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!

29 April 2015

Long war, decisive battle

It's understandable that the battle for gay marriage, and the broader struggle for social acceptance of homosexuality, is important to gay people and their families.  It's a matter of winning critical legal rights and an equal place in society after generations of being a despised and brutalized minority.  But why is this battle so important to the enemy?

For it is.  As I pointed out here, American fundamentalist Christianity has chosen to make the fight against gay rights something of existential significance, their "hill to die on".  Republicans in state after state push laws protecting the "religious freedom" to shun, exclude, and reject gay people.  Scott Lively wants to confront gays with "the threat of the mob" bearing "pitchforks and torches".  Leaders like James Dobson and Tony Perkins are threatening a new civil war or revolution.  Mike Huckabee says the US is "moving rapidly toward the criminalization of Christianity", and remember, this man is not some backwoods preacher in a swamp, he's a serious contender for the Republican Presidential nomination.  The Family Research Council has held 21 days of prayer seeking divine intervention in the Supreme Court (Good As You blog has covered this in depth).

Superficially this seems odd.  The Bible never quotes Jesus as mentioning homosexuality.  Gays have been gaining social acceptance for decades, and gay marriage has been legal in some states for years, with none of the supposed dire consequences materializing.  At most, a half-dozen merchants have been prosecuted for flagrant violations of established anti-discrimination laws.  Churches have not been forced to marry gay couples (and they won't be, just as they can still refuse to marry divorced people or mixed-race couples or anyone else they object to).  Hate speech like "homosexuality is a sin" has not been made illegal anywhere in the US, and the First Amendment guarantees that it can't be.  There is no sign of the religion professed by 83% of Americans being "criminalized".  By and large, the growing acceptance of gays has had no concrete effect on its opponents' lives at all.  So why are they so desperately invested in this battle?

I think the real issue is not just the fight for gay acceptance but the much broader, more fundamental, and harder-to-define struggle of which it is part.  I call this larger struggle "cultural de-Christianization", the process of rolling back and driving out an alien occupation of the Western mind.  This has been going on for at least four hundred years on many fronts, including the rise of science and the scientific world-view (notably the work of Galileo and Darwin), the rise of secular government, the decoupling of civil law from the Christian taboo system, the gradual re-sexualization of mass culture and the public space, the decline of fervent religious belief among populations in most Western countries, the equality of women, the acceptance of sexual relationships forbidden by the taboo system, and many other areas.  A comment I've seen with increasing frequency on right-wing sites over the last couple of years is that the US is becoming a "pagan" country.  And in a deep sense, it is.

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).  In their own twisted and shallow way, the fundamentalists know this -- and know that the war they thought they had won sixteen centuries ago is now being re-fought.

[This is, by the way, touching on my fundamental vision of the world -- I'll eventually have a lot more to say about it, but that's a matter for future posts.]

Well, one of the sharpest divides between the Judeo-Christian-Islamic taboo system and the Classical culture was their attitudes towards homosexuality.  In the three great cultures of the Classical world (Greek, Roman, and Persian), homosexuality was an unremarkable and ordinary part of human behavior; in Greece, bisexuality in males was even a social norm informally institutionalized by society, though same-sex marriage, in the formal sense, did not exist.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam condemn homosexuality in the harshest terms, as a sin worthy of death, a penalty which is actually enforced today in several Muslim countries, as it was by Christian rulers during the Dark Ages.  For that matter, homosexuality was still brutally punished in much of Europe as recently as the 1950s and in much of the US until the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003.

This, I think, is the real reason the fundies are so agitated about the gay-rights battle -- losing that battle is a clear sign that they're losing the overall war.  Mass social acceptance of homosexuality, crowned by legal and broadly-accepted gay marriage, marks a shift of American culture from Christian to "pagan" on a deep level.

This was adumbrated back when some Christian denominations began debating the possibility of female clergy.  I remember conservative Christians arguing that the idea was dangerous because it was "pagan" in spirit, and they were right.  When you hear the word "priest" spoken in English, you think of a Catholic priest, but the word "priestess" evokes something pagan and ancient.  Priestesses existed in many pagan religions of the Classical world, but female clergy have not traditionally been part of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

But the present fight over homosexuality is far more fundamental.  Allowing female clergy has little impact outside the denomination that chooses to do it, but the new acceptance of homosexuality is sweeping the whole society.

There are battles which foreshadow the outcome of a war even if the war's end is still a long way off.  Stalingrad and Midway were examples.  After those battles, years of hard fighting remained, but it was pretty much a foregone conclusion which side was going to win.  In the war to roll back Christianity's mental occupation of the West, the fight for gay rights is such a battle.

26 April 2015

Link round-up for 26 April 2015

"Take it off!"

Yeah, but Mars doesn't have fundamentalists.

Are you old enough for the truth?

Next time, ask somebody who can read the language.

Here's why our society can't withstand the rise of gay marriage.

The Koch brothers may have overpaid for their latest acquisition (found via Politics Plus).

Funny how these totalitarian states tend to be so Victorian.

BDSM and abuse are polar opposites.

Scooby-Doo has a bit of truth for the kids.

Some textbook writer had a bit of fun here.

That Clinton Cash attack book?  Looks like there's no real substance to it.

Dress properly for church.

What's a biscuit?  Depends where you live.

The domestication of dogs teaches us a lot about evolution, including our own.

There are bacteria that feed on electricity, and they might even be useful (found via Mendip).

This Islamic school in Australia is apparently run by complete morons.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist view of the cosmos looks like something out of Rube Goldberg (found via Bruce Gerencser).

Gay marriage is coming to Chile.

The evidence is clear -- strong labor unions mean a better life for everyone.

An important point too often overlooked -- ignoring the existence of bisexuality gives undeserved credibility to the "ex-gay" scam (found via Republic of Gilead).

Sigh.....more disgusting frat behavior.

If you're keeping track of how many Republican investigations into Benghazi have come up with nothing, it was seven as of November (found via Progressive Eruptions).

OK, here's a church I might consider going to.

Green Eagle reminds us yet again of why they're called wingnuts.  More craziness here, and of course Bachmann is in a class by herself.

The data don't support the claim that Republicans can win by boosting fundie turnout.

Younger people are generally more enlightened, but there are exceptions.

Public opinion is turning strongly against anti-gay "religious freedom" laws (found via Republic of Gilead).

Delusional thinking is delusional.

Politicians "protecting the children"?  Bullshit.

Lucy Aharish is an Israeli patriot with a difference.

Jindal is working hard to destroy Louisiana's future.

Attacks on Hillary from the left are stupid.  The enemy already has her in their sights. Judge her by who opposes her and why.  Stonekettle Station responds to a Dick Morris hit piece.

This parent exists.

Jon Stewart has some fun with the Republicans' floundering on gay marriage.  The religio-nutters are going berserk.  Scott Lively, rather less funny, fantasizes about mob violence.

A professor at a fundie university was caught teaching actual science, so of course he had to be fired (found via Republic of Gilead).

Libertarianism has already been tried.

Classy move there, Taco Bell.

The gutting of the Voting Rights Act reminds us why the 2016 election is so important.

Suicide note?  Well, it's a murder-suicide.

Florida's Latino demographics are changing, making the state tougher to win for Republicans.

Yes, you nitwits, ISIS is Islamic.

Marriage is threatened by.....just about every aspect of modernity, apparently.

Never forget the Armenian genocide.

The configuration of pre-Civil-War pro-slavery sentiment is strangely reflected in the modern constituencies of the Republican party.

You're not worthy to help us feed poor people because you're a faggot.

The fossil-fuel industry is really shaking up Oklahoma.

Despite early missteps, Obama has emerged as one of our most successful Presidents (found via Progressive Eruptions).

20 years after a dire warning, we're still ignoring our biggest terrorist threat.

25 April 2015

Video of the day -- it's been too long already


Found via Good As You.

23 April 2015

Knowing the enemy

Sites like Republic of Gilead and Right Wing Watch perform a very valuable service in reporting and analyzing what "the other side" in the struggle for America's future is saying and thinking, and I rely on them a good deal for that purpose.  However, I also have a firm belief that to truly understand an ideology and its adherents, one must read them in their own words, unmediated by any paraphrasing or interpretation by one's own side.  Here are some of the sites I regularly read for that purpose.

LifeSite News is a traditionalist and theocratic Catholic news site.  Abortion, gay rights, and porn are the great evils it crusades against, and it also closely follows the struggle between reformist and reactionary tendencies within the Catholic hierarchy (making it a useful resource for countering the adulation of Pope Francis in some leftist circles).  Any hope that the hard-line religious mentality can be reasoned with will find little encouragement here -- anything that doesn't fit into the theological alternate-reality bubble, even something as harmless as efforts to stop bullying of gay kids, is dismissed as gay propaganda.

RedState is, I'm sure, known to most liberals, but it's well worth reading as a reminder of what that "base" we keep hearing about, to which Republican politicians must pander, is actually like.  The Bible is the framework for understanding reality.  Any concern about global warming is "hysteria".  Everyone who opposes the right-wing agenda is acting out of pure malevolence and hates America.  Secularists, gays, and liberals are pretty much the evil trinity which makes up Satan.  There's often actually more venom directed against "moderate" Republicans than against Democrats -- I've seen more attacks on Jeb Bush than on Obama, whose absolute iniquity, after all, can simply be taken for granted.  RedState suffers from a bad case of ad-clog, so be prepared for your browser to slow to a crawl.

Race42016 is a Republican forum for discussing upcoming elections, usually focused on the race for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Most posts are just summaries of polls, with the real life of the site being on the comment threads.  The full range of tendencies within the party is represented, and debates among fundies, libertarians, and moderates often get quite heated and nasty, illustrating why the latter group has tended to drift away from the party.

Popular Liberty represents the Paulist libertarian branch of the right wing (until recently the site was called The Daily Paul).  Occasional flashes of sanity like pro-drug-legalization posts are balanced by lunges into conspiracy theories and tedious blather about currency and the gold standard.  Useful reading for liberals who think the libertarians are an alternative to the frustratingly-centrist Democratic party -- there are some worthwhile strains of thought here, but in practice they can't be disentangled from teh crayzee.

I also occasionally look at National Review (a sadly wingnutized shadow of what it was under Buckley), PJ Media, Breitbart, HotAir (more ad-clog), and PowerLine.  Don't overdo it, though.  Too much of this stuff can get both depressing and monotonous, and excessive exposure to the kind of syntax and spelling found in their comment threads can undermine your ability to write correctly (I'm not joking, I've actually noticed my own intuitive grasp of such things slipping a bit since I started reading those sites regularly).  Spend some time on something light, colorful, fun, and non-political when you get done with them.

Links to posts on such sites sometimes provoke reader comments that they seem alien or unreal, like reports from some bizarre alternate reality.  But there are plenty of people who live and breathe that alternate reality, and they walk among us.  They vote, too.  One of the enemy's key weaknesses is that they don't understand us -- their view of us, as a look at any of these sites will attest, is a ludicrous caricature completely dependent on their own warped frame of reference.  We must not make the same mistake.  If we want to cope with and ultimately defeat the enemy, we'd better understand them the way they really are.

21 April 2015

Quote for the day -- the plague

From a posting on Nashua, New Hampshire -- the town where the Republican Leadership Summit was just held:

At the Church of Good Shepherd across Main Street a daily meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous had ended and several people stood on the sidewalk talking and smoking cigarettes, some looking as if their immediate future was simply the long day ahead, an agonizing wait before the next meeting when they would again fight temptation together. One of them, Eddie, a 26-year old-unemployed machinist, walked across Main Street to Joanne’s Kitchen & Coffee Shop, where he sat, sipping his coffee, reading the sports page.

"Heroin," Eddie said. "That’s one of the biggest problems here. It’s all over the place and it’s cheap too. I used to do it but not anymore."

I'm willing to bet that the irony sailed right over the heads of 99% of the people who read this -- and over the head of the author, too.

19 April 2015

Link round-up for 19 April 2015

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

Best subway station ever.

Work proceeds at the Large Hadron Collider.

Putin has no sense of humor, apparently.

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

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

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

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

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

The baggots' latest paranoid fantasy is the gay bomb.

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

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

How many of these supermarket tricks are you falling for?

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

Bill Maher owes prostitutes an apology.

North Carolina researchers achieve a breakthrough against Alzheimer's.

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

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

Republicans are more and more behind the times.

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

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

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

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

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

More corporate leaders like this, please.

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

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

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

Our system creates incentives for conviction of the innocent.

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

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

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

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

Why do zebras really have stripes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 April 2015

Hillary's the one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[.....]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hillary's the one.

15 April 2015

Persecution of Christians in the Middle East

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Sounds sort of familiar, come to think of it.

11 April 2015

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

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

Remember the good old days.

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

What would the world look like if religion were true?

This is the only Confederate flag we should remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrate April 9.

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

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

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

Why did the South lose the Civil War?

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

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

[Image at top -- see here]

09 April 2015

Treason and truth

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

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

Mississippi declaration of secession

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

South Carolina declaration of secession

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

Georgia declaration of secession

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

Texas declaration of secession

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

Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy

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

07 April 2015

Video of the day -- the enemy's mind

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

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

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

[Found via Mock Paper Scissors]

05 April 2015

Video of the day -- the Iran deal


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

Link round-up for 5 April 2015

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

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

Tengrain does Easter.

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

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

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

And somebody photographed the sign!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes a picture really does say more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some important truths about American slavery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Stewart's successor has a few issues.

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

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