Saturday, December 27, 2008

What about the "good things" in the bible?

I would be among the first to admit that there is some wisdom in the bible (and while I don't know it for a fact, suspect there is in virtually any holy text). So shouldn't these parts of the bible be followed? Absolutely not. Not because it is in a text. Only if it can be shown through the use reason that the wisdom is on target.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Winter Holidays!

I'm not the least offended when wished "Merry Christmas". I appreciate the the perceived notion of good will and happiness that is being directed toward me.

What DOES annoy the hell out of me is that some people think there is a "war on Christmas", that can be easily found every time someone like me dares to utter the phrase, "Happy Winter Holidays", or any similar phrase that fails to include the "reason for the season" - Jesus.

Jesus is the "reason for the season" if you are Christian. Otherwise he has absolutely nothing to do with the season.

I hope that anyone reading this has a wonderful winter holiday season - whatever you believe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Kind of cool...

It's vaguely ironic, isn't it, that something called "Dark Energy" is the driving force in the universe?

"The team's calculations instead solidify the conventional view that an enigmatic dark energy fills the cosmos and is responsible for the acceleration of the Universe. "Recent advances in data collection have brought us to the era of precision cosmology," says Zibin. "Void models are terrible at explaining the new data, but the standard dark energy model works very well."
Read on...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I voted for Obama

This is exactly why. It wasn't that I blindly thought he was going to be some savior of America or that I would love everything he would do. But after 8 years of darkness in just about every conceivable area of governance, we will finally at least get back on the right track. Whether the train can actually move and gather steam is yet to be seen.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Economic Morons of the Right

Balanced by a voice of reason. Don't you love accountability?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Questions about terrorism

In the years since the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. by a couple of dozen religious zealots, armed with box cutters, hundreds of millions of Americans have been subjected (sometimes on a daily basis) to "enhanced" security. They go through various levels of scrutiny traveling on planes, trains and simply driving down the highway. Similarly, they are screened at public buildings, sporting events and schools. Our very right to make a phone call or send an email (at home) with the expectation that it is a private communication between two people, has been tossed out with the garbage. Nearly all Americans are far more concerned with a terrorist attack than they are with the likely heart-attack coming from decades of filling up on junk food.

Is it worth it? How many terrorists have been caught in this net? Is it better to live in fear, minus our basic human rights, simply for the illusion of safety? Would we not be better off by more vigorously defending our way of life?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Meet the new boss...

There is much to be happy about this morning. It looks and feels like a new dawn.

Certainly America has made an important cut with our historically racist past. Race is still, and will always be as long as people see ourselves as groups of individuals, a factor in life. Obama's election didn't change that. It simply proved that we are capable of seeing our society as more that just that.

We have repudiated the past 8 years and everything associated with it. Everything. I will not bother to repeat the many offenses against humanity and, specifically, the American people. I'll just point out one thing. We are Americans and we don't deny fellow human beings basic legal recourse and, especially, we don't TORTURE people. Not even people who may be terrorists. Not even people who definitely are terrorists.

I know most people were voting pocketbook issues. The economy was clearly the decisive factor for Obama. I had as much right as anyone for this to be the most important issue for me. It was not. What is my lowered standard of living compared to a man "living" in a darkened cell, without contact with the world, being tortured - in my name? That is not a world that is worth having an otherwise comfortable life in. That's worth fighting a new revolution over. Fortunately, we were able (this time) to do our revolution in the local voting precincts.

Just remember, we now know with full evidence, that we aren't so special. We are as capable as any other group of apes to being brutally cruel to others. We have changed our behavior, but we have to make sure it doesn't happen again. That is our task.

"Won't Get Fooled Again" - again...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A New Day

Or into the bunkers. You choose.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

To Young Americans - Baba Obama

Look, no offense...

You didn't raise a peep when Bush took your nation into an illegal and immoral war. You went out and bought new Xbox and iPods. You watched the President eviscerate the Constituion and promptly turned your attention to the latest Snoop CD. You have had Dick Cheney in your faces for a third of your lives, yet think "really bad" is Austin Powers nemesis.

Like I said - no offense, OK? Just go out and vote on Tuesday and we're good. I have so much respect for you, that I won't even tell you how to vote. I think deep inside, you know what's right.

I should say, "I hope"....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Finding out about Hypatia

As a science buff, it is embarrassing to report that prior to reading the book “Remembering Hypatia: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” I knew next to nothing about one of the true giants among females in the history of science.

Despite how impressed I was with the title character, I won’t write a very in-depth essay for this selection for The Nonbelieving Literati. It most definitely was not a great piece of literature. That said, it was mostly a page turner and I didn’t struggle with it. In fact, I immediately passed it on to my 19 year old daughter, who is now reading it. I think books like this have a place.

My daughter, typical of her generation, has never even heard the name Hypatia. I think she needs to know that "The Philosopher" existed, and the casual way our world can slide into complete darkness if we don’t defend knowledge. For someone like her, who might otherwise go through much or all of her life without finding out about Hypatia, this could be a very important work.

As for me, I’d much rather have read a good history book about her. But, as many things have been lately, it was yet another reminder to get out and vote on Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Try doing something different this election

Does your vote make the difference? No. It is, admittedly, an act of faith. You force yourself to go out and do, not what you would want to do, but what you think everyone should do – whether they do or not. You have an inner conviction that many others look at it exactly the same way, and if you are able to fight off your apathy or anger or busy schedule, and go do it, others will too. But that’s really just faith.

There is something you can do to add to your single vote. Again, it will be somewhat of an act of faith. But what the hell? If you already think you’re likely to vote (act of faith) why not add a little more to it this time, in a way that costs you nothing?

You are going to have lots of conversations between now and the election. End each conversation with “don’t forget to vote” instead of “see you later”. If just one person, out of your dozens of conversations, takes it to heart – you’ve just doubled your impact. And when you go to vote, try to take someone who needs a ride. Admittedly, this second suggestion takes a little more effort, but not that much. Have an elderly or college student neighbor? Tell them what time you are driving to the polls and ask if they need a ride. You just tripled your impact.

If you’re reading this, you probably blog. If you don’t, you certainly have email. Make the same request of others that I’m making here. You’ll never know how much impact this will have. Hey, more faith. And you know how to finish all of your emails.

Don’t forget to vote.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Obama landslide

Clearly Obama will be elected the 44th President of the United States barring massive Republican chicanery. Not only do all major polls show his large lead growing almost daily, not only have they been incredibly stable for the past month, and not only is he continuing to gather strength in the critical swing states but he is also doing so in some traditional Republican strongholds.

But here, I believe is the final nail in the McCain coffin (fortunately, a coffin from which Sarah Palin will not walk away from as the sole beneficiary of our republic). The combination of the above stated facts leads to the very interesting phenomenon known to sports fans as the bandwagon effect. Essentially, people love a winner. They want to be associated with the winner. It somehow makes losers feel like they are winners also. Ever wonder what all of those supposedly undecided voters were really waiting for? Yup.

Watch what is now a clear victory, turn rapidly into a landslide in the closing days of the campaign. Once the news media starts covering this story as an Obama victory in the making, you will see a near simultaneous increase in the numbers he leads by. Right now you can sort of read between the lines and see that many organizations are starting to cover this election exactly that way. 5 days from now, it will be the common story-line. America About to Make History”, “What Happened to John McCain”, “How Obama Will Lead Us”, etc. and the last 5 days will see this turn into a total route.

But watch out for the subterfuge. Republicans are capable of almost anything and they have supporters who are absolutely capable of anything.

UPDATE 10/26/08: Want to know what kind of "chicanery" I'm worried about?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mormons and Prop 8 in CA

I'd take it a step further. Someone should make an ad that says "Who has come in to California to try to influence our election? 40% of the advertising money in favor of Prop 8 has come from the Mormon church. Will Californians allow a small and questionable religious minority to dictate their values to the rest of us? Please support the right to determine your own personal morals without having them dictated to you by those who think Joseph Smith was a personal confidant of God. Vote No on 8".

The beauty of this ad is that most fundamentalist Christians hate the Mormons and think they are a Christian cult (yeah, the old pot and kettle, but let's play them on each other)! The ad doesn't mention homosexuality, so any bigots who are ill-informed about the initiative will only have bad feelings about it. Many people would vote against it, just knowing that the Mormons are trying to ram it down their throats... so to speak.

Obama has been projected by polling data as having a huge lead in California (up to 23% in the most recent one I read). Hopefully this will have an impact in getting this piece of hate legislation beat.

Science during this momentous election

For the 3rd year I'm blogging about the 3rd annual Beyond Belief conference, this one subtitled "Science as a Candle in the Dark", which undoubtedly many of you will recognize as a Carl Sagan catch-phrase. Indeed, the idea and Sagan are paid tribute.

This is an extraordinary moment to consider the critical role of science in a reason-based society and the amount of emphasis we are going to choose to give it as we move forward towards - wherever we end up.

While I wouldn't expect anyone reading my blog to go to the Beyond Belief site and watch every talk presented by some of our brightest minds, it would be a good idea to go there, read a little about each of the talks and see which one(s) appeal to you the most and give it your attention for a half hour.

For instance, I could make some of the following recommendations:

For the Exterminator, how about Naomi Oreski's and "This is Your Brain on Politics"? For The Chaplain, I have a sure-fire 40 minute fixation on Sam Harris doing "This is Your Brain on Morality"! And for Spanish Inquisitor, V.S. Ramachandran and "Human Flourishing".

Anyway, stop by and enjoy some of the Beyond Belief conference. Your sure to find something there that will inspire and inform.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When talking about a "Culture War"

It doesn't come come down to Republicans vs. Democrats. It can often look that way, but I've said before that it's possible to be a rational atheist and still be a conservative.

I've noticed in recent weeks that the move away from McCain and towards Obama by some of the leaders in the conservative movement just happen to be from among the intellectual elite of the Republican party.

Fortunately, that seems to be the case for a small, but significant, number of the rank and file. Notice that none of these folks abuse the English language like the semi-literates interviewed at McCain/Palin rallies. For intellectually inclined people, this is the easiest call to make since - Bush and Kerry?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Are you a liberal anti-American?

Representative Michelle Bachmann is watching out for such people. She even thinks she is surrounded by them in Congress. Guess who is Public Enemy Number 1.

Fortunately, there is rationality

And you can do something. Sign the petition to censure Bachmann.

Pick a side. It's game time.


Update 5:27 PM, PST - Boomerang! Your "Anti-America" is my Campaign Bonanza

Friday, October 17, 2008

Seriously. Pick a side.

From today's The Nation.

"But this is of little import to the Republican rank and file. For them, the fallaciousness of the whole counts for less than the suggestive appeal of the parts. All John McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates need to do is raise the insidious question--"Who is the real Barack Obama?"--and the zealots conjure the rest, along with cries of "Treason!" "Kill him!" and "Off with his head!" The virulence of such rhetoric makes even Palin seem thoughtful..."


"Such scenes are alarming not only because of the McCain campaign's willingness to stoke such murderous mania but also because of its apparent inability to control the madness once it has been unleashed. At more than one rally, McCain has been booed by the audience for attempting to interrupt panicked rants about the impending socialist or terrorist takeover of America."


"The real enablers are demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck, who have made careers out of inciting frenzied aggression at anyone to the left of Joe McCarthy. Only now it seems that even these right-wing pundits have been outdone by their formerly loyal listeners."

Full article - "Waiting for the Barbarians" by Richard Kim, The Nation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Culture Wars - Man your battle stations

You ready for 4 years of big fun?

Let's get it on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

We aren't going back there

Donna Brazile - without further comment

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comrades Bush and McCain: Socialism is the answer

Yeah. Very interesting that when unrestricted free market capitalism gets into trouble, the answer - from just about everybody - is Socialism! Huh. Who would have thunk it?

Now, question here. If we socialize banks, mortgage companies, insurance companies, etc. when THEY get in trouble, might it make sense to socialize medical care? We have at least 40 million people in desperate need. It's certainly an emergency. Just wondering...

Monday, October 13, 2008

To John McCain!

What? He claims he was locked up for a while, right? I just figured it might be good song for his campaign, since he's always looking for old rock songs to rip off against the will of the artists.

As for the rest of us - only 21 days....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Take it from a Republican

You can think whatever you want about my politics and what my motivations might be for my last couple of posts. But it's kind of hard to question a Republican former supporter of the Arizona Senator.

John McCain, you are no fool, and you understand the depths of hatred that surround the issue of race in this country. You also know that, post-9/11, to call someone a friend of a terrorist is a very serious matter. You also know we are a bitterly divided country on many other issues. You know that, sadly, in America, violence is always just a moment away. You know that there are plenty of crazy people out there.

Full Article from Frank Schaeffer of the Baltimore Sun-Times.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

This is what it comes down to

Are there Obama supporters who I would rather not associate my own views with? OF COURSE! I'm sure there are a lot of them. But the reasons I have for diverging from them aren't nearly as important as the reason I completely reject this group of McCain supporters. And I fear there are a lot more of them, many who are much worse than this. If Obama manages to win, things are going to be dangerous...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Typical Conservative Wedge Issues

What shall we discuss?

Involvement in two wars? Economy melting down? Our government torturing people? Millions of Americans having no health care? Illegal surveillance on U.S. citizens? Suspension of habeas corpus? Energy crisis? Environmental disaster on the horizon?

NO…. These aren’t ever the issues that conservatives want to talk about when it gets close to an election – presidential or otherwise. You know what’s really important.

In Groups and Out Groups

Keeping “god” in the pledge of allegiance. Preventing people from burning flags. Stopping the expansion of gay rights. Allowing prayer in schools. Kicking immigrant workers out of the country. Controlling women’s reproductive rights. Teaching creationism alongside evolution. Prevention of science on zygotes.

Us vs. Them.

With a few weeks to go in the election, the McCain campaign wants to question Obama’s patriotism, his acquaintances, his “differences” from us, his “anti-American” statements on the wars. These have followed his recent attacks on Obama for sexism and wanting to pervert kindergarteners.

It’s possible to be a rational conservative. It’s just that there are precious few of them, particularly with an election day so close. It would just be sadly comical if it weren’t for the fact that there are so many Americans hungry for the red meat of irrationality.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Evo - Voodoo Atheist

OK... so maybe I'm in to some woo. I can't help it. It seems so utterly REAL.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

And that’s the truth…

All life is evolved from other less complex life with all life inter-related.  This includes humans (Homo sapiens).  Our next closest living relatives are the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobos (Pan paniscus).  Our common ancestor with these two species lived between 5 and 7 million years ago.

A slightly more distant relative of ours is the gorilla (Gorilla) with the common ancestor of humans, chimps/bonobos and gorillas having lived about 10 million years ago.  Next in the family line from humans are orang utans (Pongo).  Humans, chimps/bonobos, gorillas and orang utans had a common ancestor that lived around 14 million years ago.  It goes on like this for each and every living species on earth. 

And that’s the truth. 

John 8:32 tells us "And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  I’m fairly certain that, whoever the author of "John" in the New Testament was, he didn’t mean it the way I’m using it here.  But truth is truth.  And like a few dozen other wise sayings that can be found in the Holy Bible, this one is right on target. 

Truth may or may not be pleasant or fit in with how we would like to see ourselves or the universe.  But when we deny the truth, we demean ourselves and become phonies.  Whatever other positive traits we may possess, we become frauds to ourselves when we deny known truths.  

Reprise in Peace

Friday, September 26, 2008

Evo's Genesis

The first book I ever read about evolution was written in 1961 by Robert Ardrey.  It was called African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man. I read it in 1971 after having been raised in a strict belief in a world created by god.  As an 18 year old,  despite going to a modern high school in a "liberal" neighborhood, I had never been taught anything about evolution.  It was an eye-popping experience for me and changed my life in many, many ways.  I decided to re-read it and am currently doing so, as you can see on my sidebar.

While reading it last night I ran into something that again caused me to pause and think.  It was not highly relevant to the subject at hand but I did find it enlightening when we look at the perplexing views on so many subjects of our fellow citizens.  I'm going to leave you with about a page from the book.  It will seem like a lot more than a page, seeing it here on a blog - but it's just a page.  Give it a read and think about how it relates to everything from conspiracy theories to devout religious belief.  As Darwin once said, "light will be thrown".

The Illusion of Central Position, so the  theory goes, is the birthright of every human baby.  He enters an unknown world.  He lies in a basket, or a cradle, or a clutch of straw.  His eyesight is vague.  Bright objects appear for his amusement, bottles and breasts for his comfort.  His groping consciousness finds no reason at all to doubt the world's consecration to his needs and purposes.  His Illusion of Central Position is perfect.

Time and growth, however, unfold experience, and most experiences disillusionment. The baby wakes in the midst of the impenetrable night and his wails command companionship.  But weary parents sleep unheeding.  the baby has encountered neglect.  Or in the bright, cheerful, morning sun the inexplicable cat may scratch him.  The baby has encountered hostility.  Or most dreadful experience of all, in a year or so a baby sister may arrive.  Now the laughter and breasts and bright objects are showered on another, and shout of the world's deceit.

Self-awareness is a human attribute; and central position, so the theory states, is its primary assumption.  But every human being throughout his entire life-span faces an unending series of experiences each of which is a disillusionment affecting the primary assumption.  We may accept the blow, reintegrate our personality to include it, and proceed with our Illusion of Central Position slightly dented; in that case we mature.  Or we may by one fanciful means or another reject the experience, escape the disillusionment, and proceed with our primary assumption intact.  In this case, of course, we fail to mature.

Human resource is a mine of great richness; and coins of many metals may ransom our illusion.  We may as far as possible renounce the challenge of experience and retire at early age behind the sheltering skirts of a co-operative mother.  Or, renouncing even her, we may find our refuge in mood and masturbation.  Or we may take a quite contrary course and accept all blows, even seek them, while we interpret every unpleasant experience as evidence of some grand conspiracy magnificently arranged against us.  By this cunning means we not only preserve intact the Illusion of Central Position; we exalt it, and see the world in its acute hostility as confirm our peculiar station. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain is losing it

And at least it isn't going unnoticed. 

And now the latest... He wants to "suspend" the Biden/Palin debate too!  Oh, I'll bet he does.  Can't blame him really.

It really doesn't say much about the Obama campaign that they aren't up by 20 points in the polls.  I guess it doesn't say much about our fellow citizens either.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Follow-up to the last post

This is how the bailout will screw you:

Bottom line - Exactly the same bottom line of my previous post.  


Monday, September 22, 2008

Economy - Get a grip, people!

Doesn’t this seem eerily familiar?

A cataclysmic moment.  George Bush and his minions have THE answer.  We have to move fast and give them the authority they request or it will be disastrous. Don’t think about it too much; just sign on if you are a “true patriot”.  United States Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson needs complete authority to use 700 Billion dollars (or more, if necessary) to bail out countless banks and other financial firms for the horrible business practices they have engaged in for years.  No oversight over Paulson’s actions.  No court powers to over-ride any decisions he makes.  Socialism for corporations as seen fit by Bush, Cheney and Paulson.  If they take over Goldman Sachs (for which Paulson worked and walked away from with a cool $38 million himself) they don’t even have to put an end to the gigantic payoffs to fired or retiring execs.


No fucking way.  Sorry.  Not again.  We know this dance and it doesn’t end well for us, for America or for freedom in general.

We thought Bush’s great culmination might be launching yet another war – perhaps on Iran.  How naive of us to think that Cheney would allow Bush to “think small” at the time for a crowning achievement.  Naomi Klein has defined the Shock Doctrine.  It’s clear how they play the game.  There is no excuse this time if we let them get away with it.  Look, we’ve been involved in our own demise in every other area.  This is a culture of greed and rampant consumerism and we loved it. We can’t just scream “BUSH DID IT”!  It was us, folks.  But for fuck’s sake, are we really going to get fooled again?  If so, we deserve everything that will happen to us.  No one should complain later about what’s happening right now.  Don’t dare play victim.  You aren’t a victim.  You are an accomplice.  Remember that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Odds of McCain Winning

I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the online gambling sites and see what they are offering in terms of odds for either Obama or McCain, should you want to back up your prediction by putting a few bucks on it.  To me, this election still seems like it could go either way with a lot riding on what happens in the next few weeks.  The oddsmakers disagree with me.  They think it's extremely likely that our next President will be Barack Obama.  

If you want to bet on McCain, you can make money faster than by being the CEO of Blackwater during a Bush Administration.  Put a cool 10 mil down on Johnny Mac and take home $15,000,000 on November 5th.  Five million dollars never came so easily!
I only mention this because these are some very serious analysts of the American electoral process.  Unlike Keith Olbermann or Joe Scarborough, they actually can lose a lot of money if they are wrong.  They are in business and not looking to give away money.  If they are offering a buck fifty for your dollar bet, they are pretty sure what the result is going to be.  Of course they are wrong "all the time".  But what you don't see is the precentage of times that they nail compared to the times they are wrong.  They could be wrong this time, but they're in the business of being right.  Bet on it.


Some non-gamblers think it's even more of a sure thing.  Polling site FiveThirtyEight, based on how things are shaping up from an electoral point of view, currently has Obama taking in 311.5 electoral votes (270 needed to elect) and rates his chances of winning at 74.4%.  

Hey, I hope all of this is accurate.  I'll still be one surprised guy if Obama wins - let alone so easily.  These are, after all, the Democrats running against the GOP machine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Economy - where do we go from here?

Hey, economics is not exactly my thing either, John.  So you and I might want to step aside and let someone take us in  a different direction.  

One thing I do understand, as a rational thinker, is that when you scream, "Free Markets" and "Drill, Baby, Drill", you are acting out a faith-based position on what form of government and economics you think actually works.  Barack Obama, clearly and in detail, articulates what needs to be done now (and why McCain is exactly the wrong choice for America) in this video at BJ Keefe's blog.  If you feel a bit undereducated on economics, take 40 minutes of your time and catch up.  John and Sarah are certainly welcome to watch and learn.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

He didn't fly far enough

There’s still a mystery about faith,” he went on. “It’s not enough just to recognize the natural impulses behind it.  You can’t live as if God exists when you secretly believe he doesn’t.  You still have to decide, somehow, whether your desire, the projected image, does or doesn’t stand for something outside your head.  And once you make the decision that it does, the decision leads to it own peculiar kind of certainty.”

So speaks our faithful protagonist, in Martin Gardner’s “The Flight of Peter Fromm”.  The book was our latest reading for the Nonbelieving Literati and it was a tortuous read for this atheist.  Not that it was badly written.  Far from it.  Unfortunately it was not ultimately simply unsatisfying.  It was disheartening.

Gardner used the character Peter as an analogy for his own slow slide into atheism.  The difference, apparently, is that Gardner actually reached a higher enlightenment of life without imaginary causations.  Peter Fromm made his flight from the Pentecostal upbringing which propelled him on to the University of Chicago and its theological studies program.  But the lines I quoted at the beginning of this post are not some mid-point in his deconversion process.  It is from the end of the book!  While he is, at this point, not much more than a deist, he is still unable to “let go”.  Sadly, that’s probably where most people end up, and I was truly left exhausted by it all.

Here is an incredibly bright young man, who studies the philosophies of virtually every major theologian of the past two thousand years and keeps finding their apologetics as coming up short.  Yet he still can’t make the final leap out.  Instead, it is his mentor, Homer, who seems to represent the final place where Gardner himself landed.

Is there no hope of reason being the ultimate safe harbor for intelligent freethinkers if they, themselves, don’t make a conscious choice to go there?  And, in fact, is it completely impossible for some people to do so?  This might be Gardner’s message and, if so, he just might be on to something.  Unfortunately.

When history mimics a Tom Clancy wild-ride

Or, "what is truly at stake on November 4th, 2008."

Did you ever read, or see the movie, A Clear and Present Danger?  If not, take a couple of hours and watch it.  It quite an energetic, fanciful journey into the heart of darkness of the hallowed halls of the CIA, NSA, FBI and the White House.  But I never imagined that it could really happen.  Of course, the last 8 years has made a fool of me.  As it has you, and all of America.

These 8 years have set an almost unthinkable precedent for what an Executive can do, contrary to the express will of the people as articulated in law by the Constitution.  And America shrugs.  Alternating through bouts of fear and complacency we have, collectively, given the green light to continue on this path.

There are many, many examples of what has “gone wrong” since 9/11 (and almost none of it is what the terrorists have done to us).  This one article encapsulates a whole lot of it.  What’s incredible is that I no longer find it incredible. 

Soon after hearing what had happened between Goldsmith and Gonzales, the vice president asked Andy Card to set up a meeting at noon with Mike Hayden, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and John McLaughlin from the CIA (substituting for his boss, George J. Tenet). Cheney spoke to them in Card's office, the door closed.

Four hours later, at 4 p.m., the same cast reconvened. This time the Justice contingent was invited. Comey, Goldsmith and Philbin found the titans of the intelligence establishment lined up, a bunch of grave-faced analysts behind them for added mass. The spy chiefs brought no lawyers. The law was not the point. This meeting, described by officials with access to two sets of contemporaneous notes, was about telling Justice to set its qualms aside.

Anyway, point is, the precedents are set.  But not set in stone.  Yet.

Would President Obama be a better President than McCain on our economic woes (related to our war woes) and in restoring fruitful relations with the major world players?  Almost certainly.  Would he be better on education, health care and developing new forms of energy to propel us through the 21st century?  Absolutely.  But all of these things are meaningless without our basic constitutional rights being restored.  Only Obama has a chance of accomplishing this task.

McCain/Palin would represent a solidification of what Bush/Cheney (or Cheney/Bush) has unleashed.  It seems like a big part of the restoration would have to include the prosecution of anyone who defied the Constitution during Bush’s presidency.  That absolutely will  not happen if McCain is elected.  Worse, the policies that Bush put in place will be followed and probably expanded.

By the end of McCain/Palin (and who knows when that would be?) America will not be America anymore.  You have to wonder if it is even now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Campaign of HOPE

Oh, hell yeah. This is what I'm talking about. Now, just don't feel guilty about it, Democrats. Embrace your inner beast and go for the jugular. Every day for 50 days, another ad like this - Please.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick on a pig

Obama wasn’t saying that Sarah Palin is a pig. That’s ridiculous. She is the lipstick in this metaphor, folks. McCain, Bush, the Republicans and the world that has been modeled by all of them is “The Pig”.

He won’t say it that way. Unfortunately. But I will.

And I’ll say to the 30 million or so out there who were for Obama 10 days ago and are for McCain today (how else can you describe it?), you are the Pig Shit.

You folks really jazzed about this flake Sarah Palin, are ya? Wow. What a fucked up country we live in. There ain’t no hope. No hope.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Punch-line: Sarah Palin

Which candidate running for either President or Vice-President this year:

1. Thinks the solution to the energy crisis is to drill our way out of it?

2. Is adamantly “pro-life” but not when it comes to capital punishment or polar bears?

3. Strongly supports “abstinence only” despite the fact it doesn’t work (as evidenced by the daughter)?

4. Rejects sex education and easily available contraception (see previous)?

5. Would allow creationism discussed in science class and doesn’t trust the science that shows a human connection to global climate change?

6. As recently as 2007 had no real opinion on the Iraq war?

7. Immediately asked – so what exactly would be my daily duties?

8. As governor badgered a subordinate into firing someone who had been a pain in civilian life, and fired the subordinate when he didn’t comply?

9. As mayor wanted to relieve the local librarian of her duties, because the librarian refused to ban books with “dirty words”?

10. Believes that when our leaders are going to send our troops into war we need to pray and make sure it’s god’s will?

Did you answer Sarah Palin? Well you should have. I already told you the punch-line!

But this is no laughing matter unless you think our country will be better off with 4 more years of the same – and moving a few godly steps closer to becoming a theocracy. That old ad hominem of “American Taliban” doesn’t seem so over-the-top anymore.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Complexity and the human desire for supernatural answers

We humans are funny. We are hard-wired to seek patterns and answers. But don’t make those answers too complicated, because we don’t like that. Up and down, good and bad, Black and white with as few colors to the rainbow as possible. Tell me the answer – quickly and easily.

I’m reading a wonderful book right now called Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. Shubin doesn’t refute creationism. He doesn’t have to. He just tells what we know from decades and centuries of scientific discoveries. As an expert in both paleontology and embryological genetics, he is uniquely positioned to provide the information. He also has a layman friendly writing style, but doesn’t dumb-down the science along the way.

I read these:

“Genes interact with each other at all stages of development. One gene may inhibit the activity of another or promote it. Sometimes many genes interact to turn another gene on or off. Fortunately, new tools allow us to study the activity of thousands of genes in a cell at once. Couple this technology with new computer-based ways of interpreting gene function and we have enormous potential to understand how genes build cells, tissues, and bodies.”

And a little later:

It is hard not to feel awestruck watching an animal assemble itself. Just like a brick house, a limb is built by smaller pieces joining to make a larger structure. But there is a huge difference. Houses have a builder, somebody who actually knows where all the bricks need to go; limbs and bodies do not. The information that builds limbs is not in some architectural plan but is contained within each cell. Imagine a house coming together spontaneously from all the information contained in the bricks: that is how animal bodies are made.”

Those really got me to thinking about us Homo sapiens. Not about our bodies; but about our minds and how we incorporate information into our daily existence. Grasping the complexity of just this one small part of biology is not easy. We live in a society in which some of us feel flabbergasted that others can’t learn that there are no racial differences beyond what we can see with our eyes. Sure, there are cultural differences, and race has played a part because we section ourselves off according to various criteria for in-groups and out-groups. Once isolated, groups diverge culturally. But it has nothing to do with fundamental genetics. We see people everywhere who seem incapable of grasping very basic ideas and living according to them. How much more difficult would it be, then, to expect them to have a deep understanding of biological functions, or geologic reality, or anything about the nature of the universe?

We want things simple. We strive to limit complications of all sorts. We get up, brush our teeth, go to the kitchen for coffee, and sit down to scan the newspaper (or check it on the Internet). With those few motions, we could have instead done any of billions of other actions. But we didn’t. We committed to that line of behavior because it is easy to form a habit structure and stick to it. It’s extremely difficult to do dramatically different actions. Our very nature fights against it. And this is where things get dangerous for many, many people.

Rather than face the complexities that have been revealed by science, it is so much less complicated to attribute all of what we don’t know, or are uncertain about, to some unseen force and leave it at that. It requires a tremendous act of will for those of us who want to expand our horizons by learning out at the edges of our cumulative knowledge. Most people simply lack the will to do so and instead succumb to the easy answer. Especially when whatever answer is chosen can even provide a solution to the things that science can not. It’s both uncomplicated and all-encompassing.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Islam, free speech, understanding and bewilderment

Recently, the blogger Question Everything asked what religion is the biggest threat to the secular world? Most of us answered Islam. This is a tough one (even after 9/11) for many American freethinkers to wrap our heads around. We see our freedoms constantly encroached upon, primarily by various Christian cults of the bloody sacrifice. It's quite natural to fend off the hornet buzzing around your face, even while a malignant tumor insensibly grows in your abdomen.

Pat Condell, as a Brit, has had a lot to say about "The Religion of Peace". Here's his most recent:

Our friend Lynet over at Elliptica believes we should have a bit more compassion about what might be going on in the heads of theists and others. She argues that we can be as bad as them when we fail to understand the commonalities we all share that can lead to seeing the world differently. But how can we, when you have things like this in the world? It's very, very difficult.

I'm not sure which religion we Yanks should be most focused on. I do believe that, ultimately, Islam is the much greater threat to a humanist society. Let's not miss an opportunity to point it out.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

More cool science

Not that I "have a life" but, as much as I enjoy science, I have a hard time listening to NPR on Friday nights so that I can catch "Science Friday" with Ira Flatow (pronounced "phlato"). I was out and about last night and caught the show. It was immensely entertaining and they clued me in to this video from their website. Watch it and understand what makes science so interesting to me.

"Imagine everything you see in those videos being controlled by a computer that could fit inside a poppy seed"

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brilliant Palin Analysis

I'm not a huge fan of Steny Hoyer but, boy, does he nail it on McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. This is short but very sweet. When comparing the "temperament and judgment" of McCain and Obama, start by looking at the first decision each made.

Senator Joe Biden vs. Sarah Palin

Is this the biggest mismatch in the history of presidential elections? Not really. We have Senator Lloyd Benson's towering figure over the pathetic Dan Quayle. Here's how I imagine the debate between Biden and... what was her name again?

She’s making vacuous comments about the rights of the unborn trumping a woman’s right to control her reproductive organs but, on the other hand, we should be able to execute criminals. Camera shots shows Biden with a look of distaste and disdain on his face while she’s talking. She reiterates her position that gays and lesbians shouldn’t have legal partnerships. Biden talks about the importance of giving children the best science education possible. She repeats the inane "we must teach the controversy".

She finally invokes the names of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, at which point Biden says,

“Have you ever even met Senator Clinton? I don’t believe you have. Of course you’ve only been the Governor of Alaska for 2 years, so you probably haven’t even had the opportunity yet. I can tell you that she has never been under investigation for trying to get a former in-law fired from a government job. You certainly don’t share any of her values. Governor, I've known Senator Clinton since you were in junior high and have worked closely with her for over 20 years. I know her very, very well. And Governor, you are no Hillary Clinton"

All of my characterizations of Palin are dead-on. Does it really even matter how the rest of the debate goes?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Question for Tim Kaine

The Governor of Virginia just finished up his speech at the Democratic National Convention. You may remember that he was one of the "finalists" as Obama was vetting potential V.P. candidates.

My question to Tim is - do you think you could try to use the word "faith" just a bit more? Really, I didn't fully get the feeling of being at a wild west revival meeting when you only mention faith 50 times. I was moved by the whole "move mountains" metaphor but it just wasn't quite enough. Consider ending your next speech with a prayer.

Now my question to you folks - how happy are you that Obama ended up taking Biden instead of this clown. My greatest fear in the last couple of weeks was what Obama might do with this pick. Good job, Barack. At least now, should they kill you, we'll be left with a real President, and not a wannabe priest.

Holy shit...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Faith and God at the Democratic Convention

This subject is being more than adequately covered all over the Atheosphere so I won't say too much. I just want to point out that nearly every speech I've heard weaves "faith" and/or "god" into its fabric. If you are watching, look for this and if you notice anyone who fails to uphold the party line, please report their heathen ass in a comment here.

Here's my question - did the Obama campaign make a conscious effort to ask all speakers to try to do this, or is it just that they are all basically religious people and it comes natural? Or is it a little of both?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Please join me in honoring Senator John McCain and his service to our country as a PRISONER OF WAR!

Did you know that John McCain served as a fighter pilot during the Viet Nam War? I believe few know he was shot down. Most importantly, he was held in a POW camp for 5 ½ years! Well Yeah, he was, and the Democrats better keep their mouths shut because, I’m telling you, the guy is an American Hero. These facts are little known right now. But I’m pretty sure the McCain campaign will get around to mentioning it even though the Great Man himself is very, very reluctant to rely on playing the POW card.

Do some research if you want to know what’s going on with this little talked about story.

Update: And this.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Strongest Challenge to my Views

Fist, take a look at this and then I’ll respond and I invite you to do so also.

OK. Good points, articulated with reason. I wouldn't expect a tough challenge to be presented from a theistic argument. It doesn’t anger me to have to deal with objections to my world-view raised in this manner. But deal with them, I shall.

I think it is quite possible that there are advantages to having a set of moral imperatives that everyone in society is expected to rally around. I can certainly see how, in the evolutionary environment, the laws "given by gods” and enforced by tribal leaders, obeyed and revered by members, led to a cohesiveness that would have been otherwise impossible.

But there are many things that we have evolved to “do” or “be” that we now discard. Other things we modify. But we are nothing special minus our intellect, with our ability to contemplate and conceptualize.

To say that we don’t accept many of our old gut-level instincts (usually reinforced by sacred beliefs) is not to say that we don’t have a set of values that we tentatively treat as absolute, even if we are now bright enough to know there is no such thing. As recently as 200 years ago, the Founders, acting within the higher principles of enlightenment, created a society that treated females as second-class citizens (based on the old morals). Happily, we didn’t hold that as an absolute. Many other moral codes are falling or changing.

If some members of our developing society become overwhelmed and desperate because the old “objective” (read: god given) morals are being pushed aside for new “subjective” (read: arrived at, tentatively, by reason) then those people must necessarily fall by the wayside. It’s either that, or a society, clinging to “objective” morals will defeat the forces of humanism and we will have a rebirth of the Dark Ages. A highly cohesive society, running under strict, god-given principles is an enemy of secularism that will not easily be defeated. They do have an advantage in unity of thought that we will never have.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Are Christians less intelligent?

We discussed this issue in depth on Another Goddamned Podcast in our 16th podcast (go to segment 3), and I don’t want to go over too much of the same ground. But I do want to say that it seems clear to me that, on average, Christians are less intelligent than atheists.

Can someone please do the following study?

3 groups of 500 people.

Group A – completely random sampling of U.S. adults: includes theists of many faiths, no religious affiliation, agnostics and atheists.

Group B – random sample of U.S. adults who are fundamentalist Christians.

Group C – random sample of U.S. adults who are atheists.

Administer the same intelligence test to all three groups and compare the findings. Does anyone seriously doubt that the test results would show Group C higher than Group A and significantly higher than Group B?

If I’m right, isn’t it fair to mention this? People should feel silly for participating in religious activities.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Horus the Christ and other ancient myths

I've seen and read any number of things showing the links between Christinsanity and other, older, myths of ancient peoples. But this is a concise, yet comprehensive gathering together of facts that all Christians should have to watch right before their final decision on baptism. But wait! It's not too late even after that to allow reason to reign supreme. Thanks to Andrea, The Nerd for posting these 3 videos (10 minutes each).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Long over due

Unlike the Chief over at You Made Me Say It or Spanish Inquisitor at, you guessed it, Spanish Inquisitor, I have been pretty bad at basic blog maintenance. I think it's been over six months since I added any blogs on my sidebar.

So, Saturday night upkeep. If you have, for some reason, missed any of these blogs then I recommend you stop by sometime and check them out. They are (in order I first visited them)

Sean at Sean the Blogonaut, CL Hansen at Letters from a Broad, Tommy at Exercise in Futility, Yunshui at Right To Think, DB at An Inevitable Conflict and Question Everything at None of the Above.

You can find the links on the sidebar.

This should insure each of you at least one extra hit in the next 12 months. Hey, you're good. You deserve it.

Additionally, you might have noticed another new link on the sidebar. It's to a site called the Atheist Nexus. I think Sean the Blogonaut is already a member. We should all join. They have over 3,000 atheists in the network now.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Pat Condell is at it again. Can we get this guy his own TV show?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Fables from facts

The first book we read for the Nonbelieving Literati was Julian, by Gore Vidal. In my essay I proposed that humanity needs a new mythology. Here’s some of what I said:

What will be the mythology that will replace Christianity, Islam and Judaism?

When the explanation isn’t working, we re-write (or re-tell), the mythological premise. This has happened time and again, since long before we had a written history.

Science is our story – our mythology. It seems that one of the greatest callings of religion has been as an explanation for everything, including what happens to us after death. While science does not explain everything, everything it does explain is elucidated more clearly and accurately than the teaching of any religion that ever existed.

I didn’t have Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino in mind. But it’s a start. It’s certainly great writing – much better than the trash they call The Holy Comics Bible. When it comes to pure prose, I want someone to show me a book of that bible that is better written.

But more importantly, he makes fables out of scientific facts. Bear with me!

Calvino takes facts about the universe – the Big Bang, formulation of the elements, evolution, dinosaurs, etc. and wraps them in various “fables”. The character who just happens to exist prior to and during all of these things is there to reveal universal truths, without claiming to have actually “caused” any of it. You get the science and you get a myth. Again, it’s not exactly what I was talking about in my other essay, but it’s one way of doing it – and a very fun and insightful way to boot!