31 May 2015

Link round-up for 31 May 2015

We'll be hearing more and more of this in coming years:  "It's not global warming!  My imaginary friend is mad at you!"  Of course, by this argument Denmark and the Netherlands would now be under water.

Oregon has a turbulent history, in its own way.

Mesmerizin' minerals.....

Scientists in Sheffield and Copenhagen discover a way to stop metastasis of breast cancer.

It looks like our solar system is something of a freak case.

Charlie probably has better things to do than come hang out with these doofuses (found via Mendip).

Hey, did McCain just call himself an idiot?

Check out Coober Pedy, Australia's heat-proof underground town (found via GoodShit).

ISIS says it won't destroy Palmyra, or at least not most of it.

Green Eagle finds a conservative who believes we don't have enough inequality.

Hamas used the 2014 Gaza conflict as cover to murder its political opponents.

Texas Republicans freak out as some of "their" women momentarily rebel over abortion.

This is how anti-abortion rules work in the real world.

The enemy denounces Ireland's gay-marriage referendum as a "defeat for humanity" (found via Republic of Gilead) and as "defiance of God" -- hey, you guys ain't seen nothin' yet!  Breitbart was pinning its hopes on the Muslim vote (yes, really!), while the Westboro Baptist Church can't even figure out the Irish flag.

Russia still has a lo-o-o-ong way to go.

Religious creeps ban women from driving.  Saudi Arabia?  No, London.

Jim Wright wants Presidential candidates to answer the real questions.

Here's another example of what happens when the damn government won't spend money.  Most Americans have no idea how far we're falling behind.  Maybe too much of Congress is elected by places like this.

If the US wants to do more against ISIS, then it must arm the Kurds directly rather than via the inept Iraqi state.

Why does the US honor traitors?

Love, Joy, Feminism has a worthwhile insight into Duggargate (link from Ahab).  Funny or Die has a video that puts things in perspective (found via Crooks and Liars).  Bruce Gerencser dissects the "we're all sinners" horseshit.  A Republican state senator wants the police chief who released the records fired.  See more right-wing views, many of them vile, in comment threads at LifeSite News and Race42016.  Perhaps the language will gain a new word.

The legacy of insanely-long drug-crime sentences is a growing elderly prison population (found via GoodShit).

Jeb Bush's favorite author calls for plutocracy to subvert democracy. Booman has commentary.

Valerie Tarico gives ten reasons for being pro-abortion, not just pro-choice.

If the Bible is true, why has most of the world forgotten about it?

Oops, Scott Walker may have just ToddAkinized himself.

Jindal faces a backlash for his anti-gay executive order (found via Republic of Gilead).

In the unlikely event that Sanders starts getting traction, this is going to be a problem.

The NRA wants to save elephants by (what else?) shooting them.

Nigeria's new President is an Islamist and former military dictator, but he may be the country's least bad option.

Young Americans' accelerating abandonment of religion is linked to cultural change, not just the fact that they're young.  How do Evangelical churches grow despite this decline?  By cannibalizing each other.

Alabama is still in Wallace-in-the-schoolhouse-door mode.

Here are some rare photos from World War II (found via GoodShit).

You have more in common with yeast than you think.

Horrid parasitic wasps are a big part of our planet's biodiversity.

[Image at top found via Rosa Rubicondior.]

27 May 2015

Video of the day -- religious freedom

Betty Bowers really excels herself here.  Of her many zingers, my favorite is that America isn't a country where "people could be forced to deliver a wedding cake -- just a rapist's baby", with "raining men" a close second -- you know it's true!  Found via The Immoral Minority.

25 May 2015

Worst of times, best of times

I felt almost physically ill when I heard the news last week that Palmyra in Syria had been captured by ISIS.  Palmyra, like Hatra, is part of the priceless legacy of the Classical civilization -- Palmyra is actually much older, but it had its glory days in the Roman period and its surviving ruins reflect that mix of Greco-Roman and pre-Islamic Middle Eastern influences which, I suspect, most offends the Islamist purists and monoculturists of ISIS.

Purists like ISIS don't want such memories of the true pagan past to exist.  They want the Middle East's identity to belong solely to Islam.

I've been to Palmyra, though I was only 19 at the time and had nothing like the sense of history that I have now.  Certainly back then there was no hint that Islamism would one day go so insane as to try to destroy the region's history.

Portable relics were evacuated to Damascus before Palmyra fell, but the buildings cannot be moved.  If the jihadists decide to destroy them, there will be no way to prevent it.

So why do I say "best of times" as well as "worst of times"?  Because paradoxically, just as the old world's physical remains are threatened with destruction in Syria, its spirit is coming very much alive in Ireland.

In a land where until recently a slightly-different Abrahamic monotheism imposed its own mental totalitarianism not too different from what the Islamists aspire to, that tyranny has been almost completely swept away.

The fact that this crowning victory took the form of a public vindication of gay rights is hugely, centrally significant.  As I explained here, one of the starkest differences between the Classical civilization and the Christian/Islamic societies that followed its downfall is their respective attitudes toward homosexuality.  That's why the modern West's Christian hard-liners view growing acceptance of gays as an absolutely existential threat, something they must go all-out to fight against, their "hill to die on" (and ISIS and several Islamist regimes single out gays for execution).  They view growing social acceptance of homosexuality as a decisive sign of the fundamental re-paganization of our societies -- and they are correct to do so.

Even if the thugs of ISIS blast down every last column and wall that stands in Palmyra, they can take away nothing from the greatness of the ancients (largely their own ancestors!) who built those things, beside whom they and those like them can only be the merest scuttling rodents.  No matter what ISIS destroys, in the end it will be defeated, even if that takes another year or two.  What it stands for will be defeated, even if that takes another decade or two.  It's the victory won in Ireland last week that will endure, part of an ongoing social transformation that will sweep away the hatreds and horrors -- eventually, even in Syria and countries like it.

24 May 2015

Duggargate -- an observation

One point that struck me about Huckabee's statement on the Duggar molestation scandal was its lack of interest in the girls who were victimized.  Huckabee offers plenty of painfully-nuanced words on Josh Duggar's exact moral status and that of his actions, and even attacks the media for turning this rock over, but has very little to say about the victims.  The same is true of the Duggar family's official statements on the scandal, notably Josh's remark that "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life" -- ruining his life, not the lives of those he molested.  See also this collection of pro-Duggar comments by fans -- it's all about Josh, how he must have been tempted, the merits of his actions since, whether God has forgiven him, etc.  Not a word about the victims.  It reminds me of the attitudes of Catholic Church officials shielding molesting priests.

I think this reflects an important difference between secular and religious morality. From a secular viewpoint, it's only the existence of a victim that makes something wrong at all -- an action is wrong only if, and only because, it harms someone else. Religious "morality" is based on taboo systems. An action is wrong because it violates a taboo -- whether it harms anyone or not is irrelevant. The important issue is not the effect on the victim (or even whether there is one), but rather the moral trajectory of the perpetrator -- did he repent, does God forgive him, etc.

Hence I generally refer to religious "morality" by the term "taboo system". It's not real morality at all.

Link round-up for 24 May 2015

Here's a place with more water than we have.

Rosa Rubicondior assesses Ireland's gay-marriage referendum in the context of Ireland's history under the domination of the Catholic Church, while Republic of Gilead looks at the Church's fecklessness in the face of defeat.  See also this post by Lisa O'Carroll.  And here's how the campaign played out on the net (LOL at the Bishopstown Bar breakfast special).

Republic of Gilead analyzes Huckabee's post on the Duggar scandal, while Race42016 looks at Huckabee's future and conservatives hash things out in the comments.  Charles Johnson hopes the scandal will draw attention to the Quiverfull movement.  Religious Duggar fans indulge in some excuse-making (found via Republic of Gilead).  Lady Atheist has the sordid details of what they're making excuses for.

Here's another case of youthful fundie sister-molesters.  Is this becoming a trend?

Bees have a friend at the top.

Republicans haven't changed.

Want more growth?  Follow the example of the fastest-growing economy in the Americas.

Right-wing media are grossly distorting the story of that anti-gay-marriage jeweler in Toronto.

The Catholic Church struggles with minor concessions to modernity, not that they'd be nearly enough to slow its decline.

After Ireland, could Colombia be next?

In the US, support for gay marriage is still rising.

On marijuana, Republicans are out of touch with the country.

Why are Americans turning away from Christianity?  Maybe because it now looks like this.  But the fundies have no clue what to do about it (found via Republic of Gilead).

I've always suspected that this is why believers hate atheists.

Don't be fooled by Rand Paul's NSA filibuster.  And Jeb isn't so moderate.

Baptist pastor Steven Anderson thinks anti-gay businesses aren't anti-gay enough (found via Republic of Gilead) -- by the way, that last quote about women is direct from the Bible.

Horizons looks at acting DOJ director Vanita Gupta, one of the Obama administration's under-reported success stories.

What are the roots of white-on-white gang crime?

Luis Lang finally recognizes that Republicans, not Obamacare, are responsible for his plight -- now he just has to hope they lose at the Supreme Court (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

The Bible has the answers.

American airports are terrible.

Here's an interview with World War II historian Anthony Beevor on the horrors of war.

The news from Antarctica just keeps getting worse.

Liberals shouldn't feel hesitant about voting for Hillary -- she's always been one of us.  She'll need to hold the Obama coalition together, but so far, Republican attacks aren't having much effect.

23 May 2015


"Oscar [Wilde] smiles in his grave." -- Stephen Fry

The vote-counting isn't quite finished yet, but it's clear that gay marriage in the Republic of Ireland has won resoundingly, with yes votes ranging from 50% in some rural areas to almost 80% in parts of Dublin.  Ireland thus becomes the first country in the world to approve gay marriage by referendum.

To anyone familiar with the country's cultural history, this is astounding.  Barely a generation ago, Ireland lay under the absolute domination of the Catholic Church.  Contraception and divorce were illegal.  Homosexuality was not decriminalized until 1993 (though note that even that was ten years before Lawrence v. Texas achieved the same in the last dozen states of the US).  The Church led the "no" campaign in the marriage referendum.

But every political party, and most other major social institutions, openly supported "yes".  The Church's millennium-old grip upon Irish culture and thought has been swept away in two or three decades.  And Ireland isn't alone.  Gay marriage is already legal in other former bastions of Catholicism such as Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, and other forms of social progress have made similar headway against the Church's opposition -- contraception and divorce, for example, are not only legal in Ireland but already fairly uncontroversial.

If the grip of theocratic bigotry could be loosened so much so fast in Ireland, it can happen anywhere.  Alabama, Mississippi, Iran, Saudi Arabia..... the future is coming for you, too.

19 May 2015

Voices from Ireland

This Friday, May 22, the Republic of Ireland will hold a referendum on legalizing gay marriage.  If the yes vote wins (and polls show it with a strong lead), Ireland will become the first country to approve gay marriage by popular vote rather than by legislation or court ruling.

For most of the twentieth century, Ireland was notoriously one of the most religious countries in Europe, though things have changed a lot in the last twenty years as the Catholic Church (the country's overwhelmingly dominant sect) has been discredited by the child-molestation cover-up scandals and other atrocities such as Tuam.  The Catholic Church is of course leading the campaign for a no vote, supported by Muslim and Christian immigrants who are small in number but fiercely socially conservative.

But the most moving testimony is that of individual voices.  Ursula Halligan describes what this huge expression of majority acceptance would mean to her after a lifetime resigned to loneliness and concealment.  Una Mullally writes of the positive spirit of working for the yes campaign in a country where prejudice and fear are still strong.  Fintan O'Toole, himself heterosexual, uses his own family to illustrate how the Church's narrow view of human relationships excludes many others besides gays.

A yes vote will be a victory for humanity and for human decency and happiness, and a decisive defeat for the Catholic Church in a country where, just a generation ago, its grip was firmer and crueler than in any other.

17 May 2015

Video of the day -- accent of choice

I'm actually rather intrigued by this.  Why is the British accent the preferred one in such cases?  There's a somewhat similar situation in Arabic with the Egyptian dialect, but the reasons are pretty straightforward.  I wonder if, say, the accents of Portugal and Spain have similar prestige in Brazil and Spanish-speaking Latin America.

[Found via Crooks and Liars.  The video is a tad NSFW here and there.]

Link round-up for 17 May 2015

You've seen the donut explanation of religions -- now here's the donut explanation of social media.

Tengrain updates his guide to the Republican candidates.

This table will baffle your younger friends.

