Archive for September, 2009

Some Atheist News
September 29, 2009

The following is today’s newsletter email from American Atheist, verbatim. The Lion did clean up the links, as AA apparently hasn’t discovered the href tag in HTML yet, and he did a bit of formatting too, for readability. There’s some interesting stuff here, and they have a pretty good website.

In This Issue… * Religious test for insurance coverage? * Blasphemy Day events * Worth Noting: Latest on Darwin film * Dave’s blog * Resources * About this list…

"THE MOST MISTRUSTED GROUP" AND NO, WE WON’T SELL YOU INSURANCE!

A recent piece in Psychology Today reports on yet another study that finds Atheists to be "the most mistrusted group" in the United States.

When asked in a national survey to identify segments of the population which did "not all agree with my vision of American society," ten groups were listed. Some were religious — Christians, Muslims and Jews — while others covered ethnic categories (Asians, blacks). Still others were traditional targets of popular animus, such as homosexuals and immigrants.  The category which elicited the most opprobrium, however, was Atheists.  When it came to marriage and other indicators of social acceptance, the godless were the most despised, marginalized and excluded.

Psychology Today contributor Gad Saad observed, "This might be one of the saddest scientific findings I have ever read. " He cited a roll-call of famous luminaries including Albert Einstein, Francis Crick, Linus Pauling, Bertrand Russell and others who fall into the Atheist or non- believer category. There have been Atheist men and women who have made astounding contributions to the welfare of humanity, who have fought for civil liberties and individual rights, who have struggled against considerable odds to make the world a more peaceful, tolerant and nourishing space — and to no avail, at least, it appears, to the average American.

Dr. Saad’s trenchant commentary can be found at ">Psychology Today.

We also call your attention to a little-publicized case from Ohio involving clear discrimination directed at Atheists.  A national insurance firm, GuideOne Mutual, has been found guilty of violating the Federal Fair Housing Act in its marketing campaign to provide premium discounts to "church goers."

Led by the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Fair Housing Advocates Association, plaintiffs challenged the practice in federal court.  A spokesperson for the FHA described the case, filed in November, 2007, saying: "If I went to the grocery store to buy some bread, they couldn’t have a section for Christian bread. It’s about a level playing field and equal access to a product. You can’t put a corporate bias into the sale of a product."

The Ohio decision involves a narrow and clear-cut area of anti-discrimination law.  Christians were given preferential treatment through a "FaithGuard" program operated by the company. The US District Court ordered GuideOne Mutual to pay$74,000 to settle the plaintiffs’ claims; the case affects home owners and renters in 19 states where the company does business.  Visit ">Allgov  for more on this case.

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FEELING BLASPHEMOUS?

Join us as we celebrate International Blasphemy Day! It’s a 3 day celebration of not being afraid to think as you please and speak your mind without dogma

Sept. 28-Open House 2-5pm Taping of the Atheist Viewpoint 7: 00pm

Sept. 29-Meet and Greet Your Fellow Atheists 2pm-?

Sept. 30-Blasphemy Day! De-Baptisms performed 10am-2pm Movie-7pm What better movie to watch on this day? "Blasphemy"

All events are at the American Atheist Center 225 Christiani St. Cranford 908-276-7300 All events are FREE

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WORTH NOTING…

From ">Alternet:

10 Ways the U.S. Military Has Shoved Christianity Down Muslims’ Throats

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was founded in 2005 by Mikey Weinstein, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Reagan administration White House counsel, after the harassment his own sons faced as Jewish cadets at the academy led him to discover that the fundamentalist Christian takeover of the Air Force Academy was far from an isolated problem.

From ">Alternet:

Overshadowed by Tea Party Movement, the Christian Right Scrambles to Claim It Isn’t Racist

At the religious right’s Values Voter Summit this weekend, some of the air seemed to have gone out of the balloon. Gathering at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, 1,800 activists and their leaders seemed resigned to being subsumed by the broader Tea Party movement, or rendered irrelevant by it. This year’s conference, sponsored by the political affiliate of the Family Research Council, emphasized matters important to Tea Party leaders: freedom was linked with free enterprise; ominous were warnings offered about a march to socialism; global warming was said to be a good thing; and taxes were deemed to be too high and largely misappropriated.

From ">Discover Magazine:

Canadian Creationism: Just 22 Percent

I’ve been doing some research and just found this figure: only 22 percent of Canadians think God created human beings within the last 10,000 years or so. In the U.S. the number is roughly double that. Similarly, I recently learned from appearing on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s "Lateline" program that just 20 percent of Australians are global warming deniers. They’re very worried about this fact down there, and they should be-but again, the percentage is much higher in the U.S. Pew puts it at 49 percent.

From ">YouTube:

Check out this pre-election video where Mr. Obama emphasizes the role of science in our nation’s history, and cites Charles Darwin’s anniversary.

From ">The Guardian:

Creation is a fitting tribute to Darwin

A new film about the great scientist is upsetting Darwinologists as much as creationists. Their suspicion is misplaced It’s the double celebration year, and for this amateur Darwinologist, the best is yet to come. The release this week of the film Creation is a unique occasion when my two biggest obsessions, movies and evolution finally converge. Creation is a fictionalised account of Charles Darwin’s middle age, it spans the time between the death of his daughter and the publication of the Origin of Species. It’s based on Annie’s Box, a book by his great-great- grandson Randal Keynes, and thus has the absolute seal of approval of the guardians of Darwin’s estate. That the chronology is not entirely accurate, and that it features Annie’s ghost as a device appears to have troubled some hardy Darwinologists.

From the ">Center for Inquiry:

Blasphemy 

There are many historical myths with which we like to comfort ourselves. One myth that appeals to Americans is that ever since the founding of our country we have been strong supporters of individual rights and fundamental freedoms. After all, shortly after we adopted the Constitution we also adopted the Bill of Rights, which prohibits government interference with speech and government establishment of religion.

From Jump In Magazine:

Interview with Blair Scott, American Atheists Affiliation Director.

From ">Politics Daily:

50,000 Muslims to Pray on Capitol Hill: Guess Who’s Not Happy?

The event sounds like yet another Tea Party protest, or perhaps an encore of last weekend’s Values Voter Summit: Devout believers joining together this Friday to pray on Capitol Hill for the soul of America. Who could argue with that? Well, when the believers happen to be Muslims, and there could be as many as 50,000 of them kneeling to pray in Arabic, yes, you could see how there might be some blowback from the usual suspects.

From ">U. S. News:

Darwin Defenders Lash Out at Creationist Origin of Species

Lots of Darwin defenders responded to my post about the new Creationist edition of Origin of Species. Needless to say, they’re not pleased.

From ">Popeater:

Kirk Cameron Defends Attack on ‘Species’

Former teen idol Kirk Cameron has it out for Charles Darwin, and is making no apologies for his controversial (and mocked, see below) plan to distribute thousands of altered copies of ‘The Origin of Species’ to college students. The ‘Growing Pains’ alum released a video last week announcing that on Nov. 19, he and other Creationist activists will distribute a special ‘Species’ with a 50- page intro that slams evolution and paints Darwin as both racist and misogynistic and explicitly highlights "Adolph Hitler’s undeniable connection to the theory." Nov. 21 is the 150th anniversary of the book’s original publication.

From Salt Lake Tribune:

College makes or breaks faith for many students

The four University of Utah students were sharing one of those sublime moments.  Piled in the back of Alec Gehrke’s Malibu — a refurbished car bought from the LDS Church — they were parked above the Salt Lake City Cemetery in the Avenues late on a warm Saturday night.  Stars lit the sky and the city lights twinkled from the valley floor below. Even their breathing seemed connected, as if they were links on the same chain. "It was existential," Gehrke says.

From ">InForum:

Atheist advocates evidence-based belief on Fargo’s Freethought Day

PZ Myers, an outspoken atheist and evolutionary biologist, had some nice things to say about Fargo on Thursday. Specifically, he liked a proclamation signed by Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker establishing Sept. 24 as Freethought Day. "I’m very pleased to see that Fargo now has a Freethought Day, which is pretty impressive," said Myers.

From ">Psychology Today:

 Atheists Are the Most Mistrusted Group

They Are Evil and Immoral! Some of you might remember Mr. Obama’s inauguration speech wherein he made an explicit reference to non-believers. Apparently, this was the first instance where an incoming American president has formally recognized the existence of this group of Americans (which incidentally includes the great majority of intellectuals, scientists, and philosophers). Does this imply that atheists are now largely accepted within the greater American society? Are they respected for their non-belief in imaginary narratives of invisible deities? Regrettably, the answer is an emphatic no!

From ">The Guardian:

Atheists examine Christmas from angel-free angle

It is a book about Christmas but there’s not a manger, virgin birth or angel in sight. Buoyed by the success of their campaign which proclaimed There’s Probably No God, Now Stop Worrying on the side of London buses, some of Britain’s most prominent atheists have come together to publish a book for the festive season.

From ">AllGov:

Insurance Company Settles Claim for Discriminating against Atheists

GuideOne Mutual Insurance didn’t see any problem with offering special benefits to god-fearing consumers, but atheists and agnostics, not to mention the federal government, sure did. The Department of Justice sued GuideOne in federal court in Kentucky after receiving complaints about the insurer’s "FaithGuard" policy that offered homebuyers, owners and renters in 19 states special benefits and discounts if they were churchgoers

From ">TrueSlant:

US soldiers urged to pray for Muslims to become Christians

On Friday, several thousand Muslims gathered in DC for a very peaceful National Day of Prayer.  At the same time, several Evangelical Christian groups gathered to protest the event.  According to a Fox News story, At a separate event, held simultaneously in a conference room at the Rayburn House Office Building, a group calling itself Stop Islamization of America warned about the supposedly hateful, violent, and anti-Western teachings of the Koran.

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The More Things Change…
September 28, 2009

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, had a good day yesterday. She and her party had a successful election.

Too bad. The German people are about to get screwed by the right wing.

From today’s Globe:

She said she would initiate talks with the Free Democrats about forming a center-right coalition. Such a pairing would enable Merkel, 55, to tackle the contentious issue of overhauling the labor market in Germany, where companies complain about stringent worker protections that they say drag down business and competitiveness.

With the Free Democrats [a libertarian party with 15% of the vote] in her corner, Merkel also could try to halt the planned phase-out of nuclear power, another highly emotional issue in Germany, where a strong Green Party and many ordinary people oppose such plants.

And crucially for the United States, a new center-right coalition will probably be steelier in its continued commitment of troops to the war in Afghanistan, a deeply unpopular undertaking in Germany.

Screw the workers.

Screw the environment.

Screw the Afghans as the Germans and the Americans practice war on them and their wedding parties.

What is it about so-called conservatives that they arrogate to themselves the right to ride roughshod over the stated desires and needs of the people they rule? Merkel’s party got only about 34% of the vote.

Bush did it. Reagan did it. The raging wingnuts in the Senate and House would do it in a heartbeat should they get power: listen to them fulminate about regime change in Iran this week. McCain would be hurling bombs. The idiot Senators Kyl and Bond, soon to be  joined by others of their ilk, are shouting ‘Regime change! Regime change!’ as loud as they can, succeeding most likely in uniting Iranians behind their murderous government, and demonstrating no concern at all for the potential cost in lives and money to the United States. Kyl and Bond are arrogant, narrow-minded, stupid men, good only at conning people to elect them to the Senate, where they contribute nothing to the country except discord and stupidity. And that holds true for pretty much most of the Republicans in Congress these days. 

But that’s the Republican way. When change threatens to improve the country, they claw their way backward to the previous century or the one before that. One might hope that the current group claws itself all the way back under the slimy rocks whence they crawled to desecrate and foul American democracy. And maybe they can take Angela Merkel and her crew with them.

Chuck Norris: Pre-Modern Idiot And Flag Basher
September 24, 2009

There’s a good piece over at TPM about TV icon and faux martial artist Chuck Norris and his plans to deface American flags by spilling tea on them and selling them for $73.50 to the hatemongers in the tea party movement.

Read the comments too. There’re some gems.

Chuck Norris is the guy who a while back wanted the government to force atheists to have a red ‘A’ tattooed on their foreheads.

It should be obvious by now that Norris either got kicked in the head too many times by Bruce Lee and friends, or is suffering dementia. The only question is whether his insane ideas caused the dementia or the dementia is causing the ideas. Since he bills himself as a Conservative it’s probably the former.

And he’s a lousy actor, too.

Catholic Bishops Deny The Existence Of Irony, Ban Reiki
September 22, 2009

In an article in G, the Boston Globe’s daily supplement, not to be confused with vitamins and amino acids, Bella English (lovely name) writes about the controversy bouncing around in Catholic hospitals about the use of reiki, a hands-on so-called healing technique from Japan.

Irrespective of whether reiki actually works, it’s instructive to read the following two paragraphs from the article:

But last spring the US Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that reiki – hailed by many as therapy, derided by others as quackery – would no longer be practiced in the church’s hospitals and retreat centers. Reiki, according to the bishops, is not grounded in science or Christianity and is therefore inappropriate for Catholic institutions.

Practitioners and clients claim that reiki (pronounced RAY-kee) reduces pain, stress, and anxiety; accelerates recovery from surgery and illness; and boosts the immune system. The church hierarchy begs to differ. “Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith nor science,’’ according to the six-page guidelines. “Superstition corrupts one’s worship of God by turning one’s religious feeling and practice in a false direction.’’

Read the last two sentences and tell me that the Church hasn’t banned irony. (Catholics and Christian believers… oh hell, believers of all stripes need not apply -  you wouldn’t understand.)

Is Pope Johnny Rats on board with this? Given the vast hypocrisies and willful ignorances of the Church past and present, one might be forgiven for holding in mind an image of the old man getting secret reiki sessions from young practitioners of dubious reputation. But that would be cynical… and nauseating.

One thing is sure. Once those senescent Vaticanians get their dander up, suffering is sure to follow, minor in this case since they are merely denying a form of comfort to ailing people.

Will it be long before the world is treated to the screams of imprisoned reikians echoing from the Vatican’s labyrinth of basement dungeons?

Stay tuned. Tape at eleven.

The Real Afghanistan: Maybe Obama And His Military Minions Should Read Ann Jones
September 21, 2009

Ann Jones, who spent years in Afghanistan, seems to have a better grip on reality than Obama, the American military, and the brain-dead Republicans who created this mess. Ms. Jones has a fairly long piece over at Common Dreams giving her observations, particularly timely given the current discussion over whether to send more troops into the insanity of American Afghanistan.

Now Serving…
September 15, 2009

There’s some nice helpings of Minced Mole Almondine over at Grumpy Squirrel.

Technorati Tags:

Another South Carolina Idiot: Senator Jim DeMint Is A Liar
September 13, 2009

There must be something in the water or the food, or maybe it’s a failure of prenatal care or infant care, but South Carolina seems to have raised a high percentage of fools and idiots to serve in its political sector.

The Governor, Mark Sanford, disappeared without notice for five days to play house with his South American mistress, as well as play fast and loose with State money for various trips. Now he’s blaming the press and his critics. No man there, despite his penis-waving in South America.

Then there’s Representative Joe Wilson, the loudmouth ignoramus who shouted ‘You lie!’ at Obama during the joint session of Congress the other night. Not only was he desperately and obscenely rude, he was also wrong on the facts. That hasn’t stopped him from continuing to make the same claim, to repeat the same lie, and raise money off of it.

And then there’s Senator Jim DeMint. He’s the one who said, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,” when talking about the President’s health care reform efforts.

Yesterday he reached a new low during an astroturf anti-reform, anti-Obama, anti-thinking, pro-stupidity rally in Washington, sponsored by Dick Armey’s phony and mendacious FreedomWorks group that caters to stupidity and ignorance.

DeMint said, “The president has warned us if we disagree with him he’s going to call us out,” he said. “Well, Mr. President, we are out.” (DeMint’s quote is not in the online version of the story. GL)

Yes, Jim, you are. You are way out on the fringe of reality. The President said, “If you misrepresent what’s in the [health care reform] plan, we will call you out.”

He did not say he would call you out if you disagree with him. He said if you lie about or distort information about the plan, he will call you out.

Bright-boy DeMint simply lied about what the President said. He chose to score political points by telling a lie.

While The Lion can point to the people of South Carolina and truthfully say that their politicians make everyone in the state look like idiots and clowns, it would be well to remember that lying is what Republicans do.

They no longer think. They no longer try to make sense. They no longer give a damn about their constituents or the nation. The height of their intellectual competence comprises scoring cheap political points based on lies and distortions. Their goal is to tear down anything and everything that might benefit the middle class and the lower classes, and to hand the wealth of the country to the rich and the powerful while enriching themselves.

That’s the Republican way.

Iraqistan All Over Again. When Will They Ever Learn…
September 11, 2009

There’s a long story on page two of the Globe today about Congress demanding to see a plan for victory in Afghanistan or they’ll vote against any further troop escalations.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman John Murtha say there’s limited support for sending more troops, and not enough money to do it anyway.

Experience should tell them that to gain anything that might pass for victory would require, as in Iraq, several hundred thousand troops, in theatre, for a long, long time.

But in point of fact it’s not going to matter what Congress does or doesn’t do. They refuse to deal with reality. Everybody seems to have gone so far off track that they’ve forgotten what the track was.

Consider this from today’s Globe, the final paragraph in the story:

But Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, urged his colleagues to “give our forces the time and resources they need to show progress in the fight against the enemies responsible for the attacks of 9/11.’’

We can’t tell who he’s talking about, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Consider:

The people who carried out the attack are dead.

Most of the people who planned the attack are, according to the government, dead or in custody.

The two top men in al Qaeda are still at large, but we can’t find them, primarily because we’re spending our resources and money on big military forces stomping around Southwest Asia.

The Taliban government of Afghanistan at the time did not participate in the attacks, and were not fond of al Qaeda.

The current Taliban movement did not take part in the attack, and should more correctly be considered a nationalist religious movement which is not a threat to the United States.

We have no more reason to fight the Taliban than we have to fight any other nationalist or religious movement in any other country around the world.

Just as Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, Afghanistan has nothing to do with 9/11. Neither war is about 9/11, not now.

And yet here we are, throwing away twelve billion dollars a month on these wars, wasting the lives and talents of thousands of our military personnel, and behaving pretty much like barbarians while our own country suffers massive problems at home.

And Congress, that bastion of reasoned and civil debate, that tower of intellect and intelligence, can’t figure out what in hell is going on but wants to base its decisions on fallacies and lies and myths.

When will they ever learn?

They won’t.

How The Press Promotes Fear
September 10, 2009

Today’s Globe includes an excellent example of how the press promotes fear and hysteria.

The headline, on page A5, reads ‘US says Iran has enough uranium for a nuclear weapon’. In the current climate of hysteria over Iran, that’s enough to send more than a few people over the edge, especially if they’re of the Republican persuasion, and certainly if they’re of the Republican wingnut persuasion.

The first paragraph proceeds to deepen the fear inherent in the headline:

The United States warned yesterday that Iran is close to having the capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon, and joined major European powers in urging Tehran to “turn the page’’ and engage in dialogue to prove its atomic program is peaceful.

Scary, eh?

But then the story continues with this:

Glyn Davies, the chief US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the latest report by the nuclear watchdog shows that Tehran is either very near or already in possession of sufficient low-enriched uranium to produce one nuclear weapon if the decision were made to further enrich it to weapons-grade.

“This ongoing enrichment activity . . . moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity,’’ Davies told the agency’s 35-nation board of governors.

Oh. Well. That’s a bit different. All they have is low-enriched uranium. That’ll work for nuclear electrical generation, but not in a bomb.

And there’s no evidence they’ve made a decision to enrich it to weapons grade uranium.

So the story goes from “The Iranians could build a bomb right away” in the headline, to “The Iranians are quite a ways away from creating the material for a bomb”.

Was the Globe deliberately seeking to create fear? These days, given the press’s uncertain loyalties to ethics and honesty and its willingness to toe any Federal government line that includes a question of loyalty or patriotism, it’s not possible to say with certainty what their motive is, and it is, as always, best to question their motive and intent.

If we assume a charitable position, we can say they simply wrote a stupid headline. But the damage is done. And as professionals they should know better. That they didn’t suggests either an overworked editor, or a right-wing partisan editor, or an editor who simply doesn’t know his job and doesn’t really care. One would have to consider also that more than one person was responsible for the headline: someone had to look it over, perhaps.

From such small events, one piled on another, come the first steps to war, to the destruction of nations and slaughter of millions.

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The Dying Marine: America Revels In Its Disconnection From Reality
September 7, 2009

The Associated Press published a picture its embedded photographer took of a mortally injured Marine in Afghanistan, and America’s inner idiot exploded.

Professional opiners opined that it was disgraceful to publish such a picture: it disgraced the military, it dishonored the dying soldier, it was an evil plot by the socialists, it’s time to shoot Obama. And so on.

To quote Barney Frank, what planet have these people been living on?

What do they think this kid was doing over there? He was a goddammed Marine. His job was to rip people open with bullets, grenades, knives, his bare hands if need be. And the American soldiers have been very good at doing just that. Men, women, children, bloodied, smashed, shattered, turned to bloody paste and shattered bone by Americans wielding American weapons.

And American soldiers have been ripped in turn by Afghans and Iraqis and other fighters joining in what to them is the good fight to defend their beliefs and their lands.

Do Americans think that people die in war zones like they died in John Wayne movies, in war and crime movies of the Forties and Fifties? Fall down, don’t bleed, lay still. Maybe a dramatic, breathless little speech about something noble?

Do Americans think it’s okay to watch the violence on television and in Hollywood movies, where the deaths most nearly approximate reality, and then protest when the real thing shows up on their doorstep in the form of a photograph in the news? Do they think the people who created the stunningly realistic opening scenes from Saving Private Ryan were kidding?

Americans are responsible for the bloodbaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans are responsible for their out-of-control leaders who invaded these countries, one an invasion based on stupidity, the other an invasion based on lies. Americans are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths over there, for the torture and murder of prisoners and detainees, for the destruction of two nations.

But the only hue and cry they raise is about an honest and not particularly brutal photograph of a dying American soldier whose job it was to implement the brutality of American policy.

What in hell do these people think war is about? Are they stuck on John Wayne’s vision of war? He was a piece-of-crap actor who hid out in Hollywood making what amounted to propaganda movies for the government, getting rich and fat off the deaths of American soldiers.

The Marine in that photograph got blown up for a reason and there was nothing noble or pretty or uplifting about it. His death was as ugly as George Bush’s shriveled soul. He died for an illusion, for a delusion, for a pound of lies.

What is truly disgusting, truly dishonoring, truly nauseating, is for the airheads on television news to treat this controversy with empty-headed politeness and ignore the truth of the photograph, to ignore the reality of the wars.

The so-called news programs should be required, and should have been required for the past eight years, to show five minutes of photographs during every newscast of American soldiers and Iraqi and Afghani civilians torn up by weapons from both sides. No commentary from the dumb-as-rocks on-air ‘personalities’. Just photographs and silence. Five minutes an hour. No commercials on either side of that slot. Five minutes of the real war, or as close to real as tens of millions of pathetic, childish Americans can get. They should get a good look at what twelve billion dollars a month can buy. They should get a good look at what morally corrupt, power-hungry American politicians can do to children. They should have their faces shoved in the gore and death that they support and condone.

As for those who say the family’s privacy should be respected, fine, respect the family’s privacy. But that Marine signed up for the war. He belongs to the people of the United States. His death belongs to the people of the United States, and those people should get a good look at what they own.

His name was Joshua M. Bernard. He was a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps, and he deserves better than to be fought over like a piece of meat tossed into a pit of politicians, pundits, and media personalities. But what happened to him should not be hidden from the people who are responsible, from ordinary Americans, and from the politicians, pundits, and media personalities who put him in harm’s way.