"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, January 31, 2014

Image of the Week

"Boy With a Camera": That's one of the gallery pages on my website (which as been inactive for so long that I can't even get into it to revise or add things anymore -- the host no longer supports it). The core is what artists fall back on when they have no other subjects -- themselves.

It started way back when. This one's from 1977:

There are others, although they don't actually fit under "self-portraits." From 1991:

You can see my penchant for abstraction coming out.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don't always take myself all that seriously. From 1993:

And here's one of my favorites, from 1994:

I left off pretty much at that point. Maybe it's something I should pick up again -- but I'm going to have to work out for six months first.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

This Is Too Good To Let Pass

It's nice to know that we here in the good ol' US of A don't have a monopoly on religious freaks. The idiocy can be found in the UK as well. This story is from a couple of weeks ago. From David Silvester, a councillor in Britain's far-right UK Independence Party:

The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.

I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same sex marriage Bill.

But he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party saying that he should not do so.

Now, even as Cameron sheds crocodile tears on behalf of destitute flooded homeowners, playing at advocate against the very local councils he has made cash-strapped, it is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods.

Well, that had to get a reaction, so sure enough, someone started a Facebook campaign which as of now is approaching 15,000 "likes" while sales of the song have put it within forty sales of breaking into the top 20.

So, in honor of David Silvester and screwballs everywhere, let us present The Weather Girls:

(By the way, that song was one of the first on my YouTube favorites list.)

An Antidote

to the last post. Somebody doesn't think the "polar vortex" is all bad:

Via Digby.

Idiot du Jour

Out of commission for a couple of days, but I'm back with this choice bit, courtesy of Rachel Maddow: none other than Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Conspiracy Theory) trying to justify his tweets during the president's State of the Union address:

All talking points, all the time. The man is a buffoon.

David Badash has the tweets at The New Civil Rights Movement. They're indescribable. And scroll down to see some of the reactions.

A footnote: Jed Lewison at DailyKos has a list of those points in the president's speech that elicited a less than enthusiastic response from the Republicans. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Culture Break: Morton Feldman's "The King of Denmark"

This is a new Feldman piece for me, performed by Shawn Savageau -- a veritable one-man band.

As I say, this is a new one for me, so I have no idea what the title refers to -- Claudius? (As in, Hamlet.) There was a sixteenth-century (or seventeenth, I forget) King of Denmark, Frederik, I think, who was a great patron of musicians. Maybe it's him.

Although frankly, the music sounds more Shakespearean, in a way.

You might want to check out Savageau's channel at YouTube. He's got some interesting things.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Marriage News Watch, January 27, 2014

Viginia is the big news this week, and heightened scrutiny:

Today In Disgusting People

Wouldn't you know, it's the head of a major pharmaceuticals company:

Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers
In 2005, the FDA granted approval for a promising new cancer-fighting drug called Nexavar. Bayer took it to market shortly thereafter, and it is currently an approved treatment for late-stage kidney and liver cancer.

That is, so long as you live in the developed world. In a recently published interview in Bloomberg Businessweek, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said that his company’s drug isn’t for poor people.

“We did not develop this medicine for Indians…we developed it for western patients who can afford it,” he said back in December. The quote is quickly making its way across Indian news outlets.

And such a good head for positive PR, too.

It seems that India has what's called a "compulsory license":

Under Indian patent laws, if a product is not available locally at a reasonable cost, other companies may apply for licenses to reproduce those products at a more affordable price. Nexavar costs an estimated $69,000 for a full year of treatment in India, 41 times the country’s annual per capita income.

In 2012, Indian pharmaceutical company Natco Pharma Ltd. applied for just such a license, and it was granted. The company began reproducing the drug at a 97 percent discount, offering it for just $177.

We should have a system like that.

By the way, how much do you suppose Dekker's makes a year?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reviews in Brief: Kenneth Branagh’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”

I know, that’s a really dumb title. I wound up seeing this recently because I was having a severe attack of cabin fever and it was the least objectionable thing playing. (Sorry, no – with a high of 11 degrees and gusty winds, a walk in the park was not an option.)

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is a graduate student in economics, almost done with his PhD, on 9/11. Eighteen months later, his helicopter is shot down in Afghanistan. He manages to rescue his two team mates, but not without severe damage to his spinal column. His physical therapist, Cathy Muller (Keira Knightly), pushes him mercilessly to walk again without crutches. Maybe that’s why she becomes his steady girlfriend. Then he’s approached by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), his one-time mentor, who reveals that he is also working for the CIA. It’s back to school for Jack, and then a job with a very high power financial firm with clients all over the world, including a large number in Russia – all of whom are holding American securities and currency, and too many of whose files Jack can’t get into. It’s starting to shape up as an attempt to destroy the American economy in concert with a terrorist attack. It’s off to Russia for Jack, to conduct an audit. Things start to go down the toilet when Jack’s “bodyguard” tries to kill him.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this one, but the combination of Pine, Costner, and Branagh – who not only directed, but appears as Viktor Cherevin, Jack’s contact in Moscow -- was enough to give it an edge. I was quite pleasantly surprised.

It’s a very tight film that moves at a good brisk pace – and the actions scenes were perfectly place and perfectly executed. The tension this film generates, as Jack is trying to crack the files and find out when and where the attack is going to happen, is amazing – I was on the edge of my seat, almost literally. (And given theater seats these days, that’s saying something.)

The cast, as might be expected, is perfect. I can’t fault anyone on anything.

(Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions, 2014) PG-13, 105 minutes. Full credits at IMDb.

It's the Real Thing

The corporate sponsors of the Sochi Olympics haven't been, shall we say, overly concerned with the Soviet -- oops, with Russia's anti-gay campaign. Coca-Cola is really making a name for itself right now -- and it doesn't look like it's a good name. They, along with other corporate sponsors of the Sochi Olympics, are basically taking the IOC's stance of "Don't rock the boat. There's too much money involved for human rights to be a factor." They've been only too happy to buy into Putin's "assurances" as long as it gives them an out, even to the point of defending the arrest of protestors. If you saw the recent interview he gave on ABC, it's obvious he's lying through his teeth.

So far it's been more a matter of what they haven't done than anything they have -- until now. From AmericaBlog:
It seems that Coke’s social media campaign, “Share a Coke,” is only designed for heterosexuals.

The site, which permits Coke fans to enter their name (or a message) on a virtual can of Coke, bans the word “gay.” It does not, however, ban the word straight.

When you type in the word “gay,” here’s the message that Coke gives you:

“Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that.”

Yes, wouldn’t Coke like to pretend that the gay didn’t exist at all, considering the backlash Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and other Olympics sponsors have been facing over their refusal to speak out against increasing Russian human rights violations. McDonald’s, for example, just saw gay rights advocates, led by Queer Nation NY, steal and neutralize its new “Cheers to Sochi” Twitter hashtag.
(Ed.: That's the image that leads off this post.)

It's not only censoring the word "gay," it's the truly offensive "error" message -- "Let's pretend you didn't type that"? WTF?

It's Coke's ham-handed reactions that are giving it a place of honor in the rogues' gallery of corporate sponsors of the Homophobic Olympcis. Queer Nation, which has been in the forefront of the protests, made this video, which I think speaks for itself:

One wonders what Coke will come up with next.

(PS: Click through and read the comments, or at least skim them, at the AmericaBlog story. People are getting very creative with the virtual Coke cans.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Science: "Long, Long Ago

in a galaxy far away. . . ."

Hubble Frontier Field Abell 2744
Source: Hubblesite.org

How long? Maybe 12 billion years. Not long after the Big Bang. And how far away? I have no idea. But it's quite a distance. The image is from the Hubble Space Telescope, and uses gravity as a lense to magnify very faint, very distant galaxies.

"The Frontier Fields is an experiment; can we use Hubble's exquisite image quality and Einstein's theory of General Relativity to search for the first galaxies?" said Space Telescope Science Institute Director Matt Mountain. "With the other Great Observatories, we are undertaking an ambitious joint program to use galaxy clusters to explore the first billion years of the universe's history."

Simultaneous observations of this field are being done with NASA's two other Great Observatories, the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The assembly of all this multispectral information is expected to provide new insights into the origin and evolution of galaxies and their accompanying black holes.

Somehow, I find it hard to think of myself as the center of the universe.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Image of the Week

I'm fascinated by fragmentary images, mosaics, collages, and the kinds of associations you can build by combining things. I've done a fair amount with building "mosaic" images. Some are very simple and straightforward:

(I've done a lot more with this technique, including large-scale landscapes, but for some reason, those files are not in the computer. Eventually.)

Other images make use of some of the technical resources available:

This one's actually a variation on the "Shatter" series that I started with a Polaroid. It graduated to Photoshop. (Hmm -- haven't looked at these for a while -- I'll have to explore this a little more.)

And sometimes I go into full collage mode, with connections that aren't on the surface:

Hmm -- looking back over these images, I'm starting to be glad it's winter -- it'll be easier to spend time with the scanner and Photoshop, playing. Who knows what I'll come up with next?

An Apology

from a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage, Rev. Benjamin L. Corey, at Patheos:

Prior to my paradigm shift circa 2009, I was a major opponent of marriage equality. One of my go-to lines when asked why, was always the catch-all phrase “because it will hurt the sanctity of marriage”.

I was convinced that in some direct way, same sex marriage would harm mine. If, for no other reason, than Fox New said it, I believed it, and that settled it.

Seriously, I believed that– and said it often– even though I was previously divorced, and let’s admit: there’s no sanctity in divorce.

This year as I approach seven years of marriage and look back on all that we’ve experienced, I realized that we’ve spent our entire marriage living in states that have legally passed marriage equality. Same sex marriages have been happening around us the entire time, and it made me realize:

Your same sex marriage hasn’t affected the sanctity of mine.

Not even a little. The fact that I’ve lived in states where my LGBT friends and neighbors are treated equal in the eyes of the law has not in the smallest way, done anything to harm the “sanctity” of my marriage.
(Emphasis in original.)

It goes on, to point out who is really hurting the "sanctity" of marriage (sorry, but I have trouble taking the sanctity part seriously -- it's a secular institution, and as far as we know, always has been -- priests have pretty much been optional).

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Oh, and on the other side of the coin, we have Phyllis Schlafly:
On her latest radio commentary, right wing blowhard Phyllis Schlafly made the baseless claim that there is an ongoing exodus of anti-gay Americans away from marriage equality states because of pro-LGBT laws.

Said Schlafly:

“…many Americans are dissenting with their feet, by moving away from same-sex marriage states and into the many states that continue to recognize the value of marriage as being between only one man and one woman.”

Don't bother looking for any statistics on this -- Schlafly's making it up.

And one wonders where those poor people are going to go when the Supreme Court finally gets around to knocking down anti-marriage laws nation-wide? Nigeria? Uganda?

Virginia Next?

Elections do make a difference. From Raw Story:

Virginia’s newly-elected Attorney General, Mark R. Herring, announced that will not defend the state’s ban on marriage equality, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

“The Supreme Court is clear: The United States Constitution is the law of the land, the supreme law of the land,” Herring said at a press conference. “I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right, and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and the right side of the law.”

Herring signaled the new direction for the attorney general’s office in a brief supporting the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the law, which stated that his office found that it ran afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment.

You'll remember that Virginia's previous AG, Ken Cuccinelli, was not only ready to defend the marriage ban to the death, but repeatedly tried to reinstate Virginia's sodomy law, which was found unconstitutional.

This is the case that Ted Olson and David Boies have joined for AFER.

As might be expected, the usual suspects are up in arms. Cue the misrepresentations:

From Brian Brown:
The Attorney General swore an oath that he would 'support...the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia' and faithfully discharge his duties, which include defending duly enacted laws like the state's marriage amendment. Yet now Attorney General Herring is participating in a lawsuit against the very people he is sworn to represent, the citizens of Virginia who preserved marriage in their constitution. This malfeasance and neglect of duty is not only a disgrace, it's an impeachable offense under the constitution. Section 17 of the Virginia state constitution provides that the Attorney General may be impeached for 'malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty or other high crime or misdemeanor.'

In the real world, Herring swore to uphold both the Virginia and federal constitutions. Both promise equal treatment under the law, and the federal Constitution supercedes anything in any state constitution. And no, refusing to defend an unconstitutional law is not an impeachable offense.

And from Tony Perkins:

This week, the new attorney general announced his intentions to fight the constitutional amendment -- by not enforcing it. Of course, the irony is, if there weren't laws to defend, there'd be no reason to have an attorney general in the first place! If Mark Herring wanted to write legislation, he should have stayed in the state Senate. Instead, he's decided not only to ignore his responsibilities but trample on the people who gave them to him.

And once again, in the real world, Herring is enforcing the law. He's just not defending it in court, which he is not required to do.

And just for fun, in case you, like I, don't watch Fox News, here's what passes for "analysis" in this issue:

And here's the result of a real poll on the question.

And that's just from the states that do not have marriage equality. Yet.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Culture Break: Mark Doty Reads "Brian, Age 7"

Mark Doty is one of my favorite poets -- there's something almost crystalline about his best work, rich, multifaceted, throwing the world back at us taken apart and rearranged so we can see the parts we never knew were there. Unfortunately, like so many poets, he's not very good at reading his own work, but I thought it was worth getting it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

I'm presently wading through The Art of Description, a nonfiction work in which Doty discusses how poets make it happen (that's the closest I can come to a summation -- it reads like his poetry.) A friend recommended it; he's a curator at the Illinois State Museum and had just done a show based on the book (which was a pretty interesting show, although it was sobering to realize that I had known, at one point or another, half of the artists.) It's not a hefty tome, by any means -- it's quite slim, and small. I'm just not patient with reading these days.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Marriage News Watch, January 20, 2014

Lots going on:


Catching up on this one. First, Putin gives an interview -- he seems to be on a damage control tour in advance of the Sochi Olympics next month. This is key:
Acts of protest and acts of propaganda are somewhat different things. They are close, but if we were to look at them from the legal perspective, then protesting a law does not amount to propaganda of sexuality or sexual abuse of children. That's one. Two is that I'd like to ask our colleagues, my colleagues and friends, that as they try to criticize us, they would do well to set their own house in order first. I did say, after all, and this is public knowledge, that in some of the states in the U.S., homosexuality remains a felony.

That last bit, of course, is not true: several states still have sodomy laws on the books, but they are unenforceable under the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas and don't think Putin doesn't know that. That's known as a diversion.

This is the tone of Putin's defense:

“Moreover, individuals of non-traditional orientation cannot feel like second-rate humans in this country because they are not discriminated against in any way,” a preposterous claim. “It has nothing to do with persecuting people for their non-traditional orientation,” Putin added. “My personal position is that society must keep children safe.”

"Save the Chiiildren!" Where have we heard that before?

Oh, and about the "acts of protest and acts of propaganda" bullshit:

Official Olympics representatives tackled a gay protester in Voronezh, Russia today for the “crime” of simply holding a rainbow flag as the Olympic flame went by.

UPDATE: AP confirms that it was “Olympic security personnel” in the photos.

Gay rights protester Pavel Lebedev was jumped on by agents of the Olympics, who were wearing an official Olympics uniform, with the Olympics rings on it and all, for holding up a rainbow flag along the road as the torchbearer went by.

Towleroad also has a story on this incident, which says that the protester was arrested by Russian police:

According to a post by Straight Alliance for LGBT Equality on the Russian social network VK, a protester was arrested in the Russian town of Voronezh as the Olympic torchbearer made his way through the city.

According to the report, police arrested Pavel Lebedev, who ran into the road with a rainbow flag. Lebedev was taken to the police station "to clarify the circumstances of the incident."

Here's a video of the Putin interview:

My own guess is that Putin's setting it up so he can keep his hands clean, but there will be arrests and incidents, and quite possibly violence, around the Sochi Games. Theres' already been an increase in anti-gay violence in Russia, and you can bet the government is turning a blind eye.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reviews in Brief: Harry Partch’s “Delusion of the Fury”

It hardly seems fair to do a brief review of Harry Partch’s Delusion of the Fury, so rather than calling it a review, I’m just going to make it a heads up, in the hope it’s something you’ll want to check out. It’s a theatrical piece – some have called it a “play,” but that doesn’t really fit. It’s dramatic, yes, but it’s more like a circus than anything else I can think of – motion, sound, spectacle, all in one package.

The music itself is Partch’s own microtonal composition, played on instruments of his own design and manufacture. It is, to put it bluntly, more than a little otherworldly, but I think that’s the point. It’s highly percussive, and not what we normally think of as melodic, although there are certainly melodies that thread their way through the piece. It’s very hard to describe. If you happen to be watching the performance, it’s totally absorbing. If you’re just listening (which I happen to be doing right now), it’s also totally absorbing, but in a very different way. You can just let your imagination wander through this music, but you will be guided, more or less: there are images here, although I can’t quite pin them down as references – I did say “otherworldly,” and I think that’s the best characterization I can come up with.

I do remember, years ago, seeing Partch and his ensemble in performance. It was quite an experience – something I suspect that would be closer to a medieval festival than anything else I can think of. There was that sort of ad hoc quality to it, although you know the performers had been thoroughly rehearsed. The instruments themselves became part stage set, part props, and part actors in their own right.

Jut to give you some of the flavor, here’s the opening, “Exordium.”

You can find the whole thing on YouTube.

(A footnote: yes, the title does have a specific meaning in relation to the work itself: it’s about anger and reconciliation.)

Transparency (Update, Update II)

I'm starting to wonder if we ever had any, at least as far as the government is concerned. Somehow, the revelations of the activities of the NSA -- their scope and the almost complete lack of any meaningful oversight -- didn't really surprise me all that much. (I start to wonder how, in light of all that we've learned over the years about enemies lists, the cozy relationships of lobbyists and legislators, the activities of the Kochs and Adelsons -- not to mention their major tool, ALEC, I can still have any faith in the basic decency of human beings. But I do. I've always been like that.)

The president's speech on the NSA, to be quite honest, strikes me as more cosmetic than substantive. I do welcome the idea of increased transparency in the FISA court's activities (and in the area of the courts and secrecy, see this article by David Kurtz at TPM -- fascinating), but I think I'll withhold judgment until I see it in action.

As for the whole idea of having third parties serve as repositories for the data that NSA mines, are you kidding me? We don't have enough collusion between government and business as it is? What accountability are these "third parties" going to have, and to whom? And as for security, let me put it this way: would you want Microsoft responsible for the security of your personal information?

Update: In case you think I'm too cynical about the government and the religion of "secrets," see this post from Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice. The money quote:

… Twelve years after 9/11, who exactly is the U.S. at war with?

When I contacted the Pentagon to get an answer, a spokeswoman emailed back: “The list is classified and not for public release.”…

Update II: Here's a nice summary of the reactions to the president's speech, most of which I agree with. I think my favorite, though, is from Gawker:

"NSA Surveillance Is Awesome and Also Awful and Um... Yeah. USA!"

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Science: The Buddha is 200 Years Older Than We Thought

This is a fun story:

The two archaeologists had a hunch that the Buddha’s birthplace in southern Nepal held secrets that could transform how the world understood the emergence and spread of Buddhism.

Their pursuit would eventually see them excavate the sacred site of Lumbini as monks prayed nearby, leading to the stunning claim that the Buddha was born in the sixth century BC, two centuries earlier than thought.

The part I found particularly interesting is this:
Prior to this discovery, most scholars said that the Buddha — who renounced material wealth to embrace and preach a life of non-attachment — lived during the fourth century BC, founding a religion that now counts 500 million followers.

Buddhists in Nepal and Sri Lanka, however, have always believed that the sage was born around 623 BC, a date that now seems more accurate.

You can't discount oral traditions. Yes, they get altered over time, sometimes deliberately, but they are, after all, the original way we transmitted our history from one generation to the next.

A short intro to the project:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Image of the Week

"Flashlights" was a series I started in 1993, which, as its name implies, were photos taken with lighting by flashlight. I started the series using my Polaroid Spectra System camera, which was ideal:

I did do some with my 35 mm in black and white, but I'm still not sure how much I like them.

That's another group of negatives I have to review. We'll see what I come up with.

Remember Sally Kern?

The wingnut Oklahoma lawmaker (and I use the term loosely) who is noted for vociferous stupidity? As might be expected in the wake of a decision by a federal judge finding Oklahoma's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, she's back, and in rare form. Just a sample:

“Homosexuality is not a civil right. It’s a human wrong!” she told KOTV.

“Homosexuals are saying this is who we are, this is how we’re born,” Kern added. “You tell a lie long enough, people start to believe it.”

Well, she oughta know.

I'm perennially amazed at people who are so completely impervious to reality. As I pointed out in a comment on another article, I've finally figured out that, for those who believe being gay is a choice, it's not a matter of sexual orientation in general being a choice -- to them, being straight is the default position: that's how everyone is born. Anything else is a choice.

That way of thinking not only defies reality, it defies common sense -- to use a term beloved of the right.

I'm just surprised no one they interviewed objected to having same-sex marriage shoved down their throats -- to use another phrase beloved of the right.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Culture Break: Kodo, "Dadan"

Kodo is one of the more exciting groups I've ever seen in performance. This will give you an idea why:

I reviewed both their last album, Akatsuki, and their last appearance in Chicago in 2011 on their "One Earth" tour, at Sleeping Hedgehog.


Another one bites the dust.

Senior U.S. Federal District Judge Terence C. Kern has struck down the amendment to Oklahoma’s constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, saying that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause. But unlike in Utah, Oklahoma’s same-sex couples won’t be rushing to marry anytime soon, as Judge Kern has stayed his ruling pending an appeal.

Fortunately, Jim Burroway has an excellent discussion of the ruling at the link, so I don't have to do any heavy analysis, but I do want to note that Judge Kern hit a couple of key points head-on:

This Court has gleaned and will apply two principles from Windsor. First, a state law defining marriage is not an “unusual deviation” from the state/federal balance, such that its mere existence provides “strong evidence” of improper purpose. A state definition must be approached differently, and with more caution, than the Supreme Court approached DOMA. Second, courts reviewing marriage regulations, by either the state or federal government, must be wary of whether “defending” traditional marriage is a guise for impermissible discrimination against same-sex couples. These two principles are not contradictory, but they happen to help different sides of the same-sex marriage debate.


The state, of course, is appealing the decision -- and unlike Utah, they managed to do it right.

Here's the full decision. I do recommend that you read it -- Judge Kern is thorough, detailed, and remorseless in demolishing the state's "arguments."

Needless to say, the governor of Oklahama, Mary Fallin (who by all accounts is real piece of work*) has responded with predictable outrage:
In 2004, the people of Oklahoma voted to amend the state's constitution to define marriage as ‘the union of one man and one woman.’ That amendment passed with 75 percent support.

The people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue. I support the right of Oklahoma's voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters. I am disappointed in the judge's ruling and troubled that the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government.

She obviously didn't bother to read the opinion, which states quite clearly:
Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions. Therefore, the majority view in Oklahoma must give way to individual constitutional rights. The Bishop couple has been in a loving, committed relationships for many years. They own property together, wish to retire together, wish to make medical decisions for one another, and wish to be recognized as a married couple with all its attendant rights and responsibilities. Part A of the Oklahoma Constitutional Amendment excludes the Bishop couple, and all otherwise eligible same-sex couples, from this privilege without a legally sufficient justification.

Emphasis added, for the Governor's benefit.

* This is from commenter Jodene at the BTB post:

Our governor had previously first refused to accept applications for benefits by same sex Guard couples. When that was found to be discriminatory she briefly just stopped accepting applications from any Guard member. In a state that is heavily military, that didn’t last. She was forced to obey federal law.

The current joke is she will soon refuse to have any marriages in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tell Me Again

about how marriage between one man and one woman is the ideal. From a new study:
“LGBQ participants (lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer) are more generally positive about and happier with the quality of their relationship and the relationship which they have with their partner,” the study, which comes out today, finds.

“Heterosexual parents are the group least likely to be there for each other, to make ‘couple time’, to pursue shared interests, to say ‘I love you’ and to talk openly to one another.”

Oh, but wait, I forgot -- marriage is not about being happy together, it's about children.
Children who are raised in households with same-sex parents are more likely to lead healthier lives, according to preliminary findings of a new study. Australian researchers at the University of Melbourne found that children of gay parents not only are healthier overall, but also are more likely to get along with the rest of their family unit.

Conducted by Simon R. Crouch, Elizabeth Water, Ruth McNair, Jennifer Power and Elise Davis, the study looked at data on 500 Australian children below the age of 18. Among their findings, researchers concluded that factors such as self-esteem, emotional behavior and time spent with parents does not vary between children of same-sex and heterosexual couples. However, researchers did find a high level of health and family cohesion in children of gay and lesbian couples.

Classy Exit

Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia, who also lost his bid for governor, left office in a manner that was eminently true to character:

Just hours before leaving office, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) issued an opinion that appears intended to entrench his own anti-gay policy preferences while he could still speak as his state’s top legal officer. Cuccinelli, who once claimed that the “homosexual agenda… brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul,” lost his bid for Virginia governor to recently inaugurated Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

Cuccinelli’s non-binding opinion, which is dated January 10, 2014, concludes that “a Governor may not direct or require any agency of state government to allow same-sex couples to receive joint marital status for Virginia income tax returns.” Cuccinelli’s successor, Democrat Mark Herring, was sworn in January 11.

The problem is that Virginia state law requires that those filing state tax returns do so in conformity with their filing status on their federal returns. And under current policies, married couples, gay or straight, can file jointly.

Good luck making that opinion stick, AG -- oh, pardon me, that's former AG Cuccinelli.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Marriage News Watch, January 13, 2104

For some reason, Matt Baume is even more appealing today.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Worst Crisis in American History!!1!

At least, according to Brian Brown, who sees his paycheck vanishing:

All the buzzwords in one screed.

And just reading through, it's really 85% BS and 15% filler. ("Just imagine all the horrible things that might happen, maybe, someday, in a universe far away. I can imagine them -- why can't you?") And noting the catalogue of horrors perpetrated on god-fearing "Christians" under gay marriage -- oh, wait: most of those cases happened in states where same-sex marriage isn't legal. Those people were in violation of existing anti-discrimination laws. I guess the take-away is that "Christians" are above the law. Of course, that's a pillar of certain brands of the religion: there's no impetus to live a decent life and behave kindly and generously to your fellows, because, no matter what kind of creep you've been, Jesus will forgive you.

And as for Pappy Duck -- please. That train left the station ages ago.

The problem with being a one-trick pony is that if your one trick doesn't work, you're screwed.

(I like ponies, and if I had a one-trick pony, I would make sure it knew I loved it just as much as the ponies that knew two tricks. But then, ponies don't make their living hating people.)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Science: About Those Extra Pounds

The earth may be heavier than we thought, because of dark matter. Maybe.

There may be a giant ring of dark matter invisibly encircling the Earth, increasing its mass and pulling much harder on orbiting satellites than anything invisible should pull, according to preliminary research from a scientist specializing the physics of GPS signaling and satellite engineering.

The dark-matter belt around the Earth could represent the beginning of a radically new understanding of how dark matter works and how it affects the human universe, or it could be something perfectly valid but less exciting despite having been written up by New Scientist and spreading to the rest of the geek universe on the basis of a single oral presentation of preliminary research at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in December.

This is all still very iffy -- dark matter as a concept is relatively new, and was actually invented to explain anomalies between the universe's actual rate of expansion against what our calculations show it should be.

Dark matter – invisible and so-far almost undetectable – was invented to try to explain why the universe does seem to be expanding from a single point as Big Bang theory predicts, but not nearly as fast as it should.

Galaxies, stars and other matter should only crawl away from each other at the speeds we see if there were a lot more gravity holding them back than there would be if the matter we could see were all the matter in the universe.

Making the math work – getting it to agree with what the universe had already decided to do – meant bumping up the guesstimated weight of the universe by 80 percent, with nothing to explain what all that mass actually was. Dark matter is widely accepted as real among physicists, but is still more a mystery filler substance than an actual, explainable phenomenon.

The actual numbers are, to a layman, miniscule, but to a physicist, they're significant. As for dark matter itself, it helps if you think of it as loose neutrinos and such that aren't coalescing into anything really detectable (except, as in this case, by inference).

So, if those holiday treats took up residence around your waistline, just blame it on dark matter.

I was going to post a picture to go with this, but the thing is, you can't see the stuff.

Hah! Found one, and another article on dark matter.


I'm realizing I need to do some updating, etc. around here. I'll probably get to it fairly soon -- I'm getting into that sort of ticky, anal, detail-oriented frame of mind that makes it easy to do that. So look for some changes here over the coming weeks.

Interesting (Update, Update II)

This statement from the LDS Church on the situation in Utah right now sort of jumped out at me:

On Friday, the Mormon church issued another statement that explained its beliefs on gay marriage.

"Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established," the statement said. "God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife."

Leaders said they and others who oppose same-sex marriages are entitled to express their views without fear of retribution. Likewise, the church urged its members to be kind and respectful to proponents of same-sex marriage.

The reason I found this interesting may not be obvious: it's the first time that I can remember that a religious denomination has actually admitted that civil law and church doctrine are separate things. The LDS Church has been skirting the whole thing since Shelby handed down his decision. My own surmise is that, given that the LDS Church is a very secretive organization, they don't really want any more attention after the blowback from the Prop 8 debacle. Unfortunately, since this is happening in Utah, they have to say something, but they seem to be working very hard at keeping a low profile.

It's from this story about the Justice Department's announcement that it will recognize those marriages celebrated in Utah before the Supreme Court granted a stay on Judge Shelby's ruling. Here's the video of AG Holder's announcement:

And a transcript, courtesy of The New Civil Rights Movement:

“Last June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision – in United States v. Windsor – holding that Americans in same-sex marriages are entitled to equal protection and equal treatment under the law. This ruling marked a historic step toward equality for all American families. And since the day it was handed down, the Department of Justice has been working tirelessly to implement it in both letter and spirit—moving to extend—federal benefits to married same-sex couples as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

Recently, an administrative step by the Court has cast doubt on same-sex marriages that have been performed in the state of Utah. And the governor has announced that the state will not recognize these marriages pending additional Court action.

In the meantime, I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages. These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds. In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled – regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages. And we will continue to provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”

This is pretty much a no-brainer, but get a load of Brian Brown's reaction:

It is outrageous that the Justice Department would move so brazenly and publicly to undermine Utah's standing constitutional provision regulating marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is the right of states to determine marriage, and the voters and legislature of Utah have done just that. Their right to do so is encoded in the U.S. Constitution, and was explicitly upheld by the Supreme Court this summer in the Windsor decision. But with this move, the Department of Justice under this Administration signals that it simply has no regard for the Constitution and the rule of law. The Justice Department's edict today expressly contradicts the determination of Utah's Governor and Attorney General, and represents one of the most significant overreaches of federal authority imaginable. Furthermore, Attorney General Eric Holder is now doing the very thing that the Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States held the federal government could not do - use a definition of marriage for federal law purposes that did not respect the policy choices made by the individual states. This determination should be reversed if the State of Utah's sovereignty-or really any state's-is to be upheld and respected.

Via Joe.My.God.

Yeah, I know -- yadda yadda outrageous yadda yadda no regard for the Constitution yadda yadda flying spittle yadda yadda (hmm -- he forgot "lawless"). . . . But this is the fun part:

Furthermore, Attorney General Eric Holder is now doing the very thing that the Supreme Court in Windsor v. United States held the federal government could not do - use a definition of marriage for federal law purposes that did not respect the policy choices made by the individual states.

A multiple choice quiz:

1) Brown hasn't read the decision in Windsor

2) Brown doesn't care what the decision actually says because it conflicts with his agenda.

3) All of the above.

Brown is taking the somewhat singular position that the states get to dictate federal policy. That's not what the Court said. The Court said that the government cannot treat the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples differently than those of straight couples for purposes of federal benefits. So DoJ is following the Court's instructions.

Damned activist judges.

A footnote: In case you haven't seen anything about the State of Utah's decision not to recognize those marriages performed in the window between decision and stay, here's the story from Fox's local affiliate. This, from the newly christened AG, Sean Reyes, is, in light of Brown's outburst, very funny:

“I want to be clear that we are not saying those marriages are invalid,” Reyes said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. “However, as a state we cannot recognize those marriages.”

Reyes insisted that by refusing to recognize the marriages, the state was not effectively invalidating the unions by pointing to other states that recognize same-sex marriages.

“It’s not invalidating it in the same way that if they went to Hawaii, they could potentially apply for benefits there based on the marriage that took place. They can’t be recognized (here),” he said. “There is a very fine distinction, but a very important distinction based on those two things.”

Apparently, the idea that the State of Utah cannot recognize those marriages under state law but admits that they are valid for federal purposes and in other states is too much for Brown to wrap his head around.

Although I have to say, at this point it looks like the governor and his administration are flailing around throwing shit at the wall and hoping desperately that something sticks.

Good luck with that.

Update: It seems a freshman congressman from Texas (where else?) has come up with a response to Holder's statement. Click through and read Kincaid's post -- it's worth it.

Update II: Rep. Weevil (R-FRC) is getting some wonderful reactions. The headline from Wonkette says it all:

Texas Congressman Takes Backdoor Approach To Screwing Gays

Friday, January 10, 2014

Image of the Week

I have a tendency to get fairly abstract in my work:

Photography's all about light and shadow anyway. Might as well hang loose and see where it takes you.

The Greeks Called It "Hubris"

and you could get zapped by a lightning bolt for it -- or even worse.

Tony Perkins is at it again, this time taking aim at New Mexico governor Susana Martinez for not focusing on (his) marriage fight.

The once-conservative Governor of New Mexico decided to pack it in and go home when her state's supreme court ruled the wrong way on marriage. Instead of standing her ground, Martinez waved the white flag on a potential state marriage amendment -- yielding every ounce of her power to an out-of-control judiciary with political goals. Before the judges sided with the radical Left, there was a strong consensus that the state should introduce a marriage amendment and let the people decide. Monday, Martinez handed the victory to New Mexico liberals on a platter, insisting that the state should focus on other issues like the economy and education reform. Obviously, Governor Martinez needs a class in basic civics, because the court doesn't write the law -- legislators do. And it's absolutely indefensible that a leader who ran on a pro-marriage platform would renege on her word and silence constituents. If Governor Martinez won't do her job, then conservative clerks shouldn't have to perform theirs.

Let's just hit a few high (or low) points:

. . . her state's supreme court ruled the wrong way on marriage.

Says noted constitutional scholar Tony Perkins.

Martinez waved the white flag on a potential state marriage amendment -- yielding every ounce of her power to an out-of-control judiciary with political goals.

The governor of New Mexico has no power to initiate constitutional amendments. And the federal judiciary is not meant to be under anyone's control -- that's why federal judges are appointed for life. As for "political goals" -- well, we all know who's goals are political, and it's not the courts.

. . . . the state should focus on other issues like the economy and education reform.

Because, of course, things like a healthy economy and good schools are frivolous.

Obviously, Governor Martinez needs a class in basic civics, because the court doesn't write the law -- legislators do.

If anyone needs a class in basic civics -- or, really, remedial civics -- it's not Susana Martinez. Courts don't write laws -- they merely scrutinize them against the requirements of the Constitution. Perkins' problem here is that he obviously doesn't like the American system of government.
If Governor Martinez won't do her job, then conservative clerks shouldn't have to perform theirs.

Well, she is doing her job, so I guess those conservative clerks will have to do theirs. But isn't it nice that someone who throws terms like "lawless" around so freely is encouraging public officials to disobey the law?

Now, where did I leave those lightning bolts?


The teabaggers want to cut food stamps in a major way -- like taking away $4 billion a year. Since the teabagger caucus is, by definition, operating at less than full capacity (remember, their poster boy is Rand Paul (R-Atlas Shrugged)), it makes sense that they would think that there will be no consequences.

Well, that's not the case.

The health and financial risks of hunger have not played a major role in the debate. But the medical community says cutting food aid could backfire through higher Medicaid and Medicare costs.

"If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition," said Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute.

"People don't make the hunger-health connection."

A study published this week helps illustrate that link. Food banks report longer lines at the end of the month as families exhaust their grocery budgets, and California researchers found that more poor people with a dangerous diabetes complication are hospitalized then, too.

And that's just diabetes. Want to bet there's also a spike in other chronic illnesses at the end of the month among the poor -- who are more likely to have chronic conditions anyway, due to poor childhood nutrition. And of course, there's the here-and-now effects.

Other research shows children from food-insecure families are 30 percent more likely to have been hospitalized for a range of illnesses. But after a temporary boost in benefits from the 2009 economic stimulus, children whose families used food stamps were significantly more likely to be well than kids in low-income families that didn't participate, Children's HealthWatch found. About half of food stamp recipients are children, and 10 percent are elderly.

But don't worry -- Republicans are looking out for us -- really, truly:

The bill will also likely add some money for food banks and test new work requirements for recipients in a few states, a priority for many Republicans.

"While this program is an important part of our safety net, our overriding goal should be to help our citizens with the education and skills they need to get back on their feet so that they can provide for themselves and their families," said Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., when the farm bill was on the House floor last summer.

So, Mr. Cantor, where's your jobs bill? Where's the support for public education?

I'm waiting.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Idiot du Jour

Who else but Peter LaBarbera? This is choice:

LaBarbera repeatedly refused to answer Colmes’ question about what he thinks the punishment for homosexual behavior should be, finally admitting: “I don’t know what the punishment should be.”

“So you want these laws on the books but you don’t know what to do about them?” Colmes asked. “You keep talking about criminalizing sodomy and using the country of Jamaica as a model for that but you’re not telling me how you would enforce it and then what the punishment should be. So you don’t have a well-rounded idea of how to approach the idea of criminalizing it.”

Audio at the link.

Come to think of it, maybe LaBarbera's smarter than I give him credit for -- smarter than these yoyos, anyway.

Footnote: Towleroad has a "Peter LaBarbera Hub" documenting LaBarbera's general cluelessness. I think this picture says it all:

Note the crowd of supporters.

I might add that LaBarbera has a history of being one of the most ineffective campaigners against gay civil rights in the country. Remember than he twice tried to put anit-marriage referendums on the ballot -- in a state where referendums are advisory only, and have no binding force. The first time, there were too many bogus signatures for it to qualify. The second time, he didn't manage to get enough signatures to even submit the petitions.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Through the Looking Glass Award

I haven't done this in a while, but we have three strong contenders today, so I thought it was time.

Second Runner-Up: Tony Perkins, for this tweet:

He's referring, of course, to the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the most respected civil rights groups in the country. Apparently, in an army training session, the session leader referred to the American "Family" Association as an extremist group, based on their designation as a hate group by the SPLC. Perkins has taken umbrage. He usually tries to maintain some sort of connection with reality in his deceptions, no matter how tenuous, but not this time. He's losing his touch -- looks like the buzzwords have taken over.

Via Joe.My.God.

First Runner-Up: The ever-reliable Brian Brown:

We are encouraged by the Supreme Court's putting the brakes on the lawlessness in Utah this week. By its unanimous decision to grant a stay, the Supreme Court shows that the Justices recognize when the rule of law is being flouted and when judicial activism has run amok — even those liberal Justices who voted for the flawed majority decision in Windsor! The granting of this stay changes the momentum in a very real way and slows the stampede of rabid same-sex marriage bullies who are willing to trample over the rights of everyone else in order to get their way. There's no telling how many true constitutional rights these radicals would run roughshod over to gain their prize of a faux right to genderless 'marriage' and a regime under which Christians and others are relegated to second-class citizen status. We must take advantage of this momentum shift and petition Congress today calling for decisive action for the protection of our fundamental liberties. Surely the Justices on the Supreme Court are not the only ones in Washington who have noted the absurd arrogance and brazen overreaching of the deceptively-named 'marriage equality' movement.

The mind boggles. Brown has completely lost touch with objective reality -- not to mention the fact that he displays all the arrogance of a true "Christian." A decision by a federal judge based on the requirements of the Constitution is "lawless"? Really?

Maybe I should institute a new award, in honor of the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland -- you know: "Words mean what I say they mean, no more, no less."

Again, thanks to Joe.My.God.

And The Winner: Ben Shapiro, editor of Breitbart (of course):

What is the moral case for capitalism? It lies in recognition that socialism isn't a great idea gone wrong -- it's an evil philosophy in action. It isn't driven by altruism; it's driven by greed and jealousy. Socialism states that you owe me something simply because I exist. Capitalism, by contrast, results in a sort of reality-forced altruism: I may not want to help you, I may dislike you, but if I don't give you a product or service you want, I will starve. Voluntary exchange is more moral than forced redistribution. Socialism violates at least three of the Ten Commandments: It turns government into God, it legalizes thievery and it elevates covetousness. Discussions of income inequality, after all, aren't about prosperity but about petty spite. Why should you care how much money I make, so long as you are happy?

It takes some sort of talent to turn reality on its head like that. I guess you just have to paint everything in black and white then flip it. Shapiro has it down cold.

And once again, thanks to Joe.My.God.

Culture Break: Jackson Pollock on Jackson Pollock

The quality, both video and sound, isn't perfect, but it's a good insight into where one of American's most important artists was coming from. (With music by Morton Feldman, no less.)

Here's a link to the full documentary.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

It's Not Quite This Bad Here

Yet. Give it a couple of days, when this all starts to melt.

With thanks to AmericaBlog.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Marriage News Watch, January 6, 2014 (Update, Update II)

Utah is getting really bizarre:

As of this morning, the state of Utah has filed a reply brief to the plaintiff's brief opposing a stay. I'm not going to comment on it -- it's pretty much a mess, which, as Joe Jervis right points out, amounts to "Oh, yes it is, so there!" starting by largely ignoring the 14th Amendment issues, and relying heavily on Baker v. Nelson, a case from 1972 which most courts consider to have been superseded.

Via Joe.My.God.

Update: The full Supreme Court has issued a stay on Judge Shelby's order.

The Supreme Court on Monday blocked further same-sex marriages in Utah while state officials appeal a decision allowing such unions.

The terse order, from the full court, issued a stay “pending final disposition” of an appeal to the federal appeals court in Denver. It offered no reasoning.

I don't doubt that it offered no reasoning. I doubt that any reasoning would have stood up to scrutiny -- even rational basis.

Update II:
And right on cue, here's Brian Brown of NOM, hysterical rhetoric and all, applauding a Supreme Court decision which says, essentially, nothing. (And getting all the facts of the matter wrong, where he bothers with them at all.) (I really had a hard time deciding whether to post this here or in the previous post -- Brown is starting to fit right in with the crazies.)

I Guess It Must Be

the cold weather that's causing all the crazies to come out of the woodwork. There's a lot of them this morning.

First, courtesy of Fox (who else?) we have this nutjob:

Lou Dobbs Tonight last night included the sage opinions of a former CIA offical and current Georgetown prof who recently called for the assassination of President Obama.

In a 12/23 column on his foreign policy website, Michael Scheuer suggested that history held in high esteem those who have killed tyrants:

As they head further down the road of losing wars and wrecking Anglo-American liberties, Messrs Obama and Cameron and their supporters in all parties would do well to read the words of the great 17th century English republican Algernon Sidney, a man who was revered on both sides of the Atlantic, who greatly influenced America’s founders, and who was executed by the British Crown for what it described as sedition. “There must therefore be a right,” Sidney wrote, "of proceeding judicially or extra-judicially against all persons who transgress the laws; or else those laws, and the societies that should subsist by them, cannot stand; and the ends for which governments are constituted, together with the governments themselves, must be overthrown. … If he [a political leader] be justly accounted an enemy of all, who injures all; he above all must be the publick enemy of a nation, who by usurping power over them, does the greatest and most publick injury that a people can suffer. For which reason, by an established law among the most virtuous nations, every man might kill a tyrant; and no names are recorded in history with more honor, than of those who did it.

This screwball is a professor at Georgetown University. I wonder if he teaches a course in fantasy literature.

And there's always Mike Huckabee, who can be counted on to start four steps to the right of reality and continue from there.
The former Arkansas governor and ordained pastor began his Fox News show by admitting that he did not have the medical experience necessary to understand 13-year-old Jahi McMath's condition but he encouraged her family to fight against any attempts to remove her from life support even though doctors said she technically "died several weeks ago."

"Every life has value and worth," Huckabee told his viewers on Saturday. "There is no such person who is disposable, one whose life has been deemed by others to be less than others and therefore expendable, I can't share that."

He continued: "The road that starts that way in deciding that some lives have less value and are unworthy of protection, that leads to a culture that tolerates the undeserved killing of over 55 million unborn children in this country. It leads to China's birth policy that limits the number of children for a family and enforces forced abortion if they deviate from the state-determined ideal."

"It's also that culture that allowed the Nazis to to hideously justify the savage slaughter of millions of Jews, disabled people, old people and those with mental illness," Huckabee said. "Let's hope and pray that the courts continue to do what every court should do, respect parents over government, family over hospitals and, above all, protect Jahi from them all."

Excuse me, Governor? She's dead. Having a machine pump your blood and aerate your lungs when your brain has stopped functioning does not count as "life."

The part I really love is that he started off by admitting he didn't know what he was talking about. That didn't stop him. Where's O'Reilly with his cut-off switch when you need him?

One of the commenters pointed out something that I've started recognizing as a characteristic of the right: arrogance. They are right, no matter what anyone else, or any piece of evidence, says.

This one's almost too good to be real:
The Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officer’s Association, (CSPSA), which says its mission is: ”To Serve the People and Protect Their Rights“, held a town meeting in Highland, Utah, yesterday, which they characterized as an “uprising” to counter “activist” Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling that has forced gay marriage on Utah.

From one of the participants, former Sheriff Richard Mack, of Arizona:

Sheriff Mack (left) told the standing room only crowd that Utah Governor Gary Herbert has failed at his job, and it is now up to law enforcement and everyday citizens to deny gay marriage to anyone seeking a license.

“The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time,” urged Mack. “The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.’”

Mack told the crowd federal law does not take precedence over Utah state law, saying:
“That’s a lie. That’s an absolute lie. We have a right to raise our kids without homosexuals being part of the Boy Scouts, the schools and teachers and doing everything. They can be all that, but don’t shove your agenda down my kid’s throat. We have a right to raise our kids how we want not how you want.”

Got that? If you can parse the word salad, what we have is a former sheriff from Arizona who wants to prevent county clerks in Utah from obeying the law, as a way of -- enforcing the law? I mean, the crazy's all over this one.

And this is all just from the first few minutes of surfing the web. I can hardly wait to see what else it lurking in the corners.

Found another one: have you heard of Trestin Meacham? He's the guy in Utah who's on a hunger strike to end same-sex marriage.

Trestin Meacham, a young man who combines a deep belief that same sex couples should not be allowed to marry with a weak grasp of constitutional law, has gone on a hunger strike to convince the state of Utah to "nullify" the federal court rulings which have made same sex marriage legal in the state for more than two weeks. "You can start a blog and you can complain on social networks until you're blue in the face and nothing will happen but actions speak louder than words and I'm taking action," says Meacham.

It turns out, he's just as firmly anchored to reality as the rest of these people.

Reviews in Brief: Devo Ke Dev . . . Mahadev

This is more of a heads-up than a review, and yes, I realize it’s a day late. But here it is.

I’m not sure how I first twigged to Devo Ke Dev . . . Mahadev, which is an Indian TV series about the doings of the gods, specifically Shiva. To be perfectly honest, even watching it with English subtitles, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but the core story seems to be about one Prajapati Daksha (Surendra Pal), the son of Brahma, who rules a city and is very proud of himself for creating “civilization,” which to him means a society governed by rules. He decrees that Vishnu will be the only god worshipped in his city, and commissions a large idol to be installed in the temple. When it comes time to move the idol into the temple, however, it won’t budge – that is, until Daksha’s daughter, Sati (Mouni Roy), surreptitiously adds a “shiva linga” to the grouping.

Shiva himself (Mohit Raina) is busily renouncing the world, and seems to spend most of this time meditating – except that he keeps getting pulled into the here-and-now to deal with Daksha – and Sati. There’s a strong and very obvious attraction between Sati and Shiva (of course), and the seeds of the conflict between Daksha and Shiva are fundamental: Shiva is a “vagabond,” a renunciate who has no concern for the world or its rules, and Daksha is all about rules and stability.

I’m really taken with this one, not for the story so much, but for the presentation – visually, it’s gorgeous, the actors are by and large very attractive, and the music, which is a constant, is thoroughly engaging – it actually carries a lot of the story.

One part of the fascination is that this is a very different way of presenting a story – there’s not really very much dialogue, but there are a lot of meaningful gazes – in that, it’s really pretty melodramatic – and there’s the music. It’s a whole different set of assumptions about storytelling, and I’m intrigued.

You can find the first 37 episodes with English subtitles here.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Limits on "Religious Freedom"

Apparently, in the minds of some people, there are none. At least, not for them:

The ACA has a series of outs for religious employers who say medication like contraception violates their moral beliefs. It’s essentially three-tiered: for-profit organizations have to cover contraception in their health plans; explicitly religious organizations like churches don’t have to provide contraception if they believe birth control is morally wrong; and religiously-affiliated non-profits that are neither owned nor controlled by religious groups do not have to provide contraception either, but they have to fill out a form certifying that they are religiously-affiliated, and then a third party administrator makes sure that employees can get contraception if they need it. The third-party administrator, and not the employer, pays for contraception coverage.

In the case that led Sotomayor to issue the injunction, an organization called the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged objected to the ACA’s contraception requirement. All the Little Sisters have to do is fill out a form and the organization will be under no obligation to pay for birth control for its many employees – which include home health aides, nurses, administrators and a variety of women who may not be Catholic or, like 98% of sexually active Catholic women, may choose to use a birth control method other than natural family planning – but apparently a form is too great an intrusion on their religious liberty.

Got that? Filling out a form that excuses them from directly providing contraception to their employees, which would violate their religious freedom, violates their religious freedom.

This is sort of a hallmark of the religious right -- or, frankly, the right in general: they, and no others, have the right to unrestricted freedom.

Sadly, there's no such thing. All freedoms have limits, the more so when you live in a social grouping -- like, say, the United States.

Here's an analysis from Ian Milhiser at ThinkProgress with a key detail.

Now You Know They've Gone Too Far

The teabaggers in Congress, that is. When our corporatist Chief Justice starts screaming about budget cuts -- well, that's extreme.

The impact of the sequester was more significant on the courts than elsewhere in the government, because virtually all of their core functions are constitutionally and statutorily required. Unlike most Executive Branch agencies, the courts do not have discretionary programs they can eliminate or postpone in response to budget cuts. The courts must resolve all criminal, civil, and bankruptcy cases that fall within their jurisdiction, often under tight time constraints. And because many of the Judiciary’s expenditures, such as rent and judicial salaries, must be paid regardless of sequestration, the five percent cut that was intended to apply “across-the-board” translated into even larger cuts in discretionary components of the Judiciary’s budget. . . .

Sequestration cuts have affected court operations across the spectrum. There are fewer court clerks to process new civil and bankruptcy cases, slowing the intake procedure and propagating delays throughout the litigation process. There are fewer probation and pretrial services officers to protect the public from defendants awaiting trial and from offenders following their incarceration and release into the community. There are fewer public defenders available to vindicate the Constitution’s guarantee of counsel to indigent criminal defendants, which leads to postponed trials and delayed justice for the innocent and guilty alike. There is less funding for security guards at federal courthouses, placing judges, court personnel, and the public at greater risk of harm.

It's sort of a boot-licking document, overall -- Roberts obviously knows his audience -- but it still points up the real-life effects of Congress' ideologically-driven budget cuts.

Of course, Republicans don't like a free and independent judiciary -- it doesn't always give them the decisions they want. So we'll see what effect Roberts' report has.

Via The New Civil Rights Movement.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Saturday Science: Controversy

Ran across a new site, From Quarks to Quasars, which looks like fun. This article caught my attention, since it relates to the public's "belief" in evolution. (I really think that is totally the wrong way to phrase the question, frankly. "Belief" is for religion -- it doesn't have to have a rational basis. Fortunately, the pollsters avoided that trap.)

This is an interesting observation:

According to Yale studies, people only seriously consider evidence if it is presented/endorsed by someone who subscribes to their cultural beliefs i.e., if an individual has to believe an expert or a person who shares their cultural values (religious, political, economic, or otherwise), they will go with the person who has a similar belief structure. According to the researchers’ findings, “people tend to keep a biased score of what experts believe, counting a scientist as an ‘expert’ only when that scientist agrees with the position they find culturally congenial.”

So, an authority is only an authority if he/she believes the same things you do to begin with.

That's sort of scary.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Image of the Week: Variations on a Theme

I tend to shoot a lot of film in a session, many small variations on the framing, angle, etc.

This is last week's model again. In spite of his shyness, I got some very good images.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Today In "Christian" Love

Gotta start the New Year off right. From those good "Christians" at Save California:

On New Year's Day in the world-famous Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, these two practitioners of homosexuality will illogically proclaim themselves "husband and husband," and kiss on the lips to be seen by every child watching. This is outrageous and your protest needs to be recorded. If enough people speak out, perhaps the organizers and sponsors of the Rose Parade will not repeat this spectacle. Here are action steps suggested by SaveCalifornia.com and Boycott the 2014 Rose Parade. Please alert others who care about role models for children and know that marriage is only for a man and a woman. Contact the Tournament of Roses and tell them to please exclude this exhibition from the parade. Go to the Rose Parade Facebook page and add a comment about what you think about this. Here is a quick list of sponsors: Please call them and ask them to protest this idiotic decision. SaveCalifornia.com additionally suggests that spectators on the parade route either loudly boo, or bring and hold up signs reading "Marriage is ONLY for 1 man + 1 woman") or similar.

These people are so classy. If that's the way we're going to play, I think gay people should picket evangelical/fundamentalist weddings and boo the happy couple at they emerge from the church. Oh, but wait -- that would be "hateful," "intolerant," a violation of "religious freedom," and probably a few other things that I can't think of off the cuff -- oh, yeah, "freedom of speech," gotta work "freedom of speech" in there somehow.

Funny how that works, isn't it?

Of course, Save California is only one of many -- there's the "American" "Family" Association; Laurie Higgins of the Illinois "Family" Institute (one of the most outspoken bigots in the country); the ever-reliable "Porno Pete" LaBarbera; Brian Brown of NOM (they really should have come up with a better acronym -- anyone remember LOLCats?); and a viciously anti-gay woman named Karen Grube from San Diego who claims that same-sex marriage is "blatantly illegal." Hey, lady? This is in California. Remember? Prop 8 is no more.

And you know the result of all these calls for boycotts, and booing the newlyweds, and all the other creative ways "Christians" come up with to show their love?

They won a prize. And:
During the 30 seconds that the float was onscreen during NBC's coverage, the two grooms atop the wedding cake waved, beamed, held hands, and generally seemed to be having a wonderful time. Parade host Al Roker: "A sincere shout-out to the newlyweds and the happy couples on the float."

Image and quote from Joe.My.God.