I’m so sorry, United Kingdom


Or should I say, I’m so sorry, England and Wales? Because it looks like you’re going to have to drop that “United” stuff soon. You might also want to reconsider that “Great” prefixing “Britain”. Brexit won their referendum. The UK is going to begin the process of breaking from the EU. Stock markets are reacting with shock. The people who despise Nigel Farage are also shocked. Other countries in Europe are dismayed.

I’m afraid I see it in terms of what’s going on in the US today, and that worries me. Gary Younge’s take on the vote is informative. He talks about the incompetence of the Remain campaign, and how it was oblivious to the concerns of the people and set itself aside as the smart people who know better than you do, and never made a good case for remaining in the EU. And then he tears into the Leave campaigners.

It is a banal axiom to insist that “it’s not racist to talk about immigration”. It’s not racist to talk about black people, Jews or Muslims either. The issue is not whether you talk about them but how you talk about them and whether they ever get a chance to talk for themselves. When you dehumanise immigrants, using vile imagery and language, scapegoating them for a nation’s ills and targeting them as job-stealing interlopers, you stoke prejudice and foment hatred.

The chutzpah with which the Tory right – the very people who had pioneered austerity, damaging jobs, services and communities – blamed immigrants for the lack of resources was breathtaking. The mendacity with which a section of the press fanned those flames was nauseating. The pusillanimity of the remain campaign’s failure to counter these claims was indefensible.

Not everyone, or even most, of the people who voted leave were driven by racism. But the leave campaign imbued racists with a confidence they have not enjoyed for many decades and poured arsenic into the water supply of our national conversation.

In this atmosphere of racial animus and class contempt, political dislocation and electoral opportunism, the space for the arguments we need to have about immigration, democracy, and austerity simply did not exist. Our politics failed us. And since it is our politics only we can fix it.

I see this same dynamic playing out here in the US. The almost-successful Sanders campaign tells us there’s a huge part of the electorate that wants change from politics as usual, and yet the Democrats have anointed a moderate conservative, status quo candidate. Will Clinton actually respond to that productively? Will she make changes in party policy that will appeal to that broad swathe of the country that wants a more progressive government? She could end up the David Cameron of America.

Younge’s description above also fits the Trump campaign. The know-nothings are always a force to be reckoned with in this country, and if Brexit could win, could Trump rally the same forces to win here? That’s possible (but unlikely, we say, although everyone was saying Brexit was unlikely, too), but one way it could happen is if the Democrats try to take an uninspiring middle course.

What do I mean, “if”? The Democrats always take the path of trying to avoid offending anyone, and thereby end up pissing everyone off.

The world’s a somewhat scarier place this morning. I hope my country doesn’t end up contributing even more to the fear.

Venom Hunters is a fraud

The Discovery Channel (their reputation is so bad, you’re probably already booing) has a ‘reality’ show called Venom Hunters. It is about teams of courageous reptile experts who make a living — and save lives — by capturing rare and deadly venomous animals in the wild, and milking them of toxins for use in antivenoms. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? It was probably snapped right up by the channel when the premise was presented to them.

Only a few problems with it, though: they’re mostly not experts, that’s not how venom is collected, nobody makes a living off this fictitious profession, it’s unlikely that any of the venom is being used for its stated purpose, and at least some of the animal captures are staged, using captive snakes.

Over on Science Sushi, you can read a very detailed exposé of the phony staff, the bogus stories, and their potentially illegal activities. It’s as phony as that mermaid ‘documentary’.

Man, the Discovery Channel must really hate Christie Wilcox. She’s filleting them.

Statement on Richard Carrier’s voluntary departure from our network

The FtB Ethics Committee has released an official statement on the departure of Richard Carrier from our network.

Freethought Blogs unequivocally condemns any behavior that threatens the safety of atheist community members, including particularly marginalized groups. Freethought Blogs also recognizes the role of sexual harassment as one of numerous barriers for women that limits access to and participation within atheist conferences and spaces.

When the recent allegations against Richard Carrier were made public, Freethought Blogs initiated a process to investigate these claims and formalize its policy concerning the conduct of its members. The FtB Ethics Committee received several reports of Carrier’s behavior and was in the process of reviewing them when Carrier chose to leave the network. A thorough review of the allegations against Carrier cannot be completed by Freethought Blogs without his cooperation.

As part of our commitment to equitable access to freethinking spaces for all, Freethought Blogs members who violate our commitment to social justice by creating or maintaining barriers to participation will be removed from the network as a matter of policy. All reports submitted to us in furtherance of this policy will be kept in the strictest of confidence, unless the accusation was made publicly or in the event we have express permission to reproduce the complaint.

-The FtB Ethics Committee

Convergent evolution of jerks

This sounds terribly familiar.

The self-identified Men’s Rights Advocates just seemed eager to lay into someone they perceived as a liberal “value-signaler.” They targeted my masculinity and sexual orientation, labeling me a “cuck” and a “libfag.” Before I knew it, I was receiving multiple email notices that I’d been signed up for a variety of hardcore gay pornography services.

What did Jared Sexton do to deserve such hatred? He wrote up a factual account of his attendance at a Trump rally, and noted that a lot of the attendees were loud bigots.

It’s a curious phenomenon. I got exactly the same kind of response from Catholics, years ago, and then I got it from right-wing atheists, and then from “scientific” racists and fans of evolutionary psychology, and of course I get it from MRAs. What’s strange is how they all sound alike, and the tactics haven’t changed at all. Email death threats, rage with a common set of slurs, and oh yes, signing me up for gay porn. Do they even realize that that stuff doesn’t disturb me in the least? I might glance at it, be impressed with the remarkable muscle tone of their models, and trash it for lack of interest.

They occasionally come up with a new term, but it sweeps through the population so rapidly that it loses all impact. The latest example is “cuck”: one moment, no one is saying it, and then suddenly it’s ubiquitous among that certain group of people. For the record, I love the word “cuck”, because when someone uses it, it is an instant classifier. It’s like spotting a notochord in an embryo — you just snap your fingers and say, yep, phylum Chordata. I see “cuck”, I know instantly that it’s phylum Blustering-Asshole-Authoritarian-Obsessed-With-Controlling-Women.

But really, what’s sad is how uniform they all sound — like their personality has been excised and replaced with loud yelling, and their creativity has been obliterated with a cancer of buzzwords.

Can we get these rules here?

I was curious to know if there were any preliminary reports on the Brexit vote going on right now, so I popped over to the BBC. There’s nothing. They actually have some sensible restrictions on the media.

What can the BBC report?

* Uncontroversial factual accounts such as the appearance of politicians and others at polling stations or the weather.

* The practicalities such as when the polls are open, the wording of the question and expectations of when the result may be known are allowed.

* The BBC’s online sites will not have to remove archived reports.

What can’t the BBC report?

* The BBC stops short of actually encouraging people to vote.

* While the polls are open, it is a criminal offence for anyone, not just broadcasters, to publish anything about the way in which people have voted in the referendum, where that is based on information given by voters after they have voted.

* The BBC can’t report anything emerging from exit polls (which, by definition, are asking people how they actually voted), although the broadcasters have not commissioned any exit polls for the referendum.

* No opinion poll on any issue relating to the referendum can be published by broadcasters until after the polls have closed.

I marveled. The 24-hour news networks will be a circus on election day in this country — a very, very boring circus presided over by Wolf Blitzer and his mindless monotone, with Fox News providing the clowns. There won’t be any news here, either, but they’ll make stuff up.

To find out how the referendum turns out, we’ll have to tune in after everyone has voted. Amazing! And the BBC tells me that that will be at 22:00 BST, which is 4:00 my time (CST). We shall eagerly, but patiently, await the conclusion.

When picking your hill to die on, choose carefully

I am very happy that the Democrats in congress have chosen to develop a spine on gun control, and are having a sit-in to protest Republican intransigence. John Lewis was inspiring.

Elizabeth Warren has been outspoken in her support.

But here’s the problem: they’re making a stand over a very bad bill, one that attaches restrictions on gun ownership to being on the homeland security no-fly list. That is a terrible, sloppy, lazy list that is more a reflection of false fears of Muslims than it is of credible concerns about terrorism. As the ACLU explains:

Because of the extreme secrecy surrounding the No Fly List, people generally only discover that they are on it when they are denied boarding on a flight – often very publicly, at the airport. The public does not know how many people are on the No Fly List, and the criteria for inclusion are so broad and vague that they inevitably ensnare innocent people engaged in First Amendment-protected speech, activity, or association. The process the government has established for people on the No Fly List to challenge their blacklisting is grossly insufficient and violates the U.S. Constitution’s due process guarantee.

So the Democrats finally scrape up the courage to fight back, they get the leadership of a towering figure in the civil rights movement…and it’s all to increase the authority of a secret enemies list that tramples on our civil rights? There’s something seriously wrong here.

What better way to celebrate our toxic orange presidential candidate?



Burger King, the restaurant chain backed by 3G Capital and Warren Buffett, will begin selling deep-fried sticks of macaroni and cheese encrusted in Cheetos-flavored breading, part of a trend toward blending fast food with well-known snack brands.

Cheesy, commercial, and artificially colored — it should be the official snack food of the Republican party.

I’d make one addition. It should be sold with little cups of vividly yellow Velveeta cheese goo, so you could dip it and put a little swirl of mysterious fulvous color on top.