Saturday, January 30, 2016

Refuting the Kalam Cosmological Argument

I find it funny that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is based on Medieval Islamic thinking. It's never seemed at all convincing to me, and I doubt if it's ever convinced anyone. (The Christians and Muslims who use this argument already believe in their god.)

Certainly, this video does a good job of refuting it. But that's nothing new, either. What I particularly liked is his first point, that a god which is anything at all like the Christian 'God' wouldn't play hide-and-seek with people. If such a god existed, we wouldn't be debating it, since we wouldn't have to wonder.

The whole idea that you'd have to use some bizarre, and quite dubious, philosophical argument to demonstrate that your god exists pretty much demonstrates how implausible the whole thing is, right from the beginning. Of course, the argument itself is badly flawed, as well.

As I say, I suspect that the Kalam Cosmological Argument has never convinced anyone. William Lane Craig is popular with Christians because they think he sounds smart and is backing up what they already believe - almost always because they were raised to believe it - with philosophy. Obviously, they're not going to be very skeptical.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Who's marginally less awful?

I'd pick bone cancer, too, I think.

Admittedly, I don't think it matters. Any Republican would be a complete disaster for America, even worse than George W. Bush.

Have you seen how crazy the party has gotten? When extremists take control, you can never be too extreme. When the mob is running madly to the right, the people who get crushed are those who don't run fast enough.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz aren't so much the problem as they are the symptoms of the problem. Any Republican president would be as bad for our country. Until conservatives regain their sanity, that's going to be the case, I'm afraid.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rapper says the Earth is flat

Are we Americans getting dumber? No, I doubt it. It may seem like that sometimes, but these people have always been with us. They just find it easier to publicize their stupidity these days.

Maybe this is just a publicity gimmick, I don't know. As the Los Angeles Times says:
Did we mention B.o.B. is promoting a new album? Well he is. But he insists those things are definitely not related.

So far, B.o.B. -- nee Bobby Ray Simmons -- has posted almost 50 images of the supposedly flat planet, along with quotes from the 2014 book "The Flat Earth Conspiracy" by Eric Dubay.

(Dubay is known for his series of YouTube videos, including a two-hour production that claims to offer “200 Proofs Earth is Not a Spinning Ball.” He also denies the existence of evolution, nuclear bombs, gravity and the Holocaust.)

But hey, you can make a living as a professional crazy person. Just ask Alex Jones, among many others.

Of course, it doesn't have to be about money (though it usually is). If you really want to be a celebrity, being batshit crazy is a good way to get attention, too. He could just be trolling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Carrying a gun to defend yourself

From TPM, it's the latest shooting incident. (Well, almost certainly not, huh? After all, it's been four days already.)
A man arrested for accidentally shooting a woman at a Washington state movie theater on Friday reportedly told police that he was armed because he feared mass shootings. ...

Gallion's firearm discharged during the film, striking a 40-year-old woman sitting in front of him in the shoulder. She was sent to a nearby hospital and was in stable condition as of Saturday.

The Seattle Times reported that Gallion’s explanations for how exactly the gun went off varied significantly. His father, Donald Gallion, told police that his son said the gun had fallen from his pocket and gone off. But Gallion himself told the arresting officer that another movie attendee had reached for his crotch, causing him to accidentally fire the weapon. He then told a different officer at the police station that a man had been bothering him and that the gun accidentally went off during their altercation, according to the newspaper.

What's noteworthy about this? Well, nothing, really. It happens all the time.

But this is what the gun nuts in the Republican Party want. They want everyone in a movie theater or a restaurant or even a church to be carrying a gun, in the irrational fear of mass shootings, terrorism, or... I don't know, alien abduction?

At least a few of those fearful idiots will also be drunk or bored or angry or depressed or just careless. And when the rest of them hear a gunshot, what then? Heck, what if it is the mass shooting they've all been made to fear?

The thing about gun fights at point-blank range is that you need to be the first person to pull the trigger, not the second. So you'll have all of these people with their steel courage, pulling their Precious and pointing it at all of the other hysterical people who are pointing guns at them. How are they going to tell which one's the 'bad guy with a gun'?

Heck, maybe the initial gunshot was just a stupid accident, like this one. They happen all the time. But when you desperately fear mass shootings, and you've got a gun to 'protect yourself,' are you really going to wait until the stranger across the room shoots you before using that gun on him?

Maybe you will. Maybe you're exceptional. And maybe you're never drunk or bored or angry or depressed or careless. But remember, the NRA wants everyone in that theater to be carrying a gun. Is everyone going to be perfect?

This is the insanity of ordinary citizens carrying deadly weapons everywhere they go. It's bad enough that the police have them. The police do, after all, shoot people by accident (or the wrong people deliberately), leave their guns in bathrooms, and do the same sorts of dumb things we all do, despite all their training. Well, they're human.

The NRA pushes irrational fear because the NRA works for gun and ammo manufacturers who make money from irrational fear. Republican politicians push irrational fear, because that gets them votes from the ignorant, the gullible, and the easily scared. None of them are doing it for you.

Are you really going to feel safer when everyone around you is carrying a gun? I've known people I wouldn't trust with sharp scissors. Typically, though, they were the people most eager to get a concealed-carry permit.

Personally, I fear idiots with guns far more than I fear criminals with guns - mostly because there are a lot more idiots than criminals in America. And when every idiot has a gun, the criminals will have absolutely no problem getting them, as well. Heck, we're pretty much there already.

Who is Ted Cruz?

The other day, I called Ted Cruz a "lying piece of crap." Was that really fair? Who is the real Ted Cruz?

Well, Mother Jones has an interesting article about the people who know him - Republicans, mostly, who've worked with him in support of their mutual interests. It's quite a read. Here are a few brief excerpts:
"Ted thought he was an expert on everything," says this campaign veteran, who asked not to be named. ... In fact, this Bush alum recalls, "the quickest way for a meeting to end would be for Ted to come in. People would want out of that meeting. People wouldn't go to a meeting if they knew he would be there. It was his inability to be part of the team. That's exactly what he was: a big asshole." ...

[Rep. Peter King] has called Cruz a "carnival barker," a "counterfeit" with "no qualifications" who appeals "to the lowest common denominator," and "just a guy with a big mouth and no results." ...

GQ reported that Cruz started a study group during his first year in Cambridge, but he announced that "he didn't want anybody from 'minor Ivies' like Penn or Brown." In an interview with the Boston Globe, another student recalled what happened when she agreed to carpool with Cruz: "We hadn't left Manhattan before he asked my IQ." ...

"I would rather have anybody else be the president of the United States," screenwriter Craig Mazin told the Daily Beast in 2013. "Anyone. I would rather pick somebody from the phone book." On Twitter, Mazin—who has called Cruz "a nightmare of a human being"—recalled that when he was a freshman sharing a dorm room with Cruz, he would get invited to parties hosted by seniors because the upperclassmen pitied him. Cruz, he notes, "was that widely loathed. It's his superpower." ...

Per the Daily Beast, "Several fellow classmates who asked that their names not be used described the young Cruz with words like 'abrasive,' 'intense,' 'strident,' 'crank,' and 'arrogant.' Four independently offered the word 'creepy.'"

And the Republican Party seems to be down to choosing between this creepy asshole and... Donald Trump (who hardly needs a description from me, given his penchant for chintzy self-promotion). Incredible, isn't it?

Are any mainstream Republicans beginning to wonder if deliberately wooing white racists, in their notorious 'Southern strategy,' was such a good idea after all?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What is holy?

Inherit the Wind was a great movie, wasn't it? Of course, it was just a movie. But Spencer Tracy did a great job.

The movie was released in 1960 - more than 55 years ago! It's hard to imagine that we're still fighting the forces of superstition, isn't it?

Heck, the Republican Party actually accepted science in 1960. Yeah, they were more modern - and certainly more rational - back then than they are now, more than 55 years later.

Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump

We've all been waiting for this, haven't we? :)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: steps we can take right now to lessen the influence of money in politics

Impressive, isn't she? That's Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the sixth anniversary of Citizens United.

This should be a bipartisan issue. Indeed, rank-and-file Republicans agree with Democrats about stopping - or, at least, slowing - the sale of our government to the highest bidder.

But note that every Democrat on the Supreme Court opposed the majority's decision in Citizens United. It was the five Republicans on the court who overturned longstanding precedent and opened up our government for purchase by the super-wealthy.

Yes, the mistakes we make live on long afterwards, sometimes. We made the enormous mistake of electing George W. Bush and other Republican presidents, and the damage they did lingers to this day.

