Monday, August 01, 2011

The Official Announcement

Hey, it's past midnight here.  Time for a press release.

Please, if you are a member of a forum, or own a major newspaper or television network, feel free to post the following:

Freethought Blogs debuts Aug. 1

A new blog network is hitting the web on August 1. Led by two of the most prominent and widely read secular-minded blogs in the country – PZ Myers’ Pharyngula and Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culture Wars – <>  will, we hope, quickly become and important  gathering place for atheists, humanists, skeptics and freethinkers in the blogosphere.

Freethoughtblogs will be more than just a place for people to read the opinions of their favorite bloggers. It will be a community of like-minded people exchanging ideas and joining forces to advocate for a more secular and rational world.

The network will launch Aug. 1 with a handful of blogs with many more to be added after the first three months of operation. Here are the five blogs that will lead the way:

Pharyngula <> . PZ Myers has built one of the most popular atheist blogs in the world. Never one to shy away from controversy, Myers has built an astonishing following over the last few years and has traveled around the world speaking to skeptical audiences. As a PhD biologist he is the scourge of creationists everywhere but he takes on a wide range of subjects in his blogging, including religious criticism, women’s rights and progressive politics.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars <> . Ed Brayton was raised by a Pentecostal and an atheist, sealing his fate forever as someone who is endlessly fascinated by how religion intersects with other subject, particularly science, law, history and politics. He is a popular speaker for secular organizations around the country, has appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and is pretty certain he’s the only person who has ever made fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

The Digital Cuttlefish <> : Cuttlefish are shy and elusive creatures; when necessary, they hide in their own ink.  This particular cuttlefish has chosen as its habitat the comment threads of science, religion, and news sites, where it feeds on the opinions of those who are emboldened by the cloak of internet anonymity. Cuttlefish is an atheist, a skeptic, and is madly, passionately in love with science. The Digital Cuttlefish has, since October of 2007, been a repository of commentary and satire, usually (but not exclusively) in verse and now moves to Freethoughtblogs.

This Week in Christian Nationalism <> . Chris Rodda is the author of "Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History." Since the release of her book in 2006, Chris has been blogging at and Huffington Post about the use of historical revisionism in everything from education to legislation. Chris is now launching her own blog on that will accompany her weekly podcast, This Week in Christian Nationalism.

Zingularity <> . Steven "DarkSyde" Andrew is a 40 something former stock and bond trader and one time moderate conservative. He grew up in the Southwest and has long been fascinated by science, particularly evolutionary biology, physics, and astronomy. He is a frequest contributor to the popular progressive website Daily Kos and now blogs at Zingularity, where legit science disappears forever down an event horizon of petty snark and cynicism.

Comradde PhysioProffe <> . The pseudonymous PhysioProffe is, as the name suggests, a physiology professor at a private medical school who blogs about politics, academia, food, booze and sports. Not necessarily in that order.
 This is only the beginning. Over the next few months we will add many more blogs to the network, including Greta Christina’s brilliant blog, a new companion to the award winning Reasonable Doubts podcast and many others.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Headline Muse, 7/31

The verdict was certainly binding
But the pathways to justice are winding
Though “an eye for an eye”
Was the law to apply
Now the victim has pardoned a blinding

Headline: Iranian sentenced to blinding for acid attack pardoned

Ameneh Bahrami, after years of fighting for "justice" (read: for her attacker to be blinded with acid, as he had done to her), has pardoned Majd Movahedi, her attacker, at the last minute. She is still, quite understandably, seeking compensation for medical fees.
The state television website reported: "With the request of Ameneh Bahrami, the acid attack victim, Majid (Movahedi) who was sentenced for 'qisas' was pardoned at the last minute."

The Isna news agency quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying: "Today in hospital the blinding of Majid Movahedi was to have been carried out in the presence of an eye specialist and judiciary representative, when Ameneh pardoned him."

Isna quoted Ms Bahrami as saying: "I struggled for seven years with this verdict to prove to people that the person who hurls acid should be punished through 'qisas', but today I pardoned him because it was my right.

Rumor Has It

So, I’ve been hearing rumors. Rumor has it The Digital Cuttlefish will be part of a new blog network, freethoughtblogs, as of tomorrow. Actually, most of the rumors talk about the new network, but somehow leave my name out of it. For some reason, the rumors focus on Ed Brayton and P. Z. Myers.

But the rumors are true. Same Cuttlefish, different address. I am a very little cuttlefish in a big pond already, and this gives me the opportunity to be an even smaller fish in an even bigger ocean. I suspect that I am the smallest name among the new collective.

So, if all goes well, I soon will have successfully lured them all into a false sense of security, at which time I will spring my trap.

Or not.

Either way, I will be sinking or swimming (as a cuttlefish, it’s all the same to me) at a new address as of tomorrow.

And, once more as so many times in the past… I need your help. There will be (with a bit of luck) more eyes on my site than ever before, and I’ll need to introduce myself. You, my regular readers, are already the sort of people who read comments and follow links, or you wouldn’t have found me. But there are a great many people who have no idea what I do.

So I plan to post some of my old stuff over the next couple of weeks or so, to introduce myself to these new people.

My question is… which ones? Which of my oldies should I dredge up? I have my own favorites, which I know I will post, but what are yours?

This blog (the one you are reading right now) will not disappear. This one is home, for me. I love my readers, and owe them too much to raze the old joint. I hope to see you all at the new digs, though, as my honored guests. No… as my family.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Headline Muse, 7/30

Seems the picture that’s drawn is too hazy
Or my brain has gone summertime lazy
We could blame his religion
Which tweaks things a smidgeon
But, really: just “partially crazy”?

Headline: Ex-FLDS member: Warren Jeffs "partially crazy"

In an "objection" lasting nearly an hour, Warren Jeffs, polygamist and alleged child molester, threatened his prosecutors with "sickness and death". He wasn't making a threat; he was simply delivering a message he got from God.

God Is Love, Right?

The Old Testament god of the bible was liable
To torture and kill you, as if at His whim;
His ardent believers were therefore a scare for
The heathens who dared have doubts about Him

The New Testament hoped to appease us with Jesus
Whose death on the cross was the end to our fear;
Now Christians are always, while living, forgiving
Unless we say something they don’t want to hear

Yesterday's "Headline Muse" referred to the American Atheists' WTC cross case. It's a story worth keeping an eye on, for those of us who love reading commentary. As is often the case, the worst of the comments are censored before we can read them... but this time, some have been archived, and serve as testimony to Christian Love. (The ones that remain range from supportive to vile, but fall short of death threats.)

Now, I've received death threats--against me, and against my family. But these have been from a solitary, troubled individual. He needs psychiatric help, and he knows it; the more he threatens, the more obvious his illness is. These WTC threats appear to be quite different. These are normal people*, perhaps buoyed by internet anonymity, perhaps assuming they are in the company of like-minded individuals. This is far more frightening than a pitiable, pathetic spammer.

Oh, but clearly this is an extreme minority position; the vast majority of Christians would be horrified by such comments. If you find some examples of religious leaders decrying these comments, be sure to let me know.

* as an aside, I wonder whether the names attached to the comments are their real names. Google+ appears to be on a bit of a crusade against pseudonyms--if these are real names, then certainly horrible language does not depend on anonymity; on the other hand, if these are not real names, then the crime of pseudonymous writers is simply that they chose a name that wasn't normal enough for Google.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cuttlefish's Garden

I'd like to see
Ten types of bee
In the Cuttlefish's garden in the sun
See what I've found
Buzzing around
In the Cuttlefish's garden in the sun

Ok, enough of that.  So, these are onion flowers.  Each is about the size of a grapefruit (like grapefruit, some are larger and some are smaller) and made up of about a gazillion separate florets (very unlike a grapefruit).  I spent some time, the past couple of days, just watching them.  The amount of traffic these flowers get is remarkable; I counted at least 8 different species of bee or wasp, two species of butterfly, and some really fast things I could not identify, just on these onion flowers alone.  I have a really bad shot of 5 species on the flower at one time, but most are blurred with motion or focal plane.

So I thought I'd test my readers' insect identification skills--just hymenoptera today. I know some of the answers, but certainly not all! For now, the flower is your guide to insect size; if you need numbers or any other information I can give, just ask.


D (left) and E (right)


I, on Cilantro flowers
J, on Oregano flowers

Headline Muse, 7/29

At the site of a horrible loss,
The Memorial now holds a cross?
The community center
Was told “do not enter”—
Guess we know which religion is boss.

Four individuals, represented by American Atheists, are suing to either remove the Ground Zero Cross from the 9/11 memorial, or to force inclusion of non-Christian (including atheist) memorials of equal stature. As always, the fun reading is not in the article itself, but in the comments. I used to be astonished, now I am simply aware, that people have hugely varying ideas of what atheism is. And of what the First Amendment means. And, while it was important that a Muslim community center should not be built on 9/11 sacred ground because it would be special treatment for one religion, it is crucial (get it?) that the WTC cross remains, because it gave so many Christians comfort.

I am told that, as an atheist, my taking offense at the WTC cross shows that a) I am actually a believer, b) I am illogical, because I shouldn't care, since I don't believe, c) I am unamerican, since majority rules here, d) not really an atheist but an anti-theist, e) remarkably thin-skinned, f) pushing my beliefs onto other people (this last, without a trace of irony). In truth, I don't find crosses offensive; if I did, I'd have a rough go of it, since they are all around us.

I don't find this particular cross offensive, and think an argument can easily be made for its inclusion in the memorial--it is, after all, a huge part of the history of the aftermath of 9/11. The thing is, context matters. If this cross were, say, part of an exhibit demonstrating that religious extremism may have dire consequences, including 9/11 type events, it would be quite appropriate... but I suspect that many Christians would balk at equating their religion with [their perception of] Islam. If the WTC cross is venerated as a religious symbol, though, it is only proper (and constitutional) to demand equal treatment for other affected groups.

The 9/11 attacks were not an attack on Christianity. They were an attack on America, and were politically as well as religiously motivated. American Atheists is not going to make a lot of friends with this move (judging from the comment threads), but they are in the right. Context is everything; the cross can stay (and American Atheists agrees), if it is not exhibited in such a manner as to elevate one belief system over others.

But hey, this is Headline Muse--your comments don't have to be about this story, if you have your own headline limerick!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Headline Muse

The requirements just get insaner,
Like a good triple twisting half-gainer
If you do a good dive,
You will surely survive—
If you don’t, then you’re “pulling a Boehner”.

(I'm trying out--subject to my time and other people's idiocy--a new occasional feature, kinda like Ed Brayton's "dumbass quote" and "badass quote" of the day. You are encouraged to add your own limericks in the comments. The rules are--look at the headlines of whatever news source you like, and write a limerick inspired by same. If your headline is local, small-town news, you might want to include a link, too.)

One Last Dance

When Johnny was little, he played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

But friendship is fickle in kids of this age
So he had the occasional fight
And names would be called, and fists would be thrown,
In a world that was pure black-and-white;
Johnny was smaller than some of the boys
And the target, sometimes, of abuse
He sometimes fought back, but too quickly he learned
That his struggles were never of use

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was lonely, and Johnny was scared;
He knew he would never be cool
He knew all the names of the popular boys
Cos they’d all kicked his ass after school
They called him a faggot; they called him a queer
And nobody cared if it’s true
Cos the summers are long and the summers are hot
And the bad boys need something to do

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny told teachers, and parents and more
That the bullies were out of control
But the teachers were fond of the popular boys
So they told him they’d pray for his soul
He heard what they said, and he heard what they didn’t,
And knew they were not on his side
He wondered if, really, they worried at all,
And would they be sad if he died?

When Johnny was little, he’d played with his friends
As the summertime slowly would pass
They’d swim in the rivers; they’d hide in the woods
And they’d frolic and dance in the grass, oh
They’d frolic and dance in the grass

Johnny was tired of running and hiding
And wanted his troubles to end
Johnny might never have done what he did
If he only had talked with a friend
Instead, though, he talked with the school’s Parents’ League
(There were lies that they had to dispel)
They wanted the children to all know the truth—
That Johnny was going to Hell

They said he was sinful; they said he was wrong
They told him the things he must learn
They told him that God sends all sinners to Hell
They told him that that’s where he’d burn
When Johnny heard the things they said
He knew he had no chance
So Johnny got a length of rope
For one last, special dance

They told him they’d pray for the sake of his soul
They told him that, always, there’s hope;
But never again will he dance in the grass
Since he danced at the end of a rope, oh
Since he danced at the end of a rope.

