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Closing The Achievement Gap With Baby Talk

And that adds up. Hart and Risley estimated that by the age of 4, children of professional parents had heard on average 48 million words addressed to them while children in poor welfare families had heard only 13 million.

It was no wonder that the underprivileged children they saw at their preschool could not catch up and often lagged behind once they went to school. They simply weren’t getting the experience with language provided to their peers.

Why do rich children perform better at school than poor children? One factor is the quantity- not quality- of words they are exposed to in the first years of their life. Story here.

Christian “Cures”

This is a rather disheartening account of life in one of those Christian cure the gays camps. This one also sought to help addicts, gang members, and the like. This paragraph should twist your nuts a bit:

Daily life consisted of chapel, bible classes, work duty, and two hours of praying on your knees. You physically had to kneel or you got in to trouble. Students were not allowed to talk about addiction or in my case homosexuality. Instead, you were only to think and talk about God and the scriptures that they had you memorize and meditate on.

Curing addiction by not talking about it. Right.

The Enemy Within; The GOP And Tea Party

I’ve read a few pieces about how we shouldn’t lump this shooting in with the GOP/Tea Party until we know for sure that’s who he was associated with. I say bullshit. The GOP/Tea Party has created this heated, often violent, political environment in which reasonable proposals by the Dems have been twisted into neo-fascist takeovers of people’s lives, all the while spouting the virtue of armed revolution and resistance. They created this situation. From what I’ve read the shooter was a liberal in 2007, but his recent comments seem to come straight out of Glen Beck’s next book, full of gold and silver monetary rants and conspiracy theories about governmental power and admonish ions about how the American people need to read the Constitution (sound familiar…?). Not to mention the fact that Palin and others are now scrubbing their websites of things like cross-hairs and quotes about reloading…

The very real fact of the matter is that the Right wing of our society is violent, greedy, selfish, bigoted, hate filled, and anti-American. They cannot be trusted; their behavior these last 2 years demonstrates this. I was totally immersed with the Left when Bush came to power, and I remember anger, but also caution, and distrust, but also a willingness to listen. Not this crowd. They are psychotic apes, flinging the verbal equivalent of feces at anything that scares them, oblivious to the harm they are doing to this nation, and this planet. They must be stopped at the political level; we on the Left have the ability, the intellect, and the incentive. All that’s missing is the motivation. If this shooting doesn’t do it for us, then what will? Obama being killed? Because you know that’s what they really want to do.

Oh, and sometimes I wish we atheists had something trite but meaningful to say like “We’ll keep her in our prayers.” Because that’s what I would say about Rep. Giffords and the others who were wounded.

Wikipedia Is The Enlightenment

A really good essay by Justin E.H. Smith on the internet, and all the wonders it has brought us:

The Internet, it seems, is destroying everything. In the aftermath of its Shiva-like arrival, the rest of the world now appears shabby, neglected, left over.

It has destroyed or is in the process of destroying long-familiar objects: TVs, stereos, telephones, newspapers, musical instruments, clocks, books. It is also destroying institutions: stores, universities, banks, happy hours, travel agencies. Teleconferencing is increasingly obviating the need for travel; Wikipedia is now vastly superior to anything Diderot could have imagined (and unlike the Encyclopédie, Jimmy Wales’s creation is perpetually improvable). As a friend recently put it to me: to denounce Wikipedia is like denouncing the Enlightenment. Nay more: Wikipedia is the Enlightenment realized, for better or worse.


The King And I As Well Part IV

Genesis 12-17

12:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
12:13 Say, I pray thee, thouart my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.
12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
12:17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

After Abram tells his wife to lie and say she was his sister (not much of a lie, since she is…) so he wont be killed, the Pharaoh takes a liking to her and brings her into his harem, compensating Abram for her quite fairly (historically speaking, everyone today knows that women are worth far more than just livestock and servants). But, god doesn’t like this and punishes Pharaoh for believing the (semi) lie. So now trust is a vice in the eyes of the lord.

13:13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.

Da gays make their first nefarious appearance! Their true evil is only hinted at, however…

13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

Uh oh…this can’t turn out well. At least god kept…his…word…

14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

They mean slaves.

14:16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

Brother? Check. Loot? Check. What else am I forgetting? Bitches! Check! Oh, who are they? Ah, fuck it, they can come too.

16:1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
16:2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
16:3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Sarai is barren (you would think that god would be able to fix this), so she tells Abram to bone her slave Hagar until she gets pregnant, and he also marries her. So, polygamy, slavery, sexual inequality, all in 3 lines. Nice.

16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
16:7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
16:8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
16:9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

Abram gets Hagar pregnant, and Sarai gets jealous (what did she expect would happen?), and Abram gives her the go ahead to do what she wants. So Sarai beats her pregnant slave after she had given her to her husband to get pregnant. “Here’s the deal. I cant have kids, you probably can, so I want you to go screw my husband so he can have a son. Oh, and I’m going to beat the living shit out of you after the deed is done. Get to it.”

What is god’s response to all this? “This bitch is fleeing my favorite physically and sexually abusive couple? Fuck that! Abram’s my boy! My man! And my man needs a son! Bitch, get back there!” The good book indeed.

17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

That troublesome covenant again. This ridiculous number of unkept or forgotten promises either foreshadowing or correcting an egregious fuck up of god’s reminds me of the episode from Futurama when Bender becomes a god for tiny meteor people. He also fucks up a bunch of times before giving up and letting them fend for themselves. Then he meets the actual god (or rather, the thing that resulted when a communications satellite collided with god), who informs him that the trick is to do as little as possible, using a light touch, so that nobody can be sure you’ve done anything at all. A pretty wise statement for a god, if you ask me. The likes of which will not be found here in this (digital) tome. I would say that promising that one’s progeny will be kings and that the land will be theirs forever doesn’t count as a “light touch”.

17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.

Is…this really the best way to establish this agreement? By cutting foreskins off? Really, gman? Why not requiring them all to have goatees and mutton chops, or tattoos of their mom’s names on their arms? And if the foreskin is so disposable, why did he put it there to begin with? So that they would have the pleasure of cutting it off?

17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

Damn. God is pretty serious about foreskin. “Why did your god cast you out?” “I broke my covenant with him.” “Jesus Christ! What did you do? Murder? Rape? Theft?” “No, I didn’t get part of my wiener cut off.” “…”

17:23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
17:24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
17:25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

Ow, ow, owww! Is is safe to assume that Abraham hadn’t done this before? Because if he had, well, that’s a whole other fucked up scenario. And if he hadn’t, would you really want to go first? Or second? Or last? And Jesus Christ, he did it to himself! Trembling 99 year old man hands, no anesthesia, shredding the flesh around one’s pubic probe. Ick.

The King And I As Well Part III

Genesis 8-11

8:3 And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.
8:4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
8:5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

“The Bible doesn’t contradict itself!” Oh yeah? Minor issue, but in the last chapter the flood lasted 40 days, and here it lasts 150. Oh, and the Ark came to rest on a mountain 3 months before the waters receded enough for the tops of mountains to appear. I know, I know, translation and KJV…

8:11 And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

So, the earth was flooded, but olive trees survived being underwater for over 10 months? I don’t think that’s how it works.

8:20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth ; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Noah goes to all this trouble to save the critters, then he barbecues them for the guy who just drowned the entire planet? Well. And if he killed the clean critters, of which there were 2…then didn’t he just kill off that last of their kind? Unless the clean ones were dinosaurs! Ha! I knew they were in there somewhere.

Also, what gives with god promising now not to kill everything? Is the all powerful an omniscient being really that incapable of predicting that the creatures he had created as evil would be evil, and that punishing everything for their misdeeds wouldn’t stop them from being evil? I mean, there’s incompetence, and then there’s Yahweh.

9:21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
9:22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
9:23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
9:24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
9:25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
9:26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

Good pious Noah gets so drunk he passes out naked. His son sees this, his other 2 sons cover him up, and when Noah wakes he is pissed (re hungover) that he is no long naked (huh?) and curses the son of the son who originally saw him naked. Wow. I’m literally speechless.

Genesis 10 is another boring family tree. Plenty of begats, but little else.

11:1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

The whole earth? How did they over to the New World, or Australia or Oceania then? And why doesn’t every have the same root language, tell the same creation stories?

11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
11:7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

The people are united by 1 language, so god gets nervous, and when he sees them building a tower to heaven (South Park did it!) he gives them all different languages and scatters them around the world. Dick alert #17. What a weak willed, namby pamby cock god is. Oh, my creations turned out better than I had hoped; their ingenuity and cooperation rivals my own power. Time to fuck their day up. And again, why would a guy who could change the language of a person with a flick of the wrist not just set things up that way to begin with?

More begats.

11:32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

So, are we disregarding the whole “no one lives more than 120 years, cause I said!” bit from earlier?

The King And I As Well Part II

Genesis 4-7

4:13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
4:16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
4:17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

After killing his brother and being sent away by god, Cain expresses concern that he may be killed, so god gives him a +7 Cloak Of Protection and sends him on his way. Cain finds a wife, has a kid, and builds a city named after said kid. Cool.

Where did the other people come from, again? It’s only Adam, Eve, Abel, and Cain, so unless Cain’s wife is Eve, and the city has exactly 4 residents, we’ve got a problem.

Genesis 5 is just a bunch of begats and people living for hundreds of years.

6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

So, some angels start boning human women, and then god shortens the lives of men to 120 years, max, because he got tired of fighting with them. For an all perfect deity he sure did screw alot up.

6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

God fucked up, realized it, pondered the philosophical implications of this for a spell, then decided to just kill everyone.

6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
6:15 And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.
6:16 A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

Pretty specific, huh? 300 cubits is about 450 feet; the RMS Titanic was nearly double that. Now consider this:

6:19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.
6:20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.
6:21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

So, bring 2 of every species and the necessary food to keep them alive. I can only assume that this meant extra animals for the predators. Dinosaurs were still around, so this means that Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, Wooly Mammoths and Sabre Tooth Tigers were also on board. Hell, you’d be short on room just with those 8. My point being that this entire story is nonsense, and that creationists are building a theme park in Kentucky to support it’s acceptance. No joke.

7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.
7:3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

Clean critters get a better chance at survival. And since god said bring the birds, too, I assume that may also mean bugs and dinosaurs. Thus, boat gets more crowded.

7:21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:
7:22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
7:23 And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Remember, this is the same being who is worshiped for his compassion and referenced for moral instruction. Killing damn near everything over a slight.


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