Sunday, September 28, 2008

Super-Atheist Sam Harris Attacks Palin

Stumbling upon Sam Harris' extraordinary op-ed on Sarah Plain ("When Atheists Attack") in the current edition of Newsweek has revived my resolve to finish reading his Letter to a Christian Nation (which I started last year but shelved indefinitely for lack of time during student-hood).

In his absolutely scathing critique of her qualifications (or lack thereof) for the "
second most important job in the world," Harris comes down hard on Palin's fundamentalist Christian ideology and highlights the ramifications her beliefs may have on American policy. Although I strongly recommend you read the entire article for yourself, here are some prime excerpts:
"I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House."

"Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times." Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves."

"Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?"
This one includes yet another reference to that point I've been harping on and on about (hypocritical treatment of Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin):
"It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska. But we cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity. And just imagine if, instead of the Palins, the Obama family had a pregnant, underage daughter on display at their convention, flanked by her black boyfriend who "intends" to marry her. Who among conservatives would have resisted the temptation to speak of "the dysfunction in the black community."
And of course, my personal favorite:
"What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"
"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."
"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."
"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical
decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wiping off the Lip-sctick

Tell 'em, NOW!
Dear Kelly,
"Sarah Palin represents a new feminism. . ."
conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, quoted in the Los Angeles Times

It has been a long time since we've heard the word "feminist" spoken in public so many times a day. Like me, I'm sure you find it a bit ironic.

According to The Washington Post, Republicans think "Palin's burst onto the national scene could be a chance to redefine the nature of feminism in politics," and prominent media suggest her as "a feminist dream" or even the new "face of feminism."

That's where we come in. NOW is working hard to make sure that, despite some media pundits' apparent confusion, every woman in the country understands what is really at stake on November 4. For us, the spotlight on feminism in the 2008 elections should be about real change -- change that will help secure and advance true equality for women -- not just lip service or lipstick. We're putting all possible resources into educating voters and turning out the feminist vote on Election Day.

With less than forty days left before Nov. 4, time is short. Voter registration in most states will close in just a few days. And we need your help to mobilize and get the word out. Our activists are going the extra mile, but our resources are stretched thin as we work against the clock.

I won't go through the laundry list, but you know that from equal pay to abortion and birth control, we have a lot to lose in November. We need you to help us alter the course this country has been on for the past eight years as we work for the change WOMEN need on election day and beyond.

NOW will be working hard to get out the vote and highlight critical women's issues, including dangerous state ballot measures. And the NOW Political Action Committee has endorsed the Obama/Biden ticket, as well as solid women's rights candidates in critical congressional races across the country.

Please consider what you can do to help in our final push. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kim A. Gandy
NOW President

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lynn Spears > Sarah Palin

I'm glad to see that Lynne Spears noticed the double-standard in the way the media (and conservative consumers of media, in general) responded to teenage daughter Jamie Lynn's pregnancy earlier this year, as compared to the public response to the Palin family's teen pregnancy scandal.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the Spears family was
crucified for Jamie Lynn's pregnancy (and grandmama Lynn Spears was ubiquitously ruled a "bad mother") while the Palins were sanctified for "choosing life" and displaying strength during the typical "ups and downs" of your Average American Family.... puh-lease! Good for you, Lynn Spears, for speaking out about this in Newsweek:

You and Jamie Lynn got some negative press when she got pregnant so young. But more recently, 17-year-old Bristol Palin, and her mother, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, found themselves in a similar situation. And the publ ic reaction has been different.

It's a totally different reaction. It's as if [Sarah Palin] became celebrated. I mean, the mother, Palin, was celebrated for this. Every woman in the world has applauded her strength and her convictions and poor little old Jamie Lynn—you saw how she was crucified. Everybody did, firsthand ... I just feel like it's been a very hypocritical situation.
If the baby-mama-drama plaguing the Palins were to curse a democrat in a similar position, the Republicans would be screaming about the liberal degeneration of family values. When it's one of their own, the GOP is all about the "strength and resolve of a loving family in turmoil." Bull. Shit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Help Victims of Domestic Violence Get Access to Legal Resources

From NOW:

Put Volunteer Attorneys to Work for Domestic Violence Survivors
Write Your Senators

Survivors of domestic abuse face enough adversity. With legal assistance often beyond their reach, abused women may experience the justice system as yet another hurdle to overcome.

Tell Congress you agree that survivors of domestic abuse should have access to the same legal resources so readily available to more fortunate and affluent members of society.

The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act (S.1515), introduced by Senator Joe Biden (D-Del), meets this demand for legal assistance by setting in motion an effort to mobilize 100,000 volunteer attorneys willing to work on behalf of survivors of abuse.

Take Action: Ask your senators to sponsor S.1515!

Studies estimate that fewer than one in five low-income survivors of domestic violence ever even see a lawyer. Yet legal advice is key for these women as they seek help from the police or court system. Often, stopping the violence hinges on the ability to obtain effective protection orders, initiate separation proceedings, or design safe child custody arrangements. Without legal knowledge, these options are not accessible.

Existing programs, like the Violence Against Women Act, assist women suffering domestic abuse but do not specifically address access to legal services. This network aims to fill that gap by working mostly with resources already in place. There are thousands of lawyers willing to volunteer to assist in domestic violence situations, but the mechanisms are not in place in most areas. S.1515 will allocate federal funds to create a network of those lawyers and match them to clients. The act will also give the National Domestic Violence Hotline $500,000 so it can provide legal referrals to victims who call in requesting help.

Passage of the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act will place adequate legal aid within reach of the people who need it most, proving that the justice system works for-not against-victims of domestic abuse.

Thank your senators if they are already sponsors and urge others to sign on right away! Our automated system will provide the appropriate sample message, which you can edit if you wish.

The bill needs more legislative support! Tell your senator that ending violence against women is a priority.

And can I say that I just love that this was introduced by Senator Biden?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Two Problems with this Statement

"But her son has given Ms. Palin, 44, a powerful message. Other candidates kiss strangers’ babies; Ms. Palin has one of her own. [Trig] is tangible proof of Ms. Palin’s anti-abortion convictions, which have rallied social conservatives, and her belief that women can balance family life with ambitious careers." -NYTimes

The first: Raise your hand if you think calling Governor Palin's Down syndrome infant "tangible proof of anti-abortion convictions" is immoral and demeaning... The idea that a living, breathing child is being touted by the conservative right as a proof of ideology doesn't sit well with me. In fact, it makes me want to vomit in my mouth a little. Maybe it's because all this talk of Palin's choice to sanction Trig's existence, despite his disability, makes me think of eugenics in a Brave New World /Gattaca sort of way. Or maybe it's because even I (zealous advocate of reproductive choice) distinguish between an embryo and... oh... a 4 month old child.

The second: I don't know what to make of all the talk about Sarah Palin's "balancing act" between family and career. This issue in general is one on which I am deeply conflicted. On one hand, I am supremely pleased that the media is making average Americans consider the compatibility of motherhood and public power/leadership. Indeed, it warms my heart (at least least in the sense that indigestion warms the heart) that the hillbilly-bigot set is actually able to support a woman candidate, period. [The downside to that? Refer to string of anti-Palin posts below]. On the other hand, I can't help but experience periodic moments of disgust when I think about how much the GOP is exploiting Plain's almost-exploding femininity. Although the McCain campaign has yet to say it outright, the message seems to be: "See, OUR token female candidate is beautiful (a "VILP"), nurturing, soft-spoken, and not a bit like that OTHER female politician and her Sisterhood of Traveling Pantsuits." Has anyone else noticed this? I will return to this topic again soon....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Response to Tonight's RNC / Sarah Palin Spectacle

  1. Rudy Giuliani - you suck. Be quiet.
  2. If Sarah Palin were a) Democrat, b) pro-choice, c) anti-gun, d) had reasonable views on prevention-based sex education, e) not homophobic, f) not cozy with big oil companies, g) had national political experience, h) had any kind of foreign policy experience, i) had gotten her passport in 1977 rather than 2007, i) understood that public resources for her special needs child require taxes that she and McCain want to cut, j) didn't continue to call herself a freaking hockey mom, or k).... I'll add more to this list later.... If, if, if, if, if - then I would really like her. She is a strong political figure and - yes - a great speaker.... but her beliefs sit at the polar opposite end of the political spectrum on almost every issue I can think of. I will not go so far as to that say I respect her politics (because I don't), but I can see why conservative women and men could rally around her. And yes, it scares me a little. But she's no Hillary; her policy positions are downright scary; and I still think Barack and Joe will win the election. So there.
  3. I love (and when I say love I mean that I was really freaking annoyed) how Bristol Palin brought her baby-daddy on stage "in solidary" with the rest of the Palin family. I'm sure this will be sanctified by evangelicals and conservative pundits in the coming days, despite the fact that the same base of bigots crucified Jamie Lynn Spears over the last few months for her pregnancy... even though the younger Spears handled the situation exactly the same way as Bristol ("choosing" to keep her baby - again the language of choice - and settling down with the man who put the bun in the oven). F-you Sarah Palin, and all the small-minded GOPers, who believe in abstinence-only sex education.
  4. When McCain came out to greet Palin and family, I couldn't help but think that the crowd's excitement would be too much for him and all that "heartbeat away" talk would become.... well, you know. I know! I'm a horrible person. But the man is a fossil. I can't believe he's being considered a stable choice for president.
  5. Again, CNN demeans its reputation by interrupting political analysis after a historic speech to air some country creep's "Raisin' McCain" song in its entirety. Crass.
  6. Juxtaposing the national anthem with the Pledge of Allegiance... was weird. I say it didn't work.


I'm often made fun of for my skills (or lack thereof) in... yes, addition and subtraction. I was recently out with a group of friends having a little tapas in Wicker Park, when I was heavily taunted after a little gaff following my attempt to figure out how to make my write-in tip "even." After settling on the idea that adding $4.22 to $21.88 would make it an "even" $26.00... well, you get the picture... I'm bad at math.

Which is why I've added an official visitor counter to the bottom of my blog, thus eliminating any guesswork needed to keep track of the statistical popularity of this blog of mine. Let the numbers speak for themselves.

NKOTB is back!

Go ahead and smile about this :)

From Rolling Stone:

Last night the reunited New Kids on the Block were in a playful mood as they celebrated their first new LP in 14 years at New York’s Marquee. “Do you think this song was better then, or now?” Joey McIntyre wondered aloud as “The Right Stuff” came blaring through the speakers. The DJ’s playlist included several NKOTB hits including “Hangin’ Tough,” the new “Single” (from The Block, out this week) and a track featuring Akon called “Put It on My Tab.” Swarms of die-hard fans were thrilled to party with their favorite childhood group, shamelessly tossing business cards and attempting to brush up against the five singers.

Coming back onto the scene after a decade and a half, it was clear that the band are still trying to figure out who their fanbase is. “We hear a 15-year-old’s ringtone blasting ‘Summertime’ and we’re thinking, ‘Is this our demographic?” McIntyre said. “Working with Ne-Yo was amazing,” he added, of the R&B star who worked on “Single.” “He’s a class act through and through — a singer, writer and performer, a triple-threat.” The album also features Lady GaGa, the Pussycat Dolls and production by Polow da Don (Fergie’s “London Bridge,” Usher’s “Love in This Club”).

The group will kick off their tour on September 18th in Toronto and remain on the road through late November. “We’re most excited about the Boston shows,” said Danny Wood of the group’s September 26th and 28th hometown gigs. Wood also revealed that VH1 will be airing three songs live from the second Boston show.

I already missed out on the Spice Girls reunion tour... I'm definitely going to rock it at NKOTB in a city near me.

Jesus hates your wrinkly skin-tight dress, Rachel Lampa

As if my normal level of exposure to evangelical drivel isn't bad enough...

Last night I was horrified to bear witness to Christian-pop princess Rachel Lampa's savior-worshiping during CNN's coverage of the Republican National Convention. I guess the GOP wants to set the record straight for any Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, etc who might subscribe to its openly homophobic, anti-women agenda: "Christ loves you! Good Republicans - nay, good Americans - are Christian! Praise the Lord - and wear cute lip gloss and chunky belts while doing it!"

UGGGH. Really, CNN? You couldn't find anything else worthy to cover last night but Republican celebration of the ever-expanding assault on American secularism? Come on!

It's one thing to have to sit through politicians making requisite references to God (e.g., ending a speech with "God bless America" or "God speed," like Hillary did last week at the DNC to my chagrin). Such statements are almost ubiquitously included in every candidates' stump speeches as a standard of practice. Indeed, I am constantly frustrated by the inclusion of such comments by all politicians (especially Republicans!), though I recognize they're not going away any time soon and thus I forge on. (See any of the polls on Americans' willingness to vote for atheists versus other minority groups for insight on another topic for another post.)

What I can't understand is why the evangelical pop-industry's proselytizing should get to
monopolize precious airtime on a network that touts itself as being one of the world's leaders in news and information delivery, with its pulse on all the important headlines of the moment. The coverage of Rachel Lampa's performance I watched last night was not quality coverage of the political highlights of a major party's election-year convention... It was barely distinguishable from a Michelle Branch concert. This does not belong on CNN, people.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

WTF Texas?

Teachers carrying guns in rural Texas schools? This is a disaster waiting to happen, y'all.

Read more about the redneck insanity here.

Absolutely Appalling

This makes me sick to my stomach.