Bill Nye Blasts Todd Akin, Challenges ‘Fucking Idiot’ to Debate


Bill Nye Blasts Todd Akin, Challenges ‘Fucking Idiot’ to Debate

Bill Nye may still be The Science Guy, but he’s no longer Mr. Nice Guy.

During a live interview this morning with the Smithsonian Channel, the mild mannered science educator unloaded on U.S. Congressman Todd Akin, calling him “a fucking idiot” for accusing Nye of personally provoking Hurricane Issac.

Last week Nye uploaded a video to Youtube urging parents not to teach their children creationism. At a town hall campaign event yesterday, Akin used the video as an example of immoral behavior driving god to punish America through extreme weather.

Although reporters reached out to Nye for a statement yesterday, his first discussion of the matter came this morning at Smithsonian’s Washington D.C. headquarters.

Nye Got a Feeling…

The 56 year old star of the long-running “Bill Nye The Science Guy” was in the studio to promote his new documentary series focusing on the neuroscience of childhood development.

After briefly discussing his show, the Smithsonian anchors asked Nye about Akin’s recent accusation. The normally genial Nye wasted no time venting his rage about the comments:

“Look, these people they’re fucking retarded. Rape can’t cause pregnancy? Breastmilk cures homosexuality? I caused a hurricane by challenging creationism? Who can possibly take these people seriously anymore?”

The slightly uncomfortable anchors then tried to change the subject, but Nye persisted:

“It used to be these Republicans didn’t believe in global warming or evolution. That was bad enough. Now they don’t even believe in egg + sperm = baby. Where does Todd Akin think babies come from? Does he think there are separate storks for people who were raped and people who weren’t? ”

“Hey look over there! It’s the rape stork. It drops its babies directly at the orphanage.”

“He’s a fucking idiot. Just a plain fucking idiot. I’m sorry – I don’t say that word very often – but it happens to fit in this case. He’s just a fucking idiot.”

A Decent Proposal

As the stunned anchors hurriedly tried to wind the conversation down and cut to commercial, Nye stared directly into the camera and issued a challenge to his new-found rival:

“So Todd I got an offer for you. You and me. Any time. Any place. Debating science mano- a-mano. I’ll bring the facts, and you bring the Vaseline. Because your ass is gonna fucking need it when I’m done whipping.”

Nye apologized once more for his language before ripping off his microphone and walking off the set.

Representatives of the Smithsonian Channel say they have no comment on the incident.

Bill Nye could not be reached, but a since-deleted tweet on his Twiiter account posted shortly after the incident read:

“@ToddAkin Never enter the eye of Hurricane NYE!”

UPDATE: Readers report that The Bill Nye Meme has arrived.

UPDATE 2 :  Click the button below to ask Todd Akin to accept Bill Nye’s challenge!

Woman Grows Ear on Arm


US woman grows new ear on arm
Alys Francis, ninemsn
Sherrie Walter grew a new ear on her arm.
Sherrie Walter grew a new ear on her arm.

US doctors have grown a new ear for a woman on her arm after she lost her original ear during a battle with skin cancer.

Sherrie Walter had to have most of her left ear removed, along with parts of her skull and ear canal, in 2010 after she was diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma, The Baltimore Sun reports.

The 42-year-old mother-of-two, from California, was left disfigured until doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland told her about a groundbreaking new procedure that would enable her to grow a new ear.

The ear was made using cartilage from Ms Walter’s ribs and arteries and from other parts of her body — the structure was then placed under the skin on her arm for four months to grow before it was transferred to her head.

Doctors said the entire process took close to 20 months and it is believed to be the most complicated ear reconstruction completed in North America.

Surgeons performed Ms Walter’s final major surgery last week, fashioning an earlobe and shaping the ear to look more natural.

Speaking before the operation, Ms Walter said: “I am one step closer to the end, to looking normal again.”

Ms Walter first noticed her skin cancer in 2008 when a scab on her ear would not heal.

After drastic surgery to remove the cancer and weeks of radiation, Ms Walter said she became self-conscious of her appearance and grew her hair long to try and hide her face.

She could not wear a clip-on prosthetic ear because parts of her skull had also been removed.

But Dr Patrick Byrne, who led Ms Walter’s surgical team, assured her there were other options and suggested she try the procedure to grow a new ear.

“It seemed a little strange but I was willing to try it,” she said.

Dr Byrne said the new ear should last for years to come.

US scientists are helping pioneer efforts to grow ears, bones and skin in laboratories, with doctors planning to use cutting-edge reconstructive techniques for wounded troops.

Sources: The Baltimore Sun
Author: Alys Francis. Approving editor: Emily O’Keefe

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks (Review)


Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks (Review)
Posted by Darren

“This is Christmas!” the Doctor declares, addressing the Parliament of the Daleks early in the episode. Really, Christmas was merely the last time we saw him, but it’s been so long since the last new episode of Doctor Who that it does almost feel like Christmas. This year, showrunner Steven Moffat has promised big budget spectacle. There will be no two-parters and, instead, each instalment will feel like a forty-five-minute summer film. Asylum of the Daleks feels like a fairly efficient prototype for that storytelling model, while still perhaps hinting at the things to come as the Doctor enters his fiftieth year on British television.

Moffat’s crack at writing a Dalek episode…

This is really Moffat’s first attempt to write a “Dalek” episode. Sure, he’s written stories including the monsters before, like The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, but this is the first to focus solely on the genocidal maniacs and (arguably more importantly) the first with a title to include “… of the Daleks.” I think that’s fascinating, if only because – as a writer, Moffat has gravitated rather consciously towards what might be dubbed “his own thing.”

While Russell T. Davies would end his seasons by bringing back fan favourites like the Daleks or the Cybermen or the Master, Moffat has generally used the season finalé to round-out the year’s story-telling, to offer something a bit bold and perhaps a bit less obviously crowd-pleasing. So it’s interesting to see Moffat open a season with the most crowd-pleasing of Doctor Who monsters. It’s always fun to see a writer working outside their comfort zone, and it is very weird to see Moffat doing an entire episode based around a very classic concept, rather than something more distinctly his own.

Plunging into a new season with Matt Smith…

It’s very clear what Moffat wants to do here. As he outline in interviews before the series started, he wants to make the Daleks scary again:

Kids are supposedly frightened of Daleks but they take them to bed. Is there a way we can make them scarier, get them back to being more monstery? I hope they will leave them outside their bedroom doors, was my response to that. There is a tremendous temptation to go kitch and sweet with the Daleks. You shouldn’t. They are insane tanks.

Of course, there’s only so much a writer can do. The Daleks are, for better or worse, almost as deeply engrained in our popular consciousness as the good Doctor himself. You can use the word “Dalek”and everybody knows what you’re talking about. They aren’t treated as objects of fear in the collective mind, but objects of ridicule. The very word conjures up a (literal) tinpot dictator screaming nonsense in a shrill voice, often while spinning around uncontrollably.

Graveyard of the Daleks?

That’s not to suggest that it’s impossible to make the Dalek’s scare again. I think that, for all its faults, Dalek did a good job of that years ago. The problem is that you can’t keep them scary. They’ll always vary from episode-to-episode. After all, Russell T. Davies gave us the all-conquering Daleks of The Parting of the Ways and the campy sass-talkin’ Daleks of Doomsday. It really depends on the episode in question to sell the Daleks as a credible and convincing threat. I think it’s impossible to “rehabilitate” the collective cultural opinion of the monsters, if only because the BBC itself is the one pumping out plush Dalek teddy bears. Squeeze them and they say “Exterminate!”

In Hollywood, they say that you are only as good as your last movie. In television, the Daleks are only as good as their last episode. While it has – following this logic – been quite a while since they’ve been really good at all, Asylum of the Daleks does a pretty good job establishing the pepperpot maniacs as credible monsters in their own right, to the point that it feels much more like a Dalek mission statement than Victory of the Daleks, the first Dalek episode of the Moffat era. There, the episode seemed to exist merely to finally reverse Russell T. Davies’ repeated genocide of the creatures. Here, Moffat seems to work to make them actively scary.

Shining some light on the matter…

Asylum of the Daleks does open with the monsters at their lowest ebb. In a way, it follows the reverse arc of most Dalek episodes. In the past, Dalek episodes have introduced the creatures as serious threats, only for the Doctor to undermine them towards the end. Here, Moffat opens with the creatures looking almost pathetically weak. “Save us!” the Daleks chant as the teaser fades. “Save us! Save us! Saaaaaave us!” Our plucky heroine has been introduced seeming to keep an entire planet of Daleks at bay for over a year using nothing more than a few boards of wood, while being so blaisé about the monsters on her doorstep that she bakes soufflé.

However, over the course of Asylum of the Daleks, Moffat continually builds up the monsters as a threat in their own right. Both of those opening images are brutally subverted. Our survivor is not who she appears to be, and the Daleks actually plan to save a bit of bother by blowing up the Doctor with their asylum – killing two birds with one gigantic explosion. In a way, Moffat seems to set out the same thing that show set out to accomplish with Victory of the Dalekstwo years ago.

One flew over the Daleks’ nest…

That episode also began with the Daleks at their weakest possible point (“WOULD! YOU! CARE! FOR! SOME! TEA?!”) and then sought to reveal them as a grand galactic threat in their own right. The notions seemed to be that you might elevate their stock by allowing the monsters to “win one” for a change. However, the episode was somewhat undermined by the fact that it interpretted “win one” as “produce a bunch of toyetic new models and run off like cowards into outer space.” It was more Stalemate of the Daleks than Victory of the Daleks.

The ending of Asylum of the Daleks feels a more successful one for the monsters. They don’t get to kill the Doctor, but they do succeed in getting him to do their dirt work. They accomplish their goals, but miss out on the perk of killing him. The Doctor doesn’t “win”by any stretch. He loses a new friend in a rather brutal manner. He just about manages to avoid losing at least one of his companions.

Primed and ready for action…

Indeed, the closest thing to a victory he earns in confronting his foes is the fact that they don’t remember who he is. (Incidentally, preventing them from planting another of their brutal traps – next time presumably intending to kill him.) While it isn’t a clear victory for either side, the Daleks emerge as a much more credible threat going forward.

There are, of course, other very “Moffat” ideas that exist to enhance the scare factor of these most iconic of monsters. The notion of Daleks that have literally hallowed out human beings so that they could live inside is a terrifying one. It’s a creepy image, especially as the eye-stalk does emerge through a clean portal, but instead breaks the skin, evoking Ridley Scott’s Alien for a family friendly audience. Indeed, the line that they come “still only at night” feels like a shout-out to Newt in Aliens.

They’ve really cornered the market…

While those creepy human-Daleks are introduced early on, it’s the notion of the “nano-cloud” that makes the monsters so unsettling in a way that they haven’t been in a while – the fact that they can animate any matter – “living or dead” – in their own image is much creepier than people on Dalek ships in weird fetish gear. The thought that they can “subtract love and add hate” without you really realising it is unsettling, as is the notion that you might be a Dalek without even realising it.

In fact, the early part of the episode does a wonderful job of exploring the relationship between the Doctor and the Daleks. It’s fascinating how clearly they seem to understand each other, while completely failing to grasp the most essential facets. The Doctor understands the Daleks are bred to hate, and knows the plan that they have concocted to simultaneously wipe out him and the rogue elements. However, he’s aghast at they “divine hatred” that they see as “beautiful.”

Tough crowd…

At the same time, they seem to understand him quite well. Perhaps, in some ways, even better than he does himself. They bring Rory and Amy along, if only because, as they state, “the Doctor requires companions.” It’s a truth that the character himself seems to be denying at the moment – and experience has taught us that he lacks the self-awareness to see that this is a very bad thing. And still, despite their understanding of him, they fail to grasp that he will inevitably escape because… well, that’s what he does.

It’s interesting that Moffat actually takes the time to reverse the direction that Russell T. Davies took the Daleks. I like the revelation that he is “the Predator of the Daleks”, and I love the fact that the interplay between the Doctor and the Daleks in this reluctant team-up reveals so much of each. (“This conversation is irrelevant!” serving as perhaps the most obvious expression of the philosophical conflict between the two.) So it’s interesting that Moffat takes the time to effectively re-write that dynamic, erasing the Doctor from the Daleks’ memory banks.

(Eye) stalking their prey…

To be fair, maybe he has a point. Maybe that dynamic ha splayed a part in humbling the creatures – making them too casual and too familiar to the Doctor. After all, it’s hard to construct a credible threat when they shake in their little space boots at the very mention of his name. So now they meet as equals. It’s quite similar to how Moffat used the “tear” to quietly tidy up his predecessor’s continuity. I also love how the Doctor seems almost insulted as he asks, “You made them forget me?!”

That seems like it might be a nod to the series’ fiftieth anniversary, coming up. The episode leans pretty heavily on the notion of legacy and memory. There’s the discussion between Rory and Amy about kids, which is quite a potent piece of drama for a family show, but also the fact that the Daleks forget the Doctor and the final plea, “Remember me! Remember me!” (Speaking of which, how weird was it to hear Nicholas Briggs speaking in his Dalek voice in an almost conversational manner? The man’s vocal performances continue to impress.)

Alone with every genocidal pepperpot…

Of course, Moffat’s re-writing of Dalek history does raise a few questions, retroactively. After all, the opening sequence has the Daleks efficiently corralling the Doctor in a fiendish plan. It’s a fantastic reversal of their needless complex schemes that often end up backfiring, portraying the monsters as strong and ruthless. However, it begs the question of why – if the Doctor is such a pain – they never did this to simply exterminate him in the first place? The nano-cloud is a brilliant idea, but it makes it seem a bit strange it never came up before. Still, that’s something for others to figure out. It works well here, and it makes them a pretty convincing threat. And that is undoubtedly the most important thing.

It also feels a bit strange to meet “the Parliament of the Daleks” with the “Prime Minister” at its head. What do they do, sit around and talk exterminating policy? Do they hold constituency elections? Is there a Dalek election by-law? I really liked the “Holy Dalek Emperor” from The Parting of the Ways, but I always saw the Daleks as a distinctly fascist species.  (In fact, Moffat’s reference to “divine hatred”seems to reference that most daring and most wonderful of Davies’ take on the monsters.)

If David Tennant were around, I would make a “Beam me up, Scotty” reference here…

Even using terms associated with democracy feels kinda strange in relation to the creatures. Did they vote on the plan to coopt the Doctor? Still, it’s not a problem, just a small element that feels a little out of place. I can’t help but wonder if Moffat was trying a bit of blunt social satire, like he did in The Beast Below.

The episode’s twist also feels just a little bit familiar. After all, Moffat did the “person-isn’t-really-a-person” twist not too long ago, in Silence in the Library, another story of a girl interacting with the Doctor’s adventures from a secure location who turns out to be part of some ghastly mechanised operation, with an element of tragedy concerning the state of her humanity in this altered and distorted form.

Come to a dead stop…

I will confess to being a bit disappointed (as I was in Closing Time) with the revelation that Amy became a model. It’s a shame that character has been defined by jobs that involve her looking appealing to men. Not to suggest, of course, that there is anything wrong with Amy enjoying a career as a model, it just seems that her skillset has not really evolved. She’s still defined by her job as “really, really good looking”, albeit just in a less sleazy context.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to seem puritanical or anything. However, it seems strange that the recurring theme of the new series has been that the Doctor has allowed his companions to grow as individuals through their interactions. Rose became a super extra-dimensional secret agent. Martha became a kick-ass medical professional and alien invasion specialist. The great tragedy of Donna was that she was eventually denied the growth that stemmed from her time with Doctor. So it feels strange that Amy’s character development is measured in becoming a “pretty face”on a billboard.

Carry on regardless…

That said, it’s interesting that Moffat chose to have Amy and Rory break up. Of course, it’s inevitable the pair will get back together, but I like the idea that largely adult concerns – well, almost – could come between the two. The notion of a couple being unable to conceive feels quite an adult development. Of course, Amy’s decision to kick Rory out instead of actually talking about or dealing with it is undoubtedly childish. That said, it feels like a place to begin a second character arc for the pair. Amy has still not quite “grown up” enough to deal with these adult problems in a mature manner, so it feels appropriate that her “raggedy Doctor” has returned to help her through it.

Still, it’s great to have the team back. And it’s certainly a blockbuster start to the year. The sequence with the Dalek missiles destroying the asylum did look a bit gnaff in an eighties sort of way, but the rest of the production was pretty stylish. I especially like how Moffat effectively structured the episode like a James Bond or Mission: Impossible type plot, with the teasure spent putting the gang together, only for the group to be tasked with a nigh-impossible task. It does go a long way towards adding a cinematic feeling to proceedings, which seems to be what Moffat is trying to do. It’s really quite effective tea-time telly.

Graveyard of the Daleks?

While I certainly hope that we might get something a bit quieter at some point this year (or next), it certain accomplishes what it set out to do. If they can do twelve more of these, I’ll be very impressed. It’s a great way to ring in a fiftieth anniversary.

Peak Water? ‘Last Call at the Oasis’ – Why Time Is Running Out to Save Our Drinking Water


‘Last Call at the Oasis’: Why Time Is Running Out to Save Our Drinking Water
A new film provides a much-needed wake-up call for Americans: Our false sense of water abundance may be our great undoing.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Ev Thomas

The first voice you hear in the new documentary Last Call at the Oasis is Erin Brockovich‘s — the famed water justice advocate whom Julia Roberts portrayed on the big screen.”Water is everything. The single most necessary element for any of us to sustain and live and thrive is water,” says Brockovich as her voice plays over clips of water abundance — gushing rivers and streams. “I grew up in the midwest and I have a father who actually worked for industry … he promised me in my lifetime that we would see water become more valuable than oil because there will be so little of it. I think that time is here.”

The film then cuts to images of water-scarce populations in the world: crowds of people at water tankers, stricken children, news reports of drought in the Middle East, Brazil, China, Spain.

The images are heart-wrenching and alarming … and so are the ones that come next, which are all in the U.S. Water parks, golf courses, car washes, triple shower heads, outside misters — all point to our folly when it comes to water.

We live with a false sense of water abundance and it may be our great undoing. Even though the film opens with Brockovich’s prophecy that water is more valuable than oil, Last Call at the Oasis mostly focuses on how we’ve yet to grasp this news. The film, which is the latest from Participant Media (Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc., Waiting for Superman), delves into our addiction to limitless growth, our blindness to pressures from global warming, and the free pass that industry and agriculture get to pollute.

The narrative of the film, which is directed by Jessica Yu, is driven by interviews, historical footage and some outstanding cinematography. We’re taken to Las Vegas, so often the starting point for discussions of our impending water crisis. We see a receding Lake Mead, learn that Hoover Dam may be close to losing its ability to generate power as water levels drop, and that the intake valve for Las Vegas’ water supply may soon be sucking air.

We hear from Pat Mulroy, Las Vegas’ infamous water manager, about a plan for the city to pipe water over 250 miles from a small agricultural community. The town of Baker, population 150, looks to be on the sacrificial altar for Sin City. As Mulroy says, it is a “project out of sheer desperation.” But that will be little consolation to the folks in Baker. Or to the rest of us. Because what we learn next is that “we’re all Vegas.”

Phoenix and LA also face water pressures, as the Colorado River strains to meet growing demands. The film shows hotspots like the California’s Central Valley, where 7 million acres of irrigated agriculture have turned near desert into the source of one-quarter of the nation’s food — at a steep environmental price.

California is often warned it will be the next Australia, where a decade of drought has devastated the agricultural sector. At the peak of Australia’s drought, the film tell us, one farmer committed suicide every four days. We meet families who are struggling to save their farms, faced with having to slaughter all of their animals. The scenes of heartbreak in Australia are one of the few times in the film the narrative ventures outside the U.S. Mostly the storyline is focused on America’s own evolving plight.

We see Midland, Texas where a community is stricken by cancer from hexavalent chromium in its drinking water. A reoccurring voice throughout the film is Brockovich, who works as a legal consultant all over the U.S. for communities that often find themselves powerless in the face of industry pollution. “There are 1,200 Superfund sites the EPA can’t deal with,” says Brockovich. “The government won’t save you.”

For all our clean water laws, we aren’t very good at enforcement. From 2004 to 2005 an investigation found that the Clean Water Act was violated more than half a million times. It’s not just industry, but pesticides like atrazine, which we learn can be detected in the rain water in Minnesota when it’s being applied in Kansas. In Michigan we see another awful side to Big Ag, the liquid waste from factory “farming,” known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. These CAFOs threaten drinking water with chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones.

So what do we do in the face of these threats to our drinking water? Apparently we buy bottled water — which the film details is not only potentially less safe (it has different regulations from tap water) but is environmentally destructive as well.

There are a few bright spots in the film, including strides that have been made in Singapore and other places to recycle water for drinking. (We could at least start in the U.S. by recycling water for re-use in toilet flushing, irrigation and other non potable uses.) And we get to see a hilarious behind-the-scenes look at an advertising company trying to come up with a campaign to pursuade Americans to drink recycled water. Porcelain Springs anyone?

If you don’t know much about water issues, the film is an essential wake-up call. And judging from the way Americans use water, this film looks like it should have a large audience. It covers a lot of ground, but how well?

Last Call offers a few solutions but — except for a segment on recycled wastewater — little about how to traverse the tangled political, social and economic pathways to achieve them. In fact, at times its ‘stars’ show the exasperation and resignation that comes from years spent seeing the tires spin in the same wheel ruts,” writes Brett Walton at Circle of Blue. “With so many problems to choose from, some worthy candidates are excluded and some issues are insufficiently explored, but the writers make good use of the material they have selected. They explain technical issues, while never losing sight of the lives that are affected.”

Overall the film is beautiful and compelling but misses the mark in one important place — it fails to address energy in any meaningful way. There are split-second clips of tap water being lit on fire (fracking!) and what looks to be a flyover of a mountaintop removal mining site, but the filmmakers never talk in depth to any of the people who live in our energy sacrifice zones in this country. What about the devastation in Appalachia and the growing threats from fracking and tar sands extraction?

The issues of energy and water are inextricably linked. It takes energy to move and treat water and it takes water to keep our lights on and our cars running. The more we ignore the reality of our fossil-fuel addiction, the more we become tethered to a future of climate chaos — droughts, floods and more turbulent storms. It’d be nice to see a film about U.S. water issues that starts in West Virginia, Pennsylvania or Nebraska instead of Las Vegas. This is the most significant lost opportunity in a film that will hopefully have a large reach across the country as it imparts its other important messages.

Look for a screening near you and check out the trailer below.

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

Hitlerland | American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power


Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

” … Americans reacted to Hitler rather as any other nationality did. First they ridiculed him, then they expressed grudging admiration for the order he brought to Germany. Later, they turned a blind eye to his anti-Semitism … ” – Washington Post, March 16, 2012

How Hitler happened while America watched

By Liz Smith

Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2012

61dFezz2XYL  SL160 SL160 1 Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power (Book Reviews)

“THE TIMES in which we live move too fast for the considered historian to record them. They move too quickly to permit the writing of long books about momentary phases. Ours is the age of the reporter.”

If you think that is a recent quote, a comment on our age of instant reporting, blogging and tweeting, you’re wrong. The above was written by Dorothy Thompson, the famous journalist (and wife of Sinclair Lewis) in 1932. She was explaining the big rush of her short book, “I Saw Hitler!”

Dorothy’s quote is culled from a longer book, coming from Simon and Schuster. It is titled “Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power,” written by Andrew Nagorski. This book chronicles observations — from letters, diaries and unpublished memoirs — of American reporters, embassy workers and even tourists who worked and played in Germany from 1922 to 1941. It is riveting stuff.

Today, people continue to ask, “How could it have happened? How could Hitler have mesmerized a nation, planned a global conquest and attempted to exterminate the Jewish race?” Mr. Nagorski’s book goes a long way toward explaining. With few exceptions, most people — even savvy journalists embedded in Germany — simply could not believe what they were seeing. They didn’t take Hitler seriously … they were isolationists … they didn’t really care that much. And anyway, no one man — certainly not one as physically unprepossessing as Hitler — could truly sway all of Germany, could he? (Only his icy blue eyes distinguished him.)

I read this book in one terrible gulp. You know what’s coming, and you want to scream, “Wake up before it’s too late!” There are never enough examinations of this period. It wasn’t the 14th century; it was the 20th. With cars and movies and most of the luxuries, modern conveniences and civilized attitudes we have today. Yet it happened. And, yes, of course, it could happen again. It does, in fact; “ethnic cleansing” has occurred in Bosnia and Africa.

Amongst the cast of real-life characters there was one odd, infuriatingly flighty standout. Her name was Martha Dodd, daughter of William E. Dodd, who served as the American ambassador to Germany for a number of years. Martha was pretty and promiscuous, and spent her time in Germany bedding as many attractive men as possible — Nazi or otherwise. At first she was sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Then she became disenchanted and switched her attentions to communist Russia, which she considered an “ideal” way of life. She married an American financier, but became a Soviet spy! Eventually she and her husband fled the United States. They died in Prague many years after the war. Martha was kind of a thoughtless idiot, but as she kept popping up throughout the book, I wondered if her story might make an interesting film? The heroine doesn’t always have to be nice, after all.

In any case, Martha is only one of many who populate the pages of “Hitlerland.” This is an important, chilling book.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/sns-201203221700–tms–lizsmittr–x-a20120323mar23,0,997613.story

Washington Post:

“Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power” by Andrew Nagorski

By Gerard DeGroot

WaPo, March 16, 2012

… The cover boasts that the book contains some big names, including George Kennan, Charles Lindbergh, Jesse Owens, Edward R. Murrow, Sinclair Lewis and Richard Helms. But they in fact have small parts. The meat of the testimony comes from lesser figures such as the journalists Sigrid Schultz and Hubert Knickerbocker, the embassy official George Messersmith, and the military attache Truman Smith. Their recollections are bulked out with some fascinating trivialities.

As Nagorski points out, Berlin was, during the interwar period, the most interesting and exciting city on Earth. A sublime and cutting-edge culture was combined with peculiar politics, skyrocketing inflation and a lot of kinky sex. The political drama was rendered all the more fascinating by the shenanigans of a clown called Hitler whom few observers took seriously. Americans were welcomed because they represented the New World, a state of aspiration for Germans. Given the inflation, American dollars were powerful, making the frolics these visitors could enjoy in this land of fantasy all the more intense.

Americans reacted to Hitler rather as any other nationality did. First they ridiculed him, then they expressed grudging admiration for the order he brought to Germany. Later, they turned a blind eye to his anti-Semitism, excused his craving for territorial expansion and doubted his appetite for war. A few warned of Hitler’s threat, but they were largely ignored.

Most Americans tolerated German racism precisely because it was directed at Jews. The most striking feature of this book is how easily these visitors grafted themselves onto the prejudices of their hosts. Typical was Donald Watt, who arrived in Germany in 1932 to organize a student exchange. He convinced himself, on no evidence, that “relatively few” Jews were mistreated and decided that the main cause of anti-Semitism was that “a large proportion of all business was in Jewish hands.” In Berlin, hating Jews was the equivalent of high fashion. …

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/hitlerland-american-eyewitnesses-to-the-nazi-rise-to-power-by-andrew-nagorski/2012/03/02/gIQAEOtBHS_story.html

More Reviews:

Early Warnings: How American Journalists Reported the Rise of HitlerThe Atlantic – Mar 13, 2012

Turning a blind eye to the Nazi terror – Minneapolis Star Tribune – Mar 10, 2012

British Fascists Linked To US Extremists


BNP links to US extremists revealed by Anonymous

‘Hactivists’ target websites of far-right American Third Position and publish emails praising BNP leader Nick Griffin.
Hacked emails from a far-right group appear to reveal links with the BNP, after the group of American “hactivists” Anonymous targeted a number of US extremists’ websites.
The group infiltrated the site of American Third Position, a white nationalist political group, in a campaign ironically dubbed “Operation Blitzkrieg”, publishing emails in which it praised the BNP leader, Nick Griffin.
In one January 2010 email from “WhiteNewsNow” with the subject “Your Beautiful Pontoon Bridge”, Griffin is described as “probably the most effective white activist in the world today”.
A member of the group writes: “I’ve got my tickets for Jared Taylor‘s 2010 American Renaissance. Your fellow WhiteNewsNow members […] are meeting up with some more of us and probably the most effective White activist in the world today, Nick Griffin.”
In another from December 2009, the sender refers to Griffin in an email about the Copenhagen climate conference. It states: “Today will definitely be a Pearl Harbor for the Global Warming criminals who are at this moment cringing in the 4,200-seat arena in Copenhagen where Nick Griffin is clobbering them with the truth about Climategate. Good things are happening … and this is our chance to seize the opportunity.”
The links between the two groups appear to be current. Former BNP leadership contender Andrew Brons is mentioned in an email titled “minutes for leadership phone conference January 7, 2012”.
It states: “Next Meeting: Andrew Brons, Member of European Parliament and no. 2 in BNP, will be joining our phone conference. He has expressed enthusiasm about Merlin’s [Merlin Miller, the party’s nominee for the 2012 presidential election] presidential campaign. We must be prepared ahead of time by subject matter, questions and inquiring director.”
A spokesman for the BNP could not confirm or deny whether the party had links or was in contact with American Third Position. “We don’t know if [Andrew Brons] had contact with them over the phone. If he did we don’t see what the issue is, he’s a popular MEP. If he spoke to them he’s been elected to speak to people and share ideas, we speak to everyone including Muslim groups.”
Commenting on American Third Position presidential nominee Merlin Miller, he added: “With regards to America, we would welcome any deviation from the farce of two-party politics.”
Anonymous – a collective of hackers without any centralised authority – published thousands of personal emails, forum messages and personal details of members under the banner “Good Night, White Pride“.
In a statement, the hackers denounced American Third Position as “racist losers” who “try hard to maintain a professional public image to camouflage their vile racism […] we’re now airing all their dirty laundry all over the internet.”
It continued: “We call upon not only other anti-fascists but all those opposed to white supremacy to utilise this information and make hell for these white nationalist scumbags. It is essential if we wish to live in a world free from oppression to expose and confront racists at their jobs, their schools, at their homes and in the streets.”
The Guardian

Why The Right-Wing Brain Is Dysfunctional


How the Right-Wing Brain Works and What That Means for Progressives

            There really is a science of conservative morality, and it really is vastly different from liberal morality. And there are key lessons to be drawn from this research.

March 20, 2012  |

Photo Credit: ShutterStock.com
Editor’s Note: This essay draws upon Chris Mooney’s forthcoming book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality (due out in April from Wiley), as well as his interviews with George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt and Dan Kahan on the Point of Inquiry podcast.

If you’re a liberal or a progressive these days, you could be forgiven for being baffled and frustrated by conservatives. Their views and actions seem completely alien to us—or worse. From cheering at executions, to wanting to “throw up” over church-state separation, to seeking to “drown” government “in the bathtub” (except when it is cracking down on porn, apparently) conservatives not only seem very different, but also very inconsistent.

Even the most well-read liberals and progressives can be forgiven for being confused, because the experts themselves—George Lakoff, Jonathan Haidt and others–have different ways of explaining what they call conservatives’ “morality” or “moral systems.” Are we dealing with a bunch of die-hard anti-government types in their bunkers, or the strict father family? Are our intellectual adversaries free-market libertarians, or right-wing authoritarians—and do they even know the difference?

But to all you liberals I say, have hope: It’s not nearly so baffling as it may at first appear. Having interviewed many of these experts over the course of the last year, my sense is that despite coming from different fields and using different terminologies, they are saying many of the same things. Most important, their work suggests that there really is a science of conservative morality, and it really is very different from liberal morality. And there are key lessons to be drawn from this research about how to interact (and not interact) with our intellectual opponents.

That’s what I’m going to show—but first, let me first emphasize that morality isn’t the only way in which liberals and conservatives differ. They differ on a wide variety of traits–and it is not necessarily clear, as Jonathan Haidt recently put it to me, what’s the root of the flower, what’s the stem and what’s the leaves.

But set that aside for now. Moral differences between left and right tend to draw the greatest amount of attention, and for good reason: They seem most directly implicated in policy disputes and the culture wars alike.

Another thing that you need to know at the outset about conservative “morality” is that it’s not at all the sort of thing that moral philosophers debate endlessly about. We’re not talking about a highly developed intellectual system for determining the way one ought to act, like deontology or utilitarianism. We’re not paging Immanuel Kant or Jeremy Bentham.

Rather, we’re talking about the deep-seated impulses that push conservatives (or liberals) to act in a certain way. These needn’t be “moral” or “ethical” at all, in the sense of maximizing human happiness, ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number, adhering to a consistent set of rules and principles, and so on. Indeed, they may even be highly immoral by such standards—but there’s no denying that they are very real, and must be contended with.

The Science of Left-Right Morality

So how do conservatives think—and more important still, what do we know scientifically about how they think?

Perhaps the earliest and most influential thinker into this fray was the Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff, with his classic book Moral Politics and many subsequent works (most recently, this item at Huffington Post). Lakoff’s opening premise is that we all think in metaphors. These are not the kind of thing that English majors study, but rather real, physical circuits in the brain that structure our cognition, and that are strengthened the more they are used. For instance, we learn at a very early age how things go up and things go down, and then we talk about the stock market and individual fortunes “rising” and “falling”—a metaphor.

For Lakoff, one metaphor in particular is of overriding importance in our politics: The metaphor that uses the family as a model for broader groups in society—from athletic teams to companies to governments. The problem, Lakoff says, is that we have different conceptions of the family, with conservatives embracing a “strict father” model and liberals embracing a caring, empathetic and “nurturing” version of a parent.

The strict father family is like a free-market system, and yet also very hierarchical and authoritarian. It’s a harsh world out there and the father (the supreme and always male authority) is tough and will teach the kids to be tough, because there will be no one to protect them once the father is gone. The political implications are obvious. In contrast, the nurturing parent family emphasizes love, care and growth—and, so the argument goes, compassionate government control.

Lakoff has been extremely influential, but it’s important to also consider other scientific analyses of the moral systems of left and right. Enter the University of Virginia moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion has just come out. In his own research, Haidt initially identified five (and more recently, six) separate moral intuitions that appear to make us feel strongly about situations before we’re even consciously aware of thinking about them; that powerfully guide our reasoning; and that differ strikingly from left and right.

Haidt’s first five intuitions, or “moral foundations,” are 1) the sense of needing to provide care and protect from harm; 2) the sense of what is just and fair; 3) the sense of loyalty and willingness to sacrifice for a group; 4) the sense of obedience or respect for authority; and 5) the sense of needing to preserve purity or sanctity. And politically, Haidt finds that liberals tend to strongly emphasize the first two moral intuitions (harm and fairness) in their responses to situations and events, but are much weaker on emphasizing the other three (group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity or sanctity). By contrast, Haidt finds that conservatives more than liberals respond to all five moral intuitions.

Indeed, multiple studies associate conservatism with a greater disgust reflex or sensitivity. In one telling experiment, subjects who were asked to use a hand wipe before answering questions, or to answer them near a hand sanitizer, gave more politically conservative answers. Haidt even told me in our interview that when someone like Rick Santorum talks about wanting to “throw up,” that may indeed signal a strong disgust sensitivity.

More recently, Haidt and his colleagues added a sixth moral foundation: “Liberty/oppression.” Liberals and conservatives alike care about being free from tyranny, from unjust exertions of power, but they seem to apply this impulse differently. Liberals use it (once again) to stand up for the poor, the weak; conservatives use it to support the “don’t tread on me” fulminating against big government (and global government) of the Tea Party. This, incidentally, creates a key emotional bond between libertarians on the one hand, and religious conservatives on the other.

Haidt strives to understand the conservative perspective, and to walk a middle path between left and right—but he fully admits in his book that conservative morality is more “parochial.” Conservatives, writes Haidt, are more “concerned about their groups, rather than all of humanity.” And Haidt further suggests that this is not his own view of what is ethical, writing that “when we talk about making laws and implementing public policies in Western democracies that contain some degree of ethnic and moral diversity, then I think there is no compelling alternative to utilitarianism.” It’s hard to see how thinking about the good of the in-group (rather than the good of everyone) could be considered very utilitarian.

But to my mind, here’s the really telling thing about all of this. When you get right down to it, Lakoff and Haidt seem to be singing harmony with each other. It’s not just that they could both be right—it’s that the large overlap between them strengthens both accounts, especially since the two researchers are coming from different fields and using very different methodologies and terminologies.

Lakoff’s system overlaps with Haidt’s in multiple places—most obviously when it comes to liberals showing broader empathy and wanting to care for those who are harmed (nurturing parent) and conservatives respecting authority (strict father). But the overlaps are larger still, for the strict father family is also an in-group and quite individualistic—in other words, prizing the conservative version of freedom or liberty.

What’s more, both of these systems are also consistent with a third approach that is growing in influence: The cultural cognition theory being advanced by Yale’s Dan Kahan and his colleagues, which divides us morally into “hierarchs” and “egalitarians” along one axis, and “individualists” and “communitarians” along another (helpful image here). Conservatives, in this scheme, tend towards the hierarchical and the individualistic; liberals tend toward the egalitarian and the communitarian.

Throwing Kahan into the mix—and yes, he uses yet another methodology–we once again find great consistency with Lakoff and Haidt. Egalitarians worry about fairness; communitarians about protecting the innocent from harm; hierarchs about authority and the group (and probably sanctity or purity—hierarchs tend toward the religious). Individualists are, basically, exercisers of the conservative version of freedom and liberty.

Terminology aside, then, Lakoff, Haidt and Kahan seem to have considerably more grounds for agreement with each other than for disagreement, at least when it comes to describing what actually motivates political conservatives and political liberals.

And in fact, that’s just the beginning of the expert agreement. In all of these schemes, what’s being called “morality” is emotional and, in significant part, automatic. It’s not about the conscious decisions you make about situations or policies—or at least, not primarily. Rather, the focus is on the unconscious impulses that shape how you think about situations before you’re even aware you’re doing so, and then guide (and bias) your reasoning.

This leads Lakoff and Haidt to strongly reject what you might call the “Enlightenment model” for thinking about reasoning and persuasion, and leads Kahan to talk about motivated reasoning, rather than rational or objective reasoning. Once again, these thinkers are essentially agreeing that because morality biases us long before consciousness and reasoning set in, factual and logical argument are not at all a good way to get us to change our behavior and how we respond.

This is also a point I made recently, noting how Republicans become more factually wrong with higher levels of education. Facts clearly don’t change their minds—if anything, they make matters worse! Lakoff, too, emphasizes how refuting a false conservative claim can actually reinforce it. And he doesn’t merely show why the Enlightenment mode of thinking is outdated; he also stresses that liberals are more wedded to it than conservatives, and this irrational rationalism lies at the root of many political failures on the left.

Getting Through

On the one hand, the apparent consensus among these experts is surely something to rejoice about. Progress is finally being made at understanding the emotional and cognitive roots of the culture war and our political dysfunction alike. But if all of this is really true—if conservatives and liberals have deep seated and automatic moral and emotional differences—then what should we do about it?

Here, finally, we do find real disagreement among the pros. Lakoff would have liberals combat conservative morality by shouting their own values from the rooftops, and never falling for conservative words and frames. Haidt would increase political civility by remaking our institutions of government to literally make liberals and conservatives feel empathetic bonds and the power of teamwork. And Kahan has done experiments showing that talking about the same issue in different value laden “frames” leads to different outcomes. For instance, if you discuss dealing with global warming in an individualistic frame—by emphasizing the importance of free market approaches like nuclear power—then you open conservative minds, at least to an extent. We’ve got data on that.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the experts become dissonant as they move from merely describing conservative morality to outlining strategy. After all, there’s a heck of a lot more uncertainty involved when you start to prescribe courses of action aimed at achieving particular outcomes. Understanding conservatives in controlled experiments is one thing; trying to outline a communications strategy with Fox News around, ready to pounce, is another matter.

Nevertheless, here’s what I’ve been able to extract.

Clearly, you shouldn’t try to persuade your ideological opponents by citing threatening facts. Rather, if your goal is an honest give-and-take, you should demonstrate the existence of common ground and shared values before broaching anything controversial, and you should interact calmly and interpersonally. To throw emotion into the mix is to stoke automatic, moralistic, indignant responses.

Such are some scientific tips about trying to communicate and persuade–but liberals should not get overoptimistic about the idea of convincing conservatives to change their beliefs, much less their moral responses. There are far too many factors arrayed against this possibility at present—not just the deeply rooted and instinctive nature of moral intuitions, but our current political polarization, by parties and also by information channels.

You can’t have a calm, unemotional conversation when everything is framed as a battle, as it currently is. Our warfare over reality, and for control of the country, is just too intense. And in a “wartime” situation, conservative have their in-group preferences to naturally fall back on.

But if we merge together Lakoff and Haidt, then I think we do end up with some good advice for liberals who want to advance their own view of what is moral. On the one hand, they should righteously advance their own values, not conservative ones. But they should remain fully aware that these values are somewhat limited since, as Haidt shows, conservatives seem to have a broader moral palette.

To reach the political middle, then, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to demonstrate much more loyalty than liberals are used to emphasizing, and to show respect for authority as well—which doesn’t come so naturally to us. What authority should we respect? I suggest either the authority of president, or perhaps better yet, the authority of the Founding Fathers. Let’s face it: Conservatives have insulted, defiled, and disobeyed the secular, rational, and Enlightenment legacy of the people who founded this country (if you want to get moralistic about it).

When it comes to loyalty and unity in particular, liberals could stand to look in the mirror and try to be more…conservative. Not in their substantive policy views, but in their ability to act as a team with one purpose and one goal that cannot be compromised or weakened. Diversity is great for our society—but not for our objectives. And that means we have something to learn from conservatives: They may not know how to make America better, but they certainly know how to take a strong, united and moralistic stand in order to get what they want.

That’s an example that liberals could do worse than to follow.

Chris Mooney is the author of four books, including “The Republican War on Science” (2005). His next book, “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality,” is due out in April.

Young Turks Kick Callista Gingrich When She’s Down (VIDEO)


Young Turks Kick Callista Gingrich When She’s Down (VIDEO)

by Rebecca Schoenkopf

To Serve Man
Everyone hates Moon Empress and Lizardoid “V” Queen Callista Gingrich, this is not “news.” But why? Wonkette’s own Jim Newell explained she has never done anything to anyone (we guess Jim forgot about Newt’s second wife) and is not even running for anything so what who cayuhs. Well, Cenk [Last Name] of The Young Turks apparently does, that’s who, and put together a nightmare video, after the jump.
VIDEO:-

The Blasphemy of Thomas Jefferson


Jefferson’s Blasphemy on Display at the Smithsonian

By Steve Lowe

This article first appeared in the WASHLine, the Washington Area Secular Humanist’s January 2012 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

Living in the Washington area provides numerous opportunities not available to most Americans because the Smithsonian Institution is in our backyard. One such occasion is visited upon us until May 28th, 2012.  The so-called Jefferson Bible has been placed back on display in a new, expanded exhibit at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum on the National Mall. Having deteriorated in the 191 years since its creation in 1820 by Jefferson and his book binder in Richmond, it was taken into the museum’s conservation laboratory where it was gingerly deconstructed, examined forensically, digitally photographed, repaired and reconstructed into its original leather binding. It can be visited again in a gallery dedicated to it on the Museum’s second floor.

Essentially, Jefferson took the four books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in which each—differently—tell the story of one man, and merged them into one chronological story only 82 pages long. Of the 3,779 verses in all four books, he extracted only 1,089, or 29%! In a letter to his friend William Short he said of this: “I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross.” He left out redundancies, miracles, and parts he considered unbelievable, unreliable, or unnecessary to appreciate the moral teachings of Jesus, which Jefferson considered to be:  “… the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

Having selected the verses, which he listed in a Table of Contents, he went about constructing a book–like a scrapbook–by literally cutting out his selected verses from the Bible and pasting them onto blank pages of paper. If you have ever cut out coupons from a newspaper or magazine, you quickly realize the potential of ruining one coupon by cutting out one on the reverse side of the page. Realizing this in advance, Jefferson acquired two exact copies of the same edition of the Bible from which to cut his verses!

These two English Bibles, with verses cut out, are also on display in the Smithsonian exhibit. To see these scissor-and-knife scarred “holy books” desecrated by Jefferson is a most inspiring experience!  Even more impressive, being a man of letters and able to read several languages, he did the same cut-and-paste exercise in four languages: Greek, Latin, French, and English. Thus, when you look at the opened book, there are four columns, two on each page, where one can read the same verses in each language from left to right. So, if he had compiled just the English texts, the book would have been only 20 pages long!

He starts with Luke, chapter 2, leaving out that whole ‘virgin birth’ thing; and ends with Matthew 27:60: “There laid they Jesus, ….and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed”, thus dropping the ‘raised from the dead and resurrection’ thing.  In between,  all of the miracles are left, so to speak, on the cutting room floor leaving only what Jefferson titled his work: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth: Extracted textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English.

Jefferson had his pages bound by a printer in Richmond and never intended for it to be published or even known about by others. It was in the possession of his great granddaughter when it was bought by the librarian of the Smithsonian Institution in 1895 for $400. In 1902 the U.S. Congress commissioned 9,000 copies of Jefferson’s book to be printed by the Government Printing Office and made available to all congressmen. When these copies ran out in the 1950s no more were printed for this official distribution. A copy of this Congressional edition is on exhibit along with Jefferson’s single original bound (now restored) book. The contents of his book have been transcribed and available from book publishers for many years and numerous editions of it are available from book sellers. The Smithsonian has created a new life-sized facsimile on quality paper and leather binding using the high quality photographs of each page taken while the book was being examined and conserved in the laboratory. It is available in the Smithsonian bookstore or it can be read on-line at the new website dedicated to this exhibit at http://americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/.

I highly recommend visiting this exhibit to be inspired by it and to make your telling of this courageous feat of Jefferson even more interesting.

Defend Blasphemers


International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers – Guest Post
Bjarte Foshung     From Fevic, Norway.
posted in the comments section of the Guardian (in response to the recent debate between Richard Dawkins and Will Hutton regarding the role of religion in Britain’s public life) which I hope bears repeating:

It should be pretty clear by now that anything other than discrimination in religion’s favour will be construed as anti-religious discrimination or “imposing atheism”. The appalling thing is that in the west in the 21st century “secularism” (i.e. the absence of any religious bias from politics) still needs defending at all.

In Saudi Arabia Hamza Kashgari faces prosecution, and possibly execution, for being insufficiently deferential when tweeting about Mohammed. In Indonesia Alexander Aan is in jail (after being violently attacked by the religious mob) for making an atheist remark on Facebook (atheism is officially a crime in Indonesia). In India Salman Rushdie had to cancel his appearance at the Jaipur literary festival because of death threats. In Amsterdam muslim extremists stormed a book launch by muslim reformist Irshad Manji, threatening to break her neck. In London the Atheism, Secularism, and Humanism Society at Queen Mary College had to cancel a meeting after a muslim began filming the attendants and threatening to kill them. And some people want to tell us to that “militant” secularism is really the problem here (Notice the double standard btw: Atheists are called “militant” if they use logic and humour, whereas militant believers use threats and violence.)

Atheists are not the ones who are advocating a double standard. We are not singling out religious beliefs for special criticism. We just don’t see why it should be singled out for special protection, and we are confident that no religion could survive in the absence of the astronomical double standards that are now applied in their favour. The moment we start judging religious claims by the same standards of logic and evidence by which even the believers themselves judge secular claims, then religion will have been dealt a mortal blow. Even weak scientific hypotheses generally have more going for them than any religious claim ever had (the argument from design is just embarrassing, and all the other arguments for God’s existence are even worse), yet no scientist worth his weight in salt refrains from criticizing a weak hypothesis (or indeed a strong one) for fear of causing offence. Those who have good reasons for what they believe, appeal to those. Appeals to “respect for the beliefs of others” are only ever heard when there are no good reasons to appeal to. But a belief can hardly become any more worthy of respect for being based on bad reasons. As Sam Harris so eloquently put it: “Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail”.

There is an equally appalling moral double standard. As a thought experiment, imagine a ruler of some foreign country (preferably a white, western, secular one, otherwise we might just have to “respect his culture”) who said and did all the same things that the biblical god supposedly said and did (ordering genocides, demanding rape victims to be stoned, threatening to force anyone who disobeys him to eat their children etc.). Now imagine the reaction if someone in our part of the world publically sided with this disgusting monster. My guess is that they would be met with public outrage and charges of “hate-speech”. Leftist radicals would organize protests wherever they went, and we would see attempts to have their views censored. Substitute our imaginary dictator for an equally imaginary god, and much of the indignation suddenly turns against those who criticize the same evil. If this is not hypocrisy, then nothing is.

Even if the Bible represented the very best of its day (which it clearly didn’t), the best of the Iron Age is still awful by the standards of the 21st century and should not be allowed to influence modern life in any way. If you believe in a god who literally said and did everything that Yahweh is supposed to have said and done according to the Bible, and in spite of this you still take God’s side, then there is nothing you can accuse anybody else of that is worse than what you, yourself actively favour. Religious moderates and liberals, on the other hand, may not promote intolerance and violence themselves, but through their disingenuous whitewashing of their holy texts they give legitimacy to books and doctrines that definitely promote intolerance and violence. And just in case you wonder, I have read the Bible, and if there is any overarching message to be derived from this disaster area of a book it’s that God is not a moderate.

International Day of Action to Defend Blasphemers and Apostates