"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, November 28, 2014

Today In Disgusting People

Gary Bauer. I'm sure you've heard the name, although he doesn't seem to be as much in the limelight as the likes of Tony Perkins, Scott Lively, and Brian Brown (who just can't seem to get enough attention as NOM sinks under the tide). Alvin McEwen has a revealing post at Justice For All about Bauer's role in undercutting efforts by the Reagan administration to address the AIDS crisis, as late as they were.
And I remember, even though I was too young to take part in, the demand that Reagan address this issue. No one knows what would have happened had Reagan addressed the HIV/AIDS crisis sooner than he did. But it is rather nauseating and disturbing that there was someone in his cabinet who worked to undermine the fight against HIV/AIDS because he felt that those affected “deserved” what they got.

Read the whole post. It is, as I noted, illuminating, and even manages to give a good insight into what passes for morality on the "Christian" right.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's Thanksgiving (Updated)

But reading the news this morning, I wonder.

I'm not going to post any links about Ferguson, or the travesty of grand jury that didn't indict Darren Wilson, or the new "tax reform" deal that screws everyone but the rich and corporations, or any of the other top stories of the day.

I'm going to take it easy, have a nice dinner, maybe go to a movie later.

Updated to add: And even though there are a number of things I need to pick up, I absolutely refuse to shop at any retailer that is not a drug store or grocery today. They can all wait until later.

Enjoy your day.

Compare and Contrast

Two maps for you, the first the most recent map showing marriage equality states. Dark blue denotes those states with marriage equality (and note that Arkansas should be included):


Then there's the one showing states in which LGBTs are included in non-discrimination laws; dark green denotes those states that include transgender protections:


Sheesh.

My only solace is that, with marriage equality, it will be harder for states to justify not including LGBTs in non-discrimination laws, especially considering the number of courts that have considered the historic discrimination against us.




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Culture Break: Jorie Graham reads "Later in Life"

Jorie Graham is one of the more amazing poets I've run across, although not the best reader of her work. (Which seems to be a trait of poets, unless they've also been trained as actors.)


If you run across a copy, pick up her collection The Dream of a Unified Field -- it's a retrospective collection, but also an excellent introduction to her work. Some riveting stuff in there.

Like Dominoes Falling

Arkansas and Mississippi, both, in one day. The Arkansas ruling is a joy to read, not only for the conclusion but for its tightness and clarity. The Mississippi ruling manages a couple of swipes at Scalia and the 6th Circuit.

No updated maps yet, but the country's getting bluer and bluer. In that regard, at least.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Marriage News Watch, November 24, 2014 (Update)

We picked up three states with marriage this week. But in one of those states, some clerks are refusing to issue licenses. Alabama's attorneys are using a discredited anti-gay researcher to build a case for banning marriage. And we have more bad news for what's left of the National Organization for Marriage.


Citing the Regnerus (Witherspoon Foundation) study? At this stage of the game? Well, it's Alabama.

And I wrote about NOM's troubles here, although I did neglect to mention the $50,000+ fine they're facing in Maine, which is still outstanding.


Update: Equality Kansas has provided some clear information on the state of marriage in Kansas. And isn't Sam Brownback just a mean-spirited, spiteful little bitch?

On "Legal Immigrants"

Very interesting article by Ben Railton at TPM on the history of US immigration laws. The meat:

So if your ancestors came before the 1920s and weren’t prostitutes, criminals, or from one of those Asian nations [covered by extensions to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act]*, they remained unaffected by any laws, and so were still neither legal nor illegal. This might seem like a semantic distinction, but it’s much more; the phrase “My ancestors came here legally” implies that they “chose to follow the law,” yet none of these unaffected immigrants had to make any such choice, nor had any laws to follow.

(* -- See? There's always been a racist element in America.)

For the record, my father's family came over well before there were any "immigration laws" -- he and his siblings were all born here, my father in 1916. My mother's family was here well before the mid-19th century: my sister found a land transfer dated 1847 between one set of Strouds and another set of Strouds. (Of course, if you believe family history, which I'm inclined to do, at least some of my ancestors have been here for at least 12,000 years.)

The article is worth a read. Click through.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Duh!

I have to hand it to the "Christian" right -- even though they're doing as much damage as they can to human rights worldwide, they do provide some entertainment.

You may have heard about Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's invitation for married couples to post pictures of themselves kissing on their Facebook page. Apparently they didn't realize that people other than good "Christians" get married and also have access to the Internet -- you can guess who posted pictures:

Fans quickly responded to the challenge with photos of themselves and their spouses smooching for the camera. According to John Becker, however, some of those photos were deleted — because they featured same-sex couples.

Becker, who runs the LGBTQ blog The Bilerico Project, wrote on Tuesday, Nov. 11, that the picture he posted of himself and his husband was deleted from the comments section, along with other shots of same-sex twosomes.

"Oh no, I think I've been banned from the Duggar Family Official Facebook page! (I'm crying into my coffee cup right now, I assure you)," he shared on his own Facebook page, and on The Bilerico Project. "I posted this photo of Michael and me with the following comment: 'Happily married for nearly nine years; working hard for #MarriageEquality for all loving couples."

He continued: "It was getting lots of likes, but the Duggars must not have liked it very much — they pulled it down and blocked me from posting, liking, or commenting on the page altogether. How sad that they feel so threatened by other loving marriages."

I'm sure the Duggars see those responses as persecution, because we all know that if you disagree with "Christians," you're suppressing their religious freedom.

Well, it seems that the Duggars are a little more vicious than I had realized. So someone started a petition at change.org asking TLC to cancel their "reality" show (in sarcasm quotes because, after all, what do the Duggars know about reality?). Needless to say, the American "Family" Association jumped in with a Twitter campaign to Save the Duggars! You can imagine what happened:
At the core of the issue is not whether or not the Duggars should have their TV show, which reportedly has netted them millions of dollars. At the core of the issue is that TLC and the show's producers aren't being honest with the Duggar family's practices and beliefs. Also at issue is the outrageous hypocrisy that conservatives are claiming liberals have no right to boycott or petition a company about their beliefs, but conservatives claim they do.

So Twitter made sure that those lapses in transparency are being corrected.

Click through to read the tweets -- for some reason, I can't copy them from The New Civil Rights Movement.

The lesson is plain: If your mind is stuck in the early 19th century, avoid social media.










Saturday, November 22, 2014

Snow's Not All Bad

A taste of things to come. At least the panda's enjoying it.


Saturday Science: The Evolution of Morality

I go on quite a bit about how human beings, as social animals, are more or less hard-wired toward what we call "moral behavior." As I usually phrase it, "Why do people form societies?" The answer, of course, is "For mutual benefit." (Actually, my usual answer is "I don't think it's so that the greediest and most dishonest can take everything," but that's usually when I'm debating "libertarians.")

Well, this morning I ran across this post from Undercover Blue at Hullabaloo, referencing this article by Indre Viskontas on the work of psychologist Paul Bloom. The article is not easy to excerpt, but click through -- it's short, and it has videos and stuff. Essentially, it summarizes Bloom's work with infants and toddlers on how compassion and a sense of fairness seem to be on display early on, based on babies' choices of the good guys (those who help or share) over the bad guys (those who do neither) as preferences -- they opt for the good guys.

This echoes the behavior of other primates exhibited both in research settings and in the wild: most of our relatives travel in groups, and they help each other out. Primate societies are marked by cooperation among the members, which from an evolutionary standpoint (you knew this was coming) has proven to be an adaptive trait: cooperation among members of the group enhances the survival of the group and, by extension, that of the individuals who make up the group.

There's always self-interest, though. In the realm of small children, Bloom discovered that, while perfectly happy to distribute someone else's treats in equal shares, when it comes to the child's own treats, it's a very different story. As they grow, however, that changes, as witness Viskontas' first anecdote in the article on Bloom's work:

At the playground, I watch my 10-month-old son beeline to the center of the sandbox where there is a bright pink shovel. But before he gets there, a rambunctious 2-year-old snatches up the coveted toy first. As my son watches the shovel slip away, a wobbly 14-month-old comes over and offers him a half-chewed cookie.

There's an element of tribalism in this. As Bloom notes, as quoted by Undercover Blue:
"But this compassion and this helping, it all pertains to the baby's own group," says Bloom. They are less naturally generous with out-group members.

By our natures, we strongly value those around us over strangers. And to the extent that you and I don't, to the extent that you and I might recognize that somebody suffering, I don't know, from the Ebola virus in Africa, is a life just as valuable as those of our closest friends and family, that's an extraordinary cultural accomplishment. And it's something that's not in the genes. It's not what we're born with.

And there we have an added wrinkle: culture building on inheritance.

(I don't think I need to emphasize how this applies to, say, contemporary American politics: it's a matter of expanding your perception of "Us" as opposed to "Them," and the trend in American history has always been toward a larger "Us." There's always been an element in American society, and others as well, that fails to make the leap. These days, we call them "Republicans.")

National Graphic did a special with Richard Leakey on his discoveries at Turkana in Africa, of which this clip addresses the issue under discussion here:


Self-interest? Yes, but also, as Leakey puts it, "bonding, care, love, affection, protection" -- which all boils down to "compassion."

If you look at any religion -- and most people, for some reason, consider the teachings of their religion as the basis of morality, rather than its codification -- you'll find that underlying all the codes of behavior, tribal taboos, and "history" is one basic precept: we take care of each other. (Some evoutionary theorists have hypothesized that we're also hard-wired for belief. Be interesting to see how they test that one.)

And I can already hear the objections: how can genetics determine something as complex as our understanding of morality? Well, in addition to instilling a tendency toward cooperation and compassion, evolution also gave us brains. You do the math.

(I'm going to refrain from commenting on the somewhat rudimentary sense of morality evidenced by the spokespersons of the "religious" right, except to note that their concern is with tribal taboos, not any real values. Although I will admit that imagining their reaction to the idea that morality is hard-wired gives me a great sense of satisfaction.)

This one has a lot of ramifications. Use your imagination.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

This Is Not A Culture Break

Take is as a metaphorical history of the marriage equality movement:


OK -- that was my sniffles attack for the day. Somehow, the "Ode to Joy" always has me laughing and crying at the same time.

Culture Break: Nickelback, "Gotta Be Somebody"

Yes, Nickelback is culture, in the broad sense. And this has always seemed to me like a particularly fitting song for the marriage equality movement. Chad Kroeger even washed his hair.


Looking at this one again, it's one really weird video. Really weird.

"Let Them Eat Cake"

I saw this story while surfing, yesterday I think, and my only thought was, "Mike Pence is a dick." In case you missed it, he was trying to rationalize kicking 65,000 residents of Indiana off of food stamps.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last month that beginning in 2015, it would no longer request a waiver to the federal work requirement for certain people who use the SNAP program. Up to 65,000 single Hoosiers could lose food stamp benefits unless they are working 20 hours a week or attending job training.

Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Pence argued that 50,000 people had joined the Indiana workforce since 2008 so it was time to return to a “core principle” of welfare reform.

“How do you feel about people who say you are targeting poor people?” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked the governor.

“I’m someone that believes there’s nothing more ennobling to a person than a job,” Pence insisted. “And to make sure that able-bodied adults without dependants at home know that here in the state of Indiana, we want to partner with them in their success.”

“You know, it’s the old story,” he continued. “Give someone a fish, and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them to fish, they’ll eat for a lifetime. I think this is an idea whose time has come here in the state of Indiana.”

It's estimated that there are two million people out of work in the Midwest, but only a million jobs. Good luck with that fishing pole, Gov. Pence.

And it appears I'm not the only one who thinks he's a dick -- the Young Turks took a swing at him, too:

Thirty-Four? I'm Losing Count (Updated)

At any rate, add Montana to the list of marriage equality states. Via Joe.My.God.:

The Court hereby DECLARES that Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage, including Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, and Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, violate Plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS the State of Montana and its officers, employees, agents, and political subdivisions from enforcing Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, and any other laws or regulations, to the extent that they prohibit otherwise qualified same-sex couples from marrying in Montana, and to the extent that they do not recognize same-sex marriages validly contracted outside Montana. This injunction shall take effect immediately.
(Emphasis added.)

Yep, no stay. Marriages begin immediately. The full ruling is here.

The Republican Attorney General, Tim Fox, will, of course, appeal. His appeal will most likely go first to the Ninth Circuit, which has already struck down marriage bans in Nevada and Utah and is not likely to change its mind for Montana. He can appeal to SCOTUS, which has already declined to hear appeals from Nevada and Utah, so I doubt that he'll get any satisfaction there.

The Democratic Governor, Steve Bullock, has a different take entirely. Again, via Joe.My.God.:

Today’s decision ensures we are closer to fulfilling our promise of freedom, dignity, and equality for all Montanans. It is a day to celebrate our progress, while recognizing the qualities that bind us as Montanans: a desire to make a good life for ourselves and our families, while providing greater opportunities to the next generation. I have instructed my administration to quickly take all appropriate steps to ensure that we are recognizing and affording the same rights and responsibilities to legally married same-sex couples that all married Montanans have long enjoyed.

And of course, the map:


It appears that both Kansas and Missouri are going county by county and waiting for someone to make it statewide. Desperation makes people do weird things.

Update: Here's Timothy Kincaid's summary of the status of marriage equality as of today, with an updated map.


Now We Know

Why Brian Brown's fundraising appeals have gotten so desperate:

In a time when virtually every nightly newscast, political debate, even television series delves into discussions about marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, the beleaguered National Organization for Marriage (NOM) can’t seem to raise enough money to cover its expenses. According to analysis of the organization’s 2013 tax filings done by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), NOM raised $5.1 million in 2013, dropping by over 50% since 2012. Just 2 donors accounted for more than half of the organization’s funding – further evidence that everyday Americans have little interest in furthering NOM’s extremist agenda. In addition, the NOM Education Fund also dropped by nearly $3.5 million in funding -- a drop of almost 70% since the previous year. NOM ended the year more than $2.5 million in debt.

Any guesses on which two churches are the major donors? Oops -- did I say that out loud?

I don't normally gloat, but in this case, I'll make an exception.