Archives August 2010

MLK Art Photos {
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I met up with R. on the Mall today to see the MLK art, an accordion-folded display that showed four pictures of Martin Luther King, each with a quotation.

A PA system at the base played King’s I Have a Dream speech on continuous loop.

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Teabagger Rally Photos {
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Some photos of the Glenn Beck teabagger rally on the Mall today.

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Let’s Ban Churches Next to Other Churches

It occurs to me that I haven’t weighed in on the hot topic du jour, the question of whether there should be mosque at Ground Zero.

The argument seems to be: it’s outrageous and offensive that members of a religion be allowed to erect a center of worship right next to where other members of their religion carried out a horrendous and religiously-motivated act of terrorism.

If this logic holds, then presumably it’s not okay to build a Catholic church near Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, since Eric Rudolph is Catholic.

Scott Roeder’s assassination of George Tiller was a religiously-inspired act of terrorism. So should there be an outcry every time someone tries to build a right-wing church next to a Lutheran one? Or next to a medical facility, given the history of religiously-motivated anti-abortion terrorism?

But wait. Why am I distinguishing between Catholics, Lutherans, etc.? As far as I can recall, I haven’t heard word one about whether the people who want to build the Ground Zero mosque Cordoba House Park 51 are Sunni, Shiite, or something else. As far as the outragees are concerned, they’re just Muslims. Or possibly just foreign.

So let’s forbid churches from building too close to other churches. Or libraries, for that matter, since Hypatia was killed by a Christian mob.

Wait, what’s that? It’s unfair to lump disparate people together, just because they all have the same holy book? Okay, then demonstrate that the people behind Park 51 are in some way connected to, or supporters or sympathizers of, the fanatics behind 9/11. And before you go digging up verses in the Koran where Allah commands war, reread Joshua, Judges, Samuel, etc. where the god of Abraham commands genocide.

I think we can recognize that how a religion is practiced is at least as important as what its book preaches. After all, most or all Christians manage to reinterpret, explain away, or just plain ignore the unsavory parts of the Bible to allow them to square it with 21st-century morality. And if Christians can do it, why not Muslims?

Assuming that the people who’d go to Park 51 are just ordinary, non-murderous New Yorkers with a bunch of silly customs, what’s the harm? Silly isn’t a bad thing: line dancing is silly; Renaissance Faires are silly; science fiction conventions are extremely silly; and coitus is positively ridiculous.

(Update, Sep. 1: typo)

Respecting Everyone’s Beliefs

There’s a phrase that’s been annoying me lately. I don’t know whether it’s a new thing, or something that’s been floating around for years but only recently came to my attention, but it’s been bugging me.

“We should respect everyone’s ideas.”

This is exactly wrong. There are plenty of ideas out there that don’t deserve respect: the idea that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, that the ACLU hates America, that the Earth is flat, that good deeds are pointless unless you also believe in a Jewish zombie, that farts should be used as currency, and many more.

Respecting people, now that’s something else entirely. Everyone is entitled to certain rights, simply by virtue of being human. People can lose those rights, like a criminal who goes to prison and loses his rght to go where he likes, but every person starts out with a core set of rights. A more pedestrian example is that I tend to start out believing that you are a basically decent, honest person until you demonstrate otherwise.

But ideas are not people. They don’t suffer when they’re abandoned or overturned. They don’t feel shame when they’re shown to be idiotic, nor do they get lonely when held only by a handful of loons. Eliminating an idea is nothing like killing a person.

Of course, the problem is that many ideas, particularly religious or ideological ones, are tightly wrapped up in people’s sense of identity or self-worth; so saying that someone has a stupid idea or holds a stupid belief feels to them as if they’re being told that they themselves are stupid.

And so “all ideas should be respected” is really cover for “don’t criticize my religion”. The reasoning seems to be, “We both hold ideas that we’re not willing to abandon, even though we realize that they can’t stand up to critical examination. So I’ll agree not to shoot down your weak ideas if you’ll agree not to attack mine.” This seems to be the truce entered into in civilized countries where religions and other ideologies aren’t allowed to impose themselves through force of arms anymore.

But of course it all depends on all participants having weak beliefs that they want to protect. Along come skeptics who don’t want to hold weak beliefs, who want people to point out their false beliefs so they can get rid of them, and upset this unstable balance.

So fuck beliefs. They don’t automatically deserve my respect.

Now, I have friends (of the “I’d help them move a corpse, and vice-versa” variety) who hold wacky beliefs. (Mostly religious ones, as you might expect.) And yes, there are topics that, by mostly-unspoken agreement, we venture into only rarely. But that’s because I don’t want to upset my friends (see “sense of identity and self-worth”, above). In other words, it’s about respecting the person, not the belief.

A Couple of News Items

First, an editorial in the Moonie Times about why the Proposition 8 decision was a mistake.

Just to dash any hopes you might have had that it might be well thought out:

First of all, the Plaintiffs have made (deliberately) a glaring legal error which I was at first surprised Judge Walker could overlook with no fallout. The opponents of Proposition 8 argue that homosexuals are a suspect class. But as every student of law and political science knows, homosexuals are not a suspect class. They are not even a quasisuspect class. Homosexuals are a nonsuspect class. This means that the court should only have to apply a minimum rationality standard of review.

I’m no lawyer, but as I understand it, “suspect class” basically means “hey, state! That law looks like it could be bigoted. Show me that it isn’t.” Now, if you’d asked me, I would have thought that since there’s a long history of discrimination against gays, that they’d qualify as a suspect class. Thankfully, Amanda Read managed to prove me wrong, with her “every student … knows”. I guess that settles that.

(Except that she missed the bit on p.117 of the decision where the judge says that the case for Prop 8 can’t even withstand the much less onerous “rational basis review”.)

Speaking of which, I find it amusing that the word “gay” appears three times in her article: twice when she’s quoting someone else, and a third time when she’s mostly paraphrasing someone else. The word “homosexual”, on the other hand, appears nine times, each time when she’s speaking for herself. I’ve seen this a lot. Apparently the far right vastly prefers “homosexual” over “gay”. I can only imagine that this is a compromise since society won’t let them say “faggot” anymore.

The second bit of news is that apparently New York now has no-fault divorce.

Wait, what? They didn’t have it until now? Seriously? New York?

In case you’re not sure why this is a good thing, the article lays out the basic argument for no-fault divorce, which is basically that when a couple falls out of love, they have a choice of either going through a lengthy separation process, or going to court with bogus charges of infidelity or abuse. No-fault divorce allows people to avoid these sorts of expensive and unseemly charades.

dirvish + MySQL

I’ve been using dirvish to do backups at home. One problem I’ve always had is how to back up MySQL databases, since the backup takes a snapshot of the binary files, so if it happens at the wrong time (e.g., in the middle of a transaction), the backup might wind up being in an unusable, inconsistent state. Much better to use mysqldump to export the database to a file (one which, by the way, can also be manipulated with standard tools like perl and emacs, in case I need to repair anything).

The obvious way to do this was to use the pre-client dirvish directive to export to a file, then let that file be backed up. But I could never get it to work.

Cut to the chase: It turns out that for this to work, the pre-client directive (and post-client, if you want to clean up afterward) needs an extra semicolon:

pre-client: ; /usr/local/bin/mysqldump -a -A -e > $DIRVISH_SRC/mysqldump.%Y-%m-%d.sql
post-client: ; /bin/rm $DIRVISH_SRC/mysqldump.%Y-%m-%d.sql

Without those semicolons, things don’t run correctly. My guess is that the semicolon tricks dirvish into thinking that the command consists of multiple commands, which must therefore be run inside a shell, rather than a single command to be executed with fork()/exec().

Possible Outage might be down this weekend (Update, Aug. 14, 2010: Well, it’s Saturday, and the server’s still up. So yay) due to electrical work being done in the building that houses the server. I’m not yet sure whether the server will be affected, but it might be down starting this evening, through Sunday evening.

So if your RSS reader says Epsilon Clue doesn’t exist, wait until Monday before concluding that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.


This may be my favorite bit from the Prop 8 ruling yet (findings of law, p. 128):

To the extent California has an interest in encouraging
sexual activity to occur within marriage (a debatable proposition
in light of Lawrence, 539 US at 571) the evidence shows Proposition
8 to be detrimental to that interest. Because of Proposition 8,
same-sex couples are not permitted to engage in sexual activity
within marriage. FF 53. Domestic partnerships, in which sexual
activity is apparently expected, are separate from marriage and
thus codify California’s encouragement of non-marital sexual
activity. Cal Fam Code §§ 297-299.6. To the extent proponents
seek to encourage a norm that sexual activity occur within marriage
to ensure that reproduction occur within stable households,
Proposition 8 discourages that norm because it requires some sexual
activity and child-bearing and child-rearing to occur outside

Ooh, that’s gotta sting. “We tried to have sex and raise children within the bonds of holy matrimony, like you said we should, but you wouldn’t let us!”

Would you like your ass of fundie well done, or extra-crispy?

Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

You’ve probably heard it by now, but a federal judge has ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional (; mirror).

(In case you’d forgotten, Proposition 8 was a ballot initiative that took away millions of Californians’ right to marry, on the grounds that they love the wrong kinds of people.)

Any moment now, I expect to hear explanations of how earthquakes, wildfires, el niño, the poor box office showing of Mel Gibson’s next project, and Pet Shop Boys concerts are all expressions of God’s wrath.

/me raises a Cosmopolitan (which several sites list as a contender for the gayest drink ever) to the Californian gay community.

Update, 18:04: Tony Perkins of the Patriarchy Family Research Council criticizes the ruling, on the grounds that, well, one-man-one-woman is how it’s always been. He also compares this ruling to Roe v. Wade. Which, I can’t help noticing, the right-wingers still haven’t managed to overturn despite decades of trying.

No word from NOM NOM NOM yet.

Update, 18:17: NOM tweets

NOM Decries Federal Court Decision Invalidating Proposition 8. #prop8 #NO4M

Full text of their rebuttal:

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Update, 18:30: An obviously butthurt Heritage Foundation whines about “judicial activism”.

Update, 19:20: Newsweek/WaPo’s On Faith has a roundup of religious people’s reactions.

Update, 21:56: Hemant Mehta points out this kook fight, where Liberty Counsel bitches at the Alliance Defense Fund for not letting them help defend Prop 8 in court.

“A Life-Changing Experience” (An Atheist Goes to Church)

A few weeks ago, I got a flier stuck on my door:


Come out to hear the specific instructions given by God in the Garden of Eden.
Afterwards, let’s cool off by having an ice cream treat!

Bring your tape recorders, laptops, notepads, pens, and pencils to be a
part of what will be a life-changing experience for you.

I figured with a buildup like that, I should probably attend. “Life-changing experience” sounded pretty good, especially with so many exclamation points in the description. Maybe some miraculous healings or special effects, maybe even some magic tricks. And failing all else, at least there’d be ice cream. Plus, it was held at the church at the end of my street, well within walking distance, so I wouldn’t even have to go anywhere.

So on Saturday at 2:00, I showed up with my laptop and digital recorder. I even brought a half-gallon carton of ice cream from the UMD dairy because it seemed like a neighborly thing to do.

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