JamesRandiFoundation YouTUBE Account Suspended

Editor’s note: The JREF YouTUBE account has been restored, news and information here, James Randi Speaks: YouTUBE Suspension.

I don’t know how to respond to this – primarily because I have no clue why it happened – but all I can say right now is that this is stupid on the face of it. James Randi is an amazing illusionist (it’s right there in his stage name) and he’s also an excellent resource for looking into the false claims of psychics, scam artists, con artists, and televangelists who claim faith healing and other unproven and grossly bogus activities.

And now his channel has been suspended by YouTUBE. It is not uncommon for people like the above to run false flagging campaigns, to misuse the DMCA, and to otherwise abuse the law and other resources to attack venues like YouTUBE in order to suspend their detractors. And YouTUBE, following the DMCA law and their own policy in a fashion bereft of actual wisdom—suspend on whim.

TO HELP COMPLAIN TO YOUTUBE ABOUT THIS

http://www.google.com/support/youtube/bin/static.py?page=troubleshooter.cs&problem=account&selected=asked_to_login&ctx=account_asked_to_login_55755

Scroll to the very bottom and click on “new issue” Select “suspended account” from the options and express your opinion.

The mediafire link is:

http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=4d77967b07dff9ac8c9e7c56ba37815f99433de67f37e9e4

Thank you

Book Review: “Who Will Rise Up” Part II

Don’t look now, but Jed’s antiquated sexism is showing. Sure, he spends some time trying to rebut this before the fact in a previous chapter in a section called “Politically Correct” but even that reeked of sniggering gesticulation (p. 106-107). Readers might as well re-title that entire section “We Saw What You Did There.” Jed basically goes on about how the Political Correctness movement (which actually has nothing to do with these labels) could get people wrongfully labeled as homophobic or sexist for showing disagreement with mainstream mores. Well, okay, we can see that. Disagree with affirmative action and possibly get wrongfully labeled a racist. Display old fashioned traditional sensibilities with women and potentially get called sexist.

Many girls walk around campus braless and, on numerous occasions, to the delight of the boys, they have flashed their bare breasts toward me. No wonder there are so many rapes on college campuses. Those girls walking and jogging around campus with their shorts so short that their buttocks hang out are just asking for it. They might as well have a sign on their back saying, “Rape me, rape me, rape me.” (p. 114.)

Then, of course, there’s blatant showboating sexism. This, right after making craven veiled claims that his god “may be” condemning women to mastectomies and hysterectomies because of what he observes as today’s feminine immorality (p. 113).

“Masturbation is one of the first expressions of lust. Your masturbator of today is very likely to be your homosexual of tomorrow. Your homosexual of tomorrow could be your psychology professor of the next day. In fact, universities are graduating more queers than Ph.D’s.” (p 117.) Okay. So what? Jed certainly goes out of his way not to cite any sources, but it strikes me that this drippy “very likely” and “could be” language is just to cover up the baseless assertions that he’s trying to make. Although, I think that per capita a university must be graduating more homosexuals than Ph.Ds simply because of the sheer rarity of Ph.Ds and that—if a Ph.D is not statistically connected to homosexuality—there are therefore Ph.D graduates who are also homosexual. This entire paragraph was a childish appeal to ridicule.

Once again, Jed’s cherry picking reappears—this time in the reverse direction—he retells the story of Lot, instead of holding Lot on a pedestal, he’s attacking the people of Sodom. So now he brings up the rest of the story. “Lot had the same attitude, and he was vexed to the point of offering his own virgin daughters to a gang of sodomites.” (p. 118). This is part of the same story which Jed earlier used as an example of the Sodomites telling Lot not judge them; he portrayed the story as part of his illustration on using morals to judge behavior. This is Lot, after all, the only “good man” in all of Sodom and Gomorrah.

After further bad rhetoric and some poorly narrated stories about why he believes homosexuality is bad, Jed moves onto condoms. Here he has managed to cross the threshold from gibbering kook to outright jackass liar. “The AIDS virus is fifty times smaller than the tiniest pores of a latex condom. Using a condom to prevent AIDS is like using a tennis racquet to return B-B pellets.” (p. 122). This particular line of gibberish is brought to you not by a real misunderstanding of science done by the Center for Disease Control on the matter, but instead it’s a deliberately deceitful bit of propaganda forwarded by evangelists in 3rd world countries like Africa to preach against condoms—worsening the already horrible HIV epidemic in such places. George Smock is a reprehensible asshole for reprinting this lie.

“Most students may not realize that, when they use drugs, they are practicing sorcery. Sorcery comes from the Greek word ‘pharmakeia,’ which in English would be ‘pharmacy’ or ‘drugs.’ Anyone using drugs illicitly is practicing sorcery. ” (p. 124.) Firstly, this is a fallacy by etymology—secondly, he’s wrong: E. Sorcery comes from L. sors/sortis: fate, oracle. Perhaps he was confused by the meaning of AG. pharmakis or witch. Maybe he should have claimed instead, following etymology, that drug users were practicing witchcraft.

Part I | Part II | Part III

Book Review: “Who Will Rise Up?” Part I

Like most autobiographies, Who Will Rise Up? by George “Jed” Smock is a self-important narrative that smacks of purple prose sporting overwrought acclaims to his own prowess and condemnation of exaggerated villainy in the world. The strange bias of his writing is steeped in most paragraphs, any number of which take swipes at his old life. He also intersperses his text with Bible verses, which, instead of using italics for emphasis, he bolds so that they break up the narrative and legibility of the text.

The title of his work comes from the Bible Psalm 94:16, “Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?”

If Jed’s theatrics on campus are any indication he certainly thinks romantically about his past experiences, so it is difficult to separate fact from silvery fiction in his book. Fun sections come out hither and yon when he snidely chuckles about how he can exorcize demons from people. One event happened on a college campus when he shouted in “Latin” at a man assaulting a woman—to which the man allegedly reacted by becoming docile, said “Okay,” and then left. (p. 70-71). Another account didn’t actually manage anything like expelling a demon. Instead he lay hands on a drunken man while in jail and shouted at him, startling the man awake. Jed calls the drunk man a “wino” in his prose. The assault, combined with him beginning to preach loudly at others in the jail cell with him, led the jailers to put him into his own cell (p. 87).

He has been the subject of multiple civil rights violations in regards to free speech on public property; however Jed doesn’t care about civil rights as much as he does spreading his own word. He capriciously condemns those who would defend his own right to speak freely and fails repeatedly to hold up his own civic responsibility when he feels like he’s “saved enough souls.” A great deal of his vituperative speech is directed against the culture that would stand with him in opposition to the sort of bad behavior of being arrested for speaking publicly. He will toe the line to get wrongfully arrested; but rarely follows through after the fact.

Like a lot of others like him, he also totally ignores or derides civil rights when they don’t agree with his agenda. He takes advantage of them when they’re in his favor, martyrs himself for them when it affects his freedom of speech; but when it comes to opening freedom of religion and speech to others he quickly shuts up or claims incredulity. In one example he is upset that chapel services and instruction had become optional—as if Christianity is the only proper and right religion to speak on campuses—and then decried this as a deathblow (p. 102). As if college students shouldn’t have a choice as to whether they’re going to listen to him or not; he espouses this while only a few chapters earlier he likes to laud himself for how many people “Didn’t have to stop and listen to him, but did anyway.”

“They disdain the one Book [sic] that unites races, ages, ethnic groups and economic classes into a common purpose.” (p. 106-107). We have to assume he means the Bible when he says “Book,” but really this book is also the origin of their god commanding the murder and genocide of multiple groups who were not the chosen people. So much for uniting ethnic groups; this book has been the basis of a multitude of atrocities based on these commands. The above quote is a common denominator of Jed’s style of cherry picking Christian mythology. In an earlier chapter he retells the story of Lot and the angels, only to leave out how Lot offered his daughters to the mob that came calling lustfully for the angels (presumably so that the mob would rape his daughters instead of the angels.)

Part I | Part II | Part III

Westboro Baptist Church Resistance Report: Friday, January 30th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

Westboro Baptist Church takes a shotgun approach to protesting. Spending no more than 30 to 45 minutes at a single location. We followed them through several different locations throughout Phoenix according to their schedule, which they posted loud and clear in order to attract counter-protesters. Especially they were probably interested in media attention. They don’t do a very good job of actually getting their message across—especially in the media—because instead of focusing on their message, the media makes them look like insane people.

The first location we visited involved a military funeral for a soldier who died in Iraq.

As Kazz was pulling his sign and some other things out of the back of his vehicle we were passed by a suspicious looking man. Overweight, sunglasses, greasy hair, and sauntered past and then back again and started to ask if we were going to the protest. He then identified himself without credentials as a police officer. “We just want everyone to have a safe, good time,” he said. So did the Resistance so there was no reason to have much concern.

We got there ten minutes before they left the funeral protest. They had set up over 100 meters away from the actual location of the cemetery, far out of line of sight, and even out of sight of the freeway. The Resistance and at least three others—including a photographer—set up across the freeway exit ramp. One man, who went to every single protest, stood with a two meter length US flag.

Outside of the German Consulate—which we still don’t know where it is because it was so nondescript—the counter-protesters ran into an issue with a person who identified themselves as the groundskeeper of 1002 Missouri. He blurted out, “Keep them off of the property!” at the counter-protesters. He then went to the police, spoke with them, and then threatened the counter-protesters with arrest if they went on the property. At no time did the counter-protesters, the Resistance, or anyone even appear to be going on the property he was protecting. He behaved belligerent and rudely. Perhaps he was in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church protest which was across the street from the counter-protest? Maybe mixed them up? Or perhaps he just didn’t care and simply likes to threaten people for doing things they weren’t. The police appeared thoroughly uninterested in his complaint (possibly because the counter-protest was small, didn’t move towards the property, and weren’t as scary as the WBC.)

After that final protest the police approached the counter-protesters to talk about what might be happening at the high school—which would turn out to be the hugest part of the protest. The WBC obviously chose the Desert Mountain High School venue because it would draw a great deal of attention. Media, and otherwise. They were going to put their riotous protest right in front of a school, after all, in the vicinity of a middle school and a grade school. The police decided that it would be best to cordon the area. Not because they were concerned about counter-protesters; but because the high school students probably wouldn’t be as disciplined as adults.

To their credit: the high school students were nothing short of awesome.

The Resistance set up their tripod and speaker at the front of the student cordon, surrounded by signs admonishing bigotry, elevating humanity, professing love and adoration for all people—students and counter-protesters alike were invited to use the speaker to provide speeches to the WBC.

“We can see you dancing to our music over there; if you want to put down your sign, and come over to this side, you’ll be welcome over here!” They said the Fred Phelp’s granddaughter.

The counter-protest drown out anything that the WBC hoped to say: music, speeches, hopeful words…

And at least one rickroll.

With a turn out that exceeded three hundred people, it was the largest protest. The presence of media, counter-protesters from across the state, FOX News, and other media. Apparently the rickroll elicited some unhappy grimaces from Shirley Roper-Phelps as a news interview took place.

A member of the Resistance, Brian Key, managed to make the news broadcast, as did the Resistance speaker, and my top hat.

During the protest at the high school, I spoke with Greg and Jose, two Catholic priests (at least, I believe so because they were wearing Roman collars) who had come with cameras and regularly counter-protest the WBC. They told me about an inititive that they are part of called “No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice” (http://nolongersilent.org/). This group is especially rankled by the WBC because the behavior of the family-cult pollutes the public perception of Christianity, churches, and the proper behavior of religious figures. They appear to be a primarily Phoenix based group.

The final leg of the protest circuit happened in Tempe, near the Chyro Arts Venue where they were going to show Closet Drama: A Hetero/Homo Collision. The counter-protesters visited the parking lot, received information on the play, and even spoke with members of the venue about the play itself and the existence of the protest. If nothing else, the presence of WBC coming out to their venue greatly increased knowledge of the play for the surrounding community.

For those interested, here is a web resource about Closet Drama:

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/events/closet-drama-a-homo-hetero-collision-1031932/

http://www.chyro.org/

The TEAM security were the poorest behaved of the would-be security. When they approached the Resistance and the other gathered protesters they went through the same spiel that the police did elsewhere, but instead of presenting the problems of a protest they immediately threatened violence. Stupidly undiplomatic talking about Macing people if things got out of hand. “If anything happens, you’ll get Maced, and then we’ll handcuff everyone. I mean everyone.” The actual police took a far more peaceful and hopeful tact of talking about how they were cordoning off the area and where the do-not-cross lines were. They did not threaten to Mace the protesters, they did not threaten anyone with arrest; they were civil, thoughtful, and lent their presentation to giving the protesters a safe place and manner to protest.

In the future TEAM may want to revise their tactics for talking to protesters because threatening people with assault is a bad idea. It sets up a violent atmosphere and makes the entire situation inherently more dangerous. Or, just wait for the police to arrive before they say anything more than, “This is private property, the venue here doesn’t want to be connected to the protest, since they’re not,” and avoid making violent threats. TEAM are not police officers, if they Mace someone they can and will be arrested, they cannot handcuff people; they are not extensions of the policing force and if they commit assault they themselves will be arrested and charged accordingly.

Shame on those TEAM security workers; please act smarter next time.

The WBC set up far away from the venue, on the corner with Skysong visible on the horizon. Counter-protesters flooded around the Wells Fargo there, trying not to clog the drive-thru ATMs while they drown out the bad singing, and petulant slogans of the WBC. Although, this was to be their longest protest, they only stayed an hour total. The gathering reached at least seventy people at its largest, a snowball second only to the high school counter-protest.

I saw a good number of people from the high school there as well, including visitations by the Phoenix Anonymous.

Overall, everything went great. As an experience this was wonderful, the turn out against WBC was solid, the media did not protray them as anything other than wackjobs, they managed once-again to build stronger community ties through bringing together gay activists. They have helped the gay community by bringing light to a play that had little notice before.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights Video

For the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), graphic artist, animator and video editor Seth Brau has created a four and a half minute video laying out the basic rights listed in the declaration.

The UDHR was created in response to the atrocities committed around the world in World War II, and it was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. In 1976 it was, as part of the International Bill of Human Rights, given the dubious force of international law after being ratified by a sufficient number of member nations.

The United States sadly did not ratify it until 1992, and our government was even then unwilling to actually put those laws into effect leaving the “ratification” as a very hollow show of support for the bill. For example, despite the fact that executions are outlawed by the bill, the US continues to execute prisoners making it the only western country to continue this barbaric practice.

Last year the US was 5th in the world in the number of executions carried out, officially trailing only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and leading Iraq. Is this the group we should throw our lot in with, or should we follow the majority of the world and end this and other shameful abuses that continue to mar our reputation around the world?

For more information on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or to see a high quality version of the video, please visit the Human Rights Action Center.