Non-Momentary Lapse of Reason

12 04 2010

You have achieved discontinuity of meaning.”

I find myself shouting those words at my television a lot these days, along with a great deal of choice invective in a variety of languages. The sheer number of brain-dead, mouth-breathing wastes of genetic material who manage to get media coverage is literally staggering. Where do I begin?

How about the Hutaree- the apocalyptic fundamentalist christian doomsday cult militia who were so totally insane that other militias turned them in to the cops? It turns out that these stellar examples of the “master race” were collecting coffee cans to make explosively-formed projectiles. They discovered a hitch in their cunning plan when it turned out that the coffee cans in question did not- in fact- contain any metal. These people are stupid beyond belief- not merely because they are trained by their loathsome version of christianity to be credulous dolts and therefore have little idea of how science works, but because they believed that murdering a few dozen policemen and their mourning relatives would somehow bring about their apocalyptic war against the heathens.

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter.” – Thomas Paine

Next we have a “retired” politician telling her fellow low foreheads that America doesn’t need “this snake-oil science stuff“. I have not yet made up my mind about anthropogenic climate change- largely because no follower of Saint AlGore has yet been able to explain the Medieval Warm Period in the context of their religion. That said, the rabid anti-intellectualism implicit in her comments ought to strike a chill in the heart of all Americans. For those of you who slept through their high-school science classes, here’s a couple of clue chits for you: The only field of endeavor in which the US is dominant today is science and research. The US has dominated the sciences and medicine for decades, and this pre-eminence attracts the best and brightest from around the world to our universities and research centers. Science is practically the only thing we can reliably claim to be the best at, but this political hack and her fundamentalist cronies seem to want to turn back the clock on science because they don’t like the answers science gives them.

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one’s eyes shut and wailing “Does not!” - Author Unknown

Speaking of the American Taliban, the former head of the Texas school textbook commission is famously quoted as saying, “Someone has to stand up to the experts!” Sorry, sparky. Your personal relationship with a dead jewish guy does not trump the evidence easily available to anyone with an open mind. It ought to be enough to see that the garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies in the bottom of it, too (to paraphrase Douglas Adams). Why is it easier for these loons to believe easily-debunked fables when the truth is much more interesting? There’s an entire universe out there for us to learn about and explore, but these religious fuckwits insist on fixing their heads firmly inside their collective rectums because they like the view so much better. Worse, they insist that everyone else has to be limited to the same field of view.

I am treated as evil by people who claim that they are being oppressed because they are not allowed to force me to practice what they do. – D. Dale Gulledge

Lest I be accused of “bashing christianity”, let us examine another pack of rabidly batshit fundies. The Hasidic community in Brooklyn has their beards in a tangle over the fact that “scantily clad” females ride their bicycles down the public thoroughfares near their self-created ghetto.The Hasidim in question are the descendants of a large community which moved to Brooklyn in a body to get away from the persecution they experienced in Europe- just after the end of the second World War. The irony of the situation must be totally lost on these fundamentalist ass-hats: they came to Brooklyn because they wanted the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit, but they now insist on denying those same freedoms to everyone around them. Unfortunately for the bearded ones, those public thoroughfares are public fucking thoroughfares. So long as the laws of the city, county, and state of New York are not broken, they’re just going to have to put up with it.

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart. – H.L. Mencken

What do all of these episodes have in common? Fundamentalism. There is something terribly wrong in the way these people think and see the world. To the fundamentalists, perfection is just a round the last corner. They all want to live in a free society, but they only want those freedoms for themselves. Everyone else has to behave and believe exactly as they do, or else. Here is the core disconnect between the religious fundamentalist and any moron of average intelligence: Any mass-murderer can ask for forgiveness on his death bed and go to heaven, but Ghandi burns forever in hell because he was not christian. How about this- if God doesn’t like the way I live, let him tell me, not you.

Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. - Chapman Cohen

These are not isolated incidents. They are all part of a growing trend toward fundamentalism here in this country that is by nature destructive to American ideals and individual liberties. The religious neo-barbarians are all intent on destroying the very core of our civilization. We, the People, need to exercise our own rights to free speech and free association to counter the religiously deluded at every turn. These creatures must be confronted with facts and logic whenever they spew their lies and innuendo in public. Their histrionics and stupidity must be countered with rational discourse and firm resolve. Those who refuse to submit to the religious thought police must stand united against the darkness those fanatics seek to draw across our country.

It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all.  – Denis Diderot

I will not submit to the will of any god- or the followers of any god. I will make my own way … and leave a trail for others to follow if they wish. I will not force my ideas upon any other, nor demand they believe as I do. All I ask in return is the same privilege.

I do not support religion because it demands that we give up our most important human asset, the ability to question. It demands that we simply believe. Isn’t that true of any dictator, of any totalitarian society? Insofar as social development is concerned, nothing is of greater importance than the human function of questioning. Questioning led to the development of civilization. – Vladimir Pozner

Current status: Profoundly irked

Current music: Free Will by Rush

Idiot on Parade

9 02 2010

You have entered a world whose only boundary is the lack of imagination, a world where right and wrong have no objective meaning, where only dreams of mounting petty authority matter … there’s the signpost up ahead. Next stop: the school administrator zone.

(cue eerie music)

School officials just can’t seem to avoid going out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot. Let us take, for example, the case of a school principal from Charlotte, North Carolina. After being hired in 2008 with a mandate to increase the school’s test scores and other metrics, this alleged person decided to issue a personal fatwa that no one would be permitted to speak Spanish at the school. This news was probably unsettling to many people, including the school’s large minority (42%) of hispanic students, their parents, and the school’s bilingual secretary, who had been hired in 2006 because she spoke fluent Spanish.

Perhaps Principal Suzanne Gimenez was concerned about immersing all the students in English to improve their academic standing. After all, the school’s theme is “Academy of Cultural and Academic Diversity“. Her words did not seem to match this possibly-useful idea. She supposedly ordered at her first Staff meeting that no one would speak Spanish to any of the parents of the school’s students.

Speaking only English to the students is perhaps understandable. I fail to understand any rational reason to speak only English to the parents. Most of those parents are first-generation immigrants.

Immigrants to this country are generally assimilated in a pretty regular manner: the first generation moves into a local area filled with similar immigrants. These people work hard to immerse themselves in their local Chinatown or Little Italy where they are surrounded by familiar culture and language, and many of them never master English. They can get by with normal conversation, but complicated issues involving laws (for example) are very hard to get across without a good command of English.

The second generation usually grows up speaking their parents’ language at home, but English everywhere else. These second-generation immigrants almost always speak English fluently by the time they’re in their teens. These kids often marry outside their local culture and raise their children speaking mostly English- even at home.

So if, for example, a distraught Spanish-speaking mother comes to the school trying to figure out why her son had told her that someone had put a stick up his butt, it is less than helpful for the school despot … I mean, Principal … to insist that the victimized 6 year-old child do the translating. When the bilingual secretary tries to help, it is profoundly unhelpful for that same principal to scream at the secretary for speaking Spanish in front of the confused and fearful mother of a possibly-molested child. Worse still, it beggars belief that the principal would go out of her way to drive that secretary out of the office for trying to help parents by speaking Spanish. A lawsuit has been filed.

Attention, school administrators! Your sole reason for existence at work is to make sure the students get a good education. Anytime you let your narcissism and bloated sense of self worth get in the way of that primary function, you have utterly failed in your purpose in our society. Flexing your administrative powers for petty personal aggrandizement should not be on the agenda. If you get off on minor power trips, I suggest you take out those sadistic impulses by pulling the wings off flies.

Who am I to dictate to school administrators how they should act? I am the Public. School administrators are public servants.

The only reason these tin-plated tyrants with delusions of adequacy are allowed to get away with these sorts of stupidities is because they aren’t held accountable by their masters. For those of you playing at home, you can find a member of this master class by looking in a fucking mirror. We, the People, must hold these impediments to education accountable for their lack of visible signs of sentience. Go to school board meetings and raise Hell. If the members of the Board can’t get the problem resolved, get together with some of the other voters in your district and replace the Board with members who can. Run for office yourself. Those children being victimized by petty autocrats posing as school administrators are going to be the adults running the country when you’re trying to retire. Your future, our country’s future, is being forged by small-minded bureaucrats at local schools all over the US by turning our children into nominally-intelligent technopeasants.

Current status: Pissed off again

Current music: Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance


1 02 2010

As an American, I find myself increasingly at odds- philosophically- with the warlord in charge of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Although an elected official, Sheriff Arpaio seems to be going out of his way to emulate the tactics of some of the more villainous despots of the 20th Century. There are published reports that MCSO deputies have harassed and intimidated journalists who have reported less than flattering things about the Sheriff. He routinely brings unsubstantiated charges against elected officials and judges who displease him in any way. He reportedly threatened the mayor of Guadalupe after she complained about a raid on a Catholic church there. MCSO personnel repeatedly conduct operations within the jurisdiction of other cities. There have been reported beatings of prisoners in the jails under his control, and several prisoners have died in custody. Note that not everyone in jail has been convicted of any crime. The Maricopa County Jail is the holding area for many local jurisdictions, and many people are held there pending bail or arraignment.

His most recent brawl with local authorities happened when one of his deputies took some paperwork from the Defense Attorney’s desk … in the middle of court … on camera. The judge tried to let it slide if the deputy would apologize, but Sheriff Joe said, “No.” The judge ordered the deputy held for contempt, and MCSO staged a sick-out. That deputy was not punished, and still has not been submitted to the jurisdiction of the court.

For all his bluster about working for the people of Maricopa County, he’s costing them a ton of money. From Wikipedia:

From 2004 through November 2007, Arpaio was the target of 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts, with more than $50 million in claims being filed, 50 times as many prison-conditions lawsuits as the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.

That’s in addition to the security precautions he’s taken, including working out of an office building in lieu of the jail or courthouse- all at taxpayer expense.

While gathering information for this article, I found myself with a profoundly unpleasant feeling. I actually asked myself if publishing this commentary might cause problems to one of my relatives who lives and works within the MCSO sphere of influence. Having had this deeply un-American thought, I immediately shrugged it off and commenced to hunting and pecking away at the keyboard. It is shameful that any public official in this country can cause such questions to be asked, and is itself a denunciation of Sheriff Arpaio and his tactics.

How does this stereotypical TV villain get away with all of this? Part of it is the older voters in the county. He claims to be tough on crime, and a lot of older folks eat that up. He also has a lot of political pull with the state and local governments- probably because he has “dirt” on various politicos. Worse still, he’s been trying to brand himself as “America’s Sheriff”, and this has endeared him to a lot of right-wing fanatics with more partisan zeal than intellectual capacity. Any denunciation of Arpaio results in the loud-and-loonie wing of the conservative movement circling the wagons and doing everything possible to protect him. I have two words for those people:


You aren’t helping your own cause by getting mixed up with the manifold perfidies of Joe Arpaio and his sturmtruppen at the MCSO. The FBI is already investigating him for abuse of power and other sins, and the latest polls show his approval ratings have dropped to around 35%. Not exactly a rising star. In addition, Arpaio should be the antithesis of all the conservatives stand for. He aggressively intrudes his government power into private affairs and exemplifies the power of the State without a leash. Conservatives should be vilifying this man, not protecting him.

Alas, partisan politics seems to trump common sense and even self-interest. For those of you unsure what life would be like without the protection from the government guaranteed (NOT granted) by the Constitution, look no farther than Maricopa County, Arizona. Right here in the USA.

Perhaps someone should tell Sheriff Arpaio about the Battle of Athens. He’d probably be better off if the Feds got him.

Current status: Irked

Current music: Do It Again by Steely Dan


23 01 2010

Here are a few bits and pieces of interest to me.

Stupid Gets Smacked Down

And yet fails to learn its lesson. The Glenn County Board of Education has reversed Gary Tudesko’s expulsion for the horrific crime of having firearms in his truck … off campus. The board saw the firestorm of protest (mostly online) generated by the case and decided to trim the sails of the Willow High School administrators.

Those worthies are expressing outrage. The district superintendent was particularly insane in his complaint:

Steve Olmos’ response was one of confusion.The decision “has left me dumbfounded, almost speechless,” he said. The county board “is undermining our authority. They are definitely saying we don’t have jurisdiction off campus,” he complained.

Here’s a clue chit: You don’t have any authority off the fucking campus. If Gary Tudesko had brought those shotguns to school, he would have deserved expulsion- and probably some jail time. The fact that those shotguns were legally stored in a private motor vehicle off campus means he hadn’t broken any laws. He hadn’t broken any school regulations, either. The fact that he’s apparently a redneck of the first water is not an expulsion offense.

Score one for reason and rationality.

Hoist One for our Founders

I like the Brits. I like a lot of things about the UK. I am profoundly less enthusiastic about the UK’s libel laws and their State religion.

It turns out that a certain blogger has been pointing out the very stupid writings and sayings of a certain Anglican vicar, who complained to the police. The police sent an officer around to talk with the blogger, who thereafter agreed to move his blog from Blogspot to WordPress (he had apparently started the blog while in school, and the school wanted no part of the controversy). The police stressed that the blog’s author was not being “cautioned” or warned.

The vicar apparently decided that he now had all kinds of authority. Here is what he wrote to an Australian blogger who was also tormenting him with his own words and deeds:

You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.

Vicious little bastard, isn’t he? The vicar, Stephen Sizer, is an anti-semitic loon of the first water and a Holocaust denier who is apparently a favorite read among the thugs ruling Iran.

