October 2009 Archives

Fundie theocratic wingnut Pat Robertson is known for spouting all sorts of inane idiocy--as has been well-documented for years--but the latest lunacy from his Christian Broadcasting Network neck of the Bible backwoods is from the pen of Kimberly Daniels: "The Danger of Celebrating Halloween."

If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy--Lucifer's! [...] I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.

Hang on, it gets worse when she complains about bonfires:

Halloween is much more than a holiday filled with fun and tricks or treats. It is a time for the gathering of evil that masquerades behind the fictitious characters of Dracula, werewolves, mummies and witches on brooms. The truth is that these demons that have been presented as scary cartoons actually exist. I have prayed for witches who are addicted to drinking blood and howling at the moon.

While the lukewarm and ignorant think of these customs as "just harmless fun," the vortexes of hell are releasing new assignments against souls. [...]

If you or your family members have opened the door to any curses that are released during the demonic fall festivals, renounce them and repent. I already have. Then declare with me: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!"

Thanks to Les at Stupid Evil Bastard for noting that, while the article has disappeared from Pat Robertson's CBN website, it's still online here. Sometimes it's best to see full, unadulterated craziness in its natural habitat, and SEB gives a delightful tour of fundie wingnuttery:

Mrs. Daniels is engaging in the age old Christian tradition of painting the Pagans as being Satanists, which just isn't true in the slightest. I'm sure Mrs. Daniels would be more than offended if a pagan were to portray her religion as a sick zombie worshiping death-cult (which, depending on how you look at it, is a fair description) yet she has no problems portraying the pagans as evil people intent on unleashing demonic forces on unwitting Christians. Hypocrisy is not a value I remember Jesus endorsing.

He also takes aim at Daniels "cranking the crazy knob all the way up to 11" by making claims of blood-drinking witches, human/animal orgies, sacrificing babies, and having sex with demons:

It should come as no surprise that Mrs. Daniels offers absolutely nothing in the way of evidence to back up any of those claims. It's just more bullshit she made up to paint the holiday and pagans in a bad light. I'd love for her or one of her followers to show me anything that remotely supports the claims she's making here. They can't because it doesn't happen.


The real evil here is being committed by Mrs. Daniels who sees nothing wrong with spreading lies and demonizing another religion's beliefs to score points with her fellow believers. If she really believes the nonsense she's spewing then she's arguably crazy. If she doesn't then she's classically wicked. Sadly, she's hardly alone in her approach.

Celebrate Samhain, or Halloween, or whatever other holiday you prefer--but you might want to steer clear of any cretins ranting about Lucifer's lollipops and Satan's sweets.

Pew reported that most people consider Fox News to be the "Most Ideological Network," not that anyone should be surprised by that assessment given their consistently unfair and unbalanced coverage. Vjack at Atheist Revolution identifies the key to the false equivalence between the mainstream (and so-called "liberal") media and Fox, noting that "it would be a mistake to equate what Olbermann and Maddow do [at MSNBC] with what Fox 'News' does:"

There are many important differences. The primary one is that they provide factual news with opinion instead of presenting opinion as factual news. Yes, viewers are going to hear exactly what Olbermann thinks about each and every news story. But he is not merely making things up to manipulate his audience.

He recommends the AlterNet article "8 Reasons Fox Is Not a News Organization," which sounds a Thomas Frank-style note:

When you watch Fox News Channel, what you see is the advancement of that agenda through a media organ that seeks to turn regular people against their own interests -- the better to enrich the coffers of Murdoch and his heirs -- and that actively organizes those whose paranoia it has fed with lurid and untrue tales.

How else would you turn their fear of a bitter economy and an unstable world into rage against a president who ran for office on an economic platform geared toward the needs of everyday people?

One problem with the study is indicated by this bar graph, purporting to show a predominantly liberal media:


At first, I thought that my eyes were deceiving me: 14% of those surveyed actually perceived Fox as being "mostly liberal?!" Over at Crooks and Liars, John Amato asked, "who watches Fox Noise and would possibly think it's liberal? My only guesses are militia members and a lot of teabaggers." Nemski at Delaware Liberal is more blunt, suggesting that "14% of Americans are out-of-their-freaking-minds thinking that Fox 'News' is liberal." When those 14% are subtracted from the graph, the results are a bit closer to reality:


Bear in mind, however, that even this roughly equal split in perceptions of media ideology still shows the effect of several decades of conservative complaints about the media. Incessant accusations of "liberal media bias" have likely caused many people to imagine a pervasive liberal bias while a Fox's consistent conservative bias has become invisible to them, obscured by their "fair and balanced" slogan.

14%...good grief.

A recent Pew survey "What Does the Public Know?" attempted to ascertain overall news knowledge. The results were predictably depressing, with an average of 5.3 correct answers and only 2% of people were able to answer all 12 questions correctly. James Joyner at Outside the Beltway tried to spin the slim edge among Republicans over Democrats (5.7 to 5.0 correct) as indicating that conservatives are "better informed," but a look at Pew's questions doesn't quite back that up. (For example, Pew asked "Glenn Beck Is a...?" without giving appropriate options such as "idiot," "crybaby," or "histrionic hallucinator.")

I wonder what the results would have been if the study had focused on topics about which conservative media consistently provides dis- and mis-information. Questions such as these would, I suspect, have yielded vastly different results:

Where is Obama's birthplace:
A. Hawaii, which has been a US state since 1959.
B. Chicago
C. Indonesia?
F. He was born in Kenya, and I have several actual authentic birth certificates to prove it!!!

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are:
A. Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House, respectively.
B. Worrisome.
C. Frightening?
F. Satanic usurpers of righteous GOP dominance!!!

Obama's general political stance is:
A. Pragmatically centrist.
B. Vaguely liberal.
C. Left-wing radical?
F. OMG!!! He's a liberal-fascist-commie-Nazi-[insert next oxymoron here]!!!

What provisions are actually in the health-care reform bill being debated in Congress:
A. A "public option" to help expand healthcare.
B. Funding for abortions and illegal immigrants.
C. A government takeover of healthcare?
F. Hide granny in the attic--the death panels are coming!!!

Obama's economic team is largely composed of people from this part of the political spectrum:
A. The center-right economic establishment.
B. Liberals.
C. Radical socialists?
F. Marxists! They're all Marxists, I tell you!!!

The economic crisis was primarily caused by:
A. Unregulated financial derivatives, over-leveraging, lax credit-rating standards, and low interest rates.
B. Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act.
F. Socialists in the White House!!!

Approximately how much of this year's trillion-dollar deficit is due to Obama's policies:
A. About 10%
B. Most of it.
C. Isn't he a tax-and-spend liberal?
F. All of it! Deficits are always Democrats' fault--especially when caused by Republicans!!!

How have the major US stock market indices fared under Obama:
A. Great! They're up approximately 20% (Dow), 25% (S&P), and 37% (NASDAQ).
B. About the same as before his inauguration.
C. Why did Fox stop talking about the markets when they began to recover?
F. Bah!!! Economic recoveries under Democratic presidents don't count!!!

How many unelected "czars" are in the Obama administration:
A. That's not an actual job title. Depending on how "czar" is defined, many of them are merely advisers--some of whom were confirmed by the Senate.
B. No idea.
C. Isn't that a Russian word?
F. There are dozens of those evil despots in Obama's "shadow government"-- and they have dictatorial powers!!!

Obama's position on the Second Amendment is:
A. Sensible: He's in favor of child-safety locks, closing the gun-show loophole, and reinstating the assault-weapons ban.
C. From my cold, dead hands?
F. Stock up on ammo!!! He's coming to get our guns!!! Head shots, head shots!!!

Burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere, leading to:
A. Global warming.
B. Another bestseller for Al Gore.
C. Thirty years ago, didn't they predict an ice age?
F. The greatest conspiracy in the history of mankind!!!

The White House's attitude toward the media is:
A. In favor of the First Amendment and a free press.
B. Threatening to "call out" anyone who disagrees with him.
C. Creating an "enemies list" of conservatives?
F. Promoting another Fairness Doctrine to censor Glenn Beck and prevent him from telling us the truth!!!

Fox has been pushing toward the "F" answers, which correspond to the grade their "news" coverage deserves. Thomas Frank's "Obama Is Right About Fox News" calls them out:

To point out that this network is different, that it is intensely politicized, that it inhabits an alternate reality defined by an imaginary conflict between noble heartland patriots and devious liberals--to be aware of these things is not the act of a scheming dictatorial personality. It is the obvious conclusion drawn by anybody with eyes and ears.

...and a brain.

Today is the eighth annual International Animation Day!


Events are being held around the world, but you can just as easily celebrate the animation art form at home with a DVD and a bowl of popcorn. Whether your preferences run toward Fantasia, Fritz the Cat, or Finding Nemo, there's an animated film for everyone.

Faux journalism

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Longtime readers will know that I am dismissive of the network variously known as "Faux News" or "Fox Noise." This media outlet is increasingly the subject of criticism, particularly in relation to recent White House assessments that "Fox News is not a news channel." Media critic Eric Boehlert not only agrees that "Fox News is not a news organization," but is rather "devoted to spreading as much misinformation as possible:

A few years ago, the dumbed-down debate surrounding Fox News was whether it truly was "fair and balanced." (It wasn't.) Today, it's whether Fox News is truly a news organization. (It's not.) Yet journalists remain way too timid in spelling out the truth. [...] It's clear that in 2009, Fox News is not longer in the business of journalism. Fox News isn't trying to inform people, it's trying to misinform them. That's not journalism. It's propaganda. But as long as the press continues to hold up the façade of journalism, Fox News will try to hide behind it.

He provides "30 reasons why Fox is not legit" to support his allegation, and then asks:

So why the Beltway charade? Why refuse to acknowledge the self-evident truth that Fox is not a legitimate news organization?

This "Rise of the Conservative Media" clip from Media Matters is a useful primer on Rupert Murdoch's partisan propaganda outlet:

Also interesting is this 5-minute compilation video of Fox's war on the White House, particularly the outrageous claim at about the 2:05 mark:

"Journalism is dead in America but for Fox and talk radio--and Matt Drudge." (Sean Hannity)

Of course, that's only true in the sense that journalism is whatever supports wingnut preconceptions--any correspondence to reality is strictly optional, on a case-by-case basis.

The study "The Very Separate World of Conservative Republicans" (Overview and Analysis) by Democracy Corps concluded that "The self-identifying conservative Republicans who make up the base of the Republican Party stand a world apart from the rest of America:"

...these voters identify themselves as part of a 'mocked' minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a 'secret agenda' to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. They overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.


They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, which sets them apart even more.

Most interesting is the observation that the conservatives studied claim access to a "special knowledge:"

A central part of the collective identity built by conservative Republicans in the current political environment is their belief that they possess knowledge and insight that the majority of Americans - whether too lazy or too misguided to find it for themselves - do not possess. A combination of conservative media outlets are the means by which they have gained this knowledge, led by FOX News ("the truth tellers"), and to a lesser degree conservative talk radio. (p. 11)

I've quoted from David Barker's Rushed to Judgment (2002) before, and his remarks about conservatives' self-perceptions are no less appropriate here:

It is interesting to note that frequency of exposure to conservative talk radio displays a significant negative correlation with political information, indicating that although conservative talk radio listeners are more interested in politics, read the newspaper more often, and are more likely to vote, they are less likely to hold accurate beliefs even regarding nonideological facts (such as which branch of government determines the constitutionality of a law) when other factors are controlled, such as political talk activity. (p. 115)

Thus it appears that not only are conservative talk radio listeners in the sample less informed about general information than nonlisteners, the conservative talk devotees tend to be more misinformed as well, likely drawing false inferences from show content about political facts... (p. 117)

[emphases added]

I've seen nothing since then to suggest that Fox "News" has any less a deleterious effect than talk radio on conservatives' (mis)understanding of reality. Jonathan Chait's "Who You Calling Deranged?" at TNR suggests that the study's most intriguing conclusion is "the degree to which the GOP conservative worldview stands completely apart from the rest of America:"

Conservatives do not have a slightly more radical version of the same beliefs as other Americans. They have a completely sealed-off belief system. Even the most right-leaning independents find the right-wing worldview, with its conspiracies and persecution complex, unrecognizable.

Isaiah Poole has some comments at AlterNet about the far-right's phantasms of fascism:

It sounds to some of us like the stuff that is babbled by mentally ill homeless people, but it's very real to the significant segment of the electorate that gets its framing of the political debate from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk.

David Corn at Mother Jones identifies a "real dilemma" for the GOP in its desperate appeals to the out-of-touch wingnuts:

How can it speak to (or appease) these voters without appearing extreme and without alienating reasonable Republicans and independents? After all, GOP chairman Michael Steele, Republican congressional leaders, and the party's 2012 presidential contenders will have a tough time remaining in the real world while courting conservatives who reside somewhere else.

The "different reality" aspect reminded me of the PIPA Bush/Kerry study from 2004; plus ça change...

barefoot running

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Inspired by Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, I've been running barefoot for short distances--usually about 1/2 mile, as terrain and temperature allow. I've gotten a few odd looks, but even these short runs have had a positive effect on my shod running. My base mileage continues to increase as my long runs get longer--and, more importantly, I'm still injury-free!

I don't attribute this solely (no pun intended) to my barefoot jaunts, except insofar as they've been forcing me into running more lightly: with a faster tempo, shorter strides, and a footstrike that's become less heel and more midfoot. That's essentially the running style suggested by both Danny Dreyer's Chi Running and Nicholas Romanov's Pose Technique, but I haven't investigated them in detail yet. I'm still experimenting with various Injinji toe socks, and the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) shoes are probably next on my horizon.

Because I tend to over-research everything, I've been devouring nearly every barefooting resource that I could find. Here are some of them:

"Barefoot running" (Wikipedia)

"You Walk Wrong" (NY Magazine) identifies "the shoe paradox:"

We've come to believe that shoes, not bare feet, are natural and comfortable, when in fact wearing shoes simply creates the need for wearing shoes. [...] Shoes are bad. I don't just mean stiletto heels, or cowboy boots, or tottering espadrilles, or any of the other fairly obvious foot-torture devices into which we wincingly jam our feet. I mean all shoes. Shoes hurt your feet. They change how you walk.

The paper "Shod vs. Unshod: The Emergence of Forefoot Pathology in Modern Humans?" concludes:

The results presented here suggest that the unshod lifestyle of the pre-pastoral group was associated with a lower frequency of osteological modification. The influence of modern lifestyle including the use of footwear, appears to have some significant negative effect on foot function, potentially resulting in an increase in pathological changes. (p. 212)

Tim Ferriss posts some disturbing photos of shoe-altered feet

Wired ran several good articles: "These Toes Are Made for Running," "Your Shoes Are Killing Your Feet," and "To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes"

"Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants" (NYT) discusses the shoe industry's "move toward minimalism"

Clynton proclaims at Running Quest that barefoot running is "Not Just for Bums and Hippies Anymore" and also includes a great list of minimalist shoes that are not quite as extreme as the VFFs.

Michael Warburton "Barefoot Running" at SportScience (h/t: tmso)

"Lose Your Shoes: Is Barefoot Better?" (Neuroanthropology)

"The Roving Runner Goes Barefoot" and "Is Barefoot Running Better for You?" (NYT)

Barefoot Running Shoes
Barefoot Ted
Living Barefoot
Running Barefoot
Society for Barefoot Living

If you're still drawing a blank on Halloween ideas, check out WTF Costumes and Extreme Pumpkins for some interesting suggestions.

Fundie whackjobs from the Bible Belt may instead prefer to join a good old-fashioned Baptist book burning (h/t: Kathleen Miller at Raw Story), which intends to burn everything that represents Satan's insidious influence--even non-KJV Bibles will join the church's conflagration:

We are burning Satan's bibles like the NIV, RSV, NKJV, TLB, NASB, NEV, NRSV, ASV, NWT, Good News for Modern Man, The Evidence Bible, The Message Bible, The Green Bible, ect. These are perversions of God's Word the King James Bible.

We will also be burning Satan's music such as country , rap , rock , pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel , contemporary Christian , jazz, soul, oldies but goldies, etc.

We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson , Charles Swindoll , John Piper , Chuck Colson , Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart , Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White , T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers , Brian McLaren , Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus , Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, Will Graham , and many more.

Maybe it's just me, but costumes and pumpkins look like a better option.

the fifth horseman

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PZ Myers' speech accepting the AHA "Humanist of the Year" award is a treat, identifying him as the "fifth horseman" of the atheist apocalypse after Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. When describing his experience watching the Apollo 8 lunar flyby on Christmas Eve 1968, Myers made this intriguing claim: "NASA is responsible for me being an atheist." He was disappointed when the astronauts "read a big chunk of the first chapter of the book of Genesis:"

I had been expecting something true and something deep. I wanted to know about the moon. Here we sent these astronauts there, and I wanted to know, what does it look like? Where did the moon come from? What do you see when you are up there? I wanted awe and I wanted wonder and I wanted truth. I wanted science and I wanted knowledge. And what did I get? I got drivel.

Okay, I know, a lot of people think Genesis is great poetry and lovely metaphor and I say go ahead and think that. It's fine. Lots of people really like the language of the Bible and I can't blame them. But you see, at that moment, I saw it side by side with this awesome reality and it suffered. It was trivial and tawdry against this lunar horizon, against this globe of the Earth, against this black, star-spattered sky and aboard this incredible feat of human engineering. And here they were, resurrecting 5,000-year-old myths.


Even moderate religion is an exercise in obscurantism, the elevation of feel-good fluff over substance. I oppose it because it is a barrier to understanding, a kind of simplistic facade thrown up to veil knowledge with a pretense of scholarliness. It's an imaginary shortcut that leads people astray, guaranteeing that they never see the real glory of a cell or of the stars.

Some people embark on journeys with eyes wide open in anticipation of the wonders that lay ahead--others are too petrified to glance away from the rear-view mirror. The difference between scientific curiosity and religious certainty is sometimes as simple--and as profound--as the direction in which one prefers to face. Kudos for Myers for fixing his gaze on the future, and to NASA for helping to inspire him.


Wallack, Roy. Run for Life: The Anti-Aging, Anti-Injury, Super-Fitness Plan to Run to 100 (New York: Skyhorse, 2009)

From the very beginning of Roy Wallack's Run for Life, he enthusiastically proposes "a blueprint for using running as the linchpin of a superfit longevity program:"

Run for Life's agenda is simple: Run to 100. Not just live to 100 and shuffle along when you get there, but do what few, if any, have ever done: Actually run on your 100th birthday--fast enough and far enough to feel the wind on your face, the exhilaration of speed, the endorphin high, and maybe even a 10k or marathon finisher's medal around your neck. (p. xi, Introduction)

Run for Life is also peppered with interviews with many running giants, including Bill Rodgers (pp. 48-58), Helen Klein (pp. 81-89), Frank Shorter (pp. 108-113), Laszlo Tabori (pp. 132-140), Kenneth Cooper (pp. 158-166), Sally Edwards (pp. 183-190), John Cahill (pp. 220-224), Bobbi Gibb (pp. 237-248), Tom Osler (pp. 267-274) and Rod Dixon (pp. 286-294). Of these, I found Helen Klein to be the most inspirational interviewee:

As of November 9, 2007, when the following interview was conducted, this retired nurse and mother of four had completed 86 marathons, 143 ultras, and 28 100-mile races, along the way setting 75 world or age-group records, including the 80+ mark of 4:31. (p. 81)

If that weren't impressive enough, here's the kicker:

They all came after age 55, when she first started running.

One of the few false notes was sounded by these words from Pose guru Nicholas Romanov:

"The fastest runners can go 12 meters per second," he says, "but objects fall at 58 meters per second. That means you can fall five times as fast as you can run." (p. 39)

Romanov needs someone to correct his mistaken conflation of speed and acceleration. If one discounts atmospheric resistance, Earth's gravity causes objects to accelerate at 9.8 m/s²; an object wouldn't attain the speed of 58 m/s until it had fallen for nearly 6 seconds. I had suspected that this quote originated from an editing error, but Romanov posted two Wallack articles with the same quote on the Pose website here and here. [*see below]

Wallack doesn't just focus on running in this book, because mileage alone is only one component of longevity-related fitness regimen. He is a strong proponent of cross-training--he mentions Cross Fit quite approvingly--and especially of water running. He also recommends rapid-contraction weight training along with interval training for stimulating the body to produce HGH. Among his discussions of Arthur Lydiard's base training and periodization, there are numerous other useful tidbits and suggestions. If you're planning to accumulate Phidippides Awards as a Masters runner and keep running past retirement when your contemporaries are limited to bingo and bocce, Wallack's Run for Life is an essential book that belongs on your shelf right next to Ross and Tucker's The Runner's Body.

Timothy Carlson (Slow Twitch)
Stephen Regenold (Gear Junkie)
Running Times

* I should have checked the other data point in Romanov's example. The fastest human (Usain Bolt) holds world records at the 100m and 200m distances, with an approximate speed of 10.4 m/s. A runner capable of 12m/s would smash Bolt's 9.58s record in the 100m with an 8.33-second time, or his 19.19s record in the 200m with a 16.67-second time. (A slightly out-of-date list of record times here shows the record speeds at distances from 60m to marathon, none of which is faster than 10m/s.)

Bill Donohue (perennial complainer from the Catholic League) opines about "America's secular saboteurs" in the pages of the Washington Post, presumably attempting to boost sales of his two-month-old book Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America. Donohue opens his piece with what may be the most inane opening paragraph I've ever read:

There are many ways cultural nihilists are busy trying to sabotage America these days: multiculturalism is used as a club to beat down Western civilization in the classroom; sexual libertines seek to upend the cultural order by attacking religion; artists use their artistic freedoms to mock Christianity; Hollywood relentlessly insults people of faith; activist left-wing legal groups try to scrub society free of the public expression of religion; elements in the Democratic party demonstrate an animus against Catholicism; and secular-minded malcontents within Catholicism and Protestantism seek to sabotage their religion from the inside.

Donohue continues with the claim that "Today's radicals are intellectually spent: they want to annihilate American culture, having absolutely nothing to put in its place." Let's think for a moment about that, shall we? Those "radicals" are: suggesting that we learn about non-western cultures; supporting artistic freedom and religious pluralism; and fostering critical thinking about religion. That's evidence of intellectual breadth, not poverty.

His rant is full of complaints against "radical secularists," "sexual libertines," and--of course--Hollywood, which make almost as little sense as his claim that "The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State harbor an agenda to smash the last vestiges of Christianity in America." (He left out the crucial words "government-sponsored," but I suppose that's just nuance to him...)

We're supposedly "zealots" who are "[l]ying about [our] real motives" and who "give Fidel a good run for his money." Donohue is projecting here: Castro's many human-rights violations include such things as purging professors and putting gays into concentration camps--things that some right-wing religious reactionaries would do in a heartbeat if the ACLU weren't around to help stop them.

He later refers to same-sex marriage as a "crazy idea," but I would say it's more like the famous paraphrase of Victor Hugo from The History of a Crime: "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." Same-sex marriage isn't crazy, it's the truth; it sets some people free, and inspires others to pen wild rants about "cultural sabotage."

Joseph Conn at AU calls Donohue's piece "a puerile and predictable rant against 'America's secular saboteurs,' those dangerous and powerful forces determined to preserve civil rights and civil liberties in America." It is PZ Myers at Pharyngula who delivers that a proper evisceration of Donohue's conclusion

The good news is that religious conservatives continue to breed like rabbits, while secular saboteurs have shut down: they're too busy walking their dogs, going to bathhouses and aborting their kids.

with both style

It's wishful thinking and weird stereotyping and a kind of desperate hope that, while they may be totally outclassed on the intellectual front, religious conservatives can find solace in mindless rabbity procreation.

and substance:

I suspect that the whole of the difference in reproduction rates that people like Donohue find so essential to propping up their self-esteem has nothing to do with atheism or religion at all, but is more a matter of affluence: people with wealth and education choose to have fewer children and invest more in the few that they have, and also people with more education tend to abandon conservative religious beliefs. That's the real enemy of religion that Bill needs to rail against: intelligence and material success.


update (5:18pm):
Washington Monthly's Steve Benen notes some further idiocy, rebutting Donohue's claim that "practicing Catholics are no longer welcome in leadership roles in the [Democratic] Party:"

Donohue's accusations don't even make any sense -- if "practicing Catholics are no longer welcome in leadership roles in the Party," how did Nancy Pelosi become Speaker and Ted Kennedy become the heart of the party?

Oh, those pesky facts and their liberal bias...

Fox fears

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The wingnuts are at it again, projecting their paranoia onto Obama. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) was a recent mouthpiece for Fox's fear, bizarrely cautioning the administration: "don't create an enemies list." Alexander describes the besieged mentality of the Nixon presidency--which really did have such a list--and cautions Obama against following that path:

I have an uneasy feeling, only ten months into this new administration, that we're beginning to see symptoms of this same kind of animus [toward "anyone who seemed to disagree with administration policies"] developing in the Obama administration.

He draws several spurious comparisons between the two administrations before unleashing the whine:

Even the president, in his address to Congress on health care, threatened to "call out" members of congress who disagreed with him.

Obama's actual statement during that address on 9 September was quite different:

I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. (Applause.) I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. (Applause.)

Rather than calling out mere disagreement, Obama stated that he would be criticizing misrepresentations. It seems that Alexander and other Fox personalities are concerned about being able to stick to the facts. Steve Benen calls Alexander's Obama-Nixon comparison "insane," writing that:

While I don't doubt this will make for weeks of breathless speculation on Fox News, and give a wide variety of pundits endless entertainment, that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

As we've seen countless times, ridiculousness is no barrier to belief in wingnut world.

good timing

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The latest book to join my must-read list is Going Rouge--and no, that's not a typo (h/t: Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice). Due to be released from Or Books on 17 November--the same day as Palin's memoir--Going Rouge will feature essays from a stellar group of political writers:

Max Blumenthal, Joe Conason, Eve Ensler, Michelle Goldberg, Jane Hamsher, Christopher Hayes, Jim Hightower, Linda Hirshman, Naomi Klein, Dahlia Lithwick, Amanda Marcotte, Shannyn Moore, John Nichols, Tom Perrotta, Katha Pollitt, Hanna Rosin, Matt Taibbi, Michael Tomasky, Rebecca Traister, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jessica Valenti, Patricia Williams, JoAnn Wypijewski and Gary Younge.


I wonder how many Palinistas will pick up the wrong book by mistake...

too early?

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The forward-looking "A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!"
by the prolific Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong (website, Wikipedia) is perhaps a bit ahead of its time in its announcement of Spong's decision that he "will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone:"

I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy.


Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.

Candace Chellew-Hodge makes some personal observations at Religion Dispatches:

As a lesbian, it's hard to not feel this victory lap is a bit premature. I still can't marry my partner in 44 states, we can be discriminated in housing, fired from our jobs simply for being gay, and there is still no federal hate crime law increasing punishment for those who may attack or kill us just because we are gay. If my partner dies, I cannot collect her Social Security, and inheritance taxes will probably force me to sell our house and other property just to pay the government when she's gone. Yes, I do believe these things will be rectified in time, but I often wonder if it will be in my lifetime. I wish I could be as confident as Spong.

She cites Albert Mohler's response to Spong's triumphalism as an indication that the war is not yet over, even if its outcome is clear. Mohler bares his doctrinal fangs in defense of traditional anti-gay animus:

Spong has denied virtually every conceivable doctrine and has embraced almost every imaginable heresy. His abandonment of biblical Christianity is both intentional and straightforward -- what this bishop demands is nothing less than the total reformulation of the Christian faith. In other words, Bishop Spong would replace Christianity with a new post-Christian religion...

Eschewing prejudice requires the "total reformulation" of Christianity? If bigotry is that central to Mohler's Southern Baptist faith, then maybe Spong--and the rest of us--will be better off letting the fundies continue their long, slow slide into ideological isolation.

let's NOT agree

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One of my pet peeves in many an argument is the "let's agree to disagree" copout, the real meaning of which is usually "I don't want to admit that I'm wrong." Overcompensating delivers the bitch-slap:


(Click here to see the final panel.)

an American hero

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This clip of an 86-year-old Republican from Maine (h/t: Andy Towle at Towleroad) shows more clearly than anything else that no one should be written off in the fight for marriage equality:

Here's my transcript of his remarks, from 1:30 to 2:00 in this clip:

I'm here today because of a conversation I had last June when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, "Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?"

I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that; it made no sense to me.

Finally, I asked her, "What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?"

He received a standing ovation for that remark, but he deserves so much more than that.

(Protect Maine Equality needs help in the fight; please consider helping out!)

update (10/22 @ 11:13am):
A complete transcript of his remarks is available at AlterNet.

The oral arguments in Salazar v. Buono (the Mojave Cross case) prompted an interesting revelation from Justice Scalia. Frank James wrote at NPR that "Scalia got into a heated disagreement with an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer over whether the Christian cross is a religious symbol specific to a particular religion:"

It would seem like an odd thing to argue about since it's doubtful anyone thinks of Islam or Judaism when he or she sees a cross.

But Scalia clearly holds a different view.

JUSTICE SCALIA: The cross doesn't honor non-Christians who fought in the war? Is that -- is that --

MR. ELIASBERG: I believe that's actually correct.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Where does it say that?

MR. ELIASBERG: It doesn't say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that's why the Jewish war veterans --

JUSTICE SCALIA: It's erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It's the -- the cross is the -- is the most common symbol of -- of -- of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn't seem to me -- what would you have them erect? A cross -- some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.

Aside from the ludicrous assumption that the Christian cross is a universal symbol of honor, this series of questions from Scalia

what would you have them erect? A cross -- some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?

struck me as indicating another of his blind spots. Scalia assumes here that a memorial honoring World War I servicemembers must be religious in nature; he doesn't consider the possibility that military and/or national symbols--perhaps "a statue of a soldier"--might be more appropriate. A cross is the hammer which he applies to every situation, and honoring non-Christians means adding their religious symbols to the tableau.

If proponents of a Muslim, or Hindu, or Shinto, or Zoroastrian--or atheist--war memorial had a similarly condescending attitude toward Christian symbols, we'd never hear the end of Christianist complaints. As it is, we should expect to see their persecution complex on display if the case isn't decided their way.

Dahlia Lithwick discusses the case at Slate

Salazar v. Buouo is covered in more detail at Wikipedia and SCOTUS Wiki

Wow. Just...wow.

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Much ink has been spilled over Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, but the most inane remark belongs to Sean Hannity:

I would've given it to George Bush.

That sort of breathtaking ridiculousness brought to mind this bit of incongruous iconography:

(Larry Downing, Reuters)

Aside from that, I'm speechless.

Glenn Greenwald contrasts the logos of the ACLU's National Security Project


and the neocon outfit Keep America Safe:


It's as though they took the ACLU's logo and wrote the "Free" out of it, depicting America as nothing more than a single-minded, fear-based Security State.

That's what the Chicken-Little conservatives have campaigned on ever since 9/11, and it's a great relief that their fear-mongering has largely lost its grip on our national psyche.

Jon Stewart's Daily Show had a great 6-minute segment (h/t: Ellen at News Hounds) on the disparity in media coverage between the 9/12 Teabaggers and the National Equality March--something I mentioned on Monday. Stewart lamented the coverage of CNN and NBC before noting the worst offender:

Overall, not a whole lot of coverage--and no one was more upset about the lack of coverage of the march than "the people's network:" Fox News.


Interesting...the gay rights march was roughly the same size as the Tea Party protest. How did Fox, by and large, miss a gigantic rally like that? You'd think 75,000 Americans gathering to protest something would be news. I mean, it had everything Fox loves: ordinary people demanding their freedoms, homemade signs, flags, men in uniform...


Couldn't Fox have had the same kind of fun with this gay rights march that they had with the Tea Parties?


So how did Fox News cover this movement?

You didn't even send your own camera crew?! You have a Washington bureau; tell them to go to the window and point the camera down! Gay people aren't vampires--they show up on camera!


The final tally between 6 AM and 9 PM on the day of the gay rights march, Fox News gave it 3 minutes and 42 seconds of airtime--whereas the following day's anti-New-Jersey-children-Obama-song protest, represented here by an empty sidewalk: 8 minutes and sixteen seconds.

What does it mean? Don't ask--because they're not gonna f***ing tell ya!

Frans (The Age of Empathy) de Waal uses this HuffPo piece to demolish the all-too-common "we'd be amoral without religion" argument. De Waal answers the inevitable Dostoyevskian complaints ("If there is no God, I am free to rape my neighbor!") this way:

Perhaps it is just me, but I'd be wary of anyone whose belief system is the only thing standing between them and repulsive behavior. Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for a livable society, is built into us? Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked rules of right and wrong before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal?

Drawing on findings from the field of evolutionary ethics, de Waal observes that "Human morality must be quite a bit older than religion and civilization. It may, in fact, be older than humanity itself:"

Other primates live in highly structured social groups in which rules and inhibitions apply and mutual aid is a daily occurrence. Acts of genuine kindness do occur in animals as they do in humans. The sequence of how various tendencies came into being is: first social instincts and empathy, then morality, and finally religion. This is of course quite the opposite from the origin story of Christian religion.

(That isn't the only thing that religion gets wrong, but that's an issue for another time...)

the perfect word

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Slate's Will Saletan writes about "The Beauty of Artificial Virginity" (h/t: Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars), describing an "Artificial Virginity Hymen" product, which simulates female "purity" with fake blood for the type of Muslim fundamentalist who demands virginity from his bride under pain of death. One Egyptian fundie commented that "If this thing enters Egypt, the country is going to go to waste. God protect us." Saletan's reply was spot-on:

Pause for a moment to consider what these men are asking God to protect them from: a cheap, mass-produced insert that releases fake blood. It's the technical equivalent of a Halloween gag. But to them, this is no gag. It's an offense against God.

In this way, the artificial hymen serves as a useful test of religious idiocy. If a $30 item that leaks fake blood violates your faith so profoundly that you must ban it, then what you have isn't really a faith. It's a fetish. [...] Virginity fetishism is doomed, boys. Give it up.

"Fetish" is the perfect word for the Islamist insistence on intact hymens.

(Lest the Judeo-Christian contingent start feeling superior about this, they should check out the requirement in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 that a wife needs to be able to produce bloody bedsheets as tokens of her virginity or risk being stoned to death on her father's doorstep.)

Different faith, same fetish...coincidence?

Toy Story 3 trailer

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Ken Denmead posted the trailer to the long-awaited Toy Story 3 at GeekDad. The wistful voice of Randy Newman adds the requisite melancholy to the intro, and then hilarity ensues:

I'm looking forward to 18 June 2010.

This National Geographic image is awesome:


(h/t: Barry Ritholtz at Big Picture)

The National Equality March (website, Wikipedia) held in Washington DC yesterday on the anniversary of National Coming Out Day was not at well attended as some of the previous marches--in particular, those in 1993 and 2000--but still drew a substantial crowd:

(Anthony Umrani/CNN)

It's interesting to see that the largest march since at least the 9/12 Teabagger rally (insert caveat about crowd estimates here*) received such drastically smaller media coverage. (I suppose that's to be expected, since no network devoted its time to cheerleading for the event...)

Obama's address at the 13th annual Human Rights Campaign dinner the previous evening (video from HRC; transcript from the White House). was largely an attempt to mollify his critics:

And while progress may be taking longer than you'd like as a result of all that we face -- and that's the truth -- do not doubt the direction we are heading and the destination we will reach. (Applause.)

To digress for a moment, I noticed that Obama described the "decade-long struggle" to pass the Matthew Shepard Act as "a testament to Matthew and to others who've been the victims of attacks not just meant to break bones, but to break spirits -- not meant just to inflict harm, but to instill fear." He did everything but explicitly identify bias-based violence as the terrorism that it so clearly is.

On a more historic note, this post from pundit Andrew Sullivan features a "sacred artefact" of the LGBT right movement:

(Andrew Sullivan holds some Pride flags and a vintage gay rights protest sign while his husband Aaron holds their dog .)

As noted by Sullivan, that sign was held aloft in one of the first gay-rights marches--in 1965, four years before Stonewall. It is always important to remember how much progress has been made, even while--as with Obama--we are frustrated with its slow pace within the temporal space of our own lives.

* Time magazine estimated the march at "something like 200,000 people"--which would make it 2 to 3 times as large as the Teabagger rally

The Conservative Bible Project has drawn a fair amount of attention, mostly a combination of scorn and ridicule. Ron Chusid (Liberal Values) writes that conservatives' CBP efforts are "comparable to how they have rewritten the works of the founding fathers to deny the existence of separation of church and state," and Appletree's gordo wonders:

Why assume that every single translation of the Bible is wrong, just because none of them mesh with your own political beliefs? Isn't it more likely that your beliefs are simply unChristian? If you have to translate the Bible with a political outcome in mind, doesn't that imply that any unbiased translation would contradict your personal politics?

Mike Lux notes at HuffPo that "Conservative Christians have always had a lot of trouble explaining a great many passages of the Bible, so I guess this is their way of getting rid of them" and lists "a few they will find especially troublesome to translate." Of his choices, Isaiah 10:1-2 is my favorite:

Woe to those who enact unjust decrees, who compose oppressive legislation to deny justice to the weak and to cheat the humblest of my people of fair judgment, to make widows their prey and to rob the orphan.

Perhaps conservatives think that they will never be punished for "protecting" marriage and military service from the LGBT community, rebuffing the huddled masses at our border, cutting welfare programs for the sick and needy, raising taxes on the poor while cutting them for the rich, torturing prisoners, and lying about it all. Their own Bible says otherwise, though, which is oddly comforting for this atheist. Kazim at Atheist Experience writes that the CBP "may or may not be a joke, but enough of the regulars there take it seriously that it looks like it's taken on a life of its own." Then come the tough questions:

What difference does it make whether you take a 2000 year old book and claim that it is infallible as written literally, or you retranslate it and claim that the translation is infallible, or you make up some entirely new bullshit and claim THAT'S infallible? It's all bullshit, and the beauty of this Conservapedia project is how close they come to flatly admitting that it doesn't matter.

I've mocked Conservapedia (Wikipedia-with-a-conservative-slant) before, but their "Conservative Bible Project" (h/t: Rod Dreher's "Conservatizing the Bible," via Andrew Sullivan) is so ridiculous that it practically parodies itself:

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity
3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level
4. Utilize Powerful Conservative Terms: using powerful new conservative terms as they develop; defective translations use the word "comrade" three times as often as "volunteer"; similarly, updating words which have a change in meaning, such as "word", "peace", and "miracle".
5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction by using modern terms for it, such as "gamble" rather than "cast lots"; using modern political terms, such as "register" rather than "enroll" for the census
6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
8. Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story
9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word "Lord" rather than "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Lord God."

Over at Sadly, No!, Brad snarks:

I can't decide what I like best about this -- the fact that they think the Bible is an Ayn Rand-style ode to the glory of the free market or that they demand that the text not be dumbed down in guideline #3 while demanding that the text be dumbed down in guideline #10.

In addition to correcting the favorite verses of Christian Communism, I wonder if Conservapedia will be rewriting "love thy neighbor" and some of the other notoriously liberal passages. Here are some suggestions:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many peaceniks: and they shall beat their plowshares into swords, and their pruninghooks into spears: nation shall always lift up sword against nation, neocons shall learn war forevermore. (Isaiah 2:4)

"...all they that take the sword shall earn fame and glory with the sword."
(Matthew 26:52)

Jesus' "Temple Tantrum" needs to be corrected, too:

And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And he congratulated the entrepreneurs for their innovations in fleecing the flock of believers; the spiritual freedom of my Father's house is matched only by its free-market array of merchandise. (John 2:13-16)

Conservapedia should also fix up that commie-tinged "Sermon on the Mount" to something more wealth-friendly--and perhaps retitle it "Sermon on the Millionaires:"

" And when thou prayest, thou shalt be as the televangelists are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward in silk suits, and limousines, and private jets, and mansions, and vacation homes. But thou, when thou prayest, envy in thy closet, and tithe in order that sacred opulence shall be rewarded openly." (Matthew 6:5-6)
"Blessed are the military contractors, for they shall be called the children of General Dynamics. Blessed are they which are persecuted for Republicans' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Halliburton." (Matthew 5:9-10)

Some verses, thankfully, are already appropriate for the CEO-friendly GOP platform:

"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." (Matthew 12:13)

Let us praise The Gospel of Supply-Side Jesus!


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Rude Pundit observes that "there's a bizarre moral equation going on among some (not all) on the right that because a petition calling for Polanski's release has been signed by a bunch of well-known movie people, it means liberals as a hegemonic whole want to just let Polanski go." He calls bullshit on that claim:

What's fucking funny is that all of these people who write the lie about how squishy liberals want to set Polanski free get into a righteous froth when liberals say that people who committed torture during interrogations should be investigated and brought to justice. This is not some vague analogy. See, some of us believe in principles, not just politics. One of those is that criminals should pay for their crimes, no matter if they're famous movie directors, CIA agents, or Vice Presidents. We can argue about what the punishment should be. But no one should be excused from answering to the law. It's the right that's always too ready to excuse criminals when it suits their ideological purposes.

Also repudiating the pro-Polanski petitioners, Vicki Iovine at HuffPo notes that "[t]he fact that the victim doesn't want to press charges after thirty years is irrelevant:"

In a criminal case, SHE wasn't the plaintiff -- we the People were! And, there's no trial pending anyway because it happened some thirty years ago and he was CONVICTED already.

He admitted he did the crime, now all that's left is to do the time. [...] "What about the creative and productive life Polanski has lived for the past 30 years?" the sentimentalists ask. "What about "The Pianist'?" I say, "Good for Roman! What a lucky guy that he managed to achieve so much during that stolen time. I hope he can get back to his art just as soon as he gets his walking papers." In the meantime, he has a bill to pay here in Los Angeles.

Driftglass is just as direct in reminding everyone that "Roman Polanski is a child rapist:"

He drugged a child and then raped her, then was convicted for raping a child, then ran away and hid from his conviction as a child rapist for 30 years.

Speaking for 99.999% of all Liberals everywhere, Polanski should be in jail which will indeed "take away his freedom" and be "heavy in consequences".

Anybody who rapes children should be in jail, whether it takes the law a day to catch up with them, or 30 years. Forever would be nice, but certainly for a long, long time.

Of course, morality aside, Polanski's first mistake was not justiciable but sartorial.

If Polanski wanted to get away with raping children, he should have dressed for the occasion:


There should be no excuses made, or special exceptions granted. Roman Polanski has enjoyed 30 years behind the camera--now it's time for him to be behind bars.

The UK's Times Online interviews Gore Vidal, whom it calls a "thorny contrarian, whose originality springs simply, and naturally, from having deliberately unfixed allegiances and an enduring belief in an American republic and railing sadness at how that ideal has been corrupted." At one point, Vidal opines that America has "no intellectual class" and is "rotting away at a funereal pace:"

We'll have a military dictatorship fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together. Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn't realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is.

I think he spent too much time hanging around Tim McVeigh, or perhaps he's been reading NewsMax (see here and here) instead of more reliable news sources.

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