Monday, October 17, 2011

The Occupy Movement and Consensus Model

We had some people tonight who kinda wanted to go off and start some shit, and it had to be made clear that they couldn't do that with us, because the thing to do with us is join our General Assemblies and reach consensus with us about movement actions.

Here's the long form of my opinion on individual action, particularly in reference to civil disobedience.

People are gonna do what they feel they've gotta do. If somebody needs to get in a confrontation with cops so that they can sleep at night... well, y'know, they're gonna do what they feel they've gotta do. However! They need to do it with their own reputation and in their own name. The only way to earn the right to say you're representing our movement is to be part of our process. You don't get to say you're representing the occupation movement if you don't respect the consensus process which defines us as a movement enough to get our consensus before you go out and do things that reflect upon us.

We are the ones who are not merely using the consensus process, but we are the ones who have voluntarily taken on the obligation to prove that the consensus process works. Instances like this where people want to fly off on their own as individuals are the biggest test the consensus process can possibly have, and it's at times like this that people demonstrate whether they believe in the process we're advocating for, or whether --when it comes down to it--they don't. If they don't believe in the consensus process, in my personal opinion they need to be doing some serious reflection on whether this is the movement for them.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

If I were building a mandatory reading list for all men, this'd be on it.

‎"A man sexually desiring a woman often has overtones of threat in our culture. From street harassment to horror films to PUAs, women learn that someone desiring you doesn't mean they're going to be nice to you."

This is one of the things that is hardest to explain to guys who get pissed that not every comment they make about a woman's appearance is met with the gratitude they feel they deserve for it. What a lot of guys fail to understand is that a lot of dangerous (not just unpleasant, but actually dangerous) interactions for women start out with a man letting her know that he's attracted to her.

It sucks for guys, I'm sure, to have to fight past that kind of apprehension, but a woman can either err on the side of excessive caution and maybe hurt a man's feelings or frustrate him, or she can err on the side of excessive trust and not just get hurt... but get blamed by it for the very same people who would have told her another day not to assume all men are dangerous.

And yes, I have had to explain this to men before. They were not pleasant conversations. If the problem with a guy's perspective is that he doesn't care what it's like to not be a guy, it's hard to get him to think about... what it's like to not be a guy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Completely unforeseeable situation: Without slavery we'll have no slaves. D:

So it turns out when you deport your exploited refugee workforce, you don't have a conveniently-exploitable workforce anymore. OHNOES.

Georgia's new crackdown on illegal immigration has been law since July 1. Farmers say it's scaring away both documented and undocumented workers. And now other sectors are beginning to feel the pinch. Some businesses say without these workers, they can't get the job done.

John Barbour's company, Bold Spring Nursery, is one of those businesses. Barbour grows 200 varieties of shade trees on his 1,100-acre farm in Pulaski County, south of Macon.

It's painstaking work. Employees manually prune specimens for high-end landscapes. Barbour's trees dot the Augusta National golf course and the Washington Monument.

Driving on his farm, Barbour says he's lost five workers since May.

"We had three Latinos quit, and move out of Georgia, and say they no longer felt safe in Georgia," Barbour said, while driving around his farm last month. "They didn't walk up to me and say, 'Hey I'm here illegally and I have to get going,' but now it's probably safe to assume that was the situation."

He continues, "You could look at that and say, 'Mission accomplished, right?' That's what we are trying to do, is get rid of illegal immigrants, but..."

"Now you have to fill those jobs."

"That's right," he said.

In an attempt to replace them, Barbour hired two Americans. Tending to trees in the hot sun, they couldn't handle the same hours as he and his migrant workers.

"They lasted seven weeks," which was longer than usual, he said. "The problem was, during those seven weeks, we averaged 47 hours a week working, and they averaged 27 hours a week."

Link courtesy of elf.

I keep reminding myself that this is going to affect a lot of people who are not personally to blame for the fact that a large part of our economy is built on near-slavery and that I shouldn't be happy that they're going to suffer the economic consequences of the voting habits of Georgia racists (or at least those willing to pander to Georgia's racists). Living in Indiana, though, I am just all out of sympathy. I have heard too many people complain about how we got all these gottdamn illiguls stealin jobs and tax dollers an' we oughta just kick 'em all out.

But god fucking forbid they have to pay an extra dollar for fruit. Their racism and their reasoning are seriously not getting along here, and it's like a shit-ton of people didn't see this coming. Little known history fact: building an economy on the exploitation of people who are too desperate or scared to demand better is bad, and for more reasons than "slavery is mean."

Overall I'm just fucking pissed that we still have to contend with the "but if we end slavery, the prices of shit will go up because we'll have to treat workers like people" argument in twenty goddamn eleven.

Amusingly, just this morning I was remembering a conversation I had with Glenn Welch (the guy who writes the Things Mr. Welch is not Allowed to do in an RPG lists) about this years ago. He's one of those "ragh unlimited capitalism will solve all things because the free market is magic" guys, but he was simultaneously arguing that undocumented migrants are terrible JUST TERRIBLE because they're willing to work for less and in shitty conditions and as a result no self-respecting American can compete with them.

