Monthly Archives: May 2012

Vulgar Imagery

I’ve managed to lose track of where I found this. It’s certainly striking, though.

Every now and then I’m just a little terrified that I live in a place where a man being tortured to death is a common, everyday image, while breastfeeding is shocking and controversial.

Saunders’ List

Let’s take a look at Peter Saunders list of Ten reasons not to legalise same-sex marriage in BritainI won’t be quoting his full arguments for the whole list, because this is already doomed to be a very long post.

1. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman

Throughout history in virtually all cultures and faiths throughout the world, marriage has been held to be the union of one man and one woman. Marriage existed thousands of years before our nation began and has been recognised in our laws as the ‘voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life’ (Hyde v Hyde 1866). The UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) recognises that the family, headed by a man and a woman, ‘is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’. It is not up to governments to redefine marriage – but simply to recognise it for what it is, and to promote and protect it as a unique institution.

Wow, factually wrong right out of the gate. Throughout history the most common form of marriage has been polygamous. It’s even in the Old Testament of the Bible, according to 1 Kings 11 king Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, though I suspect he may have inflated the number while bragging.

Check out the basic point here, though. Saunders appears to be saying same sex marriage shouldn’t be allowed because right now it isn’t allowed. So we shouldn’t change the rules to allow it because right now it isn’t allowed.

I’m getting a headache already.  Read the rest of this entry


Yeah, this is another gay marriage post. I’ll keep writing them until equality is taken for granted, and then I’ll probably still keep writing them to remind people that it wasn’t always so.

In my internet wanderings this morning I stumbled over this post titled Ten reasons not to legalise same-sex marriage in Britain and was struck by how often the author, Peter Saunders, refers to “redefining” marriage. I’ll address his ten points in a bit, but I think the definition thing is more important so I’m going to talk about this first.

Imagine, if you will, a local sports league, let’s say baseball, that’s been men-only since it was founded years ago. If it changes the rules allowing women to play, is it redefining baseball? If the couples-only three-legged race at the state fair declares that same-sex couples are welcome to participate, does this redefine three-legged races? When the schools were desegregated in the American South, did that redefine education? When women were given the right to vote, did that redefine democracy?

Is it really such a dramatic change to a social institution to welcome those who were previously excluded?

We say “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage”, but when you get down to it we’re just talking about marriage. The distinction between “a man and a women” and “two people” is trivial. We’re not talking about changing how people do things or what rights and responsibilities they have within a marriage contract, we’re literally talking about being a little more inclusive and nothing else.

In fairness, Saunders is British and talking about Britain, there may be other aspects to the British perspective that I’m not aware of. But I kind of doubt it, because his list of ten things contains nothing that I haven’t already seen in arguments here in the United States. I’ll take a look at that list in my next post.

Working hard to hurt others

I was idly browsing through various blogs and news sites this morning and I was struck by how many stories involve people working very hard at no benefit to themselves in order to hurt other people. Poisoning girls’ schools in Afghanistan, stripping away women’s rights in Egypt, making homosexuality a crime in too many countries to count.

I can understand why the leaders of these things do it, for example Mitt Romney declaring opposition to marriage equality will make him more likely to get elected. What I don’t get is the masses, the individual people who work really hard on these things and don’t seem to get any benefit other than the dubious joy of causing human suffering. Seriously.

The most common explanations for these things are religious, and I still don’t get it. Okay, so your religion says X is a sin, but unless your religion also says you should be cruel to people who commit sin or are sinful by nature, why spend so much of your precious time and energy on it?

Pastor Charles Worley went full-nazi and said that gays should be rounded up and put in concentration camps. Bizarrely, he seems to think after they die of old age there won’t be any more. Not sure if he believes that “recruiting” crap or if he thinks they’re actually a different species. Think of the scale of that project, the cruelty it would impose on tens of millions of people. Read the rest of this entry


Late Saturday night I was sitting alone, drinking the last of my homemade booze (which I should have taste-tested sooner) and idly wandering the internet when I stumbled over this site about runes and felt inspired to dig out my bag of runes and cast them. When I was a kid I used to have an interest in divination, and the runes were always my favorite method, but I don’t think I’d done this in any form since I was a teenager. Even before I became a skeptic I had learned from the story of Croesus and stopped trusting oracles.

