"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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Already Started

2014, that is.


Happy New Year.

Words Fail Me

The headline reads "One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows."


Sixty percent of Americans say that "humans and other living things have evolved over time," the telephone survey by the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project showed (Click here for the full survey).

But 33 percent reject the idea of evolution, saying that "humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time," Pew said in a statement.

Although this percentage remained steady since 2009, the last time Pew asked the question, there was a growing partisan gap on whether humans evolved.

"The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time," said Cary Funk, a Pew senior researcher who conducted the analysis.

Somehow, the fact that more Republicans are rejecting evolution doesn't surprise me. That's only to be expected when a political party is dominated by a group that rejects science and most of the contemporary world. The kicker is that the percentage of Republicans who accept evolution has dropped by eleven points in four years. Somehow, I don't think this is a result of carefully considering the evidence.

Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants topped the list of those rejecting evolution, with 64 percent of those polled saying they believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

"This has been a staple of evangelical Protestantism for nearly 100 years," said Alan Lichtman, an American University history professor and author of "White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement."

The ironic part of this is that there is really no conflict between the Bible and evolutionary theory, as a number of denominations have concluded, including the Roman Catholic Church. Unless, of course, you are a biblical literalist who believes every word of the Bible is the absolute truth, even those parts that contradict each other. My own take is that if you insist that any sacred text is the literal truth, you're not playing with a full deck. It's called "metaphor," and myth makes great use of it

And of course, as made plain by the example of evangelical Protestantism, there's a strong element of ideology over reality. That seems to be a foundational principle of the Republican party these days, across the board, from economics to -- well, to science. (And where are most the climate change denialists housed? Yep.)

I sometimes -- OK, often -- wonder about the need some people display for eternal truth, unchanging and immutable. The universe isn't like that. It keeps changing, and what we know about it tends to change. You either deal with that or fall by the wayside.

And that is the real lesson: adapt or die.

Via just about everyone.



Monday, December 30, 2013

Daddy Duck Reinstated, HRC Gets a Black Eye

Well, the millionaire nonentity is back on his duck-oriented "reality" show, no fuss, no bother, and HRC, craven as always, is calling it a "victory."

From Fred Sainz, HRC's vice-president:
It's not really a reversal [to reinstate Phil Robertson]. We think it's actually a positive outcome, and we want to thank A&E for their attentiveness and collaboration over the course of the last few weeks. We've received assurances also that the Robertson family is now open to working with African-American and (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people to address the real harm that such anti-gay and racist comments can cause. That's been our 'ask' since Phil's comments ran in GQ, and while it's a positive step, it certainly cannot and should not be the last one.

Assurances? "Assurances" are what the IOC is happy with from the Russian government. Also known as "Don't rock the boat."

A&E has also promised to air public service announcements "promoting unity, tolerance, and acceptance among all people." Any guesses on whether Daddy Duck or any of his ducklings will participate?

I had hopes for a change in direction from HRC under Chad Griffin. I'm still waiting.


Marriage News Watch: December 30, 2013

First, a look back at the year (at least, those cases in which AFER was directly involvedf):


And now, current events:


And do note this analysis of the state of the game from Josh Marshall at TPM.



OK -- This Is Funny

From Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York:
"This pope has successfully, finally shattered the caricature of the church that his predecessors have tried hard to do," Dolan said on ABC's "This Week." "What's that caricature? That the church is kind of mean and dour and always saying no and always telling us what we can't do and always telling us why we should be excluded. He's saying, no, come on in, the church is about warmth and tenderness."

This, coming from the man who has been, as much as anyone besides the former pope, the face of the "caricature."

The fact of the matter is that Francis hasn't changed anything of substance: the Church's teachings on gays, birth control, women, and on down the line remain the same. And he's given no indication that there will be a change in Church doctrine in those areas.

It's called "putting lipstick on a pig."



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reviews in Brief: Best of 2013

I never do "Best of" things (well, I do, for Sleeping Hedgehog, at the request of the publisher), but I thought I'd finish of the year's "Reviews in Brief" with one, with links to reviews I've written. That way, I don't have to write a review.

Film:


The big stand-out is Man of Steel: good tight story, well-constructed, and the prettiest Superman ever. Just forget the final fight scene, which could have -- and should have -- been cut.

The Wolverine: Logan actually becomes a person. And they don't try to destroy Tokyo.

Strangely enough (or maybe not), I bucked the prevailing wisdom on 47 Ronin. It occurred to me that it's not a movie about Westerners -- it's about Japanese from the feudal period. Whole different psychology. And Keanu Reeves is spot on.


Music:

My most recent acquisition is Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet. Lean, spare, almost fragile, "minimalist" in the true sense -- think Samuel Beckett, or Dan Flavin -- but hypnotic and ultimately, compelling.

Moby's Innocents is pretty much in the same vein, if somewhat richer in resources. Eclectic, quirky, and captivating.

I was going to limit this to things that came out in 2013, but just realized that I'd blown that idea with the Feldman, so here's another one that, although I've actually had the recording for a while, I only really listened to this year: Toru Takemitsu's I Hear the Water Dreaming (and other works). A lot of similarities to Feldman, but some intriguing differences. Worth listening to.


Books:

Head and shoulders above most comics is Alex Woofson's Artifice. Two outcasts find love; it doesn't really matter that one of the is as much machine as anything else.

A new book by Steven Brust is always cause for celebration, and when he's collaborating with another writer -- in this case, Skyler White -- you never know what's going to happen. That's the case with The Incrementalists

Leona Wisoker came out with Book Four of The Children of the Desert, titled Fires of the Desert. It's one of the best fantasy series of recent memory. Or even longer.

One last book: Warren Ellis can do no wrong. He proved it in his run on The Authority, issued this year as Volume 1 in a hardback compilation.

That was fun, for me at least. I may do it again next year.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

How Low Can You Sink?

