Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Blasphemy Day!

Not safe for work!  Or Catholics!

I Have to Defend Westboro Baptist Church! Say it ain't so!

I find myself in the disappointing position of having to agree with Westboro Baptist Church.  Four years ago, the protested the funeral of young man who died in Iraq.  The father of that young man has sued Westboro claiming that they do not have the right to protest the funeral because their message hurtful to him and his family.  The case is going to the Supreme Court.

Sadly, the father is wrong.  And, being the father of a young man who fought and died for his country, I would hope that he would understand his son died protecting our Constitution and our freedom of speech.

I feel for him and his family.  They have every right to feel angered and offended by the disgusting display of hatred that Westboro puts on whenever they do one of these protests.  But to try and silence that speech is disrespecting the memory of his son and the reason he served our country.

We need to hear that kind of speech every once in a while to know that our society has a long way to go in stamping out ignorance and hate.  Ruling it away in court doesn't change the minds of anyone, it only makes that fear and hatred fester, to eventually blow up in some manner that I would rather not think about.

The best way to deal with those Westboro folks is not with dialogue, logic, or reason.  The best way to deal with these creatures is to get a large group of people together and stand up tall and proud in front of them and become a human shield between them and and their target.  Then, collectively point your fingers at them and laugh your asses off.  Humiliate them.  Make them so mad and angry and spit flies from their mouth when they shout more hatred at you.  Then, point again and laugh some more.

They are not deserving of the attention they have received in this case.  It was ill conceived and, hopefully, has no chance of winning.  Because, if this type of speech is silenced, then we have started down a slippery slope that will lead to far greater threats to our liberty and freedom than a couple of backwards, dimwitted asshats from Kansas.

It Wasn't Racial. It Was Stupid.

Lebron James is claiming that race is a factor in the criticism of his "Decision."

[Soledad] O'Brien asked if race played a role.
"I think so at times," James said. "It's always, you know, a race factor."
Said Carter: "It definitely played a role in some of the stuff coming out of the media, things that were written for sure."
It never once occurred to me that, "Hey, Lebron is doing this one hour TV special because he is black."  Or, "Lebron is going to Miami because he is black."  That is stupid.  Lebron was criticized for his "Decision" because it was a disgusting display of arrogance and one big whopping middle finger to the fans of Cleveland.

Lebron James has been one of the most celebrated athletes since Tiger Woods, and before him, Michael Jordan, and before him, Magic Johnson, and before him Walter Payton and Julius Erving, and before them Mohamed Ali.  Notice a pattern here?

Most fans are color blind.  Except in this case, where the Cleveland fans saw red, not black.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheism Will Replace Religion...Eventually

This article, from The Huffington Post, talks about why atheism will replace organized religion over time.  Two interesting notes in the article.  First, psychologists find that spectatorship yields much the same kind of social, and spiritual, benefits as people obtain from church membership.
Fans are passionate.  They rally around a common goal and find friendship and community with other fans.  Who you are, or what you believe in, become irrelevant in this type of setting.  Given the huge popularity of sports and the fact that the number one watched sport happens to be on a Sunday...

The second interesting point in the article,
Anthropologist James Fraser proposed that scientific prediction and control of nature supplants religion as a means of controlling uncertainty in our lives. This hunch is supported by data showing that the more educated countries have higher levels of non-belief and there are strong correlations between atheism and intelligence.
It really is no secret that the number of atheists and agnostics are very high in the sciences. 

Another major factor, in my opinion, and not mentioned in the article, is the sheer lack of morals in many religious authorities today.  Whether it be Catholic priests, or mega church leaders like Ted Haggard or Eddie Long.  Even going back to Swaggert and Bakker.  Even the Jones clown from World Dove Outreach and his Koran burning fiasco.  More and more, religious leaders are seen as failing to have a moral compass.

Survey Says...

Several days ago, a new survey from the Pew Forum shows that atheists know more about religion than religious people.
Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.
Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
This really comes as no surprise within the atheist circles.  Many atheists are recovering theists.  The Richard Dawkins website has a whole area devoted to deconversion stories.  it is also not surprising to me that Catholics are at or near the bottom.  I think fall into an ignorance is bliss category.  I mean, that whole transubstantiation thing is just plain creepy and ew.

This also gives me a chance to throw out two of my favorite atheist quotes.  The first from Isaac Asimov,

"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

— Isaac Asimov, in 1966 (quoted in Yours, Isaac Asimov, p. 316)

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
— Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion)
The irony in all of this is that John Shook, from the Center for Inquiry of all places, wrote a piece how atheists are ignorant of religion and should mind or place in the debate since atheists can't really "know" religion.  He opens his article with this gem,
Atheists are getting a reputation for being a bunch of know-nothings. They know nothing of God, and not much more about religion, and they seem proud of their ignorance.
 Ha!  In your face John Shook!  Epic fail.  Not only on because he is utterly clueless in his statement, but also because it came out only a day before the Pew survey.  Sweet!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thinking of You Barb! Welcome Back!

Barb is my gutter soulmate.  So...

I so want this button.

For those of you that missed this gem back in the MTV days.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2010 GOP U.S. Senate candidate from the Great State of Delaware!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fantasy Football Update - Week 3

This week I played Team Scuba.  I managed to grind out a solid 104-90 victory, led by Anquan Boldin and Darren McFadden.  I think Darren McFadden is becoming my starting RB and LeSean McCoy is moving into the flex spot.  Fitzgerald is not quite yet hurting me at the other WR spot.  He managed one touchdown against Oakland.  The Cardinal's O is going to have to pick it up.  My bench WR is Braylon Edwards.  It remains to be seen if he will be suspended or not.  Based on matchups, he may get a spot start over Fitzgerald.  I am 2-1 heading into week 4.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

That Separation of Church and State Thing? All Hitler's Idea

At least that was the claim of a, hold your surprise, Tea Party candidate from Deleware by the name of Glen Urquhart.  I had heard this story from several places, and ran a fact check on this.  Not that much of one was needed.  Anyway, this guy claimed that it was not Thomas Jefferson who first used the term in a famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, but coined by Adolf Hitler himself.

This is funny on so many levels.  First of all, the concept of the Separation of Church and State was well established in the 19th Century, and to think that Hitler coined it himself is downright ignorant.  That raises the second question, which is, did Hitler believe in Separation of Church and State?  The answer, according to scholars is a pretty resounding no.  Given his love of Christianity, I don't think it was seriously in doubt.

Why this sudden fascination with comparing everything in American politics to the Nazis?  I think it boils down to good old demagogy that is being employed by Republicans and Tea Partiers alike.  Of course, the Tea Party is just a sect within the Republican Party anyway.

America's Toughest Sheriff

Who says I don't take requests?  A request from The Princess to blog about Sheiff Joe.

