Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

January 16, 2012

I thought this image was amusing:

Iran wants nukes

(From Wikipedia, via The Paltry Sapien)

We helped Iran acquire nuclear technology, strictly for peaceful purposes, you know. Even though:

…a 1974 CIA proliferation assessment stated “If [the Shah] is alive in the mid-1980s… and if other countries [particularly India] have proceeded with weapons development we have no doubt Iran will follow suit.”

Or, to paraphrase FDR, the Shah may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch!

It’s a good thing giving dangerous technology to puppet dictators never backfires.

Rick Santorum, Iowa, and the Republican Nomination

January 5, 2012

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum has some very dangerous ideas, but I’m not at all concerned about his strong showing in Iowa. The Republicans have been cycling through all of the non-Romneys. The white Christian Iowa Republicans are so horrified that a Mormon could get their party’s nomination that they’ve been frantically searching for anyone else to vote for. Just about all of the other candidates have each spent a couple of weeks as the front runner, only to be doomed by the fact that the Iowans eventually realize that these other candidates are even more reprehensible than a Mormon!

Maybe it’s time for the Republicans to actually read the Constitution, specifically Article VI, paragraph 3, which states, in part:

…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Santorum can attribute his strong showing in Iowa solely to the luck of the calendar. He just happens to be the non-Romney du jour. This near-win will give him a boost that will carry him a few days longer as non-Romney than he would have reached otherwise, but his record, statements, and platform will doom him to the same fate as all the others.

The Republicans—even the batshit insane fundie Republicans—will soon come to their senses and nominate Mitt Romney. Romney is the only Republican candidate who could beat Obama, and it would be a cakewalk. Obama’s record on issues that matter to liberals is so dismal that he will receive few votes from that side. Moderates, of course, will realize that they’re no better off now than four years ago, so those votes are gone. Conservatives will decide that Mormon is better than Muslim. Romney could sleepwalk through the campaign and still pull off a victory.

All of the other Republican candidates are so extreme that if one were nominated, it would force moderates over to Obama, and it will be Obama who cakewalks to victory. Enough Republicans know this that Romney’s nomination is almost assured.

Almost. What a funny word. So fluid and undefined. You can actually sail a supertanker through an “almost”. You could probably squeeze a planet through an “almost”. You see, all Romney has to do to get the nomination is to not do or say anything extremely stupid! The funny thing about American politics, though, is that these self-destructive meltdowns happen with surprising frequency.

So now we sit back and watch for a meltdown. There’s so much carbon in the air these days, we just might see one.

Insert Joke Here

January 4, 2012

One of the raw ingredients

Brian just left a comment on my old Rick Santorum article, which was one of the first things ever published on this blog. I’m surprised he found it.

I just wrote a serious article about Rick Santorum’s near-win in Iowa, which I’ll be posting immediately after this. I tried very hard to avoid any double-entendres, intentional or accidental. That’s more difficult than you might think.

Since snickering at fundies is what you guys really want to do when you come to this blog, I’ll swipe a few jokes from Greta Christina. A few days ago, she posted this on her Facebook page:

Not sure which is funnier: the fact that the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote the headline, “Santorum Surges From Behind In Iowa”… or that fact that Rick Santorum re-tweeted it.

And now she has posted an entire article full of Santorum jokes. Most of them are tweets from her and Jen McCreight, as they watched the Iowa Caucus results come in. But my favorites are tweets from others:

@JoeMyGod RT @MSignorile: Tomorrow’s headline: Santorum Surges from Behind in Messy Late Night Three-Way.

@Mowgli3: Santorum gushes forth in the polls after Romney finishes early. @jennifurret

I’m sure there are a lot of others.

Death of Logic

December 20, 2011

A good start.  Now let's get the rest of them.

(from Gaspirtz)

I made the mistake of going by Clown Hall today. That’s when I realized that their name isn’t descriptive enough. It’s not just a site populated by conservative clowns who bumble and stumble with illogic and misfacts. It should be called “Clown Car Hall”, because no matter how fast you shoot them down, another comes spilling out. (For the record, I am not actually advocating shooting conservatives here. Just clowns. Conservatives are human.)

The first thing spilling out of the car when I arrived was a column by Cal Thomas, titled “Death of An Atheist”. It’s an amazing accomplishment. You have to admire the craftsmanship that went into it. It is one of the most concentrated pieces of fundie fail I’ve seen in ages. I hope you have some free time. This will take a while.

[Christopher] Hitchens railed against those who believe in God. While an original writer, and smart, there was nothing original about his unbelief.

It’s true. The non-existence of God has long been established as a virtual certainty.

Such views have been expressed since the dawn of humanity. They have also been answered by some of the wisest people who have ever lived.

Not answered persuasively, but answered!

There is a difference between “smart” and “wise.”

But you can add “ass” to the end of either word to get pretty much identical meanings!

As that Scripture in which Hitchens disbelieved says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

This is a typical fundie debating tactic. They just pull quotes out of their ass the Bible and act like that’s some sort of evidence to support their claim. Here’s a quote for you, Cal:

The end of your teens is the beginning of wisdom teeth.

You can attribute that one to me. I’m sure it proves something. Did I win the debate yet?

I have always found atheists to be interesting people…

…because they just may be the world’s smallest minority group…

Actually, atheists are one of the fastest-growing minorities.

…one that gets smaller still as its members pass on and meet God face to face.

Now Cal has wandered off into the logical brush. Somebody grab a cattle prod and bring him back.

Still, atheists demand physical proof of God’s existence, as if they could bring God down and make Him into their image. What kind of God would that be?

The God of the Old Testament.

He would be their equal and, thus, not God at all.

Wasn’t that what that whole Jesus business was supposed to be about? God made flesh and all that? Then for the next 2000 years, God made into a biscuit.

Evidence, alone, has never moved anyone from unbelief to faith.

By definition, it can’t. If there’s evidence, there is no need for faith.

If proof were enough, all of the unbelieving contemporaries of Jesus (and Moses) would have believed in God because of the miracles they performed.

That suggests that they never performed any miracles. In fact, the evidence that either even existed at all is scant for the former and non-existent for the latter.

Two people presented with exactly the same information can respond in opposite ways. Faith is not based solely on facts. It is a gift from a God who exists.

It’s actually a curse from our evolutionary history. We needed to be able to make correlations based on feeble evidence. Suppose you’re a caveman walking through the forest. You hear the leaves rustle, then a tiger jumps out, yet you somehow survive (perhaps by performing a ritual human sacrifice (i.e., you trip your slow, fat cousin, so he gets eaten and you escape)). The next time you hear the leaves rustle, it’s in your best interest to assume there’s a tiger in the brush, not a squirrel.

It’s probable that religious folks have been worshiping a squirrel for the last 4000 years.

Hitchens wrote a book called “God is Not Great.” It’s a clever title, but how would he have known, since they had not been properly introduced?

They probably had been introduced. People come to my door all the time, trying to introduce me to God.

C.S. Lewis, once an atheist and thus conversant with the subject, wrote after his conversion, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

I hope that isn’t the “proof” that converted C.S. Lewis. If so, he’s even more of an intellectual featherweight than his reputation indicates. If I’m reading it correctly, that’s the old “I see the proof of God everywhere. Just look around!” argument. In other words “Somebody had to create the universe!”

It’s also a good lesson in not believing what appears to be true. The sun doesn’t rise. That’s an illusion caused by the rotation of the Earth. C.S. Lewis was not a flat Earther. He knew that was just a poetic expression. However, for millennia, people did believe that the sun rose and set. No, actually, they “knew” it. They looked around, and they saw it every day. It had to be that way.

Likewise, you can’t look at the existence of the universe and “know” that it had to be created. That is a logical jump that you have no basis for making.

Some people exist, however nervously, believing that this life is all there is. The late singer Peggy Lee put the result of such faith this way: “Is that all there is? If that’s all there is to life, then let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.”

Although you can’t swill booze and engage in merriment 24/7, it is nonetheless good advice (in moderation). Too many religious people make themselves miserable in this life in order to buy themselves booze and merriment after death. The tragedy is that they are never allowed to enjoy the one life—the one existence in any form—that they will ever have.

Why contribute to charity, or perform other good deeds? Without a source to inspire charity, such acts are sentimental affectations, devoid of meaning and purpose.

What a cold, sterile life Cal Thomas leads. His only motivation for helping others is to acquire brownie points from God. It’s also selfish. Presumably he plans to spend those brownie points to buy his way into heaven.

If survival of the fittest is the rule, let only the fit survive.

The Straw Man argument actually serves two purposes. One is obvious, and one is less obvious. In its obvious use, the person making the argument invents a simplified (and often mischaracterized) version of the opponent’s position and logically dismantles that. It makes him look like the winner of the debate (at least to those who don’t understand the other side’s actual position). (The crocoduck is the most hilarious use of the Straw Man argument of all time.)

The less obvious use of the Straw Man argument is to convince the speaker himself. Cal Thomas is mischaracterizing evolution as being solely about survival of the fittest. That’s an important element, but the forces that drive selection and evolution are more complex. Furthermore, the survival of the human species is driven by more than just biological evolution. No society could endure if it lived by the animalistic “there’s always a bigger fish” rule alone.

But Cal Thomas likes his oversimplified version of evolution. He can comfortably reject that version. That version doesn’t challenge his beliefs about the universe and his place in it.

That was the sentiment of Ebenezer Scrooge before his visitation by those three spirits and his subsequent transformation. Let the poor and starving die, he said, “…and decrease the surplus population.”

It’s not just Ebenezer Scrooge:

Who is to say such a notion is wrong without a standard by which to judge wrong.

Certainly not the Libertarians or the teabaggers. I have no idea what this has to do with Christopher Hitchens’ death, but Cal Thomas brought it up.

To object to God is to create morality from a Gallup Poll. In Gallup We Trust doesn’t have the same authority.

That’s a cute line, but it’s irrelevant. Nobody is objecting to God. We’re only objecting to the behavior of some of the people who believe in him.

To his other point, we do create morality from a Gallup poll. Not an actual Gallup poll, but by the consensus of the governed. That’s how, over the centuries, we have determined that genocide, slavery, and capital punishment are wrong, to name just a few. All three of which, by the way, are approved by God as “moral” and “good”.

Hitchens was a gifted writer, but who gave him the gift?

This is a retread of the C.S. Lewis argument from above. It exists; therefore God made it that way.

Why was he not a gifted actor, surgeon or athlete? Why was he not talentless? Was it an evolutionary accident, which would mean his gift and his life were meaningless and merely a “chasing after the wind”? (See Ecclesiastes) Apparently he thought so.

And this is a retread of the “quote the Bible for proof” argument. Cal is starting to peter out (See Peter).

An atheist will tell you he doesn’t need God in order to be good, or perform good works. Maybe not, but the very notion of “good” must have both a definition and a definer.

Yes. Good is defined by the collective agreement of society. The definition of good has changed throughout history.

We cannot allow good to be defined by God. He is one of the most atrocious monsters in all of literature.

Who is the author of evil?

Based on the evidence provided in that last link, obviously God.

And if God is nonexistent, why do we call it evil?

Good point. We shouldn’t. Evil is a mythological term that has no usefulness in an enlightened society.

Is one person’s evil another person’s good? Does such a view lead to ethics that must inevitably be situational?

Yes. Not all situations are black and white.

(BTW, the essence of that quote predates the movie.)

Scripture warns, “The fool has said in his heart ‘there is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1)

I love that quote. Fundies love to slam it down on the table in triumph, as if to say “Checkmate, bitch!”

