Friday, November 30, 2012

Daily Blend: Friday, November 30, 2012

| | »
Bill O’Reilly
Bill O’Reilly
  • Awesome: New law demands that all free public schools in England must teach proper Evolutionary Theory or lose government funding.
    (via @BadAstronomer)

  • Today in less-than-good news: New international study shows Antarctic and Greenland ice is melting faster than ever, contributing to rising sea levels. Evidence so damning, even this Fox News talking head has stopped calling global warming a “conspiracy”.
    (via @JFitzsimmons7)

  • And finally, yes, Bill O’Reilly [pictured] actually thinks that Christianity is not an “organized church”, but a “philosophy”. I’m not even touching that one.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson explains why the Universe (most likely) doesn’t have a purpose

    | | »

    It’s hard to tell who makes just about anything sound cooler, Morgan Freeman or Neil deGrasse Tyson. Here’s the latter as he explains away our delusions about an anthropocentric universe:

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    NEIL deGRASSE TYSON: Does the Universe have a purpose?

    I’m not sure. But anyone who expresses a more definitive response to the question is claiming access to knowledge not based in empirical foundations. This remarkably persistent way of thinking, common to most religions and some branches of philosophy, has failed badly in past efforts to understand, and thereby predict, the operations of the Universe and our place within it.

    To assert that the Universe has a purpose implies a desired outcome. But who would do the designing, and what would a desired outcome be? That carbon-based life is inevitable, or that sentient primates are life’s neurological pinnacle?

    Of course, humans were not around to ask these questions for 99.9999% of cosmic history. So, if the purpose of the Universe was to create humans, the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it. And if a further purpose of the Universe was to create a fertile cradle for life, then our cosmic environment has got an odd way of showing it.

    Life on Earth, during more than 3½ billion years of existence, has been persistently assaulted by natural sources of mayhem, death and destruction. Ecological devastation exacted by volcanoes, climate change, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, and especially killer asteroids, have left extinct 99.9% of all species that have ever lived here.

    How about human life, itself? If you’re religious, you might declare that the purpose of life is to serve God. But if you’re one of the hundred billion bacteria living and working in a single centimeter of your lower intestine, you might instead say that the purpose of human life is to provide you with a dark but idyllic, anaerobic habitat of fecal matter.

    So, in the absence of human hubris, the Universe looks more and more random. Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interests are as numerous as other events that would just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible, to assert. So, while I cannot claim to know for sure whether or not the Universe has a purpose, the case against it is strong and visible to anyone who sees the Universe as it is, rather than as they wish it to be.

    I’m Neil deGrasse Tyson. I was asked by the Templeton Foundation to respond to a question: “Does the Universe have a purpose?”

    Human hubris, indeed.

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    Donohue on World AIDS Day: “Promiscuity kills”

    | | »

    Our favorite Catholic League blowhard, Bill Donohue, has a message for World AIDS Day tomorrow:

    Of course, it’s not like Donohue’s fetishized Catholic Church has had anything to do with the continuing AIDS plague in the Third World, is it? Nope, it’s poor people’s fault because they just can’t stop rutting.

    AZ students punished for fighting by holding hands in public

    | | »
    Two male students hiding their faces while forced to hold hands in the middle of a crowd of schoolchildren
    This shouldn’t be embarrassing

    This Mesa, Arizona high school principal apparently believes there’s no more effective punishment for fighting students than by making them look, like, totally gay in front of the whole school:

    Earlier this week, the two students at Westwood High School in Mesa, Ariz., who have not been named, were faced with the prospect of either suspension from school, or sitting in chairs in the high school’s courtyard and holding hands for 15 minutes during a lunch period. They opted for the latter.

    “Kids were laughing at them and calling them names, asking, ‘Are you gay?’” student Brittney Smyers told ABC affiliate KNXV.

    Teens at the high school inevitably posted photos of the two, who spent the time shielding their faces with their heads in their hands, to social media sites.

    On the Facebook posting, users commented that the public punishment is not appropriate, as it positions the teens as targets for taunting and name-calling. Others suggested the punishment was anti-gay, as it implies two males holding hands is embarrassing.

    Helen Hollands, director of communication and marketing for Mesa Public Schools, told that the school’s principal, Tim Richard, who is in his first year at Westwood, had the idea.

    “He’s done some great things there,” she said. “He’s focused highly on maintaining a standard where [ideally] no students are failing a class.”

    It’s only too bad that his “standard” apparently doesn’t rise to the level of treating his students as diverse human beings and understanding that acts stereotypical of a sexual minority don’t actually imply anything wrong against them. Even worse is that given the cultural climate in the region, particularly amongst youths, he’s most certainly right about it being an effective deterrent.

    It just shouldn’t be.

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Life expectancy: Monaco #1, Canada #12, USA … #51

    | | »

    Today in Why Americans Want to Move to Canada, courtesy of the CIA’s World Factbook:

    Life expectancy rankings: #1 = Monaco (89.68 years), #12 = Canada (81.48 years)

    And now, scrolling down … down … down …

    Life expectancy rankings: #51 = United States (78.49)

    I’m sure Bosnia, Guam and Bahrain all have the “best healthcare system in the world”, too.

