Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

Many people wonder, "What do SubGeniuses do about Christmas?"  The answer is, "Whatever they wanna do, shuh!"

Of course there is an official SubGenius holiday during this festive time of year, X-istlessnessmess, a movable feast whose date varies according to different sources.  X-istlessnessmess commemorates the mess that is the doleful state of the SubGenii as they endure life on Earth in a state of X-istlessness, still unable to enjoy the X-ist pleasure saucer technology promised by J.R. "Bob" Dobbs for all dues-paying members.  When the X-ist pleasure saucer fleet eventually arrives, this holiday will become X-istmas and will be celebrated every day from then onward.

Many SubGenii also celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yalda, Yule, Kwanzaa, Solstice, etc.  In fact most SubGenii actively research on the internet to find NEW holidays they can start celebrating in an effort to book the entire "holiday period" completely full of Slack.  A holiday where you exchange gifts, eat feasts, and use a whole lot of glitter is not one to be ignored!

Although some fundamentalist loudmouths try to paint Christmas as a Christian holiday being attacked by secularism, this is in fact simply a misunderstanding.  Nobody is trying to change Christian Christmas at all.  That's a religious holiday with traditions and meanings laid out by various Christian churches, and it's nobody's business but theirs what it means to them.  However, Christmas is more than just a Christian holiday.

Christmas is a secular United States federal holiday that just happens to take place on the same day as the Christian holiday of the same name.  The United States federal holiday is open to be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of religion, and the traditional meaning of this day is that it is when businesses close, workers exchange gifts, and the sum of the value of the gifts is tallied up so we can determine whether or not it was a good year for the economy.  It is also traditionally a time when Coca-Cola releases special advertisements, and networks play certain culturally revered animations.

Secular Christmas is awesome!  Happy Gift Man Santa brings presents overnight! A boring old pine tree, inexplicably brought into the house, is transformed into a glittering object of wonderment, and then overnight a bare patch of floor becomes a treasure trove of glorious new prizes!  Some random guy came in and gave you all this stuff just because you were good all year!

These secular festivities are every bit as worthy of respect as their religious counterparts.  They inspire us to dream and encourage us to plan to delight others.  The Christmas surprise lets us experience the natural miracle of transcendence that some see in a crucifix, but others see even in the chrysalis of a butterfly.  Sudden, amazing, wonderful changes that you could never predict happen all the time in this world, and Secular Christmas reminds us of that.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cross-Dressing for Freedom: We are All Majid!

Most people are probably aware of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's infamous comment that there are no homosexuals in Iran.  Some know the darker truth behind that statement: homosexuals in Iran must submit to forced gender reassignment or be executed.  An offshoot of this brutal policy is that it is actually illegal for men to wear the "hijab" or headscarf, the gender-identifying garment for women.  I presume costume-party hi-jinks with men stuffing the largest bras they can find and prancing off in an evening gown for a night of good-natured ribbing are right out.

But when you're a charismatic student leader like Majid Tavakoli, who gave a fiery speech to a crowd of 1,500 at Monday's Student Day uprising, and you're running for your life from Iran's notoriously brutal security forces, you wear whatever you can find that might help you escape, even a hijab.  Anybody would.  That's why the Iranian regime's recent plot to ruin Tavakoli's "street cred" among Iranian youth by displaying the mug shot of him arrested in drag, has backfired and actually created a worldwide wave of support fueled by YouTube and blogs.

A call has gone out over the internet to all men who support the Green Movement to "become Majid" by taking a photo of themselves wearing a headscarf, the forbidden garment the regime thought would shame Majid Tavakoli forever.  This regime is so out of touch with the modern population of Iran they actually thought they could ruin a person's reputation with one scrap of cloth draped over his head.  Instead, a wave of young men inside Iran and all over the world are switching their social networking avatars to their "woman pictures" in solidarity.

If you support human rights in Iran, or even just an end to discriminatory forced-clothing laws in general, let the Iranian regime know it's hip to hijab!  It's easy and free to support this cause.  Simply find a piece of cloth, preferably green, large enough to drape over your head (previous submissions have included towels, blankets and sheets).  Then, drape it over your head and take your picture (cellphone or webcam quality photo is fine).  Email your picture to to submit it to the online gallery, and don't forget to share the link with your friends, who no doubt will want to see the picture anyway.  With the power of the Internet to bring people together, this is one dictatorial plot we can thwart using only cell phones and household linens!

A Bittersweet Baby Step Toward Justice for Native Americans

By: Rachel Bevilacqua
Library of Congress photo 

CC BY 2.0

On December 8, 2009, a lawsuit that had been in litigation for 13 years finally ended with the largest settlement of its type in history, $3.4 billion.  Cobell v. Salazar was over at last.  Many in the media raced to paint it as a groundbreaking move for reconciliation of Native American human rights and tribal rights issues, but a deeper look casts doubts on that rosy assessment. 

Since 1996, nearly 500,000 plaintiffs have been asking for compensation for the devastating effects of the 1887 General Allotment Act, or Dawes Act, passed as part of an ongoing United States policy of "Americanizing" Native Americans.  Concerned with promoting the values of "real Americans" even back then, Republicans in Congress succeeded in privatizing tribal common lands.  Each qualifying tribe member was allotted ownership of a 40- to 160-acre parcel, and the extra tribal land left after allotment was simply sold off to the highest bidder.

Too bad if anyone in the tribe had been subsistence hunting and fishing on those unallocated lands or had a religious or cultural connection to them; the federal government determined those lands were superfluous to the new and improved tribal identity as property owners and shareholders.

The Cobell settlement will attempt to make up for this blatant cultural imperialism, and subsequent federal mismanagement of tribal funds, by spending $1.4 billion in direct compensation for plaintiffs and $2 billion to buy back tribal land sold off after privatization, hopefully letting tribes use their land for the collective benefit of all members as they did before the cultural "improvements" were made.  However, as President Obama stated, this is merely one step toward repairing the damage done by a Victorian-era Congress obsessed with imposing its own worldview on the Native population.

How helpful is this step?  An estimated 90 million acres of tribal land were lost in the aftermath of the Dawes Act.  The settlement hopes to be able to recover approximately 4 million acres.  According to Ms. Cobell's website, most plaintiffs can expect to receive about $1,500.  A nice little surprise windfall.  A bauble of compensation, hard won, to atone for a deliberate plan to eliminate hundreds of unique and vibrant traditional ways of life.

The significance of this decision depends on Washington's next steps in taking responsibility for settling America's debts, and paying meaningful restitution for the frauds and failed social experiments that have harmed so many for so long.  This decision was an historic achievement, but as Ms. Cobell stated, it's "a bittersweet victory, at best."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stand Up for Iranian Protesters at the UN

 When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the disputed president of Iran, addressed the United Nations in late September, Green Movement supporters and members of the Iranian Diaspora came from all over the world to the Green NY rally to show their solidarity with the protesters in Iran struggling to establish true democracy answerable to the people through fair elections.

It's time to turn the Big Apple green again as the Solidarity Committee for the Advancement of Democracy in Iran (SCADI) has announced a new rally this weekend to raise awareness of the Green Movement and express its demands for the Iranian government to free all political prisoners, allow new elections and freedom of speech, and end the brutal treatment of prisoners in the Iranian justice system.

Political prisoners in Iran have been subjected to beatings, torture, and, as alleged by reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, even rape sanctioned by prison authorities.  The Green Movement is determined to continue protests until this type of atrocity comes to an end.

Please show the Green Movement that they do not stand alone.  Come to the UN at Dag Hammarsskjold Plaza, First Ave. and 47th St., Manhattan, New York from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 12 and let the Iranian Greens know we hear them and our hearts are with them.

If you can't make it, you can still help by spreading the word.  Share this rally's facebook Cause with your friends and encourage them to pass it on.  Those of us who live in countries where we're free to protest nonviolently without risking death or worse owe it to the Green Movement to raise our Green banners high and speak out against the human rights abuses taking place in Iran.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Iran's Green Protesters Rise Again

By:Rachel Bevilacqua
Photo by Getty Images CC BY 2.0

Last summer millions of people all across the world became swept up in the story of Iran's Green Movement filling the streets of Tehran to protest the June 12, 2009 disputed election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  With severe restrictions on journalists, many people joined Twitter for the first time just to follow one of the few sources of unfiltered news out of Iran, and turned their avatar icons green in support for the protesters.

As the regime became more brutal in its response, and the months went by without a 1979-style escalation into larger and larger protests, many pundits concluded the movement had been "quashed," as Time Magazine recently wrote.  It must have been quite a shock to them to find large-scale protests breaking out once again on December 7, "16 Azar" in the Persian calendar, or "Student Day," a holiday which memorializes the deaths of three peaceful student protesters, brutally killed in 1953 by the then-Shah of Iran for protesting a visit by Richard Nixon.

This Student Day, the Green Movement continued its strategy of erupting from seeming dormancy to take over official holidays in massive displays of peaceful solidarity to demonstrate that they have not forgotten, and they will not go away.  Committed to nonviolence, the Greens are composed of people from all ages and walks of life.  Their numbers are hard to estimate because in addition to the able-bodied people out on the streets, it's previously been reported by livebloggers on the ground that those who can't join the protests often open the doors of their homes for protesters to find refuge during violent clashes.  There is no way to tell how many Iranians secretly support the Green Movement.

Despite a brutal crackdown by the Basiji militiamen described by the Washington Post, protests continued on for a second day, and even a third, according to YouTube channels that have hundreds of protest videos captured by cell phones.  More large-scale protests are planned for December 18, the start of Islamic month Moharram and beyond, but smaller university-based protests may well continue every day until then.

If you only watch one December 7 protest video, make it this one showing students tearing down a massive iron gate that security forces had locked them behind to prevent them from joining with others in protest.  When you see it, you'll realize there's nothing "quashed" about these people.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Free Iran: The Time is Now

Posted by: Rachel Bevilacqua

This time tomorrow, the streets of Tehran will be filled once again with Green Movement protesters  committed to nonviolence in the face of certain brutality.  Students will go to sleep tonight not knowing if Ayatollah Khamenei's private army, the Revolutionary Guard, will trap them inside their universities tomorrow to prevent them from joining street demonstrations.  Mothers will go to sleep tonight not knowing if this is the last night their children will be safe at home.

Why do they do it?  Why keep on fighting after innocent, peaceful demonstrators like Neda were shot down in cold blood, and hundreds of others have been "vanished away" into the darkest recesses of the medieval Regime prison system, to be tortured, raped, and even killed, or allowed to die through medical neglect?  Why go on?

The Green Movement fights on because their victory is inevitable.  They are the overwhelming majority, and they fight for the noble cause of taking back their birthright to free speech, free assembly, and free thought.  An old saying goes, "Whenever people fight for Justice, they are never outnumbered, because there is Another who stands with them."  Maybe that Other is the collective consciousness of the planet, as we scan the net for information, waiting and thinking of those risking their lives.  Maybe it's a real deity who can intervene for Justice.  I don't know, but I know that history tells us people fighting to free their own land from oppressors always win in the end.

Iran News Now has an excellent analysis, "Why the Green Movement Will Prevail," in which the author states:

Let’s be clear about something right here and right now: the movement that is called the Green Movement in Iran, is the Iranian people! The Green Movement belongs to all Iranians who stand for fundamental human rights and dignity. The Green Movement, at is core, wants the same thing that all free peoples have: freedom, dignity, respect and representative government. It is not ideological. It is at its heart, a civil rights movement.
This is so important for the world to understand, that this is about more than just an election.  This is about the rights of the Iranian people to exercise their basic freedoms.  For 30 years the Regime propped up a facade of being an "Islamic Republic," and being at least in part answerable to its people.  The June protests, and the brutal crackdown that followed, shattered that facade, and caused the Green Movement to spring up, as Iran News Now goes on to explain:

Via the social networks, telephone, e-mail and other means, people communicated this phenomenon back to the ground level in Iran, and via broadcasts from the outside captured by satellite dishes on the rooftops of homes, people in Iran saw what was being done to them, saw their own people out in masses in the streets, saw that the world is aware of what is going on and realized their shared collective rage. This led to the realization that millions of them shared collective values and vision. This was the birth of the Green Movement. The entity became self-aware, but it did so in every single person who took any action in opposition to the repressive regime, however small. Everyone took part in they own ways, inside and outside of Iran, and their cumulative efforts was a gut punch to the regime.
That collective realization, and the power it brought to the Iranian people, shattering the illusion that each of them was alone in wanting change, is what formed the Green Movement and what will carry it through to victory.  As you go about your daily life, please spare a moment to think of these brave people, choosing to use nonviolence in the face of the utmost brutality, standing up for the rights that people in the West take for granted.   The story of Iran isn't about nukes.  It's about the people.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Repeal Day!! Time to End Prohibition AGAIN!!

On this anniversary of the Repeal of the Prohibition against alcohol
, many people can't help wondering when it will be time to repeal our nation's current Prohibition and allow our adult citizens the right to choose for themselves what they would like to ingest, with no government coming between them and their bodies.  Back in the Reagan Era, our nation was caught up in a frenzy.  I was just a kid when Nancy Reagan appeared on Diff'rent Strokes to reveal her brilliant anti-drug strategy, "Just say no." 

Soon all my favorite TV friends were getting with the program, even Punky Brewster!  Police started coming to our school to tell us about this plague that was taking over America, and how we had to do our part to stop it.

It's been a long time since those clothes were in style, and the ideas in these videos are equally outdated.  Drug abuse is a huge problem for our nation, but it's a public health problem, not a criminal one, just like alcoholism was back in the days when a wave of fanaticism took over the United States and caused us to ban all alcohol, even though some of our Founding Fathers were brewers!

Every day we pour a vast treasure of taxpayer money into the effort to identify, prosecute, and jail countless people whose only crime was selling their fellow Americans products they wanted to buy.   Without a victim, there can be no crime.  Our Founders never envisioned a nation with police actively investigating citizens, with no complaint from any accuser, for the imaginary crime of harming "the State".

Meanwhile, in Central and South America, and even within our own cities, violent gangs have sprung up to supply the market that will always exist for the mind-altering substances, which many adults enjoy responsibly.  The lives saved by repealing drug prohibition and ending gang violence would far outweigh any self-induced drug-related deaths that might result from legal drug use.  When poppies, hemp, and coca are grown legally by free entrepreneurs, rather than produced by violent thugs as a stepping stone to brutal power, adults could enjoy recreational use of whatever they feel would help them pursue happiness, without supporting real violent criminals.

Marijuana, or cannabis, in particular could flip from being a huge national problem that sucks our state treasuries dry with the expense of investigating and incarcerating people, to being a cash crop that could pull people out of poverty.  It is so easy to grow, even in confined spaces, that many living in our inner cities, supported by benefits programs, could easily become professional horticulturalists running their own businesses and paying into the treasury instead!

These dire economic times are our best reverse our current drug Prohibition and start providing jobs, new business opportunities, and a huge savings to the taxpayer.  We simply can't afford the cult of "Just say no" any longer.  Too much has been spent, and too many lives have been ruined pursuing the imaginary goal of keeping all Americans sober (except on alcohol of course).  But don't take my word for it, visit the site of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, where police officers and prominent individuals from all over the world explain in greater detail why we need to end prohibition now! 

Friday, December 4, 2009

Word of the Day: Memeplex!

Recently in the discussion about Iran, someone brought up a very interesting blog post from the Citizen Warrior blog, in which the author deconstructs the "memplex," or collection of memes, found in the religion of Islam.

The author compares memes and genes, highlighting several tenets of Islam and explaining how they contribute to the religion's spread by inducing certain behaviors and thought processes, just as genetic traits promote the spread of a gene.  The author is adamant on the fundamental point that a successful meme or gene is not always beneficial for its carriers, and in fact can often cause great suffering even while spreading the gene or meme far and wide.  Just because millions of people adhere to a memeplex, or carry a gene, that doesn't mean it's good for them.

As a reader points out in the comments section of Citizen Warrior, this method of deconstruction could be used for all religions, and in coming posts I hope to have some thorough deconstructions of all the major religions, and, of course, the Church of the SubGenius as well!

Dr. Euphonium suggested in IRC discussion that a thorough study of this type should allow us to create an ultimate "antiviral" memeplex to combat any harmful memes currently spreading across our globe.  I contended that the Church of the SubGenius already is such a memeplex!  Without being trained in the science of memetics, Ivan Stang and Philo Drummond instinctively crafted the SubGenius memeplex to revolve entirely around the success and happiness of the carrier, not the success of the memeplex's propagation.  This explains the Church's perpetually dire financial straits!