Via PZ and others, a terribly sad story of Christian compassion, of anti-gay bullying, and the "Day of Truth" (at that link, you can see evolution at work--click on "", and you will be brought to the "day of dialogue" website). The "Parents Action League" (weren't they in The Incredibles?) had worked with local churches to provide t-shirts for the day.

Because of Despite the League's work, because of despite warning gays that they were bound for hell for their sinful lifestyle, it seems there has been an epidemic of teen suicide. Nine kids in two years, at present.

Oh, yes. This is in Michele Bachmann's district. You remember her--her husband lies about doing ex-gay therapy. Cos it's better to make people think they are ill, broken, or sinful, than to have them love the wrong person.

Oh--this poem is not about any one kid in particular. There were names that could easily have fit, but no way in hell am I going to do that to parents, siblings, friends, etc.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

One year ago today my brother died.

At his hospital bedside, I sang to him--music, I thought, affects so much of the brain, perhaps this will get through. A familiar song, a catchy song, one he had sung so many times. Maybe he'll open his eyes and join in on the chorus.

He did not.

If we live on only in the memories and actions of others, he's doing better than most.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Should I Be Cross?

I can’t really blame you; the pain is yet growing,
With so many horrible losses
But somehow it seems that your privilege is showing—
You seem to have mis-placed your crosses.

One of the reasonably local papers around Cuttletown had a political cartoon today that irked me a bit. Here's a link--I won't show it here because, well, I'm cheap. Basically, the cartoon morphs the cross from the flag of Norway into the crosses at the graves of the victims.

It's a clever concept, but it reinforces the position of privilege held by Christians (despite claims of persecution) in the US. The crosses represent the victims (reminiscent of Justice Scalia's view that crosses are "the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead"), which is all well and good, except that
According to Inglehart et al. (2004), 31 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God. According to Bondeson (2003), 54 percent of Norwegians said that they did not believe in a "personal God." According to Greeley (2003), 41 percent of Norwegians do not believe in God, although only 10 percent self-identify as "atheist." According to Gustafsson and Pettersson (2000), 72 percent of Norwegians do not believe in a "personal God." According to Froese (2001), 45 percent of Norwegians are either atheist or agnostic.
(source: Phil Zuckerman's chapter, "Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns", in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism.)

Ah, but we do know with certainty that there was at least one Christian involved. The shooter. Yes, it appears his extremist political views, not his religion, was his motivation. I'm sure American cartoonists would make the same distinction for Muslim terrorists as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Marriage Is Gay Today

Half a lifetime ago
As chronologies go
I was married, in upstate New York
There were family, friends,
And some strange odds and ends
When we, husband and wife, popped the cork

But today it feels strange
As if something has changed
Though our vows are the same, to the letter
Because, as of today,
Why, “marriage is gay”
And equality’s oh so much better

When marriage was straight
And the church barred the gate
And kept part of humanity out
They tried to define
In society’s mind
What a marriage was wholly about

Though they struggled with words
Their whole view was absurd
And historically, simply untrue—
And sanctified bigots
Just opened their spigots
Letting sewage and prejudice spew

They poured this pollution
Into my institution;
My marriage was tarred by their brush
But—long story short—
I am glad to report
They are getting their long-deserved flush.

With this change in the laws
I feel better, because
I’m not part of a bigoted order
So today, let’s have fun
But there’s work to be done
Cos equality stops at the border.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bless This Mess

Rochester's Officers
Got themselves blessed
For enforcing the laws;

Didn't much care that it's
Nobody likes the
Establishment clause.

The other day, PZ ran a photo of a Sheriff's vehicle with a "one nation under god" bumper sticker. I suppose the silver lining is, it was probably a decision made by an individual--the Sheriff or another--and not an official position.

In the Live Free or Die state, where they take constitutional protection of liberties seriously, it's a different story. The second annual blessing of the police force and its fleet, specifically.
Chaplain Ron Lachapelle carried out the service, in which he emphasized the importance of the department's ability to work as a team for the betterment of the community.
Lachapelle, it seems, was previously a police commissioner, a 30-year veteran. I would imagine that members of the force couldn't possible have felt pressure to go along with the magic spell-chanting. After all, they're probably all good christian boys, wouldn't you think?