When I pointed out that it's ridiculous to argue that people who fail to compete in a capitalist market deserve what they get and also to argue that white American workers should be sheltered from the consequences of their failure to compete with migrant workers, he changed his tune and started talking about how awful the companies are who hire these workers to exploit them and how really we have to deport them all for their own good because illegal immigration is just so tragic. That didn't stop him from going all "THEY'RE STEALIN UR JOBS BY WINNING AT CAPITALISM OH WOE IS WHITE" on later occasions. This is typical of every conversation I have had with the kind of people whose votes are responsible for laws like Georgia's, and the one we got in Indiana more recently.

Pissed. Baffled. Also pissed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"All Christians aren't like that!"

There's something I understand better now than I used to back when I was self-identifying as a theist. I, too, was really upset that atheists were so prejudiced and bigoted and just pigeonholed any religious people they knew and assumed that if you aren't an atheist, you're an enemy. Or something.

I understand marginalization and privilege a little better now, though. Only some of it is from beginning to identify as an atheist. A lot of it's stuff I've heard from LGBT people and people of color and feminists and just... y'know, people who have experience with this stuff. Here's what I've learned about generalizing about the members (or affiliates) of organizations that hate me (or you, or someone else, or whoever).

It's hard sometimes, when someone walks up wearing the badge and uniform of one's oppressors, to assume that they don't want to be associated with the other people wearing it. It's hard for me (for example) to see someone who self-identifies as Catholic and not see an ally of the homophobia, misogyny, and just general callousness that characterizes that organization. They may not personally hate women or gays or child rape victims, but they're comfortable affiliating with an organization that plainly does, and I have to wonder at that rate whether they're true allies.

Sadly, that type of Christianity is still setting the tone in a lot of the country. While I'm supportive of the efforts of other Christians to clean up their image, I no longer feel like I should suffer at the hands of the Christian cultural system and simultaneously do their PR for them. When more Christians are like Quakers, I'll talk about them like more of them are Quakers.

I get that it's got to suck having people running around acting a fool who are using teachings from the same book as you are to do some terrible things to innocent people. It always sucks to feel like someone else has enough control over your reputation to screw with it by being bigots and just generally showing their whole ass to the world.

That's the thing, though, about continuing to wear the badge and uniform of a group that--for a lot of people--has done them nothing but personal and very tangible harm. Depending on how badly they've been hurt and for how long and how much hope they have left, they might just assume that you're an ally to the people who hurt them. They're not assuming this because they're bigoted, or bullies, or intolerant. They're assuming it because they're tired of giving chances to people who put on that uniform and then getting kicked in the face for it. So... they stop taking the risk.

I'm not quite there yet, but I've seen people get there, and it's hard for me to begrudge them. It's not hate. It's hurt, and it's weariness, and they're right. They should never have had to always be the one giving out chance after chance after chance to people who didn't take it. It's hard exhausting work, and the people I know who've given up on trying to find common ground with Christians? That's why.

So this is why I've stopped saying, "Not all straight/cis/white/etc. people are like that! Please only talk about your painful experiences in a way that protects my feelings!" and it's why I think it'd be great if Christians did, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Things I am reading!

Obligatory mention of the attacks in Oslo.

Obviously the groups he was a member of and who were his (apparent) ideological guiding posts are appalled, you guys, just aghast and amazed that someone went out and did what they all seem to want done.

Sound familiar to you? Sounds familiar to me. Remember, kids. Every politically-motivated right-wing white murderer is an isolated case and not a real terrorist representative of any kind of trend and remember that people on the left are just as likely to gun down strangers. Right? So let's ignore the right-wingers and get back to being scared of brown Muslims.

More links!

Anders Behring Breivik was deranged, but also a serious conservative political thinker! Didn't complain enough about Jews in his manifesto, though, so Richard Spencer is going to fill in some gaps by linking to Kevin MacDonald. Can't make this shit up, guys.

The Political Ideas of Anders Behring Breivik

Okay, so. I resolved not to post anything about Amy Winehouse (because the Norway incident is obviously kind of a big deal), but this blog entry sort of made me curl up in a ball, so I judged it worthy of passing on. It's only partly about her. It's about the people like her that we can't see because there's no money in dragging them out to die in front of the world. Read it.

Yes, I’m an addict too: Why I’m no different from Amy Winehouse (H/T stoneself)

Unrelated, and in (sort of) better spirits: Scarleteen is one of the best things on the internet. I think if my hometown had had sex ed that looked more like this website, I would have seen a lot less rape and unplanned pregnancy among my peers through junior high and high school.

How You Guys -- that's right, you GUYS -- Can Prevent Rape.

It’s obviously hard for guys to really look at this stuff, but it’s also hard for women to know that rape is nearly always a crime done by men (as well as to live in a world where it’s something we are afraid of). We love the men in our lives dearly, very much want to be able to trust men, and we think of men, as a group, as our brothers. Suffice it to say, it’s also really tough for us to have to know that our actual brothers, our fathers, our boyfriends, our male friends, might be or have been rapists: it’s a terrible betrayal. So, while we women can’t personally understand, in some ways, how it’s got to feel for guys to be suspect with rape, or to know that it’s a crime almost exclusively perpetuated by a group to which you belong, in plenty of ways, we feel your pain, because men belong to at least one of our groups too: to the all-people group.

That's all I've got for now.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Just watched Agora, a movie that I heard about from the entries about it at The Wild Hunt.

I can't speak too confidently about the historical Hypatia (nor do I particularly expect this movie to do so, because it probably doesn't). Near as I can tell from totally cursory Googling on the subject, not only was Hypatia's religious affiliation not relevant to the circumstances of her death, but she herself was barely relevant. She could have been anybody sufficiently important to Orestes. He had pissed off Cyril (who was kind of a big deal at the time) and Hypatia happened to be an appealing target for a revenge killing.

So... I wanted to say first off that I'm not really inclined to believe anybody who says, "Hypatia was killed by nasty misogynist anti-intellectual Christians because she was an educated and independent Pagan!" or anybody who says, "Hypatia was killed by nasty misogynist anti-intellectual Christians because she was an educated and independent atheist!" Near as I can tell, she was killed for being there.

There's my take on the historical Hypatia. People who have actually spent some study on her will know more about her than I do, though, so if they post in the comments and say I'm wrong, y'all should probably listen to them instead of me. I just wanted to touch on the actual real person we are talking about here so that I could talk separately about Hypatia The Character In The Movie Agora.

Hypatia The Character In The Movie Agora was a total atheist, you guys. I am sort of confused and amused and a litle dismayed by how many Pagans seem to have watched this movie and thought, "Ah! Look what the Christians did to us! They always do this to us Pagans!" Bonus points if they then go on to say some bullshit about the Burning Times (when some arbitrarily-large number of totally undeniably really real actual witches were burned alive by Christians).

Movie!Hypatia got along with Pagans a great deal better than with Christians, it's true. Historically speaking, Christians have not made very good neighbors, either literally or ideologically. So yeah, she got along better with the Pagans, but that doesn't make her one.

I've been a practicing Pagan since I started giving a damn about religion at all--so since I was about ten or eleven. Just long enough to make my parents sound ridiculous when they say it's a phase (which they evidently still think it is). I went to school in a small town where parents didn't want their children talking to me because I was a servant of the devil. The school administrators saw me as a disruptive presence because of the books I read while I sat by myself at lunch, which they took and never returned. So I get it, really I do, that Pagans aren't wanted in Christian-dominated areas.

I've also been comfortable identifying as an atheist for a few years now, too. I identify with a group that was recently found to be the least trusted minority in the USA, which I find incomprehensible but hard to deny.

Every now and again I'll watch a movie that makes me feel small, and angry, and a little unsafe. The last one I watched was actually the Stepford Wives (the new one, which I actually thought was hilarious and terrifying), and now this. It wasn't because it called to memory the myth of the Burning Times, or the time when good Christian friends and neighbors taught their children to be frightened of me.

It was because we get to watch someone be cast aside by her political allies and be stoned to death by Christians because she--the character, mind you--is an unrepentant atheist and that makes her a problem. My friends and cousins with whom I share religious practice, it's not about you this time. It's about a character whose dedication to philosophy (basically equated here to "science") was considered unwomanly, ungodly, unacceptable, and unworthy of being allowed to live.

You have to twist this pretty hard to see anything but the character of Hypatia flying her atheist flag right out in the audience's faces.

CHRISTIAN: The majority of us here… have accepted Christ. Why not the rest of you? It’s only a matter of time and you know it.

HYPATIA: Really? It is just a matter of time? …As far as I am aware, your God has not yet proved himself to be more just or more merciful than his predecessors. Is it really just a matter of time before I accept your faith?

CHRISTIAN: Why should this assembly accept the council of someone who admittedly believes in absolutely nothing?

HYPATIA: I believe in philosophy.

Can't tell you how many times I or other atheists I know have had to have the "how can you not believe in anything" conversation.

Hypatia, the real woman who lived and was killed, may well have been a woman of Pagan faith. Someone better versed in the history of the woman could speak to that better than I. This character in this movie, though, is an atheist. Anybody who can ignore that is probably trying to. Is this version of her historically accurate? I wouldn't put money on it, no. But this version of her is an atheist, and it's weird to watch it after reading the reviews of Pagans who are sure it's all about them, and find myself watching a very different movie than the one they seemed to be describing.

Maybe I just wasn't watching it through their CHRISTIANS HATE US PAGANS MORE THAN ANYONE goggles. Because y'know what? They don't. They hate Pagans, all right, but not more than anyone. At least you believe in something (read: some form of deity), right? How can they trust someone who doesn't even manage that?

This is a humanist propaganda film. Say what you will about whether that's a good thing, but if you can miss that and somehow reread it as a story of Pagan persecution by the mean old monotheists, you need to watch it again and pay attention to the parts where Christians are murdered by Pagans, Pagans are murdered by Christians, Jews are murdered by Christians, Christians are murdered by Jews, more Jews are murdered by Christians, and a self-described atheist is the only one who says that they're all more like than different and have nothing to fight over so can we please talk about astronomy now kthx.

It's a humanist fantasy with a humanist martyr and Agora departs so far from history that I have to wonder how the hell all these Pagans missed its obvious agenda.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ended up posting this someplace today.

This is my obligatory reminder to the internet that I am an angry feminist madwoman who believes that the person who has the final legitimate say on whether a pregnancy continues is the person who is pregnant.

Why people need to stop telling me that life begins at conception because that's when babby gets soul.

Being pro-life is a position I understand completely. It's a personal choice for many women that they would never get an abortion and can't understand how anybody else could. These women should not ever be forced to get abortions, which is why pro-choicers (and I think that doing a lot of activism for Planned Parenthood, I can speak with some authority on what pro-choicers tend to argue for) disapprove of compulsory sterilization and compulsory abortion. A woman whose personal convictions are strongly against abortion should never be forced to get one, because that is what informed consent is all about. That is what bodily autonomy is all about.

When it verges over into anti-choice territory, though, things start getting dodgy. When we start arguing that a pregnant woman is not morally mature enough to be trusted with the decision of whether to stay pregnant? Dodgy.

Furthermore, as far as the whole "life begins at conception" thing, that's not a scientific or medically-founded point. How do I know this?

Obstetricians define a pregnancy as starting at implantation (which is the point when the zygote sticks to the inside wall of the uterus). They do this because this is the point at which the woman's body acknowledges that it is pregnant and that it needs to start adjusting.

This isn't a political stance on their part so that they can help Planned Parenthood get women their whore pills. This is a medical judgement based on when a woman's body begins to behave "pregnant." The pregnancy doesn't start at fertilization, because in many cases the zygote will fail to implant and the woman won't even know that the egg she's flushing with this period was fertilized. Spiritual life as you define it begins at fertilization, but the pregnancy doesn't start until implantation.

I suspect that the medical argument isn't your primary point, though, so I'll address the theological angle.

I am always sort of puzzled by the whole allegedly-Biblical view that life begins at conception. I've been giving it some thought based on what I remember from the Bible study I did in college and looked some stuff up and wanted to bring what I pulled together.

RE: Life beginning at conception. Yes, I realize that it is Catholic dogma that this is the case. The Catholic Church also only admitted about forty years ago that the Earth revolves around the sun. Are we really going to use them as a science authority? I mean, I guess you can. I won't be. But this isn't even a scriptural or Biblically-founded point they are making. That stuff is NOT in the Bible.

So what's actually in the Bible? When does a human acquire a soul? Well, let's ask when Adam was alive. When God breathed life into him.

Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

This is why, for a very long time historically, a woman's fetus was not considered an autonomous human being until it took its first breath. It's only when science gave us a view into what actually happens in the uterus that Christian churches had to start figuring out when this thing became a human with a soul.

At no point does any secular governing body have any call making law based on who has a soul and who doesn't. I certainly hope that in this thread we can agree on that much. However, for those Biblical literalists who care more about getting on Santa's Nice List than they do about what godless obstetricians say, I refer you back to Genesis. A fetus is a baby when it takes its first breath. Even Adam wasn't human before that.

Surprise surprise, Bible-thumping anti-choicers need to lern2Bible before pulling out their half-understood regurgitated dogma. Unless you're a Roman Catholic, your own Iron Age obstetrics manual (harr harr) points out that breath is life. Even the word "spirit" in Hebrew means "breath."

“There is a spirit [Hebrew, ruach, breath] in man: and the inspiration [breathing in] of the Almighty gives them understanding. ... The spirit [Hebrew, ruach, breath] of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.” -Job 32:8 and 33:4.

So seriously, to the "life at conception cuz YHWH said so" regurgitating fundies: go get some formal Bible education and then come back and tell me what it says.

It's probably obvious that the Biblical view doesn't actually hold any water with me. I prefer to use obstetrics texts that were written after the advent of modern medicine. However, I know there are a lot of people who do care about what the Bible says about what we are, who we are, and how we should live. I also know that many such people haven't had opportunity to actually sit down and do formal study of this book that rules their lives, and have to simply believe what church authorities and their parents tell them is true.

So yeah. If you want to decide how to live based on what the Bible says, I'm gonna think you're a little nuts, but at least find out what's in the book before you start making decisions and constricting the decisions of others and make sure that it's really telling you what you've been TOLD it tells you.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Heinous victim-blaming, slut-shaming crap.

Someone on my FB page asked for my thoughts on this article, in which the reprehensible "No means yes, yes means anal" rape apologism at Yale is blamed on the sexual license argued for by feminists. Yes, that's right. It's all the uppity bitches' fault.

A group of mostly female students is suing Yale University for allowing a “sexually hostile environment” to exist on campus.

The women, of course, have a point. After all, when frat boys are allowed to parade around the old campus chanting “No Means Yes,” or to hold up signs that read “We Love Yale Sluts,” I guess you could say that’s a sexually hostile environment.

But may I ask a question? What did you expect?

The rage, it knows no bounds.

I think this man is an asshole who is bitter on behalf of all jilted men that women are fighting for the right to fuck, but not with him. I mean, look at this.

The disgusting, intimidating behavior at Yale -- and on many college campuses -- is a classic example of the post-modern impasse. For nearly 50 years, academia, the feminist movement, and post-modern society have embraced sexual freedom as the ultimate good.

And the feminists led the way. They wanted to control their bodies; to be free from any consequences of sexual license.

He completely misses the point that women want to control their bodies, even though it's right there in his own description of their goals. The goal of feminism was never that women's bodies ought to be treated like public property; that is in fact the PRECISE WORLDVIEW that feminism is still fighting.

This asshole seems to think it's perfectly natural and inevitable that uppity women who have the nerve to do what they like with their sexuality should be treated like disposable whores, there for the taking by any man.

As far as I can tell, Colson literally CANNOT envision a world in which female sexuality is not controlled by somebody other than the woman herself. He presents an utterly insane and backward choice for women--either you let Jesus own your sexuality, or it will lay there unclaimed and men will just rape you all the time because you don't belong to anybody.

"Does the Christian view of sex promote intimidation, harassment, and brutish behavior like we’re seeing at Yale, or does it promote moral and ethical virtue?"

