Saturday, June 30, 2012

Daily Blend: Saturday, June 30, 2012

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Freedom of Information Act
  • DEA Freedom of Information Act [pictured] request rejections have increased by 114% since President Obama took office. Transparency!
    (via The Agitator)

  • Virginia Judge decides a police drug-sniffing dog’s track record of 74% false alerts is good enough for probable cause. First one to make a wisecrack about the dog’s name gets yelled at.
    (via @radleybalko)

  • YouTube is reportedly developing tools to help deal with its “racist, cruel, idiotic, nonsensical, and barely literate” commenters. Maybe IMDb could be next.
    (via @ebertchicago)

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

    Headline of the Day: WTF Kardashian edition

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    The rest of this CBS article doesn’t help make any more sense:

    CBS DC headline: “Lawsuits: Kim Kardashian A Terrorist, Had Sex On Tape While Unicorn Watched” [@ 06/28/12 12:54 PM]

    (via The Agitator)


    Study: The relative (actual) harm of drugs

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    It’s obvious that the heavily politicized and increasingly militarized anti-drug effort in the U.S. (and to a lesser extent, elsewhere) has very little to do with the actual threat to individuals and society presented by the illicit substances, themselves. But for all the fear-mongering propaganda, it’s nonetheless evident that some drugs are more dangerous than others. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some sort of side-by-side comparison to see how different types of mind-altering chemicals rank in terms of the actual dangers they pose?

    Well, a team of researchers and Britain’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs did just that, publishing a new study that summarizes their findings thus:

    And here, the effects of society’s irrational approach to different drugs becomes clear. Some of the most dangerous and destructive substances (alcohol, cigarettes) are some of the most widely accepted and commercially available products sold over-the-counter practically on every street corner, whereas some of the more genuinely innocuous drugs with little or no actual harm (marijuana, LSD, even ’shrooms) will get you thrown behind bars for years merely for using them on your own time and dime. It all brings a new level of evidentiary support to the idea that were alcohol introduced just today, it would be universally decried as the greatest danger to society since the Commies – yet because it’s been such an integral part of human history, watch them rage (not that they shouldn’t) if anyone ever tried to take it away from them.

    Friday, June 29, 2012

    WND Headline of the Day: Classy on bullying edition

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    From the ever-tactful WorldNetDaily:

    WorldNetDaily headline: “Return to Reason: BULLIED ‘JAIL BUS’ LADY: FEARFUL FATTY, NOT A HERO (Exclusive: Ilana Mercer asserts Karen Klein is perpetuating infantilism in America)”

    Showing support for an unfortunate victim of teenaged shitheadedness = treating adults like helpless babies. Right.

    “Exclusive”, indeed – if only because every other news outlet on Earth actually has standards.

    (via Right Wing Watch)

    Gene Burmington | An Open Letter To Dave Vara

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    The following is a guest post by Gene Burmington.

    Davy Vara
    Davy Vara

    I'm noticing a great deal of drama on this blog due to your misunderstanding of very elementary materials. What makes your claims illegitimate is that Mr. McKen has been running the blog the same way for years, and it can be argued that he is ultimately doing a good job with it, as he hasn't received any other complaints from others that he quoted from.

    Given the grand cosmological odds of the internet, you'd think that if Joé were doing something wrong or dishonest, he would have been caught by now, but no. Perhaps you think blogs must follow the scholarly edict that requires a great deal more citation for a work, but for such strictly casual purposes as these, no serious authentication is required.

    In McKen's second response to your further threats of litigation, he is more than reasonable to elaborate all that he has done to outline fair use and give an author all credit needed as per the free use statutes of the internet. Despite your bold claims and those of your legal representative, McKen is not "stealing" any of your work. Quoted in context, it is very clear that he didn't write or take responsibility as the originator of those words. Imagine for a second, sir, how tedious it would become if Joé had to place your name right under every single quotation, as is required of other, more formal works.

    I do not know what the typical traffic is that your articles receive on average, but I'm sure it's more than a fair assumption that some of views your article received came from the reference in Joé's post. I personally went to read your article after I found it referenced on this blog. People following Joé often follow the hyperlinks he provides so that they may see the author's original words for themselves.

