left biblioblography: July 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Glimpse Into The Fear Of Times Past – Odd, How The Language Rarely Changes…

Cross posted @ Atheist Oasis355px-Unholy_three

I was reading through the Wikipedia entry for McCarthyism – and as usual, the jaw drops, the eyebrows arch in disbelief, and once again the exclamation “Those people are CRAZY!” is involuntarily wrung from my mouth.

McCarthyism is the political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term specifically describes activities associated with the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by heightened fears of communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.

I know, we’re all familiar with the term. But lest we forget..

During the post–World War II era of McCarthyism, many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned, laws that would be declared unconstitutional, dismissals for reasons later declared illegal or actionable, or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.

Fat lot of good it did the victims, ex post facto. Here’s a scarier bit:

McCarthyism was supported by a variety of groups, including the American Legion and various other anti-communist organizations. One core element of support was a variety of militantly anti-communist women's groups such as the American Public Relations Forum and the Minute Women of the U.S.A.. These organized tens of thousands of housewives into study groups, letter-writing networks, and patriotic clubs that coordinated efforts to identify and eradicate what they saw as subversion.

I guess stupidity is gender-free, no? It gets worse:

Although far-right radicals were the bedrock of support for McCarthyism, they were not alone. A broad "coalition of the aggrieved" found McCarthyism attractive, or at least politically useful. Common themes uniting the coalition were opposition to internationalism, particularly the United Nations; opposition to social welfare provisions, particularly the various programs established by the New Deal; and opposition to efforts to reduce inequalities in the social structure of the United States.

A case of the have’s fussing over the have-not’s receiving anything. Here’s the topper:

One focus of popular McCarthyism concerned the provision of public health services, particularly vaccination, mental health care services and fluoridation, all of which were deemed by some to be communist plots to poison or brainwash the American people. Oftentimes, the anti-internationalist aspect of McCarthyist literature took on an anti-Jewish tone. (See flier at right: Rabbi Spitz in the American Hebrew, March 1, 1946: "American Jews must come to grips with our contemporary anti-Semites; we must fill our insane asylums with anti-Semitic lunatics.") Such viewpoints led to major collisions between McCarthyite radicals and supporters of public health programs, most notably in the case of the Alaska Mental Health Bill controversy of 1956.

The vaccination and public health thing is eerily familiar, no? And Anti-Semitism? Why is this no surprise? And an example of how gullible the America public is:

In addition, as Richard Rovere points out, many ordinary Americans became convinced that there must be "no smoke without fire" and lent their support to McCarthyism. In January 1954, a Gallup poll found that 50% of the American public supported McCarthy, while 29% had an unfavorable opinion of the senator. Earl Warren, the Chief Justice of the United States, commented that if the United States Bill of Rights had been put to a vote it probably would have been defeated.

While I was reading this entry, it struck me that the Tea Baggers (errr, sorry, Tea Partiers) use almost precisely the same language, except that they’ve substituted ‘socialist’ for ‘communist’.

While these nutters aren’t quite in power, they may well be soon. And their fan base isn’t very well behaved, either:

On March 21, 2010, Springboro Tea Party founder Sonny Thomas posted racist slurs against Hispanics on the group's Twitter webpage, including one post that said, "Illegals everywhere today! So many spics makes me feel like a speck. Grrr. Wheres my gun!?". The posts triggered cancellations by several local and statewide political candidates scheduled to speak at a Springboro Tea Party rally on April 17. Other Tea Party officials say the posts were "classless" and way out of line, but say they don't represent the Tea Party movement as a whole.

Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams referred to Allah as a "Monkey God". Williams' comments elicited strong rebukes from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NY State Senators and Muslim leaders. In a subsequent blog posting, Williams wrote, “I owe an apology to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God. Hanuman is worshiped as a symbol of perseverance, strength, and devotion ... Those are hardly the traits of whatever the Hell (literally) it is that terrorists worship.” When questioned by The Washington Post about his comments about Islam and Obama, Williams has claimed the controversy has "been fantastic for the movement."

(These religious sorts do dance spastically, don’t they?)

This is my favorite, inasmuch as it not only readily illustrates the mindset of this party, but the intelligence level as well.

On March 22, 2010, a Lynchburg, Virginia Tea Party activist, attempting to post the home address of Congressman Tom Perriello on his blog, incorrectly posted the address of Perriello’s brother, who also lives in Virginia, and encouraged readers to "drop by" to express their anger against Rep. Perriello’s vote in favor of the health care bill. The following day, a severed gas line was discovered in Perriello's brother's yard which connected to a propane grill on the home’s screened-in porch. Local police and FBI investigators determined that it was intentionally cut as a deliberate act of vandalism. The website issued a response saying the Tea Party member's action of posting the address "was not requested, sanctioned or endorsed" by the group.

And of course, this classic gem:

On July 14, 2010, a Tea Party group in Iowa removed a billboard comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin after receiving sharp criticism from other tea party leaders. North Iowa tea party co-founder Bob Johnson admits the sign was wrong and offensive, and misrepresents the intentions of the Tea Party group.

There will (if there haven’t been any yet…I’ve not paid that close attention) be outcries that these represent the bad outside fringe of the group. I’m willing to bet that they don’t – they represent the majority.

Till the next post, then.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesday Funny – The Simpsons

And of course, an all time classic, Homer Simpson evolves:



Saturday, July 24, 2010

The First Atheist In Western Literature – And The Intimations Thereof…

Cross posted @ The Atheist Oasis (formerly known as God Is 4 Suckers!)


LUCIUS: “Who should I swear by? thou believest no god:that granted, how canst thou believe an oath?

AARON: What if I do not? as, indeed, I do not; yet, for I know thou art religious And hast a thing within thee called conscience, With twenty popish tricks and ceremonies, which I have seen thee careful to observe, therefore I urge thy oath; for that I know an idiot holds his bauble for a god and keeps the oath which by that god he swears, to that I'll urge him: therefore thou shalt vow by that same god, what god soe'er it be, that thou adorest and hast in reverence, to save my boy, to nourish and bring him up; or else I will discover nought to thee.

LUCIUS: “Even by my god I swear to thee I will.

This is a bit of literature most folks aren’t familiar with: this dialogue harks from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, truly one of his bloodiest works. Aaron is a godless Moor, and a villain to put Richard The Third to shame. However, there are no recurring ‘godless’ characters in any of old Billy’s later works – it seems this is the only fellow.

It seems this is a recurring theme, up until lately. The word ‘atheism’ used to mean ‘godless and amoral’, now it just means ‘godless’, because of course we can be (and are) moral beings. But there are those (many of them) who contend we cannot have any such moral compass, because we require a belief in some sort of ‘divine’ creature who’ll eventually mete out justice somewhere down the road. The short version is that most people are just plain lazy, and would rather avoid confrontation of any sort, so they leave it to the sky daddy of choice.

The other issue is…fear. A large majority equate respect with fear. This stems directly from our pack mentality – it was always the head of the pack that would bully or battle others into submission. This may not be true of many families in the animal kingdom, but it’s a common enough occurrence just looking at our species history, it stands out like a ptarmigan in full mating plumage. It is only recently that we are able to re-condition ourselves to show respect to those that we are unafraid of.

And – well I’ll be dashed! – there is of course, consciousness, and the byproduct of compassion that stems from it, that mysterious empathy circuit that releases us from our narcissism long enough to sympathize and evaluate another’s pain, grief, suffering.

The fact is, that morality isn’t an imaginary syringe administered via some supernatural entity as a vaccination against ‘sin’ (the non-results are staggering, actually). Morality is based on biology not ideology.

Those are the sum of my thoughts for this week.

Till the next post then.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Funny – Kids In The Hall

In this skit, Bruce McCulloch plays the truly bizarre little kid Gavin, dealing with some DTD evangelists:



Saturday, July 17, 2010

Banning The Burka – Big Brother Micromanaging, Or A Common Sense Precaution?

Cross posted @ burkini God Is 4 Suckers!

I’ve made it abundantly clear in the past that of the Big Three of Abraham, Islam is perhaps the most backwards and barbaric of them. True, there was once upon a time when the Muslims had a ‘Golden Age’ of sorts, where the Middle East was an oasis of culture in the Middle Ages, but repetitive repercussions echoed in the headlines and history over the past few centuries have shown that the religion in question is as backwards as its predecessors. Perhaps more so now than ever before. Such is the result of treating religious beliefs with kid gloves.

In Europe, there are varying degrees dealing with Mohammed’s madness:

France is pushing ahead with plans to introduce a law banning women from wearing full-face Islamic veils in all public places.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet has approved a bill making it illegal to wear in public clothes designed to hide the face, and the measure is now awaiting a vote in parliament.

Parliament has already passed a non-binding resolution condemning the full Islamic face veil as "an affront to the nation's values of dignity and equality".

Mr Sarkozy has said veils oppress women and are "not welcome" in France.

A French parliamentary committee earlier recommended a partial ban inside public buildings - such as hospitals and schools - and on public transport.

The State Council - France's highest administrative body - warned that such a law might be unconstitutional and violate European human rights laws.

However, a ban in public places such as schools, hospitals and law courts could be justified for security reasons, to combat fraud and to meet the needs of some public services, it added.

A ban on Muslim headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious symbols at state schools was introduced in 2004, and received overwhelming political and public support in a country where the separation of state and religion is enshrined in law.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of French people support a full ban.

Now, if we were talking about a law that forbids wearing specific articles such as say a bomber jacket (because it might make the wearer seem dangerous – don’t laugh, I used to have one, and was told as much), or a hat from Beach Blanket Babylon (for something outside of a copyright/trademark infringement), or carrying a parasol of a particular color, well, that would smack of Orwellian overtones, and I’d be on my cyber-stump trumpeting away about the invidious efforts of governments trying to conformitize us (yes, there’s no such word, spare me please, I’m playing). However, when we’re speaking of a religion that has a proven track record of persuading people to strap bombs onto themselves (and other family members!), that ‘martyrs’ people for some reified value that only has value in the eyes of the converted, that slaughters their womenfolk for no better reason than some archaic belief system that’s long since been proven valueless, then out it goes  I say. I’m all for diversity in culture, I’m  a raving xenophile (within reason of course), I enjoy multicultural diversity as much as the next liberal, but a custom that can shield a potential suicide bomber has got to go.

Belgium has smartened up quite a bit:

The lower house of Belgium's parliament has passed a bill to ban clothing that hides a person's identity in public places such as parks, buildings and on the street.

The bill still needs approval in the Senate.

Although the legislation does not specifically refer to full-face Islamic veils, it would outlaw the use of garments such as the niqab and the burka.

The bill enjoys cross-party support and is expected to be passed, which would make Belgium the first country in Europe to ban the wearing of such Islamic garments.

Currently, the burka is banned in several districts under old local laws originally designed to stop people masking their faces completely at carnival time.

In Antwerp, for example, police can now reprimand, or even imprison, offenders. They say the regulation is all about public safety.

Spain is dancing around a bit with the concept, and are including other forms of headwear:

Though there are no plans for a national ban in Spain, the city of Barcelona has announced a ban on full Islamic face-veils in some public spaces such as municipal offices, public markets and libraries.

At least two smaller towns in Catalonia, the north-eastern region that includes Barcelona, have also imposed bans.

Barcelona's city council said the ban there targeted any head-wear that impeded identification, including motorbike helmets and balaclavas, rather than religious belief.

It resisted calls from the conservative Popular Party (PP) to extend the ban to all public spaces, including the street.

Britain is of course somewhat divided on the issue:

There is no ban on Islamic dress in the UK, but schools are allowed to forge their own dress code after a 2007 directive which followed several high-profile court cases.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said in January 2010 it was "not British" to tell people what to wear in the street after the UK Independence Party called for all face-covering Muslim veils to be banned.

Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who leads UKIP's 13 MEPs in Brussels, said the veils were a symbol of an "increasingly divided Britain", that they "oppressed" women, and were a potential security threat.

UKIP is the first British party to call for a total ban, after the anti-immigration British National Party had already called called for the veil to be banned in Britain's schools.

Surprisingly enough, the Netherlands is less than decisive:

In 2006, the Dutch government considered but abandoned plans to impose a ban on all forms of coverings that obscured the face - from burkas to crash helmets with visors - in public places, saying they disturbed public order and safety. Lawyers said the move would likely be unconstitutional and critics said it would violate civil rights.

The government suggested it would instead seek a ban on face-covering veils in schools and state departments, but no legislation has yet been passed.

Around 5% of the Netherlands' 16 million residents are Muslims, but only around 300 are thought to wear the burka.

Of course, the battle rages on in Turkey:

For more than 85 years Turks have lived in a secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who rejected headscarves as backward-looking in his campaign to secularise Turkish society.

Scarves are banned in civic spaces and official buildings, but the issue is deeply divisive for the country's predominantly Muslim population, as two-thirds of all Turkish women - including the wives and daughters of the prime minister and president - cover their heads.

In 2008, Turkey's constitution was amended to ease a strict ban at universities, allowing headscarves that were tied loosely under the chin. Headscarves covering the neck and all-enveloping veils were still banned.

The governing party, with its roots in Islam, said the ban meant many girls were being denied an education. But the secular establishment said easing it would be a first step to allowing Islam into public life.

The picture in this post is of the notorious ‘Burkini’- because of course the sumptuous curves of a female might drive a man wild, cause him to commit all sorts of heinous acts, which under more severe Sharia law, would make the woman culpable, not the man. I don’t even need to Google that, or provide a link. It’s common knowledge for anyone with even the cursory knowledge of this nonsense.

That anyone could treat another human being in such a manner is appalling. That a woman is treated as such brings my good Irish upbringing into a frothy boil. Without women, there’d be no species, no humanity. The mind boggles.

Women have rights. You crazy assholes don’t like it? Move back into caves.

I say nix the niqab.

There’s my nickel’s worth.

Till the next post then.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wednesday Funny – The Tick!

Here’s something to add to your DVD collection – The Tick! It’s live action, fine comedic cast, and it didn’t last long enough on the airwaves for my taste.

Favorite lines - “Good Lord man – retain that anus!” and “Hah? Huh? Wrong skull!”



Saturday, July 10, 2010

Welcome To America, Where The Woo Runs Deep…Even Unto The Military

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!

It is no secret to the informed, that even the US Armed Forces, those stoic warriors of the crew cut, polished shoes and bounce-a-quarter-off-the-made-bed are privy to superstition just as much as the rest of the populace.

Recently, I watched the very funny The Men Who Stare At Goats. The movie touts itself as being ‘based on a true story’. It was quite entertaining, but I’m exceedingly wary of movies that claim this – I’ve seen far too many of these fabrications to take these proclamations seriously. 

Yes, it is loosely based on the book of the same title. The film is prefaced with "More of this is true than you would probably believe."

A few minutes on the Internet, however, brings up some startling information:

The First Earth Battalion was the name proposed by Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon, a U.S. soldier who had served in Vietnam, for his idea of a new military to be organized along New Age lines.

I’ve a deep and abiding dislike of ‘New Age’ philosophies – far too many of the modalities are reminiscent of stoner cosmology, and it tends to disdain empirical scientific validation.

When you read the components of this…woo stew is the best simile I can whip up at a moment’s notice.


LTC Channon believes the Army can be the principal moral and ethical basis on which politics can harmonize in the name of the Earth. Since "Earthkind" has grown from pack to village, to tribe, to territory, and then to nation, LTC Channon envisions going from nation to planet next, and thereby declares the First Earth Battalion's primary allegiance to the planet. Making the planet whole requires the ethical use of force based on the collective conscience. In his operations field manual titled Evolutionary Tactics, LTC Channon lists some of the important missions of the Earth Battalion as:

  • Urban pioneers
  • Counter hostage force
  • Disaster rescue
  • Eco pioneers
  • Animal rescue

The First Earth Battalion will organize itself informally: uniforms without uniformity, structure without status, and unity powered by diversity, since its members will be multicultural, with each race contributing to "rainbow power." As a guiding principle, members of the First Earth Battalion seek nondestructive methods of conflict resolution because their first loyalty is to the planet.

Even I have to admit that sounds pretty cool.

The Warrior Monk Ethos

Service members of the First Earth Battalion would practice meditation, yogic cat stretches and primal screams to attain battle-readiness, and use tui na or shiatsu as battlefield first aid. First Earth Battalion trainees would learn to fast for a week drinking only juice and then eat only nuts and grains for a month. They would be able to: fall in love with everyone, realize the different paths of spirit, perceive the auras of living organisms, attain the power to pass through objects such as walls (phasing), bend metal by using the power of the mind (i.e. psychokinesis), walk on fire, operate based on spirit communications (e.g. mediumship), become a peacemaker, actually change a violent pattern in the world (e.g. the Maharishi Effect), organize a tree plant with kids, calculate faster than a computer, control their heart rate—including making it stop—with no ill effects, intuit information from the past (retrocognition) or future (precognition), have out-of-body experiences, live off nature for twenty days, be 90%+ a vegetarian, and be able to intuit other people's thoughts and feelings via telepathy LTC Channon coined the term "warrior monk" for these new service members of the First Earth Battalion, which is anyone who has the presence, service and dedication of a monk and the absolute skill and precision of a warrior. In “The Warrior Monk’s Vision,” Channon imagines an Army made up of awakened warriors. Channon’s ideal warrior monk would be proficient at every level of force. The warrior monk will learn different self-defense systems of martial arts (such as taiji, aikido, etc.), which are based on the notion of using the force of their attackers against themselves. To alleviate negative stressors and promote healing in self and others, the warrior monk will employ various affirmation, relaxation and visualization techniques, as well as a number of methods like yoga  qigong and reiki  to help strengthen and improve the mind/body connection with spirit.

This is exactly what I mean by ‘stew’. Some Eastern modalities are quite effective (e.g., yoga, taiji, aikido, and qiqong) while other items listed are complete junk (e.g., psychokinesis mediumship, retrocognition, precognition, and reiki). It illustrates quite bluntly that anyone embarking on a personal journey via meditation should be extremely careful, as the induced alpha state leaves one far too open to suggestion. The idea of using tui na or shiatsu as battlefield first aid is of course patently ridiculous. One cannot ‘imagine’ a gaping bullet wound away.

Of course it’s all good and fine for us to laugh at the hippie-dippie baroque meritocracy. As always, there’s a darker, less superstitious side to all this: the Psychological Operations department:

Psychological operations are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.The purpose of United States psychological operations (PSYOP) is to induce or reinforce behavior favorable to U.S. objectives. They are an important part of the range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic activities available to the U.S. They can be utilized during both peacetime and conflict. There are 3 main types: strategic, operational, and tactical. Strategic PSYOP include informational activities conducted by the U.S. government agencies outside of the military arena, though many utilize Department of Defense (DOD) assets. Operational PSYOP are conducted across the range of military operations, including during peacetime, in a defined operational area to promote the effectiveness of the joint force commander's (JFC) campaigns and strategies. Tactical PSYOP are conducted in the area assigned to a tactical commander across the range of military operations to support the tactical mission against opposing forces.

PSYOP? There’s a term I’d thought restricted to space operas.

It makes a sort of sense, to employ psychological warfare to the advantage of one’s country. Knowledge is power, and utilizing the knowledge of the human mind is incredible power. The ethical and moral considerations are staggering. Who wields this? Following the answer to that question: can the person/people who do wield these tools be trusted? How do we know that nationalism doesn’t overpower ethical considerations? The largest question is – who regulates these people?

At least Project MKULTRA was shut down.

It’s a frightening, dangerous world we live in – and we need to keep a close eye especially on the religious zealots, because while their superstitions are pure bunkum, their ability to persuade the populace is blaringly obvious as well as scary. To allow tools such as these to fall into the hands of the religious is foolhardy, and the cost will be more than we or our children can bear.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Till the next post, then.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tuesday Funny – The Venture Brothers

One of the funniest shows of all time, the Venture Brothers. The following is an ode to Dr. Orpheus, an obvious spoof of Dr. Strange:



Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Red White And Blue – And Why I’m Glad To Be Under That Flag..

Cross posted @ God Is 4 Suckers!thomas_paine1

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” – Thomas Paine

Well, it’s true: America has some serious reforms. We need more jobs, we need something vaguely resembling universal healthcare, we still need to eliminate poverty and needless suffering, and provide better education. The laundry list goes on, at length, seemingly ad infinitum. But complain as we so often do, it’s an easy thing to forget just how lucky we atheists  are.

For one such item, if I were to post my anti-religious declamations (as I do here and at my own blog) and I were living in a Sharia state, I could very well be punished with anything ranging from a fine to beheading. Whereas here in the US, we can actually argue what constitutes ‘blasphemy’ in court, and whether it’s allowed. And we have a pretty good clue that the ‘free exchange of ideas’ motto doesn’t fly in some communist states.

I’ll not debate the fact that America has in some abstract way let us down that varies according to interpretation, but we should celebrate the right to interpret. Because after all, freedom of religion is impossible without freedom from religion.

And let’s face it: we have the higher standard of living, ergo a higher standard of education, thanks to our glut of resources, that we can actually afford to be atheists. In other countries, it’s difficult (and likely impossible in some) to actually break free of the powerful superstitions that have become entrenched in societies.

Knowledge is power, after all.

Celebrate your freedom. Celebrate the Fourth, and safely. Allow me to top this off with a quote from one of my heroes, Thomas Paine:

We can only reason from what is; we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities.
Thomas Paine

Till the next post, then.