Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
Steve James's blog
Lucky me! Apparently, my soul mate from Ghana has found me on my blank, semi-abandoned Myspace page! Had a lovely an entertaining chat session with her--also got some very professional phots that I cannot really post here.
But I saved a chat log from the session if anyone is interested. Forgive the chat spelling and typos. I'll correct any of my more egregious screwups, but leave hers intact.
Her screen name is "God Time is the best Appiah" and this is literally the first contact with her.
The problem with the current 'support the troops' mentality for me is that, simply enough, it works for every country and war no matter what the circumstances.
For Germans in 1940, it worked for the heroic defense of the fatherland from the French, where the troops, under civilian control, changed the enemy regime to a friendly ally, despite the efforts of insurgents and dead-enders like the terrorist Degaulle.
For Germans in 1914, it worked for the troops instituting the civilian policy of terrorization of occupied populations in order to secure rear areas from insurgents.
In 1956, it worked for the Red Army in restoring the lawful government of Hungary. And so on before and after.
It separates the moral consequences of participation from the actions participated in.
And if those examples seem out of line, remember this: they are MORE justified than the current conflicts they mirror because the bulk of troops in those examples were conscripts who had no choice at all, rather than well-paid volunteers and professional mercenaries, who participate willingly. (Albeit some less than others.)
Spent some time today messing around tracking a chain email from a guy named Joe Porter out of Illinois who took the trouble as a purported independent to tout John McCain in a long-winded and substanceless way. I'm sure the piece is getting around, but has little web presence so far, probably because it's so stereotypical. It's theme is, essentially that the author is the possessor of immense Republican street cred, being:
46 years old, a born-again Christian, a husband, a father, a small business owner, a veteran, and a homeowner
And that, while being a POW for five years does not qualify someone to be President, John McCain is qualified to be President because he spent 5 years as a POW.
That's pretty much it.
Sarah Palin doesn't matter. John McCain doesn't matter. Obama doesn't even matter.
Both parties could run lampposts for office and get the same results. That Republican lampposts could do less damage than their candidiates is irrelevant because people would vote for them anyway along party lines.
My cynicism is based on the observation that, while individual people tend to think like Democrats--generally in favor of the proposition that government should help people who need help--when in groups, people tend to think like Republicans--other peoples' problems are just that, and government should help people who are deserving of help, i.e. "us".
The basically tribal nature of humans means that they will act as their group identity suggests to retain that group membership, regardless of the suicidal outcome of that action. Since they want to go along with the group, they are very suceptible to being told what the group thinks by anyone in the group who cares to do so.
Wait until you see the atrocity that is 'The Dark Knight." And you will see it no matter what I say, anyway, won't you? I've tried to keep this spoiler-free, despite the fact that whatever unpredictability the moth-eaten plot has is based on the surprise being completely inexplicable in context. So forgive me if it's a bit vague in places.
The latest Batman film, lauded by fan and critic alike, was apparently replaced at my theatre with another similarly-titled film in which Iron Man fought the killer from Saw, who is intent on reproducing the last ten minutes of Spiderman II over and over again. Everyone in the film is either an idiot or an omniscient genius, but either way, they are the most unobservant bunch of people ever put on film. The whole movie would have sputtered to an instant conclusion if the city cell phone network had gone down. And even The Simpsons has lampooned 'The Only Bridge Out of Town'. And the first moment Batman is on screen, he is bending the barrel of a gun unto a U-shape. I think somebody was looking on the wrong page of their comics reference guide when they wrote all of the super strength + flying scenes in for Batman.
My very first blog post, from that other, dead blog.
Let's start with who I am. Good question. If I knew that, why would I need a blog?
Of course, I don't actually need one, do I ? I mean, this is my first entry. So presumably I do actually know the answer. It stands to reason.
I suppose I'll have to just let anyone who happens to read this decide who I am over time. Don't say I didn't warn you, because I didn't, and so I know that, Captain Obvious.
I'm a degreed person, which means I have successfully completed university studies. Unlike many people, I mean that--completed. I have no wish to return. Many people I know continually talk about returning to further their education. It makes me wonder what they've been doing. Life is certainly an education if you're paying attention at all.
They also frequently express a belief that I, too, should further my education. Go back to school, get another degree, get a PhD, become a lawyer or a doctor--do something with yourself.
Once upon a time, I had a Xanga blog. Why, I'm not sure. Today I went back and decided to delete it, but I wanted to keep a few of the posts, even though they are long out of date. So I'm posting some here. Likely, since the site was just about inaccessible, nobody has ever read them. Although the same is likely true here, of course. I will store the movie reviews somewhere, since they're from 2005 or so, and drop some of the more general observations here. Like this one:
Pretty much everybody thinks life sucks, at least in that internal non-objective part of themselves that keeps looking at the best imagined possibility. Everyone. Hugh Hefner may be the lone exception, but he probably has his bitter moments, too.
As a recovering Libertarian, I can tell you that sometimes unworkable ideas look pretty good on paper. Then again, you have to wonder what kind of people think the platform of The Constitution Party looks good on paper. Perhaps they don't read.
They just had their convention, highlighted by an attempt by Alan Keyes to hijack their party, ala the Reform Party and Pat Robertson--if any of you remember that.
Keyes, whose apparent claim to fame is as a national figure who loses elections, couldn't even win that election. They elected this guy http://www.chuckbaldwinlive.com/ Chuck Baldwin, "a Radio Talk Show host, syndicated columnist, and pastor dedicated to preserving the historic principles upon which America was founded." In for a penny, I guess.
Okay, via the wonderfully horrifying FTSTDT, this post
Is a disjointed diatribe on why contraception is bad. But it takes reading to see how far up the crackpot scale this goes.
Worth noting: From this article, he (It's doubtless a He. Isn't it?) doesn't appear to be a Christian Fundy. He's arguing on the basis of evolution, in a manner of speaking.
This site's mission statement:
"The human race is currently in an ugly contraceptive zombie state of dogmatic sexual repression."
So you've got some idea what you're in for. I suppose it has some context with the recent fundy Mormon controversy, though...
Steve "Does this person KNOW any women at all?" James
Some days, there's nothing I like better than to go find a forum somewhere where a Christian (normally) is trying to convert an atheist.
I used to be a regular forum poster at Austin Cline's About Atheism forum, but after a year or so, I seemed to have little enough to say any more. But I still like to read them, even if responding to the threads seems pointless any more. I hope to regain some desire for re-engagement soon, but it's no challenge to plink at such a large target. OE's (Online Evangelists) are a game permanently stuck in god mode. And like video game zombies, there are always hordes more of them banging on the door, no matter how easily they go down.
But I do enjoy reading the fight, especially in the morning. It angries up the blood.
This morning, on the forum of my local newspaper, The Indianapolis News (which is either a wholly-owned organ of the Republican Party or staffed entirely by Gun-snatching, Constitution-hating, ACLU-membering Nazi Communists, depending on who is complaining at the time), I read through a lengthy and pointless...and ongoing...clash between an atheist and an OE.
Wired has a list of celebrities and their stats as AD&D Characters. The link above goes to Richard Dawkins.
Steve "2nd Level Atheist Blogger. I gotta go farm me some Jesus zombies." James
Over on Scienceblogs, there's a bit of a debate in various quarters about "Framing" in dealing with creationists and religious anti-science zealots. On one side, are those who confront the zealots directly, like Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers and others, by pointing out their lies, logical flaws and egregious misunderstandings in no uncertain terms. On the other side is mainly Matt Nisbet, a communications theorist, who seems to suggest that the message would get across better by expressing scientific positions in ways that would not offend the zealots--especially not using people who would tend to offend them.
Here's a nice place to start reading up on the issue: http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2008/04/the_trouble_with_framing_t...
And my two zlotys on the matter (also posted as a comment on Pharyngula):
I'm a tech support professional.
Anyone who deals at length with technical support organizations will probably sympathize with the feeling that technical and communications skills seem inversely proportional.
I've about had it with the phrase "Commander-in-Chief."
Every day, the political noise machines of all parties tell us who they think would be a better Commander-in-Chief.
I've got news for them: We're electing a President, not a C-in-C.
The title belongs to the office of president as a means to retain civilian control of the armed forces, not because he--or she--is supposed to lead those forces. Symbolically, yes, but not in many other ways. Congress, in fact, is tasked with their regulation. The President is just the Secretary of Defense's supervisor.
For this "President-as-war-leader" meme, we have to thank, as with many destructive political and social contructs of late, George W. Bush, who struts around playing dress-up in military-style uniforms at every opportunity. He's "The Commander Guy." He delights in the trappings of war and it's infecting public discourse when it should be causing disgust. Worship of the military is what the other guys do--the ones we raise armies to fight, remember? And worshipping generals is much worse than worshipping soldiers.
On my route today, I drove by a rather prosperous looking church. You know the kind. They have a message board by the road. Some of these are used to announce sermon topics or upcoming activities, like fish fries, Christmas pageants or book burnings. A lot of them, however, are used to harangue passerby with a Christian Thought of the Day.
The ubiquitousness of this practice leads me to believe that there is an extremely successful sign salesman somewhere with a free book of profound-sounding quotations, like 'Let Go or Let God.'
Today, the sign said, "The Greatest Evil is our Indifference towards Evil."
I gave this statement some careful though, as one is able to do when one has forty miles of rural interstate to drive and a broken XM radio.
This statement says a great deal about Christianity.
One reason is that the sign itself is symbolic of the Christian insistence on getting out in your face with their Righteousness. This is the building equivalent of a street preacher condemning passing strangers for their sins. This sign doesn't mean that this church has a problem with indifference to evil. It means that they think you do.
Once upon a time, there was a thing called a bumper sticker. These are still sold in many venues, of course, but in the old days, people would actually affix these to their automobiles--and not just in election years.
It was, in fact, the preferred means of amusing, insulting, confusing, threatening, and/or lecturing your fellow drivers about whatever you thought was important at the time.
While careful watching will uncover traditionalists who still imperil their paint jobs with adhesives, modern man has devised other ways to execute drive-by shooting-off-of-the-mouth. (Technically, it's the shooting off of a hired mouth, but, nevertheless...)
One way is, of course, The Fish.
Popular on expensive vehicles like those driven by Christ, these warn one and all that the driver considers himself a Christian and can't bear that you don't know it. Its counter-talisman is a fish with legs or other variations thereof, which warn one and all that the driver has had enough of people with fish on their cars.
I've been thinking about the premise of The Fall which is central to the Abrahamic faiths. Even more important than the various methods of saving the soul from sin is the principle of why sin exists and why one needs to be saved from it. In addition, it has acted as a backward-looking brake on the progress of mankind because it asserts that once everything was great, but now things have decayed--which makes obvious that regression is more profitable than progress.
In my view, Christmas is the most atheistic holiday of all. Or at least anti-Christian.
Mind you, I don't mean that odd little religious holiday of the same name--the one with Baby Jesus and Three Kings and Manger scenes.
I mean the one that tends to be celebrated: The obvious parody of the Chrisatian holiday. Instead of Jesus, we have Santa Claus, who could be described as "What God would be like if he had a sense of proportion." He brings gifts instead of eternal life and coal instead of eternal hellfire. He has magical powers as ridiculous as those of Jesus, like the ability to climb chimneys and make ruminants fly, which are much more useful than Jesus' 'casting out demons into pigs' kind of thing.
He's a clearly what Jesus would be if he was real. Nobody would ever consider nailing this omnibenevolent deity to anything, would they? Nor does he hold anything against you longer than a year.
Of course, only the very young or foolish actually believe he exists. And a mark of maturity is the admission that he doesn't. People who believe are ridiculed...just as it should be. All it takes is a critical look at the evidence. That's the purpose of 'Fat Man + Chimney' after all: to make the impossibility more obvious for children.
Instead of angels, there are elves. But these spirits have a job. No cavorting with prophets for these guys. They've got work to do. Instead of Heaven above, there's the North Pole, which is also 'all the way up' (at least on a map) and just as demonstrably 'not there' as a home for a god.
Look around the holiday displays. You'll see that my atheistic Christmas is the one that gets celebrated most. I know a place where a guy has a manger scene with Frosty, Rudolph and Santa as the Three Kings.
This holiday is one big fart in the face to Baby Jesus and his followers, who plague us all the days of the year with their pious irrationality and proposed legislation.
So when I say "Merry Christmas" I mean "Have a good time mocking the bizarre rituals of Christians."
Steve "There was a war on Christmas, but Christmas lost ages ago." James
Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the Hells
All the damned ones were stirring
and making bad smells
The children were hung
by the chimneys with care
So they would by morning
be medium rare.
The demons were nestled
all snug in their beds
with visions of sugar plums
all ripped to shreds
And Ma in her spiked heels
had just settled down
To an evisceration.
When out on the lava
arose such a shrieking
that I rose from my coffin
To see who was freaking.
I have two phones. One is the equivalent of a yahoo.com email spam trap. It gets cited or listed whenever I'm required to cite one, and so when that line rings, I know it's no one I actually know. But I do occasionally answer it, just because I sometimes feel like messing with telemarketers. And I do get surveys on it sometime, which I always take, since it's good to get one's position known.
A few moments ago, an automated survey called me. It asked me about my position regarding abortion. Press One, it said, if you are Pro-Life. Press 9 if you are in favor abortion rights.
Okay, so far so good. I'm a 9, as it happens. I pressed.
The response: "Thank you for being Pro-Life. Now more than ever we need like-minded people to help us reach our goal in the next congress." And went on from there in a self-congratulatory glurge about how great it was that I thought like they do and how if they could just mobilize the five million pro-life families they could get their program through.
I wondered if somehow I had misheard or pressed the wrong button.
Now, I have my position here and other people have different ones, but that's not what this is about. What it's about is that now someone has paid for a survey in which I will be cited statistically with a position not my own.
(Note: Now that I have this place, I'm going to drop in what I consider some other worthy thoughts which I have previously posted in a limited manner elsewhere. This is one.)
I was at this party last night, taking a smoke break outside with one of the fellows there when another guest walks by us and says, â€œHow can you believe in god and still smoke?â€
Now, this particular guest was a 12-year-old girl, and the fellow smoking with me is a Hindu, so itâ€™s not as if any sort of actual answer was required, but it set off an interesting chain of reasoning in my head. After all, moral reasoning like that is one of the things that helped me become an atheist. It signaled to me that the leaders of my particular church were just making things up. They were starting with a premise of what they considered moral and then finding some way to biblically justify it.
The smoking question was one of those points that baffled me. Obviously, tobacco was unknown to the Roman world. How, then, could the Bible have prohibited it? Well, I was told, we are commanded to treat our body as a temple.
So, yesterday, after I heard the child spout off in this way, I started thinking about that. A temple, eh? Well, if thatâ€™s true, how would that analogy work?