"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, October 24, 2014

Today In Disgusting People

This one's making the rounds. You should be careful what you write to advice columnists -- they publish things, you know. From "Dear Prudence":

Dear Prudence,

I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets— mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?

—Halloween for the 99 Percent

Any response to this I can think of pales beside those from John Cole and Digby. Cole's post is wonderful:
At any rate, you sociopath, the reason you feel terrible is because you are a terrible person. But don’t worry, you just momentarily had a bit of self-awareness, and I’m sure that will soon pass. The burden of being aware that you are a horrible person will go back to the rest of us who have to deal with you as you obliviously run red lights in your Mercedes coupe and do other obnoxious things.

Click through to read the full post -- I like the way he deals with the same issue.

And Digby is short, sweet, and to the point:

You ARE a terrible person and if there is such a thing as karma you will get yours.

I can't really think of anything to add to that.

The owner of the house I used to live in would turn off the lights and pretend not to be home on Halloween. He wasn't what you'd call a generous soul, except in certain tightly defined circumstances. I now live in a large building in one of "those" neighborhoods -- lots of retirees and immigrants, racially and ethnically mixed, and nowhere near upper middle class, much less 1% -- so I don't expect trick-or-treaters. I may lay in some supplies, though, just in case.

Mostly, though, my observation will be to light a candle in the window to guide the spirits on their way.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Movie Note: Avengers: The Age of Ultron

The first trailer is out. Even without the trailer, of course this one's on my "must see" list.

Coming in May, 2015.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Idiot du Jour

This guy's really sort of -- well, how about immature and self-centered?

[State Sen. Steve Vick] said he expects the state legislature to address the issue, and he’s exploring two possible options.

“One is to try to re-establish the standing of those who have deeply held religious convictions,” Vick said. “Another potential avenue that I’m exploring is just eliminating marriage licenses in Idaho.”

He’s discussed the elimination of state sanctioning of marriage with just a few people, Vick said, but so far the response has been very positive.

“I don’t have a bill drafted or anything, (but) I have discussed it at some of the town halls I’ve been at – (and) actually seems to be fairly well-received,” Vick said. “In my opinion, if we’re not allowed to determine the standards for a marriage license, then maybe we should just not issue them.”

As well as being terminally ignorant:
“I believe the next step will be to say that churches themselves cannot discriminate,” he said. “They cannot discriminate, and the church will have to marry same-sex couples and not be allowed to say anything. Clearly they’re going after the freedom of the church’s speech through the hate-speech statutes.”

"Hate speech statutes"? What hate speech statutes? We don't have those in this country. If we did, the whole Christian right would be in jail.

Sadly, this is the sort of reaction we've come to expect from conservative "Christians," and it only points up one thing that I've noticed about them in general: they really are arrogant, self-absorbed, and authoritarian.

Oh, and the "standing of those who have deeply held religious convictions" refers to the Knapps, who own The Hitching Post, a for-profit marriage chapel and are pre-emptively suing the city of Coeur d'Alene to avoid having to accommodate same-sex couples. It turns out the whole thing is a set-up: they used to accommodate non-Christian and civil marriages but recently changed their business structure and website to emphasize their "Christian" standing. How very "Christian" of them.

I have one thing to say to people like that: Matthew 25:40.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Marriage News Watch, October 20, 2014

From the official description:

We just picked up more states with the freedom to marry, and the number could continue increasing over the course of this week. But in several states, officials are blocking the start of marriage despite courts ruling against their bans. We'll have the details on how couples are fighting back. Plus, more bad news for the National Organization for Marriage. This time it's a ruling in Virginia that means they'll lose out on over half a million dollars.

And just to make it all very graphic:

The Universe Is A Crapshoot

Which is the way I normally state the position taken in this post by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo. He starts off:

Psychologists at the Yale Mind and Development Lab explore the human tendency to believe that "everything happens for a reason."

We look for causes. I don't really know if this is hard-wired or the results of millennia of conditioning, but we do. From the article he cites:

This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions. This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.

I take this as the basis of our tendency to personify animals and objects, to ascribe meanings and motivations that may or may not there. (In the case of animals, probably, although we may not really understand their motivations, which is one reason birds fascinate me: they're sometimes fairly inscrutable, such as when a whole flock just suddenly takes wing for no apparent reason. And cats are the masters of inscrutability. Objects? Not so much.) Ultimately, it's the basis of religion: natural phenomena become persons of great power and sometimes inscrutable motives -- gods and spirits. (The article notes that many people believe this tendency is the result of religious belief. It's actually the other way around.)

The consequences can be devastating:
Whatever the origin of our belief in life’s meaning, it might seem to be a blessing. Some people find it reassuring to think that there really are no accidents, that what happens to us — including the most terrible of events — reflects an unfolding plan. But the belief also has some ugly consequences. It tilts us toward the view that the world is a fundamentally fair place, where goodness is rewarded and badness punished. It can lead us to blame those who suffer from disease and who are victims of crimes, and it can motivate a reflexive bias in favor of the status quo — seeing poverty, inequality and oppression as reflecting the workings of a deep and meaningful plan.

I'm not sure that these are the best examples -- poverty, inequality, and oppression are not random events: there are human actors involved somewhere along the line. (Just think about the increase in poverty and the steady decline in the standard of living for most of us in the richest country on earth. Sorry, that didn't just happen.) But for victims of natural disasters and just plain old accidents, the conclusion can hold true. In Sullivan's words,"$#!+ happens." For a religious believer, "It's God's will," whatever variety of god you happen to believe in.

There. That should be something to chew on for a while. And do click through and read Sullivan's post. It's not terribly long, but it's incisive.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Today in "Liars for Jesus"


Well, it's Bryan Fischer, so you know there's no point of contact with reality.

What actually happened was that the subpoenas, which were seeking information on the role of pastors and churches in giving instructions for petitioning for a referendum on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, were prepared by outside attorneys.  As filed, they requested a lot more information than that. 
(What exactly the pastors said, and what the collectors knew about the rules, is one of the key issues in pending litigation around whether opponents of the law gathered enough signatures for a referendum.)

"There's no question, the wording was overly broad. But I also think there was some deliberate misinterpretation on the other side," Parker said at a press conference Wednesday. "The goal is to find out if there were specific instructions given on how the petitions should be accurately filled out. It's not about, 'What did you preach on last Sunday?'"

To reiterate: The mayor's office is not interested in what they preached, or how the pastors feel about Parker or her sexual orientation. (Those things are all well protected under the First Amendment, as they should be.) All officials want to know is what kinds of instructions the pastors gave out with respect to collecting petition signatures, and whether what they said agrees with what they're arguing in court while appealing the referendum.

Needless to say, Anti-Gay, Inc. went ballistic.

In the real world,Mayor Parker and the City Attorney were not aware of the actual wording of the subpoenas until they were issued, and immediately withdrew them to examine and, if necessary, reword them, which was done.


Mission accomplished. And Bryan Fischer gets a twofer today: The Tony Perkins Award for reflexive mendacity, and the Through the Looking Glass Award for his adversarial relationship with reality.

Oh, and about that "Gaystapo" thing: that's an example of Fischer being clever. Seems to be about the best he can do on that score and comparing gays to Nazis is a constant refrain from him, as well as the rest of the anti-gay bigots. One has to wonder, why do they find Nazis so appealing?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Map As Of Today

The Supreme Court denied Alaska's request for a stay, and a district court for Arizona has issued a decision finding Arizona's marriage law unconstitutional. It is accepting the Ninth Circuit's decision. That's a firm 31 states with marriage equality. An appeal is doubtful, unless NOM or the Liberty Counsel jump into the breach -- and they will be shot down if they try.

marriage 2014

Update: Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne will not appeal the district court ruling:

Image of the Week

Haven't done this for a while. I have thirty years' worth of negatives, but no scanner any more, so I'm having to work with what's already in the computer.

I had started at one point a series called "Earthgods" -- diptychs, really, juxtapositions of some of my landscapes and figure studies. I always liked this one:

Vatican Update

It seems the English translation of the rather unexpectedly controversial preliminary relatio has undergone some revision -- but not the Spanish or French versions, and the original Italian document is, at present, unchanged. Jim Burroway has another good analysis.

Today in Christian "Martyrdom"

I haven't commented on any of Tony Perkins' outrages lately, but this one is too good to pass up. Via Joe.My.God.:

Pasquotank County is hard to pronounce -- but it's not nearly as difficult as pronouncing two women 'wife and wife.' That's how North Carolina Magistrate Gary Littleton felt when a same-sex couple asked him to 'marry' them at a courthouse this week. Unfortunately for Littleton, his constitutional rights are of no concern to local liberals, who insist that the judge should have to check his religious beliefs at the workplace door. Like the overwhelming majority of Tar Heels, Littleton probably voted to define marriage as the union of a man and woman in 2012. Now, two years later, he doesn't believe that a handful of unelected judges should be able to override his vote -- and the vote of 1,317,177 others. Yesterday, the county met to determine if Littleton could face criminal charges for exercising the freedom the First Amendment guarantees. While he and other clerks await their fate, a federal judge has given Speaker of the North Carolina House, Thom Tillis, the right to defend his state's marriage amendment in court. An appeal could kick the issue back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down Virginia's law.

Let's look at a couple of high points:

Unfortunately for Littleton, his constitutional rights are of no concern to local liberals, who insist that the judge should have to check his religious beliefs at the workplace door.

Actually, it's the Constitution that insists that a judge should have to check his religious beliefs at the workplace door. It's called the Establishment Clause, and it forbids the imposition of sectarian beliefs in civil law.
Like the overwhelming majority of Tar Heels, Littleton probably voted to define marriage as the union of a man and woman in 2012.

Actually, it was about 22% of registered voters who voted that way, in a primary election in which there was no Democratic contest. (Not that the Republican-dominated legislature was trying to stack the deck or anything like that.) I couldn't find population figures for 2012, but the 2010 census counted just over 9.5 million; the estimate for 2013 was about 9,850,000. Let's call it 9.7 million in 2012, and then take Perkins' count of the vote in favor of Amendment One, about 1.3 million. That doesn't really strike me as an overwhelming majority of Tar Heels.

Now, two years later, he doesn't believe that a handful of unelected judges should be able to override his vote. . . .

No matter what this newly-minted martyr believes, it is the case that a handful of "unelected" judges (and can you imagine the mess our federal court system would be if judges were elected?) are absolutely able to override his vote when his vote violates individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States. That's what the courts do.

And Horrors! The Fourth Circuit might uphold a decision it has already made.

Once again, Tony Perkins gets the Tony Perkins Award for mendacity under fire.

A footnote: Another North Carolina magistrate had the integrity to resign rather than perform same-sex marriages. He's a bigot, but even bigots can have some class, I guess.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flip. Flop.

You've no doubt read about the Vatican's purported softening of its position on gays (among other things), and the swift backtrack after the predictable outrage from the conservatives.

Jim Burroway has a very good post at Box Turtle Bulletin that offers some insights into the whole process. It's impossible to excerpt intelligibly, so click through and read the whole thing.

My initial reaction was sceptical: I took it as PR/damage control, but, as you can see from Burroway's commentary, it's a bit more nuanced than that. I don't, however, really expect much on this, although I suspect Francis is not above flexing some muscle with the Cardinals, as witness his removal of Cardinal Raymond Burke from his position at the Apostolic Signatura, which position made him the number two man in authority at the Vatican.

It will be interesting to see how this works out, but do keep in mind that this is all preparatory. The big confab is next year.