Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anti-circumcision ballot proposal now reaches Santa Monica

| | »
Rabbi Gil Leeds
Rabbi Gil Leeds

After San Francisco, it’s now Santa Monica’s turn to see a bill introduced that would prohibit the ritualized and pervasive practice of male genital mutilation known as circumcision on any male under the age of 18:

Performing a circumcision on a boy under age 18 — even for religious reasons — would be illegal under a measure that a San Diego group hopes to place on Santa Monica's November 2012 ballot.

A similar initiative this month from the anti-circumcision group known as MGM Bill garnered enough signatures in San Francisco to place it on that city's November ballot. MGM stands for "male genital mutilation."

Matthew Hess, the group's founder and president, said that California law prohibits female genital mutilation and that boys should get the same protection. Circumcision, he said, removes "thousands of nerve endings" and is a painful and unnecessary procedure. He equated it to the practice in some countries of removing all or part of a female's genitals.

Circumcision of male infants is a religious requirement in Judaism and a cleanliness-related custom in many Islamic communities. As a result, the effort by MGM Bill to put forth the initiative is raising concern among religious organizations, which contend that a ban would violate the 1st Amendment prohibition against government interference with a person's practice of religion.

Yes, I cringed at the false yet typical equivocation of circumcision with female genital mutilation (where the clitoris and part or all of the vulva is chopped off). As stupid, wrong-minded and pointless as male circumcision is, it just cannot be compared to the trauma that is vulvar excision. This is a comparison that people on both sides of the debate really need to stop making,

Moving on, it’s only typical that religious groups would try to pass this off as an issue of “religious freedom”, their go-to excuse for pretty much anything these days. They are evidently blind to the idiocy of arguing that it would interfere with “a person’s practice of religion”. Religious liberty does not give you the right to chop off other people’s body parts without their informed consent. Freedom applies to what you can do to yourself, or to willing individuals, not to parties who don’t, and can’t, know what’s being done to them at the time.

The only rational and responsible answer is to prevent boys from having their wee-wees cut up until they’re old and mature enough to be able to decide for themselves. It doesn’t matter if male circumcision is a relatively painless operation in itself; it’s still an unacceptable infringement upon the child’s right over his own body.

Oh, and for a nice wrapper, here’s a bonus idiotic quote:

"Quite frankly, I find it absurd and insulting," said David Lehrer, a Jewish leader. "It takes the notion of the Mommy State to a ridiculous extreme. It probably touches upon being anti-Semitic."

Yes, because stopping religious parents from imposing their beliefs on their children by chopping off parts of their genitals … is anti-Jew.

I can’t tell if that sort of thinking reflects some incongruous form of religious entitlement, an ethnic oversensitivity, or plain idiocy.

(via Joe. My. God.)

Christian group gets Australian pro-safe sex ads pulled [updated]

| | »
“Rip & Roll” advert: Two gay men embracing while holding unopened condom wrapper
“Rip & Roll” advert

It’s not just US Christian-Right groups who seem determined to remain on the wrong side of any given issue. Only a week after an Australian health education group launched an ad campaign to promote the use of sexual protection, a Christian lobby was able to kick up enough of a hissy fit over it to get the adverts yanked:

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities launched its "Rip and Roll" advertisements a week ago and today learned they were being scrapped after about 30 complaints.

The adverts feature a black and white image of a gay couple embracing, holding an unopened red condom packet.

It includes the website address and hotline for Healthy Communities, which has been receiving state government funding for sexual health promotion since 1988.

Adshel, the company that provides advertising for Brisbane's bus shelters; Goa Billboards; and the Advertising Standards Bureau were targeted in an orchestrated campaign by the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

For its part, the ACL maintains that its opposition to the campaign had nothing to do with the depiction of the gay couple and was solely about the “sexual nature of the ads”. Because subdued kissing and merely holding an unopened condom wrapping is too explicit for these puritanical pearl-clutchers.

Oh, wait. Silly me. Of course any ad that even so much as alludes to anything remotely sexual is going to offend these busybodies. They’re part of the Religion of the Perpetually PersecutedTM, after all. And who cares that recent testing has uncovered the highest number of HIV diagnoses since the mid-80s? Most of them are gays, anyway, so it’s not like Christians can be expected to care about promoting sexual protection and health advice for such undesirables, is it now?

(via Joe. My. God.)

UPDATE: (07/01/11 4:25 PM) – Ads have been restored! More here.

50 state stereotypes (in 2 minutes)

| | »

Funny and (mostly) true:

My favorites:

  • Indiana: “You have to drive through us to get somewhere better.” (I think Jen McCreight might sympathize.)
  • Kentucky: “Farming for the future, textbooks from 1925.
  • Nevada: “No laws, no problem. (Except for all the murders …)
  • Rhode Island: “No, seriously, we’re a state!
  • Texas: “Everything is bigger. Even our morons.

(via Joe. My. God.)

PZ Myers defends the Courtier’s Reply

| | »
The naked Emperor from ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’
Pictured: Common religionist arguments

In which PZ Myers explains that the Courtier’s Reply is not, contrary to common and misguided criticism, an excuse for being ignorant about the depths of various religious subsets:

[Debunking Christianity’s John ]Loftus is making the same misinterpretation I've heard from creationists and theologians: that the Courtier's Reply is a call for ignorance and an excuse for not trying to understand religion. It's not. Rather, it's an amusing way to tell someone that they haven't established their premises (the existence of deities), and that all their phantasmagorical elaborations on their fantasies are irrelevant. Cut to the core issue; if you haven't shown that Jesus even existed, it's silly to be arguing about the color of his socks.


For me, the Courtier's Reply is sufficient because I'm not wedded to any particular doctrine; it's enough for me to see that the core is rotten and hollow. But I entirely agree that for most religious people, the existence of a god isn't even an issue — it's assumed and taken for granted. What most people have locked into their brains is a pattern of ritual and dogma and pseudohistory so intricate that it obscures the central assumption, and to chip through that we need Biblical scholars who grapple with the details.

Exactly right. It seems that religionists who attack the Courtier’s Reply usually do so because they can’t even fathom the idea that non-religious folks don’t actually accept their fundamental assumption of the existence of their central deity. Saying that I dismiss your system of beliefs without even deigning to examine it all is not actually a sign of willful ignorance or an incapacity to debate, any more than it would be if I refused to remark on the elegance and intricacy of the architecture of your beloved palace if it was built on quicksand. In the end, it just doesn’t matter – if the very nature of your argument is flawed to the core, any subsequent extrapolation can only be flawed as well, and therefore deserves naught but derision and dismissal.

Daily Blend: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

| | »
Bill Donohue (President, Catholic League)
Bill Donohue
  • Could the US right-wing get even crazier after 2012? A chilling prospect.

  • Oprah finally signs off, and doctors everywhere cheer.
    (via The Daily Grail)

  • Why is the G-Spot still such a mystery? Jen McCreight explains: “To put it simply? The current research sucks.”

  • Bill Donohue [pictured] now kvetching about how San Antonio, TX mayor is ignoring his whining about a satirical play he doesn’t like. Also still has no idea what “hate speech” actually is.

  • Good thing I don’t have a “don’t feed the trolls” rule for this blog, or I’d be guilty of high treason by now.

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Supplemental tags:

Vermont enacts first single-payer healthcare system

| | »
Vermont single-payer healthcare bill rally (signs: “Vermont Can Lead The Way.”, “Single Payer Now.”)

The Green Mountain State has just become the new hub for socialized medicine in the US! Well, okay, not really, but just wait for the usual tired catcalls from the Right over the news that Vermont has now become the first state to officially enact a single-payer healthcare system, which is to be implemented over the course of the next four years. From ThinkProgress [links removed]:

Last month, the Vermont Senate passed legislation, approved earlier by the House, that would establish a single payer health care system in the state. The legislation would make Vermont the first state in the nation to, as Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said, make health care “a right and not a privilege.”

The governor’s office just confirmed for ThinkProgress that Shumlin signed the legislation into law this morning, making the state the first in American history to pass legislation that will establish a single payer health care system to provide care to all citizens. Now that the law is signed, Vermont will spend the next four years setting up the system and preparing it for implementation.

In order to actually enact the system, the state needs a waiver from the Affordable Care Act health reform law. Currently, the federal government will start handing out state waivers in 2017 — three years after Vermont wants to implement its system. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced an amendment that would move the waiver date up to 2014, an idea that President Obama has endorsed.

Just you wait; mutant communiliberamarxist zombies will be wandering the streets of Montpelier and Burlington for conservative brains to slowly suck dry in no time.

… Actually, that just sounds like fun.

(via @todayspolitics)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Imams join clergy and rabbis in supporting Evolution

| | »
Religious evolution cartoon

After nearly 13,000 Christian clergy and 500 Jewish rabbis have signed open letters denying any conflict between their faiths and Evolution, it’s now the turn of Islamic imams, with nearly 250 signatories preaching the collusion of religion and science:

The Imam Letter, launched this week in the US, is the latest challenge to fundamentalists of the three Abrahamic religions who reject evolution in favour of creationism. The Clergy Letter was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures, followed three years ago by the Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures.

Like its predecessors, the Imam Letter explains why it's OK for believers to accept the truth of evolution. It also calls for a ban on creationist teaching in science classes. "As imams, we urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution," says the letter, written by T. O. Shanavas, a doctor in Michigan and member of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg, Ohio.

"It shows that evolution and science can transcend what some people see as quite deep religious divisions, providing a unifying factor representing common ground between them," says Michael Zimmerman of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, the architect of the Clergy Letter Project. "Christians are really excited about the Muslim letter," he says. "They realise that Islam is just as fractured as Christianity, with just as many people who take their scriptures out of context to deny the truth of evolution."

Recently, for example, an imam in London was hounded out of his mosque and has suffered death threats for openly declaring support for Darwinism. Likewise, in Christian communities, especially in the US, fringe fundamentalists continue to push for teaching of creationism in science classes.