By treating female sexuality as something which must always be in the possession and under the control of a man, it certainly does promote intimidation, harassment, and brutish behavior. By treating this as the natural outgrowth of women thinking they can just walk around like they're human beings with a right to do things other than powerspawn babies for their husband and Jesus, he reinforces the slut-shaming and depersonalization of women who fuck that is the very basis of the rape culture we live in.

This man is an asshole. He is an asshole, he is an asshole, he is an asshole, and if you want the most obvious indication that he is an asshole, he is blaming feminism for the culture of degradation and rape on college campuses INSTEAD OF BLAMING THE RAPISTS. Why? Well, because boys will be boys, and it's always the woman's fault if she gets raped. She had to have done something to ask for it, right? Like demand the right to vote, to have or deny sex, to hold a job, to decide not to have children. The natural outgrowth of the fight for women to have these things is not RAPE. That is the natural outgrowth of SOMEONE BEING A RAPIST.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sucker Punch

Okay, so Sucker Punch.

Yeah, I liked it. There are a couple of reviews linked here which are super spoilery, so they're mainly for people who have already seen it. These are not what you want to read if you're trying to figure out whether you're going to like it. Go find a review that's written for that.

The short, spoiler-friendly version is this:

I am not the final voice on all things feminist. I am not a major authority on women's empowerment (at least, not any more than any other woman), and I am not anybody's fun police. That said? I am probably the loudest, least compromising, angriest ballbusting feminist that most of my friends know, and I am this way because that is a correct thing to be. I've been accused of being oversensitive and humorless and mean, simply for paying attention to what a particular song, movie, book, or television show is saying about me and mine.

At this point I generally trust myself to notice if there's some fucked up woman-hating bullshit happening.

I was, in fact, prepared for fucked up woman-hating bullshit, because in the previews it's basically FETISH MODELS IN TRENCH WARFARE VERSUS CLOCKWORK ZOMBIES AND ORCS WITH MINIGUNS AND BATTLEMECHA AND A KATANA WHILE WHITE RABBIT PEAKS and frankly, anybody who walked in expecting a brilliant history-making bit of cinema after that was a total fool.

That said? I was pleasantly surprised. I apologize for demanding that you take me at my word here rather than reading a great and involved explanation as to why, but I don't know how to do that without spoiling you except to tell you what I walked in with and how that had changed by the time I walked out.

If you have already seen it, here are the reviews. Did I give a spoiler warning? I hate spoilers myself, so consider yourself duly warned.

This is a good review that gives a more thoughtful look at it than 'why are they wearing fetish boots ugh this is for horny guys' which is apparently what a lot of objections to it seem to boil down to.

Dreamwidth user Silveradept also posted this review of Sucker Punch posted on the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center website. Yeah, you read that right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Apropos of nothing, but...

...I am now legally married.

How awesome is that?

(Now for the rest of my LGBT family who aren't allowed to. Need to get you in on this shit, because this fun should be shared. Your inevitable marriages will lift something of a shadow from everybody else's, so we've got some politicians to harass until they explode. Let's do this shit.)

Monday, March 14, 2011


LGBT activism isn't about creating more gay people; it's about supporting and advocating for the ones who're here. Still, atheist activism is framed (by people who aren't doing it) as evangelism. We don't care about converting you; we're just... out. Get over it.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

now witness the POWER of this FULLY ARMED and OPERATIONAL feminist

Had to get up really early to be at the state house this morning, but it was worth it. I was testifying against a bill in a committee hearing to defund Planned Parenthood in Indiana, and I got to be the first of the opposition to speak (right after the lady from Right to Life, sitting there with her mouth all pinched up tightly as a cat's asshole).

I'm pretty proud of how I did, and I think I helped. One of the Planned Parenthood lobbyists asked me to email her my testimony so that they could use it as an example of How It Is Done (eeeeee!) and so I thought I'd relay it to y'all as well.

My name is [my name], here on behalf of Planned Parenthood, mostly because of how much I owe of my own health and success to Planned Parenthood. I'm the first woman in my family to get a college degree. My parents were supportive, but we're a military family and as you're all aware, people don't enlist for the money.

My parents were proud, but when it came to the financial end of a $120,000 education, that was entirely up to me. I had no money left over for doctors. I literally endorsed my paychecks and physically handed them over to Butler University.

It would have been easy to sacrifice my health for the sake of being the first woman to finish, but thanks to Planned Parenthood it wasn't necessary. They clearly don't believe young women should have to choose between an education and basic preventative care, and Planned Parenthood are the people doing something about it.

I'll be 25 in a month and I've only had one routine pelvic that wasn't provided at reduced cost by Planned Parenthood. For years, that made Planned Parenthood the only place I could afford to get checkups. I had one shot to get a degree, and I was willing to put everything else second.

I still did do it. My late great-grandmother, who was a young woman during the Depression, got to see our family, after almost eighty years, produce a woman with a college degree. We're talking about a woman for whom birth control pills might as well have been magic. I wasn't stopped by poverty. I wasn't stopped by the looming threat of pregnancy derailing this dream for yet another generation.

If not for Planned Parenthood, I might have been. I see in this legislation a clear statement that women in my position should have to choose between our health and our education, that I should have had to choose: either I can have doctors or knowledge but not both.

It's 2011... and we can give women better options than that. Planned Parenthood are the people offering better options.

Reliable access to preventative care and birth control were the difference between the women in my family for the past eighty years and this woman now. When you're asking yourself whether you approve of Planned Parenthood's impact on this state, you are asking yourself about me.

Do you approve of Planned Parenthood's impact on my life? Or don't you?

Because Planned Parenthood gives women access to a legal procedure that some people may wish you could keep them from having, are you really going to let my success story be one of the last?

This bill has to go, and by saying so here today I hope to repay in small part the debt I owe to this organization. I'm proud to give this act of testifying and my tax dollars for Planned Parenthood and the patients who need them. Thank you for your time.

There's a chance the bill will indeed fail, because the Democrats on this committee are people I pretty much trust not to be horrible shits. I also don't think it'll pass because they try this every damn year. However, both the House and Senate in Indiana are controlled by Republicans, so there's no saying for certain what fuckery they'll get up to.

I'm going back tomorrow, and this time the mister is coming with me. I mentioned offhand to the Planned Parenthood people that he's a pharmacist, and they told me the House added a bill regulating a RU-486 in a particular very stupid way to the committee schedule at the last minute. I got an emphatic Facebook message from the Planned Parenthood lobbyist ("CALL ME" and her phone number. "Right now?" "YES."). She wants him to be available to read a statement on the bill written by one of his former professors and answer questions if the representatives have them.

The Planned Parenthood lobbyist who alerted me to all this told him that we're her new favorite couple. We're my favorite couple, too. The couple that cockpunches the patriarchy together stays together, yeah?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blood Sacrifice

Upon reading the afterword to Letter to a Christian Nation I got to thinking about blood sacrifice. It's not necessary for you to read this link, and I'm not even necessarily wanting a discussion about the link; I'm just giving context.

Here's where my head is right now, though. In the days when Judaism and Christianity were having their major cultural foundations laid, the people depicted in the Scriptures in question were certainly a product of their times. Those people had certain expectations about how exchanges with supernatural beings worked. There was an unquestioned assumption about the rightful place of blood sacrifice that we really don't tend to have today. The assumption was that blood was a (literal or symbolic) manifestation of life itself, and that giving this to a divine figure would please it.

From this widespread assumption seems to spring everything from Abel's sheep to Abraham's son to Jesus himself. Without the assumption that blood sacrifice and offerings of live creatures is pleasing to a deity, the whole system falls apart. It seems to me that part of the reason why the "Jesus Christ died for your sins" narrative falls flat for a lot of people is that a lot of people just don't understand anymore why there was anything about that in "the rules" to begin with. They don't even understand why YHWH wants blood, let alone how big a deal it was that his own son was offered up. The "why" of it is lost because we aren't supposed to give blood to our gods anymore. Aside: if you think blood sacrifice is still considered part of polite religious worship, consider how afraid people are of Santeria for doing what Jewish and Christian scriptures clearly state gods want us to do.

For me personally, this means that while the "God spilled the blood of his only-begotten son to pay the blood debt humanity owed for their sins" narrative had broad resonance at the time (because basically every culture shared the assumption that a sin was a debt owed to the gods which could be repaid in blood), it has no meaning or place in societies where blood sacrifice is considered something that "savages" (word used with full scare quotes because I'm an anthropologist and can't say "savages" unironically anymore) do. If Christianity is dying, it is because the most central assumption that makes the whole thing work just doesn't have any relevance anymore.

Now, I'm anticipating somebody with a Christian background saying, "Well, the crucifixion was such a badass sacrifice that it ended the time of blood sacrifice, and nobody ever need repay YHWH in blood again." I think this is dodging the issue. The issue is that your potential converts probably don't understand why there ever needed to be a sacrifice in the first place, because they weren't raised to believe that blood sacrifice is Just What People Do. These people need to be convinced first that blood sacrifice is a natural and desirable thing, and I don't think Christians can make that case. Please feel free to prove me wrong if I'm underestimating you.

If the rule is that divine powers can be propitiated with blood, whose rule is that? Did YHWH make that rule, or is it a rule totally external to YHWH by which YHWH is bound? Seems most likely to me that it's the latter. It's a rule external to YHWH by which YHWH is bound because that's how humans thought they had to be interacting with gods. YHWH is a god. Therefore we have to interact with it by giving it blood. If we really seriously screw up big time or just really want to say "I love you" in a big way, we have to give YHWH particularly awesome blood.

For ancient people this was a serious "well duh" sort of a thing, but lots of people don't think like this anymore. Even the idea that someone else can rightly pay for the sins of another is considered unjust and barbaric by lots and lots of people. For Christianity to remain relevant, then the practice of valuing blood sacrifice has to be explained, justified, and thereby preserved for your religion to even be intelligible to modern people. Can you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Public Service Announcement

If any of you are like me, you have people that you're deliberately keeping your precise location from. Someone posted this to a community I follow, and I confirmed. My most current information isn't posted, but yours might be.

"There's a site called that's a new online USA phone book w/personal information: everything from pics you've posted on FB or web, your approx credit. Search your name, find your page, copy the URL and then go to the very bottom of the page and click on the Privacy link to remove yourself. Copy & re-post so your FB friends are aware."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winning it with Metta

Canvassing used to eat up a lot of my patience for having sensitive and nice conversations, and I'm finally getting my groove back. I had a conversation with somebody who complained about how rude atheists can be, and I made a difference instead of just chewing their face off. I'm pleased with myself, and with the universe for rewarding my effort at kindness.

Yes, this is a Reddit thread.

Not everybody has the spoons to sit down and explain that sometimes atheists act like they're going to be attacked because--newsflash--we basically constantly are. This time I did, and I was pleased with myself and with the person I was talking to and with the universe in general that I was able to make an impact.

Sending out huge gratitude to all the feminists, LGBT activists and wonderful POC who teach me patience every time I say some dumbass thing and they're super nice to me and make me understand new stuff. Turns out atheists need to know how to do that shit, too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I just got a Droid.

When did phones become this ridiculously advanced? I must have missed it. In 24 hours I went from, "Will my phone connect to the network, or is it a pocketwatch today?" to "Hey look, I can change the colors on my lightsaber and make it Rickroll people when I ignite it."

Science. It works, bitches.

Sunday, November 28, 2010



Dear Beloved One,


Good day and how are you today? I hope fine? After going through your profile,
permit me to inform you of my desire of asking you to be a guardian or foster parent to me and then help me out in what I am about to tell you. I know this may sound strange to you, receiving a mail from an unknown person, but my condition has forced me to do that.

I'm Ms.Celina Toma 21 years old, the only daughter of Late Mr. & Mrs. Joel Toma my father was a very wealthy cocoa merchant here in Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote d'Ivoire. He was poisoned to death by his business associates on one of their outings on a business trip in France, my mother died when I was a baby.

Before the death of my father on 12th February 2008 in a private hospital here in Abidjan, he secretly called me by his bed side and told me that he has the sum of six million Five hundred thousand United State Dollars USD ($6.5million) he deposited in United Nation Diplomatic Custody there in Jakarta-Indonesia, which the United Nation Diplomat will delivery it to you or you travel to Jakarta and claim it in person, because of the legal valuables Insurance.

He then strongly advised me not to seek for assistance in the investment of the money from his lawyer or any of his friends here but to seek for a foreign partner from a country of my choice (outside our country, Cote d Ivoire) that will assist me in the wise investment of the money. I have since left the money in the Diplomatic custody with the view of my making use of it for investment purposes after my education carrier. But as you may be already aware by now, our country (Cote D' Ivoire) is presently at political crises.

Rebels have already taken over the whole Northern part of the country and making efforts towards to capture the commercial center of the country, Abidjan, where I am now.

I want an investment purpose like real estate management or hotel management. Because of this I am honorably seeking your assistance in the following ways with honest:

(1) To serve as a guardian to me and then assist me receiving the money into your care.
(2) To make arrangement for me to come over to your country to further my education and then settle there permanently.

If you accept to stand as my guardian or foster parent to me, I need not discuss on any percentage with you as you have to see the whole money as yours and then assist me invest it. But if you still want a percentage, I am willing to offer you, 30 % of the total money as compensation for your assistance. Please tell me if you feel the percentage I offered is not ok by you. As soon as I receive your concrete assurance to assist me with my proposal and also your full contact address/phone number and pictures, I will give you the United Nation Diplomatic Custody contact to reach MR.KENNEDY MURRY and know their legal procedures to release and deliver it to you as I want to come over to stay with you permanently please.

You shall then be giving me information on when the transaction will be over. I shall also send my pictures to you. No matter what your decision may turn out to be, please I beg you to keep this highly secret for my safety, as I believe that those people that killed my Daddy are still after me here.
For more explanations regarding my situation here.

Thanks and God bless you.
Best regards.
Miss Celina Toma.

This phishing email has, like, a fucking plotline and everything. Bonus? This was from a email address. Côte d'Ivoire my ass.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Enhanced" pat downs

Rape survivor devastated by TSA "enhanced pat down."

An area Wiccan discovered first hand what most of us are still unaware of – many flyers are now being forced to choose between allowing a TSA agent to see them naked or to have their genitals touched and squeezed as part of what the TSA terms “enhanced pat downs.” Celeste, a survivor of rape, described her experience with the new TSA procedures as devastating.

From a quoted bit within the article:

However, when meeting with privacy officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA later that month, I was told unofficially that there were two standards of pat-downs. One for the normal situation where passengers are going through metal detectors and a different pat-down for those who refuse to go through the whole-body scanners.

With this latest announcement, TSA admits that it has been clandestinely punishing passengers for refusing to go through the invasive whole-body scans with an even more intrusive aggressive pat-down and that soon those more invasive pat-down will creep from airport to airport.

I don't even know how to comment on this, it is so outrageous. I'm generally pretty good at ranting, but I'm at a loss for words.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

being willing to be wrong

Greta Christina's new piece, "Can Atheism be Proven Wrong?"

Yes, atheists pretty much agree that no existing religion has a shred of decent evidence to support it. That's why we're atheists. If we thought any religion had supported itself with decent evidence, we'd accept that religion. That's not the game. The game isn't, "What religion that currently exists could convince you that it was right?" The game is, "What hypothetical made-up religion could convince you that it was right?"

Or, to put it another way: We're talking counter-factuals. We understand that the universe, as it is now, is overwhelming in its evidence for atheism and materialism, and against any kind of deity or supernatural realm. We get that. We're talking about alternative universes. We're asking, "What would the world look like if there were a god or gods?"

There is good stuff to be had in here about what would actually convince most atheists that a religion was presenting a reasonable and worthy picture of the world. There's also a link to this page, which gives a pretty good rundown. Where this really gets interesting is after Greta gets done stating for the millionth time that actually atheists are not dogmatic zealots who take their conclusion as an article of faith (that we do, in fact, have standards of evidence--that no religion has met despite ample opportunity). She takes the, "no religion has actually managed to present a hypothesis supportible by evidence," point one step further by cutting off those last three words.

Religions haven't just failed to support their assorted hypotheses with good, solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence. They've failed to come up with hypotheses that are even worth subjecting to testing. They've failed to come up with hypotheses that are worth the paper they're printed on.

Religions are notorious for vague definitions, unfalsifiable hypotheses, slippery arguments, shoddy excuses for why their supporting evidence is so crummy, and the incessant moving of goalposts. Many theologies are logically contradictory on the face of it -- the Trinity, for instance, or an all-powerful/all-knowing/all-good God who nevertheless permits and even creates evil and suffering -- and while entire books are filled with attempts to explain these contradictions, the conclusions always boil down to, "It's a mystery."

And the so-called "sophisticated modern theologies" define God so vaguely you can't reach any conclusions about what he's like, or what he would and wouldn't do, or how a world with him in it would be any different than a world without him. They define God so abstractly that he might as well not exist. (Either that, or they actually do define God as having specific effects on the world, such as interventions in the process of evolution -- effects that we have no reason whatsoever to think are real, and every reason to think are bunk.)

And when I ask religious believers who aren't theologians to define what exactly they believe, they almost evade the question. They point to the existence of "sophisticated modern theology," without actually explaining what any of this theology says, much less why they believe it. They resort to vagueness, equivocation, excuses for why they shouldn't have to answer the question. In some cases, they get outright hostile at my unmitigated temerity to ask.

It's too bad that lots of the so-called "moderate" religious people that I know personally are all so invested in seeming and feeling rational that they can't just admit that they're not religious because they actually believe its claims are true. It would save us all a lot of effort if they did. I'm tired of having religious people try to throw reasoned arguments and evidence at me and then eventually concede--only after we've both wasted a lot of time and effort--that they don't really find those things persuasive either.

I mean, ffs. If it was never about evidence to begin with, if it's all metaphor and "personal revelation," then why do religious people get so upset when somebody points out that their sermons and holy books are full of fairy tales? And why do they let me give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that THIS TIME, THIS ONE TIME maybe they'll present a reasonable case, if they're just going to switch gears later and admit that they lied about their worldview in the hopes of getting me to sit still and stfu while they practice the flimsy reassurances that allow them to sleep at night?

I think that's one major reason why lots of religious people don't like talking to atheists, or even about religion to each other. It's not that we're all hurtful and mean, or that we're all joyless zealots, or even that we're all oversexed radical liberal feminazi pinko commies. It's this: If Pascal's Wager (or insert your fav apologism here) is the only reason you can face your day, you need everybody around you to be reassuring you that it's sound. Every person who shrugs and finds it unconvincing is a reminder that you've built your life on terror of your life, and an unwillingness to live in the real world. That'd suck, and I guess it does make us sort of mean.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stop Defending the Catholic Church: Day 5

Day Five: Apologism Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

I know there are still people reading this--if they haven't defriended me over it--who insist that the real intolerance here is mine, that the real bigotry, hatred, and harm comes from compiling these links and not from the organization whose actions have been reported on. These people are apologists, who will say and do anything to defend their church because that is what they have been taught they must do. Is it loyalty? Is it fear of being cut off from salvation without the church? I don't know, you tell me.

But here's my problem with this sort of apologism. When someone says, "A priest molested me as a child and shamed me into silence," apologists are the ones who say, "Yeah, but not all priests are like that, so try to express your pain in a way that doesn't make Catholics uncomfortable." When someone says, "I was locked in a workhouse and assaulted physically and sexually when I wasn't actively engaged in forced labor," apologists are the ones who say, "That's really sad honey and Imma let you finish, but the church does a lot of charity work and I'd like to derail this conversation to talk about this other thing for a while." When someone says, "Scientific journals have criticized the RCC for their habit of lying to at-risk populations about AIDS," apologists are the ones who say, "Yes, but a condom is just like a cigarette filter! What do doctors know about epidemiology that the College of Cardinals doesn't?"

In short, apologists are the ones who take a conversation that makes them uncomfortable and put their own feelings at the center of it so that rather than talking about the victims of the RCC's wanton callousness, racism, and unvarnished cruelty... we're talking about how sad it is that victims' advocates hurt Catholic people's feelings by pointing these things out. The real problem with apologism is that when you come into this discussion defending the Catholic church, what you are really saying is that you don't like us talking about harsh realities and would rather we discuss a comforting fantasy. Well, you can save that horseshit for church where it belongs. This is the real world.

In the real world, the Catholic Church probably hates you. Stop defending it like a battered wife who's sure her husband really really does love her, he's just got a funny way of showing it and you're sure that if you stay and show the church love and don't make trouble and be everything it asks you to be, it'll understand what it's been doing to you and everything will turn out like the RCC promised you it would be.

It's pathetic. Stop it.

If you missed it, here's Day One: The Church Hates Gays, Day Two: The Church Hates Women, Day Three: The Church Hates Africa, and Day Four: The Church Loves Child Rapists.

Hope you've enjoyed my blog series. This is a topic I've gotten tired of hashing over again and again and again, and now at least I have something I can just link to people when I'm too lazy to deal with the same regurgitated apologism. Feel free to do the same, if you're so inclined. Just link back to me so that I can pat myself on the back and feel useful.

Love, peace, and suchforth,