"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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Speaking of Banned Books Week

It's Sunday at Green Man Review, with our usual mix of books reviews, music reviews, and a licorice/chocolate combo (from Iceland, which may explain something), and the like. Scoot on over and enjoy.

Today's Must-Read: Another Point of Contact

Trump's sense of his own superiority, no matter how unjustified by real-world events, rests on a foundation that -- well, it's flimsy at best. Digby takes a hard look:

Like history's monarchs, Trump believes that the qualities that make him successful are in-born. He once said he possesses a genetic “gift” for real estate development.

“I'm a big believer in natural ability,” Trump told me during a discussion about his leadership traits, which he said came from a natural sense of how human relations work. “If Obama had that psychology, Putin wouldn't be eating his lunch. He doesn't have that psychology and he never will because it's not in his DNA.” Later in this discussion, Trump said: “I believe in being prepared and all that stuff. But in many respects, the most important thing is an innate ability.”

Perhaps Trump's conviction that DNA — not life experience — is everything explains why he proudly claims that he's “basically the same” today as when he was a boy. “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I'm basically the same,” he said. “The temperament is not that different.”
(Emphasis added.)

Do I have to comment?

That whole passage is so ridiculous as to defy analysis. And he probably believes every word of it.

And it's not that big a leap from that attitude to the idea (which I find somewhat bizarre) that people not like him (i.e., brown people) are inferior.

And people wonder why he's such a big hit with people like Tony Perkins and David Duke.

Happy Banned Books Week

Yes, it's that time of year again, when the forces of righteousness are acknowledged for their vain attempts to make ideas go away. Here's a nice little story on the subject. This struck me:

In March 2001, Reverend George Bender of the Pentecostal Harvest Assembly of God Church in Pittsburgh led his congregation in a bonfire of “ungodly” music, Disney movies and books including the Harry Potter titles. Later that year, another Christian church in New Mexico followed Bender’s example, calling the books “a masterpiece of satanic deception."

I suspect we all know what other group was known for public book burnings:

http://germanculture.com.ua/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/nazi-books-burning.jpg

Somehow, the ideas didn't go away.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Today's Must-Read: High School Civics Edition

OK -- this should scare you, even if nothing else does:

Unfortunately, many Americans lack fundamental civics knowledge, according to the recent Constitution Day Civics Survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and therefore cannot understand current events.

“In light of the information in the news about First Amendment issues, the ignorance of the public about the First Amendment is startling,” Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC, tells Newsweek. “So there are times in which one needs knowledge about the Constitution to make sense of what's happening in the news environment,” she adds. “In particular when rights are at issue it's important that people understand what their rights are as they read the news.”

The results, published on September 12, reveal that more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe people in this country illegally have no protections under the Constitution. If that weren’t startling enough, only about a quarter (26 percent) of Americans can successfully name all three branches of government, with one-third of respondents unable to name a single branch, 27 percent who knew one branch and 13 percent who knew two.

It gets worse.

There's a reason Betsy DeVos was named Secretary of Education -- and it wasn't to improve the general public's knowledge of how this country works.

Actually, I'd like to blame Trump, but we've been a while getting here. Don't look for it to get better, if for no other reason than those who don't know don't care and don't want to learn, and, since the right has taken over the majority of state houses, no one's going to make them.


Job, Jobs, Jobs. . . .

It looks like we may have to rely on the coal industry to keep Americans working.

Fewer international travelers came to the United States during the first few months of this year than over the same period last year, confirming concerns of some in the travel industry.

New figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce show a drop in international visitors to the United States by close to 700,000 in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year. European countries were down 10.1 percent, and Mexico was off 7.1 percent in the quarter. The largest drops were from the Middle East and Africa, though they represent a much smaller percentage of overall travel to the United States.

Overall, 697,791 fewer foreigners visited the United States in the first three months of the year, down 4.2 percent to 15.8 million. According to Tourism Economics, a branch of Oxford Economics based in Wayne, Pa., that analyzes travel data, the drop represents a loss of nearly $2.7 billion in spending.

It's not only hotels and restaurants that are going to suffer. People visiting the U.S. shop, they visit cultural attractions and national parks, you name it. As a small example, Chicago is a major tourist destination. I was talking to a couple from North Carolina the other day, and they were all set to tour Chicago -- they'd gotten City Passes, which give free admission to a number of attractions, including most of the major museums. (And just a note on museum admissions: regular, nonresident admission to the Field Museum is $22 -- plus up to $25 additional for special exhibitions. The prices for the Art Institute start at $14 for Chicago residents and go up from there.) Granted, these were American tourists, but they were going the full tour -- museums, shopping, restaurants, the trolley system that takes you around to the various attractions without having to figure out the buses (which even some Chicagoans have trouble with, if they're in an unfamiliar part of town). I'd say it's at least comparable to the kind of visit that foreign tourists would plan. Now, think of all the jobs involved in servicing those people, from hotel staff to trolley drivers to retail "associates" (as they call them these days), museum staff, waiters, and on down the line.

As for why --

The question of whether the results prove a ripple effect from President Trump’s proposed travel ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries, an expanded wall along the Mexican border and anti-immigrant statements remains unanswered. But the data tracks with a decline in United States favorability abroad: In June, the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of those surveyed in 37 nations had a positive view of the United States, versus 64 percent at the end of President Obama’s term in office.

Last week, Pew reported that nearly two-thirds of Mexicans held a negative opinion of the United States, more than double the figure of two years ago, which stood at 29 percent.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” said Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics.

In response to a Facebook post by The New York Times, European readers overwhelmingly cited the Trump administration and its policies as reasons for avoiding or canceling trips to the United States.

Those are the broad, abstract reasons. In terms of real people, the comments at Joe.My.God.'s coverage of this are illuminating. This is from commenter vorpal, who's an American expatriate:

I'm an American citizen and every time I travel through the US, I feel like a criminal based on the way that security treats me. As an expat, my desire to go to the US as a vacation destination is pretty much zero at this point.

Body scans, laptop searches, having to remove my damned shoes?
No, thanks.

And this is an American citizen just visiting home. (A side note: I haven't done any traveling for a while, so I'm a bit out of touch with current conditions at security stations at the airports. I can only guess that they've gotten worse than merely annoying.)

It's not just individual tourists. From commenter Hue-Man:

Canadian schools and their sports teams stopped travel to the U.S. when Muslim students were hauled off the buses at U.S. ports of entry. Conference planners around the world have to consider how many of their speakers and conference attendees might not be able to attend when they read stories like this.

SEVEN entrepreneurs based in the Brussels district Molenbeek, dubbed the 'jihadi capital of Europe' have been denied entry into the US.

There are a lot of comments from Canadians who are going to Europe or South America for their vacations this year, instead of the U.S.

But to get back to the basic premise: The NYT notes that this ("this" being Trump) has cost us $2.7 billion in the first three months of 2017. Given that most overseas vacations are planned well in advance, it's only going to get worse, as people elect not to come here later this year or next.

And it's going to cost jobs.

Way to go, Donnie!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Today in Disgusting People: NIMBY Edition

This is no less than appalling:

Lucie's Place, a Central Arkansas nonprofit serving homeless LGBTQ youth and young adults, has withdrawn its request for a conditional use permit for a seven-person transitional home in Little Rock's Leawood neighborhood after receiving an email from a neighbor vowing to make the home's location public knowledge.

Penelope Poppers, executive director of Lucie's Place, said the nonprofit was midway through the sale and was prepared to close on the property as soon as it received the use permit from the city. Poppers said the group initially received some pushback from neighbors unhappy about the idea of a homeless shelter in their neighborhood but were able to allay those concerns by explaining its nature: a small residential setting for formerly homeless young people to develop life skills and get back on their feet. Lucie's Place already operates one four-bed transitional home in Central Little Rock.

Of course, there's always one person who will screw things up. Poppers got the following e-mail when the organization was on the verge of closing on the house:

I just received notification that there is some sort of halfway house or homeless shelter being proposed on Harmon [Drive], For LGBTQ persons who are at risk of being homeless. We are supposed to make clear if we oppose or support this idea.

