"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, February 28, 2014

Is This a Blooper? (Update)

I get e-mails from Amazon with "local deals," which I generally ignore, but the subject heading on this one stopped me for a minute:
Tea Party/Party Planning

I had to think about that for a minute.

On that note, two posts of note this morning:

Via Digby, this article from Ian Millhiser:
The most remarkable thing about Arizona’s “License To Discriminate” bill is how quickly it became anathema, even among Republicans. Both 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called upon Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to veto this effort to protect businesses that want to discriminate against gay people. So did Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Indeed, three state senators who voted for this very bill urged Brewer to veto it before she finally did so on Wednesday, confessing that they “made a mistake” when they voted for it to become law.

The premise of the bill is that discrimination becomes acceptable so long as it is packaged inside a religious wrapper. As Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R) explained, lawmakers introduced it in response to instances where anti-gay business owners in other states were “punished for their religious beliefs” after they denied service to gay customers in violation of a state anti-discrimination law.

Yet, while LGBT Americans are the current target of this effort to repackage prejudice as “religious liberty,” they are hardly the first. To the contrary, as Wake Forest law Professor Michael Kent Curtis explained in a 2012 law review article, many segregationists justified racial bigotry on the very same grounds that religious conservatives now hope to justify anti-gay animus. In the words of one professor at a prominent Mississippi Baptist institution, “our Southern segregation way is the Christian way . . . . [God] was the original segregationist.”

How does that relate to the Tea Party? Just look:
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed SB1062, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Arizona. No one has ever accused Governor Brewer of being the most courageous Republican around. Come to think of it, the word courageous and Jan Brewer have probably never been uttered in the same sentence.

The left and the homosexual lobby in America went into overdrive to kill this bill. Conservatives rallied for this bill and Governor Brewer opted for cowardice instead of courage.

Why is this bill so important and what did it mean for not only Arizona but America?

The issue can be boiled down to one word: Freedom.

A free man or woman controls their labor. A slave has no control over their labor. A free man or woman decides who they will work for and under what conditions. The slave cannot.

The left and the homosexual lobby are both pushing slavery using the Orwellian concepts of “tolerance” and “inclusiveness.”

It gets worse. And aside from this screed being fact-free, it's worth noting that the whole post is in a large, bold-face font. Does that tell you something?

And some of the comments are so far out there that they're actually funny.

This one via Joe.My.God.

Update: This post on the subject of "religious freedom" at Mahablog, is worth a read.

I’m sure I’ve said before that conservatives like to pretend the establishment clause isn’t there, or is somehow lesser to the free exercise clause, although in fact without the establishment clause the free exercise clause isn’t worth much. Certainly, the child being coerced into expressing belief in God by a government employee is not having his free exercise rights respected, is he?

And from TPM, this analysis of the present-day "religious freedom" movement and its prospects.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Arizona Veto

Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona's "Christians are above the law" bill last evening. From the press conference:

Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.

The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments, I vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago.

Her full remarks are here.

Given the reaction not only from civil rights activists and Democrats, but prominent Republicans (including three state senators who voted for the bill and now call their votes "a mistake") and, most important, I suspect, business leaders, what else could she do?

Just as an example of the verbal contortions (not to mention logical gymnastics) proponents of this sort of hate legislation engage in, here's none other than Michele Bachmann (R-Loony Tunes) on how we need to tolerate bigots.


See, it's not about discriminating against people you don't approve of, it's about people tolerating your attempts to intrude your religious beliefs into areas they don't belong.

It seems as though most of the similar bills in other state legislatures have died, for some reason.

Jeremy Hooper has a good analysis of the whole phenomenon at GLAAD.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Culture Break: Billy Collins Reads Three Poems

I stumbled across Billy Collins' work several years ago, picking up a copy of Questions About Angels on a whim, and was charmed. It's funny, whimsical, circumstantial, and more serious than it appears at first. How many poets do you know of who get laughs -- intentionally -- at their readings?


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Science: The Oldest Star -- So Far

How does 13.6 billion years old sound? That's what astronomers in Australia have found: a 13.6 billion year old star:

A team led by astronomers at The Australian National University has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe, which formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

The discovery has allowed astronomers for the first time to study the chemistry of the first stars, giving scientists a clearer idea of what the Universe was like in its infancy.

"This is the first time that we've been able to unambiguously say that we've found the chemical fingerprint of a first star," said lead researcher, Dr Stefan Keller of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"This is one of the first steps in understanding what those first stars were like. What this star has enabled us to do is record the fingerprint of those first stars."

If that's not intriguing enough, how about this?

NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes have spotted what might be one of the most distant galaxies known, harkening back to a time when our universe was only about 650 million years old (our universe is 13.8 billion years old). The galaxy, known as Abell2744 Y1, is about 30 times smaller than our Milky Way galaxy and is producing about 10 times more stars, as is typical for galaxies in our young universe.

This image of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744 was obtained with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The zoomed image shows the region around the galaxy Abell2744_Y1, one of the most distant galaxy candidates known, harkening back to a time when the universe was 650 million years old.
Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI/IAC

It's Started

Same-sex marriage in Illinois, at least in Cook County, became a reality yesterday.

Giddy same-sex couples began rushing to the Daley Center Friday to apply for marriage licenses, after U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman issued her ruling.

“There is no reason to delay further when no opposition has been presented to this Court, and committed gay and lesbian couples have already suffered from the denial of their fundamental right to marry,” Coleman wrote.

Illinois' Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act was to take effect in June, a result of it being passed in a special session last fall. The judge's ruling circumvented that, but applies only to Cook County. Coleman had previously ruled that if one partner was suffering from a life-threatening illness, the couple did not have to wait until June to marry.

As one might expect, Cook County Clerk David Orr, who was the defendant in the suit, performed the first marriage, after having the 24-hour waiting period waived. He's long been a supporter of marriage equality, as have Mayor Rahm Emanuel (at least he gets some things right), and of course, Gov. Pat Quinn, who called on the rest of Illinois counties to follow suit.

So, it's here, the state is still on the map, Lake Michigan has not overflowed its shores, and even the buses are running -- at least, as reliably as they ever do.

Who knew?

Via Box Turtle Bulletin.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Image of the Week

I've done a fair number of close-ups -- details themselves can make a wonderful picture, and sometimes incorporate that abstraction that I love so much. This is one of my favorites:


I used this one for a New Year card one year:


If I manage to make it through this winter in one piece, I've got to get back into photography.

People Are Basically Decent

This is via AmericaBlog. It was a test to see people's reactions to a boy sitting alone at a bus stop in freezing weather without a coat.


Yes, I know it's all in Norwegian -- that's where it took place. John Aravosis asks if we would pass a similar test. I think we would -- Americans are just as decent as anyone else, in spite of what you see on the news and "Christian" networks. It's just that the assholes get all the publicity.

More background on this video.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Culture Break: "God Said" from Leonard Bernstein's "Mass"

I tend to think that Bernstein is one of the most under-appreciated of Post-War American composers. He had a facility for combining "high art" and the vernacular, which is something I like a lot.

Enjoy:


Monday, February 17, 2014

Marriage News Watch, February 17, 2014

It's been a busy week:


Do We Want To Be In Kansas Any More? (Update)

Kansas just became the front-runner in the race for the title "Alabama of the 21st Century." The Kansas state house has passed a "My Rights Trump Your Rights" bill that specifically permits discrimination against gay couples, and by extension, gay individuals, without repercussions -- including in the provision of government services. Cenk Uygur spells it out:


It occurs to me that people who go so far as to propose and support this kind of legislation, first of all, have no right to call themselves "Americans" -- they obviously hate the very ideas that this country is founded on -- but they're also really, truly crazy. As in totally obsessed. As well as being more or less infantile in their reactions and general outlook. I mean, most of us got over the idea that we were the center of the universe by the time we were three or four years old. Apparently, the ones who never made it that far are all in Kansas. (Well, not all -- there are similar bills proposed in Idaho, Tennessee, and a couple of other places where people tend to live under rocks.)

However, it seems there was significant blow-back -- enough to stop the bill in the state Senate:
Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican who is president of the Kansas Senate, raised opposition to the House measure, saying she had “about the practical impact of the bill” and “my members don’t condone discrimination.”

Ms. Wagle was backed by Senator Jeff King, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who said he would not hold hearings on the House bill. Instead, Mr. King said, his committee would hold hearings on the broader topic of religious freedom in Kansas and explore whether the Legislature needed to take any further steps to shore up those protections.

Last year, the Legislature passed the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which protects residents from government burdens that may force them to break their religious beliefs. That bill stemmed in part from concerns that employers could be forced to provide contraception under the federal health care law.

The bill proposed in this year’s session seemed to go further in explicitly allowing any individual to raise a religious objection in refusing to recognize same-sex couples or provide them with services.

“To me, the bill was not as narrowly tailored as it needed to be,” Mr. King said. “We need razor precision in the language of the bill as to what religious liberties we’re trying to protect and how we protect them in a nondiscriminatory fashion.”

Don't let King's last statement fool you -- that's pure face-saving. This bill is about legalized discrimination and nothing else.

Via Towleroad. A lot of objections in the comments seem to rest on non-discrimination laws. Unfortunately, Kansas law does not forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and there is no federal law that's applicable. It seems to me, though, that one could make a case that it violates the Establishment Clause, by enshrining a particular sectarian religious belief into the law.

Either way, it's disgusting.

Update: Seems I'm not the only one who thought about the Establishment Clause.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Today's Feel-Good Video

Daniel is 5, has autism and is fascinated by garbage trucks -- he goes out to watch every week when the trucks come by. Just watch this:


People are pretty good, if you let them be.

Via AmericaBlog.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Science: We're Everywhere -- Earlier Than You Thought

as in, foraging on the banks of a river that may have been the Thames between 800,000 and 1 million years ago:
They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe.

A team from the British Museum, London's Natural History Museum and Queen Mary college at the University of London uncovered imprints from up to five individuals in ancient estuary mud at Happisburgh on the country's eastern coast.

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was "a tangible link to our earliest human relatives."

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors. They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male. They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

I don't know about you, but I just never think about human beings, in at least an ancestral form, being that far north that early. I still tend to think of Olduvai Gorge in that time period, although I certainly know better -- Homo erectus was running around China and Southeast Asia a million years ago, so why not some species of Homo in England?

This is intriguing:
The researchers said the humans who left the footprints may have been related to Homo antecessor, or "pioneer man," whose fossilized remains have been found in Spain. That species died out about 800,000 years ago.

A whole new human species I'd never heard of. I've obviously not been keeping up in the field.

There's a photo at the link, but it's not real clear -- but after 800,000 years, what could we expect?

Via Slashdot.



Losers

Given their recent string of losses on the marriage front, I was going to post a survey of the reactions from the "Christian" hate groups, but they're so predictable, and so repetitive, that I get tired. No originality whatsoever -- probably because they never had much of an argument to start with. Happily, Joe Jervis and Scott Wooledge came up with this little thingy that really says it all:


I think that was very thoughtful of them -- saves me a lot of drudgery.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Image of the Week

I also do landscapes. Have done, since the beginning. A lot of them were done in North Carolina, on visits to my family:


But even in the city -- well, this city, at least -- there are striking images of "nature":


And in my younger days, I'd even be out in a blizzard with my camera:




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just Deserts

I tend not to focus on the ever-growing number of coming out stories from public figures, but Michael Sam's coming out is worth noting: one of the stars of college football, a likely early pick for the NFL draft, his announcement was greeted with dismay by some (unnamed) executives at the NFL. This commentary, from Dallas-Ft. Worth sports anchor Dale Hansen, says it all:


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Culture Break: Aziz Herawi

Billed as "Master of the Afghani Lute." He has my vote. I happen to have an album of his music, which is pretty much amazing. Sadly, there's no description available for this video, so I can't tell you what he's playing, but if you do a search at YouTube, there are a number of entries for him.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Tony Perkins Award

Goes today to Tony Perkins. I haven't tackled one of his odiferous missives in quite a while, but this one is choice. Via Joe.My.God., his reaction to a new announcement from Eric Holder on treatment of married same-sex couples:
The DOJ, which may as well be a satellite office of the HRC, has been all too happy to run point for homosexual activists, throwing bouquet after taxpayer-funded bouquet to unions that 33 states don't recognize.

Um -- Holder works for the federal government, not the states or any particular state. The federal government, under the decision in Windsor, must recognize all legal marriages.

In this latest adventure in lawlessness, Holder shreds marriage laws on everything from bankruptcy policy, alimony, prison visits, access to the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, survivorship benefits, and other perks reserved for legal spouses.

"Lawlessness"? See my comment above, under Windsor. And by the same token, married same-sex couples are legal spouses.
There's been a lot of talk from the Obama administration about what homosexuals are 'entitled' to -- but not what voters are entitled to... like having their voices and ballots count.

Sorry, Tony -- voters don't get to take away someone's rights by popular vote. That's why we have fundamental rights protected by the Consitution.

Every American with an appreciation for the rule of law, for self-governance, and freedom must remember this act of arrogance in November when voters can send a message by firing the leaders who have aided and abetted this President.

Every American who values the rule of law knows Perkins is full of it. There's a second point here, a subtext, if you will, that I think, given Perkins' past history, is germane: "Aaah! There's a black man in the White House, and he's not there to clean!"

The more I read of Perkins' screeds and his comments on "safe" media outlets (and he seems to have developed a tendency to play it safe -- he only seems to be appearing on "Christian" networks or Fox -- hmm -- same difference), the more I see that he's a one-trick pony: they all sound the same, give or take the buzzwords du jour -- "lawlessness" seems to be the new favorite -- and each just as substance-free as the last. Maybe it's because he never had much of a legitimate position to begin with.

It also strikes me, given the hysteria with which he greets the idea of same-sex couples, and LGBTs in general, being accorded equal rights and responsibilities under the law (see 14th Amendment, US Constitution), that he doesn't really like the way we do things in America.

Why am I not surprised?



Monday, February 10, 2014

Marriage News Watch, February 10, 2014

Sometimes, nothing's new.


Staggering

Via Digby, this rant from Kevin McCullough at Townhall (where else?). A few choice bits:
We have a media complex that reports the administration's view on almost all things without much variance. The handful of actual outlets that report actual facts that vary from the administration's talking points are isolated and marginalized.

You mean like Fox News, a/k/a the propaganda arm of the Republican Party? Or the Fox News wannabes at CNN? The Wall Street Journal? None of which lets a fact stand in the way of a ginned-up scandal.
Through the fundamental transformation that has seen a complete dismantling of the private healthcare industry, while simultaneously eroding individual rights of religious practice, and the destruction of an economy encouraging private small business growth--the payroll of government jobs--beholding to the administration and its "great leader" have been the largest sector for jobs growth in six years.

So much bullshit in one paragraph. Complete dismantling of private health-care? In which insurance companies are getting millions of new customers? You mean that dismantling? Or is it that they actually have to pay for their customers' health care, rather then cutting them off when they get sick?

Eroding individual rights of religious practice? You mean, like the right to enforce your religious beliefs on everyone else? Those rights?

The destruction of the economy? You mean, the economy that's shown small but solid growth over the past five years, in spite of everything the Republicans could do to stop it? Government jobs? You mean the million plus that have been lost because of the deficit reduction nonsense?
While preaching tolerance to those who do not accept their views, the political, theological, and cultural left are the least tolerant people on the planet.

And while they demand that you yield your beliefs in order to carry favor with them. You must always accept what they believe as absolute truth.

OK -- that's just pure projection.

And guess who takes the gold in the Through the Looking Glass Awards.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Best Sochi Graphic Ever



Do I have to comment?

Via Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice.

And maybe the best video, from the Canadians, of course:


Via John Cole at Balloon Juice.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Image of the Week

I had -- and still have, although it's not operating properly any more -- a Polaroid Spectra System camera that I loved. It was surprisingly versatile, and gave sometimes amazing results as I was playing with different kinds of imagery.

Fairly standard images wound up being very mysterious, sometimes:



I liked the way it responded to motion:


And of course, there was always the Polaroid color, infinitely more pleasing than Kodak -- much more subtle:


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Creepy

It had to happen, I guess: now someone has developed an app that will allow users to access all sorts of information about total strangers just by looking at them.
A new app for Google Glass called NameTag uses facial recognition to end privacy as we know it. Originally announced in December of 2013, the new app will make real-time facial recognition a reality for anyone who owns a pair of Google Glasses, iPhone or Android device.

Most of us have been in the awkward social situation where you encounter someone you recognize, but you can’t quite put your finger on their name. You try to steer the conversation to discover a hint as to where you know this individual from, but before long, you have to ask the somewhat embarrassing question, “I’m sorry, but who are you again?” However, FacialNetwork.com and NameTag hope to give you an easy and somewhat disturbing solution to this problem.

The solution comes part and parcel with Google Glass, the wearable tech that is already changing our culture before it even arrives for public consumption. As a wearable screen with a camera, Google Glass has given an exciting look into the future of integrated technology.

It has also generated a good deal of controversy, centered around privacy concerns. The device is designed to have a light on the front that is clearly visible when anything is being recorded, but as with most technology, there are ways around these safety measures. . . .

NameTag uses facial recognition technology that will allow you to take a snapshot of the person you forgot or the cute person at the bar and send the picture to NameTag’s servers, where it will be compared to pictures available on social media sites. If a match is found, then the picture is sent back with the person’s name, as well as other significant personal details, including hobbies, interests, and even their current relationship status. If a criminal record is also found in the public record, it will flash in nice big red letters.

And apparently, the developers just don't get it:

Once you get past the impressive part of how NameTag uses facial recognition, the naivete or just plain apathy of the developers beings to show through. “I believe that this will make online dating and offline social interactions much safer and give us a far better understanding of the people around us,” said Kevin Alan Tussy.

As the creator of NameTag, he believes that it is easier to get all the information we would normally find out in a conversation at the push of a button, or as E! Online reported, a wink of an eye.

OK -- is that classic nerd, or what? Frankly, I'd rather get that information through a conversation, thank you very much, in which both parties get to choose how much they reveal at any given moment.

Another reason to avoid social media.

Via Joe.My.God.



Idiot du Jour

Gretchen Carlson, of Fox News (of course), with this statement regarding CVS' decision to stop selling cigarettes:

On Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson approached the CVS decision with suspicion and a remarkably uninformed premise, asking, "Is it OK legally ... to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?" She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, "For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It's not illegal."

I'm speechless.

There is some speculation that the Fox response comes about because President Obama supported the move. What other reason could there be for something that totally brainless?


Sochi (Updated At Random)

Well, the Games open tomorrow, so I thought I'd post a few highlights on what to expect.

From AmericaBlog, this report from -- hmm, reporters. It's too good -- read the whole thing. Here's a couple of choice tweets:



For those concerned about safety at the Games, I got this link via e-mail. The graphic is rather extensive, but here's a sample:


Apparently, the Winter Games at a Russian beach resort aren't working out quite the way Putin planned.

I'll probably update this post as I run across more choice bits.

And sure enough, this report from NBC on how fast your computers, phones, etc. are going to be hacked:


Hope you visitors hadn't planned on actually communicating with anyone.

And you will do without Budweiser -- at least, there will be no Big Bud Bash at Sochi:

In fact, we've seen an email from a Budweiser rep which says the company does not want its U.S.-based representatives in Sochi ... and the message is clear -- the terrorist threat is simply looming too large.





Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Culture Break: Kazaky's "Crazy Law"

With the opening of the Winter Olympics at the end of the week -- held at a Russian beach resort -- and the worldwide reaction (well, the civilized world) to Russia's new "gay propaganda" law, this seemed appropriate:


Tuesday, February 04, 2014

America the Beautiful

You know, you can always count on someone to be offended by the commercials run during the Super Bowl. I'm starting to wonder if anyone watches the game any more.

Well, this year's hands-down winner in the controversy department is this one, from Coke:


Nice idea, right? Celebrate the diversity of our country by having Americans singing "America the Beautful" in the language of their heritage. What could be more American?

Apparently not. This is just a sample of the reactions from "real 'Murricans'":





That last one is a real WTF? moment.

Speaking of which, here's a reaction from Breitbart that I think deserves a Through the Looking Glass Award:
Executives at Coca Cola thought it was a good idea to run a 60 second Super Bowl ad featuring children singing America The Beautiful – a deeply Christian patriotic anthem whose theme is unity – in several foreign languages. The ad also prominently features a gay couple. Conservatives instantly lit up social media with objections, with many vowing to boycott the soda company's products. The lyrics of the song, written in 1893 by Wellesley College Professor Katherine Lee Bates, ask God to grant America 'brotherhood / From sea to shining sea.' As far as the executives at Coca Cola are concerned, however, the United States of America is no longer a nation ruled by the Constitution and American traditions in which English is the language of government. It is not a nation governed in the Anglo-American tradition of liberty. It is instead a nation governed by some all inclusive multi-cultural synthesis of the various forms of government in the world, as expressed by the multiple languages used in the Super Bowl ad to sing a uniquely American hymn that celebrates our heritage.

And last but not least, there's Glenn Beck:


“Why? You need that to divide us politically? Cuz that’s all this ad is. That’s all this ad is. This is to divide people. It’s an in-your-face… and if you don’t like it, if you’re offended by it, then you’re a racist. If you do like it, well then you’re for immigration. That’s all this is, is to divide people.”

Well, consider the source.

One thing that has struck me repeatedly about this whole flap: note who are calling this commercial "divisive": people who seem to think that they have an exclusive right to determine what is "American" and what's not, culminating in Beck, whose whole career is built on divisiveness. (I should note, by the way, that the comments at YouTube are overwhelmingly positive.)

Maybe it's something in the water.


Monday, February 03, 2014

I Never Even Suspected

that the Republicans were this far out of touch with this country: from Paul Waldman at Vox Pop:
Last week, congressional Republicans got together at a Chesapeake Bay resort to contemplate their political fortunes. In one presentation, House Minority Leader Eric Cantor delivered a bit of shocking news to his colleagues: Most people are not, in fact, business owners. It would be a good idea, he suggested, if they could find a way to appeal to the overwhelming majority of Americans who work for somebody else. Their aspirations don't necessarily include opening up their own store or coming up with an amazing new product, so the prospect of lowering the corporate tax rate or slashing environmental regulations may not make their pulses quicken with excitement. They're more concerned with the availability of jobs, the security of health care, and the affordability of education.

I mean, seriously? They didn't realize that? And as Waldman points out, this is the same Eric Cantor (R-Wall Street) who in 2012, devoted his Labor Day comments to praising -- business owners. I wonder what caused the epiphany -- do you suppose it was anything like with Saul on the road to Tarsus?

Read the whole thing -- it's a nice thoughtful look at why the Republicans have ceased to be relevant.

Hmm -- do you suppose anyone's told Paul Ryan?



Marriage News Watch, February 3, 2014

As always, there's a lot going on.


Sunday, February 02, 2014

This Is Getting Old

We're used to the anti-gay right misrepresenting scientific studies to bolster their thin little arguments against same-sex marriage, but this has to mark an extreme departure from reality, even for them. Peter Sprigg and Tony Perkins are riffing on a study from Harvard that -- you guessed it -- studies the impact of single-parent families on communities:
SPRIGG: If a child grows up in a community with married households, that child will do better than a child raised in a community where there are many single-parent households. And this is exactly what I’ve been saying about the marriage issue and so forth: if you redefine marriage, it’s not going to affect just those couples. It’s going to affect the whole community by setting an example.

Emphasis mine -- that's where Sprigg departs the known world and heads right into his own turgid little fantasies. And then Perkins:

PERKINS: That’s very interesting Peter because… that study then answers that question of, “How does my same-sex marriage affect yours?” It may not affect my marriage, but it affects my children because it has an impact upon marriage across the board.

If you look at the study, it's glaringly obvious that it doesn't deal in any way with same-sex marriage. You almost have to admire Perkins -- smarmy as he is, he's a past master at bait and switch. This is just another example of the false "logic" of equating single-parent households with same-sex households -- I guess because "mother and father." It's gotten rather pathetic, not to mention shopworn -- it's one that Perkins inherited from James Dobson. The article at Right Wing Watch deals with that argument:

U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby found [PDF] that Utah couldn’t provide any evidence to support its claim that banning same-sex marriage was necessary to curb a negative impact on opposite-sex marriage:

The State has presented no evidence that the number of opposite-sex couples choosing to marry each other is likely to be affected in any way by the ability of same-sex couples to marry. Indeed, it defies reason to conclude that allowing same-sex couples to marry will diminish the example that married opposite-sex couples set for their unmarried counterparts. Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples model the formation of committed, exclusive relationships, and both establish families based on mutual love and support. If there is any connection between same-sex marriage and responsible procreation, the relationship is likely to be the opposite of what the State suggests. Because Amendment 3 does not currently permit same-sex couples to engage in sexual activity within a marriage, the State reinforces a norm that sexual activity may take place outside the marriage relationship.

As to how that relates to the Perkins/Sprigg, et al. argument -- well, can you say "bullshit"? Of course, working from the real information and following their own logic, what you come up with is that if same-sex couples are in legally recognized marriages, the impact on the community is going to be positive.

There's audio at the link, if you want to verify the quotes. And has anyone noticed how more and more, Perkins and his ilk are carrying their message to "house organs" (yes, this is from an FRC radio show) and skipping the wider media? Any guesses on why? Could it be that people have started calling them out on the lies? Ya think?



Today's Must-Read

From Hullabaloo, a guest post in response to the whining tirade by Tom Perkins, who presumes to speak for the 1%. The author is John Forbes, also one of the 1%, and a reminder that they're not all sociopaths.

It's really not excerptable (is that a word? It is now), so read the whole thing.

(Footnote: Perkins has apologized for the "Kristallnacht" reference -- the word, not the sentiment.)

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Saturday Science: Fungus Is Our Friend

No matter what you may think of mushrooms, they appear to have a role in moderating climate change due to too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Microscopic fungi that live in plants' roots play a major role in the storage and release of carbon from the soil into the atmosphere, according to a University of Texas at Austin researcher and his colleagues at Boston University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The role of these fungi is currently unaccounted for in global climate models.

Some types of symbiotic fungi can lead to 70 percent more carbon stored in the soil.

"Natural fluxes of carbon between the land and atmosphere are enormous and play a crucial role in regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and, in turn, Earth's climate," said Colin Averill, lead author on the study and graduate student in the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin. "This analysis clearly establishes that the different types of symbiotic fungi that colonize plant roots exert major control on the global carbon cycle, which has not been fully appreciated or demonstrated until now."


This is a photo of the fruiting body of an ectomycorrhizal fungus associated with the roots of a Hemlock tree in Harvard Forest. (Credit: Colin Averill)

This is a phenomenon that climate modelers apparently haven't taken into account. I see a bright future for mushroom farmers.