Get back to me when you come up with a better argument for that point, will you Cal?

In this season when many celebrate the object of their faith, there is no joy in the death of one who had faith that God does not exist. Hitchens now knows the truth and that can only be the worst possible news for him.

Actually, Hitchens can’t “know” that. He stopped existing a few days ago.

In the extremely unlikely chance that there is something after death, it cannot be the God and heaven described in the Bible. That book is so full of contradictions and inaccuracies that it can’t be an accurate description of the afterlife. That means that it is the fundies who will be in for the rude shock when they depart this mortal coil.

Limp Fundie Arguments

December 13, 2011

This just might fit

Since I have a second oddly-suggestive photograph of Kim Jong-Il, I need to write a second article. Here are some comments I found on a fundie “news” site about the Christmas trees that the South Korean fundies are putting on the border to piss off the North Koreans.

A Christian calling himself A_Proud_Infidel says:

Overseas, the Commies persecute Christianity worse than their ACLU brethren in the USA!

I don’t think the exclamation point means he’s shouting the entire comment. I suspect that’s how he always writes USA.

USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

Along those same lines, raffaro writes:

SHIT aren’t atheists pigs trying that here in America.Looks like they have alot in common with those Staliist pigs after all !!!!!!!

Camarottajr says:

I guess we have to wait for the “JackAss In Chief,” barack hussein obama to weigh in on this after he finishes his meeting with the mu slimes about tolorance…! My bet is JackAss In Chief barack hussein obama won’t say a word, what say you?

I say he needs to meet with the Christians about tolerance.

Orent asks why we allow North Korea to continue to exist, to which Lilly Maus replies:

“Allowed to continue?”…Did you know they have the bomb??? did you know they don’t have morals ???…Now add bomb + no morals = KABOOM…

I’m not sure what evidence the “no morals” claim is based on. I’m guessing it’s because communists are atheists, so of course they have no morals!

glenp827 writes:

CHRISTMAS TREE is a pagan symbol coopted for the holiday

to which Violet asks:

Is that why makes atheists so angry? We stole their Yule Logs and conifer trees.

Yes. That’s exactly why. It has nothing to do with fundies trying to turn the United States into their own version of North Korea.

Elsewhere on that page, Violet also says:

Guess South Korea is getting a taste of what it is to be an American Christian. We deal with this all the time. Somebody is always yapping about how Christians offend them.

Actually, Christians don’t offend me, and I don’t know very many non-Christians who are offended by them. We’re just offended by their actions.

Somebody named jong (really?) writes:

God bless those that put up the Trees. Throw a bag of rice at North Korea that will shut them up. Or even better put a nativity on the US Consulate and make sure it is well lite(I am sorry I forgot we have a muslim homosexual as President and Sec. of State is also a Marxist little chance of that happening)

Not to mention the fact that we don’t have a US consulate in North Korea.

Doug has a treasure trove of gems for us:

The ungodly will go at any length to stop Christianity at all costs. They’ll even risk a war, if need be. This incident is an example of their insane quest to shut down God in our lives. Outside our borders lays a vast world of hate for Christians. If you are a Jew or Christian, they want to kill you. Bottom-line: The world hates Christians and Jews………

And inside our country, these ungodly’s, have crept in like cockroaches bringing mayhem into our streets. We were once a peaceful nation, and now we’ve become a nation in terror. They want to take God out of the equation. And let political correctness rule the day. You want troubles in this life, leave Christ out of your life, because you will get no blessings from God.

And we’ve become a nation under siege by these ungodly nations. Watch how this Christmas tree issue unfolds in N. Korea, and watch how the media will fold into “political correctness”!

You Might be a Fundie If…

December 13, 2011

This just might fit

A fundie group in South Korea is going to put up three giant Christmas trees on the border with North Korea. This is part of the stupid back-and-forth provoking that these two immature siblings have been doing since the cease fire 58 years ago. They’re like little kids in the back seat on a long car trip. “Mommy! Kim is on my side!” “No I’m not. You’re poking me!”

Little kids with nukes, that is.

Maybe a better analogy is the crazy old man on the outskirts of town who has a vicious dog in his backyard. The neighbor boy thinks it’s great fun to shove a stick through the chain-link fence and repeatedly poke the dog. Not only is that a bad idea, but an even worse idea would be for someone else to go up to the kid and encourage him to keep at it. Jab that dog even more!

Well, an American fundie group thinks poking mad dogs is a splendid idea! Liberty Counsel tells us:

North Korea has claimed that South Korea’s plan to place three Christmas light displays in the shape of large trees is “a mean attempt for psychological warfare.” Their official site states, “The enemy warmongers… should be aware that they should be held responsible entirely for any unexpected consequences that may be caused by their scheme,” according to the Associated French Press.

Mad dogs are more fun to poke when they’re really mad!

This highlights the extreme hostility towards Christianity and Christmas that is still a daily part of the lives of those living in North Korea. Their government is not just content to ban the celebration of Christmas inside their nation, but is willing to declare Christmas lights seen from their borders to be similar to an act of war.

Wow. A literal War on Christmas™! It’s almost like Liberty Counsel is getting ready to make some sort of unsupportable logical jump.

Here in America, a Texas school banned Santa; a California school went another step and also banned poinsettias and Christmas trees, alleging that each was too religious. In addition, Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island renamed a Christmas tree a holiday tree against the wishes of the tree’s donor and the outcry across his state. It appears Gov. Chafee is well-suited for survival at the North Korea border. His policies are better for kow-towing to the Commies than celebrating Christmas.

And another Gold Medal in the Long Jump for Liberty Counsel!

They actually open their article with this “quiz”:

You might be a communist if…

  • You ban poinsettias from a government school;
  • You rename a Christmas tree a “holiday” tree in a state building…or
  • You threaten your neighbors with unexpected consequences if they want to put up Christmas lights.

They found a couple of instances of people being overly-cautious about merging church and state, and they think we’re on the path to living in North Korea.

Here’s a quiz for you, Liberty Counsel:

You might be a fundie if you equate the defense of the First Amendment with communism.

Parental Consent or Parental Contempt?

December 11, 2011

Ouch!

What gives the parents the right to make this decision?
(from Baloo)

Last night, while you were dreaming of swimming in oceans of dark chocolate or of fluffy bunnies romping through fields of daisies, I was writing this blog article on parental consent laws. No, I don’t mean actually writing it. I was dreaming of writing it. Needless to say, I woke up exhausted. Just once, I’d like to have a normal night’s sleep.

Anyway, since I did all the hard work last night, I might as well transcribe what my brain already went through the effort of creating.

The controversy is that teenage girls are getting birth control pills, and the fundies are having a conniption. I know what you’re thinking. Correlation does not necessarily imply causation. The fundies are always having a conniption. They have so many conniptions they look like an epileptic at a strobe light festival.

In this case, though, we know the birth control pills are one of the causes of the conniption, because the fundies make sure to tell us about it. Frequently. Here’s just one example. Amusingly, the fundies aren’t just opposed to giving teenagers birth control pills, which affect the body’s hormone levels and could theoretically have adverse health effects. The fundies are also opposed to giving teenagers any form of birth control, such as condoms!

(As a funny aside, one of the reasons fundies give for their opposition to condoms, diaphragms, and other barrier methods of contraception is those methods’ allegedly-high failure rate. Then the fundies turn around and advocate teaching the rhythm method!)

OK, so let’s take a look at these laws that govern the ability of minors to obtain contraception. A website calling itself contracept.org tells us:

Twenty-one states explicitly allow all minors to consent to contraceptive services without parental permission.

The other states have some sort of restrictions, and in some of those states “the physician may, but is not required to, inform the parents.”

