"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

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Starring John Kasich as Chris Christie

So guess who wants to gut Social Security this week. Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign for the GOP presidential nomination seems to have -- well, I can't say it's stall, because it never got going to begin with.

At any rate, his target is now Social Security and Medicare, which is so-o-o 2012.

First off, if you don't know what your benefit is going to be, it's your fault: Social Security sends you a freakin' letter telling you what your benefit is going to be. Sorry, Governor, but it's not part of some nefarious plot to keep people in the dark.

“I’d rather have people be in a position where they’re aggravated with me so I can accomplish something, than have them love me and accomplish nothing,” Kasich told the audience during an event in Concord, New Hampshire. “I’m not there to run a popularity contest.”

The former governor of Ohio preceded the remarks by asking the crowd how many of them knew how much their initial Social Security payments would be. Two people raised their hands to indicate that they did know.

“What if I told you that your initial benefit was gonna be somewhat lower in order to save the program?” he asked. “Would that drive you crazy?”

When one audience member responded that it would “upset” them, Kasich told them, “Well, you’d get over it, and you’re going to have to get over it.”

That's Kasich being real butch, just like the bully from New Jersey.

(Ed. note: As far as I know, Kasich is the current governor of Ohio. My sympathies.)

Kasich later made a similar statement about Medicare, saying that any voter wanting him to “ignore the fact that it’s going broke” would not like him.

In a brief interview later, he accused Democrats in turn of allowing Social Security to “get to a point where it could go bankrupt.”

“We’re getting close to Halloween, and they just want to scare people,” Kasich added.

We've been through this, but apparently Kasich missed class that day: Neither program is anywhere near bankrupt, and is not going to be. For Social Security, the fix is simple: lift the cap on the payroll tax. Medicare is more complicated, but it's in good shape for the next fifteen years: spending has not increased as much as expected, and may follow that trend as more and more people are insured under the ACA. There's plenty of time to do any fixes that are necessary -- of course, that assumes that someone actually wants to fix it, rather than handing it over to Wall Street and the insurance industry.

The Halloween comment, I thought, was pretty funny: pot, kettle.

And a note: I'm of the camp that insists that for Social Security the cap should be raised and benefits increased: the "cost of living" increase doesn't come anywhere near the actual increase in cost of living. And this is coming from someone who lives a fairly Spartan life.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Hogwash du Jour

Remember Robert P. George? One of the authors of the Manhattan Declaration, a document purporting to be a call to "Christians" to stand against the assault of their rights (whenever that might happen). He's come up with a new one, ostensibly from his American Principles Project, a "think tank" that seems to be diametrically opposed to anything recognizable as American principles. Via Joe.My.God., with parsing and commentary by me:

If Obergefell is accepted as binding law, the consequences will be grave. Of the results that can be predicted with confidence, four stand out: First, society will be harmed by being denied the right to hold out as normative, and particularly desirable, the only type of human relationship that every society must cultivate for its perpetuation. This compelling interest is strengthened by the fact that there is strong evidence to support what common sense suggests, namely, that children fare best when raised by their married mother and father who are both responsible for bringing them into the world and who provide maternal and paternal influences and care.

Uproveable assertion buttressed by an outright lie: The first point is questionable, at best: it's a typical "argument" couched in broad, nebulous terms ("Society will be harmed" has no real meaning, when you stop to think about it). The "strengthening" is untrue: there is no evidence that supports the contention that "children fare best" etc., especially since "best" is not a term that a responsible researcher would use in summarizing results.

Second, individuals and organizations holding to the historic and natural understanding of marriage as a conjugal union—the covenantal partnership of one man and one woman—will be vilified, legally targeted, and denied constitutional rights in order to pressure them to conform to the new orthodoxy.

No. Just, no. "Vilified", possibly (and let's make sure to use the scariest language possible -- what he really means is "criticized"), but that's just people exercising their right to free speech, which George would be among the first to defend. (And if you believe that, I can get you a real deal on a bridge in New York.) "Legally targeted and denied constitutional rights"? That hasn't happened yet, and it's hard to see a case where, under our legal system, it could. The only cases where people have been sued or had courts find against them have been cases where they have violated existing anti-discrimination laws and, in the case of the county clerk who shall not be named, violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. There are penalties for breaking the law, no matter what your excuse is. (And the excuses seems to revolve around the idea that, as "Christians," these people are above the law, which isn't an American principle I've ever run across before.)

Third, the new jurisprudence of dignity is unlimited in principle and will encourage additional claims to redefine marriage and other long-established institutions.

Obergefell did not examine the definition of marriage, which is and has been more or less fluid throughout history, although a good, concise definition is one I ran across from Joseph Campbell: "Marriage is the recognition by the community of the establishment of a new household." I don't see how Obergefell alters that at all. Of course, what George is referring to as "the" definition is a secular religious definition that has no bearing on American civil law.

Fourth, the right of all Americans to engage in democratic deliberation, and ultimately self-government, will be decisively undermined.

Fundamental rights are not subject to popular vote. How a court decision affirming the rights of a minority affects democratic deliberation eludes me. (And that, by the way, was the tack taken by the majority in the Sixth Circuit decision that brought the marriage issue to the Supreme Court and was overturned.)

Any decision that brings about such evils would be questionable. One lacking anything remotely resembling a warrant in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the Constitution must be judged anti-constitutional and illegitimate. Obergefell should be declared to be such, and treated as such, by the other branches of government and by citizens of the United States.

The "evils" brought about by this decision haven't happened and are not likely to, but I guess George felt it was time for another scary word. And the basis of the decision is quite plain: the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection of the law and equal access to its benefits. If George can't understand that, he shouldn't be teaching constitutional law.

I think he deserves a Through the Looking Glass Award for turning reality on its head -- although he's not as good at it as some others.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Guess What Didn't Happen Yesterday

The world was not annihilated. Which it was supposed to be:

While our planet may have survived September’s “blood moon”, it will be permanently destroyed on Wednesday, 7 October, a Christian organization has warned.

The eBible Fellowship, an online affiliation headquartered near Philadelphia, has based its prediction of an October obliteration on a previous claim that the world would end on 21 May 2011. While that claim proved to be false, the organization is confident it has the correct date this time.

“According to what the Bible is presenting it does appear that 7 October will be the day that God has spoken of: in which, the world will pass away,” said Chris McCann, the leader and founder of the fellowship, an online gathering of Christians headquartered in Philadelphia.

“It’ll be gone forever. Annihilated.”

McCann said that, according to his interpretation of the Bible, the world will be obliterated “with fire”.

They keep hoping.

My only reaction when I read this story was "Did they specify a time?"

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Today's Must Read: Armed Insurrectionists

Also known as the Republican Party. From Gaius Publius at Hullabaloo:

Using the power of government to subvert the government is itself insurrectionist. Which tells us two things — the insurrectionist strain in voters of the American Right (per their arguments in favor of "gun rights") is matched by the insurrectionist strain in their leaders and those who hold office in their name.

▪ So ask yourself — Why is the rest of the country not treating this insurrection as an insurrection, like the Whiskey Rebellion, instead of treating it as just another difference of political opinion? In other words, why are we not treating the virtual (and sometimes literal) armed rebels in the hills as a threat to the existence of our government?

That's a serious question. The rest of the country does not see the American Right as an insurrection, is determined not to, in fact, and also is encouraged not to. The reasons they don't and won't see the insurrection as an insurrection are both revealing and determinative of the outcome. After all, would the modern and mainly corrupted Democratic Party be able to sell its own brand of "rule by the rich" if they didn't have Republicans to point to as political enemies, instead of what they are, enemies of the state itself?

This extends my thinking on the right as fundamentally anti-American: if you listen to the leading (or at least, most vocal) of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, as well as the leaders of the "Christian" right, it becomes very plain that they are vehemently opposed to such foundational American principles as equality under the law, the rule of law, separation of church and state, and an independent judiciary that applies Constitutional requirements to laws.

As for using the power of government to subvert the government -- well, take a look at the restrictions on abortion, voting rights, and gay civil rights that are wending their ways, and in many cases have wended their ways, through state legislatures. And of course, in the case of "Christians" versus Obergefell, the latest hot-button issue for the right, it's that they're above the law -- Kim Davis is only the latest example -- remember Aaron and Melissa Klein?

There's a lot more in that post. Read the whole thing.

And another take, from Ed Kilgore at TPM:

And to a remarkable extent, the default position of conservatives has less and less to do with arguments about the efficacy of gun regulation or the need for guns to deter or respond to crime. Instead, it’s based on the idea that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep open the possibility of revolutionary violence against the U.S. government.

This was once an exotic, minority view even among gun enthusiasts who tended to view the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to gun ownership not to overthrow the government but to supplement the government’s use of lethal force against criminals. Treating the Second Amendment as an integral legacy of the American Revolution appealed to gun rights advocates who sought firm ground against regulations with no possibility of compromise.

But more importantly, it gave a dangerous edge to the claims of conservative extremists—who recently began calling themselves “constitutional conservatives”—that their ideology of absolute property rights, religious rights and even fetal rights had been permanently established by the Founders who added in the Second Amendment to ensure any trespassing on their “design” by “tyrants” or popular majorities could and should be resisted.

Oh, and add that common thief Cliven Bundy -- who wants to graze his cattle on our land without paying the rent -- to the list of insurrectionists.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

I'm Still Here

It's just that by the time I finish going through the news in the morning, I'm numb. I just can't believe the amount of nonsense that people can come up with.

I may do some highlights later. Maybe.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today's Must Read

This post, from Gaius Publius at Hullabaloo:

I had a different group of pieces I've been working on recently, revolving around a recent interview by Noam Chomsky that touches on our so-called "capitalism" and also on the Bernie Sanders candidacy. But this video sets that up nicely. It's a ten-minute speech by long-time British politico and Labour Party member Tony Benn, sadly recently deceased.

Here's the video:

GP has done a partial transcript at the link. Key quote:

So privatization is a deliberate policy, along with the destruction of local democracy and the destruction of the trade unions to restore power back to to where it was. And what we're now back in, that's what the whole crisis is about, the restoration of power to those who've always controlled the world, the people who own the land and the resources and all the rest of it. And that is something we need to understand. ...

Since I live in a state and city with a governor and mayor who belief fervently in privatization (one Republican, one Democrat, but both oligarchs), this sort of hits home -- aside from the fact that I can see it happening across the country.

I think I need a long walk in the park.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let the Protests Begin!

Roland Emmerich's film Stonewall had its official premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and of course, trans activists were there.

LGBT protesters crashed the red carpet at the world premiere of Stonewall at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). They say the film downplays the key role that trans people of colour and lesbian activists played in the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement in the US. TIFF fans weren't happy to see them. Stonewall’s gay director, Roland Emmerich, tells Daily Xtra he wanted to make a movie for everybody. “I never quite understood this whole word of ‘whitewashing,’” he says.

I lost patience with the whole "whitewashing" and "erasing trans people" arguments when they were trotted out in reaction to a two-minute trailer. Nobody ever gets a clear idea of what a movie's actually about from a trailer. And of course, you can imagine how much sympathy I have for those "activists" who rail on about white cis-gender gay men -- as though we had nothing to do with gaining any ground in the civil rights arena.

As for Emmerich rewriting history, there are some illuminating comments at this story at Towleroad. For example, commenter FLL has a couple of actual facts:

(1) Sylvia Rivera and was not present at the Stonewall Riots. There is testimony showing that Sylvia wasn't there (please see my reply to Darien Taylor below). So why does the protester in the clip above wear a t-shirt that mentions Sylvia Rivera?

(2) In all these years, no one has ever come forward to suggest that Miss Majors was present during any of the rioting. It's obvious by listening to any interviews Miss Majors has given that she is lying.

(3) The unidentified white lesbian who was the victim of police brutality was exactly that, an unidentified white lesbian. She was not Stormé DeLarverie, who is an African-American. Stomé herself always refused to verify that she was the lesbian in question. The policeman beating the lesbian with his nightstick enraged the crowd of mostly white gay men. The unidentified white lesbian was the victim, not the "leader." The only leader which took action was the crowd itself.

I remember hearing about the riots a couple of years after the fact (news coverage wasn't what you'd call "extensive"), and remember the reports of drag queens and gay men rioting. Suddenly, by the '80s and the rise of the New Left, the whole thing was the work of trans folk. (I'm not going to belabor a possible connection there -- draw your own conclusions.) I noted here the documentary evidence that white gay men were, indeed, the majority of the protesters.

As for the film itself, I've only seen a couple of reviews (I admit to being somewhat turned off by blog posts rejoicing in the fact that critics are panning it), and what struck me about them is that they take Emmerich to task for not making the movie they think he should have made. Sorry -- as a long-time reviewer of works in different media, including film, you don't do that. I have no patience with reviews that wind up being about the reviewer rather than the work, and I'm certainly not going to pay attention to them.

I don't know if I'll manage to see it -- it is on limited release, which means my favorite cheap theater is not showing it, and it's a tight month.

I may have more on this, but not right this minute.