Stephen Fry on God

I love Stephen Fry and would marry him if we were compatible in physical and not just intellectual ways. In this video Fry stuns the famous Gay Byrne on Irish television and provides some rational thoughts about God:

Fry’s response that the Christian god is capricious, mean minded, and stupid is obvious to anyone with an open mind. His comparison of the Christian god to the Greek gods was spot on. The Greek gods, as heinous as they were, are far better than the Christian god. Simply because they were not omniscient and omnipotent and thus their shortcomings were understandable.

This came to my attention via an article on Why Evolution Is True.

Malware in Italy has reached a new level

I wrote a post back in December 2014 about the surprising volume of attacks on my WordPress blog from computers located in Italy. I’m writing this article to document that the attacks have reached a new level. As of today 5.1% of the computers in the subnet (104 of 2048) have attacked my WordPress blog. Not even China has a subnet with 2048 computers wherein one in twenty has attacked my site. I’ve now blacklisted 2451 computers located in Italy for attacking my site. That is more than the next ten countries combined (I’ve blocked 770 computers in China and 741 in America).

I would love to know what attack vector has caused so many computers in Italy to be infected with malware that probes WordPress sites for valid account credentials.

Update 2015-02-06: I haven’t seen a wp-login.php attack from Italy in the past five days. Apparently that botnet was told to focus on some other vulnerability. Still, it would be interesting to learn why that specific attack originated almost exclusively from computers in Italy.

Update 2015-02-10: I spoke too soon. The wp-login.php attacks from Italy have resumed. In the past 24 hours I’ve seen several new addresses from Italy attempt to guess credentials as well as many already seen in the past make another attempt.

Prof. Ceiling Cat coins a new aphorism

Dr. Jerry Coyne in this post at Why Evolution is True on the religious views of author Dan Brown has coined a new aphorism that resonated with me:

Sometimes I think I could make a good living by just parroting the warm, comfortable bromides of people like Brown. It still amazes me, though, even after all these years, that smart people can say such dumb things. I’d paraphrase Steven Weinberg by saying, “With or without religion, smart people will say smart things and dumb people will say dumb things. But for a smart person to say a dumb thing—that takes religion.”

Obviously you can substitute other terms, such as “political ideology”, for “religion” in that quote. But the core of the observation is still true. Any blindly held ideology makes otherwise intelligent people do or say stupid things.

Sarah Palin creates word salad at the Freedom Summit in Iowa

If you’re a fan of incoherent counterfactual claims and don’t mind if a few of your neurons commit suicide I recommend watching this video:

You’ll be treated to a half-hour of Sarah Palin “winging it” at the Iowa “Freedom Summit”. Among other gems she claims it is really the Republican party that cares about women while the Democratic party wants to oppress women. Hmmm, let me think for a minute. Which political party treats women as incubators unable to decide what is best for their future? I’m pretty sure that’s the Republicans.

Not surprisingly John Stewart provides excellent commentary on the The Daily Show.

You’ll also find lots of good comments at Why Evolution is True.

Gov. Mike Pence, potential US presidential candidate, starts Pravda for Indiana

So Indiana Gov. Mike Pence initiates a project to use state tax dollars to run a state managed news outlet. Yay! Just what we need an American version of Pravda. I’ve got to wonder what the de-facto GOP news outlet, Fox News, thinks about this competition. Especially in light of the fact that Republicans swear that government can’t do anything right and every function should be privatized.

P.S., You’ve got to love the irony of someone who ostensibly believe in “small government” spending tax dollars to make them look good. I’m hard pressed to see how that is an essential government service.

Christian American female decides to wear a burqa

This article is another indicator that American Christians have more in common with the Taliban and other fundamentalist Muslims than they like to admit. Ms. Partridge says she won’t be wearing tight-fitting clothing any more because she doesn’t want to entice men to look at her. My recommendation is she wear a burqa or, better yet, just stay home and never venture out in public. Oh, wait, that isn’t my recommendation. That’s the recommendation of religious fundamentalists. I’ll never understand that sort of obsession and shame regarding the human body. Especially from people who believe God made us in his perfect image.

Greece just elected an atheist to lead them!

The people of Greece just elected someone who has a better grasp of economics than any American politician who is a member of the Republican party (not to mention almost every member of the Democratic party). Somewhat more surprising is that the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, is a forthright atheist. From The Economist:

GREECE’S new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, made history within hours of his victory by informing the Archbishop of Athens, very politely, that clerical services would not be required for his swearing-in ceremony. An avowed atheist who has nonetheless made a point of dealing courteously with senior clergy, Mr Tsipras lost no time in making known that his oath of office would be a secular procedure. It was also explained that when the whole cabinet was sworn in, a more junior cleric (but not the archbishop) would be invited to assist those who wished to take a religious oath.

If Mr. Tsipras manages to force the economic pro-austerity hawks to piss-off (especially the German government) as well as lessen the hold of religion on his fellow citizens then Greece might become a highly desirable emigration destination.

Update: Please read Paul Krugman regarding the economic aspects of this election.

Why did “American Sniper” get nominated for an Oscar?

I watched the latest Clint Eastwood movie “American Sniper” this afternoon. I enjoyed it. I thought Bradley Cooper’s performance was excellent but not among the best I’ve seen this past year. I would recommend the movie to others. But it isn’t in my top ten movies of the past year. It might not even make make the top twenty list. The movie “Wild”, as one example, is a better movie and yet garnered only one nomination for lead actor. So I am genuinely mystified by how many votes “American Sniper” received. I’m guessing a big factor is the fetishization of the US military (as exemplified by the funeral scenes of the protagonist during the closing credits). A characteristic of US society that is deeply troubling as it makes us too reticent to question our overt and covert wars.

Updated 2015-01-31: I just read the review by Matt Taibbi in RollingStone. It crystalizes all the reasons I feel the movie is good as fiction but dangerous as documentary.

The FRC tells me to oppose abortion (again)

Today I received another email from the FRC (Family Research Council) imploring me to oppose abortion (which is not a surprise):

I want to encourage you to contact your Representative and urge them to support passage of the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (H.R. 36) sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn).This legislation is essential to stopping late abortion. It would also help stop so-called doctors, like the now imprisoned Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who are willing to allow babies be born alive to more easily kill them if the abortion doesn’t work. Tragically, this problem goes way beyond Gosnell in Philadelphia.

They go on to cite the work of Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand who is an ideological quack. It would be nice if these assholes cared about people (i.e., someone who was actually born) as much as they care about fetuses.

I used their embedded link to contact my member of Congress to say the following:

H.R. 36 is sponsored by ignorant theocrats who want to impose their religious dogma on everyone. Please vote against passage of the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (H.R. 36) sponsored by Rep. Representatives Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Secular Student Alliance sets a new donation record

I can’t say enough good things about the Secular Student Alliance. SSA, much like FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation), makes concrete improvements in reducing the influence of religion every single day. Today I received an email from SSA informing me they set a new milestone last year by having more than $1M USD in revenue. That is fantastic but not nearly enough. Groups like the SSA are critical to the future of secularism. If you care about making our future less enslaved by religion please donate a few dollars to the SSA.