Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Being transgender is a product of mental illness? So says right wing writer...

There's a fascinating disgusting article at Townhall written by mental health expert right wing bigot John Hawkins. Hawkins, among other things, runs Right Wing News, which shares informative stories with taglines like this (actual) one: "You will NOT believe what this business owner is doing for his customers that makes LIBERALS crazy! Story below."

Aside from clickbaiting his million-plus proud hatriot followers, Hawkins is a champion for those afflicted with mental illness. And by mental illness, he means "transgender people". And by champion, I mean, writes that they're mentally disturbed self-mutilators. But, you know, before we go further, you should know that he really cares. Deeply.
There’s nothing shameful about having a mental illness. If you break your leg, you go to a doctor and get it fixed. If you have some form of mental illness, you go to a psychologist or psychiatrist and get it treated as best you can. Sometimes you can be cured. Sometimes it’s a lifetime struggle, but all of us have different challenges to deal with and that’s okay.

Now, you might be about to ask "what are John Hawkins' qualifications, to diagnose how many thousands of strangers with mental illness?" Since you ask, I can only assume you're one of those people who likes to "rant about 'bigots,' 'gay pride' and 'civil rights'"...so at this juncture, it's right to advise you:
...that encouraging troubled people to permanently disfigure themselves instead of working through their issues with a mental health professional is a thoughtless, cruel, and monstrous act.
(And, no, it doesn't look like he has any qualifications to make that kind of judgment call.) But to the specifics of what, let's say, Dr. Hawkins has to say about transgender people. It's more or less the standard transphobic stuff. First, a comparison with people who hear voices and want healthy limbs amputated, people who see mental illness as a "super power" or "dangerous gifts". Then we get to "something just as ridiculous." Which is, of course, "the idea that you can change your sex." Now, the good doctor seems to miss any of the nuances between gender and sex, but he does feel that the recognition of transgender individuals is a lot of nonsense: just people deciding to "cater to a pathology instead of treating it."
If you are born a man, you can mutilate yourself and take female hormones, but you can’t become a woman. If you are born a woman, you can mutilate yourself and take male hormones, but you can’t become a man.
 Regardless of surgery, "you’re not going to actually be a woman." But it's much worse than that; and this is where Dr. Hawkins heartfelt concern bubbles through again.
You’re also probably not going to be the attractive fantasy you imagined yourself being because you’ve had male hormones pumping through your body for a lifetime. 
You know, back when transgender people lived in the closet, this would be an easier point to make, if only because you could play off of people's ignorance. But with so many lovely trans people, like model Geena Rocero or writer Janet Mock, in the limelight it seems kind of absurd. It's been done, people have seen it, case closed. Right? Still, it's not just looks that the good doctor is concerned with; he also fears for transgender folks' relationships. Because, let's face it, they
 ...are probably going to be screwed up because most men are going to view you as another man. 
I'm not sure how this is an argument against gender reassignment surgery. If a potential partner is going to view a transgender woman's sex based on the genitals she was born with...how is having a penis going to improve matters? At worst, the partner's views will be exactly the same.

But there's more...
Even if you do somehow meet a guy you like who isn’t using you to fulfill some forbidden fantasy for a night, what happens when he finds out? The relationship is probably over. 
In the good doctor's view, trans women are either so masculine in appearance that men recognize them as "really" men from a mile away, and so will only use them for a night of "forbidden fantasy"...or the transition is "somehow" compelling enough to fool a man, just long enough for his trans partner to lure him into bed. You know, because that's what trans women are trying to do. (At this point, I had started to wonder if Dr. Hawkins was deriving his medical insight from actual medical sources, or a "stereotypes about people who aren't just like me" handbook).

But the ever concerned doctor delved deeper into the troubling implications of this "pathology;" because he's not just worried about how trans people are going to get lucky. He's also concerned that getting lucky might not be as much fun as it should be.
The sex probably isn’t going to be good either because your groin has been cut to pieces and refashioned. 
I would say the comment surprised me...but is there anything surprising about right-wingers worrying about other people's sex lives these days? It's practically a tenet of conservatism (I hear tell that not contemplating [with attendant mortification, of course] some sex act you deem illicit or forbidden at least three times daily is somewhere on par with thinking that children deserve healthcare. You know, squarely outside of "real America"-ville.) At any rate, I don't hear transgender people complaining about their sex lives post-surgery. Neither does Dr. Hawkins, apparently...seeing as how his best source is "probably." So his musings aside, this seems like a complete non-issue.

 We're getting to the real kicker, though.
Additionally, your mortality rate will be 51% higher than the general population because of suicide and all the female hormones you’ve pumped into your body en masse. In fact, the suicide rate for people who are transgender is 25 times that of the general population according to the American Psychological Association.
Well hello Dr. Clueless, I'd like you to meet Part-of-the-Problem! Here's a wild and random idea. Maybe treating transgender people like they're suffering from mental illness; maybe perpetuating the harmful idea that trans women are just trying to lure unsuspecting men into their clutches; maybe insisting that your ideas regarding another person's gender forever define that person's gender; maybe, just maybe, those things contribute to levels of depression that could boost a suicide rate. This is the same line that anti-choice zealots use: "we're so concerned about the mental health of women who have abortions, that we're going to ceaselessly hound, badger, bully and demonize them. Because we care!" And it's the same pack of lies. This example of harm (rather crucial to his comparison of gender reassignment surgery and limb removal) is far more logically attributable to other causes -- namely, people like Hawkins -- than gender reassignment surgery. And yet, like the anti-choice crowd, he contributes to the demonizing of trans people; and then points to depression and suicidal tendencies, not as evidence of the harm that can come of demonizing people, but as a cause to further demonize them.

Viking Fortress Discovered

While it's not exactly "breaking news" anymore :), the following is an article I wrote for a monthly newsletter I edit...figured the topic was still pretty fascinating, so, in case you haven't seen it, here goes.

Archeologists have newly discovered a Viking ringed fortress in Denmark, through an ingenious combination of old fashioned sleuthing and high-tech searching. The Danish Castle Center shares, “On fields at Vallø Estate, near Køge, [archeologists from The Danish Castle Centre and Aarhus University] have discovered traces of a massive Viking fortress built with heavy timbers and earthen embankments. The perfectly circular fortress is similar to the famous so-called ‘Trelleborg’ fortresses, which were built by King Harald Bluetooth around AD 980.”

Søren M. Sindbæk and Nanna Holm by the burnt remains of a castle gate
Søren M. Sindbæk and Nanna Holm
by the burnt remains of a castle gate
The Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen’s Viking Age historian, Lasse CA Sonne explained to the Copenhagen Post why this was such a phenomenal find. “[T]hese circular fortresses are unique to Denmark. Many have given up hope that there were many of them left.” But the archeologists who discovered the site had a hunch that it might be out there.

Says Søren Sindbæk, professor of medieval archeology at Aarhus University, “The discovery has been a piece of detective work. We suspected that one fortress was ‘missing’ on the island of Zealand. The location at Vallø was quite the right setting in the landscape: in a place where the old main roads met and reached to Køke river valley, which in the Viking Age was a navigable fjord and one of Zealand’s best natural harbors. From there we worked our way forward step by step.”

This work started with Nanna Holm, of the Danish Castle Centre in Vordingborg, and her examination of precise laser measurements of the landscape. She noticed an almost imperceptible rise, clearly circular in shape, in the field. Holm explains, “It is a huge monument. The fortress measures 145m from side to side. We recognize the ‘Trelleborg’ fortresses by the precise circular shape of the ramparts and by the four massive gates that are oriented at the four corners of the compass. Our investigations show that the new fortress was perfectly circular and had sturdy timber all the front; we have so far examined two gates, and they agree exactly with the ‘Trelleborg’ plan.” The next step was calling in an expert in archeological geophysics: Helen Goodchild, from the University of York, England. Gizmodo reports, “Goodchild used a technique called gradiometry, which involves taking measurements of the Earth's magnetic field found in the soil at the site. By comparing variations from location to location, they were able to detect where humans had altered the Earth”.

In this way, archeologists were able to develop a “ghost map” that gave them a detailed view of the fortress layout — and showed them exactly where to put trenches for excavating. And what they’ve found so far is very exciting.

Holm says, “We can see that the gates were burned-down; in the north gate we found massive, charred oak posts.” And while the exact date of the site has yet to be determined, the researchers are certain that this is from the Viking age. “Fortresses constructed in this manner are only known from the Viking Age.”

As for why the fortress was burned and when, researchers don’t know — yet. “The burned wood of the gates will make it possible to determine the age by means of radiocarbon dating and dendrochronology,” Nanna Holm relates. “The samples have been sent, and we will be eager to hear the results. If we can establish exactly when the fortress was built, we may be able to understand the historic events of which the fortress was part.” She notes that the team is “eager to establish if the castle will turn out to be from the time of King Harald Bluetooth, like the previously known fortresses, or perhaps of a former king’s work. As a military fortification from the Viking Age, the monument may help to unravel the position of Zealand in relation to the oldest Danish kingdom.”

Article adapted from the following sources:
Danish Castle Center’s press release (in English) ... (Danish version)
Aarhus University article
Gizmodo article
Copehagen Post article

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Scott Walker & the Mary Burke plagiarism charges...or, People Who Live in Glass Houses...

If you listen to Wisconsin Republicans, it seems like Mary Burke has been running around with scissors and tape, cutting and fastening snippets of just about everything together to form a jobs plan. The Republican Party of Wisconsin has been gleefully cashing in, declaring that Mary Burke refuses to "take responsibility", and putting out imagery like the following.

Granted, if your candidate is tanking the state economy, playing fast and loose with the law, cutting sweetheart deals for donors, mandating medically unnecessary ultrasounds, withholding healthcare from the poor, repealing equal pay protections, implementing the largest education cuts in state history, shuttering women's health clinics, and generally lying his ass off, this one's going to make you pretty happy.

But before Republicans get too excited, I think a little perspective is in order. First, Mary Burke didn't write the individual words, word-by-word, of her jobs plan, any more than Scott Walker wrote his. Campaign consultants, consulting firms, and staff are employed to do this sort of thing -- put the candidate's ideas into text (and, doubtless in some cases, come up with something entirely). And sometimes those staff take unethical shortcuts. As is the case here, where consultant Eric Schnurer authored the jobs plan -- and self-plagiarized his own writing from other Democrats' job plans. Is this acceptable? No, of course not. But let's be very clear: Mary Burke didn't sit down, pour through Schnurer's work, and select passages to lift. That was a decision made by Schnurer, and almost certainly (considering what a needless political liability it would be) without Burke's knowledge.

So how did Burke and her campaign react when they found out? Did they really shirk responsibility, as the Republican party suggests?

Of course not. They acknowledged the error and took action.
"We terminated (Schnurer) immediately after this was brought to our attention by BuzzFeed," [Burke spokesman Joe] Zepecki said via email. "No member of the Burke for Wisconsin campaign staff or the candidate had ever seen the jobs plans of the candidates named in the story."
Burke hired staff with histories that would recommend them as reliable persons. Where it was discovered that this was not the case, the offending person was promptly let go. The worst you can accurately stick on Burke is poor judgment -- and considering Schnurer's resume, even this is a tenuous one. 
Yeah, that Mary Burke...what an idiot she is for hiring a guy with no prior (known) blemishes on his record, who had successfully written for multiple campaigns in the past. I mean, what was she thinking?!

Not that Mary Burke would have been the only one to encounter a consultant who decided to "recycle" for her campaign. No indeed. In fact, none other than ... Scott Walker! ... was criticized for this same thing last election cycle, when a consulting firm he hired copied both the fundraising technique and parts of the content from a 1998 campaign event for Ohio Republican George Voinovich. The one difference? After criticism started, Walker's campaign claimed that the idea was truly their own, and said that the firm actually advised them of the fact that they had done the same thing previously...and it was still okay'ed. If that is true, and not just a face saving measure (the goal was to illustrate how "incredibly genuine" Scott Walker was -- and his genuineness coming from a consulting firm's list of "eh, we haven't done this in awhile" might not aid that impression...), the "recycling" in this case came from Walker's camp, over the objections of the consultants. Either way, that saying about people who live in glass houses comes to mind...

In conclusion, the plagiarism scandal, if honestly evaluated, is little more than an embarrassment to Burke's campaign: she unwittingly put faith in a consultant (or consultants) who did not merit it (despite seemingly persuasive evidence to the contrary). She hired a guy with a great resume, who in turn ripped off his own past writing, and in the process gave the Republican Party a chance to distract from the continued failure that has been Scott Walker's time in office. And if you think that ill placed faith in an employee somehow signals an abysmal lack of judgment that should thwart her gubernatorial ambitions...I would remind you that Burke isn't the only leading candidate whose aides have humiliated them with unethical behavior. She is, however, the only one whose aides didn't actually do anything illegal while exercising terrible judgment (unlike the multiple campaign aides of Walker's who have been charged with crimes). Because if hiring someone who proves (despite appearances to the contrary) to be unethical should cast doubt on your abilities...what does hiring not one, but multiple, criminals entail? Again, we go back to what I was saying about people who live in glass houses...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Pearls Before Swine strikes again

Another brilliant Pearls Before Swine comic.

The Rat trap (haha) illustrated here is worth contemplating: overemphasizing some aspects of a given thing (be it an act, a belief system, etc.) while downplaying other aspects is hardly a reliable way to form an accurate opinion about that thing. And resorting to "bribes" -- be they actual bribes, or rationalizations, justifications, etc. to convince ourselves -- is at least as bad.