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Daily Blend: Thursday, November 29, 2012

    | | »
    Susan Johnson (performing arts teacher, South Lyon Middle School, Michigan)
    Susan Johnson
  • Juvenile crime in California dropped by a record-breaking 20% between 2010 and 2011 thanks to marijuana decriminalization.
    (via @BuzzFeedAndrew)

  • South Lyon, MI middle school performing arts teacher plays pro-LGBT music video in support of diversity. So naturally, the school suspends her without pay.
    (via @BuzzFeedAndrew)

  • And finally, new from NASA: Mercury “almost certainly” has frozen water buried at its north pole.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Guest | Why my friend no longer calls himself a feminist

    | | »

    The following is a guest post by a friend who asked to remain anonymous. He wished to explain why he no longer wants to be known as a feminist despite his continued support for women’s rights as a result of the small but disproportionately vocal misandrist fringe. I’ve touched on the matter of these rabid kooks previously, and while they in no way represent the feminist movement as a whole, they generate enough noise and division to successfully chase away any number of potential allies who wish to avoid getting tarred with the same brush. I find this unspeakably disheartening and infuriating, which is why I’m publishing the following testimonial.

    Edit: 11/30/12 5:55 PM ET – To be clear (and to elucidate some apparent confusion in the comments), I – your humble blogmeister, Joé – do not endorse the idea of abandoning the mantle of feminism over the actions of fringers. I’ve repeatedly written to the contrary in the past: that if you truly believe in something, then you should stick with it and change it for the better. I published my friend’s testimonial because I thought it was an interesting viewpoint, even if I don’t agree with his decision to drop support for the feminist movement, and because it’s always important to take note of the damages caused by the rabid ones in our midst in order to assess the health and direction of the overall movement. That is all.

    Edit #2: 11/30/12 8:55 PM ET – To clarify another misunderstanding (especially at the Atheism Plus Forum): As clearly (and repeatedly) stated, my anonymous friend – I’ll call him AF from now on – remains committed to supporting equality and justice for women, whatever those keen on interpreting his account in the least charitable light may think. He’s just no longer adopting the “feminist” label. This is irrelevant to his beliefs and actions concerning women’s rights, just as one can reject the “Atheism Plus” label (say, in favor of “secular humanism”) while remaining a staunch ally on matters of social justice. Any accusations of AF merely being in it for the kudos aren’t only baseless, they’re outright ridiculous and serve only to embarrass the accuser. Now, I tire of defending AF from such silly diversions in his absence, so enough of that.

    “Men of quality respect women’s equality”

    I have always considered myself to hold progressive values, and as such, I have always supported Women's Rights, in-so-much as I have always seen these views as more “common sense” than anything else.

    As such, I have always considered myself to be a Feminist. Yet, over the few years that I have decided to share these views, I have been told, in essence, the same thing again and again.

    That I am not welcome here.

    I have been assured, by many people, that these events are part of a fringe group, and that this is not an everyday occurrence within the Feminist movement, yet it does not explain why I run into these people everywhere I go.

    I have always held to the belief that educating myself on any subject was important. As such, when I chose classes for my second semester at college, in order to fill the “Tolerance and Intolerance” requirement, I chose a course from the Women's Studies major.

    This was, apparently, a mistake.

    Colbert tackles the “war on men”

    | | »

    I couldn’t possibly avoid posting Stephen Colbert’s take on that stupid Fox News column about a supposed “war on men” by Suzanne Venker (niece to anti-feminist nut Phyllis Schlafly), now could I? From last night’s Colbert Report:

    Non-U.S. readers: Click here to learn how to enable Comedy Central videos (Firefox only)

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    STEPHEN COLBERT: Nation, there is a war on traditional marriage in this country. Did you know that many of those brides and grooms on the top of wedding cakes aren’t legally married? [to picture of wedding cake toppers] You’re frosting in sin!

    Now the threat to traditional marriage is coming from inside the couple.

    FOX NEWS HOST: The importance of marriage among women rose nine percentage points from 1997 from 28% to 37%. But those women aren’t finding men to marry, apparently because men are less interested, dropping from 35% to 29%.

    COLBERT: Shocking! Women wanna get married more than men do! That’s from the same researchers who found that women tend to scratch their balls less than men. It’s true. Shocking.

    These chilling marriage statistics mean there are millions of women who may never walk down the aisle, and that brings us to tonight’s Word: Sisters Are Doing It To Themselves.

    Folks, when it comes to matters of the woman, I always turn to one source.

    [“• Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.”]

    COLBERT: To Fox News. Their website recently addressed why so many women can’t get married. According to Fox contributor Suzanne Venker, it’s all part of the “war on men”. She writes:

    I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a subculture of men who’ve told me […] that they’re never getting married. When I ask them why, the answer is always the same. Women aren’t women anymore. [— Suzanne Venker, November 26, 2012]

    COLBERT: Right, women aren’t women anymore. That right, fellas: Always look for the Adam’s apple. Okay? That’s a pro tip. Then, look for the Adam’s penis. ’Cause you know what they say: Fool me once.

    [“• Twice, Actually”]

    COLBERT: Now, folks, this hard truth has been attacked in the mainstream media. It evidently ruffled a lot of lady-feathers. At least, I think they have feathers. I’m not sure. A lot of them pluck these days.

    [“• No Down Downtown”]

    Of course, this thin-skin reaction won’t surprise Venker. In the article, she wrote that:

    […] what if the dearth of good men […] is […] women’s fault? […] since the sexual revolution […] Men haven’t changed much […] but women have changed dramatically. In a nutshell, women are angry. They’re also defensive […] [— Suzanne Venker, November 26, 2012]

    COLBERT: Women are angry and defensive. You need proof? Go up to any single woman and say, “The reason you’re not married is because you’re angry and defensive.”

    [“• Wear A Cup”]

    COLBERT: And not only are today’s shrill harpies scaring good-quality men away from marriage, but also making these men deadbeats. Venker says that the rise of women has:

    […] pissed [men] off [and] undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women not compete with them. [— Suzanne Venker, November 26, 2012]

    COLBERT: Yeah! Men hate women who compete with them. That’s why it’s so rare for men to be attracted to women in the workplace.

    [“• Except On Casual Sex Fridays”]

    COLBERT: I mean, what man wants a woman providing the money while he stays home to do, what, witness his child taking its first steps? I’ve seen people walk before, and frankly, babies aren’t that good at it. Men want paperwork! We want a grinding commute, to sit in a cubicle all day long, taking crap from that jerkoff, Rick!

    [“• Plus Cake If It’s Someone’s Birthday!”]

    COLBERT: Luckily, Venker sees a way to liberate women and men from these liberated women. All the ladies have to do is:

    […] surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs. If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork. [— Suzanne Venker, November 26, 2012]

    COLBERT: Yes! Just surrender, and those men will come out of the woodwork like cockroaches in a darkened crab shack.

    [“• Is The Cockroach Single?”]

    COLBERT: Ladies, you can do more – by doing less. Maybe, stop voting, or stop talking. That’s mysterious. I mean, what’re you girls thinking?

    [“• ‘Am I In Saudi Arabia?’”]

    COLBERT: Follow Ms. Venker’s advice, and you single gals will finally be able to live out every woman’s wildest dream:

    [“• Equal Pay?”]

    COLBERT: Marrying a man who doesn’t want you to achieve anything. And as a man on behalf of women everywhere, thank you, Suzanne Venker. I trust you will lead the charge by getting out of the writing business. Clearly, it’s not in your nature.

    And that’s the Word. We’ll be right back.

    It’s almost curious how telling women that they’re angry and defensive seems to make them all, well, you know. It’s also amusing how these “traditional marriage” advocates are going all verklempt over a mere 6% drop in the number of men who want to get married, considering how their own numbers showed that only a third of men were supposedly interested in wedlock in the first place. I’m not seeing much of a difference, here.

    (Personally, I have no desire to get married, largely to avoid the bureaucratic mess, and out of the belief that one doesn’t need a paper from the government to confirm my love for my hypothetical partner. Family history also tells me it makes the quasi-inevitable break-up far easier for all involved. But that’s just me.)

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Daily Blend: Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    | | »
    Pat Robertson
    Pat Robertson
  • Fundamentalist coot Pat Robertson [pictured] denounces gays EvolutionYoung-Earth Creationism? (Don’t worry, his sanity was only temporary.)

  • For some reason, Irish Catholic bishops seem to think anyone else gives the slightest shit about their benighted views on morality in medicine after the death of Savita Halappanavar.
    (via Pharyngula)

  • And finally, Morgan Freeman still has some unanswered questions:
    (via Bad Astronomy)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Obama passes stronger whistleblower protections, or something

    | | »

    It seems that President Obama has reversed his opinion that cracking down on whistleblowers is a brag-worthy accomplishment and has now signed a new law ostensibly to protect federal employees who reveal government wrongdoing:

    Capping a 13-year effort by supporters of whistle-blower rights, the new law closes loopholes created by court rulings, which removed protections for federal whistle-blowers. One loophole specified that whistle-blowers were only protected when they were the first to report misconduct.


    The whistle-blower law makes it easier to punish supervisors who try to retaliate against the government workers.


    The new legislation, however, would go beyond restoring protections, to expand whistle-blower rights and clarify certain protections. For example, whistle-blowers could challenge the consequences of government policy decisions.

    Specific protections would be given to certain employees, including government scientists who challenge censorship. Workers at the Transportation Security Administration, who provide airport security, would be covered under the law for the first time.

    The law also would clarify that whistleblowers have the right to communicate with Congress.

    To stop illegal retaliation, the law would make it easier to discipline those responsible, by modifying the burden of proof required when taking action against those trying to punish whistle-blowers. Also, the Office of Special Counsel, which was established to protect federal employees, would no longer be liable for attorney fees of government managers if the office does not prevail in a disciplinary action.

    This is all very commendable, albeit rather belated. Now, if only the White House had any intention of actually applying these protections to those who reveal information that makes the President’s office look bad.

    It’s also a fitting coincidence that these development occurs right as Bradley Manning’s ridiculous show trial-slash-court-martial begins.

    (via @radleybalko, @ggreenwald & @ggreenwald)

    Headline of the Day: Crazies of a feather …

    | | »

    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Daily Blend: Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    | | »
    Polar bear cub in a hand-basket
    Random polar-bear-cub-in-a-basket pic of the day
    [source | full size (510×360)]
  • Another Catholic institution, this time a Montréal, Canada school for deaf boys, sued for repeated child molestation that lasted decades. Makes me prouder than ever of the Quiet Revolution.
    (via My Secret Atheist Blog)

  • U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right to record on-duty police officers in Chicago, IL.

  • PZ Myers tears into an anti-Atheism Plus douchebag for misrepresenting scientific research to defend vaginal douching.

  • And finally, Ed Brayton takes apart that stupid Fox News column about a supposed “war on men” where “women aren’t women anymore”.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Québec mayor channels French-Canada’s embarrassing tribalism

    | | »
    Mayor Jean Tremblay (Saguenay, Qc)
    Mayor Jean Tremblay

    I generally try to avoid talking about local politics because A) they’re usually a lethal bore, and B) I don’t pay enough attention to regional happenings to develop much of an opinion, anyway. But one thing about the cultural climate here that’s been driving me up the wall over the last few years is the steadily growing undercurrent of tribalistic thinking that reduces any discussion about immigration to a reactionary debate about “us (true citizens) vs. them (filthy minorities)”. There’s something peculiar about living in a universal-healthcare-receiving, gay-equality-espousing liberal quasi-utopia where people still complain about all those foreign savages taking our jobs and how they should just return to their hellholes and leave our precious traditions alone. It’s like Arizona, if the Republicans were Left-wingers.

