Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bible Belt Buys Books 'bout Fornicatin'


Contrary to what they would have us believe, red staters actually do it like they do on the Discovery Channel and even read books on how to be better at it! Who knew?!?!?! The funniest part of this article notes that the sales marketing manager of one publishing company attributes the high sales of sex tip books in the bible belt to the inaccessibility of porn in those areas (as opposed to the filth pool that is New York).

Would You Like Some Blindness With Your Wood?


As with just about any drug, Viagra and it's comepetitors have known side effects. Unfortunately for ongoing users, the FDA recently released a report noting that there are 40+ cases in which Viagra and Cialis users have become blind. Keep in mind that this is out of a total of 23 million men who have taken Viagra since it was released in 1998 and a few million who have taken Cialis since its release in 2003.

Damn, now what am I gonna use to mix my meth and Viagra cocktails?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Smithsonian to present a paper on the existence of Unicorns and the Tooth Fairy

The Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History is working with the Discovery Institute, a group in Seattle that supports an alternative theory, "intelligent design."[see Inherit the Wind] In a few days, the museum will hold a private screening of the film, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe" which makes a case against evolution. Yes, you heard right, one of the countries largest public science institutions is hosting a film that makes a case against science and evolution.

But a museum spokesman, Randall Kremer, said the event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. "It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video," he said.

The museum offers its auditorium to many organizations and corporations in return for contributions - in the case of the Discovery Institute, $16,000.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tin Foil Hats Made Obsolete By Tin Foil House


To balance out some Debbie Downer posts from this week, here's a Finally Friday story: A California family has managed to make their entire house alien-mind-probe-proof by surrounding it with aluminum sheet metal. After complaints from neighbors and an order from Sacramento [Housing?] Code officials, they're going to take it down.
The inside of the house is also covered with foil and the beds are covered with a foil-like material as well," Sacramento Code Enforcement spokesman Josh Pino said.
As Kat pointed out, it's one thing for a single conspiracy theorist to do this but this entire family sounds cracked out! High school must be fun for the D'Souza children. And you thought we were paranoid over here at JTL central.

Already Ahead in Flat Panel TV and Compact Car Technology, S. Korea Overtakes U.S. in Stem Cell Research


While Dubya tries to keep us in the dark ages and the fight over stem cell funding rages on in Washington a South Korean team may be making it all moot as they achieved a major breakthrough in stem cell research. Senate Republicans are threatening to override Bush's promised veto of legislation that would expand funding for stem cell research. How is Dubya so out of touch?

This is just another example of how the US continues to fall behind in science and engineering. Yes, part of this lag is due to nerd backlash societal and cultural pressures but the government isn't helping by spending unending billions on poorly justified wars and tax breaks for big business.

As for the important news, check out more details on the stem cell breakthrough from Science Magazine. Remember to use our registration info (see the sidebar on the right of this page) to access the article.

[Thanks again to Erick for the tip. He also pointed out that this was the lead story on the BBC site while cnn.com was debating the choice of colors used by the amber alert system.]

Army Told That Patriotism Doesn't Include Lying


The tragic story of Pat Tillman just keeps getting more heartbreaking. If you recall, Pat Tillman was the Arizona Cardinals football player that gave up a $3.2 million football contract shortly after the 9/11 attacks in order to join the Army Rangers to defend his country. That's true patriotism. Tillman was killed in 2004 under purported enemy fire. The cause of death was maintained for weeks by the Army until it was revealed that he was actually killed by friendly fire.

The Tillman family is now alleging that the Army tried to cover up the real cause of his death for marketing reasons.
Tillman's parents said they believe the military concocted the story that their son had been killed in a hail of enemy fire to stimulate national pride.

"They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realised that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a hand basket if the truth about the death got out. They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman Senior said.
...
"The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting," his mother said.
Also of interest is that his uniform was burned shortly after the incident, possibly to cover up the fact his death was a result of friendly fire.

Republicans Pushing Pentagon to Build Death Star


This is an oldie but a goodie and with the recent release of Star Wars Ep III, it's somewhat relevant right now. This write up from The Weekly Standard draws parallels between the power struggle in the Star Wars movies with that of the Democrats and Republicans in recent history. Somehow, the author concludes that he'd rather live in fear under the rule of a dictator rather than in freedom under a truly democratic senate. In yet another nod to V for Vendetta fans, the author equates anarchy to true freedom. Whatever it takes I guess!

[Thanks to Erick for the tip]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Is photography becoming illegal in the United States?

Could taking an picture like this be considered "suspicious activity"?

If you pull out a camera on a New Jersey train, you will have company - law enforcement company. If you size up a shot on the New York subway, you'll probably be questioned by security and told to keep the lens cap tightly on. Even if you plan to snap some innocuous bank building from a public sidewalk, you might find guards telling you it's not allowed.

Ms. Calzada offers the example of a small-town photojournalist in Victoria, Texas, who was taking shots of potholes for a newspaper story last year when a police officer drove by several times. Finally, the officer stopped and questioned him and, even after running an ID check, bluntly declared the photographer's actions suspicious and intimated he'd be keeping an eye on him, the photographer recalls.

The USA Patriot Act, with its broad definition of "suspicious activity," has cracked the door wider to individual interpretation.

[Thanks to Maria for the tip]

I know what you've been up to...

If you've ever vocally disagreed with government policies, under policies put in place by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI - working with local police through Joint Terrorism Task Forces - can now gather information about people who express their disagreement with U.S. government policies.

If you've ever attend meetings with people who oppose government policies, under policies put in place by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI - working with local police through Joint Terrorism Task Forces - can now attend religious and political meetings and gather information about people at the meetings. The ACLU has recently obtained evidence showing that the FBI and local police have kept files on political and faith-based groups.

If you've ever attended a protest against U.S. intervention in Iraq, the ACLU has new evidence proving that the FBI has collected files or aggressively questioned members of anti-war groups in Colorado, Missouri, and elsewhere.

If you belong to one of these groups (or one like it in your city or town): American Friends Service Committee, Greenpeace, PETA, American Indian Movement, or the National Lawyers Guild you may be targeted by the FBI. Based on what the ACLU has learned from dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests, the FBI and local police have maintained files on similar groups across America.

If you attended a political convention to protest government policies, you might want to develop a good alias! The ACLU has obtained documents that prove the FBI has questioned and maintained files on people who planned protests at the political conventions.

If you've ever sent a package FedEx you might think your privacy is ensured, but you should know that FedEx maintains its own deputized police force and is part of a Joint Terrorism Task Force. It's not yet known what kind of information FedEx is sharing with the FBI and other law enforcement officials, but given what is known about JTTF activity, we thought you'd want to know about the relationship.

Oh dang! Fenton and I must be on their watch list. Good thing one of us keeps an alias.

Darfur, Sudan

I've wanted to write about the genocide in Darfur for sometime, but I've never known where to begin, so here's some background first.

It begins with the basic conflict between the central Arab and Islamic government of Khartoum and the outlying regions populated by various black African ethnic groups causing economic, political and sometimes also religious conflict. The two main rebel groups in opposition to the Arab leaning government are the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem).

In order to quell these rebellions, Arab militias, the janjaweed, were hired by the government to force most of the African population in Sudan’s western Darfur region out. To discourage resettlement, the militias have poisoned many of the arid region’s wells with animal carcasses and human corpses. Some of the janjaweed now haunt the fringes of the refugee camps and kill or rape those who stray outside. Others have been integrated into the Sudanese army or the "police" forces that patrol the camps.

The atrocities committed by the militant group is appalling—displacement, murder, and ethnic cleansing by means of killing off a majority of the young black African men and raping the women in order to "breed" in Arab traits to the next generation are just some of the things going on in the region. The numbers are hard to pin down but around 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes and the number of dead could be as high is as half a million. (More information here.)

The international community is obviously not doing enough to help. The UN has gone as far as to say, "the violent acts do not amount to genocide." Even more disturbing news is that the CIA's close relationship with Sudan's government enables genocide there to continue. Because the Sudan's CIA-type organization, Mukhabarat, is providing the CIA with valuable information on terrorists and their planned actions against the United States, could it be that Bush administration is turning a blind eye to the Darfur genocide? More is surely to come on this developing story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Jackass has sex with a mule

This one is so awesome, I'm just copying it directly from the Village Voice:

Right-winger condemns 'beast fornicators,' but loves his mule

Alan Colmes, on his Fox radio talk show last week, asked anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley if he was kidding when Horsley once claimed to have had sex with animals as a boy growing up in Georgia. Horsley is best known for his "Nuremberg Files," which, according to Planned Parenthood, lists abortion doctors "marked for death." Here was the exchange between Colmes and Horsley:

Horsley: Hey Alan, if you want to accuse me of having sex when I was a fool, I did everything that crossed my mind that looked like I...

Colmes: You had sex with animals?

Horsley: Absolutely. I was a fool. When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule.

Colmes: I'm not so sure that that is so.

Horsley: You didn't grow up on a farm in Georgia, did you?

Colmes: Are you suggesting that everybody who grows up on a farm in Georgia has a mule as a girlfriend?

Horsley: It has historically been the case. You people are so far removed from the reality... Welcome to domestic life on the farm. You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually. You're naive. You know better than that... If it's warm and it's damp and it vibrates, you might in fact have sex with it.

Not knowing whether or not to believe this, we called Horsley and read him the quotes. "That's correct," he said. Then we looked at his website. Here's what it says: "Now when homosexuals, or adulterers, or fornicators, or pedophiles, or beast fornicators and beast suckers, or any sexual outlaws, parade themselves around as if they could be followers of Jesus Christ, they demonstrate a lie and blasphemy and abomination."

The Silver Ring Thing

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging the federal government's misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund religious activities in the "Silver Ring Thing," a nationwide ministry program that uses abstinence-only sex education as a means to bring "unchurched" students to Jesus Christ. Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts said, "The 'Silver Ring Thing' is nothing more than a vehicle for converting young people to Christianity. Our taxpayer dollars should play no part in such a program."

During the "Silver Ring Thing's" flagship three-hour program, members testify about how accepting Jesus Christ improved their lives, quote Bible passages, and urge audience members to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into their lives. The official silver ring is inscribed with the bible verse, God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor. [1 Thess. 4:3-4]

According to the ACLU's study there is no conclusive evidence that abstinence-only-until-marriage education reduces the rate of unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, research indicates that in addition to proselytizing, many of these programs do not help teens delay having sex, and some studies show evidence that these programs actually deter teens from protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy or disease when they become sexually active. You can read their official statement here.

The whole ring ceremony is way too similar to a nun's ordaining. The ring that she receives symbolizes a nun's virginity and perpetual chastity and more importantly her marriage to Jesus Christ. No one finds this a strange thing for young people to be doing in a public school?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Half a Bil... I mean Half a TRILLION dollars!


Let's for one instant try to forget about the cost of the Iraq war in terms of lives, property, and international regard for the U.S. and refocus on something that matters even to Republicans: the almighty Dollar. The latest round of legislation passed by Congress
...gave final passage yesterday to an $82 billion emergency war-spending bill, sending President Bush a measure that will push the cost of the Iraq invasion well past $200 billion.
...
By 2010, war costs are likely to exceed half a trillion dollars, according to nonpartisan congressional researchers.
While we should obviously spend whatever is needed to keep our troops safe and effective it's funny how this money is so readily available when it will be fed back in to big corporations / military contractors. Is money as readily available for teachers, social services, or funding the sciences?

[6/1/05 Update:]
Original Link isn't working.
Here's a related article with the important numbers:

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Laser Guided Evangelism


Some forms of religious proselytizing can often be funny - think of the evangelical skater dudes we've mentioned before. However, when it fosters a "discriminatory culture" within an organization wielding multi million dollar weapons, it really should be kept in check.
A chaplain at the Air Force Academy has described a "systemic and pervasive" problem of religious proselytizing at the academy and says a religious tolerance program she helped create to deal with the problem was watered down after it was shown to officers, including the major general who is the Air Force's chief chaplain.
...
The academy began developing the tolerance program, called Respecting the Spiritual Values of all People, or R.S.V.P., in response to a survey it took last year. The survey found that more than half of the cadets said they had heard derogatory religious comments or jokes at the academy.

For more than a year, the Air Force has been struggling to respond to accusations from some alumni, staff members and cadets that evangelical Christians in leadership positions at the academy were creating a discriminatory climate.
Keep in mind it was a Lutheran chaplain who created the tolerance program that was ultimately marginalized. It sure sucks that extremists are screwing it up for the moderates. Seems like they have more in common with Muslims than they'd like to think.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Update on Iraq's Uglier, Less Oil Rich Little Brother

So with all the ongoing ruckus in Iraq, we haven't heard a whole lot about Afghanistan as the post-war rebuilding has been a relative success. That might be changing for the worse as the growing anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan has resulted in public protests that have turned violent. A few people have even been killed in some of these protests.
Islamic fundamentalist political parties, remnants of the former Taliban government and a renegade anti-American commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, are all possible sources of the violence, said Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.


I'm a big fan of righteous indignation but I just can't take the kid in this picture seriously. Another interesting point from the article is that reconstruction of the country isn't progressing as quickly as people there are expecting.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Bloggers Unite!


Part of our still unstated mission is to get the word out on goings on in the world and what better way to do it then to point out yet another left-leaning blog. The contributors over @ The Political Rant have a sweet looking site and some really informative posts (and comments) so check them out when you get a chance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Extreme Makeover, Big Brother Edition


Here's an interesting read on how Chicago area law enforcement is using technology to be more efficient and effective. One of the Chicago PD's new initiatives involves a pilot installation of 30 surveillance cameras to keep some eyes on the streetz. While the use of cameras isn't new - the UK started pilot programs in the early 90s and other US cities such as New Orleans and New York have been using them to some extent for a while - the planned rollout of 2,250 cameras does make one sit up and notice. As mentioned in the article, Chicago doesn't have the best record with regards to protecting Civil Rights in the course of protecting it's citizens:
Critics worry that the cameras and tactical units are more of the same - and see in other cities evidence to support their fears. In New Orleans, for instance, surveillance cameras were originally envisioned as witnesses that couldn't be intimidated. The problem, critics say, is that the cameras make the streets so unfriendly that no one feels comfortable leaving the house, whether they're planning to break the law or not. One inarguable effect, says NOPD detective Mike Carambat: "You put one of these cameras up and these thugs, they scatter like roaches in the spotlight."

Critics also note that surveillance cameras seem to get pointed at certain minority groups. One Hull University study found that "nine out of ten targeted surveillances were on men, particularly if they were young and black." Another discovered that blacks were twice as likely as whites "to be surveilled for no apparent reason." Paul Jakes Jr., a reverend whose Old Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church is not far from where Chicago's first surveillance camera was mounted, says the pods are another way to turn his neighbors into suspects. "They have criminalized the whole community," thunders Jakes, who ran for mayor in 2003, partially on a platform of keeping the cops in check.
Of course, there's always the argument that if you don't live the thug life, you have nothing to worry about right? I'm honestly quite torn on this topic as less crime is always nice but is it worth having cameras all over the place? Reeks a little too much of the "Eye" if you ask me (that's for you V for Vendetta fans).

[Thanks to Gizmodo.com for the find]

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Anathema of Democrats


The minister of a Haywood County Baptist church in North Carolina is telling members of his congregation that if they're Democrats, they either need to find another place of worship or support President Bush. Already, the Reverend Chan Chandler has ex-communicated nine members of East Waynesville Baptist Church. Another 40 members have left in protest. During last Sunday's sermon, he acknowledged that church members were upset because he named people, and he says he'll do it again because he has to according to the word of God.

You can insert your own jokes or wails of disbelief.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Against All Odds, Time Traveler Convention Nerdier Than Star Trek Convention


As we are big fans of all things nerdy here @ Just To The Left, this article naturally caught our attention. An MIT student has organized a Time Travler's convention to be held this evening on the grounds of MIT (longitude & latitude: 42:21:36.025 degrees north, 71:05:16.332 degrees west). The logic works as such: if this information is preserved far enough into the future where people are capable of time travel, they'll be able to travel back to those exact coordinates at the precise time to say hello. Of course, they're expected to bring proof of their Futurama origins in the form of a cold fusion reactor or maybe a cure for AIDS.

Here we are doing our part! So someone, please print this out on acid free paper and slip it into a time capsule or jam it in between the pages of some texts at your local library. There is some interesting reading to be had at the organizer's site here.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Great Googly Moogly


In another example of fear of American cultural domination and imperialism, European leaders are trying to form a group to digitize their library collections similar to an initiative being carried out in the US by Google. Some interesting hyperbole in this article.
The [Google] project, announced in December, involves scanning millions of books at the libraries of four universities - Oxford, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan - as well as the New York Public Library and putting them online. It will take years to complete.

So great is the concern that six European leaders have jointly proposed creating a "European digital library" to counter the project by Google Print, as the new venture is known. Other countries are expected to come on board.
...
Plans by Google Inc. to create a massive digital library have triggered such strong fears in Europe about Anglo-American cultural dominance that one critic is warning of a "unilateral command of the thought of the world."

For Europeans, the fear is that the continent's contribution to the pillars of recorded knowledge will be crushed by a profit-oriented California company - and may end up presenting a U.S.-centric version of the world's literary legacy.
Now I'm not saying Google is like Microsoft as they at least try to give off the impression that doing business doesn't mean you have to be evil - see #6 here. However, we should all consider the implications of so much cultural and intellectual information falling under the control of a corporation. It clearly doesn't help with popular opinion that it happens to be an American corporation.

Band Camp Won't Be the Same This Summer


As much as I hate the AP linking scheme (this link is sure to expire), they are reporting on some good nuggets of stupidity. Political Correctness and Conservative Censorship has reached new heights as a parent managed to convince Benton Harbor [Michigan] School Superintendent Paula Dawning that the lyrics of Richard Berry's 1956 song "Louie Louie" are too "raunchy." As a result of this complaint, Dawning has ordered "the McCord Middle School band not to perform it in Saturday's Grand Floral Parade."

Keep in mind that no one sings the lyrics in the band's performance - it's merely an instrumental performance. Worse yet, the poor kids don't have enough time to learn another song for the parade. How can this get better you ask? Let's discuss: I don't know how many of you actually know the lyrics but I realized I sure as hell didn't so I looked them up and they seem pretty harmless, even by 1956 standards. Hell, even the FBI agreed at the time (see the end of the AP article).

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Brazil says NO to U.S. Aid

Brazil turned down U.S. AIDS funds because of the strings attached. The proposed $40 million must not be used to treat prostitutes or for abortions, and much of the money would be spent on programs that advocate abstinence rather than condom use.
Sonia Correa, an AIDS activist in Brazil, said accepting the U.S. conditions would have set back a Brazilian program that was successfully bringing down the infection rate. "The US is doing the same in other countries - bullying, pushing and forcing - but not every country has the possibility to say no," she said, quoted in Britain's Guardian newspaper.
So let me get this straight, the U.S. does not want to treat prostitutes - the one group that is probably carrying the disease in greatest abundance and spreading it the quickest. Conservatives need to accept that the world is a messy place. Prostitutes have existed since the beginning of time and will always be around, people will always have sex out of wedlock, and women will always find a way to have abortions if they want them. Now find a way to work around these facts.

Bring It On!

Texas House of Representatives, concerned that high school cheerleading is becoming too raunchy, has approved a bill that would allow state education officials to prohibit "overtly sexually suggestive" cheering and drill team routines.
The legislation, sponsored by Representative Al Edwards, a Houston Democrat and ordained minister who once proposed a measure to amputate the fingers of drug dealers, now goes to the Senate, where it lacks a sponsor. Supporters of the bill argued that something had to be done to prevent student cheerleaders from mimicking the provocative dances seen on MTV, the routines of some professional sports teams' cheering squads and suggestive performances in cheerleading movies like "Bring It On" and its sequel, "Bring It On Again."
But wont it be kinda hard to do an airsplit into a standing pyramid in the new burqa-cheering squad uniform?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Here's a way that you can take a stand against Wal-Mart

With most of Wal-Mart's workers earning less than $19,000 a year, a number of community groups and lawmakers have recently teamed up with labor unions in mounting an intensive campaign aimed at prodding Wal-Mart into paying its 1.3 million employees higher wages.

Wal-Mart says its full-time workers average $9.68 an hour, and with many of them working 35 hours a week, their annual pay comes to around $17,600. That is below the $19,157 poverty line for a family of four, but above the $15,219 line for a family of three.

Hey, but isn't this a capitalist country? Shouldn't a company be allowed to pay its employees whatever it wants? Well, no, because the fact of the matter is that people need to make a living wage. If they don't, then the government has to step in and help. Critics of Wal-Mart contend that their low wages are not only affecting the lives of their employees but also the entire community. In addition to squeezing out all of its competitors in any given area, Wal-Mart's low pay has forced tens of thousands of its workers to resort to food stamps and Medicaid, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

On April 26, as part of a campaign called Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart, five members of Congress joined women's advocates and labor leaders to assail the company for not paying its female employees more. You can actually take part by clicking on the image above.

Racism Still in Fashion

Ok, so the link above is sure to expire in a few days so here's another one just in case. This story is a little dated by now but a couple shock jocks from 101.5 FM in New Jersey made some pretty rascist comments on air last week about Asians in the Jersey area. The station manager's official line is that
"Jersey Guys" Craig Carton and Ray Rossi did not mean to "hurt" anyone during their show Monday, in which they mimicked Chinese accents, complained about too many Asians at Atlantic City's gaming tables, and said Americans should vote for Americans.
- Unofficial transcript of the show here
- More fallout here

[Thanks to Hank for the tip]

[Update 5/7/05]
In light of the lack of response from 101.5 FM Lester Gesteland has made a great suggestion on how we as concerned citizens can get them to acknowledge the inappropriateness of their comments: complain to the advertisers of the Carton and Rossi show. Lester has been kind enough to list some of the advertisers for us so we've tried to put together some links which you can use to contact C&R's sponsors:
- The Asbury Park Press
- Bank of America (sorry, this is the best link I could find)
- Verizon Wireless
- Applebee's
- Boar's Head
- Centex Homes
- Sorry, couldn't find an appropriate link for Atlantic Health Systems Cancer Centers

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Is That a Burrito in Your Pants or Just a Gi-mungous Boner?


"A call about a possible weapon at a middle school prompted police to put armed officers on rooftops, close nearby streets and lock down the school. All over a giant burrito." We love this story cause it epitomizes the mission statement of this blog both implicitly and explicitly. "'I didn't know whether to laugh or cry,' school Principal Diana Russell said." Seriously, check out our Tips link over on the RIGHT =>!!

The best part is that Kat was the first one to find this article but didn't post it cause she only posts legitimate news - unlike me. That and she knows that I ♥ burritos.

Your Ugly Child Should Be Left Behind


The results of this Canadian study found that people tended to be more loving and careful with attractive children over more "homely" children. Uglier children were more often left unbuckled while riding in supermarket shopping carts and were paid less attention to than their cuter counterparts. Maybe the parents didn't want to be reminded of how unattractive they were cause we all know fugly people make even fuglier kids.

[Thanks to Hank and Kat for the tip]

When South Park is Right


Here's an Op Ed piece from the NY Times on how the Conservatives have come to embrace South Park and how South Park has in turn directed their ridicule at the Right. The recently published book "South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias" has been quickly rendered less smug as a recent episode of South Park lampooned the arrogant attempt by conservatives to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case.
...A funny thing happened on the way to the publication of "South Park Conservatives": Emboldened by the supposed "moral values" landslide on Election Day, the faith-based right became the new left. Just as Mr. Anderson's book reached stores in early April, Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone, true to their butt-out libertarianism, aimed their fire at self-righteous, big-government conservatives who have become every bit as high-handed and meddlesome as any Prius-pushing movie star. Such is this role reversal that the same TV show celebrated by Mr. Anderson and his cohort as the leading edge of a potential conservative victory in the culture wars now looks like a harbinger of an anti-conservative backlash instead.
The fact that Conservatives like South Park was news to me so this was worth reading just to better understand that.

Jesus ex Machina


After realizing that the hit FPS series Halo had nothing to do with earning eternal salvation, a few video game development companies have sprung up with a God driven business model. They infuse their games with good ol' Christian Values in an industry otherwise dominated by satan worshipping, morally corrupt, T&A crazed pagans.

The pervasive influence of the Religious Right is getting a little outta control don't ya think? First it was skater evangelicals, now this. You don't exactly see games about ACLU lawyers fighting off hordes of Commandment weilding activists do you? What happened to letting kids learn proper values by teaching them to stomp on turtles and hurl them at innocents while spitting fireballs all in the name of saving the princess?

So you must be asking: if these are video games, there must be violence right? And here comes the ironic hypocrisy of this whole thing.
Pat and Mackenzie Ponech, a father and son from Edmonton, Alberta, have built and distributed a game with the portentous title Eternal War: Shadows of Light. You play Eternal War in the role of an angel named Michael, called to Earth to intervene as a despairing teenager named John contemplates suicide. The intervention takes the form of a rather violent, though gore-free, battle with the demons in John's mind. ... Eternal War is mostly an orgy of shooting and stabbing just like many secular games -- but toward, presumably, a different and better end.
...
But since when do we equate religion with nonviolence? While most faith-based gamemakers draw the line at realistic gore (humans in one game, as they are dispatched from earth, literally see the light), you need not go as far back as the Bible to be reminded that Christianity does not shy away from violence if the goal, even in a fantasy context, is a righteous one. ''We've talked about the righteous anger, if you want to get into it,'' Pat Ponech says. ''In the Bible there were battles where, even myself reading through it, I think: Gee whiz, you go in and clean out an entire city, leaving no one alive, not even the animals?''
...
"Spiritual warfare -- that's the whole premise in both of our games."
Interesting how they use the argument that violence is excusable as long as you have the right god behind you. Sounds a little like some other fundamentalists doesn't it?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Inherit the Wind... again

Eighty years after a famed courtroom battle in Tennessee pitted religious beliefs about the origins of life against the theories of British scientist Charles Darwin, Kansas is holding its own hearings on what school children should be taught about how life on Earth began.

The Kansas Board of Education has scheduled six days of courtroom-style hearings to begin Thursday in Topeka. More than two dozen witnesses will give testimony and be subject to cross-examination, with the majority expected to argue against teaching evolution.

"I feel like I'm in a time warp here," said Topeka attorney Pedro Irigonegaray who has agreed to defend evolution as valid science. "To debate evolution is similar to debating whether the Earth is round. It is an absurd proposition."

Now wait just a gosh darn second there, Mr. Irigonegaray. Who says the earth is round, you heretic! Someone is itchin' to be burned at the stake.

Read the related story here.

[Update 5/9/05]

Scientists believe that the education hearings are rigged and are therefore refusing to participate in state Board of Education hearings this past week. Scientists said they don't see the need to cram their arguments into a few days of testimony, like out-of-state witnesses who were called by advocates of the "intelligent design" theory.

[Update 5/17/05]

In our continuing coverage of this trial, scientists speak out against Kansas' threat to re-define what "science" is. They want to define it as "a systematic method of continuing investigation," without specifying what kind of answer is being sought. The definition would appear in the introduction to the state's science standards. The proposed definition has outraged many scientists, who are frustrated that students could be discussing supernatural explanations for natural phenomena in their science classes. "In order to live in this science-dominated world, you have to be able to discriminate between science and non-science," said Alan Leshner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "They want to rewrite the rules of science."

Republicans Bashing PBS


Every few years it seems that the Republicans go on the attack against PBS. Now the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit entity financed by Congress, is aggressively pressing public television to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias. This is prompting some public broadcasting leader, including the chief executive of PBS, to object that his actions pose a threat to editorial independence.

PBS may be at the mercy of the government to some extent since they receive nearly $400 million in federal money annually. This could be a major problem when the current Education Secretary Margaret Spellings publicly denounced the cartoon Buster because he visited a pair of lesbian parents in one episode.

One of the main targets for Republicans is Now With Bill Moyers. Moyers was consistently critical of Republicans and the Bush administration. Days after the Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 2002 elections he said the entire federal government was "united behind a right-wing agenda" that included "the power of the state to force pregnant women to give up control over their own lives."
Recently, PBS refused for months to sign its latest contract with the corporation governing federal financing of national programming, holding up the release of $26.5 million. For the first time, the corporation argued that PBS's agreeing to abide by its own journalistic standards was not sufficient, but that it must adhere to the "objectivity and balance" language in the charter. In a January letter to the leaders of the three biggest producing stations, in New York, Boston and Washington, the deputy general counsel of PBS warned that this could give the corporation editorial control, infringing on its First Amendment rights and possibly leading to a demand for balance in each and every show. (The contract was finally signed about a month ago.)
None of the Republicans I know watch PBS. Maybe it's all that Fox News, Nascar, and 700 Club that has turned their brains to mush so that they can't appreciate the more refined, more cultured programs that PBS has to offer.