In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

As More Latinos Drop Religion, Should GOP Be Extra Worried?

…Put differently, almost 1 in 5 Hispanics now says he has no religious affiliation, more than the approximately 1 in 6 who identifies as Republican (many of whom are Cuban-Americans).

And the ranks of the Hispanic nones are growing quickly — nearly doubling from 10 percent in 2010, with the most pronounced jump occurring among younger Latinos. A whopping 31 percent of those ages 18-29 say they are religiously unaffiliated, about two-thirds the number of those who say they are Catholic (45 percent).

Only a fraction of the Hispanic nones identify as atheist (68 percent of all nones believe in God), but the growth in the number of nones mirrors a larger national trend: According to a 2012 Gallup poll, 17.8 percent of all Americans said they were nonreligious.

The growth of the Hispanic nones represents a “catching up” to the broader U.S. trend, particularly among younger Hispanics, says Hector Avalos, a professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. “It used to be that Latino identity meant a Catholic identity,” Avalos told Religion News Service. “That is no longer the case.”

The trend also means that the number of Hispanic nones has now surpassed Hispanics who say they are born-again or evangelical Protestants (16 percent), which could have some significant political consequences, particularly for Republicans. For example, according to the 2013 Hispanic Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 80 percent of religiously unaffiliated Hispanics favored same-sex marriage, while only 21 percent of Hispanic evangelical Protestants did. A similar gap exists when it comes to abortion (69 versus 25 percent) and other social issues.

So while Hispanics may not be lining up to buy the latest Richard Dawkins book, the growth of the left-leaning Latino nones suggests that the Republican Party’s “Hispanic problem” may only get worse. And given broader trends, it may not be long before the real question facing the GOP is how to address its “nones problem.”

Virginia Republicans Move Forward with Mass Disenfranchisement

This morning, I wrote on an emerging Republican plan—in swing states won by President Obama—to rig presidential elections by awarding electoral votes to the winner of the most congressional districts. Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space.

In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state.

For this reason, I didn’t expect Republicans to go forward with the plan—the risk of blowback is just too high. My skepticism, however, was misplaced. In Virginia, a local news station reports that just this afternoon, a state Senate subcommittee recommended a bill end Virginia’s winner-take-all system and apportion its 13 electoral votes by congressional district.

Unlike similar proposals in Pennsylvania and Michigan, this one wouldn’t award the remaining electoral votes to the winner (Virginia has 11 districts). Rather, the winner of the most congressional districts would get the final two votes. If this were in effect last year, Obama would have gotten just 4 of the state’s votes, despite winning 51 percent of its voters.

skepticalavenger:


Chris Howard:  America really looks like this - I was looking at the amazing 2012 election maps created by Mark Newman (Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2012 ), and although there is a very interesting blended voting map (Most of the country is some shade of purple, a varied blend of Democrat blue and Republican red) what I really wanted was this blended map with a population density overlay. Because what really stands out is how red the nation seems to be when you do not take the voting population into account; when you do so many of those vast red mid-west blocks fade into pale pink and lavender (very low population).
So I created a new map using Mark’s blended voting map based on the actual numbers of votes for each party overlaid with population maps from Texas Tech University and other sources. 
Here’s the result—what the American political voting distribution really looks like.

This post has gone viral for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  For some reason there is something really beautiful about this.

skepticalavenger:

Chris Howard:  America really looks like this - I was looking at the amazing 2012 election maps created by Mark Newman (Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan, http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2012 ), and although there is a very interesting blended voting map (Most of the country is some shade of purple, a varied blend of Democrat blue and Republican red) what I really wanted was this blended map with a population density overlay. Because what really stands out is how red the nation seems to be when you do not take the voting population into account; when you do so many of those vast red mid-west blocks fade into pale pink and lavender (very low population).

So I created a new map using Mark’s blended voting map based on the actual numbers of votes for each party overlaid with population maps from Texas Tech University and other sources. 

Here’s the result—what the American political voting distribution really looks like.

This post has gone viral for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased.  For some reason there is something really beautiful about this.

10 Reasons I’m Voting Obama

-climate change is not a hoax.
-women should make their own moral decisions regarding their bodies.
-gay is not a choice but discrimination is.
-I believe separation of church and state is the ONLY guarantee of religious liberty.
-I’d prefer not getting into another ground war in the middle east.
-economies grow from the middle out, not the top down, consumers are the job creators.
-oil is a finite resource under rapidly growing demand and our future depends on getting off of it, sooner than later.
-I want investment in education and infrastructure.
-there is ZERO discernible difference between George W Bush and Mitt Romney, except maybe their vocabularies.
-most attacks on Obama are based in demented conspiracy theories or a completely willful misunderstanding of words like “socialism”.

-bonus: I’d like every racist in the country to be bummed out on Wednesday.

Dear Young Conservative,

…if you agree that women should have control over their own bodies and gay people should be able to marry, yet you begrudgingly accept that your party must appeal to people who virulently despise the notion of reproductive freedom and gay marriage in order to get them to vote for their economic policies, that is condescending nihilism, pure and simple, and I don’t understand how you walk around with that leaden hypocrisy in your chest all day.

I wonder how history will view people who readily accepted that devil’s bargain, using closed-mindedness as a wedge to force people to accept their own poverty in the name of someone else’s profit…

Marijuana’s Recreational, Medical Use On The Ballot In Six States.

VOTE! This is our time to force a change in the drug war discussion! If you live in Colorado, Oregon, or Washington I implore you to get out and vote and make sure your friends do too! 

This is real change, act on it! It’s not just about letting pot heads be pot heads. This is about a system of mass incarceration, police militarization and social casting. A rare occasion to reduce government power while improving it’s fiscal health at the same time as it would save/earn states billions.
Marijuana’s Recreational, Medical Use On The Ballot In Six States.

VOTE! This is our time to force a change in the drug war discussion! If you live in Colorado, Oregon, or Washington I implore you to get out and vote and make sure your friends do too!

This is real change, act on it! It’s not just about letting pot heads be pot heads. This is about a system of mass incarceration, police militarization and social casting. A rare occasion to reduce government power while improving it’s fiscal health at the same time as it would save/earn states billions.

Why I was once a Republican

religiousragings:

The idea of being a fiscal conservative appealed to me intellectually.  The idea is not that roads don’t need to be built, or that people don’t need assistance.  It was, for me at least, that government wasn’t the most efficient way to get these things done.  Private industry, being actually profit motivated, had incentive to do the jobs much more efficiently than government could.  Therefore, smaller government made sense to me.  To me, it was simply about how to get things done the most efficient way possible, and looking at government waste and red tape it seemed clear to me that government wasn’t it.

And then there was Ayn Rand, of course.  I saw the logic of the Randian philosophy…yes, people who work hard should get paid for it, and should be rewarded.  Highly skilled and intelligent people should be entitled to the fruits that their brains and skills give to them.

And in the utopias outlined in the Rand novels, it worked.  The heroes were fucking geniuses and the other people were dolts.  Never were the heroes motivated by anything but excellence.

And, being young and naive, I never even noticed how unrealistic the worlds that Rand created were.  Being naive, I never thought through past the neat little conservative ideology.  It never occurred to me that maybe reality didn’t fit into simplistic conservative solutions.

Can a private, profit motivated industry be more efficient than a government body?  Absolutely.  Can a private, profit motivated industry necessarily be counted on to perform what’s best for society as a whole instead of their own best interest?  Absolutely not.  Look at the privatization of the prison industry.  Prisons make profit, and the more prisoners there are, the bigger the profits.  It is in the private prison’s best interest to incarcerate as many people as possible, and thus we find private prisons paying money for ever harsher laws to fatten their pocket books.  There are few who would argue that this is in the best interest of society, even though it may be “cheaper” to society’s pockets.

Welfare, it can be argued, is government enforced charity.  Since not paying taxes is a prisonable offence, it can even be said that welfare is charity at the point of a gun.  Giving to charity is something that makes someone feel good about oneself, and paying taxes really does a sucky job of this.

