19 April 2015

Link round-up for 19 April 2015

Learn to do 3-point turns, it could come in handy.

Best subway station ever.

Work proceeds at the Large Hadron Collider.

Putin has no sense of humor, apparently.

Ta-daa!  Marco Rubio presents the Republican alternative to Obamacare.

The cover artist had a bit of fun here, I think.

Does anyone really doubt that this kind of thing happens a lot at airport "security"?

The world has passed a milestone in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  I have a feeling electric eel power is never going to take off, though.

Old photos explore the frolics and fates of World-War-II-era "horizontal collaborators" (found via Mendip).

The baggots' latest paranoid fantasy is the gay bomb.

Man creates God in his own image, so here's the fundamentalists' God (found via Progressive Eruptions).

There was a time when a politician could talk like this and win.

How many of these supermarket tricks are you falling for?

Atheism means not dodging responsibility.   But it also brings real freedom.

Bill Maher owes prostitutes an apology.

North Carolina researchers achieve a breakthrough against Alzheimer's.

See if you can spot why this photo is causing outrage in Brazil.

Japan is full of eccentrics, but it also has plenty of grey, prudish old pearl-clutchers in power.

Republicans are more and more behind the times.

Here's what life at a fundamentalist college is really like (found via Republic of Gilead).

The victory at Appomattox was followed by a years-long terrorist insurgency.

"But some of my best friends are....."

Yes, it's OK to make fun of Christianity (found via Margin of Error).

A Fox Sports host pwns a silly article on the site (I wish she'd "do" some of their political coverage).

More corporate leaders like this, please.

Marijuana legal in your state?  Not any more, if Christie becomes President.

Check out the top 20 evil Bible stories (found via Bruce Gerencser).

Hmm, Putin's suddenly sounding conciliatory -- sanctions really starting to bite, maybe?

Our system creates incentives for conviction of the innocent.

Here's an example of how the enemy views recent progress on gay rights.

Spanish leftists, inspired by their own history, join the fight against ISIS.

The comment thread on this post illustrates how divided Republicans are on social issues (start around comment 40).

In a series on "most dangerous Christian denominations", Lady Atheist looks at the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) cult and at Pentecostalism, which includes stuff like snake-handling and speaking in tongues.  It's scary stuff -- according to one link, there are 279 million Pentecostals, though nearly half of them are in Africa.

Why do zebras really have stripes?

Gin and Tacos makes an important point here.  I don't do the cringing-walk-on-eggshells thing.

Tiger the tabby cat met a sad fate, but it looks like he'll be avenged (I just bet this vicious freak is a real religious type).

One way to judge Hillary is by how her enemies attack her.  Here's a guide to anti-Hillary memes -- and a Tea Partier who's waking up to realityMore may follow.

White House condemns conversion "therapy", fundies go apeshit.

An attorney posts an open letter to that anti-gay auto repair shop in Michigan, while a North Dakota coffee shop posts a ban list of its own (found via Politics Plus)..

Obama finally tells the Republicans to quit sabotaging US foreign policy.

Two-thirds of Republicans support the interests of a foreign country above those of the US.

Your kids are safer than ever (except from the cops).

A San Antonio woman gets fined $2,000 for feeding the homeless.  Why can't the Christian Right crusade against law like this instead of against anti-discrimination laws?

A school nurse refuses to treat a girl because she didn't stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, then tries to block her from calling her parents about it.

No, Rubio is not winning over Hispanic voters to the Republicans.  As for gays, forget it.  Frankly he's not likely to appeal to much of anyone.

Godtards believe baby to be possessed by a demon, starve it to death, try to raise it from the dead, fail.  But Heaven forbid anyone should criticize religion.

Rick Santorum crusades to save America from the gay menace.  Here's why these dingbats always lose the argument -- and here's how ugly and nasty they really are.

Kansas and Oklahoma Republicans push forward with vicious anti-abortion laws.

The gut bacteria of Amazonian tribes reveal an evolutionary arms race between fungi and bacteria -- and could help us fight auto-immune disorders.

17 April 2015

Hillary's the one

Hillary Clinton is now officially in the 2016 Presidential race, and will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee.  And we're lucky to have her.  She can do the job, she can do the job right -- and, critically, she can get the job.  She can beat the Republicans.

[I mean no disrespect by adopting the common habit of referring to Hillary Clinton by her first name.  Given that Bill Clinton remains a prominent figure, just calling her "Clinton" would be ambiguous, and her own campaign is called "Hillary for America".]

Here's Charles Pierce (found via Progressive Eruptions) explaining what's at stake:

If she is elected, she unequivocally will accept the science of anthropogenic climate change and treat it as a crisis. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, she unequivocally will support marriage equality, and oppose discrimination against our fellow citizens based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This cannot be said of any of the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, she will not destroy the Affordable Care Act, an article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential.

If she is elected, and despite her closeness to certain Wall Street interests, she will not destroy the Dodd-Frank reforms, another article of faith among all the Republican candidates, real or potential.

[.....]

To get elected, she does not have to wink at state's rights, up to and including incidents of armed resistance.

To get elected, she does not have to equivocate on the science behind the theory of evolution as does any Republican candidate who seeks the votes of Republicans in Iowa.

To get elected, she does not have to peddle the snake oil of supply-side economics, nor does she have to peddle scare stories about the oncoming caliphate, nor does she have to create bogeymen about jackboots coming to steal your guns.

That is to say, Hillary thinks and functions in the real world as opposed to being committed to dangerously-delusional policies. I'd add that she won't put any more theocratic nutcases like Scalia on the Supreme Court.  And she will build on the progress Obama and Rouhani have made on bringing Iran out of isolation to the point where it has a stake in the international system, and will continue working with amenable Middle Eastern groups and governments to fight violent extremism, as opposed to the Republican strategy of "when in doubt, bomb and invade and hope for the best".

This raises another crucial point.  To those who doubt that it's absolutely essential to prevent a Republican President, my chief argument has always been the Supreme Court.  Hillary would appoint more Kagans and Sotomayors, perhaps even Obama himself; but a Republican, any Republican, would mean more Scalias and Thomases.  If you can't see what a huge difference that makes, you are beyond rational argument.

But there's an even more important reason.  As American voters we have a responsibility to the rest of the world.  Any Republican President would take office beholden to the insanity that has dominated that party since 2009.  We cannot afford to let that get its claws on this country's vast military power.  Great numbers of innocent lives would be at risk -- in Iran, their bogeyman du jour, and God knows where else once the return to Republican know-nothing, bull-in-a-china-shop tactics had thrown half the Middle East into the kind of chaos where Islamist radicalism festers.  If this happens, and if you as an American voter didn't do what you could to prevent it (because Hillary wasn't ideologically "pure" enough for you or whatever), then that blood will be on your hands.

In this connection, we're fortunate that Hillary is almost certain to be our candidate, because she brings a crucial advantage which other Democrats would not -- voters trust her on national security.  Please read Kirsten Powers on this point.  On national security, incredible as it seems, voters favor Republicans over Democrats by a 23-point margin, the largest in the history of polling on this issue (and national security is of growing importance to voters).  Too many Americans know almost nothing about Islam, the Middle East and its recent history, terrorism, or the relationships among those things -- and feel reassured by simplistic Republican tough talk.  But Hillary is viewed far more favorably on this issue than the Democratic party as a whole:

.....while Bush was "too hot" and Obama was "too cool," the swing voters seemed to think Clinton was "just right." It turns out that the former secretary of State has her own brand on national security not synonymous with the Democratic brand. Participants described her as "more experienced," "quicker to make decisions" and more confident than Obama. And compared with Democrats overall, Clinton is viewed as more hawkish and authoritative.

This assessment of Obama is of course wrong and unfair, but the point is, in the general election Hillary would benefit from the national-security issue, whereas any other Democrat would be hurt by it.  For what it's worth this far ahead of election day, polls show her beating any Republican by solid margins.  The few polls I've seen of Warren or Biden show them losing against likely Republican opponents.  And winning the general election is imperative.

Hillary's the one.

15 April 2015

Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

My last link round-up included this item about ISIS destroying Christian churches and art in Iraq, and it's not the first time ISIS has done such things.  Even more horrifying was the February incident in which 21 Egyptian Christians were abducted by ISIS supporters in Libya and beheaded.  ISIS has terrorized, persecuted, and murdered Christians in the territory under its rule, and even before ISIS, much of Iraq's large Christian minority had fled the country to get away from the religious violence there, even though most of that violence was Sunni-vs-Shiite.  The Christian Right in the US is spreading a narrative of Christians under systematic attack in the Middle East, and as far as ISIS is concerned, they have a point.

(I should note, though, that as long as cranks like Tom Cotton tell gays in the US not to complain because gays in the Middle East have it worse, the same point could be made about fundies who claim they're being persecuted in the US because of anti-discrimination laws.  Being unable to refuse a gay customer hardly compares with being beheaded.)

