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.