None of us are better than this


When an Alabamian tells you to “Stop telling people that Alabama is better than this. It’s not,” you should listen. It’s a bitterly scathing op-ed.

In the past few years, when they weren’t being sent to prison for one felony or another, Alabama Republicans have attacked Hispanics, blacks, gays, blacks, transgender people, blacks, teachers, anyone who practices a religion other than Christianity and blacks.

And now, girls and women.

Their hateful bills have been ripped to shreds by federal courts and they have managed to drive away potential businesses looking to relocate to Alabama. Not to mention, the poor management of this state has deterred our best and brightest from sticking around and has driven a number of businesses out of the state.

All of that has not cost Republicans a single vote in this state. In fact, in those midterms I spoke about, the Republicans without a plan — running on nothing but hate and religion — gained seats in the Alabama Legislature.

Stop telling me we’re better than this.

We’re not.

That’s true of all of us, though. We’ve got a Trump in the presidency and corruption and unconstitutional destruction in the Senate; the Republican party is working hard to shut down democracy by suppressing the vote, and if that doesn’t work, they’re wrecking education so coming generations will be as ignorant as this one. This disaster isn’t the work of some distant nefarious evil-doer in Washington DC, it’s your neighbors and co-workers and those gomers down at the local reactionary church and your conservative uncle and your parents soaking in the warm glow of Fox News and your kids who are absorbing idiotic memes from their fellow players in video games. We’re not going to get out of this mess by electing the right figurehead. You’re going to have to pay attention to school board elections and speak up in uncomfortable social situations and canvas neighborhoods before elections and tell certain members of your family to go fuck themselves.

No more getting by, avoiding conflict, sitting quietly so you don’t make a scene. If you keep that up, it’s on you. You’re just as bad as an Alabama Republican senator, and you’re making the country worse.

Comments

  1. quotetheunquote says

    I agree about practically the whole world going to hell in and handbasket politically (including my home province of Ontario); still, Alabama seems to stand out as a special case of awful. Just heard an interview on CBC radio last night, which really made my blood boil. It was with some dude named Renshaw from a group called “Alliance for Pro-life Alabama”. Oh, my dog, is he a vile POS. From the transcript (wish I could do that ‘gumby’ backdrop that PZ uses):

    [interviewer]: Well as you know Democratic Senator Bobby Singleton has pointed out during the debate that a doctor who performs an abortion in the case of rape could be imprisoned for longer than the rapist.

    RICK RENSHAW: Yes I mean it’s one of those kind of sensational type statistics that they come up with. But here’s the thing. There is an industry of abortion. You’re going to have to put something up there so that doctors don’t kind of open up a side shop and exploit women who are in desperate situations for profit.

    So, basically, he’s saying that everything would be just hunky-dory if we didn’t have evil doctors exploiting knocked-up girls for profit. Christ, what an asshole. If ever there were an argument needed for why men should have nothing, not one single thing, to say about a woman’s right to choose, it’s personified right there in Rick Renshaw.
    (Full transcript here).
    The segment with the dude was followed by an interview with a woman who actually experienced what it’s like to be forced to give birth after being raped – some sort of balance there, I suppose. (You can find that part of the interview at the above link as well).

  2. raven says

    Their hateful bills have been ripped to shreds by federal courts and they have managed to drive away potential businesses looking to relocate to Alabama.

    From what I’ve seen of Alabama, I’d be afraid to even fly over it much less visit it.

    Fundie xianity is based on pure, raw hate.
    The fundies hates include nonwhites, nonxians, gays, trans, the educated, science and scientists, women, progressive xians, Democrats, and others.
    Add them up.
    This is most of the humans alive on the planet in general and even in Alabama in particular.

    I fall into several of those categories so Alabama is simply a No Go zone.

  3. Jim Campbell says

    From Down Under, one of the things we’re hearing is that these laws are being written to be as extreme and as close to unconstitutional as possible so as to get them passed upwards, ever upwards, to the Republicans’ newly configured Supreme Court.

    Do you think there is any merit to this line of thought?

  4. Emily says

    @3 Oh, absolutely. It’s come straight from the Republicans themselves that this is the strategy, and we can’t not fight it, or it’ll just become law.

  5. quotetheunquote says

    @Jim Campbell

    From the same interview I quoted in #1 above:

    [referring specifically to the Roe v. Wade descision] RICK RENSHAW: It’s terrible. It was terrible law when it was passed. It’s terrible law now. It’s it’s an abomination. It’s going back to 1973 each of the 50 states had the legal right to govern and define and prosecute whatever on abortion. In 1973 with Roe v. Wade decision it federalized it all and took it from the individual states being able to have the say to the federal government having it. This is in a sense writing something it’s been wrong for a long long time.

    So, yes, there is.

  6. raven says

    I thought to get some data on just how fundie xian and cuckoo Alabama is.

    NYT 5/16/2019

    Despite a national outcry — and a more muted one in Alabama — years of polling suggests that many residents support strict abortion limits. In 2014, the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Alabamians believed that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Of them, 51 percent were women. Public and private polling in later years have showed similar patterns, political strategists said.

    Not all that high considering.
    It’s higher than the national average but not by that much, 58% to 42%.
    The forced birthers/female slavers have a majority but it isn’t that large.

  7. raven says

    25 men voted to ban abortion in Alabama. Do they reflect the rest of America?
    Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY Published 11:35 a.m. ET May 15, 2019 | Updated 8:48 p.m. ET May 15, 2019

    What Americans say about abortion
    Nearly 60% of U.S. adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center.

    While Gallup shows Americans are evenly split on how they personally identify — 48% of Americans consider themselves pro-life and 48% are pro-choice — as of 2018, 79% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances.

    54% of Americans say they are either satisfied with the country’s abortion laws or would like them to be made less strict, according to Gallup.

    Only 14% of Americans, 16% of Southerners and 20% of Republicans believe abortion should be illegal in all cases, according to a 2018 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.

    The forced birthers/female slavers don’t have anything like a majority nationwide and even in much of the South.
    60% of all people favor legal abortion nationwide.

  8. F.O. says

    I feel the same about Italy.
    I’m cutting ties with ex-friends and family that are supporting our descent into outright fascism, I feel disgusted by Italians and my instinctive reaction is that I want nothing to do with them, but the truth is that I feel powerless in front of the overwhelming, small-minded, stupid cruelty that Italians are displaying, including people that I once respected and cared for.
    Cruel, because they don’t care about inflicting pain on others, and stupid, because they think that by being cruel they will do their own self-interest, and it will bite them in the ass and in the wallet.

  9. thirdmill301 says

    I think the problem is that we really have not evolved as much as we’d like to think. Our brains have become big enough to thoroughly fuck up the planet for ourselves and every other species, but our moral compass has not kept pace. As a species, we may simply not be evolved enough to do much about our own racism, tribalism, blood lust and religious nuttery. We are, after all, just another species of ape. And the real question is not why the majority of our fellow humans act as badly as they do; the question is how did the minority that sees that we could be better than that manage to achieve the necessary enlightenment to figure it out.

    It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Of course, if we completely destroy ourselves, it may never have the chance to get better. Sorry to be so pessimistic, but that’s how it appears to me. I’m almost thankful for being old since that means I won’t be here for the worst of it.

  10. alixmo says

    F.O., #)9,

    Italy has always been in the grip of Catholicism, it was never shaken off. Sadly, European people still believe the comedy act of the Vatican that they have “changed”, “reformed”, “modernized”. They did not. Never had. Anyone who really paid attention could see it, it was not even hidden. But, well, people believe what they want to believe (how ironic). And Europeans want to believe that they “tamed” and modernized religion.

    The Catholic Church just waited for the moment to bring back traditional values and traditional gender roles. Now, it may have come. The far right is willing to cooperate with them – of course: Catholicism and the Right are two sides of a coin. I have ancestry from the Iberian Peninsula; Portugal and Spain had “Catholic” right wing dictators till the 1970s. Naturally, women`s roles there were far from free and equal.

    The far right in Europe is creating a network; US right wingers like Steve Bannon (who is a devout Catholic) are trying to help them (which is not necessary, things are fine for the far-right, even without him…). Catholicism is hoping to rise again in its homelands. (It never lost its power in the developing world, e.g. the Philippines, Latin America, even Africa).

    What to do? We have to attack religion, hard, pressure for more secularism. Kick religion out of schools, politics, the media. That has to be our demand.

  11. F.O. says

    @alixmo: It’s very much not like that.
    The Catholic Church, as much as I loathe it, has taken a staunch pro-refugees stance.
    Plenty of atheists are firmly in the asshole camp, and plenty of angry anti fascists are genuinely Christians and Catholics.
    Italy is a lot more complicated than “Catholic Church”.

  12. curbyrdogma says

    No more Mr/Ms Complacency!
    The new weapons in this age of Media Overload are the Social Media Echo Chamber and the Successful Meme. …Symbols, words, phrases, cartoons, etc. that evoke a quick, primal and Pavlovian response. In the meme ecosystem, the atavistic playground bully is having his day right now.

    So the challenge is finding ways to circumnavigate these tactics before the situation devolves into rabid mobs of disgruntled authority-by-birthright bullies hooting and hollering for their alpha leader a la 1930s Germany, 1970s Iran or 2011 Egypt. (even moreso than now)

    Now is the time for all good influencers to come to the aid of their countr(ies), by creating even better memes.

    Deconstruct their tactics. One weapon they use is a tactic I call Godbranding. They’re attempting to claim the moral high ground on a number of issues by invoking God as a sort of mascot. This tactic needs to be called out for how disingenuous it is.

    Invade their echo chambers and keep them as busy and distracted as possible. …Then, manufacture a “disgust” campaign against the most unhealthy junk foods in the country. Right-wingers will believe they’re “owning the libs” by binging on it. With any luck, they’ll keel over of heart attacks after spending marathon hours on social media.

  13. alixmo says

    I agree with PZ`s original post and the excerpt from the op-ed. Yes, “non of us are better than this”, is absolutely true. I come from a country that illustrates better (worse, really…) than arguably any other what it means when “good people” do not stand up against bad ideas and bad deeds. You guessed it – I talk about Germany.

    Sadly, many Germans still do not see that their ancestors were culpable for being (at best) silent bystanders. But, as the historian Timothy Snyder pointed out, resistance to bad ideas, especially in early phases of tyranny, are necessary to stop things from getting worse and worse.

    We should never forget that not all people think like us or are “good” people (at least in our view) by character. Right wing and conservative people are a fact; they exist and will, in certain numbers, always exist. The same goes for libertarians. So what can liberal and leftist people do to turn the tide, to make sure that regressives and reactionaries are not taking over?

    A hard task. PZ already made some good suggestions. I would add:

    1.) Take a leaf out of the book of Charles Koch (yes, that Koch); study and try to emulate his strategies (as far as that is possible with a tiny budget). (I recommend reading the book “Dark money” by Jane Mayer about the Kochs and Co.)

    2.) Hit hard against religion and its influence on politics, education, media. Fight for a truly secular state. Prove that you are not necessarily “a demon” because you are an atheist. Explain the meaning of “humanism”.

    3.) Talk to as many “undecided” and apolitical people as possible about the damage that religion does to society when it is not just a private matter. Illustrate what the power of religion does to a country and its individuals. Go deep into details and paint the picture. Use real life examples from religious countries (El Salvador, the Philippines, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Ireland, Salazar-Portugal, Franco-Spain etc.) and history (there is so much nasty stuff, you could talk for hours). Mention all the recent scandals of religion.

    Here exemplified by the Catholic Church: the abominable role of the Vatican in the African AIDS crisis; their huge pedophilia scandal and its cover-up; the fact that they own many billions of dollars and still collect taxes in e.g. Germany; the sexual abuse against nuns; the beating of children, the horrible treatment of unwed-mothers and other abuses in Ireland; the fact that the Vatican knows well that very many priests have children e.g. by their housekeepers and secretly pays for them; the fact that the Vatican actively victimizes e.g. African women by e.g. depriving girls and women of contraceptives, making sure that even victims of mass rapes have to carry to term in conflict regions; their absolutely misogynistic opinions about women – etc.etc.etc.

    Have facts prepared to prove that this is not “fake news”, e.g. from newspaper articles, their own statements, interviews, official Church documents, dogmas and doctrines…

    4.) The fact that religion is irrational b.s. or in conflict with science is not that interesting as an argument for many “normal” people. More important is: How does religion harm YOU? Harm YOUR children? YOUR country? What does it do to YOUR everyday life? Therefore:

    5.) Get personal! Ask: “Do you want your little daughter, niece, sister etc. grow up under those circumstances? Don`t you want her to thrive, be whatever she wants? Do you want her to learn, study, be independent and free, make her own choices? What kind of future do you hope she will enjoy?” Listen up and use the information to better your argument.

    6.) It is pointless to try to counter (religious) b.s. – at least if the interlocutor is a (religious) fanatic. If a “normal” person asks and is truly curious, of course we should answer! Otherwise: Stick to your own plan and bring up your own points.

    Never forget: Religion harms real life people, everywhere on earth (especially women). It is not just some cuddly, fuzzy, warm little thing as painted in the media. Religion hurts. Religion kills.

  14. Mrdead Inmypocket says

    the Republican party is working hard to shut down democracy by suppressing the vote,

    and

    We’re not going to get out of this mess by electing the right figurehead. You’re going to have to pay attention to school board elections

    That reminds me. Suppressing the vote isn’t just about conservative programs like Crosscheck. This election year ends in a 0, as such it’s a little more important than most election years. The 0 means it’s a census year, that means decennial redistricting processes, that means Gerrymandering.

    Keep in mind that the 2010 rise of the teaparty caucus has managed to purge a lot of Republican moderates. Despite the fact that they received around 1.4 million fewer votes in 2012 the GOP managed to maintain a majority in the House of Rep.

    Of course mapping is nothing new. But in terms of electoral politics, given that midterms only align with the census every 20 years, advanced mapping technology is. Such technology is able to weaponize the process much more effectively, every iteration we’re seeing now will be more and more extreme.

  15. alixmo says

    @F.O., #12,

    Sorry, but the refugee-question is not important to the core of Catholic teachings – the role of women in society is. They are adamant about that. Women are, according to their dogma, not equal to men and never will be. Their role is “complementary”, they are meant to stay in the home and raise their children. Contraceptives are forbidden – and always will be. Which means that women, in the Vatican’s opinion, are doomed to stay at home as mothers of many children, deprived of the opportunities open to men.

    Concerning the refugees, what else could they do? The Church has more “subjects” in developing countries than in the West. Most new priests and nuns are recruited from Africa! In Europe, many priests are now from developing countries. Racism is not the main problem of the Vatican – misogyny is.

    Nevertheless, there are many top and high ranking Catholic clerics that are very much agreeing with the far right – of course especially on the questions of women, gender, LGBTQ-people. Please, never forget that the Church is extremely homophobe.

    I recommend you reading up on the subject of the Catholic Church and the modern European far-right. Just yesterday I read some articles about it on opendemocracy.net. Check them out!

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    alixmo @11:

    Italy has always been in the grip of Catholicism, it was never shaken off.

    Then the Church must be really pissed that abortion is legal, same-sex civil unions are recognized, and women constitute about 35% of the upper and lower houses (better than UK, Canada, Netherlands and USA). Far from perfect in any of those things, but hardly “in the grip of Catholicism”.

  17. F.O. says

    @alixmo #16 dude, I recommend you to trust that, being Italian born, bred and involved in politics, I fucking know what I am talking about, thank you very much.

    Yes, plenty of Catholics are assholes and many of the different factions that constitute the Catholic Church have a lot of influence and nasty intentions.
    No, the Church is not omnipotent and a significant part of Catholics support the rights of women, LGBT+ people, refugees, migrants and minorities.

  18. alixmo says

    @Rob Grigjanis,

    Looks great on paper, right? But people’s attitudes are still very “Catholic” indeed, you will see (or rather, I hope you will not…). Italy is hugely misogynistic and against LGBTQ-people. That is not reflected in your statistics, but true nevertheless. Now that right-wing attitudes are socially acceptable again, orthodox Catholic ideology makes a comeback, too. Many people had to keep their opinions to themselves for a while, but know there is no social pressure any more holding them back.

    Also, the “gender debate” and hatred against “feminists” are quite common and an entry point for traditional religion into the minds of a younger generation (compare the ideas of – Christian, not atheist – Jordan Peterson).

    About your stats: We should not be naive; elites and their decisions go only so far.

    Reminds me of the Iranian revolution of 1979: Even now, many leftist Iranians cannot get over the fact that “their” revolution became ultra-reactionary, ending in a theocracy. Leftist Iranians, so they say, hoped for more freedom than under the Shah, demonstrated for the right to “read Marx and wear miniskirts”.

    According to their own words, they were not even aware of the religious movement in their own country and some did not even know who Khomeini was…

    (And this was not the first or last “surprise” of resurgent religiosity.)

    I also refer you to my additional comment on the Catholic Church, #16.

  19. kingoftown says

    @Aliximo

    I think you’re seriously overestimating the influence the catholic church still has in Europe. Remember it isn’t the traditionally catholic south of ireland that continues to ban gay marriage and abortion. It is the influence of an evangelical protestant party that is preventing progress in the north.

  20. alixmo says

    @F.O., #19,

    I just wrote a comment (#20) that answers your post as well.

    Many German Jews in the 1930s also thought they knew their fellow country people…. Well, they were in for a surprise, right?

    You may have great “people skills”, and sure, you know more about Italy, but about the Catholic Church…? I dare to doubt that. I am happy for you, that you only know “nice” Catholic people. Again, do your research and you will see a fuller, truer picture.

    Also, if the word “dude” suggest that you think that I am a man, you are mistaken. (Hopefully, your only mistake.)

    Which leads me to this last point: You either “embellish” the truth about your Catholic acquaintances on the issues of women’s rights and gays, or you happen to know a bunch of renegades, rebels, if you will. They exist, I know. But they are not representative. They are a powerless minority, minute. Their opinions mean zilch in the Vatican.

    On women’s issues, “reform Pope” Francis made his stance clear, several times: there will be no change. Neither on the role of women in society, contraceptives, nor on the ordination of female priests – which, he said, will never happen. Never.

    So much for reform.

    As a female, a friendly attitude towards refugees is not enough to atone. The Catholic Church is a huge problem for women’s rights world-wide.

    And the main draw for right-wingers towards Catholicism.

  21. alixmo says

    #21, @kingoftown,

    Than let us hope that you and all the others that seem to know so much about their fellow country people are right and I am wrong. If you are right, it is indeed the people, not the Church, that changed and got better. Surly thanks to criticism of many stances of the Church.

    But the Vatican is waiting for any chance to turn the tide. They never made much of a secret about it. Therefore, it is necessary to at least stay vigilant.

    I recommend reading my comments #20 and #22.

    Also, read up on gender and women’s issues and the Catholic Church and its connections with the far-right (there were some articles on opendemocracy.net that I recommend.)

  22. Rob Grigjanis says

    alixmo @20:

    Looks great on paper, right?

    No, it doesn’t. As I said, “far from perfect”. But it also doesn’t say “in the grip of Catholicism”.

    F.O. wrote this @19:

    Yes, plenty of Catholics are assholes and many of the different factions that constitute the Catholic Church have a lot of influence and nasty intentions.

    You @22, addressing F.O.;

    I am happy for you, that you only know “nice” Catholic people

    You’re just another blinkered ideologue who doesn’t read (or care?) what other people write. There is just The Cause, and The Enemy. How tiresome.

  23. alixmo says

    Rob Grigjanis, @24,

    You really are trying to get me on “technicalities”! But you do not mention that F.O. was rather impolite to me, using the f-word to emphasize his anger or annoyance. You were lenient with him – but I have to word my posts carefully, like they will be used in a trial?

    As for “cause and “enemy”, this just shows that you either do not understand or do not care about women’s rights. I am not surprised, women’s issues are seen as unimportant, ranking low e.g. compared to other (surly grave) problems like e.g. racism.

    Did you ever berate someone who talked too much and too vehemently about racism?

    I could indeed go on and on about grave human rights issues concerning women, inflicted because of or sanctified by religion. But I will not annoy you any longer.

    If I am too much of an ideologue for you and showed my true colors, you showed yours, too.

  24. says

    @ richardelguru

    Homo stultus

    Were you referring to me?

    You misspelled “slutus”.

    @alixmo:

    There’s a difference between lying and getting your facts wrong. But there’s also a difference between those things and writing “fuck”.

    If you’re not familiar with Pharyngula, perhaps you should read the commenting guidelines, or some of its history during which PZ has (in)famously scribed the phrase, “This is a rude blog.” This has always been a place that cares more about getting the facts right than it cares about the use of vulgarities or phrasing things so that they couldn’t ever possibly be taken as a personal attack.

    F.O. was “rather impolite” on a blog that tolerates being impolite. THIS DOES NOT EXCUSE LYING ABUT WHAT FO WROTE AND/OR CRITICIZING WHAT FO WROTE WITHOUT EVEN READING/UNDERSTANDING IT. If you want your comments to be treated as having even the most minimal value around here, you’re going to have to first get your facts right. After that you can decide whether writing impolite things makes your comments spicy, lively and interesting or whether it distracts from your point. We don’t really give a fuck about that, but you’re free to care … But that step has to come AFTER getting your facts right or no discussion can be useful at all, and whether or not you use impolitic language is the least of our concerns.

    The Republicans have made a mess out of the USA in part by insisting on discussing imaginary things as factual. You insisting that FO “only know[s] ‘nice’ Catholic people” is part of the problem.

    If you want to be part of the problem, go somewhere else. If you want to be part of the conversation here, then yes, by all means you must “word [your] posts carefully” in the sense that, yes, the parts that aren’t opinion really ought to at least accurately reflect reality.

  25. kingoftown says

    @Alixmo #16
    “The Church has more “subjects” in developing countries than in the West.”
    I really have to object to this. The idea that the allegiance of catholics lies with the Vatican over their country is a common sectarian, bigoted trope. They are not “subjects” of the holy see. A nominal catholic in Dublin (or Rome for that matter) is really no different to a nominal anglican in London.

  26. wzrd1 says

    @27, it’s not an uncommon misapprehension that followers in various disadvantaged nations are subjects to their church.
    Laughably, it really wasn’t all that long ago that was true – back when the various Churches had standing armies. And when Inquisitions occurred.

    Interestingly, when national armies failed to march for a church cause and push back against church armies began, things began to become modern.
    But, my parents regaled me upon historic excommunication from the church being a literal death sentence, as you then were an outlaw, allowed to be killed, stolen from or anything else “the faithful” decided. Trade or even feeding such people was utterly prohibited, upon pain of facing the same penalty, family wide. Not within living memory, but well within whispered secrets passed among the generations.
    That silence in the face of atrocities committed by the misleadership of various churches started to die with the late Boomer generation.

    As for PZ’s rant, not at all off target, it’s purely on target, in marksmanship, every round passed through the same hole often enough that I’m concerned that we’ll have a neutron star sitting on this planet’s surface!
    That, from someone who was assigned to live in Alabama.
    Hint: since at least 1982, when we arrived, rape was legal if you had political pull. Happened to a friend’s wife.
    The accused went through a private Star Chamber process, since the rule of law was utterly out, statewide.
    The perpetrator experienced a lethal single motor vehicle accident, while the lot of us were eating dinner with a judge.

    I’m a nice guy in person, even if we loathe one another, some barbs might strike a major organ, I’m expecting the same, but we’ve agreed to be civilized. Rapists aren’t civilized. Rapists that abuse political processes and the abuse accepting processes are not civilized, the lot are terrorists.
    Terrorists are addressed by reasoning them out of their intellectual rut or elimination.

    Horrified? Glad that you are, I’m unhappy of that reality. MLK didn’t make a scratch on racism until extremists began to destroy, so a choice, deal with someone reasonable or deal with someone who will kill you at the first opportunity.
    That was the reality of the time. I know, I grew up in the middle of it.
    Growing up, my earliest memory was of JFK being shot, live on CBS. That was my parents preferred television channel, for as long as I knew letters, which was later by a year or so and recalled the announcements of what network we were watching on.
    And mom’s distress, later, when her mother died, I’ll be honest, she seemed far more distressed with JFK’s death. Understandable, as he was the closest, generation wise, to my parents.
    Distressed enough to not notice when I called for assistance, just becoming toilet trained and no Mom, wipe myself – with an entire roll of toilet paper, which was quite full, with predictable results.

    For the record, I was born in late 1961.

    Although, there remains one prior memory, understanding Mommy enough to comprehend, but wanting to play, during a cloth diaper change and her warning, “If you squirm, I might stick you, so please stay still!”. Being a kid, I did what kids do, play, got stuck in the lower abdomen, modestly, no bleeding, which I also learned about, but the impressed memory showed nothing red near me.
    Have other impressions of guttural roars and staccato noise, sensation of going back to sleep. What was visual in that impression looked like Aunt Jean’s home, where Dad and his siblings engaged in card games into the wee hours of the morning for penny ante poker games.
    Hence, my aversion to gambling. Zero noise control from Dad’s elder siblings.
    And why I asked mom and dad to curtail such visits to the shore, as it incessantly awakened me.
    That triggered a Serious Conversation and some degree of muting was sufficient to allow me beauty sleep.
    Likely, why I have a face perfectly suited for radio.

    OK, everything else is true, save the last and hopefully, obvious joke.
    One primary tool I use is tangential humor, designed to tangent thought processes away from violence. Did quite well in that department.
    Because, violence is the first resort of the incompetent, it’s the last resort of the competent, save in very special cases.
    Then, one has to exercise judgement and judge gently, not harshly.
    That’s something I’ve only did three times, twice in war.
    An enterprise of the worst kind of waste, the waste of life. Equipment can be replaced or repaired, lives cannot be repaired or replaced.
    But, in an equation of me vs terrorist or community marketplace vs terrorist, the terrorist has to lose, if it’s even barely within our capabilities, there are innocent civilians muddling through down there, we have to protect them.
    That was war calculus, we let go a lot, once we learned of the torture thing, save for one high value target, who was tagged by a security index above the torturers. Got to make that call, as senior NCO, where our Commissioned Officer was off, due to injury, trying to be Sampson.
    Hell, Sampson wasn’t Sampson of biblical record. Rambo wasn’t Rambo of on book, Troutman shot him in the head with the sheriff’s shotgun at the end of the book and there wasn’t a dry page.
    Read after actually becoming qualified under what was in the movie and more.
    Laughably, occupying a Major’s billet, while contracting, after retirement.
    One upside, zero body armor, helmet of obedience or chest, side and back weights (ESAPI plates, which are proof against a military version of a .308 rifle, with armor piercing ammunition.).
    Just got to data puff the network, with my infamous sledgehammer.
    Oh, you need that to conduct efficient operations? Software package, ports and IP’s, I’ll push it through to you, since you proved your case prior (occasionally, in person).

    Other side, since some are wondering, nothing gave me greater joy than to refuse an FOI request, within sensitive projects.
    Beyond that, well, I had to use the FOI process to just get my fucking contract, while I was working in the Middle East, as our project manager lied in claiming a lack of access.
    Got the contract numbers from our COR, which is the US Government employee, who is legally responsible for the contract, so most certainly has it on hand.
    Company obeyed the contract for a change. Simplified my and my peers IA jobs, IA being Information Assurance, now Information Security.

    Maybe now, some grok.

  27. chrislawson says

    alixmo@20:

    According to their own words, they were not even aware of the religious movement in their own country and some did not even know who Khomeini was…

    I have no idea where you got this information from, but it is completely wrong. The idea that leftist Iranians in 1979 did not know who Khomeini was is…well, it’s about as realistic as saying some leftists in the US today have never heard the name Trump.

  28. alixmo says

    #27, @kingoftown,

    I obviously have to learn to use my words here with absolute care. I am not a lawyer, so I use language sometimes a bit “loosely” and provocatively – but never with the intention to lie or distort. (Since there are other non-English speakers around, I cannot fully make use of the excuse that English is my second language.) In general, I tend to pay more attention to the meaning of my text in general, e.g. the content, the main gist (to which nobody here responded!)

    I admit that I was a couple of times a little lazy and did word too loosely, which I regret. It may happen again, unintentionally, but I will do my best to get better. I absolutely detest lies and bigotry, so I take those accusations seriously.

    In this case, I did put the word “subjects” in quotation marks to suggest that I was a little sarcastic about it. But, yes, I used the word intentionally.

    Not because I am bigoted against Catholics, who are, like any group, diverse. There are e.g. groups like “Catholics for Choice” who are indeed critical against the stance of the Vatican on women’s issues. I appreciate that very much. I support that group! I also have no problems with Catholics if they practice their religion without harming others, without making decisions for others, without trying to influence law and politics with their inhumane stance on women’s rights, e.g. in the question of contraceptives.

    In fact, as you might have read, I “was born” a Catholic. You might think that as a reason for (what you might see as) my anti-Catholic “bigotry”. But no, I never had a personal incident that turned me against Catholics, no abuse, nothing.

    I just know their teachings on women. And, frankly, that is enough. Women are now not only second class citizens, but third class citizens, ranking behind men and then fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses. That is the result of the stance of the Vatican on “unborn live” – I am only slightly polemic here.

    And yes, just as there is the group Catholics for Choice, there are also the fundamentalist Catholics who are convinced that an abortion is not even allowed if the mother’s life is in grave danger. You said you are Irish? I guess you know the results of the official stance of the Catholic Church, especially when it is the Catholic Church that runs hospitals. Therefore, the official Church does matter more than some friendly fringe opinions of normal citizens who e.g. do not run hospitals. Correct me, if I am wrong.

    I really do not give a shit about fundamentalist Catholics, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Evangelicals etc.. They can believe whatever they want, no matter how irrational – if they do not meddle with politics and hurt and oppress people.

    (But they do. In the press, which is in my opinion “soft on” religion, you can find many articles and reports proving my point. Including, e.g., the Vatican and the Pope himself speaking out against secularism.)

    I used the word “subject” because the influence of the Catholic Church (and Evangelicals, and even local religious authorities) in many developing countries is much, much stronger than in e.g. Europe. That of course is more true in poorer regions, often rural regions, with a lack of education and weak infrastructure. Look e.g. in the Guardian, in their archive, in the “Global Developpment” section, and read carefully (since there is, like here, the fear that outright criticism of religion is a sign of bigotry):

    Many people, especially women, are still unfree in their thoughts (do you dispute the influence of early socialization and learning?) and in their choices because of the influence, the power, of local religious authorities. This includes Catholics.

    Let me illustrate that on the example of the Philippines (I urge you to check it out in the Guardian archive; I read this all some time ago, but I really detest peddling in lies, so correct me if I am wrong!). The Catholic Church (most of them, there are always “rebels”) worked very hard to make sure that women are not using contraceptives.

    From attempts to meddle with law and politics to priests telling their congregation that contraceptives are unhealthy, killing women by giving them diseases, every measure was acceptable. (There were even reports of priests saying that women start smelling badly and get uglier and less attractive to men if they use contraceptives.)

    Another example is El Salvador and the legislation against abortion and the role of the Vatican in it – again, I urge you to look it up yourself to prove that I am not lying.

    I hope that, from now on, people here start involving me in conversations about the content of my posts. E.g. I love to hear more about what to do about religion meddling with politics world-wide (including the UN) in order to undo women’s reproductive rights.

  29. says

    I admit that I was a couple of times a little lazy and did word too loosely, which I regret. It may happen again, unintentionally, but I will do my best to get better. I absolutely detest lies and bigotry, so I take those accusations seriously.

    This is awesome. No one is perfect, but if you’re honestly making this effort, it will show. You’ll get a reputation around here as someone who does care about the facts, and then when you make a mistake (as we all do) no one will bat an eye b/c we know you’re trying and you’re happy to be corrected.

    In turn, I hope you’ll correct me when i make mistakes. If I know you’re not trolling then I’m always happy to have someone help me get my comments closer and closer to accurate.

    In the meantime, as I said, a harsh tone or a gentle tone are each fine. That’s about your style and is your choice. The substance is what matters and you’re obviously responding to criticism in a way that’s productive and indicates a two-way conversation where each person can offer new information and/or correction and receive new info/corrections in return. That’s what a meaningful dialog should be.

    Now I can happily read your posts in the future expecting just that.

    separately on the substance you just brought up, well, this will be disappointing, but I don’t have time to get into it just now. Do know that I’ll be reading and thinking about it later, though.

  30. alixmo says

    @29′ #chrislawson,

    I agree, I am puzzled about that too. I heard it from Human Rights activist Mina Ahadi (look her up) who was saying this in several of her talks that you can find on YouTube (she was speaking German, though she may have made that statement in English, too, but I only heard it in German.)

    She was there, we were not. She may be speaking only for a fringe group, of course. But I do not want to accuse her of lying.

    She was risking her life in that time, the new theocracy wanted to kill her (her husband got executed). Since then, she was fighting for human rights, e.g. against stoning to death and capital punishment in general.

    She seems genuine. I tend to believe that there were at least some people who lived in their own bubble, not seeing how powerful and dangerous the religious right really was – and the surprise was deadly (for her husband and many others).

    Mina Ahadi also said that as soon as the revolution became more Islamic, the first thing that happened was that women were forced to veil themselves. Mina Ahadi said (warning, I quote from memory): “They said: cover up or we will beat you!”

    I warn about complacency towards religion.

    We should not underestimate that many people are still religious, more than they would admit to our face. But many people agree with reactionary ideas of religious provenance and would vote accordingly, if certain topics appear on the ballot. To think that most people are progressive may (may!) be naive. Do not forget:

    Leftists like Mina Ahadi were fighting for the right to wear miniskirts and read Marx – while the religious right was fighting to oppress women and veil them….

    Which side won?

  31. alixmo says

    #31, @Crip Dyke,

    Thanks a lot for your post! I appreciated it very much. I detest trolling and lying and bigotry. I will do my best to make sure that my posts cannot be mistaken for any of that.

    I have a tendency to sound a bit strident and yes, I have to be more careful and less lazy. Also, the implications of some words are maybe stronger than I am sometimes aware of – I am happy if people explain my errors to me.

    I hope for honest conversations and discussions.

    Deep inside, I admit, I hope that we somehow could find a way to fight against the political religious right and for more secularism. That sure is the reason why my tone seems sometimes overly passionate and slightly polemic.

    But I am absolutely interested in an open conversation and in keeping the facts straight. Lies and distortion are a plague and I do not want to contribute to it!

    I appreciate when you and others correct me. Because I really neither want to lie nor troll nor distort facts.

  32. petesh says

    @33: Back to the original post. It is certainly true that Alabama is (to be precise, was in 2015) overwhelmingly Christian, and has unusually high church attendance.
    https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/state/alabama/

    Gallup has been polling on “Moral Issues” in the US with the same methodology every year since 2001.
    https://news.gallup.com/poll/1681/moral-issues.aspx
    From 2001 to 2018, acceptance of homosexuality rose from 40% to 67% but acceptance of abortion changed very little (42% to 43%, although fluctuating from 37% to 45%).

    I do not have a solid answer for this discrepancy, except to note that LGBTQ people have increasingly become public about it, while abortion still seems to carry a connotation of shame. It seems to me that focusing on removing the shame is more constructive than focusing on religion per se — and is likely to have a beneficial side-effect in reducing religious faith.

    Finally, there really are social differences among Christian sects. I strongly suspect that Alabama leans heavily to extreme fundamentalists, but that poll does not discriminate among factions. It is actually true that some of my best friends are Christians [sic!], but not fundamentalists or anti-abortion or anti-homosexuality; they tend to be extreme pacifists.

  33. alixmo says

    @34, petesh,

    Good factual comment. I agree with it and I appreciate the information. Thank you.

    I just wrote a long comment on the thread “Have you ever felt like we need atheism more than ever?” which also fits as an answer to your post. I tried to answer what to do about the negative influence that religion has on society (mostly affecting women’s rights) without harming the freedom of religion (at least in my view, it is a tricky thing).

    Sure, religious people in general, not only Christians, can be very different from character. I could e.g. talk about an extremely misogynist, “capitalist” Catholic fundamentalist that I know, but of course there is no evidence for him representing the average. I hope your friends are more representative.

    Yes, the denominations are very different. From hearsay more than research, I think the Church of Sweden is quite progressive. Also, the German Lutherans are presently quite harmless and moderate. Sure there are many more moderate groupings; I am not an expert on this and cannot give a ranking.

    The Catholic Church is for me a special case. One has to look at their official teaching to judge them, I am afraid. Catholic believers who disagree with it have the freedom to leave. Many people in Europe already did – but not enough to affect change on women’s rights issues (and – so do I interpret it – by extension, LGBTQ-rights). Women are not equal to men in the Vatican’s opinion.

    But the worst problem is and stays the ban of contraceptives. Arguably as bad as the inhumane stance on abortion – put them both together to get the full picture!

    Granted, many Western Catholics ignore the ban, because they can. But people in developing countries are in a much more vulnerable position and feel stronger pressure on themselves. It is therefore in my view the duty of good Catholic people to protest against the ban and if there is no change from the Pope, leave the Church as last measure of protest.

    This I consider their moral duty, if they believe in the equality of women and men and in emancipation. We all know, how important the advent of modern reliable contraceptives was for women – this revolutionary tool gave women choice and freedom for the first time in human history. The Vatican knows that too. I do not question their intelligence.

    As to your other point, why homosexuality is more accepted than abortion, you make very good suggestions. Yes, removing the shame and the stigma is extremely important. More women need the courage to admit to abortions and that it actually was the right decision for them. But it is a huge demand on those women in the courant climate… I admire any woman who has that strength.

    As to the acceptance of homosexuality: Is it possible that misogyny trumps homophobia (I consider both as related, though)?? Is homosexuality on the way to be seen as less of a threat to patriarchal religiosity?? I admit, those are absolute guesses – and a bit provocative, too. Abortion is constantly on the agenda, though, latest since the 1980s. There are billboards, videos etc. to promote the idea that abortions are a sin and a crime. I am neither from the US nor from Alabama, so I cannot tell how many billboards and videos etc. condemn homosexuality.

    (I make the wild prediction that e.g. even the Catholic Church will accept homosexuality soon-ish but it will keep the ban of contraceptives.)

    Again, I like your point about removing the shame about abortion. That definitely is a necessity!

  34. DanDare says

    I recommend

    On Tyranny
    By Timothy Snyder

    Especially the epilogue discussing the politics of inevitability (of course things will keep getting better) and the politics of eternity (the past was so much better when men were real men etc.). Both of which leave populations inactive in creating better futures and fighting tyranny.

  35. consciousness razor says

    petesh, #34:

    Finally, there really are social differences among Christian sects. I strongly suspect that Alabama leans heavily to extreme fundamentalists, but that poll does not discriminate among factions.

    Here is the “Views About Abortion” page from the study, which breaks things down into assorted religious groups. More information to be found there, but this is how many say abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” from lowest to highest:
    Jehovah’s Witness: 18%
    Mormon: 27%
    Evangelical Protestant: 33%
    Catholic: 48%
    Historically Black Protestant: 52%
    Orthodox Christian: 53%
    Muslim: 55%
    Mainline Protestant: 60%
    Hindu: 68%
    Unaffiliated: 73%
    Buddhist: 82%
    Jewish: 83%
    Not all of these are the same size, obviously. And some religions/denominations are more or less common in Alabama than they are in the US as a whole. Of course, the same is true of Missouri, to take the other recent example which people aren’t talking about as much. (Below, the ones that are very different are in bold.)

    The size of each group in Alabama:
    Jehovah’s Witness: <1% (0.8% of US)
    Mormon: 1% (1.6% of US)
    Evangelical Protestant: 49% (25.4% of US)
    Catholic: 7% (20.8% of US)
    Historically Black Protestant: 16% (6.5% of US)
    Orthodox Christian: <1% (0.5% of US)
    Muslim: <1% (0.9% of US)
    Mainline Protestant: 13% (14.7% of US)
    Hindu: <1% (0.7% of US)
    Unaffiliated: 12% (22.8% of US)
    Buddhist: <1% (0.7% of US)
    Jewish: <1% (1.9% of US)

    The size of each group in Missouri:
    Jehovah’s Witness: <1% (0.8% of US)
    Mormon: 1% (1.6% of US)
    Evangelical Protestant: 36% (25.4% of US)
    Catholic: 16% (20.8% of US)
    Historically Black Protestant: 6% (6.5% of US)
    Orthodox Christian: <1% (0.5% of US)
    Muslim: <1% (0.9% of US)
    Mainline Protestant: 16% (14.7% of US)
    Hindu: <1% (0.7% of US)
    Unaffiliated: 20% (22.8% of US)
    Buddhist: 1% (0.7% of US)
    Jewish: <1% (1.9% of US)

  36. says

    We’ve got a Trump in the presidency and corruption and unconstitutional destruction in the Senate; the Republican party is working hard to shut down democracy by suppressing the vote, and if that doesn’t work, they’re wrecking education so coming generations will be as ignorant as this one.

    Well, gee, that might have something to do with the Democrats constantly running technocratic “Centrists” (who are always right-of-center in practice) for President, over and over and over again, while almost totally ignoring the Congressional elections.

    (In point of fact, that was always the strategy of Centrism: Democrats held Congress for 4 decades on the strength of the New Deal, but couldn’t hold the Presidency. Clinton was going to get us the Presidency by being a Centrist. That was the plan. And he did — and as soon as he started showing us what a “Centrist” President meant, which was “giving the Republicans all the policies they tried to push through under Reagan — like NAFTA — but couldn’t because the Democrats wouldn’t sign off on them” they stopped voting for Democrats and we lost Congress. And that’s how the Clintons and their cronies have strategized ever since: try to get the Presidency with “Centrism” which is thinly-veiled outdated Republicanism and ignore the huge losses in Congress. And it’s no coincidence that the real rot in the national government became a serious problem instead of merely worrisome when the Republicans took Congress.)

    Look, I understand the attraction: democracy operates by compromise, so why not a pre-compromised candidate instead of a left-wing one? But the fact is that a pre-compromised candidate doesn’t get you compromised policy, it gets you right-wing policy, because it just means that the compromising starts without any pull from the left. Every time a “centrist” gets into office as a Democrat, by definition, it moves the country rightward. Stop supporting these goons like you did in 2016! They actively try to ruin the country! The “lesser of two evils” is not really “lesser” at all!

  37. Rob Grigjanis says

    The Vicar @39:

    The “lesser of two evils” is not really “lesser” at all!

    Tell that to women who want access to safe abortions.

  38. consciousness razor says

    petesh:

    Thanks for the data I was too lazy to dig out and report!

    You’re welcome. I happened to be sifting through it earlier, then came across your comment. It’s still a bit too much to take in. I guess it may be better to simply leave out the small groups (less than 1-2%), which don’t make a huge difference overall, no matter where they stand in relation to the others. Anyway, it’s clear enough that Evangelicals are the worst of the bunch in the US.

    The Vicar, proselytizing like always:

    Stop supporting these goons like you did in 2016!

    What do you mean by “supporting”? It doesn’t seem like you have to tell people here to not vote for Biden in the primaries. You should tell other people to not vote for Biden in the primaries, because they may actually need to hear that. But to a very large proportion of the people at Pharyngula (or FTB), it makes no sense to tell us to “stop” doing something that we hadn’t started doing in the first place. And you certainly don’t need to say it to PZ, the person you’re quoting.
    If you’re not just preaching to the choir, because what you mean is that we should not vote for Biden if he is Democratic candidate in the general election. then you should make that clear. Since that choice is between two goons, one of whom is thoroughly unfit for the job (Swamp) while the other is somewhat unfit for the job (Biden), that choice is an easy one. It will not be the case that neither of those goons gets the job. That is not one of the options. Like it or not, the country will have some kind of president in 2020.

    The “lesser of two evils” is not really “lesser” at all!

    The smaller of two objects is not really smaller at all….!!
    That is how little sense you make. But I bet if you put it on a bumper sticker, somebody might buy it. Not me, but somebody who likes silly bumper stickers.

  39. Saad says

    The Vicar, #39

    Stop supporting these goons like you did in 2016!

    Voting for Hillary Clinton in November of 2016 was the objectively correct vote.

    Make sure you vote for the Democrat in November of next year. Don’t fuck up again.

  40. Rob Grigjanis says

    The Vicar @39: I’m sure someone must have mentioned this to you before, but it bears repeating: You realize it’s possible to vote for the lesser evil (rather than throwing your vote away and having a snit “on principle”), while at the same time working to promote progressive folk at the municipal, county and state levels, right?

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