31 March 2010

Terrorist attack -- southern Russia

Suicide bombers have hit Russia again, this time in the Dagestan region in the Caucasus. The sound of the explosion was caught on cell-phone video.

Video of the week -- the delusion

We will beat this thing in the end.....

30 March 2010

Quote for the day

"Should the pope resign? No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds; a man who believes he is infallible and acts the part; a man whose preaching of scientific falsehood is responsible for the deaths of countless AIDS victims in Africa; a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch. No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice - the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution - while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears."

29 March 2010

FBI and anti-terror units raid Christian militia

Over the weekend the FBI staged a series of raids on a Christian militia organization in Michigan, with simultaneous raids in Ohio and Indiana. As yet, little detail is available, but Mountain Sage has some more information and links.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force also participated in the raids. Our country may have been spared something very nasty -- maybe even nastier than the religious terrorist attack which Russia suffered this morning.

Update 1: TPM has more (found via Green Eagle) -- nine militia members have been charged. Apparently the police were their intended target. The charges include "seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction".

Update 2 (30 March): Stupid Evil Bastard has a great post up on this, with numerous links to more info and commentary. The militia hoped that its planned massacre of police would trigger a nationwide uprising against the government.

In comments yesterday, I predicted: "At least some of the right-wing blogs will soon start claiming that the government staged this whole thing as a pretext to declare martial law. Then, when time passes and the government doesn't declare martial law, they somehow will never get around to retracting the claim that it was staged." Based on some of the rightist commentary SEB quotes, some of them are already floating the idea that the government engineered this.

Terrorist attack -- Moscow

Suicide bombers have struck the Moscow subway system during the Monday rush hour, killing at least 37 commuters and injuring at least 65. Russian intelligence has preliminary information linking the attack to jihadists from the Muslim enclaves in the northern Caucasus region, who have committed several terrorist attacks in Russia over the last few years, most notoriously the terrible Beslan school massacre of 2004.

President Medvedev stated, "The policy to suppress terrorism in our country and the fight with terrorism will be continued. We will continue the operation against terrorists without hesitation and until the end." (I suspect his remarks were rather pithier in the original Russian.) No doubt he will be as good as his word. The Russians are a saner, healthier, more rational people than we are; when attacked, they do not wring their hands and moan "why do they hate us?", but hit back, hard, until the threat is disposed of. Just ask anyone who was in eastern Germany in 1945 -- or in those northern Caucasus enclaves over the last few years.

28 March 2010

Confronting evil

The utter collapse of the Catholic Church's moral pretensions is assessed by two of my favorite commentators: Pat Condell and Christopher Hitchens (Hitchens also talks with Bill Maher here). My own view is here; that of a Catholic blogger, Papamoka, here. Update: Here's another of our best on religion, PZ Myers.

No need to fear November

It has become conventional wisdom to expect serious losses for the Democrats in this November's elections, but I'm not worried. While the Democrats will very likely lose a few seats -- that almost always happens to the party in power in midterm elections -- there are important factors working in our favor.

(1) HCR is a plus, not a minus. Polls already show a modest bounce in its approval rating since it was passed. Many who opposed it did so because they felt it didn't go far enough, not because it went too far. Many who oppose the package actually like the individual programs that make it up -- they object to the bill because they are misinformed about what's in it. And some of its provisions will take effect before the election. Voters will then be judging the reform by what they see it actually doing, not by horror-fantasies about death panels and Communism.

(2) The biggest factor influencing the vote will be employment. The job-loss data don't lie -- losses have decreased almost every month since Obama took office. Recent economic growth has been stronger than expected, and although employment is always one of the last indicators to recover after the end of a recession, it will do so. The hopeful-sounding predictions by the administration's enemies that the economy will slide back into recession have the air of an increasingly-desperate clutching at straws. They will come up empty. And Congress has plenty of options for acting to stimulate job growth.

(3) With enemies like these, who needs friends? The Republicans' relentless obstructionism on HCR and their bitter-end negativity may be energizing to the worst of their base, but they can't be appealing to the broad center, which is where elections are won. And Republicans' failure to condemn or even quite acknowledge last week's rash of violence and threats against Democrats is even uglier. Intemperate statements now will turn up in campaign ads later. And don't forget the NY-23 syndrome -- hard-line rightists undermining more electable moderate Republicans. An example is teabagger JD Hayworth's primary challenge to John McCain in Arizona, which has pushed McCain into a series of increasingly extremist statements in an effort to out-loony Hayworth for the sake of base primary voters. Either Hayworth will win the primary and (probably) lose the general, or McCain will prevail, but as damaged goods in the eyes of centrist voters and still viewed with suspicion by the base.

(4) A President should be a strong leader. During 2009 Obama's fixation on bipartisanship, futile in the face of the Republicans' intransigence, made him look weak, dithering, and unable to get things done. Since January he seems to have realized that such efforts were pointless, and the change has affected his image as well as the actual results achieved: Working with Congress to get HCR through despite the lack of Republican support, and using recess appointments to fill essential posts despite Republican obstruction, not only is strong and effective leadership, it also looks like strong and effective leadership. There will be more, and it will all help in November.

It's always possible, of course, that some unexpected major event could happen and change everything. But barring that (and such an event might be one that favors rather than harms our side), I don't think November's going to be all that bad.

Update (29 March): Arthur Greene has more detail on why HCR will probably help the Democrats in November -- benefits for critical groups like the elderly and the middle class will already have taken effect. Greene is a conservative and writes from an anti-HCR viewpoint, but his points on this are solid. Blogger DemWit also e-mails:

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, otherwise known as CLASS Act, provides for a national insurance program to help cover the cost of long-term care -- something 70 percent of people over 65 will need at some point along the way. The premiums will be much lower than those for private plans, and you won't get screened out because you've already had some health problems.

Class act indeed. So much for the death panels.

27 March 2010

Defending the Constitution

A sergeant of the US Marine Corps pens a short but devastating article directed at those elements of the extreme right currently spouting overheated rhetoric about armed rebellion and civil war. He throws a much-needed splash of cold reality on such fantasies:

.....this government of ours is a democracy. We vote for our representatives, and they vote in our interests. Sometimes, the votes don't go our way. That's life, better luck next time. Exhaust your legislative options, and then focus on gaining the required votes and/or seats to achieve your desired legislative vote next election time. That's the way things work. But the SECOND you start committing acts of violence and vandalism, then you've usurped that Constitution. You in a way have assaulted it. And then you and I (I being every servicemember who has sworn to defend said Constitution) will have a MAJOR PROBLEM.....

.....Now I'd like to disperse a myth here - many of you think that US military would not fight civilians. I can't speak for all, but in my case - the moment you declare civil war, you're no longer civilians. The moment you attack the constitution, you're now enemies of that constitution. And I swore to defend and support and if necessary give my life for that Constitution and utilize every tool, technique, and weapon at my disposal to do so. And trust me, I'm not alone.....I would never want to receive a frag order to Maryland, or North Dakota, or Texas, but it is an order I will follow no matter how much it pains me to do so.

Read the whole thing. Then send it to your local teabaggers.

Update: The article has disappeared from its original location at the Newsvine link above. The complete text is here, here, here, and here, and doubtless other places as well.

Update 2: Google cached version is here.

Link roundup for 27 March 2010

Reconstitution 2.0 discovers the quintessential teabagger.

HCR fails to meet a crucial need.

"Minor" surgery leads to fart horror.

Jack Jodell wants to understand the Republicans.

Don't mess with Texas? Looks like someone already did.

It's just a book!

Why are atheists concerned about non-existent gods?

A marijuana-legalization initiative will be on this November's ballot in California.

Octopüß looks at the rage on the right.

Gallup shows more Americans reacting favorably than unfavora-bly to the passage of HCR (found via Progressive Eruptions); more here. Polls on voting intentions are looking good, for now.

Holte Ender looks at how Social Security was enacted as a limited reform and then improved, as we hope will happen with HCR.

Maureen Dowd weighs in on Stupak and the Catholic Church (sent by DemWit).

The Crossed Pond argues that Republican obstructionism will fail as an election strategy. Tony Coelho says that bold Democrats can turn it against them.

Bruce Bartlett comments on AEI's firing of David Frum for airing his dissenting views. Frum speaks out.

An Orange county pastor calls for prayers for the deaths of all the Congressional Democrats who voted for HCR (sent by Mendip).

ZJ looks at another silly flap over disrespect for holy crackers.

In response to the endless child-molestation scandals, the Vatican has denounced.....the media (found via Oliver Willis). Oh, and of course secularism too.

Before he became Pope, Ratzinger was involved in protecting a priest who had molested 200 boys at a school for the deaf (found via Reconstitution 2.0). The protection was from a Church "trial" and defrocking; the proper course, calling the police, does not seem to even have been considered.

The Pope's feeble "apology" letter on child molestation in Ireland falls flat with the Irish (found via Oliver Willis).

Religious charlatanry, and skeptical challenges to it, are not confined to the West. Here's a great story from India.

Good news: a secular coalition has won the Iraqi election, though narrowly. "The results.....suggest that millions of Iraqis are fed up with a political system that revolves around membership in one of the two major Islamic sects. Iraqiya's win also shows that many Iraqis are suspicious of Iranian influence."

Green Eagle looks at Israeli "settlements" around Jerusalem.

Global warming has resolved a territorial dispute.

Sam Harris talks about how science can address moral questions (very interesting).

The basics of biology may be simpler than we think.

26 March 2010

Video of the week -- deeper than they know

Getting away from politics.....a tribute to the immortal Lovecraft.

25 March 2010

See something? Say something!

I've written before about what looks like the beginning of a new wave of far-right terrorism -- the Tiller murder, the Austin plane attack, and so on. With the outbreak of vandalism and threats following the passage of HCR, and the more-hysterical-than-ever rhetoric on much of the right, the danger of terrorism or violence directed against the political leadership and institutions of this country seems more serious than ever.

If you see or hear anything that suggets a serious threat, report it. The Secret Service and the FBI are helped in their work by an alert public. You could save a life, or many.

Link to FBI contact information

Link to Secret Service field office phone numbers

Challenging Stupak (2)

Anti-abortion Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak did eventually vote for HCR, after being given a face-saving executive order from President Obama which merely upheld the existing ban on direct federal funding of abortion. Nevertheless, the fact that he initially tried to impose far tougher anti-abortion language on the reform bill is disturbing.

If there's one thing that really differentiates (or should) the left from the right, to me, it's issues of individual freedom and self-determination vs. governmental, social, or other institutional efforts to limit that freedom. It's liberals who fought to end the laws against birth control and interracial marriage, who support the right to abortion, who rolled back the anti-sodomy laws, who fight back when schools, corporations, or other institutions try to assert arbitrary and unreasonable control over their students or employees. It's liberals who are driving the campaigns for drug decriminalization and gay marriage, even if many Democratic politicians do not have the courage to take a stand. The fight over the "social issues" is basically a fight over whether individuals should be able to live their own personal lives as they wish, or whether their choices should be arbitrarily limited by ancient religious taboos and the impersonal interests of giant private enterprises which, in practice, can exert far more power over individuals in most circumstances than the government does.

(It's true that the "standard" liberal position on one major issue -- gun rights -- flies in the face of this. But I don't believe this position is truly a consensus one. I've known liberals who were gun-rights supporters and even gun owners.)

In the freedom-vs.-control arena, it's hard to imagine any issue more fundamental than abortion. If you don't have an absolute right to make decisions about the inside of your own body, and your own reproductive processes, completely free of interference from laws or bullies or religious taboos, it's hard to see what right over anything you can claim.

Which is why Stupak is so jarring. I can understand a Democrat voting against HCR for any number of reasons. But a Democrat standing in the abortion-banners' camp seems like an absolute contradiction in terms.

Stupak has a challenger in Democratic primary: Connie Saltonstall, a solid liberal and pro-choicer who announced her candidacy only two weeks ago but has already been endorsed by the NOW and NARAL and is attracting nationwide attention. Seldom do we see such a clear choice between a real Democrat and a DINO.

There is, of course, a risk that Saltonstall might be less electable; the district, covering much of northern Michigan, is rural and fairly conservative. The danger is that she might lose and allow a Republican even worse than Stupak to take the seat. I haven't seen any polls on the relative strength of Saltonstall and Stupak against a Republican opponent, and it's probably too early for such polls to be meaningful yet anyway. But in this case the risk is worth taking. Stupak is too wrong on too central of an issue. If we could put Saltonstall in Congress in his place, we'd actually be further advancing the gains of 2006 and 2008, not just defending them.

