The banishment of John, Part 2.

[CONTENT NOTE: xenophobia, bigotry, Islamophobia and a whole bunch of other horrible shit.]

Part 1 is here.

We last left off in November, at the point in our story where commenter khms and I responded to (yet another one of) John Miller’s terrible comments. Having thought—nay, hoped—this was the end of it, I was surprised to see that John recently responded to us. And now khms has responded to him beautifully, and you should go read that; as has Rotary Wing, and you should go read that too, if for no other reason than to see two sparkling specimens of civil, mockery-free, reality-based rebuttals to John’s bigoted, vicious, fact-free conservative noise.

But now it’s my turn. And I plan to relish dismembering the horrifying shitshow that is the mind of John Miller, conservative—for the very last time.

NOTE: It is always worth remembering that there is virtually never any point in deploying reason and evidence to argue with conservatives. They are by definition not terribly rational people, and thus neither facts nor reason will sway them in the direction of accepting reality—in fact, the opposite effect is just as likely to occur. There are, however, two important exceptions to the utter pointlessness of engaging with conservatives. The first is for the infotainment of other people, such as lurkers, bystanders, captive dinner guests, fellow bar flies, beloved Loyal Readers™, etc. The second is for the pleasure to be found in sharpening one’s own rhetorical fangs, either to prepare for the aforementioned audience, or for the sheer enjoyment of it in its own right. I leave it to Loyal Readers™ to determine under which caveat(s) this particular exercise falls.

NOTE 2: Because I quote from John’s final comment as well as material from elsewhere, in order to avoid any (highly unlikely) confusion as to who is doing the talking, I have taken the liberty of making all quotes from John’s text the color of shit.


First, let us all behold with awe and wonder John’s retort in its entirety:

KHMS, been to Marseilles, Paris, London or Bradford recently? Watched TV or read a newspaper? Half the children born in France and Britain are born as Muslims – despite them being (around) 5% of the population. The second language in Marseilles? French. The first, Arabic.

Many of the Muslims in these communities have little respect for the cultures to which they have chosen to live. They want to destroy them and turn them into the shitholes from whence they have come.

They have high levels of welfare dependence, they breed like rabbits. If they don’t take over countries with the Kalashnikov or the suicide bomb they’ll certainly do it with the pork sword.

The freedoms that have attracted these people to Europe are the very freedoms that are under threat. America seems to have missed out on the Muslim onslaught. Australia hasn’t, having excepted anyone and everyone who chose to come her by boat over the last five years.

KHMS, go spend a week In Marseilles, London, Paris and Bradford, then report back.

Iris, I would have described the core values of Western culture as democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, equality for women and girls coupled the right to an education and the right to marry who they choose, freedom from institutionalized paedophilia and genital mutilation, the separation of powers … These values need to be cherished and protected. I don’t know why you’d continue to live in a society that was ‘patriarchal, imperialist, racist, colonialist’. Come to Australia, we don’t have many patriarchs, imperialists, racists or colonists, we’re more laid back here. We’re more interested in football, cricket and tennis. If you come to Canberra I’ll show you around. You’ll meet some fair dinkum, true blue, dinky di, fun-loving Aussies.

When people come to Australia they don’t have to sign up to a set of values that those born her are inculcated with from birth. We take our way of life for granted, until we see how Muslims come in, live in enclaves and start to run their own societies. It’s costing Australian governments billions of dollars beefing up security arrangements to second guess would be terrorists. Yep, welcome to the new Australia.

I believe Western nations need to have a document that sets out some of the cultural rules. If people don’t like them they can go somewhere else. People then have a choice, fit in or ship out.

Wearing headgear is the ultimate symbol of not wanting to fit in to the society that’s welcomed them. In the 1920’s Kemal Ataturk got rid of the head gear, thus liberating Muslim women. These days the sisterhood thinks it’s smart to encourage Muslim women to wear what ever they like – not recognising the symbolism.

When ever you see a woman wearing a burka, hijab or scarf you know they’re both the victim and perpetrator of misogyny on a grand scale.

Well then. Shall we begin?

KHMS, been to Marseilles, Paris, London or Bradford recently? Watched TV or read a newspaper? Half the children born in France and Britain are born as Muslims – despite them being (around) 5% of the population.

BZZZT. I don’t know what TV John’s watching or newspapers he’s reading (though I have my suspicions!), but these birthrate claims are simply false. As in, WRONG:

Around the world, the global average Muslim family size has fallen from 4.3 children per family in 1995 to 2.9 in 2010, and is expected to fall below the population-growth rate, and converge with Western family sizes, by mid-century.

Muslims in France and Germany are now having only 2.2 children per family, barely above the national average. And while Pakistani immigrants in Britain have 3.5 children each, their British-born daughters have only 2.5. Across Europe, the difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim fertility rate has fallen from 0.7 to 0.4, and is headed toward a continent-wide convergence.


The second language in Marseilles? French. The first, Arabic.

OMG THESE MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS SPEAK A FOREIGN LANGUAGE!!!11!!!! Even if this is true, it is not the slightest bit alarming in any way. You know how I know? I know because there are many, many cities and towns in the United States where the primary language spoken is not English. In the state of California, 43.8% of people over 5 years old speak a language other than English at home, and that figure rises to over 90% in cities and towns across that state. (And that’s to say nothing of enormous, heavily populated ethnic-minority and immigrant neighborhoods that make up large swaths of California’s major cities, like Los Angeles and San Francisco.) And guess what? No one except conservatives gives a shit. Well, the rest of us care because we want non-English speaking immigrants and their children to have access to the resources they need to learn basic English proficiency. And unlike John, we all understand that immigrant populations acquire English fluency by the second generation (frequently accompanied by the loss of fluency in their family language, unfortunately).


Many of the Muslims in these communities have little respect for the cultures to which they have chosen to live. They want to destroy them and turn them into the shitholes from whence they have come.


Actually, Muslims change their cultural views dramatically when they emigrate. For example, 62% of American Muslims say that “a way can be found for the state of Israel to exist so that the rights of Palestinians are addressed” — a rate barely lower than that of average Americans (67%), and vastly ahead of the miniscule response among Middle Eastern Muslims — for whom between 20% and 40% agreed with that statement.

Similarly, 39% of American Muslims and 47% of German Muslims say they tolerate homosexuality, compared to single-figure responses in most Islamic countries — and those rates are rising with each immigrant generation. On these important questions, Muslim immigrants are converging with Western values fast.


They have high levels of welfare dependence,

Actually, it is true that immigrants generally have significantly higher levels of welfare use than native-born US citizens. Much of that gap is accounted for by lower education levels, language barriers and other factors leading to lower pay among some of our largest immigrant populations. But! It is also true that immigrant households generally are significantly more likely to have workers than native households:

Of legal immigrant households, 85 percent had one or more workers, as did 95 percent of illegal immigrant households and 76 percent of native households.

If those two facts seem contradictory, consider that welfare as it currently exists in the US is designed to supplement low-wage workers, among whom there is a disproportionate share of immigrants.

But we were talking about Muslims specifically. It is much more difficult to find data on US welfare use and religious affiliation—at least if we discount sources like Breitbart, World News Daily, Eagle Forum and other right-wing propaganda outlets best known for distortion levels that would have made Jimmy Hendrix scream in pain and then set himself on fire instead of his guitar. Also, the US census does not ask questions about religion, so it is difficult to determine how many Muslims there are and where. But there are some things we do know that have a bearing on Muslims and their (alleged) uniquely high levels of welfare dependence.

Muslim Americans have income levels that match the US public. Immigrant Muslims are slightly more affluent than native-born Muslims: 41% of all Muslim Americans and 45% of immigrant Muslims report annual household income levels of $50,000 or higher, compared to the national average of 44%. Among high-income earners, 19% of immigrant Muslims claim annual household incomes of $100,000 or higher, compared to the U.S. average of 17 %. This is likely due to the strong concentration of Muslims in professional, managerial, and technical fields, especially in information technology, education, medicine, law, and the corporate world.*
*[Text excerpted from Strengthening America: The Civic and Political Integration of Muslim Americans, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, © 2007; Statistical data excerpted from Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, Pew Research Center, May 22, 2007; via the U.S. State Department.]

Muslim Americans are highly educated. “[40%] of Muslims say they have a college degree, making them the second most highly educated religious group surveyed after Jews (61 percent), compared with 29 percent of Americans overall who say they have a college degree, according to Gallup [PDF]. That carries across gender lines, with Muslim females being the second-most educated religious group in the country, after Jewish females.”

Sadly, because he is a proud, card-carrying math illiterate, John will not understand any of that.


they breed like rabbits.



If they don’t take over countries with the Kalashnikov or the suicide bomb

If that’s their plan, they really better step up their game over here.


they’ll certainly do it with the pork sword.



The freedoms that have attracted these people to Europe are the very freedoms that are under threat.

Perhaps Muslim immigrants are attracted to the “freedom” of living in a place that isn’t being occupied, bombed, destroyed, exploited and/or otherwise destabilized by Western governments and their agents? Or “freedom” from violent Islamists created, armed and empowered by the West? I mean, even John can probably grok the fact that by far, most victims of Muslim terrorism are other Muslims.

Or maybe not.  :|

The freedoms under threat in Europe are the same freedoms under threat in the US—not from Muslims, mind you, but from conservatives, who currently allow Muslims to be used as a convenient pretext for radically undermining democracy, civil rights and the rule of law—a.k.a. freedom. See, e.g., mass surveillance, mass incarceration, police militarization, illegal wars, press freedom erosion, lawless drone assassinations and elite immunity from large-scale crimes, just off the top of my head.

But somehow I doubt those are the freedoms John worries about. No, apparently there are other, Very Important FREEDOMS™ under imminent threat from small and politically powerless populations of Muslims.


America seems to have missed out on the Muslim onslaught.

Not for long: they’re among the fastest growing immigrant groups to the US. And, once again, no one cares except conservatives. Because the rest of us know we are a nation with a long history of immigration (and colonization—a topic for another time), and we know that immigrants assimilate within a few generations. But more to the point, there isn’t exactly an “onslaught” in Europe, either:

In fact, we now have several large-scale projections based on population-growth trends and immigration rates which show that the Muslim populations of Europe are growing increasingly slowly and that by the middle of this century — even if immigration rates are not reduced — the proportion of Muslims in Europe will probably peak somewhere short of 10% (it is currently around 7%). By that point, Muslims will have family sizes and age profiles not that different from Europe in general.

And what if it’s even double that? Say, 20%? Immigrants assimilate—unless shitweasels like John see to it that they cannot, of course.


Australia hasn’t, having excepted [sic] anyone and everyone who chose to come her  [sic] by boat over the last five years.

WRONG. And that’s a real bang-up job you guys are doing over there, too. Goddamn paragons of human rights, to which we can all only hope to aspire!



KHMS, go spend a week In Marseilles, London, Paris and Bradford, then report back.

Sounds fantastic! Hey khms, if you go let me know when and where you’ll be and I’ll try to come meet up with you. And while we’re having a ball touring around some of the great cities of Europe, John will go spend a week investigating Australian immigration policy (including its history of white European immigration and its present-day immigrant detention centres) and report back to us.



Stay tuned for Part 3.


If You Must Have a Religion, Consider One I Just Made Up – Reasonism


If you could invent a religion, what would it look like? You might ask yourself, Why would I want to do that? Well, that would be a good question. We’re in the information age, there’s been a scientific revolution, we’ve sent a space probe beyond the solar system and wonders are heralded daily on TV, newspapers and the internet. Religions are myths and superstitions—haven’t we got too many of such antediluvian systems of prejudice already?

The question arises because a recent Huffington Post article on January 20th described a contest seeking ideas for a new religion. Not being enamored of any of the tens of thousands of religions invented since early man took up bipedalism, especially the latest versions that animate followers of one to wreak havoc on the followers of others, I thought, Hey, maybe I can get a religion after all. All that’s required is that I make one up.

So, I checked out the contest details, followed the links to sponsoring organizations and pondered qualities I’d like to see in a religion, if I could invent one. My interest increased when I read the winner’s prize is $5,000.

Here are key details and rules—maybe you might like to try your hand at inventing a religion. Surely you can do as well as the ancient nincompoops who invented those on offer today. In 300 words or less, contestants should note how their religion could:

  • Change the world for the better.
  • Act as a powerful force for good.
  • Offer hypothetical rituals, holidays and traditions that would make the new religion unique.

Sponsors include the 92nd Street Y (a Jewish non-profit cultural center, not part of the YMCA), the website On Being and the John Templeton Foundation.

The contest ends on February 14.

My Entry in the Contest: Reasonism

Reasonism will be a religion that guides the world toward the better natures of our essence. It will cut across boundaries, strengthen our sense of community and act as a force of good. Reasonism will be a rational guide to well-founded beliefs. The core values of Reasonism will be:

• No one-true-religion claims.

• Allows for unlimited schisms.

• No clergy, no churches and no subsidies from non-members (e.g. taxpayers) required.

• Empowers adherents.

• Promotes science, exploration, learning and kindness.

• Focuses on solutions to challenges in the life we know.

• No holy books, no punishments and no evangelizing.

• A faith in evidence philosophy that improves the world.

Reasonism will be a philosophy that affirms the ethical commitments of existing religious structures and communities that inspire personal fulfillment and the greater good for all humanity.

It will be a religion guided by reason, compassion and experience; Reasonism will celebrate living well and fully.

It will welcome new knowledge and understanding derived by observation, experimentation and rational analysis.

The rituals created by Reasonism’s adherents will celebrate joy, advance justice, demonstrate mercy, respect truth, embrace freedom, cultivate courage, accept reality, love nature and endeavor to make our fellow creatures happy.

As for holidays, with Reasonism every day will be seen and appreciated as a holiday, every dawn a holy night. The traditions of Reasonism will be created through natural selection, as generation after generation of Reasonists embrace and treasure adaptations that become traditions—all based upon customs that best embody the religion’s creed of joy, justice, mercy, truth, freedom, courage, reality, nature and ways that make others happy.

The banishment of John, Part 1. UPDATED. UPDATE 2.

UPDATE: khms, an actual European, has responded to John’s latest here.

UPDATE 2: Rotary Wing, another Australian, has responded to John’s latest here.

[CONTENT NOTE: xenophobia, bigotry, Islamophobia and a whole bunch of other horrible shit.]

I cannot believe it took me so long to catch on. John Miller has been an occasional commenter here for three years. The sum of what I know about him is that he’s Australian, made his career as a Phys Ed teacher, and is prone to making terrible and uninformed statements on my blog.

There was the time he agreed employers shouldn’t have to pay for employee contraceptives—not because of religious objections to women’s health care, but out of concern for the employer’s embarrassment. Both Tony and I responded to the myriad errors in his thinking, but he never acknowledged any of that. There was the time he treated us to some anti-vaccination rhetoric (“I’m sure an advocate for vaccination but …”), making dangerous and entirely unevidenced suggestions—for example that perhaps it might be better for most children to actually contract measles, mumps and chicken pox as opposed to getting vaccinated. If only there was some way to find out!

On a post by SJ about some of the structural factors contributing to extreme inequality and lack of social mobility in the US, John regaled us with the myth of the American Dream Nightmare. As usual, John had no idea what he was talking about.

Commenting on one of Don’s posts reporting on a study that found vitamin supplements to be worse than useless, John trashed science-based medicine as faith-based junk, and peer-reviewed medical journal articles as “written by the inmates of the sheltered workshops for the academically gifted.” “To get sound nutritional advice,” he helpfully offered, instead of consulting a physician “most people would be better off going to a vet.” As in, veterinarian. He tied it all up with a misogynist “joke.” (To his credit, he apologized for it after I called him on it.) And I warned him then that if he ever pulled that shit again here, I’d banish him.

Then there was that truly baffling occasion when he dismissed out of hand the precipitous drops in math, science and reading scores of students in the US compared to other countries. He did so by expounding upon fantastical ideas like a “math gene” that only some people have, plus a heretofore unheard of secret cabal of “maths power elite” that “despises people who work with their hands.” He proclaimed math and science education past the level of grade 4 “slavery,” “religious indoctrination” and a childhood-destroying fraud, and urged that instead we really ought to “rate kids on their ability to change a tap washer, run a mile, make their bed (with hospital corners) drive a car and chop wood.”

Yes indeed, these are the quintessential skills that will secure success and prosperity for the US workforce in the 21st century global economy.

It was while handing his ass to him in that thread that I first suspected a case of Conservative Personality Disorder—and once again considered banishing him to prevent him from further embarrassing himself (and much more importantly, from further boring the shit out of me).

WHY OH WHY DIDN’T I DO IT THEN HUH? Alas, this is a question that will haunt Your Humble Monarch™ for the rest of her days. With a single wave of my scepter I could have spared us all from John’s most recent, and quite possibly his most excremental, rantings. As the world’s foremost expert on Conservative Personality Disorder, I really should have seen this coming. So many signs were there! Anti-science, anti-intellectualism, conspiracy theory, casual sexism, BOOTSTRAPS!!!, persecution complex, projection, willful ignorance, fact-averse opining, and—most damning of all—the telltale inability to change one’s mind when the evidence demands it.

How, then, could anyone be surprised that one of his latest blatherings is a specimen of raging xenophobia, Islamophobia, fact-free bigotry, apocalyptic paranoia, blithe entitlement, imperious grandiosity, willful ignorance, anti-multiculturalism, sympathy for violent racists, and implicit support for unconscionable cruelty and a genocidal government—all densely packed into a single, 127-word turdbullet?

I would think that the people of Myanmar have every right to be concerned about the effect that Muslims will have on their culture. If they go by what’s happening in Europe, Muslims will eventually destroy the Myanmar way of life. A small group will become terrorists. The Rohinga will stay in enclaves and refuse to integrate into the Myanmar society. In the face of change they will continue, above all else, to hold on to their a weird superstitious beliefs. They’ll put acting and dressing like Muslims ahead of acting and dressing like Myanmarians. The will stand offside and separate themselves from Myanmar culture. I wouldn’t be so harsh on the people of Myanmar who fear for what their country may look like in 30 years.

Here’s a fun exercise: replace “Muslims” with Mexicans, “terrorists” with criminals, “Myanmar culture” with Our Way of Life™, and violá! It’s instantly a Fox News screed worthy of Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin or even Bill O’Reilly! Or, you know, try it with Jews and Aryan culture, circa 1930s Germany. Or how ’bout Black people and White culture? (Incidentally, here is where I get to pat myself on the back for suggesting in my original post that the racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, ultranationalist, theocratic Ma Ba Tha monks and their supporters might seem oddly familiar to readers. Ahem.)

So then commenter khms—an actual European—politely responded to John that he hears from conservatives all the time that Muslims are destroying European culture, but so far as he can tell, “I can’t see even any indication of a beginning of such a thing.” I, of course, was far less polite (politeness is not my forté after all—that would be mocking conservatives):

What the fuck, John. Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are one of, if not the most persecuted minorities in the world—and that is saying something, my friend. What’s happening in Europe that you’re so concerned about? Are Muslims actually destroying the Western (patriarchal, imperialist, racist, colonialist) “way of life”? No. No, they are not.

By the way, the Rohingya “staying in enclaves and refusing to integrate into the Myanmar society” is not the same thing as being forcibly isolated, exiled and imprisoned. FYI. If only they would act and dress like Real Americans Myanma and believe the correct superstitions (not the “weird” ones), they wouldn’t be such an existential threat to Official Myanmar Culture™. That would be the one dominated by racist, misogynist, right-wing, conservative shitlords.


That was back in November, and I thought (hoped?) that was the end of it. But no. On Tuesday, John posted a response to khms—who is, again, an actual European—to which I shall soon respond. Not on behalf of khms, who is of course free to do so here any time [UPDATE: khms has responded to John here], but simply to relish the opportunity to thoroughly deconstruct the horrifying shitshow that is the mind of John Miller—for the very last time.

Stay tuned for Part 2.



Welcome to the Abattoir, eight terrible Florida state reps!

[CONTENT NOTE: extreme hostility to consent, human rights abuses.]

Florida’s House Bill 0865 would criminalize virtually all abortions in the state, making it a a first-degree felony to perform an abortion or operate a clinic where they are performed. The penalty for respecting the human rights of anyone who does not wish to be pregnant? Up to 30 years in prison.

The “Florida for Life [sic] Act” prohibits:

  • induced abortions
  • operation of a facility for the purpose of providing abortions
  • any termination of pregnancy unless specified conditions are met
  • the use of state & federal funds for state health insurance exchanges that provide coverage for abortions

As a perfect illustration of the bill sponsors’ utter contempt for agency, autonomy and consent, the bill gets rid of all those pesky exemptions for victims of rape, incest, domestic violence and human trafficking from being forced to view their ultrasounds.

All of this is pretty standard wish-list fare for professional misogynists like the bill’s sponsors. But if you read the bill (pdf) you will find some truly remarkable statements—and of course I duly intend to remark thereupon. For instance:

390.0001 Legislative findings regarding abortion.

(1) The Legislature acknowledges that all persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that first among these is their right to life.

Well, that’s not so bad, I guess. Presumably the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charles Van Zant, and whatever Creator Goddess to which he refers here, understand that this is not a person:


Human embryo at 9 weeks clinical gestation. (Optical Topography)
Actual size = approx. 2.3 cm.
Three quarters of all U.S. abortions are performed by 9 weeks.

And by extension, neither is this a person:

blastocystday5Human blastocyst, day 5.
(not actual size!)

I mean, that would just be fucking silly.


Mawu, West African creator goddess. Mawu created people—so she knows one when she sees one.
(image: Tarot card by Doreen Virtue, Hay House 2004)


(2) The Legislature finds that all human life comes from the Creator, has an inherent value that cannot be quantified by man, and begins at the earliest biological development of a fertilized human egg.

Well, no. See, the Creator Goddess herself personally aborts about 50% of all fertilized human eggs. From this fact we can conclude that fertilized eggs do not have very much inherent value, if they have any at all. As in: they’re not even worth a dime a dozen, as untold millions upon millions of them are aborted every single day. Further, this is the exact same Florida legislature that blocked the state’s Medicaid expansion, leaving at least 1.3 million Floridians without health insurance. We can certainly conclude from this fact that human life does not have much inherent value, at least not to the majority of Florida’s lawmakers. Legislative finding (2) must be a misprint. OBVIOUSLY.


Adi Shakti, Hindu deity of ultimate energy, creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe, who loves abortions.
(digital art by Snehilsharma, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0)

(3) The Legislature finds that the United States Constitution expresses no qualification for, or limitation on, the protection of human life by laws passed by state legislatures which regard human life as the most fundamental gift from God and deserving of paramount importance among all other unalienable rights expressed or implied in the United States Constitution.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What happened to the Creator Goddess? Now it’s a god? And no doubt a d00d god at that, ugh. Well, regardless of whether we’re talking about some d00d god or a Creator Goddess, they all obviously loooooove abortions. We can therefore conclude that we should all be having a whole lot more of them! Praise Gaia!


Gaia, Greek goddess: great mother of all, the primal Mother Goddess, creator and giver of birth to the Earth and all the Universe, the heavenly gods, the Titans and the Giants. Also: big fan of abortions.
(Anselm Feuerbach: Gaea (1875). public domain)

(4) The Legislature finds that personal liberty is not a license to kill or otherwise destroy any form of human life under any provision of the United States Constitution.

Wow, we already know they hate hate hate people getting healthcare, but this seems rather extreme even for them, don’t you think? Cancer cells are a form of human life. Diseased organs and arteries are a form of human life. A male infant’s foreskin is a form of human life. So Florida now wants to outlaw chemotherapy, tumor removal, appendectomies, circumcisions, plastic surgery, laser hair removal—hell, even getting moles and warts taken off is a big no-no! I’m not 100% sure about tattoo removal; does that technology destroy human life, too?

(5) The Legislature finds that once human life begins, there is a compelling state interest in protecting its development from that moment through birth.

After birth, though, not so much. Seems to me the state has its “compelling interests” exactly backwards. Get your compelling interests together, state! Jeezus!


Nüwa (Chinese: 女媧), also known as Nügua, ancient Chinese goddess who created humankind…and loves abortions.
(image: provenance unknown; Google reverse image search not dispositive)

Finding (5) continues:

Any act of a person detrimental to unborn human life, when not necessary in defense of the life of the mother bearing such unborn human life, which unnaturally terminates that unborn human life is a deprivation of that unborn human’s unalienable right to life.

Uh-oh. Just what we need: more investigations and prosecutions of pregnant women for pregnancy outcomes that Florida legislators and prosecutors don’t like. What this means in practice is that if you are pregnant and fall down the stairs, you can be arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.” If you foolishly miscarry at home, you can be charged with “fetal murder of an unborn child” and “neglect of a dependent” and be sentenced to 46 years in prison—even though, if your uncooperative body had only expelled that same extremely premature fetus at a hospital, you could have legally declined neonatal care and resuscitation. You can also be forced to undergo a Cesarean section against your will, even when everyone’s fairly sure this will very likely kill you. And then it does. (Nothing new here.) You can refuse to sign a preauthorization for a C-section (and end up not needing one), and then be charged with child endangerment and lose custody of your baby. And if a pregnant woman uses drugs—even legally prescribed drugs, even drugs not known to have any effect on fetal health, even if she is currently in treatment for substance abuse, even if she is trying to fucking kill herself and accidentally survives—and she miscarries, she gets prosecuted for murder. Or worse(?) “depraved heart murder.” On the other hand, if the fetus survives, she only gets prosecuted for criminal “child” abuse, or perhaps “chemical endangerment.” Or maybe just plain old criminal assault.

All of this is pretty obviously “detrimental” to actual human life, but there you go.

And needless to say, impoverished walking incubators and incubators of color are, as usual, disproportionately mistreated:

Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law’s 2013 study on arrests and forced interventions on pregnant women in the U.S. found that approximately 71 percent were low-income women and 59 percent were women of color.

As Loyal Readers™ well know, it is our sincerely held belief that for those who feel so very strongly about forcing other people to donate lifesaving organs without their consent, it is only right and fair that they live by this principle themselves. Florida State Representatives Charles Van Zant and HB 0865 “co-introducers” Larry Ahern, Dane Eagle, Matt Gaetz, James Grant, Keith Perry, Jimmie Smith and Jennifer Sullivan are hereby formally abducted inducted into the Palace Abattoir, where they shall remain involuntary organ donors for a period of…oh, let’s say 30 years.

Isn’t Your Humble Monarch™ so magnanimous and merciful? That’s less time than Purvi Patel’s prison sentence for having a miscarriage.


New Palace Abattoir denizens and involuntary organ donors (clockwise from top left) Florida State Reps. Charles Van Zant, Larry Ahern, Dane Eagle, Matt Gaetz, Jennifer Sullivan, Jimmie Smith, Keith Perry and James Grant.

Ask Iris: Should Anti-Abortion Activists Be Allowed to Harass Preschoolers?

[CONTENT NOTE: harassment.]

Q: Should Anti-Abortion Activists Be Allowed to Harass Preschoolers?

A: No.



This really should require no further explanation whatsoever. But since I’m snowed in because of a motherfucker of a blizzard, and my WIFI still seems to be working (so far…), I think I’ll spend a few minutes expounding upon “No.”

Anti-abortion activists should not be allowed to harass preschoolers.

Anti-abortion activists should not be allowed to harass anyone, and no one should be allowed to harass preschoolers.

No one should be allowed to harass anyone.



Jeezus, those winds are howling, and the view from my window is a complete whiteout:



I have a nice hot pot of coffee and a temporarily content kitty (is there any other kind?) so…hey, what the hell?

Some background.

A new Planned Parenthood clinic is currently under construction in Northeast DC, right next door to a school.

Over the past several months activists opposed to the clinic’s construction have been “purposely and aggressively menacing” school children as young as 3 years old with graphic images and language, causing “severe emotional stress,” according to a lawsuit filed in DC Superior Court by the school in December. Teachers have had to keep students inside at recess, and…with a larger crowd and a number of prominent antiabortion figures expected on account of the annual March for Life [sic], administrators decided to cancel school altogether.

The school closure cost [Bill Harper, parent of a 5- and  7-year-old students] $80 in extra childcare fees, but he was most angry about how the recurring demonstrations have disrupted the day-to-day educational experience for the students. “The whole school is focused on preventing the children from being terrorized. They’ve had to redesign the community,” he said, gesturing to black cloth draped across a fence to hide a playground. He told me that teachers sometimes have to take students on a long detour to reach the gymnasium across the street without encountering protesters. To Harper, they aren’t just a nuisance but a safety concern: One of the defendants named in the lawsuit, Robert Weiler Jr., was previously convicted of plotting to bomb an abortion clinic and shoot doctors in nearby Greenbelt, Maryland.

Why this particular terrorist wasn’t locked up for lifetime is perhaps a subject for another post, but I would be remiss if I did not make a few points about the d00d here.

“From all indications, it appears he was acting alone,” said Gregory K. Gant, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Baltimore field division.

He’s a white terrorist, you see. And as we all know, white terrorists operate in a cultural void, and in any event they are uniquely impervious to violent rhetoric and ideologies. Also, we must be careful not to implicate a white terrorist’s race, nationality and/or religion in producing such terrorists: he is simply “Lone Wolf” No. 194,801.

Agent Gant also said this:

“In some ways, it could have been a bigger threat because it wasn’t something we were tracking, and we didn’t see it coming.”

Surveillance state: FAIL. While the state is quite keen on deploying counterterrorism tactics to infiltrate and monitor citizens opposed to U.S. economic policy, immigration policy, harmful trade agreements, union-busting, racial profiling, the death penalty, Israeli violence against Palestinians, endless wars, etc., white terrorists operating on US soil just aren’t people law enforcement would ever thinks to track. I mean, gosh, how could anyone possibly ever see anything like this coming?

But I digress. Back to the Forced Birth Bozo Brigades.

The lawsuit describes the protests as a form of coercion, intended to draft parents and administrators into a campaign to block the clinic from opening next door. The antiabortion activists “have promised they will ‘be back every week’ if the students and parents do not take action against the Planned Parenthood health center,” the complaint alleges. Protesters have shouted at children to “Tell your parents they kill kids next door.” In November, an activist named Jonathan Darnel sent an e-mail to school administrators that read, “I am not threatening you. Nevertheless, if you are failing to challenge Planned Parenthood, I feel a moral obligation to alert the community (including the parents of your students) myself…. I’m sure you don’t want to see me, my antiabortion friends and our graphic images any more than we want to be in your neighborhood.”

Defendant Larry Cirignano was at the protest on Thursday, wearing a banana-yellow tie stamped with the words “choose life.” I asked him if he was at all concerned for students who were disturbed by the images and messages he and other demonstrators present to them. “I’m worried more about the kids who are in the pictures,” he responded. “It’s sad that the school and parents didn’t think they should get involved.” Gesturing at the group waiting to hear [David Daleiden, the shitweasel behind the recent deceptive video campaign intended to take down Planned Parenthood] speak, he said, “Most of these people aren’t from around here.” Cirignano said he’s being represented by Mat Staver of Liberty Council, who also represents Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis.

These are just fantastic people: respectful, kind, informed, tolerant, exactly the kind of community exemplars you would definitely want to have around small children.

What to do about it.

As the lawsuit winds its way through the courts, it is worth remembering that the US Supreme court struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law around women’s clinics—ones that were already open and operating, not construction sites. The justices so ruled from the safety and sanctity of their very own buffer-zone protected place of work.


As I noted at the time, that decision was unanimous—thus rendering the entire Supreme Court as currently constituted not just a bunch of flaming hypocritical @$$holes, but complicit in providing material support to terrorists.

As that’s how the state of affairs stands, I propose a simple strategy of tit-for-tat. To wit: picket the schools where the protesters’ children attend. Hold up giant posters picturing women killed and imprisoned as a result of anti-choicers—most prominently the photo of Geraldine Santoro taken at the scene of her death from a self-abortion attempt.[WARNING: extremely graphic violent image, NSFW.] Shout in the kids’ faces “Your parents want to kill mommies!” “Your parents like killing poor mommies!” “Your parents want to put poor mommies in jail!”

Stop when they stop.

Why no one will do this.

Because it’s fucking horrible, that’s why—even though it is, apparently, legal. Pro-abortion activists like to think of ourselves as better people than our enemies. And of course we are, demonstrably so: you don’t see us going around firebombing right-wing churches and shooting anti-abortion ringleaders, do you? We are certainly “above” directing such reprehensible tactics at innocent children, or frankly at anyone at all.

And therein lies our dilemma. Just think for a moment about what it actually takes for conservatives to change their minds, and not just about this issue but about anything. Global warming, for-profit healthcare, creationism, gun access, immigration, the unbroken record of failure of right-wing economic policy and governance, take your pick. Evidence is not enough. Epic calamities are not enough. Personal calamities are not enough. Experts who know what they’re talking about are not enough. These people cannot be reasoned with, and yet they are winning. There is no denying that their tactics, however reprehensible, are nonetheless effective.

It’s quite the conundrum, no? It certainly leaves me contemplating whether I ought to rethink that “No.”


I hope this edition of Ask Iris has been helpful.

Have a nice day.

CPD in Asheville: a case study.

[CONTENT NOTE: misogyny, sexual assault “joke”, hostility to consent]

Last September a story out of Asheville made the rounds in the Twittoblogoverse about two d00ds who ran a coffee shop there. For those unacquainted, Asheville is an arty, foodie, decidedly liberal bastion, a colorful little gem of a town set in the gorgeous hills of Western North Carolina. Anyway, by day these d00ds, Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens, were Members in Good Standing of the tight-knit, progressive Asheville community—but by night they moonlighted as pickup artists, and bragged about their exploits with local women in humiliating detail on podcasts, a website/blog and a Twitter feed. To be clear: the sexcapades were consensual. Well, at least some of them were, anyway: in one podcast, Owens muses about fucking a woman while she was a patient in a hospital. He refers to her, charmingly, “the two-vagina’d beast,” and then says:

“Hospital sex is weird, when she’s drugged,” he says. “It’s strange, but it’s really cool.”

“Could she give consent?” Rutledge asks. “Could she give consent, Jay?”

Owens then laughs while saying, “Uh oh. That’s my bad. That is my bad.”

“You might’ve violated some California laws,” Rutledge says. “Good thing we don’t live in California.”

HAHAHA. Good thing! Whew!

But even if all of their encounters were indeed consensual, the descriptions they gave of their partners were dehumanizing, objectifying, cruel and vile, obviously steeped in the misogynist manosphere and reeking of rape culture. (You can easily google them if you wish, but I won’t be posting quotes here.) Kayla Bott, a local video store manager, told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The problem is not sleeping with people or talking about it. The problem is using women as things to boost your own ego. This is an act of dehumanizing women for self-aggrandizement and that is not a good reason or way to improve your own self esteem.” And while none of it was likely illegal, the women’s lives and relationships have suffered in the aftermath.

My friend (and self-proclaimed Loyal Subject™) SJ lives in the environs of Asheville, and we discussed the story back when it first blew up. My observation at the time was that the only thing remarkable about the story—and it was, and remains, truly remarkable—is that the community rallied around the women. There were boycotts, protests, rallies, petitions. “These are literally the women of the community that we live with,” Bott said. “These are our friends. These are our loved ones. These are our neighbors. There are mothers. We are taking this situation personally, and we are supportive of the women of the community.”

Fast forward a few months to 2016: Rachel Monroe did a follow-up on the story for New York magazine, which SJ just sent to me. I couldn’t help being struck by all the glaring symptoms of Conservative Personality Disorder (CPD) on display by Rutledge (Owens did not participate in the story), and in particular the interesting course such an afflicted individual’s life took in Asheville. Conservatives are deeply, hopelessly conformist after all; so what happens when their community’s norms embody progressive views of women’s sexual freedom and sexual morality? Well, as it turns out you still get exploitation, entitlement and abuse—except that instead of manifesting in the realms of business or government or “traditional” marriage, they manifest in dating.

Putting aside the explicit misogyny in Rutledge’s proclamations, here are some of the CPD flags from the new article (my comments in red):

Jared’s blog posts offered dating tips, braggy descriptions of sexual encounters [superficiality: braggart], angry venting about women who’d flaked on him [entitlement: feels inherently deserving of others’ time and energy], and pseudointellectual analysis of gender relations [limited dimensionality of thought: highly motivated to eliminate cognitive ambiguity by reducing complex real-world phenomena to discrete dualities]

a list of his sexual conquests, evaluated with a numerical score that ranked each woman’s face, body, and personality, as well as a brief description. [superficiality: fixation on appearance as an indicator of identity and character; boundary violations: outright rejection of others’ rights to privacy and personal autonomy]

“There are few things that give me more sadistic pleasure than witnessing the ever-increasing neuroses of a woman hitting the wall,” he tweeted. (“Hitting the wall” is manosphere-speak for aging.) [sadism]

“All of my life I have looked for certainty and attempted to make sense of the world,” he said. [limited dimensionality of thought: anxious and unnerved by cognitive ambiguity, and highly motivated to eliminate it by reducing complex real-world phenomena to discrete dualities.] That search for an explanatory framework led him to the manosphere, where his tendency toward judgment was amplified and given direction. “It’s like a rut in your brain. I’ve had this my whole life, in different arenas. Anger and judgment. Road rage or being mad at a customer who annoyed me. The actual thing to fix is why do I feel the need to — mentally or verbally or on Twitter — punish someone with words because they slighted me. The root of it is the need to judge the world because it doesn’t meet my expectation.” [entitlement: arrogant; self-righteousness: judgmental, hypercritical, scornful and disdainful of  out-group “others”; emotionality: easily triggered outbursts; authoritarianism: punishment oriented]

he majored in philosophy and confidently told atheist friends they were going to hell. [irrationality: hyper-religiousness pervading all social interactions; self-righteousness: judgmental, pompousness]

[Rutledge’s comments in the next paragraphs on Game exemplify amorality: markedly unconcerned with the welfare or suffering of others, exploitative, Machiavellian]
 “I didn’t write those blog posts or tweets for women,” he said. “I wrote them for men. I wrote them for other men in this corner of the internet to validate me and make me feel good.” [entitlement: narcissistic]

the men issued ham-fisted apologies (Jared: “Most of my life I’ve struggled with insecurities around dating”; [self-righteousness: inability to sincerely apologize for personal wrongdoing]

But, said Jared, “Nobody reached out to us to say, ‘What do you need to heal, to be better men?’ [^#^%&^%&!!! DEAR GOD WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE POOR MEN?! Priorities!]

Okay, this is where I point out that the tiny number of narcissists who do go into therapy (usually at a major crisis point, at the ultimatum of others, or ordered by a judge) learn this from it: how to deploy in a calculated fashion its concepts and buzzwords to their own advantage. Quelle surprise

“If you’re going to say you’re a loving, supportive community and then just kick out everybody that does something fucked up — I think that’s wrong,” Jared told me. “You don’t get to say, ‘We’re loving and supportive and inclusive’ and not put in the work to be that. ” [Hahaha no. They didn’t kick out “everybody,” they kicked out a pretender and betrayer who deeply shattered a tight-knit community’s trust. That’s what healthy communities do. People who have been used and betrayed are not obligated to forgive, love, support or include those who have used and betrayed them (entitlement much?). Also, Jared didn’t just “do something fucked up,” he did it over and over and over, continuously bragging about his exploits on the internet, and after being caught and called on it is still making it all about him. Unbelievable. Except, no, not really. stunted self-awareness: insistence that self-created problems are entirely the fault of others or of circumstances beyond one’s control, minimization and rationalization of one’s harmful behavior toward others.]

He admitted repeatedly that what he did was wrong: “I used fucking nasty language. I used hurtful and violent language. I shared things I should never have shared about lovers and I objectified women and broke them down to box scores in a way that is objectifying and gross.” [Translation: I’m sorry I got caught saying what I really think about women.]

Still, having spent weeks in the depths of self-examination, he wondered when he’ll be able to reemerge in town as the new, humbled version of himself — and on what terms. [WHOLE WEEKS! “In the depths of self-examination!” This man has suffered enough, people.] 

I asked him if he still wanted to follow the plan he’d written about in his pre-reflection-and-repentance era: fuck around as much as possible until age 38, then marry a 24- or 25-year-old. “Yeah,” he said without hesitation. “Derek Jeter’s doing it.” I must have looked incredulous. “It’s kind of a double standard, right?” he said. “Because everyone’s okay with him doing it, nobody has a problem with that.”

“Why do you want to marry a 25-year-old?” I asked.

“Hotness, absolutely,” he said.

[Can’t you see he’s a totally changed man! HE’S JUST LIKE DEREK JETER! JFC. stunted self-awareness: superficiality; entitlement; + probably several more, but I’m too grossed out to be bothered.]

“I’m open to new information always. I think that’s where I got off the mark a little bit with this. I thought I had the answer — but the answers I thought I had hurt a lot of people and hurt me.” [Especially ME. Me, me, me. What about me, huh?]

If anything, [the women betrayed by Jared] said, it was Jared who wasn’t able to take the sex casually. Now they know that when a woman turned him down or canceled a date or otherwise didn’t live up to his expectations, he lashed out online. [stunted self-awareness: inability to recognize blatant hypocrisy in self, emotionality: temperamental, easily triggered outbursts; entitlement: believes he is inherently deserving of others’ time and energy]

When I asked her about Jared’s attempts to become a better man and be reaccepted by the community, she sighed and looked sad. “There needs to be time for the community to heal, and time for the healing within them … They needed a lot of growth.” [He’s already spent WEEKS in the depths of self-examination! Gosh, women are so selfish and bitter, amirite?]

Well that was a fun exercise. If nothing else, we see once again that atheists—our friend Jared here is an atheist—are just as capable of being misogynist conservative doucheweasels as Bible berserkers, Talmud toadies and Qur’an connoiseurs.

SJ helpfully suggested that I add some indication of just how incredibly ugly the manosphere is. If you want to learn about it in all its glorious grotesquery, I highly recommend reading We Hunted The Mammoth. David Futrelle not only tracks its terrible inhabitants, but mocks them—sublimely.

SJ also adds:

These are our sons and brothers and fellow citizens who pass for normal. These are the kind of people we are…at least a whole fucking large percentage of us.

Misogyny is the rule, not the exception.

Fuck this ugly, fucking conservative country.

^What SJ said.



This is…just. What? No.

Yesterday My Amazing Lover™ brought to my attention a devastating development in the War on Squirrels: some ridiculous jackasses apparently thought it was a grand idea to deem January 21 “Squirrel Appreciation Day.” This is treason, people. And when the coming Squirrelpocalypse is upon us, justice will be swift and fierce.

Purely coincidentally (I swear!), earlier in the day I had asked my local meats purveyor whether his shop ever had any squirrel meat on offer. He said yes, by special order only, 2 days in advance. I’ve marked my calendar for January 19, 2017 to put in my order, so on the 21st I can appreciate some braised squirrel with bacon, mushrooms, and Pinot Noir.



Various and sundry.

[CONTENT NOTE: homophobia.]

I don’t know how other writers’ brains work, but sometimes I ruminate over a subject for a good long while before writing about it. Case in point: the water in Flint. I’ve been following this disaster for some time now, and frankly the post would write itself. I mean, I could just follow the template from virtually any of my previous rants about conservative governance, search and replace a few words, and voilà! Done. For example:

Conservatives ruining lives as usual, this time in Myanmar Flint.

See? Easy-peasy. Maybe that’s a big part of my problem, that these stories are always the fucking same. That is because there is nothing new about conservatives or the ways they operate, ever. All we can really aspire to do is discover the cause of this epic calamity and hope that this will lead us to the cure, and in the meantime of course we can find new and amusing ways of mocking it. Alas, here too I’m running up against my own limitations. I am so utterly saddened and outraged by the entirely predictable and preventable situation in Flint that I cannot find that angle on the story. Yet.


Speaking of the cause(s) of conservatism

My friend (and self-proclaimed Loyal Subject™) SJ recently sent me a piece by Charles Simic in the New York Review of Books, entitled The Age of Ignorance. Simic laments what he sees as a dramatic uptick in ignorance and irrationality among the US citizenry over the past several decades, and the litany of specific delusions fervently believed by millions of conservatives: “Christians are persecuted in this country. The government is coming to get your guns. Obama is a Muslim. Global Warming is a hoax,” etc. He notes that:

The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country…A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.

At the root of all of this, Simic suggests, lies the destruction of public education and the failure of families to carry on a tradition of educating their young, with an able assist from a deceitful corporate media. He concludes that this might not be so bad, were it not for our lack of skill or even desire to verify whatever nonsensical bullshit the powerful vested interests are constantly feeding us. And all of that may be true: for example, a media literacy curriculum from grades K-12 would probably go a long way toward immunizing the populace from the worst excesses (which is precisely why it won’t happen).

But I think Simic misses the big, honking red-white-&-blue elephant in the room: faith. In fact, I think it’s pointless to discuss US conservatism without touching on it. I’m not talking about the specific dogmas of any particular sect—although those are plenty awful. I’m talking about faith as a way of thinking, the unfortunate habit of holding as truth any claim for which there is no evidence—and sometimes believing it all the more strongly when there is overwhelming evidence against it. I told SJ:

The very idea that you can “know” anything based on faith—and worse, that this is somehow indicative of an admirable character—leads to all manner of foolish gullibility and belief in demonstrably untrue nonsense. Conservatives actually fight at the school board level against the teaching of critical thinking (and its cousin, media literacy), for the same reason they gerrymander: because they and their toxic bullshit cannot win without doing so.

I linked to the abstract of a study (behind a motherfucking paywall goddammit) that appears to support my point. Researchers questioned 5- and 6-year-old kids about whether the central character in a story could be a real person. There were three scenarios: (1) “realistic stories that only included ordinary events,” (2) “religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention” and (3) “fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic [or] without reference to magic…”. From the abstract:

 In realistic stories that only included ordinary events, all children, irrespective of family background and schooling, claimed that the protagonist was a real person. In religious stories that included ordinarily impossible events brought about by divine intervention, claims about the status of the protagonist varied sharply with exposure to religion. Children who went to church or were enrolled in a parochial school, or both, judged the protagonist in religious stories to be a real person, whereas secular children with no such exposure to religion judged the protagonist in religious stories to be fictional. Children’s upbringing was also related to their judgment about the protagonist in fantastical stories that included ordinarily impossible events whether brought about by magic (Study 1) or without reference to magic (Study 2). Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional. The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories.

[emphasis added.]

The problem with “religious ideas” is not that they provide only a limited epistemology; it’s that faith-based thinking provides no way of ascertaining truth or reality at all. For some reason, more rational and reality-based people continue to scratch their heads at conservatives’ blatant hypocrisy, illogical contradictions and feverish falsehoods when faith-based thinking precludes none of that. It guarantees it.


Of course the ruling class does not see any of this as a problem; quite the opposite, in fact. And you can bet that we will see no public funding for studies that build on such research, for the same reason the CDC is forbidden by law from studying gun violence: this knowledge is decidedly not in conservatives’ interests.

By the way, Simic’s piece was published in March 2012, but could just as easily have run today for the relevance it has to the Republican’s scary clown show. Nothing’s changed in 4 years, and I’m not even convinced anything’s changed much in 40. And that’s just it, isn’t it? It’s the same fucking story, always and forever Amen.


Speaking of new and amusing ways of mocking conservatives…

A friend on Facebook linked to this:

Pastor: ‘I would smear feces all over myself if my son married a man’

While speaking at the National Religious Liberties Conference last weekend, Pastor Kevin Swanson told the crowd that he was “not kidding” when he said he’d smear feces all over himself if his son were ever to marry another man.

“I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That’s what I would do and I’m not kidding! I’m not laughing!”

“I’m grieving!” Swanson screamed, tears of rage running down his cheeks. “I’m mourning! I’m pointing out the problem!”

Now remember kids: it’s women who are more emotional and irrational than men. FYI.

“It’s not a gay time,” he continued. “These are the people with the sores! The gaping sores! The sores that are pussy (sic) and gross and people are coming in and carving happy faces on the sores! That’s not a nice thing to do! Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy (sic) sores!”

Now how the fuck does one even mock that? It mocks itself.

If conservatives keep this shit up—and of course they will, because always the same fucking story—I’ll soon enough be out of a blog. :|


Here is something cool:

New evidence suggests a ninth planet lurking at the edge of the solar system

Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it “Planet Nine.”

Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth.

Naturally, the question that immediately arises is: when can we launch the conservatives there? Now, I’m no astrophysicist, but I’m pretty sure the spacecraft can easily be powered by thoughts-‘n-prayers.





Via Glenn Greenwald on Twitter comes this link:

Diplomats, national security officials blast Sanders on Iran normalization, ISIL*

“Senator Sanders’ call to ‘move aggressively’ to normalize relations with Iran — to develop a ‘warm’ relationship — breaks with President Obama, is out of step with the sober and responsible diplomatic approach that has been working for the United States, and if pursued would fail while causing consternation among our allies and partners.”

OH NO NOT CONSTERNATION! From Saudi Arabia? Israel? My god. The horror.

The bloc of former diplomats called on Sanders to address issues with Russia, China, U.S. allies and nuclear proliferation, before concluding, “We need a Commander in Chief who sees how all of these dynamics fit together — someone who sees the whole chessboard, as Hillary Clinton does.”

The signatories include Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former under secretary of state for political affairs; Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff to the CIA director and defense secretary; Rand Beers, former deputy homeland security adviser to the president; Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, former U.S. ambassador-at-large; Ambassador Nicholas Burns, former under secretary of state for political affairs; Derek Chollet, former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs; Kathleen Hicks, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy; retired Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, former deputy national security adviser to the president; James Miller, former under secretary of defense for policy; and Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to the vice president.

Yes indeed: these are exactly the “sober and responsible” people we should all be listening to about our foreign policy that has been working so well.

*This news story political advertisement was brought to you by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman 4 Hillary PAC. HAHAHA I’m kidding! They don’t need a fucking PAC!



Ever? How about every day?


Well, that’s all I got. We now return to our regularly scheduled malaise.

Have a nice day.


Let 10 Titans of Freethought Guide Your Choice of Political Party to Back in 2016


PollIt seems a new poll is published daily on the status of the Democratic and Republican races for president. There are Gallup, Mason-Dixon, Marist, Quinnipiac, Rasmussen and multiple additional polls, both national and local, public and private. There are polls conducted by special interest groups, by the candidates, by universities and so on. It’s enough to induce poll-itical fatigue.

What this nation needs now is a new kind of forecasting tool. I’d like to see a poll that probes how voters with out-of-the-ordinary, critical thinking skills assess the candidates. This kind of poll would render a forecast of which political party is likely to gain the support of Americans with the most acutely developed thinking skills. This would be of interest in its own right, but it might also guide less-developed voters to consider casting their ballots with fellow citizens who have a better grip on reality than they have at the present time.

After all, don’t most people want in the role of president, the highest office in the land and unofficial leader of the so-called free world, someone who will administer his or her duties guided by reason, science and critical thinking, not one who will rely on supernatural forces, witchcraft, dogma and an imaginary friend sending policy recommendations via psychic messages from the murky beyond?

To create the possibility that we might soon have such a unique and even revolutionary poll conducted by Gallup or other national polling agency, I have employed one of the four dimensions of the REAL wellness concept to create a modest working model of such a tool, one capable of probing and mining the deepest motives, fears and neuro-dynamics of American voters. This polling tool comes with accuracy and precision in the sense of both repeatability and reproducibility. If administered nationally, I believe it  would reveal which Party’s candidate is the standout for thinking, rational voters.

The Ardell REAL Wellness Literary Predictive Tool

This tool assessed a subject’s responses to ten quotations, rated on a scale of one to five. One represents the strongest possible degree of likability or agreement with the quotation; five the strongest possible dislike or disagreement with the quotation.

To best acquaint yourself with the Ardell REAL Wellness Literary Predictive Tool, kindly complete the following ten quotation assessments by placing a numerical value from 1 to 5 after reading each quotation, using the space provided. The scoring, once again, is on a continuum scale from strong like/agreement (1) to strong dislike/disagreement (5).

  1. We have already compared the benefits of theology and science. When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clad in rags and skins—they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of today. Men in the middle ranks of life have more of the conveniences and elegancies than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above and over all this, is the development of mind. There is more of value in the brain of an average man of today—of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago. These blessings did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars—neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience—and for them all, man is indebted to man.    ~Robert Green Ingersoll
  2. It’s a horrible idea that God, this paragon of wisdom, knowledge and power, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive us our sins than to come down to Earth in his alter ego as his son and have himself hideously tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.    ~Richard Dawkins
  3. While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive.    ~Sam Harris
  4. If you can approach the world’s complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things. Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready at hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered, and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will indeed be a better person. That, I propose, is the secret to spirituality, and it has nothing at all to do with believing in an immortal soul.   ~Daniel C. Dennett
  5. Freedom depends upon freethinkers. There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.   ~Ruth Hurmence Green
  6. The most preposterous notion that Homo sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.   ~Robert A. Heinlein
  7. I remain an aggressive agnostic. Lucretius hit it on the nail when he said that religion was the by-product of fear—a reaction to a mysterious and often hostile universe. For much of human prehistory, it may have been a necessary evil—but why was it so much more evil than necessary—and why did it survive when it was no longer necessary? Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can.   ~Arthur C. Clarke
  8. How could the human mind progress, while tormented with frightful phantoms, and guided by men, interested in perpetuating its ignorance and fears? Man has been forced to vegetate in his primitive stupidity: he has been taught stories about invisible powers upon whom his happiness was supposed to depend. Occupied solely by his fears, and by unintelligible reveries, he has always been at the mercy of priests, who have reserved to themselves the right of thinking for him, and of directing his actions. Religion is a mere castle in the air. Theology is ignorance of natural causes; a tissue of fallacies and contradictions. Religions are an obstacle to freedom and the common good.    ~Baron d’Holbach
  9. Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: ‘My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.’ This stranger is a theologian.   ~Denis Diderot
  10. I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind—that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking. I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect. I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech. I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run. I believe in the reality of progress. But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant. We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn’t been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best minds at the stake.   ~Catherine Fahringer

Scoring and Interpretation

PollPlease add the totals of all points assigned to each question. The lowest possible score, if you strongly liked and/or agreed with all ten statements, is 10. If your scores are between 10 and 40, the Ardell REAL Wellness Literary Predictive Tool suggests that you will vote for either Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley or anyone else who becomes the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States.

If you scored a perfect 50, on the other hand, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz will be your top choice, should one of these men reach the top of the Republican ticket for president. If you scored between 45 and 49, you will still vote for one of the above if nominated by the Republican Party, but will be even happier to cast your ballot for Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina or John Kasich. If you scored between 41 and 44, you will still favor any one of the above named candidates if he or she is at the top of the Republican ticket, but you would probably prefer to see Chris Christie, Ron Paul or Jeb Bush in that position.

Of course, if you plan to vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, or a candidate of any other minor party, the Ardell REAL Wellness Literary Predictive Tool cannot reliably or accurately forecast how you will vote, as double blind randomized testing has not been done with third party value systems as per reason, science and critical thinking. Further testing and this shortcoming can be attended satisfactorily.

Full disclosure: I “confess” to scoring a perfect ten, so if you are a Republican enthusiast canvassing in my neighborhood, making robo calls or a fund-raiser, you might move on to more fertile possibilities.

If your score on this assessment suggests you will be voting for the Democratic candidate or for a third party nominee, well, you might enjoy this quote, also from Robert Green Ingersoll, whose remarks were the first cited in this assessment:

The politicians who preached at these revivals were in earnest. They were zealous and sincere. They were not philosophers. To them science was the name of a vague dread—a dangerous enemy. They did not know much, but they believed a great deal.

This remark is taken from his 1896 speech, ”Why I Am an Agnostic.” The second word in the quote was not “politicians.” The substitution was my doing. The profession Ingersoll identified was “ministers.” You will have to forgive me but what, after all, is the impression that Republican candidates give but that they are ministers of the Christian religion (as only Huckabee actually is) more than they are politicians seeking to lead a secular nation, not a theocracy?

All good wishes, be well, vote wisely and let reason, science and critical thinking, not religion, be your guide when you make that fateful choice on Tuesday, November 08, 2016.

Honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


It has become a Palace tradition on this day of remembrance to post the speech delivered by Dr. King on April 4, 1967 at Manhattan’s Riverside Church. We do this not because we are supremely lazy—although we are most certainly that—but because it is truly excellent, yet tends to be given short shrift relative to other works of the slain civil rights leader.

King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is of course his most well-known and celebrated. He gave it from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the closing of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and major television networks broadcast it live. The text is short (by King’s standards) and is notable for, among other things, painting a vivid picture of what racial justice looks like.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is also frequently cited. He wrote it in response to an April 12, 1963 open letter by eight white Alabama clergymen, who took issue with King and his tactics. In Why We Can’t Wait, King said of his response:

“Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly black trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me.”

Its central focus is a beautiful, powerful defense of non-violent activism. But what always strikes me most about it is King’s crushing disappointment upon learning that the greatest enemies to social progress are not, in fact, those who are openly and hatefully opposed to it, but those “allies” who rend their garments and advocate moderation, patience and gradualism in the face of immediate, deadly and enduring injustice. King held up a mirror, and in doing so, he showed us what ally-ship looks like.

Five years later, he spoke the words of Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Here, he showed us exactly how inextricably linked are the battles against discrimination, oppression, poverty, injustice, and many other social ills to the evils of war. This is a broader, much more sweeping vision; in our opinion, these are his finest words.

As King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”



Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.
By Rev. Martin Luther King
4 April 1967

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate — leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission — a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men — for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the “Vietcong” or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

Finally, as I try to delineate for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of sonship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them.

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

Strange Liberators

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of the reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization.

After the French were defeated it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators — our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the north. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U.S. influence and then by increasing numbers of U.S. troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change — especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy — and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us — not their fellow Vietnamese –the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go — primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one “Vietcong”-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them — mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation’s only non-Communist revolutionary political force — the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on — save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front — that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists? What must they think of us in America when they realize that we permitted the repression and cruelty of Diem which helped to bring them into being as a resistance group in the south? What do they think of our condoning the violence which led to their own taking up of arms? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the north” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now we charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem and charge them with violence while we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings even if we do not condone their actions. Surely we must see that the men we supported pressed them to their violence. Surely we must see that our own computerized plans of destruction simply dwarf their greatest acts.

How do they judge us when our officials know that their membership is less than twenty-five percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? What must they be thinking when they know that we are aware of their control of major sections of Vietnam and yet we appear ready to allow national elections in which this highly organized political parallel government will have no part? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. And they are surely right to wonder what kind of new government we plan to help form without them — the only party in real touch with the peasants. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the north, where our bombs now pummel the land, and our mines endanger the waterways, we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. To speak for them is to explain this lack of confidence in Western words, and especially their distrust of American intentions now. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French, the men who sought membership in the French commonwealth and were betrayed by the weakness of Paris and the willfulness of the colonial armies. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination at tremendous costs, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the thirteenth and seventeenth parallel as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would have surely brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva agreements concerning foreign troops, and they remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands.

Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the president claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard of the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the north. He knows the bombing and shelling and mining we are doing are part of traditional pre-invasion strategy. Perhaps only his sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than eight thousand miles away from its shores.

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless on Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor.

This Madness Must Cease

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words:

“Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad China into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horribly clumsy and deadly game we have decided to play.

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways.

In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.

Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.

Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.

Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and in any future Vietnam government.

Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We most provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.

Protesting The War

Meanwhile we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative means of protest possible.

As we counsel young men concerning military service we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is the path now being chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter the struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military “advisors” in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every moutain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.”

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept — so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force — has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. If we love one another God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says : “Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.”

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out deperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world — a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter — but beautiful — struggle for a new world. This is the callling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong:
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow
Keeping watch above his own.