"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, August 28, 2015


Actually, the target this time is Planned Parenthood. I'm sure you've heard the stories about how Planned Parenthood is profiting from selling fetal tissue and organs from all the gazillions of abortions they perform every year, based on videos released by a group calling itself "Center for Medical Progress".

At any rate, since PPH is an organization that provides healthcare to women, and especially poor women, the usual suspects -- meaning the teabagger Congress and the "Christian" soldiers -- are all over it. Everyone's investigating Planned Parenthood.

But, funny thing about that:

Videos released by anti-choice groups claims that Planned Parenthood is participating in illegal fetal tissue sales, but Planned Parenthood states that the only compensation for fetal tissue donation is for expenses, and those programs are only in two states.

“Although donation of fetal tissue is lawful under the Abortion Control Act and federal law, our review has found that Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania do not participate in this practice,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy wrote in a letter to a state legislator. “Moreover, there is no evidence that any Planned Parenthood site in this Commonwealth is involved in the buying or selling of fetal tissue.”

Murphy said that she’s never found a “violation … regarding the procurement or use of fetal tissue.”

Pennsylvania is the fifth state to investigate and find no wrongdoing on PPH's part.

And, guess what (Via Crooks and Liars.)

An expert report submitted to congressional leadership today, concludes that the secretly recorded and heavily edited videos, released about Planned Parenthood and life-saving fetal tissue donation ‘significantly distort and misrepresent’ actual events. . . .

Collectively, the five videotapes of Planned Parenthood staff have at least 42 splices where content is cut and edited together to make it appear to be a seamless conversation.

In some cases, these splices completely change the meaning of statements. On one video, a Planned Parenthood staff member’s remarks about lab protocols were edited to make it sound like she was talking about changing abortion procedures. Phrases on the tape were isolated and removed, stringing together unrelated sentences to change the meaning.

Anti-abortion activists used the doctored “quote” to support false claims that she was talking about changing how an abortion would be done, and the “quote” was published by mainstream media as if it were real.

On one tape, a Planned Parenthood staff member in Colorado says 13 separate times that any arrangements related to fetal tissue donation need to be reviewed by attorneys and follow all laws – and all 13 are edited out of the video.

On another tape, a Planned Parenthood staff member in Texas says nine separate times that there is no “profit” related to fetal tissue donation – and all nine are edited out of the video.

And of course, the "liberal press" has been repeating the lies ad nauseam.

Now, if you think that this report is going to have any effect on the Republican leadership, you really should know better -- the House Witch Hunt Committee has got to justify its existence somehow, and Benghazi!! is so 2014. And don't count on the Democrats to grow a pair.

I suspect, however, that the guardians of America's morals are not going to find PPH such an easy target. Several states have tried cutting off Medicaid funding for PPH -- but it's against federal law.

"Longstanding Medicaid laws prohibit states from restricting individuals who have coverage through Medicaid from receiving care from a qualified provider," Lori Lodes, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told AP in an e-mail. "By restricting which provider a woman could choose to receive care from, women could lose access to critical preventive care, such as cancer screenings."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sometimes You Just Can't Win

At least, as in the case of Rowan County (KY) Clerk Kim Davis, whose request for a stay pending appeal to the 6th Circuit was unanimously denied. The 6th made an important observation:

“In light of the binding holding of Obergefell, it cannot be defensibly argued that the holder of the Rowan County Clerk’s office, apart from who personally occupies that office, may decline to act in conformity with the United States Constitution as interpreted by a dispositive holding of the United States Supreme Court,” the judge ruled. “There is thus little or no likelihood that the Clerk in her official capacity will prevail on appeal.”

Translation: It's not about you, Ms. Davis.

I think I've remarked before on the narcissism of the "Christian" right. I'm not the only one to notice.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Culture Break: Nickelback: Gotta Be Somebody

This is without doubt one of the strangest music videos I've ever seen. It's beyond surreal.

It is, however, one of my favorite Nickelback songs.

A Little Astrophysics to Wake Up To

Another fascinating insight from Stephen Hawking, on black holes and the information therein -- or not:

A long-standing conundrum related to black holes deals with something known as the “information paradox.” In a nutshell, the laws of quantum mechanics tell us that everything in the universe is encoded with information about its constituent particles’ quantum states. And, this information should never entirely disappear, not even if something gets sucked into a black hole. The fact that this information seems to get irretrievably lost when a black hole inevitably evaporates has frustrated physicists for nearly four decades.

During a lecture at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm on Tuesday, famed British physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking presented an idea about how this paradox can be solved. According to him, the quantum-mechanical information about particles falling into black holes doesn’t actually enter the black hole.

“The information is not stored in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but in its boundary -- the event horizon,” Hawking said, adding that the information is encoded in two-dimensional holograms known as “super translations.”

The problem is that the information is not organized, so that, in practical terms, it is lost, even though it's not. (Don'cha love modern physics?)

I vaguely remember a science-fiction story from years ago in which someone was trapped in orbit around a black hole -- at the event horizon, more or less -- and someone else was trying to rescue them, but it's been a long time and I don't remember the details. The point of that little anecdote is that it may help visualize what Hawking is describing.

One thing that interested me is that I never knew that black holes evaporate, or that it's inevitable.

And Hawking notes that there are other ways out of a black hole short of dissolution. But you'll need to read the article.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Are You Sure We're Not In Kansas Anymore?

Or any other state where Republican-controlled legislatures have been trying to guard against "voter fraud." Via tristero at Hullaballoo, this report:

As an elected lawmaker and member of Myanmar’s governing party, U Shwe Maung attended dinners with the president and made speeches from the floor of Parliament. But this weekend, the country’s election commission ruled that despite more than four years in office, he was not a citizen and thus was ineligible to run for re-election in landmark voting in November.

“I was approved and considered a full citizen in 2010,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “Now, after five years, how could I not be eligible?”

Mr. Shwe Maung’s plight is but one example of what appears to be the mass disenfranchisement of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority who number around one million in Myanmar.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who cast votes in elections five years ago have been struck from the electoral rolls, election commission officials have confirmed, although without providing a precise number.

Substitute "Latino" or "African-American" or "poor" for "Rohingya," and you could be talking about Kansas, or Florida, or Ohio, or. . . .

If you think the progression to genocide is extreme, consider this, from one of the Hairpiece's fans:

Awesome followers he has:

“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’ ” said Jim Sherota, 53, who works for a landscaping company. “That’d be one nice thing.”

Kind of like killing Cecil the Lion only a lot closer and cheaper.

How about this? From more of The Donald's fans:

Police say two brothers from South Boston beat a homeless man because he was Hispanic—and The Boston Globe reports one of the men said he was partially inspired by Donald Trump.

The 58-year-old homeless man was asleep next to Dorchester’s John F. Kennedy/UMass stop when he woke up to the brothers urinating on him, police said. They then punched him and beat him with a metal pole, police added.

The two brothers, Scott and Steve Leader, were on their way home from the Red Sox game on Wednesday night when they decided to attack the homeless man, according to police.

One of the brothers claimed to be partially inspired Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, allegedly telling police, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” the Globe reports.

After he was informed about the incident, Trump told the Globe, “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

Trump has since modified his reaction -- seems the blowback was enough to catch his attention.

And if you're thinking these are just a couple of isolated incidents, go back and read the NYT article linked in the Cecil the Lion quote from Digby. Why does this seem to center on Trump? I think Paul Krugman has hit it:

(Via Crooks and Liars.)

Of course, the attitude is not limited to Trump -- it's a Republican thing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

How Times Have Changed

Here's an interview with Keegan Hirst, the first professional rugby league player to come out as gay:

If you can decipher his accent (even I'm having a bit of trouble with it, and I've been watching English murder mysteries), it's pretty interesting, not only for the actual content, but perhaps even more for the subtext: it's all very matter-of-fact, as though the interview was about the upcoming rugby season or something.

Of course, this is from BBC.

There's a Lot

packed into this video. It's actually a short, directed by Dustin Lance Black, and it's a plug for Coca Cola.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which Is Worse?

