Saturday, March 28, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Canadian born Ted Cruz getting birther meds from Left and Right

Why should atheists have to show respect for religion?

Especially since so many superstitious morons have so little respect for women and LGBT because thei imaginary sky daddies tell them that women and LGBT people aren't really human.
From Raw Story:

23 Mar 2015

Can’t we all just get along?”

Among progressive and moderate religious believers, ecumenicalism is a big deal. For many of these believers, being respectful of religious beliefs that are different from theirs is a central guiding principle. In this view, different religions are seen as a beautifully varied tapestry of faith: each strand with its own truths, each with its own unique perspective on God and its own unique way of worshipping him. Her. It. Them. Whatever. Respecting other people’s religious beliefs is a cornerstone of this worldview… to the point where criticizing or even questioning anyone else’s religious belief is seen as rude and offensive at best, bigoted and intolerant at worst.


Don’t atheists want a world where everyone’s right to their own religious views — including no religious views — is universally acknowledged? Don’t we want a world with no religious wars or hatreds? Don’t we want a world where a diversity of perspectives on religion is accepted and even embraced? Why would atheists have any objections at all to the principles of religious ecumenicalism?

Oh, let’s see. Where shall I begin?

Well, for starters: It’s bullshit.

Progressive and moderate religious believers absolutely have objections to religious beliefs that are different from theirs. Serious, passionate objections. They object to the Religious Right; they object to Al Qaeda. They object to right-wing fundamentalists preaching homophobic hatred, to Muslim extremists executing women for adultery, to the Catholic Church trying to stop condom distribution in AIDS-riddled Africa, to religious extremists all over the Middle East trying to bomb each other back to the Stone Age. Etc., etc., etc. Even when they share the same nominal faith as these believers, they are clearly appalled at the connection: they fervently reject being seen as having anything in common with them, and often go to great lengths to distance themselves from them.

And they should. I’m not saying they shouldn’t. In fact, one of my main critiques of progressive believers is that their opposition to hateful religious extremists isn’t vehement enough.
But it’s disingenuous at best, hypocritical at worst, to say that criticism of other religious beliefs is inherently bigoted and offensive… and then make an exception for beliefs that are opposed to your own. You don’t get to speak out about how hard-line extremists are clearly getting Christ’s message wrong (or Mohammad’s, or Moses’, or Buddha’s, or whoever) — and then squawk about religious intolerance when others say you’re the one getting it wrong. That’s just not playing fair.

And, of course, it’s ridiculously hypocritical to engage in fervent political and cultural discourse — as so many progressive ecumenical believers do — and then expect religion to get a free pass. It’s absurd to accept and even welcome vigorous public debate over politics, science, medicine, economics, gender, sexuality, education, the role of government, etc… and then get appalled and insulted when religion is treated as just another hypothesis about the world, one that can be debated and criticized like any other.

However, if ecumenicalism were just hypocritical bullshit, I probably wouldn’t care very much. Hypocritical bullshit is all over the human race like a cheap suit. I’m not going to get worked up into a lather every time I see another example of it. So why does this bug me so much?

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‘Kill All Gays’ Law Proposed in California—Crazy or Trolling?

Imagine the screams of outrage if this proposition were to advocate killing all Black people, or all Christians.

I'm a gun owner.  I remember what other self proclaimed German Christians did some 75 years ago.  I will not go to my death without taking at least one of these Taliban Anti-Christian Murderers with me.

Never Again!

In the mean time tax the Churches and all their holdings at the same rate any other profit making business is taxed.

I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

Dick: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Nay, that I mean to do.

Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

From Reason:

Lawyer prepares initiative; state may have to let him collect signatures.