Joe Arpaio is the Sheriff of Maricopa County here in Arizona.  He is the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America."  His "tent city" for non-violent, short-stay offenders has earned him both kudos for saving money on incarceration and also provided a seemingly powerful detriment to petty criminals who don't want to have to spend 3 days in the Phoenix summer where temperatures can hover over 110 degrees.  He is also popular for his pink prison uniforms and green bologna.  He is also popular for his stance on immigration and has been enforcing (some would argue, over enforcing) immigration laws for years.  He commonly has immigration sweeps in various parts of the county.  He is currently being investigated by the Justice Department for numerous items.  He is also a seriously huge egomaniac who I think considers himself above the law in many matters.  He is someone who is either loved or loathed.  Not much in between.  I loathe him.

Since Phoenix is located in Maricopa County and is, by far, the largest population center in the state, the political goings on of the County Board of Supervisors is not particularly interesting.  Apparently, they have felt the need to spice things up a bit.  I can't go into all the sordid details, but there has been a fued for many years between certain supervisors, Sheriff Arpaio, and the seemingly revolving door that is the County Attorney's office.  The most recent tally indicates that the county taxpayers have paid for nearly $5.6 million in lawsuits filed by, for, or against the county supervisors, the sheriff's office, and the county attorney's office.  If the phrase, "Throw the bastards out!" ever had any meaning in local politics, it certainly applies to these idiots.

A recent article in the Arizona Republic indicates that the Sheriff's office and misspent nearly $50 million.  This was all in the last FOUR years!

In yet another investigation into Arpaio, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is investigating one of Arpaio's aides.  This is not going over to well with some county supervisors since Babeu is himself, and egotistical twit, and is seen as a political ally to Arpaio.  Sheriff Paul Babeu, if you recall, got is 15 seconds of fame by being interviewed on Fox News for a story I described early in my blog.

Fantasy Football Update - Week 2

This week I played the Vein Thrashers.  I held a tenuous 9-point lead heading into Monday night's game between New Orleans and San Francisco.  I had Frank Gore and Joe Nedney for the the 49ers and he had Drew Brees (NO) and Vernon Davis (SF).  I wasn't comfortable since Brees can put up huge fantasy numbers and the 49ers defense got shredded by the Seahawks the week before.  I was not hopeful.  Fortunately for me, Brees had an off night for him, which means less than 300 yards passing and two touchdowns.  Fortunately, Frank Gore was a stud!  he totaled 168 yards and 2 touchdowns.  I won the game 99-87.

Next week, I'm up against Tom Brady.  He had a bad week this week, but his history is to have monster games after bad ones.  The Pats are also playing Buffalo.  Not a good match up for me.

Super Rich Guy Super Fucked Up

There was a blog post that went viral a few days ago about a Chicago law professor names Todd Henderson.  His blog post (which has since been deleted) was basically one big fat whine fest about how hard it is to live on $450,000 a year.
“That makes me super rich and subject to a big tax hike if the president has his way,” wrote Henderson. “I’m the president’s neighbor in Chicago, but we’ve never met. I wish we could, because I would introduce him to my family and our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning. A quick look at our family budget, which I will happily share with the White House, will show him that like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich. We aren’t.”
Additional details indicate that his wife is a doctor specializing in pediatric cancer.  This article gives details of why he pulled the blog post and in fact has stopped blogging altogether.  Some additional details..
Henderson went on to detail his family’s budget and expenditures, which included $100,000 in federal and state taxes last year. Based on that, Business Insider estimated his income to be $400,000. After their monthly bills — cable, private school for their kids, groceries, two cars, cell phones, home helpers, etc. — Henderson said his family has just a few hundred dollars per month in discretionary income, and argued that higher taxes are something that not all people in the $250K+ income bracket can afford.
Sorry dude.  You are not getting any sympathy from me, and apparently from the many commenters who roasted you on your own blog post.

Haggard's Law

"Any vocally homophobic religious leader is likely to not only be homosexual themselves, but also pedophiles."
 OK, so maybe Haggard wasn't a pedophile, but that's beside the point.  Shockingly (Not!), there is another story of a homophobic religious leader out of Atlanta that has been accused of coercing young boys into having sex with him.  Pastor Long, whose church is numbered anywhere between 25 and 33 thousand members, has been accused of taking young boys out of state and coercing them to having sex with him.  Granted, this is an accusation.  Lawsuits have been filed.  Pastor Long is denying these charges.

What is sad and tragic about this whole thing is that this is no longer shocking to the American public.  I mean, this is only one baptist in a long line of Catholic Priests.  Haggard is certainly another recent example of a powerful religious leader who got caught with pants pulled down.  In all of these cases, the acts were homosexual in nature.  Something these "Men of God" certainly abhorred and spoke out against vehemently.  This certainly extends beyond members of the clergy.  There have been a number of recent high profile Republican politicians who have been caught in homosexual relationships after campaigning their whole lives on "family values," which is just another name for hatred against gays.

Now that this story has broken, if true, I'm sure there will be others who will come forward.  Unfortunately, we tend to focus on these religious asshats who have violated these children and we don't think about the mental health aspects of what these children, and now, adults, have lived with.

I think that, as punishment, we should order these jerks to the same reparative therapy clinics they believe that all homosexuals should be sent to so they can be "cured" of their problem.

New Theories of Exodus

It is a well known Biblical story.  Moses leading his people out of Egypt with the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea and the subsequent drowning of the Egyptian Army in pursuit.  There have been two recent articles that describe possible explanations of how the Red Sea was parted.

The first is this story from the New York Times.  This theory states that a major volcanic eruption that wiped out the Minoan civilization basically created a tsunami effect.  The Minoans were residents of what is now known as Crete.  Typical tsunami action after an earthquake (which surely would have resulted from what is considered one of the largest volcanic explosive events of the last 5,000 years) is for water to recede before it rushes back at even higher levels.  This was seen to a very small scale when the big earthquake happened in Chile earlier this year and we all watched what happened in Hawaii.  As a side note, one big pet peeve of mine is the incorrect use of the term "tidal wave."  Tidal waves are the result of the gravitational effects of the Moon on the Earth and are not the result of earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, etc.  Tsunami is the correct term for those types of events.  Anyway, I digress.

The second story is from USA Today.  It describes a scenario where a sustained wind of 63 mph along with the topography of the Red Sea, could result in the water being pushed back sufficiently to create a parting effect. Once this wind died down (and our hero safely across), then the water would collapse on to the chasing armies.

So, why are these theories interesting?  As with any miraculous story in any creation myth involving nature or acts of nature, there is probably an element of truth to it.  It certainly increases our historic knowledge by being able to align events in these creation myths with true written and oral histories of the civilizations involved.  Certainly, Homer's stories have intrigued historians and scientists for years in trying to determine the where, what, when, and why.  Troy, the Trojan Horse, and Helen.  Atlantis.  Noah's Flood.  Even the Christmas Star.  Scientists, historians, and Biblical scholars have searched for real evidence of these events.

