Ask an Atheist Day? Do I want to do this?

Sure, I’ll give it a shot, although I do add a qualifier here, because I don’t want to be associated with a lot of those other atheists.

Really, ask me anything, I might answer. You could ask why I think spiders are better atheists than people, or who has the loveliest grandchildren, or about why I’m pissed off all the time nowadays. It’s wide open!

We just have to find the right numbers, and the problems go away!

I’m busy grading exams and quizzes today, and I’m grateful that none of my students have stumbled on the McEnany solution, which is to justify wrong answers by saying they just used different numbers than I gave them.

It is a kind of universal answer, though.

“I asked you what 2 + 2 is, and you said 3.14! That’s wrong!”

Nah, I just added two different numbers than the ones you used.

Republicans: Still creating their own reality, even down to using different math.

We need to get rid of Bill Barr, too

We’ve got some real winners in this administration. Bill Barr keeps earning a star for his standout performance, though.

You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history, Barr said as a round of applause came from the crowd.

How dare he. As we all know, the orders that we not go play on the freeway is a greater intrusion on civil liberties. The law that requires that we wear a seatbelt is a greater intrusion. Traffic laws in general are a greater intrusion — who are these authoritarians who insist that I need a license to drive and have to respect the rules of the road? The state even has hired thugs in cars to enforce those!

Doesn’t the government tell people to stay safe inside when there is a tornado? Public safety isn’t an intrusion on civil liberties, other than your liberty to do stupid things and die.

Then he goes on to accuse the Justice Department of being full of preschoolers.

It might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it is no way to run a federal agency,

You know, he’s in charge of the Justice Department. I guess he wants to run it all by himself?

TERFs go home

Sophie Lewis has published an opinion piece in the NY Times that I thought was an interesting explanation of the trans-Atlantic divide, How British Feminism Became Anti-Trans. There is a surprising split between British and American feminism.

If the idea that transphobic harassment could be “feminist” bewilders you, you are not alone. In the United States, my adoptive home, the most visible contemporary opponents of transgender rights are right-wing evangelicals, who have little good to say about feminism. In Britain, where I used to live, the situation is different.

There, the most vocal trans-exclusionary voices are, ostensibly, “feminist” ones, and anti-trans lobbying is a mainstream activity. Case in point: Ms. Parker told the podcast “Feminist Current” that she’d changed her thinking on trans women after spending time on Mumsnet, a site where parents exchange tips on toilet training and how to get their children to eat vegetables. If such a place sounds benign, consider the words of British writer Edie Miller: “Mumsnet is to British transphobia,” she wrote “what 4Chan is to American fascism.”

Ouch. Mumsnet gets burned. But yes, I keep hearing about this “mumsnet” phenomenon, where Graham Linehan was holding court, although I’ve never even glanced at the forum myself. What I did learn about first-hand was the strange involvement of British skepticism in ant-trans activity.

Ms. Parker and Ms. Long may not know it, but they’re likely influenced by the legacy of the British “Skepticism” movement of the 1990s and early 2000s, which mobilized against the perceived spread of postmodernism in English universities as well as homeopathy and so-called “junk science.” Hence, the impulse among TERFs to proclaim their “no-nonsense” character; witness the billboard Ms. Parker paid to have put up last fall dryly defining a woman as an “adult human female.” Such a posture positions queer theory and activism as individualistic, narcissistic and thus somehow fundamentally un-British.
It’s also worth noting that the obsession with supposed “biological realities” of people like Ms. Parker is part of a long tradition of British feminism interacting with colonialism and empire. Imperial Britain imposed policies to enforce heterosexuality and the gender binary, while simultaneously constructing the racial “other” as not only fundamentally different, but freighted with sexual menace; from there, it’s not a big leap to see sexual menace in any sort of “other,” and “biological realities” as essential and immutable. (Significantly, many Irish feminists have rejected Britain’s TERFism, citing their experience of colonialism explicitly as part of the reason.)

Been there, done that. We had an ugly influx of British “skeptics” here, demonizing trans folk, who got banned hard. See Why I banned Andy Lewis, Maria Maclachlan, and Alan Henness — apparently those were well-known names in UK skepticism, and hoo boy, were some people on the other side of the pond shocked that I would ban such highly esteemed individuals. From my perspective, they were just total asshats, and slapping the self-proclaimed label of “skeptic” on them wasn’t enough to rescue them.

Carnival of Curiosity: the Matinee…of PAIN

Unaccountably, multiple people suggested this for our fundraiser: make me sit through some awful, atrocious bit of media while everyone watches me. The form was vague, I think the appeal was entirely in making me weep.

I’ve scheduled it, but we have to get the details down now, and I have questions.

  • OK, what media? I suspect no one was thinking of an Attenborough documentary. Make suggestions! The constraints are that it’s got to be something accessible, so a YouTube something or other, or Netflix. Something by Ray Comfort (boring!), Pureflix (too easy),a horror movie (I might enjoy it), a superhero thingie (I’d probably hate it)? Name things in the comments.
  • Am I supposed to do this alone? Anyone else you’d like to drag down to hell with me? Company might make it more entertaining.

  • How? It should be streamed to YouTube for the greatest reach, but I could set up something with OBS and/or Discord, or even Zoom. Give me ideas!

This is definitely a rough work in progress, but here’s where you can watch whatever abomination we cobble together.

And remember, this is a fundraiser.

Hmmm. Maybe I should auction off the right to name the media, or to share a spot in the matinee with me?

Never drive in either of the Dakotas

It’s too dangerous. There are wild legislators driving madly with little regard for traffic laws on those long empty highways. Several years ago there was a politician whose name I forget who made the papers with his frequent reckless drives…now they’ve got Jason Ravnsborg on the prowl.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said in a statement late Monday that he realized he had struck and killed a man walking along a rural stretch of highway only after returning to the scene the next day and discovering the body.

The state’s top law enforcement officer said he initially thought he hit a deer while driving home from a Republican fundraiser on Saturday night. He is under investigation by the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

How do you do that? How do you mistake a person for a deer? I’ve encountered many deer while driving — I never hit any, fortunately — and they tend to bound out of ditches and cover and race with startling speed across the road, something people don’t generally do (I haven’t hit any of them, either). There’s hooves and antlers and long skinny legs on one of them, too. I know the state of zoological knowledge in the general public is woeful, but big slow ape vs. swift herbivore?

Ravnsborg has a history of speeding and other traffic violations, which seems to be a matter of course over there across Minnesota’s western border. It makes me reluctant to drive there — you never know when the governor or the whole dang state senate might show up, Mad Max style, and take you out.

Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates stole my money!

I want it back! I want everyone to get their fair share!

This new report explains that the rich have been robbing us blind since the 1970s, at least. That’s 50 years of cash I want in my pocket right now.

Just how far has the working class been left behind by the winner-take-all economy? A new analysis by the RAND Corporation examines what rising inequality has cost Americans in lost income—and the results are stunning.

A full-time worker whose taxable income is at the median—with half the population making more and half making less—now pulls in about $50,000 a year. Yet had the fruits of the nation’s economic output been shared over the past 45 years as broadly as they were from the end of World War II until the early 1970s, that worker would instead be making $92,000 to $102,000. (The exact figures vary slightly depending on how inflation is calculated.)

There was a transfer of $2.5 trillion in wealth from those who could actually use it to the über-rich. You might be wondering who to blame, who engineered this massive heist…I can think of a few crooks who’ve benefitted, but it’s also partly our own fault. We let this happen by electing lazy, greedy looters to high office.

They say the blame lies, in large measure, with decades of failed federal policy decisions—allowing the minimum wage to deteriorate, overtime coverage to dwindle, and the effectiveness of labor law to decline, undermining union power. They also cite a shift in corporate culture that has elevated the interests of shareholders over those of workers, an ethos that took root 50 years ago this week with the publication of an essay by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.

Many of these developments, Rolf points out, have been driven by the belief that an unfettered free market would generate wealth for everyone. Thanks to the RAND study, he says, “we now have the proof that this theory was wrong.”

Oh god. Friedman. Advisor to Reagan and Thatcher, libertarian, neo-liberal monster. So much of blame for the decline of the United States can be plopped onto his too-influential shoulders. Where’s his grave? We ought to all go piss on it, at the very least.

After the symbolic desecration party, though, we should pass laws that rip the ill-gotten wealth out of the hands of the 1%.

Carnival of Curiosity: Parade of Bloggers, part II

The second event in our September fundraiser is scheduled on YouTube now: The Parade of Bloggers, part II!

This is a continuation of our Friday night event, scheduled for a more convenient time for our European colleagues. It will be just as exciting!

This is all about raising money for FtB, so as will be my custom, I’ll be routinely suggesting where you can send donations:

Carnival of Curiosity: Parade of Bloggers, part I

In ten days, the first event in our September fundraiser fires up: The Parade of Bloggers, part I!

Any of the FtB bloggers who want to show up (consent is our middle name, so this is entirely voluntary) will make an appearance, tell you about their blog, and plug any of the events they’ll be participating in. If you’ve got any favorite bloggers here you’d like to see, go ahead, comment on their blog and let them know. While we’re all about voluntary participation, we don’t mind using a little social encouragement.

This is all about raising money for FtB, so as will be my custom, I’ll be routinely suggesting where you can send donations:

Note also that during a YouTube livestream, you can use superchats to make donations and get our attention. Treat it like one of those call-in reality shows — when your fave blogger shows up, hit that superchat button!