Sex with Sandwiches and Other Choice Bits of Discourse

As an Nth tier candidate for President, Senator Brownback has to do something to separate himself out from the pack. Why not attack established scientific theory in favor of a Bible-based approach? Of course this sends more conservative blogs into a tizzy of support. Joe of Yet Another Lame Blog tears apart Brownback’s arguments:

Brownback:

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

Here Brownback uses a great rhetorical tactic. First he discusses the fact that there are legitimate scientific disputes about how evolution occurs, but then (seemingly without a breath) he mentions the creationists problem with evolution: “like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations” as if these were comparable debates. There is no debate on the latter among those that actually understand the theory of evolution.

At the same time in the above quote he reduces evolution to “merely the chance product of random mutations” thus showing is own ignorance of the subject by completely ignoring the most important aspect of evolution: natural selection. (Remember, natural selection was Darwin’s breakthrough.)

Sisyphus finishes his own congratulatory post on Brownback with a very interesting statement:

The 2008 election is about more than freedom, democracy, or security from terror, or even the end of American infanticide. It is about truth. We have it, the Democrats want to pretend they have it, and next year the American people will decide they prefer the real thing to the alternative.

The 2008 election is increasingly going to be about truth. The Democrats have an unusually strong advantage in this regard. When it comes to matters like the lies leading up to the war, the conduct of the administration regarding wiretapping, the US Attorney firings, or efforts to aggressively propagandize US citizens, Dems hold the cards. But on two issues near and dear to the fundamentalists, they are exquisitely prepared. The first is the “debate” over evolution. The problem with pretending to have a clear case against is it is fundamentalists wear their motivation so obviously on their sleeve that they cannot fake any hint of the intellectual impartiality real science requires. No matter what scientists prove or argue, fundamentalists will find a way to twist a paltry few facts to support their idea of creation. It is the same line of thought the Catholic Church once pursued with zeal. Identify some rhetorical (not substantial) holes in a competing cosmology, and stuff your beliefs into them furiously. The stars are fixed in a sphere? Oh, then heaven must exist just outside of that sphere. The fundamentalists are playing that same tired rhetorical game.

Gay marriage is another weak point, and in the comments section of the post Sisyphus gives us pure comedic gold:

“It is a simple step to go from man-on-man sex to man-on-sandwich sex. That’s the real agenda of the “gay” rights movement. If we’re not careful, before you know it we’ll have a race of mutant gay sandwich creatures on our hands, all under the control of Hillary and demanding special treatment.”

This sounds plausible to me, except that I’m not sure men and sandwiches can breed. But the act of letting people have sex with sandwiches in public is definitely a part of the homosexual agenda. The treefrogs want to have sex with everyone and everything in public- sandwiches, lamp posts, mailboxes, trees, dogs. You name it, and the Democrats want to let you have sex with it. I don’t think that’s right.

Again, this is a worn-out tactic. But it is also a very revealing one. There simply is no rational argument for restricting marriage to straight couples. It comes right down to “the Bible says so”, and that is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State.

The fundamentalist right, left without rational arguments to make their case for a Bible based America, have to resort to lame attempts to shovel nonsense into a pile resembling a compelling case.

I don’t think there is any danger of Brownback getting the nod, but a vote for Brownback and his vision for America is a vote for the Dark Ages.

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The UMass Community Stood Against Card

And they stood tall.  During the graduate commencement students, faculty, and friends and family in the audience protested Andrew Card’s recognition by the University leadership:

AMHERST, Mass. —Hundreds of students and faculty erupted in a chorus of boos Friday when President Bush’s former chief of staff Andrew Card rose to accept his honorary doctorate in public service at the University of Massachusetts, blaming him in part for the Iraq war.

It was more than just hundreds.  Check out the video (courtesy Mirth):

The anti card signs absolutely cover the faculty, students and audience.  As Logan Murphy wonders over at Crook and Liars:

Frankly, I have a hard time understanding why UMass would even entertain the thought of awarding Card an honorary degree, especially after hearing the recent testimony of Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey detailing his disturbing and highly unethical bedside hackery meeting in John Ashcroft’s hospital room in 2004 with then White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales.

This really hurt the University’s credibility, as the Boston Globe article goes on to note:

The controversy over Card’s degree comes a month after students at the UMass-Boston campus began pushing for the school to revoke an honorary degree given to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

While he was hailed as a humane revolutionary when he received the degree in 1986, Mugabe has since come under international criticism for running a corrupt and oppressive government.

Sigrid Schmalzer hit it right on the nose:

Sigrid Schmalzer, an assistant professor of history, said she believes Card was honored because he’s well-connected and UMass thought he could somehow help the school.

“For the university to so cynically disregard the question of intellectual integrity when it becomes convenient to pursue money and power is the wrong message to send,” she said.

Fortunately professors like Ms. Schmalzer and like-principled students, family and friends rallied against Card.  Watching such a strong response issue forth from the UMass community makes me damn proud to be an alumnus.

Rape Allowed in San Jose

The D.A. for San Jose has elected not to prosecute a gang rape case due to lack of evidence:

In an editorial published Sunday in the San Jose Mercury News Dolores Carr said while the players’ behavior was quote “abhorrent to us all” — It did not “provide a sufficient basis for a criminal prosecution”.

The baseball players themselves certainly didn’t act at all guilty:

“One of the guys who was in the room said ‘This is her fault. She got drunk and she did this to herself.'”

She apologized for being raped:

That she apologized for doing nothing but being an easy target…..yeah. I’m sorry, too.

But I just keep coming back to the words of that guy in the room: “This is her fault. She got drunk and she did this to herself.”. JackGoff had this to say in the comments for Amanda’s post:

She got drunk and she did this to herself.

So, the 17 year old bought the beer, eh?

You know, I really can’t find the words.

She also ignored the warning label on the booze: “Ingestion = Consent”.

“What we saw was rape. It was a crime,” says Grolle. “It was assault against a 17 year girl. I will forever know in my heart that is what happened.”

“It makes us think that no girl is ever going to want to come forward and say they were violated as this girl was, because they’re going to think it doesn’t even matter,” says Chief Elk. “But it does.”

Grolle and Chief Elk’s actions are helping it matter. Spread their word.

Corporations and People: Content and Control

Corporations don’t get people. There is a fundamental problem with tailoring one’s message for more than one specific audience: Conflicts.

Slashdot has the catch:

bill jackson writes “A couple of former Yahoo execs are trying to create the next MySpace by aggregating fanfiction on a website called FanLib. But the fanfic writers recognized that exploitation was written all over the idea and they’ve refused to participate. ‘Instead of creating the Myspace of fanfic since the launch two weeks ago, FanLib.com sparked a white-hot Internet firestorm.The meltdown is a hard lesson in how not to conduct business on the Internet.But it’s a firestorm of FanLib’s own making because, in spite of the Yahoo pedigree (or maybe because of it), they plowed in like china shop bulls.'”

Mary’s post on multichannel goes into more depth:

Worse, a marketing pdf., posted prominently on the Web site of parent company my2centences, seemed far more exploitative than the happy, happy we’re here-to-serve Fanlib (now chipped) veneer.

The pdf. was first outed on Lis Riba’s blog, in the post Chump Change from My2centences and discussion ensued on Making Light.

Finally, Chris Williams distanced Fanlib from the marketing materials, saying they have “NOTHING to do with fan fiction submitted on the FanLib.com site.

Fair enough but…same name, same people.

But the verbiage below lifted directly from the pdf. is still enough to give anyone – not to mention the freewheeling fanfic culture – pause about the players involved in Fanlib.com.

“MANAGED & MODERATED TO THE MAX …As with a coloring book, players must stay within the lines..”

Lines? Coloring books? Moderated to the max?

It is this schism between audiences I want to discuss in more detail. Riba Rambles:

And how about Page 4, describing how their site is “MANAGED & MODERATED TO THE MAX,” including the following:

 

  • As with a coloring book, players must “stay within the lines”
  • Restrictive player’s terms-of-service protects your rights and property
  • Moderated “scene missions” keep the story under your control
  • Full monitoring & management of submissions & players

Part of the appeal of fanfiction, of any user created content, is control. It is you, not some corporation with a bottom line, who decides whether or not Luke’s wookie godfather has an epic shouting match with yoda over hebrew national franks. That is the crux of the problem here. Not that corporations do not understand their audience. They do, and aside from mistakes regarding ads for the site, the site itself focuses purely on creating and sharing stories. The problem is that their internal audience is geared towards the bread and butter of corporate America: profit and control. So much so that every aspect of the site has been framed and painted to play along. People do not like being told what to do, and we certainly don’t like being told how to make money for other people when all we get is condescension:

Business Week touted the project last March. “The genius of FanLib is realizing that fans can be happy just being recognized.”

Contrast this with Youtube:

YouTube founder Chad Hurley confirmed to the BBC that his team was working on a revenue-sharing mechanism that would “reward creativity”.

Part of the appeal of viral marketing and user generated content is that companies can make money off of other people’s work. You invest in the infrastructure, but labor costs are zero. Its an executive’s heaven! The fear that goes right alongside this is the lack of control. What if the users “damage your brand”? Or post content that leaves you in some way liable? Hence the control. Corporate control is always about the fear that accompanies greed.

The coverage will range over the problems of misunderstanding and miscommunication this venture represents. However. This debacle provides a valuable insight into the methods and motivations of corporations approaching user driven content. They understood their audiences perfectly. The problem was not in their delivery: they were crystal clear. The problem was in their content.

The Democrats, Bush, and Strength

The Democrats in office do not appear to have a good grasp on strength. They have failed us. Sometimes a compromise really is failure. We’ve become the Pussy Party. And it is driving us to have it neither way at once:

Welcome to the learned helplessness of the Democratic Party. They’ve been spanked on national security for so long that they literally cannot conceive of pulling out a win merely because their position commands overwhelming public support. At best, the reprisal will be delayed a few years, until the Right convinces a fickle populace that the Reid-led withdrawal lost the war for us.

The Dems will be attacked on national security and the war no matter what, and still managed to avoid actually taking a stand. They’ve lost whatever semblance of practicality and principle they were striving to balance.

They’ve also lost credibility:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) said that was his goal, adding that Democrats would not give the White House “a blank check.” Bush “has to deal with us,” he said.

The check they handed the President was not blank because they already wrote the amount on it. But they didn’t sign it for him, so is that still a win in their eyes?

Voting against the supplemental was no more substantial than the crocodile votes against Samuel Alito.

I just heard that both Clinton and Obama voted against the supplemental. So, despite it being a grave disappointment that it passed without timetables (or anything useful)

This is clean. And it happens to be the right thing to do too, so good for them.

They sacrificed the timetable, and executive accountability. This wasn’t clean. Not at all.

The Democrats gave in, pure and simple.

As royally pissed as I am, and I am pissed, Kos has outstanding words for us all: Keep Fighting:

Unless you care more about George W.’s ego than the safety and welfare of our troops, you are pissed right now. But there is productive pissed, and destructive pissed. The productive stuff has us redoubling our efforts to clean house in Congress, clearing out the dead weight, the corporatists, and the Republicans. There’s the taking over our local parties, bringing new blood and a cohesive sense of purpose to often moribund organizations.

And there’s nothing that the DLC/Third War wing of the party would love more, than to see use take our ball and go home.

We won’t. We are getting back on our feet and getting ready for a group body check. We have the opinion of the American people at our back, and we will not stop until we bring our troops home safely and end this war.

We know strength, and we will win.

UPDATE:  Contact info for the Democratic leadership from Liberally Mirth.

Losing Our Rights

When an Amnesty International report applies to your own country, it is hard to find the right words (via Ten Percent):

Powerful governments and armed groups are deliberately fomenting fear to erode human rights and to create an increasingly polarised and dangerous world, said Amnesty International today as it launched ‘Amnesty International Report 2007′, its annual assessment of human rights worldwide.

Secretary General of Amnesty International Irene Khan said,”The politics of fear are fuelling a downward spiral of human rights abuse in which no right is sacrosanct and no person safe.”

This is beyond searing.  There is no doubt we’ve lost a lot in America under George’s reign.  More than that, we have lost our revolutionary spirit.  That sense of bravery FDR instilled.  We need that back if we are ever going to take back our rights.

Why is Bush Grabbing Power When His Term Is Almost Over?

Bush is nabbing some hefty powers for himself in the event of an emergency (hat tip Pam).

But why bother if he only has a few more years in office?  Is he that unconcerned with the prospect of a Democratic Presidency having those powers?  Is he that confident a Republican will win?  Is he planning a term extension of sorts?

The last possibility seems quite outlandish, but that second one has me worried.  Bush’s administration has been perhaps the most power hungry in our nation’s history.  Republicans have in the past made less centralized government power a cornerstone of their platform.  Surely a Democrat having all that power is somewhat worrying.  So why full steam ahead?