Another Ravan Perch

Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.

2014-04-05

G is for Growth

Hey, it's spring! Shit is starting to bloom, people are putting in gardens, pollen is making people miserable. Stuff is growing!!

The question is, are you?

No, I don't mean gaining height, or even girth. I mean inside.

In many traditions, winter is a time of contemplation and reflection, an inactive time where we reflect on the year past, and what we want to do in the future. The custom of new years resolutions is one facet of that.

But as magical practitioners we do a little more that vow to go to the gym more often, or pay more on our credit cards. We pay attention to what is going on with our selves, our dreams, and our relationships to the universe around us.

Sure, it's easy to vow to meditate more often, or do yoga, or make more frequent offering to our gods, but that actually involves no introspection or inner change.

Everyone, at least everyone who has been a pagan for at least a few years, should be aware of themselves, their good points and bad points. But have you accepted the stuff that's there? Are you still thinking of yourself as this nice person who treats the world with fairness and goodness all the time? Are you aware of the things that trigger the not so nice parts of your personality? Are you still associating with toxic people and places? Are you still lying to yourself about the world around you?

Surprisingly enough, the practice of magic has a grounding in reality. You can't know what is changed if you don't know what is there now. The biggest area of pitfall for a mage is to not truly know yourself. Your will and your intention are your most powerful tools. If you have stuff that you have hidden from your conscious mind, it will still be present in your will and your intention subconsciously, and can lead to very unintended consequences. Self sabotage is the most common form of failure.

So the process of self knowledge and self control is one of personal growth.

This doesn't mean that you are supposed to control how the world around you affects you, because in truth you can't. It means that you know what things trigger what reactions in you, and how you deal with the reaction.  Fighting words are still fighting words, but you can control whether you associate with people who set you off. It means that you can understand why some things irritate you, and take steps to avoid the sources of that irritation.

When you know yourself, your triggers, and your reactions to the world around you, you can learn to evaluate if people or situations are likely to set you off, and then avoid it, diffuse it, or even prevent it. Knowledge is power. Once you start to have that self knowledge, you have more choices, and more control over your situation, more warning of potential pitfalls.

Everyone has internal conflicts. Part of personal growth is reconciling and resolving those conflicting desires and feelings. Yeah, you'll get more as you go through life, but if you regularly assess who you are, good and bad, you can regularly re-balance those internal tensions.

In general, a good honest self inventory, good and bad, will go a long way toward making sure that you don't get blind-sided or surprised by your own reactions to the curves that life throws you.

That is growth.

2014-03-21

F is for Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
-- "Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear" (Frank Herbert, Dune)

While I never read the later Dune books, and was somewhat annoyed by the earlier ones, this little ditty got me through a lot of scary times. Just the concentration to remember it and recite it five times was enough of a meditation trigger to keep me out of the fear cycle spin-up.

While it was produced in a work of fiction, it still has validity on a Pagan path. Unlike some, I am not unwilling to adapt practices from fiction into my real world life.

Let's take a closer look

  • In the first three lines, the reciter is reminded of why uncontrolled fear is a danger. Essentially, it says that unchecked fear will take over your mind, and become all consuming, paralysing you from action.
  • The fourth and fifth lines are the way out of the trap. Facing it and allowing it to be absorbed, rather than consuming you, will put it into perspective.
  • The final three lines reinforce the triumph of will over fear. You have taken it in, understood it, absorbed it and moved beyond it. You haven't denied its existence, you have taken it inside, let it advise you of any actual dangers, and then let the fear fade to nothing. It's not fear any more, you've faced it and owned it.

What does this mean to pagan practice?

Some traditions practice what I call "Dark Work" - that is to say, exploring and facing some of the darker emotions in our own psyche. The two biggest are generally fear and anger. There is also jealousy, greed, vindictiveness, and a host of other nuances between them. Dark work is done as a part of getting to know, accept and understand your whole self, not just the parts you like or are willing to see. It is not something for beginners, but for those who have entered the personal growth and self knowledge phase of their pagan lives.

The little ditty above is useful as part of a long term method for handling what initially can seem to be an insurmountable piles of fears, terrors and even insecurities. Using it as a meditation can focus you on the steps needed to accept and understand what you are afraid of, and why, and how to face it.

Many fears in our daily lives are rational, but maybe out of proportion to the actual risk. Fear of fire, drive by shooters, auto accidents, airplane accidents, infectious diseases, or even spiders has some basis in rationality at some point in time. It's when they start to interfere with our ability to live, or our ability to understand our selves that we need to pay a closer visit to what causes them. In many cases, a meditation, litany or chant can help us get a handle on them.

It isn't instant. Learning to understand and work through fear is a long term process, and practice makes perfect. To be able to use something like the Bene Gesserit litany above in a crisis you need to have made the habit of using it when things were calm, during introspection. But if you do, you have yet another tool in your arsenal for staying calm in a crisis or situation that would ordinarily paralyze you with fear.

Thanks, Frank.

2014-02-21

D is for Dangerous

Last weekend I spent a day at PantheaCon.  I couldn't afford to go to the whole thing, with having to work and all, plus I was feeling rather ambivalent about the "community" as present at the con, and running it.

To me it seems that the community has been taken over by the white-light tone police.  These are the people who admonish you if you post angry blogs, or swear, or point out problems, or are actually angry about things like cultural appropriation and fat shaming in paganism.  They "tsk, tsk" at your "outbursts" that they see as "dangerous" to the community.

"How dare you be angry!  No one will listen to angry people! You have to speak reasonably, with 'love' in your heart. Don't endanger the respect people have for us." is the message I hear in the pagan blogosphere.

Fuck. That. Shit.

If that's what I have to do to be considered part of your little white light, goody two-shoes, social norm enforcing, non-threatening community, then you can take your damned community and shove it up your "my shit doesn't stink" ass!

If we can't, or won't, listen when people are upset about stuff, but feel the need to silence them with tone policing to "preserve harmony", "not be dangerous" or some such bullshit, then I feel we have failed as pagans, as servants of the gods, and as people who can and will change the world.  If we value conformity and "niceness" more than we value truth and fairness, then we're no better than a bunch of Baptist hypocrites.

If that is now our community standard, the silencing of the aggrieved and marginalized until they learn to "talk nicely" about their issues, then we are as bad as the quasi-liberals who want peace and order more than they want justice and change.

If being listened to on the web or at a conference requires us to couch everything in terms of what is pleasing to others to hear, we are actually nothing less than unwilling to hear that which might make us uncomfortable.  Then we become just another "three monkeys" community, not magicians willing to examine ourselves and our lives.  That's the real danger, but people won't see that.

Oh, it's "acceptable" to "peacefully protest" environmental causes, as long as we aren't "angry" about it.  It's "acceptable" to protest the treatment of people who are other than us, like "the homeless", as long as we are "the calm voice of reason and peace".  Meanwhile, we ignore the real economic hardships withing the community, although maybe we'll contribute to a nicely worded Kickstarter. 

What a joke.

We have lost our fire in the rush to become "mainstream". We have lost our will to be angry and change things.  We have lost the ability to accept anger as a valid emotion, and allow it to have healthy outlets - and I don't mean silencing it and trying to meditate it away.  We have become a "respectable" minority, always speaking in uplifting, reasonable words, and have lost our fire and heart.

We. Have. Lost. Our. Soul.

I would challenge people in the pagan blogosphere to write one blog post where they were passionately angry about something, where they saw an injustice that was so totally outrageous that they would swear and rage about it.  Gods only know there is plenty in our world to be angry and outraged about.  Find it, and say it.

Tell the tone police to go fuck themselves, and find your voice again.  Save our community from the "calm voice of reason" and forced cheerfulness.  Post a good, solid rant. Be dangerous.

2014-02-07

C is for Comfort Food

Most everyone has their favorite comfort foods, the foods they like to enjoy when they are feeling down, lonely, cold, or stressed.  Part of being pagan to me is being aware of these things, and their place in my life.

Comfort foods are often picked up / set in childhood.  They usually combine familiarity with emotional attachment to the preparation, with a huge helping of yummy on top.  Very often they are cold weather foods, but not always.  Sometimes they are "You're feeling sick? Let me make you some ___" type of folk remedies (chicken soup is a classic for this.)

Comfort foods help fill an emotional niche in our lives - they help us re-connect with happier memories and feelings from our past.  Common American ones I know of are things like mac and cheese, franks and beans, chicken soup, hush puppies, brownies, split pea soup, aroz con leche, etc.

Anyway, here's my recipe for a biiig batch of one of mine:

Split Pea Soup with Ham

8 cups dried split peas
18 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bullion (vegetarian: use vegetable bullion)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 cups sliced carrots (more if you like more carrots)
2 pounds ham, diced (vegetarian: omit this, add more carrots, onions. Don't use TVP or tofu.)

1) Rinse and drain the peas (takes a really big strainer)
2) In at least an 8 quart stock pot (err on the side of bigger), combine rinsed peas, water, and baking soda, and bring to a boil.
3) Skim off the foam into a measuring cup, pouring back the liquid that settles out.  Do this until it doesn't foam, just bubbles.
4) Add bullion, garlic, carrots, and ham.  Return to a boil.
5) Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for an hour, stirring violently no less than every 5 minutes. (Yes, I said violently, keep it swirling to prevent lumps and scorches, you want the peas to fall apart.)
6) Serve and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers.

We prefer to package it in 16 oz portions.  When it cools you can stand a spoon up in it - thin it if that's too thick for you. I don't put celery or celery seed in it - I'm allergic, and so is my mother.  The ham we use is the inexpensive canned hams, and if you are really feeling adventurous, substitute Spam for the ham, but cut it up really small so it blends in well.

This batch should serve 12 or so, if you use 16 oz portions.  The peas we buy in bulk (25 lb bag bulk), so they cost under $1/lb (find the best prices at a restaurant supply, or an east Indian grocer.)  The hams we get for about $5 each (canned), the carrots etc are about $1.  So the whole batch runs about $14, which works out to under $1.20 per serving.   Each serving is roughly 300 calories, 7 grams of fat.

Think about your favorite comfort foods, and maybe make some for the next circle potluck.

2014-01-24

Boundaries, Respect Them.

It seems to be a thing, these days, to claim your boundaries are being stepped on while you are actually stepping on someone else's.  Maybe because people don't understand what boundaries are.

If it's crossing your boundaries to allow another person to live their life, you are the one who is wrong.  Personal boundaries aren't about someone else, they are about you and your self.

Pagans often get into this "we have to be one big, happy, tolerant, anything goes community, with emphasis on commune" type of peer-pressure norm, and anyone who doesn't conform is crapped on, or "not a Real™ Pagan".  Sorry folks, but people are entitled to their own lives, space, lifestyles, and opinions.

So no, you don't get to:
  • Walk into my kitchen and judge the food in my cupboards, especially against some boycott list.
  • Police my weight, or how much you think I eat, or whether you think I'm "healthy".
  • Express displeasure with the car I drive, or criticize whether I walk, bike, transit or drive to work.
  • Push to know what work I do, how much I get paid, or what I do with the money I earn.
  • Lecture me about my fashion sense, or lack of same.
  • Wheedle me to have sex, especially with you, because you've decided all pagans must be "Sex Positive™", which you think means fucking all comers on demand.
 None of that shit is your business, and it crosses my boundaries.

Boundaries, then, are how we enforce our personal sovereignty over our own bodies and lives.  They are an extension of the concept of personal space, and govern what others can to with regard to you.  They don't give you permission to stomp on others.  You can't say that someone refusing to have sex with you "violates" your "boundaries".  Boundaries are ultimately the right to say no.

Now, when I do a "woo" working, I set boundaries to my working space.  Again, so no one interferes with my working.  If I'm with a group, the group is included in the boundary.  This type of boundary keeps things in and out.  Good fences make good neighbors and all of that.

Groups, too, have boundaries between themselves and outsiders.  If your personal boundaries and the boundaries common with the group don't mesh well, and the group "norms" trample on your boundaries regularly, that group is wrong for you.  If everybody's boundaries are regularly trampled, the group is just plain toxic.

Part of proficiency in magic(k)al work is knowing your own boundaries, and being willing to enforce them.  While the later sometimes is easier said than done, it is needed to develop a strong will and sense of self.

Bonus exercise: Take a piece of paper, or a text editor, and write down as many of your boundaries as you can think of.  Be as subtle or broad brush as you like.  Think on how you enforce those boundaries, and who has exceptions to them, if any.

2014-01-10

A is for Ancestors, Before Us They Came

Many pagan traditions pay at least lip service to ancestors.  But very few realize that we inherit more than our dashing good looks and health problems from them.  We also inherit the society that they built, warts and all.

One of my ancestors was FFV - First Families of Virginia.  Let that sink in to your head for a bit.  If you are at all socially conscious, you are aware that Virginia was a "slave" state, which means my ancestors owned other human beings with the full force of law behind them.  Not a thing to be proud of, and not an attitude that I want to "inherit" or perpetuate.

I can't disavow my ancestors, they were who they were, good and bad.  Part of my pagan path includes honesty with myself, about myself.  Not always a pleasant thing.  I have to acknowledge that I am heir to people who created a society that made other people slaves based primarily on the color of their skin.  Sure, I have other ancestors who came to these shores later, but they had their warts too.

I'm not going to embrace all of the attitudes that they held, or even a large part.  I'm not going to go off and be a whacko white supremacist because my ancestors were European and colonial American slaveholders, who probably participated in the subjugation of Native Americans, too.  But I can't run away from the truth, either, and sweep it all under the rug with "Oh, but that was then, we've all changed now", when the attitudes, stereotypes and systematic racism that they built their society on still persist today.  I inherited their privilege, and I would be ignorant to deny it.

Then, therefore, comes the question: If your tradition has an ancestor reverence component, how do you honor them and atone for the horrible things they did?  Because you do, in many ways, inherit the fallout for the screwed up things that they did.  If you are white, you inherit the white privilege and structural racism that they built their, now our, society on.

This comes into play for everyone, in a large or small way.  All of us have ancestors who weren't perfect, maybe who were criminals, slaveholders, liars, fanatical Christians, whatever.  Our ancestors were human, and had all of the foibles and imperfections that we and our friends have.  Yes, they also have their good points too.

For me, I honor them as who they were, and also consider it my duty to "do better", to be a better person, to help undo any wrongs they have wrought.  Even though I have, and will have, no children, I consider any small increment of improvement that I can contribute to society and the world my gift to the future, to those who would consider me an ancestor in spirit.

I can't undo the harm that my ancestors have done.  The past is fixed. But the future, and the wyrd of the world is still mutable, and I have the will and the magic to change it,even if only slightly.  Accepting this, and being the best I can be, is one way in which I honor my ancestors.  How about you?

2013-07-14

The True "White Man's Burden"

The white man's burden is his (her) privilege, racism, and unwillingness to stop others from acting on these things.  Whites, including me, have the burden of a great weight of history to shed, the habits of generations to unlearn.

Minorities, especially POC, can't "undo white privilege" by themselves, and they shouldn't have to. They didn't make it, they don't benefit from it, and they don't own it.

We do. So fixing it is our responsibility.

We have to bear this burden to:
  • undo our own racism, 
  • unmake our automatic, assumed privilege,
  • unwind those old tapes and habits from our youth and culture,
  • treat minorities (those who do not have our particular privilege) fairly and equally,
  • correct our peers who haven't unlearned bigoted asshole behavior,
  • establish a culture of respect for others, even if they aren't our "tribe", demographic, or don't share our privilege,
  • call out bigotry, racism, sexism, etc.,
  • make the world a better place for everyone by practicing inclusion without appropriation,
  • understand that minorities may not want to be around us and our unconscious assumption of privilege and superiority,
  • not derail, diminish, tone police, or otherwise try to negate a minority discussing their own experiences,
  • not assume stereotypical behavior out of minorities we see on the street, and not treat people like two dimensional stereotypes,
  • practice empathy, even if their experience is different than our own, listen and try to understand,
  • stop killing or imprisoning those who are not privileged for the 'crime' of lacking privilege, or the 'crime' of existing.
I'm sure there are more, and some of these may be rooted in privilege.  The white man's burden now is to lay down the old, historical "burden", to see and set aside that privilege.

I don't expect it to be easy. Our ancestors set it up to maintain itself.

But if we honor our gods and our humanity, then we must stop negating the humanity of others,

The memory of people like Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin demands that we do so.

2013-06-08

NSA, Web Companies and the NY Times

I'll put it bluntly: The whole flap about the NSA tapping all the data on the web does not pass the bullshit meter. It's not fucking possible.

Why do I say this? I've worked for companies that handle large, and I mean large, amounts of user data, metadata, click-throughs, etc. It's not an easy thing to capture, route or store all those lines of logging. Most companies do it by sampling - they don't log every click, they can't write it out fast enough! 

One set of systems I worked on would fill up each machine's log, that was set on a 3% sampling rate, in less than 12 hours. The box only kept 10 logs back. Maximum of 5 days. There were hundreds of just this one type of machine. During slow periods, a process would come along and collect these - because they recorded ads shown and ads clicked - but only 3%. This process was slow, and the place to write them usually ran out of storage, until they were processed (reduced to abstraction and summaries) by a big Hadoop cluster. This took hours.

This was just ad data - not browser meta data - that was sampled at only 3%, and it still required a lot of processing. The companies do it because that's how they get paid by advertisers. Once the data is processed, it's discarded, to make room for more.

The NYT and Guardian act like the NSA just comes in, hooks up a cable to a server, and starts sucking data for free. It doesn't work that way. Phone logs are different, it is the to and from of phone numbers, and simple cellular routing. It's designed for each *phone* to record it, and then for the home office to grab it as needed for billing.

Web providers can't do that - each page view is like a minute of a phone call, but all different. Sure, they can capture the incoming IP, referer, and what page got rendered. But the large companies can't store that as raw data for long. There's too much. Add in mail and chat, and it's an avalanche.

That's actually why they spend a lot of processing and compute power on personalization - because they want to tailor things to you. But they can't keep the specifics for long, they have to distill it down into a bunch of numbers and keywords.

As far as the big web companies just *giving* this raw big data to the government? No, for a lot of reasons:
  1. It is proprietary - it is what differentiates them from their competition.
  2. It's expensive to store, process and transport the mass of raw data that supposedly the NSA is getting.  Expensive enough to be a significant line item on a company's balance sheet. Waaaaay more expensive for even one company than $20 million a year.
  3. You can't gather and shuffle this much stuff around without the rank and file knowing. Even "backdoors" are obvious to any sysadmin or programmer who has to deal with the code. 
  4. There are tens of thousands of servers all over the world at companies like Google and Facebook.  You can't just connect up to them and start pulling all the user metadata without screwing up the software or the network. Too much load, too much bandwidth used.
Grabbing a specific FISA request is a little easier - it is small enough to sift out of the river of data flowing by without stopping up the process and impacting the property/sites. Companies scrutinize these requests, and interpret them fairly narrowly - if their customers didn't trust them to not indiscriminately hand out even metadata, they wouldn't stay. Customer trust is a big thing in the web business - ask Facebook, as they lose customers over how much they share without consent to advertisers.

These theoretical backdoors are a security risk for any web site. They have multiple layers of security, so it probably wouldn't work anyway. Just a small security hole on one application isn't enough to give the NSA any access to logs, which is where the user identifiable metadata lives. You would have to have a separate access to each server, and believe me, I'd know if people had log sucking processes feeding to outside the network where I've worked.

Even tapping the user input stream and duplicating it for internal load testing is a non-trivial problem, and that's only turned on for a few machines, not thousands.

Yes, in theory, it could be done, if the NSA had a dedicated, high capacity storage server bank and a high bandwidth, dedicated network pipe to each and every data center of every company. Such a thing would cost billions, yes, with a "B", and would not be even close to a secret.

Now, some people might say "what about man in the middle"? Well, this might be possible for unencrypted connections, but it would have to be done at the ISP level, or at the edge of each web company's network, and still would be too expensive and too obvious.

Again, there are companies that independently analyze web traffic, and they need an extra application layer to do so, and even then they still have the big data and sampling problems. They also aren't cheap.

So no, the whole "The NSA is spying on the web!!!111!!!!!" thing just doesn't pass my bullshit detector.

I work with these huge server farms. Even with high speed networks and huge filers, it is time consuming, IO intensive and expensive to shuffle that kind of log data around. Yes, some companies do it, with a percentage of their logs, and spend a big wad of cash to do it, and then discard the raw data so they can process more. They don't store and forward it all to the government - the bandwidth, personnel, and storage space just isn't there to do that for free, and the NSA's budget isn't big enough to get even the big companies set up.

FISA requests about specific stuff? Yeah, that's easier to pull out - but only concurrently, not weeks ago. It still would cost overhead and bandwidth, and if not done carefully could cause service outages. So companies only deliver the minimum required, to minimize the impact to their business. Plus, they really, really hate the gag order that comes with FISA requests, so they are not inclined to give them any more than the absolute minimum.

The NYT and Guardian claims are outrageous, and don't pass the practicality test.  Sorry to piss on your outrage. The secret FISA courts and Patriot Act crap are bad enough, and you shouldn't let the fantastic dilute your anger at the real stuff that goes on all the time. Pay attention to the real issues - secret courts and fishing expeditions - and ignore the sensationalists who are trying to make fools of you.

2013-06-02

White Person's Guide to Dealing With PoC.

What?

Hopefully I don't stick my foot in it, but I have seen enough asininity on the net to choke a horse. I also don't believe it is the PoC's (Person of Color's) responsibility to teach white folks how not to be bigoted assholes.  This is my attempt to teach politeness to the rude.

So here goes...
  • Do not quote your "black/hispanic/asian friend" as the source of all truth about that group, especially to that group. Not all PoC are alike, really. Individuality is the rule, not the exception. Stereotypes are mental straightjackets. 
  • Don't expect your PoC friend/acquaintance/net.person to be the spokesperson for all PoC. Just like you don't speak for all whites, they don't speak for all PoC. They'll usually tell you how common an experience is among their friends and family, if you ask politely.
  • Do not expect to be praised for talking to a PoC. Really. You don't get brownie points for having "a black/hispanic/asian friend". You don't get brownie points for simply being a considerate, polite human being. You might, however, get the benefit of having a broader outlook.
  • If a PoC, live or on the net, says something about what they've experienced being a PoC in this society, listen. Don't contradict them, don't minimize it, don't negate it. It's not your place to tell them where they've been or what has happened to them. Repeat it, retweet it, try to understand how they feel about it, but don't even imply that it is somehow insignificant or didn't happen. Institutionalized racism is real, and even if you don't notice it, it still bites PoC.
  • If you inadvertently stick your foot in your mouth, either just the toes or up to the hip, apologize, without "but", without victim blaming, and keep a lid on your privilege next time. Don't expect them to educate you on why you were wrong, offensive or just insensitive - it's not their job to make you not be a bigot. Don't expect them to forgive you, either. They aren't obligated to soothe your guilt.
  • PoC have standards about who they will accept as friends too. You may not measure up. Deal with it. They may not feel a need to have a token white friend who can regale them with a high level of cluelessness.
  • Don't make comments about their appearance that touch on stereotypes. "You look great today" is fine, "Your hair is really pretty, can I touch it?" is most decidedly not. Would you like it if someone  commented that "Hey, your neck is less red today!"
  • Realize that PoC may not have had the same opportunities as you did. Realize that predominantly minority schools are often underfunded. Realize that a PoC has to deal with shit every day that you can't even imagine having to put up with. Realize that even if you have been poor, you haven't been poor and a PoC.
  • PoC often come from a different subculture. Expecting them to relate to white, suburban, middle class jokes when they are black, urban, and working class will probably be a big flop - just like you don't get all the jokes from your white, rural, farming country relatives.
  • Claims of "it's a free country" and such ring pretty hollow to PoC - the police usually treat them like outsiders, criminals who just haven't been caught yet. Support them when they say there are problems between the authorities and their communities.
  • Yes, it's true, a black person can use the "N" word, and you can't. Deal with it. If you'd had "Cracker" thrown at you in the way they have had the "N" word used, you'd want to find a way to lessen the sting too. That goes for other slurs too.
  • If a PoC indicates that you have been an ass, don't justify, or demand that they explain how and why. Be glad they even told you, and didn't just cut you off like you didn't exist. Just apologize. Think about the incident, what you said, and how it might have sounded to them. Nine times out of ten, with a little bit of thought and empathy you will get it. Ask a friend if you still can't figure it out.
  • There are areas of intersection of minority status and bigotry. Don't take them for granted. Build on common ground, but respect differences and different impacts. Shit you take for granted often is hard won by PoC.
  • The hardest part: If you don't have something really constructive or helpful to say when someone has a problem due to being a PoC in the US, keep your yap shut. Make sure that other people know that they've been wronged, if it's a public discussion, but don't throw your two cents in. It isn't helpful.
  • Don't do the "Yes, but" thing when a PoC tells you about an incident or entrenched bigotry. It doesn't help, and will likely get you mocked, chewed out, or given the cold shoulder. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. It's harder to stick your foot in that way.
  • Don't use the "tone" argument, don't derail, don't dismiss, minimize, or otherwise negate a PoC's experiences. Would you want to be erased, treated like nothing you experienced was true, or even real, and that how you felt was inconsequential or invalid? So don't do it to someone else. Remember, when in doubt, shut up.
  • If a white friend of yours is being racist, call them on it. Don't expect that they will listen well, but they might be more inclined to hear it from you than a stranger. If they don't stop that kind of crap, rethink if you really want to associate with that type of jerk. There is a thing such as guilt by association. Yes, it's harder with family.
I'm sure I'll think of more, but this has been knocking around in the back of my head for a while. BTW, I won't accept "yes, but" criticism from fellow whites on this one. 

Links:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
Derailing For Dummies - yes, this is sarcasm
the tone argument

2012-07-22

Pagans and Fat Shaming

A Wiccan BNP and Blogger named Peter Dybing went there (A Pagan Taboo, Obesity), complete with masking it as "concern" for the health of his fellow pagans, including crocodile tears for those who were *gasp* fat when they died, but then proceeded to say 'Do you know?' and quote some sketchy statistics that have only marginal peer review, starting with the phony "Obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in the United States". First, obesity isn't the cause of death - it's often the side effect of the real killers - heart disease, stroke, hormonal imbalance due to excess medication and contaminated food supplies, etc. Second, it's a fancy way of saying "All you fatties gonna die!!1!!"

I saw red. The comments were even worse, in their own way, as he dug his hole deeper. Sneering at people who were heavy and had to walk with canes - never think ing that the reason they are heavy is *because* they have to use a cane.

The greatest causes of weight gain in our society are stress, sedentary occupations, prepared food loaded with HFCS and medication side effects. Not one of those things involves sloth or not caring about your weight health.

The skinny say "Oh, eat less, exercise, join a gym", not caring that gym memberships are often hundreds of dollars a month, outside the reach of many of the vanishing middle class, and not friendly to the disabled, for the most part. (I'm not going to take some bouncy, able-bodied, never been fat, youth seriously when they talk about aerobic excercise.)

Paganism was one of the few places where fat shaming was taboo. Now this athletic, jocky BNP wants to go there. OK, lets talk about fat, which is what your couching of it in the medical perjorative "obese" means.

I'll even raise your grief points by one:

I had a roommate who died while obese. She didn't die of fat. She died of medical neglect. They kept pushing off all her problems with "exercise, eat less, lose weight, it'll fix your problems." She ate significantly less than I do, but was mobility impaired, severely depressed, had been on a whole raft of medications for misdiagnosed conditions that screwed up her metabolism, had chronic migraines, and had severe food and drug allergies. She died of a heart condition that had been presenting primarily as migraine, just a "drug seeking hypochondriac woman" type thing. She finally got a bit of medical attention when she had a severe heart attack in a different doctor's office. The fat didn't kill her, the doctors that assumed for at least ten or more years that the fat was the root of her problem, and that her not magically losing the weight absolved them of looking any deeper, were what killed her. She was 39.

So, yes, fat shaming, and fat blaming, kills people.

Then there are the self-righteous vegans - you know the ones - that join orgs like PETA and actually care more for food animals than people. They of course jump on the fat shaming bandwagon, even though I have known some pretty fat veggies. I read an interesting article on how many people who get sucked in this cult are severely malnourished, and eventually have to go back to eating meat, including many of the leading veggie book authors. Unfortunately, the western biosystem has to have some meat, fish and eggs type proteins. Even the "Eastern" diets have a small amount from food contaminants like insects. But don't confuse an evangelical vegan with the facts - they believe.

Are there unhealthy pagans? Well, yes, since most pagans abjure money making occupations and thus can't afford the more expensive organic, non-GMO, non-soy, non-HFCS food. I know my food bill went up when I started buying healthier alternatives because the regular stuff was making me sick. Still some of the most expensive food in the grocery store are packaged meals marketed to the weight concious: "lean cuisine, healthy choice", etc.

Now you know part of why I call it a racket: The ones who sell you the food are in league with the people who make money off of the diet and exercise business. It's like a drug dealer who owns a rehab clinic.

Now, you might ask, what does all this have to do with paganism?

Well, the implication is that if you can't control your weight, or have *gasp* disordered eating or other psychological issues arising from fatness, you don't "know yourself" and thus can't be a good, proper, together or whole magician. If you can't "control your fatness health", you can't "control your magic". That's bullshit, but the skinnies and able bodied believe it - it helps them assure themselves that they are "Doing It Right™". Would they say the same "self control" BS to a person who had PTSD from rape or war? Do they think that fat shaming and the relentless pushing of diets can't cause PTSD?

You see, knowing yourself and self control are not the same as conformity to the norm, and denial of your past and what has shaped you. Everyone has to pick their battles, even fat folks. The struggle for true self knowldege is lifelong, you don't have all your shit together for once and for all. So you chose - what things that I don't like about my self and life do I want to work on first?

Do I chose the thing that prevents me from conforming to an external standard of beauty and "fitness", or do I work on things that are more important, like fears and emotions, that make living in my own skin uncomfortable without society's help? The fat thing is waaaay far down on my list, because it's an externally driven conformist push, and I chose to resist being pressured to conform like that. I don't want to be just like everyone else. If I did, I'd go be a Baptist again.

So what do you think fat shaming does with me, or many other pagans? Does it make us conform to your wishes? Do you manage to convert us to the cult of the thin, or of the vegan? Not by your false "concerns" and handwringing recitation of dubious statistics. I have to fight against my baser instincts not to grab a fatty, greasy bacon cheeseburger and a bag of candy whenever I have to deal with that type of people, and enjoy it in front of them. (I do fight it, because the fat levels in that food trigger my IBS.)

But that's my quirk. The fact is, fat shaming is not useful, or constructive. citing dire "statistics" from diet industry studies is no more going to make us "see the light" than quoting the Christian Bible at us will make us Christian. So kindly take your diet evangelism, and stick it where the sun doesn't shine, please.

Or, better yet, eat it yourself.

2012-02-27

Oh, Brother!

Here, PantheaCon 2012: Politics and the controversy over women’s rituals Gus DiZerega mansplains away Z Budapests hate speach, and then further down in the comments refuses to use "cis-" - he uses "trans-women" and "women" because he feels that tras-women aren't "real women", and therefore abnormal:
I very deliberately did not use “cis.” I will continue not using “cis.” There is nothing impolite in saying “trans-woman” and “woman” if there are differences. I explained that in my judgment there are. People have considerable latitude in what they call themselves but, for me, they have a lot less in what they call others. Maybe someday if the term catches on I’ll go with “cis,” but I see no value in the term and so will not use it.
He is full of shit on the "nothing impolite" part - it's very impolite, but I guess it's good to know who is a bigot and who is not.

From a person responding to Gus:
“hvars þú böl kannt
kveðu þat bölvi at
ok gefat þínum fjándum frið”
(“when you come upon misdeeds
speak out about those misdeeds,
and give your enemies no peace.”) Havamal 127


To remain silent in the face of this kind of bigotry and knee-jerk trans-bashing in the pagan community, along with the side of sexist and misogyny that accompanies it, is impossible for me.

The comments to Gus's post are at best fawning, and many are rage-inducing pseudo-feminist claptrap. The same old "trans-women are really men invading wombyn's spaaaace" gets trotted out, along with one twit claiming that "cis-men" isn't used, because cis- and trans- are just used to "oppress" real women, blah, blah. More horse-shit, because cis-{male,man,men} and trans-{maile,man,men} are terms in use.

Seriously, I couldn't read through more than half of the comments, my eyes were too busy rolling back into my head so much.

So, it's proved that several of the BNPs out there are bigots, sexist, and engage in all the stuff the Right Wing Christians do. They either bleat "can't we all just get aloooong" and stand up for nothing, compromising their souls away, or they are banging the drums of sexism and bigotry against anyone they don't consider "normal". So much like high school shit.

I'm glad I'm solitary, these people disgust me.

2012-02-23

PantheaCon 2012 and Bigotry

Note: I swear and am angry in this post. If you can't deal with that, go somewhere else. I don't want your craven tone arguments.

I'll reiterate something here that I've said elsewhere: Riddle me this - Why do statements and stances that we would immediately howl in outrage about and repudiate if they came from the religious right suddenly become “understandable”, “negotiable”, or “trivial” as I have seen more than one leader espouse? Why do we need to be soothing over stances within the community that we would reject out of hand if they came from outside? If you don’t believe me, put some of Z’s remarks over Ann Coulter’s or Rush Limbaugh’s byline and see how you feel about them. (Z being Z Budapest.)

Those in the Asatru community have dealt with this sort of thing for years - when somewhat folkish ("european ancestry") becomes raving white supremacist or racist. Guess who doesn't try to put on rituals "for whites only" at public pagan gatherings? It doesn't get far, no matter how polite of a shine they try to put on it.

People to take a real good look at all of the crap that we “tolerate” in our community that we’d never put up with from outside – not just the TG issue. We turn a blind eye to sexual abuse in the name of some "all acts of love and pleasure are her rituals" blitherings and excuses. Yet the same people will think nothing of condemning catholic priests for the same shit.

It used to be a real big problem with cultural appropriation all over the place - most of that has died down, now that people are aware of what that means to the originating culture.

But the language of appeasement flourishes, both within the community and without:
  • "Oh, you should listen to what Lady FluffyBunny has to say, she puiblished a booook, it's just as valid or more so, as what you've worked years to understand and/or discover."
  • "Oh, you need to take into account that they have a bad background, hard life, rough childhood, blah, blah, and forgive them for crapping in your face, they didn't really mean it."
  • "Oh, it's just they really believe it's murder, they don't really mean to control your life and body to stop what they believe is wrong, you have to understand where they're coming from, it isn't about you and the fact that being pregnant can kill you."
  • "Oh, they're just concerned for your soul, they aren't trying to force you into anything, they have a right to preach at you everwhere you go."
All of this is bullshit.

Let's get into brass tacks: I don't have to stand by, meekly mouthing platitudes about understanding and conciliation when another person or group is trying to fuck with my life, or fuck over my friends. I don't have to meekly submit to some mealy mouthed pagan tone argument when people are taking a dump on my people, and/or acting like bullies. The "just ignore them" and "try to understaaaaand them" crap doesn't work with bullies.

One person prattled on about how the "genetic women only" thing was "we just get to define who our peers are". When I heard this, at the Pagans in Media panel, my gut reaction was "Well, bitch, you're not one of mine. I don't consider bigots to be peers." The next was "Sounds like 'whites only' lunch counters based on 'freedom of association'". It's a good thing that I have regained the governor on my mouth, as it was not my panel so it wasn't mine to get into that fight. That panel, BTW, softpedaled around the whole thing in a very craven manner. The only person who had really solid stuff to say was Margot Adler.

I admit, I spent the majority of the con in the vendor room, working. I consider the appeasers and bullies to be yet more reason why I don't seek to be anything other than solitary any more: I have no patience for the level of idiotic and fluffified drama that the community can throw.

We are supposed to be enlightened - but this whole shit, and this year and last year's response is anything but. Shame on PCon for even accepting the panel. It's like they were fishing for controversy and drama so they could get more publicity.

There are some things that doesn't belong at gatherings and conferences: Skyclad rituals with strangers in public areas (nudist retreats don't count), and rituals whose big thing is exclusion of a minority are a couple of them. Rituals involving full on sex is another.

I wonder how Z and the con organizers would feel if an African Diasporic tradition had a "non-whites only" ritual to celebrate their lives as a persecuted minority, blah, blah, free of the prevailing white culture. It's perfectly reasonable under the ideal of "it's ok to exclude people if you're polite about it", right?

One disgusting piece of claptrap on the "transwomen aren't women" side is this tripe:
Coyle's shallow reaction to Z's movement created only hatred and division. It was not helpful to those who should be developing their own spiritual tradition as Z did with women. It was a bully tactic to shame women and demand they sacrifice their own interests to the interest of the "more oppressed". It is a Mother Teresa theology rejected long ago by feminists. It was an ever so politically correct defense of the patriarchal (male) right to determine what women can and cannot do in their own interests. This is what your highly regarded "response" was all about in reality.
What a crock of pure, steaming horseshit. This clown ignores one very real fact: transwomen are not men, are not agents of "the patriarchy", nor are they obliged to develop "their own spiritual tradition" and leave the pure, holy, uterus worshipping ciswomen in their little walled garden. This is not feminism, this is just pseudo-feminists mimicking the patriarchy exclusions on a more vulnerable group. Transwomen are women - not men with boobs, not wannabe-women with penises. (The person whose blog this steaming comment was left in just replied with stuff like "I appreciate your expression of your view." Hello, Neville Chamberlain.

Most of these idiots don't even consider what a trans-woman goes through and risks, at the hands of the "patriarchy" that they get lumped in with by these Dianic wannabes:
  • Humiliation if they can't pass
  • Death if the guy they meet finds out that they "aren't 'really' a woman"
  • Giving up male privilege, and all that our society bundles with it.
  • A second puberty with all of the angst that goes with it
  • Workplace discrimination and bullying
  • Rejection by the major religions for going against "God's will"
  • ... and the list goes on
Now these Dianics want to add "Rejection by feminists and other women" into the mix too. Disgusting. What's next? Separate lunch counters, maybe a yellow triangle so the Dianics and guys on the prowl can know who's "really" born a genetic woman?

Let's face it, all the noise about "civil discourse" with people who are blatant bigots makes me want to throw things.

You don't appease bullies just because they hide behind your religion, or feminism, and use the language of those standing up to oppression to excuse their own oppressing and bigotry.

You call them on their bullshit, in no uncertain terms.

As another person said, in their private blog about another subject: "This culture of allowing both sides to be heard because I'm not fair otherwise? Is fucking bullshit. Some sides of the story ARE WRONG AND SHOULD SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP, GROWN FOLK IS TALKING. "

2011-09-11

Supply Side Wreckonomics

When the suppliers are the favored party in the economic transaction, even to the point of benefiting from individual taxpayer largess (by not having to pay their fair share of the cost for the infrastructure within which they do business), they end up controlling the economic playing field. When they do, the power in the system flow to the heirarchial heads of those fictitious persons called corporations. Sole proprietorships are unable to compete in such a scenario, because the barriers to entry are actually *raised* by the existing corporations - minimum orders, availability and prohibitive cost of insurance, and other market pressures.

Soon this ends up with a few giant, vertically integrated conglomerates deciding what and how much to produce where, and how much they will sell it for. The fact that these corporations now also decide the prevailing wages for everyone (hint: as low as possible) they will soon produce things that can only be afforded by a few, unless bought on credit from the central company bank. The amount of choice and customization will go down (you can have any color of computer you like, as long as it's white) and this will be touted by the corporate propaganda mills as a fashion statement.

Sounds like communism with a veneer of market doublespeak to me. Manufacturing already takes place in low wage gulags, and if the wages rise it gets moved to somewhere that the wages are lower and the conditions are harsher. Supply side cheerleaders within our government want to do away with the minimum wage and make child labor legal again (to "stop discrimination against the young", but they want to pay them lower "trainee" wages.) Sounds like 1920s sweatshops bullshit to me. The pee party want to bring it all back in the name of libertarianism.

So we are in the middle of stupid tax-cutting on the rich, government job cutting on the middle class, and creating lots and lots more poor with cutting off unemployment benefits, reducing food aid, and cutting medical assistance. The last, I guess, they hope will solve the problem of the poor once and for all - they'll just die and not mess up their spreadsheet world any more.

They want a total buyer's market on labor, a seller's market on goods, and the profits all flowing to the vaunted, elite few who "worked hard for it" - read that as being born rich into the right family with the right schools and the right connections. The "self made man" is a myth

What's worse, is they want all this on the backs of the taxpayers of America - the people who built the schools that trained their idea people, the people who paid for the roads that they haul their supplies and finished goods along, the people who paid for the water system, the power grid, the police, the fire department that keeps their buildings safe, etc. They don't want to pay their share, as stockholders sucking profits out of the system, or as corporations that use the roads, the water, the air, the land, and the educated workforce without paying it forward.

You know what they call such things? Parasites.

I heard Michelle "Batshit" Bachmann bleating the other day about "Job Creators, blah, blah". Problem is, after a decade of tax cuts and more tax cuts, they have only *shed* jobs, not created them. Every time we cut taxes, employment seems to drop more. Jobs creators my ass - they are sending it all into the corporate officers' and major shareholders' pockets. The ratio of CEO to bottom employee pay has gone up, not down. That's what tax cuts give you: greed for MORE.

Tinkle down economics is a failed theory. We have 30 years of proof that human nature is for the rich to always want to be richer, and thus keep more and more of the money, not spend it on creating jobs or making purchases. When they say "A rising tide lifts all boats", you have to realize that you don't make the tide rise by giving the rich guy a bigger boat with more water storage. You have to taken the stored water off of the rich guys barge and put it back in the sea.

So, 'supply side economics' seems like 'centrally planned production', with the suppliers (corporate oligarchs) deciding what to make, where make it, how little to pay the workers, where to sell it, and who to sell it to. The consumers just become a passive proletariat, manipulated by advertising pitches targeted on their income+borrowing ability and psychological weaknesses, kept in hock and enslaved to the corporation by debts that not even death allows him to shed. Should the consumer fall from grace, and lose his job because someone else will do it cheaper, he will still be marketed, but also stigmatized, called "not ambitious enough", "lazy", druggie", "stupid", "too picky" until he takes his life and his children inherit his debts.

These are the glories of "pure" capitalism according to the GOP.

Fuck that shit.

2011-07-30

Google+ Update

I went ahead and got a Google+ account - under my pseudonym! I won't use my legal name there, period.

I have used this pseudonym for 30 years, and there are people IRL who do not know my real "legal" name. If Google+ wants to ban me, fine. I've been around since before they were, and I'll be around when they are gone.

I have more links on pseudonyms for your perusal, of course:
A Case for Pseudonyms
Preliminary results of my survey of suspended Google+ accounts
Posted at the request of someone even more tired than I am... :-)
Real-name social networking
Name Dropping

2011-07-09

Google+ gets a minus

They have fallen into the "Real Name" trap. So I won't be there (under my wallet name). I won't go and "be social" where my social identity (my nom de net, or pseudonym) is unwanted.

It's bad enough that I have a FarceBook account under my real name. I post nothing of importance there, I don't talk about work, home, or even any deep politics there. I don't post pictures, and although I link to various progressive political stuff, I don't tend to comment much.

Geek Feminism Blog has an excellent post entitled Anti-pseudonym bingo, complete with a graphical bingo card, that covers many of the arguments against pseudonymity that I have heard online and IRL since UseNet.

My LiveJournal has various rants that I've done over the years about SF&F cons demanding my Real Name™ and city of residence for display on my badge, plus other stuff on pseudonyms (tag: pseudonym). Stalker enabling, that's all it is. It's not just on the net.

The Real Name™ thing is all bound up in privilege - especially those who trot out the "what do you have to hide" trope, or "I want to know who I'm really talking to" baloney - they want to be able to discount you if you have a funny name, or a female name, or might be a POC, or whatever. Or they want to be able to "look you up" (read: "hunt you down and intimidate you") if they disagree with what you have to say. Thank, but no thanks, you can stuff your privilege where the sun doesn't shine.

So, Google+ is actually Google-, until they fix the pseudonym problem. We don't need another FarceBook for stalker convenience.

Other Links:
Living in the Metaverse: Pseudonymity (part one)
Living in the Metaverse: Pseudonymity (part two)
Female-Name Chat Users Get 25 Times More Malicious Messages
Forward: On refusing to tell you my name
An object lesson in pseudonymity and internet privacy

2011-04-06

Dear Stupid Republican Teabaggers

When will you get the point that Social Security and Medicare are not "entitlements"?? "Entitlements" implies that somehow they weren't paid for, that people just feel "entitled" to them, something for nothing.

You assholes. I've worked since I was 18, paying taxes into Medicare and the Social Security Trust Fund. The government, with the strength of it's buying and investing power, is supposed to invest and keep those monies for when I retire. Just because every time the GOP get their hands on the purse strings it wants to raid that piggy bank to buy another bunch of bombers and tanks doesn't mean I haven't paid in my share.

Now you chiseling asswipes want to wipe out all of that. You want me to have to go to the fucking market with a puny voucher after I'm 70 (you already have fucked over my retirement at 65) to "buy" health insurance. You fuckheads - I'm uninsurable in the private market at 49, what makes you think I could hope to buy insurance at 70? What sort of fantasy land do you live in? Medicare isn't insurance - it doesn't have to make a profit or deal with actuarial tables. The private market does. Most people over 60 can't buy private insurance for the combined amount of your penny-ante "voucher" plus their meager Social Security stipend (that they earned and paid for, damnit!)

Over-Privatization


What the hell is with this selling of America to the highest bidder? Have you no goddamn shame? Private industry is seldom the most efficient provider of social services - there is not enough profit in it without screwing the recipients over. Fire departments are a classic example, but you want to turn that over. The only way to do it is have the government pay, or require the taxpayer to pay, a monopoly provider. Yet you've seen what cable monopolies do in the various markets - drive up prices. You think the government privatization would be different? Oh, yeah, they'd cut costs all right - by cutting service, outsourcing our jobs overseas, and then coming back for more money.

