A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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God’s Protection or Selective Memory Loss?

Cementerio St.Giles-Cambridge from Teresa Marín

Cementerio St.Giles-Cambridge from Teresa Marín

The Miami Herald asks, “Is God protecting Fla. at Gov. Crist’s request?”

According to the story, Crist claims he’s sent little prayer post-its to the Western Wall in Jerusalem each year since his election, and lo and behold, no hurricanes have hit Florida since! Is this proof of the power of prayer?

Hardly.

First, Crist actually says that his first note went to the special holy wall in 2007. Florida’s last major hurricane strike came in 2005. How does he explain 2006′s lack of major strikes? Was it just a coincidental off year (or was the request retroactive)? Yeah, ponder that a moment before buying into this purported cause and effect of prayer/no hurricanes.

Second, let’s look at what the governor actually sent on his little indulgence requests and match it to reality. In his own words, he’s sent the exact same note every year, and it reads, “Dear God, please protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties. Charlie.”

Ok, so Charlie didn’t exactly ask for “no major hurricane strikes”, did he? No, he begged relief “from storms and other difficulties”. Is that what happened? Not exactly.

More below the fold.

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Donna Hughes and the War Against Whores

I Support Sex Workers' Rights

I Support Sex Workers' Rights

What do anti-sex crusaders and the sellers of creationist bullshit have in common?

I mean besides quotemining, deliberate conflation, obfuscation, and general disregard for reality. Well it turns out they’re both examples of scum sucking dirtbags.

Look, two academics squaring off against other academics, including one who HAS been an actual supporter of sex workers, and one who does listen to what we have to say, over what, you might ask? Prostitution in Rhode Island.

Read the rest at Renegade Evolution, because I don’t even want to repeat the fucking dishonest, disgusting, filthy garbage that Donna Hughes put out. I just don’t have the stomach to print that pile of shit, so read it at Ren’s.

Dear Moderate Christian

Pink Rose, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Pink Rose, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Dear Moderate Christian,

I’d like to take a moment to address some of your remarks about how the tactics of “New Atheists” are just too uncivil. I appreciate that you’d like to have a quiet, intellectual conversation regarding the current state of  religion in America, and the marginalization of those of us who don’t believe there is an invisible zombie who lives in the sky. I understand that you’d like me to respect your beliefs, and not shine too much light on their ridiculousness. I applaud your geniality in this matter. It’s refreshing, after so many years of listening to your representatives demeaning and demonizing pretty much everyone who doesn’t bend their neck and genuflect to them. A polite, intellectual conversation about religion in America sounds perfectly lovely.

But at this point in time, I have to say

(What I have to say continues below the fold)

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The Unlikely Disciple’s Unlikely Victim

The Unlikely Disciple

The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose

In the very unlikely event you haven’t heard me squawking about it all over the universe, I’ve got a book review up at Carnal Nation.

“The Unlikely Disciple’s Unlikely Victim” is my review of Kevin Roose’s Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University.

An excerpt from my review:

Inspired by a research trip to Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church, Brown University sophomore Kevin Roose, raised a liberal Quaker, decided he wanted to know what it was like to live in the world of the fundamentalist Christian. Rather than do his research from the outside, Roose took the extreme measure of going undercover and transferred to Liberty University for a semester. He lived in the dorm, attended the classes, and immersed himself in the student subculture. His research trip takes place in the Spring semester of 2007, and he was there during the shootings at Virginia Tech, and there for the death of Falwell himself. Roose even managed to finagle a one-on-one interview with Falwell for the school paper, just a handful of days before Falwell’s fatal heart attack. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University is his story of that semester.

When Chris Hall first asked me to review Unlikely Disciple for Carnal Nation, I was ecstatic. I’d heard about it and read a few short reviews before then, and was anxious to read it myself. I never suspected that by page fifty I’d be slogging to the bathroom with the dry heaves every few pages, wishing I’d never heard of this book. Roose’s account has given me just a glimpse of what trigger warnings are all about.

Read the rest at Carnal Nation.

Carnival of the Liberals, Number 91 – Eine kleine Nachtlesung

Carnival of the Liberals, Thinking Liberally

Carnival of the Liberals, Thinking Liberally

Following Quiche Moraine is a monumental and intimidating task. The collaboration of writers they have over there is a top notch, first rate bunch of folks. I’ll do the best I can to fill their shoes, rather than wind up the mess on the bottom.

Let’s start with a little humor, move through some more serious stuff, and see if I can send you off to your bed with a liberal dose of sex that will have the NeoCons pulling out their hair, and you pulling out… something more interesting.

Pointing out the bizarre nature of Republican logic is often an excursion into the ridiculous, but it’s rarely been as toe tappingly funny as The “We Did Nothing Wrong & Nancy Should Have Stopped Us” song. Now you see why Kane is quite Mad.

And Kilroy_60 seems to have discovered an important clue as to why. Send in the Clowns? They’re Already Here. Boy, does that explain a lot.

Johnny Pez has uncovered the Secret Hope In Time that the Republicans have been waiting for. Turns out they have an ace in the hole. Inspired by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, they’re going to get direction from their glorious past, and all they have to do is wait Inside the Time Vault.

(The rest of this edition of CotL lies below the fold.)

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A Brief History of Moonbats

Lou FCD

Lou FCD headshot by Ben Zvan

Last Thursday evening was a pleasant one. It was mild and welcoming, a good night for a drive to Wilmington. I had been by the University of North Carolina campus there, but hadn’t yet been to visit. I’ve been meaning to head down there to look around for a while now, as that’s where I intend to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Biology. The reason for this trip was mildly ironic given my intentions, as my son James and I were headed there to hear an anti-science advocate speak.

Dr. Michael Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He’s also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a well known creationist think tank whose purpose is to disguise religious doctrine as science in order to avoid the Constitutional ban on promoting religion in public schools. It was Behe that we were heading down to see.

Along the hour and a half drive, I gave my son the highlights of the full history of the Intelligent Design Creationism Hoax, parts of which he’s heard before. (Bear in mind here that I was driving, and not working from notes. I’ll be filling in details as I go that he didn’t get during our conversation.) I began with some background on the history of scientific discoveries in biology since Linnaeus. Carolus Linnaeus was Swedish doctor, a botanist, and a zoologist, who set about categorizing life’s varied forms in his long-evolving work, “Systema Naturae”, first published in 1735.

I touched on William Paley’s rehashing of Cicero’s water clock, and the the obvious logical flaw contained therein. In On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero’s character Balbus, a fictional follower of Plato, posited that because a sundial or a water clock has an obvious purpose, we can then infer that it was designed by some intelligence. Balbus went on to argue that because of the complexity of nature, we can therefore infer that the universe is also designed by some intelligence. Balbus concluded that the universe itself was divine, or possibly that the universe had a divine spirit, a sort of mono/pantheism (Collins 187 – 193). Paley bastardized the assertion in 1802, altering the water clock to a watch, and the deity in question to the Christian god (Paley 5 – 13). He failed however to remove the glaring logical flaw that we only perceive complexity in contrast to simplicity, the watch on the background of the heath. One cannot then use the complexity of the watch to argue for the complexity of the heath without undermining the original argument that the watch is itself complex and inherently different from the heath. This was important for what was to come, and I was later quite glad I had taken the time (we had plenty on the ride) to discuss it with James.

(continue reading below the fold)

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Buh Bye, Fluff Fluff

Mark Dybul, the man the Bush administration has relied on to spread its fundamentalist sectarian dogma of disinformation and ignorance, has been unceremoniously dismissed.

Sworn in as Secretary of State just yesterday, Hillary Clinton wasted no time cleaning house at the vast department she runs. Today, we have heard, Mark Dybul was asked to submit his resignation as US Global AIDS Coordinator, head of the office in charge of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

This is a huge first step to ensuring the health and rights of all people at risk of HIV and AIDS: Dybul oversaw the last several years of abstinence-only programs funded by PEPFAR, hob-knobbed a bit too closely with the far right, and never saw a law or policy restriction he could not make even more restrictive. Curious for a self-identified Democrat? Not so curious, I guess, if your career is dependent on pleasing the far right, and if your desire to be Global AIDS Coordinator outweighs your desire to stand up for what is right.

Given the fact that this kind of propaganda is known to have led to the deaths of untold numbers of people, I only wonder why there were no handcuffs involved.

h/t Elizabeth Wood

Forced-Birth Lemmings

This video is profoundly enlightening. This is what happens when people just mindlessly repeat what their preacher/priest/witchdoctor/shaman tells them, without thought. The glaring underlying theme of the video, “I’ve never really thought about it”, is horrifying and appalling. The protesters in the video admit to having spent years in the forced-birth movement, and then seem (only) momentarily struck by their own lack of cogitation on the consequences of their goal.

Religion depends on the masses shutting down thought and the woman who refers the interviewer to the guy down the street is a perfect illustration of the abdication of both thought and responsibility that is inherent to blind obedience to authority.

Not one of them has given a moment’s thought to what they are doing or what should happen if they achieve success. It is readily apparent that they are doing what they are told and that whoever told them to do it should be obeyed without question.

These people are nothing more than victims and shock troops, charging the hill in the name of Preacher Joe. I pity them in a way.

h/t PZ Myers

NC Rep Foxx Lives in Bizzarro Land

NC Rep. Virginia Foxx

NC Rep. Virginia Foxx

…otherwise known as Republicanville.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, said she thought that Obama was “too negative” in his assessment of the economy in his inaugural address.

Foxx said she is sympathetic with those who have lost their jobs in the current downturn, but said she thinks that the current problem is “not the worst situation we’ve faced in this country economically since the Great Depression,” citing the stagflation of the 1970s.

“I think it’s possible to talk down about the economy to the point that it hampers the economy,” Foxx said in an interview. “Yes, we have problems, and I’m quite familiar with them, but we don’t solve our problems by being negative.”

Foxx said that she is also concerned that the estimated $800 billion stimulus package that Obama and congressional leaders are preparing to pass could expand the deficit, which is expected to grow to $1.2 trillion this year.

source: Winston Salem Journal

I always find it fascinating to hear Republicans talk about things like “fiscal responsibility”, “smaller, less intrusive government”, and “the rule of law”. I’m adding “negativity” to that list.

h/t Thomas Brock

From whence came the art:

That is the official photo for Representative Virginia Foxx, NC-05.

Yes, we did.

Inauguration of Barack Obama by manueb @ Flickr

Inauguration of Barack Obama by manueb @ Flickr

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

(continue reading below the fold)

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GLBT Community Gets Double Snub

This may at first seem like a rather odd reaction for an atheist to take, but I am personally livid about the snubbing of Bishop Gene Robinson by HBO during Sunday’s inaugural pre-game warm-up. I was already offended by the decision to have Rick Warren brought to the inaugural dinner table, but now I am flat out incensed.

Now, a secular country should not have a state-sponsored prayer to begin with. The First Amendment is pretty clear on the point that the government has no business promoting religion, and most definitely has no business promoting one religion over another. But there is a new administration coming in, an administration that has trumpeted its message of inclusiveness. The new President has bent over backwards to tap the shoulders of people across a wide spectrum of political philosophies, bent over to the point that he has left many of us scratching our heads.

But if the new administration is going to claim it is inclusive, claim to be a government of all people, then why is Rick Warren invited? Warren is inherently antithetical to the notion of inclusion.

Warren is a divisive, mean-spirited fomenter of hate and intolerance. The fact that he wears a nice suit and is very popular does not in any way alter the fact that his message is intrinsically the same message promoted by the likes of Fred Phelps. Warren has no business on the inaugural platform of a President who takes on the mantle of inclusion.

(continue reading below the fold)

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Yes We Can

Reaching Across the Aisle

The Constitution in Peril by Renegade98 on Flickr

The Constitution in Peril by Renegade98 on Flickr

I appreciate the sentiment of trying to bridge divides. I appreciate what the incoming President is trying to do, in some ways. I understand he is trying to heal deep, open, infected wounds, and ordinarily I find that admirable.

When a reasonable person reaches out like that, a reasonable person will reach back, and a reasonable compromise will ensue. The real problem here is that when liberals reach out, conservatives just back up further into unreasonableness. Then liberals step forward and reach again. And conservatives back up further into unreasonableness.

I’m done with reaching and stepping. We have reached and we have stepped too far. This far, and no farther. The only thing liberal, reasonable people should be reaching for is huge fistfuls of hair to drag the conservatives back toward sanity. You simply cannot reason a person out of a position they did not reason themselves into.

I have no desire to see further compromise. I do not want my elected officials reaching across the aisle to Republicans except to grab them by the balls and yank them to our current position. Then we should take 50 great big steps to the left, and hold out our hands and wait for them to come to us.

If they don’t, well then fuck ‘em.

(Taken from a comment I made on my FaceBook page.)

From whence came the art:

That image is titled The Constitution in Peril, by Renegade98, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 license.

What’s It to You?

Five Friends

Hey, here’s an idea!

Dollars ! by pfala @ Flickr

Dollars ! by pfala @ Flickr

Instead of taking that $700,000,000,000 and giving to the predators who got us into this mess, how ’bout we take that same $700,000,000,000 and pay off the mortgages of the people who need it most? At $100,000 apiece, that would be enough to pay on 7,000,000 mortgages.

Voila! No more mortgage crisis, and the dirtbags don’t get rewarded for gaming the system and running their companies into the ground.

I like the sound of trickle-up economics for a change, and it can’t possibly work any worse than what’s going on now, right?

From whence came the art:

That image is titled Dollars ! by pfala, and is licensed by the artist under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 license.

No, you can’t.

Campbell Brown Ain’t Buying Your Bridge

The Administration really is living in an alternate reality, as is the entire Republican Party.

(More insanity below the fold, ably addressed by Campbell Brown.)

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This One’s for Hannah

As long as I’m still online in the storm, and my eyes aren’t quite open all the way yet, I thought I’d share a little love, from Roy Zimmerman.

Find all Roy’s videos at his YouTube channel.

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