Busy Bee Roundup of Bizarre & Shocking Things

Texas votes Nazi. Sam Harris exposes his sexism. Michael Shermer gets investigated. Richard Dawkins vomits all over the internet. I can’t keep up.

Alas, I have been doing nonstop traveling and events and work-catchup for weeks. I haven’t even been able to get to my comments queue, so I shall soon just be clearing everything to post, probably most without response or very little response, as I have no time. I’m getting caught up on backlogged work in preparation for two events in Canada that I have to travel to later this week. I apologize for the comments delay. I had hoped to find time for it in transit, but alas I couldn’t, and likely won’t (this grueling schedule shall continue for months).

But for those who haven’t been already getting the skinny, all this happened between when I got on an airplane Thursday and landed yesterday… [Read more…]

Help Get Justice for Michael Brown

smalldervishmemeYou can help see justice have its day. You can make a real difference standing up against state corruption and tyranny. You can make a difference toward ending, by exposing and shaming, the wanton and deadly racism so common among the men with guns we ask to police our streets (and it is indeed usually the men). This is how.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (!), you should know by now the story of Michael Brown, an unarmed college student gunned down by Ferguson police, in circumstances so incredibly suspicious and tinted with racism and shocking abuses of police authority, as to horrify anyone paying attention. This isn’t new (we’ve heard this story sadly too many times: see some examples of this being pointed out here and here and here). But this is becoming the last straw. And now his family wants to fight. And they are incurring expenses pursuing legal recourse (they have already had to pay for their own autopsy, because the city’s has suspicious omissions and appears to be covering up the facts…you know, as for example). And fighting for their fair day in court will only get more expensive here on out, as the corrupt city authorities appear to be circling their wagons and will do everything in their power to stonewall them and mount their expenses in the hope they will give up for lack of money.

Indeed, Anonymous has just exposed the fact that, apparently, the chief of police [now heading the investigation] in Ferguson, or else his son, hangs a confederate flag on his living room wall!! Brown’s family is not likely to get honest justice from the authorities.

The police have even resorted to physically attacking and arresting the press, gassing and assaulting people in their own backyards, and charging into the streets to shoot and beat down peaceful protesters, even camera crews from major news organizations (so much for the first amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”). They are even dragging pregnant women out of their cars and smashing them to the ground for no good reason. The timeline shows some protest rioting and looting has occurred. But the police then use that as an excuse to assault completely peaceful protests, and deny people access to public areas, even their own homes (Ferguson now looks like the streets of any tyrannical nation). The police are literally shooting people with rubber bullets, gassing them, bombing them, and beating them. And using the mini-riots in other locations as an excuse. But think about this. The cops are now the Redcoats. And this is a real tea party. Or, rather, more like the 1766 New York riots over the quartering act…when the people were answering the unjust use of force against them by yet another haughty and unanswerable imperial power. The quartering act riot of 1766 (assault on the state police). The tea party riot of 1773 (destruction of property). The Ferguson riot. What, really, is the difference?

But no matter. This is about starting to put an end to all oppressive and tyrannical abuse of power, by supporting a peaceful family that is being denied justice.

Help the Brown family bring the truth to light and have a fair trial of the facts. They have raised so little so far, barely three grand. For a case like this they will need fifty to a hundred grand. I want to see an outpouring of support. Send what you can to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund. Please do this. If not for Brown and his grieving family, do it to show you believe in opposing corruption, abuse and oppression in your own country. Do it to show you are fed up with police getting away with the murder of black men every month. Do it to show this must stop. And the people are now paying attention.

Why I Don’t Always Trust Israel

Does Israel resort to war crimes, and then lie about it, to gain its ends? It has in the past. Which is why I have a hard time believing Israel’s claims now that it isn’t targeting schools and hospitals, which are UN-observed civilian refugee sites. That would be a clear and horrific war crime under international law and the Geneva conventions. I also have a hard time believing what they also in the same breath say (see previous link), that they actually are targeting those sites because they are storing rockets for Hamas. (Yes, those two claims directly contradict each other; yes, it’s absurd to think sites observed by UN personnel are storing rockets–in fact, they clear any rockets found at sites set up as refugee centers).

To get up to speed on this, read this and this and this.

Hamas, of course, is evil and insane, if ever those words had meaning. They lie and kill all the time, in vile ways and without any rational sense. They also try to manipulate the public with false claims. But this isn’t a claim coming from Hamas.

There is a difference between responding justly with necessary force to legitimate terror and danger, and using that legitimacy as cover for trying to get away with evils even greater than those achieved by the enemy you are answering. Because of the Christian Armageddon Lobby, Israel does get away with quite a lot, and getting a free pass is a form of power, and power corrupts. If Israel is beyond all criticism, then it can slip in any evil and play the same get-out-of-jail-free card. If they are allowed to get away with anything, then they will in the end do anything. (So do we. Consider Tuskegee.)

Why am I doubtful that Israel is telling the truth this time? Because neutral observers confirm it. And Israel has done this before. In the most appalling way. And I want to share with you the example I mean. You can’t understand the world without it.

As a historian, I wonder at all the things people don’t know about our own history, and yet history repeats itself when we don’t. So let me recount something you probably have never heard about. It will sicken you. Especially the most patriotic, ra-ra, pro-military folk among you. Yes, especially you. [Read more…]

Giving Christians Their Due–Which Even Christians Won’t Do

Last week I blogged about the embarrassment of American Christian nationalism on the recent refugee crisis (and immigration policy altogether), and why atheists ought to be able to do better, and be seen doing better. But I have to give props this week to the fact that not all American Christians are like that. And I don’t mean liberal Christians (e.g. Episcopalians) or Hispanic Christians (e.g. because duh), who of course have more compassionate attitudes on these things (and are just ignored, even by most Christians–being that in the U.S. most Christians are not really all that touched by these crises and think Episcopalians are in the service of the Devil). No, I mean, even the institutional leaders of the conservative wing of Christianity.

[Read more…]

The American Refugee Crisis: It’s Time for the Godless to Speak Up

Tens of thousands of refugee children are massing across the U.S. border. And we’re responding like the biggest assholes on the planet. It’s time to do something about it. At a minimum that means spreading the word, and speaking out. Getting more people to know that this is even happening (because the U.S. media is useless) is the first step toward effecting change. Writing your senators and congressmen (state and federal) is the second step. Tell them human decency and compassion and any sense of justice requires more, and that you approve adequate funding for a humane response to the refugee crisis, and are willing as a taxpayer to forfeit a couple bucks a year for it if need be.

If you want to cut to the chase, and just get started helping spread this message, read Hutchinson’s summary and petition. And sign that. And write all your legislators. But if you need some catching up first…

Here is a quick primer on what’s going on: [Read more…]

Another Humanist Running for Congress in a Red District!

Photo of Barbara StockerCheck this out. And give her some help if you can. Barbara Stocker, an atheist and dedicated humanist, is running for US Congress…in Missouri! She’s the Democratic Candidate for the 8th Congressional District, and will be first on the ballot, the only woman against a field of three conservative men, and the only progressive in the race.

Stocker is a retired scientist (having worked in safety and environmental health for major corporations) and a “believer in a government that works for the people,” defending “Social Security and Medicare, cooperation in Congress, and investment in infrastructure.” She’s pro-growth for the economy, anti-austerity for the government. She is interested in protecting or promoting good regulations, and eliminating burdensome ones. And she has made a special point of concern for improving every aspect of how we treat our veterans.

Stocker has also been an active member of several freethought organizations, having published with the Council for Secular Humanism and the International League of Non-Religious and Atheists and participating in the Rationalist Society of St. Louis, where she accepted an award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union on behalf of the Atheist Centre (of India) at an Atheist Alliance International convention. She has also represented AAI at meetings of the Coalition for the Community of Reason. So she’s no idle humanist.

Find out more (and how to donate to her campaign if you are keen) at StockerinCongress.com (see also her campaign Facebook page). There may be many ways to help (e.g. as a campaign volunteer, podcaster, etc.), so if that sounds interesting, you can contact her there. I blogged about another progressive atheist candidate running for Congress in a conservative district in Arizona earlier this year (and his campaign could use help, too…he, too, has a remote but plausible shot at winning). Let’s hope this is a trend. The mere fact that they made the ballot is a sign of progress. Eventually, if we keep supporting them, atheists will actually start getting elected, too.

I Interview a Groovy Atheist Running for Congress in Arizona

Facebook photo of Arizona congressional candidate James Woods, looking smart in short blond hair, in dark suit, white shirt, dark red tie, dark glasses and holding his mobility cane just in frame.James Woods is running for US Congress. (No, I don’t mean the actor, nor the dead guy from Virginia. I mean this guy.) What’s so special about that? He’s an atheist. An out atheist. In fact, a humanist active in the movement. Who actually asked atheists to interview him about his campaign. And blog about it. Now I feel like I’m living in the 21st century. He is not hiding from his membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He’s making it a focal point of his campaign: it’s what makes him a better representative of the people. He is representing the people who don’t usually get represented.

Woods also happens to be blind. And part of his campaign is about representing the disabled, and minorities of all stripes, who usually don’t have a voice in Congress. If elected he would be the first blind person in Congress in nearly a hundred years. His politics are progressive. He has a good head on his shoulders. He sounds like he’d be perfect for the job. But alas, though a native Arizonan, he is running in an Arizona district that is predominately Republican. He has his work cut out for him. I’d vote for him if he were in my district. You can see what he’s all about at his Facebook page.

He’s running against a Republican incumbent (Matt Salmon, the same buy who ran for governor in Arizona a while back) whom the Secular Coalition for America gave a grade of F on his secular report card. The kind of guy who supports bills barring homosexual couples from adopting, denying equal marriage rights, stopping the government from providing information on comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Yes, he even voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. The kind of guy who shouldn’t be in Congress. Because he spends his time opposing the rights of American citizens and harming our country and its people.

Woods wants to be the one to replace that guy. And his campaign asked me to interview him because Woods wants to reach out to underrepresented voting blocks, including the secular, atheist, and humanist communities. He is planning similar press days for other underrepresented groups, including the transgender community and people with disabilities. Topics we at Freethought Blogs have been trying to give some visibility to as well (see the video lineup at our last FTBConscience online conference).

I asked Woods six challenging questions to see how he thinks and where he stands on a sample of keystone issues. His answers are well worth reading. You won’t usually hear this stuff from a real Congressional candidate. It’s the kind of bold honesty we actually want from our elected leaders, but rarely get.

[Read more…]

Is Attacking Rape Apologetics Rape Apologetics?

It’s strange to see even atheists convert hyperbole into fact in the span of just hours or days. That’s supposed to be what religious people do. When I wrote an article attacking rape apologetics in the discussion of the allegations against Michael Shermer, I was accused of engaging in rape apologetics (examples cataloged here, here, here, and here). But only by making false claims about what I wrote in my article.

This has started now to become lore. In comments on Stephanie Zvan’s recent article on the BlockBot I was weirdly even accused of “victim blaming” in an article against victim blaming that actually defends victims from being unfairly blamed (lest this not be believed, I will document the actual contents of my article below), and a scenario I explicitly described as reprehensible and as victimization and worthy of condemnation, one commenter said I described as “kinda cool” and “what a rapist would like to believe,” which is the exact opposite of the actual facts in the case, yet this version of events is then endorsed by another commenter. Meanwhile, in comments on the same article described as “what a rapist would like to believe,” I had to debate actual rape apologists (or at least folks who didn’t know that’s what they were doing). Which in context is surreal.

It’s unclear how the myth arose that something I condemned I called “kinda cool.” And perhaps the lore varies from person to person. But throughout, from what I’ve read, I have found there are some failures of fact and reasoning to address. [Read more…]