01 Jan

Truthout – Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice

Whereas SB 1070 focused primarily on the ostensible control of bodies, HB 2281 is predominantly about controlling minds. In this sense, it is the software counterpart of Arizona’s race-based politicking, paired with the hardware embodied in SB 1070’s "show us your papers" logic of "attrition through enforcement," which has already resulted in tens of thousands of people leaving the state. With HB 2281, the intention is not so much to expel or harass as it is to inculcate a deep-seated, second-class status by denying people the right to explore their own histories and cultures. It is, in effect, about the eradication of ethnic identity among young people in the state’s already-floundering school system, which now ranks near the bottom in the nation.

There’s a word for what Arizona is attempting to do here: ethnocide. It is similar to genocide in its scope, but it reflects the notion that it is an ethnic and/or cultural identity under assault more so than physical bodies themselves. By imposing a curriculum that forbids the exploration of divergent cultures while propping up the dominant one, there’s another process at work here, what we might call ethnonormativity. This takes the teachings of one culture – the colonizer’s – and makes it the standard version of history while literally banning other accounts, turning the master narrative into the "normal" one, and further denigrating marginalized perspectives. America’s racialized past abounds with such examples of oppressed people being denied their languages, histories and cultures, including through enforced indoctrination in school systems.

via Truthout – Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice. Arizona really is just a bundle of crazy isn’t it.

24 Jul

Friendly Atheist – An Iowa College’s Response to Blasphemy Day

This is why Blasphemy Day is so important and why I’m now such a strong supporter of it.

It’s not about mocking religion or calling a believer names.

It’s about the freedom of speech and the idea that religion (along with other strongly-held beliefs) should be open to criticism.

No one should be able to silence you because they don’t like what you say.

via Friendly Atheist – An Iowa College’s Response to Blasphemy Day. Couldn’t agree more.

09 Apr

Calling Something Factual, Doesn’t Make It Magically Factual

Specifically, this is another time in which I call out Republicans for their lack of attention to basic logic and understanding of facts. I received an email tonight from the RNC regarding Obama, Congress and the organization ACORN. In this email the GOP makes the claim that “It seems the Obama Administration has plans to rig the Census results.” The way this will occur:

Why is this important? The U.S. population has shifted in the last ten years. States like Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania (all states Obama won in 2008) have smaller populations, and states like Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina (all states that John McCain carried) have gained population.

The trend illustrates that urban strongholds, which favor Democrats, continue to lose population to more decentralized areas in states more likely to lean Republican.

If the Democrats and their friends at ACORN have their way, the Census will only “estimate” state populations and therefore be subject to political calculations. And surely their estimate will be far higher than the actual number of people, and voters, present.

So if to be believed by the RNC, Obama and the Democrats through ACORN will manipulate the state population estimates to swing in favor of Democrats as opposed to what the estimate should actually look like.

Let’s start with a few things, first off the email never lists any facts, never links to any hard evidence demonstrating any manner of truth in the email. The only links are to unsubscribe, to the main GOP site and to donate to “help the Republican Party’s effort to spread the word about the Obama Democrats’ misuse of power and plans to end free and fair elections”. Also note this is the sort of classical conspiracy style formatting, this evil organization is doing something behind your back and we aren’t able to get our message out, but you can help us expose the truth.

The funny thing about the whole thing is that the Census Buera’s own estimates don’t prove the central point of the email, which is “States like Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania (all states Obama won in 2008) have smaller populations, and states like Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina (all states that John McCain carried) have gained population.”

Specifically looking at the 2008 Census Bureau estimates found here: http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/GCTTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=01000US&-_box_head_nbr=GCT-T1-R&-ds_name=PEP_2008_EST&-format=US-40S

Let’s take a look at each state listed by the GOP in the email, comparing the 2000 Census results with the 2006 and 2008 estimates, shall we.

State 2000 Census Results 2006 Estimate 2008 Estimate
Illinois 12,419,293 12,759,673 12,901,563
Michigan 9,938,492 10,083,878 10,003,422
New York 18,976,816 19,367,028 19,490,297
Pennsylvania 12,281,052 12,388,055 12,448,279
Arizona 5,130,607 6,178,251 6,500,180
Georgia 8,186,812 9,318,715 9,685,744
South Carolina 4,011,809 4,324,799 4,479,800

Notice every single state listed in the email is gaining population from 2000 to 2008, and the only state losing population from 2006 to 2008 is Michigan, which given the state of the economy there, I’m not entirely surprised.

Now I’m not entirely sure what the GOP is trying to argue at this point, because at this point the argument just really collapses amongst itself. They could be talking about percentage change, but the talk about the population not a percentage fall or even that the rate of the states gaining population is going up.

Or I guess the Republicans could claim that the estimate itself is wrong, and they have no proof for it, because the Census Bureau has been manipulating numbers for years in favor of Democrats?

The next question for me becomes, how does a community organization influence the population census, that I’m not sure, since the GOP doesn’t link to any article talking about it or go into specifics, also how do you manipulate the census. Personally, I thought the census was performed by Census employees, maybe the GOP is thinking that the Census with outsource the collection of data to ACORN?

That makes some sense though it still seems silly to blame an organization whose actions are very much blown out of porpition: “Both claims are breathtakingly inaccurate. There’s a huge difference between voter fraud and voter registration fraud. And while ACORN, which hires part-time, $8-an-hour canvassers to go door-to-door and register people to vote, has had widespread problems with phony registrations invented by employees who don’t want to work, the problem has never been that it sent people to the polls using bogus identities or to vote in any other fraudulent manner.”

This winds up being my fundamental problem with political organizations, the media, and politicians, left, right and center. Wild accusations, conspiracy like talk with no real definitive proof or even an understanding of basic logic.

I will say though when MoveOn.org and some other organizations send out emails to pressure for something, they link to real authentic news articles to make a case for themselves. It helps so much it isn’t even funny. It’s almost sad to say that it is refreshing to get their emails which actually make a case for their point even if I disagree with them.

Also GOP, why do you always repeat yourself in the PS part of the email, it’s annoying and stupid. Learn from the Democrats and say something different. Seriously, I get really bored knowing that you are going to ask me for money in exactly the same way you did earlier.

07 Jan

One isn’t Many and Many isn’t All

One of the arguments that I hear for why people express an -ism belief (racism, sexism, ageism, etc), is that they had this experience with this one person and you know that must be how everyone of that particular group is. I love this kind of reasoning it’s so illogical it’s almost funny and yet people do it all the time.

Venn Diagram: Subsets

Venn Diagram: Subsets

Mathematics will let you know that a subset is not always equal or the same as the larger set contained in it.

So why is that people assume that it is? Who knows, I suspect it has something to do with the same reason we are bad at assessing on an intuitive level risk.

Be that as it may, maybe it would be fair for people who make those sort of assumptions that a subset is the whole set to decide that white Americans are out to destroy America, or that Christians want to kill people and blow up buildings. Yet we don’t assume that because it just isn’t true.

So do you still think the one is the many and that many is all or is it possible that it just isn’t true?

26 Dec

Your Rules Aren’t My Rules

Here is the problem that I see with a lot of the evangelical right. They seem to think that their rules are all of sudden my rules. Here’s a hint, they aren’t. A great example is this ad for a rentor.

The ad includes such wonderful rules as the main lights in the apartment are controlled by a timer turning on at 5:30 am and off at 11:30 pm, heat and a/c controlled, oh yeah and even a camera in your suite. Let’s not even discuss the no alcohol, no illegal drugs, no tobacco, no lighters or matches, the 2 hour, visitation period on Sunday and Saturday. You are even required to wear an id bracelet. Let’s not even get into the idea if you say have a sexual relationship pre-marriage.

This isn’t an apartment, it’s a dorm room and worse.

The worse thing is that the person who put up the said and I quote: “I am a born again Christian. Why is this a problem for people????! I have a house that’s MINE and I PAID FOR IT. I also have a basement apartment for rent. It’s a great space for I’m charing very little for it, $480 monthly, for the right tenant. I know it’s ILLEGAL to require a Christian in the apartment, against the human rights. That’s why I NEVER put this in my ad. Why then does it keep getting taken down?” The problem isn’t that you are a born-again Christian, the problem is that you are applying rules that you may live with and feel are good and normal, but for the majority of society they don’t and won’t live with those sort of rules.

How many people don’t drink alcohol, how many people desire to have their landlord control when they can sleep and wake up, or and watch them on a security camera, how many people desire to have 4 hours a week to have visitors over. I think even my family comes over to visit I want them to come over for more than 2 hours or at a different times than just 2 – 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The silly rules just keep adding more and more restrictions to a person. Is cheap rent worth the agony that a person would go through to have that apartment?

Freedom From Religion Same As Freedom Of Religion

Freedom From Religion Same As Freedom Of Religion

Let’s apply this from the micro to the macro world. America was built on the idea of freedom, the idea that people have the freedom to choose what they want to do, and what to think. The world that the evangelical right wants to create is a world where people have the freedom to not smoke, not drink alcohol, not have visitors, not choose when they want to sleep and when to sleep. That’s the problem I have with the evangelical right and a lot of other movements who want their beliefs to be enforced on other people. What people should be doing is allowing people to have the freedom to chose what they do and don’t want to do. Not everyone believes the same as they do. Even the majority of Christians don’t believe in the same rules that the evangelical right do.

America is freedom, that apartment and the evengical right is the exact opposite of freedom.

Flickr photo curtosey of: Clemente

03 Aug

Do Words Actually Matter?

The question is almost stupid to answer because on certain level they must matter or else I wouldn’t publish my thoughts. So words must matter to you because well you are reading this and you most likely communicate with society. There is a very good reason that being deaf and/or mute is an impediment to having a normal life. Communication is the lifeblood of society, at some level we all need to communicate for a host of reasons.

So words matter to the extent that one needs them to communicate with others in society, but on a deeper level do words really matter?

Hmmm, okay, well I am trying to convince you of certain position, so I must feel that words matter in the sense that the meaning of the words strung together can form a hopefully coherent argument that sways you to accept part or all of my position. But again we aren’t quite at the heart of the matter of do words matter.

Well let me first clarify the question a little bit, by do words matter, I mean do the words that we speak do they make a difference on our lives. In other words if someone insults you, does that hurt your feelings?

It’s an interesting problem, mainly because we all know that words matter because we use them all the time to communicate, to debate, to show emotion, a host of things only happen because of words.

Imagine trying to tell someone that you love them, without being able to talk to them. Just try to see how to express that emotion without the words to go along with it. Sure you can buy them gifts, give them your time, make love to them, but does any of that really truly express your feelings over this person? I doubt it.

Now that I have danced around the issue enough, let me just answer the question. Words don’t matter it’s the intent and the feeling behind the words that really matter.

Words themselves I believe have no power in and of themselves, it’s the emotion and purpose behind the words that give words power. Words are just that words, abstract concepts strung together in a meaningful manner to describe something. Imagine a beautiful poem, but being read in a monotone voice:

A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING.
by John Donne

AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
—Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Now reread the poem, but this time give it emotion. It makes all the difference in the world. Words themselves are basically worthless, but words with emotion and feeling are indeed very powerful.

* Just on a side note, I absolutely love this poem, hence I used it.