31 May, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Well, my darlings, I hope you're enjoying our first evah Carnival of the Elitist Bastards. I do believe we have achieved what you might call a success. A heartfelt thank you! to all who contributed, and all our readers, without whom such enterprises are worse than useless.

And now, on to our regularly scheduled Discurso, because the stupid never sleeps.

Some of you may wonder just how divorced from reality our nation's right-wing media is. Judging from what Glenn Greenwald has to say, they've never been more than perfect strangers:
Speaking of Politico's sycophantic service to the GOP, Allen's colleague, David Paul Kuhn, today has an article about how gay marriage is going to help McCain win the election and doom Obama among independents and working class voters. Last week, Kuhn wrote an article reporting that GOP operatives were excited about the prospects of McCain winning in a "blowout." Several weeks before that, Kuhn wrote an article about how the Iraq War's growing popularity among Americans would be a huge asset for McCain and doom the Democratic candidate. Not even the most shameless GOP hack makes such absurdly optimistic claims about the GOP's electoral chances -- at least not out in the open. They just have Kuhn and Politico do it for them.
When you have silly fuckers claiming the Iraq War is gaining in popularity and that the GOP's excited about McCain's stellar prospects, you know that no divorce from reality has taken place. You can't get a divorce from something you've never been married to.

Lest you think it's confined to the avowed right-wing insaniacs, observe our Mainstream Media in action:

The central excuse offered by self-defending "journalists" is that they didn't present an anti-war case because nobody was making that case, and it's not their job to create debate. This unbelievably rotted view found its most darkly hilarious expression in a 2007 David Ignatius column in The Washington Post. After explaining how proud he is of his support for the attack on Iraq, Igantius explains why there wasn't much challenge made to the Administration's case for war (h/t Ivan Carterr):

In a sense, the media were victims of their own professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules meant we shouldn't create a debate on
our own
. And because major news organizations knew the war was coming, we spent a lot of energy in the last three months before the war preparing to cover it.
They were "victims of their own professionalism." It's not up to them to create a debate where none exists. That's the same thing Charlie Gibson, David Gregory, and
Tim Russert -- among others -- have all said in defending themselves.

That's odious enough - supposed "journalists" merely parroting what they're told without digging up facts to verify that what they're repeating is true. Even if it were the case that "there was little criticism of the war," real journalists don't take a politician's word on faith: they do actual reporting and try to confirm or debunk what's being claimed. I think we're all grown up enough to understand that politicians lie. Our MSM, however, is not. Still, let's grant them the "it's our job to report what people are saying, and nobody important was speaking out against the war" defense, just for the fun of watching what happens next:

But beyond that, this claim is just categorically, demonstrably false. As Eric Boehlert and Atrios both demonstrated yesterday, Ted Kennedy in September, 2002 "delivered a passionate, provocative, and newsworthy speech raising all sorts of doubts about a possible invasion." Moreover, Al Gore (the prior presidential nominee of the Democratic Party) and Howard Dean (the 2003 Democratic presidential frontrunner) were both emphatically speaking out against the war.

Thus, three of the most influential voices in the Democratic Party -- arguably the three most influential at the time -- were vehemently opposing the war. People were protesting in the streets by the hundreds of thousands
inside the U.S. and around the world. In the world as perceived by the insulated, out-of-touch and establishment-worshiping likes of David Ignatius, Brian Williams, David Gregory, and Charlie Gibson, there may not have been a debate over whether we should attack Iraq. But there nonetheless was a debate. They ignored it and silenced it because their jobs didn't permit them to highlight those questions.

Question for our "journalists:" in what universe, exactly, was there "little criticism of the war"? I'm just curious.

Does anybody else get the impression it's high time for a Carnival of the Media Clowns?

Using The Bible as an Elitist Bastard Weapon

by Karen Simon, special to En Tequila Es Verdad

Editor's Note: Karen Simon is one of our regular commenters here, and she's proven to be wise and wonderful and a boon to thought-provoking conversation. Alas, she hasn't a blog of her own. But she wanted to join the rest of us Elitist Bastards, and so I post her submission here. How could I resist after that title? Enjoy!

My naughty little indulgence is to disarm intolerant fundies with their own weapon , the Bible.

When I hear someone spouting intolerance in the name of God and a verse from the Bible to support said intolerance I can quickly come up with at least three or four verses that not only refute their argument but also condemns them as the bigoted assholes they are.

The beauty of the Bible is that the the authorship is so vast and the opinions expressed so varied that you can justify almost anything.

Why it is so useful for my purposes is that as a Christian I am not trying to tell them not to believe in God so they trust me. They can't call me a liar because I just quoted their divinely inspired owners manual, but I just trumped them.

What to do? Usually they just walk away stunned , angry and confused because they don't have the critical thinking tools necessary for a legitimate argument because they are taught never to search and never to question. It would be a much more tolerant and happy world if we allowed ourselves and others to be questioners and searchers.

Friends, Americans, countrymen, lend me your dictionaries!

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Nicole Palmby. You killed grammar. Prepare to die.

Okay, not really. But I needed some sort of introduction for my first post as sub-blogger of Dana's Wonderful World of Snark. I am Nicole Palmby. And while you may not have killed grammar, it certainly is on its deathbed, and, as grammar is my mama, I plan to avenge its impending death.

I wrote this article late last week and edited it earlier this week, but I was a little reluctant to post it following Kaden's beautiful piece on grade inflation. I think, though, that what I have to say needs to be said, and I look forward to what you have to say about it, as well. Enjoy.


My current day gig is shaping the literary, grammatical, and writing minds of the future leaders of your local Target team.

Okay. Maybe that's an unfair assumption. I could be shaping the minds of future political leaders. For example, I could be grading the vocabulary assignments of the next George W. Bush! Some days I feel like I am.

Regardless of the future endeavors of the attitude-wielding, SMS-ing, bleary-eyed nodes of apathy, I am entrusted to ensure each pile of flip-flops and hoodie is able to identify the theme of classic but boring novel title here> and write a competent, even if uninteresting, five-paragraph essay.

Anyone who knows me might smile and mutter some comment about the ease of my vocation--"You mean you get to talk about books and writing all day and get paid for it? Man! Your life is rough, innit?"--but let me assure you that getting paid to talk about books and writing is not what it once was.

There was a time during which schools valued the education gifted to their students (because education really is a gift) and parents cared about what their children were doing all day. It wasn't so long ago that students went to school because they knew they had to, and the community was proud if it was the custodian of a "good district."

It seems that while the days of the "good school districts" still exist (I teach in one), much of what makes a school "good" has morphed into something wholly unrecognizable.

It used to be that, upon graduation, students were not only capable of writing a five-paragraph essay, but an 8- to 10-page research paper in MLA style with print sources. They understood the mechanics of the English language. They were able to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively within those mechanics.

However, I have received numerous essays this year completed--grudgingly, mind you--in what is known as text-speak. Yes, that's right: English Honors students turned in formal essays that used the number 2 instead of "to" (and in place of "two" AND "too," for that matter), used "ur" for "you're" and "yr" for "your."

While I love the ease technology gives my workload, I can't help but shake my head at the price American children are paying for the conveniences they have. My junior students--also Honors--have difficulty placing apostrophes properly. They can't tell me the difference between "there," "their," and "they're."

Programs that proofread, while I admit they can be helpful, have created a dependency. Students have no accountability for their own writing skills. After all, why should they remember that it should be "all right" not "alright" when Microsoft Word in its infinite wisdom makes the correction for them as soon as they strike the next key?

When I was younger and still taking math classes, my teachers usually allowed us to use calculators to check our work--after we had done the problems ourselves. Their logic was simple: you have to know the long way before you can use the shortcut. I think the same logic should follow in writing. Yes, you do need to know to correct the spelling of "there" to "their" so that when, later, the computer does it for you, you'll know why.