    As a perfect representation of this phenomenon, I’ll let Mayor Jean Tremblay from the local town of Saguenay illustrate just what I’m talking about. Here he is just this past August, reacting to Parti Québécois (a quasi-separatist Québec-first political party) then-candidate Djemila Benhabib’s proposal for a truly secular Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms that prohibits the display of religious symbols on government property (sound familiar, U.S.ians?):

    “What shocks me, is to see us, the gentle French-Canadians, being told how to behave by someone from Algeria whose name we can’t even pronounce,” Tremblay said.

    Told that Benhabib has been in Quebec 15 years, Tremblay laid out the perceived threat posed by “them.”

    “They are quietly, and with nice language, eating away (at our traditions),” Tremblay said. “They quietly start by removing the prayer in city hall, then they’ll remove our religious objects, then they’ll take away the crosses in cities and after that they’ll go into the schools ...

    “They’ll do away with our religion and culture everywhere, and you won’t notice.”

    Not so much “latent” xenophobia as “blatant”. As in, “So blatant, you’d think it were a parody of discriminatory bigotry if it didn’t actually represent a virulent mentality espoused by a prominent faction of the population.”

    But Tremblay wasn’t done making a ridiculous scene over an obvious non-issue. He’s now upset that the Québec Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Saguenay city council to stop wasting time with sectarian prayers before meetings and to take down a crucifix from the chamber wall, and is determined to keep shaking his little fists at those darned secularists for casting symbols of religious oppression out of the government:

    New Jersey “ex-gay” group sued for fraud

    | | »
    Switch: “GAY | NOT GAY”

    In an interesting and perhaps slightly promising first, a group of gay men in New Jersey are suing a “gay deconversion” organization for allegedly luring them in with promises of a “scientifically proven” method to eliminate homosexual leanings and instead presenting nothing but quack-tastic garbage:

    Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), a Jersey City-based non-profit organization, falsely claimed to be able to eliminate the four men's homosexual desires through a scientifically proven process, according to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey.

    JONAH clients would pay a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions.

    The plaintiffs charge that during therapy sessions they were sometimes ordered to remove all of their clothing; in other sessions they were told to beat effigies of their mothers with tennis rackets or were subjected to homosexual slurs, according to the complaint.

    Another JONAH client was instructed to break through a human barricade to retrieve a pair of oranges, drink the juice from them and place them down his pants to symbolize the recovery of his testicles and, by extension, his heterosexuality, according to Michael Ferguson, one of the plaintiffs.

    That “ex-gay therapy” offers nothing but pseudoscientific nonsense is expected, with every reputable medical group under the sun from the American Psychiatric Association to the World Health Organization labeling it a discredited and harmful sham perpetrated by (usually religious) homophobic cranks … but I have to admit that sucked-dry-orange-testicles gimmick is a new one.

    There’s no word on what legal merit the court may find in the case, but with a little luck, this might just get somewhere on the path to further relegating such repressive quackery to the shitcan of history.

    (via @BuzzFeedAndrew)

    Monday, November 26, 2012

    Pentagon report debunks DADT fear-mongering (yet again)

    | | »
    D.A.D.T.: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

    We now have yet more evidence to throw in the faces of all those far-Right homophobes who’ve spent the last year (and longer) going apoplectic over the demise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with hysterical claims about the loss of morale and unit cohesion and the enslavement of chaplains and whatnot. Following report after report about the “negligible” effect caused by the repeal, we now have official recruitment statistics from the Department of Defense that blow a crater right through all those myths about the impending homosexualized decline of the U.S.’s armed forces:

    All four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal 2012:

    -- Army: 60,490 accessions, for 104 percent of its goal of 58,000;

    -- Navy: 36,329 accessions, for 100 percent of its goal of 36,275;

    -- Marine Corps: 30,514 accessions, for 100 percent of its goal of 30,500;

    -- Air Force: 29,037 accessions, for 100 percent of its goal of 29,037.

    The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force all exhibited strong retention through fiscal 2012.

    That’s right: Not only have enlisted soldiers not left in protest of the gay plague, but in addition to recruitment remaining exactly on the mark, there’s even more people joining up than had been expected. We’re really running out of space on that ever-growing list of failed religious-Right predictions.

    Of course, they could always just stop making such mindless and easily disproven claims … but then, you know what they say about expecting crazy people to stop doing crazy things.

    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Daily Blend: Sunday, November 25, 2012

    | | »
    Ac Tah (Mayan elder)
    Ac Tah
  • PZ Myers explains why evolutionary psychology fails to explain behavioral differences between men and women (it mangles genetics and doesn’t consider cultural upbringing).

  • Could it be that this Mayan elder [pictured] is deliberately trolling in order to undermine “Doomsday 2012” believers? The idea that he might be serious is almost too painful to bear.

  • And finally, for free hugs, go to kitty:
    (via @BuzzFeedAndrew)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Send her to college and save young minds from imprisonment

    | | »
    Christian homeschooling

    Jennifer from Charlotte, North Carolina had an unfortunate beginning. She hails from a Quiverfull homestead where her devout parents homeschooled and brainwashed her and her six younger sibling into believing a woman’s role in life was to be a baby-dispensing homemaker and little more. Thankfully, she was lucky enough to see the light and left as a young adult keen on trying to recapture the years of proper schooling that had been withheld from her. Naturally, her parents are refusing any and all support, including the mere act of signing her FAFSA, effectively turning her into an outcast.

    There is hope, however. Jennifer has a plan: [lightly edited for formatting]

    If I were to finish college and get a degree, I would first help my 6 younger siblings (specifically the two girls) to also find a way out and get on their feet and go to school.

    Then, I would love to create a safe-house where children of religious homeschooling families can come to improve their lives and future and have hope.
    From struggling with poverty, to being unable to get a job without a resume or employment history, and often a substandard education; the children of the Quiverfull movement have extreme challenges to overcome. A home like this would be a safe platform for them to transition into the world without being abandoned to struggle. Many of their parents wish this difficulty for their children, saying it will cause them to return and be content with the party line. I want to create a buffer for the pain parents cause when they shun and disinherit their children for religious reasons.
    Because there are more of us every day, and so much pain and heartache.

    I know that this is possible and I know that my education and success will pave the way for me to help others.
    That is how I want to change the world.

    She’s applying for a scholarship from WyzAnt, which uses popular vote to determine who gets their funding. Voting is incredibly easy – no registration or personal information of any kind is required – so do her (and the countless kids she may help free from religious indoctrination) a favor and endorse her, as I and 5,856 others (as of this writing) already have. The more, the merrier.

    (via The Words on What…)

    Saturday, November 24, 2012

    This week in doggycide: November 24, 2012

    | | »
    Maddie (10yo pitbull) sleeping on couch
  • Thomasville, GA (September 23): Officer repeatedly shoots Ford the pitbull-weimaraner mix “because he thought he was a stray”. The dog may lose a leg from his injuries. The shooter faces enough “policy violations” to risk losing his job.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Baldwin County, AL (November 12): Call about a loose dog leads to deputy chasing Maddie the pitbull [pictured] while shooting at her, then cornering her on her patio and killing her. Neighbors claim the dog was never aggressive.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Clyde, NC (November 15): Police respond to domestic disturbance, shoot at a “pitbull”, miss and hit another cop in the leg instead. Dog fled with unknown status.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • Birmingham, AL (November 16): Sparse and incomplete report says a drug raid resulted in the shooting of a pitbull, who later died.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • Hampton, VA (November 17): Cops attempting to serve a warrant shoot and kill an “angry pitbull” that allegedly broke through a fence and attacked them.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Champaign, IL (November 17): Unidentified pitbull allegedly attacks Dog the Labrador Retriever as he’s being walked by its owner. Officer responds, attempts to force the dogs apart, then ends up shooting both dogs, killing the Labrador.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Clarksville, TN (November 17): Officer searching for a runaway teenager shoots Bonnie the Australian Cattle Dog/Pitbull mix in the head, killing her in her backyard. No sign of aggression is mentioned. Entire neighborhood testifies in the dog’s defense, saying she had never been aggressive. Cop appeared apologetic, a rare event.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • Ypsilanti Township, MI (November 19): Deputy responds to meter reader being attacked by a “pitbull” in its yard, shoots it when it allegedly charges him. Dog later dies. Neighbors claim dog had a history of “being vicious”.
    (via Dogs Shot by Police | Facebook)

  • And finally, in lighter news: Rex the stray, who was shot by Hoopa Valley, CA tribal police last September for playing with schoolchildren, is slowly but surely recovering with a loving community.
    (via The Cat’s Meow)

  • Statistics:
    Cases: 8
    Victims: 9
    Deceased: 6 (66%)
    Survivors: 3 (33%)
    Pitbull index: 6½ (72%)

    Request: Gene Burmington | Softer Dreams

    | | »

    This entry has been removed from Preliator and can now be found over at Creativitas. (See here for more info.)

    Pie chart: Why climate deniers have no scientific credibility

    | | »

    Think what you will of simplified charts, but they do carry a point across with devastating clarity:

    Pie chart: “13,950 peer-reviewed climate articles 1991-2012 / 24 reject global warming”

    A little more detail:

    By my definition, 24 of the 13,950 articles, 0.17% or 1 in 581, clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming. The list of articles that reject global warming is here. The 24 articles have been cited a total of 113 times over the nearly 21-year period, for an average of close to 5 citations each. That compares to an average of about 19 citations for articles answering to "global warming," for example. Four of the rejecting articles have never been cited; four have citations in the double-digits. The most-cited has 17.

    The author also explains why the remaining 99.83% of published peer-reviewed climate articles aren’t just blindly assumed to support the reality of anthropogenic climate change:

    I read whatever combination of titles, abstracts, and entire articles was necessary to identify articles that "reject" human-caused global warming. To be classified as rejecting, an article had to clearly and explicitly state that the theory of global warming is false or, as happened in a few cases, that some other process better explains the observed warming. Articles that merely claimed to have found some discrepancy, some minor flaw, some reason for doubt, I did not classify as rejecting global warming. Articles about methods, paleoclimatology, mitigation, adaptation, and effects at least implicitly accept human-caused global warming and were usually obvious from the title alone.

    More precious data to keep in your back pocket for the next time some denialist tries to make it sound like there’s any kind of a debate within the scientific community concerning the reality of (almost certainly anthropogenic) climate change. You know, like they do when pretending there’s any real scientific disagreement about the Theory of Evolution. Or that vaccines cause autism. Or that HIV doesn’t lead to AIDS. Or any other bogus idea that flies in the face of any other thoroughly well-established fundamental of the scientific world.

