One phrase is causing the destruction of the United States

There’s a phrase people say that annoys me. Like, annoys me worse than people who leave shopping carts in parking spots rather than wheeling them over to a cart rack. Worse than people who leave their turn signal on for miles when I’m driving behind them and cannot ignore that damn blinking light. Worse, even, than parents who let their kids run rampant around a restaurant when employees are trying to deliver food or drinks.

Actually the use of this phrase does more than simply annoy me. The examples I gave above are mere annoyances. This phrase exasperates me. It gets my hackles up. It causes me to…well, I’ll let Mrs. White describe the feeling I get upon encountering this phrase:

Mrs. White, from the 1985 move, Clue, describing how much she despised the woman who had an affair with her husband. Clue is among my most favorite of movies.

Also, when I hear this phrase, I roll my eyes in disgust, because the people using the phrase are condemning something that is good, reasonable, and progressive. Something aimed at changing the discourse in society such that people from marginalized groups are crapped on just a little less. Something that’s about showing respect and decency to women, LGBT people, people with disabilities, and People of Color. Still not sure what phrase I’m talking about?
Continue reading “One phrase is causing the destruction of the United States”

One phrase is causing the destruction of the United States

Measles is NOT marvelous

Fucking. Andrew. Wakefield!

In 1998, along with 11 co-authors, Andrew Wakefield published the results of a study linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism spectrum disorder. Fast forward 12 years to 2010, the Lancet (which originally published Wakefield’s findings) retracted the study, saying:

Following the judgment of the UK General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel on Jan 28, 2010, it has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al1 are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation.2 In particular, the claims in the original paper that children were
“consecutively referred” and that investigations were “approved” by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false. Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.

Following an investigation by the General Medical Council, Wakefield was found to have acted “irresponsibly and dishonestly” and was stripped of his medical license in the U.K. (he subsequently moved to the U.S.). Unfortunately, the damage was already done.  The United Kingdom saw its measles vaccination rate drop from 92% in 1995-96 to 80% in 2003-04. What happened as a result of this? A measles outbreak in 2013, of course.

The outbreak began in November, and there is no sign it will end soon.

Children who have not received the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) jab are most at risk.

But Dr Brendan Mason, an epidemiologist with Public Health Wales, said the problem was not with the current vaccination programme.

“For new mums, with children needing the jab at one year old, the vaccination rate is higher than it’s ever been at around 95%.

“But for really a decade, uptake rates were much lower than they needed to be – and so now there are many who are susceptible to measles.

“At the start of this latest outbreak, there were around 7,000 children not fully immunised around Swansea.”

Thanks, Andrew Wakefield.

Meanwhile, in the United States, for all that measles was declared eliminated in 2000, it is facing a comeback–in fact, the worst measles outbreak in two decades. This is thanks in no small part to those who belong to the ostensibly well-meaning, yet nonetheless scientifically illiterate anti-vaccination movement (often referred to as anti-vaxxers).

Vaccine opponents are a tiny minority of the population. Less than 1 percent of all children don’t receive any vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in California, the percentage of kids with up-to-date vaccinations has been dropping since 2008.

The trend is especially pronounced in Orange County, where the proportion of kindergartners with their full shots fell from 92.9 percent in 2003 to 89.3 in 2012, and particularly in the county’s wealthy beachfront communities. The county is also battling the state’s largest measles outbreak in recent memory: 22 cases.

In the late 1950s, measles infected more than half a million Americans a year and killed roughly 450. But since 2000, when the infectious disease was considered eliminated, measles cases have hovered around 60 a year. In 2014, that number jumped to 644, a 20-year high. Just last month, there were 102 reported cases across 14 states, an outbreak traced to Disneyland parks in Anaheim, California.

Despite the media attention surrounding the 42 confirmed cases of measles at Disneyland, the United States’ largest outbreak of measles in 2014 occurred in Ohio’s Amish community. 383 people fell ill after missionaries returned from a trip to the Phillipines. As a result of a scare in the early 1990s, this Amish community chose to stop vaccinating:

At the time, this Amish population was generally against vaccination. This, however, wasn’t a matter of religious principle but one of health concerns.

In the 1990s, Miller explained, two Ohio kids allegedly got sick after they took the MMR shot, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Rumors about vaccine safety spread through the Amish community like a virus. “That put a scare in us and we quit,” Miller says. This made it incredibly easy for measles — the most contagious virus known to man — to move through this cluster of unvaccinated individuals.

The outbreak of measles in the U.S. doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In January of 2015 alone, 102 people across 14 states were reported to have measles. The CDC has linked the majority of these cases to the outbreak traced to the aforementioned Disneyland. Thanks again for your negative contributions to public health, Andrew Wakefield.

Recent comments by a pair of politicians don’t help to assuage the fears of the public about vaccines. Misleading and false statements about vaccines were the order of the day for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The possible 2016 Presidential candidate said that vaccines cause “profound mental disorders in children”. You’d think that he would be able to substantiate such a claim, but his office was unable to provide a single example of a vaccine that caused a mental disorder. Not to be outdone, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (who is also considering a run for the White House in 2016) has also weighed in on vaccines. During a recent trip to the U.K., Christie was asked about the 14-state measles outbreak:

Christie, speaking to reporters during a three-day trip to the United Kingdom, said all four of his children have been vaccinated, but noted he thinks a parent’s opinion about the issue is more important than what a public official thinks.

“Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” Christie said, according to The Washington Post.

“I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide,” Christie added.

At this point, you might be asking “what’s so bad about measles” or “what’s so bad about parents choosing not to vaccinate their children”. Parents are certainly entitled to their opinions, and they have tremendous latitude in raising their children. This is not a case of parental freedom though. This is an issue of public safety.  According to the CDC:

Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die.

  • As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.

  • About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.

  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.

Still not convinced of the deadliness of measles? Perhaps a history lesson is in order:

1492: In a pattern that would be repeated across the world for centuries, Christopher Columbus and his fellow European explorers arrived in the Americas, bringing a raft of deadly diseases — including measles — with them.

Native Americans had no natural immunity to many of these diseases. Measles, smallpox, whooping cough, chicken pox, bubonic plague, typhus and malaria — already dangerous and often deadly in Europe — became even more efficient killers in the New World. By some estimates, the Native American population plunged by as much as 95% over the next 150 years due to disease.

Pre-Columbian estimates of the population of the Indigenous peoples of North America are difficult to determine. Nonetheless, estimates range from 2.1 million to 18 million (source). That means anywhere from 1.9 to 17.1 million people died as a result of infectious diseases (which includes measles). Returning to our history lesson:

1824-48: As was the case with many diseases, measles’ risk to Pacific Islanders was particularly dangerous in the 19th century as traders and travelers crisscrossed the globe. In 1824, Hawaii’s King Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu traveled to London to meet King George IV, but instead swiftly contracted measles. Both died within a month. The virus, along with several other diseases, struck Hawaii in 1848, killing up to a third of the native population.

1846: Danish physician Peter Ludwig Panum traveled to the Faroe Islands between Iceland and Norway to study a measles outbreak that had sickened more than 75% of the islands’ 7,782 residents — killing at least 102. Measles had not appeared on the isolated islands in decades, and Panum discovered that “not one” of the elderly residents who had been infected in 1781 “was attacked a second time.” Such immunity would later become key to defeating the virus. Panum observed measles’ contagiousness as it leaped from village to village.

1875: The HMS Dido brought measles to Fiji, killing 20,000 people — up to a third of the island’s natives. Measles outbreaks would continue to hopscotch Pacific islands for much of the next century.

1912: The United States required physicians to start reporting measles cases, which gave scientists a precise grasp of the disease’s widespread impact inside the country. Almost all Americans caught measles sometime in their life – mostly when young – and the outcome could be deadly. A study in the U.S. from 1912 to 1916 found 26 deaths for every 1,000 measles cases.

Contrary to the anti-scientific bullshit peddled by Stephanie Messenger in this book, measles is most certainly NOT marvelous.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to demonize parents who oppose vaccines. Many of them genuinely think they’re doing what’s best for their children and they’re worried about the effects vaccines can have on their children. Their concerns are not without merit.  According to the CDC:

What are the risks from MMR vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.

The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.

Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.

Mild Problems

  • Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
  • Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
  • Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)

If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.

Moderate Problems

  • Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
  • Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
  • Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)

Severe Problems (Very Rare)

  • Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
  • Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
    • Deafness
    • Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
    • Permanent brain damage

    These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

So yes, there are possible side effects, some of them potentially severe (though I note the absence of death as a side effect of the vaccine). The thing is, these side effects are rare, and as noted above, the vast majority of people are safer acquiring the MMR vaccine than they are getting measles. But none of that matter to anti-vaxxers. In the name of “parental choice”, parents opposed to vaccination directly jeopardize public health by threatening ‘herd immunity‘.

Just as a herd of cattle or sheep uses sheer numbers to protect its members from predators, herd immunity protects a community from infectious diseases by virtue of the sheer numbers of people immune to such diseases. The more members of a human “herd” who are immune to a given disease, the better protected the whole populace will be from an outbreak of that disease.

There are two ways an individual can become immune to an infectious disease: by becoming infected with the pathogen that causes it or by being vaccinated against it. Because vaccines induce immunity without causing illness, they are a comparatively safe and effective way to fill a community with disease-resistant people. These vaccinated individuals have protected themselves from disease. But, in turn, they are also protecting members of the community who cannot be vaccinated, preventing the chain of disease from reaching them and limiting potential outbreaks. Every vaccinated person adds to the effectiveness of this community-level protection.

By not vaccinating their children, vaccine opponents help weaken herd immunity, thus allowing the measles virus to spread. This places certain groups of people at increased risk for the highly contagious disease, such as children under 5, unvaccinated pregnant women, and any non-immune person.

Bottom line:  vaccinate your children. The risks of moderate or severe side effects are extremely low, while the benefits to your child and the community are quite high. It’s understandable that parents want to make the best possible decisions for their children. They need to do so based on accurate scientific information, not discredited pseudoscientific bullshit.

Measles is NOT marvelous

Utah lawmaker is a rape apologist

In The History of the Pleas of the Crown 17th century English lawyer and judge Sir Matthew Hale wrote:

But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his
lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath
given up herself in this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract.

According to Hale, a husband is entitled to sex from his wife, the signing of a marriage contract means a wife gives her ongoing consent to sex, and a wife cannot retract her consent so long as she remains married. In other words, husbands have a marital rape exemption. By virtue of being married, a husband has the right to demand and engage in sex with his wife, regardless of her wishes. Marital rape exemptions in the United States, which can trace their roots back to Hale’s treatise, were included in the criminal code of all U.S. states for most of the country’s history. In 1976-200 years after the founding of the United States-Nebraska became the first state to abolish the marital rape exemption, with other states following…very…slowly. North Carolina and Oklahoma became the last states in the nation to remove their marital rape exemptions-in 1993 (27 years after Nebraska).

Unfortunately, while the courts have criminalized marital rape, deep-seated cultural and religious beliefs about married women continue to persist in our culture. These sexist and misogynistic beliefs make it difficult for many people to recognize sexual coercion in marriage (thanks a bunch Sir Matthew Hale, for your role in perpetuating sexism and misogyny). As a result, despite the elimination of the marital rape exemption, the crime is infrequently prosecuted.

Though infrequent, prosecution for marital rape does happen. For Rep. Brian Greene of Utah, this is cause for concern:

A Utah measure seeking to make that legal clarification won early approval in a state legislative committee Tuesday, but some lawmakers qualified their support, questioning whether the law would designate sex with an unconscious spouse as rape.

“If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious … a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically,” said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.”That makes sense in a first date scenario, but to me, not where people have a history of years of sexual activity.”

Rep. Greene clearly holds the same disgusting, misogynistic beliefs about a woman’s “wifely duties” as Sir Matthew Hale. And he’s just as fucking ignorant. If your wife is unconscious, she cannot consent. Sex without consent is the very definition of rape. Marital status does not change that definition. Husbands are not entitled to sex from their wives and wives do not owe their husbands sex (or anything else for that matter). Whether you engage in non-consensual sex on the first date, or after 10 years of marriage it is still rape. It doesn’t magically become NOT rape if a husband has non-consensual sex with his wife. Thankfully, decent human beings spoke up in opposition to Greene:

Others disagreed. If a person is unconscious, having sex with him or her “is rape. Period. End of story,” said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. “Let’s make the statute clear. Let’s not dance around it.”
According to prosecutors, “consent is a decision that has to be made at the time of the act,” said attorney Donna Kelly from the Utah Prosecution Council. “You cannot give consent to sexual activity if you’re unconscious.”

Utah’s current law doesn’t adequately protect victims, advocates and others told the House Judiciary Committee at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“This is something that’s been a long time coming,” bill sponsor Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said after the meeting. “At the end of the day, if someone’s unconscious or they’re a vulnerable adult, then the logical answer is: Don’t try to have a sexual relationship with them.”

Lawmakers parsed HB74 to understand the implications for sex between partners, husbands and wives and those who may be incapacitated by mental disabilities, medication or surgery. The legislation aims to clarify the definition of consent in sexual assault cases.

“I’m not at all trying to justify sexual activity with an unconscious person. It’s abhorrent to me,” Greene said. But he questioned whether sex with an unconscious person should be “rape in every instance — dependent only upon the actor’s knowledge that the individual is unconscious. That’s the question. That’s what I struggle with.”

If you’re trying to question whether non-consensual sex is rape, then you are arguing that not all rape is bad, and you have utterly failed to be a decent human being. I wonder if Rep. Greene’s Mormon beliefs play a role in his odious views on marital rape.

Nah. I’m sure there’s nothing in Mormon doctrine that says the husband is entitled to sex from his wife, or that a wife is duty bound to give her husband sex when he wants it regardless of her desires.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault or if you are a family member or friend of someone who has been victimized, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit them online for secure, free, and confidential help.

Utah lawmaker is a rape apologist

LGBT Link Round Up 11.6.14

Broken bones.

Chipped teeth.

Severe bruises and lacerations.

A young man was subjected to all that and more. Simply for being gay.

Two weeks ago, 17-year old Dylan Beard was lured to a skate park in Baytown, Texas by one friend, then beaten by others. They called him “faggot,” and “booty lover.” They broke his nose, punched him, kicked him in the ribs, and left him with  chipped teeth, severe bruises and lacerations on his knees, elbows and face.

Dylan’s mother says the local police aren’t doing enough, and she’s hired a lawyer who’s now asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate this as a hate crime.

It doesn’t surprise me that the police aren’t doing enough. For all that marriage equality appears to be an unstoppable juggernaut, there are still a great many hateful bigots in this country who would brutalize someone for being gay.

“We are asking for the Department Of Justice to step in and investigate this assault as a hate crime. It was planned to target him because he’s gay,” Quanell X, Beard’s attorney, said in a press conference yesterday. He accuses police of being negligent, ignoring witnesses, refusing statements, and insulting Dylan, just because he’s gay.

“It doesn’t make you a man, it doesn’t make you a tough guy, it doesn’t make you some real person to be proud of because you want to prey on a little kid because he’s gay,” Quanell X added. “Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size? Why won’t you pick on some men who you know will fight you back?”

“This little kid does not deserve to be treated like this. Whether you agree or disagree with his sexual orientation, or not, it does not give anyone the right to treat him like he’s less than a human being and rob him of his human and civil rights.”

Argh. There it is again. “Disagreeing” with someone’s sexual orientation is like “disagreeing” with someone being Asian. Or “disagreeing” with someone being left-handed. Or “disagreeing” with someone being blind. This is part of who we are. You can not like us because we’re gay, but how do you disagree with how someone exists? I mean, don’t get me wrong. The overall point of the lawyer is still correct, but some of the language used is problematic. I’d like this notion of ‘disagreeing with someone’s sexuality’ die a horrible death.

* * * *

Speaking of ‘disagreeing with someone’s sexual orientation’, Lea DeLaria of Orange Is the New Black shut down a subway street preacher ranting about the ‘sin of homosexuality’:

Judging by the video, DeLaria — who is also considered the first openly gay comedian to appear on television in a 1993 episode of The Arsenio Hall Show — seems to have been riding the M train when she epically shut down the homophobic preacher. “You have no right! Go to another train,” she told the man, before adding, “Get off this train. Other people believe other things and have every right to believe other things on this planet and in this world. We do not have to be force-fed this man’s religious beliefs. Jesus never said for you to do this – ever! […] Don’t come at me because I went to f***ing Catholic school for 12 years and I know every line.”

You go Lea! I’d love to see more people speak up in this way.  Publicly criticizing bigots is a great way to marginalize them. If they’re not going to change their views, let’s shove them to the fringes of society.

* * * *

6th Circuit Court rules that states may ban same-sex marriage

In a continuation of conservative values slamming Americans this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit just ruled that states can in fact ban same-sex marriage.

The ruling, while not unexpected, is still stunning.

In a cautionary warning that clearly does not understand history, the Court claimed “the people,” and not lawyers or judges, should be allowed “resolve new social issues like this one.”

I really appreciate the Court’s decision that my rights and the rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people across the country should be determined by popular vote. I wonder what these judges would have said about interracial marriage. I guess they’d have said that should be up to the people as well. What about women’s right to vote? Should that have been up to people as well? Or how about slavery? That one should have been up to the states, no?

Fuck these conservative shitstains!

You can read the Court’s ruling here.

You can also read the scathing dissent by Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey here.

* * * *

MO Attorney General appeals ruling that allows same-sex couples to marry in St. Louis

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who has gubernatorial aspirations, says he personally supports marriage equality but has chosen to defend Missouri’s ban. Koster sought a temporary restraining order to stop further marriages, but it was denied by St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison after city officials voluntarily agreed not to issue any more licenses to same-sex couples without first notifying attorney general’s office and the court. Attorney General Koster then sued the city of St. Louis.

Yesterday, Judge Burlison heard the attorney general’s challenge to the city’s act of civil disobedience and ruled that denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in Missouri is unconstitutional. No stay was placed on his ruling, so the weddings began immediately – but only in the city itself, not in all of Missouri.

Today, KSDK reported that Attorney General Koster has filed an appeal, saying  in a press release that the issue needed to be resolved by the Missouri Supreme Court. It’s not unexpected, but Koster would not be the first attorney general to decide not to fight on – perhaps he is thinking more about the governorship in 2016 than the hundreds of couples waiting to be married.

(bolding mine)

If you’re defending the ban, you’re not in support of marriage equality fuckface!

* * * *

Public businesses refusing to serve gay customers isn’t limited to the United States. A couple in Belfast who own and operate the Christian run Ashers Bakery refused to make a cake for LGBT activist Gareth Lee:

LGBTI rights activist Gareth Lee ordered a cake from Christian-run Ashers Baking Company in May for an International National Day Against Homophobia party held by QueerSpace Belfast.

In a 16-page letter dated 27 October, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland accused Ashers of discriminating against Lee on the basis of his sexual orientation and demanded an apology and compensation within seven days.

A commission spokeman yesterday said the company did not believe it had acted unlawfully and would ‘accept service of a civil bill in regard to this matter.’

‘In its letter the Commission stated that they would prefer not to have to litigate these issues and sought an acknowledgement that there has been an unlawful breach of the equality laws and an assurance that this will not be repeated,’ he said.

‘It made clear that the claimant will be seeking only modest damages for the upset and inconvenience caused and that, failing this, a civil bill will be issued.’

Shop staff initially took Lee’s order for a cake decorated with a picture of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie in an embrace and the slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage.’

However, the owners of the family-run business later called him to explain why they could not fulfil his request and offered him a refund of his deposit.

In a statement on the website of Christian Institute (CI), which is supporting the family, general manager Dan McArthur said, ‘We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.

‘It feels like a David and Goliath battle because on one hand we have the Equality Commission who are a public body, they’re funded by taxpayers’ money, they have massive resources at their disposal whereas we are a small family business and we have limited resources at our disposal.’

‘We’re continuing to hold to the stand that we took originally because we believe it’s biblical, we believe it’s what God would want us to do, and we also think that if we do cave in to the Equality Commission at this point it’ll put pressure on other citizens who are defending their view of traditional marriage.’

Once again, it’s “my sincerely held religious beliefs should allow me to discriminate against whomever I choose, despite the fact that my company is a public entity”. These people need to realize that they can still continue to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but they cannot discriminate against LGBT people. Christian privilege on display once again.

LGBT Link Round Up 11.6.14

Republican official showcases upper level ignorance

Last week, Russell Pearce, a top Arizona GOP official had some interesting things to say about low income Arizonans (Arizonians?):

Tuning into The Russell Pearce Show on Saturday nights on Phoenix talk-radio station KKNT 960 AM can be illuminating.

For example, on one recent episode, the recalled former state Senate president got off on the subject of public assistance in all its various forms.

He suggested that if people would just give him the authority, he’d set things right with all these here gub’mint programs.

“You put me in charge of Medicaid,” Pearce told one caller, “the first thing I’d do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

Down deep, Pearce really is an old softy. This is just his version of tough love.

“I know there’s people out there [who] need help, and my heart goes out to them, too,” he explained that same evening. “But you know what? That should never be a government role. That’s a role for family, church, and community.”

So generous. So thoughtful. Why, if only we had more people like him in the world, all our problems would be solved!

::we interrupt this post because I need to go find a bucket to puke in…ah, much better::

Anyone remember the Count?  From Sesame Street.  Imagine his voice as we say:

One, one fail!

Two, two fails!

Three, three fails!

Four, four fails!

Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Fail the first- He’d “get” low income women birth control or tubal ligations? What does that mean? You’d force them?  You do know that’s a violation of their privacy and their bodily autonomy, right?  What’s that? You don’t care?  Oh, silly me. I forgot we’re talking about the women folk.  In this country, they get different, and fewer rights, than men do (at least according to the GOP assbigots).  Oh, and is he going to “get” these to the women folk free of charge?

Fail the second- Drug testing low income government assistance recipients.  ::Le sigh:: This.  Again.  How many times must reality smack these Republican nincomfucks upside the head before they will listen (yeah, yeah, I know)?  Here is yet more evidence that Republican views are divorced from reality:

The testing is meant to assure taxpayers their money isn’t being “wasted” on the less desirable, those who would somehow manage to buy drugs with the assistance. But in Tennessee, where drug testing was enacted for welfare recipients last month, only one person in the 800 who applied for help tested positive. In Florida, during the four months the state tested for drug use, only2.6% of applicants tested positive. Meanwhile, Florida has an illegal drug use rate of 8%, meaning far fewer people on services are using drugs than their better-off counterparts. The drug testing cost taxpayers more money than it saved, and was ruled unconstitutional last year.

Then there’s the lovely state of Utah:

Utah has spent more than $30,000 to drug test welfare applicants after it passed a new law last year. But in that time, just 12 people have tested positive for drug use, according to state figures.

Utah doesn’t randomly test applicants or require them to all undergo a drug test, but instead requires them to complete a written questionnaire that is meant to screen for drug abuse. Those who have a high probability are then given drug tests. The state spent nearly $6,000 on written tests for 4,730 applicants, 466 of which had to take a drug test, which cost more than $25,000. The law doesn’t disqualify those who test positive but instead requires them to go into a substance abuse treatment program.

And in Virginia:

Virginia Republicans are reviving plans to force welfare recipients to take drug tests before receiving benefits, saying they have found ways to reduce the price tag that doomed the proposal earlier.

“We got hung up last year on the cost, and it seems that we determined the costs aren’t as great as we were told last year,” said Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, the bill’s sponsor. “There are new methods of screening and testing used other places, and some are practical and could be applied here.”

Bell hasn’t introduced drug test legislation yet for the 2013 General Assembly session. The bill he introduced in the last session would have screened all state welfare recipients and then administered drug tests to those suspected of drug use.

The legislation failed, however, after the state estimated it would cost $1.5 million to administer the tests, compared with the estimated $229,000 that would be saved by stripping benefits from those who test positive.

I’m starting to see a pattern:  Republicans are idiots.  Drug testing welfare recipients is a waste of taxpayer dollars because there are insufficient numbers of low income Americans who are doing drugs. Stop trotting this bullshit out.

Fail the third-Pearce’s comments make use of the GOP talking point that welfare recipients are not working.  A large number of them are working:

Over the last two decades, large shares of SNAP households have become working households. In 1989, 42 percent of all SNAP households received cash welfare benefits and only 20 percent had earned income. By 2010, over three times as many SNAP households worked as relied solely on welfare benefits for their income.

Despite the large jump in unemployment during the recession, the share of SNAP families with earnings has continued to increase in recent years.  This suggests that for a growing share of the nation’s workers, having a job has not been enough to keep them out of poverty.

(via Media Matters)

Another thing that many Republican officials fail to realize is that many of the people who benefit from government assistance are children and the elderly.  You know, the people who don’t/can’t work or are retired.

Most SNAP recipients were children or elderly. Nearly half (48 percent) were children and another 8 percent were age 60 or older. Working-age women represented 28 percent of the caseload, while working-age men represented 16 percent. (source)

That ties in nicely to fail the fourth-that the government shouldn’t assist low income families.  It’s funny, to hear the arguments from opponents of marriage equality, it is in the government’s best interest to forbid same sex marriage because think of the kids. If the government has a vested interest in thinking of the kids as a reason to make same sex marriage illegal-don’t they have an interest in supporting those families with kids who are struggling to put motherfucking food on the table?!  But no, think of the kids is a refrain only trotted out to oppose marriage equality (and of course, it’s not about the kids in that case either, otherwise, they’d see the many LGB families with kids that would greatly benefit from having their parents in a legally recognized marriage).

The fail is further added to when you recognize that private charities are not up to the task of providing for the millions of Americans who require financial assistance and they NEVER were (libertarians, take note).

The power of the fail is strong in Russell Pearce.  Thankfully, he has since resigned.


Republican official showcases upper level ignorance

Anti-gay bigotry

The World Congress of Families, an anti-equality group, is mad that Australian venues keep cancelling on them:

The World Congress of Families is a purveyor of ideologies so right-wing they weren’t even popular a century ago. A certified anti-gay hate group,  the WCF exists to “affirm that the natural human family is established by the Creator and essential to good society.” They say their “purpose” is to “defend the family and to guide public policy and cultural norms” on all of these issues: “divorce, devaluation of parenting, declining family time, morally relativistic public education, confusions over sexual identity, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, poverty, human trafficking, violence against women, child abuse, isolation of the elderly, excessive taxation and below-replacement fertility.”

Clearly, they’re very busy people.

In short, they’re an Illinois based anti-gay, anti-women hate group that recently has applauded Vladimir Putin’s war on gay people.

One of their international conferences starts this weekend, and the WCF’s leaders are even busier than usual. 

On top of finding solutions to “confusions over sexual identity” and other “problems,” they are now scrambling to find a venue in Australia that won’t cancel on them. 

Three already have.

“After two venue changes so far, the Conference is now scheduled to happen at Brunswick’s Aurora Receptions,” Same Same reports.

And, unfortunately for the World Congress of Families, Brunswick’s Aurora Receptions just canceled on them too.

Oh dear, the World Congress of Families-an Illinois based misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, anti-education, reality challenged organization-is mad that venues in Australia don’t want their bigoted asses around. Whatever shall I do?

Oh I know.

Woo Hoo!

Jumping for joy.


I mean, that’s the response *I* have when bigots are denied a venue to spout their bigotry. They’re not happy with the cancellations.  In an open letter to the people of Australia, they state:

In the name of fairness, and in response to unremitting and grossly misleading attacks
on an August 30 conference in Melbourne, the undersigned pro-family leaders
worldwide wish to bring the following to your attention:

 The Life, Family and Freedom Conference is sponsored by Endeavour Forum, an
Australian organization supporting life and the natural family, and has been
designated a World Congress of Families Regional Event.

 Since 1997, World Congress of Families has held seven Congresses, in Prague,
Geneva, Mexico City, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Madrid and our last in Sydney in
2013. These Congresses are gatherings of distinguished scholars, elected officials,
prominent religious figures and leaders and activists concerned with the health of
the natural family.

 Sexual radicals have launched a smear campaign to discredit the Melbourne
conference, which misrepresents the international pro-family movement and the
positions of the World Congress of Families.

 Specifically, it is alleged that advocacy of the natural (or normative) family is
somehow unfair to other families and that we “shame” single-parent families,
homosexual “couples” and the divorced.

 Yet social science data shows clearly and unequivocally that children do best in
families with a mother and father.

 It’s equally true that divorce harms children and society. This is not to say that we
shouldn’t have compassion for divorcees or children growing up in single-parent

 Similarly, the observation that marriage is a social good is not meant to stigmatize
or shame unmarried adults.

 The natural-family philosophy was set forth in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, which observes that “men
and women of full age… have the right to marry and found a family” and that the
family is “the natural and fundamental group unit of society” and, as such, is
“entitled to protection by society and the state.” This language is repeated in the
constitutions of more than 100 nations.

 Despite the repeated attempts of certain misguided governments, the definition of
“family” contained in the UDHR has never been changed.

 For the past 3,000 years, in every culture, this definition of the family (a man and
women united by faith and tradition, raising their children in a loving
environment) has been considered beyond dispute. Only in the past few decades
have competing “models” of the family been offered as the new norm. The
natural family is also affirmed by every major religion.

 Attacks on the Melbourne conference and the international pro-family movement
generally are an attempt at intimidation – a weapon used to stigmatize family
advocates, stifle dissent and foreclose a debate.

 The goal of sexual radicals is to deconstruct marriage and marginalize the family,
and thus to transform society into something unrecognizable to generations past.
Like all social experiments that attempt to create a “new man,” these are doomed
to failure.

 Rather than accepting the charges against us at face value, we hope you’ll take the
time to learn about the international pro-family movement at, or on the websites of any of the signers


I really don’t need to check out that website to dislike this organization.  This letter contains all that’s needed to condemn this group.  They tell outright lies and spread misinformation, just like all anti-equality groups.  Oh, and they support Putin’s actions with regard to homosexuality in Russia.  That’s all I need to know.  Of course, they got a few of Americas greatest bigots to sign their open letter, including:

Former GOP Governor of Arkansas and Fox News host Mike Huckabee.

Also, National Organization For Marriage President Brian Brown.

Barbwire founder Matt Barber.

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman, of the anti-gay hate group, Liberty Counsel.

Tom Delay, former Republican Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives. 


(for more on this story, see BuzzFeed)

I love that this group has received such a backlash to their presence.  Their views are harmful and abhorrent, and it’s a sign of the times changing that they’re having a hard time finding a place that will host their conference.  The latest venue to cancel on the World Congress of Families is Brunswick’s Aurora Rec
.  They were scheduled to host their conference on Saturday, August 30.  A series of protests was scheduled for that day*:

A protest by the Coalition to Beat Back The Right will begin at 8am on Saturday morning (find details here), the marriage equality crusaders ofEqual Love will take over at 11am, and a light-hearted rainbow family-friendly event called the Block Party Against Hate will happen outside the Conference venue from 12:30pm.


*this awesome image can be found at the link:

Does the US governments Common Core program “turn students gay”?  According to the Tea Party of Louisiana, the answer is yes, but that’s because they took a satirical article on the website for really realz.  

Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant (R) is beginning to look like an oracle, as his warnings about Common Core standardized testing are proving to be true.  Thousands of children across the nation who participated in Common Core during the past school year are coming out as bright young homosexuals.

Earlier this year, Van Zant told the Operation Education Conference in Orlando that Common Core was promoting a gay lifestyle to the nation’s children.  But nobody listened.

“People said I was a quack,” Van Zant says, “They called me a right wing nut job.  Who’s laughing now?  Hollywood and Barney Frank, that’s who.”

Initial estimates suggest that as many as 60% of students who participated in Common Core have gone gay, many overnight.  But experts fear that some are just transitioning a little slower.

“Some kids are a little more decisive than others,” says Raymond Johnson of Biblical Concepts Ministries, “Choosing one’s sexual orientation can be a difficult decision.  I know it was for me.  But the materials in Common Core are coercing students in the direction of homosexuality.”

Johnson says the difficulty of the Common Core tests is the primary culprit in promoting the gay agenda, calling it “common knowledge that the smartest kids in school are usually the gay kids.”  Johnson believes the increased studying time students must devote in order to pass the Common Core standards is leading them down a lifelong path of debauchery.

“The Common Core standards are tough,” says Johnson, “Tough enough to turn a straight kid gay.  The next thing you know, we’re going to see gay kids playing football.”


Yeah, I can completely see how a right wing group of fuckwits would look at the above and think it was serious.   We already know they don’t understand sexuality (hint:  schools aren’t trying to turn people gay, and you can’t “teach people to be gay”, but you can teach people how to be understanding of gay people-bet they oppose that), so it’s no surprise they would be freaked out by this.  Seriously though, do they not know how to vet information before they go on to make hair-brained statements like this:

(via thenewcivilrightsmovement)

The image is from Google cache because when Louisiana Tea Party found out their “source” was a satirical website, they were understandably embarrassed and had to scrub their original article.  Hey, I’ve been there. I was once fooled by an article from the Onion about a right wing group doing something horrible.  Of course, right wing groups actually DO a lot of horrible things, which is why it wasn’t a stretch to believe the article. Contrast that with the purpose of the Common Core:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the United States that details what K-12 students should know in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states as well as ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit-bearing courses at two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce.

Anyone who takes the time to Google ‘Common Core’ will find that it has no goal of turning heterosexuals into homosexuals.  I guess educating themselves on the topic they’re going to discuss is a bit too much for the Louisiana Tea Party. 

10 years hard labor for being gay?

That’s the proposed constitutional amendment from the conservative Christian Pastor Michael V. Williams.  David Edward of Raw Story reports:

“Whereas homosexuality used to be a felony in every state — referred to as sodomy — it has now been decriminalized, and homosexuality is allowed to be openly expressed in public,” he notes. “While Christians are becoming increasingly tolerant of homosexuals, homosexuals are becoming increasingly intolerant of us.”

“It’s time for Christians to resume obeying God and his word, and to re-criminalize homosexuality, outlaw it again,” the pastor continues. “The only way to do this and keep it beyond the reach of activist judges and unaccountable bureaucrats is to create a constitutional amendment.”

Once again, a douchebag right wing Christian fundamentalist wants the United States to become a Christian theocracy where all citizens are bound by biblical rules (I’m sure no ‘picking & choosing’ of the laws would occur).  This is one of the things that makes me so sad about religious belief.  It can make a mess of one’s ability to use logic and reason to reach an informed opinion.  Aside from the ridiculousness of using the Bible as a justification for morality (kill your child, rape all the virgins, drown the planet–that’s a deity to admire), there also the teensy, tiny fact that as I’ve said before there is no moral component to homosexuality.  Morals enter the picture when we’re discussing the interactions between people.  Homosexuality is about the sexual orientation of an individual and has nothing to do with interacting with others.  There is no “is this good” or “is this bad” to being lesbian, bisexual, or gay*. It’s about who one is sexually, psychologically, and emotionally attracted to.

* while the reaction of others with regard to those who are LGB can have a moral component, the act of being gay, lesbian, or bisexual does not impact others and is
not, in itself, an issue of morality.  

Northern Territory* politician Dave Tollner has resigned after using anti-gay slurs:

The senior Northern Territory MP under fire after calling the gay son of fellow Country Liberals Party politician a “pillow biter” and “shirt lifter”, has resigned his position and now heads to his party’s backbench.

Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner had apologised to Gary Higgins’ son for the comments, which were condemned by Chief Minister Adam Giles as “inappropriate” and “not acceptable.” He later defended himself saying he had no problem with gay people, adding that his own mother had come out as gay.

The NT News now reports that Giles has accepted Tollner’s resignation.

“This issue got at levels where public confidence was being eroded in this area,” Giles explained in a press conference yesterday.

“Perceptions become reality in politics and I want to make sure that Territorians know they have a Government who stands for all, and will provide leadership on what those community expectations are.”


Can we please import this attitude to the states?  Far too many politicians revel in their homophobia (and that’s not the only issue they piss all over), and still keep their jobs.  





Coming out after 40


Coming out later in life has its consequences. All those years of rejecting and hiding mean that the psyche may not accept, deep down, the person they are now presenting as. This can lead to a degree of self-loathing and the formation of an adaptive self rather than the authentic self. Knowing who you are and accepting it is a much safer place to be in your psyche.

I don’t think the 40+ guys are alone with this damaged psyche stuff and many of us who have been out for so many years that we can’t remember anything else, are still a little damaged and lack about total acceptance, if we are truly honest.

So what can be done to improve your acceptance of yourself? Start with a bit of self-appreciation in accepting the man inside who has been struggling to come out for years. Give him a big hug and congratulate him for finally making the move to come out. Writing it all down will do wonders for the psyche.

The next stage is telling people you can trust. By not telling anyone, the psyche is still in denial. The more people you tell who accept your sexuality, the more likely you too will accept it as normal as well. Self-stigmatisation by not telling people or still denying your true sexuality is very damaging. You will be surprised how many people always knew and were waiting for you to say something… and then there are the others who are so busy with their lives that they don’t care in the least.


Coming out of the closet-telling people around you-can often be a scary thing.  Whether it’s socio-cultural pushback, religious pushback, adherence to tradition, or straight up homophobia borne of having not met a gay person (or, more accurately, thinking you’ve never met a gay person-we’re everywhere), LGB individuals wrestle with the decision to reveal to the world their sexuality.  It’s a difficult decision for many of us (my hat is off to those for whom it is not so hard), and some people never choose to exist the closet (which is their choice, and it pisses me off when anyone make demands of others to come out of the closet-not your life, not your choice).  The decision to come out of the closet was rough for me.  The first time I realized I had gay thoughts was in 1987.  I came out gradually over the course of my high school years, telling my heterosexual best friend Sean (I wish I knew how to contact him), my GM at my first job, Wendy, and later on my parents (they were last).  I held off telling my parents until last because they were the ones I was most horrified of telling.  


See that last sentence there?  No child should fear rejection from their parents for revealing an important facet of who they are.

It’s not like I said “Hi mom/dad. I like to dissect cats and dogs while they’re still alive”


“Hey, parental units, I just wanted to tell you I was planning to embark on a career as a bank robber.”

But the reaction they both gave was pretty much what I dreaded. I felt rejected, and unloved.  Here I was baring my soul, and telling them something that was so fundamental to me…something I never chose…something I didn’t want, but couldn’t deny any longer.  It was simply who I was.  Being gay is not about having sex.  You can still have children if you’re gay.  Being gay-for me-is about having a psychological, sexual, and emotional attraction to members of the same sex.  I just don’t have the same attraction to women (but I love me some women; most of my best friends have been and continue to be women).  That’s nothing to be sorry about.  That’s nothing to regret.  That’s not something to make me feel guilty of.  Following my parents rejection (I’d already told my sister, and she was loving and accepting), for a very short period of time I was suicidal.  I remember driving my truck and thinking I could just end my pain by driving straight into a telephone poll.  I was hurting that much.  I pulled myself out of that by thinking of how my death would affect others around me, especially my sister (to this day, I credit her with saving my life).  

I don’t say any of this because I’m angry at my parents. In fact, I’m not.  Yes, I was hurt.  For years. Relations between my mother and I warmed in the years after I came out, but it took longer for my father and I to patch things up.  It also took time for me to realize that my parents, like all other people in our culture, were raised in a society that’s swimming in homophobia (along with sexism, transphobia, misogyny, and so many other social problems).  It took time for them to get past the prejudices and biases one develops as a result of being raised in a culture such as the US, but the point is-they did overcome those biases and prejudices.  I forgave them long ago (and I hope they forgave themselves). Today, my parents love me and I love them*.  They accept who I am.  They realize this is my life and the decisions I make with regard to whom I choose to be in a relationship with are borne out of uncontrollable attractions that are part of who I am.  To deny that I’m gay would be like trying to deny that I’m black.  It is that fundamental. 

I can’t imagine what it would be like to come out of the closet after 40.  Especially if I had a wife and kids.  It’s likely a different sort of difficult than what I had to deal with.  I only hope that for those who choose to come out, whether it is someone in their 40s, or a 19 year old kid just out of high school, that they’ll be accepted and loved by their family and friends.  

*these days, in my opinion, my relationship with my parents is the best it has been in my adult life, and quite possibly even most of my teen years.  That’s in no small part due to me growing up and maturing and coming to understand many of the lessons they tried to impart on me (that I was far too pig headed to listen to when I was younger).  I feel that even though they’re my parents, I can interact with them as near equals-peers if you will (not literally, as there will always be a parent-chi
ld dynamic there, but overall my point should be clear).



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In case anyone is wondering, just because I live in the United States doesn’t mean everything I talk about will be US-centric. There are other countries in the world where important stuff happens too

Anti-gay bigotry

More Ferguson Links

Ferguson’s black community must not be given the same ‘justice’ as Trayvon Martin


The real looting of Ferguson: its black citizens never had a chance to get by


‘We need to communicate. That’s key. But we need justice for Michael Brown’

Ardester Williams is writing to Barack Obama the old-fashioned way, with paper and a postage stamp, to tell the president about the day in June when he shot a man.

“He was swinging at me, and he was much bigger than I was,” said the 73-year-old security guard at a Ferguson clothing store. “I had to draw my gun and shoot him. But I shot him in the foot. I’m writing to the president to tell him that the whole concept of police training is backwards. They should train them to shoot people dead as a last resort, not the first.”

All law enforcement should be trained how to defuse a situation, and lethal force should be a last resort.  Also, if police aren’t skilled enough to shoot to injure, they ought to receive better training.

A little further down West Florissant Avenue, Shiron Hagens is staffing a tent on a part of the street that just a few nights ago was clouded by tear gas and smoke from a burning convenience store, as protesters and the police clashed over the killing of Michael Brown. She is registering local residents to vote, in part to raise support for a petition to recall Ferguson mayor James Knowles, a white Republican, after he said that the upheaval of the past two weeks was not about race.

“There’s a mistrust right now,” she said. “The way to overcome mistrust is to talk. But there’s no way to have a conversation when you have a mayor who says there’s no race issue here. Michael Brown died because he was black.”

This is why it is important for the citizens of Ferguson to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  They need a mayor who represents them, not one that dismisses their concerns.

(read the rest here)


‘Would Michael Brown still be here if we voted for the right people?’

The group of Ferguson residents clumped around the makeshift memorial at the spot where a police officer shot Michael Brown readily admitted that two weeks ago they had little idea who ran their city.

They paid no attention to the fact that, while two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are African American, all but one of the members of the city council is white. Or that the mayor is a Republican. Or who the police chief is.

Brown’s death has changed all that. People who are frequently alienated, largely devoid of leadership and have not bothered to vote, often because they did not believe elections would change anything, are suddenly paying attention to who controls the levers of power in Ferguson.

“I didn’t know the council was white until Mike happened,” said Major Terrell, 29. “There’s a lot of people talking about it now.”

Police Departments Shouldn’t Become Dumping Grounds for Weapons Makers

In a brilliant August 17 segment of Last Week Tonight, HBO host John Oliver ripped into small towns that have equipped their police with war-like military equipment. One town was Keene, New Hampshire, where their military-grade armored personnel truck was acquired to protect critical targets –– like the annual Pumpkin Festival. Another was Doraville, Georgia. Oliver showed a wild video clip from the Doraville Police Department’s website, with a Ninja-dressed SWAT team going for a joyride in a souped-up armored personnel carrier, all set to a heavy metal song called “Die MotherF***er Die.”

In a visit to Doraville last week, I asked Officer Gene Callaway why his sleepy town of 8,000, which hasn’t had a murder since 2009, needed an armored personnel carrier (APC). “The vehicle provides Doraville with a scalable response and ensures the safety of police officers,” he answered. Scalable response? Safety of police officers? Doraville has never been a crime-ridden town. “We at Doraville are proud to be ranked 39th in safest cities in Georgia,” Callaway himself bragged. It seems the most useful task the APC performed was pulling 18-wheelers back onto the salted lanes of Route 285 during snowstorms. Oh, and let’s not forget that “the kids love playing on it” when it rolls up to the county fair, Callaway told me.

Doraville’s armored vehicle is a gift from Uncle Sam, as part of the billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment now flowing from the federal government to state and local police departments. Not only is it an incredible waste of taxpayer money, but it gets people–including children–accustomed to seeing military vehicles on their streets. Worst of all, it is causing police to act like soldiers, especially since one of the stipulations of getting this equipment is that it must be used within one year of receipt.

The Doraville Police, embarrassed by the negative publicity from their video, took it down (they insist that the theme music was unauthorized). Now on their website you can see much more benevolent images, such as three smiling police officers, one dressed as Santa Claus, with two young girls who are the recipients of the “Santa Pop Program” that pairs police with “less-fortunate children.”

But let’s face it. Military toys, constantly dangled before the police at law enforcement exhibits and fairs, are hard to resist. And with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security giving out this stuff for free, why not get some hand-me-downs? Doraville and Keene are just two of thousands of cities and towns throughout the nation that have successfully applied for surplus equipment from a federal government agency.

What Military Gear Your Local Police Department Bought

Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

In May, The New York Times requested and received from the Pentagon its database of transfers since 2006. The data underpinned anarticle in June and helped inform coverage of the police response this month in Ferguson, Mo., after an officer shot Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.

The Times is now posting the raw data to GitHub here. With this data, which is being posted as it was received, people can see what gear is being used in their communities. The equipment is as varied as guns, computers and socks.

The Pentagon-to-police transfer program is not new. Congress created it during the drug war, as a way to increase police firepower in the fight against drug gangs. But since 9/11, as the Pentagon geared up to fight two wars, then drew down as those wars ended, the amount of available military surplus has ballooned.

Now, after a week of confrontation between protesters in Ferguson and heavily armed police, members of Congress are criticizing the trickle down of military gear.

The New Authoritarianism in an Age of Manufactured Crises

What is missing in the recurring debates that dominate Washington politics is the recognition that the real issue at stake is neither the debt ceiling nor the state of the economy, but a powerful form of authoritarianism that poses a threat to the very idea of democracy and the institutions, public values, formative cultures, and public spheres that nourish it. The United States nears a critical juncture in its history, one in which the rising forces of market extremism – left unchecked – will recalibrate modes of governance, ideology, and policy to provide fantastic wealth and legal immunity to an untouchable elite. The politics of disconnection is just one of a series of strategies designed to conceal this deeper order of authoritarian politics. In a society that revels in bouts of historical and social amnesia, it has become much easier for the language of politics and community to be appropriated and distorted so as to deplete words such as “democracy,” “freedom,” “justice,” and the “social state” of any viable meaning.

What I’ve Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings

A few days ago, Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner began to compile a list of all police-involved shootings in the U.S. He’s not the only one to undertake such a project: D. Brian Burghart, editor of the Reno News & Review, has been attempting a crowdsourced national database of deadly police violence. We asked Brian to write about what he’s learned from his project.

It began simply enough. Commuting home from my work at Reno’s alt-weekly newspaper, theNews & Review, on May 18, 2012, I drove past the aftermath of a police shooting—in this case,that of a man named Jace Herndon. It was a chaotic scene, and I couldn’t help but wonder how often it happened.

I went home and grabbed my laptop and a glass of wine and tried to find out. I found nothing—a failure I simply chalked up to incompetent local media.

A few months later I read about the Dec. 6, 2012, killing of a naked and unarmed 18-year-old college student, Gil Collar, by University of South Alabama police. The killing had attracted national coverage—The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN—but there was still no context being provided—no figures examining how many people are killed by police.

I started to search in earnest. Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn’t being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn’t have a way to compare to other cities? Hell, how could citizens or police? How could cops possibly know “best practices” for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn’t.

The bottom line was that I found the absence of such a library of police killings offensive. And so I decided to build it. I’m still building it. But I could use some help. You can find my growing database of deadly police violence here, at Fatal Encounters, and I invite you to go here, research one of the listed shootings, fill out the row, and change its background color. It’ll take you about 25 minutes. There are thousands to choose from, and another 2,000 or so on my cloud drive that I haven’t even added yet. After I fact-check and fill in the cracks, your contribution will be added to largest database about police violence in the country. Feel free to check out what has been collected about your locale’s information here.


Why the People of Ferguson Can’t Trust the Cops

Several African-American men share with Truthout their stories of abuse at the hands of police, and after 12 days of continuous demonstrations against the shooting of an unarmed teen, Michael Brown, it appears that the community is in it for the long haul.

Four Things You Probably Don’t Know About the Ferguson Protests



WATCH: TX police draw guns on mother and young children they mistook for gun-waving males

Police were responding to a 911 call about a tan-colored Toyota carrying four black males, one of whom was waving a handgun out the window — which is why Kametra Barbour is confused as to why she and her four young children in a burgundy red Nissan Maxima were pulled over.

 Fox host kicks off two black lawyers after they accuse her of ‘distracting’ from Brown’s death

I’m surprised they were brought on in the first place.  This is FOX News we’re talking about.  They’re not exactly friendly to black people.

More Ferguson Links

Ferguson, Racism, and more

Colorblindness: the New Racism?

Kawania Wooten’s voice tightens when she describes the struggle she’s having at the school her son attends. When his class created a timeline of civilization, Wooten saw the Greeks, the Romans and the Incas. But nothing was said about Africa, even though the class has several African American students.

Wooten, who is black, spoke to the school’s director, a white woman — who insisted that the omission wasn’t racially biased.

“Her first comment was, ‘you know, we’ve just been following the curriculum. We’re not talking about whether people are white or black,’” recalls Wooten, who lives in Bowie, Md. “I said that the children have eyes and they can see. And I’d like them to see that our culture was a strong, viable culture.”

That kind of story brings a groan from Mark Benn, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Colorado State University. He hears similar tales whenever he delivers lectures about race relations.

Such incidents are examples of  racial “colorblindness” — the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial and ethnic differences promotes racial harmony.

Trainers and facilitators say colorblindness does just the opposite: folks who enjoy racial privilege are closing their eyes to the experiences of others.

“It benefits me not to pay attention,” says Benn, who is white. “I never have to question whether or not my race is being held in question when I apply for a job. It benefits me not to question that (because) it makes it look like I got here on my own.”

Paying attention to the cultural experience of students is becoming increasingly important, given the differences between the demographics of American students and their teachers. 

According to reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 80 percent of American teachers are white, while children of color make up more than 40 percent of the student body.

As the nation’s demographics shift, the sight of a white teacher leaning over the desk of a brown or black student is likely become more and more common. In order to be effective, teachers will have to learn about the cultural experiences of their students, while using these experiences as a foundation for teaching. The approach is called culturally relevant pedagogy. 

But that is hard to do if a teacher doesn’t see differences as valuable. That means the blinders have to come off, says Randy Ross, a senior equity specialist at the New England Equity Assistance Center, a program of Brown University’s Education Alliance. Ross facilitates workshops on racism and culturally responsive teaching. And in her experience, white people have the hardest time opening their eyes.

“I have never heard a teacher of color say ‘I don’t see color,” Ross says. “There may be issues of cultural competence [among teachers of color], but colorblindness is not one of them. The core of ‘I don’t see color,’ is ‘I don’t see my own color, I don’t see difference because my race and culture is the center of the universe.’”

Such tunnel vision is the reason a teacher can omit Africa from a timeline of world civilizations, Ross says. Still, she cautions, the flaws of the colorblind approach run deeper than curriculum.

Failure to see and acknowledge racial differences makes it difficult to recognize the unconscious biases everyone has. Those biases can taint a teacher’s expectations of a student’s ability and negatively influence a student’s performance. Study after study has shown that low teacher expectations are harmful to students from socially stigmatized groups.

“I don’t see skin color”

I’ve grown to hate that statement. Why?

It means that someone-usually a white person-is not paying attention to something that affects people who are not white-their race.  For white people, they don’t have to see color, because in their world, white is the norm.  It’s what society is wrapped around.  Our culture privileges white people, such that they don’t need to consider the struggles of others.  To say “I don’t see color” is to say “I don’t see, nor do I care about the story you have to tell about how your race has impacted your life”.  The problem is not one of “not seeing race”.  The problem is in seeing race and using that as the way you judge the quality of a person’s character. I want you to see that that I’m a black man. That’s one aspect of me. I won’t, nor can I, hide from that.  But I don’t want you to judge my character based on my skin color (judge me for my political or social views-that’s fair game).  When you judge the quality of a person’s character based on their skin color-that’s racism.  So white people?  Stop saying “I don’t see skin color”.




Westboro Baptist Church Announces It Will Protest Michael Brown’s Funeral In Ferguson

In case anyone didn’t know my opinion of these people, I think they are scum.  They are some of the most vile human beings on the planet, and I would be quite happy if they’d simply go live on an island away from civilized people and spend the rest of their days there.  



Racism and sidewalks

When your father last visited, he took you past the front yard at your grandparents’ house and sat beside you on a square of sidewalk. I had supplied the chalk — $0.75 on sale in the checkout line at a supermarket — but stayed at home both to relax and to give you two space and time to bond.

Your father is big like Mike Brown was. At 6’5″, his walk has heft, his forearms are a bit like boulders, and whenever I think of him making sidewalk drawings with you in the cool of an afternoon, I am newly amused. He sent me pictures of your handiwork, your name emblazoned in a multicolored blast. For you, the sidewalk became a concrete quilt. For you, it told the story of a family. For now, this is all it needs to tell you. For now, this is just as it should be.
You won’t know this for at least a year or two — we have not started to read books like Henry’s Freedom Box or Freedom on the Menu; you have not heard of Emmett Till, have not seen what it seems that every black child must: his bloated, disfigured face in an open casket — but someday you will understand just how many of our horror stories begin and end with sidewalks.


Struggling against white supremacy: Defiant dispatches from Ferguson and beyond

Police brutality, both physical and mental, are so prevalent that being pulled over by police fills me and most young black men I know with a sort dread I don’t think white people ever experience. It’s not an “this is an inconvenience” thing, but a “will the police officer act like he has any sense?” feeling. You feel like a second class citizen that somehow doesn’t have the same rights as everyone else.


The militarization of police agencies from Ferguson to the Middle East

Modern US police departments share a colonial history that gives context to police violence of today – recognizing this framework is essential when examining how police brutality has developed historically. From constables in the 1600s who made up a sort of “neighborhood watch,” wherein they would capture slaves and prevent them from organizing for payment, the slave patrols of the early 1700s, the brazen appointment of police officers by way of their political affiliations in the 1880’s and stop-and-frisk, adopted from English common law, we learn that not only is violence an inherent part of the institution itself but it is a necessary component which allows for the state to control its citizens, and it has emerged and developed in the most destructive of ways. Police officers are trained to use force and are given the most lethal of weapons in order for them to do so and, according to data presented in the June 2014 report by the ACLU, this violence is overwhelmingly directed towards people of color. “Sixty-one percent of all the people impacted by SWAT raids in drug cases were minorities” and a majority are Black


The 10 Point Plan of the Black Panthers

    We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
    We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
    We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
    We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
    We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
    We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide our selves with proper medical attention and care.
    We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
    We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
    We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.
    When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


This may have b
een written in 1966, but it is still valid today.



Ferguson, Racism, and more