The calculus of Trump

Mano has the latest John Oliver video. Savor the “feelings”.

I’m baffled by the math in Trump’s latest ad, though. He is proud of the fact that his convention speech was 75 minutes long (yeah, I can talk for a long time, too, it doesn’t make me a hero) and that people applauded for 24 minutes (so? It’s the Republican convention), and then he calculates that 24/75, or 33% of the time was spent in applause, as if that were an accomplishment. Oliver points out that is actually 32% of the time, so he even got the simple math wrong…but shouldn’t it actually be 24/(75+24), or 24% of the hour and a half of the final speech?

Of course, if feelings are what matters, it was 24 minutes divided by an intolerable unendurable indefinitely long period of misery, so subjectively the period of applause was an infinitesimal fraction of the total pain.

Tim LaHaye: No rapture for you!

One of the loudest purveyors of that absurd (and coincidentally, completely un-biblical) End Times/Rapture bullshit, Tim LaHaye, has ceased to exist. His brain has stopped functioning, his self has dissipated into the cosmos as nothing more than a final sigh of heat, and he is not frolicking about in Heaven or roasting in Hell, because those places don’t exist, and because neither does he, any more. He is not discovering now that he was wrong about everything in life, because he is dead, and it’s only the living who have to deal with the lies he promoted while he was alive.

The only thing I’m sad about right now is that he doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of the misery he dealt to LGBTQ people, to teenagers who were inculcated with an unjustified mortal terror, and to all those people who wasted donation dollars to his fraudulent organization.

I’m sorry, but Pokemon Go is my game

At least this writer admits to having an unpopular opinion about Pokemon Go.

To my fellow millennials, and adults of all ages: Just let kids play. Considering it’s their game, let them have it for a little while, OK?

Wrong. I’m almost 60. I’m at risk for heart disease. My father died of heart disease when he was a little older than I am now. I have been told by my doctor to get an hour or two of light exercise every day, and for the past couple of years I’ve been walking a few miles every day, around my rather unexciting little town.

That opinion is exactly backwards. It’s like Pokemon Go was designed for us old people. You young’uns get out of my game and go play racketball or rugby or run marathons, or any of those other games that would kill me if I tried them.

Nah, not really. There’s room for everyone and no need to be exclusive in any way. This weekend we were in St Cloud to take my oldest son out for a birthday lunch (happy birthday, Alaric!) and we went for a stroll around Lake George. There were swarms of people out walking with their phones. I saw a couple of Hispanic families talking excitedly about the game (I assume!) in Spanish; I saw a woman in a hijab stabbing at her phone happily; I saw lots of kids and college students and even crotchety old people like me enjoying the weather and checking their phones as they were out for a promenade.

So yeah, please stop trying to claim for yourself what everyone has good reason to enjoy.

Kenosha School District officials don’t seem aware of history

Ash Whitaker is a transgender boy in Wisconsin, and school officials are having difficulty dealing with it. So they’ve come up with a not at all novel solution.

A federal Title IX lawsuit filed in Wisconsin on Tuesday alleges that the Kenosha Unified School District instructed guidance counselors to have Ash Whitaker, a 16-year old transgender boy, and “any other transgender students at the school” wear “bright green wristbands” so that the school could “more easily monitor and enforce [their] restroom usage.”

First come the colorful wristbands, then the big bold armbands, then a symbol stitched to all of their clothing, and then tattoos.

Just a suggestion: the problem isn’t with Ash Whitaker, it’s with people who think they need to monitor restroom usage…which, when you think about it, is really creepy.

Weaponizing atheism

Here’s my take on the wikileaks exposé of DNC emails: there was nothing illegal done (other than the hacking of private servers, that is). We’ve got a set of private communications that confirm that Hillary Clinton was the establishment candidate, and the establishment was working to skew circumstances to favor Clinton while trying their best to seem impartial, when they weren’t. It’s the politics of deception, saying you’ll do one thing while doing something different, and nobody should be surprised that politicians do that sort of thing. It does not invalidate the Clinton nomination, because every politician is working within an institutional framework, and is part of a team — Clinton just had deeper roots and a more effective team than Sanders.

But it still disappoints me.

One thing that Charles Pierce points out about it is that it was just plain stupid. If the establishment wants to support an establishment candidate, be forthright and competent about it. This makes the DNC look like a pack of babbling amateurs.

Further, Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been exposed as a political hack, and not a very good one at that. She is an embarrassment too prominent to hide, and so has resigned as DNC chair…which is only appropriate. But then Hillary Clinton has immediately re-hired her to co-chair her election committee! If Clinton wanted to confirm that she was not running a fair nomination campaign, she couldn’t have come up with a more effective strategy. Appearances matter in politics, and that is one ugly relationship.

