Political Flavors

Why I Bowled For Abortion Access While I Was (Trying To Get) Pregnant

Posted in Editorials, Personal Essays, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on September 28th, 2016

Note: This piece has been corrected. See below.

I’ve taken part in the New York Abortion Access Fund Bowl-a-thon for four years. In 2015 I bowled while I was trying to get pregnant. And this year I was in the middle of my second trimester. I even wore a shirt like this one to the event.

In 2015, no one knew I was trying to get pregnant, but this year many of my friends and family knew that I was pregnant while I made facebook and blog posts, and tweeted asking for money to pay for other women’s abortions. When I had just started to show, I organized a comedy show at my (Unitarian Universalist) church to raise money for the cause. This is probably something few others can say they’ve done!

I dreaded someone calling me out for a perceived hypocrisy or heartlessness. I see my fundraising activities as wholly compatible with my desire to be a mother and my compassion for other people. Reproductive justice means that everyone should be free to make the decision to parent or not. And my decision to become a mother does not mean that others must or should make the same choice. My freedom is bound to everyone else’s, and so raising money for abortion funds fits with that belief.

Being pregnant for this year’s NYAAF event was especially hard because their email list was somehow leaked or hacked [SEE UPDATE BELOW] to antichoice extremists who took the opportunity to harass those fundraising. I was sent disturbing bloody fetus pictures (which FYI are often photoshopped or pictures of miscarriages, not abortions) and a picture of a sonogram with a though bubble saying “I hope I can grow up and go bowling one day mommy.” Was I upset because I suddenly realized abortion was wrong? Not in the least. As I progressed into my second trimester, this kind of rhetoric did not reassure me that people were looking out for the “life” within me. Rather, when I heard people going on about late term abortions, what I heard was “If something goes wrong with your pregnancy at this point, you deserve to die.

That is exactly the mindset of Catholic hospitals which turn away women with life threatening complications from miscarriages. Antichoice extremism hurts women, and in cases like Savita Halappanavar‘s, it kills them. In fact, we know that defunding Planned Parenthood clinics in the United States has led to an increase in maternal mortality.

I did many things to give my baby the safest and healthiest pregnancy I possibly could. And raising money for abortion funds was something I did to both protect my own life, and to create a world where everyone is free to make the best decisions for themselves and their own families.

UPDATE: See the following message from Heather K. Sager, Volunteer Coordinator – New York Abortion Access Fund

In the piece you mention that our email list was “somehow leaked or hacked.” I want to take this opportunity to clarify that in fact, it was not NYAAF’s email list, but rather the entire fundraising website for NNAF that was hacked. This was the work of a malicious attack on the larger web server, which ultimately meant that email addresses were accessed, rather than internally or purposefully leaked.

I know that immediately after the attack we were able to share information on the security steps NNAF took in order to ensure that this is prevented and that everyone’s security is protected going forward. This included immediately hiring a security specialist, providing Q&A sessions on cyber security for those whose accounts were affected, and ensuring that additional resources were and continue to be available. I am more than happy to discuss these with you should you have any questions on this.

On behalf of NYAAF, we would also greatly appreciate it if you could correct the language in the article, so that it does not imply that anyone at NYAAF or NNAF was complicit in the attacks. The piece is really great, but I do want to be clear that no one in either organization had a part in the server being hacked.

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 13: Jex Blackmore and Satanic Feminism

Posted in Podcast Episodes on September 2nd, 2016

Episode Thirteen: Jex Blackmore and Satanic Feminism

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Listen to episode in browser/Right click to download file

We interview Jex Blackmore, National spokesperson for The Satanic Temple and Director of The Satanic Temple of Detroit.

Discussed in this episode:

The Satanic Temple’s Fight to Protect Your Abortion Rights (Broadly)

Satanic Temple seeks to start after-school programs in nine US districts

We had some audio distortion on this episode. Our apologies!


Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

We’ve joined the Apple affiliate program. If you’re going to sign up for Apple Music, please do so by using this link.

About those “jokes” comparing Hillary Clinton to Dolores Umbridge or Winn Adami…or Tracy Flick

Posted in Editorials on June 14th, 2016

People I know and respect along with a ton of people I don’t know have latched on to the meme that Hillary Clinton is Dolores Umbridge, the sickeningly sweet teacher at Hogwarts who tortures Harry, is useless as a Defense Against The Dark Arts Teacher (though weren’t they all) and has a generally fascistic worldview.

I mean, I guess? Clinton voted for the USA Patriot Act and she views Edward Snowden as a criminal more than a whistleblower. That’s kinda fascist. But she’s also solidly against torture, said that we should screen and accept Syrian refugees and is making one of the themes of her campaign “Love Trumps Hate.” So, maybe?

What bothers me the most about this comparison though is how things end for Umbridge. Did you forget that part? I’m almost positive most people have, especially when making this comparison. She’s raped by centaurs. And it’s supposed to be funny. When she comes back to Hogwarts, she’s in shock, and our heroes know what happened. Ron makes clopping hoof noises to scare her (trigger her?) and Hermione and Ginny crack up. Granted, they’re teenagers, and they have bad judgement. But no one in authority tells them “Hey buzz off, that’s not funny.”

Similarly, though even more geeky and less widespread I see Trekkies making “Hillary Clinton is Winn Adami” jokes. On Deep Space Nine, Winn Adami, played by the amazingly badass Louise Fletcher, was one of the best villans in the history of Star Trek. She’s a religious cleric with both fascistic and theocratic tendencies (although on her home planet of Bajor it’s pretty accepted that the religious leadership shares power with the elected government). She’s a master at manipulating people’s fears to get what she wants no matter the consequences. Like Umbridge, she’s uses sickeningly sweet faux coquettishness to mask her true intentions. Unlike Umbridge, as the writers reveal the complexity of her character, we are meant to empathize with her as a person while still despising her actions. Her crisis of faith is relatable to so many people who have searched for truth.

Is Hillary Clinton like Winn Adami? They’re both blonde and religious and ambitious. I suppose you could draw it out further by bringing up Clinton’s connections to The Family. But that’s still a bit of a stretch.

And yet, like Umbridge, in the end Winn Adami is also raped. Deep Space Nine draws out a more complex story than Order of the Phoenix. Winn is seduced and deceived by her greatest enemy and she is sexually, emotionally and spiritually exploited. The storyline is fascinating one, with an unsettling trainwreck quality that still viscerally disturbs me.

I know that most people making the “Hillary is Umbridge” or “Hillary is Winn” jokes don’t really mean that they think Hillary Clinton should be raped by centaurs or a sociopath in disguise as punishment for her more imperialistic tendencies. I’m not immune to this myself. I love Tom Perrotta novels and when I saw people comparing Hillary Clinton to Tracy Flick I saw it as a backhanded compliment. Tracy Flick kicks ass. She’s super smart and accomplished and wins in the end.

Then I remembered that most of the plot of “Election” is driven by the fact that Tracy is seduced (statutorily raped) by her Math teacher, Dave. Tracy is smarter than most of her peers but she is far behind them in terms of social skills. She has no real friends. This makes her an exceptionally easy target to be groomed and taken advantage of by a much older authority figure. Dave’s actions set off a chain of events which Tracy’s teacher Jim blames her for on some level. In a moment of frustration Jim threatens to ruin Tracy’s reputation by telling the whole student body what happened to her. Tracy takes this in stride because she has a very thick skin, but it’s hard to watch her be manipulated and then blamed and threatened for it.

So perhaps this isn’t the best comparison either.

This is one of those things that once seen, cannot be unseen. So keep that in mind. If you keep making those clever memes, I’m going to keep rolling my eyes and thinking “Ugh. Raped by Centaurs. Really?”

On Having Conditional White Privilege During The Trump Campaign

Posted in Editorials on June 13th, 2016

Last week Ralph Nader said in an interview about the popularity of Donald Trump:

There were Negro-joke books, Jewish-joke books, Polish-joke books, Italian-joke books. They used ethnic jokes to reduce tension in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s. And they’d laugh at each other’s jokes and hurl another one. But it still flows through ethnic America, you know. There are hundreds of things that people would like to say. So here’s this guy — he doubles down on them, he blows their minds. So that’s the first way he got their attention.

And I wanted to ask him, “Don’t you know white privilege is conditional?” Nader is Lebanese and in the United States many people would not consider him white if they knew that.

I have personal experience with this, I have discussed my mixed ethnicity on this blog. Many people who have conditional white privilege – Jews, light skinned Latinos, Arabs and other POC who pass as white – will have a moment in a conversation with a white person where some detail about their heritage is made known and something shifts in the white person’s tone or body language and you know they’ve just recategorized you in their head. I know Ralph Nader has had this moment, and it’s why I find his statement inexcusable.

Recently I got called out for something I did with my white privilege. In my post about why there is no progressive case for Donald Trump, I said:

For Latinos, Muslims, and many other Americans, Donald Trump is that bear trap and the vote for Hillary Clinton is the gnawing off of one’s leg.

Nezua and I had the following exchange:

I think it’s true that white people should not speak over or for people of color. There is a fine line between being an ally and taking up space that should be reserved for someone else. I also think that if you have privilege you should call out oppression and hatred where you see it, not to talk over or for other people but because it’s the morally right thing to do.

I don’t expect Nezua to intuit my heritage, and even if he knew that my father is a Colombian immigrant, his point would still stand as I do benefit from white privilege and I am not Mexican.

The reasons that I feel the need to call out Trump’s racism are both moral and personal.

I believe strongly that I should consider how my vote impacts everyone, not just myself.

I think that Trump’s comments, while specifically anti-Mexican encourage hatred against all Latinos including my family and possibly myself.

Finally, there is an ugly strain of “they’re coming for our women” underlying Trump’s remarks. Through a series of inadvisable clicks I spent a good portion of a recent afternoon reading through an infamous misogynist blog which has become a pro-Trump White Nationalist hellhole. And I read a lot of comments. Many Trump supporters are insecure men obsessed with their fear white women having sex with and bearing children with men of color. As the daughter of a white American mother and a Latino immigrant father, it was deeply unsettling to read these comments. I am a person who, in their mind should not exist. I am a mistake, an abomination, the worst outcome their fevered imaginations can muster. I am “White Genocide.” My mother is a ruined woman and my father is pure evil depravity. These are the people who filled the rallies for Donald Trump, the people who voted for him in Republican primaries, and who will vote for him in November. This is what they think of me.

I do not ever want to speak over or for groups I do not belong to. I only want to speak for myself. In my words and actions, believe I am morally obligated to consider how I impact other people from other groups.

Why Some Of The Most Spiteful Progressives I Know Won’t Bother To Fact Check Articles Bashing Hillary Clinton

Posted in Editorials on June 10th, 2016

Silly season continues and it seems we are going through the news cycle of whiny privileged crybabies who claim to be on the left, but also somehow think that Donald Trump will be a better president than Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bernie Sanders, mostly because I wanted to send a signal to Hillary Clinton that many of her policies are unacceptable to me – her vote on the Iraq War and wishy washy-ness on the TPP and Keystone XL pipeline. It would have been pretty amazing if Sanders had won the nomination, but as history shows us, it’s extremely difficult to win a primary against the candidate backed by the party and this year was no exception to that rule.

There are many things I do like about Hillary Clinton, her intelligence, the respect she has garnered around the world and her tenacity. I voted for her in 2008 because I thought she would be tougher against the Republicans than Obama would. She has many flaws, which we detailed in our podcast episode about the primary, but I still think she would be a solid president.

A Politico article by Yves Smith caught my eye today. It’s titled: “Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary.” And it posits that progressives should vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. The article is poorly sourced and doesn’t seem to have been fact checked. It amounts to a temper tantrum over Bernie Sanders not winning the primary. This isn’t just taking your ball and going home, it’s taking your ball and destroying the country in a mushroom cloud of entitled spiteful vengeance.

Smith quotes one of her commenters on her blog Naked Capitalism,

I don’t want to vote for Trump. I want to vote for Bernie. But I have reached the point where I feel like voting for Trump against Clinton would be doing my patriotic duty. … If the only way to escape a trap is to gnaw off my leg, I’d like to think I’d have the guts to do it.

This is an odd framing of the election. For Latinos, Muslims, and many other Americans, Donald Trump is that bear trap and the vote for Hillary Clinton is the gnawing off of one’s leg. I would say voting for Trump is like staying in the trap and dying of gangrene or lighting yourself on fire.

The Sanders supporters I interact with also reject Hillary’s trickle-down feminism as a substitute for economic and social justice. Clinton is correct when she points out that there is a glass-ceiling issue for women. There are fewer female CEOs, billionaires and senators. Women in the elite don’t have it as good as men. But pray tell, what is having more women, or Hispanics or blacks, in top roles going to do for nurses and hospital orderlies, or the minority group members disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs like part-time fast food workers? Class mobility has become close to nonexistent in America. If you are born in one of the lower-income cohorts, you are almost certain to stay there.

I would agree in part that much of what passes for feminism these days has no room for women of color or poor women. But I do not see that when I look at Hillary Clinton’s platform. How are paid maternity leave and universal pre-K “trickle down feminism?” These programs would be a great benefit to all mothers. (And children. And fathers.)

Then there are questions of competence. Hillary has a résumé of glittering titles with disasters or at best thin accomplishments under each. Her vaunted co-presidency with Bill? After her first major project, health care reform, turned into such a debacle that it was impossible to broach the topic for a generation, she retreated into a more traditional first lady role.

Has it ever occurred to Smith that part of the reason Clinton failed was systemic sexism? People were shocked and outraged that she was taking on any official role in her husband’s administration. They called it unprecedented nepotism. But in reality, going back to our second President, John Adams, most Presidents of the United States have relied on the wives for advice and counsel. Formalizing the role was too much for us to handle in 1993, but that doesn’t mean that First Ladies were not doing lots of work for their husbands. Letting this work remain invisible is a sad consequence of patriarchy.

As New York senator, she accomplished less with a bigger name and from a more powerful state than Sanders did.

The article cited fails to recognize Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments getting aid for 9/11 first responders detailed here. People fighting for the expansion of the Zadroga Act list her as an important ally in the fight to help responders and survivors of 9/11.

As secretary of state, she participated and encouraged strategically pointless nation-breaking in Iraq and Syria.

Equating our involvement in Syria with our invasion of Iraq is entirely disingenuous. I am and will always be morally outraged at the Iraq War. But Syria was already broken when we got there. Equivocating the two is disingenuous and minimizes the harm we did in Iraq.

She bureaucratically outmaneuvered Obama, leading to U.S. intervention in Libya, which he has called the worst decision of his administration.

This is false. President Obama did not say our intervention in Libya was the worst mistake of his presidency. He said his worst decision was failing to plan for the aftermath of the intervention.

And her plan to fob her domestic economic duties off on Bill comes off as an admission that she can’t handle being president on her own.

HILLARY CLINTON’S PLAN TO HAVE ADVISORS MEANS SHE CAN’T HANDLE BEING PRESIDENT? Perhaps Smith should change the name of her website to “Naked Sexism.”

Finally, there is the stench of corruption, dating back to Hillary’s impossible—by any legitimate means—trick of parlaying $1,000 into $100,000 in a series of commodities trades in 1978.

This makes it sound like she was directly involved in these trades. She was not. At worst, she employed a corrupt investor. But no investigation has ever taken place, surprising given the fact that she was investigated for Whitewater, a deal she lost money on. This Wikipedia article details what we know about this scandal and there is no conclusive evidence that Hillary Clinton herself did anything wrong. This attack is especially distasteful given that there is no comparison with Donald Trump’s involvement with the mafia in Atlantic City or his failure to pay people for their work worth a lot more than $100K.

They are willing to gamble, given that outsider presidents like Jimmy Carter and celebrity governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura didn’t get much done, that a Trump presidency represents an acceptable cost of inflicting punishment on the Democratic Party for 20 years of selling out ordinary Americans.

If Donald Trump gets elected President, he will appoint Supreme Court Justices who will impact the United States for a lot longer than 20 years. In a recent debate, Sam Seder was taking on a “Bernie or Bust” advocate and had the following exchange which I feel sums up the matter:

Jimmy: You know you got that Supreme Court, that is such a little poker in my eye!

Sam: Well, believe me, it’s not just a poker in your eye, it’s a poker in the eye of all those people who can’t vote this year by getting rid of preclearance, it’s a poker in the eye of all the families of the dreamers who keep getting deported, it’s a poker in the eye of people who want to have redress in the courts from things like forced arbitration, it’s a poker in the eyes of women in states who are denied access to abortion care. This thing is bigger than a poker. It’s like a cannon to the face.

There is no progressive case to be made for a racist charlatan like Donald Trump. Anyone who tries to convince you of such is selling spite and desperately trying to hide a bruised ego.

Some thoughts on the UUA Common Read: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials on May 23rd, 2016

Last week, I co-led a service at my UU Congregation about this year’s UUA Common Read, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Here’s what I had to say:

In 2005, the UU General Assembly passed a Statement of conscience, which reads in part:

As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to affirming the inherent goodness and worth of each of us. As Americans, we take pride in our constitutional promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all, including those who have violated the law. Yet the incarceration rate in the United States is five- to tenfold that of other nations, even those without such a constitutional promise. Our corrections system is increasingly rife with inequitable sentencing, longer terms of detention, racial and ethnic profiling, and deplorable jail and prison conditions and treatment. The magnitude of injustice and inequity in this system stands in stark contrast to the values that our nation—and our faith—proclaim. We are compelled to witness this dissonance between what America proclaims for criminal justice and what America practices. We offer an alternative moral vision of a justice system that operates in harmonious accord with our values as a community of faith. This vision includes the presumption of innocence, fair judicial proceedings, the merciful restoration of those who have broken the law, the renunciation of torture and other abusive practices, and a fundamental commitment to the dignity and humane treatment of everyone in our society, including prisoners.

Although Americans take great pride in the freedoms we espouse, the American prison system violates basic human rights in many ways. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States endorsed in 1948, states in Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” American correctional practice often subjects inmates to abusive treatment, such as torture and rape, and neglects basic human needs such as health care and nutrition. Some suspects are detained without charge, legal counsel, or access to family. While indigent defendants have exactly the same rights to competent counsel as non-indigent defendants, in many states indigent defendants are not provided equality of representation.

The American penchant for retribution squanders opportunities for redemption, rehabilitation, and restoration of the individual offender. Failures in the criminal justice system have created a disenfranchised, stigmatized class who are predominantly from lower-income backgrounds, poorly educated, or from racial and ethnic minorities. The punishment for crime is often simply separation from society, and the sentence one serves is the punishment. In our penal system, punishment often continues even after those convicted have completed their sentence. They are often stripped of voting rights, denied social services, and barred from many professions. If convicted of a drug crime, they become ineligible for federal student loans to attend college. Our criminal justice system makes it exceedingly difficult for anyone to reintegrate into society. People returning to their communities find that they lack opportunity, skills, and social services to fully function in society and hold down jobs, maintain families, or participate in their communities. Therefore, an unacceptable percentage of those released from our prisons and jails recidivate.

Not all prisoners who enter the system leave. One of the most shameful aspects of our current criminal justice system is the death penalty. Many countries have abandoned the practice of capital punishment. Studies fail to demonstrate that the death penalty actually deters crime. While the United States Supreme Court has ruled against the execution of juvenile offenders, the death penalty is still legal in the United States. Experience shows that judges and juries wrongly convict defendants. Given the number of death row inmates released on account of innocence, it is highly likely that we have executed innocent people and will do so again in the future unless we abolish the death penalty.

The first two Principles of Unitarian Universalism address the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Consistent with these fundamental principles, a new corrections policy must place a primary emphasis on community alternatives.

Appalled by the gross injustices in our current criminal justice system, we the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association commit ourselves to working in our communities to reform the criminal justice and correctional systems and effect justice for both victims and violators. We act in the spirit that we are indeed our sisters’ and our brothers’ keepers. Love is our governing principle in all human relationships. Therefore, that we may speak with one voice in unity, though not uniformity, we commit ourselves, our congregations to make good on our Unitarian Universalist heritage and our American promise to be both compassionate and just to all in our society. Through our diligence and perseverance in realizing this promise, we can live the core values of our country and extend the values of our faith to the benefit of others.

And so with this in mind, it is easy to understand why the UUA chose “Just Mercy” as the common read for this congregational year. The book, by Bryan Stevenson chronicles his career as an attorney working to for people on death row, mostly in Georgia and Alabama who have no other access to representation. He built the Equal Justice Initiative which litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. EJI works with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment.

Just Mercy’s main thread follows the story of Walter McMillian, a man wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death on scant evidence, false testimony and racist rumors. And while his story is compelling, Stevenson puts it in context of the criminal justice system we have today. It’s clear that his work isn’t just about one person. It’s to address the ongoing crisis of our broken criminal justice system.

I was left in awe and amazement at the tenacity and patience of Bryan Stevenson. I am so astounded by people who can spend their whole lives fighting an uphill battle. The book is not about him and gives few details about his personal life. He is very modest about his many great accomplishments in fact. And this perspective of humility and hope frame the book.

Something I keep coming back to when I think about the death penalty is that I, like everyone else, am a fallible human being subject to amoral impulses. There is an anecdote in the book about about a man who was the victim of abuse as a child and was suffering from PTSD after serving in Vietnam. After returning to the United States, he tried to win back an ex girlfriend by PUTTING A BOMB on her porch. In his distorted mind, he would save her from the bomb, and win back her love. But that didn’t happen. It went off, killed a young girl and maimed another in the process. It was and is very hard for me to feel sorry for him. But I think that’s exactly why we need to be careful in how we adjudicate these crimes. Our emotions cloud our judgement. In my outrage over his crime I do not care about the mitigating circumstances of this man’s victimization as a small, helpless child or the mental illness he could not avoid after his country drafted him and sent him to fight in a war. But Stevenson included this story in the book to show how brutal the death penalty is. The chapter details the visceral horror of the electric chair, which this man was put to death in. And even though somewhere in my heart I want vengeance for his victims, I know that his execution did nothing to help them. In fact, the surviving girl’s family approached Stevenson and asked him for help. They told him that putting someone else to death would not heal her. And I do feel some dissonance that we, to quote and old slogan kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong.

Although I know this book was meant to expose the injustice of our current system, I was also left with the gladness that people like Bryan Stevenson exist. His optimism and his accomplishments are an inspiration.

I have 5 sex questions for Ted Cruz

Posted in Editorials on April 13th, 2016

As David Corn writes in Mother Jones,

In 2004, companies that owned Austin stores selling sex toys and a retail distributor of such products challenged a Texas law outlawing the sale and promotion of supposedly obscene devices. Under the law, a person who violated the statute could go to jail for up to two years. At the time, only three states—Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia—had similar laws. (The previous year, a Texas mother who was a sales rep for Passion Parties was arrested by two undercover cops for selling vibrators and other sex-related goods at a gathering akin to a Tupperware party for sex toys. No doubt, this had worried businesses peddling such wares.) The plaintiffs in the sex-device case contended the state law violated the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. They argued that many people in Texas used sexual devices as an aspect of their sexual experiences. They claimed that in some instances one partner in a couple might be physically unable to engage in intercourse or have a contagious disease (such as HIV) and that in these cases such devices could allow a couple to engage in safe sex.

But a federal judge sent them packing, ruling that selling sex toys was not protected by the Constitution. The plaintiffs appealed, and Cruz’s solicitor general office had the task of preserving the law

Sound familiar? You might have seen this video about the law featuring the late Molly Ivins:

Continuing from Corn’s Mother Jones Article,

Cruz’s legal team asserted that “obscene devices do not implicate any liberty interest.” And its brief added that “any alleged right associated with obscene devices” is not “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.”

Question 1: Has Ted Cruz ever heard of Ben Franklin?

The brief insisted that Texas in order to protect “public morals” had “police-power interests” in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.” There was a “government” interest, it maintained, in “discouraging…autonomous sex.”

Question 2: Would a Cruz administration pursue this interest in masturbation police? How?

Question 3: Is there a government interest in discouraging maturbation if you do it with a partner? (Or partners?)

In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz’s office declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” That is, the pursuit of such happiness had no constitutional standing. And the brief argued there was no “right to promote dildos, vibrators, and other obscene devices.”

Question 4: What counts as an obscene device? Lingerie? Silk Scarves? Feathers? Ice Cubes? Flavored Condoms? Please provide a robust and discreet definition.

Question 5: Can you use obscene devices during procreative sex? In the Catholic Church, it’s all good as long as the penis ends up depositing semen into the vagina. Would that be a policy you would be willing to pursue?

If you are going to be at a Ted Cruz event any time in the near future, please ask him one of these questions! You don’t even have to credit me. Just send me a tweet and let me know what he says.

The Signal To Noise Ratio Of Blood Flow To One’s Genitals

Posted in Editorials on December 3rd, 2015

There’s an idea floating around our cultural conversation that has too long gone unquestioned. This is one of those fallacies that is so much a part of our rhetoric that we hardly even recognize we are perpetuating it. It’s the idea that sexual arousal is inherently meaningful aside from one’s personal subjective experience or actual participation in sex with a partner. And this is not only wrong, but it can be very harmful.

If anything, we don’t have enough compassion, education or care around human sexuality. And I wish we lived in a world where we took care of ourselves and each other in that way. As we do not, I think that our ignorance is part of what lets this fallacy flourish.

Here’s what I mean. I see this on the Red Pill, but it’s in other places too. It’s the idea that a person getting sexually excited means anything else than their particular brain was stimulated and is now sending the signal “hey there goes a good person to mate with.” So when someone says they wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton (or Bernie Sanders) because they aren’t hot and don’t want to look at someone old on TV – they are falling victim to this fallacy – that the amount of blood flowing to their junk can tell them anything meaningful about who should be president. (Insert Martin O’Daddy/Marco Rubio-oh-oh-OH joke here.)

Recently on the Red Pill, a guy dismissed Philippa Rice, best selling illustrator and author as:

a low value woman’s musing about being the queen of a loser

I wanted to respond that she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank, but I didn’t. Because according to this guy, her creative or financial success mean nothing if she can’t give him a boner. She has no other value as a human being.

It goes the other way too, an attractive person is seen as being capable regardless of their qualifications. Tons of dudes said they’d vote for Sarah Palin for this reason, as if being attractive means she would be a good leader. Note to those dudes: voting for a person is not an effective way to get that person to sleep with you.

It’s not just manosphere misogynists that do this either. I was giggling over Rachel Bloom’s “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” when I sent it to my podcast co-host Karen. She said, “I don’t want to police her sexual choices or her celebration of her sexual choices but wanting to fuck somebody is not a compliment. It doesn’t compliment them for their accomplishments.” And as much as I still like that song, she’s right. Maybe we should lay off the “That person is such an awesome writer/artist/scientist that I want to have sex with them” proclamations. They add nothing to the conversation aside from an acceptable way to say “Hey everyone my genitals are pleasantly engorged right now!”

And this can get really gross really quickly. I’m disturbed by David Tennant fans trying to change the meaning of Jessica Jones from a revenge fantasy to one about unrequited love. If any given person wants to fuck Kilgrave, brilliant, enjoy your mind control fantasy. But that does not mean that the other characters in the show should feel the same way! Any given fan’s personal pants feelings about David Tennant do not and should not have any impact on the plot of the show. Those feelings of lust don’t make Kilgrave not a rapist – which is why I will judge you if you ship Kilgrave and Jessica.

It’s hard to know how big of a leap there is from defending fictional rapists because the actor who plays them is hot to defending actual rapists because you think the accused person is hot. And it happens all the time. “James Deen [/other famous actor/athlete] can’t be guilty because I personally would have wanted it, ergo she must have wanted it.” As I said, really disgusting, really fast.

In an ideal world, everyone would be healthy and fulfilled in their sexuality. But we need to stop giving that delightful rush of hormones an intrinsic meaning other than “Ooh. I think I’d like some sex now.” It’s meaningful in discerning one’s own sexual desires but says nothing about anyone or anything else.

If you like this post, you might also like:
The Projection of Hate – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Rolling Stone and Right Wing Sex Panic
Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser

American Politics Is Eating Itself

Posted in Editorials on November 9th, 2015

Last week, Deport Racism PAC offered a $5,000 prize to anyone who would interrupt Saturday Night Live and call Donald Trump a racist. And so the show got out in front of it. Sonia Saraiya wrote in a review of Donald Trump hosting SNL:

This was most on display in the opening monologue, when a man heckled Trump, yelling “You’re a racist!” It was a plant—Larry David, who had been in the cold open, reprising his role as Bernie Sanders—but the punchline, if there was one, went nowhere. Trump was unflappable, because he knew the heckle was coming, and David’s “character” immediately admitted he’d taken cash to yell at Trump. In a few moments of adroit comic shuffling, the show introduced racism, let Trump defuse it, and then revealed it as insincere. That’s a set of actions with profound commentary for what it means to allege racism in this media climate; naturally, then, no performers of color were on stage. To include them would have meant underscoring how messed-up the bit was, and “Saturday Night Live” was not interested in critical thinking last night.

Rumors are circulating that Deport Racism PAC is linked to the Hillary Clinton campaign, but as the Daily Dot explains, all we really know is that the PAC was founded by a Clinton supporter.

But the PAC’s link to Clinton is irrelevant when you consider Saraiya’s critique. Larry David legitimized Donald Trump. His “joke” was that we all know Trump isn’t really a racist. C’mon you guys it’s just internet crazies and angry Latin@s saying that.

And in response, Deport Racism PAC has said that they’re giving the money to Larry David.

Irony is dead.

In declaring Larry David the “winner” they either don’t get the “joke,” are pretending not to, or don’t care. I’m leaning towards the latter. Which should make it very hard for anyone to take them seriously as a legitimate anti-racist organization in the future. So in this weekend’s showdown between a xenophobic megalomaniac and a nominally anti-racist PAC, the winner was Lorne Michaels. He played this whole thing expertly, as he should, having been in television for so long.

But in not using satire to speak truth to power, Michaels and David reveal that the game is rigged. Trump looks good, SNL has some of the best ratings in years and Deport Racism PAC insists that they also won somehow. What’s left is a meaningless discourse that’s more about getting attention than making a coherent point or changing anything. “Both sides” are feeding off of one another like a snake eating it’s tail (an example of the tagline for my podcast about the “political ouroboros.”) And the end result is that Trump improved his reputation. After all, that liberal Larry David didn’t think he was a racist!

I truly believe that the totality of American politics is a lot more than Donald Trump. But from conversations with friends and family who aren’t glued to Twitter, cable news and alternative media the way I am most people aren’t thinking about what Paul Ryan will do as Speaker, the climate conference in Paris or the TPP. When most Americans hear “politics” they think “Donald Trump.”

The Wealthy Could Always Give Away Their Problems

Posted in Editorials on October 21st, 2015

In The Guardian, this week there’s a profile of a therapist who counsels wealthy clients who deal with the unique stresses their money brings them.

“We are trained to have empathy, no judgment and so many of the uber wealthy – the 1% of the 1% – they feel that their problems are really not problems. But they are. A lot of therapists do not give enough weight to their issues.”


From the Bible to the Lannisters of Game of Thrones, it’s easy to argue that the rich have always been vilified, scorned and envied. But their counsellors argue things have only gotten worse since the financial crisis and the debate over income inequality that has been spurred on by movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Fight for $15 fair wage campaign.

“The Occupy Wall Street movement was a good one and had some important things to say about income inequality, but it singled out the 1% and painted them globally as something negative. It’s an -ism,” said Jamie Traeger-Muney, a wealth psychologist and founder of the Wealth Legacy Group. “I am not necessarily comparing it to what people of color have to go through, but … it really is making value judgment about a particular group of people as a whole.”

The media, she said, is partly to blame for making the rich “feel like they need to hide or feel ashamed”.

I actually am going to recommend some Biblical advice for the wealthy. But first I want to point something out. There’s a reason that people are protesting the rich, and it’s not because they are rich. No one is protesting Bill and Melinda Gates or Richard Branson or Warren Buffet or even Michael Bloomberg (well maybe they were but that had more to do with his actions as mayor rather than his wealth). They’re protesting the Waltons and the Bankers and big business because those are the people who are using their wealth to harm people. The financial crisis ruined the lives of people who had nothing to do with Wall Street. Working conditions exist in the United States and in US owned companies abroad that should not exist anywhere on Earth, much less in a country prides itself on American Exceptionalism. The judgement isn’t on the circumstance of happening to be wealthy but on how that wealth was accumulated and then what was done with it afterwards.

Money probably does bring unique challenges to family dynamics and social interactions, but the idea that the wealthy are unfairly judged is absurd. And like Adam said, there’s a very easy solution to fix the perception of being an evil rich person. GIVE YOUR MONEY AWAY! Give it to the poor, to homeless shelters and food banks, give it to schools and libraries, parks, museums, animal shelters, medical research, and abortion funds! There’s a lot of people who need it, and it will soothe some of that guilt and the public admiration will make you feel a lot less judged.

Image credit: OpenClipArt.org by vokimon