Students today put no value on their education.

Although perhaps I shouldn't put all the blame on the students. If they could they'd text and watch Flavor of Love all day. They don't know enough to value their education.

Besides, it isn't only students who devalue education in the United States. Some parents have a decreasing amount of involvement in their (not they're) children's educations. They blindly trust that the school is taking care of things.

Unfortunately, when a school budget is dangled by a thread of standardized test scores, many schools find themselves focusing the curriculum on test-taking skills rather than academic skills. I don't agree with the practice, but when it comes down to teaching "real" curriculum or not having to eliminate instructional positions, I can't say I'd act any differently.

I have my opinions about standardized testing, but that's for another carnival.

Regardless, there is still a significant decline in the emphasis put on education in our nation. And yet, college enrollment (and graduation) is higher than ever. What kind of message are we sending to our children when they barely graduate high school and are admitted to colleges and universities once thought of as prestigious?

The result is a nation of employees who rely on the automatic proofreader in their word processors, and who are unable to be accountable for what they write.

The written word is a powerful weapon. Writers wield whole worlds with their pens, and, unlike surgeons, lawyers, and real estate agents, there is no examination that must be passed in order to become certified. Anyone can become a writer with just an idea, paper, and pen.

And instead of sanctifying this power, we reduce it to busywork assignments, let students take it for granted, and eventually, take it for granted ourselves. In fact, a colleague of mine suggested encouraging students to take their notes in text-speak in order to practice summarizing and resist the urge to write every single word. What an optimistic way of ensuring students are incapable of doing what every employee must do at one time or another: write intelligently, following general writing standards.

Unfortunately, this travesty has become so widespread as to be seen in every media outlet all over the world. Just today, in fact, while watching TV, the closed captioning on the television clearly read “presidentsy” instead of “presidency.” Really? I mean, really?

As what often feels like a single, tiny voice shouting into the wind, I fear there will be no end to the apathy toward the English language. Today prepositions are generally accepted at the ends of sentences. (I’m guilty of this myself when the “proper” grammatical construction reads/sounds awkward.) What happens tomorrow? “You’re” and “your” become one interchangeable word? Come on. (Oops! Preposition!)

Are Americans really so lazy that we’ve gone from omitting the “u” in various words—color, honor, etc.—to accepting English essays that use “yr” in place of “your,” which should really be “you’re”? I’m curious what Lynne Truss would say about American students (and adults, for that matter) English education and writing styles.

As a writer, as a teacher, as an American, I urge citizens and political leaders to work to effect (and that’s effect, not affect) a change in the state of English education in the United States. Write to your senators, representatives, school board presidents, governors…whoever will listen! We need to act fast or No Fear Shakespeare will become Shakespeare for Americans, and the Bard’s famous line, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” (Julius Caesar III.ii.74) will quickly become “Peeps, lstn ↑!!1!”

30 May, 2008


(Repost from the official Carnival of the Elitist Bastards site)

Just a few hours left! If you're planning to sail with us, time to jump on board.

Gmail's acting strangely. To be safe, cc me on your submissions: dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com.

Here's the list of contributors so far:

John Pieret
George W.

If you don't see your name on the list, and it should be there, please do resubmit your link to me at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com.

Paul's got some new badges up in the sidebar - WE HAZ ELITUST BASTARDETTES!! Grab a badge, show your Elitist Bastard pride, and have your grog ready for the maiden voyage on Saturday!

Kaden: A few quick updates

Hey bloggers!

Well, our wonderful hostess should be picking from the dozen or so options for a banner for the Carnival right about now. In the meantime, a few orders of business.

I wanted to post the fourth segment in the Academia series, but I don't know what to say. I don't want to bore everyone with accounts of my experience that has no valuable insights. Perhaps if there is anything in particular that people would like to hear more about? I'm not sure what an eighteen year old would know that would interest the general population but I got a few comments on my earlier posts, so there must be someone other than Dana slogging through all this crap I write.

Next, before the Carnival gets right under way, I wanted to invite you all to a preliminary round of applause for our wonderful Dana, for being the flag carrier and putting this carnival together! I figure that my hoorah's might go buried beneath the various contributions, so I'm abusing my godly powers of co-blogger and taking the initiative! Ha!

In addition to Dana, thank you to those who helped out with suggestions for the banner, names for the celebrated egg heads, and our awesome badge-maker.

So as preparations come to their close, I hope everyone has fun. This carnival could have some implications for me; see, with the people I know, the high school and virtual environment I saunter through, and the generation I'm growing up in, Dana hit the nail on the head when she explained how elitism is seen in a negative light. At first I thought that this carnival was supposed to be mocking elitists, because the idea of celebrating them was entirely foreign to me, so this should be quite an experience! I look forward to everyone's contributions.

And everything changes
And nothing is truly lost
-Neil Gaiman

I have got to get my own sign-off phrase...)

Carnival Business #5

Postdated to stay up until the bitter end.

Just a few short days left to get your submissions in for the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards! Email your links to elitistbastardscarnival@gmail.com by the end of day, Friday. Our maiden voyage launches Saturday, May 31st. Don't miss the boat!

Kaden's working on a title bar. If you want to be part of the creative process, or just an opinionated bastard as well as an elitist one, get your suggestions in asap.

All aboard! Eggheads, Unite!

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Usually, I try to go a bit further afield than The Carpetbagger Report on Fridays, because I can spend more than 20 minutes hunting down political fuckwittery for your reading pleasure. However. Today is the last day before the first ever Carnival of the Elitist Bastards launches.

I have a boatload of entries to sort through and organize.

I haven't even written my bloody entry.

Carpetbagger it is! Thank you, Steve, for finding all the tasty tidbits so I don't have to. What do you have for us today, sir?

Oh, now, this could get interesting:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Friday he would be willing to comply with a rumored Congressional subpoena to discuss the administration’s handling of pre-war intelligence, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he’d be “glad to share my views” if asked to testify.

Steve Benen asks the important question: "And what about the White House?"

In today’s press briefing, Dana Perino suggested the White House could put a stop to this.

QUESTION: Could the White House block him from testifying, if he wanted to testify? Or how does that work?

PERINO: Conceivably?


PERINO: Hypothetically, which I’m not supposed to answer a hypothetical, yes, I think so. The law would allow for that. But by saying that, I’m not suggesting that that’s what would happen or not happen.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t about classified information, but rather, executive privilege — which might apply, even if McClellan were willing to appear voluntarily.

There you have it, my darlings. The White House is desperate to shut Scottie up. You should really skip over and have a look at the amazing batch of fuckery Steve's collected on this - the Right Wing Noise Machine (patent pending) has been kicked into overdrive trying to discredit dear ol' Scottie. They're terrified.

I'm amused. Wexler & Co. seem delighted - the actual watchdogs in Congress are salivating. If they were cats, they'd be purring. They've got a claw hooked gently in their victim, and they're just waiting for the right moment to reel in and bite. This should prove a very interesting summer indeed.

And it only gets worse for the White House:

Twenty former U.S. attorneys, both Republicans and Democrats, urged a federal judge Thursday to intervene in a constitutional battle over whether two White House officials should be forced to testify before Congress about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys. The former top prosecutors, including two who served under President Bush, argue in court papers that the judge should reject the Bush administration’s assertion of blanket immunity for presidential chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in the congressional investigation.

Struggle, little White House. Try to flee. But the cat always wins over the mouse, and every dog will have its day.

I feel a change coming. I feel a drumbeat. Do you? I think the people are finally fed up with the lies, obfuscation, manipulation and stupidity. McCain, on the other hand, can't seem to get enough of it.

He's spectacularly wrong about Iraq - again.

He's moving goalposts to cover up his stupidity - again.

He's using the United States military for political gain - again.

He's not practicing what he's preaching - again and again and again.

This is all from just the last week, my darlings.

If there's anyone in the cantina who still thought McCain wouldn't be such a bad choice, who bought into his straight-talkin' maverick marlarkey, I do believe it's time for you to think again.

Moderate Christians: If You Wanted to Clean Your Own House, You'd Best Fetch Your Brooms Now

It's time to sweep the cockroaches off the public stage and back into the cracks where they belong.

Coral Ridge Ministries hosted the Reclaiming America for Christ conference in March of this year. The conference didn't gain the media scrutiny it should - after all, there was no angry black man ranting from the pulpit. It's stocked to overflowing with rich white fuckers spewing venom, hate and ignorance, and we all know the media has bags full of free passes they hand out for rich white fuckers who spew venom et al, at least until an outraged blogging community forces so much attention on matters that a few of them end up treated sarcastically on ABC so that the media can claim its independence from... well, you know.

Cute illusion, that, and useful as far as it goes, but an illusion only. When the right-wing fucktards can get a Dunkin' Donuts commercial pulled over the terrorist-idolizing properties of a black-and-white paisley scarf, but no attention is paid to the terrorist-idolizing speeches of far right evangelicals, you know something's rotten and the media's refusing to admit it can smell.


“I am not here to call the church to partisan action,” Perkins explained. “I am not here advocating for a political party. I am here advocating for Christian citizenship.”

Lest any of the assembled miss the point, Perkins offered up the story of Phineas, grandson of Moses’ brother Aaron, from Numbers 25. Phineas was rewarded by God with an “everlasting priesthood” for killing an Israelite and his Midian lover because God had forbidden the mixing of the men of Israel with the women of that tribe.

The story is, essentially, the vindication of the criminalization of “miscegenation” — a sentiment consistent with Perkins’ past courting of such racist groups as the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens, America’s largest white supremacist organization, according to journalist Max Blumenthal. (Perkins bought, on behalf of political client Senator Woody Jenkins, a phone-bank list from former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.)


“We read that Phineas arose and he took action…,” Perkins said.

“Not only is prayer required…I warn you that if you begin to pray for our nation that, at some point in time, you’re gonna be prayin’ and you’re gonna feel a tap on your shoulder and hear, ‘Son, daughter, I’ve heard your prayer; now I want you to do something about it.’”

Just in case his message should be misconstrued, however, Perkins offered this caveat: “Now, let me be clear, in case the media’s here,” he said, “I’m not advocating you go home and get a pitchfork out of your storage shed and run into your neighbor’s house.” Phineas, the Bible tells us, used a javelin.

Stop. Let's take note of several things here.

1. Tony Perkins believes that one day, God will literally tap these frothing haters on the shoulder and direct them to do something about their prayers. We know what the prayers of the theocons are, don't we? Rid the world of non-believers, homosexuals, abortion providers, Muslims, and sundry other undesirables; bring about Armageddon; bring America back to their narrow brand of noxious Christianity. Can we guess what the "do something about their prayers" might be?

2. In case not, consider carefully the story he tells. A man murders two people for no greater crime than some intertribal nookie in the Tabernacle, and is granted "everlasting priesthood." Seems like this "Thou shalt not kill" thing comes with a fuckload of exceptions.

3. Take especial note of that "in case the media's here" line. What might he have said if there was no possibility of somewhat sane people with recording devices being present, I wonder?

Prup at The Reality-Based Community calls Perkins' speech a "dog-whistle shout-out to Christian Identity terrorists." And he has some nervous-making detail on the subtext of that speech that should have you feeling very thoughtful indeed after reading it.

Anne Coulter, another august speaker at the conference, has no such sense of subtlety:

In her remarks to those who pledged to reclaim the nation for Christ, Ann Coulter equated the lives of aborted fetuses with those of the doctors and abortion clinic workers who were murdered by anti-abortion

“Those few abortionists were shot or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure with a rifle performed on them,” Coulter told her audience, which responded with laughter.

Ah, yes, those perfect Christians. They do so lurves them a good, clean joke about murdering doctors.

And what does the media do with people who surreptitiously celebrate and encourage such acts of domestic terrorism? They invite them on to speak - over and over and over and over again. While a Dunkin' Donuts gets booted for having Rachael Ray dressed in the wrong sort of scarf.

Let me be crystal clear: these fuckwits aren't Christians. I know it, and you know it. They wallow in the darkest, filthiest verses of the Bible. To them, Christian love is something you administer with a rifle. They lambast divorce, but they happily divorced reality long ago. And they're taken seriously in our political and spiritual arenas.

They want nothing less than a theocracy, dictated by them, with only their views aired and practiced. They'll advocate any means to get there, up to and including violence and terrorism. Those things, they say, are righteous as long as they are the ones doing them.

They're making Christianity look less like a religion and more like a dangerous pathology that must be quarantined every day.

So, moderate Christians: if you want to rescue a shred of your faith intact, I'd suggest you get busy now. Get up, get loud, and sweep these fuckers out of power before they pick up their javelins and their rifles and murder your faith.

Care to Take Some Action?

My inbox is filling up with fuckwittery. Would you do me the great good favor of helping me clear it out?

They Kill Kids.

Well, that certainly got my attention. Go on.

Dear friends,

Final negotiations are underway right now in Dublin, Ireland on a treaty to ban cluster bombs. Arms manufacturers are pushing governments to riddle the treaty with loopholes and delays -- and the final text will be decided in the next 72 hours.

Cluster munitions don't just kill during war. They scatter small, shiny, unexploded "bomblets" on the ground that hold their deadly charge for years. When children pick them up, they are often maimed or killed. Most governments agree that these weapons should be outlawed, but back-room pressure is rising to undercut a strong ban.

If enough of us act before the treaty is signed on Friday, we can drown out the weapons merchants and convince our governments to ban cluster bombs once and for all. Click below to send a message, and then forward this email to friends and family:


Canadian Cynic has a great post up this. Don't know about you, but I think we need to do a little something to let our governments know that maimed and murdered children are not an acceptable by-product of war.

Next message:

If Bush says it's legal...

Oshit. No good can come of this. What's the stupid fucker done now?

Dear ACLU Supporter,

It’s okay to break the law if the President tells you it’s okay.

That’s the outrageous proposition at the heart of a new FISA “compromise” that Republican Senator Kit Bond is pushing on
Capitol Hill.

His goal: to let off the hook telecommunications companies that willfully cooperated with illegal spying.

Senator Bond wants to bury lawsuits filed against telecom companies in a secret court. And, when they get there, he wants cases dismissed if the companies can show that the President gave them a note saying his request for customer information was legal.

Tell your representative: Just because the president says it's legal doesn't make it so!

Over and over, you and the ACLU have drawn a clear bottom line for Congress. We’re demanding:

Real accountability for telecommunications companies that broke the law.

No government spying on Americans without an individual warrant.

So far, we’ve persuaded Democratic leaders in the House to hold the line.

But now, some Democrats who want to look tough on national security are getting nervous, and they’re being tempted to support this flawed “compromise” spying bill.

Senator Bond’s proposal wouldn’t actually look at whether
telecom companies broke the law; it would just look at what the Bush administration told telecom companies was the law. Legitimate cases against telecom companies could be dismissed by a secret court, simply because the Bush
administration issued a sham certification.

Don’t let it happen. Your representative needs to hear
from you now before Congress comes back to work next week.

Tell your representative you demand accountability.

Thanks for all you do in defense of freedom.
Oh, for fuck's sake, yet more FISA fuckery? It's starting to look less like legislation and more like a zombie every day: it keeps coming back from the dead. How many more mutations are the Republicons and the fucktard Democrats who enjoy licking Republion balls going to force on this bill?

