Complicated Thoughts on Citizens United

At Netroots Nation last week, I attended a panel on Citizens United, the infamous case in which the Supreme Court tossed aside decades of campaign finance laws and ruled that corporations had the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. This gives them an incalculably greater amount of power than before, and not just because corporations can spend in total secrecy, without disclosing the amounts or even the fact of their involvement to the public or even to their own … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: June 3

There are a couple of stories from this past week that I wanted to mention: • A three-judge panel on the First Circuit Court of Appeals, two of whom are Republican appointees, have struck down part of DOMA, ruling that it violates the Constitution for the federal government to deny benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their home state. • You may remember a notorious net kook named Dennis Markuze, who engaged in a longstanding campaign of harassment and threats against … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: March 17

There's a heap of news I didn't get to write about in greater depth this week, but all these stories deserve at least a look: • Remember the Anglican church, that blandly, Britishly polite bastion of modern liberal Christianity? So it turns out that they're officially against same-sex marriage. In a hilarious piece whining that they should get to vote on the rights of other human beings, Anglican homophobes also argue there should be no such thing as civil marriage in the U.K., that … [Read more...]

Victory for Jessica Ahlquist and the Constitution

I've previously written about the case of Jessica Ahlquist, an incredibly brave young atheist from Rhode Island who's the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging an unconstitutional "School Prayer" banner in her high school's auditorium. Today, I'm happy to announce that the judge has ruled, and it was a resounding victory for the good guys: The high school student who sought the removal of a prayer mural from the auditorium at Cranston High School West has won her suit in federal court. U.S. … [Read more...]

It’s About Time a Bishop Was Indicted

As regular readers know, I've devoted considerable time to writing about the child-molestation scandal engulfing the Catholic church. The core of this story isn't that there are child abusers within the ranks of the clergy, but that their superiors within the church have consistently enabled and protected them by hushing up their crimes, failing to report them to the authorities, and continually moving them to new parishes where they could prey upon new victims. As the saying goes, it's not the … [Read more...]

The Biblical Cruelty of Child Beating

In 1877, the great freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll wrote these words about the then-common practice of corporal punishment: I tell you the children have the same rights that we have, and we ought to treat them as though they were human beings. They should be reared with love, with kindness, with tenderness, and not with brutality. That is my idea of children. ...I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a … [Read more...]

Be Careful What You Wish For (Why I Hate Hate Crimes Legislation, But I Love Hate Speech)

By Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy In loving memory of my baby brother, Jacob Michael Braasch (01/28/86 - 02/02/10) I saw a woman in niqab on the UC Berkeley campus the other week. I was shocked. I didn't approach her. I didn't speak to her. She was with two other women in hijab, on the opposite side of a wide walkway. But, I was shocked. And, appalled. Here was a woman (or, at least, I assume she was a woman), in the heart of what is arguably the most politically liberal university campus and city in … [Read more...]

I Am An Atom of Atheism

The blog Ungodly News has created a whimsical periodic table of atheism, and I was surprised and pleased to find out that I'm on it: (click for larger version) I'm an actinide, if you can't find me - one of the green rows on the bottom, labeled as "The Wicked of the Web". I'd never have counted myself as one of the basic and indivisible elements of atheism, but given the distinguished company I'm listed among, this is a true honor! You may now commence the jokes about making compounds … [Read more...]

Do the Right Thing, New York!

I wrote in May about the legalization of civil unions in Delaware (which has now been signed into law), and the ongoing push to pass a marriage-equality law in my own state, New York. Although New York already recognizes same-sex marriages performed in any of the neighboring states that allow them, passage of the bill would be a huge symbolic victory and would give more momentum to the national push for equality. As I write this, the bill hangs in the balance in the State Senate, where … [Read more...]

News Flash: Psychics Still Useless

You may have heard about this bizarre story out of Texas this week, where a self-proclaimed psychic called police with a tip that a certain home was the site of a mass grave containing dozens of dismembered bodies, including the bodies of children. A swarm of reporters, FBI agents and Texas Rangers promptly converged on the address, bringing cameras, news helicopters and cadaver-sniffing dogs. At first they found spots of blood on the porch, seemingly proving that the psychic tip-off was good … [Read more...]