"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

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jaw-Dropper du Jour

They're not only running around loose, they're holding public office:

View image on Twitter 

She says her comment was taken "out of context."

Today's Must-Read

Interesting post by Digby today on something that has become a big flaw in our public discourse, starting with a quote from this interview with Reza Aslan:

... someone like Sam Harris or Bill Maher sees religion as defining people of faith, their values, their motivations, and I see people as defining their religion.

Or, to put in in my own words: You can find something in just about any sacred text to justify what you wanted to do anyway. The glaring example of that, of course, is the self-styled "Christians" who are locked into Leviticus and a genital-based morality.

Digby goes on:

We know too many religious people of different faiths for whom religion is just one part of who they are and who are completely balanced, tolerant, open and often evolving in their interpretation of their faith not to. I also know atheists who take a fundamentalist point of view and are totally intolerant of any challenge to their worldview.

I got into a "discussion," if you want to call it that, in a comment thread with a woman who quickly revealed herself to be about the most fundamental of fundamentalists. She kept throwing out bizarre "arguments," which I answered with facts. She finally resorted to calling me a child of Satan. What was instructive, aside from her lack of general knowledge about the world in general, was her complete inability to entertain the idea that a differing point of view could be valid.

Digby notes that "There is more to human behavior than religions belief." That's undeniably true, and those who rely on religious belief to explain everything are missing a lot. (And, as Digby also points out, this does not excuse atheists, who may not subscribe to religion per se, but too often share the same mindset.) There is a tendency to see the world in black and white, although I'm not ready to ascribe that tendency to a certain group: it's a matter of basic psychology that we first classify things according to stereotypes; it's only as we come to know more that we modify those classifications, add a little nuance to our perceptions. It strikes me that some people don't want to learn more, perhaps because it challenges their assumptions, which makes them uncomfortable. (Alright, it scares the bejeezus out of them.) I guess I can think my lucky stars that I grew up in a family that valued learning and managed to avoid having my innate curiosity educated out of me. (Strangely enough, my sister is one of the least curious people I know.) Hence my basic philosophy: Poke it and see what it does. The beginnings of the scientific method.

Aslan, early on, makes one very important point:
So let’s say you had Bill Maher and Sam Harris as a sort of captive audience in a lecture hall for a half hour, and only a half hour. What would you focus on? What do you want them to hear that you don’t think they’re hearing?

This is going to sound odd to say, but probably nothing, because when you are dealing with that kind of level of certainty, whether you are talking about a religious fundamentalist, or an atheist fundamentalist, which is precisely what someone like Sam Harris is, it’s really a waste of time to try to argue either data points or logical reasoning, because they have already made up their mind and it becomes kind of useless to have that kind of conversation.

See my anecdote above, about the woman who called me a child of Satan.

The interview is a must-read, as are Digby's comments.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Latest Map

This one's nice and clear and gives all the detail that's necessary:

Marriage News Watch, October 13, 2014

Matt Baume summarizes last week's events in the marriage to marriage -- although, as he notes, "by the time you watch this video, more state may have already gained the freedom to marry." (In that regard, see the previous post.)


No, that's not the end of the story. In this case, it's the number of states in which same-sex marriage is now legal, after a surprise decision yesterday afternoon by Judge Tim Burgess on a suit brought by five couples in Alaska. The surprise is not the result -- that was pretty much a given -- but the speed with which the decision was handed down:
U.S. District Court Judge Tim Burgess issued a summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs arguing that Alaska's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, just two days after their case began to be heard in court Friday.

In a 25-page order, Burgess held that the state constitution -- amended by voters in 1998 to define marriage as between a man and a woman -- violates provisions in the U.S. Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing both due process and equal protection under the law.

Gov. Sean Parnell (who is facing an election) will appeal. Good luck with that -- Alaska is under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, which threw out Prop 8 and last week threw out marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada.

And of course, Alaska's local AFA/FRC clone is up in arms:

Jim Minnery, the executive director of Alaska Family Action, blasted Sunday's ruling and said it was in defiance of 1998 voters' popular will.

“What has happened with Judge Burgess and across the country really, it's a subversion of the democratic process,” Minnery said. “It's really a shame to see these legally enacted (bans), in many cases upwards of 70, 75 percent of the people, being overruled by a guy in a black robe -- it's sad, but we're far from over on this issue.”

Point: Oh, this issue is over. You just don't like the way it played out.

And second point: Have you noticed how the right tries so hard to ignore the Constitution? Except, of course, for the Second Amendment.

Via Box Turtle Bulletin.

Here's the decision:

3:14-cv-00089 #38 by Equality Case Files