Well, aren’t we an optimistic bunch?

First we had Steven Pinker writing about The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, with the thesis that we’re getting more peaceful over time.

Now John Horgan has declared the potential for The End of War — that we have the ability to stop fighting and cooperate.

Horgan makes the point that human nature requires us to fight, and that many people make this fatalistic assumption that it cannot end. It’s a reflection of the usual argument for futility that claims the status quo is thus because it must be so.

It’s also the argument that is made to defend the inevitability of religious belief.

(Also on FtB)

Meddling bishops

Catholic-affiliated universities are often very good academically — I can think of a couple of estimable Catholic universities in my area. But I would never recommend that anyone attend one, for this reason.

Bishop Bambera of the Diocese of Scranton has recently requested that the University of Scranton – a Catholic and Jesuit university in Pennsylvania – withdraw its invitation to a women’s rights activist and former United States House of Representatives member, Majorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, who is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for a January 28 event at the University of Scranton encouraging women to become active in politics and learn more about the political system.

Why would anyone want to get an education under the thumbs of superstitious medieval clowns in gilt robes? Especially when they’re prone to silencing dissent? (I remember MMM well — she was my representative when I lived in Pennsylvania, until she was defeated by that Gingrichian wave. She’s good. She’s also pro-choice, so of course the Catholic Church hates her.)

They’re eating their own!

Holy crap. Watch this anti-Romney campaign ad.

It’s from Newt Gingrich. We have a Rethuglican paying to push a progressive liberal political message on television.

When Romney wins the Republican nomination, can Obama just borrow these ads and run them for his campaign? Or won’t it work because Obama has benefited so much from Wall Street donations?

(via Salon.)

New Hampshire has some world-class lunatics

Too bad they’re in the legislature. The latest wacky idea from a trio of Republicans is to require that all new bills reference the Magna Carta.

House Bill 1580 is the product of such a brainstorming session this summer between three freshman House Republicans: Bob Kingsbury of Laconia, Tim Twombly of Nashua and Lucien Vita of Middleton. The eyebrow-raiser, set to be introduced when the Legislature reconvenes next month, requires legislation to find its origin in an English document crafted in 1215.

“All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived,” is the bill’s one sentence.

You might be wondering why the Magna Carta…I think the three stooges should be wondering that, too.

Vita admitted he needs to "bone up" on the content of the charter

In other words, he has no idea what’s in the Magna Carta. I’m guessing he’s also a Christian of the type that has a similar reverence for the contents of a document they’ve never read.

Santorum will tell you how and when you can have sex

He’s a very creepy man. His wife had an abortion to save her life, but he wants to criminalize your abortion. And that’s not all: sex is supposed to be procreative, so he wants to criminalize contraception. In this long painful video, he preaches against gay sex, against contraception, and says we ought to be urging families to have many more children, and thinks a tax deduction of $20,000 per child is reasonable.

So “contraception is a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to the way things are supposed to be”. Woo hoo! I love that license! I don’t think I want to vote for a guy who’d take it away.

Bonus! Santorum also thinks most scientists are amoral.

I have to say, he’s doing a terrible job of campaigning for my vote.

Iowa caucus results

The Republican scores in Iowa are 25, 25, 21, 13, 10, 5, and 1. For an in-depth discussion of these remarkable numbers, we turn to our political analyst, Bob.

Thanks, Bob. These are very good numbers. 25 is clearly the winner, but the other 25 is very, very close. 21 is less than 25, but it’s still a good number, and I’m sure 21 is very pleased…although, of course, a bigger number would be even better. 13 and 10 are even smaller numbers.

5 and 1 are the littlest numbers. They are going to have to try much harder to get bigger if they want to stay in this race!

Excellent analysis, Bob. What does it mean that we have two 25s though?

It means that the election is very exciting so far, Bob, and that now more people will turn on our show to find out which one gets a bigger number. Compare it to the Democratic caucuses, where one person got 100. Boring, Bob, very boring.

So this means we get to keep our jobs, Bob?

Yes, Bob, and that is very good news indeed.

Now turning to our field reporter, Bob, we have an interview with one of the candidates.