These assholes?

Boston brothers said that they were inspired by Donald Trump to beat and urinate on a homeless Latino man, police revealed on Wednesday.

According to State Police, Scott Leader and Steve Leader encountered the victim on the way home from a Red Sox game near a stop on Boston’s subway system, The Boston Globe reported on Wednesday.

The man said that he awoke to find the brothers urinating on his face and rummaging through his belongings.

“Next thing . . . he was getting hit in the face and head,” a police report explained. “He remembers being punched several times and hit with the metal pole.”

A witness said that the brothers were heard laughing as they walked away.

Or their hero?

Trump called the assault a “shame.”

“I will say that people who are following me are very passionate,” he remarked. “They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”

They're not passionate -- they're stupid bullies, just like their leader.

That's really showing our greatness -- beating up on homeless people. If we were really great, we wouldn't have any homeless people.


You know, the Duggars are getting to be as boring as the Kardashians. They're even less interesting than the Republican presidential wannabes -- although the hypocrisy level might be a little higher. Maybe.

"Christian" Exercise Routines

They seem to favor doubling down, backtracking, and dodging. Remember Pastor Ben Bailey of Tennessee, who was steadfast in his contention that gays deserve to be stoned?

“God does not approve of homosexuality or gay marriage,” he insisted. “The scripture says… that is vile, unnatural and deserving of a penalty… It’s an abomination that under the Old Testament deserved stoning.”

Well, it seems he wasn't really condoning the murder of gays:

"We do not believe in stoning homosexuals," Bailey tells WTAE. He says the New Testament doesn't teach that, "and I didn't teach that in the video."

However, if you look at his church's website and his own sermons, you're likely to be scratching your head over the cognitive dissonance.

"Did you know that the New Testament says that homosexuality is a sin against God and nature?," the text of a sermon given by Bailey reads. "In Romans 1:26-29 we are told that homosexuality is immoral and ungodly, and that people who engage in such will receive the eternal punishment that is due to them if they do not change their ways."

Sounds like he's dodging here. Apparently, his faith isn't strong enough to weather the blowback from his disgraceful and inflammatory statements. But he's doing it out of "love" -- at least, the "Christian" version of love, which no rational person would recognize as anything positive.

If you read the article at the link, the guy sounds pretty incoherent. Perhaps the video is clearer:

It strikes me how easy it must be to be a "Christian" -- you don't have to take responsibility for anything, if you screw someone over Jesus will forgive you (and you don't have to worry about the effect of your actions on those you've harmed), and you never have to question anything in the Bible -- you just have to pick the parts that suit your own agenda.

Must be nice.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finally (Update)

A newspaper willing to tell it like it is. The Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader has published a blistering editorial on Kim Davis and her battle for "religious freedom":

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has chosen to prolong her moment in the limelight by defying a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses to legally qualifed people who apply for them.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning kindly but firmly told Davis Wednesday that in our system her religious beliefs don't trump the rights of the taxpayers who pay her almost $80,000 annual salary. . . .

No doubt county clerks and their staffs over the decades have often looked at people applying for marriage licenses and questioned both the wisdom and the likely sanctity of the proposed union. Certainly they've often known things about the couple that many religions would frown upon. But we've never heard of a clerk denying a license to a divorced person, a philanderer, someone who's abused a partner or neglected children. It's easy to imagine the outrage and chaos that would ensue if clerks began morality-testing prospective opposite-gender spouses. But that's exactly the right that Davis is demanding. She wants to pick and choose, based on her beliefs, which legally qualified couples will get marriage licenses.

The real target, though, is Liberty Counsel, acting as Davis' attorneys:

Liberty's attorneys know they can't win the case in Rowan County. Same-sex marriage is legal since the Supreme Court's June 26 decision and it's Davis' job to issue marriage licenses.

So, why is Liberty Counsel marching alongside Davis in this losing cause? It takes a lot to keep that marketing machine humming and those executives paid, and the only way to keep those donations coming is to stay in the news. For that purpose a losing cause is just as good as, perhaps better than, a winning one.

