Religious Orders

category icon A Nation Under Siege

Posted: Friday January 20 2017 @ 1:47pm

Religious Order: Politics

Was playing around with a tiny embeddable countdown clock to the next Inauguration. Here's what I came up with:

Countdown to Next Inauguration

It's just a chunk of PHP that generates a PNG containing the correct digits. Unfortunately, I was hoping I could add it to Facebook posts and comments, but Facebook fucks it all up trying to scale it to a thumbnail.

Feel free to embed it in something online, if it meets your needs.

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category icon The End of an Empire

Posted: Friday January 20 2017 @ 7:27am

Religious Order: Politics

And so it begins today, the dismantling of a first world country.

Make no mistake, Republicans today do not want a first world country. They look with envy upon countries full of uneducated poor working in sweatshops for the gain of a cadre of elites. That's where they're taking us. They've been taking the south that way for quite a while now.

Trump's cabinet picks show this. With the exception of DHS, they're purposely chosen as folks willing to dismantle the very institutions with which they are being charged.

Trump's budget shows this, cutting programs that help people and selling off public services to the highest bidder.

Will this bring folks together? Maybe. A colleague and I, who are usually on opposite sides of most issues had a great conversation, based on our dismay at Trump and what it means.

But I fear the opposite. I fear that the populace is too far gone, too enraptured with hatred of the other in place of self-pride. I fear people are too ready to accept whatever lies make them feel good. I had an interesting conversation with a relative who called me, out of the blue, just to talk politics. He was certain that Trump was actually, despite all evidence to the contrary, a good man. He was equally convinced that Clinton was, despite any supporting evidence, the "devil incarnate."

What's for certain is that we're at the start of a steep nose-dive. The only real question is whether we can pull out of it before we crash.

Someone once asked me what my political philosophy was. I answered that I'm a fatalist. I do think this country is doomed, but I'll go down fighting.

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category icon A Short ACA Rant

Posted: Thursday January 12 2017 @ 6:36pm

Religious Order: Politics

(Copied From My Facebook Wall)

So, there are really two groups with skin in the ACA game right now:

  1. People who couldn't get insurance before and finally could with the ACA.
  2. People who could get insurance before and are being hit with higher premiums after the ACA.

I have sympathy for both groups, although I have more sympathy for the first group because I don't value people based on the amount of income they generate. I think it's pretty shitty for some in the second group to clamor for getting rid of the ACA without any concern about the first group.

That said, again, sympathy for both groups. But I wonder, does that second group understand that the problem with the ACA is that it's, essentially, a love letter to the insurance industry? It's a Republican approach to health insurance. The actual solution isn't to replace it with something more draconian. The solution is to replace it with real socialized health care, like, gee, EVERY OTHER FIRST WORLD COUNTRY ON THE PLANET!!!

Oops, sorry, that was inaccurate. Saying "every other first world country" implies that we're currently a first world country. We're not. We were on our way, but that's fucked now. What we are are a bunch of cowboy wanna-bees, in love with a rootin-tootin quasi-anarchism founded on a shallow understanding of freedom.

I do have real sympathy for that second group, misguided as some of them are. I even have sympathy for the ones calling for a repeal of the ACA, but the solution isn't stepping back from the ACA.

You can't solve health care needs via a free market, folks. Consumers of health care are not free actors. This is a situation where we should be sharing the burden across everyone.

Seriously, take a step back and ponder why employers are responsible for providing health insurance. It's a half-assed solution to a problem. Other countries have figured this out.

And what's really annoying is that lots of those folks being hit with higher premiums are folks trying to achieve the American dream of building their own companies and businesses. So I understand their frustration. They're reached a level of success that now punishes them on health insurance.

The thing is, we as a society should be encouraging entrepreneurs by lessening these sorts of burdens. Frankly, there's no way I'd be a consultant without my wife's work-provided health insurance. I marvel at the folks I know who run small businesses and have to foot large insurance bills. If we want to actually encourage small businesses, and I think we should, we need to shoulder the burden of health costs across society, not on the backs of those folks.

I'm guessing part of the problem with the ACA is that the amount of backs across which the shared burden currently sits is rather small. So I understand those folks feeling put-upon. If only there was a solution...

Meanwhile, I have good affordable insurance. Why? Because the college where my wife works, and by extension the state, has greater leverage than if it were just me.

If only that leverage could be extended nationally...