    (via Pharyngula)

    Daily Blend: Saturday, November 23, 2012 – Late night edition

    | | »
    Nature logo
  • Saudi Arabia now monitors women with electronic tracking systems that alert their male guardians when they travel. Y’know, leashes and fences are totally cheaper, guys.

  • Police departments in Arlington and Fort Worth, TX start properly training officers to deal with dogs. So much more of this, please.

  • And finally, Nature [pictured] openly admits its own sexist editorial staff make-up, and despite stumbling over self-perpetuating stereotypes, vows to do better. Good on them.
    (via Pharyngula)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Friday, November 23, 2012

    Report: U.S. abortions still declining thanks to birth control

    | | »
    Abortion: My Mind, My Body, My Choice

    Some good news on the reproductive health front today as a new report finds that not only has there been a dramatic drop in abortion rates lately, but it’s pretty much directly linked to the widespread use of birth control, especially during hard economic times:

    U.S. abortions fell 5 percent during the recession and its aftermath in the biggest one-year decrease in at least a decade, perhaps because women are more careful to use birth control when times are tough, researchers say.

    The decline, detailed on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Both the number of abortions and the abortion rate dropped by the same percentage.


    Some experts cite a government study released earlier this year suggesting that about 60 percent of teenage girls who have sex use the most effective kinds of contraception, including the pill and patch. That's up from the mid-1990s, when fewer than half were using the best kinds.


    [Duke U. researcher Elizabeth] Ananat said another factor may be the growing use of the morning-after pill, a form of emergency contraception that has been increasingly easier to get. It came onto the market in 1999 and in 2006 was approved for non-prescription sale to women 18 and older. In 2009 that was lowered to 17.

    In addition to the increased use of contraception, there’s also the fact that fewer women are willing to face pregnancy and child-rearing during a recession, though that may well change now that the U.S. is slowly but surely limping out of its financial chasm. These numbers also originate from before the flurry of anti-abortion legislation crammed through by state and Congressional Republicans in the last couple of years, so be wary of lying ideologues who will doubtlessly try to claim the lower rate of abortions as a victory for their sex-shaming, women-oppressing camp.

    All in all, this paints yet another devastating picture for the anti-abortionist argument that women just need to abstain from sexual activity if they really want to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Not only is abstinence-only complete ineffective hogwash, it’s simply pointless with the availability and efficacy of modern birth control methods. Women no longer need to prevent themselves from enjoying one of life’s great pleasures in order to retain control over their bodies and lives, regardless of what the Orwellianly-labeled “pro-life” movement claims.

    (via ThinkProgress)

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

    Happy (U.S.) Day for the Giving of the Thanks

    | | »
    Sarcastic e-card: “Let's regret our eating decisions this Thanksgiving as much as Native Americans regret trusting white people.”

    As much as I try to avoid arbitrarily predetermined dates to remind us to celebrate that which we have all year to be thankful for, Preliatorite Uzza offers an (un)prayer we can all cheer to. She should try her hand at poetry, that one.

    Me, I’m just thankful I finally got my music program working this week after a few months on hiatus, not to mention I’ve managed to unlock a veritable instrumental buffet of new sounds for my songs. Yes, that does explain why blogging has been – and will remain – light this week, and presumably for a while. Music comes first for me, kids, and that’s just the way it is.

    As for the rest of you (specifically, you Yanks), eat all the stuffing you can to make up for the corn-dogs I’m planning to have tonight, try not to strangle any Fox News-addicted relatives, and please, above all, make sure that turkey is actually dead – and that it isn’t from Transylvania. (You never know.)

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Daily Blend: Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    | | »
    John Fairfax
    John Fairfax
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists declares that birth control should be available over the counter. Not that such a sensible and provably effective measure has any chance of becoming reality in the foreseeable future, of course.

  • Nevada City proposes ordinance to make it illegal for homeless people to sleep outside without a permit.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • New report: Only three developed countries (Mexico, Chile and Turkey) have a higher child poverty rate than the United States, and other disillusioning statistics.
    (via @BuzzFeedAndrew)

  • Best obituary ever: “At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate. To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate, he briefly managed a mink farm […][pictured]
    (via The Agitator)

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Christianist debater Eric Hovind owned by sixth-grader

    | | »

    Portland State University recently hosted a debate between former-Evangelical-Christian-turned-atheist Bernie Dehler and Young-Earth Creationist Eric Hovind (son of incarcerated tax cheat Kent Hovind), and it apparently went as you’d expect, with the secular humanist doing his best to remain afloat amidst the self-assured goober’s deluge of Biblical nonsense. But one moment in particular stuck out, when Hovind was reduced to a babbling mess by his opponent’s sixth-grader son:

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    CHAD DEHLER (11): What is your evidence with God? Do you have – whenever you have God talking to you, it’s just one part of your brain actually talking to yourself.


    ERIC HOVIND: What’s my evidence of God? Dad’s [Bernie Dehler] okay with this. The proof of God is that without God, you can’t know anything. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen, here, is when you’ve seen somebody say, “I could be wrong about everything,” they’ve given up knowledge in order to deny the God that they know exists. And that’s why the Bible says it is so foolish to deny God.

    DEHLER: So, you’re saying if I don’t know one thing, then I don’t know everything?

    HOVIND: No, I’m saying if you don’t know everything, then you can’t know anything to be absolutely true.

    DEHLER: So, if I don’t know everything in the world, then I don’t know that you exist?

    HOVIND: [slight pause] Unless you have revelation from someone who does know everything. And that someone that does know everything is God, and young man –

    DEHLER: So, does that mean if I don’t know everything, then that means that I don’t know God exists?

    HOVIND: You can’t know anything. You can’t even – you can’t – the argument and – I’m sorry, Max, thanks for trying to get – how old are you, buddy?

    [Crosstalk, during which Max says that he’s eleven years old.]

    HOVIND: These are good questions. But the argument is actually kinda simple. It just says, look, you have to know everything in order to say you know one thing to be absolutely certain. Or, somebody who does know everything could reveal something to you so that you can be certain. We all deal in a realm of certainty. We deal with 2 + 2 = 4. You don’t go to the bank and ask for change for a $100 bill, and they give you $5, and go, “Oh, I got some change!” No, you go based on certainty. If I, for example […] I knew everything everything there was to know, if I had all the knowledge and you didn’t, and there was a rule that said I am never, ever, ever allowed to tell a lie [Except that God does lie in the Bible. —JM], and I said, “Chad, I know everything, I’m not allowed to lie – 2 + 2 = 4.” Could you now know that to be true, even though you, Chad, don’t know everything? […]

    CHAD: Yes, because I know it, because there’s proof for it. There’s no proof for God.

    [light applause]

    How can the man expect to be taken seriously as a debater when he’s so helplessly outmatched at his own game by an eleven-year-old? And these people then wonder why few secular intellectuals are willing to waste their time and energy on a stage with them.

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    NYPD’s stop-and-frisk: more rare, still racist, mostly useless

    | | »
    Stop and Frisk

    The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has a new report on the statistics of New York City police’s practice of stopping and searching anyone they feel is acting suspiciously, and this little paragraph reaffirms everything that’s already known about the injustice and prejudice inherent to such a program:

    The latest stop-and-frisk report shows that the NYPD stopped and interrogated New Yorkers 105,988 times between July 1 and Sept. 30. About 89 percent of those encounters did not result in arrests or tickets. About 86 percent of those stopped were black or Latino. Whites were around 10 percent of people stopped.

    And yet, the number of (mostly innocent) people being accused of acting like possible criminals has actually been going down by 30% over the past year.

    And of course, that’s not mentioning how the program is completely at odds with the Fourth Amendment, as I doubt any court could mangle the meaning of “probable cause” enough to apply it to cops who think someone’s sidewalk gait or white-knuckle cellphone grip indicates they’re out to deal drugs or launch an illegal knife-throwing enterprise. But then, that’s one part of the Constitution that everyone in power seems to have forgotten about these last few years.

    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

    What “teaching the controversy” looks like in Louisiana

    | | »

    You know, with quality educative material like this …

    Page 34 from Louisiana Creationism-tainted science textbook telling students about the difference between Creationist and Evolutionist viewpoints
    Page 48 from Creationism-tainted Louisiana science textbook telling students about how God’s Word contradicts scientists about dinosaurs

    Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

    Fact or Theory?

    Man makes judgments about the evidence of fossils based on his beliefs. A man who believes God’s record of Creation and history will look at fossils in one way. A man who believes in evolution will view fossils in a different way.

    When men write about fossils, especially fossils of dinosaurs, they usually will say things that show what they believe. Understanding what view a writer has is important. The Bible says that Christians should be discerning. That means that Christians should understand what is right and wrong.

    In this activity, you will be given several books or articles to read. You must evaluate whether the writer is writing from an evolutionist viewpoint or Creationist viewpoint. Use the following chart to help you.

    Creationist Viewpoint Evolutionist Viewpoint
    God crated the heavens and the earth. Earth and space are a result of a sudden explosion.
    The earth is thousands of years old. The earth is millions of years old.
    Fossils are probably a result of the great Flood recorded in the Bible. Fossils show the great geologic ages of the earth.
    God created all the kinds of animals in the beginning. Different kinds of life have gradually evolved over long periods of time.
    Man is God’s special creation. He is different from the animals because he is created in God’s image. Man is the highest level of animal.


    What the Bible Teaches Us

    Dinosaurs were “discovered” in the early 1600s by an English scientist named Robert Plot. He found the bones of an animal that had clearly been huge. But long before Plot found these bones, the Bible talked about unusual animals that were very likely dinosaurs.

    Evolutionists believe that dinosaurs and man never lived on the same earth at the same time. But the Bible says that God created all the land and sea animals during the fifth and sixth days of Creation. And He created man on the sixth day of Creation. So dinosaurs and man would have lived at the same time. God’s Word is always accurate. We can trust it to be true even in areas of science.

    We also know that God spared some of the dinosaurs during the Flood. Genesis 7:15 says that “two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life” went into the ark. So after the Flood, some dinosaurs must have survived for a time.

    In Job 40:15–19, the Lord talks about an animal that He called Behemoth (bih HEE muth). This large, grass-eating animal had a “tail like a cedar.” The animal also had […]


    … I just cannot for the life of me figure out why some U.S. states fare so abysmally low that they’ve all but turned the country’s education system into an international joke.

    Maybe it’s ’cause of all ’em elites I keep hearing about. Them and their godless, knowledge-y ways …

    (via @RichardDawkins)

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Daily Blend: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    | | »
    Ex-Rep. Allen West (R-FL)
    Ex-Rep. Allen West (R-FL)

    Sober Transgender Day of Remembrance, everyone.

  • Alex Knapp at Forbes thoroughly decorticates Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for claiming the age of the Earth (which he doesn’t know) isn’t related to our economic and general welfare.
    (via @BadAstronomer)

  • Now-former-Rep. Allen West (R-FL) [pictured] finally concedes.

  • PZ Myers shines some contextual light on the current kerfuffle over Sam Harris’s 2006-era comments about how “[i]f [he] could wave a magic wand to get rid of either rape or religion, [he] would not hesitate to get rid of religion”.

  • And finally, more awesomeness about the promise of stem cell research: Dogs with paralyzing spinal injuries learn to walk again.

  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Bill O’Reilly hates media operations that promote ideology

    | | »

    Your deliciously self-unaware screenshot of the day:

    Screenshot from “Talking Points Commentary” segment on Fox News’s ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ with Bill O’Reilly: “THE FAR LEFT RUNNING WILD: There are entire media operations that exist solely to promote ideology. This is a bad situation that is getting worse.”

    Atheism Plus now has a wiki!

    | | »
    Scarlet ‘A+’ of Atheism Plus

    For those of you who still aren’t decided on whether the fledgling movement is a fit, or for those interested in learning a little more about social justice and how to be a better person around others from different walks of life, the Atheism Plus Wiki is now online. It’s still a bit wet behind the ears, though, so feel free to contribute if you have something to add to its as-of-yet rudimentary list of resources.

    Me, I’ll just be trying to wrap my mind around all these weird prefixes and suffixes that combine in to denote the intricacies of different people’s genderal or sexual identities. (Perhaps that’s another example of cis/hetero privilege – I don’t have to learn thirteen new terms to situate myself on the gender/sexuality spectrum, nor do I often receive glassy-eyed looks for explaining my leanings.)

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Daily Blend: Monday, November 19, 2012

    | | »
    Lisa Biron
    Lisa Biron
  • Another Bible-loving Christianist “traditional values” advocate [pictured] busted for child porn & molestation.
    (via Right Wing Watch)

  • Former Michigan assistant A.G. Andrew Shirvell demanding unemployment benefits after being fired for illegally using government computers to stalk and harass a gay university student.
    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

  • 100,000 Stars: Take a spectacular virtual tour of the Milky Way galaxy.

  • And finally, give a stingray an X-ray and you apparently get an alien:
    (via Pharyngula)

    Stingless stingray under X-ray
  • If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

    Donohue upset at “new normal” of secularism and public nudity

    | | »
    Bill Donohue (President, Catholic League)
    Bill Donohue

    The Catholic League’s perennial malcontent, Bill Donohue, is now kvetching over how the tables seem to have turned over his brand of prudish Christianism:

    For most of American history, manger scenes adorned public property at Christmastime without controversy. It was also normal to ban public nudity. But times have changed: now the authorities in Santa Monica and San Francisco are set to rule on these issues.

    Today in Santa Monica a federal judge will decide whether the city can ban churches from erecting crèches in Palisades Park. On Tuesday, lawmakers in San Francisco will decide whether the city can ban public nudity. Activists in the atheist and homosexual communities are responsible for upending these traditions.

    Those doggone heathens and their anti-religious, pro-nudity (?) ways!

    And naturally, it wouldn’t be a Donohue rant if there weren’t plenty of gratuitous swipes at those filthy gheys:

    Homosexuals have been walking around naked in San Francisco with increasing regularity, and tomorrow lawmakers will rule on whether to adopt an ordinance that would make public nudity illegal. There is a caveat: because gay pride is inseparable from genital liberation, the law being considered would still allow these men to go naked at the annual gay pride parade, and at the Folsom Street Fair; the latter event is marked by naked homosexuals who whip each other in the street. Jolly for them, they will still be allowed to torture themselves in public even if the law is passed.

    Of course, as has already been noted, San Francisco’s policy regarding public nudity and the proposed law to ban it has nothing to do with “gay pride” (and whatever grotesque caricature Donohue’s fevered mind may fabricate about it) and is instead the result of nudist activists in the area, who are largely considered to be majoritarily straight. In other words, it’s Donohue’s precious heterosexuals who want to retain the right to bare it all in the streets, but that would be too inconvenient to admit, so he’d rather just close his eyes and wag his stubby finger towards Big GayTM, instead.

    But the overall point is even more discrediting towards him. Throughout all that whining and grinding of teeth and shaking of tiny fists about those pesky gays and atheists, one thing Donohue never even mentions – perhaps because he knows doing so would destroy his argument – is that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (corroborated by decades of judicial precedent) strictly prohibits government endorsements of religion. Even the nuttiest of religious-Rightists have yet to come up with any rationale to explain how allowing explicitly religious displays on government property shouldn’t be interpreted as a violation of the separation of church and state, which thus explains why they rely exclusively on tiresome red herrings about “tradition!” and “religious liberty!” where they simply don’t apply.

    In the end, there’s a reason why government-endorsed religious displays are outlawed whereas public nudity is (for now, in certain select locales) legal. Seeing others in their birthday suits may be disturbing to some (or even most, given how prudish Americans are known to be), but I’ve yet to hear about it ever causing harm to anyone. And if the sight of wieners and vajayjays is more disturbing to you than the thought of breaking down the only line of defense between a government that treats all faiths equally and one that’s overrun by the very kind of oppressive theocrats the U.S. Founding Fathers sought to keep out in the first place, then I propose you have bigger issues to deal with than the risk of seeing others enjoy full-body tans out on the sidewalk.

    Edit: 11/19/12 9:55 PM ET – Revised the concluding paragraph for coherency.