Weekend Coffee: December 28

Coffee

While you rest and recover from all the holiday feasting, some links:• The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that buried the Roman city of Pompeii also buried another town, Herculaneum. One of the buildings that's been unearthed was a rich Roman's villa - including the library. The thousands of scrolls it contained were thought to be charred beyond recognition, but high-resolution CAT scans and multispectral imaging are finally making it possible to read the lost scrolls from the Villa of the … [Read more...]

The Rising of the Sun

SolsticeEclipse

In most of the Western world, today is Christmas Day. We rationalists know that, despite the meandering of the calendar and all the religious mythology that's become encrusted on it, this date was first chosen for its astronomical significance. The winter solstice is an inflection point, after which ancient people knew dark days would brighten and long nights would dwindle as the sun returned. That's what we're really celebrating, and all the "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs in the world won't … [Read more...]

Attacking Half the Electorate Surprisingly Not a Winning Strategy

Next Tuesday, voters in Virginia will choose their state's next governor. After months of hard-fought campaigning, the race is clearly tilting in favor of the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, and against Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli. As recently as May, Cuccinelli was ahead in the polls, but the most recent poll shows that McAuliffe has taken a double-digit lead - almost entirely because of an astonishing 24-point gap that's opened up among women.And why is there such a yawning … [Read more...]

Congratulations, New Jersey!

NewJersey

As a born-and-raised New Yorker, I reserve the right to make fun of New Jersey every so often, but this week I have nothing but congratulations for my neighbors in the Garden State:As couples across New Jersey began marrying on Monday after the stroke of midnight, Gov. Chris Christie abandoned his long fight against same-sex marriage, concluding that signals from the court and the march of history were against him.His decision not to appeal a judge's ruling that allowed the weddings … [Read more...]

Why Not a Distributed Congress?

I've just gotten back from a vacation in Europe, where the news coverage of the ongoing American government shutdown vacillates between incredulous amusement and horror at the depths of dysfunction to which our country has sunk. (Then again, I was in Belgium, which still holds the world record for the longest span of time without a government, so don't get too cocky, Europeans.)Based on public statements from a majority of Democrats plus some moderate Republicans, there are enough votes to … [Read more...]

The Government Shutdown Blues

This week, the U.S. government shut down for the first time in 17 years, thanks to intransigent House Republicans who refused to pass a budget unless it included provisions to gut or delay the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, this is the same day that the new health insurance exchanges opened for business, since they're funded by mandatory spending that's not part of the budget process.The threat of a government shutdown was one of the last cards played by a political party that's tried … [Read more...]

The Political Pull of New York’s Ultra-Orthodox

WilliamsburgBridge

New York City's mayoral election is approaching, and as the race heats up, more attention is being paid to the increasing political influence of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish sects of Brooklyn.Like their counterparts in Israel, New York's Hasidim have rebounded from the decimation of World War II. They were nearly wiped out by the Nazi genocide, but their numbers have swelled in the generations since, due to religious and cultural teachings that make it a duty for Hasidic families to … [Read more...]

New on AlterNet: Abortion in the Bible

My latest column is now up on AlterNet, There's Nothing About Abortion in the Bible -- So How Do Right-Wing Christians Justify Their Crusade Against Women? In it, I discuss the biblical verses that touch on abortion - or more accurately, the lack of such verses - as well as the passages which strongly suggest that the Bible's authors didn't consider an unborn fetus to have the same moral status as an adult person. Read the excerpt below, then click through to see the rest:One would think … [Read more...]

A Constitutional Rollercoaster

ParisLGBTRights

I had another post written for today, but there's much too much going on! This week has been a rollercoaster of disappointment, despair, joy and exaltation, and it's only Wednesday.On Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court issued an awful ruling that struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. As compiled by Slacktivist, a flurry of Republican-controlled state legislatures immediately began efforts to pass restrictive voter-ID laws and redraw electoral maps to dilute minority votes - … [Read more...]

The Republicans Can’t Help Themselves

SoapBubble

Almost lost in the furor last week over the NSA spying story, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to ban all abortion after 20 weeks. The debate over the bill brought forth some ludicrous moments, such as when Rep. Michael Burgess defended it by arguing that male fetuses at that stage of development can masturbate. This led to one of the better Twitter jokes I've seen lately:Life begins at masturbation. #masturbatingfetus http://t.co/64SuFRbYtF— Julia Ioffe … [Read more...]


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