Charities, however, can in themselves be horribly crooked and inefficient.  If we can agree that society as a whole is better off without people dying on the streets of starvation, or having children raised homeless and uneducated, then it simply behoves us to look for the way to help the most people in the most efficient way possible.  Charities even when properly run cannot always provide reliable assistance.  Government, inefficient as it often/usually is, can at least provide consistency necessary for people to truly help themselves.

We can also take it as a moral imperative that helping out those in need is the “right” thing to do.  This imperative never actually occurred to me as a Republican, because the question of HOW to help out others is not something that is part of Conservative philosophy, at least not from my understanding of it.

I considered myself a fiscal conservative but a social liberal.  In the 80s, voting for a Republican didn’t seem as damaging to social liberalism because the politics of encoding conservative morality into law didn’t seem to be as big a goal as it seems to be today.  I was ignorant on the subject of abortion, and actually limiting the rights of women or minorities seemed like things out of the Fifties.  We didn’t need to worry about such things in a “modern” age like ours, did we?  The attempt to legislate moralities based on Biblical bullshit 20 years later left me flabbergasted.

Why was I a Republican?  In summary, it was because I was naive and I liked simple rules.  It wasn’t because I was an evil person who wanted to throw pregnant mothers out of their homes.  It’s just that these mothers never factored into my way of thinking.

Reality has a liberal bias, but that does not mean that all liberals have a better grasp of reality than all conservatives.  Reality is fucking complex.  Neither pure liberalism nor pure conservatism (if such things exist) can fully answer the needs of a large and complex society such as ours.  Ideologies provide guidelines and rules of thumb, but only through a thorough study of social realities can we truly find the best answers to social dilemmas.

So, take from this what you will.  And vote for Obama on Tuesday because he’s objectively better than the other viable alternative.

Peace and stuff,

~ Steve

Well said, Steve.

diadoumenos:

Romney becomes first candidate in 16 years to decline youth debate

This year, President Barack Obama answered five questions, including one regarding youth unemployment and another concerning the rising federal debt. Romney, on the other hand, is completely absent from the debate, having declined requests to respond.

“In June both President Obama and Gov. Romney were invited in the hope they would both take this opportunity to address millions of young people about the issues that are most important to them,” the organizer of the debate said in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite our efforts over a four-month period, Gov. Romney declined participation. He is the first and only candidate in our 16-year history to decide not to answer the questions young Americans chose as most important through the Presidential Youth Debate.”

The organizers of the debate said they still hoped Romney would respond before Election Day, noting the importance of Millennials as a voting bloc.

diadoumenos:

Romney becomes first candidate in 16 years to decline youth debate

This year, President Barack Obama answered five questions, including one regarding youth unemployment and another concerning the rising federal debt. Romney, on the other hand, is completely absent from the debate, having declined requests to respond.

“In June both President Obama and Gov. Romney were invited in the hope they would both take this opportunity to address millions of young people about the issues that are most important to them,” the organizer of the debate said in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite our efforts over a four-month period, Gov. Romney declined participation. He is the first and only candidate in our 16-year history to decide not to answer the questions young Americans chose as most important through the Presidential Youth Debate.”

The organizers of the debate said they still hoped Romney would respond before Election Day, noting the importance of Millennials as a voting bloc.

deantrippe:

timekiller-s:

istealforksfromrestaurants:

Hi Tumblr, it’s me, a slightly older person…
I see a lot of you 20 somethings saying things about how you aren’t going to choose the lesser of two evils and that their policy on important matters are identical so what’s the point they’re both stooges for Wall Street and the Industrial War Complex. 
You are right. Kind of. 
I know y’all LOVE the 90’s. Me too. And I remember after after eight years of Clinton/Gore, I thought those motherfuckers were the devil. I was soooooooooooo upset with Bill Clinton waving his deregulation wand and his fucked foreign policy that I was all FUCK THE DEMOCRATS and I strongly advocated for Ralph Nader, even though he too didn’t really care about my “gonad politics.” Even when not choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” I was STILL having to compromise major issues. 
Having been an adult person through 8 years of Clinton/Gore and 8 years through Bush/Cheney, I can tell you without a shred of hesitation that I will line up like my ass is on fire to vote for the lesser of two evils because the greater of two evils almost had us all living outside and eating dog food. 
And if you think that a Romney presidency won’t be worse than Bush/Cheney, you are out of your mind. 
I am fucking begging all of you, please, go vote. Aside from the fact that far more dangerous things are happening on your local level, (like collective bargaining being taken away in Illinois) this shit does matter. 
If you think voting for Obama is the lesser of two evils, you’re wrong, it’s the lesser of three because not voting IS voting for Romney. Not voting is voting for dickbag judges that sentence people to jail in counties that have privatized prisons for minor drug infractions. Not voting is voting to remove pensions and collective bargaining and the last shreds of union power from the people. Not voting this election is voting for Feudalism.
Go vote. 
Now pardon me, there’s some damn kids on my lawn and they want candy. 

Bold emphasis is placed by me.

Not voting is how you vote Republican.


My first election was in 2000 and I too voted for Ralph Nader Because of the “lesser of two evils” thing. I am now totally embarrassed about it. To think, we could of had Al Gore instead of George W. Bush! In some parallel universe we’ve been researching stem cells and aggressively addressing climate change for the last ten years, we also avoided two pointless wars and who knows what else…

But there is another, even more important consequence to not voting: The government only gives a shit about the demographics that vote. Ever wonder why they seem to pander so much to old people? It’s because old people vote! If 18-25 was as reliable a voting block as the middle-aged, issues you care about such as the drug war, climate change and Internet freedom would get far more attention. 

By ignoring the system, you are inviting the system to ignore you!

deantrippe:

timekiller-s:

istealforksfromrestaurants:

Hi Tumblr, it’s me, a slightly older person…

I see a lot of you 20 somethings saying things about how you aren’t going to choose the lesser of two evils and that their policy on important matters are identical so what’s the point they’re both stooges for Wall Street and the Industrial War Complex. 

You are right. Kind of. 

I know y’all LOVE the 90’s. Me too. And I remember after after eight years of Clinton/Gore, I thought those motherfuckers were the devil. I was soooooooooooo upset with Bill Clinton waving his deregulation wand and his fucked foreign policy that I was all FUCK THE DEMOCRATS and I strongly advocated for Ralph Nader, even though he too didn’t really care about my “gonad politics.” Even when not choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” I was STILL having to compromise major issues. 

Having been an adult person through 8 years of Clinton/Gore and 8 years through Bush/Cheney, I can tell you without a shred of hesitation that I will line up like my ass is on fire to vote for the lesser of two evils because the greater of two evils almost had us all living outside and eating dog food. 

And if you think that a Romney presidency won’t be worse than Bush/Cheney, you are out of your mind. 

I am fucking begging all of you, please, go vote. Aside from the fact that far more dangerous things are happening on your local level, (like collective bargaining being taken away in Illinois) this shit does matter. 

If you think voting for Obama is the lesser of two evils, you’re wrong, it’s the lesser of three because not voting IS voting for Romney. Not voting is voting for dickbag judges that sentence people to jail in counties that have privatized prisons for minor drug infractions. Not voting is voting to remove pensions and collective bargaining and the last shreds of union power from the people. Not voting this election is voting for Feudalism.

Go vote. 

Now pardon me, there’s some damn kids on my lawn and they want candy. 

Bold emphasis is placed by me.

Not voting is how you vote Republican.

My first election was in 2000 and I too voted for Ralph Nader Because of the “lesser of two evils” thing. I am now totally embarrassed about it. To think, we could of had Al Gore instead of George W. Bush! In some parallel universe we’ve been researching stem cells and aggressively addressing climate change for the last ten years, we also avoided two pointless wars and who knows what else…

But there is another, even more important consequence to not voting: The government only gives a shit about the demographics that vote. Ever wonder why they seem to pander so much to old people? It’s because old people vote! If 18-25 was as reliable a voting block as the middle-aged, issues you care about such as the drug war, climate change and Internet freedom would get far more attention.

By ignoring the system, you are inviting the system to ignore you!

My prediction for Tuesday: Obama will win with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235

My prediction for Tuesday: Obama will win with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 235