Bill Maher, American hero: Laughing at religion is exactly what the world needs

From Salon:

Maher’s stances get him called a bigot. We should thank him instead, for taking a necessary battle to the faithful

Sunday, Apr 26, 2015

Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time,” is a shining beacon of the New American Enlightenment, radiant with goodness and hope.

But first, a bit of background.

No matter what anyone says, religion is a deeply, if darkly, hilarious topic, and the sundry tomes of the sacred canon read more like joke books than anything else, albeit sick joke books.  How can we, in the 21st century, having mapped (and even edited) the human genome, engineered pluripotent stem cells, and discovered the Higgs Boson, be expected to revere the dusty old Bible, for example, with its quarreling goatherds and idolatrous tribesmen, and its golden calves and talking snakes, to say nothing of its revenge-porn (against unbelievers) finale?  How can we not laugh aloud when Genesis declares that Almighty God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, yet had to pilfer a rib from Adam to produce Eve?  What are we to make of Numbers 22:28-30, wherein the Lord intervenes, not to part the sea or still the sun, but to set Balaam’s donkey a-jabbering?  How are we supposed to accept Jesus as an up-to-snuff savior when, in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-14, he loses his temper and cusses out a fig tree, condemning it to death, for not bearing fruit out of season?  Any second-grade science-class student would have known better, and possibly even exercised more self-control.

“Properly read,” declared the science-fiction author and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov, “the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”  He was right.  The same may be said of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which the late, dearly missed Christopher Hitchens called “not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require.”

The proper response to religion, riddled as it is with absurdities, is, thus, laughter, either of the belly-slapping, table-pounding kind or the pitying, head-shaking sort.  Laughter, but also outrage.  After all, those who take such absurdities as manifestations of the Godhead have, especially since the Reagan years, hogged the moral high ground and commandeered American politics, polluting public discourse with their reactionary cant and halting progress in reproductive rights, science (think the Bush-era ban on stem cell research) and education (to wit: stubborn attempts to have oxymoronic “Intelligent Design” rubbish taught in schools).  Look abroad, and the panorama of savagery religion must answer for curdles the blood.  No rationalist could contemplate all this entirely unnecessary faith-driven regress and backsliding with anything but anger, tempered with despair.  If we want to do true and lasting good in this world, we are morally obligated to fight faith in the open, and root it out from every nook and cranny in which it hides.

Facing such a task, a desire for comic relief is only natural.  Bill Maher is where anger, outrage and religion meet – in humor.  (This essay will address only his stance on religion.)  There is nothing un-American about his faith-bashing – far from it.  Thomas Jefferson, who denied the divinity of Jesus, wrote that, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions” – and what is religion but a jumble of unintelligible propositions about our cosmos and its origins?  Yet Maher has incited no small amount of ire among both the faith-addled masses (fully two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus actually rose from the dead, and almost half expect him to return in the coming decades) and their muddleheaded sympathizers for his brutal broadsides against religion, and Islam in particular.  Bigot! Racist! Islamophobe! they cry, at times bemoaning the “offense” they purport to have suffered from his words, and illustrating how far the cognitive capacities of so many of us have deteriorated since Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority began meddling in politics.  (This can be no coincidence.)  Their real message to Maher: Shut up!

Name-calling is the last resort of losers — in this case, losers waging an unwinnable war against the spread of godlessness.  And “shut up!” is the last command of which the Greats of the Enlightenment and their heirs would have approved.  The 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty, put it best, referring to suppressed speech: “If the opinion is right, [the shutter-uppers] are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”  If Maher is really so wrong, why not let him hoist himself by his own petard?

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Lying Anti-Christ Worshiper Janet Porter: Supreme Court Marriage Ruling Could Land Christians In Jail

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Stiglitz on Reaganomics

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I Did Not Watch The Jenner Train Wreck aka Dog and Pony Show aka Reality TV Series Launch

Way back in 1962 when I first tentatively came out to my parents I had a hero, April Ashley, who had her biography serialized in one of the tabloid newspapers.

When I started hormones in 1969 and started living as a woman I was the only person with transsexualism that I knew.  My role models were AFAB women, mostly hippie/left wing women.  I came out in what is the bohemian culture.  Not the gay and lesbian culture and not the Casa Susanna/Tri-Ess pre-transgender communities.

I don’t think of myself as transgender.  I abhor the pushing of gender, gender, gender as I find this gender thing to be little more than the repurposing/repackaging/recycling of oppressive sex roles.  The sort of stuff one of my real heroes, Simone de Beauvoir wrote about in The Second Sex.

Since I am a believer in self examining of life and rejection of cliched thinking, which is often mindless acceptance of sloganeering rather than actual thought, I have found myself forced to ask if I should call myself or consider myself transsexual any more.  Seriously… It has been over 50 years since I first came out, nearly 50 years since I started the process of changing sex.

It worked and cured me. Since sex reassignment surgery I lost all desire for changing my sex. I wish I could say I felt perfectly comfortable with my body, but with the exception of a few years when I was harshly training in the martial arts I have always felt weak or flabby or fat.  I had a bout with anorexia for about a year or two before coming out as a dyke.


I love the word dyke.  I realize it has become a forbidden word in the new world order of gender, gender, gender. I use to have a t-shirt I absolutely loved.  It said “Warm Fuzzy Dyke” in about 120pt Comic Sans.

During the second half of the 1970s I learned to hold fashion and sex roles in utter contempt.  I still had a subscription for Vogue and could not only name the various photographers from style but could probably tell you what cameras they shot and the film likely used to produce the images.  In those days I wore the Nikon necklaces along with my t-shirts, jeans, leather jacket and running shoes.

I didn’t get SRS because of the clothes.  I was a bohemian hippie with hair down my back, beads and any clothes I felt like wearing.  What they call transition today was about changing physical sex and being a hippie woman/girl instead of a hippie man/boy.  It wasn’t even about who I had sex with because in the days of free love I had sex with people not genitals.

What I am trying to say is I just don’t get the incredible ideological word salad of today’s “Transgender Community.”

I met others after the first few months on hormones and living out my trial period. It seemed like there were two groups of folks on hormones, transsexuals who would get SRS and queens who wouldn’t.  Lots of folks said they wanted SRS but never put in the effort to actually get it.  In the mid-1970s heading into the 1980s people started using the term “transgender” for those folks.

Towards the late 1980s Tapestry Magazine and the IFGE started pushing “Transgender” as a collective descriptor.

I’ve been on line since the mid-1990s, an inconvenient surviving pioneer of the early days, one who  still remembers things.

One of the things I remember is how there have been so many media messiahs, who were going to validate and legitimatize the trans-communities.  I also remember how after a few years they were either discarded or said something deemed politically incorrect and wound up publicly vilified.

Faces come and go Riki Wilchins was popular in the 1990s and is today treated as an out of touch dinosaur.

Mara Keisling is a legitimate long time activist, not an attention grabbing media whore, and yet she has slid from the public face of trans-activism.

There are a hell of a lot of sisters and brothers out there fighting the good fight, doing activism in a way I gave up on many years ago. Some of them are freaking heroes for their commitment and spokespeople by their shear ability to articulate the problems and issues in a way that the mainstream can understand.

Me?  I’m just an old hippie dyke.  More articulate about lots of other issues than I am about those of a community I no longer consider myself part of.

I am bothered by the hailing of Jenner as some sort of Messiah. There has never been any sort of actual test as to whether or not someone is actually transsexual other than maybe Cybele’s Knife and getting actual SRS.  Any sort of test for transgender is even sketchier.

It’s all perception and judgement.  Way back when we used to say that someone, “smelled right.”  That meant we perceived them as knowledgeable and sane, aware of what they were actually getting themselves into.

Dr. Benjamen’s real life test was another way of separating out sincere people from those looking for a thrill or wanting to live out a fantasy.

I get lost in the word salad of transspeak but there is definitely something that seems off about Jenner. I’ve watched the last few years as people were burned by the frantic media whoring of Ashley Love, Parker Molloy, Zoey Tur and others who were rapidly rising stars who suddenly turned into spewing internet trolls.

Maybe it’s Jenner’s pronoun choice.  Maybe the admission of the embrace of a political faction that is actively waging war against TS/TG folks.

All of a sudden people of the political faction Jenner claims to be a part of are trying to pass laws making it a crime for trans-folks to use gender appropriate restroom.  There is even a proposition  by the political faction he claims to be a part of, that advocates for the murder of LGBT people.

Who is to say what Jenner is really up to?  I could see him as poster boy for the anti-TS/TG political right wing.  Either overtly or inadvertently.

I know people keep bringing up the Olympic athlete schtick, but that was nearly 40 years ago.  Lately he is famous for being a media whore on a reality show with the Kardashians., hardly a credibility endowing profession.

You want a spokes person for the trans-community pick one of our MDs, one of our tenured Ph.D. Professors, one of our many lawyers.  Pick Lynn Conway or Andrea James there are thousands, literally thousands of far better candidates than Jenner.

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Galileo’s Middle Finger Reflected Back at the Defenders of the Anti-trans Pseudoscience of J. Michael Bailey

From Huffington Post:


Alice Dreger’s new book, Galileo’s Middle Finger, is a curious addition to the literature of the anti-trans movement from a woman who has done some very good work on those who are genitally intersex. Unfortunately, her claim about searching for the truth as an activist, anti-activist, and historian falls apart on several very important points.

To review, Professor Dreger is a friend of Professor Michael Bailey, whose exploits with the trans community in the early aughts was described in his infamous The Man Who Would Be Queen. I reviewed the current attempt to rehabilitate Dr. Bailey by several of his friends, including Dr. Dreger, in a recent Huffington Post column. I’ve recently read her book as well as two reviews which just appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The best description of the book is that it’s a rant, and an extremely tedious one at times, delving into a level of detail which bored even me, (and I’m familiar with most of the characters), by a woman I would call a neoconservative sexologist. Having performed the grueling work of an activist in helping protect newborns with ambiguous genitalia from mutilating surgeries without informed consent, she turned, grudgingly by her description, to protecting Professor Bailey from his trans critics. Her analysis of the behavior of the trans activists left her in such despair that she became a self-described “anti-activist.” This shift in thinking is reminiscent of the political neocons who were once proud leftists but turned towards the hard right during the Reagan years out of a sense of betrayal by their former colleagues.

As an historian, and one who is deeply concerned with her reputation as a truth seeker, she candidly admits the object of her concern is not without flaws. After admitting that she is not a scientist, she almost immediately claims that there is little evidence to back up the consensus position on human sexual development. Either she’s lying, or hasn’t done her homework. As I’ve presented, the developing consensus was already publicly available back in 2005 in a publication co-authored by many of the luminaries in the field, called “Atypical Gender Development.” In the ensuing decade the evidence has continued to pile up, but it has had no impact on her search for the truth. She still considers the consensus as ideologically biased and intent on a witch hunt, led by a number of well-known and highly successful trans activists. That one of these women is a well-respected economist (Deirdre McCloskey) and another is one of the most important inventors in American history (Lynn Conway) has no effect on her critique. Poor Professor Bailey has been attacked and must be defended by her, her actions enabling others to rise to his defense as well.

This non-scientist then admits that Bailey’s work on the trans community is not based on his own research, but is just his contribution to promoting the work of a Dr. Ray Blanchard. Dr. Blanchard is on staff at the notorious gender clinic associated with the University of Toronto (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) known as “Jurassic Clarke.” Dr. Blanchard’s typology of transsexualism, based on nothing more than his personal mode of classification, divides trans women (and note, there is never any talk of trans men, which in itself condemns this research, begun in the ’80s, as utter nonsense) into two categories — extremely feminine gay men and perversely erotically-driven cross-dressing men. There is no science to this analysis. There are no randomized and blinded studies, and no research into non-trans women who exhibit similar behavior. These Freudian constructs of Dr. Blanchard and his close friends and colleagues, including Drs. Bailey and Ken Zucker, are not based on objective criteria, but are rooted in the assumption that gender identity doesn’t exist and the trans phenomenon is composed of two different forms of sexual orientation. Unfortunately for them, the existence of gender identity (in the context of an intersex condition called cloacal exstrophy) was proven in 2004 by Dr. William Reiner, then at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and today the number of people who believe that transsexualism is a type of sexual orientation is similar to the number of climate change deniers. This small number is evidence for Dreger that they are actually a small remnant that is struggling to tell the truth to a politically correct, brainwashed mainstream of medical doctors and psychologists, who’ve been intimidated by trans women who happen to make up an overwhelming 0.15% of the population.

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How the New Flexible Economy is Making Workers’ Lives Hell

This sort of corporate crap doesn’t even permit a worker to have a second job to make up for being only a part time employee.

Any company doing this should be required to pay $25 per hour for a minimum 25 hour week plus health care.

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Monday, April 20, 2015

These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of  information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.

Just-in-time scheduling is another part of America’s new “flexible” economy – along with the move to independent contractors and the growing reliance on “share economy” businesses, like Uber, that purport to do nothing more than connect customers with people willing to serve them.

New software is behind all of this – digital platforms enabling businesses to match their costs exactly with their needs.

The business media considers such flexibility an unalloyed virtue. Wall Street rewards it with higher share prices. America’s “flexible labor market” is the envy of business leaders and policy makers the world over.

There’s only one problem. The new flexibility doesn’t allow working people to live their lives.

Businesses used to consider employees fixed costs  – like the costs of factories, offices, and equipment. Payrolls might grow or shrink over time as businesses expanded or contracted, but from year to year they were fairly constant.

That meant steady jobs. And with steady jobs came steady paychecks along with regular and predictable work schedules.

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Lisa Vogel Announces the End of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

From Facebook

Dear Sisters, Amazon, Festival family,

It has been my honor and privilege to produce the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for 40 years. It has been my life’s work, my deepest commitment, my constant challenge and my most profound joy. Every single thing of value I have learned in the world I have learned in the process of being part of building this beloved community. Almost every friend and family member who I cherish I have met on that hallowed ground, and every single way I have learned to put my mind/heart/shoulder into the purpose of creating something beautiful that honors womyn has come from the sweat I earned on that Land.

I am writing to tell you that the 40th Festival will be the last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The spirit of this community will live on forever, the friends and family we have found on the Land are eternal. Everything we have created together will feed the inspiration for what comes next. It’s possible that I will come back with something else, or that other sisters will take the inspiration of the Michigan community and create the next expression of our Amazon culture. What is true for me is that now is the time to bring this 40-year cycle to a close, stepping out on joy at our most incredible anniversary celebration.

We have known in our hearts for some years that the life cycle of the Festival was coming to a time of closure. Too often in our culture, change is met only with fear, the true cycle of life is denied to avoid the grief of loss. But change is the ultimate truth of life. Sisters – I ask you to remember that our 40 year Festival has outlived nearly all of her kin. She has served us well. I want us all to have the opportunity to experience the incredible full life cycle of our beloved Festival, consciously, with time to celebrate and yes, time to grieve.

There have been struggles; there is no doubt about that. This is part of our truth, but it is not–and never has been–our defining story. The Festival has been the crucible for nearly every critical cultural and political issue the lesbian feminist community has grappled with for four decades. Those struggles have been a beautiful part of our collective strength; they have never been a weakness.

For many of us this one week in the woods is the all too rare place and time where we experience validation for our female bodies, and where the female experience presides at the center of our community focus. A place to lay our burden down from the misogyny that pervades our lives from cradle to grave…a place to live in intergenerational community, and to live in harmony with Mother Earth. I know this is true for me. And I have a deep trust that each and every one of us can take what we have experienced on that Land and continue to create space that feeds our spirit, creates diverse community, honors our experience and supports our struggle as womyn making our way through the patriarchal world. Please take what you love about Michigan and use it to create something new and beautiful.

It is important that each and every one of us knows she is empowered to build on what we have experienced together on the Land. Everything you feel on the Land, everything you see – is something of spirit, and love, and passion for female empowerment….for womyn’s community. The Festival’s 40 years of culture and community are a powerful seed and our communal experiences have created fertile ground to plant in. I know that we will find inspiration and vision to create our next time and space.

For those of us who will be gathering for our 40th anniversary this August – let’s joyously hold up our incredible community and allow ourselves to be strong enough to consciously let go of this incarnation of her, with all the love we each hold in our beautiful hearts. Let us gather this August knowing that what we truly cherish about the Festival lives on in each of us, and more will come from this fertile ground. Let’s do this up together – Amazon proud!

I will meet you there in August – my eyes meeting yours, heart wide open.

With all of my love and respect,

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