Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional!

February 7, 2012

From Reuters:

The U.S. 9th Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco Tuesday upheld a lower court decision, which had declared unconstitutional California’s controversial Proposition 8 banning same sex marriage.

The matter is now expected to travel to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling, made by judges Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins and Randy Smith — appointed by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush respectively — ruled on both the constitutionality of Prop 8 and whether the judge who struck down Prop 8 should have recused because he is gay.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

They heard oral arguments on the constitutionality question more than a year ago, and the recusal matter in December.

California voters agreed to Prop 8 — also known as the California Marriage Protection Act — in November 2008 by a 52 to 47 percent margin (approximately 13 million voters took part). That vote inserted language in the state constitution expressly allowing marriage only between a man and a woman.

Two same-sex couples challenged the vote, and in 2010 retired U.S. Federal Court Judge Vaughn Walker declared the proposition unconstitutional because it denied equal protection under the law. However, Prop 8 supporters argue that because Walker later acknowledged that he is gay, it was improper for him to rule on the matter.

The California Supreme Court upheld the validity of the voter initiative, and a stay has been in place on Prop 8 pending appeals.

On to the US Supreme Court! This could have huge implications for other discriminatory state constitutional amendements that would define marriage as one man to one woman. I’m looking at you, my Minnesota.

Image Source

How successful were the SOPA and PIPA Blackouts?

January 19, 2012

Welcome back to the internet, everyone! Did you miss it? I missed it, but there were a couple of amusing highlights:

1) @herpderpedia – User @qrush made this Twitter account, which acted as a repository for all of the tweets from people freaking out about Wikipedia going dark. The F*bomb was dropped quite a bit, many users mourned the “death” of Wikipedia with RIPs, and there were  frantic queries from students about how they were supposed to finish reports. If you suffer from an overflow of hope for the human race, this will bring you back down with a healthy shot of cynicism.

WTF, Wikipedia!? How am I supposed to graduate now? Thanks for nothing! Image source

2) #FactsWithoutWikipedia was a  hilarious timesuck. People created stories, lies, satire and other “facts” about life, the universe and everything. And of course, a quick Wikipedia search was unable to dispel any of these during the blackout.

3) After a full day of laughing at those afflicted with #herpderpedia, I went to put together my write-up for this weekend’s interview with Sean Faircloth on Atheists Talk radio, and I had a moment of panic when I clicked on the bookmark of his wikipedia page and was denied.

Image source

Okay, it was a very quick moment of panic, because there were very simple work-arounds for getting to Wikipedia yesterday (after all the point was to raise consciousness about SOPA and PIPA, not to deny people access to the site). But, I decided to get my information the “old-fashioned” by going to the electronic sources of the information that Wikipedia articles mine to get their information. You know, the number two and three results that come up when you Google a subject.

Wikipedia has a page up now with their estimates of the success of the blackout. From Wikipedia:

Was the blackout successful?

The English Wikipedia joined thousands of other web sites in protesting SOPA and PIPA by blacking out its content for 24 hours. The purpose of the blackout was twofold: to raise public awareness, and to encourage people to share their views with their elected representatives.

During the blackout:

The page also reiterates some of the basic information about the bills, what we can to do keep up-to-date on SOPA and PIPA as they progress through Congress, and next steps that we can take in working to defeat SOPA/PIPA.

Wikipedia wasn’t the only site that went dark in protest of SOPA/PIPA. How was you day affected by yesterday’s blackouts?

SOPA and PIPA Blackouts

January 17, 2012

Yeah, so…I guess there’s no Wikipedia tomorrow.

Image Source

I started hearing about the SOPA/PIPA Blackouts today on Twitter. I am an internet junkie – I love blogs and social media. I love instant access to news, maps, updates from friends and family. I am a content-generator and sharer – I blog at two websites and read about 40-60 new blog entries every day. Okay, some of those get more browsed than read, but you get the picture.

However, I am not all that internet savvy. I’m a biology major who went to college when computer science courses were for nerds who had a much better understanding of math than I did. To be fair, that’s probably still true. So, I don’t know how the internet works. I know how to navigate some of the more popular areas of the internet, and that’s about as deep as I get.

But it caught my attention when I learned that Wikipedia and WordPress – the website that hosts this Biodork blog – are “going dark” tomorrow, Wednesday January 18th, 2012, to protest these two bills moving through Congress. I decided that I needed to learn more about SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) and to try to find out for myself if they are as offensive and dangerous as some groups and people are saying.

I found this blog post at ABC News. It seems like a easy, non-technical introduction to the SOPA/PIPA controversy. It briefly explains the SOPA and PIPA bills, the ideas behind them, the objections to the bills, and the protest movement that has arisen in response to the bills. It also has current updates on the state of SOPA and PIPA in the Senate and House.

Over at AmericanCensorship.org, there is a simple infographic that lists the implications of SOPA/PIPA becoming law.

Then I searched WordPress to find out why my particular blogging site is participating in the protests. I found this article entitled Help Stop SOPA/PIPA published last week (01/10/12). The post isn’t very good at explaining the details of SOPA and PIPA, instead leaving that job to a Vimeo video called “Protect IP / SOPA Act Breaks the Internet” on a site called fightforthefuture/PIPA.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

The video says that PIPA will “give the right to censor the internet to the entertainment industry”.

It explains that “Private corporations want the ability to shut down unauthorized sites where people download movies, TV shows and music.” And that because most of these sites exist outside the US and US jurisdiction, corporations will focus their efforts on shutting down and blocking funding of the infringing sites  by going after US-based search engines, directories, blogs, forums, advertisers and payment services.

It highlights some problems with the bills – that it won’t stop downloading, but will encourage less secure work-arounds by hackers, that it would allow corporations to sue companies that they feel aren’t doing a thorough enough job to try to stop copyright violations on their websites, that other countries may follow in our footsteps, leading to “different internets in different countries” and giving unscrupulous governments powerful tools to hinder free expression, and it points out that corporations already have legislation in place to fight piracy.

The video ends with this:

Now the government and corporations could block any site, foreign or domestic, just for one infringing link. Sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook would have to censor their users or get shut down since they become liable for everything users post. And ordinary users could go to jail for five years for posting any copyrighted work – even just singing a pop song.

That’s a freaking scary idea, isn’t it?

In other circumstances I’d like to learn more, to speak with people who I think have a better grasp on the implications of SOPA and PIPA than I do. But tomorrow is a country-wide day of protest against these bills, and if they really are as big of a danger as they appear to be in my limited research, then I want to add my voice with other protestors.

So tomorrow I will take a chance of erring in support of those who say that SOPA and PIPA pose a threat to our security, our free speech, our ability to freely share content and exchange ideas with most of the world, and our access to some of our most cherished and important social and media-sharing websites. These freedoms are too precious to not stand up and ask for those in Congress to proceed with caution.

I am not going to “black out” my site. I want to leave this post up here and visible tomorrow. But I will add the ribbon, I will contact my Senators and Representatives with my concerns, and I will try to keep up with the SOPA and PIPA bills as they move through Congress. I will also limit my online activity tomorrow, including this blog.

Am I wrong? Am I missing something? Can you clarify any of the points that I mentioned above? I’d love your input in the comments below. I’ll read them and respond to them…on Thursday.

Sean Faircloth: Attack of the Theocrats

January 17, 2012

Atheists Talk radio show is interviewing politician and church-state separation activist Sean Faircloth this upcoming Sunday, January  22nd. Starting in 2009 Sean Faircloth was the Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America, and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I’m hosting Atheists Talk this weekend, so in preparation and interest I have started reading his newest book, Attack of the Theocrats, and watching videos of his speeches. I think I’m going to connect with his message that secular activists need to focus first on the real human harm that results from religious privilege, and not get lost in symbolic battles that  stoke theistic ire and strengthen resistance to secular activism.

From Attack of the Theocrats:

…the secular movement suffers from a noble flaw. Secular people tend to have an almost religious faith in statistics and dry arguments and abstractions as the proper method by which to carry the day. This has made it difficult to connect with the broader American public, particularly when many of our battles emphasize symbols – and not the numerous religious laws that harm real people.

Secular Americans remain a sleeping giant, a huge demographic that has thus far failed to flex its own muscle, much less galvanize the general population. We ignore people suffering under religious privilege while shaking our fist at a slapped-together manger with a plastic baby Jesus in the town square at Christmas time. While symbols are meaningful and these particular symbols on public grounds do violate Madison’s Constitution, Secular Americans must do better to reach all Americans. We must explain the human story – the human harm and the outright abuse of our tax dollars that result from religious privileging in law.

In the video below Mr. Faircloth outlines for the audience a few of the cases from Attack of the Theocrats, and lists his proposals for how secular activists can direct our efforts to focus on religious privilege that is enshrined in laws, and which are causing real human harm and waste of tax dollars.

Video first seen at RDF.

I Don’t Want To Vote On Marriage Law

January 15, 2012

I have a problem with the majority voting on the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of the minority. It doesn’t matter which groups we are discussing when we say the “majority” and “minority”; what we have are two sets of people – human beings – that are different in some way.

Legislation can be introduced to help define and clarify, to put in black and white, what we hold to be universal human rights, but even without these laws in place, they are called universal human rights because we know that these are so basic, so beyond reproach or question that laws are almost superfluous. Almost. The majority can become blind to the minority. This can lead to a belief that the differences that define the the minority are somehow a threat to that which defines the majority, or that the differences of the minority are undesirable because they’re not shared by most people. And so laws can act as a safeguard for the rights of the minority for cases in which their voices cannot be heard over the crowd.

I think it is horrific that we allow any human being to have their rights curtailed by the whimsy of popular opinion. That is one of the reasons I am angry about this November’s ballot initiative in Minnesota, which leaves it up to us, the voters, to amend the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Other reasons that I’m angry about the proposal include the traditional objections to polluting our constitution with language that would bar citizens from their rights, because I support human happiness and this amendment would hurt gay human beings, and because I detest the political drama and fear-mongering that is caused by this American Idol-esque “let the people have a say” and “down with activist judges” posturing.

So why are we voting on whether Bob and Steve should be allowed to get married? Well, because bigoted, sex-obsessed, fearful, religious zealot nutjobs…oh, we’ll skip that for now. Let’s just go with this:

Some people (see past sentence) want to amend the constitution to “protect” heterosexual marriage from gay people, and they think the best way to do this is to amend the constitution. Per Article IX of the MN Constitution we, the voters, must approve any changes to the constitution. That’s why we’re voting on Bob and Steve’s rights this November.

But why do the bigoted, sex-obsessed, oops some people want to amend the constitution? Why is the law in the Minnesota Statutes not enough? Judges refer to the Constitution to make decisions and rulings. Right now, judges in Minnesota can point to the constitution and say that nowhere in our Constitution does it explicitly ban the marriage of gay people. This amendment would put language in place that would explicitly ban the marriage of gay people. Several states have already used the lack of this language in their constitutions to overturn statutes that ban gay marriage, thus making gay marriage legal in those states. Some people in Minnesota are trying to prevent that from happening in this state.

This is marriage law that we’re discussing, not theology. Churches can be as restrictive as they want about marriage within the confines of their religion, but every resident of Minnesota should have the right to be treated as equal to every other resident of Minnesota under Minnesota law.

So no, I don’t want to vote on the proposed amendment that would make it very difficult for gay residents to marry in Minnesota. And I don’t want you to be able to either.

But if it is there when I step into the voting booth in Novemeber, I will be voting NO, the Minnesota Constitution SHALL NOT be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.

….

And in light all of that, this is a heartening development from Friday:

From The Colu.mn:

Legislators Propose Repeal of Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

DFL legislators in the Minnesota House introduced a bill during the legislative recess on Friday to repeal a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage from the 2012 ballot. The bill faces high hurdles as the Republicans still control the House.

Here’s text of the bill:

H.F. No. 1885, as introduced – 87th Legislative Session (2011-2012) Posted on Jan 13, 2012

A bill for an act relating to marriage; repealing a proposed amendment to the Minnesota Constitution recognizing marriage as only a union between one man and one woman;repealing Laws 2011, chapter 88.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1. REPEALER.

Laws 2011, chapter 88, is repealed.

Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE.
Section 1 is effective the day following final enactment.

The bill was submitted by Karen Clark of Minneapolis, Leon Lillie of North St. Paul, Kate Knuth of New Brighton, Rena Moran of St. Paul ; Marion Greene of Minneapolis, John Lesch of St. Paul, Mindy Greiling of Roseville, Carolyn Laine of Columbia Heights, Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, Alice Hausman of St. Paul, Linda Slocum of Minneapolis, Joe Mullery of Minneapolis, Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, Dianne Loeffler of Minneapolis, Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis, Bill Hilty of Finlayson and Kathy Brynaert of Mankato

Props for the effort, but as the article points out, this is likely not going to get anywhere since the Republicans control the House, and the seated Republicans are fairly united in their support of the amendment:

Those in red boxes are Republican legislators. Source

 

Gay is the new black…or isn’t it?

January 11, 2012

One of my friends posted a YouTube video on his Facebook wall, and I thought it was interesting enough to listen to the entire 11:34 piece (woah, attention span…where did you come from? You usually take off once I sit down at the interwebs).

The author of the video is speaking in response to the rallying cry “Gay is the new black”, and specifically to this article published in the Huffington Post at the end of December.

Image source: Fox News

Monique Ruffin’s Huffpo article is an interesting piece on how the “Black Church” is supporting oppression of gays. She calls out black Christians who would deny civil rights to gay people. She is also wondering how some black people in general would bemoan the phrase “Gay is the new black”, and asks them to see the similarities between the black struggle and the gay struggle, not just the differences between the two.

For me, the sufferings of a person or a group of people at the hands of other humans are frightening and heartbreaking. Instinctually, I feel that if any group can be oppressed, then I can be oppressed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made this very point when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This is why I’m always flabbergasted when I see some black Christians fighting against the civil rights of gays. We know firsthand the impact and dehumanization of discrimination.

Melvin too calls for blacks and gays to see the similarities of their struggles, but he lists 5 reasons why gay is not the new black.

1.You can’t compare oppressions. If I understand Melvin’s point, he’s calling out those who oversimplify the fight for civil rights undertaken by blacks and by gays and lumping them together in the phrase “Gay is the new black.” Like Ruffin, he asks us to avoid trying to say that one is more of a struggle than the other, but urges us to recognize that each had and has its unique challenges and battles; they are not the same. I liked this section:

Who the hell cares? Who the hell cares? Inequality and oppression are evil, regardless of the form they take. By comparing your oppression to someone else’s, you’re trivializing that person’s struggle and creating a hierarchy, which prevents you from seeing how the two struggles are related and building alliances.

2. Black is still black. “We can’t just hone in on homophobia and ignore other systems of inequality.” Here he describes how the struggle for black equality is not over, and those who lobby for gay rights under the banner of “black rights were then, gay rights are now” are blind to the the ongoing battles still being waged for black rights.

3.  _____ is the new black. I found this argument to be very similar to number two. Again, Melvin is pointing out that discrimination comes from all corners, and chastises people who are so proud to support gay or black rights and forget the Latina, the person with a disability, the woman, the muslim. The take away from this is we can’t just focus on homophobia and forget the other injustices being fought.

When I hear someone say that gay is the new black, and that gay rights are the new civil rights issue of our time, it makes me think they’re pretty ignorant. It makes me think, you know, that person just doesn’t really give a damn about people of color, women, people with disabilities, transgender people, or any other group facing discrimination these days.

4. Gay is not the new anything. Here Melvin gives props to the gay community. Gay is not new, gay oppression is not new, the gay struggle is not new. Gay people have been fighting their fight for over a century. He’s saying gays don’t need to tie onto the black struggle to get their message across because the gay community has been holding its own.

5. So, transgender is the new gay – not. This is a different presentation of 2 and 3: There are other marginalized groups out there, not just the gay community. He is specifically speaking about the transgender community here. Melvin makes an argument that the GLB community has for the most part largely ignored issues facing transgendered people.

In closing, Melvin tells us that we can’t compare gay oppression and the black oppression, but we can learn from the movements of both groups and the ways they have each organized.

So, is gay the new black?

In Ruffin’s Huffpo article she is using the phrase “Gay is the new black” to hit black Christians who discriminate against gays over the head. She is not breaking down the phrase to ask if it is a perfect metaphor, she is using it to remind black Christians that gays are being discriminated against, as they were once were (not in the same way, but nevertheless, they both have been are being oppressed). Melvin is more concerned with the actual metaphor and is asking us to stop using it.

Every activist group needs a battle cry, but is this the right one for the GLBT community? Does it simplify and trivialize other types of discrimination?

It is a frustrating situation; when it comes to civil rights, why is there any other distinction that “human”?

Why Homosexuality Should Be Banned

December 3, 2011

This is going around teh Facebooks today. Here are seven ridiculous arguments for banning homosexuality (as if that were possible!) and seven snarky tongue-in-cheek responses.

I think this is a good follow-up to the American Family Association’s Buster Wilson explaining to us why people like him are fighting for traditional marriage (hint: it’s not because they’re homophobic or that they just hates homosexuals.)

This is the best response I could find for Buster:

Mr. Wilson, this bull thinks you’re full of bull.

Rick Perry’s NH Speech

November 2, 2011

Ok, things may be looking up for Mitt.

Have you guys seen this yet?

This guy is a serious presidential contender? Forget that he’s a creationist, that he sponsored a prayer rally for rain in Texas, that he suddenly came up with his very own flat tax plan just ‘cuz it sounded like a good idea and not because Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan was getting a lot of play, that he condescendingly or insanely giggles every time someone asks him a question he doesn’t like or can’t answer, that his big plan to stimulate employment is to put people to work sticking oil pipelines into the ground from one end of this country to the other like candles on a centenarian’s birthday cake, that he has just four issues listed on his campaign website, each with less than 200 words to describe his convictions, values and vision for this country, that he wants to repeal the important healthcare reform passed during President Obama’s term, that he’s against funding Planned Parenthood and, and, and…

No, wait…don’t forget any of that. Just add this performance in New Hampshire – the wild hand motions, the crazy eyes (what is it with crazy eyes and Republicans?), the odd stories and off-topic rambling, the vehement tone, his newly disclosed love affair with maple syrup, to sum up: Wackilooniness Unbecoming of a Public Official – to the ever-growing list of reasons why we should put as much distance between us and Rick Perry as possible.

The Way Things Used to Be

October 20, 2011

This one is going around teh Facebook today.

I like the reminder that we were not founded on Christian values as I’ve heard people put forth (e.g., “This country was founded on the Ten Commandments!“), and that our government documents used to reflect our shared secular values.

I’m not so much of a fan of the idea that we should adhere to the original values because they are the original values that were agreed upon around 200 years ago. As a progressive I understand that change is necessary as our interactions with and understanding of the world around us evolves. We should adhere to the secular values implied in the image below because only by keeping the divisive religious dogma of hundreds of different religious ideologies out of our government – the one thing that unites most of us in this country – can we live together in something that approaches harmony.

Text Reads:

Did you know?

The original Constitution of the United States that was ratified in 1789 had only one reference to religion: [Article 6] No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The de facto motto of the United States, adopted as part of the Great Seal of the U.S. by an Act of Congress in 1782 was E. Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One). Congress changed it 174 years later (1956) to “In God We Trust.”

The original ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ was written in 1892 by Baptist Minister Francis Bellamy who DID NOT INCLUDE the words “Under God.” Those were added by Congress 62 years later (1954).

The U.S. didn’t issue Paper Currency until 1861, and ‘In God We Trust’ didn’t appear on it for 96 years (1957).

Just after the Red Scare in the 1950’s, CONGRESS CHANGED the Pledge of Allegiance and our Nation’s Motto over the FEAR of COMMUNISM.

In a time when fear is traded like a commodity, and the word SOCIALISM is being used to create the same fear as the old word COMMUNISM, let’s REMEMBER that our country was NOT founded on fear. NO, OUR NATION was founded out of HOPE for a better world where all people were EQUAL – that we were ONE from MANY.

Let’s not let fear change our nation’s great tradition & direction again.

Jolly Goofballs Unite!

October 14, 2011

I saw this in today’s paper. I think Knute may be on to a brilliant idea!

Click on image to see original source at gocomics.com