Enough Children Have Died

Enough children going to school, or out with their families, have died. Enough adults going to work, going out to eat, going shopping, going to the movies, have died. Enough people attending political rallies have died. Enough people have died.

It’s time to have a serious conversation as to why the United States has so many more of these shootings than anyone else.

It’s time to get serious about gun control.

It’s time we found the political will to face down the NRA and those who refuse to believe that regulating guns will solve anything, and make it much more diffcult for raging, hateful people to access the weapons they need for murder.

It’s time we found the political will to face down the cries of socialism and enact health care policies that will allow people to seek the help of a therapist when they can’t control their anger and hate on their own. It’s time we have the will to ensure that people who need help can get it, afford it, and will be judged as strong and good for seeking that help.

It’s time we stop excusing these killers as lone nuts, and start seeking real answers regarding their actions so that we can engage in real prevention. It’s time we had the courage to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

It’s time. It’s been time for a very long time.

I don’t want to see any more dead kids on my screen.

Contact your representatives. Tell them it’s time.

Control Arms campaigner David Grimason lays a photo of his son Alistair, who was killed by stray bullets in a gun fight, at the base of a mock tombstone. Control Arms coalition set up a mock graveyard next to the United Nations building in New York July 25, 2012. They are demonstrating as the negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty comes to a close on Friday. Image and caption courtesy Control Arms/ Andrew Kelly

Control Arms campaigner David Grimason lays a photo of his son Alistair, who was killed by stray bullets in a gun fight, at the base of a mock tombstone. Control Arms coalition set up a mock graveyard next to the United Nations building in New York July 25, 2012. They are demonstrating as the negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty comes to a close on Friday. Image and caption courtesy Control Arms/ Andrew Kelly

Link roundup and my letter to my Congresspeople below the fold. [Read more…]

You Voted for Death

Dear Friend Who Voted for Romney:

I’ve spent a week trying to process the fact that you voted for Mitt Romney. I still don’t know what those “conservative values” of yours are – you couldn’t tell me, and I can’t figure out what in the Republican Party platform you could agree with. I’m still hoping that you weren’t well-informed and were just voting how the people around you recommended you vote, because if you’d educated yourself on Romney’s values, lies, business practices, actions as a bishop, and history with gay classmates, and still chose him for President, then I don’t know if I ever really knew you. [Read more…]

“She Had a Heartbeat, Too”

That is the phrase I want all of you “pro-life” people to remember: “She had a heartbeat, too.”

And now she doesn’t, because people like you placed a doomed heartbeat above her own life.

Look at the woman your morals killed.

Savita Halappanavar

Savita Halappanavar. Image courtesy Shakesville.

“She had a heartbeat, too.” Remember that. There is a life carrying that fetus you’re so concerned about. There is a human being you’re condemning to death when you tell her that the failing heartbeat of a person that will never be is more important than her own beating heart.

And if you can look me in the eye and tell me that what happened here was right and just, then I will know religion has stripped all traces of humanity and compassion from you.

People Have Always Had a Hammer Ready for Uppity Women

Since getting the Kindle Fire, I’ve been teaching myself the history I never learned. School wasn’t big on freethinkers (although they were big on paens of praise for the Founding Fathers – the real secularist ones, not the weird rabid Christian ones that only exist in right wingers’ heads). My education glossed the suffragettes. It somehow left me thinking that women kicked up a brief fuss and got voting rights justlikethat, and that Susan B. Anthony had something to do with the American Revolution. Well, she was a revolutionary fighting a war of sorts, but I had her badly misplaced. Elizabeth Cady Stanton might have come up at some point – her name seemed familiar when I rediscovered her as a Freethinker – but if so, she wasn’t exactly expounded upon.

The impression I took away was that a woman’s right to vote was a natural evolution in American history, practically inevitable, and that bloomers were a big deal. I got the sense these women were rather freaks in their time. They were, but I don’t think the public school system meant me to think they were quite weird and somewhat undesirable.

But that’s exactly what anti-woman suffrage frothers wanted folks to think. Note the conservative hysteria in this series of political postcards. It should be depressingly familiar to anyone who’s followed the sexism and misogyny outbreaks in our community and the world at large recently. [Read more…]

Let Breathing Recommence

Oh, thank the people sane enough not to vote for Mittens.

Thank you. This is your victory.

The lead image at barackobama.com. That smile on his face? There’s one like it on mine, too. Whew!

You know what, he’s not perfect, and he’s practically a Republican (the sort of Republican you might have found in the mainstream before Republicans lost their shit), but fuck it. Compared to the batshit bizarre fuckknobs now infesting the Con party, and the magic-underwear-wearing psychopath that is Romney, I’ll take him. Hells to the yes, I’ll take him. With utmost pleasure.

Congratulations, President Obama!

In my own home state, we’ve so far cleaned the Cons’ clocks. We’re also poised to become potheads (which means far fewer folks in jail for enjoying weed), and it looks like I’ll be shopping for the appropriate attire for attending weddings in. I’ve only got the one dress I like, and several sets of friends in committed same-sex relationships. Yay, wedding bells! I’ve always said they should be allowed to suffer enjoy wedded bliss like us heteros.

Ladies: give yourselves a round of applause and drinkage. Women pwned the politial world tonight!

I’d like to extend hearty congratulations to probable Governor Jay Inslee. Woot!

I’m pretty proud of my state right now.

And I’m proud of the majority of my country. A bare majority, mind you, but still a majority.

(As for those of you who voted for Mittens, until you’ve perfected the “I’m sorry I was so stupid, and I’ll never be that stupid ever again” speech, you can kindly never speak to me again.)

My uterus and I are going to attempt to concentrate on Mount St. Helens research now. It’s hard – we’re both grinning like idiots and a bit bouncy. It’s just damned nice to know that we’ll be employed, have health care, and won’t have Cons poking about our persons. Huzzah!

I Do Not Trust Edwina Rogers to Represent Our Interests

I’ve sat out the Edwina Rogers fiasco since the Secular Coalition of America announced they’d chosen her as their new Executive Director, waiting to see if my initial revulsion would pass. It hasn’t. I read the transcript of the interview she did with Greta Christina, and the entirety of her Ask Me Anything on Reddit, hoping she could somehow allay our fears and prove she’s capable of representing us effectively, despite her sordid history in Republican politics. But I didn’t have high hopes. Put it this way: I’ve learnt over the last decade that when one trusts Cons not to kick them in the teeth, they’d best have an excellent oral surgeon on speed dial.

Edwina’s managed to meet expectations: she outright lies, she avoids the hardest questions, she babbles nonsense in reply to most of the questions she deigns respond to without bald-faced lies. She is exactly what I suspected she was when I heard some absolute morons had chosen a Republican operative neck-deep in the Bush administration, yammered on Faux News, and who has donated generously to Rick bleeding Perry, to become executive director of the Secular Coalition of America: an unmitigated disaster.

Not all atheists are liberals, and I suppose it could be a good idea to get some secular conservatives on board at times – if they don’t end up compromising the values held by the vast majority of us. As several people have noted, a Republican lobbyist as part (not head) of the SCA isn’t such a horrible idea. And I rather think it would be nice to give the Rabid Right something to worry about from within its own ranks, so the idea of developing a coalition of secular Republicans and siccing them on the fundies actually tickles me. So no, I have no objection per se to having a Republican working with the SCA.

But surely, surely, the SCA could have chosen a better Executive Director than this Bushie. She can’t reach across the aisle to elected Republicans – the bunch currently in office here, there and everywhere are, overwhelmingly, theocratic freaks frantic to install god as our ruler. They’ve already demonstrated that they’ll abandon their own policies if a liberal expresses approval. And I cannot dismiss the fact that she actively supports some of the worst of them.

Not to mention she thinks she can pull a fast one on skeptics by outright lying to them, thus demonstrating a spectacular inability to understand the people she’s supposed to represent.

What good is she? How can she possibly represent our interests?

[Read more…]

Sign the Petition for Trans Rights

It infuriates me that we have to have discussions like this in the 21st Century. It outrages me that we have to beg people to give folks their basic human rights. Why haven’t we reached the point where it’s obvious to even the dimmest and most backward among us that it’s not okay to deny people jobs, relationships, safety and their lives simply because they’re transsexual?

Oh. Right. Bronze Age religious bullshit and the general population’s total inability to consider the humanity of people different from them.

We need to give society a push in the right direction.

First, read Natalie’s piece on the Canadian bill that would give trans folks a chance a regular, decent lives.

Then go sign the petition to make it happen.

We can make a difference. We must.

Rising Up

I’m making an exception to my “no links to HuffPo because they are a repository for woo and wackaloonery that should not be rewarded” because this is important:

Jesse Kornbluth: The Police Riot at Berkeley: If They’ll Beat a Poet Laureate, Will They Kill a Student?

Go read it in its entirety before coming back here. Yes, even if you despise HuffPo as much as I do.

[Read more…]

Is There a Word for a First World Nation Becoming a Third World Country?

Even when I was a kid, I knew I was lucky. I had a middle-class family in a prosperous country. Sally Fields used to come on the teevee soliciting funds for all those poor, starving kids in other countries where families were lucky if they had a bit of cloth to throw over a stick for a house, and I’d be quite grateful my country wasn’t like that. Poorest kids I knew still had roofs over their heads and got a few good meals a week. And we knew America was the greatest country on earth. Almost everybody wanted to be like us.

I used to feel sorry for those folks who lived in countries that weren’t number one in everything.

Rome used to be great, too, the greatest on earth, and it fell. When I learned about it, I couldn’t imagine it. What would it have been like, to live in a nation that was sliding down to oblivion? Weren’t the people sad, maybe even despairing? Did they know? Did they realize what was happening to them? I didn’t think it would happen to America, not very soon anyway, but I knew it could happen, and I just hoped it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime. I loved my country. I wanted the best for it. Selfish reasons, too: I’d never wanted to live in a decayed civilization, amongst the ruins of greatness, without a chance to become anything amazing. It’s really hard to write works of enduring literature when you haven’t got any paper and everybody in your country’s so poor they couldn’t afford to buy your book even if you managed to write it.

Those were my silly childish thoughts. Then I grew up, and for a little while, in the heyday of the ’90s, it looked like America, despite some occasional stumbles, didn’t really have to worry about falling from its perch. We were great, and we’d continue being great. We could certainly be greater. I’d learned about homelessness and grinding poverty, and some of our cities were falling apart, and the Republicans were getting awfully weird, and we spent a fuck of a lot of money on the military while screwing the poor and the public schools, but still. We weren’t doing all that badly.

Then it got worse. And worse. We voted a jackass into office (never mind Florida, it never should’ve been so close anyway). Terrorists slipped through our defenses, and the jackass and his merry band of fuckwits used that as carte blanche to invade the wrong damned country and basically bomb all the brown people they could. They turned this from a nation of laws that didn’t always live up to its rhetoric but at least acted ashamed when it didn’t into a nation that proudly tortured people. And the middle class melted away, and the infrastructure crumbled, and even crazier fuckwits started getting bold enough to dazzle a bunch of flaming morons into voting for them, and here we are today, rubbing shoulders with third-world nationhood.

Seriously. We are.

Take air travel: The United States, the report notes, now has the worst air-traffic congestion on the planet, with one-quarter of flights arriving more than 15 minutes late. One reason is that U.S. air-traffic control still relies on 1950s-era ground radar technology, even as the rest of the world has been shifting to satellite tracking (the FAA has begun the transition to a satellite-based system, though it’s moving slowly and future funding is a big question). According to recent World Economic Forum rankings, even Malaysia and Panama now boast better air infrastructure.

For fuck’s sake.

And check out what came across my Twitter feed only yesterday: we are the only industrialized nation to have a World Heritage Site we can’t be bothered to preserve. Every other country on the list has probably got a plausible excuse: tiny and poor, tiny and war-torn, tiny and trying too hard to deal with extreme natural disasters and religious fuckery and trying to build themselves up to a reasonable standard of living to be much fussed with things like World Heritage Sites. What’s our excuse? We have Republicans who think preserving things like the Everglades takes too much money out of super-rich pockets. We still have gobs and oodles of money, more than enough to pay for things like preserving priceless treasures and repairing that aged infrastructure and ensuring people get an education and health care and have decent jobs, but we’ve elected absolute idiots and let them give all the money to a disgustingly bloated military and greedy asshats who sit on millions and billions of dollars and scream like two year-olds denied a toy when someone tries to extract so much as a penny from their tight fists for the common good.

We’re 37th in the world in health care, or at least we were in 2000 – I shudder to think where we are now, after eight years of Bush and before our inadequate but good-as-we’re-gonna-get-at-this-point new health care law fully kicks in. Square between Costa Rica and Slovenia, we are. Best in the world? Which world? Certainly not the second world – maybe best in the third world, I think we can comfortably claim that, but we’d best not get too comfortable with that idea, because Cuba’s only two rungs below us on that particular ladder.

Oh, and here’s a nifty little fact: the United States of America gets its ass kicked in income equality by the likes of Iran and Nigeria. Oh, yes, we are so great and glorious, we are kicking Haiti’s ass! Eat it, the exactly two developed nations who do worse than we do! USA! USA!

And while we slide down into the scrap-heap of has-been empires, we’ve got Republicans running around beating their chests and screaming we’re the absolute best at everything there ever was. Best at what, exactly? Burning ignorance? Failed leadership? Shitting on science after sending men to the moon? Yeah. Sure. I’ll grant you that. We’re certainly top contenders in those categories.

What pisses me off is that I know we’re better than this. Yes, this country is full of willfully ignorant fucktards intent on launching us back into the dark ages, but we used to keep them on the hopeless fringes of our political system. We didn’t give them the power and authority they needed to run this country into the ground. We made a mistake. And we’re going to have to rectify that, remove the dangerous halfwits from office and never ever let them have power again, if we don’t want to end up on the bottom of the heap.

I don’t want to live in a former first world country, people. Neither do you. And neither does that greedy little shithead on Wall Street, but he could give a rat’s ass considering he’s got the money to move. So it’s up to us.

America deserves better. We’re gonna have to vote smarter and work harder to ensure she climbs back towards the top. And then, once we’ve stopped falling down, we’ve got to help the rest of the world up.

We were a beacon once. We can be that again.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bard?

It may seem bizarre that in the land infamous for a dry sense of humor, satire is banned. But politicians in both Great Britain and Ireland, it appears, are terrified of people like Jon Stewart. So terrified, in fact, that they’ve come up with inane rules meant to prevent the carpets in their halls of power from being trampled upon by the muddy boots of comedians.

In Britain, you’ve got Rule Four:

Guidelines on the use of the pictures are less prescriptive. They do specify that no extracts from Parliamentary proceedings may be used in comedy shows or other light entertainment such as political satire. But broadcasters are allowed to include Parliamentary items in magazine programmes containing musical or humourous features, provided the reports are kept separate.

And in Ireland, ye olde fine print in the Rules of Coverage:

Please note that use of Webcasts and broadcasts of the Houses and Parliamentary Committees must be in accordance with the Standing Orders of both Houses and the Rules of Coverage of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting and Parliamentary Information, in particular: “… that recordings or extracts of the proceedings shall not be used in programmes of light entertainment, political satire, party political broadcasts or in any form of advertising or publicity, other than in the form of news and current affairs programme trailers…”.

And these are the rules that kept the Daily Show off the air, for fear that a wee bit o’ satire could bring the whole House down. You can read the whole sad saga via Graham Linehan. And then you can watch the dread content right here.

Why yes, yes, I am laughing my arse off. Whyever do you ask?

Thing is, it makes a certain sort of sense, based on history. The whole thing reminded me of a bit I’d read on Irish bards many years ago. It set me galloping through my books looking for the relevant bit, and I found it in The Celts by Gerhard Herm:

When they [the filids and the bairds] rose to tell the old stories, to report on heroes still living, the warriors would hang on to their every word, like actors waiting to learn whether they had performed well or not. Adverse or favourable criticism from such a source could alone set the seal on, or ruin, a reputation; woe betide the prince who failed to reward a singer properly. One who did prove to be tight-fisted had a poisonous quatrain directed at him: “I know him/He’ll give no horse for a poem;/He’ll give you what his kind allows,/Cows.” This kind of thing struck home, and noblemen tried to be generous, to reward good singers, with at least a horse.

I should say so.

So it appears that instead of buying the bards off, these days politicians are attempting to outlaw their more dangerous practices. Knowing that those whom the bards would destroy, they first make ridiculous, they’re trying to legislate dignity. The problem with this is, America has freedom of the press, and the world has the internet. This means that the bard’s tale can cross oceans at the speed of light. And when these pathetic little rules cause Great Britain’s weekly dose of satire to go missing, curiosity gets piqued, and then you end up with articles in the New Statesman. Nothing a comedian could do to politicians is quite as bad as what they do to themselves.

We are quite amused.

[And yes, I know, this week’s been rather light on the geology. I assure you, that unhappy state of affairs shall not obtain for long. For one thing, I’ve been doing research to ensure that my next post on the Skykomish is not merely a gallery of rocks with captions saying, “Ooo, pretty!” Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, but I like giving you added value. Additionally, I’ve been working on the research for a series of posts on various consequences of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet that I believe will meet with your approval (with especial thanks to Evelyn Mervine, who slipped me a copy of a very delicious paper on drumlins). And, last (but only because I’ve saved the best for), my intrepid companion and I are headed up to Deception Pass this weekend. Three days of wandering about amidst some extremely delicious geology. You will have such pictures, my darlings. So do not despair: the drought will end, and geology shall be thine. Possibly sans cats, but I’ll see what I can do about gratuitous felid insertion.]