26 July 2011

The Response: Governor Rick Perry and the ignorant and pathetic "action" of the Faith Based.

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, that early birds tend to get the most, and the most succulent worms, and that the sun doesn't shine on a sleeping dog's ass (though this latter metaphor has never made much sense to me as an inducement to action). The meaning is quite clear. Solutions will not come to you, out of the blue. What is required, is effort, thought, reason, cooperation and more effort when the first thoughts, and the first efforts don't succeed. The ridiculous governor of Texas, Rick Perry has decided to forfeit all of his faculties (as well as yours and mine), and probably half the virtues to which he would surely pay lip service, in favor of the clear blue bolt from above in the form of a call to prayer and fasting in his too often benighted state. This marks him as either irredeemably stupid, or irredeemably cynical and dishonest. In either case we in the electorate are well with in our right to treat his proposal, his administration, and indeed he himself with contempt, scorn and dismissal. He has proposed a child's solution and in effect, excused himself from
any discourse dominated by adults. His fellow travelers on the road to the intellectual backwater from which Governor Perry beckons (either earnestly or cynically) should feel free to join him there. I am, perhaps, getting a bit ahead of myself.

Governor Rick Perry has rightly identified that we are a nation facing profound difficulties. His proposed solution to these very real difficulties though leaves a great deal to be desired. This solution is something rather inaccurately called The Response. It amounts to a day a prayer and fasting wherein the attendees will prostrate themselves before a very specific god, and in very sectarian terms pray to that God, his son, and, one supposes, a holy ghost for solutions, revival and other miraculous nonsense.
Why don't I let Perry and his people explain it:

On August 6, the nation will come together at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas for a solemn gathering of prayer and fasting for our country.

We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.

According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene. The Response will be a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America.

This drivel is regurgitated on the same page (which can be found by clicking on the title of this blog).

Fellow Americans,

Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.

Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response. Therefore, on August 6, thousands will gather to pray for a historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose.

I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.

And that from the feckless mouth of the governor of Texas in the year 2011. To hear this idiot tell it, one would think that our country had never before been attacked by an enemy, or been molested by nature or faced stark economic difficulties. It is a wonder our republic ever made it beyond its own revolution, led as it was by so very many deists, freethinkers, and secularists. Since history clearly demonstrates that the United States has in fact had to deal with all of these hardships, and more perhaps that history of action, and resourcefulness might be a better guide than getting on our knees and talking to an imaginary friend? Governor Perry is certainly correct when he suggests that there is hope for America. That hope however lies in the resourcefulness, foresight and genius of its people. It will not be found in the grim species of fatalism that is at the heart of Perry's fatuous Response.

For all the talk on The Response website of the dire need for the nation to come together its message is completely sectarian, and as such strictly divisive. It alienates the Nation's fastest growing demographic (unbelievers and those who claim no organized religion) as well as the nation's Buddhists, its Hindus, its Muslims, its Wiccans, not to mention its numerous sects of Christianity that do not comport with the version of Christianity favored by Perry and his fundamentalists. So much for unity.

I would urge you to read the Why section found at their website. It is too long to dissect at the moment but I will highlight two points that I think are salient.

1. Humility and humbleness are not qualities a group or a person can be said to have when those groups or people compare themselves to saints, or insinuate special importance to the author of the Universe. Consider the following as just one bit of evidence: "The call of God to His people in times of great trouble is to gather together and call on Him with one voice, one heart, and a unified desire to see great blessing and great glory come to our nation again. The power of unified prayer from a humble gathering of the saints is found in the hope that He might answer us, and turn the tide of trouble and threats that stand against us."

2. The entire enterprise is soaked with at least a mild desire for State support of a very specific religion. It quotes the book of Joel wherein the people of Israel were commanded to stop everything they were doing and pray, and fast. The authors of the website do not seem bothered by this decidedly un-American compulsion to pray, and act in a manner that violates their conscience. The Why section also offers many foolish precedents for National, that is to say, government calls to prayer. Clearly Perry wants his August 6 to be Nationally recognized, and thus he stands against the very freedoms he drones on about. This is of course me accusing him of being anti-American. This he must be because his desires clearly, and certainly conflict with the non-establishment clause of the US Constitution.

Texans you have better things to do on August 6. And to the numerous politicians that Perry has invited to join him on the sixth: You also have better things to do with your time, and mine and that of your various constituencies besides wasting it by attending a meeting of grown children. The good news, if I may be indelicate, is this...some of those better things can be done on your knees.

For more background, do click on the links. It probably won't hurt you, but it may make you mad. And for a sharp critique, vastly more succinct than my own, do check out what the physicist Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University had to say.

Here is what the Response believes:
What does The Response believe?

The Response is a non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting and has adopted the American Family Association statement of faith.
1.We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
2.We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3.We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
4.We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
5.We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
6.We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
7.We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Given the pluralistic nature of our country it is difficult to see how such a credo could improve nationalunity.

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21 July 2011

Rolling isn't always rough (my old coach and his old coach)

Sometimes it is advisable to work through your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ hereafter), or indeed any performance based art in a slightly less competitive way. The clip below isn't exactly slow rolling, but it does involve a great deal of give and take. Note while you watch it (the real action doesn't kick in until about a minute into the video) that the principles are really concentrating on movement, on sweeps and on escapes they throw in a lot of submissions, but not seriously because there is no desire to upset the flow of the movement. Most of the really good BJJ people (I can not go through all the names, but I would be utterly remiss if I failed to mention Marcelo Monteiro and Jay Jack at this point) that I have trained under advocate this kind training, and rightly so. It is a great way to really feel smooth BJJ movement (or -at the very least- to begin to make your BJJ smoother), to find solutions to consistent problems in your game, and it is a great place to try building your game with new techniques -get in the reps. As such it is a wonderful way to build muscle memory so you don't have to think as much about your fundamentals when you roll for real. Rolling like will help you ingrain your fundamentals them, made them as close to an instinct as such training allows. This kind of more relaxed rolling incorporates most of the benefits of static drilling while also plopping the techniques and fundamentals in their context. If it isn't yet, the slow roll, or the give and take roll, should definitely be a component of your training.


04 July 2011

The Rebecca Watson Shite-Storm

The relevant video, watch it first, read the highlighted quote and then we can move forward:

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don't do that. You know, I don't really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and—don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

-Rebecca Watson of Skepchick

Rebecca Watson, if you haven't heard of her, is one of the very capable atheist, skeptical, writers at the wonderful Skepchick blog (click on title to go directly to their website also linked in the text). She has sort of come into her own as a voice for reason, and must certainly be considered a prime voice for the Gnus (New Atheists). In the passage above, and the video she describes being invited back to the room of another male attending the same conference for coffee. Her description of events, and her reaction to being asked out, has created something of a shit storm among the Gnu community. Perhaps that is a bit strong, but both Jen McCreight and PZ Myers both took Richard Dawkins to task for not being overly offended by the affair. Jen McCreight did this in harsher terms than I thought was warranted but, she, who crafted the Islamic Boobs protest thingy, is nothing if not over the top. PZ who seemed a little more reasonable on the matter, still didn't make much more sense. Just so you can adjudicate a bit on whether PZ and Jen are right to be so enormously offended let me post what Dawkins said:

Dear Muslima
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake, grow up, or a least grow a thicker skin.

Some commentors accused Dawkins of suggesting that since there were worse atrocities abroad we shouldn't work on adjusting misogynistic attitudes here. Or worse that since there was worse treatment of women elsewhere, mysogynistic attitudes here, which were considerably less terrible in scope were somehow, okay. I think that is a rather pernicious species of bullshit, but Dawkins responded as follows.

No I wasn't making that argument. Here's the argument I was making. The man in the elevator didn't physically touch her, didn't attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn't even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that.

If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics' privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn't physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca's feeling that the man's proposition was 'creepy' was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.

