This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Down With Smarties!

Gays. Women. Scientists. People who use birth control. People who are not religious fundamentalists. People who support social programs besides giving taxpayers’ money to churches. You knew that wouldn’t be the end of the list comprising the anti-American “Satan”, right?

Now you can add universities to the roster of things Rick Santorum hates. On Saturday, the Man of God doubled down on his statements characterizing President Obama as a “snob” for trying to make college education affordable for all, and juxtaposed “good and decent people” without college education against “liberal professors” who usurp people’s right to indoctrinate their children. Even grown children, who have reached the age of majority and can presumably think for themselves, may not be exposed to views that conflict with their parents’ views, according to Santorum. Rick’s supporters have chimed in that giving the poor and the lower middle class a chance to attend college makes no sense, because who will clean the streets and pick up garbage then? And finally, if elected, Santorum plans to compel public universities to teach the views of religious and political conservatives uncritically, presenting dogma and fantasy as scientific fact, as well as mischaracterizing and falsifying the findings of social sciences, all in the name of “diversity”. The effect of such regulation would be to outlaw objectivity and investigative rigor in higher education and research, as well as to ban whole swaths of sciences whose findings do not conform to the Biblical account or to conservative social views.

Gutting universities and repressing intellectuals has a long and glorious history. Read more…

Three Sacred Cows That Shouldn’t Be

It is truly amazing how, even in our troubled times, when Americans have to contend with high unemployment, endless foreign wars (even if we don’t call them such), growing poverty and the legalized sale of our government to big business, we as a society still find inconsequential nonsense to worry about. I am not even talking about hardcore Republicans obsessing over other people’s sex lives or the non-existent War on Christianity. I am talking about certain non-issues that people on both sides of the political divide get sucked into worrying about and discussing ad nauseam, despite the fact that they are clearly not worth our time. The following three such non-issues take the cake for demonstrating all the ways in which ideology deprives people of common sense. Read more…

Freedom of Religion? Did Someone Say Something About Freedom of Religion?

As you are doubtless aware, last week, a group of House Republicans, led by Darrell Issa (R-Cal), brutally gang-raped the First Amendment. With “yeehaw’s” and everything. And in the time-honored tradition of ideological rapists, they motivated their heinous conduct by their supposed love of liberty. Not everyone’s liberty, of course (don’t be silly) — just the liberty of authoritarian men to control and punish sexually active women, and the liberty of fundamentalist religious officials (similarly authoritarian men, all) to be above the law. I make no apologies for my choice of strong language, for what happened last week was the Founding Fathers’ worst nightmare come to life: a bunch of clergy explicitly dictating policy in Washington. And by “dictating”, I mean “bodily present in Congress and telling said Congress what laws it may or may not pass, in a hearing whose whole premise was the idea that public policy must comply with clerical law in order to pass Constitutional muster”. Read more…

“Objectification”: You Keep Saying That Word …

When I started my blog, I made a pact with myself that I would not use it to attack other people’s blogs. I therefore will not include a link in this post to some of the things that have riled me up in this latest contraception controversy. Instead, I will observe generally that religious conservatives are copiously misusing the term “objectification” in an attempt to mask their fear of and contempt for female sexuality and sex in general. Specifically, a spurious charge is made that the ability to have sex “without consequences” leads to women being objectified.

I should note that objectification, in general, is one of the most misunderstood concepts in modern political and social discourse. Through basic intellectual laziness, people — especially people hostile to women’s equality — have come to equate objectification with lust. This is the infuriating “logic” behind the claim that the birth control pill leads to objectification: that men will get to have sex with women purely for pleasure. This highly traditionalist view presumes that male desire in and of itself is degrading to a woman, and that any sexual expression is by its very nature a painful sacrifice. Marriage and motherhood, therefore, are the only things that allow a woman to save face, as it were, against the humiliation of a man’s lust for her body. Religious conservatives ominously warn that the availability of birth control leads to men having sex for pleasure, and they fully expect women to be scared by this. And when women don’t get scared, they, of course, bemoan the sorry state of morals in our society. Read more…

Fun With The Magna Carta: A Letter to Three Musketeers From New Hampshire

“All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.”

— NH House of Representatives Bill 1850
(Bob Kingsbury – R, Tim Twombley — R, Lucien Vita — R)

Dear Messrs Kingsbury, Twombley and Vita:

I would like to begin by thanking you, Gentlemen, along with many of your colleagues in the conservative movement, for providing countless hours of quality entertainment, so badly needed in these difficult times. You’ve been working overtime since at least 2008, and I think America doesn’t give you quite enough appreciation for all the good times had by water-coolers all over the country. Read more…

The Other Birther Movement

Oh, shut up, birthers. There was only one man who wrote the works of William Shakespeare. His name was William Shakespeare.

One of the most puzzling and maddening non-controversies in literature is the spurious question of the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Since Shakespeare’s life is pretty well-documented for a 16th-century commoner, and since there is not a shred of evidence (not a single inscription, not one letter) suggesting that anyone else wrote any of the works attributed to him, the anti-Stratfordian movement (as the birthers are formally called) revolves entirely around Shakespeare’s background and personality, his supposed personal lack of fitness to wear the laurels as the immense colossus of English-language poetry and theater, the inventor of modern English in all its glory and one of the greatest artists in all of history. Read more…

Religious Freedom: Does the Constitution Really Favor Religious People Over Others?

No, it doesn’t. Still, this hasn’t stopped the outcry over the recently enacted Federal regulation that requires religious employers — such as parochial schools, church-run hospitals and “faith-based” social service organizations — to cover the cost of birth control for their employees. The complaint is that this act by the current Administration is an assault on religious freedom. The legal question is, how much religious freedom does the US Constitution guarantee, exactly?

In an effort to be a nicer person, I’ve decided to scrap my original plan to begin this post with a crude hypothetical. I’ll just point out the obvious. Read more…

Friday Ramblings: Fun With History

Some curious and very nerdy historical anecdotes for this Friday:


* In 1914, Grigori Rasputin, the legendary Russian mystic and favorite of the last Empress, was stabbed in the abdomen by a former prostitute turned religious zealot. He survived the stabbing. Two years later, he was poisoned, shot, shot three more times, clubbed and finally drowned. And only just barely: after being thrown into the icy waters of the Moika River, wrapped in a carpet and bound with rope, the poisoned, four-times-shot and badly battered Rasputin managed to break free of his bonds and almost swam to safety. The story plays out like a straight-to-video martial arts thriller on drugs: one of the murderers, Prince Yusupov, would later testify that he had the phonograph on, playing Yankee Doodle in a loop whilst three of history’s most inept assassins tried their damnedest to bring down the Indestructible Monk. Read more…

We Are What We Eat, In More Ways Than One

Last week’s news: Paula Deen, a popular cook and author of cookbooks with an emphasis on traditional (read: breaded and greasy) Southern cuisine, revealed that she had been suffering from diabetes for the last three years. She has come out about it now in order to shill for a pharmaceutical company. There is no denying that the there is irony in the situation, an obese adherent of riotously unhealthy cooking developing diabetes. Quelle surprise. And there is something unsavory in that, having made money for herself by selling such unhealthy recipes, she is now going to make some more by selling medication for a disease that’s caused, to a large extent, by bad diet.

Still, I wish people would stop ripping into her already. The reason for that is, I am just not sure that publishing a cookbook is tantamount to promoting a lifestyle. Were it so, vegan and low-fat cookbooks would certainly have fixed our nation’s eating habits by now. Fact is, however, people buy cookbooks that appeal to their tastes. A health-conscious person may buy a Paula Deen cookbook, but certainly will not use it with any frequency significant enough to impact his or his family’s health. By contrast, people who buy her cookbooks because they like to have that kind of food on a daily basis, would eat junk just as well without her input.

It does make one think, though: why DO people indulge in diets known to lead to serious illness? Read more…

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