“Sir, how do you feel about your number?”

“Well, Bob, it’s not a bad number, it could have been bigger, but it’s about where our polls predicted it would be. So we feel very good about our number.”

“Back to you, Bob.”

Thanks, Bob. And coming up after this commercial break, our chief political analyst Bob will explain these results to you with dazzling computer graphics.

<BUY OUR INSURANCE BEFORE YOU DIE. OUR DRUG WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY (side effects include dizziness, vomiting, wasting, exploding bowels, death, ennui, lack of ambition, impotence, and suicidal feelings.) HAPPY! ASK YOUR DOCTOR. THIS CAR IS VERY LARGE AND MANLY. STOCKPILE GOLD NOW. BUY OUR ALARM SYSTEM OR THIS VERY SCARY MAN WILL BREAK INTO YOUR HOUSE.>

Here is Bob, who will make these results meaningful by making them very bright and shiny and dynamic.

Thanks, Bob. We have created an animated chart of these results. Big numbers are shown as this very large, erect penis, much like yours if you got an offer to do a nude interview with Katy Perry, and small numbers are shown as this tiny little nubbin, like you’d see in a cold locker room after losing the big game. What this shows…

Bob, wait a minute. Isn’t one of the candidates a woman?

Ha ha, yes, Bob, but no clitoris is ever going to get as big as this magnificent purple monster, so it hardly matters, right?

Ha ha, of course. Go on.

As I was saying, Bob, we’ve illustrated all the candidates here, as you can see, and, well, they’re all pretty flaccid so far. None of them are even at half-mast yet, but the top candidates have clearly gotten a little tickle from Iowa and are beginning to stir.

Our job here on the Political Show in the next few months is to flatter and cajole these dicks until one is so aroused that he intimidates all the others into slinking away. We’ll be here every day, reporting on their relative turgidity until one is the biggest.

The power of the press, Bob. By the way, do you have a chart of the Democratic results?

We do, Bob, but the office here is pretty white and we found it too frightening to contemplate. Don’t worry, though, we’re ready, once the Republicans have sorted out who has the biggest number, to do what the media does best, and in the run up to the election we’ll be right here, fairly and objectively reporting the two penis sizes right down to the millimeter, right up to election day.

Good work, Bob. And may the biggest number win.

And that’s all from the election desk. Stay tuned as we bring in a series of pundits to talk about these numbers all day long.

Slow news day, I guess

Good god, media, I DON’T CARE ABOUT IOWA ANY MORE. It’s a freakish little local contest dominated by hardcore fanatics, and the only reason the results will mean anything is that the media will do its best to pump up the outcome into a portent of things to come. So when I saw this headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the coffee shop today, I just set it aside, disgusted, disinterested, and disenchanted.

Bachmann isn’t going to win. Even if she did, she’s one lunatic among a field of demented dwarfs.


I’m ready to call for a return of party bosses in smoke-filled rooms; this obsession with turning politics into a horse race, with every news source fussing over percentage points, is making a joke of democracy.

The only “points” we should be discussing are the substance of their policies.


Perhaps the Hitchens piece I just posted wasn’t curmudgeonly enough for you; seasoned Pharyngula veterans are already deeply cynical. If that’s the case, I have just the thing: Matt Taibbi has posted A Christmas Message From America's Rich, in which you can read about how corporate CEO’s are allowing you to have cake.

Most of us 99-percenters couldn’t even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It’s called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don’t do them, because, well, we live here. Most of us wouldn’t take a million dollars to swindle the local school system, or put our next door neighbors out on the street with a robosigned foreclosure, or steal the life’s savings of some old pensioner down the block by selling him a bunch of worthless securities.

But our Too-Big-To-Fail banks unhesitatingly take billions in bailout money and then turn right around and finance the export of jobs to new locations in China and India. They defraud the pension funds of state workers into buying billions of their crap mortgage assets. They take zero-interest loans from the state and then lend that same money back to us at interest. Or, like Chase, they bribe the politicians serving countries and states and cities and even school boards to take on crippling debt deals.

What I’d like to give them for Christmas is a revolution, and a metaphorical row of pikes for their heads.