November 24, 2014

Saturday Ramblings, May 10, 2014

Hello fellow imonkers. I hope you are enjoying your Saturday. The last few weeks I have poked fun at Chaplain Mike’s fandom of the Chicago Cubs. But since I respect Mike more highly than almost anyone I know, I have vowed to lay off.

For a week.

latino-exec-5Did you know that one-fourth of American Hispanics are former Roman Catholics? This from the latest Pew Study. Where are they going? Some became Protestants, but even more have turned away from Christianity altogether.

Academia is all about diversity these days, and Harvard is no exception. The Cultural Studies Club there is hosting a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, a Buddhist presentation on meditation, and a Satanic Mass. Wait…what??? Looks like veritas has given way to inclūsiō.

Speaking of veritas, did you know that the Veritas Forum has an incredible number of debates and lectures for thinking Christians? Good stuff.

Ever had neighbor problems? Ana Maria Moreta Folch did. The Floridian really did not like the “unsavory” folks in the trailer next door. So what did she do? Talk out her issues peacefully over pecan pie? Seek mediation with the help of others? Pretend to own their trailer and have it bulldozed? Bingo.

An English man went into the hospital for minor procedure this week. He left with an accidental vasectomy. Yikes.

Did you know there are more than 100 Christian tv stations in our country, but not one station for atheists? That is about to change. Atheist TV may soon be coming your way. Lest you think this will just be House re-runs, they are planning on highlighting videos from events like the recent Reason Rally. But once they run out of Richard Dawkins’ ad hominems, what will they show? Cosmos? Bones? Benny Hinn highlights? Actually, I don’t think we should be too worried – there is no way that channel will create as many atheists as TBN has.

U.S. Air Force: We’re not afraid of Godzilla. Good to know.

From the AHCD [Absurd Holocaust Comparison Department] comes this beauty from Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield: “Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory signups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory (sic) sign ups for ‘train rides’ for Jews in the 40s.” In a later telephone interview Campfield refused to apologize, and maintained his comparison was apt: “I think Jewish people should be the first to stand up against Obamacare…If government is controlling people’s health insurance, they are potentially controlling people’s lives … letting the government choose who lives and who dies.” Yep. That’s my country.

Then there is the statement by Monte Shaw, an Iowan running for Congress, who equated the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers cover contraceptives with forcing people to serve hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. “Think of the outrage that would be out there if they tried to pass a law that said a Jewish printer had no choice but to print up handbills for a neo-Nazi rally. Or an African-American artist had no choice but had to paint a portrait of the local grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.” Shaw is considered a frontrunner in the Republican primary in Iowa’s third district.

The Chinese government has banned the Noah film for its religious themes.

Odd headline of the week: Naked Man Doing Push-Ups Struck and Killed by Car in Portland.

“Let’s keep Christianity weird”. This quote from Russell Moore, the face of the Southern Baptist Convention, begins First Things’ article on the annual Q conference. Never heard of the Q conference? It is being described as “TED for evangelicals”. “This annual conference has emerged as a favorite watering hole for youngish evangelicals dealing with mixed emotions about the culture wars fought by their theological parents and the parallel subculture in which they were raised…They aren’t fighting to hold on to the vestiges of a ‘Christian America’ but instead are looking for the best ways to be faithful exiles in a post-religious world…”

Different issue,  same magazine: “This campaign—and the legislation it has spawned—is not so much about stopping bad behavior as it is about using the machinery of state education to compel children to adopt politically correct attitudes on the nature of human sexuality, gender identity, and alternative family structures.” The author is referring to the Minnesota’s proposed laws about school bullies. “The “Safe Schools” strategy relied, first and foremost, on reframing school bullying in the group-based language of civil rights. Instead of treating all children equally, the legislation inspired by the task force singled out eighteen “protected classes” of students—based on criteria including race, sexual orientation, and “gender identity and expression”—for special attention and protection. At the same time, the task force called for vastly expanding the scope of prohibited student speech and conduct. Instead of targeting bullying defined as a pattern of verbal or physical abuse, it recommended that students be punished for even one word that another student (especially those in protected groups) could claim to find “humiliating” or “offensive,” or that “interferes” with another student’s ability to “participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.” In addition, the regulations proposed by the task force would require schools to police “cyberbullying,” including comments a student writes on his Facebook page.” Wow. I can’t imagine that having any chilling effect of free speech, can you?

First Things also has a long and very informative take on the struggles and triumphs of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Great read if you have the time.

Regular readers know I’m a huge fan of Steve Taylor, who is putting out his first cd in twenty (!!!) years, and supporting it with a tour. How has he aged? Incredibly well. Jesus Freak Hideout, the best site for real (read: not radio-driven crap) Christian music had this to say: “Taylor jumped, danced and moved in ways few singers half his age can or do. His stage presence is engaging and infectious and it felt like Taylor hadn’t missed one beat since taking a break for several years… The man seemed to barely break a sweat all night and didn’t display any wear on his voice despite such an energetic and sometimes frenetic performance. It’s truly mind-blowing.” Michael Tolosa has posted HD videos of the whole concert here, and we will end with this video of The Finish Line:

Comments

  1. TBN or GOD-TV either one

    I read not long ago of a guy who said reading Dawkins helped bring him to Christ. Maybe this new station will do more good than the aforementioned two.

  2. Vega Magnus says:

    I’ll mock the Cubs for you, Mr. Jepsen. They are complete train wreck. Edwin Jackson is a massive waste of money, Jeff Samardzija isn’t going to get a new contract, and the bullpen is a mess. There are positives though because Anthony Rizzo and Wellington Castillo are quite good. In any case, they are still likely headed to one of the worst records in the MLB.

  3. Robert F says:

    From what the First Things article has to say about the subject, it seems to me that the attitudes of many or most Russian Orthodox to Eucharist, their resistance to frequent reception and their desire to gain narrow personal benefits from it when they do receive, seem rooted in a fundamentally superstitious understanding about the sacrament. That is very similar to the attitudes and understanding of Roman Catholics before the Counter-Reformation, who also received the sacrament infrequently (usually once a year during the Easter season, the exception being clergy who celebrated and received far more frequently, apparently because they considered themselves holier and far more fit than the laity to participate).

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      Yeah, I thought the discussion of the Eucharist very interesting and surprising. And you’re right, it does seem to imply a superstitious or “magical” understanding. Any of our Orthodox friends want to chime in?

      • Dana Ames says:

        I thought the article was very good, and the author was fair. As he wrote, the situation is very complicated. Consider again that Orthodoxy in Russia has risen from the ashes, and some of the soot still clings.

        As regards the Eucharist, yes, there are many people who regard it superstitiously. That has been the case off and on in Russia throughout at least the last 2 centuries, from what I understand. There have been times of revival, in which people have returned to participation with a more Orthodox understanding and view, and the priests worked hard to encourage this. Reading Church history in any kind of depth shows that there have always been elements of superstition and folk religious practices in Christianity, even in the wake of the Enlightenment… Thank God that he meets people where they are… (Which one of us has entirely correct thoughts, notions, beliefs about God?) This is just one of the many uphill struggles of the Church in Russia; Fr Stephen has written about this, too. Russian society as a whole has suffered from lack of true “rule of law” most of the years since Communism came down, which makes everything more difficult. And consumerism is a problem everywhere.

        I have met nuns and a lay sister from the convent in Minsk that is providing rehab, mental health services and job training to alcoholic and addicted men, and caring for developmentally disabled children. They are doing a phenomenal work, with the first stage of it sending the men to a residential farm on the outskirts of town, where they can simply and literally connect with the soil, and with people who care about them.

        Dana

        • Orthodoxy’s vision of divine beauty and truth briefly touches them. They are at once chastened by the pettiness of their worldly loves—and elevated by a sense of divine transcendence that unites them not just with Christ, but also with the highest achievements of [human] culture.

          He gets it.

          For this, and and for no other reason, is why I am Orthodox.

          Thank God

          • Mule…it is also why I am Cathodox, with just a hint of Druid during camping trips and hikes…..

        • The author might as well have just come right out and said that Putin believes he’s the latest Autocrat of All the Russia’s (aka tsar), and is attempting to reestablish the O. Church as part of the state. That includes legislative restrictions on freedom of religion and much more, including (but not limited to) what’s mentioned in the article. (Case in point: reannexation of a major part of Ukraine.)

          If there was true freedom of religion in Russia, I’d feel a lot more sanguine. But given the emphasis on the Romanov dynasty, as well as the anti-semkitism prevalent among many Orthodox within Russia, I am hugely skeptical. (Note: I do think the murder of the imperial family was an egregious crime, especially considering the fact that most of the victims were children. At the same time, the last tsar was responsible for some very, very evil things, and I’m no fan of the monarchy.)

          It’s interesting to see how much emphasis the author puts on Orthodox influence in the arts, because it’s there *but* there is so much else -the 19th and early 20th centuries saw a renewed emphasis on Tatar and pre-Christian imagery and themes. Whether it’s Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Kandinsky’s early work (pretty much shot through with pre-xtian/non-xtian folkloric themes and imagery), things were changing drastically in the decades leading up to 1917. My hunch is that even if more moderate factions had taken power, Russia would have become increasingly secularized.

          I don’t wish to disparage anyone’s beliefs, only to reflect on Russian culture and history with a tangent into current events.

          As for all the religious and lay people who are working in ministries of mercy, they have my prayers and sincerest good wishes. They are truly living out the love of Christ.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            I keep on saying, the Patriarch is Putin’s puppy…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            A long historical tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church.

            After all is said and done, after all the pious Greek theological terms, the Church bows and scrapes before the State and the Autocrat of All Russia.

          • Klasie – that’s likely how the patriarch can afford his fancy toys and vacations.

            As ever, the gap between church hierarchy and ordinary people is vast, and sanctioned by the state. I bet there’s even a sign that says “You shall not pass!”

      • The frequency of communion in Orthodoxy should be related to the frequency of confession. Frequent confessors should be taking communion frequently. Sinners like me who confess once every six months should be taking communion less frequently than I do.

        I am presuming. This isn’t about “superstition” Its about not doing damage to yourself in the Mysteries by participating unworthily.

        • Robert F says:

          Protestant that I am, I continue to believe that the only way one participates unworthily in Holy Communion is by not recognizing the presence of Christ in the sacrament proper, AND by refusing to recognize the presence of Christ in the gathered body, especially the poor and disadvantaged, who are neglected and unprovided for as we make hogs out of ourselves at the holy banquet.

          • I feel like I am going to have to go out to the woods and have a good primal scream if I hear one more time about ~consuming unworthily~ or ~trembling in fear to dare approach the altar.~ Oh if we’re that bad why even bother? You probably start becoming ~unworthy~ in the 10 foot pace from the confessional back to your pew, enough already. Enough with the oppressive false humility.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Not that much of a stretch from ~consuming unworthily~/~trembling in fear~ and Puritan morbid introspection/execessive scrupulosity.

            “WE’RE NOT WORTHY,
            WE’RE NOT WORTHY,
            WE’RE NOT WORTHY!”
            — Wayne & Garth’s audience with Alice Cooper, Wayne’s World: the Movie

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Had a slightly surreal conversation once: Were visiting Antiochan Orthodox friends of mine, who had a Russian family over for a visit as well – the husband wasa maths lecturer at a Canadian university, so very educated. But also very orthodox. Our friends had he shawl her husband was baptized in, some 60+ years ago, in the United Church, framed against the wall. The Russian lecturer’s mother liked it, but he objected, saying – in Russia we do not do that,we keep it because it is holy and has healing powers. You lay it on a sick person etc etc. He was very serious (indeed, he was one of those permanently serious people)

      Quite the folk religion.

      • That’s what I like about it.

      • Dana Ames says:

        The thing is, there’s “folk religion” – which is Magick by another name (oh-so-nicely twisting the deity’s arm so that he/she is obliged to do something for you) – and then there’s God actually meeting people by means of material reality…

        -in the material body that clothed Jesus Christ;
        -in the bread and wine of the Eucharist;
        -in the water and oil of baptism and chrismation;
        -in the handkerchiefs touched to St Paul and then laid on sick people;
        -in the shadow of St Peter;
        -in the baptismal shawl of man who trusts his life to Jesus…

        Either the material world is good, and a means by which we can encounter God – or not. God may not choose to heal by the laying on of shawls and handkerchiefs, but the one does not cancel out the other.

        God is not a concept.

        Dana

        • Robert F says:

          “-in the shadow of St Peter…”

          Dana, I get your point, and I’m inclined to go a good long way toward acknowledging that God works through the material world in many ways. But focusing on the peculiar and particular way God worked on a few occasions in the NT as a model for the way he continues to work today is not different from the way Pentecostals attach inordinate importance to the day of Pentecost in Acts as setting the pattern for the way the Holy Spirit should manifest his activity in glossolalia throughout history and up to the present. We might as well ritually apply mud-spittle packs to blind people’s eyes the way Jesus did on one occasion expecting a recapitulation of that particular miracle every time we do the same. I think this is to assume an overly determinative understanding of rare occurrences in Scripture as models for how God acts today.

          My own understanding is that God in the NT is showing us that he may use any means he chooses, but that he will not be pinned down to systems and methods and practices and formulas. If so, then it helps us to understand why Jesus used so many different means in performing his miracles of healing, rarely repeating the same means multiple times, and why little of this should be seen as programmatic or modeling for the way he acts today, or for what we should expect.

          And, Dana, a shadow is not a material object.

          Peace,
          Robert F

        • Robert F says:

          Dana, Please do not misunderstand. My last comment about a shadow not being a material object was not meant to be snarky, though reading it it seems that way. I’m just pointing out that a shadow is not part of material reality in any ordinary sense, but rather delineates the form of an absence or lessening of light.

          However differently from us the people of Palestine in NT times defined a shadow, I think it would be a mistake for us on that basis to invest shadows of even the holiest people with any kind of miraculous virtues (could you imagine the field day a Benny Hinn could have with that?); God was dealing with and speaking to people who had a different understanding and knowledge of the physical world than ours, and he spoke in their native idiom to them, an idiom I would be surprised to find him using with us, because it is not commensurate with the knowledge and understanding we now have. In this case, it would be wrong to expect God to use the same modalities with us that he did with them, and I think that applies to what I view as an overemphasis on holy objects like relics. The sacraments are a separate case, having to do with God’s command to us to use them and expect to meet him in them.

          Peace,
          Robert F

          • Dana Ames says:

            I understand your point, Robert, and no snark is taken ;)

            I agree with this: “[God[ may use any means he chooses, but that he will not be pinned down to systems and methods and practices and formulas.” Of course; that pinning down would be Magick. I regard the methods of Benny Hinn as Magick too, but I’m not going to point to a durable healing and say “Not God!.” Such a thing is a gift from a good God, and I don’t need to judge that.

            If God is free to use any means he chooses, it’s okay with me if he uses the relics of human persons through whose prayers people were healed while said persons still had their spirits united with their bodies. Some of those bodies have not decayed; I can’t explain that. There’s a tension here, and I’m willing to live in it while allowing God to remain free. Modern cynicism is draining of gratitude.

            This whole subject shows the need for good spiritual counsel, and good teaching that emphasizes God as the source of all good gifts, and not running after the latest miracle event. The main thing remains the main thing: go to church, say your prayers, follow the commandments of Christ, especially the most important: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

            Dana

  4. I really don’t understand Republicans at all. I had to give up a “substandard” policy that cost me under $200/week for my whole family, paid 80/20, with reasonable deductible and co-pays. I replaced it with a “gold” plan that costs me $500/week, pays 60/40, and has such high deductibles and copays that unless I have something catastrophic, the plan will never have to pay out a dime.

    The real issue is that the products under the mandate are so abysmally bad that Americans who USED to be able to afford insurance no longer can.

    • Robert F says:

      You described one of the reasons the health insurance companies actually love the Affordable Care Act: more consumers have to pay more and get less. But I’m not sure why you hold this against the Republicans.

      • Robert, could it be sarcasm? You think?

        • Robert F says:

          oscar, I missed the sarcasm. I will confess to often being a little, or a lot, slow, but not being so slow that I don’t realize that you could have illuminated my ignorance more gently and graciously.

        • My gripe with the Republicans is that they are making the wrong arguments, in my opinion. Why argue about forcing people of conscience to finance contraceptives when the REAL problems seem to be the huge economic impact on the vast majority of Americans. Or maybe it’s not the vast majority. I only know because I’ve recently switched companies and now have to pay for the bulk of my health coverage. YMMV.

          But my argument is that Republicans seem sigularly distracted by the peripherals rather than the actual costs/benefits of the new system. I would be really curious to know why my previous insurance that provided better coverage, lower deductibles, less out of pocket, for half the price of a “gold” plan was substandard to the plan I’m now forced to buy.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Why argue about forcing people of conscience to finance contraceptives when the REAL problems seem to be the huge economic impact on the vast majority of Americans.

            Because contraceptives are SEXUAL.
            And Biblical Morality(TM) always obsesses on the SEXUAL.

    • Dan Crawford says:

      The Affordable Care Act should be more accurately titled the Coporate Medicine and Big Pharma Profit Maintenance and Enhancement Act. There is nothing in its provisions that can be remotely called “affordable” and it maintains the prohibition on government negotiating prices with drug makers. The lastest studies comparing the cost of fairly common procedures in this country with other countries only demonstrate even more that the purpose of the act is to keep them that has rolling in medical “care” which every year far exceeds the national inflation rate. What a joke. The Republicans and other opponents should be delighted.

      • As someone who has an MBA in health sector management and makes a living in healthcare, I can tell you that this is flatly untrue. There is a TON of misinformation about PPACA; it is a large bill with far reaching consequences, so some confusion is inevitable. But I would like to think that we – Christians especially – inform ourselves before parroting talking head propaganda. For example, the cost of PPACA implementation is enormous – every insurance company on the planet is feeling the squeeze, which is one reason costs are going up (although the total cost of care delivery is going down, as planned with the legislation). The only reason any hospital supports ACA is that traditionally the government, while paying less and forcing payers to jump through hoops, is more reliable with reimbursement than privately owned insurance companies. This reduces cash flow variance, which is a pretty big deal for those who understand business. Long story short, health care delivery is a very complex economy which is not at all modeled well by your comment. Suggested reading: Delivering Health Care in America by Shi Singh, The Battle over Healthcare by Rosemary Gibson.

        • David Cornwell says:

          “The only reason any hospital supports ACA is that traditionally the government, while paying less and forcing payers to jump through hoops, is more reliable with reimbursement than privately owned insurance companies.”

          I talked to a Mennonite doctor about this not long ago. He has done med mission work on Indiana lands, and other places. He said he’d rather deal with the government anytime than insurance companies. And he is almost as old as me, so with a lot of experience.

        • Dan Crawford says:

          I sit on a committee which every year has to deal with selecting an insurance coverage for the clergy families in our diocese. I hear similar rationales from every insurance representative who makes a presentation. We ask for utilization rates and patterns – not one is willing to provide them because they don’t want to give another insurance company a “competitive advantage”. My wife and I have Medicare Advantage Plans which have risen more than 100% in the past three years. I have seen the price of my insulin rise every year Medicare is supposed to cover more of the cost in the “donut hole” – another completely asinine part of the health care “reforms”. The monthly price of my insulin in the donut hole three years ago was $150, two years ago it jumped to $235, this year it will be well over $300. Apparently, the pharmaceutical company has no restraints on its ability to arbitrarily rate its rates. As an MBA in health sector management, perhaps you might tell me why Medicare cannot negotiate the cost of medications with pharmaceutical giants. Why does an MRI cost $6000 in the USA and less than $500 in another country? Why when I am hospitalized for two nights and am billed $20000 does the hospital settle with my insurer for less than $6000? (I dread to think of what happens to the poor individual with no insurance – but perhaps that may change.) I do not believe for a minute that for-profit insurers lose money – even the President of Highmark BC/BS (a “non-profit”, non-taxable entity) in our area makes over $2 million in salary and bonuses. The only hospitals in our area losing money are those not in the local health system which intends to make the entire western part of our state a medical monopoly. If my criticism is unfair, please explain it – because to my eyes and the eyes of many who have to navigate this mess, the system as we have it today is as corrupt as a system might be.

          • I’m not sure “corrupt” is the right word, but “inefficient” certainly works. The main reason behind health care reform is that the most conservative models out there put the cost of health care delivery under the old system at 100% of GDP by 2030. One of the main drivers behind costs is that care delivery in the US is very, very poor. Our health outcomes are not even in the top ten worldwide, and some of our outcomes (like infant mortality) rate below some third world countries. This inability to consistently provide quality care is THE major expense driver. One of the changes under PPACA is that CMS will reduce reimbursement to care delivery organizations if their CQMs are below a certain rate. This provide financial incentives for hospitals to improve their services. Only time will tell if we can triangulate between improving outcomes, reducing costs, and passing that on to the payor (which under our system is not necessarily the consumer, another problem that is best addressed with a single payor system). The economic models I have seen all point to one thing – unless we implement a single payor system, healthcare delivery will evolve into a bifurcated system where the very wealthy have access to phenomenal care, and everyone else ends up with insufficient supply and less options.

    • Rick, my Obamacare experience is exactly the opposite of yours. I went from a very high deductible ($15,000) costng $800 per month to a low deductible ($500) for only $94 per month. Although I’m happy about that (for this year at least), the discrepancy between mine and yours is part of the reason I think we need to get beyond Obamacare. Mine is based on my estimated income for 2014, and in December I didn’t even know what my income was for 2013. I’m self-employed, and there are a lot of variables and huge swings in income. So, I’ll have to keep looking over my shoulder to see if I’m going to exceed the income limit and have to pay back as much as $1600 per month retroactively. The plan is rated at $1700/month, and I’m only paying $94 of that. But it’s not a subsidy! It’s a tax-credit, which makes it more palatable to Republicans. ;-)

      We do need something different, perhaps an augmented Medicare, but this may be a start. Sorry it didn’t work for you.

      • David Cornwell says:

        To my mind augmented Medicare would be a huge improvement. I’d prefer to move away from the insurance companies and to single payer. The insurance companies can continue to further augment Medicare (we don’t want to leave the rich out it– they deserve the best they can buy).

        • Single payer is the only economic model that makes sense, and was an integral part of the proposed legislation (which was based on Chicago School models; Chicago School is very conservative). This was stripped because none thought a single payer system would pass. I do think we need to move there quickly.

          • This is the problem with ACA and most things our divided, polarized government passes these days. Common sense simple solutions must morph into cobbled together monstrosities which include a little bit for everybody so enough votes will be there.

          • Yep.

          • Robert F says:

            Single payer is where we are going, I just wish we didn’t have to pass through a gauntlet to get there.

          • I think single payer makes the most sense, especially as regards administrative cost. US admin. cost is around 30+%, whereas Canada and most of Europe runs about 7%or less.

            My understanding is that France has a “5 payer” system which appears to work well.

        • I agree, David. Too much of our health care costs go to the insurance companies, which are essentially banks. Let’s avoid the middle man. With Obamacare we still have the insurance companies (only more of them) but have added government into the system. Not a complete solution

    • Randy Thompson says:

      For whatever it’s worth, we’re now paying half of what we used to pay for virtually the same policy. Yes, it’s a high deductible, but compared to what we used to pay, I’m not complaining. Still, all things considered, I’d still take Canada’s health plan, warts and all.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Does this have anything to do with all that Hot Investment Tips spam for Health Insurance Companies?

      Back when my state made Auto Insurance compulsory (and insurance companies jacked their premiums in celebration), I kept getting spammed with “Get Rich Overnight — Auto Insurance — Hot Stocks — Dividends Will Come In In Buckets!” Investment Tips, and the pattern has held ever since.

  5. dumb ox says:

    Feel free, anyone, to offer rebuttals to Monte Shaw’s comments, because I have heard many sincere evangelicals offer this same argument with a straight face regarding Obamacare and religious freedom/discrimination legislation. Sometimes the most absurd arguments are the most difficult to counter – thus being considered irrefutable on the basis of “truth”.

  6. dumb ox says:

    I have heard more conservatives admit that they oppose climate change prevention simply because it potentially gives government over-reaching powers. It is no surprise that the same phobia is behind Obamacare. Multi-national monopolies controlling the food supply is perfectly fine. Enlisting the United Nations to invade Iraq was not an over-reach of government. But any attempt to coordinate response to large problems at a federal or global level is goose-steps toward one world government.

    • That myopia re: the government is not just a flaw on the right – the left has its own anti-government fanatics, they’re just focused on other issues (like surveillance).

      • Or federal subsidies for a re-emerging nuclear power industry.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Anyone for locking them all in a room somewhere so they can go at each others’ throats like the half-black and half-white alien in that old Star Trek episode while all the rest of us get on with our lives?

    • dumb ox says:

      Maybe we could ease traffic congestion by convincing states-rights folks to boycott the Federally-funded interstate system.

  7. Robert F says:

    In my experience, avowed atheists are a contentious lot, even more contentious than Christians. And since intelligence is a supremely important quality to the avowed atheists I’ve known, they all prided themselves, and depended for their sense of self worth, on their own superior intelligence, most of the time without sufficient warrant: after all, there is always somebody smarter than you, whoever you are, excepting one. So there seems to be an extraordinary amount of infighting among the community of avowed atheists that I’ve known, if you can call it a community.

    For the above reasons, I’d be surprised if this new atheist tv station is long-lasting, and even more surprised if it’s replicated by other such stations, because I’ll be surprised if you can get enough consensus among the participants to sustain any long-lasting or much emulated project. Unless someone successfully hitches atheism to some new metaphysic, as was done by Marx with dialectical materialis., but I think that’s unlikely.

    • What I find most ironic about polemical athiests is that they take on the Ken Hams of the fundagelical world and then generalize as if these are the only religious people out there. Nice mention of the Veritas forum and I would add Biologos as well.

      This is unfortunate for atheists in that it reduces their arguments to straw men. Saying you are opposed to the existence of God because you can’t accept a literal six day creation (or any other fundy standard argument, or even all of them), implies that you consider fundies to have the authoritative interpretation on the Bible and ignore a mass of scholarship that disagrees with their assumptions AND their conclusions.

  8. dumb ox says:

    ”Wow. I can’t imagine that having any chilling effect of free speech, can you?”

    Perhaps you don’t understand how bullying works.

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      Lol. Good point. The irony is pretty thick on this one.

    • Robert F says:

      “Perhaps you don’t understand how bullying works.”

      Very good. Unfortunately, many progressives are unable to discern or acknowledge bullying when its institutional and imposes their social values. Not very different from similar approaches on the conservative right.

      • Not very different from similar approaches on the conservative right.
        Examples, Robert? Otherwise its just ad hominim.

        • Well, I was impressed by how quickly those who were outraged about the “silencing” of the duck hunter guy forgot about how their side of the aisle completely shut down, threatened, badgered, and harassed three country musicians from Texas called the Dixie Chicks.

          (I did not appreciate the mob mentality at work in either case.)

        • Robert F says:

          oscar, I’m inclined to think there is conservative institutional bullying involved when local municipal councils force those religious minorities who would participate in governing their own communities to sit through opening prayers that do not in any way reflect their own religious (or non-religious) perspectives, the recent Supreme Court decision notwithstanding.

          • Not the same as prohibiting certain speech. According to the latest Supreme Court ruling (like it or hate it) public prayers are just fine as long as they do not attack the minority view. As long as the municipalities make the gesture for ALL minorities to participate then it is quite fine for sectarian prayers to be uttered.

            As for ME, I’d rather that they just dispense with the charade and get on with business.

          • … force those religious minorities who would participate in governing their own communities to sit through opening prayers that do not in any way reflect their own religious (or non-religious) perspectives, … Hmm. Isn’t that what tolerance means, putting up with others even though you don’t agree?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            For whatever it’s worth, there’s a button that used to show up in SF cons’ dealers’ rooms a while back:

            “TOLERANCE:
            The amount of abuse a system can put up with before it breaks down.”

    • I understand perfectly well how bullying works. Some control-freaks — bullies — pass a law against speech they don’t like, and they label that speech “bullying.” Or some bullies don’t like that Donald Sterling or Paula Deen isn’t under their thumb, so they hold a Stalinist show trial in the media, achieving the “Two Minutes Hate” quota these bullies require.

      Don’t tell me about bullying. I see it every day. The don’t have me entirely assimilated yet. In the end, I imagine resistance will be futile.

      • Remember, The Borg LOST! Resistance is NOT futile!

      • @Clark….

        I agree with your premise. This reminds me a bit of “racism”…..either it is racist to shun and demonize people of another color or culture, WHATEVER YOUR COLOR…..or there is no such thing. It cannot be “hate on a one way street”. Likewise, bullying is bullying, regardless of whether the “victim” is gay, handicapped, Christian, or conservative.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s never “Bullying” when you’re the one who’s doing it…

  9. As far as the black mass at Harvard goes: While I think this is sad, I also think that these articles are probably giving these folks too much attention. The Extension school is made up of students who want to say that they went to Harvard but don’t have the academic credentials to get in. The classes are open enrollment continuing ed. The fact that they can reserve campus space doesn’t mean that “Harvard” is hosting the event – it just means some dumb people reserved a room in the campus bar to do something ridiculous. To steal a line from later in today’s ramblings, I can’t imagine canceling their reservation would have a chilling effect on free speech :)

  10. The Steve Taylor video is good stuff. That piece reminded me of Baker/Clapton/Bruce.

    • Daniel Jepsen says:

      Yeah, he hasn’t lost a step. Since I gave up my Friday night (after a very bad week) to write the Ramblings, I will invoke author’s privilege and quote the full lyrics to one of his songs. “Since I Gave up Hope I Feel a Lot Better” is a satirical look at the post-modern nihilism so in vogue on many campuses. If you want the music to go along with the song, have this playing in another tab: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUJljffe4rc

      Enter the young idealist
      Chasing dragons to slay
      Exit the hustler
      Packing up his M.B.A.

      Freshmen scream in a classroom
      Was there a sound?
      First degree in the vacuum
      I’m on college ground

      Took a class, big fun
      Modern ethics 101
      First day learned why
      Ethics really don’t apply

      Prof says, “One trait
      Takes us to a higher state
      Drug free, pure bliss
      Get your pencils, copy this”

      “Life unwinds like a cheap sweater
      But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better
      And the truth gets blurred like a wet letter
      But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”

      Top of the class sits Ernest
      He was brightest and best
      Till the professor lured him
      To the hopeless nest

      Now he lives for the shortcut
      Like a citizen should
      Tells the class with a wink
      “Only the young die good”

      He says, “Ideals? Uncouth
      Fatalism needs youth
      Eat well, floss right
      Keep the hungry out of sight

      Save face–nip and tuck
      Praise yourself and pass the buck
      And don’t forget the best advice
      Everybody’s get a price.”

      “Life unwinds like a cheap sweater
      But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better
      And the truth gets blurred like a wet letter
      But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”

      “While the world winds down to a final prayer
      Nothing soothes quicker than complete despair
      I predict by dinner I won’t even care
      Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”

      Nazis plead in a courtroom
      “Pardon me, boys”
      Profits fall in a boardroom
      Did they make a noise?

      Someone spreads an affliction
      “Company’s nice!”
      Someone sells an addiction
      Puts your soul on ice

      Half wits knock heads
      Candidates in double beds
      Good guys defect
      “I can’t precisely recollect”

      Teacher’s pet theory’s fine
      If you’re born without a spine
      Can’t you spell wrong?
      Sing it to him Papa John

      “While the world winds down to a final prayer
      Nothing soothes quicker than complete despair
      I predict by dinner I won’t even care
      Since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”

      “Life unwinds like a cheap sweater
      But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better
      And the truth gets blurred like a wet letter
      But since I gave up hope I feel a lot better”

  11. David Cornwell says:

    Minnesota’s proposed laws about school bullies.:

    Seems to equal legalistic fundamentalism of the left? I suppose we now have the “culture wars” making the opposite swing. Common sense, compromise, community = Lost Cause. Politics these days is stomach turning, almost literally.

    • Seems to equal legalistic fundamentalism of the left?

      But David, they’re doing it because they are the caring ones! Aren’t they? ;)

      • David Cornwell says:

        Well, when you put it that way…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But David, they’re doing it because they are the caring ones!

        And they’re always reminding all us proles of that Fact!
        Wagging Finger and all!

    • Yeah, this sounded really weird to me. I mean, aren’t children in general a “protected class”? I think we live in the age of object-oriented legislation, where bits and bytes are downloaded from pirate bay instead of any original thinking going into the final product.

      • David Cornwell says:

        ” it recommended that students be punished for even one word that another student (especially those in protected groups) could claim to find “humiliating” or “offensive,” or that “interferes” with another student’s ability to “participate in a safe and supportive learning environment.”

        The only way to stop all this is with duct tape on the playground… Liberal duct tape that is, made safely with the right mix of union labor, good will, and safe language. And the correct label on the package.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I think we live in the age of object-oriented legislation, where bits and bytes are downloaded from pirate bay instead of any original thinking going into the final product.

        That’s not “Object Oriented”, that’s “Script Kiddie 101″.

    • I’m not happy about it, and not surprised. It won’t do anything to make vulnerable kids any safer, it’s just an excuse for overpaid administrative sorts to have workshops and double down on micromanagement while feeling extremely virtuous and being completely useless.

      But the reason I say I’m not surprised is because stuff like this was already falling into place 25 years ago when I was being horrifically abused in the public schools of my very hippie west coast home state. The whole “protected class” thing was used to actually protect bullies and excuse inaction, for one thing. I was female, but other than that, not a “protected class” or at least not enough of one to matter. The one principal had the utter gall to outright tell my mother this, that if I was experiencing “true bias” he would have to take action, but he didn’t see anything like that going on, so it wasn’t serious enough to worry about, just kid stuff. Meanwhile, a bully lucky enough to have overlap, however obscure, with a “protected class,” was golden, and their victims were probably bigots for not appreciating their “friendly” overtures–we probably needed sensitivity training. This included girls who did not want to be groped or sexually harassed by minority boys, boys with learning disabilities (which because of diagnostic creep eventually included every little punk who couldn’t pull a B average), or lesbian girls.

      Oddly, Jewish kids, a vanishingly small minority in our district, did not seem to be a “protected class” and people could and did aggressively bully and exclude them without consequence. I noticed this and spoke up about it and was branded an enemy of the administration.

      It’s all about gold stars for their pet projects, I guess.

      • ^ this.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        …it’s just an excuse for overpaid administrative sorts to have workshops and double down on micromanagement while feeling extremely virtuous and being completely useless.

        But how else can Our Betters (AKA Kyle’s Moms) parade their Moral Superiority before all their Inferiors?

  12. Daniel Jepsen says:

    I can’t believe no-one has yet started a debate on Godzilla versus the U. S. Air Force. C’mon, this is crucial. Whadda think?

  13. The real reason China banned Noah was its environmental theme…

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Academia is all about diversity these days, and Harvard is no exception. The Cultural Studies Club there is hosting a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibition, a Buddhist presentation on meditation, and a Satanic Mass. Wait…what??? Looks like veritas has given way to incl?si?.

    Or someone’s either doing a publicity stunt/do-it-yourself reality show, jerking the administration’s chain, or both.