Friday, July 31, 2015

Jesus vs aliens: the culture war at Roswell

Wow, this is weird:
I had these stereotypical alien abduction experiences when I was a kid,” Guy Malone tells me. “Little creatures with big black eyes were raping me and trying to eat me and trying to operate on me.”

We’re standing in the Roswell [New Mexico] mall’s CosmiCon—a space-themed collection of comics, costumes and other oddities presented in collaboration with Roswell’s 20th annual UFO festival, a kind of alien enthusiasts’ TED conference and county fair. Malone, an effusive storyteller with an easy laugh and a slight Tennessee twang, is here to hawk his memoir and pick up a few new believers while he’s at it.

“There were multiple dreams and memories spread across years. I didn’t want to believe it, but once I read books on the subject I thought, ‘yep, that’s me.’”

Malone’s a Christian now, and he no longer believes aliens abducted him—he thinks demons are responsible for the terrifying recurring visions of his childhood and adolescence. After finding Christianity, Malone says he received a calling from God in 1999 to move to Roswell, where he would spread the word of Jesus as a means of stopping alien abductions.

Yup, there's apparently a culture war between competing fantasies in Roswell, New Mexico. Of course, it's all about money, too, since UFOs bring in a lot of money to the community.
It’s a microcosmic culture war in which competing believers—of extraterrestrial identity, of Christian theology, of the holy church of the American dollar—proselytize their own mutually exclusive notions of reality.

I see no real reason to comment on this. I just thought it was interesting - and very, very weird.

PS. For a hoot, try doing a Google image search for "Jesus aliens." Yeah, that's where I got these images, but there are lots more where they came from!

Trumping the Republican campaign

God, I'm going to miss Jon Stewart! He'll be gone in another week. Stephen Colbert is already gone. What am I going to do?

We've still got John Oliver, but he's on HBO. What am I going to do for political humor this campaign season? (Larry Wilmore calls it "The Unblackening." Heh, heh. Yes, I do watch The Nightly Show, but only the opening monologue.)

Incidentally, did you notice that there are now 17 declared candidates in the Republican field? Yes, Jim Gilmore (I know you're asking yourself, "Who?") has just jumped at this golden opportunity, too. After all, there's plenty of room for one more, right?

This isn't the first time. He ran in 2008, too, lasting less than three months before dropping out again. Now, the first Republican Party debate - hosted by Fox 'News,' of course - is only another week away, and he's going to have to beat seven other candidates just to get an invitation.

Personally, I'm praying (secularly) for Sarah Palin to throw her hat into the ring. That's all this circus needs, don't you think?

Off-duty state trooper fires on unarmed teens

Absolute insanity:
Three young adults were arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning after mistakenly knocking on the door of a New Jersey State Trooper and fleeing the scene.

... According to people close to the investigation, three young adults, after leaving a graduation party, attempted to go to a friend’s house nearby.

A source said, they mistakenly went to the next door neighbor’s home. After repeatedly ringing the doorbell and loudly knocking on the door, the homeowner, a state trooper, came to the door. When he opened the door and shouted at them, the three men ran away.

The three got into a vehicle and the officer fired three gun shots as they attempted to flee.

Yeah, the state trooper shot at them as they were trying to get away (hitting the car at least once). Now, these teenagers are under arrest. The article goes on to say, "It is not clear what charges, if any, have been brought against these men."

The state trooper who shot at three unarmed teenagers who were simply trying to get away? Nothing - so far, at least. In fact, he's still on active duty.

Welcome to America, the gun-and-paranoia capital of the world.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

GOP race to the bottom

You know, I thought it would be fun to have Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary,... but now I'm starting to wonder.

Yes, he says stupid, crazy things, but the GOP base just can't get enough of stupid and crazy - especially racist stupid and crazy. And that's creating desperation among the rest of the candidates, especially those who thought they had stupid and crazy all wrapped up, themselves.

Mike Huckabee isn't even running for president, not really. He doesn't have a chance, and he knows it. He just wants the attention. He wants the name recognition, because he wants to improve his profits when selling snake oil to the rubes, ideally when he's back at Fox 'News' afterwards.

But no one has been paying any attention to him. Donald Trump has stolen the spotlight, so Huckabee is trying to out-Trump Trump - whether that causes Iran to get nuclear weapons, whether that causes more war in the Middle East, whether that irreparably damages America's influence in the world, or not. This isn't funny, it's just sickening.

