December 24, 2011

#RonPaul, meet #racism

I'm sorry, you don't need to meet, you're well acquainted and the non-Texas public is finally getting the chance to start learning that.

AND, and, and .... In 1995, on video, Paul fessed up to being the publisher of record of this racist and racialist crap. 

AND, much, much more, in one handy location, here.

Going to love seeing the Paul-tards try to spin this baby. Have fun with the continued denialism, Paul-tards, and don't forget that there's one real libertarian in the GOP race and his name is Gary Johnson (not that I'm any sort of libertarian, myself).

Now, will this hurt him in Iowa? And, presuming it does, how much? Paul had been surging there, but, with the holiday weekend and all, there's not any polling to go by since the new rehashing of his past for a national audience during the past few days. Attempts to use the issue against him backfired in Texas, but, that says more about Paul's Congressional district (and other fairly large swaths of Texas) than it does about the substantiveness of the issues. And, even if Iowans are white-bread Midwesterners who may in many cases hold closeted racial feelings, in New Hampshire, the story's a bit different, between it being more libertarian, including on social issues, having GOP emigrants from Masschusetts, and having independent voters who can vote in any primary.

So, GOPers, it looks like your bat-shit crazy grandfather is going to crash and burn for sure. That leave bat-shit crazy Uncle Newt or a semi-normal slicked-back businessman ... who unfortunately has a track record of killing thousands of jobs.

#Poynter #PolitiFact and St. Pete Times: Overblown blowhards?

Between deliberately slapping ESPN in the face at times just to prove it's a good contract/consultant ombudsman, between financially affiliated St. Petersburg Times getting ready to call itself the Tampa ("Bay, if you will") Times while the Tampa Tribune still publishes, and other things, I'm beyond skeptical to cynical about both the paper and the media institute.

The latest? Its/their PolitiFact have awarded the claim that the GOP wants to kill Medicare the lie of the year, then said that the raft of objections to that award is all just from liberals being in an echo chamber.

Oh, technically, the GOP doesn't want to directly kill Medicare. But, privatization of it? Everybody with a brain knows that is exactly what will happen.

Basically, PolitiFact descends into he said/she said journalism:
We stand by our story and our conclusion that the claim was the most significant falsehood of 2011. We made no judgments on the merits of the Ryan plan; we just said that the characterization by the Democrats was false.
That's exactly the problem: Politifact made no judgment on the merits of the Ryan plan. Krugman's right: RIP PolitiFact. And, as far as I am concerned, everything else in the Poynter/St. Pete Times stable.

December 23, 2011

Rick Perry, fading fast

Tricky Ricky won't be on the ballot for the Virginia GOP primary because he didn't get enough signatures.

Somehow, I don't think Perry needs to worry about the Texas primary getting pushed back to April.

I mean, 10,000 total signatures, at least 400 in each Congressional district? To not get that is a clear sign of poor administration and poor grassroots support.

Moved ... and grateful

I am at a Starbucks in Austin. Took my laptop, equipped with wi-fi antenna (part of why I bought it years ago) when I drove into Cedar Park, suburban Austin, to turn in my rental truck, not knowing if I would get back to the Starbucks in Marble Falls before it closed tonight, not having checked hours before I left there.

That said, I'm grateful for a Starbucks there. I'm grateful that, on the phone connection, Verizon got out this afternoon, said it had fixed what was outside, and contacted my apartment complex to do what it needed to do inside. So, between high-speed at work, wi-fi at Starbucks, and good old dial-up at home, assuming it's fixed by early next week, I'll be fine on Internet.

I'm grateful for not only Whole Foods but the even better Central Market (a Texas-only chain) in Austin. I've stocked up on good coffee, great dehydrated split pea soup, black bean stew and curry lentil stew mixes, three types of curry powder, charsalt-type dry hickory smoke flavor, some sparkling waters, some high-ginger ginger ale and such. (And, the bulk food stuff I mentioned is actually relatively inexpensive.) Oh, and I had to get some non-inexpensive cheese, an indulgence of mine.

Halfway between Marble Falls and Cedar Park, northwest suburban Austin, is the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge. So, you can guess where I will do some hiking! The road winds a bit, in a good sense, following Texas' Colorado River through hills, with a mix of red oaks, white oaks, live oaks and cedars (could get rid of a few of those!).

I have tuned in Austin's 24-hour classical music station. I've already visited the Austin Symphony website. The Austin Classical Guitar Society, I knew about years ago.

I am grateful; grateful enough to start tearing up when I got in. I don't have to make a lot of money in life, if I can have amenities like this.

Marble Falls is not your typical small town, either. There's old Texas rancher money and at least reasonable-money retirees there. Not many towns of 7,000 have a Home Depot and a Lowe's. And two Thai restaurants, as I discovered today. So, even without going into Austin, I think life will be at least OK if not better there.

I'm grateful the job came open and other things, to make this possible.

Finally, I am grateful for the people on this list, some of whom go beyond acquaintances to friends, whether I've met you in person or not.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Splendid Saturnalia and best of the new year to everyone.

#Stlcards bite on Beltran

Well, good thing is that the Cardinals aren't standing pat after not resigning Albert Pujols. MOre to the point, is Carlos Beltran worth $13 million a year for two years?

I'd say yes, if his net WAR stays at around 4, he doesn't get any more ugly in the outfield, and his knees don't cause him to miss significant time.

But, that's not a question to be taken lightly, given his missing significant time in both 2009 and 2011. If the Cards paid for the Beltran of 2011, it's worth it. If they paid for the 2009-10 Beltran, it's an overpay.

So, stay tuned. Assuming Prince Fielder leaves Milwaukee, I'll push the Cards back ahead of the Reds for the NL Central title if the Cards have a reasonably healthy Beltran. And it looks like others agree.

Kyoto carbon poetry

A comment from a friend on Google+, after he posted a haiku, led me to ask myself if I had a copy of this 1998 Kyoto treaty talks op-ed that I wrote all in haiku. And, I did. And yes, what follows was an actual op-ed column. (Small weekly paper, where I was publisher, and nobody to say 'You can't do that.')

Clinton seeks freer trade
With Chilean producers
Free wine, grapes, and fruit

Gephardt says "Never"
Dreaming Presidential dreams
Gore stands idly by

Newt and his minions
Will swap taxes for tariffs
Clinton: "See me next year"

He's to Kyoto
To cut back greenhouse gas growth
Subtle irony

Speaking, not doing
More global warming threatens
With his ev'ry word

Business USA
Claims the climate data is
Still insufficient

They preach doom and gloom
For our proud, strong economy
From mandated change

Clinton will stand and speak
To please Japan, Europe, home
And yet fall far short

Back in Washington
Ere his Orient Express
Reno had good news

Of campaign violations
Is terminated

Clinton breathes easy
As does loyal Gore besides
But is it over

On the back benches
Hot Republican firebreathers
Demand impeachment

The outside person
Knows all hands are money-green
Has cynic disgust

December 22, 2011

Resentment and 'creative anger'

Twelve-step programs (and, to some degree, their secular alternatives), pop psychology and even "real counseling" will all warn from time to time about the dangers of holding on to resentments.

But, unless it's for an addicted person early in sobriety, are all resentments "bad," or at least, "totally bad"? I say no.

I say that there can be a sort of "good resentment" that leads to a sort of "creative anger."

I can offer a few historical examples off the top of my head.

Had Mohandas Gandhi not resented the British for stooping so low as to have the salt tax on Indians, he wouldn't have thought of his Walk to the Sea, followed by his larger idea of passive resistance.

Had Martin Luther not resented Johann Tetzel's willy-nilly sale of indulgences, he might never have had the anger to share his 95 Theses and start down the road of the Reformation, even though he didn't nail them to a church door (urban legend, medieval division).

Three great revolutions, the American, French and Russian ones, started over resentments by the eventual rebels. American's turned out the best for the short and medium term, even if the long term fueled American exceptionalism. France's, while horrible for the short term, for the medium term, even, left European monarchs who kept or regained their thrones keeping at least a bit better lookout for their people and, in the long term, eventually helped drive European democracy on the Continent. Per Zhou Enlai, the book is still out on Russia's more than France's or America's, but we shall see.

We don't have to look at great moments in history, though, to see resentment leading to "creative anger."

Many ordinary people desire to "prove someone else wrong." As long as, per Hume, they let reason be the slave of the passions without letting passion obliterate reason, such resentment may well lead to creative anger that proves that other person wrong. That may be through job or personal accomplishment, reframing one's mindset or, even, with some Husserlian "bracketing" of the resentment for a while, eventually serving up a cold dish of revenge.

So, don't try to suppress, hide or smother resentment. Listen to it, then decide what to do with it and about it.

December 21, 2011

Obama the anti-drug Nazi

OK, so arrest me for skirting the edges of Godwin's Law, even if I didn't call Dear Leader Hitler himself. But first, read up.

OK, Obama's really gone worse than Bush on the War on Drugs. Federal prosecutors threatening with crimes a person who recommends jury nullification outside a trial court?
Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor, with jury tampering because he stood outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan providing information about jury nullification to passers-by. Given that I have been recommending nullification for nonviolent drug cases since 1995 — in such forums as The Yale Law Journal, “60 Minutes” and YouTube — I guess I, too, have committed a crime. 
And, don't tell me the Manhattan federal DA is doing that all on his own. Here's the reality, which is itself "interesting":
In 1895, the Supreme Court ruled that jurors had no right, during trials, to be told about nullification. The court did not say that jurors didn’t have the power, or that they couldn’t be told about it, but only that judges were not required to instruct them on it during a trial. Since then, it’s been up to scholars like me, and activists like Mr. Heicklen, to get the word out. 
Anyway, the column's author may not be alone:
In October, the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, asked at a Senate hearing about the role of juries in checking governmental power, seemed open to the notion that jurors “can ignore the law” if the law “is producing a terrible result.” He added: “I’m a big fan of the jury.” 
Let's see Mr. Heicklen get backing from ACLU and/or the Center for Constitutional Rights and start suing federal prosecutors for false imprisonment.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the Manhattan DA's actions didn't come out of nowhere. One of Obama's biggest campaign claim vs. administration reality lies was about the War on Drugs. Once again, our constitutional law hypocrite lives down to reputation.

Could Bradley Manning beat the rap?

Today, he got to face his "accuser." No, not the Army, but Adrian Lamo. And, based on Lamo having an "ordination" from the Universal Life Church, Manning's attorney aimed at the "confidentiality of the confessional" angle. He also went with Lamo's claims to be a reporter, and the "confidential source" angle.

Here's the "confessional" angle:

Coombs asked Lamo if he was acting as a minister, and then repeatedly asked, “Don’t you think he was contacting you for moral support?” At that point, Manning looked off into the short distance, perhaps recalling the state of confusion and despair that prompted him at the time to reach out to Lamo.

Coombs and Lamo went back and forth over whether Lamo violated his responsibility as a “minister” to keep Manning’s confessions private. Coombs asked Lamo whether it wasn’t clear that bradass87 (Manning's alleged chat ID) intended their chat to be confidential.

“A reasonable person would conclude that,” Lamo conceded.
Interesting, and smart.

In a civilian court, I don't doubt it would play well. Not sure if it will go as well in the military. But, it's possible.

At the least, it sets things up for full court-marshal.

If it works at all, besides Lamo's own testimony getting tossed, how much else of the Army's case would become inadmissible? THAT's the biggie.

December 20, 2011

Cynicism is not the same as conspiracy thinking

Unfortunately, both here and here, skeptic Steve Novella confounds the two.

Novella  makes the mistake of thinking that cynicism and conspiracy thinking are rough equals when they're not. I can be cynical about government without believing in conspiracy theories. For instance, a member of Seal Team 6 has a book out refuting a number of details of Obama's official story about the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Therefore, I could be cynical about Obama's claims about how the operation went down, yet have no problem accepting that OBL was killed.

I could think of other examples easily enough, but, given that Novella focuses on  OBL's death, and given that many conspiracy theories focus on the government, this is an easy one.

But, let's add a few. I can be cynical about the amount of money Obama got from Wall Street for his 2008 campaign without believing he was "anointed" by the Bildebergers.

I can be cynical about how many of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons Obama either skipped or slept through without believing in a conspiracy that joining a Christian church was part of covering his Muslim tracks.

I can be cynical about George W. Bush's intellectual laziness on his 2001 summer vacation and Condi Rice's own narrowmindedness and intellectual laziness for focusing on Russia, not the Middle East, and how all of this increased bin Laden's chance of "success" on Sept. 11, 2001, rather than believing Bush was part of a conspiracy to take down the Twin Towers.

I could be cynical about TWA's maintenance schedules on wing fuel tanks, and FAA monitoring and enforcement, but not believe Flight 800 was shot down as part of a conspiracy.

Or, to cite from literary history. Both Oscar Wilde and the later Mark Twain, not to mention Ambrose Bierce, were cynics. None were conspiracy theorists.

Part of being a modern skeptic should include precision in language.

Nativities, #GnuAtheists, and nuttery

I agree that the nativity on the courthouse lawn in Athens, Henderson County, Texas, is technically unconstitutional. But, there are better ways to address this issue than the Freedom from Religion Foundation throwing Gnu Atheist firebombs.

First, since it's erected by a private group, per previous court rulings there is the option of putting up a countervailing display of some sort. Per the story:
If it is open to all faiths, then the Freedom from Religion foundation tells News 8 it wants to put it's own sign at the courthouse. One that reads, in part, "That there is no God, no devils, no angels or heaven" and that, "Religion hardens the heart and enslaves minds."

It's happened before.

The same sign was put up at the capital building in Washington state back in 2008. The same group, the Freedom From Religion foundation, got it posted right next to another nativity scene. The sign brought out angry protesters there, and county officials believe it would bring out the same anger, having an outsider forcing their hand.
That said, Olympia, Wash., is NOT Athens, Texas. That sign would be shredded the first night, as not a single cop in Athens would patrol the site, and not a resident there would admit to seeing anything being done.

Second, what do tactics like this do for Gnu Atheist evangelism?

People here have heard me say before: They backfire. It's the old flies and honey vs. vinegar cliche. If you're trying to get people to respect atheists, or trust them, since trust seems a big issue, this sure isn't the way to do it.

Why not put up a positive sign, like: "We're sharing caring and rejoicing in our own glad tidings without feeling the need to be religious." And then include a URL, whether to FFRF or a list of famous atheists or something.

In the light of an Anglo-American pundit's death, it does often seem that for Gnus, it's about rebellion more than civil liberties. Ridiculous.

Economic good news, it seems

I won't link to the stories, because they're getting splashed everywhere. But, first, November unemployment fell in 41 of 50 states as part of the national drop to 8.6 percent. Second, albeit primarily due to apartment construction, the housing industry is set to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, for the economy for the first time since 2007. Third, a Gallup Poll notes that Americans not only expect to spend more than 10 percent more on Christmas this year than last year, but personally feel more confident about making such spending, not just having a "generic" increasing confidence for the economy in general.

We've still got a ways to go. But, this is a start.

December 19, 2011

A note about blogging in coming days

Sums it up, doesn't it?
I'll be packing Wednesday, moving Thursday, and getting settled into my new place right around Christmastime, then spending the next few weeks after that getting used to a new job. So, blogging will definitely be light the next few days, and perhaps light-ish through mid-January.

And, living near Austin, with more things to do, and more things to do in the Hill Country, blogging may be a bit lighter, and more non-political at times, anyway!

Anyway, I'm moving of my own free will. I still don't know the next allegedly hot career trend. I'm anxious, but over a move and job change? That's human nature, nothing more. And, maybe, with a place I should like more, and learning the on-the-job ropes, maybe I'll figure out that next big thing.

#Tebow - an anti-Catholic?

Frankly, I was glad for the New England Patriots' takedown of Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos yesterday. And, it happened as I and millions of other NFL fans knew it would: The opponent got far ahead of the Tebowites and forced him to come from well behind by passing.

That said, in light of that, over at ESPN's Grantland, Charles P. Pierce has a great take on Tebow's religiosity, and how he's not "a Christian" but a specific, narrow slice of Christian. And, if Timmeh is like his old man and his old man's "ministry," he is, per the title, an anti-Catholic:
Let us be quite clear — Tim Tebow adheres to a particular form of American Protestantism. He belongs to — and proselytizes for — a splinter of a splinter, no more or less than Mitt Romney once did. This particular splinter has a long record in America of fostering anti-Enlightenment thought, retrograde social policies, and, more discreetly, religious bigotry. To call Tim Tebow a "Christian," and to leave it at that — as though there were one definition of what a "Christian" is — is to say nothing and everything at once. Roman Catholics are Christians. So are Lutherans, Episcopalians, Melkites, Maronites, and members of the Greek and Russian Orthodox faiths. You can see how insidious this is when discussion turns to the missionary work that Tebow's family has done in the Philippines. This is from the Five Priorities of the Bob Tebow ministries, regarding its work overseas:
It is the goal of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association to preach the gospel to every person who has never had an opportunity to hear the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ. Most of the world's population has never once had the opportunity to hear the only true message of forgiveness of sins by faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.
It so happens that 95 percent of the population of the Philippines is Roman Catholic. Catholic doctrine just happens to be in conflict with what Bob Tebow and his son preach in regard to personal salvation. ... Bob Tebow's goal is not to convert unbelievers. It is to supplant an existing form of Christianity. So who's the actual Christian here? This is not an idle point to be made. Down through history, millions of people have died in conflicts over what a "Christian" really is, which is what so exercised (James) Madison, and also what brought down a lot of Hitchens' wrath upon religion in general. History says that as soon as you start talking about "the only true message" in this regard, you guarantee that, eventually, people will get slaughtered in the town square.
A long quote from the article, but well worth it, in part to show that, like Rick Reilly, there's a few thoughtful sportswriters out there who can put sports into a larger context. Any sports writer who knows his or her religion enough to reference John Chrysostom deserves a kudo and a long quote. And, most red-state types whom Pierce excoriates in his book or over at Esquire are probably clueless about who Chrysostom is.

And, Pierce is right, Tebow's religion is fair game in the public square, just as is Christopher Hitchens' political hypocrisy, even more than his atheism. As Pierce notes earlier in the column, a Christian can always pray on the other side of a metaphorical or literal lake in another metaphorical or literal village. (Or, in his closet, as Jesus himself says. Funny how the Tebows of the world overlook that one.)

#Hitchens, #BillClinton and snobbery

While I agreed with many of the political criticisms of Bill Clinton that Christopher Hitchens wrote in his book about the two, Scott McLemee of The American Prospect wonders if there wasn't another angle behind this: snobbery.

In the context of Hitch's one-time (and always, psychologically) "Trotskyite" affiliations, he wonders:
Was his shift to the right already unmistakable in the 1990s, with l’affaire Blumenthal as the equivalent to Kronstadt? That would make the ferocious and protracted campaign against Bill Clinton as something like the Russian Civil War. To my mind, this is plausible. Despite agreeing with almost every political criticism Hitchens lodged against the administration, I could not help noticing the tone of upper-class loathing for Clinton as pushy plebian upstart. (Such an attitude suggesting that Hitchens was more of a Czarist officer than a Bolshevik.)
Interesting indeed. That could also explain part of why he rounded so much on Gore Vidal when Vidal dissolved into 9/11 Trutherism -- it wasn't just that Vidal was wrong, but that "civilized people don't engage in such things."

Beyond that, McLemee notes, we have Hitchens "outing" himself in his autobiography:
(I)n Hitch 22, Hitchens confessed that in the late 1960s he was a leftist militant by day and guest at posh dinner parties by night.
But, that was apparently no surprise:
As it happens, his double life was no secret from the comrades, according to the literary critic Terry Eagleton, who was one of them. They nicknamed him Hypocritchens.
So, the World Socialist was onto something itself:
Hitchens was the sort of private school “leftist” that British society regularly turns out, essentially snobs and careerists, who ditch their former “comrades” as soon as the wind shifts or more tempting opportunities present themselves. His autobiography is an exercise in shameless name-dropping and self-promotion. ...

In the late 1990s, by which time Hitchens had largely given up his leftist pretensions, the Washington Post bluntly portrayed the circles he belonged to in the US capital as “an elite subset of Washington society—the crowd of journalists, intellectuals, authors and policymakers, mostly in their thirties and forties, who regularly dine together and dine out on each other.”  
Too bad there's no Hitchens left any more, to turn in his grave after it being pointed out that he was filleted by an "establishment" newspaper.

And, maybe we should, like Ross Douthat, in light of this, even question the motivation for his atheism.  Douthat suggests that Hitchens' atheism was more rebellion against the ultimate authority figure:
At the very least, Hitchens’s antireligious writings carried a whiff of something absent in many of atheism’s less talented apostles — a hint that he was not so much a disbeliever as a rebel, and that his atheism was mostly a political romantic’s attempt to pick a fight with the biggest Tyrant he could find. 

This air of rebellion did not make him a believer, but it lent his blasphemies an air of danger and intrigue, as though he were an agent of the Free French distributing literature deep in Vichy. Certainly he always seemed well aware of the extent to which his writings traded on the unusual frisson of saying “No!” to a supposedly nonexistent being.
I'd have to say he's at least pretty much right on the insight about Hitchens himself. Picture Byron as atheist, British class/style and sometimes shallowness of thought, all in one. But, I think many a Gnu Atheist, like many an old "village idiot atheist," is looking to pick the same fight with the same nonexistent tyrant, only with less romantic mood and less literary style.

Per a friend of mine, who (like me) longs for the "sweet spot" of triple Venn diagram intersection of skeptics, atheists and liberals, Hitchens was spotty on all three.

Now, McLemee may be wrong. But, given World Socialist, I don't think so, on the class issues. Maybe that's even part of the rebellion against god; how dare this (non)-figure not open the first-class cabin section to talk to him?

I think, though, that the snobbery issue doesn't explain as much as the pure rebelliousness issue. Hitchens the Trotskyite, like Churchill's Stalinist USSR, was a mystery inside a riddle inside an enigma, in some ways, possibly even to himself.

At the same time, if he was known to be such a political poseur, why did the Nation "hang on to him" for another half a decade, until the post-9/11 final break? There's other riddles and mysteries connected to his life, too.

And, otherwise, yes, I'm done with Hitchens. Any new insights by me, or revelations to other pundits I think worth passing on, I'll add to what I've already written in one post or another.

December 18, 2011

#GnuAtheists may have point at times; wronger at others

Guardian columnist Julian Baggini argues on the basis of an admittedly self-selecting survey that, even for non-fundamentalist types, religion indeed seems to be about doctrine first, and practice/religious socialization second:
So what is the headline finding? It is that whatever some might say about religion being more about practice than belief, more praxis than dogma, more about the moral insight of mythos than the factual claims of logos, the vast majority of churchgoing Christians appear to believe orthodox doctrine at pretty much face value. They believe that Jesus is divine, not simply an exceptional human being; that his resurrection was a real, bodily one; that he performed miracles no human being ever could; that he needed to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven; and that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. On many of these issues, a significant minority are uncertain but in all cases it is only a small minority who actively disagree, or even just tend to disagree. As for the main reason they go to church, it is not for reflection, spiritual guidance or to be part of a community, but overwhelmingly in order to worship God.

This is, I think, a firm riposte to those who dismiss atheists, especially the "new" variety, as being fixated on the literal beliefs associated with religion rather than ethos or practice. It suggests that they are not attacking straw men when they criticise religion for promoting superstitious and supernatural beliefs. Yes, I know you can define "supernatural" in such a way that turning water into wine isn't supernatural after all, but when atheists use this word, their argument is not based on an unjustified linguistic or metaphysical stipulation. They are simply pointing out that religions maintain that things happen which cannot be explained simply in terms of physical laws and human agency, and on this it appears most churchgoers agree.

There are some areas where the mainstream belief is not quite traditional. Most accept that although the Bible refers to God as "He", God is neither male nor female. Only a minority – albeit a very large one – believes in biblical infallibility, which is not the same as its factual accuracy, since most reject a reading of Genesis as history. Nonetheless, even in these areas one might be less pleased that these are no longer majority views than disturbed by how many still hold them.
Remember, this is all in Britain, which, while religiously less liberal than the UK, is more liberal religiously than the US. And, almost half the people from the primary survey were Church of England, likely to be more liberal in belief than Catholics or other Protestants.

The biggie? 68 percent said belief and practice had equal weight, 23 percent said belief had more weight, and 9 percent said practice had more weight.

The even bigger biggie? A whopping, I'd say for this, 45 percent said salvation is through Jesus only.

Baggini is therefore right in part about Gnu Atheists. However, upon further reflection and re-reading of the survey responses, I think he's pushing the case a bit. A more honest, or less overarching claim, would be to say that most Christians are quasi-Marcionites. If it was written about in the Old Testament, whether creation, OT miracle claims or whatever, Christians are more ready to write it off as not literal or not true.

However, American Gnus are shown to be wrong, wrong, wrong about something else. Beyond claims of a "surge" in American atheism, Gnus want to claim atheism is broad spread in Old Europe. I think the "nullius salvus" response, if it more broadly applies than just in a self-selective survey, shows that Christian belief is still relatively strong.

At least about the Old UK, they may be hugely wrong.

 And, there's still that matter of PR and messaging.

#Islamofascism, #BigTobacco, #Hitchens as a-hole

A Big Tobacco poseur trying to blow smoke in our eyes?
With some parallels to Ed Abbey ....

After putting the last touches on my "the dark side of Hitchens" blog post, I got to thinking about 9/11, his being one of the first people to use the word "Islamofascism" and similar, and a newspaper column I wrote on the first anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

I tied those thoughts together with Christopher Hitchens' known smoking history, his claims to be standing up against totalitarianism throughout his life, and his attitudes toward control of smoking in public places, and knew I had another blog post to write, even if it further angered people who want to think of nothing other than Secular St. Christopher.

So, here goes, starting with a synopsis of that 2002 newspaper column.

In that column, while not minimizing 9/11, I reminded readers of how many other things in America, usually recurring situations whose lessening was a matter of public policy in general or public health policy in particular, killed the same amount of people as al Qaeda did on 9/11, albeit perhaps over a week's time, or a month's rather than a day's time.

For example, I said diabetes kills X people per month, and is at least controllable, especially with Type 2, through diet. I said traffic accidents killed about 50,000 per year, and that safer driving, driving with seat belts, and driving while sober could eliminate many of those deaths.

Finally, I said that cigarettes killed about as many people every two days as al-Qaeda did that one day. And then killed about as many more the next two days. And again, the next two, ad infinitum.

Well, there's no "Big Sugar," re diabetes, not really. And even a "Big Alcohol" possible role in DWI fatalities is small.

Big Tobacco? Quite different. Now, that column didn't go beyond this, because that wasn't its focus.

But, I am now doing so, and going to riff on Big Tobacco and some of the issues Hitchens claimed to fight for, or against.

My focus now is, not just on Big Tobacco per se, but how, via being a poseur for Big Tobacco, Hitchens was a liar about what he claimed to stand for.

No, not just morally or psychogically inconsistent. Not even contradicting himself in a Whitmanesque, multitudes-containing way.

But lying to himself (and to us), and, I believe, quite consciously, all while being an asshole, to get in the last part of the title. More below the fold.