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We’ve all heard plenty about the so-called “friend zone”, which is where a person you want to date, just wants to be friends, and somehow that’s unfair and bad and mean.  Let me tell you about its converse, the Un-Friend Zone.

A while back at work, we got a new deskside support/IT guy.  He quickly identified me as the person in the department to talk to, because I know what I’m doing – and what everybody else is doing – with computers (even if they don’t).  We were going through a major hardware and software upgrade at the time, so IT Guy came around a lot.  He and I would get to chatting while he was working, and we discovered we had lots of nerdy things in common.  We really hit it off together.  We started chatting over instant messaging when he wasn’t around in person, and he really brightened slow days for me – and I assume I did the same for him.  I was happy because I don’t make friends easily, and yay, a new friend!  It got to the point where I was considering asking Arb if I could invite him to join our tabletop roleplaying group, because I thought it would be fun to be outside-work friends as well as work-friends.  I was positive it was strictly a platonic thing, because he was at least ten years younger than me, and I’m not conventionally attractive, and he never said anything remotely flirtatious and neither did I.

Then one day, I said the fateful words: “My husband…”  The conversation faltered.  (It’s not like I was keeping Arb a secret, just that I’m not one of those people who’s constantly all “My husband this…” and “My husband that…” and “Well my husband says…” to every opinion offered.)

He didn’t message me the next day like he usually did, so I messaged him.  He was really terse.  I messaged him again a couple days later, same thing.  And the other IT guy started coming for all our deskside support calls.

Ladies and gentleman, behold the Un-Friend Zone: where you think you’re making a new friend, and the other person wants more than friendship, and then when it turns out you don’t feel that way about them, they drop you like a hot potato.  Obviously there can be hurt feelings involved, and that could require some space to get over; I get that.  But on this end of the stick it feels like it wasn’t worth spending time with me and getting to know me, if the payoff isn’t going to be a sexual/romantic relationship.  And that’s crappy.  (It’s not a gendered phenomenon either; Arb has had women do it to him as well.)

I don’t think I have an obligation to be constantly flashing a verbal neon sign that says MARRIED MARRIED MARRIED MARRIED, just in case somebody is attracted to me and I don’t realise it.  On the other hand, I really object when the opening line from a stranger initiating conversation is an inquiry about my sexual availability.  (and yes, this happened to me frequently before I aged/fatted out of the prime fuckability category)  I don’t know what the solution is.  But I wish people who are looking for mates, wouldn’t object to making platonic friends along the way.

Lashing   Dear Religious people,

Have you thanked your local atheist today?  If not, you should because atheism and by extension secular society, is saving you from the immoral loopy shit your bronze age beliefs demand.   The latest demonstration of how immoral and barbaric religion is comes to us from the Sudan. (read more about Mariam at Al Jazeera)

“Mariam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese mother, doctor and Christian, has been sentenced to flogging and death unless she recants her Christian faith. She is 8 months pregnant and has a two-year-old son. Please, join the international community in asking  Sudan not to execute her for being a Christian.”


You “go hard” there Islam – the religion of peace and friend to women across the globe.

“Ibrahim is charged with adultery on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan is considered void under Shari’a law, for which the penalty is flogging. She’s also charged with apostasy, or abandonment of religion, for which the penalty is death.”

Well you can see the problem here, obviously, that if you decide to change from one fatuous belief system to another, the penalty is death.  Funny we don’t hear about these sorts of things in North America.  You can thank god that the United States wasn’t founded as christian nation – if it was, this sort of egregious crime against humanity would be common place in the lower 48 all the time.

You know why it isn’t?  (hint: rhymes with ‘Fecularism’)

The very secular foundations of society that the christian right is chipping away at are the very same foundations that are preserving the “not-allowing-stupid-religious-shit-to-go-down” haven that Americans inhabit.

Witness the fucking evilly deranged face of theocratic rule and tell me that this is what you want for your society?  Getting a little closer to god gets you a little closer to barbarity.   How depraved must one be, in the pursuit of a religious based  society, to somehow think that theocratic rule is good?

“Mariam is the daughter of a Christian woman and Muslim man.  She was raised Christian after her father left.  However, Sudanese law mandates that children born to Muslim fathers are considered Muslim.

The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion is abhorrent.” 

This does NOT happen in modern secular society.

Your pious objections to secularism are noted; you can now sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up and think about the good that secularism has done for you and your freedom to believe in vacuous mythology of your choice.   Maybe, just maybe, instead of campaigning for and electing people with ‘good christian values’ you could decide to support someone that is defending your very (comfortable) way of life, here in reality, where it matters.

Continue to erode the secular aegis at your own peril.

Lastly, get off your damn knees, stop praying, and go do something useful for once –  sign the petition to save Mariam’s life.

If you have not picked up or borrowed Blood Lands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder yet, I suggest you do so.  It is a shockingly candid dissertation on what happened to the people on the Eastern Front between Stalin and Hitler.  I quote from that text:

   “Partisan operations, effective as they sometimes were, brought inevitable destruction to the Belarusian civilian population, Jewish and gentile alike.  When the Soviet partisans prevented peasant from giving food to the Germans, they all but guaranteed that the Germans would kill the peasants.  A Soviet gun threatened a peasant, and then a German gun killed him.  Once the Germans believed that they had lost control of a given village to the partisans, they would simply torch the houses and the fields.  If they could not reliably get grain, the could keep it from the Soviets by seeing that it was never harvested.  When Soviet partisans sabotaged Bloodlands_Europe_between_Stalin_and_Hitlertrains, they were in effect ensuring that the population near the site would be exterminated.  When Soviet partisans laid mines, they knew that some would detonate under the bodies of Soviet Citizens.  The Germans swept mines by forcing locals, Belarusians and Jews, to walk hand in hand over minefields.  In general, such loss of human life was of little concern to the Soviet leadership.  The people who died had been under German occupation, and were therefore suspect and perhaps even more expendable than the average Soviet citizen.  German reprisals also ensured that the ranks of the partisans swelled, as survivors often had no home, no livelihood, and no family to which to return.

    The Soviet leadership was not especially concerned with the plight of Jews.  After November 1941 Stalin never singled out the Jews as victims of Hitler.  Some partisan commanders did try to protect the Jews.  But the Soviets, like the Americans or the British, seem not to have seriously contemplated direct military action to rescue Jews.  The logic of the Soviet system was always to resist independent initiatives and to value life very cheaply.  Jews in ghettos were aiding the German war effort as forced laborers, so their death over pits was of little concern to the authorities in Moscow.  Jews who were not aiding but hindering the Germans were showing signs of a dangerous capacity for initiative, and might later resist the reimposition of Soviet rule.  By Stalinist logic, Jews were suspect either way: if they remained in the ghetto and worked for the Germans, of if they left the ghetto and showed a capacity for independent action. The previous hesitation of local Minsk communists turned out to be justified: their resistance organization was treated as a front of the Gestapo by the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement in Moscow.  The people who rescued Minsk Jews and supplied Soviet partisans were labeled a tool of Hitler.”


-Timothy Snyder.  Bloodlands, Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. p 238-239.


That is a small sliver of what war is.  The systematic destruction of empathetic thoughts in pursuit of ideology and conformity.

The first step – always the first step – is to identify another human being as the ‘other’.  Once that othering has been established there is no evil, no heinous action,  that is out of reach.  (Funny how religious belief is all about othering, but I’m sure it’s a completely different situation.)


This book is best read in small doses, as it is chock full of humanity doing horrible things to itself.   Consider yourself warned.

It is a new year.  Some small sliver of optimism remains –

If you look at the world and say “Yes, there are enough homes for people, yes, there is enough food for people, but if we give it away for free they won’t have earned it and the economy will collapse.” Then you have chosen money (a constructed medium of exchange) over living beings who only want to continue living in peace and safety.

And I have no qualms telling you, that is the wrong choice, and you have been brainwashed by this destructive, exploitative system.

From markusbones on Tumblr.

“When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.

And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence”

— Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, 1978 Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

    Violence and child rearing should never intermingle.  With the understanding we have of the correlations of violence at an early age with future behaviour, there are no excuses for beating your child. Not one.

Ms.Betty Bowers thoughts on the 2014 Olympics.

19730911-ChileCoupMonedaBombing   Greetings gentle readers, should we not consider the first 9/11 and also mourn for its victims?  The first 9/11 essentially ruined Chile as a country; Chile was thrown backward into dictatorial hell where thousand of its citizens were systematically abducted, tortured and murdered.  Why we choose not to mourn Chile’s 9/11 is because we caused it and thus it must be erased from the historical record ASAP.

Let’s let Noam Chomsky get us up to speed on the sad state of our intellectual elites and their reaction to 9/11(s).  (italics and bolding mine)

If the responsibility of intellectuals refers to their moral responsibility as decent human beings in a position to use their privilege and status to advance the cause of freedom, justice, mercy, and peace—and to speak out not simply about the abuses of our enemies, but, far more significantly, about the crimes in which we are implicated and can ameliorate or terminate if we choose—how should we think of 9/11?

The notion that 9/11 “changed the world” is widely held, understandably. The events of that day certainly had major consequences, domestic and international. One was to lead President Bush to re-declare Ronald Reagan’s war on terrorism—the first one has been effectively “disappeared,” to borrow the phrase of our favorite Latin American killers and torturers, presumably because the consequences do not fit well with preferred self images. Another consequence was the invasion of Afghanistan, then Iraq, and more recently military interventions in several other countries in the region and regular threats of an attack on Iran (“all options are open,” in the standard phrase). The costs, in every dimension, have been enormous. That suggests a rather obvious question, not asked for the first time: was there an alternative?

A number of analysts have observed that bin Laden won major successes in his war against the United States. “He repeatedly asserted that the only way to drive the U.S. from the Muslim world and defeat its satraps was by drawing Americans into a series of small but expensive wars that would ultimately bankrupt them,” the journalist Eric Margolis writes.

The United States, first under George W. Bush and then Barack Obama, rushed right into bin Laden’s trap. . . . Grotesquely overblown military outlays and debt addiction . . . . may be the most pernicious legacy of the man who thought he could defeat the United States.

A report from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies estimates that the final bill will be $3.2–4 trillion. Quite an impressive achievement by bin Laden.

That Washington was intent on rushing into bin Laden’s trap was evident at once. Michael Scheuer, the senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, writes, “Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us.” The al Qaeda leader, Scheuer continues, “is out to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world.”

And, as Scheuer explains, bin Laden largely succeeded: “U.S. forces and policies are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world, something Osama bin Laden has been trying to do with substantial but incomplete success since the early 1990s. As a result, I think it is fair to conclude that the United States of America remains bin Laden’s only indispensable ally.” And arguably remains so, even after his death.

There is good reason to believe that the jihadi movement could have been split and undermined after the 9/11 attack, which was criticized harshly within the movement. Furthermore, the “crime against humanity,” as it was rightly called, could have been approached as a crime, with an international operation to apprehend the likely suspects. That was recognized in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but no such idea was even considered by decision-makers in government. It seems no thought was given to the Taliban’s tentative offer—how serious an offer, we cannot know—to present the al Qaeda leaders for a judicial proceeding.

At the time, I quoted Robert Fisk’s conclusion that the horrendous crime of 9/11 was committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty”—an accurate judgment. The crimes could have been even worse. Suppose that Flight 93, downed by courageous passengers in Pennsylvania, had bombed the White House, killing the president. Suppose that the perpetrators of the crime planned to, and did, impose a military dictatorship that killed thousands and tortured tens of thousands. Suppose the new dictatorship established, with the support of the criminals, an international terror center that helped impose similar torture-and-terror states elsewhere, and, as icing on the cake, brought in a team of economists—call them “the Kandahar boys”—who quickly drove the economy into one of the worst depressions in its history. That, plainly, would have been a lot worse than 9/11.

As we all should know, this is not a thought experiment. It happened. I am, of course, referring to what in Latin America is often called “the first 9/11”: September 11, 1973, when the United States succeeded in its intensive efforts to overthrow the democratic government of Salvador Allende in Chile with a military coup that placed General Pinochet’s ghastly regime in office. The dictatorship then installed the Chicago Boys—economists trained at the University of Chicago—to reshape Chile’s economy. Consider the economic destruction, the torture and kidnappings, and multiply the numbers killed by 25 to yield per capita equivalents, and you will see just how much more devastating the first 9/11 was.

Privilege yields opportunity, and opportunity confers responsibilities.

The goal of the overthrow, in the words of the Nixon administration, was to kill the “virus” that might encourage all those “foreigners [who] are out to screw us”—screw us by trying to take over their own resources and more generally to pursue a policy of independent development along lines disliked by Washington. In the background was the conclusion of Nixon’s National Security Council that if the United States could not control Latin America, it could not expect “to achieve a successful order elsewhere in the world.” Washington’s “credibility” would be undermined, as Henry Kissinger put it.

The first 9/11, unlike the second, did not change the world. It was “nothing of very great consequence,” Kissinger assured his boss a few days later. And judging by how it figures in conventional history, his words can hardly be faulted, though the survivors may see the matter differently.

These events of little consequence were not limited to the military coup that destroyed Chilean democracy and set in motion the horror story that followed. As already discussed, the first 9/11 was just one act in the drama that began in 1962 when Kennedy shifted the mission of the Latin American militaries to “internal security.” The shattering aftermath is also of little consequence, the familiar pattern when history is guarded by responsible intellectuals.”


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