One of Mark Zmuda's former students conducted a 45-minute interview with him, of which the first minute or so has been released. Here's part of it from the news report:

What's not included here is some of the background:
A few days ago we brought you the news story of Mark Zmuda, a Catholic high school vice principal who was fired for marrying his husband and the backlash from students and faculty that resulted. The school maintained the position that it was a mutually-reached decision that Zmuda end his employment with Eastside Catholic High School, but an interview between Zmuda and a former student reveals otherwise. Caterina Crittenden conducted a 45-minute interview with her former vice principal about his employment and termination, and her family has released the first minute of it online, with the rest to follow in the coming days. In the interview, Zmuda revealed that he broke no contract with the school, that his termination was in no way related to his performance, and that he was given an offer that would never have been given to a straight couple: he could keep his job if he dissolved his marriage.
Sure -- get divorced (which is also against Catholic teaching) and we'll let you keep your job. For an institution that spends so much time nattering about morality, one would think the Church might take a few minutes to learn what it's about.

Saturday Science: Boy, When This One Blows. . . !

We all knew, of course, that Yellowstone National Park is sitting on a huge pool or magma, which is probably going to explode some day. Well, it turns out it's much bigger than we thought:

The supervolcano that lies beneath Yellowstone National Park in the US is far larger than was previously thought, scientists report.

A study shows that the magma chamber is about 2.5 times bigger than earlier estimates suggested.

A team found the cavern stretches for more than 90km (55 miles) and contains 200-600 cubic km of molten rock.

And what if it blows tomorrow? Well, forget global warming:

If the Yellowstone supervolcano were to blow today, the consequences would be catastrophic.

The last major eruption, which occurred 640,000 years ago, sent ash across the whole of North America, affecting the planet’s climate.

Think "nuclear winter." The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 led to the northern hemisphere suffering the "year without a summer" -- global temperatures fell on average 1.2 degrees C (2.2 Farenheit) and took five years to return to normal.



A Little Catch-up

It's been a busy week. Here are a few things I didn't get to:

India:

You may have heard that the Indian Supreme Court has recriminalized homosexuality. What they did was to overturn the decision of the Delhi High Court from a couple of years ago that found Section 377, from the old British Colonial penal code, is unconstitutional. The decision has not been met favorably, either outside of India or within. The government has filed a petition with the Court for review of the verdict. One Indian actor, Imran Khan, has answered some of the myriad of questions that have arisen in the wake of the decision:


Utah:


It looks as though things in Utah are stalled. The courts -- both Judge Shelby of the District Court and a panel of the 10th Circuit -- have refused to order a stay on Judge Shelby's decision overturning Utah's anti-marriage constitution amendment. The state has said it will petition Justice Sotomayor, who oversees the 10th Circuit, but they seem to be in some disarray and haven't, as of this writing, filed yet. Josh Marshall has a good recap of the events and their implications.

And Utah has had a record number of marriages in the past week.

Uganda:

The Ugandan Parliament has passed the "Kill the Gays" bill, without the kill part. President Musveni has said he will examine it carefully before he decides whether to sign it into law. Jim Burroway has an analysis of the sneaky tactics of the proponents of the bill, which sounds about right for the anti-gay "conservatives" of any country. Burroway also has a look at the reaction of Ugandan religious leaders. I advise you to read it on an empty stomach.

Papa Duck:

That millionaire nonentity from that A&E "reality" show has been reinstated -- yes, A&E, like Cracker Barrel before them, has caved. Joe Jervis has a series of posts on the reactions this morning, which I'm not going to link to here -- just go to his blog.

Ender's Game:


A flop, no matter how you look at it:


Note that box office as of Thursday is $88,065,750 worldwide. Note also the budget figure. I don't think a sequel is in the offing.

OK, this turned into a link dump -- sorry about that, but like I said, it's been a busy week. This should serve to catch you up on anything you've missed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Image of the Week

This is one of my favorites. The model was very shy, even though the shoot was his idea.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Cat Is a Cat Is a Cat

No matter what size.


What is it about cats and boxes, anyway?

Via Balloon Juice.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Utah Update

The 10th Circuit has denied the state of Utah's request for an emergency stay of Judge Shelby's order overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban.

The key paragraph:


The state is appealing the order to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who oversees the 10th Circuit.

Culture Break: Not Exactly a Christmas Carol

But it fits the season. Grex Vocalis sings "An Irish Blessing."


I cant find the lyrics to the second verse, but it starts off:

May the sun make your days bright,
may the stars illuminate your nights,
may the flowers bloom along your path,
your house stand firm against the storm.

Blessings to all.

Merry Christmas

And thanks to John Aravosis at AmericaBlog for reminding me of this choice item:


And do click through a read Aravosis' own account of relating the American Christmas story to a bunch of Europeans.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I Wasn't Really Planning on Posting Today

But the world just doesn't hold still.

First off, this one, via Joe.My.God:


It really is Christmas. Catch the rainbow kerchief.

Next, from AmericaBlog:


My take: it's cute, but I don't know how effective it's going to be. But hey, if it gets gay men thinking about enrolling in the ACA, so much the better.

The Log Cabin Republicans have a different take (as quoted at AmericaBlog):

Today Log Cabin Republicans, the only LGBT advocacy organization on the Obamacare Repeal Coalition, denounced a video advertisement by Out2Enroll exploiting gay stereotypes to encourage gay men to enroll in the Affordable Care Act.

“This cynical ad betrays the depths Obamacare advocates will sink to in order to pad their pathetic enrollment numbers,” Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo declared. As a self-proclaimed ‘fierce advocate’ of gay equality, President Obama would do well to distance himself from this nonsense and denounce it immediately.

This ad is also an example of the left promoting harmful stereotypes that gay men are nothing more than sex-crazed lechers. If anyone on the right made such a comparison, liberals would be apoplectic.

At a time when left-wing propagandists are decrying Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson for equating homosexuality with promiscuity and deviance, Out2Enroll and others should take a look in the mirror and ask if the truth is that they are the ones responsible for promoting such harmful stereotypes.”

There is so much wrong with that I don't even know where to start. John Aravosis did a pretty good take-down at the link. And the comments on this one are worth reading.

Maybe when the LCR grows enough balls to take on the "Christian" right, I might start paying attention to them. (By the way, has anyone heard from GOProud lately? You know, that "gay conservative" organization run by a bunch of straight people?)

Next up, the state of Utah still has not managed to get a stay of Judge Shelby's ruling. Judge Shelby was kind enough to explain to them why he couldn't do it:

[State's attorney] Lott gave the example of then-District Judge Vaughn Richard Walker deciding to stay his ruling at the same time he ruled against California’s Proposition 8.

Shelby explained the difference between what happened in that court and why it didn’t happen in this court.

“There was no motion for a stay pending when I made my ruling,” he said. “When Judge Walker ruled, the plaintiffs had filed a motion to stay the ruling in case it didn’t come down their way.”

There was no such motion filed by the State of Utah before Shelby made his ruling.

“I had no authority to rule on a temporary stay,” he explained.

Duh.

And Ohio must recognize your same-sex marriage, but only if you're dead. Needless to say, Brian Brown thinks it's outrageous that even dead people have rights.

And Virginia, in the persons of the Staunton Circuit Court Clerk and the Registrar of Vital Records, is being sued to overturn its marriage ban. That case is going forward. (There's a more complete story here.)

And a Marry Christmas to all.





Monday, December 23, 2013

Ongoing

A few snippets from this morning's news:

Request for Stay of Judgment Denied:

Judge Robert Shelby
The 10th Circuit has denied the State of Utah's request for a stay of Judge Shelby's decision pending his own decision in their request to him for a stay:

Judges Jerome Holmes and Robert Bacharach, in an order signed by court clerk Elisabeth Shumaker for the court, held that the because the state’s request “does not meet the requirements of the Federal or local appellate rules governing a request for a stay,” the court was denying the motion.

“Defendants-Appellants acknowledge that they have not addressed, let alone satisfied, the factors that must be established to be entitled to a stay pending appeal,” the court held. The factors include a showing by the party asking for a stay that they are likely to succeed on appeal, that they would suffer “irreparable injury” if they do not get a stay, that other parties would not injure other parties, and an assessment of where the “public interest” lies.

The judges wrote that the state could refile a similar motion at a later point so long as it complied with the court’s rules.

Apparently, the State's legal strategy here is the old "conservative" stand-by: Rules are for other people.

(I added the picture of Judge Shelby because he's awfully attractive. And an attractive man is never out of place.)

Via Box Turtle Bulletin, which has the dirt on the two judges.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty Is Still a Nonentity:


Timothy Kincaid echoes my feelings on this whole flap admirably. I'm grateful to him for spending the time on this, which I certainly didn't want to do. A sample:

So if you ask the long-haired wild-bearded Southern hillbilly redneck biker-wannabe Jesus freak from the reality show about long-haired wild-bearded Southern hillbilly redneck biker-wannabe Jesus freaks about gays, it turns out he has long-haired wild-bearded Southern hillbilly redneck biker-wannabe Jesus freak opinions. Who’d a thunk it?

But the whole thing was actually a nefarious plot by the notably liberal A&E. Really. Truly.

This whole thing is going to be worth millions to the Robertson clan. I mean, when you've got Bristol Palin rooting for you. . . .

Be Careful Who You Fire:


Especially if you're Archbishop Peter Sartain of Washington. It seems that the latest example of a Catholic school exercising its "religious freedom" didn't go over well with the student body:

Bradley Strode, the president of the senior class, told ABC News that out of the 600 students who attend Eastside Catholic, more than 450 walked out of class. Bradley:

“The Catholic teaching is to unconditionally love and support all members of a global community, people from all backgrounds, as Christ did in the gospels. If Jesus were here, he would have been sitting in with us at Eastside Catholic because we are sticking up for what we believe in and not just abiding by institutional laws.”

Sister Mary Tracy met with the students explaining:
“It was clear that this is the teaching of the church. I know what we need to do.”

The students were unimpressed.

Click through and read the article -- it's an excellent summary of events to date.

People Not Attending the Sochi Winter Olympics:

That number now includes UK PM David Cameron, in addition to EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck, and US President Barack Obama.

The US delegations, however, will include two openly gay Olympic medalists, Caitlin Cahow and Brian Boitano, and tennis legend Billie Jean King. I think we're sending a message there.

I may add more, but I think that's enough for now.








Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reviews in Brief: Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I broke down and went to see Hunger Games: Catching Fire. (I was desperate to get out of the house, and it was too cold to just go out and walk around.) I’m not going to bother with a plot set-up; if you don’t know it, you can get it at the IMDb listing.

It’s an odd sort of movie: nothing really happens, although there’s a lot of activity. It’s as though there’s a plot, but no story. There are hints at dark doings behind everything – Donald Sutherland, as President Snow, does everything but twirl his moustache while figuring out how to ruin Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) so that she cannot become a focal point for rebellion.

I haven’t seen the first film, nor have I read the books, but this one holds up well enough as a stand-alone: backstory is filled in as appropriate (at least there’s no abrupt stop to the action while someone lectures us about how we got here). And the action scenes, of which there are a multitude, are well done. The trumped-up “romance” between Katniss and her fellow victor in the Games, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s going to develop into something real or not – and there is the complication of what I assume is Katniss’ real love interest, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth, who doesn’t have enough to do).

All in all, it’s really no more than a two-and-a-half hour set-up for the next movie (which itself, apparently, is going to come in two parts). The one clue, and it’s just barely that, is the character of the new Games Master, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – you just know he’s playing a double game, but the film doesn’t give you anything solid to grab onto until the last five minutes. Also of note is Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, a previous victor and Katniss’ mentor – he’s also a lot more than he seems, as we discover -- eventually.

And that's really the thing here: the whole story happens in the last five or ten minutes.

All in all, it’s a fairly entertaining couple of hours, but there’s no substance, and it’s fairly heavy-handed. I'm not inclined to see it again, unless I have raging cabin fever, and not all that interested in seeing any of the others.

PG-13, 146 minutes.


The Elf Lobby

There really is one -- in Iceland:
In this land of fire and ice, where the fog-shrouded lava fields offer a spooky landscape in which anything might lurk, stories abound of the "hidden folk" — thousands of elves, making their homes in Iceland's wilderness.

So perhaps it was only a matter of time before 21st-century elves got political representation.

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from to the tip of the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.

Somehow, it's only in Iceland that I could envision an elf church.

Don't tell Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins -- they'll really get bent out of shape.

Iceland was the location for Svartalfheim, land of the Dark Elves, in Thor: The Dark World.






Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Take-Down

For those who haven't read Judge Shelby's decision striking down Utah's anti-marriage amendment, Zack Ford has a good outline of the demolition of the state's arguments.

Worth reading.

Saturday Science: Not Quite "Jurassic Park"

but a lot closer to home. This story's a couple of weeks old, but one of the nice things about science is that discoveries don't lose their interest or value after fifteen minutes. ("Benghazi!!1!") And whatever your personal reaction, you have to admit it's fascinating:

In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years.

The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story.

It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found.

The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years.

I admit I don't know much about the Denisovans -- here's the Wikipedia entry, which seems to be solid, except of course, that, in light of this new discovery, anything it says about the geographic distribution is open to question.


Remember when the evolutionary tree read a lot more like Genesis? "And Homo erectus begat Homo neanderthalensis, and neanderthalensis begat. . . ." Well, as is usually the case with something that simplistic, it wasn't quite that clear-cut. (Which is probably why fundamentalists of any religion have so much trouble dealing with the real world.) Twenty years ago, the idea of interbreeding between subspecies wasn't usually on anyone's radar (at least, not paleoanthropologists), even though we know it happens -- one of my favorite orchids, Cattleya guatamalensis, is a natural hybrid between C. aurantiaca and C. skinneri. There's no reason people couldn't have done the same thing -- and probably would still be doing it, except we don't seem to have any subspecies left.



Friday, December 20, 2013

Whoa! Utah? (Update, Update II)

This stopped me cold:

A federal judge struck down Utah's same-sex marriage ban Friday in a decision that brings a nationwide shift toward allowing gay marriage to a conservative state where the Mormon church has long been against it.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby issued a 53-page ruling Friday saying Utah's law passed by voters in 2004 violates gay and lesbian couples' rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Shelby said the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any way.

"In the absence of such evidence, the State's unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State's refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens," Shelby wrote.

So of course this all happened while I was out running errands.

The state will undoubtedly appeal. It's going to be interesting to see how this one plays out. This could be the one that goes to SCOTUS.

Here's the decision. It's solid, and blows all the standard anti-marriage arguments completely apart. I strongly recommend you read it.

Update:

And one couple has already gotten married:

Michael Adam Ferguson and J. Seth Anderson may well be Utah’s first gay couple to legally marry in the state of Utah. The couple, hearing that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby has declared Utah’s Amendment 3 as unconstitutional, went to Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen’s office asking for a marriage license.

“Our application for a marriage license was just accepted by the state of Utah,” Ferguson wrote on his Facebook wall.

Deputy Salt Lake County Clerk Wany Morrison was in tears as she handed the couple their license to marry. As the couple was awaiting an officiant, Morrison told the couple she would marry them, but was pulled out of the ceremony by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who said he wanted to wait on official notice from the state.

QSaltLake reporter Bob Henline, who is also an official marriage officiant, married the couple on the spot.

Update II:


So of course there's a line:




Image of the Week

Another from "Shatter":


I started doing these with a Polaroid Spectra System camera (and I wish I could get it repaired and get film for it -- it was a surprisingly versatile tool) -- the shutter would stay open long enough to get a good exposure, which was also long enough to move the camera around. I did quite a few of them, and will probably post more here.

Duck Dynasty Who?

You might gather from that that I don't watch much TV, and you'd be right. Nor do I pay attention to "reality" shows, which aren't. So I've been enduring the Phil Robertson flap (I had to look up his name) on just about every media outlet you can imagine (and it's taking up way too much space on the blogosphere).

My take? The guy's an asshole. That's the whole point of his show, as far as I can tell. OK, fine, so he's an asshole who believes in the Bible and thinks that makes him a Christian.

So A&E suspended him. According to the Conservative Bible, a private company can o whatever it wants to employees, including firing them just for the hell of it, or because Obamacare, or whatever. Apparently, that only holds true if said employee is a "liberal" (meaning anyone to the left of Attila the Hun) or offends Sarah Palin, who among her other attributes, may very well be the loudest nonentity of modern times. (Remember Martin Bashir? Did Palin stick up for his right to free expression? Hah!)

Digby has a very good post on this whole thing that lays out very plainly -- plainly enough that even Sarah Palin can understand it -- the noxious combination of ignorance and hypocrisy on the right. I'll give you a hint -- remember the Dixie Chicks?

Read Digby -- it's worth the time.

Short and Sweet

This gets my vote as best post of the day:


Click through to read David Atkins' comment.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Number 17

New Mexico.
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of same-sex couples, granting them all the same rights of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The court’s 31-page opinion states, in part, that: “All rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.”

[. . .]

Justice Edward Chavez, who authored the unanimous opinion, rejected arguments made during an October hearing by opponents of same-sex marriage.

“Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law, as evidenced by the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marrying,” Chavez wrote in his opinion.

Unanimous decision. Here's the opinion.

New Mexico Supreme Court opinion on same-sex marriage


Via Joe.My.God.

Note to Brian Brown: about that Constitutional amendment. . . .

Oh, and Brian? About that "will of the people" thing:
When government is alleged to have threatened any of these rights, it is the responsibility of the courts to interpret and apply the protections of the Constitution. The United States Supreme Court explained the courts’ responsibility as follows:
The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.

W. Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943).
Pp 6-7 of the opinion. Emphasis added.

I think Brian Brown and Tony Perkins should have a pajama party to watch all those state constitutional amendments go down the toilet. Because they will.

Today in Disgusting People

You get a twofer:

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA)

"I'm on the Agriculture Committee, we have jurisdiction over the school lunch," Rep. Jack Kingston explained to the Jackson County Republican Party in a clip obtained by The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel. "School lunch program is very expensive."

"But one of the things I’ve talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don’t you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch?" he suggested. "Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria -- and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money."

"But think what we would gain as a society in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch," Kingston added.

This from a man who lives on the taxpayers' dime -- when he's not eating free lunches provided by lobbyists. (Oh, wait -- they're not "free" -- there's always a quid pro quo. It's just that we pay for it, he doesn't.)

Sound familiar? That's because Newt Gingrich:
While campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2011, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also floated the idea of replacing unionized janitors with children during a talk at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

He later told a crowd in Iowa that poor children were basically lazy.

“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” the Georgia Republican insisted. “They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash, unless it is illegal.”

Gingrich suggested to supporters in South Carolina that children as young as 5 years old could get “an education in life” by working.

The education in life that poor children get is not one that Newt would want to experience. Trust me.

A footnote, courtesy of Digby:



Another "Grab Your Hanky" Post

Via AmericaBlog:
Rion Holcombe, age 20, has Down Syndrome. His dream is to be a college student.

A few days ago he got “the letter.”

His reaction:


Just remember, as you're reading about the assholes in Washington posturing and gesticulating (not to mention "world leaders" from around the globe) while selling us all to their major donors: Good things do happen.

It occurs to me that this is the sort of program that's just what the teabaggers and their corporatist handlers keep preaching about -- you know, self-reliance and all that -- but they've forgotten one very important element: no one does it by himself. That's why we have societies.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Culture Break: Pentatonix Does "The Carol of the Bells"

A lead-in to the holiday, and one of my favorite Christmas carols. Unfortunately, embedding is disabled, but you can watch it here.


I Honestly Feel Sorry For Him

But not for the reasons he thinks. Robert Oscar Lopez:

The LGBT lobby has warped my relationship with students, my relationship with gay friends, my relationship with the press, my relationship with bosses at the university, my relationship with readers, and saddest of all, my relationship with my own family.

I'd suggest that if your relationships with the people you know are warped, it's not the fault of some third party, especially one as abstract and formless as "the LGBT lobby," whatever that is.

This little screed points up something I've noticed more and more about the anti-gay right, and the "Christian" right in general: it's all about them. It's always about them, and only them. That strikes me as pretty immature, at best. I'm reminded of the story about the NOM intern who went to a marriage rally and was disheartened at the preponderance of pro-SSM demonstrators, and the meager showing by anti-marriage groups. She also took the opportunity to opine that same-sex marriage devalued her own (at that point, entirely hypothetical) marriage vows and her relationship with her god. I'm afraid the only response I could think of was "What ever led you to believe that someone else's marriage is about you?"

Same syndrome: "I'm a total loss as a human being, and it's someone else's fault." These people need some serious intervention.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hanky Time

And as an antidote to all the nastiness that's out there -- this is a happy thing:


A Little Drive-By Post (Updated)

A few things I've seen over the past few days that I don't have any real commentary on, but felt they should be noted:

On Jobs and the Economy:

billmon @billmon1

Relying on econ growth alone to hold down unemployment (and thus inequality) is like a cancer cell assuming its host will live forever.

1:55 PM - 15 Dec 2013

27 Retweets 14 favorites

That sort of does it for the GOP "budget proposals."

The Pope Strikes Back:

I'm not sure how significant this is, but I think it is. But -- any guesses that the motivation is more about being critical of the pope, and less about opposing abortion and same-sex marriage?

You Mean Mass, Warrantless Searches are Unconstitutional?

That's what a federal judge says. Here's the ruling.

Today in Christian Love:

Some places, saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" can get you assaulted.

Who Domesticated Who? And When?

Of Cats and Men.

And that seems as good a place as any to stop.

Update:

I just ran across this one at Right Wing Watch, and it pretty much typifies something I've noticed about a lot of the "Christians" poisoning the airwaves (and print media, as well) lately: It's all about them. Robert Oscar Lopez is one of the most egregious examples, but he's not that far out of the range.

Do you supposed they ever listen to themselves?






Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Science: Chapter 2: Is It a Bug or a Flower?

I didn't want to let this one wait, because it's too interesting.


Via AmericaBlog.

One of the commenters there came up with the information that it's Hymenopus coronatus, from Malaysia and Indonesia. It does sort of look like an orchid, although I was thinking more Encyclia than something like Dendrobium.

Mimicry as a strategy in support of both predation and mating is fairly widespread, and some of the most intriguing practitioners are orchids. (It's worth noting that some species mimic not only appearance, but scents.)

The shoe on the other foot, so to speak:


Another Coming Out Video

This one made it to Digby, who almost never covers gay news.


Somebody Actually Voted For These People

And not only that, it was enough people to get them elected. Now they want to sue Obama -- for being president:
Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) wants Congress to take action against President Barack Obama for moving his administration in the direction of an "imperial presidency."

Rice introduced a House resolution that directs the chamber "to bring action for declaratory or injuctive relief to challenge certain policies and actions taken by the executive branch." The resolution is cosponsored by a number of House lawmakers including Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Tom Price (R-GA), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Ted Yoho (R-TX).

The lawmakers want Congress to take civil action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for aspects of Obamacare as well as the Obama administration's deferred deportation policies for certain immigrants living in the country illegally.

The full resolution is here. It's worth noting that of the four "actions" taken by the administration for which relief is sought, all are well within the scope of the Executive's powers under the Constitution.

Do you suppose that the Teabagger caucus has slumber parties where they all get drunk and have contests to see who can come up with the stupidest ways for the House to waste its time? And who judges the contests?