That comes after a summary of Liberty Counsel's executive salaries and expenses -- excuse me, $600,000 for someone to send e-mails?

Read the whole thing. It's delicious.

(Apologies -- somehow, I forgot to provide the link. It's there now, so I've bumped this one up.)

They Came From Outer Space

Octopuses. At least, that's what some want to believe. PZ Myers takes exception to science reporting:

These reporters are embarrassing.

Not to freak you out or anything, but scientists have just revealed that octopuses are so weird they’re basically aliens.

The first full genome sequence shows of that octopuses (NOT octopi) are totally different from all other animals – and their genome shows a striking level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes identified, more than in a human.

The studies, of course, say just the opposite, but that hasn't stopped some people:

Proving that octopuses are creatures that arrived from another planet, possibly from another solar system, may not be revealed any time soon. However, their alien existence upon the Earth is expected to be the focus of significant research in the coming years. It is likely that they will be found to be born of the Earth, but the mysticism that they may be aliens makes the genome discovery quite intriguing.

This is what the abstract of the study says:

The core developmental and neuronal gene repertoire of the octopus is broadly similar to that found across invertebrate bilaterians.

Buy stock in tinfoil. It's a sure bet.

Science reporting in general is pretty abysmal. I don't know if it's just that the writers are generalists who find themselves out of their depth when covering specialist findings, or whether they're just so used to dumbing down that it's become a reflex. Years ago, I used to read NYT's science articles regularly, until I finally got fed up. And this was NYT.

Which God Would That Be, Then?

Glen Cook, in The Instrumentalities of the Night, describes a progression of the religions centered in the Holy Lands. The first is the god of the Dainshaukin, which he describes at various times as "vicious," "psychotic," "egomaniacal," and "psychopathic." That one seems to be a blend of the ancient Middle Eastern gods -- think Baal and the like -- at least as near as I can figure. (Cook doesn't display a lot of sympathy for organized religion or the gods themselves in this series.)

With that in mind, take a look at these two stories. First, Pastor/Governor Mike Huckabee (via Bark Bark Woof Woof):

During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union this morning, Mike Huckabee was asked about “Mainumby,” a ten-year-old Paraguayan girl who became pregnant after she was raped by her stepfather. The girl, whose name is a pseudonym, was denied an abortion and forced to carry the baby to term, despite objections from medical experts.

When CNN host Dana Bash asked Huckabee if he would have allowed Mainumby to have an abortion, Huckabee responded with a stock answer: “Does it solve the problem by taking the life of an innocent child?”

Bash then asked Huckabee if it would be easy “looking in the eyes of a 10-year-old girl and saying, ‘You had a horrible thing happen to you, and you’re going to...carry it out for the next nine months.’”

Huckabee responded: “No, it isn’t easy. I wouldn’t pretend it’s anything other than a terrible tragedy. But let’s not compound the tragedy by taking yet another life.”

His rationale for such a decision is two-fold Huckabee explained, it protects both fetus and mother: “There are two victims. One is the child; the other is that birth mother who often will go through extraordinary guilt years later when she begins to think through what happened — with the baby, with her. And again, there are no easy answers here.”

"There are no easy answers here." That's good, especially since the Pastor/Governor has one: punish the 10-year-old mother-to-be for being the victim of a rape. Why do I get the feeling that this is not an issue on which he's squandered a lot of thought?

And what about the life of the "innocent child" who is the real victim here? Oh, I forgot -- children only matter before they're born.

As for Part II of today's post: You can tell this guy is a real conservative:

Pastor Ben Bailey of the Central church of Christ in McMinnville, Tennessee blamed “liberal society” for banning the stoning of LGBT people, whom he said were deserving of punishment.

In a Sunday broadcast for The Gospel of Christ television program, Bailey observed that some couples were choosing to go to churches with “relaxed and liberal views.”

He said that they wanted “things like women preaching, women leading in service, where homosexuals and gay marriage were accepted openly.”

“They were just looking for something liberal,” the pastor continued. “Something that didn’t criticize or condemn or didn’t have any hardcore standards on anything — anything goes type of mentality.”

But Bailey argued that was not what God wanted.

“He has a definite standard and it is not the liberal mindset that we see today,” Bailey opined. “This book [the Bible] does not condone things like women preaching… Paul said I do not let a woman preach of be in authority over a man, that’s not according to the Bible. If I’m out to please God, we don’t find things like that in the Bible.”

“God does not approve of homosexuality or gay marriage,” he insisted. “The scripture says… that is vile, unnatural and deserving of a penalty… It’s an abomination that under the Old Testament deserved stoning.”

Got that? Not stoning people is "liberal." This guy makes Rick Santorum look like a progressive.

He is, of course, an Old Testament "Christian". I wonder how he'd manage if he pulled his head out of his Leviticus long enough to read the Gospels?

(By the way -- I've read that the word "abomination," of which the OT "Christians" are so fond, is a mistranslation, and the word actually used meant something like "not the custom" or "against our tradition." But then, that doesn't have quite the same punch, does it?)

The real problem is how to lure these roaches back into the woodwork where they belong.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Image of the Week

Have I mentioned that we have herons in Lincoln Park? Specifically, around North Pond and, in the case of black-crowned night herons, nesting in the wolf habitat in the Children's Zoo.

I was on my way to the Zoo last week when I noticed a great blue heron wandering around in the garden west of the Zoo. Well, "wandering around" may not be exactly correct: it was standing very still at the edge of one of the flower beds. (Herons are very good at standing still.) It was sort of out of context, and when I walked up to get a better look, it stalked over to a different flower bed. (They're also very good at stalking.)

This is not that heron. This one's from Bernice, taken in the evening at North Pond:

Oh, by the way, in addition to great blues and night herons, we also have green herons, although I've only seen them once or twice this year.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mean, Petty, Vicious

That about sums up my feelings on these creeps:

A gay high school basketball player in Kentucky got an unsettling surprise when he received his senior yearbook: he was omitted from his team’s tribute page while every other player on the team, including underclassmen, was pictured.

Dalton Maldonado, who came out earlier this year, wrote on Facebook about the discovery and why he thinks homophobia is to blame:

“My school also didn’t approve [of me being gay]. I would hear things that teachers would say, and many media outlets would say I “claimed” this happened in spite of the pictures and text messages I had from my coaches as proof. Then I had a person [affiliated] with the school tell me what they had learned about the school attempting to cover up the whole stor[y]. I recently saw my senior yearbook, I flipped right to the sports basketball page only to find my senior basketball picture missing…which devastated me.”

According to the article, this is the culmination of a pattern of anti-gay harassment.

Would you want these people educating your children?

Slapdown for "Religious Freedom" (Update )

No doubt you've heard of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky, county clerk who stopped issuing marriage licenses to avoid issuing them to gay couples, citing her "religious" objections. Well, that didn't stand up too well in court. Via Joe.My.God:

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to resume issuing marriage licenses despite her religious objection to same-sex marriage, but Davis quickly filed an appeal.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning granted a preliminary injunction against Davis sought by four Rowan County couples who applied for marriage licenses. Davis has refused to issue any marriage licenses in her county since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and Gov. Steve Beshear instructed all 120 of Kentucky's county clerks to comply with the court's decision.

Davis "likely has violated the constitutional rights of her constituents" by promoting her Christian beliefs "at the expense of others," Bunning wrote in his order.

The judge actually addressed one point that I've been waiting for someone to bring up:

Finally, on Davis' argument that Beshear violated her religious liberties by instructing her to comply with the Supreme Court decision, Bunning said the governor had "a compelling state interest" in government officials upholding the rule of law across Kentucky and respecting the First Amendment's separation of church and state.

"Davis has arguably (violated the First Amendment) by openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expense of others," Bunning wrote.

This is actually the second case recently in which the "religious freedom" argument has been slapped down. A judge in Ohio filed a request with the state judicial ethics board to allow him to refuse to marry same-sex couples:

Ohio Judge Allen McConnell has lost his battle not to marry gay couples. The Star-Tribune reports:

Judges who perform marriages in Ohio can’t refuse to marry same-sex couples on personal or moral grounds or because of religious beliefs, according to a state judicial conduct board. In addition, judges who stop performing all marriages to avoid marrying same-sex couples may be interpreted as biased and could be disqualified from any case where sexual orientation is an issue, according to an opinion by the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct issued Friday and made public Monday.

There's a key fact that the "religious" right doesn't want to confront: all rights have limits. That's the only way any society can work. There is simply no such thing as unlimited freedom. Their goal, of course, is to make their rights paramount, superceding any laws they don't like (i.e., those that don't conform to their own prejudices). And of course, things like oaths of office or contracts with the state can be unilaterally voided at will, because they bow to a "higher power."

Sounds a little anti-American, to me.

Judge McConnell has said he'll comply with the ruling; Kim Davis has already filed an appeal (of course).

Via Joe.My.God.

Update: On the advice of her attorneys, Davis has once again refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Today's Must Read -- A Twofer

Two articles -- they're really too substantial to be designated as "posts" -- from Mahablog.

The first, published on the anniversary of Hiroshima, is a good look at the moral questions of the decision to drop The Bomb.

In Rethinking Religion I have a section on “moral clarity,” defined as “a state of mind achieved by staking a fixed position on a presumed moral high ground and then ignoring the details of human life that fog the view.” My primary example of “moral clarifying” are the anti-abortion activists who argue incessantly for the sacredness and rights of the fetus while barely mentioning the woman carrying the fetus in her body.

Appy, and many other liberals, try to pull something like that with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They stake the moral high ground that dropping the bomb was absolutely evil, and then revise history six ways from Sunday to “prove” that the men who chose to drop it were just evil and callous and had some nefarious end other than the stated one, which was to end the war quickly and avoid a ground invasion of Japan.

And it goes on from there.

The second -- well, the title says it all: Will Evangelicals Rediscover Religion?

A big part of the problem with our definitions of religion stems from the fact that most of us have had a very narrow exposure to religion. This is doubly true in the U.S., in spite of the fact that we may be living in the most religiously diverse nation in human history. Somehow, in mass media and in the public hive mind, the default definition of “religion” is “conservative evangelical Christianity.”

I am reminded of the state legislator in Louisiana who was a big supporter of Bobby Jindal's school voucher program, which allowed "religious schools" to apply -- until two Muslim schools applied to the program, at which point she did a 180. Her reason for the switch? "I thought 'religious' meant 'Christian'."

This is, as far as I'm concerned, the key observation:

In other words, religion is something you do, not something you are, or believe, or something to adopt as part of your tribal identity. And as something you do, it should not necessarily be easy, or be a socially enforced norm. And it’s that last part that’s hard for conservatives to accept.

She does make one comment that stopped me for a moment:

The worst thing that can happen to religion, IMO, is to become entangled with ethnic and national identities, and thereby with politics. That’s where religious violence comes from; it’s the confluence of ethnic and racial bigotries and political power with conservative religion that drives the worst of what is called “religious” violence.

This is certainly true in contemporary terms, but if you look at history, religion is tribal: Vine Deloria pointed out, in God is Red, that religion is a key factor in group identity -- they all started off as tribal, as a way of differentiating "us" from "other". My own conclusion is that attitude -- the cultural take on "other" -- is a key factor in whether the tribalism of religion leads to the kind of aggression that she notes: in pre-Christian Europe, for example, religion tended to be syncretistic. The Romans are perhaps the best example: one of the major cultural thrusts of ancient Rome was expansion and assimilation, one result of which was that the gods of neighboring peoples were taken as counterparts of the Roman gods. The Greek pantheon was almost identical to the Roman, save for the names (and if you think about the plethora of epithets attached to the Greek gods, take it as evidence that the Greeks had been doing their own assimilation of deities), but we find that the Romans were also eager to fit the ancient Irish and British gods into their existing roster. The ancient Israelites, on the other hand, weren't interested in including anyone else in their club. Given their history, that's not such a surprise, but it's indicative of a cultural mindset that seems to have carried over -- or been revived -- in modern evangelical Christianity, which doesn't even consider the Pope to be Christian (although they don't tend to say that out loud these days -- the enemy of my enemy, etc.) and seems to focus more on the Old Testament than on the Gospels.

At any rate, both are worth reading -- just pour yourself another cup of coffee and hunker down. And if Mahablog is not on your bookmarks, I suggest you rectify that asap.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

I Am So Over This Kind of Crap

You have no doubt run across the "controversy" over Roland Emmerich's upcoming film, Stonewall, due for release in September. All the fuss, generated, it seems, by the trans community and queer people of color, is based on this trailer:

There's even a petition calling for a boycott of the film:

"A historically accurate film about the Stonewall Riots would center the stories of queer and gender-noncomforming people of color like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson," a MoveOn petition reads. "Not relegate them to background characters in the service of a white cis-male fictional protagonist."

Can I just point out that anyone who expects a work of fiction to be historically accurate is an idiot? And as it turns out, the majority of the rioters were -- you guessed -- white boys. There are historical images from PBS here, and here's what you get if you do a Google search for "Stonewall riots photos". A sampler:

(I should add that I've actually seen a comment to the effect that the photos of the riots have excluded people of color and trans folk. Take that for what it's worth.)

Emmerich has responded:

The courageous actions of everyone who fought against injustice in 1969 inspired me to tell a compelling, fictionalized drama of those days centering on homeless LGBT youth, specifically a young midwestern gay man who is kicked out of his home for his sexuality and comes to New York, befriending the people who are actively involved in the events leading up to the riots and the riots themselves. I understand that following the release of our trailer there have been initial concerns about how this character’s involvement is portrayed, but when this film - which is truly a labor of love for me - finally comes to theaters, audiences will see that it deeply honors the real-life activists who were there — including Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Ray Castro — and all the brave people who sparked the civil rights movement which continues to this day. We are all the same in our struggle for acceptance.

Nobody knows who threw the first brick, although a couple of people have claimed credit. I ran across this comment at Pink News, which seems to support the idea that white, cis-gendered gay men were, indeed, an important part of the event.

I have/had many friends who were present at the Stonewall riots, and no, the place was not a hotbed of trans and minority activism. White gay men were there, they were arrested, they threw bricks and stones tool.

This film is not any more a case of "whitewashing" a story than it is of trans activists trying to "trans wash" the events.

And that sort of leads into why I find this whole thing annoying: There is an element in this country who can't seem to make it through the day without being offended at something, whether that something actually exists or not -- and that's not limited to One Million Moms. Part of it's my own history: I lived through the New Left in the '80s, which did more to set the gay movement back than Jerry Falwell could have dreamed of. Their descendants are the ones on the radical left who throw around terms like "cis-gendered" as insults and are quick to take umbrage if every little thing isn't "inclusive" enough. It's the same sort of arrogance and narcissism that you find on the far right, and it really pisses me off, to the extent that my response boils down to "Grow up and get a life." (I should point out that, in my somewhat checkered past, I've known a number of drag queens, trans women, and transvestites -- they're not invisible to me, and never have been.)

As for me, I'm going wait until September and see the movie before I comment on it. I see no point in getting all freaked out by a two-minute trailer. And I doubt very much that I'll be worried about "historical accuracy." I'm much more likely to comment on it's success and failures as a work of art.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Just in Case You Missed It

Some choice moments from the GOP debates.

First, the ever-entertaining Rick Santorum, as demolished in the first part of this video from the ever-appealing Matt Baume:

It's worth noting that Maggie Gallagher gave Santorum's performance an "A+" on marriage. It's somehow emblematic of the whole "religious" right that she'd award that honor to someone who lied through his whole response.

It's interesting as well that Gov. John Kasich got cheers for his response.

One thing that Baume points out that I think is noteworthy: there was, aside from these few questions, no mention of gay civil rights issues in the debate. I think he comes to the right conclusion: they don't want to talk about it. It might play to the base, but this is national TV, and the party line on gay issues, even marriage, is a millstone around the neck when trying to appeal to the country at large.

I think the most disconnected response came from Bobby Jindal:

Bobby Jindal promised to sign an executive order "making sure the IRS is not going after conservative religious groups." That would of course be unconstitutional, and easily in violation of the First Amendment.

"I would sign an executive order protecting religious liberty, our First Amendment rights, so Christian business owners and individuals don’t face discrimination for having a traditional view of marriage," Jindal pledged.
These are just a few moments that stuck out -- there are, of course, the more or less expected responses from the likes of Rand Paul ("The government shouldn't stop people from discriminating -- but only Christians") and Pastor/Governor Mike Huckabee ("Transgender military personal are icky").

All in all, no surprises, except maybe the response to Kasich. That should tell the party something.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Now That's Chutzpah

It take a special kid of moxie for a government official to sue the governor for directing her to do her job:

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who is being sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses because of her opposition to gay marriage, is now suing Gov. Steve Beshear for allegedly infringing on her religious freedom.

In her lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Davis blamed Beshear for instructing the state's 120 county clerks to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June striking down Kentucky's same-sex marriage ban and legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

I'm almost speechless. She blames Beshear for instructing the county clerks to comply with a Supreme Court decision. Sorry, Ms. Davis, that should be automatic.

Liberty Counsel is representing her (big surprise). Here's a choice example of their reasoning:

In an interview, Davis' attorney said Beshear misinterpreted the Supreme Court's decision in the marriage case. The court ordered all states to recognize same-sex marriage, but it did not require every local official to do so, said Roger Gannam, a lawyer with the Liberty Counsel, a religious advocacy group.

WTF? If she's not an agent of the state, then she's nothing.

And here's another good bit:

It goes further to explain that the licenses cannot be issued without her name, "Thus, every marriage license must be issued and signed in the county clerk’s name and by the county clerk’s authority. In other words, no marriage license can be issued by a county clerk without her authorization and without her imprimatur."

So, she's the only one who can issue a marriage license in Rowan County, but she doesn't feel like doing it for same-sex couples, because Jesus. (And I'd love to hear what Jesus has to say about this.)

This is another battle in the ongoing "Christian" war against the Constitution. Davis is arguably involation of the Establishment Clause, by imposing a religious test on who may avail themselves of the services of the county clerk. And appealing to state law, as she does -- she claims protection under Kentucky's "religious freedom" law -- in order to flout a Supreme Court decision, is just unbelievable. Well, it would be if it were real lawyers arguing this, rather than Liberty Counsel.

I'm going to enjoy watching this one play out.

Monday, August 03, 2015

It's a Polyglot World


The woman then launches into a tirade, linking bilingualism to the Nazis and the Russians.

“You want the Russians over here telling you what to do? You want the Nazis telling you what to do?” she excitedly asks, as Baez tells her, “That’s what you’re doing to my mom. You’re telling her what to do. She speaks English. She’s not perfect, but she speaks English.”

“We want English in the United States,” the woman replies. “We have freedom of speech, you’re the proof of it. We want that freedom.”

Following Baez once again telling her she can’t tell his mother what to do, the woman replies, “Yes. We want English. We don’t want the Nazis back. We don’t want fascists back. We don’t want Castro back.”

OK -- so this woman is obviously ignorant, and maybe not too bright: Fox News demographic, for sure.

On the other side of the equation, one of the games I play with myself when riding the bus is to figure out what languages I'm hearing. Russian and Spanish are easy; I can generally spot Hindi and Arabic, but the various African languages throw me, and I'm never quite sure whether it's Vietnamese, Korean, or some variety of Chinese on the East Asian front.

But that's what makes it fun.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

It's Nice to Know

That at least a few members of Congress have their heads screwed on straight:

Via Digby.

Have You Noticed?

The presidential election is in November, 2016. It's August, 2015. 85% of news coverage is election related, mostly about the Republican contenders trying to make themselves out to be bigger asses than Donald Trump. (Although you have to admire The Hairpiece for taking over the discourse the way he did. Poor Ted Cruz, left out in the cold like that.)

And our "independent press" is just eating it up.