30 September 2012

Blasphemy Day 2012 -- know the enemy

For Blasphemy Day International this year, I'm doing something a little different -- rather than actually committing blasphemy, I'll present a few quotes which illustrate how contemptible religion can be, and why the right to freedom of expression in attacking and disparaging religion absolutely must be upheld and defended without compromise, no matter who is offended -- as Hussein Ibish eloquently reminds us.

Know the enemy:

I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped that happen."

--Jerry Falwell, on the September 11 attack

Yes, I believe the attacks are God's punishment because we are in a moral decay in this country, with abortion, forcing children to be taught about homosexuality, removing God from the schools, sexual immorality on television and in our government. And this is God's way of punishing the wicked.

--James Dobson

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled and incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of countries, so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. But those who study Islamic holy war will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world.....Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. They are witless. Islam says: Kill the unbelievers, just as they would kill you all!

--Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

We should fully understand our religion.  Fighting is a part of our religion and our Sharia.  Those who love God and his Prophet and this religion cannot deny that.  Whoever denies even a minor tenet of our religion commits the gravest sin in Islam.

--Osama bin Laden

If the people will let us alone, we will preach the gospel in peace.  But if they come on us to molest us, we will establish our religion by the sword.  We will trample down our enemies and make it one gore of blood from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. I will be to this generation a second Mohammed, whose motto in treating for peace was "the Alcoran or the sword."  So shall it eventually be with us -- "Joseph Smith or the sword!"

--Joseph Smith, 1838

[A woman] should stay at home and get on with her spinning, she should not go out often, she must not be well-informed, nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only visit them when absolutely necessary; she should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything.....she must not leave her house without his permission, and if given his permission she must leave surreptitiously.....If a friend of her husband calls when the latter is absent, she must not open the door nor reply to him, in order to safeguard her and her husband's honor.

--Al-Ghazali, Muslim theologian (1058-1111)

Men are in charge of women because God has favored the one over the other and because they support them from their means. So righteous women are obedient, and in the [husband's] absence they guard what God wishes them to guard. As for women from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, and reject them in bed, and beat them; and if they obey you, take no action against them. Verily God is high and great.

--Koran 4:34

The unbelievers spend their wealth to hinder [others] from the path of God, and they will continue to do so, but in the end they will have regret, and they will be defeated. And the unbelievers shall be gathered together in Hell. In order that God may separate the wicked from the good, [you must] pile the wicked one upon another, heap them up, and cast them into Hell. They will be the defeated ones.

--Koran 8:36-37

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

--Leviticus 20:13

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoso-ever shall do, and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

--Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:17-19

Link round-up for 30 September 2012

Don't touch that window.....

Fart if you disagree with Romney's economic policies.

Add some eldritch horror and madness to your 2013 with this Cthulhu calendar (found via Mendip).  Or you could just get some of this stuff.

Get to know introverts.

We're much more sexually liberated today than in the 1960s (NSFW).

Romney's got some memorized zingers and he's not afraid to use them.

Remember what religious freedom doesn't mean (found via Jobsanger).

Republicans know when to be frugal (found via Squatlo Rant).

New York girls push back against a school dress code (though not as hard as these girls did).

Chicken, yummy!

Never mind after the election, what about Romney's "mental well-being" right now?

Einstein had plenty to say about religion.

This letter from God speaks the truth.  So does this letter to Ann Romney.

The murdered Dr. George Tiller's former clinic will soon be back in operation (found via Lady Atheist).

Birther derangement just gets weirder and weirder (found via Progressive Eruptions).

A Catholic bishop warns against voting for "intrinsic evil".

The relative YouTube popularity of certain convention speeches is revealing.

Gin & Tacos notices an odd trend among college students.

Daily Kos, Jonathan Chait, and others comment on Republican poll denialism.  Polls may actually be under-counting Obama supporters.  Party ID is shifting, but more away from Republicans than toward Democrats. Heard claims of a voter-registration edge for Republicans?  Read thisUpdate:  More on the "unskewed polls" site.

Some opponents of gay marriage just haven't given it any real thought.

Here's an honest Republican.

Republic of Gilead reports from yet another Christian anti-gay conference (don't these people ever give it a rest?), part 1, part 2.

Romney's 47% gaffe is devastating.  He's a weak candidate whom nobody likes, but the Republican message is also a problem.  This week's debate is his last chance

The New York school system embraces common sense.

Here's more on the Republican lie about Obama skipping intelligence briefings.

Murdoch media grossly distort information about global warming.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is a patriot.

As Greece and Spain sink back into misery and unrest, remember the true culprit: austerity mania.

Uruguay's legislature legalizes abortion, a move favored by the majority of its people (found via Lady Atheist).

Maryam Namazie looks at Ahmadinejad's speech.

The Syrian regime tortures children.

Voices of sanity in the Islamic world are speaking out against religious extremism.

The long-simmering Japan/China/Taiwan dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands may be heating up.

Bill Nye speaks out on creationism (found via Republic of Gilead).

And the story it told of a river that flowed, made me sad to think it was dead.....

Creationists don't like dinosaur feathers.

Have you ever seen another moon in an alien sky?