One wonders why the police felt it necessary to confront a blogger over what is surely a matter for civil courts- even in the UK. Imagine that sort of crap taking place here in the US.

Pastor: I want to complain about this guy who’s been writing things about me. On the internet.

Police: You got the wrong number, buddy. That’s not a police problem.

Pastor: But … he’s making me look bad!

Police: Sue him. Not our problem.

Not that I have that much faith in most police agencies in this country, but they have more than enough on their plates without getting involved in purely civil matters.


Take a soldier out to your local watering hole, and buy that worthy a drink in honor of Major Richard (Dick) Winters (retired), formerly of Easy Company, 516th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne. He turned 92 this week. For those who have not managed to catch Band of Brothers on TV, here’s a clip. Here is a clip showing Maj. Winters in person.

There are several worthwhile reads regarding Dick Winters and the men he served with. Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers. Winters’ war memoir is Beyond Band of Brothers. Wild Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron wrote Brothers in Battle: Best of Friends. Buck Compton wrote Call of Duty.

These men were heroes all, and they would likely be the first to remind you that they weren’t alone in their heroism. Thousands of ordinary men were thrust into a world of savagery and fire and blood and fought their way through it, making the world a much better place by doing so. We owe these men, and their brothers in arms wearing the uniforms of Great Britain, France, Poland, Russia, and China. Those men and women who fought and bled and all too often died to rid the world of a monster. We were lucky to have them.

If there is a just god, then Dick Winters should be enjoying all the nonagenarian trim he could handle. People who have met him claim he is extremely modest and very private, so we can’t drag him down to a bar and pay for his drinks in perpetuity. Happy birthday, sir.


Current status: Tired

Current music: Skye Boat Song

Speaking of Stupidity …

17 01 2010

…We’re back to the subject of school administrators as tin-plated dictators with delusions of competence.

back in October, a high school student named Gary Tudesko went bird hunting before school with one of his friends. The two hunters were running a bit late, so they didn’t have time to take Gary’s truck home and drop off the shotguns. Rather than breaking the rules by parking the truck in the school parking lot, Gary parked on the street- off school property. The shotguns were behind the truck seats, unloaded, and the truck was locked.

For some reason, the school’s sniffer dog was run past the vehicles parked on the street. The dog alerted on Gary’s truck, and the police were duly called. The cops determined that the owner was Gary Tudesko, and the school discovered that he was a student, so Gary was summoned to his truck to explain matters. He told the police what had taken place, and opened the vehicle to show them the shotguns. The police and the local District Attorney later determined that Gary had broken no laws. He was not arrested or charged with any crime. It should be noted that the fields near town are a well-known hunting area.

The school, unfathomably, determined that Gary was a threat to himself and others, and promptly expelled him for a year. When Gary’s aprents objected that the vehicle wasn’t parked on school grounds, and that he had not broken any rules, the school administrators claimed state law gave them “the right to search any of the student’s vehicles no matter where they’re parked or what they’re doing during school hours.”

For those of you playing at home, this is a load of fascist bullshit. By this logic, a student who is sick in bed at his home ten miles from the school can expect to have his vehicle searched in the driveway by school administrators or their hired agents. Zero tolerance seems to equate to zero thought, whether the subject matter is drugs, guns,  and tobacco.

If any of you who read this have children in school, how do you like the idea that school administrators or their agents can conduct searches of your child’s room or car at any time during school hours? Isn’t it comforting to know that your kid’s school administrators care so much for the safety of your child that they’re willing to violate your child’s rights? Where does it end? Does the school get a say in what religion your kid is allowed to practice? What if your child wants to ride dirt bikes? That’s dangerous! The school administration gets a say in whether or not that will be allowed. Perhaps the school will start interfering in what you serve your kid at dinner.

Why does this school believe they have the power to extend their draconian authority far outside school grounds? I’ll tell you why: It’s for the chi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ildren! Every time some alleged parent or another publicly bitches about protecting the children from every potential hazard on the planet, the autocratic despots in school administrations get to exercise more and more authority over the children under their “care”.

Far too many parents today spend huge amounts of time and energy trying vainly to remove any possibility of harm from their child’s life. This bubble-wrap mentality is actually increasing the danger to their children, and everyone with whom those children come into contact. Little Bobby gets a sniffle? Dope him up with antibiotics. There might be germs on the playground equipment where little Suzie is playing! Better wipe down every surface with disinfectant wipes or bleach. This ridiculous paranoia about supposed perils in everyday life are making things worse. Over-use of antibiotics is creating newly-evolved strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wiping down every surface with bleach to kill germs makes it a certainty that some germs which are inevitably missed will find the child’s immune system weakened from inactivity.