You bastards would sell your own mothers, wives and children to a private company as debts slaves if it meant that they'd give you a campaign contribution. You are idiots, willing to barter away to corporate greed everything that this country has worked for over the last 100 years.

2010-08-14

All FITB do X - NOT!

So, I've been following the snark that occurred when a wannabe anthropologist at Slate wrote How Black People Use Twitter - The latest research on race and microblogging. It, and the jingoistic graphic that went with it, spawned the cute and snarky hashtag #browntwitterbird. @InnyVinny posted a fantastic mixup of graphics and pointed snark, and requests for variations started pouring in. Then other bit-whackers started contributing art.

What almost, but fortunately not completely, gets lost in the flush of adorable icons is this craptastic tendency of so-called journalists to make sweeping generalizations about ethnic and social groups. Saying things akin to "Black people link to each other and talk dirty late at (US) night" is like saying "White people go to John Birch meetings on Fridays and church on Sunday". In both cases, not the case. Sure, you didn't say "all", but it's implied that you're talking about the majority in your generalization. Unless you have the statistics, preferably a supermajority to back it up, don't go there.

The "researcher" in the Slate piece looked at a subgroup of young, urban, American, mostly black youth who were interlinked. They mostly used phone text apps to twitter from. Well, folks, I can explain the night thing right there - nights are cheaper on most phone plans - as in "unlimited night and weekends". That plus working during the day, and it's not a mystery, or even a social phenomenon. Younger people tend to be "connected" electronically in the US - there are plenty of articles out there bemoaning the fact that "too many" kids have expensive cell phones. He generalized this subgroup to be "Black People" - as in "most black people", by inference. Ummm, no.

Then this person comes up with the term "blacktags". I cringed. Tell me, are there corresponding whitetags, yellowtags and redtags? How about "turbantags"? Shall we get really jingoistic here? I guess I should be glad he didn't call them "n*****tags" - but that would take Dr. Laura, I suppose.

He points out that these late night tags chatty tags tend to trend. Well duh. Most of the chatty cathys of the daytime are gone for the night, asleep like responsible adults. The tweets are from an interconnected group that does a lot of retweeting and repeating their own tweets - like most youth, vying for attention among their peers, having fun. So they trend. BFD. I've been awake late nights, and followed some of what might have been subjects of his "research". Some of them I had to muffle my laughter in a pillow to avoid waking up my roomies, they were so funny, especially in context.

He quotes a few black guys as some sort of representatives, and they all basically blow holes in his thesis. I guess this is his throwing a sop to the other side of the conversation. But he never really goes back and corrects his original hypothesis.

If he'd said "Young Blacks", I might have had slightly less problem - because that was actually the demographic he was looking at. Still, the article had no point to be written - other than sensationalism, and pseudoanthropologic voyeurism.

See, social clusters happen in social media. Cliques are as old as society itself. They are just bigger online. Political wonks have theirs, SF&F fans have theirs, soap fans have theirs, sports addicts have theirs, etc. But jackasses don't post "How White People Use Twitter" and then claim that all of them follow hashtags like #lost, #idol, and #baseball. They restrict that stupidity to talking about black people. Not even asians or hispanics get the treatment.

Then there's one final thing: The only way you know, on the net, what race, culture/subculture, country, gender, gender identification, political affiliation, sexual preference, etc that a person has is if they tell you, or otherwise let slip. Even icons that are pictures can lie - what if they use their favorite celebrity? On Twitter, if you don't put a lot of detail in your bio, or give a separate website (like this one), no one knows that you're really a housecat named Speckles. Really.

Edit: An new hashtag in the mix #NotAllBlackPeople - a fun read, again kicking over and poking fun at stereotypes. Take that, Dr Laura "BigotBrain"!

The upshot? Watch your generalizations, they can bite you in the ass!

2010-07-09

Hey Conservative Penny Pinchers!

You are soooooo worried about the national debt that you have to deny the unemployed the very lifeline they need to keep their homes and food on the table, why don't you put your bankster bailout bonus money, stock market windfalls and oil company payoffs where your concern is: Make a voluntary contribution to reduce the public debt!!

After all, your favorite presidents have increased it on their watch, especially Bush II - with two intractable quagmire wars, one started purely for the sake of his ego. Clinton reduced the deficit, but Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II increased it, so you are to blame for it, you get to reduce it.

You claim to be the party of "personal responsibility"? Fine, take responsibility for what your votes and your political party has wrought: help pay it down. I didn't vote for Reagan, or either Bush, why should I have to suffer because of their ballooning of the deficit?

If you don't do this, don't come whining to me that I have to endure your fucking "tough love" and "take responsibility" for my "economic choices" (yeah, like I chose not to be born rich, and not to get lucky and marry a millionaire.) You take responsibility for your votes for warmongers and spendthrifts who believe in voodoo economics and disastrous deregulation.

IOTW, PUT UP OR SHUT UP!

2010-05-26

The Banksters OF AIG

Warren, Head of TARP Oversight Panel, Criticizes Bailout of ‘Frankenstein’ AIG This is tame. (Warren's full prepared remarks) The truth is ugly, and AIG is just the most obvious and egregious case. They are all arrogant, obtuse, and ungovernable.

The whole outrage about the bailouts garbage is that it said to all Americans These Banks Are Exempt From The Rules Of The Free Market Governing Failure, You Have To Take The Losses Instead!. They got a "Get Out Of Bankruptcy Free" card, on our goddamn dime!!

The Teabaggers talk about "Socialism"?? Well, bank bailouts are nothing more than socializing losses. The profits, and bonuses, are still private, as their shopping habits attest - The Bonus Bounce and Hamptons again warmed by Wall Street's glow.

We, the taxpayers, paid for most of that, by bailing out megabanks and propping up the rigged shell game that is the stock market these days. Where's my cut, bankster?

The big banks must be allowed to fail and go though ordinary bankruptcy. The high flying brokers need to spend a few months eating rice, beans and ramen. Exempting these creeps from the rules that apply to us little folks (paying your debts, losing it all when your business goes bankrupt, etc) is bad for business, bad for the country, and a horrible precedent to set.

The people who engineering this garbage need to do jail time for fraud - they defrauded their customers and the US taxpayers. Let them wear prison stripes and "trade" bars of soap.

2010-05-25

Private Property Versus Public Discrimination

The Controversy

I watched the Rachel Maddow segment where Rand Paul stuck his foot in his mouth, up to his hip, about the Civil Rights Act (1964). He expressed "reservations" about one of the Titles of the Act - it turns out to be Title II - that prohibits discrimination by private businesses that were public accommodations. He also seems to have a problem with Title VII, that prohibits discrimination in private company hiring.

The Libertarian Argument

He argues that prohibiting discrimination by private businesses is, essentially, a government taking of property from the private sphere into the public sphere, negating the owner's property rights completely. Plus, he sees it as trampling on their free speech and free association rights as well, all by evil government fiat. It's a classic libertarian, Randian worldview - all rights are absolute, or they are worthless.

So back to Title II. In the Randian world, private property and private rights are god above all else. Any infringement on this is a state overreach, and evil. In Randian Libertarianism, all property is private, and this is a Good Thing™. Hence, the labeling of any business that serves the public a "public accommodation" (a commonly used label, by the way) that can not discriminate by law is a horrendous government theft of business and freedom.

I can almost see his logic - but only almost. You see, his logic only works if you see the world in a binary view - either/or - all rights are absolute or nonexistent.

But in the real world, everything is comprised of competing rights. Your right to swing your fist stops where my nose begins. Your right to walk wherever you want stops at my property line. Even the Ayn Rand libertarians have to acknowledge this, but will throw a lot of double talk about personal responsibility and government overreach at you to quickly change the subject.

The Reality Argument

In the real United States of America, there are competing rights to everything, and specific private rights, particularly property rights, or even a person's freedom itself, can be abridged if there is a "compelling public interest" - in other words, if the good of the many outweighs the rights of the few - and there is due process in the taking or abridgment.

It is used all the time in criminal cases - people who are convicted of a crime are locked up (denied their freedom) for a compelling public interest (punishment and prevention of further crime.) It is used when they need to build a new freeway - eminent domain is often used by municipalities to put in new roads. (Now, eminent domain is often abused for corporate gain, but that's another rant.)

Research more about "compelling interest test" for determining the constitutionality of a statute that restricts the practice of a fundamental right, and the the Fifth Amendment and takings for the long standing back and forth over just property takings. Google is your friend.

In Title II these were used, with full deliberation and vote of Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964. It has been challenged in court. The right of people not to be discriminated against in public accommodations outweighed the private property rights to discriminate of the owners of such accommodations.

Why are they "public accommodations"? They are designated public accommodations because they are designed, as part of their business model, to attract and provide goods and/or service to members of the public - food, lodging, entertainment, supplies, equipment, etc. They don't require the proprietor to know you by name before you do business with them. You don't have to give your name to buy lunch at a lunch counter or go see a movie - you are just a member of "the public", hence it's public accommodation.

Was there another way? Not that I can think of.

What about private clubs, private houses? One thing to note is that Title II does not require landlords/hoteliers to rent rooms to people if they live in the small dwelling - you can discriminate against people if you actually live in the house you are letting out motel rooms in like a bed and breakfast. It also specifically excludes private clubs, which is why the Boy Scouts can discriminate against Atheists.

A Civilized Society Is Not Binary

That's how it works in the real world, people. A civilized society does not see rights as all or nothing - often one set of rights competes with another. How we balance the various competing interests to provide the maximum liberty and justice for all is where we make this country great.

2010-04-28

Banksters

There is, supposedly, one area where the left and the Tea Party agree: The Government should not have bailed out the banks with taxpayer money.

Why, then, is the Tea Party avoiding the bank protests? Why is their lap dog media not covering it?

Could it be that they are really just astroturf saps in the employ of the corporatocracy? You know, working for the very jerks who run those same banks that are sucking our money from us in fees, usurious interest rates and taxpayer funded bailouts? Could they be that stupid?

Yes, Tea Party, lets reclaim our country - from the banksters who have driven us all to the brink of ruin, and in many cases beyond. Where are your armed protests of the subprime mortgage and CDO frauds?

2010-04-18

Sedition and Tea Party America

Lets Talk About Sedition

Main Entry: se·di·tion
Pronunciation: \si-ˈdi-shən\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English sedicioun, from Anglo-French sediciun, from Latin sedition-, seditio, literally, separation, from sed-, se- apart + ition-, itio act of going, from ire to go — more at secede, issue
Date: 14th century
: incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved April 18, 2010
See also the Wikipedia Entry on Sedition
Sedition differs from treason in one critical way - treason involves a betrayal of the country or government to a foreign power, whereas sedition is insurrection against the lawfully constituted government of your own country. A spy or a foreign sponsored terrorist commits treason, a domestic terrorist advocating overthrow of the government commits sedition.

Now, I will be honest, the original founding fathers of our country committed, knowingly, sedition and treason (by forming their own government, it became treason) against the British Crown. Pledging their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" was quite literal - the acts they committed had the death sentence attached if they failed, and included the "civil asset forfeiture" (nice of the republicans to bring that back, huh) of everything they and their families owned.

Now, these "Tea Party" people are bleating about "taxation without representation". I call bullshit. They have the right to vote - unless they've been convicted of a felony. With the amount of guns they cart around, they better not be felons.

People who can vote for their representatives - state and federal elected officials, from school board to President - are NOT "taxed without representation"!! They may not agree with the decisions of those representatives, but that's why we have periodic elections - so that if people are really annoyed, they can vote them out.

So the "Tea Party" is made up, at best, of deluded idiots, or liars. They have representation - they can vote. Their representatives over the years, most of them Republicans, have dug us the hole that we are in now. So what do these idiots do? They talk sedition against the duly elected Democrat government. They lost an election, after their representatives spend us into the poorhouse and deregulate us back into the gilded age of the robber barons, and now they cry that they have "no representation", so they should eliminate liberals. "If Brown can't, a Browning can"?? Honey, that's sedition.

Bush was, and IMO still is, a candidate for arrest and trial as an international war criminal. Furthermore, I believe that he violated the US Constitution by arrogating to himself the power to make war, and lied to Congress about the reason he should be given any ability to deploy troops to Iraq. But that is a far, far cry from advocating the shooting of all conservatives, like the tea partiers advocate shooting liberals. Bush, Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld should be held accountable in court, according to our laws, not the drumhead of a revolution.

To start bleating about "states rights" after the duly elected Congress passes a law, and proposing "militias" to oppose "federal overreaching" - that is bordering on sedition, people. To start suggesting that various members of Congress be murdered for doing their jobs? Sedition.

The proper way to remove a sitting member of Congress from office is by impeachment, recall or replacement in regular election. Same with the President. If (King) George W Bush didn't get his lying ass impeached, Obama sure as hell won't, because he hasn't lied to Congress and the American people.

I really don't care if you don't like Obama. Elections have consequences, and Obama WON, honestly, in spite of Republican dirty tricks like rigged voting machines and biased voter purges. Dubya? Appointed by the Supreme Court (packed by his father) to his first term, rigged voting machines and voter purges for his second term. A fraud. But we on the left put up with it, for the sake of our country. The least you fake patriots on the right could do is the same, for a properly elected President. Or does patriotism only apply when it's your guy who's in charge?

Tea Party America

The Tea Party itself is an astroturf organization. The money comes from extreme right wing corporate moguls such as the Koch family, and corporate funded right wing front groups like Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity.

Tea Party America is not one that is friendly to the ordinary worker, really. Sure, taxes will go down - for corporations. Government will get smaller - fewer cops, firemen, libraries, etc. Schools will all be private, so will all health care (even the ER), even the roads will all be toll roads. It will be a veritable libertarian paradise, with huge international corporations, not the hamstrung government, writing the rules. You would not like it. It will not help Main Street America.

Sure, you'll have free speech, but there will be no "public square", "public airwaves", or "public internet" to say them in. Saying them on private corporate property will get you arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace, plus sued for whatever their lawyers and their deep pockets can think of.

Oh, and your rented apartment, that you think of as your "home"? It will actually just be more "private corporate property" - not yours to speak freely in. You won't be able to actually buy and keep your own home - the recent perversion of eminent domain and the Citizen's United decision will insure that it can be seized for "redevelopment" as condos (paying you a fraction of what it's really worth) and then rented back to you for twice the price.

You'll technically have a "free press", but you won't be able to buy the equipment and supplies to publish anything, much less manage to distribute it through the completely privatized postal service. Since they will be private, their terms of service will allow them to open and read anything, and not carry it if it is "hostile" to them or any "affiliated company".

Most police work will be subcontracted out to paramilitary organizations and security firms like Blackwater or Brinks. Prisons will be completely privatized, instead of only partially like they are now. Court fees will skyrocket, meaning that even trying to have your day in court against a megacorp will be more expensive. There will, of course, be no citizens accountability groups.

Municipal elections will be a joke. The mail and the airwaves will be flooded with propaganda as the largest corporations pimp their candidates. If you work for a major corporation, you will get election propaganda at work, too.

The only "freedom" you will have is a pick of which corporate backed megachurch you attend. Not going to church will be allowed, but it will hamper your ability to get and keep a job, rent a place to live, or get credit. References, you know.

Failure to follow the laws regarding personal conduct and "responsibility" will get you thrown in jail, of course. The only people who will be able to pick up the pieces and restore any semblance of normality after your mandatory maximum sentence will be the megachurches if they feel you have had as genuine conversion experience. Then they will parade you around as an object lesson for a few years. You will have no assets by then anyway, and neither will any of your relatives by then. This circus of fall and redemption makes for excellent drama, of course.

Still, you will pay "government" taxes - they will soak the lower class for the funds to pay for the wars - probably more than you do now. Corporations don't pay for those things. You just won't see any benefit in municipal services, safety net or anything - it will all go into corporate pockets. So they'll still keep the "base" stirred up, while they have their hands in our pockets and around our throats.

Retirement will be a joke - they will privatize all social security, medicare, and private pensions, and then tie them to the stock market. Then they will let the corporations raid them, until the funds are gone. Even 401ks will be shell games, worthless, or taxed into worthlessness. You will have to work until you die.

Fortunately, because of the deregulation of all aspect of business to get rid of the evil interference of government in the "free market" (free from government, not free from monopoly), all environmental, safety and health regulations will be eliminated from both the workplace and the marketplace, so both your employer and foreign companies will be free to poison you and your family with tainted supplies, food, water and air. You won't have to work too long.

Tea Party America is not a place I want to live. Think of the worst combination of a cyberpunk dystopia, 1984, and something out of A Handmaid's Tale. Think of the worst MicroSoft and RIAA EULA that you've ever heard of, and the worst enforcement they've done on it. That's what the corporate backers of the Tea Party want for America, and have the Dominionist nutjobs like Palin to shill for.

This is what these people want to throw out our elected government in favor of.

2010-03-29

Spend American Money In America

Our government, no matter what you think of it, has a fundamental charter to expend funds for the public interest - if for no more than "providing for the common defense". Yes, these are taxpayer funds, money from you and I. These funds, coming from the American people, should be spent among the American people, for the good of the American people.

Recently, though, I believe the companies that it has allowed to suckle at the government teat have not been truly American companies - they have had headquarters in various offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands or the Dominican Republic. Even the ones that are US headquartered have been outsourcing the actual work paid for by US tax dollars to India and China. I bet China doesn't allow it's government funds to be spent on American labor, they insist that a Chinese national be hired to do the work!

When I propose that taxpayer funds be restricted to US companies, I get this crap about WTO "sanctions", and how they will "punish" us by taxing or restricting our exports. What exports? You mean the ones that are already banned or taxed, without a whisper of protest by the vaunted WTO in Europe and elsewhere? Or the ones that no one buys because of the cheap Chinese crap that has flooded the market?

The US taxpayer has a reasonable expectation that their money will be spent within this country, not shipped to some opportunistic foreign job shop to pocket and provide tainted goods and/or shoddy service.

State governments are especially horrible at this. I keep hearing about outsourced, to India, unemployment call centers. Great way to indicate that you want your people to get back to work - hire people overseas to "help" them with their unemployment.

I don't mind paying my taxes as part of this great nation, provided those monies are well spent. But prosecuting illegal wars (ala George Bush), bailing out banks, stockbrokers and insurance companies (Bush, Obama), spying on the American people (Bush), wasting money on sewcurity theatre (Bush, GOP) or buying shit from foreign companies that should be bought here is a waste of my money.

Call me isolationist if you like, but we have no responsibility to pay the rest of the world, too. They sure won't pay us. I pay taxes to help my fellow citizens, to advance the nation as a whole, not to make a bunch of offshore tax haven corporate fat-cats richer.

On the subject of taxes, I firmly believe that the capital gains tax rates and the income tax rates should be the same! Why should money you get from letting stock site there (letting your bet ride) be taxed at a lower rate than money you went out and earned? Mind you, I sold stock last year and this year, so this is not just an abstract thing for me.

Also, a single person making over $250,000 is rich, not "middle class". $100,000 is middle class (barely middle class in the SF Bay Area.) How do I know? In tax year 2008 I almost cleared $100,000, and that was basically middle class in the SF Bay Area. 2009 will be maybe half that, and 2010 could be worse.

Single people making over $250,000 need to have their tax rate go up a lot. Back to the Reagan era tax rates would be a good start.

Also, while we should do away with the individual AMT below a certain income threshold (indexed for inflation), we must have a corporate AMT.

Yes, the tax increases will hurt. But, as the teabaggers and GOP whiners have pointed out, we have this biiig, baaad, deficit to pay down. The fact that they didn't do a single damn thing about it when Bush spent the money on his damn wars, useless tax cuts, and unfunded Medicare drug giveaway just seem to pass their notice - it's easier to blame Democrats.

If the Democrats are going to be tagged "tax and spend", they might as well get down to the taxing part so they can do some good for the economy with the spend part. The truth of the matter is that the GOP is "borrow and spend" and the Democrats are "tax and repay".

2010-03-22

Christianity, Social Justice and Politics

'Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.' - Matthew 22:21

Most reasonable people pay their taxes, regardless of their religion. It's part and parcel of living in a civilized society. We pay for the socialized benefits of roads, airports, police, fire departments, schools (including our own education as children), courts, military, and even those "socialist" things like social security/disability, medicare, medicaid, environmental protection, national parks, and food safety inspection. Our society has a lot of infrastructure and services, plus regulations, that make this nation both productive, safe and desirable to live in.

This is appropriate, because we all must live in this world, no matter what our religious views of it are. Christians for one are supposed to not consider themselves of this world, but part of Jesus' kingdom. But they still live here, and spend government (Caesar's) cash, drive on government roads, are subject to government laws. Unless you want to withdraw to some entirely off-grid compound in the boonies and try to be a total anti-tax protester, you get the benefit of government infrastructure, therefore you should pay your share.

But the right wing, especially the ones that pander to the theocrats, want to do away with that. They want to do away with all taxes except those that get fed to the military/industrial complex, the prison guards unions, or the police officers unions - and even the police are on the chopping block! They want corporations to pay nothing, small businesses to pay some, the middle class to pay more, and the poor to pay most (but get the least). They truly believe in "trickle up".

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.' Then shall they also answer, saying, 'Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?' Then shall he answer them, saying, 'Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.' - Matthew 25:41-45

Feed the hungry, shelter the stranger, clothe the naked, tend the sick, help the imprisoned: this is social justice. Yes, social justice is more, but Jesus says more, too.

Now the blowhard of the right, Rush Limbaugh*, says to run away from any church that talks of "social justice". Asshole. Jesus was all about social justice. Overturning the moneychangers tables in the temple was pure social justice. In our society, working for social justice is the way people of conscience see to it that what is right is done without cramming their religion down other people's throats.

The way in which Christians in our society go about the great work is by working for social justice, equality for all. The civil rights movement of the 1960s, the women's suffrage movement, the labor movement - they were all backed by the churches that followed Jesus' teachings. (Before you neocon's look down your nose at unions and the labor movement, remember that they brought us workplace safety, sick pay, vacation pay, overtime pay, child labor laws, workman's compensation and the 40 hour work week. You own lives and your parents lives would suck if those had not existed.)

All of these thing share the principles of justice and equality that Jesus demonstrated and preached. He didn't preach "Attack your neighbors", he said love them, feed them, care for them. When the church started to stray from this basic vision back in the 70s is when I lost faith, when I saw that the whole thing was a fly-trap for hypocrites who loved the old-testament laws and Pauline misogyny more than the words of Jesus himself.

And he answered and said unto them, 'Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God said, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is given to God; he shall not honor his father. And ye have made void the word of God because of your tradition.' - Matthew 15:3-6

Many people could not, or did not, take care of their elders, both in biblical times and now. Many were more than poor, but destitute and starving, plus dying from lack of medical care. In the passage above, people would sequester their funds saying they were "a gift to God" - dedicated or tied up in trust and thus unavailable to help their parents. Kind of like spending your kid's college fund on a yacht.

Social Security and Medicare, the things that have significantly reduced the absolute impoverishment and mortality of the elderly in this country since their introduction, are classic examples of social justice, and direct Christian principles being put into a workable secular format. In part, they let people contribute toward their own future retirement. (Yes, I know Congress has mismanaged it - but we've had a mostly conservative Congress for most of the last 20 years!) This is how the principle "Honor thy father and mother" from Jesus' viewpoint can be put into action in a secular, worldly, non-religious manner (in the world, but not of it.)

'And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me: But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.' - Matthew 18:5-6

"For the children" - Perhaps one of the most misused rallying cries in the world today. Still, some very important social justice has been done for the children - TANF, welfare, public education, all of that. How does it relate to the above bible quote? Simple: If children do not have food, shelter, clothing, medical care or legal protection, they are often forced into prostitution, theft, drugs, gang activity, and other activity that by any reasonable definition is a sinful "stumble". Yet so many conservatives are very quick to throw children and youth social programs under the bus (after all, they can't vote) and criminalize (enhance the penalties on) the consequences of their neglect.

Don't go all righteous and "pro-life", and then be anti-welfare, anti pre-natal care, anti public schooling, either. If you want to insist that a woman's uterus is yours to command, then you need to help to care for the child that you have insisted that she bear. Also, if you are anti-contraception, you are just a hypocrite - since a child who isn't conceived can't be risk being aborted or end up "in the system."

And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.' - Luke 17:20-21

The theocratic wing of the Republican party wants to turn the government (Caesar) into an arm of their interpretation of the kingdom of God. They want to rule this country according to "biblical" principals, to pass laws that make their religious views the law of the land. They already do so in the abortion and gay rights area and it has taken generations to undo the damage, and they keep coming back, like cockroaches.

But the theocrats don't want to pay much taxes. They don't want their corporate friends to pay any taxes. They don't want any safety net - they want to have us all enslaved to the corporations, soothed only by the promise of heaven that comes in brief doses on Sunday. They want "God's laws" imposed. They want to stone gays, force birth on pregnant women, stone adulterers, and burn "unrepentant" non-Christians. They don't want their "Godly" government to follow Jesus and tend the sick, feed the hungry, clothe those needing clothing, minister to those in prison (helping them to prepare for release). They want life to be nasty, brutal, and short, lived only for breeding more soldiers for Christ and singing hymns to the BroodJesus and God.

This is wrong. They want all the power, all the authority, all the right to punish and force people to do as they say, but they already don't want to pay for the small things that their own Messiah commanded them to do that our existing government accomplishes better than any individual or even megachurch could!

And behold, one came to him and said, 'Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' And he said unto him, 'Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good: but if thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments.' He saith unto him, 'Which?' And Jesus said, 'Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' - Matthew 19:16-19

The theocrats want an Old Testament government. The laws they want are all derived from the piddling strictures of ancient Israel, and it's tribal quarrels. Sort of like a Christian Sharia. Like the Pharisees of Matthew 15, their so-called traditions and cherry-picked old testament bible quotes are more important to them than actually following the words of Jesus.

Jesus himself mandated just 6 commandments: 'Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' The Republican party has had more adultery scandals in the past 10 years than the Democrats. Their media voice, Fox News, lies regularly, and has even gone to court to prove that it is not illegal to lie about the news! Wall street has both lied to us and stolen from us. The theocrats want to kill by stoning people who don't obey the Old Testament Sharia laws.

'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.' - Matthew 7:15-20

The theocrats and neo-con religious right are no true followers of Jesus. What they are trying to do is not just wrong in the secular world, it goes directly against the teachings of Jesus himself. The threat to our society is not paganism, or humanism, or atheism, but arrogance and presumption of moral authority on the part of the Religious Right where none exists, even within their own religion!

Jesus raised no army. There is nothing is the gospels about soldiers except in reference to Roman soldiers. Even the sword was only used as a metaphor for strife. (Paul may have incorporated military metaphors, but I hold that Paul has no authority, having been an agent provocateur.) So why are these lunatics raising an "Army of God"? Why are there "Soldiers of/for Christ"? Why is "Joel's Army" supposedly "God's Army"? If your God is as powerful as you say, he doesn't need any damn army!!

The theocrats, dominionists, neoconservatives, and charlatans who deride social justice and promote a gospel of anger or secular power are real wolves in sheep's clothing, and sometimes even shepherd's clothing. They want to twist the words of their own messiah, the words of a great teacher and mystic, to their own selfish and egotistical ends. It is they you need to run away from, whose channel you need to change, who you need to report to your church leadership as being un-Christian.

'Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.' - Matthew 7:4-5

Face it, people, you have a lot to clean up in your own religion before you can start thinking about cramming it down some non-believer's throat. Start by working within the secular system on what your own Messiah told you were priorities: the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the imprisoned, the old, the children. Start by seeking social justice, equality, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

* Correction: It has been pointed out that it was Glenn Beck, not Rush Limbaugh, that exhorted people to run away from churches advocating for social justice. Mea culpa. I just can't tell one right wing blowhard from another some days.