What exactly to make of the proposed "Sodomite Suppression Act"? This ballot initiative wasn't introduced in some African country, the Middle East, or in Russia, but right here in California, home of many, many sodomites. A lawyer by the name of Matt McLaughlin wants to change the Golden State's penal code to make homosexual behavior a capital crime (pdf):
Seeing that it is better that offenders should die rather than that all of us should be killed by God's just wrath against us for the folly of tolerating wickedness in our midst, the People of California wisely command, in the fear of God, that any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.
If the state refuses to enforce this law, it says the general public is "empowered and deputized to execute all the provisions hereunder extra-judicially, immune from any charge and indemnified by the state from any and all liability." It's so bonkers and evil that it almost comes full circle to be utterly hilarious, like Marvin the Martian threatening to destroy Earth. Mind you, the location is what makes it funny. Legislation like this would be exceedingly dangerous elsewhere in the world. But in California, even if this guy actually starts collecting signatures (that will make for some interesting encounters in parking lots) and it ends up on the ballot, the initiative could never be implemented, as it is blatantly unconstitutional.

California's ballot initiative system, though, does not appear to be able to stop him from moving forward with his proposal and signature-gathering, even knowing full well it will never be implemented. From the Sacramento Bee:
[T]he measure is likely to proceed to the signature-gathering stage. At the moment, its fate rests with state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is charged with writing a title and summary for the proposal. Legal experts say she has little choice but to let the process continue and that McLaughlin is unlikely to face professional repercussions.
Over the years, the $200 price tag for submitting an initiative has enabled California political activists to draft and submit thousands of orphan causes: eliminating divorce, requiring public schools to offer Christmas caroling, making criminals of those who lie during political campaigns.

Carol Dahmen, a media consultant in Sacramento who started the petition to disbar McLaughlin, argues that this one is different. Along with disbarment, Dahmen wants to draw attention to reforming the system, calling McLaughlin the "poster boy of what is still wrong with the initiative process."

"It's an interesting discussion about free speech, and I get that," Dahmen said. "But this is a lawyer, and he's advocating for murder."
The issue is who should make the call that a ballot initiative is illegal. As an elected official embroiled in state politics, letting the attorney general make that choice could create serious problems in less clear-cut situations. As it stands, Harris has been criticized (and sued) for writing slanted summaries of ballot initiatives that affected the possibility of their passage. It may have to be up to a judge to make the call, if needed.

Continue reading at:

Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?

From The Atlantic:

For half a century, memories of the Holocaust limited anti-Semitism on the Continent. That period has ended—the recent fatal attacks in Paris and Copenhagen are merely the latest examples of rising violence against Jews. Renewed vitriol among right-wing fascists and new threats from radicalized Islamists have created a crisis, confronting Jews with an agonizing choice.

Jeffrey Goldberg April 2015

All comes from the Jew; all returns to the Jew.”
— Édouard Drumont (1844–1917), founder of the Anti-Semitic League of France

I. The Scourge of Our Time

The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, the son of Holocaust survivors, is an accomplished, even gifted, pessimist. To his disciples, he is a Jewish Zola, accusing France’s bien-pensant intellectual class of complicity in its own suicide. To his foes, he is a reactionary whose nostalgia for a fairy-tale French past is induced by an irrational fear of Muslims. Finkielkraut’s cast of mind is generally dark, but when we met in Paris in early January, two days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, he was positively grim.

“My French identity is reinforced by the very large number of people who openly declare, often now with violence, their hostility to French values and culture,” he said. “I live in a strange place. There is so much guilt and so much worry.” We were seated at a table in his apartment, near the Luxembourg Gardens. I had come to discuss with him the precarious future of French Jewry, but, as the hunt for the Charlie Hebdo killers seemed to be reaching its conclusion, we had become fixated on the television.

Finkielkraut sees himself as an alienated man of the left. He says he loathes both radical Islamism and its most ferocious French critic, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme right-wing—and once openly anti-Semitic—National Front party. But he has lately come to find radical Islamism to be a more immediate, even existential, threat to France than the National Front. “I don’t trust Le Pen. I think there is real violence in her,” he told me. “But she is so successful because there actually is a problem of Islam in France, and until now she has been the only one to dare say it.”

Suddenly, there was news: a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, in eastern Paris, had come under attack. “Of course,” Finkielkraut said. “The Jews.” Even before anti-Semitic riots broke out in France last summer, Finkielkraut had become preoccupied with the well-being of France’s Jews.
We knew nothing about this new attack—except that we already knew everything. “People don’t defend the Jews as we expected to be defended,” he said. “It would be easier for the left to defend the Jews if the attackers were white and rightists.”

I asked him a very old Jewish question: Do you have a bag packed?

“We should not leave,” he said, “but maybe for our children or grandchildren there will be no choice.”

Reports suggested that a number of people were dead at the market. I said goodbye, and took the Métro to Porte de Vincennes. Stations near the market were closed, so I walked through neighborhoods crowded with police. Sirens echoed through the streets. Teenagers gathered by the barricades, taking selfies. No one had much information. One young man, however, said of the victims, “It’s just the Feuj.” Feuj, an inversion of Juif—“Jew”—is often used as a slur.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

From Selma to Tunis: When Will We March Against the Segregation of Our Own Time?

From Huffington Post:

Monday, March 23, 2015

California proposal to legalize killing gays hard to stop

Sure makes me glad I no longer live in Cali.  If I were an LGBT person there I'd be sure to have a gun even if I had to do so illegally.  Remember the Taliban Christers passed Prop 8.  Don't be the unarmed Jew in Germany or Poland circa 1939.

Time for LGBT People to take a page from the Israeli book of self-defense.

Be prepared to fight or leave.

Never Again!

From The Sacramento Bee:

Nature Is Speaking – Julia Roberts is Mother Nature

The Rise Of LGBT Rights Is An Existential Threat To Conservative Religious Groups

From Think Progress:

by Jack Jenkins March 17, 2015

On Monday, Rabbi Denise Eger was installed as the first openly gay president of Reform Judaism’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, which claims around 2,000 rabbis and 862 congregations in the United States.

“It really shows an arc of L.G.B.T. civil rights,” Eger told the New York Times. “I smile a lot — with a smile of incredulousness.”

Eger’s new position is, unquestionably, a historic moment for Reform Judaism. But when placed alongside the greater American religious landscape, her achievement is remarkable in part because of how common such stories have become. It’s hardly the first time a mainstream American faith community has proclaimed spiritual support for LGBT rights — the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association chose a lesbian Rabbi to be their president in 2007, Unitarian Universalists have been passing resolutions affirming everyone regardless of their sexuality since 1970, and several of the largest mainline Christian denominations have moved to embrace various versions of LGBT rights. Since the early 2000s, the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have all voted in favor of supporting gay ordination and same-sex marriage, and the Episcopal Church famously elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to the position of bishop in 2003. And while the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Christian denomination, officially opposes marriage equality and the ordination of LGBT ministers, Methodist bishops and priests across the country are now refusing to enforce church discipline on clergy who officiate same-sex weddings. Meanwhile, nearly half of religious Americans see no conflict between their faith and LGBT rights.

 Yet even as equality advocates toast these victories, more conservative-leaning faith traditions are doubling down on their opposition to homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender identity. This trend isn’t necessarily astonishing, of course, but as more and more religious Americans move to endorse equality, right-wing faithful are struggling to confront an uncomfortable question: can anti-gay religious groups survive in a country that embraces LGBT rights?
The issue has become omnipresent at the national gatherings of evangelical Christian institutions such as the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), whose leaders disavowed destructive “ex-gay” therapy in 2014 but continue to enforce a no-tolerance policy toward theologies that promote acceptance of same-sex relationships. When a SBC pastor in California told his congregation last year that he had adopted a conciliatory view of homosexuality, for example, national-level officials promptly responded by kicking the church out of the denomination. The larger evangelical community has also adopted a strategy of silencing or rejecting believers who publicly endorse pro-LGBT views: when World Vision, an evangelical charity, announced last March that it would start hiring gay employees, funders began pulling money from the organization, resulting in the group reversing its decision within 48 hours; Brandan Robertson, a young evangelical and author of the popular blog Revangelical, lost a book deal in January after he refused to sign a pledge asking him not to “condone, encourage or accept the homosexual lifestyle”; and in February, the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination “terminated” its partnership with Christ Church: Portland after the pastor preached passionate support for LGBT acceptance.

Continue reading at:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Municipal Violations

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Night Fun and Culture: ZZ Top

Michael Douglas finds Judaism and faces anti-Semitism

From The LA Times:

Last summer our family went to Southern Europe on holiday. During our stay at a hotel, our son Dylan went to the swimming pool. A short time later he came running back to the room, upset. A man at the pool had started hurling insults at him.

My first instinct was to ask, “Were you misbehaving?”

“No,” Dylan told me through his tears.

I stared at him. And suddenly I had an awful realization of what might have caused the man's outrage: Dylan was wearing a Star of David.

After calming him down, I went to the pool and asked the attendants to point out the man who had yelled at him. We talked. It was not a pleasant discussion. Afterward, I sat down with my son and said: “Dylan, you just had your first taste of anti-Semitism.”

My father, Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, is Jewish. My mother, Diana, is not. I had no formal religious upbringing from either of them, and the two kids I have with Catherine Zeta-Jones are like me, growing up with one parent who is Jewish and one who is not.

Several years ago Dylan, through his friends, developed a deep connection to Judaism, and when he started going to Hebrew school and studying for his bar mitzvah, I began to reconnect with the religion of my father.

While some Jews believe that not having a Jewish mother makes me not Jewish, I have learned the hard way that those who hate do not make such fine distinctions.

Dylan's experience reminded me of my first encounter with anti-Semitism, in high school. A friend saw someone Jewish walk by, and with no provocation he confidently told me: “Michael, all Jews cheat in business.”

“What are you talking about?” I said.

“Michael, come on,” he replied. “Everyone knows that.”

With little knowledge of what it meant to be a Jew, I found myself passionately defending the Jewish people. Now, half a century later, I have to defend my son. Anti-Semitism, I've seen, is like a disease that goes dormant, flaring up with the next political trigger.

Continue reading at:

Modern-day snake oil: Those colon cleanses and detox diets are pseudoscientific nonsense

From Raw Story:

19 Mar 2015

In light of the recent New York Times revelation that potential GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is “pursu[ing] some highly unconventional income streams” to finance his run for the White House — including a “cure” for diabetes that consists of cinnamon and chromium picolinate — increased attention is being paid to highly lucrative fad diets, the science behind which is sketchy at best.

Evidence for the damaging effects of “toxins” is thin on the ground — as in, scientists claim that the kinds of toxins that are eliminated via these diets not only don’t, but can’t possibly exist.

As Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University told The Guardian‘s Dara Mohammadi, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.” The former involves the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions, whereas “[t]he other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

If the human body did accumulate toxins in the manner that detox advocates claim, people wouldn’t need a detox — they’d be dead.

“The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” he said. 
“There is no known way — certainly not through detox treatments — to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

Many of these detox products claim to “cleanse” the toxins stored in the liver — but toxins aren’t stored in the liver. The liver processes harmful substances that enter the body and transform them into water-soluble compounds that can be excreted. Yet health food store shelves are stocked with teas and tinctures — as well as hair brushes and shampoos — that promise to somehow rid the body of these mysterious toxins.

Colonic irrigation is not as palpably absurd as a hairbrush that can cleanse toxins from the liver, but it’s no more based in science. Enema and colon cleanse advocates claim that the walls of the colon contain a toxin-housing “plaque” that slow releases the dreaded compounds into the body.

Continue reading at:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St Patrick's Day

Who Has Abortions?

I have long been bothered by the way in which the transgender movement has disconnected female from woman. Gender, gender, gender clearly oppresses women as it defines them by adherence to social roles. Substituting gender for sex is the antithesis of feminism which attacks the way gender is used to oppress women.

Anyone who doesn't get that one needs to spend a while wading through Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex."

Placating the transgender movement shouldn't require the redefinition of feminism.

From The Nation:

We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people without erasing women from the fight for reproductive rights.

Katha Pollitt March 13, 2015

Who has abortions? For most of human history, the answer was obvious: women have abortions. Girls have abortions. Not any more. People have abortions. Patients have abortions. Men have abortions. “We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions,” wrote feminist activist Lauren Rankin in July 2013 in She went on to criticize as exclusionary slogans like “the War on Women” and “Stand with Texas Women.”

Such claims may sound arcane to most people. One area in which they have been quietly effective, though, is in reproductive-rights activism. Abortion funds, which offer help paying for an abortion when Medicaid or insurance won’t, have become a thriving hub of grassroots feminism. They draw hundreds of activists, young and old, to donate countless hours to provide direct service and advocate for better funding for abortion. In the past few years, a number of the funds have quietly removed references to “women” from their messaging in order to be more welcoming to trans men and others who do not identify as women but can still become pregnant. The New York Abortion Access Fund changed its language in 2012. Its mission statement now mentions “anyone,” “every person” and “the people who call our hotline.” The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund helps “callers,” the Lilith Fund helps “Texans.” Last year Fund Texas Women, which pays travel and hotel costs in the wake of the closing of many clinics in the state, became Fund Texas Choice. (“Choice” is a problematic word too, but that’s a subject for another day.) In a message to supporters, co-founder Lenzi Scheible wrote, “with a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans* people who needed to get an abortion but were not women. We refuse to deny the existence and humanity of trans* people any longer.”

I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong—it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” (Like many of the people I interviewed for this column, she asked to remain anonymous.) Maybe in ten years, it will seem perfectly natural to me to talk about abortion in a gender-neutral way. Right now, though, it feels as if abortion language is becoming a bit like French, where one man in a group of no matter how many women means “elles” becomes “ils.”

From the perspective of providing care, I understand it. “The focus should be on access,” NYAAF board member Rye Young told me over the phone. The primary purpose of abortion funds is to provide immediate financial and other help to individuals in crisis, whom funders usually know only as voices on the phone. If wording on a website makes people feel they can’t make that phone call, that’s not good. We women have had enough experience with being disrespected by healthcare and social-service providers not to wish that on anyone else. Does presenting abortion as gender-neutral need to be part of that welcoming procedure, though? The primary sources of abortion data in the US—the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute—don’t collect information on the gender identity of those who seek abortion, but conversations with abortion providers and others suggest the number of transgender men who want to end a pregnancy is very low. I don’t see how it denies “the existence and humanity of trans people” to use language that describes the vast majority of those who seek to end a pregnancy. Why can’t references to people who don’t identify as women simply be added to references to women? After all, every year over 2,000 men get breast cancer and over 400 die, and no one is calling for “women” to be cut out of breast-cancer language so that men will feel more comfortable seeking treatment. If there was such a call, though, I wonder what would happen. Women have such a long history of minimizing themselves in order not to hurt feelings or seem self-promoting or attention-demanding. We are raised to put ourselves second, and too often, still, we do.

The real damage of abolishing “women” in abortion contexts, though, is to our political analysis. What happens to Dr. Tiller’s motto, “Trust Women”? There was a whole feminist philosophy expressed in those two words: women are competent moral actors and they, not men, clergy or the state, are the experts on their own lives, and should be the ones to decide how to shape them.

Continue reading at:

Report: Homeopathy Not Effective For Treating Any Condition

From Alternet:

People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk, says Australian study.

Melissa Davey March 11, 2015

Homeopathy is not effective for treating any health condition, Australia’s top body for medical research has concluded, after undertaking an extensive review of existing studies.

Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a “memory” of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body.

These claims have been widely disproven by multiple studies, but the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement, released on Wednesday.

“Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective,” the report concluded.

“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”

An independent company also reviewed the studies and appraised the evidence to prevent bias.
Chair of the NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee, Professor Paul Glasziou, said he hoped the findings would lead private health insurers to stop offering rebates on homeopathic treatments, and force pharmacists to reconsider stocking them.

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How to Become Gluten Intolerant (Funny) - Ultra Spiritual Life episode 12 - with JP Sears

“My kids were embarrassed that their dad worked at Target”: My American economy nightmare

Some people are more privileged than others. Talking about class is even more taboo than talking about race.

One American Dream used to be owning your own business and working for yourself. It wasn't having some jerk with an MBA and efficiency studies ride your ass, while you stand for hours on the concrete floor of a big box store.

But the elites of degree bearing  privileged folks have turned that one into hell.

Welcome to the nightmare you folks created.  Bet y'all thought it could never happen to you.

From Salon:

Two years, almost 750 job applications. Not one viable offer. This is what the American Dream has been reduced to

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015

Ron Dziuda’s family calls it “the black cloud.’’

 When Ron applies for hundreds of jobs and no one calls back with an offer? The Black Cloud. When his daughter applies for her dream position and someone else gets it? The Black Cloud. Or when he and his wife Sue celebrate their anniversary with a dinner out and they suffer pangs of guilt over the bill?
Sue shakes her head and tries to explain this concept at her dining room table.

“There’s that black cloud again.’’

The black cloud – this nagging sense that things will go wrong and never get quite right again – appeared over the Dziudas’ life in July 2009 when he lost his sales and marketing job at industrial components-maker Misumi USA. At first, it didn’t seem that bad. This father of four had lost jobs before. His experience, smarts and can-do attitude always helped him bounce back.

But this was in the depths of America’s most punishing economic crisis since the Great Depression. Unemployment was rising fast and job-seekers of any age were having the toughest times of their lives finding work. And Ron wasn’t just any age – at 54, he started finding his gray hair and crow’s feet overshadowed his expertise and energy.

So the black cloud moved in to stay. For three years – 33 months, to be exact – Ron endured a drumbeat of humiliations: he lost his job, his savings, his confidence. He and Sue burned down their retirement accounts one by one; they borrowed from their own son to pay the mortgage; they racked up credit card debt to put food on the table. Ron applied for 800 jobs. One night he turned to Sue and confessed he didn’t think he’d ever get back on his feet.

He finally emerged in the spring of 2012 with a position selling sandblasters for Pangborn Group. At last he was out of the woods. But the black cloud barely budged. They shake their heads when I ask if they’ll ever feel secure again.

“Now to rebuild everything I had, and build from there and even try to build for retirement? It’s going to be incredible,’’ Ron says. “I mean all the credit cards are maxed out, so those got to be paid off, and there’s no equity in the house …’’

Sue is blunter.

“I’ll still live in fear,’’ she says. “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable.’’

Continue reading at:

Monday, March 16, 2015

It's time for atheists to stop debating God's existence and decide what to do about it

From The Guardian UK:

Atheists can do more than not-believe: they can help others while we're all here

Adam Lee Sunday 15 March 2015

It’s time for atheists to move past theoretical questions about the existence of God and onto more practical pursuits – like how to fight for justice.

The atheist community is quickly coming up against the limits of debating whether God is real. The New Atheist movement made a splash in the early 2000s with its brash assertion that the existence of God was a hypothesis that can be examined, debated and critically analyzed like any other, and rejected if the evidence is found wanting. Its critiques, targeting both the feverish imaginings of fundamentalism and the stale platitudes of conventional piety, were as cleansing and welcome as a cool breeze in a stuffy room.

But while that stance can be the beginning of a philosophy, it can’t be the end. It raises the question: once you no longer believe the claims of religion, what do you believe?

For many, being an atheist makes this world and life infinitely more significant, since they’re all we have. Having seen so many examples of oppression, injustice and violence promoted by religion, atheists can and should have a strong reason to desire justice in society. That’s why atheist groups, especially atheist student groups, are increasingly joining forces with other social change movements and emphasizing how their goals and ours intersect.

The oldest and strongest example is secular groups’ support for LGBT rights, since we’ve long recognized that the primary opposition to them in America and other Western nations comes almost entirely from religion. In the pending US supreme court case that could establish same-sex marriage nationwide, two venerable national secular groups, the American Humanist Association and the Center for Inquiry, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief urging the justices to rule for marriage equality.

At the thinnest end of the wedge, in places where equal rights for same-sex couples is a radical and fiercely controversial proposition, atheists are present too. Amanda Scott, a paralegal student and humanist celebrant in Mobile, Alabama, weathered a storm of harassment when she spoke up against a proposal to put religious plaques on government buildings. She’s also the founder of Mobile Equality, a non-profit group dedicated to educating the public on LGBT rights.

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The end of white Christian America is nigh: Why the country’s youth are abandoning religious conservatism

From Salon:

White Christians are now a minority in 19 states. America's growing racial diversity only tells part of the story

Friday, Mar 13, 2015

There’s been a lot of media attention recently to the changing demographics of the United States, where, at current rates, people who identify as “white” are expected to become a minority by the year 2050. But in many ways, the shift in national demographics has been accelerated beyond even that. New data from the American Values Atlas shows that while white people continue to be the majority in all but 4 states in the country, white Christians are the minority in a whopping 19 states. And, nationwide, Americans who identify as Protestant are now in the minority for the first time ever, clocking in at a mere 47 percent of Americans and falling.

The most obvious reason for this change is growing racial diversity. Most Americans still identify as Christian, but “Christian” is a group that is less white and less Protestant than it has been at any time in history. The massive growth in Hispanic Catholics, in particular, has been a major factor in this shift in the ethnic and religious identity of this country. White Catholics used to outnumber Hispanic Catholics 3 to 1 in the 2000s, but now it’s only by a 2 to 1 margin.

But another major reason religious diversity is outpacing the growth of racial/ethnic diversity is largely due to the explosive growth in non-belief among Americans. One in five Americans now identifies as religiously unaffiliated. In 13 states, the “nones” are the largest religious group. Non-religious people now equal Catholics in number, and their proportion is likely to grow dramatically, as young people are by far the most non-religious group in the country. This isn’t some kind of side effect of their youth, either. As Adam Lee has noted, the millennial generation is becoming less religious as they age.

These changes explain the modern political landscape as well as any economic indicator. While not all white Christians are conservative, these changing numbers definitely suggest that conservative Christians are rapidly losing their grip on power. And while some non-white Christians are conservative, their numbers are not making up for what the Christian right is losing. And whether conservative leaders are aware of the exact numbers or not, it’s clear that they sense that change is in the air. Just by speaking to young people, turning on your TV, or reading the Internet, you can sense the way the country is lurching away from conservative Christian values and towards a more liberal, secular outlook. And conservative Christians aren’t taking these changes well at all.

To look at the Christian right now is to see a people who know they are losing power and are desperately trying to reassert dominance before it’s lost altogether. The most obvious example of this is the frenzy of anti-abortion activity in recent years. Anti-choice forces have controlled the Republican Party since the late ’70s, but only in the past few years have they concentrated so single mindedly on trying to destroy legal abortion in wide swaths of the country. In 2011 alone, states passed nearly three times as many abortion restrictions as they had in any previous year.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Mimi and Richard Farina

“Women in the United States are being economically smothered”: Patricia Arquette continues quest for equal pay

From Salon:

Patricia Arquette spoke on Tuesday night at the UN Women Anniversary event

Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015

Actress Patricia Arquette continued her rallying call for equal pay Tuesday night at the UN Women’s Planet 50-50 by 2030 event, which commemorated 20 year anniversary of the historic World Conference on Women in Beijing. She was one of many women to take the stage and call for gender equality on a roster that included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Melinda Gates, to name a few.)

 Arquette — who acknowledges that she’s not a longtime advocate — quickly rose as a champion for pay equality, after making a fiery call for the end of the wage gap during her Oscar speech. The actress’ rallying cry, however, was quickly marred by controversial remarks made offstage, which displayed a startling lack of intersectionality.
During her Tuesday speech, Arquette doubled down on her call for pay equality and took steps to correct her previous comments, making sure to include all women in the quest for equal incomes.
Of course there were still a few foibles. Arquette started on shaking footing, seemingly unused to the advocacy platform that so many politicians are used to holding, and at the international event, geared towards tackling women’s rights on a global scale, Arquette chose to focus solely on the United States. However, as the speech built to a crescendo, it was hard to ignore Arquette’s passion, power and how important it was that she even chose to stand up. Excerpts from the speech are below.
Arquette began by addressing critics who took issue with her speaking out for wage equality due to her successful acting career and material wealth.
“I want to tell you, as a child there were times where I lived below the poverty line, literally not having shoes to wear that fit me….If I told you that I was a single mother at 20, who lived with my baby in a converted garage, and that I was afraid for my baby’s nutrition while nursing because I could only afford to eat macaroni and cheese mixed with water for weeks, so I could afford diapers that would also be true.

“But truer still is that my past hardships are irrelevant to why I’m here. I’m not a longstanding activist. I’m not an academic, but there’s something that I am that compels me to speak out. And it’s not because I’m an actor or a women. It’s simply the fact that I am a human. I am an American. I see what is happening to women in America.”
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

How Madonna Succumbed to 'Victory Blindness'

Wrong, Michelangelo wrong.

Madonna knows what every woman knows if she is at all honest about the world and how women are treated.  Things really haven't changed for most women since the days when Simone de Beauvoir wrote Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) in 1949. Women are imprisoned in the role of lesser human beings by gender, gender, gender far more than they are by any physical of intellectual limitations.

Gay men are men first and foremost.  With all the perks that go with having a dick and balls.  Yes gay men do have a lesser status than straight men, but nonetheless they are men with male privilege.

Indeed much of the oppression experienced by trans-women is the same oppression experienced by all women.  Including the violence experienced by those who work the streets or go in harms way at times of the night and in neighborhoods where the armored up cops ride two to a car and won't get out of the car without back up.

Gender, gender, gender has been used since the start of the Second Wave Feminist Movement to undermine both feminism and any gains made by women.

It is time for women, all women including lesbians, bi-women, trans-women and women of color to focus their energies on putting women first and not only preventing further erosion of our rights but on the struggle to gain full equality.

Time to stand up for and fight for the rights of women.  Until we have equality with men we need to focus on our own struggles because damned few men seem willing to fight for our equality.

From Huffington Post:


It's happened to many seasoned LGBT activists, to many progressives, to many in the media, and to other celebrities (like Patricia Arquette), so why shouldn't it happen to Madonna?

The legendary performer and great supporter of LGBT rights told Out magazine:
Gay rights are way more advanced than women's rights. People are a lot more open-minded to the gay community than they are to women, period. It's moved along for the gay community, for the African-American community, but women are still just trading on their ass. To me, the last great frontier is women.
And this is where, on LGBT rights, Madonna has succumbed to what I call "victory blindness" (which is title of the first chapter of my soon-to-be-released book). She and many others are intoxicated by the heady whirl of victory -- which the media magnifies in an extraordinary way -- and appear to believe, living within this seductive moment of advances for LGBT rights, that we've "arrived" and the rest of it is inevitable.

Madonna is absolutely right about women and the backlash to their equality. But it is precisely because of that backlash and what it teaches us that she is absolutely wrong about LGBT equality. Women's equality stalled, experiencing a backlash that took feminists by surprise in the '80s, and it's a backlash that they are battling right up until this day. But only in hindsight can the backlash be seen.

In the moment, during the heyday of the '70s and federal legislation and Supreme Court rulings upholding women's autonomy, many women thought full equality was inevitable, exactly like many LGBT activists, progressives, some in the media -- and Madonna -- seem to think today about LGBT equality. Many feminists celebrated and talked of how they'd "advanced." Many women stopped paying attention, became apathetic, thinking the fight was won, while the enemies of women's equality were working fiercely to roll things back.

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