And then there is the reminder that not even the Democrats represent me, and that the Democratic establishment sees atheism as a useful tool for sliming candidates. This email is simply repellent.

It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.

It would also serve to highlight his Jewishness to the electorate: win-win!

Isn’t it nice to know that the citizenry of the USA are more bigoted against atheists than Jews, and that the DNC would consider exploiting that? And that now, thanks to the incompetence of their staff, the Republican party, which is even more bigoted, will be using this information against the Democrats?

I take it back. This is lose-lose.

Evidence that atheism has failed!

In a remarkable feat of unlogic, a Christian reveals the evidence that atheism has been defeated. I include his argument below, but I haven’t copied over his links, all of which are to his own blog, or to that paragon of trustworthy truthiness, Conservapædia, so just take his backing support as given.

1. Most atheists are men.

Yes, this seems to be true. Point, Christian!

However, I don’t see how this shows that atheism is weak or has failed. Many of us do take this as a sign that we have biases that we need to correct, but as you’ll see, that’s not why this guy has a problem.

I would also point out that most priests are men. Which means…?

2. Feminist women conquered atheism.

Uh, what? He’s just announced that atheism has a male majority. How does it follow that feminist women have “conquered” atheism? What does it even mean to say a set of ideas has been “conquered”?

Unfortunately, this is one of his claims that lacks a supporting link, even to Conservapædia.

3. Despite atheists being a minority in the world, atheists activists engage in constant bickering among themselves which reduces their effectiveness in terms of turning things around. Behold the poor interpersonal skills of atheists (See: Atheism and interpersonal skills and Atheism and romance and Atheism and love).

Why do so many atheists have such poor interpersonal intelligence? For further evidence of the poor social skills of atheists, please see: Atheists are quarrelsome, hypersensitive, egotistical crybabies. Atheists have no chance of victory over the global evangelical Christianity explosion

Many atheists adhere to an anti-authoritarian philosophy called freethought. It is not about poor interpersonal intelligence, it’s about a refusal to submit to dogma and a willingness to argue to converge on the truth. It is a strength, not a weakness.

It’s curious to see someone arguing that we’re weak-willed because we refuse to follow the Christian model of submission to authority.

But also, speaking of bickering, how many Christian sects are out there?

4. Atheism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God (see: Definition of atheism).

Paul Edwards, who was a prominent atheist and editor of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, defined an atheist as “a person who maintains that there is no God.” .

Atheists lack proof and evidence that God exists. The academic field of atheists apologetics (defense of atheism) has stagnated (see: Stagnation of atheist apologetics ).

There is a abundance of evidence that God exists and an abundance of rebuttals to the spurious claims of atheists (see: Evidence that God exists).

Therefore, most atheists are weak-minded.

The logic showing that most atheists are weak-minded is inescapable!

I looked at this abundance of evidence that God exists. It’s mostly crap from Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Science, and a collection of well-worn and often rebutted nonsense from conservative Christian apologists. Citing a definition of atheism is in no way a refutation of atheism, and asserting that gods exist is not evidence that they do exist.

But what does this point have to do with the previous points about feminists “conquering” atheism or atheists being argumentative? Nothing in this follows. There is no chain of logic here. It is a succession of feeble brain farts.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet. He is kind enough to tell us what atheism needs to do to correct its flaws.

If only boorish and quarrelsome atheist men did not spark atheist women resentment (a potent seedling of atheist feminism). In evangelical Christianity, Christian husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

If only atheists were more like evangelical men whose wives were taught to obey them. In biblical Christianity, women cannot teach men and they cannot exercise authority over men as far as church matters. If only atheists women could not exercise authority over atheist men about atheist matters. The humiliation of atheism being conquered by feminist women could have been avoided!

Oh, atheist men! Feel the sting of atheism being conquered by feminist women.

There’s the answer! Atheist women wouldn’t resent those quarrelsome atheist men if only they were taught to be obedient and submissive!

Don’t worry. I think there’s a subgroup of atheist men who are way ahead of this guy, and who agree that atheist/feminist women should sit down and shut up and quit bossing them around.

We are teased with glittering flashy things and great balls of fire

Caine beat me to it. I’ve been watching all the eye-candy from Comic-Con — it is apparently the place to release all your super-hero trailers for the approval of adoring nerds — and has posted a bunch of trailers for upcoming movies. I’m seriously a bit burned out on the super-hero genre, although they sure do look purty and do a fine job of pandering to the short attention spans needed to watch a trailer, despite, I fear, often falling apart under the weight of holding up a whole movie.

The one she’s posted that I’d definitely like to see, though, is Wonder Woman. It’s set in WWI? That could be interesting.

Also, Caine missed one. I know what I’ll be doing the week of 30 September: Luke Cage on Netflix.

If it’s half as good as Jessica Jones, it’ll be excellent.

Now for the important political issues

The Democratic national convention starts tomorrow, in Philadelphia. The important question is…where to eat? And I will just tell you that all those recommendations about where to get genuine Philly food should be simply ignored, and the Pat’s vs. Geno’s competition is irrelevant. Fuhgeddaboutit. It’s really easy.

Find a food truck. They’re everywhere. Not only is the food good (for a greasy value of “good”, but you do want a taste of Philly, right?), but you’re supporting hard-working entrepreneurial Americans of the lower and middle class. And you can get it while you’re exploring the historic parks or the art museum or the science museums or the fountains downtown.

You probably don’t want to eat a cheesesteak before visiting the Mütter Museum, though. Just a word of advice.

You have just one job…

Some days, this is exactly how I feel:

The system is broken. It’s tainted and corrupt. Democracy itself is deeply flawed; it’s only as good as the electorate, and the electorate is a swine pit full of yahoos and holy rollers and used car salesmen.

But it’s the only system we’ve got.

So put away the torches and pitchforks. If democracy is a system that gives a voice to liars and scoundrels, chaos is worse, allowing the most unprincipled to freely claw their way to the top. We have to work within this system and get it to change.

I was unenthused about Clinton. She’s a creature of the establishment, and isn’t going to change the world, and in fact, will probably accentuate some of the worst features of the American way of doing things: a reverence for the status quo, a kind of selfish pragmatism, and a callous disregard for the billions outside of our borders. I’m even less happy with Kaine, because he seems to be the kind of blithe liberal who puts a smiling face on stasis. Worse, he’s a clear signal that the Democratic party has decided that the wretched boogeyman of Trump is so awful that they can just say “fuck you” to progressives and put up a slate of the same damned thing they always do and change nothing. What this country really needs for democracy to work is a sane, principled, responsible conservative party so that our liberal party has to really work to differentiate themselves…and so that when the liberals lose, as they do, the country doesn’t immediately descend into missile-launching, jesus-screaming, hate-mongering capitalist viciousness.

Resign yourselves. This isn’t the election that will revolutionize the country (we hope). November is a holding action. We need to hold the wolves at bay for a little longer, so vote for the Democrat at the top of the ticket. One immediate positive effect of electing Clinton/Kaine is that maybe the far right Republican party will react by becoming even more extremist and complete their self-immolation, so that a more rational party can emerge. (Unless they win, which means we’re in really big trouble for at least a generation, so don’t let them win).

Then please pay attention to something other than the presidential elections. It’s a disgrace that we get almost 2 years of media hype building the process for this one office into a giant suck of time and money, and then everything evaporates at the equally important mid-term elections, and the turnout drops off to shameful levels. Vote in every election, and for or against every candidate. Everything matters, your school board matters, your congressional representative matters, your senator matters, and yes, the president matters…but if we continue to elect the same idiots to the senate and house of representatives, the president matters less than you think.

But right now, we — and by “we”, I mean the Left, progressives and liberals and centrists, and even you so-called “classical liberals” and Libertarians and Rockefeller Republicans and cautious conservatives — have one job to do, and that is to stop the great orange fascist asshole from winning. That’s the number one priority for us all. Don’t screw it up. Don’t go flitting off to Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or some other spoiler. Hold your nose and vote for Clinton.

And if you don’t like the establishment Democrat — I don’t blame you at all — then work locally to get change in the years to come. Get good progressives into positions that can influence the government in productive ways. You don’t like the rules that rig the elections for establishment favorites, like this super-delegate nonsense, or the electoral college? Work to change those before they become a factor in future elections (I suspect everyone who is squawking now will forget about it immediately after this election, and then four years from now will start squawking in indignation again). If Clinton annoys you now, tough — she’s going to be the nominee. But you can support a primary challenge four years from now, if you start working now to build a climate that gives such a person a framework.

I swear, one of the worst things about the American system of democracy is the way we treat the trivial act of pulling a lever as the be-all and end-all of citizen involvement in politics, and the way this simple-minded approach to democracy leads to a crisis every four years.

A Russian connection?

I’d say it was disturbing if it wasn’t so unsurprising. Donald Trump seems to have an awful lot of ties to Putin.

Over the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More seriously, but relatedly, many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin’s increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. But there’s quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support of Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.

I remember a time when getting cozy with the Russians would have been the kiss of death for a politician, especially a conservative politician. But nowadays, our right-wing authoritarians love them a right-wing authoritarian no matter what country they’re from.

It’s so beautiful. It’s something that brings people of different nationalities together in the common cause of tyranny.