Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hypnic Jerks

BBC - Future - Health - Why your body jerks before you fall asleep

hypnic jerk

As hypnic jerks escape during the struggle between wake and sleep, the mind is undergoing its own transition. In the waking world we must make sense of external events. In dreams the mind tries to make sense of its own activity, resulting in dreams. Whilst a veil is drawn over most of the external world as we fall asleep, hypnic jerks are obviously close enough to home - being movements of our own bodies - to attract the attention of sleeping consciousness. Along with the hallucinated night-time world they get incorporated into our dreams. 
So there is a pleasing symmetry between the two kinds of movements we make when asleep. Rapid eye movements are the traces of dreams that can be seen in the waking world. Hypnic jerks seem to be the traces of waking life that intrude on the dream world. 
Note to self: add Hypnic Jerks to the "If I ever started a band, what would it be called ..." list.

NC legislature would like us to use bad science to magically ward off sea level rise. #Denialism

NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal | Plugged In, Scientific American Blog Network

Scientific American
There is virtually universal agreement among scientists that the sea will probably rise a good meter or more before the end of the century, wreaking havoc in low-lying coastal counties. So the members of the developers’ lobbying group NC-20 say the sea will rise only 8 inches, because … because … well, SHUT UP, that’s because why. 
That is, the meter or so of sea level rise predicted for the NC Coastal Resources Commission by a state-appointed board of scientists is extremely inconvenient for counties along the coast. So the NC-20 types have decided that we can escape sea level rise – in North Carolina, anyhow – by making it against the law. Or making MEASURING it against the law, anyhow.
Typical. And when they've successfully stuck unprepared future generations with a bill for the damages, how much do you want to bet near-future Republicans'll blame Democrats for their bad policy then say the only way to fix it is be decreasing taxes on the wealthy and easing regulations on industry?

Is there a name for the psychopathology that compels grown-ass men to screw things up, blame others for their mistakes, then propose solutions specifically designed to exacerbate the problem in order to increase the concentration of wealth? Reaganitis? Bushatosis? Romnecrilia?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Rush to judgment: Missouri’s deceptive ‘Right to Pray’ Amendment

The amendment mandates, for example, that the state “shall ensure that any person shall have the right to pray individually or corporately in a private or public setting so long as such prayer does not result in disturbance of the peace or disruption of a public meeting or assembly.” 
How will state courts define such a sweeping affirmation? Does it mean that governmental gatherings will all feature group invocations and benedictions? What if one person’s “right to pray” intrudes on another person’s right to abstain from praying or to pray according to the tenets of her own faith?
They're so good at naming things. "Against my 'right to pray,' are you? That's religious persecution! Help! I'm being persecuted!"

There's a time and place for things, like prayer, and there are times and places where things, like prayer, are neither appropriate nor legal. Look, pray all you want on your own time, but don't waste my kids' time at school with that nonsense and stop making it part of governmental functions where it is exclusionary and unconstitutional. If you must pray every where you go and any time you do something, for crying out loud, do it quietly and keep it to yourself. It's unseemly. Matthew 6:6.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gun deaths in ten states top road fatalities. Thanks, NRA!

Group: Gun deaths in ten states top road fatalities | | The Political CarnivalThe Political Carnival

Traffic deaths went down due to “the combined efforts of government and advocacy organizations.” Hence, if gun control were more effective, if firearms were more regulated the way other things are, then the number of shooting deaths would fall, too. Oversight tends to, you know, protect people from danger.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

NC businessman's principled stand against #AmendmentOne has cost him

Replacements Limited’s Stand for Gay Marriage Has a Cost -

Bob Page in NYT
Hostile letters and e-mails poured into the company from customers canceling their business and demanding to be removed from its e-mail list. “I understand that your company donated $250,000 or so to the effort to ban the marriage amendment,” read one. “I am very concerned that with an increased visibility and acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle, one of my children, who would have grown up and been happily married to a husband, could be tempted to the lesbian lifestyle.”
The lesson I take from this is to be (even more) vocal with businesses that push their right-wing religious ideology so they know why I won't do business with them.

 Ed Cone

Friday, May 25, 2012

#TenYearsLater Remember the blogiverse as it was ...

cryptonaut-in-exile | Blog Map

Look! There we were. Good ol' TC ...

The applet is retired, but you can still see historical snapshots!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

♫ I second that emotion (interest) ♫

Interest is also of critical importance to our relationships with our children. My therapeutic work with children and families has repeatedly taught me this basic lesson: Children respond to our animated expressions of interest in their interests with evident pleasure. Children enjoy this interaction and they want more of it. 
As parents, our enthusiastic responsiveness to our children’s interests is the surest way to engage them in some form of meaningful dialogue or interaction, and a first principle of strengthening family relationships.
I hadn't considered interest as an emotion, but it does strike me as a useful mindset for approaching shared and un-shared interests with my children.

As soon as felt intrigued enough to think, "yeah, I'm down with that," the old Smokey Robinson & the Miracles song leapt to mind and I hoped music would be one of the kids' interests as well.

#TenYearsLater We don't yet grok the need for a proper mosh pit.

cryptonaut-in-exile: Hipsters


No less so now, than a decade ago, I encourage folks to read my man Mark's "WRECKTHEPLACEFANTASTIC: A Metaphysics of the Mosh Pit".

Every Yo La Tengo show should have one!

Monday, May 21, 2012

This NC pastor clearly doesn't think #AmendmentOne went far enough, proposes a more final solution.

