Time to step up my game.

If my ISP is to be allowed to sell my browsing history to advertisers, I want that browsing history to make someone shit their pants. If someone looked at it now, they’d find mostly gardening advice and writing gadgets. Of course there’s a bit of weird shit, because that’s what happens when novelists have Internet access, but even the weird shit is expressed in its most bland, innocuous form. If browsing history is going to be a corporate commodity, then I aim to make corporate bigwigs have nightmares from looking through my “story research.” They should be too afraid to contact the sorts of businesses that might cater to my tastes.


We all have our anxieties

This happened on Twitter the other day:

A lot of us, myself included, have already responded.

Political views, held by a sufficient number of people, lead to behaviors and policies. Those behaviors and policies can make people’s lives better, or make them worse. I suppose some policies help some people and hurt others? Sometimes it’s a non-zero-sum game, though. Many policies ruin lives and don’t really help anyone except perhaps to let them feel superior. Other policies improve lives and don’t actually hurt anyone except to the extent of making them live in a world in which the “wrong” people are protected.

The reason why people with conservative views are “labeled negatively” is that many people are living in fear and/or dying young because of the behaviors and policies that follow from those views.

To paraphrase Margaret Atwood: Conservatives are afraid liberals will insult them. Liberals are afraid conservatives will kill them.


On the cause of the Sandy Hook shooting…

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been a meme going around to answer the question of why the Christian God did not prevent the shooting.

“God is not allowed in schools.”

I think most of the people getting behind this meme are generally decent people who love their country and respect their fellow Americans of other religious beliefs, including none at all. With that in mind, I want to tell you how this answer looks to those of us on the outside.

You’re effectively telling us that your God could have stopped Adam Lanza from going into that school and shooting all those people, most of whom were little kids, but he chose not to intervene, because the U.S. makes public schools a secular zone.

I grew up Christian, so I know that God is supposed to be extremely powerful. The God that I was taught to believe in would not let a small thing like the First Amendment get in the way of protecting children from getting shot while they sit in their classrooms. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how my childhood church would answer the question of why God didn’t make Adam Lanza use the first bullet on himself, but they would not tell us that those children and staff were killed because of the nation’s decision to make public schools a religion-neutral zone.

To those of us who believe in no God at all, you’re saying that your God is an asshole. You’re telling us that making everyone worship Him is more important to God than saving children’s lives.

To those who believe in different gods, or different ideas of the same God, you’re telling them that they are part of the problem because they want their children to go to school in a non-sectarian environment. You are asking them to think there would be less violence in the world if they allowed your religious traditions to be honored in the public sphere, at taxpayer expense, above their own.

All that said, I think this idea is most offensive to American Christians who respect the separation of church and state, because it’s ostensibly their God that chose not to prevent Adam Lanza from killing all those people. You’re also telling them that they are contributing to the problem by not demanding that their religious traditions be honored above all others.

Most of all, the message you’re sending is that a mass murder with mostly very young victims is a good time to discuss the merits of church-state separation. This may seem fair enough, because a lot of other people are using this occasion to point out the dangers of handguns. However, there is an important difference between God and guns, which is: we don’t need to debate whether guns exist. We can all look at a gun placed in front of us, take it apart, and learn the mechanics of how that gun can be used to kill people. In this case, we all know for a fact that guns were used to enable the killing of many people in a short span of time. There is no faith involved in understanding gun-related deaths. The evidence is readily available to all of us. The existence of God, and especially the supposed role of God in this tragedy, is all a matter of dueling beliefs. So, now you’re telling us that a lot of violence could be prevented if we all started worshipping the same God and in the same way that you do, but where’s your evidence? Why should we believe you over all other faith traditions, as well as the physics of handgun technology, the biology of death by bullet wound, and the sociology and psychology of violence? I don’t doubt that your intentions are genuine, and that you really think what this country needs more than anything is more love of God. The shooting at Sandy Hook was not a crime against God nearly as much as it was a crime against human beings. If you think your religion has a monopoly on compassion for human beings, you are sorely mistaken.

Ryan Holiday, please take this aloe for that BURN.

Oh, dear. If you’re going to accuse Irin Carmon of being Part of the Problem, you’d best have an honest angle on the issue, your facts had better be solid and your argument had better be airtight. Otherwise she might do this to you:

But in Holiday’s formulation, sexism or discrimination aren’t real, they’re just something he uses as a way to sell products. No one actually believes in what they write or the issues they’re writing about, because, Holiday claims, we are all motivated by a desire for attention or money. I’ll freely admit that like most writers, I prefer my work to be read and I like to be paid for my labor. But you know what reliably gets more traffic than articles about gender or, the beat I’ve been on for several years now, politics and reproductive rights? Cats and iPhones. You know who reliably makes way more money than journalists? PR people and authors of self-aggrandizing tell-alls.

With that in mind, it’s somewhat ironic that Carmon advises Holiday to “punch higher next time” rather than focus on a small fry like her. Any higher, and the punch-back will knock his head off.

There are, in fact, some religious leaders in RI who behave like grown-ups.

Good. Let’s have more of this and less of this.

Via WPRO, we have religious leaders from around RI who are setting a good example and showing some backbone:

“Crucify her, crucify her, cry those who fear the future, and hold on to the past,” said Rev. Betsy Garland, President of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches and interim pastor of the Riverside Congregational Church, United Church of Christ. “Today, we are all Jessica Ahlquist.”

“It is Jessica today,” said Rev. Kai, “it could be me tomorrow.”

This is a good thing. This is what leadership looks like.


I would like to see some Christians defending Jessica Ahlquist.

We have an overall summary of the case brought to our attention by 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist via Friendly Atheist. With me so far? Church/state separation issue, prayer banner displayed in public school, clearly unconstitutional, no surprise that the judge ruled against the school? Right? Right, so, THAT happened, and now that the case has been decided, a lot of people in Cranston, RI are not happy with Jessica. In fact, they are extremely upset with her, and they’re making sure she knows it.

Greta Christina gives her analysis of the backlash at Alternet. She draws from these two basic observations: 1) this was a clear, simple question of church/state separation from the beginning, and no one should be surprised that the judge ruled against the school, and 2) and yet people are totally enraged at Jessica for her role in this case.

Some edited highlights are below the jump. This shit ain’t pretty, folks.

Continue reading

English teacher writes cheesy smutbooks! Oh my heavens!

Saw this on Jezebel earlier today and thought it was pretty damn funny:

“She is teaching children that are under the age of 18 and definitely the books that she is writing are adult books. I think she needs to make a decision as to what she wants to do. Either be a school teacher or author,” Stepp said.”I was shocked. If you are a teacher you shouldn’t be doing that,” said former student Shanette Apple.

A 25-year veteran English teacher writes paranormal erotica novels on the side under the pseudonym Judy Mays, and now that her secret identity’s been revealed, some parents are being ridiculous about it.

That much is funny enough. I spent two years teaching English (in the foreign language capacity) to Albanian teenagers, and you wanna know what kind of crazy shit I was writing at the time? It was way, way worse than sexy werewolves, vampires and aliens. It was ten times nastier than anything written by Ms. Buranich. Parents, do you want your kids to have decent teachers, or not? Teachers are grown-ups who sometimes think about sex. They have funny-looking bits that enjoy stimulation from time to time just like everyone else.

Martha Kempner also takes on the subject at RHRC:

As far as I can tell, behind the scenes a middle-aged lady is sitting at a laptop pecking out the written equivalent of Skinamax—you know the soft-core porn that airs late-night on premium cable channels in which naked women and semi-naked men (you rarely see full-frontal male nudity in these shows) simulate sex set to the dulcet tones of saxophone music. The covers of her books are like knock-offs of Harlequin romance novels and look so cheap, practically fake, that they make one wonder if they are self-published (but they are available on Amazon and have Kindle versions to boot so I guess they’re for real).  When I “peeked inside” of Rednecks ‘n’ Romance (because how could I not) I got bad dialogue and a lot of cursing but no sex. Still, Amazon only lets you see the first few pages, so I must admit that her stuff could be a lot kinkier than it appears.

*ahem* I would like to point out that Amazon does sell self-published books, especially on Kindle, and in fact self-pub ebooks are basically a license for Amazon and B&N to print money. However, Judy Mays is traditionally published through Ellora’s Cave, so we can’t blame the cheesy-looking covers on an unaffiliated author.

This is a more cogent point:

Now, if the parents want to question her qualifications based on Mays’s barely coherent plots and bad grammar….

Don’t Make Us Uncomfortable, Yet Again

PZ Myers brings us the news that atheists are still being horribly cruel, militant, strident, and shrill to those poor, marginalized people of faith.

Look at this: a group of atheists attended a city council meeting to protest (politely, of course) prayer before meetings and ten commandments signs, and they were threatened with expulsion for the terrifying t-shirts they were wearing. They bore a slogan that other attendees complained about as “offensive”. That slogan was simply One nation, indivisible.

The phrase “Under God” wasn’t actually in the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s, when Sen. McCarthy succeeded in making the whole country shit their collective pants at the thought of us having anything in common with those godless Commies, but of course that’s one more thing we’re not allowed to say. It makes the nice god-fearing folk terribly upset to learn historical facts.

I’m inclined to agree with PZ; there should be no internal hand-wringing over atheists’ lack of civility. Anything we do short of stop being atheists is going to upset someone. They don’t want us to play nice and mind our language; they want us to disappear.

More on vagina-gazing

Jen McCreight takes on the non-troversy of the Orchid Project:

D’Arcy beats her fists on the floor:

This is one of many occasions where I have found the liberal body at Dartmouth to completely violate those principles that it purports to advance: respect and freedom. Regardless of the offensiveness of the message, if the Orchid Project’s main goal was to encourage consideration, what possessed them of the idea that a direct attack on all faiths was the way to do that?

“Respect” and “freedom” here mean: don’t you dare say anything less than overwhelmingly positive about my religious beliefs!

McCreight points out:

I can’t even conceive how someone can read that initial statement to mean that all religious beliefs are completely wrong, unless they’re trying to play the victim. And then turn around and presume to speak for every religious person at Dartmouth. And then go and condemn “acting on this knowledge in a sexual fashion,” thus proving the initial point that some religious beliefs can lead to sex-negative beliefs.

A sex-negative, religion-dependent conservative, trying to play the victim? I am shocked, I tell you. Simply shocked.