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.
President Bush, on Sunday:
THE PRESIDENT: "Our hearts are heavy for the loss of life in Greensburg, Kansas. A tornado devastated that community. It just basically wiped it out.
To the extent that we can help, we will. The most important thing now, though, is for our citizens to ask for the good Lord to comfort those who hurt."
Let's see...the good Lord should comfort those who are hurting...from the tornado He sent/allowed to devastate the town.
That right there is just about the most eloquent argument for atheism I've heard this week. Didn't think that President Bush had it in him.
(Via the Rude Pundit.)
I write fiction. Science fiction. Weird stuff with alien artifacts, psychic abilities, and crazed fundamentalists. But I would not have the nerve to make this up:
WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration has lost a computer hard drive containing Social Security numbers, bank data and payroll information for about 100,000 employees.
Authorities realized Thursday the hard drive was missing from a controlled area at TSA headquarters. TSA Administrator Kip Hawley sent a letter to employees Friday apologizing for the lost data and promising to pay for one year of credit monitoring services.
You have got to be kidding me. And these are the people to whom we have supposedly trusted the security of our entire transportation system? To whom we've allowed almost unfettered access to our personal data in order to create 'no fly lists' and screen out terrorists?
Thanks to VJack over at Atheist Revolution, and Christopher Hitchens, we learn that Karl Rove is an atheist.
[link] Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”
What must Bush make of that?
I think it’s false to say that the president acts as if he believes he has God’s instructions. Compared to Jimmy Carter, he’s nowhere. He’s a Methodist, having joined his wife’s church in the end. He also claims that Jesus got him off the demon drink. He doesn’t believe it. His wife said, “If you don’t stop, I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids.” You can say that you got help from Jesus if you want, but that’s just a polite way of putting it in Texas.
This just goes to my point about what exactly atheism is. As I've said before, the word "atheist" describes a person in which god-belief is absent.
I think what is happening in the "atheist blogosphere" is that we are loosely tying together a collection of nominally "atheist blogs" (which really makes no sense at all), and giving the rest of the world the false impression that we are all a monolithic political/religious group with a single set of core values and a defined group identity.
We don't. Karl Rove fucking proves it.
We need to STOP identifying ourselves as "atheist bloggers". That's a stupid way to identify a blog. I am an atheist who happens to blog. My reasons are my reasons. I do not agree with all of the other atheists out there who also happen to blog - and it frustrates the heck out of me when I am called to task for something some other wackjob said - just because they also identified themselves as an "atheist blogger".
I'm just sick to death of it.
This doesn't mean that I am not an atheist - I am. What it means is that I am going to stop trying to fit myself into what the rest of the world considers an atheist to be.
What do you folks think? Are we pigeonholing ourselves? Not all atheists are liberal democrat scientist college professors - but the public perception is that we are. Not that there is anything wrong with being a liberal democrat scientist college professor mind you, but we aren't all like that. In fact, that's a minority within our minority.
So why does this incorrect perception exist? Are we helping it along? What should we do to stop it? Should we stop it?
Do we really want "atheism" to become a de-facto religion? Because that's the way it is headed right now - regardless of what atheism actually is.
Leon Panetta, Chief Of Staff during the Clinton Presidency, commenting on President Bush's trip to Virginia as "Consoler In Chief":
"In many ways, he is our national chaplain."
Obviously, I do not agree with this statement. I think that at times our President likes to act like a national Chaplain. I have observed this sort of self-concious, self-righteous piety first hand many times in my life. Usually from a male family member who is picked to lead a prayer at a family gathering, or say a few words at a funeral. All of a sudden, the happy, secular, hard-drinking, joke-telling crazy Uncle Larry is praying in a rolling baritone voice with "thees" and "thous" thrown in for good measure. The hypocrisy and deception always made me uncomfortable - even as a believer.
It is also interesting to me that Panetta, a Democrat, a Gore supporter, and an outspoken opponent of the Bush Administration, would phrase this the way that he did. "He" is our national Chaplain, not "The President", or "American Presidents". He could have said something along the lines of, "In many ways, American Presidents must act like a national Chaplain during times of great crisis."
But he didn't. Panetta is too damned smart to have misspoken on this.
Is President Bush our "National Chaplain"? And what exactly does that mean for our country?
It's happened again: based on a tip, a local police department used SWAT-team tactics to kick in the door of a private home and invaded with over a dozen heavily armed officers, using smoke bombs and intimidation. The only problem: the tip was wrong, and the person they were looking for wasn't there. This happened in Elgin, IL, two weeks ago. From the Courier News:
Search warrant in hand, perhaps 15 officers with the department's tactical response team burst into the Ann Street home of Frank and Betty Granger about 7:30 a.m., looking for an individual and a weapon. The officers damaged doors and broke windows, scorched a carpet and handcuffed the Grangers, who both are in their early 60s, as well as their son and three high-school-age grandchildren, according to the couple. But the search turned up neither the man nor the gun.
