Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Susan Tedeschi

One of my Facebook friends is all excited about the forth coming Super Bowl half-time appearance of someone named Katy Perry...  I'm not...  I'll be snack breaking.

I'm not much into Pap Music.













The Killing of America's Creative Class

One of the worst things that ever happened to the creative class was when a few started to make mega millions and that became the definition of success.

Some of the greatest guitar players ever, make that musicians ever lived hand to mouth gigging in honky tonks and mean blues clubs.  Just because your parents plonked down a few K at the local Guitar Center no more means you will be one of the next generations Rolling Stones than your making the Jay-Vee third string football team in high school means you will someday play in the Super Bowl.

That said there are a lot of creative folks out there with day jobs and gigs in local clubs, art that sells in the art versions of flea markets/swap meets.

On an up note lots of folks with degrees in engineering and law are in the same boat.  Too many people in the field for there to be enough work for all.

At the same time it seems like there are more musicians in Texas and more music venues than in New York and California combined.

BTW:  Recording contracts and publishing contracts with corporations tend to be corporate licenses to steal from artists.  It can be a DIY world for those brave enough to try.

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/killing-americas-creative-class

A review of Scott Timberg's fascinating new book, 'Culture Crash.'

By Amien Essif January 21, 2015

Some of my friends became artists, writers, and musicians to rebel against their practical parents. I went into a creative field with encouragement from my folks. It’s not too rare for Millennials to have their bohemian dreams blessed by their parents, because, as progeny of the Boomers, we were mentored by aging rebels who idolized rogue poets, iconoclast cartoonists, and scrappy musicians.

The problem, warns Scott Timberg in his new book Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, is that if parents are basing their advice on how the economy used to support creativity – record deals for musicians, book contracts for writers, staff positions for journalists – then they might be surprised when their YouTube-famous daughter still needs help paying off her student loans. A mix of economic, cultural, and technological changes emanating from a neoliberal agenda, writes Timberg, “have undermined the way that culture has been produced for the past two centuries, crippling the economic prospects of not only artists but also the many people who supported and spread their work, and nothing yet has taken its place.”

Tech vs. the Creative Class

Timberg isn’t the first to notice. The supposed economic recovery that followed the recession of 2008 did nothing to repair the damage that had been done to the middle class. Only a wealthy few bounced back, and bounced higher than ever before, many of them the elites of Silicon Valley who found a way to harvest much of the wealth generated by new technologies. InCulture Crash, however, Timberg has framed the struggle of the working artist to make a living on his talents.

Besides the overall stagnation of the economy, Timberg shows how information technology has destabilized the creative class and deprofessionalized their labor, leading to an oligopoly of the mega corporations Apple, Google, and Facebook, where success is measured (and often paid) in webpage hits.

What Timberg glances over is that if this new system is an oligopoly of tech companies, then what it replaced – or is still in the process of replacing – was a feudal system of newspapers, publishing houses, record labels, operas, and art galleries. The book is full of enough discouraging data and painful portraits of artists, though, to make this point moot. Things are definitely getting worse.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/killing-americas-creative-class

Stephen Fry on God | The Meaning Of Life


Thursday, January 29, 2015

New report on anti-Semitism finds France is most dangerous country for Jews

From The Jerusalem Post:   http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/New-report-on-anti-Semitism-finds-France-is-most-dangerous-country-for-Jews-388858

Study presented to the government shows anti-Semitic incidents rose by 400 percent during Operation Protective Edge.

By SAM SOKOL 01/25/2015

France is the “most dangerous country for Jews today,” the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry asserted Sunday, as Minister Naftali Bennett presented the cabinet with a report on anti-Semitic trends over the past year.

According to the report, which was compiled in collaboration with The Coordination Forum for Countering anti-Semitism and presented ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday, Muslim extremists are the “main instigators of global anti-Semitism.”

“We continue to see deterioration around the world. The old anti-Semitism, spouting the familiar stereotype of a global Jewish conspiracy, is being increasingly coupled with the campaign to delegitimize Israel,“ Bennett said in a statement.

“It is radical Islam which is acting as the bridge for these two racist beliefs. They’ll use any perverted excuse to further their goal, which is the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.

The extreme Left, the report asserted, sometimes makes common cause with Islamic extremists.

In the surge in anti-Semitism during Israel’s Gaza incursion last summer, when incidents rose by 400 percent, the primary perpetrators were Muslims, the report stated. The use of Israel’s actions as a catalyst and excuse for violence reveals a blurring of the boundaries between anti-Zionism and classical anti-Semitism, reinforcing “the importance of Israel as the spearhead of the Jewish people in the fight against anti-Semitism,” the report asserted.