What does it mean to be a man?  Views are changing.

Canadian money is fun.

Republican predictions about Obamacare were absurdly wrong (found via The Reaction) -- I can't wait to see a similar recap of their claims about gay marriage.

Where is the Confederate flag seen?

Poo-filled monsters are crawling on your face, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Life in colonial America was a ghastly nightmare, apparently.

Modern church music makes a thinly-disguised appeal to sexuality.

Ireland may soon become the first country to legalize gay marriage by referendum.

Read one detainee's story of what goes on at the Homan Square police detention center, Chicago.

Texas blogger Shiplord Kirel fears Jade Helm paranoia could trigger an actual insurrection in the state.  The fact that the exercise begins just a couple of weeks after the Supreme Court verdict on gay marriage is expected probably won't help matters.

Here's how to tell if your religious liberties are being violated.

Jeb Bush won't give a straight answer on Iraq, because he can't.

"Toughen up", the school told bullied students, and now a 12-year-old has committed suicide.

Anybody remember this?  Didn't think so.

Here's how a fake patriot talks about a real one.

It's a rare thing these days, to have a chance to free a slave.

Go ahead, tell me this guy didn't deserve the death penalty.

Sometimes people get what they vote for. And sometimes consequences must be faced.

As marriage changes, so do wedding dresses.

A modern city begins to reveal its very different past.

Gay-haters beware -- Mike Pence's lunge into bigotry has destroyed him.

Yes, they really are this dumb.

Southwest Airlines needs to be sued out of existence, if this story is true.

Republican debate plans are edging into affirmative action.

What the hell are those bright spots on Ceres anyway?

Texas Republicans come up with yet another way to stigmatize the poor (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Birds still carry genes for traits of their dinosaur ancestors, and can be made to express them.

Related to amphetamine?  Why do people use this shit?

An Iowa landowner gets a startling offer from an oil-pipeline company.

Can the wingnuts stop Jeb in the primaries?  Probably not.

Antarctica's Larsen B ice shelf is in the verge of collapse.

If you're worried about the Clinton Foundation, check this out.

[Image at top found via Rosa Rubicondior.  The tendonitis is finally clearing up, thank goodness.  I was getting pretty tired of typing everything one-handed.]

15 May 2015

Video of the day -- educating aunt Jessica

From the "Soap" TV show around 1980.  I know people of whom I suspect an effort at intelligent conversation might actually go like this -- don't we all?

12 May 2015

The Middle East -- no different world

"The occupation of our brains by gods is the worst form of occupation."

-- Abdullah al-Qasemi, Saudi Arabian atheist

Part of the reason Westerners often find the Middle East (including North Africa for purposes of this discussion) hard to understand is that we have been taught to think of it as something alien and other, a place on the far side of an Alice-in-Wonderland mirror where everything is different and incomprehensible, where familiar rules do not apply.  As a result, we fail to see commonalities between trends and events there and here, and we judge them by different standards.

In fact, European and Middle Eastern civilization have common roots in the great Classical (Greco-Roman-Persian) cultures and in the even earlier societies such as Babylon and Egypt from which the Classical world itself developed.   The history of the whole super-region has followed the same overall pattern -- the catastrophic rise of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Islam) followed by the long struggle between those who were utterly in thrall to those religions and those who kept fighting to rebuild and advance civilization, often under Classical inspiration.  As I put it here:

The beginning of the Dark Ages was marked by the destruction of the remnants of the Classical civilization by Christianity (and by Islam, in the east and south of the old Classical world). The wreckage of that pagan civilization, warped and polluted by Christian taboos and dogmas, eventually evolved into Western culture as we know it today (again, in the east and south, a parallel development happened under the "occupation" of Islam).

The trajectory of the struggle naturally was somewhat different in different areas.  The lands under Muslim rule initially did a better job of preserving and translating Hellenistic philosophy and science (perhaps because most of the Hellenistic civilization had been in lands which later fell to Islam), leading to the great "Islamic civilization" of the 7th through 11th centuries, which Ibn Warraq correctly explains was not Islamic at all but a Hellenistic revival under Islamic rule, eventually suffocated by the rigid theologians who had been working against it from the beginning.  Under western Christianity the collapse was almost total, followed by a long slow recovery until the dramatic revival of the Classical-inspired Renaissance, a "rebirth" which has been bitterly resisted by Christianity at every step from Galileo to Darwin to stem-cell research.  The struggles in the two areas were and are more alike than different -- the forces of enlightenment in both were broadly similar, the forces of religious reaction and obscurantism were broadly similar.

The very concept of splitting the old common realm into two halves, a "Christian world" and an "Islamic world", is itself a lie, a trick, a way in which the enemy has imposed its own paradigm as part of our world-view.  Unfortunately it has worked.

The commonalities in the present struggle against fundamentalist Christianity and militant Islam seem impossible to ignore, yet people caught up in the smaller-scale dynamics of the left-vs-right conflict with American society often seen unable to escape the categories imposed by that conflict and to see the real situation.  (I'm more of a big-picture guy myself -- leaders and political parties and even countries come and go, but the broader patterns of civilizational struggle remain what they are.)  To them, the Middle East is not a complex region engaged in the same kind of internal struggle as our own society is.  It's a secondary arena in the internal American left-vs-right battle, to be paid attention only insofar as what happens there can be interpreted to score points in this argument here at home.  It's an inchoate mass of "Muslims", one more group to be plugged into the existing paradigm of internal American or European arguments about racism, immigration, discrimination, etc.

(I'm not only singling out liberals here.  The right wing is just as wrong in embracing a Huntingdonian "clash of civilizations" model when the real clash is not between civilizations but within them.)

For example, vocal criticism of Islam sometimes results in accusations of racism, as if the Islamic religion and Middle Eastern people were a single, inseparable entity.  It would never occur to those who make such accusations to think that similar criticism of Christianity somehow constituted racism.  American liberals fighting against fundamentalist Christianity would never mistake fundamentalism for the sum total of authentic American identity; they know that it's just one element, and a very dangerous and reactionary one, contending for power within a hugely diverse American culture.  But they don't seem to be able to see Islam in the same kind of role within Middle Eastern society.  In America, "Muslim" gets plugged into the same kind of slot as "black', "Latino", "gay", etc., and all hope of actual understanding evaporates.

Try to put that paradigm aside for a moment and look at the Middle East as a complex society in its own right, locked in a prolonged internal conflict between theocracy and secular enlightenment as the West is, and if you do so with a genuinely open mind, you'll be startled at how much more sense it all makes.  Huntingdon had things exactly wrong.  The demarcation of "we" vs "they" is not the false border the enemy drew down the middle of the Mediterranean.  "We" are the forces of secularism, modernity, and individual freedom in Iran or Tunisia as much as in the US or France; "they" are the theocrats and reactionaries in Riyadh, Tehran, Raqqah, the US Republican party, the alphabet soup of theocratic hate groups fighting tooth and nail to keep gays and atheists down -- and, yes, the Islamic extremists in Europe as well.  It's all the same war.

(As an aside, I don't know how the whole "racism" angle got started.  Over the years I've known people from Iran and Arab countries and seen pictures of thousands more in news stories.  They sure look "white" to me.)

But isn't the Middle East genuinely more religious than the US?  On the whole it probably is (as the US is more religious than Europe), and certainly the forces of militant religion there are more violent and able to intimidate secular people into keeping quiet.  But look more closely and a different picture emerges.  This recent report on atheism in Arab countries, for example, reveals an ongoing secularization similar to what is happening in the West -- about 5% of people in Saudi Arabia call themselves "convinced atheists" (not publicly, of course), comparable to the figure in the US, and much higher percentages in various countries acknowledge being non-religious even if not quite ready to embrace the A-word.  The rise of unbelief is being driven by the same forces as in the West -- education, exposure to cultural diversity via the internet, and access to the writings of "New Atheist" giants like Dawkins.  Islamic behavioral rules in some areas, such as pre-marital sex and alcohol use, are quietly becoming more relaxed.  Fiercely-repressive religion-based laws, and the willingness of Islamist thugs to use violence when they see disapproved behavior, keep these changes less visible, but they are nevertheless happening.

Of course, you can find people in the Middle East who do indeed claim that being a Muslim is an essential part of being a proper Arab or Afghani or whatever.  But you can also find Americans who think you're not a "real American" if you're not Christian.  Such knuckle-draggers cannot be allowed to define anyone else's identity.

Christopher Hitchens once spoke of his experiences doing book-signings in towns in the American South and being met with large crowds of people, all of whom had thought themselves the only atheist in the town and were startled at how many others there were.  How many towns and cities from Mazâr-e-Sharîf to Marrakesh are gradually building toward the same kind of critical mass, when I'm the only one becomes Hey, there are a lot of us!

Treating Islam as a monolith and as an "oppressed" group, even when the issue is terrorist attacks on free expression, is an insult to all the courageous people in the Middle East who are fighting against the brutal oppression Islam imposes.  It's just like calling American fundamentalist Christians "oppressed" or "persecuted" when their relentless bullying of gays and atheists runs into some pushback -- a meme the fundies have indeed been trotting out lately, though it doesn't seem to fool many liberals when they do it.

Nothing could be more absurd than letting the oppressor claim to be the authentic voice of the oppressed.  Don't be tricked.  Apartheid did not speak for South Africa.  Communism did not speak for the Russian people.  Christianity does not speak for America.  And Islam does not speak for the Middle East.

10 May 2015

Link round-up for 10 May 2015

Hey, I actually agree with Miley Cyrus about something.

The cultural revolution continues:  more Americans would be comfortable with a gay President than with an Evangelical one (found via Republic of Gilead).  It fits in with how Americans are becoming less conservative.

That Nebraska woman who is suing homosexuals (all of them) quite appropriately gets the brush-off.

If you're a Christian business owner, play it safe.

Don't give too much credence to that Pew Center forecast on the future of religion.

Hey, now there's a computer game for Christians!

One profound change in just the last five years -- a clear majority of Americans now favor using high taxes on the rich to redistribute wealth.

Two worlds, one sun (found via TYWKIWDBI).

If Obama really supported Sharî'ah law, he'd be a Republican (discussion here).

You never know when somebody's watching.

Pinku-Sensei has been running a series on student sustainability videos.  Here's one everybody can use at some point:  natural ant eradication.

France's National Front party suspends the membership of its own far-right ex-leader (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

Harry Potter author, Scotland resident, and British patriot JK Rowling suffers harassment by Scottish nationalists.

Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal.

Rosa Rubicondior takes an in-depth look at two of the most famous fraudulent "miracles", Fatima and Lourdes -- seriously, if the "incorruptible body" scam doesn't disgust you, you're beyond hope.

Hillary Clinton has been a tough and effective fighter for human rights, and she's our best chance to roll back the Reagan revolution (found via Zandar).

This map of where in the US life is getting harder speaks for itself.

Sign here to oppose horrific cruelty to rabbits.

Some people call the cops when they see black people doing totally innocuous things (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

New evidence on bird evolution highlights the intellectual bankruptcy of creationism.

In Iran, it's not only women whose clothes and hair arouse the ire of cantankerous mullahs.

Madison WI becomes the first place in the US to ban discrimination against atheists.

Africa's biggest airline takes a stand against trophy hunting.

Whether in Italy or in Oregon, some tourists are assholes.

Earth-Bound Misfit shows off her aerial photos of the Mississippi (click for bigger versions).

Kaveh Mousavi explains in convincing detail why visiting a magnificent shrine didn't make him feel one bit more favorable toward religion.

Oregon now protects gay youth from "conversion therapy".

Anti-gay-marriage nuts are now reduced to throwing impotent tantrums and threatening that God will kill everybody.

Classy bunch some American Sniper fans are (I wonder if the idiots who are trying to blame Pamela Geller for the terrorist attack on the Dallas cartoon contest will also accuse Abby Martin of "incitement", etc.).

If your fundamental rights are being violated, it doesn't matter whether you're a good person or a bad one.

The horrors of rigid abortion law in Paraguay adumbrate what could happen if Republicans ever get full control in the US.

What would Jeb Bush's foreign policy be like?  Here's a clue.

Fracking chemicals are being found in home tap water.

Huckabee is basically Palin.

As atheism spreads, it's becoming demographically more representative of the general population.

Republicans have good reasons for discouraging science.

On Baltimore, we need to pay attention to both this and this.

60% of Republicans say if Jeb Bush is the nominee, they won't vote for him.  Most are probably just venting and the poll is by some baggot outfit anyway, but if even 1/20 of them follow through, it's a problem for Bush.

[Whew!  Still having to type one-handed -- it's slow going.]

08 May 2015

The British election -- some observations

Amid yesterday's massively disappointing news from the land of my ancestors, there are a few points worth making.

1)  Paul Krugman was right, as he usually is.

2)  Low turnout among young, urban, left-leaning constituencies was a problem, as has often been the case in the US -- highlighting the importance of understanding the reasons for apathy among these voters and overcoming them.

3)  The side which better resists the purist distraction of third parties and third candidates has a huge advantage.  Many of Labour's lost seats were lost to the triumphant rise of the  SNP in Scotland.  This likely reflects not pro-independence sentiment, which lost in a landslide in the referendum less than eight months ago, but the fact that the SNP is economically more left-wing than the Labour party.  It was the 2000 Ralph Nader effect writ large.  Hopes that the UKIP would draw off enough right-wing votes to cost the Conservatives numerous seats were dashed, while the Conservatives' coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, was obliterated as conservative votes "came home".  Right-wing voters were more united behind the main right-wing party, while the left was more splintered -- and we see the result.

4)  Conventional wisdom has long has it that opposition to immigration is a top issue with British voters.  Yesterday's result is evidence to the contrary.  The Conservatives had five years to reduce immigration and did nothing effective -- in fact, it increased during their tenure.  And voters massively rewarded them.  It's hard to see what incentive any party will have in the future to take any serious action on the issue.

5)  While disappointing, this is not the existential disaster that a similar Republican sweep in the US would be.  The British Conservative party more resembles US conservatism in the pre-lunatic days of Buckley and Goldwater (as Frank Schaeffer said, "you could disagree with them, but these were not crazy people").  It's inconceivable that a theocrat like Huckabee, an extremist ideologue like Cruz or Rand Paul, or a clown like Perry could ever be seriously considered as a party leader by British Conservatives.

6)  It's still remotely possible that Cameron will keep his promise of a referendum on European Union membership by 2017, but I'd judge it to be unlikely.  As with immigration, claims that British voters are strongly hostile to the EU were not borne out by actual results.  The UKIP got 12% of the popular vote, less than most polls predicted, and won only one of 650 Parliament seats.  Cameron now knows he can safely ignore it.

7)  Conversely, the risk of a break-up of the UK itself has now dramatically increased.  Socialist sentiment in Scotland and Wales is much stronger than in England, yet they are now stuck with five more years of austerity and general stagnation.  Don't be surprised if the issue of Scottish independence, at least, re-emerges over the next few years.

8)  Finally, if you're worried that this might be a foreshadowing of our own election next year, don't be.  Britain's culture, its political system, its candidates, and the character of its right wing are all substantially different from those of the US.  See instead the recent startling and encouraging result in Alberta, Canada, a country rather more comparable to the US.  Note too that turnout in that election was "the highest in decades", enabling the left to win in a province long run by conservatives.  As always, getting out the vote is the key.

06 May 2015

The British election on Thursday

.....is explained for Americans here.  For coverage from Britain, see The Guardian.  The biggest difference between Britain's Conservative party and US Republicans is that the former isn't dominated by religious fundamentalism, as is shown by its rapid evolution on gay marriage, despite pockets of ongoing homophobia.  Though politicians shy from discussing it, a major issue is the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union, which will not go away regardless of which party wins.

Posting may be light for a while.  I have a severe pain in the left wrist, which makes typing a one-handed and rather laborious process.

05 May 2015

My comment on the attack on the Dallas cartoon contest

Freedom of expression, including the freedom to mock and attack religion, must be defended without reservation and without compromise.  No "but", no "nevertheless", no "on the other hand".  Freedom of expression, including the freedom to mock and attack religion, must be defended without reservation and without compromise.  Period.

03 May 2015

Link round-up for 3 May 2015

Check out these Polish posters for famous American movies (found via Mendip).

You need to get permission (this would have been Video of the Day if I'd found a version I could embed).

If you're an atheist who's suffered bullying or discrimination even in a secular country like the US, post your story here.

In post-Christian Britain, the pagan festival of Beltane is reviving (found via Mendip).

Shaw Kenawe takes an intriguing look at the octopus, a surprisingly smart and adaptable creature.

This is actually pretty decent advice.

Colorado's anti-teen-pregnancy program is a great success -- so of course Republicans want to get rid of it.

No, I am not a social justice warrior.

Can somebody find a date for this.....tree?

Stonekettle Station on the Jade Helm paranoia is a masterpiece of its kind.

Bruce Gerencser hates Jesus -- the American Jesus.

An independent libertarian state has been declared -- let's see how many of our wingnuts move there.

Habitable worlds orbiting Tau Ceti?  Probably not.  But here are some alien landscapes you can visit here on Earth.

One law for Rand Paul, another for the rest.

Ubiquitous limestone walls are a distinguishing feature of Ireland's green landscape (found via GoodShit).

Here are the ten leading countries for renewable energy (#3 may surprise you).

Cool business idea (and he's feeding the homeless), but I can just imagine the jerks trashing him.

Rotten business idea -- make money by making life more miserable for prisoners.

"Not guilty!" -- too bad a lie already destroyed your life.

3,800 years before their famous extinction, the dodos were in deep shit.

Faggots cause meteors.

Talk about an uneven match -- Tom Cotton challenges Javad Zarif to a debate.

Republic of Gilead looks at Scott Lively's increasingly-deranged hate rhetoric.

Nigel Farage jumps on the Christianist anti-gay bandwagon, probably dooming UKIP's hopes of becoming a major party. Wacko candidates remain a problem.  The daughter of a party activist speaks out.

Rubio tries to lecture Obama on Middle East policy and commits a flabbergasting blunder (found via Horizons).

Secular Ethics debunks Christian arguments for anti-gay discrimination.

Baltimore was the scene of hideously brutal riots -- in 1812.

We've already had the debate on gay marriage, and the bad guys lost.

El Salvador shows the horrifying results of draconian abortion laws.

German car company Audi has invented a carbon-neutral diesel fuel -- potentially a huge step forward in fighting global warming.  Tesla's new house batteries could be another game changer once the price comes down -- more on them here.

Republican efforts to use Benghazi against Hillary will probably blow up in their faces, (found via Fair and Unbalanced).

The long-term effects of bullying are actually worse than those of abuse (found via GoodShit). Here's one victim who's speaking out and her shockingly unresponsive school authorities.

Why don't quick cuts in movies bother us?  Because that's how we actually see the world all the time, we just don't realize it.

Hillary doesn't need the wingnuts (and probably couldn't win them anyway).

The young are with us -- not only more pro-gay but more pro-union too.

This is a rather bizarre choice for funeral entertainment (link from Shaw Kenawe).

Yo Jeb, how's that minority outreach going?

Here's a revealing photo report on last weekend's anti-gay "march for marriage" in Washington (found via Republic of Gilead, which now has its own report on the event posted).

Gosh, I wonder why conservatives have such difficulty appealing to women voters.

"Christian Science" isn't as harmless as you think.

Stay the hell away from the terrifying machineel tree (found via GoodShit).

Ramona's Voices and PM Carpenter talk sense about the Baltimore rioting, but will anyone give them a fair hearing?

Here's why science arrives at the truth and religion doesn't.

01 May 2015

Satanism strikes again!

This is just too good.  A Satanist woman in Missouri, "Mary", who happens to be in need of an abortion, is using the fundies' own "religious freedom" law against them in an effort to circumvent the mandatory 72-hour waiting period.  Crooks and Liars has the whole story, including part of Mary's letter to her doctor, which shows the spirit of the best kind of Satanist:

My body is inviolable and subject to my will alone.....I regard a waiting period as a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion by instilling an unnecessary burden as part of the process to obtain this legal medical procedure. The waiting period interferes with the inviolability of my body and thereby imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my sincerely held religious beliefs.

She also has a GoFundMe page to help cover travel expenses -- the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic is hundreds of miles away -- though as I write this it's unavailable and may have been taken down.

Mary is affiliated with The Satanic Temple (which has her story on its front page at the moment), a group which has repeatedly twisted the fundies' tails by using their own laws and clichés against them.  They're out there publicly confronting and challenging Christianity in visible and meaningful ways, something not many groups (Satanist or otherwise) seem to have the guts to do these days.  They may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I'll be keeping a closer eye on them from here on.  Ave Satanus!