Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scientology is Taking a Beating

Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, has taken up the fight against the destructive cult/business in an 8-part television series called Scientology: The Aftermath on A&E.  Recently, she did a reddit AMA and she will answer more questions from reddit tomorrow on A&E.

Three episodes have aired so far (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. EST).   The episodes center on former Scientologists and the impact their devotion had on themselves and others.  It becomes apparent that the "religion" is big business, costing members about $250,000 to achieve the highest level, and that anything short of total devotion is severely punished.  Remini interviews people who perpetuated the abuse and suffered from it.

And over on Discovery - ID, a network that focuses on murder stories, the "Deadly Devotions" series reran an episode that documented the role of Scientology in the murder of devout believer Elli Perkins.   Perkins refused to allow her schizophrenic son to be treated by an actual psychiatrist and instead took him to a Scientologist "psychiatrist" who prescribed vitamins.   Her son's delusions eventually caused him to kill his own mother.

Naturally, Scientology denies all claims of malfeasance and insists that ex-members are disgruntled whiners & opportunists.  If you've ever known someone with a severe mental illness, their anti-psychiatry stance alone should remove all doubt about it being dangerous.   Check out the show if you haven't already.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016: What Have We Learned?

I have been dismayed throughout the 2015-2016 election year for a variety of reasons.  Now, as an atheist, I'm very dismayed that Mike Pence, an uber-Christian rightie, will have power outside of his own ignorant hick fundy state.   Time will tell if Trump really is the idiotic delusional demogogic narcissist that he seems to be.  If only one of these adjectives turns out not to apply to him, the country may not go completely down the tubes.  If they are all true, then he will take off the brakes, and all bets are off.  I am completely avoiding any television commentary on this and I may just stop watching anything but Nickelodeon for awhile.  I need to sort out my own thoughts on this before a panel of six screaming experts tries to shout the loudest into my head.

But the results themselves are only part of my dismay.  I am an optimist about people, and I feel my optimism may have been misplaced.  People who I thought were bright fell for outright lies and didn't even care that they could have been lies.  After 150 years of civil rights progress, we have a president who is supported by the KKK.   Climate change denial will be official policy.   The world may not stop spinning but the U.S. is going in a very very wrong direction.

So.... what have we learned?

First, we have learned that 2000 wasn't a fluke.  It is indeed possible to win the popular vote but lose the presidential election.  Could it happen again?   I think so.  I also think it may be time to abolish the electoral college system.  Trump received 59,611,678 votes, or 47% while Clinton received 59,814,018, or 48%. That's over 200,000 disenfranchised voters.  I think I would feel the same if the numbers were reversed (though relieved it couldn't be a retroactive change).  Fair is fair, and this system is not fair.

It's the economy, stupid.   Sanders appealed to people who can't have a nice life because of the cost of post-secondary education and the debt that goes with it.  Trump appealed to people who can't have a nice life because they don't want to go to college (or are too stupid or old for college).  The transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy or knowledge economy just isn't working the way we were promised it would.  Bernie's strength in the Rust Belt didn't translate to Hillary, either because she didn't work hard enough to earn Rust Belt support, or because Bernie poisoned the well.  Swing voters are apparently the ones who are most dissatisfied with their job prospects.

Negativity works.   This has been known for a long time, but Michelle Obama's "When they go low, we go high" slogan just doesn't apply, at least not to white people.  Political marketing strategists know this, which is why TV ads on both sides were relentlessly negative.  People complain about them, but they are influenced by them.  The biggest problem that I see is that they are increasingly personal in nature, which makes policy or party less important to the voter.  Like it or hate it, the party system is the way that most business is conducted in Washington.  Your senator or congressperson is unlikely to buck their party's platform out of principle because they can be punished in their next primary.... by a contender running negative ads supported by the party.   Until and unless we have term limits & election finance reform, party affiliation is more important than personality.  This year some Republicans were repulsed by Dirty Donald and voted for Hillary, but apparently not enough.

The more similar the candidates, the more the differences will be exaggerated.  Hillary is not a crook and Trump is not a buffoon, according to Larry King.  Both are part of the New York elite.  Would the focus on Clinton's supposed crimes be as bad if her opponent had been Mike Pence or some other traditional conservative?  Likewise, she & Bernie Sanders are both New Yorkers who served in the Senate.  During the years they served together, they voted the same 93% of the time.  How could Bernie the Underdog make a case that he's different from an East Coast liberal he agrees with 93% of the time?   His fan base dipped into the ready reservoir of anti-Clinton lore (and haven't let go of it if my Facebook feed is any guide).

Liars win and bigger liars win bigger.  The famous quote by Goebbels comes to mind:
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.
In 2016, the truth didn't seem to have any impact.  I have been fooled by fake news or meme-lies, and when informed that my Facebook post was not true, I deleted it.  When my republican friends learn that their post is a lie, they don't.  One refused to delete a lie about Michelle Obama because although not true, it reflected her feelings about her.  I tried to get her to find something truthful that could support that same feeling but she made it clear that the truth didn't matter.

The October Surprise is still a thing.  Comey's ill-advised letter about e-mails that mainly turned out to be duplicates may have swayed just enough voters to either vote Trump or stay home.   There were no such surprises on Trump's side though he most likely has many skeletons in his closet.   Would anyone have cared that he cheated in an investment deal, lied on his taxes, or slept with women who were not his wife?  No.  Because they do not have the same power that the lie about an imminent indictment based on these duplicate e-mails generated.

Racism is still a thing.  Reagan's Welfare Queen is now a drug-dealing Mexican rapist illegal immigrant.  And instead of black people in the cities spending tax money on luxuries, the working class thinks they are being put out of jobs by immigrants.   Well, they should be happy now.  Nobody will want to come to the U.S. for at least four years.

Third-Party Candidates don't have a chance.  If the Green Party or Libertarian party would have had a chance, this would be the year for them to prove themselves.  The pro-Bernie camp who insisted that his small-donation, internet-driven, small-money candidacy could have been applied to a national election should have demonstrated this in their support for Stein or Johnson.  Likewise, the Republicans who were horrified by Trump could have thrown their support (and their money) behind Johnson. Instead, it's hard to make a case that either of them had any impact on the election at all.  Even though an "outsider" won, it was by a tiny margin and he wasn't outspent.  Until we have campaign finance reform, the minor parties will continue to be irrelevant, no matter how devoted their fanbase.

A four-party system could actually be interesting.  We would have to have a coalition governmental system, though, which is basically what we have now.  We have two parties that are made up of a coalition of different parts of society and platforms comprised of a variety of niche issues.

False Equivalency is still a thing, but few seem to have noticed that it's false.  That's why it still works.  Someone who lies a lot isn't equal to someone who lies a little.  Someone who makes six figures for a speech to people who make millions is not equivalent to someone who makes seven figures using workers making slave wages.  Someone who has disclosed thousands of e-mails and decades of tax records but has a few slips (if that - many were common knowledge or were classified after the fact) isn't equivalent to someone who has kept all that secret and whose few slips reveal sleaze and narcissism.  Someone who doesn't say the right things once or twice about a minority isn't the same as a person who plans to do ethnic cleansing (which is what banning muslims & deporting hispanic immigrants really is).  I don't always agree with Bill Maher, but he got this right:

And lastly, we have learned that the Religious Right still has clout. Pence is their boy, and they vote in high enough numbers to add to the coalition of the gullible.  Trump is the antithesis of everything they believe in, but he said enough of the things they wanted to hear to satisfy them.  They have looked past deplorable acts of pastors, "reality" stars and homeschool book publishers, so why would they care about Trump's morality?   They think they are saved from damnation for saying the right words and letting themselves be waterboarded by their authority figure.   They don't really expect much of themselves or their leaders.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Whew! It's not just me

Like I said before, I agree with much of what Bernie says but I decided to vote for Clinton. As a lifelong Democrat who has voted in every primary since I turned 18, I know overpromising when I see it. I think it's great that Sanders energized voters, but he also spun off a cult-like devotion that's undeserved. (Well, any cult-like devotion is undeserved).

I worried about my friends' gullibility and uncritical reposting of nonssensical stuff. I still do. With one more primary (that Clinton will likely win by a wide margin) to go, and high-level Democrats endorsing Clinton, the more hysterical members of the Sanders fan club are grasping desperately to half-truths and slippery math to hang onto their hope for a win. They are also uncritically passing along paranoid conspiracy theories. Things like that are a kind of Godwin's Law for me: If you have to resort to bad logic and shady "facts," you have in essence declared yourself a loser.

But now beyond that, they are becoming laughingstocks. attacks them brutally:

Bernie Fan: “Where Did All These Clinton Voters I’ve Been Willfully Ignoring Come From?”

Dude, I’m so fucking irate about this rigged election right now, it’s not even funny. But even though rage is definitely my dominant emotion, a close second is confusion. You see, there’s a question that’s been haunting me each and every Tuesday, when we start seeing the results from non-caucuses come in:

Where did all these Clinton voters I’ve been willfully ignoring come from?

Seriously, is it just me, or is there something highly suspicious about the fact that suddenly millions of Californians turned out for $hillary, even after I’ve spent months fastidiously blocking them from my pint-sized consciousness? I can’t shake this eerie feeling that the Bernie Sanders 2016 subreddit isn’t an exact mirror of reality.

...It sounds cynical, and I hate to admit it, but the sad truth is that no matter how painstakingly hard you avoid people outside of your highly homogeneous social circle, the system is always going to recognize their existence. It’s almost like when I search Twitter for the #ImWithHer hashtag, the people who I send death threats actually exist.

Ya-huh, bro: shit is fucked.
Yeah, real people voted on real ballots (mail-in and otherwise) consulting only their consciouses instead of reddit, or perhaps just brainwashed by the Mainstream Media (MSM).

As they say, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean you're not paranoid.

Friday, June 3, 2016

In Atheist Circles, What is the Opposite of "Feminism?"

I don't follow a lot of blogs or videos by lone atheists despite being one of those lone atheist bloggers myself.  My taste runs to those that inform about the battle between belief and unbelief in the world, or in the U.S. (such as FFRF)  and those that cover the battle between science & pseudoscience (including religious pseudoscience).

But on the fringes of my consciousness I'm aware that there is some kind of battle between (male) atheist commentators and people who represent feminism in some form.  This isn't Elevatorgate.  It's more of a long-running debate.

I regularly search "atheism" on youtube and filter to "today" to see what's being said by us and about us. One of today's results is "How Feminism Castrated Atheism" by Thunderf00t. I'm familiar with the name but I don't follow him, probably because of things like this.  I'm not an academic feminist, but I'm female and I don't want to be considered a second-class citizen of atheism because of that.  It's not that I don't want to be dissed.  It's more than that.  Humanity is a team, made up of two sexes (and some variants) and different skin colors, economic classes, etc.  Atheism should reflect that, and divisiveness doesn't help our cause.

Does atheism have testicles? Should it have testicles? Why would a movement need testicles? I'm confused by the title.

Also, does atheism have feminism? Should it have feminism? Why would a movement need feminism?

What "Atheism" needs is an attitude of respecting -- and even expecting -- differences within the ranks.  I really bothers me that people argue with each other publicly about these things because we are by definition bound to disagree about a lot of things.  So "New Atheism" as a ballsy movement that has been neutered is a very strange concept to me.  We were represented by men in the early 2000s but we have been represented by both men and women before that, so why not afterward as well.

Where would "the movement" be without Madalyn Murray O'Hair (founder of American Athiests) and Anne Gaynor (founder of FFRF)?  Thunderf00t may be making something of a name for himself via youtube, but will the New York Times publish an obituary about him?  (Link to Anne Gaynor's obit)  Well, Thunderf00t is bothered by Atheism Plus and Elevatorgate and he insists there was no sexism or racism in atheism before people invented it just to bully him.  He calls them "parasites."  And he thinks the Reason Rally's "conduct policy" is "castrating" atheism.  How can you castrate a movement he claims wasn't sexist?

So, I don't recommend the video but it brings up the issue of diversity.  It's been clear for years that women and non-whites were not proportionately represented in atheism.  The meetup group I went to from about 2002-2007 usually had ten men and just one or two women there (counting me), and no non-whites despite the city being very ethnically diverse.  That has changed as more and more of us "come out," but to say there was no unpleasantness in atheism is just laughable.  It would also be laughable to say that all the men are jerks, but fortunately nobody's saying that.

Since we only agree on one thing that we disagree on, we are probably the most diverse "movement' there could be.  I have encountered the following "types" since joining atheist groups online and in person:
  • Men
  • Women
  • Racist (only one so far!  *whew*)
  • Sexist
  • Anti-transgender
  • Ph.D. in science
  • 2-year degree in a trade
  • No degree beyond high school
  • Bitter people
  • Shy people
  • Happy people
  • People with kids
  • People who never want kids
  • 9/11 truther
  • UFO truther
  • Food nazis
  • Smokers
  • Drinkers
  • Pot-smokers
  • Sober non-smokers
  • People who believe in free will
  • People who don't believe in free will
Apparently Thunderf00t worries that feminism will ruin the Reason Rally, perhaps because 17 of its 42 speakers are women.  That's 40% -- and that's not even counting the members of the Wu Tang Clan and the Washington Gay Men's Chorus!  Among these women you'll find Anne Gaylor's daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Julia Sweeney and five other humorists, four scientists, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and other women who have something interesting to say.  The male line-up is also diverse.

There is also a workshop for lobbying about sex ed in schools.  This is a secular issue.  The states with the highest incidence of teen pregnancy are those where the Religious Right has silenced sex education or substituted "abstinence-only" programs.

He doesn't think there needs to be a code of conduct for the Reason Rally.  This code basically says "Don't be a dick" (a commonly repeated moral code on reddit's /r/atheism sub-reddit).  It even includes religion as a protected identity: 
The Reason Rally Coalition does not tolerate harassment of or by participants in any form. Prohibited conduct may include—but is not limited to—harassment related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion, sexual images in public spaces (not related to convention sessions or materials), deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
This protects us all from dicks and fundy preachers, and from nuts mentally ill anti-atheists like D.M./Mabus who stalked P.Z. Myers at a conference.

I had hoped to attend but it just wasn't possible.  It may seem extreme to some that there is such a strict code of conduct, but I would enjoy being in a place where people are nice to each other.  Also, not having to worry about fundies attacking us would be very liberating too.

So, if you go, have a good time and know that I envy you greatly.  We need to come together to show our best side to America and to effect needed changes, not be split apart over stupid shit.  We also need to laugh and sing because that's what life is about when you don't worry that some vindictive mind-reader in the sky will punish you for eternity for stupid shit.  Being asked by fellow human beings to be respectful to each other isn't repressive unless you're a dick.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Atlantic "This is How A Revolution Ends" (Sanders Part IV)

The irrationality of the Sanders camp is now an open secret.  I have several friends who continue to be part of the cult movement.  To their credit, Sanders does indeed appeal to the liberal wing of Democrats, who are numerous in California, and there are more Northerly white states for him to mine: Montana and both Dakotas.  The math is against him, but "momentum" supposedly means something.

In the Atlantic, This is How a Revolution Ends, Molly Ball (I hope that's her real name! I love it!) spews the sarcasm:
This is Sanders’s last stand, according to the official narrative of the corrupt corporate media, and if there is anything we have learned in the past year, it is the awesome power of the official narrative—the self-reinforcing drumbeat that dictates everything.
Sanders is the victim of the corrupt mainstream media when he loses, but he's living proof of the validity of his "revolution" when he wins, apparently.
(Bernie-or-Bust supporter) Caldwell discovered Sanders last year through Tumblr and YouTube videos. She is an active member of three different Sanders-boosting Facebook groups and livestreams once a week “to motivate people to vote for Bernie.” It has changed their lives, being a part of this movement. Something like that doesn’t just end. Does it?
This passage made my skin crawl just a bit.  The internet has made it possible for like-minded people (like atheists) to find each other, which is great.  The downside is that it has created virtual cults.  Outside viewpoints can be ignored.  Insiders are praised for parroting the words of the leaders.  Doubt is discouraged.   The power to do this is a double-edged sword.  It inspires people to belong to something larger than themselves and to change the world.  That's good sometimes, but dangerous other times.  It's how "self-radicalized" terrorists are made.

Could the "nones" who are "spiritual but not religious" find this a satisfying alternative to religions, with their ancient dogma, political power, and trivial rules?
Prasad Paul Duffy, a 58-year-old spiritual activist and filmmaker with shoulder-length blond curls. He was sitting cross-legged and barefoot on the field before the speeches started. “It’s a tool of the 1 percent, the powers that be. It should be abolished.” Clinton, he believes, is “owned by the billionaires,” and he could never vote for her.

“I would vote for Trump,” Duffy said. “At least he’s challenging the status quo. He sees we’ve been sold down the river and we’ve got to get it back. I prefer Bernie’s means to Trump’s! Trump is being demonized in the press for similar reasons as Bernie is being ignored. They’re both challenging the system.
One of my nutty friends said that Trump would be better than Hillary, though for different reasons. If this Duffy had been watching the media instead of the internet, he'd see that Bernie hasn't really been ignored, and that Trump got rather honest coverage. If Trump comes across as xenophobic for wanting to build a wall or deny entrance to the country for any muslim, that's due to his own words. In a sense, all candidates challenge the status quo about something. Hillary is the exception for hinting at an Obama III presidency, but there's definitely a false equivalency between Sanders and Trump. Sanders is against the 1% and Trump was born into the 1% for one thing.

Fortunately, this guy is in the minority among Sanderites, but it's a sizeable and irrational minority. Some of my friends insist they'd vote for the Green Party candidate rather than either Clinton or Trump, even if it means Trump would win. I don't understand that logic, and I hope that once the primary is a dim memory they will see the choices more clearly.
As Sanders gave his usual 75-minute consciousness-raising diatribe in Santa Monica, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, and people began to stream off the field. By the time he got to the climactic line—“In fact, we need a political revolution!”—the whole back half was empty, and the crowd was practically too sparse to give the requisite answering roar.
Ouch! Sanders "appeals" to young people, but does he know they don't have 75-minute attention spans? It doesn't sound like he puts on a very good show. I have to research which bands he hired and what they played. He's a septaguanarian. Does he know any of the musicians "those kids these days" know?

Or maybe after listening to him yell for over an hour it started sounding like "Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!"

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Cult of Bernie, Part The Third (with more math and some sad observations)

My primary is over and done with, as are the primaries of almost all of my friends.  Only a few states remain in the primary season:  3 non-states (Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia), California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and the Dakotas.  If the trends of other states continue, Bernie will win the white places (Montana and the Dakotas), Hillary will win handily in DC, and they will be virtually tied in California and New Jersey.  Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands are rather a mystery to us.  Hillary won by a narrow margin in Guam & American Samoa, but those are Pacific & PR and VI are Caribbean, so I can't imagine any similarities other than being possessions.  I will just estimate a tie for those places.

SO if the margins follow trends, Hillary will win about 483 and Sanders about 450 (assuming the superdelegates are apportionate).  If I'm very wrong, the numbers could be the reverse.

... meaning they would finish with 2726 (Clinton) vs. 2022 (Sanders)... assuming the superdelegates who have already pledged to a candidate don't change their minds.  Almost all of them would have to do that for him to win, so he shouldn't hold his breath.  He's been calling them crooked, among other things, and that's not the way to win supporters.  A lot of superdelegates know him from Congress, since he's served in both houses, yet those who know both candidates have chosen to go with Clinton.  Math and logic say that he just won't win (even though technically he can), but I'm losing friends over this.

* * * * * * 
I have been feeling very alone since concluding that the Sanders campaign is a little too fringe for me.   There are supposed to be crazy HRC supporters but I haven't found them.  I belong to a couple of Facebook groups that lean in her direction but I haven't seen anything loopy there, and not even any anti-Sanders stuff until recently.

Recently we doubters have started coming out of the closet.  Of course I don't dare link posts like this poignant post by a disability activist who got blown off by Sanders's campaign.  My Sanderbot friends will say she's a shill for Hill, though I think it's important reading.

Sources that used to be considered non-Mainstream Media (abbreviated MSM by the kool-aid drinkers) are also publishing thoughtful articles about the campaign and the movement.  I don't imagine any Bernie-or-Bust cult member would care, but I share the quotations below:

Ideological liberals are among the loudest Democrats, but they are a minority within the entire party. And while that minority is larger and stronger than it’s been in a generation, it’s still not strong enough to steer the party alone. It still has to play coalition politics....
The simple fact is that there aren’t enough liberals to elect politicians outside of bastions in California and in the Northeast, and there never have been.
...For most of his congressional career, Sanders has been a gadfly—an ideologue pressing his colleagues from the left, with a base in one of the least diverse states in the union. The same qualities that make him exciting to so many Americans—his passion, his bluntness, his uncompromising views—make him ill-suited for the transactional politicking that you need to pull off a coup against an establishment figure like Hillary Clinton. 
Gadfly!  Yes, that's the conclusion I came to long before reading this.  Gadflies often have a legitimate gripe, but they aren't leaders.  In politics, people who disagree (ideally) work together to come up with solutions that everyone can live with.  Who would attack the very institution that gave them a platform?  Sanders is no Martin Luther King.  He's more like a Martin Luther -- starting his own religion because the Catholic Church wouldn't reform at the rate and extent he wanted.  (The Catholic church did in fact reform in response to his movement but it was too late - he took his supporters with him and started the Lutheran denomination.

Another Slate piece "Bernie, Don't Do This:"
In the past month, Sanders has switched gears, from a policy critique of Clinton to a process argument against the Democratic Party. The argument? That any outcome short of full deference to his campaign is evidence of corruption and betrayal....
...Sanders’ most expansive argument is against “closed primaries,” which have entered his stump speech as a fundamentally unfair part of the process. But closed primaries weren’t created in response to Sanders—they are a long-standing feature. Critically, they are far from the least democratic part of the process. That goes to caucuses, which by their design preclude the vast majority of a given electorate from participating. If closed primaries are undemocratic for keeping out registered independents, then caucuses are undemocratic for keeping out everyone. Yet Sanders hasn’t railed against them. And why would he? They’ve delivered his largest victory margins and have fueled his campaign.
Yes, the reformer only wants to reform those aspects of the process that didn't benefit him.  When this language started infiltrating his campaign, I took notice.  I liked him when he seemed to be supportive of poor people and blue collar workers, but now it's about what he wants for himself.  (Speaking of working people, I'm personally against caucuses because they disenfranchise the poor.   Voting can be done by mail, in advance or by stopping off at the polls on the way to work.  Caucuses favor people with cars, child care (or no children), and time on their hands.  If Sanders truly cared about election fairness he'd call for the end to caucuses)

Jessie Jackson, who is old, yes, but hardly part of the Oligarchy that Sanders thinks he'll overthrow, is piling on:
Jackson said he believes the Vermont senator has "every right" to remain in the race until someone has reached the delegate threshold to clinch the party's nomination. However, once Clinton becomes the nominee, Sanders must work to ensure that his supporters don't assume that the only option come November is to "stay home or support Trump," Jackson added.
This really means something because Jackson himself was once the outsider who shook up the party. It turned out that like Sanders, he did not have wide enough appeal to prevail.  If anyone knows what's at stake, it's Jackson.  And he represents a very important part of the Democratic party - the "black vote" that Sanders seems not to be able to reach.  Ignoring Jackson would just reinforce the impression that he is tone-deaf when it comes to race.  Black people were always poor and hopeless, and they are now less poor and less hopeless.  Sanders appeals to the white people who feel downtrodden, but only in the context of the privilege they used to enjoy. (There are articles out there somewhere about this, but I can't find them.  If any readers know of some, please post a link in the comments!)

Privilege -- it used to mean preppies who went to Ivy League schools as "legacy" students, and could count on a trust fund if they didn't feel like working.  People like Trump and the Bush family.  But in post-modern America it means not having to worry about the kind of adversity that minorities and women face.  If the law has never considered people of your ilk "property," then you have privilege, and Bernie is talking to you.   I disagree with the overuse of the word but it's the only one we have.

Though Sanders talks about the poor, he's talking to people who think they deserve more.  This op-ed I randomly found via google news really hits the nail on the head:
If Sanders’ tying of political violence to “high-crime areas” were his only racially tinged remark, one might give it a pass. But he has a history.  There was his infamous waving-of-the-hand dismissal of Hillary Clinton’s commanding Southern victories, which were powered by African-American voters.
Black lives matter, and so do their votes.

* * * * * * *

But even though some writers on the web have expressed doubts, I haven't seen much about the bad online behavior of Sanders's devotees.  Rushing the stage in Nevada and making threatening calls to DNC leaders are not the problem.  The cultish tactics that led to it are.  In the time that I've been writing these posts, I've been pondering my next step with my friends.  I like these people but I don't like what they've become.  They pass along screen shots, memes, and links to videos that agree with them without looking into them at all, and a lot of them really don't pass the test.

One friend who used to post pictures of activities with her children now only posts about the campaign.  She is obsessed to the point of spelling Clinton's name "Clin" in order to keep the full name from becoming a trending topic on Facebook, as if that matters.  She's livid that the media won't be doing exit polls for California, because she needs to know when to suspect fraud. I wanted to assure her that she'll find something to get angry about without exit polls, but I try to be nice.   She's still phonebanking, calling people in other states, and brags about donating money. The last time she posted about one of her children was when she took him door-knocking with her for "family time."

If you have read my other posts, you know that my biggest pet peeve about religious zealotry is the harm done to children.  I have now broadened my anger to any zealotry that harms a child.  Children can't vote, and they can't consent to being made tools of politics any more than they can consent to religious ceremonies or being held up as examples of perfect babies at anti-abortion protests.  Arguing with me on Facebook was also taking time away from her family, so I have told Facebook to hide her posts.  I almost unfriended her but I decided to take this incremental step, because I believe in incremental steps (If you haven't argued with a Sanderite don't worry if you don't understand that last part).  If I don't like the way she's jettisoned her parental duties in favor of Sanders, I really can't be a part of that.  My other friends have started sharing Sanders stuff to my wall so I changed my Facebook setting to require approval.  I am trying to spend time away from the temptations of the internet, so by the time I check in, several people have piled on.  They are thoroughly devoted, as much as a Jehovah's Witness or Pentecostal preacher.  There's no getting through to them, and I have a real life that needs me.

"Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." -- Matthew, 10:37

And now back to the true purpose of the internet: puppies and kittens

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Cult of Bernie Sanders, part deux

I wrote my previous post out of frustration.  As I said then, I have many friends on Facebook who are diehard Sanders supporters irrational zealots.   At least they are now.  I used to respect their intelligence and I thought they had good heads on their shoulders.  But now they show their ignorance of the American system daily and think they are experts about why it's terrible.  Well, of course it's not perfect, and there are many changes I'd like to see (including many that Sanders preaches about), but overthrowing it in a "revolution" just isn't a practical idea in a government that was intentionally set up to prevent revolutions.  We've had some bad leaders, but we haven't had a Hitler or a Stalin or Napoleon.  Nixon had the temperament to go into that territory, but he had his Constitutional limitations.  So does Sanders.  At the beginning of his campaign I was all for him, but as the campaign became more about him and less about principles, and was called a "revolution" rather than a movement, I soured on him.

But back to the cultish nature of the Sanders subculture.  The latest conspiracy theory demonized the Democratic leaders of Nevada, accusing them of cheating Sanders out of delegates.  After seeing their posts, I went looking for some verification.  I posted links to the Washington Post and other sources, but finally Politifact took on their claims.  I am relieved to see that Politifact thinks there were probably no folding chairs being thrown, but the accusations lobbed by the Sanders faction are also false:

Barring a total collapse from either campaign, this means that one candidate was to get seven delegates at the state convention and the other was to get five...But that model was essentially broken during the April county conventions, where less than half of Clinton’s allocated county delegates showed up, leading Sanders to declare a surprise victory and allocated delegate advantage over Clinton (2,124 to 1,792) heading into the state convention...
 ...The rules specifically lay out that all convention votes must be done by voice vote, and that only the convention chair can declare the winner or call for a more specific method of voting among the thousands of delegates.
The rules also state that any amendment attempts must be approved by two-thirds of the convention delegates — which would be difficult given the nearly even number of Clinton and Sanders backers present there were no last minute rule changes sprung on convention-goers — the rules had been publicly available weeks in advance, largely unchanged for three presidential cycles, and given to both campaigns....
(After the voice vote) Sanders supporters rushed the main stage, hurling obscenities at Lange and other members of the party’s executive board and booing over remarks from California Sen. Barbara Boxer delivered on behalf of the Clinton campaign.  None of the three Sanders supporters who spoke, including Nevada superdelegate Erin Bilbray, made any motion to amend the rules during that time, so they were approved as written.

In summary:
  • The rules remained in place because there was no motion to change them, although some petitions were received that could have supported the motion.
  • Sanders supporters did rush the stage but no chairs were thrown.
  • Clinton's supporters outnumbered Sanders's, giving her two more delegates due to the nature of the rules even though her numbers were only slightly larger.
  • The panel that examined the credentials of delegates was made up of equal numbers of Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters.
  • Rejected delegates, some of whom were Clinton supporters, were investigated.  Since 50 of the 58 contested delegates didn't actually show up, though, this issue is moot.
  • The convention ran over by 4 hours, and that was the reason for cutting it "short."  Since security was necessary, and the security guards were due to leave, the convention had to end.
This is pretty much the opposite of what the Sanders camp claims.  I think a voice vote when there are equal numbers on both sides is a terrible way to make a decision.  But...  it was the leader's right to stop there and not call for a paper ballot.  Since a two-thirds vote was required to change the vote, rather equal sounding voices were not sufficient, so I don't find this complaint compelling either.

* * * * *

Then there is Kentucky.  Clinton won Kentucky handily in 2008, thanks, I suspect, to bigotry against Obama.  The final tally put her ahead by a hair, but the Sanders zealots were glued to their internet the whole night, watching the television & their echo chamber for any sign that their paranoid delusions have merit.  A few of my friends shared this image:

Yes, it does seem strange that Clinton's vote total changed while Sanders's didn't.  Is that evidence of fraud?  No.  It's evidence of information being fluid and fallible as results come in.  (It happened in other states too - where mistakes were counted as evidence of shenanigans by the cult)  A quick trip to Wikipedia would tip off the skeptic:  The population of the entire county is under 20,000!  Fewer than 10,000 people voted in the November 2008 presidential race!  In that election, McCain took the county by a narrow margin.  This means the total votes should have been more like 5,000 for that county.  So which is more likely?  Election fraud?  Or a mistake on the part of the source of the image?  Or amistake on the part of the image and a mistake of interpretation on the part of the Sanders camp?

They also don't seem to get that Sanders has had a poor track record in black districts.  Yes, we still have segregation, which is bad in general but it does give minorities a voice.  They have clearly expressed their preference for Clinton.  This means that as you follow the vote tallies over the course of an election night, you might indeed see a jump for one candidate.  100% of a large district probably wouldn't happen, but as precincts come in the change in vote count will not be a straight line.  It will be a lumpy line.

Their math is also bad in almost every meme that has numbers.  Here's another one:

The first number refers to pledged delegates (not counting superdelegates), and the second number refers to California's total number of delegates.  For an apples to apples comparison, the California number should be 475.  That's still a substantial number, so why the fuzzy math?

If Sanders needs 318 to tie, it's not really 318.  If he won 318, Clinton would receive 157 thanks to proportional delegates.  So he's then behind by 157.  For him to overtake her by one delegate, he would need 397.  She'd then get 78, for a total of 396.  397 is 84% of the vote.  Not impossible, but not a walk in the park, either.  Of the 21 states he's won, the only state he won by that margin is his home state, Vermont.

College Humor pointed out the weaknesses in Berniemath a few weeks ago, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in:

Even if Bernie takes California by a margin of over 80%, there are only 306 more pledged delegates left in the primary process.  At present, she has 504 superdelegates to his 40.  Since he's been calling the system "corrupt" and accusing Democratic party faithful of being cheaters, Berniemath would require a change of heart from the very people he's attacking.

It's very possible that those 504 superdelegates haven't offered their support because they just don't like him.  If he said those things about me I certainly wouldn't switch allegiance.

So... there are 952 delegates left in the process, but five superdelegates have already declared for Clinton, so it's 947.  Bernie is 844 delegates shy of the amount needed to clinch the nomination.  That's 89% of all the delegates left.

I would not call for him to stop campaigning, but I am calling for his followers to think more critically.

Also, lay off the creepy peer pressure:

Monday, May 16, 2016

As an Atheist, Can I Trust True Believers in American Politics?

The 2016 primary season has cluttered my Facebook feed with cultish posts by supporters of Bernie Sanders.  While I agree with almost everything Sanders has said or done, and I would love to see our first openly secular president take office in January, the cultish nature of his fanclub has given me the willies. They are so unquestioning, paranoid and insular that they are starting to remind me of religious cults.

 And since I have a variety of friends, I have also seen cultishness on the other side.  They want to "Take America Back."  Blech!  And I also have friends who are extremely religious.  I haven't seen any political posts from them lately.  Ted Cruz's theology would have been appealing, but well... he's ugly.  Yes, it matters.  I am interested to see if his failure represents the death knell of fundamentalist political power or if he was just the wrong person for them.  Was George W. Bush the peak of their power?  After selling out the economy and jacking up the national debt with an unnecessary war, could it be that politicians who are "on a mission from God" are now laughingstocks, even among conservatives?

Well, I hope that political trend is over, but I'm not a big fan of Messianic leaders on the left either.

From a list of the qualities of a destructive cult, Bernie supporters among my friends have demonstrated those in italics:

  • The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and its members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  • The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before they joined the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
  • The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and to radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before they joined the group.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.  -- No, but if you disagree, expect to be unfriended.
  • The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
Many of these do not apply, but the unwavering devotion, pressure to put in time phone-banking and knocking on doors, the attitude that they represent a "movement" that is superior, and relentless fund-raising and prosletyzing are true.

My friends who have become involved in Bernie's "movement" had not previously been involved in politics, or didn't even pay attention to it.  Now they're experts.  They're like teenagers who attended a Christian rock concert, went to an altar call, then couldn't shut up about Jesus even though they've never read the Bible, studied doctrine, or belonged to a real church.  They don't understand the primary system, and they can't see why a guy who joins the Democratic party just to be able to run for president on their side doesn't have the whole-hearted approval of people who have poured their hearts into the party for decades.  They are True Believers, zealous new converts set out to convert even more to their (supposedly) morally superior leader.

  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.  
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

  • Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  • The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality

  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
Every political candidate has to make money, but it seems the Sanders supporters are constantly reminding each other to make a donation, and they make a point of letting each other know when they've donated.  Unfortunately, a lot of them haven't studied election law and they have gone beyond the maximum individual donation of $2,700 per person.  And he has been too slow to send them refunds.  As a leader, and someone whose main platform is economic, shouldn't he 1) teach his na├»ve followers how to do this and 2) follow the law?

So... I find this campaign very creepy.  Sanders is no Messiah, and he's not running for King, yet he promises a "revolution" and promises to change things that can't be reversed with a flick of a finger. Vilifying the very rich and powerful borders on demagoguery.  The very rich will simply move their assets to off-shore accounts, or to The Netherlands (as Bono & U2 did).

I don't know Trump's followers well at all (thank the FSM!) but he has overpromised on so much that's totally impractical I have started to see the two campaigns as two sides of the same coin.  Being sure of yourself and unwilling to change is a good quality sometimes never.  As a skeptic I base decisions on facts and evidence, not dogma.  My best guess about Trump's dogma would be that he merely believes in his own intellectual superiority.  In Bernie's case, he believes in his moral superiority.  I see willingness to look at alternative points of view and gather evidence and change one's mind as a positive, not a negative, yet a Bernie-or-bust friend on Facebook vilified Hillary Clinton for supporting Goldwater over 50 years ago, when she wasn't even old enough to vote!  (I responded that she also changed her mind from shitting in her diapers to going potty on the toilet, but he never answered that one)

Religious zealotry is dangerous not because it's religious, but because it's zealotry.  2016 is making me very queasy.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I'm still on blogger and not on wordpress!

Edit:  I went back to that other blog and realized there are only two posts, from years ago.  The format has a calendar showing today's date so I thought it was a new blog.


I haven't posted in a good while, mainly because watching what people do in the name of religion was really getting me down, especially the dysfunctional patriarchal system personified by the Duggar family.

I am also "ladyatheist" on reddit:  And I use the name when commenting on Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution is True" site.  So in general when you see that name on the web it's probably me.

Someone named Stacey has used the name "ladyatheist" for a wordpress blog and it's not me!  Just so you know:  I'm not migrating to wordpress.  Someone should have told her to google the name before using it.  *sigh*  That's the web ferya.  You can't register a pseudonym so stuff like this happens.

Her blog may be of interest but it doesn't look like there will be a place to comment (yet).  Go have a look-see: