Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Meet the New Fascism, Same as the Old Fascism

I have often, in discussions with others, compared the Bush regime, the neocons, and the evangelical/fundamentalist Christian right with the Third Reich. Though comparing another's views to those of Hitler is a common rhetorical device on the internet, used without discretion, I myself have read perhaps two dozen books on Hitler and as many on the Third Reich, including entire books on the SS, the anatomy of Auschwitz, and the relationship between Hitler and his niece, Geli Raubal.

When I compare the Bush regime to the Third Reich, I am deadly serious. Note that I am not equating the Bush regime with Hitler's Nazi regime in the moral sense. It is the similarity in tactics between the two regimes that shocks me.

In any case, I had intended for some time to say something about this, but in this article, Maureen Farrell has already done so. She doesn't cover exactly the same ground that I would, but she put it out there first and did a pretty good job.

I will add a few of my own observations of parallels.

Not only did Bush promise peace while planning for war, as noted by Farrell, but both made demands of the country[ies] he intended to invade that he never intended to allow them to fulfill, so that he could use the failure to meet those demands as a pretext for war. I think, given the flimsiness of the information used in the Bush regime's case for war against Iraq, that it is obvious that the regime intended to invade Iraq regardless of the intelligence and also regardless of the success or lack thereof the inspections regime in Iraq.

In addition, Hitler and the Nazis used fear of the outsider -- Jews, communists, Russians, etc. -- to keep the populace in check, just as Bush sent Cheney out to tell Americans they would die in a terrorist attack if they failed to reelect Bush.

The Nazis anticipated Karl Rove's tactics by fifty years as well. One of Rove's favorite tactics, used with great success in this election, is, when caught lying, cheating, stealing, push-polling, or doing something else underhanded, is to blame his opponents for actually doing those things in order to discredit the Bush campaign. Brilliant! Just as brilliant as when the Nazis burned down the Reichstag building in order to consolidate their power and then blamed their opponents.

Bush may not be Hitler, but Karl Rove is the second coming of Joseph Goebbels, and I will keep saying so until they drag me off to Guantanam--

Jesus' Opinion on Religion in the Public Square

One of the things most frustrating about the evangelical and fundamentalist Christian forces in this country is how little heed they take of their own Bible and Jesus' commands therein. With all the Christian complaints about secular attempts to "take religion out of the public square," perhaps we should consider what Jesus had to say on the subject. I think these verses from the Gospel of St. Matthew speak for themselves (from the King James Version):

6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before
, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward
of your Father which is in heaven.

6:2 Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do
not sound a trumpet before thee
, as the hypocrites do in the
synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know
what thy right hand doeth:

6:4 That thine alms may be in
: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward
thee openly.

6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as
the hypocrites
[are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the
corners of the streets
, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say
unto you, They have their reward.

6:6 But thou, when thou
, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast
shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret
; and thy
Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the
heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Help, I'm Being Repressed

Check this out. Much more concise than my diatribes on the subject.

Peace, Love, and Firearms

Apparently, the right-wing evangelical effort to throw down America's satanically free and pluralistic government isn't moving fast enough. So, we have The Christian Guide to Small Arms.

Check it out. I am not making this up. It claims to be "a primer for the Christian who is beginning to reject the false theology that requires him to be a pacifistic patsy in the face of heathen hordes."

Uh... okay.

Does anyone know where I can buy a kevlar vest and helmet?

Better Than I Could Have Said It

Jason at Positive Liberty wrote an excellent piece on what we can best hope for out of Iraq. He also has a much more concise explanation of how right-wing zealots still refuse to admit that going into Iraq was a bad idea:

In other words, we have now defined success so low that it cannot be
distinguished from failure.

Hit it on the head.

Richard Simmons Lied to Us!

Here's an article about how studies indicate that people generally don't lose weight just by exercising. I have always found this to be true. If I alter my diet, I lose weight. I don't lose weight if I don't change my diet, whether I exercise or not.

That's why a lot of the thin stars you see on movies and TV look great but are actually in terrible shape. Control calories, smoke some cigarettes to help with appetite, and maybe do a light workout for a few weeks before a movie to scuplt muscles, and there you go! A great, thin, unhealthy body.

George W. Bush, Man of (In)action!

Apparently, the deaths of over 60,000 people in perhaps the worst natural disaster in recorded history is not enough to warrant the full attention of America's Rancher-in-Chief.

From the Washington Post:

Skeptics said the initial aid sums -- as well as Bush's decision at first
to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than
speak in person about the tragedy -- showed scant appreciation for the magnitude
of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri
Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia.
After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence, Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.

Okay, let's think about this. Suppose you were watching an episode of The West Wing. What would you think if President Bartlett decided to go on vacation when the nation is in the midst of losing a war and trying desperately to pull of elections in a Middle Eastern nation, and then a massive tsunami killed 60,000 people from Indonesia to Somalia, with the death toll rising. Would you expect to see President Bartlett stay at his ranch, and only three days after the disaster to finally talk to the National Security Council by teleconference?

Or would you think Bartlett was negligent in his duties if he did so? I sure would.

The humanitarian disaster being faced by the world right now is unprecedented. The death toll is likely to rise well above 60,000 just from the initial wave, with 1/3 to 1/2 of those killed children. But, without immediate assistance, the death toll may well double due to disease, lack of clean drinking water, lack of medication, and lack of shelter, with at least half of those further deaths being children.

Not to mention that some of the worst-hit areas are on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where insurgent groups have been fighting for independence for years, and which the Indonesian government is letting aid in only at a trickle.

Why is that Bush's problem, you may ask? Because it openly displays the disdain the Bush regime has for the problems of other nations at a time when the regime is trying to claim de facto leadership of the community of nations and when the administration has been asking for and continues to need the cooperation and support of other governments to protect America from terrorism.

The Bush regime expects other nations to say, "How high?" when he yells, "Jump!" But then, when Bush could be taking a leadership role in the relief effort and using the political and economic might of the US to barrel over obstacles in the way of getting aid to the victims, thereby demonstrating to the world that the US is willing to use its power not only to invade Third World nations, but also to help them, Bush stays at his ranch, "clearing brush and bicycling," while other world leaders like Germany's Gerhard Schroeder cut their vacations short and demonstrate a true commitment to helping to meet the humanitarian needs of the victims.

Apparently, Bush finds dressing up in a flight suit and standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier to proclaim "Mission Accomplished" exciting, but taking the lead in coordinating and funding the largest humanitarian relief effort in history is just not enough to get his blood going.

Of course, it's a lot more fun to kill Muslims than to help them, eh?

Bush's excuse? Blaming Clinton, of course!

[A] White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully
briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We
feel your pain.' "
Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for
the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions
speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view
of his appropriate role.

Actions speak louder than words, eh? Then why do Karl Rove and the Bush regime's spin machine spend so much time telling the American people something totally different than what they have done, are doing, and intend to do? It's because they know that, through lies, misinformation, and deceit, it is possibly to use words to utterly mislead the public about the regime's actions, such as invading Iraq under false pretenses and utterly botching the response to the insurgency and the reconstruction, and thus avoid taking responsibility for those failed actions.

Also, if actions speak louder than words, what exactly did the what, seven or eight minutes Bush spent staring into space on 9/11 say? What does Bush's continuing policy of taking more vacations than any othe President in history say? What does it say that he can't even be bothered to pull himself away from his "clearing brush and bicycling" to address the worst humanitarian disaster in history? What does it say that Bush is using the ghost of Bill Clinton to avoid having to do his job?

After this, how could anyone doubt the disdain Bush has for the rest of the world? How can anyone doubt that the Bush regime's foreign policy is one of intimidation and bullying rather than cooperation and peace?

The conservatives think the US is powerful enough to implement its policy of "unilateral, preemptive strikes," to occupy at least two countries at once and fight insurgencies in both, pay for the reconstruction of at least to countries, and simultaneously bully and threaten the rest of the world into doing what the Bush regime wants them to do.

Well, guess what? We're not.

The Persians thought they were that powerful. The Macedonians and Greeks under Alexander thought they were that powerful. Rome thought it was that powerful. The great Muslim empires thought they were that powerful. Napoleon thought France was that powerful. Hitler thought Germany was that powerful.

They weren't. And neither is the US.

Oh, and by the way, George, saying you won't do something because that's what Clinton did isn't an excuse. Clinton also lived in the White House, signed bills, was Commander-in-Chief, and flew around in Air Force One, all of which you do. Using Clinton as an excuse to be lazy or not to do the right thing is reprehensible.

According to the Washington Post, there are 4,000 Americans in the affected area unaccounted for. Even if Bush can't muster up the enthusiasm to help Muslims and non-Americans, you'd think he would at least care about those 4,000. The American death toll in this tragedy could potentially be higher than 9/11. But, of course, it took Bush a while to get around to doing something about that, too.

Leslie Gelb, of the President emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, puts it like this:

"People do watch and see what we do," [Gelb] said. "Here's an opportunity
to remind people of the good we do, and he [Bush] can do it without changing his
policy on Iraq or terrorism."

And I will close with this:

[General Wesley Clark] urged Bush to take a higher profile. "Natural
disasters happen," Clark said. "One of the things people look for is a strong
response that illustrates America's humanitarian values."

When Bush ran on "values," I guess he meant the values of executing retarded people and making sure guys don't kiss each other, not the values of compassion, mercy, and helping one's fellow man.

I think Bush is the one making baby Jesus cry.

Your Seam Ripper, Please!

Under the Markiarchy, everyone will be required to carry a seam ripper on their person at all times, under pain of death.

So sayeth Mark.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Advantage of Deceit and Lies

The Daily Show re-ran a preelection episode with Bill Clinton as the guest. Clinton said a lot of on-target things in the interview, including agreeing with my (much) earlier post that liberals don't hate or want to utterly destroy conservatives and conservatism even though the reverse is true.

Another interesting thing he said was, "I have a Republican friend who once told me that they had to make up lies and create scandals or I would win all the time!" Now, it was a funny remark, in that Clinton was essentially boasting about his ability to kick the conservatives' collective asses. But it was also highlighting a basic truth: The politics of lies, deceit, and slander practiced by the conservatives today is such an advantage that only a politician of Clinton's skill can counter it, even when the liberals are right.

Clinton himself said, "They had to attack me personally and try to make everyone think I was a bad person, because I was right about everything: the economy was getting better, crime was going down, we were keeping America safe. So they had to try to paint me as a bad person to try to keep people from paying attention to how well my policies were working." (Or words to that effect).

It's not that Gore and Kerry were bad campaigners, though certainly neither were stellar either. But they made the mistake of thinking that being right would carry them to victory despite the conservatives' politics of personal destruction. But being right, as I have said before, isn't enough now. Liberals and progressives have to not only be right in order to win without resorting to the same tactics as the conservatives, but also have to be politicians of the caliber of a Bill Clinton, because being right isn't enough to counter the conservatives' underhanded advantage.

So, to say that Gore or Kerry screwed up and lost, or to say that the last election shows that America is a "conservative country," is not warranted by the facts. Because Clinton was a genius politician, he made it look like liberals can win against conservatives despite the conservatives' politics of personal destruction, so liberals thought they could keep winning without resorting to like tactics. But a Bill Clinton comes around only once in a generation. You can't expect to both be right and to have preternaturally talented candidate every election in order to win. It just isn't going to happen.

If it isn't clear to the Democrats now that being right isn't enough, after losing the campaign to a President whose first term was as distastrous as Bush's, it never will be.

It's like Bush and Kerry were playing a game of 21 and Bush gets to start 10 points ahead. When Kerry loses, it's like, "Kerry was the wrong candidate and ran a shitty campaign," or, "This proves it's a conservative country!" Maybe Kerry did run a bad campaign. Maybe it is a conservative country. But it's awfully hard to tell since Kerry would have had to been freakin' Michael Jordan to have a chance of winning at all.

Clinton was Michael Jordan. He could start out down ten baskets and smoke his opponent.

But what future do liberals and progressives have if we have to have someone on the order of Michael Jordan just in order to compete?

Not much.

Theocrats Talk out of Both Sides of Their Mouth

Intelligent Design advocate Phillip Johnson: "Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools." (American Family Radio, January 10, 2003)

This is what I am talking about, folks. The theocrats are smart enough, now, not to reveal their agenda to the mainstream media and to deny it in the courts, but amongst themselves they let their guard down. We have only to look to see. They reveal themselves by their own words. Only those who willfully choose not to listen can fail to understand what these people want.

Theocracy is on the march.

Honesty and Same Sex Marriage

Good post about same sex marriage. How am I supposed to respect a system that claims to want "what's best for the children" and yet would deny custody to a woman over her murdering, molesting, ex-felon husband just because she's a lesbian? Whose rights are being protected there? Even if we were to accept that somehow being brought up by a gay or lesbian parent is somehow bad, how could anyone possibly say that it is worse to be brought up by a gay parent than by a violent molester?

And the fact that the theocrats would say exactly that is one of the reasons I so vehemently oppose them.

It's also the rank hypocrisy. Judge Moore, the Alabama Supreme Court Justice who got removed from office for refusing to take down a copy of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom, acted as if it was crazy for anyone to think that the display of the Commandments might indicate that he was more interesting in upholding God's law than the legislature's law. But then, we learn that in a concurring opinion on a custody case involving a lesbian parent, He wrote:

I write specially to state that the homosexual conduct of a parent --
conduct involving a sexual relationship between two persons of the same
-- creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient
justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or
prohibiting the adoption of the children of others.

By what authority does being gay or lesbian "create a strong presumption of unfitness?" Oh, wait, he just tells us at the end. First he quotes Genesis and then:

The law of the Old Testament enforced this distinction between the genders
by stating that "[i]f a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of
them have committed an abomination." Leviticus 20:13 (King James).

But no, putting up the Ten Commandments shouldn't give anyone the impression that Judge Moore is in court to enforce God's law instead of the peoples' law, though neither the Alabama constitution nor any legislation passed by the Alabama legislature gave him the authority to decide that gays and lesbians are de facto unfit parents. No.

Where were the cries of "judicial activism" from the conservatives then?

I also ran across an interesting article by Jason Kuznicki involving Orson Scott Card's anti-gay bigotry has this fascinating admission:

And in a world not so far removed from our own, a straighter Jason would
lay the blame for all of this at the feet of the gays themselves. After all,
they--and not I--had broken nature's laws. In a world not so very different, it
would be easy for me to spend Christmas with my less tolerant biological
parents, who would still welcome a girlfriend or a fiancée, but who turn my
husband away at the door. In a world not so different, it would be so easy for
me to think in Card's terms. I suspect it would be easy for many of you,
too. Don't tell me that you and I are too intelligent for such homophobia, or
that we have some higher moral sense than a certain bigoted idiot.

This is an amazingly honest admission. It is also an admission that conservatives never make. Over and over, when I point out to conservatives that it is easy to condemn gay marriage, since, by chance, they happen not to be gay and therefore the banning of gay marriage doesn't affect them, they absolutely refuse to admit that their views would be different if they were gay. They are just absolutely certain that, if they had gay desires, they would still think those desires were wrong just as they do now.

But the proof is in the pudding: Is there any doubt, whatsoever, given the rest of Cheney's political views, that he would be a supporter of banning gay marriage were his own daughter not gay? And, were Cheney's daughter not gay, do you not think he would forcefully claim that gay marriage is an abomination, unnatural, and wrong, as do his political contemporaries without gay children?

Those who want to ban gay marriage are no different than someone who doesn't like pepperoni trying to get pepperoni banned so he or she won't ever have to see anyone else eating pepperoni either. You know that, if the winds of fate had caused that person to like pepperoni, he or she would be howling to the heavens about the injustice. But that same person cares nothing if the price of his or her comfort -- never seeing anyone eat pepperoni -- infringes on the rights of others to eat pepperoni. Unless they are themselves the target of discrimination they care nothing for the rights of those being discriminated against.

At least Jason is honest enough to admit that his support for gay rights is motivated by self-interest and can use that knowledge to make himself a better person. Would only that more conservatives were personally affected by the discrimination they preach, like Dick Cheney has been.

The debate would be a lot different then.

Dover Schools

Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a good overview of the legal issues involved with the Dover School Board's attempt to put Intelligent Design into classrooms.

Those Outrageous Conservatives!

Media Matters has posted its Top Ten Most Outrageous Statements of 2004.

I took special exception to one particular statement:
Tony Blakely called philanthropist George Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to
survive the Holocaust."

For those uninitiated in the world of Holocaust criticism, some have, in the past, tried to assert that those who survived the Holocaust must have collaborated or otherwise helped the Nazis in order to survive. By this line of thought, all Holocaust survivors were automatically indicited, tried, and convicted of committing some sort of war crime or atrocity.

That's Blakely's tactic here: Soros survived the Holocaust, therefore, Soros must be a wily Jew who found some way to keep his Nazi masters happy, joining in atrocity in the process.


Despite the relative order and efficiency of the overall German effort to rid itself of undesirables during WWII, what happened to any given individual in the camps was almost totally random. I have a book called Auschwitz Chronicle which details the happenings in Auschwitz day by day from 1940 to 1945. Prisoners are shuffled around from camp to camp or parts of a camp for no reason. Executions happen for no reason. People are spared for no reason.

But, most important of all, is that, in the end, collaborators fared no better than non-collaborators. In fact, many collaborators were specially marked for being killed as the Germans retreated because the collaborators knew too much.

There is absolutely no connection between surviving the Holocaust and collaborating with the Nazis or committing atrocities, and I find it disgusting in the extreme for Blakely to make such a claim.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name is O'Reilly

Media Matters has selected Bill O'Reilly as their Misinformer of the Year. I was trying to think of who I might have chosen instead, like Ann Coulter or the guy who started the Swift Boat Veterans thing. But Coulter doesn't reach O'Reilly's audience and her lies are so outrageous and transparent that it's hard to take them seriously, and the Swift Boat Veterans guy really just told one lie over and over. So, I think Bill is the right choice.

And the bullshit just never stops with him. For instance, take a look at this priceless gem.

Ah, Bill. Or should I call you Shill? (He spends so much time hawking T-shirts and books from his website on his show that it's hard to fit the lying in). You'd better hope the baby Jesus isn't crying, 'cause if the baby Jesus really exists, I think there's a special place in hell for deceivers like you.

Hobbies and Life Choices

Alas has an interesting post on the issue of weight and its affect on the lives of Americans. One passage caught my eye:

Cause most of these people don't have any hobbies. They don't know any
other way to live. They've relied on food as entertainment for so long that now
that they don't eat, they have no idea what to do with all of their time.

