Thursday, December 31, 2009

Doctor Syntax returns

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall
The vapors sweep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan


Every year at this time I let Doctor Syntax out of the Vicarage and let him raise hell with the way we've ruined the greatest language on Earth: spray painted it like an old abandoned subway car, put it up on blocks and stolen the wheels and made it all but impossible to have an intelligent conversation because, like one of those German Enigma machines, every word seems to change meaning every time it's used.

Every year brings the same references to "language police" because you know it's true and you know we're guilty of polluting the minds of millions with silly, balbative portmanteau words like Ginormous or Sexting, our relentless verbing of nouns like texting and friending and our instant acceptance of every cliche metaphor, metastatic Malapropism, stupid solecism and yes, with every pusillanimous political polemic we pass along.

No, if conservative, liberal, reactionary, fascist, anarchist, Marxist, royalist, and Fascist are all used interchangeably, we might as well stop talking, legislating, voting and adjudicating and take up arms. And we do.

Every year, as our vocabularies atrophy, we make up words or as our overuse of superlatives diminishes them, as our misuse erases them, we have to invent new ones. After all, when your skate board or your X-Box is awesome, you simply can't discuss how you felt when you saw that Hubble picture of some distant nebula, now can you? What happens to the real verb "to befriend" when it's more fashionably idiotic to "friend" someone or worse, to BFF them? It dies quickly of course and any real dictionary these days is a virtual Arlington of fallen words.

There's a college up in Michigan, Lake Superior State University, that's been putting out an annual list of words that need to die for 35 years. I'm afraid the school will die before they have any results to show. In fact if we still have universities in 35 years I have to wonder whether they'll be teaching in Standard English in the way medieval Universities taught in Latin, while business and popular pursuits are conducted in some 'consumerized' argot or vulgate designed to boost sales and befuddle customers while the general population can't read Hemingway, much less Tennyson any more.

No, I'm not the language police. The real language police are the people who tell you you're a racist if you call an Asian tiger or bear an Asiatic tiger or bear -- or that you may never end a sentence with a preposition. No, I just love English and as you know I love wordplay and the inventive use of words. In principle I don't object to such silliness as "chillaxin," the compound of two bits of dialect; chillin' and relaxin' but only in principle and never when used by some underage hipster with a two thousand word vocabulary. I even thought the short lived "not so much" routine was cute for a few moments, but that's the thing: with fish, house guests, metaphors and the Macarena; after three days one notices a smell. At least I do. Maybe it's time you did too.

Yes, I agree that "shovel-ready" is shovel ready for burial; I agree that it's time to stop calling every adviser a Czar. I am sick unto death at the "app app app app" that I hear quacked out at the phone store, but LSSU's 15 words are not enough nor does the list expose the inverted elitism behind our linguistic cacophony. We may have majored in English at the best schools, but in our Howdy Doody hearts we know it's bad to be grown up and embarrassing to sound educated and so we try ever so hard to sound like the baggy pants crowd who know just how the really cool kids talk in the penitentiaries and crack houses. We always fail at it of course, because those kids change their jargon faster than we can.

As I said, I only do this once a year and that's because it's useless, of course. It only lets me vent some excess steam pressure, to rant against the dying of the light. I know that "impact" will ever hence mean affect and effect and influence and inform and not be just a carrion metaphor. I know that those words are gone forever from popular parlance and that this little rant will be as hard for my grandchildren to read as Chaucer. Hell, animated video clips may have replaced the written word altogether by then and the University of Wii may be the new Harvard. I don't know. I do know that no one cares how much of value we lose every day or with what dross we replace it. I do know there are still people who can write well and I'm proud to appear here with them. I do also know It's New Year's Eve again and time for old Syntax and me to drown our sorrows -- metaphorically speaking, of course.

Rush lives

Whatever the cause of Rush Limbaugh's chest pains, they haven't been as fatal as some have reported but whether or not angina is involved, we can be sure they weren't pangs of conscience. His web site thanks us for our prayers ( if only he could hear mine) and is, as always, jam packed and bloated with fear mongering, dire predictions and apocalyptic warnings that if we don't "fight like hell" our country will be changed forever. Let's hope.

I recently read that only about 5% of those admitted to hospitals with chest pains die within a year, so one important and very needed change is probably not going to happen -- all the more so since most billionaires can not only afford health insurance but can afford to do without it. If you or I had rendered ourselves uninsurable through a lifetime of belly bustin' burgers, cigars, uppers, downers, pain killers and beer we might have a rather different experience and a bit less cause for optimism.

Yes, we have to fight like hell to stop this "buffoonery" says Rush about Bob Menendez' call to set aside ideology, turn off Limbaugh and pass the legislation that most Americans want. But Congress is ignoring the will of the people -- or at least the minority of the people he represents, says Rush. Public health insurance will change America forever -- forever! Government will "take over" health care just the way it took over all those plans you made for retirement. ( huh?)
Just the way Veteran's benefits took over - well whatever they took over and medicare helped keep exploding profits from eating up every last dime retired people have set aside.

It's a tenet of Buddhism, and a nice bit of wisdom, that change is constant and suffering is universal when we refuse to accept it. It's too bad in this case that Rush's refusal to let go of failed 19th century ideas will cause more suffering for everyone else than it will for him. We have been changing from the outset in terms of making the US a better place to live for more of its people and Rush has been a major clot in the artery of truth and justice and decency.

No, I'm not going to descend to his level and wish him an immediate death, in fact I hope he lives long enough to see that not one dire thing he has predicted has materialized and that he's been pretty much wrong about every thing he's said -- and until that happens, I hope those pains continue to hurt like hell.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Orly Taitz declares war!

-Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.-

Article III

Orly Taitz is calling for armed insurrection against the government of the United States. That's right, the same demented creature who's been thrown out of many courts for trying to prove that Barak Obama wasn't born in the United States is advocating that we take up arms against the government of The United States of America.
"Seeing targeted destruction of our economy, our security, dissipation of American jobs, massive corruption in the Government, Congress Department of Justice and Judiciary, it might be time to start rallies and protests using our second amendment right to bare arms and organise in militias."
Seems to me she her best defense is insanity, since anyone seeing targeted destruction of the economy by those who appear to have saved us from what seemed inevitable destruction wrought by George Bush has a good claim to be a nut job. Illiteracy would be equally as demonstrable (bear Vs. bare) but it's hardly a legal defense.

Sure it's easy to laugh. She makes it so easy, after all, but far less laughable are the millions who essentially agree with her that the damage done by borrow, spend and borrow some more economic policies of the Republicans is proof of Democratic malfeasance. I got another one of those "humorous" tracts this morning: Dems don't pay taxes or work and Republicans have to support them. Right.

No, you can't fix stupid and I fear that you really can't fix insane, particularly when it's pandemic. You can however, begin putting traitors in jail.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Deja two, Deja three

You probably have heard all about the second nutjob on a plane scare today. Same Amsterdam - Detroit flight, but this time the man did not come out of the toilet with a bomb, but an attitude. Naturally the crew was more than curious as to whether his half hour sojourn suggested criminal intent, but the unnamed man of so far unknown ethnicity became aggressive and abusive when asked and -- once again -- we had a plane sitting on the ground in Detroit while authorities screened all the baggage.

You probably haven't heard about another incident which happened yesterday afternoon at Palm Beach International. Seems someone decided their first class seat wasn't quite classy enough and despite the crew's attempt to make her feel as special as Ivana Trump insists on being made to feel, she launched into a tirade even this old salt would be proud of.

Some small children apparently weren't respectful enough so she started calling them "little fuckers" and yelling "fuck you" at their parents. After the plane was forced to return and the police came aboard, she refused to exit and gave the deputies and all within earshot the same carnal advice.

Of course we have flexible standards for terrorism and so Ms. Trump was deemed only terrible and not sufficiently terroristic for the FBI to be interested. I'm quite sure that if she weren't famous and had been wearing a hijab she'd have spent quite some time in custody, but she wasn't of course. She's just another self-important Palm Beach socialite who in a more just world would be another old woman selling fish from a pushcart.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Behind the veil

Legend has it that when the Nazis occupied Denmark, they ordered all the Jews there to wear yellow stars and that the King himself put one on his own clothing in order to show support. Of course it never happened there or anywhere else to my knowledge. Certainly not in France. I'm wondering though, if the draconian ban on wearing any Islamic garb that covers the face will elicit some French resistance to protest what seems to American eyes to be a violation of civil rights. No, I won't bet on it happening.

Although only some 400 women in France wear a Burqa, according to French intelligence services, the fear that Islamic extremists are a growing threat to peace and security in France and the rest of Europe is ever present. France has already passed a law banning the hijab and all other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools and the ruling party are proposing to deny citizenship to couples in which the woman wears a burqa.
"There are principles at stake: Extremists are putting the republic to the test by promoting a practice that they know is contrary to the basic principles of our country,"
says Jean-Francois Cope, the UMP party leader. So is he, I'd have to add, if that old Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité thing still stands taller in French eyes than ethnic purity.

I wouldn't be hard to find sympathy for banning yarmulkes, turbans, or any other religiously unique clothing in the US of A, but as yet, we're still more liberal in that respect than our Gallic brethren. Long may it be so. I make no secret about my distaste for religion and my fear of what happens when religion and government become too close. Yes, I am all too aware that a large number of Muslims hate our country so much that the random slaughter of innocents seems justified in their eyes, but meddling in anyone's right to express themselves by choosing clothing representing an affiliation or a belief is just such a dangerously close relationship and is anathema to me. No, I don't expect to see that happen here any time soon, but if it does, you'll be seeing me wearing anything they're throwing stones at be it monk's robes or djellaba -- and waving the flag.

The sky is falling -- well, almost.

When I heard about the failed attempt to blow up an airplane yesterday, my first reaction was "how long will it take the Republicans to blame it on the President and/or Liberals. Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, as if he'd read my mind, stepped right up to the plate with
“People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration.”
Of course he has no way of knowing exactly or even generally what is known by the President, his advisers, the NSA or anyone else for that matter, but by implying that something is obvious and Obama has been oblivious, he wins another point in the fantasy touch football game of insinuational politics. Of course by some rule of the game I've never understood, it's still off-limits to insinuate that the George W. Bush administration ignored the idea that Terrorists could use airplanes and followed some imaginary, if not fraudulent dots straight to Baghdad.

Hoekstra, or Hokey, if you prefer went straight to Twitter and implied to whatever birds of that feather read his bird brained utterances, that the Obama administration had made some sort of outrageous solecism worthy only of an incompetent and coward by calling a failed attempt a failed attempt, which, of course it was.
"Administration says attempted terrorist attack. No. It was a terrorist attack! Just not as successful as they (AQ) planned." tweeted our friend Hokey.
A white House spokesman had been quoted by AP as saying
"We believe this was an attempted act of terrorism."
By that logic, I'd have to say that my tossing a rock in a northerly direction is an actual attack on Atlanta, the importance of which is undiminished by Atlanta being some 500 miles away and my throwing arm no longer what it was.

I'm guessing with some confidence that the correct course of action would, according to Hokey, be to run down Pennsylvania Avenue shrieking "terrorist attack -- terrorist attack" because the panic factor has proved to work in the Republicans' favor often enough to warrant another try.

Unfortunately the determination as to whether we've indeed suffered an official terrorist attack is the job of the Attorney General who may have wanted to take more than 5 minutes to look into the sketchy and ever changing reports coming in from Detroit as to who did it, what was done and with what kind of device.

Of course I continue to assert that if the Republicans can do no more than sift and comb through ever word, action or inaction of the opposition for something that can be twisted, misrepresented or edited into a scandal they can use to bash Obama, they continue to be the worst enemy we have.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The plain sense of things

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

-Wallace Stevens-

Remember when Obama was "the most liberal Senator" in the whole, wide world and we were supposed to tremble at the thought of his limitless liberalness making Capitalism illegal while the Government Printing office was strained to its limit printing little red books? Wasn't long ago.

Now what seems like a majority of those who voted for him are asking what things would be like if he really were a liberal. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi -- they don't seem much like the little red " far left liberal" devils we were warned about. In fact, with a health care bill that seems to have been written by the Health Care corporations and the anti-abortion Religious Right, some are asking if this isn't indeed a country for old men; the same old men whose exclusive country club it's been all along.

No, it's not like the crazy bastards we had for the last 8 years are back and in fact I think we'd have been far worse off had the Republicans won the White House once again, but still. It's like we had come to an end of the imagination -- a fantastic effort has failed, a repetition in a repetitiousness of men and lies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Republicans for rape

I'd say they had some explaining to do, but perhaps it isn't necessary. There's enough in the fact that 30 Republican Senators thought that legalized gang rape was preferable to "government interference" and punishing it is an offense against the sanctity of the employment contract, particularly those of government contractors owned by prominent Republicans.

30 Republican Senators voted against Senator Al Franken's "anti-rape" amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. We have no way of explaining, other than to assume these Senators owe more to KBR than to their constituents or to their sense of morality, because they won't tell us why.

I don't think we need an explanation. I think we can assume that if we allow employees of KBR, for instance, to sue their employers if they are raped on the job, by company employees in company facilities. it might cost the owners of Senators too much money.

Fortunately a majority of us voted for Democrats last year - not that they're all saintly Senators either - but at least they weren't ready to support the validity of employment contracts wherein a 19 year old like Jamie Leigh Jones can inadvertently sign away her body for the recreational use of criminals. Perhaps some of them just have daughters, but in any event, a somewhat watered down version of the amendment was passed and signed into law by President Obama in what will surely be explained, like everything he does, as an act of Kenyan Marxist Fascism worthy of Pol Pot and Adolph Hitler.

The 30 Republicans who want to kidnap and rape your daughters is a group with many familiar names. We've all heard them tell us all about morality and family values and our Christian heritage. If you're a Republican, perhaps that won't puzzle you. If you have, however, some basic respect for morality and law and any kind of human values, you'll want to look at the list and remember when it comes time for that grand reconquista in 2010 they're pretending is a sure thing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tweet Tweet

In the winter, Florida sees countless twittering things with small brains, perching on power lines and trees, circling overhead and grazing my lawn looking for lizards and bugs. Of course, even a hundred years ago there were so many they would darken the sky, but we've hunted some to extinction, rendered many species endangered by draining the everglades to grow sugar and by poisoning the waters with pesticides, fertilizers, oil and heavy metals. All over the world, nature as we once knew it is in retreat, from the rain forests of the Amazon to the melting tundra and retreating glaciers. Even the birds know it and we all know who's to blame. It's not the birds.

Well, not all of us. Sarah Palin insults the intelligence of most twittering things by claiming that man can't influence or change "nature's ways" and is arrogant to think so. Yes, that's OK, speechlessness is a normal reaction to such idiocy. What can you call it but idiocy and what can you call it but arrogance to assert that the magical powers of God will steadily restore the countless square miles of ocean bottom scraped bare by drag nets, restore the countless miles of coral bleached by growing acidity and reanimate the countless species disappearing at an accelerating rate? And what is arrogance, after all, but making grand statements about nature without any knowledge whatever having to do with atmospheric and oceanographic sciences, geology, physics, chemistry or in fact, any damned thing but talking in tongues and burning witches?
"arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature" tweets the idiot Palin.
The painful irony of course, is not that man is part of nature and man is changing the world in many, many obvious and quantifiable ways. It's not just that we've disassembled the building blocks of matter, decoded the blueprints for life, unravelled the history of the universe -- the irony is that it may be arrogant to say that we can ever overpower stupidity, cupidity, stone age superstition and the crackpot politics that eats away at America like a cancer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jesus laughed

"How dangerous it is in sensible things to use metaphorical expressions unto the people, and what absurd conceits they will swallow in their literals."

-Thomas Browne - Pseudoxia Epidemica-

Making sense out of someone else's religion is a bit like looking at a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't all fit and some are taped in place or hidden under others. Take the Mary and Joseph story. We're supposed to believe that since Joseph was too old to have sex with his obscenely young bride Mary, her pregnancy was a bit of a surprise - until of course she told him that God, in the form of a bird, did the deed. The subsequent pregnancies resulting in brothers and sisters might have been harder to explain, unless the bird left some blue pills for the old man -- or unless we ignore old Occam: "entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem" which means don't make shit up just so people won't laugh at your bogus story.

That of course would have Jesus' brother Jacob the true heir to the throne of David, making him the Messiah; because after all, Joseph, from whose family the title was inherited, wasn't his real father. OK, so we don't ask and we just tape that piece in place and ignore what is underneath.

Anyway, one can choose to treat the alleged divinity of Jesus as a metaphor, which makes sense, or literally, which makes absolutely none. If you're of the latter persuasion, which didn't approach universality for many centuries into the Christian Era, (if it ever really did) the flimsiness of your construction is likely to make you touchy and humorless if not aggressively pugnacious. Imagine the fundamentalist's reaction to a poster showing A young Joseph in bed with a frustrated looking Mary and titled "Poor Joseph, God was a hard act to follow."

The Church that put up the billboard in Aukland, New Zealand simply wished to point out the absurd conceit of swallowing this literal fundamentalist interpretation. Archdeacon Glynn Cardy of The St Matthew-in-the-City Anglican church said he wanted to inspire people to talk about the Christmas story: to challenge a fundamentalist interpretation that's obviously pasted together from pieces torn from other religions, rather than swallowing the cocktail.
"What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about. Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?"

Predictably, it wasn't well received by those who demand that everyone else swallow the same mind numbing potion and within hours an irate man was trying to paint over the image. Local Catholic spokesmen were up in arms and a "conservative" group called Family First was calling the whole thing irresponsible. It's nice to know that "conservatives" despise religious freedom in New Zealand as much as they do here. I mean it's one thing to be able to speak out against secular authority, but suggesting that God's own sacred chicken doesn't make half breed, wholly God children with young girls who somehow remain virginal throughout multiple pregnancies and births! What fools these mortals be!

If only I could claim such protection against people who disagree with me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let only one flower bloom

According to the Foxspeak dictionary, a school of thought is defined as a scheme, usually by Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch that they wish to attribute to a broad segment of the public. People say, or Some people are saying are alternate disguises for propaganda. If there really is a school of thought that believes cutting the minimum wage will be good for workers, I would like to see its accreditation and I suspect it's a school where employers such as McDonalds and Wal-Mart are heavily represented.
"One school of thought says lowering the minimum wage will actually create more jobs,"

pronounced anchortwit Juliet Huddy from the Fox News Podium in an attempt to give credit to the idea if not to the school of one promoting it.

As Raw Story describes in detail, Fox reduces the entire concept of a minimum wage to "social justice" which sounds sufficiently close to Socialism that they deemed it unnecessary to point out any contrary ideas, no matter how credible. Blind slogans and doctrines being so much easier to sell than truth in all its complexity -- or justice for that matter.

At one point I was foolish enough to think that the failure of doctrine driven economic, social and military policies would be an embarrassment to Fox and its friends, but it seems now that with America down and out, the opportunity to kick us while we're down is irresistible. It seems that their dream of building a new, invincible corporate oligarchy from the ruins of our country, is the only school of thought that isn't a strategic fraud.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Considering the Source

As you may have noticed, I'm ambivalent about global warming and reluctant to argue for or against it. Whether or not it's an ongoing process subject to random variations lasting a decade or a century or many, many centuries; whether burning fossil fuels and deforestation are a major factor in any trend or whether or not much can be done about it are moot questions once one realizes that the human race won't do any more about its behavior and its environment than yeast fermenting in a vat will do to prevent the alcohol it excretes from poisoning it. We won't do a damned thing until we have massive famine and drought and huge uncontrollable migrations and bloody wars to stop it. Even then we will not spend any money on change because there will be " a war on" and we won't allow ourselves to afford it.

If, in 200 years, we're all baking and the tundra is a rain forest and Kansas covered with sand dunes, the "conservatives" will find or invent some scapegoat, invoke some hoax or alternative explanation. On the other hand, if things haven't changed much, change, like Armageddon will still be a dire threat, just around the corner, lurking in new technology and demanding that we go back to riding horses, living in the dark and taking cold showers once a week.

Face it, not only are we thoroughly irrational, self centered and dishonest apes who love our opinions above all else; not only are we not very smart, but we simply can't deal with the immensity of time and the transience of our species. We've all got to go sometime and we all will -- and if you're one of those people who likes to talk about our planet as a living entity that needs to be saved, perhaps the sooner, the better.

I have too much respect for science to indulge in the certainties and partisan bravado both sides have barricaded themselves behind. Nobody is completely right and all projections become blurry as they are extrapolated or trimmed to fit the opinion and it's all very obvious that the certainties seem to swarm most heavily around those with no background whatever in atmospheric or Earth sciences. Why this should be such a political dispute, I do not know. I remember well the Geological dispute between Static isostasy and plate tectonics but I doubt it ever came up on the Senate floor or that Joe the anything had any awareness much less a militantly expressed opinion -- even though it was heavily disputed and careers began and ended over it. It was settled, in the end, by irrefutable data, not by politics or by gyrating TV pundits bellowing like blue-assed baboons about conspiracies.

My inner suspicion is that the apparent lack of facts, the apparent contradictions and the apparent conspiracies appear sharpest through the glass called "I don't want it to be true" but I know full well that cataclysmic predictions have had a very, very poor record of accuracy.

While other popular disputes can be better understood by looking at the demographics; the viral etiology of AIDS, for instance. The origin of species through natural selection, the great age of the Earth: these things after all are threatening to some religious certainties. Climate change may be more independent and may even fit into apocalyptic molds. I'd venture to speculate however, that those who become most irate at the suggestion that the post industrial revolution climate has been altered by that human factor are those who fear government itself -- and that those who feel an imminent threat and want something done right now are those whose fear of industry and the political power of industry feeds an opposite attraction to government action.

None of us can really handle the truth, nor do we want to. What we do instead is to vilify, to deny, to attack. Is Christopher Monckton, one of the loudest UK naysayers indulging in neurotic denialism or are his opinions driven by rigorous scientific investigation? Does the fact that he also thinks we should round up all HIV positive people and imprison them for life argue for his intellligence? Does his comparison of those who find evidence of man-made climate change to Nazis really inspire confidence in his objectivity? Then again do the kids carrying signs and painting themselves green really have any background making their opinions worth listening to -- or do they just believe what is fun to believe, what people of their social class believe and is useful for picking up girls of like opinions?

One thing that I'm pretty certain of and the evidence supports, is that environmental change drives biological evolution. It also drives cultural evolution and technological evolution. If anything now alive has massive potential for opportunism, for adaptability, for evolution, it's us -- some of us.

The climate is going to change over time -- a very big change. Something will fall on us from space, vulcanism will come and go, the Earth's magnetic field absolutely will fail and then slowly reverse with potentially dire but unknown consequences, a gamma ray pulse may blow away the ionosphere, the continental ice sheets will eat up most of North America and Europe once again. None of these things depend on our politics and prejudices or prayers. Our adaptability and survival however does depend on abandoning the ape-like tribalism, the ape-like confidence in things we have no business being confident in and the ape-like resort to chest thumping, shit flinging and hooting that are more likely to accompany the end of the world than any whimper.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

All I want for Christmas is a silver bullet

Christmas in these new dark ages is like a full moon to werewolves and lunatics and the USA is the new Transylvania. You can almost hear them howling at night. In the dark, ruined castle of the House of Representatives, the latest time wasting assault on truth, the Constitution, freedom of religion and the Founding Fathers is H. RES. 951, a resolution drafted by 19 house Republicans stating:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

The framers have been framed once again, it seems. Of course there is no prohibition against "mentioning" religion, but there sure as Madison is one against promoting one religion over another and establishing support for any belief or ceremony or symbol is as prohibited as Jefferson could make it -- the ignorant passion of the lawless Republican denialists notwithstanding.

No I'm not going into the open hostility the Constitution writers had toward organized religion and it's influence on Government, or the largely fraudulent claims that "liberals" hate Christmas and Christians and want to take away your Christmas tree. You either already know or you're one of the hairy palmed lycanthropoids too demented to listen. For my part however, any party that harbors such Visigoths (yes they were Christian) is illegitimate to the core, an enemy of religious freedom and unworthy to participate in government on any level.

Is it humorous that the only real effort to stamp out Christmas and its various and ever changing "traditions" was by the "pilgrim fathers" we just finished pretending were the founders of American democracy. It would almost be laughable if these worms weren't eating the heart out of liberty by trying to restore exactly the sort of government we fought a revolution to rid ourselves of.

We've got 15 more days of raging Republicans who are going to make up stories about stores not having Christmas trees, towns banning lights or private business owners not having the right to call Christmas a holiday -- or private citizens not having the right to celebrate it or not celebrate it when and how they please. We have at least two more weeks of support for tyranny and attacks on our freedom of speech, press and religion. It's more than just some Scrooge, more than just some Grinch stealing everyone's good time, it's the ancient evil of religious authority stealing our birthright and for me, the holiday I used to love is hardly worth it any more.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Life is not a Rolex - a Rolex is not alive

"Comprehensible to the intelligent, to the world at large, needing interpretation"


Ah, Pastor Rick Warren -- not quite smart enough to realize that his arguments have long since been steamrollered by better minds or just smart enough to realize that enough people are ignorant of it for him to make a living by peddling delusion? That is the question.

Put Rick on the list of people deeply disturbed by a sign on a bus saying belief in invisible magic spirits isn't necessary if you want to be good to your fellow humans. In fact he's been in terror of disbelief for a long time, resorting often to such idiocies as the idea that Atheists must be wrong because they're angry, that Atheists are responsible for most of the worlds wars and atrocities including being responsible for the Spanish Inquisition. I have to admit, even I didn't expect that.

No, it's ridiculous not to believe in magic and the supernatural and forces and places for which there is no evidence other than the failure to understand nature. You see, if Pastor Warren is walking down a mountain and finds a rock - that could be accidental, but if he finds a Rolex, it's "design."

Again, it's easily comprehensible to the rare intelligent American that Rolex's do not occur in nature,nor are they alive and self reproducing, but things, like living cells and viruses can indeed result from natural processes which is liberally illustrated by evidence and that Warren is trotting out this mawkish and moronic argument only because, as I said, there are enough congenitally and willfully stupid people out there to be blind to his festival of fatuous fallacies. It's not an argument at all really, it's just a bad analogy and an attempt to shift the burden of proof as Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker illustrates with greater patience and a good deal more skill than I have.

Warren doesn't have enough faith to be an atheist, he says in an attempt to make science and evidence and logic and knowledge a false equivalent of ignorance and the will to believe. Again, if you're intelligent, nobody has to explain it to you any more than I would have to explain why, contrary to his lies belief, same sex marriage is not just like pedophilia and neither Tomas de Torquemada nor the Holy Office at the Vatican were atheists.

But almost everybody believes in the supernatural he says, bringing the ad populum fallacy up to bat. "The actual number of secularists in the world is actually quite small outside of Europe and Manhattan," he continues, adding an appeal to people who find an educated populace threatening. The place for Secular Humanists is North Korea, whines Warren. It's called "poisoning the well" for anyone interested and yes, it's in any book of popular fallacies. That he doesn't tell us that the place for blind faith in religious authority is in the Taliban, isn't surprising, but it is telling.

Of course if the future of the world is not secularism but as he reminds us: pluralism, a certainty that certainly lacks support as we see beliefs declining as education ( and intelligence) increases, it's hard to understand that we should accept a multiplicity of religions but not Secular Humanism. What then does Humanism lack that theistic religion has? Authority. It's rather hard to base a tyranny or any system of arbitrary authority on it and that, dear reader, is what Rick Warren is all about and that's why he's afraid and that's why he has to make fun of your freedom.

A day in the life of Ivan Cornysovitch

I guess Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is trying to cornhole us again. I imagine that he woke up early one morning and realized there was another absurd, extreme, preposterous, shameful, ridiculous and grotesque simile he hadn't used yet to vilify any health care reform that doesn't appeal to the corporate overlords he serves. We've already heard about 'death panels' and how extending the program that Cornyn benefits from to the rest of us, is just like Pot's Killing fields and Hitler's death camps. Somehow he'd overlooked Stalin's Gulag Archipelago and it's important we hear about it right away.

You see, the problem is that the Democrats aren't accepting "input" from the Republicans although it's pretty clear that the only "input" he or they have offered is to drop the damn subject. Still it's hard to understand why Tex himself isn't trying to escape from that death camp of Federal Employee insurance that just might kill him at any time now.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Just a baby

Why is Fox News so damned afraid of secular Humanism? They're not of course; they're afraid of failing ratings and growing irrelevance, so they tell me once again and right on schedule that I'm at war with my favorite holiday because I'm not at war with my freedom -- and yours. If you think that virtue is its own reward or that doing the right thing by others whether or not you're rewarded for it is by definition the right thing: in fact, if you believe in freedom of thought, perhaps you're at war with Christmas too.

Last year, the American Humanist Association ran an ad asking "Why believe in a God?" They did it again this year with No God ...No Problem signs on city buses and the point of the slogan Be Good for Goodness Sake although certainly not out of line with most religious teachings, can according to the slimy logic of Bill O'Reilly, not only be a direct slander against God, but worse; an attack on the poor, helpless, little baby Jesus.
"How do you sell Atheism by running down a baby"
asks lyin' Bill so glibly that he can hope that the right people won't notice that being a good person, having compassionate and kindly humanist values, isn't likely to run down anyone's baby.

Blindingly blond and botoxed Margaret Hoover and Gretchen Carlson grinned in frightening fashion during last Thursday's "Culture Warriors" episode although the 85 year old O'Reilly couldn't seem to remember which was who. Perhaps the beauty pageant grins were as sewn on as they looked or perhaps the grotesque lengths Fox has gone to demonstrate the dangers of freedom simply amused them, but Grinning Gretchen opined that
"This is a direct and deliberate smear against Christianity. Do you think they would do this ad in July?"
Well, St. Swithyn's day seems hardly worth the effort and after all, December is in some vague and fact-free fashion "the most sacred month" Easter notwithstanding. There's little of ritually sacred nature in July that needs to be forced down the throats of heretics, while December contains other holidays of other religions and the birthdays, of Horus, Mithra, Constantine's favorite Sol Invictus and other Jesus predecessors -- but never mind. She managed to sneak in the proposition that not being Christian, not loudly professing faith that Jesus was born coincidentally on the same day as the Roman and Persian gods he replaced and not in April as their Gospels state, is an attack on our established State Religion.

"Do you think they would do it against Allah on Ramadan? I don't think so! No."
said Lyin' Bill in turn and nicely adding the subliminal hint that the growing secularism of the Western world is actually to be laid at the feet of our Islamic President.
"Why does the American Humanist Society want us to be 'good for goodness sake'? Why do they loathe the baby Jesus? He's just a baby."
What a marvelous way to heap fallacy upon fiction upon fraud and turn it into a call to battle. Is it really offensive to anyone's religion to recommend that in doing good unto others, one should not do it for reasons of prestige or self elevation - or that being a good person without doing it from fear of a vengeful son of a god is not really good?

Allowing people to believe or doubt or disbelieve anything they like can only be offensive to a religion that seeks only to convert and control and not to improve mankind. That's just the kind of religion and perhaps the kind of politics O'Reilly and his attendant familiars would be advocating if they really were advocating anything rather than fabricating reasons for rage in those whose mental capabilities don't extend to debunking a train of logic leading from "we don't have to believe in your god to be good" to "Why do they loathe the baby Jesus? He's just a baby."

The real questions of course are about why the two-bit Torquemada clones at Fox News loathe people who aren't fundamentalist Christian Conservatives, why lying and bearing false witness in the service of a myth is not loathsome while freedom of thought is an offense to the "baby Jesus."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

'Tis the season

Yes, they're still pushing the "Obama is a Muslim" thing and one of the reasons must be that a central theme of the last presidential contest was that he was not only "the most liberal senator in American History," but a Marxist, a concept that is getting harder and harder to pin on our rather deliberate, frustratingly centrist and sometimes rather too conservative president. After all, an absurd claim is harder to counter and outrageous fabrications draw followings in inverse proportion to evidentiary support.

Legalizing 'Drugs' or prostitution are out of the question as a spur to the economy said President Obama to a student in Allentown Pennsylvania yesterday. Regardless of his reasons for the statement, it's not the opinion of a "far left socialist radical" trying to make us just like European Socialists. Better to rave about conspiracies to pass a Kenyan off as a native born American because the evidence is, that Obama is at best a centrist on social issues like allowing gays to serve in the military and no more of a Marxist than anyone at Goldman Sachs.

If only the knuckle draggers behind the Muslim libel wouldn't try to give evidence for it! The idiot mayor of some two-bit suburb of Memphis is blogging that the President's speech on Tuesday announcing 30,000 extra troops to fight Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan deliberately was scheduled to pre-empt that night's broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas , with its "Christian message" because as a Muslim, he hates our holiday "traditions." After all, Jesus himself watched the program as a child, didn't he? That's not of course, even contorted logic, it's bullshit. I would love to ask Mayor Russell Wiseman if Franklin Roosevelt was a closet Shinto supporter for choosing the Christmas season to ask Congress to declare war on Japan.
"Ok, so, this is total crap, we sit the kids down to watch 'The Charlie Brown Christmas Special' and our muslim president is there, what a load.....try to convince me that wasn't done on purpose. Ask the man if he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he will give you a 10 minute disertation (sic) about it....w...hen the answer should simply be 'yes'...."

said the ironically named Wiseman. Sorry, Russ, the answer is none of your damned business and none of the Government's business as concerns what any of us think about God, Christmas, Charlie Brown, the Son of God or the Son of Sam. The question is whether we consider you as a traitor for giving aid and comfort to the Taliban by calling Obama one of them, or for misrepresenting the Constitution and advocating that we replace it with your infantile and ignorant beliefs.

If this is Conservative thought in America then all our asylums are filled with Republicans.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Social tolerance and immigration

It's an ethical dilemma that I don't find easy to solve. Are the Swiss wrong to forbid the building of mosques? Are Londoners only being racist or xenophobic in opposing the Abby Mills Mosque or are they legitimately protecting themselves from the strife, turmoil, noise and sometimes the violence said to be growing in formerly calm, ecumenical and liberal countries? Is the curtailment of religious freedom justified in some cases? Yes, in the US, we have to fight for the idea that the free exercise of Christianity does not convey the right to push non-Christians around, but just how far do our own laws concerning religious freedom extend and how far should we let them extend?

Like many people, I'm uneasy when a Swiss party leader calls for the banning of Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and we all know the horrible history of sectarian strife in Europe such measures evoke. Yet I see how the Liberal Netherlands has to deal with what appears to many of them as a growing population opposed to the secular, liberal and highly permissive culture they are so proud of and I can sympathize. By sympathising however, with people whose hard won freedom is put in jeopardy by a growing sub-culture, am I able to disassociate myself from groups who want to close the American borders to anyone who might not look Anglo Saxon or be Protestant? How much of the Dutch, Swiss and American fear of a large Muslim presence is real and how much is misguided? When is ethnic cleansing not ethnic cleansing? Most importantly, can we even discuss these things over the snarling of the trolls?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Some like it hot

Others not.

So have the figures that show a tight linkage between human lifestyles and changes in climate and atmosphere been tuned up for purposes of "clarity?" sure looks like it. Is this going to legitimize other hypotheses? Could be -- and if one cares about science, should be. It's certainly not the first time that academic politics went to war with science and if the reality turns out to differ from the current consensus in one way or another, I certainly won't be surprised. Science is supposed to follow the data while opinion usually follows authority which follows the money.

Don't be downhearted, unplugging your cell phone charger or even driving a Prius wasn't going to change anything anyway, much less "save the planet" and I suspect you're only "going green" because it's a new way to buy into hipness.

While I do believe that science is the best possible route to truth, I don't automatically believe in the intrinsic honesty of those who practice it. If global warming does not have human activity as the predominant factor, that doesn't mean the people who lobby for the oil companies are honest and face it, they're spending huge amounts to influence scientific opinion as well as public opinion to support doing absolutely nothing that might cost them anything. Perhaps the Industrial Revolution / global warming link is true and perhaps the decrease in solar activity since the late 1950's has masked or counteracted it. The Maunder minimum does correlate strongly to a long period of solar quiesence after all. There's evidence for several schools of thought, but I just don't know and so I'm not going to be like the trolls, many of whom have jumped on a competing bandwagon hoping to ride it to where the Wizard will give them a brain and resort to mockery -- nor am I going to be a counter-troll and fling dung on anyone with other data that might be ignored at present. After all, this "climategate" thing may prove to mean nothing in the long run.

I am however, going to mention that even if we have caused atmospheric CO2 to rise and average temperatures to follow, particularly at the high latitudes, the Earth's climate is too complex and dynamic a system not to call into question simplistic long term predictions. What if the obvious warming at the polls does precipitate a sudden and catastrophic drop in temperatures as some have been arguing rather than the boiling hell of the planet Venus as others like to predict? Evidence grows that this is what happened with the Younger Dryas freeze some 12,800 years ago. Global warming could lead to global cooling and no fooling. This planet has been in a relatively long period of climate stability and change is always coming -- don't count on any change making you happy.

Odds are that I won't live long enough to see any of the hypothetical scenarios play out and I'm certainly not going to sell my coastal home or put it up on stilts. Who knows but that my Great Grandchildren won't desperately be dogsledding down here to Florida 50 years from now anyway and some future Palin won't be crossing the frozen Rio Grande heading for refuge in Mexico.

Does any possibility make alternative energy a bad idea? I don't think so. We are going to run out of things to burn eventually and the little bit of oil we might get out of the Gulf or in any Alaskan wildlife reserve won't matter one way or another - indeed arctic oil may be covered under miles of ice if that scenario proves real. We're always going to need more energy if we're to remain a civilized species -- or become a civilized species, that is.