Monday, April 23, 2007

New Fun Toy for the Mind

Many of you may be familiar already, but I just discovered Arts & Letters Daily via my imaginary wife, the very talented Angela. If you haven't yet, you should check it out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cho Legally Forbidden to Purchase Firearms

Based on federal law, VT shooter Cho Seung-Hui should not have been able to purchase a firearm, since he'd been declared a danger to himself and others in 2005 and ordered to undergo outpatient psychiatric treatment. More here.

F*cking for Chastity Award: Take 2

I was curious about what legitimate, reasonable atheist organizations had to say about the Gellman affair. Unfortunately, American Atheists was a bit of a disappointment, although Michael Doss' letter deserves kudos. Now, let's be clear that AA represents only itself, its membership and supporters, and its official stances. It does not represent all or most atheists. However, I think quite a bit in these letters lives up to the spirit of the "F*cking for Chastity Award." So, ladies and gentleman, American Atheists receives the second official Liberals in Exile FCA.

Here's more of the fine work of AA that has led to this award:

But we are pleased when theists employ Atheism in what they do. Feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and giving medicine to the sick is Atheism.
Ellen Johnson, President, American Atheists, Inc.

Although I can only speak for myself, I believe that the average Atheist is perplexed at the seeming inability of their fellow sapiens to think with clarity or act with understanding and intelligence.
Kevin Frad, member of AA, Inc.

And let us offer a nod to their explanation of why they are atheists and what atheism is.

Note: some of these stances are completely reasonable. They represent merely a differing opinion between theists/atheists. Honest, intelligent people can disagree. Often, however, these are not wholly unique to atheism or to be more linguistically correct, to atheistic moral philosophies. To rehash the accusations they make against Rabbi Gellman, AA, Inc. falsely implies that theistic moral philosophies do NOT include these stancies. Their use of G-dism rather than the proper term, theism, implies contempt and is a slur often used by anti-theists against theists. Many of the behaviors and attitudes they attribute to "G-dism" are not unique to theistic moral philosophies or the behavior/attitudes of theists. They falsely imply that they are.

In pretending to be defenders of reason and humanity while perpetuating stereotypes against theists and a narcissistic view of atheism/atheists that presents them not as equal to their fellow humans but as superior to all other humans, American Atheists are hereby granted the F*cking for Chastity Award.

Should Atheists Come Out?

Not an atheist, obviously, but I found this question very interesting since I've argued for this very thing over at Mitch Stephen's blog and to atheist/agnostic friends. I came across this debate at DU and thought I'd weigh in with a refutation of some of the problems in the discussion and some hopefully helpful answers. (Considering some of the participants are those who have repeatedly attacked me, I think you can understand why I'm doing it here rather than there.)

Atheist v. Gay, which is harder?

I've never quite liked the oppression pissing contest, especially since the difficulty of being (insert minority here) depends upon one's personal circumstance. Coming out as a gay person in the Bible Belt is much more difficult than coming out in New York. Coming out as an atheist in a non-religious family would be easier than coming out if you're the son or daughter of a minister, rabbi, etc. So, we can't simply compare in some general way the experiences of gay people and atheists. Experience is far too subjective for that.

The only objective measurement that can be made is on the legal, social position of each group. Currently, as mentioned in the discussion, gay people are denied thousands of rights/benefits that atheists are not. Dozens of state constitutions establish gay people as a separate, unequal class. Not so for atheists. Discrimination against gay people is legal in most of the country, with few state/local protections and no federal protections for gay people under anti-discrimination, equal opportunity, or hate crimes legislation. Not so for atheists, who are protected by the "religion" classification in these laws. In a handful of states, consensual, same-sex sexual activity remains a felony.

Does community make the difference?

Yes, gay people today are far more organized (despite our being one of the most diverse minorities in history, composed of myriad groups with often-conflicting interests and aims) than atheists. This is in large part due to the decades-long emphasis on coming out. Atheists, however, have far more resources than people seem to realize, from secular humanist organizations to online communities to atheist/skeptic publications and societies. None of these organizations are now or have ever been illegal.

Early gay activists came out in an era when: Simply wearing clothing of the opposite sex could get you arrested. Gay bars were illegal, forcing dancing couples to switch partners with a couple of the opposite sex at the flick of the lights to avoid arrest. Gay sex was illegal in 49 states. Police regularly raided gay establishments and kept "pink lists" of known homosexuals, who were then reported to family members and employers. Homosexuality was considered a severe mental illness by the APA, AMA, and other medical/mental health organizations. It was illegal for a gay person to immigrate to the United States. I can go on and on.

Access to LGBT organizations does make it easier for many gay people to find support after they've come out or when they are preparing to do so. This does not blunt the horrible reaction many have to a family member or friend coming out. Even now, however, many gay people (especially youth) do not have ready access to the community when they come out. Where social resources exist, they are a result of people bravely taking the first step to create safe havens for gay people in often dangerous environments.

So, should you come out?


Whether you're gay or an atheist, being in the closet can be easier than coming out. However, the psychological effects of treating a central aspect of your identity as something that should be hidden or as an object of shame can be devastating.

Also, while the masses of gay people (in the past) and atheists (now) remain hidden, the worst amongst you get all the attention. As I mentioned in my earlier post, atheists are often publicly represented by drooling imbeciles who arrogantly attack innocent people who may otherwise be your allies or who simply need assistance in understanding what atheism is and who atheists are. Their behavior reflects on you and harms you considerably.

The same was true for gay people before we began coming out in droves. The only exposure most people had to homosexuals were the stories of police raids on public bathrooms and bathhouses where gay men were engaging in often casual sexual encounters. The lurid details that filled the pages of the daily paper and the screens of movie theatres across the country supported the stereotype of gay people as sexual deviants.

Coming out allows people to be exposed to the tremendous diversity of the gay or atheist communities. They get to see the humanity of neighbors, friends, family members, coworkers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, soldiers, sailors, etc. rather than the stereotype. Without this opportunity, many who would be our allies otherwise, who genuinely would like to understand, may end up either ambivalent or ignorant of the realities of our lives. This helps those who hate us and harms us all.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Who I Really Am...

I'm about to ask a big favor of my very dear and very wonderful friends, people who've actually met me unlike those who attack me. No hard feelings if you choose to say no. No hard feelings if you choose to do it anonymously.

Many of you have told me over the past year that you wanted to defend me but were afraid to get dragged into all of this. But you know the real me, the person they're attacking rather than the words on the screen.

So, here's the big favor. In the comments to this post, answer this question:

Who is Melinda Barton? What is she REALLY like? And please, don't tell them about that one time at dyke camp.

I am so done....

During last year's debacle, I thought I carried myself with self-respect and a little dignity. I did everything any human being could to try to overcome the MISUNDERSTANDING that I have any negative feelings whatsoever about atheists in general. I have no problem with all atheists or most atheists or atheism as a philosophy. What I have a problem with is pathetic, masturbating, little-dick jackasses lurking around between kiddie porn sessions, just waiting for an opportunity to attack me for JACK FUCKING SHIT! What I have a problem with is the damage this has done to my reputation and my career and the fact that I just FUCKING swallowed this bullshit because maybe, just maybe I put a comma in the wrong place or maybe I could have used a different word or a different organizational structure or sock puppets for brain dead virgin morons like these. (No, your sister doesn't count.)

I am so done. You know what? Now, I hate atheists. I'm going to find the nearest blow up all the virgin, little dicked, small brain, wanna be punk-ass atheists club I can find. So, there, bitches! Ya happy? Fuck you.

By the way, no, even now I can't bring myself to hate atheists. But I needed to get that off my chest. If you're an atheist and you want to know why so many people think you're all like this, it's because these are the dumbasses representing you before the masses. Yes, many who hate you are just slobbering imbeciles themselves BUT when one of these jerks carries out an anonymous cyberattack on an innocent person or gets in someone's face in the real world screaming like a drooling Reich-wing jackass, it reflects on you. It's not right. It's not fair. It's completely moronic. People who believe these morons represent all atheists are complete idiots. But NEVER think that how they act doesn't get innocent, reasonable atheists discriminated against and abused. Unfortunately, they're too busy yanking their miniature puds to Harry Potter "erotica" and the newest emoticon to face the real consequences of their actions.

To them: Grow up. Get a life. And thank you for proving me right, you numbnuts!

In Translation

Unfortunately for the people at Kingsoft, Corp., the makers of an apparently faulty translation program, and an unnamed Chinese Furniture Company, some things just don't do well in translation.

My sympathy goes to those who found offense at finding an offensive racial epithet on their new couch. However, we must be honest. The error, obviously uninentional and much regretted, is also extremely funny. Translation errors of this sort often are.

I myself have suffered from these problems from time to time. I speak a dialect of Spanish spoken predominantly in Spain and not understood in many Latin American countries due to the strange vocabulary, thick accent and rapid cadence. For example, in Spain, "mono" means cute. Elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world, "mono" means monkey. Try explaining to a Hispanic person that you were NOT calling him/her a monkey when you can only speak in Spanish and he/she doesn't recognize the only word you know for monkey. And we won't even get into mamacita. Very fun, I'm telling you. Not so much at the time, but later, it's a laugh riot.

UPDATE: For more translation fun, check out Thanks to RPP for providing me with the URL.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Thirty-six California schools locked down because man threatens to carry out an attack that would make VT look mild.

Copycat or Idiotic Jackass?

A student of the Rochester Institute of Technology has been arrested with 2 assault rifles, which were in his dorm room, and more than 200 rounds of ammunition, which were in his car. By his own admission, he had just assembled the rifles.

The circumstances surrounding this crime? (Yes, crime. It is illegal to have firearms on school grounds in New York. It's also illegal to own assault rifles there.) Obviously, it's the day after the worst school shooting in American history, so colleges around the country are on high alert. Bonus: It's the day after a school shooting that began in a university dorm in the early morning.

So, amidst these circumstances, this guy decides to assemble two assault rifles in his college dorm room in the early morning. Jonathan Hackenburg is either a wannabe copycat killer who got caught before, thankfully, he could carry out his plans. Or he is the dumbest sumbitch on the PLANET.

Well, maybe the second dumbest. Picture it. The day after Columbine. The University of New Orleans. The tables outside the Cove, everyone's favorite dining hall, during the most busy time of the day. A group of trenchcoat-wearing goths decide it's a great idea to discuss LOUDLY how they can show the Columbine boys how to do it right.

I was in a friend's dorm room that afternoon when her roommate came in, obviously disturbed about the whole affair. Naturally, we were all discussing the previous day's events. "Sally the Roommate" and "Sherry" jumped in with a blow by blow of the "threats" being blurted out at the Cove and asked whether they should go to the police.

I told them I only knew one of the guys. (We'll call him "Mickey Mouse" just for fun.) Personally, I explained, I thought "Mickey Mouse" was just a pathetic little 17-year-old boy trying to be much "cooler" and "edgier" than he ever could be. Just ignore it. Like a big mouth, I mention how he used to brag rather loudly about having access to explosives and wanting to blow something up on campus. All talk no action.

By the by, I ended up being summoned to the police department to put in a statement. I called my brother, the cop, for legal advice. My big bro instructed me in no uncertain terms to go straight to the station and tell them everything I knew because a.) I wasn't qualified to determine if this guy was just a blowhard rather than someone who would actually do it. b.) I could be prosecuted if I refused to speak to the police and something happened. c.) Standard procedure meant that the ATF and FBI would probably be brought in and I REALLY didn't want to make them mad. AND d.) Just threatening terrorist attacks in public was a federal crime. Of course, the campus police never actually followed standard police procedure or the law, so the ATF and FBI were kept out of it.

Anyway, I went, gave my statement (which included referring to him as just a blowhard little kid trying to impress somebody), and tried to move on UNTIL certain people who shall remain nameless (not the "perpetrators) got really ticked off about my agreeing to give a statement. Not that THEY were in danger of going to the federal penitentiary. So, I got a few weeks of how much of a jerk I was for doing it.

Then, I got a threat from Mickey Mouse himself, because once the police searched his room and decided he didn't do anything, they released a full copy of my statement with all of my personal info on it, including my social security number and my permanent non-dorm address. Let's just say that even when I was 17 myself, I was never scared of d*ck-swinging little boys. So, I pretty much laughed at him and moved on.

Months later, his life was just barely saved by my friends dragging me away. Why? The d*ck-swinging moron thought it was "cool" to announce the death of my best friend by asking "Sally" if she knew Chris. Sure, she answered. His response? Well, you don't now. "Sally" came running to me to find out if it was true. That's how I found out my best friend was dead.

Hours later, he had the nerve to come within 500 yards of me. Fortunately or unfortunately, my friends dragged me away when they saw that I was quite obviously about to kill him or at least make the rest of his short life a living torment. But that's another story, isn't it?

UPDATE: This post has been edited for grammar, sentence order, etc. since the original posting. Why? Because I'm beginning to think that the net is making me dyslexic and partially illiterate if that's possible. (Why dyslexic? Because all those little verification things always take me at least two tries.)

UPDATE: Strange how time changes memories. I just realized that Chris's death and Columbine happened around the same time in 1999. So, there would have been only a short time between them. It's strange how the two events are so separate and distinct in my mind that I thought they'd occurred much farther apart.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Viewpoint-Based Exclusionary Determinations?

In case you don't know, that's Ingsoc for excluding tax-paying citizens from taxpayer-funded events on White House instructions because they have the "wrong" political views. Frightening but not even remotely surprising considering how long it has been Bush administration policy to allow pro-Bush rallies along a presidential motorcade route but only permit dissenting views to be expressed in cordoned-off areas miles from the route. First amendment? First to go in the "new" America.

From the Darkness, Humanity Shines Forth

In humanity's darkest hours, when the sheer brutality of the horrors we can unleash in the world is revealed, the finest of humanity finds a way of shining through.

Professor Liviu Librescu, an Israeli professor teaching at Virginia Tech, stood at the door of his classroom, blocked the gunman's way, and instructed his students to flee. All of his students lived. Professor Librescu did not.

"To save a single life is to save the world entire." The Talmud

Monday, April 16, 2007

Food, Glorious Food

Since I've recently fallen victim to bad food, I thought I'd give you the heads up on what may be on your dinner table.

Only 1.3% of U.S. food imports are inspected, despite the fact that much of what is inspected has been found to be contaminated.

Food imported from China is regularly contaminated, raising global concerns.

Irradiated food may soon be labeled "pasteurized."

Cocaine is a drug. Who knew? Oh, wait. That's Cocaine the energy drink.

Massacre at Virginia Tech

So far, 50 people have been shot on the campus of Virginia Tech, with 30 victims and the suspected gunman dead. It's not clear whether the gunman killed himself or was killed by police.

UPDATE: The death toll at Virginia Tech is now confirmed at 32 victims and the gunman, now identified as Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean national.

My Boys Can Swim!!!

Apparently, it will soon be possible for heterosexually challenged women like myself to produce sperm so as to impregnate our heterosexually challenged lifemates. So, take that, Mom!

Oops... Yeah, We Lost That Too... Ahem

Remember the days when you would "lose" that note the teacher wrote to your parents telling them that you were causing all sorts of trouble? Well, some people never grow out of that. Salon has extensive info on the Bush administration's habit of "losing" inconvenient documents.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Antique Slim Jims: VICTORY

Although my stomache is still not taking well to food, the cramping is gone for the most part, leaving only a dull ache on occasion and a bit of "distress" upon eating. Nothing that requires emergency surgery or anything. However, I have been avenged somewhat.

The Health Department called today to say that upon inspecting, they discovered that most of the food on the shelves at the "Mercadito Ramos III" was expired. The store has now been officially ordered to removed all offending products from its shelves and either return them to the vendor or destroy them. Apparently, the regular inspector for the area has called this store her "problem child" and constantly struggles to keep them up to regulations.

Some have suggested I sue for pain and suffering, but I have declined that option. If I'd been left with major medical bills and lost wages from this whole affair, I may have considered it. As this is not the case, I'll stay out of the People's Court for now. It is enough for me that I have the moral victory and the knowledge that someone's child may be saved from a far worse fate than my own.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Question

I wonder: Have reading comprehension, original thought, and commitment to change gone the way of the dinosaurs? I was just reading the comments threads over at and I noticed yet again some peculiarities about internet discourse. First, I noticed that readers tend to attack stances that the author never took. Two, I noticed that they often make points that are repeated ad nauseum EVERYWHERE and apply in only a very limited way to the subject matter at hand. Third, I've noticed that far too many are more interested in scoring (cheap) points than in making a difference or furthering debate.

The articles I was reading had to do with religion and were written by regular Newsweek columnist Rabbi Gellman. In one, he asks if negative experiences may have led to the anger many atheists feel. It seems that some readers interpreted this question as implying that people are atheists because of negative experiences and took offense. Others simply jumped in with knee-jerk recitations of the crimes of religion throughout the centuries or references to the "We're all atheists about Zeus." cliche that offers very little to the discussion but sounds profound to some. Gellman struggles mightily it seems to come to terms with what he doesn't know about atheism/atheists, applying a little human compassion and respect in the process. Yet, he is attacked not engaged.

I would think these behaviors were limited to discussions of sensitive topics like religion if I had not observed similar behaviors in discussions about more mundane and less important topics. Instead, I see this often. A writer or reader asks a genuine question, admitting ignorance of the subject matter at hand but trying to be open-minded. The bleating masses then attack them in snide, smug tones for their ignorance. (In my opinion, many so-called "freethinkers" and "radicals" are simply sheep in a different flock.) Hmmmmm.... A person admits ignorance and raises a question in an attempt to resolve that ignorance, so you attack them for being ignorant while bemoaning the fact that people just don't get it. I find this confusing.

I've spent 14 years as an openly gay woman in America. I've given public speeches, sat on panels, written dozens of articles and academic papers, and simply engaged my fellow humans perhaps thousands of times. I've gotten some IGNORANT questions, many I would be embarassed to repeat in my mother's presence. I've always thought it best to engage. What are the options, after all? Make some snarky little point that makes me feel superior or actually make a difference in the way at least one person feels about and treats gay people.

My question: Is this just internet debate or have reading comprehension, originality of thought, and commitment to change simply disappeared?

UPDATE: By some interpretations, including my own, I made an error in this post. I'd been working on how to word this update when I found myself the subject of yet another attack over at Democratic Underground (see the post of April 20, 2007). I'm tempted to just say screw it now rather than grant them the satisfaction. But that's not how I roll. I may have been incorrect in interpreting Gellman's piece as a question rather than a suggestion. One sentence from his piece can very well be interpreted to imply that all atheists are atheists b/c they're angry. I still think he meant only a portion and I still think he was expressing uncertainty, but nonetheless, I apologize for the error.

This piece was never just about Gellman's article and the comments on it. That's just what I was reading when I decided to finally post on a question that has plagued me for some time. Despite my error or perhaps b/c of it, I think my question is still valid. Thanks for your input.

Shopaholic Mob Strikes London

Never come between women and bargains! This is some scary stuff.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Antique Slim Jims

Always check the expiration date. Always.

A visiting friend and I did a quick run-in to a "mercadito" in my neighborhood for sodas and cigarettes last night, ducking out of the last few minutes of Bones despite my huge crush on Temperance Brennan. While walking through the conveniently placed snack aisle on my way to the cash register, I notice a lone canister of Slim Jims sitting amidst the cookies. I am (or should I say I was?) a big fan of Slim Jims and other desiccated meat products. Perhaps this isn't the healthiest food preference, but it can't kill me. Right?

Wrong, apparently. I went home and hit the comfy chair with an ice cold Diet Coke and my ill-fated snack products. Distracted by conversation and the circus sideshow that American Idol has become in the Sanjaya era, I distractedly opened and bit into my first Slim Jim. The texture and taste were a bit off. It was a little dry and tough. Reflexively, I swallowed before taking a closer look at the offending meat stick. When I grabbed both ends for the "snap into a Slim Jim" test, it broke with a crack like a twig in winter. Odd. So, I broke another one. Again, sticklike breakage and loud crack. Hmmmm... My friend wisely suggested I check the expiration date on the canister.

Best by March 23, 2005. You read that right. The meat festering in my gut expired on March 23, 2005. I have a bit of an ache in the pit of my stomach, but otherwise seem fine. I was a bit hypotensive last night and this morning, but I don't think it's related considering my pre-existing heart condition. So, no death by Slim Jim despite the extreme hilarity that would entail. (I have a reputation for getting myself into odd situations.)

Anyway, the Health Department is on the case as we speak, so more is sure to follow.

UPDATE: The Health Department inspected the store yesterday, but I haven't heard back from them on what they plan to do. The meat actually expired March 26, 2005. Finally, never mock the fates. Apparently, food poisoning can take 24 to 48 hours to kick in. The stomache cramps and "intestinal distress" kicked in yesterday afternoon. I thought they'd passed this morning until I ate something and they returned in full force. I will never shop at the mercadito again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

How NOT to Protest

Students at American University pelted Karl Rove in "protest" during his visit to the campus Tuesday night. Perhaps someone needs to explain to these young people that violent acts in the name of protest not only don't help your cause, they harm it. Never surrender the high road. Yes, they do worse, but they have power and can, to an extent, get away with it. You can't. It's not fair, but it's true.

Personal note: It is my long-standing opinion that ACT-UP's use of extreme tactics (like invading a Catholic church during mass and pelting the Archbishop with condoms, then throwing the host on the ground) lost the gay community many much-needed allies and led to the abandonment of radical gay activism in favor of an access-based activism that has destroyed our ability to further our cause for nearly fifteen years.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Supreme Court to EPA: Do Your Job!

The Supreme Court has determined that global warming gases must be regulated as pollutants. A real shame that the Environment Protection Agency has to be ordered to protect the environment. Of course, this is Bush's new politicized EPA, where (taking their cue from the administration) the EPA told residents of New York that the air in lower Manhattan was safe when tests showed more than 1,500 times the acceptable level of some toxins, including asbestos.

Monty Python and the Prisoners of War

Terry Jones takes on the disparities between the treatment of British sailors in Iranian control and the treatment of suspects at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.