War on Xmas Stupidity Begins

Or maybe we should consider it a continuation, because these idiots never really stop fighting their silly little war:

The Texas State Board of Education is currently considering a proposal that would ensure sixth-grade students learn about at least one religious holiday from each of the five major world religions. Currently, students learn about more Christian and Jewish holidays, and Hinduism is excluded. The new proposal would replace Christmas and Rosh Hashanah with Diwali. “It’s outrageous that the war on Christmas continues in our state and in our nation,” said Jonathan Saenz, a lobbyist for the conservative Free Market Foundation.

[snip]

Sixth-grade social studies in Texas “is focused on world geography and cultures,” and Hinduism is the third-largest world religion, following Christianity and Islam. However, one Republican activist serving as an “expert” advising the board said that including more Christian and Jewish holidays “simply acknowledges with accuracy the religious culture of America as it actually exists that these holidays have been awarded their place in the culture by the people themselves.” [emphasis added]

These people are such ginormous fucktards that they don’t even know what “international” means.

For those worried about poor neglected Christianity and Judaism, bear in mind that the kiddies are still expected to learn about Easter and Yom Kippur. Something tells me the students will walk out of class thoroughly Judeo-Christianized, even if they have also learned the shocking truth that a) America isn’t the entire world and b) there are other religions that lots of people believe in. Shocking, but true.

Need to Know

Summers in Seattle are short and fickle, so I’ve been squeezing every last drop I can out of this one. My adventures have taught me how much I need to know.

Learning is one of those endeavors without end. If you stop at a taste, you may believe you’ve been sated – I know people like that, people who nibbled at knowledge and then wandered away in favor of something easier. Maybe it’s because they were force-fed rather than allowed to develop an appetite. Perhaps they came to believe learning was too hard, or they weren’t good at it, or some other bollocks. If they’re lucky, later in life, they’ll get a second chance at the buffet and realize they’ve been starving all along. Maybe they’ll realize how much they need to know.

Maybe they’ll wander down to Ballard Locks and see a man with a telescope.

Wait a second, you say – a telescope at boat locks? In broad daylight? That’s one of the things I love the most about this city, the incongruity of enlightenment, lodged in the most unexpected places. My friend and I headed down to watch the boats travel between Lake Union and Puget Sound, and stumbled into an astronomy lesson. A gentleman had his telescope set up on the lawn across from the visitor’s center, pointed at the sun. He had a passel of people there waiting for their chance to have a close look. And while they sat and stared in awe at solar prominences and the mottled texture of the sun’s surface (yes, it really does look like an orange peel), he gave a little lesson on our nearest star. All for free.

For the first time in my life, I got to view the Sun through a telescope. It looked something like this:

The filigree arches of those prominences will remain etched in my mind forever. There’s nothing quite like seeing it for yourself. And it’ll probably make you want to learn all about the Sun. Just don’t go pointing a telescope toward it without learning about the proper filters, first.

This summer began with my first view of the Moon through a 24-inch telescope at Lowell Observatory. You’ve seen plenty of photos of the Moon. Head on down to your nearest observatory and see it for yourself. It fair takes your breath away.

I’ve spent the summer reading science books. I’ve read up on biology, geology, biogeography, anthropology, and just about everything else I could get my hands on. You’d think I’d be stuffed full o’ knowledge by now. The think about knowing is, the more you know, the more you need. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. At least, if you allow yourself to have fun. And if you take field trips. Field trips are fun.

The more I learn about the world, the more it fascinates me. I don’t take the Earth for granted anymore. I don’t even take my fuchsias for granted now. After reading up on evo devo and evolutionary biology in general, each bloom, each new leaf, looks like a miracle. Even the flaws are fascinating. And I need to know more.

You all probably understand that. You’re Elitist Bastards, after all, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. You’ve felt the need to know.

I’m going to take you two steps further.

First, challenge yourself to learn about something you never had any interest in before. For me, that was biology. For you, it may be chemistry, or political science, or something really arcane like lapidary. Pick a topic and run with it. Learn all you can. See if you don’t discover that a little knowledge means you’re left with a burning need to know.

Second, challenge others. I don’t mean in-your-face challenge. I mean take your knowledge and throw it out there for people to grab hold of. Astronomers, set your telescope up in a public park. Chemists, do some sidewalk demos. Whatever your talent, whatever your area of expertise, even if it’s something as arcane as dorodango. Take it public.

Some religions fish for souls. We shall fish for minds. And I’ll bet you we can hook quite a few. People need to know.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to know how the Cascades formed, what waterfalls really are, and there’s all that Arizona geology I need to know more about…

Right-Wing Fucktards Axe Lincoln

Work continues apace as shit-for-brains rabid right fundies take a wrecking ball to the Texas curriculum. The latest:

According to a draft of the proposed new textbook standards, “biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Austin have been removed from the early grades.” At the same time, Peter Marshall wants more teaching of Christianity’s role “in America’s past“:

Marshall…also recommends that school children get a better understanding of the motivational role the Bible and the Christian faith played in the settling of the original colonies. […]

“In light of the overwhelming historical evidence of the influence of the Christian faith in the founding of America, it is simply not up to acceptable academic standards that throughout the social studies (curriculum standards) I could only find one reference to the role of religion in America’s past,” Marshall said in his review.

Actual education professionals in Texas appeared dismayed at Marshall and Barton’s assessment.

I imagine they did. I also imagine they wish they were merely having a nightmare rather than living one.

If my Texas readers know of any way to counter this crap, please do let us know. It’s gotten ridiculously far out of hand.

The Amazing Adventures of the Abstinence Fairy

Bristol Palin’s decided to crusade for abstinence. The opportunities for mockery are endless:

Bristol Palin has successfully shed her image as a jilted unwed mother. Through the magical gullibility of Republican voters and the mainstream medias’ ability to completely suspend their viewers’ disbelief, Bristol Palin has been miraculously transformed into… the Abstinence Fairy!

Faster than a speeding condom…
More powerful than raging teenage hormones…
Able to leap her Mom’s hypocrisy in a single bound!

Look! Up in the sky!
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the Abstinence Fairy!

I wonder if this miracle of fail will be any consolation to the abstinence-only shysters who are even now wailing and gnashing their teeth over the loss of their funding, stamping their feet and screaming “Are too successful!” in the face of studies debunking their efficiency? After all, there are few spokespeople more effective for abstinence than those for whom it didn’t do diddly-shit.

(Tip o’ the shot glass to Mike at Crooks and Liars)

Democracy for Dumbshits


Two books Cons desperately need.

Cujo’s got a great tutorial up on the Constitution, the Courts, and how American democracy works. Perhaps if it’s patiently and repeatedly read to Cons, something will sink in.

In that spirit, let’s start by repeating this part of the lesson:

The way that the framers of the Constitution tried to ensure that government would be bound by the Constitution was to set up a court system that could interpret it. Article III defines the Supreme Court, and specifies what powers and responsibilities it will have. Section 2 includes this sentence:

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

U.S Constitution: Article III, Section 2

Obviously, I’ve added that emphasis, which points out that courts, to at least some degree, were allowed to interpret what the law was. Alexander Hamilton, in The Federalist Number 78 wrote this about the role of the courts:

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing.

The Federalist No. 78: The Judiciary Department

In a perfect society, where the government always correctly interpreted and observed the law, court powers of this nature would be unnecessary. Of course, in a perfect society, courts would probably be unnecessary in every way we now use them.

Do you think it would help if we tattooed it on their chests, where they could see it every morning as they’re flexing their flab in front of the mirror pretending they’re Jack Bauer?

Gilding Shit

You know what they say about shit: dip it in gold, it’s still shit. For some reason, that old saying keeps coming to mind as I read up on various and sundry attempts at “rebranding.”

The Republicon party’s trying it. Yes, again. Arlen Specter’s done it by changing his label from Con to Dem (and changing nothing else). When “clean coal” didn’t fool anyone but the willingly fooled, Newt Gingrinch rebranded it “green coal.” Now the abstinence only crowd’s decided to take a whirl on the rebranding bandwagon:

It’s been a rough several months for the abstinence-only sex education crowd. As study after study continues to confirm that their approach just doesn’t work, the Obama administration has cut $14 million of funding to their programs and specified that remaining curricula will need to meet actual scientific standards. “When the National Abstinence Education Association gathered on Capitol Hill last month for their annual lobby day, the sense of fear in the room was palpable,” writes Joe Sonka at RH Reality Check.

But they’re not ready to admit defeat! The NAEA’s constituent organizations are giving themselves marketing makeovers in an attempt to keep the gravy train rolling. “They would,” writes Sonka, “simply rebrand themselves as curriculum that ‘wasn’t just about abstinence,’ but was all about ‘holistic approaches’ to ‘healthy lifestyle choices.'”

[snip]

Sonka points to WhykNow, a major abstinence-only program. With a PR firm’s help, they’ve changed their name to OnPoint and made some noise about promoting “healthy decision-making skills.” Nothing, however, is forthcoming about whether OnPoint will change its abstinence-only message.

One somehow gets the feeling that the answer to that last one is “no.” They’re just hoping P.T. Barnum was right about all those suckers, and relying on air fresheners to cover up the smell of bullshit under that thin gold leaf.

Christian "Science"

I’m sorry. I know this is probably going to make you wince, or possibly land in the hospital with a severe overdose of stupidity, but this is just too funny to pass up.

The Association of Christian Schools International is trying to sue the snot out of the University of California because U of C doesn’t think the “science” classes taught by some Christian schools are quite up to snuff, and therefore refuse to award credit for those classes. Ed Brayton has the brief filed by attorneys made famous by the Kitzmiller trial, and highlights a possible reason U of C is being such a big meanie:

This brief deals primarily with the science classes that were rejected, classes that used one of two books: Biology for Christian Schools and Biology: God’s Living Creation. These books are both virulently anti-science, teaching that anything that contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible must be false.

Beginning with the first page of its introduction, the third edition of Biology for Christian Schools makes absolutely clear that its perspective on the nature of science is irreconcilably at odds with that of the NAS and the scientific community in general. From the outset, the textbook instructs the student that everything in the Bible is literally true and that, therefore, any scientific observations or conclusions that conflict with the Bible are necessarily false “no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.”…Similar statements appear throughout the textbook, drumming home the message that, with respect to any “fact” contained in the Bible, empirical evidence is irrelevant. See, e.g., id. at 197 (“Because God is the source of all truth, all accurate scientific knowledge will fit into th[e Bible’s] outline. Anything that contradicts God’s Word is in error or has been misunderstood.”); id. at 201 (“God’s Word is the only true measuring stick of scientific accuracy.”); id. at 204 (“All scientific facts and the interpretation of those facts, therefore, must fit into the model prescribed by the Word of God. A scientific ‘fact’ that does not fit into the worldview outlined in the Bible either is in error (and therefore not really a fact) or is being misinterpreted.”); id. at 251 (“[T]he Bible is the source of all truth, and everything, not just science, must be evaluated based on Scripture. If a hypothesis or scientific model seems to make sense and all of the evidence points to an answer that is contrary to the Bible, then the evidence, not the Bible, must be reevaluated and the conclusions changed.”).

Easy extra credit to any commentors who can hazard a guess as to why these “science” classes might be considered unacceptable to a university system that takes science seriously.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go seek medical attention for the side I just split…

The Necessity of Knowledge

It’s cliché time at the cantina, my darlings, because I want to talk about a simple truth: knowledge is power.

In observing politics and religion, you soon notice a distinct abundance of stupidity. And I call it stupidity, not ignorance, because refusing knowledge is stupid. Everyone at times refuses knowledge, but some people raise it to an art form. It’s a constant in their lives. They can’t be bothered to think.

I thought of it watching the teabaggers get manipulated by the corporate lobbyists. These people were tools, and they were too stupid to realize it. It’s not that they were ignorant of what was going on – the information was out there in abundance. They had it in their own hands.

There’s a tradition in religion and conservatism that says, “Don’t question authority. Trust received pronouncements.” Therefore, you get people who can be told that Obama’s leading the country into socialism. They know this not because they’ve seen evidence, not because they know what socialism is, but because they’ve been told Obama’s a socialist, socialism is bad, and therefore Obama is bad:


A little bit of knowledge would’ve gone a long way, there. Knowing what these social programs are, how they can work, and why being a selfish stupid git isn’t the best survival strategy would completely disarm GOP attacks.

If people bothered to gain a bit of knowledge, they wouldn’t be snookered by Newtie’s latest “green coal” blabbering. They wouldn’t elect ignorant fools like Michele Bachmann and John Boehner who don’t know the difference between necessary and toxic levels of carbon dioxide, and exactly which greenhouse gas it is that cows emit. Note to Boehner: it’s not CO2.

A little bit of knowledge combined with an ocean of ignorance is a dangerous thing. Michele Bachmann’s statement that carbon dioxide is a vital part of life on earth may sound persuasive if all you know is that CO2 is what plants eat. If you didn’t know other things, such as what happens when too much of a good thing gets into the atmosphere, then you’d think she had a good point. Alas, too many ignorant and willfully stupid people do. And so the planet boils.

Speaking of global warming, Sen. James Inhofe has “a list of 700 prominent scientists who oppose global warming.” Wow! With that many scientists saying global warming doesn’t exist, there must really be doubts, right? Here’s where knowledge gives us the power to resist fake science, though, because knowing who those “scientists” are changes everything:

Like the Discovery Institute’s similar list involving evolution, there are some real laughers on the list. Like this one:

One of the listed prominent scientists is Chris Allen, who holds no college degree, believes in creationism and belongs to a Southern Baptist church.

Allen is a weatherman at the FOX-affiliated TV station in Bowling Green, Ky.

[snip]

The list also includes a retired professor with no training in climate science who says that the earth “couldn’t be more than 10,000 years old.” And these names were listed as “prominent scientists” in an actual Senate report.

Outrageous fucktards can get away with this shit only because people don’t know any better. They haven’t bothered to learn. They don’t know how to verify claims. They don’t know how to think critically. If all of us had knowledge and knew how to apply it, the Senate wouldn’t be disgraced by idiots like Inhofe, because they wouldn’t get voted in there in the first place.

Given enough knowledge, people wouldn’t fall prey to vitamin pushers. They wouldn’t get taken in by fake medicine. And they sure as shit wouldn’t get snookered by priests trying to use science to shore up their homophobia. No wonder the powerful religious, political and corporate interests hate knowledge so.

Knowledge is necessary to keep us from falling prey. Knowledge is our power. I suggest that as Elitist Bastards, we teach a lot more folks how to use it.

Prescribing the Disease as the Cure

Leave it to the uber-religious fuckwits to come up with genius ideas like this:

I had to laugh at the absurd assumptions behind this headline from the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow:

afaheadline.jpg

STDs have gone up, therefore we need more abstinence-only sex ed. Never mind that study after study has shown that kids who get abstinence-only sex ed are less likely to use condoms when they have sex.

You know why I love Ed Brayton? Because he’s merciless with the statistics:

Let’s look just at the state of Texas, which leads the nation in abstinence-only sex ed. 94% of all Texas school districts teach abstinence-only sex ed, with only 3% teaching abstinence-plus (abstinence plus condoms and other forms of birth control).

The result? Texas teenagers also are among the nation’s leaders in unprotected sex.

Fifty-sex percent of high school students in Texas report having used condoms at last intercourse. Only three states have lower rates of condom use among students.

We already know that Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, despite 94% of them being taught abstinence-only. It’s certainly no surprise that they also have an extraordinarily high rate of STD infections:

Young people ages 15-24 comprised twenty percent of Texas’ new HIV cases in 2006.

Texas’ youth, especially young women, are at risk for STIs:

  • Youth ages 15-24 experienced 73 percent of the total number of Chlamydia cases in Texas in 2006.
  • Youth ages 15-24 experienced 61 percent of the total number of Gonorrhea cases in Texas in 2006.
  • For all youth in this age range, young women were most at risk for STIs, experiencing 83 percent of Chlamydia infections and 60 percent of gonorrhea infections.

So much for that argument.

I think it’s time we turn the tables. Anti-choicers like to shove pictures of discarded fetal tissue in people’s faces. Why not take a page from their book and start parading around outside their churches with blown-up photos of the effects of STDs? We can ask them why they’re ruining kids’ lives.

Here’s just a few pics to get us started:

AIDS:

Advanced Kaposi’s sarcoma with marked lymphostatic oedema in a patient’s face.

(© J.H. Frenkel, Univ. Frankfurt)


Syphillis:

Lesions

Courtesy of the Sexual Health Guide blog


Chlamydia –

A wicked case of crotch rot

This is what they sentence kids to when the only advice they give is “Don’t have sex.”