Monday, November 24, 2008

Banditos Theorem = Dan Henninger Theorem?

Dumbest. Op-ed. Ever.

Shorter version: "The financial panic is bad. Therefore, it's all the fault of atheists, secularists, and people who don't celebrate Christmas."

(H/T: Jacob)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Adventures in Scantron Voting

Some time ago, I lauded North Carolina's optical scan voting system, comparing it favorably to the touch-screen crap used in other parts of the country. Well, Minnesota has op-scan voting, and as this link shows, they're quite adept at screwing it up. Seriously, I didn't know there were that many ways to mess up filling in a bubble. I guess the Banditos Theorem applies here, though I don't think it requires that much intelligence to fill in a bubble. Does it? Is it that hard, op-scan voters?

Friday, November 14, 2008

You're Doing It Wrong

Via Brayton, more proof that the U.N. has jumped the shark:
Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that only one narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom, is sponsoring a discussion at the United Nations on religious tolerance starting Wednesday.
Sweet. Are we going to put China and Cuba on a human rights council next? Oh, wait, already done. If these are the rules we're going by, Cato will be hiring Hugo Chavez any day now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How To Raise A Fuss Over Nothing

The Post's David Waters describes an issue that is quite possibly the worst case of belly-aching ever. Worse: it's my co-religionists that are guilty of it.

Here's the issue in a nutshell. The LDS Church believes in posthumous baptism by proxy - that is, a living Mormon can baptize him/herself in your name after you die, thus saving your soul for eternity. (This explains the resources that the LDS put into genealogy.) Mormons have been doing this for those who died in the Holocaust. Some Holocaust survivors and other Jews have their panties in a knot about it.

Now maybe it's just because I know a lot of Mormons, or because I had a long discussion about proselytizing with Ben in college that dealt with the subject of why people try to convert others, but the idea of posthumous baptism by proxy (I'll call it PBBP 'cause I'm lazy) seems kinda sweet to me. Someone cares about you enough to save your soul, and it doesn't really matter to you because, hey, you're dead. And if it's a family member getting posthumously baptized, you don't have to accept it as real (since Jews don't believe in baptism anyway), so who cares besides the people who are doing it because they want to be nice and give your dear departed grandpappy eternal life?

But this doesn't stop some people from getting way too bent out of shape about it. From the article:
"My mother and father were killed in the Holocaust for no other reason than they were Jews," Ernest "Ernie" Michel told the Salt Lake Tribune. "How can the Mormons victimize them a second time and falsely claim their souls for eternity?"
OK, as a Jew I understand the persecution complex, but... dude. Lighten up. Your parents are not being victimized. They are dead. It is tough to offend or otherwise victimize a dead person. Because they are dead.

There are two options here. One is that the Mormons are right. In this case, the baptism is successful, your parents just got sucked out of wherever they were to an eternal life in heaven, which they probably think is kinda cool. Two is that the Mormons are wrong, in which case... nothing happens since your parents never violated the covenant themselves. Heads, you win; tails, meh. Put another way: if you're not Mormon, you probably believe that PBBP is invalid and therefore meaningless, so why get all bent out of shape about it?

Look, logic and religion don't mix, and they're not supposed to, but we could at least try to think calmly and rationally about the actual implications of our beliefs, right?

Palin "Africa" Story - Shenanigans

You know that story about Sarah Palin not knowing that Africa was a continent that was supposedly leaked by a "senior McCain aide?" I posted on it a while ago, but I'm too lazy to link to it.

But anyway, it was bullshit. It was apparently part of an elaborate hoax wherein two extremely awesome people created a fake think-tank and a fake McCain policy adviser, and then got the entirety of the mainstream media to go along with them. Story chronicling the awesomeness that is Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin here.

Anyway, mad, mad props to those guys. For those about to prank, we salute you.

Of course, The Washington Monthly is still not convinced it's a hoax, noting that the original reporter has not retracted yet. Awesome.

This Made Me Laugh Way Too Much

Best T-shirt ever.

Honeymoon Even Over-er

Via Big Orange, Obama may suck pretty bad on intelligence issues too.

Yes he can... do what, exactly?

...And The Honeymoon's Over

President-elect Obama is now pressuring President Bush to bail out the car companies.


So it's not enough, for Obama, to have government meddling in the financial sector. Now we have to prop up dying dinosaurs in the auto industry as well.

Here's what I don't get. We bail out airlines, despite the fact that Southwest's success demonstrates that we don't need to - airlines can survive on their own. We bail out car companies, despite the fact that Toyota demonstrates that well-run car companies can succeed on their own. Unlike the financial sector, whose failure can be attributed to a lot of different things, the failure of the American auto companies can be attributed to one thing - friggin' stupid leadership. The heads of the car companies hitched their wagon to the SUV/gas guzzler star, and when gas prices scared people out of large cars, they had no plan to switch to small cars.

So let GM fail. Let Ford and Chrysler suffer. Instead of rewarding companies whose leadership is idiotic with government cheese, let's spend our money on helping workers adjust to the disappearance of their employer. Seems to me some company, somewhere, will pick up the slack and start making more cars in GM's place. Which means that company will start hiring more. Creative destruction, people. If there's a role for the government in all this, it's to protect the employees who get caught in the middle. Otherwise, shouldn't we just let companies rise and fall as the market dictates?

In other news, this whole bailout thing could put us on the hook for (inserts pinky finger in mouth) five trillion dollars. That's really damn expensive.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Begun This War On Christmas Has

Usually, it's the right-wing nutjobs that fire the first shots in the annual Christmas holiday wars, generally by working themselves up into high dudgeon over the fact that some people have the temerity to believe that there are other winter holidays celebrated by people. (Why do they hate New Year's?)

This time, though, it's the atheists who are firing the first shot, launching an apparently Christmas-themed ad that says, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."

Two thoughts. One, I need a picture. Two, I think the fact that even the atheists are making Christmas references proves that the right wing "war on Christmas" blowhards are full of it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

...And London One-Ups Arkansas

Cheer up, Arkansans - at least you're not as friggin' nuts as Redbridge borough in London.

(Thanks, Jacob.)

Arkansas' Initiative 1 As Memo

From: The 57% of Arkansas voters who voted for Initiative 1 banning adoption by unmarried couples

To: The children of Arkansas

Re: Screw you

Dear children of Arkansas,

We write this to inform you that we're keeping you in foster care instead of allowing the loving, caring family you wanted to go home with to adopt you. We know that a stable, nurturing home is desirable for all children. We also understand the emotional toll an extended stay in foster care can have on a child, especially if you spend 20 months in foster care like the average Arkansas orphan. However, we feel that acting like moral scolds and letting unmarried and gay couples know that we disapprove of their lifestyle is far more important than your emotional and physical well-being.

So you know that nice gay couple you wanted to have adopt you? Or the nice couple that just doesn't believe in marriage? Yeah, well, now they can't do it. It's back to the foster system or the group home with you. Ha ha, screw you guys. Stupid kids. We're going to go back to our nice, cozy houses to whine about how the gays are destroying our country now. Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

Oh, and we'd like to extend a special screw you to the taxpayers of our state, who are now going to be footing the bill for even more foster care. I mean, it's either that or repair our crappy roads, and I know you'd much rather use your money to crap on the gays and unmarrieds, right?

57% of Arkansas Voters

Arkansas also passed a Constitutional amendment that would remove language prohibiting court-certified idiots from voting. Which is a good thing, because apparently it would have disenfranchised 57% of Arkansas voters.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pack of Idiots

This happened at my university, roughly a mile and a half from where I work. Stupid bigots.

For What It's Worth...

McCain won exactly one county in New England (a small Maine county). Obama won at least one county in every state except Alaska, which doesn't divide itself into counties. Just a thought.

Update: Dave notes that all of Oklahoma's counties went for McCain. Almost all of Kansas' counties and almost all of Nebraska's counties went McCain too, so there's a pretty good regional base for McCain too. Just that nowhere near as many people live there as in New England. Dave also points out that blue counties often sit on population centers, which is a good point except that in the South, a lot of rural lowland counties went for Obama (and trend Democrat) because of the high African-American population there.

"She Didn't Know Africa Was A Continent"

Update: Shenanigans.

This video about the strife between the McCain camp and the Palin camp that Balko posted is really telling, especially the first minute or so. Give it a look.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Few Election Ruminations

For your reading pleasure, a few thoughts that ran through my head last night/this morning...

President Barack Obama. Sure, pretty much everyone not named Mike Mott knew it was going to happen, but it's still pretty sweet. I have no illusions that Obama will be the next Lincoln or Jefferson, but he could very well be the next Clinton, which I don't think anyone would mind at this point. And it's a pretty good butt-kicking, at least more so than either of Bush's narrow victories. So maybe we're coming together around something, even if it is just "Republicans suck."

And so a campaign that lasted some 20 months comes to a close with the country electing its first black President. Oh, and 40 years ago today, the avowed segregationist George Wallace won 46 electoral votes and 13.5% of the national popular vote. Chew on that for a second. Also, this is kinda cool.

If the polls hold, it looks like we'll have 56-57 Senate seats and 254 House seats to work with. That's a pretty solid majority, though not filibuster-proof. It makes me wonder how much the leaders in Congress will be willing to reach across the aisle to compromise, even if Obama wants to do so. Remember, domestic policy is more in the hands of Reid and Pelosi now than Obama. Anyway, with a President who won't veto bills out of a Democratic Congress and only a few Republican defectors necessary to pass legislation, let's see what comes out. Democrats, there's no one else to blame now. Don't screw this up.

Alaska voters are nuts. As I write this, there's no call in the Alaska senate race between Ted Stevens (R-Jail) and Mark Begich, but Stevens is narrowly leading. Seriously, what is wrong with you people? Stevens was found guilty of corruption, plus he's completely bonkers. Do you seriously want to have a Senator who can't make a roll call vote because he's stuck in a prison cell, ranting incoherently about a series of tubes?

Bigotry - not a winning strategy... Here in NC, Elizabeth Dole was in a close race with Kay Hagan for her Senate seat. She decided to try to tie Hagan to atheists and get people all good and scared about those "godless" heathens. Hagan won, and it wasn't even close. Pennsylvania challenger Lou Barletta made news as the anti-immigrant mayor of Hazleton - he lost to freshman Rep. Paul Kanjorski in a pretty Republican district. Same state - John Murtha called his constituents a bunch of racist rednecks, and had one of his closest races. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) should have had no problems with his Democratic opponent - however, his anti-Muslim hateful screed unleashed two years ago against Minnesota's Keith Ellison put a big target on his back. No call in his race yet, but he's trailing Democrat Tom Perriello.

...unless your opponent is "the gay." Goode was also partially done in by the revelation that his chief of staff was in some sort of gay porno or something. I don't remember the details, I just remember hearing about it and thinking, "dumbest political issue ever." Anyway, gay marriage bans passed in Arizona and Florida. Oddly, Arizona rejected the same measure two years ago. And that brings me to...

Thomas Monson's Epic Fail. How can you succeed and fail at the same time? When you're LDS Church President Thomas Monson, and you have no head for strategy or priorities. Monson's baby, California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, is headed for victory. No call yet, but it's up 52-48. The cost? The LDS Church's reputation among liberals and left-leaning Californians, and probably more than a few others scattered throughout the country.

See, Prop 8's success is a disaster for the gay and lesbian community, but it's pretty bad for Mormons too. There's something to be said for standing on principle, and there's never an excuse to hate someone because of their religion. In fact, the ugliness from Prop 8 opponents regarding the LDS Church is probably a main reason why they lost a fight they should have won by at least a 60-40 margin. But the existence of that ugliness can be traced to Monson's decision to get the Church involved in the first place. Had Prop 8 failed, the anti-Mormon bitterness might have faded in time. Now? Good luck with that - the anti-Mormon bigots on the left just got fuel for their fires to last a long, long time. It's for this reason that Prop 8, and the amendment it will engender if the polls hold, will now be known as Thomas Monson's Epic Fail.

(As I write this, the uncounted votes that seem to be preventing anyone from calling this are from the pretty conservative Inland Empire. So yeah, I'm calling it, even if no one else is.)

Though you can't get away with being too homophobic. Goodbye, main federal marriage amendment supporter Marilyn Musgrave. We won't miss you.

Minnesota loves its wackos. Congratulations to Minnesota, whose Senate race between a conservative wacko, a liberal wacko, and a just plain wacko is still not decided. And they voted for extreme conservative wacko Michelle Bachmann over Elwyn Tinklenberg, despite Bachmann's insane McCarthy-esque ranting and Tinklenberg's awesome name. Novak, you got some 'splainin' to do.

At least we don't vote using punch-cards. I'm really happy that Obama won by a substantial margin, because if it were close, the pack of rabid lawyers that descended upon Florida in 2000 would be in North Carolina this year. It's pretty close, here - I think it currently favors Obama by 12,000. This oughta spare us the video of people looking at ballots and trying to figure out if they're bubbled in or not. Also, everyone should use optical-scan voting. It's easy, it's fast, and it uses paper, which doesn't break down or mis-record votes so recounting is really easy. I don't understand the touch-screen or punch-card crapola.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

More on 8

California's Prop 8, seeking to ban same-sex marriage (currently legal in CA), has - predictably - become pretty nasty. It's tough to avoid, given the volatile subject matter. I'll admit it - it's tough for me to remind myself that supporters of a constitutional marriage amendment aren't, for the most part, bigots. It gets even tougher when prominent supporters openly revel in the "gay is creepy" message.

Now, according to New America Foundation fellow Joe Mathews, the No on 8 crowd has turned to bigotry, too, this time against the LDS Church, which has gotten unusually involved.

These attacks are despicable, and need to be denounced as such. Mathews is exactly right that attacks on the Church are bigoted and counterproductive. I wholeheartedly agree.

Politics, however, is a sport where you have to expect the worst from the opponent. Which is why I don't understand the decision of LDS President Thomas Monson to get directly involved in this fight. By putting the LDS Church at the center of the Yes on 8 fight, he opened the door to a lot of latent anti-Mormon bigotry that still floats around out there. (Mathews reports that only Islam is viewed less favorably than Mormonism.) Essentially, he gave anti-Mormon bigots an excuse to attack the Church.

And not the traditional bigots either. The people now hating on the Church aren't the far-right Huckabee evangelicals - they're liberal institutions like Big Orange and the Huffington Post, places where you expect more tolerance, not less. Instead of provoking already-established bigots (which is something you can't be concerned about), Monson's decision awakened latent anti-Mormon sentiment among the left that has been fading (especially since one of the left's heroes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a devout Mormon).

This isn't to excuse the bigots - far from it. Everyone should know better than to preach intolerance of a religion, but liberals really should know better. And this isn't to blame Monson - he's following his principles, and that's commendable even if I disagree with him. And as we established in the comments section of my last post on the subject, the Church can and should do what it wants politically. It just seems to me that a large part of Mormonism involves outreach to the "gentiles,"* and getting the church directly involved in a political hurricane is counterproductive. A Mormon non-church organization - think Focus on the Family, only LDS-run - would have been just as effective in supporting Prop 8 but would have been able to deflect criticism of the LDS Church and religion far more easily.

So lefties, quit with the hate. And Monson - if you're trying to have your church accepted societally without compromising your principles, a little strategy is not a bad thing.

*In LDS parlance, "gentile" refers to anyone who isn't LDS. Jews have the same terminology, which led to one of my favorite political stories. Jewish businessman Simon Bamberger was running for Utah Governor in 1916 when some right-wing Mormons said that they could never vote for a "damned Gentile." Bamberger replied, "As a Jew, I've been called many a bad name, but this is the first time in my life that I've been called a 'damned Gentile'!" After this, the Mormon community embraced Bamberger, and he went on to win the election and become only the second Jew ever elected to a state governorship (Moses Alexander of Idaho was the first - bet you didn't expect those two states to be the first).

Update, 11/3/08: For even more superhappyfun bigotry on the part of Prop 8 opponents, check this out. One wonders if Steve Young (who opposes 8, as Mike pointed out in the comments section) likes having his money going to this dreck.

Honestly, I wasn't sure whether I should laugh at the absurd idea of Mormon missionaries ransacking a house and stealing valuables or cry at the absolutely insane bigotry at work here. I mean, I haven't seen anything this bad since "white hands" (at least the anti-atheist hate here in NC was a little more veiled). Were I a Californian, this ad would actually make me sorta want to vote for 8. Of course, as a staunch supporter of gay marriage, I wouldn't do that. But I would stand outside the Courage Campaign headquarters flipping them off for a while.

(Not that I have any readers in L.A., but if you're out there, our research department tells us that they are located at 7119 West Sunset Blvd., #195. Give 'em a finger for me.)