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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A pencil in the ear

Image from The Daily Mail

In entertainment news Tuesday, Jay Z, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and others are rumored to be joining together to remake the musical film "Annie." Reading about this got me thinking about Broadway musicals I love, don't really love and the one musical I hate more than nails on a chalkboard. What's bizarre is the musical I despise, I've never seen.

As a former lighting designer, theater holds a very special place in my heart. The last well-known musical I saw was "Jesus Christ, Superstar," which will always be my absolute favorite. I love "Les Miserables" for the emotion and the sets. My God, that barricade. The first time I saw "Les Miserables" was in Orlando, and when that barricade came down, myself and 3-4 other theater techs stood up and clapped. The other 500 or so audience members looked at us as if we were insane and we quietly sat back down. The rotating stage. The sewer gobo. Wow.

The same goes for "Phantom of the Opera." Yes, the lyrics are redundant, but Michael Crawford's voice combined with technical effects that cause the audience to gasp audibly make "Phantom" one of the most endearing musicals in history. "Cats" didn't do much for me, nor did "Chess." My parents had tickets to "Chess," read the review and generously (snort) gave their tickets to me. My date and I, along with 3/4 of the audience, walked out during intermission, muttering "What the hell was that?"

While working (without pay, gotta love theater) at Civic Theater of Central Florida, I made the mistake of singing in public. Someone heard me and suggested I try out for a role in our production of "Brigadoon." I did, and shockingly won a fairly large part. Cast members were asked to run one weekend of auditions, so two of my friends and I volunteered. How hard could it be? We sit at a table, take notes and listen to fifty or so Floridians sing. We were so wrong.

I was unaware at the time of the plethora of "child actors" in Orlando, but holy crap, I learned quickly. Over 100 kids showed up to sing their little hearts out, read from "Peter Pan" and other children's plays and they brought their stage mothers, which made it so much more festive. Guess what every one of those kids sang. Every one, even the boys, sang "Tomorrow" from "Annie." Every. Single. One. By the end of Saturday, our heads were pounding and we were twitching.

Sunday morning, we thought we were ready. Giant bottle of Tylenol: check. Several large cups of strong coffee: check. Someone brought Valium if I remember correctly. We grabbed our clipboards and began Day 2. What we were completely unprepared for were the stage moms from Saturday, prodding us and asking if sweet Stevie or precious Patti had made the cut. We didn't know-that was up to the director, but nothing stops a stage mom. We should have brought whips.

As Sunday drew to a close, I swore that if I ever heard that song again in my lifetime, I would drive a pencil into my own eardrum. Odds are slim that I will see the new "Annie" if it is released in my lifetime. I'm sure the plot will be darling, the little orphans will be darling, Daddy Warbucks will be darling and Sandy the dog will be darling. My fear is that the blood shooting from my head will be less than darling, thus ruining the entire experience for other theater goers.

Lord knows, we wouldn't want that.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Good Old Days

Image from Google (actual Van Heusen magazine ad)

Once again, it is my great pleasure to present a piece from my dad. 

From time to time, I receive some version of the “Good Old Days,” email that is ever present on the Web. Invariably, these emails are forwarded to me from some old white man who got it from another old white man. And let me be clear, I am an old white man, too. 

These emails tend to have lists of how much better things were in the old days (e.g., “you could buy a coke in a great green bottle for a nickel, our moms all smoked when they were pregnant.”).  We are supposed to be nostalgic for these things.

In almost every emailing, there is this:  “We could buy and shoot off fireworks of all kinds.”  That is true. Tommy O’Conner’s Dad would load up my friend Tommy, give him his favorite lighter, and turn him loose.  It was after one memorable Fourth of July that Tommy picked up the nickname, Three Fingers O’Conner.  Boy, those were the days.

I remember going to kid funerals, too.  Drownings in the quarry, farm equipment run amuck (no dastardly safety regulations from those commies in Washington).  My friends had knife scars, BB’s under their skin, and funny walks after helmet free bike accidents.  Yes, those were the days.

Those were the days where white men ruled.  A woman’s place was in the home, children were quiet, African Americans were the help, and Asians and Hispanics were someplace else.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Nobody worried about political correctness because white men ruled.  Those were the days.

Those were the days when if you were a woman or an African American you better know your place.  I am going to guess that African Americans and women are not particularly nostalgic about those days.  Those weren’t the days for them.

My Dad said to me in his late 80’s,  “Where did all these gays come from?  I have never known any gays. “  I think I mumbled something about in the 30’s, 40’s and 50”s not very many gay people came out, especially to their coach or—later—their high school principal.  What I didn’t tell him was that one of his closest friends from college had been gay, as was his friend’s adopted son. 

So, old white guys have lost their power—power that was mostly an illusion anyway.  I also know younger white guys who can’t understand why they don’t have the power they thought their own fathers had.  In many cases these men are categorized as divorced, underemployed or right wingers.  But then, somebody has to buy Ted Nugent CD’s.

Cause guys, the war is over and the old white guys lost.  Some of us see that as hopeful news.  Martin Luther King, Jr. prayed for a time when we would be judged by our character not our skin color.  We aren’t there yet. But if your character includes holding up racist signs about our President, disdaining the poor and dispossessed, hating the ”others”,  and wanting your own at the expense of anyone else, then I understand your nostalgia for the good old days, when your white skin was all you needed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My dad muses about marriage equality

Image from David

People often ask me how I learned to write, since I never attended college or took any formal course. Most of whatever talent I possess is inherited from my parents. It is an honor to present Poking at Snake's newest guest blogger, my dad.

I have been under some pressure to blog.  My wife would prefer it to my wise observations (or crackpot ideas, whatever) around the kitchen table, the dog definitely finds my typing more soothing than my reactions to t.v. news (“what the hell is George Bush doing on?!”) and my daughter needs to work on her book.  She seems ready to risk sharing me with her readership, perhaps in the hope that we can attract a geezer following to her blog as well.

Erin typically takes on controversial topics.  Being older if not wiser, I will write to less volatile topics.  Today I am writing about gay marriage.

My state of Minnesota recently defeated a proposed amendment to the state constitution requiring that marriage only be between a man and a woman.  Now the state legislature appears to be close to legalizing marriage between consenting adults of the same sex.  God’s disfavor about all this has so far not manifested.

The same people who don’t believe in biological evolution tend to not believe in either cultural or idea evolution as well.  A tribal rule written down 4,000 years ago must still apply.  But only that tribal rule.  Bring on the pork and lobster stir fry.  Somehow we managed to evolve beyond slavery, prohibitions against inter-racial marriage, allowing women to play golf at private clubs (um, we may still be evolving on that one).

When my late wife was dying, I could visit her at anytime of day or night.  I could sit with her and try to comfort her.  I held her for hours on the night she died.  It is inconceivable to me that any law that prevents two lovers from sharing this most private and profound moment is anything but pure evil.

If a particular religion wants to prohibit gay marriage, under our constitution it must be allowed to follow that rule.  By the same token, that religion cannot be allowed to tell other religions, belief systems, or just some secular folks sitting in a Starbucks that they cannot marry.

With all due respect, it is none of our damn business who marries whom.  If every person who opposes gay marriage would take that energy and apply it to his or her own relationships, the world would be a far better place.

I could spin many legal and ethical arguments supporting my belief in gay marriage.  But in truth, it is a personal matter for me.  If I had voted for that amendment there are just too many people I could no longer look in the eye:  two men of God who under quite different circumstances provided me stability and peace when I really needed it;  co-workers who you just want to be around;  people in my new community who welcomed me when many straight people I met were suspicious and distrustful of the stranger in their midst (that is for a later blog). 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

CISPA Protest

Both the Poking at Snakes blog and Facebook page will be silent today in protest of CISPA. Thank you for your understanding. Erin

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Who are we?

Image from

Over the past few days, we have seen the best and the worst of humanity. We have seen marathon runners finish a race and keep running to hospitals to donate blood. We have seen angels disguised as Golden Retrievers lay their heads on the laps of people who lost legs and arms. We watched a man in a cowboy hat, an antiwar activist and father who has lost so much help a young man in a wheelchair with both legs gone.

We read the horrible lies at The New York Post and listened to the misinformation sent out across the Web by CNN. We watched in horror as a Facebook page dedicated to helping a family find their missing son turned into a deposit site for the worst hate you can read. We watched a young Massachusetts mother get punched and screamed at for wearing a head scarf and a Bronx man beaten for being brown-skinned.

Yesterday, fellow liberals posted a photo that is purported to be of the older bombing suspect's dead body. The comments accompanying this photo, again from liberals, were nauseating. "We got one, now let's get the other one!" "Kill the other bastard now!" "Glad this sack of shit is dead!" And when the younger brother was taken into custody, suffering massive blood loss, Senator Lindsey Graham posted on social media that he hopes the suspect is not read his rights and treated like an enemy terrorist.

Entertainers got into the game as well. Chuck Woolery Tweeted that he thinks it's perfectly fine to call all Muslims terrorists and used the Chechen brothers to defend his reasoning. Another man responded by listing  American men who carried out horrific acts of violence including the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh, to which Mr. Woolery Tweeted those people were just "crazy white people who should never have a gun."

Five people are dead. An eight year old boy, a young Chinese student, a twenty nine year old waitress, a twenty six year old security officer and a twenty six year old Chechen immigrant whose heart was taken over by darkness and hate. Many liberals were hoping the younger brother, the other suspect, would be killed as well. Vengeance is powerful.

The embassy of the Czech Republic was forced to issue a statement so Americans would stop confusing Chechnya with their country. Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov pointed out the two brothers were not raised in Chechnya, and stated "It is necessary to seek the roots of evil in America." The aunt of the two bombing suspects went on a bit of a tirade, asking for evidence, suggesting that the government cannot be trusted, and again, liberals went ballistic. People I know called her a "crazy bitch," laughingly asked if she listens to Alex Jones and said she should be arrested. Those folks should really do a little research on what the former Soviet Union did to Chechen people before they attack a woman who just found out her nephews are suspected of killing four people and lived in a region of the world where the government routinely made people "disappear."

"It is necessary to seek the roots of evil in America." On his radio program Friday, Bryan Fischer shared his new immigration policy: ask everyone who wants to come to America if they believe in the Quran. If they say yes, they cannot come to America. Many right wing politicians are using the Boston tragedy as an excuse to block any immigration reform, and as seen by the two hate crimes this week, some Americans are seeing Al-Qaeda everywhere they look, even in the face of a young woman pushing a baby stroller and a man from Bangladesh.

We have seen the best and worst of humanity this week, and now we have a choice. Which do we want to embrace, promote, become? Do we want to be a country of people who refuse asylum and residency to immigrants based on their religion, who print and broadcast lies and fan the flames of hate? Or do we want to be a country with angels disguised as Golden Retrievers and marathon runners who keep running long after the finish line is reached?

Who are we?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why the gun lobby needs mass murderers

Image from NBC Los Angeles

My husband accidentally bought an electric car last December. He placed an online bid and promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when, on our wedding anniversary, I was told that we were the proud owners of a 2005 boxlike electric automobile. The car was in Florida, and it finally arrived about two weeks ago.

Before he could drive it, my husband had to add it to our insurance policy, get it registered with the state and purchase license plates. Once all that was taken care of, he was good to go. It turns out it would have been much easier to purchase a firearm than that car.

And why is that? Why do groups like the NRA and the Republican party and blue dog Democrats hate the idea of making it as difficult to procure a firearm as it is to purchase and drive a car? In order to understand this, we have to go back to December 14th, 2012.

In the days following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school, gun sales skyrocketed, especially sales of the Bushmaster AR-15, the weapon used to slaughter twenty children and six educators in Newtown. People were so afraid of "something," they swarmed gun dealers and gun shows, desperate to get their hands on the exact same weapon used to commit such a heinous and violent act. The NRA and the right wing fueled that fear, resulting in record sales for gun manufacturers.

Al-Qaeda loves our lax gun laws. A spokesman for Al-Qaeda named Adam Gadahn made a video in 2011 that details why members of the terrorist organization should purchase firearms in America. He correctly said that here, anyone can walk into a gun show and purchase an assault rifle, without a background check and "most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" Gadahn actually referenced purchasing fully automatic assault rifles, which you cannot buy at a gun show. What you can buy are conversion kits that turn a semi-automatic assault rifle into an automatic.

Gun shows sell to anyone, no background check required. An undercover investigation in Tuscon showed a buyer telling a private seller he "probably couldn't pass" a background check. The buyer walked away with a Sig Sauer pistol. Minnesota is currently trying to pass a law requiring background checks at gun shows, but thanks to Republicans and rural blue dog Democrats, the bill will likely fail.

The truth is this: the NRA and other gun lobbyists need violent, dangerous people to have access to firearms and ammunition. No one in the gun lobby will ever support mandatory background checks for private sales, Internet sales or gun shows because that's how mass murderers obtain the majority of the weaponry they use. And when someone shoots up a school or a mall or a college or a movie theater, frightened and paranoid individuals run out and buy more guns. This is not about human life or suffering, it's about profit and stock holders.

Politicians who are afraid of the gun lobby are helping Al-Qaeda and rapists and gangs and murderers and dangerous felons buy guns. In my opinion, none of the senators who voted "no" yesterday have a right to wring their hands when the next slaughter occurs. Wayne LaPierre does not get to come out and give a speech about how we need registration for the mentally ill but not for gun owners. Right wing pundits do not get to show photos of the victims from high school or grade school and mourn the loss of life.
We do not matter to the NRA or the Republican party or some Democrats. We just don't. Our lives are less important, less valuable than the money and the support of the gun lobby and the fringe. Our children's safety is less important than profit and donations. It should be more difficult to purchase a weapon of mass destruction in America, but it won't be until we stand up and use our power to change policy.

Thanks to Media Matters.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Leo V. Felton made the news again

Image of Krystle Campbell and Martin Richard from

Numerous websites-Mother Jones, Wonkette, Mediaite, Media Matters and others-have chronicled the bizarre and often disturbing falsehoods circulating in the aftermath of the bombing attack in Boston. I was snookered by one such lie posted to Facebook Monday. Quite a few people shared an article from The Daily Mail, the subject of which was a bomb that killed thirty Afghans attending a wedding. The thirty deaths were promoted as happening the same day of the Boston attack and people sharing it were "outraged" that this wasn't receiving the same coverage. One detail left out was the fact that this tragedy occurred in 2002.

Tuesday afternoon, I noticed another article popping up on Facebook, this one from the Anti Defamation League. It was posted with headings like "breaking news," and "just in." The article from the ADL referenced a man named Leo V. Felton and his arrest for plotting to bomb buildings in Boston affiliated with African American and Jewish organizations. A bell went off in my head; I knew that name.

In January of 2001, Felton was released from a New Jersey prison after serving eleven years for the attempted murder of an African American taxi driver in New York. Felton used a crowbar to beat the man almost to death. Leo Felton, whose father is African American, tried to murder two African American inmates while incarcerated in New Jersey.

Leo V. Felton is currently serving time in a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania. He has changed his last name to Oladimu and can be located by that name. He is (to my knowledge) the only half black, half white, white supremacist in America, and he was convicted on a myriad of charges. At the time of his arrest, he was believed to have ties to Matt Hale's World Church of the Creator, a virulently anti-Semitic group and the Indiana chapter of the Outlaw Hammerskins. Felton and his 21-year old wife, Erica Chase were arrested in 2001 after Chase allegedly tried to spend a counterfeit $20 bill in a Boston doughnut shop.

What I would like someone to explain to me is how Leo Felton was arrested earlier Tuesday for planting and detonating the bombs that killed three and injured close to two hundred on Monday afternoon while at the same time serving time in a federal penitentiary.

Tuesday also marked the identification of the second casualty in the Boston bombing. Her name was Krystle Campbell and she was twenty nine years old. Her father William had originally been told Krystle survived, but when doctors took him to see the person they believed was his daughter, it was not her. A police dectective helped Mr. Campbell discover what had actually happened to his daughter, and it was then he learned of her death.

Imagine that for a moment. You are hoping and praying that your child survived this horror, you are told she did and you find out she did not. Your little girl is gone.

Descriptions of the bombs, and the shrapnel they shot out into that crowd are being made public and the information is awful to read. The IEDs were filled with nails, metal shards and ball bearings. Physicians are telling media outlets about the the injuries they are seeing-amputations, children with that shrapnel embedded in their skin and severe lacerations. One photo showed a man in a wheel chair with what seemed to be both his legs just gone.

Leo Felton is a guest of the federal penitentiary system and will be for at least ten more years. An eight year old boy named Martin Richard and a twenty nine year old woman named Krystle Campbell died Monday in Boston. Close to two hundred people are injured, at least seventeen critically, and there is one more unidentified casualty.

Who do you think deserves our attention?

The ADL and CBS News contributed to this article. Thank you to the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA for information on Leo Oladimu (Felton).

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Using the Boston tragedy to stigmatize the mentally ill

A few hours after the bombing of the Boston marathon, this little meme popped up on Facebook. It originated on a page I'd never heard of, Dead State and was shared by Unreal Americans. The comments under the photo ranged from people who did not know what a false flag was to people who were incredibly pissed that an alleged liberal page would attack borderlines by equating them with conspiracy theorists. I was one of the folks who took issue with this photo, commented on the original and shared it on my Facebook wall with a sharp rebuke.

First, BPD does not cause paranoid delusions. I could list the nine criteria for BPD, but here's a link instead. Pay particular attention to number nine. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation. The definition of paranoid ideation is "An exaggerated, sometimes grandiose, belief or suspicion, usually not of a delusional nature, that one is being harassed, persecuted, or treated unfairly." Note it states not of a delusional nature, but for those not familiar with, or who have a rather dismissive opinion of personality disorders, paranoia is paranoia. 

After commenting on the meme and reading other similar comments, I sent Dead State this message via Facebook:

As a recovered borderline, I take extreme offense at your meme regarding false flags and the tragedy in Boston. First, it's schizophrenia that causes paranoid delusions, not BPD. Secondly, stigmatizing the mentally ill is disgusting, and as you tout yourself as a liberal page, something one would not expect from you. And third, this photo will be part of an article I plan to write tomorrow about irresponsible social and mainstream media coverage of the bombings.

Was I upset? Yes, as were many others commenting under the photo. A friend of mine who is a borderline also posted, sharing his frustration at Dead State's obvious lack of empathy toward borderlines and their stigmatizing of the mentally ill. Nowhere in that message do I write what Dead State accused me of writing in their response:

Apparently you aren't fully recovered, since a symptom of BPS is accusing everyone of having a negative agenda and applying moral outrage to everyone around you except yourself. Secondly, the point of the meme was to stigmatize conspiracy theorists, who are mentally ill, so in that sense we plead guilty as charged. Thirdly, if you're going to use our meme in your article, be sure to tag DeadState and give us credit. (bold and italics mine)

Err, what? Neither of those are criteria of BPD. There is no disorder or mental illness I could find with the initials BPS, but perhaps whatever that is has the criteria given in Dead State's response. When did I accused them of having a negative agenda? All I wrote is that as a liberal page, one would not expect them to stigmatize the mentally ill. I expect that from the right, not the left. And why do some of the people with whom I have quarrels immediately accuse me of still being a borderline? My former editor did it with ease and now some Facebook page I've never heard of takes the low road. 

This was my final response:

You might want to check out all the negative comments on your own page before you try and defend yourself. I did not accuse you of having a negative agenda, but how odd that you interpreted it that way. You screwed up-admit it, yank the meme, get on with your day. That's the emotionally stable thing to do.

I do not expect Dead State to remove that meme, nor do I expect them to apologize. On a day when so many of us were trying to come to grips with the horror in Boston, Dead State chose to create something rather cruel. It reminded me of Wayne LaPierre when he blamed, among other things, the mentally ill for gun violence in America. It's easy to attack people who suffer from or have recovered from mental illness; people on both sides of the political equation do it all the time. Alex Jones is called "insane" and many have posted he belongs in the "loony bin." Ha ha, right? No. Perhaps Alex Jones is mentally ill, I have no idea, but in a time when we have men and women ending their own lives at an alarming rate and widespread PTSD among our war veterans, it would behoove us to have a bit more empathy.

Three people so far have died in the bomb attacks including an eight year old child. Perhaps some people who grab onto conspiracy theories aren't anything other than in denial. It's incredibly difficult to admit we have evil people wandering around in the open, violent, rage-filled individuals whose fear and ignorance are fanned by propaganda.  Maybe for those folks, it is simply easier to blame scary world organizations or the government. 

*According to The Daily Mail, a US bomb killed thirty civilians at a wedding in Afghanistan on Monday. I can't find any reputable American news source to confirm that, but if it's true, we don't need conspiracy theories; we're doing enough harm all on our own. 

*I didn't read the Daily Mail article, I saw it on a friend's Facebook page. Thanks to Don, a reader who commented on this piece, I visited the link and discovered that Daily Mail article is from 2002. Oddly, that article is being promoted as covering an event that occurred on April 15th, 2013, the same day as the attacks in Boston by numerous disreputable sites and blogs including The Daily Paul. Once again, social media fails in its attempt to share relevant information, but succeeds at fanning the fires of hate and divisiveness. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

America's rape culture

Image from Feministing.

It turns out, there is no rape culture in America. We're all wrong. Statements about legitimate rape, or comparing rape to weather or victim blaming and shaming don't matter because rape happens in Haiti and Africa and abortion. 

Early Monday morning, a friend asked me to take a look at a comment thread on Organizing Protests for Women's Rights' Facebook page. The post featured an article about a dress code change at a California school, accompanied by the photo above. This message has been prevalent in social media recently, especially given the recent cases of teenage girls who were raped then bullied and ended their own lives. Most of the comments were in agreement with the photo except for two "gentlemen" who vehemently disagreed with not only the photograph but the idea of rape culture. 

Joseph was the first to add his opinion, sarcastically posting the query "We live in a 'rape culture'?" He went on to write "look at most countries in Africa. And place like Haiti, and get back to me on this one."

So, in Joseph's first comments, we can see exactly how he thinks. Because women are raped everywhere, there is no such thing as rape culture. Here's the odd thing about Joseph mentioning Haiti. The New York Times ran an article in 2012 about Haiti and rape. In the piece, a woman's rape is chronicled, as well as the police's reaction to her report of the rape. The police asked the woman what she did to make him (the alleged rapist) violate her. That sounds very familiar, doesn't it? All the people in Steubenville who blamed the teenage rape victim for her own attack, the never ending what were you wearing, why were you in that part of town, were you drinking, why were you dressed so provocatively, what did you do to make him rape you. 

Then Danny chimed in with a statement about what he thinks "rape culture" means. Danny believes the term describes a society in which rape is "broadly accepted or encouraged." Using that definition, the photo "makes no sense at all." Hmm. Broadly accepted or encouraged. Let's go back to Steubenville for a moment. Two teenage girls were arrested for sending death threats to the rape victim in that case. The entire town rallied around the rapists while blaming the victim for the attack. Do I think America encourages rape? Not overtly, no. However, when we see time and time again rape victims called sluts, whores, easy and the perpetrators of rape supported, defended (not just legally, as is their right but by entire towns and sometimes large portions of the country) and when, as happened in Steubenville, a coach who was aware of the crimes committed covers up for his players, that seems like some sort of encouragement and acceptance.

Joseph, agreeing with Danny, popped back in for a final say. And this is where it gets just downright ignorant. Here is Joseph's last comment in all its glory:

No we do do not watch the cooperate owned news media Fox MSNBC CNN and the like. But I can tell you people who do, believe this sort of rhetoric that you post. Danny is so dead on,no one in this society teaches or condones rape. The most vile people in our country kill millions of children every year and it goes un noticed for the most part. If you want to be involved in a cause that will actually save lives and make a difference, Take a stand against Planned Parenthood!

See? There is no rape culture because abortion! 

Here's the deal: we do have people in America who condone rape because they don't believe rape is real. I've watched in absolute horror as conservative men and women tried to convince others that rape is usually a slut, trying to either get back at a man who "wronged" her or who regrets having sex with someone other than her spouse or boyfriend, and cries rape to cover up her own indiscretions. I've been told there is no such thing as marital rape or date rape and incest is a pretend "thing" liberals use to murder babies. 

I have no idea what Planned Parenthood has to do with rape culture. Planned Parenthood helps women who have been raped by giving them emergency contraception. Yes, I know conservatives believe if you are raped and get pregnant, that's a "gift from God," but I beg to differ. I've written about this before-it is next to impossible to enter into an adoption contract if you have no information about the father, so a pregnant rape victim has two choices: keep it or abort it. And given the emerging science regarding genetic predilections for violent, predatory behavior, what are the odds a rape victim will want to look into the eyes of the man who violated her for the rest of her life, not knowing if this "gift from God" will be a monster too? 

Joseph and Danny are wrong, and will continue to be wrong unless they realize America does have a rape culture. The sad part is that people just like Joseph and Danny perpetuate the rape culture in this country, and all over the world, because they don't believe it exists. Joseph's disconnect between what's really happening in Haiti and how the same thing happens here is pretty unsettling, but that's what many conservatives do. They see what they want to see (a speck in your eye), and refuse to see what's really happening (a plank in their own eye). You really can take the blatant hypocrisy of the right and apply it to any of their arguments. 

Unlike their tactic of yelling "abortion" whenever they run out of facts and logic, the speck-plank analogy works every single time.

Thanks to the New York Times and Organizing Protests for Women's Rights.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Selling Sexism

Image from Destroy The Joint's Facebook page

See those tee shirts? They are being sold by Super Hero Stuff online to young adults and kids. In 2013, a retailer is marketing the idea that boys can be heroes while girls need one. Boys can be "super," girls can't.

Isis. Wonder Woman. Catwoman. Storm. Supergirl. Elektra. Spitfire. Spider-Woman. She-Hulk. Invisible Woman. Black Widow. Raven. Rogue. All extremely popular and powerful female superheroes, none of whom "need a hero." Many of these amazing characters belong to Marvel Comics, which begs the question: what in the world is Marvel doing, marketing these tee shirts?

The sexism and misogyny rampant in our society today makes these shirts all the more upsetting. It's obvious the girl's shirt is only for girls because of the cut. Yes, a girl can buy and wear the boy's shirt, but the red shirt, the "I Need a Hero" shirt is not unisex. Why is that? My husband is one of my heroes, and I am one of his, so we could wear either one of those messages with pride. Except, of course for the fact that the red shirt is only for one gender-female.

Interestingly, the same day I discovered these tee shirts and sent an email to Super Hero Stuff, I read an article in Huffington Post about a dad, his son and a trip to Walmart that renewed my faith in humanity quite a bit. This dad took his son, Sam to Walmart and while waiting to check out, Sam noticed a DVD he wanted. As with most parents, Sam's dad responded by pointing out Sam has a lot of DVDs, and didn't need another one. The DVD Sam wanted was "Sofia the First," a DVD series from Disney that highlights Princess Sofia's exploits and features Tim Gunn. In line with Sam and his dad was the obligatory Walmart idiot. Below is the screen capture of Sam's dad's Facebook post about the event from Imgur:

So while Marvel Comics and Super Hero tries to minimize women's strength and cash in on sexism, Sam's dad and a kind stranger pretty much knock it out of the stratosphere. Sam's dad shows that gender roles are only as important as we think they are, and in Sam's case, his dad understands that watching and loving "Sofia the First" will not turn him "funny." Gay or not, Sam's dad would love him just as much, while my guess is the moron in the polo shirt would toss his gay kid out on his or her ear the first chance he got. 

Three cheers to Sam's dad and that wonderful "old lady" for making the world a better place, especially for Sam. Three jeers to Marvel Comics and Super Hero Stuff for wandering back to 1950's America when the men were "heroes" and the women "needed" one. Everyone can be a hero (Sam, his dad, that kind woman) and everyone might need a hero (Sam, me, my husband). 

Super Hero Stuff can be contacted via email at 

Thank you to Huffington Post and Destroy The Joint on Facebook.

Friday, April 12, 2013

An interview with Jim Graves

Image from

Jim Graves announced earlier this week that he is running against Michele Bachmann for Minnesota's 6th district's congressional seat. Jim lost last year by less than 5,000 votes, the closest result in Bachmann's political career. Jim Graves was generous enough to speak to me during the 2012 campaign over the phone. It was an pleasure to speak with him during his first campaign against Michele Bachmann, and I hope to interview Jim again for this campaign.
One has to wonder what propels someone, anyone, into the political arena, but especially in our current environment. Anger, divisiveness, misinformation and rhetoric are the norm, and it takes a special person to leap into that fray. Jim told me he is running specifically because of this political environment. He wants to unite people, not divide them. Jim Graves wants to bring Minnesotans together, not drive them further apart. He wants to end the incivility, the gridlock and bring back a spirit of togetherness that we seem to have misplaced. Jim sees the future and he recognizes that the fastest way to achieve it is to give the middle class, give families, back their dignity.
I asked Jim what he feels he brings to this race, what sets him apart. He told me he truly believes in uniting people, Democrats and Republicans. There is an “integrity” missing in politics right now, and Jim sees this campaign as an opportunity to end the gridlock, to refocus on what’s important and to find leaders who will stand up for what’s right and true for everyone.
Jim Graves started his professional life as a teacher at a small Catholic elementary school. He had married his wife of 38 years, Julie, a woman he describes as his “best friend, she’s everything,” and with her support, he began his own business, running it out of his basement. That business founded the AmericInn Motel brand. Jim Graves built businesses literally from the ground up. He learned to unite the bankers and the union reps and the tradesmen and the staff, and he was successful.
When you choose to run for office, you almost cease being a person, and you become a marketable item. Jim Graves isn’t interested in being “marketed.” He said he wants his campaign to be transparent and focused on issues important to Minnesotans, not outside interest groups. Jim told me his properties are consistently given number one ratings in guest service, and that is due in large part to his ability to find the right people, unite them toward a common goal and give them dignity in the workplace. Jim will bring all those qualities to Minnesota’s 6th District.
When we spoke about marriage equality, Jim shared his beliefs, which are the beliefs of the majority of people in America. He and his wonderful wife have been together almost 40 years. They are each other’s best friend, and Jim Graves believes everyone should have that opportunity. He believes in the separation of church and state, and understands that separation must be respected. In the end, Jim Graves believes that consenting adults should have the right to marry the person they love.
Speaking about women’s rights, Jim told me he is firm supporter of equal pay for equal work, and that women can “make their own decisions.” He serves on the board of trustees for St. Benedict’s College, a well-respected women’s college in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Jim understands how important women are to society and believes in our ability to thrive and succeed.
Jim Graves will run a very interesting campaign, one I believe many Minnesotans are excited to watch. It will be a refreshing change to have a candidate who walks the walk, who is a champion of the middle class, who recognizes women are strong allies, and who believes that marriage is not about politics.
Minnesotans deserve a representative with their best interests at heart. Michele Bachmann is not that representative; Jim Graves is. For more information on Jim Graves, his campaign and to donate or volunteer, please visit his website

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A path of pain

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Matthew Warren, the youngest son of Pastor Rick Warren took his own life this past Friday. Matthew Warren was twenty seven years old, and according to the Warren family had struggled with mental illness for most of his adult life. Pastor Warren sent an email to his followers, writing about the joy Matthew brought to the world and what a kind and empathetic person he was.

In the hours following the news of Matthew Warren's suicide, people began to post their own feelings about this terrible event on social media and in the comment sections of various websites. The majority of these were filled with sorrow and condolence and love, but some were not. Some people took it upon themselves to write the most horrific and cruel things one can write about a family going through something as traumatic as the suicide of a loved one.

Pastor Rick Warren is an evangelical Christian, and as such, does not support marriage equality. He told Chelsea Clinton during an interview for NBC that he loves gay people, just as Jesus does, but he does not want the definition of marriage "redefined." I do not agree with Pastor Warren when it comes to marriage equality, however that in no way means I do not mourn the loss of his son. No parent should bury a child

What some people seem to believe is that Matthew Warren was gay and his "homophobic" father drove him to his death. In the 9+ articles I've read about Matthew's suicide, not one makes the claim that he was gay. I have The Washington Post page shrunk down as I type this, and nowhere in that piece is it stated that Matthew Warren was gay and that's why he ended his own life. 

How despicable can people be? It's one thing to disagree with Pastor Warren's stance on marriage equality, but this? To turn the death of his son into some sort of hate fest is disgusting beyond words. Unless you have been enshrouded by the darkness of mental illness, or watched a loved one struggle simply to survive from day to day, you have no idea what Rick Warren or his family is going through.

My parents never had to walk completely down that path of pain. They did take a journey on that path, but never to the end. Some of my closest friends wound up wandering along the road less traveled, trying to understand why I wanted to die. So this piece serves two purposes. The first is a virtual slap in the face to all the people trying to blame Pastor Rick Warren for the death of his youngest son. At a time of great sorrow, you don't get to do that. All evidence points to a young man haunted by demons, years of therapy and medication and a moment so dark, he believed he had no exit, no choice.

The second is an apology. To Ron, Beth, Tom, Kyra, Sabra, Elizabeth and especially my father-I'm sorry. I'm sorry that it never occurred to me what watching someone hate themselves so much did to you. I'm sorry that my mind was so filled with madness and depression that I couldn't listen to your words or accept your love. But I am so incredibly grateful to be here and to still have you all in my life, so for that I thank you. 

Pastor Rick Warren and his family have suffered an horrendous loss, one no parent should ever have to suffer. Rather than try and point fingers, perhaps we should have an adult conversation about mental illness. Maybe we could stop being judgmental and mean spirited long enough to consider how many people in America suffer from some form of mental illness, and how many of those people will probably take their own lives this week, this month, this year. 

And maybe, just maybe, people can dig deep down and find empathy for a man, a family walking a path of pain. 

Thanks to NBC and The Washington Post.

Trying and failing to be a girly girl

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There are amazing women who are very feminine. Hair is perfect, nails are gorgeous, makeup is pristine. I am not one of those women. And I can prove it.

About two months ago, I noticed my fingernails. They were growing, which is odd given that I type so much. Usually, if they get much past the tip of my finger, I break one or more on the keyboard. I had acrylics when I worked at Disneyworld, and one morning as I opened a stanchion, my thumbnail snapped off and nailed some woman in the forehead. I ducked into a janitorial closet that smelled like Voban and she never realized she was almost killed by an acrylic nail. Voban is peppermint scented sawdust you sprinkle on vomit. You're welcome.

Being the  idiot that I sometimes am, I decided to get a Shellac manicure. I researched Shellac online, and liked that it wasn't a fake nail; it's just 4 layers of Shellac crap on your own nail. Supposedly, the Shellac crap strengthened your nail, unlike gels and acrylics, so I called my salon and booked an appointment. The first time was great-my stylist who is also my manicurist transformed my nails into fabulous French manicure gorgeous girly nails. I loved it.

Two weeks later, I returned. Shellac lasts two weeks, at which point you pop back into the salon and have the application removed. This is where it got wonky. In order to remove the Shellac, cotton is soaked with pure acetone, applied to your nails, the tips of your fingers are wrapped in foil and you sit for 10-15 minutes while the acetone eats through the Shellac. And your fingernails.

I made it through two more manicures before I noticed my nails were My right pinky nail was splitting as was the right ring fingernail. Both those nails were slightly inflamed and sore. I decided to take a permanent break from Shellac and after my right index fingernail bent in two while I was scratching my  head, I cut them all back.

I don't like makeup, I hate getting my hair done, I have short fingernails and my idea of a pedicure is taking a belt sander to my heels. I am not a girly girl. Skirts? Not unless someone dies. I don't own a pair of high-heeled shoes. Right now I am wearing a long-sleeved tee shirt, jeans that are two sizes too big and sweat socks. The joys of working from home. We do go places, and when that occurs, I spend 5 minutes making my face look less Irish-German-deathly pale, I wear pants that fit and nice loafers.

There is one girly thing I do love. Perfume. My favorite perfume in the world is Mitsouko by Guerlain. It used to be Chanel #19, but as I got older I noticed it smelled a lot like celery. Chanel #5 makes me sneeze, as do all of Estee Lauder's fragrances. Mitsouko isn't even a girly fragrance. I'm doomed.

The media has its own ideas of what an American woman is supposed to look like. In the 70's it was Cheryl Tiegs and Farrah Fawcett: blonde, leggy, tan and super cute. Then we had shoulder pads, neon eyeshadow and giant hair, segued into heroin chic and now we seem to be dipping our toes into anorexic world. They're all wrong, just so you know. An American woman is supposed to look however she wants to look. Made up to the nines? Do it, make me jealous. Schlepping around in ill-fitting jeans, a cotton shirt, no makeup and wearing a headband? Welcome to my world. Somewhere in between? Fantastic.

Be the kind of woman you want to be, not the woman other people think you should be. Find things you love about yourself, listen to friends and loved ones when they compliment you-take it in (unless of course the person complimenting you is President Obama; then it's a bad thing) and give yourself the freedom to sit around in too-big-for-you jeans and a tee shirt every once in awhile. If people don't like you for you, drop 'em. You and me and every woman, every person, deserves to be loved and accepted for who they are. Well, if you're a serial killer or some crazed stalker probably not, but you get the point.

Hug yourself, play with your kids, go to a movie, check out the crocuses peeking up through the thawing earth. Embrace the beauty around you and the beauty within you. Don't let someone soak your nails in acetone then buff the living crap out of them. Be yourself. I bet you're fantastic.

Friday, April 5, 2013

National Crisis: President Obama says Kamala Harris is good looking

Image of Kamala Harris from Wikipedia

While senate Republicans mull over joining Iran, Syria and North Korea in their battle against the United Nations firearms treaty, and some kids in Massachusetts were forced to throw out their own school lunches because their accounts couldn't cover the meal, a plethora of media outlets are having a collective hissy fit over this statement made by President Obama:

“You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake,” said Obama. “She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country -- Kamala Harris is here.  (Applause.)  It's true.  Come on.  (Laughter.)  And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.”

Seriously. Salon, Slate, Jezebel, the Los Angeles Times and others have turned a comment from the president about a friend into Harrisgate. This is ridiculous. Don't writers for these sites have better things to cover? 

The president is being called sexist, wolfish and a chauvinist. Liberal women are outraged that he mentioned the fact, and it is a fact, that along with being "brilliant, dedicated" and "tough," Kamala Harris is also very good looking. Have you seen Gavin Newsom? He looks like a Ralph Lauren model. Does my writing that make me "wolfish" or sexist? Nope, because I also recognize his political acumen, his intelligence, his brilliant governing (or lieutenant governing in this case) and his dedication to his constituents. 

Here's the difference between gorgeous people on the left and gorgeous people on the right. Folks like Ann Coulter, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin are only attractive on the outside. Once you dig a little deeper, you run screaming from the room. On the left, when you meet a Kamala Harris or a Michelle Obama or a Russ Feingold, you know that underneath the attractive exterior lies a really good person. Sherrod Brown is devastatingly handsome, and his wife, writer Connie Schultz is gorgeous. AND they're witty, brilliant, talented, devoted to social causes and all-around fantastic people. 

There is nothing wrong with being attractive. If you are told that's all you need to succeed then, yes, that is a problem. But President Obama did not demean or belittle his friend, Kamala Harris by describing her only as "the best-looking attorney general in the country." He pointed out her character, her intelligence and her focus on equal justice. Then he gave his friend a compliment, which happens to be true. 
Do you have any idea how many liberal women call President Obama a "hunk?" Post photos of him without his shirt on? Are they belittling or demeaning the president by rightly pointing out his attractiveness? Do men who mention how beautiful Rachel Maddow is somehow take away from her journalistic ethics and talent? Let's try this-is it sexist when people point out Halle Berry's appearance while also applauding her acting talent? 

Kamala Harris is an incredibly gifted attorney general, and the state of California should be proud that she is on their side. She is also a beautiful Democratic woman and there is nothing wrong with either being beautiful or having a friend point it out. Unlike pretty people on the right, Kamala Harris has a spirit, an intellect and soul to go along with her gorgeous exterior. Which makes her all the more amazing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Erin and Erin Productions, Inc. Presents Real Housewives Meet the Masai

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I am extremely privileged to have friends who share my bizarre sense of humor. Those friends use humor in much the same way as I-to deal with horrible things. Case in point: learning Nikon makes rifle scopes specifically designed for hunting large game and a photo of a grinning man holding the body of a lion he murdered.

Erin D. and I were raging on Facebook about this when my stepson popped into the conversation. We began musing about reality show ideas that somehow involved hunters being hunted. What would they wear, how would we entice the animals to attack, what sort of props would be used, that sort of thing. Erin wanted to market our idea to Bravo, and I liked that train of thought. Bravo, however, is addicted to their Housewives, so how to include them in our reality show? Obviously, air lift the Housewives to Africa and drop them into the middle of one of the largest ecosystems on the planet.

Imagine it. Blonde, emaciated women, clad in haute couture, lugging Louis Vuitton steamer trunks through high grass, screaming as snakes wrapped themselves around their Jimmy Choos. Erin's idea of a clown horn would come into play after the ladies got settled in their tents. Budget constraints would make it impossible to provide beds, but we would give them mosquito netting and matches (we're not heartless for God's sake).

Normally, a reality show set in the wilderness has a host of some sort. Erin and Erin Productions, Inc. prefers the unscripted and unbridled terror six spoiled women in the middle of Africa would offer a discerning public. Also, we're cheap, so no host. What the Housewives will have is a radio, and each morning, a mysterious voice will give them their instructions for the day. We're trying to get Harvey Firestein. Here's hoping!

The daily tasks would include finding water and making it drinkable, learning how to weave grass into skirts, making a shelter to protect them from the rain and finding food. The last task would be the fun one, as this is when the ladies must venture out into the wilderness. We will provide them with sticks and sharp stones with which they may fashion spears. The first person to make a kill receives a Botox treatment.

Each day at sunset, the clown horn would sound, and the ladies would have three hours to find dinner. Our theory is that at least one Housewife will be devoured during that three hour time period, thus leaving more food for the rest. Given the obvious lack of hunting experience coupled with how incredibly difficult it is to run from a 200-pound lion while wearing stilettos, Real Housewives Meet the Masai will probably only last 2-3 days tops.
If this idea won't sell, Erin and Erin Productions, Inc. is working on Real Hunters of Tijuana, which would drive five white conservative male hunters into Tijuana on a Friday night. We would only arm them with Pez dispensers and a copy of the Constitution, but they could wear their own "We Speak English Here!" tee shirts. We are hopeful that Fox would be interested in Real Hunters of Tijuana, if only for the creative editing possibilities.

Erin and Erin Productions, Inc. ™ © LLC π

North Carolina Republicans want a theocracy

"Well, let me speak plainly: The United States of America is and must remain a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. Our very unity has been strengthened by this pluralism. That's how we began; this is how we must always be. The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, anti-Semitism, or bigotry of any kind -- none. The unique thing about America is a wall in our Constitution separating church and state. It guarantees there will never be a state religion in this land, but at the same time it makes sure that every single American is free to choose and practice his or her religious beliefs or to choose no religion at all. Their rights shall not be questioned or violated by the state." -- Remarks at the International Convention of B'nai B'rith, 6 September 1984 (President RONALD WILSON REAGAN)

Two Republican politicians in North Carolina have filed a bill that would declare the state exempt from the Constitution. According to the bill, each state is "sovereign," and courts cannot block a state "from making laws respecting an establishment of religion." You can read the entire bill here.

Many fundamentalist Christians adhere to the belief that America is a Christian nation. Because the word "God" is on our money, in our Pledge of Allegiance and in our national motto, these misguided citizens ignore the Constitution and seek to create a theocracy. What they don't understand is the word "God" wasn't always on the money or in the pledge and our national "de facto" motto was at one time "E Pluribus Unum," meaning "Out of many, one." God wasn't added into the mix until the 1950's, to prove our superiority to the "godless Communists."

Fundamentalists take the Christian Bible literally. The Ku Klux Klan used the story of Ham to defend the ownership of African Americans, and modern fundamentalists use a few passages in the Bible to justify bigotry, hate, discrimination, violence and subjugation against the LGBT community, minorities and women. We've all heard pastors calling for gays to be dropped behind electrified fences and left to die out or demanding the government kill LGBTs. We remember Virginia Foxx claiming Matthew Shephard's murder wasn't a hate crime, while Matthew's mother Judy listened. Pregnancy from rape is a gift from God. Quiverfull. Lila Rose. We remember.

Some fundamentalists turn to acts of violence to get their point across. The murder of Dr. George Tiller is an example of a Christian using murder to make a statement. When Fox news had an atheist on one of their programs to speak about a lawsuit filed to stop the WTC cross, the responses from Fox viewers were disgusting. Many suggested crucifying all atheists, raping them and killing them, burning them, every horrifying act of violence you can imagine. Most militia members are Christian, as are most Sovereign citizens.

There is another religious group whose actions and beliefs mirror American fundamentalist Christians. This group takes their holy book literally, they despise LGBTs and sanction their murders, they believe women should be subservient to men, they believe their deity is the only deity that counts, and they fervently desire a religious based government. This group also uses violence against those with whom they disagree because they feel their holy book defends acts of violence. And before I name that group (although I am almost certain you know who they are), let me put to bed the usual argument I get when I make this comparison. 

When I point out the blinding similarities between American fundamentalist Christians and the Taliban, conservatives typically say "Well, we never killed millions of people!" The Crusades. The Inquisition. The Native Americans. South American tribes. Fundamentalist Christians burned "witches" at the stake. The term "faggot" comes from the kindling used to start the fires that killed homosexuals. Fundamentalist Christians did that, all of it, in the name of the Bible, gold, money and power.

North Carolina, Mississippi and other states are embarking on a slippery slope. Once you effectively cut yourself off from the federal government, the federal government may not be required to help you. Mississippi gets hit with some of the worst weather in the nation. Where will they go if they can't call FEMA anymore? North Carolina has public roads and power grids and schools. Who will manage those? Are these states really prepared to cut all ties with the federal government so they can become the American Taliban?

Underneath the anger and frustration that comes when fundamentalists of any religion try to bully and threaten their way into power lies a profound sadness. America is at a crossroads. One path leads to enlightenment while the other leads to darkness and fear. Our founders knew the path they wanted for our country and they created a map to lead us. It is up to us to follow that map into the future. We cannot allow a small minority of ignorant and hateful people the power to change our country into the antithesis of what our forefathers wanted it to be. 

Thanks to Huffington Post for information on the North Carolina bill. 

Less Government! No Abortion! More Guns!

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The right wing libertarians known as the Tea Party/new GOP have a new hero. His name is Justin Amash and he's a super duper state representative from Michigan. Amash, not Amish. Don't mispronounce it-this guys strikes me as a wee bit unstable.

During an interview for a blog I've never heard of, Rep. Amash made some interesting comments about smaller government. Well, not exactly smaller government. He seems to want to shrink the government down, much like Grover Norquist, but instead of drowning it in a bathtub, Rep. Amash wants to shove it into every uterus in America. Speculums shaped like the Washington Monument, prenatal vitamins that taste like the shitty coffee they serve in the Congressional Cafe (is that a real place?) and your ultrasound photo will have Paul Ryan's face superimposed over that of your baby.

Rep. Amash, like most on the far right, believes that the federal government should stay out of our lives, except when it comes to abortion and contraception. Did you know the CDC published a report this week that states, among other things, that more than 18% of all teen pregnancies are the second or even third one? So, obviously it makes perfect sense to attack contraception, because what says "Welcome to McDonald's, do you want to Super Size your meal today?" better than making contraception unavailable to a demographic that is getting pregnant at an alarming rate?

Let me hit my head on my desk for just a second. Okay, thanks, and we're back. Rep. Amash does not want the federal government involved in marriage equality, but my guess is if we dug a little deeper, we'd find a tattoo on his ass that reads "State's Rights!" Oh, and he wants the feds out of the gun argument. His reasoning is: even though he doesn't believe this government or any government would ever really attack the citizens of this country, we need guns so we can totally defend ourselves against the finest military on the planet. Surface to air missile zinging towards your house? Well, shit, Bubba, whip out that Bushmaster!

While I think it's nifty that Justin Amash sees himself as the newest libertarian hero, we don't need what he's selling. We don't need any politician who doesn't understand science, truth, medicine and facts. The facts are contraception prevents abortion, because (OH MY GOD) contraception prevents pregnancy. Now I know there are some really crazy people on the right who think contraception turns our wombs into tiny graveyards, and those people need help. As to the gun argument-in a poll released today, 60% of Americans favor stronger gun regulation. You know who else favored regulation when it came to firearms? Our forefathers.

Contraception prevents abortions. We need stronger gun laws. DOMA should be overturned, but not just so states can discriminate all on their own. Justin Amash is just a new version of the old lie. And people aren't buying it anymore.

Thanks to Raw Story and NBC.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The economics professor who hates women

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Steven Landsburg is an economics professor at the University of Rochester who is gaining nationwide rebuke for a blog piece he wrote in March. The piece, entitled "Censorship, Environmentalism and Steubenville," was featured by Gawker on Monday, picked up by Huffington Post and has been causing outrage for two days. In the piece, Mr. Landsburg asks "As long as I'm safely unconscious and therefore shielded from the costs of an assault, why shouldn't the rest of the world (or more specifically my attackers) be allowed to reap the benefits?"

Mr. Landsburg tries to draw a parallel between a fictional character who "just hates the idea that someone, somewhere might be altering the natural state of a wilderness area" and the rape victim in Steubenville, Ohio. His rationale for this argument is "The Steubenville rape victim, according to all the accounts I've read, was not even aware that she'd been sexually assaulted until she learned about it from the Internet some days later." He then goes on to compare being raped to the photons that "penetrate his body" every time someone turns on a porch light.

Now, in case you think this is an isolated incident, let me share another blog piece written by Steven Landsburg about Sandra Fluke. Mr. Landsburg was a bit perturbed by the language used by Rush Limbaugh against Ms. Fluke. Not because it was deeply offensive, wrong and misogynistic, but because it didn't go far enough. 

"There's one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a 'slut' because, he says, she's demanding to be paid for sex. There are two things wrong here. First the word 'slut' connotes (to me at least) precisely the sort of joyous enthusiasm that would render payment superfluous. A far better word might have been 'prostitute' (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that's still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex. (Not there there's anything wrong with that.) She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to 'extortionist.' Or better yet, 'extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement.' Is there a single word for that?"

After Steven Landsburg latest blog began seeing the light of day outside New York State, the University of Rochester issued a non-apology worthy of Todd Akin.

"The University is committed to the academic freedom of our faculty and students. Their views are their own; they do not speak for the University.

In his personal blog, Professor Landsburg poses some hypothetical questions about an unconscious rape victim. He asks whether such rapes should be illegal. The University's answer is that rape is abhorrent. It is and should be a crime.

Sexual violence is a concern on campuses across the nation. The University works very hard to combat sexual violence and to promote a culture of mutual respect."

A culture of mutual respect. One of their professors was peeved that Rush Limbaugh used the wrong word to attack a law student and mused about the legality of raping someone while they were unresponsive. That does not seem like a "culture of mutual respect," that seems like rape culture. Mr. Landsburg should have been fired after his blog attacking Sandra Fluke, but he wasn't. He should be fired now, after his most recent foray into misogyny, but he won't be. Just like the professor who wrote on his blog that the massacre at Sandy Hook may not have ever really happened, it seems that college educators can get away with writing anything as long as they conveniently leave out the name of their employer.

If you would like to contact the University of Rochester and let them know what you think of Steven Landsburg's misogyny, the contact information is listed below. Thanks to Huffington Post, Gawker and Steven Landsburg's blog for contributions to this article.

Steven Landsburg's press contact is Susan Hagen and she can be reached at (585) 276-4061.

University of Rochester contacts: or

Office of the Dean, Richard Feldman: (585) 273-5001 or you may email his executive assistant at