Attention Coyne, Dawkins, and Harris: You Are Part of the Problem

I’d like to ask a favor of anyone who can manage to get a critical viewpoint through the defenses of atheist celebrities like Harris and Dawkins: please get them to read Libby Anne’s infuriating and heartbreaking post, Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion? Because it’s a question they need to address. They’re driving people like Libby Anne away from movement atheism. That is very much to the detriment of the movement.

Libby is one of the best atheist bloggers out there. I don’t always agree with her, but I have to put careful thought into why when that happens, because she’s a lot smarter and more thoughtful than I am. She emerged from the Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull culture, so she has insights into the extremes of fundamentalist Christianity that are invaluable. I’d not be blogging about Christianist textbooks or aware of the plight of kids trapped in that awful bubble if it wasn’t for her. She’s also my go-to person for showing that there are better ways to parent than hitting your children. She’s made me aware of just how relentlessly even mainstream culture genders kids, well before they’re old enough to even have a concept of themselves as boy or girl or something else. She’s worth a thousand Richard Dawkinses or Sam Harrises to me. She could be a tremendous asset to any atheist organization.

She could, but movement atheism is too busy patronizing women and making sure we all get the impression that we’re only of use to our Fearless Leaders™ when we’re being used as a cudgel against religion, and she wants none of that.

It is men like these who confirm my decision not to engage in movement atheism. Despite their claims, I don’t see them displaying a greater willingness to question their biases or engage in critical thinking. Frankly, I have felt for some time that atheist activists are frequently only willing to call out sexism when they see it in religion. It’s one more way they can point to how thoroughly horrible religion is as they call for its demise. But the moment an atheist woman says she has encountered sexism at atheist conventions or at atheist gatherings, she is lampooned and derided, called all manner of names and even threatened with rape or death. But isn’t this the kind of thing these same atheists criticize religion for?

Frankly, I feel used. These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large. They are the sort of people who are eager to use the shooting of young education activist Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban to prove how horrible religion is for women but somehow fail to mention that Malala is a Muslim who speaks of drawing her inspiration to fight for gender equality from the Koran. This is not standing up for women. This is exploiting women as merely a tool in a fight against religion.

You know what, atheist dudes? Women are smart enough to see what you’re doing there, even if you’re not willing to remove your own blinders.

Image shows two cats in a box with their chins on the edge, looking toward the camera. Caption says, "We see what you did there."

We can tell when you don’t genuinely give a shit about us, and are only using us as a weapon against someone or something else. You think you’re amazing allies, because wow are you so brainy, and you say such wonderful things about how wrong those religious practices that fuck over women are, but when it comes to treating the women within your own movement better? You shriek and whine and shit all over us. You use the plight of those religious women against us, as if this is either/or, as if we cannot address sexism within western secular spaces until we’ve destroyed all the religion.

Bullshit.

You need to start paying attention to the women who are telling you they are not yours to use. People like Hiba. Her comment on Libby Anne’s post needs to be etched onto atheist leader dude’s mirrors, where they’re forced to read the words every day, until they get it:

Ex-Muslim woman of color here. I blog about this stuff over at the Freethought Blogs. Your words are affirming. I too, feel used. Especially when the plights of women like me–women raised in Muslim-majority countries, forced to cover, controlled and abused by militant Islamist organizations and individuals–are appropriated and used to bolster anti-feminism in the West, to minimize battles against harassment and unequal representation. I refuse to have my story used to attack and demean other women. I refuse to have my story used as a talking point for hypocritical anti-theists.

I seem to recall men looking round the atheist movement a few years ago and wondering where the women are. We’re right here, either outside the movement or heading for the doors, because we tried to come in, but you made the place so hostile many of us said fuck all y’all and walked out.

You, white male atheists who spend so much time screaming you’re not sexist that you can’t acknowledge when you’ve done sexist things and bloody well stop, are causing women to stomp out in disgust. Then you’re blaming us for not wanting to put up with your shit. It’s well past time you cut your pride down to size, swallowed some of it, and listened to what women are saying to you. Women like Hiba, and Libby Anne, and so very many others who’ve had it.

You want a strong, united movement? Then fix the problems you’ve caused. Until you do, I’ll just be hanging out here on this side of the Deep Rifts with the people who give an actual shit about women. I’d rather spend my time with those who are working their asses off to make themselves and our spaces better, not just for women, but people of color, LGBTQ folk, and a lot of other people you’ve trampled all over.

You can either join us over here, or enjoy your rabble of merry misogynists and your increasing irrelevance. It’s completely up to you.

Image is a black and white photo of two women at the rim of the Grand Canyon early in the 20th century. One is holding the back of the other's dress as she looks into the chasm. Caption says, "Yes, it's a very Deep Rift, but it definitely could get deeper."

Fifty Shades of F**king Abuse

Let me tell you how I got acquainted with some of the worst books on the market:

It was an odd time. I’d just spent over a month intensively critiquing creationist earth science texts, and that triggers depression after so many chapters. One begins to lose all hope for humanity. The end of summer loomed. B and I had a rather serious falling out. So there I was, mopey and miserable and wishing the world could just stop for a while.

I don’t remember what I was reading, but there was a link to Jenny Trout’s blog in the comments. And she had done to the Fifty Shades trilogy what I’m doing to Christianist textbooks. I’d been hearing for years how bloody awful the Fifty Shades of Grey books were, how they glorified abuse, how fake the BDSM was, and how terrible the writing was. I’d heard it from enough people whose opinion I trust that I hadn’t wasted my time attempting to read the bloody things. But now there’s gonna be a movie, and about nine trillion people think this shit’s the cat’s pajamas and ever-so-good for their looove lives, so maybe it would be a good idea to find out a bit more about it. And here was a brilliant, funny, and feminist writer who’d read and reported on them so I didn’t have to. It was like Cliffs Notes, with brutal honesty and snark.

Now, I should’ve been working, but I really couldn’t. And a day off wouldn’t hurt. And I read this:

Ana flushes way too much. I’m going to throw this out there right now. At the end of one paragraph, her face flames. There is a line of dialogue, and then the beginning of the next paragraph, she goes crimson. I get the distinct impression that she’s a Humboldt Squid in a dress, flashing red like a broken neon sign.

And I decided, “Fuck it. In bed, all day, with Jenny Trout’s MST3King of FSOG. That’s me.”

That day became a week. And it didn’t end with Jenny.

I couldn’t stop. I mean, this shit was far worse than I’d expected. Dude, I’ve read The Gift of Fear. I’ve delved into forensic psychology. And every section Jenny quoted screamed, “This asshole will murder you!” Have you ever read one of those signs-of-an-abusive-relationship dealios? Like Jenny pointed out in her Chapter 14 recap, this supposedly epic romance between Ana Steele and Christian Grey waves all the red flags:

When I first finished reading it, I thought it was funny, because how could anyone not understand that this isn’t a good relationship? But stuff stops being hilarious when a social worker sends you all her red flag charts and you realize that the book you just read is being held up as a romantic ideal by women all over the nation.

Yet this is the fucked-up “romance” that had the local adult stores filling their walls with BDSM-lite crap themed around FSOG, and people were raving about how seexxxy it was, and none of the fans seemed to realize this isn’t kink, it’s bloody domestic abuse. Shit’s not romantic, people, it’s rape culture, complete with rape.

Image shows 50 Shades noose cover. Left side says, "Fifty Shades of Abuse Romantacized. No thank you." Right side has list of "Signs of an Abusive Partner: Jealousy and possessiveness; Sexual violence; Verbal abuse and disrespectful behaviour in front of others; Not listening or responding when you talk; Unpredictable temper; Damaging or destroying your possessions; Controlling where you go and who you see."

50 Shades of Abuse Flyer – Canada

And we don’t need to be telling women that this is what true love with a side of BDSM is. Jesus. It makes me wonder how many women are trapped in physically, sexually, verbally, and emotionally abusive relationships right now, pretending they’re wonderful because E.L. James says this is perfect love. It makes me wonder how many women are dead because they mistook red flags for roses, because of these books.

