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

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

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

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Today in WTF?

This whole story is so bizarre I can't quite believe it's real:

School trustees in a conservative community near Fresno are battling to save a dress code that currently prohibits boys from wearing earrings or having their hair long, the Fresno Bee reports.

On Wednesday, the board of trustees for the Clovis Unified School District voted to strike down changes to the current decades-old dress code, even though it may violate state law. Despite the looming threat of litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, the board voted 4-3 to keep the dress code as-is.

Somehow, this is all about gender equality and "conservative values." I might be more sympathetic to the latter if I thought that conservatives had the faintest notion of what values are about. As for the "gender equality" part -- I'm old enough that I remember when a man wearing an earring was a sign of rebellion, not gender identity. (At one point, I wore five.)

“Let’s get real, what we’re doing is looking at a lawsuit if you don’t vote for this. I’m sick and tired of the ACLU. Because of them, I can have a male come into my daughter’s bathroom,” Melissa Fairless said at the board meeting. “I’m so tired of my rights and my conservative values being trampled on because of this gender equality. Stand up for what Clovis believes in and say we are going to take this to court and we are going to fight this.”

Guess who sounds like an idiot who's swallowed all the anti-gay, anti-trans bullshit being spewed by the usual suspects. As if it were even relevant to a dress code.

I give up. Maybe this country deserves Donald Trump. I wonder if I could apply for refugee status in Canada.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

More Review Updates

Quite a few today, in a lot of categories. To save yourself some hunting around in the Reviews pages here, go visit Green Man Review for todays' "What's New."

Culture Break: Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Winter

This seemed appropriate, the more so since my review of Carmignola's performance on this album has magically reappeared at the new Green Man Review today:

A note: You may have noticed that I prefer to post performance videos of musical pieces. Sadly, the one performance video I found of Carmignola doing this piece is not up to par. Oh, well.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Look At It This Way

Donald Trump is at 32% support in the latest polls from New Hampshire, significantly ahead of his rivals for the Republican nomination going into the primary. However, that means that 68% of Republicans in New Hampshire do not support him.

Jeanne Cleveland, a retired teacher, pursed her lips sourly at the mention of his name and tried to summarize her distaste in diplomatic terms.

“I think he’s arrogant,” she said. “I think he’s rude. I think——”

She paused, reaching for the right words. “Let’s just say, I don’t like the way he represents us as a country.”

To avoid any confusion, Mrs. Cleveland put it plainly: “I don’t like Trump.”

In this, the retired teacher, 70, from Hollis, N.H., has ample, baffled and agonized company in New Hampshire as the presidential primary enters its final, frenzied weeks, with Donald J. Trump remaining atop poll after poll of the state’s Republican electorate.

Or is he? So deep is the dislike for him in some quarters that people like Mrs. Cleveland’s husband, Doug, question the accuracy of polls that so consistently identify Mr. Trump as leading the field with around 32 percent. “I’ve never met a single one of them,” Mr. Cleveland said about those said to be backing Mr. Trump. “Where are all these Trump supporters? Everyone we know is supporting somebody else.”

Via Digby.

Footnote: Also via Digby, this is funny:

The Republican National Committee has disinvited National Review from participating in the Feb. 25 GOP debate because of its outspoken opposition to Donald Trump. . . .

The RNC's decision, which was confirmed by a committee spokesperson, was made after the committee concluded that National Review was no longer an impartial participant.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Today's Must Read: Martin Luther King, Jr., Edition

Compare and contrast: First, this, from Dispatches from the Culture Wars, about the "Christian" right and its impact on American politics:

But the Christian Right also has a theocratic vision that is not merely reactive. It is proactive, and has deep roots in history and, in my view, it is gathering strength and momentum. While many people across a wide swath of public life—including journalists, scholars, and political activists—have delighted in repeatedly writing the Christian Right’s obituary, the theocratic coalition and the way it carries out its politics has dynamically evolved.

Thus, assumptions most of us have about the nature of religious pluralism, the rights of individual conscience and separation of church and state—and arguably democracy itself—cannot be considered as givens in public life. The Christian Right has developed profound legal, political and electoral capacities (the misguided beliefs of some otherwise sensible people that it is dead or dying notwithstanding). Christian Right presidential candidates remain prominent and the movement has increased its numbers in the Congress and in state governments and functions as a major and sometimes the dominant faction in the Republican Party in many states. The Christian Right remains one of the most powerful movements in American history.

