We’re living in a whack-a-mole society

WilliamsSteve Williams, Mayor of Huntington, W. VA.

Now this is a real doozey.  Steve Williams, the Mayor of Huntington, W. VA., while holding back a fountain of tears, implores his pastors to round up his constituents to gather themselves together – this coming Sunday at 11:05am, no less – to pray away the region’s drug epidemic!  He’s even asking that everyone pray extree hard for the conversion of the drug dealers into upstanding citizens!

An excerpt from his four minutes of moronacy:
“If history teaches us anything, the most powerful force on earth is the power of prayer. Yet it is our most underutilized resource. Imagine what we can accomplish… together… if we simply set aside all our differences and become one accord praying to our Lord! Nothing will be able to harness the energy created. Imagine!”

Seriously, can a person in a position of government authority get any freakin’ dumber than this without officially being declared brainless and removed from office? 

Sometimes I’m convinced that battling this kind of stupidity is like shovelin’ sand against the tide.  Well, not sand; that stuff is easy compared to the stuff you have to endure living among those capable of living their lives in this level of ignoramity.

It’s an exercise in the purest form of whack-a-molea.  We’re wasting enormous amounts of very valuable time just struggling to contain this level of insanity.

h/t to Sarah Posner at RD for this morning’s contribution to our understanding of the level of insanity that we’re all dealing with in this country on a daily basis.






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Humanism vs Libertarianism Redux

In my last post, I tried to make the case that libertarianism and humanism were mutually exclusive. One of the responding commenters, a self described “christian humanist libertarian”, took umbrage at my post and posted that he was offended by my post. This in turn led to a somewhat heated exchange in the comments.

I reread my post and realized that I didn’t do a very good job of elaborating on what I thought was one of my most important points – the egocentrism of libertarians. And it is precisely that arrogant egocentrism that is at the heart of most libertarian thinking and that I find the most offensive.
The problem with most libertarians is that they assume that everybody (or at least those that matter) have the same exposure to life experiences, the same access to resources, the same access to opportunity, the same number and types of role models, and the same access to education that they do or have, not to mention the same values and abilities. And that is the primary fallacy in their argument. None of those things are equal between any two people.

Consider these two examples: a white male of European descent, raised in a suburban neighborhood, growing up free from want, deprivation, and hunger, living in a safe environment, free from physical danger, educated in a good school system, with plenty of good, positive role models. Contrast that with an African-American (or Latino) youth growing up in an inner city environment, born to a mother who had no prenatal care, malnourished from birth, living with constant food insecurity, surrounded by nearly constant physical danger, forced to attend a failing school, with no positive role models in his life, with the only successful people that he sees being pimps and drug dealers and pro athletes (if he’s lucky).

There is no way that these two situations are equivalent, so to insist that these two people have equal opportunity is nonsense. So to then assume that these two examples will have the same values, the same work ethic, and will react in the same way to potential opportunities (or, for that matter, even be able to equally recognize opportunities) is utter nonsense. In fact, two people from similar environments but with different psychological makeups will react differently in identical situations. To assume otherwise is to deny human nature.

Now throw in the libertarian ideal of removing what little access the inner city youth had to anything resembling a safety net, take away his access to education (remember, libertarians want to dismantle the public school system and do away with the Department of Education), take away his access to health care (do away with Obamacare, Medicare, and the Department of Health and Human Services) and you have widened the enormous gap between these two examples into a chasm. Now explain to me again how this is alleviating human suffering?

Granted, my two examples are somewhat polar extremes, but they do show the range of human diversity that we need to contend with in our society. And therein lies the difference between the humanist and the libertarian. The humanist wants to humanely work with the diverse elements and try to achieve a society that works for everyone within the context of the diverse cultures/value systems. Libertarians, on the other hand, want to create a homogeneous society where everyone holds the same values that they do, and does what they think they should do in their arrogant egocentrism, using a cold, unforgiving, cruel economic hammer to bludgeon those who won’t get with the program.

(Just as an aside, I find it quite amusing that the stated ideal of limited interference by “authority” is embraced on a voluntary basis by having everybody do what they are supposed to do according to their libertarian beliefs. It’s their ideal that is the “right” one. Nothing quite like arrogant hypocrisy.)
To be continued……….

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Humanist Libertarian? – I think not!!

Earlier this month at our discussion group, we addressed the question: “Is it possible to be both an atheist and a libertarian?” (which is pretty much a no-brainer) and then rephrased the question “Is it possible to be a humanist and a libertarian?” The term “atheist” says nothing about your values or attitude toward your fellow humans; it merely says that you have no theism, or belief in a deity. That being the case, it is pretty much a no-brainer that you can be both an atheist and a libertarian.
But the question of being both a humanist and a libertarian is an entirely different kettle of fish. And the potential conflict was highlighted in the discussion. One end of the table, the one with two libertarian-leaning people said “definitely yes”, and the other end of the table with all social progressives said “definitely no”. (I later received an email from one of the participants at the “yes” end of the table that said that he disagreed but didn’t want a heated argument so he just didn’t say anything after it was clear that it might get ugly.)
I am of the very strong opinion that it is not possible to be both. You can either be someone who believes that we as humanists should always strive to uphold the dignity and well being of our fellow humans. We also have an obligation to help alleviate human suffering and make the world a better place. Libertarians, on the other hand, often express a callous indifference to the suffering of others, preferring instead to buy into the canard that their suffering is their own fault – the result of not doing what they “should” do to succeed in this increasingly complex and often bewildering world, and therefore somehow deserved. (This is a variation of the “prosperity gospel” that conservative fundagelicals promote that Sky Monster wants you to be rich, so if you’re not, it’s only because you pissed it off.) But the notion that anybody “deserves” to suffer is in no way consistent with humanist values.
At the very beginning of the evening, before some of the attendees had arrived and the discussion had actually started, the more strident of the libertarian camp brought up the idea of eliminating food stamps and other government aid programs. When I responded that such an action would create a hardship on many poor people, especially children, some of whom would literally starve. This person then asked me, and the person next to me, if I really believed that libertarians would actually stand by and watch children die of starvation. When I (and Walt) responded simultaneously “Yes!”, she responded “Unbelievable.”
Now I don’t mean that she, or most libertarians or conservatives, would actually watch a child die in person, although I’ve met a few who I believe would. But I do believe that they would be completely indifferent to the suffering of the nebulous “they” in the abstract. As the old saying goes: “out of sight; out of mind”, and as long as they don’t have to actually witness it, it can be easily compartmentalized and ignored.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that for a period of a little over ten years, from the early ’70s until the early ’80s, I dabbled with libertarianism, even voting for Libertarian Party candidates whenever possible. Then a lady that I respected a lot, with whom I had many good political discussions, pointed out that most libertarians tended to be very self-centered people. This sent me on a journey of self examination and after several months, I realized that she was absolutely correct. So I think that I have a pretty good understanding of the thinking of many libertarians.
It is important to recognize that the self-centeredness is not restricted to materialistic greed and/or wealth accumulation; it extends to how they perceive others and their opportunities and access to resources. The old “I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps with nobody’s help, and if I can do it, so can anybody else.” You’ve heard those claims. And they are nonsense. Not everybody has the same advantages, or life experiences, or same family support, or native intelligence, or emotional makeup, or opportunities, or….or….
Sure, anytime you have a system designed to help needy or disadvantaged people, you are going to have lowlifes gaming the system. That is just the nature of the beast – just like you have corporations and wealthy people gaming the system in their own ways. But that is no reason to eliminate those safety nets. For some people, they are absolutely essential to their very survival, and to eliminate those programs would cause immeasurable suffering. And the goal of being a humanist is to alleviate suffering – not exacerbate it. And that’s what makes being a libertarian incompatible with being a humanist.

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PSF Ladies Meetup: 7/20/2014 at Big Dog Coffee

Where: Big Dog Coffee (2717 Sarah St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203)

When: 7/20/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/184523452/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the PSF Ladies Meetup! :)

We had such a great time at our first ladies meetups, we’re meeting monthly.  Also, one of our members suggested we try a different restaurant each month–a great idea!  This month we’ll meet at Big Dog Coffee on the South Side. They have great coffee, great snacks, and a beautiful patio–especially in the summer.

See you there!

For more fun, follow us on Facebook!  To learn about more secular groups in Pittsburgh, check out the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website.

*PSF strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pittsburghsecularfreethinkers@gmail.com to request accomodations.

Pittsburgh, PA 15203 – USA

Sunday, July 20 at 2:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/184523452/

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2014 convention planning meetings: 7/19/2014 at Panera Bread

Where: Panera Bread (3401 Blvd Of The Allies, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 7/19/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/194539142/

The purpose of this meeting is to help with the planning of the PA Atheist/Humanist Conference at the end of August.  Look for us in the meeting room, but if it has been taken by another group, we will most likely be in the open room in the back of the restaurant.

It is a business meeting rather than a social event, but newcomers that want to help with conference are welcome to join us.

Pittsburgh – USA

Saturday, July 19 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/194539142/

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Stand Up Riot 6: Hambone’s Comedy Showcase: 7/12/2014 at Hambone’s

Where: Hambone’s (4207 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201)

When: 7/12/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/193890752/

Come join us for our 6th stand up showcase of the year at the finest ham themed bar in the city of Pittsburgh! Featuring stand up comedy from some of the regions funniest comics. Featuring:
Krish Mohan
Anil K. Bandhakavi
Nicholas Solomon
Ronald Renwick

Hosted by Derek Minto

Door Opens 9:30pm
Show Starts at 10:15pm
Tickets are $7

Pittsburgh, PA 15201 – USA

Saturday, July 12 at 9:30 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/193890752/

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Pittsburgh CoR New Member & Family Picnic: 7/13/2014 at Schenley Park

Where: Schenley Park (Bartlett Shelter & Playground) (Bartlett St. & Greenfield Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15207)

When: 7/13/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/177402332/

Welcome to the Pittsburgh CoR meet and greet event of the year!

If you’re new to the Steel City Skeptics or to any of the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason groups, or if you’re a long-time member who just hasn’t been to one of our meetups yet, this event is especially for you! You’ll have a chance to meet our regular members, and for those of you who’ve been asking for more family-friendly events, this will be one of more to come! There is a really nice playground next to our shelter.

This event will be a potluck picnic, and there are grills on site! Alcohol is allowed. Please bring some picnic food to share, and feel free to bring whatever makes you comfortable–blankets, folding chairs, coolers, frisbees, games–or just a big smile. We will have the event rain or shine. (You can use the comments below to say what you are bringing.)

Here is a Google maps link of the shelter, which has portable toilets nearby; click here for park rules. Here is a map showing the location of the shelter, and more information about Schenley Park.

This event is joint with the Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and the other Pittsburgh CoR groups.  We hope to see you there!

*PittsburghCoR strives to be an ADA compliant organization. This site is wheelchair accessible.

Pittsburgh, PA 15207 – USA

Sunday, July 13 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/177402332/

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2014 convention planning meetings: 7/12/2014 at Panera Bread

Where: Panera Bread (3401 Blvd Of The Allies, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 7/12/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/193194382/

The purpose of this meeting is to help with the planning of the PA Atheist/Humanist Conference at the end of August.  Look for us in the meeting room, but if it has been taken by another group, we will most likely be in the open room in the back of the restaurant.

It is a business meeting rather than a social event, but newcomers that want to help with conference are welcome to join us.

Pittsburgh – USA

Saturday, July 12 at 12:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/193194382/

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2014 conference planning make-up meeting: 7/6/2014 at


When: 7/6/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/193194632/

Sorry for the confusion on Saturday. This will be a WORKING meeting. We have a lot to do — this con is in 2 MONTHS!

Pittsburgh, PA – USA

Sunday, July 6 at 10:30 AM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/193194632/

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CFI and PSF Discussion Group: 7/10/2014 at Tan Lac Vien

Where: Tan Lac Vien (2114 Murray Ave (Squirrel Hill), Pittsburgh, PA 15217)

When: 7/10/2014

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/181314452/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Hi Everyone,

This is our monthly discussion group.  This month’s topic is the intersection of politics and belief–can you be social conservative and a Humanist?  Here is an article to get the conversation started:  Wait, You’re and Atheist and a Conservative?

See you there!

To learn about all the secular groups in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website…and you can follow Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers and CFI on Facebook!

*CFI-Pittsburgh strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pgh@centerforinquiry.net to request accommodations.


Pittsburgh, PA 15217 – USA

Thursday, July 10 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/181314452/

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