Monday, December 28, 2009


I'm reading discussions about the idea of a communist "vanguard" for the working class, and trying to sort out my feelings about the whole thing.

The bare bones idea seems to be that you can't wait for a group of people who've been marginalized, denied educational opportunities, and denied opportunity for political expression to figure out how to start a revolution and then do it effectively (since all that crap piled on them seems aimed at preventing precisely that). The solution some people have come up with (if I'm understanding what I'm reading correctly) is that what's needed is for a "vanguard" of intellectual working-class-allies to agitate the working class, get them all riled up and carve out some room for them to express themselves and start exercising the power they were always told they didn't have or deserve.

This sounds fairly reasonable, especially because it's speaking to the part of me that gets very frustrated with low-income self-identified conservatives who repeatedly vote against their own self-interest (oddly, in the name of protecting the sanctity of self-interest itself). However, I feel like I have to check that part of me. That part of me also says that these low-income self-destructive conservatives are obviously too stupid to know what's good for them, and clearly a bunch of educated elites like me (since, though it seems odd to me, an education is kind of an "elite" quality, for good or ill) to come in and take their whole lives and all their problems out of their hands so that someone who knows what to do can make it all better.

How fucking disempowering is that logic? That's why I resist it. If I look at people who disagree with me as though they must be saved from their own decisions, I stop being the person who's trying to help them realize their own power.

Seems to me that's the power and the danger of the "vanguard" notion as well. Obviously not all corners of middle- or working- or lower-class society are going to be class-conscious enough (or have the energy to spare, or have safe enough conditions, though those are obstacles I don't see mentioned much in leftist discussions) to go out and kick patriarchal classist capitalist ass. Obviously those people who have a better idea should lend those skills to something useful instead of using them to further their own power.

But they can use this to further their own power. We've seen this with TEA Parties organized by multi-billion dollar insurance companies that are agitating less-conscious working-class people to give their power over from working for their own welfare to working for the welfare of their oh-so-helpful-and-sympathetic new corporate masters. That's the really nasty thing about astroturf organizing like this; it uses people's suffering and gets them all riled up to diffuse that bitterness and hope in a direction that accomplishes nothing and is therefore "safe" for the companies holding their leashes.

How to organize without doing that? How is it possible to get people interested in a cause without taking their energy and directing it as a commodity belonging to whomever can take it?

I think it comes down to something I learned in a women's empowerment circle (and yes, I attended one for a little while, and still would be if my work schedule allowed it). There is a huge difference between offering support to someone while she works through her problems, and taking her problems out of her hands to solve them for her. One of these affirms her right and ability to control her own life, and one undermines it even as it attempts to assist.

It seems to me there's a place for a "vanguard," but the term makes it sound cohesive enough to worry me. The only reason I'm even conceding the term is that--should the seemingly-impossible occur and a revolution come or... or something--these people will have power. They will. Since I am firmly against power being wielded in secret (since power that is openly named can be more easily held accountable), naming this kinda-sorta-group of people is okay with me right now.

I'm just trying to sort out my feelings on the whole thing, and trying to figure out just what it is that people are advocating when they talk about a "vanguard." I guess it might just be like any "ally" out there. White allies to POC are good, but shouldn't use their advantages to take over anti-racist work. Same with hetero and cis allies to LGBT people, men who support feminism, etc.

Maybe this is a case of an archaic word being jammed into a discussion which has moved beyond it. I'm still not sure what I think; I'm just rambling here and hoping it goes somewhere useful.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Things Republicans tell environmentalists:

I hear a lot of oddball stuff at the door from people who don't believe that what Citizens Action Coalition does matters. We generally go for the consumer rights angle with these people, since talking to them about the air they breathe doesn't work (it just reminds them that Rush Limbaugh doesn't believe in global warming), talking to them about the water they drink doesn't work (since most of them have enough money to buy bottled water and do), and talking to them about their rates going up doesn't always work either (because they believe that standing up to the utilities will only increase the cost of doing business and therefore raise their rates in the end).

All that I can deal with. It's really not that unusual or difficult, since it all amounts to one thing. "None of those things can happen to me. I have money, therefore I am invincible."

But there are a few things that they bring up that are really sort of mind-bending. Not all Republicans are dumb like this; there are a lot of them who are far more environmental in their approach than they want to admit (perhaps because it might get them associated with liberals to admit that they care whether we pollute our groundwater). Some of the best logical disconnects I've seen are as follows:

"Wind and solar can't replace coal. What we need is more nuclear." Never mind the fact that wind and solar can and--in some states--do replace coal. The good bit is what often follows. "In France they get all their power from nuclear, and they've even got a way to recycle the waste so that it's clean now, too. That's what we need to do."

That's right! I have heard hardcore Conservative Republicans tell me that America should be more like France. Are you seeing why this totally blows my mind? The appropriate reply to them is obviously that French citizens pay half or more of their income in taxes, a huge amount of which goes toward paying for their nuclear program. Don't believe nuclear is expensive? Then why do nuclear states have electric bills twice as high as non-nuclear states. If Republicans want their rates or their taxes to go up, they should pick which way they want to pay. Either way they will.


I also love hearing from these people that nuclear is so clean because the reactor only puts steam into the air. What the fuck do they care? These people don't believe in global warming anyway, so it ought to matter to them that the reactor puts out less air pollution, but at the expense of

  • contaminated water (and less of it, since nuclear power plants require billions of gallons of water that they're legally allowed to take from nearby cities' drinking water in a drought, since the choice between thirsty poor people and dying crops is cake compared to a nuclear meltdown),
  • national security risk (since even a decommissioned nuclear plant is an awesome target for a terrorist attack, and we can't mine all our uranium in the USA anyway, often getting it from countries that don't like us),
  • higher utility rates,
  • and the use of taxpayers as collateral for everything nuclear-related (see the Price-Anderson Act, which means that if a company wants to build a nuclear plant and defaults on their loan, if a company makes a mistake and the plant melts down, or really anything goes wrong, they're not liable; taxpayers are).

So yeah, it's a little better for the air, but all of those others things outweigh that. They should outweigh that even further for Republicans.

So why are they so pro-nuclear? Because the coal-dependent utility companies who make more money by spending more money (and yes, they're paid based on their expenses, which means their projects don't have to be successful or efficient--just expensive) did an advertising campaign decades ago talking about how great nuclear power was for the environment. These ads stopped because those companies got sued for lying in their ads, but not everyone knows that or cares.

Now, the fact that our government is actually acknowledging that global warming happens means that this is coming up again. They're being more careful not to state that nuclear power is actually environmentally-friendly at all (since now they know they can get sued over it and will lose), but they're still pointing out that this'd be an awesome way to reduce our carbon footprint (never mind that 1% of our coal plants in this country go to power uranium refinement and that'll only increase if we build more nuclear power plants).

This is something I hear a lot. "You guys aren't in favor of nuclear, are you? You've kept them from building any nuclear plants in this state; I don't support you guys."

The appropriate answer is, "Nuclear power is expensive, and if we let utility companies charge you for a nuclear plant, your rates would double. Everyone's rates would double, which is our members don't want. Also, we're not the ones who shut down Marble Hill. The regulators did that because the spending had gotten so high that it was no longer the project they'd approved. We're just the ones who got ratepayers a refund for all the money that had been wasted building a plant that never went online. We keep rates low in Indiana. Is that work you can support?"

At which point I point them back down to our support statement, and if they say no, I walk away and hope their neighbors are smarter than they are. Staying and arguing wastes my time, and only lets people like that think they're important.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I feel like I have to rehash this constantly

I'd just like to say super-quickly that being pro-choice or anti-choice has nothing to do with being pro-abortion or anti-abortion.

Most of the people I know who are pro-choice are personally anti-abortion. However, that's their personal decision, and they respect the right of women to make a different one, even if they disagree.

"Pro-choice" doesn't mean you don't have an opinion on abortion, or that you actually like it. It means that you believe you can only choose for yourself, and other people all have to choose for themselves. If you respect the right of other individuals to make decisions for themselves that you wouldn't make in their place, you're pro-choice. Period dot. You don't have to like abortion.

Personally? I am pro-abortion, and this is totally distinct from my identification as pro-choice. I think that there are so many children out there who need good homes that, if I were to bear my own child instead of taking in one of them, I would effectively be taking food out of the mouths of starving kids. If I can afford to care for a child, I want to take care of the ones we've already got before birthing a new one.

Yes, that means if I get pregnant I'm getting an abortion. Hell fucking yes I am. This may seem shocking to you, so if you want to look at me as a baby-hating monster, you go right ahead. I'm not the one who's increasing the human population knowing full well that we aren't feeding all the brothers and sisters and sons and daughters who are already here.

