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.
I had never even heard of Sarah Palin until Vox Day picked her as the VP nominee two full days before it was announced by the McCain camp. (How the heck did you see that one coming, Vox?)
Now, a week or so later, I am a bit worried.
You see, like Mrs. Palin's future son-in-law Levi, I'm also a fuckin' redneck. I like to to camp, hunt, ride dirt bikes, shoot guns, and hang out with the boys. Like Todd and Sarah, I too have five kids. I worked in blue-collar, 12 hours a day, up-to-your-elbows-in-grease jobs most of my adult life. I like country music. I wear a cowboy hat. I ride horses. I drink Coors Light. I listen to the Blue Collar Comedy guys, and think Larry The Cable Guy is an unsung comedy genius.
Like I said - a redneck.
The one thing I don't share with my farmer-tanned brethren is god belief. I don't have any, but most of them do. This places me into a really weird position politically. For most of my life I voted Republican. Heck, I was a conservative Republican. But the overt and covert religiosity, and the growing dominionist, theocratic themes in the GOP turned me away. I switched over to the Libertarian Party - but it's not a great fit for me either. I don't think I'll ever be a registered Democrat. I just don't identify with enough of their platform. That's not to say that I won't vote for a Democrat though, or for a Republican for that matter, if I decide that they happen to be the best person for the job.
In any case, my point is that Sarah Palin could have stood up at the Republican National Convention and read the phone book (well, People Magazine, anyway,) and the redneck "Get 'er Done!" folks would have still voted for her - not McCain alone - in droves.
I am *already* hearing it from my redneck friends and family members. "She's just like us!" They exclaim. "That nice Levi boy is going to marry Bristol, and she's not going to kill her baby! And her mom supports her!" And what about "Iron Dog" Todd Palin, commercial fisherman, champion snowmobile racer, and oil field worker? "The First Dude is a real man - did you hear how he finished a snowmobile race with a broken arm? Very cool. I think it'd be awesome to hang out with him and have a beer." Not to mention the absolutely golden video of little Piper Palin licking her hand and smoothing down Baby Trig's hair was about the cutest thing they say they've ever seen.
Do not underestimate the redneck vote. They will rise up in a flurry of mullets and "Who Farted" hats and absolutely crush Obama and Biden if those two don't get their poop in a group and do something quickly. (Here's a tip, Barack my friend; I like you, but ease up on the anti-gun stuff, and please try to stop coming across like an Ivy League asshole when you talk to us regular joes. It's going to lose you this election if you're not careful.)
I don't know if McCain made this choice, or if it was orchestrated by Rove, but whoever did it thought it through. It is either an act of sheer genius that will sweep McCain into the Oval Office, or Palin will self-destruct even past the point where getting the redneck vote can save her. The Republicans are betting that she holds it together, obviously, and she well might.
If she does hold it together, then we might all be in a lot of trouble. Because make no mistake about it, she is a far, FAR right religious theocrat who has used her political power in the past to endorse her own wacky theology. She seems to believe that she was chosen by her God to do well in the political arena, spurred by her prophetic pastor's encouragement from his pulpit - and the VP nod is only going to fuel their conviction that she is being supported supernaturally by Binky The Magic Space Clown (or whoever she thinks made the universe with magic.)
In short, we've got to win this one folks. If we don't, we're screwed. McCain is just too damned frail to have someone like Palin sitting in the on-deck spot.
Your thoughts? What am I missing here? Is it as bad as I think it is?
There's a line from a Babylon 5 episode (I'm a big fan of the series) which has always stuck with me. Several characters are discussing the political situation on Earth following the imposition of martial law. One character says that people love it - crime is down, things are calm, peaceful.
"Yeah, the peace of the gun," replies another character.
And that, my friends, is what we have today, here in the US. Specifically, in one small city in Arkansas:
HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. - Officers armed with military rifles have been stopping and questioning passers-by in a neighborhood plagued by violence that's been under a 24-hour curfew for a week.
On Tuesday, the Helena-West Helena City Council voted 9-0 to allow police to expand that program into any area of the city, despite a warning from a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas that the police stops were unconstitutional.
Yesterday Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, presented 35 Articles of Impeachment on the floor of the House of Representatives.
And today I can’t find it on the mainstream media at all, anywhere. ABC, CNN, MSNBC — even the BBC has let readers down.
I have found a very brief story on Reuters, but it makes the point several times that the effort is not expected to go anywhere.
Bob Fertik, President of Democrats.com, said: “Some might question why Congressman Kucinich has done this now. My question is why 434 other Congress Members have not done it before. Despite the uncountable and unspeakable crimes this administration has committed, George Bush and Dick Cheney remain in power and immune from prosecution. Congress must impeach Bush and Cheney now - before they further abuse their power by pardoning [everyone involved] for all of their crimes.”
You can read the full text of the Articles of Impeachment here.
Thirty-five detailed reasons why Bush should be impeached, 7 years of lies and deception and theft and death, 7 years at the helm while America’s power and prestige eroded away, 7 years of assaults on the environment, on freedoms, on the economy, on our own belief in Justice.
All vanishing into silence, into indifference, so that Bush and company just ... get away with it. Retiring rich and powerful, giving speeches at $50,000 a whack, writing books twisting history for their own pleasure, and a gutless, ball-less American media — and a Democratic congress, it must be said — just sitting back and letting it happen.
You can find out more about it at www.Democrats.com .
I find myself conflicted. I have no ready resolution to my problem. As it says in my introduction on the sidebar, I'm a liberal libertarian with conservative leanings. What that really means is that I'm a registered Independant who doesn't concur with the party platform of the Republicans and Democrats. I am, with caveats, an Objectivist. I may address the hows and whys of those tenents at another time. I promised my conundrum though, and here it is.
These parents allowed their child to die because of their religious beliefs. They allowed a sentient being, a person with their whole life ahead of them, to perish because they believed that if their daughter was worthy, or their prayers fervent enough, she'd be healed by their magic sky fairy. They have murdered their daughter. I use that term, murder, intentionally. They have willfully denied their daughter medical care and because of that she is no more. This is especially tragic to me given that I'm an atheist. Without an afterlife to "live" for, or to transit to post-death, this result, death, is the worst outcome possible in my view. The parents failure to obtain proper medical care for a perfectly treatable condition is a travesty of both life and liberty.
The "State" is not necessary for many things. We are an over-regulated people in America. We have laws governing many of our behaviours. Of these laws, I believe most to be at best unnecessary, at worst intrusive. My conundrum lies in the straight fact that I'd like what these parents have done to be illegal. I WANT state intervention because I can't think of another way to handle such a case. This couple's daughter should be alive today. I'm not feeling my libertarian edge right at this moment and I'd like it back. Help?
I've heard and seen much mockery focused on the Tom Cruise Scientology video over the past couple of days. (I apologize if that link no longer works, but the video has been on and off the net and that's the best link I can find at the time of this article.) The truth is, while I believe that atheists (especially agnostic atheists), in general, have a leg to stand on in this case, I don't think the rest of the godders, or innumerable other groups, do. Let's look at a few things that Cruise says.
Tom Cruise: ...I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it’s something that you have to earn because a Scientologist does... has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions. Being a Scientologist, you look at someone and know absolutely that you can help them.
"But that’s what drives me... I know that we have an opportunity to really help... effectively change people’s lives and I am dedicated to that. I am absolutely, uncompromisingly dedicated to that.
Replace the words “Scientologist” with the words Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Nazi, Feminist, Vegan, vegetarian, socialist, communist, capitalist, geek, Sikh, or even self help guru and you'll see what I mean. This statement, minus the maniacal laughter, could have come from any of the groups I listed and a whole lot more. Let's move on to the next set; shall we?
more below the fold
Richard Carnes writes a bi-weekly column for the Vail Daily newspaper. This week he wrote a really good piece called "Atheist is not a four-letter word". Read it and you'll find the same points that we make here at UTI all the time.
[Richard Carnes] Atheist is not a four-letter word. Neither is it a euphemism for devil worshiper, totalitarian dictator, child molester or moral-free heathen who reads “Nietzsche for Dummies” for philosophical reference.
An atheist is simply a non-theist, meaning one who does not believe in the existence of gods.
I liked the article, but I had to respond to one of the Christian commenters on the story.
Not only does commenter "frelor" seem to completely mis-understand Richard Carnes' very clear prose, but he also has some pretty wacky ideas about atheism, how to raise good Christian
robotschildren, and a masterful plan to out-breed the dreaded Muslim menace.
More below the fold...
Former British spy David Shayler has cleared up the confusion for Christians all over the world. That's right, you Christian folks can stop worrying about that whole "second coming" deal because, well, David Shayler is the Messiah.
How do I know it's true, you say? Well, because David says that it's true - and the Messiah can't lie. Duh.
[David aka the Christ conciousness] "I am the last incarnation of the Holy Ghost (aka the Holy Spirit) or the Yeshua or Jesus Spirit (aka the Christ consciousness).
As the Holy Spirit is God incarnate as essence, I am God incarnated as spirit and man.
It is absolutely clear to me that the world is going to hell in a handcart. Few would dispute that humanity needs a Messiah to get it through these difficult times.
This is all rather embarrassing for someone who was an atheist technocrat three years ago. And I am painfully aware how mad all this sounds."
No, no, David, I don't think that you are aware at how completely and utterly insane you sound. Otherwise you wouldn't be calling news conferences to spotlight your lunacy.
David's mother was not available for comment.
It would seem that the bureaucracy is winning out over theocracy over in China. I must admit that they have a novel approach.
Tibet’s living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission from China’s atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to assert Beijing’s authority over Tibet’s restive and deeply Buddhist people.
That's right. There will be absolutely no reincarnating without a permit.
Giving Landover Baptist a run for their money! Baptists For Brownback 2008!
[link] Today, in an America filled with adulterers and baby-killers, an even worse sinner casts a shadow over them all—the atheist. Yet atheists are difficult to spot. They hide their sinister cult behind masks of smiles, science and soft, pleasant voices. Your next door neighbor might be an atheist. You just can’t tell.
Imagine if it was simple to identify atheists and their tainted works. Would it not be grand? Think how much easier it would be to protect your children’s eyes, ears and souls from atheists’ influences if their websites, books, movies and yes, even their very clothes, were clearly labeled with a bright scarlet “A”.
Curses! Those godly folks have somehow conspired to place one of those scarlet "A"s on UTI as well! Now if I can only keep UTI from being listed on their Hellbound list... **shakes fist**
Just out of curiosity, I took the test.
And guess what? I'm a Unitarian Universalist. 100%, according to the test. No, really. It seems that they don't have an "Atheist" category (gee, isn't that surprising). It isn't even an option for the test, though if you poke around on their site a bit, you can find a page that says that there are such creatures as atheists and agnostics. The page is all of four sentences long:
Atheists do not believe in a god or deity. Atheists' beliefs are similar to those of the Secular Humanists but do not necessarily include the emphasis on humanity's ability to improve the human condition. Views on contemporary issues vary widely.
Agnostics are inclined to question the existence of supernatural being(s) or a force, e.g., the answer to whether or not God (or Deity) exists would be: "We do not and/or cannot know."
Kevin Tillman is Pat Tillman's brother. Kevin and Pat joined the Army as brothers in 2002, and ended up serving together in Afghanistan and Iraq. On April 22, 2004, Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player and atheist, was killed while serving in Iraq.
Kevin, who was discharged from the Army in 2005, has written an incredibly powerful and moving article in anticipation of his brother's birthday coming up on November 6th.
I strongly encourage you all to read the whole thing.
[Kevin Tillman] It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.
Much has happened since we handed over our voice:
Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.
Dana at Common Sense Political Thought commented on an Appletree thread about the need for moral legislation, specifically a nationwide ban on abortion.
[Link] Finally, you said:
It’s fine to form your own moral code around your religion, even if you don’t always follow it. What bothers me is when people force those around them to live by a religious code.
I’m certain that you realize that many of our laws are the result of our moral values, even the things that wouldn’t automatically catch your eye. Stock trading on inside information is illegal, not because acting in your own best economic interests is wrong, but because we, as a society, have decided that it’s unfair for insiders to have such a large advantage. It’s illegal to walk down the public street naked, even though such action doesn’t actually harm anyone. Even if the homosexual lobby manages to get same-sex “marriage” legally approved, we’ll still be bound by the moral and religious code that limits marriage to two people.
Look at some of the things opur friends at The Liberal Avenger would like to do, and ask yourself: how many are the result of their moral codes?
It was Milton Friedman who said it's not the government's job to legislate morality. I recognize that he wasn't a mainstream conservative by any stretch of the term, but even so, Dana himself preaches small government at all costs when it comes to health care, so I'm assuming that Friedman's doctrine has some effect here.
First I'd like to thank Brent for making me an associate blogger on UTI. I hope I live up to his expectations, whatever they are, and that you as readers enjoy my contributions. I'd also like to add that I've covered my atheism here in an earlier post.
