Friday, December 7, 2012

Warsawasraw "Jahiliya" (Sep. 2011)

Hardcore folks, to you I present Paris, France's Warsawwasraw:

In '09, I was fortunate to have the chance to hang with the two gents of the band during a rehearsal in an undisclosed bunker somewhere near the industrial Parisian outlying territories. It was a set of sight and sounds to behold. They mean business.

Here's a pretty high quality video from 2011:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Paul Kurtz: An Appreciation ***Redux***

Some time ago, I wrote this appreciation of Paul Kurtz on this here blog. Kurtz was still alive then. Sadly, he died this last weekend, on October 20. I came to discover him late in (his) life, once I realized that the great Prometheus Books publishing house was his brainchild, and that he was one of the founders of CSICOP and the Skeptical Inquirer, to which I subscribe. Below is a clip of Kurtz reading from his book Affirmations, a self-edited gleaning of aphorisms and short pieces of humanist and neo-skeptical wisdom for the non-religious. I would only add imagination to his list of human virtues and potential. Science, skepticism, exuberance, and reason, yes! But also imagination, dreams, and the numinous. Sometimes I succumb to the transcendental temptation...

RIP Paul Kurtz (1925 - 2012).

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Secular Lens and The Bible

Charlie Fuqua, an Arkansas legislator, has written a book (entitled God's Law) in which he recommends following a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy (quoted below) that lays out how to execute children--Yes, capital punishment for children!--who have been "rebellious" against their parents. What's more, because the Bible lays out a role for the "elders of the city" in adjudicating this grisly form of discipline, Mr. Fuqua proposes instituting this passage from Deuteronomy as public effing policy. This morning, I read the news of Fuqua's book in horror, but not shock. Its horror should be self-explanatory to any rational person reading this. Its lack of shock-value should be obvious to anyone with any knowledge or interest in the way the base of the Republican Party has been careening toward apocalyptic insanity in recent years. And by "recent years" I mean the last 40 or 50.

It is worth it to read the original article, the Good Book itself, just to get the full flavor of how wicked and vile holy scriptures can be. Here's the unholy passage cited by Mr. Fuqua (Deut. 21:18-21):

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

It is vaguely interesting that Fuqua has decided this passage refers to children, since "glutton, and a drunkard" would seem to connote an adult offender. Regardless, there are other questions begged here. Aside from the obvious questions about how much influence Fuqua has on, well, anyone, and how might we go about committing him to a psychiatric lockdown facility, there are more general religious questions raised by Fuqua's disturbing fundamentalist worldview. Do his views discredit only fundamentalism, or do they discredit all religion?

Sam Harris and other atheists have put forth the idea that even liberal religion is evil, for it gives cover to more violent strains of fundamentalism. This is a view of religion that I do not understand. I have found neither Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation nor interviews with him to be very convincing on this point (I have yet to finish The End of Faith as of this writing). Writing recently in The Humanist, Rob Boston echoes my own frustration with what I think of as atheist purism:

Blanket assertions that all religious people are stupid or that mainline faiths are just apologists for fundamentalism (or, worse yet, gateways to it) aren't only untrue, they're not helpful. They alienate and insult the millions of Americans who belong to moderate or liberal faith communities, people who share none of the values of politicized fundamentalism. [Emphasis mine.]

I have come to an alternative secular view. There are parts of the Bible, however few, that are moral ("love your neighbor"), and there are many other parts (see above) that are utterly immoral. We discern the "good parts" from the "bad parts" precisely because the good parts comport with a modern, enlightened, and reasoned view of secular morality.

What Fuqua has done is to discard the modern enlightened view, and that's the difference, to me, between fundamentalism and liberal or moderate religion. Parts of the Bible can be salvaged if they support actual moral behavior. But that also makes those parts of the Bible no more or less holy than the secular moral philosophies of Spinoza or A. Philip Randolph or Bertrand Russell or Paul Kurtz, to name just a few.

I don't think most religionists are fundamentalists. But those who are not fundamentalists perhaps forget that what makes them not-fundamentalist in the first place is that they look at their own religion and religion in general through the lens of the Enlightenment and modernity. A liberal or moderate religious person judges religious texts in a way not much different than that of a secularist.

Even fundamentalists use "the secular lens" when reading Scripture, only they use it much more sparingly. Of course, they would never admit this. But they don't take the Bible so literally as to propose, for example, that rapists should be allowed to buy their victims as brides for 50 pieces of silver (Deut. 22:28-29). Chances are, however, that Fuqua's working on that for his next book.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Let This Be Your Bailiwick

Thanks to another intrepid YouTube poster, I am afforded a long-lost gem of South Bay hardcore, The Detonators' Emergency Broadcast Systems (1983). My bootlegged cassette of it has long since deteriorated into dust, probably around 1986, after a few hundred listens (courtesy the perennial connoisseurship of Papa Jon). My (admittedly half-hearted) search for this album since that time has come up dry.

But here it is, thank Fortune. Forgive me, but I am experiencing a Proustian moment; I'm listening to it as I write. I may even unabashedly describe this album's sound as "urgent." How is it possible for me to know every intro, hook, drum fill, and chorus after 26 or so years? I just dig the frenetically strummy guitars, especially in songs like "Mindless Control" and "We're Waiting." Here is a band that obviously loved Stiff Little Fingers as much as I did (and still do).

Lyrically, they steered clear of didactic politics without becoming sterile or solipsistic. Their undifferentiated clamor for freedom against "mindless control" actually gives the urgency of it all a kind of timelessness. (Thanks to the YouTube poster for lining up the lyrics at the right moments.) And for added points they use the word "bailiwick" in the opening song, a slam-worthy number called "Condemned to Freedom."

Feast upon this now:

Don't ignore Side 2, with the must-listens "Push Us In, Push Us Out" and "Open Your Eyes":

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Newt's Active Retirement

So Newt Gingrich has come out to support Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin. Here's a report from The Guardian:

Gingrich came to Missouri on Monday to back Akin at a $500-a-ticket fundraising lunch, at which he addressed about 50 of the congressman's supporters – and earlier, the media.
At at a press conference at a train station in Kirkwood, a suburb of St Louis, Missouri, Gingrich said Akin was running a winnable race and made his own prediction – that the national Republican leaders, including Mitt Romney, would reverse track and back the candidate once they "adjust to the reality" that he is staying in the race.
"If Todd and the people of Missouri prove it's a close race, what's the moral case for not backing the Republican nominee?" Gingrich said.
Gingrich told the crowd, made up of reporters and a handful of supporters that it all came down to a simple question. "Do you want to keep Harry Reid as the majority leader?" Gingrich said to shouts of "No" from Akin supporters.
Gaining McCaskill's seat is seen as vital if the GOP is to take over the Senate in November. "How do you go back to your donors and say: 'Let's throw the Senate away?'," Gingrich said.

I can imagine Newt added: "Y'know, these days I keep myself busy. In addition to convincing Republicans that I'm newsworthy, Callista and I play canasta."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Could Be Kinda Human

When a man's an empty kettle
He should be on his mettle
And yet I'm torn apart
Just because I'm presumin'
That I could be kinda human
If I only had a heart.

- The Tin Man
from The Wizard of Oz (1939)

And now, this:

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Lost Message of Judge Jim Gray

Sadly, here's a message that you did not hear at either the Republican or Democratic conventions. It's a message that needs to be repeated, again and again, until we finally get it:

I've heard of Judge Gray for years. Apparently, he's Libertarian Gary Johnson's running mate.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Possessed by Ignorance

No bus bench ad has ever annoyed me more than the one I saw recently for The Possession, a new flick about some story of a girl and a demon, blah, blah, blah. The tagline reads: "Based on a True Story." Really? On what basis can we even say it's a "true story"? Well, maybe events like those depicted really happened to a girl somewhere; maybe she really acted crazy, and maybe objects really started to move seemingly on their own (I'm just assuming that that kind of stuff occurs in the film).

But "true story" misleads the credulous masses that the "possession" part of it is the "true story." It's really quite irritating. I once read the scare-mongering book Hostage to the Devil by Malachi Martin. It was recommended to me by certain people I knew who actually believed in this demonic possession nonsense. But I approached it with an open mind; I was younger then and very interested in scary stories. Malachi Martin's writing itself convinced me that he was trying to convince himself that the only possible explanation for the five stories of exorcism in the book were, in fact, based on the reality of supernatural malevolence. Yeah, each of these tales was "based on a true story," too.

The Skeptic's Dictionary provides a brief sketch of the real evil, not of possession but of exorcism. Accounts of religiously motivated ministers beating, strangling, and otherwise killing or seriously injuring the supposedly possessed are numerous. And yet the actual evidence of what afflicts these poor souls points to this:

Most, if not all, cases of alleged demonic possession of humans probably involve either people with brain disorders ranging from epilepsy to schizophrenia and Tourette's syndrome, or people whose brains are more or less healthy but who are unfortunate enough to be sucked into playing a social role with very unpleasant consequences. In any case, the behaviors of the possessed resemble very closely the behaviors of those with electrochemical, neurochemical, or other physical or emotional disorders. [more]

Be sure to watch the video clip on the page, featuring a news story on some reality-television tripe called The Real Exorcist which follows around the antics of Rev. Bob Larson and his stunning dyed-orange beard. The actually great Joe Nickell is the skeptic in the segment. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy Labor Day to 52% of Americans!

Labor Day is a given in our culture. I imagine that conservative, liberal, righty, and lefty alike don't want it taken away. It is a secular national holiday that everyone can celebrate regardless of viewpoint or creed. Even Phyllis Schlafly celebrates Labor Day because somehow it reminds her of Ronald Reagan's greatness.

Enter cognitive dissonance. We love Labor Day, but according to an August 31, 2012 Gallup poll, 48% of us disapprove of labor unions. Of course, it is only through the advocacy and agitation of labor unions that Labor Day exists as a federal holiday.

Take a look at this monumentally amnesiac "Labor Day Statement" from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in 2011:
On Labor Day, we take time to celebrate centuries of American hard work and ingenuity. Since our country's earliest days, the American people have been innovators and entrepreneurs, building the most powerful economy in the history of the world. [more]
I had no idea that Labor Day was founded in order to honor "innovators and entrepreneurs." Oh, wait, that's of course because it wasn't. But every political hack who detests organized labor itself will still exploit Labor Day to pander to desperately struggling American workers. That is, if any of them pay any attention to what Priebus blathers on about.

So I say Happy Labor Day to the 52 percent of Americans who honor labor unions! To the other 48 percent, get back to work.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Eastwood's Gestalt

Despite my avoidance of the Republican National Convention, I found descriptions of Clint Eastwood's extemporaneous address last night too irresistible. I had to watch. And what a good thing I did.

I had no idea what was going to happen. And there Eastwood was, talking to an invisible Obama in a chair. It was like Eastwood giving a demonstration of Gestalt therapy for the masses out there: This is how you deal with your anger at Obama, people. You imagine him there and tell him what you want him to hear. You'll feel better.

The real awkwardness, though, was not the chair-talk. It was Eastwood's mild comments about Democrats:

There are a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It is just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest. They do not go around hot dogging it.

And his even milder endorsement of Romney:

[T]his administration hasn’t done enough to cure that [unemployment]. Whatever interest they have is not strong enough, and I think possibly now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem.

Yes, "possibly." And what to make of his admission that he cried when Obama became president:

I remember three and a half years ago, when Mr. Obama won the election. And though I was not a big supporter, I was watching that night when he was having that thing and they were talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people were lighting candles. They were saying, I just thought, this was great. Everybody is crying, Oprah was crying...(LAUGHTER)...I was even crying.

Not "a big supporter"? That's not red meat for a rabid Obama-hating crowd! And I was stunned when the floor erupted in applause for Eastwood's rebuke to Imaginary Obama for continuing the doomed war in Afghanistan:

I know you were against the war in Iraq, and that’s okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was OK. You know, I mean — you thought that was something worth doing. We didn’t check with the Russians to see how they did it — they did it there for 10 years.

Clint Eastwood is actually sounding like the only sane voice at the convention. But of course, Mitt "Janus" Romney is cravenly disavowing Eastwood's appearance. I always knew Romney was a cold one.

UPDATE 09/01/12: The memers on the Internets and the good people over at Dangerous Minds have it wrong, methinks, to call Eastwood "senile" or suffering from "dementia" for his performance. I watched it and saw an octogenarian man thinking on his feet. Nothing more, but nothing less. Of course a man in his 80s might think more in fits and starts than us younger folk. Have you ever spoken to anyone over 80?

But there was a structure to his ad-libbed performance, and as you can see above, ideas that are decidedly more tempered than the wild Republican mainstream. It was the rest of the falsehood-filled RNC that exhibited dementia, methinks, not Eastwood.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Favorite Republicans, Part 3: Robert M. LaFollette, Sr.

This is the third and, for now, final part in my blog mini-series, "My Favorite Republicans." Click here for my prior post on Jeannette Rankin. Click here for Robert G. Ingersoll. Is that Republican National Convention over, yet?


These days, to see the name of that state conjures up an image of union-loathing Governor Scott "Sad Sack" Walker or Representative Paul "Lying Sack" Ryan. Those two Republicans have so sullied the current political image of Wisconsin that it's easy to forget another famous Republican from the Badger State who presented a wholly different vision of America. That Republican is, of course, Robert "Fighting Bob" LaFollette, Sr.

LaFollette's political career spanned over 40 years, from 1880 when he was first elected district attorney to 1924 when he unsuccessfully ran on the Progressive Party presidential ticket against Republican Calvin Coolidge. He was also a U.S. Representative, governor of Wisconsin, and a U.S. senator. (Incidentally, these 40 plus years overlapped with the life and work of both Ingersoll and Rankin.)

Key to La Follette's political vision was his staunch resistance to corporate influence in the political process. Early in his career, a Republican senator's attempt to bribe him motivated him to publicly speak out against the robber barons who sought control of the state. After being elected governor in 1900, he instituted a new wave of political reform. He ardently supported workers' rights, women's suffrage, a minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy railroads, and an end to the system of political patronage, among other progressive causes.

By 1906, his fighting spirit (perfectly symbolized by his wild, Beethoven-like hairstyle) won him the popularity to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where he remained until his death in 1925. While there, he championed the same progressive causes on a national scale that he fought for in Wisconsin. Most memorably, he opposed the U.S. entry into World War I and suffered accusations of disloyalty and treason for it.

While not a socialist, he emphatically supported trade unionism and vehemently opposed the criminal prosecution of Eugene V. Debs. Could you imagine any Republican senator today standing up for a socialist's free speech rights? Oh yeah, those amnesiacs actually think Obama is a socialist. But free speech was LaFollette's mission. I'll let his potent words speak for themselves. In this excerpt from his October 1917 speech in the Senate, he had to defend himself from charges of disloyalty for his anti-war activism (yes, activism):

Mr. President, our Government, above all others, is founded on the right of the people freely to discuss all matters pertaining to their Government, in war not less than in peace, for in this Government the people are the rulers in war no less than in peace. It is true, sir, that Members of the House of Representatives are elected for two years, the President for four years, and the Members of the Senate for six years, and during their temporary official terms these officers constitute what is called the Government. But back of them always is the controlling sovereign power of the people, and when the people can make their will known, the faithful officer will obey that will. Though the right of the people to express their will by ballot is suspended during the term of office of the elected official, nevertheless the duty of the official to obey the popular will continues throughout this entire term of office. How can that popular will express itself between elections except by meetings, by speeches, by publications, by petitions, and by addresses to the representatives of the people? Any man who seeks to set a limit upon those rights, whether in war or peace, aims a blow at the most vital part of our Government. And then as the time for election approaches and the official is called to account for his stewardship--not a day, not a week, not a month, before the election, but a year or more before it, if the people choose--they must have the right to the freest possible discussion of every question upon which their representative has acted, of the merits of every measure he has supported or opposed, of every vote he has cast and every speech that he has made. And before this great fundamental right every other must, if necessary, give way, for in no other manner can representative government be preserved. [Source]


The Wisconsin Historical Society has a good page with links to historical artifacts and primary sources. The U.S. Senate has a page about an official portrait of Fighting Bob, with a brief biographical essay. To see what work is carried on in Fighting Bob's spirit, you'll have to bypass the Republican Party entirely. Go to Russ Feingold's Progressives United instead.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Favorite Republicans, Part 2: Jeannette Rankin

This is the second installment in my brief series of posts, "My Favorite Republicans," in honor of the Republican National Convention. By the way, I would blog about that event, but that would, you know, require me to pay attention to it. Let TPM's stitched-together highlights tell you all you need to know.

See Part 1 of this brief series on Robert G. Ingersoll here. And, yes, when I write my "favorite Republicans," I mean it.

Jeannette Rankin first appeared on my intellectual radar about twenty years ago, when I read a profile of her in the back pages of the Nonviolent Activist, the periodical of the far-left War Resisters League. Here was a woman who broke my every stereotype of what a Republican was supposed to stand for. She was the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first woman in either house of Congress. (That is a historical prize the Democratic Party should envy.) She was elected in 1917, by the way, before the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Moreover, she was a pacifist, through and through. "If they are going to have a war," she said during her 1916 campaign, "they ought to take the old men and leave the young to propagate the race."

She represented Montana in Congress, the same state where she was born. In her early adulthood, she campaigned for women's suffrage. She studied to be a social worker in New York, worked with Jane Addams, was a social worker in Seattle, and did a stint in New Zealand as a seamstress. Her goal there? To live and breathe the actual conditions of the workers she, as a progressive, hoped to aid in her professional life. Hmmm... she almost sounds like... some kind of community organizer! Today's Republicans should raise their arms in an ecstasy of gratitude that they are in Rankin's political lineage. Instead they're so rapt with praise for "job creating" billionaires that they couldn't recognize a true hero--or heroine--in their midst if you slapped a giant-sized, dayglo portrait of Rankin on the RNC stage with the word "hero" emblazoned on it and a John Williams soundtrack blaring in Dolby stereo.

Rankin made a very unpopular decision in 1917. It was the first vote she had to make in Congress. When the call came for representatives to vote on whether the U.S. should enter World War I, one of the most grotesque follies humans have ever instigated, she voted simply "present." Moved by a war-resisting feminism, she decided popularity was no competitor for integrity. She was in a tiny minority in Congress, and as a woman, she was vilified for her bold decision. She served only until 1918 when her bid for the Senate failed.

Amazingly, she was re-elected again in 1940. In 1941, she voted against the U.S. declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor. She opposed even the Good War. While I don't think I could have done that, knowing what a threat the Nazis were, I respect her resolve to adhere to her progressive convictions. Neither was this a popular decision on her part. She was hissed and booed when she voted no. "As a woman I can't go to war," she said, "and I refuse to send anyone else." She was not a candidate for re-election in 1942. True to her ethos, she publicly opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s, too. Incidentally, she never attributed her lifelong pacifism to religion. Was she, too, a freethinker?

Jeannette Rankin: pacifist, dissenter, progressive, feminist, Republican.



NPR's "The First Woman in Congress: A Crusader for Peace" is a good place to start here. The U.S. House of Representatives Women in Congress site has a very good biographical essay on Rankin here. The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center in Montana continues her tradition of anti-war activism and social-welfare progressivism.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Favorite Republicans, Part 1: Robert G. Ingersoll

In honor of the Republican National Convention that started yesterday today in Tampa, Florida, I am going to profile three of my favorite Republicans of all time. And, no, I'm not being sarcastic.

Top of the list is Robert Green Ingersoll, aka "The Great Agnostic." In the late 19th century, Ingersoll traveled the nation, speaking about his disbelief in God, the Bible, and in the supposed goodness of religion itself. He was a Union colonel in the Civil War, and even though he never held elected office (largely due to his atheist ways), he was a force of nature in bringing the ideas of freethought to thousands.

A comprehensive list of his speeches, writings, and sundry orations can be found on The Secular Web. Spend some time there. Please.

Otherwise, I recommend buying What's God Got to Do With It?, edited by Tim Page. It's a slim volume and gives you an excellent introduction to the thinking and eloquence of this most reasonable and compassionate of American freethinkers. The Republican Party was a whole different animal back in Ingersoll's day. Pray it becomes again what it once was. I mean, hope it becomes that.

Somewhat recently, I came across Ingersoll's "vow." It was in the foreward of Victor Stenger's The New Atheists. Somehow, in all my readings of Ingersoll's works, I seem to have barely scratched the surface. The words are stirring. The emphasis on freedom is what every freethinker should consider when confronted with the questions from religionists: What do you get out of atheism? What's the point of not believing?

When I became convinced that the Universe is natural--that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world--not even in infinite space. I was free--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live to my own ideal--free to live for myself and those I loved--free to use all my faculties, all my senses--free to spread imagination's wings--free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope--free to judge and determine for myself--free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past--free from popes and priests--free from all the "called" and "set apart"--free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies--free from the fear of eternal pain--free from the winged monsters of the night--free from devils, ghosts, and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought--no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings--no chains for my limbs--no lashes for my back--no fires for my flesh--no master's frown or threat--no following another's steps--no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds. 
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain--for the freedom of labor and thought--to those who fell in the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains--to those who proudly mounted scaffold's stairs--to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn--to those by fire consumed--to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still. [Source]
(Updated 8/28/12)

Friday, July 27, 2012

What Century Is This?

"I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of 'stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.' I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me."
- Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

When watching the video below, I thought of the above passage from the Narrative, which I recently read. I also thought of this passage from the same text:

For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have ever found them the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others. It was my unhappy lot not only to belong to a religious slaveholder, but to live in a community of such religionists.

It is not because I think, and nor did Douglass, that Christianity is inherently racist or evil. It is that when people believe that God is on their side, giving special dispensation and even blessing to their inhumane behaviors, then their sense of remorse, empathy, restraint is destroyed. They are morally disfigured but believe themselves to be beautiful, heavenly.

The fact that what follows is occurring today makes my blood boil. Two black attendees, a man and a woman, at a majority-white Baptist Church were forced to get married at another church by bigots in the congregation. The white pastor was threatened with being fired if he defied the racist ultimatum. See if this "Christianity" isn't what Douglass called "the boldest of all frauds":

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Reasons to Vomit While Eating at Chick-fil-A

Reason #1: From Rick "Santorum" Santorum's Twitter feed today:

I will let the first few comments above speak for themselves.

Reason #2: The food.

Click here for an image of the plate of turds "chick-in-strips" that "Santorum" proudly shoved down his gullet in the name of heterosexual prowess. What a man!

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm Not A Libertarian, But...

...I wish Obama would be a "libertarian" about the War on Drugs. As I've strongly hinted at before, here and here, legalizing marijuana has bigger implications than just letting folks get high. It would send ripples of improved justice throughout the criminal justice system. It would also improve the economy. It wouldn't rescue us from malfeasance endemic to the banking system, but it would do a lot of economic good for a lot of folks. And, yes, it would make a lot of people happier if they could unwind at the end of the day with a bong rather than a bottle.

Here's Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson to tell it like it is:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Into the Void Again

Who's the "Joker in the Pack"? Ozzy, that's who:

Into the Void

You think you're punk rock? Poseurs get away from International Christian University:

This is, perhaps, my favorite Void song, "Who Are You." And it touches my heart to know it stirs the souls of the young men in a little outfit that seems to be called Melody Union.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kinkade's Genocide

Thomas Kinkade ("Painter of Light") died on April 6, 2012. I am at a loss for how this "obituary" for Kinkade came to be at something called The Daily News (technology news, gadget news, etc.):

As word of Kinkade’s black genocide widespread Saturday, fans flocked to a small galleries to buy his work.
“It’s funny beautiful. We’re struggling with our own emotions, nonetheless the open is entrance in and usually shopping art off the wall,” pronounced Ester Wells, art studio executive at the Thomas Kinkade Signature Gallery in Pismo Beach, Calif. “Right now, people are usually entrance in and shopping all in our inventory.”
Many business paid for art as a reverence whilst others pronounced it was a intelligent investment: they feel his work will right divided be value more down the road, Wells said. Others stopped by usually to contend how contemptible they were to listen to of his death.
“We’re starting to remove a great artist to the universe yet we’ll never dont consider about him,” Wells said, adding that she thinks Kinkade will be remembered as an additional Norman Rockwell
Kinkade regarded Rockwell as his beginning hero. His mother had a large pick up of copies of Saturday Evening Post magazines, he pronounced in a autobiography on his website.
“The scenes were sentimental and brought behind unequivocally happy memories for people,” pronounced Marty Brown, who owns 4 galleries in Southern California that sell Kinkade paintings. Brown’s galleries had already had a record sales day by noon on Saturday, he said.
The business ranged from extraordinary people who’d seen headlines of Kinkade’s genocide on the headlines to longtime collectors purchasing a integrate of more pieces.
“Some people are entrance and shopping a integrate or shopping their initial piece, or usually shopping something. But they all feel flattering bad, to discuss it you the truth,” he said.
Kinkade had a air blower base that was unprecedented, and he done collectors out of the many people who brought his art in to their homes. [more]

Ostensibly this was originally written in English, since the authors are cited as Associated Press writers in Phoenix, AZ and Chicago, IL. But was it then translated into, say, Japanese, and then re-translated back into a non-native speaker? We may never know.

via Jeffrey Vallance's Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Case for Legalizing All Drugs REDUX

Jeffrey Miron appears to be in the news, adding some momentum (I hope) to a growing movement to at least decriminalize marijuana use. From The Huffington Post (April 17, 2012):

More than 300 economists, including three nobel laureates, have signed a petition calling attention to the findings of a paper by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, which suggests that if the government legalized marijuana it would save $7.7 billion annually by not having to enforce the current prohibition on the drug. The report added that legalization would save an additional $6 billion per year if the government taxed marijuana at rates similar to alcohol and tobacco. [more]

I am not sure $13.7 billion is it, if one also factors in the potential millions (billions?) saved by users of marijuana who no longer have to pay fines or lawyers to defend them in court. All that money can go back into the economy. And with legalization could come potentially tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of new jobs in legal marijuana growing and selling. Perhaps Miron's findings address these issues, too.

At the end of the Huffington Post piece, I was pleasantly surprised to see Glenn Greenwald interviewed by the libertarian Nick Gillespie about Greenwald's study about decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal. It is a success by every important measure: harm reduction, popular support, and cost savings. I repeat, it is a success.

The Case for Legalizing All Drugs

The legalization question from the Summit of the Americas isn't off everyone's radar. BigThink has "Is Legalization the Answer to War on Drugs?", a great clip of an economist named Jeffrey Miron who advocates for the legalization of all illicit drugs. That's right, not just weed. Miron would also legalize heroin, Ecstasy, crystal meth, PCP, LSD, and cocaine. How about sniffing glue?

I generally favor marijuana legalization, but not necessarily anything more than decriminalization of other drugs. I've never felt that PCP, for example, should be legal, or any other drug that induces dangerous psychotic behavior. Individual use of crack cocaine, on the other hand, could be simply decriminalized, so that users aren't literally penalized for simply screwing up their own bodies and minds.

Furthermore, I see a difference between marijuana and drugs like PCP in their recreational potential. Pot is no more, and probably less, dangerous than drinking a few beers, both in the damage done to one's own body and in pot's practically nonexistent risk of fisticuffs produced by mind alteration. PCP, on the other hand, is far more dangerous than a few beers in every way.

But Miron has me more than halfway convinced that even foul drugs like PCP or meth should be legalized. When it becomes clear that drug cartels are terrorists, whose very existence depends upon prohibition, it also becomes clear that legalization will, as Miron points out, virtually eliminate drug trade-related violence, improve quality controls of the drug (through regulation), and reduce social harms associated with the drug trade (like cycles of desperation that precipitate crime and poverty).

Click here to view BigThink's short video of Jeffrey Miron.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Hopeless Case is Made in Colombia

The Secret Service prostitution scandal has cast a shadow on Obama's diplomatic trip to the Summit of the Americas. That same shadow will most likely obscure Obama's unfortunate remarks about drug legalization to Colombian President Juan Miguel Santos:

The capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting, if not more corrupting, than the status quo. [more]

Note the fallacy Obama employs in saying that the drug trade would operate "without any constraint" if drugs were legalized. Apparently, Obama's zeal for deregulation of big business has caused him to neglect the fact that absolutely no credible opponent of the War on Drugs--and there are many of us--supports total deregulation of drugs. It's an absurd argument that drug cartels would thrive if their product was legal, and I think under the surface Obama knows it.

President Obama has also acquired the same historic amnesia about Prohibition as other War-on-Drugs proponents. Outlawing booze created organized crime in America. Thank you, moralistic fanatics!

Note, too, that amidst the bizarre doublespeak about "having a legitimate conversation about the laws that are in place" while simultaneously ruling out legalization, Obama made this ominous comment to President Santos about "dealing with demand" in the United States. Read "dealing with demand" as "locking up more black and poor people" for using drugs. That's all that that means:

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Riposte Re-Post

I originally posted this video a couple of years ago. Slovenly at the Anti-Club in 1987 doing "Orange Crush" off After the Original Style. Yours Truly is grooving big-time in front of the stage. I also happen to be flanked by the woman who would later marry me. It wasn't until I watched this video, by the way, that the influence of The Fall on the Slovs really became pronounced in my consciousness.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Paul Kurtz: An Appreciation

Paul Kurtz, philosopher and founder of the Center for Inquiry, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly "CSICOP"), and the Council for Secular Humanism, is a living monument of the skeptical and humanist movements. He also founded Prometheus Books (whose philosophical and skeptical titles occupy my bookshelf).

Two years ago, however, Kurtz resigned from the boards of the Center for Inquiry and related organizations that he founded, partly in protest against the direction they'd taken toward embracing the "new atheism" at the expense of other more positive secularist goals. He simultaneously founded a new organization which he dubbed Neo-Humanist, the Institute for Science and Human Values. From his open resignation letter:

Unfortunately, the major emphasis of the Center had been on criticism of religious and paranormal claims--that is surely a key part of the agenda. But this has led to the neglect of another essential part of the vision that first inspired the creation of the Center for Inquiry; and that is the application of science and reason to ethical questions. The key question is whether secularists are able to develop secular ethical values that instill meaning and provide some basis for moral integrity.

Here is a two-hour program from the early 1980s of vintage Prof. Kurtz as he calmly debates Christian apologist and brow-beater Norman Geisler on what looked like an inadvertently interesting Christian talk show hosted by one flaxen-haired John Ankerberg. It's an overtly biased "debate." The supposed moderator and host, Ankerberg, transparently and repeatedly sides with and makes arguments for Geisler, but he at least gives Kurtz the floor on many occasions to articulate a coherent humanism:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Glenn Beck Vs. Democratic Socialism

Glenn Beck, you're no William F. Buckley, Jr. But to your credit, you had an actual socialist from the Democratic Socialists of America on your show. That is pretty much unheard of nowadays:

His "gotcha" moment with the no-one-forced-me-to-share-my-M&M's analogue for the virtues of capitalism fell flat, like so many of his responses in this clip, or on his show generally (judging from my relatively few, random tunings-in back when he was on FOX). What weird shtick.

But the best moment here, which is absolutely worth watching, is when DSA President Frank Llewellyn says that of all four people on both 2008 presidential tickets, Sarah Palin was the most socialist. Beck is dumbstruck. Llewellyn continues and explains that it's because Palin taxed the oil companies for their pipelines in Alaska, and then redistributed the money as a dividend to all Alaskan citizens. It's similar to what Hugo Chavez does down in Venezuela, he says.

Beck's response? A tortured expression. Cut to commercial. End.

They Think They're Socialists

This explains why I thought of Michael Harrington today:

Harrington founded the Democratic Socialists of America, who must be getting a bump in their Internet traffic and membership inquiries from the publicity this Daily Show bit has provided. The Socialist Organizer bloke who says "they [the DSA] think they're socialists" and "they represent the 1%" is only dreaming that the Democratic Party would give the DSA any attention whatsoever. Not even FDR or LBJ would have dared to associate themselves with socialists. Only atheists are probably more anathema to the image the Democratic Party wants to project.

Incidentally, almost immediately after posting my previous post about Michael Harrington today, I stopped by my local co-op and browsed the magazine rack. There, in the most recent issue of Dissent, happened to be a piece by Maurice Isserman marking 2012 as the 50th anniversary of Harrington's The Other America:
THE VOICE Harrington adopted throughout The Other America was calm and reasonable, but also idealistic and impassioned. Unlike many left-wing pamphleteers, he had the ability to convey moral seriousness without lapsing into moralism. There is no hint in his writing of the sanctimonious bullying of the better-off that pervaded so much of the radical style to come later in the decade. His tone suggested that the reader was a reasonable person, just like the author, and reasonable people, once apprised of the plight of the Other America, would agree on the need to find solutions. The enemies he identified in the book tended to be distanced abstractions like “social blindness” or “the vocabulary of not caring” rather than identifiable individuals or political groups. [more]

Michael Harrington on Poverty

This post is a call for two things: (1) Reinvigorate the influence of Michael Harrington's ideas on the federal government, which has drastically waned since the days of LBJ, and (2) post more of William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line program on YouTube. The first two minutes or so of this lamentably short video clip consist of Buckley making jabs at what he clearly believes is the hypocrisy of any lefty or liberal being concerned about, or having once taken a vow of, poverty. No matter, Harrington's definition, adjusting for inflation, distills into this: If you have to make a choice between necessities (not luxuries) for yourself or your family, say between nutricious food and adequate housing, or between adequate housing and adequate health care, etc., then guess what? You're living in poverty.

Michael Harrington's The Other America.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

God Hates Reason

Excited atheists wait for Pastor Phelps
to come with his carefully crafted signs.
Later this month, my fellow freethinkers have a chance to gather together at the Reason Rally, which bills itself as "the largest secular event in world history." Maybe so, but wasn't the Russian Revolution pretty big? Anyway, not everyone there will be of the secular persuasion, or even of the lucid persuasion:

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church were invited to the Reason Rally by Jim Klawon, Deputy Vice President of Administration of the National Atheist Party, via a letter sent to Pastor Fred Phelps. After receiving this letter, Megan Phelps-Roper, on Twitter, wrote, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” Ps14:1 Here's lookin' at you, @ReasonRally!Your [unwarranted] pride is your destruction. Dear @ReasonRally: How gracious of you! We accept your invitation & will picket your parade of fools 3/24. Love,WBC.” [more]

The "Love, WBC" line just kills me.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Secular Vote

President Obama is a Christian, but he should have a lock on the secular vote. Here's a scorecard of Obama and the past and current Republican candidates regarding their relative secular values:

Source: Secular Coalition for America (

Noteworthy here is that Mitt Romney scores an "A" in the "God, Faith & Governance" category. The Secular Coalition for America describes that category as having to do with how much a candidate attributes their political motivations to a deity or supernatural entity. Romney apparently told Piers Morgan in June 2011 the following:

I separate quite distinctly matters of personal faith from the leadership one has in a political sense. […] You don’t begin to apply the doctrines of a religion to the responsibilities for guiding a nation or guiding a state. […] I’m not a spokesman for my church, and one thing I am not going to do in running for president is become a spokesman for my church or apply a religious test which is simply forbidden by the Constitution. I’m not going there. [more]

Credit where credit is due: Three cheers for the man I have previously dismissed as a greedy sleaze! Obama, on the other hand, says he prays "all the time," precisely because he has "a lot of stuff" on his plate. So, he gets a "C" in that category. Overall, however, Obama has the best average score of all of them, except maybe Huntsman.

An instructive side note: Two years ago, when Obama felt it necessary to "spontaneously" talk about his faith at a backyard meet-and-greet, I had serious doubts about the orthodoxy of his Christian proclamations. He talked about following the "precepts of Jesus Christ," a position I actually think is quite laudable. I wish more Christians did follow the "precepts" and not the accretions of dogma that have confused the original, basic message of "love thy neighbor" that Jesus preached.

The Secular Coalition for America, by the way, is a lobby group for humanists, atheists, and agnostics, or what Republicans erroneously believe is the base of Democratic Party, along with gays and communists.

Blogging May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Add this to the first-world problems meme ("white whines"): Andrew Sullivan reflects on the death of Andrew Breitbart and how it was the "brutal, unending culture war" in the media that is ultimately responsible for doing him in ("Breitbart - And Us." The Daily Dish, March 1, 2012). Lest we forget, and apparently Sullivan has, Breitbart's participation in that culture war was entirely of his own volition. In fact, Breitbart stoked the flames of that culture war at every turn.

Nonetheless, Sullivan sees him as perhaps the country's "first new-media culture-war fatality." You see, it is the "physical, emotional, and spiritual toll" of blogging and being a news junkie that led to Breitbart's untimely death last week:

Human beings were not created for that kind of constant unending stress, and the one thing you can say about Andrew [Breitbart] is that he had fewer boundaries than others. He took it all so seriously, almost manically, in the end. The fight was everything. He felt. His anger was not feigned. He wanted to bleed and show the world the wounds. He wanted to scream. And he often did. [more]

Unending stress? Of what? Being a reactionary attack dog for the Right? I can think of many, many other more stressful "lifestyles" people have thrust upon them in the world today, such as starvation, suffering from AIDS in Africa, being tortured in Syria, kidnapped in Colombia, living under state control in North Korea, or living under a failed state in Somalia. Now that's "constant unending stress." Or how about just living in poverty in the United States? Or how about just being Shirley Sherrod and watching Andrew Breitbart unfairly and untruthfully torpedo your reputation publicly?

Sullivan needs some deep perspective. I can't weep for him blogging at 9:30 at night (his example), or for Breitbart being a polemicist, which is a charitable way of describing what Breitbart was. I didn't feel giddy like so many fellow progressives and liberals when Breitbart died. In fact, I found the giddiness disturbing. There are worse villains in this world than a deceitful blowhard like Breitbart. But to go to the other end and describe him as a casualty of a relentless schedule of blogging, arguing in bars, and jetsetting around the country to make vicious tirades at union organizers and Occupy folks? No way.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Not Cement"

"Hi, Jinx! Get it?"
After the sad death of Mike Kelley a couple of weeks ago, I thought about posting something about my favorite movie about the early L.A. punk scene, Raymond Pettibon's Sir Drone (1989). But Papa Jon over at Waitakere Walks speaks for me in his tribute, "Mike and Mike", when he writes "arguably the beginning and end of all films on the early LA punk/Masque era" but doesn't forget Kelley's and Watt's comedic brilliance. I haven't watched it in many, many years (it's not on DVD or YouTube), but not much time passes between times I quote some line from it to my spouse, the only person I know in L.A. who actually knows about this movie.

When we had a working VHS player, I could rent this at Vidiots in Santa Monica. I don't even know if they still have it there.

Kelley said of the film:
In this tape, Mike Watt (of the Minutemen and fIREHOSE fame) and I play two teenage punks trying to start a band in the 1970s. We struggle with various ethical and aesthetic questions raised by this endeavor. The tape was shot in two days. All of the dialogue was read off cue cards. [more]

And those cue cards, sometimes visible on screen, only enhance the comedic effect. Please, dear reader, see this film.

As an added attraction, there's this earlier version of the film, with some of the same jokes, ostensibly filmed by Larry Wessel and starring Jack Brewer and Rich Acostigan (according to a YouTube comment attributed to Mr. Brewer himself):

Doom Documentary

This a recommendation that you watch Such Hawks, Such Hounds (2008). Nice to see a documentary that coherently traces the lineage of hard rock and psychedelia from the early 70s to now, as it comes to us through the prism of early 80s SST. One can forget that Black Flag deeply influenced more than one musical genre, not only hardcore, but doom metal (and noise and artrock-jazz fusion, too, for that matter). Fortunately, this documentary does not gloss over that fact. (See above photo.) Carducci makes a convincing claim that the lameness of mainstream 80s pop-metal coincides with a big switch of the drug of creativity from marijuana to cocaine.

Here's Such Hawks, Such Hounds in its entirety. Bands and musicians profiled include: High on Fire, Earthless, Om, Dead Meadow, Comets on Fire, Pentagram, Sunn O))), and Wino Weinrich.  All of them good: