Tuesday, October 16, 2007
“Can’t they see the murderous intent in the eyes of Mr. Whiskers? I find it amazing that the Democratic Party is more concerned with protecting animal loving extremists than they are with safe guarding the Homeland against these blood thirsty felines. Did Siegfried and Roy teach us nothing as a nation?” Right-wing bloggers picked up the theme posting pictures of alleged kitten atrocities including several dead mice, and a lizard missing its tail, as well as posting the home addresses of several of the cutest and deadliest kittens. Staffers in McConnel’s office also stated that the "Anti-Kitten" proposal was only one part of the GOP's efforts to win back the hearts and minds of voters and suggested that he may offer a resolution in the fall condemning the Dickens character "Tiny Tim" for his appearance in a MoveOn.org ad.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I hated it.
Nothing against the film itself. It just that I always hate it when people say, "there is a reason for everything." I realize that its supposed to be comforting and sweet, and I try not to hold it against people when they say it to me. I know their hearts are in the right place. But what they don't realize is that this kind talk is really no different from the conspiracy theorist's dark fantasies. Far from being some sort of profound wisdom, stating "everything has a purpose" is nothing more than the sentimentally optimistic side of the coin to the conspiracy theorist's paranoid need to impose a sinister order on a frighteningly uncertain universe.
People forget what "everything" includes. Everything means everything, including some of the most unpleasant and evil things you can possibly imagine. So when people say there are "reasons for everything" they are saying, there's a purpose behind child abuse, a meaning behind murder, a function behind genocide.
Of course they don't really mean that, but it's only intellectual laziness that keeps them confronting that very unpleasant consequence of what they say. And all too often they mean something very close to exactly that. I remember reading an article on Iraq, where a soldier was interviewed about an explosion that killed his comrade standing only feet away, but left him untouched. He replied that the experience had reinforced his belief in God's plan, stating that divine intervention is the only possible explanation for his survival. On one level he was simply asserting an unshakable faith that God had special plan for him, but on some level he had to understand he was equally asserting that God's plan was perfectly OK with his buddy being blown to a million pieces.
Like the conspiracy theorist's secret world controlling cabal, the soldier is using "divine intervention" to keep at bay what he fears most: That there is no order to the universe, that there is no good reason whatsoever why he survived instead of his buddy. To confront that fact would be to acknowledge that it could have been him; that his death could be just as random, instant, and unavoidable as his fellow soldier's was.
The arbitrary nature of mortality is a hard fact to confront and it's application isn't limited to soldiers on the front line. It can be utterly paralyzing if you look it straight in the eye and I can understand why people perform so many mental gymnastics to avoid dealing with it. What perplexes me is that those gymnastics can lead to much more dangerous and difficult places than the admittedly hard challenge of simply confronting the chaos of life head on. Like most things in life, the consequences of avoiding difficulties are usually worse than the difficulties themselves.
The question remains though: how do you accept the uncertainty that rules our existence and still retain the courage to move forward? I will attempt to tackle that question in Part III of this discussion, but for now - I'll leave you with a piece of wisdom from two of my favorite philosophers.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
God Bless America.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Ding Dong - Gonzo's Gone! Project M is still celebrating yesterday's resignation of Attorney General Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales. Finally, the most corrupt and incompetent Attorney General this country has ever seen threw in the towel on his portion of the Bush Administration's chicken fight with Congress. I must admit, I didn't think it was gonna happen. Even Slate magazine took down their Gonzo watch earlier this summer based on the discouraging signs that Gonzo would never surrender. Tellingly, the Decider did not comment on the resignation with Fredo at his side, but did spit out this classic “This is a man who has testified, he’s sent thousands of papers up there. There’s no proof of wrong.”
Taking aside the traditional Bush grammatical massacre, it's as if Bush is daring Congress,taunting them to "catch" him and his band of criminals. It's "Na, Na Na, - You got Nothing on me!" It represents the administration's attitude perfectly - that they can skate above the law (or entirely decimate it) trample the Constitution and generally engage in whatever version of morality they want because their opponents technically "got nothing" on them.
And this talking point has worked in the past. The Right Wing noise machine was already in over-drive on the media coverage yesterday, moaning about "What crime did Gonzales actually commit here?" But this technique (already overplayed from the Valerie Plame scandal) faces some very "pesky" facts with everyone from Monica Goodling, to FBI Director Robert Muller contradicting Fredo, and irrefutably revealing his status as a serial perjurer. That Bush finally did throw his beloved Fredo overboard, signifies that despite his very public bravado, Congress is closing in.
Although elated, I'm also a little wary of the timing on this one - it's not looking as pretty the morning after. After all, Turd Blossom and Fredo resigning within mere weeks of each other - what diabolical recess appointment could possibly be in the works? I'm sure Democrats will find a spectacular way to squander their momentum here (probably by immediately confirming some other retarded Bush water carrier like Chertoff as his replacement).
Nevertheless, Project M must rejoice in whatever semi-victory lap the cosmos throws our way however brief. It has put a smug smile on my face the past two days and an extra spring in my step (although when I tried to explain why - I get the usual "Alberto who?" from my co-workers). Sigh. God Bless America indeed.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
Who will the Democrats be irrationally terrified of now?
Oh, what will the Dems do now? What will be their excuse the next time they down flush their principles down the toilet? That they had to - or else John Boehner will.. start crying again?
The Democratic Party will now shred the constitution at Cheney's whim because they are deathly afraid of....
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
I went out drinking with some friends last week and spent much of the time listening to a friend of friend spin an elaborate web of conspiracy theories. Several beers had been consumed by that point, and I couldn’t keep track of it all. The best I can hope for is to remember how the world lined up on the ol’ Good and Evil flow chart.
The Federal Government
Child Protective Services
Military Industrial Complex
The 9/11 “cover up”
The Founding Fathers
The Free Market
I forget what his moral was. Perhaps he was simply angry that the Feds were attempting to regulate the sale of his miniature gold statues of Alexander Hamilton. None of this was new to me though. Growing up in
January 2, 2001. The shadowy head of the Military industrial complex enters the oval office.
Shadowy Head of the Military Industrial Complex: "Hey, can we have everything we’ve ever wanted?"
President Cheney: "Sure."
What bothers me about this stuff isn’t how flawed their arguments are, it’s that so much time and energy goes into exposing the non-existence crime of the "9/11 cover up" when we had an actual documented conspiracy to start a war in Iraq, and no one has been held accountable for it. To justify it’s chosen invasion of
I have a hypothesis as to why this is.
And what happened? It blew up in their face.
Reality interceded. The most powerful nation on earth was brought to its knees by 14 year olds with I.E.D.s
That’s the truth that’s really terrifying.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
He's neither here nor there. Depending on his mood, he is both in and not in his undisclosed location. He has no formal power, yet he's been running our government for six years. Our primitive journalistic techniques will never be able to precisely locate where the fuck he is in our system of government. He is the unstable particle of a radioactively decaying Presidency.
He is: Dick Cheney: Quantum Douche Bag.
Yes, Dick Cheney claims he exists in some metaphysical constitutional limbo. He claims to be neither within the legislative nor executive branch - but a governmental entity unto himself. He is a shadow, a vapor, a fog enveloping the Constitution in darkness, unknowable, untraceable, and unaccountable.
Essentially, he has anointed himself, the fourth branch of government. This theory has been laughed off as ridiculously absurd by most of the mainstream media (What is he, part of the legislexecutive branch? Does he think that we are all five years old?) Unfortunately, this turn of events is not quite as funny as it should be. It serves to highlight the tragicomedy we are all living through in America where Cheney's other equally laughable claims—that the President is above the law, that secrecy equals democracy, that patriotism requires only silent obedience—have been treated far too seriously by the U.S. press.
The fact that we even debated (much less implemented) the deranged theories of this cruel, paranoid, dishonest sociopath will stain our nation for a long time to come. But like a rabid dog stuck in a corner, Dick is scared. Whatever fucking position this Evil Emperor claims he occupies in the U.S. government is going to end very soon, and with it whatever claims of immunity he has - no matter how ridiculous.
You see, Dick has been a bad, bad boy. He is the heart of darkness within this administration, and he knows the time of reckoning for his sins is near. How to get out of that trap? Simple - see Dick shred evidence. Cheney's actions aren't crazy. They're all too sane, and all too familiar. He will lie, cheat, and stonewall, like he's always done, and count on everyone to back off, as they always have.
We must not let that happen. All of his dark secrets must come to light. It will be unpleasant, shining a flashlight on a roach motel always is - but if this country our ever going to recover from Cheneyism, we must know exactly how we turned to the dark side. Darth Cheney's story must be told, even if it means siting through the Democrats doing their best impersonation of Jar Jar Binks.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Not only was that episode totally bogus but I've had the very unpleasant side effect of that stupid Journey song being stuck in my head ALL WEEK LONG! David Chase is not a genius, just another sadistic asshole like our President, accountable to no one.
Then, on Monday the much anticipated Gonzales "No confidence" vote goes down in flames, and Gonzo lives to fuck up another day. Tuesday revealed that Hilary is polling ahead among single women and young women - the two demographics LEAST likely to actually vote in any election.
On Wednesday, the Middle East was back in flames with the destruction of a revere red Shiite mosque in Baghdad. I ran a 5k, suffered through corporate consultants subjecting our entire office to "productivity personality tests," got a parking ticket, picked a fight with an evangelical Mother over school vouchers, and forgot to pay my water bill. By Thursday morning things were looking a little brighter with Scooter Libby actually going to jail (at least until the pardon) Paris Hilton is still in jail, and Bush's approval ratings sticking at an all-time low. Can't wait for tomorrow's document dump! We could end the week on a high note after all.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Not since O.J.'s fateful ride in the White Bronco has our pathetic "mainstream" media been collectively drooling at the prospect of non-stop coverage of a celebrity perp walk. Even CNN International has apparently decided to drop the facade that they still cover serious News, and resume live coverage of the order of Paris Hilton back to jail; or rather Judge Michael T. Sauer's attempt to order Paris back to jail, since we all know by now that rich blondes can't really be expected to actually sit in jail for breaking LAWS that apply only to mere mortals.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
They blinked. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Blinking is what they do best. The Democratic congress just ended their Mexican stand off with President Bush over the war funding bill. They backed down even though Bush was holding a toy water pistol and they were holding a .357 Magnum. Unbelievable. It takes a special kind of jelly fish to not to take a stand that is morally correct, strategically critical, and politically popular. It s a catastrophic failure of the very first order.
Congratulations Harry Reid! After months of acting tough, you've revealed your self as the eunuch you are. We needed Churchill and you gave us Tom Daschle II: The Quickening. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Apparently Democrats can't even remember five years ago. Remember Dasch's brilliant strategy of caving in to the President on the war and then hitting on him hard on domestic issues? Remember how that turned out? Apparently Reid and Pelosi don't.
Trading little victories for a big loss results in guess what? A big loss. That's all that anyone will take away from this sorry episode. You can't ignore the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room and expect everyone to be happy that you got a new puppy, no matter how cute it is. As always, Kieith Olberman says it all better than we ever could.
Bush is a bully. He always has been. He always will be. The only way to deal with a bully is to hit him back. Hard. Not pretend to hit him. Not talk about hitting him. Jesus Christ Harry, the whole school is in your corner cheering you on and the principal just gave you a pair of brass knuckles. HIT THE FUCKER!
Well if they won't hit somebody I will. I will hit them. Call your Rep. Call Harry. Call Nancy. This was the existential moment for this congress. They failed. Make sure they know that.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Mitt Romney has pulled ahead of John McCain in the ever tightening race for “who can make the most bizarre boneheaded statements in a single primary campaign.”
Mitt’s been trying his best but, clearly had a steep hill to climb after McCain decided to turn nuclear war in the mid-east into his own private Broadway musical.
Romney’s no quitter though. He may have just fired the most impressive salvo yet in the Republican war of “anything you can do I can do dumber.” When a reporter recently asked what was his favorite novel of all time, the wannabee Republican nominee answered "Battlefield Earth" by L. Ron Hubbard.
Yep, you heard right the Mormon candidate's favorite work of fiction is - the Scientologist's Bible. Just when you are trying to convince middle America that you are NOT a member of a wacky religious cult you admit that you love
literature written by - the controversial founder of
I guess when your name is synonymous with a baseball glove your lack of dazzling intellect is bound to catch up with you. However, Romney has inspired us here at Project M. Who is wackier? Scientology? Mormonism? It’s a battle we feel obligated to resolve.
Tune in next week for the stunning conclusion.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
The two part Frontline episode actually began last night but I was busy watching the Jazz lose to the Rockets . I'll be watching both halves later this week, but I'm a little sceptical. Frontline normally does great work, but I have a feeling this is going to be a bit of a puff piece. We'll see if they have the guts to mention cool stuff like secret handshakes and magic underwear, as well as not so cool stuff like Mark Hoffman and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Monday, April 30, 2007
George Tenet’s half-assed mea culpa comes a day late and a dollar short. I really hope nobody rewards this spaghetti-spined enabler by buying his book of completely yawn worthy revelations. Bush was hell bent on war with
However, Tenet’s book is extremely revealing in a completely unintended way. Not about the war, but about the media. What makes his “expose” utterly redundant is a far more important Whitehouse official has admitted repeatedly that the President lied in the build up to the war. That man? Why none other than George W. himself.
Bush has stated repeatedly that “knowing everything he knows now” he would still have invaded
What Bush says now is that there never was an escape hatch. I’m no “logictian” but it seems that Bush was either lying then or he’s lying now. Hmmm…the President publicly admitting to lying; that sounds vaguely important. Possibly even a “story” that would interest a “journalist” since the “war” has turned into a “clusterfuck of horror” and the “stupidest decision in human history.” But the media, like W, are in their own little bubble where 9/11 apparently gave our fearless leader a coupon book of full of free passes for corruption, incompetence, and law breaking. Jack Murtha mentioned impeachment on Face the Nation and Bob Schieffer couldn’t have been more horrified had Murtha started masturbating live on camera. “What? Impeach the President? Just because he’s a dangerously incompetent moron who’s committed at least eight impeachable offensives? Are you crazy? He hasn’t even used his two-for-one assassination voucher yet!”
Friday, April 27, 2007
Thanks guys, I couldn't do this without you.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I admit it, Dinesh: you got me. My post wasn't exactly logical. I sacrificed cogent reasoning and took analytical short cuts in my quest for humor. Hell, that wasn't really even the ontological argument. But here's the thing, Dinesh: It was funny. And the strange thing is, your stuff is also chock full of logical errors, poor reasoning and deliberately dishonest arguments. I can only assume that you, like me, aren't really serious. The problem is, Dinesh -- and I hate to be the one to break this to you – you’re not funny.
But take heart, friend. Maybe there's an opening at the Half Hour News Hour for you. I'm almost positive that being funny is a not a requirement for employment there.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Never one to pass up the chance to exploit a national tragedy for his own twisted agenda, Dinesh D’Souza’s latest diatribe lambastes atheists for being unable to find meaning in the Virginia Tech shootings. He says atheists simply can’t explain that level of ghastly horror. Well, I’m going to take him up on his challenge by examining a source of awfulness a little closer to home: The douche bag that is Dinesh D’Souza.
Impossible you say, there is no way to find meaning in D’Souza’s contemptible shtick. Damn it, this is an important experiment, just hear me out.
You see, I have a theory that Dinesh’s mind bogglingly repulsive behavior is actually part of a heroic plan to sacrifice his own human decency to prove the existence of God through his version of the ontological argument.
As far as I can tell the argument goes something like this:
Premise 1. I can imagine the most perfectly reprehensible vindictive douche bag there is.
Premise 2. Dinesh D’Souza actually is the most perfectly reprehensible vindictive douche bag that it is possible to imagine.
Premise 3. Only a perfect creator could create such a perfect douche bag.
Premise 4. Dinesh D’Souza exists.
Conclusion: God must therefore exist because of the utter perfection of Dinesh D’Souza’s douche baggery.
Sadly, the ontological argument actually doesn’t prove anything other than the contents of one’s own mind, so the only thing D’Souza ends up proving is that, in his mind, God is as big a douche bag as he is.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Included: Delegation - the only skill you'll ever need
Once you get to be Attorney General, you are the top dog. You needn’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. From now on, all major decisions can be made by your staff. You need not have any knowledge of the decisions they make, the process behind those decisions, nor why there is even a need for the decisions in the first place.
Not Included: Having a Clue
No need to sweat when your Chief of Staff contradicts you under oath, you are far too clever to panic! The firing of the U.S. attorneys was a "plan you never liked" kind of like Dr. Evil's quest for sharks with laser beams on their heads. Don't these imbeciles at the Senate understand the burden of proof for your incompetence is in their hands? Your hands were tied. You were absolutely compelled to execute a "bad plan" from unknown decision makers you do not recall; you're only the Attorney General, it's not like you could just make the decision yourself.
Included: Early On-set Alzheimer's Disease
The lack of any recall faculty is an asset by which you can claim not remember meetings documented by your schedule, articles you wrote, statements you made, press conferences you held, whether or not your shoes are untied, your mother's maiden name, or the very definition of the duties of the Justice Department. The Department that you are apparently leading without your knowledge.
Included: Poof! Magic!
At the Justice Department, decisions are made by a combination of divine intervention and Scooby Doo criminal chicanery. In Gonzo world, purge lists aren’t made by “people.” They simply appear, wholly assembled, out of thin air and are passed down to phantom administrative minions for implementation without anyone knowing why, while Karl Rove runs around in the background, dressed in a pterodactyl outfit, making spooky noises and frantically deleting e-mails. And they woulda gotten away with it too- if it wasn't for you meddling Bloggers!
Included: Non-Verbal Communication with Other Humans
Once you reach Operating Thetan Level: AG, you no longer need to audibly converse with other beings. Gonzales repeatedly expressed "shock and awe" at the revelation that U.S. Attorney Carol Lam felt blindsided by her firing after all independent accounts verified her superior performance as U.S. Attorney representing San Diego.
Sure, Gonzales never spoke directly to her, nor did anyone in the Justice Department mention to her the “immigration” cases that supposedly warranted her dismissal. Gonzo simply used the awesome power of his mind to feel engrams of disapproval at Ms. Lam. Sadly it seems only Sen. Orrin Hatch’s mind was receptive enough to “receive” Mr. Gonzales telepathic powers.
Not Included: Vulcan Mind Meld
Ms. Lam is not the only one immune the great Gonzo’s mental abilities. He has all the answers up there in his noggin but can’t impart that knowledge directly to Senators unless their name rhymes with "snorin". Instead he must use the outdated technology of “words” to communicate. He knows why he did what he did even if he can’t, at this moment, find in his mind where those reasons might be, for actions he doesn’t recall doing. And he would have done things differently, if he did things, since whatever he did he can't recall, but he knows that it wasn't improper, and he'd still like to get to the bottom of that thing he didn't do. “Words” are woefully inadequate to make sense of that. If only Spock were here.
Not Included: The Unyielding Support of "The Decider"
While you frantically gasp for air during your testimony to the mean busybodies of the Senate, the Decider crawled out of his bubble long enough to express his unwavering support. That's a Heckuva Kiss of Death. Will 'Berto keep his job? Well, as the great Rummsfeld once said "there are known unknowns that are unknowable knowns." Like the Donald before you, you are the only man for the job. Until you’re not. Loyalty is a one way street Fredo. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Like everyone I was stunned and horrified by the shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday. My deepest sympathies go out to all the families. I do have some strong feelings on many of the issues involved, and I will try to post once we know more about what happened and I've had time to collect my thoughts. However, Juan Cole made an excellent point on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer last night that urgently needs repeating. We as a nation are rightly sickened by the shocking, brutal, and pointless deaths to a degree where most us probably can't even really get our head around the scope of the tragedy.
But as the professor rightly pointed out, horror on this scale happens everyday in
Sunday, April 15, 2007
So despite my heckling of them last week, the BYU students protesting Dick Cheney may well have produced a watershed moment. When the most authoritarian presidency in history can no longer count on the most authoritarian community in the nation for unconditional support, the jig may well and truly be up. After all, if the Mormons are starting to doubt you, you must have done some serious bullshitting.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
But saying the F-word? That's were the good folks at BYU draw the line.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
There has always been something disturbing to me about Easter. Christmas always seemed like the more harmless cousin. Christmas is about a Baby (a magic baby surrounded by smelly farm animals) and young children intuitively understand babies and birthdays. Celebrating a baby's birthday is something they love and it doesn't take much for them to make the intellectual leap to "sharing" gifts with others on a special day. Easter as a Holiday is complicated by the whole Jesus Crucifixion, dying for our sins, rising from the dead culminating with his "resurection" up into the clouds and getting to live for fucking ever. Immortality.
Explaining how Santa and his reindeer fly, live at the North Pole, and manage to travel across the world in one night is nothing compared to trying to explain immortality to a 5 year old. Coward that I am, I contemplated sinking to the depths of actually reading my child the Easter story but gave up after glancing through some prominently displayed illustrated "Children's Bibles" in Barnes and Noble where every image of Jesus made him look an aging Soap star with a "Buddy Christ" grin.
As I tried to imagine myself reading the Easter story out loud to my child, I couldn't get past how ridiculous the whole thing sounded. Reading a bed time story about flying unicorns, slaying dragons or swimming with mermaids is more palpable to me because those fantasy creatures and fantastical scenarios are not worshipped or regarded as "real" by 90% of the American public. However, I'm also not comfortable letting major Holidays pass without some sort of activity for my child, and I've searched for secular gatherings that give my kid a sense of wonder without the heavy gravy of Christian guilt.
The Unitarians are the closet thing I can find that meet my criteria, because they appear to be Atheists with some minimal organizational skills. So, twice a year I make an appearance at my local Unitarian church to try to provide my child with some resemblance of the enchanting childhood rituals that I actually enjoyed as a child myself.
Last year I took my 4 year old to a the Unitarian children's Sunday school where we were treated to a stage play with teen actors titled: "The Inevitability of Mortality" - for kindergarteners. A combination of "Waiting for Godot," "The Seventh Seal,"
and "Alice in Wonderland" on acid, the play revolved around a lost circus Bear being stalked by the Grim Reaper. Seriously.
The Bear tries to avoid Death, but no matter what he does or where he goes Death finds him. Finally the Bear has to face the music realizes he has to die, and finds a successor in a young bear cub to whom he passes on his circus unicyle.
(I'm not kidding).
When the curtain dropped and the horrified adults turned to each other too stuned to clap, the sound of crying children filled the foyer. My daughter sobbed and buried her head in my lap and cryptically kept asking me "Where did the Bear go? Mommy what just happened?"
What the hell just happened indeed. I understand now why some ancient parents invented stories about heaven and angels, golden harps, and living forever in paradise. See what happens when you try to level with toddlers about Death!
So, this past Sunday was the Unitarian's annual "Easter Egg Hunt" for children 3-7 years old. Despite our experience with what my daughter dubbed the "scary play" we persisted and decided to show up again for Easter. Last year, the Unitartian children's program director decided that the kids should participate in a food drive for the homeless shelter with no overt symbols of anything Pagen, Christian, or commercial sugar products.
After being greeted with organic coffee (for Mommy) and vegan muffins the children were encouraged to scamper about the church grounds holding recycled brown paper bags hunting for cans of food instead of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. The Program Director seemed genuinely hurt and perplexed as to why the children were not enthusiastic about searching the bushes for cans of Del Monte string beans. Needless to say my child thought the activity was "not very fun."
And she's right. Hyper contrived secular P.C. bullshit is "not very fun". Not for toddlers, and often not for adults.
Something was lost in the translation attempt, despite the program director's best intentions. It wasn't magical.
Childhood should have a little bit of magic. Children will find out the world is a scary shitty place soon enough -so why rush it?
There are precious few years of your life where you are innocent enough to believe in a large rabbitt laying edible luminesent eggs in brightly wrapped baskets. Later on in this culture you'll be expected to believe that the world was created 6,000 years ago while Adam and Eve rode Dinosaurs through the Garden of Eden - so really it's just a matter of picking which ridiculous poison you are most comfortable with, and want your own child exposed to early on in the hope that they will then develop some sort of immunity.
Wary of our previous Unitarian Easter experience we showed up on Sunday anxious about what we would find this year.
To my surprise, the new children's program director coordinated an actual Easter Egg Hunt - complete with colored easter eggs, decorated baskets, candy, competition, and prizes. And the response was overwhelming - the kids went nuts!
They were thrilled that even their skeptical/ hippie/progressive/vegan/ tattoed parents had let their guard down, just long enough to let them indulge in tradition simply for the fun of it.
" Mommy, I liked church today - can we do it again?" my daughter asked as we left the church with her hoard of Easter eggs and candy. "Of course we can, honey." Death may be stalking us, but damn it he's not going to take away our chocolate bunnies.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
I feel the need to respond to Ryan's comments because one of the purposes of this site is to de-mystify atheism or at least my own personal brand of atheism which is pretty far removed from Dawkin's. So let’s take them in order
Myth #1. Atheists “know" there is no God.
This is the most common mistake people make about atheists. Because they seemingly claim to know the unknowable, atheists are easily characterized as arrogant and condescending. The problem is that assumes a premise (knowledge of a negative) and a burden (proving a negative) atheist don’t have. People confuse the positive belief in a negative claim (I know that there isn't something) with the lack of belief in a positive claim (I do not believe something). This may seem like splitting hairs but the difference is very important. For example, say I buy a lottery ticket. I don’t know that I won’t win the lottery. But at the same time, it’s perfectly rational not to believe that I will win the lottery. Being an atheist doesn't mean I know that God doesn't exist. It's a big universe and I'd have to be God himself to know that he's not hiding around there somewhere. It just means to me there is a lack of evidence to prove the claim "there is a God".
Myth #2. If you can’t know God doesn’t exist, doesn’t that make you an agnostic not an atheist?
It's often claimed that agnosticism is the only rational position because the existence of God cannot be known one way or another, and therefore one has no choice but to suspend a decision. I'm going to have to call bullshit on that one. If that's true you'd have to be an agnostic about far more than God. After all, no one can "know" for certain that Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Atlantis don't exist. It is impossible to prove that there isn't a 1978 Dodge Dart orbiting Saturn. No matter how wildly implausible a proposition was, you'd have to give it equal weight as long as it couldn't be disproved. If you were truly agnostic you would lead a pretty interesting life.
Atheism really isn't that complex a philosophy: If you claim something exists, let's see your proof; if your proof isn't very convincing, than I probably won't believe your claim. Sounds nutty I know, but it's worked pretty well for me so far. The mistake that people continually make is to assume it is the burden of the skeptic to prove a negative claim, and if they fail to meet that burden then they have “lost” the augment and we are justified in believing the claim or at least in suspending judgment. This is actually a very dangerous way of thinking.
Let us take the example of the missing WMDs. Bush’s defenders claim he didn't lie when said he stated Iraq had WMDs because he didn’t know that there weren't any WMDs. But of course he did lie because he said there were WMDs when in actuality he didn't know whether there were WMDs one way or the other. In their never ending quest not to appear “biased” the U.S. media got trapped into being agnostic about the WMDs (we don't know he doesn't have them) and fell for the administration's line that it was therefore the burden of Saddam Hussein to prove he did not have WMDs. It was a beautifully ridiculous argument that helped make war inevitable. After all, Saddam could have turned his whole country inside out and that still wouldn't prove he had no WMDs. He could always be accused of hiding them in some new unknown location. In fact, it was the Bush Administration that was making a positive claim (Iraq has WMDs), one that they had the burden to prove, and the proof they had was easily exposed as utter bullshit by anyone willing to do a little digging. If the
Myth # 3: Atheists reject spirituality.
Far from eliminating mystery and uncertainty from life, atheism treats mysteries with the respect they deserve. Life is full of the unknowable and unexplainable. But rather than try to force fit a solution that doesn’t make sense to me, I simply acknowledge them for what they are; things that I don’t know and can’t explain. Rather than giving you all the answers, atheism enlightens you to exactly how much you don’t know. The hardest part of atheism is embracing a level of ignorance that at times can be terrifyingly overwhelming. However, in the words of Socrates at least you know that you don’t know much of anything, and that is a very valuable form of knowledge.
Myth #4: All atheists are materialists
People often assume that if you are an atheist, then you must also be materialist (you are nothing other than the biological functions of your brain). Certainly there are plenty of atheists who do believe exactly that, but not all. I don’t believe in a literal soul, but I absolutely believe that human consciousness transcends biology and physics. I believe in the inexplicability of love, joy, passion, grief, and heartbreak. While they may be biological in origin they are also far more than simply the sum of their physical causes: they are the most existentially real experiences we have, and are what make human beings the weird little evolutionary quirk that we are. However my belief in that transcendence maybe not completely justified from a logical or scientific perspective. In fact it might even be characterized as an act of faith. This leads directly into my next point.
Myth #5: Atheists think everyone else should be an atheist.
Remember all I claimed was that to me there is a lack of evidence to prove the positive claim "there is a God." Some people may have experiences vastly different than mine. Maybe prayer, or meditation, or personal experience leads them to conclude there is a God when they examine all the evidence. I’m fine with that. My two favorite thinkers in the world, people far smarter me and whose influence on me is enormous, were both passionate believers. Atheism is my answer to that question. It’s not the answer for everyone and I personally have no desire to convince anyone else that their belief system is wrong. I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words and as long as you’re a good person I could care less what your personal beliefs are.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
I'm going to let you in on a secret: most people are boring. I do not mean this as an insult. In fact, it is a complement. Our boringness is something that we all share, something to unite us, and something to make us proud. Still, who wants to celebrate boringness even it does bring us together? Isn't discussing tedium itself tedious? God, you people are impatient. Our boringness is important. It is the key to transformative social change. Seriously. Let me explain.
The easiest way to understand the virtues of boringness is to first examine the pitfalls of non-boringness. The most powerful example of the dangers of over stimulation is that most sinister of ridiculous bugaboos: "The Gay Lifestyle". The religious right is so fond of this phrase, you almost wonder if they are part of a secret viral marketing campaign for "thegaylifestyle.com".
As silly as the phrase is, its manipulation and purpose are quite serious. The message of “the gay lifestyle" is that it is first and foremost, not your lifestyle and the further from yours the better. The James Dobsons of the world use "the gay lifestyle" to create the impression that the average day in the life of a homosexual consists of nothing other than constant cocaine fueled sex orgies aboard Elton John's yacht, filmed by a leather clad Hillary Clinton, stopping only when everyone gets tired of performing abortions and commits suicide.
Of course the purpose of such language is to portray homosexuality as perverse, foreign, and "other". But another purpose is to portray it as exciting, glamorous, and interesting, especially as compared to James Dobson. The message is not only that these people are morally wrong, but that their lives are more stimulating than yours is, and that discrimination against them is a good way to even the score.
This combination of fear and envy is most potent weapon in the gay baiting arsenal, which is why they are constantly hammering away with it.
The terrible secret that Pat Robertson is desperate to keep from his flock is that most gay people are in fact, pretty boring. Many have never even met Elton John. For most gay people, their “lifestyle” consists of working hard, paying the bills, trying to find or maintain loving relations, and attempting to find meaning and community where they can. The same shit the rest of us struggle with every day.
My theory is that the strides in acceptance of homosexuality have happened in large part because the boring gay masses have increasingly begun to live their lives openly and proudly. Of course living openly and honestly is not easy. In addition to facing discrimination and violence, gays often risk being disowned by their entire families after coming out. It often requires courage and very real sacrifice to live boringly, and this is why I want to introduce the concept of “Radical Boringness.” “Radical Boringness” means living the hum drum every life in a way that's open, honest, and dignified. It means being willing to fight for your right to simply be treated the same as any other schmoe.
As controversial as it has been, the fight for gay marriage is perfectly in tune with radical boringness. In fact the biggest problem is that those fighting for equality haven’t realized they are sitting on an absolute gold mine of dull. This is marriage we’re talking about people, how exciting can it possibly be? My advice to gay marriage advocates? Turn up the tedious. Emphasize the drab. Explain that you are fighting for the joy that is filing a joint tax return, the thrill of arguing over whose turn it is do the dishes, the non-stop party that is legally enshrined monogamy. Not to mention the most gloriously mind numbing aspect of gay marriage: gay divorce! What could be more tiresome that having to hire a lawyer if your relationship goes sour? Once people realize how profoundly uninteresting your demands really are, how can they help but be swayed to your side?
Still, one does wonder if gay rights are a uniquely boring phenomena or can “Radical Boringness” be successfully applied to other minorities? Well, I'm not gay, but I am an atheist and I think atheists could learn a lot from the boring aspects of the gay rights movement. Atheists are kind of a weird minority. We don't stand out from the crowd in any way. We don't have any real leaders or spokesmen. We haven't suffered any real oppression. I’m pretty sure we’re allowed to marry and nobody really believes atheism is a disorder anymore. Yet we still have still haven’t managed to get a single unbeliever elected to Congress (we thought we may have had one last week but he turned out to be a Unitarian). Polls show we are by far the most distrusted group in the nation and atheists are one of the few remaining minorities that it is still acceptable in polite society to openly mock and dismiss.
Atheism has been in the news lately mostly due to the recent books by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Consequentially, atheism is gaining a notoriety that is far from boring. Dawkins in particular has been getting attention mostly because of his antagonistic and condescending attitude toward people who are not atheists. He has been enough of an arrogant prick, that he raised the ire of the boys over at "
What people like Dawkins fail to grasp is that most people don't really warm up to you when you are constantly belittling the things they hold most dear, no matter how logical and compelling your argument maybe. I've argued with far too many believers in my life to conclude attempting conversion is anything other than spectacularly pointless. Dawkins' attempt to seize the mantle of atheist leadership has hopefully failed (Once your cartoon alias has slept with Mr./Ms. Garrison your credibility is pretty much shot). Atheists need to ask themselves “What now?” We've got some attention so what should we do with it? My answer: we should be boring, Radically Boring.
I’m not advocating atheists give up any traditional causes but we need to do a much better job of explaining what we’re fighting for and why. When atheist battle to fight prayer in school, it’s not because we want to eliminate God from public life or exterminate religion; it’s because we want to be treated like any other religious group. Would Christians accept a public school that required their children to pray toward
Thursday, March 29, 2007
I watched Presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth publicly announce the recurrence of her metastasized Breast Cancer. Like every other cancer survivor, I watched the news with trepidation, and a reminder of how misleading the term “cancer survivor” can be.
I became a statistic myself on August 11, 2000 when at the ripe old age of 27 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Approximately 0.03% of breast cancer cases occur before the age of 30. I literally had a greater chance of being struck by lightning. But that's where my personal similarities with Ms. Edwards and her situation end.
My cancer was caught at the earliest stage possible (Stage 0); the best possible prognosis awaited me. My cancer had not spread anywhere, I had no lymph node involvement and my life was never really in danger. That is a far cry from trying to live comfortably with metastasis disease, which will eventually kill you.
The Edwards’ announcement and their subsequent controversial treatment by Katie Couric during an interview for 60 minutes have been chronicled in the press elsewhere, but these events of last week neatly dove tailed with the meeting of my all female book club, where the discussion turned to “The Secret” of surviving cancer.
"The Secret" a best selling book and DVD created by Australian documentary producer and "spiritual entrepreneur" Rhonda Bryne has sold 1.5 million DVD's and maintains its #1 slot on the New York Times Bestselling “Advice and How to Books” list for the past nine weeks. Of course it didn’t take long for Orpah to get involved promoting the book and devoting two episodes to its “power.”
The members of this women’s Book Club that I occasionally attend are mostly white women in their 30's and 40's. They are the dream demographic for this kind of New Age drivel. They read the book (and I attended a screening of the DVD). Many attendees bought the message of this book, hook, line, and sinker. They were eager to absorb the instructions for improving their lives, ready to concentrate on “training” their daily thoughts on only positive events so they could start “attracting” personal health and wealth. One woman featured prominently in “The Secret” DVD claims that her breast cancer was cured within three months based on her “positive thinking” alone. Many others featured in the book and DVD attested to their chronic health problems disappearing or improving from the power of applying The Secret.
This is the kind of message that concerns me. Wishing for wealth, a new car, a larger house, or a new handbag may be superficial or materialistic (and many have complained that “The Secret” is precisely that), but to honestly believe that an illness or chronic disease can be cured from positive thinking alone, or worse - that anyone currently suffering from or diagnosed with a health ailment “just didn’t think positively enough” is downright dangerous. I was shocked at how easily some of my fellow book club members were willing to assign judgement to others based on the principles expoused in The Secret. A common theme reiterated that those who experience problems personally, physically, emotionally or financially are responsible for their difficulties by not adequately embracing or "attracting" positive energy.
The philosophy behind the Secret is disturbingly close to endorsing a "Blame the Victim" mentality. It's slick packaging is a gimmick to sell the public false assurance that as long as you "Believe" you will not only achieve your desires, but you can be spared life's most difficult challenges. It seems to dismiss people who are “unlucky” enough to face misfortune, just when they need the most support.
For example, according to The Secret, “Food doesn’t cause you to gain weight unless you think it can.” So as long as you believe that food cannot make you fat you can eat whatever you want and you won’t gain weight. If this sounds similar to the idea of “create your own reality” --it is.
The next conclusion of this is if you are trying to lose weight, you must not let any negative thought or image enter your head. You should even avoid thinking of or associating with over-weight people because the mere image of a “fat” person will distract your positive thoughts and derail your goal.
So, by that logic John Edwards should avoid his wife entirely least the negative fact that she has terminal cancer “disrupt his ability to channel positive thoughts and attract positive energy” on winning the White House.
Maybe Newt Gingrich was practicing the philosophy of the Secret when he served his cancer-stricken wife with divorce papers in the hospital. Maybe he didn’t want her to interrupt his “positive thoughts” about destroying our government through the Contract with America.
Ms. Edwards is Stage 4 metastasized cancer. There is no Stage 5. Does the fact that it reoccurred so aggressively mean she did not think positively enough? Does she not want to live strongly enough? Are her young children not generating sufficiently positive thoughts of their mother living to see them grow up? Or is she simply unlucky?
Naturally, "The Secret" is wildly popular in the U.S. Americans more than their European counterparts are much more likely to believe in the power of “positive” thinking or “prayer” to solve health problems. Americans are more vulnerable to the snake oil promotion of generating their own wealth and personal circumstances just by magical thinking. It also re-enforces American navel gazing by demanding that our attention be focused exclusively inward at our own desires in order to “attract” our deserved station in life. Most devastatingly "The Secret" simply re-enforces American societal inequities as always being exclusively within the individual's control. Those who do not experience the American dream or share a piece of the prosperity pie simply didn't try hard enough, and therefore deserve their problems.
The current popularity of the Secret is a relevant product of our time. It endorses a philosophy that the Bush administration in particular, seems to have been practicing all along. President Bush has long refused to entertain anything but “positive” thoughts about Iraq, blaming the media for its focus on “only covering negative” things. His underlings and staff are instructed not to give the President any bad news, and yet despite all this intense magic pixie dust “focusing” the reality of Iraq could hardly be worse. Now that White House Press Secretary Tony Snow revealed that his colon cancer has also re-occurred – did he briefly fall off the administration’s rosy “Secret” bandwagon and that explains this unfortunate development in his life?
A positive attitude is a valuable coping method; it can help someone dealing with adversity. But everyone at some point in their life will face adversity in various forms regardless of the amount of positive thinking they generate. A positive attitude alone or only envisioning your current desires cannot guarantee results nor does it explain the misfortune of others.
Many brave souls have faced tragedy in their personal lives with dignity, bravery and emulated a positive attitude and still they succumbed to a tragic event. Occasionally each of us will achieve a long held goal, or narrowly escape a bad situation, or see improvement in our health that no one thought possible. Personally, I had the misfortune of being diagnosed with cancer at a young age, and also reaped the good fortune to have survived it (so far). I consider myself lucky at the moment - nothing more, and nothing less. But bad things happen to good people that cannot be explained, they always have – and they always will.
That is the real Secret of life.