Sure, Huckabee would have been stupid and crazy anyway,... but this stupid and crazy? And then there's Rick Perry, with the same worries and the same solution: to out-Trump Trump:

Yeah, that's what we need, lots more guns, lots more insecure people, lots more macho idiots in movie theaters. That way, when they hear a shot - or some other loud noise, maybe - they can all draw their guns and start shooting, in a dark theater, at all of the other shadowy gun nuts who've brought their own weapons, too!

I grew up watching cowboy shows, but even in the wild, wild west, they didn't want random idiots wandering around town with ready weapons. Even in westerns, people weren't that stupid. When random idiots were armed, it wasn't a good thing. Most towns insisted that weapons not be carried inside city limits, except by the sheriff and his deputies.

But in a dark movie theater? Oh, that would be a great place to have a gun battle, wouldn't it? Of course, we need good guys with guns to shoot the bad guys with guns (especially in the dark, with no one knowing who fired the first shot), right?

Fun fact: Do you know how to tell a 'good guy with a gun' from a 'bad guy with a gun'? They're all good guys until they pull the trigger.

Dylann Roof was a 'good guy with a gun' until he killed nine people in a black church. Alex Kozak was a 'good guy with a gun' - and an "open-carry" promoter who carried his gun everywhere - before he shot Andrea Farrington three times in the back for refusing his sexual advances. George Zimmerman was a 'good guy with a gun' before he accosted Trayvon Martin for the crime of walking while black.

Retired cop Curtis Reeves was certainly a 'good guy with a gun' - and highly trained - before he shot Chad Oulson for texting his daughter in an earlier theater shooting. And both James Pullam and Robert Taylor were 'good guys with guns' - with their concealed-carry permits and everything - before they killed each other in a road rage incident which wouldn't have happened if they hadn't both been armed.

So it's very, very easy to tell a 'good guy with a gun.' If they haven't shot anyone yet, they're a 'good guy with a gun.' Simple, huh? (And if that doesn't that make you feel safe, maybe I should start talking about all of the accidental shootings in America...)

Now sure, this is Rick Perry. And sure, it's the GOP. I'm sure we all expected crazy. But this crazy? Again, this is the Trump effect, don't you think? Trump is stupid, crazy, and very, very loud, so he's taking the spotlight from the rest of the stupid and crazy GOP field. To a candidate like Perry, that has to change.

Rick Perry, and candidates like him, are desperate to be noticed, mostly so they can get into the debates. (Fox 'News' is letting only the top ten candidates - by poll numbers - into the debates, so with a crowd this big, a lot of them aren't going to make it.) With his crazy, bigoted comments, Donald Trump is actually leading the pack. You don't think the rest of them haven't noticed that?

However, they're not competing to be the internet clown of the day. They're not competing to be reality TV stars. They're not even competing for an upcoming show on Fox 'News' (well, some of them are, I suspect). They're competing to be the next President of the United States!

Is stupid and crazy really what we want? After all, we tried that during the Bush years, and America still hasn't recovered.

No, I thought this would be a lot funnier. Instead, I mostly just feel depressed.

Four people fund the Ted Cruz campaign

Incredible, isn't it? Ted Cruz brags about having raised $38 million in campaign donations, second only to Jeb Bush. But nearly all of that comes from just four people!

This really is selling our country to the highest bidder. It's not just that wealth and income inequality in America have reached levels that would put a banana republic to shame. It's not just that crony capitalism means that wealthy people expect to make a profit by buying politicians.

But now, all of this is perfectly legal. It's legalized bribery, nothing less than that.

And yes, most Democrats compete for donations from the rich, too. That's the political system we've got in America. But note that all four Democrats on the Supreme Court voted against Citizens United. Like so many other terrible decisions of the court, it was passed despite the opposition of every Democratic justice.
The dissent argued that the Court's ruling "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution." He wrote: "A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold."

And that's exactly what's happening.

Only the Democrats want to change this corrupt system - not all of them, perhaps, but no Republican wants to change it. That's because Republicans benefit. Republicans give tax cuts to the rich, and in return, they get campaign donations.

Of course, $38 million is a pittance compared to the one billion dollars the Koch brothers plan to spend buying the elections in 2016. Even among billionaires, some sharks are bigger than others.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Five stupid things...

Steve Shives does a regular series of these, but I don't usually post them. Sometimes, though,... well, do you see why my confidence in America has been taking a beating lately?

I thought we reached rock bottom during the George W. Bush administration, but Republicans, at least, have plummeted past that level without even slowing down.

Here's a little more about #4, which I'll admit that I'm posting mostly for the great title: Planned Parenthood is Not Selling Baby Parts, You Fucking Idiots.

Sorry, but that's just the mood I'm in right now. How in the hell did we get here? How did my country end up like this?

When, oh, when will we finally kick the GOP into the trash-heap of history.

Jim Jefferies: gun control

Edit: That video excerpt was quickly removed by YouTube for copyright infringement. Sorry. This one is on Jim Jefferies' own YouTube channel, but it's the full show.

Watch the whole thing, if you want, but the part about gun control (the best part, I'd say) runs from 26:02 to 41.55.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mess within Texas - Sandra Bland's arrest

I don't know how Sandra Bland died, but I do know how she ended up in jail on a $5,000 bond, and it's just ridiculous.

Ridiculous? Actually, it's criminal. We have a serious problem in America, and this is just another demonstration of that. (Really, do we need any more? Seriously?)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Seth Andrews: Openly Secular

This is part of the Openly Secular campaign, apparently. Good stuff.

Hmm,... I have to note that Barney Frank, who is included in the videos there, is "openly secular" now, but wasn't while he was still in Congress. Yes, a politician who was openly, proudly gay still hid his atheism.

Well, that's why we need these videos, I guess. Before gay people were 'out,' they weren't accepted, either. Of course, it's not entirely the same thing, because we atheists can turn you atheist, if you care about the truth of your beliefs.

I suppose that's why we're the bigger threat, huh? :)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fox 'News' favors anti-atheist discrimination

When I first heard of the amendment to that ordinance in Madison, WI, I wondered why it was necessary. Atheism is covered under religious discrimination. Discriminating because someone doesn't believe in a religion is exactly the same as discriminating because they do.

But I've heard right-wing politicians deny that, saying the freedom of religion does not include freedom from religion. (I've also heard them claim that Islam is not a "religion," so nothing seems to be too stupid or too far-fetched for these people.)

Given that this amendment does absolutely nothing except make clear that atheism is covered under religious freedom laws, it's pretty crazy to see how Fox 'News' interprets it, isn't it? Not at all surprising, of course, just crazy.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Scientific consensus and arguments from authority

This is the sort of thing every citizen should know. In a world increasingly dependent on science and technology, it should be taught throughout our school systems.

Scientists already know this. But not everyone can be a scientist. You're not an expert in climatology? You don't need to be. You're not an expert in biology? You don't need to be. After all, not even scientists can be experts in every scientific discipline.

But all of us need to understand how science progresses. All of us need to understand how science works. All of us need to understand the scientific consensus - and the difference between that and arguments from authority.

In a democracy, we the people make the decisions, so we the people need at least a minimum level of understanding so we're not prey to every charlatan, true-believer, conspiracy enthusiast, corporate PR hack, and political strategist out there.

In an earlier post, I received a number of comments from a mechanical engineer about what "really" drives climate change,... according to him. I kept asking why we should believe him. After all, he's not a climatologist, and even if he was, the overwhelming consensus of climatologists is that he's wrong.

More importantly, why is he blogging about his ideas - multiple blogs, all about how the consensus of climatologists is wrong - and commenting on blogs like this one, trying to convince people who know nothing about it, rather than writing scientific papers and convincing people who know a lot about it?

If you really did know something about this, why try to convince those of us who are ignorant about climate change? Why not convince the experts? I'm not a scientist at all, let alone a climatologist. But I do know how science works. So if you want my opinions to change, just change the scientific consensus.

He pointed out that "The consensus was once that stress caused ulcers." Very true. But that consensus changed because a medical researcher had evidence of a bacterial cause and wrote scientific papers demonstrating that evidence. Other researchers investigated his findings, confirmed them, and wrote scientific papers of their own.

That's how scientists change the scientific consensus. Scammers and conspiracy enthusiasts try to convince the ignorant and the gullible. Scientists try to convince other scientists, and they use the evidence from peer-reviewed research to do that.

John Oliver: Stadiums

You know, if these very lucrative businesses, or their billionaire owners, don't want to pay for a new stadium, there's always Kickstarter. :)

Instead of bad rap songs, maybe sports fans should put their money where their mouth is.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Vyckie Garrison: How to talk to a fundamentalist

The "fundamentalist" of the title was Vyckie Garrison herself, who used to be very active in the Quiverfull movement. She talks about her life and her deconversion, which happened during an extensive email correspondence with her uncle.

It's very interesting. And it seems especially relevant to me, because Garrison was born and raised in northeast Nebraska.

She became so active in the Quiverfull movement (and the homeschool movement) that they were named "Family of the Year" in 2003 by the Nebraska Family Council, a non-profit group here in Lincoln which works "to uphold biblical principles in society."

Now? Vyckie Garrison was recently named the 2014 "Atheist of the Year" by the American Atheists.

This was her talk at the 2015 Oklahoma Freethought Convention. It's fascinating. It's also inspiring, in that she had to overcome not just religion, but a difficult childhood and a very patriarchal form of that religion.

It's clear that she was devout, too. She was devoted to Jesus. She believed - she really believed - and she worked to bring God's word to everyone (while she was also busy pumping out children in obedience to that God).

It's frightening and inspiring, both, I guess.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Donald Trump - GOP poster boy

I'm wondering if Donald Trump will remain in the GOP presidential contest much longer. Sure, he's second in the polls, rising in the standings after his idiotic and bigoted remarks, but he's also losing money because of them.

So I wouldn't be surprised if he dropped out. At any rate, I thought I'd post a few cartoons, just in case we don't have The Donald to kick around much longer. :)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

White Christian terrorism no big deal

We all fear terrorism, of course - unless it's planned by white Christians and doesn't target white Christians, at least. From TPM:
An ex-Congressional candidate who allegedly plotted to massacre a Muslim community in upstate New York was allowed to go free this week as his case proceeded, due to a federal judge's order.

Meanwhile, another federal judge cast doubt on whether the defendant Robert Doggart – who is accused of planning to enlist a heavily-armed militia armed with assault rifles and machetes to attack a Muslim school and mosque – was a "true threat," effectively torpedoing a plea agreement that could have put Doggart behind bars for up to five years.

Federal marshals arrested Doggart on April 10, after intercepting a call in which Doggart – who in 2014 ran an unsuccessful U.S. congressional campaign in Tennessee – allegedly threatened to attack a Muslim community in Hancock, N.Y. His lawyers and prosecutors came to an agreement where he would have pleaded guilty to a single charge of interstate communication of a threat, a charge that carries up to five years in prison. ...

An unsealed criminal complaint showed Doggart discussing how many men armed with assault rifles, Molotov cocktails, and even machetes would be necessary to burn down a school and mosque, and kill residents outside of the New York hamlet, nicknamed “Islamberg” by its residents. The complaint suggested Doggart tried to recruit participants through Facebook, referring to the community as “Target 3.”

“Target 3 is vulnerable...and must be utterly destroyed in order to get the attention of the American People," Doggart wrote. He also told an FBI source that he’d set a April 15 deadline to carry out the armed attack, according to the plea agreement, which he said was “gonna start a civil war.”

I wonder how these judges would have reacted if this guy had been black and/or Muslim, planning an attack on white Christians?

As it is,... well, who cares, right?

In other news, they did arrest a man who threatened to kill President Obama, but I suppose the judges will find him to be harmless, too?
A criminal complaint and arrest warrant were issued Thursday suggesting that the man, 55-year-old Brian D. Dutcher from Tomah, Wisconsin, told a security guard a La Crosse library that if he had the chance he would "take him out," referring to Obama, and "take the shot."

Dutcher confirmed to the Secret Service that he had made the remarks, the warrant said, and told La Crosse detectives he was serious about the threat. According the warrant, Dutcher had also posted to Facebook earlier this week, "that's it! Thursday I will be in La Crosse. Hopefully I will get a clear shot at the pretend president. Killing him is our CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY!"

Of course, Republican politicians are baffled at where this guy could have gotten the idea that killing the Kenyan who hates America, the tyrant illegitimately occupying the White House in order to destroy us all, is his constitutional duty.

But either way, as a 'real' American, he should be allowed as many military-grade weapons as he can carry.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bigotry sells in the GOP

Donald Trump is currently running second in the Republican Party polls for president - and second in both Iowa and New Hampshire, too. This clown has gone up in the standings after these remarks. Incredible, isn't it?

Forget the rapist stuff, for the moment. Donald Trump actually thinks that Mexico is sending us their citizens, "the killers, the drug-dealers, the rapists"? Is he really that clueless about the causes of immigration?

We are a nation of immigrants. We're all descended from people who came here from somewhere else (even the Native Americans, ultimately). Our ancestors were people who were willing to risk everything to find a new home. By and large, they weren't wealthy aristocrats, because wealthy aristocrats were doing just fine where they were.

You know, all Republicans might want to take a moment and review these words:
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"