Obama-Fan Ruins the Moment

November 5, 2008

I know I’ve been silent for a while, but I have a good excuse… which I won’t tell you.  Suffice to say that the end of the election has something to do with it.

Nevertheless, after a one of the happiest nights of hugging strangers that I’ve ever had, I was driving home and listening to some woman on NPR going on about what the Obama victory means for America. It went a little something like this:

“Never thought I’d live to see, etc… and this is a victory against bigotry.  Against sarcasm.  Against….uh… against atheism.”

I almost drove off the road.  Leave alone the fact that that last comment doesn’t make a lick of sense politically (yeah, all us Sarah Palin-loving atheists!), but how exactly does your perception of reality become so twisted that you can possibly work waxing poetic against the evils of bigotry into the same speech that you smear non-belief and non-believers? Isn’t that a form of bigotry?

Anyway, I shouldn’t too hard on the woman: maybe, like so many others, words fail her in what is a tremendously emotional time.


Aaaaaand We’re Back, Again….

August 11, 2008

Vacation 2 is complete, but boy did I miss some fun.

John Edwards, a man for whom I once used to work (though not by my choice per se), was outed as an adulterer.

Ed Brayton says I shouldn’t feel betrayed, but I do.

Edwards can conduct his personal affairs as he pleases, with the consequences and benefits falling on him. But when he does so with the mantle of a party, a campaign, and as an active player in the political scene, he is most certainly is taking on a level of commitment and trust to the people who support him and work for him that he’ll do everything he can not to screw things up. Imagine if he had won the nomination, only to drop this bombshell on the entire party. Betrayed? You betcha.

Course, maybe I’m biased, since I’ve never met the man, but I did get to meet his wife, who was a truly classy lady.

In other news, Obama is apparently still very snooty and arrogant for having the audacity to be a Democrat. China really, really wants to impress the world. Russia really, really wants to disgust the world. Some famous people died of oddly improbable causes. And President Bush rather laudably spoke out, albeit a little timidly, for religious freedom in China. Some other stuff happened, but dude, I was at the beach.

More to come…


Obama’s German Flyers: Yglesias Jumps the Gun on RNC’s Ruffini

July 23, 2008

In an illustration of the dangers of habitually indignant speed blogging, Atlantic Monthly blogger Matthew Yglesias totally misreads a post by Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini, complaining about Obama’s big upcoming rally in Germany:

Patrick Ruffini slams the Obama campaign for using a foreign language in its promotional material for an event in Germany. Apparently it’s now unpatriotic to so much as concede that they speak foreign languages in foreign countries. Or maybe American politicians should only be allowed to speak in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK.

Get it? Ultra-partisan Ruffini is so knee-jerkily nuts that he actually thinks that using a foreign language in a foreign country is unamerican!

Unfortunately, Yglesias’ take is, literally, too funny to be true.

Ruffini’s actual objection is the use of classic campaign tactics and money to build a crowd for the speech in a foreign land. The fact that the flyers are in German is not a problem for him because he thinks that Americans should never stoop to the use of anything but the King’s English. It’s a problem for him because it demonstrates how Obama’s campaign is willing to spend money lobbying foreigners to rally for American-media consumption:

So, this isn’t just some sober, high-minded foreign policy speech, part of a foreign trip occurring under the auspices of his official Senate office. It is a campaign rally occurring on foreign soil. They are using the same tactics to turn out Germans to an event as they would to any rally right here in America.

The sea of Germans drummed up by the Obama campaign will be used as props to tell us Americans how to vote, and the campaign isn’t trying to pretend otherwise. That’s breathtakingly arrogant, and par for the course for Barack Obama.

Now, I don’t think it’s breathtakingly arrogant at all: this is simply Ruffini being a good campaign man and dutifully reinforcing the standard Republican talking point about Obama having a big head.

I disagree with Ruffini’s argument, of course: demonstrating Obama’s appeal to the world is undeniably a legitimate selling point for his candidacy. It’s all a demonstration of his ability to get things done abroad to better serve American interests back home. He has as much reason to play that up as McCain does to talk about the surge (or to campaign abroad himself).

Still, Yglesias’ criticism of Ruffini is the only thing that’s “breathtakingly” anything here: breathtakingly sloppy. A little skepticism about something seemingly too partisan-ly perfect would have served him a little better.


Blog Shorts: Bush Smears Jefferson, Colson Smears Atheists, Cthulhu Smears Your Entrails Across Campaign Trail

July 5, 2008

The web is a wondrous place, isn’t it? From just the last week:

Ed Brayton and Timothy Sandefur catch George Bush “honoring” Thomas Jefferson by altering his actual words to avoid any hint of anti-religious opinions.

From the “Theists Are Far Ruder to Atheists than Atheists Could Be in Return” File comes Chuck Colson, the convicted felon who thinks he’s better than you. Hemant at the Friendly Atheist is having none of it. Hemant’s also not buying the idea that requiring students to actually act out Islamic prayers is a legitimate way to teach them about world religions, even if the teacher is a Christian.

Over at Catholic and Enjoying It, Mark Shea manages to be more far more outraged about a story in which Muslims are supposedly outraged by a puppy than anyone in the story is actually outraged. But he makes up for it by his hearty endorsement of Cthulhu’s 2008 run for the White House. No More Years!

And finally, Orac over at Respectful Insolence bemoans yet another loss to the forces of woo: apparently some states, with Vermont the most prominant amongst them, are starting to require insurance companies to pay for the “evidence-free medicine” of naturopathy. Lest you think that such errant nonsense couldn’t possibly hurt you, Orac points out that it’s a move that will kick you right in the pocketbook:

I don’t know about you, but if I were paying into an insurance plan, and the company administering that plan were wasting money paying for woo, I’d be mightily pissed. This can only serve to drive up the costs for everyone, as patients with non-self-limiting diseases pursue non-science-based modalities, think they feel better for a while, and then find that their disease is progressing, at which point they seek out science-based medical care–which their insurance companies will have to pay for, too.


Arbitrary Blogging Milestone

June 24, 2008

As of today, people around the world have stopped by more than 100,000 times and left more than 2,222 comments (though probably about half of those are my own) on my mere 302 posts. And I’m not even a year into this gig yet. It’s a modest amount compared to the eyeballs most blogging juggernauts draw in, but it’s still far more folks than I can possibly imagine.

So thanks gentle readers. It’s been, and will continue to be, swell!


McCain “Really Didn’t Love America Until…” Either & The Unreality of Political Blogging

June 20, 2008

Michelle Obama has been under attack for some time for a comment she made: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” She’s since explained that what she meant was her country’s politics, and that it is, of course, comparative hyperbole, not really a literal absolute. Seems reasonable enough to me to be a non-issue.

But conservatives, seeing blood, pounced. They attacked her patriotism. They worked this comment into their overall narrative of the Obama’s being elite, self-centered ‘too-fancy and enamored of themselves’ folks. It was an easy sell for them.

Myself? I’m embarrassed for anyone that styles themselves an honest, straight shooter that bought into this faux-controversy: who see cable talking-head narratives as reality instead of theater. I’m disgusted at the quiet glee that otherwise interesting and thoughtful conservative bloggers take in peppering their posts with the quote, and the pride they take in seeing media accounts of ordinary citizens hating on the Obamas for it. I have little patience for the two-faced pretense of supposedly analyzing it with the quiet motive of simply repeating it over and over.

No less than the always charming Laura Bush has come out defending Mrs. Obama and her defense is dead on.

“I think she probably meant I’m ‘more proud,’ you know, is what she really meant,” Bush told ABC News. “You have to be very careful in what you say. I mean, I know that, and that’s one of the things you learn and that’s one of the really difficult parts both of running for president and for being the spouse of the president, and that is, everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued.”

And now, the ridiculousness of it all has come to a head, because MSNBC has caught Presidential candidate John McCain saying something quite similar, repeatedly, with no outcry from anyone. Quoth John McCain: “I really didn’t love America until I was deprived of her company…”

Ooooo, didn’t appreciate America until locked in a cage and tortured? What a selfish twit, right?

No. Wrong. Sigh.

In real life, people say things all the time that are silly, overwrought. They get worked up about something, and then, in a moment of clarity, come down off it. And because in real life they have to deal with other human beings face to face, day in and day out, they often realize how foolish they were being, and they apologize for them. Not because of equally phony formulaic political demands for public apologies. Because they actually, though simple self-awareness, come to feel foolish about their behavior.

Just once, I’d like to see campaign cable spin-miesters or their bloggy enablers suddenly look sheepish and self-aware, just like ordinary humans do all the time. Say “wait a minute, what the heck am I going on about?”

The fact that virtually no one ever does that, when they do it all the time in real life, is as sure a sign as any that political blogging is still fairly far removed from both humanity and reality. People play against partisan type from time to time, sure. They have their opinions. But somehow they virtually never get upset about something and then later, after whipping up a frenzy, reconsider. I’m not claiming that I’m innocent of it either. I just wish we could all commiserate a little more about the collective problem.

Even if you’re inclined to defend your outrage at Mrs. Obama, deny that this one, super important and telling quote, is part of that unreality game… can you at least admit to the general vice, and that you may well indulge in it?


How People Get Here: Bible Quotes and Virginity Edition

June 11, 2008

WordPress rather conveniently allows me to see what sort of search queries bring people to my website: you Google, get a result, click on a link to my blog, and I know all about it. Instantly.

One inquisitive Googler happened to reach my website by asking:

“Are there bible quotes in the constitution”

I don’t think I’ve ever blogged specifically about this question, so allow me to answer it clearly and concisely:

No. There aren’t.

Thanks for your interest!

Sadly, there is a downside to my vast powers of perception. WordPress only shows me a certain, limited length of the original search query. Given that I’ve recently posted about “sex advice from a virgin” (the pope) and Muslim women seeking to regain their virginity, I also get a lot of highly disturbing searches that contain the word “virgin” in them, all leading people to my blog (hopefully, to their profound disappointment).

Anyway, this is all to say that I’m very grateful that, thanks to the wordpress length limit, I’ll never get to see the rest of the following search query:

“how long does it take for a virgin to ha…”

Phew. I think we all dodged a bullet there.


Back in the Yack

June 8, 2008

Now that was nice. A vacation. I should do that more often. But then, I should also blog more often. Let’s get on that.


A Brief Hiatus Ceases

May 6, 2008

After being away in the wilds of woolly New England, I’m back. Lest you think I rested on my laurels, I’m working on a review of David Berlinski’s “The Devil’s Delusion” (in which Berlinski, quite astonishingly, calls people other than himself pretentious) and a series of full-frontal assaults on some of the baddest of the bad ideas when it comes to moral philosophy and theology.

My favorite story that I missed while away? A substitute teacher in Florida was apparently accused of wizardry by a supervisor after performing a sleight-of-hand magic trick with a toothpick.

Wizardry.


Totally Made Up, Unilateral Blog Carnival! (And a Tiny Bit on Expelled!)

March 27, 2008

It’s time for another survey of stuff worth reading on the internet, so let’s pretend that I’m hosting some sort of esoteric Blog Carnival. Topic? ME! (And for those readers who are getting sick of Expelled musings, good news: I’ve exiled them to the end of this post)

Anyway, let’s get this thing started with a review of the home-birth-homage film “The Business of Being Born” from someone who might know a little about the subject: family practice doc Harriet Hall. Personally, I think she’s nuts to worry about all the hospital-hate in the film. Doctors are dangerous! That’s why I’m planning on going for an “all-natural” coronary artery bypass when my time comes.

Next, Ed Darrell over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub points us towards both Cracked list of 11 Movies Saved by Historical Inaccuracy (in which we learn that Mel Gibson’s Patriot hero was, in real life, a notorious slave rapist) and Yahoo’s own similar listing of Greatest Historical Goofups (in which we learn that Mel Gibson’s Braveheart hero would have had to have sex with a three year old to make any sense). Both lists need to apologize for the ridiculousness of calling 2001: A Space Odyssey “historically” inaccurate. It’s called Science-FICTION, guys.

Over at Exploring Our Matrix, religious religion prof James F. McGrath asks “Can (the story of) Noah’s Ark Be Saved?” I’m not sure if his answer is yes or no, exactly but I’m pretty sure that whatever it is, it’s the right answer. The stories of Noah and Job cannot be reconciled any better to modern morals than they can to modern science. That doesn’t mean that we cannot learn things from them (whether believers learning about God, or even non-believers learning about believers).

Then we have Hemant at Friendly Atheist who sees Jesus everywhere he looks. Fair warning though: be prepared to squint.

To pad out my fake Carnival, I’ll also note Bug Girl’s submission to the all-too-real 83rd Skeptic’s Circle/Carnival. The title is simply irresistible: Pubic Lice: “Sea monkeys in your pants” Speaks for itself, right?

Finally, if you want to know more about my sense of humor, here’s Exhibit A: new internet sensations FAIL blog and Stuff White People Like.

Oh, and in case you yourself had PHAILed to notice it, that big honking graphic over on the top right goes to Expelled Exposed, the soon-to-be official National Center for Science Education response to that expelled movie thingy everyone has been going on and on about. I highly recommend other bloggers doing something similarly prominent to get the word out: feel free to steal my graphic if you’re lazy.

It’s also worth noting that, for some unknown reason, this teensy blog is actually the or at least amongst the top results when you search for information on the film, which is pretty odd, because I almost never post about the darn thing. While I’m flattered, Internet, I can’t help but think that other science sites should be up there instead.

Finally, as I noted over at Skepchick, what is probably one of the most crucial Google search terms in this little PR war, “expelled movie,” didn’t have a single critical, pro-science site on the all-important first page of results. But then, lo and behold, the very day after I complain about it, Phil Plait and I break into the big time! Somehow, I have gained the power to move digital mountains.

Beware!


Everyone’s a Critic… But Not Necessarily a Good One: A Response to Recent Apologia on Salvation

March 20, 2008

My recent missive on the Christian doctrine of sin and salvation has attracted quite a number of readers, but nowhere near as many critical comments as I would have expected. That’s too bad, as always: I really do like and appreciate people that have something to say in return. I’m not opinionated because I think the world lacks ready access to my brilliance, or because I’m positive my ideas are flawless: I’m opinionated because I know that those opinions are worthless unless put to the test of other critical minds. You, the reader, can do a better job of weeding out my weaker rhetorical wanderings than I could ever do myself. To live, to learn, is to engage.

That said, there are the sorts of critical comments that just don’t help further that ideal.

The most recent, by Ward from Venison Tickle, exemplifies everything that’s frustrating about content-free Christian apologetics, and its all rounded out by an appalling attempt at special pleading that you simply have to read to believe. And I figured it would be quite worthwhile to highlight a bit of my back and forth with Ward as an illustration of the very problem I’ve been talking about. Ward in quotes, my responses… not in them:

I’m always interested to read the points of view of the jaded, the disconcerted, the disheartened, the downfallen, the ambivalent, the indifferent, those who claim they once believed, those who made false professions of faith or simply those who try to rationalize faith down to a science when it is not one.

That’s strange, because you don’t sound interested, you sound sort of sarcastically pissed off and bitter…

Read the rest of this entry »


What in the Sam Hill….? The Bad Idea Blog Now Comes in Audiobook Format?

March 20, 2008

I don’t have the slightest idea what’s going on here: but as far as I can tell, a robot liked my post on the Florida creationism bill so much that it decided to read it out loud on YouTube in a lilting monotone. Unless you happen to be visually impaired (in which case you could just use a screen reader) this seems like a pretty inefficient way to consume blog postings. I don’t quite get it.

But, anyhow, kudos for the little illustration at the end, mysterious content recycler “Ishta5”: apparently even the meta tags for the Expelled! website don’t bother to conceal the film’s creationism/religious connections, hard-on for Hitler, obsession with atheism, or even a big ole’ shout out to the Discovery Institute.

This is probably as good a time as any to declare all my content to be free, reproducible, and non-copyrighted. I do, however, request that in-line commenting be enabled whenever possible… for everything everywhere.