Conservatives ruining lives as usual, this time in Myanmar.


Rohingya Muslim Woman in Myanmar.
Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve seen this story about Myanmar reported a couple places and thought I’d bring it to your attention, my beloved Loyal Readers™. And perhaps, you know, opine thereon. As far away as Myanmar is from the US on the other side of the globe and given the relative dearth of Buddhists here, see if any of this sounds oddly familiar to you.

Ma Ba Tha is a group of hardline, ultranationalist, racist Buddhist monks in Myanmar. The name Ma Ba Tha is an acronym for, roughly, “Association for the Protection of Race and Religion.” They are not the only Buddhist monks in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar (also known as Burma), but they have seized an outsized amount of power and influence in the Southeast Asian country.

Buddhists in Myanmar make up 69% of Myanmar’s population, with the rest comprised of a diverse array of much smaller religious and ethnic minorities. Rohingya Muslims make up less than 3%. According to some historians (and the Rohingya people themselves), they are indigenous to Myanmar’s Rakhine State where most of them live; other scholars claim they mainly migrated to the region from Bengal during British rule (1824-1948). Regardless, Rohingyas are denied Myanmar citizenship and considered illegal immigrants, despite many of their families having lived in the country for more than three generations. Long-neglected economic conditions in Rakhine State have led to demonizing and scapegoating the Rohingya as the source of all their problems and a cultural threat.

The Rohingya people are routinely described by human rights organizations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. In recent years especially, they have been fleeing Myanmar by the tens of thousands to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and to ghettos and refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh, often on crowed and dangerous boats. Many have died on these journeys after traffickers abandoned them at sea, while those that arrive at their destinations are repeatedly turned away. Rohingyas that remain in Myanmar are frequently confined to prison camps and not permitted to leave. They have also had much of their arable farmland confiscated by the military and given over to Buddhist settlers. (Ahem.)

myanmarmapMyanmar and surrounding region.
Image: The New York Times (via International State Crime Initiative)

Researchers from the International State Crime Initiative in London obtained leaked government documents, conducted an 18-month investigation and released a report (pdf) in October:

[D]etailed research found ample evidence that the Rohingya have been subjected to systematic and widespread violations of human rights, including killings, torture, rape and arbitrary detention; destruction of their homes and villages; land confiscation; forced labour; denial of citizenship; denial of the right to identify themselves as Rohingya; denial of access to healthcare, education and employment; restrictions on freedom of movement, and State-sanctioned campaigns of religious hatred.

It also found compelling evidence of State-led policies, laws and strategies of genocidal persecution stretching back over 30 years, and of the Myanmar State coordinating with [local] ultra-nationalists, racist monks and its own security forces in a genocidal process against the Rohingya.

While Myanmar’s genocidal policies against the Rohingya began to emerge in the 1970s, the process has accelerated during its recent transition to democracy. Since 2012, the state’s terror campaign has only intensified and remains unrelenting. The report also notes:

The State’s persistent and intensified ‘othering’ of the Rohingya as outsiders, illegal Bengali immigrants and potential terrorists has given a green light to [local] nationalists and Islamophobic monks to orchestrate invidious campaigns of race and religious hatred reminiscent of those witnessed in Germany in the 1930s and Rwanda in the early 1990s.

All of reality notwithstanding, in an interview with a local magazine in Myanmar, Ma Ba Tha monk Ashin Wirathu referred to them as “the Bengalis that call themselves Rohingya, who are trying to seize control.”

monkassholesMa Ba Tha monks marching to denounce foreign criticism of Myanmar’s treatment of stateless Rohingya Muslims, May 27, 2015.
The banner reads “UK (something something) Rohingya, Boat People are not Myanmar.”
Photo: Reuters (via Human Rights Watch)

Not content to confine the Rohingya to destitution and squalor or drive them to their deaths at sea, Ma Ba Tha has rallied to enact four new laws, all of them designed to roll back women’s rights and harm the Rohingya.

Birth control law. The Ma Ba Tha monks are very concerned that the Rohingyas, who make up 3% of Myanmar’s population, are outbreeding them, presumably at a faster rate than they can imprison, exile or kill them. The Rohingyas were previously required to sign a statement committing to not having more than two kids; now the law permits local authorities to “organize” women to wait 36 months between births. The factors to be taken into account by officials include “a high number of migrants in the area,” and critics fear that it will be selectively enforced against the Rohingya.

Even assuming they want to comply, it’s a little hard to envision how people can limit and space their pregnancies without access to reproductive health information and access to birth control. Meanwhile, the activists in the region teaching fellow women about reproductive health have been subject to death threats, intimidation and public humiliation from the monks, who have declared them “national traitors.” One prominent women’s rights campaigner told The Guardian that she and others have seen their pictures, names and phone numbers on posters displayed at Ma Ba Tha monasteries.

Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill. Buddhist women who desire to marry non-Buddhist men must register with government officials, who can deny them if they have “objections.” Human Rights Watch calls the law “incredibly dangerous” and says it is purposely designed to incite hatred toward the Rohingya.

Religious conversion. The law creates “Religious Conversion Scrutinization and Registration Boards at the township (district) level.” The way it works:

Anyone wishing to change their religion will have to be over 18 and will be required to file an application with a local board, including the reasons for the conversion. The applicant would be interviewed by at least five board members, followed by a 90-day study period for the applicant to examine the “essence of the religion, marriage, divorce, and division of property practices in that religion, and inheritance and parenting practices in that religion.” If the board approves the conversion, the applicant would then get a certificate of conversion.

The local board would forward all information it collects about the person to national religion, immigration, and identification agencies…[and] bars anyone from bullying or enticing another person to convert or deterring them from doing so. Punishments for breaching the law would range from six months to two years in prison…

No word on deconversion to atheism, but I’d hazard a guess that the monks no likee.

Monogamy Bill. Every married person in Myanmar (including foreign nationals married to Burmese citizens) as well as citizens living abroad are prohibited from “unofficially” living with another person, essentially criminalizing adultery. Violators are subject to sentences of up to seven years in prison and fines. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch writes that “laws criminalizing consensual sex disproportionately impact women. For example, a rape victim may be deterred from filing a criminal complaint if the failure to win a conviction puts her at risk of prosecution for adultery.”

monkassholes2They seem fun.
Ma Ba Tha monks and supporters march to celebrate new interfaith marriage restrictions in Mandalay, Sept. 21, 2015.

Photo: AP (via Jezebel)

But who cares about women anyway? Certainly not the monks. FYI, there isn’t even a Burmese word for “vagina.”

The good news is that Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party overwhelmingly won the recent elections, despite the Ma Ba Tha monks running around for the past 18 months shrieking that “the NLD is the party of the Muslims,” and that Myanmar’s Buddhists face a grave threat from the 3% minority population of Rohingya Muslims who are desperately fleeing the country in droves. The NLD will now select the next president. The bad news is that under Myanmar’s constitution, ministers for defense, home affairs and border affairs are appointed by the head of the military, not the president—and the constitution cannot be changed without the military’s consent.

Governments and agencies in the wider world have condemned the four laws:

The international community, including the European Union in a statement in January and another in July criticizing the marriage law, and United Nations Special Rapporteurs, including the present rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, have warned that the bills breach Burma’s commitments to international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The US has officially expressed its disapproval: in Myanmar in May, US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said about the four laws that he was “deeply concerned” they “could exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions.”

The countries that have not ratified or acceded to CEDAW are Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, the Holy See (Vatican) and the United States—a regressive outlier as usual. 196 countries are party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including every single member of the United Nations except one. Care to take a guess which country? Go ahead, I’ll wait…

No I won’t. I got shit to do, people. SPOILER ALERT: It’s the U. S. of A. Because no one’s gonna tell ‘Murikkkans that they cannot control their women and beat their children as they see fit—to say nothing of who we imprison, under what conditions we imprison them, and how we treat refugees and immigrants.

But by all means, let’s have the US ‘splain to Myanmar that its backward ways simply will not stand.


So. Once again we see the problem clearly: it isn’t Buddhism (or Islam or Christianity or…), it’s conservatism. The pathological need to dominate and impose hierarchies, enforced by any means necessary, always harms women and minorities.

Conservatives, why you gotta?


The unvarnished truth.

This is an extraordinarily powerful and moving TEDx talk given by Mallence Bart-Williams in Berlin in January. She speaks truths about our world that we will never, ever hear via Western corporate media. And even if by some fluke we do and our eyes are opened, such rare and minimal exposure cannot possibly overcome our indoctrination since birth into White Supremacy and parasitic imperialism.

There is beauty in truth and power in knowing it, even—especially?—when it is difficult for us to process, accept and adapt accordingly. Please watch and share.


And this.


I wrote this on Facebook last night:

I just feel so much…everything…for Paris. And Lebanon. I’m suddenly reeling from intense flashbacks to September 11, 2001 here in New York…the chaos, the incomprehensible scale of the tragedy, the pain, the fear, the rage, the quiet streets, the dirty air, and later the sounds of bagpipes on Fifth Avenue at all of those police and firefighter funerals, so many funerals, and then the horrors unleashed by my government in the aftermath. All I can do is send out my love and solidarity for everyone in the midst of these tragedies, and hope for healing and recovery and wisdom. ‪#‎brokenhearted‬

Even so many years later, the old wounds can suddenly feel fresh.

Election Day!

It’s election day, and I am determined to exercise my hard-won right to vote! Naturally I want to make an informed decision, because DEMOCRACY!!11!!!! is depending on me! I looked up the election voter guide for my district, and saw that the only candidates up for election today are judges. But that’s okay! The judicial branch of our government is important, people. Now, I have mixed feelings about judicial elections: unlike lifetime court appointments, election requirements make judges much more likely to become beholden to special interests (consciously or otherwise). On the other hand, just imagine what our world might look like if we could vote Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito off of the Supreme Court, and replace them all with Ruth Bader Ginsburg clones. Just sayin’.

Anyway, here is what’s on my ballot today! Exciting!

electionSo for New York Supreme Court Judicial District 1, I get to select five Justices out of a total of… five candidates.  : |

But hey, at least I get to vote for Judge of Manhattan County Civil Court!

Wait. WHAT.

There is only one candidate on the ballot.


In case you are unaware, the political system here is exactly as beholden to real estate developers as the US Congress is to the banksters, a state of affairs which I hardly need to spell out for Loyal Readers™ of this blog. This is how we end up with people in power like the odious Democratic former City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn: the infamous New York Democratic Party Machine simply picks its preferred candidates for us, and we lucky citizens get the honor and privilege of voting for them! Hooray.

Now obviously this situation is totally different than when Saddam Hussein held an election in 2002, and was the only candidate on the ballot. That was VERY BAD, and so of course the US tsk-tsked and scolded all those silly backwards Iraqis: YER DOO’IN DEEMOCKRISSY RONG, we ‘splained—right before illegally invading and utterly destroying that country, killing untold numbers of innocent civilians and displacing millions more:

Iraqi officials say President Saddam Hussein has won 100% backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years. There were 11,445,638 eligible voters – and every one of them voted for the president, according to Izzat Ibrahim, Vice-Chairman of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council.

The government insists the count was fair and accurate.

Saddam Hussein – who has ruled Iraq since 1979 – was the only candidate.

Before the vote, Washington dismissed the referendum as a farce after the last such vote gave the Iraqi leader 99.96% support.

“Obviously it’s not a very serious day, not a very serious vote and nobody places any credibility on it,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday.


TL;dr: who should I write in on my ballot today?




[CONTENT NOTE: badly executed violent imagery of dead squirrels.]

Since we last discussed the terrorist menace that is the bubonic plague-infested rodent Sciuridae, two alarming developments have occurred.

1. After a flea bite during a hunting trip in Crook County, Oregon, a 16-year-old girl has been diagnosed with bubonic plague and is now hospitalized in intensive care. No word on whether she was hunting squirrels—in which case she deserves a Major Award™ for taking one for the team. But as the article notes, people catch bubonic plague from fleas that jump from plagueinfected squirrels. It also goes on to say:

Fifteen other human cases of the plague have been reported in the United States this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four of the patients died.

2. My mother’s neighbors informed me that they had to eradicate a squirrel infestation from inside the walls of their house. This lovely couple has been beautifully renovating a historic home a block away from my mom’s, and a hundred feet from the property of a douche who maintains giant squirrel feeders in his back yard. I didn’t mention that my own mother(!) feeds squirrels too, but in a small town like that one everyone probably knows anyway. (And no, there is no reasoning with her about the goddamn squirrels—or about anything else, for that matter.) Because he is obviously woefully uninformed about the imminent threat posed by these ghastly little monsters, the guy captured his rodents with non-lethal Havahart traps, and then released them (!!!) in a field on the other side of a wide waterway. His wife, however, said she would have much preferred that he decapitate them, and then impale their heads on the spikes atop Squirrel Feeder Douche’s wrought iron fencing.

I fucking this woman.

squirrelfenceProposed exterior decor in front of YOU KNOW WHO’s house.

Anyway, if you want to wear a really scary costume tonight, dress up as a squirrel.

Happy Halloween.


How To Be a Minimally Decent Human Being 101.

[CONTENT NOTE: racism, sexism, other -isms. names have been changed.]

Longtime Loyal Readers™ may recall that once upon a time, I was a legal secretary. I toiled for years at NYC law firms—and, with apologies to my veteran friends—for what we in the staff ranks called “combat pay.”

The gig pays much better than average in part because it requires a specific skill set that includes fluency in legalese (and esoteric dialects thereof), software proficiency across the entire MS Office suite, superhuman abilities in deciphering truly horrendous writing (“make the edits I wrote with the giant green Sharpie and the smeary red Flair pen, but not the ones in pencil or blue fountain pen ink, plus add the purple crayon edits but only the ones circled with the orange highlighter not the yellow one”), and so much more. But let’s face it: that job pays well because lawyers.

lawyereditsLawyer Edits*
by Iris Vander Pluym
oil on canvas
8½ feet by 11 feet

Lawyers are the butt of many a nasty joke, and I can assure you this is justifiably so. Quite. Although firm cultures vary and some are better than others, they all were (and still are) strictly dominated by an Old Boys Club. This manifests in various ways, the most obvious being that the biggest rainmakers, their favored protégés and those in firm management with real power are overwhelmingly, indeed almost exclusively, white men. Thus it should surprise no one—and it will not in fact surprise people of color, women and other minorities—to learn that I regularly witnessed sexism and racism (and etc.-isms) more times than I can count. Just off the top of my head:

  • At a group meeting of attorneys that included only one woman, who was not among the most junior people in the room, she is the one asked to get coffee for everyone while the men get down to work.
  • Male lawyers routinely entertaining firm clients at strip clubs on the company dime, thereby effectively blocking client access to their female colleagues.
  • Being expected to cover for men’s extramarital affairs: once after a close call, one Big Willie told me that if his wife ever found out about his mistress it would cost me my job.
  • Male partners regularly returning from lunch completely smashed and saying all kinds of inappropriate shit to the staff, like telling my black co-worker who had a gift-boxed liquor bottle on her desk, “Whoa Yvonne! I didn’t know you were easy! Heh-heh-heh,” and then continuing to “flirt” with her until finally giving up and staggering into his opulent corner office.
  • Senior male attorneys becoming bitterly exasperated because a female subordinate left to pick up her sick child from school, when they themselves had never missed a single second of work in their entire careers due to childcare responsibilities: they had wives and nannies for that.

Most of this crap naturally went unreported; it was clear that except in the most egregious cases, little if anything would ever be done beyond a Very Stern Talking To™, followed by some hearty back slapping and then perhaps some scotch and cigars. But raising such issues could impact the career of the troublesome, humorless and oversensitive tattletale, if not the perpetrator. Only once do I recall anyone receiving serious consequences for inappropriate behavior: it was a senior associate attorney who constantly stared at women’s breasts when he talked to them, although he looked men right in the eyes. It was so flagrant that even d00d lawyers noticed it (Oh man, what’s up with that Dave guy staring at you ladies’ chests?”). After many complaints from women—plus the apparently required corroboration from men that this was (a) really happening and (b) disturbing to them—someone finally gave Dave the Very Stern Talking To™ and told him to knock it off. He didn’t, and eventually got fired. (I just googled him: he’s still practicing law, at a firm where women make up about 15% of the attorneys.)

Also—and this is not just my observation—the kinds of (male) lawyers who go into private practice, especially litigators, tend to be preening, vicious, chest-pounding apes alpha types: domineering, entitled, quick to anger, narcissistic. Many are verbally abusive to those they consider beneath them—which, at the end of the day, is pretty much everyone.

Still, over the course of all that time spent in the trenches cubicles, I met a handful of truly wonderful and extraordinary people, some of whom became very close friends. Including, as fate would have it, My Amazing Lover™. I point this out because a recent conversation led me to write this very post.

PARTNER: I have a mandatory diversity training class tomorrow at one.

IRIS: You could probably teach it.

PARTNER: It seems like they’re always scheduled after some incident happens, not before. More like law firm CYA than “hey, we really want to be more inclusive and here’s how we can do it.

IRIS: Sounds about right. So who failed How To Be a Minimally Decent Human Being 101 this time?

PARTNER: [White male partner.] Apparently he told a black secretary who just had her hair done in short braids that she looked like Buckwheat. 

IRIS: Jeezus fucking Christ.


IRIS: Just imagine the kind of fantastic bubble you have to maintain for yourself in order to live and work in Manhattan, and feel free to say that. To a black woman. At her job.


IRIS: Well you enjoy your How To Be a Minimally Decent Human Being 101 Class tomorrow, my love. I hope they bring in a nice catered lunch at least. And I hope it’s all ethnic foods.

[The next evening.]

IRIS: How’d it go?

PARTNER: It was terrible. Really poorly done.

IRIS: Oh no!

PARTNER: I went in hoping to learn something, even if some of my partners probably wouldn’t. For one thing about half the time was taken up by one of my partners who just wouldn’t shut up. He kept interrupting, and talking over people.

IRIS: Let me guess—it was a white d00d.

PARTNER: Why yes it was.

IRIS: And the presenter didn’t put a stop to that? That’s just…bad presenter skills. You have to politely shut that shit down as soon as it starts, maybe repeat yourself once, and then escalate your tactics if necessary—you sure as hell don’t allow it to continue.

PARTNER: They were two women law professors, and they used a lot of jargon and buzzwords that went right over most people’s heads.

IRIS: Like what?

PARTNER: Like “microaggressions.”

IRIS: Very important concept. Did they define them, and show you the research about what happens to people as a result?

PARTNER: Not really. There was a one-page handout with some examples. You’re not supposed to tell women they look pretty, or ask Asians for help with math, things like that. But, we never discussed it. It was as if they were talking to a class that was already familiar with it, so it just seemed…mostly incoherent. And the microaggression thing is just one example. It went on and on like that.

IRIS: Holy shit. What a wasted opportunity. The very people in that room are the people who most need to hear and understand this stuff. Did they cover heterosexism? Or gender? Like trans antagonism?





This epic failure bugs me for many reasons, mainly the enormous waste of an exceptionally rare opportunity. Then there’s the fact that when this sort of education is done badly it risks backfiring, and people end up more closed off to learning than open to it. I started thinking about how I might engage that particular audience in a discussion about diversity. I mean besides making that one d00d STFU 4EVAH, obviously. I might even turn him into a teachable moment, by asking everyone to just imagine a woman (or a person of color) constantly interrupting the presenters, talking over everyone else and expecting to be the center of attention at a presentation about diversity. Nine out of ten times (and I think I’m being generous here…) the person who does those things in a diverse group is going to be a white man. Maybe we can all ask ourselves why that is.

I perused the Palace Library and came up with a few resources I would tap into with respect to discussing microaggressions, which seems to me as good a place to start as any.

1. This Psychology Today article. It’s a decent 101-level explanation of microaggressions that summarizes key research findings:

  • although they may appear insignificant or trivial, studies reveal that microaggressions may be more harmful than overtly bigoted words and actions.
  • microaggressions have been found to:
    (a) affect mental health
    (b) create a hostile, invalidating work or school climate
    (c) perpetuate stereotype threat
    (d) create physical health problems
    (e) saturate society with cues that signal devaluation of the group
    (f) lower work productivity and problem solving abilities
    (g) be partially responsible for creating inequities in education, employment and health care
  • most people harbor unconscious biases and prejudices.

2. The Tumblr Microaggressions. There are so many excellent examples here it would be hard to pick just a few, but I would include some of the images from a photography project dealing with racist microaggressions by Kiyun and her friends at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus:

normalblackreallyfromcarrieunderwoodeyes2. This 2 page pdf entitled Making the Invisible Visible: Gender Microaggressions (via the University of New Hampshire). It looks like a handout from a (good) presentation. Ostensibly focused on gender, it’s a nice primer on microaggressions generally.

4. As I was thinking about all of this, right on cue came a very interesting article from The Atlantic: The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical. Mathematician Greg Martin worked out the odds that speaker panels at tech conferences would be all (or overwhelmingly) men: next to zero. Martin concludes that “any such conference without any female speakers must have come into being in a system that does not treat gender fairly.” He attributes this effect not to deliberate sexism or misogyny, but to unconscious bias. He also notes “how truly dismissive and defensive people get when gender disparity is pointed out.” Martin hopes his work can counter the stubborn illusion of meritocracy with a reality check—or as Lauren Bacon puts it, “Greg has found a way to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.”

Other findings that cannot so easily be explained away by those who may prefer to remain in denial about how human culture and human brains work:

5. This is probably a bit advanced for a 101-level presentation, but perhaps it would be worth including either as a handout, or on a list of suggested further reading: White Fragility. DiAngelo, R., International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011). (pdf) If you haven’t seen it, it is a beautifully written, jargon-free academic paper that has received heavy traction in social justice circles since it was published. It occurred to me when I first read it that one could do a search-&-replace with sexist (or heterosexist or virtually any other axis of privilege) terms and the analysis would be just as powerful, interesting and accurate. Really an excellent read. From the intro:

I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my co-facilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.

Now that I think about it, opening a presentation with this story or something similar (along the lines of “unfortunately this is what we often hear whenever we talk about these issues with audiences like this one…”) could potentially tamp down this reaction in the first place.

It seems to me that microaggressions would make a very good starting point for a discussion about diversity, before launching into some broader concepts like privilege and intersectionality, and ultimately discussing effective ways to leverage some of these principles in the real world. I wouldn’t expect to have much of an impact in an hour and a half session; for one thing this stuff takes time to process, especially if you’ve never been exposed to it before. And of course there are some people who will never, ever be reached—they’re too closed-minded (fragile?) to tolerate even a hint that their behavior is ever anything less that unimpeachable at all times (despite evidence to the contrary). I have to admit I find it darkly funny that if we take the research findings seriously, my presentation would have the most impact if the person giving it is were a white, straight, fit, able-bodied, heterosexual male. But I do think a reasonable goal would be to get some peoples’ gears turning, such that they take better care with what they do and say, and begin to notice problems and issues that they did not see before. This is especially important, because once you see privilege operating, it becomes difficult to unsee it. I know from my own experience that this awareness is only the start of a personal journey. It will take many, many personal journeys to make meaningful progress.

But if there are people who genuinely want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem—and I believe that there are—they have to start dealing with reality somewhere, sometime. That means they have to be willing to confront facts and ideas that will almost certainly make them uncomfortable and defensive. I figure they may as well start with the kick-ass slides and handouts I would make for my (hypothetical**) awesome and wildly infotaining diversity presentation. I am the fucking Priestess of PowerPoint™. FYI.

Look, I drew a bobblehead of Sam Harris. In PowerPoint. For no reason.

harrisbobbleheadHahaha. I crack myself up.

*You probably think I’m kidding, or at least heavily exaggerating with the image of that draft markup. Nope.

**I’m semi-seriously considering putting something like this together. Thoughts?

Catholic shitweaselry, case number 9,374,174,293.

Oh look, everyone: Catholics being unconscionably ignorant bigots and actually using the safety of children in their care as an excuse to do it. HAHAHA. Please.

Back in the spring, when the mother of the [trans] girl first heard her daughter couldn’t use the [girls] washroom, she asked what were the reasons that led the ECSD to this decision. She was given two answers, the first was that her daughter being in the bathroom violates the biological rights of the females, the second was that it violates their safety.

“I told them ‘you better drop that defence pretty quick as it sounds like you’re implying my child is a predator, which she isn’t,'” the girl’s mother said. “And two, you’re stating in that statement that transgender people are predators which they are not.”

Numerous studies have concluded transgender youth are far far far more likely to be assaulted than to assault people and are in fact one of the most at-risk groups in our society. So maybe it’s time for this Bishop and the Catholic Church to start focusing on actual proven threats to the children’s safety.

Like, oh, I don’t know…perhaps themselves and their church?

How any decent person could ever willingly support the Catholic church I will never understand.

How any decent society could ever entertain for one moment the Catholic hierarchy being in charge of children—children!—I will never understand.

How about you STFU 4EVER & take ALL the seats, Catholics. That includes you too, smiley pope. I see you.


This is what journalism looks like.

Oddly enough, it does not look Fair-‘n-Balanced®. It turns out that when facts speak for themselves, we really have no pressing need to hear from pants-pissing right-wing berserkers shrieking about jihadis hiding around every corner—or worse, government officials ‘splaining how state violence and human rights violations Keep Us Safe™.

Will Potter: The secret US prisons you’ve never heard of before
TED Fellows Retreat, August 2015

My message for you today is that we must bear witness to what is being done to these prisoners. Their treatment is a reflection of the values held beyond prison walls. This story is not just about prisoners, it is about us. It is about our own commitment to human rights. It is about whether we will choose to stop repeating the mistakes of our past. If we don’t listen to what Father Berrigan described as the stories of the dead, they will soon become the stories of ourselves.

Feel the Safe™.

Monday funnies.

Two things made me giggle:

1. A high school kid hacked CIA Director John Brennan’s AOL account. He also hacked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Comcast email, and says he listened to his voicemails too. When they catch him they’ll probably throw the book at him (cyberterrorism!), which is not funny. Like, at all. But as these two surveillance state kingpins have instant access to pretty much every single thing we do, the kid’s stunts are more than a little hilarious, no?

2. ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli getting pwned on Twitter. For example: