which is my one. Of course, my one couldn’t possibly be a distortion of a different god, because reasons. Oh, yeah, because that’s how my god is actually defined. The sophisticated theology version of “because I said so.”

Pissing Off The Atheists

They took the crosses down, that used to stand at City Hall
The took the face of Jesus from its place there on the wall
They didn’t leave a single thing—they took them, one and all
So I’m hatching up a plan to make them pay!
You put a cross in your yard, and I’ll put a cross in mine
For every cross they’ve taken down, we’ll put up eight or nine!
They’ll be visible from everywhere, as proof of the divine!
And the atheist complainers said… “Ok.”

Clearly, that was insufficient, so we’ve got to do some more
We can airbrush the Last Supper on our walls, or on our door
We can proudly fly the Christian flag, and tell them what it’s for
Or explain it on a billboard or a sign
They say we’re not a Christian town—well, this will give them proof
We can paint a crucifixion scene on every Christian’s roof
We’ve been humble long enough; we can’t afford to be aloof
And the atheist complainers just said… “Fine.”

If the godless won’t get angry, then it feels like they have won,
Though we’ve crosses by the hundreds more than when we’d first begun
If it doesn’t bug the atheists, it isn’t any fun
Having crosses scattered all across the town
If we try to bug the atheists, and all they do is yawn
Once the crosses on the public lands were taken down and gone
And our crosses are a nuisance when we try to mow the lawn…
Well, screw it, then, I’m taking my one down.

So, over at The Blaze (don’t blame me!), they are reporting on that story from a couple of days ago about Stratton, Ohio, where the mayor took the solicitor’s advice and is removing the unconstitutional crosses, and relocating them to private yards where they are constitutionally protected. A perfect illustration of both the establishment and free exercise clauses of the first amendment. We (and they at The Blaze) do note that a number of citizens are upset at the reeling in of privilege, and that there is more than a bit of snark in noting that, in their new locations, the crosses will be more visible than the had previously been.

As if the visibility of the crosses has been the problem, rather than the unconstitutional locations of the crosses. And the commenters at The Blaze (who inspired today’s verse, and are hilarious) are certain that the FRFF (variously a communist, socialist, marxist, atheist, or muslim organization) will be terribly upset that the crosses are even more visible than before, and just you wait, the atheist/muslim/marxist/communist/socialist FRFF will soon begin phase two, where even privately displayed crosses are verboten. Because Christianity is under attack by atheists and muslims, communists, socialists, marxists, darwinists, southpaws and redheads. Even though majority rules and this is a Christian country and you atheists, muslims, communists, socialists, marxists, darwinists, southpaws and redheads had better never forget it!

Yes, the real goal of the FRFF (“I know I read it somewhere”) is that there be no more crosses anywhere, public or private.

Frankly, I want everyone who wants to, to have a cross up in their own yard. And I want them to feel free to raise one, or not raise one, or put up a crescent moon, or a star of David, or a flying spaghetti monster, or whatever, if they want to do so, and on their own property. Given that freedom, the unfettered ability to erect the symbol of your choice on your own property, then and only then would I honestly wish for everybody to realize that the world is a more beautiful place without all that clutter, and decide, each for themselves, not to put one up.

I don’t claim to speak for anyone else.

“We Assert That Images Of The Spiritual Leaders Of All Religions Should Be Deemed To Be Respectful”

So… if, by law, religious figures
Are deserving of respect
From the meditating Buddha
To the Manson, spittle-flecked,
From the image of Mohammed
To the memory of Jim Jones,
From Joseph Smith to Jesus Christ
To dusty relics’ bones
From the ancients on Olympus
To the modern Kanye West,
I’m required to respect them
Shall we put this to the test?
Say “there is no god but Allah”;
Aren’t you disrespecting Thor?
And if “Jesus is the only way”
That’s disrespect, once more—
If we see such disagreement
On what is—or not—divine
Can you force me to respect your views
Without respecting mine?
I won’t ask for your approval
Of the way I choose to live
(Which is fine, cos we both know it’s not
A thing that you would give)
I won’t ask you bow to other gods
I know you’ve got your own…
And in exchange, the thing I want,
Is left the fuck alone.
Your holy rules apply to you;
Their holy rules are theirs
You break each other’s holy rules
And no one really cares.
I have no god I worship, so
It’s really plain to see
Your holy rules apply to you…
They don’t apply to me.

(We all are bound by civic law,
And that is quite enough;
You want me to respect your god?
My one-word answer: tough.)

Context, and Cuttlecap tip to Ophelia.

Wait… A Town Is Going To Move Its Cross Without Going To Court?

Though the Christians could say “Batten
Down the hatches!” here in Stratton
They’ve decided unexpectedly to follow good advice:
“You’d do best to cut your losses
By distributing the crosses—
Maybe put them in some private yards; I’m sure they’d still look nice.”

Former Mayor, Fred Abdalla
Found removal hard to swallow:
“Move our crosses? For outsiders? We’ll do nothing of the sort!”
A solicitor-advisor
Whose opinion was the wiser
Said the crosses were illegal, and they’d surely lose in court

Current mayor, John (Fred’s brother)
Though they share, of course, a mother,
Seem to differ in opinion (and it’s John’s that wins the day)
Seems the town can’t be religious
‘less they want to get litigious
So the Stratton village crosses, now, are gonna go away.

So, yeah, the FFRF told the Village of Stratton, Ohio that some crosses displayed on public property were illegally placed, and warned that they would sue if they were not removed… and the village is, quite sensibly and unexpectedly, removing them. Mind you, they don’t want to, and a good number of locals would rather fight their relocation… but:

“I refused to remove them at first,” Mayor John Abdalla told The Herald-Star. “I have them for safekeeping. (The foundation) even raised hell about the manger scene at the front of the building.”
After speaking with the village solicitor, Abdalla decided the crosses were to be removed. But despite the removal, the crosses will now be given to private landowners to display on their property.
“At the regular council meeting at the council of the village of Stratton, council unanimously resolved to give the crosses that were taken off the building,” Stratton Village Solicitor Frank Bruzzese told WTOV-TV. “The result will be that (the crosses) will be on display actually more visible to the public than they used to be.”

A win-win! The FFRF will have no problem with crosses on private property, and the villages who love the crosses will get to have them all the more visible! Perfect, isn’t it? Well… not quite:

[Stratton Village Soliciter, Frank] Bruzzese stated that the atheist group has not produced anyone that was offended by the crosses.
Even though the crosses will still be displayed on private land, Abdalla is not happy about the situation.
“They don’t have the guts to come up and say, ‘It’s me that’s saying this,’” Abdall told WTOV. “Everything is anonymous.”

Cos if nobody is offended by you violating the constitution, then apparently it doesn’t count. Or worse, if you an intimidate people into not vocalizing their offense at your violation of the constitution, it doesn’t count.

It doesn’t help, though, that the former mayor and current sheriff (and the current mayor’s brother) wants to put up a fight:

But his brother, long time Stratton resident and former mayor, sheriff Fred Abdalla says they must stand up for themselves.

“We are not going to bow down and say oh well take the crosses down no well fight and let the fight begin,” sheriff Abdalla said.

And town residents ought to listen to the solicitor as well:

Some residents believe the village should be able to keep the crosses there.

Dan Carman of Hopedale says he does not understand the groups motives.

“You can be whatever religion you want. I don’t understand why you have to worry about satisfying anyone not being religious,” he said.

That’s right, Dan, you can be whatever religion you want. But your village cannot. It’s that simple.

Victoria’s Secret Kicks Out Nursing Mother

When a woman at the mall began behaving, well, parental
And she used her breasts to feed her baby boy
Some employees of a store that features breasts as ornamental
Tried to force her to behave a bit more coy

When they lavish them with laces, or with padding supplemental,
It’s no Secret that Victoria loves breasts
Thus it’s foolish and ironic that they’re acting so judgmental:
Nursing mothers being seen as second-bests

Now, it’s possible—not likely—that the slight was accidental
Though it really wasn’t handled with aplomb
If you’re known for lace and spandex, it behooves you to be gentle
And you never want to pick a fight with Mom.

Store policy is to allow nursing. Texas law allows breastfeeding in public. And Victoria’s Secret has made a fortune exposing more breast in their catalog pics than a nursing mother does (well, given that babies are rarely as sheer as fabric, and are, while nursing, kinda sorta blocking the breast from public view). This should have been a no-brainer.

Employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Texas banned a mother from breastfeeding in the store, even though nursing is allowed under company policy, reported.

A store employee in Austin last week told a mother to take her crying son into the alley outside of the store to breastfeed him after she requested a private changing room to nurse, she told a local TV station. Ashley Clawson, a 27-year-old mother of two, had just finished shopping and spent $150 at the store at the time of the request.

I’m sure the employees quickly realized their mistake…

She filed two complaints before the company told her she’d receive a response in the mail. Clawson received an official apology and a $150 store gift card after her interview with the local Fox affiliate, reported.

Any bets as to whether their apology gets bigger before it goes away?

Yet Another Case Of Ignorance = God

Science looks for laws by which
The real world is constrained
But, gee willikers—free will occurs,
Which physics can’t explain!

So… physics must be incomplete;
A reasonable conclusion—
Of course, there is another one:
Free will is an illusion.

A writer over at The Daily Paul (don’t laugh!–their motto is “Peace, Gold, Love”) demonstrates the problem of “a little learning is a dangerous thing”. And a pet peeve of mine along the way.

I don’t claim any special aptitude or deep understanding of the popular level physics I read, but I was well on my way to adopting the atheist position as my default simply because God was not mentioned as anything intellectually serious anywhere in my searching. To me God was just a made up person, and had no explanatory value.

I never heard of any logical or intellectual arguments for God’s existence, and never knew such a thing existed. There is just no information on that kind of thing available to a regular, non religious child. Public education, popular media, television, science books, all more or less assume atheism.

I was a comfortable atheist for over 15 years, not giving it much thought as a controversial matter, and simply enriching and coloring in my atheism with reading on biology, evolution, and science.

I spent my time and mental energy exploring every other area of contention and controversy — my true passion — and especially political and historical controversy, with a free open mind and the strongest stomach for unpalatable Truth I’ve ever come across.

A simple understanding of popular level physical sciences… and an unquestioned belief in a free mind. Really, it was only a matter of time until one or the other had to go. And since his passion was political (and, given where he’s writing, we can assume Libertarian), the notion that his own thinking was constrained by the same laws that describe the rest of the universe was inconceivable.

You can never know, so you have to either accept God as the ultimate answer, or else maintain a posture of permanent skepticism, and bear all the heavy weight of that skepticism your whole life, holding off all the temptations and comforts offered by a final answer, and the peace it brings.

I accepted that some people throw in the towel earlier than others and that atheism was a privilege of the few, requiring intellectual strength and hardiness.

But finally I actually started listening the the strongest proponents of theism and their strongest arguments, and realized that the matter is far from settled, and that there are powerful philosophical arguments for God, and also powerful defeaters for belief in naturalism, not least of which was the requirement that you adopt a total skepticism of all our reasoning and thinking faculties on a belief system where the mind is formed haphazardly for survival.

And since he feels he has a free, functional, and rational mind, clearly physics and biology cannot be trusted. Free will as a gateway drug to theism.

The thing is, all too many who look to science, for matters of religion or mind, are looking at the wrong sciences. Yes, there is a lot of pseudoscience under the big tent that is psychology, but the areas of sensation & perception, memory, and learning are where we can find that just because our thinking feels free, that doesn’t mean that it is. Turns out, the stuff between our ears does act the same way the rest of the universe does. No magic, either free-will or god, needed to intervene.

It should be against the law to offend me

We don’t, normally, see swooning
Over atheist cartooning
But the problem is ballooning
Or, that’s what they’d have us know

One cartoon, they think, might seize us
(They assume it cannot please us)
Cos it shows the face of Jesus
And his little buddy, Mo.

There’s an Author whose creation
Shows a cruel imagination
And whose acts deserve damnation
Or, again, that’s what they say

But the audience intended
Finds the humour simply splendid
It comes highly recommended
By the atheists today!

You all, I am sure, know Jesus and Mo, and the manufactroversy surrounding the cartoon.

Jesus and Mo is offensive. To some people. In very nearly the exact same sense as the bible and the qur’an are offensive, to other people. (and in very nearly the exact same sense as the failure to capitalize the words “bible” and “qur’an” is to still more people.)

I like being offended every once in a while–keeps me from boring myself to death, and surprises me every once in a while with something I thought would offend me, but does not (I’m looking at you, brussels sprouts). I think I’d rather have a variable world that sometimes colors outside the lines of my preferences, than one that always stays safely within the realms of any and all offense. The price I pay to discover new favorites, is the occasional discovery of something offensive. This happens with art, with literature, with food…

I am reminded (true story) of a friend who claimed that “anyone who only ever does it in one position…. that’s a fetish.” She would be (indeed, was) offended by the very conservatism in sex that took offense at her views.

Hmmm… I guess we can’t aim at “no offense” without dooming ourselves to extinction, then.

Maybe we can settle for the government not taking sides.