And then, from Bark Bark Woof Woof:

For me, growing up as a white kid in a middle-class suburb in the Midwest in the 1960’s, Dr. King’s legacy would seem to have a minimum impact; after all, what he was fighting for didn’t affect me directly in any way. But my parents always taught me that anyone oppressed in our society was wrong, and that in some way it did affect me. This became much more apparent as I grew up and saw how the nation treated its black citizens; those grainy images on TV and in the paper of water-hoses turned on the Freedom Marchers in Alabama showed me how much hatred could be turned on people who were simply asking for their due in a country that promised it to them. And when I came out as a gay man, I became much more aware of it when I applied the same standards to society in their treatment of gays and lesbians.

This resonates with me, since it mirrors my own upbringing and the attitudes instilled in me by my parents.

I find it appalling that the extreme right, which is diametrically opposed to everything that Dr. King stood for and fought for, has tried to appropriate his name and legacy.

Think about this the next time you hear a Republican talking about -- well, anything.

And, of course, read the whole thing -- both of them.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Note on Reviews

Links are being updated every Sunday, as reviews are (re)published at The Green Man Review.

Of course, you could always visit there to see if your favorites have reappeared.

Today's Must Read

This post, from Mahablog. I think it hits the essential differences between the contemporary left and right:

Go back to the first sentence in the SOTU quote above – The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach. This is the liberal/progressive vision in a nutshell. . . .

I don’t think the Right wants that stuff. They may say they do, but their votes say otherwise. All they seem to want is wealth and power for themselves, and if that’s at the expense of others (including fellow Americans), so be it. And because they don’t understand what we lefties hope to achieve, nothing we do or say makes sense to them. All they understand is power and privilege.

Just think about what we're hearing from the candidates of both parties: the Democrats are talking policy aimed at the most benefit for all of us, the Republicans are peddling division.

I'm old enough to remember a time when both parties subscribed to a vision of the greatest good for the greatest number. They differed on how to get there, but the goals were essentially the same. Not any more.

Read the whole thing.

Today In Disgusting People

On Fox News, of course. The Fox "experts'" reaction to Iran freeing 10 American sailors within 24 hours:

O’Reilly did, however, make the case for the negotiated release. He pointed out that Iran is already holding other Americans in prison. “If you demand and insult, maybe they hold the 10 sailors. So the Obama administration’s going to say, ‘Look, we got them out of there in 24 hours. …If we had insulted the mullahs, maybe we wouldn’t have.’ “

But Harmer would rather sacrifice American lives. “It’s better that they remain in prison forever as hostages than the United States apologize to Iran,” he told O’Reilly.
(Emphasis in original.)

You know, it's been a basic tenet of international relations pretty much forever that war is the last resort when diplomacy fails. What we have on the right is the idea that war is the first step, and diplomacy happens after you've won and can dictate terms. I guess the right never figured out Vietnam.

And there's something very, very wrong about anyone who would rather that Americans were held by a not-friendly regime in what we can confidently assume are horrible conditions rather than give any credit to the president and secretary of state for doing it right.

And we have a tie for first runner up today:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Saturday morning he was not aware of the specifics of the release of four Americans held prisoner in Iran, but said it would be wrong to for their release to have come as part of a prisoner exchange, saying it creates an incentive for enemies of the United States to take U.S. nationals hostage.

How long have nations been making prisoner exchanges? A couple thousand years? And Marco Rubio thinks it's wrong. Okay.

Here's Ted Cruz trying to be positive on Twitter:


Praise God! Surely bad parts of Obama's latest deal, but prayers of thanksgiving that Pastor Saeed is coming home. https://twitter.com/jaysekulow/status/688372688809766912 …
8:59 AM - 16 Jan 2016

The twitterverse isn't real happy with him, mostly because of the dig at the Iran nuke deal.

Donald Trump:

Now I have to see what the deal is for the four people, because someone said they were getting seven back. So essentially, they get 150 billion plus seven, and we get four. Doesn't sound too good. Doesn't sound too good," he said. "I am happy they are coming back, but it is a disgrace they have been there this long, a total disgrace.

The "150 billion" is Iran's money.


I would say ... if you do not release them, that there's going to be military action, that that's an act of provocation, an act of war. What I would do in January is recognize that Iran is not an ally. That's how the Obama administration views this," Bush said.

And now you know why his candidacy is dead in the water.

What really strikes me about these presidential hopefuls is that we've somehow managed to get very small people thinking that they're leaders. They're not -- they're just vote whores, and they're not even very good at that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

I've Been Meaning to Post

I really have. I thought maybe it was time for another "Today in Disgusting People" post, but there have been so many that I just couldn't narrow it down.

Oh well.


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Culture Break: 6 Pack Band: Hum Hain Happy

India's first transgender pop group. See here for more information:

(Yes, I have a weakness for Bollywood musicals.)

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Culture Break: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, Finale

I'm not sure what I think about this, except to note that it's not your standard Swan Lake.

If you're interested in more, here are links to the full ballet, Part I and Part II.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Great Oregon Wildlife Refuge Standoff

I'm sure you're as heartily sick of the Bundy clan's latest adventure in armed insurrection as I am. The only redeeming feature is that it's kicked Donald Trump off the headlines for a couple of days.

Reading through some of the coverage, it occurs to me that the right wing is, quite correctly, seeing this little episode as toxic: these guys look like the fools they are, at least to a national audience, and the powers that be in the Republican party are very well aware of the optics.

Just one indicator: Megyn Kelly interviewed Ammon Bundy and wasn't really giving him a pass:

After Bundy defended his decision to lead a small militia to take over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, Kelly challenged him.

"You know the argument on the other side, which is, these ranchers — whom you support but are not directly involved — had their day in court. And they were found guilty, and it went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied their appeal. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work in our country when it comes to the rule of law?" she asked.

"Yeah, well let me ask you — and I’m sure you know the answer, but who was the plaintiff?" Bundy asked in response.

After a pause, Kelly told Bundy to "keep going."

And when Bundy asked the same question again, Kelly took another brief pause.

"I’m waiting for you to make your point. Generally I don’t answer the questions on my show; I ask them," she said.

This is Fox News, where the likes of Tony Perkins regularly get tongue baths from the likes of Megyn Kelly. (And you're probably protesting that Perkins is a different order than the Bundys. Well, yes: the Bundys are honest.)

Even more revealing is this:

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Monday called for armed protesters who occupied a federal building in Oregon to "stand down peaceably."

"Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds," Cruz told reporters in Iowa. "But we don't have a constitutional right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence against others. So it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation."
And from Marco Rubio:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also addressed the issue Monday, telling an Iowa radio station "you cannot be lawless."

Rubio said during an interview with KBUR that he agrees "that there is too much federal control over land especially out in the western part of the United States."

"We should fix it, but no one should be doing it in a way that's outside the law," he added.

These were people who were falling all over themselves to support Kim Davis, another right-wing law breaker.

And from the moderate wing:

John Weaver, a senior aide for GOP candidate John Kasich, said in a tweet: "I know a good federal compound for Bundy and his gang: a U.S. penitentiary."

So far, I haven't seen a reaction from the Donald.

Small indicators, but they're there.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Oh, By the Way

I was so out of it over the weekend from this damned cold (yes, came down with a cold on Christmas Day that moved right down into my lungs) that I barely noticed New Year's Eve.

And yes, that is Chicago. Pretty impressive, huh?

Today in "More Guns!"

Words fail me:

An Oklahoma man who who shot a 14-year-old boy in the back while he was playing “ding-dong ditch” on New Year’s Eve has not been arrested for the shooting, reports NewsOne 6.

According to police, Cole Peyton said he and two friends were ringing doorbells and running away well after after midnight on New Year’s Eve. After ringing the bell at one house, one homeowner stepped out of his door and shot the teen once in the back and again in the arm as the honor student told his friends to run.

I was about to suggest that there should be some sort of psychological screening for potential gun purchasers, if only to establish that they display a certain degree of maturity and solid judgment, and then I remembered: this happened in Oklahoma.