...as they spin in their graves.
I am sure everyone is by now aware of this but Georgia looks set to introduce Bible classes. They are very careful to code/couch/hide the legislative phrasing under literature studies and the need to understand the bible to better understand western civ and writing.
Uhh, yeah, whatever. They will be sure to train the teachers that it is not legal to promote any religion, correct? They will be certain to 'teach the controversy," correct? They will have some disciplinary committee to keep our Constitution from being trampled, correct?
Matt Sanchez. So, he's a 36-year-old Marine Corporal in the reserves, a Columbia University student, and a Republican. He has been interviewed on Hannity & Colmes because of his allegations of abuse by "anti-military" lefty radicals at Columbia, posed for a picture with Ann Coulter...
...and he's a gay porn star who uses the name Rod Majors (among others) as his stage name.
Of course, the right wing media machine is going to implode spectacularly. That'll be fun to watch.
(Tip of the ballcap to Hank Fox. Thanks Hank!)
Just in case anyone here still suffers *any* illusion about just exactly what is at stake, the case of Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon is illuminating.
A tumbnail sketch of what has transpired, in case you haven't been following: Marcotte runs a blog called Pandagon, on which she holds forth forcefuly on religion, feminism, and politics - all topics which are, for her, closely interconnected. Recently she was hired by the Edwards presidential campaign to coordinate their campaign blog and related netroots activities. Her enemies, particularly one Bill Donohue of The Catholic League, got wind of this and decided to wage a campaign of their own to get her fired. At first it wasn't clear what the Edwards campaign was going to do, but eventually they came out in support of Marcotte. Then a few days later, Marcotte resigned from the campaign, saying that she did not wish to harm Edwards' chances at being elected.
Dan Savage wrote an excellent piece the other day about titled "The Passion of Mary Cheney" that you should read. Blunt and somewhat oscene language, so may be NSFW.
I don't have a dog directly in this fight (GLBT rights), but in that the motivation of the Christian Right is to turn our country into their own little Kingdom, I care.
This morning's news that the NRC has declined to force nuclear power plants to take additional precautions to prevent the breach of a nuclear reactor's core by attack with a jetliner comes as little surprise, given the Bush administration's attitudes about actual security issues.
But, as always when I hear such news reports, I was taken back to a sunny spring morning some 30 years ago, when me and a couple of college buddies wandered into a nuclear reactor...
It was the weekend of St. Pats day, and we were at the University of Missouri - Rolla to party with a friend of ours who was an engineering student there. I think it was Friday morning, and our friend had some classes he had to attend, so myself and my two friends decided to just explore the campus a bit (we all attended schools elsewhere).
I had considered Rolla for school myself a few years previously, when I had been thinking of going into physics (a dream derailed by poor higher-math skills). So when we came across the research reactor building, I wanted to have a look.
Aurelius at The Atheist Seeker makes a great suggestion: why not pick our new President using a lottery system?
[Aurelius] Now that Hillary's 'in to win,' I can't help but fixate on a much better way to select a president in this fucked up country . . . lotto. Every four years we have a lottery to select a handful of cantidates from amongst the wealthy, white male population (just kidding) , then they have a few debates and we go push buttons on diebolt machines. Seems to me that a thirty-something pot dealer could run this country just about as well as anyone, and what they may lack in 'insider' connections, they would more than make up for with the fact that lack 'insider connections.'
Heh. I agree!
During his announcement of his decision to run for President the Senator encourages us to look to history:
"Search the record of history. To walk away from the Almighty is to embrace decline for a nation," Brownback said. "To embrace Him leads to renewal, for individuals and for nations." http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070120/ap_on_el_pr/brownback2008_2
OK, I’ll bite Sam. How about Rome? Starting in about 500 BCE Rome becomes a republic. It then grows, becoming a great republic and then the largest empire in history.
Say, Andrew Sullivan points out something I noted last night but only in passing: Bush didn't directly invoke God at the end of his speech.
I didn't listen to the whole thing, only caught a little bit at the end. Frankly, I cannot stand to listen to the man talk, and I sure as hell won't watch his speeches on the TV. But I did catch the following closing:
We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night.
The entire text is available on the White House's website. Scanning it, there's no mention of God. That's a very significant change from any other major speech Bush has given. Interesting.
In a Salon article dated today, Michelle Goldberg (author of "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism") interviews Chris Hedges, a reporter with decades of experience looking at totalitarianism in such places as the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central American, and has a new book out: "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America". Hedges now sees the rise of the religious right in the US in the same terms of totalitarianism:
Some quickies for a Sunday morning...
The NYT has a nice piece about funding faith-based prison programs, part of their Christ's Mission, Caesar's Money series.
There's also a good story on the problems that the National Geographic Society has encountered with trying to establish a model for human settlement around the world through DNA samples of isolated indigenous people. They've run into problems with these societies being concerned that it may challenge their origin myths, among other concerns.
And lastly, if you didn't catch this entry over at PZ's place yesterday, go take a look. It links to this insane site, chock full of creamy nuttiness. Be sure to turn off your speakers before following that second link. Trust me on this.
[link] Consequently I would like to see an atheist emerge as a national candidate in 2008. Who that could be I have no idea. Nor do I expect such a candidate to prevail. It is my hope that an eminently respectable citizen with stature would illustrate that non-religious people have values and can be entrusted with power. A vital contribution would be made to our society if such a candidate emerged.
I disagree. I believe that a candidate who made an issue of their atheism would become a laughingstock gimmick who would do even more damage and further the stereotypical public perception of atheists as dangerous demagogues focused on taking away their right to religious freedom because they "hate religion" or "hate God".
Larry Darby has already equated himself in the public mind as "that weirdo atheist guy" who ran for office and lost to a True Christian™ (Praise The Lord, Hallelujah).
Please allow me to reiterate; If any candidate's atheism becomes known, it will become an issue. If it becomes an issue, they will lose whatever election they happen to be in.
The only way I can see for this fact to change is if existing elected officials who happen to be atheists come out of the closet and prove once and for all that you can be a good and faithful public servant or elected official without being religious. Ideally, this person or persons would have been in elected office for a number of years and have done good things for their districts or constituents - and no one would have known that they were atheists, just that they were considered to be "good people".
Then, this would need to be repeated over and over again until the public just became bored with atheist politicians and elected officials coming out of the closet.
Do you see this happening any time soon? Heck, the gays have been working on this same plan for a lot longer than the atheists have, and look how far they have gotten. Sure, they have one openly gay Congressman, and now most Americans consider gay people - to be human. Wow. Great strides to be sure, but it took a very long time.
An openly atheist Presidential candidate in 2008?
You're dreaming. It'll never happen in our lifetime. In fact, if the country swings back towards the conservative end of the spectrum again in a few years, which it probably will - I wouldn't be surprised if atheists were rounded up and placed into detention camps - just for being atheists.
This has nothing to do with being an atheist.
Unless, of course, you want to say that having the ability to learn from observing the reality around you is typically associated with atheists. But I don't see that critical faculty to be solely ours.
Last night's "Special Comment" from Keith Olbermann is about President Bush's recent trip to Vietnam, and the comments that the president made there in regards to the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. Go, listen to it. It'll make you wish it could be piped into the Whitehouse for 24 hours a day at loud volume until it penetrates the thick skulls of the idiots who are in charge of this war.
...in magic, just so I could cheer on things like this:
An Indonesian man claiming magic powers drank freshly slaughtered animal and snake blood yesterday as part of a ritual he said would jinx the upcoming visit of US President George W. Bush.
...just in case you missed them in the news. And besides, everyone needs a quickie now and again.
First off, from CNN comes news that the Marines in charge of the annual "Toys for Tots" campaign have resolved what to do with an offer for 4,000 verse-spouting Jesus Dolls. The company which makes the dolls just couldn't understand why the dolls wouldn't be suitable for everyone. *sigh* Show the Toys for Tots folks a little love, if you can.
Next up, Dan Savage has a great column in The Onion about why the whole Ted Haggard thing should be cause for rejoicing. I'm not gay, but I've seen what my GLBT friends have suffered at the hands of the ravin' fundies, and it is all due to the bullshit of "Give your heart to Jesus, and he will change you" mindset they have. The money quote from Dan:
If giving his heart to Jesus couldn't cure Haggard, what hope is there for the likes of me? If Jesus can't be bothered to work a miracle for the most powerful evangelical minister in the country, what "hope" is there for the average dyke?
First, I thank everyone who stood up and made their voice heard on Tuesday, regardless of who you voted for.
I am sure that all of you share my glee over the election results. It has renewed my faith that our system can actually work sometimes. We all know that this is no miracle cure or that is going to make everything better, but at the bare minimum the American people were able to voice their opinion loud and clear, despite the best efforts of the Republican spin machine.
Of course, we all know that Bush and the remaining Republicans must publicly attempt to work with the Democrats, and Rumsfeld's resignation and Bush's breakfast with Nancy Pelosi bear that out. However, I do not believe that the Republican Party is going to take this is the wake-up call that they need to change the way they do business. Rather, I think that that is going to be a signal to them that they need to redouble their efforts to slander Democrats, force partisanship, and make sure they win back control in 2008 so they can continue their work of making this a Christian nation.