McMillen wins

A federal court has ruled that the Itawamba county school district committed a civil-rights violation when it canceled a high-school prom rather than allow student Constance McMillen to attend with her girlfriend (ACLU report here). The court did not order the district to re-instate the prom, but stated an expectation that an alternative prom being organized apart from the school district will not discriminate.

When McMillen decided to fight the district's decision, she gained nationwide attention and support, including a scholarship. I suspect the glare of publicity was even more unwelcome to the district and its supporters than the eventual court ruling. Bullies and abusers thrive on silence and darkness -- they like their victims quiet and isolated from potential help. Sunlight, as the saying goes, is the best disinfectant -- open discussion of what's going on forces the bully to defend behavior which is quickly revealed as indefensible. The district retreated to a claim that the cancellation of the prom actually had nothing to do with McMillen -- something plausible to nobody, and quickly brushed aside by the court. The public humiliation will probably serve as a better deterrent to other bigots than the ruling itself.

The case has a whiff of Rosa Parks about it. Bigotry makes itself seem normative partly by arbitrarily denying its targets the right to do perfectly ordinary, trivial things (sitting in a certain part of a bus, taking one's girlfriend to a prom), and so when one of those targets insists on doing that ordinary, trivial thing, which would pass unnoticed if done by anyone not a target of the prejudice, the forces of bigotry have to blow it up into a huge conflict -- which reveals how stupid and nonsensical their arbitrary exclusions really are.

A point of interest from the ACLU report is the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, a statewide youth-led group which has been supporting McMillen and is sponsoring its own party in May as an alternative to discriminatory official events (not surprisingly, this is a common problem in Mississippi); its mission is "to educate teachers, students, and administrators about the rights of LGBT students with the aim of making schools safer for all." That young people are organizing like this, in a state as conservative as Missis-sippi, is inspiring. The future really will be different from the past.

24 March 2010

Reactionary rage

The FBI is investigating a threat to kill the children of Congress- woman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) because of her vote for health- care reform. Found via Politics Plus, which has more on violence and threats from the extreme right in the wake of the weekend's historic vote.

Update: Reportedly a gas line at the home of a Congressman's brother has been cut after teabaggers publicized the address and mistakenly identified it as that of the Congressman himself. Legislators have received a significant number of threats and anti-abortion Democrat Bart Stupak is being threatened as a "baby-killing motherfucker" for having voted for HCR (both found via Oliver Willis).

23 March 2010

James Randi's announcement

James Randi, for decades a fighter in the struggle of reason against superstition and fraud, and a person I greatly admire, declared over the weekend that he is gay.

I can barely imagine the inner conflict that he must have felt from having to keep this secret until he reached the age of 81.

Randi says that he sees society growing more tolerant, and that "in another two decades, I’m confident that young people will find themselves in a vastly improved atmosphere of acceptance." Let's see to it that it doesn't take that long.

(Link found via Blag Hag.)

21 March 2010

HCR passes the House

Congratulations to President Obama, to those in Congress who kept pushing for this to happen, and to the activists across the country who stiffened their spines.

The reform is far from perfect -- it's not exactly what I wanted or exactly what anyone wanted -- but it's a vast improvement on the cruel and unsustainable status quo, and in the months and years to come it will be revisited and improved, as such reforms have been in the past.

Now, is there some way that all the far-right loons who think this is a Communist take-over and Obama is the second Stalin, and all the far-left loons who think it's a corporate sell-out and Obama is the second Bush, can go off somewhere and fight each other and leave us sane people alone?

Update (22 March): Read David Frum's hard but wise words for his fellow conservatives, and Andrew Sullivan's roundup of reactions.


Yesterday's link roundup included this post by right-wing writer Debbie Schlussel denouncing Sean Hannity's "Freedom Alliance" charity for wounded soldiers as a scam, as well as this comment thread at The Crossed Pond challenging Schlussel's claims. The dispute has triggered a boomlet of acrimony on the right; the Frum Forum re-posted Schlussel's charges, then put up another post rebutting them -- but most of the commenters there aren't buying the rebuttal. Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin wrote a post defending Hannity and denouncing Frum as an "ass" for initially supporting Schlussel, only to be denounced in turn by Frum for failing to credit his writers for their investigation. More on the squabble here. I can't tell which side is right, though the balance of opinion seems to be swinging against Schlussel. But whoever is ultimately vindicated, it's an object lesson in the risks of taking a firm stand on something before the facts become clear. The resentments engendered by such a dispute can linger even after the dispute itself is resolved.

New items for the bookshelf

After several months of money being tight due to medical bills from last year's bike accident, some extra cash has recently come my way, and that means a trip to the bookstore -- online this time. A few of the items now heading my way via the postal service:

Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale and The Blind Watch-maker. Dawkins is best known for promoting atheism with The God Delusion, but he's also an evolutionary biologist, and having read his recent The Greatest Show on Earth inspired me to want to read some of his earlier works on the subject.

John W. Loftus, Why I Became an Atheist. I've recommended Loftus's blog before; as a former preacher, he knows Christianity well and is fully committed to the fight against it.

Christopher Hitchens, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. The reality behind the saint. With Hitchens on the case, this should be fun.

James Randi, An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. Religion isn't the only form of dangerous nonsense out there, and Randi is as entertaining as he is ruthless.

Evil, crime, and madness

Everyone knows about the child-molestation scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church. There is a pervasive pattern of priests sexually abusing children, and (even more shocking) an equally-pervasive pattern of the Church hierarchy shielding the abusers from prosecution, moving them to other locations where fresh victims await, intimidating victims into silence, and otherwise actively hiding the abuse and helping it to continue. The scandal erupted in the United States and Ireland in the 1990s and has come to light in country after country, most recently in Germany and Brazil. Thousands of priests, if not more, are involved.

The scale of the hierarchy's complicity is staggering. A three- month investigation by the Dallas Morning News in 2002 found that of the 178 Catholic bishops and archbishops in the United States, 111 had allowed accused or even admitted molesters to continue working, or otherwise protected them (see the bishop database). Cardinal Brady, the Church's top man in Ireland, was involved in swearing victims to silence and has said that he would still not report abuse today; the Church in Ireland is imploding from years of scandal. Before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope, he participated in protecting abusers in Germany and later issued a worldwide directive that the Church's investigations of priestly molestation be kept secret from secular authorities.

Such stories could be multiplied indefinitely. The point is that this same pattern of systematic protection of child-molesting priests, allowing the abuse to continue, has been found in the Catholic Church in many different countries all over the world, and that it reaches to the highest levels of the institution, and that this has been the case for decades. This is not just an issue of a few, or even many, bad apples. It is clearly policy.

There is such a thing as evil. Raping children is evil, and protecting child-rapers from prosecution so that they can continue to rape children is evil, and the Catholic Church is an evil organization. Don't tell me about the good the Church does. When an institution has committed evil of such profundity, on such a scale, it doesn't matter what else it has done. We would not have commuted John Wayne Gacy's sentence if it turned out he had often donated to charity. The Catholic Church is an evil organization, period.

Besides being an evil organization, the Catholic Church is also a criminal organization. By shielding child-rapers and allowing their activities to continue, it has been an accomplice to hideous crime on a vast scale, all over the Earth. In a just world, the Catholic Church worldwide would be treated like the organized-crime ring that it in fact is; its operations would be shut down, its leaders would be prosecuted for their actions, and its assets, up to the Vatican itself, would be seized and liquidated to pay compensation to the victims.

But we do not live in a just world. We live in a world in which the madness of religion still infects the brains of billions of humans, making it seem acceptable to minimize or make excuses for the most horrific crimes, if they are committed in a religious context. And so that evil man will continue to squat on his throne in the Vatican, and that evil organization will continue to decay and putrefy and collapse, year after year, revelation after revelation, exuding its rancid miasma of horror and corruption from its every rotting tentacle in every land, until the curse of religion itself finally passes from our species.

20 March 2010

Are we too hard on Texas?

Texas blogger Ranch Chimp posts about pervasive criticism of his state in the liberal blogosphere (I'd describe it more as ridicule than criticism, but that may be worse). Are we too hard on Texas?

I think there are several reasons why Texas gets as much flak as it does. For one thing, most people who have never been to Texas (as I have) don't know much about it. There is a lot more to it than the stereotypes -- see Ranch Chimp's post. But stereotypes are easy to latch onto in certain situations -- and yes, I've done it too.

Also, Texans seem to be pretty good-natured about the ribbing -- they themselves make jokes about Texas. People may feel more comfortable making fun of Texas than other states, since Texans seem less quick to be offended. In politically-charged times, this can take on a harsher edge, especially since Texas is the biggest consistently-red state and thus gets taken as emblematic of them. Think, though -- how many states have such a distinct identity that there even are stereotypes of them? Regions, yes, but individual states? There are stereotypes of California (gays, Hollywood), Utah (Mormons), maybe Florida and Louisiana, not many others.

Texas is also where Bush came from, and unfortunately he tended to reinforce the worst of the stereotypes.

Finally, there's no denying there's been a real outbreak of high- profile gooberism in Texas lately. There's the Repent Amarillo thuggery. There's the dumbing-down of school textbooks. There's Louie Gohmert and his demon invasion. There's the governor making noises about secession, which is beyond a joke -- that's treason talk. (And I'd say the same to all of those who sometimes remark that they wish Texas would secede -- it's not funny, and it dishonors all those who died in the Civil War fighting to hold this country together.)

But again, while this is all true, it's not the whole truth. A point Ranch Chimp has made is that Texas has a potential Democratic majority -- its black and Hispanic populations are huge, for one thing, but tend not to turn out in great numbers for elections. If all qualified citizens voted, Texas could well become a blue state.

Christianity, summarized

"The belief that a walking dead Jewish deity who was his own father although he always existed, commits suicide by cop, although he didn't really die, in order to give himself permission not to send you to an eternal place of torture that he created for you, but instead to make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh, drink his blood, and telepathically promise him you accept him as your master, so he can cleanse you of an evil force that is present in mankind because a rib-woman and a mud-man were convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree."

Found via The Atheist Camel, of unknown attribution (I know I've seen this or something like it several times before).

Link roundup for 20 March 2010

The Galaxy Song puts things in perspective.

If you're using the internet to look for work, watch out for scams.

Ragebot explains the headlines.

Wear a sweater today in honor of a nice man.

Oklahoma state senator Steve Russell wants his state to refuse to cooperate with a federal law protecting gays -- even if it means destroying evidence (sent by Mendip).

Liberal America is real America.

Here's how low some of modern conservatism has sunk.

A regular and always eye-popping feature on Green Eagle blog is the Wingnut Wrapup, consisting of quotes from right-wingers with commentary from GE. The most recent examples are here, here, and here. As with a train wreck, you won't be able to look away, and GE never seems to lack for material.

Teabaggers are confused on taxes (found via Dissenting Justice).

Retired US General John Sheehan speaks nonsense.

The AARP and the AMA endorse the health-care reform bill.

Conservative writer Debbie Schlussel investigated Sean Hannity's "Freedom Alliance" charity for wounded soldiers, with startling findings: "But it’s all a huge scam.....less than 20% – and in two recent years, less than 7% and 4%, respectively – of the money raised by Freedom Alliance went to these causes, while millions of dollars went to expenses....." Found via The Crossed Pond, where the comments thread mostly argues the contrary. Either Hannity or Schlussel is going to suffer a major loss of credibility.

Here's more religious bullying of atheists, this time in Poland, and a reminder of what real evil is.

John Loftus discusses child sacrifice in the Bible.

In the struggle against Islam, women in the Third World have a critical role.

The Jordanian regime acts to strip some Palestinian refugees of their citizenship. Green Eagle notes: "I predict that there will be barely a word of protest against this behavior, even among those who are first in line to savage Israel for far less objectionable acts." Me too.

"If you aren’t regularly stricken by how much more you know now than you did six months ago, what’s the point?"

ZJ looks at the anti-gay crackpot group Mass Resistance.

Pandagon explains the difference between skeptics and denialists.

Swimming with dolphins may not be good for them.

Robotics allows doctors to help where they can't be physically present (found via Mendip).

One gene could be crucial to allowing humans to regenerate limbs.

19 March 2010

Weak tea

The end game is approaching for health-care reform, with a vote possible as early as this weekend. The tone on the right is agitated, furious, sometimes even threatening. So this week's much-touted teabagger protest rally in Washington, their last chance to deliver a strong message to Congress where it lives, should have been a major event, right? Well, maybe not:

The 10 a.m. Washignton, D.C. rally, though, wasn't quite on the scale of some earlier events. The communications director for the Democratic National Committee, Brad Woodhouse, emails that his count is 300 attendees. "I've been to birthday parties that drew more people," he emails.....An organizer, Jennifer Hulsey, pegged the number at closer to 2,000.....

(Found via Mario Piperni; more at Green Eagle.) 300 to 2,000 people, for a rally at this critical stage of the game, isn't much -- especially for a movement that turned out 70,000 last September (and claimed it was over a million). They got a few good cups out of that tea bag, but there's now so little juice left in the thing that it barely darkens the water.

17 March 2010

Israel -- a serious liberal view

Thre are three issues on which many liberals hold views which are in serious conflict with essential principles of liberalism. On two of these -- gun rights and illegal aliens -- I've written a lot already, though not recently. But it's the third -- Israel and its conflict with Islam -- on which the desertion of principle is most flagrant.

There are very few cases in which it is so blindingly clear, from a liberal viewpoint, who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. It's sometimes said that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East (not quite true -- Turkey mostly qualifies), but the more important point is that it's the only liberal society in the region, the only one which accepts a broad pluralism in ways of life. It's the only country in the region where women, gays, and atheists can live free and normal lives -- the only one in which my own life would not be in immediate danger if I were there and the people around me knew what my beliefs are. The only place nearby that even comes close is the exception that proves the rule -- the enclave of Lebanon where non-Muslims and non-Muslim influences dominate. The Muslim countries around Israel are deeply under the benighted sway of religion, where women risk honor killings if they get out of line, gays face the harshest penalties (Jordan is an exception), and open atheism is almost unthinkable.

Israel does have some onerous religion-inspired laws, but this is due to its electoral system which gives the small ultra-Orthodox religious minority an excessive political influence. The secular majority resents these laws as the secular majority in the US would resent, say, a re-imposition of blue laws by the Christian Right. Ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel looks pretty much like hard-line religion looks anywhere else -- pious old bearded men in charge, restrictions on women's dress and social roles, etc. -- but the vast majority of Israeli society is nothing like that.

Zionist settlement in what was then Palestine extends back to the late nineteenth century, almost as far as the settlement of much of the western United States. During the decades between then and 1947, the Jewish and Muslim populations both grew rapidly, both fueled largely by immigration -- Jewish settlers came mostly from Europe, Muslims from surrounding countries due to the attraction of the economy the settlers were building.

Soon after the British mandate of Palestine was established after World War I, the British separated the eastern three-quarters of its territory to form the state of Transjordan (later Jordan), which became fully independent in 1946. There is already a Palestinian state making up three-quarters of Palestine's original territory. The remaining one-fourth, a bit larger than Wales, comprises Israel proper plus the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

During Israel's 1947-1948 war of independence, around 700,000 Muslims fled or were expelled from what became Israel proper, to the West Bank, Gaza, and nearby Muslim countries. A similar number of Jews fled or were expelled from Muslim countries and took refuge in Israel -- there was an exchange of population. Israel successfully assimilated this influx, despite the fact that it actually outnumbered Israel's existing Jewish population at that time. During roughly the same period, Germany assimilated millions of refugees from the trans-Oder-Neiße region and the Sudetenland, India and Pakistan absorbed millions of refugees from each other, large numbers of refugees from eastern Europe were resettled in western Europe and the US, etc. Two decades earlier, war between Greece and Turkey had driven hundreds of thousands of refugees in both directions, which both countries also assimilated. Losses of territory and flows of refugees were a common result of major wars at that time. Only the Palestinians reacted (or in some cases, were pressured by Muslim regimes to react) by clinging to an impossible irredentism instead of assimilation into the countries where they had taken refuge.

Various coalitions of Muslim countries have launched several wars and terror campaigns with the intent of destroying Israel; in one of these, in 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, giving the conflict the geographical configuration it still roughly has today. Note that between 1948 and 1967 when the West Bank and Gaza were in Muslim hands, there was no move to make them a state; the West Bank was part of the real Palestinian state, Jordan.

Israel's often-harsh policies toward the Muslim population under its rule may be rooted in the fact that half its Jewish population is descended from Jewish refugees from Muslim lands -- victims of centuries of oppression who now have the upper hand over the former oppressor. By analogy, imagine if, after our own Civil War, ex-slaves had been given a slice of Confederate territory to set up their own independent nation, and had then fended off several efforts by the surrounding "white" states to re-conquer them.

The misinterpretations of all this history which are rife on the left result from trying to force it into a "Western colonialism" template which it does not fit. If anything, I view the establishment of Israel and of the Maronite enclave in Lebanon in the same light as the earlier European re-conquest of the Balkans, Spain, and Sicily -- a rolling back of the wave of Islamic colonialism which had swept over so much of the world centuries before.

During the 43 years that the West Bank has been under Israeli control, urban sprawl around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv has spread into it across the old borderline (this accounts for much of the "settlement" activity) -- an almost inevitable development given the small size of the whole territory. Other settlements have been established throughout the West Bank, some by ultra-Orthodox groups and some by the Israeli government, with the explicit aim of making sure that it would remain part of Israel forever.

Which brings me to the recent flare-up of conflict between the Obama administration and Israel over the settlements.

Here is the reality of the situation: Israel cannot give up control over the West Bank. Without the West Bank, Israel's coastal plain, which contains most of its population, would be reduced to a width of between nine and thirteen miles -- a shorter distance than many Americans commute to work. The main cities would be within range of the same kind of rocket attacks which Muslims in newly-independent Gaza recently rained down on southern Israeli towns, until the much-criticized Israeli re-invasion of Gaza put a stop to them. Aside from rocket attacks, such a loss of strategic depth would handicap Israel in a wide range of scenarios. The fact that it has nuclear weapons does not render such considerations obsolete. The US, Russia, Britain, and other countries have much larger nuclear arsenals than Israel, yet they too remain concerned about conventional strategic issues which affect national security.

The situation is analogous to that of Czechoslovakia before 1938. The Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia was geographically essential to the country's ability to defend itself; but because its population was ethnically German, Western democracies forced democratic Czechoslovakia to hand it over to fascist Germany in exchange for promises of lasting peace. As we all know, Germany simply invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia a few months later. Western pressure on Israel to hand over the West Bank to Muslim control (if successful) might not similarly result in the destruction of Israel within a few months, but it is nevertheless a horrifyingly blind repetition of a shameful history.

This is why no Israeli government can stop building settlements on the West Bank. Whatever Israel may feel compelled to say for diplomatic reasons, it needs to keep on integrating the territory irreversably into itself. There can be no second Munich.

It's worth looking, here, at why this conflict has dragged on for so long. Wars normally end when one side decisively defeats the other and imposes peace terms of its own choosing. When a war instead ends with an armistice and negotiations, as World War I did, the result is often a new war later on. If the 1947-1948 war of independence had been a "normal" war, with Israel completely smashing its enemies and dictating terms after an unconditional surrender, that would probably have been the end of the conflict. Instead, every war has resulted in a cease-fire and endless rounds of the grotesquely-misnamed "peace process". Since the conflict has never been allowed to be ended, it simply continues.

The Sudetenland issue was resolved at the end of World War II when Czechoslovakia regained the territory, expelled the ethnic German population from it, and settled it with ethnic Czechs. The eventual resolution of the West Bank issue is unlikely to be so decisive, if only because most Israeli leaders lack the ruthlessness for it. But the much-touted high Muslim birth rate in the West Bank, which was supposed to threaten Israel with demographic conquest from within if it kept the territory, has been decreasing and will continue to do so; Israel's Jewish population has been increased by an influx of Jews from the former Soviet bloc; a trickle of Muslims emigrates from the West Bank to friendlier countries, a trend which would increase if it were made more clear that Israel will never give up the land. Over time these factors in combination will make the West Bank more digestible. Such a victory of a pluralistic society over jihadist irredentism should be celebrated, not obstructed.

That is the reality of the situation. I don't know whether the public American commitment to an eventual (second) Palestinian state on the West Bank, and the resulting on-and-off squabbles with Israel over the settlements, are the real US position or a sort of theater to curry favor with Islamic countries. Either way, such behavior is neither honorable nor realistic. Even less so is the naïve rhetoric of liberals condemning the embattled nation which, alone in the region, shares our pluralistic social ideals.

The ultimate threat

This made me laugh:

"If the Democrats use reconciliation to pass the health care fixes, Republicans have now unleashed the ultimate threat—it might endanger bipartisanship!"

Brad at The Crossed Pond

16 March 2010

Challenging Stupak

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), who added the restrictive anti-abortion language in the original House HCR bill and is now threatening to lead a bloc of his supporters against it because the restrictions were removed, now has a challenger in the upcoming Democratic primary: Connie Saltonstall, a pro-choice progressive. Democracy for America is soliciting support for the challenge here.

The fire festival

In Iran, the next flashpoint between the regime and the people could occur as early as tomorrow. The day is "Red Wednesday", the traditional pre-Islamic Iranian fire festival, which always falls on the last Wednesday before the Iranian New Year (March 23). The Islamic regime has always frowned on the festival because of its pagan origins (it dates back to 1700 BC), but this year Supreme Leader Khamenei has denounced it far more strongly, doubtless because the theocracy fears that the gatherings of people it brings out could turn into anti-regime rallies.

Video of the week -- where religions die

An encouraging assessment (found via John Loftus).

A silver lining to the cloud of paranoia

It's census time, and as we all know, there are people who do not send their census forms back (examples). With paranoia among some segments of the right at an all-time high, noncompliance by such groups could spike higher than ever -- perhaps enough to cost the red states a few House seats and electoral votes. Which would mean more for the blue states. Just a thought.

A crack in the wall

Is Google starting to stand up to the Chinese gangster-state?

14 March 2010

Atheist first, liberal second

Part of the reason I've been trying to shift the emphasis of this blog to areas other than politics is that I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the way the political conflicts within our country are defined. There are those conservatives who demonize everybody on the left, and I've had plenty to say about that. But across-the-board vilification of conservatives disquiets me too. The right wing is far from homogenous. There is a large contingent of religio-fascists, radicals, and crazies, but there are also many who don't fall into those categories.

Let me make one thing clear. I am first and foremost an atheist -- being a liberal comes in a very distant second to that. The present- day right wing's theocratic efforts to incorporate religious taboos into secular law leave me no choice but to stand with the left, but the right does not intrinsically have to be dominated by such tendencies. A secular conservatism that returned to the spirit of Goldwater would be a quite different matter. I'd still disagree with it, but it wouldn't be something crazy, not a threat to fundamental American values. As I've said before, debates about the proper size and role of government, about the best strategies for national defense, about how we can deal most effectively with global warming, etc. are debates that we need to have. Conservative viewpoints on those issues are not delusional or hateful, merely different. We need a political force to represent them. We don't need a political force representing reality-denial, hatred, and religious fanaticism. Today the latter element has the upper hand within the right. That's what must change.

Indeed, there are some issues -- notably support for the secular and democratic society of Israel against the medieval, religion-suffocated Islamic countries which seek to undermine or destroy it -- where the moderate right has a better stand than the left.

What I hate (and believe me, hate is the right word) is people like this. Not everybody who's right-of-center.

Limbaugh's haven

Rush Limbaugh recently drew attention with his promise to go to Costa Rica for medical treatment (though not move there, as was first reported) if health-care reform is enacted in the US. But why Costa Rica?

As this interesting news item (found via Mad Mike's America) explains, Costa Rica, despite being poorer than the US, is known for the quality of its health-care system. It has had socialized medicine longer than almost anywhere else in the world, and life expectancy there is longer than in the US. 25,000 Americans a year travel to Costa Rica for medical treatment, a figure which has risen since the start of the recession, as so many Americans have lost their jobs and health insurance.

So it's understandable that Limbaugh might choose to go there himself. But wouldn't it be better to just bring a similarly-rational system here?

Cool people on the net

I'm always on the look-out for interesting bloggers, and I've found some especially good ones recently. Some of the latest additions to my must-read list:

Four Dinners is a writer, radio DJ, driving instructor (in training), and dyed-in-the-wool Englishman of the slightly-curmudgeonly variety. In his hands, something as ordinary as grocery shopping or visiting a job center (sorry, "centre") can become sheer theater (theatre?). And anybody who has a Siouxsie and the Banshees pic on his sidebar gets instant brownie points with me. Mr. Dinners recently started a separate blog for his fiction writing (something I've been thinking of doing myself) and posts regularly at Mad Mike's America. Even his cat, Maximus Spittimus, has a blog.

John W. Loftus is a former preacher and minister now dedicated to the struggle against religion, who has written two books about the issue. Unlike those of us who long ago got burned out on arguing, he actually seeks out debate, and his comment threads reflect that -- though the defenses of religion are just as feeble as they always are. If you think you can do better, take the challenge!

God Lizard blogs about atheism after having toyed with with the idea of starting her own religion, "a lizard-based religion which would involve achieving spiritual epiphanies whilst basking on sunny rocks and teaching conflict resolution through head-bobbing". Her objections to religion are rooted in straightforward common sense, and the occasional Christian who appears in the comment threads needs to work very hard to avoid getting the point. Ms. Lizard (or can I be familiar and call you God?) also has separate blogs for photos, oddities, poetry, and life in general.

ZJ mostly makes YouTube videos on atheism (here's his channel). I admire his ferocious rationality (especially at just 20 years old) and his uncompromising personal style. Notable videos (among the ones that I've watched) include threats of Hell, Ted Haggard, Giordano Bruno, and this one of ZJ reading, completely deadpan, some of the comments on his videos left by religious nutters (he responds to some more of them here).

13 March 2010

Link roundup for 13 March 2010

With Four Dinners, shopping for cat food becomes an adventure.

Religion motivates people to get married.

Salvatore Pertutti is back with an idea about warning labels.

Who you gonna call?

Neal Horsley, that mule-loving Georgia secessionist (remember?), has been arrested for threatening Elton John.

Poor education can cost a guy more than just a decent job.

Blag Hag looks at the Itawamba county prom mess.

This was the stupidest test ever.

I'd prefer to avoid this kind of "humor".

Mad Mike and Bay of Fundie look at this week's miscarriage of justice on the Pledge of Allegiance.

The intellectual character of religion is summed up in one church sign (sent by Mendip).

Frank Schaeffer defends Obama against critics left and right. But Dissenting Justice thinks he should listen to the base.

That Republican fundraising-document fiasco has already cost them a donor.

Politics Plus and Jack Jodell assess where HCR stands now. Pelosi says no public option, but Sherrod Brown wants to add it later and Alan Grayson wants a deficit-neutral medicare buy-in (petition available at the link). And no, Limbaugh is not leaving if it passes. Update: Politics Plus speculates that the loss of the public option (for now) might have been the price for getting rid of the onerous and extreme Stupak abortion restrictions -- certainly a valuable achievement. An anti-Obama view, with a worthwhile comments thread, is here. FiveThirtyEight's assessment is here.

Dissenting Justice looks at Republicans' manipulation of the Texas social-studies curriculum.

Glenn Beck gets Geert Wilders wrong.

Is China bankrupt?

The new Catholic-priest child-molestation scandal in Germany may implicate the Pope himself.

PZ Myers, at the Global Atheist Convention in Australia, reports on the attitude problems of the local media.

The role of women in the Australian navy needs some work.

This year is the 1,600th anniversary of the Roman departure from Britain, and Hadrian's Wall will be illuminated for the occasion. (I've been to Hadrian's Wall. If you visit Britain, don't miss it.)

The ninth-century Anglo-Saxons had a no-nonsense policy on invaders (sent by DemWit) -- I'd love to see how they'd have dealt with Anjem Choudary!

11 March 2010

Wallace in the schoolhouse door, again

Constance McMillen, an 18-year-old student at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Mississippi, was planning to attend this year's prom there with her significant other. The Itawamba county school district, however, took exception to the fact that McMillen's significant other is also a girl. Last month the district told her that she could not bring her girlfriend to the prom, and circulated a memo prohibiting same-gender dates.

The Mississippi ACLU heard about the case and sent the district a letter demanding that it change its policy. Yesterday it made its decision; rather than allow a lesbian couple to attend, it canceled the prom entirely. It also expressed hope that private citizens would organize an event of their own, presumably one from which "right-thinking" people could exclude despised pariahs without running into legal hassles.

47 years later, the spirit of George Wallace lives on.

Until this week, few people outside of Mississippi had even heard of Itawamba county. The place is already headed for fame it will regret, however, as bloggers nationwide pick up the story. Among them is the inimitable PZ Myers (in spite of the fact that he's in Australia at the moment!), to whom I'll give the last word here:

I predict that Constance McMillen will be one of the progressive young people who will be fleeing Small Town America as fast as she can, as soon as she can. And the old geezers and flea bag preachers will sit around in their shrinking, backwards-looking community and wonder why the young people are so anxious to abandon them.

Dominionism rising in the Old Dominion

The new Republican administration in Virginia has already begun to make changes. Attorney general Ken Cuccinelli has sent a letter to all the public colleges and universities in the state urging them to rescind any anti-gay discrimination policy they may have in place (link sent by Mendip, who lives in Virginia).

Note carefully what's being said here. Cuccinelli is not just saying it should be legal for these public institutes to discriminate; he's saying that they shouldn't have a policy against discrimination -- that they should not be permitted to not discriminate.

The move has triggered protests by Virginia students. As college board members observe (see first link), such a reactionary action will make it harder for their institutions to attract top faculty and students, who tend to be repelled by displays of backwardness and prejudice. The state could ultimately be left with no one who can spell "Cuccinelli".

Mendip, by the way, points out that there is a sharp difference between "NoVa" (the "north of Virginia"), mostly the suburban sprawl around DC, and "RoVa" (the "rest of Virginia"), which votes Republican and produces people like the attorney general.

Update: Governor McDonnell backtracks.

08 March 2010

Video of the week -- welcome to the future

Keep moving forward, never go back. (Found via Oliver Willis.)

07 March 2010

The terrorist specter -- thuggery and treason

At some point in the last few weeks, it became clear to me that the greatest threats of violence and terrorism against our country now come from within. Foreign jihadists have not struck at our land since September 11; whatever the reasons are for this, those reasons will likely continue to operate. Internally, however, it's now clear that the American people's verdict in the elections of 2006 and 2008 have prodded awake some frightening demons which we thought we had put to sleep forever a decade ago.

There was the Tiller murder; there was the Austin attack, imitating (intentionally?) the method of September 11, though on a smaller scale; now there has been the Pentagon shooting. Much worse, I'm now convinced, is coming.

For starters, check out "Repent Amarillo" (more here), a Christian self-styled "army" infesting that north Texas city, whose agenda can be summed up in a line from my most recent video of the week: "Kick the shit out of people who are not like you". In this case, such people are gays, pagans, abortion-rights supporters, people who have sex outside marriage, those who like "demonic" music, and anyone else whose beliefs, behavior, or tastes do not conform to the barbaric taboos of the Bible.

These thugs are not exactly terrorists, although the harassment they have been inflicting on citizens of Amarillo is shocking. They are more analogous to the Brownshirts or the Saudi religious police. Their mission is to suppress all activity and expression that deviates from a particular ideology; in this case the ideology is Christianity rather than Nazism or Islam, but the principle is the same.

(One wonders why the good people of Amarillo put up with this. What happened to that Texas spirit of armed disdain for bossy busybodies?)

Next, we have the "Oath Keepers" (found via here), a movement dedicated to spreading sedition within the US military, although it's not clear to me how many of its supporters are actually current military personnel. It seems part of the Orwellian character of the far right to declare itself to be the opposite of what it is actually doing; just as whole herds of haters and bigots call themselves "patriots" while displaying that symbol of the vilest treason against the United States, the Confederate flag, so the "Oath Keepers" con-stantly invoke the Constitution while denying the legitimacy of the government duly elected by the American people in accordance with the procedures mandated by that very same Constitution. They wallow in fantasies about martial law and mass arrests and shootings of Americans, in which they would emerge as heroes of resistance -- visions that seem to be more rooted in video-game scenarios than the real world.

To be fair, far-rightists are not the only people who do this. During the Bush administration there were some people on the left who called Bush a "fascist" and imagined that he would contrive some pretext to cancel the 2008 election and continue in power as an open dictator. I recall having several exasperating arguments with such delusionals.

But those people were not stockpiling weapons and wallowing in lurid fantasies of violent "resistance". At worst, a few implausibly threatened to emigrate if Bush were re-elected in 2004.

It's hard to avoid a feeling that, for groups like the re-emerging "militia" far right, the gun fetish and violent fantasies are the main point; the details of the persecution complex, which forms the pretext for these things, are incidental. If bogus "questions" about Obama's birth certificate weren't available, there would be some other pretext for declaring the government to be illegitimate and casting it in the role of the video-game monster against which to deploy all those cool things that go boom.

Of course Obama is not going to declare martial law and put people in camps, but that doesn't mean the seditionists aren't a potential threat. If they look hard enough for a reason to fight, they will find it, whether it's really there or not.

What's really going on here? In my personal opinion, what we're seeing is a growing and violent panic at what are fundamentally cultural changes. Over the last half-century, white supremacy, male dominance, and above all Christianity with its toxic stew of bigotry and taboos, have slowly but steadily been displaced from their former position as defining traits of our society. Blacks, women, and more recently also gays and atheists have demanded to be recognized as equal citizens with equal rights; instead of the married-with-kids model being the only option for everyone, a broad range of lifestyles is increasingly accepted as the norm; the promise of a pluralistic society is being fulfilled. To people who were more comfortable to the old culture built on lies and silence and intimidation, these changes feel profoundly disturbing, even threatening; and the eviction of conservatives from political power in 2008 was the last straw.

Mix those feelings with a gun-fetishizing subculture and a religious ideology which believes it is the only path for everyone and has the right to dictate how everyone should live, and you're going to see an explosion.

We're going to see an explosion.

The bright side is that the width of the gulf, or rather spectrum, separating rational conservatives from the armed crazies and their inciters is now so vast that a total breach seems inevitable. It's true that there are crackpots out there (even a Congressman or two) arguing that the terrorists and crazies have some sort of legitimate point, but I'm seeing more mainstream conservatives aggresively trying to disown them. Our society is healthy enough to beat this infection. But I think there will be more violence -- on the scale of Oklahoma City or worse -- before it finally does.

06 March 2010

Link roundup for 6 March 2010

Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway by computer (found via Mendip).

British blogger Four Dinners will soon visit the US, but there's one place he'll probably stay away from.

Zirgar analyzes some Biblical prohibitions.

Granny joins the computer age.

These cute animals should be avoided (found via Mendip).

Some churches' attitudes toward suffering are downright creepy.

Jason of Indiana has a new license plate.

There's such a thing as taking online games too seriously.

Jerry Critter has escaped the tyranny of private-sector health insurers (I still have 15½ years to go). But we can't afford health reform for all.

Conservatism risks being trapped by its paranoid fringe.

The Pentagon shooting looks like another right-wing terrorist attack like the one last month in Austin.

At least one Democrat is invoking Jim Bunning against Republican opponents. Others would rather emulate him.

Throw them to the wolves! These guys too.

Teabaggers lose big in the Texas Republican primaries.

As gay marriage comes to Washington DC, Minnesota considers taking the same step.

The death of Sea World orca trainer Dawn Brancheau prompts yet another outburst of religious stupidity.

Sacrilege is fun, but it also serves serious purposes.

Detroiters are using unorthodox methods to reclaim their city. They still have their share of religious twits, though.

Yet another threat looms against science education in the US.

The "debate" on global warming is summed up in one cartoon.

A space image captures the world's biggest display of kitsch.

A gay prostitution scandal has erupted at the Vatican.

Australia's "Freedom of Religion and Belief Project" is in decidedly the wrong hands.

Expectations that Germany will bail Greece out of its economic woes continue to produce acrimony. Read this too (the German writing on the magazine says: "Cheaters in the euro-family.....Will Greece grab our money? And what's with Spain, Portugal, Italy?").

Dangerous religious fanatics infiltrate Britain's Labour party.

Here's a list of organizations which agree that human-caused cli-mate change is real, and of those that deny it (found via Green Eagle). Shows rather clearly what's actually going on here, I think.

Most of the cells -- and genes -- in your body are not human.

Bush's restrictions on stem-cell research drove much of that work to other countries. Now Americans travel overseas for treatment.

04 March 2010

Another one bites the.....oh, never mind

Anti-gay Republican legislator caught DWI in official vehicle while leaving gay nightclub with unidentified male etc. etc. etc.....Guys, this is getting monotonous. We all already know the biggest gay-bashers tend to be closet cases. Next time, can we get something involving sheep or inflatable dolls just for a bit of variety?

Found via Parsley's Pics. More here.

A tale of two cities

Gay marriage came to Washington DC and Mexico City this week. The latter is a particularly important beachhead since it is, to my knowledge, the first jurisdiction in all of Latin America to take this step -- and is already inspiring others throughout the region.

02 March 2010

Video of the week

It's on the links list, but I don't want anyone to miss it!