Delegitimization of Israel served as a “major threat” against Jewish communities abroad, and while the increasing influence of the far Right of Europe was cited as a threat, the report reiterated its conclusion that the most violent cases were attributable to Arabs or Muslims.


Continue reading at:  http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/New-report-on-anti-Semitism-finds-France-is-most-dangerous-country-for-Jews-388858

FGM suspects appear in court in UK’s first genital mutilation trial

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/19/fgm-genital-mutilation-trial-uk-dharmasena

Court told that Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena carried out procedure at a London hospital with encouragement from Hasan Mohamed

Monday 19 January 2015

A hospital doctor carried out female genital mutilation on a young mother after the birth of her first child in a London hospital, a court has heard .

Mounting the first prosecution against someone for carrying out FGM in England and Wales, the Crown alleged that Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Whittington hospital, had mutilated a 24-year-old mother by the manner in which he had sewn her up after childbirth.

The woman had undergone type 3 FGM – in which part of the labia are sewn together – as a child in Africa, and during labour the doctor had made two cuts to her vaginal opening to ensure the safe delivery of her baby. When Dharmasena sewed her up, a midwife warned him that what he had done was illegal. He asked a consultant for advice, and the more senior doctor said it would be “painful and humiliating” to remove the stitch he had made, and it remained in place, the court heard.

“It is the stitching back together by Dr Dharmasena which the prosecution says is an offence under the act,” Kate Bex, prosecuting, told Southwark crown court.

Dharmasena, 32, is charged alongside another man, Hasan Mohamed, 41, who is accused of aiding and abetting the doctor. Both men deny the charges.

The doctor, who qualified in 2005, and began specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology in 2008, had been at the Whittington for a month when the events took place in 2012.

Under the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act, a doctor does not commit an offence if his actions involve a surgical operation on a woman in any stage of labour, or immediately after birth, for purposes connected with the labour or birth.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/19/fgm-genital-mutilation-trial-uk-dharmasena

More homeless camps are appearing beyond downtown L.A.'s skid row

From The LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-encampments-20150125-story.html



Evicted four months ago from their Highland Park apartment, Louis Morales and his 18-year-old stepson, Arthur Valenzuela, live half-hidden by brush along the nearby Arroyo Seco riverbed.
Morales, 49, keeps a framed bible verse and a stuffed monkey in his tent. Water hauled by bike from a park heats up on the camp stove.

Next door, their friend Johnny Salazar fixes bikes and shattered computer screens on the cheap for people who live in the neighborhood. A brother and sister Morales has known for years live up the river, and three couples stay down by the bridge.

"Everybody here is from Highland Park," Valenzuela said. "We don't allow other people."

Over the last two years, street encampments have jumped their historic boundaries in downtown Los Angeles, lining freeways and filling underpasses from Echo Park to South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county agency, received 767 calls about street encampments in 2014, up 60% from the 479 in 2013.


Some residents believe the city is exporting its downtown homeless problem to their neighborhoods. But social service agencies and volunteers say it isn't that simple. They say that although downtown development and skid row cleanups are squeezing out some homeless people, many camps are filled with locals.

Soaring rents, closed shelters and funding cutbacks are pushing residents from neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Boyle Heights into the streets, where they cling to familiar turf.

"Homeless people, especially the mentally ill, they don't like new," said Senior Lead Officer Gina Chovan of the Los Angeles Police Department's Northeast Division. "They want to stay where they know all the nooks and crannies."

Bound by court decisions, the city has largely quit breaking up homeless groups and confiscating their trash and belongings, leaving the camps to grow and multiply.

Whether homeless people are more numerous or simply more visible could be answered by the biennial tally taking place this week.

As many as 6,000 volunteers will go out Tuesday through Thursday searching for homeless people living in alleys, riverbeds, cars and RVs. For the first time, homeless people will be asked about their gender identity, domestic violence and prison histories, and years of military service — information that could better track where they came from and why.

agency.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-encampments-20150125-story.html

French Jewish exodus: ‘In two months we’ll be called filthy Jews again’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/16/french-jews-israel-exodus-felix-freoa

After the attack on the kosher supermarket, Félix Freoa and his family have brought forward their departure from Paris

in Paris Friday 16 January 2015

Félix Freoa was already intending to emigrate to Israel with his wife and four children in March or April. He and his family have been planning the move for the last couple of years. But after Friday’s deadly hostage-taking at a kosher supermarket they know well, they could wait no longer, and brought forward their departure. “That afternoon, we applied to go next month,” said Félix.

Freoa, 41, made his weekly visit to the kosher bakery next to the Hyper Cacher supermarket “about five minutes before” the hostage taking. “It’sthe first time we’ve been affected personally by an antisemitic attack,” he said. Like other members of the French Jewish community, he was shocked by past attacks such as the 2010 rampage by jihadist Mohamed Merad, who targeted a Jewish school.
“Toulouse was on the television,” he said, referring to the Merad attacks. “But this was real, concrete.” The Freoas only live a few minutes by car from Porte de Vincennes, in Charenton-le-Pont. “I’m worried for my children,” said Freoa. All four of them attend Jewish schools.

 A variety of reasons convinced Freoa to make the aliyah, as Jewish emigration is known. “There’s the weather and the cheaper cost of living in Israel. But every time there’s unrest in the Middle East, it has an effect in France.” Last July, when Israel’s war on Gaza spilled on to French streets, some protesters reportedly cried, “Death to Jews.” “When I went to buy cigarettes, I felt the tension with Muslims,” said Freoa.
 
He believes his two sons, aged 9 and 3, and two daughters, aged 7 and 6, are looking forward to the move to a beachside house in Agamin near Netanya. “We’ve told them it’s a kind of holiday.”

He and his wife have a sales business and he is confident that he can carry on in Israel. “With a computer and a phone, I’ll be fine – I can work anywhere,” he says. He played down the difficulties of moving to Israel: “We know what to expect. The Israelis are tough, they’re raw. It’s not easy. But the main thing is that our kids are OK.”

Freoa, a TV fan, added: “Aliyah has got much easier over the past 10 years. Now they’ve got French TV in Israel.”

“I’m not super-religious, but France has changed. We keep to ourselves a bit, we spend time with Jewish friends, and people are scared. We don’t feel safe like before.” He says a lot of his Jewish friends are considering emigrating now.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/16/french-jews-israel-exodus-felix-freoa
 

That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/16/was-easy-just-60-years-neoliberal-capitalism-has-nearly-broken-planet-earth

Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth’s natural systems

by Jon Queally Published on Friday, January 16, 2015Common Dreams

Humanity’s rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point, according to a new pair of related studies.

Prepared by researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the first study looks specifically at how “four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity.” Published in the journal Science* on Thursday, the 18 researchers involved with compiling evidence for the report—titled ‘Planetary Boundaries 2.0‘—found that when it comes to climate change, species extinction and biodiversity loss, deforestation and other land-system changes, and altered biogeochemical cycles (such as changes to how key organic compounds like phosphorus and nitrogen are operating in the environment), the degradation that has already take place is driving the Earth System, as a whole, into a new state of imbalance.

“Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human well-being in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries,” said Professor Will Steffen, a researcher at the Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra, who was lead author for both studies.

In addition to the four boundaries that have already been crossed, the study looked at five other ways in which the planetary systems are under assault by human activity. They include: stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; freshwater use; atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms); and the introduction of novel entities into ecosystems (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).
“I don’t think we’ve broken the planet but we are creating a much more difficult world,” Sarah Cornell, another report author, told Reuters.

In this interview with Wired last year, Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, described the idea about planetary boundaries in details:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/16/was-easy-just-60-years-neoliberal-capitalism-has-nearly-broken-planet-earth
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Sam Harris: Liberals like Greenwald and Aslan support the ‘thuggish ultimatum’ of radical Islam

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/01/sam-harris-liberals-like-greenwald-aslan-support-thuggish-ultimatum-of-islamic-terrorists/


22 Jan 2015

 
Noted atheist Sam Harris blamed the media for the “recent atrocities in Paris” in his most recent podcast.

“It’s astonishing the media can’t do the one thing to keep it and everyone else safe. It can’t do the one thing that would have kept the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists safe — which is to publish, en masse, all of these cartoons to present a united front against this creeping theocracy,” he began.

Harris claimed that he would have spoken up sooner, but “it’s become toxic for me to say over and over again that which should go without saying, then be vilified for it. It’s no fun working on this topic — although I am writing a short book with Maajid Nawaz, the working title of which is Islam and the Future of Tolerance.”

“The response of liberals — and it’s so depressing to have to use ‘liberal’ in a pejorative way, but liberalism has completely lost its moorings on the topic of Islam,” he continued. “Needless to say, we have all the usual suspects — Glenn Greewald, Reza Aslan, Chris Hedges, Karen Armstrong — and as unreadable as these people have become, you can’t help but notice the stupid things they say about Islam even in the aftermath of an atrocity like this.”

“As will come as no surprise, they will tell you this has nothing to do with Islam or heartfelt religious convictions, but that it has everything to do with capitalism and oppression and minorities and the racism of white people in Europe, and the racism of cartoonists at a magazine like Charlie Hebdo.”
“That is the cause of this behavior,” Harris said. “That is what will cause someone to pick up an AK-47 and murder 12 cartoonists and scream ‘Allahu Akbar!’ in the streets.”

“That is an absolutely insane analysis. If you grant everything that’s completely wrong with capitalism and the history of colonialism, you should not be able to deny that these religious maniacs are motivated by concerns about blasphemy and the depiction of Muhammad and consider their behavior entirely ethical in light of specific religious doctrines.”

Continue reading at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/01/sam-harris-liberals-like-greenwald-aslan-support-thuggish-ultimatum-of-islamic-terrorists/

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Is women's visible pubic hair really so shocking that it must be censored?

For the record I don't shave my body.  Not my pubes, not my arm pits or my legs.  Now I will admit I am not particularly hairy but sometimes it is the thought that counts.  I'm not much into gender and gender defining me as a woman.  Real women have body hair on their pubes, underarms and legs.  It is gender that tells us it is improper for women to have hair in those places.  It is the bullshit of gender that guilt trips women who do not conform by shaving those areas.  Further gender come up with stupidity such as labeling us gender outlaws and deviants if we don't obey the socially imposed dictates of gender.

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/23/women-visible-pubic-hair-shocking-censored

Now that more women aren’t depilating, we see depictions of what naturally happens when women don’t shave banned from view


Friday 23 January 2015


Shaved, trimmed, left alone, waxed out of existence or Vajazzled, we are both fascinated and utterly repelled by what women do and don’t do with their hair “down there”. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about pubic hair – and it’s always that what someone else is doing is a little weird.

Earlier this week, Instagram deleted the account of Australian magazine Sticks and Stones after it posted a picture of two women in bathing suits with (apparently natural) pubic hair sticking out on the sides. In 2013, the social media platform did the same thing to Canadian photographer Petra Collins when she put up a photo of her unaltered bikini line. (Neither photograph displayed anything approaching actual nudity – just pubes poking out the edges of underwear.)

“I did nothing that violated the terms of use. No nudity, violence, pornography, unlawful, hateful or infringing imagery,” Collins wrote at the time. “What I did have was an image of MY body that didn’t meet society’s standard of ‘femininity.’”

Instagram is hardly alone. The television show The Bachelor has been accused of putting a black bar over a woman’s pubic hair, and earlier this year a painting was removed from a London exhibition because it was deemed “pornographic” for displaying a woman’s pubic hair.

So when did the hair at the high tide line become more shocking than a nipple?

Even as social media sites, television shows and museums are censoring any minute display of women’s pubic hair, a natural look is making a comeback. Last year American Apparel featured mannequins with full bushes in a store window and The New York Times Style section claimed “a fuller look is creeping back”. The Guardian even called 2014 “the year of the bush!”.

Lest you worry that bikini waxers will be going out of business by the handful, they too are changing with the times: you can now purchase a “full bush Brazilian” which involves “removing all hair from the labia and butt crack while leaving the top untouched”. (That sounds to me like a vaginal mullet – “business in the front, party in the back”.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/23/women-visible-pubic-hair-shocking-censored

Jew Hating Pro-Palestinians Disrupt Council Meeting disruption of the New York City Council meeting during a vote commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz






Penn & Teller's Bullshit - Vaccinations


Bishops Freak Out After Catholic Hospitals Consider Giving Equal Rights To Gay People

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/01/26/3615378/bishops-freak-catholic-hospitals-consider-giving-equal-rights-gay-people/

by Ian Millhiser January 26, 2015

A Catholic Bishop compared requiring all couples to be treated with equal dignity to “the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire” last week. His statement was a response to a Catholic health system’s announcement that they may extend benefits to the legally married spouses of their lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees.

Mercy Health is a large Catholic health care system with over 40,000 employees in seven states. They recently announced that “in line with recent changes in government regulations, we will extend benefits to all legally married spouses effective this spring.” (Though, in another statement, they added that they are still “exploring how best to expand health care benefits for our co-workers.”)

This indication that Mercy intended to extend equal rights to their gay employees prompted Bishop James V. Johnston, the Catholic bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to raise the specter of Roman torture. “No believing Christian worthy of the name should violate God’s law because of ‘regulations,'” Bishop Johnson said in a statement. “Our ancestors refused to abandon the faith even when subjected to the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire, but in our age unspecified ‘regulations,’ government funds, and fear of public ridicule is sufficient in order to secure the compliance of some.”

Bishop Johnston’s views were echoed — albeit with less overwrought language — in a statement by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. They told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “[i]t is simply inconsistent to claim to be a Catholic institution while publicly acting against Church teaching,” the “Church teaching” in this case apparently being the notion that gay couples do not enjoy the same rights as straight ones. The Archdiocese claimed that “Catholic institutions face sanctions from the American government for fidelity to their Catholic identity.”
 
If the entire Catholic health system adopted a similar view, that could have profound implications for much of the greater American health care system. The Catholic Health Association estimates that approximately one in six patients in the United States are treated in a Catholic hospital. That is a massive network of employees that could be denied benefits under Bishop Johnston’s position — although it is worth noting that the Catholic Health Association has historically taken relatively moderate positions (at least as compared to Johnson) on questions such as birth control.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/01/26/3615378/bishops-freak-catholic-hospitals-consider-giving-equal-rights-gay-people/

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Auschwitz 70th anniversary: Survivors mark camp liberation

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, A death camp in Poland where the Nazis murdered at least 1.1 million prisoners, around 90 percent of them Jewish; approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.[1][2]

Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Never Forget.  Never Forgive. Never Again.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bill Maher is right about religion: The Orwellian ridiculousness of Jesus, and the truth about moral progress

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/01/18/bill_maher_is_right_about_religion_the_orwellian_ridiculousness_of_jesus_and_the_truth_about_moral_progress/

"Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past"

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015

Excerpted from  "THE MORAL ARC"

Most people believe that moral progress has primarily been due to the guiding light of religious teachings, the activities of spiritual leaders, and the power of faith-based initiatives. In “The Moral Arc” I argue that this is not the case, and that most moral progress is the result of science, reason, and secular values developed during the Enlightenment. Once moral progress in a particular area is underway, most religions eventually get on board—as in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, women’s rights in the 20th century, and gay rights in the 21st century—but this often happens after a shamefully protracted lag time. Why?

 The rules that were dreamt up and enshrined by the various religions over the millennia did not have as their goal the expansion of the moral sphere to include other sentient beings. Moses did not come down from the mountain with a detailed list of the ways in which the Israelites could make life better for the Moabites, the Edomites, the Midianites, or for any other tribe of people that happened not to be them. One justification for this constricted sphere can be found in the Old Testament injunction to “Love thy neighbor,” who at that time was one’s immediate kin and kind, which was admittedly an evolutionary stratagem appropriate for the time. It would be suicidal to love thy neighbor as thyself when thy neighbor would like nothing better than to exterminate you, which was often the case for the Bronze Age peoples of the Old Testament. What good would have come of the Israelites loving, for example, the Midianites as themselves? The results would have been catastrophic given that the Midianites were allied with the Moabites in their desire to see the Israelites wiped off the face of the earth.
 
Today, of course, most Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that moral principles are universal and apply to everyone, but this is because they have inculcated into their moral thinking the modern Enlightenment goal of broadening and redefining the parameters of moral consideration. But by their nature the world’s religions are tribal and xenophobic, serving to regulate moral rules within the community but not seeking to embrace humanity outside their circle. Religion, by definition, forms an identity of those like us, in sharp distinction from those not us, those heathens, those unbelievers.

Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past. Change in religious beliefs and practices, when it happens at all, is slow and cumbersome, and it is almost always in response to the church or its leaders facing outside political or cultural forces.

The history of Mormonism is a case in point. In the 1830s the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, received a revelation from God to enact what he euphemistically called “celestial marriage,” more accurately described as “plural marriage”—the rest of the world calls it polygamy—just about the time he found a new love interest while married to another woman. Once Smith caught the Solomonic fever for multiple wives (King Solomon had 700), he couldn’t stop himself or his brethren from spreading their seed, along with the practice, which in 1852 was codified into Mormon law through its sacred “Doctrines and Covenants.” Until 1890, that is, when the people of Utah—desirous for their territory to become a state in the union—were told by the United States federal government that polygamy would not be tolerated.

Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2015/01/18/bill_maher_is_right_about_religion_the_orwellian_ridiculousness_of_jesus_and_the_truth_about_moral_progress/

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Too rich to get sick? Disneyland measles outbreak reflects anti-vaccination trend

From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/17/too-rich-sick-disneyland-measles-outbreak-reflects-anti-vaccination-trend

In Orange County, California, wealthier, better-educated parents are less inclined to immunise their children. Doctors warn of a public health time-bomb

in Los Angeles
Saturday 17 January 2015


Travel north to south in Orange County, a coastal strip of 34 cities in southern California which includes Disneyland, and the growing size and opulence of the houses show people getting richer.
Trawl medical records, and you notice something else: children getting fewer vaccinations.

“The rate of immunisation falls as you go north to south. It tracks the socio-economic statistics in the county,” said Matt Zahn, medical director of Epidemiology and Assessment for the Orange County Health Care Agency.

At Capistrano Unified school district, for instance, there was a 9.5% rate of children not fully vaccinated because of parents’ beliefs. At the nearby, poorer Santa Ana Unified district, in contrast, only 0.2% of kindergartners had exemptions on file.

A measles outbreak at Disneyland, stemming from an unvaccinated young woman dubbed patient zero, has shone a light on such dichotomies. Officials have confirmed at least 32 cases, almost all of them unvaccinated.

It is a strange first-world irony that wealthier, better-educated parents are the ones reducing infant vaccination rates, said Zahn. “Many people in this country have never seen a case of measles,” he said. “We’re a victim of our own success.”

The outbreak has triggered recrimination towards an eclectic group of activists who are accused of sabotaging immunisation campaigns by peddling medical myths.

“If we get to a few thousand cases in this country we’ll start seeing deaths. That’s unconscionable,” said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Continue reading at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/17/too-rich-sick-disneyland-measles-outbreak-reflects-anti-vaccination-trend

Nothing to do with Islam


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Salman Rushdie on Charlie Hebdo: ‘Vilifying … These Fallen Artists’ Is ‘Disgraceful’

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17534/salman_rushdie_on_charlie_hedbo

The target of an infamous fatwa weighs in on satire, free speech and religion.

By Terry J. Allen January 15, 2015

A week after two gunmen massacred staff at the offices of the Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, author Salman Rushdie came to Vermont on a bitterly cold January day. He’d been invited to give a speech for Vermont Reads, a Humanities Council program that annually selects one book—this year, Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Storiesto spark statewide discussion.

In the question period that followed his talk, Rushdie, was asked about Charlie Hebdo. A writer with hard-won insight into the clash of satire, free speech and religion, Rushdie spent years in hiding, under police protection, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a 1989 fatwa against him. Essentially an assassination order, it condemned Rushdie for blaspheming Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses, which included a less than hagiographic portrayal of Muhammad.

Just after the Charlie Hebdo murders, Rushdie issued a much-shared statement that read in part, “Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.”
Rushdie expanded his thoughts on the conflict between church/mosque and free speech in an interview with Vermont Public Radio: “The victory of the French Enlightenment was a victory over the church and not the state. And out of that came the modern idea of free expression. So now you could argue that we're having a similar battle but different religion, different church, but same argument.”

In answer to a question about satire, Rushdie told the packed house at the University of Vermont:
If you are a writer, it’s kind of like if you’re a composer, you would have an orchestra to compose for, and sometimes you write more for the strings and sometimes more for the keyboard, and you don’t have to write for the same  thing every time you compose. In the same way when you’re  writing, you don’t always write for the same part of the orchestra. And so satire is one of the tools and it’s a very important one. And actually  in the history of France, it’s been enormously important ever since the French Revolution. Some of the first really powerful satirical pieces in the French history were [pamphlets]—the sheet that was distributed in the street, attacking Marie Antoinette after she encouraged people to eat cake, which was very bad for their health. So there was a kind of early gluten-free satire at that time.

The French satirical tradition has always been very pointed and very harsh. And still is, you know. And the thing that I really resent is the way in which these, our dead comrades, these people who died— using the same implement that I use, which is the pen or a pencil—have been almost immediately vilified and called racists and I don’t know what else. Which is a dreadful crime against their memory.
Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17534/salman_rushdie_on_charlie_hedbo

Protesters in Iran chant ‘Death to France’ over Mohammed cartoon

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/01/protesters-in-iran-chant-death-to-france-over-mohammed-cartoon/


19 Jan 2015


More than 2,000 Iranians protested Monday outside the French embassy in Tehran, chanting “Death to France” and urging the ambassador be expelled because of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

The demonstration was in response to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s use of the cartoon in an edition published a week after 12 people were killed by Islamist gunmen at its Paris offices.

The image has angered many Muslims as depictions of Mohammed are widely considered forbidden in Islam, and has triggered protests in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, some of which turned deadly.

Iran denounced the Paris massacre but it also condemned the magazine’s new cartoon, where the prophet holds a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the heading “All is forgiven”.

Plans for Monday’s protest led the French ambassador to announce that the embassy, located in busy downtown Tehran, would be closed all day.

The gathering, organised by students but attended by all age groups, was given a heavy security detail of around 150 Iranian police, and although noisy it passed off peacefully after two hours.

Continue reading at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/01/protesters-in-iran-chant-death-to-france-over-mohammed-cartoon/

Letter to an antisemite

From Times of Israel:  http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/letter-to-an-antisemite/

Fred Maroun January 12, 2015

I received your message the other day.  Thank you for taking the time to write.  You asked me why I, a non-Jew, speak so loudly about antisemitism.  You said that I make too much of a big deal about Israel.  You said that lots of people are anti-Zionist without being antisemitic,even Jews!  You said that antisemitism is not really a problem, and that the Holocaust should be left alone in the history books.  You said that I should forget about the outdated issue of antisemitism.

I regret that my support for Israel offends you and that my opposition to antisemitism disturbs you, but I will reply to your recommendations by asking you some questions.

Since you are an educated person, you must be aware of the overwhelming evidence that Israel is isolated, demonized, singled out, and boycotted for the sole reason that it is the Jewish state.  Why do you choose to ignore this antisemitism?

When someone makes callous remarks about the Jewish nation being “that shitty little country”, do you nod enthusiastically?

When someone arrogantly declares that Israel is a Western imperialist power on the land where Jews have lived for over three thousand years, do you agree?

When someone scornfully announces that Israel’s settlements building is an obstacle to peace even though Palestinians have rejected multiple attempts at a two-state solution, do you respond with approval?

When someone self-importantly condemns Israel’s security barrier, claiming that it is racist, do you acquiesce?

When someone condescendingly makes claims of “apartheid” in Israel, the only country in the Middle East where the rights of religious and ethnic minorities are respected, do you approve?

When someone disdainfully proclaims that Israel is engaged in genocide in Gaza every time it dares defend itself against terrorism, do you smile in agreement?

Continue reading at:  http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/letter-to-an-antisemite/

When Parents Are Criminalized: Couple In Trouble for Letting Their Kids Walk Unsupervised

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/maryland-parents-legal-trouble-letting-their-kids-walk-alone

Authorities tell parents they may lose their kids; tell kids a stranger will grab them.

By Cliff Weathers January 15, 2015

A Maryland couple is in trouble with law authorities because they let their kids walk around the neighborhood without hovering over them.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv say that their neighbors have called the local police and Child Protective Services because their children, ages 10 and 6, have been spotted walking to two area playgrounds without adult supervision. One playground is a mile away from the Meitiv’s home in Silver Springs, while the other is just two blocks down.

In a letter to Reason.com, Danielle Meitiv recalls a December 20 incident involving the police:
"On a Saturday afternoon in December, my husband, Alexander, gave our kids permission to walk home from the local playground. I was out of town at the time. When they'd walked about halfway, a Montgomery County Police patrol car pulled up. A 'helpful' neighbor had called 911 to report unaccompanied children walking outside. Our kids were brought home in a police cruiser.
At the door the police officer asked to see my husband's ID, but did not explain why.
When he refused, she called for backup.
 
A total of six patrol cars showed up."
The Meitivs say that law enforcement authorities and social services representatives have questioned their children while at school, and without their knowledge or consent and that the investigation infringes on their rights as parents to raise their children in a manner that they see fit. The parents also say the authorities asked their 10-year-old son what he would do if seized by a strange adult. According to Alexander Meitiv, they told his son that “there are creeps out there that are just waiting to grab children if they're walking by themselves.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/maryland-parents-legal-trouble-letting-their-kids-walk-alone

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bill Maher RIPS Liberals for ‘Extreme Bullying’ on Islam: You’re Part of the Problem


Islamic State throws men off building for ‘being gay’ Read more: Islamic State throws men off building for 'being gay'

From The Times of Israel:  http://www.timesofisrael.com/islamic-state-throws-men-off-building-for-being-gay/

In a series of photos, group depicts gruesome executions of various alleged criminals, including thieves and an unfaithful woman

By Times of Israel staff
January 18, 2015


Islamic State has published disturbing pictures of what it says are the executions of two homosexual men in Iraq — shown being thrown off a high-rise rooftop to their deaths.

The organization has also released images of two men being crucified for theft, and a woman being stoned to death for infidelity.The two men, accused of being gay, are seen being led to the edge of a tall building as a large crowd gathers below to watch. The men are then photographed falling through the air. A later photograph shows their broken bodies laying on the ground.

Additional photographs show two men accused of stealing as they are tied crucifix-style to a metal frame, their eyes blindfolded as a masked IS member reads the charges.

Two other IS militants then shoot the two in the head, killing them.

A final killing depicts woman draped in an all-black niqab as she is led to her stoning, on charges of infidelity.

IS members are seen hurling rocks at her and waving the IS flag. Finally her limp body is covered with a tarpaulin.

On Tuesday the jihadist group released a video on purporting to show a young boy executing two men accused of working for Russian intelligence services.

The video shows the two men apparently being shot dead by the child after being interrogated on camera about their alleged attempts to infiltrate IS in Syria.

Continue reading at: http://www.timesofisrael.com/islamic-state-throws-men-off-building-for-being-gay/

See also: ISIS Executes Pigeon and Bird Breeders in Diyala, Iraq

Slacking Workers of the World Unite

File under "Ain't Goinna Work on Maggie's Farm No More"
A friend of mind used to call his acts of work place sabotage "Willful Inefficiency"
From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17448/slacking_workers_of_the_world

We’ve made an art of wasting time at work. But to what end?

BY Lindsay Beyerstein January 1, 2015

Seventy percent of porn viewing and 60 percent of online shopping take place during business hours. Studies indicate that worldwide, the average employee spends about 1 to 3 hours a day goofing off at work.

In Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance, Roland Paulsen, a scholar of business administration at Lund University in Sweden, sets out to understand what he calls empty labor, which includes anything a worker does on the clock that isn’t work—be it surfing the web, sleeping, organizing the office football pool, or writing a doctoral dissertation on the sly.

Paulsen focused on the most extreme shirkers. He interviewed 43 Swedish workers who claimed to spend less than half of their work hours actually working. He tracked down these hardcore non-performers through friends of friends, web ads and the Swedish website maska.nu, where people share slacking stories and tips. Most were white-collar workers, but a construction worker, a security guard and several house cleaners also participated. Paulsen's interviews were designed to answer two basic questions: How do you get away with this? and Why do you do it?

It turns out that slacking off is serious business: “ ‘Doing nothing’ while at work can be a very demanding activity requiring planning, collaboration, risk calculation, and ethical consideration,” Paulsen observes. Some subjects turned shirking into a game they found more meaningful than their actual jobs.

Even when productivity is difficult to measure, presence is easily quantified. In order to get ahead, workers have to be seen to show up early and leave late. Many of Paulsen’s informants said they put a lot of effort into punctuality and attendance (as well as personal grooming), which made managers less likely to question their low performance.

Paulsen concludes that the most successful slackers have jobs with high “opacity,” which means that other people have a hard time grokking what they actually do or how long it’s supposed to take.
Uber-slackers are taking advantage of a feature of the modern economy: It is unusually conducive to empty labor. We are often told that people are working longer and harder than ever, and that may well be true, on average. But in many jobs, work has become decoupled from tangible production, making productivity difficult to measure.

A web developer told Paulsen that her team gave inflated time estimates for projects they didn’t want to do, and nobody could contradict them, because only the web team knew how long it should take to build a website. When a client wanted to put flying sanitary napkins on a company website, the team claimed it would take weeks, instead of the short time it would actually require.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17448/slacking_workers_of_the_world

Attempt to stop child marriage in Saudi Arabia fails

From Progressive Secular Humanist:  http:www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/01/attempt-to-stop-child-marriage-in-saudi-arabia-fails/

by January 5, 2015

Islam: Religion of pedophiles? Despite efforts by human rights activists to end the barbaric practice of child marriage, Muslim men will continue to marry girls under the age of 15 in Saudi Arabia.
The push to raise the legal age of marriage to 15 was crushed after the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the most senior religious authority in the country, ruled that Islam supports men marrying underage girls.

The Grand Mufti ruled that it’s acceptable for men to marry girls under the age of 15, despite strenuous efforts by human rights activists and the Saudi justice ministry to set 15 as a minimum age for brides in the kingdom.

Grand Mufti Abdulaziz declared there is nothing prohibiting Muslim men from marrying girls under the age of 15. Abdulaziz is president of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and chairman of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas, which makes him the final authority in Saudi Arabia on Islamic teachings.

In Saudi Arabia, Muslim clerics have been fighting a successful battle to preserve the legal right of men to marry underage girls. In recent years reformists have been working to prevent and prohibit the abhorrent and barbaric practice of child marriage sanctioned by so many Islamic scholars. However, attempts to prohibit child marriage has met strong and sustained resistance by many Muslim scholars.

For example, in 2011, Dr. Salih bin Fawzan, a prominent cleric and member of Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council, issued a fatwa asserting that there is no minimum age for marriage and that girls can be married “even if they are in the cradle.”

Most Muslim scholars in support of child marriage note that nowhere does Sharia (or Islamic law) set an age limit for marrying girls.

Continue reading at:  http:www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/01/attempt-to-stop-child-marriage-in-saudi-arabia-fails/

No more asset seizure: Eric Holder bans controversial ‘war on drugs’ tactic

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2015/01/no-more-asset-seizure-eric-holder-bans-controversial-war-on-drugs-tactic/

                
State and local police in the United States will no longer be able to use federal laws to justify seizing property without evidence of a crime, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday.

The practice of local police taking property, including cash and cars, from people that they stop, and of handing it over to federal authorities, became common during the country’s war on drugs in the 1980s.

Holder cited “safeguarding civil liberties” as a reason for the change in policy.

The order directs federal agencies who have collected property during such seizures to withdraw their participation, except if the items collected could endanger the public, as in the case of firearms.

Holder said the ban was the first step in a comprehensive review the Justice Department has launched of the program.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Bernadette Baum)