Saturday Science: Walking On the Stars

Well, OK, not exactly on the stars, but on a comet. OK, not exactly walking on it, but landing a rocket ship on it. That's what's going to happen next year, if all goes according to plan:

At precisely 10am GMT on 20 January next year, a tiny electronic chip inside Europe's Rosetta spacecraft will flicker into life. The robot probe will then be several hundred million miles from Earth, an orbit that will be bringing it closer and closer to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a massive ball of ice, dust and organic materials that orbits the Sun every six and a half years.

Rosetta's electronic wakeup call will trigger circuits, heaters and instruments and bring the probe, which has been in hibernation for two and a half years, slowly back to life in preparation for its landing on the comet, one of the most spectacular feats of space exploration ever planned.

An artist's impression of Rosetta on the surface of its target comet. Photograph: J. Huart/Corbis

You may not think this is all that exciting, but it is:

Then, as the comet – which is about 2.5 miles wide – makes its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015, Rosetta will analyse the plumes of water vapour and gas and the geysers of organic material that will erupt into space as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko heats up and sends out a great glowing tail of gas and filaments behind it.

"Rosetta is going to be the first spacecraft to track the life of a comet as it arcs towards the Sun," says Paolo Ferri, head of solar and planetary operations for the space agency. The resulting data and images promise to be dramatic, to say the least.

We stand to learn a hell of a lot about what the solar system was like on Day One. That's really exciting.




Birds Just Wanna Have Fun

It's not exactly Saturday Science, but it sort of fits the mood of the day. Via AmericaBlog, this:


Under the heading what to do with a snowy roof and a jar lid. It's some kind of corvid -- one of the commenters at AmericaBlog identified it has a jackdaw, another thought hooded crow, common in Europe.

What I found interesting is that it tried a couple of different slopes, and then took off with the lid.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Image of the Week

Sometimes, you don't need a whole figure to make your point.


(Looking at this one, I realize how much of my work was about geometry.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It Was Good While It Lasted

But it's not over yet.

As of today, the marriage portrayed in this clip has been invalidated by the Australian High Court, which struck down the ACT's "same-sex marriage law."


The government of Tony Abbott (a/k/a "the Cane Toad") has resisted efforts to move on marriage equality. We'll see how long that lasts.

Via Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

HuffPo Joins the NSA

Commenting via Facebook, and only Facebook. It's a short post, so go ahead.

I have to say that Huffington Post is not a site I visit regularly. Like WaPo, it has a short shelf-life: I click through, but I already know what I'm going to find. It's like the Internet version of the Very Serious People. I will grant that I've seen some interesting discussions at HuffPo, but they're far outnumbered by the flame wars.

And, civility? Seriously? Have they read some of the comments on Facebook?

And despite all the posturing, given Facebook's track record, the NSA will have all your information in short order.

I've seen speculation on how much Arianna Huffington got paid for this, but my question is, how much does HuffPo stand to make from the feds? Or will Zuckerberg get all the money?



I Get Tired

Going through the gay blogs every morning -- and even some of the not-gay blogs -- I get so tired of the reports on what new nonsense the AFA, FRC, NOM, and assorted anti-gay weirdos have come up with that I just can't think of anything to comment on. It's not even new lies -- they just rehash the old ones (and completely ignore the fact that they've been debunked); call up the spectre of the Soviet Union on the flimsiest of pretexts -- or none at all (the guy lost a case in open court after full due process -- "Dictatorship!!"); completely distort and misrepresent the workings of democracy (and on this one, Fischer has gone way over the edge: ascribing a law imposed by India's colonial rulers in the 19th century to the "elected representatives of the people" is a stretch, even for him)(and this one, by Brian Brown, is just as bad, if not worse -- this is complete misrepresentation for purely partisan ends) -- and on and on and on.

I just ran across this one again, and I think the headline sort of sums up the intellectual rigor of these bigots:

Tom Daley came out because his father died so Jamaica should keep its buggery law

Is it any wonder that I'm into escapism these days?

The image is from a series I did a number of years ago called "Shatter." I think that sort of sums it up.

Free Speech? Whazzat?

Very interesting article from The Guardian on the increasing momentum in our so-called "Western democracies" to curtail the right to protest -- that is to say, let's just eliminate this pesky free speech thing, OK?

It's a fairly short article, so just click through and read the whole thing. I do want to highlight this quote from South African author and Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee:

I used to think that the people who created (South Africa's) laws that effectively suspended the rule of law were moral barbarians. Now I know they were just pioneers ahead of their time.

Well, yes.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Tom Daley, Part III

This, from Michelangelo Signorile at HuffPo.

Just read it. I'm sick and can't get my thoughts together to comment, but I agree completely.

Saturday Science: Jurassic Park Redux?

A report on some surprising findings in paleontology:

The controversial discovery of 68 million-year-old soft tissue from the bones of a Tyrannosaurus rex finally has a physical explanation. According to newly published research, iron in the dinosaur's body preserved the tissue before it could decay.

The research, headed by Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State University, explains how proteins — and possibly even DNA — can survive for millennia. Schweitzer and her colleagues first raised this question in 2005, when they found the seemingly impossible: soft tissue preserved inside the leg of an adolescent T. rex unearthed in Montana.

"What we found was unusual, because it was still soft and still transparent and still flexible," Schweitzer told LiveScience.

And how is this possible? Iron.

Iron is an element present in abundance in the body, particularly in the blood, where it is part of the protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Iron is also highly reactive with other molecules, so the body keeps it locked up tight, bound to molecules that prevent it from wreaking havoc on the tissues.

After death, though, iron is let free from its cage. It forms minuscule iron nanoparticles and also generates free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules thought to be involved in aging.

"The free radicals cause proteins and cell membranes to tie in knots," Schweitzer said. "They basically act like formaldehyde."

Finding soft tissue always raises the possibility of surviving DNA, and DNA means the possibility of recreating a living organism. But before you head to your bunker to avoid an onslaught of T. rex:

Importantly, Schweitzer and her colleagues have figured out how to remove the iron from their samples, which enables them to analyze the original proteins. They've even seen chemical reactions consistent with the presence of DNA, though Schweitzer is quick to note that she and her colleagues haven't proven that DNA is actually present. Even if there is DNA, researchers would have to show that it's dinosaur DNA rather than contamination.

So don't expect any living dinosaurs anytime soon.

Speaking of T. rex, Chicago's very own Sue.

Via TPM


Friday, December 06, 2013

Image of the Week

This one, in a way, is a study in contrasts: the model was very lean and muscular -- a perfect body for photography -- and I found myself shooting a lot of "fuzzy" shots, for some reason.


From this vantage, it strikes me as a somewhat romantic image. If something this abstract can be romantic.

Don't Drink the Water, and Don't Breathe the Air

Remember that Tom Lehrer song, from the days before the Clean Air and Clean Water acts? Get ready to welcome those days back, among other things:

Back in 2011, I put my tin foil hat on and suggested that perhaps ALEC was promoting coordinated attacks on unions, schools, and health care across the nation. At the time, there was certainly a sense that they were, but no hard evidence.

Hard evidence has now arrived in the form of a revealing and rage-inducing set of documents published in The Guardian on Thursday.

Conservative groups across the US are planning a coordinated assault against public sector rights and services in the key areas of education, healthcare, income tax, workers' compensation and the environment, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

We've already seen this bunch at work in various states -- Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida are the first that come to mind -- and the longer they're able to stay under the radar, the more difficult it will be to counter them. (Why am I starting to feel like The Guardian is the only real news source left? Because we're not hearing about this from NYT or WaPo, that's for damned sure.)

John Aravosis has a similar post at AmericaBlog, although it concentrates on ALEC's historic homophobia and how major corporations are funding it.

That's it -- I'm done with reality for the day.




Celebrity News

Let's face it, we live in a world where what celebrities do is news -- even if their claim to fame is merely that they're "celebrities" of some unspecified nature. (I think you can come up with some names that fit that category.) The latest example of that is Tom Daley's "coming out" and the speculation on who his boyfriend is.

Now, this is the sort of thing I usually ignore -- there are a lot of things happening in the world that are way more important, but this one has some meat to it, starting with Daley's manner of revealing his current status -- in his own words, in his own time, and eschewing any labels or specifics. One of the few news sources I've seen that has displayed any integrity in this whole thing is Pink News, which had this to say about why they are not repeating the speculation about the lucky man:
Many reports have taken speculation about who Tom Daley is dating as gospel, and some have gone further to bring up old issues over past private issues.

Until one of the pair decide to confirm reports, and make a statement about their relationship, PinkNews will not report or speculate about it, in the same way that (after some lessons quickly learned) we would not apply a label to his sexuality.

Working in this industry it is easy to lose track of things, or make snap decisions in following a big story (trust me, I’ve had to make a few), but what this comes down to is that Tom Daley is a 19-year-old dealing with coming out, with the added pressure of attention from the world’s media.

I commend him for making the decision to publicly reveal that he is dating a man, but who that man is is only his business, unless an announcement is made.

My sentiments exactly. Otherwise, you turn into Drudge or Politico. Or Fox News. (Benghazi!!1!)

And yes, I included a picture of Daley because he is just plain cute.

It's a Trend

Luxemboug has elected its first openly gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel. Not only that, the deputy prime minister, Etienne Schneider, is also openly gay. While Iceland recently had an openly gay premier, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, and Belgium's current premier, Elio Di Rupo, is gay, it's the first time the top two slots in a government have been filled by gay men.

So, what's on his agenda?

“Gay weddings will be done soon.” Prime Minister Bettel promised. “At the moment in Luxembourg, we have to change the situation of marriage, religion and divorce laws. But I don’t think it’ll be in the next five years – it’ll be next year.”

(That's Bettel with his partner, Gauthier Destenay, in the picture.)

In Memoriam: Nelson Mandela


There are three iconic figures in the 20th century that, more than any others, embody the struggle for equality: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela.

And now Mandela is gone.

We need more like them.

Here's South African President Jacob Zuma's announcement:


Here's President Obama's statement:


And here's Rachel Maddow's segment on Mandela's legacy.


It's sobering to realize what native Africans in South Africa had to endure under apartheid.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Culture Break: String Sisters Play "Luseblus" (Update)

I first heard this song when I reviewed the String Sisters Live album from their 2005 concert in Norway. It became my immediate favorite.


One enterprising soul managed to upload the whole concert at YouTube. It's worth watching. There's some amazing music being made there.

I should have thought of this earlier: Personnel, from stage right to left (I hope I've got it right): Emma Hardelin (Sweden); Catriona MacDonald (Scotland [Shetland]); Annbjørg Lien (Norway); Liz Knowles (U.S.A.); Liz Carroll (U.S.A.); Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh (Ireland); backup is David Milligan (piano), Conrad Ivitsky (double bass) (who really gets into it), Tore Bruvoll (guitar) and James Mackintosh (drums).

Monday, December 02, 2013

Marriage News Watch, December 2, 2013

This week's update:


There's an awful lot going on lately. That's a good thing.

And Matt Baume just gets cuter.

I Don't Usually Comment on Sports Figures' Personal Revelations (Updated)

But this is different: it's Olympic diver Tom Daley, in his own words:


What interested me about this is that it's quite deliberately not a big deal. As he says:
People are going to have their own opinions and I think people are going to make a big deal over this. Is it a big deal? I don’t think so. I wanted to say something and I wanted to do it.

We're getting closer and closer, I think, to the time when a celebrity normally handles the whole thing in this way -- "Oh, by the way, that 'special someone' is another man."

And then, shortly thereafter, the time when they don't need to bother.

Update: Two points: I've edited the headline and the post to avoid the "coming out" thing: it's too easily read as "coming out as gay" and that's not what Daley is doing. I like the way he's avoided labels.

And point two, on that score, there are several discussions at various blogs that have posted on this story on that very topic that are pretty interesting -- see this one at AmericaBlog.

And point three -- right, there are three points -- there's also a lot of speculation about whether Daley is bi or is just using that as a stepping stone to coming out eventually as gay. I think that's pointless. What he's talking about is a specific relationship in terms that sound as though it's the first serious relationship in his life (and at 19, that's entirely possible). There are too many men, including yours truly, who have gone the stepping-stone route to discount the idea (remember, we are all raised with "straight" as the default cultural norm), but that doesn't mean that Daley is following the same pattern. I'm perfectly content to let him be what he is, with the full realization that what we are is not carved in stone.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

World AIDS Day

Is today. There are comments an observances all over the Internet, but I wanted to bring this one to your attention:

In time for World AIDS Day on Sunday, Dec. 1, one of the world's largest collections of AIDS posters is now complete and available online, marking the culmination of a multiyear project launched in 2011 during the 30th anniversary year of the identification of HIV/AIDS. Thanks to catalogers at the University of Rochester, more than 6,200 posters from 124 countries in 68 languages and dialects can be viewed by anyone.

The posters were donated to the University's Department of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation by retired physician Dr. Edward C. Atwater, M.D., '50, an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Atwater, who began collecting the posters in 1990, donated the artwork with the stipulation that it be digitized so the public could view the collection in its entirety. "My hope is to show people the responses from various societies to a deadly disease. Looked at chronologically, the AIDS posters show how social, religious, civic, and public health agencies tailored their message to different groups," said Atwater, 87, who lives in Rochester, N.Y.

The posters provide a visual history of the first three decades of the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1981 to the present. Depending on their audience, creators of the posters used stereotypes, scare tactics, provocative language, imagery, and even humor to educate the public about the disease. Selections of the posters were previously on exhibit at colleges, high schools, public libraries, and museums such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The collection can be viewed here, but you'll have to put in some search criteria.

Via Joe.My.God.

Reviews in Brief: Nickelback’s “Here and Now”

I did a full-length review of Nickelback’s Here and Now when I first got it, over at Epinions, but I’ve been listening to it a lot recently, and, as they say in the song (someone else’s song), I can see clearly now. You can get a track-by-track first-impressions take from the Epinions review, but as for my further thoughts:

Nickelback’s albums fall into a distinct pattern – there’s the loud, obnoxious rock’n’roll opener (in this case, “This Means War”), there will be the party song (“Bottoms Up”), the social justice song (“When We Stand Together”), and probably a song to establish their heterosexual stud bona fides – in this case, “Midnight Queen” and “Everything I Wanna Do,” and usually one quasi-satirical song about the rock-star business (“Kiss It Goodbye”). What’s different on this collection is the somewhat rougher edge, the darker tone to most of these songs.

What caught me on this one, as it does on most of their albums, are the love songs – “Trying Not To Love You,” “Holding On To Heaven,” "Don't Ever Let It End," and, in a way, “Lullaby.” Nickelback comes up with these sometimes back-handed love songs that are perfectly tailored to front man Chad Kroeger’s voice – he puts all that raw yearning into these songs, and that makes them work.

This one’s a bit more polished than previous albums, not quite so much as Dark Horse, but all the better for it. There’s a couple of earworms here. It may very well be their best release so far.

This is a really stupid video for this song, but it's the "official" video, so that's what you get. You're getting it because the song has been my morning earworm for about a week now.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Joke du Jour (Update, Update II)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, as quoted at Joe.My.God.:

"We've been caricatured as being anti-gay," Dolan said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. "And as much as we'd say, 'Wait a minute, we're pro marriage, we're pro traditional marriage, we're not anti anybody,' I don't know. "When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it's a tough battle," he said. The legal battle over same-sex marriage has moved to states, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down a tenet of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. "I think I'd be a Pollyanna to say that there doesn't seem to be kind of a stampede to do this," Dolan told David Gregory of Meet the Press. "I regret that. I wish that were not the case for the states."

"Caricatured"? Is he serious? This from one of the most stridently anti-gay voices in the public sphere -- who, incidentally, did his share to cover up child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and to shield the Church's money from the victims' awards for reparations.

If the hierarchy really wonders why the Church is losing adherents, they need look no farther than Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose moral compass seems to be pointing due South.

Update:
And if the good Cardinal wants to know why the Church is seen as homophobic, he might want to consult with one of his colleagues from Malta:

Malta’s Auxiliary Bishop has spoken out to express his displeasure at the lack of a clear difference between marriage and civil partnerships in the debate around civil partnerships for same-sex couples in Malta, saying that gay people do “not produce offspring” so do “not have a role in society”.

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna made the comments on PBS’s Dissett, during an interview with the PBS Head of News Reno Bugeja.

“While the sexual activity of heterosexual couples has a fundamental role in producing future members of the society, that of same-sex couples does not have a role in society as it does not produce offspring,” he said.

The more I look at that statement, the more mind-numbingly stupid it appears. What ever gave the bishop that anyone's sex life has anything to do with "society"? I'll continue to keep mine private, thank you.

(Update II:)
A number of the commenters on this story have pointed out that, if he's following the rules, the bishop has not procreated either, and thus has no place in society.





Science Saturday: Gamma Rays

This is an interesting story, if a little esoteric.

An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.


Now, I don't know if you're interested in astrophysics or not (outside the version that's operating in Thor: The Dark World), but there's one thing in that paragraph that ought to make you think: the star that exploded is 3.8 billion light-years away, which means that explosion actually happened 3.8 billion years ago. That's about the time that life arose on Earth.

And we're just now seeing it.

If that doesn't make you stop and think, I give up.

Christian Science Monitor, via Raw Story.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Image of the Week

I'm changing the title on this one, since I only do it once a week.

This one may not be safe for work.


This was actually shot in black-and-white. I like to play around with Photoshop sometimes.