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category icon Election Shit Show

Posted: Wednesday November 09 2016 @ 5:32am

Religious Order: Politics

Well, I tried to avoid the news, but we awoke at 3:30am, unable to sleep. Finally checked things at 5pm.

I'm angry, terrified, sad, disgusted, and ashamed.

This country is supposed to be better than this, but we're not. Clearly, we're not. We've elected a TV celebrity on the basis that he says the sexist, racist, homophobic things that so many people here want to say, but feel persecuted because they get criticized for it. Fuck those people.

And, yes, there's plenty of blame. We can blame the DNC for fighting against Sanders (who I don't think would have fared much better). We can blame Sanders for staying in as long as he did. We can blame third party voters. We can blame the media.

But the bottom line is that a majority of the American people want a sexist, racist, homophobic asshole for President. They revel in it.

I personally plan on calling them out at every opportunity.

Seriously, I'm terrified, and I'm a straight white cis male. I can't imagine how marginalized people feel right now. This is, literally, how Nazi Germany started. Literally. No exaggeration. No Godwin. Literally.

I've said it before, but it's true. White people are the problem with this country.

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category icon Voter Fraud: Not a Problem

Posted: Monday November 07 2016 @ 11:26am

Religious Order: Politics

On the eve of the election, talk of rigged elections and the need for tighter controls will continue. After all, some student here in Virginia recently tried to register multiple times in order for vote for Clinton, while there have been a smattering of Trump supporters caught mailing in a ballot, then trying to early vote a second time, with the excuse that they were worried the original vote would be thrown away. So how can we say that voter fraud isn't a problem?

Because the operative word above is "tried." They tried and they were caught. They almost always get caught.

But Tom, isn't it a problem that they tried? No. No it's not.

Let's look at an analogy. Suppose I set up an email system with spam filters. The system passes through 1.2 billion emails successfully, but 30 spam messages get through. Yes, more than 30 spam messages were sent, but only 30 got through.

If you looked at that system and told me I had a spam problem, I'd tell you to fuck off. The system works when it comes to preventing spam from being delivered.

If you further told me I had to tighten down my spam rules, even though it would result in many valid messages not getting through, and those rejected messages would mainly be to people of color, I'd hit you with a fucking baseball bat because it's damn obvious you're not worried about spam, but rather want to prevent delivery of messages to people of color.

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category icon Guns and Self-Defense

Posted: Friday October 14 2016 @ 7:40am

Religious Order: Politics

It would be dishonest of me to ignore those times when having a gun actually results in a person protecting themself.

Charges: Man With Permit To Carry Firearm Stops Potential Bat Attacker

Necessary vs Sufficient

It's interesting because this situation does fall precisely into the thin wedge where I think a gun is useful. My basic problem with guns as self-defense is that their use is rarely both necessary and sufficient. What I mean is that there are situations in which the bad guy is bad enough that non-gun options would not be enough. The gun is necessary. But usually in those same situations the bad guy is so bad that, even with a gun, I'd be totally out-classed. The gun isn't sufficient.

For the gun to be both necessary and sufficient, you need that rare occurrence of an adversary who is bad enough to justify using a gun, yet wimpy enough that the gun is enough.

That's pretty much the case here. The bad guy is wielding a bat, a medium range weapon capable of damage and not easily defendable by hand. They're in a parking lot, thus lacking in defensive areas. The bad guy has already shown a willingness to pursue. Arguably, a gun is necessary.

At the same time, this bad guy seems pretty hapless and unmotivated, is alone, and is armed only with the bat. Fending him off with a gun is an easy thing to do. The gun is sufficient.

Venn diagram showing small overlap between necessary and sufficient

Placebo Guns

Also interesting is that the outcome of this event doesn't change if the gun is a placebo gun, a real gun rendered inoperative. To me, a risk to benefit evaluation of guns leads to carrying a placebo gun.

In terms of self-defense, a placebo gun provides most of the benefits of a gun, with few of the drawbacks.


Lack of Drawbacks

Worst-Case Scenarios

But, wait, you can't actually shoot a person with a placebo gun! What about a worst-case scenario?

Yes, that's true. There's an even smaller section of that wedge, except just having the gun isn't sufficient. You would actually need to shoot someone. In that case, you're out of luck.

But if you're planning for worst-case scenarios without factoring in the rarity of the scenario and the risks of carrying a gun, then you're not really doing a rational risk to benefit analysis.