Let's get something clear: in a democracy, breaking the law isn't legal just because the President said so. That's how dictatorships work. Are we dictatorship or democracy? Why the fuck do I have to ask this question in my own damned country?

Muster up your outrage and do some signing for me, would you, darlings? Thankee kindly.

29 May, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Well, this is interesting. Looks like the authorization to leak Valerie Plame's identity was given by none other than George W. Bush:

Scottie McC doesn't know it yet. But that's basically what he revealed this morning on the Today Show (h/t Rayne).

During the interview, Scottie revealed the two things that really pissed him off with the Bush Administration. First, being set up to lie by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. And second, learning that Bush had--himself--authorized the selective leaking of the NIE.

Scottie McC: But the other defining moment was in early April 2006, when I learned that the President had secretly declassified the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq for the Vice President and Scooter Libby to anonymously disclose to reporters. And we had been out there talking about how seriously the President took the selective leaking of classified information. And here we were, learning that the President had authorized the very same thing we had criticized.

Viera: Did you talk to the President and say why are you doing this?

Scottie McC: Actually, I did. I talked about the conversation we had. I walked onto Air Force One, it was right after an event we had, it was down in the south, I believe it was North Carolina. And I walk onto Air Force One and a reporter had yelled a question to the President trying to ask him a question about this revelation that had come out during the legal proceedings. The revelation was that it was the President who had authorized, or, enable Scooter Libby to go out there and talk about this information. And I told the President that that's what the reporter was asking. He was saying that you, yourself, was the one that
authorized the leaking of this information. And he said "yeah, I did." And I
was kinda taken aback.

You don't say. That's a pretty serious leak, mind. Seems the fuckers in office won't stop at anything to strike at a political enemy, even if it means destroying that enemy's wife's CIA career out of spite. Scottie may be "pretty taken aback," but myself, I'm pretty fucking pissed.

In light of that, I could use some good news. And this promises to provide endless entertainment:

Nothing about John McCain’s outreach to radical, evangelical preachers has gone well. After securing the support of right-wing televangelists like John Hagee and Rod Parsley, the Republican presidential candidate has faced a series of headaches, with one nutty revelation about the preachers after another. Were it not for the media largely giving McCain a pass for his radical associations, it might have been a total disaster.

Once reporters did start paying attention to this, McCain had a choice — stand by the extremists (and offend sensible people everywhere) or reject the extremists (and offend their rabid religious-right followers). McCain gambled, probably correctly, that it was worth the backlash from the GOP’s theocratic base, and decided to dump Hagee and Parsley last week.

Ever since, the evangelical grumbling has gotten louder.

The candidate’s abrupt turnabout brought criticism not only from secular viewers, who questioned why he had aligned himself with controversial religious voices, but also from evangelicals, who said he may have alienated a powerful bloc of potential Republican voters.

“He wants us to support him, but as soon as his back was against the wall, he overreacted. He is now less likely to get the evangelical vote and will have a difficult time getting strong endorsements from other ministers,” said Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., founder and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, an evangelical group that advises ministers on political and policy issues.

“For McCain to have to repudiate these people is much worse than ever having their endorsement in the first place,” said Doug Wead, a political consultant who ranked 1,000 evangelical pastors for former president George H.W. Bush to court for endorsements. “If evangelical Christians feel this is an attack on them, even if they don’t agree with Parsley and Hagee or follow them, it could galvanize them against McCain.”

It’s the worst of both worlds. Sensible people are bothered by McCain reaching out and campaigning with certifiable lunatics in the first place, and unhinged religious-right activists are bothered by McCain throwing two of their high-profile leaders under the bus.

Gorgeous! Somebody pass the popcorn. And get me some lighter fluid: it's time to set the evangelicals afire. I can't wait to see how this election turns out with that segment all hot with rage.

And finally, I'll leave you with a glimpse into the dark, twisted, fetid passageways of the neocon mind:

On Wednesday, Republicans collectively went completely berserk after Obama said a great-uncle had helped to liberate the Auschwitz death camp at the end of World War II. Once they realized Obama had a great-uncle who had actually helped to liberate Buchenwald, the first camp liberated by Americans, and Obama just misspoke about the Nazi camp in question, conservatives slinked away, waiting for the next manufactured outrage to come up.

But before we leave this non-story altogether, it’s worth pausing to consider what else Obama’s GOP detractors said about this.

Fox News, for example, was even more shameless than usual. One of the hosts of “Fox and Friends” said, “It wasn’t Auschwitz. It was a labor camp called Buchenwald.” As part of the same segment, Fox News ran this all-caps message on its bottom-of-the-screen ticker: “Ohrdruf was a work camp, rather than an extermination camp.”

In other words, Obama’s great-uncle may have served in the 89th Infantry Division, and may have played a part in the liberation of a Nazi camp, but let’s not suggest that this was too important. After all, Ohrdruf was only a Nazi slave labor camp.

It wasn’t just Fox News. John Cole highlighted a post from a far-right blogger, who argued:

Buchenwald, on the other hand, while atrocious beyond normal human understanding, was merely a slave labor camp, and not historically abnormal in a time of war. The people who died there did so under the stress of work and disease, rather than as a deliberate attempt to wipe them off the planet. [emphasis added]

I honestly can’t begin to relate to such a twisted worldview. I can appreciate the temptation to criticize politicians they disagree with, but how far gone does one have to be before they think it’s appropriate to diminish the atrocities at Buchenwald because Obama had a family member who helped liberate the camp? How rabidly partisan must one be to disrespect the bravery of U.S. troops in the 89th Infantry Division?

Very rabid, indeed. And what do we do with rabid dogs, my darlings? That's right. Friends don't let friends vote rabid fuckwits into power.

Fuckwittery Knows No Bounds

I've been employing the Smack-o-Matic rather heavily on religious assclowns lately, with the occasional good whack at my favorite whipping-boys: politicians and the media. But let's not forget that stupidity is a human universal, and irrational assclowns abound in every endeavor and creed.

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars, we have a shining example from the teaching profession. She's threatening to sue Dartmouth College and her students for creating a hostile work environment.

If you thought she was an IDiot forced out for her IDiotic views, you'd be wrong.

No, she wasn't sexually harassed, either.

Nope, not physically attacked.

Give up?

She's upset because her actual students used actual critical thinking skills to - oh, the horror! - disagree with her.

Absorb this a moment. Savor it. Appreciate the complex bouquet we are sampling here: an Ivy League professor, entrusted with the task of teaching young minds to engage ideas, understand, appreciate and critique ideas, is pitching a fit because her students had the temerity to actually understand, appreciate and critique ideas.

The Wall Street Journal snarks. Observe:

Priya Venkatesan taught English at Dartmouth College. She maintains that some of her students were so unreceptive of "French narrative theory" that it amounted to a hostile working environment. She is also readying lawsuits against her superiors, who she says papered over the harassment, as well as a confessional exposé, which she promises will "name names."

The trauma was so intense that in March Ms. Venkatesan quit Dartmouth and decamped for Northwestern.

My goodness, that's some trauma. Those Freshman English students - they're vicious buggers. Especially when they actually pay attention in class. The nerve!

Ms. Venkatesan lectured in freshman composition, intended to introduce undergraduates to the rigors of expository argument. "My students were very bully-ish, very aggressive, and very disrespectful," she told Tyler Brace of the Dartmouth Review. "They'd argue with your ideas."

Egads! The rogues! How dare they show any sign of thought process more complex than "vegetable!"

Ms. Venkatesan's scholarly specialty is "science studies," which, as she wrote in a journal article last year, "teaches that scientific knowledge has suspect access to truth." She continues: "Scientific facts do not correspond to a natural reality but conform to a social construct."*

And her students weren't impressed by this impenetrable woo? Shocking!