Now, sure, it’s all just wishy-washy acceptance of an ultimately failed coalition between faith and logic. Sure, all these well-intentioned signatories still believe in unscientific weirdness. Sure, they’re still quite wrong about many things – they wouldn’t be religious clerics otherwise. And sure, this will most likely not have any real, tangible effects, at least in the short run, as a few thousand religious leaders will hardly be sufficient in curbing the mentalities of those peskily intransigent fundamentalists who’d sooner die than accept any shred of reality. But, as always, I’m a firm believer that small steps in the right direction – even baby tip-toe steps, if that – are always better than no advancement at all, and certainly preferable to outright regression.

Women didn’t earn the ability to vote overnight, and the United States wasn’t desegregated after one single public manifestation. This is progress, one way or the other, and it can only be encouraged.

(via The Daily Grail)

The little boy and the speedy otter

| | »

I’ve got a few moments before I need to jet off to the flea market for some waterproof boots (slogging after my horse, bless her, through entire fields of mud and manure is not my idea of a proper adventure, lemme tell you), so here’s a gratuitous “d’awww” moment for today: the unlikely mutual fascination between a little red-shirted boy and a zoo-bound otter.

(via @donttrythis)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Daily Blend: Sunday, May 29, 2011

| | »
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
  • Distort, Attack, Repeat: An hour-by-hour look at how Fox turns Obama into the second coming of V.I. Lenin.
    (via @todayspolitics)

  • Joe. My. God.: This Week In Holy Crimes. Thirteen (known) counts.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [pictured] now claims Sarah Palin can “[o]f course” beat President Obama in 2012. Still got a problem with that “reality” thing, I see.

  • Vox Day kindly explains what he means by constantly claiming that atheists have “social autism”.

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Time-lapse sky of the Earth rotating around the stars

| | »

Ever wondered what it would look like if it was the Earth that rotated around the stars? Well, this clever little time-lapse video should give you an idea:

Personally, I would’ve cropped and zoomed in to avoid seeing the photo borders … but still an impressive feat nonetheless.

(via @dontrythis)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Christian parasites use disasters to target children

| | »
Disaster scene in Joplin, Missouri
Joplin, MO disaster scene
Remember, kids, God loves you vewy vewy much

You’re a child lost somewhere in Tornado Alley, and you’ve just been hit by a massive outbreak that’s laid waste to your home, perhaps even your entire town. Hundreds dead; families and friends torn apart; the sounds of sirens and wails fill the air. Your young mind cannot comprehend what just happened, and you have no idea what the future holds for you and those around you. You are hurt, scared, and perhaps even alone.

So, of course, what you need most of all in these terrible times is to have Christian evangelists swoop in and tell you that all this was the will of their ever-loving God because you and your loved ones are bad people who’ve upset the fickle deity, so he decided to wreak some punishment.

When natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and flooding occur, children often wonder why bad things happen. A Christian outreach is taking advantage of this by spreading thousands of pamphlets aimed at healing children's emotional trauma by converting them to the Christian faith.

The Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) says that food and shelter is not enough in the wake of natural and man-made disasters. The CEF says that it "attends to another need just as pressing: The desperate need to understand why God let this tragedy happen."

The CEF distributes a booklet titled "Do You Wonder Why?" to children who are the victims of disasters. The Christian booklet explains "[disaster's] roots in humankind's collective choice against God; the hope of the gospel; and the wonder of a God who loves them, watches over them and will never forsake them."

These child-tormenters aren’t a new phenomenon, either:

According to the CEF's press release, it has distributed a half million of these books to survivors of Hurricane Katrina. It is distributing booklets to the tornado-struck regions of Alabama and Missouri. 10,000 booklets were distributed after earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, 32,000 in Haiti and another 20,000 in Eastern Japan.

And what’s worse, they’re getting help from supposedly reputable organizations:

According to CEF, once their booklets reach a disaster area, formal and informal partner organizations such as the Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Relief teams, Christian newspapers, local churches, schools, stores, and supermarkets help distribute them. In Alabama, a power company distributing food and water also distributed the Christian booklets. According to Doug Clarke, the CEF State Director for Alabama, "these distribution centers were more than willing to distribute the booklets; they had nothing to provide the children to help them through the crisis."

There’s really very little I can say to adequately summarize my feelings about this, other than I truly wish believing in something very very hard would make it true, if only it meant these parasitic sons-of-bitches would be thrown into the pits of Hell the moment they died.

What child victims of disasters need is comfort, nurturing and care. Having their heads filled with lunacy about how this calamity is somehow the fault of everyone they knew and loved, because they chose not to live their lives in adherence to anachronistic rules set by ancient old kooks, is not included. Richard Dawkins’s famous claim about child indoctrination being tantamount to child abuse never ceases to be reaffirmed by the very actions of these disgusting ghouls.

Daily Blend: Saturday, May 28, 2011

| | »

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Supplemental tags:

Mommy kitty hugs sleeping kitten. ’Nuff said

| | »

Before I start the day’s blogging, here’s some gratuitous animal cuteness about a mother kitty hugging her little sleeping kitten:

On the one hand, that looked like it was an unconscious stretch rather than an actual hug. On the other … d’awwwww.

(via Diaphanitas)

Another Catholic adoption agency puts bigotry before kids

| | »
Catholic Charities for Rockford, Illinois logo
Catholic Charities for Rockford, Illinois logo

It’s already been established that Catholic groups, even those devoted to the well-being of children, will generally (if not always) choose their bigoted faith over the kids in their care. Here’s just another case: Catholic Charities in Rockford, Illinois has announced that they are suspending all services in order to avoid complying with the new state civil unions law, essentially telling hundreds of kids and employees to go fuck themselves [my emphasis]:

Catholic Charities of Rockford announced Thursday that the agency will halt its state-funded foster care and adoption services Wednesday — the day civil unions take effect in Illinois.

The decision is the first of what could become a domino effect of Catholic Charities leaving the foster care and adoption business to avoid liability if state law requires them to place children with parents in civil unions — either gay or straight.

In Rockford, the decision could displace about 350 foster children served by Catholic Charities and put 58 employees out of work.


"While we understand leaving this work will be very painful for our client families, employees, volunteers, donors and prayerful supporters, we can no longer contract with the state of Illinois whose laws would force us to participate in activity offensive to the moral teachings of the church — teachings which compel us to do this work in the first place," said Frank Vonch, director of social services for the Diocese of Rockford, which includes Kane and McHenry counties.

Isn’t that just a beautiful piece of twisted reasoning right there? It’s the Church’s teachings of love and compassion that “compel” them to take care of needy children … unless that means placing them in the loving care of same-sex households, in which case, fuck that “compassion” shit. What’s the point of taking care of kids if that means not acting like bigoted zealots?

Religion and compassion are fundamentally dichotomous. If you care about something, especially about helping those in need, it’s because you have a natural, human sense of empathy. Only a belief in fundamentally prejudiced and uncompassionate rules, such as the ones imposed by antiquated and absurd theological teachings, can make people act all high and preachy when it comes to moral values, and then decide to arbitrarily drop all pretense of compassion for those in their charge the moment their irrational beliefs are challenged. If being forced to treat all people equally makes you want to abandon your supposedly compassionate endeavor, either you have some seriously screwed up priorities, or you were only pretending to care in the first place.

(via Joe. My. God.)

VIDEO: Nighttime SWAT raid leaves two dogs dead

| | »

No-knock nighttime SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri in March of 2008. It was for marijuana. Warning for violence that leaves two innocent and retreating dogs slaughtered.

This is the United States on Drug War.

I don’t have anything to say that Radley Balko doesn’t summarize perfectly:

This isn’t like watching video of a car accident or a natural disaster. This doesn’t have to happen. You’re watching something your government does to your fellow citizens about 150 times per day in this country. If this very literal “drug war” insanity is going to continue to be waged in our name, we ought to make goddamned sure everyone knows exactly what it entails. And this is what it entails. Cops dressed like soldiers breaking into private homes, tossing concussion grenades, training their guns on nonviolent citizens, and slaughtering dogs as a matter of procedure.

More details from the good people at Keep Columbia Free.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seismologists charged with not predicting deadly earthquake

| | »
Bernardo De Bernardinis
Bernardo De Bernardinis

Science on trial: Scientists monitor ongoing geophysical activity, stipulate that risk of dangerous event is relatively low, government official twists this to mean that there’s no danger, actual disaster occurs and people die, government blames scientists:

What’s the Context:

  • The case, which was brought in 2010, hinges on the statements of Bernardo De Bernardinis of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency at a press conference a week before the quake. His agency had asked the scientists to convene and discuss whether the increasing seismic activity in the area might indicate a risk of a major quake.
  • At the subsequent press conference, De Bernardinis, who is being tried along with the scientists, told the crowd, “The scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable.” (via Nature News) People say that as a result of this reassurance, they didn’t leave their homes or take other precautions against the quake struck.
  • However, in the minutes of the meeting, the scientists do not say that there was “no danger,” though they say that a swarm of mini-quakes is no certain indicator that a major one is on the way. Additionally, “the idea that minor earthquakes release energy and thus make things better is a common misperception,” Susan Hough, a geophysicist at the USGS, comments (via Nature News). “But seismologists know it’s not true. I doubt any scientist could have said that.” The scientists have since said the statement misrepresented their opinions.
  • Nearly 4,000 scientists have signed a letter of support for the seismologists, saying that the government should focus its efforts on enforcing building codes—the area is a very high-risk quake zone—rather than trying the scientists. “The proven and effective way of protecting populations is by enforcing strict building codes,” says Barry Parsons of Oxford University, a signer of the letter (via Nature News). “Scientists are often asked the wrong question, which is ‘when will the next earthquake hit?’ The right question is ‘how do we make sure it won’t kill so many people when it hits?’”

The Future Holds:

  • The trial begins on September 20. If convicted, the scientists and De Bernardinis could serve up to 12 years in prison.