And that was really the issue all along, wasn't it? Finding something
else to do besides eating. Picking themselves up from depression (usually
incited by the fact that they had twenty "extra" pounds that were actually
perfectly healthy for their size and body composition) and building model
airplanes, or taking up some Jazzercise classes, or even joining a scrapbooking
class. Something besides eating.

This made me think of something from a few years ago. I knew a guy who told me that he was jealous of me because I had goals for what I wanted in life, in becoming a writer, screenwriter, indie filmmaker (a goal at the time), etc. He didn't.

Shortly thereafter, he decided it was "time to get married, and buy a house." Out of the blue. He didn't have a girlfriend or fiancee at the time. He just made getting married and buying a house his goal.

So, he got married, bought a house, and had a kid.

And, thinking about the quote above, I started wondering: If some people are fat because they don't have anything else to do, I wonder how many people get married and have kids because they don't have anything to do.

How many people feel empty and try to fill themselves by starting a family, rather than, or in addition to, eating?

Is it possible that being a geek doesn't keep guys from getting married, but that it gives geeks something to do so they don't have to rush out and get married to fill that empty void?

Food for thought.

Women and the Conservative Agenda

Over at the Alas, A Blog, there is an interesting post on the conservative domestic agenda. A choice quote:

Let's get that straight (ha), once and for all. The attacks on freedoms
have to do with women. Yes, yes, terrorism is a big issue, and racism, and I
don't want to forget those - but reproductive rights and attacking homosexuality
and preaching Back to Bible Basics is about controlling women.

I do wonder, though, under this theory, where the male fascination with lesbians fits in. I'm not sure how that relates to the author's point.

The Grumpy Atheist

ER's Christmas episode had one of the last few acceptable stereotypes in the age of political correctness: the 'angry' or 'grumpy' atheist.

Let's get this straight once and for all. Atheists are perceived as being grumpy around theists because theists tend to condescend to, castigate, and attack atheists and atheists' lack of belief immediately upon learning of another's atheism. Atheists are also grumpy because they live in a society that is supposed to have religious freedom and yet in which Christianity is constantly rammed down their throats.

Not wanting to participate in Christmas stuff because of its religious meaning is no different than when Christians refused to give offerings to the divine Roman emperors. I imagine the Romans thought the Christians were 'angry' and 'grumpy' because the Christians didn't want to participate in religious rituals that the Christians did not believe in. But I doubt many modern Christians consider their party-pooper forebears to be 'angry' and 'grumpy.' I don't think Christians would think it was right for Christians to participate in a wiccan ritual, but the same Christians fail to understand why atheists wouldn't want to participate in a Christian ritual.

And, because of the big push by fundamentalists and evangelicals to "put Christ back in Christmas," by going around and proclaiming "Jesus is the reason for the season," (even though Mithras is the real reason for the season) and criticizing the use of the inclusive "Happy Holidays" rather than the exclusive "Merry Christmas," the religious nature of Christmas is more and more evident with each Christmas season.

Here's an analogy for all you theists out there who think atheists are grumpy:

Bob decides that any time he meets any guy who lives on Stewart Street, he is going to kick them in the nuts. That day, he takes a stroll down Stewart Street, kicking away as unfortunate men cross his path. At the end of the day, Bob goes home to his wife and says, "Boy, there's something wrong with the guys who live on Stewart Street. They all have this obsession with grabbing their nuts in public. It's weird."

That's what theists are doing. Theists act like assholes to atheists whenever they meet one, and then go away thinking, "Boy, atheists are angry and grumpy people. Atheism must make people angry and grumpy."

No, dumbass!!! ASSHOLES make anyone grumpy and angry!

Got it? The myth of the grumpy, angry atheist is just that: a myth. Atheists are no more angry or grumpy than anyone else. Since theists tend to act like assholes around atheists, atheists tend to be angry and grumpy around theists.

If you are a theist, you have almost certainly met an atheist at some point in your life who was perfectly nice. But that's because you were nice to the atheist because you didn't know the person was an atheist! It's only when you learn that a person is an atheist and start criticizing and trying to convert him or her that you "discover" how grumpy he or she is. Just like Bob, in the example above, wouldn't be able to identify guys who live on Stewart Street by their nut-grabbing, because the nut-grabbing only occurs after Bob learns the guy lives on Stewart Street and kicks him in the nuts. You see?

Or, look at this way. What if everyone who lived around you sold Amway products and kept trying, over and over, to get you to buy Amway stuff and sign up to sell Amway too. And you had no interest in being involved with Amway at all, since you know it's basically just a pyramid scheme. But every time you talked to one of your neighbors they brought up Amway and what a party-pooper you are because you won't participate in their Amway-related activities. You'd probably get pretty grumpy pretty quick. Would it be fair for your neighbors to attribute your grumpiness to your disdain of Amway? Or, when they say to you, "See, if you started selling Amway you wouldn't be so grumpy all the time," wouldn't you say, "Listen! It's not that I don't sell Amway that is the problem! It's that you're constantly pressuring me to sell Amway and telling me that I'm a bad person and bad things will happen to me if I don't sell Amway. Got it?"

Monday, December 27, 2004

Liberal Hollywood

So, I was watching an episode of ER I had Tivoed, and it occurred to me that it probably displays what, according to conservatives, is the liberal bias in Hollywood. Now, to me, ER shows humanitarianism and care for your fellow humans. But I think maybe a conservative would look at it and say, "They're always acting like people who work should pay for the medical care of people who don't, and that lack of social services is the problem instead of people taking care responsibility for themselves."

Now, I have a lot of responses to that kind of criticism, such as the fact that initial conditions account for a huge part of how someone ends up (ie, if you grow up poor, your chances of being a poor adult are vastly higher than if you are grow up middle class or rich). But I'm thinking about something else right now.

Assuming, for a moment, that more TV shows and movies (I'm talking here about fiction, not about reality shows or documentaries, etc.) demonstrate a bias toward showing liberal causes and issues in a positive light than conservative, is it really so simple as saying that "Hollywood is liberal" and leaving it at that? That is to say, is the predominance of liberals in Hollywood the root cause or the proximate cause?

I think maybe it is the proximate cause.

Fiction is about conflict, drama, struggle. And it occurred to me that it is pretty obvious that when you're trying to think of situations that generate conflict, many of them require characters that are disenfranchised rather an enfranchised.

I'm not saying there aren't stories to be told about the enfranchised. Dallas, Falcon Crest, BARBARIANS AT THE GATE, and INTOLERABLE CRUELTY are examples of stories centering around enfranchised characters. I am saying there are a lot more stories in being disenfranchised than enfranchised.

Stories about criminals, the down and out, a guy on the run, a guy who hits rock bottom, the guy facing terrible odds against a corrupt system, etc. etc. all require disenfranchised characters (though the characters can start enfranchised and become disenfranchised during the story). But there aren't many stories that require the characters to be enfranchised to work.

The enfranchised face conflict in this world, but the disenfranchised face more conflict, struggle more to get what they want, and have to fight more for their rights and dignity. That is pretty much what it means to be disenfranchised. Disenfranchisement is a form of conflict: a character in conflict with his or her society. But enfranchisement is a state of non-conflict with his or her society. Therefore, stories about the enfranchised have no inherent conflict, whereas stories about the disenfranchised have built-in conflict.

So, it is no wonder, in my opinion, that there are more stories about the disenfranchised (stories with a so-called "liberal" slant) than about the enfranchised (a "conservative" slant). And, since writing is essentially about seeing conflicts in the world around you, it makes sense that there are more liberal screenwriters than conservative, because the liberal viewpoint is the one that tends to see people as disenfranchised -- in conflict -- and thus is the one more likely to move one to want to write stories, which are narratives of conflict.

I guess I am saying that I think it is the nature of storytelling that causes there to be more stories about the disenfranchised than the enfranchised, and therefore more liberals in Hollywood than conservatives, and thus is the true cause of "liberal Hollywood." Just like with professorships in universities and colleges, it's not that liberals have somehow evilly come to dominate the field and keep conservatives out, but that conservatives don't choose to be college professors or screenwriters as much as liberals. Conservatives are complaining about something that they have created by self-selecting themselves out of certain professions. The answer isn't to bitch at liberals about it. If conservatives want to see themselves represented more in the entertainment and academic fields, they should go into those fields more.

See how simple it all is when I explain it?

Friday, December 24, 2004

Methinks They Doth Protest Too Much

One way in which Christian zealots battle atheism is by trying to assert that there really are no atheists and thus no atheism. It goes something like this: Atheists are really people who don't like the idea of God/don't like God's rules/don't want to stop sinning and thus choose to reject God rather than accepting Him. But Jesus is in everyone's heart and so atheists really know God exists. They're just like children pretending their parents don't exist when they're away so they can ignore their parents' rules.

The level of condecension in this argument is truly startling. The Christian not only fails to respect the right of the atheist to have his or her opinion, but then claims to know better than the atheist what the atheist believes.

Why do Christians go to such lengths in order to avoid accepting that some people just don't believe in their god?

I have a theory.

Now, in discussions with Christians, the atheist often gets asked the truly stupid question, "If there's no afterlife and life is temporary, why don't you just kill yourself now?" Well, the obvious answer is, that the atheist prefers continuing to experience existence rather than nonexistence, to have thoughts and emotions and experiences, for the time allowed. Why would someone be in a rush to return to nonexistence? That makes no sense at all.

