A fool for the ages

Over the past weekend, I noticed a link to a video entitled “America First, Netherlands Second”. Out of curiosity I gave it a click to see what it was about. Perhaps some of you already know or have seen other versions of similar videos. I tried to embed the one I saw, but the sharing was blocked for copyright reasons. However, you can also follow this link to find links to over 10 videos and growing that all mock our current president for his announcement that he was going to ensure that America was always first.

When the page opens, click anywhere in the European map to open a page that will include a list of 11 different countries in Europe that have produced their version of the “America First My Country Second” videos. Each touts the worthiness of their country to at least be second if America must be first. They use Trump’s easily identified verbal quirks, his poor use of grammar and his constant use of superlatives. Some do a good job of imitating his voice. I’ve noticed that a large number of other countries have had comedians produce additional videos. They may eventually be listed on this page, but you can also find them on YouTube.com by searching for “America first”.

It has become a comedy contest around the world to see who can do the best job of mocking him and promoting their own countries in a self-deprecating and hilarious fashion. Here we are, less than one full month into his presidency and he has achieved world wide wide fame not for setting a standard for leadership, but for being an uninformed, chauvinistic dunce. I always thought giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama early in his administration was a bit premature at best, but now Trump has achieved a position of world wide leadership which cannot be denied and is completely earned.

I recommend taking the time to watch at least one or two more of the videos. You will get good laughs from all of them.

Presumptions

I was watching a show the other night called “Monster Quest,” wherein an impersonal team conducts searches for various cryptozoological creatures such as Champ, the yeti, or the Mongolian death worm.  This particular episode focused on the Ropen.

The Ropen is supposedly a large, leathery flying predator native to Papua New Guinea which sets itself apart from other creatures through a twenty-foot wingspan and bioluminescence.  Supposedly it greatly resembles a glow-in-the-dark pterosaur.

Part of the expedition was a representative of “Genesis Park,” a creationist organization that seeks to prove dragon-like creatures of mythology as proof that humans and dinosaurs lived alongside one another, a la The Flintstones.  In order to help push the asinine notion theory that pterosaurs still live in Papua New Guinea, something that was mentioned when someone pointed out that there’s no evidence that pterosaurs were bioluminescent, this particular man claimed that fossils don’t tell us the whole story and so we can’t possibly know that.

That claim is highly presumptuous.  It’s true, fossils simply can’t tell us everything, however, given what they can tell us–how the skeletons were put together, diet (teeth), muscle size and arrangement (imprints on the bones)–we simply can’t make wild guesses just because the fossils don’t specifically say “no.”  As I pointed out at Florio’s, I can claim that the fossil T.rex “Sue” was a devout Shinto, there’s nothing specific in her fossils that says otherwise, but I don’t get to complain when people point and laugh at me.

In case you’re curious, the Ropen is most likely a combination of folklore, hysteria, and misidentified hornbills, which are massive birds that have been compared to pterosaurs before.

An Inappropriate Act

As many of you know, my mother passed away a few days ago.  Let me first thank all of you who have expressed sympathy — it means a lot.

We have also been receiving sympathy cards from various friends, relatives, and acquaintances, all of which, again, have been welcome and much appreciated.

But in the stack of cards in the mailbox today was a letter that was not so welcome.  We received, unsolicited of course, a form letter from a local Jehovah’s Witness activist who stated that she wished to “comfort”: us with scripture.  I have no idea who this prosyletizing busybody is, but she was sloppy in her editing, and one portion of the letter still included the names of the previous recipients rather than being switched to our names.

Can there be anything more inappropriate?  Does this woman read the obituaries each week and send out her nonsense (there were some Watchtower Society tracts in the envelope as well), hoping to win converts from among the grieving?  Perhaps this person is well intentioned, but I certainly question her judgment.  I don’t for one minute profess to speak for all the bereaved, but I consider it incredibly poor taste to try to push religion on a total stranger at such a time.

A Matter of Grave Concern

A couple of days ago in my ethics class, the topic of children’s rights came up.  I asked if parents have absolute power over their kids, or if children have rights which the state should, when necessary, intervene to protect.  As an example, I pointed out that some parents don’t believe in blood transfusions, and would rather let their children die.  This, of course, tends to be on religious grounds, with Jehovah’s Witnesses being the primary offenders.  Well, it turned out that one of my female students happens to be a JW, and I think she mentioned previously that she is pregnant, but that may or may not be the case.  At any rate, she stated that she does not believe in transfusions, and would not allow her child to have one.  Class ended, but at our next session, other students wanted to pick up the discussion.  I am cognizant of the fact that in my official capacity, I am a “state actor,” and have to be careful how I respond to matters of religion (this is NOT to say that I respect silly beliefs, but that I respect limitations placed on my by the first amendment).  So I tried the Socratic approach — asking her where her beliefs come from.  Well, the bible, of course.  But how do you know which parts of the bible to follow — doesn’t the bible say that women should cover their hair?  Well, some parts of the bible have been superceded.  How do you know which ones?  Well, of course, the Watchtower society makes that decision.

About this time, one of the more naive students asked her what biblical passage prohibits blood transfusions (and it really doesn’t anyway — the biblical authors knew nothing about blood transfusion or other modern medical procedures).  She looked up the passage, and the little naif immediately said, “Oh, I guess I can respect that!”

RESPECT it?  How does one respect delusional nonsense that can, and has, led to the death of a child?  This idea that we have to respect religious nonsense has got to go.  It is one thing to respect a person’s humanity, but not all ideas are the same.  Some are just not respectable.  If the JW student in question lost a child because she refused it a blood transfusion, I don’t know if she would be guilty of murder because it was not out of malice, but certainly of manslaughter or something similar.  As for the jerks at the Watchtower Society, they should spend the rest of their lives in jail for the harm they have wrought.  This isn’t merely hypothetical: children have actually died because they were refused blood transfusions.  I say “they were refused” because as minors, they cannot make such decisions for themselves, and this is clearly a case where parents are so dangerously delusional they are in no position to speak for their children.

If an adult wishes to be a fool, let her.  But the idea that she can force her deadly nonsense on her helpless child is outrageous.

Duck Dynasty Dips**t

Phil Robertson is a bearded waste of flesh disguised as a cuddly Southern patriarch by the A&E show “Duck Dynasty.”  Fanatically Christian, Robertson has come under fire for the foul (foul/fowl pun not intended) comments he has made in the past about Muslims and gays, but I think his most recent comments take the cake.

Warning, these comments are graphic.

“Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot ’em. And they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’ ”

He continues with:

“Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head. Have a nice day.’ If it happened to them, they probably would say, ‘Something about this just ain’t right.’ ”

These comments were made at a prayer breakfast in Florida (it’s time to let that state go) about the supposed need for religious rules.  The problem is that all this does is prove that Robertson is a psychopath.  Seriously, what kind of man thinks about this kind of stuff?  It’s horrible; Salon, the Huffington Post, and Patheos have all slammed him for these horrendous comment, but Breitbart came to his defense, insisting that he was just making a parable (though they consented that it was extreme) and that the attacks on him are “ignorant” and “bigoted.”

Seriously, decent people slamming this scum for commenting on the torture of a man, the murder of his wife, and the rape and murders of his daughters are bigoted for being good people?  And what kind of mind-fucked asshole decides that his parable needs child rape to make a point!?

To put it more plainly: if you need to bring up rape–whether it be of a man, woman or child–to make your point, then your point is wrong.

Evolution of Weird–Pangolin

We all know that hybrid animals exist; there are mules, ligers (yeah, they’re real), and pretty much every dog breed on the planet.  So what would happen if you crossbred an anteater with a pine cone?

Pangolin4-620x330

I’d hug it if it wasn’t so damn scaly…oh, who am I kidding, I’d hug it anyway.

This is a pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater, because sometimes science just isn’t creative.  Coming from the Malay word “pengguling” which means “that which rolls up,” the pangolin’s most distinctive feature is a thick set of keratin armor.  These overlapping scales continuously grow, and are filed down during the pangolin’s day as it burrows into termite mounds for its favorite snack, which it laps up with a tongue so long that it exceeds the length of its own body.

The claws that the pangolin uses to get into these mounds are long and sharp, giving the creature an extra means of defense.  These claws are so long in fact, that they must either walk on their back feet or else on their knuckles.  Their main method of defense, however, is their ability to roll into a ball, creating an almost impenetrable barrier to protect it–a little like a “Zelda” boss.

154152_v1

Good luck with that.

Unfortunately, these scales are also proving to be the pangolin’s downfall.  Popular in traditional Asian medicine, where they are believed to stimulate lactation, as well as cure asthma and cancer because “why not,” they are contributing to the overharvesting of these peaceful critters.  The pangolin is also a popular form of bush meat, which is something you should never eat, since it provides a direct route for various tropical diseases that can kill you horribly if cooked wrong.  This has led the pangolin to be the most trafficked mammal in the world, despite international trade bans, and the pangolin to be listed as “threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Animals, and it has been going on for ages.

640px-Coat_of_Pangolin_scales

This set of scale-mail, crafted of pangolin scales, was presented to George III in 1820.

So, how do we save the pangolin?  Education, people need to know that there are no special qualities to pangolin scales that couldn’t be gained be chewing on your own fingernails.  People also need to stop the asinine practice of eating bush meat as a delicacy, as it adds to the threatened status of animals that should be left alone.

 

 

Fascinating

Idaho.  It’s a fantastic state, the land of potatoes and…um, well there’s, no that’s, that’s not…but there’s, uh.

Well, that’s unimportant.  You see, a bit of hilarity has come creeping from the land of spuds, an odd little factoid about the state legislature.  Republican State Representative Vito Barbieri supports a bill that would prevent doctors from prescribing abortion medication through telemedicine.  Ostensibly, this is to protect women who may have negative side-effects from the medications, though lawmakers are in no way shy about admitting that this is just another step in making abortions harder to come by in Idaho.

In 2013, the then-Representative Ron Mendive asked if the American Civil Liberties Union if their pro-abortion stance also meant they supported prostitution.  That snippet was to show you what living in a state where, apparently, no one gives any fucks whatsoever about the concept of correlation.

While hearing testimony from a doctor who opposed the bill, and who had just made an anecdotal statement about how colonoscopies may utilize cameras to better give doctors an idea of what’s going on, Rep. Vito Barbieri asked the question–and I shall directly quote here–“Can this same procedure then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is?”

The doctor, presumably trying to hide her astonishment at the rampant idiocy of this man, replied that swallowed objects do not find their way into the vagina.

“Fascinating. That makes sense.”

Rep. Barbieri later tried to pass off this comment as rhetorical, but I don’t believe this spud-muncher for a second.  Not only is the comment asinine in context (the context supposedly being that he wanted to show the lack of correlation between a colonoscopy and an abortion) but it fits with the complete lack of knowledge of female anatomy Republicans so eagerly trot out.  I’m not saying this is on the level of Todd Akin’s belief that vaginas have shields against dishonest sperm (which may just be the nicest way of summarizing his legitimate rape claims) but it completely fits the prevailing theme with Republicans that, when it comes to how the female body operates, they have no fucking clue what they’re talking about.

Exorcisms in India

Superstition is — or was once — ubiquitous, finding a home, probably, in every culture not touched by the Enlightenment.  This might sound Euro-centric, but it is not meant that way — Europeans have been at least as irrational as any other people at various times in their history.  It was the contingencies of history that allowed the Enlightenment to happen in Europe, and nothing having to do with any sort of superiority.  At any rate, the ABC News program “Nightline,” once a serious news program but now primarily yet another outlet for sensationalism, actually had an interesting piece tonight on “exorcisms” performed by self-styled “gurus” in India.  Note that when confronted by Indian rationalists, the temple closed up shop.  Watch the segment here:

http://abcnews.go.com/International/inside-northern-india-temple-women-exorcized-tame-ghosts/story?id=27882522

 

The Chapel Hill Murders

Recently, three young people, who were also Muslims, were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Their assailants describes himself as an atheist who hates religion.  We don’t yet know if this was the motive for his unspeakable actions, but let’s get one thing clear: anyone who kills in the name of atheism must be roundly and unequivocally condemned.  We expect religionists to condemn their extremists, so if this murderer committed his crime in the name of atheism, let us rebuke him in the strongest possible terms.  And if he is guilty, let’s hope he goes to prison for the rest of his life.