Friday Night Fun and Culture: Susan Tedeschi

One of my Facebook friends is all excited about the forth coming Super Bowl half-time appearance of someone named Katy Perry…  I’m not…  I’ll be snack breaking.

I’m not much into Pap Music.

 

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The Killing of America’s Creative Class

One of the worst things that ever happened to the creative class was when a few started to make mega millions and that became the definition of success.

Some of the greatest guitar players ever, make that musicians ever lived hand to mouth gigging in honky tonks and mean blues clubs.  Just because your parents plonked down a few K at the local Guitar Center no more means you will be one of the next generations Rolling Stones than your making the Jay-Vee third string football team in high school means you will someday play in the Super Bowl.

That said there are a lot of creative folks out there with day jobs and gigs in local clubs, art that sells in the art versions of flea markets/swap meets.

On an up note lots of folks with degrees in engineering and law are in the same boat.  Too many people in the field for there to be enough work for all.

At the same time it seems like there are more musicians in Texas and more music venues than in New York and California combined.

BTW:  Recording contracts and publishing contracts with corporations tend to be corporate licenses to steal from artists.  It can be a DIY world for those brave enough to try.

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/killing-americas-creative-class

A review of Scott Timberg’s fascinating new book, ‘Culture Crash.’

By Amien Essif
January 21, 2015

Some of my friends became artists, writers, and musicians to rebel against their practical parents. I went into a creative field with encouragement from my folks. It’s not too rare for Millennials to have their bohemian dreams blessed by their parents, because, as progeny of the Boomers, we were mentored by aging rebels who idolized rogue poets, iconoclast cartoonists, and scrappy musicians.

The problem, warns Scott Timberg in his new book Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, is that if parents are basing their advice on how the economy used to support creativity – record deals for musicians, book contracts for writers, staff positions for journalists – then they might be surprised when their YouTube-famous daughter still needs help paying off her student loans. A mix of economic, cultural, and technological changes emanating from a neoliberal agenda, writes Timberg, “have undermined the way that culture has been produced for the past two centuries, crippling the economic prospects of not only artists but also the many people who supported and spread their work, and nothing yet has taken its place.”

Tech vs. the Creative Class

Timberg isn’t the first to notice. The supposed economic recovery that followed the recession of 2008 did nothing to repair the damage that had been done to the middle class. Only a wealthy few bounced back, and bounced higher than ever before, many of them the elites of Silicon Valley who found a way to harvest much of the wealth generated by new technologies. InCulture Crash, however, Timberg has framed the struggle of the working artist to make a living on his talents.

Besides the overall stagnation of the economy, Timberg shows how information technology has destabilized the creative class and deprofessionalized their labor, leading to an oligopoly of the mega corporations Apple, Google, and Facebook, where success is measured (and often paid) in webpage hits.

What Timberg glances over is that if this new system is an oligopoly of tech companies, then what it replaced – or is still in the process of replacing – was a feudal system of newspapers, publishing houses, record labels, operas, and art galleries. The book is full of enough discouraging data and painful portraits of artists, though, to make this point moot. Things are definitely getting worse.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/killing-americas-creative-class

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Stephen Fry on God | The Meaning Of Life

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Now the Transgender Borg Want to Censor The Vagina Monologues Because they Exclude Women Who Don’t Have Vaginas.

 ¡Ya basta! Enough already!

I’ve fucking well had it.

Women are adult females. I respect the womanhood of non-op transwomen who live as women 24/7 based not on their “identity” but rather on the basis of social politeness, which means you do not question the femaleness of a person presenting as female, nor do you question the maleness of someone presenting as male.

But I have to admit I am somewhat of a physical essentialist.  I didn’t have “Gender Conformation Surgery.”  I had a Sex Change Operation aka Sex Reassignment Surgery.  Like we said back when nearly 50 years ago, the surgery makes it real.

For most of us back when it also cut the ties that bound us to what has become known as the Transgender Community.

A few days ago a friend of ours called us and told us her son had come out as transgender and was becoming a woman.  Of course she used the wrong pronouns.  But when she told us how her child was going about this we were horrified because she had gotten DD breast implants after only 3 months on hormones and never living as a woman.

I don’t remember stuff like this happening back before all this gender identity thing. Dr Benjamin told me I was as perfect a candidate for SRS as anyone he had seen but that I still had to live as a woman for at least a year.

The process was one of physical change of becoming female or male as the case maybe.

After SRS I grew and became more and more feminist.  I saw my oppression in terms of sexism and misogyny.

“Oh, hard is the fortune of all womankind,
She’s always controlled and always confined
Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife
A slave to her husband the rest of her life”

Joan Baez “A Wagoner Lad”

To me Gender, the social roles and their constraints that defined proper masculine men and feminine women were always part of the problem and not part of the solution. My heroes were women who didn’t conform to the proper roles dictated by gender.

One way to step off the road described in that folk song was to never marry and not have children.  Another was to ignore the dictates of gender because having a cunt between my legs made me a woman, not wearing high heels, high fashion, perfectly manicured nails and make-up. I could be a woman tech tracking down a problem with a data probe or o-scope and I was just as much a woman as the perfect ten fashion model.

I support Trans-Rights because I support Equality for all people along with the right to live in dignity.

I cannot in good conscience support the erasure of women as adult human females.  I cannot in good conscience join people who say that having a vagina between one’s legs and going through life with that vagina isn’t a major part of womanhood.  Particularly when so many in the  Transgender Borg World have cut themselves off from the life experiences of non-trans women and men by their sneering contempt towards “cis-gender” folks.

After SRS I took my place in the world of women, a world where having a vagina between one’s legs makes a real difference in one’s life experiences. I’ve had a vagina between my legs for nearly two thirds of my life.  I’ve forgotten what it was like before or even what it was like going through the process.

I’ve been an adult female most of my life and I am offended by the banning of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues based on their some how not being inclusive of transwomen.

As far as I am concerned the Transgender Borg are so off base on this as to show their absolute cluelessness about what it means to actually be a woman.

Furthermore Eve Ensler has in the past staged readings of the Vagina Monologues with transwomen who have read their own vagina monologues.

I’m just going to put up the links to post regarding this latest TransWorld Controversy.

Reason: Women’s College Cancels ‘Vagina Monologues’ Because It Excludes Women Without Vaginas

Advocate: Vagina Monologues Playwright Responds After Show Canceled for Not Being Trans-Inclusive

Huffington Post: Kids Do the Darndest Things! The Vagina Monologues in the Context of Historical Ignorance

Time: Eve Ensler: I Never Defined a Woman as a Person With a Vagina

Huffington Post: Community Civility and a Response to the Controversy Over The Vagina Monologues at Mount Holyoke

New report on anti-Semitism finds France is most dangerous country for Jews

From The Jerusalem Post:   http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/New-report-on-anti-Semitism-finds-France-is-most-dangerous-country-for-Jews-388858

Study presented to the government shows anti-Semitic incidents rose by 400 percent during Operation Protective Edge.

By SAM SOKOL
01/25/2015

France is the “most dangerous country for Jews today,” the Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry asserted Sunday, as Minister Naftali Bennett presented the cabinet with a report on anti-Semitic trends over the past year.

According to the report, which was compiled in collaboration with The Coordination Forum for Countering anti-Semitism and presented ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday, Muslim extremists are the “main instigators of global anti-Semitism.”

“We continue to see deterioration around the world. The old anti-Semitism, spouting the familiar stereotype of a global Jewish conspiracy, is being increasingly coupled with the campaign to delegitimize Israel,“ Bennett said in a statement.

“It is radical Islam which is acting as the bridge for these two racist beliefs. They’ll use any perverted excuse to further their goal, which is the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.

The extreme Left, the report asserted, sometimes makes common cause with Islamic extremists.

In the surge in anti-Semitism during Israel’s Gaza incursion last summer, when incidents rose by 400 percent, the primary perpetrators were Muslims, the report stated. The use of Israel’s actions as a catalyst and excuse for violence reveals a blurring of the boundaries between anti-Zionism and classical anti-Semitism, reinforcing “the importance of Israel as the spearhead of the Jewish people in the fight against anti-Semitism,” the report asserted.

Delegitimization of Israel served as a “major threat” against Jewish communities abroad, and while the increasing influence of the far Right of Europe was cited as a threat, the report reiterated its conclusion that the most violent cases were attributable to Arabs or Muslims.

Continue reading at:  http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/New-report-on-anti-Semitism-finds-France-is-most-dangerous-country-for-Jews-388858

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FGM suspects appear in court in UK’s first genital mutilation trial

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/19/fgm-genital-mutilation-trial-uk-dharmasena

Court told that Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena carried out procedure at a London hospital with encouragement from Hasan Mohamed


Monday 19 January 2015

A hospital doctor carried out female genital mutilation on a young mother after the birth of her first child in a London hospital, a court has heard .

Mounting the first prosecution against someone for carrying out FGM in England and Wales, the Crown alleged that Dr Dhanuson Dharmasena, a junior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Whittington hospital, had mutilated a 24-year-old mother by the manner in which he had sewn her up after childbirth.

The woman had undergone type 3 FGM – in which part of the labia are sewn together – as a child in Africa, and during labour the doctor had made two cuts to her vaginal opening to ensure the safe delivery of her baby. When Dharmasena sewed her up, a midwife warned him that what he had done was illegal. He asked a consultant for advice, and the more senior doctor said it would be “painful and humiliating” to remove the stitch he had made, and it remained in place, the court heard.

“It is the stitching back together by Dr Dharmasena which the prosecution says is an offence under the act,” Kate Bex, prosecuting, told Southwark crown court.

Dharmasena, 32, is charged alongside another man, Hasan Mohamed, 41, who is accused of aiding and abetting the doctor. Both men deny the charges.

The doctor, who qualified in 2005, and began specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology in 2008, had been at the Whittington for a month when the events took place in 2012.

Under the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act, a doctor does not commit an offence if his actions involve a surgical operation on a woman in any stage of labour, or immediately after birth, for purposes connected with the labour or birth.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/19/fgm-genital-mutilation-trial-uk-dharmasena

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More homeless camps are appearing beyond downtown L.A.’s skid row

From The LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-encampments-20150125-story.html

Evicted four months ago from their Highland Park apartment, Louis Morales and his 18-year-old stepson, Arthur Valenzuela, live half-hidden by brush along the nearby Arroyo Seco riverbed.

Morales, 49, keeps a framed bible verse and a stuffed monkey in his tent. Water hauled by bike from a park heats up on the camp stove.

Next door, their friend Johnny Salazar fixes bikes and shattered computer screens on the cheap for people who live in the neighborhood. A brother and sister Morales has known for years live up the river, and three couples stay down by the bridge.

“Everybody here is from Highland Park,” Valenzuela said. “We don’t allow other people.”

Over the last two years, street encampments have jumped their historic boundaries in downtown Los Angeles, lining freeways and filling underpasses from Echo Park to South Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a city-county agency, received 767 calls about street encampments in 2014, up 60% from the 479 in 2013.

Some residents believe the city is exporting its downtown homeless problem to their neighborhoods. But social service agencies and volunteers say it isn’t that simple. They say that although downtown development and skid row cleanups are squeezing out some homeless people, many camps are filled with locals.

Soaring rents, closed shelters and funding cutbacks are pushing residents from neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Boyle Heights into the streets, where they cling to familiar turf.

“Homeless people, especially the mentally ill, they don’t like new,” said Senior Lead Officer Gina Chovan of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Northeast Division. “They want to stay where they know all the nooks and crannies.”

Bound by court decisions, the city has largely quit breaking up homeless groups and confiscating their trash and belongings, leaving the camps to grow and multiply.

Whether homeless people are more numerous or simply more visible could be answered by the biennial tally taking place this week.

As many as 6,000 volunteers will go out Tuesday through Thursday searching for homeless people living in alleys, riverbeds, cars and RVs. For the first time, homeless people will be asked about their gender identity, domestic violence and prison histories, and years of military service — information that could better track where they came from and why.
agency.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-homeless-encampments-20150125-story.html

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French Jewish exodus: ‘In two months we’ll be called filthy Jews again’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/16/french-jews-israel-exodus-felix-freoa

After the attack on the kosher supermarket, Félix Freoa and his family have brought forward their departure from Paris

in Paris
Friday 16 January 2015

Félix Freoa was already intending to emigrate to Israel with his wife and four children in March or April. He and his family have been planning the move for the last couple of years. But after Friday’s deadly hostage-taking at a kosher supermarket they know well, they could wait no longer, and brought forward their departure. “That afternoon, we applied to go next month,” said Félix.

Freoa, 41, made his weekly visit to the kosher bakery next to the Hyper Cacher supermarket “about five minutes before” the hostage taking. “It’sthe first time we’ve been affected personally by an antisemitic attack,” he said. Like other members of the French Jewish community, he was shocked by past attacks such as the 2010 rampage by jihadist Mohamed Merad, who targeted a Jewish school.

“Toulouse was on the television,” he said, referring to the Merad attacks. “But this was real, concrete.” The Freoas only live a few minutes by car from Porte de Vincennes, in Charenton-le-Pont. “I’m worried for my children,” said Freoa. All four of them attend Jewish schools.

 A variety of reasons convinced Freoa to make the aliyah, as Jewish emigration is known. “There’s the weather and the cheaper cost of living in Israel. But every time there’s unrest in the Middle East, it has an effect in France.” Last July, when Israel’s war on Gaza spilled on to French streets, some protesters reportedly cried, “Death to Jews.” “When I went to buy cigarettes, I felt the tension with Muslims,” said Freoa.

He believes his two sons, aged 9 and 3, and two daughters, aged 7 and 6, are looking forward to the move to a beachside house in Agamin near Netanya. “We’ve told them it’s a kind of holiday.”

He and his wife have a sales business and he is confident that he can carry on in Israel. “With a computer and a phone, I’ll be fine – I can work anywhere,” he says. He played down the difficulties of moving to Israel: “We know what to expect. The Israelis are tough, they’re raw. It’s not easy. But the main thing is that our kids are OK.”

Freoa, a TV fan, added: “Aliyah has got much easier over the past 10 years. Now they’ve got French TV in Israel.”

“I’m not super-religious, but France has changed. We keep to ourselves a bit, we spend time with Jewish friends, and people are scared. We don’t feel safe like before.” He says a lot of his Jewish friends are considering emigrating now.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/16/french-jews-israel-exodus-felix-freoa

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That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/16/was-easy-just-60-years-neoliberal-capitalism-has-nearly-broken-planet-earth

Pair of new studies show how various forms of human activity, driven by a flawed economic system and vast consumption, is laying waste to Earth’s natural systems

by Jon Queally
Published on Friday, January 16, 2015Common Dreams

Humanity’s rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point, according to a new pair of related studies.

Prepared by researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the first study looks specifically at how “four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity.” Published in the journal Science* on Thursday, the 18 researchers involved with compiling evidence for the report—titled ‘Planetary Boundaries 2.0‘—found that when it comes to climate change, species extinction and biodiversity loss, deforestation and other land-system changes, and altered biogeochemical cycles (such as changes to how key organic compounds like phosphorus and nitrogen are operating in the environment), the degradation that has already take place is driving the Earth System, as a whole, into a new state of imbalance.

“Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human well-being in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries,” said Professor Will Steffen, a researcher at the Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra, who was lead author for both studies.

In addition to the four boundaries that have already been crossed, the study looked at five other ways in which the planetary systems are under assault by human activity. They include: stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; freshwater use; atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms); and the introduction of novel entities into ecosystems (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).

“I don’t think we’ve broken the planet but we are creating a much more difficult world,” Sarah Cornell, another report author, told Reuters.

In this interview with Wired last year, Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, described the idea about planetary boundaries in details:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/01/16/was-easy-just-60-years-neoliberal-capitalism-has-nearly-broken-planet-earth

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Is women’s visible pubic hair really so shocking that it must be censored?

For the record I don’t shave my body.  Not my pubes, not my arm pits or my legs.  Now I will admit I am not particularly hairy but sometimes it is the thought that counts.  I’m not much into gender and gender defining me as a woman.  Real women have body hair on their pubes, underarms and legs.  It is gender that tells us it is improper for women to have hair in those places.  It is the bullshit of gender that guilt trips women who do not conform by shaving those areas.  Further gender come up with stupidity such as labeling us gender outlaws and deviants if we don’t obey the socially imposed dictates of gender.

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/23/women-visible-pubic-hair-shocking-censored

Now that more women aren’t depilating, we see depictions of what naturally happens when women don’t shave banned from view

Friday 23 January 2015

Shaved, trimmed, left alone, waxed out of existence or Vajazzled, we are both fascinated and utterly repelled by what women do and don’t do with their hair “down there”. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about pubic hair – and it’s always that what someone else is doing is a little weird.

Earlier this week, Instagram deleted the account of Australian magazine Sticks and Stones after it posted a picture of two women in bathing suits with (apparently natural) pubic hair sticking out on the sides. In 2013, the social media platform did the same thing to Canadian photographer Petra Collins when she put up a photo of her unaltered bikini line. (Neither photograph displayed anything approaching actual nudity – just pubes poking out the edges of underwear.)

“I did nothing that violated the terms of use. No nudity, violence, pornography, unlawful, hateful or infringing imagery,” Collins wrote at the time. “What I did have was an image of MY body that didn’t meet society’s standard of ‘femininity.’”

Instagram is hardly alone. The television show The Bachelor has been accused of putting a black bar over a woman’s pubic hair, and earlier this year a painting was removed from a London exhibition because it was deemed “pornographic” for displaying a woman’s pubic hair.

So when did the hair at the high tide line become more shocking than a nipple?

Even as social media sites, television shows and museums are censoring any minute display of women’s pubic hair, a natural look is making a comeback. Last year American Apparel featured mannequins with full bushes in a store window and The New York Times Style section claimed “a fuller look is creeping back”. The Guardian even called 2014 “the year of the bush!”.

Lest you worry that bikini waxers will be going out of business by the handful, they too are changing with the times: you can now purchase a “full bush Brazilian” which involves “removing all hair from the labia and butt crack while leaving the top untouched”. (That sounds to me like a vaginal mullet – “business in the front, party in the back”.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/23/women-visible-pubic-hair-shocking-censored

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Jew Hating Pro-Palestinians Disrupt Council Meeting disruption of the New York City Council meeting during a vote commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

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Penn & Teller’s Bullshit – Vaccinations

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Bishops Freak Out After Catholic Hospitals Consider Giving Equal Rights To Gay People

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/01/26/3615378/bishops-freak-catholic-hospitals-consider-giving-equal-rights-gay-people/

by Ian Millhiser
January 26, 2015

A Catholic Bishop compared requiring all couples to be treated with equal dignity to “the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire” last week. His statement was a response to a Catholic health system’s announcement that they may extend benefits to the legally married spouses of their lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees.

Mercy Health is a large Catholic health care system with over 40,000 employees in seven states. They recently announced that “in line with recent changes in government regulations, we will extend benefits to all legally married spouses effective this spring.” (Though, in another statement, they added that they are still “exploring how best to expand health care benefits for our co-workers.”)

This indication that Mercy intended to extend equal rights to their gay employees prompted Bishop James V. Johnston, the Catholic bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to raise the specter of Roman torture. “No believing Christian worthy of the name should violate God’s law because of ‘regulations,’” Bishop Johnson said in a statement. “Our ancestors refused to abandon the faith even when subjected to the cruelty and torture of the Roman Empire, but in our age unspecified ‘regulations,’ government funds, and fear of public ridicule is sufficient in order to secure the compliance of some.”

Bishop Johnston’s views were echoed — albeit with less overwrought language — in a statement by the Archdiocese of St. Louis. They told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “[i]t is simply inconsistent to claim to be a Catholic institution while publicly acting against Church teaching,” the “Church teaching” in this case apparently being the notion that gay couples do not enjoy the same rights as straight ones. The Archdiocese claimed that “Catholic institutions face sanctions from the American government for fidelity to their Catholic identity.”

If the entire Catholic health system adopted a similar view, that could have profound implications for much of the greater American health care system. The Catholic Health Association estimates that approximately one in six patients in the United States are treated in a Catholic hospital. That is a massive network of employees that could be denied benefits under Bishop Johnston’s position — although it is worth noting that the Catholic Health Association has historically taken relatively moderate positions (at least as compared to Johnson) on questions such as birth control.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/01/26/3615378/bishops-freak-catholic-hospitals-consider-giving-equal-rights-gay-people/

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Auschwitz 70th anniversary: Survivors mark camp liberation

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, A death camp in Poland where the Nazis murdered at least 1.1 million prisoners, around 90 percent of them Jewish; approximately 1 in 6 Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.[1][2]

Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Never Forget.  Never Forgive. Never Again.

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Bill Maher is right about religion: The Orwellian ridiculousness of Jesus, and the truth about moral progress

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/01/18/bill_maher_is_right_about_religion_the_orwellian_ridiculousness_of_jesus_and_the_truth_about_moral_progress/

“Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past”


Sunday, Jan 18, 2015

Excerpted from  “THE MORAL ARC”

Most people believe that moral progress has primarily been due to the guiding light of religious teachings, the activities of spiritual leaders, and the power of faith-based initiatives. In “The Moral Arc” I argue that this is not the case, and that most moral progress is the result of science, reason, and secular values developed during the Enlightenment. Once moral progress in a particular area is underway, most religions eventually get on board—as in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, women’s rights in the 20th century, and gay rights in the 21st century—but this often happens after a shamefully protracted lag time. Why?

 The rules that were dreamt up and enshrined by the various religions over the millennia did not have as their goal the expansion of the moral sphere to include other sentient beings. Moses did not come down from the mountain with a detailed list of the ways in which the Israelites could make life better for the Moabites, the Edomites, the Midianites, or for any other tribe of people that happened not to be them. One justification for this constricted sphere can be found in the Old Testament injunction to “Love thy neighbor,” who at that time was one’s immediate kin and kind, which was admittedly an evolutionary stratagem appropriate for the time. It would be suicidal to love thy neighbor as thyself when thy neighbor would like nothing better than to exterminate you, which was often the case for the Bronze Age peoples of the Old Testament. What good would have come of the Israelites loving, for example, the Midianites as themselves? The results would have been catastrophic given that the Midianites were allied with the Moabites in their desire to see the Israelites wiped off the face of the earth.

Today, of course, most Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that moral principles are universal and apply to everyone, but this is because they have inculcated into their moral thinking the modern Enlightenment goal of broadening and redefining the parameters of moral consideration. But by their nature the world’s religions are tribal and xenophobic, serving to regulate moral rules within the community but not seeking to embrace humanity outside their circle. Religion, by definition, forms an identity of those like us, in sharp distinction from those not us, those heathens, those unbelievers. Most religions were pulled into the modern Enlightenment with their fingernails dug into the past. Change in religious beliefs and practices, when it happens at all, is slow and cumbersome, and it is almost always in response to the church or its leaders facing outside political or cultural forces.

The history of Mormonism is a case in point. In the 1830s the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, received a revelation from God to enact what he euphemistically called “celestial marriage,” more accurately described as “plural marriage”—the rest of the world calls it polygamy—just about the time he found a new love interest while married to another woman. Once Smith caught the Solomonic fever for multiple wives (King Solomon had 700), he couldn’t stop himself or his brethren from spreading their seed, along with the practice, which in 1852 was codified into Mormon law through its sacred “Doctrines and Covenants.” Until 1890, that is, when the people of Utah—desirous for their territory to become a state in the union—were told by the United States federal government that polygamy would not be tolerated.

Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2015/01/18/bill_maher_is_right_about_religion_the_orwellian_ridiculousness_of_jesus_and_the_truth_about_moral_progress/

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Transgender society: Serving in silence / Allyson Robinson, Military, LGBT, Equality

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Mance Lipscomb

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Israel to allow sex changes on ID card without surgery Read more: Israel to allow sex changes on ID card without surgery

From The Times of Israel:  http://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-to-allow-sex-changes-on-id-card-without-surgery/

Following Supreme Court ruling, Interior Ministry changes standards for recognizing gender change

By JTA
January 19, 2015

Israel’s Interior Ministry will allow citizens to change the gender designation on their national identity cards without having a sex-change operation.

The decision comes after Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the ministry to change the gender designation from male to female on the identity cards of two citizens, Haaretz reported. They had been allowed to change their names prior to the court’s intervention.

The Interior Ministry agreed to change its procedure last week after meeting with officials from the Health and Justice ministries, during which the Health Ministry officials informed the participants that other countries have recognized criteria for determining that a person has changed his or her gender outside of surgery, according to Haaretz.Many countries and US states allow a doctor or social worker to affirm that a person identifies as the opposite gender.

Under the new procedure, the existing Health Ministry committee that approves sex-change operations will set criteria for determining a gender change without surgery and certify applicants who wish to register an official change in his or her gender.

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Transgender woman denied access to Western Wall

From The Jerusalem Post:   http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Transgender-woman-denied-access-to-Western-Wall-386979

When she approached the women’s section she was turned away by an Orthodox woman patrolling the site who said she is not a woman.

Kay Long, who designs wedding dresses, evening gowns and costumes, on Monday visited the Western Wall with a friend visiting from Madrid.

When she approached the women’s section she was turned away by an Orthodox woman patrolling the site who said she is not a woman. She was not allowed into the men’s section because she does not look like a man and in any case would not wear a yarmulke.

“From an early age we are taught that if we place a note at the Kotel our prayers might be answered,” she wrote Monday using the heading “Dilemma” on her Facebook page, under a photo of her outside the Western Wall plaza with the Kotel in the background. “All that’s left now is to take a picture and say a prayer from afar with the hope that it will be answered. Because God is everywhere and loves us all.”

After hundreds of comments and likes, Long on Tuesday morning posted a clarification, saying that she had no intention of praying at the Western Wall during her visit, and believes that it is more important for the Orthodox worshippers to be there than for her to make a scene.

“Inside, I believe that God is everywhere,” she wrote, adding that she believes in a live and let live motto.

“The point is, I decided to respect humans wherever they choose to be, and they didn’t respect me,” she wrote.

“Your prayers will be answered because you are a pure person and more wise than all of those who prevent you from coming close to the Kotel,” one of her Facebook friends responded, who also decried “gross discrimination,” against transgender people in Israel.

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Too rich to get sick? Disneyland measles outbreak reflects anti-vaccination trend

From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/17/too-rich-sick-disneyland-measles-outbreak-reflects-anti-vaccination-trend

In Orange County, California, wealthier, better-educated parents are less inclined to immunise their children. Doctors warn of a public health time-bomb

in Los Angeles
Saturday 17 January 2015

Travel north to south in Orange County, a coastal strip of 34 cities in southern California which includes Disneyland, and the growing size and opulence of the houses show people getting richer.

Trawl medical records, and you notice something else: children getting fewer vaccinations.

“The rate of immunisation falls as you go north to south. It tracks the socio-economic statistics in the county,” said Matt Zahn, medical director of Epidemiology and Assessment for the Orange County Health Care Agency.

At Capistrano Unified school district, for instance, there was a 9.5% rate of children not fully vaccinated because of parents’ beliefs. At the nearby, poorer Santa Ana Unified district, in contrast, only 0.2% of kindergartners had exemptions on file.

A measles outbreak at Disneyland, stemming from an unvaccinated young woman dubbed patient zero, has shone a light on such dichotomies. Officials have confirmed at least 32 cases, almost all of them unvaccinated.

It is a strange first-world irony that wealthier, better-educated parents are the ones reducing infant vaccination rates, said Zahn. “Many people in this country have never seen a case of measles,” he said. “We’re a victim of our own success.”

The outbreak has triggered recrimination towards an eclectic group of activists who are accused of sabotaging immunisation campaigns by peddling medical myths.

“If we get to a few thousand cases in this country we’ll start seeing deaths. That’s unconscionable,” said Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Continue reading at: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/17/too-rich-sick-disneyland-measles-outbreak-reflects-anti-vaccination-trend

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