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Topics - Tulionberry the Enforcer

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Spamalot / Mah Dawbbleglawk
« on: April 26, 2015, 10:41:34 AM »

General Discussion / Terminator: Genisys
« on: April 21, 2015, 07:47:49 AM »

General Discussion / Blade Runner 2, starring Ryan Gosling
« on: April 17, 2015, 12:38:02 AM »

As you know, Ridley Scott has been developing Blade Runner 2 with director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners). It's a sequel that a lot of fans have been looking forward to seeing. Harrison Ford is already set to reprise his role as Rick Deckard, and it looks like he will be joined by Ryan Gosling.

Deadline is reporting that Gosling is in negotiations to join the film in a lead role. There are no details on the story or his character, but it takes place several decades after the end of the original 1982 film.

Gosling has the perfect presence for a sci-fi noir film like Blade Runner 2, and I think it would be great if he decides to join the project. It's easy to imagine him in the world that Scott created all those years ago.

The actor is also in talks to join Guillermo del Toro's The Haunted Mansion, which is another film I hope he jumps on board. The guy is just a talented actor, and it'd be fun to see him in these productions. Blade Runner 2 starts shooting in the summer of 2016, and it will come from a script written by Hampton Fancher (co-writer of the original) and Michael Green.

General Discussion / Humble Origin Bundle for Charity
« on: April 15, 2015, 03:48:37 AM »
Origin is doing a humble bundle - 9 games for donating to charity. A really good deal if you don't have these games.

General Discussion / Stupid Fun
« on: April 13, 2015, 05:32:46 AM »

General Discussion / Another Cult Classic Remake
« on: April 12, 2015, 08:35:29 PM »

Gremlins Remake Has Been Confirmed! It's Really Happening!

All systems are go! Finally!

After being put on hold a few months ago it seems that everything is coming together with the Gremlins reboot and I couldn't be happier about it!

Goosebumps and Disturbia screenwriter Carl Ellsworth has been asked to write the movie and original writer Christopher Columbus was thought to be directing but he has said he will take a producing role, along with original executive producer Steven Spielberg.

No director has been confirmed yet, but can we just pause to think about how good the film is going to look?! They looked pretty real back then (ok I was about 5 when I first saw the movie) but now!?

Gizmo and his scaly chums are coming back! And I can't wait!


Kentucky: Our Same-Sex Marriage Ban Isn't Anti-Gay Because It Applies To Straight People, Too

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's administration is arguing the state's ban on same-sex marriage isn't discriminatory because it applies to straight people, too.

"Kentucky’s marriage laws treat homosexuals and heterosexuals the same and are facially neutral. Men and women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are free to marry persons of the opposite sex under Kentucky law, and men and
women, whether heterosexual or homosexual, cannot marry persons of the same sex under Kentucky law," the Democratic governor said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court on March 27.

In the brief, Beshear also argues "there is no fundamental right to same-sex marriage."

The Courier-Journal reports that Dan Canon, the lawyer representing the six couples challenging Kentucky's gay marriage ban, called Beshear's argument "especially absurd."

"Kentucky is in essence saying that our clients are precluded from marriage entirely, unless they change their sexual orientation (or simply marry someone to whom they are not attracted)," Canon told the Courier-Journal in an email. "It's akin to passing a law banning all Catholic churches within city limits, and then saying it's not discriminatory because you can still go to a Baptist church."

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments April 28 on states' rights to ban same-sex marriage, with arguments being presented on current bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The court is expected to deliver its ruling on the case this summer.

In March 2015, lawyers from the Justice Department filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to rule states' same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional. Hundreds of companies have also urged the nation's highest court to side with same-sex marriage advocates.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled the federal ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

LoLz / Urf Mode: Enchanted Crystal Spatula
« on: April 11, 2015, 08:52:37 AM »

Spamalot / B]
« on: April 06, 2015, 08:58:47 PM »

LoLz / URF is back
« on: April 02, 2015, 08:06:41 PM »
log on bishes.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas legislature on Tuesday passed its version of a bill described by proponents as a religious freedom law, even as Indiana’s political leaders struggled to gain control over a growing backlash that has led to calls to boycott the state because of criticism that its law could be a vehicle for discrimination against gay couples.

The Arkansas bill now goes to the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who expressed reservations about an earlier version but more recently said he would sign the measure if it “reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states.” Tuesday afternoon, Doug McMillon, the chief executive of Walmart, the state’s largest corporation, said Mr. Hutchinson should veto it.

The passage comes as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana responded to the criticism of his state voiced by business interest groups, advocates for same-sex marriage and others. He said that he wanted the measure clarified to address concerns by week’s end, but also stepped up a vigorous defense of the law, rejecting claims that it would allow business to deny services to gays and lesbians.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to discriminate against anyone,” Mr. Pence, a Republican, said at a news conference in Indianapolis. He acknowledged that the law had become a threat to the state’s reputation and economy, with companies and organizations signaling that they would avoid Indiana in response. Mr. Pence said he had been on the phone with business leaders from around the country, adding, “We want to make it clear that Indiana’s open for business.”

But the governor, clearly exasperated, did not yield much ground to the law’s critics, saying the criticism was about “a perception problem,” not one of substance. He referred to “gross mischaracterizations,” “reckless reporting by some in the media,” “completely false and baseless” accounts of the law, and “the smear that’s been leveled against this law and against the people of Indiana.”

Religious freedom laws, as they are called by proponents, are intended to prevent governmental actions, like fines or mandates, from imposing a severe burden on someone’s religious practice unless there is a very compelling reason to do so. The bill in Arkansas is similar to the Indiana law, with both diverging in certain respects from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Arkansas’s most famous political son.

Both states’ laws allow for larger corporations, if they are substantially owned by members with strong religious convictions, to claim that a ruling or mandate violates their religious faith, something reserved for individuals or family businesses in other versions of the law. Both allow religious parties to go to court to head off a “likely” state action that they fear will impinge on their beliefs, even if it has not yet happened.

The Arkansas act contains another difference in wording, several legal experts said, that could make it harder for the government to override a claim of religious exemption. The state, according to the Arkansas bill, must show that a law or requirement that someone is challenging is “essential” to the furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, a word that is absent from the federal law and those in other states including Indiana.

“It has way too broad an application,” said John DiPippa, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock law school, who had spoken before the legislature in 2011 on behalf of a narrower and ultimately unsuccessful version of the bill. “I never anticipated or supported applying it to for-profit companies and certainly never anticipated it applying to actions outside of government.”

Though Arkansas has now joined Indiana as a target of criticism from businesses, condemnation of Indiana’s law continued to grow.

Days before the N.C.A.A. is to hold the men’s basketball Final Four in Indianapolis, the group’s president, Mark Emmert, said Tuesday that the new law “strikes at the core values of what higher education in America is all about.” The city’s mayor, Greg Ballard, a Republican, and the state Chamber of Commerce have called on lawmakers to change the statute.

Business executives, notably leaders of tech companies like Apple and Yelp, have spoken out against the law, and Angie’s List cited it in canceling plans to expand its facilities in Indianapolis. Entertainers have canceled tour dates in the state, a gaming convention is considering going elsewhere and the governors of Connecticut, New York and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana.

Even the White House joined in. “This piece of legislation flies in the face of the kinds of values that people all across the country strongly support,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday at his daily briefing.

Mr. McMillon of Walmart, in a statement, said the bill in Arkansas “threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state,” while the chief executive of Acxiom, a marketing technology company based in Little Rock that employs nearly 1,600 statewide, described the bill as “a deliberate vehicle for enabling discrimination.”

Governor Hutchinson, a pragmatic Republican who ran on a jobs platform, said in an earlier statement that he was “pleased that the legislature is continuing to look at ways to assure balance and fairness in the legislation.”

But with the votes on Tuesday, the decision now lies with him whether this balance has been effectively struck. His office was quiet on Tuesday, with a spokesman declining to comment, though the governor did meet in the morning with Democratic legislators who had concerns about the bill.

The future of similar measures elsewhere remained unclear. In Georgia on Tuesday, where the legislature will adjourn for the year on Thursday, opponents of a pending proposal rallied outside the state Capitol. Although the bill’s path has been turbulent — a Monday committee hearing about the measure was canceled — supporters and critics alike said it could be approved in the session’s final hours. North Carolina is far earlier in its debate. Religious freedom proposals surfaced last week in both the House and the Senate, and neither has faced a vote at even the committee level.

In Indiana, lawmakers are expected to go to a conference committee as early as Wednesday morning. They are likely to use an unrelated bill as a vehicle to create the clarification Mr. Pence has requested. Aides to lawmakers said they expected passage to happen as early as Thursday, but it is not certain that a measure acceptable to the legislature will be acceptable to critics.

And supporters of the laws urged political leaders not to bend to pressure. Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said he feared “a capitulation that enshrines homosexual behavior as a special right in Indiana.” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, “The government shouldn’t force religious businesses and churches to participate in wedding ceremonies contrary to their owners’ beliefs.”

Proponents of Arkansas’s bill insisted that there was no intent to discriminate against gays and lesbians, pointing out that there had been several previous attempts to pass such a law well before same-sex marriage came to be seen as nearly inevitable.

“The whole gay issue really was not a big discussion four years ago,” said Jerry Cox, the president of the Family Council, an Arkansas-based lobbying group. “It wasn’t discussed that much two years ago but for whatever reason that has been the focal point of the legislation this time.”

Critics of the law countered that the same legislators who presented this bill sponsored another law earlier in the session that forbade towns and cities from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances, a law that scuttled ordinances that would have protected gays and lesbians. Mr. Hutchinson did not sign that bill when it came to his desk, but allowed it to become law.

As late as Tuesday afternoon, legislators who opposed the bill in Arkansas were trying to add amendments clarifying that it could not be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, similar to what political leaders in Indiana are considering. But the sponsors of the legislation refused those amendments during the legislative process and on Tuesday dismissed them as last-minute efforts to kill the bill.

“All the way through this I thought it was unnecessary because of the fact that it didn’t do everything that everybody was saying it was doing,” Representative Bob Ballinger, a Republican and the chief sponsor of the bill, said in the minutes after the bill’s successful passage. “In hindsight maybe I would have done it to maybe avoid all the pain.”


Here’s a fun one. A trio of teenagers rummaged through a Missouri home when they discovered through Facebook postings that its owner, Debora Matthews, was out of town. They came away with nearly $3,000 in cash and valuables and, they thought, a fancy box filled with cocaine.

That wasn’t quite the case:

A trio of teenage burglars (…) thought they got away with a stash of cocaine they found in a wooden box, only to later discover that the powder was actually the cremated remains of the homeowner’s father, police report.

How did 17-year-old Devin Gesell (pictured above) and his two underage accomplices come to realize the “cocaine” was actually “a dead man’s ashes?” Trial and (very unfortunate) error, apparently:

She says the three thought the ashes stored in a container was cocaine, but after they tasted it, they realized what they had really stolen. However, instead of bring it back, they scattered the ashes all over the highway as they fled.

So, they snorted a dead man’s ashes (gross) before unceremoniously dumping them in the road (awful). But then, it gets worse:

She also says she believes the minors are two of her father’s grandchildren.

“I’m very upset because of the minors. I mean [they] were his grandsons,” Matthews said. “They did that to their grandfather. They didn’t even realize it was their grandfather’s ashes.”

Go ahead and throw a hefty punishment at these kids. They deserve it. But nothing the law can do to a minor will ever make them feel worse than the knowledge that they snorted their own grandfather’s ashes.

General Discussion / Yep, I'm very close to quitting my job
« on: March 02, 2015, 06:32:22 AM »

LAPD fatally shoot a homeless man on skid row

Los Angeles police shot and killed a homeless man on skid row Sunday during an intense altercation caught on video in which an officer can be heard twice shouting "drop the gun!"

The dramatic video — viewed more than 2 million times in the first seven hours after it was posted on Facebook — captures the final seconds of the confrontation, showing four officers engaged in a frantic struggle with the man, wrestling him to the ground.

Police were still analyzing the audio, but "it's clear there was a struggle for the officer's gun," Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. No other gun was found at the scene.

Five shots can be heard on the video. Two officers and a sergeant fired their weapons, Smith said.

"Any video that shows someone losing their life in an altercation with police is going to be disturbing," he said.

"It's disturbing for police officers to watch," he said.

The man, whose identity had not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics. Police said two officers were treated for minor injuries and released.

LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery said there could be more video recordings of the incident, noting that he could see two surveillance cameras mounted on buildings at the scene. Smith said the encounter was recorded by body cameras worn by at least one of the officers.

Police had responded to a robbery call in the 500 block of San Pedro Street around noon, Montgomery said. At one point during the confrontation a non-lethal Taser had been deployed, but Smith said it was "ineffective."

The video also shows two officers in the foreground grappling with and handcuffing a woman who had picked up a dropped police nightstick.

An angry crowd gathered immediately after the gunfire, as police cordoned off the scene and ordered onlookers to back away.

One witness can be heard complaining that there had been at least six officers to handle the situation, and that the mortally wounded man had been unarmed.

"Ain't nobody got no … gun!" he shouts.

"That man never was a threat," said Lonnie Franklin, 53, who said he was across the street when the shooting occurred. "The amount of officers present at the time could have subdued him."

Witnesses identified the dead man by his street name, "Africa," and said he'd been living in a tent on skid row for a few months after spending a long stretch in a mental health facility.

The LAPD has struggled for years to effectively police downtown's expansive skid row, which is a frequent destination for people with severe mental illnesses.

"We have to deal with the aftermath of a system that's failed," Officer Deon Joseph, a 16-year skid row beat cop, said Sunday.

Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said Sunday evening that he was watching the video repeatedly trying to hear exactly what the officers said to the man.

"My heart just started pounding just watching it," Soboroff said. "I feel the adrenaline. These situations are just so horrific."

Soboroff said a key issue would be whether the man did try to grab the officer's gun. Otherwise, he said, it's unclear what might have prompted the use of deadly force.

"To me, that would be the only explanation that something would happen that quickly," Soboroff said. "It escalated right in front of our eyes."

Soboroff said the LAPD, the independent inspector general and the district attorney's office would each investigate the shooting "very, very carefully."

"Of course, I would encourage people not to rush to judgment. It's not fair to anybody. It's not fair to the family of the victim or the victim or the officers," he said. "We'll find out what happened."

Last May, a mentally ill homeless man named Carlos Ocana died after falling from a rooftop after officers shocked him with a Taser. The death remains under investigation.

According to a Times data analysis, there have been 12 fatal officer-involved incidents in downtown Los Angeles since 2000. There was none in 2014 and one in 2015 before Sunday's violence.

People who witnessed Sunday's shooting described a chaotic scene leading up to the events captured on the video.

Dennis Horne, 29, said Africa had been fighting with someone inside his tent, one of many that line streets in the area.

When Africa refused to comply with a police order to come out of the tent, officers used a stun gun and dragged him out, Horne said. The officers tackled Africa, forcing him onto his back on the sidewalk.

"It's sad," Horne said. "There's no justification to take somebody's life."

Jose Gil, 38, said he saw Africa swinging at the

police before one of the officers started shouting that the man was going for his gun.

Ina Murphy, who lives in an apartment nearby, said Africa had arrived in the area about four or five months ago. He told her he had recently been released after spending 10 years in a mental health facility, Murphy said.

Another area resident, whose driver's license identified him as Booker T. Washington, said police had come by repeatedly to ask Africa to take down his tent.

People are allowed to sleep on the streets from 9 p.m to 6 a.m., but are supposed to remove their tents during the daytime, under a court agreement.

"This man got shot over a tent," Washington said.

A group of L.A. civil rights leaders urged the Police Commission on Sunday night to hold a special hearing on the use of force by officers on skid row.

Dozens of people gathered Sunday night in Pershing Square to protest the shooting.

Yannick Babou, 34, a street vendor who works in skid row, said he was selling cookies about a block from where the gunfire erupted Sunday.

"I'm not anti-police. I think we need police in society," Babou said. "But I think we need to hold police accountable when they do something wrong."

Spamalot / Fvck I didn't even know I had a mousewheel
« on: February 27, 2015, 06:05:24 PM »
How come nobody ever tells me these things?

Spamalot / F.E.A.R. collection steam sale
« on: February 21, 2015, 04:05:44 PM »
Is the game worth playing or not. I haven't played any of them.

Warning this shit is decently long, but it's worth the read.

Sam Harris, the New Atheists, and anti-Muslim animus

Two columns have been published in the past week harshly criticizing the so-called "New Atheists" such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens: this one by Nathan Lean in Salon, and this one by Murtaza Hussain in Al Jazeera. The crux of those columns is that these advocates have increasingly embraced a toxic form of anti-Muslim bigotry masquerading as rational atheism. Yesterday, I posted a tweet to Hussain's article without comment except to highlight what I called a "very revealing quote" flagged by Hussain, one in which Harris opined that "the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists."

Shortly after posting the tweet, I received an angry email from Harris, who claimed that Hussain's column was "garbage", and he eventually said the same thing about Lean's column in Salon. That then led to a somewhat lengthy email exchange with Harris in which I did not attempt to defend every claim in those columns from his attacks because I didn't make those claims: the authors of those columns can defend themselves perfectly well. If Harris had problems with what those columns claim, he should go take it up with them.

I do, however, absolutely agree with the general argument made in both columns that the New Atheists have flirted with and at times vigorously embraced irrational anti-Muslim animus. I repeatedly offered to post Harris' email to me and then tweet it so that anyone inclined to do so could read his response to those columns and make up their own minds. Once he requested that I do so, I posted our exchange here.

Harris himself then wrote about and posted our exchange on his blog, causing a couple dozen of his followers to send me emails. I also engaged in a discussion with a few Harris defenders on Facebook. What seemed to bother them most was the accusation in Hussain's column that there is "racism" in Harris' anti-Muslim advocacy. A few of Harris' defenders were rage-filled and incoherent, but the bulk of them were cogent and reasoned, so I concluded that a more developed substantive response to Harris was warranted.

Given that I had never written about Sam Harris, I found it odd that I had become the symbol of Harris-bashing for some of his faithful followers. Tweeting a link to an Al Jazeera column about Harris and saying I find one of his quotes revealing does not make me responsible for every claim in that column. I tweet literally thousands of columns and articles for people to read. I'm responsible for what I say, not for every sentence in every article to which I link on Twitter. The space constraints of Twitter have made this precept a basic convention of the medium: tweeting a link to a column or article or re-tweeting it does not mean you endorse all of it (or even any of it).

That said, what I did say in my emails with Harris - and what I unequivocally affirm again now - is not that Harris is a "racist", but rather that he and others like him spout and promote Islamophobia under the guise of rational atheism. I've long believed this to be true and am glad it is finally being dragged out into open debate. These specific atheism advocates have come to acquire significant influence, often for the good. But it is past time that the darker aspects of their worldview receive attention.

Whether Islamophobia is a form of "racism" is a semantic issue in which I'm not interested for purposes of this discussion. The vast majority of Muslims are non-white; as a result, when a white westerner becomes fixated on attacking their religion and advocating violence and aggression against them, as Harris has done, I understand why some people (such as Hussain) see racism at play: that, for reasons I recently articulated, is a rational view to me. But "racism" is not my claim here about Harris. Irrational anti-Muslim animus is.

Contrary to the assumptions under which some Harris defenders are laboring, the fact that someone is a scientist, an intellectual, and a convincing and valuable exponent of atheism by no means precludes irrational bigotry as a driving force in their worldview. In this case, Harris' own words, as demonstrated below, are his indictment.

Let's first quickly dispense with some obvious strawmen. Of course one can legitimately criticize Islam without being bigoted or racist. That's self-evident, and nobody is contesting it. And of course there are some Muslim individuals who do heinous things in the name of their religion - just like there are extremists in all religions who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion, yet receive far less attention than the bad acts of Muslims (here are some very recent examples). Yes, "honor killings" and the suppression of women by some Muslims are heinous, just as the collaboration of US and Ugandan Christians to enact laws to execute homosexuals is heinous, and just as the religious-driven, violent occupation of Palestine, attacks on gays, and suppression of women by some Israeli Jews in the name of Judaism is heinous. That some Muslims commit atrocities in the name of their religion (like some people of every religion do) is also too self-evident to merit debate, but it has nothing to do with the criticisms of Harris.

Nonetheless, Harris defenders such as the neoconservative David Frum want to pretend that criticisms of Harris consist of nothing more than the claim that, as Frum put it this week, "it's OK to be an atheist, so long as you omit Islam from your list of the religions to which you object." That's a wildly dishonest summary of the criticisms of Harris as well as people like Dawkins and Hitchens; absolutely nobody is arguing anything like that. Any atheist is going to be critical of the world's major religions, including Islam, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that.

The key point is that Harris does far, far more than voice criticisms of Islam as part of a general critique of religion. He has repeatedly made clear that he thinks Islam is uniquely threatening: "While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization." He has insisted that there are unique dangers from Muslims possessing nuclear weapons, as opposed to nice western Christians (the only ones to ever use them) or those kind Israeli Jews: "It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence." In his 2005 "End of Faith", he claimed that "Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death."

This is not a critique of religion generally; it is a relentless effort to depict Islam as the supreme threat. Based on that view, Harris, while depicting the Iraq war as a humanitarian endeavor, has proclaimed that "we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam." He has also decreed that "this is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with millions more than have any direct affiliation with Al Qaeda." "We" - the civilized peoples of the west - are at war with "millions" of Muslims, he says. Indeed, he repeatedly posits a dichotomy between "civilized" people and Muslims: "All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the earth."

This isn't "quote-mining", the term evidently favored by Harris and his defenders to dismiss the use of his own words to make this case. To the contrary, I've long ago read the full context of what he has written and did so again yesterday. All the links are provided here - as they were in Hussain and Lean's columns - so everyone can see it for themselves. Yes, he criticizes Christianity, but he reserves the most intense attacks and superlative condemnations for Islam, as well as unique policy prescriptions of aggression, violence and rights abridgments aimed only at Muslims. As the atheist scholar John L Perkins wrote about Harris' 2005 anti-religion book: "Harris is particularly scathing about Islam."

When criticism of religion morphs into an undue focus on Islam - particularly at the same time the western world has been engaged in a decade-long splurge of violence, aggression and human rights abuses against Muslims, justified by a sustained demonization campaign - then I find these objections to the New Atheists completely warranted. That's true of Dawkins' proclamation that " often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today." It's true of Hitchens' various grotesque invocations of Islam to justify violence, including advocating cluster bombs because "if they're bearing a Koran over their heart, it'll go straight through that, too". And it's true of Harris' years-long argument that Islam poses unique threats beyond what Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions of the world pose.

Most important of all - to me - is the fact that Harris has used his views about Islam to justify a wide range of vile policies aimed primarily if not exclusively at Muslims, from torture ("there are extreme circumstances in which I believe that practices like 'water-boarding' may not only be ethically justifiable, but ethically necessary"); to steadfast support for Israel, which he considers morally superior to its Muslim adversaries ("In their analyses of US and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. . . . there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah"); to anti-Muslim profiling ("We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it"); to state violence ("On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right. This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that 'liberals are soft on terrorism.' It is, and they are").

Revealingly, Harris sided with the worst Muslim-hating elements in American society by opposing the building of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, milking the Us v. Them militaristic framework to justify his position:

"The erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory — and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice."

Harris made the case against that innocuous community center by claiming - yet again - that Islam is a unique threat: "At this point in human history, Islam simply is different from other faiths."

In sum, he sprinkles intellectual atheism on top of the standard neocon, right-wing worldview of Muslims. As this superb review of Harris' writings on Israel, the Middle East and US militarism put it, "any review of Sam Harris and his work is a review essentially of politics": because his atheism invariably serves - explicitly so - as the justifying ground for a wide array of policies that attack, kill and otherwise suppress Muslims. That's why his praise for European fascists as being the only ones saying "sensible" things about Islam is significant: not because it means he's a European fascist, but because it's unsurprising that the bile spewed at Muslims from that faction would be appealing to Harris because he shares those sentiments both in his rhetoric and his advocated policies, albeit with a more intellectualized expression.

Beyond all that, I find extremely suspect the behavior of westerners like Harris (and Hitchens and Dawkins) who spend the bulk of their time condemning the sins of other, distant peoples rather than the bulk of their time working against the sins of their own country. That's particularly true of Americans, whose government has brought more violence, aggression, suffering, misery, and degradation to the world over the last decade than any other. Even if that weren't true - and it is - spending one's time as an American fixated on the sins of others is a morally dubious act, to put that generously, for reasons Noam Chomsky explained so perfectly:

"My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it.

"So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century."

I, too, have written before about the hordes of American commentators whose favorite past-time is to lounge around pointing fingers at other nations, other governments, other populations, other religions, while spending relatively little time on their own. The reason this is particularly suspect and shoddy behavior from American commentators is that there are enormous amounts of violence and extremism and suffering which their government has unleashed and continues to unleash on the world. Indeed, much of that US violence is grounded in if not expressly justified by religion, including the aggressive attack on Iraq and steadfast support for Israeli aggression (to say nothing of the role Judaism plays in the decades-long oppression by the Israelis of Palestinians and all sorts of attacks on neighboring Arab and Muslim countries). Given the legion human rights violations from their own government, I find that Americans and westerners who spend the bulk of their energy on the crimes of others are usually cynically exploiting human rights concerns in service of a much different agenda.

Tellingly, Harris wrote in 2004 that "we are now mired in a religious war in Iraq and elsewhere." But by this, he did not mean that the US and the west have waged an aggressive attack based at least in part on religious convictions. He meant that only Them - those Muslims over there, whose country we invaded and destroyed - were engaged in a vicious and primitive religious war. As usual, so obsessed is he with the supposed sins of Muslims that he is blinded to the far worse sins from his own government and himself: the attack on Iraq and its accompanying expressions of torture, slaughter, and the most horrific abuses imaginable.

Worse, even in its early stages, Harris casually dismissed the US attack on Iraq as a "red herring"; that war, he said, was simply one in which "civilized human beings [westerners] are now attempting, at considerable cost to themselves, to improve life for the Iraqi people." Western violence and aggression is noble, civilized, and elevated; Muslim violence (even when undertaken to defend against an invasion by the west) is primitive, vicious, brutal and savage. That is the blatant double standard of one who seeks not to uphold human rights but to exploit those concepts to demonize a targeted group.

Indeed, continually depicting Muslims as the supreme evil - even when compared to the west's worst monsters - is par for Harris' course, as when he inveighed:

Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies."

Just ponder that. To Harris, there are "tens of millions" of Muslims "far scarier" then the US political leader who aggressively invaded and destroyed a nation of 26 million people, constructed a worldwide regime of torture, oversaw a network of secret prisons beyond the reach of human rights groups, and generally imposed on the world his "Dark Side". That is the Harris worldview: obsessed with bad acts of foreign Muslims, almost entirely blind to - if not supportive of - the far worse acts of westerners like himself.

Or consider this disgusting passage:

"The outrage that Muslims feel over US and British foreign policy is primarily the product of theological concerns. Devout Muslims consider it a sacrilege for infidels to depose a Muslim tyrant and occupy Muslim lands — no matter how well intentioned the infidels or malevolent the tyrant. Because of what they believe about God and the afterlife and the divine provenance of the Koran, devout Muslims tend to reflexively side with other Muslims, no matter how sociopathic their behavior."

Right: can you believe those primitive, irrational Muslims get angry when their countries are invaded, bombed and occupied and have dictators imposed on them rather than exuding gratitude toward the superior civilized people who do all that - all because of their weird, inscrutable religion that makes them dislike things such as foreign invasions, bombing campaigns and externally-imposed tyrants? And did you know that only Muslims - but not rational westerners like Harris - "reflexively side" with their own kind? This, from the same person who hails the Iraq war as something that should produce gratitude from the invaded population toward the "civilized human beings" - people like him - who invaded and destroyed their country. Theodore Sayeed noted the glaring irony pervading the bulk of Harris's political writing:

"For a man who likes to badger Muslims about their 'reflexive solidarity' with Arab suffering, Harris seems keen to display his own tribal affections for the Jewish state. The virtue of Israel and the wickedness of her enemies are recurring themes in his work."

Indeed. And the same is true of the US and the West generally. Harris' self-loving mentality amounts to this: those primitive Muslims are so tribal for reflexively siding with their own kind, while I constantly tout the superiority of my own side and justify what We do against Them. How anyone can read any of these passages and object to claims that Harris' worldview is grounded in deep anti-Muslim animus is staggering. He is at least as tribal, jingoistic, and provincial as those he condemns for those human failings, as he constantly hails the nobility of his side while demeaning those Others.

Perhaps the most repellent claim Harris made to me was that Islamophobia is fictitious and non-existent, "a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia". How anyone can observe post-9/11 political discourse in the west and believe this is truly mystifying. The meaning of "Islamophobia" is every bit as clear as "anti-semitism" or "racism" or "sexism" and all sorts of familiar, related concepts. It signifies (1) irrational condemnations of all members of a group or the group itself based on the bad acts of specific individuals in that group; (2) a disproportionate fixation on that group for sins committed at least to an equal extent by many other groups, especially one's own; and/or (3) sweeping claims about the members of that group unjustified by their actual individual acts and beliefs. I believe all of those definitions fit Harris quite well, as evinced by this absurd and noxious overgeneralization from Harris:

The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed."

That is utter garbage: and dangerous garbage at that. It is no more justifiable than saying that the only future which religious Jews - as Jews - can envision is one in which non-Jews live in complete slavery and subjugation: a claim often made by anti-semites based on highly selective passages from the Talmud. It is the same tactic that says Christians - as Christians - can only envisage the extreme subjugation of women and violence against non-believers based not only on the conduct of some Christians but on selective passages from the Bible. Few would have difficultly understanding why such claims about Jews and Christians are intellectually bankrupt and menacing.

Worse still, these claims from Harris about how Muslims think are simply factually false. An AFP report on a massive 2008 Gallup survey of the Muslim world simply destroyed most of Harris' ugly generalizations about the beliefs of Muslims:

"A huge survey of the world's Muslims released Tuesday challenges Western notions that equate Islam with radicalism and violence. . . . It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington. . . .

"About 93 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews. . . .

"Meanwhile, radical Muslims gave political, not religious, reasons for condoning the attacks, the poll showed. . . .

"But the poll, which gives ordinary Muslims a voice in the global debate that they have been drawn into by 9/11, showed that most Muslims -- including radicals -- admire the West for its democracy, freedoms and technological prowess.

"What they do not want is to have Western ways forced on them, it said."

Indeed, even a Pentagon-commissioned study back in 2004 - hardly a bastion of PC liberalism - obliterated Harris' self-justifying stereotype that anti-American sentiment among Muslims is religious and tribal rather than political and rational. That study concluded that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies": specifically "American direct intervention in the Muslim world" — through the US's "one sided support in favor of Israel"; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, "the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan".

As I noted before, a long-time British journalist friend of mine wrote to me shortly before I began writing at the Guardian to warn me of a particular strain plaguing the British liberal intellectual class; he wrote: "nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle." That - "defending power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle" - is precisely what describes the political work of Harris and friends. It fuels the sustained anti-Muslim demonization campaign of the west and justifies (often explicitly) the policies of violence, militarism, and suppression aimed at them. It's not as vulgar as the rantings of Pam Geller or as crude as the bloodthirsty theories of Alan Dershowitz, but it's coming from a similar place and advancing the same cause.

I welcome, and value, aggressive critiques of faith and religion, including from Sam Harris and some of these others New Atheists whose views I'm criticizing here. But many terms can be used to accurately describe the practice of depicting Islam and Muslims as the supreme threat to all that is good in the world. "Rational", "intellectual" and "well-intentioned" are most definitely not among them.

Sam Harris in 2005: "I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror."

Sam Harris in 2012: "We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it."

Sam Harris in 2005: "In our dealings with the Muslim world, we must acknowledge that Muslims have not found anything of substance to say against the actions of the September 11 hijackers, apart from the ubiquitous canard that they were really Jews." (Harris' own ugly canard would come as news to CAIR, the leading Muslim advocacy group, as well as most of the world's Muslims).

By themselves, those statements - fully in context - negate 90% of the comments from Harris defenders. If you're going to defend him, do remember to defend these.

One last point: I absolutely do not believe that Harris - or, for that matter, Hitchens - is representative of all or even most atheists in this regard. The vast majority of atheists I know find such sentiments repellent. They are representative only of themselves and those who share these views, not atheists generally.

Several commenters and emailers object to the inclusion of Dawkins with Hitchens and (especially) Harris on this issue. Both the above-cited Salon and Al Jazeera columns (particularly the former) contain several quotes with links from Dawkins, including his recent decree that he "often" says that Islam is the "greatest force for evil today". Those statements seem clear and incriminating. Nonetheless, my focus here is on Harris, and I haven't conducted the type of comprehensive examination of Dawkins' writing as I have of Harris', so whether Dawkins belongs in this group to the same extent that Harris does is something that is worthy of further debate. One sentence was edited to reflect the debatability of Dawkins' inclusion.

As a follow-up to all of this, here are a few related items. First, here is Noam Chomsky in late 2011 - in the first two minutes of the video - explaining how Harris and Hitchens exploit atheism to justify US militarism and convert it into little more than another religion:

And here is Chomsky in 2008 elaborating further on Harris and company [quote and link fixed]:

"f it is to be even minimally serious, the 'new atheism' should focus its concerns on the virulent secular religions of state worship, so well exemplified by those who laud huge atrocities like the invasion of Iraq, or cannot comprehend why they might have some concern when their own state, with their support, carries out some of its minor peccadilloes, like killing probably tens of thousands of poor Africans by destroying their main source of pharmaceutical supplies on a whim -- arguably more morally depraved than intentional killing, for reasons I've discussed elsewhere.

"In brief, to be minimally serious the 'new atheism' should begin by looking in the mirror."

That is the hallmark of this New Atheist movement: exploiting rational atheism to support and glorify US state power and aggression; they have become a prime source for pseudo-intellectual justification of US government conduct.

Here's a 2008 interview with the great war journalist Chris Hedges on what he concluded after reviewing the work of "New Atheists" such as Harris and Hitchens: "I was appalled at how they essentially co-opted secular language to present the same kind of chauvinism, intolerance, and bigotry that we see in the Christian right." He adds:

"They're secular fundamentalists. . . . I find that it's, like the Christian right, a fear based movement. It's a movement that is very much a reaction to 9/11. The kinds of things that they write about Muslims could be lifted from the most rabid sermon by a radical fundamentalist."

Having dealt somewhat extensively with Harris and many of his supporters this week, I can say that I haven't encountered such religious-type fervor and jingoistic and tribalistic self-love (My Side is superior to Theirs!!) in quite a long time.

Meanwhile, even Christopher Hitchens - Harris' comrade in US militarism - denounced Harris' statement that "the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists." Wrote Hitchens in 2006 shortly after Harris wrote that: "When I read Sam Harris's irresponsible remark that only fascists seemed to have the right line, I murmured to myself: 'Not while I'm alive, they won't.'" I think Harris' "fascists" comment is far from his worst statement - it has the limited significance I outlined - but if Christopher Hitchens, of all people, is telling you that you're being "irresponsible" in your anti-Islam advocacy, that's a pretty strong sign that you've gone way too far.

General Discussion / Yep
« on: January 25, 2015, 09:06:17 PM »

A year after marijuana legalisation in Colorado, 'everything's fine' confirm police

It's been a year since Colorado became the first state in the US to legalise marijuana, and its impact on health, crime, employment and other factors can now be more empirically measured.

So, did it bring about an apocalypse leaving the streets strewn with out-of-work addicts as some Republicans feared?

"We found there hasn't been much of a change of anything," a Denver police officer told CBC this week.

"Basically, officers aren't seeing much of a change in how they do police work."

Not only has the legalisation of cannabis not come with a rise in crime, it has also created thousands of jobs, as tourists flock to the city's 60+ marijuana outlets.

A local newspaper even appointed its first cannabis critic in April.

"So the sky isn't falling?" a CBC reporter asked the officer. "The sky isn't falling," he replied.

Impaired driving, property crime and violent crime were all dropping in Denver prior to legalisation, and the trend has only continued. Even drug use among young people is down, the report claims.

Colorado's unprecedented move led to Washington, Alaska and Oregon voting for legalisation, and this week a bill was filed to legalise it in New York.

Cannabis remains a Class B drug in the UK, carrying a prison sentence for possession of up to five years.


A Florida man was arrested on criminal mischief charges for smashing the car of his “spiritual” girlfriend after she prophesied that his dead grandmother would return to him in his dreams — and violate him with what police called “an adult erotic device.”

According to TCPalm‘s Will Greenlee, Casey Molter and his unnamed girlfriend had gotten into a physical altercation earlier that morning, and police were called to break them up. At that time, Molter had only inflicted minor damage to her car and smashed her cell phone.

After police left, however, Molter continued to attack his girlfriend’s car, breaking a passenger side mirror, deflating its tires, and strewing the hood and windshield with used condoms and what the police referred to as “love notes” written in creams and lotions.

When police returned to the scene, they asked Molter why he was so intent on damaging his girlfriend’s car. He replied that she is a “‘spiritual person’ and can tell a person about their dreams.”

He said that she had told him that his deceased grandmother was going to return to him in his dreams, and that she was going to “commit an unusual sex act to him involving an adult erotic device,” the police report stated.

“Molter said that he could not get the image out of his head and he ‘snapped,’” the report continued.

Molter posted his $500 bond, and is due back in court later in January.

General Discussion / Child Molester Won $3 Million Lottery Jackpot
« on: December 12, 2014, 12:21:32 AM »

Convicted Sex Offender Timothy Poole Wins $3 Million Lottery Jackpot in Florida

A convicted sex offender won a $3 million lottery jackpot in Florida and will be able to keep his winnings.

Timothy Poole, 43, won the prize after buying a $20 ticket from a 7-Eleven store in Mount Dora, Florida.

Poole pleaded guilty in 2002 to attempted sexual battery involving two victims under the age of 12, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.

He was released from custody in 2006.

Poole, now working as a cab driver for his family’s taxi company, asserted his innocence in an October report by WKMG-TV, a CBS-affiliated station in Orlando.

“It may be hard for some to believe, but sometimes people are wrongly accused,” Poole said in the October report.

There are no laws preventing anyone convicted of committing a crime from winning the lottery. The odds of winning a $3 million jackpot in the Super Millions scratch-off game are 1-in-1,680,000, according to Florida Lottery.


This is not your ordinary Top 10 Buzzfeed list. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs, created this list to show why the War on Drugs has been one of the most disastrous policies in American history. From mass incarceration and tremendous loss of life to billions of dollars seized from citizens every year, drug prohibition is a colossal failure. We need you to share this list to help get the word out. Help grow the number of people in this country and around the globe demanding legalization, regulation and control.

1. Mass Incarceration

The U.S. currently has less than 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 25% of its incarcerated population. We imprison more people than any other nation in the world. Our high levels of imprisonment are largely due to current drug policies – drug arrests account for more than 50% of people in federal prison, and more than 16% of people in state prison. Nowadays, about 500,000 Americans are behind bars on any given night for a drug law violation, 10 times the amount in 1980.

2. Racial Bias In Arrests

According to Human Rights Watch, as of 2009, black people were arrested on drug charges at more than three times the rates of whites and sent to state prisons with drug convictions at ten times the rate of whites. All this despite the fact, the Washington Post informs us, that whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rates and white people are more likely to sell drugs.

3. Asset Forfeiture

Several U.S. laws passed in the 1970s and 1980s have enabled the government to seize and forfeit private property even if no one is ever charged with a crime. In seizures, 81% of folks are never indicted. Police departments generally get to keep much of the profit from what they take, creating an incentive for police to support the drug war. In 2012, the Justice Department took in nearly $4.2 billion in forfeitures.

4. America’s Heroin Epidemic

From 2006 to 2010, heroin overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by 45%, and the numbers continue to climb. As the nation has cracked down on prescription opioid abuse, people suffering from addiction have turned to heroin, a cheaper, easily accessible option. As it is unregulated and attached to great social stigma, people use heroin in shame, not knowing what they are consuming and often afraid to ask for help in case of overdose or addiction. And our friends, family members, and neighbors are dying from it more than ever – four decades into the so-called war on drugs.

5. The Breakdown Between Police and the Community

Police officers are supposed to protect and serve communities. However, since the drug war has ramped up in this country over the last forty years, the relationship between police and community has soured. Police officers come into communities – many times, low income communities or communities of color – and meet its members with aggression. Practices such as stop and frisk and the increasing militarization of police officers have deteriorated trust in police forces, which compromises the opportunity for cooperation and justice when violent crimes are committed.

6. Mexican Drug Cartel Violence

The Mexican government has escalated its war with drug cartels and traffickers since late 2006. Since that time, more than 60,000 people have been killed. On top of the human suffering and loss, it is estimated that Mexican drug cartels take in between $19 -$20 billion annually from U.S. drug sales.

7. The War on Women

Women are the fastest-growing population within the prison industrial complex. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of women in prison increased by 646%. Roughly 85% of women in prison now are serving time for nonviolent offenses. The war on drugs is the primary reason behind these statistics. Here are two breathtaking cases of women affected by the war on drugs: the Kemba Smith story and Amy Povah story.

8. The Entrapment of Minors

Unfortunately, there are law enforcers around the country who choose to prey on vulnerable minors to get their arrest numbers up so that their departments can earn coveted federal grant dollars. In the case of Jesse Snodgrass (an autistic teen also diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome who struggles socially), a police officer posed as a high school student, pretended to be Jesse’s friend, and harassed him until he sold him marijuana. Entrapment of minors is a pathetic excuse for police work and a waste of our tax dollars.

9. SWAT Raids Kill People and Family Pets

It happens all around the country. A SWAT team bursts into the wrong home, shoots an unarmed innocent victim, the family dog, and traumatizes the rest of the family members. It happened to these people, all of whom lost their lives in one type of botched drug enforcement operation or another. And it happened in epic fashion in July 2008, when a SWAT team stormed the home of the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, PA, shot and killed his two dogs, and held him at gunpoint.

10. The Drug War Spends Tax Dollars

In addition to the increase in crime, corruption, and the restricting of civil rights that has resulted in drug prohibition, legalizing and regulating drugs would create an estimated $88 billion per year in tax dollar savings and new tax revenue for U.S. federal and state governments. Despite this potentially massive economic boost, there has been little productive dialogue on the subject of legalization and regulation from policymakers.


‘It’s gross, it’s racist’: Ben Affleck and Bill Maher clash over criticizing Islam

ll Maher and author and neuroscientist Sam Harris battled actor/director Ben Affleck on Real Time on Friday concerning Maher’s recent remarks criticizing Islam.

“Why are you so hostile about this?” Maher asked Affleck.

“It’s gross, it’s racist,” Affleck replied.

“It’s so not,” Maher insisted, though Affleck compared it to using the term, “Shifty Jew.”

“You’re not listening to what we are saying,” Maher insisted.

“You guys are saying, if you want to be liberal, believe in liberal principles,” Affleck said, referencing Maher’s monologue last week. “Like, we are endowed by our forefathers with inalienable rights, all men are created equal.”

Harris, who had complained about criticism of the Muslim religion being dismissed as Islamophobic, countered that liberals should be allowed to criticize bad ideas.

“Islam is the motherload of bad ideas,” Harris argued.

“Jesus,” Affleck said in frustration.

“That’s just a fact,” Maher said, backing Harris up.

“Or how about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?” Affleck said.

But Harris countered that the strongest voices in Islam belong to not only extremists, but conservative Muslims who, while criticizing terrorist groups, still follow practices that keep other members of their communities “immiserated.”

“It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia,” Maher said. “They will f*cking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”

Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele pointed out that Muslim clerics from several countries have condemned the actions of groups like the Islamic State, without getting much attention for it.

“Where was the coverage?” Steele asked. “Where was that story to create a different picture?”

Affleck then rebuffed Maher’s attempt to laugh the discussion off.

“I’m simply telling you, I disagree with you,” Affleck said, before Maher cut him off.

“I know, and we’re obviously not convincing anybody,” Maher said.

Maher did not address criticism directed toward him by religious scholar Reza Aslan, who said on CNN that his views on the religion were “not very sophisticated.”


JEFFERSON COUNTY Colo. (Reuters) - Sitting with friends by a skate park near a Colorado high school known more for an infamous shooting than conflict over curriculum, 17-year-old Charlotte Beierle said attempts to play down the darker parts of U.S. history mystify her.

The Columbine High School student was one of more than 1,000 placard-waving pupils who walked out of classrooms in the largely white, middle-class district in suburban Denver last week after one school board member proposed changing parts of a history course.

"People thought we were punks because we walked out of class," said the teenager, sitting across from the site of a 1999 shooting that left 12 students and one teacher dead. "But why would you teach history and not teach the negative bits?"

The question of how U.S. teens learn history in public schools is the latest flash point in a liberal-conservative fight over national curricula that had previously focused on more scientific topics such as teaching creationism versus evolution.

Opponents say the revised guidelines for the Advanced Placement (AP) history course cast the United States in a harsh light by giving undue emphasis to topics such as slavery and the treatment of Native Americans.

Supporters of the new outline decry what they call a bid to block teachers from teaching U.S. sins of the past in a course for high schoolers deemed ready for college-level content.

The fuse was lit in Colorado when three conservative members were elected to a five-person school board in Jefferson County last November, changing the political balance in the state's second-largest school district with nearly 150 schools and 84,000 students.

Responding to the new AP U.S. history course framework, which was rolled out this fall, one new board member called for instructional materials to promote "patriotism" and "respect for authority."

The materials should not, she wrote, "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

The contentious proposal was quickly tabled after all three conservative board members agreed to not pursue it, but it caught the attention of students, many of whom demonstrated last week outside schools waving signs reading "Don't make history a mystery!" and "How will we learn from our mistakes if you don't teach us about them?"

Dozens of teachers also called in sick or used personal days, causing some schools to cancel classes. Even some students at a middle school staged their own protest.


Administered by the New Jersey-based College Board, AP classes are a mainstay for students headed to elite universities, allowing them to earn college credits.

Critics say the new history course consistently casts the United States in a negative light, omitting or distorting key historical events or topics such as the Declaration of Independence and U.S. involvement in World War II.

In August, the Republican National Committee denounced the framework as "radically revisionist," calling for a congressional probe and threatening to withhold federal funds from the College Board.

In politically purple Jefferson County, which bills itself as the "Gateway to the Rocky Mountains," the school board member who made the controversial proposal, Julie Williams, said important figures, such as founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, escape mention. So, too, she noted, does civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The authors of the new framework say it seeks to de-emphasize rote memorization in favor of critical thinking. They say they have never provided a detailed list of which figures need to be studied so teachers can decide for themselves what content to include according to state mandates.

The school board is scheduled to address the issue again at a meeting on Thursday night.

The controversy has not been limited to Colorado. In Texas, the State Board of Education last month recommended the course be revised "in a transparent manner that accurately reflects U.S. history without an ideological bias."

Conservative board members have accused the Jefferson County teachers' union, already upset over a new pay deal, of spurring the protests. The union denies it, and the reaction from parents defending their children has been fierce.

Jodi Lundin, a mother of two, said the new board members put their political and religious views ahead of students.

"You all have bullied the teachers and the community, and I ask you to stop blaming and take a good, hard look at yourselves," Lundin wrote in an open letter to the three.

General Discussion / Deadpool Teaser
« on: September 18, 2014, 10:41:25 PM »

Spamalot / Heh heh
« on: September 15, 2014, 09:32:55 PM »


Yesterday, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly and his team posed the following question on O’Reilly’s poll center:

Do you favor the legalization of marijuana?

The poll’s purpose was, in O’Reilly’s pipe dream world, to facilitate an extremely negative response and then to air a segment on The O’Reilly Factor derailing cannabis legalization (like he did Monday night). By polling his own audience, O’Reilly and his team could paint a delusional picture, but one supported by “data.”

And at first, it worked. 81% of the initial voters responded with a resolute “No.”

Then, the internet caught wind of the poll, made it go viral in the cannabis community, and worked its marijuana magic.

First, NORML posted the following message to its constituency on Facebook:

NORML Nation: Bill O’Reilly is hosting a poll on marijuana legalization, but unlike most polls, we are losing! Click to vote and turn the tide. Let’s show Prohibitionist O’Reilly that it is time to end the madness and legalize marijuana. Think we can flip these results?

That post got over 3,000 likes and 1,500 shares. Despite feeling “dirty” by giving O’Reilly’s poll serious web traffic, the NORML community rallied, and hit the poll hard.

UPDATE: We went from 18% for, 81% against (1,483 votes) to 70% for, 30% opposed (~4,000 votes) in about 20 minutes. Good work everyone!

Then, the same message made its to Reddit’s popular marijuana community. Then, this happened:

Update: The poll is holding steady with legal weed holding a comfortable 90%-10% lead.

This graphic paints a clear picture: the internet’s love of legal weed has become a force that cannot be reckoned with.

It’s unclear whether or not O’Reilly will ever air this ironic poll which pretty much derails his entire anti-pot hypothesis. It is clear that if Bill O’Reilly and Nancy Grace had a baby, the world would be doomed.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced today that it is leaning toward finally allowing its female population to use forks.

The highly anticipated move comes as the autocratic Islamic regime faces ongoing criticism around the world for its record on women’s rights, which critics say is among the worst in the word.

“We hope this gesture of goodwill today will assure our critics that the Kingdom is open to reform on all issues and is sensitive to the needs of its female population,” a spokesperson for the Saudi government says.

Saudi Arabia has banned women from using forks since its formation in 1932 over fears that the utensil represented a threat to the kingdom’s conservative sexual mores.

"There is something very unclean about a woman putting four long hard things in her mouth at once," explains a leading Islamic cleric close to government policymakers.

"When a man sees a woman putting metal with such shapes into her sacred orifice, he cannot help but think the most unnatural thoughts. This measure exists to prevent sexual chaos between men and women."

However, Mario Santerelli, an Italian expatriate who runs an upscale Italian restaurant in Riyadh, has a different view.

“I can’t wait for the ban to be lifted,” he says. “It’s frustrating having to watch women eat pasta with a knife and spoon. Many of my customers are couples looking for a romantic night out. Being unable to properly eat your food kinda kills the mood.”

Once the ban on female fork use is lifted, women will still face a variety restrictions unique to the kingdom, where the status of women is arguably analogous to that of blacks in apartheid South Africa.

All women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a legal male guardian, are barred from mixing with the opposite sex in public, forced to use separate entrances to most buildings, and are most notoriously banned from driving automobiles.

Although there is a growing movement within the kingdom for greater freedom for women, this is the first concrete step the conservative ruling monarchy has made in that direction.

According to sources close to the government, the fork ban is expected to be lifted in a matter of weeks.


The city of Compton in Los Angeles County has been synonymous with gangsta rap since N.W.A.’s groundbreaking Straight Outta Compton album in 1988, but it’s now also famous for a steadfast opposition to fracking.

This week, Compton was hit with a lawsuit by the Western States Petroleum Association, a mega-bloc of some of the most powerful oil and gas companies in the nation. Although Santa Cruz and Beverly Hills both voted in fracking bans this May, only Compton’s ban (which passed on April 22) is being challenged by the industry in court.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of natural gas extraction in which a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand is injected with high pressure into deep underground rock formations like shale. The rock is then broken up into fractures, which fill with natural gas or petroleum.

Exxon Mobil's CEO says no to fracking… near his Texas ranch. Read more here.

Environmentalists and residents of areas near fracking wells oppose the method because of its potential to pollute groundwater and air. But opposition in California is also concerned with one of fracking’s other suspected dangers: inciting earthquakes.

This March, the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, and Earthworks co-published a report titled “On Shaky Ground: How Oil Companies Increase California’s Earthquake Risk.” The paper found that over half of California’s active wastewater wells (where fracking chemicals are dumped after use) are within 10 miles of the San Andreas fault.

Kassie Siegel, director of Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, told VICE News that scientists have proven that wastewater injection heightens the likelihood of earthquakes.

“It increases earthquake risk in our seismically active state and puts millions of people at risk,” Siegel said. “It’s completely unsafe and unacceptable for this to be going on.”

After large earthquakes hit Oklahoma and Colorado in 2011, scientists began to suspect that they were induced by nearby fracking operations. In May, the Seismological Society of America held a press conference to warn the public that there’s no way to predict which fracking wells will cause tremors.

Compton sits on top of the Avalon-Compton fault, but the massive San Andreas fault — a rupture of which caused the 1906 San Francisco quake that leveled the city — passes just to the east of Los Angeles County.

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The Western States complaint alleges that Compton’s ordinance is unconstitutional because it bans fracking outside of the city limits under the stipulation that any oil or gas wells nearby would “bottom out” in its city. Basically, Compton doesn’t want any fracking-related pollution coming its way — and Western States claims that the city doesn’t have the right to try and avoid it.

The Compton ban is an ordinance imposing a moratorium on fracking “from any surface location in the city or from any site outside the city limits where the subsurface bottom hole is located in the city.” By using such specific language, Compton essentially laid claim not only to its land boundaries on the surface, but also to the miles and miles of rock and gas deposits underneath the city.

So why sue only Compton? After all, not only have other California cities banned fracking, several more are hopping on the bandwagon. Santa Barbara and San Benito counties just approved November ballot measures to ban the controversial method, and Los Angeles is currently drafting a permanent ordinance after the city council temporarily banned fracking earlier this year.

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A spokesperson for Western States told VICE News the company filed the suit “on behalf of its members who own mineral rights or currently produce oil and natural gas in or near the City of Compton.”

It’s the in or near part that defines the legal battle: Western States says Compton has no authority to regulate activities outside of the city limits. But far from being arbitrary, Compton’s ban on nearby fracking came as a response to a huge drilling project proposed in the neighboring town of Carson. Carson imposed a complete moratorium in March in response to the project, but it expired after just 45 days.

VICE News spoke with Carson resident Dianne Thomas, who has been working with the Carson Coalition to drive fracking from her city. She’s fighting Occidental Petroleum Corporation, which proposed opening over 200 fracking wells to be built on the Carson-Compton border over the next ten years. The wells would also be less than two miles from Thomas’s house.

“Compton is aware of the struggle we’re under,” Thomas said. “At our city council, someone announced that if we don’t pass it here, they’ll just go to Compton and drill there. But they don’t really need to be in Compton to affect Compton, because of the slant drilling.”

Slant, or directional, drilling is a method of drilling horizontally underground to maximize shale access. But it’s also been criticized as the method most likely to pollute groundwater and cause toxic air emissions.

“If you’re going to be in Carson, you’re going to spill over into Compton — and you don’t need permission to be there,” Thomas said, explaining why Compton’s ban includes nearby fracking operations that would “spill” into its city limits.

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As in Compton, the majority of Carson residents are African-American or Hispanic. Those are the kinds of South LA neighborhoods that have reported the worst effects of fracking pollution.

After years of trying to bring the government’s attention to the mysterious nosebleeds, nausea, and other illnesses affecting the community, residents of a housing project near one oil production site invited Environmental Protection Agency agents to come see for themselves how toxic the area had become. The investigators became sick almost immediately upon arrival, and this January the EPA cited AllenCo Energy for violations of the clean air and water acts.

A statewide bill proposed by State Senators Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) would impose a moratorium on fracking throughout California. But the legislation, SB 1132, has repeatedly failed to pass the Senate.

When the bill failed, Senator Mitchell called out the oil and gas industry for racism.

“When the impacts on the public of a for-profit endeavor are unknown, we try it out first in minority neighborhoods — assuming low vigilance and the need to bring in jobs makes safety irrelevant,” Mitchell said in a May 30 statement. “But we’ve put big industry on notice: That ploy won’t fly forever. People’s neighborhoods aren’t fodder for fracking.”

But the oil and gas industry is pouring lots of money into the fight. After the California Senate voted down SB 1132 in late May, the nonpartisan financial research group MapLight revealed that senators who opposed the bill had received an average of $24,981 each in campaign contributions from the industry.

The bill stalled at a 16-16 vote because eight Democrats abstained. According to MapLight, these Democrats took over four times as much oil and gas money as Democrats who voted in support of the bill.

One oft-quoted group, Californians for Energy Independence, purports to be a citizen’s activist coalition that is pro-fracking. But the website Follow the Money exposed the group as a front for the oil and gas industry: Californians for Energy Independence received 96 percent of its funding from four energy companies, totaling over $22 million.

A whopping $18 million of Californians for Energy Independence funding came from one company: Clean Energy Fuels Corp. of Seal Beach, California.

Despite the seemingly endless piles of cash being spent, anti-fracking advocates think the oil and gas companies are fighting a losing battle.

“In New York, the oil industry threw everything they had at fracking bans and they went to the highest court in the state, but they still lost,” Siegel told VICE News. “Even if [Western States] wins the lawsuit, Compton will just look at it as a fix-it ticket and go back and adjust the ordinance. They’ll still be able to ban fracking.”

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