This narrative, however, distorts reality in two important ways.  First, ISIS is not singling out Christians for persecution so much as it is targeting everyone who doesn't fit its hard-line, puritan form of Islam.  The Yezidis, a non-Muslim religious minority widely (though mistakenly) considered Satan-worshipers, have actually suffered the most; ISIS has killed many of them by horrific methods such as burying alive, and turned Yezidi women into sex slaves.  Shiites, adherents of the "wrong" kind of Islam, have been targeted by ISIS from the start.  Women have been killed for the crime of having an education. Gays are simply murdered whenever discovered.  Even the destruction of churches in Iraq and Syria fits into a broader pattern of obliterating everything non-Islamic from the region's cultural memory, including its numerous sites dating from pagan times.

Second, and more importantly, the narrative implies that Muslims as a whole are complicit in these persecutions, which is not the case.  ISIS is widely loathed in the Middle East and is the target of a sustained campaign by Iraq, Iran, the Kurds, Jordan, and other regional forces to eradicate it.  After the beheading of the Egyptian Christians in Libya, Egypt launched a bombing campaign against ISIS targets in Egypt; the state's determination to avenge its murdered citizens was not mitigated by the fact that those citizens were not Muslim.  Normal people feel disgust at ISIS's actions.



Of course even before ISIS arose, Islamist extremists sometimes targeted religious minorities including Christians -- but others took strong stands against such attacks, even if their actions were scandalously under-reported in the West.

Of course, actual Islamic doctrine provides plenty of support for what ISIS does, just as the actual words of the Bible make Fred Phelps look like a flaming liberal.  But remember that humans are complex creatures and in most cases a person is not defined by the evil of the religion he adheres to.  Just as most Christians don't actually support Biblical mandates for killing of gays, slavery, stoning to death for trivial offenses, etc. (and many are only vaguely aware that those things are even in the Bible), most Muslims are horrified to see what hard-line Islamic dogmas look like when ISIS puts them into real-world action, however much they might claim to believe those dogmas in the abstract.

What we actually see in the Middle East is a small, militant, ultra-hard-line minority of religious fanatics unable to tolerate anything different from themselves -- other religions, gays, independent women, members of their own religion who believe somewhat differently than they do, evidence of the greatness of pre-Abrahamic civilization, anything.

Sounds sort of familiar, come to think of it.

11 April 2015

Link round-up for 12 April 2015 (a day early this time)

HR Giger would have liked this plant (found via Mendip).

Remember the good old days.

Blogger Tengrain assesses the Republican Presidential candidates in his inimitable style.

What would the world look like if religion were true?

This is the only Confederate flag we should remember.

Gotta love a President who would stop in at the Bob Marley Museum.

After the shooting of Walter Scott and a beating in California, Texas Republicans have a solution -- ban people from filming the police.

Scott Walker's budget-cut mania is driving science out of Wisconsin (a foretaste of what could happen to the whole country if the current incarnation of the Republican party ever gets full control).

Bigoted bullying destroys another life (of course the fundies won't stop fighting tooth and nail against anti-bullying efforts).

The Obama administration stands against conversion therapy (found via Politics Plus).

Paul Krugman explains why Britain's Conservative government may well be re-elected despite being basically a failure.

Stop worrying about offending fundies (they've never worried about offending us!)

This RedState posting is a good example of the fundamentalist mentality (and, to a lesser extent, of what I call the enemy dialect).

Twenty years in prison for an abortion -- not Saudi Arabia, Indiana.

Having destroyed several historic sites and relics, ISIS is now destroying Christian churches and art.

Here's why the Iran deal is a remarkably good one.  Even Iran's religious hard-liners are falling into line, perhaps chivvied by public opinion.

What's the point of a libertarian who doesn't even favor legal marijuana?  And cue baggots devouring their own.

The Godhatesfagsian wing of Christianity feels backstabbed by Pence's cave, and indeed the whole episode has been a devastating defeat for their cause.  Another anti-gay law has been aborted in Nevada.  And the fundies' fixation on the issue will continue to divide Republicans.

If you're a self-described "gay Christian", here's what they really think of you.

Celebrate April 9.

Mass surveillance cannot prevent terrorist attacks -- we only think it can due to bad metaphors (found via GoodShit).

Netanyahu's antics have seriously damaged US perceptions of Israel (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Red states are energy hogs (found via Earth-Bound Misfit).

Why did the South lose the Civil War?

How useful is the study of other life forms to understanding human aging?  (I wonder about this myself -- it's hard to imagine two life forms more different than humans and yeast.)

The "extinction burst" is why it's so hard to give up bad habits (found via GoodShit).

[Image at top -- see here]

09 April 2015

Treason and truth

On this day 150 years ago, General Lee surrendered to General Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, effectively ending the greatest and bloodiest act of treason in American history.  At a time when Confederate nostalgia is widespread on the right wing (just observe how common the display of the Confederate battle flag is in some areas -- it is even part of the state flag of Mississippi), and Confederate history and motives for secession are regularly whitewashed by people who should know better, it's worth remembering what the Confederacy was actually about, and what the Civil War was actually about.  In their own words:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union....."

Mississippi declaration of secession

"We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."

South Carolina declaration of secession

"This is the party to whom the people of the North have committed the Government.....The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers. With these principles on their banners and these utterances on their lips the majority of the people of the North demand that we shall receive them as our rulers. The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization. For forty years this question has been considered and debated in the halls of Congress, before the people, by the press, and before the tribunals of justice. The majority of the people of the North in 1860 decided it in their own favor. We refuse to submit to that judgment....."

Georgia declaration of secession

"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States."

Texas declaration of secession

"Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-- the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made 'one star to differ from another star in glory'. The great objects of humanity are best attained when there is conformity to His laws and decrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws."

Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy

That was the Confederate cause -- slavery and explicit racism drenched in self-righteous Bible-thumping.  It's no wonder certain elements today feel nostalgic for it.

07 April 2015

Video of the day -- the enemy's mind

Maybe I'm too sheltered.  I've known for a long time that Fox is basically propaganda and not really news, but I never imagined it was this bad.

Notice how, right at the beginning, a ban on discrimination against atheists equates to "hostility toward Christians" -- there is not even any statement that they are the same, it's simply taken as a given.  The whole rest of the discussion (about the first three-plus minutes of the video) is in the same vein -- name-calling and bald assertion being passed off as analysis.  This really is the kind of thing you'd expect from the North Korean media or the pronouncements of Hamas.

But we should be grateful for the clarification that any effort to stop discrimination against atheists is "anti-Christian".  If large numbers of Christians accept the definition of Christianity implied by this, well, that's something we need to be aware of.

[Found via Mock Paper Scissors]

05 April 2015

Video of the day -- the Iran deal


Found via Horizons, which also has a round-up of expert assessments.  Progressive Eruptions has much more (my own view is in the comments there), and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists endorses the deal.  PM Carpenter looks at reactions from the wingnutosphere.  Green Eagle reminds us of the likely costs of war with Iran, and of an episode that still shapes US-Iran relations even though most Americans know little about it.  And Kaveh Mousavi has the view from Iran itself, important points you won't see cited in American sources.

Link round-up for 5 April 2015

You didn't think those were real bricks, did you?

This gym offers a cardio workout with an incentive (found via Mendip).

Tengrain does Easter.

Teh shrooms will save the world (found via GoodShit).

No need to bother with the election -- Republicans have a sure-fire plan to destroy both Hillary and Obama.

This short William Blake poem will give you a feel for life under a theocracy.

And somebody photographed the sign!

This Canaanite myth is probably the basis of the story of Adam and Eve.  The changes between the original version and the Biblical one are revealing.

So far, Obamacare has prevented about 50,000 deaths.

As recently as the 1950s, the Dutch Catholic Church used castration to punish boys who reported sexual abuse.

This overview of anti-Semitism in Europe is seriously discouraging.

The ideology of Geoffrey Botkin epitomizes the cold horror of rigid fundamentalism.

Iran is more modern than you think (and mall consumerism is now a thing, apparently).

Is the Republican party a cesspit of anti-gay bigotry?   There's plenty of evidence.

Ted Cruz is our anointed king (seriously, read it, these people walk among us).

Sometimes a picture really does say more.

The Indiana backlash reflects exasperation with right-wingers' twisting of concepts like religious freedom.  For all their whining, they're not beaten yet.

Tim McGaha looks at the endgame of the Civil War -- the Confederacy's self-delusion in the face of onrushing defeat reminds me a little of modern Republicans.

Christian dogma leads to ghastly mishandling of sexual assault cases at Bob Jones University (found via Republic of Gilead).

Jesus stages a daring hostage-rescue raid (somebody should do a comic book about this).

Big-business opposition to anti-gay laws is dividing Republicans, driving a wedge between fundies and business (see comments).

The vigorous anti-theist position is rooted in truth, not tactics.

Great news, there's no evidence linking you to the crime!  Oops, sorry we kept you on death row for 30 years.

Under Christie, the New Jersey lottery falls victim to yet another privatization fiasco.

Fred Phelps is gone, but the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists will do in his absence.

Here are some important truths about American slavery.

There's a promising new male birth control method in the works, but it faces obstacles (found via GoodShit).

83% of Americans call themselves Christian, but beliefs are so heterodox that far fewer can credibly claim the name.  RedState throws a fit.

The battle of Indiana is a huge defeat for the anti-gay movement (found via Republic of Gilead) and for "Christian nation" culture (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

I agree with Gryphen here -- it's not acceptable to terrorize people with threats, even if they're bigots.

Huckabee goes off the deep end (found via Republic of Gilead).

18 years in prison seems hardly enough for this invasion of privacy.

Republicans have a path to victory, but they aren't on it.

We need to keep an eye on this minister -- he sounds dangerously out of control.

Despite Saudi bombing, the Houthi rebels continue to advance in Yemen.  Kaveh Mousavi has five important reminders about the conflict.

Presidential approval ratings since Eisenhower reveal effects of right-wing epistemic closure.

Jon Stewart's successor has a few issues.

Here's a look at the 9/11 Memorial Museum (found via GoodShit).

[Note:  I'm not bothering to separate these out by geographical area any more.  "Lighter" items are still at the beginning.]

03 April 2015

The enemy dialect

Recently I posted about the internet-based dialect I call "hyper-modern English", a new form of the language developing in tandem with a new culture and characterized mostly by distinctive words for all the new concepts that have developed within that culture.

Other cultures also have their own dialects which express concepts that seem meaningful to them.  The enemy's dialect repays study, because it can tell us much about how the enemy's mind perceives and frames the world.

Here is a good example of what I mean.  Read it thoughtfully and you'll see how the terminology and expressions frame ordinary events and people in terms of an entirely alien world-view, concepts meaningless outside that context.  "The world", for example, means something very different here than what it means in everyday English.  "Sin", of course, doesn't mean the same thing as "crime" or "action that harms someone else" or any other concept relevant to the real world -- it means transgression of the arbitrary taboo system of a particular religion, and the word is meaningless outside the context of a subculture which takes such a taboo system as absolute.

Read the piece and you'll see plenty of other examples.  This is a mentality as alien as that of any primitive tribe, yet it is widespread in our own country, even occupying a powerful position in one of our two political parties.

And it's a mentality that feels driven to dominate, and ultimately replace, any world-view different from itself.  That's the meaning of "the Great Commission", another key term in this dialect.  Everyone must be "drawn to Jesus", every brain must be occupied and reconfigured to think like these people do -- including yours.  The only question is how.

01 April 2015

"We don't serve your kind" updates

[Pictured:  Indiana state legislature in session]

No, it is not true that the Indiana law is basically the same as the federal law passed under Clinton.  More on that here.

Yes, we already had this conversation.

Tengrain, who has been covering this story extensively, looks at the growing campaign against the law and at Republican Presidential candidates arraying themselves on the wrong side -- as pretty much all of them have done, including the "moderate" Jeb Bush (found via Progressive Eruptions).

The bad guys are already conceding the rhetorical high ground.  But we can't let them squirm away from the truth about what they intend.

Right-wingers increasingly can't cope with the far different reality outside their echo chamber (found via The Reaction).

Maybe it's a question of whose ox is being gored.

A similar law moving forward in Arkansas is being opposed by businesses based there -- including Wal-Mart, hardly a bastion of liberalism.  And in Georgia, a gay-friendly Republican called the bigots' bluff.

The same issues are being fought over as far afield as Northern Ireland (found via Republic of Gilead).

A marijuana church has sprung up in Indiana to take advantage of the law (found via Mendip).  I like the spirit of the idea, but do we really want marijuana to be defiled by association with religion?

Added link:  For a range of right-wing views, see this comment thread.  Sample (#9):  "Recognition of alternative lifestyles as equally valid constitues a war against the traditional family" -- that is, those not conforming to the taboo system must be made second-class citizens, exactly as I've asserted these guys want to do.

Finally, a reminder (found via Mendip) that not everyone will be boycotting:

31 March 2015

Time to play hardball

It's been very encouraging to see the scale and force of the backlash against Indiana's new "we don't serve your kind" law (kudos to Mock Paper Scissors for the name).  Businesses and sports leagues are pulling out of the state or canceling plans, conventions are being moved, other jurisdictions are prohibiting official travel there.  Governor Mike Pence seems shocked at the response and floundered badly on a TV talk show (found via Progressive Eruptions), dodging questions and desperately trying to avoid confirming or denying that the law does what everyone knows it does and was intended to do -- protect discrimination against gays based on religious prejudice.  Last night Indiana's largest newspaper published a front-page editorial with the huge headline FIX THIS NOW.

Pence, indeed, has a long history of fighting against gay rights, and a look at some of the people he had around him during the signing ceremony makes the intent here pretty clear:

Those whom the law would protect seem to understand it perfectly well, and other officials have been letting the cat out of the bag.  If Pence is surprised at the backlash, chalk it up to the right wing's epistemic closure problem -- in their bubble world of alternate reality, they genuinely don't realize that the majority of the country doesn't share their prejudices.  The economic boycott is a particularly apt response in this case since it makes the miscreants feel shunned and rejected and despised -- exactly the treatment they themselves are trying to protect when aimed at others.

Pence and other officials are now making noises about a new bill to "clarify" the law, but it seems clear that any such amendment would be merely cosmetic, aimed at quenching the firestorm while still protecting discrimination.

I believe that the powerful wave of revulsion this law has triggered should not be wasted on such phony concessions.  This law is no ordinary act of Republican stupidity -- it's a concrete step toward the theocratic goal of legally and officially making those who offend the Christian taboo system into second-class citizens.  In response to such a declaration of all-out war, we must demand unconditional surrender.  Pence and the legislators who voted for this must be given no chance to save face.  They must be made an example of.  The pressure must continue until the original law is repealed, or modified in such a way as to completely negate it.  Nothing less will do.

29 March 2015

Video of the day -- god, god, god.....


This is great.

Link round-up for 29 March 2015

You have bean warned -- a "farticle" full of fart facts (found via Margin of Error).

I'm all four of these things.

A mentally-disturbed man from Canada has been seen trying to get into the White House (found via Republic of Gilead).

Brian Brown's real desk is probably a busted folding table he found in a junkyard.

I can't wait to sample Willie's Reserve.

If Reagan came back today, he'd wish he hadn't.

Here's an insightful Venn diagram of three professions.

Scott Walker waffles on illegal aliens, and heads explode across a lengthy RedState comment thread.

Yee hah, my city is number one!

Before there were all these faggots, America was Christian, and that's why slavery was so nice -- oh, and rape is caused by uppity women.

Green Eagle's latest Wingnut Wrapup includes a Gateway Pundit cover-up of some spectacular bullshit.

Stop worrying about the "decline" of marriage (found via GoodShit).

I really hope Nancy LeTourneau is right about this.

Religio-nutters predict gay marriage will lead to persecution of Christians and eventually revolution (yeah, we've seen that before).

Sam Brownback has a novel idea for economic stimulus -- forced childbirth (found via Republic of Gilead).

Why are we keeping Jose Chua Lopez out of the United States?

Sylvia Allen is perhaps the ultimate Republican.

Christians, please consider this -- and I think it will be well within our lifetime.

Activism can win real results, even in a red state.

See blog reports on Indiana's new "we don't serve your kind" law from Mock Paper Scissors, Progressive Eruptions, Earth-Bound Misfit (comments are revealing), Green Eagle, Squatlo Rant, and Republic of Gilead.  There are already signs of an economic backlash, and also sarcasm (found via Mendip).  Update:  More on the growing backlash, and an example of who supports the law.

Two posts that speak for me:  atheists have no duty to play nice with religious bigots, and when they hassle us, arguing with them is pointless.

Baggot Congresswoman issues call for Obamacare horror stories, gets swamped with replies.

What if all the energy Christian put into hating gays was put to constructive use? (found via Republic of Gilead)

Cruz will make the whole Republican Presidential field less viable.

Are Biblical marriages a good model for modern marriage?  Let's look at the record (found via Margin of Error).

Women in every demographic favor Hillary Clinton.

Bobby Jindal, once a Republican rising star, has imploded.

A simple test -- what kind of Christian are you?

The Christian Right now dominates the Republican party, and wants even firmer control (found via Republic of Gilead).

Minnesota and California exemplify the superiority of Democrats at governing.

Podemos, Spain's Syriza-like anti-austerity party, shows strength in regional elections.

The US war on drugs is devastating less-developed countries (found via GoodShit).

Catholic priest Josef Tiso was a fascist dictator, friend of Hitler, and accessory to mass murder -- and never faced disapproval from the Vatican.

US strategy in Iraq depends upon Iranian involvement (found via Margin of Error).

Persian New Year is celebrated at Crazy Eddie's Motie News and at Margin of Error, though inevitably there's one party-pooper on the scene.

Iran has let the genie of feminism out of the bottle (found via Margin of Error).

I haven't posted about the (US-supported) Saudi attack on Yemen's Houthi rebels, because Yemen isn't a country I know a lot about, but this overview sounds credible to me.  I will say I have a very bad feeling about this.

The Antarctic ice shelves are melting faster and faster, but at least there's some good news from Britain.

27 March 2015

Ad-clog

You go to one of your favorite blogs or news sites and suddenly your browser becomes slow and only jerkily responsive as three or four tiny video ads scattered around the page buffer themselves and start autoplaying.  You start reading the text and suddenly it jerks to one side as an ad shoves in from the margin.  You read to the bottom of the screen and another ad rises up or scrolls across to cover up what you're looking at, and you have to stop what you're doing to find the X to click on to get rid of it.  One of the tiny video ads finishes buffering and starts playing, an annoying, attention-grabbing distraction, so you click the pause button on it and eventually it stops, but a pop-up ad opens in a new window and you have to stop and close it.

I understand that some people want to try to make money from their websites, but this has gotten completely insane.  I don't know how many times I started reading something that looked interesting but gave up because the barrage of various kinds of ads was simply too aggravating and distracting.

Notable offenders are those bottom-of-the-barrel news sites that have a bunch of links at the end of each post like "10 foods you should never eat" or "7 celebrities you didn't know were part Jewish" (the topics are usually stuff like that, which gives you an idea of the target audience).  Ever click on one of those?  Each one of the 7 or 10 or whatever items is on its own mini-page, requiring you to click "next" to get from one to another, and each mini-page is festooned with ads -- if you actually make it through all the items, waiting each time for all the flashy, jerky things to download, you'll have been subjected to enough ads to last you a lifetime.

YouTube is another big offender here.  Pretty much every video with a lot of views now has a video ad that comes on at the beginning.  The longer ones have a "skip ad" button you can click after the first five seconds, but the shorter ones don't.  Then the inevitable rectangular ad pops up at the bottom, covering a good chunk of the action (especially annoying if it's a video with subtitles), and by the time you've found the X to get rid of it, one of those stupid "annotations" appears, so you have to click the gear symbol to bring up the "annotations off" button, which then shifts out of the way when you're about to click on it.  By the time you've gotten rid of all this crap, you've missed a good 30 seconds of the video and have to drag the progress button at the bottom back to the start to re-watch it.  Some longer videos even have ads in the middle now, interrupting them like TV commercials (this one does, for example, and it was not there when I originally posted it).  If you watch a video embedded on a blog, the beginning video ads usually don't appear (though the other stuff does), but I've seen even a few embedded videos that had them.

The ignorance of psychology here is amazing.  I never pay any attention to what an ad is advertising any more; the instant it starts autoplaying or flickering or pops up on the screen, I reflexively just look for whatever I have to do to get rid of it, and that's all.  They are too numerous and too annoying to do anything else.

I've always been resistant to getting anti-ad software like Adblock because I don't trust an algorithm to distinguish reliably between ads and content, and don't want it blocking things that I actually want to see -- how good is it at distinguishing video ads on YouTube from the actual video, for example?  But these days I'm reconsidering.  Do any readers have experience using such software?  How well does it work?

We've beaten back the attack on net neutrality, at least for now, but there's more than one way to tangle up a web.

[The forest view at the top has nothing to do with the post.  I just thought people might like a more soothing image since the post is all about irritants.]

24 March 2015

To liberal supporters of Pope Francis

Pope Francis recently visited Naples, where he was present for a "miracle" which is regularly performed by the local bishop there, in which what is allegedly the dried blood of a long-dead saint is made to turn liquid before a crowd of assembled worshipers.  Rosa Rubicondior has the details.  The way in which the liquefaction is done is well understood.  The material in the container is not blood but a mixture of easily-obtained chemicals which is normally dry and brownish but turns liquid when shaken.  In other words, the "miracle" is a trick -- conscious and premeditated fakery, an intentional scam knowingly performed to fool gullible believers.

It's hard to imagine that Francis is unaware that the miracle is fake.  He's the top man in the Catholic Church; the "miracle" is a renowned one which has been performed since the 14th century; the information about how such tricks are done is widely available.  Yet when this scam was repeated in his very presence, he let it pass without comment.  For that matter, even before visiting Naples he was no doubt aware of this and other cases of conjuring tricks being passed off as authentic miracles to impress the credulous.  He has done nothing to suppress, much less expose, the use of such deliberate deceptions to enhance the Church's prestige.

Francis has won praise from some liberals in our country for a few extemporaneous remarks which sound less hostile to gays and other "sinners" than the Church has traditionally been (and these remarks have also aroused alarm among more traditional / bigoted Catholics).  But there has been no substantive change.  And Francis has shown no interest in dismantling the vast framework of lies and trickery, of which faked miracles like this one are just one example, which the Church uses to maintain its prestige and back up its supernatural claims (here's another case of obvious deliberate lying about something very easily checked), and to keep the rubes donating from their meager incomes to top up its vast wealth.  Apparently he is not only quite comfortable with such scams, but also fairly confident that God too finds them acceptable.

About the worst Catholic scandal of all, the systematic cover-up of child molestation by clergy and the world-wide pattern of shielding the molesters from prosecution, Francis has similarly made some noises that sound good, but has not taken the one step that would actually be meaningful -- a clear and firm directive that accused priests must be turned over to civil police and courts for trial rather than dealt with through the Church's internal disciplinary procedures.

So, where Francis is concerned, liberals should focus on substance rather than being impressed by a few examples of friendly-sounding but empty rhetoric.  The Catholic Church is an irredeemably evil and corrupt institution.  It won't change because of one man who, on all evidence, doesn't want to change it anyway.  It won't change, period.  It can't.  It is what it is.

22 March 2015

Link round-up for 22 March 2015

One good thing about being a fundie is, you don't need to worry about asteroids.

This is pretty close to how the Christian Right actually thinks these days.  And seriously, read this.

This woman has learned from experience.

Yellowdog Granny observes St. Patrick's Day.

Obama signals he'll fight Republican plans to wreck Social Security.  And remember, he gets stuff done.

No, it is not true that the higher minimum wage is driving Seattle restaurants out of business.

Facts remain facts even if Republicans ban people from talking about them.

No, your stupid sports obsession does not make it OK to threaten people.

Matt McLaughlin's "kill the gays" initiative in California brings out the genocidal implications of fundamentalism (read the comments too).

As Santorum said, Republicans will never win the support of smart people -- so why bother trying?

Here's a great response to the claim that "you're an atheist just because you want to sin".

The menace of theocracy:  Republic of Gilead reports on major speeches by Paul Blair and George Barna.

Morality and behavior in the US are getting better with time, not worse.

WWJD takes a look at that stupid "pissed-off rednecks" song.

Nikki Haley tries to help Jeb Bush, blunders embarrassingly.

How can students learn anything when their communities are this dumb?

Georgia's proposed pro-religion law is a threat to everyone.

Larry Kramer's magnum opus is a new view of American history.

Stupidity has its costs.

No, Obama did not suggest making voting mandatory.

Plato explains the 2012 election.

Take a look at the future of marijuana (found via GoodShit).

57% of Republicans say they want a Christian nation, so let's give it a try (found via Republic of Gilead).

Yep, this is exactly how Jesus would have spent $65 million.

RedState fumes over the impending collapse of yet another Senate Republican effort at what they themselves call hostage-taking.  Some on the right are boiling with rage at the Republican party for not being wingnutty enough.

Here's the real story behind that "Satan was the first to demand equal rights" sign.

If Hillary doesn't run, there's an obvious alternate candidate for the Democrats (while Republicans swoon over this guy).  But the e-mail kerfluffle doesn't seem to be hurting Hillary.

From Canada, an example of Christian parenting.

British voters have shifted to the left, though not by much.

Will Pope Francis be squeezed out by the grossly-corrupt Vatican establishment?

In Germany, there's some justice for an anti-vaxxer.

Here's some stuff you didn't know about Hitler (found via GoodShit).

Religious groups are trying to block birth control for refugee girls from Central America who get raped (found via Republic of Gilead).

São Paolo contemplates a law to protect public breastfeeding.

Faith-based mass murderers will face trial in the Balkans.

The ISIS-linked attack on Tunisia's National Bardo Museum has brought yet another country into the war against jihadism.  Muslims are also using mockery and satire to combat ISIS (found via Lady Atheist).

The Chinese regime bans an embarrassingly-popular documentary about Beijing's nightmarish smog.

The North Korean regime hates criticism.

The liberation of a Nigerian town from Boko Haram Islamists reveals mass killings.

Rabbits in the Everglades are being gobbled up by invasive pythons.

Globally, this winter was the warmest on record.

2014 saw several breakthroughs in our understanding of human evolution.