"I figured a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers," he says in his sermon, delivered on May 13. "Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there... Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can't get out… And you know what, in a few years, they'll die." Worley fails to understand that gay people are born, not made, and that there would just be more LGBT folk coming down the line. 
He also that if he's asked who he'll vote for, he'll reply, "I'm not going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover."
These guys would be comical buffoons if they weren't influential. But, the vicious rubes line the pulpits to "Amen," this nonsense, so pointing and laughing at them seems like only the best place to start. You can't reason with people like this, they just don't listen. They won't even consider changing their minds until they feel ashamed. So, I'm "ag'in" you, fool*, I'm laughing at your fat, dumbass and every ignorant cracker you've conned into turning out their pockets on Sunday when the collection plate comes by to pay for your lousy suit and bad haircut. There's no point trading bible verses, pointing out the ridiculousness with which you cherry pick the bits that suit your prejudices and ignore the bits that don't, I've tried it with too many of you clowns and gotten nothing but evasion, name-calling, and the spittle of morons on my shoes for trying.

Evasion's not my style, but name-calling I'm down with so, until mush-mouthed morons like Worley stop taking dumps on the carpet and acting like they've just presented a road map to world peace, I don't see any reason to do anything but rub their noses in it.

 The Daily What

* The other f-word would've been my first choice, but it's Mr. T's birthday.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Conan Doyle's poetical reply to a critic.

Prior Investigations | Futility Closet

So please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle:
The doll and its maker are never identical.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Jackie Chan wants to be the "Asian Robert De Niro"

Jackie Chan is going to stop making action movies and be the "Asian Robert De Niro" | Film | Newswire | The A.V. Club:

Declaring that he is both "too old" and "really, really tired," 58-year-old actor Jackie Chan told reporters at Cannes that his new action film, Chinese Zodiac, will be his last ... Of course, Chan has made these sorts of pronouncements before in recent years, but this time he says he really means it ... stopping with all the kicking will allow audiences to see "the real Jackie Chan," the real Jackie Chan said, adding, "I want to be an Asian Robert De Niro"—a sentiment he expressed in the sense of his wanting to find more diverse roles, and in that, 10 years from now, Asia will be wondering aloud why the hell Jackie Chan agreed to be in this.
Jackie is selling himself short. De Niro ought to try to be the Tribeca Jackie Chan.

I love Jackie and hope he continues to be involved in the film industry for decades to come. His dramatic roles though have been of  ... shall we say ... dubious quality. Not to say he hasn't had his moments, but it's like he's afraid to smile unless people thinks it means he's about to slip back into kung-fu mode.

This is actually the first I've heard of Chinese Zodiac, so instead of launching into tribute mode, I'm going to see what that's all about. This might be a good time to re-watch Drunken Master 2, Police Story, Dragons Forever, or Armour of God though ...

#NightmareFuel Tapeworms Living Inside People's Brains

Hidden Epidemic: Tapeworms Living Inside People's Brains | Infectious Diseases | DISCOVER Magazine

The most disturbing thing I've seen since ... ever? Discover
Theodore Nash sees only a few dozen patients a year in his clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s pretty small as medical practices go, but what his patients lack in number they make up for in the intensity of their symptoms. Some fall into comas. Some are paralyzed down one side of their body. Others can’t walk a straight line. Still others come to Nash partially blind, or with so much fluid in their brain that they need shunts implanted to relieve the pressure. Some lose the ability to speak; many fall into violent seizures. 
Underneath this panoply of symptoms is the same cause, captured in the MRI scans that Nash takes of his patients’ brains. Each brain contains one or more whitish blobs. You might guess that these are tumors. But Nash knows the blobs are not made of the patient’s own cells. They are tapeworms. Aliens.
I ... I'd better stop thinking about this ... good grief.

Friday, May 18, 2012

We gonna rock down to Empire Avenue / And then we'll take it higher ...

It seems to be an unwritten rule of Empire Avenue that, if you're going to play, after a while you need to write a How To WIN At Empire Avenue post. So, this is mine. Except, I can't tell you how to win, only how I enjoy playing.

If you're trying to be King or Queen of SEO and drive massive traffic around, there are folks there who can help you, but I'm not one of them. If you want to make a few quality connections, play a game that doesn't require a huge amount of time to derive satisfaction from, and is only as social as you want it to be, then EAv may, just may, be for you.

If you haven't seen it, you are probably wondering what it is. It styles itself as a virtual stock market for people who do social media of one form or another, and generally more than one form. It's really not a stock market though, even if it looks a lot like one in spots. Sure, you buy and sell (but I don't recommend selling, we'll come to that later) and earn dividends on your holdings like you would on equities but the pricing isn't really market driven.

Buys increase and sells decrease your stock's price, but your price is also influenced by your holdings and activity. I read somewhere early on that you shouldn't let EA automatically release more shares of your stock due to dilutive effect and that sounded reasonable, more of something means each unit will cost less, right? Supply and demand is Econ 100 ... but that's not at all how EAv works. You want to keep selling and let EAv release more and more for other players to buy, that will only help you. If people can't buy you because all your shares are held, that will hinder your growth.

OK, so why even grow? What the point of the whole thing?  Just as in the real world it's all about the benjamins, on EA it's all about the eaves -- the virtual currency of EA. Eaves are what you buy stock with. Eaves let you buy upgrades so you can buy more of the stocks you like and do other neat things every now and again in EA's marketplace. Eaves also allow you to buy missions (but not too soon), and this is where it gets interesting and can have an impact outside the game on your social properties. You can offer missions to ask people to do things like click on a link to your blog and leave a comment, or RT for you, or watch a YouTube video. They have incentive to do these things so they can earn eaves for completing your mission.

Sound a little fishy at this point? Why buy someone's click? Don't people say they'll do something and then not do it?  As for the last, yes, they sometimes do -- but there are ways you can minimize that -- and yes it is a little like bribery. Isn't all advertising though? Your social fortune will still rise or fall based on your content and how much people like or dislike interacting with you. EA is just another way to say, "Hey, did you know I'm here?"

Mission-scammers are one of the things I dislike most about EA. But, if you offer decent missions,  and don't write a laundry list of things for people to do for some pittance, folks are generally going to give you a shot and do something small for healthy dose of eaves.

If you have just gotten started, or about to start (use my referral, if you don't mind!) there are few things I would recommend to help you get going and not get discouraged the first time you're sold and your price starts dropping:

Missions weren't available when I started, I wish they had been. Do them, but don't start running them right away. Use your eaves to invest. Missions to invest in people are great deals. Build your portfolio and set yourself up for future earnings without spending an eave.

Don't take missions you don't have any intention of completing. You can check the link before completing the mission. If somebody is asking you to share something your social network connections aren't going to like, then just skip it. There's plenty of missions. And, obviously, check the best paying missions first.

Invest in a mix of your fellow newbies and in stocks that pay high dividends. Buy and hold. If you sell a stock when it's doubled or tripled since you're initial buy, you'd be a fool to sell it, it's going to keep going up  and you're selling not only it's current value but it's future increased and dividends. (OK, so some people quit and their stocks plummet -- if someone disappears for a month or more and the stock is in a death spiral you're not going to lose anything by selling. Just don't jump the gun and sell a stock because it declined two days in a row. People go on vacations and come back.)

If someone says, "buy me back or I'm going to sell you," your best bet is to ignore them and just look at their dividends. If you should have been holding them, then buy them because it's good for your portfolio. If your eaves are better spent somewhere else, take the hit when they sell and forget about it. Someone who plays that way probably isn't going to be a good connection for you anyways.

Buying back. This is a tough one. I really want to buy back everyone who holds my shares, and I'm working on matching or at least maxing in all my shareholders. However, you're going to slow your growth down in you buy a bunch of .10 avg. daily div shares just be a good buy-backer. Get good value and build your war chest, then circle back and buy back your less valuable shareholders.

Engage. Endorse peoples' blogs. If somebody runs a mission that pays well and was worthy your time, make sure to thank them for it.

Be prepared for the day a bunch of the big timers who bought 200 shares of you when you were new (and cheap) sell them off. It's going to drive your price down and it doesn't mean your stock is going to die. They'll buy you back when you're rising again. You'll see.

Basically, if you play with integrity, and interact with others who are doing so, you'll have fun driving some traffic to your site(s).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taxachusetts Uber Alles!

Massachusetts is the best state in the union. - Slate Magazine

So high income is no guarantee of good social outcomes and strong investments in people clearly haven’t punished one of our wealthiest and most globally competitive state economies. In fact, if America wants to be a healthy, smart, rich, globalized, high-tech powerhouse, we arguably have no better model than Massachusetts.
If you're feeling adventurous, I left a comment in response to what looked like one of many sneakily racist observations like, "of course Massachusetts nice, it's full of white people!" I'm guessing some indignant racist will have gasped with horror and penned a counter reply defending use of higher percentage of white people as a measure of how much better those places are than other places with, you know, the darkies.

"Concern trolls" giving too much credence to persecution whining re: Dan Savage's spot-on comments.

The flip out over Dan Savage is part of a larger agenda to silence pro-gay discourse.

Dan Savage
What Savage was clearly saying was that it's homophobes who are presenting a false dilemma with their claims that you have to denounce homosexuality to be a Christian. He was pointing out that it's easy to reconcile pro-gay sentiment and Christianity by just doing what Christians are already doing when it comes to shellfish and slavery, which is preferring their own moral judgment over the Bible.
Also, notably and thankfully, being ignored by Christians ... the bits about killing all atheists and Jesus's insistence that Mosaic law be followed and disobedient children be put to death, Mark 7:5-10, a pretty hilarious section. (Jesus: "Making fun of me because I don't wash my hands before I eat? Screw you guys. Why don't you go kill your brats like you're supposed to? You insufficiently monstrous, hand-washing-like-you're-some-kind-of-fancy-pants Pharisees!")

Apologists of the Jesus character conveniently forget about all the times he preached hatred and violence by keeping to all that Exodus and Leviticus crap.

Joking around a bit, I don't want to obscure the linked articles larger point, that if we let homophobes frame criticism of their bigotry as persecution of Christians, they win. And losers shouldn't be winning.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wrong man was executed in Texas. (Wasn't the first time, won't be the last unless ... )

Wrong man was executed in Texas, probe says - Yahoo! News

He was the spitting image of the killer, had the same first name and was near the scene of the crime at the fateful hour: Carlos DeLuna paid the ultimate price and was executed in place of someone else in Texas in 1989, a report out Tuesday found.
Most effective way to not impose the death penalty on people who are not guilty? Take it off the table. If we don't try to execute people, we don't have to be worried about accidentally executing the wrong guy.

If you're not worried about executing the wrong people, you are part of the problem. If, in addition to thinking the odd unjust execution every decade or so is worth being able to execute people who are properly convicted, and you have ever been concerned about "government takeovers" of health care, death panels, or fear you are losing your liberty and we need to "restore the Constitution," then I'm really worried about your mental health.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Somnambulism Defense

The Case of the Sleepwalking Killer | Past Imperfect

Rufus Choate, for the Defense.
During the last hour of his six-hour speech, Choate focused on the issue of somnambulism, stressing that 12 witnesses had testified to his client’s strange condition without challenge or disproof. “Somnambulism explains… the killing without a motive,” he argued. “Premeditated murder does not.” Here he approached the jury and lowered his voice. The courtroom hushed. “In old Rome,” he concluded, “it was always practice to bestow a civic wreath on him who saved a citizen’s life; a wreath to which all the laurels of Caesar were but weeds. Do your duty today, and you may earn that wreath.” 
The jury deliberated for two hours and returned a verdict of not guilty.
 The Browser

The Most *Read* Books in the World? I doubt it.

The Most Read Books in the World: INFOGRAPHIC - GalleyCat

Infographic by Jared Fanning

Take #1 on this list and compare it to #3 -- fine, I'll grant the Bible may be the most owned, but I will bet dollars to donuts that hardly anybody bothers to read it except the passages they get read to them. On the other hand, I would be very surprised if the people that start reading the Harry Potter books don't go from cover to cover at least once.

Friday, May 11, 2012

#Secular Coalition for America taking a bottom up approach ...

Nonbelievers flex their political muscles - The Washington Post

“The majority of erosion to church-state separation is at the local level,” said Serah Blain, the SCA’s first state director, appointed in Arizona in January. “It’s in city councils and school boards and statehouses. And that’s where these things really affect people’s lives, with laws on bullying and abortion and access to health care. And they are passing without much opposition because it isn’t seen as glamorous to lobby locally.”

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Romney Campaign Chomping At The Bit To Make (Un)Constitutional Marriage Ban An Issue

Romney Adviser Campaign Constitutional Marriage Ban | ThinkProgress
Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, told Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown that the campaign would make President Obama’s support for marriage equality an issue this November and that Romney will actively push for a constitutional amendment to take away the right of states to voluntarily extend marriage equality to same-sex couples.
I think it's coming to the point we're going to have completely divorce, as it were, secular and religious marriage since the religionists are demanding the privileges of marriage, which include certain legal protections and rights which most (though not all) churches are unwilling to grant to every citizen fairly. Christians in particular, but I think people of faith in general, with the exception of liberal minority, want to define marriage as one man and one woman. The rest of us want marriage to be a legally recognized domestic union of one consenting adult to another that doesn't discriminate.

So let's let everybody have it there way. Christian marriage (or Jewish marriage, or whatever faith marriage) should be its own institution, completely free from any sort of state sanctioning, or recognition. Civil marriage would be the only state-sanctioned domestic union. Want a religious marriage? Fine, get one; however, if you want it recognized outside of your church or the community of faith, then you need the civil marriage as well. The government would recognize religious marriages that meet the same criteria as the civil marriage if they apply for it. Government wouldn't tell churches to recognize their marriages, churches couldn't tell government to recognize their marriages. I'm not sure what the benefits of church marriage would be except maybe it could be some requirement before getting your child baptized or whatever the church decides it's good for.

Some religious marriages, might not meet the criteria of what we probably agree civil marriage should look like. To enter into civil marriage, both parties should have attained the age of majority -- you should be old enough to vote and enter the military before you are old enough to decide if you are ready for marriage, in my opinion -- and have entered into the arrangement of their own free will. So those religions that approve of the marriage of girls that just got their first period to much older men, first cousins, and men being allowed to marry many women and girls (FLDS, we're looking at you) could not qualify for civil marriage.

It's really starting to piss me off that almost no reporter seems to be willing to point out that the proposed constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage are blatantly unconstitutional. In addition to the First Amendment, we have the Supreme Court's ruling on this already. Eric Shepherd did a great job pointing this out the other day when he wrote:
In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971), The Supreme Court's decision stated that the government's action must have a secular legislative purpose.

As voters in NC will be deciding the fate of Amendment One, let's take a look at the ten most compelling secular legislative reasons to vote in favor of the amendment:

Those blanks are no accident. Not only were there no secular reasons to vote for Amendment One, no secular reasons for even proposing it were offered -- as far as I'm aware. If there were, I'd fascinated to hear them. If there's no secular reason, there are only religious reasons -- and basing law on religion in this country is impermissible. It's a violation of the Establishment Clause. We are not Iran. We should not be modelling our government on failed or failing Muslim states.

Foucault's Biopower, #AmendmentOne, #Secularism, And You

Philosophy Bro: Biopower and You: A General Summary According to Michel Foucault

Bio-power image via Rethinking Music Therapy of all places

So what's the problem? "Healthier, happier people? More caring state? This sounds great!" And that's exactly the fucking problem. That sounds great, but what exactly is healthier and happier? Who gets to decide that? You? Your buddy Steve? Fuck you, and fuck Steve. Biopower is literally power over your body, my body, er'rybody's body; the state gets involved in everything - health, labor, education, your goddamn sex life, and it tells you what you can and can't, should and shouldn't do, and it backs it up with guns. And if you're all, "Hey, uh, I don't feel more healthy and productive," well there's an easy answer for that! "Oh, you don't? Hm... well, uh, how about fuck you. You just have the wrong ideas. Glad that's all cleared up!"
Because it's what I do lately, I make it about Amendment One, dive into Bro's comments, and make my usual argument for secularism.

The Myth About Marriage

The Myth About Marriage by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Roman marriage image via NYRB
Those who do not want to let gay partners have the sacredness of sacramental marriage are relying on a Scholastic fiction of the thirteenth century to play with people’s lives, as the church has done ever since the time of Aquinas. The myth of the sacrament should not let people deprive gays of the right to natural marriage, whether blessed by Yahweh or not. They surely do not need—since no one does—the blessing of Saint Thomas.
Expecting most Christians to understand history, even the history of their own religion, or their own Bible is a form of wishful thinking.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whedon talks jai-alai and some other yadda-yadda. #JaiAlai

The Purple - Purple prose -

Hard to play a rebote carom with shield instead of cesta.
People have told me that this matters, that my life is about to change. I am sure that is true. And change is good -- change is exciting. I think -- not to jinx it -- that I may finally be recognized at Comiccon. Imagine! Also, with my percentage of "the Avengers" gross, I can afford to buy... [gets call from agent. Weeps manfully. Resumes typing.] ...a fine meal. But REALLY fine, with truffles and s#! . And I can get a studio to finance my dream project, the reboot of "Air Bud" that we all feel is so long overdue. (He could play Jai Alai! Think of the emotional ramifications of JAI ALAI!!!!)

NC State Constitution: Article I, Section 1 seems to be at odds with #AmendmentOne ...

North Carolina State Constitution
Section 1. The equality and rights of persons.
We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.

Yesterday, I re-read the Preamble to the NC State Constitution. It's a bloated, superstitious heap of nonsense. So, I offered a proposed fix.

Today, I thought I'd see what exactly Amendment One will change. Amendment One, as you no doubt are aware by now, was as follows on the ballot:
Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.
So how does this amending actually work? Does the amendment get listed in Article XIII Or will they revise Section 1 along the lines of:
 Section 1. The equality and rights of heterosexual persons.We hold it to be self-evident that all heterosexual persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, the right to marry but not enter into a civil union with a member of the opposite sex because marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State, and the pursuit of happiness. 
What a mess. I guess I could go look at how one of the other Taliban-inspired states handled their similar disgrace ...

Artist totally ought to incorporate the #GlasgowKiss into his Santa series!

Student art attacks commercial spirit of Christmas | Education |

Image Darren Cullen
While the rest of the country is obsessing, or studiously ignoring, the impending general election, Glasgow art student Darren Cullen has bigger things on his mind. Tomorrow he will unveil a 6.10m x 3.5m (20ft x 10ft) billboard on one of the city's main roads appealing to parents to "Stop lying to your children about Santa Claus". 
The poster, which features a slightly demonic looking Father Christmas looming over a small boy, is part of the art student's campaign to put an end to the commercialisation of Christmas and to launch an attack on the advertising industry's targeting of children. "Santa gives more to rich kids than poor kids," declares the poster, which will be on Glasgow's Balmore Road.
My wife will appreciate this after some discussions we had when our kids were infants where I, before agreeing to play and hoodwink them with a secularized Santa, had floated the idea never trying to blow smoke up their arses with Santas, Tooth Fairies, malevolent supernatural demanding worship in return for a chance at dodging eternal torture, etc.

(That last we were in full agreement about not inflicting on them, by the way; there was never any question about that! We're mischievous, not cruel.)

You guys remember what a Glasgow Kiss is, yeah?

See also: Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives

Humpback whales attempt to protect gray whales from orcas. Humpbacks > Humans

BBC Nature - Humpback whales intervene in killer whale hunt

BBC Nature
After the attack, two humpback whales moved into the area where the calf was last seen alive. They continued to make trumpeting calls, rolled in the water and slashed their tails aggressively at killer whales that came near. 
According to Mrs Schulman-Janiger the whole encounter lasted seven hours.
I was going to turn this into a parable for North Carolina voters (and those who didn't bother yesterday) but it was a bit of a stretch and the whales are interesting enough on their own without making it all about us. Stupid humans.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Repealing Amendment One is the first priority, but the Preamble of the NC Constitution also needs some work. #Secularism

North Carolina General Assembly - NC Constitution

North Carolina History Project
Preamble: We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for the preservation of the American Union and the existence of our civil, political and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those blessings to us and our posterity, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution.
So the work to repeal Amendment One begins. But it's not the only problem with North Carolina's laws and Constitution. Not by a long shot. You can see in the Preamble the root of the problem.

" ... Almighty God, the Sovereign Rule of Nations ..."?!?


Using the First Do No Harm principle, a new first draft would read:
Preamble: We, the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our responsibility to ourselves and our posterity for their continuance, do, for the more certain security thereof and for the better government of this State, ordain and establish this Constitution. 
But first, repeal ...

Live Election Results for #AmendmentOne (in progress)

Election Results State of North Carolina | SOE Software

Current results:

So far it's not going well. It's early yet though. Only 1 county complete and 13 of 100 partially counted.

One way to celebrate the life and work of Maurice Sendak would be to vote Against #AmendmentOne

If it helps, think of voting for #NC #AmendmentOne as spitting on the corpse of Maurice Sendak. #protectmarriage #hateTue May 08 14:27:10 via web

"Sendak was a subhuman monster": Everyone voting for #AmendmentOne today. #protectmarriage #HateYourNeighborTue May 08 14:29:45 via web

I will slap anyone silly if they voted for #AmendmentOne today, then pretended to care about Maurice Sendak. #RIPSendakTue May 08 14:22:15 via Silver Bird

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists #secularism

Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists (June 1998) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" thus building a wall of eternal separation between Church & State.
Some walls are best torn down. This is not one of them. The wall of eternal separation between Church & State is one worth Taking the Black for.

NC will conclude voting on Amendment One tomorrow. There is no place for religious discrimination in the law of our state. It is legally and morally wrong. If passed, it will -- eventually -- be repealed. As Dr. King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." Vote against Amendment One to shorten the distance between May 8, 2012 and justice.

Blog find: Honest NC | The best policy for politics.

Honest NC | The best policy for politics.

We are collective of artists, scientists, clergy and civic leaders fighting for equality, education and transparency in North Carolina.
No RSS so they don't easily fit into my blogroll schema or my google reader habits. One of these days I'm going to figure out how to use Pipes to make my own feed for easier tracking of sites like Honest NC. Until then, it's old-fashioned bookmarking and remembering to check in for updates.

Don't mind me, apparently I lost some Chrome add-ons on my work laptop and that's why I didn't see the familiar RSS icon in my URL bar. They work just fine in the blogroll. Crisis averted.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A direct plea to my fellow North Carolinians regarding #AmendmentOne

Look, clearly vlogging isn't my forte. However, please try to look my past my halting delivery, the shortcomings of my low end microphone/webcam set up, and my stupid, fat face. If you're planning to vote for Amendment One, or on the fence, I'd appreciate the chance to speak with you to see if I couldn't convince you to at least look harder at the arguments against before casting that vote.

 Look me up for a hangout on G+ (button in the right column --> ) or drop a line in the comments.

Protect All NC Families

At what point, if at any, is the disregard of #secularism treason?

Why isn't it treason if there are people working to replace the US government with a theocracy?Sun May 06 16:44:32 via web

It's a thorny, fascinating, and troubling question. If we are to answer @weywerdSun, I think we should start by being careful to make sure we're clear on exactly what we're asking and what is happening.

First, we should make sure we're using the same definition of "treason," and then, let's look at some recent examples of anti-secular behaviors and consider whether they constitute an attempt to replace the U.S. government with a theocracy. We might also want to consider what steps short of "replacing the government" might also constitute treason, as I suspect we can easily imagine a this is not something that could be accomplished in one fell swoop, but would require a host of undermining actions, some of which we might think less harmful/unconstitutional/illegal than others.

 18 USC § 2381 - TREASON:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
So we've got capital treason, and a lesser strain punishable by fine, imprisonment, and disqualification from public office.

Surprisingly, perhaps, there aren't many instances of Americans being convicted of treason. From Wikipedia, I find:
Philip Vigol and John Mitchell, convicted of treason and sentenced to hanging; pardoned by George Washington; see Whiskey Rebellion. 
Governor Thomas Dorr 1844, convicted of treason against the state of Rhode Island; see Dorr Rebellion; released in 1845; civil rights restored in 1851; verdict annulled in 1854. 
John Brown, convicted of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1859 and executed for attempting to organize armed resistance to slavery. 
Aaron Dwight Stevens, took part in John Brown's raid and was executed in 1860 for treason against Virginia. 
William Bruce Mumford, convicted of treason and hanged in 1862 for tearing down a United States flag during the American Civil War. 
Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and George Atzerodt, all hanged on July 7, 1865 for treason and conspiracy for the Lincoln assassination and conspiracy - by military tribunal. 
Iva Toguri D'Aquino, who is frequently identified with "Tokyo Rose" convicted 1949. Subsequently pardoned by President Gerald Ford. 
Herbert Hans Haupt, German-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was convicted of treason in 1942 and executed after being named as a German spy by fellow German spies defecting to the United States. 
Martin James Monti, United States Army Air Force pilot, convicted of treason for defecting to the Waffen SS in 1944. 
Robert Henry Best, convicted of treason on April 16, 1948 and served a life sentence. 
Mildred Gillars, also known as "Axis Sally", convicted of treason on March 8, 1949; served 12 years of a 10- to 30-year prison sentence. 
Tomoya Kawakita, sentenced to death for treason in 1952, but eventually released by President John F. Kennedy to be deported to Japan. 
Adam Yahiye Gadahn has been indicted for treason as of 2012, but has not been brought to trial as he remains at large.
Examining each case is a little more than I care to take on in this post, but let's at least look at the most recent, Mr. Gadahn, and a couple of the others that, at first glance, seem like they take us beyond the obvious (spying for Nazis, the Soviets, or participanting in rebellion) and see if they get us close to the sorts of activities that we might expect to find on the part of fundamentalist proponents of  laws and policies that are clearly religiously motivated.

Mr. Gadahn is the only American convicted of treason in the last 60 years, since Mr. Kawakita in 1952. If I had heard of Mr. Gadahn's conviction, I confess I'd forgotten about it but, not surprisingly, he was convicted for working with al-Qaeda. I think we are safe to say that someone who is working with a terrorist group that has attacked the U.S. and has taken part in plans to attack again can be charged with  treason without that being a controversial position.

The case of Mr. Mumford is one that should caution us about throwing the word "treason" around casually -- lest we look as shrill, mendacious, and mentally unsound as Ann Coulter. Treason, the capital crime, and the act of tearing down a U.S. flag, even during the Civil War, strikes me as not quite so treasonous as actually taking up arms and trying to kill Americans, or ordering others to do so, to preserve slavery. (Yes, yes, I'm being a little contentious -- I'm familiar with the States' Rights argument, it just has never seemed more than a way of dressing up the desire of states to preserve their perceived right to allow slavery.)

The John Brown case is certainly the most famous and I would argue his conviction for treason was unjust. Again, agree or disagree with my assessment, I think he at least serves as a cautionary tale for those who would look for the broadest possible definition.

For a bar set so high, it's not difficult to find in those few convictions ones that don't really make sense. I'm not sure if it means we should be setting the bar even higher or working to make the legal definition tighter so it can be applied more frequently with greater confidence that those those charged, if convicted, we could be supremely confident were working to undermine the Constitutional governance of the U.S.

Before we even move on to the would-be theocrats, I think we can at this point that we aren't likely to find that there's a group we can identify as an enemy of the U.S. that alleged traitors could be giving aid or supporting in an attempt to overthrow our government through anti-secularism. I don't think the question at hand is about folks that are collaborating with al-Qaeda or the Taliban or some other group of religious fundamentalists. If our anti-secularists had those ties, this would be a pretty quick discussion.

The groups we can identify domestically, whose stated aim is to write religious doctrine into laws or otherwise impose their religious values on the rest of us, are along the lines of the old Moral Majority, the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, the Tea Party affiliated groups, the patchwork of militia/white power groups, groups that support writing anti-gay legislation, Operation Rescue and other anti-choice groups looking to criminalize abortion. I think here is where get to the the question of when what these groups and their fronts do crosses the line from protest, advocacy, and other forms of protected speech into treasonous territory?

The last thing we want is some kind of liberal thought-police; nobody wants to criminalize religion or punish religious speech. What I think @weywerdSun is saying is:  at some point attempting to roll back the Bill of Rights and do away with the Separation of Church and State is intolerable and there should be some legal mechanism before the laws have a chance of being passed to prevent those religious based laws from going into effect.

Sure, there's the legislative process, elections of representatives, and there are the courts after, but it's quite clear we are on the razor's edge. The laws keep getting proposed, ballot initiatives are introduced and passed, and there are plenty of justices, even on the Supreme Court, that would happily rule in favor of un-Constitutional laws for their own ideological reasons. I don't think it's unreasonable to say we shouldn't have to wait for the laws to go into effect to expect a remedy. It's one thing to say, "abortion should be illegal and marriage of one man to one woman should be the only recognized domestic legal union because God says so," and another to propose legislation along these lines.

Or is it?

Here in North Carolina, we're perilously close to having our Constitution amended by religious bigots to cause all sorts of grief in the name of super-double outlawing gay marriage. Now, gay marriage is already illegal here, but the its opponents are desperately afraid that law could be overturned by an activist court that we don't have. In order to make sure no gays can ever get married, they want to firebomb civil unions, even it means stripping widows of their pensions (unlikely, but if you read the amendment, there's no allowance for anything but marriage, and you can't be married to a dead person), denying legal protections to unmarried battered women (much more likely, and there's precedent for it), and taking children off an unmarried parent's insurance policy (a certain consequence).

This is a religiously motivated attempt to write discrimination and intolerance into our laws. What recourse is there if it passes? None in the state, except to attempt to get a repeal on the ballot, which could take decades. Perhaps the amendment could be found un-Constitutional at the federal level, but this looks unlikely and again could be decades away. Meanwhile, real harm, and actual injustices will be done. So why can't we charge the NCGA (all who voted for the measure) with treason for attempting to establish religious bigotry in the state Constitution? Surely, if anything violates the separation of church and state, it's this?

Everson v. BOE of Ewing TP. image
To find each member of the NCGA guilty of capital treason is certainly unwarranted. If we can't agree on this, well, I'm just afraid to talk to you.

So, is there room for one of the lesser forms? While the NCGA is clearly trying to harm it's citizens using religious-based law, it isn't directly attempting to aid an enemy in doing away with the government directly. It's a perversion, for sure, but I don't think it meets the test of trying to take it down.

It looks to me like all we have is what we've been working with so far: dissemination of information about the hostility of the Amendment and it's proponents towards the citizens of North Carolina, the right to vote the bastards out of office for trying to push their agenda of hate discrimination, and the chance to pursue justice through the federal courts.

In the meantime, I'd like to approach the SPLC about having the Republican Party of North Carolina designated as a hate group. They've earned it.

The death throes of American #secularism?

Jacques Berlinerblau - The death of American secularism | New Humanist

Culture Warriors love a void. With secularists perennially incapable of articulating and agreeing upon what they stand for, their opponents are more than happy to do it for them. Caspar Melville memorably quipped in The Guardian: “Secularism is the handy one-word distillation for all that is wrong in the modern world. Consumerism, divorce, drugs, Harry Potter, prostitution, Twitter, relativism, Big Brother, lack of moral compass, lack of community cohesion, lack of moral values, vajazzling.” A quarter-century ago things were scarcely different. In 1985 a New York Times writer joked that Secular Humanism stood for “everything they [the Religious Right] are opposed to, from atheism to the United Nations, from sex education to the theory of evolution to the writings of Hemingway and Hawthorne.”
Of course secularism is under fire. When has it not been? I'm inclined to say Berlinerblau's crisis of secular identity, "Is it atheism? Is it a type of worldly ethics espoused by Holyoake? Is it separationism? Is it humanism, rationalism, secular humanism, anti-theism, naturalism, freethought, liberalism? What is it?" is overwrought by half. At the risk of getting tautological, there's a reason we have the terms humanism, rationalism, liberalism, etc.  They mean different things and have varying degrees of relevance to politics. If you can't immediately spot the difference between secularism and liberalism, or secularism and atheism, you haven't given it much thought. Now, to be fair, I'm certain Berlinerblau knows this and is being rhetorical to make the point that he thinks most don't. But, really, it's the Religious Right who don't, despite having been told, which comes back to my Too Stupid Too Talk To Theory. They don't know because they don't want to know.

Berlinerblau blames the virulently anti-theist atheists along with the Right for the current straits of secularism, but the atheists aren't the problem. The problem, and here I think he and I are in agreement, is simple separationism, which ought to be an uncontroversial position, is lumped in with the perceived combativeness of the New Atheists. This is not a problem that needs solving on the Left though. The failure here is on the part of the self-styled moderates and centrists to stand for separtationism. The radical Right has persuaded them secularism is an extremist ideal of the Left. It is not. And it shouldn't be up to us to remind them of their American history. Religious and political moderates, frankly, need to find their spines and brush up on their Jefferson. The fundamentalists won't listen to the likes of me. They just might listen to someone who shares at least some of their cultural values.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Race, religion collide in presidential campaign ... and then there's Romney.

Race, religion collide in presidential campaign ::

Which has the more "controversial" religion?
How unthinkable it was, not so long ago, that a presidential election would pit a candidate fathered by an African against another condemned as un-Christian.
It seems almost willfully obtuse write an article about this campaign wherein only one of the candidates is described as being  "condemned as un-Christian," when I suspect most of us have seen more attacks on President Obama's faith than on Governor Romney's. Still, OK, it is a little surprising we have and African-American running for a second term running against a member of what many consider to be a rather strange, cultish version of mainstream Christianity.

How unthinkable is it we might one day have a viable major party candidate who is openly atheist? Still far too unthinkable.

Friday, May 4, 2012

As long as we're in the business of trying to amend things ... #AmendmentOne


My man, Eric "Def" Shepherd (@eshep -- an #FF if there ever was one) has speculated as to what Amendment Two might contain. Perish the thought.

A dear friend who was concerned about sharing too much anti-Bible sentiment on facebook, where Bible-credulous friends might get their knickers in a twist, shared a funny note with me off the 'book. Luckily, I have no such compunctions about expanding on and posting what she shared.

Look, if religious types want to amend our state Constitution to make if fall in line with their (hateful, barbaric) religious values, then -- turnabout being fair play -- secularists such as myself should be able to propose amendments to their text. The first proposal is not mine, it came via my friend's friend, but I've got several to add and will rattle off a few:
  1. Amend Leviticus 18:22 to: "And lo, it came to pass that we were a bit strong on the whole who-should-lay-with-who thing. Go nuts. But we're really serious about the Rayon blends."
  2. Amend 1 Kings 7:23 to get the value of pi correct. We don't need to go out to the last known digit, your silly text is long enough already, but let's at least get some wording around the value being greater than 3. "Approximately 3.14," would be sufficient. Simple errors of mathematics undermine the venture, don't they? This should be an easy sell; it must be embarrassing to religionists for their omniscient being to be ignorant of mathematics that even today's elementary school children know.
  3. Correct all errors of scholarship. This should be non-controversial as well since it is an acknowledged problem that the many different translations contain any number of errors that are fixable. The Bible is, after all, a book written by men and has sustained significant revision over the years.
  4. Correction to all errors of science. This is a sweeping change that will need a detailed list to be hammered out in committee, but let's start with cosmology, then work our way through the other sciences and remove everything that is just flat out wrong. It also would have been nice if the Bible had contained a single nugget of scientific knowledge more advanced than what was (thought to be) known at the time it was being written by ignorant savages. I'll leave it as an exercise for the religious to find any one example of scientific knowledge their omniscient being has ever let on that is more advanced than what our scientists today know. After such a thing has been found, peer-reviewed, tested, and determined to have explanatory and predictive value, it could then be included. Good luck with that, by the way.  There are more difficult to classify errors of science that seem to overlap with errors of history and possibly scholarship. For example, James 3:7 was known to be wrong when it was written, is still clearly wrong, and one would be hard-pressed to imagine it could ever hope to be right. It is so mind-boggling stupid an assertion to make it doesn't so much fall under one branch of human knowledge as all of them.
  5. Amend all errors of history and let's start putting some dinosaurs in the Old Testament. There was no Flood. This one is going to take a lot of work.
  6. Amend the Ten Commandments. As Sam Harris noted, considering these were the only things the alleged God ever saw fit to write in his own hand, therefore must have been pretty proud of, he sure did a half-assed job. I'd be surprised if the average fourth grader, if asked to come up with a handful of rules to being a good person, couldn't do better. 
  7. Proposed, before we start applying the other amendments, let's see how much time we can save by applying the Jefferson Bible edits.
  8. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus didn't just come along preaching peace and love in sandals like some  hippie do-gooder. Let's clean up his image by amending his more bloodthirsty ravings (Matthew 11:11-12) with more of the Love Your Neighbor stuff. Because, clearly, people are falling down on this one.
  9. Let's amend all the passages that imply or explicitly state women are inferior to men (again, too numerous to list but Ephesians 5:22-24, is a New Testament example) with a blanket statement: "Dudes, chill, women are human beings and should be treated with respect, not like chattel."
  10. Let's do away with notion that slavery is OK. The issue of slavery is one that has been solved to the satisfaction of all civilized peoples. It is an unacceptable, unjustifiable, and purely barbaric practice that has no place in the modern world. The passages that relate to how slaveholders should treat their slaves are too numerous to include in this post, so I would propose excising all references to slavery and letting the proposed revision to the Ten Commandments proposed above be the final and only word on the matter. Or, if it must be separate Commandment to keep things discrete, then let it be "Thou shalt not enslave anyone. Ever." 
Proponents of Amendment One, are you concerned some of the above are too general or broad in scope? Don't you dare bring that up until you answer the same concern about Amendment One. You've failed to do so either by evasion or outright lying every time you've been asked. Some nerve you've got.

Too nitpicky for you? Do I expect too much from allegory and fable? You admit then we're talking about allegory and fable? Please explain why you feel the need to amend the Constitution of North Carolina to punish your fellow citizens for expecting to be treated as equal citizens, your allegory and fable notwithstanding.

Don't like the idea of getting your sacred text fixed up by people (like me) who have no respect for your "Biblical values"? Great, then you understand why I want you to keep your religion out of our government. This is a simple, foundational, essential American value. You can't have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. Secular government is the only thing standing between our democratic, progressive society and the depradations of the backwards, superstitious governments of places like Iran and Afghanistan. 

We are not a Christian Nation. We are a nation. We may be full of Christians, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, animists, and what have you, but none of those religions get to own our government. It is, or was designed to be, by and for the people. All the people. Even we atheists. 

I've done this several times, and I'll keep doing it so get used it, but I strongly encourage everyone, even you true believers, to get involved in a secular organization such as Americans United or to protect yourself from the fundies and their accommodationists, or the Sharia Law proponents -- if that's your fear -- and make sure our government stays true to itself. We are a secular nation. We can work, believers and non-believers together, towards the common goal of freedom and the liberty to seek a happiness for ourselves that does no harm to others.

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