Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hasan Minhaj at the 2017 White House Correspondents' Dinner



That was a tough audience, but Hasan Minhaj was great, wasn't he?

I was wondering how this would go, since the president and his entire administration skipped it (for the first time since Ronald Reagan was recovering from being shot). So did many celebrities.

This was a tough gig. And I'd only seen Minhaj in brief sketches on The Daily Show. So I wasn't sure what to expect. But he killed it, don't you think? I was impressed.

Incidentally, Samantha Bee held a competing event last night, the Not the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Check it out.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The proof that God is evil



This is the summary of this playlist called "The Case for an Evil God."

Of course, to be technical, this is evidence, not proof, and it's only about the Biblical god. But personally, I think we're all lucky he doesn't exist.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The first 100 days of Donald Trump



Jebus, only 100 days? We are so screwed.

Luckily, this is a short video, because I really can't stand to think about it any longer than this.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hypocrisy and the GOP



The first part of this (the first three and a half minutes) is what gets me. Could Republicans be any bigger hypocrites?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ivanka & Jared



More than any other late-night comedian - and just think for a minute of the worrisome state of our country when I have to say this about a comedian - John Oliver takes the time for an in-depth look at the issues.

I know we'd all like to think that there's someone in the White House who's not batshit crazy, but hope isn't evidence.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to get climate change wrong... again and again



This is exceptionally good, I'd say. But it's also a bit depressing, given how it won't accomplish anything at all. Crowder doesn't care if he's wrong, and none of his fellow deniers do, either, as far as I can tell.

Five misconceptions about undocumented immigrants



These are good points to keep in mind, don't you think?

The case against the resurrection

I meant to post this on Sunday - Easter- but I never got around to it. Oh, well. It's still worth your time, but I'll make this post especially short.

This is a playlist of video arguments against the resurrection of Jesus Christ - ten video clips from nine different people. They're all interesting, though I'd especially recommend the video with Bart Ehrman and the two from Richard Carrier.

Again, here is the link at YouTube. Enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Was the United Airlines victim actually a felon?



Rebecca Watson is one of my favorite people on YouTube. It's not about this particular incident. (Frankly, I never even saw previous videos about it, and I don't normally jump on outrage click-bait, anyway.)

But she always gives me a lot to think about. And her lessons are quite valuable.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"It's not so easy"

We'll be seeing more of this, I suspect:
President Donald Trump recounted an absolutely astounding detail about one of his conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in comments published by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday afternoon.

Apparently, Trump came into his first meeting with the Chinese leader, in early April, convinced that China could simply eliminate the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear program. Xi then patiently explained Chinese-Korean history to Trump — who then promptly changed his mind.

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president told the Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. ... But it’s not what you would think.”

Four quick observations about this:
  1. Trump thought China could fix North Korea until the Chinese president politely informed him that North Korea is in fact complicated.
  2. Trump seems to have required the leader of China to explain basic facts to him that he could have Googled, or at least asked one of the many US government North Korea experts about.
  3. Trump came to a profound realization about one of the most dangerous conflicts on earth after a 10-minute conversation.
  4. Trump is getting his information about East Asian affairs from the leader of America’s largest rival in the region.

This is the problem - one of the problems - with electing a president who makes George W. Bush look smart.

Incidentally, Trump also decided to abandon another of his campaign promises:
"On day one of a Trump administration, the US Treasury Department will designate China a currency manipulator," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2015. In his Contract With the American Voter describing his plan for his first 100 days in office, he pledged: "I will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator."

Well, it ain’t happening. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday, President Trump said that he wasn’t in fact going to deem China a currency manipulator.

Yeah, like healthcare, "nobody knew" this stuff could be so complicated, huh?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Samantha Bee: Russian hacking



Samantha Bee is great, isn't she?

Of course, we've known about this Russian hacking for some time. But people don't like to think that they've been idiots. Often, even the victims of a scam don't like to admit that it happened.

So will this change anything? I doubt it.

Is the New Testament reliable?



Bart Ehrman gets pretty worked up here, but I understand it. Keep in mind that Ehrman does believe in a historical Jesus. That's not universal among scholars, although it's the majority position.

Who or what that Jesus was,... well, there's certainly no agreement about that, even among the people who think he actually existed.

And keep in mind that Ehrman was an evangelical Christian who became an expert in the New Testament for his faith. He lost that faith when he discovered too much about his own holy book, but he certainly didn't want to lose it. Just the reverse, in fact.

Finally, note that he talks about "scribal errors" in the Bible. But many of the most important of these weren't errors at all. They were deliberate changes.

For example: "Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." That entire story was added later. It can hardly be an "error."

And the entire ending of the Gospel of Mark - the first gospel to be written - was added later, apparently because the original ending seemed appropriate only for fiction. (The women who supposedly witnessed the resurrection never told anyone about it, because they were afraid. The end.)

Ehrman gives other examples, including the justification for the whole idea of the Trinity. That's certainly not a minor issue, but it's clearly not an accidental "error," either. It was added to the original text deliberately, by some unknown person, for his own reasons.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump, O'Reilly, and Fox News



Fox News has long been the propaganda arm of the Republican Party (although we've never really known who was controlling whom). And although I'm glad to see advertisers abandoning O'Reilly, what took them so long?

Besides, you know that they won't be leaving Fox News. And you know that Fox will eventually replace O'Reilly with someone equally bad.

It's certainly no surprise that Trump and O'Reilly are in bed together. As I say, Fox News is the propaganda arm of the GOP, so what else would you expect?

Still, I'll laugh at all of them while I can still find something humorous about what's happening to my country.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friday, March 31, 2017

Is this the White House or the Kremlin?


Wow, this Russia stuff is just getting crazier and crazier. Comparing it to Watergate is minimizing the whole thing. This is about the influence of an unfriendly foreign power in the White House!

This article at TPM will make you think. I recommend that you read all of it. But let me just excerpt one part about one of the players involved - a protege of Michael Flynn (yes, that Michael Flynn) who still has access to top secret information:
[Ezra] Cohen-Watnick is a 30 year old Mike Flynn protege from the Defense Intelligence Agency who was brought in by Flynn to serve as the NSC's senior director for intelligence programs. H.R. McMaster tried to remove Cohen-Watnick after McMaster replaced Flynn as National Security Advisor. In that goal, McMaster apparently had the strong backing of Mike Pompeo, the Director of Central Intelligence. But Cohen-Watnick appealed his ouster to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Bannon and Kushner went to Trump and Trump decided that Cohen-Watnick should stay in his position.

White House factional politics are not in themselves necessarily of great interest. But having two aides with no national security experience overrule the National Security Advisor on a key NSC personnel decision is rather remarkable - even more so when the person in question apparently had the job only due to the influence of the former national security advisor who resigned in disgrace and now is reportedly the target of multiple criminal and counter-intelligence probes.

That set of facts in itself raises a lot of alarm bells. Did Flynn's influence still extend into the White House's inner circle early this month, weeks after he was fired? Is Cohen-Watnick that important a loyalist that Bannon and Kushner would refuse to see him dismissed? Was he doing work at their behest? ...

In this latest turn of events, Cohen-Watnick apparently scanned through highly classified material looking for something to justify Trump's ridiculous wiretapping tweet. He then found a way to get that material to Devin Nunes when Nunes visited the White House in the middle of the night. Nunes then returned to the White House the next day to present the information to Trump. Again, it's not altogether clear to me whether Nunes or Trump actually realized that the material was of little real consequence and had no bearing on Trump's tweets. However that may be, at a minimum Cohen-Watnick was using his access to highly classified information to mount a political pushback campaign against the various Trump/Russia probes and quite likely breaking the law to do so.

But Bart Gellman, who has a very granular understanding of the modalities and rules tied to handling this kind of material, suggests an additional possibility: that Cohen-Watnick et al. had this material because they were using their privileged access to the nation's top secrets to keep tabs on the FBI's investigation of Trump and his top associates.

There are at least two parts of this that should worry us. The first is that the Trump White House seems ridiculously unconcerned with Russian connections to people with access to highly classified intelligence material - an issue that does worry the professionals at the CIA and NSC, apparently, but not the president or his political appointees.

But the second part is that Donald Trump and/or his political appointees seem to be trying to use those highly classified intelligence findings for political gain - or, rather, political cover. Trump keeps calling these people "whistleblowers," but that's not the correct word for people who are leaking information at the direction of the White House itself.

Whistleblowers leak information which the White House, or other governmental agencies, don't want released. When you're sifting through top secret documents looking for ways to defend your boss - or just trying to give him advanced warning of anything incriminating which might be uncovered by an investigation - that's not "whistleblowing."

Meanwhile, of course, Republican politicians couldn't care less about any of this, except for the possibility that it could damage them politically. So they're far less eager to investigate Trump than to cover for him and sweep it all under the rug.

(Admittedly, I'm sure that most of them would rather have Mike Pence as president. But impeaching Trump would leave a stink behind that other Republican politicians wouldn't exactly welcome. So who knows?)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Home of the Brave


This cartoon is a few years old, but it's even more fitting today, don't you think?

FFRF and the Ark Encounter



This is basically an advertisement for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but it's important - especially in this time of widespread science-denial from the White House on down.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Art of the Deal Con



And no, Donald Trump has no shame. Admittedly, shame is in very short supply in the entire Republican Party.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Eric Hovind and dinosaur farts



I thought this was funny,... but sad, too. I wonder how many people get their 'science' from Christian apologists like these who are completely ignorant of the subject, themselves?

Even when you get your science from the media, you need to realize that journalists aren't scientists (and I'm not sure that tabloid journalists are even journalists).

The goal of scientists is to be precise. The goal of journalists is to attract paying customers with sensational stories. Most journalists try to be accurate, I'm sure, but they're not scientists, and strict scientific accuracy isn't their primary goal.

But you only have to know a little about Eric Hovind in order to laugh at the idea of him criticizing scientists, anyway!