We are completely and 100% opposed to this happening in our neighborhood! While I am completely in support of helping any who are in the situation of homelessness, and used to run a shelter myself in Houston, I am absolutely opposed to this happening in our residential neighborhood. We purchased a home in this neighborhood specifically because it was safe for our children. I do not want to live anywhere near a home like this. Since I have personal experience running a home like this, I am aware of the dangers involved, from a resident disclosing the location of the home, to a person tracking them down, to sneaking drugs in, to having a criminal background that's undisclosed, etc. This is a terrible idea for our neighborhood! If this passes, I will make it my personal mission to get all of our neighbors involved in disclosing the location of this home to anyone that we can and fighting the forward motion of this plan. This is absolutely unacceptable for this area. I've talked to all the neighbors within 500 feet of our house, and every single one of them feels the same way. We will all be attending the meeting to voice our opposition, but if this goes through we will disclose the location of this home to anyone who wants to know, and will fight this every step of the way. I cannot even believe that you would be considering opening a home of this nature in a residential neighborhood, that has many many children all around it. Not to mention elderly, Christians who completely oppose that lifestyle, etc. please take this idea and plant it elsewhere. I think it's a wonderful idea, just not in this neighborhood!

Couldn't be more clear: "not in my back yard," which is rankest hypocrisy. There's also the fact that this person (apparently it's a woman) never bothered to learn the specifics of the project, but just went off.

And let's be clear: disclosing the location of a shelter like this exposes the kids to all sorts of harassment and violence. My personal feeling is that Lucie's Place should forward the e-mail and any available contact information to the police, although that's probably moot, given that the organization is now looking at another property. I tend to agree with a lot of the commenters: this woman should be outed for what she is: a bigot and a bully, and a hysterical one at that. (Of course, bigotry and hysteria tend to go hand in hand.)

I have some pretty strong thoughts about the fact that the richest country in the world has people living on the streets with no place to go. I also have strong thoughts about "Christians" (and of course the e-mailer makes reference to "Christians" who "disagree with that lifestyle") who never read the Gospels: she needs a good dose of Matthew 25: 41-46:

41 Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

45 “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

It's worth noting, this being Arkansas and all, that the overwhelming majority of commenters at this article are not kind to the NIMBY.

Via NCRM.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

More reviews, of course -- a special section on Charles de Lint's early novels set in and around Ottawa, some really interesting music reviews, and the graphic novel from Hell. (Not the work itself, just because my browser and the site decided they didn't like each other while I was trying to upload, edit, and publish.) So click on through and enjoy.

Today's Must-Read: Yes, There Are Fifty States

Interesting piece by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo on a grassroots effort to reinstate the 50-state strategy in the Democratic Party:

A friend sent a DKos post about a new organization, It Starts Today. The group hopes to "restart the 50-State Strategy" by raising small-donor money for every Democratic House and Senate race in the country, regardless of candidate. The reason is the Democratic Party has been playing the strategic targeting game at least since after 1994 and in the process losing ground in large swaths of the country:
Every time, it made sense in the short term. And, every time, this decision to be “strategic” and “efficient” also caused us to abandon more and more districts, essentially ceding them to the Republican party. As a result, each Democratic wave—think 2008—got reversed fairly quickly, as the Republican party rallied around a consistent message and fought back. Meanwhile, each Republican wave—think 2010—became that much harder to undo, as the Democratic Party focused on an increasingly smaller pool of “competitive” districts.
If you don't show up to play, you forfeit. It's been shortsighted, clearly, for Democrats in Congress, for winning the presidency, and for being able to advance an agenda when Democrats win it. Mark Warner put it bluntly when he told Yearly Kos in 2006, "[W]e cannot just go after 16 states and then try to hit a triple bank-shot to get Ohio or Florida." Yet that's how the party plays it again and again.

Let's face it, the Democrats' strategy for the past few cycles, ever since Howard Dean left the chairmanship of the party, has been a disaster. As Sullivan points out, not only have Democratic mid-term sweeps been reversed in the next election, but Republican sweeps haven't. And the GOP has made strong gains in state houses, and not just in red states: I'm still trying to figure out how our current governor in Illinois got elected, in a state where Democrats dominate the legislature.