My knee-jerk reaction should be to hold the opposite opinion of the fundies. However, I have heard non-fundie parents complain about the laws that allow their kids to secretly obtain birth control pills without the parents needing to be informed. I have not heard non-fundies complain about condoms and other forms of birth control. I wouldn’t be surprised if that makes them uneasy too, but it is primarily birth control pills that get their concern, because it is a medical treatment. They feel that should fall entirely under their control as parents, not the control of the state.

That is my interest in the subject. We expect the fundies to have an irrational opinion, because it’s driven by ignorance and superstition. But what about the opinion of the people who have a rational argument?

First of all, the most compelling argument in favor of allowing teens to get contraception without notifying the parents is that it is in the teens’ best interest. If the teen knows that the parents will be informed, some will prefer to run the risk of pregnancy or STDs.

But what I want to explore here is the argument that apparently bothered my subconscious so much last night that it had to work through all the pros and cons when it should have been sleeping. That argument is whether the state has a compelling need to interfere with the parents’ rights to choose how to raise their child.

I discovered a while ago that I’m that extremely rare thing known as a liberal libertarian. Surprised the snot out of me, but that’s just because I disagree with most of what the so-called “Libertarians” of today are advocating. Those people are actually anarchists, because they want no laws or regulations whatsoever on how they make or spend their money, no matter how much harm it causes to other people. They are sociopaths of the highest order. (At least the extremists in the party are, but that’s all you hear from these days. I know they all weren’t that way in the past.)

I have always been a civil libertarian. I value our civil liberties extremely highly, and I get angry at those who take them away. However, I recognize that rights will always come into conflict in a free society, and I balance the needs of the individual against the needs of society as a whole. That’s why I support the social safety net of jobless benefits, universal health care (In some form. It doesn’t have to be a big-government Canadian-style system. I just want a system that covers everyone at a fair price and works well. The current system does none of those things.), etc. It is in the best interest of society to not throw people under the bus when they have a bit of bad luck. You don’t want welfare queens, of course, but almost none of those ever existed. (That was one of Reagan’s many deluded fantasies.)

So the question is, where in the Constitution did we turn over our rights as parents to the state? By what right or authority does the government think it has to intervene in raising our children?

My response is that that is not the appropriate question.

The real question is what gives you, the parents, the right to violate your child’s privacy?

(Actually, this is all academic to me, since I’m not a parent. Ha! The government isn’t taking my rights away!)

Rights first and foremost belong to the individual. Only when there is a compelling need can some of those rights be taken over by another entity. Therefore, the default condition is that the child has full and total rights as an individual, and has only lost those rights to the parent (or the state) as are necessary for the situation.

Before you go all bonkers on me, I am not advocating that a one-day-old infant has full rights to vote, buy booze, and drive a car. What I am saying is that we as a society long ago agreed that upon birth, a person has some rights that cannot be taken away, and we gradually allow them to acquire more rights as they mature.

You cannot kill an infant (Actually, you can. They’re quite defenseless, and they have a squishy spot on the top of their head. What I mean is you can’t legally kill an infant.). Therefore, we all agree that the infant has the right to life, and probably a few other rights. When they turn 13, they can join Facebook. When they turn 16, we let them drive. At 18, they can vote. At 21, they can buy alcohol. At 35, they can become president.

No so many years ago, we executed a 14-year-old in this country (and after a forced confession, no less!). Although we no longer execute minors, we still lock them up in adult prisons when we don’t like what they’ve done. We’ve apparently all agreed that a teenager is capable of enough rational thought to be held responsible for criminal activity, yet we don’t think they have enough rational thought to take responsibility for sexual activity?

Wrong. We have already agreed that they have they necessary capacity at that age. We have already given them those rights. That’s why the parents should not be told when their little darling is given a prescription for The Pill.

Oh My God! They Killed Santa!

December 9, 2011

Looks like it took multiple shots

And they seem pretty proud of it, too. Be sure to tag him, or you’ll get fined.