Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pet Peeve - Cause Ribbons

You are all familiar with various cause ribbons.  I have shown a few examples below:

The issue I have is with the application of these as decals on the backs of automobiles.  These ribbons are meant to be applied as they appear above.  Not such that the lettering is perfectly horizontal as shown here:

They are to be displayed as if you were wearing it as a lapel pin.  Sheesh.  I do support the Galactic Empire however.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hey! Wait Just a Sect...

Every religion has their own sects.  Although the term is somewhat pejorative nowadays, its meaning is still applicable.  Christianity, for example, has Catholicism, Protestantism, and the LDS church.  There are several sects within each of those major categories.  It really wasn't to long ago that Catholics were still heavily persecuted within the United States.

Buddhism has several different "schools" within it, as does Hinduism.  Yes, even Judaism has several sects.  Heck, even the atheists have different "schools" of thought such as the "New Atheists" and the lower-case 'a' atheists, and apologists ("Can't we all just get along?").

So we should not be surprised that Islam has its own sects.  Some of the names are quite common to those who have paid any attention to the Iraq war.  Sunnis and Shiites are the most commonly heard.  There is one sect of Islam called Sufi.  Apparently, one of the men behind the Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center is from this sect.  From what I can tell, they are big into mysticism and love and not so much into the dogma that is often characteristic of Islam.  They sort of sound like the Islamic version of hippies. 

Last month, a Sufi shrine was the victim of radical Islamic suicide attacks in Pakistan.  If this is indeed the leanings of this cultural center, they seem like a long shot in being supporters of those that killed dozens of their own in Pakistan.

But demagogy tends to make one overlook details such as this.

Someone Will Die - Part 2

Well, no one has died yet, but just to illustrate that this whole thing about building an Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan just because it's near Ground Zero is a bunch of bullshit, I refer you to the following:
Federal officials are investigating a fire that started overnight at the site of a new Islamic center in a Nashville suburb.

Ben Goodwin of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department confirmed to CBS Affiliate WTVF that the fire, which burned construction equipment at the future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is being ruled as arson.

Special Agent Andy Anderson of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told CBS News that the fire destroyed one piece of construction equipment and damaged three others. Gas was poured over the equipment to start the fire, Anderson said.
We have started down a slippery slope here and unfortunately, I don't think there will be any recovery until after the November elections.  Even then, if the Republicans have proven that this form of demagogy has been successful in securing more seats in Congress, then I think we will see the rhetoric amped up as the GOP makes its push for the White House in 2012.  As frightening as this sounds, I would like to see Dubya come out and say something because this was the sort of thing he warned against after 9/11 and spoke about with respect Afghan invasion.  Unfortunately, I think Karl Rove was the one doing the talking back then.  Who will be the voice of reason for the Republicans?

America's Loss of Honor?

I mentioned the Beck-a-polooza event this weekend and that this was likely to be a target rich environment.  Beck billed this event as "restoring America's honor."  I think Ed Brayton at his blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, has what amounts to a very good op-ed style piece, titled "America's Honor is Found In Its Ideals."
The premise of Glenn Beck's rally was "restoring America's honor." So these folks went around asking those who attended when exactly America lost its honor.
Here's my answer: America hasn't lost anything. We are today what we have always been, a nation of people that proclaims a set of very audacious ideals to the rest of the world and only sometimes lives up to them. It isn't any worse today than it was in years past; in fact, it's better -- but only because the forces of progress won previous battles for liberty and equality.
The ideals of the Declaration of Independence -- freedom for all and equality under the law in particular -- were quite audacious at the time they were handed down, so revolutionary and so far ahead of their time that the very men who signed that document could not come close to living up to them. Those ideals were only partially believed, and rarely practiced, even by those who offered them up to the world.
Those ideals were obviously ignored while we were enslaving, torturing and killing so many Africans for nearly 80 years after the ink dried on that document. They were ignored while the descendants of those slaves were segregated, oppressed and denied their civil rights for another century after slavery was ended.
Those ideals were ignored while we denied women the right to vote, to be educated, to join the workplace as equals with men. They were ignored while we invaded other nations and installed and propped up brutal dictators in them, tyrants who killed and tortured their own people as we looked away because they were good for business and did our bidding internationally.
Our fathers and grandfathers, and their fathers and grandfathers, did not honor those ideals while behaving with such barbarism and bigotry. We today do not honor them while denying equality to gays and lesbians, or while engaging in xenophobic bigotry against Muslims.
But in all of those situations, the forces of progress called upon those ideals to fuel their movements. Martin Luther King, standing on that same site 47 years ago, called the Declaration of Independence a promissory note that had come due. In each instance where there is progress in applying the promises of liberty and equality more fully, we return again to those ideals for that very reason.
Those principles provide the solid base from which we have launched assault after assault against discrimination and oppression. America fully has its honor only insofar as we live up to those ideals. America hasn't lost its honor, it is the same as it always was, partially living up to our own declared principles and partially failing. And the more we live up to them, the closer we come to that illusive place of honor.
Glenn Beck isn't going to do a damn thing to help in that effort. He's on the side of regress, not progress. He's a carnival barker on the political midway, selling a product -- fear -- to an eager public. For him, the notion of honor is just a marketing slogan, something flashy with which to fleece the rubes and keep the money flowing.
But the rest of us must continue the fight for freedom and equality because in extending those ideals to others, we provide them more fully and more meaningfully to ourselves. In extending those promises where they should have applied in the first place, we reinforce our shared humanity, the thing that Martin Luther King fought for so bravely.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It Was A Quiet Weekend

I think all the idiocy converged on the Lincoln Memorial for the Glenn Beck Ego-thon.  It made for a quiet weekend.  Well, that, and the fact I was in sunny Irvine, CA, for a couple of nights of first class musical entertainment and was completely oblivious to the 69-car pileup on Interstate 10 here in downtown Phoenix on Saturday night.  I'm sure that now the tea baggers are all revved up on Glenn Beck-itude, this will be a target rich environment this week.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Someone Will Die

Are you noticing a trend?  Someone will die for Islam.  They may not even be Islamic.  They will simply die for the color of their skin, or the type of clothing they wear, or how they style their hair.  The killer will most certainly be a Christian.  Will all Muslims immediately label all Christians as extremists?  Will the the Repuglicants denounce the killing?  Will they pull back on the rhetoric and start calling for tolerance?  Probably not.  The Christian will be seen as a hero, perhaps even a martyr.  How is this different from a terrorist?  "Well, at least the Christian didn't kill 3000 people," is what they will say.  No, at least not directly.  But, as this story continues to fuel recruitment, more will surely die.

In my opinion, we have already tainted the memories of those victims simply by becoming what the Islamic extremists thought we were to begin with.  An intolerant society that has it out for Muslims.  This time, they would be right.

Did you know there is a Mosque in the Pentagon right near where the plane went down?  No?  Maybe because the politicians aren't using it for political gain.

I'm an atheist.  Why do I care?  Because we have a Constitution and we have laws.  I don't really want to see any religious building built anywhere.  But if they have done everything in accordance with the laws of our country, then they have every right to build.  Period.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anti-Islamic Rhetoric is Aiding Recruitment

The rhetoric against the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan continues on...

I had stated in my "You're either with us or against us" blog,
Now, the the right wing Republican demagogues, such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, are painting all of Islam with the extremist brush.  They are, in fact, helping to fuel additional recruitment to these groups because it is seen more and more that the U.S. blames all of Islam for the terrorist attacks.
This NYT article seems to back this up.
“When the rhetoric is so inflammatory that it serves the interests of a jihadi recruiter like Awlaki, politicians need to be called on it.”
It doesn't take much for these Jihadi recruiters to latch on to and effectively recruit more members into their ranks.  It makes their jobs a lot easier when it is mainstream U.S. politicians such as a Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich making these statements.  The sad part is that it makes it even harder for moderate American Muslims to be effective in defense of a tolerant U.S. society.

The very second we turn our back on the Constitution and the freedoms of religion and speech that it guarantees, regardless of whether we perceive something as tasteless, crass, inappropriate, or hurts somebody's feelings, then we have granted a victory to those who would like to destroy us and those freedoms. By trying to use demagogy to deny them their right, and in abidance of all the laws of our nation, then we become no better than them. We must be better than that. We must take the high road.

But It's a Secular Symbol...

This is a new tactic for Christians wanting to avoid any entanglement with the whole Establishment Clause.
ALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has overturned a decision that allowed the display of roadside crosses in honor of Utah Highway Patrol troopers who have fallen in the line of duty.
The 10th Circuit Court also ordered Judge David Sam to order the crosses removed. Sam ruled in favor of the UHP crosses in November of 2007, saying the crosses did not represent a religious symbol, but a proper memorial.
The Utah Attorney General was trying to argue that the cross is a secular symbol and therefore, state sponsorship of the memorial was appropriate.  This is one of those situations where sensitivity clashes with law.  I have absolutely no issue whatsoever with a memorial to fallen officers.  They deserve a memorial to be recognized.  As part of their oath, they pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  I think there are plenty of ways to memorialize these officers without a 12-foot cross.  There can be a religious symbol placed next to the name of the fallen soldier, whether they be Christian, Jewish, or something else.  That puts this memorial into the same category of Arlington National Cemetery or any other government sponsored cemetery where there is a choice of religious symbols offered to associate the fallen with the religion of their choice.  That is appropriate.

This is the second recent example.  There was another case in Southern California pertaining to a cross/memorial on public land.  In this case, the cross was placed there 76-years ago as part of a memorial for World War I veterans.  Anthony Kennedy wrote the lead opinion in which he said,
"Private citizens put the cross on Sunrise Rock to commemorate American servicemen who had died in World War I," Kennedy wrote. "Although certainly a Christian symbol, the cross was not emplaced on Sunrise Rock to promote a Christian message."
This is not a surprising ruling from Kennedy.  The case was basically sent back to the lower court for resolution.  Although I believe that this particular cross is a violation of church/state separation, I almost feel that this one should grandfathered in at this point.  It was placed by private citizens and it went unhindered for a very long time.  There are bigger battles to be won.  My biggest issue here was that once again, it is trying to be argued that the cross is a secular symbol and not a religious one.  I don't really understand how a cross does not promote a Christian message.  If the Christians really want to devalue their most sacred symbol, then maybe I shouldn't argue it.  However, their intentions are too sinister to not oppose it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fantasy Football Draft Follow Up

I have miraculously (irony noted) picked the champion fantasy football team.

QB - Carson Palmer
RB - Frank Gore
RB - LeSean McCoy
RB/WR - Ricky Williams
WR - Larry Fitzgerald
WR - Anquan Boldin
TE - Owen Daniels
K - Joe Nedney
DEF - Bengals

My bench is the best in the business as well:  Braylon Edwards, Marion Barber, Darren McFadden, Vince Young, Toby Gerhart, Josh Morgan, and Chaz Schilens (Oakland 1st string WR/Water boy).

I truly appreciate everyone's donation.

Oh, I decided to keep Evil Babyeaters as the team name.  That's right, your 2010 Fantasy Football Champion, The Evil Babyeaters, the original organic food!

Sarah Palin Hypocrisy - Part 7,653

Sarah Palin came out in defense of Dr. Laura, who is ending her radio show.  In her Tweet, she said,
Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")
So, let me translate that from Tweet to English:
Dr. Laura, don't retreat!  Reload!  She is stepping aside because her First Amendment rights ceased to exist thanks to activists trying to silence her.  It "isn't American."  "Not fair!"
Well, isn't that special.  You can read about how idiotic this statement is in the context of my previous post about Dr. Laura.  I want to focus on the "activists trying to silence her.  It isn't American.  Not fair!"  Let's try this another way.  Let's replace "her" with something else.
"activists trying to silence the Islamic Cultural Center.  It isn't American.  Not fair!"
Right.  Being an activist in attempts to silence another person's freedom isn't American.  Sarah, do you read your own shit?  Does the little dim bulb in your brain not go off when this crap comes out of your mouth (or Twitter)?

Dr. Laura is Clueless on First Amendment

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has decided to end her radio program at the end of the year.  You may recall her N-word laced tirade at a caller got her into some hot water and people have been critical of her for those comments.  But, she decided to play the victim.  Her reason for ending it?
"The reason is I want to regain my First Amendment rights, I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I'm sort of done with that."
Um.  What?  "Woe is me!  I'm the victim."  First of all, this is not a First Amendment issue.  You had every right to be an idiot and to say stupid things.  And, you exercised that right to perfection.  Those listening to your disgusting tirade have every right to be offended.  Sadly, given her past history, I'm sure there were a few listeners cheering her on as well.  Dr. Laura has had people angry at her for years, I don't know why she suddenly feels this is new.  I'm glad she feels like she is a voice of dissent.  Hopefully that means that her kind of attitudes have been pushed into the margins.  However, none of what she says, in any way, shape, or form, has caused her to lose her First Amendment rights.

But it gets better.  Sarah Palin, spokesperson for the Bag of Hammers, cries foul on Twitter:
Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")
When did Dr. Laura's First Amendment rights cease to exist?  This is just more demagogy and clueless misunderstanding of our Constitution from the Queen of Wasilla.

Being criticized for being stupid, having people suggest a boycott of your sponsors for being stupid, is not a cessation of her First Amendment rights.  Regardless of her misunderstanding of our Constitution, at least she won't be plying the airwaves anymore with her shtick.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fantasy Football Time!

It is that time of  year.  Today's is my one and only Fantasy Football draft. I had a surprisingly good regular season last year only to completely and utterly self destruct in the playoffs.  As for the Pick'em leagues, I am a two-time defending champion in one league and the defending champion in a second league.  Now that I have patted myself on the back after earning those bragging rights, quite simply, I am doomed.  I'm contemplating two team names.  Currently, I am the Evil Babyeaters, but I am looking for something a bit less barbaric.  Leviticus Stoners is a possibility.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jesus Wants His Sandals Back

I own a pair these Chaco sandals:
I love them.  I wear them all summer long (and as far into fall and winter as I can).  A friend saw them from underneath the bar (not sure what she was doing underneath the bar, but, whatever) and said, "Jesus wants his sandals back."  It took me a minute to understand what she meant, then it dawned on me.  "I didn't think Jesus had a wrap around the toe."  She was pretty sure he did.  I then told her, "Jesus can have them when he comes back."

I think my sandals are safe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Miracle by Design

A follow up to my "Miracle" post from the James Randi Foundation.
It seems to me, and I'm sure many of you, that if a higher power was involved, she/he/it deserves credit for the tragedy as well as the remarkable survival.  Unfortunately, people don't want to focus on the tragedy, and that's why today's article in USA Today entitled "Engineers: Passengers' survival was miracle by design" and the linked ABC Nightline video are so interesting.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coexist Bumper Stickers

You've all seen them. 

I used to think they were clever, now I think they are just plain stupid.  I get the attraction of them.  Harmony, peace, flowers, etc.  The problem is, it's all bullshit.  At least with respect to the Abrahamic religions expressed in the 'C', 'X', and 'T'.  These three cannot coexist in a peaceful manner.  If they did, then they would have to admit that the beliefs in the others were correct.  This cannot be.  If they are all correct, then they must all be wrong (work with me on that one).  I'm not even sure what the 'E' represents.  LGBT rights?  Equal rights between genders?  Not quite sure.  Let's assume both are correct, then Leviticus is certainly as issue with the 'T' crowd.

Like I said, I get the attraction, but it is short-sighted and amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking and perhaps a lack of understanding on how all of these letters are supposed to get along with each other.

I found this website that explains the meanings.

The Moon is Shrinking

Just caught this article on Yahoo! Science News.  It is interesting to me simply because I am interested in geological processes.  There are always new things to be learned even with our closest neighbor.  What struck me most about this article is the following:
The moon's not going to disappear and its shrinkage won't affect the Earth in any way, Watters stressed.
Is the state of science education in this country such that this item must be stressed?

"You're either with us or against us."

I couldn't remember the exact quote, so I Googled the quote in the title.  It is not exactly what George Bush said shortly after the 9/11 attacks, but it is close.  It is a phrase, in some form or another, that has been used many times in the past.  However, this is not about bashing GW.  On the contrary, he actually comes off well in the following discussion.

More about the Manhattan Islamic Center/Mosque.  President Obama came out in support of the center indicating that the owners have every right and have cleared every legal hurdle to build the Center.  There are more and more moderate and even some conservative Republicans that have indicated there is no legal basis for not allowing the construction to go through.  Heck, even Glenn Beck admitted as much on the Bill O'reilly show a few days ago.

So, how does GW coming out smelling like a rose?  Well, he always made a distinction between the extremist Muslim terrorists and the general populace of Muslim's.  In fact, there are a large number of Muslim's that were disgusted at the barbarianism of 9/11.  Many of them, at the risk of their own lives, have helped the United States in our fight against Al Qaida and other extremist groups.  They have served in our military as U.S. soldiers.  They have served in our intelligence community in translating intercepts.  They have served in our State Department in providing cultural and protocol information.  They are serving with our military on the ground helping translate in small towns and villages throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, the the right wing Republican demagogues, such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, are painting all of Islam with the extremist brush.  They are, in fact, helping to fuel additional recruitment to these groups because it is seen more and more that the U.S. blames all of Islam for the terrorist attacks.  Well, Sarah and Newt, are you with us or against us?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Irrational Behaviors

Having been through a divorce, I had to deal with a number of irrational behaviors that, had I reacted to them, could have cost me a lot. I'm talking about more than money.  Having such a huge incentive to not fall into that trap, I was pretty much able to keep my wits about me, find my own private opportunities to vent the frustrations, and move on. I still have my moments, but I have to deal with the other half on occasion and must stay even keeled.

Now that I am blogging and always looking for material, I have been exposed to all sorts of nonsense surrounding the religious right wing nuttery and their complete inability to use any sort of reason and logic.  It is easy to resort to strident and controversial tone when dealing with these people.  It is also easy to express these frustrations because, quite frankly, I will never meet the people.  Mostly, it's a venting ritual with the hopes of opening some people's eyes by throwing in some reason in between the ranting.  I explored a bit of that in this post.

Then you get the middle ground.  Crazy people that you know, have to interact with, or at least, are likely to run into at social gatherings, work, etc.

I posted awhile back about social networking and Facebook acquaintances.  I talked about a specific incident that had occurred.  I had hoped that the irrational behavior of the person in question would be short lived.  However, this has proven to not be the case.  One must not underestimate the sticktuitiveness of crazy.  I will provide a general sequence of events up to today.

  • I committed some unknown heinous act upon this person.
  • This person blocks me from seeing anything on their Facebook page.
  • I decide that blocking someone in this manner is a pointless exercise and defriended this person.
  • A friend of mine, who has been blocked for many months, agrees, and also defriends this person.
  • This person now decides to attack, rob, and place a bounty on my Mafia Wars character (and to a lesser extent, my friend).
  • I blog about incident while keeping this person anonymous.
  • This person attacks via Mafia Wars again the next day.
  • I post a Facebook status update about childish and petty behavior while keeping this person anonymous.
  • This person attacks again.
  • I again post a Facebook update ridiculing this person's behavior, again, keeping them anonymous.
  • I send an email to this person asking for clarification of what I did.
  • Next day, attacks again.
  • I send an email reminding this person that I have received no clarification.
  • I again post an update, but this time, I called out the person's name.
  • This person attacks again.
  • Next day, attacks again.
  • I choose to ignore this person for a while.  No status updates or blog posts.
  • Next day, attacks again while on vacation.
  • Next day, attacks again while on vacation.
  • Next day, attacks again.
  • Next day, attacks again.

First, it was wrong of me to call the person out by name.  It was a very lame attempt on my part to publicly mock this person in an attempt to maybe shame them into stopping their behavior.  I have no idea if this person is even aware of that posting.  It didn't work.

So, at this point, what is one supposed to do?  I assume that maybe a mutual friend is passing on my Facebook status, but I don't know for sure.  I have firmly established that even if this person was not aware of my Facebook status updates, the attacks would continue.  Calling out this person did nothing to change the behavior, assuming they were aware of it.  Requesting clarification from this person, twice, results in request being ignored.

To continue to ignore the behavior while allowing this person to continue to engage in this childish behavior by attacking a proxy of myself does not seem to me to be the correct parenting choice.  I am against any sort of corporal punishment with a child, so spanking this person is out of the question.  Since this person is crazy, simply asking them to stop seems pointless.

OK.  Honestly, I'm not sure I want this person to stop, because it simply illustrates the ability of this person to hold a grudge for very long periods of time.  I don't really even care if I never find out what I may have said or did, because it is irrelevant.  It is unlikely that my crime will have fit the punishment that is being doled out to my Mafia Wars characters (and me, by proxy).  I can pretty much imagine this person laughing as they continue to press the "Attack" button on their computer.  It is sad and irrational.

It has nothing to do with the virtual damage inflicted on my MW character either.  I get "killed" several times a day.  It's no big deal.  In addition, I have made no attempts to retaliate for these "in-game" actions myself.  I could just as easily rob and put a bounty on this person's character, but I have chosen not to do so.

What I cannot do is just simply ignore this person and let them continue on without there being some documentation of the behavior.  I've simply had enough of this persons snide, under their breath comments, and other irrational, victim mentality meanderings.

So, I hope this is the last time I have to address this person's behavior, although I doubt it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How Many Must Die for it NOT to be a Miracle?

There was a story today about an airline crash on a Colombian island.
BOGOTA, Colombia — A Boeing 737 jetliner with 131 passengers aboard crashed on landing and broke into three pieces at a Colombian island in the Caribbean early Monday. The region's governor said it was a miracle that only one person died.
I wonder if the family of the one person who died thinks it was a miracle?  I wonder what that one person did to not have God save him when he so readily intervened in saving the life of 130 others.

Here is a story on a plane crash in Libya where the sole survivor was an 8 year old boy.
Afriqiyah Airways confirmed on its website late Wednesday that the other 92 passengers and 11 crew members were killed when the plane crashed while trying to land at the Tripoli International Airport.
Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, said the child's survival, "given this tragic event, is truly a miracle."
I wonder if the families of all the other people who died think it was miracle?  What was so special about this child that God intervened on that day to save him and let all the others die a horrible and painful death amongst the flames of the wreckage.

Finally, we have a story I'm sure you all remember, the "Miracle on the Hudson."
NEW YORK — With both engines out, a cool-headed pilot maneuvered his crowded jetliner over New York City and ditched it in the frigid Hudson River on Thursday, and all 155 on board were pulled to safety as the plane slowly sank. It was, the governor said, "a miracle on the Hudson." One victim suffered two broken legs, a paramedic said, but there were no other reports of serious injuries.
So, for those of you keeping score at home, let's review:

  • Plane crashes, all die except one.  Miracle!
  • Plane crashes, all live except one. Miracle!
  • Plane crashes, all live.  Miracle!
  • Place crashes, all die.  No miracle.  Unless, of course, it was a plane full of Haitians, atheists, or Muslims.  In that case, Pat Robertson would likely call it a miracle.
It would seem a very low threshold to declare a miracle.

We are constantly hearing about how the new Islamic Center in Manhattan is slap in the face to the feelings of the surviving families, and given the scope of the tragedy, they are justified in their bigotry.  Is it any less callous, as the sole survivor of a plane crash, to declare your life "a miracle" and yet there is no thought given to how the surviving families feel about it?  Is it any less callous to declare a miracle where only a single person died?  Where is the outrage for the feelings of these surviving families?

What may be even worse is that a number of those families will, in the mourning of their loss, state that "it was his time to go," or "God must have plans for him."  Why?  Is it the belief that our lives are predestined and when our number comes up, it comes up, and there is nothing we can do about?  It seems like this may be a testable hypothesis.  Let's get 10 volunteers who believe their life is predestined by God, dress them in dark clothes at night, blindfold them, and have them walk across a busy street.  How many of those 10 do you think would go for it?  I bet none.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Sacrilege Series: Mortal Lies

One of the reasons that I enjoy reading PZ Myers blog, especially on Sundays, are his occasional Sunday Sacrilege posts.  So, I link you now to this Sunday's edition, "Mortal Lies."  Search for "Sunday Sacrilege" to find some of his earlier posts.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Attention H8ers!

This kills me.  I mean, I utterly, completely fail to understand the logic behind the argument that just because Proposition 8 was passed by a thin majority that the hate filled religious right is all pissed off that the voters don't count!  So, here's the deal, the Constitution, you remember that document right?  The document that all the religious right folks like to wrap around themselves like it was an American Flag?  The Constitution has this lovely feature called Checks and Balances.  One of those balances is that judges are appointed by ELECTED politicians.  So, in essence, your vote does have a direct effect on who gets appointed to the courts.  The Constitution also has checks.  This means that those same judges, appointed by your voted representatives, have the ability to decide whether or not a passed law, whether directly by the people, or by those that you ELECTED to represent you in state houses, city councils and Congress, passes muster to what the Constitution says.  Yes, you heard that right, to what the CONSTITUTION says!  I don't care how you arrange those letters in CONSTITUTION, you cannot find the word BIBLE anywhere in there.  It doesn't exist.

It should also be remembered that one of the purposes of our Constitution is to protect the rights of the minorities when the majority wishes to trample upon them.  This was an essential reason for our revolution.  Well, guess what?  Proposition 8 is a trampling of the rights of a minority and it should not, and is not, permitted under our Constitution.  If you disagree, then you disagree with the Constitution.  It is really that simple.  We (in this case you), the Religious Right, do not have the right under our Constitution to impose your hateful beliefs on a minority of the people, and I don't give a damn about what your disgusting piece of fiction called the Bible says.  Why?  Because you will not find BIBLE anywhere in the CONSTITUTION!

Oh, and by the way, do you know who appointed the judge that overturned Prop H8?  Ronald Reagan!  George H. W. Bush!  Yes!  The darlings of the Conservatives are who appointed that judge.  Who voted in Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush?  The same right wing nut jobs that are pissed off today.  How is that for sweet justice?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Message to Those Praying for Christopher Hitchens

I wanted to share this note from The Atlantic via Pharyngula.  It is a truly lovely sentiment.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Early Puberty and Increased Breast Cancer Risk

I ran across this article on msnbc.com today.  It discusses how girls are starting puberty earlier and earlier.  Perhaps as young as 7 or 8 years old.  I know from first hand experience as my daughter started at 9 1/2, which we (my ex and I) thought was early.  My daughter was prepared to handle it due to some medical issues when she was younger, but many girls at that age I would imagine would be scared of what is happening to them.  Certainly, the influx in hormones and chemicals into much of what we buy today has some affect on this.  The article also mentions that proper nutrition itself may be lowering the starting age for puberty.  Talk about a double whammy!  The scariest thing for me is the increased likelihood of developing breast cancer.  My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago.  This is certainly something we will need to discuss with my daughter once she is old enough to really understand it and that self-checks are going to be extra important for her.  Hopefully science will have discovered more about the risk factors, what they are, how they trigger changes, and how we can better eliminate and reduce those risks.  Ideally, we will find a cure.

Is the Senate Broken?

I ran across this article on msnbc.com.  It brings up some interesting points and made me realize a couple more that were not in the story.  But first, a little background on why the Senate is what it is and the House of Representatives is the way it is.

First, the House.  I believe the makeup on Congress during the drafting of the Constitution was uncertain.  I think there were arguments for a wholly representative of the people camp and a wholly representative of the states camp.  What we ended up with was both.  The House is created the way it is to be the most responsive to the needs of the constituents.  Representatives are elected every two years to make them accountable for their voting record.  You don't forget your Representative mis-represented you in two years time.  Also, the seats are based solely on population.  Yes, more populous states got more seats, and in the early years of the Congress, the most populous states and regions could certainly force favorable legislation through simply by the size of their voting bloc. 

Now for the Senate.  So much of the Constitution is about checks and balances.  The Senate was created in such a way by each member serving a six-year term, they would be less accountable to their constituents and could look at things more from a national perspective.  This provided a check against the larger state voting blocs in the early years of Congress, since each state only had two members.  Also, with six year terms and by the way Senators were first elected, by appointment of the state's legislature, they could be far less accountable to the constituents and focus more on what was desirable to their state and to national interests.  The 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, made Senators elected by the people of that state.

With that bit of history behind us I would reluctantly say that the Senate is doing the job it was supposed to be doing.  Legislation ram-rodded through the House of Representatives would get far more scrutiny in the Senate for national interests.  Nowadays, even with a six-year term, the availability and tracking of voting records and long memories of scorned constituents makes the Senate, in my opinion, far more reactionary to public interest than it should be.  I also believe there is a lack of real debate and discussion of the issues and far too much power given to the majority and minority leaders of the Senate that essentially twists arms and forces Senators to vote according to their party bloc.  To not toe the line would mean fewer re-election dollars and perhaps a challenge from within the party to someone who will toe the line.

So, no.  I don't think the Senate is broken.  I think the election process with respect to campaign dollars is broken.  I think only money raised in the district should be used for campaigns within that district.  It would take the national money influence out of many campaigns.

Interesting Quotes on Prop 8 Ruling

An interesting list of quotes from cnn.com.
Brian Raum, attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund: "In America, we should respect and uphold the right of a free people to make policy choices through the democratic process - especially ones that do nothing more than uphold the definition of marriage that has existed since the foundation of the country and beyond."
Um, Brian, it's called Checks and Balances and judicial review to be sure that the majority does not impinge upon the right of the minority in a free society.  Otherwise, it wouldn't be free, it would be oppressive  But that is really what you want isn't it?  An oppressive Christian society.
Human Rights Campaign: "The battle for marriage equality continues, and we must all continue our work - in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms - until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere."
 White House: "The president has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans."
I'm a little disappointed in the Obama White House.  He keeps saying this is a States issue.  I don't agree.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: "California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree. Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of society."
Frankly, I'm a bit surprise the quote didn't read "between a man and women..."
Kate Kendell, executive director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights: "Using the Prop 8 proponents' own outrageous and inflammatory words, ads, and e-mails, the plaintiffs powerfully demonstrated that Prop 8 was a direct product of hostility, fear-mongering and demonization of lesbians and gay men."
California Attorney General Jerry Brown: "In striking down Proposition 8, Judge Walker came to the same conclusion I did when I declined to defend it: Proposition 8 violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, without a sufficient governmental interest."
He is running for Governor.  I'll have to look at his Democratic opposition, but I'd vote for him on this statement.
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America: "Marriage is not a political toy. It is too important to treat as a means for already powerful people to gain preferred status or acceptance. Marriage between one man and one woman undergirds a stable society and cannot be replaced by any other living arrangement."
I think her organization should be changed to "Concerned Hetero and Bigoted Women..."
Chad Griffin, board president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which helped bring the case against Proposition 8: "Any denial of freedom ... undermines the principles on which this country is founded."
Correct again.
Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage: "I am deeply disturbed and shocked a federal judge has ruled 7 million people have no right to vote on marriage. This is a slur against the majority of Americans."
Idiot.  See Brian Raum.
Cyndi Lauper, musician whose True Colors Fund advocates for the lesbian, gay and transgender community: "Today's landmark ruling ... validates that the discrimination gay couples face must come to an end. We as a society should be embracing these couples and helping them make the lifelong commitment to each other that many of us straight people take for granted each and every day."
 I agree.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, referring to 1973 decision that legalized abortion: "This lawsuit, should it be upheld on appeal and in the Supreme Court, would become the 'Roe v. Wade' of same-sex 'marriage."
I agree.  And your still an ass.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: "For the hundreds of thousands of Californians in gay and lesbian households who are managing their day-to-day lives, this decision affirms the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for all Californians to consider our history of leading the way to the future, and our growing reputation of treating all people and their relationships with equal respect and dignity."
So, there is a little human left in the cyborg governor.  If you don't imagine him speaking it, these are very powerful words.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, House Judiciary Committee: "When Congress returns from recess, I plan to introduce a resolution condemning today's decision and urging an immediate appeal. The voters of California are not the only ones who lost today. This decision defies the voice of all citizens who have sought to define marriage in their states as the union between one man and one woman. Judge Walker's actions should be opposed and the decision should be swiftly overturned."
And you would still be oh so wrong.  Who put this clown on the Judiciary Committee?
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State: "This is a tremendous step forward for individual freedom and church-state separation. Aggressive and well-funded religious groups conspired to take away the civil marriage rights of same-sex couples in California. That was wrong, and I am delighted that the court has ruled the way it has."
I too, am delighted.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movie Review: SALT

I had the chance to see Salt today starring Angelina Jolie.  I thought the movie was very entertaining.  Sort of a cross between No Way Out (1987) and the Jason Bourne movies.  Better than No Way Out but not as good as the Bourne movies.  Some of the stunt work seemed a bit contrived.  Not that the stunts themselves weren't believable (in the action movie sense), but were a bit to clean, if that makes sense.  I saw some reviews that the ending was a surprise and that audiences weren't sure what to think.  Without giving anything away, I'll just say that I trust Salt's character will do what she said.

I can't say that I am a big Angelina Jolie fan.  Something about those lips and the whole Billy Bob Thornton thing.  Certainly, her work for the UN is to be commended and she seems genuinely interested in her philanthropic activities.  However, I have to admit that I have enjoyed several of her action movies.  I'm quite happy to see a kick-ass female action star that also genuinely looks like she could pull off those stunts for real.

I think the movie ended in such a way that a sequel or two could arise out of it.  If they look as entertaining as the previews for this one did, then I will see them as well.

Citizenship and the 14th Amendment

Recently, as part of the whole immigration mess, some Republicans are looking at revising the 14th Amendment.  Specifically where it discuss "birthright citizenship."  They might do themselves a favor and actually look up some Constitutional precedents before being so hasty in changing the Constitution.  I'm getting this information from Wikipedia and it discusses the 14th Amendment birthright clause as it pertains to illegal immigrants.  Again, from Wikipedia:
The Supreme Court has never explicitly ruled on whether children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents are entitled to birthright citizenship via the 14th Amendment,[5] although it has generally been assumed that they are.[6] A birth certificate issued by a U.S. state or territorial government is evidence of citizenship, and is usually accepted as proof of citizenship.
In the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), the Supreme Court ruled that a person becomes a citizen of the United States at the time of birth, by virtue of the first clause of the 14th amendment of the Constitution, if that person is:
  • Born in the United States
  • Has parents that are subjects of a foreign power, but not in any diplomatic or official capacity of that foreign power
  • Has parents that have permanent domicile and residence in the United States
  • Has parents that are in the United States for business
So, in fairness to these Republicans, it is generally assumed that a child of illegal immigrant parents would be granted citizenship.  However, this has never been tested.  Jeff Sessions had the following comment in the article,
"I'm not sure exactly what the drafters of the (14th) amendment had in mind, but I doubt it was that somebody could fly in from Brazil and have a child and fly back home with that child, and that child is forever an American citizen."

In the one case cited above, there are several conditions that must be met.  One involves permanent domicile and residence, the other for business reasons.  I would think it difficult for truly illegal immigrants to gain residence and if they have legitimate business reasons, they are probably here on work visas and therefore, not illegal.  I doubt Sessions was aware of the legal precedent.  I would be curious to see those citizenship rights challenged for the example he gave.

I am curious to see how this one plays out.  Based on the information available to me today, I have to say that it wouldn't kill me to see something change specific to this birthright clause.  The birthright clause reads as follows:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
That last section of the 14th Amendment is a follows:
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Laws have been passed to establish the rules by which territories and other U.S. entities are entitled to citizenship.  Based on Section 5 and the meaning of "subject to the jurisdiction thereof,"  I'm wondering if Congress could not first pass a law denying illegal immigrant birthright citizenship with the aid of Wong Kim Ark first and see if it stands up to the Constitutional challenge.

I also question the need for such an effort because I would think the percentage of birthright citizenship in comparison to the entire illegal immigrant issue is very small and may not really be worth it.  Certainly, I don't think it is nearly as important as dealing with our ongoing economic struggles and large scale illegal immigration issues.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Social Media, Gaming, and "Friends"

Social Media has been a huge part of the society over the last couple of years.  MySpace and Facebook being some of the bigger names.  I know there are dozens others.  Along with these sites came a phenomenon known as social gaming.  For those of you on Facebook, games such as Farmville, MafiaWars, VampireWars, etc. are clogging up news feeds on a daily basis.

"Hello, my name Rubicon and I have a problem."  Yes I do.  I have been a social gamer for well over a year now.  Damn those crappy, boring, non-interactive, silly ass games that are so fucking addictive I could...  Well, you get my point.  I have managed to discard several of them but I have to admit that I am still somewhat addicted to MafiaWars for whatever reason.  Maybe because they actually try and refresh the game frequently.  Although refreshing boring, crappy, non-interactive games still leads to more boring crappiness.  Yet, I just can't stop myself.

This has led to a phenomenon of collecting "friends" in order to meet certain in game requirements for advancement.  Your "crew" or whatever the appropriate term is for that game, must grow in order to advance.  That led to friending people that you really didn't know.  I guess that is the social aspect of it.  Some friends took it pretty far and friended literally hundreds of people to advance their characters.  Others, such as myself, did friend a handful of people I didn't know, but were friends (the real ones) of friends.  Yes, I am making very subtle and differentiated excuses here.

There are also other "friends."  Two significant groups of these friends comprise mostly of people you are simply acquainted with through mutual friends and activities and people that you were friends/acquaintances with many years ago, such as high school classmates.

The acquainted friends makes for a very interesting dynamic.  Perhaps out of a sense of obligation we friend these people and continue to do so.  I don't think there is anything wrong with that.  Social media allows you to get to know these people a lot better and who knows, you may find a real true friend through their updates and other activities that you have in common.  And then there is the other side of that coin.  At what point does one decide to not be friends with an "acquainted friend?"  Recent events have certainly led me to evaluate my reasons for having some people as Facebook friends.

As to the recent event, I was recently "blocked" by one of these friends.  I don't know the real reason why I was blocked.  I can certainly make educated guesses as to why, but in all honestly, I don't really care.  The question becomes, why remain friends with someone if you are going to completely block them from your content?  One obvious reason is that they can continue to see what you do and what you post.  I don't know if that is the case, but it was enough for me to say, "screw it," and defriend the person once and for all.

I also fail to understand the phenomenon of keeping a friend that is openly hostile to you, whether deserving or not.  I mean, why bother?  Does it somehow make one feel better to get a hostile comment or response from someone?  I have to admit some rather subtle attempts to get defriended in the past, but those attempts failed.

Although the person is now defriended, they were still a member of my "Mafia."  Who cares?  Right?  So what sense of justice is there in outright attacking and then placing a bounty on my character?  Just how guanophrenic must one be to get any real sense of pleasure from such a petty act?  Please, oh, please, tell me what I have done to wrong you so!?!

'Cuz I'd really like to do more of it.

Why I'm an Angry Atheist

  1. Bigotry and hatred as exemplified by the Christian right as seen in the California Proposition 8 case.
  2. Bigotry and hatred as exemplified by the Christian right as seen in the building of the Islamic Center in Manhattan.
  3. Utter and absolute hypocrisy as exemplified by the Christian right as seen in their so called "defense" of our Constitution.
  4. Cotton Candy Christians who choose to only see all the love and sweetness of Christianity and purposefully ignore all the bad stuff that their "Good Book" teaches.
  5. The intellectual dishonesty of Biblical literalists who challenge the science and technology used to demonstrate evolution and an old earth yet use all of the modern conveniences that science and technology have brought forth into the world.
  6. Pro-life Christians that have no issue with killing a doctor, putting someone to death via the death penalty, and excommunicating a nun who chose to the save the life of a pregnant woman by allowing an abortion and allowing her other four children to grow up with a mother.
  7. The Roman Catholic Church for protecting pedophiles from the various national legal systems while providing pensions and safe havens for them and continued unfettered access to more children.
  8. The utterly disgusting and vile treatment of women under Islam and Sharia law.
  9. Sarah Palin - Pretty much anything and everything she represents.
To be continued...

*** Squirrel Alert ***

One of the things I have noticed in my blog writing is that I can go off on a tangent pretty easily.  Often times I see this when I edit the post and go back and fix it or I cut it short and flag it as a future blog post.  I've decided that it would be best to identify such areas in by blog posts with a *** Squirrel Alert *** tag.

Prop 8 Fallout and Ruling

I've been watching the fallout from the California Prop 8 ruling, which, in the future, will be known as Perry vs. Schwarzenegger.  This is admittedly quite unfair to Schwarzenegger because he made no attempt to defend the proposition on the states behalf since it was a voter proposition.  He will forever be linked as the defendant in this case.

I spent some time reading the findings of law in the ruling and found it an interesting read.  I have very seldom ready any legal rulings, but you can better see how arguments are twisted (or not).  All of the judges findings certainly appeared to be sound and all had legal precedent.

One misconception of this case has been that it is being defended as a freedom of religion issue, or at least that is what the religious right spews forth.  A sampling of statements:
I have warned you for months that our religious freedoms are imperiled. Well, Armageddon may be close at hand if a new court decision holds up. ~ Chuck Colson
Ladies and gentleman, what are we facing? The homosexuals want to destroy the church and they want to destroy marriage. That's what it amounts to. It doesn't matter how sacred an institution is and how important it is to society as long as there can be confirmation that this lifestyle is acceptable. That's what they want.
Man, pray for this country.  ~ Pat Robertson
Any time you see an outrageous racial or bigoted quote that starts with "Ladies and gentlemen," you can be assured it comes from Pat Robertson.

They are trying to make it a religious freedoms issue.  It isn't.  The case was won based on the Equal Protection clause in the 14th Amendment issue.  This just happens to be the same Amendment that Republicans are now talking about changing to deny birthright citizenship.  That is another story.

Here is Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
I have italicized the section that was applicable to this decision.  Not being a lawyer, I can't describe all of legal precedents surrounding this particular section.  What I do know is that the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War and this section was used to give citizenship to slaves that had been born in the United States and to protect the former slaves from what would later be known as Jim Crow laws that eventually led to the civil rights movement.  I don't see the words heterosexual in there.  I don't see any words about how marriage is a strictly religious institution.

Another argument used by the religious right is that the proposed amendment did not list gays and lesbians explicitly, therefore, there is no attempt to target them specifically.  The judge commented on the tactics used by the proponents of the amendment and they were decidedly targeting fear of what gay marriage could mean.  This is typical of the intellectual dishonesty used by the religious right.  In fact, the whole basis for their Intelligent Design charade was not to use the word "God" so that it would appear to not be a religious issue, but simply an alternative to evolution.  Anyway, here is the full text of Prop 8.
Section I. Title
This measure shall be known and may be cited as the "California Marriage Protection Act."
Section 2. Article I. Section 7.5 is added to the California Constitution. to read:
Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
The other argument being used by the religious right is that this is a democracy issue, that the judge dismissed the will of the voters.  This is true, strictly speaking.  One of the strengths of our Constitution is that it will not allow the will of the majority suppress the rights of the minority.  This is absolutely fundamental to the existence of the United States, and the religious right wants to tear that down.  You simply can not believe any conservative Christian that claims to defend the Constitution.  Their beliefs are contrary to so much of what the Constitution stands for.

This fight is certainly not over.  What makes this interesting is that the ruling only applies to California's Prop 8.  Even if the Appellate court upholds the findings, it will still only apply to California.  This is where it gets tricky.  If the Supreme Court decides to not hear the case, which is their prerogative, that essentially confirms the Appellate court ruling and that ruling only applies to California.  However, if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case and upholds the Appellate court ruling, then that ruling essentially applies to all such gay marriage statutes and they all become unconstitutional.  My money is on the Supreme Court dodging the issue such that this battle will have to be fought in every state where such laws exist until the Supreme Court decides it can no longer avoid it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Subscription to Rationalism

I like this (via the Friendly Atheist).  I need to subscribe.

The Streisand Effect

The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of causing the information to be publicized widely and to a greater extent than would have occurred if no censorship had been attempted. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, following a 2003 incident in which her attempts to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.

Aren't Internet memes wonderful.
So, I will direct you to this post on Pharyngula in order to see what the purpose of this post is.

Also, in keeping with the meme, I will also post links to here, here, and here.

Have a nice day.

California's Prop 8 Overturned

This is very good news.  A judge has overturned California's gay marriage ban.
"Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote.
The judge added in the conclusion of the 136-page opinion: "Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."
Excellent.  I will have to peruse the whole 136-page opinion at some point as I'm sure there are going to be more gems in there that are going to explode heads in the bigoted religious right community.  Even though we probably know all the players already, it will be interesting to see who files Friend of the Court Briefs with the Supreme Court because this is ultimately where it will go.

Correction on the Manhattan Mosque

Apparently I am wrong for calling it a mosque.  It is a described as an Islamic Center.  It will, however, have a prayer room.  Apparently this distinction is important.  Anyway, Pat Robertson and his American Center for Religious Bigotry Law and Justice has filed a lawsuit to stop it.  Whatever these purveyors of hate tell you, they don't give a rats ass about the Constitution, Law, or Justice.  That is unless it favors their Christian beliefs.

This is Called MOJO - The Mother of all Jackets, Oh my!

I had sort of glossed over this video when perusing Pharyngula the other day.  This is some funny shit!

It is also very sad that people not only believe this nonsense but give money to this guy.  Who is being humiliated by my strident tone?  Benny Hinn?  I don't think so, but keep that jacket the fuck away from me!  He scares me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Tone Wars

The blogospheres involving science, science journalism, religious apologists, denialists, and atheism have been having a war on tone and civility as of late.  There are literally dozens of posts on the subject.  For example, at ScienceBlogs, there has been a strong and mixed reaction to an essay by Virginia Heffernan that is critical of the tone of many of the blogs on that site.  You can go to ScienceBlogs and due a search on Heffernan and read all of the various reactions to her essay.

There has also been a sort of war between what are being called the "New Atheists" vs. the what?  I don't know what they call themselves.  Old Atheists?  The New Atheists include the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and PZ Myers.  The accusation by the "others," for lack of a better term, is that they are somewhat "militant" in their tone.  They attack the opposition and resort to name calling or ad hominem arguments.  If you go back and look at some of my posts on Westboro or the Dove World folks, I do the same things.  I believe I was even called "strident."

I think that different tones are required and justified based not only on the target audience, but also on the target of the post.  Here is my take on it.  I will generally fall into a more strident, vulgar tone, when the target of the post is so lacking in their ability to understand logic and reason, that anger, laughter, and humiliation are the only real avenues for expressing my discontent.  If I had the opportunity to actually sit down with the target of one of these posts, and assuming that I was fully capable in forming ironclad arguments lacking any logical fallacies, was able to demonstrate ample evidence, and could maintain a civil tone, it would not do one bit of good in even hoping to begin to change that persons mind about their beliefs.  They are simply unable to understand the logic and reason.  And, when I believe the audience for said post would find the position of the post's target to be utterly and completely lacking of logic and reason, then I have no problems falling into a more strident tone.  Basically, there is no real educational opportunity to be had in that case.  Also, if someone "on the fence" happens to read such a post, I would hope they would see the absurdity in the target's position and based on the tone of the post, come to realize the idiocy of the target itself.

For some of my other posts, such as the atheism vs. Atheism post, I am making an effort to educate, so I hope that my tone and style comes across more friendly. I try to build up the argument using examples and avoid the use of ad hominem arguments.

So, I hope that better explains why a post may come across one way versus another.  I am conscious of the choice I make with respect to tone and civility.

Manhattan Mosque Site is Not a Historic Landmark

I had mentioned in this post about the Manhattan Mosque that some were trying to make the site an historical landmark to stop its construction.  The Landmark Preservation Commission voted today to allow the building to proceed and rejected the claims of landmark status.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Burqa Ban

I have to admit that I was a bit torn and confused on how I felt about the Burqa ban that has been passed in countries such as France, and a proposed ban in Spain.  Even our northern neighbors are thinking about it.  I was thinking about it from a religious freedoms issue to a perceived nationality issue.  So, back to Crommunist's post on PZ Myers' visit to Vancouver, he asked PZ about it.  PZ said, paraphrasing,
While there were arguments to be made on both sides, his default position is to side with human liberty – women should be allowed to wear what they want, even if the establishment doesn’t like it.
I have to admit.  That is good.  I agree.  Isn't the Islamic issue of the Burqa in general really a feminist issue?  Human liberty seems to be a pretty good fall back position from which to evaluate ones personal values when the issues are not so clear.  Shockingly, Saudi Arabia has OK'd it for women to reveal their faces in anti-Burqa countries.  Ironically, female rights progress in Saudi Arabia prompted by the wrong reason.

Hypocrisy, Republicans, the Religious Right, and that Pesky First Amendment

By now, most of you have heard about the mosque being built several blocks from the former World Trade Center site, or Ground Zero.  Well, the mosque builders purchased the land, legally.  Made sure it was well within all zoning requirements for the site, legally.  Got the building plans approved by the city, legally.  Construction is due to start sometime this fall.

Well, Oh My Fictional God!  You'd think there was another terrorist attack on the city based on the verbally violent reactions of the religious right and the leaders of the Republican Party, including that wonderful spokesmodel for a bag of hammers, Sarah Palin.

By now, most of you have heard of Sarah's famous new word "refudiate" on her Twitter post.

New Gingrich (remember him?) got into the act,
"The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over."
Really?  An established religion of the world is building a house of worship in a major Metropolitan city and he calls that a double standard?  Well, in some fairness to Newt, he was referring to the double standard that Saudi Arabia won't allow a Christian church to be built.  Well, duh!  Saudi Arabia is a Muslim theocracy.  The United States is not a Christian theocracy, last I checked, although Newt, Sarah, and others wish it were so.  Why do you think the religious right movement in America is often referred to as the American Taliban?

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino also got into the mix to state that he would use Emminent Domain to prevent the mosque from being built.  He also said,
"I say it is disrespectful to the thousands who died on 9/11 and their families, insulting to the thousands of troops killed or injured in the ensuing wars, and an affront to the American people -- and it must be stopped."
He obviously is unaware that some of the thousands killed, not including the terrorists themselves, were indeed Muslims.  And Muslim Americans at that.  How dare them?  I'm sure that Mr. Paladino has since been informed that it is illegal.  A comment from current Governor Patterson's legal team,
Paladino "is explicitly stating that he would use this power for the express purpose of preventing the construction of a specific religious institution," Hook said in a statement. "That is an obvious violation of the First Amendment's religion clauses, a gross violation of the spirit and intent of the eminent domain provision in state law, and may run afoul of other federal and state statutes and constitutional provisions."
 The Anti-Defamation League got into the act today with its hypocritical statement.
"Ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right," the ADL said in a statement. "In our judgment, building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right."
Not really.  It is a question of rights.  It is a question of the First Amendment rights of the mosque's builders to practice their religion free of any interference from the government.  You may have the right to perceive that your feelings are hurt, but you do not have the right to stop somebody from hurting them.  Yes, there are laws against hate crimes, but building a mosque does not represent a crime.

Another group proposed making the site a historical landmark from the 9/11 attacks.  Their reason, a piece of the landing gear from one of the planes was found at the site.  That's it.  There is not one mention of making the adult porn shops located even closer to Ground Zero historical landmarks even though debris fell on them as well.

Now, if you want to talk about hate crimes...

During a protest of the site in early June...
At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

"Go home," several shouted from the crowd.

"Get out," others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called "The Way." Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

"I'm a Christian," Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

"I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here," a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.
They "looked" like Muslims.  That was all.  That was enough.  And you wonder why latinos in Arizona don't like the new immigration law.  These two men were, shall we say, "religiously" profiled.

I'm not oblivious to fact that most Americans associate the 9/11 attacks with Islam.  Islam, just like Christianity, has its wing nuts and its mainstream followers.  The United States was attacked by the Muslim wing nuts, just like those two men were almost attacked by the Christian wing nuts.

Let's not forget our First Amendment.  The First Amendment is important.  Religious freedom is important.  You may think as an atheist, I don't care about it, but I do.  Religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment does not mean freedom for only Christians.  These leaders of the religious right and their Republican Party banner carriers only care for freedom of religion if it matches their own.  That damned pesky First Amendment strikes again.

Has Hell Frozen Over?

Well, no.  And it never will.  Anyway, Jerusalem was host to the 8th Annual Gay Pride Parade.  Yes, you read that right.  Jerusalem.  The Catholic Church issued a statement that the parade seeks to "defy family and marriage."  The statement, on HuffPo, goes on to say "This city has suffered enough wounds and humiliation."  The article further says,
[Latin Patriarch Fouad] Twal said his views were shared by many Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze leaders "based upon our responsibility for guarding the holiness and sanctity of this city.
So, despite two thousand years of suffering for this Holy City.  All the hatred expressed by Jews and Muslims toward each other.  The Catholic Church's anti-Semitic history, it takes a Gay Pride March to elicit such a reaction from the Catholic Church.  The one thing these three religions can agree on.  Disgusting.

P.S.  Note to Jay, this doesn't count as consensus in my book.  :-)

The Night is Still Young

As I stated in my first post of the evening, today was a "target rich environment" for religious asshattery, church/state separation, and some thoughtful commentary on the meaning of Atheism.  The night is still young however.  Time for a dinner break and to sharpen the virtual quill.  There is definitely some feminist equality material still out there, more First Amendment stuff, and in the category of fictional hell freezes over, the major Abrahmic religions agree on something in Jerusalem!  Stay tuned!

Update:  Added links to the post dinner posts.

The Nine Commandments

Hawkins County in Tennessee is building a new court house.  One of the judges has proposed a "Foundations of American Law and Government" exhibit.  This exhibit is to include a posting of the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance with "Under God" emphasized, a painting (I assume) of George Washington praying at Valley Forge, and a copy of the Magna Carta.  Conspicuously absent from the display is the United States Constitution.  The article, as provided by the FFRF, goes on to note several other problems with this display.  Apparently, the first proposed iteration only had nine of the ten commandments.  Omitted from the list?  Adultery.  One must wonder if the exhibit's proposer, Judge James Taylor, is a Family Court judge.  Actually, he is a Juvenile Court Judge, but I'm sure he deals with family issues in that court quite frequently.  Also, it has been firmly established by historians that there was no such prayer at Valley Forge.

The obvious religious overtones of such a display in a court house are a clear violation of the First Amendment.  The County Commission is voting on the proposal later this month.  The fact that it is even still being considered is absolutely crazy.  More material for that First Amendment blog post I keep talking about doing.  Oh, about the Pledge and "Under God" thing?  I'll save that for another blog post.

Atheism vs. atheism

So, what is the difference between 'a' and 'A'?  My musically inclined friends would say that you play the 'a' chord one octave higher than the 'A' chord.  But seriously, let's get a formal definition of atheist out of the way early.
Main Entry: athe·ism
Pronunciation: \ˈā-thē-ˌi-zəm\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French athéisme, from athée atheist, from Greek atheos godless, from a- + theos god
Date: 1546
1 archaic : ungodliness, wickedness
2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity
So let's just deal with the archaic meaning quickly.  I think this describe nihilism for the most part.  'Nough said. I think the definition in '2a' fits the bill pretty well with what most of us think.  Notice that there is no reference to science or even general superstition for that matter.  It is quite possible to be an atheist and believe in horoscopes, ghosts, vampires, etc., since none of those things involve a deity.  The only qualifier is the disbelief in a deity.  Now, the definition could be a bit stronger and say deities, but I guess the assumption is that if you don't believe in one, you aren't likely to believe in others.  I think this assumption is wrong.  I'm also curious about the lack of an 'a' in front of deity.  I think a better definition would be 'a disbelief in the existence of any deity.'  I'll have Merriam-Webster get right on that!

So, if that is what a little-'a' atheist is, what is a big-'A' atheist?  I think the description as provided by Crommunist is pretty good and is summarized from a talk given by PZ Myers in Vancouver a few days ago. 
We’re not Atheists by accident, or because we haven’t yet heard how awesome YahwAlladdha is, but because we reject superstition and appeals to invisible authority as a basis for building a functioning society. We believe that evidence, reason, and an abiding respect for humanity is a much higher standard to which human beings should be held than the fear of a paternal sky-genie.
PZ later also explained that some atheists are "nihilists, believing that because there is no God, life is therefore meaningless."  I would venture to say that it is safe to assume that most people that fall into the big-'A' Atheist description tend to consider themselves as humanists, and being atheist, secular humanists.  I believe it is this humanist philosophy that drives Atheistic morality.

A misconception of Atheists (I'm pretty much done with the little-'a' atheist at this point) is that since they tend to be motivated by science, that science itself drives their morals.  I think it is important to note that science is by no means a substitute for any moral authority.  Science is pretty much amoral, nothing but a cold hard process and methodology to discover the truth.  While there are some Atheists out there that have proposed that science may one day be able to explain morals and ethics sooner rather than later.  Sam Harris gave a talk at TED about this.  I think Michael Specter, in his TED talk on Science Denialism said it best about science being nothing more than a process.  Outside of that process, there are serious discussions that need to be had about what science discovers and those are areas of law, ethics, morality, and even intellectual property.  I do not think it is accurate to believe that science alone can drive the morality of anyone, Atheist or theist.  Atheists replace religion's morality with the humanist philosophy.  While the Bible itself does have some very good morals in its pages, I think it fails miserably in many others, and therefore, falls well short as a basis for a moral code of conduct.

Westboro May Have Friends?

This is the first of what figures to be several blog posts this evening. Today was what the military would call a "target rich environment." Although not necessarily in order of appearance, let's start off with good old Christian hate.

Warning!  If you do happen to go to the website linked below to look around, be sure to have a bath and/or shower running so you can quickly wash yourself of what you will see.  You will feel dirty afterward.

CNN is running a story about a non-denominational (because none would claim them?) church in Florida that is planning a Quran-burning event.  The church, The Dove World Outreach Center, may be just as vile as the good old Westboro Baptists.  In fact, today they held a No Homo Mayor protest at the city hall in Gainesville.  Their story starts with the following gem:
What is homosexuality? Detestable, indecent, wicked, offensive, perverted, shameful, unnatural, degrading, impure, futile, foolish, godless, dishonorable, a lie.
 These people are just vile, disgusting creatures.  I will give them, and Westboro, some credit.  They aren't hiding behind their hate with politically correct terminology either.  These folks proudly use words like fags, homos, and hate very openly.  It's much easier to see their hatred for what it is when they don't bother to hide behind anything.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bible Quiz Show

Seems like a good opportunity to post this quiz show video.

What Does Consensus Mean?

Let's just get the strict definition out of the way now.
Main Entry: con·sen·sus
Pronunciation: \kən-ˈsen(t)-səs\
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Latin, from consentire
Date: 1843

1 a : general agreement : unanimity b : the judgment arrived at by most of those concerned
2 : group solidarity in sentiment and belief
There is a consensus among atheists that God does not exist.  Nor does any god or supernatural being exist.  Pretty simple.  There is a consensus among Christians (keeping it simple) that God exists.  Again, pretty simple.  So what's the point?

Beyond this simple understanding of positions, the question of consensus goes much deeper.  Let's go one level deeper.  There is a consensus among atheists that the Theory of Evolution is indeed fact (I can go into the meaning of 'theory' in this context some other time.).  There is a consensus among Christians that the Bible is the authoritative word of God.  The belief in creation can probably be implied from this broader statement.  Note to Joel, I'm sure I'm committing some logical fallacies in their strict interpretation here, but I'm taking license with that.  Again, pretty simple.  I'm not sure that there are many that would argue with what I have said at this point.

Let's go one level deeper still, then we may be able to see some differences.  A majority of evolutionary biologists are atheists, however, as is the case in many areas of scientific endeavors, there are disagreements over certain areas of biology.  At this point, the scientific method takes over and as the research continues to evolve (no pun intended), eventually a consensus will be reached on even these areas of disagreement.  That is how the process works and that is how the process has worked for a very long time.  It may not be the most efficient, but the path leads to the truth, which is the ultimate goal.  I believe it is safe to say that a majority of Christians are, well, Christians.  I know, that conclusion took a leap of faith on my part.  You have Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodoxy that disagree on numerous issues.  Then you have the whole Reformation thing that produced Anglicans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, etc.  You also have the LDS Church, wherever the heck that one came from.  At any rate, you have this vast differing of opinions on the interpretations of the Bible, even though, by consensus, it is the authoritative word of God.  What mechanism exists in Christianity to reconcile all of the differences?  There is none that I am aware of.  Although, the adaptation of some sort of scientific method for christian reconciliations would be the irony of ironies.

There are many branches of Christianity that accept some form of evolution (Catholicism being one of them) and yet many of the fundamentalists keep trying to attack atheistic evolution when they should probably turn their attention to their fellow Christians.  There are many branches of Christianity that believe in an old Earth, yet many of the fundamentalists keep trying to attack the geological/planetary sciences when they should be working toward reconciliation of the Christian faithful.

So, let's have a consensus.  All the Christians can off on their own and reconcile their beliefs and leave the scientists alone to work and teach.  In fact, I'll even make it easier on the Christians.  Just go off and devise a methodology by which you can even begin to reconcile your beliefs.  After that, you can start to work with the other Abrahamic religions.  Maybe then, us atheists can have some peace and quiet.