When to say no

If you’re not a software developer, you may have missed it, but there’s been a huge outcry recently in the world of functional programming, about a conference called LambdaConf. The problem is not the conference itself, but the fact that one of the papers selected for presentation turns out to be the work of a well-known racist whose online postings have argued that blacks are naturally suitable for slavery. In fact, this same person submitted a similar paper to an earlier conference called Strange Loop, who initially accepted it, and then rejected it after they found out who the author was. The LambdaConf organizers were familiar with that incident, and decided not to reject the speaker, on free speech grounds, as long as he agreed to abide by the conference Code of Conduct while in attendance.

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Fudge the facts and declare victory

You may have heard about the recent church/state clash in Colorado, where the Delta County high schools and middle schools were distributing Gideon Bibles to the students, and thus were required to also distribute “atheistic and satanic literature” provided by the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers. And you may be wondering, how do you cope with such a clear violation of Christian privilege if you’re a die-hard believer and want only Christian literature distributed? Apparently, if you’re Charisma News, you respond like this:

Atheists Fuming Mad That School Won’t Allow Godless Campaign

And, as a little extra garnish, the article comes complete with a Flickr photo of “Atheists … upset at the school district’s censorship,” holding up signs that say atheist things—with the Washington Monument clearly visible in the background.

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A friendly quibble

The Friendly Atheist just posted a good look at another instance of Ted Cruz’s hypocrisy on the subject of church/state separation, along with documentation showing just how big of a hypocrite Cruz is being. Towards the end, though, he says something that bothers me just a bit.

The question Dougherty asked was: “How and why does your religion play a part in your political decision making?”

Cruz never directly answered that because the truth is that faith plays a role in everything he does. That might be okay if he were a random citizen, but it’s downright illegal when he’s supposed to be the leader of all Americans.

Well, no. I know what he means, but that’s not quite right. It’s not illegal, even for someone in the government, to allow faith to play a role in everything they do. The dividing line comes when they have to choose between their faith and the law. The law must take precedence, including the law that requires the government to be neutral with respect to religion. As long as the believer abides by that constraint, in the execution of his or her governmental duties, there’s nothing forbidding faith from having a role in the person’s life. They just have to make sure they do nothing to impose their faith on anyone else.

In Cruz’s case, of course, the distinction is moot, because he puts his faith above the law, and so he violates the law, and advocates violation of the law, whenever doing so works to establish his religion as “superior” to all others. “Religious liberty” in Cruz’s mind is nothing more nor less than Christian supremacy, and he’s more than happy to force his religious principles on anyone and everyone he can. That’s what makes him a hypocrite when he talks about “defending religious freedom.” Not just the fact that he lives by his faith.

Ok, quibble satisfied. Carry on.

Bonehead NC legislators make women’s restrooms more accessible to men

Once upon a time in North Carolina, if you saw a man going into a women’s restroom, you had good reasons to be suspicious, and likely call the police. But now, in a bold move whose brilliance can only be compared to Wile E. Coyote’s decision to use nitroglycerin in the fuel tank of his Rocket-Powered Road Runner Catcher, a gang of conservative legislators, with the avid assistance of the governor, has railroaded through a law requiring trans men to use the women’s facilities. (Nor is that the only serious flaw in this badly-botched attempt at persecuting a harmless minority!) You read that right: this new law requires certain men to use the ladies room.

Now, people capable of engaging in rational thought for more that one or two seconds at a time will immediately realize that trans men look no different than any other men, in most cases. By requiring trans men to use the ladies room, the idiots in the NC state government have given all men a plausible excuse for being in the ladies room. They don’t even need to pretend to be trans. And if a real cis-het rapist were to decide to take advantage of the state government’s stupidity, all he would need to do is make sure to select his targets carefully, and only invade the rest room when the woman there would be unlikely to challenge his presence until it was too late. And thanks to the NC governor and his knuckle-dragging henchmen, there is now a legitimate opportunity for him to do so.

You know what? I take back what I said. Wile E. Coyote is WAY smarter than these Stone Age “geniuses.”

Homeopathic government

I usually struggle to understand conservative politics, but this morning I had a thought that might explain a lot. What if conservatives are trying to apply homeopathy as a societal/political remedy as well as a “medical” one? Homeopathy tries to treat diseases by applying doses of the original pathogen causing the problem, so why not try to solve other problems the same way? Too much gun violence in America? Just add more guns! Budget deficit? Make it harder to collect revenue! Refugee problem? Make more refugees!

It’s all part of the same mind-set that thinks the answer to abortion is to deny women access to birth control and reproductive health services. If you want to solve a problem, just take steps to make the problem worse. Homeopath all the things!

Hey, it probably works just as well in government as it does in medicine, right?

Great moments in public security

Problem: Any Syrian refugee might be a terrorist in disguise.
Solution: Ban all Syrian refugees.

Problem: Anyone using the women’s rest room might be a rapist in disguise.
Solution: Close all public rest rooms.

Problem: Some Muslims killed a horrifying number of innocent victims.
Solution: Assume all Muslims are potential terrorists until proven otherwise.

Problem: Some theists killed a horrifying number of innocent victims.
Solution: Assume all theists are potential terrorists until proven otherwise.

Problem: Some Muslims want to destroy America.
Solution: Assume all Muslims want to destroy America.

Problem: Some Christians sodomize altar boys.
Solution: Assume all Christians are pedophiles.

Problem: Anyone driving a car might be a drunk driver.
Solution: Ban all driving.

Problem: Some men are rapists, muggers, murderers, or thieves.
Solution: Ban all men.

I realize these measures may seem extreme to some, but these are difficult times, and the only way to be absolutely safe is to commit ourselves to blind, unreasoning prejudice wherever possible. Vote Republican! Homeland über alles! Sieg heil!

You first

Panicked politicos, in Washington and elsewhere, are using the Paris attacks to push for even greater and more invasive government surveillance of individuals. They’re blaming encryption and other privacy measures for “allowing” ISIS terrorists to coordinate their attacks undetected. They want to end the technology that makes privacy possible, and leave everyone effectively naked to Big Brother’s all-seeing eye.

So I tell you what. You say it’s dangerous to let people have secrets, Mr. Politico? Let’s start with yours then. You want to put an end to dangerous secrets, let’s start by ending this ridiculous notion of “state secrets.” A corrupt government has far more power to do harm than any individual. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you shouldn’t have anything to hide, amirite? What are you not telling us about your own contributions to the rise of ISIS? What flaws and faults are you hiding that will continue to endanger us because you prevent us from knowing you have them? What crimes are you committing, in the dark, that are going to come back to bite us?

Your secrets are far more dangerous than ours, and our privacy is far more vital to liberty than the government’s. You want to howl for an end to secrets, knock yourself out. But if it comes time to surrender someone’s privacy, you go first.

Strategic vision

There are millions of Muslim and/or Arabic immigrants in the West, in both Europe and America. The ones that have embraced their new homes are not interested in joining ISIS or going on any suicide mission, with the key phrase being “new home.” Those that feel welcome, comfortable, and accepted in the West, are poor candidates for ISIS recruiting.

ISIS knows this, which is why their strategy is based on trying to drive a deep wedge between Westerners and the Muslim citizens of Western nations. Those who dismiss suicidal terrorist attacks as “self-defeating,” and who advocate retaliation against Muslims and Arabs, are an important part of ISIS’s hope for future recruiting within the borders of our various homelands.

Dr. Ben Carson, come on down.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Friday that in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the United States should block refugees from the Middle East from coming to the United States…

“I would be working with our allies using every resource known to man in terms of economic resources, in terms of covert resources, overt resources, military resources, things that they don’t know about — resources,” he said. “In an attempt not to contain them but to eliminate them before they eliminate us. We have to recognize that the global Islamic movement is an existential threat — it’s very different than anything we’ve ever faced before.” [Emph. added.]

It’s just like Jesus used to say, “If any man smite thee on thy right cheek, eliminate him, his family, his neighbors, and anyone who shares his religious views, before they eliminate thee.”

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Guess who

Here’s a mini mystery for you this fine Tuesday morning.

BLACKS: This is wrong. We’re being singled out by the police, harassed, beaten, even murdered. And the murderers are getting away with it. #BlackLivesMatter!

GUESS WHO: (*shrug*) Ah, quit whining, #AllLivesMatter.

PALESTINIANS: We need help! Israelis are bulldozing our homes, occupying our land, and murdering our children, and getting away with it. #PalestinianLivesMatter!

GUESS WHO: (*shrug*) Ah, quit whining. You probably deserve it. In fact, let’s take literally billions of US taxpayer dollars and give it to Israel, no strings attached.

STARBUCKS: This holiday season, we’ll be serving coffee in red cups.

GUESS WHO: Will they say “Merry Christmas”?

STARBUCKS: No, they won’t say anything.

GUESS WHO: Oh you evil people! How dare you subject us to such horrific persecution? Have you no decency? We won’t stand for it! It’s an absolute outrage! (Etc., etc., etc…)

 Need a hint? Hmm, maybe not.

(Note: any similarity between GUESS WHO and any person(s) now living or dead is entirely their own fault.)

A revealing headline

Somehow a NY Times headline popped up in my Facebook news feed, and it said something about GOP candidates “sticking to the script, if not to the facts.”

The story was about how party loyalty seems to have completely replaced factual accuracy as the gold standard by which candidates are judged these days, but I think perhaps it did not go as far as it might. I think that the NYT has summed up, in a nutshell, why so many conservatives like Donald Trump, despite his rather unreliable track record as a conservative.

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