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.
Back from Patagonia - worn out from travel, with an annoying cold, and lots to catch up with here at home. But I saw something about this on the BBC while away, and found it online to share:
The atheist bus campaign launches today thanks to Comment is free readers. Because of your enthusiastic response to the idea of a reassuring God-free advert being used to counter religious advertising, the slogan "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" could now become an ad campaign on London buses – and leading secularists have jumped on board to help us raise the money.
The British Humanist Association will be administering all donations to the campaign, and Professor Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The God Delusion, has generously agreed to match all contributions up to a maximum of £5,500, giving us a total of £11,000 if we raise the full amount. This will be enough to fund two sets of atheist adverts on 30 London buses for four weeks.
Anne Rice, author of the "Lestat" vampire novels, and recent returnee to her childhood Catholicism, on how tough it is being an atheist.
[Anne Rice] "It’s a more strenuous path than the religious path, because you’re then going to say that there is no God, there is no reason (for anything), that people on Earth are the only (way) to provide any meaning. That’s a rough road to travel.
"When you lose a child, you’re telling yourself as an atheist, ‘I’m never going to see that child again in any form.’ That’s a hell of a lot harder than a religion, which gives you the consolation that you will see that child again in heaven. It’s hard being an atheist. It’s tough.”
I really enjoy Rice's novels. I think that she has a unique gift for storytelling, and her imagery is lush and fun to read.
She has now become a theist again after 38 years of being an atheist. She lost a child to leukemia in 1972, and her husband Stan Rice died in 2002. Stan was the outspoken atheist of the family, and I think that years of grief, the loss of her daughter and of her loving husband finally caused her to grasp at something that gave her a bit of hope - at the age of 67 - of seeing her beloved family members again someday - after death.
Her novels have always showcased her obvious fascination with the supernatural. She was definitely an atheist in the basic sense of the word though - God-belief was absent within her. However, she never seemed to have given up the magical thinking and supernatural beliefs that were inculcated into her at a very young age by the Catholic church. This is blatantly obvious to anyone who has ever read her novels. So her return to a liberal version of Catholicism - and God-belief in general - at the age of 67 after her severe depression over the loss of her husband to brain cancer, isn't really that surprising to me.
So, what are your thoughts? Is atheism "strenuous" and "...a tough road to travel" for you?
It's not for me. It's really the only choice that I have. Given what I know about the nature of reality, and the complete and utter lack of evidence for any sort of supernatural layer to our universe - as well as the complete derth of evidence supporting the existence of any sort of creator deity at all - what other choice could I have made?
So no. Atheism is not a tough road to travel for me. It's the only road there is. Theists like to pretend that there are other roads, and dress them up with convenient rest areas and pretty parks, and beautiful flowers along the side - but they are traveling down the same road that I am. The difference is that my eyes are wide open, and I can step around the potholes -- while the theists stumble through them, twisting their ankles on the rocks and debris, because their eyes are tightly shut so that they can continue to play pretend.
I'm awake. I like being able to see the road. And guess what? There's a bunch of nasty things there that we need to deal with - but there's also a lot of beauty and goodness to be found if you just open your eyes and look.
My daughter-in-law is from Indonesia, so this is interesting to me. To put this into proper context, atheism is a crime in Indonesia. Their national ideological statement is called "Pancasila" ( a sanskrit word meaning "Five Principles"). Its number one principle is, "Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa", or "Belief in the one and only God". This principle is also enshrined in the 1945 Indonesian constitution.
Governor of North Sumatra, Syamsul Arifin, said on 8th October at an occasion marking Pancasila Day that all elements of the nation must continually fight against and eradicate atheist beliefs among the people.
Atheism, which seeks to erase Pancasila and which once threatened the nation in the guise of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), and still does, has to be guarded against, particularly because it still finds support among sections of the poor.
Syamsul said children should be taught from primary school through to university to hate atheism, so that the creed could as far as possible be obliterated.
Yikes! Looks like us humans have a long, long way to go before we grow up and become adults.
The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.
Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.
"The names don't belong in there," he told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. "It's as simple as that."
. . .and we can blame the sub-prime debacle on it!
. . . but pretty damned funny. A little something to make up for my earlier grimness:
Don't read this if you want a happy-happy Friday.
Seriously - I have always really appreciated a clever crime. Particularly ones which are non-violent and show a bit of imagination. And this is a good one:
MONROE, Wash. – In a move that could be right out of a Hollywood movie, a brazen crook apparently used a Craigslist ad to hire a dozen unsuspecting decoys to help him make his getaway following a robbery outside a bank on Tuesday. He then made his escape in an inner tube on the Skykomish River.
* * *
The robber sprayed the guard with pepper spray, grabbed a bag of money the guard was carrying and ran about 100 yards to the creek that runs into the Skykomish River, shedding clothes as he ran.
But apparently, the robber had planned ahead. In case anyone was hot on his trail, he had at least a dozen unsuspecting decoys waiting nearby, which he recruited on Craigslist.
. . . this is going from bad, to worse:
Now, someone please explain to me how this is all some cunning plan to lower expectations for her debate on Thursday...
OK, a few minutes ago Prez Bush made a statement to the press urging Congress to pass the bailout legislation cobbled together over the weekend. The closing paragraph from that AP story:
"I know many Americans are worried about the cost of the bill," Bush said. But he also said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the federal Office of Management and Budget expect that the "ultimate cost to the taxpayer" will be much less.
I'm actually not that concerned with the *cost* of the whole thing. I'm concerned - no, make that pissed off - about the fact that we're bailing out investment banks, speculators, criminally incompetent CEOs, predatory lenders, and people who committed to mortgages on houses they could in no way afford.
This is your chance to vent - what pisses you off about this whole debacle?
The MRFF helps another atheist soldier file a suit against the Defense Department:
[link] Spc. Dustin Chalker, who has served in Korea and Iraq, is the second soldier at the northeast Kansas post to file such a lawsuit. The New Mexico-based Military Religious Freedom Foundation joined Chalker as a plaintiff in his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.
Here's the PDF of the "Complaint For Injunctive Relief".
I wonder how long it will be before he receives his first drunken death threat from his fellow "good Christian" soldiers?
I don't watch network news. I just don't. But this clip from Katie Couric's interview of Sarah Palin is incredible. Just watch it and then tell me this woman has any business being considered for the Vice Presidency:
Another for the "Taser Abuse" files:
NEW YORK (AP) _ A naked, distraught man fell to his death after a police officer shocked him with a Taser stun gun as he stood on a building ledge, authorities said.
The man, Iman Morales, 35, was pronounced dead at a hospital after his nearly 10-foot fall Wednesday. Police said he suffered serious head trauma when he hit the sidewalk.
The death of the man, who witnesses and neighbors said had become distraught and had threatened to kill himself earlier in the day, brought renewed focus to the use of Tasers by the police.
Gee, I can't imagine why.
Then there's this:
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- As if getting a DUI wasn’t enough, a man arrested for driving under the influence got in a lot more trouble at the police station.
Police stopped Jose Cruz on Route 60 in South Charleston Monday night for driving with his headlights off.
"You're in the desert, you see a tortoise lying on its back, struggling, and you're not helping -- why is that?"*Submitted by Jim Downey on September 24, 2008 - 10:25am.
So, according to FOX News, our friends at the Department of Homeland Security will soon have a new trick up their sleeve: MALINTENT.
Homeland Security Detects Terrorist Threats by Reading Your Mind
Baggage searches are SOOOOOO early-21st century. Homeland Security is now testing the next generation of security screening — a body scanner that can read your mind.
Most preventive screening looks for explosives or metals that pose a threat. But a new system called MALINTENT turns the old school approach on its head. This Orwellian-sounding machine detects the person — not the device — set to wreak havoc and terror.
MALINTENT, the brainchild of the cutting-edge Human Factors division in Homeland Security's directorate for Science and Technology, searches your body for non-verbal cues that predict whether you mean harm to your fellow passengers.
. . . there's this thing called a Constitution, and you can't just suppress people's freedom of speech (no, not even children's) without damned good reason and clear application.
Another week, another free speech flap in our nation’s public schools. This time, we head to Colorado, where 11-year-old Daxx Dalton (insert snide “Daxx” comment here) has been suspended for refusing to remove a homemade t-shirt that reads: “Obama is a terrorist’s best friend.” Dalton’s suspension was reportedly for willful disobedience and defiance, not for wearing the shirt.
I'm not real big on conspiracies. I don't think that the US government was behind the 9-11 attacks, or that the UN has an agreement with extra-terrestrials to reveal their presence and influence in our world in 2017. While the Warren Commission had problems, I don't think that Oliver Stone was right about the JFK assassination.
But maybe - just maybe - the International Banking Conspiracy nuts have a point. I've never really thought so, despite the growth in power and scope of multinational corporations, the increasing symbiosis between politics and industry, et cetera. I just figured that normal political & economic forces were at work.
But the Big Bailout Debacle(tm) has me wondering. From the AP:
I wanted to follow up this post with a note about what has happened in the two weeks since. Particularly here there was some discussion about my assessment of the true scope of the situation being wildly overblown:
Trillions? Really? Do you have a source for this prediction other than "I have a degree in economics"? You're predicting that 10% or more of these loans will go bad, or that interest rates on these mortgage backed securities will go up after the government starts guaranteeing them. Both of these outcomes seem unlikely.
Well, guess where we are just two weeks later:
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is asking Congress to let the government buy $700 billion in toxic mortgages in the largest financial bailout since the Great Depression, according to a draft of the plan obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.
The plan would give the government broad power to buy the bad debt of any U.S. financial institution for the next two years. It would raise the statutory limit on the national debt from $10.6 trillion to $11.3 trillion to make room for the massive rescue. The proposal does not specify what the government would get in return from financial companies for the federal assistance.
So, an item on NPR this morning examined how biology may play a large part in politics. From the piece:
Hibbing and his colleagues found that they could predict what a person's political beliefs would be based on how strongly the person's body responded to the alarming images and sounds, according to a report in the journal Science.
"Those people who seemed to have a stronger reaction to threat were more likely to favor things like military spending, the death penalty, the Patriot Act," says Hibbing.
OK, I'm not sure I buy it, because a person's startle reflex (what the tests actually measured) can be influenced by a lot of different factors - general stress level, speed of reflex, tolerance for noise, visual processing, and exposure to images/sounds used. But it did get me to thinking: What do I fear?
Gods, I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning:
He met her in the bar of the swank hotel and invited her to his room. Once there, the woman fixed the drinks and told him to get undressed.
And that, the delegate to the Republican National Convention told police, was the last thing he remembered.
When he awoke, the woman was gone, as was more than $120,000 in money, jewelry and other belongings.
* * *
The haul included a $30,000 watch, a $20,000 ring, a necklace valued at $5,000, earrings priced at $4,000 and a Prada belt valued at $1,000, police said.
Now, you may think it unkind of me to take pleasure in the poor fellow's misfortune. Normally, I would agree. But I dare you to watch this clip of the idiot at the RNC prior to his getting ripped off and not share my opinion:
Lost in the shuffle of all the bad economic news is this item:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday.
The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tension between Washington and a key ally against terrorism.
Significant, I'd say. Last week there was a report that Bush had signed off on a series of such raids, using military special forces and CIA operatives. And while it could all be a shadow dance, as inept as the Bush administration has been it would not surprise me if the facts were as reported. Certainly I'm sure that Bush would very much prefer to have bin Laden in a cage before he left office, and may well be willing to completely ruin our relationship with the Pakistani military to achieve that.