"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, July 28, 2014

Marriage News Watch, July 28, 2014

All sorts of stuff going down,

Today In "Christian" Self-Absorption

OneMilion(minus 999,000)Moms is outraged at a Guinness ad because it uses a Christian hymn as background. Via Joe.My.God.:
Guinness & Co. is currently airing a commercial for its beer with a popular gospel hymn as background music. The song "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" is played during the entire ad and even though there are no lyrics it is unmistakably the beloved hymn Christians know and love. The cherished "Everlasting Arms" hymn has no place in a beer commercial. Christian music should not be associated with an advertisement promoting drinking. The choice of including this hymn in the ad disrespects the Christian faith.

If you actually watch the ad, you get a very different -- and arguably very Christian -- message. (Although I don't know that it's specifically Christian -- it's very human, and approaches the very best of very human.) Maybe if the OMM could realize that the universe does not revolve around them, they wouldn't have so much trouble keeping their blood pressure down. (I use the plural only as a matter of grammar -- I had heard that their membership is something like 40,000, but I remain convinced that the active arm is composed of one intern with an Internet connection.)

Judge for yourself:

I confess to getting a bit misty-eyed at this one.

And thanks to commenter "b" at Joe.My.God., I was reminded of this one:

Do you suppose OMM missed it somehow?

Explain To Me Again

why anyone considers Paul Ryan (R-Atlas Shrugged) a serious policy person. I mean, consider this:
Host David Gregory asked the representative to speak to comments he made in January of 2013, in which Ryan said the country struggles with "more and more able-bodied people" becoming "dependent on the government." Gregory said Ryan didn't sound like he had much "sympathy" for impoverished Americans.

"We don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty," Ryan said, pitching his poverty proposal that he says will allow for a customized approach to each individual's needs.

If this sounds familiar, maybe it's because it's what we've been hearing from the right for the last fifty years -- at least.

Here's a somewhat sketchy summary of Ryan's plan:
The centerpiece in Ryan’s new plan is what he calls the Opportunity Grant — a program that would consolidate as many as 11 separate federal initiatives into a single chunk of funding for states.

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, Ryan said that the setup would aid state governments and local organizations that should be the “front lines” in the war on poverty, instead of the federal bureaucracy.

“Success is measured by how many programs we create, how much money we spend,” Ryan said about the government’s current approach. “Not on outcomes. Not on results. How many people are we getting out of poverty? How many people are getting out of poverty and staying out of poverty?”

And here's a summary of some of the criticisms. And don't miss Paul Krugman's take:

What does scholarly research on antipoverty programs actually say? We have quite good evidence on the effects of food stamps and Medicaid, which draw most of Mr. Ryan’s ire — and which his budgets propose slashing drastically. Food stamps, it seems, do lead to a reduction in work and working hours, but the effect is modest. Medicaid has little, if any, effect on work effort.

Over all, here’s the verdict of one comprehensive survey: “While there are significant behavioral side effects of many programs, their aggregate impact is very small.” In short, Mr. Ryan’s poverty report, like his famous budget plan, is a con job.

As far as I can see, Ryan's proposing that all federal anti-poverty programs be lumped into one program to give block grants to the states, with, admittedly, some federal oversight. (Which, one hopes, will preclude the states using the funds to balance their own budgets while leaving their poor to starve. One hopes. Given the states' records with things like Medicare and other block grants, I'm not sanguine on that one. And of course, if they don't use the money for intended purposes what are the feds going to do? Take it back? There's still no help for the poor in that scenario.) And of course, Ryan doesn't address the fact that there are no jobs for the poor to move into -- unless they also move to Bangladesh or China.

Oh, and about the supposed ineffectiveness of the federal programs? Not so much -- in fact, Ryan's own report demonstrates that many of them have been very effective. Maybe if he weren't such a media whore he'd have time to read what his office is putting out. And there's a possibility, though I hate to bring up the obvious, that if Republicans would actually fund these programs at necessary levels, they'd work a lot better.

Just sayin'.

(For a commentary on Ryan's plan that's even snarkier than mine, read this at Mahablog.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Science: They Decorated Their What?

This little tidbit from Raw Story led me to this:

Men in prehistoric Europe scarred, pierced and tattooed their penises, likely for ritualistic and social group reasons, according to a new study.

Analysis of phallic decorations in Paleolithic art, described in the December issue of The Journal of Urology, may also show evidence of the world's first known surgery performed on a male genital organ. The alteration, or surgery, might have just been for ornamental purposes, or a piercing, the researchers suggest.

This is not just a curiosity: I'm not sure of the prevalence of male genital decoration these days, but this just demonstrates that it's nothing new:

The past may additionally be tied to the present, as Angulo and his team suspect that the Paleolithic phallic art may show the anthropological origin of current male genital piercing and tattooing.

The Persecution Complex

This is the tactic that's been coming more and more to the fore with the right wing, particularly the anti-gay right wing. It starts with the inversion of calling critics of the homophobic right "intolerant," as Alvin McEwen notes with regard to Sen. Marco Rubio:

One of the most transparent tactics opponents of marriage equality will attempt is to claim that supporters of marriage equality are intolerant of their opinion.

It’s not only a transparent tactic but highly cynical. And apparently it’s the tactic that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is attempting:

While Rubio has consistently held conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage, his current emphasis appears to be an effort to appeal to social conservatives who have yet to settle on a favored candidate for 2016. “Even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as someone who is a hater or a bigot,” Rubio said.

That's really only the tip of the iceberg. Enzo at Aksarbent links to this article from Right Wing Watch, which is a detailed analysis of the strategy.

The tales of horror keep pouring in: Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program; an Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage; a high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory; a Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages; a man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence; an elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch; a little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus.

None of these stories is true. But each has become a stock tale for Religious Right broadcasters, activists, and in some cases elected officials. These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.

This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.

We've seen this coming, first with the cries of "persecution" from the usual suspects when people in business -- photographers, bakers, etc. -- try to use their "deeply held religious beliefs" as a pretext for flouting anti-discrimination laws. It's a tantrum over the loss of privilege turned into a political strategy, and the next stage in the "Christian" right's ongoing war against everyone else. And I mean everyone, not only gays, lesbians, and trans people, but women (Hobby Lobby, anyone?), Muslims (the whole Ground Zero mosque flap and the Murfreesboro Islamic Center case, including claims that Islam is not a religion), and refugee children from Central America (see this post from Digby for some history of this attitude -- it's not a new thing).

Before you start parsing, the "Christian" right is the Tea Party is the Republican Party. And their heroes are crazy. (Michele Bachmann is the classic case, but just pick a Republican 2016 presidential hopeful at random and you'll find any number of equally bizarre statements.)

And as they lose more and more ground among the majority of Americans the rhetoric gets more and more shrill and it becomes more and more apparent what disgusting people they are. (Who was it who said, regarding yet another school shooting, that "Your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights"? Hint: he wasn't a liberal.)

And they complain of being persecuted.

Friday, July 25, 2014

More Housekeeping

You'll note that the page formerly titled "Epinions Reviews: Music" is now titled "Reviews: Music."

Yes, I've finally started pulling in reviews from other sites.

You may also note that one of the items listed has two reviews. This happened on occasion, as I wrote separate reviews for more than one outlet.

Anyway, more stuff for you to read.

I Could See This

I don't remember if I posted a comment here or at Booklag, but after watching Ben Affleck as Daredevil*, I had no problem seeing him as Batman. As long as he doesn't smile, an expression for which Batman is not noted anyway.

So, here he is:

* The movie wasn't that great, which is a shame -- I kind of like Daredevil as a character.

Land of the Free

This, via Digby:

Read the post.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Culture Break: Kazaky: "The Sun"

Something of a departure from what we're used to from Kazaky. I'm not sure what I think about it, except that it's sort of nice that it departs from my Kazaky comfort zone.

Gotta love those mid-air splits, though.

(I just realized -- if you click the play button in the middle of the image, you get a whole series of Kazaky videos. Enjoy.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Snake Oil Salesman

all dressed up for a party. Yep, none other than Archbishop Salavatore "DUI" Cordileone, via Good As You.

Instead of protecting persons, [the Employment Non Discrimination Act] uses the force of the law to coerce everyone to accept a deeply problematic understanding of human sexuality and sexual behavior and to condone such behavior. The current proposed ENDA legislation is not about protecting persons, but behavior. Churches, businesses and individuals should not be punished in any way for living by their religious and moral convictions concerning sexual activity.

Eliminating truly unjust discrimination – based on personal characteristics, not sexual behavior – and protecting religious freedom are goals that we all should share. The current political climate makes it very difficult to maintain a reasonable dialogue on these contentious issues, but we must keep trying.

This is just the quote that Jeremy Hooper published. The full letter is here. It's all of the same cloth, and a prime example of the ability of some people to turn reality on its head. Go ahead and read it, if you can stand it. I could go through and rebut every statement in it, but I'm sure you can do the same, so I won't bother.

This is the comment I left at Good As You:

I hardly know where to start -- Cordileone is as good as Tony Perkins at distorting and misrepresenting facts. (But at least we don't have to deal with middle-school word-play.)

1) "Deeply problematic understanding of human sexuality" -- in what way? Anyone who knows what they're talking about understands that homosexuality is part of the range of normal human behavior. It seems the Church's "understanding" of human sexuality, as in most areas of human behavior, is problematic.

2) "to condone such behavior" -- no one's insisting you condone anything, only that you keep your nose out of people's private lives.

3) "Churches, businesses and individuals should not be punished in any way for living by their religious and moral convictions concerning sexual activity." --No one's suggesting that. The law just says you can't force your religious convictions on anyone else. See # 2, minding your own business.

4) "Eliminating truly unjust discrimination – based on personal characteristics" -- you mean, like the decision to join the Catholic Church, or follow any religious tradition? Which I don't think anyone can characterize as a "personal characteristic" -- that's really a behavior. Or maybe you mean something more fundamental, such as being female? The Church has a real good record there. The consensus among those who actually know something about human psychology is that same-sex orientation is, in fact, an innate characteristic.

5) "and protecting religious freedom" -- trans.: I have the right to force my religious dogma on everyone else. Just ask me.

6) "The current political climate makes it very difficult to maintain a reasonable dialogue on these contentious issues," -- "dialogue" means you listen as well as speak, something for which the Catholic hierarchy is not noted. In fact, there's been a quite spirited dialogue, in the media, the courts, and the Internet. Sorry you missed it.

And all this, coming from a highly placed member of an institution that has repeatedly proven itself not only hypocritical, but morally bankrupt.

Oh, and I forgot one thing: it's also an institution that has, at best, a tenuous relationship with reality.

Addendum: I had to include this, the final paragraph of the Archbishop's statement. It's a prime example of the cynicism that seems to be a common characteristic of the so-called "religious" right. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who believes that the authority of the Church cannot be challenged in any way and that he, as a member of the ruling hierarchy in that Church, has the right to determine the parameters of everyone's private behavior.

Lobbying for coercive laws that violate freedom will not promote justice in the workplace. Nor will it advance the common good to seek to silence debate about sexual morality. We, like all Americans, wish there was an easy way forward. There is not. But there is an honest one. And it starts with the unflinching commitment to the inherent dignity of every human person, and to the “healthy pluralism” we all wish to share.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Bright Side

Interesting post at Rethinking Religion on a) the appropriate role of religion in public life in America, and b) winning hearts and minds. Note this, after she recounts some atheist billboards put up for the Christmas season, which were abrasive, to say the least:

Seriously, atheist dudes, the Christian Right is not Jesus’ fault. The CR may have adopted Jesus as its team mascot, but it’s ignored his teachings for years. And seeing Jesus ridiculed is as jarring to Christians — including the tolerant, progressive ones — as watching their mothers being publicly humiliated.

This is not rocket science, by any means. In fact, the American Atheists could have learned a lesson from the very Christian right that they're attacking: think about the rhetoric coming from Tony Perkins, Tim Wildmon, Brian Brown, Bryan Fischer, the whole rotten crew, and how public opinion on gay rights and same-sex marriage has shifted in our favor. Do you see the connection?

Anyway, read the post. It's a good one.

Hell in a Handbasket

That seems to be where the world is headed: Russian separatists shooting down Malaysian passenger planes in East Ukraine, Israel invading Gaza (again), and the U.S. being invaded by children.

Why do I read the news?