Look at me as a child-hater if you want, but keep in mind that when I see you playing with your own biological child instead of one that you adopted to give them a better chance at life, you keep in mind that if I were that kind of asshole, I could point the finger and be saying the same damn thing about you.

Most people reading probably already understand this, though. I'm pro-abortion because my first duty is to the people who need me who are already living, and this is how I express that. I'm pro-choice because you can decide differently, and that doesn't make either of us a bad person.

Get it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


MN Society of Friends wins at civil rights.

The congregation will continue to hold both opposite-sex and same-sex weddings at its meeting house, but will no longer sign the legal marriage certificate for opposite-sex couples. Instead, couples will need to have the certificate signed by a justice of the peace.

"Everything else proceeds as it normally has, except that we will not sign the marriage certificate," Landskroener said.

You go, guys.

(ht karjack via rm)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Iran update.

Iran protests by pro-democracy advocates on National Student Day were attacked by security forces on Monday. The country's Green Movement has found new ways of organizing and keeping its message alive.

Istanbul, Turkey - In Iran, riot police clashed with thousands of protesters Monday in the latest round of demonstrations, which took place despite a concerted six-month effort by Iran's security services to stamp out the opposition Green Movement.

Witnesses said that at Tehran University, just one of several flashpoints in Tehran and other cities marred by violence, police used tear gas and batons, and plainclothes agents wielded electric stun-guns against students and other demonstrators throwing stones. Protesters chanted slogans against the security forces and "Death to the dictator"; passersby were beaten with batons in alleys off the main streets.

Iran specialists say the persistence of the protests in the face of powerful counter-measures from the regime indicates that politics in Iran has irreversibly changed.

"This is not a revolution, this is the commencement of a civil rights movement," says Hamid Dabashi, a prolific historian of Iran at Columbia University in New York. (...)

While Monday's protests focused on students, they were the largest in months. Efforts by security forces to arrest student leaders did not appear to work — partly because of new organization techniques developed since June.

"Communication is all through [personal] networking — they have adjusted so that they do not make decisions as a single group," says Ali Akbar Mousavi-Khoeini, a former prominent member of Iran's strongest student organization who moved to the US earlier this year.

"They have changed to do networking activities, so that decisionmaking is not longer taking place at a top level," says Mousavi-Khoeini. "The decisionmaking process has changed to avoid having to meet and vote."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NYS Senator Savino speaks on Marriage Equality

Thanks to keori for this video link.

She has said everything that should be said. Everything. One bit hits particularly close to home for me, since looking up to a lesbian couple is one of the core reasons why I won't marry my partner in a state where they can't do the same. This video is really profoundly amazing. Share it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What in the damn it.

Many thanks to ethrosdemon for posting a link to this pile of stinking misogynist horseshit.

Summary: A woman writes to Ask Amy of the Chicago Tribune asking if being date raped, well, makes her a victim of rape. Ask Amy responds that the questioner is indeed a victim--of her own "awful judgment." She adds after that that, yes, "no matter what, no means no," but that doesn't change the fact that the first thing she had to say was the same stupid victim-blaming that makes coming forward about rape that much more of a miserable experience for the victim of the assault.

I suggest emailing Ask Amy rather than commenting on the article page. if you're interested.

Have fun, kids. Here's what I sent.

"First of all, thank you. I hope your letter will be posted on college bulletin boards everywhere. Were you a victim? Yes. First, you were a victim of your own awful judgment. Getting drunk at a frat house is a hazardous choice for anyone to make because of the risk (some might say a likelihood) that you will engage in unwise or unwanted sexual contact."

Good news! This is indeed being posted everywhere. It's being reposted by women and men who are horrified that your response to a woman sharing a story of date rape is to tell her that she brought it on herself.

All you should have said was this:

"No matter what -- no means no. If you say no beforehand, then the sex shouldn't happen. If you say no while its happening, then the sex should stop."

That's good stuff, and that's the long and short of it. You had no call qualifying and diminishing this excellent statement by prefacing it with the same old endlessly-repeated line of crap about how it's the rape victim's job to prevent rape by not being a naughty immodest drunken slut. Women have heard enough of this, and I hope that next time a woman comes to you with such a question, all you'll say is, "You didn't want to have sex. Someone had sex with you. That's rape." Because that is all there is to it.

When doling out responsibility and dishing out the blame, whether her level of intoxication provided an opportunity doesn't matter at all compared to the blame owned by the man who TOOK THAT OPPORTUNITY AND RAPED HER. A little perspective, please. You said "no matter what, no means no." No matter what means NO MATTER WHAT. It means don't include that victim-blaming crap next time, please. The fact that you included that is basically taking a woman who has been violated and kicking her when she's down. I hope you can see the problem with that.

You owe "Victim? in Virginia" an apology, and it might be a good idea to throw in an apology to every other woman who has looked to an authority figure for help after an assault and been told that she had it coming because it was her job to prevent it, and she failed because she's a bad woman. They deserve an apology for the insult you just added to their injury.

-(my name).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Catholic Bishops Enact Plan For “300,000 Terri Schiavos”

For fuck's sake, people.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released an "Ethical and Religious Directive" this month that would ban any Catholic hospital, nursing home or hospice program from removing feeding tubes or ending palliative procedures of any kind, even when the individual has an advance directive to guide their end-of-life care. The Bishops' directive even notes that patient suffering is redemptive and brings the individual closer to Christ. (...)

A 60Minutes piece this weekend looked at the cost of dying in America, showing that Medicare paid $50 billion in the last two months of patients' lives in 2008. Compassion & Choices focuses on the suffering at the end of life, not federal dollars, but they agree in general with the portrait shown by 60 Minutes. Incredibly, suffering is one of the selling points in the Catholic Bishops' directive. "It's quite specific about the role of suffering in Christian dogma," Coombs Lee explained. "It says that suffering is redemptive, that it's part of Christ's passion. So they are pretty clear on their concern for the suffering of the patient."
I don't need to say any of the things I'm thinking. You already know what they are.

(ht unusualmusic for this gem)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Surprising? No.

File this under "why I hear someone identifying as Christian and don't immediately think great things of them."

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill under consideration in Uganda was sparked by a conference in Kampala earlier this year at which fundamentalist Christians from the U.S. identified homosexuality as a threat to "family values".

The draconian law will institute the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" and criminalize human rights work.

Yeah. Tell me "not all Christians are like that" all you like, but you can't deny that there are Christians like that, and you can't deny that their Biblical justifications are no less valid than the ones used by people we like.

They may not be all Christians, but they're still real Christians, and they are why I don't trust people who identify as followers of the same religion. And, while I'm at it, this is why I don't trust Conservatives, either. You identify as a member of a group that does this, expect to be mistrusted by the people your fellow adherents wish were dead.

Just expect it. And if all you can do is complain about how this hurts your feelings, you can go fuck yourself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Being pathetic doesn't mean you're not also a rapist.

This post is dedicated to someone that I removed from my LJ friends list because he alluded to bringing home drunk girls as a symptom of his own loneliness and the bleakness of his romantic life.

Rapists Who Don't Think They're Rapists (Or, as I would subtitle it: Why women are right not to trust men. Even friends.)

Thomas looks at a study of 1882 college students who were asked four questions to determine if they had ever raped (or attempted to rape) anyone:
1) Have you ever attempted unsuccessfully to have intercourse with an adult by force or threat of force?
2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone who did not want you to because they were too intoxicated to resist?
3) Have you ever had intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
4) Have you ever had oral intercourse with someone by force or threat of force?
Questions like these are bound to lead to underreporting—what guy is going to admit to forcing a girl to give him head? As it turns out, a lot of guys will admit to this, 120 to be exact: That’s six percent of the survey’s respondents who copped to either rape or attempted rape.
An excellent comment directed at men was made in Thomas MacAulay Millar's entry (linked in the above article) Meet the Predators.
I’m directing this to men who inhabit het-identified social spaces, and I’m not really limiting it more than that. Women are already doing what they can to prevent rape; brokering a peace with the fear is part of their lives that we can never fully understand. We’re the ones who are not doing our jobs.

Here’s what we need to do. We need to spot the rapists, and we need to shut down the social structures that give them a license to operate. They are in the population, among us. They have an average of six victims, women that they know, and therefore likely some women you know. They use force sometimes, but mostly they use intoxicants. They don’t accidentally end up in a room with a woman too drunk or high to consent or resist; they plan on getting there and that’s where they end up.

Listen. The women you know will tell you when the men they thought they could trust assaulted them; if and only if they know you won’t stonewall, deny, blame or judge. Let them tell you that they got drunk, and woke up with your buddy on top of them. Listen. Don’t defend that guy. That guy is more likely than not a recidivist. He has probably done it before. He will probably do it again.

Change the culture. To rape again and again, these men need silence. They need to know that the right combination of factors — alcohol and sex shame, mostly — will keep their victims quiet. Otherwise, they would be identified earlier and have a harder time finding victims. The women in your life need to be able to talk frankly about sexual assault. They need to be able to tell you, and they need to know that they can tell you, and not be stonewalled, denied, blamed or judged.

Listen. The men in your lives will tell you what they do. As long as the R word doesn’t get attached, rapists do self-report. The guy who says he sees a woman too drunk to know where she is as an opportunity is not joking. He’s telling you how he sees it. (...)

We are not going to pull six or ten or twelve million men out of the U.S. population over any short period, so if we are going to put a dent in the prevalence of rape, we need to change the environment that the rapist operates in. Choose not to be part of a rape-supportive environment. Rape jokes are not jokes. Woman-hating jokes are not jokes. These guys are telling you what they think. When you laugh along to get their approval, you give them yours.
I repeat: This post is dedicated to someone that I removed from my LJ friends list because he alluded to bringing home drunk girls as a symptom of his own loneliness and the bleakness of his romantic life.
I would chat them up, desperately trying to come across as smooth and attractive, and if they were drunk enough, maybe I might get a kind word or a kiss for my efforts. On the extremely rare events that I would bring one home, it was meaningless physical copulation, followed by hours and days of emotional hand-wringing. More often, I would spend all my money and energy in a fruitless attempt to have some sort of human contact, and at the end of the night I would still come home alone. It was a waste of time.
Because the period in his life in which rape was the only way he could get laid was so terrible for him. The consciousness that he was (and likely always will be) a rapist who doesn't see himself that way made me uncomfortable enough that I couldn't read his LJ about anything else, but... not uncomfortable enough to comment and tell him that he raped those women. I knew it would cause drama to use the "R word," and that made me a coward.

To you. I'm sorry to all the women whose rapes caused you such hand-wringing that I helped create the environment of silence that you operate in. I don't care if you or your friends get pissed at me for flaming or causing drama by mentioning this in a public entry. I don't care if you're uncomfortable that the fact that you're a rapist makes me uncomfortable. Anybody whose immediate reaction is to defend this should be fucking ashamed of themselves, and should comment only to let me know that I need to defriend them (if I haven't already).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Evolutionary Psychology BINGO

Hat tip to ievil_spock_47i for posting this amazing Evolutionary Psychology Bingo Card.

This post is dedicated to the guy who told me it is his unavoidable essential nature as a man to sexually harass younger women, and thinks I just ought to understand that and not sweat it. This is one of the things that women and social scientists laugh at because it's the only way not to cry.

If it wouldn't be needlessly antagonistic, I would print a copy of this and bring it with me next time I had to talk to that person. (Actually, that probably wouldn't stop me. The likelihood of me remembering in time to do this hilarious and awesome thing is low enough that it'd get in the way far more often than my essential grace and gentleness would.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

- Galatians 5:13-14

Compare and contrast with the strongly-Christian Conservative movement.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled rational universe. Enjoy the fantasy while you can, if you're still living it.

But yes. Religion is more than Scripture. Religion is culture as well. If it weren't, Americans would have socialized medicine already, and it would be thanks to God-fearing compassionate Christians.

(And yes, if there were enough Christians on board with caring for their siblings in humanity, it would get done. Yes, it would. Don't tell me Christians don't have the power to get good shit done when they actually give a damn. I credit American Christianity with the abolition of slavery, for example. When they care about you, you're fine. When they don't, you know it. What has Christianity done for you lately?)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

And here we are, after all this time.

I'm finally getting to the point where enough horrible shit has been done by Christian-identified groups in this country that I'm beginning to reflexively distrust them. Yes, I fully understand as well as any amateur theologian that Christianity is a religion capable of affirming the intrinsic value of human beings, and empowering oppressed people to protect themselves and the people they love.

But if you think that's what it generally does in America, you're living in a fantasy that I'd pay good money to enjoy again.

The Catholic Church spent half a million dollars lobbying against equal rights for LGBT residents of Maine. Never mind that whole "tax-exempt status means not lobbying" dealie. Never mind that whole "separation of church and state as a protection for both of them" bit. Never mind any of that horseshit in the Bible about service to one's fellow man and whatever is done to the least of us being done to Jesus.

No, let's just spend all our money keeping people down. It's what Jesus wants! And you know what? Jesus isn't here to speak for himself. The only voice we have for what Jesus wants--especially if you don't accept the whole "reanimated savior" narrative as unexaggerated fact--is this.

And no, you can't tell me those people "aren't real Christians," because you don't get to decide that. Certainly not if your religious leaders disagree with you.

What asking to be granted a disassociation from Christianity's spectrum and history that includes ugly things does on a practical level is expect marginalized people to pretend that none of the bad things that have been done to them in the name of Christianity have anything to do with actual Christians. (...)

Frankly, it's hurtful to me when Christians address what happened to me by saying, "Those aren't real Christians," expecting me to salve their discomfort about the baggage of privilege by not disagreeing. People who would never in a million years think to try to console a victim of a hate crime with "All [white/straight/cis/abled] people aren't like that!" nonetheless responded that way to me when I was targeted and threatened by droves of self-identified Christians.

I already know that all Christians aren't like that—and everyone who said it to me knew I was well aware of that fact. But in the wake of large members of a certain segment of Christianity attacking me, most of the Christians I knew felt obliged first and foremost to distance themselves from the group that hurt me, and do it in a way that protected their idea of Christianity, that reasserted their privilege—a privilege that is shared by the very people who attacked me, solely by virtue of their calling themselves Christians.

And they expected me to be comforted by it.

Christianity in this country strongly acts as a force for hate. Mad props to Christians who fight that, but if we're going to look at religion as a cultural system instead of simply a collection of ancient teachings, American Christianity is a cultural system that has become ugly as shit. I can't understand people who continue to identify with it.

I'm done saying that this isn't real Christianity. I'm done saying that this isn't what Jesus really wants. I'm done saying that "real" Christianity is so much more beautiful and loving and helpful to us all. Ideal Christianity (to me) is all of those things. It even exists, in small pockets. But I'm tired of letting an entire cultural system be represented by the single sliver that matches my ideology, even if it means seeing them more charitably.

Yes, this is a rant. I'm not being particularly considerate right now. I'm not protecting the feelings of Christians on my friends list right now. And right now I don't give a damn. I'm tired of hearing "not all Christians are like that!" I'm tired of hearing, "I may be Catholic/Mormon/whatever, but my church's leadership doesn't reflect my beliefs or speak for me."

I'm tired of people who disagree with what Christian groups are doing in this country coming along and responding to me with excuses, responding to the damage Christians are causing by doing their PR cleanup for them.

Canvassing after dark.

Most people are happy to talk to me about the work CAC is doing right now, and that's awesome. But every now and again I get one of those people who walks around with a huge chubby because they're on the neighborhood association board for their shitty subdivision, and they tell me--quite certain in their status as a Big Deal Locally--that their town doesn't allow soliciting and that I shouldn't be out after dark because my presence is frightening and unwanted.

I ignore these people, because they're usually saying this at around seven or eight in the evening when I've already raised almost a hundred dollars from their neighbors whom they claim are so terrified of the little woman wielding a clipboard. But now and again they'll do what this bitch did.

She called all her neighbors, or at least phone-treed enough of them to cockblock me on the next several houses. She told me when she saw me that she'd informed her neighbors not to answer the door when I knocked, and in fact to call the local police department if I did so. Well, I talked to the cop who was out looking for me.

He said I was doing good work. I sympathized with him that he got called out over someone that his department already knows is working in the area, and we told each other to keep warm out there.

But seriously. Here are several things to remember if a canvasser knocks on your door.

1. I'm allowed to be there. No, really, I am. No little city ordinance against soliciting trumps CAC's right (and, frankly, your neighbors' rights) to free assembly and free speech. I'm out organizing, not selling thousand-dollar vacuum-cleaners. Nothing you can do to remove me from your street is legal, just your sidewalk and your lawn.

2. Your neighbors want me to be there. No, really. If I'm out canvassing, it's because we tend to hit our nightly quota in your neighborhood. Yes! Yours! Even with all those frightened old ladies and jumpy overprotective fathers, odds are your neighbors are much smarter than you are. Lucky thing for you, too, because their attention and contributions are serving you as well, whether you want to think about that or not.

3. If it's dark out and you think it's not safe for me to be outside, then you should invite me in, you asshole. If you're not worried enough about my safety in your neighborhood to call me in where it's warm and light and where there are cups of tea and $36 checks waiting for me, then you're not worried enough about my safety to mention it like you're doing me a favor.