The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan's seminar, then, was to "problematize" technology and the life sciences. Students told me that most of the "problems" owed to her impenetrable lectures and various eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She counters that such skepticism was "intolerant of ideas" and "questioned my knowledge in very inappropriate ways." Ms. Venkatesan, who is of South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by racism, though it is unclear why.

My powers of snark fail me. It's paddle time.

Why isn't this silly bitch working for the Discovery Institute or teaching Sunday school in some fundie church somewhere? I suppose it's because she's too "liberal" and would probably describe herself as "enlightened," but let's deconstruct this for a second here:

She presents intellectually vacuous arguments as rarefied, profound truths. She teaches that science is just a social construct. She pitches a fit when people disagree with her. She can't handle the least bit of skeptical thought or criticism, especially valid skeptical thought and criticism, because she has no valid response. Instead of being able to hold her intellectual ground, she has to resort to temper tantrums, lawsuits, accusations of harassment, and on top of all of this, plays the race card (read: persecution).

Tell me. How the fuck is this different from the right-wing fucktards who rely on the same damned bullshit arguments to bolster their indefensible positions? Is this really any different than the snivelling "Evilutionists are so mean!" cowardice we hear from IDiots? No? I didn't think so.

But - and wait for it - she doesn't stop there. Oh, hell, no. She's going all the way. She has to play a card worthy of Expelled:

After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so – actually, empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms. Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several of his classmates applauded.

Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior was "fascist demagoguery."

It's our old friend Godwin's Law! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Reductio ad Hitlerum can't be far behind! My darlings, I think we just found the star of the next Expelled travesty.

The fact that her students PWND her this thoroughly gives me hope for the next generation. Apparently, the Wall Street Journal columnist feels the same way:

The remarkable thing about the Venkatesan affair, to me, is that her students cared enough to argue. Normally they would express their boredom with the material by answering emails on their laptops or falling asleep. But here they staged a rebellion, a French Counter-Revolution against Professor Defarge. Maybe, despite the professor's best efforts, there's life in American colleges yet.

I think we should all make it a point of honor to encourage rebellion in the face of fuckwittery, no matter which side of the spectrum the fuckwit is on, no matter the cost.

Viva la revolución!

*Update: It appears this bit was quotemined in the grand tradition of DIsco. However, the basic fuckwittery of the good professor still stands, based on emails sent to her students and slightly more reputable sources than the WSJ and Dartmouth Review. Read the rest of the comments in Ed Brayton's post, should you wish to form your own conclusions.

I Was a Victim of New Math

Efrique has two posts up that I'm certain are a tour de force of mathematics. I deduce they are not because I understand the math, but because I know that Efrique is a genius and his logic in other areas has never failed me.

I don't understand the math because of this:

Back when I was in school, I sailed through English and foundered on mathematics. My brain looks at numbers, screams, and flees. I blame the way math is taught.

I struggled with basic math for many years, until I hit a point in early middle school when things went "click." My sails filled with a good wind. I skimmed the waves of numbers. Each new concept slotted perfectly into place: we were plotting a good course, and there seemed nothing ahead but open ocean and the shores of Calculus sometime after a pleasant journey.

As soon as I reached 5 knots, my teachers, in their infinite wisdom, decided I could skip the rest of the basics and move right on to pre-algebra. For some children, this might have been a good move. They're the ones who "get it" intuitively. For me, it was a disaster. It was like telling a sailor that since he's so good at navigating by sight, he's ready to strike out across the open ocean.

And then, there was the Book.

I can't really describe my pre-algebra book. I remember very little of it. I just remember the look on my father's face when, disappointed by his daughter's inability to understand the simplest algebraic concepts, he sat down one night and lectured. Couldn't understand why I didn't understand, why I was failing, math is the easiest thing in the world, it's simple and obvious and -

-then he opened the book, looked at a problem, and stopped mid-rant.

And stared.

His forehead creased. A little thunderhead formed above his eyebrows. He turned red. He opened his mouth, closed it, looked at a few more problems, and looked at me in utter disgust as I quailed.

"No wonder you don't understand math," he snapped. "What is this shit?"

We then spent a delightful hour wherein he ripped the book a new one, while I watched his wrath in awe. He hated that book with a passion.

I never did recover momentum. The wind had been sucked from my sails, the hull staved in, and not even my father could right the ship. Part of that was because he worked 16-hour days and just didn't have the necessary time. Part of it was because we couldn't find any sane math books. And the rest was because I'd already taken a berth on another ship, and was starting to chart a literary course.

I would have focused all of my energy and attention on comprehending math, however, if I'd known that as an SF author, I'd someday need the bloody stuff for incidental details like planetary mass and gravitational force, orbits, and a billion other things that go into making a story universe work. I can't do even the simplest calculations.

One day, I keep telling myself, I'll take the time to rebuild the ship. I'll start with regular math and follow every iteration until I finally reach the promised land of calculus. Only, there's never time. And that impoverishes me. There's a whole world described in math that I'll never see and only vaguely comprehend.

When it comes for the math underlying my books, I'll just have to fake it.

Good thing I can cuss like a sailor, then, eh?

28 May, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

Well, at least he says we don't have to worry about a last-minute power grab:

When asked today about the attempts of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to distance himself from President Bush, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino inadvertently admitted that even the President sees the value in moving away from the policies of the past seven

He’s been involved in this for a long time and you can’t wish for something that’s not going to happen — he doesn’t wish for a third term. He thinks it’s good that we have a two-term limit in the United States. It’s good for the country to have that smooth, peaceful transition of power every four or eight years; one where you get new energy and new ideas across the board — from the President on down, throughout the administration.

I have to admit, I've been vaguely worried that Bush & Co. would attempt a coup, but then again, this is George "Vacation Man" Bush. As long as Darth Cheney doesn't get any bright ideas, we might be in the clear.

I just love the wording, here: does this "new ideas across the board" statement mean Bush wants the Democrats to win? Possibly. You know the Republicons will take the opportunity to blame the Dems for all of the insanity that will ensue as folks are cleaning up the spectacular mess Bush leaves behind.

It sure as fuck won't be a new administration with McCain:

The fine folks at Progressive Media USA have an interesting item about John McCain’s voting record in relation to the Bush White House’s wishes.

CQ’s Presidential Support studies try to determine how often a legislator votes in line with the President’s position:

CQ tries to determine what the president personally, as distinct from other administration officials, does and does not want in the way of legislative action. This is done by analyzing his messages to Congress, news conference remarks and other public statements and documents.So, these studies only track
votes when the President has an explicit, stated opinion on a bill.

According to CQ, Senator John McCain has voted with President Bush 100% of the time in 2008 and 95% of the time in 2007. (emphasis in the original)

So... what exactly is the change the Republicons are yammering about again? I see no prospect of change, here. No wonder my stepmother would rather get a gun to the head than vote for this assclown.

Speaking of assclowns... Just in case you were worried:

Good news — as far as a few unhinged conservative activists are concerned, you can now go back to enjoying Dunkin’ Donuts without inadvertently supporting a terrorist-sympathizing ad campaign.

For those of you who don’t read reactionary right-wing blogs, Dunkin’ Donuts recently unveiled an ad featuring television personality Rachael Ray, holding a latte, standing in front of blooming trees. Ray, however, is wearing a scarf, and for conservatives, a scarf is never just a

Michelle Malkin noted that the scarf is black and white, which she insisted meant that it looked too similar to an Arabic keffiyeh.


This week, unwilling to take any chances against the coordinated efforts of unhinged Fox News commentators, Dunkin’ Donuts backed down and gave in.The Boston Globe reported:

The company at first pooh-poohed the complaints, claiming the black-and-white wrap was not a keffiyeh. But the right-wing drumbeat on the blogosphere continued and by yesterday, Dunkin’ Donuts decided it’d be easier just to yank the ad.

Said the suits in a statement: ”In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design. It was selected by her stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, given the possibility of misperception, we are no longer using the commercial.”

(In case you’re wondering, the stylist who selected the offending scarf was not Gretta Enterprises boss Gretchen Monahan, who appears on Ray’s TV show as a style consultant.)

For her part, Malkin was pleased with Dunkin’s response: ”It’s refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists.”

That's right. All of this drama, all of this outrage, is over Rachael Ray wearing a black-and-white checkered scarf. Everybody knows that anybody who wears a black-and-white checkered scarf is automatically in leauge with the terrorists. Yep.

Good to know Dunkin' Donuts caves so easily to batshit insane right-wing mouth-breathers: I now know where not to purchase a donut.

My country 'tis of thee: silly land of insanity.

Can anybody give me a reason why we should take these idiots seriously? Other than the usual "watch out because rabid dogs bite" warning, of course.

On the Other Hand, I have Good News...

...No, I didn't save a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico. But I found this gold nugget in my inbox:

Your dad is going to vote for Obama. Can you believe it? If he gets nominated that is who he will vote for. If he doesn’t, then he will vote for McCain. Me, on the other hand, if he doesn’t get nominated, then I can do a write in vote, and I will still vote for him. I would rather put a gun to my head than vote for Billary or McBush.

He is crazy and she is a socialist. No thanks.

My father. My bloody father, who I don't think has ever voted for a Democrat, is going to cast his ballot for Barack.

And my stepmother, who is even more conservative than he is, won't even dream of voting for McCain.

When the fuck did I step down the wrong leg of the Trousers of Time? This can't be the same universe I woke up in this morning...

Fuck the Courtiers and Their Admirers

I'm tired, I'm behind in my work, and I'm getting cranky, so this is going to be a quickie.

I am godsdamned motherfucking sick and bloody tired of this ridiculous idea that religious ideas are somehow beyond critical thought and criticism.

The moment an advocate of a religious idea tells me I should live by that idea, I start to question it. Why? What's the evidence that this is better than the 2,684,879,413 other religious ideas I'm told I should live by?

The very instant I'm told "because [insert deity/deities here] said so," that idea gets flushed. I've had it.

I'm out of patience with special pleading. Religion is no better an idea than any other. Just because someone says a god is behind it doesn't mean it's automatically more valid than the non-god endorsed good ideas that humans have had.

Frauds tell you not to question. Liars tell you to believe. Folks who are telling the truth welcome inquiry. Good ideas withstand skepticism.

I'll tell you the #1 reason I can't have faith in God. It's because God, according to the Christian Bible, doesn't welcome doubt. God can't stand to be questioned. And that tells me either God is an illusion created by people who are now desperate to keep that illusion from being revealed as such, or God is a psychopathic liar who isn't telling me the truth.

I don't believe because there's no evidence, but that's a diatribe for another day. What I'm dealing with here isn't belief, but faith. The requirement that we live by certain principles because they are religious. The demand for respect for something simply because it's religious.

As PZ said,

When someone advances remarkable claims of remarkable phenomena, like N rays or cold fusion or polywater (or natural selection or chemiosmosis or endosymbiosis), we demand evidence and skeptical evaluation…but not for religion. God always gets a pass from the people who already believe. They claim the existence of the most powerful, all-pervasive force in the universe, yet will provide not a single shred of support. And worse, this bozo calls the demand for evidence "hooliganism".

If that's the case, I'm proud to be a hooligan.

Too fucking right. Maybe I'm more tolerant of other people's faith than PZ is, maybe I'm more willing to let them that likes it have it, but their beliefs don't get my automatic respect because they're religious beliefs. "It's what I believe" isn't enough. Give me a fucking good reason. Especially if you're demanding more than my mere toleration.

The bastard who called PZ a hooligan likes to drop the names of a lot of religious luminaries, such as Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Krishnamurti, etc., and then crow, "What, are you gonna call them liars, PZ?"

Why the fuck not?

Just because the courtiers had good ideas on how to be decent human beings doesn't mean they were right about the Emperor's clothes.

Being religious people doesn't give their ideas greater weight than the great ideas of non-religious thinkers.

It doesn't put them beyond reproach.

And anyone who claims it does is showing me they're too afraid to let those ideas and the actions that spring from them stand on their merits. Fuck you if you think I'll respect that.

Woozle vs. Pastor Dean: FIGHT!

Rule #1 for a Christian dealing with atheists: do not get into a philosophical pissing match unless you really like wet trouser legs.

Yesterday, I posted the outrageous gauntlet Pastor Dean threw down in an attempt to prove that his special version of Christianity was the only valid worldview. I asked Woozle to be my champion.

He more than rose to the challenge. Grab your beverage of choice, get comfortable, and enjoy the joust if you haven't already.

In response to 2008-05-26 Open the Door to Conversational Evangelism by Paul Dean, by Special Request from Dana

There's a
type of argument I've frequently run into which is really quite pathological, when you get down to it. I call it "mirror arguing".

The technique is basically to accuse your opponent of being guilty of your own sins, regardless of whether you have any reason to believe this is true.

Despite its outrageousness from a rational perspective, it seems to be quite effective -- especially in a situation where you're mainly playing to an audience (the less sophisticated the better) rather than trying to convince the other person of the correctness of your point. Your opponent then looks quite pathetic if he (rightly) points out that it is in fact you who is the wife-beater; it reduces what should have been a totally devastating point to something about as convincing as "well... double dumb-ass on you!"

Seems pretty clear to me that we're looking at that kind of argument here. Let's go on a little magical mystery tour through the lovely distortions of reality which are the result of too much religion on the brain, shall we? Okay!

Pastor Dean says: "One of the basic dynamics that attends any worldview that is contrary to the Christian worldview is a lack of philosophical justification for it." (Jeez, Dana, I was looking for some nice meaty arguments to tear apart, and you're passing along this shit? ;-) But okay, doody calls...)

-- First: What do you mean by "philosophical justification"? If this means something other than "justification based on reason", then you'll need to be clearer. I'm going to assume that's what you mean.

-- Next: Christians believe what they believe based on a circular argument. God exists because the Bible tells me so. The Bible is the word of God, because the Bible says so. I can believe the Bible when it says this because the voice in my head, which is God, because the voice tells me it's God, says that the Bible is true! If that's justification, then there is no logic in the universe, and we might as well give up and go back to the middle ages.

-- And finally: "Atheism" is the refusal to believe without convincing evidence -- or, in other words, without philosophical justification.

So basically no; Christians have no philosophical justification for anything, and "unbelievers" (nice term, that) generally won't do anything without justification. Your claim is backward. (Qualification: I'm speaking about principles here; many Christians manage to get past their doctrine and allow bits of reality in around the edges. Some of them seem almost sane as long as they stay away from stuff where they've been trained give an answer from doctrine. Also, admittedly not all atheists are as nit-picky about consistency as I am, but the principle is that belief requires evidence.)

The fact that you are sophisticated enough to be able to pull this 180-degree switcheroo so smoothly in your writing makes me think that either you must know exactly what you are doing (which means you are knowingly being dishonest) or else you have been carefully schooled in this twisted mode of thought. Which is it?

Pastor Dean says: "the unbeliever has no basis for knowing anything." And you do? Backwards again.

Pastor Dean says: "When an unbeliever makes a statement concerning God, the world, man, morality, ethics, or any other subject, he asserts it as an absolute certainty." No, dude, that's you (again!). Do I need to point out that this is also an unsupported
straw man attack? If you really believe this is representative of atheistic discourse, show me some examples -- but I don't think you will, because I'm not convinced that you care about truth.

(And don't come back by saying "Hey look, you just claimed my argument was backwards as if you were 100% certain of that!" If I were 100% certain, would I be asking you for counterexamples? Would I even be bothering to try and engage with you on a rational level? I may be pretty near certain of the assertions I'm making there, but I leave that small wedge of uncertainty open. Without uncertainty, you may find that you are certain of the wrong thing. This is why religion is so screwed-up; someone decided what truth was, many centuries ago, and now you're not allowed to correct it in the face of new evidence.)

Pastor Dean says: "For example, an atheist who believes in evolution may say that God does not exist." First of all, you can leave out the "evolution" bit; it's redundant, and lots of theists are able to follow a line of reasoning from evidence to conclusion and hence "believe" in it too (remember what I said about some of them seeming almost sane?).

So that boils your statement down to "an atheist may say that God does not exist." This certainly might happen. Yep. Can't argue with that. Nope. You've certainly hit the nail on the head with that particular observation of yours. Yessirree.

Ever tried reading back what you just wrote? Doing that helps me catch all kinds of howlers like this before they go out into public and make me look bad; it might do the same for you. Or were you just trying to casually associate "atheism" and "evolution" in the minds of your gullible audience?

Pastor Dean says: "However, on his worldview, he has no basis to make such a statement. On his worldview, knowledge is obtained through observation (or the scientific method). His problem is that he has limited knowledge and ability to obtain that knowledge. He does not have the ability to search every square inch of the cosmos to determine whether or not there is a God. On his worldview, he cannot know that there is no God. His statement of certainty is rendered completely uncertain."

Funny you should bring this up; I was just addressing this issue
the other day.

I'll summarize.

The argument over whether or not God exists is a red herring, a bait-and-switch tactic. The God-nobody-can-disprove is totally harmless, a God of no consequences. Saying that this god exists is logically equivalent to saying "This sentence is true!".

Any consequences you claim from God's existence, however, are testable.

It looks like you claim some consequences near the end of your article, so I'll discuss them there. The God you believe in apparently does have consequences, and evidence for or against its existence can therefore meaningfully be collected.

Pastor Dean then goes pacing in circles some more about how you can't prove the non-existence of God. Since I've already brought up the red herring / bait-and-switch aspect of this -- i.e. it's not the existence of "God" per se that anyone really gives a flying spaghetti monster about, it's whether or not this same being hates gays, has a particular opinions about our laws, etc. -- I'll just add a mention of the well-known objection often referred to as
Russell's Teapot. The argument is basically that if you claim something exists and I say it doesn't, the burden is on you to show me why you think it exists -- not on me. In the absence of evidence, the default position is to not believe that any particular thing exists. Otherwise why stop with God? Boiled eggs floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter! A giant stone octopus living in the earth's core! You get the idea (I hope).

People who are religious seem to think that God gets some kind of special exemption because they say so. Nope, sorry, I don't at all see why I (or anyone!) should buy into that.

But really, I think the "red herring" point is far more powerful. I could go around saying "Yes! YES! I utterly and completely believe in God and accept that he is the blessed creator of all things! However, he told me personally that the Bible was written by a bunch of power-mad priests back in the early Middle Ages and is mostly screwed-up shit which nobody should listen to, except for a few good bits here and there. He also says Jesus never existed as an individual, although the ideas attributed to him are generally pretty nifty and it would be nice if more so-called Christians would pay attention to them. Except the stuff written by that jerk apostle Paul, of course."

If I said that, though, I don't think it would make you very happy, because just the pure idea of "God" isn't what you really want me to believe in; the key elements of "belief in God" would seem to be a particular set of THOU SHALTs and THOU SHALT NOTs, apparently derived from a somewhat arbitrarily-assembled set of writings whose true meaning is open to a wide variety of interpretations -- of which you choose one as being "the truth", excluding all others.

Ok, enough about God. I hope I don't have to come back to that again; I'm getting tired of it. Can we agree now that it's IRRELEVANT? That the real issue is what you claim God wants us to do? Good.

Pastor Dean says: "We have an explanation as to why we don't know everything." The phrase "willful ignorance" springs to mind. If your answer to every question is "because God did it", you're not going to get very far in your investigations. ("Because God did it" is what's known as a "curiosity stopper" or
fake explanation; it is clearly designed and intended to stop inquisitive folk from asking too many questions and thereby spotting the glaring inconsistencies and errors in Biblical doctrine.)

Pastor Dean continues: "In addition to the fact that God's general revelation takes time to investigate, God has not revealed everything to us..." Look, it's fine not to know everything. Science doesn't know everything. Mathematics has proven that it's literally impossible to know everything (for some reason, God neglected to mention
Gödel's incompleteness theorems in the Bible, even though it would have been considerable evidence for non-human origins of the Bible and could have shut up a lot of uppity scientists). But your religion puts up deliberate roadblocks to acquiring new information, especially if that information contradicts the Absolute Truth which you believe you have. Give me a break.

And anyway. I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make here, so I'll move on.

Pastor Dean says: "We must pray for courage to ask a simple question of those with whom we dialogue: why?" Don't be afraid, we don't bite. ...Well... okay, not physically... we probably are a deadly threat to the underpinnings of your current worldview, yes, and intend to continue being one, but we do not threaten you or your families (despite
anti-gay rhetoric), nor do we seek to dissolve the social organizations represented by your families and churches. We seek only to clean out the ideological bullshit you've allowed to accumulate, since you don't seem to be doing it yourself -- and it has now grown into such a fetid pile that it threatens civilization.

We are (as you seem to believe you are) seekers of truth; in that regard, opening dialogue with us certainly will not harm your cause -- but the truth may sometimes hurt. We welcome challenges to our worldviews, but apparently yours sets you up to be helplessly dependent on its essential inerrancy, or at least to believe that you are dependent. People have actually survived "losing faith", however, and they tend to be much happier afterwards. The pattern seems to have a lot in common with any other addiction.

We completely welcome that question, "Why?", and we wish you would ask it more often. A lot of the time when we try to ask it, we are rebuffed with claims that we shouldn't question faith, or that reason and faith are separate magesteria, or some such rot.

But you're not saying that, so let's start with this one: Why do you believe in God? Why do you believe that anyone who doesn't believe in God is going to be in trouble somehow? What is this God that you believe in, anyway? (Oops, that was a "what" question; is that off-bounds?)

Pastor Dean says: "When it comes to questions concerning God, morality, ethics, religion, origins, and the like, the answer will have no basis on a non-Christian worldview." I think I've already creamed that one. If you define God, we might have something to discuss. If you can't define God, then why are you bothering to discuss it? What do you hope to gain? (On the other subjects, though, I think the evidence is plain that we have
quite a lot to say, thanks very much.

Pastor Dean says: "Here are some sample questions: why do you believe spanking is wrong? Why do you believe homosexuality is not sin? Why do you think there are many paths to salvation? Why do you believe embryonic stem-cell research is a good thing? Why do you say there is no absolute truth? Why do you think pre-marital sex is okay in certain circumstances? Why do you believe in evolution? How do you know the sun will come up in the morning?"
Taking these one at a time -- in order to demonstrate how this "reasoning" thing works, since you seem to be unfamiliar with it:

  • Spanking: Well, I don't believe it is exactly wrong, at least in moderation; I've just never known it to be terribly helpful or effective. I'll suggest that for some kids, it may be necessary under some circumstances, but if it becomes the default way of coping with disobedience, it may lead to moral stagnation as children fail to learn that there are better reasons to be good than fear of pain.
  • Paths to salvation: This question is meaningless to me; I don't know what you mean by "salvation", or why it is necessary/important. Whatever it is you think I believe about it is probably not what I believe.
  • Embryonic stem-cell research: Is this a trick question? Okay, there's apparently a widespread belief in anti-abortion circles that this research encourages abortions. This is TOTAL B.S. The fetuses from which stem cells are drawn for research have already been aborted. Stem cell research does not cause a demand for aborted fetuses. (If you believe any of these claims to be false, please provide your evidence and I will go find mine.)
    • Also, as far as I'm concerned, those who act against stem cell research may have prevented the discovery of nerve-regeneration techniques which might have saved Christopher Reeve, among countless others. In other words, to phrase this as an emotional argument (which anti-abortionists seem to like): YOU KILLED SUPERMAN.
  • Absolute truth: I sure as hell never said that. Without getting into quantum physics, I'll just say that there is an absolute reality which exists regardless of what you believe, and discovery of the nature of that reality requires experimentation to test your hypotheses. Religion has made countless absolute statements about the nature of reality (and continues to do so), and generally gotten it demonstrably very wrong over and over again. Cast out the beam in your own eye, dude.
  • Pre-marital sex: Why should I think it is wrong? Give me something to work with here.
  • Evolution: Only because of the vast mountains of mutually-reinforcing evidence from a wide variety of disciplines, and the fact that nothing in biology makes much sense without it, and the fact that creationism (including the repackaged version called Intelligent Design) ultimately make no sense at all. In fact, creationists keep bringing up the same "evidence against evolution" over and over, even though all of it has been shown to be fallacious and much of it is simply downright false (that's LIES, to put it in
    nonscientific terms; isn't there a commandment against that or something?), showing that they're not interested in understanding the truth – or even in being moral – but merely in swaying the gullible.
  • If you really want to understand the details, I highly recommend Daniel Dennett's book Darwin's Dangerous Idea. I can probably find you some good evolution books by Believers like Ken Miller, if you don't want to be seen reading a book written by a godless atheist.
    • The sun: Well, first of all, there's this thing called "inductive reasoning" which is basically "if something has always happened, it will probably continue happening". Being a member of a scientific civilization, however, I have a bit of understanding of why the sun comes up each morning -- i.e. it's actually the earth's rotation which causes the sun to appear to move across the sky; this in turn is due to inertia, which will slowly bleed off over the ages because of tidal effects, but this won't cause any noticeable changes during my lifetime; the sun itself has a finite lifetime but is not expected to go out or pose a threat to Earthly life anytime in the next few billion years -- and so can say with some degree of certainty (more than, say, the Romans or the early Christians could do) that this pattern will continue for quite some time and (more to the point) is not subject to the whims of any deities or other supernatural entities.

    Pastor Dean says: "The unbeliever will have no philosophical justification to believe or know anything." Um, excuse me, what did I just say up there [points]?

    Pastor Dean continues: "He will attempt to justify his answer or knowledge apart from God, something he cannot do logically." What other method is there of justifying anything? How can you justify something logically based solely on a circular argument? You've got it mirrored again.

    The rest of Pastor Dean's paragraph assumes the rightness of his previous two sentences, which are factually backwards, so I'll leave them alone. (They're either false or meaningless taken by themselves.)

    Pastor Dean asserts: "It is at that point that we can point out that the Christian worldview is the only worldview that makes sense of our experience or knowledge in any one of these areas." Backwards again. You can only make sense of experience or knowledge if you have experience (observations) or knowledge (tested hypotheses) to make sense of.

    Pastor Dean continues: "God is the one who tells us what to believe about spanking, homosexuality, how to be saved, embryonic stem-cell research, truth, pre-marital sex, our origin, and the laws of nature in effect until Christ comes." This statement is so full of crap that it's difficult to know where to begin. But I shall try:

    • "God is the one who tells us what to believe..." If I'm a Christian. If I'm a Buddhist or a Confucian or a Wiccan or a Godforsaken Devil-Worshipping Baby-Eating Atheist (hi!), then you're already wrong without even finishing the sentence.

    • "...about spanking, homosexuality,..." you know, I thought Jesus said the Levitican laws didn't apply to Christians. Did I somehow misinterpret the Bible? How could this possibly happen?? "...how to be saved,..." assuming one needs rescuing (from what?)... "...embryonic stem-cell research,..." O RLY? There's mention of embryonic stem-cell research in the Bible? Which verse would that be in? And why didn't God just give us all the knowledge of the stuff we're trying to learn via such research, if he didn't want us doing it? Or is it true that he hates amputees? "... truth, pre-marital sex, our origin, and the laws of nature in effect until Christ comes." The Bible probably does say all kinds of things about those items, but the evidence is that it's wrong about our origin, that it says things are morally wrong which shouldn't be, and there's also no evidence to support the idea that it was written by God. There is, however, lots of evidence that it was written by a lot of different people, none of them divinely guided (if that term even has meaning), and many of them with personal agendas. “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).” So... when Christ comes back, we do an autopsy? Why is he keeping this stuff hidden?

    Also, this is the point where you have made some assertions about the nature of God. You haven't actually come out and said these things, but reading between the lines it sounds like you're saying (for instance) that:

    • God approves of or requires corporal punishment of children. What's your evidence for this? If you want to use the Bible as evidence, you'll have to explain how the Bible was written by the same entity or force which created the universe about 13 billion years ago, and why you believe this to be true. The burden of proof is on you, dude, because it is simply an absurd assertion on the face of it. I wouldn't believe that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor either, or that light has a measurable speed, if there weren't mountains of evidence -- but neither of those is as absurd or arbitrary as your claim, which you expect me to swallow on your say-so.

    • God sees homosexuality as an abomination. Again, the burden is on you to explain why you are convinced that the force which created the universe as a lifeless ball of superhot fundamental particles, presumably watched (or not) as those particles condensed into atoms, molecules, gas clouds, planets (billions of years later), pre-biotic organic molecules, and single-celled life-forms which eventually discovered sex, and suddenly (within a time-span of mere millions of years) became more and more complicated until eventually we have the vast array of species we have today (minus the ones which have become extinct, of course) -- including humans, marmosets, octopuses, asexual slime molds, creatures living in oceanic volcanic vents, creatures who reproduce using all kinds of different methods sexual and nonsexual -- would just have this Thing against humans who are more attracted to others of their own reproductive configuration. WTF??

    Look, even if I was tempted to believe that the ruler of the universe had written this lame book containing very little of use to us today and much that is counterproductive, and even if I believed that Jesus Christ was a real person who was somehow the "son" (are we talking genetic offspring? Does that mean God was human? Did he have DNA? Why or why not? Don't start spouting mystical doctrine at me or I'll have to slap you; give me a straight, rational answer, please) of the creator of the universe those 13 billion years ago, I'd be feeling rather manipulated by them, and hence rather bloody peeved.

    If the god of the Bible, who damns people to eternal torment for going against his (poorly-expressed and often ambiguous) wishes even when they have the best of intentions, really exists -- then I deny his authority over me. I answer to a more moral power than that being (i.e. my own conscience -- which isn't especially conceited; it doesn't take much to be more moral than the Biblical god). I would choose that eternal torment rather than go against my own conscience -- just as I would stand up to any bully or terrorist who tried to get me to commit a crime or hurt someone.

    All I can say in conclusion is this: I appreciate your attempt to reach out, but you don't seem to understand the idea of rationality. Stop pedaling drivel as sense, and get your house in order if you want religion and non-religion to get along peacefully. Those of us outside religion have been watching with great anxiety and alarm as religious ideas, which are generally not subject to rational debate or negotiation, have spread across America and other parts of the world. It would be different if these ideas were the good ones, like "love your neighbor" and "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" and "turn the other cheek" and "let ye among you who is without sin cast the first stone", but unfortunately it seems to be all the worst ones which are gaining popularity.

    If your idea of religion says that certain things are wrong, end of discussion, and won't even admit to an alternate interpretation of the scripture which you bizarrely claim as ultimate truth let alone admitting reality as evidence, then we simply can't let it stand. If your ideology won't negotiate, then we have to work against it by other means.

    It'll have to go. I'm sorry.

    Game over.


    Tomorrow, we'll have the melee - all of you who wanted to pile on, get your comments or links in by midnight Pacific time today.