Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Discrete Harm of the Radical Right

One can argue the subtleties of politics forever but politics should deal with political issues, political issues related to how the body politic makes its wishes known to the government and its leaders. Science is not a political topic. The truth of science does not attach from the approval of the people nor is it contingent on popular support. Pluto would still be a planet if astronomers counted "votes." Evolution would be a felony to teach in the South of the United States if the beliefs of a significant percentage southern citizens had their way. Even many evolutionists sometimes fear speaking against the inclusion of Intelligent Design---its proponents make it sound like such a "fair" thing to do. We include various theories of the causes of the Civil War, why not various theories on human origins?

The answer? We do include challenges to Darwinian evolution or any other scientific theories when new data become available and when the data can be tested and verified. Science is never a certainty. If you hear a scientist proclaim the truth and the truth for all time, you can know that you are not hearing a genuine scientist. He/she would be a charletan---as bad as the creationists. We can teach competing theories of the Civil War's origins because the causes are mixed and the perceptions of the scholars derive from different sets of data depending on their personal notion of how history works. Is history a function of the great people who lead societies? Is it based on raw economics? Is it based on the interplay of human and natural resources? We cannot state absolute answers to those questions because there is no "scientific test" on which we can base their validity. History employs a scientific approach to gathering data and assessing the data but it is also a humanity with some artistic factors impacting the outcome of the scholar's work. History is maleable in terms of how we reach historical "conclusions," science is not.

Science refers to the laws of science as they describe how the natural world works from the bizarre world of the quantum particles to the unthinkably large "world" of the universe(s). Science provides us a way to understand the cosmos without relying on mythology or the supernatural. It provides answers to the questions of how things work which can be tested and either confirmed or disproven. "Knowledge" which is not subject to verification does not fall within the range of what science can address. On this point alone, Intelligent Design and its more ignorant cousin, Creation-Science, are not suitable for the science classes or the texts because those who argue for the inclusion of those anti-science approaches procalim that their ideas cannot be tested and either verified or disproven. They are clearly based on the Judeo-Christian bibles and are faith based as opposed to being testable theories of science. That those ideas are in the bible does not automatically make them untrue but it does make them unscientific since those "truths" come from a supernatural source which science cannot address.

These battles over evolution and other specific notions of science will continue so long as most Americans employ a mythological paridigm rather than a rational, modern worldview. However, the assault on science and the rational world view that America experienced as a nation during the Bush years especially and continuing in the demogoguery of the Radical Right not only set America back in relation to the work the nation needed to be doing on climate change as well as the work medical scientists should have been doing with stem-cell research but it also contributed to an undermining of reason and science as the language of the 21st Century. The data were conclusive on climate change the entire time Bush was assailing the concept, yet, at the end of his term, Bush changed his position and declared climate change to be well-founded. He changed his mind when there was nothing that scientists had not been proclaiming for years. His change was a political decision, not one based on new scientific data. His position on stem-cell research did not change but that was because his position was based on his faith, so-called, rather than science or the facts. As such, his was not an appropriate basis for establishing policy for the nation.

Too often those who argue for a rational approach to the world and those who rely on the scientific paradigm are political liberals who are so enthralled with the rights of the individual to believe as he/she chooses that they refuse to speak up as louldy and emphatically as they need to when they hear others espouse non-sensical attitudes about and towards science and scientific ideas. American liberals too often forget that the founders of American democracy, on which all the rights of citizens are based, maintained to a person that democracy cannot work without an informed electorate. If as a matter of "liberal" open-mindedness, ideas which threaten the future of America and the future of those children being taught in the public schools are not challenged in the public forum, it amounts to a genuine threat to America's national security. If such a significant threat had its origins abroad, Americans would declare war on the perpetrators. We should do the same at home. Citizens have a Constitutional right to the religious beliefs of their choice. They do not have the right to impose those beliefs on others or on the curriculum of the science classrooms of America.

America has maintained an anti-intellectual attitude throughout its history. In the early years, practical knowledge was required for survival and what the pioneers referred to as "book learning" seemed to have little value. Even then, that attitude was specious but to continue those provincialisms into the 21st Century is an affront to the promise that America once gave the world and the promise Americans made to themselves to strive always for the best. Science and religion need not be at war. Science deals with the natural world and religion is supposed to deal with matters of faith. Never the twain shall meet.

The two approaches to knowledge employ different techniques and seek different kinds of truths. Americans need face this truth if their nation is to continue as a beakon of progress and enlightenment---if, indeed, anyone still looks to America for those inspirations. America was the first government in the world to be based on a secular theory of government without a mention of anything divine. John Locke and Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that nature had endowed humans with natural rights and and then argued for the right to revolt against any government that trampled those rights. Then, to preserve those rights, a new government was put into place. The new American government was not anti-religion but it asserted for the first time that the people were the source of all political power and that the power came from the ground up rather than from the heavens down. Remarkable. And worth a fight to preserve.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why Conservative Christians Should Oppose Intelligent Design

Conservative parents of America, picture the following scenario. Your school district, led by various evangelical groups, has recently led a successful campaign to include the teaching of Intelligent Design in the public schools. The intent of those politicized right wingers was to use the ID argument to challenge the exclusive teaching of Darwinian evolution. Ultimately, they wanted to have the entire topic of evolution removed from the science classrooms. ID, with its false logic, appealed to the significant numbers in the community who could not grasp the extraordinarily complex processes that led to the universe and life. In time, the evangelicals believed, evolution would die from the shear audacity of its conclusions.

However, the new policy led to changes that most in the community had not considered. Intelligent Design argued that plain, common sense logic proved the existence of their God. Their arguments were simple and the implications of their arguments seemed apparent to the proponents of this "theory," as they called it. What happened in the biology class had stunned many parents because the teacher, once she was required to introduce Intelligent Design as legitiomate science, had to point out to the students that there was absolutely nothing in the data to support ID as a scientific theory. While questions about the specifics of some of the evolutionary processes remained unresolved, the theory proposed by Charles Darwin in his The Origin of Species in 1859 met all the requirements of a scientific theory.

After demonstrating the specious nature of the ID "theory," the good science teacher had then shown the studets how ID also failed to meet a single requirement of the scientific method established and accepted for hundreds of years. One step at a time, the teacher showed that ID missed the mark completely. The well informed science teacher could then explain the basic rules of logic and easily convince all but the most ideologically rigid students that the entire foundation and implementation of ID failed on every level. Its apparent logic was as specious as its science. The parents stood back in horror but still had not a clue how much more would come from their change in the science curriculum.

Since Intelligent Design had been deemed a legitimate area of scientific inquiry, the history teachers could include it in their discussions of the history of science or the history of social movements in the United States. If the school had classes in psychology, the instructor could discuss the psychological origins of religion and could legally include psychological theories that regarded the religious impulse as as response to fear and the human incapacity to face the meaninglessness of the life of an individual in the almost infinite universe. The school's sociology teacher could discuss the history of mass delusions and the ways in which those driven to power used religion and the fear of hell to manipulate the masses. How people like Hitler and Osama Bin Laden could use religion to advance totalitarian ideology. If the history teacher was good he also talked to his students about the intellectual history of their culture and discussed the merits of the various schools of thought. The world history teacher who had opposed the inclusion of Intelligent Design in the curriculum because he thought it represented a particular religion's world view rather than a viable scientific theory decided to make a point to the parents on the perils of injecting matters of faith into the classroom.

As the history class began its study of the rise of the world's great religions, the teacher walked to the lectern and began with the following statement, "Class, the entire premise of the Christian religion is absurd on its face. By examining it with the basic tools of logic, I will show you that the only possible logical inference one can make regarding Christianity is that the story makes no sense and requires not faith but wilful ignorance to be accepted by any thoughtful person--regardless of one's faith in a God. This teacher had put a great deal of thought into how he would make his presentation, being careful to limit his remarks to the issues of logic and reason rather than the faith of his students. As had been true throughout the history of America, the faith of an individual could not be challenged on the basis of whether or not it made sense. Matters of faith, by definition, do not have to be reasonable or logical. Intelligent Design, because it is a "scientific theory" does have to be logical and once the topic of religion has been introduced into the schools, any facet of it can be discussed.

Because Christianity is based on what the faithful call the Old and New Testaments, the teacher began the lesson in the book of Genesis but presented his case as a narrative on the basic arguments that provide the foundations of Christian theology. One by one he showed them how illogical the various parts of Christian theology were. Under the old curriculum, the teachers could not have done much of this because it would have infringed on the privacy of his students as well as it being an infringement of the 1st Amendment rights of the student. But, the entire argument about including Intelligent Design in the curriculum was based on what its supporters called logic. They looked at the creation and said that it was not "logical" to argue that it all happened by chance and evolution. Since they said that was illogical, they proposed that a creator god was the only reasonable explanation. So, with IDs inclusion in the curriculum the door is opened wide to challenge the "logic" of Christianity.

The whole ID argument goes against one of the most fundamental beliefs of all Christians and one of the most repeated statements of Jesus about the nature of god. That fundamental belief was that god and salvation were matters of faith---not science. One example lies in what Jesus is reported to have said to Thomas who asked to see the scars. Jesus said that those who believed without seeing---without physical evidence--were blessed in their faith. Those who value their faith and those who do not want their children's teachers to have the right to challenge their beliefs should unite to oppose Intelligent Design. They should realize how much of a threat to what they want their children to believe it is. Religion is a private matter, it is based on faith and it cannot and should not be held up to the demands of science and logic. It is not what you want.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't you fret begins at sixty!

Bush, Bullshit, Train Wrecks and a Voice Crying in the Wilderness

We know, as does every lucid observer, that the war is lost. By what standards do I make this judgment? By putting the facts of the current situation up against any one of the numerous permutations of the specific goals of the war articulated by Bush and the neo-cons since the war began. Almost as quickly as Bush redefines the war and our goals in fighting it, events force him to recast the whole issue in ways that ignore the immediately preceding failures and which commit us to "stay the course" for an indeterminate future. Okay, you know all that as well as I do.

We know now---and some of us have known since before the invasion---that without a dictator or military rule, Iraq will devolve into an even more chaotic mess when we leave. That die was cast the instant we took out Sadaam. The only reason things are marginally quieter now than a year ago---and it has little to do with The Surge---is that we have sold out to the Sunni in Anbar Province and equipped them to take on what Bush and his minions call Al Qaeda in Iraq. Clever wording, that. "Al Qaeda," the term, smacks of Osama, foreigners and all that alien threat that so galvanizes American opposition. In fact, "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is made up to a significant degree of disaffected Iraqis---mostly Sunni---who are in a power struggle with other Sunni as well as the Shia and the Shia controlled central government. (Of course there are foreigners in the organization and they are more visible in this organization than most others, but all wars and all factions have almost always used mercenaries or have had foreigners involved and who the hell are WE but outside agitators??. )

What we are doing on this front is fucked in at least two extremely important aspects. First, we are gaining a measure of "peace" by taking sides in a civil war or at least in a power struggle between two factions. That is a battle that even most neo-cons admit must won by finding a political rather than a military solution. We are defying our own understanding of the core problem in Iraq when we engage the Civil War. Secondly, by handling Anbar and parts of Baghdad in this way, that is by allying ourselves with the most powerful Sunni faction and joining with them to put down factions we deem even less desirable, we are not only usurping the duties of the central government----you know, the one we are absolutely committed to see become the successful, stable government of all of Iraq and all Iraqis---we are virtually ensuring its collapse. In supporting Malachi, we are making a stand with the central government as it tries to gain the power and wherewithal to put down the insurrection, stop the Civil War, put down the foreigners who have joined the fight. Malachi is supposed to bring the army up to speed, establish order throughout Iraq and rebuild the infrastructure. That's at home. It also has to defend itself against the various other power mullahs or sheiks in the region. However, our "winning" strategy in Anbar and parts of the capital is based on the decentralizing tactic of joining the fight along regional, tribal and sectarian lines. In other words---and rather frightening words at that---we are at war with ourselves in terms of the strategies being followed and tactics being employed.

We also know now that barring a radical shift of the "moderates" in the GOP, the Democrats will not be able to muster the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and to forestall a bill killing filibuster. That fact means Bush can probably prevent an end of the war or any significant troop reductions while he is in office.

We also know that a vast majority of the public want an end to the war and want the troops to come home sooner rather than later. Even Bush would have to find a way out before too much longer. Public pressure will win in the end and the government will be forced to withdraw.

We also know that it is most likely that the Democrats will win the WH and maintain if not expand their majorities in both houses of Congress. There are many reasons for this prediction but the biggest factor is the war.

So what bodes from these related truth? Bush will be able to "stay the course" for the brief remainder of his tenure in office. Because of the public's eroding support of the war, the Democrats will likely win the WH. Because of public opposition to the war and because they will have promised to do so, the Democratic controlled government will radically reduce or redefine our role in Iraq. Chaos will ensue. Oil prices will go up. We will have a recession and the Middle East will grow increasingly destabilized and SOME FUCKING WAY OR ANOTHER, THE REPUBLICANS WILL SUCCESSFULLY PUT THE BLAME ON THE "WEAK ON DEFENSE" DEMOCRATS AND THE WEAK ON IQ AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL FALL FOR IT.

This disaffection with Democratic foreign policy will probably coincide with the public's outrage over the fact that if the Democrats make any effort to pay our debt, pay for the war or balance the budget which was a Bush monster, they will be forced to raise taxes or cut programs. Nevermind that they will be trying to solve problems Bush created and end a war he started, all the blame will fall on them and Bush will be getting paid millions for speaking at banquets, smirking and saying "I told you so" about those peace-nik and tax-loving Democrats. The Democrats are always---and have almost always been--described as such devious, clever to a fault, manipulative, brainwashing politicos; yet, they are apparently completely inept----that word is not strong enough--- when it comes to explaining anything at all about the machinations of the opposition. For fuck's sake, they lost an argument over who loved his country more, a war hero with two purple hearts and numerous other combat medals or draft dodging, AWOL member of the Air Reserves! They will lose the debate over "who lost Iraq?" (And not even be clever enough to point out the arrogance indicated in the formulation of that question.)

We know that this scenario or one similar as hell will unfold and we can already hear the outrageous rhetoric from the Right. You can hear it, can you not? SO, why the fuck is there NOTHING we can do to stop it? Why can we not demonstrate this to the public in so convincing a way as to wake them up? Why can we not stop the outrageous events about to be inflicted on our body politic?

In my mind's eye, I am aboard a runaway train and the nearing depot is filled with munitions manufactured in the community ready to be shipped to a buyer who has agreed to a deal giving them a huge profit.. The people at the station have the power to stop the train, to remove the munitions and to avoid any explosion at all. They are close enough to hear me screaming at them telling them where the train's cut-off switch is but the depot master owns the heavily insured property as well as a secret munitions plant that did not get the profitable deal. He plans to use the insurance money to expand his munitions factory and to bribe the Mayor into offering him the deal for the munitions sale. (He will also later hire the Mayor as a consultant and name him to the Board of Directors and see to it that the Mayor shares in the future profits of the company.) . He talks over my screams and convinces the people at the depot that I am a lunatic and that my only goal is to disrupt commerce and destroy the community. I am, he shrewdly proclaims, a LIBERAL.

I yell till I am hoarse trying to explain that I am a citizen of their community---that I love it and want only to keep it from being destroyed. I hold up the insurance papers, the letters offering to bribe the Mayor, the minutes to the secret talks with the munitions buyer, the documents showing his plans to raze several housing developments for the elderly in order to expand his plant and I play a tape of him talking and laughing with his buddies in town about what fools the people are and how mind-boggling gullible they are. The people see all that I hold out to them. The people see the explosives stacked all around them. They can see the locomotive coming at then at an outrageous speed---obviously out of control. They have absolutely no idea how the explosion can be avoided and they know it will be a major disaster . But...... they really sort of like the Depot Master---even though he has been in trouble many times, has been implicated in numerous shady deals, some of which seriously harmed various members of the community and he has been caught numerous times lying to the Chamber of Commerce about his secretive business ventures---still, he is something of a "Hail fellow, well met." And even though they know he is a scoundrel, they really adore his mousy little wife--not because she has ever accomplished anything of worth but because in her blank, insipid stare, they see themselves .

Much more important, the last time he got caught selling bogus insurance to residents of the local nursing home's oncology unit, he was arrested and sentenced to hard time. Out on bail and awaiting transfer to the Big House, he recently reported that not long after the trial he found himself in the gutter one night, drunk or coked up or something but through the vomit and spittle that clogged his long eyelashes and gave a sheen to his blazer, he saw a giant Jesus riding across the sky in a Chariot ---or maybe a Persian carpet---and as Jesus passed overhead, He told the Depot Master that from then on He would be telling him what to do in any and every situation and that no matter how much hard evidence was found indicating that he was on the wrong path, he was to publicly claim that Satan had planted the "evidence" and distorted the "facts" as a test of the people's faith and that they were to ignore the Satan inspired "facts" no matter how compelling they were. To question the Depot Master, then, was to question Sweet Jesus, so beloved of this bomb-making community. Sure they made and profited from weapons of mass destruction that were designed to kill all men, women and children within a mile of impact, but they fucking loved Jesus and they'd be damned if they were going to turn on a man who said Jesus was his savior. Besides, it was so much less taxing not to walk over to the off switch.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Status Quo Antebellum or What Did They Die For?

Long time gone I have been. Recalling the boycotts grounded in the battle for equality that punctuated the days of my youth in the 60s, I determined to withdraw from the social whirl for the duration of the reign of George II.

However, while paralyzed with fear for our nation's future, I was forced to watch this week as the nominal leader of the land begged us for another few years of a war already lost. Fear breeds fear as I now am barely ambulatory after having listened to a 20 minute run of non sequiturs that defy rational analysis. So, as you would a cripple crossing the car-laden lanes of a super-highway, HELP me.

Can it be true that Bush's plan is to continue with a surge, the purpose of which was to enforce a separate peace in the berubbled capital of Iraq so that the "democratically elected and constitutionally legitimized" Malachi government could gather its shit and govern. To assuage his congressional critics, Bush presented Malachi a number of modest benchmarks by which the success of the surge could be measured and America's continued support of the Iraqi government determined.

Nine months have passed. Americans gave W the time he requested and the troops so many bumper stickers honor have continued to suffer grievous injuries and death(alas, those who most "honor" America's troops refuse to pay for the war, care not a bit if the revered troops haven't the proper equipment; nay, not even a coherent goal for which to die have the much honored troops. Nine months--a gestation period if you will--and Malachi is at his most productive when he is soiling himself as he watches Halliburton colonize his land.

By all accounts--whether from conservatives or liberals--the Malachi government has not measured up, has not succeeded in meeting most of the benchmarks and has not made much of an effort to even appear competent. Malachi is at best an ineffectual "mayor" of the Green Zone, an area heavily defended by thousands of American troops but which despite their best efforts is unsafe for Iraqi citizens to walk about.

So, what does Bush offer? What directives to Malachi? What consequence for failure to govern? Bush is as constant as carbon decay. Stay this course! It has failed in the purpose Bush articulated (god, what a stretch required to visualize Bush articulating anything more complex than his middle initial) when he asked the nation for its support of his surge. He asked for 30,000 additional troops to effect these noble reforms. The warriors did what they could do and they died in their best efforts to give Malachi a fighting chance. Malachi failed. Iraq failed. Bush failed. So, what now? This is the part that you can help me with. Bush says that if we will support his call for a continuation of his failed policy---if we will keep the additional troops in Iraq until next Spring, America can then withdraw the surge troops and American troop levels will return to what they were prior to the influx of surge troops.

Help me. The Surge failed to jump-start the Iraqi government. Malachi is probably less effective today than yesterday or yesteryear. He shows no signs of an imminent will to power. But, we are to stay the course and then return to the status quo antebellum. What was it for?

Why have so many young men and women given their lives and limbs during this exercise of Bush's ego and intransigence? The status quo? Is that what people are dying for? When the Surge ends next Spring what will it have accomplished? Will Malachi change? Can he change? Does it matter a rat's ass if he changes? Help me.

If God talks to the Commander in Chief, why does he not give him a viable solution to this international fiasco? If God is directing the president, why is his plan a nearly complete failure? Bush is a self-serving, lying son of a bitch who has never been near combat. He lied about the reasons for invading Iraq. He has lied about the connections (that do not exist) between Iraq and 9/11, he has lied about the progress of the war and he is lying now.

Clinton stupidly lied about a stupid blow-job and he was impeached. Bush has lied about war and terror. He and his top aids are awash in scandal after scandal and Bush goes forward with no direction or purpose other than self-aggrandizement. Where are the calls for his impeachment? Why do the damned fundamentalists not express concern for Bush's elevation of deceit, dissimulation and dereliction of duty to the level of an art form? Why do his lies not matter to them? Why, for Christ's sake, do the fundamentalists rant like hatters about the literal truth of the Bible but completely ignore the demands of Jesus that we should love our enemies and turn the other cheek if attacked? When has anyone heard a fundamentalist use the Sermon on the Mount to justify one of their legislative goals? When did you ever hear Bush quote Jesus as he tells us what God wants him to do about the war?

Why do Americans, once a proud and free people, serve up their souls and their gonads to this petty, small minded, woefully inadequate man? Why is there no accountability? Why are Americans willing to send their children to an illegal war that they, the parents, refuse to pay for because they want their god-damned tax cuts? This is the first generation in America's short history which has not funded a war they are sending their kids to die in.

Will it be too late for us when Americans finally realize that the terrorists are not going to win the war against America by destroying our buildings and landmarks? We are the culprits in our own destruction. The terrorists score a victory each time Americans sit back and allow Bush to abrogate the Bill of Rights. Each time he reads our emails. Each time he sells our souls for Halliburton profits. To the extent Americans hand their fundamental freedoms over the Executive branch in the name of national security, the terrorists win.

America is, for the moment, the mightiest nation the world has ever known. America has the mightiest military. The terrorists cannot win in a military conflict with America. But, they can destroy us. They can watch as we rush to give up our freedoms so that the government can fight the terrorists. Why do we fight them? Because they are determined to destroy the American way of life. The American way of life is based in its Constitution--the Bill of Rights--the notion that no man is above the law and all people are equal under the law. America is a City on a Hill for just as long as we hold fast to our noble experiment in democracy--in constitutional government.

Americans are watching television and playing poker while Bush felates the most basic of our civil liberties. When did we become a nation of cowards, of idiots, of greed dominated citizens. When did we forget who we are? Come on you right to lifers. Come on and march in defense of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians and the lives of our sons and daughters. Liberals, quit self-destructing and bumbling about like stoned 8th graders. Grow some balls. Reclaim your minds and reclaim our constitution and our government. Conservatives, read Alan Greenspan and recalim your true conservative heritage. Then realize it is bankrupt paradigm and join the progressives in formulating a viable, humanitarian, enlightened aganda for the new millenium. Fundamentalists, read the damned Sermon on the Mount, prostrate yourselves and beg your god's forgiveness and then go fuck yourselves instead of probagating more mouth-breathing, cousin humping Bush voters. Bush is the enemy. His supporters are implicitly guilty of treason. They are destroying America and we sit, dull-witted as sheep, doing nothing. The 21st century may well be the end of the American Experiment and the Bush reign will be noted by historians as the beginning of the end. It does not have to end this way.

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Burke and Professor M

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Republican Hot Buttons: Push When Red Herring is on the Menu

The "base" content of the forwarded email just below is typical of the propaganda against immigrants being circulated by American conservatives. Mr. Bush, of course, has Karl Rove to tell him that diatribes like the one below are not temperate and cannot be used by him directly. In his stead citizens who count themselves among his "base" do the work for him and the Administration spends little time disabusing the public of these racist, fascist, ignorant rants. The attitude is hateful, the information is false and falsified---it is not simply ignorance, you may be sure. Most Americans would no longer publicly tolerate such an attack on African-Americans but many did as recently as the 1970s and 1980s. The Latinos are the newest "whipping boy" for conservative politicians to use when they seek ways to distract the public from more important issues.

If conservatives were honestly worried about foreigners taking jobs from native-born Americans, they would force the government to more closely regulate the out-sourcing of jobs by giant American corporations. Bush's corporate buddies outsource so that they can use sweatshop tactics and standards and increase their profits. Every job outsourced by big business takes a job from some willing American worker. No doubt some illegal immigrants have jobs that a native American might have were the immigrant not here but why is that unemployed person more to be protected than the worker who lost a job to outsourcing? In either situation the workers are the losers and the business tycoons are the winners. There really IS a theme here. That theme being GREED, one of the Seven Deadly Sins---I think. If it is not one of the seven it should be.

Following the email I recently received which immediately follows, You will find a reply that, for the most part, is not simply a political response but is a factual clarification of the errors in the Republican attack on their fellow, but poor and dark of skin, human beings. Charming!

Think about this: If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone-----


Will we< /U> still be the Country of choice and still be America if we continue to make the changes forced on us by the people from other countries that came to live in America because it is the Country of Choice??????

Think about it!

All we have to say is, when will they do something about MY RIGHTS?

I celebrate Christmas...........but because it isn't celebrated by everyone..............we can no longer say Merry Christmas. Now it has to be Season's Greetings.

It's not Christmas vacation, it's Winter Break. Isn't it amazing how this winter break ALWAYS occurs over the Christmas holiday?

We've gone so far the other way, bent over backwards to not offend anyone, that I am now being offended. But it seems that no one has a problem with that.
This says it all!
This is an editorial written by an American citizen, published in a Tampa newspaper. He did quite a job; didn't he? Read on, please!

I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge
in patriotism by the majority of Americans. However...... the dust from the attacks had
barely settled when the "politically correct! " crowd began complaining about
the possibility that our patriotism was offending others.

I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to ! America.
Our population is almost entirely made up of descendants of immigrants.
However, there are a few things that those
who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here , need to understand.

This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans...... we have our own culture, our
own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

We speak ENGLISH , not Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language.
Therefore, if you wish to become part
of our society, learn the language!

"In God We Trust" is our national motto. This is not some Chr istian , right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women.......on Christian principles.............
founded this nation..... and this is clearly documented.

It is certainly appropriate to display it
on the walls of our schools.
If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as
your new home.........because
God is part of our culture.

If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don't like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.
We are happy with our culture and have
no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from.

This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle.

Our First Amendment gives every citizen the
right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so!
But once you are done complaining....... whining..... . and griping....... about our flag....... our pledge...... our national motto........or our way of life....I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other Great American Freedom.......


It is Time for America to Speak up
If you agree -- pass this along;
if you don't agree -- delete it!


I figure if we all keep passing this to our friends (and enemies) it will also, sooner or later g et bac k to the complainers, let's all try, please!


St. Paul City Hall Bans Easter Bunny

Don't you find it rather ironic that Christians are protesting the removal of an Easter Bunny which was a pagan symbol of fertility that the early Church passively accepted in order to make it more acceptable for pagans to become Christians? Until this particular protest, millions of conservative Christians have been protesting the silly use of the Easter Bunny in acknowledging the most extraordinary and sacred event in the Christian calendar! Serious Christians ought to be offended by the use of a pagan fertility symbol to celebrate the execution and resurrection of their savior.

In other words, as the Church spread and began to recruit among Gentiles, it employed facets of those new cultures in order make Christianity more attractive---a multi-cultural approach that the email below attacks. I actually agree that the best way to achieve success in America usually involves becoming a part of the mainstream American culture but how many conservatives complain about the Irish hanging on to their St. Patrick's Day Parades and Parties? How many object to the German immigrants celebrating Oktoberfest? The Chinese celebrating the Chinese New Year? This anti-immigrant sentiment is directed almost exclusively toward Latinos.

Who has ever prevented you or me from saying "Merry Christmas?" I said it all over the place this past December and was not arrested a single time. A few stores made that decision on their own theoretically to bring in more customers and therefore make MORE MONEY. No immigrants went to Court about that! It was the Wal-Mart executives who thought they could make more sales! And as soon as the CEOs realized their decision might hurt PROFITS, they went back to the traditional approach. Their actions were not about the law, not about religion or any other noble principle--it was about MONEY. What are the changes that immigrants have "forced you to make?" I am serious with that question. I have no clue about having been forced by an immigrant to do anything at all.

Almost every child in America and his teachers say "Christmas Holidays" and no one corrects them. The official change has to do with the fact that unlike the days when OUR ancestors were immigrants, many of our new students come from non-Christian countries and there have been Jews in America as long as there have been Europeans. It is a matter of courtesy, if not a Constitutional issue. If you are inviting a guest to your home for dinner and you know that person is a vegetarian, you don't HAVE to cater to that person's diet choices BUT it is a consideration most hosts would not mind respecting. The public schools are NOT supposed to be Christian schools--they are public and the public includes dozens of different faiths. The Puritans and Pilgrims did not believe in celebrating Christmas in ANY WAY other than by going to church. Do you think Christian, corporate America cares about the "original intent" of our founders enough to stop having Christmas sales and advertising? Do they care enough about the religious meaning of Christmas to stop its commercialization? Why don't more conservatives protest that corruption of a Holy Day?

This past Christmas Day came on a Sunday and many American Christians cancelled church services!! Why didn't people who worry about the meaning of Christmas and our American traditions protest that? And, not to put too fine a point on it, BUT does anyone in the nation believe that prior to this change in what we call the winter break, that students and teachers were looking forward to the two weeks off so that they would have more time to think and reflect on God's miraculous gift of his Son? Did even 3% EVER think of it as a RELIGIOUS break? I was seriously trying to be Christian when I was young and in school. The two weeks off in the winter had NOTHING to do with religion as we eagerly awaited it. As a teacher I usually worked alongside very committed Christians. Not once in 31 years of teaching did I hear any of those good people speak of the break in religious terms. I always joined in with the Christians who were appalled that advertisers and capitalist greed mongers had turned Christmas, a High Holy Day, into a sales event at the Malls. Why don't more Christian Americans protest that? Surely the commercialization of Christmas is a far more serious threat to the true meaning of Christmas than the name we give the two weeks off from school! It was not newly arrived immigrants who challenged what the winter weeks were to be called. It was old time, regular Americans who believed that public schools should be neutral on religion as per the First Amendment. Now, they may be wrong but they were not immigrants.

Similar to the Easter Bunny protest, I think it is interesting that the email states that "....winter break ALWAYS occurs over the Christmas Holiday." That fact, too, is a result of early Christians trying to reach out to a different culture. The biggest rival to Christianity in its first 300 years was a religion called Mithraism--its god was Mithras whose VIRGIN birth was said to have occurred at the winter solstice--December 25 on their calendar. Christmas, like Easter, is celebrated on a pagan holiday and was done that way to attract people from another religious culture. (Some free info. here, Mithras was also said to have been executed for his teachings and rose from the dead after three days. His followers were "washed in the blood" literally when they were baptized into the faith--although it was the blood of a bull rather than a lamb.)

How on earth has multi-culturalism "diluted our sovereignty?" What does that even mean? Sovereignty is based on the fact that no foreign government controls us. Just what foreign government has taken control? I, too, am opposed to "multi-culturalism" when the concept is used to encourage any group not to become full participants in the American experience. I fought for years against segregating history into "black history" and "women's history." Not because I did not believe that we had been wrong to have ignored their contributions to our national story but because separating their history did not tell the true story of how we all influenced each other. (My reasoning may have been fuzzy on that but I do understand the sentiment) But, America is as a matter of historical fact multi-cultural. Our diet, our music, our dress, our language*, our heritage, our religions, our dances, our educational system, our political system----EVERYTHING about us is a mixture of all the cultures from which our people have come.. Many southerners take great pride in their Celtic (Scots-Irish) heritage, Minnesotans celebrate their Scandinavian influences. New Orleans celebrates its Spanish, African-American, French and mixed race heritage. The Southwest celebrates its connections to Native American traditions. This has always been true in America. In fact, during the last half of the 20th Century, celebrations of ethnic heritage actually declined from the very prominent role they had had during most of the nation's history. Ethnic awareness is as old as our nation. Some who are upset about it now seem to think it is a new phenomenon.

I won't go off too long on the "In God We Trust" issue. It was NOT a result of anything having to do with the founding fathers. The first time it was used on coins was near the end of the Civil War (1864). That lasted a few years and then the practice disappeared. It was used again for a while again just after the turn of the century. Disappeared again. Not until 1955 was it placed on all our currency and it was not the National Motto until 1956. Again, the national motto had nothing to do with our founding fathers. It was an action taken by a Democratically controlled Congress to demonstrate a difference between America and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Similarly, "Under God" was NOT a part of the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s and it was also done as a part of the propaganda wars with the Soviet Union.

There seems to be no way to clarify the mistaken notion going through American conservative circles recently about our nation having been founded on Christian principles. The truth is exactly the opposite. One of the main reasons that our rebellion against the British was such a major world revolution was the fact that America had the first major government established on a secular theory--the cornerstone of which was democracy and the fact that in our revolutionary society, the national power rose UP from the PEOPLE and was not handed down by God to a monarch who then ruled as he claimed "God told him to." ALL major governments and governmental theories prior to the US were based on--to some degree or another--the notion that governmental authority was derived from God. That theory made the government much more powerful over the people because it claimed that God had put it into power.

The justification for and the structure of the American government was based primarily on the writings two men, John Locke, who was not Christian, and a Frenchman, Montesquieu, a Catholic because he had to be but whose theory of separation of powers was based on the principles of the Age of Reason and not the bible or religion of any kind. When Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, John Adams and the rest went about the revolution and the writing of the Constitution, they deliberately avoided any biblical references or Godly inspirations in terms of how the government was set up and how it was to be run. The great, noble experiment of American democracy was seen all over the world as the first rationally based theory of government--a secular theory. The government was not anti-religion but it was not inspired by religion either.

Of course the values expressed in documents like the Ten Commandments overlap many of the laws enacted in early America but not because the founders were devoted to the Ten Commandments. If you recall the story of Moses, God gave the Commandments to the Hebrews after they had begun to falter in obeying the laws God have given them through Abraham and the early Hebrew patriarchs. The Commandments were meant to do what all governments have to do--maintain a civilized, orderly society. Since all governments have similar functions, there is bound to be overlap. Murder, stealing. Adultery, lying, are things that disrupt any society so almost ALL governments have laws against them. IF the founding fathers had intended the nation to be a Bible-based nation, it seems odd that they completely ignored the two greatest commandments about loving God with all our hearts and to have no other Gods before him. Not one word about what the Bible says are the two main commandments. That, however, is circumstantial evidence. If one wants to know for herself what the "founding fathers" thought about Christianity, religion and government, we have many, many documents and speeches and letters written by the founders. NOT a single one of them argues that this is meant to be a Christian nation. Among the founders, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, Madison and John Adams were Deists rather than Christian. They'd all been church members because colonial laws required it. But, they were not believers in a personal God who was active in history.

Washington made a point to edit out all references to God or Jesus in the speeches his writers brought to him. He thought it unwise to mix religion and politics. Jefferson, relying on his knowledge of Greek and Latin, wrote what he referred to as a rational New Testament translation in which he refused to include a single reference to any of the supernatural or miraculous events in the Gospels. He railed against the virgin birth, the physical resurrection, life after death and many other beliefs held dear by Christians. In his campaign for president, one of the the biggest obstacles to his campaign were the charges of his being an atheist. People back then read his works and knew his beliefs. All these men respected religion to one degree or another and understood the important role of religion in providing a cultural glue to hold a society together. They understood that many Americans took religion seriously and rarely made a point of challenging it publicly. One can get an idea of their real attitudes by carefully reading Jefferson's words inthe Declaration of Independence. In it he states that all humans are endowed with certain rights---life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (John Locke had said life, liberty and property). Jefferson said that we were given those rights by "Nature" and "nature's god." He used the term "nature" first. For a deist like Jefferson, referring to "nature's god" was almost precisely the same thing as our references to "Mother Nature." In fact "Mother Nature" as an expression is a hold-over from primitive, pagan religions who worshipped a Female Deity as opposed to the patriarchal Hebrews. "Nature's God" refers to the laws of nature--that a distant, impersonal God MAY have put in place, according to the deists.

As the writer of the editorial below correctly states, "God is a part of our culture." So is atheism, so is communism, so is free-thinking, political freedom, inclusiveness, exclusiveness, honor, corruption, murder, reverence for life, a woman's right to choose, Christianity, Judaism, Islam. His reference to the First Amendment misses the main point of the amendment. Popular ideas, thoughts, politics and religion do not need protection. The majority protects them by definition. The First Amendment's greatness is in the fact that it protects unpopular, minority, radically liberal and radically conservative thoughts and expressions. Freedom of expression would be pointless if we were all supposed to end up thinking the same thing.

In 2006 conservatives control all three branches of government and they win most elections. History is on their side---right now. But everyone who has studied history knows that the pendulum always swings and it is virtually certain that sometime in the near future liberals will, for a while, represent the majority of the people. The editorialist, being in the majority, is comfortable saying that if we do not get with the program and agree with him, then we ought to pack up and leave. One wonders if he will so easily give up his nation, his citizenship, his home when the liberals return and pursue a course of politics that he completely disagrees with. Is it true patriotism to pack up and leave one's country just because the politics are temporarily going against one's beliefs or would a real lover of his homeland stay and fight--complain, whine, argue, write long emails or anything else at his disposal to try to return America to what that individual believes is America's true spirit. I am a patriot. I believe in the message of the Statue of Liberty which welcomes all immigrants. I believe in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. The editorialist's attitude which amounts to "think like I do or keep your mouth shut or get the hell out of MY country" goes against some of the most cherished principles this nation has built itself on, principles that have made America a "city upon the hill" for millions of people from all over the world. He has the freedom to speak hatefully about anyone who has different ideas from his own and I have the right to respectfully disagree. I love America just as much as he and apparently, I love the Bill of Rights more. I can accept his different beliefs (although I wonder why people who think like him never bother to check their historical facts,) while he rejects my right to disagree with him. Which position is the American ideal you want preserved?

Mason Myatt
Birmingham, AL

* one main reason American English is so hard for immigrants to learn is that American English has always incorporated rules and words from other liguistic tradtions---as did the original English language for that matter. We have words that we use on a daily basis from many languages: German, Latin, Greek, Various African dialects, Scandinavian, even some Russian and Japanese. Our grammar has also been influenced by many different cultures. Again, that makes it harder to learn. There is not a consistent set of rules that can be organized in a concrete manner. English has always been hard to learn and as we know, in the past, many, many immigrants, particularly the older ones, never learned the language. It often took 2 or 3 generations for the kids to have English fully as their first language. Back then, most Americans just understood that was happening and why. The current anger seems to be directed almost exclusively toward the Latino community of immigrants. One reason is that when the Europeans were moving to this country, they were often fairly well-off and in the middle classes. Some had had more formal schooling. Many of today's immigrants are very poor, with minimal formal education and have come here to better their lives from the poverty they experienced in their native lands. If anyone were to check out the efforts to include Spanish on signs and on directions for operating things and all the other Spanish language we see and hear in the US, he would find that the efforts are being lead by native-born Americans who realize that the pace of life in the 21st Century is incredibly faster than ever before. Immigrants simply do not have the "grace" period to learn as they go that would have worked fine when we were an agricultural society. If they are not given a boost regarding language, they will be held back in a society that no longer waits on any of us. That will slow down their assimilation into our culture and hurt the economy they are here to serve. Americans who are making a point to learn Spanish are, for the most part,connected to the world of commerce and know that having the language to conduct business will expedite sales and profits. Healthcare professionals are also learning more Spanish as are law enforcement officials. Health care workers do it so that they can better care for the sick. Cops do it because knowing the language can diffuse situations that might otherwise result in violence and unnecessary killings. It is for the overall good of our society. These new immigrants WILL learn English and they will probably do it faster than our ancestors did because it will be an economic necessity.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Look into my will look into my eyes.... Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Alabama Legislature Disproves Notion that Evolution Equals Intellectual Progress

Once again Plato's critique of democracy proves to be right on. As an American historian I am not an expert on Platonic philosophy but I believe Plato's bottom line on democracy roughly translates: the votes of ignorant individuals does not yield wisdom for the masses. With an electorate that reads on about the level of an average 13 year old, the solons in Montgomery are once again trying to insinuate creationism and Intelligent Design into the science and history curricula. The proposed law creates a specific "right" of teachers to introduce competing theories on the origins and progression of life on earth. The law would insure that a teacher presenting ideas outside the approved Course of Study could not be punished in any way. The bill is being referred to as the Academic Freedom Act. Of course there is not a law or a court ruling that denies a teacher the rights proposed in this new law. Instead the proponents of the law are opening the door for Christian fundamentalists to introduce what they call "Creation Science," an oxymoronic misnomer. If "Creation Science" does not make the cut, they are prepared to substitute an old point of view they now call Intelligent Design.

Creation Science is not science. Even if the story of creation in Genesis were true, it would still not be science. Science examines the natural world, the creation story is about the supernatural. Not being omniscient, I cannot prove that there are absolutely no supernatural events in history and there might even be a god of some sort that is active in history. But, by definition, one cannot apply scientific scrutiny to supernatural phenomena. Beyond the definitional problems, the "science" presented in creationist publications is reflective of a complete lack of understanding of the scientific method and indicates a breath-taking ignorance of the the very scientific principles they employ to justify their "science." The truth is that these people know that what they are marketing is not real science but the implications of evolution to a person with a fundamentalist world-view make overt dissimulation acceptable, ie the end justifies the means. They think they are saving our souls so what matters a curriculum informed by outright lies and ignorance.

These fundamentalist intruders into professional education demonstrate even less sophistication (contrary to their self-perceptions) when they resort to Intelligent Design when Creation-Science is plowed under by any child with half a brain. Basically, ID asserts that life and the universe are so complex and complicated that these apparent realities could not possibly have occurred through scientific processes; therefore, there must be an Intelligent Design(er) behind the process. Initially, we can smile at the irony of a group who in the former case are trying to institute a science that disproves evolution and in this case argue that science cannot address the issue. The proponents of Intelligent Design, aside from their show of scientific ignorance, also let us in on their lack of information regarding European history, religious history (of the West) and a total failure to gain purchase on even the simplest basics of logic or philosophy. In the early modern age of Europe there developed within the Roman Catholic church an intellectual movement later termed scolasticism. A few Catholic intellectuals slowly became convinced that the dawning modern world view which included logical thinking and rudimentary science could not be overwhelmed or stopped in its tracks by Holy Mother Church. They argued that TRUTH was TRUTH and that it should be the same whether revealed by their god, the church or by logic and science. So they set out to demonstrate that the truths of Christianity could be proven logically and would ultimately support the revealed truths of the Bible and Church doctrine--of course, the Church did not require logic to be true but science should still lead to the same truths. So the scholastics used their acknowledged intellects to prove god, the trinity and all the other myths on which most Christian doctrine is based. They certainly did arrive at the same "truths," but they used deductive reasoning which soon enough came under attack with the rise of science and inductive reasoning. Their "truths" could not withstand even the crudest challenges from early modern scientific thinkers. But, in the process of subjecting irrational truths to rational critique, they paved the way for a a full scale assault on almost every Church statement on the natural world and science. The Church fought back against Copernicus, Galileo-- even the ever Catholic Newton-- and it lost in a major way every battle. Those losses were frightening enough to the former repository of all truth but more importantly, one could easily segue into questioning non-scientific statements by the Church. If it was wrong about the earth being the center of the universe, mightn't it be wrong about sin and salvation?

If the fundamentalists succeed in forcing Intelligent Design on science teachers and historians who include the history of science and religion in their courses, they are unleashing inevitable attacks on some of the fundamentalists' most cherished beliefs. Attacks on issues of faith that ought not be allowed in the public schools. As a teacher, I should not have the right to challenge a child's religious beliefs but IF I am forced to explain Intelligent Design, it will take less than a class period to show even 14 year olds how illogical and absurd issues of faith are IF they are subjected to rational criticism. For God's sake!!--that is THE reason those issues are based on faith. Faith can be absurd. It can be irrational. Those are not put downs, they are descriptive of metaphysics on all levels and certainly on religious matters. Matters of faith do not belong in the science lab. If my students want to believe in a young earth, a 6 day creation, a virgin birth and a physical resurrection, they should be free to have those beliefs, however irrational, without the interference of their science or history teachers.

The Alabama legislature is peopled by products of Alabama schools for the most part. Most of their teachers were probably against Darwinian evolution---and probably completely uninformed themselves about how it works. Now these sons of the South presume to know what should be taught in our science classes. Plato, where the hell are you?