Thursday, November 9, 2017

**Me Too** (My Sexual Harassment experience that I've kept silent about for more than 10 years)

I came to Japan in my mid-twenties and started my career as an English teaching professional teaching TESOL to Japanese students at elementary and Junior high school.

One of the first experiences any foreign teacher has the privilege of experiencing in Japan is the infamous "kancho." 

It's basically a physical gag where a school child will sneak up behind you and wait till you bend over to wash your hands or drink from the drinking fountain, and then, placing their hands together, their index fingers pointed toward your nether regions like a gun--they jam their fingers into your anus with as much force as possible.

Many foreigners yelp out in shock at the first time small probing fingers try to enter their asshole. If you're a guy, sometimes the little kids miss and mash your balls, which really smarts. If you're a girl, sometimes they hit you right in the glory hole. Either way, none are immune to this childish prank.

During my first week in Japanese public schools, I got kancho-ed no less than seven times. Each time I felt myself getting angrier and angrier. I eventually complained to the vice principal of the school who informed me it's simply something children do.

When in Rome, I thought to myself. And sure enough, the antics of the school children blew over once they got to know me. As a matter of fact, I later found out that many school kids do this to new teachers to "test" them and see how they'll react. And being a foreigner in a strange land, I knew that they were taking advantage of the situation. But this isn't a case of sexual harassment since, in most cases, school kids six and seven years old aren't even aware of what sexual harassment is. To them, it's just a silly prank.

What came as a rather big shock to me, however, was when my 14 and 15 year old junior high school students did the same thing my first few weeks of school.

Again, as a new teacher, I got the sense they were testing me. But the guys also liked to swat at my balls in the bathroom when I was taking a pee--as a joke. And if you've ever listened to pubescent teenagers of 15 talk, you know they are all entering their hormonal stage where everything becomes about sex for them.

After my second year teaching, several of my third year students (the equivalent of freshman in high school) decided to play a naughty prank on me.

As it turned out, I achieved the thing I was aiming for--familiarity with my students. I went through great trouble to learn each and every one of the names of my graduating students. I wanted them to like me and think of me as a cool, hip teacher. And to that effect, I succeeded. Also, being the token foreigner amongst an all Japanese staff, many of the students would approach me with questions asking about the difference between their culture and mine. 

I was always happy to answer such questions except when they were sexually explicit and entirely inappropriate.

Once a boy student asked me, "Are Japanese girls' pussies tighter than American girls' pussies?"

I was taken aback by the bluntness of the question. I merely replied to him in Japanese, "I can't talk about such things at school. It's not appropriate."

He laughed and wandered off with his friends. Another time, a different boy student asked me how big my penis was and if he could see it. I didn't know whether to be flattered or traumatized. 

I politely apologized, as is custom in Japan, and informed him it wasn't appropriate to talk about such things and shrugged it off and went about my week. 

But the more familiar my boy students became with me as their teacher the more emboldened they got and, soon enough, began asking me all kinds of lewd questions. 

Granted, they were curious and I was technically the only one who could answer such questions about the "cultural" differences they were interested in, except for the fact that it would have been entirely inappropriate. So, as always, I deflected their questions or did my best to change the subject to something that would hold their attention--such as sports.

As the boys kept me preoccupied, I never saw the real threat of the girls--who were equally curious and perhaps a little more aware of their own sexual maturity. Whereas with the boys it was just a game, the girls approached their sexuality in a more up front sort of way. A way which snuck up on me. Quite literally speaking.

In Japan, the students all have a cleaning hour at the end of the day. They all work together to clean their school. Which is why Japanese schools don't have janitors.

One day while cleaning, a couple of girl students of mine rushed over to tell me that their friend had fallen down and hurt her knee. They were adamant that I should come right away. Worried that a student of mine was actually in trouble, I followed them to the stairwell.

One of the girls pointed to the dark area behind the staircase, which was merely a storage area, and stepped to the side as I leaned in to see what the matter was. Without warning, from behind, both girls shoved me into the nook behind the stairs.

I reached out as I fell forward and my hands mashed into something soft. When I looked up I found one of my girl students, her shirt and bra pulled up over her chest, laying under me as she stared up at me with brown eyes and flushed cheeks.

