Notes and Comment Blog


Listen to the

Aug 9th, 2015 10:32 am | By

Helen Lewis says we need a word for the kind of idea that’s good if used sparingly but otherwise toxic; she suggests “alcopinion.”

In the recent debates about Amnesty International changing its policy on prostitution, we’ve heard a lot of one particular alcopinion: to fight our way through the legal, ethical and safety concerns, the answer is simple – we should ignore everyone else and “listen to sex workers”.

Those pushing this line present the current debate as a straightforward dichotomy: on one side are sex workers, an apparently homogenous group who want decriminalisation of both sides of a sexual transaction.

On the other side are Lena Dunham, Meryl Streep and assorted actresses who signed a letter to Amnesty saying that decriminalising sex buyers was siding with “pimps and other exploiters”.

According to the prevailing tide of internet feminism, it is easy to tell who is right. You simply look at who is speaking.

Except that who is speaking isn’t always the same person, and that means the opinion isn’t always the same either.

But framing the debate this way is absurdly misleading. It conveniently ignores that the Amnesty letter wasn’t only signed by Dunham – she is not the sole arbiter of feminism in 2015, whatever 1,000 overwrought blogs would have you believe. It was also endorsed by charities, academic researchers and those who style themselves as “prostitution survivors”. These are women with direct experience of the sex trade who believe it is intrinsically demeaning and harmful.

Yes but those aren’t the ones you’re supposed to listen to. That’s the problem with  “listen to sex workers” if you’re listening to them in order to choose one policy as opposed to another – you have to figure out which ones.

Unsurprisingly, women who experience prostitution as little more than paid rape will do everything they can to leave the trade. But that means they’re not sex workers any more. So – hey presto – their opinions can be discounted. We end up in a “no true Scotsman” situation that skews the answers we get; only people with an overall positive view are permitted to talk about that industry. It’s as if the Leveson inquiry had only heard from News of the World journalists.

It’s as if only happy pre-cancer smokers could discuss tobacco policy; it’s as if only oil company executives could talk about climate change.

(Ok it’s not really, because the parallel is less than exact, but the stacking of the deck is parallel.)

And then what about former sex workers who don’t want to chat in public about their former sex work? Not everyone does, Lewis points out.

Are those people not allowed to speak? Finally, prostitution is a public policy issue. We all live in a society in which sex is bought and sold and its existence has consequences for all of us. Demanding that the vast majority of us shut up is like telling renters they can have no opinion on the mortgage market or that atheists can’t complain about faith schools.

Or like telling cis women we’re not allowed to talk about gender.



Plato at the RoveOPlex

Aug 8th, 2015 5:59 pm | By

Via Quantum Activist on Facebook:



Just often enough to make things awkward

Aug 8th, 2015 5:53 pm | By

Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart wrote a piece for Slate in April about “the shifting, porous border between butch and trans.

Butch women aren’t men—except for the ones who transition to male, which happens just often enough to make things awkward for everyone involved. It’s awkward for fellow butches who feel strongly that they are not men, for trans men who seek to distinguish themselves from masculine women, and for butches whose understanding of themselves evolves in ways they hadn’t expected it to—each group challenges the self conception of the others. Many masculine women remain happily within the female gender for their entire lives and experience no discernable dysphoria. However, there are also butches who experience discomfort with their female gender or who seek to change their bodies to attain a more masculine appearance.

It’s a muddle, so she talked to some people about it.

Shay strongly identifies as a lesbian, and she doesn’t object to being called butch, although she’s never felt strongly drawn to that description.

“I guess I’m butch, but that’s not in the front of my mind. I’m a woman, no doubt, and for most people I’m more like a ‘butch lesbian’ because I’m not girly at all,” Shay told me. Commenting on society’s apparent need to label, she observed, “There are feminine people and masculine people, but they only call it something when you’re going against what people expect you to be.”

Shay is confident in her identity as a woman, clear and comfortable about her own masculinity, and knows enough about trans identities to know that she’s not trans.

Society does have a need to label…and society is us. It’s not out there somewhere, it’s us. I have that need to label, even though I don’t want to. I reject it, I nudge myself to reject it, but it still pops up.

H, an online acquaintance who requested anonymity, describes herself as a “straight butch” and occasionally as genderqueer. She describes her current identity as “a woman who is masculine in as many ways as possible—a woman who embraces masculinity,” but things were not always so simple. In college, H tried transitioning to male and was passing consistently as a man before she realized that, in spite of her masculinity, she didn’t want to stop being female. She blames her struggle to accept her own femaleness on the way that our culture has made very little room for masculine straight women and half-jokingly complains that her life would have been far easier if only she’d been attracted to other women.

Maybe, but on the other hand our culture has made way less room for feminine straight men. I can wear jeans all I want, but man can’t wear skirts without a lot of grief.

I spoke with Lauren, a 35-year-old, married lesbian who has considered transitioning to male at several points in her life. I also spoke with Jay, a trans man in his early 40s who identified as a butch woman for many years and transitioned only recently. Both Lauren and Jay described having felt uncomfortable with being seen as girls in childhood (and a current reluctance with having their last names used for this article), they both described sensing that they’d found a home in the gay community in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Lauren says that she considers transitioning to male “every few years. …. And, every time I come up 35/65 … right up to the line, but not quite over it.”

It’s a continuum rather than either/or. Some people come up with certainty, but not all.

In between, or perhaps outside of, the categories of masculine woman and transgender man there lies a third option, that of genderqueer or nonbinary identitiy. Kyle Jones, a butch genderqueer blogger in his early 50s, went through name and pronoun changes and has been on testosterone long enough to consistently pass for male, but he continues to consider his history of femaleness and feminist activism to be a big part of his identity.

That interests me because it’s only around feminism that I can say I “identify” as a woman. Otherwise I would say emphatically that I don’t. But before you start shouting at me – this is what Urhquhart’s subjects talk about.

Kyle has occasionally been on the receiving end of hate mail from female-identified butches who object to a trans person using the term butch. We spoke about the tensions between the “three camps” of butch lesbians, trans men, and masculine nonbinaries. “People get tired of having to educate others, and it can turn in to really bitter feuds and arguments,” he told me. “We all want to be seen, we all want to be recognized, and there is way more that we have in common than that we have different.”

I understand that people get tired of having to educate others. Been there. (Still there, for that matter.)

Butch is a legacy identity, dating from a time before we understood gender as something that could change or fall between the poles of male and female. Individuals who identify as butch, or who have identified that way at some point in their lives, may now find themselves on different points along the gender spectrum. In the long run, there may be no way to save this dinosaur of an identity—or butch may eventually be nailed down to a single point rather than encompassing multitudes. For the present, however, what butch means depends on which butch you pose the question to, and it is rare to find two butches who will give you the exact same answer.

Interesting. Even with all the tsuris…we live in interesting times. I hope we can have more and more of the gender spectrum, and less and less fighting over it.



The one and the many

Aug 8th, 2015 12:49 pm | By

A friend of mine observed that many people need enemies and will create them if they can’t find them. True. I’m one of those people myself. I try to make abstractions the enemy, rather than people, but it doesn’t always work.

It’s not that simple, usually. Often people are promoting or imposing an enemy abstraction, so the two become difficult to separate. The systems that oppress us are created and enforced by people, so it’s hard to resist or reform them without resisting or trying to reform people. (People don’t always take kindly to being reformed. Have you noticed that? I have. I don’t take kindly to it myself. It depends how it’s done, of course.)

I don’t have a solution to this problem. A quick glance back over human history (I estimate it took me about 3 seconds) doesn’t suggest that humans are very good at solving this problem.

I suppose one possibility for minimizing the harm, though, would be to notice when you’re overdoing the personalization, and take a step or two back. One particular banker doesn’t stand for all of the wrongdoing of banks. One particular sexist asshole isn’t the representative for all sexist assholes. One serial rapist comedian…you get the idea.



They want the atheists to be silenced

Aug 8th, 2015 10:37 am | By

Arif Rahman on BBC World News talking about the murder of Niloy Neel.

Note: the clip starts with a brief segment with his widow, Asha Moni, which is very powerful and upsetting.



Now that Ramadan is over

Aug 8th, 2015 10:30 am | By

Arif Rahman has a post collecting news and commentary on the murder of Niloy Neel (Chakrabarty).

Ramadan is over, he observes, and the killing of atheist bloggers has resumed. Allah is merciful.

Niloy Neel, an organizer of Science and Rationalist Association Bangladesh feared for his life after the killing spree started in Bangladesh earlier this  year. A number of Author, blogger, organizer was killed one after another.

Niloy finished his Masters of Philosophy from Dhaka University in 2013. Then he started working for an NGO.

How dare he.

Niloy Neel



What if I didn’t see the puddle?

Aug 8th, 2015 6:42 am | By

David Malki at WONDERMARK:

dear mr malki, if you were to replace 'mopping' in this comic with running for french parliament, well, you can see how the logic completely falls apart



Who makes jokes?

Aug 7th, 2015 12:17 pm | By

Part of the bill of indictment against me is that

I MADE JOKES.

The horror. Who does that? Who makes jokes?

Well, I do, for one. All the time. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m incurably flippant, and frankly I don’t want to be curable of that, because people who are relentlessly po-faced make me feel bored and suffocated in a matter of minutes.

This means that I make jokes about things I care about as well as less heavily freighted subjects. I make jokes about almost all things. I say “almost” just out of caution – I can’t actually think of any exceptions at the moment.

I make jokes about the left, about feminism, about political passions, about causes, about horrors. The jokes can be dark as opposed to flippant – or not. Either way I don’t consider them criminal in nature.

There are shitty mean destructive jokes, of course. There’s that Tosh guy, there was “Dapper Laughs” – there are all kinds of jokes expressing contempt for underlings. Those jokes are crap. But that doesn’t mean that all jokes about progressive causes are forbidden or slyly wicked.

I’m learning that some people don’t understand that.

There was that Fresh Air about Tangerine, the shot on a phone movie about two trans women. Terry Gross, the director, and one of the stars had a laugh about changing terminology.

GROSS: I want to ask you about the word fish, which is used in the movie by the trans sex workers to describe cisgender women – like, women who are born with a woman’s anatomy and are comfortable with that…

BAKER: Right.

GROSS: …And identify with that.

BAKER: I guess the proper term these days is chromosomal female.

GROSS: Oh, is it changed already from cis?

BAKER: It’s already changed (laughter). That’s semantics.

GROSS: Wow, I can’t keep up with it. It’s chromosomal now?

BAKER: Nobody can keep up with it. Yes, nobody can…

See that bit where it says “laughter”? All three laughed at that point. There were no screams of anguish or sounds of furniture being broken.

I said three words this one time in a discussion about terminology. The three words were “Too last week?”

That’s one of my putative crimes.

Yes really.



CFI speaks out

Aug 7th, 2015 11:42 am | By

CFI has a statement on the slaughter of Niloy Chakrabarti aka Niloy Neel.

After the fourth assassination this year of a secularist blogger in Bangladesh by Islamic militants, the Center for Inquiry demanded that the Bangladeshi government — and the wider international community — overcome its ambivalence toward these acts of terror, and act decisively to protect the lives of its nonreligious citizens and their right to free expression.
Neel

Secularist blogger Niloy Neel, who discussed atheism and religion on Facebook and helped found the Bangladesh Rationalist Society, was beheaded in his Dhaka apartment last night by Islamists posing as prospective tenants. His is the fourth such assassination in 2015 alone, beginning with the hacking to death of renowned writer and activist Avijit Roy in February. These Al Qaeda-linked militants are openly waging a terror campaign of assassinations of targeted secularist bloggers. News reports indicate that Dhaka police ignored earlier complaints from Neel that he feared for his life.

“What was already a human rights crisis has now spun entirely out of control, and it is now long overdue for the government of Bangladesh to take seriously its moral responsibility to protect the lives of its people,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). “But this problem goes deeper than just Bangladesh. The world can no longer sit by and allow this global crackdown on free expression, by both terror groups and states alike, to continue. The rights to free expression and dissent must be protected and cherished, and these killings must be stopped now.”

CFI this week publicly backed a U.S. House resolution introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), which calls upon Bangladesh to curb violent extremism and protect religious minorities, including the nonreligious.

“These acts of terror, largely motivated by an absolute intolerance for any kind of religious dissent, should mobilize the world community to end what is an outright challenge to civilization,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations. “The U.S. House should immediately and overwhelmingly pass Rep. Gabbard’s resolution, the U.S. State Department must leverage its considerable influence with the government of Bangladesh and its neighbors, the UN must assertively confront this campaign against basic human rights, and the people of the world must speak in unified defiance of these acts of barbarism.”

After the third murder of a Bangladeshi blogger and amid imminent threats against the life of human rights champion Taslima Nasrin, CFI established the Freethought Emergency Fund in order to assist in the protection and escape of secularist writers and activists in countries like Bangladesh who have been targeted for death by Islamists. Dr. Nasrin was brought to the United States by CFI, and is actively working to secure the safety of targeted bloggers in Bangladesh.

“Every week, we hear from secularists in Bangladesh who are genuinely terrified for their lives, asking for our help,” said Ron Lindsay. “We are going to continue to do all we can for them, but we cannot be the prime solution to this unacceptable state of affairs. It is the people of countries like Bangladesh that must demand change, and it is governments, the representatives of the people, that have the obligation to bring about that change. It is the very least they can do.”

CFI doesn’t have the money to save all of them.

Also, Bangladesh needs them, desperately. The solution is not to remove them all from Bangladesh, but for god-obsessed murderers to stop slaughtering them.

 



The trial of Hottie Mcnaturepants

Aug 7th, 2015 10:40 am | By

Now here’s something I didn’t know – my friend Chris Clarke has been a Thought Criminal too, way back in the distant past of 2006.

Michael Bérubé was on the story.

First and foremost, the Ministry of Justice wishes to thank the brilliant if deeply misguided Chris Clarke for volunteering to be the object of the WAAGNFNP’s first-ever Show Trial.  (We certainly hope it’s not the last!) And we send our very best wishes to Chris’s beloved dog Zeke.

Now, for those of you in the WAAGNFNP fringe faction who may not have been following closely for the past few months (shame on you!), here’s a brief review.

This is a genuine bona fide internationally sanctioned Show Trial, and therefore the evidence and testimony against the accused must be merciless and overwhelming.

This is not a capital case. The purpose is to have our Wayward One understand the grave nature of his transgressions and repent his crimes against the Party. Once he has done this, he will gratefully affix his name to the Statement of Guilt, accept his punishment, and be welcomed back into the loving fold of the WAAGNFNP family.  Remember: we are always already splitting, and always already fused!

The WAAGNFNP’s ancient two-month-old ritual of Show Trial serves as a form of collective healing for the entire party. We do it this way because if we tried the volcano method, the wingnuts would go batshit crazy on us and have their entire Christianist agenda all up in our grill. I’m sure you know what we mean. (Warning: Language Alert!)

God damn that all sounds familiar – right down to the two months part.

Read the whole damn thing.



The two of us, spinning

Aug 7th, 2015 9:38 am | By

Have another treat from NASA: the earth and the moon seen from “above” both.

moon crossing the earth



A gang broke into his apartment

Aug 7th, 2015 9:12 am | By

The murder of Niloy Chakrabarti is horrific. They’re all horrific, and that of course is the goal. “Scared yet?” “Fuck YES.” “Good.”

He had asked the police for protection.

The killers broke into his apartment.

A well-known secular blogger in Bangladesh who was murdered at his home on Friday had told police of threats against him and requested protection weeks before he died.

Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen name Niloy Neel, was hacked to death with machetes after a gang broke into his apartment in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. He is the fourth blogger to have been killed in Bangladesh since February.

In an interview with the Guardian in May, Chakrabarti said he was scared that he would be killed and that he had tried to file reports with local police about continued harassment. He claimed his complaints were not taken seriously.

And he claimed correctly, it would seem.

All of the victims had been active on social media, criticising the extremist Muslim ideologies that have gained strength in Bangladesh in recent years or arguing in favour of progressive causes. On his Facebook account, Chakrabarti frequently wrote in favour of women’s rights.

Not allowed. Must be hacked to pieces.

Police confirmed Chakrabarti had been murdered by a group of half a dozen people in the capital’s Goran neighbourhood, although they had no details on the motive for the killing.

“There were six people who knocked on his door, saying that they were looking to rent a flat. Two of them then took him to a room and slaughtered him there,” Muntashirul Islam, a deputy police commissioner, said.

I met Asif Mohiuddin at the CFI conference in June. He was nearly hacked to death. He’s a lovely man.

It makes me want to scream.

One hardline group, Hefazat-e-Islam, has publicly sought the execution of atheists who organised mass protests against the rise of political Islam.

Hefazat, led by Islamic seminary teachers, also staged a massive counter-protest against the bloggers in May 2013 that unleashed violence and left nearly 50 people dead.

Active bloggers in Bangladesh told the Guardian earlier this year they received death threats “so frequently” they could not be counted. They also risk jail terms of up to 14 years for publishing material that authorities deem to be false or defamatory.

In 2013, atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed in the street by religious extremists. A month later, he was arrested and held in prison for making derogatory remarks about religion and his blog was banned.

Tell me again how religion is a force for good.

 



I’m back

Aug 7th, 2015 8:20 am | By

Time to launch the Patreon.

I tested it on Facebook the other day to see if I’d done it right and people started pledging right then but this is the actual launch.

I’m back at the original B&W, with NO ADS and no fatuous people announcing that I’m a transphobe because I have my own ideas about gender. I earned a little income blogging at Freethought Blogs and I need to replace that. Think of me as like a public radio station but without voices and without the “you owe us, please call now” drives. You don’t owe me. Don’t donate unless it’s easy for you and you want to. I like doing this and I like having readers; donating is entirely voluntary.

If you do decide to, you can do it

HERE



Bags are packed

Aug 6th, 2015 4:38 pm | By

Time to launch the Patreon.

I tested it on Facebook the other day to see if I’d done it right and people started pledging right then but this is the actual launch.

I’m going back to the original B&W, with NO ADS and no fatuous people announcing that I’m a transphobe because I have my own ideas about gender. I earned a little income blogging at Freethought Blogs and I need to replace that. Think of me as like a public radio station but without voices and without the “you owe us, please call now” drives. You don’t owe me. Don’t donate unless it’s easy for you and you want to. I like doing this and I like having readers; donating is entirely voluntary.

You can do it

HERE

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Hoping to hear

Aug 6th, 2015 12:39 pm | By

People are so nice.

aww

Ed Brayton is not the person I was hoping to hear was leaving Freethoughtblogs.com. I can certainly understand why, though.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



A fundamental human need

Aug 6th, 2015 12:02 pm | By

Amnesty’s prostitution policy document.

Zip down to page 5, and read note 2.

 ²As noted within Amnesty International’s policy on sex work, the organization is opposed to criminalization of all activities related to the purchase and sale of sex. Sexual desire and activity are a fundamental human need. To criminalize those who are unable or unwilling to fulfill that need through more traditionally recognized means and thus purchase sex, may amount to a violation of the right to privacy and undermine the rights to free expression and health.

Ok wait. If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, then what happens in cases where there are no prostitutes available? What would happen if all women had job options they liked better than sex work, so there just were no women willing to do it?

If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, what happens in emergency situations, like earthquakes and floods, when people have to take refuge in shelters and thus have to have their fundamental needs met? Would the Red Cross and MSF and everyone else doing emergency work be expected to provide sex partners along with water and food and shelter and medical treatment?

If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, does that mean that straight men have a fundamental right to have access to A Woman at stipulated intervals?

If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, what right do married women have to say no to marital sex? They can’t starve their husbands, so why should they be able to say no to sex just because they don’t feel like it?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



A fundamental human need

Aug 6th, 2015 11:59 am | By

Amnesty’s prostitution policy document.

Zip down to page 5, and read note 2.

²As noted within Amnesty International’s policy on sex work, the organization is opposed to criminalization of all activities related to the purchase and sale of sex. Sexual desire and activity are a fundamental human need. To criminalize those who are unable or unwilling to fulfill that need through more traditionally recognized means and thus purchase sex, may amount to a violation of the right to privacy and undermine the rights to free expression and health.

Ok wait. If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, then what happens in cases where there are no prostitutes available? What would happen if all women had job options they liked better than sex work, so there just were no women willing to do it?

If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, what happens in emergency situations, like earthquakes and floods, when people have to take refuge in shelters and thus have to have their fundamental needs met? Would the Red Cross and MSF and everyone else doing emergency work be expected to provide sex partners along with water and food and shelter and medical treatment?

If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, does that mean that straight men have a fundamental right to have access to A Woman at stipulated intervals?

If sexual activity is a fundamental human need, what right do married women have to say no to marital sex? They can’t starve their husbands, so why should they be able to say no to sex just because they don’t feel like it?



The Supreme Court struck a blow at the heart of the Voting Rights Act

Aug 6th, 2015 10:59 am | By

Today in my Inbox an email from one of my heroes – John Lewis. It is, of course, a public mailing, so I’ll share it right here.

Every year, I head back to the birthplace of a new America — Selma, Alabama — where a determined struggle for voting rights transformed our democracy 50 years ago.

On March 7, 1965, Hosea Williams and I led a band of silent witnesses, 600 nonviolent crusaders, intending to march 50 miles to Montgomery — Alabama’s capital — to demonstrate the need for voting rights in America.

At the foot of the bridge, we were met by Alabama state troopers who trampled peaceful protestors with horses and shot tear gas into the crowd. I was hit on the head with a nightstick and suffered a concussion on the bridge.

I thought that was going to be my last demonstration. I thought I might die that day.

We knew the dangers that lay ahead, but we marched anyway hoping to usher in a more fair society — a place where every American would be able to freely exercise their constitutional right to vote, and each of us would have an equal voice in the democratic process.

We knew that standing up for our rights could be a death warrant. But we felt it would be better to die than to live with injustice.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, it was a great day. The Act made the ballot box immediately more accessible to millions of Americans of every race, gender, region, economic status, and national origin. It has been called the most effective legislation of the last 50 years.

But just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck a blow at the heart of the Voting Rights Act, nullifying a key provision that had curbed discriminatory voting rules and statutes from becoming law. As soon as the Court’s decision was announced, states began implementing restrictive voting laws. While some states are changing laws to increase the number of Americans who are able to participate in our democracy, by increasing early voting days and making it easier for people to cast a ballot, far too many states are passing new laws that make it harder and more difficult to vote. Early voting and voter registration drives have been restricted. Same-day voting has been eliminated in some cases. Strict photo identification laws have been adopted, and improper purges of the voting rolls are negating access to thousands, perhaps millions, who have voted for decades. That’s why people are still marching for this cause today. Even as we speak, the NAACP is leading a 40-day, 40-night march from Selma to Washington, D.C. in support of a number of issues, including the issue of voting rights. As citizens, it is our duty to make sure that our political process remains open to every eligible voter, and that every citizen can freely participate in the democratic process. And when it comes time to get out and vote — we have to do so. The right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent, transformative tool we have in a democracy, and the least we can do is take full advantage of the opportunity to make our voices heard. Today at 2 p.m. ET, I’m joining President Obama for an important conversation on protecting voting rights — and I hope you’ll join us. Tune in here. Despite the challenges, I am still hopeful — but we must remain determined. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each and every one of us, each generation, must do our part to help create a more perfect union.

Keep marching on.

John Lewis

Member of Congress



The Supreme Court struck a blow at the heart of the Voting Rights Act

Aug 6th, 2015 10:43 am | By

Today in my Inbox an email from one of my heroes – John Lewis. It is, of course, a public mailing, so I’ll share it right here.

Every year, I head back to the birthplace of a new America — Selma, Alabama — where a determined struggle for voting rights transformed our democracy 50 years ago.

On March 7, 1965, Hosea Williams and I led a band of silent witnesses, 600 nonviolent crusaders, intending to march 50 miles to Montgomery — Alabama’s capital — to demonstrate the need for voting rights in America.

At the foot of the bridge, we were met by Alabama state troopers who trampled peaceful protestors with horses and shot tear gas into the crowd. I was hit on the head with a nightstick and suffered a concussion on the bridge.

I thought that was going to be my last demonstration. I thought I might die that day.

We knew the dangers that lay ahead, but we marched anyway hoping to usher in a more fair society — a place where every American would be able to freely exercise their constitutional right to vote, and each of us would have an equal voice in the democratic process.

We knew that standing up for our rights could be a death warrant. But we felt it would be better to die than to live with injustice.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, it was a great day. The Act made the ballot box immediately more accessible to millions of Americans of every race, gender, region, economic status, and national origin. It has been called the most effective legislation of the last 50 years.

The Voting Rights Act | The White House

Quote: I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote. I'm not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. Byline: John Lewis August 24, 2013

But just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck a blow at the heart of the Voting Rights Act, nullifying a key provision that had curbed discriminatory voting rules and statutes from becoming law. As soon as the Court’s decision was announced, states began implementing restrictive voting laws. While some states are changing laws to increase the number of Americans who are able to participate in our democracy, by increasing early voting days and making it easier for people to cast a ballot, far too many states are passing new laws that make it harder and more difficult to vote. Early voting and voter registration drives have been restricted. Same-day voting has been eliminated in some cases. Strict photo identification laws have been adopted, and improper purges of the voting rolls are negating access to thousands, perhaps millions, who have voted for decades. That’s why people are still marching for this cause today. Even as we speak, the NAACP is leading a 40-day, 40-night march from Selma to Washington, D.C. in support of a number of issues, including the issue of voting rights. As citizens, it is our duty to make sure that our political process remains open to every eligible voter, and that every citizen can freely participate in the democratic process. And when it comes time to get out and vote — we have to do so. The right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent, transformative tool we have in a democracy, and the least we can do is take full advantage of the opportunity to make our voices heard. Today at 2 p.m. ET, I’m joining President Obama for an important conversation on protecting voting rights — and I hope you’ll join us. Tune in here. Despite the challenges, I am still hopeful — but we must remain determined. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each and every one of us, each generation, must do our part to help create a more perfect union. Keep marching on. John Lewis Member of Congress The Voting Rights Act | The White House

Quote: The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It's the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society and we've got to use it. Byline: John Lewis August 24, 2014

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)



Hands off god

Aug 6th, 2015 10:06 am | By

The NSS reports that the UAE has tightened up its laws by making it illegal to “offend” God.

Wouldn’t you think if there’s anyone who can rise above being “offended” it would be God? I mean – ants can say harsh things about me all they want to; it won’t offend me. Why? Because they’re ants. Their concerns are not my concerns, and vice versa. Our concerns are too different in nature to be subject to emotions like being “offended.” Ants are going to think I’m way too big and ugly and misshapen, aren’t they, because if the criterion is Ant, I don’t meet it. But I don’t care. I don’t particularly want to meet the Ant criterion, and I’m indifferent to any potential disgust ants might feel about how far short I fall.

It should be the same with God. God’s perfect, omni-everything, transcendent – all sorts. Why would God take anything we say personally? It makes no sense.

Gulf News reports that the legislation makes illegal “any acts that stoke religious hatred” and “any form of expression” that insults religion.

The law, passed by decree at the end of July, “prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, His prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards.”

That’s a very very touchy god, that is. If I were going to have a god, it would be a much more magnanimous, understanding, unflappable god than that.

The legislation purports to allow for an “environment of tolerance” and “broad-mindedness”, but includes potential 10 year jail terms and substantial fines for those who break the law.

Provisions in the legislation include a prohibition on expressing doubt about the existence of God.

Anything else? Doubts about God’s shoe size? Preference in fish? Views on climate change?

UAE is right off my travel plans list.