On the radio I hear MOTS interviews from San Bernadino residents saying that they’re shocked that a mass shooting occurred in their neighborhood. With so many mass shootings occurring on a regular basis around the country right now, how can we be shocked when it happens to us? Horrified, yes.  Traumatized, yes. But to be shocked is to be surprised, and I’m not anymore.

We argue about the definitions of terrorism and racism and pontificate on motives and mental illness, and in all of that talk we’re not making anyone less dead or safe from future attacks.

An article on stochastic terrorism made the rounds last week, and I find myself thinking about it a lot. It’s a concept that makes a lot of sense, and one that we learn from a very young age. It’s depressingly easy to verbally manipulate people into physically attacking other people.

A coworker says in all seriousness “I’d vote for Donald Trump before I’d vote for Bernie Sanders and watch him tax hard working American businesses out of existence.” I work with someone who is in a place where the idea of politicians – the US government – condoning humanitarian atrocities is a lesser evil than the idea of companies going out of business.

In line for coffee: A patron says that it doesn’t matter whether the terrorists in San Bernadino were affiliated with a larger organization; they were influenced  by  Muslims who spout hate speech against Americans, and that’s why Muslims are dangerous. I didn’t interupt to ask him whether he would apply that logic to the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooter and the violent rhetoric espoused by activists in anti-abortion circles; I’m pretty sure I knew what his answer would be.


Religious Freedom Restoration Act

I hadn’t given much thought to the legal basis upon which Hobby Lobby and similar corporations are fighting against birth control for their employees. I knew that it had to do claims that their religious freedom was being threatened, and I assumed that this must have something to do the First Amendment, which reads:

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.

It was as I was listening to the most recent RH Reality Cast yesterday morning that I heard Amanda Marcotte mention that these recent attacks are not appeals to the First Amendment. What, what? Marcotte was interviewing Gretchen Borchelt, Senior Counsel and Director of State Reproductive Health Policy at the National Women’s Law Center, and they were discussing corporate-driven lawsuits attacking employee access to contraception. It was here that I learned that these types of lawsuits are not direct appeals to constitutional freedoms, but to a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA, pronounced by Marcotte as “Riffrah”).

Continue reading “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

But this makes me feel better!

Applesauce, hot toddies, pho, tea and honey – all good ideas that might make this cough/sore throat combo ease up.

But this has brightened my entire day:

Michelle Bachman isn’t running in 2014!

And yea, there was much rejoicing! – the infamous Michelle Bachman crazy eyes yell photo


She said some stuff and things in this YouTube video, but I only made it through four minutes of her sickly sweet, prettily-worded hateful speech, I think I’ll save the rest it for when I’m feeling better. For now I’ll rest in the warm glow of knowing that soon Michelle Bachmann won’t be representing Minnesota in Congress. I’m sure someone will pick up the slack in the Tea Party/Right-wing politics/conservative Christian values/muckracking ring, but it won’t be Shelley!

But this makes me feel better!

Thank you, Representative Mendez!

Pheonix News Times Blogs reported about Arizona Representative Juan Mendez‘s secular humanist delivery during today’s opening session:

From PNT:

Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.

A visible atheist in Arizona politics??? A visible atheist in American politics??? Praise FSM!

He also quoted Carl Sagan’s “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Thank you to Rep. Mendez from this secular humanist atheist. Thank you for the god-free invocation, for being a role-model for other politicians who might wish to be more open about their lack of religion but who feel unable to do so in our current religulous political climate, and for upholding the constitution of the United States.

If you feel like thanking Representative Juan Mendez for his support and representation, his email is [email protected]

Thank you, Representative Mendez!

Not gonna tip. Not gonna do it.

Steven Olsen from WWJTD posted this photo on Facebook from the FB group for IfYouCantAffordToTip.com: 

The image shows writing scrawled in pen on a piece of paper that says:


Your service was Great. The Reason for No tip – I am starting my own Redistribution Plan Like Obama – Started 11/6/12 – I no Longer Tip or Donate to Charities. I give the Money to My Church instead & wounded warriors.

Thanks for Understanding

PS. Please Don’t Be offended I will Redistribute My own Money as I See fit!


There are many reasons why note this is frustrating. Here’s a few:

Number the first: For better or worse we tip our servers in the United States. It is very easy to make an argument against tipping (check out this 2008 article from the NYT called Why Tip? It’s fascinating), and how and why we decide how much to tip is as unique as the individual dining situations that we find ourselves in. But pouting because the other guy won the election has got to be one of the shittier excuses I’ve seen for not leaving a tip.

Number the second: You’re not going to leave tips or donate to charity, but you’re going to donate to your church? WHY? Why are you giving to your church? To where do you think that money is going? To church infrastructure? To supporting your church leaders’ house(s)? To church-approved charities (which are, you must assume, different from the other charities you might be giving to). To buy yourself a place in heaven? To spite Obama and the liberal agenda? <–lolwut? Why are these uses of your money better than donating to other charities? And PROTIP (ha! Pun!): Tipping your server is not charity.

Number the third: Redistribution of wealth. This is yet another case of someone looking at a word or phase and re-interpreting it in a manner that they see fit. Redistribution of wealth is a concept that is applied at a group level. To say that you’re going to “redistribute your wealth as you see fit” when what you mean is you’re going to “spend your money as you see fit” is to show your ignorance about the complex concept that is redistribution of wealth. If you want to make an argument against redistribution because you oppose the government telling you how to spend your money, or because you believe that redistribution is used by the government to set spending priorities that the populace doesn’t support, recognize the fact that tipping your server is the exact opposite of government control. YOU have the choice of how to spend your money when you tip. Ain’t gettin any more independent than that. Don’t blame the Obama administration for your greed and/or anti-social views.

Number the fourth: Good luck with trying to tell your server that they shouldn’t take offense at your jerkish behavior. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

Not gonna tip. Not gonna do it.

Ellen and Politics

The following is a post by guest blogger Ellen Bulger.

Reason #382 Why Ellen Will Never Have a Career in Politics

“Hello, may I speak with _______? My name is Ellen and I’m volunteering here at Democratic HQ in town. I’m calling to remind you to vote today. The polls are open until eight and your polling place is at ___________. We hope you’ll get out and vote and support President Obama and Chris Murphy for senate and Rosa DeLauro for congress. Thank you and have a great day!”


“Hello, may I speak with _______? My name is Ellen and I’m volunteering here at Democratic HQ in town. I’m calling to remind you to vote today. The polls are open until eight and your polling place is at ___________. We hope you’ll get out and vote and support President Obama and Chris Murphy for senate and Rosie O’Donnell for congress…. um…. wait…. NO….. I can’t BELIEVE I JUST SAID THAT. (here: hysterical laughter) Oh gawd, I’ve been on the phone too long, my brain has gone to mush. Rosa DeLauro, you want to vote for Rosa, she’s great. Rosie’s great too, but. Oh dear, never mind. Just get out and vote and have a great day, oh, um, evening!”

Ellen and Politics

A Wisconsonite Asks Why

The following is a guest post from my sister, Erin Bilyeu. Erin is currently in Bellingham, Washington but she has family in Wisconsin and did her graduate work in Milwaukee. She was watching the recall election closely. When Walker survived the vote she was…not pleased.

My very first introduction to the wiles of Scott Walker was as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin  – Milwaukee.  ScottyDubs, as I like to call him, was then the County Executive for Milwaukee County and a staunch advocate of privatizing public assets (see the Milwaukee airport) and severely limiting public services (see the Milwaukee County Parks System, and County Transit System). Although it has been five years since I left Milwaukee to pursue a career in the public sector, I have followed his bizarre rise to national fame as one of the most  brazen anti-worker governors in the country.

I wanted to write something eloquent and witty about the results of June 5 recall but like Leslie Knope, I find myself angry. (I tried to find the season finale debate from Parks and Recreation but couldn’t find a clip).

Continue reading “A Wisconsonite Asks Why”

A Wisconsonite Asks Why

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats

Atheists Talk radio show is interviewing politician and church-state separation activist Sean Faircloth this upcoming Sunday, January  22nd. Starting in 2009 Sean Faircloth was the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk this weekend, so in preparation and interest I have started reading his newest book, Attack of the Theocrats, and watching videos of his speeches. I think I’m going to connect with his message that secular activists need to focus first on the real human harm that results from religious privilege, and not get lost in symbolic battles that  stoke theistic ire and strengthen resistance to secular activism.

From Attack of the Theocrats:

…the secular movement suffers from a noble flaw. Secular people tend to have an almost religious faith in statistics and dry arguments and abstractions as the proper method by which to carry the day. This has made it difficult to connect with the broader American public, particularly when many of our battles emphasize symbols – and not the numerous religious laws that harm real people.

Secular Americans remain a sleeping giant, a huge demographic that has thus far failed to flex its own muscle, much less galvanize the general population. We ignore people suffering under religious privilege while shaking our fist at a slapped-together manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time. While symbols are meaningful and these particular symbols on public grounds do violate Madison’s Constitution, Secular Americans must do better to reach all Americans. We must explain the human story – the human harm and the outright abuse of our tax dollars that result from religious privileging in law.

In the video below Mr. Faircloth outlines for the audience a few of the cases from Attack of the Theocrats, and lists his proposals for how secular activists can direct our efforts to focus on religious privilege that is enshrined in laws, and which are causing real human harm and waste of tax dollars.

Video first seen at RDF.

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats