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What the church is really worried about: MONEY

I saw this bit on Hullabaloo about Cardinal Dolan going on the O’Reilly factor and making a big to-do about the evils of secularism:

DOLAN: You’re a better historian than I am Bill, you know that every great movement in — in American history has been driven by people of religious conviction. And if we duct tape the churches — I’m just not talking about the Catholic Church — if we duct tape the role of religion and the churches and morally convince people in the marketplace that’s going to lead to a huge deficit a huge void.

And there are many people who want to fill it up, namely a new religion called secularism, ok, which — which would be as doctrinaire and would consider itself as infallible as they caricature the other religions doing.

So to — to see — to see that morally-driven religiously-convinced people want to exercise their political responsibility, I think that is not only at the heart of biblical religion, it is at the heart of American enterprise.

Alright, here it comes.  The Reason Rally seems to have gotten their attention since it was all about secularism.  So now they have to go on the O’Reilly Factor and scare the seniors shitless.  Fear always seems to work with them.  Before you know it, they will start accusing the secularists of granny sacrifices and burying WMDs in the backyard.

I’ve had to tussle with some of you readers about this topic and I just want to say, you guys need to relax.  Religion isn’t going to disappear.  And we secularists aren’t going to make you worship Richard Dawkins.  But evolution can happen to ideas as well as living organisms.  An idea that doesn’t have the right stuff to adapt to its environment will fade away.  I suspect the fading will be gradual but you never know.  There could be a large, precipitous decline followed by a more gentle slope.  I think that’s what going to happen here.  Why a religious person should worry about this is beyond me.  No one is going to tell you to stop going to church.  It’s just that younger people are going to see religion as unnecessary to their lives and morality and maybe even an obstacle to achieving a more equitable society.  Plus, some non-believers are starting to realize that the American secularists might need their own community gathering places.  Sort of like church without God.  That’s coming.  Freethought societies are popping up all over the place, especially in the bible belt.

The internet probably has a lot to do with this.  People can read and when they start to question their faith or think about the logistics of Noah’s Ark, there’s plenty of material out there that will shake them to their core.  More non-believers are made everyday and they are just as moral as any godly person.  Let’s just acknowledge that up front.

But for the church, this is going to be a BIG DEAL.  In Europe, churches already play just a ceremonial role.  People might get their kids baptised there or have their weddings there but they are not regular church goers.  There are also an awful lot of atheists in Europe.  I suspect that’s because if you live where there is a good social safety net, there’s less need to pray for relief.  Also, they’ve been through so many horrific experiences in the 20th century and probably realized that praying was not as effective as the local resistance groups in surviving the worst of them.  So, churches in Europe are getting to be superfluous.  They’re pretty and they’re good tourist attractions but it ain’t like it used to be.

In fact, I would go so far as to draw comparisons between pre-reviolutionary France and 21st century America.  Religious institutions benefit greatly from tax breaks and faith based initiatives.  In the latter case, that’s OUR tax money going into their pockets.  If you’re going to accept help from a church based institution, you’re going to get a sermon.  And some of those sermons have to do with homosexuality, female inferiority and birth control.  Why should we be paying the government to help these churches out?  The first estate has it pretty nice compared to some of the rest of us and they are determined to keep it that way.  The church would very much like to continue to sink its teeth into us.

Trinity Church owns some prime real estate in lower Manhattan worth zillions.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) owns a good chunk of Brooklyn.  And then there are all the Catholic institutions and hospitals and such.  They have a lot to lose if the country becomes more secular.  And what will happen when Americans finally start demanding that churches stop freeloading on the taxpayer’s largess?  What are their property taxes like?  Hmmmm….

Secularists!  Ooooo, boogie men.  Scary.  Even the ones that are believers.

Religious institutions don’t have a lot of time.  The young are turning away from the beta version of God and looking for a major upgrade.  That’s either going to be a more abstract version of god without all of the scriptural and institutional baggage that goes with it or it’s going to be no god at all.  Churches are going to crank up the fear factor on the O’Reilly Factor as much as they can.  They are preaching to an ever diminishing choir.

We are approaching a crisis.  It’s not about conservatism or liberalism.  It’s about money and a shrinking share of the market. If the Vatican loses the American market, that is a big deal.  If that means the churches have to crush the oppressed citizens of Paris America to maintain their status and privileges, they’ll do it.

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Thursday: A book giveaway and real life stuff

Real Life has been demanding my attention this week. Today I am at a cancer diagnostics and therapeutics symposium all day. The organizers of this symposium really should have provided better signage from the parking lot. I wandered around Rutgers for half an hour quizzing the landscapers for directions. Am I hot or cold? Closer or farther away?

In any case, it’s good to know what’s going on in academia and industry. I’ll have a little more to say about that later. Lambert sent me a link to a Reuters article on failures in drug discovery that may trace back to shoddy basic research in academia.

In the meantime, we would like to announce a book give away. We have been given two copies of Rachel Maddow’s new book, Drift, for review. Katiebird has been speeding through one copy and should have a review soon. I have been going through mine more slowly since I seem to have gotten busy just when the book became available to me and I’m going to have to punt and listen to it on audible. So, we would like to give one of these copies away. It’s signed by the author. I’ll write up my review probably by tomorrow.

What I can tell you right now is that the book is well written in a fluid style that is very enjoyable to read. If you are a fan of Rachel’s show, you are familiar with her narrative style. The book is about the alarming drift that the country has taken towards maintaining a standing army and how events have changed our society in ways we hadn’t anticipated. It’s about the rise of the security industry and the how we decide who will fight our wars. Like I said, I haven’t gotten very far into the book yet but I find that her research into why Johnson used the draft in the Vietnam War made me think about how close we may have come to doing the same in the Iraq War.

Katiebird has finished the book and does have some reservations but we will get to them in the review posts. We are considering firing up our Conflucians Say blogtalkradio show to talk about books and sluts other interesting things. Raise your hand if you would find that interesting.

For the signed copy of Rachel’s book, we’re going to give it away like this:

1.) in response to this post, write in the comments thread why you want to read it.

2.) This Sunday, we will use a random number generator to pick a number that will correspond to the comment (numerically) in the thread. The owner of the winning comment will be contacted through email so be sure to use a legitimate one. We promise not to share your email address with anyone.

This way, only people who have an interest in the book are entered and the selection process is fair.

Gotta go. There’s a poster session until 10:30am.

Fire away!

The biggest threat to the American public

After the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the Sandra Fluke/Slutgate latest escalation in the 4 year war on women (that was started by the Democrats, ironically enough), I have determined that the biggest threat to the United States of America and the majority of people who live here is white men.

Tuesday: Questionable strategies

Richard Dawkins has a strategy to move politicians away from catering to the religious- ridicule their beliefs:

Now, I know there are some believers on this blog who will take offense by Dawkins statement but I think he has a point.  AronRa, youtube atheist blogger, was arguing with the faithful at the Reason Rally and put it something like this: science doesn’t rule out the existence of a god.  We’re just waiting for evidence.  But that book?  That bible?  Yeah, *that* God doesn’t exist.  Everything that is in that book has been proven to be a fable.

Well, I don’t know about EVERYTHING, but just about everything in the first five books of the bible is mythology.  Sorry, believers.  That’s just a fact.  There was no Adam and Eve or Tree of Knowledge or talking serpents.  Noah might have been based on a real person but his account can be found in a Sumerian document that was written about a 1000 years before Genesis.  Even Moses might have been fictional and the rules in Deuteronomy were penned by some self serving priests.  That’s what archeology tells us.  I’m a personal fan of Jesus but only his parables, sermons and the occupation events he staged during his last week.

If more believers could just put that Judeo-Christian god in its proper context and move on to God 2.0 or no god at all, we could get this country back on the right track and stop this ridiculous charade every four years where the presidential candidates stoop to out-holy each other and use religion as an excuse to deregulate anti-discrimination law protecting women.

The proscriptions against gay people, the submission of women, the silly rules about crustaceans and fabrics, the harsh punishments, all that is based on Bronze Age culture.  Um, we don’t live in the Bronze Age.  Four hundred years ago, we stopped believing that the earth is the center of the universe but for some reason, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, we still believe that humankind emerged from two naked people in a mythical garden.

It’s only with time and distance that we can see the bible as it really is.  Once you’ve reached that tipping point, the whole construct falls apart.  It’s ridiculous to expect modern people to run their lives and governments based on Bronze Age writings and drug induced hallucinations of a dude stranded on an island off the coast of Turkey.

So, unfortunately, I think Dawkins is right.  For all we know, we and the people around us have only one life to live on this earth.  The biggest sin we can commit against them is to ignore the suffering of others because the end of the world is coming any minute now or treat the disenfranchised like second class citizens because of who they love or what plumbing they have.  What a waste of talent.  And if there is a God, it would be really stupid to exclude good people from making a difference in the world because God can use all the help she can get.

Anyway, these days, when I hear the religious go on about how evolution is wrong and Adam and Eve are right, and that a convicted conman in NY found a bunch of golden tablets, that no one else has ever seen, and translated them into English from Reformed Egyptian and that this is the basis upon which we control women because they are less than fully adult, this is what it sounds like:

Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is.

*********************

Yesterday, the Supreme Court set aside a lower court ruling awarding patents for two breast cancer genes to Myriad Genetics.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, discovering a gene that already exists in nature is not the same as discovering a small molecule drug to treat disease. That would be like patenting some exotic species of plant collected by some ethnobiologist on a field trip. I can see how you could patent an analog (structural modification) of a chemical that the plant produced but the plant itself? Any scientist should be able to study that plant and use it for research. The plant isn’t novel and wasn’t made by man. Same with genes.

I think many of us in research have run into the problem of trying to work around a patent like this. About a decade ago, I was on a project that had to get around a patent on a protein structure. That’s right, the competition had patented their protein structure. It was available in the publicly available database but researchers couldn’t use it for drug design while the validity of the patent was still in dispute. So, even if the patent holders eventually lost their rights, they would still have had a substantial lead over their competition who would spend months and years trying not to look at the binding site of the patent structure. It’s like blindfolding your competition.

On the other hand, it’s bloody expensive to do research. Mindboggling, ridiculously expensive. If you do manage to isolate a gene and plan to use it for commercial purposes, you should be able to recoup the cost of your discovery efforts. Up to this point, companies like Myriad Genetics license their technology to other companies. Academic institutions also do this with their proprietary assays which are expensive and take many months of negotiations and lawyers to acquire. Without the licensing fees, these institutions will be asked to turn over their discoveries for the good of mankind with little compensation, or invest in discovery efforts, which they may not have the money or expertise to do. Companies will start firing their staff and going overseas where it’s cheaper to hire people. It won’t be faster or better. Just cheaper. And the scientists who are thrown out of work over here will just stop doing science altogether because it is impossible to have a stable domestic life.

In recent years, many big pharma companies have turned to biologics and shed their small molecule drug discovery efforts. That’s because small molecules have to be defended against patent infringement and the class action lawsuits that follow the release of every new drug. The companies thought they had a winner in biologics and they may still. But this case may put those discoveries at risk if they turn out to be nothing more than the product of nature. They should expect a lot more patent challenges. And without their small molecule drug discovery units, which have been mercilessly obliterated by the short term goals of the financial class, they may find themselves on the bitter end of ever diminishing returns. In this case, karma works against everyone who is hoping for a cure from modern medicine.

What pharma needs is a long term strategy and relief from some class action lawsuits. I know the left doesn’t want to discuss tort reform but in an industry where perfection and customization for each individual is not possible yet, the prospect of class action lawsuits has had a chilling effect on discovery and approval of some drugs. There are many other problems with drug research companies that I have outlined before but there is no doubt that the system is broken and may take a long time to fix without incentives to shift to a long term strategy. Research isn’t cheap and researchers need to eat. Drugs can’t be free but we may be able to make them affordable if we develop new strategies for discovery.

Something’s got to give.

 

Random Drug Test

The school just called.  It was the nurse.  I’m thinking, “great, she knocked her front teeth out in gym” or “She is throwing up, can I come pick her up?”.  No, the nurse was happy to assure me that Brooke had participated in the random drug test and there were no drugs in her system.

No duh.  *I* could have told them that.  The kid is as clean as a whistle.  How do I know?  She spends all of her free time teaching herself Chinese.  I have the notebooks to prove it.   She just won a prestigious award in German.  She never emerges from her basement lair unless she is lured up with food.  I can’t even get her to hang out with her friends.  WHEN was she going to be doing drugs??

Is there any reason to test her?  No.  It’s just to keep kids on their toes, like some panopticon thing.  Make them feel guilty without even trying.  And what’s this crap about “participated”?  It’s more like coerced.  If she doesn’t hand over the pee, she can’t participate in any after school programs.

Why can’t we suspect a kid of being bad before we jump all over their case about it?

This is where the next round of authoritarian followers will come from.

Back to the nurse, she just wanted to call to tell me that the kid isn’t on drugs, isn’t that delightful?  She always wants parents to know even when there is a good result, just to let them know that we are keeping an eye on everything they do and say and breath.  Yes, it’s a conspiracy between parents and teachers to keep these teenagers as toddlers as long as we possibly can.  They must remain under our watchful eye even when all evidence points to them being really terrific human beings.

I told the nurse that the drug test wasn’t necessary and I am not concerned.  In fact, I think they should have called me BEFORE they pulled her out randomly for a drug test and asked me if she needed it.  Otherwise, I just see it as a violation of trust and her civil rights.  Of course, the board of ed could always argue she’s a minor and therefore doesn’t have any civil rights.  But it does make us suspicious of each other.  Parents learn to immediately suspect the worst of their children and children learn that nothing is off limits to scrutiny even when there is no reason to suspect anything.

Oh, and the school is in lockdown mode because of some rumor of something happening in another school district somewhere else.  For gawdssakes, this is the most boring suburb on the face of the planet.  Nothing happens here.  You can’t even crowd surf the hallways in the last week of school without being barred from graduation.  So, no one can leave the school grounds during lockdown.  Like they were breaking down the doors to get out on a normal day.  Doesn’t “lockdown” sound like a prison term? It’s overkill.

Home schooling is looking pretty damn good right about now.

Fox and Dogmatism

How many of you have read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba?  Go read it if you haven’t yet.  Altemeyer is the expert on the kind of people who do what other people tell them to do and the people who lead them.  John Dean referenced Altemeyer heavily in his book Conservatives Without Conscience.  Getting into the heads of the authoritarian follower is useful if you want to understand where right wing politics are going.  Don’t bother trying to convert the authoritarian follower.  They’re tough nuts to crack.  But it may be possible to head off potential problems and plan for the future by studying this group and understanding the era that produced them.

To that end, here is a very interesting talk about dogmatism from Judy Johnson professor of cognitive psychology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.  By the way, it’s curious that the authorities on authoritarianism and dogmatism are in Canada, isn’t it?  It’s like Canadian ethologists are studying Americans to try to figure out what makes us tick and maybe building even higher fences to keep us out.

When I viewed this talk, I was struck by the similarity of the highly dogmatic to the typical Fox News viewer.  Now, it is probably not a revelation to anyone that the typical Fox News viewer is highly dogmatic.  But I often ask myself, did they start out this way or did Fox News indoctrinate them?  After this talk, I’m pretty convinced that the Fox News viewer is a product of the 1950s and that the right wing is taking advantage of this natural constituency to drive politics even further to the right.  Johnson’s research also reinforces my hypothesis that the reason why the right wing has stepped up the crazy in the last couple of years is because it is running out of time.  There isn’t another demographic with this high degree of dogmatism on the near horizon until the helicopter parent generation of children is of voting age, and the degree to which they adhere to dogmatism may depend on how the internet is regulated in the future.  So, the authoritarians who are presently in charge are going to ram everything they can through federal and state legislatures in this election cycle and the next because their target demographic and critical mass is dying off.

With that in mind, we should ask ourselves why it is that Democrats are not simply digging in their heels and waiting it out.  Are they being lead by morons or not really an opposition party?

Anyway, here is Judy Johnson’s talk on Dogmatism: A Scar on the Face of Reason:

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: