Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Biblical Blasphemy!!

Annie Laurie Gaylor, the co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, published a recent item on the FFRF blog, and it's causing a bit of a stir. The wife and I met Annie and Dan Barker, the other co-President, last year and you could not ask for two nicer people. 

Let's Hear it for Biblical Blasphemy!

By Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-President
Freedom From Religion Foundation

The theocratic blogosphere is a-twitter with "shocked" blogs condemning FFRF's nontract, "An X-Rated Book: Sex & Obscenity In The Bible."Setting the blogosphere off was a story in CNS News ("The right news, right now") warning readers: "This story includes a lewd image . . . some readers may find disturbing." The article reports that FFRF plans to distribute our pamphlet, along with several other books and materials critical of religion, in January to public high schools in Orange County, Fla.


In classic "slay the messenger, not the message" hype, Christian news sites and bloggers claim to be greatly offended by the sketch on our nontract of a sexist bible grabbing a woman. None apparently is offended at the sexually violent and pro-rape content in the book they worship and seek to distribute to public high school students.

Last year we decided to "fight fire with fire" by seeking to distribute freethinking materials to counter so-called "passive distribution" of bibles by a Christian ministry at 11 high schools in the Orlando, Fla. area. We carefully chose a variety of materials to test the school's so-called "public forum," including several of our nontracts outlining problems with the bible. When Orange County Public Schools censored most of FFRF's proffered materials, while permitting the bible distribution to carry on, we were forced to file a federal suit. (By the way, when this bible distribution took place, CNS News failed to warn: "This book contains many lewd images some readers may find disturbing.")

During our litigation in Orange County schools, we pointed out the irony of the schools allowing distribution of a book containing violence, graphic and often depraved sexual descriptions, among many other objectionable passages, while censoring freethinking points of view factually reporting about what's in this so-called "good book."

In June 2014, the school district entered a motion to dismiss our lawsuit "unconditionally," agreeing we may distribute these materials on Freedom of Religion Day (Jan. 16), the same day World Changers of Florida will be back in the schools with their X-rated bibles. And we'll be there too. We're happy to see the controversy. We don't think bibles, or literature critical of bibles, should be distributed by outside interest groups in our public schools and we hope the controversy will ultimately shut down this inappropriate forum. But if it doesn't, at least students will be offered both sides of the story.

This controversy provides an opportunity to tell the story behind the cartoon depicting a sexually assaulting "holy book." I had been genuinely shocked and horrified by the degrading treatment of women in the bible when I read it for myself in my early 20s as a college student. For instance, examine this sick passage in Isaiah 3:16:
Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
As editorial editor of The Daily Cardinal student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I loved working with a talented young artist on staff named Alma Cuebas, who specialized in depicting egalitarian "ugly women." For a column about biblical misogyny, Alma fashioned a memorable drawing of a lascivious bible starting to assault a woman. Alma's iconic drawing appears with some others by her in a book on bible sexism, "Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So," which I was asked to write for FFRF.

In the 1990s, when FFRF added to our collection of "nontracts" one called "An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible," I naturally recalled Alma's sketch of the sexist bible grabbing a woman, and we put that on the cover. Our nontract begins: "Let us introduce you to parts of the Holy Bible which you have not heard about in sermons from the pulpit, that may shock and dismay you and should certainly convince you that the bible ought to be X-rated.

"Below you will find a pornographic view of sex and women, lewdness, depravity and sexual violence often ordered or countenanced by the biblical deity. Don't take our word for it — look it up for yourself." A long list of bible citations follows, some silly, some gross, others horrific, many woman-hating. The nontract concludes with a favorite quote by Thomas Paine from "The Age of Reason":
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize [hu]mankind."
While FFRF has appealed parts of the ruling over our freethought lit distribution to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, we have the OK to distribute all of our submitted literature, including previously censored literature. And we're inviting all comers to join us. The Satanic Temple has asked to distribute its coloring book. What do public schools expect when they open the door by permitting passive distribution of the Christian bible? They cannot engage in viewpoint distribution once they create such precedent.

It's FFRF's devout hope that our tactics will teach the schools not to set up irresponsible and unwise religion-based "forums" targeting a captive audience of students, making use of the machinery of tax-supported school buildings. Schools exist to educate, not to proselytize, or to act as conduits for recruiting evangelists (or atheists).

Will FFRF materials be there on Jan. 16? You betcha! We thank our hardworking local plaintiff and organizer David Williamson, director of FFRF's chapter, the Central Florida Freethought Community, for making the distribution possible. And FFRF will unapologetically distribute our nontract, "An X-Rated Book."

P.S. My mother Anne Nicol Gaylor, as FFRF's principal founder, was equally taken with Alma's "ugly women." She asked Alma to illustrate four short vignettes that open FFRF's first book, "The Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible" by Ruth Hurmence Green. Our favorite of these illustrations is Alma's depiction of Adam and Eve. A pudgy finger is pointing out of a cloud at the fully frontally naked and embarrassed looking Adam (sporting an angry scar over his rib), who in turn is pointing to Eve holding a half-bitten apple, who in turn points to the snake, wearing a Mafia-like hat with a cigarette falling out of his mouth. This charming ink sketch, used in some early ads for Ruth's book, inevitably was censored by a few squeamish publications, apparently for Alma's "sin of omission" for failing to include a deferential fig leaf for Adam.

Let's hear it for blasphemy!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

a painful October

Back on Friday, October 3, I had abdominal surgery to repair two inguinal hernias. Be forewarned that if you go looking on the net for "inguinal hernias" you are going to find some scary shit. Fortunately, for me, we caught them in the early stages, before any serious disfigurement.

Still, even though we caught them early and repaired both at the same time, only now in late October am I starting to feel like a "normal" person again, although I am still moving pretty slowly and deliberately. Maybe I heal slower now that I am older. Duh.

Fortunately for me again, I had laparoscopic surgery to repair them, so my scars will be minimal. One has already disappeared totally.

To perform laparoscopic surgery, they have to pump your abdomen full of gas so they can get a good look around in there. For the first two weeks, my most intense pain was related to the fact that I was still bloated and full of CO2 gas. It took FOREVER for that gas to be absorbed into my body. In fact, over three weeks after surgery, I am still a bit more swollen than usual.


Now, the pain is related to the actual incisions that were made and the mesh that was placed inside me to keep my intestines where they belong. Stretch too far? Ouch. Bend over too far? Ouch! 

My mind often wanders to what people did 100, 300, 500 years ago when they had a similar malady.  Ugh. They probably could do nothing and simply watched as it grew and grew and eventually made it impossible to even walk. There are so many scary things that can happen to human bodies that even the concept of "intelligent design" becomes ludicrous.

Naturally, when you undergo surgery of some kind, your doctor will provide you with some painkillers to help you heal. Mine gave me some Tramadol, which is just this side of nothing. When that did nothing for me, I asked for something stronger. His next choice was oxycontin.

This is my first experience with oxycontin, so-called "hillbilly heroin." I'm not sure why they call it that, because I got minimal relief from it. 

You have probably heard about some of the issues surrounding oxycontin; that it is highly addictive and is frequently sold on the black market for up to $10/mg. I did some research on it.

A typical dose is 40mg. My doctor's Rx was for 10mg. Simply finding a pharmacy that stocked the 10mg dose was next to impossible. Everyone carried the 40mg but only on the 6th pharmacy did we find the 10mg dose. I mean, WTF? This drug is so highly regulated that you can only find the higher dose?!

One 10mg pill did nothing for me. Two 10mg pills gave me a little relief. What really saved my ass was the fact that I had some leftover hydrocodone from a previous issue. It could be that my somewhat heightened tolerance of hydrocodone affected my sensitivity to oxycontin.

I have re-learned a very important lesson. When you sense something wrong, GO AND SEE A DOCTOR. But don't rely 100% on the doctor. Do your own research. Talk to other people. Get a second opinion if you don't particularly like the first opinion. Don't just sit there and play with it or wish it would go away. And above all, don't just try to pray it away. Nothing fails like prayer.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Greg Palast


How many of you get the al-Jazeera TV channel?  

Investigative reporter Greg Palast is working on the U.S. voter suppression story.  Many people are aware of the situation. Why it isn't illegal and a total fucking outrage is beyond me.

Got a blurb from Greg recently. This kind of thing should be on ABC, CBS, etc.


Our six-month-long nationwide investigation has discovered that voting officials in 27 states, almost all of them Republicans, have launched what is threatening to become a massive purge of black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters.

The full story will be released at 5 AM ET on Wednesday, October 29th, on http://America.AlJazeera.com/

And watch the two-part exposé on "America Tonight" on Al Jazeera America at 9 PM ET this Wednesday and Thursday, October 29th and 30th.

Check http://GregPalast.com/ for direct links to this special investigative report.

Palast's Biggest Exposé Ever
3.5 Million Voters Threatened with Purge

Three million threatened in purge of voter rolls
The removals, which target minority voters,
were begun in secret in the battleground state of Georgia

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ben Affleck

You may have seen the recent altercation between Ben Affleck, Bill Maher and Sam Harris on a "Real Time with Bill Maher." Ben basically shouted Bill and Sam down, effectively closing off the conversation, while Bill and Sam get labeled bigots, racists, and Islamophobes.


I cannot honestly attach the label bigot or racist to Bill Maher or Sam Harris. They are both atheists, true, and so attack all religions as superstitious nonsense and dangerous custom, but I have seen both of them act in a very open-minded fashion. The term racist doesn't apply at all. After all, is Islam a race? No. 

Ben Affleck comes off as the true bigot here, with bigot defined as "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices."

Anyway, a Pakistani blogger named Eiynah recently wrote an open letter to Ben Affleck. I hope he gets to read it.

An open letter to Ben Affleck

Your heart was in the right place, but…
Dear Ben,
I am writing to you today as a woman who was born and raised in Islam. I saw your discussion with Bill Maher and Sam Harris, and I must say you did me a great disservice that day. Your heart was in the right place, of course, and it was lovely of you to step up and defend ‘my people’.
What you really did though, perhaps inadvertently, was silence a conversation that never gets started. Two people attempted to begin a dialogue and you wouldn’t even listen. Why should any set of ideas be above criticism, Ben?
Why are Muslims being ‘preserved’ in some time capsule of centuries gone by? Why is it okay that we continue to live in a world where our women are compared to candy waiting to be consumed? Why is it okay for women of the rest of the world to fight for freedom and equality while we are told to cover our shameful bodies? Can’t you see that we are being held back from joining this elite club known as the 21st century?
Noble liberals like yourself always stand up for the misrepresented Muslims and stand against the Islamophobes, which is great but who stands in my corner and for the others who feel oppressed by the religion? Every time we raise our voices, one of us is killed or threatened. I am a blogger and illustrator, no threat to anyone, Ben, except for those afraid of words and drawings. I want the freedom to express myself without the very real fear that I might be killed for it. Is that too much to ask?
When I wrote a children’s book that carried a message of diversity and inclusivity for everyone, my life changed. My book, ‘My Chacha (uncle) is Gay’ has the innocent anti-homophobia message, ‘Love belongs to everyone’. This was not palatable to many of my Muslim brothers and sisters.
Since that project I have been declared an ‘enemy of God’ and deemed worthy of death. All because I want to help create a world where South Asian children too can have their stories told, so they too can know that love comes in all forms, and that that’s okay. My Muslim brothers and sisters were hit hard by this work because it addresses the issue of homophobia within our own community. It is not something they can pass off as ‘Western’ immorality. Just like they deny that any issues exist within the doctrine of Islam, many deny that homosexuality exists amongst good, ‘moral’ Muslims. Just like that, millions of people’s existence is denied. Please do not defend people who think this way, and let me tell you Ben, many ‘good’ Muslims do think this way.
What you did by screaming ‘racist!’ was shut down a conversation that many of us have been waiting to have. You helped those who wish to deny there are issues, deny them. You became an instant hero, a defender of Islam. It’s kind, it really is. I understand because I too am plagued and affected by the issues brought about by actual Islamophobia. I have a Muslim name and brown skin, my peaceful relatives have been pushed in the subway and called ‘terrorist’ for no reason.
I get that.
We must distinguish critiquing an ideology from being hateful towards a group of people. And for this reason I think that tackling the issues within Islam should be two-pronged. They must be brought up, but simultaneously we should stress that blame for these issues cannot be placed on individuals.
In the interest of being politically correct and ‘liberal’, we silence the voices of millions. I am turning to you because you were instrumental in starting this conversation. Those of us who want reform are muted by extremists, as well as the liberals who betray us in the name of multiculturalism.
ISIS paints a horrific picture, so I understand the knee-jerk reaction to deny any link. Most Muslims choose to interpret scripture in a peaceful way, but that doesn’t mean the raw material isn’t there for those who choose the path of violence. That material must be addressed.
Can we talk about the blatant double standards and violation of human rights, for a second? Mosques are built throughout western countries, usually without much issue. But in the hub of Islam, the heart of Islam, Saudi Arabia, no one but Muslims are allowed to officially practice their faith. There are no churches, temples or synagogues because Saudi Arabia will not permit any non-Muslim place of worship to exist. Who will hold them accountable for such injustice if we hush everyone who speaks out against Islam?
What is so wrong with wanting to step into the current century? There should be no shame. There is no denying that violence, misogyny and homophobia exist in all religious texts, but Islam is the only religion that is adhered to so literally, to this day.
In your culture you have the luxury of calling such literalists “crazies”, like the Westboro Baptist Church, for example. In my culture, such values are upheld by more people than we realise. Many will try to deny it, but please hear me when I say that these are not fringe values. It is apparent in the lacking numbers of Muslims willing to speak out against the archaic Shariah law. The punishment for blasphemy and apostasy, etc, are tools of oppression. Why are they not addressed even by the peaceful folk who “aren’t fanatical, who just want to have some sandwiches and pray five times a day? Where are the Muslim protestors against blasphemy laws/apostasy? Where are the Muslims who take a stand against harsh interpretation of Shariah? These sandwich-eating peaceful folk do not defend those suffering in the name of Islam, Ben, and therein lies our problem.
Maybe the points Maher and Harris were trying to make are more easily digested when coming from within the community, I can appreciate that. That is why I am writing to you, as someone who has personally been hurt by the lack of acknowledgement of these issues.
If Muslims do not critique their own atrocities, then people on the outside will and their message will not be listened to simply because of who they are. It’s a vicious cycle, one that can only break if indeed, like Harris said, true reformers are empowered.
I ask you and anyone reading this to make an effort to seek out reformers from within our community, and support them in any way you can.
If I were allowed to meet a man that is not my father, brother or husband unchaperoned, I would have loved to discuss this over drinks (which I am also not allowed to have) with you. So, you see, things must change.
Sincerely,
Eiynah

You may think that, hey, not every Muslim harbors the attitudes that Eiynah writes about. I'm sure that's true, but far too many do. Not every Christian wants to drag Western civilization back into the dark ages, but far too many do.

We will all be so much better off once Muslims learn to "overlook" the more heinous passages in the Koran, in much the same way Christians learned to overlook Leviticus and Deuteronomy. How can we help this along? Not by taking Ben Affleck's stance.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

HBO stands alone


Cable cutters take note!

HBO is finally going to offer a subscription to their network without having to have a cable or satellite contract. I predict this will result in quite a number of customers terminating their cable or satellite contracts. 

Maybe if enough of their customers leave, Comcast (my current provider) will finally cut their prices and increase the options to try and retain them. The big key, in my mind, is a high-speed internet-only arrangement that won't break the bank. 




HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service, a move that intensifies the premium cable network’s growing rivalry with Netflix.

The two companies are battling for a new generation of viewers who increasingly pay only for Internet access. Instead of subscribing to cable or satellite television, this growing audience watches television shows and movies via streaming options like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube — and now, potentially, HBO.

Richard Plepler, chief executive of HBO, pointed to 10 million homes in the United States with web service but no traditional cable or satellite television subscriptions — half of which, he said, subscribed to a streaming service.

“That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,” he said. “All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.”

HBO’s new service is a direct jab at Netflix and other online rivals like Amazon and Hulu that are disrupting traditional television business models and transforming the way people watch TV.

Several details for HBO’s new service remain to be worked out, including what content is available, the subscription fee and the distribution models. HBO now makes its programming available over the web to paying TV subscribers through its HBO Go service. Executives said that the content available through its new online-only offering would be similar. HBO is unlikely to undercut the $15 monthly rate viewers pay to cable or satellite companies for a subscription to the service, executives said.

more at link here.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ebola

I learned a couple of interesting things about Ebola recently that don't seem to have made it into the news that much.

1) This 21-day quarantine is certainly not foolproof. If you do not show symptoms of Ebola after 21 days of being in contact with someone who had Ebola, then there is a 95% chance that you will NOT develop symptoms. Say what? Yes, there is still a 5% chance you will develop symptoms AFTER 21 days. To get up to 99% chance of no symptoms, you have to go out 41-60 days, but even still, there is a 1% chance you may get symptoms AFTER 60 days of exposure. Chew on that.

2) If you have Ebola, you are not contagious until you are at "peak viral load" which is about Day 3 of your symptoms. So the first day you have a fever, you are not contagious.

That's about all for now, except for this:


Friday, October 24, 2014

Sunday Assembly

I am going to seek out the closest Sunday Assembly to me. Looks like Austin, Texas. Soon it could be Denver, Colorado.

What is the Sunday Assembly? It's where freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and others of similar skeptical habits can gather and share fellowship.  It's not a "church", it's a Sunday Assembly.



Our Story

Pippa and Sanderson smoke
Sanderson and Pippa, standing near some smoke.
The Sunday Assembly started on a car journey to Bath when two comedians, Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans (pictured), realised that they wanted to do something that had all the best bits of church, but without the religion, and awesome pop songs.
The first version of this was in January 6th 2013, and though they weren’t expecting many people, the entire place was full. At the next Assembly there were 300. Then they had to go to two services a day.  And then it went viral.
Now there are 28 Assemblies across the world (check here to find one near you), and it looks like there’ll be 100 by the end of 2014. It is the most exciting thing in the world.
People across the world were drawn to our simple values, clear message and excellent mission.
  • We are a godless congregation that celebrates of life.
  • We have an awesome motto: Live Better, Help Often and Wonder More.
  • A super mission: to try to help everyone find and fulfil their full potential.
  • An awesome vision: a godless congregation in every town city, or village that wants one.
We are dedicated to helping the people that attend, and the folk in the wider community, to make the most of this one life that we know we have. We harness fun and joy and wonder to build communities and to help others.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

hate comments

Jaclyn Glenn, an outspoken atheist, gets a lot of hate mail.  Much of it is from Christians, and it can be some of the vilest shit around.  There is something just a little incongruous about a "good Christian" cursing out someone for not believing.

I have sent a lot of comments to a lot of different preachers and Christians but I have NEVER stooped to such vile language. Logic and reason will get you further, with most people, that is.

The Daily Puppy

Black Collar Crime

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