29 September 2012

Quote for the day -- after the landslide

"Anyone who doubts the reaction of the GOP stalwarts to Romney’s impending defeat should bear in mind this single, if chilling, fact. Most of them still think he’s going to win. They genuinely believe the polls are fixed. They seriously think the surge in support for Obama is nothing more than an 'MSM' conspiracy. Some of them clearly even believe the good Lord himself will appear in the spin room at the University of Denver next Wednesday.  And when non[e] of these things turn out to be true, the reaction will be truly terrible to behold. It will be like what happens inside one of those doomsday cults the morning after they all wake up and realise the world hasn’t ended after all. First the shock, then the denial, then finally the anger and retribution."

Dan Hodges, trying to explain American Republicans to the British

Video of the day -- in his own words

27 September 2012

Landslide? Fight even harder!

Even dwellers in the right-wing alternate-reality bubble are getting hard-pressed to deny it:  the polls are looking very good for our side these days.  The RCP average this morning shows Obama up 4% nationally, boosted by a Gallup tracker lead of 6%.  Recent data have him leading 52%-43% in Pennsylvania, 53%-43% in Ohio, 49%-45% in North Carolina, 52%-43% in Nevada, 52%-41% in Wisconsin, 48%-40% in Minnesota, 54%-42% in Michigan (and that's Rasmussen!), 51%-44% in Iowa, 50%-46% in Colorado, and 53%-44% in all-important Florida.  Our Senate candidates lead 52%-40% in Wisconsin, 49%-43% in Pennsylvania, 53%-39% in Florida, 48%-42% in Connecticut (yes, that one had been close earlier), 50%-40% in Ohio, 48%-44% in Nevada, 53%-37% in Michigan.  Massachusetts looks close, but in the end I can't see that state re-electing Brown.  The Republicans are getting so desperate they're even starting to rehabilitate Todd "legitimate rape" Akin.  An Obama popular-vote margin bigger than 2008's, 350 electoral votes, and an enlarged Senate majority suddenly seem like real possibilities.  Some even dream of re-taking the House, though that remains unlikely.

(Update:  We've even got a shot at a Senate seat in Indiana, thanks to teabagging nutjobs who primaried six-term veteran Lugar and replaced him with the fringier Mourdock.)

So does this mean we can relax?  Sorry, but this is no time to stop being on guard against complacency.  Even if you think victory is inevitable, the margin matters.

If a real landslide is in reach, we need to fight all the harder to make sure we get it.  Obama will still be President whether he gets 270 electoral votes or 350, 51% of the popular vote or 55% -- but in the latter cases he'll have a stronger hand to play in appealing to the public against Republican obstructionism.  A Senate majority that includes Elizabeth Warren will be give the party a different character than one that doesn't.  A badly-mauled Republican party is more likely to be weakened by internal recrimination and infighting than one that just barely lost.

This is a high-stakes election.  The stakes are theocracy vs. secularism, denialism vs. reality on global warming, Randian laissez-faire and an unregulated financial parasite class vs. a rational mixed economy, mythology vs. science in public schools, insurance-company death panels vs. a major step toward universal coverage, Bible-based bigotry vs. marriage equality, relentless attacks on abortion and even birth control vs. individual choice, cave-man foreign policy vs. informed diplomacy.  And don't forget Supreme Court appointments.

Slavery, votes for women, and interracial marriage were once genuinely controversial issues.  After thumping defeats, the reactionary side on each of those issues faded away and ceased to be part of the national conversation.  That's what real victory looks like.  If 2012 is a chance to administer another thumping defeat to the bad guys, let's do it.

25 September 2012

Girl power!

A few days ago in the Iranian town of Shahmirzâd, Islamotard cleric Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti hassled a couple of girls he passed in the street because he thought one of them was dressed in a way that didn't "cover herself" adequately.  A common enough occurrence in Iran, except for how the girls reacted.

They knocked him down and kicked the crap out of him.

Just an isolated event, of course, but it perhaps suggests how fed up normal people in Iran are getting of being ruled over by these puritanical freaks (and some of the blue-noses in our own country could stand to have this happen to them, frankly).

24 September 2012

Quote for the day -- Obama and Iran

"To date, Obama’s response has been like Reagan’s: provide unprecedented military defense systems for Israel, deploy our best technology against Iran, inflict crippling sanctions, and yet stay prepared, as Reagan did, to deal with the first signs of sanity from Tehran. Could Obama find an Iranian Gorbachev? Unlikely. But no one expected the Soviet Union to collapse as Reagan went into his second campaign either, and it had not experienced a mass revolt in his first term, as Iran did in Obama’s. And yet by isolation, patience, allied unity, and then compromise, the unthinkable happened. I cannot say I am optimistic — but who saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1984?"

Andrew Sullivan

23 September 2012

Link round-up for 23 September 2012

Enough politics.  Check out some bear cubs and fish art.

Feminists have magic dong-shrinking powers.

Here's the new Louisiana curriculum in action (found via Squatlo Rant).  Maybe they'll also teach this conservative history of the US.

Round up some guys and head for the pub.

Can you guess -- hideous or yummy?  (NSFW blog header)

Meet a 47-percenter (found via Kay's Thinking Cap).

Parents, be accepting of your daughter's sexual orientation.

Granny stymied by voter ID laws?  Get her a gun permit.

Murrmurs looks at God, money, and the Pledge.

Romney is outraged by the lies.

The Muhammad-movie flap is idiots all round, but its maker should be condemned for deceiving and endangering his actors.

Venture, if you dare, into the right wing's alternate reality.

A Kansas Republican says Obama supports anti-black racism.

The head of the Alabama Republican party is promoting a new form of birtherism (found via Parsley's Pics).  Read the TPM comments, they're funny.

Rosa Rubicondior compares the evidence for the existence of witchcraft with the evidence for the existence of Jesus.

Planned Parenthood has a handy voter guide.

As Governor of Massachusetts Romney vetoed a law requiring hospitals to give contraception to rape victims (this is a pro-Romney site).

Chick-fil-A caves.

Swing-state polls are looking good, and the "enthusiasm gap" is now in our favor.

Romney threw a tantrum before his Univision appearance and broke the station's rules by packing the audience with supporters.

This is what life was like when people took religion seriously.

Earlier I discussed the oddity that while Gallup and Rasmussen show the Presidential race tied, most other pollsters show large Obama leads -- but those other pollsters also show a surprisingly high level of Democratic party ID among voters.  Check out this analysis of subtle errors in Gallup's samples, and this review of the methodology of both Rasmussen and Gallup.  Historically, higher Democratic party ID is the norm (though please note this doesn't mean we always win).  Here's a critique of weighting by party ID, something only Rasmussen does.

The Republican convention yielded a negative bounce in Pennsylvania.

Before you marry a guy, make sure you know who he is.

Yes, Romney's Benghazi super-gaffe did hurt him with voters.  It won't help with Washington either.  Oh, and Jim Hoft is an idiot.

Read reactions to the 47% speech from Booman Tribune, Dissenting Justice, Michael Tomasky, Ezra Klein, and David Frum.

Jury nullification wins one in New Hampshire.

Ryan was soundly booed at the AARP convention for threatening to repeal Obamacare.

A British cabinet minister has a meltdown at the police.

Libyan protesters are attacking and destroying Islamist encampments in Benghazi.

The Syrian civil war descends into horrific brutality.

Neanderthal sex:  good for your immune system.  Especially if you're wearing feathers.

As the Arctic ice disappears, the race to exploit the region's resources is on.

22 September 2012


The Great Gaffesby has just ended another dreadful week with another unforced error.  The issue of his tax returns had more or less dropped off the radar of the mass public mind, swept away by the usual torrent of further gaffes, blunders, evasions, and misstatements.  By presenting what amounts to a may-I-be-excused note signed by his accountant, with a little summarized info but no actual raw data, Romney has reminded everyone of the issue and invited further attention to it, while still not answering the question of why he won't just release the damn tax returns themselves, like everyone else who runs for President does.  Of course it makes perfect sense for him not to release them if they contain something even more damaging to his cause than the secrecy has been -- but if that's the case, why do anything to put the issue back on the front burner?

Remember, there is one man who has seen all the Romney tax returns anyone could want, and that man was John McCain during the 2008 VP vetting process, and he decided he'd rather go with Sarah Palin.

Romney did come out with a new ad in which he spoke in front of an assembly of coal miners -- who, as it turns out, were forced by their employer to attend the event and listen to him, and docked pay for their time, too.  It's unclear whether he knew these details, but assuming he knows now, the natural instinct of any competent candidate who wasn't a horrid little callous kleptocrat would be to offer to reimburse the miners for their lost pay -- a pittance from his vast wealth, and one that would redeem his image somewhat.  But I doubt that idea would even occur to Romney.

Adding this week to a record which includes the Benghazi super-gaffe, the smirk heard round the world, "I'm not concerned about the very poor", "you don't go through a laundry list", the 47% video, the campaign allowing a man arguing with a chair to upstage the candidate's (dismal) convention speech, etc., etc., etc., almost everyone can see the pattern emerging, and it's one that utterly disembowels the core of Romney's appeal.  He's running as a super-competent executive, the guy who can take charge of even so vast and complex an enterprise as the United States of America and solve its problems and get it back on track.  But if he can't even manage his own campaign any better than this.....

Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan has downgraded her assessment of Romney's campaign from "incompetent" to "rolling calamity".  She offered some advice, too, as other Republicans have, but the candidate insists everything is fine, and Ann "Dances with Horses" Romney waved off all those trying to throw buckets of cold water on this Hindenburg disaster with an imperative that may yet win immortality: "Stop it!  This is hard!"  No wonder Republicans are becoming disgusted and divided and even campaign insiders are in despair.

Some rank-and-file Republicans cling to the hope that the debates will turn this thing around, but historically, debates have not moved the needle much -- unless one candidate commits some huge blunder that makes him look like an idiot.  Between Romney and Obama, I don't think it's Obama who's more likely to do that.

As always, it's important not to get complacent.  The fact that the polls showing Obama with huge leads also show suspiciously-high Democratic party ID probably doesn't discredit them, but it does mean we can't be sure what they really mean until after the election (though it might turn out to be better news than we expect).  We have to fight as if this were the most critical election in living memory, which it likely is -- and as if we could lose, which, never forget, is still possible if we don't give all we can.

One thing I do feel confident in saying: If Romney loses big, as he probably will, the defeat will not suffice to chasten the Nutty faction of Republicans and let the Sane faction regain control.  They'll just blame Romney personally for being such a lousy politician, and insist that all they need is a better candidate (I've seen some of them insisting that Santorum or Palin would be cleaning Obama's clock now if they'd been nominated, which gives you some idea of these people's tenuous grip on reality).  Oh, the David Frums and Jeb Bushes will try, all right, but their task won't be any less Sisyphean than it is now.  On balance it seems more likely that the party will just go even more bonkers.  It won't surprise me at all if they actually do nominate Santorum or Palin in 2016.  Keep the powder dry.

20 September 2012

Hanging chairs

Well, this is just charming.  Gag.

19 September 2012

Video of the day -- rappin' Obama!

Playing off the Republicans' lie about Obama's "you didn't build that" comment (dissected here) -- the lie they were so proud of that they made it the theme of their convention.

Amusingly, I found this on a right-wing site, where someone had posted a link to it thinking it was an anti-Obama video!

Note:  There will no longer be a "video of the week" each week.  I'll just post videos as often or as rarely as I find ones of interest, like everyone else does.

18 September 2012

Of parasites and projection

The internet is abuzz over the latest Republican gaffe, a set of leaked videos from a Romney fund-raiser earlier this year, in the most noted of which he tells his fellow one-percenters that "there are 47 percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" and "pay no income tax".

Others have already gone over the substance of the claim; of people who don't pay income tax because their income is too low or in a form which is not subject to income tax, most pay plenty of other taxes (interestingly, Romney himself pays very little income tax since most of his income is capital gains).  The small number who pay no federal taxes at all are mostly people in dire poverty, or elderly people who, earlier in their lives, did pay plenty of taxes, including taxes that paid for the programs that are supporting them now.  The Randian vision evoked by Romney's claim, of a vast legion of able-bodied but shiftless moochers who sit around smoking weed and watching TV all day supported by a government welfare check and who will vote for Obama to keep the checks coming, has about as much connection with reality as Atlas Shrugged does.

The more interesting point raised by the video, however, is one mentioned by blogger "Smartypants" last week commenting on a column by John Hinderaker.  Hinderaker had said:

.....the problem in this year’s race is economic self-interest: we are perilously close to the point where 50% of our population cares more about the money it gets (or expects to get) from government than about the well-being of the nation as a whole.

Smartypants observed:

Mr. Hinderaker is so deeply embedded in his philosophy of greed and selfishness that he is projecting it onto those of us who support things like a social safety net and pubic employee unions. He literally can't comprehend the idea of collective responsibility via citizenship that was the hallmark of President Obama's speech at the convention last week. In the grips of total Randianism, all Hinderaker sees is self-interest.

It's a widespread oddity of right-wing thinking: the idea that the main reason leftist parties get any votes at all is that huge numbers of people who are on government benefits cast those votes to keep the government checks coming.  They can't comprehend the idea that millions of gainfully-employed, self-supporting people vote for a stronger social safety net and a more comprehensive national health system in spite of being net contributors to it, not net beneficiaries, simply because it's good for the country.

Speaking for myself, I have a secure job with good health insurance, and my tax rate is pretty high, but I wouldn't mind paying a few percent more in taxes so we could have, say, a real national health system that covered everybody -- though I'll be damned if I'll pay more taxes so multi-millionaires who already pay a lower rate than I do can get even more tax breaks.

I think Smartypants is right.  It's projection.  The financial parasite class and its toadies are quick to respond to reports of, say, corporations sending jobs overseas, or the wealthy threatening to emigrate to avoid taxes, by asserting that those parties have no obligation to the country as a whole; they're perfectly entitled to act in their own economic self-interest regardless of the impact on anyone else.  The idea that anyone might actually take the interests of the whole society into account, in voting or economic choices, is so alien to them that they can't imagine us doing it either.

16 September 2012

Link round-up for 16 September 2012

Just what are they teaching at this school?

Here's a simple guideline for how to pick up chicks.

Vote Republican!

Jon McNaughton has a new stupid painting.

An imprisoned son still manages to help his dad with the gardening.

Sorry, wrong navy.

Here's your medical bill.

Yikes, it's another new wave of atheism!

Our friends don't forget.

Romney hasn't changed.

The Atheist Camel has a few choice words for the Islamotards, Romney, NASA, and Pat Robertson.

Yes, we're better off than we were four years ago, although this guy isn't.  Then there's this.

How disgraceful -- a US President apologizing to Muslims

Romney's pesky Ron Paul problem won't go away.

Different wrapping, same evil present.

Booman Tribune dissects Santorum's "smart people" comment.

Adam Streeter looks back on a Mormon boyhood.

Trying to defend his embassy-attack blunder, Romney sinks into incoherence.  Joan Walsh thinks it was a fatal error.

Brianne Bilyeu describes encounters as a clinic escort (I've done that).

Here's a round-up of Romney gaffes.

The scum who hounded Jen McCreight out of the blogosphere are now harassing her father.

The teabaggers have declared war on women and are doomed to lose.

Wells Fargo has foreclosed on the Tjosaas family's house twice even though it doesn't even have a mortgage.

Jennifer Granholm tells it like it is.

The great 1980 Reagan comeback which Romney hopes to emulate -- never happened.

I can't say enough good things about Rosa Rubicondior.  A recent trip to Crete inspired two must-read posts, one on opulence in the face of poverty, the other on the nature of universal truth.

Electoral history since 1988 shows how the Republican party has declined, but unfortunately it's not going away. Be optimistic but not complacent.

A judge strikes down Scott Walker's union-busting law.

Winning women the vote was a brutal struggle.

Gin and Tacos looks at Republican diversity.

Companies with women on their boards do better -- much better.

The Republican base still has some issues with Romney.

An ugly racist display is found at a Kaiser hospital in California.

D'Souza's "2016 Obama" film is just another example of Republican lies and distortions.

Two more right-wing lies: that Obama disarmed the Marines at the Cairo embassy and that he skips intelligence briefings.

A Romney win would hurt our standing in Europe (found via Booman Tribune); we might need to revive this website from 2004 (found via Smartypants).  He's already hurting our interests.

Muslim thugs in Britain block a TV documentary on Islamic history by Tom Holland (I recently read his book In the Shadow of the Sword, and so should you), but the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is pushing back.

40,000 people rally in Moscow against Putin.

An alleged plan for a massive Israeli attack on Iran has emerged, but is it real or propaganda?

Across the Islamotardosphere, inbred knuckle-dragging fanatics attack embassies, some of them not even American.

Obama talks tough, Egypt gets the message.

Attacks on US embassies have a history.

Some of the terrorists involved in the Benghazi attack were non-Libyan

Jihadists seek to hijack the Syrian rebellion.

A limestone trackway in Germany records a death 150 million years ago.

The accelerating loss of Arctic sea ice affects weather in heavily-populated areas.

14 September 2012

A very Republican week

Seemingly jealous of the success of the Democratic convention, the Republicans this week pulled the nation's attention back to themselves with a tour de force of gaffes.  Romney played politics with the Islamist violence and murder in Cairo and Benghazi in a way that left even many Republicans aghast, doubled down on the blunder at a subsequent press conference, and topped it off with the smirk heard round the world.  One of the few Republicans to defend Romney's position, Senator Jon Kyl, did so via a baffling analogy with blaming rape victims for being attacked, showing that Republicans should just stay completely away from the subject of rape, as if Todd Akin hadn't already made that clear.  Akin himself, by the way, is also among Romney's few defenders, but one can perhaps cut him some slack since his campaign is imploding for lack of money.  Palin made a dogged effort to out-weird Kyl, but she's just struggling to get noticed these days.

By the way, have you seen the trailer for that "anti-Islam film" that supposedly triggered the violence?  You can view it here (scroll down to "Muhammad movie trailer").  This thing makes Plan 9 from Outer Space look like Blade Runner.  It looks like it was made by hiring random drunk vagrants off the street and having them read cue cards in front of blow-ups of somebody's vacation photos of a camping trip in Death Valley. And people rioted over this?

Rank-and-file Republicans showed that the dumbth is strong in them when 15% of Ohio conservatives polled declared Romney, not Obama, the man most responsible for killing bin Laden.  And we wonder why these people vote for stupid and evil politicians?  We should be grateful they're not writing in Lord Voldemort.

As often happens with Republicans, the gaffes are piling up so fast that we don't have time to digest each one properly before being distracted by the next one.  But don't overlook Romney's previous gaffe before the Libyan one, when he said he'd keep some parts of Obamacare instead of repealing the whole thing.  This touched off a minor firestorm among the teabagger right, for whom the total repeal of Obamacare is a driving passion -- these people won't be happy until little Zoe Lihn and thousands like her are cold in their graves.  Expect Romney to double down on teh crayzee soon in an effort to restore his cred with "the base".  (Did you know that al-Qâ'idah literally translates as "the base"?)

In the meantime, a Republican spokesman suggested hurling acid at female Democratic Senators, Rand Paul compared the US government to the Nazis, and Putin said Russia needs to beef up its defenses in case Romney gets elected.  I wonder whether our country can survive if these people get elected.

Cartoon at top found via Progressive Eruptions.

12 September 2012

Yet another Republican lie (updated)

"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." -- Romney

Here's what actually happened.

I've said it before -- given their record during this campaign, anything the Republicans say must be assumed to be a lie until proven otherwise.

Update: See Andrew Sullivan's analysis.  More reactions here.

From the CNN report on the Libyan attack:

Clinton said, ".....This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Libyans carried Chris' body to the hospital, and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety."

Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib apologized "to the American people and the government, and also to the rest of the world" for the "cowardly, criminal act."

It's even possible that the murderers were Qaddhafi loyalists trying to drive a wedge between the new Libyan government and the US

Update 2Libyans protest against terrorism.

Quotes for the day -- the man who wasn't there

"If your party can run the nation for eight years, and then have a national convention and not invite Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Karl Rove or Tom DeLay, you’re not a political movement. You’re the witness protection program."

Bill Maher

[on Clinton] "Sitting there and watching a Democrat clearly articulate and shred to pieces every major talking point and lie Republicans have uttered in the last six months was a joy. It says much about the Democratic Party that they are able to showcase their last president proudly. Compare that with Republicans who just held a convention where they did their best to create the impression that the years 2000-2008 never happened.  Bush who?"

Mario Piperni

11 September 2012

Eleven years later

It took some time.....but we got you.....

Rot in nonexistence.  We live on.

09 September 2012

Link round-up for 9 September 2012

Have you suffered any of these management fads?

Here's Bill Clinton's speech summed up in one cartoon.

What a total wanker.

Hmm, this magazine cover looks familiar.

You can now put your animals online.

Medicare?  What Medicare?  (found via Squatlo Rant).

There's one difference between Akin and Ryan (found via Politics Plus).

Let's honor an explorer who wasn't a mass murderer.

Michelle Obama's DNC speech alone has gotten more online views than all the Republican convention speeches combined (found via Progressive Eruptions).  It's even getting attention in China.

Jim Wright looks at the year 1912.  Do we want to go back?

Republicans enlist the military in the war on women.

Best comment ever on anti-abortion nuts.

Akin still has some support.

Cardinal Dolan wasn't such a good fit for the DNC.

What does it mean to be anti-woman?

Republican Senate candidate Nick Berg once supported a law that would have sentenced women who get abortions to life in prison.

The United States was not founded on religion.

Data suggest that the conventions changed the race in Obama's favor.

Here's how to tell if your religious freedom is in danger (found via Lady Atheist).

Poll results for Romney's convention speech were startlingly bad.

What is God like?  Pretty much like his creators.

Booman Tribune has an observation about Obama's likely margin of victory.

The Republican platform has a plank on the Marianas Islands.

The world's richest woman doesn't like the minimum wage.

Nils Pickert gives his son moral support, gets bashed by troglodytes.

Ex-Muslim Imran Firasat in Spain is pushing back against Muslim threats targeting him.

Bulgaria decides not to adopt the failing euro currency -- and US companies are preparing for Greece to abandon it.

South Korean scientists push back against Christian creationists' efforts to distort science education.

The Iranian theocracy says homosexuality is part of a Jewish plot for world domination.

For women, the results of the Egyptian revolution haven't been all good.

Here's a handy map to keep track of Syria's religious factions.

Rimsha Masih is out on bail.

A judge in India tells a domestic-violence victim to "adjust" instead of seeking a divorce.  Sign a petition to remove the judge here.

Science's understanding of brain waves is approaching the ability to read minds.

Eliminating one enzyme could be the key to fighting Alzheimer's.

08 September 2012

Jen McCreight quits (2)

For the last few weeks I haven't been reading atheist blogs, or at least those on FTB or associated with it, as much as in the past.  Too much space was being taken up with intra-atheist infighting in the wake of the controversy over sexual harassment at atheist conferences.  It was clear that the harassment problem was real and serious, and that measures needed to be taken (and were being taken) to deal with it, but the infighting was using up energy that should be going into the struggle against religion.  In particular, the disgrace of "Thunderf00t" -- creator of one of my all-time favorite videos -- left a very bad aftertaste.  Basically, I gave time to other interests while waiting for normal programming to resume.

I've been agnostic, so to speak, about "Atheism Plus".  It seemed like an attempt to tie atheism to a laundry list of social causes which are mostly laudable but have nothing inherently to do with atheism.  Harmless enough, but not particularly interesting or necessary.

Then this happened.

I've been reading Jen McCreight on and off for a couple of years.  Besides consistently having an interesting take on things, she always seemed like a pleasant, upbeat person.  And she was, of course, the instigator of "boobquake", a take-down of Islamotard cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi which became a sterling example of combating religion via mockery.

This should be a wake-up call.  If someone as self-confident and as valuable to the movement as McCreight can be hounded out of the blogosphere by sexist harassment, then we have a deadly-serious problem.

Yet I've seen surprisingly little reaction on atheist blogs, and some writers seem determined to minimize or deny the issue.  For example, I've seen several comments suggesting that McCreight simply got tired or burnt out or needed a break.  This can't be an honest misunderstanding; it's wilful blindness worthy of a global-warming denialist.  From McCreight's farewell post:

Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There’s a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.  I just can’t take it anymore.

I've seen other women bloggers describe similar abuse, especially since taking sides in the conference-harassment fight.  I say again:  We have a deadly-serious problem here, and anyone who tries to deny or minimize it is part of that problem.  This is sinking to the enemy's level; this is atheists acting like Limbaugh vomiting filth at Sandra Fluke.  I had hoped and believed that the world of atheism would be at least relatively free of such asshole behavior, but since it turns out that mere lack of belief in deities is not, in fact, a guarantee of human decency, we need to figure out what to do about this.

It's practically impossible to control anyone's behavior on the internet (and on the whole, for obvious reasons, that's a good thing).  But at a bare minimum, we need to establish a community norm -- to the extent that atheism is a "community" -- that harassment is not tolerated behavior.  Identifiable harassers need to be named, shamed, shunned, and excluded.  People with technical knowledge should make their expertise available to help trace and identify anonymous harassers.  Above all, no one should be trying to justify such behavior or shrug it off as trivial.  Conference organizers have begun taking steps to squelch the problem of harassment at their venues.  Doing so in the blogosphere is going to be far more difficult, but there's no excuse for not doing what we can -- before we lose any more good people.

How will we know when we've succeeded?  When the atheist blogosphere is a safe enough space that McCreight feels comfortable blogging again.

06 September 2012

The Democrats raise the stakes

By highlighting issues they usually de-emphasize, the Democrats are sharpening the contrast between themselves and the Republicans -- and raising the already-high stakes in the election.

By featuring Cecile Richards and Sandra Fluke, they turned the spotlight on the social issues where the right wing's theocratic totalitarianism is most dangerous, but where liberals have often seemed hesitant or embarrassed about making any strong defense of individual freedom.  By featuring Elizabeth Warren, they turned the spotlight on the greatest single threat to this country, the issue Warren has made her own -- skyrocketing inequality and the growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the financial parasite class.

By choosing speakers associated with the solid left on these issues, the party may have risked alienating some centrist voters, but it also signals the base that it will actually stand for things it has preferred to fudge or de-emphasize in the past.  This will, of course, raise expectations if the party does win.

Bill Clinton's speech has been criticized for being too long, but I think this misses the point.  Remember, not many people are watching the conventions on TV to hear the speech as delivered.  What Clinton did was to provide a point-by-point rebuttal to the various major lies and distortions which form the basis of the Republicans' case, and to confront head-on the Congressional Republican obstructionism that has stymied Obama's efforts to revive the economy.  These are things that desperately needed to be said, and they have now been said by a figure who remains broadly popular and credible nationally.  Clinton provided an arsenal of quotes which can be deployed both defensively and offensively, across TV and the internet, on many fronts against the enemy.

Obama Diary blog has several videos.  Andrew Sullivan live-blogged day one and day two and has reader and blogger reactions to day one, and a round-up of reactions to Clinton.  See also Liberal Values on day one and day two, Politics Plus on Michelle Obama, Progressive Eruptions on Clinton, and more from The Reaction and PM Carpenter.  Rank-and-file Republicans comment on day one and day two.

05 September 2012

Video of the week -- what we're fighting for

What has already been accomplished, and why it mustn't be reversed.

Jen McCreight quits

Damn, this is infuriating.  We need to do something about these creeps.

03 September 2012

On pa-troll

The rising political passions of an election year tend to bring an increase in trolling, but it can happen at any time, and the craziest and most hateful trolls operate purely based on the random neuron-firings of their own scrambled brains, with little reference to current events.  Here's how I deal with them.

First off, there's no freedom-of-speech or censorship issue involved in moderating or deleting comments.  This is my space, period.  Freedom of speech gives a person the right to put a political bumper sticker on his car.  It doesn't give him the right to put that same bumper sticker on my car, not unless I choose to let him.  It's amazing how many people don't grasp this point.

Not everybody who disagrees with me is a troll.  I almost never reject a comment just because of disagreement.  It's when somebody adopts a rude or hectoring or superior tone, or a particular person never comments except when they have something to criticize -- well, it's obvious when you see it.  I know that rudeness is pervasive on the internet, to the extent of being accepted by many people as part of the norm.  I don't care.  I won't put up with it here.

The comment moderation originally was, and still is, necessary because of the volume of spam "comments" I get.  If it weren't for moderation, every post's comment section would turn into a thicket of ads for everything from viagra to designer handbags to Japanese porn sites.  The only reason you don't see that stuff is that I see it first.

One increasingly-common type of troll, what I call the "change the subject" troll, is actually pretty similar to a spammer.  Such a troll starts with "This is just an attempt to distract from....." or "This is ignoring....." or similar, then proceeds to tell me what he thinks I should be writing about instead of what I actually did write about.  Sorry, no.  If he wants to discuss something else, even designer handbags, fine -- but on his own blog.

All this being said, again, it's actually pretty rare that I delete a comment from a real person.  But I've seen what happens to bloggers who let trolls comment freely.  Once allowed to take root, they settle in and multiply, and comment threads turn into an interminable, exhausting mess of back-and-forth bickering.  In the case of right-wing political trolls, it's been credibly claimed that this is a conscious strategy.

As for the real psychos, the ones Cristina Rad (amusing video below) calls "haters" -- the kind of people who develop a weird obsession with you and harass you for, in some cases, weeks or months -- I've had at least two of those in the six years since I started this blog.  (It might actually have been more -- over time memories of these people kind of run together in my mind.)  One was a Christian fanatic, the other was an atheist with serious mental issues.

What I've learned from experience is that trying to reason with psychos does not work.  Trying to debate them does not work.  Telling them to go away and leave you alone does not work.  Their whole purpose is to get a rise out of you.  If you give them any sort of reaction at all, especially if you're spending substantial time and energy on them and/or getting angry and frustrated, you're feeding them.  And they will not go away.

So I give them nothing.  I delete their comments in moderation, I don't reply to them, I don't answer their e-mails, I don't write cryptic-sounding posts obliquely referring to them, I don't give them any response at all.  Once I get their schtick, I don't even bother to read their comments before deleting.  Eventually, un-fed, they go away.

I've seen what happens on other blogs when bloggers don't get this.  I've seen bloggers write paragraphs meticulously correcting some troll's distortions of what the blogger said (the Christian psycho mentioned above was quite good at deliberately twisting things I'd said in hopes of goading me into replying to correct him).  I've seen them beg and plead with trolls to stop commenting, while I'm rolling my eyes and thinking "just delete the damn comments and save your time and energy".  I've seen them responding with debate or with anger or with ridicule or with whatever, but still responding.  And the troll never goes away.  He knows he's getting under their skin.  He's being fed.

Predictable as the pattern is, it's not normal behavior.  If any blogger were ever to simply tell me that my comments weren't welcome, I would immediately stop commenting there.  Why not?  There's more interesting stuff on the internet than I could ever possibly have time to read.  Why waste time on a blog where I'm not wanted?  But the hard-core, obsessive troll is a mental parasite.  He gets his jollies from inflaming you.  I don't play that game.

A note on the link round-ups

Within the link round-ups, the links are generally grouped like this:

First, light / funny stuff;

Next, more serious items (mostly religion / politics) about the US;

Next, serious items about foreign countries;

Finally, science & technology links.

I thought this was obvious, but it came to my attention recently that a couple of people hadn't noticed.

02 September 2012

Link round-up for 2 September 2012

Congress needs more diversityKyrsten Sinema would be a good start.

This Fox News reporter is awaiting, uh.....

Here's the gospel of Republican Jesus (found via Mario Piperni).

What did Beethoven, Verdi, Mozart, Strauss, Prokofiev, and many other composers have in common?

Christianity is kind of a downer.

Blogger BR analyzes the horrible Texas Republican platform.

Finally something I agree with Bryan Fischer about -- gays have no business being Republicans.

Bain Capital is being investigated for tax evasion.

Norbrook looks at the extremist take-over of the Republican party.

Gary William Green looks at the evil of the Bible.

Smartypants looks at the "death panel" lie.

Kathleen Parker looks at Republican totalitarianism.

Don't be fooled by Ryan.

Jack Jodell has a round-up of Romney's and Ryan's lies.

Conservative Daniel McCarthy laments the demise of the conservative intellectual.

America, this is your meat industry.

The Stranger's Paul Constant has an entertaining report from the Republican convention.  Romney's team was baffled by Eastwood's performance. The platform's anti-abortion plank has alienated women, but this one may alienate men.

There's no Democratic equivalent to the Republicans' incessant lying.

A terrorist group is discovered on a US military base.

Camden, New Jersey has fired its entire police force.

Missouri Baptist leaders support Akin (found via Lady Atheist).  Some residents of Cleveland, Texas, sound like potential Akin voters.

What's in Canada?  Here's a quick guide.

England is so rich in history you can't even dig up a parking lot without finding some moldy old king under it.

Loginair, a Scottish airline, offers the world's shortest scheduled flight.

A Dutch right-winger channels Akin.

Some borders don't need much attention.

Why can't Americans hold fund-raisers like this?

When you choose a name for your business, Google it or something, just to be on the safe side.

The Taliban are real party-poopers.

The persecution of Rimsha Masih (who may have been framed) and other blasphemy accusations have Christians in Pakistan living in terror.  The country is so violent that even the Red Cross is pulling out.

We need to be prepared for the decline or collapse of China.

The oldest existing sample of written English is three words on a 5th-century medallion -- and one of those words is of unknown meaning.

Arctic sea ice is at its lowest level ever.

Here's an interesting essay on the Flynn effect, the steady rise in IQ which has been going on for over a century.

A cure for baldness could be available in two years.

Some birds show signs of ritualized responses to the dead of their own kind.

South African researchers believe they have a single-dose cure for malaria, something that could save millions of lives.

The real inner you always remains (and I'm passionate about getting it back).

01 September 2012

Convention schmonvention (3)

On Thursday Romney became the Republican party's official nominee, the legitimate nominee, as Akin might put it -- yet the American people were oddly disinclined to watch the historic occasion.  The convention's climactic night was soundly beaten in TV ratings by some godawful-looking sitcom, with audience levels down almost by half compared with the last Republican convention in 2008.  The Eastwood / chair fiasco is said to have had 1,300,000 views on YouTube so far, but I can't help thinking these are mostly the same kind of views a spectacularly messy traffic accident gets from passing drivers.  Obama apparently couldn't resist a quick tweet to rub it in (picture above).

Don't be too disappointed if the Democratic convention next week turkeys out almost as badly.  There's apparently some big-deal football game on opposite it on Wednesday, and lots of people use a four-day work week to take vacations.  Anyway, conventions are staged, choreographed, scripted events, generally free of surprises unless there's some major screw-up, and thus not of much interest to the average non-political-junkie citizen.

Anyway, some more analysis of Romney's speech:  he flagrantly lied about his party's obstructionist record, he contemptuously dismissed one of the world's biggest and most rapidly-escalating problems, and he signaled a pointlessly adversarial stance toward Russia.