The Reasons for the Season

December 6, 2011

The reasons for the season

The above image came to me via email. It’s from Truth Saves, but I was unable to find it on that site. The site has a lot of other good stuff, though.

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As you’ve noticed, I’m still having a lot of trouble finding time to post new articles. Since I very much would like the site to continue, I’ve been pondering how to do so given the changes in my life’s priorities.

I have an idea on how to proceed. Long-time readers (if they all haven’t wandered off due to no new posts) might not be completely happy with the changes, but the site probably can’t continue in its current form. I hope to have some news about that shortly.

Jesse Helms is (Thankfully) Still Dead

November 10, 2011

I was cruising the internet looking for good photography, as I’ve been doing more often lately, and I came across this amusing advertisement from 1989:

These days, I think he's falling apart

Jesse Helms was one of the most destructive senators we’ve ever endured. One of his little side projects was trying to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, because the angry voices in his head told him that some art is obscene.

The ad above was made by a feminist group called the Guerrilla Girls. Wikipedia tells us this:

Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous group of feminists devoted to fighting against sexism within the visual fine art world internationally.

The ad apparently was trying to embarrass the big art museums into displaying more than just white guys’ art, so it’s not really an open letter to Jesse Helms. What does it say about fundie Republicans when they’re being used as examples of shame?

I think the reason the teabaggers and other extremists hate intellectuals and other educated people is they know we’re laughing at them, but they can’t quite figure out the joke.

Shooting Holes in the Gun Nuts’ “Facts”

November 7, 2011

I went looking for a gun graphic to illustrate a quick point I wanted to make. I couldn’t find that image, but I found this (on a gun nut’s page) instead:

It's on Johnny's Christmas list

Since I know a thing or two about school shootings, that image was begging for me to shoot it full of holes.

First of all, like all subjects, there seems to be a diversity of opinion on guns, and that’s fine. Some of those opinions are held by rational people, and that’s even better.

The problem is, there are some people out there with extreme opinions, who think and behave irrationally. Those are the people who bother me. They poison the well. They’re so extreme that they make it impossible for rational people in a rational society to have a rational national discussion on the topic.

There are several topics that seem to attract a disproportionately-massive share of the lunatic fringe. Abortion is one. Guns are another. I don’t know which has the craziest crazies, but I do know which are the most dangerous. Never combine irrational extremist emotion with firearms.

(BTW, just so you know where I’m coming from, I don’t like guns, but I have no desire to repeal the Second Amendment. I do question the sanity and/or logical capabilities of the most rabid of the gun supporters.)

Let’s start with the logic of the argument expressed in the above image.

Problem #1: Correlation ≠ causation. For example, CBS began broadcasting color television signals in January of 1950. Joseph McCarthy began his witch hunts less a month later. Therefore, color television caused McCarthyism!

Problem #2: Children did not take machine guns to school. Therefore, the “fact” that they could, in theory, purchase the gun had no bearing on the safety of their school.

Problem #3: It’s just plain incorrect. There were numerous school shootings prior to 1934! Where’s your machine gun now, Charlton?

For example, the earliest known school shooting was the Enoch Brown school massacre (a.k.a. Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre) on July 26, 1764.

Wikipedia mentions a few shootings in the 1800s. By the early 1900s, school shootings were all the rage. Wikipedia lists eleven shootings between 1900 and 1934. That’s an average of one shooting every three-and-a-half years. That’s not very rare, is it? Sounds a lot like our modern era, doesn’t it?

So tell me, gun nuts: How is allowing students and teachers to pack heat going to keep our schools safe?

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BTW, I just wanted to point out one of the especially unpleasant school shootings of the early 20th century. Read the Wikipedia entry for the San Francisco shooting:

February 12, 1909 San Francisco, California. 10-year-old Dorothy Malakanoff was shot and killed by 49-year-old Demetri Tereaschinko as she arrived at her school in San Francisco. Tereaschinko then shot himself in a failed suicide attempt.

OK. Murder-suicide. We’ve seen that pattern play out numerous times. It’s this last part that’s especially disturbing:

Tereaschinko was reportedly upset that Malakanoff refused to elope with him.

She was ten years old!!! WTF!!! I know standards were different then. I know teenagers often got married, sometimes to much older men. But she was ten freakin’ years old!!!

Who the hell did that guy think he was? Mohammed?

Planet Wingnuttia

October 25, 2011

Ed Brayton and Cabin Campbell have a new comic series, Life on Planet Wingnuttia. Here’s the first one.

If you associate with wingnuts, you're screwed

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival

October 22, 2011

Ray's misinformation is no comfort

Look who has new nesting material!
(Ray Comfort’s $100 bill, size comparison.)
(Rat not included.)

Last weekend, I went to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. It isn’t the sort of event where I expected to encounter the forces of superstition, fear, and misinformation. Oh what a fool I am.

Overall, actually, I was rather impressed. Although ostensibly a harvest festival, the event overall contained all of the images of the season, which includes that most evil of holidays, Halloween. (BTW, harvest festivals are also pagan, so really, the entire event is non-Christian.)

Despite the festival’s pagan undertones, several of the food booths were run by churches. I also noticed that some of the churches in town were decorated with witches, black cats, and other Halloween imagery. It struck me that if this were held in the Deep South, not only would the churches not have evil, satanic, pagan decorations, but all their members would be out picketing.

(That’s right. I live in one of the least fundie regions in the nation, and I run an anti-fundie blog. That’s because if I lived anywhere else in the country, my brain would explode. That’s what happens when you put something filled with matter into a vacuum.)

But, as I alluded to at top, the event wasn’t devoid of superstition.

Park Place

My first encounter occurred as I was driving into town. This event attracts 200,000 people over two days, so I got there early to avoid traffic. There isn’t much on-street parking, so all of the locals seize the opportunity to let you park in their lot—for a fee, of course.

I passed numerous signs advertising parking. “Park here! $5!” (I’m assuming they don’t mean 5-factorial. “What do you mean $120? Your sign said $5!” “Exactly!”)

“Park here! $10!”

“All-Day Parking! $15!”

I was able to get fairly close. Then I came to an intersection and had a dilemma. I saw two parking signs.

The one on the left said “Park at our church! Only two blocks from the festival! $5!”

The one on the right said “Park at our elementary school! Only four blocks from the festival! $10”

Hmmmmm… decisions… decisions…. I can spend $5 and only have to walk two blocks, but my money goes to brainwash the gullible with misinformation. Or I can spend twice that, have to walk twice as far, but my money helps to buy supplies for a destitute school.

Without even pausing long enough to blink, I turned right and parked at the elementary school.

No Comfort

As I was walking toward the festival, I saw a couple of guys standing on a street corner. They appeared to be handing something out.

Some people have “gaydar”. I have “fundar”. I know that isn’t a good pun, but you try to come up with a funny name for it. It’s actually not a special skill. Anytime you see somebody handing something out on a street corner, it’s virtually guaranteed to be a fundie.

I immediately realized that this could be something I could make fun of on my blog! (I’m always working for you folks, even when I’m doing other stuff!) Sure enough, it was!

“Would you like to have a $100 bill?” one of the fundies asked, holding up an oversized $100 bill.

Woohoo! Jackpot! A giant $100 bill!

That could only mean this is one of Ray Comfort’s fundiebots! I’ve been reading Ray’s emails for quite a while. He always has oversized crap like this to pass out. On the back, of course, is a Bible tract.

I was excited, because I knew these guys were out there. They stake out high-traffic areas, trying to snare the unwary, but I had never seen any in the wild. I was beginning to think they were extinct in Northern California (sort of like the grizzly bear, and just as dangerous).

“Is that Ray Comfort’s tract?”, I asked.

“Yes sir!”, the fundie said.

“Sure, I’ll take it!” I folded up my prize and stuffed it into my pocket, so no one would be able to steal it from me.

If you folks are lucky, and I have time (HA!), I’ll dissect the thing in a future article.

BTW, this thought occurred to me: Couldn’t I take Ray Comfort’s $100 bill and use it to pay for parking at that church up the street? Shouldn’t it be legal tender for them? “Keep the change!”, I’d tell them. I’m so generous at times!

The Twelve Commandments

As I continued my long, four-block slog to the festival, I passed a church (There were quite a few churches along that short stretch of road. What is Half Moon Bay’s problem?).

They had posted the Ten Commandments out front:

Now with two bonus commandments

Umm… I mean Twelve Commandments.

A-OK Psychic Readings

Wandering around the festival, I happened upon this sign in the window of an alleged psychic:

Posterboard doesn't come with a spell checker

Obviously, her powers do not extend to spelling.

Don’t Be A Dick

October 1, 2011

Mine is bigger than some religions

Or in other words…

Why We Fight

September 11, 2011

I was trying to write a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the decade since 9/11, but I was having trouble distilling all of my thoughts. I’m greatly concerned about the civil liberties we have so eagerly surrendered in exchange for a sense of security. I’ll be covering that issue more often in the future, so I’ll defer that topic for today.

Instead, I’ll leave you with this reminder of why we fight the terrorists. Shockingly, these terrorists actively—and legally!—operate within the borders of the United States and plot the overthrow of the Constitution. Here is a YouTube video of two of them, recorded just days after the horrific events of 9/11/2001.

Johnny-on-the-Spot

September 11, 2011

Johnny-on-the-spot

Photograph by Melanie Einzig

The On the Media blog has an interesting article by PJ Vogt. He writes that he considers the above image to be one of the most memorable photos shot on the morning of Sept. 11.

I agree. The incongruity of the mundane with the horrific is riveting. The photograph also contradicts our memories of that day. Every image we’ve seen of that day, both on the day itself and in the decade since, has been of the destruction and devastation. And then there’s this photo, which contradicts all of those memories. How do we reconcile this image with those others? How do we fit this into our brain? It doesn’t match the narrative we thought we knew.

I had a second reaction, though. I’ve seen this before. Not this exact image, but all the elements. In fact, I remember reading about it back in the 1970s, in an old book in the school library.

Humorist Robert Benchley predicted this image almost 80 years ago, in an article titled “Johnny-on-the-Spot”. I’ve scanned the article and posted it below, for your edification. The book I pulled it out of is The Benchley Roundup, first published in 1954. I’m not sure when the article itself was originally published, but I’m guessing late 1920s or sometime in the 1930s.

The article is dead-on. I’ve seen lots of photos over the years of significant events, and there’s often some guy somewhere in the foreground or on the side seemingly oblivious to the momentous activity just 30 feet away. (You might find Benchley’s derby fixation strange, but everybody used to wear hats in those days. I guess in Benchley’s experience, it was always a derby.)

If you want to read more Robert Benchley, you’ll have to haunt used book stores. Project Gutenberg has one measly book online. (You can thank Disney and their lapdog tree-skier Sonny Bono, who got copyright extended until doomsday to protect the profits from Mickey Mouse.)

So now, enjoy the prescience of Robert Benchley:

Here's Johnny!

Here's Johnny!

Here's Johnny!

Note the uncanny prediction of collapsing buildings!