But that night I was in a mood, so without really thinking about it I drew five runes and placed them face down in an order that seemed right. I’m assuming I used the same method as I did when I was a kid, since it felt familiar, but I didn’t really think about it. One by one I turned the stones over, and promptly received a very clear message about my life and my situation. If you don’t want to be bored to tears with the details of this reading, just skip the next five paragraphs.  Read the rest of this entry

“This is open warfare on both women and the poor.”

So in the morning I saw this and I’ve been trying to work out what to say about it all day. Mississippi state representative Bubba Carpenter is bragging that he’s stopped abortion in that state, at least for the moment. I’m going to quote him a bit.

And of course, there you have the other side. They’re like, ‘Well, the poor pitiful women that can’t afford to go out of state are just going to start doing them at home with a coat hanger.’ That’s what we’ve heard over and over and over.

But hey, you have to have moral values. You have to start somewhere, and that’s what we’ve decided to do.

Moral values. This shithead is proudly bragging about poor women in desperation getting injured and bleeding and dying with full knowledge that those who can afford it will still get abortions, and he has the audacity to claim it’s moral.

You know what I think? I think it’s the same casual cruelty you see in schoolyard bullies. I’ll bet he even has an obnoxious laugh just for those occasions when he’s making people suffer for his own amusement, “Haw haw I sure fucked things up for them!”, feeling that little thrill of power that comes from hurting those weaker than him.

Presumably, his re-election slogan will be “bitches ought to die.”

If this is where he’s starting, where is he planning to end?

Annular Eclipse!

These were, sadly, the best photos I managed to get. Taken through two welding mask filters.

Looks just like the moon through green cellophane, doesn’t it? Read the rest of this entry

This probably shouldn’t be creepy

Eight years

Something that’s often said during the Great Gay Marriage Wars™ is how everything will change if we allow it. Which puzzles me because in many places it exists and nothing seems to have happened. Right here in California we have something like 18,000 same-sex marriages and we haven’t slid into the Pacific or been pummeled by meteors or anything.

Zinnia Jones reminds us that today it’s been legal in Massachusetts for eight years, with harrowing details of the devastation caused to that state. I can only wonder what it’s like in Canada!

Don’t wanna.

I really don’t feel like writing today. I might change my mind and post something late tonight, but probably this is it for today. 

Hey, I wrote the rules specifically to allow for days like this. 

history of search terms how start

It’s the 15th, and I’m glad. Those huge posts I wrote during the last week wiped me out. As always on the 15th, here’s the list of search terms that brought people to my blog over the last 30 days.

Remember search terms are bold while my commentary is italicRead the rest of this entry

Continuing on (and on) about homeopathy

Last post I dug out the common names for a bunch of homeopathic… I’m not sure what to call it. “Ingredients” sounds too optimistic, for reasons that should become clear shortly. Let’s go with “varieties”.

That’s all well and interesting, but so what? What is this homeopathy stuff anyway? Well, I’ll let the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy (henceforth IACH) explain it.

This system is based mainly on the principle that the cure for a particular disease is achieved through the use of pharmaceutical substances that, when administered to a healthy person, produce the similar symptoms as those of the disease in question.  For example, it is well known that Belladonna causes mydriasis , that is to say dilation of the pupil of the eye.  In a case of mydriasis the homeopathic doctor will probably give Belladonna, in a highly diluted potency, in order to restore the pupil to its normal state.

This is why Ipecacuanha is recommended for nausea and vomiting, the plant makes you puke, therefore the homeopathic version stops you from puking.

If you’re worried about how many of those ingredients are powerful poisons, you can relax. Homeopathic remedies are so diluted that there’s no active ingredient left. Read the rest of this entry

Interesting names of homeopathy.

(After I started writing this last night, I wound up spiraling out of control into a very long post about homeopathy. Looking at it this morning, I’ve decided it’s better to split it up. Would probably be best to post this part second, but it stands on its own with less work and it’s how I started thinking about the subject, so here it is. )

I mentioned there were two posts in Mothering about pertussis that I had things to say about, but I think I’m going to skip to the end of this article by Lauren Feder, MD, and just talk about homeopathy instead. Dr Feder wraps up her article with a list of homeopathic remedies, which I’ll reproduce here.

Homeopathic remedies

Aconitum napellus for sudden attacks of croupy coughs at the beginning stages of illness and cough

Antimonium tartaricum for rattling in the chest 
with a strong, loose cough when chest feels full of mucus

Bryonia alba for dry, racking, painful cough in chest and head, made worse by motion and better by being still

Coccus cacti for winter coughs with tickling in the throat, and strong fits of coughing that end in choking 
or vomiting

Cuprum metallicum (Cuprum) for spasmodic 
coughing fits

Drosera for violent coughing spells ending in choking, gagging, or vomiting. Sometimes these coughs are so strong that the child can hardly catch her breath. Drosera is indicated for barking coughs, whooping cough, croup, and coughs that are worse after midnight, commonly accompanied by a bloody nose and a hoarse voice.

Hepar sulphuris calcareum for croup that is worse in the morning and evening (until midnight); indicated following Aconitum napellus, especially with croup with rattling mucus in chest that is worse in the morning

Ipecacuanha for whooping cough and other severe suffocative coughs that end in retching, vomiting, or cyanosis, with stiffness in the body; the child feels nauseated and has an aversion to food (including the smell of food)

Pulsatilla for coughs with yellow-green mucus; cough is worse at night and interferes with sleep

Spongia tosta for dry coughs that sound like a saw going through wood; often used for croup. Useful for croupy coughs that are worse before midnight, accompanied by a dry, barking cough that can sound like a seal.

Such interesting names! What is this stuff? Well don’t worry, I’m here to help! I use google so you don’t have to!

  • Aconitum napellus has many names, Monkshood, aconite, Wolf’s Bane, Fuzi, Monk’s Blood, or Monk’s Hood. It’s a poisonous herb native to Europe, famous for deterring movie werewolves.
  • Antimonium tartaricum Modern chemistry calls this potassium antimonyl tartrate, it’s also known as emetic tartar or tartar emetic. Used since the Middle Ages to induce vomiting.
  • Bryonia alba a vine commonly known as white bryony. Other names include English mandrake, kudzu of the Northwest, and devil’s turnip. Leaves and berries are toxic, apparently 40 berries will kill an adult.
  • Coccus cacti is the classification given by Linnaeus to the cochineal, an insect native to Mexico and South America from which we get the dye carmine.
  • Cuprum metallicum is metallic copper.
  • Drosera is a genus of carnivorous plants, usually called sundews. Used medicinally as an expectorant and stimulant.
  • Hepar sulphuris calcareum seems to be unique to homeopathy. Best I can tell it’s an impure calcium sulfide compound made from oyster shells and sulfur, heated in a crucible.
  • Ipecacuanha is the plant used to make syrup of ipecac, the go-to drug for when you need to vomit.
  • Pulsatilla is a genus of highly toxic flowers found in meadows and prairies. Blackfoot tribes used it to induce abortions and childbirth, but it will also slow the heart, and in higher doses can cause diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, hypotension, and coma.
  • Spongia tosta is roasted sea sponge. Just like it says, “sponge toast”!

I suppose the Latin names have both an old mystery appeal and a clinical medicine sound at once, but personally I would totally use some of those common names. I mean, Wolf’s Bane and English mandrake? Awesome! Maybe it’s the fantasy geek in me.

I’ll have a long post about homeopathy up soon. It probably won’t surprise you that I don’t think it works. What might surprise you, though, is the history of homeopathy and how it claims to work.

The more I read about it, the more surprised I am that anyone takes it seriously.

Took the day off

Yeah, that’s my excuse. Totally deliberate. Wasn’t at all that I started a post and got so bogged down in details I completely lost the thread until I started feeling asleep at the keyboard, not in the least!

Yeah, unless it really looks like total crap in the morning, I should have a pretty big post sometime tomorrow. For now, well, I’m still 12 posts behind on the Post a Day challenge, so at least I’m not falling back any farther.

Goodnight everyone.

When bigotry’s your platform.

Mitt Romney gave a speech.

For those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and marry before they have their first child, the probability that they will be poor is 2%. But, if those things are absent, 76% will be poor. Culture matters.

Wow, I actually agree with him! I don’t know anything about the study you’re talking about, Romney, but you make a great case for why we need Planned Parenthood and universal access to sex education, birth control, and abortion.

As fundamental as these principles are, they may become topics of democratic debate. So it is today with the enduring institution of marriage. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.

Uh, what? Mittens, how the hell do you think those two concepts go together? Also, about that whole “one man, one woman” thing, uh, does that mean you’re disowning your great-grandfather?

The protection of religious freedom has also become a matter of debate. It strikes me as odd that the free exercise of religious faith is sometimes treated as a problem, something America is stuck with instead of blessed with.

What the hell are you talking about? The only people who seem to dislike the protection of religious freedom in this country are fundamentalist Christians who want to force others to live by their rules! Are you suggesting that gay marriage somehow violates someone’s freedom of religion? HOW?! Furthermore, if it’s a violation for gays to get married because some religions dislike the idea, isn’t it an equal violation to ban it, since some religions are fine with the idea?

It looks like gay rights are going to be a major part of this election.

About Vaccines

In my morning internet wanderings, I found a couple of articles at Mothering about whooping cough. The first was by Lauren Feder, MD, and the second by Jay Gordon, MD. I have things to say about both of them, but right now I’m going to talk about the second one.

It’s not quite clear to me what Dr. Gordon’s goal with this article was. The entire thing seems to boil down to “there’s a lot of uncertainty and disagreement in the medical community, talk to your doctor.” For the most part it just seems to muddy the waters. But after reading it, and particularly these parts, I want to talk a bit about the how and why of vaccination programs.

If vaccines work—and I believe they do—then vaccinated children are not endangered by unvaccinated children.

…points out that vaccinated children have still contracted whooping cough. The reasons for this include the bacterium adapting to the vaccine and thus negating its protection… Read the rest of this entry

Who is the Atheist Census?

Here’s a strange thing. An atheist census, run by… well I don’t know. There’s no name or organizational affiliation mentioned. The terms and conditions are very detailed though, very corporate, which makes me very, very curious who these people are. If you agree to their terms you’re agreeing to be bound by certain laws in Alberta, Canada. That’s the most solid information I’ve found so far.

The site is well designed, with slick animated graphs that, frustratingly, don’t show any actual numbers. I have issues with some of the questions, for example the “Irreligion” question has the following answers:

  • Atheist
  • Agnostic
  • Atheist Agnostic
  • Humanist
  • Rationalist
  • Buddhist Atheist

It seems far more sensible to me to remove “Atheist Agnostic” and make the question “Check all that apply”. (After a lot of thought, I finally went with humanist because that’s more important to my identity than any beliefs and I’m not a very good rationalist.) There’s a similar problem with the “Religion Raised In” question, in that it’s quite possible to be raised in multiple religions. And the gender binary lives on, only Male or Female are available.

There’s a very weird feeling to the site. It has no personal touch at all, pretty graphs that aren’t very useful, a clause requiring arbitration in any legal dispute unless you’re violating their copyright, and requires email validation before your data will be counted. There’s a definite corporate feeling to it, which seems very strange to me after getting used to the people at FreeThoughtBlogs as the voices of modern atheists.

I sent an email asking some questions to the site, if I get any answers I’ll post them here.

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