Someone asked recently why I “hate” on the readers who liked this series. I don’t “hate” them. I’m just pissed off at them for making excuses for this blatant anti-female, anti-sex propaganda that tells women that kink is only for fucked up people, and if their guy is physically and emotionally abusive, they’re just not loving him hard enough. And you know, I don’t feel like I need to be particularly nice to women who want to further that message in our culture, just like I wouldn’t be nice to Paul Ryan if he emailed me asking why I just can’t be more civil about his policies regarding abortion. Because I can’t, because if you’re civil and nice about this shit, people take it as tacit agreement with whatever fucked up thing they’re trying to say.

Jenny Trout

I ran Christian Grey through Gavin de Becker & Associates’ Risk Evaluation Test. Based on his actions in the first book, he got a) 8 out of 10 for risk and b) a 154 out of 200 for quality of the assessment. (It could have been higher, but he did not own a handgun or share children with Ana. Both of these things will become factors in the next two books, so Ana’s situation will only become worse.)

Now, I don’t know how bad 154 is (though a risk of 8 out of 10 sounds pretty bad)…but de Becker & Associates kept imploring me to call the police on this (unnamed) controlling, manipulative, lying, abusive stalker-rapist and get his nameless victim to safety and shelter IMMEDIATELY. They pegged him as unstable, violent, rigid, and completely unable to deal with anything that challenged his viewpoint or the way that he saw himself. Interestingly, they said that people like him rarely kept jobs for long; any crisis at work or challenge from a co-worker or rival would reduce him to a state of rage. He simply wouldn’t be able to cope with any opposition. They also said that he had many traits shared by serial rapists and serial killers. And they found his frequent drinking to be a sign that he was becoming less and less stable.

Does that give you a general idea?

Gehayi from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

When your romantic hero is the kind of person Gavin de Becker’s MOSAIC program tells you to call the police over, then you should know you’ve mistaken love for murderous psychopathy somewhere, and you maybe oughtta backtrack.

“… if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern.”

Several of these signals. As in “three or four.” Three or four of thirty reliable pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence and murder indicates that there is reason to be worried. The victim is in serious danger.

Twenty-four Twenty-five popped up in the relationship of Christian Grey and Ana Steele.

TWENTY-FIVE.

This is not a relationship. It is a murder waiting to happen.

- Gehayi from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

Image shows Jackie Chan with his hands up by his head and a WTF face. Caption says, "What the actual fuck did I just read?"

Woman after woman in the reviews I read said the romantic hero extraordinaire reminded them of their abusive asshole exes:

Really, though this whole thing pisses me off for more than just the slave vs. submissive thing and you just kind of pointed out why. Because James, undoubtedly, would defend that mistake with the fact that she is an ignorant cockmonkey and just didn’t know. After all, I’ve seen people defend their love of the book with, “Well, I didn’t know that BDSM wasn’t like that, so it’s okay that it’s not accurately portrayed because I don’t know the difference.” No, it’s the fact that Gaston is getting her to crave sex and orgasms and actually manipulating her into believing that only he can give them to her and that the only way he’ll keep giving them to her is if she’ll agree to all of his demands. Wanna know why that is so off-pissing for me and why it makes me want to book a flight to England so that I might personally kick this bitch’s ass?

Because that is exactly what my ex-boyfriend did to me.

I was sexually naïve and innocent, very young, and he was the one who gave me my first orgasm. He got me hooked on them, and then proceeded to convince me that only he could do it, and that I couldn’t bring myself to orgasm. He conditioned me. And after he was done with that, he convinced me that I owed all kinds of sex back to him because, after all, he was doing that great favor to me and I couldn’t do it myself! Gaston is doing exactly what my ex-boyfriend did to me. The ex-boyfriend who abused me on every conceivable level: sexually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The ex-boyfriend who had such a bad effect on me I wound up in a mental hospital because of him because I wanted to kill myself when it was all over and I realized that I’d just been abused for seven years and thought that I’d ruined my life, because of the time he found me.

*sneering* So, James, so far you remind Ket, Gehayi, and I very strongly of our exes, to the point that it both enrages and upsets us. Christian Grey is pretty much a nice little combination of all of our exes, taking all of their worst aspects and bundling them together into one absolutely foul and loathsome abomination of a character, and then you dump a lot of money on him and make him hot because, well, that makes it all better.

I’m not gonna bother trying to find a picture, GIF, or video that would best encompass just how much I despise you, getting rich off of this. Because there isn’t one. It just makes me feel used and dirty, like you’re publishing the worst chapter of my life and calling it True Love and making millions from it.

Fuck you, and fuck your fanbase. Yes, fuck the fanbase too. Because they agree with you. Because all of them, by saying it is romantic and True Love and wonderful, are by default saying that what happened to me, Gehayi, and Ket wasn’t rape and abuse.

Fuck. You. All.

- Mervin from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

When your epic romance is triggering abuse survivors to this extent, you’re doing romance wrong. But we’ve been doing it wrong for a long time, haven’t we?

Those of you who have been reading the sporkings for a while know that I’m an editor, and that many of the things I edit are romances. Now, I have MAJOR issues with rape, stalking and controlling another person against his or her will being presented as romantic. All of these things are rife in the romance genre and I HATE that, because people are idiots and will believe that if an author SAYS it is romantic, the author must be right.

I’m an oddball in that I will tell the author that X is not acceptable and that we don’t want to send the message that rape and stalking are signs of love. But all too often, both are sugar-coated, so that you read about a man being “overwhelmed with passion” and “taking” a woman as she vainly tries to fight him off, or about a boy stalking someone he has exchanged one word with: “Hello.” And if you repeat something often enough, people begin to believe that is not only the way that it is, but the way that it SHOULD be.

This kind of drivel—which, fortunately, is not the only thing written in the genre but is far too common—causes damage. It tells women that stalking is love, that rape is love, that physical and mental degradation which they loathe and want no part of are love. It’s just the man’s way, and they need to accept that.

It is a vile, contemptible, anti-woman message and the fact that this piece of shit, like most romance novels, was written by a woman just makes the message that much worse.

The fact that I have a couple of friends in the BDSM lifestyle and that their information directly contradicts, oh, THE ENTIRE BOOK, plus the fact that the Suethor couldn’t be arsed to do one scrap of research is just the rancid icing on a very ugly cake.

- Gehayi from The Sporkings of Das Mervin and Company

This is dangerous bullshit, and it needs to stop. We need far less Fifty Shades, and far more Boss trilogies, not to mention our own Greta Christina’s Bending. We need real kinky (and vanilla) love that respects and requires enthusiastic consent. We need truly strong female leads, not glorified doormats. We need series that don’t trigger domestic abuse victims into creating a blog ring to document all the ways this fucked-up shit glorifies violence.

All of the above issues in FSOG are horrible enough. More than enough to torpedo the series. But even setting that aside, there’s the fact that James got so very much about BDSM wrong. Completely, dangerously wrong. Want to know how it should have been done? Read The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to the Fifty Shades Trilogy. Please, please read it, or download the ebook for a mere dollar, and mark up your copy with copious highlights and notes, before jumping into a BDSM relationship because this stupid series got you curious about kink.

Two strikes. Strike three: the atrociously-bad writing. Jenny Trout and sporkers Gehayi and Ket do magnificent jobs showing the endless errors. James’s grammar is awful, words don’t mean things, the prose is so purple it’s urple, the comma is abused as badly as the female lead, and the bits of plot that sneaked in are tiny and broken things. On top of all that, the research wasn’t done for pretty much anything. Most of the characters are so cardboard you could box up a Barnes and Noble with them. The female lead was a shallow twit who was so sexually repressed she used “down there” as a euphemism for her genitals. The male lead was a violent shallow twit who thought rape was an appropriate response to a woman’s defiance. The writing was so glaringly awful, it makes Twilight look like a masterpiece.

Image shows Edward and Bella from Twilight. Caption says, "Still a better love story than Fifty Shades of Grey"

And speaking of Twilighthere’s a fairly comprehensive list of what James ripped off from Stephanie Meyer. Remember, this dreck started as Twilight fanfic. She changed a few details, but she basically put a wig on a pig and called it a pony. Not. So.

It nearly finished off my will to live, knowing this crap not only got published, but found such a vast market of willing suckers. And I’m not the only one who has found themselves massively changed:

Just for reference, when I started reading these books I was a church-goer. Now I’m an atheist. I’m not saying they’ve destroyed my faith in God all on their own, I’m just suggesting they may have been a contributing factor.

*shudder* And to think these horrible books are actually responsible for something positive

Thanks to sporkings and spankings by incredibly talented people, plus the Boss trilogy, I survived. And I have plenty to shake FSOG fans with. And it brought B and I back together – there’s no bonding experience quite like commiserating over awful writing. And I learned a lot about my own sexuality, and am a lot less reluctant to discuss it. Excellent people have wrested some good from this unmitigated horror, and I’ve benefited from their wisdom.

I hope they’ve also given you some gifts. And I hope more than a few of you are now prepared to patiently explain to those who gush about the movie just what this story is actually glorifying, thus preventing some very stupid mistakes by enamored fans.

Image shows a cat that looks startled and horrified. Caption says, "This is what people like to read!?!?!"

Dear Richard Dawkins: Your “Hypothetical” Is Still Rape

What a sick, sad man you are, Richard. First, you run a Twitter tutorial in getting away with rape:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words.

Then a woman who was raped at the age of 14 comes forward to tell you how your “how to get away with rape” tweets harmed her, and all you can say is:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Yes, I believe you. Why would I not? Unlike the hypothetical case of my tweets, you have clear & convincing memories.'" There is a link to the New Statesman article. Second tweet says, "In my tweets I explicitly stated that I was considering the hypothetical case of a woman who testified that she COULDN'T REMEMBER." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

Dawkins responds to a rape victim with all of his classic tact and care – I mean, defensive and arrogant whining. The tweets are his, the image is mine.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can't remember.'" Second tweet says, "Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can't remember." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

And the arrogant, defensive whining continues, ending with a “Why didn’t you come to meeee in private?!!!” flourish.

I’m avoiding expletives here, because your poor brain shuts (further) down when you hear them directed at you. But I do have to say, you’re being such a reprehensible little… man. Instead of doing the right thing, saying “I’m sorry, rape is rape. I’m so sorry for the pain my sordid little not-hypothetical-until-I’m-called-out tweets have caused, I shall stop tweeting and go educate myself on these matters forthwith,” you just keep digging and digging. And you lied to her. Really, you did. You lied to her, and to us, when you said of course you believe, because really, you only believe because she’s making you look like the… quite awful person you are being, and additionally, hasn’t named one of your friends as her rapist. You’re pretending some memory is all the evidence you need to believe, but this is what you really believe:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets. First tweet is from Oolon and says, "Lucky this 14yr old had "clear and convincing memories" or @RichardDawkins wouldn't believe it was rape'" Second tweet says, "@oolon Well, would you believe it if she had unclear, unconvincing or non-existent memories? (Except that there was another witness)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

The rape-culture apologist emerges in full.

It’s not having no memory at all, is it, Richard? You’ve moved the goal posts. We must have “clear and convincing” memories, not mere memories. We must have a witness. Or we cannot say that the sex that happened without our consent is rape, much less report it to authorities. No, you want us to shut our mouths, because how terrible is it that a poor man who simply takes advantage of women (or anyone) while they’re too drunk to know what’s happening could be accused of rape? *delicate upperclass shudder* Why, if men were only allowed to have sex with people sober enough to enthusiastically consent, there would be fewer opportunities for men to get their jollies, and that’s just terrible!

As for those women who might enjoy getting drunk, or are perhaps too young and inexperienced to know our limits? He has advice for us, ladies:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of a tweet that says, ".@mrgregariously Exactly. If you want to drive, don't get drunk. If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don't get drunk." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

Shark. Jumped. Not that he hasn’t had plenty of practice in jumping cartilaginous fish lately.

That’s it, girls (and boys, and other genders who might like to have a few): in Dawkins’s world, we are not to get drunk if we wish to avoid sexual assault. And if we do get drunk, and someone decides to rape us, we are not to go crying to the courts about it. He may have done a no-no to you, but really, you shouldn’t ruin his life just because you were a wasted little slut he took advantage of.

Richard Dawkins, you love to pretend you’re one of the smartest men going. So tell me: how is it that you’re so profoundly, so willfully, so determinedly ignorant that you cannot understand that when a person is too intoxicated to consent to sex, sex should not happen at all? How can you fail to understand that if a person has sex with someone too intoxicated to consent, it is rape?

Let me repeat that: having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent is rape.

In your hypothetical*, where the woman can’t remember a thing and there is no evidence (of what? sexual intercourse?), she was too drunk to consent and if sex occurred, it was rape.

In the real world, when a person decides to take advantage of someone too impaired to understand what’s happening, and engages in any form of intercourse with them, that person has raped, and is now a rapist.

We can talk about courts and evidence and hypotheticals until we are brick red and lose our voices from screaming at each other, but at the end of all that, if someone is too intoxicated to consent, and one or more people decided to have sex with them in that state, that person was still raped.

Listen to the people who are trying to talk sense to you:

Image is a black rectangle. Across the top and bottom, it says, "Sex with a person too intoxicated to consent IS RAPE." In the center is a red square, with tweets pasted in on left side. Beth Lakin says, @RichardDawkins If you can't remember, you can't consent. So how do we handle the fact someone had sex with you without your consent?" Jeff the Kopite says, "@RichardDawkins @DefuseSec if one party is aware that the other is intoxicated and unable to give consent and still engages in sex, its rape." Danostrowski says, "yup @erasmuslijn @RichardDawkins "Fact: When intoxicated, an individual cannot legally consent to sexual activity." http://goo.gl/qplbYJ." Emma says, "@RichardDawkins if a woman is too drunk to even remember, she's too drunk to consent. Men take advantage of that situation. #ibelieveher." On the right is a silhoutte of a person who is falling over backwards with a bottle dropping from their hand.

People attempt to talk sense into Dawkins. I wish them the best.

And we don’t need the courts to find the evidence is beyond all reasonable legal doubt to decide whether or not to believe the victim who says they have been raped. We do not need a conviction in a court of law to decide whether or not we believe the victim who says they were raped by a specific someone. Tell you what, if you’re so worried about men getting accused of raping people who are too intoxicated to consent to sex, how about tweeting this remarkably simple solution:

IF YOU WANT TO AVOID BEING ACCUSED OF RAPING SOMEONE, DON’T HAVE SEX WITH A PERSON WHO’S BEEN DRINKING.

Easy, amirite?

How about this tweeting this one, too, Richard:

IF YOU WANT TO BE IN A POSITION TO AVOID BECOMING A RAPIST, DON’T RAPE.

And don’t forget to tweet what we’ve discussed here today:

SEX WITH A PERSON TOO INTOXICATED TO CONSENT IS RAPE.

It’s really that simple. Remarkable, isn’t it, how much clarity is achieved when we sweep aside all these byzantine and ever-changing rules for victims like, “Don’t ever get drunk under any circumstances,” and just tell potential rapists not to rape. No, not even if xir clothes are sexy. No, not even if xe’s passed-out dunk. No, not even you can screw xir without leaving a single bit evidence. No, not even if xe consented to kissing and then decided xe didn’t want to continue. No, not even if xe signals mere reluctance rather than screaming “NO!!!” and beating you to death with the nearest implement. If you don’t have crystal-clear consent, don’t have sex. Then you won’t ever have to worry about being a rapist.

And you can bloody well stop covering for them.

 

*Your hypothetical is bloody useless, because if she can’t remember a damned thing and there is no evidence of anything happening, that means we have a situation that will never ever happen anywhere on earth and we can bloody well ignore it.

Done with Dawkins

Blaming other people for their own rapes is a bright line for me. You don’t cross it. Back when Dawkins was being a complete asshole to women who wanted people in the movement to treat them with a modicum of respect, I didn’t write him off. I tried to explain why his statements were a problem. He didn’t listen to any of us who wrote to him, but several years later, he did help call for an end to threats and harassment, and I thought for a few seconds he’d seen a glimmer of light, before he went back to being a fuckwad again. But he hadn’t crossed the bright line just yet: he hadn’t explicitly blamed women for their own attacks.

Then he did.

Image shows two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Officer, it's not my fault I was drunk driving. You see, somebody got me drunk." Second tweet says, "The REAL Rape Culture: 'All occurences of sexual intercourse are rape unless there is certified evidence to the contrary.'"

Tweets by Richard Dawkins, blaming the victims and dismissing rape. We are done here. Screenshots from Stephanie Zvan’s blog.

Some folks, like PZ, still tried to talk some sense into him. And failed.

I won’t even try.

It’s not a too-old-to-know-better issue. I can’t excuse him on that count.

Some folks, like Courtney Caldwell, are able to respond with mocking contempt. I’m too angry for that just yet.

Dawkins’s frantic back-peddling, pretending he thinks raping a drunk woman is abhorrent (but so is accusing someone of raping you while you’re drunk!), only sinks my opinion of him further. He’s trying to blow enough smoke to screen Shermer, and I have nothing but utter contempt for people who do that shit.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him.  Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words. The slogans are what potential rapists are hearing in his words.

Even if he hadn’t already been pressing Ophelia Benson to help him shut people up about Michael Shermer before Oppenheimer’s article, and continued his determination to defend an alleged rapist by spitting on the victims, those original statements mean we are done here. There is nothing he can say, nothing he can do, that will make amends for them – aside from a full and unqualified apology, followed by strong, sustained action on behalf of rape victims, which we will never get from him.

Dawkins is on the side of the rapists. I am finished with him. Why shouldn’t I be? He’s made his position crystal clear.

This tweet referencing the deleted tweet above is still visible:

Image shows two tweets. First tweet is from Zee Mhaskar and says, "OMG @RichardDawkins might fall in trouble again with feminists." Second tweet is from Dawkins, and says, ".@MhaskarChief With a certain kind of feminist, of course. Not with feminists who truly respect women instead of patronising them as victims."

Yes, that’s what he said. Listening to and believing women who report their experiences of sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault and offering them support in seeking social change to the attitudes that perpetuate sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault? That’s disrespecting women, and acknowledging the truth of anybody’s victimisation by anyone else is patronising them. But pretending that sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault is not really happening is truly respecting women!

That attitude is beyond reprehensible. But it is Dawkins’s attitude. Rape survivors such as myself can expect nothing but patronizing contempt from him, and a dismissal of our experiences. The people who supported me and helped me survive the aftermath, who got me back up and out in the world, who taught me that violence against women is the fault of the rapist only and that our culture can be changed to give people like my rapist condemnation rather than support, the folks who turned me into a feminist and gave me back my voice, all those people aren’t real feminists to Dawkins.

I know who the real feminists are. They are not Dawkins and his lackeys. No one on that side of the rift has anything to say to me, ever, unless it is, “I’m so sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to fix this?”

Dawkins is beyond hope at this point, and needs to be excised like a cancer if movement atheism wants to be more than an old boys club with a few chill girls and a reputation for being full of rapists and the men and women who love to let them get away with it.

I’m not speaking to him right here. I’m speaking to the few fans of his who may have a trace of decency left within them, and yet think his idea that being too drunk to consent means a woman is responsible for her own rape have some merit. I have a simple message I hope you’re still humane enough to hear: It doesn’t.

As FossilFishy said at Pharyngula:

For those playing along at home, it’s simple:

Sex without consent is rape.

Impairment due to alcohol removes the ability to consent.

Therefor sex with the impaired is rape.

It doesn’t matter how she got drunk, once she was impaired enough to be unable to give meaningful consent having sex with her is rape. To say she was responsible is victim blaming.

In case you’re still confused, Pteryxx at Pharyngula is here to help you further:

For background to those poor confused souls who just can’t understand how drinking too much alcohol could be anything less than a fully conscious and deliberate action on the part of the wanton woman rape victim. We had several long discussions last summer on just that. How an over-eager host topping off one’s wineglass can make you lose track of how many glassfuls you’ve had, with reference to the refilling-soup-bowl experiment. How bartenders or party hosts sometimes deliberately over-pour women’s drinks so that they’ll be softer targets for predatory bros. How traditional “girly” drinks contain a lot of fruit juice that covers the taste so the drink doesn’t seem as strong as it actually is.

From one such discussion: (link to comment)

I was responding to statements that the women involved should have known better than to get drunk. Having been in exactly the same situation (@ 194) — my glass never being empty– that one of the women described, I know it’s not that simple.

I love wine, but I’m a pretty careful drinker. When I order in a bar, I also order water and I stop at three glasses. But the night I got so drunk I didn’t finish even one glass. So the usual rule, a three-drink limit, didn’t ever get into play.

That “just know your limit and quit,” or “just make sure you also drink some water” can be deliberately subverted by sexual predators, even without spiking drinks. Putting all the onus on potential victims to keep total control of the situation, when the victims are dealing with someone who has studied and practiced ways to undercut that control, is a clear cut example, in my mind, of exactly how rape culture operates.

The potential rapist is allowed to use any trick in the book to get the victim drunk. It’s up to the victim to see through every trick and remain sober– but of course, all the while not even *suspecting* that the person manipulating her is a rapist until that’s been proven in a court of law.

Tilted playing field, much?

See also Almost Diamonds and some research…

Furthermore: if you don’t want to be called a rape apologist? Then don’t be one.

As for myself, I’m going to remove Dawkins’s books from my shelves. We’re done here.

So Much Wrong: James Randi’s Rape Culture Remarks

Interesting factoid: James Randi doesn’t think women are worth as much as men. Oh, I’m sure if I got hold of him on the phone, he’d deny that. Probably would have some wonderful words about how amazing women are and how much he respects them and equality and achievement and such. Problem is, if he spoke those words, I wouldn’t believe him. Neither does he, deep down.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Here is what he told Mark Oppenheimer, who blew the lid off Shermer’s (alleged) career as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter.

But Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.

“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

Oh, my. Let’s stop right here a moment. James Randi knew Shermer was, in his words, being “a bad boy on occasion.” Generally, when men talk about other men being “bad boys” in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment and assault, they mean that those “bad boys” were harassing women. Hitting on them. Making them uncomfortable by pressing unwanted advances, or molesting them, or making unwelcome sexual comments, or possibly getting them too drunk to consent or protest and then raping them. Men say other men are being “bad boys” when they don’t think it’s a very big deal, except that those wimminz are sooo sensitive, amirite fellas? And Shermer’s behavior was bad enough for Randi to threaten to “limit his attendance at the conference,” so the behavior Randi was aware of was probably not limited to unwanted flirting.

Randi didn’t give a shit about those women. If he had, he would have limited Shermer’s attendance at the first credible report. But the complaints of however many women – and it seems that there must have been more than one, considering the “on occasion” and “many more complaints” wording – weren’t enough for Randi to throw out his golden boy. No, a few, or a handful, of women being victimized just weren’t enough. He needed more. And those had to be “from people I have reason to believe,” because apparently a woman’s word is kind of hard to swallow, so they had to be reallyreally believable.

How much would you like to bet Randi would put more weight on a man’s word than a woman’s, and not even necessarily realize he was doing it?

And I’ll bet you further that if the believable complaints hit the magic number, he wouldn’t ban Shermer from speaking and eject him permanently from TAM. Nonono, that would be too extreme. He would just have to limit his attendance, is all.

Right, let’s move on to why even this small bit of discipline was never administered.

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

I may have given Randi the benefit of the doubt, without that statement. I may have been all understanding, and generous, and allowed that yes, it can be hard to believe strangers telling you bad things about your friend, and sure, it’s hard to comprehend just how serious sexual harassment is when you’re not the one constantly subjected to it, and he’s an old white dude (see here for a magnificent rant by RQ on that), and excuses excuses, but that bit ruins him. Let’s look at it closely, shall we?

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.

Oh, well, it was all Demon Rum’s fault, the poor man! Allowances must be made! He doesn’t remember assaulting people, so as long as he doesn’t do it too much while he’s blacked-out drunk, no problem, right?

“I haven’t seen him doing that.

And, of course, if a man has not personally witnessed another man doing horrible shit while drunk, there’s no reason to take complaints so damned seriously. Probably didn’t happen. Cuz I didn’t see it personally. Could not possibly be because a) Shermer wasn’t that drunk and b) was smart enough not to assault people right under the eyes of the man who could have him ejected from TAM for life.

“But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control.

People in your organization are telling you this giant jackass is not under control. And what’s everybody’s brilliant solution? Tell him he has to be under better control! Whee, problem solved, no harm no foul except to the women already victimized, but it’s not like they’re as important as this man who makes lots of money, and it’s definitely not like I, James Randi, am the head of this ship and can decide that Shermer needs to be under better control somewhere else.

Only, it is.

“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately.

ORLY? He allegedly raped a woman in 2008 – that’s not violent enough for ya? Oh, right, unless he’s jumping from the bushes with a knife and beating her unconscious rather than merely drugging her into unconsciousness and then raping her, that’s totes not violent in your world. Riiight. I wonder how non-violent you’d think it was if you were the one waking up after being drugged (yes, alcohol’s a drug) with someone shoving their dick where you didn’t want it?

Limber your shouting voices, folks, it’s about to get far worse.

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image on top is a My Little Pony looking upward in shock. Caption says, "WTF is that?" Bottom image shows her looking in a different direction, seeming angry. Caption says, "Srsly, WTF is that?"

I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.

Image shows an anime woman with pink hair screaming so hard she's spitting and her eyes look like they're exploding. Caption says, "What is this I don't even"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows a man in a very tacky wizard's outfit, holding out his hand. Caption says, "Stand back. Shit's about to get real."

Image shows a nuclear bomb explosion.

Operation Castle – Bravo shot explosion. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Excuse me. I seem to have exploded all over my part of the planet and must gather my remains. BRB.

Image shows an orange kitten hugging a broom handle. Caption says, "Yah, itz a big job, but somebudyz gotta do it."

How do these words come out of your mouth if you believe women are actual people with genuine autonomy, and not just objects for men, i.e. real people, to play with? How do you speak these words about a man who you have been told harasses women, causing them enough distress that you have actually confronted the harasser and advised him he is risking your limiting his presence at your conference, and think they are reasonable words, if you believe that women have the same value as men? HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK do you speak these words and believe they absolve you of your part in this, excuse your inaction, if you actually believe that sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious problems?

He doesn’t. I’m sure he’d say he does, but his own words and actions prove he doesn’t. Look at what he’s saying: guys will just “misbehave” around women when they are drunk. So it’s perfectly fine that all he did was sexually harass women. Grabbing their tits without consent isn’t violent. Getting them drunk and raping them when they are too incapacitated to refuse sex or give any sort of meaningful consent isn’t violent. To James Randi, anything short of Michael Shermer actually beating a woman right there on the convention floor is not worth fussing over. It’s boys-will-be-boys. It’s oh-well-that’s-what-dude’s-do-when-they’re-drunk. Whatevs. What are all you harridans on about? It’s not like he grabbed a man’s junk, or hit anybody, amirite?

This is rape culture. This is James Randi fully and enthusiastically participating in it, and seeing no real harm.

James Randi couldn’t take women’s complaints seriously. Now we have at least one woman saying she was sexually assaulted by Michael Shermer. And James fucking Randi doesn’t consider that violence. No, she was drunk, and he was drunk, and that’s what dudes do, force themselves on women while they’re drunk. It’s not like that’s real violence that warrants ejecting Michael Shermer from TAM. Not in James Randi’s world.

Hopefully, he’s going to read those words over to himself a few times, and do some hard thinking, and realize exactly what it is that he’s saying. And he’ll realize that what he is saying reduces women to third-rate beings rather than human beings with the right to not be molested, and he’ll apologize, and we’ll see him take a thorough look at the evidence again and maybe, just possibly, decide that the way Shermer “misbehaved” warrants expulsion.

But I will not hold my breath, any more than I am breathlessly anticipating Michael Shermer will become my bestie (newsflash: he never will). Too many male skeptics have proven they’re unable to examine their own sexist behavior and thought patterns, much less correct them.

I just hope that the people who nodded along with Randi’s odious statement are now doing a double-take, and will realize it’s time to confront and eradicate those attitudes, both within themselves and in the broader movement. I hope a lot of people have now realized that treating men’s “misbehavior” towards women, including trans women, as “boys will be boys” gets us nothing but a movement where women and LGBTQ folk aren’t safe, while rapists and harassers are allowed to prey on them with impunity.

If you love skepticism, you’re going to have to clean house. And you’re going to have to admit your heroes have some horrifically bad behaviors and attitudes, and change the culture so that it is made manifestly clear that this shit must and will stop.

You want skepticism to survive as a viable movement? Stop making it a safe haven for predators. Stop making excuses like Randi’s. Start holding everyone accountable for the damage they do. And start making it clear that this sort of shit will no longer be tolerated. At. All.

The Shermer Allegations: Some Considerations for Those to Whom This Is a Nasty Shock

I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.

unacceptable

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.*

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is still legally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.+

No, don’t say anything yet.

Next, read Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece on this matter. Read it before you take your teeth from your tongue. Read it, and consider it, quite carefully. Here, I’ll helpfully point out a few bits:

If you’re one of the people or work for one of the organizations that has continued to employ Shermer, are you willing to be a party to future incidents like those reported? His name will continue to sell tickets. He will continue to bring donations for your organization, because enough people don’t care or still won’t have heard about this, so you have to make this decision for yourself. If now is not the point when you put your foot down and say you won’t put your staff or attendees at risk of being the next story, how many more people have to come forward?

If you’re a member or volunteer for one of these organizations or attendee at these events, are you ready to ask those leaders for change? These events are put on for you. These organizations are supposed to be doing work you think is important. At best, the behavior described is a distraction from that work. At worst, continuing to support people with “bad boy” reputations puts you and others with whom you work and socialize at risk. If this much attested history isn’t enough for you to identify this behavior as something you don’t want leaders to expose you to, what would be?

Think about this honestly. Yes, I know Shermer is someone you may respect. He may have been the one who turned you into a skeptic. He may be a friend. He may be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be, and this is killing you now, because you thought you wanted to be like him, but you didn’t think that included being accused of serial sexual harassment and assault. You may want to believe him when he gives you his various stories and excuses and gaslights you by saying that only icky horrible people do things like that, so of course he hasn’t, because he isn’t icky and horrible.

You’ll have to do something very difficult, and set aside all of that, and inspect the evidence just as you would if it were, say, someone promising a miracle cure for cancer. Perhaps it is. Perhaps you want to believe it. But you must face the evidence with as unbiased an eye as you are able to manage.

There’s one more thing I want you to consider:

My rapist, who was in fact convicted and sentenced for sexually attacking me, told our friends much the same things as Shermer is telling you. And you know what? Even though I was the person he held and raped at knifepoint, I wanted to believe him. He was super-fun to be around, smart and funny and charming, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even with all of the evidence I had, including a confession from him, it was a horrific struggle to get him into court and get him convicted, because he was a clean-cut, intelligent guy who knew who to gaslight, and how. I loved his mom, and hated hurting her. I lost friends I didn’t feel I could stand to lose, because they sided with him, not me. It would have been far easier to let the subject quietly die. The only reason I pressed charges and testified and endured all that the criminal justice system puts a victim through in order to get a conviction was because I didn’t want him to ever do this to another woman.

And I was one of the lucky ones. If my rapist been famous, I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as a police station with him. I would have faced far more victim-blaming, would have been turned on and threatened and dismissed, because everybody wants to side with the bigwig against the nobody. All I would have been able to do is tell my story publicly, and endured the shitstorm, and hoped that all the abuse I was taking meant that at least one potential victim would be forewarned and manage to prevent him from violating them.

So before you take your teeth from your tongue and speak, ask yourself: what do all of these women (and at least one man) gain by lying? Why do these people who admired Michael Shermer, who bought his books and enjoyed his talks, feel compelled to tell the community that this man did awful things to them? Why do you think they’re willing to face down the doubt and abuse and threats and legal repercussions and emotional anguish of accusing a Big Name of doing terrible things? What have they to gain by pulling one of their heroes down? Why would someone feel compelled to do that?

Then ask yourself why there are so damned many of them, for so long, if all these stories are false.

Consider that the statistics on false rape reports are between 2-8%, meaning there’s a greater than 90% chance at least most of these accusers are telling the truth.

Ask yourself why James Randi told Shermer “that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference,” if Shermer was doing nothing wrong and all of these victims are lying or mistaken.

Think these things through carefully before you speak.

You’re skeptics. Act accordingly.

 

Full disclosure: I am a freelance blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network, which means I have a rather attenuated connection to Michael Shermer, who writes a column for the print magazine. Be assured I am discussing Oppenheimer’s article with my editor on Monday, and will have a statement out after that discussion is finished.

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME COMMENTERS: Read the comment policy. Consider the fact that I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, or other bad behavior. Also consider I am out of patience with apologists for same. Should you wish to submit a comment that violates the policy, excuses sexism and sexual abuse, or otherwise runs afoul of my non-existent patience – remember that time is a finite commodity, and don’t waste yours. I certainly won’t be allowing you to waste mine.

I will be away from the computer for most of this weekend, but I will be intermittently monitoring the thread to prevent flame wars and other abuse. Victim-blaming and other rape apologia will be deleted. Don’t even think about posting it.

 

* I want you to pay particular attention to the bit where James Randi is saying that he knew Michael Shermer was victimizing people, but didn’t put a stop to it because he didn’t think Shermer had been violent enough. No, all he was doing was allegedly preying on women, and he said he was drunk (even though he later claimed he was totes sober), and isn’t that what drunk men do, prey on women? I will have plenty to say on this soon, but right now, I’m too close to exploding.

+. No, no, no. You do not get to play the “Everything’s okay until he’s in jail!” card. Not when you’ve built your reputations on taking down psychics and Bigfoot enthusiasts not by dragging them into court and having them convicted of fraud, but proving by a preponderance of evidence that they’re full of shit. We’re not a courtroom convicting and sentencing Michael Shermer to time behind bars, but a group of people deciding, based upon the evidence and patterns we have, whether he is a safe person to have around us, and whether he’s a person we wish to support. We do not need a legal verdict to make these decisions. Don’t pretend we do, it makes you look ignorant and foolish.

Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*

It’s a very good thing other folks have written things about Brian Dunning’s wire fraud shenanigans, because you won’t find anything about it on his site. Not even his it’s-my-fault-only-kinda-not-and-everybody-was-doing-it-and-it-didn’t-really-make-me-any-money-and-who-cares-about-eBay-never-mind-the-other-affiliates-I-probably-ripped-off-and-anyway-I-once-helped-some-people-who-got-stuck-and-hey-listen-to-my-podcast-while-I’m-in-prison! letter. In fact, if you’re only a Skeptoid fan, you may not really know anything about what’s going on, especially since he or someone in his organization has set up the Twitter feed to neverever let on that anyone’s talking about him being a big fat fucking fraudster:

This lovely little screenshot our own Jason Thibeault got shows that the Twitter feed widget's set to exclude words like -cookie -ebay -fraud -cookies -criminal -jail -prison - y'know, all mentions of Brian Dunning's fraudulent ways. Can't have the rubes - I mean, skeptics - finding out!

This lovely little screenshot our own Jason Thibeault got at Skeptoid.com shows that the Twitter feed widget’s set to exclude words like -cookie -ebay -fraud -cookies -criminal -jail -prison – y’know, all mentions of Brian Dunning’s fraudulent ways. Can’t have the rubes – I mean, skeptics – finding out!

I’ve not paid much attention. Brian Dunning means jack diddly shit to me – I never even knew his podcast existed before it came out that he’d been defrauding eBay out of a lot of money. Clever people doing stupid things to rake in illicit dollars doesn’t surprise me a bit. And the brigade of screaming howler monkeys constantly attacking some of my favorite atheists, combined with a bunch of Big Names turning out to be horrible people, has given me a certain immunity to crushing disappointment. Skeptics can be just as bad as the rest of humanity, news at 11. Brian Dunning’s story is an old, tired one: making his way in the world by hook, but mostly by crook, and not owning his crimes in the end.

But due to the fact that people I like are being trodden on by self-declared Skeptics™ who cannot believe their own Hero is a criminal jackass, I figured I’d go ahead and signal boost. And hey, one or two of you may have missed the news that Brian Dunning is a big fucking fraudster, someone you cannot trust, because he is willing to lie to your face, even in his supposed mea culpa. Skeptics deserve better. Skeptics should be better. So read up on this ratfucker, so that when he returns after his 15 or so months in the Big House, he doesn’t sucker you in.

Fraudster skeptic Brian Dunning’s shell game

The Worst Thing Brian Dunning Has Done for Skepticism

Brian Dunning Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Fraud

A Critical Analysis of Brian Dunning’s Explanation

The virtual radio silence on Brian Dunning’s fraud

Why won’t you “skeptics” let Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning put his misdeeds into the memory hole!?

The sophistry and revisionist history in Skeptoid Brian Dunning’s statement 

And, as a reminder that even as a skeptic (minus the fraud) he fails, just one example of Brian Dunning doing it rong:

Brian Dunning’s DDT Fail

Surely the skeptic community is not so hard-up for skeptic entertainers that we can’t boot fraudsters out.

Brian Dunning, wire fraudster. Image courtesy DarylNickerson via Wikimedia Commons.

Brian Dunning, wire fraudster. Image courtesy DarylNickerson via Wikimedia Commons.

*I don’t mean you, if you liked his podcast but, when news broke of his perfidy, carefully considered the evidence against him, and waited to see how the trial shook out before coming to a conclusion, and are not, now he’s convicted and sentenced, trying to tell yourself he’s a really great guy who just happens to have maybe done some shady things to a big rich company, so no big. You’re not unskeptical if you didn’t catch on from the very first podcast. You’re only unskeptical if you’re now trying to spin the facts in this con artist’s favor.

Attention Brian Dunning’s Loyal Fan Club: Yes, he committed a serious crime. Yes, he deserves to go to jail. Yes, you really are a rotten skeptic if you think his actions are defensible, but a psychic’s claims they can talk to your-dead-relative-whose-name-begins-with-j-no-wait-maybe-a-w are not. Yes, you are a sucker if you read that “explanation” of his and didn’t have every this-asshole’s-got-a-thick-wool-sack-and-is-coming-at-my-eyes-with-it-whilst-preparing-to-reach-for-my-wallet alarm. And yes, it is a fact that you won’t be allowed to whine all over the comments here. Go elsewhere.

White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after a day spent reading about 18 year-old unarmed black kid Mike Brown’s murder by a white cop with a god complex. It’s 2014, and we’re still a society in which black parents have to explain to their kids how not to get killed by the police, and a society in which a black man can get executed for selling untaxed cigarettes, a black woman for opening her door to police, a young black man for lying face-down as the police compelled him to., and a black man can’t be assaulted by a white one without getting pepper-sprayed and detained. Meanwhile, white people can carry assault rifles wherever they wish, and even brandish them at police without getting shot instantly, but a black man can’t carry a BB gun in Wal-Mart without getting executed by police. An unarmed black teenager gets murdered by a policeman, and a white pundit wants to know why President Obama won’t offer the murderer condolences for having given in to the impulse to destroy an innocent human being.

Are we happy, white Americans? This is the country we’ve made. Remember all that tough-on-crime talk that’s kept us electing people who’ve promised more cops with more powerful weaponry? Remember how we all panicked after 9/11 and decided it was okay if our police were turned into paramilitary units? And how we’ve put all this heavy weaponry in the hands of white people who disproportionately target black people?

I want you to look at what’s happening in Ferguson, to the people who are peacefully protesting a black teenager’s murder.

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

This country was founded on the premise that citizens should be able to express their displeasure to their government. The Constitution enshrines the right to protest:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

States are as bound by that Constitution as the Federal government. And yet, in Ferguson, a young black man with his empty hands raised to the sky, petitioning his government for redress of a very serious grievance, is met with overwhelming force. In America, if you are a black person protesting the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the First Amendment does not apply. You will be silenced with military hardware.

As for freedom of the press, well, they are free to get arrested in McDonald’s and slammed into things by the arresting officers when they do not respond instantly to conflicting commands.

This is the world we’ve made.

Some of you may like it. You’re not likely to be targeted. You don’t have to walk out your front door with the possibility of getting shot to death by the police on your mind. You think the black people you’ve discriminated against and had your proxies brutalize and robbed of any hope of a future deserve everything the police dish out. You like the tough-on-crime rhetoric that lets you enjoy your drugs in peace while black kids have their slender chance at a decent life ruined over a little bit of pot. You can break the law in a thousand minor ways without being murdered by a cop, but will look for any tiny misdeed on the parts of the black folk executed by law enforcement. You think this society is just, that the police are in the right, and those who are suffering deserve their suffering. You think that everything the police do is justified if people who have suffered endless injustice are backed into a corner, and have no way out except to lash out. You condemn them for anything you can, just so that you won’t have to confront the uncomfortable fact that you’re part of a system that crushed them, and then sent riot police to attack them when they had the temerity to protest the brutality visited upon them.

I have nothing to say to you. I will not waste my time digging for that shred of humanity that may be left in you.

For those of us who just didn’t pay attention, who let our fear get the better of us, who didn’t realize the horrific scope of the problem because we never get pulled over for driving while white, stopped and frisked for being white in public, and are treated with at least a patina of respect by police officers who know they can’t get away with casual brutality toward white people, I think it’s well past time we wake the fuck up, and start doing something about the things we’ve allowed to happen in this country. It can start right now, with a signature on this petition, asking for a full investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown. Sign it now.

And then listen to the stories pouring out, the anger and the pain.

Listen.

Image is a drawing of Mike Brown, with the caption, "I am Mike Brown and my life matters."

Mike Brown. Image courtesy dignidadrebelde via Flickr.

In Solidarity w/Ferguson sick of your colorblind bullshit

White America:

Michael Brown.

The young man was on his way to college the next day.

Yet he was brutally executed by fascist police state thugs in occupied territory and left to bleed in the street like a dog.

He did everything that white America claimed he should do to keep from being branded a savage and was murdered in cold blood.

This Is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown

As a black person in America, it’s getting exhausting to still have to explain, in the year 2014, your right to exist in this country. To explain that you are a human being whose value sits no lower than anyone else’s. To explain our basic humanity. And perhaps worst of all, to explain exactly why we are outraged.

We shouldn’t have to explain why it’s not acceptable for unarmed teenagers to be gunned down by the police.

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police

Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.

So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.

Even atheists have sacred cows

Trayvon Martin was just walking home with skittles and a fucking iced tea. He was killed for nothing, bc of a racist scumbag who should be in prison. I’ve walked to the store at night before. I’ve worn a brightly colored tee shirt, and shorts. I’ve carried my cellphone and wallet at all times. Why? Because in the back of my mind, I have to worry about the possibility that someone will want to shoot me because I’m a person of color. Nevermind that I don’t own a gun, and don’t want to. Nevermind that I’ve never been in a fight in my life. Nevermind that I’m not an aggressive person prone to violence. Nevermind that I have a hard time hurting a roach, let alone another human being. No, nevermind all that. There are people out there that wish I were dead, or would take the opportunity to kill me for nothing.

[snip]

Perhaps you’ve even heard of Ezell Ford, a 24 year old black man who was killed by police while he was walking along 65th street, some TWO HUNDRED blocks north of where a shooting had been reported. He was lying on the ground and obeying police orders when he was killed by police.

He died on August the 13th. oh look.

That’s today.

you all going to be paying attention when the next unarmed black man dies to police on the 15th? you gonna remember their names when there’s another black person lying dead in the street, killed by police on the 17th? are you going to remember eric garner’s name?

The Mellow Monkey on Even atheists have sacred cows

Racial profiling, disproportionate sentencing including the application of the death penalty, police brutality and murder, institutionalized discrimination, systemic inequality in matters of health and quality of life, changes in voting laws and redistricting to try to minimize Black votes, disproportionate rates of being the victims of violent crimes, involuntary sterilizations and contraceptives with serious side-effects offered without proper counseling, high maternal and infant mortality, children disappearing into the foster care system instead of being placed within their own communities, etc.

Some things have gotten better since We Charge Genocide, but mostly they’ve just gotten a little less official.

Midwestern Police Trying New ‘Shoot All Black People’ Approach

Here are a couple stories in which police officers shot people, and race was most certainly not a factor, because race is never a factor now that Barack Obama is President/Dictator for Life. We begin with the tragic death of a man named John Crawford, who was shot by police officers in an Ohio Walmart for the crime of shopping for a BB gun while black. While Crawford was busy exercising his Second Amendment rights, two other shoppers, April and Ronald Ritchie, decided they ought to inform the local police that a scary black man was carrying a gun in a store where guns are sold.

NAACP Should Already Know That The Politics Of Respectability Cannot Save Black People’s Lives

This is not the same as every race’s intraracial crime (yes, every fucking race has intraracial crime; every race does not face anti-Blackness [or settler colonialism, which connects to this history] and this particular historic structure of violence, however) nor would be prevented by the politics of respectability. Black people in America do not have the power of the police or the State. We cannot “earn humanity” through behavior, dress, or even beliefs. We are dehumanized as Black people based on who we are, the fact that we are Black, not based on what we do. A lack of “respect” for the city (one already under investigation for profiling and racist policing long before Michael was executed) didn’t kill Michael Brown. A long legacy of anti-Blackness and violence in that city, in this country, in our history is why he is dead.

Silence is Not an Option

I don’t care if Mike Brown was going to college soon. This should not matter. We should not have to prove Mike Brown was worthy of living. We should not have to account for the ways in which he is suitably respectable. We should not have to prove that his body did not deserve to be riddled with bullets. His community should not have to silence their anger so they won’t be accused of rioting, so they won’t become targets too.

America Is Not For Black People

Officers have tanks now. They have drones. They have automatic rifles, and planes, and helicopters, and they go through military-style boot camp training. It’s a constant complaint from what remains of this country’s civil liberties caucus. Just this last June, the ACLU issued a report on how police departments now possess arsenals in need of a use. Few paid attention, as usually happens.

The worst part of outfitting our police officers as soldiers has been psychological. Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he’ll reasonably think that his job isn’t simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger. Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying.

If officers are soldiers, it follows that the neighborhoods they patrol are battlefields. And if they’re working battlefields, it follows that the population is the enemy. And because of correlations, rooted in historical injustice, between crime and income and income and race, the enemy population will consist largely of people of color, and especially of black men. Throughout the country, police officers are capturing, imprisoning, and killing black males at a ridiculous clip, waging a very literal war on people like Michael Brown.

Protesters use hands-up gesture defiantly after Michael Brown shooting

Yet again, the protesters took to the sidewalks and streets, facing a row of police guarding the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office. “Hands up!” they chanted, their arms aloft. “Don’t shoot.”

“This is how the boy died!” Kendrick Strong, 42, hollered at police officers Tuesday morning. “This is how the boy died! With his hands up in the air!”

[snip]

The hands-up — a sign of surrender and submission black men and boys here say they learn early on when dealing with police — has been transformed into a different kind of weapon.

Police in Ferguson Fire Tear Gas on Protesters Standing in Their Own Backyard

Standing in his backyard along with a few friends and family was 24-year-old Rich West. And after seeing the police deploy tear gas as they marched down the empty street, West and his friends felt like protesting.

“You go home! You go home!” they chanted. As the police come closer, they all put their hands up.

Once again, the police officer with the megaphone ordered the protesters to go home.

“We’re in our yard!” they responded.

At one point West walked to his fence with his hands high up in the air.

“This my property! This my property!” he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.

Be Proud Americans Still Know How to Riot

Whether you identify positively or negatively with the term or the idea, whether you feel that uprising is an appropriate reaction to state violence or whether you prefer the term rebellion instead, the act of the riot is a historical one as necessary to democracy as any form of civil or uncivil disobedience.

Hey, Step Back with the Riot Shaming

One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s lesser known quotes ‘riot is the language of the unheard’ keeps me grounded here. In fact, did you know that MLK and many other non-violent black activists employed armed guards in the 60s?

Besides, all of this talk about ‘violence’ this and stereotypes that is just so unhelpful. Let’s maybe talk about the fact that in cases like this police deliberately censor footage gathered, in some cases arresting photographers for fear of sparking unrest. You know why that is? Because they understand what most riot shamers don’t: if you corner injured people, there is no where to go but against.

Ferguson P.D. Would Like All Y’all Black People To Hush Up And Be ‘Respectful’ Now, Ya Hear?

When your town is two-thirds black, your police force is almost exclusively white, and you’ve taken to the streets in tanks like it’s fucking Fallujah, you need to hush your cracker mouth about “respect.”

Rachel Maddow on the record of racial disparity in Ferguson

The white establishment is absolutely terrified that they may have gone just slightly too far by murdering a young black boy who was unarmed and whom witnesses claim was 35 feet away from the police officer who murdered him. And they’re expressing this terror by creating a paramilitary presence to gas and attack and try to frighten the living bejeezus out of the people who dare say “yeah, murdering that boy WAS a little too far over the line, thanks.”

Inaji on Even atheists have sacred cows

You also think the stomp of boots, rumble of tanks, teargas, rubber bullets, big damn guns and real bullets can’t ever come marching to you. Because you don’t want to understand what happened yesterday. That day when a police force went rogue military and shut down a town is a day I thought I would not see. I didn’t think I’d live to see that happen, but I have. And what I have lived to see is fucking terrifying. It should scare the hell out of every single person in the U.S., regardless of class, colour, or location.

Go look at what the police are doing there.

Never think it can’t happen here.

It’s time for the police to be de-militarized, time for this country to truly confront its problem with racism and racial injustice, and time for us to demand the brutality stops.

Start today.

Nerp. Still Not Deep Enough

Let us reassess whether atheism should be divided or not. Lemme see… Would I want to be on the same side as The Amazing Atheist, f’r instance? Ha ha ha ha no.

My, that was easy. Someone that despicable clearly has no place on my side of the Deep Rift™. I don’t fancy wading hip-deep in festering hatred just to get a larf at creationism. Why, all I need for that is to read their very own textbooks.

But what about his addled supporters? Should I, perhaps, build a small rope bridge between us?

No, I don’t think I shall tolerate hanging with the same side that thinks violent misogynists are no big so long as they deride creationists in a manner they find pleasing.

I shall be assidiously avoiding all association with those who think it’s better to defend an asshole than find and promote the non-assholes who do the same work. I am not so desperate for allies that I need to accept such grotty specimens.

No, the side that embraces people who find it sporting good fun to deliberately trigger rape victims, threaten to rape people with a fist, and hate on teenage girls because society frowns on them salivating on same, can stay far, far away from my side. They, to me, are what the Westboro Baptist Church is to my liberal Christian friends.

Image shows a statue of David Livingstone shading his eyes. Caption says, "No, I'm afraid I can still see them. Do keep widening."I think we can do nicely without that sort, thanks. In point of fact, I think we must.

What Recent Supreme Court Decisions Have Told Me About My Value as a Woman and a Human Being

I’ve learned so much from the Supreme Court over the last few years:

Corporations are totes people who have the right to put as much money where their mouth is as they want – well, they don’t technically have mouths, but they’re still American people who have every right to talk as much as those mere biological people they’re notorious for trodding upon.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) Limits on corporate and union political expenditures during election cycles violate the First Amendment. Corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited sums in support of or in opposition to candidates as long as the spending is independent of the candidates.

(Notice we hoi polloi are thrown a sop in the form of labor unions being able to spend unlimited sums – which would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that corporations have been busy murdering unions for decades. Hey – does that count as first-degree murder? Because that means we should be able to imprison or execute them, then.)

Corporations and rich people have lots more freedom of speech than people who aren’t rich or corporations.

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) Limits on the total amounts of money that individuals can donate to political campaigns during two-year election cycles violate the First Amendment.

Image shows Supreme Court portrait: the conservative justices have corporate logos on their robes. Caption says, "I don't always undermine the Constitution of the United States, but when I do, I make sure I get paid."

People who want to keep guns around in order to shoot other people (but not corporations, because while corporations can “speak,” they can’t actually bleed) are more important than people who would rather impose sensible limits on guns for the safety of total non-people (such as children outside of wombs).

McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010) The individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is fully applicable to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

People of color don’t need any protection from systemic racism. Nossir. Times have changed and there is no longer any such thing as, oh, say, corporations (which are Very Important People) and political parties (*coughRepublicancough*) discriminating against people whose skin is other than white. They certainly wouldn’t refuse to hire them or prevent them from voting!

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action does not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contains the coverage formula that determines which state and local jurisdictions are subjected to federal preclearance from the United States Department of Justice before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices based on their histories of racial discrimination in voting, is unconstitutional because it no longer reflects current societal conditions.

Making everybody in government pray to Jesus doesn’t violate anyone’s free exercise of religion. Why wouldn’t Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists and pagans and all them other (totally fake) people love praying to Jesus? Their objections are silly and can definitely be ignored. Remember: being forced to pray to a god your religion or conscience tells you doesn’t exist is no big, even if your god is a jealous fucker who will cut you for paying lip service to someone else’s god.

Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ___ (2014) A town council’s practice of opening its sessions with a sectarian prayer does not violate the Establishment Clause.

We look forward to seeing the Court twist into pretzels to define why praying to Allah is totes a violation of the Establishment clause.*

The Court has given me to understand that women are definitely lesser people than corporations. Corporations have the right to force women and trans men who haven’t had surgery to pay for their own birth control, because a corporation can be totes religious just like a person, and private for-profit corporations are so pious that they, like churches, can impose their beliefs that women should be baby factories upon women, trans men, and other folks with a uterus. Uterus-having folks, however, have no right to impose their desire for appropriate healthcare upon the corporation providing health insurance as part of their compensation. No word yet on whether corporations must pay for the aspirin they’re telling ladies to keep between their knees as a substitute for effective birth control, but I’m sure they won’t have to if they classify all pills as birth control.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) Closely held for-profit corporations have free exercise of religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Viagra, of course, will be provided to the menfolk with limp willies free of charge.

Image is an angry Captain Picard with his hand extended as if protesting. Caption says, "Hobby Lobby is not a church, it's a fucking crafts store."

But hey, isn’t it sweet that the Court’s enlightened enough to finally realize there’s no good reason for the federal government to say “I don’t” to same-sex marriage?

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines—for federal law purposes—the terms “marriage” and “spouse” to apply only to marriages between one man and one woman, is a deprivation of the equal liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The federal government must recognize same-sex marriages that have been approved by the states.

Shorter Supremes: “We’re going to give corporations insane control over the political process, and gut all the laws protecting you from racist jackasses, and let Christians force their prayers and beliefs upon you even in government settings, and we don’t give a single shit about women’s reproductive rights because every fetus and potential fetus is sacred until it’s born, after which we don’t care if it gets shot, but hey, we’re not bigots – you can have all the same-sex weddings you want! Just, y’know, don’t expect us to tell corporations, which are completely religious people, that they can’t discriminate against you. Because it’s obvious we think they own you.”

Image shows Scalia. Caption reads, "Equality? Not founder's intent, lol."

For those who say elections don’t matter, I just want to point out one thing: the majority are all Reagan / George W. Bush appointees. The dissenters: Clinton and Obama. Just one less Bush term, and women might not have to put up with their employer forcing their religious views up their vagina. Had Obama lost, same-sex marriage would still be a distant dream rather than an impending reality. So fuck you if you’re one of those who was willing to risk McCain or Romney just to punish the Dems for not being progressive enough. Play those games with local and state elections where there’s less risk and more reward, people. Leave the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices in hands that aren’t bloody evil.

Image shows Voting Rights Act being signed. Caption says, "Undone by 5 justices. #whycourtsmatter"

And go read Greta Christina’s piece on this travesty. Get outraged. Get voting. Don’t ever let yourself believe elections don’t matter. The only thing that’s going to defeat all that corporate cash is a lot of good people willing to pull the right levers.

Image is a gray cat in a suit. Caption says, "Lawyer cat objects to everything."Boycott Hobby Lobby. Get involved with SafeAndSecular.org.

*I will soon be running for office as an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – if you vote for me, I assure you each meeting will begin by invoking his saucy blessing upon our government business. Does anyone know where I can find meatballs that are halal, kosher, and don’t violate Hindu dietary laws?

Snippets about the landmark rulings filched from Wikipedia’s handy list.

The following memes were found by Ophelia, who has been blogging this case all day. Take them. Spread them. Annoy your Tea Party relatives with them.

Americans United meme. Text reads, "Apparently, the Supreme Court's HOBBY is acting as a LOBBY for the interests of corporations run by the religious right." Image is a 50s illustration of two women. Caption reads, "Face it, dear. Corporations have more rights than we do." Fight back at www.safeandsecular.org. Atheists.org meme: Image shows a Hobby Lobby store, with a Monopoly-style card over it that reads "Fake religious freedom. Get out of the law free. This card may be used to treat women as second-class citizens." Caption says, "A gift from the Supreme Court to religious extremists."  Elizabeth Warren quote: I cannot believe that we live in a world where would even [sic] CONSIDER letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections. The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.