I looked down to find my hands firmly pressed upon her small budding breasts and I quickly recoiled, pulling my hands away. But as I tried to clamor to my feet, the two girls behind me leaned into my back, practically hopping on me piggy-back style and forced me back down onto the third girl.

I caught myself with my hands, my face hovering dangerously close to the third girl's face. As she looked up at me, she asked me in a deliberately sensual tone, "Do you like me, Mr. Vick?"

One of the girls from behind said in a loud voice, "Mr. Vick, please touch my breasts next!" 

The other girl from behind quipped, "I want him to touch me someplace else."

All three girls snickered and giggled excitedly. I remember one even snorted and that made them laugh all the more.

Angered, I pushed myself up and shoved the two girls behind me out of my way. I retreated to the hallway when, turning to the right, I saw Kanda sensei making his way toward us.

I knew that if he caught wind of anything that had just transpired, I could get in huge trouble. I might even lose my job. And the girl students, for their crime of adolescent naivete and sexually immature antics, could get expelled. 

Flustered, I didn't know what to do. My heart raced with nervous embarrassment and fear gripped me. I remember panic set in and I began to have trouble breathing.

Meanwhile, the girl beneath the stairwell pulled down her clothes and casually stepped out into the hall with us. All the girls turned as Kanda sensei approached and when he saw them giggling he ordered them to get back to cleaning. Without even batting an eye they took off, giggling amongst themselves down the entirety of the school corridor.

Seeing that I was without a broom, Kanda sensei opened the broom closet underneath the stairwell and handed me a bristle broom. I thanked him and moved on. He immediately turned to see boys throwing rocks at each other outside and rushed out to chastise them and order them to get back to cleaning.

As I stood in the hallway, sweeping the same spot over and over again, I tried to wrap my brain around what had just happened. Of course, I never mentioned it to anybody. I was too scared.

I knew that if I came clean with what had actually happened the girls could team up against me and lie about what had occurred, claiming that I attacked them and molested them. I knew they were all close friends and so would protect each other--if push came to shove--and being minors I could lose my job. 

And even if it was deemed that it wasn't my fault--that I merely was a victim to their adolescent antics, at the very least it cast suspicion on me as a potential sexual predator. Which was practically just as bad as actually being falsely accused as one. Because then everyone would be wondering whether the rumors were true and this would give rise to new rumors--none of them bound to be good.

At the same time, I didn't want the girls to be unfairly disciplined, and from my short time in Japan I had seen first-hand how harsh some of the school's punishments were for things that, by my American standards, were trivial non-offenses. I didn't want to get them suspended from school for a one-time offense. Moreover, I didn't want my relationship with my students to become strained to the point where they didn't feel like they could trust me or be themselves around me.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I kept it to myself.

Was it the right thing to do? I think so. 

I couldn't change what had happened. But at least I had some small control over what happened next.

I went the rest of the year without another incident. If it would have continued, I would have certainly mentioned it. But instead, the girls just blew me kissy faces, batted their eyes at me, and giggled the rest of the year long. They were only teasing.

But, in retrospect, I think their big prank was perhaps a little too much. And because it was overly sexual and placed me in an awkward and potentially problematic situation, I sometimes grow anxious whenever the memory should resurface. Which is why I have never talked about it till now.

That said, this account showcases only a mild case of sexual harassment. These students all acted out of innocent ignorance and out of a sense of fun and wanting to get to know me better. And, as the saying goes, no harm no foul. 

In fact, all three girls stay in touch with me to this day. And if that should sound weird, consider that they're all college graduates now, and are the age I was when I first taught them (25). Two of them are married with children and they send me pictures of their families and tell me that whenever they get together they reminisce about the good old days and tell me they always talk about how I was such a fun teacher for them.

Sexual harassment is a sensitive subject matter because it's also a highly personal subject matter--and because people will undoubtedly respond differently to it. Most assuredly, there are cases far more severe and damaging than what I experienced, so please don't feel sorry for me. Everything worked out well enough in the end. Nobody was hurt by it, other than a bit of awkwardness it may have caused me. 

Needless to say, I was on my guard around young adolescent people from there on in, and I most certainly never followed students blindly into dark corners of the school ever again.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ignosticism Advanced: And on Referential Justification

Over the past 10 years, I’ve developed the concept of ignosticism into a formal demonstration that can either prove or disprove the existence of God.

In a nutshell, ignosticism asks you to describe “God.”

Simple enough, right? It’s not as easy as it sounds.

When a person says they have a belief in God, what is it they mean by "God"?

One might say God is three in one. Another might say none is greater than God.

Both are fine definitions.

The problem arises when competing definitions for the same God negate each other.

Three is not one.

So, what is it we are talking about? How can we talk about a self-negating concept? It’s nonsensical. We can’t speak meaningfully of it.

Hence, the ignostic holds religious people tend to presume too much about God.

The description part is to test the coherence of the object being described. Many theological descriptions of God are sophisticated but incoherent.

So, what is it we are talking about? How can we talk about an incoherent concept? It’s nonsensical. We can’t speak meaningfully of it.

Hence, the ignostic holds religious people must provide a meaningful description of God before the topic of God can carry any real meaning, regardless of the meaning they imbue their concept with before offering a demonstration.

Unable to do this, the term God is rendered meaningless and so irrelevant. 

Most theological demonstrations of God's existence or attributes are logical conceptualizations, but they often fall apart when compared to competing demonstrations which change the description of God.

The key is finding religious templates that are logical and internally coherent.

Once we have these we can test the descriptions against the referent—whether tangible or conceptual. 

A tangible referent would be the physical thing itself, like an apple. A conceptual referent would be something like Democracy or Capitalism. They are concepts, but they work and they function and can be measured and have an observable effect on the societies that adopt them.

Now ignosticism is only designed to determine the immediate relevance of your description. Unable to describe God in any meaningful way undermines one’s belief in God by demonstrating that God isn’t worth discussing because the concept of God (as provided by the person of faith) is meaningless.

I take it one step further by asking one to provide a justification of their description (I call this step a Referential Justification).

There are three parts to this: 

1) Provide a comprehensible description (comprehensible so as to be meaningful) 

2) provide a referential justification—the thing itself or a defeasible concept—for said description (otherwise it gets classified as an unreal conceptualization)

3) determine if your description is accurate by comparing it to the description of an impartial 3rd party (otherwise go back to square one).

Easy enough, right?

You’d be surprised

Referential Justification is designed to help us justify our terms by showing they mean what we think they mean. 

This is part of the area of English theory known as semantics--better known as the study of the meaning of words and how they come to acquire their meanings. 

And this relates in an important way back to epistemology, the study of knowledge and how we know what we know. Because, when you think about the standard phrases the devout typically use when talking about God is it usually something like "I know God exists," and "God is real" the question arises, how do they know?

Saying that "God exists" may be faith-based propositions, sure. But it's also a truth claim. And taking such a belief for granted doesn't prove the belief is true, even if one believes with all their heart they are.

All my advancement of ignosticism seeks to do is justify these claims as true. 

And that would be a big win for the believer!

It provides a powerful tool to justify one's terms so we can understand they are speaking about true and real things, and thereby avoid the ignostic's criticism that a person of faith's God-talk is meaningless.

So it is to the benefit of the believer that they should always apply a Referential Justification to their terminology so as to not run into any semantic problems where the words they are using actually don't describe what they are talking about. Because this is where the underlying confusion lies--if the definition of "God" doesn't mean what they think it means or it means something else entirely, then they cannot presume to know God is real or that God exists, because the term has no inherent meaning and so no value in the discussion.

This, of course, means we're dealing with a higher order of specificity than people are typically accustomed to using when they talk about broad concepts. It means, if we are going to make the specific claim that something is real and that it has certain properties, then we must be expected to show the work. 

Show the relationship between your claim and the description you want others to accept as valid so that we know you're not assuming more than you can possibly know about the thing you are talking about. 

Basically, it's a way to check if someone is haphazardly fabricating their ideas or else actually offering us a real description of something in a way we can talk about meaningfully.

It's not controversial. It's necessary.

A Longish Rant on the Whole Staged Pence Walk Out

I probably should have known better than to get embroiled in a stupid Facebook argument with conservative Trump supporters. Trying to explain to them how Mike Pence as VP, an elected official of the Republic, represents all American citizens and not just conservative Americans was, predictably, all in vain.

