Friday, 22 May 2015

A Prophecy

posted on 5/22/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

“And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the falcon of any kind, every raven of any kind, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl...” – Leviticus 11 : 13 – 20

Frater Xango Mangosteen hunches over the dead seagull, its entrails spread before him in an ugly, glittering bouquet.

Though his augury usually provides only the general outlines of things to come, shrouded in possibilities and uncertainties, today's sacrifice at the crossroads of the salt trade routes has, upon having its belly slit open, provided a revelation that is as clear and as sharp as an icicle thrust through the eye socket. The time is here; the Holy Sovereign Nation of Deseret will shrug off the shackles of the Eagle, the iron collar of Rome, the deathly somnolence of peace.

He stands, combs the shards of dried honey and the bristly locust legs from his long, ragged beard, draws his robes around himself, and begins to dictate to the clean-shaven novice standing behind him.

The day began warm and cloudless, and sweat pools in the collar of the novice's snow-white robe, even as the clouds roll in, jealously strangling the horizon with their great grey knuckles. Thunder was a distant threat an hour before the ritual – now it tumbles closer with a momentous tearing sound, and in the middle distance, the rain is already a grey smear creeping closer.

“Peace is over,” Mangosteen intones in his buttery basso cantante voice, “if you want it.”

“The Pax Romana is dust. The Pax Americana dies in tatters at the talons of the sacred bird that saved the Saints. It is the time of Deseret – the Jaredite word honeybee from the Book of Ether. We are the industrious apiary that shall sustain Truth in these, the final days. The seagull of Zion has torn apart that wicked dove of peace; let us follow this most divine example!”

Frater Xango's voice rises as though in song: “The Washington Monument is built on a foundation-stone donated by Brigham Young: we shall remove that stone from that abominable relic, and this great Nation from these accursed United States, and that pillar of Mammon shall crash down and rain stone death upon the wicked, the idolater, the false prophet on his gunmetal throne, the defiler, the sycophant, the whore!”

The novice jots down the Frater's words, his nervousness almost masked, his hands almost steady. Frater Xango's flood of words stops as though a sluice has slammed shut. The thunder mutters and the warmth of the spring morning is finally gone completely. Mangosteen stands as still as an iron rod driven into the salt.

“Take that and go,” he finally says, great weariness in his voice. “King Lachoneus will need to hear it. And he will need to summon his warriors. All of them.”

The nameless novice bolts toward the distant, twisted remnants of the Sinful City on foot, bound for the King and the ruins of the First Temple that awaits the rebuilding. The sun is dead behind black clouds now, and with a whisper like the fluttering of pages in a breeze, the rain begins to fall.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Reagan Was A Communist

posted on 5/20/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

When Ronald Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall in late 1989 with his bare hands, Real Americans™ breathed a sigh of relief that proved as premature as a red-blooded American man's ejaculation during procreative missionary-position coitus.

You see, in spite of the fact that the Soviet Union first banned the Communist Party and then formally dissolved in 1991, launching a two decade period of capitalist reforms and foreign investment, and despite the fact that only five Communist nations still exist (China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea), Communism is still apparently a vibrant and powerful force in the world today. Sleeper cells and hidden agendas riddle every sector of American society, using progressives, liberals, and the hated Democrat Party as either useful idiots or willing accomplices. The One True God of Christendom has been driven from our schools, our government, and our culture, leaving a vacuum into which the demonic forces of atheistic Marxism are inexorably pouring. Cunning machinery was set in motion by the enemy within a century ago, and now their plans are coming to fruition thanks to the election of Barack Obama (who, despite being a Red Diaper Baby and a Manchurian candidate for the “kill the rich” crowd, managed to raise more than $42,561,000 from Wall Street in his two campaigns for the presidency – now that is one crafty communist).

Most chillingly of all, it turns out that the Red Menace has more thoroughly infiltrated the Oval Office than was previously thought. In addition to Comrades Obama and Roosevelt, one of the most flamboyant Bolsheviks to ever besmirch the highest elected office in the United States was none other than Ronald Reagan.

This side of Reagan might have remained forever hidden in obscurity were it not for the brilliant and insightful political analysis of pro-theocracy white nationalist web tabloid WND. This isn't the first time that WND has provided an exclusive, steaming-hot scoop: in 1999, they fearlessly exposed Bill Clinton (father of “welfare reform” and NAFTA, and who massively deregulated Wall Street by signing the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999) as a filthy communist as well.

WND's Aaron Klein, previously featured here during his time at Hogwarts teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, has the dirt in a SHOCKING new exposé entitled “Dem's New Agenda Hauntingly Similar to Communism.” Klein lines the verbiage of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's national “Progressive Agenda” up alongside passages from the national literature of the Communist Party USA and the Socialist Party USA.

Observe the chilling, outlandish things that the CPUSA / SPUSA / Progressives (really, is there a difference?) want to do to “fundamentally transform America,” as the tyrant Barack Hussein Obama put it:
Progressive Agenda: “Pass comprehensive immigration reform to grow the economy and protect against exploitation of low-wage workers.” 
SPUSA: “We defend the rights of all immigrants to education, health care, and full civil and legal rights and call for an unconditional amnesty program for all undocumented people. We oppose the imposition of any fees on those receiving amnesty. We call for full citizenship rights upon demonstrating residency for six months.” 
CPUSA: Declares the “struggle for immigrant rights is a key component of the struggle for working class unity in our country today.” 
Obviously, “immigration reform” is just fancy talk for “full citizenship rights after six months' residence” – this explains why people like myself, who are in favor of abolishing the border altogether, are not pissed off at all by the “reforms” proposed thus far by the Democrats.

What other ~*EXCLUSIVE*~ analysis do you have for us, Klein?
Progressive Agenda: “Earned Income Tax Credit.” “Implement the ‘Buffett Rule’ so millionaires pay their fair share.” 
SPUSA: “We call for a steeply graduated income tax and a steeply graduated estate tax. …” 
CPUSA: “No taxes for workers and low and middle income people; progressive taxation of the wealthy and private corporations. 
Deeply troubling stuff. Any other plots to put the ownership of the means of production in the hands of the proletariat that the Democrat Party and the commie lieberuls think they could quietly get away with?

Progressive Agenda: “Reform the National Labor Relations Act, to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class.” 
SPUSA: “The Socialist Party stands for the right of all workers to organize, for worker control of industry through the democratic organization of the workplace.” 
CPUSA: “One of the most crucial ways of increasing the strength and unity of the working class as a whole is organizing the unorganized. Working-class unity depends on uniting all the diverse sectors of the multiracial, multinational working class in the U.S. … Speeding up the organization of unorganized workers is one of the most important challenges to labor and all progressive forces.” 

I'm grateful to Klein for bringing out attention to this perfidy. Not only do these examples teach us that “the right of workers to organize” is code for “worker control of industry” and that the Earned Income Tax Credit is a communist plot, they pull aside Reagan's mask and expose him as the unreconstructed Red that he is.

After all, it was Reagan who supported the expansion of the EITC through the Tax Reform Act of 1986, saying of the TRA:
Millions of working poor will be dropped from the tax rolls altogether, and families will get a long-overdue break with lower rates and an almost doubled personal exemption..vanishing loopholes and a minimum tax will mean that everybody and every corporation pay their fair share. … [The Tax Reform Act is] the best anti-poverty bill, the best pro-family measure, and the best job-creation program ever to come out of the Congress of the United States. 

There goes Comrade Reagan again, talking about “the working poor” and corporations “paying their fair share.” Class warfare and the politics of envy are ugly, ugly things.

As if that wasn't disgusting enough, Reagan also spoke about labor unions in terms that are frighteningly similar to those of the Democrats/Communists:
A free labor movement is essential to the preservation and expansion of free enterprise. Since its passage in 1935, the National Labor Relations Act has been a bulwark of support for this vital American heritage. A half-century ago, this law established the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, should they chose to do so...In conducting union representation elections and processing unfair labor practice charges, the NLRB has helped build a peaceful industrial relations system that is a model for the free world. 
Unions are “essential to the preservation of free enterprise?” “The right of workers to organize and bargain collectively?!” “INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS?!?!

The CPUSA and SPUSA have got NOTHING on Ronald “Stalin” Reagan, the same man who (vis a vis Klein's damning fact-finding regarding Democratic support for immigration reform) signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 into law, granting actual amnesty (not Fox News' version of what “amnesty” means) to about three million undocumented immigrants. How “big hearted” of Party Leader Reagan – no doubt he was just trying to flood the welfare system of the United States to trigger the system's collapse (a crafty little trick often decried by historically-inclined and 100% sane Tea Partiers called “the Cloward-Piven Strategy”).

Klein's brilliant reporting and analysis have brought me to my senses after all these years of Reagan-worship: I have burned all fifteen framed portraits of the former president that used to adorn my home, and it is with a heavy heart that I have tossed my life-size Reagan cutout out of my bed, where I used to sleep nestled next to it every night, and into the trash – where I hope it rots.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Five Signs You're Debating An @sshole

posted on 5/18/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

Assholes! Almost everybody has one, and some people can't help but be one!

They walk among us, occupying various perches from the lowliest of street-sweepers to the lofty ivory towers of academia to the hungry glowing rictuses of cable news to the hushed reverence of museums, monasteries, and mansions. Fun fact: statisticians have estimated that approximately 100% of elected officials in the United States are assholes, making them our body politic's most well-represented demographic, just ahead of white Christian males.

A person's status as an asshole is like religious belief or sexual orientation – while some visual cues may give hints as to what it might be, it is impossible in most cases to detect accurately with the naked eye. For this reason, I hope you find the following field guide helpful. It is by no means exhaustive, but it may prove useful as a set of preliminary parameters in conversation both online and off. Here are five sure verbal/textual signs that you are engaged in debate with a bona fide, 24 karat gold plated asshole.

“We the People”

This puffed-up, pompous piece of meaningless dumbassery is most often found among Tea Partiers, but you will also run across it in survivalist and militia circles, at school board meetings, hell, even on rare and unfortunate occasion when Occupy was in full swing. “We the People” has two basic semiotic components, one being the Founding Fathers Fetish that so many right-wingers have nowadays (how better to invoke the halcyon days of slavery, pre-suffrage female servitude, and a fifty year life expectancy than by stealing verbiage directly?) and the other the strongly implied but unspoken assertion that one is leading a mighty populist rebellion rather than a tiny group of knuckleheads. This latter component should be familiar to those who've read, watched, or listened to Glenn Beck, who is particularly fond of the inflated sense of historic importance and purpose that style-biting a bunch of eighteenth century aristocrats in wigs and leggings apparently provides.

“Friends/My Friends”

I've noticed this particular weird tic in evangelical communities in particular. I suppose “friends” goes down smoother in the religious community than “comrades,” but it hits the ear the same way: forced, a little condescending, overly familiar in tone, and just downright irritating in the way that people who want to hug you when you are first introduced are. You're not my friend: you're an asshole.

“The American People”

“The American People” has a lot in common (besides just two words) with “We the People.” It is a meaningless phrase, even when supported by polling data, as polling outcomes depend hugely on how a poll is worded. Just ask Frank Luntz! “The American People,” however, is much more widely used than “We the People.” Virtually every United States politician in history has used this little gem, and it has been absolute garbage every time it has been used. Unless this opener is immediately followed by “require water, food, and oxygen to survive,” rest assured that it is a wretched lie, as the only things “the American people” agree on are jack and shit.


Nothing says “Alex Jones is the truth-teller of choice for intelligent and discerning fellows such as my self, no really, he's great stop laughing” like calling people who don't buy your conspiracy theory of the day as “sheeple.” Tossing this little portmanteau into an argument is less like landing a killing blow with your rapier wit than like defecating explosively into the conversational hot tub: nobody thinks it's clever, everyone thinks it's gross, and the only thing it proves is that, mazel tov! You're an asshole.

“Bernard's Law” 

Bernard's Law states that the cogency and intelligence of a political argument is inversely proportional to its adherents' use of “The Matrix” as a metaphor. Everyone from libertarians to men's rights activists to Marxists to, for all I know, the anti-fluoridation community like to say “sure, you might not agree with what I'm saying, but that's because you haven't taken the red pill yet! You're trapped in the Matrix, maaaaan!” No, I only wish I was trapped in the Matrix, snuggled up in my goo with tubes running out of every orifice imaginable, far, far away from you.

In closing, this post has been brought to you by Not Being An Asshole. Try it out today: you'll be amazed how good it feels! (Not that I'd know.)

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Why I Don't Have High Hopes For Medical Marijuana In Utah

posted on 5/16/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

I'm going to do the full disclosure thing right out of the gate: I'm a proponent of legalizing drugs.

Not just “decriminalizing” “soft” drugs like marijuana – I mean that I favor completely legal heroin, methamphetamine, PCP, the whole shebang. I favor ending prohibition and regulation for both philosophical and practical reasons. On the philosophical side, I believe that people have the right to make informed decisions about the destiny of their own bodies, even if I might personally disagree with some of their choices. This is actually a fairly popular position when it comes to things like alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and, yes, marijuana – once you venture outside of the average person's comfort zone by mentioning meth, cocaine, or heroin, support for fully ending drug prohibition erodes, but the “social harm” argument against full legalization is so applicable to things like alcohol and tobacco (not to mention trans fats or processed sugar) that I think most people's caveats are incoherent and come from a “gut” understanding of what drugs should or should not be legal. As opponents of LGBTQ rights amply demonstrate on a daily basis, the gut is a stupid and awful place to dictate public policy from.

From a practical standpoint, the argument for full legalization is simple: prohibition doesn't work, and in fact causes widespread and terrible harm. It didn't work when alcohol was prohibited (alcohol consumption rose to record levels during prohibition, actually), it isn't working now, and it never will work. The track record of the 'War on Drugs' that was started by Richard Nixon in 1971 is one of mass incarceration, police abuse, belligerent (and failed) foreign policy (especially in Central and South America), and absolutely ludicrous fear mongering.

When it comes to the devil's weed, some progress has been made in the last two decades, with 23 states and the District of Columbia now allowing the medical use of marijuana, and four states have fully succumbed to reefer madness by legalizing recreational use.

For the record, I have mixed feelings about legalizing weed for medical use only.

On the one hand, there are some serious medical benefits that marijuana can provide, and people should be free to seek the best medical treatments available to them, without scientifically invalid and moralistic restrictions placed on them by the State (this is more than my opinion – it is, and I'm being serious here, my Sincerely Held Religious Belief ™). On the other hand, legalization for medical purposes only strikes me as both sneaky and a half-measure.

There's a lot of buzz in the drug law reform community here in Utah regarding Governor Gary Herbert's recent statements regarding medical marijuana. As the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday that he would be open to legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, provided the science shows it can benefit patients and tight regulations can be put in place to control distribution. 
"I'm open to the idea of medical marijuana," the governor said, "and the discussion of how it can be used as a medicine based on science, and making sure we have good, collaborative efforts so we can answer the questions that are out there." 
That appears to be a change from his position during the recent legislative session, when he expressed concerns about a bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, that would have created a state-licensed system of medical marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries where patients could buy the drug with a doctor's recommendation. 
At the time, Herbert said the bill could lead to a "slippery slope" toward legal, recreational use. 
Madsen's bill failed in the Senate by a single vote, although the lawmaker has said he will reintroduce it next year. 

 I will not argue for a single second that this isn't progress – it is. And Utah has already legalized the use of cannabidiol (for the treatment of severe epileptic disorders) through HB 105. AND, as the above Trib article notes, Senator Mark Madsen's bill regarding medical marijuana only failed by a single vote.

All of that aside, I suspect that optimism regarding the future of medical pot in Utah may be misplaced based on the debacle surrounding Governor Herbert's Healthy Utah initiative.

Healthy Utah, you may remember, was a compromise proposed by Herbert regarding the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. Last year's health care policy debate – which ended in the scuttling of Healthy Utah by ultra-conservative Republicans in the state legislature – shares some telling characteristics with the debate regarding medical pot. Healthy Utah was backed by the medical community, as is medical marijuana. Healthy Utah was Gary Herbert's baby, and now Herbert is apparently backing prescription cannabis. Healthy Utah was also supported by a majority of Utahans, but on the issue of medical weed, a majority of Utahns actually oppose Senator Madsen's plan.

What is strangling my optimism regarding changes to laws regarding marijuana in Utah is more than just my innate, bone-deep cynicism: it's the fact that, with every passing year, an increasing number of issues that should be decided by science or medicine, ranging from health care to reproductive health to education to climate change and on and on, are now culture war issues – and in Utah, being on the side of the culture war that stands athwart history yelling “oh my heck, hold on there speed racer!” trumps science every single time.

Is my skepticism regarding medical weed in Utah misplace? I hope so with every fiber of my being. The near-passage of Madsen's pot bill is certainly encouraging. But Governor Herbert, as the fate of his Healthy Utah initiative indicates, has cartoon moths fluttering out of the wallet that used to hold his political capital. His public statement in support of sensible marijuana reform may actually help ultra-conservatives to marshal opposition and once again get culture warriors lathered up into a frenzy. We'll see.

For now, let's just be happy that the Colorado border is a mere three and a half hour drive away.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

New Atheist Jeffrey Tayler Has Solved Religion. You're Welcome, Idiots!

posted on 5/11/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

One year that I attended college in Arkansas, my girlfriend at the time and I used to hang out in Little Rock with friends of hers, including one friend we'll call “Rob.” Rob was ex-military, and politically on the conservative side, so needless to say he and I spent a good deal of time arguing about politics. We also spent a a not-insignificant amount of time arguing about religion, because Rob was definitely a God person, whereas I, since the last time I attended mass as a tween, have decidedly not been a God person.

Our political arguments were often heated but there was a certain amount of mutual respect. When Rob talked about Jesus, on the other hand,his lips would curl into a gloating little smile and his voice would take on a condescending timbre as he said, for the hundredth or three hundredth time, “you'd understand if you'd ever been in the military or seen combat. There are no atheists in foxholes.”

This would come as interesting news to my maternal grandfather, who celebrated his 90th birthday recently. He pursued a career in the military, serving in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He has seen the inside of more foxholes than most people alive. He is also a hard-core, lifelong atheist, having self-identified as such since the days when atheists were some of the most reviled people on planet Earth (and, yes, atheists are still to this day some of the most unfairly maligned folks around). “No atheists in foxholes” my pap-pap's wrinkled ass.

"I used to be a believer, but your eloquence and compassion have convinced me!"

I mention Rob because the same smug, irritating tone that he favored in our little chats is no longer the exclusive province of sanctimonious churchgoers: in the last decade and a half, an entire movement of equally smug, equally arrogant atheists has sprung up like a toadstool after a spring rain.

Starting with the publication of Sam Harris' 'The End of Faith' in 2004, New Atheism (as this movement is known) has produced public debates, books, films, internet fora and just about everything else you can imagine except for a theme park (unless you count Disneyland, for truly, it is a godless place). There is even an ongoing attempt, started by a former biology teacher named Peter Geisert, to re-brand atheists as “Brights,” I guess in contrast to religious people, who, I'm sure we can all agree, are dim-witted morons.

A lot has been written about the New Atheist leaders who can't seem to have an opinion about any subject whatsoever without finding, as though it were some kind of mutant superpower, the most horrible opinion possible (thinkers who fall into this category include Richard “It Is Unethical Not To Abort A Fetus With Down Syndrome” Dawkins and Sam “I Just Got My Ass Handed To Me In A Debate With Noam Chomsky” Harris), but every left-of-center publication or website these days seems to have to have at least one New Atheist on retainer whose job it is to shit out the same tired, done-to-death “thinkpiece” once a week: only the mentally deranged think the Bible is literally true (I and I'm sure even many people of faith agree), Islam is to blame for terrorism (see the above link where Chomsky makes a complete fool out of Sam Harris for a representative sample of the strength of that argument), religion is the cause of all the world's ills (huh?), blah blah blah, and on and on and on.

Alternet has Valerie Tarico, she of “HAW HAW MITT ROMNEY WEARS MAGIC UNDERPANTS HAW HAW” fame. The Raw Story has Greta Christina, and Slate, as befits their nature as obnoxious contrarians, usually runs the other direction and publishes pieces about how atheism is actually totally bogus. The website I personally read that is the most hellishly shrill in thumping the non-Bible of New Atheism is hands down Salon.

Salon is more than happy to give a platform to anti-Islam activist, Fox News contributor, and former American Enterprise Institute fellow Ayaan Hirsi Ali (probably the one thing that AEI and Salon have common ground on). Salon also re-prints the latest “zingers” from misogynistic bigot Bill Maher with the same breathless sycophancy that I've previously only seen in WND's weekly re-hashing of the best of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage (in Salon's defense regarding Maher, they also ran a piece calling Maher out on his bigotry -- more on that ina moment -- but that was a drop in the bucket in comparison to the space and attention given Maher's views overall).

I'm sorry, was that mean?

For my money, the crowning pinnacle of New Atheism's shit mountain is Jeffrey Tayler, who is also a frequent Salon contributor in addition to being a Russia correspondent for the Atlantic and a contributor to NPR's “All Things Considered.” While Tayler's opinions on matters of public policy are nowhere near as awful as those of the movement's more prominent figureheads (i.e., Dawkins' views on disability and rape or Sam Harris' support for the Iraq war and State torture programs), Tayler more than makes up for it in condescension, elitism, and a profoundly annoying writer's voice that is equal parts Thomas Frank and Ignatius J. Reilly.

Jeffrey Tayler, looking *almost* as smug as his hero Bill Maher

Take Tayler's April 19th column for Salon, in which he variously describes believers as “faith-deranged,” “God-fearing clowns,” "irrationalists" and “unwashed crazies.” After flaying Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul for their religious conservatism (and absolutely deservedly so), Tayler constructs what he obviously views as a very clever “gotcha” question:
Here are some questions journalists might ask the candidates. They might begin with a preamble, though. As a Christian, you believe the Bible is, as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proclaims, the word of God, “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” You accept the New Testament, of course, which includes Matthew 5:18’s pronouncement that every last bit of the Bible shall be implemented …If any of the candidates have boned up on their Reza Aslan and laugh off your questions, telling you they don’t take the Bible literally, you might ask what scriptural authority they can cite that permits them to disavow some parts of their holy book but accept others. Answer: there is none. 

In other words, “The premise of my question demands that you accept the premise of my question. How dare you not accept my premise, when my premise demands that you do?”

The childish little slap at Reza Aslan, in case you haven't been following the New Atheist holy wars, is a reference to an ongoing debate between Aslan and Bill Maher over whether Islam as a religion is the primary and/or sole motivating factor behind Islamist terrorism. Salon, again to their credit, has published a few articles dealing with Maher's (and Tayler's) take on Islam, my favorite of which begins:
You know what you call someone who makes sweeping generalizations on billions of people based on the extreme actions of a few? A bigot. Bill Maher, for example, is a bigot. And if you’re a fan of his smug, dismissive shtick, you’re a bigot too. 

Tayler is a bigot, pure and simple – albeit one who is smart enough to try to move the goalposts. Tayler, in columns like this pile of shit, doesn't just deny that he is an Islamophobe; he repeatedly denies that Islamophobia exists, or maybe asserts that if Islamophobia does exist, it's totally rational and justified (he is never very clear on this point, dismissing questions about Islamophobia out of hand in his trademark “let this upper-class white guy drop some knowledge on you, Muslim peasants” tone).

This is not a particularly novel approach to addressing the accusation that one is Islamophobic (or anti-Semitic, or racist, or misogynist) – hell, I read WND, remember? Still, for the benefit of New Atheists everywhere, I feel the need to point out that, “Hate Crimes Against Muslims In [the] US Have Skyrocketed During 'War on Terror'”:

Hate crimes against Muslims in the United States jumped after the September 11, 2001 attacks and remain high more than 13 years later... In the last few years, specifically anti-Muslim crimes have made up about 13 or 14 percent of hate crimes considered to be committed with a religious bias. That amounts to nearly 100 anti-Islam hate crimes each year from 2011 to 2013, according to FBI data. More broadly, since September 11, 2001, anti-Muslim hate crimes have consistently stayed anywhere from 100 to 150 in number per year. In 2001, that number reached nearly 500 

 What a relief it will be to Muslims – and other “unwashed crazies” – to hear that Jeffrey Tayler has discovered that there's no such thing as unfounded anti-Muslim hatred!

nonexistent Islamophobia in action (five were injured in this mosque arson in Sweden)

Look, I'm all for a robust and even rowdy discussion of the role that religion should or should not play in politics and culture, and hell, I'm even in favor of marginalizing hateful and extreme views during that discussion.

The thing is, I'd definitely classify the New Atheists as hateful and extreme.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

This Is The Place (For Gonorrhea)

posted on 5/6/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

Utah! A land of virtue, where steeples tower, firmly erect, in every churchyard, and fertile folds dot the foothills. A land of fecundity, leading the nation in average number of offspring per family with children (and, according to my wildly unscientific estimate, in lowest number of adult virgins per comic book convention).

Utah is also one of several states that exclusively offers abstinence-only sex education, a form of sex ed that teaches kids that they should abstain from sex until marriage -- and often offers no more information than that. Abstinence-only sex ed is subsidized by the federal government under section 510 of the Social Security Act, despite the fact that studies have shown that this approach does not decrease rates of unwanted teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It should come as no surprise then that Utah, a staunchly religious state where any form of public or charter school sex ed curriculum other than an abstinence-only one is banned by law (under both Utah Code 53A-13-101 and, for good measure, Administrative Rule R277-474), is suffering the inevitable consequences of teaching citizens from an early age that condoms don't exist, or, if they do, are the devil's party hats:

Infection rates for a common sexually transmitted disease have skyrocketed in Utah since 2011, according to a report released by the Utah Department of Health. 
Between 2011 and 2014, gonorrhea diagnoses increased among men by 296 percent and among women by 714 percent. Health department STD epidemiologist Joel Hartsell said the increase mirrors national trends but is amplified in Utah, particularly on the Wasatch Front. ... 
[Hartsell] said many states provide money for STD intervention programs, but Utah does not, meaning the health department relies only on federal funding. 

enjoys long walks on the beach, abstinence-only sex ed

Literacy counts, kids, and I'm not just talking about the reading and writing kind. We rely on schools to teach not only this type of literacy, but also to promote numeracy – the ability to understand and do math – in addition to historical literacy and basic scientific knowledge. Currently in Utah schools are failing badly at promoting two other types of literacy that are vital to the welfare of Utahns; financial literacy (which is a post for another day), and sexual literacy.

Sexual literacy is knowledge of the basic and essential elements of sexual hygiene, which is defined as “a branch of hygiene concerned with sex and sexual behavior as they relate to individual and community well-being.” Basic sexual literacy includes topics like sexually transmitted infections and how to avoid them through the use of prophylaxis, where and how often to get tested for STIs, etc. – the very type of knowledge, in other words, that could have prevented rates of sexually transmitted disease from skyrocketing in Utah.

"clap" if you love gonorrhea (get it?)

This type of information is not just beneficial to teens, by the way. As with any type of health education, from the dangers of smoking to the importance of exercise, the habits we learn as young people often shape our behavior as adults. Of course, introducing comprehensive sex ed in Utah will happen on approximately the same day that our state scraps our state-run liquor store system in favor of a free-market approach – perhaps the one type of “privatization” that I support and, coincidentally, the one type of privatization that our Republican legislature does not support. Why teach teens and grown-ups about condom use anyway, when we can blame our state's staggering increase in rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia infection on smartphones?

From KUTV:

Utah has a problem, and nobody wants to talk about it. 
Thanks, in part, to a growing use of “hookup” apps, doctors say they have seen rates of sexually transmitted diseases skyrocket over the past couple years.  
Apps like Tinder, Down and Grindr could be partly responsible for gonorrhea rates in Utah being up in women more than 700 percent, they use as an example.  ...
If you have a smart phone, you can hookup anywhere, anytime. [Lynn Beltran, an epidemiologist at the Salt Lake County STD clinic] notes that the change has been huge for people who are married. “Before, if you were interested in sexual activity outside of marriage, there was a fear factor if you went somewhere you'd be seen,” she says. “Now, you click a few buttons and meet at a hotel." 

A few thoughts about this.

First, I have no doubt that hookup apps are “partly” responsible for Utah's STI rate, in roughly the same way that the human body is “partly” composed of phosphorus (1% – the more you know!). Second, while hookup apps have certainly made anonymous sex slightly easier, finding your next one-night stand or someone to cheat on your partner with on the internet was, I believe, the second thing the internet was ever used for (right behind “porn” but ahead of both “clown jokes” and “batshit crazy conspiracy theories”). Lastly, even if we assume that Ms. Beltran's premise is correct and Tinder is what is spreading the clap like merry hell, the fallout would be significantly mitigated if not entirely eliminated by the use of protection – something that should, again, be taught in schools.

For now it appears that “sex ed causes more teen sex” is a Sincerely Held Religious Belief™ on the part of state legislators, regardless of all evidence to the contrary.

Enjoy your fucking, Utah, and remember to wrap it up – it's an increasingly gross and fetid jungle out there!

Saturday, 2 May 2015

International Hate Conference Coming To SLC

image from

posted on 5/2/2015 by the Salt City Sinner

Opponents of marriage equality (and LGBTQ rights in general) like to play pretend a lot.

They pretend, for example, that gay or trans* people are out to “recruit,” and usually engage in cheap-shot slander by pretending that proponents of equality are recruiting children in particular. They pretend that LGBTQ identity is something that is mutable, all the while justifying discrimination and hate as a form of religious belief, when religious belief is one of the most mutable characteristics imaginable. The most hilariously illogical game of “let's pretend” that the homophobia industry plays, however, relates to the effect that marriage equality will somehow supposedly have on “traditional” (straight) marriage – that somehow, marriage is a zero-sum game, and that every same-sex couple that is allowed to marry will mean one less opposite-sex couple that can. How is this the case? Despite the fact that this ridiculous argument has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, I have yet to hear an explanation – any explanation, let alone a credible one – as to why this will happen.

So it is that the World Congress of Families plays an adorable game of dress-up as a “pro-family” organization, when what they really are is anti-gay, anti-choice, and vigorously opposed to nontraditional families. The WCF has been around since 1997, and has its tentacles buried in many countries around the world, including the United States, Russia (where it helped create that nation's “LGBT propaganda” bill), and Uganda (where it was an influential force in both drafting and pushing through that country's notorious “kill the gays” bill, which in its original form would have made “aggravated homosexuality” a crime punishable by death).

The WCF has much in common with the Great Pacific garbage patch, colloquially known as “Garbage Island.”

visit scenic Garbage Island

Like Garbage Island, a massive floating collection of congealed plastic that currently haunts the open sea, WCF is a toxic, lifeless thing, bereft of a real home and yet home to the old, cast-off leavings of many nations. Unlike Garbage Island, which is content to remain adrift in the central North Pacific ocean, however, the World Congress of Families occasionally docks (Prague 1997, Geneva 1999, Mexico City 2004, etc.).

At this very moment, in fact, the conference's rotting bulk is lurching slowly but inexorably toward the metaphorical shore of Salt Lake City. Yes, our fair City of Salt is slated to host the World Conference of Family's 2015 gathering – not a far-fetched fit, considering that the organization is closely tied to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Brigham Young University. In fact, BYU's World Family Policy Center is a prominent mouthpiece for ideas cooked up at WCF, and acts as a distribution mechanism for WCF's brand of virulent gay-bashing.

WCF will be meeting at the Little America and Grand America hotels (past meetings have attracted as many as 3,900 attendees from across the world) in Salt Lake on October 27 – 30, and here's the good news: we're planning on throwing them a big gay welcome party!

Protest the World Congress of Families is on Facebook, and is currently a closed group – and for good reason. Shortly after it's creation, one Larry D. Jacobs, managing director of WCF, quietly joined the group (and was promptly booted and blocked). If you would like to join us in firmly but politely saying “not in MY town, bigots!” feel free to join the group and shoot a message to any of the admins, myself included, who will be happy to let you join.

Thus far we're still in the brainstorming stages, so it's a great time to get in on the ground floor of what will be a peaceful, happy, boisterous demonstration in favor of authentic family values – inclusion, love, acceptance and diversity – and against bigotry.