Saturday, May 31, 2008

Whacky monarchy stories

The Internet confuses and yet amazes me at the same time. In my last post, I said that monarchy is stupid and sort of embarrassing, and I believe that's true. I also said that I consider the Dalai Lama an imposter, a monarchist who found populism only after being dethroned, which I also think is true. I had been quite a bit prepared to respond to supporters of the Dalai Lama who were offended at me pointing out his feudal past and the class-based repression of the Tibetan state before modern Chinese rule.

What I got instead was the Radical Royalist. So, instead of getting the reasonably common defense of the Dalai Lama, I got this nutjob who thinks that monarchy is preferable to democracy. I mean, WOW!

Or, as he puts it, himself, "These are troubled times, but I guess monarchists have something to say and something to offer as a possible solution for many problems that shake the world. That's why I call myself "radical royalist" because I am unashamedly in favour of a monarchy - anywhere!"

So, I will give you my FAVORITE MONARCHY STORY.

Around about 1914, the Archduke Ferdinand got assassinated by anarchists from Serbia. He was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was basically the rump state of the Holy Roman Empire. By the early 20th century, it was also in serious decline in relative power, the wars of the late 19th century proving it to be politically, economically and militarily decadent. So great was the misrule of Austro-Hungary that there was widespread low-level civil strife throughout it, and eventually some (reasonably incompetent) anarchists managed to blow him away.

Obviously, Austria was pretty pissed about this. So, they asked Germany, ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II . . .

OK. Let me back up. Willie the Second was what is technically called "an idiot". One of his more odious habits was a deep love of dressing up in military uniforms. It was observed during his own life the reason he increased the size and power of the German Navy was because he wanted to wear an admiral's uniform. He also decided to throw out Bismarck, amongst the most brilliant (if evil) politicians of the 19th century, and all-in-all believed that he was German Emperor because of God's personal intervention, and proceeded to act as though his least whim was therefore divine. Which largely meant provoking European powers. An idiot with unimpeachable authority that was literally claimed to be divine. (Think about that the next time some Western power accuses somewhere else of being backwards - not too long ago European monarchs were claiming absolute divine authority. Maybe I'll follow this blurb up with something about Leopold II of Belgium.)

So, Franz Joseph, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, asked Willie the Second if they could attack Serbia, from where Ferdinand's assassins came. Germany, thinking it would be a brief war, said, "Sure, go ahead."

However, unbeknowns to anyone, Peter I of Bosnia - another hereditary monarch - had a deal with the Russian Czar Nicholas II. They had a secret defense pact.

OK, a brief word about Nick the Second. Also an idiot. He was a weak man ruled by his wife (I don't mean that as sexism, but kings can't afford to be ruled by anyone) who was in turn largely ruled by Rasputin who had power over the the Russian heir, Alexei, who was a hemophiliac due to aristocratic inbreeding. Rasputin seemed able to control Alexei's suffering, which endeared him to the Tzarina, who in turn had immense power over Nick the Second.

Nick the Second's misrule had, by 1914, already been clearly demonstrated through many bone-headed plays, including the Russo-Japanese War (which was deeply humiliating for Russia) and the 1905 Revolution.

So, this idiot had a secret defense treaty with Serbia, saying if Serbia was attacked that Russia would come to Serbia's aid . . .

OK. Think about that for a second. Secret self-defense pact. Now, who in their right mind makes a secret self-defense pact. What fucking good is a self-defense pact if no one knows about it?! The whole point of deterrence is that your presumptive enemies know that you've got a big stick! But, no, the idiot Nick the Second of Russia and Petey the First of Serbia decided what would be really clever was to hide the fact if you attacked Serbia you'd also be attacking Russia.

So, the Austrians attack Serbia - thinking that they'd have a jolly little war, teach those Serbs their place and be home by Christmas - but it activates the secret self-defense pact that Serbia had with Russia, which activates the treaties that Austria had with Germany, which activated the treaties that Russia had with France . . .

And now you've got World War I.

But, really, monarchy is the solution to the world's ills.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Evicting a king and ruminations about monarchy and Tibet

Gyanendra, formerly King of Nepal, has not only been stripped of his crown but been evicted from the formerly royal palace.


I think there is no such thing as a good monarchy. They range from the absurd - like the Brits have - to considerably worse, such as the House of Saud in Arabia which rules the country like a personal possession in a brutal, fundamentalist and despotic rule. In this day and age, the only good monarch is the one that actively works for the destruction. Which makes King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan the only decent monarch in the world. He is destroying the monarchy. Good for him. But all the rest of them range from ludicrous and decadent reminders of past brutality and excess - again, Queen of England and your ilk, I'm looking straight at you - to despots like those scattered through the Middle East.

The BBC article elaborate concern for the deposed monarch and his family. Where will former prince Paras live?! And what about former queen Ratna? WHERE WILL SHE STAY?! Golly, maybe Paras will have to go out and get a job and pay rent like everyone else! And certainly Gyanandra won't abandon his dear sweet stepmom, right? And even if Gyanandra does toss her out on her bum (possible - he's a complete and utter fucktard widely believed to have supported his brother's bloody palace coup), I mean, she'll get treated just the same as everyone else in that situation . . . which should call attention to the atrocious way Gyanandra ruled. To think otherwise is to take the absolutely absurd and morally preposterous position of thinking that a person used to luxury should be provided for it on the basis of their former wealth. Horrible things happen to poor people all the time with absolutely no comment, kick one former queen on her ass and the BBC sheds tears for you. Preposterous.

But what this mostly makes me think of is Tibet, really. Nowadays, the Dalai Lama does pretty good for himself going around talking about the injustices of the Chinese rule in Tibet. What he forgets to mention is that before he was the kindly, sainted fighter for the rights of the Tibetans he was their primary oppressor of the Tibetan people as the absolute monarch of that country. Perhaps if he'd fought for the freedom of the Tibetan people before 1950 - say in the fashion of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan - I might give a fuck what this feudal monarch thinks. But it was only after he lost his own magnificent palace that he discovered the need to fight for Tibetan freedom. That really fails to impress me.

Which is not to say that there isn't race based bigotry on the part of the Chinese government. There is. It is abominable and should stop. But, hey, the Chinese didn't keep the Tibetans in feudal bondage to the land as the Dalai Lama did. Should we forgive or ignore the class based discrimination and crimes of the Dalai Lama's misrule simply because of Chinese misrule? As we all learned as children, two wrongs don't make a right.

All monarchy is bad. All. Including the Dalai Lama's. The only monarchs that aren't evil bastards are the ones actively seeking to get rid of the monarchy. Which means King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan. Who is pretty cool.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Proof religious people are stupid! Or at least ignorant. Well, I have a CHART.

I know, divisive title for the blog. Razib at made this post where he correlates IQ and Biblical literalism by religion, hehe. (Which I in turn got from The Friendly Atheist.) And it's not really strong proof - what it is is a simple correlation between IQ values charted to religion. I, myself, don't think that IQ tests for intelligence so much as a particular kind of education . . . so if anything, this is a measure of the education of religious people (which is, itself, of course, very interesting data).

OK, then. Granting that it's not a study, and it's not really measuring intelligence but how well the people took IQ tests, it's still pretty lovely, hehe.

Isn't that lovely? Razib is personally aware at the limitations of the chart. While the data is legitimately gotten from reputable sources, it is, in the end, just a chart, so we should remember that correlation is not causation.

However, correlation suggests causation. What IQ tests were initially intended to do is locate people inside a given society that have special needs. If Pentacostalists as a group are doing poorly on IQ tests, it is legitimate to ask why. At a guess, it isn't the religion, but their education, which is likely bad not because of their religion (tho' that might play a role in it, esp. with science education - Bible literalists are known to have some contempt for science, after all) but because of issues like poverty and social status. Indeed, it isn't precisely news that fundamentalist religion goes hand-in-hand with poor, low status groups whereas non-theism is largely amongst the best educated people with secure careers (y'know, tenured scientists).

But for me the real pleasure is just seeing it charted out how Biblical literalism is heavily correlated to outright stupidity, hehe. I have to admit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cyborgization continues - "brain pacemakers"

Apparently, good work is being done by using "deep brain stimulation" to help some seriously depressed and obsessive-compulsive people.

I know that my own depression is not the same as the kinds of depression this device works on - severe depression is the realms of utter madness, often including delusions and hallucinations, and is utterly crippling. It is ghastly. So, knowing that, even I can't help but feel some real joy at the notion that work is being done that can successfully treat depression as a purely material problem. (Because it is, of course. The "mind/body problem" is only a problem if you think there's a difference between your mind and your body. Which there isn't. "Mind/body problem" makes as much sense as "heart/body problem". Your mind is part of your body, located primarily in your brain. Duh.)

Of course, what particularly fascinates me about this is that it's a mechanical, electronic solution. You stick some wires in your head and, zap, 4 out of 6 severe patients feel better.

It makes me wonder when someone will say to themself, "Self, if it works for them, might it not work for me. Oh, I know that I don't suffer depression, but if it helps my mood, makes me feel happier, be more productive, allows me to more fully express the person I want to be, why not?" then I'll be particularly fascinated. (People already do this with mood medication; taking anti-depressants as "mood brighteners". I should note I'm mostly for this. What's wrong with people being in good moods?)

But we're all on the verge of becoming literal cyborgs. I find all of this very fascinating and await all of this with bated breath.

For the most part, I will add, I don't think that this will lead to some dystopian future with people being modified or drug addicted to become the mindless drones of the state. The reasons for this are two:

1. In the end, humans will prove more useful if they are allowed to pursue their interests where it leads them. Since machines are taking over all our physical and even some of our intellectual labor, creative labor is about all we've got left as we begin this new period. Enslaving people through these techniques would be a disaster, good for no one.

2. The techniques, themselves, will lead those who use them to benevolent conclusions. I have long wondered how much of human civilization has been the results of literally madness - how many lawmakers have been mentally ill, and how has that effected our society? I think quite a bit. (I also think that since the average life expectancy of early civilizations was about 18 years old that civilization was created by teenage boys - and shows it.) I believe that clarity of thought makes it intellectually and emotionally difficult for tyrants to be tyrants. The cruelty and stupidity of what they are doing will be clear, not only to themselves, but others, because of people's intellectual clarity.

Conservapedia YouTube vid and general comments

More about Conservapedia! Here's a lovely YouTube video of Andy Schlafly and a member of his "world history class" that created Conservapedia going on about the project:

Great video. I love it, hehe. What I love the most about it are the pans of the kids in Schlafly's home schooling class. Not only are no minorities represented, I don't think I saw a single kid who was so much as dark haired. No kidding! I was spooked by the way these kids looked like recruitment posters for racial purity. They weren't just white, they were pale.

The other thing that struck me is how there's an automatic equation between conservative Christian beliefs and real truth. Again and again, they talk about a liberal bias while frankly saying that Conservapedia is from the point of view of fundie Christians. To them, that's not bias. That's truth. Fundie Christian bias is truth to them.

One of the things in particular I found amusing is when the young woman that served as the mouthpiece of the students said that one of the reasons they founded Conservapedia was because they couldn't go edit Wikipedia's evolution article to talk about creationism and intelligent design. What I found funny is that Wikipedia's portal about creationism is vastly superior to Conservapedia's rather anemic article about the same subject. Conservapedia, as a source of information even about what is their stated reason to exist is far inferior than Wikipedia's articles about the same subject matter. If you want to learn about creationism, you're much better off going to Wikipedia than Conservapedia. I doubt that they'll grasp the irony there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Conservapedia article of the year is atheism!

Woo woo! The Conservapedia article of the year is their article on atheism!

It is, of course, a totally dismal article. The larger part of it is actually debunking atheism, saying everything from that atheists are fascists to saying we have worse health than people who believe in religion. The list of reasons why atheists are atheists is fascinating, itself:

* Rebellion: Atheism stems from a deliberate choice to ignore the reality of God's existence.
* Moral depravity: Moral depravity has been demonstrated in the atheist community through history and through various studies. The Bible asserts that "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." (Psalms 14:1 (KJV)). The biblical fool is said to be lacking in sound judgment and the biblical fool is also associated with moral depravity. For example, the biblical book of Proverbs states: "A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated. The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge."(Proverbs 14:16-18 (NASB)). The book of Proverbs also has strong words regarding the depravity of biblical fools: "The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but [it is] abomination to fools to depart from evil." (Proverbs 13:9 (KJV)). Regarding the deceitfulness of fools Proverbs states: "The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, But the foolishness of fools is deceit." (Proverbs 14:8 (KJV)). Noted Bible commentator and clergyman Matthew Henry wrote regarding atheism: "A man that is endued with the powers of reason, by which he is capable of knowing, serving, glorifying, and enjoying his Maker, and yet lives without God in the world, is certainly the most despicable and the most miserable animal under the sun."
* Superficiality: Noted ex-atheist and psychologist Dr. Paul Vitz has stated that he had superficial reasons for becoming an atheist such as the desire to be accepted by his Stanford professors who were united in disbelief regarding God.
* Error: Some argue that atheism partly stems from a failure to fairly and judiciously consider the facts.
* State churches: Rates of atheism are much higher in countries with a state sanctioned religion (such as many European countries), and lower in states without a sanctioned religion (such as the United States). Some argue this is because state churches become bloated, corrupt, and/or out of touch with the religious intuitions of the population, while churches independent of the state are leaner and more adaptable. It is important to distinguish "state-sanctioned churches," where participation is voluntary, from "state-mandated churches" (such as Saudi Arabia) with much lower atheism rates because publicly admitted atheism is punishable by death.
* Poor relationship with father: Some argue that a troubled/non-existent relationship with a father may influence one towards holding the position of atheism. Dr. Paul Vitz wrote a book entitled Faith of the Fatherless in which he points out that after studying the lives of more than a dozen leading atheists he found that a large majority of them had a father who was present but weak, present but abusive, or absent. Dr. Vitz also examined the lives of prominent theists who were contemporaneous to their atheist counterparts and from the same culture and in every instance these prominent theists had a good relationship with his father. Dr. Vitz has also stated other common factors he observed in the leading atheists he profiled: they were all intelligent and arrogant.
* Division in religion: According to Francis Bacon, atheism is caused by "divisions in religion, if they be many; for any one main division addeth zeal to both sides, but many divisions introduce atheism."
* Learned times, peace, and prosperity: Francis Bacon argued that atheism was partly caused by "Learned times, specially with peace and prosperity; for troubles and adversities do more bow men’s minds to religion."
* Negative experiences with theists.
* The advance of scientific knowledge: Science has in many ways become a new God.

I mean . . . wow. And the whole article is like that - just filled with a great and directed anger towards atheists. I am serious when they compare atheists to Hitler, literally Hitler, saying we're mentally ill, etc., etc., but I think this list of reasons - taken straight from their site - does a good job of nailing on the head what they think of atheists. Atheists are morally depraved, or have had bad relationships with our fathers (just our fathers? having a shitty mom doesn't make one an atheist?).

But, really, my favorite is that education, peace and prosperity are one of their factors leading to atheism, hehe. I love that one. I mean, there's some truth to it (but just some, the growth of atheism in Europe was vastly facilitated by the World Wars - many Europeans rejected god because of the horrors of those wars, feeling that no god could allow such terrible things to happen), in terms of education in particular. Education allows one to see all the stupidity of religion, yes. But nested with all the rest, all those hideously insulting, superficial reasons, that one shines out because I think that they put it in there like they put in all the others, as a sly, anti-intellectual barb - and don't understand how they saying that poverty, war and ignorance are the causes of religion is high praise to atheists.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Laughing a bit at religious homophobic, racism and sexism - also warning labels on the Bible and Koran

Recently, I was contacted by some people who have a neat little video that makes fun of religious sexism, racism and homophobia:

It's a fun little song - in French, but it has English subtitles - that brings up the serious and very real point about how morally backwards the Bible and Koran are, but does it with humor and is a nice little ditty. Everyone should watch it. Pertutti wants their names out there, so I'm gonna give a little help. ;)

The people who made the video are also suing people, initially in France but now more broadly, to put warning labels on the Bible and the Koran for it's racist, sexist and homophobic content. I love the idea of that, because I believe that religious works (and organizations) should be treated like any other work (or organization). There is nothing special about these books, or these organizations, and I think it's bad for governments to accord them special privileges. They should be held to the same standards that any other human work or enterprise is held. I think that's obvious. So I'm fascinated and glad that people are working to remove the special status of religions. Anyway, here's a video (also in French with English subs) about their attempt to sue the French government to get warning labels put on the Bible and Koran:

From letters with the makers of the video and subjects of the news story, I was told that the case was dismissed in France because the plaintiffs were ruled not to have legal standing ("because it should have been done by a group who considered being globally discriminated by the books, like homosexuals for instance") which is one of the standard legal tricks that governments use when they don't want to deal with a sticky issue like this. It has the air of a stupid procedural rule being used to avoid what would certainly be a contentious issue. On the good side, it's at the European Court of Human Rights and some people have come forth to possibly resubmit the case in France with legal standing of the globally discriminated groups.

They're also writing "le livre athée", an atheist's book, to lay out the case for atheism in clear and accessible language. I fully support that kind of project as well. A big problem, I feel, with atheism is that it is not particularly gentle to people without fairly traditional advanced educations. Atheists often have trouble speaking to people who aren't college educated, so a clear and simple book about the subject I think is a very good idea.

So, take a look at the things Pertutti is doing! :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Liberals and Guns

My blog is verging on becoming a political blog! Oh, no! I'll write about something different soon, I promise, hehe. But I'm using this journal to vent some frustration, and, hey, it's not like anyone actually reads it, except for a few Europeans. ;)

One of the reasons I can't identify as a liberal is that, well, they're not very liberal. Take this "liberal" posting about why gun restrictions are bad. In my experience, this is pretty much the standard American liberal line about firearms - that, y'know, because most gun owners never blow anyone's head off, it's OK to ignore it when other gun owners do blow someone's head off. Because, okay, the quote is too good: "Guns are a tool, like anything, can be used to harm….or they can be used for fun, like most gun-users do."

For fun.

Around 10,000 people a year in the USA are murdered with firearms. That's 68% of all murders, not to mention 42% of all robberies and 22% of the assaults in the US involved guns. About 16,000 people a year kill themselves with guns. There are around 40,000 firearms injuries per year where hospitalization was sought. There are over half a million crimes a year committed with guns. A gun is eleven times more likely to be used in a suicide or suicide attempt than home defense!

But the justification is that guns are fun. And on the strength that people like guns, we are justified in turning our eye away from the 26,000 people a year who die because of guns, the forty-thousand who are seriously injured with guns, and the hundreds of thousands of gun-related crimes committed each year.

I have difficulty expressing how morally vacant I find that argument. I prefer the conservative argument, for even tho' I don't agree with it, and I think it is ignorant, it is not wholly morally vacant. To say that we need guns to kick the government's ass if it becomes tyrannical is a little crazy, but not morally vacant given that governments do become tyrannical. But the argument that guns are fun, or cool, or whatever, is so blindingly empty, so vile and backwards and stupid that I have trouble imagining how an intelligent person could hold to such an evil idea. It baffles me.

Additional Comment: One of the "guns are cool" group on the post that spurred my post has gone on to say how we should boycott bananas because of how awful and destructive United Fruit (aka Chiquita) is.

So, we should stop eating bananas because United Fruit is a horrible corporation but it's okay to supports the arms industry. Because "guns are cool". At least bananas are healthy. Oh, I think she's got a point about United Fruit - it is a horrible company, without doubt, but at least the product that United Fruit produces, bananas, are actually good for people.

I mean, how can you support firearms, the fucking arms industry, the death merchants and then criticize any other corporate entity for being horrible? And do support the most murderous - overtly, literally murderous and literally war mongers - group of corporations on earth and then get your knickers in a twist over bananas?

The piece de la resistance is, of course, that United Fruit's horrible policies would be impossible without the arms industry - the arms industry makes oppression possible. So, y'know, don't eat the banana, but support the company that makes the oppression of the farmers who grow the bananas possible.

It's insane.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Buy this car and I'll throw in a FREE PISTOL!"

Max Motors in Butler, Missouri, have decided to give away a handgun with every car purchase. And it's all Barack Obama's fault, or at least that's what owner Mark Mueller says: "He said all those people in the Midwest, you've got to have compassion for them because they're clinging to their guns and their Bibles. I found that quite offensive. We all go to church on Sunday and we all carry guns."

I mean, let us ignore the fact that this sorta demonstrates Obama's point. But, man, am I the only person who finds handing out pistols with cars is kind of like handing out quarts of Jack Daniels with cars?

Mark suggests a Kel-Tec .380 pistol, which he describes as "a nice little handgun that fits in your pocket". Because, you know, what a great idea! A gun that fits in your pocket! Because, you know, needing a pistol in your pocket at all times is not clinging to your guns because of your ignorance.

Missouri has the 14th highest murder rate in the Union, which is the 27% percentile for murder. Good going, guys! Exactly what a state like Missouri needs, more people carrying guns in their pockets.

The depths of this irresponsibility stagger me. Unlike Obama, I don't think that they should be pitied. I think they should be stopped. Before they kill again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

One of the key differences between the Republicans and Democrats

The Louisiana legislature is going to cripple the teaching of evolution. Not exactly a thrilling story in modern America - I mean, shocker, some Deep South state government is pissing in the face of science education and separation of church and state. Who knew? Oh, right, anyone conscious. For me, while tragic, and obviously everyone should do everything they can to stop this kind of nonsense from happening, it is a reason to reflect on one of the biggest differences between Republicans and Democrats.

Here it is: Republicans don't give up. Let me repeat that: Republicans don't give up.

Democrats, on the other hand, do.

I reflect on this because, I mean, I'm going to bring up three words that no one had heard of in years, and some of you perhaps never: Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment was simple - to guarantee all Americans equal rights regardless of race or gender, and giving Congress the power to make laws to insure this. It wasn't ever ratified, and it is dutifully reintroduced - in a purely symbolic way - every year since '82, but I can't remember the last time that someone actually talked about it.

On the other hand, the Republicans are fighting, still fighting, the Scopes Monkey Trial - and that was in 1925. They're still fighting the New Deal. They're still fighting Roe v. Wade. I can't think of a single issue that the Democrats have fought for like the Republicans have fought on those three issues. Year after year, they just haven't given up. They have this view of the way the world should work, and they fight for it. Tirelessly. Relentlessly. Without cease.

Because the Democrats, who routinely mistake compromise for appeasement, do give up fighting for things like the New Deal (much less the Great Society), the ERA and for the progressive humanism of government, the debate can be controlled by the Republicans and conservatives. Because they do teach their children, and their children's children, that destroying the New Deal, secular education, civil rights, etc., are the highest political values. Even when the Democrats have been right, they . . . have given up.

Which is probably why I'm not a Democrat (oh, god, I'm not a Republican, either!). Even when they've been right, rather than tirelessly fighting for what is right, they've allowed "political expediency" to shape their politics and policy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Witches burned in Kenya

Apparently, a province in Western Kenya has been burning witches. Eleven of them, even.

The odd thing I find about this story is that the religion of the witch burners isn't discussed. All the time, and I think we've all had this experience, whenever something terrible happens in a Muslim country the news is very quick to point out the religion of the perps. But here we have a shocking, religiously motivated crime that happens in a Christian country - about 70% of Kenyans are Christian, meaning that Kenya is roughly as Christian as the United States (and Kisii, itself, seems to be dominated by Catholics and 7th Day Adventists) - the religion of the perpetrators isn't mentioned.

Of course, this happens all the time. Christians perpetrate vile offenses, often quite a bit religiously motivated, but their religion isn't discussed. Whereas with Muslims, even when their religion is only tangential to the deeds, is often discussed. In this fashion, the media is perpetrating a lot of discrimination and bigotry against Muslims, allowing people who read the news to easily infer (so easily that I can't believe it's unintentional) that Muslims are far more crime prone than their Christian neighbors. Given the heightened state of cultural tensions between Christians and Muslims (even ignoring the war in Iraq, which obviously has religious connotations - Bush is an evangelical fundamentalist who has explicitly said that his god urged him into this war against an overwhelmingly Islamic nation), the racism and/or irresponsibility of the media makes me pretty pissed off.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My favorite "not a gang" - the CIA

My favorite "not a gang" is definitely the CIA. In 1996, a San Jose Mercury News reporter by the name of Gary Webb wrote an expose of the CIA using Nicaraguan contras to run drugs into Southern California in order to fund CIA activities in Nicaragua. Yes, you read that right - the CIA were drug runners. They did this because their funding for Nicaraguan black ops had been defunded but it was a priority of the Reagan administration to support the Contras. Very ugly, very nasty stuff.

Gary Webb's career was destroyed. He was called a conspiracy theory nutjob. He couldn't get work. In 2004, he committed suicide after deep depression stemming from, in part, how his work was viciously attacked and he was forced out of a job.

However, eventually, almost every conclusion that Webb reported about was found to be correct by the CIA Inspector General Fredrick Hitz. The Hitz report talks about how the CIA protected over 50 Contra drug dealers who sold crack cocaine in Southern California and how money from these drug deals were laundered and used by the CIA for their illegal Nicaraguan operations. Rep. Maxine Walters had entered into the Congressional Record a memorandum of understanding between the CIA and Justice Department where the Justice Department said the CIA would be free of any legal culpability arising from their drug trafficking operations - the mechanism through which the CIA was able to protect those Nicaraguan drug dealers. Pretty much everything Gary Webb said about the CIA drug dealing was correct - but his career was still destroyed.

However, it is without a doubt that the CIA was one of the biggest crack cocaine distribution gangs in the 80s, their drugs and money fueling not only war in Nicaragua but also in the streets of LA and my hometown, Las Vegas, as gang wars spilled over into neighboring communities.

Interesting to note, too, that out of these investigations, absolutely no indictments were handed down, much less trials and jail time for the CIA gangsters that distributed massive quantities of crack cocaine to Southern California.

I suspect in the not too distant future, we're going to learn a lot about the CIA's activities in Afghanistan concerning heroin. Because no serious accounting has been done to find and persecute the drug dealers of the 80s (or how Air America - the CIA's air program during the Vietnam War - was used to smuggle heroin out of Southeast Asia in the 60s and 70s), I think anyone who doubts that the CIA isn't smuggling black tar out of Afghanistan right now is being intensely naive. It's almost impossible to find a conflict in the past 50 years where the CIA has been involved where they haven't smuggled drugs.

Definition of gangster

Now, I've been reading a fair bit about gangsters in the United States because I'm going to write what is more and more becoming a psychohistorical fiction than a straight up crime novel. Or maybe I'm just being a pretentious ass about that. But in doing the investigation I've really come to the conclusion that the term "gangster" is deeply racist.

You'd think that it wouldn't be, that any person in a gang would be a gangster. I mean, I will right here acknowledge the definition of a gang is a pretty blurry concept in a lot of areas. Many "legitimate businessmen" are involved with "gangsters" and many "gangsters" own "legitimate businesses".

It's part of every MBA grad school in America that you have an outside man - a person not formally connected with your business that can do the things you can't do in order to help your business. So, when a "legitimate businessman" uses an outside man (say, a ruthlessly unscrupulous private investigator) to dig up dirty on a business rival and drops evidence that could ruin that person's life or marriage off to that person with unstated hints about accepting the business deal - that's just business, right? I mean, no joke, that's a standard business practice. Perhaps its legality is tenuous, but how is that any different than a couple of gorillas going into a place of business and saying that the owner should take out an insurance policy because it would be terrible if there was a fire in his nice store. And that's not even talking about the specific connections that people in a great many businesses need to have in order to get things done. In Las Vegas, where I'm from, all the big owners of all the big casinos, and definitely all the owners of the little casinos, have connections with a number of organized crime figures. Yet . . . those businessmen aren't ever called gangsters, despite for decades working hand in glove with "gangsters" - helping them to steal billions of dollars.

So, all the time these books will focus on people with Italian or Jewish names as the gangsters, but the people with the Anglo names that are equally part of the criminal activity won't be called that. Indeed, I can't think of a single "Anglo gang" - gangsterism in America seems to be defined by some sort of ethnic identity. You can have an Italian gang, or a Jewish gang, or a black gang, but a non-ethnically identified white gang? Nope. It doesn't happen. White kids don't do organized crime. When they behave the same way as gangsters, it's just called business.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Researching a new book, gangsters and anecdote

I am doing research for a new novel I'll be writing, and since it'll be set in Las Vegas and deals with Vegas' gangsters, I'm reading a lot about gangsters. Mostly what I've learned about gangsters is all their spiel about honor and stuff is nonsense. Even "made men" are generally, in the fullness of time, killed by other gangsters.

The other thing I'm learning is the definition of gangster is pretty narrowly defined to include some crooks and not others. So, when reading about the legendary skim at the Stardust Hotel, Lefty Rosenthal and, of course, Tony Spilotro are ID'd as gangsters, but all of the guys with Anglo-Germanic names aren't - including, y'know, the people who created, maintained and used the machines that allowed the skim to occur. I know some of the reasons behind this must be because the Italian and (to a lesser extent) Jewish mobsters had fairly elaborate rituals and formal organizational structures, whereas other gangsters equally organized didn't have all the ritualism or formality of organization. Some of it also has to do, of course, with the sensantionalization of Italian and Italian-American gangsters in Hollywood, but it seems that many writers in many ways define gangster to exclude a . . . lot of violent Anglo-American crooks.

Still, a lot of the stories are so much fun. Take this one: in 1951, Estes Kefauver went after organized crime, particularly illegal gambling, in televised Senate hearings. At one point, he had Virginia Hill on the stand. Virginia Hill had been the main squeeze of the then-deceased Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, largely considered the person to have brought modern casino gambling to Las Vegas.

Hill's income at the time was, uh, in the form of gifts by rich men, a Chicago physician, a couple of New York gangsters, Ben Siegel when he was alive, a Mexican millionaire, a concert violinist, all of whom were giving her money.

Kefauver asked her, "How come that's the case, Miss Hill?"

Hill: "Senator, are you sure you want to know why these men give me money?"

Kefauver: "Of course I want to know, Miss Hill."

Hill: "Senator, they give me money because I'm the best damn cocksucker in the United States!"

The answer knocked the toupee off of one of the Senators. It was televised live on TV, all the three big national channels. Classic!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Continued cyborgization of athletics!

Apparently, Japan's Olympic swimmers were in an uproar because of bathing suits. Speedo has something called an LZR Racer swim suit. Since the LZR's launch, 29 swimming records have been broken, and twenty-eight of those records had people wearing the LZR. Japanese swimmers must use Japanese products, so they were pissed off about this, likening using the LZR to doping. The LZR was developed, in part, by NASA's advanced materials division.

Of course, trying to beat Japan with technology is askin' for a smackdown, so now Yamamoto Corp. has created what they say is an even faster swimsuit. Just in time for the Olympics, so Japanese swimmers can glide exclusively to victory!

The cyborg aspect is, of course, that the high-tech suits serve as a second, almost frictionless skin. Everywhere the swimmer's body propelling a swimmer serves as drag to slow them down. Reduce drag and you get a faster swimmer!

Now, none of this has anything to do with the athletes. The quality of the athletes is now less in question than the clothing they wear. To break records, swimmers now need super-slick bathing suits.

Which, of course, makes me wonder when the concept of physical sports will go away entirely. The shoes you wear, the clothing you wear, whether or not you have mechanical feet - all these things are technological developments, not training and exercise developments. I wonder how long it will be before we're forced to acknowledge that we are, as a whole, more interested in the technology than the athletes, in the swimsuits and not the swimmers.

If I had a billion dollars, I might think about that sort of thing. Leagues where I don't care if you dope, or use shoes that make you jump higher and faster, and just focus on creating the most kinetic athletic entertainment experience possible. Like pro-wrestling with gadgets!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Atheists and the argument of epistemological uncertainty

Fairly often, I come across some atheist who rubs me the wrong way because I am sure there is no god and then says, tut tut, dear fellow, you can't be epistemologically certain about anything, therefore you can't really say there's no god. I hate that argument. It's so silly!

While I acknowledge epistemological uncertainty in this life, everyone I know makes pretty absolute statements. They say "the earth exists". They will also say "Batman doesn't exist". Which is the more interesting point for me. Because . . . how do they know? Have the really scoured the entire universe and checked every possible place Batman might exist? No. Because there is a sufficiently compelling narrative to explain the existence of stories about Batman without having to search everywhere in the universe. The same is true with god - we have compelling historical, sociological, psychological and archeological evidence about the creation of religion all over the earth. We know the process, have seen the process happen again and again, through which religion is created, we know much about the historical events around the creation of all major religions which fit into this pattern. We all these powerful and consistent facts that explain everything about the development of religion - include the idea of god - that fit in with the broader tapestry of human knowledge. But then what we're expected to do is ignore all of this human knowledge because of a smidge of epistemological uncertainty.

And, almost always, because these people are unbelievers, they do not actually believe in any god enough to be religious in any sense. So, I often bring my brows together with confusion. If they don't believe in any god enough to act on this knowledge, where is their claim to believe in the possibility of this god? Because, y'know, if you admit to the possibility of god, then Pascal's wager makes quite a bit of sense. Sure, maybe the Christian (or whatever other god you might choose) might not exist, but maybe they will, and you really improve your odds of not burning in hell or whatever from nothing to "a slim chance you chose right". But yet there they go, living their atheistic lives without the possibility of god's existence entering their mind when choosing a choice of behavior. Except to annoy other atheists who are just a fraction of a percent more certain than they are about the non-existence of a god.

So, perhaps it is more ultimately accurate for me to say I don't believe in a god to the limits of epistemological certainty. But that seems cumbersome. In normal speech, I just don't believe in god and think that quibbling about arguing about the limits of epistemological certainty is generally quite a bit off target - especially coming from admitted non-believers!

Interestingly, this is the argument that religious people, themselves, often use. They'll try to say the epistemological uncertainty about the origin of the universe, for instance, justifies belief in god and then improperly generalize that to mean their god. This is, of course, the god of the gaps, which is a intellectually cowardly and insupportable notion. But it is to be expected from religious people - it's when atheists admit to the possibility of a god because of those gaps that make my eyebrows knit together.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Archbishop of Westminister wants Christians to play nice with the godless!

The Archbishop of Westminister wants Christians to treat atheists and agnostics with deep esteem. I laughed and laughed.

I mean, obviously, it'd be nice to be respected by Christians. I like being treated with respect! And I feel the reason I'm so militant is largely because after years of trying to be respectful to Christians I got deeply tired of their lack of respect so I started getting more and more aggressive until, y'know, I wrote Simon Peter.

I find this statement as a backhanded way of saying that, y'know, it's just a well-known fact that religious people don't respect or esteem non-beleivers. So, at some level I know it'd be nice for Christians to treat atheists respectfully.

But so long as Christianity is a religion, that can't really happen. The problem isn't one of respect, in the end, but that sincere religious people feel morally compelled to act on their religion. And no religion is based in honest reason. In the end, all religions take certain facts for granted - unalterably for granted. The usually take the physical existence of their god as a fact beyond dispute, and they usually take their primary religious works as truth beyond critique or reproach. The problem is that religious people use religion to make decisions that effect me, and they make these decisions on grounds that are beyond reason.

For instance, the Archbishop of Westminister is against gay marriages, against birth control, abortion, stem cell research, human cloning and a bunch of other things. Not because they hurt people. Indeed, they sometimes provide considerable help to people. Like condoms. They protect people against STDs. And they allow people to rationally plan families. How is this bad? Even vaguely? Even if you take the position that "fornication" is immoral, how can protecting yourself and your partner from a disease be immoral, too? Or explain how gay marriage is immoral? In all of these things, ultimately, they have to say that their god believes them to be wrong and it doesn't matter the rational explanation. They're wrong because Jehovah said so. And these people are advancing these positions because of their religion. In my democracy!

So, even if they pretend to listen to what atheists say, and say "please" and "thank you", well, there's a deeper problem than that, once that can't be fixed by superficial politeness. These religions, based on arbitrary authority, are doing things to the world. Things that need to be stopped. And so long as religious people believe these things based on their invention of divine authority, atheists will attack religion itself. Because religion is a stumbling block to making the world a better place. Which is the real problem with respect between atheists and religious people.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another pervert messiah! And a contest!

A friend of mine posted this news story on their blog about a pervert messiah being arrested. My friend's post mentioned my research for Simon Peter into this area so I suppose it's relevant to this blog, it being very close to the central premise of one of the books I've written.

Many of the founders of religions are deeply twisted people. Because of how religions whitewash the founders of their religion, this can be hard to see. We can see this whitewashing in progress in, say, Scientology, a cult that managed to survive it's insane founder. All of L. Ron Hubbard's human flaws are being culled by Scientology to create a mythology of him being this enlightened, benevolent person working for the good of all humankind - standard messiah stuff.

Likewise, when looking at any so-called messiah, it is important to remember that none of them say that they're crazy perverts, money-grubbing frauds or deeply disturbed people in need of psychological help. They all say they're around for the good of everyone, full of love and peace. It's pretty predictable stuff.

But pretty much every religious person that you can actually study in history has been deeply sexually twisted. I'll give a couple of examples.

Muhammad, founder of Islam, had thirteen wives or concubines. Thirteen. One of the people he married, calling Aisha a "woman" is a stretch, was six years old. Even Muslims admit that he consummated the marriage when Aisha was nine or ten years old. This is the stuff that's in the historical record, this is what we know about.

Even so, it is brushed off by many historians - even non-Muslim ones. The most interesting argument is when they talk about his first marriage to Khadija - he was loyal to her until she died. It was only then, when he was about fifty, that he freaked out and starting marrying and engaging in concubinage, when he was the leader of a large and growing religion that regarded him as a sacred being. I think this supports the idea that messiahdom makes a person insane - it wasn't until Khadija died and all his ties with the fallible, mortal Muhammad were gone that he felt comfortable reveling in his godhead, which had grown huge by the time of her passing.

The actual historical record of Muhammad is scant, too, coming almost entirely from Muslim sources. There are some Persian and Byzantine documentation of his life - he was definitely a real person - but they dealt only distantly with Muhammad and largely with his political life. His personal life comes to us from Muslims, exclusively, and even there we find this man who engaged in sex with children and kept concubines.

Jumping ahead to an American case, we have Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism. In his religion, against the standards of his time, he created a religion of polygamy. Compared to Joe Smith, Muhammad was pretty tame. Joseph Smith had around thirty-four wives. Thirty-four. Joseph Smith damned to hell those wives who did not except polygamy! Joe Smith also married women who were married to other men. He told the first woman he bullied into this position, Zina Jacobs (at the time), that unless she married him that god would take away Joseph Smith's authority. Must be nice to be able to tell a woman you want to fuck that god himself said that she must fuck him. He'd do this time and again, and so would Brigham Young, who had something like fifty-four or fifty-five wives. He occasionally demanded that wives married to other men should be divorced so he could marry them! .

With L. Ron Hubbard, not only did he repeatedly seduce wives of Scientologists, but when he started the Sea Org - a flotilla of ships that operated in international waters after various pressures of government forced Hubbard into hiding - he would have "messengers" do his bidding. They were pretty young girls of around 14 years of age. Occasionally, Hubbard would sleep with them. Naked. I don't know if it's more or less perverted that he didn't have sex with them. But he did it, which is deeply weird.

Other so-called messiahs, like David Koresh or Jim Jones, would do things like outlaw marriage except to the messiah, and openly have sex with all the women they wanted in their little twisted compounds.

As far as I can tell, sexual abuse and messiahdom attend each other. I don't know of a single religious messiah that wasn't a pervert, who didn't do some really twisted, sick thing with sex.

So I want to know what my readers think! Or readers anywhere. Is there a messiah who existed in history that wasn't a pervert? I won't accept a messiah whose life is only recorded by religious people, there's got to be some legitimate history out there about the person. Has it ever happened that a messiah hasn't been a sexual weirdo?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Depression and not-depression

This is about the most personal post I've ever made on a blog! Here it is. I suffer depression. Personally. Immediately. And after taking medication for it, it is clearer than every how crippling depression is.

I'm saying this because, well, I mean, honestly I know I'm not risking anything, as about five people will ever read this, but I am sorta daring people to take umbrage with the idea of depression. A lot of my life, a lot of people close to me have said that the problem has been a character failing. A form of weakness, and if I just applied myself more and better that's all it would take. Man up, cowboy! Stuff like that. This was told to me by some members of my family and some previous close friends. It's easy to believe when you're told it. And for years my mind has told me that depression and mental illness are real, and that people who claim mental illness are not weaklings or "faking it", that they are not to blame. They're not. But while I sincerely believed that, for my own part, I didn't take those words to heart. I persisted in believing that the troubles I have in my life - such as the crippling anxiety and depression about the process of getting published as a writer, and the various problems I've had with authority, employment, etc. - were not because of some stupid chemical in my brain working improperly. I bought into the myth that I could only be held responsible for my "failings".

But now, in light of what I am feeling here and now, it is clear to me the anxiety and depression I felt, the terrors in my head of both success and failure, were at least in part a disease. Something in my brain doesn't work right, the wiring is messed up a little bit, creating a powerful dread that spirals into a hard and dark depression without rhyme or reason. It is difficult for me to describe the change in my mood - the improvement. All the drugged experimentations of my youth are nothing compared to the profound change that has overcome me these past few days without any of the mental confusion of drugs. (Tho', to be honest, the way I feel now is very like the day after I've taken LSD. I feel cleared and focused and unafraid, intellectually energetic and curious. Which I think is very interesting.)

But I'm saying this because I will not feel any shame for this disease I am suffering under, so I'm gettin' it out there. Mental illness is real, it's more crippling than many physical illnesses or injuries (for instance, I find depression far more debilitating than any physical injury I've had; I'd much rather have a broken leg than depression!) and it can be treated.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Where are the anti-Christians?

So, where are the anti-Christians?

By anti-Christians I don't mean people who hate Christians or atheists. I'm taking about the Christians who accept the truth of Christianity but fail to worship the Christian god. I don't even mean Satanists who think that Christianity is bogus, but the people who go, "Yes, the metaphysical order of the universe is as the Christians describe it, but I am taking a principled stand against god. Even if it condemns me to hell."

Because the way I see it, there's a lot to object to concerning the Christian god's ordering of the universe. Even beyond the absurdity of an all-benevolent omnipotent being allowing random pain and suffering into the world, what with all the natural disasters and cancers or whatever, but the total two-faced nature of religious literature. Where are the people who accept that Jesus died for our sins but . . . don't consider that being worthy of worship?

Where are the anti-Christians?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

An IDer lays it on the line about faith and reason!

Over at Stardust's blog she posted about the movie Expelled. Like pretty much all atheists, she's offended at the links between Hitler's genocide and evolutionary biology. I'm offended! It's offensive! It's a terrible slur and not true.

But this is about Stardust's post about Expelled, right? Right. Well, her blog was trolled by a a fundie Christian who thought Stardust was being ridiculous. It's . . . amusing. The fundie is a young woman of about 17 years of age who is full of vim, vigor and idiocy. I will let her speak for herself:

And, in response to your question, "What are ID's scientific predictions, what are its unifying principles, and what experiments have been done to support your ID theory? WITHOUT THE MYTHOLOGY BOOK." Alright, telling me to do so without the Bible is like telling you to prove one of your bunk theories without the world or without your brain.

WHOA! I mean, you don't get it much clearer than that! When I read this quote to my wife, she said, "That's your primary objection to religion in a nutshell." Yes. You have this person who's saying that the problem with evolution is that it relies on our knowledge of the world, and that is irrelevant to what's in the Bible.

So, no, she can't prove intelligent design without the Bible. Which means it's not science, of course. On the other hand, what's in the Bible is more important than the mere world and reason.

I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A bit of a rant on cultural imperialism

After reading The World Republic of Letters, I was pretty horrified. The basic thesis of the book is that international literature is largely formed by a small group of editors in Paris and to a lesser extent in London and New York. That these editors decide what bits of literature the world over are internationalized.

The horror came over me because I realized how homogenizing this must be - and, indeed, I find international literature to be very much of a particular cast. I mean, take magical realism. It is very much the sort of thing that white middle class people like - it's about extraordinary renditions of fairly ordinary things but with shades of the exotic. Some time later I recall talking to a South American - I don't even know who he is! - about magical realism and though I do not remember the person, I remember what he said very well. He said, "That's not what South Americans really read." He told me that science-fiction is huge in Latin America. I read science-fiction so I said I'd never heard of it, and he said that almost none of it has been translated. Then my mind veered towards this world republic of letters. A group of college educated middle-class Frenchmen (and almost certainly most of them are French men) would have little interest in Spanish language science fiction. What those French editors want is literary fiction - the same stuff that literary fiction writers in the US, and England, and France write, but written exotically. The quality of international literature is being defined as nothing more than what appeals to Western educated French people. It was right then that I really understood what cultural imperialism meant - the attitudes of those white well-to-do Western college educated French men were defining world literature and by doing it, they would create a self-fulfilling system. The more they define "international" literature as what appeals to white well-to-do Western college educated French men the more the continuing standard of quality will be so defined. Like how it's impossible to talk about English literature without someone bringing up Shakespeare, even tho' . . . he's not that good by today's standards, and even by the standards of his day he was . . . sorta . . . shallow. But you can't say that, because Shakespeare has come to define English language literature.

The only place that I have a good idea of what I'm missing is Japanese fiction. Due largely to the efforts of a small group of Japanophiles in the United States, to some extent the "republic" of letters - which is a misnomer, really, it's far more like the oppressive racist aristocracy of letters - has been circumvented. Japanese animation has brought over Japanese comic books which is now translating into bringing over Japanese popular literature. But it's limited, and rare. What goes on, even in fields I'm very interested in, like science-fiction, remain opaque to me.

The same thing happens everywhere. So, the Wikipedia article of the day - yeah, yeah, I know some of you don't like Wikipedia, but I do in large measure because it is way more likely to have information I want than a traditional encyclopedia, like up-to-date comic book summaries - they have it an Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray He does stuff like the Apu trilogy, Ghare Baire and Shakha Proshakha. He would influence people like Mrinal Sen.

Ray's movies are . . . I mean, they're what almost all foreign movies I see are. They're these personal and family dramas! Look at what Ray did, what Sen did! Nothing but personal and family dramas. And with both directors the articles will go on and on about how wonderful and splendid they were and I found myself thinking that we're back in the territory of the international republic of letters. That what we praise is what art house movie people praise.

I know what Indians actually watch - and it isn't these movies! Indians watch a lot more stuff like Dhoom 2 than they do the Apu trilogy. Who watches stuff like the Apu trilogy? Well-to-do Western educated Indians, who contact their well-to-do Western film contacts and international acclaim is given to movies that are not representative of India cinema.

What I feel is going on is that . . . they're not interested in Indian cinema. They're interested in seeing the reflections of the Western artistic aesthetic outside of the West. What Indians are actually interested in isn't nearly as important, to the people who decide what the world sees about all of the parts of the world, as a narcissistic reflection of their own aesthetic. It's a racist pat on the head. We'll acknowledge Indian cinema, or South American literature, if it conforms to the standards of a tiny section of Westerners - almost all of whom are rich, college educated white men. We'll be glad to let them into our circle if they act like us.

I hate that, and I just had to say something.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day or, as we call it in America, the National Day of Prayer

In much of the rest of the world, today is May Day or the International Workers Day. It's what the rest of the world has instead of Labor Day. It has socialist and communist roots, so Americans don't celebrate it - instead we were given Labor Day. I don't like Labor Day. I do like May Day. It won't be until workers unite that we'll have any real chance of changing the world.

For a long time, May Day was nothing in America. Most Americans didn't, and still don't, even know that this is a big worker's holiday in most of the rest of the world. But recently it's become the US National Day of Prayer.

It's one of those holidays that really twists in my gut. First, it does that thing that happens when religious folks get defensive about religion - it lumps them all together. Sorta forgetting that virtually every religious person in the world is condemning people of other religious fates to a variety of horrible events, mostly in the form of eternal punishment. But for little get togethers like this, the first thing that everyone pretends to do is forget that folks in those different religions hate each other's guts, too. But I guess they hate and fear atheists more, which is absurd, because atheists aren't the people going door to door or standing outside of churches trying to convert people to their cause.

The second thing that is actually happening is that the National Day of Prayer is being hijacked by fundamentalist Christians. PZ Myers had a link on his website that linked to this little article about how the multi-faith NDP celebrations have been taken over by the fundies in the form of Shirley Dobson. Which is what people with brains in America knew would happen from the outset. One of the things I repeat again and again in religious discussions with moderates is that the face of religion in America is fundamentalism - because moderates spend all their time trying to convince atheists that they're not like those nutjobs, they aren't spending too much time trying to convince their co-religionists to stop being nutjobs (which would be a more effective way of getting us atheists to shut up, if religious people had the guts to clean their own house, by the way). Tho' I guess that makes sense, too. Fundies are crazy. Us atheists might be adamant, but there's not any chance we'll burn your house down or kill you, which isn't a guarantee with fundie nutjobs.

Still, I obviously loathe everything about the "National Day of Prayer". It was founded in bad faith and intellectual deceit and has been taken over by stupid reactionary religious fundamentalists.