    In regards to your accusation of libel, you present a contradiction. How can there be libel against you if you claim not to be represented in the article? That is a fair bit absurd. Sir, you cannot have it both ways. Either there is clear indication that you are being directly targeted with false accusations, or there is no such mention. Furthermore, exactly how are you being libeled, seeing as Joé makes no mention of you in his post? All he expressed was his remarkable distaste for the behavior of the police officers mentioned in your article, not yourself.

    Lastly, I am fairly in agreement with Mr. McKen with regards to your legal help. As in, they aren't. Whatever silly ideas your paralegal representative has filled you with, he is either ignorant of common-use laws, or he is simply arrogant, if he thinks he can find a loophole in that mess that is your plagiarism fantasy.

    Davy Vara (and his lawyer) still don’t understand Fair Use

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    Davy Vara
    Davy Vara

    Here we go again. Barely a day after I wrote about an egregiously dumb copyright claim sent to me by Davy Vara, a contributor at police monitoring site Cop Block and who’s apparently quite peeved that I dared to quote from his article for my own post, the man appears and responds thus:

    Email from my attorney regarding people copying and pasting my work and passing it off as their own.

    Davy, if your work is copywritten, and it is, then you and only you as the original author of said work, has the right to go forward with a notice to cease and desist any and all work which you see someone use and, as is the case here, the person(s) who have copied your work have failed to give you proper credit and/or acknowledgement to you as the original author.

    Let me know how you wish to proceed and make sure that whereever you see your work being used in a way where your name has been intentionally excluded, then write down the name of whoever posted it and the website where you saw it and we will proceed accordingly with litigation against those individuals... not only the person who posted it but the website they posted it on.


    Followed by this:

    Again, you copied and pasted my exact article, yet intentionally left out my name so as to pass article off as yours. You can say what you want. And your refusal to either give me credit for the article that I wrote and you copied and pasted, or take the article down. Your intentions have been documented and forwarded to my attorney. In the future, so you can avoid litigation, write your own pieces, or have the respect to acknowledge that it is someone else's article and not yours.

    Should I be questioning my ability to explain myself at this point? No, really, I mean it. (Or almost.) I made it beyond clear how and why A) I have done nothing wrong, B) I fully attributed his post to him via a hyperlink, as is required under the U.S. Fair Use/Canadian Fair Dealing doctrines (I even made sure to check them both, not knowing which might be applicable given my being a Canuck), and C) he has absolutely no credible legal basis for any of his claims against me (which even included that I had committed “libel actions” against him, despite not mentioning him at all in my original post). I provided several links, even taking the time to deliberately choose the pages that best explained the issue in the most straightforward way possible.

    Thursday, June 28, 2012

    Daily Blend: Thursday, July 28, 2012

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    Giant Japanese robot
    Mecha. RL. Srsly.

    Sweet: Blogger (in Draft) now allows custom post permalinks (URLs), which the perspicacious observer may note I’ve already put to use for recent posts.

  • Shocker: U.S.’s search warrants in its witch hunt against MegaUpload ruled illegal by a New Zealand court.

  • Didn’t see that coming: Notorious “ex-gay” Christianist group Exodus International denounces gay deconversion therapy.
    (via Right Wing Watch)

  • Chuck Norris apparently has a thing for plagiarism (and ghost-writing).
    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

  • Is Japan building a real-life giant Gundam-style mecha [pictured] for civil defense? (Why, yes.)

  • I Side With: Which U.S. presidential candidate best matches your policies? (I’m apparently tied at 87% with Obama and Green Party’s Jill Stein.)
    (via Joe. My. God.)

  • Oldie but goodie: “While chronic leukemia was reportedly worried about how its association with the Republican Party would affect its public image […]
    (via Joe. My. God.)

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

    No, opposing infant circumcision ≠ Medieval anti-Semitism

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    Brendan O’Neill
    Brendan O’Neill

    Oh, look, it’s another goober arguing that preventing parents from lopping off parts of their babies’ genitals is an affront to their religious freedom. This time, it’s Brendan O’Neill at The Telegraph, last seen comparing skeptics who criticize “psychic” frauds to Medieval-era witch hunters, now declaring that a German court’s recent decision to ban religious circumcision as “child abuse” is somehow reminiscent of the “ugly anti-Semitism of medieval Europe”:

    Many secularist campaigners are cock-a-hoop about the ruling. They believe their description of circumcision as “child abuse”, as a cruel operation that ignores the UN-guaranteed “rights of the child”, is radical and caring. But in truth it echoes centuries’ worth of nasty anti-circumcision posturing by people who hate certain religious faiths. In Medieval Europe, as pointed out in the book The Covenant of Circumcision, Jew-baiters often depicted circumcision as “cruel and grotesque”. The “barbarous and cruel Jews” were slated for callously snipping off their own boys’ foreskins and for secretly desiring to do the same to Christian boys, too. These “merciless” creatures were described by one English writer as “foreskinne-clippers”. The modern atheist’s description of circumcision as “child abuse”, though used to attack both Jewish and Muslim communities, is only an updated, more PC version of the old anti-Semites' description of it as “cruel and grotesque”.

    You know, for all the cries of “religious freedom!” and “intolerance!” that arise at the mere mention of limiting what kinds of permanent physical damage parents should be allowed to perform upon their children, this is the first time I’ve ever seen someone go the extra mile and try to equate the notion of children having the right to intact bodies with Jewish persecution in the Dark Ages. Because the two are just so alike, really; arguing that your religious beliefs don’t entitle you to put a knife to little kids’ penises, versus centuries of smearing, degrading and violently oppressing millions of people on the sole basis that they derive their religious beliefs from a different book (or from a different section of the same book) than you do. I mean, who can tell them apart?

    Oh, wait, I know who can: Every single humane person on the goddamned planet. It’s such a shame that O’Neill apparently doesn’t belong in that group. Then again, the fact that he ends his absurd screed with another outrageous comparison – this time to the FBI’s famous clusterfuck in Waco, Texas – really makes it more of a relief that he’s so keen to distance himself from the rest of us. Honestly, I’m only surprised it apparently didn’t occur to him to slip in some sort of witty remark about the history of Jewish persecution in Germany.

    I’d close this post in the same manner as with my last one about him, but I try not to repeat myself.

    (via @RichardDawkins)

    “Ex-gay” pastor says homophobes are like victims of racism

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    From “ex-gay” activist Pastor DL Foster:

    Yeah … totally the same. Stupid asshole.

    (via Right Wing Watch)

    U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Stolen Valor Act

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    Medal of Honor

    There’s been another important Supreme Court win today, this time upholding people’s right to lie:

    In United States v. Alvarez, No. 11-210, a highly anticipated First Amendment case, the Court held six to three that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. The Stolen Valor Act, 18 U.S.C. § 704, makes it a federal crime to lie about having received a military decoration or medal, punishable by up to a year in prison if the offense involved the military’s highest honors. The key issue in this case is whether knowingly false statements of fact – made without any apparent intent to defraud – are a protected form of speech, and if so, what level of protection they deserve.

    Yet another good call. While pretending to be a military hero may make one a despicable liar, it shouldn’t make one a criminal, not unless actual criminal wrongdoing is committed.

    Obligatory post on Supreme Court’s healthcare reform ruling

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    So, I woke up earlier to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court has narrowly declared that the vast majority of the healthcare reform law/“ObamaCare” is fully constitutional, including the much-ballyhooed individual mandate. Not a bad way to start the day.

    Of course, my opinion on the matter is quite simple: It helps millions of people and will inarguably save countless lives, which makes it unquestionably and unequivocally the right thing to do, which in turn overrules any whiny concerns about possibly raised taxes and the likes. Sorry, selfish people, but your fellow countryfolk’s right to basic healthcare coverage supersedes your yearning for ever-lower taxes. Deal with it.

    That’s essentially the extent of my thoughts on the matter, being neither a legal scholar nor an affected American citizen. So, to make up for an otherwise mostly empty post, here are a few interesting tidbits and reactions from around the Web:

    • Redditor CaspianX2 has a very informative and thorough breakdown of what the healthcare law precisely entails, from provisions already in effect to what will be going into force in the coming months and years. Honestly, reading it only makes opponents’ complaints seem all the more surreal; how can anyone calling themselves a decent human being oppose virtually any of these provisions, even on economic grounds?

    • Meanwhile, head over to Right Wing Watch to indulge in all the far-Right screeching about the death of America and freedom we know it your little heart can handle. How truly schadenfreudelicious.

    • Finally, a bunch of tweeps are so outraged over the ruling that they’re declaring their intention to pack up and move to Canada. Here’s a representative example, from someone who must’ve missed all those months of Fox News punditry fear-mongering about the countless evils of Canada’s “socialized medicine”:

      Please don’t. We Canucks would rather not have to deal with people like you, really. (To be fair, a few of those tweeps were obviously being sarcastic. But only a few.)

    Who knew the Supreme Court was so handy at flushing out all these idiots? Maybe a few more rulings like this will get them so puffed-up with impotent outrage that their heads will explode, ridding the rest of society of their contamination. (One can always dream, right?)

    (via @BadAstronomer)

    Wednesday, June 27, 2012

    In which I am vaguely threatened with a bogus copyright claim

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    Davy Vara
    Davy Vara

    I’m a nobody. I’m talking in the grand scheme of things – or even as specifically as in the Canadian atheistic blogosphere. There’s no shame to it; it just is. This here blog gets just over a hundred individual visitors (or 200 pageviews) per day on average, which may sound minimally impressive until one realizes that even moderately popular bloggers like Hemant Mehta or Ed Brayton rack up as much traffic in less than an hour (and let’s not even mention the juggernaut that is PZ Myers). Frankly, I consider myself fortuitous that enough people even notice this place to validate its inclusion in Google’s database.

    So, all things considered, you can imagine my surprise when I received this email earlier today:

    “Cease and Desist Order” from Davy Vara
    Personally identifying information uncensored because he doesn’t deserve the courtesy or effort.

    Chicago decriminalizes carrying “small amounts” of marijuana

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    Marijuana badge

    In which the Windy City becomes the latest to recalibrate its approach to marijuana users:

    The Chicago City Council Wednesday voted 43-2 to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    The new policy gives police the option to issue a ticket for possession of 15 grams of marijuana or less. Arrests would still be mandated for anyone caught smoking pot in public or possessing marijuana in or near a school or in or near a park


    Supporters of the ordinance, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, said issuing tickets frees up cops for more serious crime and ultimately will save the police department about $1 million.

    I know I should be used to it, but it’s nonetheless astonishing just how much time, effort and money is wasted every year on such complete silliness as the utterly futile battle to police what people can or cannot put into their own bodies.

    Meanwhile, let it never be said that I ever let a chance go by without throwing y’all a morsel of prohibitionist idiocy to chew on:

    Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said that as the father of three young children, he fears the ordinance will spike marijuana use. He said he doesn't want his kids growing up thinking marijuana use is as bad as running a stop sign.

    Indeed. Endangering other motorists and pedestrians is far worse than eating vanilla pretzels while stinking up your dorm or living room.

    (via @BreakingNews)

    Headline of the day: Lateral move edition

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    From CNN:

    CNN headline: “Reporter leaves Fox News to join Vatican staff”


    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Muslims behind ‘South Park’ threats sent to jail

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    Jesse Curtis Morton
    Jesse Curtis Morton
    Zachary Chesser
    Zachary Chesser

    You may recall two years ago when a small reactionary Islamic group named Revolution Muslim issued thinly veiled death threats over a South Park episode that included an alleged depiction of Mohammed, successfully getting Comedy Central to censor it to widespread outrage and ridicule. As a result, those responsible have now received their sentences:

    A Muslim who admitted posting internet threats against the creators of the South Park TV show has been sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison.

    Jesse Curtis Morton, 33, who founded the now-offline Revolution Muslim website, had already admitted using it for al-Qaeda propaganda.

    He conspired against South Park's writers after the show depicted the prophet Muhammad wearing a bear suit.

    Co-accused Zachary Chesser received a 25-year sentence in February.

    Chesser, a 20-year-old American Muslim convert, was handed a stiffer sentence as he had twice tried to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabab, which the US designates as a terrorist group.

    It may seem like twelve years is an unusually hefty sentence for what amounts to mere threats (though I don’t suppose the extremist connotations of their site and allegiances helped), particularly after Morton issued what appears to be a genuine apology for posting them. At any rate, he and Chesser will now have plenty of time to reflect on the stupidity of trying to bully others with death threats in a society that, perhaps unlike their place of origin, doesn’t put up with such caveman-era behavior.

    (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

    Rand Paul adds anti-abortion amendment to flood insurance bill

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    Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
    Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

    Living up to both his and his party’s spirit of one-upmanship on matters of casual douchebaggery, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is deliberately holding up an important and already long-belated flood insurance bill by trying to cram in some utterly unrelated anti-choice language about defining whether life begins at conception [original emphasis]:

    After years of delay, senators recently came to an agreement over the flood bill and were set to vote on it this week.

