From the International Space Station.
From the International Space Station.
White House photographer Pete Souza writes on Instagram:
Still editing 2014 Year in Photos. I may include this one even though it's a posed photo. This is from the annual White House Science Fair. The kids from Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, convinced the President to wear a tiara with them for their group photo. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood proof bridge project.
Conservatives, of course, won't be able to resist jumping on this image to prove that the President is acting like a king. I suppose it will also be seized upon by conspiracy theorists like former comedian Dick Gregory who say (and I am not making this up) that the President is secretly homosexual. Mister Cool doesn't worry about that stuff. He just brushes it off and goes about his business.
National Geographic explains:
Using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center, filmmaker Fede Castro creates a captivating time-lapse video of Earth from space. In a little over four minutes, "Nuestra Tierra—Our Earth" takes us around the world, sighting major cities and even catching the breathtaking aurora borealis.
At the darkest time of year, it is good to see how magnificent our planet is despite all our efforts to wreck it. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all on the good Earth.
In a new study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers used the ancestry data compiled by the commercial genetic testing company 23and Me to measure the percentage of African ancestry of people who self-identified as white. It turns out that self-identified white people who live in the South have the highest concentrations of African DNA.
I'm shocked, shocked to find there's been miscegenation going on up in here.
My post-election column is now up at the Blade. If you're dreading the holidays and could use a booster shot of snark, this could be just the thing. Here's an excerpt:
With Republicans winning the Senate and Obamacare on the run, a new Era of Good Feeling is surely around the corner. Vote suppression, gerrymandering, and truckloads of secret cash are just another way of saying, "The people have spoken!" Someone please turn this into lyrics for a new Christmas carol.
The best hope for Democrats is Republican overreach. By that I do not mean your right-wing uncle getting gravy on his sweater as he reaches across the table at Thanksgiving. I mean unhinged recklessness driven by hubris and Obama hatred. Profits are up, unemployment and deficits are down -- get that Muslim socialist out of the White House before he ruins us!
Republicans are furious at the President's unrepentant attitude, despite their own intransigence after past losses. Elections must have consequences when Republicans win. Talk of government shutdowns and impeachment is rising. But President Obama has little to lose by picking fights (by which I mean being president, black, and doing anything). If you abuse someone no matter what he does, he might as well stand his ground. That is what our 44th president, at long last, appears to be doing.
From National Geographic, a compilation by filmmaker Fede Castro using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center.
A national park ranger in the Democratic Republic of Congo struggles to protect gorillas from a brutal civil war.
How anyone could bear to harm such wonderful creatures I do not understand. But then the same applies to the children that are seen in the film. Unending war in this beautiful land harms both. Those who protect them are heroes.
Rebecca Leber at The New Republic writes:
In handing Republicans control of the Senate on Tuesday, Americans effectively voted for the party's hostile plans against President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Their votes also put the Senate's environment and climate policy into the hands of the worst science-denier in national politics: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is almost certainly the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Bi-curious whales do it, quails do it,
New hermaphroditic snails do it.
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
Below, though sadly without benefit of my special lyrics, Billie Holiday gives her rendition. Use your imagination.
Azeen Ghorayshi of the Guardian reports:
Researchers in Taiwan have taken the unusual step of naming a newly identified species of snail in recognition of same-sex marriage rights. Dubbed Aegista diversifamilia, the hermaphroditic species was so named to reflect the “diversity of sexual orientation in the animal kingdom”, said Dr Yen-Chang Lee, who co-authored the study published on Monday in the journal ZooKeys.
Today GLAA received the following media inquiry:
My name is Manon Verchot, I am a journalist working at TreeHugger.com. I'm writing a piece about a new species of snail being named in celebration of same sex-marriage (http://bit.ly/1tZE2Jk) and I would love to get a statement from your organisation addressing what your thoughts are on this and what you think it means (if anything).
I will be publishing this piece Thursday morning, I would really appreciate it if you could get back to me before then.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I like to be helpful to members of the press, so I replied:
It seems like a lovely tribute, though I am somewhat reticent because inevitably some confused social conservative will complain that the next thing you know, someone will want to marry his pet snail. As it happens, I have no pet snail, and do not wish to marry one. Thus what began so pleasantly ends up with my having to deny amorous feelings toward gastropods.
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
On a more serious note, those interested in the extensive examples of homosexuality that scientists have observed among animals should take a look at Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl.
Leonardo DiCaprio's opening remarks at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit in New York City.
Right Wing Watch reports:
In a “Faith & Liberty” interview posted last week, potential GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson discussed his rejection of the theory of evolution, arguing that the science of evolution is a sign of humankind’s arrogance and belief “that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything.”
He claimed that “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.”
Carson pointed to the “complexity of the human brain” as proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”
Next we'll put the nucleotide sequencing in Dr. Carson's DNA molecules up for a popular vote. Because science is dependent on popular opinion. Actually no. Because, as Neil deGrasse Tyson recently told Stephen Colbert, "That's the good thing about science: It's true whether or not you believe in it."
The group Faith and Action says on its "About" page:
The missionary outreaches at Faith and Action are targeted specifically toward our nation’s public policy makers and particularly to Capitol Hill. We believe such a narrowly targeted effort is the most effective method for accomplishing our mission – to challenge our leaders with Biblical TRUTH.
If you suspect they are not big fans of GLAA's work, you are right. But on Friday, I came across this tweet in response to my article, "Free Speech and the Bible Museum":
Religious Freedom: Applause where applause is due. http://t.co/iuC99hnpK1 We’re often too quick to condemn and too slow to compliment....— Faith and Action (@FAADC) July 25, 2014
Here is the praise from Faith and Action blogger kaitlynn:
We’re often too quick to condemn and too slow to compliment. So, this time we wanted to make a point to applaud the writer of this article for standing up for religious freedom to back a cause that we happen to agree with, and HE happens to disagree with.
Richard J. Rosendall (President, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance) there are plenty of things we fully disagree with you on, but find your willingness to champion the freedom of speech and religious freedoms of everyone (despite the fact that you disagree with their views, and probably taking some heat for it) impressive.
Oh, dear, I'm in trouble now! But thank you. I hear faint echoes of the famous Christmas ceasefire in WWI. Or to quote JFK: "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."
Best wishes and God bless America,
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
A friend joked that I would be run out of town by angry liberals, and offered me sanctuary in another state (which I will keep confidential in case I need it); but joking aside, it is foolish and ahistorical to think we weaken our position by defending the free speech rights of our opponents. Censorship by our side is not only obnoxious and hypocritical, it is (as my article points out) unnecessary because we have the better arguments. As another friend put it yesterday, GLAA's approach demonstrates the maturity of our movement. (Or at least our corner of it, as I said back to him.)
My latest column is now online at Metro Weekly, arguing that faith-based advocacy should not be disguised as licensed healthcare. Here's an excerpt:
Encountering the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg in the D.C. Council Chambers on June 27 took me back five years to our battles over the District's marriage equality bill. This time it was a hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Sprigg was furious at the attempt to deny choice to troubled teens seeking to overcome their gay desires.
One should always be skeptical toward right-wing busybodies who use "choice" as a rallying cry, and so it is in this case. Gay and lesbian teens whose ears are filled with cries of abomination know the sound of rejection. If choice is a concern, shouldn't they be given the choice of a supportive environment? And if professional therapy is the way to help, shouldn't we mention that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973?
The anti-gay groups represented at the hearing, including FRC, PFOX, and the International Healing Foundation, are frozen in amber on homosexuality, which they deem forever sick, sinful, and illicit. With the pathologizing and criminalizing of gayness having ended in America, and with many faiths affirming LGBT lives, the dwindling band of demonizers resorts increasingly to shrillness and deception at home and proselytizing overseas.
The homophobes conceal their faith-based motivation behind a veil of pseudoscience. The trouble is, they dictate nature rather than observing it.
I spent 5 hours on Friday in a D.C. Council hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors (so you wouldn't have to). One highlight was Peter Sprigg of FRC expressing his fury over the bill. Special thanks to Bishop Rainey Cheeks and Rev. Graylan Hagler for their testimony, to Saul Cruz for representing GLAA, and to Alison Gill of HRC for coordinating the coalition effort. Frank Kameny would be rolling in his grave (if he had one) over the repeated invocations of NARTH and other quacks by our opponents. But we have the science, the DC Council, and 2 federal courts on our side.
Lots of groups got involved, including the DC Center, Wanda Alston Foundation, SMYAL, SPLC, The Trevor Project, American Academy of Pediatrics, PFLAG, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, plus survivors of reparative therapy. It was a fine demonstration of a broad and strong coalition effort. Thanks to all of them. But oh, how happy I was when Graylan Hagler's voice boomed from the witness table. It made up for so much nonsense and lies I had been listening to from our opponents.
Oh, and though HIV Testing Day and other matters kept Metro Teen AIDS from attending, they are submitting written testimony. Speaking of which, anyone is free to weigh in. From the hearing notice: "For those unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements can be emailed to email@example.com or mailed to Rayna Smith at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 115, Washington, D.C., 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014."
In the next few days I will post links to various groups' testimony over at GLAA's main website.
On Friday, June 27 at noon in the D.C. Council chamber, GLAA and others will testify on Bill 20-501, to prohibit so-called conversion therapy for minors. The above video from National Center for Lesbian Rights, with whom GLAA is in coalition, is from their #BornPerfect campaign against this dangerous and discredited junk medicine.
This guy says he doesn't want to be misunderstood as being anti-gay. He just wants to preserve dangerous quackery as an option.
It is extremely rare to have a full moon on Friday the 13th. The next one won't come until 2049.
Even rarer and more satanic, says brave dyslexic Michele Bachmann, is when Friday the 13th and a full moon coincide with Halloween.
Right Wing Watch reports:
Truth In Action Ministries, which has released several over-the-top films (including one likening the rise of gay rights to the sinking of the Titanic), in its latest project takes on the “religion” of environmentalism and climate science. The film closely resembles “Resisting the Green Dragon,” the 2010 “documentary” in which Religious Right activists unironically accused environmentalists of religious fanaticism.
In the new film from Truth In Action, formerly known as Coral Ridge Ministries, Southern Baptist Convention official Richard Land describes environmentalists as “watermelons” who are “green on the outside and pink on the inside.”
Check out Charles Krauthammer's latest column.
I hardly know where to start with Krauthammer's attempt to turn liberals into totalitarians. He blames "activists" for a grassroots effort by Mozilla employees and developers. He ignores the legal and constitutional issues at the core of the marriage equality fight and pretends it is all moral and philosophical -- because the religious bullies on his side of the aisle are determined to cast themselves as victims. He pretends that Obama had the same position as Brendan Eich in 2008, but Obama opposed Proposition 8. I was not happy with Obama's position back then, and criticized his slowness to "evolve" on the issue; but ballot measures were a key battleground, and Obama opposed their use to attack gays.
Krauthammer's argument on climate change is not with Obama but with scientists, who (despite his tendentious cherry picking) overwhelmingly agree that human activity played a role in it. And he mocks the reference to "change" instead of "warming" as if it is an evasion, when it more accurately reflects the science, which does not claim uniform effects. Here Krauthammer flirts with those who confuse weather and climate, though he knows better.
What is the point of all this furious and smug propagandizing? It is to make the relentless assault on gay families look like a mere dinner table argument, and to make those defending themselves look like the aggressors. It is to deflect attention from plutocrats like the Koch brothers who use fights on social issues to distract people from the harm being done to their own interests, as with Art Pope hijacking North Carolina and installing minoritarian government.
Just get everyone arguing over free contraceptives and women being sluts, and somehow the women whose reproductive freedom is under aggressive assault become the aggressors. All of this would be hilarious were it not so pernicious.
The senator's wacky dad has an odd way of showing his love for gay people.
Setting aside the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice (just ask homophobes when they chose to be straight), the notion that something chosen cannot be a civil right is awfully strange coming from people who make a lot of noise about their chosen religion.
You will be assimilated into the Google hive mind.
The internet is noting what happened to this woman in a bar in San Francisco when she wore Google Glass. She has called this a hate crime. As she notes the product hasn't even been released yet. But when it is released it will be irresistible.
Think of some of the possibilities. An app has been announced Where when you meet someone new in a bar you can take a photo of them and it will search a database and identify who they are. A woman could know if this person is who they say they are, if they are married or has a criminal record. Gay men could know if the guy was on the downlow and what they were packing in their pants. And you could get a review of their performance in bed from your trusted social circle. Priceless. Grindr for Glass can't be far away. And the amazing thing is that people will pay to be assimilated. A lot.