3b. If it's dark and you think I shouldn't be out canvassing because it makes people nervous, congratufuckinglations. You have officially noticed one of the things that makes my job challenging. Are you honestly suggesting I stop early? Then write me a check so I can get done sooner. Oh, what's that? You don't really care if I have a job to do and bills to pay? Then please, by all means, tell me that you don't want to talk to me because I have no choice but to do my job in winter when the sun sets at 5:30. Bonus: congrats, you just made it take longer.

4. Signing shows you agree. Letters and contributions are how we win. Don't look at me all fucking shocked that the citizen-funded non-profit that lobbies and litigates for you is asking for a check. I already mentioned fundraising twice, and when you can find your own lawyer and lobbyist who'll work for you for less than $15 a year, you can tell me that you can't afford to stand up for yourself.

5. Cold beverages and food in summer. Warm beverages and food in winter. These things will make a canvasser happy almost as much as money. So if for some reason you don't have the time or funds to help us help you? Just give me some hot coffee and/or a bathroom break and I'll be on my way, ready to punch your utility company in the nuts in return for your generosity.

6. Holy fucking shit shut your dog up before I put it on a Foreman grill AND EAT IT.

That is all. My job is difficult, yes. Sure. But if it was easy, I wouldn't be doing it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


You've all probably seen the results of Maine's gay marriage vote.

As someone whose right to vote was once a matter for debate, as someone whose right to marry a person of a different race was once a matter for debate, and as someone whose right to marry a woman or a trans man or woman (depending on what specific states have decided trans people "are") is still a matter for debate... I'm so sorry. This hurts us all, and it reflects on us all. And I'm so sorry.

Meanwhile, Washington voters speak out in support of "separate but equal" unions for LGBT and hetero citizens.

The latter one could be worse, obviously, but this is just such heartbreaking shit to watch. I know that we'll get there eventually, but in the meantime... in the meantime LGBT Americans are forced to lead more difficult lives than hetero Americans, and not because they're different than straight people on some fundamental level. It's because we're not the country we like to say we are.

Not yet, at least. We'll get there, but only if we keep fighting. In the meantime, losses hurt. Watching Christians rejoice because they've successfully convinced yet another state that their God hates gay people and therefore so should we? That hurts. Watching my fellow human beings congratulate each other on denying rights to their brothers and sisters? That hurts. And it's happened again.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Signal Boost

Real person. Real situation that came to a very ugly head tonight. Summary from her and how to help below:

I am a disabled military wife and mother of two elementary-aged kids. Due to a delay in processing transfer orders, my husband's move to his next base isn't lining up with the end of our lease. This means we are having to pay for our move out-of-pocket, with the military reimbursing it later. My husband is currently with his ship in another state, so all details of handling the move fall to me.

We had planned to borrow the money for this from my mother. She has always been slightly mentally disturbed; tonight, this hit new levels. In the past two days, she's attempted to kidnap my kids and threatened to kill my mobility dog. She deliberately chose the time when I would be sickest from my low-dose chemo treatments to do this. I severely doubt she plans to honor her promise to pay for the movers tomorrow.

The movers are going to cost roughly $1300. If you can help, please send money to my paypal account, marna.m(a) Please indicate if this is a gift or a loan; we will begin paying back loan amounts as soon as we can. Thank you.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"What do you think I voted for at Omaha Beach?"

A WWII vet speaks out about fighting so that all four of his sons (not just the three straight ones) can have freedom and equality.

(HT uhrwerkmensch)

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Pickup

First: another nosebleed? Really?!


Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection, love, romance: there is nothing wrong with these yearnings.

Now, you want to become acquainted with a woman you see in public. The first thing you need to understand is that women are dealing with a set of challenges and concerns that are strange to you, a man. To begin with, we would rather not be killed or otherwise violently assaulted.

“But wait! I don’t want that, either!”

Well, no. But do you think about it all the time? Is preventing violent assault or murder part of your daily routine, rather than merely something you do when you venture into war zones? Because, for women, it is. When I go on a date, I always leave the man’s full name and contact information written next to my computer monitor. This is so the cops can find my body if I go missing. My best friend will call or e-mail me the next morning, and I must answer that call or e-mail before noon-ish, or she begins to worry. If she doesn’t hear from me by three or so, she’ll call the police. My activities after dark are curtailed. Unless I am in a densely-occupied, well-lit space, I won’t go out alone. Even then, I prefer to have a friend or two, or my dogs, with me. Do you follow rules like these?

So when you, a stranger, approach me, I have to ask myself: Will this man rape me?

Do you think I’m overreacting? One in every six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. I bet you don’t think you know any rapists, but consider the sheer number of rapes that must occur. These rapes are not all committed by Phillip Garrido, Brian David Mitchell, or other members of the Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion. While you may assume that none of the men you know are rapists, I can assure you that at least one is. Consider: if every rapist commits an average of ten rapes (a horrifying number, isn’t it?) then the concentration of rapists in the population is still a little over one in sixty. That means four in my graduating class in high school. One among my coworkers. One in the subway car at rush hour. Eleven who work out at my gym. How do I know that you, the nice guy who wants nothing more than companionship and True Love, are not this rapist?

I don’t.

She goes on to give some advice to men who don't want the women they're interested in to feel menaced by a potential rapist. Good stuff that's been circling the blogosphere, but that deserved one more reposting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Columbus Day!

I've officially seen a Youtube comment that impressed me on this Youtube video about Reconsidering Columbus Day.

"Columbus Day! The day we celebrate the much hallowed voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Screw Columbus! You can't wander into someone's backyard and start discovering stuff. I remember as a kid, I "discovered" some apples from my neighbor's tree. They told my mom, and I discovered an ass-beating later that day.

So on October 12th, If you really want to commemorate Columbus Day in a genuine way, Make a bunch of wrong turns and give some Native Americans smallpox."

Thank you, christopherdavis777 for completely blowing my mind by posting something intelligent on Youtube.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Do we create God in our own image?"

This is the question that Butler's religion and philosophy department will be talking about on Thursday, and it's such a damn shame that I can't go because of the hours that I work. I keep getting invited to these things even though I've graduated, which I suppose means I'm still welcome.

I'm finding more and more than I'm reading people's explanations of their own theism with the same ending over and over again. I didn't fully realize what I was doing until just now, reading something that I can paste in after a bit. What I'm doing is this:

I really want to believe in some deity. I just haven't ever seen a convincing reason why I should. Here is what I was sent by the still-undeniably-awesome Father Allen.

[This is for a discussion some of us are having later in the week at “Living the Questions.” If you don’t want to wade through all of this, here are the different sections:

Opening Statement

What about “the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language,” that Richard Dawkins denies?

Is such a God credible in a world that depends heavily on the methods and theories of the natural sciences?

That’s a bit abstract. Is this still the God I believe in?

But where’s the evidence?

What do I want people to do with this?

Here goes:]

Opening Statement

I keep reading the “new atheists,” people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. I continue to find that the God they don’t believe in is not the God that I believe in. They don’t like it when people like me say that. They continue to insist that people like me don’t really believe in God, that we’re using the word “God” to mean something else, something much less than God, like just an expression of awe and reverence toward a basically uncaring universe, or else a philosophical abstraction that appeals only to a select few.

Well, sorry, but I think the God I believe in is just as “God-like” as God could be. I believe in a God who encompasses and indwells all things, who cares deeply about you and me as you and me, who constantly calls us into love and still loves us in spite of our failure to respond wholeheartedly, and who saves us from futility and oblivion. God does all this for us because God does all this for every creature.

This is not a vindictive God, but this is most definitely a God whose unconditional love stands in opposition to our failures to love unconditionally. God won’t give up on us, but God will not stop insistently luring us away from our own self-centered ways. God is relentless about that, and we may not like it. God may be infinitely loving and relentlessly alluring, but that does not make God “nice” or “convenient.”

I do not know of a concept of God that could be more “religiously” satisfying than that. I’ve heard it preached for decades and have preached it myself, and people are definitely moved by it. It may not produce mega-churches, but it enlivens many faith communities. This is much more than a philosophical abstraction.

There may be all kinds of reasons for viewing God this way, but for me the main reason arises out of the Christian practice of seeing the shape of God’s very life enacted in the life, death and risen life of Jesus of Nazareth—a God who rules the world through enduring its worst and yet refusing to be driven away, returning again and again to embrace and indwell all things and to call them into love. This is a God whose perfected power may look weak, but only to those who define power as total control (as many Christians have done and still do). It culminates in the early Christian affirmation, “God is love, and those who dwell in love dwell in God, and God dwells in them” (1 John 4:16b). Furthermore, like love, this God is not simply personal but interpersonal, as ancient trinitarian creeds struggled to say (with mixed results).

Some would call my version of God “pan-en-theistic” (not “pantheistic”—God is not simply “all things” or “the all”; God is greater than all other things, yet indwells them all, just as they indwell God). There are all sorts of panentheists, some ancient, many contemporary, so I don’t mind the label, even when I’m not sure if any particular type fits me. Labels aside, this is clearly not the all-controlling, petulant, “invisible superman” of popular theism, nor is it the currently uninvolved clock-maker of deism, nor is it modern pantheism’s expression of awe and reverence for a universe that doesn’t look especially caring.

And there is one other thing it is not—it is not a watered-down concept of God. As best I can tell, it comes closer to Anselm’s “that than which no greater can be conceived” than any other concept I’ve explored. It preaches. (I’ve been preaching it, and hearing it preached, for over 30 years.) If we’re going to debate God’s existence, why can’t we debate the existence of this God? That hardly ever happens, and, frankly, I’m baffled.

What about “the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language,” that Richard Dawkins denies?

That God is a caricature of the God I believe in, who encompasses and indwells all things and draws them relentlessly into love. And that Bible is a caricature of the Bible I read and the critical methods I’ve been taught (by observant Christians!) to help me read it. But the God I believe in does seem to be what the writers of the Bible, the priests, mullahs and rabbis were trying to portray in ordinary language of their times and worldviews (which were at least as conflicted as ours). They were, I believe, speaking in grossly anthropomorphic terms about their own awareness of a presence too elusive to describe in everyday terms. Many of them did admit that the language they used was far from adequate.

They were convinced that what they did mattered, what happened to them mattered, that sometimes wonderfully good things happened, and that other times dreadfully bad things happened. And they related all of this to a universally responsive presence which, it at least seemed, was summoning them to speak and act.

They believed that this presence, God, cared for them constantly and responded to them constantly, refusing to let them create God in their own conflicted images. And yes, in working through all that, they often made God look like an immature, sometimes abusive, monarch or parent or spouse. It’s dangerous to quote them out of context, and disheartening that anybody would want to!

But that does not mean that they were not responding to something utterly real and active, nor does it mean that people who still talk that way today are not responding to something utterly real. It just means that people often do a disastrous job of articulating what’s really happening, though of course that’s my view, and evaluation, of why so many still prefer to talk of God in that way.

Is such a God credible in a world that depends heavily on the methods and theories of the natural sciences?

I believe so. In fact, this concept fits remarkably well with many views of the universe that have been inspired by a variety of current scientific theories. These views, like belief in God, go beyond what could be tested by experimental methods. They’re invitations to view all of reality, somewhat figuratively, in terms of some part of reality. As such, they can never be proved or disproved decisively, but there are still observations, experiences, facts, and accepted theories that can count for or against them.

For example, the natural sciences have, I think, made it more difficult, more of a “stretch,” to view the universe as simply a result of miniscule, inert particles bumping into each other like billiard balls. “Subatomic particles” are not particles, and they don’t interact like particles either.

They have also made it more difficult to view the universe as a machine that runs only in predetermined patterns like a clock. Machines, after all, are human artifacts. The universe is not.

True, the natural sciences have also made it increasingly difficult to imagine how there might be any disembodied “stuff” like minds or spirits or souls that could exist independently of bodies. But I don’t have a problem with that, since even the Bible never fully bought into that view of things. “Soul” may simply be a heuristic term for lives that are always embodied in some way or other.

In any case, for the time being, at least, the natural sciences have made it relatively easy to view the universe as a vast network of centers of activity which follow predictable patterns without being fully predetermined—from subatomic “particles” (again, they’re not really particles any more) to complex molecules to cells to organisms to animals to people to … well, who knows what else? Some of these centers of activity (like you and me) are more inclusive than others, and more responsive too.

If that view of the universe is credible, then it is no great stretch of the imagination to consider that there may well be a universally responsive presiding center of activity. Some have even argued that viewing the universe this way requires us to presume that such a center of activity exists. It’s a reasonable argument, but not an airtight one. Others have argued that presuming the existence of such a center of activity would make it easier to make sense of the fact that, despite there being so many other centers of activity, with all their unpredictability, we don’t have utter chaos. That too seems a reasonable argument, without being airtight.

Note: The existence of considerable chaos, conflict and unpredictability is only to be expected in a universe with innumerable centers of activity. It does not count against a universally responsive presiding center of activity. It would count against a universally controlling center of activity (which is one popular idea of God), but that is not what we are considering here. The famous “problem of evil” arises only for people who equate power with control, and thus greater power with greater control. But what if perfect power is not perfect control?

That’s a bit abstract. Is this still the God I believe in?

Maybe not yet. When I say God cares for me deeply, that’s saying a great deal more than “a universally responsive presiding center of activity responds to me.” But this is starting to sound a great deal like the God I believe in. It responds to and presides over me and all that I do as a lesser center of activity who also responds to and presides over still lesser centers of activity (like the cells that make up my body). That’s not the same as caring deeply about me or loving me or saving me from oblivion. BUT it’s consistent with all that.

And it’s more than just consistent. It provides a framework for me to take more seriously those moments in my life when I sense that I am never alone, that I am loved beyond the love of friends or family or self, that what happens to me, or to you, or even to an electron, matters immeasurably in the whole scheme of things, that there is an intimate presence in my life that I didn’t produce. I don’t have to rule these moments out in advance, as Freud or Dawkins might, as pitiable illusions. And it is because of moments like these (call them moments of revelation) that I can use more concrete imagery when talking about a universally responsive presiding center of activity.

It also helps me to take more seriously the conviction that I and many scientists and philosophers share that our efforts to understand the world and ourselves are more than just incidental byproducts of unthinking, self-replicating mechanisms (like Dawkins’s memes, maybe?). I don’t have to explain the quest for understanding away as a pitiable illusion either. (Freud and Dawkins don’t do that, but I’m not sure how they manage to avoid it.)

Frankly, I do not know of a more intellectually satisfying way to look at things than this one. The fact that it’s also emotionally, ethically and religiously satisfying is all the more reason to keep living by it.

But where’s the evidence?

I think I’ve already addressed that, but I know somebody is still going to say that my believing in this God is just as unwarranted as believing in flying saucers or the Loch Ness monster (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Why can’t we go out and observe God in God’s native habitat?

But God isn’t the sort of thing you can go out and observe. In fact, God isn’t the sort of thing you need to go out and observe. A universally responsive presiding center of activity would already be here, waiting, if you will, to be noticed. We’re already in God’s native habitat.

I do however say “noticed,” not “observed.” Strictly speaking, you just can’t observe something that is both all-encompassing and all-pervading. It’s both too vast and too intimate to be observed—both at once. To observe something, you have to get some distance from it. If God exists, we won’t be able to get that kind of distance. It’s like trying to observe myself. I can notice myself when I’m observing something else. I can be aware of myself, but strictly speaking, I can’t observe myself. The same applies to God, who, according to Augustine and many contemplative folk, is nearer to me than I am to myself.

Admittedly, God is not as noticeable as we are to ourselves, but that’s partly because, unlike you or me, God’s intimacy is as boundless as God’s vastness. And it’s already tricky enough just keeping track of ourselves! (Try doing it the next time you’re in a heated argument.) If we don’t notice God, that may simply be because we’re not paying enough attention to what’s happening around and in and through us. Or maybe we’ve already bought into a view of reality that encourages us to discount certain features of our experience—like people who can’t admit how much their feelings and concerns shape their thinking and observations.

I believe, in other words, that we can “find” God, not by going out and looking, but by paying more attention to what is already happening right here and at least considering whether there might be noticeable aspects of what’s happening that would be less puzzling if we saw them as responses to a universally responsive presiding center of activity. We begin to know God in the only way such a reality can be known—not by observation, not by logical inference, not by “blind faith,” but by reflective participation in an inescapable reality. And that knowledge is never more than a beginning.

In a way, asking “Does God exist” is like asking “Do subjects exist.” By “subjects” I mean whatever it is about you and me that makes us more than just objects. I mean whatever it is about you and me that makes it crucial to keep distinguishing between what we observe and who does the observing, even when we try to observe ourselves. I mean that “I” statements and “you” statements can never be replaced by “it” statements, not just because it would be inconvenient, but because we’d be missing something real (even if it is, as I suspect, inseparable from some sort of embodiment—a subject is not the same as a disembodied soul or spirit). If any part of what we observe exists, can observers be any less real, or any less crucial to giving a full account of reality?

If you ask me “Where’s the evidence for subjects?” I can’t point to observations or experiments. Deciding whether subjects exist is a matter of deciding how we are going to view the lives we are already living. We already have more “data” for this than we will ever be able to absorb. This is a question of how to view all of reality in a way that does not discount the reality and integrity of the viewer. We begin to know subjects by reflective participation in an inescapable reality.

Similarly, if you ask me about evidence for God, I can only point to the lives we are already living and how we view them. And all I can say is that a panentheistic view of our lives so far has allowed me to honor and integrate far more aspects of my life than any other view. That conclusion can be challenged very easily. Just try reading some current Buddhist philosophers. But the only pertinent challenges would be, like Buddhist philosophy, on the whole-scale terms of how we view the lives we are already living. It’s never a matter of isolated observations. It’s ongoing, reflective participation. And it’s always a beginning, not a final solution.

What do I want people to do with this?

Mainly this: if we’re going to debate God’s existence, could we at least debate the existence of this one? None of the “new atheists” I’ve read deal with this concept of God—nor do they deal with the kinds of reasons that would be relevant to deciding whether this sort of God really exists. There’s plenty of room for debate, if they would just make room for it. I suspect they avoid it because it’s easier to make other concepts of God look stupid or irrelevant.

I’m not looking for quick agreements here. Obviously, I would be delighted if people decided that they could fully embrace this kind of theism. When it comes to how we view our lives, and their contexts, in their full concreteness and entirety, who doesn’t want more company?

But this is such a self-involving subject that I don’t expect that much unanimity. So I think I would be just as delighted if people first saw this as an occasion to consider that there may be other, more inclusive ways to honor and integrate all the aspects of our lives as we take note of them. I mainly want people to be as honest as they can be about everything they are undergoing. I am more concerned about that than I am about the conclusions they are drawing at any point in their lives.

That’s partly because of what I already believe about God, of course. Without claiming infallible inspiration, I’m brash enough to say that God is likewise more concerned about our honesty and integrity than anything else, and that God is honored even when some of us still wonder if such a God exists. God wants us to grow into love, but we can’t do that without honesty and integrity. We would still be responding affirmatively to God’s promptings, even if we could not in good conscience say that we are.

So keep paying attention to every aspect of your life. Be as honest as you can about all of it. If God is there to be delighted, God will be delighted. And so will I.

I don't get it. Father Allen is an awesome guy, and I'll never say he's not an intelligent or thoughtful sort. I'm just not sure what he's bending himself over backwards and twisting himself into logical knots to accomplish. It seems like the answer to the question of, "If you're right and nobody believes in a God that we can pretty much prove doesn't exist, what now?" is to redefine his terms and start all over again.

"Oh, well, that's not my God. My God doesn't do things or make claims that could be disproven by observing his/her/its hypothetical effect on material reality. My God just loves me."

What does he do when you need more than love? Sometimes, in some places, some people need more than love. They need help. They need something or someone who loves them to be effectual about it. What then?

I just don't get it. I keep coming back to this. I'd love to get back on board with this whole theism thing, but if these are the best arguments around... they're gonna have to do better than:
* changing the definition of God to one that is more insistently difficult to disprove, but also more completely empty of significance or distinctiveness
* claiming that science can't observe God, even as theists try to placate and convert skeptics, and even as theists leap on every scientific study that does feel supportive (see how excited people who don't believe science knows everything will get about studies about the "power of prayer")

I just don't get it. It's not that I have this huge disgust for theists and that I think they should all cut out of their lives something which is clearly still included for a reason. It's that I wish they would stop acting like that reason has anything to do with "proof" as the experimenting world understands it, you know?

Sunday, September 27, 2009


So, this guy who goes by "Cuttlefish" has a habit of replying to comment threads in verse, and near as I can tell has become something of a legend around ScienceBlogs for this gift.

Check out his reply to someone's tips to atheists on how they ought to critique Christians so that they won't seem so mean.

Props to mothwentbad for linking this. I wasn't watching Cuttlefish's journal, and really ought to have been.

That fear thing


You know... I tried to explain once to someone that the reason it's a douche move to make sexual advances on women who aren't interested isn't merely that it's stepping on the toes of whatever man has a claim to her. It's that it's treating a woman as though her chief value is as a potential mate--if not to you then to someone (regardless of her personal feelings in the matter, because a mate doesn't need feelings, just a serviceable cunt)--and no, god damn you that is not the same as lawyers and doctors being "prized" husbands.

It matters when men treat women that way because men have social power that women don't. Yes, I realize that this is a hard thing to think about as a man who would not want a woman to feel pushed around or bullied by him. Yes, I realize that this might be hard to understand for a guy who doesn't have to deal with any of it personally.

I just wish I could explain certain kinds of fear to people like that in some way that would be effective without oversharing, without opening up in ways that'd make me vulnerable to new angles of insinuation. The idea is to draw boundaries, not to get closer. Strong women get scared, too, but that doesn't mean we should have to air it all around to people who can't be trusted, just to make a point.

There are guys who don't understand this but at least know they don't understand. There are guys who've never felt afraid to walk home alone at night, but are at least willing to take a woman's word for it when she says it's not a good idea.

Then there are those guys who hear a woman mention that she's scared of men, that she feels she's in danger from them, and they get all offended like she's being unreasonable and sexist and bigoted and isn't that just like a white person saying that black people are a threat to them and that's just not fair to generalize about all men that way!

Because they don't understand that most women resist feeling that way. It doesn't make us feel superior to admit that men scare us shitless sometimes. It doesn't make us feel like we're of a higher order. I can't speak for anyone else, but it makes me feel weak and bitter and I hate it. I wish I could believe that I live in a different world than I do solely for my own peace of mind, but that would be absolute fucking insanity.

No woman likes thinking or feeling these things! We've just--somehow or other, over a long period of time or a short one--finally found inescapable the fact that men in many cultures are trained to hurt us, that according to messages in our culture that most men don't even think about they are entitled to hurt us, and that we're the ones who'll be blamed if one of them finally eventually does.

That's the thing that always gets me. This fear is such a nightmare precisely because no woman I know wants to feel this way, to live this way. But it's the only way to fucking survive this culture--to be aware and even if it means constant terror being on guard absolutely all the time because women really are not safe.

For most guys, assault (and therefore all things that might hurt a woman) is a terrible thing that they shouldn't do, nothing more or less. But they're so busy not thinking about themselves as "the kind of guy who'd do that" that they're afraid to see it in the men around them, either. And then they become part of the problem.

In case we needed any more proof that men who can't stand to think for too long about what it must be like to walk around in life as a woman are part of the problem, I give you this particular guy's response to me attempting to teach him that women are socially/culturally subordinated to men in a way that actually does disadvantage them yes it does, yes it does, you son of a bitch, quit shaking your head at me.

"I'm glad I don't live in your world." And a disappointed shake of his head. Stupid woman. Her soft emotional woman-brain has created a nightmare world in which crazy things happen which can't possibly be true. So glad he doesn't live in that nightmare.

He may be glad, but I refuse to believe that any good friend or decent human being would hear someone talk about the ways in which they're forced to lead a less-satisfying life and respond with that horseshit. I refuse to believe that anybody who cares what kind of world the people he suppposedly cares about are living in would respond to the difference with, "I'm glad I don't live in your world," like I've described some kind of insane schizophrenic horror in which all men are Evil Kitten-Eating Reptilians from Outer Space, and how terrible it must be to go through life thinking such a silly thing.

As cernowain said at the time, "Oh... I wish you hadn't said that. Because we all live in the same world."

Because Cern gets it, god damn it. We're all living in the same world. It's just that some of us can ignore huge chunks of it because blindness to the suffering of others is comforting, and if a thing is comforting, it must be worth believing, and if it's worth believing, it must be true. Never mind the people you could help but won't because you don't have the sack to even fucking look at them or what hurts them.

When one man on the street makes a comment to me, or stares at me, or makes kissy noises at me, or gods forbid walks a little too close to me, I check two things: I check to make sure there's only one of him, and I check in a store window afterward to make sure he's not following me, or following me with a friend or two. That's my immediate reaction.

I don't think, "Gee, what a lovely compliment he is paying to my outfit and hairstyle which I clearly worked hard on as a mating display for the benefit of onlookers who prefer decorative females." I think, "How many? Where? Am I being followed? If so, how far is it to my destination and could I make it if I had to run?"

But never mind that. Obviously the necessity of such thinking is all in my head. Obviously I'm living in some kind of horrible estrogen-fed madness.

Part of the problem. If a man can believe that women he knows don't have valid complaints about misogyny simply because it makes him feel better to believe it, he's part of the problem. He's part of the problem because he has effectively put the sanctity of his own comforting illusions above the sanity and safety of the women in his life.

Which is a hell of a set of priorities for someone who doubtless thinks of himself as being too smart to be sexist.

It'd be nice if this particular brand of idiocy weren't so fucking common, but then again... if it weren't so common, we'd all be living in a very different sort of world, wouldn't we?


Monday, September 21, 2009


Place we canvassed today kind of pissed me off, because I was supposed to walk back to our pickup point along about a quarter of a mile of totally unlit suburb and unlit country road. A couple male coworkers met me along the way and I had a big fucking stick that I'd picked up early in my shift, but it still kind of freaked me out.

Then I found out on our ride home that Martinsville is apparently a huge Klan haven in Indiana. Which explained why the other burb went to Greencastle instead. One of our canvassers is black. According to one coworker, in a place like Martinsville and when it's getting dark now before we finish at nine, "he'd be dead."

And you know what? First off, it just burns me that there are places like this that my employer just straight-up has to make sure his black canvassers do not go. Secondly, if people in Martinsville are that fucking hateful and violent... is a woman alone all that much safer there than a black guy?

The most frightening thing about racist people, at least to me, is not how deeply and insanely they are capable of feeling and acting upon hate. It's how nice they seem when they're talking to a white girl. It's how fucking friendly and fucking concerned for my goddamned safety they are in a town where those very same people would string me right the fuck up if I weren't the same color they are.

God damn this place. I never want to canvass there again. Night left me feeling like shit. As my partner said, "I'm sorry. I know it's not my fault, but in a cold and impersonal universe that will never apologize, somebody should."

To every person of color I know and to every white person with a conscience, please accept my apology on behalf of this fucked-up universe we live in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ah, the Bible-beaters. They're back!

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do." --Anne Lamott

So... Westboro Baptist Church is at it again, and this time in Indianapolis. On 09/24/2009, here's what they've got posted for their itinerary. I won't link the page where these times are listed, since it contains a lot of awful and potentially-triggering idiocy. Here are the bare bones:

1:15 PM - 1:45 PM 238 S. Meridian

2:10-2:40 6701 Hoover Rd

2:55-3:30 1801 E 86th St (N. Central HS)

These people are so venomous and heinous that other countries have decided they're not allowed out of America. As if they belong HERE, either...

I wouldn't necessarily suggest a counter-protest, because it's probably far better if they feel like they wasted their time coming to a city that didn't even know they were here. People who see WBC shaming our country might get some context from it for what LGBT people put up with if nothing else.

If you really feel called to counter-protest, try and collect a few dollars while you're there for the campaign to preserve equal marriage rights in Maine.

Look at Westboro Baptist Church, and tell me if you can afford not to give so that LGBT people can have support from decent human beings when they need it. LGBT people see this shit all the time, and frankly... so do straight people. It's just easier for us to ignore it than it is for the people who're being told that God hates them.

If anybody can find other charities for LGBT people in Indianapolis who are having to look at WBC while they're just trying to live their lives, please let me know so that I can include them here. I just had trouble finding much beyond IndyPride and for this city.

List of places you should help out if you want to see something good happen instead of more bad shit:

No on One: Protect Maine Equality.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

List of the Five Best Gay Charities according to

You may not think you can afford to give. But we're talking about very basic human rights here. If you think you can afford not to, I'd like to know what the hell you are spending your money on. Give something small, but get involved. Do something.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I think copperstewart has the right of it.

I've got nothing against principled outbursts. Indeed, I encourage them and wish our US Congress looked a bit more like PM's question-an-answer period in the British Parliament.

But "Joe" Wilson is a racist with a long history and questionable involvements, and it looks to me like the Obama + immigration context was just too much for an old cracker to bear.

14 Things You Need to Know About Obama Heckler, Rep. Joe Wilson
That's pretty much what I'm feeling right now. I think that if someone actually is a liar, we should call them liars, and our unwillingness to do so for the sake of "civility" has resulted in Republicans telling outrageous lies about LGBT people, undocumented migrants, women, science, Jesus, and damn near every other topic of relevance in our culture. But Rep. Wilson has a serious case of pot and kettle syndrome if he's calling the President a liar for accurately describing the health care reform plans being tossed about.

(And as a side note, I don't think it would be a problem if undocumented migrants were covered by public insurance instead of having to rack up everyone else's bills with their ER visits, and I am incredibly pissed that my tax dollars wouldn't be going to pay for the abortions of women who need them. Also, yada yada fight cap and trade because coal companies don't deserve a bailout and other miscellaneous issues on my mind lately that I haven't been blogging about as diligently as I should.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Reverse Racism"

God damn it, white people. Stop talking about how POC have this huge advantage over you. Equating the baggage that comes with "nigger" and the baggage that comes with "cracker" is comparing apples to rocket ships. Even if white people and POC are equally racist individually, there are still more white people and white people have more money, which means that POC experience far more racism than white people.

Which means their experiences are not equivalent. Any white person who says otherwise is devaluing the completely-justified anger of those who--as a rule--have it harder than they do. And that's just a shitty thing to do.

Seriously. When a POC calls you a nasty name, it isn't the same as when you call them a nasty name. Do you know why? Because POC don't determine how you're treated. POC don't draw the lines around your life determining what you're able and not able to do. POC don't have power over you, which means that they can't ever swing the hammer quite as hard as you can--as hard as you have probably done without even thinking about it.

This is why a gay man calling a straight man a "breeder" isn't as bad as a straight man calling a gay man a "faggot." This is why a woman telling a sexist joke isn't as damaging as a man telling a sexist joke, even though they're both probably committing similar errors of stereotyping and generalizing. They aren't the same because even if the principle is similar... the damage isn't even comparable.

Why is this so fucking hard to understand. I'm so scared that I was this stupid before I started thinking about racism, that I was allowed to be this stupid. I sure hope not.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An amusing quote about D&D alignments.

Ganked from this forum thread.

You Are Not Good. And Your Mom is Not Good.
"I have made mistakes in my life, but basically I think I'm a good person."

I'm sorry, but you are not a Good person. You go through your life, you don't stab anyone in the face, you don't break any laws, you don't take pictures of naked children, and… so what? You want a medal for that? Shut up.

The sad fact of the matter is that if you aren't exerting yourself for a cause, if you aren't exerting yourself for something, you aren't Good. You probably aren't Evil, but seriously: get over yourself. Before you can really get into the mind of a Good character you honestly have to come to terms with the fact that you, as a person, are probably Neutral. Your character is a much better person than you are.

The reverse is also true for villains, and should come as no surprise to people who play Evil characters, since most people don't consider themselves Evil. Characters are generally much more than the players who play them. Villains are blacker, heroes are nobler, and when you play one of those characters you should come to terms with that. Even though it probably hurts you a little bit to contemplate it, if you're going to even try to play a Good character you need to play them as a much better person than you personally are.
And this, people, is why most commoners are described as "neutral" or "lawful neutral" or "chaotic neutral." Nitpicking about the alignment system aside (and someone will post with it, so I'm acknowledging you in advance), this says something about people in general that sometimes needs saying. Everybody likes to think they're doing their best, and everyone wants to think this makes them an okay person.

But that's a different kind of "good" person than the kind of person who's risking something important for the sake of the prodding of their consciences. An abortion clinic bomber has more reason to believe in his/her D&D-classified "goodness" than most people, whether most people would agree or not. At least they've decided what they believe and are doing something about it, even if I occasionally wish an adventuring party would storm their evil black towers of misogynist self-righteous dickery.

To put it Walter's way, "Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, but at least it's an ethos."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anti-Choicers Plan Annual Protest

You can help.

Found this via bifemmefatale, and here's what she posted.


40 Days of Life - Anti Choice Campaign set for September 23 - November 1
The 40 Days for Life Campaign takes place every year. Anti-choice protesters organize outside women's health clinics for silent protests, prayer vigils, etc. Take a look. If your local clinic is on there, why not call or send them an e-mail to give them a heads-up. They may not know they're being targeted. You could also show up to counterprotest, sign up at the clinic to be trained as a volunteer patient escort, or if you want to be really sneaky, you could sign up for blocks of protest time on the anti-choice group's site so they think they will have people there when they won't.

IL folks, there are a lot of targets in the Chicago area.

I'm in Indianapolis, and they're targeting Georgetown Rd's Planned Parenthood. I'm going to give them a call tomorrow to make sure they know what's up, but if any of you can actually go give them a hand... I'm sure it will mean the world to them to know that the community supports them.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Many of you remember me telling you about Fayah Azadi here.

I have an update for you from idiomagic, over here.

Please read it. She deserves for you to know.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Grow up!

Did you know that if you leave a place where you're being treated poorly and choose not to return, you're not only immature and prone to holding unfair grudges, but you probably had it coming in the first place and it's just further evidence of your worthlessness that you don't accept a gracious offer from that place to take you back.

Today's episode of "Battered Wife Logic for Dummies" brought to you by THE INTERNET.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I just watched Capitalism Hits the Fan, and want to check something with the fine thinkers who hang around my journal. Yes, you. Yes. You.

So let me get this straight. From the start of the twentieth century up until the mid-seventies, America had an increase in earnings and quality of life every decade (and if you don't believe it, ask yourself why our measure of success is to have children who "have more" than we ourselves did). Okay, fine. Then in the mid-seventies, that stopped.

Well, that sucks. Then again, you have computers reducing the demand for workers along with immigration and working women increasing the supply (though oddly, we hear conservatives griping more about POC "stealing" their jobs than white women). So of course wages stop going up. That really does suck.

So people work harder to get that increase in earnings. Increase the hours, increase the earnings, and as individuals we strive to have in our own lives what the system is no longer producing--wage increases. People were desperate to consume more goods because we're taught that this is how we demonstrate our value as hardworking patriotic Americans. I can buy a nice car. I can own land. I can afford health insurance. I can afford a dog. I am a successful person.

Unfortunately, working more hours brings with it more expenses. Adding another worker to the household adds more expenses. Suddenly the correlation of more hours to more earnings is getting fuzzier because suddenly people need uniforms and transportation and meals out and holy shit this is getting expensive. But people want to consume more, so even if the "more hours" strategy doesn't work, people find another way.

They start borrowing. Because god damn it, we are worthwhile human beings and we can own a car and we can live in a house and have health care, because the implications of not having those things in America are terrible. The implications of not having those things in America are that you're a lazy freeloading underachieving leech on your fellow countrymen, and how dare you sully our prosperity with your self-imposed misery.

People don't want to deal with those perceptions from others, or with the self-hate that those internalized standards cause. So they borrow money so that they can have the same things without actually having to make more. People used their houses as collateral, relying on their mortgage's value to sustain their consumption. Then credit cards came along, and man! You can borrow without collateral? You can just HAVE the money?

(Sure there's that whole 18% interest rate thing, but that's a whole year away and who cares about that. Bobbie Sue and Billy RichAss need new cars.)

So it starts to suck, being a consumer. Being a business, though... well, if you're an employer, it sucks a lot less. American workers were more productive. Working more hours, working harder to keep their jobs, and you can pay them the same thing every year even though they're producing more! Shit, that's fantastic for businesses! The gap between what they produce and what they are paid is getting wider.

Mmmm, profit.

Then they put their money in the bank, and then the banks said WTF ALL THIS MONEY!! So now the banks have lots of money. Corps and banks discovered that they could use this money to make loans to the employees. "The way employees could raise their consumption was to borrow the money that their frozen wages made possible to their employers," as the economist in the film described it.

Employers didn't raise wages and pay their workers more. They LEND them the money! And then they have to pay it back WITH INTEREST. More profit!

So yeah. A good time to be an employer. You know all those great bloody huge salaries CEOs are getting? That's money that they made by fucking over workers, which should surprise no one even if the precise mechanism is up for debate.

So that's the first section that I'd like to get some feedback on. That's the "how we got fucked" section. The "how best to unfuck ourselves" section is separate, and I'm also still chewing on it.

He claims that advocates for regulation and deregulation are both missing the point. The point is not that regulations aren't the right thing to impose. The problem is that imposing them right now is asinine. Those regulations constrain what companies can do. However, if we pass regulations while leaving in place these corporate boards that exist to undermine them... we've left in place "the absolute sworn enemy of the regulations." Not just people who want them gone, but the people into whose hands all that extra money falls. They have every incentive to undo those regulations, and all the resources imaginable to undo them.

As he described and as we discussed afterward, if we're going to deal with this problem, we "need to face the conflictual relationship between the people who run corporations and the people who work in them." That's why debt was substituted for rising wages, jobs moved and destroyed, and regulations just "objects to be undone."

He says that this is the change that needs to be made: People who work in a business should run the business, not shareholders funding a board. Then the workers can pair with the government and make sure regulations are followed, as opposed to leaving people in charge who've got an incentive and lots of money to undermine regulations.

There is some merit to the observation that, if we define democracy as "the people affected by a decision should be the ones to make it," that's great in politics, but why aren't we applying it to businesses? Why are businesses set up like military regiments with power flowing all one direction, when people are allegedly being taught that individuals have the power to determine their lives and all that shit?

This guy's point is that the people who are pushing for or against regulation as a solution are MISSING the problem. The problem is that what we're doing is a feature of capitalism and not a bug. It has to end like this, because this is what it works toward.

How the hell do we work toward that kind of collective business, though? I get that it's an awesome goal, and that we should call it what it is--a Marxist (Is it Marxist?) way of letting workers control production--but how do we make it happen? I'm all cognitively dissonant! Tell me how to fix it! D:

I'm lucky in working for CAC that we do things more collectively and in a more egalitarian way, but I have no idea how to spread this shit (other than giving people the idea that they deserve this, and should expect it). This is just me regurgitating everything I just chewed and swallowed. If any of you sense bullshit and would like to deflate my little bubble of militant leftism or something, please do. I feel like I'm due. If you don't sense bullshit and instead have some insight as to how we can practically realize this... comment? Please?

I'm still chewing. I'm looking for feedback if anyone has it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Now and again when I'm canvassing for CAC, I'll have someone tell me that The Government wants to control health care so that they can control me. Seriously, they will wag a finger at me and say, "Because they want to control you! People need to realize that votes have consequences, and this government takeover of health care? They're just taking more and more control."

Leaving aside the facts (since people who fear what'll happen if the government provides health care to people who aren't elderly, veterans, active duty military, government employees, or really poor, or any of the other groups that already get it from the government are seldom actually looking at what works, but are instead obsessed with a dogmatic devotion to ideological purity and a standard of Constitutional orthodoxy about as well-informed as any obsessive attention to Biblical orthodoxy), here's what I damn near said to a guy yesterday.

Him: "Because the government wants to control you!"

Me: *thinking* "Yeah. They're always telling me that government officials have a right to make decisions for my body, they want to tell me when I'm gonna have kids and whom I can marry... Those liberals, man. When are they going to learn to let adults control their own lives?"

Do you think they'd get the sarcasm?

Noooo, of course not. You can't tell a social conservative that there's any connection between how they feel when the government threatens to take their guns away and how I feel when the government tells me the state owns my body, or that they're the final arbiter on which partnerships are "real."

Because that's different. They're worried about the government controlling the lives of people. Women? Gays?

Not people.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Giving and Taking

Hey, it's me again.

I, like a lot of white people you've probably heard claim it a thousand times, have some Native American ancestry. Leaving aside the complicated implications of that (and what it really says about what happened to all these Native American women who got carried off to white settlements to have settlers' kids), I do feel I owe something to them.

I seldom can find anything to pay the debt that I owe to them for enriching our world at great cost to their cultures, their livelihoods, and their very existence. But here's something I feel very good about, and you should, too.

Oyate needs our help. I owe them my help, and if you think about it long enough... quite frankly, so do you. If you've ever said, "well, I have some Cherokee blood," or "I'm related to the Lakota," or "I try to integrate Native American spirituality into my life" (and Pagans, I'm looking at YOU here), you have gained something from Native Americans and you should give something back.

Well, it's not hard. And whatever you give has the potential to be doubled if you get it out there fast enough.

Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed honestly, and so that all people will know our stories belong to us. For Indian children, it is as important as it has ever been for them to know who they are and what they come from. For all children, it is time to know and acknowledge the truths of history. Only then will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue.

The great Lakota leader, Tatanka Iotanka—Sitting Bull—said, “Let us put our minds together and see what life we will make for our children.” The great Cuban revolutionary, José Martí, said, “We work for children because children know how to love, because children are the hope of the world.” Our work is to nurture in our children a sense of self and community. Our hope is that they will grow up healthy and whole.

Our work includes critical evaluation of books and curricula with Indian themes, conducting of “Teaching Respect for Native Peoples” workshops and institutes; administration of a small resource center and reference library; and distribution of children’s, young adult, and teacher books and materials, with an emphasis on writing and illustration by Native people.

Our hope is that by making many excellent books available to encourage many more, especially from Native writers and artists. Oyate, our organiztion’s name, is the Dakota word for people. It was given to us by a Dakota friend.

popelizbet has some progress information for us.

"Oyate has been offered a generous grant that will help them do a major website overhaul. (...) According to Beverly, the delightful woman I spoke to, as of ten minutes until ten central time, and including my little $10, they are now at $3,217.00 of the needed $5000. They must raise the remaining $1783.00 by Saturday, August 1 in order to receive their grant. (...)

To paraphrase something I once said to omnisti, $1783 is just 178.3 people with ten bucks each. But we need to find those one hundred seventy eight and a third people before Saturday.

You can donate here by phone, mail or via Paypal. To use Paypal, click the "Network for Good" link."

Please. Native Americans have lost so much, have given us so much both willingly and unwillingly. There's got to be something you can give back. Do something.

Even if it's tiny, remember that your donation will be doubled if you can give just a little by Saturday. Your support is worth twice as much to them as it is to you. It's something so small, but it matters so much. And you can do it.