Steve Neumann's bizarre "Atheist Positivity Challenge"

My most recent article on Friendly Atheist deals with Steve Neumann's "Atheist Positivity Challenge." Neumann issued the challenge in a Salon.com article (entitled "Cut it out, atheists! Why it's time to stop behaving like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins"). The article is problematic on a number fronts. Neumann understates the impact of people like (mega-church pastor) Mark Driscoll; he wrongly assumes that atheists criticize the Driscolls of the world simply to "gloat" about the "lunacy" of specific Christians; and he worries that pointing out the misdeeds of specific Christians will falsely represent all Christians -- while citing quotes from Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins to illustrate how this is a problem with Atheism.

At any rate, I address all of this and more at the link, and also provide a lot of sources to illustrate why, exactly, Driscoll isn't just an "outlier" who should be ignored. Check it out if you're interested.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vyckie Garrison & the free gift of eternal life

An article based on Vyckie Garrison's speech at the Atheist Convention in Salt Lake City recently went live on her Patheos blog and other sites. I had already watched the talk on AtheistTV, and I highly recommend it (video below). If you prefer the shorter/written variety, it is at the link above.
Garrison spends some time discussing the Quiverfull movement. It being a movement very similar to what I was part of growing up (I don't specifically remember the term "quiverfull" being used, but the concepts were extremely close), I was particularly interested. I was the oldest of six kids, and we were raised for the greater glory of God...with the idea that we too would all raise a bunch of kids for God...who would raise their own army for God...and so on and so forth. And, naturally, we all answered to my father, because that's what God wanted. Seeing the similarities (misogyny being the overwhelming theme, often manifesting in identical fashion) between these fundamentalist branches was very striking.

I think my favorite quote relates to more than just a few types of fundamentalism, though:

You see, being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a set up for dysfunctional game-playing and crazy-making head trips. According to Christianity, Jesus subjected himself to torture and death, so that we could have the “free gift” of eternal life … and by “free,” he means, it’s only going to cost you everything you have and everything you are.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Awkward Moments: Balaam's Talking A**

So I've got the flu, which quite possibly explains why I find this unnecessary censorship so danged funny. (I swear, I'm not this immature most of the time. No, really.) If you haven't checked out Awkward Moments Children's Bible, you really should. Because it's hilarious. Particularly when you were raised to think this nonsense should be read literally, and was evidence of some higher morality and ultimate right in the world.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Have you ever had this conversation?

I have, and it's not pretty. There's a certain type of believer who thinks the mere presence of dissent is an attack on them and the horse they rode in on; and the only way for there to be true "religious freedom" is when all other opinions are firmly squelched. Because anything less is an outrage.

Found on David G. McAfee's Facebook page.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition trailer, YahooMovies giveaway

So YahooMovies has a trailer for the extended edition of Desolation of Smaug here. You don't see a ton of new stuff, but you do get a glimpse of Thrain. And there's more of Sonic the Hedgehog Beorn. This one adds an additional 25 minutes to the theatrical version, for better or worse. In case you couldn't tell, I have mixed feelings about it, largely because the film itself was so meh (imho). Will anything Jackson's going to add significantly improve it? Probably not. On the other hand, his version of Beorn is painfully bad (again, imho), so more screen time is nothing to look forward to; and his version of Radagast is appalling, and as more time at Dol Guldor probably means more Radagast screentime...Ugh. But, well, it is still The Hobbit...so, yeah, I'm going to watch it at least once. (Yes, I know how pathetic that sounds :P ).

Also, if you're interested in winning this "Hero Set"....

as well as a One Ring replica and the movie, the site has details on how to enter. First, you must make your way through Mirkwood, and then...

Sorry, nothing that exciting; and, congrats, a lot easier than that would be. Just follow YahooMovies on Twitter, and tweet the line they ask you to. All details/disclaimers at the link. Contest ends September 25th.

(And, in case it needs stating, this is a YahooMovies contest & has nothing to do with my blog. I'm just sharing for interested Tolkien fans).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dawkins embraces rape culture, redux: on lying with dogs, and getting up with fleas

So I'm not the only one who took note of Dawkins' recent expressions of sexism. In fact, I picked up on it a few days later than most (because, to be honest, I'm not on Twitter very much). There was one thing in particular that my initial post overlooked, since I had missed the play-by-play.
And that was this
 Now, Dawkins subsequently deleted the comment, but multiple people saw it and blogged about it.

 Wow. If, as seems likely, this was a genuine expression of outrage at the horrors of suggesting that the vehement defense of raping a drunk person is an artifact of rape culture, well, way to miss the point. Rape culture is thinking that consent is negotiable, if necessary at all. Rape culture, for instance, is blaming the person who is inebriated to the point of senselessness for someone else choosing to rape her (and, yeah, that's what it is when you "have sex" with someone who doesn't or isn't capable of consenting: rape). Feminists (and decent human beings in general) aren't demanding anything outrageous, and frankly it kind of pisses me off that I even have to say that in this context. Because it should be obvious. All we're asking is this: before you put your penis near someone, find out if they're actually interested in it. And, if not, stay the fuck away from them.

Damn. Is that so hard to comprehend?

But there was another aspect of Dawkins "you're asking for it" meltdown that I missed. That was his embrace of anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers.
The embarrassingly clumsy attempt at crafting a phrase from which to derive the acronym FTB -- Free Thought Blogs, from whence many of his critics hail -- notwithstanding, this is troubling for a number of reasons. Obviously, because Sommers' claims are dishonest and irrational. She overstates the influence of problematic feminists, drastically downplays real issues, and generally distorts reality in order to falsely claim that feminism is a radical movement that hates men, sex, summer, and apple pie. Her approach would be comparable to a religious apologist stumbling across Dawkins' recent tweets, and declaring emphatically that atheists are male chauvinist pigs, sexism is a result of atheism, and, really, religion is the solution to everything, particularly misogyny.

Aside from her other distortions, one of Sommers' fallbacks is to claim victimhood while declaring that everyone else is falsely claiming to be a victim. Women are fake victims who imagine that they face gender-based discrimination; but gosh darn is it risky to be a truth-teller in the "radical" feminist-dominated world. Cue the violins, because it's a rough life. (On second thought, I'm starting to see why a multimillionaire, best selling author and renowned biologist who claims that bloggers expressing different opinions is a matter of "bullying" and "witch-hunts" might find some common ground with her; if nothing else, they apparently share the same persecution complex).

She also likes to split feminism into categories all her own, of "gender" versus "equity" feminism; as PZ Myers notes, a meaningless and yet useful distraction tactic also employed by some folks with whom Dawkins is considerably less friendly: creationists.

It's unfortunate that a distinguished academic would lend credence to a far-right hack. It, like the "real rape culture" tweet, illustrates that -- far from being informed, cool and rational -- Dawkins'  responses are at best ignorant, and at worst thoughtless and reactionary. How could someone committed to rationality and honesty, as Dawkins is in some fields at least, in good conscience promote the work of someone who is known to play (very) fast and (very) loose with the truth, on the very subject in question? I don't think they could -- not without serious disclaimers (which were not present).

It is all the more curious when he tweets things like the following, in reference to his embrace of Sommers:
Since that is the basis for why people point out that Sommers is not a feminist authority and not trustworthy on the topic -- the amazingly ignorant and dishonest claims she's made -- it is disingenuous to make this a matter of teams, or gangs, or what-have-you. It is no more to the point than a creationist bleating that scientists should take Ken Ham seriously regardless of what meanies like Bill Nye say about him not being a scientist. Sommers' critics take issue precisely with what she says. Sommers' critics dismiss her ideas precisely because her dishonest claims and continual efforts against feminism illustrates that her work is neither feminist nor generally honest. Just as creationism is dismissed by scientists, because its rigid dogma and dishonest interpretations illustrate that it is not a scientific approach.

And so, again, I find myself being deeply disappointed in Dawkins. Not because he got angry or expressed frustration. If he feels he's being unfairly maligned, or some great injustice is being wrought, those are natural responses. If he shot off a passionate rage-tweet, or blog post, or facebook status, that expressed his irritation -- but was honest and logically consistent -- fair enough. I certainly have no objection to an impassioned, informed rebuttal; some people do that very, very well (Matt Dillahunty comes to mind). But Dawkins' reaction was none of these things. Instead, he reacted in ways that completely contradict everything he's stood for previously; he embraced thinking that is, quite frankly, beneath him and every rationally-minded person. He's willing to lie down with dogs, but thinks he can disavow the fleas the next morning. And, frankly, that's not the way it works: if you make light of rape culture, embrace radical misogynists and liars, and ignore the thoughtful arguments of those who attempt to show you the error of your thinking...well, those fleas are not so easy to shake.

A comic, and conversation, about privilege

A lot of people's hackles get really raised when you mention privilege. Because privilege can be hard to spot. Discussion of it is often perceived as if it's as a personal attack. Mention privilege, and you'll probably get some response like...

"Just because I'm a man doesn't mean I'm a misogynist."  
"Just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm a racist." 
"What are you talking about? I worked really hard to get where I am today!"

And the kicker is, most of the time those people are right: they're not misogynists, or racists, or slackers. They did work hard to get where they are. But that's not what "privilege" implies. Privilege doesn't have to be something you insist upon, or some malicious plan to one-up your fellow human beings.

Most times, we're born into it, accustomed to it, and blind to it. Trust fund kids didn't finagle their placement in the parent lottery; but I doubt we'd say they weren't privileged as a result of that accident of chance. Of course, a trust fund kid's privilege is obvious. It's less obvious in other cases. Which is what I think the following comic illustrates rather well.

From DailyKos on Facebook (and from tumblr @cartoonpolitics before that).

Privilege is rarely something we're choosing to exercise. And yet we can still benefit from it, even if we're not actively seeking it out. Reaping those benefits inadvertently, however, doesn't absolve us of the duty to eradicate injustice when we see it. And privilege very often manifests as injustice, be it social, legal, etc.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hobby Lobby decision used as basis for Fundamentalist Mormon refusing to testify in child labor abuse case

So remember that "limited" Hobby Lobby ruling? Remember when Justice Ginsburg called it "a decision of startling breadth"? Turns out, boy was she right. A federal judge ruled, based on the Hobby Lobby decision, that a fundamentalist Mormon, a follower of convicted sex offender Warren Jeffs, was justified in refusing to testify about FLDS child labor abuses. Among other mortifying contentions, Judge David Sam ruled:

“It is not for the Court to “inquir[e] into the theological merit of the belief in question,” Sam wrote, citing the Hobby Lobby decision. “The determination of what is a ‘religious’ belief or practice is more often than not a difficult and delicate task …. However, the resolution of that question is not to turn upon a judicial perception of the particular belief or practice in question; religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection.”
My full article on FriendlyAtheist has much more detail. Suffice it to say, the Supreme Court seems to have unleashed a monster of epic proportions in their efforts to appease the vocal misogynists in our nation.

Lancet study: Richard III's cause of death identified

Researchers believe they have pinpointed King Richard III's cause of death, according to a new study in The Lancet. Speaking Speaking to CNN, co-author of the study, Professor Guy Rutty, says

The most likely injuries to have caused the king's death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull -- a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon...
Richard's head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies.
It's worth noting that while those might have been the killing blows, Richard suffered a total of nine head wounds, as well as two pelvic area wounds (although these, at least, most likely occurred after death). This was certainly a grim way to go...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Richard Dawkins and rape culture

So I happened to stumble on these two items simultaneously: Mark Oppenheimer's article about misogyny in the atheist movement, covering among other things allegations that Michael Shermer plied at least one young woman (Alison Smith) with alcohol until she was too inebriated to know what was happening and then had sex with her, and Richard Dawkins' comments to those allegations.


Now, it goes without saying that allegations are not proof that something happened. Shermer has said the encounter was entirely consensual; he has neither been charged with or convicted of a crime. However, if Shermer did what he's accused of...that's rape. Taking sexual advantage of someone who is too inebriated to know what's going on after you've purposely plied them with enough alcohol to reduce them to this state for this purpose is rape. This may or may not have happened, but this is what the allegation is about.

So when Richard Dawkins says things like this:

He is in part correct: it is her word against -- and if she was raped, it is absolutely appalling. The use of "and she admits she was too drunk to REMEMBER" seems designed to trivialize important context in Smith's claim: that Shermer allegedly pretended to be drinking in equal proportion, while continuing to furnish with alcohol, that he was not inebriated while she was senseless, and that she clearly remembers having no idea of where she was (and spoke on the phone to friends in that state). Again, that doesn't mean that this is what actually happened, but it is what she is claiming happened. And since that's what we're discussing, it is not enough to sum it up with, "she was too drunk to REMEMBER." Because she has made some pretty specific claims about pretty specific memories.

(Dawkins focuses a good deal of attention specifically on remembering; not in the CeeLo Green "People who have really been raped REMEMBER!!!" because consciousness is required for rape vein, but more along the lines of "she can't possibly know it was rape if she can't remember the act of being raped" -- so it's worth pointing out that a crime might well have been committed regardless of the victim's state of memory, and a victim might well be able to realize that a crime happened even if they don't recall the actual commission of the crime. Indeed, the accusation largely hinges on Shermer deliberately reducing Smith to a state of total intoxication [where consent is not possible], in order to take sexual advantage of her in that state.)

Dawkins also mentions convincing juries more than once. (Of note: even if the allegations in question might not convince a jury, that doesn't mean that they're necessarily false). But the question isn't one of a courtroom. Shermer isn't on trial. It's absolutely valid to point out that the accused's innocence must be assumed until evidence to the contrary surfaces, and this is a point that Dawkins rightly makes multiple times. (It is equally fallacious to jump to the opposite end of the spectrum, however, and assume that the accuser is lying, as many other commenters have done). So far, some questionable phrasing, but otherwise, more or less reasonable.

Some of his other points are far less rational, however. For instance:
Here again, Dawkins illustrates a shocking ignorance, willful or otherwise, of the details of a case for which he seems so concerned. Alison Smith's claim isn't that she has no memory of the evening. According to Smith, she remembers having no idea of where she was. She remembers being told by Shermer, while she was in such an inebriated state, that he was taking her to her room; she remembers that he instead took her to his own. She remembers speaking to a friend and not knowing what hotel she was in. After leaving his room. So Smith might not remember having sex, but the scenario she paints is one of one party manipulating the other toward complete inebriation (while pretending that imbibing is mutual), luring the other under false pretenses to his bedroom, and then having sex with her while she is either passed out or so out of it that she doesn't even know where she is. In other words, rape. (That doesn't mean that this is what happened, but it certainly is what Smith claims happened -- and very different from how Dawkins presents those claims).

But that's not even the worst part of this tweet. Dawkins says "don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." He might use the word "crime," but I'd be surprised if he would apply the same principle to other crimes. Would Dawkins, for instance, tell a mugging victim, "Don't ever bash someone upside the head to take their cash. But also, don't accuse someone of bashing you upside the head and robbing you, if you don't remember the robbery and can't prove it happened." With no more evidence, we have no more way of knowing whether the alleged mugging took place than we do of knowing if the alleged rape took place (there is physical evidence of some type of situation in both cases, but the cause is less certain). But I'm pretty sure we wouldn't tell the guy claiming to have been robbed, 'if you can't prove it, shut up!' Even if he had been plastered at the time.

Some of Shermer's supporters have whined about hearing the term "rape culture"...but let's tell it like it is. If Shermer was accused of plying someone with alcohol in order to commit any other crime, we wouldn't be telling the alleged victim to sit down and shut up because they couldn't remember the commission of the alleged crime (after having been purposefully plied with so much alcohol that they didn't know what was going on). Heck, if Shermer was being accused of the same crime -- rape -- against a man, I doubt people would be demanding that the alleged victim just shut up.

But this isn't the only such tweet from Dawkins, or even the worst. The day before the above, he had tweeted

This again utterly misrepresents the situation. The allegation isn't that Shermer got Smith drunk, and then Smith committed a crime. The allegation is that Shermer got Smith drunk in order to commit a crime on her. I find it hard to believe that someone as brilliant as Dawkins can miss such a critical nuance. And, again, I can't think that he would attempt to similarly guilt someone who alleged any other sort of crime was committed against them in this scenario.

But perhaps the worst of Dawkins' tweets was this one:
Like the others, it ignores all the details of the case. But it also suggests that a person shouldn't expect a shot at justice if alcohol is involved. Pardon me. It specifically suggests that the woman making this claim (and, by extension, women in similar circumstances) shouldn't expect a shot at justice being served against a male alleged rapist if alcohol is involved. For someone who places such a heavy emphasis on accused's right to justice, the dismissal of the accuser's right to justice is shocking.

At least, it would be, outside of rape culture.

As it is, it's actually depressingly familiar. And disappointing. To be clear, I'm not saying that it's disappointing that Dawkins doesn't believe Smith; that anyone should automatically take a side upon reading the case; or that not taking a side is rape culture. If Dawkins, or anyone else, doesn't find Smith's claim compelling, fair enough. But ignoring Smith's actual allegations time and again, mischaracterizing the situation that she describes, setting up standards for rape victims that society would never apply to victims of other crimes, etc.? That's disappointing. It's disappointing to hear from anyone, but particularly from such a prominent figure in the atheist camp, someone who supposedly eschews the misogynist dogma that so much of religion embraces.  And despite claims to the contrary, it is absolutely a product of rape culture.

Onward, Christian soldiers! Marching as to war...

Religious nutjobs aching for a holy war with ISIS...and the best part of it is, this particular one was a serious contender for the presidency in 2008, and is thought to be considering the possibility in 2016.

From my article on Friendly Atheist:

And lest there be any confusion that this victory is entirely the product of some sort of divine intervention, Huckabee has been very clear: it’s up to us to “eradicate” ISIS. (He, apparently, is more in the “kill” than “convert” camp.) Clearly, the best solution to sadistic religious extremists who kill people over their interpretation of a “holy book” is Holy War based on a different book. The ending is already written in the Bible and God tells us that we’re going to win.
Hallelujah! I don’t know about you, but I’m putting in my order for a “Mission Accomplished” banner now.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cartoonist Mike Thompson on the minimum wage

Cartoonist Mike Thomson puts the minimum wage discussion in perspective. Because raising wages means economic Armageddon. For the lowest paid workers. Only. Ever. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Two Very Different Takes on the Phrase “So Help Me God”

"Two very different takes on the phrase 'so help me God'" -- my first guest post at Friendly Atheist. 

The news that an atheist airman refused to sign an oath that contained the words “so help me God” last month, and was subsequently denied reenlistment, has drawn some interesting responses. Among others, Law Professor Eugene Volokh and former United States Congressman Allen West have weighed in. Their takes are so profoundly different as to provide a useful study in contrasts.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Allen West celebrates forcing atheist airmen to pledge to god...and the reaction from his readers is not what you might expect

So this article from Allen West showed up in my facebook feed, shared by a family member (who knows I'm an atheist, does not believe I am evil incarnate, and yet still somehow justifies this bigotry with "all atheists are evil" nonsense. But I digress).

It's nothing very deep, and nothing very surprising -- West, in the past, has shown clear disdain for anyone who doesn't share his religious beliefs, and this is more of the same. It's a moderately sized rant-icle, but it can be summed up with the equally intellectually valid "neener neener". Seriously. There's the typical "Judeo-Christian principles" nonsense, a little appeal to his military service; but, mostly, this:

"Neener, neener, you atheists can't serve unless you swear to a god you don't believe in."

It starts with this:

I know there are times when you might feel there’s no good news — especially when it comes to contending with groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) or the oxymoronic Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). It does seem as though the secular humanists are winning, but sometimes there is hope.
Take a moment to consider the images of anti-religious persecution this language conjures up. Goodness, what are those nasty atheists up to now? Maybe they are trying to censure religious people, or religious belief? Maybe the religious are facing some sort of discrimination? Maybe the religious are being forced to swear off their beliefs as a condition of serving? Is the good news that now -- finally -- a Christian soldier doesn't have to choose between believing in god and being in the military (hallelujah indeed!)??

Well, not quite. West writes,
Today I get to share with you some good tidings. As reported by Military.com, “An airman’s career will be coming to an end unless he recognizes “God” in his oath of reenlistment. Months after the Air Force last year said “So help me God” was an optional line when taking the oath of enlistment or reenlistment, it reversed itself. 
Now, just in case you're thinking, "wait a minute, doesn't he realize that this isn't about Christians being able to affirm a belief in God (since that was never actually prohibited or limited), but about forcing atheists to swear to something they don't believe in an oath that should be sacred and fully  meant?!" ... Yeah, he gets it. In fact, his very next sentence is:

The decision will require atheists to infer a belief in a supreme being if they want to remain in the military.
He goes on for a bit with some revisionist tripe -- the usual our-country-is-based-on-Christian-principles nonsense, with the implied "therefore theocracy by and for theocrats" rather heavily, well, implied (for a discussion of the inaccuracy of such claims, see here). He notes that it is law, and complains that Evil Atheists might sue because atheists are horrible, evil, America hating people well, it's almost certainly not constitutional (he basically passes by the constitutional aspect of it altogether -- an Evil Atheist claims it's not right, but, you know, Jesus, Moses, America, and Judeo-Christian principles!)

In conclusion, he opines,

The last thing we need at this time are secular humanist lawyers tying up the United States Military with frivolous lawsuits. Worse than that, I can imagine President Barack Hussein Obama taking out his pen or phone and decisively making a determination — one he’d find easier than attacking ISIS. 
I proudly and honorably took the oath of office as a commissioned officer several times and also as a Member of Congress. That’s what Americans do.
He seems to ignore the glaring irony that the "good news" he is celebrating is that the Air Force is compelling an airman to either forgo serving his country, or to lessen the honor of that oath by including a portion that is not meant.

At any rate, as I said earlier, none of this is terribly new. Allen West has earned himself a place right alongside Rush Limbaugh and so many other bigoted bloviators; it really isn't shocking to hear that they've done or said something outrageous, offensive or insane, because it's their business. It's how they make their money, and how they keep their fan base engaged. Hate makes good money, minority groups are easy targets, and religious extremists always think that anything short of being allowed to strip everyone else of religious freedom is an attack on their religious freedom. Nothing new about any of it.

So what was interesting about this? The comments. There were a good number of people -- conservative people -- who took considerable issue with West's disregard for the constitution. Now, before going further, I do need to caution...there were tons of bigots on board with West in these comments. I was surprised at the number of atheists who spoke out against his glee, but whether this particular topic just happened to draw the attention of the tea party's fifteen atheists, or if there are wider implications to this, we certainly can't tell from this one thread. I think we can allow, however, that it is encouraging to see a showing of conservative atheists -- whatever proportion of the tea party they comprise -- combating West's bigotry. Alright, so without further ado...some of my favorites:

"TruConserv" quoting and responding to a line from West's piece

"Tom Trevor" responding to the same quote, and another poster educating him about what an atheist could possibly be affirming to under oath

Commenters taking issue with bigoted statements by other commenters

"Unsubscribe please"


Now, remember my caution from earlier, that these posters certainly were not expressing the only or even the majority viewpoint? Allow me to reiterate that. Along with all the folks who were more or less making sense, we had...well, things like this: "Here's the deal -- and go watch the recent video of Phil Robertson and Sarah Palin"

So, yeah...it's great to see conservative atheists standing up for themselves. But there is definitely a ways to go there...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Apparently you can't risk your life for your country unless you believe in God. Yes, in America.

So this is a story from a few days ago, that I missed until it showed up in one of my social media feeds. ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser writes:

An unnamed airman in the United States Air Force wants to continue to serve his country. Yet, the Air Force reportedly told him that his service is unwanted unless he swears an oath that concludes with the religious affirmation “so help me God.” According to the Air Force Times, the airman crossed out the words “so help me God” when he signed his reenlistment contract. He was subsequently told that he must either swear this religious oath or leave the service.

Think about that for a moment. The Air Force is asking someone to take an oath of loyalty to their country. Now that's the key part: they need to ensure that the person enlisting is genuinely committed to "support[ting] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic". They need to know that that person will "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over" him or her.  But none of that has to do with a god.

Furthermore, it's in the Air Force's (and the country's) best interests to maintain the meaning of that oath, and the commitment with which it's said. But by forcing someone to pledge to a belief that they might not hold they are actually compelling a patriotically person to either 1) forgo serving our country or 2) pledge to something they don't actually believe. Neither of these are beneficial outcomes. We have a volunteer force, so we want committed volunteers. And we want that oath to be as sincerely meant as it can be. Introducing extraneous elements, and making service contingent on them, is not beneficial to anyone involved.

Millhiser notes,

...Congress did pass a law stating that members of the armed forces should swear an oath that includes the words “So help me God,” [but] the Constitution trumps an act of Congress, and requiring servicemembers to comply with this portion of the law is almost certainly unconstitutional. In the 1961 case Torcaso v. Watkins, the Supreme Court held that “neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’” 
Admittedly, the courts often show greater deference to the government in military matters, but the Supreme Court has also indicated that this deference does not permit servicemembers to be forced to swear a religious oath. “The test oath is abhorrent to our tradition,” the Court stated in its 1946 decision Girouard v. United States. “Over the years, Congress has meticulously respected that tradition and even in time of war has sought to accommodate the military requirements to the religious scruples of the individual.”

A philosophy to move us all

And by move, I mean, convince you to move toward the couch. With a beer in-hand. (But hopefully not before following Pearls Before Swine, because, really, it's an awesome strip).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wisconsin shortfall might force budget repair bill despite Walker's brilliant governing

So, if you talk to any Wisconsin Republicans, you already know (*ahem*) that Scott Walker is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Walker has given us forced ultrasounds, repealing equal pay, enacting the largest education cuts in WI history, repealing environmental protections for big donors, depriving the working poor of health care, closing women's health clinics, lying his butt off to get re-elected, unethically and possibly illegally coordinating donations, and so much more. Indeed, lately we're learning a lot about this "so much more". Like, for instance, Walker's brilliant governing has left the state facing a shortfall of $281 million. And, in case you didn't know, there are consequences to being that far in the red. 

Last week, the Walker administration reported that state tax collections fell short of expectations by $281 million last fiscal year. 
If the state doesn't make up this missing money by June 30, 2015 — either through higher-than-expected tax revenue or lower-than-expected spending going forward — the state budget would be $115 million in the red by next summer. 
That projected shortfall is more than enough to trigger the $79 million threshold in state law for a budget repair bill, the fiscal bureau reported.

Don't worry, though. Our illustrious governor has it all figured out.

However, the number is just a projection and could change. Walker has already said that he plans to trim state spending to help close the gap. Tax revenues could also improve or further fall behind projections.
Walker and other Republicans have said that lawmakers don't have to take action because his administration will address the problem. 
So after his election year bribe of piddly tax cuts (for the average voter), Wisconsinites are going to be left with more of Walker and Co.'s cuts. And, if he can't cut enough, we'll need emergency budget repair procedures enacted. "Moving Wisconsin forward" indeed, governor!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Brave atheist to be tortured, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia...Christian persecution fetishists remarkably silent

** EDIT: I'm revisiting this story as news has come out that Badawi's first lashes are imminent. I need to offer a point of clarification, in that while what I initially read indicated that Badawi was an atheist, the situation is not so clear. Apostasy is a death penalty crime, and Badawi has insisted that -- while people should have the right to disbelieve -- he is a Muslim. Whether this is an accurate description of his beliefs (given, as it was, with the specter of death nearby) or not, the point remains -- the silence for a courageous secularist's, be he a Muslim or atheist, plight is appalling. **

So in case you haven't heard about Raif Badawi, the Saudi human rights advocate, Friendly Atheist at Patheos Atheist has a very sad update on his fate:

Last year, 30-year-old Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi was punished for starting a progressive website that called for, among other things, religious tolerance and women’s rights. That was insulting to Islam, said his critics. He was sentenced at the time to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. 
His sentence was overturned… but that respite was brief. In May, Badawi was given an even harsher punishment: 
… the Criminal Court has sentenced Badawi to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a one million riyal fine (USD $266,631).
This is terrible news, and a stark reminder of the plight of atheists in theocracies. And thinking about it, I couldn't help but be reminded of the parallel between this case and that of another victim of religious theocracy -- Meriam Ibrahim. Now, you may remember in Ibrahim's case, she was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced for the "crime" of changing faiths -- from Islam to Christianity. (She was eventually freed). You may also remember that a whole boatload of atheists came out swinging for Ibrahim. Like Richard Dawkins. And the folks at the aforementioned Friendly Atheist. And, of course, there were plenty of "nobody atheists" like me who shared and posted and tweeted her story. Because it's utter horseshit that anyone should come to harm for their religious beliefs. This is what right wing Christians seem to miss when they whine, "Ohhhh, would you attack a Muslim for [insert constitutional or human rights violation of choice]" as a response to atheists demanding that the separation of Church and State be maintained. Yes, you're damned right we'll stand up to Muslims, or anyone else, who wants to force their faith on others or persecute people for not sharing that faith. We'll stand up for Christians, for Muslims, for atheists, for Buddhists, for anyone whose constitutional or human rights are being deprived by religious extremists and theocrats. But you know who I don't see doing that?

The folks with the persecution fetish, who think that not being allowed to persecute other people is in fact persecution.

The same folks who thought Meriam Ibrahim's abominable treatment at the hand of Sudanese Muslims was evidence that they were persecuted in America. The same folks who haven't made a damned peep about Raif Badawi. Who never make a peep when atheists are abused and murdered in theocracies across the world. And you know what? It pisses me off. It pisses me off that we share their concern for Christians who are being ill-treated, but they don't give a rat's ass about atheists who are being ill-treated. Humanity isn't a one-way street, and it's about time these selfish theocrats figured that out. What about the "golden rule", and doing to others as you would have them do to you? How fricking ironic is it that it's the atheists and the moderate religious people out there living this tenant, and not the most hardcore, supposed literalist Christians?

Alright, rant over. Yeah, I feel better for having said it. I'll end with the comment I put on Facebook, when sharing the story above. I hope it makes someone think. And if it didn't...well, I'll put it down to being therapeutic to call the hypocrisy like I see it. One note...before my hashtag paragraph ( :P ) I should have said "Atheists and progressive religious people have figured it out". It wasn't deliberately exclusionary. Looks like I've earned a TUII (Typing Under the Influence of Irritation) ;).

Where is the outcry to save Raif Badawi? I saw many atheists advocating for Meriam Ibrahim's release (and shared her story to draw attention to it myself), because no one should die or be harmed because they don't hold the ruling religion (or any religion)'s beliefs. But where's the religious outcry for Badawi? The same people who swore that Meriam's horrible mistreatment was evidence of their own persecution -- though they were safe & secure in the states -- are remarkably silent about the terrible fate awaiting this brave atheist... 
We're all in this together, people. Someone shouldn't have to share your beliefs to merit your concern -- and advocacy -- when they're being persecuted. Atheists have figured it out. How long until the rest catch on? 
#Disappointed #ReligiousToleranceAppliesToAtheistsToo #ReligiousToleranceIsntAOneWayStreet

Anti-gay conservative advocate suggests death of same-sex parents, replacement w/hetero parents will bring kids joy

Laurie Higgins, conservative anti-gay advocate from the Illinois Family Institute (a group, as noted by ThinkProgress' Zack Ford, that has a "storied history of making extremely anti-LGBT comments, earning it a designation as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center"), posted a peculiar screed yesterday berating, of all things, libraries and librarians. To give you just an inkling of what we're dealing with, I present the two opening paragraphs:

Self-righteous, dissembling librarians are seeking once again to foment “book-banning” hysteria through their annual dishonest Banned Books Week campaign (Sept. 21-27) sponsored by the self-righteous, dissembling, and politically partisan American Library Association (ALA). 
The ALA pursues its hysteria-fomenting goal chiefly by ridiculing parents who, for example, don’t want their six-year-olds seeing books about children or anthropomorphized animals being raised by parents in homoerotic relationships. (Scorn and woe to those parents who hold the now-censored belief that homoeroticism—even homoeroticism presented in whitewashed, water-colored images—doesn’t belong in the picture books section of public libraries).
As near as I can tell, "homoeroticism" -- in her telling -- is the mere existence of gay people. Depicting even "whitewashed, water-color images" of animals being raised by two dads is a form of eroticism. I'm guessing those same sorts of images, but of animals being raised by a mom and dad, would be utterly wholesome, normal, and A-OK. And decidedly not eroticism.

At any rate, her point is that conservatives are victims because there is literature that acknowledges the existence of gay people (you know, "erotica"). And librarians are hypocrites because they don't stock hate literature but do stock literature that acknowledges that gay people exist. Now, buried among these decidedly pathological treasures, we find the true crown jewel of insanity: the point where she describes what librarians should be purchasing. She begins with:
Next year, will the Schaumburg librarians display photos of empty shelves where books that challenge Leftist assumptions about the nature and morality of homosexuality should be (you know, pro-heterosexuality/pro-heteronormativity books)?
As per the norm for this piece, it is rife with what can only be willful misrepresentation. Like, for instance, that being pro-heterosexual means "challeng[ing] Leftist assumptions about the nature and morality of homosexuality" -- as if recognition that gay people and homosexuality exist and should not be persecuted (which, let's be frank, is what she means with the "Leftist assumptions" line) is somehow threatening to heterosexuality, or necessitating a "pro-heterosexuality" response. This is something we see a lot with the intolerant crowd:

My [insert cause/sexuality/other] works for me, therefore all other approaches should be disallowed/attacked/halted because they clearly can't work and must be evil.
You think your [cause/sexuality/other] works for you, therefore you must want to disallow/attack/halt everything and one different. And you must hate them too.

But that's nowhere near the most interesting part of this. She continues:
Will they ask for young adult (YA) novels about teens who feel sadness and resentment about being intentionally deprived of a mother or father and who seek to find their missing biological parents? 
Will they ask for dark, angsty novels about teens who are damaged by the promiscuity of their “gay” “fathers” who hold sexual monogamy in disdain? 
Will they ask for novels about young adults who are consumed by a sense of loss and bitterness that their politically correct and foolish parents allowed them during the entirety of their childhood to cross-dress, change their names, and take medication to prevent puberty, thus deforming their bodies? 
Will they ask for novels about teens who suffer because of the harrowing fights and serial “marriages” of their lesbian mothers? 
As with the earlier contention that the mere presence of two gay people existing is "homoeroticism", Ms. Higgins continues to apply wildly different standards to gay people -- standards that she would never apply to straight people. Would she, for instance, advocate for YA books about teens who are damaged by the promiscuity of his heterosexual parents who "hold sexual monogamy in disdain"? Probably not. Probably (almost certainly), this is just a symptom of the conservative Christian libel that gay people are dangerous predators whose sexual urges can't be satiated. Would she ask for literature about teens who suffer because of the harrowing abuse dished out by an abusive heterosexual father, and the preachers whose advice to the victim is to be a better wife, and to keep praying? Again, probably not. Again, this is just another regurgitation of the right-wing lie that gay men and women are bitterly unhappy, violent, and driven by lust to be, more or less, sex machines on overdrive, with no "off" button. There is no monogamy. There is no happiness. There are no successful long term relationships or marriages (I'm sorry: "marriages"). Only misery, darkness, fear.

The solution for which, in case there's any doubt, she makes clear: death.
Will they ask for picture books that show the joy a little birdie experiences when after the West Nile virus deaths of her two daddies, she’s finally adopted by a daddy and mommy? (emphasis added) 
(Aren't you feeling warm and sunny now?) When some external force kills a child's same sex parents, she imagines -- of all things -- joy. Unlike the child she describes above, whose missing biological parent was a source of sadness, "little birdie" is joyful when her two dads, one of whom might very well be a biological dad, are dead. Because, obviously, a child cannot be happy with two loving parents if they're the same gender. Much better that some merciful external comes along and kills them, so that she can be joyful with strangers.

A few things to notice...she refers to all the other scenarios in people-centric terms. She reserves animal terms for when she's advocating death for gay parents. And she doesn't quite come out and say, "hey, kids are going to be much better off if we kill their gay parents." Rather than loving-conservatives-murdering-gay-parents, in her scenario we have a benevolent external force -- West Nile virus -- at work, that mercifully removes two gay ... birds. It's curious that Higgins can't quite bring herself to advocate directly what she is, in a roundabout way, advocating. I can only guess that she either recognizes just how reprehensible and inhumane her "joyous scenario" really is and can't bring herself to a full-blown embrace of her barbarity, or else doesn't want to scare people off the gay-hate train by being honest.

Either way, it's important to remember...we live in a country where anti-gay hatred isn't legally allowed to manifest in murder, so we don't see homophobia resulting (often) in deadly violence. But that doesn't mean the intent isn't there, or that violence isn't a potential end result of such pathological hatred. American homophobia is already manifesting in deadly ways in other parts of the world, like Uganda. And it is unreservedly on display in lines like these ones:
the joy a little birdie experiences when after the West Nile virus deaths of her two daddies, she’s finally adopted by a daddy and mommy?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Gun loving idiot professor shoots himself. In class.

In case you missed the NRA's last decade of propaganda...the world is a terrible, scary place, against which everyone must be armed, everywhere and always. Yes, even at school. Strike that -- especially at school!

Republicans have been only too eager to comply, introducing all sorts of guns-everywhere legislation. And the benefits accidents are already rolling in. Like this one, where an armed idiot (presumably armed because, you know, more guns, more safety) shot himself. While teaching class (I hope those students feel safer!!).

Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, Public Safety received a call about an accidental discharge of a concealed weapon in the Physical Science building. A student said the gun went off in the middle of the class.
Police said the small-caliber handgun was in the professor's pants pocket and was not displayed at any time. They said the professor was able to leave of his own accord. He was treated and released from the hospital 

Just remember...you always have to be armed. There are bad guys everywhere, and the only solution is a bunch of armed idiots packing heat...with apparently no clue what they're doing. 

With friends (or NRA 'good guys') like these....

The best way to ruin a protest...

So I found this rather amusing comic from SMBC comics the other day.

Enjoy (and, if you're looking for inspiration for "protest signs" of your own, and your Bible/incest/rape knowledge is a little rusty, here's a primer on "Biblical marriage". "Trigger warning" seems to be a bit of an understatement, since it covers all manner of holy horrors, but be warned.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Women who really want to be women" are stay-at-home women -- says a bunch of Fox guests who aren't staying home

In case you missed Fox's self-loathing women segment, here you go:

Among many other gems, the authors of "What Women Really Want" (hint: pretty much whatever patriarchal men tell them to want), claim that:

  • Feminists have "sexualized" women. Indeed, feminists aren't really looking out for women at all. We're just "sexualists". We focus only on the "head down". Which, apparently, excludes the heart -- at least according to Politichicks Editor in Chief, Ann-Marie Murrell. (Seriously. Watch it. It's about a minute in).
  • Women "have the right to vote. We have equality in the workplace." So, you know, feminism is obsolete. 
  • Feminism hurts "women who really want to be women, who want to be what God designed them to be". Which, according to these women who aren't staying home having kids is women who stay home and have kids (presumably as many kids as their "real men" want). 
  • Which brings us to those men out there so insecure as to need constant flattery and ego boosting...never fear: this giggling gaggle of self-hating women is only too eager to assure that "we [real women] love real men". Indeed, they "absolutely love real men". And while host Anna Kooiman (also, not a stay-at-home mom) couldn't get on board with it...these three encourage, as part of their real-men spiel, "stop shaving, men". Because, apparently, women are only real if they stay home (or write books about how women should stay home while not staying home themselves?), and men are only "real" if they don't shave (no mention of bathing, but, you know, play it safe -- probably better not to wash off any of that "real" manly body odor because all that get-clean-smell-nice stuff sounds pretty feminine. Use this example of hairy, rugged masculinity as your guide, if you have questions). 
  • And if you're thinking that men-must-be-hairy-to-be-real and women-must-reproduce-to-be-real-women sounds a little archaic, well, you've got it exactly backwards. In fact, you sound like a feminist -- and the feminists are the ones trying to take us back to the "stone ages", "waiting for a caveman to bonk them on the head and drag them back into the cave by the hair".

But perhaps the most amusing line of the entire interview? When the credentialed self-loather of the trio, Dr. Gina Louden, declared

"We [real women] want no more of this politicizing our bodies, and what happens in our bedrooms. That's all the 'feminist movement' has done."
That's right. It's feminists who are trying to politicize what happens in the bedroom. By saying, "hey, it's no one's business, stop passing laws about what I'm doing in the bedroom. Stop letting my boss have a say in what goes on in my bedroom." And the people actually trying to make what happens in the bedroom the business of the politician, the employer, and every-other-damned self-righteous voyeur who feigns a divine need-to-know, they're the ones who don't want things "politicize[d]".

I gotta give them this...that takes chutzpah...

Hat tip: RawStory