For those who think Harold Camping got the date wrong …

| | »

Note to Christians: If you think that Harold Camping’s “May 21 Rapture” was bullshit because he got the date wrong, you’re still crazy. For those who don’t get it, here’s a little picture:

You-can’t-know-when-the-Rapture-will-happen preachers criticize Harold Camping for setting Rapture date on May 21, 2011

Nothing funnier than kooks trying to out-kook each other.

(via Pharyngula)

Daily Blend: Friday, May 27, 2011

| | »
Father Riccardo Seppia
Father Riccardo Seppia
  • It would be funny how predictable this is becoming if it weren’t so disturbing. [pictured]

  • Family fined $90,000 by USDA for selling pet rabbits.
    (via The Agitator)

  • PersonalFailure explains whether one can be both Catholic and a feminist. (Hint: No.)

  • Media Matters reveals Fox News’s utter lack of accountability compared to other, actual news networks.

  • Hilarious: Poor terrorists are struggling without Osama’s guidance.

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Friday Canine: Video special

| | »

Thursday, May 26, 2011

No Homo

| | »

No comment. Just funny (and NSFW).

Funny, given how 91.6%* of my chat buddies are gay. … furries.

… No homo?

(via Joe. My. God.)

* Why, yes, I just calculated.

Oregon Legislature votes to repeal faith-healing exemption [updated]

| | »
Alayna May Wyland (8 months old) with untreated hemangioma
Alayna May Wyland (8 months old) with untreated hemangioma
[source | full size (454×511)]

Some great news today out of Oregon for those of us who are more than a little disturbed at how easy it is for parents who let their kids die from preventable illnesses because they chose to pray rather than get them actual medical help to get away with it with no more than a slap on the wrist under excuses of “religious freedom”. Both the State House and Senate have voted nearly unanimously to repeal “faith-healing” exemptions, thus allowing such indefensibly irresponsible parents to be punished to the full extent of the law:

Back in March, the Oregon House of Representatives voted (unanimously, 59-0) to remove “faith healing” exemptions from the law.


The House did away with that exemption in HB 2721. I’m happy to say that the Senate has finally joined them!

The Senate voted 25-5 to approve the measure. It was drafted largely in response to the 2008 deaths of children among members of the Followers of Christ Church in Oregon City, who rely on spiritual treatments instead of medical care.

The bill puts these child-killers up for charges of manslaughter or murder, and offers sentences ranging from twelve to 25 years in prison. What’s more, the bill has been amended to take effect immediately upon enactment. Maybe this will force religious nuts with kids to comply with the fundamental principle of medical reality that if you want someone to get better, you actually have to do something about it rather than chant some silly incantations.

Also, for those who complain about this being another case of the government infringing upon citizens’ privacy and religious liberty, asks yourselves whether a parent’s freedom to impose their irrational and often detrimental religious beliefs upon their children is worth the cost of letting innocent kids suffer and die from incompetence and medical neglect.

That is absolutely what this all boils down to.

(via Friendly Atheist)

UPDATE: (06/18/11 3:35 AM) – Gov. Kitzhaber signs bill into law.

Daily Blend: Thursday, May 26, 2011

| | »
Jerome Corsi
Jerome Corsi

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Supplemental tags:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Judge rules against death benefits to firefighter’s transgender widow

| | »
Thomas (l) and Nikki Araguz (r)
Thomas (l) and Nikki Araguz (r)

Here’s an interesting case: A Texas court has ruled that a deceased firefighter’s widow is ineligible for his death benefits because she’s transgender. This may sound like (what ought to be) an open-and-shut case – ie. get over your bigotry and give her the damn benefits – but the details make it so that I’m actually not sure where I stand on the issue:

WHARTON, Texas – A Wharton County judge on Tuesday declared that a transgender widow’s marriage to a fallen Wharton firefighter was not valid, so she is not eligible for his death benefits.

Ever since Thomas Araguz died fighting a fire at an egg farm last year, his family has been battling his widow, Nikki Araguz, over $600,000 in death benefits.

The firefighter’s family argued that, since Nikki Araguz was born a man, her marriage to Thomas Araguz –under Texas law – was not valid.

The family said the death benefits should go to Thomas Araguz’s two children with his first wife.

But Nikki Araguz has maintained that Thomas Araguz knew about her past as a man, and that their marriage was legal.

Nikki Araguz had sexual reassignment surgery after the marriage. The couple was estranged at the time of Thomas Araguz’s death.

On Tuesday, Judge Randy Clapp said that because Nikki Araguz was born a man, Thomas Araguz was not married on the day he died, and any marriage – formal or informal – is void.

So, Nikki Araguz was legitimately married to Thomas the firefighter, but estranged at the time of his death. She’s a transgender woman, which she asserts Thomas was fully aware of, yet it’s not clear if her identity as a woman is legally recognized in Texas, given Judge Clapp’s ruling and attorney Frank Mann’s claim that “Texas does not recognize a change in gender” (I’d like for someone more knowledgeable about Texas law than I to confirm that). In addition, Nikki only had her sex change operation after marrying Thomas, which means that even if she’s legally a woman now, I presume that she was legally male at the time of the wedding, which would indeed void her union with Thomas, given Texas’s lack of same-sex marriage laws. This is certainly what the judge has seized upon as a basis for his ruling.

Forgetting the legal technicalities, even the ethics of the case can go either way. If Nikki wins, then the benefits go to the widow; but if she loses, then that $600,000 goes straight to Thomas’s kids, so it’s not exactly as if it were being seized by some obscure, non-deserving party.

In the end, I just don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see how this plays out.

(via Joe. My. God.)

Sarah Palin: The Movie?

| | »
Sarah Palin
Sarah Palin

Dear God. The Devil is coming to Earth … or so it would seem for some locale in Iowa, where a feature-length film will air promoting the basket of failed idiocy that is Sarah Palin:

A two-hour film promoting Sarah Palin will premiere in Iowa next month, serving as a potential launch to a presidential campaign.

RealClearPolitics first reported the details of the film. The announcement was confirmed to POLITICO.

Conservative filmmaker Stephen Bannon was approached by Palin’s camp last year about making a series of videos, the website reported. Bannon in turn suggested a feature-length film titled “The Undefeated.” Bannon paid the reportedly $1 million cost of making the film, which is designed to help refurbish Palin’s image and restore her ties to hard-core constituents.

It’s little wonder the flick will be titled after Palin’s almost supernatural ability to remain in the public spotlight despite having been so thoroughly discredited, debunked, disgraced and generally humiliated these last few years for being the petty, airheaded poseur she is.

I almost wish Roger Ebert would attend the premiere, if only to read his review afterwards. (He did such a great job with Ben Stein’s anti-evolution propaganda piece, Expelled.) But then, I must remember not to wish such evil on people I like.

(via Right Wing Watch)

Bullet- and missile-proof limo-tank beaten by little curb

| | »

And to continue making up for my unintended absence yesterday, here’s another bit of random silliness … though, considering the implications if it had happened in a decidedly less friendly locale, it probably resulted in the Secret Service’s ranks being reduced by one:

That’s what happens when security concerns make your car car weigh about twice as much as normal, I suppose.

(via Joe. My. God.)

Puppy to yearling in 40 seconds

| | »

Man, how long was I shut out from Blogger? It felt like a full year, man. I mean, look how big this puppy got in that time!

… *want*

(via The Agitator)

Daily Blend: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

| | »
Bradlee Dean, giving Minnesota Legislature opening prayer
Bradlee Dean

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Unable to log in to Blogger [fixed]

| | »

UPDATE: (05/25/11 4:26 PM) – Got it working! It seems that Blogger’s recent redesign glitched up the auto-sign-in process, so all I had to do (once I’d figured it out, that is, which took look enough …) was sign in at the main Blogger page, and voilà, access restored.

This is your beloved blogmeister, sending this from email (so do forgive the lack of formatting and pretty corner picture and whatnot).

Since yesterday at around noon, I've been unable to sign in to Blogger, thus preventing me from posting (as well as anything else) due to some weird log-in error. Every time I go to access my account, the browser starts glitching up and ends up giving me a "503 error" a few moments later. Not too sure what the heck's going on, though I certainly hope it's on Blogger's end, thus absolving me of responsibility for something going wrong (for once).

I'm still active on Twitter, so stay tuned for updates. Hope this won't take too long to fix. (Again.) Sucks, too; I've just finished a (sorta-)new song for a brand new project I'm thinking of getting into regarding my book. *winks, hoping anyone reading this actually knows he's been writing a novel for the last two years*

Monday, May 23, 2011

ABC’s What Would You Do? on gay-parent-bashing

| | »

For all the bad rep Texas gets (and usually for good reasons), there are certainly more than a few decent and rational people there still, as was demonstrated when ABC’s excellent What Would You Do? had actors pretend to be lesbian mothers (and later, fathers) at a restaurant being harassed by a bigoted waitress. It’s definitely not as grim as you would expect:

(Small nitpick: Establishments in those 29 states can refuse service to anybody for any particular reason, not just specifically gays.)

If only more Christians were like Donovan. Major kudos to him.

Meanwhile, I’m left wondering what all those bigots who attack lesbian couples with children for their kids “not having a father” must think of single mothers.

(via Joe. My. God.)

Poll: Most Christians support LGBT equality

| | »

It’s hard to say if it’s due to basic human empathy, or if it’s mostly thanks to shifting social tides in favor of progress and equality for minorities who’ve traditionally been discriminated against. But the Human Rights Council has partnered with the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research polling organization to find out just how many people favor ending homophobic discrimination, and the results are rather pleasantly surprising: Despite their faith’s anti-gay teachings, a vast majority of Christians are all for giving LGBT folks all the rights and protections that heterosexuals already enjoy.

For starters, they don’t think LGBTs should be discriminated against:

Poll: “Do you favor or oppose protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations?” Results: 70% of total and 68% of Christians favor, 20% of total and 22% of Christians oppose

And contrary to the squawking of hate groups like the Family Research Council or the American Family Association, most Christians are in favor of protecting young gays and queers from persecution in schools:

Daily Blend: Monday, May 23, 2011

| | »
Jordan Miles with beating injuries
Jordan Miles with beating injuries
  • Shocking: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania cops who beat a music student [pictured] after mistaking Mountain Dew bottle in his pocket for a gun let off the hook.
    (via The Agitator)

  • War in Libya now even more illegal than before. It really doesn’t seem to matter which party is in power, does it?

  • US Supreme Court orders California to cut over 30,000 inmates from its horribly bloated penal system. No word on whether those released will be primarily non-violent drug offenders.

  • Protestant Church of Scotland votes to allow gay & lesbian ministers, provides gateway to possible future same-sex marriage.
    (via @BreakingNews)

  • Interesting experiment with even more interesting results. Restaurant allowing clients to pay anything (or nothing) for meals proves that people are fundamentally good.
    (via Zon)

  • Color photographs from the Great Depression.

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why only stupid exists on the Internet

| | »

So very true, sadly:

Comic for 05/19/11 (“Why only stupid exists on the Internet”) | Real Life Comics (by Greg Dean)

Which is why we should all be extra thankful for those of us who are afflicted with SIWOTI Syndrome and their tireless contributions to cyberspace education.

(via Zon)

Utah makes it illegal to act sexy in public

| | »
Michael Jackson grabbing crotch
If Michael was in Utah, he’d be a sex worker by now

File this under the header of “yet another stupid prudish law that can’t possibly be abused at all”:

Utah defines solicitation as a person agreeing to sex in exchange for money. A new law that went into effect this month broadened the definition to include any person who indicates through lewd acts, such as exposing or touching themselves, that they intend to exchange sex for money.

It was intended to help law enforcement agents working undercover in prostitution stings, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said Friday.

He said it would protect officers who were being asked by prostitutes to expose or touch themselves to prove they're not police because making such requests as a precursor to offering sex for money is illegal under the new law.

"Officers were being put in a position that we're not going to allow, so we took a different direction," Burbank said.

Right. So your next logical course of action was to make it illegal for anyone to engage in “lewd acts”, a definition that’s so insanely broad that it could lead to anyone who so much as scratches their crotch or ass on a sidewalk being mistaken for a sex worker. Not to mention that even sexually non-explicit acts such as erotic dancing and the likes would also be made illegal.

So, congratulations to simple-minded Utah police and lawmakers for letting their prudish ideology further restrict civil rights on a transparently ridiculous basis.

(via The Agitator)

Daily Blend: Sunday, May 22, 2011

| | »
Damon Fowler
Damon Fowler

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

How not to tell if a man is a rape apologist

| | »
“NO means NO!”

What is rape? Any explicit sexual contact instigated by an individual upon a victim who is either non-consenting or whose judgment is currently impaired as to prohibit them from giving their informed consent.

What is a rape supporter? Every single man alive.

What, don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it. It’s what Eve’s Daughter over at Eve Bit First apparently believes, seeing as she published a list of ways to tell if a given man actually condones or encourages rape (presumably in any and all forms), using such descriptions that ultimately and deliberately apply to every single male person on this planet. Now, I strive to be a good egalitarian, and I feel that I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t seize this opportunity to verify that I wasn’t actually a rape apologist of some sort. (How embarrassing that would be.) So, I thought I’d take a gander at miss Daughter’s list, here, and check where I stand on each individual point (30 in all).

A man is a rape-supporter if…

  • He has ever sexually engaged with any woman while she was underage, drunk, high, physically restrained, unconscious, or subjected to psychological, physical, economic, or emotional coercion.

Huh. Kinda vague, at least on some points. I can understand it being non-consenting if the woman is unconscious or forced into having sex against her will, but if she’s “high” or “drunk”? Is any altered mental state, no matter how minor, enough to void a woman’s consent and make anyone who has sex with her while she’s in that state a rapist? Does that mean that every single hippie who’s ever had sex is therefore a rape victim or perpetrator? And what about “underage”? Where is the limit? Is it a legal or moral one? Is a mature 17-year-old girl who lives in a state where the legal age of consent is currently set at 18 automatically a rape victim if she knowingly and willingly chooses to have sex anyway? (Does it cancel itself out if her partner is also underage?)

I see we have some definitional problems, here, but nonetheless, I can safely say that, being a virgin, I am absolutely not a rape supporter. Yet. 0/1.

  • He defends the current legal definition of rape and/or opposes making consent a defense.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sophomore who challenged Rep. Bachmann threatened with rape and death

| | »
Amy Myers (16)
Amy Myers (16)

They really can’t take a challenge to their ridiculous beliefs, can they? After 16-year-old New Jersey high school sophomore Amy Myers challenged the utterly inept Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to a debate on the US Constitution, history and civics (which seems unfair – of course a smart 10th grader knows more than the stupidest woman in US politics), it didn’t take long for Bachmann’s equally loony supporters to crawl out of the woodwork and reveal their entirely predictable colors:

Unfortunately, it seems some Bachmann fans haven’t taken Myers’ challenge kindly and are now threatening the teenage girl with violence:

After it started getting media attention last weekend, commenters on tea party websites have threatened to publish her home address and some have threatened violence.

The 16-year-old from Cherry Hill says several commenters have called her a “whore.”

Her father, Wayne, says he’s concerned for his daughter’s safety.

The Cherry Hill Courier Press reports that others “threatened violence, including rape” and that “several commenters threatened to publish the Myers’ home address.” Amy’s school has reportedly also received “threatening mail.” The newspaper had planned to do a video interview with the girl, who is running for a student government position, but “a somewhat panicked-sounding Wayne Myers phoned to cancel, citing the alleged threats.” “They’re targeting me just because I’m challenging Bachmann,” Amy said.

There isn’t much that’s particularly newsworthy about this story; the knuckle-dragging followers of a crazy far-Right politician react badly to one of ’em “elitist” liberals – even a teen – daring to call their idol out on her incompetence. But still, one must still marvel at how pathetic a life-form one has to be to threaten to rape and kill a 16-year-old girl for daring to politely speak up against an ideological opponent.

Stay classy, teabaggers. Stay classy.

(via Right Wing Watch)

Tennessee Senate passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

| | »
“Say Gay! Oppose SB49”
“Say Gay! Oppose SB49”

The Tennessee Senate has decided that kids younger than 14 don’t need to know that gay people exist:

NASHVILLE, TN - NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - State law would forbid Tennessee public school teachers and students in grades kindergarten through eight from discussing the fact that some people are gay, under legislation that passed Friday in the state Senate.


It passed the Senate 20-10. The bill isn't likely to be taken up by the House before lawmakers adjourn this spring, but the sponsor there has said he would push it forward in 2012 when the General Assembly comes back for the second year of the session.

Under the proposal, any instruction or materials at a public elementary or middle school will be "limited exclusively to age-appropriate natural human reproduction science." The provisions would also apply to a group or organization that might provide such instruction.

The legislation was amended from the original version which said no elementary or middle schools will "provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality." Republican Senate sponsor Stacey Campfield of Knoxville said some of his colleagues were uncomfortable with that language.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat," Campfield said after the vote. "I got what I wanted."

He said the language is appropriate because "homosexuals don't naturally reproduce," and he said it's necessary because the state's curriculum is unclear on what can be taught.


He said the bill focuses on an age range where students are most impressionable.

"They don't have a clear understanding, and a lot of times I think it can lead to confusion," he said, referring to the discussion of homosexuality.

Doggycide: Cop casually slaughters innocent dog on tape

| | »

This would have gotten old and boring long ago if it weren’t so sad and infuriating. Another day, another cop slaughters an innocent family pet for absolutely no reason and escapes any and all accountability for it. And this time, it’s caught on tape by a local Durham, North Carolina news station (video is SFW):

The story:

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Did a member of a Durham police SWAT team go too far when he shot and killed a dog during a raid in April? Some say it was unnecessary force.

ABC11 cameras captured the incident at a home on Dunstan Avenue April 12.

Officers were looking for Pete Moses and Vania Sisk. According to search warrants, Moses is a suspect in the disappearance of a woman and a 5-year-old boy. Sisk is the boy's mother.

While they've not been charged in the disappearances, the SWAT team arrested the pair on other charges at the Dunstan Avenue home after surrounding it the evening of April 12.

After the people in the home surrendered, the SWAT team approached to make sure no one else was inside. As ABC11 cameras recorded, the lead officer went up the front steps and then turned and fired at a dog three times - killing it.

The dog doesn't appear to be vicious and doesn't appear to lunge at officers. In the video, you can see a man sitting on the stoop of a home next door and others standing on the next porch as the three high-powered rounds were fired in their direction.

Daily Blend: Saturday, May 21, 2011

| | »

Wee, it r Doomsday! Just over an hour until the Earth starts opening up in my time zone. (Where are all the news reports of the same happening elsewhere across the globe …?)

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Daily Blend: Friday, May 20, 2011

| | »
Sen. Martin Golden (R-NY)
Sen. Martin Golden (R-NY)

Had to cancel my horseback-riding lesson for the first time today. Sadness.

  • New York Sen. Martin Golden (R) [pictured] introduces bill to void same-sex marriages from other states. Joe My God notes that it thankfully has no hope of passing.

  • Hemant Mehta has a good detailed summary of how a godless high-schooler tried to get his school to comply with the law regarding graduation prayer – and was turned into a town pariah for it. School still let a girl give a 2-minute Christian prayer at an official function. If anything, I’m gleeful at the prospect of that school of fools being sued straight into a gigantic financial crater.

  • Christian Anti-Defamation Commission’s Gary Cass attacks “It Gets Better” campaign, saying it gets worse because gays are living a lie and need to turn to Jesus and etc.

  • Vox Day, ladies and gentlemen.

If you have any story suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or send them in.

Supplemental tags: