Truthout: How Gentrification Is Killing US Cities and Black Lives

”How to Kill a City” exposes how gentrification monetizes the loss and destruction of Black communities.

When tens of thousands of African Americans returned to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they found a new, unwelcoming city. A city being transformed one hipster coffee shop at a time. Through gentrification, New Orleans leaders have managed to create a smaller, whiter New Orleans, one unwelcoming to those who have called the city home for their entire lives.

Many Louisiana politicians, business leaders and developers saw Katrina as an opportunity to destroy low-income housing and replace it with upscale condos and boutiques. Rich, white businessmen saw an opportunity and they didn’t hesitate to take it.

“Nobody can refute the fact that we have completely turned this story around,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in 2015, talking of streamlined government and year-over-year economic growth. “For the first time in 50 years, the city is on a trajectory that it has not been on, organizationally, functionally, economically, almost in every way.”

Continue Reading: How Gentrification Is Killing US Cities and Black Lives

Constitutional attorney films commercial at Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter

My friend Andrew Seidel paid a visit to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, filming a Freedom From Religion commercial, and giving viewers a wonderfully educated walkthrough of the park.

You’ll notice, throughout the whole video there are little to no guests to be seen.

No, this wasn’t because Andrew requested a closed set, but because no one goes to visit this awful park.

According to the Friendly Atheist, only 450 people visited the park that day.

Ham has been boasting about his visitation numbers for more than a year but the truth is, 450 in a single day is not enough to sustain his business.

It’s also not enough to boost the local economy as he has claimed it would. It’s been such a little boon to the local economy that city officials have expressed their disappointment in the park’s attendance.

Check out the video Andrew posted below and see for yourself, not only how foolish the entire park is, but just how empty it is as well.

Kentucky legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ students

Image: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons
Image: Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

As reported earlier, the Kentucky senate passed  Senate Bill K17, which would allow schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students. Well, the bill made it through the House as well and went to the governor’s desk.

Now, Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin has signed the bill into law.

According to The Hill, the bill “would allow student organizations at the commonwealth’s public schools and colleges to bar gays, lesbians and transgender people from joining, opening a new front in a national battle over so-called religious freedom laws.”

The law also allows “students to engage in religious activities and to express religious views in public schools and in their assignments. It would also allow teachers to include lessons about the Bible in discussions of religion and history.”

This is the kind of “religious freedom” secular activists have been worried about. These laws give preference to religious students and allow them to discriminate against LGBTQ peers by hiding behind their religion.

With President Trump in office, local and state governments are free to pass such laws because they don’t have to fear the federal government coming after them.

The war on the LGBTQ community has only just begun and as activists, we are going to have to fight hard to protect this already marginalized community even more.


Creationist Ken Ham: ‘The pope is wrong’ about atheism and the Big Bang

Image: Ken Ham / YouTube screen capture
Image: Ken Ham / YouTube screen capture
Ken Ham is usually full of logical fallacies, and that was on display once again when the creationist attacked Pope Francis for his remarks suggesting that atheists can be “good people” and that things such as the Big Bang are supported by science.

“If Pope said ‘Big Bang is real’ — then Pope’s wrong,” Ham wrote. “Bible states earth came before sun — not other way round… Doesn’t matter who it is, the Pope or any other human being-all statements need to be judged against God’s Word.”

“[The] Bible says there’s only one ‘good’ and that’s God,” Ham wrote in objection to the idea that atheists can be good.

Ham often claims that you can’t be a “real Christian” unless you believe in his version of young earth creationism, a standard No True Scotsman Fallacy.

It is also no surprise that Ham feels atheists can’t be good people.

Ham may be one of the evilest people on the planet, arguing in favor of gay conversion therapy, banning transgender people from bathrooms of their gender identity, and even suggesting that atheists may as well have sex with animals if they don’t subscribe the strict biblical definition of marriage.

Ham’s tactic is to make everyone else seem evil and bad. This makes him not only feel better, but gives him a boogie man to sell his donors.

Perhaps the truth is, Ham is jealous of the pope. For all his own faults, the pope seems to be a hero among many liberals for his views on Christianity and God, and Ham is finding he is more and more ostracized by the Christian community.

Bill Nye has an important message about space for Donald Trump

Image: YouTube screen capture
Image: YouTube screen capture

Bill Nye, has a message for the anti-science President Donald Trump.

In a video, which Nye is calling an open-letter to Trump, Nye lays out five key points about space exploration the president should consider.

• Focusing on Mars as a goal for human space exploration and maintaining Mars exploration programs that are already in development
• Orbiting Mars before sending humans there
• Strengthening NASA’s four science divisions
• Supporting commercial space travel
• Increasing NASA’s budget by 5% each year for the next five years

While not much is known about Trump’s plan for NASA, he has called for an evaluation of the government’s wasteful spending and it doesn’t seem Trump cares much for science programs.

Nye, knowing the president probably doesn’t know a lot about science, or NASA, said he would be willing to “discuss these recommendations with you, the vice president or members of your staff in person.”

It’s not likely Nye will be taken up on the offer, and it’s probably not likely that the president will care much about the future of NASA.

However, you can’t blame Bill for trying!

Official trailer: The Most Hated Woman in America

Image: YouTube screen capture
Image: YouTube screen capture

This trailer came out last week for the new Netflix Original Movie, The Most Hated Woman in America. The movie looks at the career and murder of American Atheists founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

I wrote about my high hopes for this movie when it was originally announced and finally had a chance to sit down and check out the trailer. I am really hopeful this is as good as it looks.

As someone who works so closely and admires so deeply the work of American Atheists, this movie is really important to me and I am so happy her story is being told.

The movie will be released on March 24.

Ben Carson claims slaves were ‘immigrants’ dreaming of a better life for their children

Image: YouTube/CNN screen capture
Image: YouTube/CNN screen capture

While speaking to his employees for the first time as the Secretary of Housing and urban Development, Ben Carson said that slaves brought the US were “immigrants” who dreamed of a better world for their children and grandchildren in the country.

That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters, might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.

The comments were quickly condemned, obviously, because slaves were brought here through violence and brute force. They did not immigrate to the US seeking a better like for their children.

“No, Secretary Carson. Slaves didn’t immigrate to America. They were brought here violently, against their own will, and lived here without freedom,” said Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

To even imply otherwise is mind-boggling. How can a brain surgeon, an African-American brain surgeon at that be so ignorant about the history of US slavery to describe it as immigration?

How Carson was ever approved this job will be a mystery for the ages, and now, with his position of power over a program that helps house millions of people, many of which are people of color, he goes and shows just how disconnected he is from that community and that he will push a racist agenda without a second thought.

Does the deplatforming of Charles Murray hurt the right to free speech?

Image: YouTube screen capture
Image: YouTube screen capture

Last week, white supremacist Charles Murray took the stage at Middlebury College and was shut down by protesters.

This has sparked another debate about platforming and a right to speech.

While this is not a First Amendment issue, it does deserve a conversation about free speech and the left.

The Washington Post looked at this issue rather fairly. The Murray incident does not, at all, compare to that of Milo Yiannopoulos. The post explains:

In the simplest terms: Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has ideas to debate; Yiannopoulos, who resigned from Breitbart News two weeks ago, does not.

Now, Murray is not even a concealed racist. He is blatant about it and argues that the white race is more superior and more intellectual to people of color.

He argues that IQ tests prove this. Now, it is worth debating if this is true. Many argue now that IQ tests are racially biased and do not prove someone’s intelligence.

Again, the Post explains Murray’s arguments:

It is certainly fair to argue that Murray’s interpretation of data — white people might be inherently smarter than black people — is flat-out wrong, not to mention wildly offensive. It is fair to argue that his writing is motivated by racism. But at least there is something to argue about.

This is compared to Yiannopoulos who simply says offensive things for the sake of being offensive.

So, is Murray’s deplatforming a problem for free speech?

First, on the protest, watch the video. The majority of those protesting this white nationalist speech are those most affected by his speech. So I don’t think myself, or the white author from the Post can rightfully condemn their actions.

Neither of us can understand what it feels like when your school invites a neo-Nazi to speak on your campus how about how inferior you are based on your race.

Why did the protest turn violent and hurt a professor? I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to anyone there. However, I would wager when you feel threatened, you turn to self-defense, and these protesters were right to be on the defense. The speech itself, the very invitation of someone like Murray is the attack.

At the end of the day, Murray isn’t owed a platform at the school. The students who protested had every right to protest as those students who tried to organize the talk, to begin with.

Was their tactic the best one? I am not sure. I hope these students weighed all available protest options and picked the one they felt would be the most effective, and minimize harm.

There are plenty of people on the right you can invite to talk about conservative issues or values that are not part of the white nationalist movement in this country.

By inviting someone like Murray, you’re inviting opposition. You don’t invite David Duke and expect silence from those he attacks. Don’t expect anything different from Murray.

A college should be endorsing opposing ideas and sparking debate and conversation.

That conversation doesn’t mean we should platform those like Murray to have it. He’s already on the losing side, this debate has been had already.

Why are we having it again?

Creationist ‘teach the controversy’ bill presented in Iowa Legislature

Image: Amy Watts / Creative Commons
Image: Amy Watts / Creative Commons

The Iowa State Legislature has introduced a creationist-friendly bill that would require public school teachers to present competing ideas to students on subjects such as evolution and climate change.

“This bill creates new Code section 279.54 directing the board of directors of each school district to authorize and assist the district’s teachers and administrators to create and foster an environment within the district’s elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories. If a teacher provides instruction relating to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, or human cloning, the teacher must include opposing points of view or beliefs relating to the instruction.”

This is not the first bill of its kind to find it ways into a state legislature and thankfully, many of them die.

However, with those like Betsy DeVos now running the Department of Education, it is likely time we take these bills even more serious than before.

Hopefully, Iowa does the right thing here.

Ben Carson’s confirmation as HUD secretary condemned by the Secular Coalition

Image: YouTube/CNN screen capture
Image: YouTube/CNN screen capture

The US Senate voted to confirm Ben Carson as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Thursday morning.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development is tasked with creating ‘strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all’,” wrote Secular Coalition Executive Director Larry Decker in a statement. “Today the Senate voted to entrust this vital mission to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has repeatedly disparaged LGBT persons, comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. During his confirmation hearings, Carson characterized LGBT anti-discrimination laws as granting ‘extra rights.’ As the Head of Housing and Urban Development, Carson will be on the frontlines combating the epidemic of LGBT youth homelessness and protecting same-sex couples from housing discrimination. Carson’s confirmation advances a political agenda at the expense of some of our nation’s most vulnerable communities.”

On Facebook, the former surgeon wrote that he viewed his responsibilities as “ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid.”

He did not go on to explain what he meant by “spiritual infrastructure.” While it’s entirely possible this is simply empty Carson rhetoric, one should also be aware of the previous uses of HUD to push religious agendas.

In 2003, President George W. Bush used HUD to allow taxpayer money to go directly to houses of worship. HUD also allows religiously affiliated organizations to accept federal contracts and grants and discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion with those federal dollars.

Carson has even gone as far to call the HUD communist.

Now with his confirmation, HUD is likely all but destroyed.

[Part of this story have been previously published.]