It's been almost a year since I starting reading and posting comments and entries on UTI and since I blather on next to my glorious picture on the left hand side of the screen I thought that I should expound on my position(s). As I say there, I'm a liberal libertarian with conservative leanings. What that means is not immediately clear, I know. Before I joined the Marines I knew what I was swearing to do. I DO believe in the constitution as it currently stands. I swore to protect and defend it and as far as I'm concerned that still stands. I am, however, glad that the government no longer has a say in how and when I do so.(more below the fold)
Alon's and Hank's postings below seems to have ruffled a few feathers. That's fine - that's what we do here at UTI. We do it well.
There's one thing to remember when you're reading or posting comments here at UTI that has been said before, but that bears repeating:
This is a free speech zone. If someone's post or comment pisses you off, then get off your ass and do something about it. Comment. Write something. The best way to air and defend your opinions is to write some. Debate. Be a better debater than the other bloke. A better writer. Make your opinions better-supported than theirs, and argue them in such a way that yours make better sense than theirs do.
I can hear it already, "But Brent, Alon and Hank can write articles that go directly to the front page! How can I compete with that?"
Look, I read every single user blog that gets written by registered UTI users. I front-page many of them. If you're concerned with it, then drop me an email and ask me to front-page the darned thing. It's a pretty good bet that I will.
Now, as to my own take on the recent firestorms here? Well, I'm a patriotic American citizen who loves his country and is a veteran. I don't always agree with my government, but I think that despite it's faults, America - that fucked-up, badly-executed, wonderful, political experiment gone awry - is probably still the best bet our species has for long-term survival.
Do I think America itself will survive? No. No I don't. I'm not nearly that naive. I accuse creationists and ID apologists of not taking the long view, and I certainly don't want to be guilty of the same thing. All nations fall eventually. This is an indisputable fact. However the ideas used to found my nation are what I am talking about. Liberty, equality, the guarantee of civil rights that cannot be taken away from you, as well as the ability to affect change by voting and by swaying your fellow citizen by actions and opinions. America hasn't always executed these ideas perfectly, but we try hard. Even with all it's faults, it's better than 99.9% of every other form of goverment out there - becuase it's a human form of goverment. It's not an artificial load of utopian bullshit that tries to force men and women to be something that they are not. Yeah, it can get ugly, but let's face it, humans are an ugly bunch.
Heh. As Hank said, deal with it.
Piercings don't bother me at all. They are so far below my radar that I haven't even thought seriously about it until Hank wrote about it. After he did, I asked the Inscrutable Wife if we knew anyone with facial piercings. She looked at me kind of funny, as if to say, "Are you feeling well?, and said, "Our daughter and her boyfriend both have facial piercings."
The implied "...you idiot" on the end of her sentence I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.
D'oh! I completely missed that. It just doesn't bother me in the slightest, I guess. So, I found myself looking for facial piercings at the lake, at the mall, driving around town, and walking down the street, etc. You know what I discovered? Two of my immediate neighbors have facial piercings, and a whole hell of a lot more folks have them then I ever suspected.
I just had never noticed them before.
Weird, huh? I'm not sure if that means that I'm Mr. Tolerant when it comes to facial piercings, or if I'm simply an unobservant bonehead. But I do know that some of them are pretty darned cool -- and some of them are downright wince-inducing.
Would I get one? Nah. I'm too old to be sticking shit in my face. Maybe when I was younger, but not now.
Would I change resturants to avoid being served by a person with facial piercings?
To be honest I probably wouldn't even notice them until my wife pointed them out.
So, there are my opinions on those two subjects. What are yours? Lets hear them!
The Commissar asks an interesting question about the recent revelation that Jerome Armstrong, of MyDD and Daily Kos, is a believer in astrology.
[link] I don’t recall reading PZ Myers, DarkSyde, Ed Brayton, or Brent Rasmussen denouncing astrologists. Let me be clear. I seriously doubt that Markos sent out a “dummy up on the astrology-bashing” to his apparatchiks. Almost certainly the Left’s “Defenders of Science” simply haven’t perceived astrology as a threat. Okay, let me put it on your radar screen. An advisor to a serious Democratic presidential candidate is an astrologer, as well as an admitted stock swindler. 29% of Americans believe in astrology. I think a little distancing would be in order, from the Left’s “Defenders of Science.” (If they have in the past, I’d be delighted to correct this post.)
You know what? I don't think I've ever wrote a post "denouncing astrologers". Astrology is quite possibly one of the lowest-priority subjects on my plate, right behind phlogiston.
I have two things to say here. Commissar, please listen up.
I do not affiliate myself with the Daily Kos is any political fashion at all. I do not consider myself a political "apparatchik", or "agent of the apparatus", of the Daily Kos. I have never taken orders from the Daily Kos. I do not even read the Daily Kos except to read science posts by Darksyde that he does not post here also at UTI.
I am pretty non-political, actually. I suppose my atheism causes quite a few folks to place me into the "lefty" category. As does my co-blogger association with Darksyde who writes front-page articles (mostly on science!) for the Daily Kos.
However, the reality is much more bland than that. I was a conservative Republican for the lion's share of my voting years, and have just recently changed my party affiliation to independent. Heck, I still consider myself an old-school fiscal conservative - you know, the folks who looked a hell of a lot like little-"l" libertarians. I do not agree with the "new right's" slip into what looks suspiciously to me like the "old left's" concern with my fucking private life. But I realized that there are exactly two types of people in politics; Those who want to control other people, and those who do not want to control other people. (in corrolary, the citizens of the US fall into those who want to be controlled, and those who do not want to be controlled, obviously.)
Everything else - every label, classification, etc., blah blah blah, is just window dressing.
The second thing is this:
I denounce astrology as a smelly, steaming pile of made-up, woo-woo, wishful thinking and sympathetic magical nonsense. If Jerome Armstrong truly believes in that crap, then my estimation of him just fell through the floor - regadless of his politics, political acumen, or his good intentions with respect to the Democratic Party.
The political system must remain secular, or we all get the shaft at one point or another. That includes astrology. However, I do not believe that mixing astrology into politics is as dangerous to our society at this time as mixing religion into our politics is.
Commissar, I see what you're trying to do - and I happen to agree with you. Nut cases seem to be spread evenly throughout the population - right, left, center, or out in left field. It is right and proper that we take the time to focus on these screwballs and not align ourselves with them.
But I do not agree with the Commissar's assessment of the relative weights of these two pseudo-sciences, astrology and creation science. It's comparing grapes to watermelons.
"Loyaty Day". We are so screwed. How long before the pejorative slur "disloyal" starts flying around?
[link] NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2006, as Loyalty Day. I call upon all the people of the United States to join in support of this national observance, and to display the flag of the United States on Loyalty Day.
Welcome to the next Imperial Monarchy. All hail King George.
Samuel Alito's rulings support laws requiring that the husband of any married woman who has an abortion be notified. This position is hurtful, overly authoritarian, and supported by 70-something percent of the American public. I would also argue that it is unconstitutional in the United States, but that requires more argument and is certainly debatable. But it is mainstream, just like teaching ID in schools. The problem is not with Alito's opinions, although I still think his positions on this issue and others are too conservative for me to support his nomination the way I supported Roberts' and Miers'; rather, it's with the American people. It's similar to the case of evolution, where court battles are important, but the only way to finally make ID irrelevant will be to convince a supermajority of the public that common descent is uncontroversial.
Is our freedom of the press being forceably suppressed by armed troops? Is the First Amendment under attack by an incompetent and confused government?
From Operation Flashlight, a blogger on the outskirts of New Orleans:
[link] We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning theyâ€™re TV trucks around.
Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.
From Brian Williams at MSNBC:
[link] While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.
At that same fire scene, a police officer from out of town raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media... obvious members of the media... armed only with notepads. Her actions (apparently because she thought reporters were encroaching on the scene) were over the top and she was told. There are automatic weapons and shotguns everywhere you look. It's a stance that perhaps would have been appropriate during the open lawlessness that has long since ended on most of these streets. Someone else points out on television as I post this: the fact that the National Guard now bars entry (by journalists) to the very places where people last week were barred from LEAVING (The Convention Center and Superdome) is a kind of perverse and perfectly backward postscript to this awful chapter in American history.
All I know is that under Martial law, these types of things are bound to happen. It seems like it's a staggeringly bad case of "too much, too late". The government appears to be trying to offset accusations of late and light response with heavy-handed tactics.
I hope that this doesn't become a precedent that gets used in the future for less dire situations.
What are your thoughts?
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is nothing, nothing, I tell you, if not an honest man.
[link] After reading to the class, one student asked Mayor Goodman if he could take one thing with him on a deserted island, what would it be. The Mayor replied that it would be a bottle of gin. And when a student later asked Mayor Goodman what one of his hobbies was, the Mayor said "drinking."
I could really feel good about voting for a guy who I could hang out with in the bar of the Luxor playing video poker and drinking Bombay Sapphire.