TBT: Destroy Ferris

It’s been five years since John Hughes died. Having been a teenager in the 80s, I couldn’t not have an opinion.

So, you know John Hughes just died. Everybody knows that John Hughes just died. Almost everyone my age is talking about how sad it was and talking about the movies it’s made them remember.

I haven’t been doing that. Not because Hughes’ death didn’t bring back memories for me, but because it did. I was a suburban teenager who didn’t fit the mold. I should have been his target audience. I just didn’t like his movies much.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s still too soon to talk about them, but I’m going to do it anyway. [Read more...]

Well, It’s Not Tear Gas

When you hear that there was no tear gas in Ferguson last night, no rubber bullets, you might be tempted to relax about the situation. Don’t do that.

Police in Ferguson may not have been indiscriminately shooting tear gas at everyone they saw on the street, but what happened last night was still seventeen flavors of fucked up. That it was an improvement over the night before is a measure of the previous night’s depravity, not an indication of competent police peacekeeping. [Read more...]

Overnight in Ferguson

I did a shorter version of this yesterday morning on Twitter and received a ridiculous number of retweets, so there’s obviously an appetite for “highlights” from the overnight feeds on Ferguson.

Last night, despite curfew having been lifted, police in Ferguson once again drove their armored trucks into residential neighborhoods and shot teargas into the area. Once again, media were gassed. Once again, media were arrested, though that had also been happening during the day. No media arrests I’m aware of have resulted in charges, just detainment.

I’m not in a position to find a link at the moment, but if you have the stomach, find Elon James White’s audio (with poor video) of his crew’s experience. They were not the only news crew that reported being fired upon. White also reported that the police appeared to be firing at anyone they saw on the streets.

The rationale given for the start of tear gas were one again shots fired and Molotov cocktails. Police reported two people shot, one of whom I’ve seen confirmed independently. Among the people the police arrested, they claimed—at a very early press conference—to have confiscated two guns and one Molotov cocktail. The Molotov is the target of much scorn, as it was improperly made, unlighted, and in a Colt 45 bottle. Locals told one reporter that Colt 45, despite the stereotypes, couldn’t be obtained locally.

There were agitators confirmed in Ferguson, including members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. The RCP claims that only revolution can fix societal problems, but they haven’t started one in the own communities. This is also the group behind Stop Patriarchy, a pro-abortion group that has been co-opting the idea of “freedom rides” for an abortion tour that appears to be mostly raising funds to film themselves talking about abortion. The RCP agitators were confronted by local black leaders.

Amnesty International observers had been ordered out of the area. At least one report said guns were pointed during the time they were ordered out, but documentation of that had not turned up by the time the Amnesty Twitter list stopped operating for the night.

The county police held a prayer circle before the evening’s activities, and a sectarian prayer was held during the press conference. The police were conspicuously working through the evening and, presumably, into the night, with no badges or other identifying insignia.

Darren Wilson is still at large. No one has so much as announced plans to find him or take him into custody.

 

Saturday Storytime: Ten Days’ Grace

In this story, Foz Meadows does what science fiction should do.

Falling pregnant with Lily had been her first infraction against the Spousal Laws. Like homosexuality and abortion, single parenthood had been illegal ever since the National Family Party came to power nearly three decades ago. As soon as the cause of Julia’s sudden nausea was correctly diagnosed, she’d been brought before the Bureau and called to account for the genesis of her not–allowed–to–be–illegitimate offspring. The child’s progenitor, she told them, was her employer, Roy Sovas, a kind man some twenty years her senior whose wife had produced a single sickly daughter and a string of miscarriages. Divorce was impossible. Something had to be done.

Armed with her testimony, the Bureau took a DNA sample from Roy and used it to prove paternity, although he, to his lasting credit, had already confessed to the affair. For his part in their joint violation of the Spousal Laws, Roy received a docked salary, a black mark on his citizenship record and a formal reminder that he was forbidden from contacting either Julia or their child for the next eighteen years, until the zygote who was to become Lily had reached its majority. For her part, Julia was given a choice: either give birth and then surrender her newborn to an adoptive couple, or take a husband. There was also the matter of finding a new job and a black mark similar to Roy’s, but compared to the choice of abandoning her child or raising it with a man she didn’t love, such trifles paled into insignificance.

In the end, she’d opted for marriage. She knew of no suitable candidates, but then, if she had the affair with Roy would hardly have been necessary. Fortunately, the Bureau was well–versed in human weakness, and kept a roster of available men — and women, should the need arise, although it much less frequently did — who were willing to marry such as her. That exercise, at least, contained some element of choice, albeit a meagre one. Robert had seemed the lesser of several evils. They met twice, agreed to marry, and then it was done: Lily’s existence was legitimised by this façade of wedded parentage. Love didn’t enter into it, or competence, or care, or even genetics: every child, the National Family Party said, should have both a father and mother, come what may. And as Lily was still years from her majority, the fact of Robert’s death didn’t matter, either. Once again, the choice was Julia’s — either give her daughter away, or marry another man to ensure Lily’s proximity to an official father–figure.

She’d been silent for a long time, pretending this not–quite–conversation with Agent James was heading in a different direction. She looked at him, hoping she might somehow have slipped backwards in time, to an era when this sort of thing didn’t happen, but still the stylus stabbed inexorably downwards.

Tap. Tap.

“You understand,” said Agent James, “that the Bureau’s concern is only for Lily’s well–being. A child raised by only one gender, no matter how lovingly, cannot ever be more than a half–being.”

“I understand,” croaked Julia, although she did not, could not, never had, never would; least of all now, when Robert, whose existence should have protected her from this eventuality, was gone, and how was she to feel about that, anyway?

“You do not have to decide just yet,” said Agent James, so gently that Julia found herself hating him. “First, there is the funeral to attend to. Afterwards, however —”

“Yes,” she said bitterly, “I remember. Ten days’ grace in which to find a husband.”

“Ten days’ grace,” said Agent James, nodding his head. “Shall I bring you the list of candidates, once things are sorted?”

Fuck your candidates, Julia wanted to scream at him.

“Yes,” she said.

Keep reading.

“Pathfinders Project” Ben Blanchard on Atheists Talk

Minnesota Atheists members have a long tradition of supporting and participating in charitable works, volunteerism and otherwise lending a hand where we can. For those of you who enjoy this time of activity and social engagement, you’re going to want to tune in to this weekend’s episode of Atheists Talk.

Ben Blanchard recently returned from a year abroad. He was one of the first participants of the Pathfinders Project, the purpose of which is described by their website as so:

Pathfinders Project is a yearlong international service trip sponsored by Foundation Beyond Belief, a nonprofit created to focus, encourage, and demonstrate humanist generosity and compassion. Through Pathfinders Project, humanist volunteers (the Pathfinders) are supporting clean water, education, human rights, and environmental conservation work around the globe.

Ben served in Africa and South America, and in those places he met and worked alonside people in numerous countries, participated in cultural exchange and shared in the lives of new friends. Before his trip, Ben was well-known known for his work with the Secular Student Alliance and was involved with the Campus Atheists, Humanists and Skeptics at the University of Minnesota where he was a student.

Please join us this Sunday to hear Ben’s stories and lessons learned, and why the idea of humanist service is so vital to our movement and to the world.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

“Never Point a Gun”

“Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.”

It’s the first thing I learned about guns. It’s what kept running through my head last night as I watched the pictures coming out of Ferguson, Missouri. One on side, protesters dancing, holding their hands up in that signal of physical surrender, remembering their neighbor, demanding answers, knowing it could have been them. On the other side, an armored truck with a carbine rifle mounted on a tripod.

The gun wasn’t merely ready, waiting in case it was needed. It was pointed at protesters. It was pointed at reporters. It was pointed at cameras.

Another gun was pointed at Elon James White later that evening as he asked for information on how to leave the area.

“Never point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy.” [Read more...]

TBT: Reality-Based Politics

Jeff Johnson is running for governor of Minnesota this year, on a platform of making us more like Wisconsin. (I know people in Wisconsin, so, no.. Also I like my governor.) I didn’t remember that I’d written about Johnson before, in August 2009.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has no quarrel with publicly funded treatment for alcoholics. But he said he struggles with taxpayer money going to housing for chronic alcoholics that offer no treatment at all.

Not only that, he was surprised to learn, the so-called “wet houses” don’t even require their homeless residents to stay sober.

“I understand these people are very sick, but I don’t think that means you should expect absolutely nothing out of them,” Johnson said. “If we’re going to provide you housing, you should figure out how to stop being drunk all the time.”

[sigh]

Jeff is a nice guy, generally. I used to work with his wife, so I’ve met him and the kids, and a cuter family you’re not likely to meet. But this…. [Read more...]

The Reading List, 8/13/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Introducing the Secular Majority

From Mary Ellen Sikes, news of a new organization that does not cover the same ground as the organizations we have now:

Candidates have a new constituency to court in the 2014 election season: voters who’ve had it with religion in politics. In at least eight states, the new Secular Majority will be distributing a questionnaire to identify and endorse federal and state candidates who support a secular approach to public education, reproductive rights, marriage equality, science, and a host of other topics related to the separation of church and state.

Independent, non-partisan, and staffed by volunteers, the Secular Majority is operational in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, and Texas. A Michigan team is currently organizing and additional states will be added as volunteers step forward, with the goal of reaching all fifty states.

In a 2012 study of voters by the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life, the largest response group was made up of those turned off by religion in politics — an unprecedented finding. Also from Pew, the generation known as the Millennials (adults from 18 to 33) is the most liberal and least religious of any in the past.

“Secularism is clearly trending,” said Secular Majority founder and president Mary Ellen Sikes. “Americans of all faiths and none are fed up with elected officials imposing their religious beliefs on the people they’re supposed to be representing. In 2014 we shouldn’t need to lobby our legislators to let us use birth control or marry the person we love. Religiously neutral government makes it possible for Americans to live their lives in harmony with their own beliefs and values — that’s the American dream, and we’re working to elect candidates who agree with us about that.”

The Secular Majority is an independent, non-partisan, grassroots network of organizers, activists, and voters with the mission of identifying, supporting, and aiding in the election of qualified candidates committed to secular government and civic equality for Secular Americans. For more information, or to contact a State Director, visit www.SecularMajority.us.

If you have time to help out, particularly if you’re in a state that doesn’t already have coverage, please volunteer here. Make it possible for voters who care about maintaining a strong separation of church and state in all areas of policy to find the information they need to make informed choices at the polls.

My Predictable MO (Updated)

Nothing quite like noticing an interesting conversation in your Twitter feed and discovering that it is, in part, about you.

Screen capture of tweets. Text included in the post.

@GretchenKoch: I see. Rape culture doesn’t exist, but “outrage culture” does. Seriously, @DJGrothe? That makes my brain hurt. http://gravityswings.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/tilting-at-windmills-outrage-culture-and-manufacturing-enemies/

@DJGrothe: @GretchenKoch “Outrage culture” isn’t exactly a sweeping and systematic critique of society. But I’m glad you got the rhetorical point.

‏@GretchenKoch: .@DJGrothe I wish I didn’t. I’m tired of crap like that. And this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2014/08/04/alcoholism-and-personality-disorders/

I’m no longer interested in what you have to say.

‏@DJGrothe: @GretchenKoch Well, that Zvan piece is typical rubbish, impressive falsehoods. Her predictable MO. #outrageculture

Naturally, having made that post true to the best of my ability and knowledge, I asked.

Screen capture of tweets. Text included in the post.

@szvan: .@DJGrothe What falsehoods would those be, D. J.? Be specific. @GretchenKoch

‏@DJGrothe: @szvan I’ve communicated with you zero times in years. Not about to start now. Obsess over someone else. @GretchenKoch

‏@szvan: .@DJGrothe You’ll claim I’m lying but you won’t back it up. Of course. @GretchenKoch

I guess I should be happy he didn’t tell me he was going to forward me the email that contained all the proof. That’s his MO when asked to back up his side of a tale, the promised email that never arrives.

He is right, to the extent that I do have an MO. That MO just happens to be that I don’t let damaging lies like Grothe’s stand when I have the power and the information to knock them down.

That’s what I did in the post he objected to here. That’s what I did in the post reacting to his threats against Pamela Gay. That’s what I did in some of the posts I linked to in order to demonstrate his pattern of lying.

Grothe’s MO is to lie to improve his own situation, then refuse to back up his claims. Mine is to dismantle his lies. I like my MO better.

Update: As Tom notes in the comments, someone is trying to make the laughable argument that Grothe wasn’t talking about Amy in his tweet. Not only does that make no sense in the context of his tweet, but as someone pointed out to me, this isn’t even the first time he’s used the accusation of personality disorders and alcoholism.

image

@DJGrothe: @gthnk There are a lot of mean girls in atheism etc. But go easy on them: don’t discount the role of alcoholism and personality disorders.

For anyone who might be unaware, “mean girls” is Sara Mayhew’s preferred term for women who don’t want to hang out with her after she’s put so much work into harassing them and their friends. Grothe has been openly sympathetic to her complaints.

So if you’d like to claim Grothe meant someone else, you’re going to need to come up with a better explanation.