Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Opinion of John McCain Drops Lower

While watching the first McCain-Obama debate, I heard McCain site a pork barrel spending rating for Obama from “Citizens Against Government Waste” (www.cagw.org). I jotted the name down, because, as I think I mentioned before, I like sites that record how the candidates voted on bills. So, I looked up their website.
Let me digress for a bit. I used to be a big fan of John McCain. He was smart, funny, a hero, and when he thought an issue was important, he didn’t cave in to partisan pressure or lobbyists. He was a politician with integrity. But something happened a couple of years ago that was strange. It’s like a bad Halloween special where mad Doctor Frankencheney performs evil experiments on the unsuspecting John McCain, destroying most of his brain cells and turning him into (dunt, dunt, duh!) George W. Bush! Aaaaggghhh! I can’t watch!
McCain has reversed his stand on Roe v. Wade, Bush’s tax cuts, the NRA, Waterboarding, Domestic Surveillance and so on. Some websites list 61 flip-flops and counting. I think he may even have flopped on less filling or tastes great. All these reversals seem to be intended to align him politically with the conservative voting blocks. I heard on the radio today that voters are thinking he might be insincere. Go figure.
OK, I’m done digressing now. McCain quoted a rating from “Citizens Against Government Waste” and I went to their website. What they do is look at the bills in congress and label the results as either “The Taxpayers Won” (less waste) or “The Taxpayers Lost” (more waste) then they tally up the senators’ and representatives’ “The Taxpayers Won” votes; zero percent to 100 percent. Then I looked at the 2007 results and the average for both houses was; Republicans 63.5% and Democrats 5%. Then I looked at the bills. I couldn’t see what the criteria were for their “Won” or “Lost” rating, but it seemed like all the “Won” bills favored the GOP and all the “Lost” bills favored the Dems. Surely this non-profit, tax-free organization couldn’t be less than completely unbiased.
I googled the CAGW and found that the organization was started by a corporate CEO with a lot of safety and environmental violations and an ultra-conservative journalist. They are almost totally funded by corporate donations from people like Exxon, RJR Nabisco and Philip Morris. They have their own lobbying arm that had connections with Jack Abramoff and mostly opposes efforts by the govt. to punish corporations for federal crimes. Oh, and almost all of their campaign donations since 2004 have gone to John McCain. The organization is also under investigation for improper political active by a non-profit. If you think McCain is just a lucky recipient of their donations, listen. His cell-mate in the POW camp, long time friend, and veterans’ liaison for the McCain campaign, Orson Swindle, is on CAGW’s board of directors.
So that means John McCain is a corrupt, insincere, flip-flopping corporate shill and maybe our next president.

Freshwater Hearing Wednesday

John Freshwater, the evangelical creationist teacher from Mount Vernon Middle School will have his hearing Wed. Here's a link to the article in the Mount Vernon newspaper:

Monday, September 29, 2008

They Mean God as a Metaphor, Jerkface!

I just signed up for the Google ad deal on my blog, where Google puts “appropriate” ads on your site. That’s fine. Being a blog about atheism, they put on an ad for “The Atheist’s Riddle.” I always thought the atheist’s riddle was the one that goes something like, “What is black and white and black and white and black and white?” “A nun falling down stairs.” So I thought I’d check out his web site and see if he was thinking of the same joke
It turns out that his joke was completely different. It was really long and convoluted, and while it had some very funny parts, it didn’t hold a candle to a nun falling down stairs.
It was a web site by a guy named Perry Marshall who wants to sell a four part lecture series about how scientists have irrefutably proven the existence of God. Really. When the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite) project found evidence of the beginning of the Universe, astrophysicist George Smoot reportedly said, “What we have found is evidence of the birth of the Universe. It's like looking at God.”
Perry Marshall asserts that the statement means that Nobel Laureate George Smoot looked at the evidence of the Big Bang and saw God looking back. Now wait, before you question the veracity of Mr. Marshall, he then tells of a conversation with Geoffrey Burbridge, a member of George Smoot’s team, who when asked about the discovery, complained that all of his peers were rushing off to join the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang. So, there you have it, straight from the astrophysicists’ mouths. The COBE team saw God and then immediately ran off and joined a church.
Marshall reached the one and only logical conclusion: Big Bang =Jesus Christ. (I know, Smoot said he saw God, not Jesus, but it was from really far away, so it might have been Jesus, considering the family resemblance and all.)
If you’re not convinced yet, you cynic, Marshall also said Einstein predicted this very thing when he came up with his singularity equation! That’s when Ol’ Albert became convinced that God exists and that he created the Universe. That sure straightened me out on a couple of facts. I’d always heard that Einstein did not believe in the existence of God and, furthermore, God didn’t play dice either (although the dice thing seemed like an awfully obvious conclusion from such a brainy guy).
With all this enlightening information, I almost forgot to tell you the riddle: How did the Universe begin? The scientists don’t know. I told you the nun joke was better.
But wait! Perry Marshall knows the answer to the riddle. Since scientists can’t solve the riddle, the only possible conclusion you can reach is that God did it! And that proves that god exists! So there! Now, excuse me. I’m going to be sick.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Party of Change

The Republicans are calling themselves "the party of change" this election cycle so I thought it might be interesting to look up the definitions of liberal and conservative. Here is how they are defined in Answers.com:

liberal (lĭb'ər-əl, lĭb'rəl)

Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor.
Generous in amount; ample: a liberal serving of potatoes.
Not strict or literal; loose or approximate: a liberal translation.
Of, relating to, or based on the traditional arts and sciences of a college or university curriculum: a liberal education.

Archaic. Permissible or appropriate for a person of free birth; befitting a lady or gentleman.
Obsolete. Morally unrestrained; licentious.
A person with liberal ideas or opinions.
Liberal A member of a Liberal political party.
[Middle English, generous, from Old French, from Latin līberālis, from līber, free.]

liberally lib'er·al·ly adv.
liberalness lib'er·al·ness n.
SYNONYMS liberal, bounteous, bountiful, freehanded, generous, handsome, munificent, openhanded. These adjectives mean willing or marked by a willingness to give unstintingly: a liberal backer of the arts; a bounteous feast; bountiful compliments; a freehanded host; a generous donation; a handsome offer; a munificent gift; fond and openhanded grandparents. See also synonyms at broad-minded.
ANTONYM stingy

conservative (kən-sûr'və-tĭv)

Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.
Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.

Of or relating to the political philosophy of conservatism.
Belonging to a conservative party, group, or movement.
Conservative Of or belonging to the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom or the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada.
Conservative Of or adhering to Conservative Judaism.
Tending to conserve; preservative: the conservative use of natural resources.
One favoring traditional views and values.
A supporter of political conservatism.
Conservative A member or supporter of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom or the Progressive Conservative Party in Canada.
Archaic. A preservative agent or principle.
conservatively con·ser'va·tive·ly adv.
conservativeness con·ser'va·tive·ness n.

Any questions?

There’s an Election Acomin’

