Racist goddamned Florida

Trayvon Martin went to a convenience store in his family’s neighborhood to buy some candy. He was 17. He was unarmed. He was black.

George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch leader”, called the police to report a “suspicious person”; he was told not to confront him, but somehow in the next few minutes Zimmerman got out there and shot and murdered Trayvon Martin. The puffed-up coward Zimmerman grabbed his gun, confronted a teenager carrying nothing but a bag of Skittles, and murdered him. There is no possible excuse, no way that there could be some exculpatory fact to justify his actions: Zimmerman was carrying a loaded gun and on a mission of self-inflated importance to defend his neighborhood (which was also Martin’s neighborhood) from suspicious young black men.

What do you think happened next, when the police arrived on the scene and found Zimmerman with a smoking gun, who immediately admitted to gunning Trayvon Martin down?


Zimmerman is still free. It’s been two weeks; no action is being taken. The Florida district attorney is even dragging his heels about deciding to investigate the murder, and claiming that Zimmerman was a pillar of the community.

Sign the petition. Tell racist goddamned Florida they can’t just ignore a vigilante who murders young black people.

It gets worse. Recordings of 911 calls on the night of the murder are available: Martin was screaming for help and begging for his life when Zimmerman gunned him down. And apparently what sent Zimmerman on his macho crusade to stop a suspicious suspect was that Martin was running away.

Why hasn’t he been arrested?

Why am I not surprised?

James Inhofe, the ridiculous climate change denier, appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and made a series of ridiculous claims. Among them was the claim that those wacky environmentalists were greatly outspending the entire energy industry on propaganda. Wait, what? The top five oil companies made $1 trillion in profits from 2011 through 2011, and somehow the Sierra Club and George Soros and Michael Moore are able to outspend them? Where did such a patently absurd claim come from?

Inhofe revealed his source: the “very liberal publication”, Nature (yes, reality really does have a liberal bias) which cited a researcher who found that the environmental movement was filthy rich.

Propelled by an ultra wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents.

One problem: that study has been thoroughly debunked and shown to be the work of a very sloppy researcher. Climate change deniers outspent environmentalists 8:1 in lobbying and donating to candidates (buying the government, in other words) in 2009.

And who was that sloppy shill for the denialists? Why, none other than snake oil salesman Matt Nisbet, who Greg Laden and I debated in 2007, and who butchers puppies for fun (←framing).

I admit to chortling with glee at seeing Nisbet exposed yet again as a tool of the status quo.

If you’re really interested, Nisbet has posted his list of excuses for his misleading report. The gist: he picked 45 environmentalist groups and 42 denialist groups (I think we already see a problem in his analysis). The environmental groups were open and revealed all of their expenditures, and were also capped in how much they could spend. The industry groups and right-wing think-tanks were shadier and did not provide figures, so Nisbet “estimated”. Industry associations have no caps on how much they can spend in direct lobbying.

I do regret the effort I spent arguing with this sleazeball in the past.

(Also on Sb)

Adam, David (2011) Money not the problem in US climate debate. Nature 19 April 2011.

The obvious first step

Rick Santorum has promised a “war on porn if elected.

“Current federal ‘obscenity’ laws prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier,” Santorum wrote in the statement, adding that these laws should be “vigorously enforced.”

We’re going to have to define porn and obscenity for this to work. As a first step, I propose using use of the filthy word “Santorum” as an unambiguous indicator of pure smut.

A very friendly poll

Those crazy Catholics still don’t get it.

Asked what he would say to a gay Catholic couple who approached him for marriage within the Church, the Archbishop said: “I would want to say to them that I understand their desires, that I understand their experience of love is vitally important in their lives, but I would want to say to them that they are called in my view, in the Church’s view, to a very profound friendship in life.

“I would want them to be respected, but I would want them to have a vision in themselves that what they are called to is not marriage but a very profound and lifelong friendship.”

Oh, friendship. Wink wink, nudge nudge, knowwhatImean, right? Like what I’ve got with my wife, a “profound and lifelong friendship”, not at all like those fleeting non-consensual tickle-and-poke sessions with en endless series of altar boys.

Wait a minute…isn’t that exactly what a successful and happy marriage is? A profound and lifelong friendship, a deeper relationship than anything some arrogant celibate social failure like a priest could possibly understand? Why is anyone paying any attention at all to this smug gomer’s advice?

Yeah, there’s a poll.

Should gay couples be allowed to marry?

Yes, anyone regardless of sexual orientation should be allowed to marry  36.35%
Yes, but not in church  10.97%
No, marriage should be kept between a man and a woman  52.67%

Why I am an atheist – Fiona Wallace

I am an atheist because I’ve seen hundreds of people die.

Around the time of my brother’s birth, my father decided that we should all start attending the CoE chapel on the local naval base (he was a retired naval officer) and within the year, my brother and my ten-year-old self were baptised. Some four years later I was confirmed, after being forced unwilling to confirmation classes. This class demanded a weekly essay on some biblical topic; deeply unfair, I felt, when I was the only one in the class who went to a highly academic school, and already had 4-5 hours of homework each night. I bought into the mythology, because adults were always right, or so my obedient self had been taught, but the essay was usually scribbled sitting in the back of the car on the way to class.

I think the chaplain knew.

On leaving school for university I fell in with a very catholic contingent, and here the first cracks really showed. They used condoms instead of the pill ‘because it’s easier for god to make a condom fail if he wants you to be pregnant’.


I found out that engaged couples had to attend a class where celibate, single men told them how to be married, because god says.


And confession magically erased any bad stuff you’d done, but didn’t really explain why you still needed a day of judgement.

And I began to see people die.

The first was an old man gasping his last with acute pulmonary oedema.

The next was a young cyclist.

A nine-year-old boy, of asthma.

A girl with cystic fibrosis.

A fifty year old woman with teenage children.

The list lengthened, and now I can no longer remember all their deaths, though some of them do stick in my memory.

What they had in common was…nothing other than death. Old people, young people. Children and babies. Sick and healthy. Deliberately or accidentally. Fighting all the way, welcoming it or simply giving in to the inevitable. Distressed or peaceful. Merchant bankers and newborn babies, elderly paraplegics and young athletes. Road accidents, cancer, lifelong disability, infections, heart disease, respiratory failure…I learned all the ways a human being can die.

Now at this point a religious person would be nodding sagely and deciding that I had got angry, and turned away from god. That I raged against him and his cruelties.


Have you ever seen someone die? One moment they’re there, a person, the sum of all the experiences they’ve ever had, a fantastic bundle of memories, desires and hope. And then it’s gone.

The match sputters out, the clockwork toy winds down, the tree falls to earth, and it’s over.

And it’s only in the last sixty years that we’ve really made a difference. Before that, we died like flies.

Were the people back then less deserving? Were they more evil? Were they less religious? I don’t think so. In fact, I know they weren’t. So why were they not deserving of all the things we have today? Why did two of my father’s siblings, twins, die before they were five years old of preventable childhood diseases and end up buried in Egypt in the 1930s? Why is every advance that humanity has made been paid for in blood, again and again and again?

No apologetics can explain the way the world simply is. No amount of hand-waving can hide the fact that the majority of humanity still suffers, much of it beyond our coddled imagining. I cannot compartmentalise this, for to do so would be to deny that suffering was real, to wave it away, salving my conscience with the lie that it was all for some hidden purpose. I am not willing to lie to myself and even less am I willing to lie to those around me.

I don’t have parables of how I do good in the world, or trite recitations of lifesaving heroics. I’ve saved lives, but that, to put it bluntly, is my job. There is no god to be pleaded with, bargained with; it is us, homo sapiens, who save each other’s lives, who offer comfort to the dying, who create and invent and build a better future for ourselves.

Send that mythological monster away. Your child died because there was nothing further human beings could do to save him, your sibling lived because human beings successfully pulled her back from the brink. And that effort belongs to all of us.

And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s enough.

Fiona Wallace

Are you 4th year med students experiencing stress or something?

Tomorrow is match day for med students — they’re all competing for residencies, and apparently, it leads some of them to make comparisons with the upcoming movie, The Hunger Games.

(That’s a former student of mine, Katie Glasrud, playing the role of Katniss. She’ll do fine. If the Match is anything like the Hunger Games, though, her fellow students ought to worry about getting killed!)