NEWS -- 2010.11.11.Thursday
- Veterans Day 2010: Honor the Consciences of Our Veterans
1) Carl Sagan
3) Melbourne Community Voice -- a judge stands up to theological mythology
4) Losing Faith, Wising Up
5) Standing for Nothing
6) Voter Fraud Only Happens When Republicans Lose
7) The Peculiarity of US Politics
8) Arkansas School Board Official Resigns After Anti-Gay Comments (youtube)
Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
Carl Sagan was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Science and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, but most of us know him as a Pulitzer Prize winning author, the creator of the groundbreaking PBS series, COSMOS, and a tireless advocate for science and reason.
Sagan was that rarest of individuals. He was a scientist and researcher who was also adept at communicating scientific ideas to the general public. He was an example of how to blend healthy skepticism with a child-like sense of wonder. He was a teacher who routinely disproved the unfounded and often dangerous beliefs of his fellow humans without ever losing his belief in humankind.
Today, on what would have been his 76th birthday, thousands of people around the world are taking time out from their normal routine to pay tribute to Sagan, revisit his meaningful work, and revel in the cosmos he helped us discover and understand.
Throughout November, many groups have planned their own tributes with science fairs, conferences, planetarium shows, star parties, COSMOS marathons, and more.
Visit carlsaganday.org to find an event near you.
Can't make it to a Sagan Day event, but still want to celebrate? Try one of these ideas:
a.. Rediscover COSMOS - all 13 episodes - available for free at hulu.com.
b.. Check out Sagan's many books at your local library or bookstore using the thorough listings from WorldCat.org.
c.. Enjoy the special collection of articles by or about Sagan, previously published in Skeptical Inquirer magazine.
d.. Listen to Sagan's last public address for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formally CSICOP) as replayed on CFI's podcast, Point of Inquiry: "Wonder and Skepticism".
e.. Listen to Ann Druyan, writer, producer, and widow of Sagan, discuss life with Carl, his outlook on life, and his famous Gifford Lectures, "The Varieties of Scientific Experience," also on Point of Inquiry.
f.. Read the winning entries in the Kepler Mission Team essay contest, inspired by Sagan's "shores of the cosmic ocean" allegory from COSMOS.
g.. Host your own apple pie baking contest (from scratch, of course).
h.. Refresh your skeptic skills with a review of Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit.
i.. Invite your friends over and try to convince them you have a dragon in your garage.
j.. Take in a star show at your local planetarium.
k.. At the very least, seek out a dark sky, look UP, and reconnect with the grandeur of the cosmos.
Thank you, Carl!
My favorite book remains COSMOS. It "saved" me from the ravages of Southern Baptist theological mythology.
I was in Australia for the past three weeks. Among other things, in Canberra don't miss the Australian War Memorial.
http://www.awm.gov.au/ A magnificent secular cathedral.
In Melbourne don't miss the Percy Grainger Museum at the University of Melbourne.
Unfortunately, it seems that Australia is beginning to fall, similar to the same way American began to fall when Bush was elected. The long slow decent before the cliff.
Australia is still an incredibly beautiful place. After a week in Melbourne, we drove up the east coast to Sydney, then back to Melbourne through Canberra. After nine years of drought, Australia has received lots of much needed rain, and this spring, the land and hills were radiant with green grass, trees, and flowers everywhere.
Now that we progressives here in America have received another wake up call (November 2nd), it would be wise to recognize that their religion is our problem, and learn how to address it and them.
"They are not entitled to impose their beliefs on others in a manner that denies them the enjoyment of their right to equality and freedom from discrimination in respect of a fundamental aspect of their being."
I found the following two columns in the Melbourne GLBT press to contain a court ruling whose time has come --->
MCV -- Melbourne Community Voice (published every Wednesday)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
October 20, 2010, page 3
Written by Ron Hughes & Andrew Shaw | 19 October 2010
Suicide prevention group WayOut has won a case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal against a business run by the Christian Brethren church.
A judge has ordered the business, Christian Youth Camps Limited (CYC), to pay $5,000 compensation.
The complaint arose from a 2007 incident in which WayOut claims it was barred from hiring CYC's commercial campground at the Philip Island Adventure Resort because of the Brethren's stance on homosexuality.
WayOut works with young same-sex attracted people from around regional Victoria, and had intended to stage a workshop at the campsite giving young people the tools to fight homophobia.
In her summing up, Judge Felicity Hampel pointed out inconsistencies between written statements and oral evidence given on behalf of CYC, and also declared CYC's expert theologian, Dr Peter Adam, as not impartial.
She drew attention to a press release issued by CYC, which contained information they knew to be false: they claimed children "as young as 12" were to attend the WayOut retreat.
Hampel said the press release was clearly "an attempt to manipulate publicity surrounding the proceedings".
In her summing up, Hampel said CYC's refusal to take WayOut's booking was "clearly based on their objection to homosexuality".
"[CYC] are entitled to their personal and religious beliefs. They are not entitled to impose their beliefs on others in a manner that denies them the enjoyment of their right to equality and freedom from discrimination in respect of a fundamental aspect of their being," Hampel said.
The case clarifies whether a business, having nothing to do with the practice or observance of a religion, is allowed to discriminate on religious grounds just because it is owned by a religious group.
Hugh de Kretser, executive officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres, told MCV the decision was important because it would be "influential" and "persuasive" in states that have similar religious exemptions.
"There's been very few cases that have applied these provisions and this has raised a number of issues the tribunal has provided important clarification on," de Kretser said.
"Namely, the meaning of 'a body established for religious purposes', and whether a body which presents a face to the world as if it is a secular body, engaging in largely secular activities, can say that it's 'a body established for religious purposes'."
The tribunal had looked at the nature of the Philip Island Adventure Resort, and its marketing, and decided it was not established for religious purposes, de Kretser said.
"This decision says a body set up by a religious organisation that conducts largely secular activities is unlikely to be permitted to discriminate," de Kretser said.
WayOut's Sue Hackney said: "These findings will go a long way to showing our young people that homophobia is not accepted by the broader community and that there are systems in place to protect their rights."
Hackney said although the case was likely to be only one of many, before "true equality" was reached, she hoped "the dedication and conviction our young people have displayed over the last three years will inspire others to keep this momentum."
Christian Youth Camps have 28 days to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
MCV -- Melbourne Community Voice
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
October 20, 2010, page 6
From the Editor: Andrew Shaw
Written by Andrew Shaw | 19 October 2010
COST OF DISCRIMINATION
The irony built into the name Christian Youth Camps will not be lost on many in our community, camp youth being exactly what this business, owned by the Christian Brethren, is doing its best to resist.
Christian Youth Camps (CYC) just lost a case in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal against a gay youth group that wanted to stay at one of its camps on Phillip Island in 2007, but was refused on the grounds that the group promoted homosexuality.
Finding for the gay youth group WayOut, Judge Hampel found that while CYC was entitled to its religious beliefs, "They are not entitled to impose their beliefs on others in a manner that denies them the enjoyment of their right to equality and freedom from discrimination in respect of a fundamental aspect of their being."
The judge found that "compensation is appropriate" to the tune of $5,000.
The judge's remark that the discrimination affected "a fundamental aspect of their being" should send a warning to government that the days of allowing a business, or more importantly those engaged in the business of religion, the right to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality are coming to a close.
It used to be fashionable to say homosexuality was "a lifestyle choice". Like eating organic, or owning a yacht. To me, statements like this make an issue which many of us have grappled with for most of our lives sound as inconsequential as choosing wallpaper. Sure, there are gay guys who go on all gay boat cruises or club throughout the weekend. At that level, they are making a lifestyle choice. But to point to a ship filled with squealing men, or a nightclub of dancing queens and say "there's the homosexual lifestyle" is a dangerous generalisation at least; at worst it feeds into the prejudices of people who believe to be gay is to cut yourself off from the rest of society, to enter the ghetto (to use another old-fashioned term).
But if, as the judge says, sexuality is a fundamental aspect of our beings, straight or gay, then questions of why any individual or group should be allowed to discriminate against sexuality become problematic. Despite the good work done by religious organisations in the areas of teaching, child-care and adoption, should they be allowed to refuse services to gay people if being gay is as intrinsic as being Asian, or blue-eyed?
Sue Hackney from WayOut points the way when she says the win for her group only highlights the problems with our laws "and the way they allow individuals and groups to rely on religious beliefs to avoid the legal obligations that everyone else has to abide by".
"There is an urgent need for the government to take action on this if Victoria is going to be a state that offers all citizens equal protection under the law," Hackney says.
Cases like this show the impossibility of living in a society where it seems the law is fully aware it contains a flaw but is powerless to correct it. The government could once and for all, with a human rights charter, rule that legislative discrimination in Australia is forbidden. In the meantime, the law must wait like a catcher with its mitt, waiting to field the next 'strike' as politicians chuck unwieldy laws at us in the name of political expediency.
WayOut's win is not an end, it's a beginning.
Did anyone see the segment Tuesday night on the National News -- interviews with fundamentalist pastors who had lost their faith, but were still preaching -- the conflicts they are going through. The interviews -- their testimonies -- were fantastic.
The text of the interview is here ---
Lots of good religion segments are at this URL -- just not the one from Tuesday night, even tho the text is printed.
see also --->
Some of the media's response to the AHA's new "Consider Humanism" program:
New York Times:
Christian Broadcasting Network:
Portland Humanism Examiner:
Standing For Nothing.
The Wall Street Journal reports Democrats are ready to cave on DADT in the lame duck:
Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September.
Look, if Democrats can't repeal a policy more than two-thirds of the American people, including a majority of conservatives want gone, then they can't expect people to vote for them. Preserving DADT is rank absurdity; even in 1993, the RAND study commissioned by the government showed that combat effectiveness would not be harmed by allowing openly gay service members to serve, and the fact that DADT investigations are sometimes delayed when service members are deployed undermines the notion that openly gay service members harm the war effort.
The plain fact of the matter is that DADT undermines the military by forcing discharges of service members with critical skills and walling off an entire section of the population from recruitment. The only remaining arguments for preserving DADT are premised on archaic cultural attitudes toward homosexuality, and Republicans' insistence on undermining the military by blocking repeal is vanity, a projection of their own superficial prejudices onto the very service members they claim to respect.
That Democrats would cave on this now shows how far the party of Harry Truman has fallen. In December the Defense Department is reportedly set to release a study showing that, like the American people, most service members aren't opposed to gays and lesbians openly serving. That's in contrast to the vast opposition of most service members to racial integration in the 1940s; if Truman had insisted on staying his hand until a political climate as favorable as this one had come along, integrating the military might not have happened until decades later.
Truman ended segregation in the military because it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that it was unpopular. Ending DADT happens to be both popular and the right thing to do, and Democrats today still can't get it done.
Posted by Adam Serwer on November 8, 2010 10:00 AM
Voter Fraud Only Happens When Republicans Lose.
Prior to the midterms, Republicans were warning of an "epidemic of voter fraud" on the off chance that if the Democrats held the House, they would be able to claim that the victories were illegitimate. They won a historic victory, and so, as Ryan J. Reilly notes, all the groups claiming that Democrats were going to steal federal elections through fraudulent votes went mostly silent.
I say "mostly" because in some of the races where Republicans actually lost, the same tired conspiracy theories are being trotted out. As I pointed out last week, Michelle Malkin was whining about voter fraud in the Nevada Senate race because Latino voters, including those who didn't speak English, went heavily for Harry Reid (I wonder why?), but there are also congressional races in California and Missouri where Republican candidates lost by close margins and are blaming voter fraud despite a similar lack of evidence.
In the modern era, there's never been a proven case of someone stealing an election through the deliberate casting of fraudulent ballots, although in the conservative media, it's a given that it happens all the time. That's because conservatives think Democratic victories are inherently illegitimate, if not by the letter of the law, at least in the sense that liberals and Democrats aren't genuinely American. But the selective nature of voter-fraud claims is another hint at the self-conscious nature of this scam. Voter fraud only "occurs" when Republicans lose, and even then only as an explanation for why a Republican lost.
Posted by Adam Serwer on November 8, 2010 9:00 AM
My comment -- Diebold in Ohio again. Republican won everything, again. In Ohio.
They changed their name --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_Election_Solutions
The Peculiarity of US Politics
Tuesday 09 November 2010
by: Rick Wolff | Rick Wolff's Blog | Op-Ed
The 2010 elections revealed yet again the peculiar habits of the US electorate. The majority of eligible voters - about 60% - did not vote despite the months of endless media hype devoted to the campaigns, politicians, funding groups, and even to some of the issues they raised. Many elections were very close, thus pitting 20% of voters on one side against a roughly equal number on the other. The exit polls indicated that the overwhelmingly dominant issue on most actual voters' minds was the ongoing economic crisis.
This dominant concern about the economic crisis continues to focus on electoral politics. The voters' upset focuses primarily on unemployment and home foreclosures, secondarily on government priorities given to bailouts of banks and other corporations blamed for producing the crisis. Yet those voters seem totally uninterested in taking any action - political, electoral, or otherwise - against the chief, direct agents of their upset. For example, the rise of unemployment since the current crisis began (December, 2007) has overwhelmingly occurred in private employment. Those who fired almost all of the 8 million US workers added to the unemployment rolls are private capitalist employers. Yet voters concerned about unemployment focus their rage and action against government and thus the party in power as if private capitalist employers were passive by-standers rather than active agents causing unemployment for their own profit-driven reasons.
The same applies to home foreclosures. The active agents there are banks and other holders of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. They are the people going into courts to initiate and pursue foreclosure actions. Yet voters seem again to literally overlook actions against those agents and instead rage against government and politicians in power.
The same applies yet again to government bailouts of the banks and other corporations since it was their private boards of directors that pleaded for and provided massive public support for those bailouts. Those boards also threatened the direst economic consequences - for everyone - if the government did not bail them out with huge sums in ways they specified.
Needless to say, capitalist employers of both financial and non-financial enterprises must heartily support voters thinking and acting in these ways. It permits the employers' private-profit driven actions - those that cause social problems - to be blamed not on them but instead on politicians.
Finally, this peculiar syndrome of US politics may also help to explain one reason why majorities of the eligible population usually don't vote at all. Perhaps they see through the peculiarity. That is, they grasp that it makes little difference - especially in economic matters - which politicians win elections. They understand that switching parties and politicians leaves untouched the actual, direct agents making the key decisions about jobs, wages, and prices that determine our economic situations. So in 2008 and now again in 2010 when those economic issues have been uppermost on peoples' minds, the voting minority gets excited about denouncing the government and switching parties, while the non-voting majority sees elections as pointless and irrelevant. The fact that the same electoral focus of voters drove a party switch in one direction in 2008 and in the opposite direction in 2010 will likely reinforce such aversion to electoral politics.
We might understand US voters as citizens who have given up and perhaps cannot any longer even imagine changing the economy or its ruling corporate structure. So, in depressed resignation, they focus on politicians and parties that can at least be alternated periodically, however minimal the results. Yet that also suggests real political possibilities for new parties or other political formations that explicitly retarget their struggles to confront the direct agents of the economic problems at the forefront of mass concerns.
As usual, lots of comments at the URL.
My comment -- The vast majority of people -- good people -- are stupid.
Arkansas School Board Official Resigns After Anti-Gay Comments
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