It is time again for what I call my quadrennial ulcer, when I’m reminded that the whole one-person-one-vote-thing might not have been such a great idea. Living on the buckle of the bible belt I hear most of my neighbors express their reasons for their presidential choice, which run the gamut from “He’s pro-life” to “I’d like to drink a beer with him and he’s pro-life.” Basically, most of these folks have been evangelical Christian Republicans their whole lives, so their presidential choice was decided by their grandfathers and all they have to do is rationalize why they made the same choice as every other election.
I’m just the opposite. I go to Google News so I can read articles from both liberal and conservative sources. I check Factcheck.org and Politifact.com regularly as well as sites where I can check voting records and who’s donating to whom. However, I could probably just vote for whoever runs against my neighbors’ choice.
The trouble is the Republicans keep lying. Not that the Dems haven’t done a little truth stretching themselves, but they’re still rank amateurs compared to the Elephant-men. The GOP’s biggest, brashest, most painted-on-the-barn-in-neon-paint lie is that the GOP is the party of change. The people who lied to get us into a war, turned the country’s biggest surplus into its biggest deficit, who helped Exxon make record profits, OK’ed the torture of every Muslim in the world, ran roughshod over the Constitution they were sworn to protect, increased the income gap between the rich and poor, and deregulated the loan industry so as to cause huge numbers of home foreclosures and the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression (just to name a few examples) are now the “Party of Change.” Do they think they’ve screwed up the country so much that anything they do now is bound to be an improvement?
John McCain repeatedly reminds everybody that he’s been called a maverick, but he doesn’t mention that they haven’t called him that recently. In the last couple of years he has reversed himself on just about every stand he has ever taken and kissed up to every conservative group he can find. At least it’s true in one sense that he’s the candidate of change. Unfortunately he’s changed from a maverick to a George W. Bush clone. Who would ever vote for this guy? My neighbors would.
Don’t get me wrong, the people that live around me are the nicest, most generous and big hearted people I’ve ever known, and I would do almost anything for them, as they would for me. They are just kinda naïve and unsophisticated. They’ve never met a gay couple or a Buddhist or experienced the other cultures and beliefs that don’t show up in the heart of Ohio. They also believe that the pastors of their Fundie churches are direct conduits to god and should always be believed.
The pastors take advantage of their privileged status to dictate politics from the pulpit under the implied threat of eternal damnation, and this weekend they are intentionally testing the IRS’s rules that would take away their tax-exempt status for being political. In addition, I saw this morning that a group of clerics has joined forces to come out against a couple of issues on the state ballot (you can read about it here: http://www.nbc4i.com/midwest/cmh/politics.apx.-content-articles-CMH-2008-09-25-0013.html). I don’t always disagree with the clergy on these issues, in fact, I definitely will vote with the clergy on these issues because the people who benefit most from voting the other way are pond scum. But that’s not the point. The pastor’s job is to tend to the moral guidance of his or her own flock and then it’s up to the individuals to determine what candidates and issues best fit their morals.
In the last two election cycles I was told of ministers who actually told parishioners from the pulpit that they either vote for W or face eternity on the devil’s rotisserie, and we all know how well that turned out. A large Baptist church in the area even invited Bill O’Riley and a couple of other famous right wing pundits to speak at their church one Sunday. The fact that they weren’t all struck dead on the spot is further proof there is no god. It prompted me to say that pro-lifers would vote for Satan if he said he was anti-abortion. Maybe they already did.
Anyway, all the above is really just to say that it’s each voter’s responsibility to get all of the facts before voting for one of the most powerful leaders in the world. It’s not as if we lived 150 years ago when all of our information would have come from a few very biased newspapers; now we have a bazillion websites, radios, and TVs (which, in spite of assertions to the contrary, can be switched from Faux News to real fairer and balanceder news sources).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Freshwater Fiasco

I live about 15 miles south of the town of Mount Vernon, OH and followed with interest the battle between Jr. High science teacher John Freshwater and the school board that ordered him to remove the 10 commandments and his bible from view in his classroom. Freshwater agreed to remove the 10 commandments from the wall, but refused to remove his bible from his desk, saying it infringed on his rights.
I started hearing about this in mid- April of ’08 and his termination hearing is set for Oct. 1st. A large number of Christians in the area have rallied around Freshwater, insisting that his rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been violated, and a lot of the students have held a “bring a bible to school day” to show their support. Meanwhile the school board issued a statement saying that they were not opposed to religion but were required to do this because "under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to protect against the establishment of religion in the schools. As a public school system the district cannot teach, promote or favor any religion or religious beliefs.”
Freshwater has filed a countersuit against the school district claiming emotional distress, lost time from work, and anxiety. He wants to have the case heard before a jury.
Most of this information has made the national news thanks to Fox News. What has not been widely reported is that the order to remove the bible came as a result of many complaints to the school board from parents of his students, because he was teaching creationism in class, making repeated religious references, and using an electric device to burn a cross into the arm of at least one student. The student reportedly has the scar to prove it.
The large fundamentalist Christian population in the area has come out in support of Freshwater because they believe that force-feeding Christian dogma to public school students is exactly what he should be doing. The kids that brought their bibles to school used the opportunity to mark non-bible–carriers as the enemy, and therefore legitimate targets for bullying and harassment. And lest you think that this really was about freedom of speech and freedom of religion, a Jewish boy who brought his Torah to school to show solidarity was also made a target of their righteous Christian hatred.
Supporters of the teacher staged rallies on the public square in Mount Vernon and came in large numbers to school meetings boisterously insisting that the separation of church and state was a myth and insisting that they were the victims of religious persecution. They also erected a large sign along the main route into town that read, “If the bible goes the school board should follow.”
As the summer wore on fewer and fewer people attended the rallies and a few of the people who agreed with the school board’s decision could be heard above the din, but the fundies still just didn’t get it. The message is that the separation of church and state isn’t a myth and every court case that used the myth defense has lost, and sometimes that loss cost big bucks. Just ask the Dover, PA board about the 2 million dollar hole in their budget. Furthermore we have the documents from the founding fathers that state that the U.S. is a secular nation that favors no particular religion. Heck, Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state” while clarifying the intent of the first amendment to assure Connecticut Baptists that the Congregationalist majority couldn’t legislate them out of existence.
Another argument against Freshwater that I never heard is that he was hired to teach science to middleschoolers and if he was doing something other than that during class time, then he wasn’t doing the job he was hired to do. Who among us can get away with doing whatever we want during work hours without it having some negative ramifications. The only reason he got away with it for so long is that Christianity has special status in this area. If Freshwater had spent class time teaching French lessons instead of science, he’d have been gone long ago, but you don’t want to piss off the Big Guy upstairs or his huge fundamentalist following that could vote you out of office.
The biggest losers in this mess are the kids. Almost everything I have read has addressed whether or not John Freshwater is a victim and most writers seem to have forgotten that this whole donnybrook played out in a middle school full of about 1000 students. Shouldn’t the highest priorities of a school and its supporters be education, welfare of all the students and a safe, healthy learning environment? Why have these matters been largely overlooked in the discussion?
Freshwater had been allowed to teach at that school for 20 years in spite of similar complaints throughout his career. Granted, Mount Vernon’s large, vocal, right-wing evangelical population must be very intimidating, but 20 years is a very long time to sweep problems under the rug and hope they will go away. Is it any wonder that US science education ranks around 24th in the world, behind even war-torn, third-worldish Sri Lanka? Students receive science lessons watered down to avoid offence or where a teacher’s personal agenda takes precedence over facts. They take this diluted information home where they are assured by parents and clergy that their science education is largely invalid and the facts are not to be trusted. When they leave school they are only prepared for becoming Amish.
If these youngsters are not learning anything in school they should at least be in a safe environment. Junior High students almost universally reflect the religion of their parents and they don’t really get a choice in the matter. The adults in the school should be aware of that and protect these students but most teachers in Mount Vernon have been raised to believe that their religion is right and good and all others are wrong and bad. I’m sure if Freshwater had been espousing a non-Christian religion, he’d have been thrown out so fast his shadow couldn’t keep up. Heck, if he’d been promoting Islam he’d be in Guantanamo by now.
I saved the most important point for last. John Freshwater intentionaly injured a student! He asked for volunteers for an electrical demonstration and then used a device like an improvised branding iron to burn a cross shape into the arm of one of his students! I can’t understand why the community didn’t rise up with pitchforks and torches and come after him like peasants storming Frankenstein’s castle. This man shouldn’t be awaiting a decision from the school board, he should be in prison for child abuse and assalt and battery. Oh, but wait. This doesn’t count as a bad thing because he was doing God’s work. If the child was a godless infidel, it probably would have been OK to drive a stake through the evil kid’s heart, as long as he didn’t get any blood on the bible on his desk.