And note that none of us plan excessively for worst-case scenarios. If we did, we would all be demanding cars with 4-point racing harnesses. We'd be wearing flame-proof jumpsuits on our commutes. We would have fire extinguishers within reach of the driver in all our cars.

(Well, except for me, since my commute consists of walking down a flight of stairs. But I'd replace the carpet with rubber for traction, with extra padding at the edge of each step, and a big cushion at the bottom.)

Bad-Ass Motherfucker

But, wait, maybe you're a lot tougher than I am. Which, let's be honest, wouldn't be that difficult.

Ah, here's the thing. If you're tougher than I am, the circle on the right gets bigger, because you and your gun can handle more than I could with a gun. What about that circle on the left, though? It gets smaller. If you're a tough guy, you can handle more without having to resort to a gun. The gun becomes sufficient in more circumstances, but necessary in fewer. The overlap remains small.

Go back to the actual situation in St. Cloud. If you're really a tough guy, you could disarm the guy with the bat without yourself needing a gun.

It also works in reverse. If you're less tough than I am, the times where a gun is necessary would increase, but the times where it's sufficient would decrease. The overlap remains small.

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category icon An Odd Pro-Trump Argument

Posted: Tuesday October 11 2016 @ 10:55am

Religious Order: Politics

Geez, I haven't posted for months! If only there was something going on about which to pontificate! Oh, wait...

There's a strange pro-Trump argument I've seen lately. It goes like this:

  1. Clinton did something awful.
  2. Trump has not had the opportunity to do the same thing (or worse), although he's stated he will do worse, or his temperament could easily lead him to do worse.
  3. Therefore, we can prefer Trump over Clinton because he hasn't done the awful thing.

The one I've seen most recent said "At least Trump hasn't committed genocide."

And, yes, it's true. As Secretary of State, Clinton has killed more folks via military action than Trump had. The idiocy is assuming that because Trump hasn't, Trump won't.

I view it like this. Clinton has, in the past, had limited access to a vast armory of weapons. She's much more likely to use them than I would. And, now and then, she fires off a shotgun at a group when other options would be better.

Trump has no access, current or past, to the armory, yet screams about using all of the weapons against a variety of targets while showing no understanding of the targets and how they relate to each other. Furthermore, he has an obvious hair-trigger and feels a pathological need to strike back against any perceived slight.

We have to decide which person to give full access to the armory.

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The Democratic Primaries in a Nutshell

Posted: Tuesday February 16 2016 @ 7:04am

Religious Order: Politics

This probably doesn't help in choosing a candidate, but I see close parallels between Clinton/Sanders and Steve/Arthur in the movie Arthur Christmas. Movie spoilers follow:

Steve is the one with experience. He's toiled for years in the organization to get to where he is. He makes the whole operation run. He brings presents to kids everywhere, but he misses one child and isn't all that broken up about it. Instead of getting credit for the billions he got presents to, everyone criticizes him for not being perfect. He isn't the most likable person, but part of that is surely due to the pressures he's under. He simply can't afford the whimsey that his brother can wave about. He has too many responsibilities for that.

Meanwhile, Arthur has little experience, but he values each and every kid and is crushed that one is missed. And, dammit, he makes sure that one missed child gets her gift, albeit with plentiful misadventures and lots of help from others. He provides the spirit of Christmas that his brother lacks. He fits the role, regardless of his actual ability to execute the duties.

In the end, the movie acknowledges that Steve deserves to be Santa, but Arthur meets the requirements that people have of Santa as a symbol. He's the figurehead people need, while Steve continues to do most of the heavy lifting.

I think most folks look at Steve as an antagonist in the film. I look at him as a tragic character.

Whether the primaries end up like this, with Clinton left out in the cold again, I have no clue.

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Body Integrity

Posted: Tuesday September 15 2015 @ 5:47pm

Religious Order: Politics

I recently ran across a pro-choice argument I hadn't seen before. It's a really good one and shows how the pro-life crowd isn't really trying to protect innocent little babies but is really all about controlling women.

Here's it in a nutshell: Other than with abortion, we don't violate the body integrity of other people. We simply don't, regardless of the effect that might have on other lives. People have full control over their own bodies, regardless.

Here are some examples. If I had a kid, who was dying of kidney failure, we would not, as a society, force me to donate a kidney, even if I was the only possible donor and would survive with only one. This is despite the fact that the kid would die in due order without the transplant and the fact that the kid is obviously a full sentient human being.

Wait, it gets better. If I had a kid who was dying and in need of a bone marrow transplant, and I was the only match, society still wouldn't force that marrow out of me. It's not even a permanent personal loss, like a kidney. I'll create more marrow to replace what is taken. Still, my right to do what I want with my own body overrides the needs of other fully sentient human beings.

But wait, it gets better! If my kid was in need of a blood transfusion, would die without it, and I was the only match available in time, society still wouldn't legally force me to give up the blood. Society might hate me, and rightfully so. Society might shun me. But my refusal wouldn't be illegal. Despite the utterly transient nature of giving blood, we still wouldn't make me give it up.

No, wait, we can go further! My kid could be literally dying for an organ transplant, and I could have just died and be the only match. They still couldn't take my organs without my prior consent or the consent of my legal representation. I'm fucking dead! I have no use for the organs! But we take body integrity so seriously that the kid would die before society legally decided that the kid's life overrode my right to decide what happens to my body.

Unless I'm female and pregnant. Then suddenly society thinks it has a say. Suddenly a wee clump of cells is the overriding concern.

If that sounds like fucking bullshit, it's because it's fucking bullshit.

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Gems and Rocks

Posted: Thursday May 22 2014 @ 8:52am

Religious Order: Politics


I gleaned some really sweet quotes from Women in Secularism last weekend. Here are four that I particularly loved. One came very early on, in the very first session:

The reality is not that [women] speak too much. It's that we're expected to speak less.
-Soraya Chemaly

This one was part of a panel on multiculturalism:

I love everyones culture, until they are harmful.
-Taslima Nasreen

Note that this next one is likely paraphrased a bit. Everyone quoting it online has it a little different.

The extent to which religion is not dangerous to women is the degree to which it has been forced to adopt secular ideas.
-Susan Jacoby

This last one comes from the closing comments and wraps things up appropriately:

A person's life is not an argument to disprove.
-Lauren Becker

There were, of course, many other great things said.


There will always be those who don't like a conference and will voice their opinion, as is their right. This year, the #wiscfi tag wasn't trolled as hard as last year. I think that's partially because CFI CEO Ron Lindsey actually welcomed attendees instead of, literally, scolding them for not listening to white men often enough. This new-found civility led to a lack of outrage all around. Still, there was some naysaying.

Complaints about the conference, and about many of those presenting, are generally some form of:

I have differing opinions, and those with whom I disagree aren't giving me a forum in which to voice them!

Let's look at a few and laugh at them!

No drama at wiscfi prives we wouldn't have a Boko Haram problem if Nigeria had instituted a harassment policy. Or outlawed disagreement.

So, this one seems to think folks are saying that insisting on harassment policies at conferences means that we think harassment policies will solve all our problems! That's some simplistic thinking there! It's a common refrain that if something doesn't solve all the problems, then that something is, in fact useless. I see this in Libertarians a lot, in which law X doesn't totally eliminate behavior Y, so law X is bad. (I'm not fond of Libertarians. I suspect the overlap between Libertarians and sexist assholes is quite large.)

A nice touch is the implication that disagreement is outlawed. What they mean by this is that they were banned from some forum at some point. Again, they're insisting that those with whom they disagree are duty-bound to provide them with a soapbox for their disagreement.

I'm amazed at atheists who rightfully claim that they're under no obligation to debate with every Christian who comes along, then turn right around and insist that feminists who don't debate them are censoring cowards.

Moving on...

So sad. Very few attendees, 50% fat middle-aged men, and everything paid for by the patriarchy. Fail.

I don't have a good handle on actual numbers of attendees. The room was much larger than last year, spreading folks out, which made for a nicer experience for the myriad introverts. Offhand, I'd say there was a similar number to last year, perhaps more.

I love the bit about fat middle-aged men, as one of those fat middle-aged men. In addition to being pointlessly ageist and sizeist, it's just mind-boggling that gaining allies in a fight is somehow a bad thing.

Everything paid for by the Patriarchy? Really? My wife's registration fee was paid for by the Patriarchy? All the donations to CFI that helped fund the conference came from the Patriarchy?

Let us close with this beauty, in which a white man shakes his head sadly that others won't be able to partake of his tweets.

Sadly, many at wiscfi such as Greta Christina won't see my tweets because they have pathetically shielded themselves with block bot,

I love the assumption that he deserves an audience. It's so sad that others are deprived of it.

And it's pathetic that others would avail themselves of means of not being his deserved audience. Because that's what's really missing, the perspective of a random white guy.

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