Make no mistake, plenty of Democratic politicians aren't as strong as they should be in opposing the sale of our political leaders. After all, incumbents in both political parties tend to benefit from these legal bribes. But only the Democrats are really fighting against it.

And we wouldn't be in this situation if we hadn't elected Republican presidents. Republicans get a partisan political advantage from this, since they're the party of the wealthy, anyway. After all, they're the party which continually wants to cut taxes on the rich.

It wasn't just coincidence that the partisan political ideologues Republican presidents appointed to our Supreme Court (all men, all Catholic - which is another issue when they have majority power like this) who opened up the floodgates not just to billionaire money, but to anonymous billionaire money.

Whether you're conservative or not, you can't think that's good for our country. (And as polls show, Republicans generally don't think that. But they still vote for the politicians who continue to make it worse, not better.)

What do you believe?

What are you going to believe, reality or campaign rhetoric?

Thanks, Obama!

From the Los Angeles Times:
United States Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for the GOP Presidential nomination, has revealed on the campaign trail that his family is no longer covered by health insurance.

Naturally, he blames the Affordable Care Act: "I’ll tell you, you know who one of those millions of Americans is who’s lost their health care because of Obamacare? That would be me," he told an audience in Manchester, N.H., according to Politico. "I don’t have health care right now."

If you pay attention, however, you'll discover that Cruz's quandary is entirely his own fault. His, and his Republican colleagues in the Senate.

The details are pretty funny, especially if you already know what a lying piece of crap Ted Cruz is.

First, Cruz is a U.S. Senator. Why isn't he covered by health insurance at work, like most Americans? 'Obamacare' was never meant to apply to workplace coverage. It doesn't change anything about that.

Well, that was the Republican Party playing games. So now, members of Congress and their staffs are required to get health insurance through the exchanges of the Affordable Care Act.

Still no problem, right? Why didn't Cruz do that? Well, he just missed the deadline. It was entirely his own fault. He didn't sign up by December 31st, so now he and his family won't be covered until March 1st. Thanks, Obama! LOL

There's more. He claims that his new plan raises premiums by 50%, but that can't possibly be true, because no plan in Texas does that. But that's not the funny thing. This was, after all, substituted for his employer's plan (because of his job in the U.S. Senate), so the government - like most employers - pays 75% of the premiums.

Except, the grandstanding Ted Cruz declared that he wouldn't accept that. Thus, when he's complaining about the cost, it's all his own fault.

As the article says:
Cruz's lament is sadly typical of Congressional critics of Obamacare, including former Speaker John Boehner, who made the claim back in 2013 that his insurance rates had "spiked" because of Obamacare. It was just as bogus as Cruz's complaint, as we demonstrated here. Former Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., claimed in 2014 that Obamacare had cost him his cancer doctor. Typically, his office refused to provide any details, including why the 65-year-old Coburn was using an ACA plan instead of Medicare.

That's the state of Obamacare criticism on the GOP side of the aisle. They insist they want to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. Since they can't offer any legitimate reasons to do so, they're stuck with making them up.

Edit: And it turns out that this whole thing was a lie, anyway. Cruz and his family do have health insurance. They never lost it. Apparently, the whole thing was just a lie designed to appeal to low-information Republican voters. Well, that's Ted Cruz for you.

Is it any wonder that even his Republican colleagues hate him? Pretty much everyone who knows him, hates him (Craig Mazin, his former college roommate, in particular).

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The original Material Girl is back!

I really miss The Colbert Report, but Stephen Colbert certainly nailed it this time, didn't he?

Note that Palin, in her speech endorsing Donald Trump, apparently tried to blame President Obama for her son's recent arrest on domestic violence charges. Thanks, Obama! You can't even raise Sarah Palin's kids for her?

Luckily, Track Palin had an AR-15 assault rifle, so we know there wasn't really a problem there. Isn't it great how guns make everything safer?

Hmm,... I wonder if Barack Obama is also to blame for Bristol Palin, that highly-paid spokesperson for abstinence-only sex education, getting knocked up - twice, by two different men - outside of marriage?

Well, you've got to admire that work ethic. Despite a complete lack of sex education, Bristol figured out how sex works all on her own. (Well, not all on her own, I guess.) Yup, learn by doing, that's what I always say!

And then there was that drunken brawl in 2014. What a family! Can you imagine how the right-wing would react if this were Barack Obama's family, rather than Sarah Palin's?

Funny, but I haven't heard much about how white culture is to blame for the Alaskan escapades of Caribou Barbie and family...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dr. Mary Anne Franks: fighting fundamentalism

This is a great talk, it really is - very perceptive and thought-provoking. It's not just about religious fundamentalism, either. Indeed, she seems to hit all of the hot-button topics.

Weirdly, the video has nearly as many down-votes as up-votes. Dr. Franks seems to be someone who gets her share of internet hate.

I have to wonder if they even listened to her talk, though. Even if I didn't agree with her (though I certainly do), I'd find it well-argued and interesting, and certainly nothing to get bent out of shape about.

Ah, but those hot-button issues - guns, race, internet harassment, abortion, etc.  Just the mention of them gets some people bent out of shape, huh?

Seth Meyers: a closer look at the Iran prisoner swap

Hypocrisy, thy name is Republican. :)

OK, that's lame, no doubt. But true, nonetheless. And Seth Meyers just gets better and better at pointing out that hypocrisy.

Republicans seem to think that foreigners will do anything you want if you just speak English loudly enough. "Iran, release your prisoners!"  "Mexico, pay for the wall I plan to build!"  "Russia, get out of the Ukraine!"

Negotiations don't mean that the other side has to get something, too, right?

And then, of course, you get the deliberate lies, like from Ted Cruz (none of the prisoners we released were even accused of terrorism) or Donald Trump ("I never said it was never going to happen"). Do Republicans have no shame?

As Meyers points out, at least there still are moderates in Iran, unlike in the GOP.

American exceptionalism in India

AronRa packs a lot into 15 minutes, doesn't he? The fact that this talk was given in India makes it all the more powerful, given how seldom we Americans typically think about other countries and other cultures.

Note, however, that AronRa made this comment about his own speech:
I was convinced when I went to India that different religions were well represented and visible, since they all dress differently. I did not realize that 80% of the population was Hindu. Nor did I have any idea how militant Indian Hindus had become. They're very right wing over there.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Marco Rubio vs ISIS

This is the guy who's going to fight ISIS when they invade Florida. Yeah, think about that.

Marco Rubio bought a handgun on Christmas Eve,... because, you know, what would Jesus do? And what else are you going to do on Christmas Eve anyway, right?

And when asked about it, he explained how he's going to be the "last line of defense" when ISIS invades:
"In fact, if ISIS were to visit us or our communities at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability I have to protect my family from them..."

Yeah, just Marco Rubio, his pistol, and his bottle of water, standing off the ISIS hordes. Oh, it would make a great movie, wouldn't it?

Of course, it would be a fantasy movie - and a comedy, too. I mean,... seriously? But this is why so many of these Barney Fifes buy their guns. It makes them feel macho. It makes them feel manly. And they imagine defending their loved ones from people who would do them harm.

That's all quite understandable, except that it's their own gun that's far more likely to do harm to their loved ones. If you have your gun unloaded and locked up, what good will it do you when ISIS kicks down your door? But if not, you're really putting your family at risk.

And the idea that ISIS could be held off with Marco Rubio's pistol is just ludicrous. It's pure fantasy. It's confusing action movie heroes with yourself. It's confusing movie fantasy with reality.

This is a guy who wants to be President of the United States, yet he's that out of touch with reality. This is the guy who rarely attends votes in the Senate - after all, he's only being paid $174,000 a year to do his job, so why should he bother actually doing it? - where he might actually accomplish something to,... you know, actually affect ISIS.

Ludicrous fantasies like this wouldn't be a problem - well, if he weren't running for President of the United States, at least - except that they have real-world consequences. Guns put innocent people at risk. That's just a fact.

Marco Rubio may think he's Jason Bourne, John McClane, and Rambo all rolled into one, but the reality is quite different. Didn't we have enough of fantasy-based presidents with George W. Bush?

PZ Myers puts it well:
There’s our problem in a nutshell. One of our presidential candidates thinks that ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is credibly going to invade Florida, that they’re going to break into his house, and that he’ll be able to fight them off with a pistol. That’s such a fantastically naive and childish vision of a sociopolitical conflict that it tells me he’s got an unrealistic view on how to handle a serious problem, and that what’s driving him is really an irrational fear.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What biased journalism looks like

Do you wonder why the Republican Party wanted the Fox Business channel to host last night's debate? From TPM:
A question posed by Fox Business Networks Neil Cavuto at Thursday's main GOP debate had a curious way of glossing over the fact that the 2008 financial crisis came under President George W. Bush.

