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Sep 25 2013

Republicans in DC: Stop claiming to care about life

As you know, I am from South Carolina, one of the worst states in the union, politically speaking. Occasionally I get really angry about some stupid something people who claim me as a constituent are doing in DC, supposedly on my behalf.

STOP TRYING TO SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT

Sorry. I have spent literally my entire adult life wishing I had access to insurance that would cover my pre-existing conditions, women’s healthcare, and mental healthcare. I am not exaggerating when I say that this has been one of the most important concerns in my life. Because I developed severe allergies and asthma when I was 7, insurance and medical costs have driven so many of my life choices. Other people have had it far worse than I do, I don’t claim any special claim to bad circumstances, but I tell you the fact that, as of January 1, I will have, regardless of my employment situation, access to full healthcare coverage is such a relief that it makes me want to cry.

And *my* representatives are participating in these shame shutdown shenanigans because they want to take that away from me.  That makes me angry.  So I wrote a letter to Joe “You Lie” Wilson, against whom I ran a write-in campaign that may have earned me votes into the double-digits, Lindsey Graham, and Tim Scott.  By the time I got to Tim Scott, I had perhaps over-flourished it all, but you can judge for yourself.

Senator Scott,

I am really struggling with the behavior of Republicans in Washington, DC right now. Shutting down the government in what appears to be an attempt to hurt the poorest of your constituents.

I am a 29 year old woman who works a full-time job, two part-time jobs, and is in school full-time as well. Despite this, the only insurance I have access to currently is individual insurance, which can deny me for my pre-existing asthma. Furthermore, it is impossible to get individual maternity coverage in South Carolina. Unless you are part of a group plan, you cannot get maternity coverage at all in this state. If I get pregnant it is far more economically feasible for me to abort than to have a child, and not because I am not willing to pay for coverage, but because out of pocket a birth can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

If you were honestly pro-life, you’d support women getting access to that care. If you were honestly pro-life, you’d support everyone getting access to healthcare.

This is all changing on January 1 thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Starting then, I will have access to care regardless of my childhood asthma and that care will cover maternity. I have spent my entire life wishing that I’d have access to that some day — and now Republicans are trying to take that away from me. It feels like you’re playing political football with my ability to afford having a family.

I am not some lazy bum and I am not looking for handouts, I just think that I shouldn’t have to work so hard to still face catastrophic bankruptcy if something wonderful like pregnancy should befall me. Offer me an alternate plan, offer me a promise that South Carolina insurance providers will have to offer maternity coverage and coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Or stop claiming to care about life.

Regards, Ashley

I mean, I might have upped the pathos dial a bit much, but goddammit, could you just care about people instead of politics for once?  Also, how infuriating is it that South Carolina is not the only state in which it is literally impossible for a woman to get individual maternity coverage!  HOW MESSED UP IS THAT

Sep 19 2013

Help a trans student in South Carolina

rukiaAs a member of the SSA at USC, I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Rukia Brooks, a trans student at USC who is a passionate member of the atheist and progressive movements.  Rukia was born with a different name, which she’d like to be able to change legally to reflect her identity.  She’d like her IDs and her diploma to accurately reflect her identity.  Unfortunately, it costs money.

  • Required fees for the actual name change:
    ● Filing fee $150.00

    ● Fingerprints $10.00

    ● SLED check $25.00

    ● DSS check $8.00

    ● Student ID $35.00

  • Any extra money will go towards any other necessary legal fees, new social security card, and/or eventual driver’s license.
  • We were hoping to get her a new birth certificate, but South Carolina does not reissue birth certificates to trans individuals. :(
  • Excess money will be donated to organizations of Rukia’s choosing (we have the Harriet Hancock Center here in Columbia, which is a wonderful place for the LGBT people, for example)

If you have even a couple dollars to help her out, feel free to go donate, and if you don’t, feel free to spread the word.

Sep 17 2013

Really Cool Megachurch Infographic

I have been a member of this site http://myblogguest.com/ for a while, but it very rarely yields something on topic for my blog.  But today I have a doozy for you.  An infographic all about Megachurches and how much money they take from people.  The best part, though, is that it still appears to be associated with a Christian mission — to get people to go to Christian colleges online. There’s a nice little “MegaBenevolent” section with quotes from several pastors, including the illustrious Rick Warren.

Megachurches, big business, christianity

Although religion is still prevalent in today’s society, small American churches around the country are slowing and shutting down at a rate of 1%, whereas megachurches are continuing to grow at a rate of approximately 8% each year. Many megachurches use more corporate marketing and advertising techniques to help draw viewers and attendees to the actual church gatherings, meetings and even conferences that are hosted.

In just 1970 there were less than 10 mega-churches altogether. As of 2011, more than 1,611 mega-churches exist. The largest megachurch in the entire world to date is the Yoido Full Gospel Church, owned by David Yonggi Cho which is located in Seoul, South Korea. The church has an annual budget of $200 million and currently has more than 850,000 members actively enrolled.

U.S. MegaChurches

The biggest megachurch in the US today is the Lakewood Church, owned and operated by Joel Osteen in Houston, Texas. Each week, the church receives about 43,500 attendees and has a $70 million budget annually. The church itself is located within the Compaq Center, which was purchased in 2010 for $7.5 million.

LifeChurch.tv is another church that is located in Edmon, Oklahoma and it is considered the second largest megachurch in the US. LifeChurch.tv was founded by Craig Groschel and has approximately 42,782 weekly attendees. In 2012, the church had about $45,754,000 in expenses but took in about $71,338,000 from donations and charities. More than 100,000 unique viewers tune in to watch LifeChurch.tv each week from more than 120 countries altogether.

The third most popular megachurch in the US is North Point Community Church, owned and operated by Andy Stanley out of Alpharetta, Georgia. More than 27,000 members attend the church each week and the church has a total of $38.5 million for their annual budget.

In the US, the state of California has the most megachurches with 218. Texas has 207 megachurches with Florida following in third with 120 megachurches. Additionally, Georgia has 91 megachurches and Tennessee, 66.

Understanding how megachurches affect small-town American and religion today is a way to gain insight into the business while also finding a church that is right for you and your family. Megachurches continue to grow steadily, leaving the future of small churches unknown in America.

Source: www.onlinechristiancolleges.com

Sep 13 2013

Happy Friday the 13th – Zombies, suicide, and me talking abortion

Friday13Sometime, next week probably, I am going to discuss Richard Dawkins and abuse and trauma, but this week I thought I’d end on an upbeat note, since it is Friday the Thirteenth and I do suffer from friggatriskaidekaphilia.

1. ZOMBIES

I miss Ian ’round the old FtB haunts, but he’s still doing many interesting things. As a fan of 1. pop culture, 2. zombies, and 3. anti-racism, I am fairly certain that I am the precise audience for this.

In the following presentation, given in January of 2013 in Kelowna, BC, I explore the parallels between zombie movies and anti-racism, with examples drawn from classic horror scenes. I discuss how we can learn to understand racism in a contemporary context, and understand the role our subconscious plays in our interactions, and how we can use this knowledge to avoid and combat racism in the same way we use it to avoid and combat zombies.

http://crommunist.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/dont-go-in-there-talking-about-race-racism-and-race-issues-in-the-time-of-the-zombie-apocalypse/

2. SUICIDE

I make no secret of my deep love for Jennifer Michael Hecht.  My intellectual crush on her is boundless.

When you take your own life, you normalize suicide for people who liked you and who are like you. Once the numbers reach a critical mass, as they have in the military today, it is a massacre.

http://theamericanscholar.org/to-live-is-an-act-of-courage/?utm_source=email#.Ui9Zx2Q5zNo

3. ABORTION

Finally, yesterday I did my first toe-dipping into media appearances related to my new job with the wonderful as ever Jamila Bey.

From increasing the number of doctors trained in the procedure to working with social services agencies, Provide is working to ensure that all American women are able to exercise their constitutional rights despite living in jurisdictions that seek to impede this.

http://voiceofrussia.com/us/2013_09_13/Abortion-rights-organization-Provide-1675/

 

Sep 12 2013

Fall Schedule / SSA Reminder

speakingBelow you will find my schedule for the fall.  If you are a reader or group organizer and want to meet me or host an event, maybe this information is useful to you.

A reminder to my friends who are in SSA groups, I am available to speak to you about many interesting topics.  I am currently mostly located in and around the DC area, but I’m happy to travel with sufficient notice.  And if you happen to be a group who wants me to speak while I’m in the area for other reasons, let me know.  I’m happy to speak about anything (spending the night at the Supreme Court!), but there is a list at the bottom of this e-mail with topics I’m fond of.

 

September 27-29th — New Orleans at the AJHA Conference, presenting a paper about the Rural Purge.  Aside from Saturday at 3:20, I am free.

October ~1st-2nd — Boston for work.  I’m pretty busy and it’s a quick turn around, but might be in the night before.

October ~24th-27th — Miami for work.  Not sure exactly when I’m arriving and leaving, but I could have much free time if I want.

November 7th — Charlottesville, VA (more information soon).

November 15-17th — Springfield, MO for Skepticon, where I will be hosting a critically reading media workshop 4pm on Friday.

The end of November and much of December I will probably be in Columbia, SC a great deal and briefly probably in Kentucky, but almost certainly too late in the semester to be of interest to anyone.

And at some point in there I’m going to write a dissertation.  No big deal.

 

Ashley would love to speak on the following topics:

  • Atheism and diversity
  • Introduction to feminism
  • Media literacy and how to work with the media
  • Religion versus women, minorities, and LGBT
  • Using Social Media effectively
  • Film, Television, Young Adult Literature
  • Blogging, Podcasting, Vlogging
  • History of Christianity
  • Coping with burn out

Sep 09 2013

Musical Monday: Cyndi Lauper Ukulele

My present to myself for getting a new job and passing my comprehensive exams was this shiny new acoustic/electric Les Paul ukulele.  I am working on learning some songs that sound good and crunchy with electric effects, but I think that means learning ukulele power chords, which I don’t really understand just yet.  It involves skipping strings, which I find weirdly difficult.

In the meantime, “Time after Time.”

Sep 02 2013

Future Doctor Miller talks Karaoke

Photo by Amanda Walczesky DanielsonI know I’ve been close to radio silence here on the FtB lately.  I’ve found a lot of the fighting going on in my pages about Shermer a bit triggery, but mostly I’ve been getting ready for and recovering from the oral defense of my Comprehensive Exams.

WHICH I PASSED.

Yes.  I am All But Dissertation or, as I plan to sign only the most ridiculous things I talk about: Ashley F. Miller, almost PhD.  Of course, there’s that pesky dissertation thing between me and making everyone call me doctor.  And I’m starting a CAREER sort of job tomorrow, but I got this.

In light of the serious scholarly weight I’ve been carrying around with me this last month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about something not terribly deep at all.  My love for Karaoke.  Consider this a love letter, of sorts.

I have been having a rough couple weeks, but I’ve had the opportunity to go to karaoke frequently with people I like a great deal, so that’s been good.  It occurred to me that the rules of karaoke and how I approach it are very different from the way I do most things in life.  There are unwritten rules, the most important of which is that Taste Doesn’t Matter.  This is really weird for me because I am highly critical, but when I go to karaoke that part of my mind almost totally shuts down.  I mean, I still notice when something I don’t like is happening, but it generally doesn’t matter very much.  No amount of anxiety meds or alcohol or CBT has ever been able to shut off my obsessive-compulsive noticing of flaws, but karaoke very nearly does.

Photo by Chris Bickel

Karaoke is about supporting people doing something they enjoy, whether you would normally enjoy it or not — in exchange, they support you when it’s your turn.  Don’t like the song or the genre of music?  Too bad, support them anyway.  Don’t think they can sing?  Too bad, sing along.  Think “Blurred Lines” is quasi-date-rape-y? Too bad, sing the “hey hey hey”.  They are butchering a song you wanted to sing later?  Too bad, clap for them and find a new song.  They’re too drunk to read the screen and don’t know any of the words? Sing along in the audience to help them out.

This rule applies to the performance as well.  You want to do something that’s fun for the room.  You’re not obligated to, you can sing whatever you want, and not all audiences are alike.  One group might be very impressed by your rendition of a slow Adele song while another much prefers over-the-top cock rock.  You can’t always know this, but when you do, aim for helping them have a good time with your performance.  Do you think “I’m Too Sexy” is a great song? Of course not — but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Many of the best karaoke songs are songs you’d probably be embarrassed to admit to liking. Want to do something weird?  Own it.  Someone having fun on stage trumps everything.

This is the only rule of karaoke.  Unconditionally love and support the singer, even and especially when that singer is you.  That’s the reason it’s fun, because it isn’t about being good, it’s about the shared performance of audience and singer.  Oh, it might be great to be the best singer in the room or give the most convincing air guitar, but, when done right, karaoke should be just as much fun when you aren’t singing as when you are.  And that’s my karaoke wisdom, do with it what you will — Ashley F. Miller, almost PhD.

Photo by Chris Bickel

Aug 22 2013

Michael Shermer’s Note on the Legal Fund

On the legal fund set up for Michael Shermer there is now a note from Shermer himself, acknowledging the campaign.

People are asking me about this legal fund set up in my name, if I am aware of it, if it is legit, should they donate?, etc. For the record: I am aware of and completely support this legal fund and deeply appreciate Emery for setting it up and for the people who have donated thus far. I made it clear to Emery when he set it up that the money goes into an account that I have no access to, that my legal bills will be paid out of the fund directly to the law firm representing me, and that if there is any money left over after the case is finished that it be donated by Emery to a nonprofit organization of his choice. If anyone would like to email me directly for confirmation of the above, my email is [email protected], which is posted on our web page www.skeptic.com. My reputation is all I have. I did nothing wrong–legally or morally–and I intend to defend myself and prosecute Myers until he issues a retraction and apology, as stated by my attorney.

And I would say something about that, but honestly one of my commenters, imnotandrei, really nailed it.

And, as a result, he blew whatever chance he had left of regaining credibility with me.  Because at this point, whether or not he’s done as was claimed, his actions *since* have demonstrated that I shouldn’t trust him.

When your fundraiser makes a rape joke, and asserts that people are out to “do harm to the institutions” and “have set their sights on atheism”, and your response is to say you “completely support this legal fund” — well, it’s clear that you are not only aligning yourself with people defending you, but the people who think rape jokes are OK and Atheism+ is some massive blight on the face of atheism.

And if you’re allied with them, you have lost all credibility in my eyes on these issues.

Aug 21 2013

Michael Shermer Legal Fund

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 10.43.01 AMSomeone has set up an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to help pay for Michael Shermer’s response to the unnamed first hand accuser at PZ’s site.

I actually don’t have a problem with people deciding they want to help raise money to pay for the legal fees someone else is incurring.  I think the justice system is such that that is entirely reasonable, especially if you’re a fan of the guy and think he’s being falsely accused.  It’s really no different from OJ or Michael Jackson fans wanting to financially support “their guy” through their legal troubles.  I happen to find myself on the opposite side, having heard and experienced too much behind the scenes to believe in Shermer’s innocence, but I don’t begrudge those without that knowledge for wanting fair legal representation of Shermer.

I do, however, begrudge them their inability to believe in the good intentions of others with a demonstrable history of trying to do something positive with the movement.  It seems that, to some skeptics, merely offering criticism of problems you see in the organizations, conferences, celebrities, or overall movement is tantamount to wishing to destroy skepticism, rather than an attempt to make skepticism better.

“PZ Myers and the FtB feminists have set their sights on skepticism and atheism in general. They clearly want to do harm to the institutions.”

You hear this argument a lot from Republicans, that criticizing America is anti-America or trying to destroy America, when in fact it’s trying to make America better and fix the problems within, rather than turn a blind eye.  Yes, a lot of “FTB feminists” have set their sights on skepticism and atheism in general, because we’re part of those movements and care deeply about making them better.

And, of course, it’s difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re just trying to make sure justice is served when there’s this:

A show of support will send the message that we as a community will no longer tolerate illogical attacks on people who do not condone nor support sexual harassment, sexual predation, or rape any more than we support defamation of our community members from anonymous allegations.

Ah, so donating to this is not, in fact, an attempt to help Shermer get decent representation, but rather a way to condemn unnamed victims who come forward with their stories.  Got it.  Out of curiosity, what is the appropriate way for a reporter to deal with a story from an unnamed source who is known and trusted, whose story and reputation is vouched for by multiple others?

Aug 20 2013

Eustress, Distress, and American Health Care

I bring you the best video discussion on American Health Care I’ve ever seen, courtesy of the Vlog Brothers and, specifically, the greatest man in the world, John Green.  If you don’t know the awesomeness of Nerdfighteria, you are missing a lot in your life and I hope you change that for yourself.

My world’s been sort of turned upside down on multiple fronts in the last few weeks and I’ve backed way off the internet and participating.  I find myself unable to engage about the harassment/assault allegations within the atheist community due to my own history and because I am dealing with a fair amount of craziness, both ups and downs, in my offline life.  Family issues, relationship issues, job issues, school issues, housing issues, financial issues, health issues, atheist movement imploding issues.  Basically, all of the issues at once.  All of which has left me a bit overwhelmed.  I now seem to be back to more or less functioning without having constant anxiety, so that’s good.  While I haven’t solved all the issues, I’ve at least gotten used to them.  Clearly it’s just been too long since I’ve been at a conference with my people.

And there’s phenomenal news in that I got a great job that I’m really excited about.  And they are very supportive of me continuing to do my activism work and finishing my PhD, so that really could not be better.  I realize I’m being completely non-specific about everything, but considering the bile and anger going on around here, I just am not feeling up to being open.

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