All of these stories have something in common, and takes advantage of a device often used today in movies and novels.  That is, major events, often cataclysmic, make a great background for a human interest story.  These stories need not be real, but the viewer/reader is sucked in because they are familiar with the event that is driving the story and as long as the story is plausible, it is enjoyed.

What is intriguing about these two possible explanations given for the parting of the Red Sea is that they explain real, natural phenomena, that are understood within science and can account for this event.  No God hypothesis required.  I'm sure that there were more than a few witnesses who observed the receding of the waters in the Red Sea, and given the level of knowledge about earth sciences, this would surely have been seen as a major supernatural event.  Certainly an observation to be told.  I'm sure there were some who may have even ventured out onto the exposed land.  Some may have even survived.  Others surely didn't, and that too may have been observed.  Certainly all the elements for a good story to go back to village and explain why little Johnny drowned.

What is glaringly missing from any real account of this event is the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that the Pharaoh of the time, or even his army, was in any way decimated by some unknown event.

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Can Stop Getting Worked Up Over O'Donnell

While Christine O'Donnell has been, um, cumming on strong in the headlines, her poll numbers are finding a home in the reservoir tip.  The more publicity she gets, the more she falls.  Recent stimulations by shows that the likelihood of her Democratic opponent, Chris Coons, winning the seat in November is 94%.  He is showing a 10 point lead in the polls.  Hopefully O'Donnell is nothing more than a brief diversion for everyone to freshen up their masturbation jokes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Richard Dawkins' Speech at a Protest of the Papal Visit

It's not like he is a fiery speaker.  I'm not sure why people regard him as being militant.  Maybe its because the accuracy of his statements are so on target as to have military precision.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Apologist Headline?

A headline in the USA Today online reads, "Pope tells U.K. he's sorry but thousands protest."  Did I read that right?  The headline implies that since he apologized, why are there thousands protesting?  I mean, c'mon, he apologized people!  That should be the end of it.  You know.  Forgive and forget.  At least that is what the Church hopes people will do, or what the sheeple are told to do.  

The first paragraph of the article.
LONDON (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday he was ashamed of the "unspeakable" sexual abuse of children by priests, issuing an apology to the British faithful even as thousands of people opposed to his visit marched in central London in the biggest protest of his five-year papacy.
I emphasized "even as."  Now, I've never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to English and grammar.  It sort of implies that one of them (either the Pope or the protesters) should not be doing what they are doing.  In this case, I think it is implying the Pope should not be apologizing while others are protesting.  Am I missing something?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fiscal Conservatism is Dead

The Republicans, I have been told, are all about fiscal responsibility and small government.  Um, OK.  Reagan ran up some of the largest deficits in our nations history at the time and George W. Bush took a surplus from Clinton, issues a huge 10-year tax cut, started an unnecessary war in Iraq, and started the financial bailout for rich wall street executives (TARP) prior to leaving office.  Faced with an economy in crisis, classic economics would dictate that increased federal spending is the best way to address that.  Hence the Obama stimulus package and his uptick on the chart below.

Today, government records indicate that the Bush tax cuts back in 2001 and 2003 will account for the single largest portion of our federal deficit over the next 10 years if it is allowed to continue.  More than both wars.  More than the combined Bush/Obama stimulus packages.  More than the economic downturn.

They talk about the expiration of these tax cuts as an Obama tax increase.  No.  They are a Bush tax increase.  It was very shrewd to put a 10 and 8 year sunset on those.  Bush would be out of office and the next president would have to deal with it.  If the President were Republican, (s)he would be pushing to continue them.  If the President were Democrat, then they could claim he was raising taxes.  This is a Bush law, not Obama's.  Nothing has to pass Congress or be signed into law for the Bush tax cuts to expire.

Now, the Republicans are pulling out the fiscal conservative card and screaming about how bad the deficit is.  Do you think you would still have a job if the stimulus wasn't passed?  Do you think we would be in a hellish economic hole right now?  We got a mix of what both parties wanted.  The Dems got a stimulus package that, at best, as pushed us into a flat and jobless recovery teetering on a possible double dip.  The Republicans didn't want a stimulus and we have a flat recovery as a result.  Ironically, there were several Senators that, while on the Senate floor decried the stimulus, on the campaign trail, they were bragging about how much of that stimulus was coming to their state.  The Republicans didn't want a stimulus despite them starting the whole deal under Bush with TARP and now want to continue the tax cuts which are the single largest contributor to our debt over the next 10 years.

The Republicans began a strategy of "NO!" the second Obama became president.  No matter what he planned to do, they would oppose it and vigorously.  They are so good at invoking fear that they are on the verge of a comeback in Congress.  I don't know, maybe mixed control will lead to something good happening.

The Pope Visits the UK and Inserts Foot Into Mouth

Upon landing the UK, the Pope basically said two things.  First, the Church is once again sorry for doing nothing about the child abuse scandal.  Second, Hitler was an atheist and all you horrible heathens should apologize for him.

Um, OK.  Let me address the second one.  As an atheist, I am truly sorry that the Christian Adolf Hitler along with all of his Christian cronies killed millions of Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing.  Does that make you feel any better Pope?

As for the first, what he did not say was, "and we will continue to do nothing hoping that our empty apologies will continue to appease our sheeple."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Reggie Bush Forfeits 2005 Heisman Award

There is something seriously wrong here.

College Football is a business.  Pure and simple.  It is a cash cow for Universities, and the head football coach is typically one of the highest paid employees, sort of.  Head football coaches draw a nominal salary from the university for which they coach.  However, much of the compensation comes from alumni associations and other interested parties such as radio and television shows.

The Heisman Award is given to the whomever is considered the best college football player that year.  In 2005, Reggie Bush was given that distinction, albeit Vince Young was a serious contender for the award.  Reggis Bush has forfeited the award.  Not because he wasn't the best player but because he was enticed into accepting money from third parties. 

You tell me.  What 18-year old kid out of high school, when flashed a nice sum of money, would not be tempted to take it?  He probably knew it was wrong, but the adult flashing the money absolutely knew it was wrong, and was willing to taint the future of the athlete and the school, for a short term gain, in the hopes that it would never get revealed.

I would argue that Reggie Bush is a victim.  By all accounts, he has been a good citizen for the city of New Orleans, and he has been a very good professional football player.  He has donated time and money to local charities.  Yet, he was forced to give up a major award for on field performance for something he was probably coerced into doing off the field.

Pete Carrol, the USC head coach at the time, quickly moved on to the Seattle Seahawks.  Whether he knew about the payments or not is not really relevant.  He knew a sinking ship when he saw it and got out.  I'm sure any major college football coach "knows" that stuff is going on around him, but I'm sure he is usually assured at some some major luncheon by a large donor to "not worry about a thing."  He doesn't need to know, but he knows.

I know these players are given scholarships, and I'm sure quite a few of them coast through programs with classes like basket weaving and music appreciation.  Others really do make the most of the opportunity.  However, none of them are given living expenses, and often, because of their practice schedule, can't work.  For those that find a part-time job, often with an alumnus, it becomes scrutinized.  It is time to end the charade and start paying these players some money, even if it is only nominal living expenses.  Their performance is earning the university a ton of money, often compensating money losing sports, they should get something in return.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fantasy Football Update - Game 1 - Loss

My Evil Babyeaters went down to the B-17s, 93-65.  I was done in by the Bungles defense against New England and Tom "Saved by a Miracle" Brady.  They netted me minus 7 points.  Also, Matt Forte of the Chicago "Right Ruling Wrong Call" Bears went off for 30 points including an 89-yard TD reception.  It just wasn't meant to be this week.

Badass Quote

Stolen from Ed Brayton's blog "Dispatches from the Culture Wars."
From Alissa Torres, whose husband died on 9/11 in the World Trade Center attack:
How did "9/11 victim" become sloppy shorthand for "white Christian"?

The rest of her commentary is brilliant as well.  Well worth the read.

My Head is Spinning...No More

Waffling.  It is a common word in politics.  Often used to chastise a politician for changing his/her mind on something.  Most of the time, the waffling is insincere and strictly to pander for votes given which way the electorate winds blow.  I would like to think that there are those rare times where a politician, upon learning more about a particular issue, would change there mind based on facts and evidence rather than hold onto an old, tired, and incorrect position, as to appear not to be waffling.

This whole Dove World Outreach/Koran burning thing has kept my head spinning for weeks now.  I have been waffling.  First, I absolutely, positively jumped on it as a horrible thing to do.  Then I wondered why my reaction was that severe given my position on other acts of blasphemy.  I so wanted to condemn it (the public winds) that I searched and searched for a reason.  I grabbed onto the idea of book burning coupled with this burning being an act to incite hatred, fear, and intimidation.

I have read several other bloggers who have expressed opinions on the matter, and I am learning.  The more I read and the more I think about it, the more I could care less about whether Terry Jones went through with it or not.  I think Jones saw the publicity was enough and did a Palin.  Enamored by the celebrity he created for himself.  He got is 15 minutes of fame and I'm sure his website got a lot of hits and plenty of sympathy and I'm sure more than a few donations for him to continue to pursue his disgusting causes.

First, on the concept of book burning.  I am backing off my moral objection to this.  I think it is sign of ignorance on the part of the book burner, but books are just pieces of paper that have an idea expressed within them.  Burning the book does not eliminate the idea.  In this day and age of mass publication, e-readers such as Kindle, or even iPad's, and internet content, what does burning a book really mean?  The idea will not die, even if all the books are turned to ash.

Also, what does it say about a religion such as Islam, that wishes to condemn the burning of its Holy book, but actively engages in the burning of the U.S. Flag or straw men in effigy?  They commit similar acts of blasphemy and disrespect against symbols of the United States to condemn an idiot from Florida for committing an act of disrespect for their Koran.  They fail to see the similarities.  Not unlike many of our country's own religious right zealots and their objections to freedom of religion for Islam.  In the end, Jones did not hurt anyone, even if he had burned the books.  The Islamic protests ended up killing a dozen or more of their own in the act of solidarity.  Martyr each and every one of them I presume.  Muslims are constantly killing each other.  We see this in Iraq and Pakistan on a regular basis with suicide bombers.  I feel no remorse.

The true enemy here is religion.  9/11 was about religion.  Most acts of terrorism are about religion.  Our stubborn refusal to see it as an extremist issue rather than a religious issue is blinding us to continue the cycle.  The religious moderates refuse to speak out, or fallback on the "No True Scotsman" fallacy of their faith.

I will defend the freedom of religion as guaranteed by our Constitution.  I will defend the right of Jones to burn a book, any book.  I will defend the right of Muslims to build their Cultural Center near Ground Zero.  I will mock religion and laugh at the idiotic zealotry they display.  I will feel no remorse for those that kill themselves for their religion.

I am comfortable with my decision.

Miracles are Everywhere

Another plane crash, another miracle.
"A miracle occurred today," said Rangel Gomez, referring to the number of survivors.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was in a car accident last week.  The owner of the Patriots said, "He arched and prepared himself and we're just lucky with the glass and angles. We have a lot to be thankful for. It was really a miracle."

All of these miracles.  It's like they happen every day.  Almost as if it was random chance!

You know what?  Keep using the word miracle.  It has become so common in its usage, its as if it really doesn't matter anymore.  Oh, wait...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Facebook is Bad for Your Future Job Prospects

Much has been made of Islam and its extremists.  The Christians certainly have theirs.   Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church and Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center just to name a few.  Here is a case of a truly militant Christian terrorist.  Justin Carl Moose was arrested on conspiracy to bomb an abortion clinic.  One of his Facebook posts was, "Save a life, Shoot an abortionist."  You just gotta love the fact that these nutter pro-lifers are so hypocritical.

Why do the crazy ones use a middle name?  Also, Carl with a 'C' is always someone to look out for.  They are the weird ones.  Karl with a 'K' is all good.

Guilt and Obligation are Crap!

Oh, please!  I'm not buying this one.  This article is stating that guilt is essential, and inescapable.
"Guilt has been with us as long as humans have psyches, "but we still don't know definitively how it works in the human psyche or the best way to deal with it."
Guilt, and its cousin, obligation, are not, in my opinion, inherent human emotions.  I think they are manufactured by society as a means to an end.  Typically, unscrupulous ends.  I think the true human emotion is remorse.  Remorse is a self-directed emotion.  It is your inner consciousness that tells you if what you have done is morally right or wrong.  Guilt is put upon you by society and culture.  The expectation that what you may or may not have done is moral.  It is not surprising that we joke about Catholic guilt as the opening of the article states.  It is an effective means of keeping the sheep in line.  It is a stereotype that has a real meaning for a real purpose.

Emotional obligation is very much the same beast.  It is a societal or cultural expectation that you perform duties in a certain way.  Failure to do so will mean that society will attempt to make you feel guilty.  A common example of this is the expectation that you have to go somewhere for Thanksgiving.  Every year.  It is a tradition.  Yet, you hate it.  You don't look forward to it.  You want to not go this year, but you feel obligated to do so.  If you don't, you will be made to feel guilty.  The question is, if you don't go, will you personally feel remorse?  The difference is subtle.  To break free of that expectation is incredibly liberating.  I know.  I was raised in a family that specialized in guilt and obligation.  I absolutely dreaded going to my parent's house for any reason.  It was not enjoyable and would usually lead to many awkward moments.  Enough was enough.

If you feel a sense of guilt or obligation, look closely at why.  Just once, try and break free of it and enjoy the sense of liberation that it brings.  Eventually, you will feel the weight of the world lifting off your shoulders and personal empowerment will soon follow.

Galileo Was Wrong?

Um, no.  There is a conference scheduled in November that wants to re-establish the claim that the Earth is the center of the Universe and the Catholic Church was right all along.  Notice that I said the Universe.  Not the Solar System, but the Universe.  This is going to be a cornucopia of crazy.  The blog, "Starts With a Bang," has a great take down of geocentrism and shows how you can prove Heliocentrism with your own simple observations of the night sky.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Movie Review: The American

Well, that was not what I expected.  The movie was slow, plodding, and did not have much dialogue.  Yet, I found it intriguing and suspenseful.  The movie is based on a book called "A Very Private Gentleman" by Martin Booth.  I was intrigued enough by the movie that I may take a look at the book.   The story line is simple and incomplete, but sufficient to let you know what is going on.  What questions the plot left open are really unnecessary to the conclusion, which is tragic.  If you are expecting a Bourne like film with suspense and action, this isn't it.  If you want to feel emptiness, and what a life on the edge of law and society does to a man, then this is a movie for you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saudi Diplomat Seeks Political Asylum

A Saudi diplomat out of Los Angeles is seeking political asylum in the United States.  The reason?  He is gay and has a lady Jewish friend.  Being gay is punishable by death.  Being friendly with the Jewish woman?  Probably punishable by death.  I'm a little rusty on my Sharia Law.  It will be interesting to see how political this gets.  Surely, refusing asylum will ultimately result in death for this diplomat.  If not death directly, he life will be so awful on his return to Saudi Arabia, it may be the better option.  He was sure to tip the scales in his favor with some harsh criticism of the Saudi Royal Family.  That in itself may get him killed, or at least have a fatwa issued for his death.

God Has Spoken - Koran Burning Called Off

Well, God sort of, maybe, implied, that...  According to an interview on the Today Show this morning, Rev. Jones said that he will not go forward with a plan to burn Korans.
"Even though we have not burned one Quran, we have gotten over 100 death threats," Jones said. "We feel that God is telling us to stop, and we also hope that ... maybe that will open up the door to maybe be able to talk to the imam."
That sure is one passive aggressive God you have there.  I would certainly not put it past God to issue death threats.  It's not like he hasn't done that before.  I thought you said Islam was evil.  The religion of the devil.  You believed that you had every right, in God's name, to burn these Korans.  Now, when you've got a little pressure put on you, you think God has changed his mind?  That can never happen.  When has God ever changed his mind?

You chickened out you little shit.  You've got your 15 minutes of infamy, now go back and crawl into your little worship hut of hatred and bigotry.  May your next 15 minutes of fame be when you are selected for next season's Dancing with the Stars.

The 9/11 Trilogy - Religion

You know I had to be going here eventually.

The 9/11 attackers were religious zealots of the worst possible kind.  Completely and totally brainwashed into the belief that there will be a fantastic afterlife in the Kingdom of God with 72 virgins.  Or something like that.

Every religion has a spectrum of followers.  I would venture to say that the spectrum even has multiple axes.  You have your devout cotton candy believers who only look at the good and peaceful things in their holy books and conveniently ignore the rest.  You have those that show up once or twice a week (if that) to their designated place of worship, go through the motions, and go home.  Then you have literalistic believers who live their life on every word (usually the violent ones) and want to spread that belief to everyone and everything.  There are other axes as well.  Your holy book of choice has the scriptures in it to defend just about any position you wish to take a stand for.  It is sort of like a 2000 year old horoscope.  You can make just about anything fit if you try.

Islam is very much to blame for the events of 9/11.  Not every Muslim, but their religion, because it has within its belief system the structure that the likes of Osama bin Laden can preach to the cruelty and hatred.

What about the role of religion in recovery process of our nation?  Have Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders done enough to help heal or have they flamed the fires?

I can't help but recall the lyrics to Imagine by John Lennon.  It is amazing to me how many people of faith love this song, because if you really read the lyrics, the message is very anti-religious and unifying.  Below are the first two verses and chorus.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
I, for one, can easily imagine no heaven or hell.  I truly do believe that religion, more than anything our society has ever invented, is responsible for more misery and death.  Defenders of religion say that it is a necessary foundation for moral values, for being good to others.  I don't think so.  If you go and look at many of the isolated tribes of Africa or the Amazon, they live in peace with each other, not because they have some moral framework passed on to them from an imaginary deity, but because it is in their best interest as a tribe, to be kind, loving, and caring to each other.

The Islamic recruiters will zealously use anything that we do as a country to recruit more and more young, gullible minds to their tragic way of thinking.  The irony is that we call upon our Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders here in the United States to stand up for tolerance.  They don't, or very few of them do, and not with a whole lot of voracity in their arguments.  Why is that?  Simple.  Because the fact that all three exists means that someone is wrong.  Maybe even all of them are wrong.  There needs to be a winner.  Islam uses Judaism to incite hatred among their faithful in the Middle East.  The United States supports, without fail, the rights of Israel, therefore, the United States is an enemy.  The Christians are using the acts of Islamic terrorists to show how wonderful and good Christianity is by comparison.  And on and on and on.  It is a vicious circle, with all three Abrahamic religions watching the other, talking tolerance out one side of their mouth while pointing out the evil ways from the other side to show that their way is the right one.  There are no winners.

The 9/11 Trilogy - Legacy

The legacy of 9/11 makes me sad and angry.

There were certainly many good things that we did as America immediately following the attacks.  We did come together as a nation and stood in unity before the face of an unknown assailant.  All across the country, people were helping others stranded by the ban on air travel.  Helping the families of those who lost loved ones in the three separate episodes that occurred that day.  Our response as a nation from a military perspective was the correct one.  I have no issue and will never have an issue for our nation's decision to go into Afghanistan and remove the Taliban who was harboring Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  The entire world mourned with us, in shock of the audacity of the acts.  We had a global coalition and world-wide support to take the actions that we did as a nation.  When George Bush announced our intentions, he made it very clear that our enemy was Al-Qaeda and terrorists, and not the Islamic faith.

Oh my, how far we have come.  It sickens me that here we are, nine years later, and we captured and killed Saddam Hussein, but Osama bin Laden is still a free man.  It saddens me that George Bush/Dick Cheney used the acts of 9/11 to pursue a personal vendetta against Iraq and lied to the American people, and indeed, the whole world, in front of the U.N. and made a laughing stock of General Colin Powell.  It sickens me at how many lives were lost in Iraq and the whole focus of our true enemy was diverted to a situation that, quite frankly, was under control, although not ideally so.  Don't get me wrong, I am glad to see Saddam Hussein dead, I just think that it was absolutely unnecessary at that time to pursue that interest.  As a result, we let Afghanistan get out of control.  We let Osama bin Laden live on and taunt us and give us the middle finger as he continues to remain free.

The patriotism of many Americans were called into question with phrases such as "you are either with us or with them."  Somehow, if you did not fully, and wholeheartedly support the war effort in either Afghanistan or Iraq, your patriotism was called into question.  If you did not support the Patriot Act, your patriotism was called into question.  Certainly, the name of the law was chosen for a reason.  Your support of our troops was called into question.  Short of serving and dying for your country, I don't know that there is any more of a patriotic act than to stand up before your government and tell it you disagree with it.  Is that not one of our most important rights?

As a result of 9/11, we had one of the biggest government reorganizations ever with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.  We also had one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever passed, that has probably done more to harm our individual freedoms and liberties, in the Patriot Act then the acts of 9/11 ever did.  To this day, and Obama has continued the practice, the United States government has sweeping powers to mistreat foreign nationals, for any reason whatsoever, all under the guise of "state secrets."  All of our phone conversations can be wiretapped and recorded without any judicial review.  I think everyone knew our lives would be forever changed after 9/11.  Certainly with the increased airport security, large stone and steel sculptures/structures placed in front government builds designed to look nice, but really meant to keep a truck of explosives from being driven into the lobby.  We all take a few extra seconds to glance at people who are different to see if they may be "up to something."  Most recently, we have turned our back on religious freedoms with the protest of the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, the arson fire committed at the construction site of a Mosque in Kentucky.

I will never forget the tragic events of 9/11, but I also will not forget the sacrifices that our society has made, even though we probably don't even realize it.

The 9/11 Trilogy - Rememberance

On the evening of September 10th, 2001, for some reason that is pointless to recall, I had to leave my car parked at Kiwanis Park here in Tempe.  I think the battery was dead.  On the morning of September 11th, we had to go get the car so I could get to work.  We got the kids ready (1 and 3 at the time), piled into the second car and drove to the park.  We had no TV or radios on in the morning and had no idea what was taking place.  When we got to the park, we got the car started (I may have changed the battery there), and I got in to drive to work.  I tuned the radio to NPR.  That was when I first learned of what had happened, or at least what they thought was happening.  By the time I got to work, the TV in the conference room and been turned on and the image of the towers burning was on the screen.  I didn't watch.  I had heard enough on the radio that I had no interest in ghoulishly watching what was going to happen next as they speculated what the buildings would do.  I had a major project I was leading and had work to do, thankful for the distraction.  I also knew that what was being reported at that time was going to change drastically as it eventually moved from sensationalist TV to real journalism as they started to collect facts and put the pieces together.

I do not watch any videos of what happened.  I do not need the visual reminders.  Even though it was not the first or last time an attack by a foreign entity was committed on American soil in my lifetime, 9/11 certainly stands out for the sheer insanity and execution of the plan.

Friday, September 10, 2010

DADT Ruled Unconstitutional

A Federal judge ruled the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy unconstitutional.  Once again, I'm sure we will hear about all those "activist" judges.  It was noted that the Defense in this case did not call any witnesses.  The defendants are identified as the United States of American and Defense Secretary Gates.  Since the Obama administration has vowed to end DADT, but has not yet done so, it will be interesting to see if they try an appeal.

The case was argued as a violation of First and Fifth Amendment rights.  A prior case, citing the 14th Amendment was dismissed last year.

Also, the plaintiffs in this case are the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay rights organization.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hypocrisy and Shades of Gray

I've rewritten this post several times today.  Hopefully I have not made it into a jumbled mess as to be unintelligible.  This is probably the hardest post I've had to write so far.

If you are going to make a stand on unpopular topics based on principles, then you must continue to make that stand even when it is extremely unpopular (as if being an atheist isn't unpopular enough).

I am somewhat in the minority when it comes to defending the construction of the Manhattan Islamic Center.  The owners of the property have met every legal hurdle (and then some) they have needed to build at that location.  They have a First Amendment right to practice their religion at that location.  But what about the feelings of the victims family?  While I acknowledge those feelings are real and valid, that, in itself, is not enough to deny them the right to build.

The creators of South Park did an episode earlier this year where they depicted one of the characters as Mohammad.  Any drawing of Mohammad, even a stick figure, is considered blasphemous by Islam.  Yet, the creators of South Park have every right under their First Amendment right to freedom of speech and religion to do what they did.  I recall some stories about this, but mostly those were because Comedy Central censored that particular show.  Nobody seemed overly concerned about anyone's feelings.

The Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center has a plan to burn Korans.  This is considered blasphemous by Islam, Yet, he has every right under the First Amendment to do this.  The Korans are purchased by him or donated to him, so he has the right to dispose of them as he pleases.  Even though he had been denied a fire permit for this, I assume that if the fire is small enough in size, he may be within the law without the permit.  Everyone is condemning this.  It is dangerous to our troops.  It is disrespectful to the 1 billion Muslims around the world, etc.

What is the difference?  What is it about the Koran burning that is more vile than protesting the Manhattan Islamic Center, or drawing Mohammad in a cartoon?

I have no problems with blasphemy.  I have no issues with depicting Mohammad in a cartoon.  Even though I dislike seeing any churches, synagogues, or mosques being built (what a waste of good money), I don't have an issue with the Islamic Center because they have every right to build it.  I am more than happy to endorse so many other blasphemous practices, such as Draw Mohammad Day or International Blasphemy Day or even "crackergate."

If I fundamentally have no issues with these things, then how can I have a fundamental problem with the Koran burning?  If I were to stand by my principles as stated in the first two cases, then how can I condemn what Jones is doing with the Koran burning?

Am I being a hypocrite?

So, what is the difference? 

Is it a reaction to the fact that this Jones guy is a real douche bag because he is hateful and bigoted based on his other stance on other issues?  Have I been quick to judge him for that reason?  Probably.  But I couldn't condemn him for donating a ton of food to a local food bank just because he is a douche.  I really should evaluate each of his actions separately.

Is it because it is being planned on 9/11?  No.  Not really.  I just don't place enormous emphasis around dates such as this.  Would the reaction be any less if it wasn't on 9/11?  Probably not.

Was it a visceral reaction to the fact that it is a book burning?  I have a moral objection to book burning in general as it really has no meaningful protest value to it.  It is simply a sign of ignorance and intolerance regardless of the subject matter of the books in question.  I will condemn any book burning, however, I will defend the right of any individual who wishes to do it.  Ah!  Maybe that's it.  Or at least, it gives me an out.  That is a moral objection that I can squarely place on this one act that I can feel good about and be consistent about.  And, for that reason, I feel justified in condemning this act.  However, I cannot justify condemning this act simply because it is a Koran, or because Jones is a known douche bag for other reasons.

To make the claim that this is going to endanger our troops overseas any more than the bigoted intolerance of those protesting against the Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center is wrong.  To make the claim that South Park's rendering of Mohammad does not somehow endanger our troops overseas is also wrong.  All are and will be used as propaganda and recruitment by the more extremist elements.

So why the quick condemnation from all corners of religion of Jones versus the lack of condemnation for the protests, or other things that happen on a daily basis in this country?  Why are we still not talking about the arson fire at the construction site of a mosque in Kentucky?  Is that act any less insulting against Islam then burning the Koran?  Or drawing a picture of Mohammad?  Or mistaking a dark skinned man as a Muslim at a protest rally?

The bottom line is that I don't know that I can condemn this Koran burning simply because it is blasphemous or disrespectful to Islam.  Just as I don't know that I could condemn a Bible burning as well.  If anything, it speaks to the craziness of religion in general that the burning of an inanimate object is such a big deal.  Doesn't that border on the Koran being a false idol?  Isn't that the argument against cartoon depictions of Mohammad?  Aren't Muslims actively burning American Flags and effigies of Jones in Afghanistan as we speak?  Are Muslims any less tolerant of Christian symbols?  Didn't the KKK used to burn crosses?

The only leg I have to stand on in this fight is the fact that it is a book burning in general.  Otherwise, it would be hypocritical of me.

There.  I said it.  I will now be ducking for cover.

P.S.  I started writing this post early this morning. Since then, both Ed Brayton and PZ Myers have chimed in on the subject as well.

P.S.S.  I have been wanting to find a reason to condemn this guys act of the Koran burning in a way that is not hypocritical of other acts of blasphemy.  Well, I think I found it.  Here is a comment from Ed Brayton's blog that I can fully get behind.  The idea of inciting hatred and intimidation.
My sole "moral" objection is that it's an organized book-burning, and making an event of it shows intention to incite hate and intimidate American Muslims.
I still support their right to do it - and if there's any violent retaliation I can only hope it'll be focused on Jones' organization.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We Are No Worse Than Society

William Oddie, an commenter/blogger for the Catholic Herald in the UK, wrote a story "Distressed by the Atheist Onslaught" where he talks about atheists "vicious irrationality."  PZ Myers, over at Pharyngula, has a nice post on responding to Oddie.  However, I wanted to address one point in the article that PZ did not cover.  Oddie states the following:
But things are as they should be. As I remarked in my last post, nobody said that being a Catholic was easy. And when the Church is being faithful to her mission, this is how the world will regard her. Oh, and this has nothing whatever to do with child abuse; our enemies know that the evidence is that we are no worse than representative of society as a whole (shameful enough though that is).
He says it.  Plain as day with respect to the child abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic Church, "we are no worse than representative of society as a whole."  Is this supposed to make us feel better?  In an ever increasing secular society, Oddie is satisfied that Catholic Priests are "no worse" than society.  If they truly feel that becoming more secular does lead to a decrease in moral values, I would expect that the Church would far exceed what is representative of society.  Does this not show that the absolute morality that religion claims to be essential to our society is indeed not essential?

It is always fun to see religious folks refer to atheists as irrational.  You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hitchens' Cancer as Punishment

Christopher Hitchens is writing about his experience with esophageal cancer in a series of essays in Vanity Fair.  He cites the following comment on one of the web sites happy to see him suffering.
Who else feels Christopher Hitchens getting terminal throat cancer [sic] was God’s revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him? Atheists like to ignore FACTS. They like to act like everything is a “coincidence”. Really? It’s just a “coincidence” [that] out of any part of his body, Christopher Hitchens got cancer in the one part of his body he used for blasphemy? Yea, keep believing that Atheists. He’s going to writhe in agony and pain and wither away to nothing and then die a horrible agonizing death, and THEN comes the real fun, when he’s sent to HELLFIRE forever to be tortured and set afire.
OK.  There are so many things wrong with this.  It is a matter of trivial exercise to Google this.  For example:
What did these "men of God" due to deserve their cancer?

As Hitchens also likes to point out, his hands were just as adept at blasphemy as his voice.  If and when he can no longer speak, but his hands and mind still work, I suspect he will continue in his blasphemous ways and I, for one, will look forward to what he has to say on the matter.

Oh, and by the way, it's only blasphemy if you are a believer.  Otherwise, it is truth.

At Least He is Honest

You've got to hand it to Reverend Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center.  I mentioned this nut case in an earlier post.  He is starting to take a bit more national heat with his plans to hold a "Burn a Koran" day.  You've got to hand it to him.  At least he is honest in his bigotry and hatred.  Justice would be if some embers from those flaming Korans were to find their way onto his church's roof.
The fire department has denied Jones a required burn permit for Sept. 11, but he said lawyers have told him his right to burn Qurans is protected by the First Amendment, with or without the city's permission. 
He is correct, he has a First Amendment right to burn Qurans.  What he does not have is a First Amendment right to disobey a city ordinance requiring a fire permit.  I don't care if it is Qurans or firewood.  We'll have to see how that plays out.

But this story is interesting in many other ways as well.  Officials of the Federal Government have condemned the plans.  However, I don't recall seeing any condemnation from the likes of Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich.  If they have, point me to an article.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jehovah's Witness Irony

From Pharyngula.  This sentence was in their monthly ezine about atheists.
A new group of atheists has arisen in society. Called the new atheists, they are not content to keep their views to themselves.
That's funny right there.  The poster children for proselytizing are calling out the "New Atheists" for not keeping their views to themselves.

Bring the Pope to Justice

A great article in Newsweek by Christopher Hitchens questioning why we are not doing more to bring the Pope and other Catholic Priests to justice for crimes against humanity.

Creation Studies and Physics Labs

I came across the following comment on the Liberty University RationalWiki page.
The university, itself, has a Center for Creation Studies, which, similar to the Discovery Institute, seeks to create evidence supporting creationism out of thin air.
This reminds of the time some friends and I pulled an all-nighter to catch up and finish our physics lab books.  The only problem was, none of us had data on one particular lab.  Since it was 2:30 a.m. and the lab books were due that day, we added an "Invention of Data" section to the lab in question.  Created the necessary number of data points with a little variation so as not to appear "to invented" and finished the lab.  If I recall, we got an "A" on that lab under the assumption that we must have understood the concept well enough, and the statistics involved, to have invented the data in the first place.  It should be noted that we clearly outed ourselves with the section header, so in that respect, we were honest about making shit up.

Facebook Ads

I think there is something seriously broken with Facebook Ads.  I get the following ad popping up at least once a day.
No matter how many times I click the "x" to get rid of it and mark it as "offensive," it keeps coming back.  I much prefer the smiling faces of large breasted single women.

I guess I should be thrilled and Liberty University is wasting advertising money on me.  Afterall, Liberty University is Jerry Fallwell's indoctrination center for the weak minded and easily manipulated. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hawking: God Did Not Create the Universe

I have been asked by several people what my thought was on this news story from last week.
God did not create the universe and the "Big Bang" was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.
I guess I didn't feel there was much to talk about because, quite frankly, this is not really shocking news.  It is news only because it is Stephen Hawking.  This is no revelation in the world of physics, astrophysics, or cosmology.

I will put Hawking's book on my "to read" list because I am curious about the various unification theories floating around and this book seems to talk about M-theory in quite some detail.

In the mean time.  Yawn.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pet Peeve - 93% Won't Repost It

Ha, the joys and torments of social networking.  I seem to be on a pet peeve roll this week.  This one is a two-fer.  Let's look at the following Facebook status example of what I am talking about:
If your family has been touched and tormented by cancer.  Today is World Cancer Day - I'd appreciate it if you would post this request. 93% won't repost it. A small request. Just one line. Dear God, I pray for a cure for cancer. Amen.
I've seen several different varieties of this post.  This just happens to be the first one I could easily find on my news feed.

So, my first pet peeve is the "93%" won't repost it."  How do they know this?  Is this a scientific poll?  What is margin of error?  +/- 3%?  Is this meant as a guilt trip?  Is it even necessary for conveying the cause you are trying to support?  My family has been touched by cancer and I support this cause by donating money to the appropriate charities.  Posting this on Facebook does not add one penny to the cause.  OK, that was pet peeve #1.

Pet peeve #2 is "I pray for a cure for cancer."  Cancer has been known to societies for several thousand years when the Egyptians identified breast cancer.  Knowledge of cancer has been much more prevalent going back to the 18th Century.  It was certainly recognized as a disease with no cure.  As a result of this, I would venture to say that in the last 250 years, one of the most common, if not the most common prayer offered to God has been to cure loved ones of this dreaded disease.  Given the exponential rise in populations and therefore, Christianity, I would venture to say that there have been billions of prayers spoken or thought that have asked for a cure for cancer.  I venture to say that many Jews and Muslims have also requested this in prayer as well.  Well, last I checked, cancer has not been cured, which means, not a single one of those prayers has been answered.  God is 0 for Billions on that request.

Unfortunately, there are purveyors of pseudoscience that take advantage of many suspecting people and offer "alternative" cures for cancer.  So far, not a single one has been the least bit successful, but everyone of those hacks has been 100% successful in separating money from a desperate person.

Cancer is not a single disease, it is a family of diseases.  A cure found for one type of cancer more than likely will not be applicable to all forms of cancer.  The only real hope for a cure is to rely on science-based medicine and the researchers pursuing cures in the numerous types of cancers.  Your donation will do infinitely more good than a prayer.

Good For Orrin Hatch

A prominent conservative Republican, and a Mormon to boot, has come out and said (mostly) the right thing about the Manhattan Islamic Center.  There is still some hedging in the statement, but I'll take what I can get.  Kudos to Orrin Hatch of Utah.
"If the Muslims own that property, that private property, and they want to build a mosque there, they should have the right to do so. ... There's a question of whether it's too close to the 9/11 area, but it's a few blocks away, it isn't right there. ... And there's a huge, I think, lack of support throughout the country for Islam to build that mosque there, but that should not make a difference if they decide to do it. I'd be the first to stand up for their rights."

The Discovery Channel Gunman

This was the lead story yesterday.  A gunman/bomber took hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters and made demands regarding programming changes.  I'm not going to rehash all his demands, but one of the bigger ones is that we should all stop having babies and stop farming.  He was also enamored with the stories of eco-author Daniel Quinn.  So, this was really nothing more than an eco-terrorist gone off the deep end.  Fortunately, nobody got hurt except the gunman, who was killed.  That fact does not bother me in the least.  One fact that did come out from this was that the gunman considered himself to be an atheist.  As you can imagine, there were certain elements that jumped all over this.  Namely David Klinghoffer at the Discover Institute, a think tank on Creationism and all attempts to debunk the science behind evolution.  He is greatly excited to point out that Lee was an atheist and apparent proponent of Darwinism.
My purpose here, of course, isn't to suggest that Darwinism drives people mad or anything like that, but merely to point out, as I've done in the past, the strange attraction Darwinian theory exerts on some people who are crazy, or wicked, or both. This is a truth that's suppressed again and again, yet it remains true.
I am going to take license here and make one minor change to the above quotation.  See if you can pick out the difference.
My purpose here, of course, isn't to suggest that Christianity drives people mad or anything like that, but merely to point out, as I've done in the past, the strange attraction Christianity exerts on some people who are crazy, or wicked, or both. This is a truth that's suppressed again and again, yet it remains true.
Is it really any different?  Replace Christianity with Islam if you like.  The point is that someone who is crazy, or wicked, or both, doesn't need a whole lot to push them over the edge.  You can take pretty much anything and plug it into the quote above and it would read true.  Let's try one more for fun.
My purpose here, of course, isn't to suggest that Sesame Street drives people mad or anything like that, but merely to point out, as I've done in the past, the strange attraction Sesame Street exerts on some people who are crazy, or wicked, or both. This is a truth that's suppressed again and again, yet it remains true.
Or Jodie Foster, or John Lennon, or Mafia Wars, etc.

PZ Myers does a good debunking of the Klinghoffer hypothesis in this blog post.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pet Peeve - The Pledge of Allegiance

I have a Facebook friend that posted the following status:

I pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands; One Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.

I grew up reciting this every morning in school; it is a shame we not longer do that for fear of offending someone......How many Americans will re-post this and not care about offending anyone?? I just did.

I certainly have no problem with offending someone.  But, I won't re-post this.  I find it absolutely mind boggling that people don't see the addition of "under God" as being completely unconstitutional.  Any rational application of the Lemon test would throw this out in a heartbeat.  However, the Ninth Appellate Court does not agree.
On March 11th, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in the case of Newdow vs Rio Linda Union School District. In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court ruled that the words were of a "ceremonial and patriotic nature" and did not constitute an establishment of religion.
I find this an amazing interpretation.  God, with a capital 'G' is only God to three Abrahamic religions.  What about Hindus?  What about us poor, tormented atheists and agnostics?  What about the Pagans and Wiccans?  If this is not clearly an endorsement of the Abrahamic religions I don't know what is?  Perhaps if it was argued that God also applied to Islam, then maybe the Repuglicants would be more willing to remove it from the Pledge.  After all, it is really only Christianity that they are trying to promote with respect to freedom of religion.

Here is the good part though.  In order for the Court of Appeals to have ruled in this way, it was more than likely that the attorneys arguing for the "ceremonial and patriotic nature" of God were being paid by Christian organizations.  Think about that for a second.  Christians arguing that their God, with a capital 'G', is nothing more than a figure meant for a "ceremonial and patriotic nature."  I don't know.  If I were a Christian, I would find this upsetting.  Perhaps as an Atheist, I should applaud this ruling because it completely minimizes God to nothing more than a symbolic Sky Fairy.

I should note that the Newdow case seems to have some interesting legal arguments associated with it as the arguments are not directed at Congress' legislative action directly, but at the school board's policy with respect to the Pledge.

My Beer Mug Arrived

My "Top Ten Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Jesus" mug arrived yesterday.  I must share.
  1. Nobody's ever been burned at the stake, hanged, or tortured to death over their brand of beer.
  2. You don't have to wait 2000+ years for a second beer.
  3. There are laws saying that beer labels can't lie to you.
  4. You can prove you have a beer.
  5. If you have devoted your life to beer, there are groups to help you stop.
  6. No one will kill you for drinking beer.
  7. Beer doesn't tell you how to have sex.
  8. Beer has never caused a major war.
  9. They don't force beer on minors who can't think for themselves.
  10. When you have beer,  you don't knock on people's doors trying to give it away.