    But now, Paul is threatening to hold up its final passage by adding an amendment defining when life begins. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed his displeasure with that move this morning, saying he would not bring the bill up for a vote if the amendment is added:

    This is ridiculous, that somebody says I’m not going to let this bill goes forward unless I have a vote on when life begins. I am not going to do that, and I think I speak for the majority of senators. Now, if the Republicans won’t stand up to the person who is going to do that, I’m not going to. I have tried my best to deal with these issues that have nothing to do with a piece of legislation.

    How ironic – or maybe it’s entirely predictable – that the same “limited government” conservatives are the ones who are constantly thrusting their political rods down the throats of those who do, think and look like things they don’t approve of.

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    Texas Republicans don’t want no kids thinkin’ fer themselves

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    Republican Party of Texas logo

    The Texas Republican Party has released its 2012 platform, which essentially boils down to proudly declaring how they’re doing everything in their power to make themselves into the biggest, saddest bunch of paint-sniffing wingnuts imaginable. But between the usual anti-women, anti-science and anti-secular planks, there’s also this little gem that’s really straight out of the files of Well That Was Obvious [original emphasis]:

    Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

    So, Republicans are officially declaring their formal intent to prevent teaching kids how to think for themselves in order to preserve the brainwashing their parents work so hard to force upon them?

    Wait, that actually explains a whole lot, really.

    (via Rob F)

    Doggycide in Gates, New York

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    Dog chalk outline

    In which today’s victim becomes the second to lose its life to the trigger-happy police of Rochester County, New York in less than a month:

    Around 10:00 a.m. on Monday June 25, 2012, Jerome Johnson was in his home on Crestwood Blvd. in the Town of Gates, a suburb just outside Rochester, N.Y. when he heard “Chino”, his 3 year old American Bull Mastiff barking.

    As Jerome’s son Jerome Jr., went out to check on the family’s dog, who was in the yard, Jerome Johnson and his wife heard what he described as a loud “Pow!” sound.

    Jerome Johnson and his wife ran outside to find Gates N.Y Police officer James Coughlin with his gun in his hand and their beautiful dog “Chino” laying in a pool of his own blood with a gunshot wound to his left side.

    When Jerome Johnson asked Gates, N.Y. police officer James Coughlin why he had just shot their dog, Coughlin replied “We don’t pepper spray, we shoot if we feel threatened.”

    At this time Gates, N.Y. Police Sgt. Anthony S. Perry arrived at the scene. As Jerome Johnson and his wife who were consoling their son after he had just witnessed “Chino” being shot in front of him, Sgt. Perry told the family “I’ve shot 12 dogs before, it is what it is.” and smirked.

    Exactly what is the point of having pepper-spray if they aren’t prepared to use it in lieu of lethal force?

    Chino had to be put down by a vet as a result of his injuries. It turns out the incident was caused when a fuckheaded neighbor made a false 911 call that the dog was running loose, when it was in fact safely in its own yard. Here’s hoping they and the police department get the grins collectively sued off their faces.

    (via @radleybalko)

    Doggycide Bingo card
    [full size (514×625)]

    Doggycide Bingo Index

    Confirmed hits:

  • Dead Chino
  • Ofc. Coughlin shot first (explicitly defended non-use of pepper-spray)
  • No apology offered
  • Sgt. Perry glibly dismissed dog shootings
  • Usual excuses that dog was dangerous
  • Total: 5/25
    Bonus point for asshole vindictive neighbor. No bingo.

    German court bans religious infant circumcision

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    Flowchart: “Should I circumcise my newborn son?” → “No.”

    A German court has done what courts in the U.S. failed to and outright declared that parents’ religious freedom doesn’t entail the right to slice up their infants’ genitals before they’re old enough to have any say in the matter:

    The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the "fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents."

    "The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised," the court added.

    Bravissimo! A perfect encapsulation of all the relevant arguments made by anti-circumcision advocates for years: that having the right to believe in whatever they wants does not – or damn well should not – give people the right to do whatever they want to their children’s bodies as if they were possessions in need of a retooling. Circumcision should be perfectly legal in the same regard as permanent tattoos or body piercing: as personal decisions that people can make once they’re old enough to decide for themselves.

    But of course, none of that stops the whingers from taking up the “religious persecution!” mantle:

    “The Court’s decision is unacceptable and gravely violates religious freedom,” says Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, vice president of the Rabbinical Center of Europe. “The decision is contrary to human rights charter of the European Union, to which the German legal system is committed, and undermines the basic right to worship in the German Constitution.”

    Some people just won’t stop bitching until they’ve earned the legal right to do whatever the hell they want to anyone else for any reason they choose, so long as they can shroud it all in the tired cloak of “religious liberty”. Thankfully, at least one court was willing to call out their bullshit and give these self-righteous cranks a little dose of that secular reality.

    (via Joe. My. God.)

    Fail Quote: Fox host says theists feel like “second-class citizens”

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    (Slaves being whipped) PERSECUTED / (Jews during Holocaust) PERSECUTED / (Christian crowd at megachurch) *NOT* PERSECUTED

    From Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, lecturing American Atheists president David Silverman during a hopeless debate on the Obama administration’s supposed “attack” on (Christian) religious freedoms:

    LAURA INGRAHAM: David, maybe you don’t feel this way as an atheist, and I don’t blame you, because you’re an atheist. You don’t see that people of good faith and good conscience across the country feel like they are second-class in this HHS and in this administration. That’s just a fact, that’s the way they feel. You can say it’s illegitimate, but that’s the way they feel, and it’s across denominations.

    Here’s the full exchange (the above bit starts at the 5:12 mark):

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

    Via Mediaite:

    Ingraham noted some new numbers from Gallup to preface the segment. According to the poll, 34 percent of respondents said they believed Obama is Christian. Eleven percent said they believed he’s a Muslim, and 44 percent said they don’t know. In another poll, 54 percent of respondents said they would vote for an atheist president, compared to 43 percent who said they would not.

    Silverman called the trend “a progression towards tolerance,” or “the de-bigoting of America.” It doesn’t mean we’re going to become an anti-religious nation, he said. “But you would prefer that,” Ingraham responded, which Silverman refuted, saying we need to “get to a point where people can be who they are and not be judged simply on that fact.”

    Ingraham didn’t buy the argument, referring to a culture that calls into question Christianity and belief in God — pointing to shows like Modern Family, Glee and Desperate Housewives (not exactly “Christian fare”). Silverman argued television is “reflective,” that it doesn’t cause the evolution.

    Moving on, Ingraham turned to Jeffress, who said he takes Obama’s identification as a Christian “at face value” — but then noted some of his anti-Christian policies, offering his stance on abortion and same-sex marriage as an example. Silverman took issue with the assertion that the Obama administration is launching an attack on people of faith, which Ingraham countered by mention the contraception mandate (which, you’ll surely recall, has been a central point of contention for some religious groups).

    Because he’s an atheist, Ingraham said of Silverman, he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that people of faith feel like “second-class citizens” under this administration.

    There’s just something wonderfully ironic in claiming (without even using one of their usual partisan polls to back it up) that religious people all around the U.S. are feeling crushed under the Obama administration’s jackboot of secularist tyranny – by trying to get all employers to provide adequate healthcare coverage to their workers – given the overwhelming presence of Christian preferentialism on display right to the very top of the government.

    And the idea that these privilege-soaked theists are now (purportedly) being treated like “second-class citizens”, while godless people – who are still barred from holding elected office at all in multiple states and who half the freaking country wouldn’t even consider voting for on sole account of their lack of belief in God(s) – are apparently the new favored people is just too absurd to respond to with anything other than mockery.

    I’ve heard of masochism before, but I have no idea why Silverman continually puts himself through these debilitating Fox News segments. Horse-whipping would seem like a less painful and more productive alternative.

    (via Friendly Atheist)

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    Daily Blend: Monday, June 25, 2012

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    Leah Libresco
    Leah Libresco
  • Another man finds out the hard way he’s not allowed to take naked pictures of the 17-year-old girlfriend he’s allowed to have sex with.
    (via The Agitator)

  • “A Cruel and Unusual Record”: Scathing op-ed of President Obama’s foreign policy and human rights record from former president Jimmy Carter.
    (via @ggreenwald)

  • Why do so many – and even the media – care about a random atheist blogger’s [pictured] conversion to Catholicism?

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

    Miami Heat owner about to appreciate the Streisand Effect

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    Raanan Katz is the minority owner of the Miami Heat. He’s also a bit of a thin-skinned litigious bully. Here’s the “unflattering” shot of him that’s got him suing Google and bloggers all over to try and flush it down the memory hole:

    “Unflattering” photo of Raanan Katz (Miami Heat minority owner) with his tongue out
    The photo that Raanan Katz doesn’t want you to see

    I believe Mr. Katz is about to find out that the Internet can be far more embarrassing for him than any tepid candid picture could ever be. Let’s all educate him in the matters of the Streisand Effect. Consider it a public service.

    (via @radleybalko)

    U.S. Supreme Court axes mandatory life sentences for juveniles

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    U.S. Supreme Court
    U.S. Supreme Court

    With all the hubbub over today’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on such matters as the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law (still pending), Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration law (mostly struck down) and a revisit to Citizens United (dismissed outright), a few lower-profile decisions have gone by relatively unnoticed. One of them was the welcome (albeit belated) abolition of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, including those convicted of murder:

    Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the 5-4 majority, said, "By requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole, regardless of their age and age-related characteristics and the nature of their crimes, the mandatory sentencing schemes before us violate this principle of proportionality, and so the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment."

    The ruling that such sentences violate the Eighth Amendment continues the juvenile justice reform movement's streak of victories at the high court over the last decade. In 2005, the justices eliminated the death penalty for minors. In 2010, the court struck down life-without-parole sentences for all juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion both times, joined by the court's four-justice liberal bloc.


    Kagan made it clear that her opinion did not affect those juvenile homicide offenders who had been sentenced to life without parole in states where it was not mandatory. Monday's opinion, she wrote, strikes down only those sentencing regimes that prevent a jury from considering a juvenile's "chronological age and its hallmark features -- among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences," as well as "the family and home environment that surrounds him -- and from which he cannot usually extricate himself -- no matter how brutal or dysfunctional."

    This is yet another case of a ruling that arguably shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. Now, keep in mind that all this does is remove mandatory life sentences; youthful criminals can still be locked up for life if the court decides it, but only after considering every possible variable that went into their crime. No murderer deserves pity, but they also don’t deserve to have their entire lives destroyed before they’ve even had the chance to begin living as a result of a child’s error of judgment, no matter how grave. This ruling serves only to give them a chance to plead their case, not to guarantee that young criminals will be let off the hook.

    And yet, wouldn’t you know that’s exactly how the usual cranks are spinning it:

    Equal parts predictable and dishonest. It’s hard to say whether Fitton is lying or just linguistically challenged; either way, perhaps he would like to explain how merely repealing a law that demands the automatic life-sentencing of young criminals is akin to “guarantee[ing]” that they’ll walk free, particularly when the justices explicitly state that such decisions will be left entirely up to the courts?

    (via @radleybalko)

    Hysterical WorldNetDaily banner headline of the day

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    Here’s the current banner headline featured at the top of the WorldNetDaily front page as of this writing:


    *Le GASP!!!*

    Naturally, the actual column reveals nothing of the sort, headlined slightly less hysterically as ‘Is Obama creating a pro-gay Boy Scouts of America?’ and instead focusing on a Boy Scouts board member who plans to propose repealing the group’s anti-gay policy, followed by umpteen paragraphs of Glenn-Beck-esque fear-mongering about whether the Obama administration is behind this move to homosexualize this most esteemed of child-strengthening American institutions and yadda yadda yadda. (Wingnuts do have a thing for febrile worship of random pseudo-patriotic interests du jour.)

    Of course, the fact that even talking about removing a blatantly discriminatory policy in the hopes of healing the group’s growing stigma of anti-gay bigotry is seen as a bad thing should really tell you a lot more about the whackaloons doing the complaining than anything else.

    (via @bendimiero)

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Gene Burmington | Gabe Suarez: Blaming the Victim is Old-Fashioned

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    The following is a guest post by Gene Burmington in response to this item in yesterday’s Daily Blend.

    Gabe Suarez with submachine gun
    Gabe Suarez

    I read this article by former SWAT officer and militant fuckhead Gabe Suarez, who's worried about the effects of the Indiana defense against the police bill. For the post part, concerns about that law are sound. Only problem is, he didn't address them:

    When I was on SWAT our view is that "We will always win....even if we have to burn down your entire house by bombing it....we will win". Period.

    Yeah. SWAT always has to win. Even if it means breaking into the wrong house and vandalizing the fuck out of it just because you can when someone has a justifiable complaint and anger towards the intrusion. Not to mention all those dogs that SWAT teams kill just for (what I assume) entertainment purposes.

    A SWAT team is like a military unit. You can moan all you want about the militarization of the police and all of that but your tears will not change a thing.

    Which is really too bad. Aren't people aware that when you militarize something, there always has to be an enemy to fight? It isn't a police officer's duty to condemn people as enemies; our system is supposed to catch, rehabilitate, and release like a fancy sports-fishing league. Once we begin to demonize these people who are considered criminals, we strip away their rights as human beings and their ability to change their ways. We also condone the opportunities that our police take to abuse such individuals.

    Notice that I have not even gotten into the "right or wrong" discussion. Why not? Because it is not relevant.

    You fuckhead. You're a police officer; right and wrong is your job. To call ethical choices and distinctions "not relevant" is to say that you don't care if an intrusion is justified or not, you just want to support your own agenda that police forces are always right no matter what brutalities they engage in. Well, let me remind you of your duty, former officer Suarez: It is to protect the innocent and defend the peace. As long as you justify false break-ins by SWAT units, you are saying that in the long run of your power and corrupted authority, that the safety of the innocent does not matter.

    If economic events require you to live there, work as much as you can (you can get by on 4 hours of sleep) and make enough money that you can go live in a normal neighborhood […]

    Daily Blend: Friday, June 22, 2012

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    Gabe Suarez with submachine gun
    Gabe Suarez
  • Awesome: explains why the popular claim that men have three times as many sexual partners as women do is completely (mathematically) impossible.

  • Former SWAT officer [pictured]: Wanna avoid paramilitary-style police raids at 3 AM? Don’t live in a poor neighborhood (you druggie).
    (via @radleybalko)

  • Clinton, N.C. third-grader strip-searched in public by assistant principal over a missing $20.
    (via @radleybalko)

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

    Saturday, June 23, 2012

    Attempted doggycide in Fort Wayne, Indiana

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    F.W.P.D. (Fort Wayne, Indiana Police Department) logo

    What can I say, but … oops:

    According to the FWPD, officers were called to a domestic situation the 4100 block of S. Anthony Boulevard just before 4 a.m., where someone was possibly armed with a knife.

    As officers arrived on the scene, police said a pitbull came outside of a residence and charged at them.

    Two officers then fired shots. The dog was hit and police believe one of the bullets ricocheted and hit one of the officers in the leg.

    The officer was taken to a hospital in good condition. The pitbull was treated at the scene.

    An investigation is ongoing.

    (via @radleybalko)

    Doggycide Bingo card
    [full size (514×625)]

    Doggycide Bingo Index

    Confirmed hits:

  • Injured “pitbull”
  • Cops shot first
  • Dog was presumably defending its turf from intruders
  • Total: 3/25
    Not much info available. No bingo.

    Joe the Plumber is not very bright – or honest [updated]

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    Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher
    Joe the Plumber

    I haven’t written much about (not-)Joe the (not-)Plumber, if only because my tolerance for brainless inanity is still recovering from the few times I’ve spent chronicling Sarah Palin’s babbling. But he’s growing harder to ignore lately, particularly as he’s ramping up his loopy bid for U.S. Congress in order to let voters at large know what kind of representative he’d be.

    It turns out, predictably, a Kafkaesque one. Firstly, here’s his latest campaign ad, wherein he blames the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control:

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

    Joe the Plumber loads his shotgun.

    JOE THE PLUMBER (v.o.): In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated.

    Joe pumps his shotgun and starts shooting fruit.

    JOE (v.o.): In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others, unable to defend themselves, were exterminated.

    Joe stops shooting and turns towards the camera.

    JOE: I love America.

    Because the only reason why all those Armenian and Jewish civilians were slaughtered in the first place is because the government took away their rights to own enough guns to take on entire armed forces … or something. I mean, it’s obvious, innit? (Well, I’m sure something is. No idea what, though.)

    Better yet, as people began voicing their discontent with the assertion that Hitler would’ve been totally stumped of only German Jews had access to some Mausers, Joe’s spokesman tried to calm the storm, assuring everyone that “Joe is a student of history” who was simply conveying the Founding Fathers’ ideals about the people having the power to defend themselves against a tyrannical government … and that some Jewish gun nuts agree with him, anyway, and that gun control was also responsible for slavery in the U.S.: