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      Prime Minister Harper pretty much confirmed it: ‘Our laws and police powers need to be strengthened’ Yup.  Never let a crisis go to waste. I’m very sad that MPs and their staff were scared, and I’m sadder that a soldier lost his life.  But one attack does not justify increasing the police state.  However, if [...]
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More on the Reason Rally: What the left can learn from the godless

Jesus rides a dinosaur at The Reason Rally, March 24, 2012

Brooke woke up earlier than her customary “crack of noon” wakeup on the weekends and is now busily draining my hot water tank for her “hour shower”. (note to self: commence 5 minute shower training regimen for upcoming exchange trip to Germany) All this is to say that once she’s awake and has fed that monster that lives in her stomach, she can set about to download her pictures.

In the meantime, I want to talk about what I think the left can learn from the Reason Rally and vice versa. This is really important because although movements like Occupy have struck a nerve with the public and have reintroduced morality into our public discourse (that’s what the “we are the 99%” mantra is all about), it suffers from something that the Reason Rally already has- established community organizations or just organization, period.

Organization is not a bad thing. Getting together and having a show is much easier to do when you plan and delegate. It’s also much harder for police to breakup. The people on the mall yesterday were every bit as committed as anyone who has attended an Occupy event. They are just as concerned with the erosion of our constitutional rights, just as concerned with the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised and just as committed to do something about it. But they choose to do it through the groups they have already established. They are humanist, secularist, rationalist, freethought, atheist and skeptic groups. They’ve been around for awhile but in just the past few years, they have seen an explosion of their ranks. Here are a few things that set them apart from the Occupy movement:

1.) They organize conferences. There are a number of freethought, skeptic and atheist conferences across the country. Some of these happen in colleges, like Skepticon, which is held each year in Missouri. But there are also a lot of freethought groups scattered all over the bible belt in places like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and even Mississippi. Find a venue that won’t be raided by dudes in riot gear and invite some speakers. This last point is important. The kind of people who went to the Reason Rally are the kind you might have seen at early Occupy marches. They are ordinary, middle class and working class people and their kids. But what you won’t see at a Reason Rally event is batallions of storm troopers. I didn’t see a strong police presence at all at yesterday’s rally.

2.) They write books. Many of the invited speakers for yesterday’s rally in Washington have written very popular books that fall into the category of what I will call The New Enlightenment (shout out to Dan Barker who started a “Tell me what Enlightenment looks like, This is what Enlightenment looks like!”) Some of those books, like Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, are well known and popular. Others, like Dan Barker’s Godless is a *de-conversion* story, and we’ve all seen the power of personal testimonials at DailyKos. The important thing is that the these de-conversions broke new ground. It’s important that religious insiders write them because it comes from an authentic place and those insiders know how the “company” works. Other speakers like Michael Shermer, write on morality. It is important for your prospective audience to know what issues you are wrestling with so they can engage and dissent. And dissent is crucial to growing confidence in a movement. That’s how ideas grow and breakthroughs happen. Your audience shouldn’t be afraid to challenge you on your statements and that leads to something that I think the Reason Rally participants value most of all (I’ll get to that at the end).

3.) They use media in many forms to reach out to others outside the group. There are a number of podcasts and community television programs that are employed so that outsiders have a chance to interact and learn. One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about New Enlightment leaders is that they’ve found their niches of specialization pretty easily and are developing their talents in that specialization. Richard Dawkins is like a guru. He is full of wonder at the breathtaking beauty of nature and he communicates that very well. His audiences listen with rapt attention to the way he articulates what they are experiencing about the world and themselves without the interference of dogma. Jerry DeWitt of Recovering from Religion is another talented speaker who encourages us to live fully in the present and be joyful about our own uniqueness and individuality. Other leaders inspire through humor or entertainment, like Tim Minchin or Eddie Izzard. I’d even put Dan Barker in this category because his Friendly Neighborhood Atheist song (please put this online, guys. It’s delightful), which was a homage to the very decent Fred Rogers, can take the heat out of possible conflict with gentle humor and musicality. Some leaders are very good on YouTube. That media suits their deftness with editing their stream of consciousness thoughts into brilliant arguments. I’m thinking Cristina Rad, AronRa, Thunderfoot and Evid3nc3. Still others like Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist) who is involved with the Secular Student Alliance, Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist) and Matt Dillahunty (The Atheist Experience) engage the public through dialogue in a radio and TV format. You can call in and ask them anything. If you’re a feminist, check out The Godless Bitches with Beth Presswood and friends. Then there are watchdog groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation who work with lawyers and the law to make sure the rights of non-believers are respected. They defend people like Jessica Ahlquist, see to it that they don’t go it alone and know they have support and the law behind them. Or Sean Faircloth’s lobbying effort through the Secular Coalition of America. In short, there is something for everyone. You pick the level and method of your involvement and there will be a community out there for it.

4.) They learned from the experiences of other groups. Greta Christina, atheist activist, has a brilliant piece about what the non-believer community can learn from the LGBT community and the similarities are striking between the two groups. People like Greta are invaluable in pointing out how to avoid the pitfalls of the groups that went before you and where you might even speed up the process or avoid alienating your friends.

5.) Finally, and this is the most important part that I think is hardest to articulate, they have RIGOR. What is rigor? Well, from a labrat’s POV, rigor is a hard quality to achieve. It is discipline of the mind to learn to separate data from bias, experience from artifact and to be able to make conclusions that survive past the current set of observations. If your conclusions can’t be applied to new experiences, your method must be revised until they can. A method must have rigor or it’s a fucking useless piece of shit, excuse my French. That’s why sciencey types are always asking questions and poking holes in other people’s arguments. They’re not trying to be pains in the asses (unless they’re suckups who are trying to impress their bosses). They are looking for rigor. And you shouldn’t be insulted when they ask you to defend yourself. In fact, it’s kind of a challenge of equals. You show me your evidence, I’ll show you mine and we’ll do sort of mental fencing and see who wins. You should have the evidence, data and preliminary conclusions to back up what you are saying. It’s only when you don’t have that evidence, and then refuse to acknowledge that you need it, that the rationally minded individual starts to pigeon hole you as a nutter or ignorant or most of the time, just plain lazy.

When Fox News types accuse the Reason Rally audience as simply having faith of a different kind, those leaders can come back with, “not really, we just have rigor!“. That ought to send the Fundies scrambling for their dictionaries.

But a lot of the left is just as plain lazy and ignorant as those on the right. They’re just lazy about different things. The right goes on about God and faith and evolution and can just be tiresome after awhile. And on the left, the stupid non-rigorous posturing about GM food, vaccines, and homeopathic remedies gets really old as well. Yes, they may actually be good or bad for you but where is your rigor?

The left needs to be on its guard, but frequently isn’t, to people who will seek to exploit this lack of rigor for their own ends. We may all laugh at Michelle Bachmann’s crazy talk about the HPV vaccine causing brain damage but the left doesn’t blink an eye when some equally crazy person on the left makes the claim that bee colonies are being wiped out by GM corn. Whole websites have been known to eat that bit of “vacuous crap” without question. And it doesn’t need to be said at this point that if the left had been more rigorous in its selection process in 2008, it wouldn’t have been rolled by the Democratic party’s PR operatives into supporting the weakest candidate that moderate Republicans would find acceptable.

Failures like these hurt the left because when it starts to respond with emotion rather than reason, it can often fail to identify the real causes for alarm. It makes the left less effective advocates or adversaries because emotion and faith is easy to dismiss. In fact, there are just as many people on the left who haven’t got a clue what “critical thinking skills” are as there are on the right. It just a term that sounds good and smart. But from what I have seen of the left, there’s a lot of learning to do about what it means to think critically. It is vitally important that we learn to do so as quickly as possible because evidence and rigor are much more deadly than mere tribal beliefs when we seek to disarm our adversaries.

So, what I would advise Occupy to do is to start applying more rigor to its methods. It should not be afraid to challenge its own beliefs. It is a good thing to apply the scientific method. You know that there is widespread suffering. You know that people are being exploited, cheated, mislead. You want to do something about it. Doing something positive about negative things that are destroying your society is a very laudable goal. It will contribute to the overall happiness of society. But to do this, it is not simply enough to get angry and protest. You must also get smart. You need to put aside your prejudices, emotions and biases and apply a more rigorous method for developing your proposed solutions. Collect evidence, ask questions, recruit experts, solicit advice, analyze carefully, eliminate noise and concentrate on signal and test your conclusions. Accept challenges. I understand that some Occupy working groups are already doing this. The one that came out with the thorough, well researched response letter to the financial crisis is a case in point. But the ones that have to do with science and pharma are still mired in some very non-rigorous debate and pseudoscience that is not going to be helpful. It just looks stupid, from my perspective, and should get the same kind of treatment that Tim Minchin gave to Storm.

When I heard Minchin’s poem for the first time yesterday, I immediately thought of some people on the left I’ve met. What a waste. Without rigor, some of them do just come off looking like Dirty Fucking Hippies. They might be right but all their opponents see is incense, astrological charts and an easily lead mind that poses no threat to them. It is really important for the left to challenge the lazy thinking of some of its adherents and not be afraid to tell them when it’s utter crap. Policing your own will greatly enhance your reputation.

Ok, I’m off of my soapbox now. I do have to say that after the past couple of months, reviewing all of the material online and attending the Reason Rally yesterday, that I think the two major parties are engaging in poo-flinging and I don’t want any part in it anymore. I think I’m ready to finally give up the Democrats altogether, even though that’s where my sympathies are. The question is, are the Democratic party’s sympathies with its base? The overwhelming evidence of its actions over the past several election cycles is very clearly No. I’m ready for The New Enlightenment and where it’s going. That doesn’t mean I think Occupy is a waste of time. Far from it. I think Occupy has tremendous potential but only in that it needs to intersect with The New Enlightement and learn from it to make it an effective tool against growing authoritarianism. But there needs to be a new foundation laid upon which we base our worldview and the Reason Rally participates are actively engaging in doing it while the left is still struggling out of a fog. Greta Christina would probably recommend that we reach out to each group and form a coalition with each other. Let’s try that.

