Ignorance and bigotry, no lube allowed

I spent a semester in Tanzania in the Fall of 2006, and it was an interesting experience for a number of reasons. One thing that added to it was the month I was lucky enough to spent in Kenya three years earlier, which gave me a limited ability to compare the two countries. In both trips, I spent some time as a paying guest in people’s homes, and some time in more tourist-oriented scenarios. My trip in 2003 was with my parents, as part of the work my mother was doing with Quakers in Kenya at the time, so I spent a lot more time in religious services there, and had the astonishing experience of seeing a Quaker church designed to seat thousands. For comparison, the largest Quaker meeting (church) in New England has somewhere between 300 and 400 members, last I checked, with closer to 100-200 attending any given meeting for worship. In Tanzania, I went to one Catholic service, and one Lutheran service. So it’s possible I missed out on some preached homophobia in Tanzania that would have matched what I saw in Kenya.

Kenya was my first experience with kind, thoughtful Quakers, who also preached fire and brimstone about homosexuality. It was a deeply uncomfortable experience, and I can only imagine what it is like for anybody who’s not cisgender and heterosexual to visit. In Tanzania, the subject basically never came up at all, at least in my experience, with one exception. In one of the homes I stayed in, the television was on non-stop. It was the home of an important figure in the local Lutheran church, and most of what was playing on TV was an endless succession of Christian music videos, most of which were pushing the prosperity gospel bullshit. Certainly, my host had profited from religion. There were also a number of movies with a heavily Christian theme. One in particular is on my mind today, in which a young woman, engaged to be married, turns out to have a relationship with another woman, who fits just about every shitty stereotype bigoted Christians have about lesbians. Basically, she ends up getting caught and rejected by everybody, the wedding is broken off, she is left miserable and alone, and we’re all supposed to feel good about this.

In that context, it’s disappointing, but not surprising to see that apparently someone in the government of Tanzania decided that banning lube was a good idea It’s also disappointing that gay sex (only between men) is punishable by life imprisonment in Tanzania. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know that until today.

The claim is that this law is to combat the spread of HIV by halting homosexual sex. Aside from this being another example of bigoted morons thinking that gay men always have anal sex, and that straight people never have anal sex – and passing LAWS based on that delusion – I expect this law to cause an increase in infection, if anything. No lube doesn’t mean no sex, it means the sex that people do have is more likely to cause internal tearing, both in cases of anal sex, and in situations where women are forced to have “dry” sex. That means open wounds, potentially blood, and so increased risk of all sorts of infections. Unprotected anal, vaginal, and oral sex all carry a risk of HIV transmission, and anal seems to have a higher risk, but the solution to that is MORE lube, and condoms.

Getting rid of lube will make life better for precisely NOBODY, and will make life worse for a whole lot of people. I suppose this is a minor thing compared to life imprisonment for having sex, but it’s going to cause real harm all by itself, and it’s another example of how ignorance, bigotry, and stupidity drive people to do harm not only to those they hate, but to everyone else, just so they can twist the knife a little bit more.

For more information on the pros and cons of different types of lubes, I’ll turn you over to Laci Green:

For the vision/hearing impaired, there are a number of links to useful resources below the video.

 

Tobacco smoke and oil fumes, the lingering perfume of the 20th century

We live in a world that is so rife with conspiracy theories that it’s easy to forget that real conspiracies do, in fact, exist from time to time. More than that, some of them are a matter of public record, it’s just that because they’re ongoing, and they’re focused on misinformation, a lot of people remain unaware that they exist. Perhaps the most destructive of these, in the long term, is the multi-industry campaign of science denial that has been waged in support of nuclear, lead, fossil fuel, and tobacco industries. By now, most of you are probably aware of the ways in which the climate denial campaign has been influenced by the efforts of the tobacco lobby to mislead people about their product. If you’re not, here’s a short video from Yale Climate connections that will give you an idea what I’m talking about:

[Read more…]

On a more personal note…

There are a lot of reasons why I want action on climate change, but one very personal one is that I hate hot weather. When the temperature gets above 90F, I’m reduced to a puddle of sweat sitting in front of a fan. The prospect of longer, hotter heatwaves as I grow older may well be the grindstone that shapes me into a bitter old man a few decades in the future.

Exits and Entrances is now available!

I’m pleased to announce that my first novel, Exits and Entrances is now available in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon.com! This is the culmination of years of writing, learning, and re-writing, and I’m delighted to have it out!

My publisher described the book as a metaphysical fantasy, and I think that’s a good fit for it. This novel is the first of a trilogy, with book two well underway. I invite you all to read it, and to tell your friends about it.

He had once climbed the stairs of the Empire State Building, and that didn’t take half the time he was spending on these. Anthony was also fairly certain that he knew of no buildings with black marble stairs of such great width. He couldn’t see the walls on either side of him now, just darkness.

Wisps of pale green mist gathered around him, glowing faintly without lending any light to their surroundings. Anthony paused to look back. The stairs behind him were a well of darkness out of which reached faint tendrils of the luminous fog.

After what seemed like hours, he reached a door. It was unquestionably a door. Anthony was utterly certain that it was a door, but he couldn’t tell if it was a normal roof exit door, or a huge wooden door with wrought-iron hinges, or a house door, or a gate. It seemed to be all doors at once. Not flickering exactly, but not remaining in one guise either. Anthony realized that all the doors he had ever seen in his life were merely imitations or reflections of this door. Leaving such a door closed was not an option. Mouth dry and hands sweating, he opened it and stepped through.

Cover art description: A theater with the front two rows of seats visible. There are three stage doors, with a strip of thick blue curtain above them, forming a top frame for the stage. The one on the left opens not to backstage, but to a seascape, with a few seaweed-covered rocks, and a couple flying seagulls. There are some clouds in the sky. The waves are sloshing through the doorway onto the stage, and the water is running down the left side of the stage into the audience. There is one seagull standing on the stage, looking across it. The middle door opens to a hot desert, with distant mountains beyond the dunes. Some of the sand has blown through the doorway onto the stage, extending one of the dunes through the doorway. The third door, on the left, opens to a field at night, with a few flowers in the grass. Not far from the door, the grass meets a body of water, with moonlight reflecting off of it. Beyond the water, is more grass, and a few trees. The night sky in the lefthand door has a moon and clouds, with stars above them. The stars climb up the side of the picture, fading over the strip of curtain, and into a space-scape over the whole picture. Sheets of green aurora light mingle with the stars on the right, and toward the left there are two spiral galaxies, and a glowing nebula.

Fox news on climate

It should come as no surprise to any of my readers that Fox News has a uniformly terrible record when it comes to honest or accuracy on reporting about climate change or climate science. For me, at least, it’s a source of morbid interest – at what point will they stop lying about it? What will it take to get them to that point? How will they go about telling the truth if they do get there? I seriously doubt that if they do start telling the truth, they’ll acknowledge their mistakes or the role they played in making the problem worse. Either way, here’s a fun ad on that subject:

Pascal’s Wager and what non-Christians believe

Continuing the series “Conversations with Strangers, here’s a non-climate one, in response to a Huffington Post blog post on Pascal’s Wager. There are better responses to it out there, but I’m fairly happy with what I wrote:

Me:

Pascal’s wager is a case for dishonesty – you can’t choose to believe, but you can choose to lie and pretend that you believe.

So integrity is one thing that you lose if you accept this argument.

Beyond that, religion changes how you interact with the world. Do you pray over a decision, or do you reason through the pros and cons of it? How do you view people who don’t share your religion? How do you treat them?

[Read more…]