Friday, 29 June 2012

This is a hoax, right? Please? Crap, it's not.

I wish I was making this up.  I've held off posting for two days in the hopes this is a hoax or a cruel joke or something other than another example of the twisted reality we live in.

Texas GOP: "We oppose the teaching of higher order thinking skills, critical thinking skills and similar programs...[which] have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."  Clicking the link above opens a pdf document from the official Texas Republican Party website.  Scroll down to pg 20 of 30 (using the app), 2/3 of the way down the page, the section marked "Knowledge-based Education".

That's right.  They want their children to be unable to think, so they are unable to challenge authority.

While we're at it, here's some other juicy bits.

Early Childhood Development – We believe that parents are best suited to train their children in their early development and oppose mandatory pre-school and Kindergarten. We urge Congress to repeal government-sponsored programs that deal with early childhood development. (pg. 20)

We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. (pg. 20) - that's code for "we ain't teaching evolution or global warming".

We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage. (pg. 21).  No wonder they've got one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world.

We urge the Legislature to end censorship of discussion of religion in our founding documents and encourage discussing those documents. (pg. 21) - that's either "The Founding Fathers were religious" or school Bible study, not sure which, possibly both.

Textbook Review – Until such time as all texts are required to be approved by the SBOE, each ISD that uses non-SBOE approved instructional materials must verify them as factually and historically correct. Also the ISD board must hold a public hearing on such materials,... (pg. 21) - translates to "we'll teach what the community (controlled by the local Fundamentalist church) thinks is true, the facts be damned".

Private Education – We believe that parents and legal guardians may choose to educate their children in private schools to include, but not limited to, home schools and parochial schools without government interference, through definition, regulation, accreditation, licensing, or testing. (pg. 21)  Let's fill little Johnny's head with lies, bullshit, heresy and batshit science, then turn him loose on the world.  What could possibly go wrong?  And just to make sure...

U.S. Department of Education – Since education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, we believe the Department of Education (DOE) should be abolished. (pg. 22)

Other issues...

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) ― We demand the immediate repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which we believe to be unconstitutional. (pg. 19).  A little late for that considering the Supreme Court says it is constitutional.  Guess they just don't want Canadian-style health care and would prefer to stick with a system that's the most expensive in the world and least effective.

Religious Symbols - We oppose any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols. (pg. 15)  In other words, the ability to post the 10 Commandments in courtrooms.

Pledge of Allegiance - We support adoption of the Pledge Protection Act. We also urge that the National Motto “In God We Trust” and National Anthem be protected from legislative and judicial attack. (pg. 15) Ignoring that the National Motto is a federal issue.

American English - We support adoption of American English as the official language of Texas and of the United States. (pg. 15)  Ignoring that there's no such language.

American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. (pg. 20) - Like jingoism worked so well in the 50's.

Two pages (16-17) on abortion.

Conscience Clause - We believe that doctors, nurses, pharmacists, any employees of hospitals and insurance companies, health care organizations, medical and scientific research students, and any employee should be protected by Texas law if they conscientiously object to participate in practices that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs, including but not limited to abortion, the prescription for and dispensing of drugs with abortifacient potential, (pg. 17) - in other words medical professionals can refuse to handle blood products if they are Jehovah's Witnesses or dispense the morning after pill to rape victims.

Immunizations ― All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves or their minor children without penalty for refusing a vaccine. (pg. 19)  So I guess they want polio back.

...and of course...

Homosexuality ― We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.  (pg. 16)

...and its corollary...

Family and Defense of Marriage ― We support the definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman, which is the foundational unit of a healthy society, and we oppose the assault on marriage by judicial activists. We call on the President and Congress to take immediate action to defend the sanctity of marriage. We are resolute that Congress exercise authority under the United States Constitution, and pass legislation withholding jurisdiction from the Federal Courts in cases involving family law, especially any changes in the definition of marriage. We further call on Congress to pass and the state legislatures to ratify a marriage amendment declaring that marriage in the United States shall consist of and be recognized only as the union of a natural man and a natural woman. Neither the United States nor any state shall recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse. We oppose the recognition of and granting of benefits to people who represent themselves as domestic partners without being legally married.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

It's time to get religious fundamentalists out of the school system

In order to avoid anything interfering with their authoritarian worldview, many religious Fundamentalist parents are removing their children from the school system and homeschooling them, using a modified curriculum.  In some cases entire school boards are taken over and the curriculum modified to exclude science and logic and include religious nonsense.

Here's the latest.

The Loch Ness monster proves creationism.

Let's try to follow the 'logic'.  The Loch Ness monster is a dinosaur that survived The Flood, making it a recent event because otherwise they would have died out.  Oh-kaaaaaayy.  I've been to Loch Ness.  It's a horrible, depressing lake with tricky cross currents that show strange wave patterns on the surface any time of the day or night.  There's been one grainy photograph that looks like an old boot, a couple of unconfirmed sightings and a couple of radar echos of "something".  I've personally seen better proof of space aliens (a story for another time).

As for the dinosaurs, they never died out.  I'm having one for lunch.  It's called a chicken.  Lay out a chicken skeleton next to a dinosaur skeleton (making allowances for size) and there's a distinct correlation.  All the right bones are there.  Dinosaurs evolved.  One branch became lizards.  The other branch became birds.

That's too complicated for a Fundamentalist.  They'd rather swallow an impossible story like the Ark, biological impossibilities (bats are birds) out of the Bible than deal with the real world as it actually is.  And they want their kids believing the same nonsense, leaving them utterly unprepared for dealing with life as life actually is.


I've been asked to put together a presentation for my church addressing the issues surrounding human sexuality, including gay marriage.  I'm likely going to assemble it here in the form of blog posts so I've got it all in one spot.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Inside the mind of an authoritarian

Required reading - The Authoritarians

Two things to talk about today.  Dr. Linda Roberts of the Phelps clan has run off the rails and a Dr. Justin Frank has written an analysis of Romney's constant lying.

Let's talk a bit about reality.  I use the word "actually" a lot.  People like me are considered "reality-based".  We perceive the world (aka "evidence-based"), then make up a set of business rules to deal with it.  If we find our perception is incorrect or the world has changed, we revise the business rules.

Other people I know say "should" a lot.  They have a pre-conceived idea of how the world should work, then bend reality around them to make it confirm.  While not a conservative, Steve Jobs did this kind of thing.  People called it his "reality distortion field".

In the real world, 5-10% of the population is "gay" by some definition of the word.  It's been an issue for thousands of  years.  Attempts have been made to make it go away.  They haven't worked.  Some people are actually gay and are going to actually stay that way.  Get over it.  That's the reality-based view.

The other view (some people call it "faith-based") is that (pick and choose what makes a coherent narrative), everybody should be straight, there is no such thing as homosexuality, people who claim to be "gay" are straight and living a "gay lifestyle" and just need to make an effort and/or pray and/or take drugs (deprecated) but in the meantime they are horrible vile disgusting creatures, prone to diseases and medical conditions, want to indoctrinate everybody else into homosexuality, ban heterosexuality and hence cannot be trusted around children or in normal society, are incapable of monogomy and should be shunned/isolated/killed as a way of showing Christian love.  Any person/city/state/institution not supporting this should be punished in the form of tornados, hurricanes, forest fires, losing sports team or any other bad thing that comes to mind.  To support this they quote the Bible or make up bogus science (google Paul Cameron and Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH).

Don't believe me?  Have gander at one day's worth of tweets from Dr. Linda Roberts (@GodsLandGodsLaw) of the Phelps clan.
  • Homosexuals love anarchy so they side with libtardism as anarchy is the only way society will accept this filthy perversion. #tcot #gop #p2
  • Homosexual activists should be charged with murder for indoctrinating children into AIDS and death. #tcot #gop #teaparty
  • Pro sodomy (homo'l) activists like @fakedansavage are headed to a school near you to indoctrinate YOUR children into the sodomy death style.
  • Acceptance of homosexuals/pedophiles spells the end for our morals and values. It's all downhill from here. #tcot #gop #teaparty
  • We must push for a Christian theocracy and expunge radical muslims, atheists and libtards from God's nation. #OneNationUnderGod #tcot #gop
  • God WILL punish America (more twisters, hurricanes, etc) if we don't return his nation to him. #OneNationUnderGod #tcot #gop #teaparty
  • First things of order: 1. Outlaw homosexuality/sodomy. 2. Outlaw Abortion/close abortion clinics. 3. Ban all religions except Christianity.
  • And yes I'm #PROLIFE but if we could solve homosexuality but aborting gaybies, then I'd be in favor. Morals are more important! 
  • I'm all 4 science proving homosexuality to be genetic (that way we can abort gaybies + solve this homo problem) but it won't happen!

It comes down to the difference between "authoritative" and "authority".  In the reality-based world there are some people who are considered an authority in their field.  Einstein comes to mind.  Every once in awhile someone comes along to challenge one of Einstein's theories (more about "theory" in a bit).  We had one last year where they thought they'd spotted neutrinos going faster than the speed of light.  Nobody said "Einstein is wrong", they (including the people who published the study) said "check the work".  They eventually nailed it down to malfunctioning equipment.  But, they wouldn't have been upset if Einstein was wrong.  That's where new science comes from.  Remember the Bohr atom?  It had its heyday and is still a useful shorthand for chemistry but it was supplanted by newer science.

That's not the way it works in the conservative world.  A few excerpts from the article.

Romney doesn’t lie. Let me repeat: Mitt Romney doesn’t lie. He is telling the truth as he sees it — and truth it is, facts notwithstanding...This is about a conflict between evidence and faith... when two Mormon Elders who were questioned about the inconsistency in passages from the Book of Mormon said “We know the Book of Mormon is true and that it contains the Word of God even in the face of evidence that appears contradictory,” Thus there are no lies, only faith-based certainty that translates as truth for which no apology is needed, since what was said was not a the Mormon Church, there was a decision to accept authority as true — whether or not evidence supported it.

Romney is an authoritarian leader.  He is not an authority in any field on knowledge except how to get people to follow him, and he probably wouldn't tell you how to do it.  Romney attracts authoritarian followers.  Rather than thinking for themselves, they gravitate to a leader who will promise simplistic, black-and-white solutions to complex problems. They are not bothered by the fact that those solutions change from day to day (hence the Etch-a-sketch quip), have failed miserably where they've been tried, or are against their own best interests (eg. taxation).  They are used to this from Fundamentalist Christianity's obsession with Biblical literalism and simplistic, Bible-story theology.  The Bible is true because it says it's true, and let's just skip over the complicated stuff. 

I used to be a proponent of the English variant E-Prime, English without the verb "to be".  It made you think very, very carefully about the world.  You couldn't say "the sky is blue" - you said "the sky appears blue".  It also prevented the use of passive voice - there always had to be an action.

In sociological circles, they no longer talk about someone "being gay".  It's now "men who sleep with men", a much more accurate description.

Conservatives also don't understand "theory".  My definition (which is probably wrong) is "the most coherent explanation reached from an examination of the known facts".  To them, theory is fiction, probably because they have such a poor relationship with fact.  Gravity is a theory because we still don't have a firm methodology towards non-electromagnetic attraction.  Be that as it may, I'm not standing under a grand piano suspended by a string.  I don't care what authority figure says it's perfectly safe.

Update - a better explanation:

Monday, 11 June 2012

4-year-old killed by RRR preacher because he thought he was gay

Peter Lucas Moses, North Carolina Man, Pleads Guilty In Deaths Of Woman And Boy He Thought Was Gay 

 "A North Carolina man pleaded guilty to murdering both a 28-year-old woman and a 4-year-old child he reportedly believed was gay."

He's got 3 wives, 9 of his own kids (the murdered kid wasn't one of them).  Calling himself "Lord", he's the leader of  "the Black Hebrews, whose members believe they have descended directly from the ancient tribes of Israel. The Black Hebrews are also said to believe that a forthcoming 'race war' will leave blacks dominant and supreme,".

 He shot him in the head because his father left the cult, leaving the boy's mother (who was one of Moses' wives) behind and he hit the backside of another boy (something I've seen plenty of football players do). The corpses were wrapped in trash bags and left in a shallow grave.