Keep in mind that this is just the start. They are already working on contact lenses that have video displays in the lens. In 50 years the technology will be light years along. Instead of having a earpiece for sound you will have implants. So while non-enhance humans are sleeping you could be learning new things. And Google could improve your mental health by assuring you that you have nothing to worry about from technology and your retirement is perfectly safe in a 401k plan invested in their company. In 50 years the non-enhanced will be at a distinct disadvantage. This woman is a visionary not a clueless Glasshole.
Wayne Besen writes at Truth Wins Out:
Sexual orientation is not a choice and the evidence is quite clear that it is caused by biological factors.This study helps further debunk myths and misconceptions spread by anti-gay activists who falsely portray homosexuality as unnatural.
Jezebel reports a tragic story in which a couple of ethical issues arise, including journalistic ethics. Bottom line: Dr. V's credentials fraud was separate from her gender identity and did not require disclosure of it.
The Daily Show takes on the smirking ignoramuses who don't get the difference between weather and climate, who mock climate scientists as if the latter had ever said there would be no more winter. But this is no joke. America's ability to compete globally is under serious threat from aggressive know-nothingism, as illustrated by anti-science congressmen on the House science committee. Fight back!
Alan Mathison Turing, the brilliant mathematician who broke the Nazi naval Enigma code in World War II and pioneered modern computing but who was hounded to an early grave for being homosexual has been pardoned by Queen Elizabeth.
This was a long time in coming. Bravo and thanks to all who have worked over the years to tell his story and to bring him some measure of justice including Andrew Hodges, who wrote Alan Turing: The Enigma in 1983; to Hugh Whitemore, whose 1986 play (and 1996 movie) Breaking the Code starred Derek Jacobi as Turing; and to Patrick Sammon, executive producer of Codebreaker. Winston Churchill said that Turing deserved a peerage for his contribution to defeating Hitler. A royal pardon is well short of that; but it is a graceful act, and a bit of vindication.
The Economist reports on the dilemma faced by biblical literalists contending with genomics that shows homo sapiens is not descended from a single pair. Happily, young evangelicals are less inclined to insist that their religion be at war with science. Tick tock, Know-Nothing Party.
The video of the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House on November 20, 2013.
Right Wing Watch reports on the latest murderous rampage by the Christian right's angry tribal deity. Why anyone would worship such a monster rather than curse him I have never understood. Just to be clear, I do not for a moment believe that any such infantile brat is supervising the cosmos. I very much appreciate the fact that many people of faith have a conception of God that is not so primitive and idiotic. Pardon me, but that's the best I can do at the moment. Please don't sic a cyclone on me, in the name of Angry Mary Whom You Really Shouldn't Mess With, Amen.
Incidentally, here's a real news story on the deadly tornados that hit the Midwest on Sunday.
Pope Francis this weekend honored the 16-year-old science prodigy who developed a cost-effective method to detect pancreatic cancer.
Jack Andraka has received several awards for his breakthrough cancer research, but he says, as a gay scientist, the honor from the Vatican feels uniquely rewarding....
Andraka received the International Giuseppe Sciacca Award, which is given to young adults whom the Vatican considers to be positive role models.
This video by Steve Ellington shows the partial solar eclipse that was in progress as the sun rose on the east coast on November 3, 2013. I went to my roof to see it, but clouds obscured the horizon. Hat tip to Craig Howell. We share this in memory of our friend and former GLAA president, eclipse chaser Barrett Brick. He would have been watching from Africa or the mid-Atlantic.
Right Wing Watch shares this bit of amateur science from Christian nationalist David Barton, who attributes global climate change to a divine punishment for abortion. When you don't bother voting, remember that some guy around the corner who follows Barton is voting. The problem is not so much the ignorance itself as the aggressiveness with which it is promoted as the basis of public policy. Let's not be smug; the crazies are unrelenting.
Addicting Info shares this video of Pat Robertson being a heartless, ignorant jackass. (Not the heaviest of lifting, but we appreciate their efforts nonetheless.)Dear Pat, I respectfully, and with the abiding love of our lord and savior etc. etc., submit two options for your consideration:
(Hat tip: Steven Publicover)