In fact, the better question is to ask the Christian, "You believe that you are living in a sinful craphole as a prelude to eternity in paradise. You don't understand why I don't want to kill myself so I can leap into an eternity of nonexistence, but why don't you kill yourself to get away from all the horror of this sinful world and hang out with Jesus forever?"

Now, at this point, Christians will generally begin talking about how "suicide is a sin," that "life is a gift from God and we don't have a right to give it back," and such. But, if you ask about 99% of Christians where this whole idea of suicide being a sin and a bad thing came from, they will say, "The Bible," "Jesus," or, "I don't know." The correct answer, of course, is that it comes from St. Augustine's City of God. There's a bit about suicide in the Old Testament, but at times it is said to be wrong and at other times it is pretty clearly seen to be a heroic act. But never anything like an "unforgivable" or "mortal" sin as many Christians believe today. And Jesus says not one single word about suicide, nor does Paul.

But here's the neat thing: the same kind of twisted logic that allows Christians to think atheists should kill themselves is used by Augustine to keep Christians from committing suicide to get to Heaven quicker. You see, in the early days of Christianity, when Christians were persecuted by the Romans, there was a problem. A lot of Christians were committing suicide if they got discovered to keep from being eaten by a lion in the arena.

Augustine didn't like this. You see, it wasn't doing a thing for recruiting. What he wanted Christians to do was to go into the arena and bravely get eaten.

Now, you might think that would be bad for recruiting too. That was the idea of publically executing Christians by lion in the first place. But, in the twisted logic that comes from believing things irrationally, seeing Christians get eaten by lions in the arena actually did make pagans decide to become Christians.

You see, back in those days, there really wasn't much question of whether the various gods existed, even the Christian god. But gods were local and limited in power. By impressing others with the power of one's god, one could recruit new worshippers. Of course, you would think that, since the Christian god is sitting by and allowing his followers to be eaten by lions, that pagans woudn't be too impressed. But, in the world of irrational belief, it instead impressed the pagans that Christians didn't turn from their faith rather than being eaten. "That must be one powerful god," the pagans said, "to have followers willing to die for him like that." Rather than the more logical, "If their god is so powerful, how come he doesn't save his followers from the lions?"

So, essentially, Augustine argued that suicide was a sin in the eyes of Jesus more or less because having Christians get eaten by lions was good for recruiting. Which really doesn't apply anymore. And, in any case, almost no Christians know where the 'no suicide' dictum even came from.

As such, why do Christians all seem to know it and cling to it so fiercely?

Because, in the dark of night, when they're all alone and scared, in their deepest heart of hearts, they doubt that God exists.

Augustine's dictum is a way of dodging the truth: that if they were really, really sure paradise was around the corner, they'd be a lot more anxious to go there. They wouldn't have to commit suicide. Just take a dangerous, but good job, and get killed helping others. Not only is that good deed your ticket to Jesus' buffet table in the sky, but it's a quick ticket too.

But they don't do that. Instead, Christians stay here on Earth and spend a hell of a lot of time worrying about what other people believe and trying to define atheists out of existence. Why? Well, they will tell you it is "to save other peoples' souls."


The fact is, this is an obvious case of "methinks they doth protest too much." You see, they can't abide lack of faith or different faith in others because it challenges their own faith. They need everyone else to believe what they believe because it makes them feel better that their fantasy is true. The "a billion Chinese people can't be wrong" fallacy is at work here. The more people believe, the more it must be true! Except that a whole lot of people can be dead wrong.

So, when Christians go door-to-door trying to convert people and claim they are doing their duty to "save your soul," tell them bullshit. They're doing it to make themselves feel better about what they want to be true. It comforts them a little in the middle of the night when the doubt grips them that such a bunch of fantastic bullshit could possibly be true. They do it for themselves and no one else.

And that's the real immorality of the attempts of the Christian right to turn the US into a Christian theocracy: In order to make themselves feel better about something they secretly think might not even be true, they are willing to ruin the lives of countless others through discrimination and by pushing archaic religious morality on a country where those dictums no longer make sense. They are even, at times, willing to kill to protect this fantasy that they secretly doubt even exists.

It's easy to believe when you're in church, surrounded by fellow worshippers, and that's when we see Christian faith in public. But that's just a facade. A facade these people would do almost anything to protect.

That is why faith is dangerous and that is why believing whatever you want to believe, with no evidence whatsoever, is a bad thing. I would bet you money that none of the leaders of the Christian right, if put to the test, would let themselves be eaten by a lion for his or her faith. Not Pat Robertson. Not Jerry Falwell. Not William Donohue. Not Rush Limbaugh. Not George W. Bush.

Because it's easy to believe in the light of day when your whole life has been an awesome ride of wealth and privilege. It's when those beliefs are tested that they really count.

They say there are no atheists in foxholes? Untrue. But I'd like to know if there are any fundamentalists or evangelicals in the tiger pit. I'd bet not.

(And don't even bring up the girl who told the Columbine kids she believed in God before they shot her. While she may have said it knowing they would shoot her if she did, I rather suspect it is much more likely that she was trying to guess the right answer and guessed wrong. I may be wrong on this, but since we'll never know, it's not a good example one way or the other).

"Culture of Death"

There's some guy filling in for Sean Hannity on Hannity's radio show. Dunno the guy's name. I came in at the very tail end of the show and I don't know how the conversation started, but he was having some utterly insane discussions with callers. I'll see what I can remember.

The difference between them [Muslims] and us [Christians] is that they
worship death and we worship a baby.

Well, let's see. Christians made THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, a film about a guy getting graphically tortured and then executed by crucifixion, one of the biggest money makers of all time.

Muslims worship an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, immanent god. Christians worship an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, immanent god. Muslims believe Jesus was one of the greatest of all the prophets and will return at the end of time to lead the forces of good in battle against the forces of evil (yes, Jesus does this, not Muhammed, according to Islamic eschatological tradition). Christians believe Jesus was the greatest of all prophets and will return to lead the forces of good in battle against the forces of evil. Some Muslims have interpreted their holy book to command holy war against unbelievers, while mainstream Islam rejects such interpretations. Some Christians have interpreted their holy book to command holy war against unbelievers, while mainstream Christianity rejects such interpretations.

The difference between Islam and Christianity is like the difference between Coke and Pepsi. They're slightly different from each other, but they're far more alike than same. To those outside the traditions of Abraham (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Muslims and Christians castigating each other is kind of like someone who drinks water watching Coke and Pepsi drinkers act like they're totally different from each other. They both drink caramel-colored, sugary, carbonated soda beverages, and yet the claim that they have nothing in common! The difference between Muslims and Christians is little more than the difference between drinking Coke and drinking Pepsi.

Caller: God wanted 9/11 to happen--
Host: What?
Caller: Well, God could have stopped 9/11 if he wanted to, so He must have
wanted it to happen, you know, to bring us back to Him--
Host: That's a very dangerous idea. God didn't make robots. He didn't want
9/11 to happen.

Let's go over my free will argument one more time. God controls everything. Moreover, he controls the preconditions for everything. 9/11 could not have happened if God did not create this particular world, in this particular universe, with these particular physical laws, populated by these particular people at this particular time, etc., etc. If God didn't want 9/11 to happen, he could have changed any number of things to make sure it didn't. There's no way out of this, theists. There is nothing outside the purview of your God and so there is no way, whatsoever, that you can deny his responsibility for every single thing that happens.

Muslims live in a culture of death, where if you blow yourself up you get to go
to Heaven and have seventy-five virgins.

No. Muslims live in a culture of oppression, where they have seen the immense power of the West used to take away their resources, prop up unjust governments, and act in its own self interest without regard to the well being of the native Muslim population. Does this justify blowing up the USS Cole or flying planes into the World Trade Center? No. Is this "blaming America first?" No. Taking responsibility for what you have done is not blame. The US and Britain have, in large part, created this situation through ruthless, exploitative policies in the Middle East. Failing to recognize this in order to avoid "blaming America first" merely ensures that the problem will not get solved.

Let me say it again: Muslim extremists do not hate our freedoms. They hate our policies and our hypocrisy.

Muslims no more live in a "culture of death" than do Irish Christians in Northern Ireland, Americans during the American revolution (the Boston Tea Party is a classic act of terrorism), First-century Christians being marched into the collosseum to fight a lion and then die and go to Heaven, or Crusaders marching off to free the Holy Land. Christianity has been used to justify all sorts of terrorism and killing, such as the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, and the Holocaust, which had its roots in two thousand years of Christian antisemitism.

Muslims are fighting an oppressive power the same way the Zealots (first-century Jewish terrorists) fought against Rome and the same way oppressed peoples have fought throughout all of time against a more powerful enemy. Islam encourages such behavior no more but also no less than Christianity, Judaism, or any other rigid set of beliefs.

The "culture of death" is not a product of Islam. It is a product of oppression. Were places reversed, and America a nation with a majority Islamic population and the Middle East predominantly Christian, we would be hearing about how Christians live in a "culture of death" right now.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Daily Show Gets It Right Again

I think we all remember William Donohue's comment that, "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It‘s not a secret, OK? And I‘m not afraid to say it."

On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart responded to this issue and was exactly right. He said, "Overrepresentation does not equal control. If it did, then I would be on a major network and Conan, Letterman, and Leno would be on basic cable."

Touche', Jackie Robinson.

The Christian Victim Complex

As noted by Media Matters in a whole bunch of articles, the Christian right has started on a campaign to try to convince the Christian majority that they are somehow victims under assault in America.

For instance, Catholic League President William Donahue is been on the offensive blasting Macy's for using the term 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas' in their stores. And here, I'd heard people use Happy Holidays for my entire freakin' life and no one thought it was anti-Christian, until all of a sudden now. I always thought it was meant to cover the entire holiday season, from Thanksgiving to New Year's, and also Channukah. It was a term meant, as far as I knew, to be inclusive, not exclusive. How did I, an atheist God hater who follows Satan, not get the memo from my anti-Christian overlords that Happy Holidays was our new evil plan to bring down American Christianity? I feel so left out.

And Donahue also has his panties in a bunch over Target not allowing Salvation Army to solicit outside their stores. Of course, the actual story, which Donahue conveniently omits, is that Target gets requests from hundreds of groups to solicit outside their stores, and has decided to implement a blanket policy of not allowing any of them to do so. They aren't targeting (heh, get it?) the Salvation Army. They just don't want to be in a position of choosing some groups over others and getting flak for it. But, of course, Christians squeal like pigs not when they are being discriminated against, but when they aren't given special privilege. That's what's happening here.

Reason Online has a great article about the culture of Christian victimhood here. The author notes that, despite the cries of Christians that they are "being oppressed," it is pretty well known that there are essentially no atheists in public office because they are unelectable by the Christian majority. He also notes that liberals on the left, such as the ACLU and this blog's gentle owner, believe in religious freedom and stand up for Christians when they are genuinely being discriminated against, but are then stabbed in the back by Christians like Jerry Falwell who ignore the real position of the left in order to create a straw man of leftist Christian hating.

The agenda is obvious to anyone who wants to see. I have said it before, and I will say it again: turning this nation into a Christian theocracy. Only by creating an atmosphere in which the majority Christian population feels discriminated against can the Christian right convince the majority of Christians, who are generally centrist and moderate, that a Christian theocracy is necessary to protect their religious beliefs. Since Christians are in no way, shape, or form under assault in this country, since Christians control all three branches of the Federal government as well as every governorship in the nation, the only way to convince those in power that they are actually a minority facing discrimination is to lie, lie, lie. With some occasional distortion and misrepresentation thrown in.

I live in Massachusetts, the so-called bastion of the godless left. There are at least five churches within walking distance of my apartment. My state senators and representatives are all Christians. My federal senators and representative are all Christians. My neighbors, by and large, are Christians. I have driven by churches on Sunday morning. They are not empty. They are filled just as much as the churches in Texas.

The only difference between Christian religiosity in Texas, where I used to live, and here in Massachusetts, is that here there is more respect for religious freedom. Note I said more respect. In neither Texas nor Massachusetts is religious freedom universally respected. I have faced intolerance in Massachusetts as well as in Texas.

But, in Massachusetts, there is a greater respect for the idea that one's religion is a personal choice and it is not anyone else's job to aggressively attack non-Christians in the press, nor to try to convert non-Christians in every public venue, including on freeway ramps, malls, and by going door-to-door. In Massachusetts, it is generally accepted that everyone has a right to go about their business without someone else standing on the corner telling them they're going to go to hell every five seconds.

And that's all religious freedom really is. How threatening is that?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Donald Rumsfeld: Military Mastermind

In a press conference today, Donald Rumsfeld gave his most ignorant response since the "you can put armor on a tank and still blow it up" comment. (You'd think that this guy would get the hint and stop doing press conferences, kinda like how Bush hardly ever does 'em).

He said, in response to a question of why the Pentagon isn't sending more troops to Iraq, that sending more troops "just creates more targets" for the insurgents. Hmmm. Interesting.

Well, shit, why did we send so many guys to storm the beaches at Normandy? We were just creating more targets for the Germans.

Heck, why didn't we just send one guy into Iraq? Each extra guy is just creating more targets!

Or, could the idea be, that there is a certain minimum troop strength necessary to accomplish a mission, and below that strength you simply make the guys you did send targets? Hmmm. Could it be that the reporter was asking, as was clear to any sentient beings in the room, whether the troop strength there now is sufficient to fight the insurgency effectively and thus keep the insurgents so occupied with defending themselves that they don't have time to blow up Army mess tents?

Let's consider Rumsfeld's statement on a smaller scale. You're a captain in the police. There are some bad guys hiding somewhere down a dark alley. Your best intelligence says there are five guys down there. Now, the last time you sent three guys down there, one of them got killed and you didn't get the bad guys. Do you: a) send three guys again, because sending more would just "increase the targets", or b) send like ten guys to let your guys overwhelm the bad guys and also to make it too dangerous for the bad guys to try to jump your guys?

I guess Rumsfeld would just keep sending three. And losing one each time while failing to control the threat. So, in an attempt to protect his officers by not "increasing the targets," he instead is getting guys killed while accomplishing nothing, one after another, by sending an insufficient force to deal with the problem. Only when you keep sending too few guys does the "increasing the targets" argument work. It is true that, up until you send a sufficient-sized force to accomplish the mission, adding more guys beneath that threshold is just "increasing the targets." But only an idiot fails to realize that you are, overall, going to lose a lot more guys over the long haul by continuing to send insufficient forces in, and end up killing all your guys after all without ever actually accomplishing anything.

I mean, being able to deploy your forces to maximum effect is the whole basis of warfare! Sending insufficient troop strengths to accomplish missions and being unwilling to commit forces to battle in strengths necessary to win is one of the most basic military blunders possible! Crap, Rumsfeld is like the new McClellan.

And he already started a land war in Asia, so he's actually ahead of McClellan, who at least didn't do that. Rumsfeld is like a cross between Hitler and McClellan, but with a less charming personality than Hitler and worse public relations skills than McClellan.


More on "Intelligent" Design

It's funny that the proponents of "Intelligent Design" lack the intelligence to see why it doesn't answer or solve a damned thing.

Anyway, over at a blog called Dean's World, Dean posted an article in which, even though he is an atheist, argues for allowing Intelligent Design (ID) into the classroom. It is because of atheists like Dean that Austin Cline, over at the Atheism/Agnosticism page, often makes the point that atheists are not necessarily more reasonable or logical than theists, and that one can be an atheist for irrational or illogical reasons.

First, Dean says:

No one said what they thought would happen if children in the science
classroom were allowed to be told that there are unexplained problems in current
evolutionary theory, or if they heard that some people — even some smart people!
— believe there might be some sort of intelligent design behind much of what we
see in biology.

I don't have any problem with whatsoever with telling kids that there unexplained problems in evolutionary theory, or any other scientific theory. The problem is letting ID supporters use this to get their God of the Gaps fallacy into play. Asserting that anything not explained by current theory was done by God is not at all scientific. It's just making an unproven assertion. Before we understood electricity, saying "science can't explain lightning, so it must be God" would not have been right. And the same thing is true now with evolution.

Also, Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars makes a great point on this issue:

One could easily imagine an ID argument in any of those areas, of course. They
would point to specific instances where meteorologists predicted that a
hurricane would go in one direction only to have it go in another, or to
instances where seismologists failed to predict an earthquake despite a pretty
good understanding of their natural causes, and they would argue that this shows
that meteorologists or seismologists are "blinded by their commitment to
materialism" and refuse to consider the possibility of intelligent causes. They
would point to genuine scientists who believe the bible to be true, including
those verses that say that God sends natural disasters to punish His enemies or
those who fail to follow His word, and they would say, "What is wrong with
teaching our children about the weaknesses in meteorological or seismological
theories? Why not teach the controversy?" I doubt their argument would seem so
compelling in that context, but the analogy is as precise as it needs to be to
illustrate the point that one can always make a God of the Gaps type of argument
in any science. One could just as easily point to the lack of a solid Quantum
Mechanical theory of gravity and propose an "angels pushing the planets around
in their orbits" alternative to gravitational theory. But these alternatives
don't offer anything positive, only the negative argument "Not fully explained
yet, therefore God did it".

Exactly. There is no difference whatsoever, rationally, between saying gaps in evolutionary theory prove ID any more than gaps in quantum theory prove that angels push the planets around in ellipses. The only difference is that it easier for people to understand and believe gravitation, in large part, than evolution. Except, of course, for the fact that a lot of people are still walking around believing that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects. But that doesn't mean we should start teaching "Intelligent Falling" in which angels choose to push heavier objects toward the ground faster than lighter ones. The failings of average people to easily grasp a scientific theory is not the basis on which it is or is not accepted by the scientific community. The universe doesn't work the way the average person thinks it does and science is about figuring out how the universe really works, not about how people think it works. That is sociology or perhaps statistics (polling).

In the same vein, Dean's assertion that it is okay to tell kids "that some people — even some smart people! — believe there might be some sort of intelligent design behind much of what we see in biology" makes no sense at all. Science is the rigorous process of developing and testing theories that best correspond with known evidence. What some people believe, whether those people are smart or not, is irrelevant unless those beliefs have been through the rigorous scientific process and have been shown to be the best explanation for the available evidence. Intelligent Design, as I have shown in an earlier post, has no explanatory power whatsoever. It actually raises more questions than it answers. The "theory" of ID is logically flawed at its core, is not testable or falsifiable, and contains tautologies.

As such, there is no more or less reason to teach ID as any other non-scientific belief held by a bunch of people. And I'm not talking about the slippery slope here, as argued against by Dean, because my point isn't, "if you teach ID you'll end up having to teach wicca and that's bad." My point is, "If you teach ID you should teach wicca but the hypocrites pushing ID will oppose that because they just want to teach their crackpot idea, not any crackpot idea. They are therefore not interested in consistent treatment under the law for all crackpot religious beliefs but special treatment for Christians and their crackpot 'theory' of ID."

Dean continues his assault on logic:

So far the strongest answer I've heard (it's the only answer I ever seem to
hear, really) is that such a statement is "not science." To which I can only
reply, "a belief to the contrary is not science either. Now, is a science
classroom a good place for critical inquiry, or is it not?"

The classroom is, indeed, a good place for critical inquiry. As such, I would not oppose dissecting ID in the classroom to show why it isn't a scientific theory, why it has no explanatory power, and why it is inherently irrational. But that's not what supporters of ID want. They want to challenge evolutionary theory with their own so-called "theory" but not have their "theory" challenged in return. That is not, in any sense of the term, "critical inquiry."

Tell kids about the gaps in evolutionary, and any other scientific theory being taught. Tell them that there a scientific theory is the highest level of knowledge in science, and that theories explain facts but do not become facts. Explain that evolution is a theory in the exact same sense that the theories of gravitation, relativity, quantum physics, and electromagnetism are all theories. Tell them that gaps in a scientific theory are simply areas that have not yet been explained, but which eventually will be. Explain that evolutionary theory is as well-developed and supported as any other scientific theory taken for granted.

And then explain why ID isn't a theory, isn't science, and is irrational and illogical.

That would be "critical inquiry." Allowing discussion of competing, but still rational, logical scientific theories is a good thing in the classroom. Allowing discussion of irrational, illogical beliefs held by certain people that have nothing to do with science without explaining that those beliefs are irrational, illogical, and unscientific is teaching religion in the classroom, because only in a religious context, not a scientific one, can irrational, illogical, and unscientific assertions be allowed to stand.

As Ed from Dispatches says, "I'm sure there are a few real scientists who belong to the Christian Science Church, so must we then also give equal time in health class to their ideas that ill health is purely spiritual in nature and can be prayed away?" I would answer: Yes. Absolutely. The First Amendment forbids the government to promote one religion over another. As such, either religion and unfounded religious beliefs must be kept out of the classroom, or they must all be let in. Including agnosticism, atheism, Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism (yes, there are still Zoroastrians around), Mithraism, Judaism, the beliefs of John the Baptist cults (there are cults that believe John the Baptist is actually the messiah, not Jesus), Samaritanism (there are still people in Israel, who are called Samaritans, who actually believe that they are the true Jews and that the rest of Judaism is corrupted... they even have their own Temple mount and everything), Satanism, Wicca, Neo-paganism, animism, Daoism, Shinto, Buddhism, paganism, and anything else that even one person in this country believes.

Basically, I am saying that either school can become a thirteen-year course in comparative religion, because it would take the whole school day to discuss the beliefs of every religion on any given subject, or it can be a place to learn secular skills like reading, math, and history. One or the other. Whichever is fine with me. I mean, I would prefer secular schools, since our place in the world and economy will pretty much collapse if we turn the next generation into a group of comparative religion experts. But either one would be in keeping with the principles of the Bill of Rights, and thus I would have no grounds on which to oppose either.

I oppose what ID supporters really want: To sneak Christianity into the schools in the guise of science, while keeping all other religions and beliefs out. But Dean doesn't seem to understand this:

In the same paper, we also have an interesting piece by Huntington F.
Willard, director of the Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy at Duke
University. In it, he vigorously opposes any dissent from evolutionary theory being
allowed into science classes
. In reading Huntington's entire piece from top
to bottom, two things struck me most powerfully:
1) He does not name one
negative consequence of allowing such examination a place in the classroom,
2) All of his arguments against it seem based on fear. Indeed, his entire
thrust (if I make it out correctly) is that this is a "worrisome step" in the
"wrong direction."...

...Phrased another way: what exactly would the Theory Of The Dangers Of
Intelligent Design Discussions In The Science Classroom predict?

First off, there's no reason to expect those who want to keep ID out of the classroom to demonstrate harm or negative consequences. It only has to be demonstrated that it is forbidden by the Bill of Rights and that is the end of it.

But, for the sake of argument, the "Theory of the Dangers of Intelligent Design Discussions in the Science Classroom," assuming these discussion happen uncritically, as ID supporters wish, predicts that:

  • Children would be led to falsely believe that any belief is, ipso facto, a valid scientific theory worthy of discussion in a scientific forum
  • Children would be led to believe that argument by authority is an accepted way of supporting scientific ideas and theories ("smart people believe it... This guy said so, so it must be true...")
  • Children would be led to believe that scientific theories can be irrational, illogical, tautological, and can fail to explain what the purport to explain and yet still be considered "scientific"
  • Children would be led to believe that ID is the only fantastic explanation for how speciation happened, when there are actually hundreds of them
  • Children would be led to believe that evolution is a theory about the "origin of life," which it isn't, but which ID supporters and texts falsely assert
  • Children would be led to believe that scientific theories are "theories" in the popular sense, that is to say, just a guess that is as good as any other guess, as opposed to an educated guess based on a great deal of known evidence
  • Children would be led to believe that scientific theories can be unfalsifiable and therefore immune to criticism and still be "scientific"
  • Children would be led to think it is okay for the government to promote one religion's beliefs over others

And that's just off the top of my head.

But then, Dean actually makes my point for me:

Who out there would like to see a philosophy teacher, or a theology teacher,
taking the school's science books and explaining the flaws she sees in the
materials presented? Do you actually think that would be better than just
letting the kids do their critical questioning in the science class?

Dean is tacitly admitting that ID belongs in a philosophy or theology class! He's essentially saying that, if you're going to mix up science class with philosophy and/or theology class, you might as well do it in science class, since the science teacher can best explain the science that is going to be irrationally subjected to the God of the Gaps argument. Or, rather, he is saying that if you are going to mix teaching the rational and irrational, you better do it in a class devoted to the rational, because the teacher of the irrational won't be able to explain the rational. (Not that I think philosophy, or even theology, is inherently irrational, but apparently Dean does!)

Dean then says:

Inevitably someone in these discussions asks whether we should teach
witchcraft, shamanism, astrology, or voodoo in the classroom. My response is,
"show me who's proposing witchcraft in the classroom and we'll discuss their
ideas." In the meantime, the question before us remains unchanged: is the
science classroom a good place for exploring, questioning, and raising
objections to a reigning scientific paradigm, or is it not?

Well, first off, I am proposing that we should teach witchcraft, shamanism, astrology, or voodoo in the classroom if we teach ID. So there's that.

Secondly, the question isn't whether the science classroom is a good place for exploring, questioning, and raising objections to a reigning scientific paradigm. The question is whether the science class is the place to teach irrational alternatives to the reigning scientific paradigm, uncritically, and why we should limit the discussion to only the irrational alternative of ID and not other irrational alternatives.

Dean finishes with this lovely non-sequitir:

Here's Esmay's Maxim, which I've just made up on the spot: any scientific
theory, no matter how well-founded or widely accepted, which cannot stand up on
its own two legs and face questioning from a young mind without running like a
scared puppy to the courts for protection deserves all the kicking around it can

Well, that's all fine and dandy, if you limit the discussion to rational questions and rational arguments. If you don't do so, then every single scientific theory ever proposed, no matter how well-founded or widely accepted, will be unable to "stand up on its own two legs and face questioning... without running like a scared puppy..." But the fact is that well-founded theories can be subjected to rational, critical questioning and stand up quite well. That's what "well-founded" means. But if you are allowed to use irrational arguments, like the ever-popular childhood argument of "nuh-uh," then no proposition can stand, because there is an irrational argument against anything.

If we're just going to be abandon reason, let's just teach kids solipsism, which, by Dean's definition, "critically questions" everything except one's own existence, including evolution, gravity, morality, and the existence of the world and others. If you want to irrationally question science, solipsism is the way to go, not this pussy idea of ID. But, of course, ID supporters won't want to teach solipsism because solipsism conflicts with where they want to lead the kids: to their all-powerful creator god in the form of a Jew called Jesus.

Arab-American Civil Rights

It was reported on NPR last night that in a new poll conducted by Cornell University, 44% of those surveyed supported some form or curtailing of the civil rights of Arab-Americans. Arab-Americans. To fight terrorism, I suppose.

Interesting. Especially since Arab-Americans destroyed the World Trade Center. Oh, wait, those were Saudi Arabians, not Arab-Americans.

But then, the shoe bomber was an Arab-American, right? No, he was British.

Well, of course, Arab-Americans committed the worst school massacre in American history at Columbine, right? No, those were white kids.

Hey, what about the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City, the worst terrorist attack on US soil in American history until 9/11. Arab-Americans, right? No, that was a white guy.

Well, the Unabomber had to be an Arab-American, right? Nope. Another white guy.

But you can't make white guys register with the government and profile them. I mean, that's just stupid. There are too many of them. You can't tell the bad ones apart.


That's a rationalization. The reality is that we didn't inter Japanese-Americans during WWII but not German-Americans not because it would be hard to inter German-Americans, but because white people are in power and people only want to take away the civil rights of others. They never want to have their own civil rights taken away.

The fact that it is easy to tell Arab-Americans and Japanese-Americans apart from the majority white population is part of the reason white people want to curtail their civil rights. The practicality is beside the issue. If, after Oklahoma City, someone demonstrated that you could easily start profiling white guys and making them register with the government (after all, they all do already, for Selective Service), it wouldn't make white people think it was a good idea to curtail the rights of white guys.

This is about the fact that people see people in other groups as less than themselves, less than human, and less deserving of dignity, happiness, and civil rights than themselves. And it's easy to deprive someone else of civil rights. It doesn't hurt you.

Until you're the one being discriminated against. Oh, then the cries of "reverse discrimination" sound to the heavens! When white people sense the slightest discrimination they freak out. But that doesn't stop them from being the first ones in line to take something away from someone else.

Let's stop dancing around the bush and call this what it is: Racism. Pure and simple. It may be racism bred of fear, but it is racism nonetheless. Just because it easier to be fearful of Arab-Americans or Japanese-Americans than a white guy -- who was just crazy, you see, he was an isolated case, but these Arabs are just bad -- doesn't mean it's not racism. Racism can come from hatred, or fear, or envy, or all sorts of emotions. It is still racism. Wanting the security guard at the gate to profile the Arab guy dressed in a suit but not the white guy who looks like the Unabomber is racism. Pure and simple.

Close Call

So, I can add to my already impressive list of times I almost died, though I can't be sure how close in this particular case. I am also fairly proud of how I reacted, though I don't know if it will really sound all that impressive.

I'm out last night in the parking lot to my building, and this guy in a minvan drives by me really slowly for some reason. I'd noticed him get into the van, and saw what he looked like and what he was wearing, mostly because I'm a little paranoid when I'm out in the dark late at night and tend to notice those things. So, he drives past, then I guess he looped around (I didn't see him do it, but he must have), came back around the corner, gunned his engine, and drove straight at me.

I am always kind of amazed at how different levels of stress affect me. I hate fighting, so when I am, for instance, about to spar someone in a tournament, I get really nervous and shaky. But, if someone just attacks me, which should be a more stressful situation, I don't have any problems. Sort of like my job. Regular life flusters and upsets me, but I can deal with terrible disasters and stressful situations with no trouble.

So, instead of panicking, as I might well have done, given how unexpected it was for someone to try to run me down in the parking lot, my mind went into overdrive and I actually considered my options in about a split second before deciding to run in between some parked cars for protection. Now, most people would have probably done the same thing, but just out of an automatic panic response. I actually considered what to do and knew why I was doing it.

The guy veered off and then sped away, not even slowing down for the speed bump, too fast for me to get his license plate, which I tried to do. He zoomed out of the complex and turned left, which I noted for a reason and will come up again later. I stood there for a second, trying to decide what to do. The main options that came to mind were to chase him or to call the police. But he could easily turn off before I could get to him in my car, and calling the police without a license number or some other solid information would probably prove fruitless.

But, it occurred to me that this idiot might be dumb enough to think if he drives around for a couple minutes I will go inside and he can come back safely. So, I got into my car and sat and waited to see if he came back. Sure enough, he did. I watched him park and go back inside the building. Then, I drove by and got his license number (US 4818, for curiosity's sake), went back and called the police. Heh.

Of course, the police kept asking me dumb questions like, "Are you sure he was trying to run you over?" I was like, "Well, he was probably just trying to scare me, but he did it on purpose. He turned around and came back, gunned his engine, and drove right at me." At first, they were like, "We don't know what apartment he lives in because the vehicle is registered to a woman in Raynham," but somehow they figured it out and talked to the guy. He told them that he "didn't see me" and also said it happened down from where it actually did, where there aren't any lights, as opposed to where it actually happened, right underneath a street lamp. He also told them he "just ran out to the convenience store to get some cigarettes," but the convenience store is to the right, not to the left, where he went. So, any doubt I had that it was an accident went out the window since he was obviously lying to cover his tracks. (Also, if it was an accident, you'd think he might stop and make sure I was okay rather than speeding away and flying over a speed bump).

Anyway, I guess I could have made a complaint or pressed charges, but I asked the cops if they could just scare him a little so he wouldn't do it again and they said they would. I figure he was trying to scare me, but it was icy out and he could actually hit someone that way. I wasn't angry or anything, but just trying to do my duty to protect anyone else he might try to scare, so I didn't necessarily see the need to carry it further. Though I did consider it, just because of what a pain in the ass it was to have to talk to the police and crap, since the police always treat you like you did something, even when you're the one who called. Also, they kept wanting to come in but my apartment is an unholy mess so I didn't want them to, which I guess makes them suspicious or something.

Ah, what a life I live. Jeesh.

National ID Card

On NPR last night, they had on two guests discussing the issue of creating a national ID card in the US. One, a supposed "conservative liberatarian" from the ACLU, was in favor of the creation of such a card, while some guy from a gun owners' group was opposed.

What is this world coming to when I agree with the guy from the gun owners' group and think the guy from the ACLU is crazy? (To be fair, I don't think his view on the issue is representative of the ACLU as a whole).

The ACLU guy kept talking about how we could create the ID and then put "strong safeguards on how the information is used." Yeah, right. That always works so well. It's not like Congress can just change those rules any time it wants once the government has all that information. Say, for instance, trying to sneak a provision into an omnibus spending bill to allow the release of citizens' tax information.

And it's not like the government will not just go ahead and use the information however it wants anyway. After all, they do that now. And the worst that can happen is that they get taken to court and told to stop it, which just means they'll do it secretly, and doesn't really help the person whose information has already been misused.

The gun owners' group guy put it perfectly, calling it "mission creep," and pointing out that the best way to make sure the government can't misuse our personal information is to stop them from collecting it in the first place. He correctly said, as I did above, that once the government has the information, they will use it for greater and greater invasions of our privacy, and we'll just keep getting used to it until we have no right to privacy at all. He pointed out that his Social Security card still says on it: Not to be used as identification. In case you're not old enough to remember, the government made all these promises about how Social Security numbers would never, never, ever be used as a national ID number. But now, you can't do anything without giving your Social Security number. Even private organizations, like banks and insurance companies, require your Social Security number to open an account or get a policy. The same thing will happen with the national ID card.

Also, the ACLU guy kept talking about how you could make this national ID card hard to forge, unlike drivers' licenses and passports now. Yeah, right. Because the bad guys have been foiled by our counter-forgery efforts so well to this point.

Also, what are you going to do to people when the police say, "Papers, please!" and they don't have them? You're out on a jog and don't have your wallet and the police stop you. Are they going to throw you in jail? I mean, if there's no consequence to not carrying your ID card, then there's no reason to have them, but what kind of liberty do we have if you can get thrown in the slammer for forgetting your card? After all, if you do like they do now with drivers' licenses, give you like a couple weeks to come to the police office and show them you have one, it won't really help catch illegals and terrorists at all, since they just won't come back.

And I fail to see what a national ID card is going to accomplish. It's not going to stop stuff like the Oklahoma City bombing. It probably wouldn't have stopped 9/11, since those guys were here legally. Really, the only thing it is going to do, is let the government keep even greater track of average citizens who haven't done anything wrong.

I hope the same conservatives who have been using this logic against gun control and a national gun registry come out against the national ID card. This guy from the gun owners' group did. We'll see if the rest of the conservatives have the same intellectual honesty. And we'll see if the Democrats are willing to sell out our civil liberties because fighting terrorism is popular right now, rather than telling people the truth, that these cards won't help fight terrorism but will be the first step towards putting bar codes on your neck or a chip in your head.


On the excrable Laura Ingraham Show last night, criticism of Rumsfeld's handling of the war, his (lack of) response to prisoner abuse, and his (lack of) response to the armor and supply issues, was handled by saying, "There are a lot of waypoints before an issue gets to Rumsfeld."

Interesting. So, the person in charge of an organization is not the person ultimately responsible for what happens under him or her, eh?

I'm sure that this will come as a surprise to the general who was in charge of prisons in Iraq and was blamed for Abu Graihb. I'm sure this will come as a surprise to all the officers who have had to take responsibility for the actions of subordinates in this war (and there are many).

I guess "the buck stops here" isn't a conservative value anymore.

And, I'm so glad the conservatives have been consistent on this issue. Naturally, when the Clinton State Department did something conservatives didn't like, they didn't blame Madeleine Albright, since there are "a lot of waypoints before an issue" reached Madeleine. Oh, wait, they did blame Albright. But, at least, they didn't blame Janet Reno for mistakes in the Justice Department. Oh, wait, they did blame Reno.

And, certainly, there are even more waypoints before something reached President Clinton, so that shielded him from criticism, right? Oh, wait, it didn't.

What a crock. We never heard about these so-called "waypoints" before. The intellectual dishonesty that American conservatives demonstrate every single day is just astounding.

Ingraham also criticized Campbell Brown, who is apparently filling in for Chris Matthews on Hardball this week, for asking Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage whether the elections in Iraq should be postponed six months or a year. So, now, it's wrong to even ask a question that conservatives don't agree with? It's not like this gave Armitage a chance to explain why the elections shouldn't be postponed. Oh, wait, it is like that. What, exactly, does Ingraham want? Brown only to ask questions like, "Why is President Bush so dreamy?" Give me a break.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Scrap It Rather Than Privatize It

Right now, all Americans* are compelled by the government to put money into Social Security, the payoff being a guaranteed benefit from the government when we retire. I'm not sure that it is necessarily right for the government to force people to pay into a system even for their own benefit, especially since those who die before retirement pay in and get nothing.

But, I especially think it is wrong to force people to put money into an account that will be invested in the market to either grow or vanish. If the benefit isn't guaranteed, then I don't think I should have to put my money into it. I should not be compelled to invest in the markets by the government if I don't want to. (I think this is a plus for Bush, though: It puts more of the peoples' money into the pockets of corporations who Bush is beholden to). I should not have to become a market expert because the government is compelling me to. I should not have to risk my retirement by gambling on the market if I don't want to. I should be able to put the money in a savings account or a mattress if I want to. Investing is a risk, and I think it is wrong for the government to force everyone to take this risk.

The Social Security system is solvent, according to Government Accounting Office estimates, for another seventy-five years. Only then does it run into trouble. But who the hell knows what is going to happen in the next seventy-five years? The Clinton and Bush administrations both tried to project budgets out ten years and were utterly, totally wrong because the surplus disappeared after Bush decided to crusade across the Islamic world. Social Security hasn't even been in existence for seventy-five years.

Medicare is in much worse shape. But the regime says nothing about that. It's not sexy.

The environment, which has been around more than seventy-five years, is degrading, but that's too far off for Bush to worry about. But Social Security needs to be fixed now? How much does that have to do with a real desire to fix it and how much is a desire to put more of the public's money into the hands of Bush's business cronies?

And, of course, Social Security is in the black now and would be in even better shape if administrations didn't keep taking money out of it all the time.

I don't think the government has the right to take my money and force me to put it in the market. Privatization of Social Security will be a complete disaster and I want no part of it. The only advantage to a government-run program over just investing by yourself is if the government-run program is a guaranteed benefit. Otherwise, we'll all just be compulsorily paying huge overhead for people to manage these accounts, and those people will be the only ones guaranteed to benefit from Social Security.

Give me my freakin' money back. If you aren't going to guarantee me a benefit, I'd just as soon go it alone. If you're going to "fix" Social Security by privatizing it, just do what you really want to do, Mr. Bush, and get rid of it entirely. Don't pay off your cronies with our money first and then leave us high and dry when it comes time for us to retire.

*except employees of the various States, including me, who pay into State retirement plans rather than Social Security because the Federal Government can't force the States to participate. So, at the moment, when I say "me" and "my money," I really mean, "you" and "your money"

Enough With Kerik!

Okay. Kerik was uncomfirmable. The nanny may have been made up to cover the White House's ass once they learned that Kerik's closet is so full of skeletons you could construct a T-Rex out of them. Attorney General-to-be Gonzales is the worst background-checker in the history of the world. And Bush's "gut instinct" about Kerik turned out about as well as Bush's other "gut instincts," like his "gut instinct" to invade Iraq because his "gut" told him to, and also told him not to plan for an insurgency in post-war Iraq because, according to his "gut," the Iraqis would see the US as liberators and not occupiers.

Snafus all the way around. And bones keep falling out of Kerik's closet, two or three a day. He committed bigamy. He has connections to the mob. He rented an apartment near ground zero to have his two affairs in. He never filled out paperwork for security clearance while NYPD Chief, nor did he fill out paperwork when he went to Iraq. Blah, blah, blah.

Who cares?

Kerik was a bad, dumb choice. But it's not Watergate. Clinton withdrew nominees too. The White House withdrew Kerik's nomination, so I don't care about him any more. The Bush regime is doing all kinds of things to destroy the world and our republic, but this isn't one of them. This is just an example of the poor judgment of the regime and the idiocy of our leader. But that's been well proven already, and digging up more crap on Kerik doesn't make it any more or less so.

I'm not saying the police and DAs shouldn't investigate and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. They should. I just don't think Kerik is important anymore and his troubles shouldn't be national news. I don't care.

Let's get back to the real issues, like what color jumpsuit Scott Peterson will wear to be executed and how long Star Jones' and Britney Spears' marriages will last.

Donald Rumsfeld: Public Relations Master

Did you catch this over the weekend? It turns out that, though President Bush takes the time to sign the condolence letters to the families of members of the military killed in Iraq personally, Rumsfeld has been using a mechanical pen for his signature.

I don't know what astounds me the most about this story. Is it this newest indication that Rumsfeld has no sense of responsibility to the men and women he sends into combat every day? Is it that Rumsfeld is such an idiot that it never occurred to him that not signing those letters would piss people off? Or is it that Bush, who has once again been made to look the fool by his Secretary of Defense, who by this action essentially said, "Well, the President may have time to sign these letters, but I don't," is standing by this albatross of a political liability?

I can't even begin to try to figure out who the bigger idiot is here, Bush or Rumsfeld.

All I know is that neither have a career in public relations waiting for them when they are done with government.


When I left Ohio in 1996 to begin my nomadic lifestyle, I experienced a bit of culture shock, but not much. I fit in pretty well in the places I moved to, even though they were very different from each other. And I didn't have much trouble dealing with cultures I hadn't dealt with much in Ohio. I was already aware of hispanic culture, for instance, and so actually being around it did not greatly affect my views and opinions of it or the world.

But, on the other hand, my parents dealt with moving from Ohio to Los Angeles very differently from me. Confronted with other cultures on a daily basis for the first time, I found they displayed a racist streak I had never seen in Ohio. I don't know if racist feelings were always there, beneath the surface, but the lack of minorities kept them from displaying them, or if those feelings developed out of their experiences in LA. I found that they fit the stereotype of people moving from the Midwest to the coast and having their worlds rocked than I ever did.

Similarly, I have noticed people I know from Ohio act awkwardly, for instance, around Jewish people, which I find very strange. Even when I lived in places where there was not a great deal of Jewish culture to interact with, I was not unaware of it, nor did I think it was alien when I lived in places where I had more chance to experience it.

But, nonetheless, when I occasionally encountered some arrogance on the part of Los Angelenos or New Englanders about how insular the Midwest was and how parochial its people are, I vigorously defended Midwesterners. After all, I was from the Midwest, and I was aware of the rest of the country even before I lived in any of it. I don't think I was ever particularly parochial.

But then, what about all the other examples I have seen of parochialism on the part of my fellow Midwesterners? I really didn't think about it much until just recently.

I was speaking with my grandfather. He is 86 years old. He fought in WWII in the Pacific and was part of the occupation force in Japan. Given his age and the fact that he has, at least during the War, traveled to other nations would suggest a certain amount of awareness of the world. But, during this particular conversation, he asked me, "Didn't anyone invite you for Christmas?"

I replied, "My friends here are all Jewish. They don't celebrate Christmas." (I don't either. Merry Mithrasmas, everyone!)

And then he said something that really made me think. He said, "Well, when do they celebrate the birth of Jesus?"

From that simple question, I think I learned a lot. Within it, there is an implication. My grandfather assumed that people from another faith celebrated Jesus' birth. In other words, it did not occur to him that other people might have different cultures and values. It did not occur to him that Jewish people might be different from him and what he is used to.

And I began to wonder what this might mean to the political debate. For instance, in the debate about putting nativity scenes on public property, my grandfather probably would not really understand why that is offensive to some, and would be easily convinced to support measures to allow nativity scenes on public property. Not out of malice, but because he cannot perceive of how or why such things are wrong. If your life experience tells you that everyone believes in Jesus and celebrates the birth of Jesus, how could a nativity scene possibly offend anyone?

How many people out there think that gay people are intentionally and maliciously living in sin because it has never even occurred to them that anyone might think otherwise? How many people believe, as do my friends in Texas, that the Jews (and atheists, I would imagine) have intentionally turned away from God by rejecting Jesus, even though they must know in their hearts that Jesus is the Messiah, it never occurring to them that someone might not really be rejecting him because they never believed in him in the first place? How many people have never seen any government oppression or corruption in their lives and therefore believe that civil rights aren't that important, because they and everyone they know are good, honest people, and they have never run afoul of the law, and thus only bad people run afoul of the law?

I could go on and on. The point is, I wonder how much the red state/blue state problem might relate to this? I wonder if it isn't that Americans are stupid, but that so many have truly never experienced anything that make them think that the way things work in their small town in Ohio is not the way it works everywhere?

I don't know. I'm not sure why I understood that Centerville, Ohio, was not the entire world and yet my grandfather doesn't. All the people I know from Ohio who have surprised me with their tendency to be parochial had access to the same books, television, and movies as I did. How did they end up so insular and I didn't?

And, if this is really a contributor to the problems the left has in reaching the middle of the country, how do we break through to these people? How can you convince someone who has never met a gay person that gays are just people, not sinners, not followers of Satan, but just people in love who want to get married just like them? How can you alleviate ignorance that is so subtle that the person isn't even aware of it? How do you even detect this kind of ignorance that hides itself so well? A person who isn't aware of his or her ignorance cannot, by definition, even know to ask the right questions to learn and understand better.

And, also, what is it that we on the left are ignorant of that keeps us from connecting to these people? I am from the Midwest, but I never fit in there. Maybe that is why I didn't succumb to parochialism. But what is it that is going on there that even I, a native son, don't understand?

I think these might be questions that will haunt the left in America until we find the answers.