Worst of all are those who wet their panties over the thought that their precious sprogs might possibly see a firearm. Horrors! Little Johnny saw a gun! Sign him up for therapy.

A commenter on named cobrasmity posted this gem:

SCHOOL — 1957 vs. 2007

Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1957 – Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack’s shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2007 – School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.
1957 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2007 – Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark. Charge them with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won’t be still in class, disrupts other students.
1957 – Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. Returns to cl ass, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2007 – Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.
1957 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 – Billy’s dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy’s sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy’s mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.
1957 – Mark shares aspirin with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2007 – Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations. Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Pedro fails high school English.
1957 – Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, and goes to college.
2007 – Pedro’s cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro’s English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro given diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed.
1957 – Ants die.
2007 – BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called. Johnny charged with domestic terrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computers confiscated; Johnny’s Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.
1957 – In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
2007 – Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

That’s a little absurd, but so is the nonsense being spouted by the school administrators in this case.

School administrators are public servants. We pay their salary. Let’s try exercising some influence in how these nimrods do their jobs. Go to school board meetings and speak up. Read the student handbook at your kid’s school and find out what sort of powers the school claims to have. If you don’t like what you read, do something about it. The reason school administrators are getting away with this petty despotism is because we let them.

That’s something we, the People, can change.

Current status: Hacked off

Current music: Banditos by The Refreshments

The Anthropomorphization of Stupidity

13 01 2010

Hey, Pat Robertson! Shut up, you cock!

“Mr. Madison, Robertson, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

Why is this douchebag still permitted to pollute the airwaves with his drivel? Why is this allegedly-religious pinhead not behind bars for his terroristic threats against the US government and foreign leaders?

For those of you living in an isolation chamber, Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake yesterday. Early reports have around one hundred thousand people dead. US military personnel are already either on the ground or on the way- along with hundreds of relief groups, rescue teams, charitable organizations, and individuals from around the world.

Rather than acting quickly to provide aid by calling upon his legions of deluded followers to donate time, money, or services to the relief and rescue efforts, this eccentric and evil Yoda look-alike has decided that his god smote the Haitians because they allegedly made a deal with the devil. In 1791.

Apparently, Robertson’s imaginary friend takes a really long time to get around to punishing those he dislikes. Anything living in Dover, Connecticut a few hundred years from now had better watch out.

I say imaginary friend because Pat Robertson is living proof of the non-existence of a just and loving god. This alleged human is the antithesis of the christian ideals he supposedly believes. No one acting the way this shithead acts could possibly claim to be a religious leader, could they? With a straight face?

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent—it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.

You’re probably sick to death of quotes from Robert Heinlein, but this one is directly on point. Pat Robertson seems to believe that he can get away with actions which are squarely against the tenets of his supposed religion and no one will notice. Perhaps he’s merely stupid, or senile from drinking his miraculous energy drinks. It’s more likely that he’s simply batshit insane. What else would you call someone who hears voices no one else can hear?

Current status: Filled with loathing

Current music: Name Your Poison by Richard O’Brien

Hearts and Minds

4 01 2010

Be afraid. Be very afraid. The rabid fundamentalist christians are very close to getting their version of reality included into every textbook in America for the next decade or so.

Read this article, and weep for the future of our nation.

Because Texas (pronounced takes-ass) has a set of rules which mandate all schools in that state use the same textbooks, and further has rules which have allowed the fundie-loonie Governor to pack the board which approves those textbooks with his batshit crazy fundamentalist cronies, wholesale re-writing of the past may soon be required reading in your child’s school. Texas would normally not have quite so much influence, since California is an even larger market and tends to pull textbook publishers back toward the center. However,  California’s economic Chernobyl means that they will not be purchasing textbooks for another five years at the earliest. This in turn means that any textbook publisher who wishes to make money for the next couple of years has to comply with the religious fuckwits who control the textbook appropriation process in Texas.

Despite the fact that we have scads of hard evidence indicating that the Universe is roughly fourteen billion years old, the new science textbooks will not have this tidbit of information, thanks to a small group of hardcore religious extremists in Texas who believe it to be their duty to cram their pigheaded, willful ignorance down the throats of your children.

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.

Heinlein’s words have been proven true repeatedly- most recently by the Taliban. The only differences between the Taliban in Afghanistan and the christian loonies in this country are language and dress code. The fundamentalist christians gripping the hilt of this subtle dagger do not even bother to conceal their goals. They boast of their belief that their god wants them to conquer this country, and then the world.

But first, they will try to enslave the minds of your children. They will use America’s traditional open-mindedness and laws against us, and enshrine their version of reality in your childrens’ textbooks. I’ve been saying for years that these willful ignorami are the enemies of our civilization- is anybody listening?

America’s current status as a world power was grown by our farmers; dreamed up by our scientists; built by our engineers and technicians; and paid for by our bankers, industrialists, and workers (in one coin or another). Maintaining that status is- and will continue to be- dependent upon scientific and technical progress. That key scientific and technical progress is in turn dependent upon new generations learning the lessons taught by the scientists of the past, then adding their own unique additions and advances to the works of those giants who broke new ground- from Copernicus to Galileo to Newton to the Curies to Bohr to Einstein to Hawking.

But that apparently isn’t good enough for these religious pinheads. They would seemingly prefer that we dumped everything that didn’t conform to their precious holy-book-written-down-from-the-oral-traditions-of-desert-sheep fuckers.

“If all the achievements of scientists were wiped out tomorrow, there would be no doctors but witch doctors, no transport faster than horses, no computers, no printed books, no agriculture beyond subsistence peasant farming. If all the achievements of theologians were wiped out tomorrow, would anyone notice the smallest difference?” -Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Emptiness of Theology.

That quote from Richard Dawkins is not precisely correct, of course, since many of the early scientific pioneers were religious (particularly Newton), and some were actual clergymen. The point, however, remains valid. The barbarians won’t be happy until we return to some non-existent Golden Age of Christian America- probably based upon a poor understanding of life in the early 19th century. All of our scientific and cultural progress since that mythical time must make way for the greater glory of their desert storm deity. These old white guys are deeply unhappy with uppity furriners and colored folks disturbing their precious little dystopian ideal White nation. Check out the following quote from the article I linked earlier:

Barton and Peter Marshall initially tried to purge the standards of key figures of the civil rights era, such as César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall, though they were forced to back down amid a deafening public uproar. They have since resorted to a more subtle tack; while they concede that people like Martin Luther King Jr. deserve a place in history, they argue that they shouldn’t be given credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, “Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.” Ergo, any rights people of color have were handed to them by whites—in his view, mostly white Republican men.

If this doesn’t bother you, you probably aren’t paying attention. It bothers the Hell out of me. These pernicious fuckwits are hell-bent on destroying the very soul of America and replacing it with the Republican Plantation of Jesusland, a slightly more technologically advanced version of the Taliban’s thirteenth-century paradise on Earth which will be nonetheless equally destructive. If you aren’t white, male, and christian, you just won’t matter.  Black, asian, and hispanic minorities will be graciously permitted to till the fields and work in the factories, while women will return to being sexual commodities for their “betters”. Non-christians will be economically and physically persecuted until they conform, emigrate, or die.

When will the people of this country realize that they’re allowing the barbarians in our midst to undermine what we (the People) have spent the last 230+ years building? Why do we allow these willful idiots to spew their nonsense in public without constant justifiable denunciation and opprobrium? They make no secret of what they want. Are we to sit idly by and let them build their racist theocracy upon the smoldering ruins of our flawed but wonderful republic?

Judging by the apparent total lack of interest in dealing with these morons … I believe the answer is probably yes.

Current status: Outraged

Current music: Seen All Good People by Yes

Egregious Stupidity

15 12 2009

Stand by for some examples of Weapons-Grade Stupidity. The kind of stupid that takes effort to accomplish.

At school, an eight-year-old boy is asked to draw a picture of what christmas means to him. He produces a crude image of a stick figure on a cross. His teacher goes completely off the rails and orders the lad to the principal’s office, where he is suspended from school and forbidden to return until he has received a psychiatric evaluation for his “violent and disturbing” drawing. What really set the teacher off was the inclusion of little x’s for eyes, to indicate the stick figure was dead.

If you follow the link above, you can see this “violent” drawing for yourself. Scary stuff, isn’t it?

What’s really scary is the fact that the teacher and principal are both so lacking in any shred of common sense that this warranted anything more than a chat with the child’s parents- if that. Looking over some of the papers from my time in school, I find far more heinous things: edged weapons drenched in gore, tanks, airplanes, sharks, dinosaurs, guns, and literally thousands of stick figures in various states of dismemberment and violent death. Despite these doodles,  I somehow managed to survive to adulthood without requiring extensive psychotherapy or lengthy imprisonment for the safety of others. What the Hell happened to our schools in the intervening years?

I will now introduce two terms to explain the current state of education today: Parental abdication of responsibility and Zero Tolerance.

Far too many parents have abandoned the task of actually raising their precious crotch-goblins to the schools. This abdication of responsibility has forced schools into a no-win situation of heightened expectations and diminishing returns- coupled with increasing class sizes and budgets which do not keep pace. As a result, school administrators have developed a strategy which helps them avoid lawsuits and keep their cushy jobs without having to actually teach their students anything: zero-tolerance policies.

Simply by adopting all manner of asinine restrictions, rules, procedures, and policies and then slavishly following them regardless of logic or reality, school administrators can pretend that they are incapable of doing their jobs while avoiding responsibility for this incompetence. A kid draws a picture of a pistol in his notebook? Gotta suspend the little thug. Zero-tolerance policy for weapons, you know. Another kid points his finger and says bang? That’s an expulsion. A little boy gives a little girl a smooch at recess? Have the little bastard arrested for sexual assault. Sorry, ma’am. Those are the rules. My hands are tied.

Speaking of sex crimes, there’s a young man in Michigan who is a registered sex offender, and has been for the last six years. His “crime” was having sex with his girlfriend when he was seventeen. Trouble is, she was only fifteen at the time. He was convicted of sexual criminal conduct and required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. I’m trying to figure out what Public good is demonstrated by this nonsense, but I’m drawing a blank. Anybody out there have any ideas?

Matthew Freeman duly registered his address with the police and tried to move on with his life. One evening he was outside in his parents’ driveway shooting hoops, which happens to be across the street from an elementary school playground, when a state police car pulled up. The officer used a laser rangefinder to determine that Matthew was only some 300 feet from the school, and he was charged with a school safety zone violation. I’m certain that the public in Pittsfield Township can now breathe easier knowing that this dangerous predator has been prevented from playing basketball in his parents’ driveway.

The quote from the county prosecutor has the dangerous terms in it. See if you can find them:

We view these as public safety issues,” Hiller said. “That’s the paramount concern we have when dealing with sex offender registry cases. This particular law is in place to protect children, so that’s obviously a very serious matter.”

Any luck? Allow me to paraphrase for you: It’s for the children!

Those four little words are being used all over this country to completely destroy our society. FSM forbid that any children get exposed to the real world at any time in their delicate little lives. We can’t be bothered to teach our own kids the difference between right and wrong, and the people we’ve stuck with the task aren’t willing to take on the responsibility either, so the obvious answer is to create a whiffle-ball universe to protect the dear little tykes from anything which might hurt them- physically or emotionally.

What’s really tragic about the whole issue is the fact that the actions taken to protect children from anything “bad” are actually making kids more vulnerable to bad things. All those ridiculous wipes and disinfectants we surround kids with have the effect of leaving their immune systems vulnerable to just about everything. Refuse to discuss drugs or sex with kids and you pretty much guarantee that they’ll learn about them the hard way. Pretend that violence will just go away if you don’t pay attention to it and you guarantee that they’ll grow up to be victims. Hover over your kid’s every movement to provide support and you create a being unable to make a decision without mommy’s approval.

Parents all need to take a step back and take a look at these idiotic and self-defeating measures we’re taking to protect the children. Perhaps they could perform a basic risk-assessment before implementing anything “for the children”. How likely is this “bad thing” to occur? If it did occur, how much damage would it cause? What can I do to reduce the probability of severity of this “bad thing”? It isn’t difficult to make these sorts of decisions. It gets even easier when you can teach your kids to do their own risk-assessments. At that point, all you really need to do is make sure the kids have enough information to make the right choices and the training to ask for more input if needed.

Oh, wait. That involves dropping the iphone and turning off the latest reality TV show and actually trying to raise your own kid. You know, effort. Ugh!

It’s ever so much easier to leave all that tough stuff to a bunch of government employees who have to spread their attention among several hundred other kids in their classes.

So much for future generations of Americans.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by J.S. Bach

Iranian Irony

8 12 2009

The alleged government of Iran, in celebrating the “National Day of the Student”, unleashed its Basij goons on those students in a storm of beatings and arrests across several cities in Iran. The principal targets of those beatings and arrests were, of course, students.  This is in the wake of his epic rant about how the US is somehow preventing the Twelfth Imam from returning. Honest! Click on the link- I couldn’t possibly make up something that stupid.

I swear President I’minadinnerjacket must be getting his political strategy tips from the Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Villain Stereotype. All he needs is a top hat, matching cape, and sinister mustachios to complete his transformation to Snidely Whiplash. Next week, the Basij tie all the female students they’ve arrested to sawmills and railroad tracks in a bid to get the deed to the family farm. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Oh, go look it up. Google is your friend.

Apparently, the “leadership” within Iran believes real life is following the script of a lame 1930′s adventure serial. Not finding success with becoming a Major Player on the world stage, they’ve apparently decided to go with Zany Comic Relief.

It is the National Day of the Student, to celebrate the courageous student revolution which overthrew the brutal Shah. What’s that? There are students demonstrating against me? Have them arrested! Yes, all of them! Who do they think they are, anyway?

I swear it would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The manifold stupidities of the past are preventing what could be a bright and shining future in the region. The US has far more in common- culturally and economically- with Iran than with all of the Arab states combined. Iran should be a bulwark against the corrupt Arab regimes- especially the House of Saud. Instead, the US panders shamelessly to Saudi interests in order to contain Iran.

I need to find a reality with a more reasonable author. Could you please direct me to the nearest dimensional portal?

Current status: Bemused

Current music: Istanbul (not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants

Orwell Was An Optimist

9 11 2009

“Justice” system, my pasty, white, lumpy, asymmetrical ass!

In yet another example of how far astray from its alleged purpose our “justice” system has wandered, here are a couple of articles about some journalism students at Northwest University getting harassed by an Illinois prosecutor. Their crime? Glad you asked. It turns out that a Journalism professor at Northwest has, for the last ten years or so, tasked his advanced students with learning if anyone currently in prison might actually be innocent. Evidence uncovered by these student-journalists is turned over to the relevant attorneys, and a total of eleven innocent men have been freed as a result of their efforts. This has apparently raised the ire of the Illinois State Attorney, who seems to be trying to intimidate the students and their professor by launching an investigation into … the students’ grades.

I’m reasonably certain that somewhere in a prosecutor’s job description it is written that justice is the goal. Far too many prosecutors seem to have forgotten this, judging by the extravagant mental gymnastics several prosecutors have used recently in attempts to keep demonstrably innocent men in prison.

Despite the supposed focus on justice required by their jobs and oaths of office, far too many prosecutors across the country are more interested in their conviction ratio. The more convictions they get- especially in high-profile cases- the more pay and bennies they earn. This is doubly true for those prosecutors who are elected to their offices.

For those of you who failed to pay attention in civics class, here’s a hint: Prosecutors are public servants. We (the People) are the public. I fail to see how we are being served by political hacks more interested in promotions, re-elections, and pay raises than in justice.

Back to the case at hand. A prosecutor, when given evidence that someone has been wrongfully convicted and sent to prison, should examine the evidence, re-examine the case in light of the new evidence (if it has any value), and either get the convict a new trial or immediately get him or her released from prison. Alas, this ideal state does not exist except (possibly) on paper. In reality, prosecutors have been trained that more convictions means more money and power for the prosecutors, so penny-ante subjects like the actual innocence of their victims doesn’t come into the picture.

I don’t know about you, but I was always told that it was better that a thousand guilty men go free than one innocent man be deprived of life or liberty. Our so-called “justice” system is supposedly set up with this principle in mind. It is the price of a free society. There is no excuse for sending innocent men or women to prison. If there is a reasonable doubt, they must be found “not-guilty” (note that this is not necessarily the same as innocent). If they have already been convicted and sentenced, the presentation of new evidence which may provide “reasonable doubt” must be looked at dispassionately by judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys alike with justice in mind. If the new evidence had been presented at trial, would this convict have been found guilty? Does this evidence provide “reasonable doubt” of the convict’s guilt? These are matters of Law and Justice, and the political status and professional pride of the prosecutor should have no bearing on the decision.

I am a firm believer that some crimes merit the death penalty. That said, the death penalty must only be invoked for truly heinous crimes about which there is no doubt of guilt. Not “reasonable doubt”- no doubt whatsoever. A sentence of death should be a separate decision from that of guilt or innocence, and any doubt should immediately drop the maximum penalty to that of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Given the shenanigans prosecutors around the country have been pulling lately, a blanket suspicion of doubt has effectively been cast over all convictions. The actions of a few prosecutors are tainting the very heart of the judicial process. If prosecutors are willing to allow innocent men and women to languish in prison or even be put to death if it might further their career, then the criminal justice system in this country is broken beyond repair.

And now, we return to my catch phrase: the Four Boxes. There are four boxes which must be used- in the following order- in defense of liberty. These are Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. This subject demands that we (the People) use those first three boxes to correct these injustices, now and forever. If we fail to immediately and permanently deal with the application of injustice by our public servants with those first three boxes, then our Republic is doomed. We will be forced to open that Fourth Box, in the aftermath of which the United States of America will be no more.

So, start paying attention. Use that sloppy grey goo between your ears for a change. Take the time to learn the facts for yourself, from multiple sources whenever possible. When you find the putrid smell of injustice, root it out. We cannot afford to let it fester, for that way lies madness and destruction.

Current status: Pissed off

Current music: On My Way Home by Enya


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