Referencing a dip in the stock market to start 2015, Cavuto asked Ohio Gov. John Kaish about how he would manage a financial crisis.

"Investors have already lost $1.6 trillion in market value. That makes it the worst start to a new year ever. Many worry things will get even worse, banks and financial stocks are particularly vulnerable," Cavuto said. "If this escalates like it did back when Barack Obama first assumed the presidency, what actions would you take, if the same thing happens all over again just as in this example you are taking over the presidency?"

As University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers pointed out, the stock market has more than doubled since since President Obama came into office.

The above image was posted by Wolfers on Twitter, in case you can't remember as far back as seven years ago. (The light blue area shows the S&P 500 index over the past decade.) Apparently, Neil Cavuto can't.

No, that's unkind. He knew he was lying. Cavuto doesn't impress me in any way, but it would be impossible for him not to know. And he certainly knows that two weeks means nothing in the stock market. Short-term gyrations are not just normal, they're to be expected - especially after such a long bull market.

But Cavuto is a Republican, and Fox Business Network, like Fox News, pushes Republican Party politics all it can - even if it has to lie to do so. Yes, lie. Make no mistake, this was a deliberate attempt to mislead the American people.

But then, that's exactly why the Republican Party picked them to hold the debate, huh?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Donald Trump's white nationalist supporters

Seth Meyers is getting better all the time, isn't he? I really enjoy his 'Closer Look' segments.

You know, racism in America has been flourishing ever since Barack Obama was elected president. Remember how Republicans tried to tell us that racism is over? Well, the absolute hysteria about our first black president - including bizarre birther claims and even more bizarre accusations that he's a Muslim - has clearly demonstrated what a lie that is.

But it's actually getting worse, not better. Racism is mainstream in today's GOP. Donald Trump, after all, is leading in the Republican primaries for president of the United States. Republicans seem to be getting more bigoted, not less.

And lately, the comments on YouTube videos have become even more blatantly racist. Sure, trolls are nothing new. You don't want to read YouTube comments if you want to maintain any hope for the future. But I swear, it's worse now, with Trump leading in the polls. It's like the bigots are encouraging each other. It's not pretty at all.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cry for our guns, not for our children?

That's typical Fox 'News,' isn't it? But why do we Americans stand for such things? According to the polls, 90% of us want universal background checks. That support is just as high even among gun owners! Why hasn't the Republican Party faded away like a bad dream by now?

We can't even shed a tear for children, murdered in their first-grade class? We can only cry for our guns, I suppose? Or are these people so obsessed with partisan political advantage that nothing Barack Obama does or says can escape their hysterical anger? How crazy can they get?

Meanwhile, in Oregon, heavily-armed men threatening gun violence have taken over government property, and they're not even kept from leaving the refuge on beer and pizza runs. Police are nowhere to be seen. Indeed, they haven't even shut off power to the buildings!

Of course, those are white Christian gun-nuts, so that's OK, right? I mean, it's not like some 12-year-old black kid with a toy gun. It took the police two seconds to shoot Tamir Rice.

In the 2014 Bundy standoff, armed men pointed guns at law enforcement officers. What happened then? Nothing. The authorities backed down. Cliven Bundy still has his cattle. They're still grazing illegally on public land. He still owes more than a million dollars in grazing fees and fines. No one was even charged with threatening the police.

They pointed guns - real guns, not toys - at law enforcement officers. With complete impunity. But if you're a white, Christian gun-nut, you can get away with anything, apparently.

So, is it that Barack Obama is black? Is it that we love our guns more than we love our children? Is it that Christian terrorists don't scare us, while Muslim terrorists do? (It's only been a couple of months since the right-wing Christian terrorist incident in Colorado. How often does Fox 'News' mention that?) Or is it all three?

I just don't understand my own country anymore. How can Republican politicians be taking political advantage of these things? Honestly, I can't even understand why the GOP still exists as a major political party in America. How stupid would you have to be to vote Republican these days?

PS. I haven't had internet access for a few days, which might explain the lack of posts here. Of course, I've been posting less and less anyway, and that's likely to continue - or even get worse. In fact, I can almost guarantee it.

Sorry. This has been fun, but I just don't feel like blogging right now. And the days seem to get shorter every year. Just thought I'd warn you,... again. Don't expect much (if you ever have).