Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So, About Al Franken. . .

Full disclosure, I'm copying this post directly from a comment I made in a private group on Facebook. I don't have the time or mental energy to put my thoughts together in any sort of coherent manner a second time. Enjoy!

This one is complex for me. And it’s hard to talk about because the issue seems to have lost any and all semblance of nuance (at least that I’ve encountered). So I want to make just a few comments to get them out of my head and up for discussion.

1. I’m still not fully convinced of his guilt. And I say this being completely on board with the concept of believing women. I know that in most of these cases, there simply won’t be any “evidence” because of the nature of the crime. And therefore we should err on the side of believing the women that speak up. I’m fully behind that idea and I’m not claiming that we should discount the women who have come forward solely based on the lack of solid evidence.

2. I’m very disappointed by all of the slut-shaming that has been happening in regard to Tweeden, as it makes absolutely no difference what she may or may not have done in her past. Groping is still groping. Using the “yeah but she posed nude” argument is not useful or okay, and I’ve been hearing far too much of that from the left. That said, I’m not sure I believe her. For a few reasons. One, a key part of her claim is that she believes Franken made up the skit in question as an excuse to be able to kiss/grope her. That’s simply not true, and she knows it. The same skit had been happening, with other performers, since before she was on the USO tour (which she had to have known). So the fact that she lied about this fundamental aspect of the story makes me question the rest of her story, as does the fact that she seems to be getting a lot of press for her new radio station out of this. Given that this same skit had been prepared and performed before Tweeden, it would make sense to me that other performers would come out with similar stories about this skit (or any other skit). But we haven’t heard from any of them, anonymously or otherwise.

3. The groping during photo ops. I also have a hard time believing this is accurate. Given the sheer volume of pictures this man takes with people every year, if this were truly something that he did, I’d expect to hear from many, many more women reporting it. As a person very close to MN politics, and someone who has met Al and taken several pictures with him, I would have thought that I would have heard “rumblings” about this type of behavior well before now. If there is a guy groping women during photo ops, I would expect that those of us involved in MN politics should have at least heard rumors before now. Maybe a “heads up, that guy likes to grab butts while he’s taking pics - watch out.” But I’ve literally never heard any such thing. And neither has anyone else I’ve ever spoken to involved in MN politics. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening; it’s just surprising to me that women wouldn’t have been warning each other before this. And maybe they were, and I just never heard it. I don’t know. I will say that when you take a pic with Al, he pulls you in close and generally puts his arm around your waist. I can see how this would make some people feel uncomfortable. But again, he takes hundreds (probably thousands) of photos with people a year. It would not shock me to find out that he had “misplaced” a hand once or twice. Again, NOT saying it never happened, just my reasons for doubting.

4. The Tweeden picture. It was clearly in bad taste, but I also think it’s clear he wasn’t actually touching her. That’s not an excuse, but I do think there’s a difference between touching and not touching. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t in the wrong. I just don’t think “groping” is an accurate representation of what was going on in that photo. I also find it odd that he would take that picture knowing full well that she would see it if there was any malicious intent behind it. Not that intent matters, necessarily, especially in relation to how the woman felt about it, but I do think it goes to the “level” of what kind of “wrong” this was. This was a picture taken by the photographer who was documenting the trip, and they all knew they’d all be getting copies of the pics at the end of the trip.

5. The apology. If you listen carefully, Al has been very deliberate about not “confessing” to anything other than the Tweeden picture. I think he was trying to tread a fine line between not admitting guilt (because he knew he wasn’t guilty) and not straight up calling the women liars. He knew claiming that they lied would make the whole thing worse, but it put him in a tough position. Does he admit to something he didn’t do, or does he protest and just have everyone assume he’s lying and trying to disrespect the women? It’s an impossible situation to be in.

6. Bottom line, my main reason for questioning the claims made is that Al is a very smart guy. He fought hard for his senate seat, and he took the position very seriously. Those of us in MN saw that. He refused to joke at all on the campaign trail or anywhere else for a few years at the beginning just because he wanted people to know that this was something he was taking seriously. I really, genuinely, have a hard time believing he’d be so cavalier with people (especially constituents), and risk losing that seat because he wanted to be able to grab some butts or make out with a model. He’s not stupid. He would have known that these things could be found out at any time, and he surely would have known what it would have done to his career.

But, in this moment, he also knew that trying to protest the accusations was a no-win game. It doesn’t matter if he actually did it or not, because believing women first is finally becoming the standard. And that’s a good thing for society. But in this instance, I really think an innocent man may have gotten thrown under the bus. It makes me sad. I hope he didn’t do these things, and I think I have decent reasons to believe he didn’t. Either way, it’s over now and we’ve lost one of the best senators we had. And those of us who elected him and fought for him had no say in the matter. He called for an ethics investigation into himself, and we didn’t even let that play out. I find that disheartening, and it makes me sad that all of the arguments I’m hearing on all sides of this are terrible. So basically, yeah. This whole thing just sucks.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Handy Dandy Guide to NOT Sexually Harassing Someone

Are you someone who is worried about being accused of sexual harassment? Do you live in perpetual fear that someone you flirted with might accuse you of having done something inappropriate, thereby ruining your reputation as a "good guy?" Well fear no more, dear readers! This post is for you!

**Please note, this post will ONLY help you avoid charges of sexual harassment, not rape. I'm saving rape for a different post.**

(Okay, that sounded weird. . . .)

The Liberal House on the Prairie Handy Dandy Step-by-Step Guide to Not Being Accused of Sexual Harassment

Let's take this in stages. If you've ever asked yourself any of the following questions, refer to my practical advice on how to make sure you don't later get accused of doing something "bad."

Section 1 - Dick Pics

Q: I like someone, and I want to send them a dick pic. Is that okay?

Follow these steps to decide what to do: 

Step 1. Is your dick the most majestic, most glorious dick that this person will probably ever have seen?
  • Yes? Proceed to step 2. 
  • No? Proceed to step 2.

Step 2. Has this person specifically asked you to send them a dick pic? 
  • Yes? Congratulations! You can send the dick pic! 
  • No? Proceed to step 3.

Step 3. Is the person you want to send the dick pic to someone you know?
  • Yes? Proceed to step 4.
  • No? Proceed to step 5.

Step 4. Ask the person, politely, if you may send them a dick pic. What is their answer?
  • Yes? Congratulations! You can send the dick pic! 
  • No? Proceed to step 5.


Section 2 - Flirting in Real Life (or "IRL" as the kids say)

Q: I like someone, and I'd like to flirt with them. Is that okay?

Follow these steps to decide what to do: 

Step 1. Are you drunk?
  • Yes? Rethink this whole thing and maybe try again when you're sober.
  • No? Proceed to step 2.

Step 2. Approach the person and engage in light, not creepy conversation. Examples include, "Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" or "Hi, my name is <insert real name here>. I saw you from across the room and decided I just really wanted to meet you." Ask them if they'd like to talk and/or get some coffee. What is their response?
  • Yes? Proceed to step 3.
  • "Sure, maybe, sometime. . . .I have to go check on my friends. . . " Proceed to step 5.
  • No? Proceed to step 5.

Step 3. Get to know them. Ask them questions about their interests. Try not to be creepy about it. Ask them if they'd like to meet again for a date. How do they answer?
  • Yes? Proceed to step 4.
  • "Sure, maybe, sometime. . . .I have to go check on my friends. . . " Proceed to step 5.
  • No? Proceed to step 5.

Step 4. Go out on a date with them. Repeat this process until you're either in a committed relationship with them or you part ways.

Step 5. Leave them alone! They're not interested! FFS! 
  • Do NOT continue to ask them either now or at a later date. 
  • Do NOT explain to them how much you really like them (because that doesn't fucking matter - they owe you nothing). 
  • You are going to turn into a straight up stalker and be accused of sexual harassment. Because you are now committing sexual harassment.

Section 3 - Flirting Online 

Q: I like someone, and I'd like to flirt with them on the website/app of my choice. Is that okay?

Follow these steps to decide what to do: 

Step 1. Are you drunk?
  • Yes? Rethink this whole thing and maybe try again when you're sober.
  • No? Proceed to step 2.

Step 2. Are you on Facebook?
  • Yes? First consider that for most people, Facebook is not a dating site. Most people are NOT there looking for new romantic relationships. But if you must, proceed to step 3, with caution.
  • No? Proceed to step 3.

Step 3. Follow ALL of the same rules from Section 2, as well as reviewing Section 1.
  • Even though you're online, there's an actual human being at the other end of that Internet connection. 
  • Your actions online have real life consequences. Don't believe me? Ask Anthony Weiner. Although, if you do ask him, you'll probably get an unsolicited dick pic in return. So maybe don't ask him.

Step 4. If, at ANY time, the person you are flirting with online asks you to stop contacting them, stop contacting them. 
  • No need to respond with a "fine, you're a skanky ass bitch anyway." Just leave it alone. Cease contact, and leave them the fuck alone. 
  • Do not explain to them how you REALLY like them (because that doesn't fucking matter - they owe you nothing). 
  • You are going to turn into a straight up stalker and be accused of sexual harassment. Because you are now committing sexual harassment.

Section 4 - Workplace Crushes

Q: I like someone at work and would like to pursue them romantically. Is that okay?

Follow these steps to decide what to do: 

Step 1. Read this article, because it puts it into much better perspective than I can. And because my fingers are getting tired from typing.

Section 5 - Being in a Position of Power

Q: I'm the President of the United States and I really want to hit on some chicks. Is that okay?

A: No. Absolutely not. You're a fucking monster who should be in prison for a variety of reasons.

So there you have it. Everything you need to make good choices going forward and not be accused of sexual harassment. You're all set! You got this. I believe in you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shout Out to The Orbit

The Orbit: Atheist Social Justice Blogging Site Launches

A new atheist blogging site, dedicated to working on social justice both in and out of organized atheism, launches today. Located at the-orbit.net, The Orbit is being created by bloggers from all corners of progressive atheism, including the Freethought Blogs network, the Patheos Atheist channel, Skepchick, and independent blogs.

“The word ‘orbit’ resonates with what we’re doing, on many levels,” says Greta Christina. “We love the connection with science and astronomy, with Galileo and other heretics who changed the world — and we love the reminder that we all orbit something and none of us is the center of the universe.”

The Orbit is a diverse collective of atheist, humanist, and other non-religious bloggers who are committed to social justice, both within organized atheism and outside it. “It’s not just atheism that’s struggling with social justice,” says D. Frederick Sparks. “Organizations across the board are neglecting the needs of marginalized people, and aren’t willing to look at the ways they make those people feel unwelcome. We plan to be one of the outposts for social justice atheism — but also for social justice in every community we care about.”

Bloggers at The Orbit include Alex Gabriel, Alix Jules, Alyssa Gonzalez, Ani, Ania Bula, Aoife O’Riordan, Ashley F. Miller, Benny Vimes, Brianne Bilyeu, Chris Hall, D. Frederick Sparks, Dana Hunter, Dori Mooneyham, Greta Christina, Heina Dadabhoy, Jason Thibeault, Luxander Pond, Miri Mogilevsky, Niki M., Sincere Kirabo, Stephanie Zvan, Tony Thompson, and Zinnia Jones, with a lineup that is continuing to grow. “We’re extremely proud of our team,” says Tony Thompson. “They represent some of the strongest, most insightful voices in atheism.” The Orbit is structured as a collective, with all bloggers having a voice in decisions and contributing to day-to-day operations. The site is launching a Kickstarter campaign to cover operating costs and pay bloggers for their work.

The network plans to continue a friendly, collegial relationship with bloggers at Freethought BlogsSkepchickPatheos Atheist, and elsewhere. “There’s room for lots of blog networks and media sites in organized atheism,” says Luxander Pond. “This is a fast-growing community.” Recent major changes at Freethought Blogs provided many Orbiters with the impetus and opportunity to rethink what they wanted from a blog network. “Ultimately,” says Stephanie Zvan, “we decided to seize the opening to build something new, with a new structure and vision.”

More information is available at the-orbit.net/about-us

Friday, March 4, 2016

An Open Letter to the Republican Party

Dear Republicans,

I see that you're trying to distance yourselves from Donald Trump. You've realized, no doubt, that he's a bumbling buffoon of a man who will forever tarnish the proud legacy of the Grand Old Party.

But here's the thing: you created this guy. He is the living embodiment of all the hate you've spewed out into the world over the past 40 or so years. As much as you may be trying to backpedal now, the simple fact is that you created this monster.

You may not like the way he says things, but he's just taken your game to the inevitable next level. All those years of dog-whistle politics have finally culminated in this man. He's not saying anything new. He's just saying the things you've been saying for years without the thin veneer of civility that you think you're so good at hiding behind.

People like him because he says out loud the things you've been saying behind closed doors for years. He doesn't hide his hatred behind the talking points that Frank Luntz has been giving you. He makes plain what you think deep down inside. He gives people permission to be open about their darkest, ugliest feelings. He gives them permission to say the things they've been wanting to say this whole time; that black people are innately worse than white people, that immigrants are criminals who want to steal all of our nice stuff, that poor people just aren't trying hard enough, and that America was better when women knew their place and men (well, the white ones anyway) were free to take what was theirs.

And I'm glad that he scares you. Because now you see how scared the rest of us have been all of this time.

You can't spend years pushing policies that hurt minorities, women, and immigrants, and then pretend to be shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, when someone says all of that disgusting shit out loud.

You may not like him, but you own him. He's yours. Now you can try to find a way to deal with him. Before it's too late for everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The War on Christmas

As part of my annual "War on Christmas," I submitted an entry for the local paper's segment on Christmas Stories. From the paper's website:

"The stories of Christmas have been a Dispatch favorite since 1988. Each year we get wonderful stories, some humorous and light-hearted; others are thoughtful, touching remembrances. Winners are published in the Christmas Eve edition of the Dispatch. Stories should be 300 words or less."

My submission:

I’m an atheist. But if you ask me what my favorite holiday is, I will tell you it’s Christmas. Hands down. No contest. For me, it really is “the most wonderful time of the year.” I struggled with my utter devotion to Christmas for a few years after becoming an atheist. I felt like a hypocrite; rejecting religion on the one hand, while embracing a religious holiday on the other. 

But after doing some basic research into the roots of Christmas, I was able to relax and enjoy the holiday for what it really is; a break from the cold days of winter. An excuse to bring some greenery and lights inside your home when it’s dark and gray outside.  An occasion to get together with all of those people you may not see during the rest of the year. An opportunity to show your love through food. A chance to watch your children’s eyes light up as they open that present they’ve been begging for. A time to remember your own childhood, and reminisce with the ones you love.  All of these things remain special and magical to us, even if Jesus isn’t part of our equation. 

Your atheist neighbors aren’t out to wage a “War on Christmas.” Many of us love it just as much as you do! We just celebrate it our own way, with our own family traditions, and accept it as the cultural holiday that it is.  When we say “Happy Holidays,” it’s not because we hate Christmas.  It’s simply an acknowledgement that not everyone celebrates it. Because we know what it’s like to be part of the “out group,” and we don’t want others to feel the isolation that we’re so familiar with. So, from my family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas!"

Guess we'll have to wait until next week to see if I win! :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fixing the System

So I finally watched the Vice Special Report, "Fixing The System" last night. Even though I didn't really learn anything new (I was already keenly aware of how incredibly unjust our "justice" system is), it was utterly heartbreaking to watch nonetheless. My husband had not heard the "1 in 3" stat of how many black men will end up in jail over the course of their lives, and he kept saying "1 in 3!! Jesus Christ!!" at multiple points while we were watching it. I've never felt my own privilege more keenly in my life.

Two things really disappointed me about the film though:

(1) Absolutely NO discussion of the for-profit prison model that is a huge contributing factor to how many people we jail in this country.

(2) President Obama seemed to talk more about communities of color "fixing" their communities, rather than the government actually taking action to fix the incredibly unfair systems (like the failed "war on drugs") that are in place that lead directly to this travesty of justice.

In any case, it's a must watch for everyone in America.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Luckily for my avid readers, I just finished watching the shitshow of a "hearing" to de-fund Planned Parenthood, so you don't have to. I watched the first one on Sept 9th, which was similarly horrible, but the McCarthy-esque witch hunt against Cecile Richards last Tuesday was an absolute travesty beyond words. 

So, without further adieu, here is my summarized transcript of the entire hearing.

Generic Republican 1: "Thanks for coming Ms. Richards. You suck and we all hate you more than you can possibly imagine."

Cecile Richards: "No problem. I love to spend my time answering stupid questions from stupid people."

G.R.1.: "Are you aware that Planned Parenthood SELLS BABY PARTS???!!!!!"

C.R.: "No, actually we don't."

G.R.1.: "Yes you do!! I saw it on a video!!"

C.R.: "Again, no we don't."

G.R.1.: "Okay, then how about you tell me how much profit you make MURDERING INNOCENT BABIES!!"

C.R.: "We're a non-profit organization. We don't make a 'profit' on anything."

G.R.1.: "Yeah right. I'm a Republican so I know how business works. You're making a profit on abortion, and it's huge."

C.R.: "We're not a business, we're a nonprofit organization. We don't make a profit. On anything."

G.R.1.: "Why are you being so secretive about how much profit you make on abortions?!"

C.R.: "I'm not being secretive. We gave you copies of all of our financial statements already. We don't make a profit."

G.R.1.: "Look at this chart I found that shows how many abortions you do and how many Pap smears you DON'T. Why do you do so many abortions?! I hate abortions!!"

C.R.: "That chart is from an anti-abortion group. And it's not actually a chart."

G.R.1.: "Agree to disagree."

Generic Democrat 1: "I'm so sorry my idiot colleagues are being such assholes. We all know this is a charade."

C.R.: "Thanks. You rock."

Generic Republican 2: "You're a horrible person. I don't know how you sleep at night. I have grand-kids you know. Why do you want to kill my grand-kids?!."

C.R.: "I don't."

G.R.2.: "Yeah right, you just LOVE murdering grand-babies. And while we're on the subject, why should taxpayers have to pay for your abortions?"

C.R.: "They don't. Federal tax money can't go to abortion. You know this."

G.R.2.: "But you're doing it anyway, right?"

C.R.: "No."

Generic Democrat 2: "We're all so sorry these pricks are being such pricks. Seems like we could be doing something better with our time."

C.R.: "Probably."

Generic Republican 3: "Why aren't you giving people more mammograms? My mom had breast cancer, so I love mammograms. How many of those do you do?"

C.R.: "We've actually never done mammograms at Planned Parenthood. We don't have radiology facilities. We do breast exams, and refer people who need mammograms to radiology clinics. Just like every other doctor in the world."

G.R.3.: "But you 'claim' to do breast exams."

C.R.: "Actually, breast exams and mammograms are two different things."

G.R.3.: "Ha! So you ADMIT that you don't do mammograms!?"

C.R.: "Yup, you got me."

Generic Democrat 3: "Seriously though, I am SO sorry about this."

Generic Republican 4: "Ms. Richards, can you please explain to me why you 'claim' to do breast exams, when your reports show that you don't seem to do ANY mammograms?"

C.R.: "Jesus Christ. Did we not just go through this?"

G.R.4.: "I'm just trying to figure out why y'all think you're so great over there at 'Planned Parenthood' when you obviously aren't doing any of the mammograms you claim to be doing. I mean, if you 'care' about women so much, why are you letting them all die from breast cancer?!"

C.R.: <look of disbelief>

Generic Democrat 4: "I just can't even believe this shit."

Generic Republican 5: "Ms. Richards, did you know that my wife is a nurse? She's a woman. And she's pro-life. BOOM! There goes your stupid idea about women wanting choices."

C.R.: "That's great. Life is about choices. Your wife is free to believe whatever she wants to."

G.R.5.: "Have you heard the good news about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Don't you know he hates abortions? Why can't you just stop it with the abortions?! STOP IT!!! NOW!!!

C.R.: "Uuuummmmm. . . ."

Generic Democrat 5: <shakes head in sad and hopeless manner>

Generic Republican 6: "Can we go back to this mammogram issue?"

Like, 60 hours later. . . . 

Generic Republican 17: "I still don't understand why y'all are lying about the mammograms."

Generic Democrat 16: "I can't believe we're still here."

Generic Republican 18: "Let's go back to the chart we saw earlier."

C.R.: "Still not accurate, and still not a chart."

G.R.18.: "I want to know why your Pap smear numbers are going down while your abortion numbers are going up. It's because you just love doing abortions way more and are refusing to give women Pap smears, right?"

C.R.: "Actually, it's because the medical guidelines have changed so that most women only need a Pap smear every three years instead of every one year. It's science."

G.R.18.: "But that doesn't account for the number of Pap smears going down."

C.R.: "Actually, it does."

G.R.18.: "Nuh uh. You're probably just refusing to give women their Pap smears so you can free up more time for abortions. You're probably keeping women from getting Pap smears just like you're denying them mammograms. Have I mentioned what a horrible person you are?"

C.R.: "Yes, you have. Thank you."

Generic Democrat 17: "For the love of God. Is this really happening?"

Generic Republican 19: "Madam, I don't know how you sleep at night. I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but you are the scum on the bottom of the devil's shoes. I wish we could still burn sinners like you alive. In fact, I'm authoring a bill to do just that as we speak. Not only do you cut up babies into tiny pieces, which I know for a fact because I heard there was a video of it, but you also have the audacity to deny women desperately needed mammograms. How dare you madam? How dare you?"

C.R.: "Was that a question?"

Generic Republican 20: "It has come to my attention that you have a higher salary than I do. I'm a Congressman. And a man! And I'm white!! How is that fair?! If you really cared about women like you claim to, you'd take all that fancy money that you spend on shoes and lipstick and use it to give women mammograms! The nerve of some people!!"

Generic Republican 21: "Can you tell me why you only give money to Democrats? I mean, Republicans like money too. Seems pretty partisan to me. Super unfair. Are you involved in some sort of conspiracy with the Democrat Party? You are, right? Why should the taxpayers give you all this money for abortions when you just turn around and give it all to the goddamned Democrats?! Huh? Explain that!!"

C.R.: "Again, taxpayers don't pay for abortions, and we'd be happy to give money to any Republicans who support a woman's right to choose. Unfortunately, they don't seem to exist."

Generic Republican 22: "Can we just get back to why you do SO MANY abortions and SO FEW mammograms??!!"

Generic Republican 23: "I still want to know why you're being so dodgy about how few Pap smears you do. Is it because you use all that taxpayer money for abortions instead?! Huh? HUH??!!"

Like, 127 hours later. . . 

Generic Democrat 23: "Well, I think we can all agree that we've learned nothing useful here today. You're welcome taxpayers.


NOTE: The above was a piece of satire. The actual hearing was about a million times more ridiculous. You can watch it here if you want your brain to melt permanently.