"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

Monday, September 22, 2014

This Is The Way Professionals Do It

You've no doubt heard about the security breach at the White House over the weekend, when a man jumped the fence and made it to the front foyer before he was intercepted by the Secret Service.

The Secret Service on Saturday launched a security review to learn how a man carrying a knife was able to get inside the front door of the White House on Friday night after jumping a fence and sprinting more than 70 yards across the North Lawn — the first time that has ever happened.

Within seconds, the man who his public defender said served three tours in Iraq — and relatives said served as a sniper — got to the front double doors of the North Portico, turned the brass knob and stepped inside the vestibule. There he was grabbed and subdued by an officer standing post inside the door. He had a folding knife with a 2 1 / 2-inch serrated blade.

I'm not going to address the possible lapses on the part of the Secret Service -- they'll take care of that. I just want to point out one thing: the man, whose name is Omar J. Gonzales, Jr., and who served 18 years in the armed forces, was not shot. Get that? Nobody shot him, because they didn't have to. And Secret Service agents are trained when to shoot and when not to shoot, and have to be aware of possible consequences -- like stray bullets, bullets passing through the target and hitting someone else, and the like.

Of course, if this guy had been a black teenager walking down the street someplace. . . .

Through the Looking Glass Award

Goes to Breitbart, for this headline:

Here's the real story:

More than 300,000 people marched through the streets of New York City on Sunday in what organizers called the largest climate-change demonstration in history.

With banners, flags, floats and drums, protesters at the "People's Climate March" overwhelmed midtown Manhattan in flocks of vivid color, demanding action ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit this week.

Via Joe.My.God.

Part of me is encouraged by the demonstrations, which are part of a world-wide effort, and part of me is wondering if the world leaders gathered for the summit are actually going to do anything. It's a toss-up, as far as I'm concerned. Consider what position the oligarchs running the oil-producing countries are going to take when faced with the possibility of cutting off the cash flow to their Swiss bank accounts.

Marriage News Watch, September 22, 2014

The official summary:

A surprising reveal this week from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg about the court's plans for taking up a marriage case -- or maybe not taking up any. An Arkansas clerk breaks ranks with top state officials, declaring for the first time that the state's marriage ban is unconstitutional. Plus: numerous states freeze their marriage lawsuits while they wait for a Supreme Court ruling.

I noted Justice Ginsburg's comments on Saturday -- if you missed it, just scroll down to the last post.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Sky Is Falling! Oh, Wait. . . .

There's a new NYT/CBS poll out, that shows support for marriage equality in the U.S. at 56%, while opposition has dropped to 37%:

The long-running poll recorded 56% of people in favour of same-sex marriage across the US, while just 37% now oppose it.

The poll, which has run with the same wording for several years, registered a three-point drop in opposition from a similar poll conducted in July this year, when 40% of people had still opposed same-sex marriage.

The 37% finding also demonstrates a sharp fall in opposition from just two years ago, with a July 2012 poll finding 44% opposition.

The article goes on to note the likelihood of an appeal being heard by the Supreme Court in its next session:
There are currently a number of cases that have reached the court, from Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia.

However, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – one of the most liberal justices on the court, who has herself performed same-sex weddings – said this week that the Supreme Court will not be “rushed” into making a decision on the issue.

She said there is “no need for us to rush” to take up a marriage case, though “there will be some urgency” if the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Court rules against same-sex marriage, which is considered likely.

I've had the feeling all along that the Court will take any opportunity to dodge this, and there really is no reason for them to take it up if the circuit courts are in agreement.

And just for fun, this reaction on Justice Ginsburg's comments from Mat Staver, whom Ed Brayton has christened "the dumbest lawyer in American not named Larry Klayman.":

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told an audience at the University of Minnesota Law School that if the Sixth District Court of Appeals rules in favor of same-sex marriage, there will be “no need for us to rush” on a decision on the definition of marriage. If however, the appeals court that covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee upholds the centuries-old, natural definition of marriage as one man and one woman, “there will be some urgency.”

“In casting a vote publicly before the case is even heard, Justice Ginsburg has violated the Judicial Code of Conduct,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “It is now her duty to recuse herself from cases involving same-sex marriage.”

It's obvious that Staver's English comprehension is in the negative numbers. Via Joe.My.God.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Not All Christians Are Assholes

By way of background:
Reminding the world that not all Christians are focused solely on hatred for their fellow man, a homophobic preacher who appeared on the campus of James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia earlier this week had his hateful speech drowned out by students with a Christian message of peace and love, reports Huffington Post.

According to witnesses, Ross Jackson, who is the founder of Revival Mission Ministries, launched into sermons condemning a variety of "sinful acts," including homosexuality, drinking alcohol and listening to country music.

He is also reported to have yelled “all homos are going to hell” at a crowd gathered at one of the talks.

The students' response:

Yes, There Is Still A United Kingdom

Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. From The Guardian:

The yes campaign scored four big successes, winning 53% of the vote in Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, 54% in West Dunbartonshire, 57% in Dundee and 51% in North Lanarkshire.

However, the no camp was victorious in 28 authorities. It won overwhelmingly in areas where it was expected to do well, including Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire and Borders, but also in areas that could have gone to the yes campaign, including Falkirk, Inverclyde, Eilean Siar and Clackmannanshire.

In the final count, the no camp clocked up 2,001,926 votes (55.3%) to 1,617,989 for yes (44.7%).

The question was, for those not following the story, "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Idiot du Jour

None other than Todd Starnes, who managed to come up with this:
Starnes told host Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, that he suspected that school officials were worried that the student’s t-shirt would persuade so many students to become abstinent that they would lose out on the profits they apparently earn through distributing “free condoms.”

“Here’s my take on it, I thought it was interesting, [the student’s mom] said what’s really interesting is that any child in that junior high school can go to the counselor’s office and ask for and receive free condoms and yet her daughter cannot wear her pro-abstinence t-shirt in the public school,” Starnes said. “Here’s what I think the issue is Tony Perkins, I believe that maybe they were concerned this pro-abstinence t-shirt might cut into this school’s condom profits.”
(Emphasis added.)

Yep -- that's what he said. There's audio at the link.

Via Joe.My.God.

Cute du Jour

And an example of teaching children decent values:

Via AmericaBlog.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Justice Ginsburg Called It

You may recall that Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent to the Hobby Lobby decision, said that the majority had "headed into a minefield." Guess what.

A federal judge in Utah has ruled that a member of a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon faith may refuse to answer questions in a child labor investigation as a result of the Hobby Lobby ruling on birth control.

The Sept. 11 decision by U.S. District Court Judge David Sam says Vergel Steed, who belongs to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), doesn't have to comply with a federal subpoena because naming church leaders would violate his religious freedom.

As the basis for his conclusion, the judge cited Hobby Lobby decisions by the Supreme Court and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act shields people from having to obey laws that substantially burden their religious practices.

What can I say?

You Just Knew This Was Going to Happen

Did you see the story about the two straight guys in New Zealand who got married to win tickets to next year's Rugby World Cup in England?
Two heterosexual New Zealand men who got married to win tickets to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in London have managed to anger both gay rights campaigners and conservative groups.

Travis McIntosh, a 23-year-old engineering student from Otago University, and Matt McCormick, a 24-year-old teacher at Musselburgh School in Dunedin, were married at Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

Gay rights groups are understandably pissed off at this, which was a stunt by a radio station in New Zealand -- the kind of contest radio stations do all the time. After all, the fight for marriage equality has been pretty serious business world-wide, and this just belittles the whole effort.

Of course, the anti-gays are all over this. Here's Jennifer Roback Morse, via Good.As.You:

Two men can get married for any reason they want. The law does not require them to prove that they are actually “gay,” or that they “love each other,” however those terms might be defined in a legal context. (!)

I hate to say I told you so. But I told you so.

Back in 2010, I created this talk that showed what life under a genderless marriage regime would look like, thirty years on. The story did not contain a single “gay” or “lesbian” person. The story showed that changing the law would induce a whole series of behaviors among people who are not same sex attracted. Two men may want to get married to get off-base housing in the military. Or to get one of them a green card.

Or to win a radio contest.

Gay activists and their wealthy patrons seem surprised that they do not get to control what everyone does and why they do it.

They have not really thought through what redefining marriage will actually mean for the whole of society.

Let's do a little bit of dissection here -- actually, I don't even have to go into much detail: everything she says applies to straight couples as well as same-sex couples. No one asks why you're getting married.

The crack about "Gay activists and their wealthy patrons" is nothing more than pure projection. (And let's guess whose "wealthy patrons" are more than likely a couple of very rich churches who assume that everyone must do as they're told.)

As for the "radio contest" bit -- how many TV shows have there been that can be loosely grouped under the heading "matchmaking for ratings"? -- "The Bachelor," "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?" "The Bachelorette," "The Dating Game" -- and there are more than I can't remember the names of. And as far as taking marriage seriously, check out this from Wikipedia:

Dating game shows are television game shows that incorporate a dating system in the form of a game with clear rules. Human matchmaking is involved only in selecting the game's contestants – usually for amusement value as opposed to any concern for their happiness or compatibility. The audience sees only the game; an important feature of all dating game shows is that the contestants have little or no previous knowledge of each other, and are exposed to each other only through the game, which may include viewing a photograph or at least knowing the basic criteria for participation (typically participants are not already married).
(Emphasis added.)

Eventually, of course, there were gay versions, but late in the game (if you'll pardon the expression). "Boy Meets Boy" ran for sex episodes in 2003 and wasn't particularly straightforward (a lot of the contestants were straight).

Roback Morse's final comment is a moderated form of "The sky is falling!" People very seldom think through the ramifications for society of anything they do. The only people who worry about it are conservatives -- those people who stand in front of the march of history screaming "STOP!" And all they can do is make wild predictions of doom, based on nothing.

Roback Morse and the other outraged conservatives are missing the point, a fact best illustrated by a comment from one of the contestants:

Mr McIntosh told the Otago Daily Times he thought the marriage would last about two years.

Opposition was understandable but the wedding was not mocking the institution of marriage, he said.

“It’s just seeing how far two good mates would go to win a trip to the Rugby World Cup.”

The institution of marriage is in trouble, but not because of gay couples wanting to get married. It's in trouble because of straight people.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Marriage News Watch, September 15, 2014

Heading toward the big climax:

The number of marriage cases before the Supreme Court keeps climbing, with the Court scheduled to decide which ones to take in just a few weeks. Plus, couples file new briefs in Texas, and appeal last week's anti-gay ruling from a federal judge in Louisiana.

NOM just doesn't know when to give up.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A New Definition

of persecution, from none other than professional conspiracy theorist Jerry Boykin:
Family Research Council executive vice president Jerry Boykin said in an interview on “Washington Watch” yesterday that people like himself who believe in discredited conspiracy theories surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attacks are facing “persecution” because no one believes them and dares to think there are political motivations behind their accusations.

Short form: If people see through the bullshit and call you on it, they're persecuting you.

Side note: Yes, of course Boykin is working for the Family Research Council. Where else? Except maybe Fox News.

Via Crooks and Liars, which has an audio clip of the rant.

Chocolate, Bookshops, What Have You

The "Reviews: Other" page now includes reviews from Sleeping Hedgehog of chocolates, bookstores, hand puppets, and a few other things.

(Well, it does say "Other".)

I'm' still fiddling with the style on this one.

And This Is a Surprise?

Gee -- the Republicans in the Senate are blocking a vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United:
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and other Supreme Court rulings dating back to 1976 that invalidated restrictions on money in politics.

The party line vote was 54 in favor, 42 against, falling short of the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster and proceed to a final vote.

I'm actually surprised that there were no Democrats joining the Republicans on this one, but they probably figured they were safe. Oh, and Ted "Obama Will Censor SNL" Cruz didn't bother to show up for the vote.

And the Through the Looking Glass Award goes to Mitch McConnell:

"I have to say it’s a little disconcerting to see the Democrat-led Senate focusing on things like reducing free speech protections for the American people," he said before the vote. "This is what they chose to make their top legislative priority this week. Taking an eraser to the First Amendment."

There you have it: in the Republican lexicon, corporations are "the American people." What does that make the rest of us?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Culture Break: This Is Not Art

Interesting post from Jon Green at AmericaBlog about a phenomenenon he's run into around Boston:

I recently moved to the Boston area to working at a tech startup in Cambridge.

On my first walk to work, I passed by a small art studio with an oddly straightforward sign in the window.

I snapped a photo of it on my way home that night:


I didn’t think too much of it, except that perhaps the art studio was being a bit pretentious. (I suppose it’s nice of them, at least, to correctly label the product they’re selling.) But then, the following weekend, I was out and about in nearby Somerville and saw this:


It goes on from there.

Of course, the first thing that popped into my head was Magritte:


I'm sure you have your own thoughts.