What I’m Reading, September 24, 2015

The new racism embodied in total contempt for Obama, Wendell Berry, Lexington Herald-Leader, September 13, 2015

Nobody can doubt that virtually all of the president’s political enemies would vehemently defend themselves against a charge of racism. Virtually all of them observe the forms and taboos of political correctness. If any very visible one of their own should insult the president by a recognized racial slur, they would all join in the predictable outrage. But the paramount fact of this moment in the history of racism is that you don’t have to denominate the president by a recognized racial slur when his very name can be used as a synonym.

This subtilized racism is not only a perhaps unignorable lure to Republican politicians; it can also be noticeably corrupting to Democrats.

In Kentucky, for example, where Obama is acknowledged carefully to be “unpopular,” candidates of both parties have been, and still are, running “against Obama.” If the president comes into the state to visit, some Democratic candidates, like Republican candidates, become conspicuously busy elsewhere.

Scaring Up the Vote, Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 8, 2015 Continue reading


About that Sansa/Ramsay “Game of Thrones” Scene

If you somehow haven’t heard about it yet (spoiler alerts and all that), last week’s Game of Thrones episode continued the general divergence from the books’ storyline by having Sansa Stark marry Ramsay Bolton (née Snow)—possibly in order to exact vengeance on Ramsay’s father, Roose Bolton, who murdered Sansa’s brother Robb and was directly involved in the murder of her mother, Catelyn. Sansa was apparently unaware of just what a bastard (pun intended) Ramsay is, as was Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who brokered the arrangement with Roose Bolton.

The overall storyline of having Sansa marry Ramsay is definitely a huge difference from the books, but it makes sense in the context of a TV show. In the books, Sansa is currently still at the Eyrie with her cousin, Robert Arryn (Robin Arryn on the show), and Ramsay is married to Jeyne Poole, a friend of Sansa’s from Winterfell who is being passed off as Arya Stark. Littlefinger has plans to one day send Sansa back to Winterfell and reveal “Arya Stark” as an impostor, giving Sansa the opportunity to reclaim Winterfell for the Starks. What’s happening on the show fits that same overall scheme, and it does it with fewer characters and less plotting-while-sitting-around.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about, and I think you know that. Continue reading


A Difficult Animal Welfare Topic

A news story out of Wisconsin sort of piqued my curiosity, although I’m not delving too far into this one, except to make a few general observations (h/t G):

A Wausau man accused of performing a sex act with a horse has been charged in Marathon County with bestiality.

[Name and age redacted but available almost anywhere else] was charged with sexual gratification with an animal sex organ, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana as a repeat offender and bail jumping, according to court records.

I vaguely remembered hearing somewhere that “bestiality” is not actually a criminal offense in many U.S. jurisdictions, so I set about to try to look that up without actually using Google. Wikipedia is our friend in this regard: “As of 2012, bestiality is illegal in 37 U.S. states. Most state bestiality laws were enacted between 1999 and 2012.” As it turns out, bestiality was usually included, expressly or by implication, in state-level “sodomy” or “crimes against nature” laws, which were mostly struck down in 2003 by the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas. I do not, let’s be clear, think that this negatively affects the importance or validity of that decision in any way.

By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is a heavy topic, so here’s a picture of Yosemite Valley to marvel at.

Since I am of the opinion that consent is the most important factor in any sort of sexual activity—i.e. if the participants all give knowing, willing consent, they can pretty much do what they want; and by “all” participants I really do mean all participants, including anyone who can see what you’re doing (it’s fine by me if you like stuff involving clown noses and Cool Whip, but I never agreed to watch you do it in public, so get behind closed doors, or at least high walls, please)—I am generally of the opinion that sexual activities with animals is not permissible. They cannot give consent in any way that we humans can unambiguously understand as consent. Continue reading


What I’m Reading, February 9, 2015

Godless Parents Are Doing a Better Job, Tracy Moore, Jezebel, February 3, 2015

In an op-ed at the Los Angeles Times by sociologist Phil Zuckerman, you can read about a swath of studies that support what everyone who is “between churches” has known forever: Not believing in God isn’t synonymous with being amoral. If anything, it can give you a greater clarity about right and wrong, because you’re more likely to base it on empathy and decency than a guaranteed spot upstairs come Judgment Day.

In the 1950s, only 4 percent of Americans indicated they’d grown up in a secular household; today, 23 percent say they have no religious affiliation, Zuckerman writes, citing Pew research. They’re called “Nones,” or, you know, heathens, and that number is even higher (30 percent) among the 18- to 29-year-old set. So with more people than ever eschewing a reflexive belief in God, it seems as good a time as any to ask how that’s working out for us.

5 Bizarre Realities of Being a Man Who Was Raped by a Woman, Anonymous, Amanda Mannen, Cracked, January 30, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 30, 2015

Enough Is Never Enough with Blaming Anti-Vaxxers, Science Babe, January 24, 2015

Let’s get one thing straight; if a blogger with zero medical credentials tries to claim that they have more accurate science than the vast majority of the scientific and medical establishment, they are, on every level, wrong. I promise you, somebody who got their degree at Google University and has a waiver on their website that says “my advice isn’t designed to treat anything” has nothing to lose by giving you terrible advice. A real doctor’s advice doesn’t come with an asterisk. They will give you advice that’s grounded in real science.

Friend in Need: The tragedy of my friend’s life and death is that he lived in a society that left him to deal with it alone, Saul Elbein, Texas Observer, January 21, 2015 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 29, 2015

McMorris-Rodgers and Anti-Choice Marchers All For ‘Life’ Until It’s Born, Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, January 22, 2015

Currently, 43 million American workers have no paid sick leave. For them, an illness or the illness of a loved one comes with the risk of losing wages, or worse, their jobs. One would think that Obama’s renewed vigor on paid family leave should be extremely attractive to anti-choice activists, with their love of large families.

Why should policies that support families be a top priority for anti-choice activists? Having a child in this country is remarkably pricey—and this is why a majority of women who choose to terminate a pregnancy do so. According to a 2004 Guttmacher Institute survey, 73 percent of women who have an abortion say they made that choice because they could not afford to raise a child. Of those women, 28 percent said that they could not afford childcare, with another 23 percent of respondents saying that they could not afford to provide a child the basic needs of life. The average cost of raising one child is now $245,000 dollars. In 31 states, daycare alone costs more than college.

Essentially, proponents for the March for Life, and others who don’t believe in the right to choose, have forced women between a rock and a hard place: demonized for having a perfectly safe and legal procedure, but given absolutely no aid if she chooses to carry to term. Implementing policies that value families—like paid family leave—would be the true pro-family thing to do. Restricting a woman’s right to abortion while opposing the ways that would allow her take care of herself and her child proves that anti-choicers don’t care about families, they care about control over women’s bodies—and women’s lives.

Stop Blaming Women for Holding Themselves Back at Work, Lisa Miller, New York Magazine, December 1, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, January 2, 2015

On Mishearing “Get Consent” as “Don’t Have Sex”, Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner, Brute Reason, December 25, 2014

Countless writers, educators, and activists have weighed in on what consent is and what it is not and how to communicate around it. If you Google “what is consent,” the first page has numerous resources meant to help young people learn what consent is, such as this one and this one. Don’t like reading? There are graphics!

Yet (some) men insist that this is all so mysterious and perilous that they have no choice but to avoid the whole enterprise altogether.

I don’t want anyone to be lonely, insecure, and sexually unfulfilled. I don’t want anyone who wants to have sex to be unable to have it. I want everyone to have the confidence to pursue and find the types of relationships they’re interested in. I want everyone to feel worthy and valuable even if they haven’t found a partner yet.

But I also want people to pursue all of this ethically. That means that if you’re ever unsure if someone is consenting, you stop and ask. And if you don’t think you are able to do that, then you should abstain from sex until you are able to do it.

People Don’t Hate Millennials, Laura Bradley, Slate, December 26, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, December 15, 2014

Comfort Food: No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict. Larry M. Lake, Slate, November 8, 2013

Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable. These questions are rarely heard: “How’s your depression these days?” “What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?” “Do you find your manic episodes are less intense now that you are on medication?” “What does depression feel like?” “Is the counseling helpful?” A much smaller circle of friends than those who’d fed us during cancer now asked guarded questions. No one ever showed up at our door with a meal.

Stephen Colbert schooled Fox News hard: Comedy, Bill O’Reilly and the exposure of right-wing patriotism lies, Sophia A. McClennen, Salon, December 12, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, September 22, 2014

The atheist libertarian lie: Ayn Rand, income inequality and the fantasy of the “free market”, CJ Werleman, Salon, September 14, 2014

Robert Reich says that one of the most deceptive ideas embraced by the Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian movement is that the free market is natural, and exists outside and beyond government. In other words, the “free market” is a constructed supernatural myth.

There is much to cover here, but a jumping-off point is the fact that corporations are a government construct, and that fact alone refutes any case for economic libertarianism. Corporations, which are designed to protect shareholders insofar as mitigating risk beyond the amount of their investment, are created and maintained only via government action. “Statutes, passed by the government, allow for the creation of corporations, and anyone wishing to form one must fill out the necessary government paperwork and utilize the apparatus of the state in numerous ways. Thus, the corporate entity is by definition a government-created obstruction to the free marketplace, so the entire concept should be appalling to libertarians,” says David Niose, an atheist and legal director of the American Humanist Association.


Reich says rules that define the playing field of today’s capitalism don’t exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them. “In reality, the ‘free market’ is a bunch of rules about 1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); 2) on what terms (equal access to the Internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections?); 3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?); 4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); 5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.”


That awkward pause that inevitably follows asking a libertarian how it is that unrestricted corporate power, particularly for Big Oil, helps solve our existential crisis, climate change, is always enjoyable. “Corporations will harm you, or even kill you, if it is profitable to do so and they can get away with it … recall the infamous case of the Ford Pinto, where in the 1970s the automaker did a cost-benefit analysis and decided not to remedy a defective gas tank design because doing so would be more expensive than simply allowing the inevitable deaths and injuries to occur and then paying the anticipated settlements,” warns Niose.

Spanking is a euphemism. For assault. Chocolate, Pomp, and Circumstance, Medium, September 17, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, June 17, 2014

Law Enforcement Agencies Continue To Obtain Military Equipment, Claiming The United States Is A ‘War Zone’, Tim Cushing, TechDirt, June 12, 2014

That law enforcement agencies across the US are swiftly converting themselves into military outfits is hardly a surprise at this point. The problem is that nothing seems to be slowing them down, not even the dismayed reactions of citizens supposedly under their care.

The government’s desire to offload its unused military hardware at deeply discounted rates has turned a few outliers into the new normal. Towns as with populations well under the 10,000 mark have secured Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, supposedly in order to keep up with a non-existent arms race between the good guys and the bad guys.


The problems with this sort of ad hoc “mobilization” are numerous. The dangers of outfitting police with military gear can best be signaled with a combination of “if all you have is a hammer…” and Chekhov’s Gun. If you give police military gear, they’re going to want to use it. The very occasional shootout with heavily-armed criminals simply won’t satisfy the urge to deploy the new acquisitions. The slightly-more-occasional no-knock warrant served in the dead of night to known drug offenders won’t sufficiently scratch the itch.

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