Near Earth Archive

A backup of Near Earth Object by Paul Fidalgo

Month: October, 2009

FaceBook Birthday Calendar as Marker of Sexual Exploits

Here’s my FaceBook birthday calendar today, October 31.

I guess that means people are a little more careless on Valentine’s Day, wouldn’t you guess? Or perhaps February is just a cold, stay-indoors kind of month. 🙂

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Matt Drudge Knows What the President is Really Hiding

Original here.

Update: Oh lord, I should have known — it was even better before I doctored it (via Andrew Sullivan).

Belatedly Blogrolled

I somehow missed the boat on this a while back, but I’m glad now to be among the many and proud members of Mojoey’s Atheist Blogroll. As always, the blogroll in the sidebar. And here’s the official line from the ‘Joey himself: “The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.”

Many thanks to Mojoey for offering this service, and thanks to all who read and participate.

Follow Friday #1

Twitter has become such an ingrained part of my heretical online existence, that it seems silly not to integrate some of it into this blog. On Fridays, the Tweetosphere bogs itself down with well-intentioned tweeps plugging the folks they think everyone else should be following. So starting this Follow Friday (#FF), I hope to highlight one tweep every week that I think had made the Twitter experience a more interesting one.

I cannot promise to keep up with this in a perfectly consistent way, but if you remind me, I’ll be less likely to forget.

So for my first #FF entry, I’m going to recommend someone whose own blog-tweet melding has inspired this idea: Julie Ward, a.k.a. @rationalbehavio, who is responsible for the blog Attempts at Rational Behavior. Apart from traditional blogging, she keeps track of particularly ridiculous religionist tweets and adds her own snarky commentary. Her new series, Ignoramus of the Week, is one of my new favorite things on the InterTubes. (And this week’s is a doozy.)

So go ahead and sign yourself up to follow. Of course, you can always find me in the Twitterverse here: @PaulFidalgo.

Campbell Brown’s ‘Unbiased’ Bull

It’s amazing to me that someone could miss the point of the White House’s calling-out of Fox News as much as CNN’s Campbell Brown has.

Embedded video from CNN Video

Brown is completely hung up on the notion that the White House is not equally targeting MSNBC for “bias,” which is apparently the cardinal sin of all reportage (which I think is misguided in and of itself, but that aside for now). But the White House isn’t highlighting Fox because of bias in the abstract; they’re making the point that Fox’s particular bias leads them to distort the truth and actively work to harm the president and his agenda. Given this reality, the White House is going to deal with them on that level, as political adversaries.

But Brown doesn’t understand that. At all. MSNBC’s bias is certainly to the left (excepting Joe Scarborough), but it also doesn’t go out of its way to lie or rile up hatred and xenophobia. Therefore, the White House has no reason to deal with MSNBC any differently than they ever have. This whole kerfuffle is about the White House opting to acknowledge the relationship they have with an explicitly oppositional outfit. It is most certainly not, as Brown thinks it is, about policing the political media as a whole and calling out all those who hold opinions in one direction or another–and it never has been! At no point has the administration made noise about getting the press to go straight down the middle or some such nonsense, but Brown thinks that’s the pose being put on by the White House, and thinks she has a scoop for calling them out on it. It’s embarrassing.

In the interview with Valerie Jarrett, it’s apparent that Jarrett is a little at a loss to make the correct case, which is unfortunate, as it only allowed Brown to feel like she had checkmated the White House on the non-issue.

Brown is a wearying figure. Her own opinion monologues are often these holier-than-thou, hey-I’m-just-being-honest diatribes that wind up either saying something painfully obvious, something of no real substance, or revealing an astounding lack of depth of understanding. This is an example of the latter. Brown performed similarly in the midst of the controversy over Elizabeth Dole’s anti-atheist “Godless” ads against Kay Hagen in 2008, wherein she concentrated merely on how Dole had gone too far in saying mean things about Hagen (that she hangs out with dirty atheists) and never mentioning once that it might actually be okay if she did hang out with dirty atheists, and that where Dole was wrong was in labeling that an inherently evil thing. And again, Brown delivered her un-special comment as though she was the first person brave enough to denounce the attacks.

So, a note to CNN, who would like to stop losing to MSNBC: The best way to contrast yourselves from opinionated networks is to do excellent reporting and add more substance and depth, not to do what you’re doing; being vague, shallow, and insipid.

Oh, and “unbiased” CNN? Maybe take a look at that Lou Dobbs guy while you’re at it.

A 40-Minute Musical You Can Believe In

Live in the DC area? Have you reproduced in the past 8 or so years? Like silly musicals? Have I got a distraction for you.

KT for Prez!, Charter Theater’s new children’s musical about a 6-year-old girl running for president, has opened at Theatre on the Run in Arlington, VA. The book is by Jessica North Macie and the music is by me. That’s right. Bring your kids, learn a little about politics, honesty, and vegetables, and hear music written and recorded by yours truly.

I want to bring my kid, but he probably wouldn’t hear it all that well while still residing in my wife’s abdomen.

As for you, you can click here to find out more.

Does the Perversion Happen During the Abortions?

It’s the return of the Obamabortionmobile! This time, we learn that Obama’s health care plan will pay for something even more exciting than terminating pregnancies, which is, you know, priority number one.

Okay, but what I really want to know is how, exactly, the health care plan will pay for sodomite perversion. Federal subsidies for gay bars? Is “public option” a euphemism for bi-curiousity?  I wish I had asked him to pull over and explain it.

Life in the Face of Ridiculous Odds

A fascinating video from Moxie, a former Jehovah’s Witness, about her revulsion from the “genocidal” wishes for mass exterminations implicit in mainstream religions’ various forms of Armageddon. I think particularly of note is how this piece, much like the works of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, lay responsibility for religion’s less brotherly aspects at the feet of its moderates: even the moderate and reasonable adherent to an Abrahamic faith still believes in and hopes for the eradication of this world, which includes the death of billions of those who subscribe to different faiths or no faith at all.

Ross Douthat Awaits the ‘Conflict’ with ‘Foe’ Islam

Is New York Times columnist Ross Douthat calling for religious war? Well, no. But he is spoiling for a fight of sorts, and he might also be adding a dose of refreshing honesty to the interfaith discussion.

The liberal blogosphere is rightly upset with Mr. Douthat’s column today, in which he lauds Pope Benedict’s attempts to woo Anglicans into the Catholic fold. Douthat, a Catholic himself, is understandably enthusiastic about the idea of buffeting his faith’s numbers. But what is bothering many folks is why Douthat seems to think this is such a good idea: a “united front” against Islam.

Let there be no mistake, while I intend to give Douthat the benefit of the doubt, his language is not murky: he is not pretending that “all paths lead to God.” Check it out:

. . . in making the opening to Anglicanism, Benedict also may have a deeper conflict in mind — not the parochial Western struggle between conservative and liberal believers, but Christianity’s global encounter with a resurgent Islam.

Here Catholicism and Anglicanism share two fronts. In Europe, both are weakened players, caught between a secular majority and an expanding Muslim population. In Africa, increasingly the real heart of the Anglican Communion, both are facing an entrenched Islamic presence across a fault line running from Nigeria to Sudan.

Okay, so he’s talking about a “conflict.” Not a “discourse” with Islam, nor even a “debate,” but a conflict–a “global encounter” even–with a “resurgent” and “entrenched” Islam. All words that recall combat. There’s more.

. . . What’s being interpreted, for now, as an intra-Christian skirmish may eventually be remembered as the first step toward a united Anglican-Catholic front — not against liberalism or atheism, but against Christianity’s most enduring and impressive foe.

A “front” against a “foe.” No wonder he’s making people nervous!

Again, I don’t think there’s anything here that explicitly or even implicitly calls for violence or Christian imperialism. (At least I hope not!) As a secularist and an atheist, however, it does bother me that the editorial page of the New York Times features what I think is a troublesome call for one religion to attempt to overpower another, an encouragement for a mass subscription to one absurd, Bronze Age myth at the expense of another, equally baseless.

Douthat claims this grand coalition is done in defense of the “Western way of reason,” and perhaps when we’re talking about degrees of reasonableness, Catholicism may have some modern-day legs up on Islam, but even that is not so clear when one considers the Pope’s recent claims that birth control helps to exacerbate AIDS in Africa. You know, where it’s killing people by the millions. It is unfortunate that a respected, usually-sane public intellectual like Douthat is cheerleading consolidation around one particular irrational dogma instead of just counseling an uptick in rationality.

But of course, to Douthat, this is rational. Douthat cites in particular the creep of sharia law into European societies, something that makes us both shudder. Where he and I differ is in the solution: I think oppressive superstition must be opposed with reason and compassion. Douthat seems to have decided that the solution is a different, opposing superstition. And he wants his superstition’s team to be bigger.

But I also said at the beginning of this post that this is refreshing honesty, and it is. If nothing else, I feel that our public discourse about religion and its place in society is too often diluted by poses of interfaith tolerance and insincere paeans sung in praise of respect for other faiths. Mr. Douthat is a Catholic, a Christian, and in his column he makes it pretty clear: he thinks Islam is the wrong religion–Muslims have the wrong idea about God. If a person sincerely believes that their religion is the “correct” one, then to pay lip service to mutual respect of differing theologies is anathema, and should probably be untenable. This is why we should take Douthat at his word when he calls Islam a “foe.”

Now, that does not mean he sees Muslims as foes. I, too, in a way see Islam as a foe–a foe of reason, science, human rights–just as I see almost all religions as “foes.” The difference between Mr. Douthat and myself on this point is that I think all of the religions are wrong. Douthat thinks he has stumbled upon the lone correct one.

But human beings themselves, each and every one, are potential allies. I think we both also see that. So do not mistake me; it’s certainly better for all of us if people of differing faiths can sincerely find reasons not to be in conflict, to unite for the betterment of the species and the planet. But at the same time, we have to come by that unity honestly. To pretend that Islam and Christianity are not in conflict is absurd. Adherents have to acknowledge this fact, and then choose to overcome it. Even as an atheist, I can hope for and applaud that. Can Mr. Douthat?

Note: I would be remiss if I did not mention that I felt a slight touch of relief when Douthat said that his Christian “front” was not necessarily going to be focused on combating atheism. Perhaps that’s because opposition to atheism is supposed to be a given, but I hope it’s because he at least doesn’t see us as a threat to civilization.

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Bloc Raisonneur Now Available on Kindle

That’s right, kids. For all of you wise enough to have plopped down your life savings for Amazon’s nifty reading device, you can now have this blog sent right to your Kindle, for the measly, you-won’t-even-notice-it’s-gone price of $1.99 per month.

This way, next time you’re on the train, and need a little something to a) make yourself smarter or b) make yourself feel superior, you’ll always have the blog with the Molière logo to satisfy your desires.