It is inconceivable to me that the VP can pull a stunt like this and not get ousted from office. It's a complete overreach of the VP's power, not only because he's using the White House and taxpayer dollars to send a message as Mike Pence the VP (not Mike Pence the citizen), not only is his protest of peaceful protesters a denial of their message and what they're protesting in the first place (if he even is aware of what that is), but his staged Diva walk-out, when we know (for a fact) that he was scheduled to be in a different state that same day anyway and so had no intention of watching the game, is such a slight against American values as to be utterly grotesque.

If you missed why his walk-out was unconscionable it simply is this: As VP he has no right to silence the voice of Americans. He's supposed to represent those Americans, regardless of what his personal position might be with respect to their form of protest. This is intimidation plain and simple. And that's WRONG on every level.

But pointing this out caused me to get blocked by three people, told to shut up by two, and about a dozen others chanted variations on...but...but...but...don't disrespect the flag! Others were sure to mention all Pence did was peacefully walk out--how could I be mad at his peaceful protest of their peaceful protest?

BECAUSE he's the Vice President of the United States! Did you not know this? Are you not aware of the power dynamics at play here? How dense do you have to be not to get it?

If you were wondering how bad it is in's this bad, folks. The VP literally protested the First Amendment act of peacefully protesting by protesting the protesters.

He said something to the effect that he was protesting the manner in which they were protesting, but this is the same difference. Clearly, he hasn't the faintest idea of what the protesters' message is. Probably because like all those who think it's a flag issue miss the point of why the protest is bothering them so much. Hint: It's not a flag issue.

It's not even a respect issue. It has nothing to do with one's level of patriotism. It's a status quo issue.

The protesters are saying that there is a segment of the American population that's not being treated fairly and that until this happens, they are taking a knee. The so-called disrespect is deliberate! It's to get you to wake the fuck up and pay attention to their message--we're not being respected so we offer this reflection of the daily disrespect that we as people of color receive.

And if you think it ain't so, look no further than to our own city streets where Nazis and white supremacists have been marching about with torches. And what do they protest? Their loss of privilege. Not exactly a slight against them as a people. Just an effect of a society becoming more inclusive.

You may feel kneeling before Old Glory is offensive, but have you forgotten the flying of Nazi flags on American soil just weeks earlier? How many of those inbred Nazi-wannabe fucks have you told to get out of America since then? Or have you sheltered them from due criticism and given them safe passage in the marketplace of ideas, claiming they have a right to free speech just like everyone else?

When these same Nazis / White Supremacists took an innocent woman’s life, shot at black people in an open crowd, and spewed racial slurs and bigoted hate at anyone not as white as they--where was your outrage then?

And when people of color say this offends us, so we'll take a knee as a peaceful sign of the slights we've received, of the insults and slights we’ve endured, and you grow outraged, well, I think you might be missing the fucking point.

It was never really was about the flag. It's about fighting a class-war where the opposition’s message isn't at all a peaceful one--but actively calls for the extermination of and continued abuse of people of color.
What a fucking message, eh?

And this brings us back to Mike Pence and his Diva walk-out. Like so many others, he's clearly missed the message. Like the others, he’s crying about his hurt feelings, ignoring the issues behind the protest.

This is a form of Whitewashing minority issues because many white folks, if you haven't guessed, don't believe minorities and people of color are treated differently in America. Not enough to be a problem. It's just the "liberal media," they say. They think it's all made up. And they balk when you talk of police brutality, of unfair incarceration, and of economic disenfranchisement. Racism isn't a problem here, they say--as Nazi's continue to convene in their squares and march in their streets. It's a matter of having pride for the country that's given you so much.

Talk about a HUGE misdirect! And do you know what the best way to get through to these knot-heads is? You guessed taking a knee.

If you really are offended by the protesters' message or their act of taking a knee, I can only offer this advice: GET OVER YOURSELF. It's not about you or your delicate, bleeding heart, snowflake feelings.

Newsflash! You're not that important. Your small slight of having to see someone take a knee pales in comparison to the slight minorities and people of color feel every day at the unfairness that is built into our undeniably racist culture. And the only way to claim the culture isn't as racist as everyone has been telling you it is is to demonstrate to everyone that your country doesn't actually have Nazis and White Supremacists marching in your streets.

No? Well, then. Don't say I didn't tell you so.

Kneeling during the national anthem shouldn't be any kind of grounds to determine a fellow American’s true level of patriotism. It's certainly no grounds to find reason enough to prevent them from exercising their first amendment rights. It's not even grounds to ask them to leave--even if you are incensed.

You don't need to agree with the protesters' message, although I'll certainly question your lack of empathy. You don't need to like it though, that's your right. And you certainly don't need to call them un-American or tell them they should get out of your country. That's jingoism. That’s the same as using the flag as a tissue for your great big patriotic circle jerks. It's disrespectful to your fellow Americans and to your country. It merely seeks to diminish their status as Americans. If they're not patriots, they're FAKE Americans, so what do they matter? Right?

It's far worse when the Vice President does it. I can assure you.

It's disheartening for sure. I've never felt so bad for America in all my life. And by "bad" I mean terribly embarrassed.

What's more, it just goes to show we CANNOT possibly begin to make America great again until we change the QUALITY of Americans in America.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Short Rant on Monogamy: Or the Dangers of Monogamous Marriage!

Pointing out that Monogamous marriage has the highest divorce rate of any marriage model is merely an incontrovertible fact. 

You may not like it, but it's true. 

It also suggests that maybe (maybe!) we shouldn't make monogamy the golden standard by which we value ours (or any other) relationships by and that perhaps (perhaps!) we shouldn't practice it at all (just a logical inference! Don't kill the messenger).

Of course, if you want to be monogamous or are happily monogamous, that's fine. But there's nothing in human biology to suggest humans are truly monogamous or that monogamy is natural to us as a species. Our pair bonds are dependent on proximity and familiarity and do not share the permanent pair bonds that voles or ravens create. We are semi-monogamous, you might say. Kayt Sukel's research into this is quite revealing.

Our monogamy can only be temporary, biologically speaking.

Other problems with monogamy are that it arose out of patriarchal marriage customs where women were bought as chattel, and marriage was about heredity and status, not love.

If you're at all a feminist or care about women, this should be a big deal. While other marriage models do exist around the world, the dominant one is the Christian form of monogamous marriage, which arose out of the sentiment that women were property and flourished under Western patriarchy and was then exported to every corner of the world. 

Some might argue that holy matrimony makes a husband and wife one body and one mind. That by the grace of God, their holy union makes the wife the husband's equal. This is trite nonsense and superstition. 

The woman was never the lesser of the two. It's only under such an oppressive ideology that monogamous marriage could ever seem appealing in the first place. First, you need one gender to be demonized and oppressed and then (and only then) the promise salvation in the form of marriage to a man seems as all palatable. But no decent, thinking, human being could ever believe this was the best system of partnering with someone. Let alone as an expression of love! Bleh.

And just because it is ubiquitous doesn't make it the best. And we can know this for a fact. How?

Modern marriage / relationship models are hardly ever based on monogamy, and that's rather telling. Wouldn't you say?

Concepts like open marriage and polyamory pay attention to both partner's needs, consider their equal commitment beneficial to the relationship but not the sole pillar of it, open up a safe space for dialog when one's adherence or values regarding monogamy shift, and never sets your cherished partner into diametrically opposed philosophical or moral opposition because of it.

Where as monogamy is designed to breed conflict and stress when one persons adherence or values regarding monogamy shifts, and it only considers he/she who adheres to its principles with blind devotion to be the valuable commodity in the relationship as it is the only pillar holding up the entire relationship, and holds both couples hostage to its principles even if one or the other should fall out of love--thereby villainizing them for a moral failure--is enough to make anyone who truly thinks monogamy is a good idea seem completely delusional.

Of course, it doesn't mean they are, in point of fact, delusional. They might find other value in their adherence to monogamy I am unaware of. Monogamy may actually work for them because they are both more monogamous than not. But there's no reason their standard ought to be everyone else's standard. What works for them might not necessarily work for somebody else.

But as far as a viable concept, monogamy is riddled with inexorable problems and is neither practical or pragmatic as far as human beings go and the types of varied relationships we are capable of sharing with one another.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Don't Shit Where You Eat (Religion of Peace My Ass)

Let's imagine... you had a book that said it's perfectly fine to shit where you eat.

And because of your devotion to this book, you formed a belief early on that it was perfectly all right to shit where you eat. And this you treated as a sacred truth.

After all, your parents always shat where they ate. They taught you it was okay. Moreover, everyone in your community shits where they eat. And when they come over to your house, they love to shit where you eat too--and so do you!

Then, one day you mature into adulthood and go out into the world to learn the ways of your fellow mankind. And you visit a distant land and the people there are friendly and welcome you with open arms and smiling faces.

Then, that evening, while breaking bread with them, you climb up onto the dinner table, drop trou, and shit right in the middle of the dinner table. Right beside the roasted chicken and mashed potatoes. You drop a big, steaming, duce.

To your dismay, everyone is appalled by this! Repulsed even. And unmistakenly disgusted by your crude, uncouth, and foul behavior.

And your only defense is to say... "B-but it's okay. See? For I have it written here in my holy book that it is perfectly fine to shit where I eat! And what's more, that it should be desired!"

Yet everyone with half a working brain knows that's not how it works. The majority of the real world doesn't shit where they eat, nor would they want you to. And they have good reasons and real world evidence for why this is so. Reasons like its unsanitary and spreads disease. That it's gross, polluted, and invoke undesirable physiologic reactions. All this is evidently laid out, unlike the claims of your fairy tale book which merely makes unfounded and unwarranted claims that are either in bad taste or simply goes against basic common sense, if not both.

Your fairy book may say "Religion of Peace," but everyone really knows the truth. It's just shitting where you eat.

And when you shit where other people eat, well, then those people have a right to ask you to leave.

But please, for all the is sane and good in the world, don't go and act shocked when people call you foul, disgusting, and grotesque. Because that's exactly what you are when you shit where you eat. Pretending it's not, because of beliefs, is simply to be disillusioned about the way oxymorons work.

If you say it's a "religion of peace" for example, but the religion only seems to generate violent and intolerant behavior, then it's not a religion of peace. It's the opposite.

And let's drop the excuses. If it were a few bad eggs, well, they'd be dealt with and fade away into the obscurity of time. It wouldn't be a weekly, monthly, year after year event...whereby the only thing that seems to be true is your inability to believe that shitting where you eat is a bad thing.

And that's nobody's fault but your own.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Abortion is Only Still a "Debate" Because...

Abortion: It's only still a "debate" because the pro-life side refuses to accurately define life, they refuse to define what legal status a fetus should have, whether it is limited as with other minors, whether it shares the same legal standing as the mother, or whether it has its own legal standing yet to be defined, or none at all.

In every case, in which the pro-life side talks about "baby killing" and "murder" they turn around and strip the mother of her autonomy, try to force her to bear a child without the proper medical expertise to even discuss such concerns, and in many cases try to erect laws to punish and jail the woman who chooses to have an abortion in defiance of their attempt at authoritarian control over her and her body.

It is telling then that the entire abortion controversy is still a "debate." It is still a debate because the pro-life side refuses to do the necessary legwork in creating a defensible position.

Here's a not so big secret. Until the prerequisite conditions of knowing the exact definition of life (not your personal opinion but an actual scientific and philosophically sound definition), until we know the precise legal standing of the fetus and its status in relationship to the mother's rights as an autonomous citizen with legal protections, until the discussion can be about what these rights should look like in a civilized society with advanced medical technology and medicine, there simply is NO pro-life argument.

All it is, at this time, is an attempt to control women. Hence, it's still a "debate" in their eyes, because women aren't yet fully under their control. And it will continue to be a debate until they take the questions of a fetus's identity and autonomy seriously.

You know who does consider these things? The pro-choice side. Which is why pro-choicers are in staunch opposition to the pro-life side. Because the pro-life side isn't about saving the life of babies. It's strictly about the control over a woman's body and dictating the rights of a mother's autonomy. This "debate" can never truly end until the pro-life proponents do better and fashion a defensible position. The control, power, and authority over another human being to get your way is not a defensible position.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

***My Epically Long-winded GOP Rant***

Is the GOP on drugs? 

I mean, they must all be on drugs. Right? 

In 50 days of the Trump presidency, we see the GOP write up a health care bill that sucks so bad it will actually do real harm to Americans. And all because there are members of the Grand Ole Party that just cannot accept that Obama care is working--barely, since they blocked it at every turn, repealed it numerous times, and forced terrible rewrites into it effectively neutering a decent healthcare package and making it into a nightmare--but it's still better than nothing. And they want to replace a barely functioning health care bill that, as bare-bones as it is, is actually doing some good with a health care plan that wants to ass-rape 50 million Americans.

If this wasn't bad enough, we have a POTUS who passes an *unconstitutional* anti-Muslim ban that then gets suspended then stricken down as unconstitutional only to write another Muslim ban, as if that was going to go over well. But the GOP and its supporters are glad, because...well...MUSLIMS = SCARY to them. And OTHER CULTURES = ICKY to them. 

The Whitehouse Press secretary, Melissa McCarthy look-alike aka Sean Spicer, lies about the president's lies. Gets caught lying about the president's lies, and so makes up some lies to cover-up the previous lies. Really, this happened. 

The appointed education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is...surprise, surprise...anti-education. As if you hadn't already guessed. And has the vouchers to prove it. But if that's not enough to convince you, just watch that painful video of her appointment hearing where she basically confesses, by a vote of silence, that special needs and handicapped children do not deserve equal opportunity education. WTF? Who says no comment to that? Of course, special needs and handicapped children deserve equal opportunity education! Of course they do! Only a cold-hearted sociopath wouldn't be able to admit that. 

Seriously, people. This is the secretary of education we are talking about. She wrote a bill that essentially takes away school lunches/breakfast plans from public schools, even as many children need those meals. The wording of HR 610 stipulates that if a school has not applied for certain vouchers, they won't be granted enough funding to provide nutritious foods, and if they can't meet the requirements of the nutritious food mandate they aren't allowed to give any food to children at all--effectively repealing the No Hungry Kids Act. It's all the bill people! It hasn't passed yet, thank goodness, but it's been introduced to the House. So, yeah.

The appointed secretary of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate change denier who has spoken out against the very real harms of the environment, essentially showing he has no sense. On top of that, he wants to make cuts to the EPA not realizing the EPA is what safeguards and regulates all the nuclear power/energy plants in the U.S., and that cuts to the EPA not only would have lasting--and quite possibly devastating--effects in the fight against climate change, but it could also lead to nuclear power being underfunded and shorthanded in the long term, thus laying the groundwork for deteriorating nuclear power plants, lack of safety measures being in place, and potentially more accidents. 

Steve Bannon gets put on Trump's National Security Council even though he's the founder of an alt-right magazine who both the KKK and Neo-Nazi parties have openly voiced support for, and who is currently under criminal investigation by the U.S. government.

Meanwhile, Kellyanne Conway is living in an alternative universe where alt-facts are facts and things that didn't happen definitely did happen, and where spin is the only zone in her reality--which is so dizzying to us in the desert of the real that she appears to the informed to be little more than a muppet in a blond wig.

And don't get me started on Paul Ryan, who is so tone deaf as to the plight of working-class, middle-class America that he's practically willing to butt-rape them at every chance in the name of the 1% of the insanely rich, because...Democracy, Capitalism, Obama bad. 

And the supporters of these people, the advocates of the GOP like Faux New's own Sean Hannity has been drinking the same Koolaid as the rest, and things the Obama's never had it bad and were never ridiculed or scorned like Trump has been, when the right has been nothing but venomous toward the Obamas calling them everything from the anti-christ to secret Muslim spies to gorillas. Which was going on till the very last week of their tenure in the White House, if you'll recall, when Beverly Whaling, a mayor of Clay West Virginia, supported a racist tweet about the first lady looking like "An ape in heels" --overtly racist-- and then complimented it...true to racist fashion, then stepped down over the fact that she applauded racists tweets about the first lady of America in the very last week leading up to the Obama's exist of the Whitehouse.

Sean Hannity, apparently, is living with Kellyanne in her alternative universe with alt-right Bannon and all the weirdos which have jammed up the GOP so badly that no amount of enemas will seem to help clear that nasty, bile-filled, party.

And then there's the 65% Republican voting base of Americans who think all this is just fine and applaud Trump for all the good he's been doing--and then act shocked when the rest of the majority of Americans (who did not vote for Trump) act appalled--and they call us liberal snowflakes. 

And...the only explanation I can find is that...the entire GOP and friends are all on drugs. Mind-bending, reality altering, drugs. 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Irreligion: On Hurting Religious Feelings (A short rant)

Did you know that being irreligious or irreverent toward religious belief isn't wrong if you're NOT religious?

To a non-religious person, irreligion and irreverence toward specific theological claims are simply what being non-religious is about. Non-religious people put no emotional stock in the God proposition because they find the entire concept, not to mention belief system, bogus.

Many religious people perceive this as being rude because they are emotionally invested in their beliefs. And if someone doesn't love their beliefs as much as they love their own beliefs, then they think you're looking down on them.

I'm sure some non-religious folks might actually be looking down on religious people. But the point is, the religious person can't tell who is looking down and who just doesn't care. Because in either case, in their religious eyes both points of view appear to degrade their personal beliefs by not taking them at face value.

They don't actually. But that is what many religious people convince themselves is happening when people won't take them seriously. They think there is something unfair at play here beyond simple indifference toward their personal views.

It's an artificial problem religious people create for themselves. Much like how blasphemy to someone who doesn't believe in the sacrosanctity of a religious text isn't actually wrong. Blasphemy is only wrong for the believer because they have convinced themselves that to say something bad or negative against their faith is wrong.

But that's a rule they have invented for themselves!

From outside of their faith, divorced from their beliefs, to be critical, skeptical, or even irreligious is simply a condition of not believing. Blasphemy cannot, therefore, be a crime to non-religious people. It can only be considered a crime to religious people who have convinced themselves that it is a criminal act to be irreverent.

Again, that's just a rule they have invented for themselves. To expect everyone else to automatically adhere to your arbitrary rule, and then enforce it, whereby you write anti-blasphemy laws to punish people who disagree with you -- often by inflicting violence or unfair imprisonment -- is downright evil, vile, and disgusting.

What religious people could do, however, and this is my personal advice, is grow up. People will disagree with you. That's a fact of life. Now get over it, and move on.

Sorry for the rant, but I get annoyed when people accuse me of being "rude" or "having it out" for them when I critique or speak on the vacuity of their beliefs--even when I go out of my way to be polite and non-confrontational.

I mean, if you say, "I believe X," then my saying "I don't believe X," isn't an attack on you--no matter what you may think. It's an equally valid and opposing point of view. The best response is to say, thanks, and agree to disagree. Getting bent out of shape and then resorting to name calling only proves how much you lack the confidence to stand up for what you believe in.

#notmyproblem #growup #notmygod

Monday, February 20, 2017

Public Discourse is a Civic Duty: Free Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom to Protest

I wonder if all these no-platforming proponents realize that that's the same thing as censorship. 

Not letting someone publish something because you find it *offensive* is censorship.

Canceling a television show or radio program because it's *offensive* is censorship.

Canceling a speaker from holding a public discourse is *censorship*.

Suspending or firing a talking head in the media, because you don't like what she is saying, is *censorship*.

Attacking the free press and calling everything they write "alternative news" or "fake news" is obfuscation (usually done to make an excuse to invoke censorship), but barring the press from the room and reporting on important matters (looking at you Sean Spice / Trump Whitehouse) is *censorship*.

Now, I'm not saying giving certain folks a platform isn't always a great idea (sometimes it's most definitely not).

Broadcasting pernicious, vile, and grotesque ideologies out into the world is always going to be problematic because there are always going to be pernicious, vile, and grotesque individuals which will latch onto those ideas as though they were scripture.

But the very concept of free discourse depends on the fair representation of both sides of an issue/position, whether wrong or right, and then we must allow for the best ideas to win through a thorough examination of their content and worth.

If your idea isn't good enough to beat something terribly awful, then that may be a fault in rhetoric, and you'll have to do better. Otherwise, if your ideas are continually on the losing end, then you should pause to wonder whether or not these ideas are worthy of championing or whether you're just wasting yours and everyone else's time.

The problem with pernicious, vile, and grotesque people, however, is that they often see themselves as heroes, and when their ideas fail they make themselves into martyrs to resurrect such ideas again under another guise.

The discourse is neverending. In a world where freedom of speech is valued, we must always be vigilant to speak out against bad ideas. That's a civic duty whereby we continue to value free speech, freedom of the press, and the right to protest.

The idea that we can censure ourselves from bad ideas, however, by simply by telling pernicious, vile, and grotesque people to go away is underestimating the sensibility of pernicious, vile, and grotesque people.

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist