Garstor's World, My realm of 3D art, LEGO and atheism

Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

R.I.P. Hugh Hefner (1926–2017)

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Farewell Mr. Hefner and thank-you for all your work.

Although I suspect that much of this news will surround Playboy and nude photography; I actually prefer to remember Hef’s work promoting and defending the First Amendment. His fighting against censorship laws and his promotion of feminism and same-sex rights have helped build the bulwark against theocracy in Western society.

Nudity aside, Playboy magazine did advance lifestyle and culture in new directions. It helped to get people thinking outside norms that were barely altered clones of past generations.

Hef will be missed. I hope that Playboy will carry on his legacy. The First Amendment must be defended constantly on many fronts.

Madison, Wisconsin Trip & The 40th National FFRF Convention

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

As previously noted, last week I was back in Madison, Wisconsin for FFRF’s 40th National Convention. I arrived two days early so that I could spend some time with my friends Dan and Kevin.

Kevin is a Wisconsinite through and through. He suggested that we visit Devil’s Lake State Park, the Wisconsin Dells (Kevin made a 3D model inspired by The Dells) and the Botanical Gardens. All three were excellent choices and my only regret is that I did not have more time to spend with my friends exploring them.

Part of the Convention included the Betty Lou Boat Tours of Lake Mendota or Lake Monona. So I took a lot of photos. Quite possibly more photos that I have ever taken before. I am still sorting the wheat from the chaff and editing the RAW files for upload to Flickr. I will try to get that album created this weekend.

I am happy to report that the FFRF membership has seen a considerable spike upward this year. This is almost certainly caused by the election of Donald Trump. The White Evangelical segment continues to support this dumpster-fire of an administration because they have been promised arch-conservative judges being nominated to the bench. The obvious goal is to further restrict abortion and LGBTQ rights. This is a match made in hell if ever there was one.

At least people are pushing back against this. As the columnist Dan Savage likes to say, “Impeach the motherfucker already!”

Of course, the FFRF National Convention was also excellent. I practically gush about it every year since it feels so good to be surrounded by like-minded persons.

There was a solid line-up of speakers this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. Steven Pinker, Katha Pollitt, Maryam Namazie, young Kelly Helton (only 12 years old and already a firebrand for reason!) and Michelle Goldberg.

I kept myself on a leash this year and only bought one new t-shirt and one book – Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.

Happy Birthday America!

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

Happy 241st birthday America!

I sincerely hope that you are around to see number 242…

I Did Not Expect This Today

Monday, June 27th, 2016

One day after the wonderful first anniversary of the Obergefell decision and SCOTUS gives us this excellent decision.

This stupid Texan law was a naked assault on the rights of women. It served absolutely no medical purpose in spite of the gibbering, spittle-flecked blubbering of Re-thug-licans to the contrary. It was nothing more than kissing the ass of the dying evangelical christian movement.

I hope this deters other states in the South that have implemented or are considering such backward, anti-women, anti-choice laws. I hope this is one more nail in the coffin of the current GOP.

The United States desperately needs reform across all its halls of power. This is a step forward.

Happy 1st Anniversary To The Obergefell Decision

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Today marks one year since the SCOTUS Obergefell decision legalized marriage equality across the United States.

Suspiciously absent is the god-spawned smiting we were promised.

No-H8

Everybody should have the right to marry the person that they love. It is simple as that.

EDIT: I want to link to Camille Beredjick’s post at Friendly Atheist. A celebration of major victories is important; but work remains. There is much prejudice and discrimination that still must be overcome.

Another Book Finished & Another Started

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

SavingCapitalismLast Friday night, just before nodding off to sleep, I finished Robert Reich’s excellent book Saving Capitalism: For The Many Not The Few.

My first encounter with Reich’s ideas was in the documentary Inequality For All. You can think of this book as an expansion or companion to that film. Although one might think economics to be a dry subject; Reich’s writing is very approachable. The first several chapters break down the causes for today’s chasm between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

The final chapters then explore the steps that are necessary to correct the imbalance.

What struck me the most was how Mr. Reich repeatedly stressed that this is not about some conspiracy theory. The ultra-rich have not gathered in secret somewhere to pull the political strings to create this situation. They have behaved as any rational actor would. Rather like the death by 10,000 papercuts, no one person or action is responsible. Instead, many discrete events over the course of a few decades have brought this about.

Both the documentary and this book emphasizes that we have been here before. The Great Depression of the 30s and the height of the Robber Barons of the late 19th Century have close parallels with what is happening today. Corrective action was taken in order to fix what had gone wrong. We need to take corrective actions again and make capitalism work for everyone instead of just a handful of ultra-rich.

ExtremeBricksMy next book is a bit of a unicorn-chaser.

Extreme Bricks is about the LEGO fans and Master Builders who build huge models. These are often on display at LEGOLand parks or at toy conventions.

The chapters cover some biographical information about the builder and then discuss the model and challenges behind its creation. Fascinating stuff.

As much as I love LEGO and dream of having millions of bricks, I know that I do have the patience to build at scales like these. But I profoundly appreciate the passion that these people have.

Way To Go SCOTUS!

Friday, June 26th, 2015

The Supreme Court Of the United States has made some spectacularly bad decisions over the years – Citizens United has flooded the political system with legalized bribes.

But this week, this country took some big steps forward. The Court upheld key provisions of the Affordable Care Act and this morning they ruled that love conquers all – the states cannot ban marriage equality! My LGBTQ friends can marry whom they choose. This is a great day for the United States.

Cracked’s article A 30-Second Guide To How The Gay Marriage Ruling Affects You nails this perfectly:

If You Are a Homosexual and Want to Get Married:

Where before this came down to whether or not your state had legalized it, now you are free to do so regardless of which state you live in.

If You Are a Heterosexual and Do NOT Want to Enter into a Homosexual Marriage:

You will not be required to marry a gay person. This is a common misunderstanding. This decision actually does not affect you in any way.

If You Are Currently in a Heterosexual Marriage:

This decision does not affect you in any way.

If You Are a Heterosexual Who Is Not Currently Married:

This decision does not affect you in any way.

It goes on like that. “This decision does not affect you in any way.” EXACTLY!

Equal rights for everyone.

Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention – 2014

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

I was in Los Angeles, California last week for the 37th Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention. This is the fourth convention that I have attended and I am looking forward to many more in the future. FFRF is a great organization with a mission statement that all should support – even if one holds religious beliefs.

This year’s speakers were every bit as excellent as I expected.

Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson spoke about his discovery of the famed fossil Lucy. Theoretical physicist Sean Carroll gave a somewhat tongue-in-cheek talk about death and physics.

Professor Anthony Pinn gave a moving and inspiring talk. Just as inspiring were Christopher Johnson and Scott Clifton. Barbara Mancini’s story was utterly heart-wrenching.

Constitutional lawyer and scholar Erwin Chemerinsky discussed the philosophies of the current Supreme Court makeup and how this influences their (sometimes awful) decisions. Marci Hamilton showed the history of the wretched federal statute RFRA (what drove the horrid Hobby Lobby decision).

Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens talked about their experiences with the Supreme Court and the Greece v. Galloway decision.

Happy Belated Birthday USA!

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Happy 238nd birthday to the United States Of America!

Since I have often missed posting about Canada Day on time, I thought I would delay this one too.

A lot of good and bad has happened over the last year. I am glad to see that steps toward civilization continue as more states recognize same-sex marriages. More people are becoming aware of and angry about the income inequality gap (I very highly recommend Robert Reich’s documentary Inequality For All)

Unfortunately, this rotten-to-the-core Supreme Court has continued to disenfranchise millions of Americans. They have further stripped campaign finance laws away and allowed the ultra-rich to buy the elections in this country. Most recently, they have allowed for sectarian prayers before town council meetings as well as given the idiotic ruling that closely-held corporations have religious rights. Disgusting.

What a bizarre, social experiment this country is!

The United States Continues To Civilize

Friday, June 28th, 2013

I should have posted this two days ago when it happened! Just the same, it always pleases me when I see the USA inch forward to true equality for everybody. In spite of tired, old, white cretins like Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court has overturned the ludicrously-named Defense Of Marriage Act and thwarted California’s Proposition 8.

Wow! Awesome!

Excellent work Justices who understand and empathize with fellow human beings!

My only regret is that SCOTUS did not go far enough and actually state in their ruling that all people, regardless of gender, have a right to marry. So there is still a fight ahead for my LGBTQ friends; this ruling does gain them ground though.

Of course, tired, old, white cretins exist outside of the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. This is most of the Republican Party at its very worst. I truly love how Neil Macdonald put it in that last link:

But Boehner’s statement was no sooner in the hands of the press corps than out marched 11 of his caucus members, determined to change the party message.

What followed was a spectacular display of intolerance from a fading era, as the hardline rump of the GOP emerged once again as its public brand.

As wonderful as this news is, there was still some terrible stuff happening in the American courts and political halls (perhaps most notably what SCOTUS did to the Voting Rights Act) this week. Mark Morford captures this side of it with his indomitable style.

What a rollercoaster ride!

The Exodus Of Exodus

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

I could hardly have been happier when I first read that Exodus International was closing its doors.

They were on a fool’s errand right from the very beginning. What is deeply tragic – so I am pleased to hear a sincere apology from Alan Chambers – is the amount of hurt that they caused over the last 30+ years. Shaming gays and lesbians when prayer alone didn’t “cure” them of their natural attractions. Chambers also admitted that he continued having same-sex attractions over the years.

Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist dealt with this story.

This is an on-going change and something that is making us more civilized as a species. To fight against it is to (try to) drag humanity backward. You are on the losing end of this fight; so come around to reasonableness and be a better human being.

The Progress Of Equality

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

I am very late in posting about these events. Sorry.

On May 6th, Delaware became the 11th state to legalize marriage equality. Minnesota followed and we now have nearly one-quarter of the United States that recognize that the LGBTQ community deserve equality rights. I love how Mark Morford put it in his article:

Minnesota is, of course, also home to the Tea Party’s twitchiest nutball, its most flagrantly insane hood ornament, one Rep. Michele Bachmann, a goofy homophobe of epic proportions who once dragged a squadron of conservative “prayer warriors” into senate chambers to ask God to help smite the evil gays.

And lo, it would appear God has finally responded to Michele Bachmann, and the nation’s right-wing homophobes in general. Can you see it? Why, it looks like a very large, very bright, very unmistakable… middle finger.

One day the rest of the States will become civilized and catch-up with so much of the rest of the world.

Great Job New Zealand!

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

On Wednesday, the parliament of New Zealand voted to legalize marriage equality. It is the 13th country to do so and the first in the Asia-Pacific region (seriously Australia, get your act together and follow the Kiwis!).

Everyone else; you do realize that you will fall on the wrong side of history if you wait. Stop listening to the terrified, old men that run your church! The world will not end if two men or two women can express their love for each other in the same way that a man and a woman can. This is about basic human rights, not about your faith.

The Waning Hours Of 2012

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Here it is. December 31st 2012.

What a ride! The silly Mayan stuff. A terrifying American election. Horrific tragedies (followed-up with spectacularly stupid ideas) and personal failures and extraordinary pride and world-beating accomplishments.

There were many big changes in my own life this year too:

  • I left Microsoft for Azaleos.
  • Only to have Azaleos begin a morph into Avanade.
  • In health, my weight seems to have plateaued again between 216 and 220 pounds; but my body fat percentage has dropped and I have definitely become stronger than ever.
  • Early in the year, I dove into the 3D art world with Carrara and toward the end of the year, I began to continue that journey with LightWave.

Of course, now Americans (and us ex-patriots living here) now have to face the so-called Fiscal Cliff. I think the CBC’s Washington Correspondent Neil Macdonald described it perfectly:

What other democratic nation’s leaders, after all, would deliberately design a fiscal disaster and aim the country’s economy straight for it?

And then stand back, holding news conferences, double-dog-daring each other to step over some imagined line, chanting the political equivalent of nana-nana-boo-boo?

My own thoughts about the Fiscal Cliff? I hope this country plunges over that cliff. Yes, that will hurt me…it will hurt everyone. But the United States cannot carry on mortgaging its future and it has been doing that for so long that ending the cycle and recovering from it will hurt. Taxes should be raised. Spending in the military should be cut. Spending should shifted to building up infrastructure – especially building several new nuclear power plants (like military spending, this creates jobs for tens of thousands of people for several years and will cut pollution and foreign oil dependence).

So what happens tomorrow? In about 18 hours, I’ll start to find out.

The World Breathes A Sigh Of Relief

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Congratulations President Obama!

I am so glad for these results, that rationality and sanity won out (albeit not without some setbacks – Pete Stark lost his seat in Congress). What a huge gift it was to hear that Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin and Richard “Rape Is God’s Will” Mourdock lost their campaigns. It is also great to see more women representing this nation – 18 female Senators is an all-time high. Tammy Baldwin is also the first openly gay Senator.

I am also excited to see Elizabeth Warren win her Senate race. I’ve long been a fan of her work and advocacy of commercial reforms.

Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland all approved marriage equality laws. More progress towards becoming a civilized nation that respects humanity in all its diverse forms.

Progress! Slow – often painfully slow – but sure progress.

I definitely feel better about continuing to live in this country.

The 35th FFRF Convention

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

This post is a week late – things got really crazy at work! Sorry! I’ll also post about the travel hiccups that I had later.

I had a great time at the latest FFRF Convention! This was only the second convention that I have attended but it will definitely not be the last. As a Life Member of FFRF, I’ll be aiming to attend every annual convention from here out.

After registering, we had group bus tours through the Columbia River Gorge. The Pacific Northwest had been experiencing an almost unheard of drought of over 80 days without rain. Unfortunately, this was the day that the drought broke. The rainy weather could not drench my enthusiasm though. This was an informative tour with some spectacular views. The tour made stops at a salmon spawning river, Horsetail Falls, Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls.

My Flickr set of photos of the gorge trip is here.

On Friday evening we were given updates on Jessica Ahlquist’s and Max Nielson’s situations. Their stories have fallen out of the ADD-ridden news media; but they are not yet over by a long-shot. I wish all the best to both of them and look forward to successful conclusions.

A major highlight of this year’s conference was hearing Richard Dawkins acceptance speech of FFRF’s The Emperor Has No Clothes award. It was really two speeches in one. The first half examined the excessive use of metaphor by “sophisticated theologians.” The fundamentalists in America appear to honestly believe the things that they say they do; but the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury (who both believe in the correctness of evolution) often speak about Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden like they were real places. No doubt, their less sophisticated congregations are not picking up on the use of metaphor and are believing this material literally.

Dawkins then deviated into the political, what with the impending Presidential election. He opined that a candidate’s religious views should be put under scrutiny just as much as their economic or social views. Of course, Mitt Romney provides the best example of this. He allegedly believes provably false ideas (Israelites in the Americas!) and racist ideas. If he wants to be the most powerful man in the world, he ought be accountable for these ideas.

Of course, I had Professor Dawkins sign my copy of The God Delusion and I thanked him for throwing me the first life-line toward reason.

During Saturday’s Non-Prayer Breakfast, I was able to speak to Sean Faircloth about his excellent book, Attack Of The Theocrats. No matter what views you have on religion, this book is a must-read.

Saturday was a busy but interesting day. Katherine Stewart discussed how the Good News Club slimes its way into public schools. Rather chilling and something I’m going to watch for in my school district. FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel gave an excellent presentation about debunking the myth that America is a Christian nation.

We heard from “graduates” of The Clergy Project. This is an important initiative; one that I hope sees many more graduates in the future. I suspect that there is a large population of atheist pastors, priests and such that are forced to live a lie.

The convention ended on a high note for me personally. I won one of the raffle drawings for “clean money.” These are American currency bills that were printed before the 1957 law that tainted them with “In God We Trust.” I won a $20 bill printed in 1934 – a thing of beauty!

I hold on to a vision of a world that is not choking under the stranglehold of religion. The human race deserves to rise to fullest potential without being dragged down by a past that it is growing out of.

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