Read the whole thing, of course.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Today in Christian Supremacy

Via Joe.My.God., from noted "Christian" Matt Barber's website:

Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived. Also, is it wrong for a professing Christian service member to say, “I support the rights of all Americans to practice their faith since the Constitution protects their rights?” Absolutely!
(Emphasis added.)

There's not really much to say, save that the "Christian" right is getting more and more blatant about its opposition to fundamental American values.

Can you say "anti-American"?


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Welcome to Trump's America

And these are American citizens:

Sattar Ali is questioning his family's return move to Wichita following an attempt to deposit a check at his bank which landed him, his wife and daughter in police custody..

The Ali family recently sold their home in Dearborn, Michigan. He moved back to Wichita, he said, to finish his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering at Wichita State University where the Ali's 18 year old son is also a student.

Ali said, "I went to the bank to deposit the check and I took all of the documents with me to verify."

The check was for just over $151,000. "And I told them I don't need it until I find a house. So keep the check with you, verify, take your time." "Simply we were just going there to deposit a check. We were not asking for money."

But he said his experience started to go down hill. Ali said, "And I was talking to them for less than five minutes and I found the police behind me, handcuffed me, confiscated everything and took me outside."

His wife Hadil and their 15 year old daughter Hawra were waiting in the car outside the bank. Police take them into custody also and take all three downtown to police headquarters for questioning. And while holding the family for nearly three hours, police called the private school the Ali's eleven year old son attends in Andover, telling the school to hold their son because the family was in police custody.

You really want to get sick to your stomach? Get this:

Emprise Bank issued the following statement: ".. We are aware of a situation at the 21st and Woodlawn branch yesterday and can confirm that our team acted in accordance with our policies and procedures. If faced with the same circumstances today, we would expect our team to take the same actions."

In other words, don't bank at Emprise Bank if you're brown and you don't have an "American" name -- you know, like Woczejowicz.

I hope he sues the bank for millions.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Today in Disgusting People

I don't know the official death count for Irma, but at least four people have died in the U.S., I believe, and more in the Caribbean.

Ann Coulter's response:


It seems that callous indifference to other people's misfortune is a hallmark of the conservative movement (think of all those "conservatives" who voted against aid for the victims of Sandy), but making a joke of it is beyond the pale.

I think Digby has the right take on it:

This isn't an ideology problem. It's a maturity problem. And there are millions of people like her. One of them is in the White House.

The country's being run by a bunch of nine year olds.

Of course, we have to consider the right's priorities:



Cartoon du Jour

There's something reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter in this:


Or maybe it's just that this is where the Republican party has gotten to.

Via Digby.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Why, more reviews, of course -- and a very intersting mix this week. Scoot on over -- and be sure to check out this week's "What Not".

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Idiot du Jour

That would be David Yerushalmi, the "father of the anti-Sharia movement":

A proponent of the right-wing Israeli settlement movement, Yerushalmi has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for his bigoted views about Muslims as well as black people, immigrants and women. He’s argued that white people are “genetically superior” to black people, and provocatively stated that “there is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote.”

Considering that we share about 99% of our genetic heritage with chimpanzees, and that non-Africans have inherited between 1 and 2% of their genes from Neanderthals (although I've seen higher estimates), and that the genetic difference between human races is insignificant, I'd say that Yerushalmi is pulling his "science" out of his nether orifice.



I Told You So (Update)

The whole circus involving bakers, florists, photographers, etc. refusing to "participate" in gay weddings by selling their goods and services to gay couples is nothing more than an assault on nondiscrimination laws. It's the same strategy that the right has used against abortion rights and same-sex marriage: chip away, and keep chipping away.

And now 86 senators and congresscritters have filed an amicus brief in support of Masterpiece Cakes and "cake artist" Jack Phillips. And good ol' Senator Mike Lee has let the cat out of the bag:

Calling it a "a compelled speech case," Senator Lee told supporters laws that demand businesses treat people equally are a violation of freedom of speech and expression.

You can't hardly get more plain than that: as far as the right is concerned, nondiscrimination laws are unconstitutional, not to say un-American.

Don't expect any of the usual suspects -- i.e., the main-stream media -- to pick up on that.

Update: As for whose rights should be protected, I mentioned this yesterday, but Digby has a nice, incisive take on it:

 Oh look:

In a speech at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos lit into what she called “the current failed system” for handling accusations of campus sexual assault, and she announced a period of public comment that could lead to significant changes. 
“There are men and women, boys and girls, who are survivors, and there are men and women, boys and girls who are wrongfully accused,”
I don't have an opinion on whether Title IX protections have gone too far. I haven't read anything to suggest they have done anything but force schools to take campus rape seriously. But Trump's administration taking this issue up is really, really rich.

After all we know what advice he gives to young men on this topic:
Try and fuck her. Move on her like a bitch. Use tic-tacs in case you start kissing her.  And just start kissing her. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
The president himself was quoted saying he does all these things. If he can do it and get elected to the most powerful office in the world, there's no reason the average all American boy should have his college career ruined for following his example, amirite?

'Nuff said?





Friday, September 08, 2017

The Best Friend We Ever Had

So claims The Donald, or at least he did while on the campaign trail. (Has he ever gotten off the campaign trail? I mean, have you ever heard of a president who holds campaign rallies his first year in office?)

At any rate, under the leadership of arch-bigot Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the DoJ has file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission -- in support of the "Christian" baker:

Via press release from the ACLU:

The Justice Department filed a brief today with the Supreme Court arguing that businesses that are open to the public have a constitutional right to discriminate against LGBT people.

The brief was filed in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case in which a Colorado bakery refused to serve a same-sex couple seeking a cake for their wedding reception. Lower courts have previously found that Masterpiece Cakeshop violated Colorado’s non-discrimination law when it refused service to David Mullins and Charlie Craig.

The brief is here. It's pretty much a rehash of the right wing's anti-LGBT talking points in this and similar cases: making a cake is "participating" in the wedding, making a custom cake is "artistic expression" covered by the First Amendment, Phillips' religious beliefs preclude him doing anything that might indicate support for same-sex marriage, etc., etc., etc. It's basically the same arguments that have lost in court in case after case.

My own take is simply that, if you are offering such things as custom cakes to the general public, you're a public accommodation doing work for hire. I've free-lanced as a writer and editor, and the basic rule is, you produce what the client wants.

I think the ruling precedent here is Employment Division v. Smith, in which no less than Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, stated: "We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate."

I'm really sort of surprised that the Court decided to hear this case.

What's most significant in this instance, however, is the administration's continued assault on civil right, starting with LGBTs -- but don't think that will be the end of it. (Note: don't forget Trump's ban on transgender service in the military, and Betsy DeVos' Education Department rescinding the Obama administration's guidance on treatment of transgender students. But they're not against all civil rights: DeVos really wants to be sure the rights of rapists on college campuses are observed.)

Should the Court find in favor of the bigots, it's going to torpedo every nondiscrimination law in the country; even a narrowly drawn decision would be a foot in the door, in line with the right's "chipping away" strategy that they've used against Roe v. Wade and have attempted to use against Obergefell v. Hodges and is the motivating force behind the "religious freedom" laws that have been popping up in state legislatures.

The bright side is that Anthony Kennedy is still on the Court, so as of now, the Court has the majority that gave us Windsor and Obergefell. Cross your fingers and pray for the continued good health of that majority.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Today in Disgusting People

I'm not sure which is worse, the sheriff or the spokesbot:

As Hurricane Irma churns towards Florida, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department sent out a series of tweets Wednesday telling those with outstanding warrants that they will be sent to jail if they turn up at a storm shelter. The tweets used cheeky language—“we’ll gladly escort you”—as a guise for a policy that will likely risk lives. Floridians who stand to be jailed may simply choose not to seek shelter in the midst of a Category 5 storm. If that happens, Carrie Horstman, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said, the fault won’t lie with authorities. “I don’t know at this point what this storm will do,” she told The Daily Beast. “We are trying to give people a heads up as many days in advance as possible to prepare of this storm.” In an interview, Horstman further explained that it was policy to check IDs at the shelter doors to prevent sex offenders from getting to close to children. “While we are checking, if we see someone with an active warrant we have to place them under arrest,” she added. She didn’t seem persuaded by the criticism that this would discourage people from showing up in the first place. “That is a risk a person would run,” Horstman said. “I think it is much safer to be in our jail than to expose yourself to a Category 5 storm. You are using the phrase, ‘people who are scared to go to jail.’ If you have a warrant, legally you should be in jail. You should turn yourself in and be safe in our jail rather than risk your life waiting out a storm.”

What is it with sheriffs in this country? Penis envy?

Via Digby.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The President Speaks on DACA

The last real president we had, that is. Barack Obama's full statement:

Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.

Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.

That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.

But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.

It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.

Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.

What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.

Culture Break: Steely Dan: Deacon Blues

Monday, September 04, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Thoughts on Labor Day

From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

Workers are the Rodney Dangerfields of this economic terror the financial empire has constructed. An afterthought. Collateral damage. A necessary evil to the sainted "job creators." As in the last Gilded Age, as Twain put it, "Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, & over these ideals they dispute & cannot unite--but they all worship money." Those without it should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more. Sadly there is no new Twain to properly satirize this new Gilded Age. Save, perhaps, for the president who personifies it.

It is Labor Day weekend. Not that America celebrates labor, mind you. And not everyone gets to celebrate. But both those who do and do not have organized labor to thank for their holiday pay.

He goes into the history of the labor movement, which is something we all need to remember, as Trump and the GOP keep trying to convince us that labor unions are so 1930s.

Point of information: My dad worked with the teacher's union in his school district when I was a kid -- he may even have been one of the organizers: my memory's not to clear on it. (I was what? Maybe eight years old?)

Yes, I come from a line of leftists.

God-Botherers to the Fore (Update)

Two stories this morning seem to hang together. First, from NCRM, this article on a Washington Post op ed by Albert Mohler responding to criticisms of the so-called "Nashville Statement." It's a document rife with the trademark "Christian" characteristics of arrogance, smugness, self-absorption, and authoritarianism.

This got a laugh from me:

We signers know ourselves, like all humanity, to be broken by sin. We have no right to face the world from a claim of moral superiority. We know and confess that Christians have often failed to speak the truth in love.

I wonder why they never act like it. He's right about them having no claim to moral superiority: they have no idea what morality really is.

David Badash, in the NCRM article, takes that a little farther:

He also does not address why same-sex marriage, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are his targets, along with those who support the right of a woman to choose to have an abortion.

Why not speak to divorce? Inequality? Immigration? Economic challenges?

Why not speak to the historic Hurricane Harvey, which Mohler's group was apparently unaware was ravaging Texas and Louisiana as they were releasing their statement attacking LGBT people.

"In releasing the Nashville Statement, we in fact are acting out of love and concern for people who are increasingly confused about what God has clarified in Holy Scripture," Mohler says.

In other words, he's doing what evangelical Christians have been doing for decades: calling LGBT people sinners while claiming their "truth," aka hate and condemnation, is love.

He makes a couple of good points: why weren't Mohler -- and Tony Perkins, Donald Wildmon, and the other signers of this "statement", out helping people in Houston? (Can you imagine Tony Perkins ladling out stew in an emergency shelter? Neither can I.) Update: Speaking of Harvey, Joel Osteen just doesn't know when to shut up.

“The reason it may seem like God is not waking up is not because he’s ignoring you, not because he’s uninterested, it’s because he knows you can handle it,” he stated and added that Christians should “take it as a compliment” from God when their lives are impossibly difficult.

I'm sure those people who have lost everything take great comfort in that. (There's video at the link, if you can stand seven-plus minutes of Osteen's teeth.)

As for why they aren't addressing those other issues -- well, how can they make money off of that? I mean, it's not as easy to scare people with divorce as it is with men in the women's bathroom. And Trump has the immigration thing wrapped up.

Oh, and Dr. Mohler? When your idea of love starts with judgment and ends with condemnation, you've really missed the point.

And it seems that the left are not the only ones calling bullshit on the "Nashville Statement":

“Had white evangelicals leaders … withheld support for Mr. Trump after the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tapes, maybe their opposition to same-sex marriage would be viewed … as a principled, rather than a bigoted, position,” said Skye Jethani, a prominent Chicago-area pastor and author. The Nashville Statement met such criticism in part because white evangelicals’ broad voting support of Trump, at 81 percent, despite his moral violations, “squandered” their moral authority, he said.

My one problem with that comment is that they -- the signers -- are the only ones who believe they have any moral authority. (I mean, outside their flock of sheep -- and I don't think it's by chance that the Bible repeatedly refers to Christ's followers as "sheep.") Otherwise, he's right: their hypocrisy is dripping all over everything.

And as for Mohler's statement that they were called on the "clarify" God's teaching on human sexuality -- no. The "Nashville Statement," like the Manhattan Declaration, is a manifesto, and an instruction to political leaders. Enter Digby:

He is a violent, cretinous narcissist and his cabinet is filled with Goldman Sachs greedheads and government slashing zealots. His foreign policy is incoherent and national security is totally in the hands of generals. And then there are the theocrats who are getting every last thing they want from their beloved pussy grabbing, sexual predator.

Peter Montgomery surveys the success of the Religious Right under Trump:

Amid the stream of outrage about President Donald Trump that dominates my Facebook feed, one friend desperately sought a silver lining: “Well, at least we don’t have the theocrat Pence as President.” It reminded me that I, like some of my LGBTQ friends, thought during the Republican primary that we would prefer Trump to someone like Ted Cruz, whose unshakeable religious-right ideology and matching policy agenda was clear.

We were wrong. My Facebook friend is wrong. Not only is Trump a reckless and divisive president who shows contempt for anyone who crosses him and who has energized a white nationalist movement that could wreak havoc on American political and social culture for a long time to come—he’s also the best thing that’s ever happened to the religious right.

In case anyone is still wondering, the religious right is not about morality or virtue -- it is about power, which should be obvious to anyone with the slightest acquaintance with the history of the Moral Majority and its successors.

Digby is right in line with my take:

But what's most important about this is the complete breakdown of any pretense that these "Values Voters" have any moral core or are in any way sincere in their beliefs. They are nothing more than a political faction looking for power and they are willing to use any means necessary to achieve it. Let's not ever be confused again or allow the media to use them as some kind of symbol of morality in our politics.

They are beyond hypocrites. They are simply frauds.

And cynical manipulators on top of it. As Digby puts it, this is enough to make me lose my lunch.



Sunday, September 03, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Why, reviews, of course -- books, music, a rather unusual video, and more. You know what to do.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Saturday Science: Some Stray Thoughts on Geology

I'm not sure how I got on this train of thought, but I found myself thinking about the geology of Illinois. Most of the state is a huge syncline, which is to say a big bowl, full of dirt.

The northern part of the state, around Chicago and across to Rockford, is glacial moraine (no real surprise, since northern Illinois marks the southernmost reach of the glaciers in mid-America, as witness the southern shore of Lake Michigan, which, along with the other Great Lakes, was formed by glaciers), while in the far south, you can, if you look at the right places, see the folding and distortion that is the result of the mountain building that created the Appalachians, some 300 million years ago (although some sources place that even as beginning 480 mya -- but that may depend on what part of the Appalachians you're talking about), when what is now North America collided with Gondwana (present-day Africa and South America).

And yes, the effects of that collision are visible in southern Illinois, hundreds of miles to the west.

And do check out the link -- it's kind of long, but very interesting, and pretty much tells the whole story, starting about 750 million years ago.

This helps in visualizing the whole thing:


And this is the sort of thing I think about when I allow my mind to wander.

When You Care Enough To Do the Very Least

This, from The Hill:

President Trump has declared Sunday a "National Day of Prayer" for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Surrounded by leaders from the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Trump signed a proclamation from the Oval Office on Friday inviting "all Americans to join us as we continue to pray for those who have lost family members or friends, and for those who are suffering in this time of crisis."

"I don't know when this was done last, but it's been a long time ago," Trump told reporters. "Is that a correct statement? It's been a long time ago."

From one of the reporters covering the performance:



Somebody should have clued him in -- if something like this is going to be really effective, you need at least one victim in the room.

Via Joe.My.God. The comments are worth reading -- they're uniformly scathing, but some take snark to whole new level. Just one example: