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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saturay Science: Oral Histories

Did you ever stop to think about how much of what we know about the past comes from oral tradition? Because, of course, most people, until quite recently, couldn't write. Just think about how long things like the Iliad, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, all those epics, not to mention the myths, legends, and teaching stories, must have been around before anyone wrote them down.

It turns out some people were really, really good at remembering their stories:

Without using written languages, Australian tribes passed memories of life before, and during, post-glacial shoreline inundations through hundreds of generations as high-fidelity oral history. Some tribes can still point to islands that no longer exist — and provide their original names.

That’s the conclusion of linguists and a geographer, who have together identified 18 Aboriginal stories — many of which were transcribed by early settlers before the tribes that told them succumbed to murderous and disease-spreading immigrants from afar — that they say accurately described geographical features that predated the last post-ice age rising of the seas.

I suspect the accuracy of the collective memory of the Australian natives in this case has a lot to do with their highly refined sense of place:

“Dreamings” are a particularly Australian thing that finds parallels in other cultures but has a distinctly unique flavor. Marett discusses Dreamings quite clearly as a phenomenon that has to do with the spiritual and the eternal, most commonly expressed in the Daly region, the focus of this study, as “that which derives from the eternal, uncreated, springing out of itself.” This is pretty much in direct opposition to Western thought, which has difficulty dealing with the idea that something just is, and has been. It is symptomatic of the unified conceptual framework of the Aborigines that the meaning can be danced as easily as verbalized, and the dance will probably carry that meaning more clearly than the words.

Aboriginal ritual springs from the need to acknowledge and clarify the relationship of the group to the land, which includes origins, traditions, and the relationship of the living to the dead, the dead having gone back into the land with the potential of being reborn.

So think twice before you dismiss legends and folk tales as mere fictions. Because they're probably not.

Martyr du Jour

So, did you hear the one about the Catholic Warrior in Florida? The one who tore down a holiday display put up by Satanists?

On Tuesday, December 23rd of last year, Susan Hemeryck entered the Florida State Capitol building, walked past the Nativity Scene and to the Satanic Temple’s holiday display, then told two Florida Department of Law Enforcement Capitol Police officers that she was “sorry, but I have to take this down.”

Hemeryck, who was wearing a “Catholic Warrior” t-shirt at the time, then proceeded to tear down the Satanic Temple’s holiday display.

At the time, she told the Associated Press that “it’s just wrong, when you remove baby Jesus two days before Christmas and put Satan in his place? I was there at the right time and the right moment and I needed to take a stand against Satan.”

“I just yanked that little devil off the fishing line,” she said. “I should have just done a better job and finished it off for good.”

Well, it turns out she's being persecuted.
"We are not sure there was a crime," Hemeryck's attorney Mike Bauer said. "I think this case represents the state basically putting an attack on Christians. That would be her viewpoint."

This guy must work for Liberty Counsel: If a "Christian" vandalizes someone's property because she finds it offensive, it's not a crime. Because, of course, "Christians" don't have to obey laws they don't like.

Speaking of Liberty Counsel, they want to do away with the Lemon Test. The Lemon Test, as you'll recall, is the way the courts determine whether a law violates the Establishment Clause.

Since 1971, the Lemon test has allowed mere offended observers to overturn years of religious tradition,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. In the case currently before the court, two Wiccans were offended over a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Bloomfield, New Mexico, municipal building.

“The Lemon test has meant that the Establishment Clause, designed to prevent federal establishments of religion, has morphed into a weapon aimed at eliminating all vestiges of public religious expression,” added Staver. “It is past time to abandon that judge-made rule and return to the actual words and intent of the First Amendment,” concluded Staver.

Shall we take that as the next shot in the War on Religious Liberty™?

(The Establishment Clause, of course, is the reason the Satanists were able to put up their display. I suppose that's the next target.)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Marriage at the Supreme Court: The Cases

Another analysis of marriage at the Supreme Court from Ari Ezra Waldman, this one looking at the individual cases.

Read it.

Image of the Week

Another from Bernice.

I'm pretty sure I've done something similar. No water drops, though. Just the leaves.

Today in Comeuppance (Updated)

You may have heard that Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis and spokesman for the American Family Association, and host of a daily radio show on American Family Radio, has been "fired." Sort of. He's no longer holding any official position with the AFA, although he still has the radio show -- paid for by AFA -- and still writes for AFA's blog.

Now of course, this has nothing to do with a junket to Israel for members of the RNC, hosted and funded by AFA. Except that the Israeli press got hold of it. From Haaretz:

Some 60 members of the Republican National Committee, including its chairman, are heading to Israel at the end of the month on a trip fully paid for by an organization described as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Rachel Maddow broke the story -- at least in this incarnation -- and provides some good background on the participants:

(Note that David Lane's organization is an arm of the AFA.)

Considering that among Fischer's inflammatory statements are more than a few that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic (and I don't mean he hates Arabs, although he does that, too), there's been a bit of criticism. (As to why members of the Republican National Committee would accept an all-expenses-paid trip from a right-wing hate group -- well, you don't even really have to use your imagination for that one.)

So, the AFA fires Fischer as a face-saving measure. Except that no one believed them.

From what we have been able to gather, Fischer has not actually been dismissed by AFA but has rather merely been stripped of his title as director of issues analysis and his role as spokesman for the organization. Fischer will reportedly continue to produce his daily radio program for the AFA's radio arm, American Family Radio.

If this is indeed the case, then the AFA has literally accomplished nothing with this stunt and has completely failed to distance itself from Fischer's utterly despicable views. The primary venues though which Fischer has managed to spread his bigotry for the last six years have always been owned, operated, and funded by the American Family Association and that relationship appears to remain intact.

Stripping Fischer of his title as AFA spokesman in no way alleviates the AFA of its responsibility for Fischer's toxic views given that the only reason Fischer even has a platform from which to spread those views is because AFA is providing it to him and paying him to spread them!

A big part of the reaction can be summed up as "Yeah, right." So AFA responded to the SPLC, listing in detail the comments by Fischer that they reject.

And again, yeah, right. The SPLC responded appropriately:

In response, Cohen wrote, “The fact that the AFA is continuing to allow Mr. Fischer to host a daily radio show and blog on its website also makes us question the AFA’s sincerity. Sponsoring Mr. Fischer’s racism, anti-Semitism, and hatred of the Muslim and the LGBT communities in the name of ‘diversity’ says as much about the AFA as it does about Mr. Fischer.

“Is there nothing beyond the pale in the AFA’s view? Does the AFA believe that statements such as these have a place on its airwaves? Is this what the AFA considers ‘diversity’?”

Cohen noted that other AFA officials, including its president, Tim Wildmon, and founder, Don Wildmon, also have made statements “that reflect narrow-minded bigotry” and that AFA printed materials have demonized the LGBT community.

“Without ending Mr. Fischer’s talk show, without apologizing for the bigoted statements that he, Mr. Wildmon, and others associated with the AFA have made, and without making it crystal clear that the AFA will not tolerate any such statements in the future, the AFA’s 11th-hour disavowal of Mr. Fischer appears to serve only one purpose: to give the AFA a degree of plausible deniability while it continues to spew hateful rhetoric,” Cohen wrote. “It’s a shell game and a transparent one at that.”

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see someone responding to AFA as they deserve.

Interestingly enough, so far as I can see at this point, the RNC has remained mum.

So maybe the DNC should take it and run? Nah -- that wouldn't be nice.

Update: Maddow is on it -- her follow-up:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Who Would Have Guessed?

You've no doubt noticed that the latest tactic among the anti-marriage crowd is to pretend the courts don't exist, or at least, exist only to take away voting rights and ensconce the "religious beliefs" of corporations into law. I discussed that stance here, here, here, and here.

The latest to jump on the "nullification" bandwagon is Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court:

As Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, I will continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment. I ask you to continue to uphold and support the Alabama Constitution with respect to marriage, both for the welfare of this state and for our posterity. Be advised that I stand with you to stop judicial tyranny and any unlawful opinions issued without constitutional authority.

Those "unlawful opinions" he's talking about come from federal courts. It seems to me that Judge Moore should study about the role of the federal courts in enforcing Constitutional guarantees of individual rights, particularly when those rights are abridged by popular referendum, which itself is patently unlawful. (You can get more of Moore's history at the link.)

Do I hear the ghost of George Wallace applauding wildly?

So of course, Tony Perkins thinks that Judge Roy Moore is the cat's pajamas.

Federal judges may have the last word on marriage -- but they won't have the final one. That's becoming abundantly clear in Alabama, the latest state to feel the sting of a runaway court invalidating the will of the people on marriage. In a letter to Governor Robert Bentley (R-Ala.), Chief Justice Roy Moore made that quite clear - explaining that this isn't an issue that the federal courts will resolve. Rather, he said, it 'raises serious, legitimate concerns about the propriety of federal court jurisdiction over the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.' While some may accept same-sex marriage as they have abortion-on-demand, same-sex 'marriage' will never enjoy universal acceptance as the norm that natural marriage does. We've already seen a decline in public acceptance of same-sex 'marriage' as others have lost their freedoms of speech and religion. Those numbers will increase. If liberals honestly believe that Americans -- millions of whom turned out to protect natural marriage in law -- will stand by while the courts silence their voice, they're mistaken."

It's getting to the point where Perkins' press releases are just funny, if not quite as pathetic as those coming from Brian Brown. Although one has to have a certain amount of admiration for the way he can twist reality to suit his agenda without ever batting an eyelash. I guess that's one of the advantages of having no moral foundation.

And of course, Moore's letter is just getting him all hot and sweaty again.

Culture Break: Corvus Corax, "Twilight of the Thunder God"

I first ran across Corvux Corax several years ago, when I wound up reviewing The Best of Corvus Corax, which was their first American release. (Another one of those "Sure, I can do that" moments.) At that point, they were a hot item in the Berlin club scene, and were still doing medieval music on bagpipes and drums. For this one, they've teamed up with a group of taiko drummers*, Wadokyo, for a performance at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2013. It's quite a shift from their earlier stuff, and I'm not sure what I think of it.

In case the term "taiko" is jiggling something at the back of your mind, think of Kodo.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Today's Must Read

Ari Ezra Waldman has a very good summary of the framing of the marriage cases to be heard by the Supreme Court on appeal from the Sixth Circuit. The questions the Court will address are:

1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state?

The second question is giving some commentators shpilkies, as we used to say in Rogers Park: they see it as an indication that the Court may dodge on a ruling granting nationwide marriage equality. Waldman lays that one to rest quite effectively:
First, recall that there were four cases on appeal up to the Supreme Court and all four cases were consolidated and granted review. But the four cases were not identical. Two of them -- the Ohio case, Obergefell v. Hodges, and the Tennessee case, Tanco v. Haslam -- are exclusively challenges to the states' refusal to recognize valid marriages performed out of state. They are challenges to what are colloquially called "mini-DOMAs."

In other words, that question has to be presented, otherwise two of the cases are left out in the cold.

It's a quick read, has some useful history, and it's nice, concise, and very clear. Do it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marriage News Watch, January 26, 2015

There's a big fight underway right now in Alabama, with a Judge overturning a marriage ban and state officials refusing to obey his order to issue licenses. Anti-gay politicians are threatening to ban all marriage licenses if the Supreme Court rules in favor of equality. And one lawmaker even wants to send clerks to jail if they issue licenses to anyone -- gay or straight.

Update: The judge in Alabama has placed a fourteen day stay on her decision.

I'd forgotten about Huckabee's moronic statements. Here's a good take-down from The Atlantic:

Some conservatives seem resigned to the fact that the fight is lost; not Huckabee. Here's what he told radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday:
One thing I am angry about, though, Hugh, is this notion of judicial supremacy, where if the courts make a decision, I hear governors and even some aspirants to the presidency say well, that’s settled, and it’s the law of the land. No, it isn’t the law of the land. Constitutionally, the courts cannot make a law. They can interpret one. And then the legislature has to create enabling legislation, and the executive has to sign it, and has to enforce it.

Hewitt seemed a little taken aback: Was Huckabee counseling that county clerks simply ignore Supreme Court rulings and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

Well, the point is states would be in a position that their legislatures would have to go into session. They would have to create legislation that the governor would sign. If they don’t, then there is not same sex marriage in that state. Now if the federal courts say well, you’re going to have to do it, well, then you have a confrontation. At that point, somebody has to decide is the Court right? If it is, then the legislation will be passed. It’s not unlike we’ve seen other legislation.

I refer Governor/Pastor (and which do you suppose he prefers? Or does he know the difference?) Huckabee to Article VI, Par. 2, of the United States Constitution.

Read the rest of the article. And see the previous post for more on Alabama and Oklahoma.

And here's the latest map:

Obstruction As Ideology

Well, maybe that's too strong a word -- let's say "political philosophy" -- that seems to work as well. (No, the two are not the same -- "ideology" has come to have religious overtones; "political philosophy" is rather less emotional.)

Now, we're all familiar with this from the actions -- or inactions, to be more accurate -- of Congress over the past several years. The Republicans are still working on making Obama a one-term president. But we're now seeing it at the state level, most notably in the case of the recent pro-marriage decisions in Florida and Alabama. Alabama perhaps throws it into high relief:

"Judge Granade's ruling in this case only applies to the parties in the case and has no effect on anybody that is not a named party. The probate judges were not parties in this matter," Al Agricola, attorney for the Alabama Probate Judges Association, explained. "The legal effect of this decision is to allow one person in one same-sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner's child. There is nothing in the judge's order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples."

Judge Greg Norris, President of the Alabama Probate Judges Association, hopes that misinterpretation of Friday's ruling will not cause confusion among the general public.

Ah, yes -- "misinterpretation" and "confusion among the general public." Where have we heard that before? You will recall that someone finally asked Judge Robert Hinkle for clarification. He was not amused.

I have one question for Mr. Agricola: what part of the word "unconstitutional" is it that you don't understand?

And, just to show the sheer inventiveness of the anti-marriage loons, a legislator in Oklahoma wants the state out of the "marriage business" completely:

Marriage licenses would become a thing of the past in Oklahoma under a bill filed by state Rep. Todd Russ.

The Cordell Republican says he wants to protect court clerks from having to issue licenses to same-sex couples. He doesn’t want these workers put in the position of having to condone or facilitate same-sex marriage.

Under his plan, a religious official would sign a couple’s marriage certificate, which would then be filed with the clerk. Marriages would no longer be performed by judges. If a couple did not have a religious official to preside over their wedding, they could file an affidavit of common law marriage.

“Marriages are not supposed to be a government thing anyway,” he said Wednesday.

Russ, a credentialed Assemblies of God minister, is upset with rulings that have supported same-sex marriage.

No shit.

Well, let's see, aside from the 14th Amendment Equal Protection violation -- common-law marriages vs. "real" marriages (oh, and one of those pesky details that seems to elude these assholes: Oklahoma does not, at present, recognize common-law marriages), there's probably a violation of the Establishment Clause in there somewhere -- a religious test to qualify for federal marriage benefits? Does the federal government recognize common-law marriages if they're not recognized by the state?

Oh, and Rep. Russ? Marriage is most certainly a "government thing," in every country outside the Vatican. (Give or take some fundamentalist Islamic states.)

Sort of reminds me of those county clerks in Florida who decided that they would no longer perform marriages in the courthouse.

Actually, it reminds me more of a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.

(Both stores via Joe.My.God.)

And of course Ted Cruz is getting into the act:

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) says he is planning on introducing an amendment that would prohibit judges from overturning state same-sex marriage bans, as he believes that same-sex marriage isn't protected under the Constitution.

Yeah, that's going to go far, isn't it? So far, Cruz has managed to show that he's good at one thing: grandstanding.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Saturday Science: You Never Know What's Out There

Which to me is what makes the universe interesting. It seems there just might be another couple of planets in our solar system:
At least two as-yet undiscovered planets as big as Earth or larger may be hiding in the outer fringes of the solar system, scientists believe.

The secret worlds are thought to exist beyond the orbits of Neptune, the furthest true planet from the Sun, and the even more distant tiny “dwarf planet” Pluto.

The evidence comes from observations of a belt of space rocks known as “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” (Etnos).

Orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune, Etnos should be distributed randomly with paths that have certain defined characteristics. But a dozen of the bodies have completely unexpected orbital values consistent with them being influenced by the gravitational pull of something unseen.

What surprises me about discoveries like this, and all the planets we're finding orbiting other stars, is the surprise in some quarters. I mean, it seems sort of inevitable that other stars would have planets, if for no other reason than that there's so much stuff floating around in space looking for a home. And we've known for a long time that our own solar system is a little more complicated than a bunch of planets with their attendant moons circling the sun in a nice, orderly fashion.

And, as it turns out, those who pay attention to such things have been thinking for a while that there's something out there:

Astronomers have spent decades debating whether a hidden planet beyond Pluto remained undiscovered.

The new research, published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters, is based on analysis of an effect called the “Kozai mechanism”, by which a large body disturbs the orbit of a smaller and more distant object.

The scientists wrote: “In this scenario, a population of stable asteroids may be shepherded by a distant, undiscovered planet larger than the Earth …”

One problem is that the theory goes against predictions of computer simulations of the formation of the solar system, which state there are no other planets moving in circular orbits beyond Neptune. But the recent discovery of a planet-forming disk of dust and gas more than 100 astronomical units (AU) from the star HL Tauri suggests planets can form long distances away from the centre of a solar system.

The view from out there:

An artist’s impression of one of the two as-yet undiscovered planets. Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/PA

I've Lost Count Again

Alabama's marriage bans go down the toilet. (Alabama??!! Yes, Alabama.)

Here's the decision.

The attorney general of Alabama is, of course, vowing to fight to the bitter end.

And among the expected reactions is Tony Perkins, with his usual mix of hyperbole, misrepresentation, and fabrication. I'm not going to parse it -- there's enough holes there to accommodate a whole bunch of wedding parties.

Strangely enough, Brian Brown has not claimed a major victory. Perhaps if a stay is granted, he'll have a parade of his dozen followers.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Image of the Week

Another from Bernice, bless her heart. I just love this one:

And no, I've never done a similar image.

Today's Must Read

If you're wondering who's really running the country, it may not be Wall Street. It starts to look like it's the intelligence establishment -- which is not limited to the CIA, NSA, and FBI. Read this post by Digby if you really want to get depressed.

This was essentially a political trial designed to scare the bezeejuz out of anyone who goes anywhere near Anonymous.

A court in Dallas has sentenced Barrett Brown to 63 months in federal prison, minus 28 months already served. For count one in the case, he receives 48 months. For count 2, he receives 12 months. And for count 3, he receives 3 months. He is also ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution.

The government's charges against the intelligence and security reporter stemmed from his relationship with sources close to the hacker group Anonymous, and the fact that Brown published a link to publicly-available copies of leaked Stratfor documents.

The fact that the Department of Justice was pulling the strings on this -- at the behest of private security firms -- does not make me real comfortable, you know?

Republicans vs. The Rest of Us

I know, that could be a title for just about any commentary on Congress or too many state houses in this country. This time, it's a follow-up on this post about Social Security. Josh Marshall has an update/analysis that is nice, tight, and concise. The nut:
Even if you think that severe anxiety disorders and chronic back problems aren't real disabilities, they don't make up anywhere that number of recipients. But the headline isn't really the point. It's the subtext. The score rather than the libretto. The point is that this is taxpayer money for people who don't want to work, people complaining about everyday problems that most of us get by with no problem as an excuse to get a government check.

Every government program, every insurance policy, every industry has fraud. But this shows both a total ignorance of who the program's beneficiaries are and a crystal clear intent to put the program itself on the chopping block. Ahead of that - and here you have the real angle - is a plan to set different classes of Social Security recipients against each other in a zero sum for scarce dollars when in fact the scarcity is manufactured to advance the libertarian - everyone on their own - philosophy of those like Sen. Paul and others involved in the hunt to start slashing away at this program.

He starts off by quoting Rand Paul (R-Fountainhead) spouting the usual lies about freeloaders.

My sister is on disability. She can work, but just barely, and the benefits are meager enough that, even working at what jobs she can handle, she can barely make ends meet. She's hardly a freeloader -- she'd love to be able to work more at a real job, instead of whatever pick-up work she can get, but she can't.

The real issue is that the Republicans are going after Social Security again, using whatever lies they think will play to the base or set one group against another, as Marshall points out. Since most of them are millionaires, at least (Paul's estimated net worth is $2.5 million, with an income of about $300,000 last year), and will have guaranteed pensions from their service in Congress (such as it is), they're not going to feel it.

Frankly, I think one reform we should consider is taking away those government pensions for members of Congress and putting them on Social Security.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Today In Unintentional Irony

From Digby, this choice little bit:

Billionaire Jeff Greene, who amassed a multibillion dollar fortune betting against subprime mortgage securities, says the U.S. faces a jobs crisis that will cause social unrest and radical politics.

“America’s lifestyle expectations are far too high and need to be adjusted so we have less things and a smaller, better existence,” Greene said in an interview today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We need to reinvent our whole system of life.”


Greene, who flew his wife, children and two nannies on a private jet plane to Davos for the week, said he’s planning a conference in Palm Beach, Florida, at the Tideline Hotel called “Closing the Gap.”

Do these people ever listen to themselves?

Divine Retribution

Jim Burroway, in today's "Daily Agenda" at Box Turtle Bulletin, has a couple of interesting items that fall under the heading "Moralistic Reactions to Disease." I'm going to mix them up a bit -- he's following the "Daily Agenda" format, which doesn't necessarily lead to a clear narrative.

First, some fairly recent history, in the form of this quote from the ever benign Pat Buchanan, from a New York Post column in 1983, when AIDS was rearing its ugly head:

Through much of the first decades of the AIDS crisis, moralistic preachers, pundits and politicians described the fatal disease as divine punishment for what they saw as illicit behavior. In 1983, for example, New York Post Columnist Pat Buchanan wrote, “The poor homosexuals… they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”

That's not a new attitude. Burroway outlines some of the history in both entries, which are concerned with the reaction to venereal disease, as they used to call it, from scientists. Yes, scientists.

In 1916, Dr. Winfield Scott Hall, professor of physiology at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, published a book, Sexual Knowledge, “for the instruction of young people, young wives and young husbands… on the best way and the best time to impart sexual knowledge to boys and girls.”

It contained gems of scientific thought like this:

Nature has devised a retribution for illicit intercourse in the form of venereal disease. If the parties observe fidelity to their marriage vows, venereal disease is experienced in wedlock only on very rare occasions, and then through some accidental infection, as from contact with some public utensil, as a public water closet, a public towel, or a drinking cup. So rare is this unfortunate accident, however, that we may say that intercourse in undefiled wedlock results normally in pleasure and gratification to both parties; while intercourse out of wedlock, or illicit intercourse, is destined, as a rule, to be visited with retribution.

There was pushback, of course -- not everyone was a moralistic asshole, not even in 1916. The immediate response to Hall's book came from Dr. William J. Robinson, who, unfortunately for Hall, was editor of the American Journal of Urology and Sexology. My favorite bit from his review (which Burroway quotes at length):

Venereal disease is Nature’s retribution for illicit intercourse. And what is measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria a retribution for? What is consumption, cancer, heart disease, Bright’s disease, a retribution for?

Some years before, biologist Ilya Mechnikov addressed the same issue, in rather more moderate tones:

In the question of the prevention of syphilis, the moral problem is still more easy to settle. … The certainty of safety from this disease might render extra-conjugal relations more frequent, but if we compare the evil which might come from that with the immense benefit gained in preventing so many innocent persons from becoming diseased, it is easy to see which side the scale dips.

Now, lest you think that this is all a nice little historical quirk, think about the current outcry in some quarters against PReP and the use of a potential HIV vaccine. The surface reason is that these measures will encourage people to be careless. I suspect you don't have to dig very far to uncover an underlying assumption: promiscuity is bad. (Even in Mechnikov's comment, there is the underlying assumption that "illicit" sex is wrong, but we must protect the "innocents.")

This is not an attitude that has left us. Do I need to draw the obvious comparison to the "right to life" anti-abortion activists -- who are now revealing themselves as not just opposed to abortion, but to any form of birth control? Yes, it's heavily involved with misogyny, and it comes from the "Christian" right -- the same group that is so obsessed with gay sex, which is, by definition, "illicit." The assumption is that any sex outside of what they deem appropriate is due for punishment, whether it be some horrible disease or merely an unwanted baby that you can't care for. (I'm not going to go into what sorts of sexual behavior are "natural" for human beings -- going back into history and looking at the behaviors of our closest relatives, there are all sorts of things going on, from monogamy to alpha males keeping harems to free love. I'll let the anthropologists sort it out.)

But it's not only about sex -- it's about the whole idea of disease as a "punishment," which on its face is ridiculous -- unless, of course, you subscribe to the belief that we are all born bad. Needless to say, I don't subscribe to the idea of "original sin." My sins, such as they are, are my own, thank you very much, and I'm not about to ask forgiveness for being born.

And I'm afraid that, try as I might, I can't ascribe this idea to anything other than a world view that tries to dictate to nature how it's supposed to behave. (One of my favorite quotes from former Senator Frothy Mix runs to the effect that birth control, etc., are bad because they lead to sexual behavior that isn't the way it's "supposed to be.")

The problem is, nature isn't listening.

Do read Burroway's entire post -- it's quite illuminating.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Never Say Die!

The "Christian" right never gives up -- I guess because they have God's Truth™ on their side. The downside, of course, is that they get farther and farther away from any recognizable reality. Take this little rant from Brian Brown, which I'm going to parse on the run. You can read the whole thing, if you really want to, at the link.

Fanfare! With trumpets!

Over 50 million Americans who stood for marriage in 30 states will finally have their day in Court! I have to tell you that I am totally pumped to finally get our day in court.

I don't know how to break it to you, but you've had your day in court -- dozens of times. And all but eight times, you lost. Six of those eight cases are going to the Supreme Court, buttressed by a decision that deals with none of the issues the Court wants to hear.

I think the mainstream media is wrong and it will turn out that we win this case!

It's not the mainstream media, it's the 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th Circuit courts. (The 2nd and 3rd are moot -- those states already have marriage equality; the 1st has one case on appeal -- Puerto Rico -- and marriage equality in all other states in the circuit. And based on the reaction of the judges during oral arguments, the 5th looks like a win for our side.)
I just don't see how Justice Kennedy, likely the swing vote, can distance himself from the strong reasoning he used in the Windsor case where he said that states have historically regulated marriage and the federal government could not substitute its judgment for the decision of a state.

1) Exactly -- Kennedy was talking about the Congress overriding the states; and 2) He was also quite clear that those state regulations have to conform to constitutional guarantees of individual rights.

. . . we will never lose marriage because marriage is a universal truth.

Um -- is that supposed to mean something? Because it doesn't.

And regardless, defeatism is a recipe for disaster, a byproduct of the gay 'marriage' lobby's carefully crafted strategic plan: to convince ordinary Americans that the battle is already lost and to give up the fight.

OK, this is funny. Brown seems to think that the "gay marriage lobby" is in control of the federal court system -- mind-control waves or something? Oh, and the majority of "ordinary Americans" support marriage equality.

Some things are too easy.

Oh, by the way -- according to Joe.My.God., there are three separate money begs in that post.

Culture Break: Gurdjieff's "Chant From a Holy Book"

Gyorgy Ivanovitch Gurdjieff was, among other things, a composer, drawing upon the rich musical heritage of his birthplace, the area between Turkey and Armenia (or "around," if you prefer). I reviewed an album of his music* a number of years ago, and there is quite a bit of it on YouTube, from which this piece comes -- it's not one I've heard before, but it does capture the feel of much of his music.

* That's a review that's going to be moved to Sleeping Hedgehog -- eventually, when I get that far. But the GMR link will still be good, until someone gets around to cleaning house.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fox Eats Crow

Remember that report on Fox News about the "no-go zones" for non-Muslims in Paris? And the "report" that the city of Birmingham, in England, is completely Muslim and under sharia law?

Well, Fox spent the week apologizing for that (and how often does that happen?), publicly and on-air. Here's Yann Barthès, of Le Petit Journal, with his reaction to the apologies. You'll remember that it was Barthès who had the most effective commentary on the whole thing. (It's not subtitled, but I think you can get the gist of it fairly easily, even if you don't speak French.)

Here's some more background from Digby on the whole "no-go zones" mantra that's been pushed by Fox (until they were called out by British PM David Cameron, as well as Le Petit Journal). Apparently, Bobby Jindal didn't get the memo. But then, we knew he was an idiot.

I don't know if he's misinformed or lying but this is the kind of lunacy that we are going to be seeing more of. It's obvious that terrorism fear-mongering is back on the menu:

LONDON — In a foreign policy speech delivered Monday in London, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that in the West, "non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home."

The Republican governor added that "it is startling to think that any country would allow, even unofficially, for a so-called 'no-go zone'."

And he said this in London, of all places.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Marriage News Watch, January 19, 2015

Florida has finally legalized driving while gay. Bills to discriminate against gay couples are rapidly multiplying in Texas. And multiple states are still wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to reverse marriage equality.

"Driving while gay." I like that.

Here's more on that "don't do business with gays" law from Virginia -- introduced, of course, by Bob Marshall, one of the nuttiest of the wingnuts.

I've been predicting these sorts of responses for a while, and Baume is right: they're going to be annoying until they're overturned in court, and I think they ultimately will be -- unless the Roberts court decides to use the opportunity to gut the Civil Rights Act, which is not outside the realm of possibility. In that case -- what do you have to do to establish refugee status in Canada?

Maddow on The Supreme Court and Marriage

Fairly lengthy segment, but worth watching:

There's at last one small factual error in the report -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, and either Vermont or New Hampshire (or maybe both) instituted same-sex marriage by state court decisions, not federal. Maine, Maryland, and Washington State accomplished it by referendum, New Mexico had never limited marriage to opposite sex couples -- that was another state court decision -- while the rest of the pre-Windsor marriage states established SSM through legislative action.

But the big, gray, smelly elephant in the room is the substance of the 6th Circuit decision itself and the way in which the Supreme Court framed its order: the majority opinion from the 6th did not address the Equal Protection or Due Process arguments. The best analysis is the dissenting opinion by Martha Craig Daughtrey:

The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal: whether a state’s constitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage violates equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for “proceeding with caution” (otherwise known as the “wait and see” approach), I dissent.

Frankly, I'm disappointed in Maddow for this episode. She usually manages to address the real issues, which I outlined here; this one looks like no more than jumping on the "What is the Court going to do?" bandwagon.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I'm Making a Prediction

which I usually try to avoid, because people, especially those on the Supreme Court, are habitually unpredictable. But, I decided to post the following, which is a comment a left at Balloon Juice on a post about the Supreme Court taking the appeal of the Sixth Circuit marriage cases:

I’d guess that June will see same-sex marriage as the law of the land. The 6th Circuit majority opinion did not address the issues the Court has said it wants addressed — in fact, it avoided addressing any 14th Amendment issues at all — and the Supreme Court’s own precedents make a finding for marriage equality the most logical outcome. (Given that logic and this Court have a somewhat adversarial relationship.) Not only Windsor, but Lawrence v. Texas, Romer v. Evans, Loving (and a couple of similar cases that all point to the Court’s reluctance to set definitions on who can be married — the court did not find, for example, that there is a “right to interracial marriage”), and Griswold are all stacked up in favor of marriage equality, under the heading “The government cannot interfere in intimate relationships between consenting adults without a compelling reason.” Since these cases involve a fundamental right, the Court will be able to examine them under heightened or strict scrutiny without identifying a new suspect class, which will make most of the justices more comfortable — they really hate finding new suspect classes.

Nor is it, in spite of Scalia’s protestations, a matter of discovering a new “right to same-sex marriage.” It’s a matter of the states lacking any rational reason for excluding same-sex couples from a right readily available to similarly situated opposite-sex couples.

Quite aside from the practical problems inherent in finding for the states — all those marriages are now invalid? And what about the states that have adopted SSM through legislative means, by referendum, or by the decisions of state courts? SSM would still be legal there — there is solid constitutional basis for a favorable decision.

The states’ right argument is dead in the water, even given Windsor. The part that opponents of SSM don’t like to mention when referring to Kennedy’s states’ rights language is the stipulation, which was quite plain, the state laws must conform to Constitutional requirements. He was also quite eloquent about the harm done by the bans to the children of same-sex couples.

I would guess, all else being equal and given Kennedy’s record on gay rights, that the decision will go toward striking down same-sex marriage bans. It’s even possible, since corporations tend to favor equal rights for LGBTs (it’s good for business), that the vote will be 6-3, with Roberts siding with the majority. Scalia will write a scathing dissent, with which Thomas will concur. Alito is a cipher to me — he may decide to stick with the corporate wing or go with the social conservative wing.

I also ran across this interview with David Boies on the question, which was rather comforting: he agrees with me, and adds a couple of insights that I hadn't thought of.

Also, it seems that most commentators not named Brian Brown feel that the GOP would really like this settled before the 2016 election, so they can concentrate on Benghazi!!1! or something.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"No Go" Zones in Paris?

You may have heard about the Fox News report on the "no go" zones for non-Muslims in Paris -- you know, where the neighborhood is completely under the control of Al Queda and the law is sharia. It must be true -- it was on Fox!

Well, here's the response from France's equivalent to The Daily Show:

I don't think I need to say more, except you don't want to tangle with a French satirist. ("Barbie and Ken"? I love it.)

Via The New Civil Rights Movement.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Image(s) of the Week

Another from Bernice to start:

I like images like this, with a strong diagonal taking center stage. Things like grass stems lend themselves to this sort of treatment.

Another one of my own, again with a little touch of bokeh, which I'm realizing I tend to use a lot on close-up studies.

At any rate, enjoy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

They're Going To Try Again

"They" being the Republicans, all giddy over their control of both House and Senate, and "Try Again" relates specifically to taking down Social Security, which they've been wanting to do for eighty years. The latest move is to force a crisis in funding. Well, OK, it's an old move, but this time they want to force a real crisis, instead of just making shit up.

Republicans are seizing a once-every-20-years opportunity to force a crisis in the Social Security disability program and use it as leverage to push through reforms, a long game that they have been quietly laying groundwork for since taking control of the House in 2010.

In less than two years, the Social Social disability insurance program will start being unable to pay its full benefits and House Republicans said this week that they aren't going to simply give it more revenue from the retirement side, as has been done historically. It's the latest episode in a protracted campaign over the disability program -- and it raises the question of what exactly Republicans plan to do now.

It's a rules change, so there's no chance for a veto. (And "reforms" in that quote should really be in sarcasm quotes.) However, not everyone is confident that Obama would veto any such legislation that crossed his desk.

But notably silent on the Republican stance, which prevents what has been a routine transfer of revenue between the retirement and disability funds, upping the chances of a crisis for the latter in late 2016, was the Democratic official who might actually be at the table if conservatives succeed in forcing negotiations in the next Congress: President Barack Obama.

TPM asked multiple times last week for the White House's position on the House action, but never received a formal response, a stark contrast to the loud public pronouncements of Brown, Warren, and others. It also invokes the uneasy relationship between the White House and Social Security advocates, who were dismayed by Obama's willingness to accept cuts to the program during the 2011 grand bargain talks with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

"Advocates do not trust the president on Social Security," Monique Morrissey, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, told TPM last week.

Frankly, I don't trust Obama on much of anything, especially not Social Security. He's been too willing to "compromise" on it in the past, and he's no less a corporate Democrat than anyone else in office. (I keep remembering that our current mayor, Rahm "Privatize Chicago" Emanuel, was his chief of staff.) Why don't I trust him?

During the 2012 election, Obama's campaign said that he is "committed to keeping the promise of guaranteed Social Security benefits for current and future generations."

After the election, Obama's FY 2014 budget proposal would have cut Social Security in exchange for tax revenues, a plan that Dan Adcock, policy director of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told TPM had "troubled" his group.

That was is a give-away to Republicans on its face: Social Security is not part of the federal budget; it has a separate revenue stream and is set up as a trust fund. The only connection is that the trust holds about $2.7 trillion in Treasury notes (as of last year), money that the general fund has borrowed. They're bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury, which means they are the most secure investment in the world.

And notice that he didn't commit to "guaranteed Social Security benefits" at any particular level.

But back to the Republican "plan." As usual, there is none, except that they're trying to get Social Security on the negotiating table again. Why? Well, they've always hated it -- it's the prime example of Big Government, and it works -- so there's an ideological component. I don't doubt that the eventual goal is privatization. Since that proved so popular last time it was broached -- the backlash was so bad the Bush administration dropped it like a hot potato -- they'll try to sneak it through, because that's what they do.

Digby has a good comment on this, which is what sparked this post. It's short, and about half of it is the quote I used above, but her summation is worth reading.

There's also a good summary of the situation at Mahablog with the added benefit of a Republican Congressman letting the cat out of the bag on privatization.

And TPM has a history of the Republican war on Social Security.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gobbledygook du Jour

From Randy Thomasson, who apparently still thinks people are listening to him:

Each governor is authorized to call out his/her state's militia or National Guard to enforce written laws and maintain public order against foreign and domestic enemies. In view of the current crisis on marriage, a constitutional governor can and should do the following: Announce he took an oath to obey the constitution, not to obey a judge’s unconstitutional opinion. Announce that no homosexual 'marriage' licenses will be issued, and no county clerk is permitted to issue marriage licenses to anyone other than a qualified man and woman. Utilize the support of the state attorney general (if that constitutional officer is willing to stand alongside) or use the state’s National Guard to enforce the law at county clerk’s offices.

"Crisis on marriage"? What crisis? Marriage seems to be doing as well as can be expected, considering the way heterosexuals treat it.

". . . took an oath to obey the constitution. . . ." Well, if they comply with the court decisions, that's what they're doing. Or did you forget that the federal Constitution supersedes all the others?

". . . not to obey a judge's unconstitutional opinion." Huh? This is another one of those right-wing catch-phrases that means exactly nothing.

". . . use the state's National Guard to enforce the law at county clerk's offices." Somehow, I don't think Thomasson is envisioning an honor guard for same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses, which is what would happen if they were, in fact, enforcing the law.

That was way too easy. Something tells me someone hasn't been getting enough attention lately.

I guess word salad became fashionable on the right around 2008?

Via Joe.My.God. Click through for a brief summary of more of Thomasson's nonsense.

Law Nerd

So it's 6:30 in the morning and I'm sitting here reading a legal ruling. This one happens to be from the South Dakota case, and it quite cogently and clearly demolishes the state's contention that its marriage ban is special.

Unfortunately, the judge saw fit to stay the ruling pending appeal. At this point, although routine, it's pointless, although the Eighth Circuit, which includes South Dakota, has yet to rule on a marriage case. Given the weight of other decisions, however, and the fact that the Supreme Court refused to extend the stay in Florida, even though the Eleventh Circuit has not ruled, it seems pointless.

At any rate, South Dakota makes it 37 plus D.C.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Marriage News Watch, January 12, 2015

It's been a huge week for marriage equality. Florida became the 36th state with the freedom to marry, judges in three southern states heard oral arguments, and the Supreme Court considered cases from five states. Plus a lawmaker in Texas is wasting everyone's time with a new anti-gay law that would make life difficult for everyone.

Here's a story on Cecil Bell, Jr. and his bill allowing -- what? Nullification? License to discriminate? All of the above?

And here's a story on Scott Schneider and his "religious freedom bill" in Indiana.

And just to cap off the "religious freedom" theme for now, read Frank Bruni's column at NYT on that little phenomenon. I may have more to say about it later, once I've digested it a bit.

Quite a roster.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Image(s) of the Week (Updated)

A couple of days late. The first is another from Bernice:

Which called to mind this image of mine from several years ago.

I actually used that as the cover image on a New Year's card. Hand-colored.

I may do this again -- looking at what Bernice has sent me, there are a couple of images that parallel some of mine.

Update: Bernice tells me that my image is a good example of bokeh, a Japanese term that denotes the practice of using depth of field and the blurring of the portion of the image outside the range of sharp focus as a compositional device. It's something I've been doing for a long time, particularly in landscapes and close-up studies like this. I didn't even know it had a name.

They Might As Well Give Up

I spend way too much time surfing the Internet these days, when I should be doing things like cleaning house, but I do see some interesting trends.

If you follow this blog, you know I've spent a fair amount of time covering the marriage fight, but that's only part of the picture -- a high-profile part, to be sure, but only part. That's where the major campaign has been waged in the past few years, that's the one getting all the press, and that's the one leading to much wailing and rending of garments on the part of the guardians of "traditional values." (Who, as far as I'm concerned, have as much understanding of values as they do of morality, which is to say, rudimentary, at best.)

Yes, marriage is a fundamental and very important institution, but there's another one that's equally important and, if I may hazard an opinion, equally foundational: marketing.

OK, he's lost it, you're thinking. But consider: we are basically a capitalist society. Not purely capitalist, because that inevitably leads to disaster, but in all essentials, we have private producers and purveyors who offer goods and services to the public. It's a consumer driven economy, and a society that is ultimately very materialistic. And of course, marketing is the means by which the producers and purveyors try to convince the consumers to buy their particular brand.

And look what's been happening lately:

From Banana Republic:

That's Nate Berkus and his fiance, Jeremiah Brent, in a campaign highlighting "real relationships."

And from Tiffany:

The couple, who are a real gay couple, remain anonymous at this point, but the caption is a winner:

"Will you promise to never stop completing my sentences or singing off-key, which I'm afraid you do often? And will you let today be the first sentence of one long story that never, ever ends? Will you?"

And to cap it off, this spot for the ACA:

(Via Joe.My.God.)

This is also a real-life couple.

The intent in these ads is plain: they want to appeal to younger people, those who are growing up with the ideas of diversity and inclusiveness (which, after all, are real American values: without those in the mix, this country would not have survived) as a firm part of their world view, and they want to appeal to the great middle, that majority of Americans who are not bothered by the idea of equal rights, including marriage, for gay people. They're aiming for the mainstream, which the Tony Perkinses and Bryan Fischers and Brian Browns are not. Americans are, on the whole, a tolerant people, no matter what you hear from the fringes. (And it's only the fringes that seem to get any coverage these days, I guess because they're loud and obnoxious and that somehow translates into ratings.) We as a people are pretty much live and let live, and we're rapidly approaching the point, if we're not already there, that for most people, something like that ad caption above generates an "Aww" and not a heart attack.

These are only the latest in a series of similar ads and TV spots going way back that have been cropping up more and more frequently, and which show no sign of disappearing.

I'm not the first to register on this: here's a story from Adweek from 2011 on "The 50 Gayest Ads Ever" that also demonstrates that the phenomenon is, and has been, global. In fact, other countries are way ahead of us. Remember this McDonald's ad, from France?

And this one, which led to one of those phenomenally successful (just ask them) boycotts from Anti-Gay, Inc.:

I think it was the tag line -- "This is wholesome" -- that caused heads to explode. Poor things. At any rate, you get the idea. It's a phenomenon that's been pretty much out of the spotlight, but it's been happening gradually, quietly (usually), and all over the world. It's called "normalization," and we're there.

Friday, January 09, 2015

There's a Lesson Here, Somewhere

darth™ @darth

"i need another toy this one exploded by accident"
RT @Olivianuzzi: @darth

10:38 AM - 8 Jan 2015

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Today In Disgusting People

Sure enough, in the wake of the horrific terrorist attack on the offices and staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdol, the assholes are out in full force.

Top of the list is Erick Erickson, editor of RedState (which should give you an idea of where his head's at), with this:
A publisher published something that offended. It mocked, it offended, and it showed the fallacy of a religion. It angered. So the terrorists decided they needed to publicly destroy and ruin the publisher in a way that would not only make that destruction a public spectacle, but do it so spectacularly that others would think twice before publishing or saying anything similar. The terrorists did what had to be done to publicly destroy and ruin the offender. So they demanded the Mayor of Atlanta fire the Chief of the Fire Department for daring to write that his first duty was to 'glory God' and that any sex outside of heterosexual marriage was a sin. And the terrorists won in Atlanta.

Erickson's account differs radically from other accounts -- I mean, aside from the outright lies -- and I think we can be excused for assuming that he's edited reality to suit his agenda.

The key issue is trying to link gays to terrorists over something that, by all reports, no gay organization or individual had anything to do with, aside from being outraged at Cochran's behavior. He's not the first to compare gays to terrorists -- maybe Nazis are a little old hat (or maybe he just admires Nazis too much to link them with gays). Just goes to show you -- as far as the "Christian" right is concerned, there is no bottom.

Next is perennial blowhard Bill Donohue, who is the Catholic League. Donohue, of course, is blaming the victims:

Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction. Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures. For example, they have shown nuns masturbating and popes wearing condoms. They have also shown Muhammad in pornographic poses. While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them. Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, 'Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.' Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.

Frankly, if anything's ripe for ridicule, it's religion, especially the varieties espoused by conservative extremists like Donohue. It's nice, though, that he, unlike Erickson, at least made a pro forma condemnation of the murders before he started vilifying the victims.

Someone theorized in a comment thread on another blog that the bishops don't shut Donohue up because he's saying what they think. I think that's only part of the reason: it's also because no one listens to him anyway.

At any rate, how's that for politicizing a human tragedy -- a heinous act that springs from motivations shared by our two featured personalities.

Oh, and a footnote -- she only deserves a footnote because as far as I'm concerned, she's a has-been:

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Oops! The Cat's Out of the Bag

I've been remarking for a while that the "Christian" right really holds America's foundational principles in disdain, and now Tony Perkins has all but 'fessed up:

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who was once a candidate for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, seems upset that voters can directly elect their state’s two senators, a power that was held by state legislatures until the adoption of the 17th Amendment in 1913. Speaking on his radio program yesterday, Perkins called the amendment “one of the first places we got off in terms of how our government is functioning,” lamenting that “senators are no longer accountable to the states.”

Having voters instead of state lawmakers elect senators, Perkins lamented, “had a drastic impact upon judicial appointees that the Senate has signed off on that overturned state laws, like we’ve seen this rash of overturning these state marriage amendments, that never would’ve happened if these senators who approved these judges were still held accountable to state legislatures.”

This is not someone who really believes in a representative democracy. In fact, you might almost say he's "anti-American."

And Today In Unintentional Irony

The Catholic Church in Florida, needless to say, has its cassocks twisted, what with coming out against same-sex marriage and being ignored by the courts and all. This statement, from Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, is choice:

The letter, from Archbishop Thomas Wenski, told employees that "because of the Church’s particular function in society, certain conduct, inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, could lead to disciplinary action, including termination, even if it occurs outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee for the Archdiocese.”

Wenski’s letter also warned employees that the conduct requirements also extend to the Internet. “Employees should exercise discretion when posting on social media sites, and note that online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors may subject an employee to disciplinary action or termination," it read.

"But where is the irony?" you ask. "This just seems like typical Catholic hierarchy overreach."

Well, yes, but get this:

Florida’s Catholic bishops have blasted a federal judge’s decision to overturn a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The bishops claim it “threatens both religious liberty and the freedom of individuals to conscientiously object.”


Via Towleroad.

Let the Schadenfreude Begin (Update)

A press release from Mat Staver, head of the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, one of those "Christian" law firms that undertakes to charge gallantly to the aid of poor, downtrodden, persecuted "Christians."

"As a result of the purposeful misinterpretation of Judge Hinkle’s now infamous 'clarification' in the federal case Brenner v. Scott, clerks of court throughout Florida began today issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, disregarding their oaths to uphold the Florida Constitution. And despite appeals of Judge Hinkle’s ruling and the state court marriage cases waiting to be heard, Florida Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel yesterday lifted her own stay in one of those cases, Pareto v. Ruvin, to allow same-sex 'marriages' to begin immediately in Miami-Dade County. We are witnessing a decay of the rule of law. Judges are lawlessly conducting same-sex marriages. Judge Zabel should be ashamed and should face an inquiry, because her act of performing same-sex marriages for the litigants over which she presides betrays the public trust that judges should be impartial. Judge Zabel should be impeached."

It seems Staver personally authored the Florida constitutional amendment that was overturned. And, given his reasoned and dispassionate analysis of the situation in Florida right now, it becomes obvious why Liberty Counsel has such an impressive string on losses to its credit.

Haven't heard from Brian Brown yet. I wonder why not?

Via Joe.My.God.

Update: Ah, Brian Brown has spoken -- but strangely enough, he's not claiming a major victory. No, this time, he's making demands:

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) today said that the imposition of same-sex 'marriage' in Florida is the result of an illegitimate act by a federal judge and demanded that the US Supreme Court grant review of a pending case from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals and reaffirm that states have the right to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The Supreme Court never affirmed that right to begin with, so I don't see them reaffirming it any time soon.

You can read the whole post if you like, but be warned: it's the usual tissue of misrepresentations, elisions, and lies.

Via Good As You.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

And Florida Makes 36

Plus D.C. The rest of Florida launched same-sex marriages at 12:01 am Eastern time. Joe.My.God. has extensive coverage last night and this morning. (Joe has strong Florida connections.)

And the 21st Century Anita Bryant seems to have given up:
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican who vigorously fought to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban against a barrage of legal challenges, on Monday conceded defeat.

"The judge has ruled, and we wish these couples the best," said Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray in a statement.

That's it. I wonder if the 11th Circuit will even bother to rule on the appeal -- Bondi has already filed that the state will not respond to plaintiff's brief.


That word is one of the most commonly mis-used words in public discourse, and happens to be one of those that immediately causes me to lose interest in what the speaker has to say. Amanda Marcotte has an excellent post on racism and privilege at Raw Story, in which she gets it exactly right:

Look, I think Chappelle-Nada’s tweet was poorly phrased. She makes a really common and irritating mistake that’s all over lefty Twitter, which is treating “privilege” like it’s a choice or a behavior, when in fact the whole idea of “privilege” was constructed by sociologists to describe automatic benefits accorded to people despite what choices they may make. She also makes the mistake of thinking that the privileges in question are inherently bad things, when in most cases, the problem isn’t that they exist but that they aren’t shared more equally. For instance, it’s a white privilege to not have to worry about being shot by the cops for minding your own business. However, the way to rectify that problem is not to start shooting random white people, but to expand this privilege until it’s a right that everyone enjoys, regardless of race.

I was once taken to task at a blog that shall remain nameless because of my "privilege" as a white, cisgender male. (Apparently, for this group, the only bases for discrimination are skin color and gender identity -- oh, and being a woman. Being gay doesn't count, unless you're a lesbian.) The owner of the blog directed me to an article by an upper-middle class white woman that would explain it all. I read the article and realized that I had nothing in common with this woman -- her experience at no point matched my own. And let me add that the point I was trying to make to these people -- that there are innumerable "reasons" to discriminate against others and the only real counter is to just take people as people -- search for the commonalities, not the differences -- was completely lost on them. (I don't follow that blog any more. They claimed to be a refuge for "survivors," but seemed to be more interested in becoming professional victims. The owner was the lone voice of sanity, but she was only one of several diarists.)

At any rate, read Marcotte's post. It's a good one.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Marriages Have Begun in Florida

Well, in Miami-Dade County, at least:
Miami-Dade County became the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, half a day before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state.

Weddings began around 1:30 p.m., less than three hours after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory.

Two of the six couples who had sued — Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove, and Jeff and Todd Delmay of Hollywood — were the first to be married, by Zabel herself.

The big moment:

Marriage News Watch: January 5, 2015

Marriage is starting this week in Florida. So why are our opponents saying it's not? We'll take a look at what's really going on, and how they're still trying to stop the weddings. Also this week: oral argument in Louisiana could get pretty heated. Another Supreme Court conference. And some surprising polling.

I wrote on the "confusion" in Florida a couple of days ago. A side note on the "no more courthouse weddings" contingent: Isn't it interesting how bigots resort to tantrums at the first opportunity?

And another side note: Marriages began in Luxembourg on January 1. And no big fuss.

An a footnote: This ad is running in Texas this week:

It's members of the Fort Worth police department on their gay colleague's right to marry.

About Those Review Pages

So I started working on the older Green Man Review pieces, which involves going through my own files (yes, I keep a copy of every review, which isn't as much of a pain as it sounds, since I write them on Word and then transfer them to the site template; I just have to save the document) and then doing searches on the site for author/title, finding the piece, and then checking to make sure it hasn't been moved to Sleeping Hedgehog, because a huge proportion of the stuff I wrote for GMR is no longer within the GMR purview.

In fact, of the first ten or twelve I checked, five had to be moved and two had already been moved.

This is going to take a while, because there's no point in putting in the GMR link if I'm moving them to SH, I can't add them into the blog pages until they're published, and I can't publish the ones I move until I write a cover post. And I've still got a backlog of new material, which gets priority.

Oh, and since the pieces originally published at GMR and transferred to SH all have an opening line to the effect that they were previously published at GMR, I don't see any point in putting that information into the index, so that question is resolved.

Saturday Science: On Einstein, Climate Change, and How It Works

Yeah, I know it's Monday, but I just ran across this at Mahablog, and you should read it. It's a wonderful segue from Einstein's General Theory of Relativity to climate change to how science works. Key idea:

In other words, in the world of science, nothing is ever settled. No scientific theory, even stuff that’s been accepted for generations and observed and tested to within an inch of its life, is ever placed beyond all doubt.

And the absolute worst sin, the thing that will get one booted out of the Science Club, is being thought of as too credulous. So no matter how many tons of empirical evidence one may collect to support one’s theories, lectures and published papers are always embroidered in language that gives the scientist an escape hatch if part of it is challenged by new data.

And from there she goes on to eviscerate climate change denialists and other anti-science buffoons.

Gets to the core of the issues and beautifully written. Read the whole thing.