Here again is Tim Minchin’s poem Storm as he delivered it yesterday at The Reason Rally:

Pick a side, Digby

One more time, with feeling:

and

Back when the 2008 primary season started to heat up, DailyKos purged its Hillary Clinton supporters.  Oh, yes it did, you doubting Thomasinas.  You can’t believe that a “news site” like DailyKos would be involved in hurrying them off the site as quickly as it possibly could to make way for the Obama ads but it did.  And it wasn’t nice about it.  I was one of the first victims.  That’s why I’m here at this blog.  And to be honest, I never regretted it.  But as we were picked off, one by one, Hillary’s supporters got less of a voice in the left blogosphere.  Pretty soon, a Democratic party loyalist got the distinct impression that the entire party was converting to Barack Obama with all of the fervor of a religious reformation.  The jihad quickly spread to other blogs and the comment threads filled up with Obama zealots who were enthusiastic about killing the infidels.  Some of those Hillary supporters fled to this blog and a few others.  We weren’t welcome anywhere else.  And mind you, we’re only talking about February of 2008.  It happened quickly and thoroughly, almost as if someone had given marching orders for sites to be flooded with anti-Hillary rhetoric.

Digby held out for awhile but even she succumbed.  In the book, the Bloggers on the Bus by Eric Boehlert, Digby confesses that she was “chickenshit”, intimidated by her commenters and somewhat dependent on ad revenue.  Ok, fine.  We get it.  It took her by surprise four years ago.

But what is her excuse now for being a Doormat Democrat and not holding the party accountable for its rampant misogyny and sexism?  Believe me, I hate to be doing this, pointing out the party’s ugly history, but it isn’t doing enough to combat the crazy assholes on the right.  It is the Democratic party’s feet we need to hold to the fire, not the Republicans.  The Republicans wouldn’t have been able to get this far if the gates weren’t already down to let the barbarian horde in.  Where have the Democrats been for the past decade?

And what is Digby’s role in this?  I’ve got a problem with her co-writer, thereisnospoon.  Back in the Great Purge of DailyKos 2008, right in the middle of the Rec List Hostage Crisis, blogger Alegre, who was a well respected Hillary blogger on DailyKos, got fed up with the pressure to convert and decided to stage a “writer’s strike”.  It was symbolic, of course, but its purpose was to call attention to the way that Hillary voices were being marginalized and persecuted on the largest and most influential group blog.  Markos made fun of her.  (nice going, Markos.  How very impartial)

Alegre’s strike post got a lot of comments.  Let me just highlight one:

Don’t let the door hit you (39+ / 0-)
on the ass on your way out.

I have not been posting much or commenting much in the past months, but I have been reading almost everything.

You are propagating baseless, self-serving, inaccurate, and whiny meme’s on a regular basis.

You smear and deride with the worst of the lot, and you expect people to overlook your own behavior?

Spare us the drama.

Buh-bye.

The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

by RedDan on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:26:55 PM PDT

straight from the HRC blast faxes (4+ / 0-)
really sad, actually.

Head to Heading Left, BlogTalkRadio’s progressive radio site!

by thereisnospoon on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:39:18 PM PDT

[ Parent ]

Oh, look!  It’s thereisnospoon, suggesting that Alegre was getting her marching orders from Hillary’s campaign.  We were very fortunate here on The Confluence to be invited to Clinton’s press briefings and got email updates but these were strictly informational.  No one ever asked us to do anything.  I kind of liked the low pressure tactics.  I never felt indoctrinated by Hillary’s campaign and I doubt that Alegre did either.  In fact, when it comes to the writer’s strike on DailyKos, Alegre got that idea from me.

This morning, Atrios pondered why it is that women are told that their issues are a distraction.  It’s always the wimmen.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because, it doesn’t really serve the purposes of the Democratic party or the Obama administration to rehash old history now, does it?  The last thing they want is an uncomfortable spotlight directed their way so that all the ugliness of four years ago is revealed in all of its glory. “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”  They would much prefer that the Republicans take the blame for all of the wretched mess that happened to women.

But Digby has to take a stand.  What is the role that thereisnospoon plays on her site? The Democrats are never going to do right by us if no one holds them accountable and forces them to act instead of sitting back and letting them bask in undeserved glory.  If you support the Democratic party, no matter what it does or *doesn’t* do, it will not do anything for you.  And the attack on women is so severe that to do nothing and say nothing on your behalf is a crime against your own sex.  That goes for NARAL, NOW, the Feminist Majority, Emily’s List and any other women’s advocacy group that has lost its brass ovaries in the past several decades. They are taking your contributions and giving them to Democratic organizations.  What are they demanding in return?  Why don’t we ask them? If they do not have the courage to stand up for women now, and hold the only party who pretends to care accountable for its actions, then we will continue down this spiral of fewer and fewer rights and less and less respect.

Make the Democrats answerable for all of the less than progressive candidates they are supporting this year.  Make them explain why they are supporting an independent male in Maine rather than a liberal woman.  Force Obama to vigorously defend you.

Women’s groups are not keeping up.  When Occupy is taking to the street, demanding economic equality and non-believers are organizing and demanding recognition as a influential voting bloc at the Reason Rally this coming weekend, women’s groups are timidly hiding behind the Democratic party, hoping it will protect them. They’re still trying to work with the system that screwed them over four years ago. Fuck that shit.  Organize a rally in DC, women.  Get your act together.  No one loves you more than you love yourself.  Let’s stick up for ourselves and make the Democrats court us as aggressively as they court the pro-illegal abortionist lobby.

Make a choice, Digby.  Get rid of your party mole or watch women’s rights get whittled away by the Democrats themselves as they pretend to protect them while doing nothing.  Now is the time, when they are telling us to shut up and sit down, to stand up and raise Hell.

Do I expect Digby to actually do this?  No, I expect that she’ll read this post and that she and her discussion group will laugh about it.  Her conscience will feel a twinge but she won’t act on it because she doesn’t want to alienate herself from the group.  Right, Digby?  And they care about women HOW, exactly?

And for those of you ladies who naively think that DailyKos is some innocuous Democratic news site, pay attention: DailyKos is a site that uses thought reform tactics to promote authoritarian Democratic party propaganda.  Whether it started off with this intention is debatable but there is very little doubt in my mind, after having seen it in action in the 2008 election season, that it was exploited by the political campaign operatives and that Markos put his thumb heavily on the scales for the Edwards campaign and then Obama’s campaign.  Alternative voices were purged.  Here are some posts I wrote a few months ago to warn people about the dangers of thought reform in the political blogosphere.

You’ve been Love Bombed

Phobias

Categories

Ok, I think we’re on to something here

Finally, those of you doubting Thomasina’s who are caught completely off guard about what is happening this year and can’t possibly believe that Hillary was done in by her own party, go back to the origins of this blog and read from the beginning.  We followed it very closely.  It is not a pretty story.  You will be disgusted.

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuit

I’ve got a theory that the last thing Republicans want is for the Democrats to start advocating for women.  It suits them just fine that there are so many libertarian and conservative Blue Dog Democrats running for office.  It works in the Republicans’ favor that so many new Democratic candidates are center right.  The minute that the Democratic party starts to get energized and stops sitting on women, the non-religious and labor, the Republicans will be in trouble.  As long as the Democrats take no stand, the Republicans win.

Think about it.

American Spring at Zuccotti Park

Occupiers sit in Zuccotti Park while police make mass arrests.

Update5: The occupation has reassembled at Union Square if anyone is interested in catching up with them.  One occupier’s head slammed into a glass door.  Video supposedly on youtube but I can’t find it yet.  But the Ustream showed the door.  It was in bad shape.

Update4: Twitter reports that a march is reassembling at City Hall.  Meanwhile, a protestor suffered a seizure while police held her down for 15 minutes and beat her.  Protestor has cracked ribs and has been taken away by ambulance.  Several cameramen claim to have footage.  Cameraman is trying to upload video now.

Update3: Barricades are going up in violation of court order.  Where can you go in NYC to protest and petition the government to address your grievances?  The protestors are even being forced off the sidewalks and the police are not honoring press passes.

Update 2: What?  They’ve closed the halal greasewagon??   That’s crossing the line.  Those guys are just trying to make a living.  Damn, is there any way to kick the kid off the apple TV so I can see this on a bigger screen?

Update: Credentialed press being removed from the park.  Mass arrests now in progress.  All of this expense and trouble to defend 1/2 block of cold pink granite?

Tune your bat signal to this UStream.  Something interesting is going down at Zuccotti Park.  The Occupiers are using defense netting against the police.

Follow this UStream: http://www.ustream.tv/timcast

Thursday: Things that shouldn’t need to be said but…

1.) Susie Madrak found this post by George Lakoff that I think everyone in the left blogosphere should read and commit to heart.  It’s about the Santorum Strategy and what is really going on with the Republican primary.

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called “independents,” who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future.

I think I’ve said this before (I’ll see if I can find the links to my posts about it) but it bears repeating because the A list bloggers don’t seem to be getting it: the reason why the Republican primary is dragging on is because it works in the Republicans favor.  It changes the national dialog and keeps the issues that Republicans want to talk about out there in the media all the way to August.  Don’t be surprised if there is a brokered convention.  They *want* the whole nation sitting on the edge of its seat waiting to see who the Republicans crown.  That means they can talk about deficit reduction, entitlement reform and women’s reproductive rights for a long, long time. By the time they are done, the general public will believe that reducing the deficit at all costs is the most important thing in the world and that no one should pay for anyone’s health insurance, much less birth control.  If you made the stupid lifestyle decision to be born human and indulged in living, putting your body at risk, that’s YOUR problem. Romney and Santorum are in this together for this tag team event and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republicans have already issued primary voters their votes in advance.  It only looks like chaos to the lefty bloggers sitting smugly at the top of Maslow’s pyramid.  But come August, the Democrats, who should have been championing Occupy Wall Street without trying to co-opt it (see more on this below) are going to be scrambling to control the message.  Never underestimate the Republicans’ desire to win.

PS: I need a job, George.  Call me.

2.) Lefty bloggers are wasting their time talking about Sarah Palin.  If Democrats need independent women’s votes, maybe they should stop assuming that Palin is the cause of their defection from the Democratic party.  She’s not.  There are just as many of us out here who are independent liberals who are Democrats in Exile, who do not give a flying fuck about what comes out of Sarah Palin’s mouth.  Frankly, we’re turned off by the Palin bashing, not because she’s a viable politician (she’s not) but because she’s a human being and we’re just tired of the left using Palin as the dumping ground for their current round of misogyny.

Can we move on from Palin already?  She disgraced herself last year during the  Gabby Giffords shooting episode and before that when she teamed up with her chum, Glenn Beck.  Palin had a choice after 2008.  She could have become a legitimate politician on the right, and still not to our tastes, or she could have become a hack.  She chose the latter.  Let’s move on.

Palin is not relevant in this election season.  OBAMA is relevant this election season.  Nothing Palin tells women who have flocked to her, and this woman is not one of them, is going to persuade them to vote for a Republican.  What might persuade them is the persistently lagging economy and anger at Obama for doing such a lousy job as president.  We could have had a V8 but we got watered down tomato juice instead.

The rest of us independent liberals are shopping around for a third party.  I would advise the Democrats to stop touting Lilly Ledbetter as the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Not only is this stupidly deceptive, women are not fooled.  It’s an insult to our intelligence.  Even we can figure out that there is still no fairness in our paychecks, if we are lucky enough to still have them.  And instead of being proactive about reproductive rights, the Democrats are not making a full throated defense of them against the Republican juggernaut.  We are going to remember who took down Rush.  It wasn’t president Obama.

By the way, if some of this diatribe about Palin sounds like something the Republican right wing nut cases are saying, it’s because even those vile mouths of Sauron have a point.  Stop being dicks, Democrats.  You’re playing right into their hands.

I’m still hopeful for a third party candidate.  The two major parties are busy talking amongst themselves and leaving the voters out of it.  They are leaving the American electorate on the table.  Some decent politician could see this as an opportunity of a lifetime and consider running as an Independent New Deal Democrat.  Think about it.

3.) When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.  The reason why the Republicans are pulling out all of the stops over paying for women to have sex is because they are working for insurance companies.  Insurance companies do not want to have to pay for this.  They are going to pass the costs onto someone.  Are you kidding?! Did you think the CEO of United Healthcare is going to take a cut to his bonus just because some broad in Washington wants to have sex?  Please.

The argument that Democrats are making that this will actually save insurance companies money doesn’t ring true to me.  Right now, all of the women who aren’t covered by the birth control mandate are bearing the costs by themselves.  That is saving the insurance companies money.  The vast majority are already preventing unwanted pregnancy related expenses for the insurance companies.  But let’s say that the companies end up paying for some unexpected surprises.  The cost of a pregnancy is already factored into the negotiations the insurance company has made with doctors and hospitals.  There’s a flat fee for an uncomplicated delivery.  That could easily be eclipsed by 10 years of oral contraceptives.  And now, they are going to be covering millions of women that they previously didn’t have to cover.  Of course it’s a hit to their bottom line.

If the Democrats were smart, they would have adopted the message of Occupy Wall Street and associated the insurance companies with the 1%, which they are.  They are trying to make a profit at the expense of your health.  They are collecting much more in premiums than they will ever pay out to you.  It’s immoral.  They’re making money hand over fist and giving themselves huge bonuses at your expense.  It’s immoral.  They’re greedy bastards and they’re making you feel dirty for asking for something that should be your right as a premium paying individual.  It’s immoral.

But Democrats are not smart.

3.) Speaking of the morality of Occupy Wall Street, the way that Democrats participated in muting the occupy movement (temporarily) may come back to bite them in the ass.  As I have noted before, the Republicans have a moral worldview and the Democrats do not (will try to find link to my post on this.  Must make better tags.  Sigh.).  You may not like the Republicans’ worldview but there’s no question that any American you ask can explain what it is.

What the Democrats currently have is everything on the table on a slippery slope and no backstop.  Not a winning formula.  They could have let the Occupy movement build momentum and then coasted to a win on its slipstream.  They could have said, “Hey, those dirty fucking hippies have a point!  The 1% *are* greedy fucks who are destroying the American middle class.  Maybe we should redefine what it means to be successful.  Maybe we should make the system more fair and help everyone achieve their goals so that America is number one again in innovation and prosperity.  Maybe we need to treat hard working Americans with more respect and champion their free speech rights.  Maybe we should stand up with them and labor against the soul destroying corporate class. Maybe we should force bankers to be good American citizens.”

But the Democrats did none of these things.  In fact, the Democrats were ultimately behind the DHS riot police interventions and the FBI surveillance and the infiltrations.  Oh, no, you say?  Well, who the hell else is in charge of the executive branch these days?

So, you gotta ask yourself, why is it that the Democrats would be more willing to engage in a strategy to enforce learned helplessness in anyone who wants to change the conversation and redirect it away from the ubiquitous Republican austerity message machine?

Who are the Democrats working for?  Hint: it’s not for you.

4.) Greg Smith, formerly of Goldman Sachs, now joins the ranks of the unemployed, possibly forever, after he immolated himself on the Op/Ed page of the NYTimes.  I hope he has a stash to fall back on.

I believe Smith.  I think he was what he says he was and do not question his descriptions of business as usual in the hallways of Goldman Sachs.  Let’s not forget that Jon Corzine was once a top executive at Goldman Sachs and look what wonders he did for the muppet investors of M. F. Global.  Or the Democratic base for that matter.  He has a habit of taking what is not his and giving it away to the undeserving.

Anyway, lest any of us in the pharma research forget, it was Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan who coordinated the merger mania that lead to Pharmageddon and all of the jobs we have lost in the past several years.  They do not care that what they are doing to the research industry is destroying it and is going to result in a vastly reduced portfolio of new drug therapies in the future.  All that is important is extracting the last bits of wealth from these ailing industries for the big shareholders and gigantic bonuses for themselves.  The ruined lives and careers that are left in the wake of these restructurings and mergers do not matter to them at all.  We’re losers, muppets and carrion.

This is not going to stop as long as executives are rewarded for short term planning.  It’s really not their fault that they behave the way they do.  It’s what they get paid for.  When we stop rewarding them for it, they’ll stop destroying us and not a second before.  It is stupid and foolish to expect them to act like decent human beings when they don’t have to.

So, what are Democrats planning to do to make sure the incentives are directed towards long term investment and prudent risk and financial stability?  Fuck if I know.

5.) Last but not least, I was looking at the lineup for the Reason Rally and while I am impressed by the great speakers who are going to be big draws for the Humanist, Freethought, Skeptics and Atheist movement, I was a little disappointed to see that many of them are not American.  If the Reason Rally organizers are trying to get attention for their voting bloc, it would be a good idea to ask Dawkins to serve more as MC, rather than headliner and let the American superstars take center stage (Dan Barker, Greta Cristina, Adam Savage etc.).  Otherwise, this rally is going to backfire.  You can already see the spin the Republicans are conjuring up.  Don’t fall into their trap.  I know that the rally attendees are going to be good, hard working, patriotic Americans who want reason to prevail over superstition.  That is what you need to work with.  The last thing you want is an international lineup of eggheads, much as I like Dawkins.  You need to have speakers who can connect with their audience, who come from a genuine place in the American experience and who lead Americans to a better way.  Sort of like this guy, Jerry Dewitt, former Pentacostal-Dominionist pastor and current executive director of Recovering from Religion, who in the span of 12 minutes manages to honor Tim Tebow, Christopher Hitchens, Thanksgiving and Christmas in a genuine, uplifting, positive  and non-theistic way:

Can I get an “Amen!”?

Recovering from Religion is an organization that is helping clergy and other believers make a transition away from more oppressive religious sects.  Dewitt says he gets a lot of inquiries from conservative Christians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses because these communities tend to isolate their members so when a believer tries to get out, they lose much more than their religions.  They lose their families, community, sometimes their jobs, and they lose their identities.  Dewitt calls it “identity suicide”.  It’s a hard transition to make but people of good conscience who can no longer bear living a lie need a place to go where they will find acceptance and help.  Imagine Jinger Duggar trying to escape her captors and looking for a safe mental haven.  That’s what Dewitt is trying to provide.  So, if you are looking for a place to make a charitable contribution this year, consider donating to Recovering from Religion.  For every person who comes out of the spell, there is one more American who can help set the country back on the right track.  I think this is a mission that is worthy of our support and may even cough up a few bucks myself from income tax return.

By the way, I am astonished by the number of freethought meetings and organizations there are in the reddest states of the union.  I’m talking about Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Nebraska.  These people are very active and they are posting their meetings and media podcasts all over youtube.  Here in NJ?  Ehhhhh, not so much.  I guess that’s because New Jerseyans already feel comfortable as godless heathens and don’t feel the need to organize. I think they’re wrong.  The suburbs of central Jersey are sometimes indistinguishable from the bible belt.

Breitbart insults people

I don’t know who Breitbart is referring to in the video below.  The occupiers I’ve hung out with, including myself, are well spoken, compassionate, nice and clean people who are concerned about income inequality and justice enough to petition the government for the redress of grievances.  I have to give the occupiers he is yelling at some credit for not taking him to the nearest toilet and administering a swirlie.  And a wedgie.  And maybe some noogies.

But Occupiers are militantly non-violent for the most part so we will miss all of that.

{{Oo, embarrassing.}}

If there were any freaks at an occupy event, I’m still convinced that it was Fox, Rush, Glenn and Breitbart types who paid them to show up.  I noticed some of these aberrations at the entrance to Zuccotti Park during the fall.  But once you got past them, it was just a big open air salon with very ordinary people.  That fact just freaks people like Breitbart right out.

Saturday: Banging

The siding guys arrived a little before 9am.  They’re banging on the house right now.  The walls are vibrating.  The side of the house that needs to be replaced is right outside Brooke’s bedroom so I warned her there would be some noise.  But teenagers are like chrysallises.  She’s sleeping right through it and will probably emerge at the crack of noon to go foraging.

In the meantime, I’m emptying my instapaper queue again this morning.  Let’s see, what do we have here:

1.) I LOVE apartmenttherapy.  If you’ve never visited the site you really need to.  Apartmenttherapy is inspiration for decorators on a budget, a place to check out new gadgets, a resource for greener living and growing kids, and kitchen/cooking site.  They also appear to have a social conscience.  I’ve seen more than one post hinting at sympathies to the Occupy movement.  Here’s another.  An apartmenttherapy editor, Sara Gillingham-Ryan, who lives close to Zuccotti park documents the kitchen and food of Occupy Wall Street.  Her piece reaffirms my own impression of Zuccotti during the fall.  It was a vibrant, welcoming place that attracted visitors off the street to come in, find community and talk about what was going on.  Therefore, it was radical, dangerous and had to end.  But don’t worry, Spring is Coming.

2.) I hear they have snow in Davos this year.  If you have the time and money, you might want to check out the “luxury” igloo hotel at Davos.  The concept is interesting.  I just don’t think I would refer to temperatures lower than 68° F as a luxury.  Your mileage may vary.  I think that Occupy has a remote outpost at Davos as well and that Jeff Jarvis was going to go visit.  Check his twitter stream to see if he made it.

3.) Or not.  Twitter just announced that it would abide by the laws in countries where there are proscriptions on certain kinds of twitters.  You mean the effective kind?  Just askin’.  Which is what Jeff Jarvis is getting at in his tweet this morning on Twitter’s announcement:

@jeffjarvisJeff Jarvis
My problem w/#Twitter’s new national capability is that it is a slippery slope of censorship. We need to know its principles.

It’s all part of a pattern.  SOPA, PIPA, Twitter.  Someone has it in for the internet and wants to stomp it dead, dead, dead.  Oh sure, it wouldn’t go away.  But it would devolve into a place where companies sell you stuff on every corner of every page.  You could use it as a reference tool, maybe.  Or as a media consumption device.  Sort of like a giant TV with a zillion channels, all carefully regulated for your protection.  God help you if you try to incite a little insurrection and accidentally reference a bit of copyrighted material.

I think the powers that be suddenly realized that the internet gave people the opportunity to communicate without a filter and circumvent billions of dollars of thought shaping ads and screed.  Well, we can’t have that.  Here comes the crackdown.  This could be the end of a brilliant 20 year experiment that many of us cut our grown up teeth on.  Or it could mean a new opportunity for creativity.  If all that copyrighted material is suddenly off limits, we may see a boom in new, creative content that is royalty free, er, except to anyone in the media.  I’d love to see that kind of intellectual property agreement.

But sooner or later, the bastards will get what they want by buying the right lawmakers.  It goes without saying that we need to get rid of them and it starts at the top with Obama.  No, no, don’t try to scare me with Newt Gingrich.  There are times when you have to stop being afraid that you will not succeed.  There are third party candidates out there.  Pick one, everyone get behind that person and pull.

4.) Jay Rosen says that Republican voters are living in a different reality:

So I’m not saying that the Democrats and progressives are the ones who are in touch with reality, while conservatives and Republicans are not. (But I guarantee you some will read it that way.) I’m saying that the tendency toward wish fulfillment, selective memory, ideological blindness, truth-busting demagoguery and denial of the inconvenient fact remains within normal trouble-making bounds for the Democratic coalition. But it has broken through the normal limits on the Republican side, an historical development that we don’t understand very well. That is, we don’t know the reasons for it, why it happened when it did, or what might reverse it. (We also need to know the degree to which it is a global phenomenon among conservative parties in mature democracies, or an American thing.) Political scientists: help!

I think wish fulfillment is at the core of the religious Republicans’ worldview.  If you are wishing soooooo hard that the Rapture is going to come and destroy all of your enemies and family members who wouldn’t listen to you, then what does it matter how crazy your politics get?  Any thought that leads you closer to that eventuality is permissible.

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Wishing doesn’t make it so.” He must have driven social conservatives nuts with that kind of clear thinking. {{snicker}}

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Argghhhh!  It’s always something.  The siding looks like a perfect match, even though it’s vinyl and the rest of the house is aluminum.  But the trim was ordered in the wrong color.  They delivered white, I need Navajo White.  It’s in the covenant.  And even if it were the right color, we’re a box short.  So, it’s not going to get finished today.  It’s on the side of the house that is not visible to the street but *is* visible to my neighbor, the cul-de-sac busy body and general itch with a B.  She’s got me fined before when I left cabinets on the sidewalk from my kitchen demo.  Most of them got taken by Craigslist foragers but there were two that were not and I pulled my back last summer so I couldn’t lift them to the dumpster, which I am not allowed to leave them in anyway.  $25.00/day until I could get someone to help me get rid of them.  You would think that someone so obsessed with the condition of the neighborhood would lend a helping hand.  No, not this one.  It’s much more fun to leave nasty anonymous notes on your neighbors door and sic the association on them.   I can just picture the fine that will be in my mailbox if the siding is left unfinished one second longer than Mrs. NebbyNose can tolerate. I can not *WAIT* to get out of NJ and the damn townhouse association strike force.

Thursday Morning Vamp and the Research Work Act Atrocity

Some interesting stuff to read while I get my s%^& together.

Happy Anniversary to us!  Yesterday, The Confluence turned 4.  This blog began as a refuge in the Oort belt of the blogosphere from the rampant Obamaism on DailyKos in mid-January 2008.  I was thrown out of DailyKos for being insufficiently programmable, wrote a polite note of thanks to Kos for all the good times and found my way to WordPress.  Never regretted it.  We would like to thank you for all for your friendship through the last four turbulent years.  We’ve had our ups, downs, layoffs and controversies but we’re still here.  And some of you are still reading, which either makes you dedicated friends or seriously nutz.  Or both.  During this election year, let’s try to break the 12,000,000 unique page hits milestone and not back down for a moment.  Consider this one of the few places on the web where you can feel safe to be unpopular.  Resistance is not useless.  You will not be assimilated.

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Back to the topic of scientific literature.  If you read my last post on the subject and the potentially negative impact SOPA would have on access to scientific literature, you will have learned that the bozos at ACS charge $30.00 a pop for a single paper.  By the way, I just have to take a moment here and point out that scientists get the shaft when it comes to earning money from their own discoveries.  No, companies and governmental entities that hand out grant money act like they’re doing you a favor by giving you money to live on.  Scientists who work for corporations sell their patents to that corporation for a token amount, typically $1.  If the company can successfully navigate the FDA to get approval, that patent could be worth billions.  And, ya’ know, for many years, I thought this was a fair arrangement.  Research is expensive and it’s great to work for a company that foots the bills in terms of lab space, reagents and software licences.  But then they started laying us off when the drugs couldn’t meet the FDA’s increasingly high standards or navigate the political and legal landscapes.  Suddenly, it’s OUR fault that the drugs aren’t perfect as if we have any control over every rebellious cell in the human body.  But whatever.  When scientists who have made a company billions on patents that we sold them for a buck are laid off, we’re going to start to wonder what’s in it for us in future negotiations.  And that, my friends, is a bad development.  But we have to eat too and now that so many of us are unemployed, our overhead costs for staying in science are exponentially increased.  Someone has to pay for that.  Why should we live in poverty while the MBAs live off the products of our creativity?

Anyway, the latest shameful maneuver is from scientific literature publishers like the Wiley and Elsevier.  They want the passage of a bill called, Research Works Act.  Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline sums up what is starting to feel very much like righteous indignation:

Back in December, a short bill was introduced in the House called the “Research Works Act“. Its backers, Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), describe it as something that will maintain the US’s standing in scientific publishing. After looking over its language and reading a number of commentaries on it, I have to disagree: this looks to me like shameless rent-seeking by the commercial scientific publishers.

And it pains me to say that, because I know several people in that business. But it’s a business whose long-term model has problems. (See the Addendum below if you’re not in the field and want a brief summary of how scientific publishing works). The problem is, the work of the editorial staff has changed a good deal over the years. Back when everyone sent in hard copies of papers, in who knows what sort of format, there was a good deal of work to do just turning the good ones into a consistent journal. Electronic submission has ironed a lot of the grunt work out – it’s still work, but it’s not what it used to be.

That leaves the higher editorial functions themselves, and here’s where the arguing starts. Most, and in some cases all editing of content is done by unpaid peer reviewers. There are journals whose editors exist mainly to keep the flow of submissions moving to the reviewers, and from them back into the official journal, while hardly ever laying a finger on the copy itself. They function as Peer Review Mailroom Managers. And while that’s a necessary job, it’s the center of the argument about scientific publishing today. How much, exactly, is it worth?

Scientific journal are expensive. I mean, really, really expensive to subscribe to. And if you’re not a subscriber, access to individual papers is pretty steep, too – typically in the $15 to $50 range. This is the business model for commercial scientific publishing: create a space with value (reputation, name recognition) and charge the maximum that that traffic will bear. And that’s fine; there are a lot of businesses that work the same way – if they can.

The problem is, the information-sharing capabilities of the Internet blow a large hole in some of the traditional publishing model. And another problem is that a large number of papers that come into the journals from US academic researchers have had some (or all) of that work paid for by government grants (NIH, NSF, DOE and so on). As it stands, articles funded by the NIH are available in PubMed Central for free access, no later (by law) than 12 months from the initial journal publication. Researchers can also submit their work to “open access” journals (such as those from the Public Library of Science), which charge a fee to authors to defray editorial costs, but then allow immediate unlimited access to all comers once a paper is accepted. (I should note that some commercial journals get away with “page charges” as well, and some have a model where the authors can pay extra to bring their paper out from behind the paywall).

And here’s where we have the Research Works Act. It would forbid any publication in an open access journal for anything funded in academia by US government grants, and it would forbid any public-access repository for such work. That’s its purpose. Well, to be more accurate, its purpose, as described by the head of the Association of American Publishers, is that it “ensures the sustainability of the industry”. Yep, make my business model part of statutory law, and beggar my competition: what else is a government for, anyway?

Read Derek’s update on this subject too.  He reports that the journal Nature, has come out against RWA.  Nature is one of the most prestigious journals and I am really happy to hear this.  In short, Derek thinks that like the major media conglomerates who are pushing for SOPA and PIPA, the science journal giants are stubbornly refusing to evolve and change their business model, forcing us to pay high rates for content that they get for free.  Without access to papers at a reasonable price, these journal giants will fail and for the scientific community, that’s probably a good thing.  Liberate the discoveries!  We don’t need no stinkin’ RWA to prop the greedy journal companies if they won’t accomodate us.

So, to recap: Corporations are actively destroying their research units, leaving about a hundred thousand scientists without careers and fending for themselves in little startup companies with extremely high overhead costs.  They need to have access to scientific literature in order to just stay alive.  You can’t do science without them.  And along come the big science journal publishers who want to keep their current business model, charging high licensing and subscription fees or $30 a paper on average for papers that were sent to them at no charge.  Yes, friends, you could be charged $30 for the privilege of downloading your own paper.  But wait!  There’s more.  It’s not good enough that they have exclusive access to the papers in their own journals that they can charge outrageous fees for.  NOW they want the government to stop providing free public access to scientific papers that were the result of NIH research grants.  Yes, Wiley, Elsivier and the ACS want to make sure that no one gets access to the science that you the taxpayer have already paid for unless they pay an exorbitant download fees.

I’m really shocked to find that Carolyn Maloney is co-sponsor to this atrocity.  If she doesn’t know what she is doing to the poor (and I mean that literally) scientists out there, someone should tell her.  She may be one of the persons who is going to set American research, what little is left of it, back even further.  We simply can not afford to keep paying through the nose for literature, especially for information we have already paid for.

She should be ashamed.  And this topic deserves as much attention as SOPA, PIPA and NDAA.  It’s outrageous that science that you have already paid for is going to be held hostage behind a paywall.  We may need an Occupy Science working group to look into this.

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