-Richard Dawkins

(Jen McCreight blathered on about the newish academic chestnut and watch-word of tolerance workshops everywhere: privilege. I will have to say, as disappointed as she is in Dawkins, I am equally, if not more, disappointed in her for her privilege talk. Not because there isn't a grain of truth in the concept, but because in general it is freighted with a massive amount of unexamined assumption. I am also deeply annoyed by her lecture to Dawkins about not every being called a name, not understanding the plight of women because he was a 70 year old white guy, never been a part of a minority etc. After all her talk about presumption this all feels a bit pot calling the kettle black. I mean consider the following from her Dawkins rant:
Words matter. You don't get that because you've never been called a cunt, a faggot, a nigger, a kike. You don't have people constantly explaining that you're subhuman, or have the intellect of an animal. You don't have people saying you shouldn't have rights. You don't have people constantly sexually harassing you. You don't live in fear of rape, knowing that one wrong misinterpretation of a couple words could lead down that road.

You don't, because you have fucking privilege.
Seriously Jen how often are you told you are sub-human? I'm not sure, but I am sure Dawkins hears a lot of negativity, just read his hate mail. I suppose that can be written off though because he sports XY sex chromosomes. Okay I digress.)

This has been the flavor of response to Rebecca's Elevator Advance. Some folks thinking it wasn't that big of a deal, some folks thinking it was a huge deal, representing what a horrible patriarchal country we live in. The debate has been both benign, and malignant. What is strange is that there is really a lot to agree with on both sides.

Rebecca is certainly right when she offers the advice to not ask a person out in an elevator at 4:00 in the morning. Even without her explaining that she dislikes being asked out at these things, accosting a person you have just met in an elevator or any enclosed space by themselves is probably a bad idea that will creep that someone out. So I agree that there are times and places that seem less creepy and threatening when asking someone out. People should totally be more sensitive to nuance. And if what she says is true, that she explained a lot that day that she didn't like being asked out at conventions then the guy was doubly stupid for thinking he would be the one to charm her out of her stance, or her feelings. I see no reason to doubt that she did say this so the guy should be firmly smacked on the back of the head by all his friends for being a dumb ass.

But I am not entirely certain that was all that she implied was wrong with the guy or the situation of his asking her out. She hated being "sexualized in that way." I confess I am honestly not sure what that can possibly mean. Jen McCreight's histrionics on the subject seem more likely to be in the same intellectual vein Watson is trying to tap. To which I have to ask, under what circumstances is it okay to ask a woman out? Is asking someone out "sexualizing them?" And is that really demeaning? Is it even avoidable? If one is asking someone out, there is some level of attraction (physical, mental whatever). In Watson's case the guy violated her request to not be asked out. This is hardly a crime -in fact is not a crime- even if it is extraordinarily presumptuous and done in a hamfisted stupid way. Is it really a moment to brandish the cannons of feminism? Is it a moment to claim that such things impact women negatively? As a whole? At the root of the Elevator Advance the situation is this: A guy asked a girl out who didn't want to be asked out. No one was raped. No one got tazed, not one hair on one head was harmed. That is the essence of the story. What we seem to be talking about is Rebecca's feelings about being asked back to a room for coffee.

I have been accosted in exactly the same way (in an enclosed space) on at least two occasions. I was approached by women in whom I had clearly expressed no romantic or even sexual interest. Both cornered me in isolated places and made their pitch as it were. I imagine I experienced the same level of creeped outness that Rebecca felt. Granted there wasn't any danger of my being raped by them (though I did have to physically move one of them out of my way and pry them off of me). Leaving aside the being jumped on part of my stories, I can't say that being asked out, being "sexualized" offended me that much.

If Rebecca was just putting it out there that it is really less than bright to accost a person with a potential sexual advance in an elevator while they are all by their lonesome, then I have no real issue here, and support her advice to future attendees at such conferences. But if it had something more to do with feminist conceptions of "sexualization" then I think she is probably off the mark. It seems that if you are at a conference of like minded individuals you are going to find people to whom you are immediately attracted for a host of reasons. As such, people are going to be asking other people out (sexualizing them I suppose) for the immediate gratification of a fun one night stand, in hope of some kind of long term partnerships, or just to see where things go. This seems unavoidable.

My question, should you chose to answer it, is why not make the matter about tact and not feminism? Should only women be allowed to ask men out as seems to be implied? Am I missing something?

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