"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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Color Me Sceptical

So now there's a theory that life on Earth originated on Mars.

Professor Steven Benner, a geochemist, has argued that the "seeds" of life probably arrived on Earth in meteorites blasted off Mars by impacts or volcanic eruptions. As evidence, he points to the oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum, thought to be a catalyst that helped organic molecules develop into the first living structures.

"It's only when molybdenum becomes highly oxidised that it is able to influence how early life formed," said Benner, of the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in the US. "This form of molybdenum couldn't have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago, the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did.

"It's yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely that life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet."

For reference, here's a summary of the current science on abiogenesis. I'd like to see some firmer evidence on the role of oxidized molybdenum in the formation of the first cells.

The "Christian" Right In a Nutshell

This sort of says it all:
“We are tired of the Christian Right which is so wrong trying to dominate the moral high ground,” Barber explains. “We challenge them: Are you really ready for a moral debate? Are you ready to defend what you have done? Of course they don’t want to debate. It most certainly is a moral issue. Cutting people off from health care, from their jobs, taking food off their tables. They have no integrity and they hide from debate.”

Food for Thought

While we're all appalled and/or disgusted by the revelations of NSA hijinks (is there anyone they haven't spied on?), I had a sobering thought -- this is just the top end of a trend that's been happening for a long time, and it's all of a piece: the increasingly interlocked nature of the Internet, with what seems to be a natural phenomenon: a few corporations starting to gobble up everything else so that you have one account for everything -- "for your convenience." (Google keeps trying to sign me into everything with my Google account, which I don't use -- I just created it because of a server glitch causing a site I needed to get into to reject my regular account.)

At any rate, let's start with something a little closer to home for most of us. (At least it used to be, but more on that in a minute.) Notice how militarized our police departments are getting? SWAT teams, assault rifles, body armor, the whole works. Here's the Tampa police department, from their official website:

The 12-ton Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) can drive through five feet of water and withstand winds up to 130 mph helping police operate under the most severe conditions. The carrier, nicknamed "high-top shoe" for its tall silhouette look, can be used for search and rescue during a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. The APC is bullet resistant, can hold 13 passengers and it is virtually unstoppable. On pavement, it can reach speeds of 60 mph. This one of a kind APC was purchased from the military and it was paid for with a Federal security grant.

It's worth going to the site just to see the pictures. Is this Tampa, or Baghdad?

The bottom line is that we're putting huge amounts of lethal force in the hands of people who overreact (remember Chicago, 1968? Imagine that with today's armaments), who make mistakes (and that story is by no means the worst in that vein), who stage full-scale raids on flimsy pretexts (and that story is not the only one about the authorities finding "probable cause" after the fact), and whose judgment is open to question (remember the pepper-spray incident at UC Davis? And to underscore my point, the campus police lieutenant who "pulled the trigger" as it were has filed for worker's comp.).

Which brings us to the surveillance state. The police are armed and ready, now they just need a target. Any target will do, and that's where NSA and its subsidiaries come in. The trend toward constant surveillance started a long time ago -- maybe with police radar to catch speeders. Then we went to cameras in high-crime areas. (They don't actually prevent any crime, as it turns out.) But now, with the advent of the Great War on Terror, there are not only a larger pool of suspects, but a ready-made excuse for watching them. This is choice:
The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. The TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate terrorist cells and the like.

Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.

Digby has a very good, must-read post on the effect of all this on us, the targets. Her summation:
The surveillance society naturally results in less creativity, less innovation, less dissent, less freedom. I know it sounds ridiculously hyperbolic, but this strikes me as a potentially huge social change that nobody's talking about. What kind of a world will it be when people no longer have an inner self, at least an inner self that has any possibility of expression without being revealed to everyone else. What happens when you lose control over your identity, your history, your ability to reinvent yourself and take second chances?

My reaction: Connect the dots: wages sinking, the 1%'s war on the middle class, constant surveillance, get out of jail free passes for the banks* and "energy" companies (not to mention their very sophisticated use of propaganda). Less dissent, less freedom? That's what they want.

* A footnote: ran across this post this morning. From Henry Paulson, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury during the financial collapse in 2008:

“There was such a total lack of awareness from the firms that paid big bonuses during this extraordinary time.”

That is what Henry M. Paulson Jr., former Treasury secretary, said last week. We were discussing the 2008 financial crisis in light of the approaching five-year anniversary of those white-knuckled days, when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the government stepped in to bail out the American International Group and then the banking system….

"Lack of awareness?": Pot, meet kettle. Read on:

He said the hardest part of the bailouts for him was in the disconnect between the bailouts’ ugly image with the public and his faith that the bailouts would help keep the economy from collapsing.

“I understood that people were angry,” Mr. Paulson said. “They wanted to hear that those that made the mistakes were going to be held responsible. Then on the other side was stability. It’s hard to punish and save the banks at the same time.” He paused for a moment. “I was much more concerned with stability.”

I don't understand how that became an either/or proposition. It seems to me that reining in the bonuses and obscene compensation packages for those who caused the crisis might have contributed to public confidence. Maybe the DoJ going after them would have helped as well. But then, I'm not a economics guru, like Hank Paulson -- who, arguably, is one of the people who created the mess.

Draw your own conclusions.

"Disgusting People" Updated

The Bronze Agers at CBN haven't figured out that you can't really eliminate anything on the Internet. Not only does HuffPo have video of Pat Robertson's unfortunate story about Special Magical AIDS Rings, but DailyMotion also has the clip up.

And now I do to:

Robertson Uncensored: Gay Rings Give People AIDS by dm_521e5ab80f760

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today in "Disgusting People"

I generally try to ignore Pat Robertson. In my opinion, the man is senile and should be under 24-hour supervision, lest he hurt himself. This, however, is too much to pass on.

Octogenarian televangelist and multi-millionaire Pat Robertson has cooked up what might possibly become one of his most vile anti-gay attacks yet. On his “700 Club” show today, Robertson claimed that gay people in San Francisco have special rings infected with HIV that they use to cut unsuspecting people to intentionally infect them. A web search for this phenomenon found nothing, nor did Robertson offer any proof.

“You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson told his co-host, Terry Meeuwsen. “Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.”

. . . .

“There are laws now,” Robertson lamented, “I think the homosexual community has put these draconian laws on the books that prohibit people from discussing this particular affliction, you can tell somebody you had a heart attack, you can tell them they’ve got high blood pressure, but you can’t tell anybody you’ve got AIDS,” he continued.”

Needless to say, the "ring" fantasy is a flat-out lie. I'm not even going to grace it with the possibility of being just an urban legend that Robertson's repeating. There's malice aforethought in this.

And the part about "laws . . . that prohibit people from discussing" AIDS is laughable. We spent more than two decades trying to get people to talk about AIDS. And now we've passed "draconian laws" to forbid that?

Well, the reaction to Robertson's little dark fantasy has been pretty negative. What did anyone expect? So true to form, CBN has forced YouTube to pull the original video (and there's a full run-down on that aspect at Right Wing Watch), and then Robertson came back with an "explanation." (I'm not going to call it an apology, because it's not.) Joe Jervis contacted CBN directly and got this response:

I was asked by a viewer whether she had a right to leave her church because she had been asked to transport an elderly man who had AIDS and about whose condition she had not been informed. My advice was that the risk of contagion in those circumstances was quite low and that she should continue to attend the church and not worry about the incident.

In my own experience, our organization sponsored a meeting years ago in San Francisco where trained security officers warned me about shaking hands because, in those days, certain AIDS-infected activists were deliberately trying to infect people like me by virtue of rings which would cut fingers and transfer blood.

I regret that my remarks had been misunderstood, but this often happens because people do not listen to the context of remarks which are being said. In no wise (sic) were my remarks meant as an indictment of the homosexual community or, for that fact, to those infected with this dreadful disease.

If you want the context of the remarks, Huffington Post has included the video in their own report on this incident. (I'd embed it, but it screws up the formatting for some reason.)

But, to his "clarification." First off, everything Robertson has ever said about gays is meant as an indictment of the community. He's probably one of the most reprehensible of the Liars for Jesus (TM), simply because he is in such loose contact with reality. That said, no one misunderstood his remarks. The fact that his own staff saw fit to edit them from the published video speaks to that. As for the warning about shaking hands, if the incident he relates was in the early years of the epidemic, I can see that, since no one knew much about transmission -- at least, not the general public. The ring part is pure bullshit. (Although with the right wing, you never can tell if it's a deliberate lie or "received wisdom.")

And just a comment about the mindset of the people who compose Robertson's followers: This woman had to ask if she had the right to leave her church? WTF?

I think that explains a lot right there.

Hat tip to Alvin McEwen at Justice for All.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Today in "Disgusting People"

Laura Ingraham hasn't really been on my radar, at least not as far as being a target, but this deserves special mention:
"But it all comes down to just George Zimmerman?" she asked. "The goal was, as our caller said, to divide. To co-opt the legacy of Martin Luther King into a modern day liberal agenda, a left-wing agenda, progressive agenda. Whatever you want to call it. From gay marriage to immigration amnesty was thrown in for good measure. We talked about the Voting Rights Act."

To make her point about immigration, Ingraham played a portion of Lewis' speech.

"We must say to the Congress, pass comprehensive immigration reform," Lewis said. "It doesn't make sense that millions of our people..."

But the congressman's remarks were interrupted by a loud echoing gunshot followed by a few moments of silence. Ingraham offered no explanation for the sound effect.

Do I really need to say anything?

There's video at the link, if your stomach is up for it. Mine's not.

Looks Like New Mexico Will Be #14

Another day, another court order:

New Mexico District Court Judge Alan M. Malott’s ruling today could not be more clear: Denying marriage equality rights to same sex couples is blatantly unconstitutional and unenforceable under New Mexico state law. He has ordered that marriage licenses be issued by the Bernalillo county clerk to couples regardless of gender, beginning immediately.

That brings about half of New Mexico's population living under marriage equality. I don't see how the NM Supreme Court can rule otherwise, when pending cases come before it. It seems, according to the, post, that in 1973 New Mexico law was revised to remove all references to gender in the state statutes, including the marriage laws.

As usual, there is huffing and puffing from the right, but it looks as though they don't have a leg to stand on.

"It is up the New Mexico State Legislature, with the consent of the Governor of New Mexico, to make laws and for county clerks and district court judges to abide by them. They do not make the laws. It is inexplicable how a district court just today discovered a new definition of marriage in our laws, when our marriage law has not been changed in over a century," [state Sen. Bill] Sharer said in a statement.

Apparently, Sharer is unfamiliar with the concept of judicial review. Given that, based on the historical record, most legislators have no clue as to what's in the various constitutions, that seems like a necessary check. And equally apparently, Sharer doesn't know the laws in his state. It looks like the right-wing's only recourse is a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Persecuted Straight Guy

This is one of those "Through the Looking Glass" mantras so enamored of the right: if society tries to make amends for the way (insert disfavored minority here) have been/are being treated, we're being discriminated against. This time, it's Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma, of course), in response to the announcement that the armed forces will grant up to 10 days' uncharged leave for gay/lesbian personnel to travel to states where they can legally be married. From a letter to Secretary Chuck Hagel:

I write this letter to express my great concern to policy issued on August 13, 2013, especially the intent to extend special uncharged leave benefits to same-sex partners and not to all military couples. … Mr. Secretary, I firmly support the Department of Defense’s stated commitment to ensuring that all men and women who serve our country and their families should be treated fairly and equally. However, this change in policy will create disparate treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex couples in our armed forces contrary to the Department’s stated policy.

There's a real easy solution to this: mandate equal marriage in all 50 states.

Walking With Blinders

You know how they used to fit horses with blinders to restrict their field of vision, so that they wouldn't spook at things coming from the side? It strikes me that that's the syndrome exhibited by so many of the "religious" right in their opposition to gays civil rights in general, and same-sex marriage in particular. Today's example is Cardinal Donald Wuerl, courtesy of Joe.My.God. I'm going to do a little step-by-step commentary on this statement:

If someone describes marriage as inherently something between a man and a woman only, is this somehow discrimination, bigotry or even hate speech?

No one said that -- except you and your allies, playing the victim card for all it's worth. If someone describes marriage as something inherently between a man and woman (and what is that something, exactly? We never hear that part.), they're merely talking from a very limited, false definition of marriage, one promulgated for strictly sectarian purposes, and based on nothing, in the case of Catholic teaching, but the way a group of officially celibate bishops think the world ought to be. It's not the only definition, and it's not even a very good one.*

Until just a few years ago, this question would be looked upon as absurd. But today it is a real inquiry and an open challenge to the truth about human sexuality, the complementarity of man and woman, and the nature of marriage.

The "truth" about human sexuality? See above, under "officially celibate bishops." Like they know anything about it. And they know even less about the nature of marriage.
The assertion is made that for the Church to profess that some activities are immoral is in itself wrongful and, therefore, Catholics should not be free to publicly proclaim the Church’s revealed and received tradition.

Nice and general. What he's referring to, obviously, is the Church's insistence that homosexual behavior is intrinsically morally wrong, that we are by nature damaged, which to me reveals nothing so much as the Church's rudimentary understanding of the concept of morality. (Not to mention its open contempt for us, which I find ironic, at the very least, all things considered.) They're simply substituting the 3,000 year old tribal taboos of a group of Middle Eastern nomads for any real explanation of morality and what it's about. Hint to Cardinal Wuerl: rules are not values. And as for the claim that Catholics should be muzzled, that's such a standard trope on the right that it's a cliche. No one's stopping them from proclaiming anything. We can't persuade them to shut up and hold a rational discussion.
When discussions occur within the secular community, the assumed context is called civil discourse and it should not be stifled by gratuitous charges of discrimination against those who hold differing positions on an issue.

When discussions occur within the secular community, the Church and its spokesmen fall back immediately to Church doctrine. That's all they have. They are incapable of participating in secular discussions on these issues, because they don't really believe in civil law, which is the core issue -- the treatment of GLBT citizens under civil law. (They make a lot of noise about having respect and compassion for gays, but it's worth nothing that they work tirelessly to keep us from enjoying all the rights and privileges accorded every other citizen -- even, in the case of marriage, convicted felons.) I forget which pope it was who said "Separation of church and state is a myth," but that's been their whole attitude all along. Their idea of civil discourse is that no one can argue with their position because -- well, see above, under "revealed and received tradition." The Church is about authority, not inquiry, and its idea of "civil discourse" is "Do as I say." And frankly, charges of discrimination against the Church are hardly "gratuitous." That's what they're working for.

This is all smokescreen. As Joe notes in his post, Cardinal Wuerl is one of those who has expended a great amount of energy to keep this country from treating GLBTs as human beings.

* For reference, I find this definition much better on all counts: "Marriage is the recognition by the community of the establishment of a new household." For one thing, it avoids reducing human beings to the level of domestic animals. It also tells us what the "something" is.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Time for More Oysterband

"Everywhere I Go," from their 25th Anniversary DVD:

OK, Here's the Deal

If Texas promises to secede, we'll give them Louisiana:

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government's post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.

The encouraging news is that 44% of Louisiana Republicans actually admit they don't know something.

All Rights Have Limits

You may remember the case of Elane Photography, the New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony, citing her "personal religious beliefs." Well, the couple sued, and Elane Photography lost. And lost. And lost. And have finally lost again, in the New Mexico Supreme Court. Key point:

{91} On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. At its heart, this caseteaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe,as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

{92} In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship. I therefore concur.
(Emphasis added.)

The usual suspects are having the usual fits. They don't seem to have read the opinion.

Brian Brown of NOM:
This decision is outrageous. While simultaneously admitting that this decision will harm the Huguenins, the court uses its full power of coercion to force them to compromise their beliefs. This is not what this country was founded upon; governmental coercion has no place in the public square never mind the freedom of religion supposedly enjoyed by the Huguenins. People of faith should not be coerced to denying their beliefs or losing their livelihoods There are plenty of photographers, bed and breakfast owners, or florists who would happily serve same-sex ceremonies. However, same-sex 'marriage' activists are not concerned with getting service, but instead forcing Americans of faith to compromise their beliefs and support something they know is objectively wrong.

Jordan Lorance of the ADF:

Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country. This decision is a blow to our client and to every American’s right to live free. Decisions like this undermine the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression and conscience that we have all taken for granted. America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs and not to be compelled by the government to express ideas and messages they decline to support. We are considering our next steps, including asking the U.S. Supreme Court to right this wrong.

If you read these diatribes in light of the actual decision, it's quite obvious someone has a serious problem connecting with reality. Here's the opinion:

I'm sure there will be more wailing and rending of garments. And an appeal.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Today's Must Read

From Digby, on Bradley Manning's sentence and government "priorities." In a nutshell:

For revealing army war crimes Pfc. Bradley Manning has already done far more time in prison than Lieutenant William Calley did for committing them. Yes, the government has made its point crystal clear.

Read the whole post. And then read this one.

Right Wing "Moderates"

Very interesting post by Fred Clark at Slacktivist on the role "moderate" evangelicals play in the culture wars:

It would be a positive thing if these moderate mainstream white evangelicals, these Very Nice People with their emphasis on civility, were able to provide a challenge to the vitriol, dishonesty and power games of the culture warriors.

But unfortunately, that’s not the role they play most of the time. Most of the time their smiling civility doesn’t provide a challenge to the culture warriors, it provides a cover for them.

He makes a good point.

And a thought: If a bigot is someone who demeans and discriminates against a group of people without any rational reason -- say because of religious belief -- how to these "civil" evangelicals rank? Is it possible to have a Very Nice Bigot?

And that just naturally leads to Maggie Gallagher, the queen of the self-styled "civil" participants in the culture wars. She's now slamming Gov. Chris Christie for signing a bill outlawing "ex-gay" counseling for minors, and she's either very sloppy about it, or deliberately lying. Her opening paragraph is . . . illuminating:
Due to staff error, a statement on Chris Christie’s signing a bill banning all professional counseling for minors unless it is gay-affirming was issued without my consent, or knowledge. I dislike using language that portrays gay people as “homosexuals” who are “tormented” by same-sex desires. For myself, and I speak only for myself, I consider this language condescending to both gay people and to men in general. Among other things, as far as I can see for most men, of whatever orientation or state in life, being tormented by sexual desire is pretty much the human condition for long stretches of life, rather than an unbearable cause for condescending pity.

First off, the "staff error," also known as "it's someone else's fault," which is a staple defense of so-called "conservatives," a/k/a, the party of personal responsibility.

And do I have to comment on her apparent attitude toward men?

This is where she goes totally off the cliff:

Governor Chris Christie has just put his name to a bill that uses the power of government to strip both parents and teenagers of the right to seek competent, professional help to live their life in accordance with their own values. The bill does not ban a specific kind of destructive therapy; it is a blanket ban on any licensed counseling professional helping any teenager who does not wish to act on gay (or transgender) desire. Not only efforts to change orientation but efforts to change behavior are forbidden, under penalty of law.

Governor Christie just endorsed a law that thus excludes many gay teens who wish to live in accordance with Bible-based values from the circle of care; he has outright banned chastity as a goal of counseling. His bill is not only anti-religious, anti-liberty, and anti-family, it is anti-science because it does not permit scientific knowledge to evolve in the hands of competent professionals.

None of that is true. None of it. The last part is hysterically funny: orientation-change therapy has been condemned by every major medical and psychological professional organization in the Western world because it is not scientific, its practitioners are not competent, and it has been shown to be damaging to those who undergo it. Besides, it doesn't work.

Gallagher either didn't read the bill, or she doesn't care what it really says.

Via Box Turtle Bulletin.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

They Just Don't Get It, Part ???

Among a wealth of recent stories about disgusting people saying disgusting things, this one, I think, illustrates something very revealing. San Antonio councilwoman Elisa Chan, on the reaction to her comments about gays being "disgusting."

"I know that many people find the comments made in the meeting offensive. But again, it was a confidential meeting said in the privacy of my office where none of us are supposed to worry about what we say."

If you're in politics, you should always worry about what you say.

She's hauled out the "out of context" defense, the "First Amendment" defense, the "personal beliefs" defense, but I guess they're not working very well.

And she, like so many, has no sense of irony. From the recorded remarks:

“This is my philosophy, guys,” she says. “Whatever you want to do in your bedroom is none of my business, but do not impose your view on other people, especially becoming policy. . . .

Do I really need to comment on that?

Cultural Exchange

I don't know why we assumed that Neanderthals were barely able to grunt, much less develop a sophisticated culture. I mean, we knew they buried their dead and things like that, which should have given us enough clues so that things like this are no surprise:
"In Germany and France there appears to be two separate handaxe traditions, with clear boundaries, indicating complete separate, independent developments," said Karen Ruebens, one of the researchers, in a news release. "The transition zone in Belgium and Northern France indicates contact between the different groups of Neanderthals, which is generally difficult to identify but has been much talked about, especially in relation to later contacts with groups of modern humans. This area can be seen as a melting pot of ideas where mobile groups of Neanderthals, both from the eastern and western tradition, would pass by--influencing each other's designs and leaving behind a more varied record of bifacial tools."

So what did these handaxes look like? The Neanderthals in the western region made ones that were symmetrical, triangular and heart-shaped. In the eastern region, Neanderthals created asymmetrically shaped bifacial knives.

"Distinct ways of making a handaxe were passed on from generation to generation and for long enough to become visible in the archaeological record," said Reubens. "This indicates a strong mechanism of social learning between these two groups and says something about the stability and connectivity of Neanderthal populations."

The findings reveal that these ancient people were far more advanced than we once believed. They learned from one another and passed down information through generations. In addition, the study reveals that time, effort and tradition were involved in making these stone tools.

Well, duh.

(Footnote: we know that chimpanzees learn from one another and pass down information -- like how to use a grass stem to catch termites, as observed by Jane Goodall. But we didn't figure that human beings could do the same thing?)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Things Rush Limbaugh Doesn't Know

The difference between "affect" and "control":
"See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming … You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something that he can’t create."

First off, there's nothing humble about Limbaugh or his opinions, which he may or may not actually hold -- he's one of those "personalities" that will say anything to get attention, especially since his advertisers started bailing. And for Limbaugh to be talking about what's intellectually possible is beyond funny.

Second, no one said that humanity controls the climate.

ThinkProgress notes a whole group of "agnostics and atheists" that recognize humanity's contribution to climate change:

What’s more, scores of religious institutions have responded to our shifting environment in ways that fully acknowledge humanity’s role in creating the crisis. The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have all issued statements or launched initiatives aimed at acting on global warming, and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops has an entire section of their website dedicated to combating climate change and its disproportionate impact on the world’s poor.

In fact, when Pope Francis officiated his inaugural mass after being elected head of the Catholic church earlier this year, he cited climate change as a core concern for the faithful:
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.

Their concern, of course, is based on the idea of humanity as the steward of Creation, which is an interpretation of "dominion" that's been gaining more and more favor in recent years. Limbaugh, of course, like the rest of his money-grubbing cohort, much prefers the idea of "dominion" as meaning "exploit" or "plunder."

And this has been another edition of Liars for Jesus(TM).

One Million Moms vs Evolution (IUpdated)

This time, they're taking on evolution. (I guess there are no scandalous comics out right now.) Via Joe.My.God., this gem:

Dear Joe, 1MM is teaming up with evangelist Ray Comfort to distribute Evolution vs. God far and wide, especially to those who reject God, the Bible and creation. Specifically, teams of Christian student groups on some of the nation’s most liberal colleges are in place and stand ready to personally hand this eye-opening DVD to other students. Once you've seen the trailer, I know you'll want a personal copy for yourself. We are offering Evolution vs. God to you for a suggested donation of only $5.00 to 1MM. Then...help us get this DVD into the hands of young people at America's most liberal colleges and universities! When you order your personal copy, you’ll have the opportunity to make an additional donation to purchase DVDs that will reach unbelieving college students. Click on the video and watch liberal professors dumbfounded by God's truth.

One commenter suggested that the professors were actually dumbfounded by the stupidity of the interviewers.

Here's the trailer:

If you're watching -- and you don't have to watch all that carefully -- you can see where answers were truncated.

PZ Myers, one of the experts interviewed, had some comments on the whole thing:
I’ve done a number of interviews for the media, and it’s not surprising when an hour-long conversation is reduced to a few sentences. I expect that, and it’s no surprise.

What they don’t do, unless they are ideological hacks and liars, is chop up the interview to completely misrepresent the point I just explained to them at length. [Ray] Comfort came to me asking for the evidence for evolution. The way it went is that he would a) ask for evidence, b) I would give him an example (like the research on sticklebacks or bacteria), c) Comfort would raise an irrelevant objection (they’re still fish! They’re still bacteria!), and d) I would explain why his objection was invalid, and how his expectations of the nature of the evidence were wrong. Somehow, though, in the movie (d) always ended up on the cutting room floor, so that he could announce in all of his promotional materials and in the movie itself that I was unable to provide any evidence for evolution.

That last bit is a lie.

And that is no surprise.

Do you suppose there's a special edition of the Bible that's missing the Eighth Commandment -- the one about bearing false witness?

And don't forget to send money.

Update: PZ has a further comment on tactics:

Here’s a single-celled organism that evolved two tails; “it’s still a single-celled organism.” Here’s a fish that evolved armor plating; “it’s still a fish.” Here’s a fruit fly that evolved a whole new mating signal; “it’s still a fruit fly.” Notice what’s common in every case: the conscious denial of what you just told them. It’s not just ignorance, it’s willful ignorance.

There’s no way around this game. They demand something that evolution does not predict, and claim its absence falsifies evolution.

Sound familiar?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bald-Faced Liars

And it's not even Tony Perkins.

On Friday, Fox broadcast a segment where President of the Pacific Legal Foundation Rob Rivett claimed polar bears’ only ‘threatened’ status is that they are a ‘threat’” to the fossil fuel industry:

RIVETT: The polar bears are thriving as you said. In fact 50 years ago there were only 5,000 to 10,000 of this species. Today there are 25,000. Of the 17 populations, 14 of those populations are maintaining population or increasing their populations. So there’s no question that the bear is thriving.

The real concern for us at the Pacific Legal Foundation is these bears were listed based upon simply speculation. Let me tell you how this happened. In essence through computer modelling, the federal government determined that this species would be losing its sea ice habitat and because of the loss of sea ice habitat, they felt it was necessary to put them on the threatened list.

He went on to claim that the bear’s status “is a real problem” because the fossil fuel industry will suffer. “[If] you’re going to to make that more expensive of through regulation, all the rest of us are going to be impacted by that and jobs are going to lost because of that,” Rivett said.

The real concern for the Pacific Legal Foundation -- another one of those right-wing "legal" groups that specializes in nuisance suits -- is that part of their funding come from Exxon-Mobil and the Koch Brothers.

In point of fact, eight of the known polar bear populations are in decline, and they are being forced to range farther afield because the polar ice is melting.

Here's one of those "thriving" polar bears. He starved to death.

CREDIT: Ashley Cooper/Global Warming Images

The Leadership We've Come To Expect

Well, the IOC finally decided to take a stand. Or not.

On Friday, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) denounced a Russian law that criminalizes public support for gay rights as “inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements” — but asked that athletes abide by it anyway.

“The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country. They’re going to agree with those laws in some ways, they’re going to disagree with those laws in other ways,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun told Russia’s R-Sport. “It’s our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different.”

No -- this law is every different. This is not about traffic tickets -- this is a law designed specifically against a minority. If the members of the IOC can't see the difference, what are they doing running the most high-profile sports organization in the world?

Oh, wait -- I forgot: the IOC is not about reality. It's about airy abstractions and the "brand." It's about hobnobbing with the rich and useless and not concerning yourself with the plight of "those people." Why do I think these people would fit right in on the D.C. cocktail party circuit? Except they would probably think it a step or two below them. But the mindset is the same: they only talk to each other, and when the rest of the world is ill-mannered enough to intrude on their little bubble, they get very flustered.

The bottom line on this is that if you have the respect for human rights you claim, you can't ask people to abide by this law -- nor can you threaten to punish those who don't.

I think this quote, from an IOC member, says it all:

"Why on earth didn't the government wait till after the Sochi Olympics. It's created a right old mess," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

How terribly inconvenient.

Also, check out this post at Towleroad.

As might be expected, the IOC's corporate sponsors are just as eager to remain noncommittal, with one exception.

As discussions about Russia’s anti-LGBT laws dominate coverage of the lead-up to the planned Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, only one corporate sponsor of the Olympics, General Electric, is pressing the International Olympic Committee publicly for action in support of human rights in response to inquiries from BuzzFeed.

While several companies pointed to their own support for LGBT rights — including, as BuzzFeed reported Tuesday, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s — few of the Games’ key sponsors were willing to engage the IOC in any specific request for more action. Several, in fact, provided BuzzFeed with identical language backing the IOC’s current position that it has received assurances from the Russian government that the games will not be affected by the new law banning LGBT “propaganda” being shown to minors.

A GE spokeswoman, however, told BuzzFeed: “We expect the IOC to uphold human rights in every aspect of the Games.”

It's nice to see GE take that stand, but it's going to take some muscle to budge the IOC, from them and others. (There's a protest planned for today at McDonald's headquarters here in suburban Oak Brook.)

John Aravosis has a round-up at AmericaBlog.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Today In "Christian" Love

Via Joe.My.God., this story:
At a prayer vigil outside City Hall before the meeting, about 300 people protested the proposed addition to San Antonio’s nondiscrimination law that would add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status.

“Let them vote ‘no’ to this ordinance, and ‘yes’ to the reign of the kingdom of God,” Pastor Charles Flowers said at the rally.

About 200 people signed up to speak at the City Council meeting for and against the ordinance.

Alva, a Marine staff sergeant who became the first U.S. soldier injured in Iraq when he stepped on a landmine, was booed by the crowd when he spoke in favor of the ordinance. Alva lives in San Antonio.

Booing American war heroes seems to be quite the rage on the "Christian" right -- and yes, I count the teabaggers among that group -- they're just as ignorant, immature, and self-centered.

(Oh, and about that pastor's comment -- these people seem to be quite enamored of kings and other despots.)

English Folk Rock

Specifically, the Oysterband and June Tabor. I'm sick of Russia, sick of all the right-wingers are really, truly are not Nazis (everyone to the left of Attila the Hun are the real Nazis) and truly love the gays, and who think Putin is right on target. (There is a very good post on the parallels between German in the '30s and Russia now at AmericaBog.) But I need a break. I'm sure you do, too. So here's the band performing a song that goes under the title of "Mississippi" or "Mississippi Summer," depending on the source. Enjoy.

If you don't know the Oysterband, check them out. They did some amazing stuff.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Most everyone has been comparing the situation around the Olympic Games in Sochi with Berlin, 1936. That's not an inapt comparison, and gods know the IOC is diving headlong into complicity with yet another repressive, authoritarian regime, even claiming that the IOC charter forbids a Pride House, in spite of both Vancouver and London.

The more apt comparison, in my mind, is Munich, 1972. No, there won't be slaughter of a national team, but the skin-heads and ultra-right wing groups in Russia have been given free rein for torturing and killing gays while the police stand there and watch. Why should anyone expect that to stop? Putin will probably even provide transportation to Sochi for them.

Say Johnny Weir is beaten and killed by a group of thugs. The Russians will stage an investigation and turn up no suspects, even though someone will undoubtedly be bragging about it on Facebook or whatever the Russian version is, the IOC will deplore the incident, the U.S. government will protest -- not very strongly -- and the games will continue.

What it's going to take is major sponsors of the Games (and of NBC) to pull out. That's what the IOC understands. It is, after all, just another corporation with a bottom line. Either that, or we find a way to hire Mossad as a security detail.

Side note: Someone in a comment thread suggested picketing the homes and businesses of the members of the IOC. If nothing else, we can embarrass the hell out of them. You can find the members list here. And here's a list of their top sponsors.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another One I Can't Resist

Rick Santorum, the gift that keeps on giving:

"Since when in America do we have classes? Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places...that's called a class. That's Marxism talk. When Republicans talk about middle class, we're buying into their rhetoric."

Since the oligarchs bought everything, including the government.

All snark aside, "middle class" is a term, or at least a concept, that's been around since the Middle Ages -- which is just a little bit before Marx. Well, the late Middle Ages, which is probably after Santorum's time. (Actually, it occurs to me that the Republicans want to return to the time when there were just two classes -- the aristocrats and the peasants. Think about their economic policies.)

Right Wing Watch has video, if you can stand it. It gets worse -- or better, depending on your point of view.

On the Brighter Side

I like this story:

A Navy sailor returning from a six-month deployment emerged from his submarine, dropped to one knee and proposed to his boyfriend during the homecoming celebration in Connecticut for USS New Mexico.

About 200 people were gathered at the dock of the Naval Submarine Base New London where Machinist's Mate Jerrel Revels proposed to Dylan Kirchner. Kirchner said he had thought about getting married but the proposal Monday came as a surprise.

"I didn't really care everybody was around. It felt just like the two of us," Kirchner told The Day of New London.

It occurs to me that this is the kind of story the right wing hates -- it just demonstrates once again how normal we are. And pretty soon, it's not going to be news. For a good sense of that, here's the original story from The Day -- local news, the marriage proposal, who got the traditional first hug, mom bringing the kids to welcome dad back home.

Eat your heart out, Tony Perkins.

Update on Sochi

Not that there's anything really new -- just more horror stories, and more posturing. John Aravosis has pulled together some of the most pertinent stories, so I don't have to. A couple of the comments I left there, in response to other commenters:
". . . who could have forseen the IOC so publicly, club-footedly and unnecessarily caving in to them?"

Anyone who's paid attention to the IOC for the last thirty years. I'm reminded that when everyone and his brother was starting "(Insert Category Here) Olympics," the only group the IOC sued was the organizers of the Gay Olympics, which is why we now have the Gay Games. I don't expect the ball-less wonders at the IOC to stand up for human rights -- I expect them to clutch their pearls and worry about their "brand." If they pulled their heads out of their behinds for a minute, they might just realize that this is damaging their brand more than anything else they could do, but they don't have that kind of perspective.


"Back here in the States, the haters are cheering what Russia's been doing."

Birds of a feather.

And that is not just name-calling. Look at the similarities between the attitudes and rhetoric of the Russians and the professional gay-bashers in this country. I ran across a story a bit ago that Scott Lively was claiming credit for the "gay propaganda" law in Russia. (He "advised" them to adopt that sort of measure; and of course, we all know Scott Lively has the clout to advise countries on their domestic policies.) They have in common an authoritarian mindset and a need for an "enemy" to justify their activities, if not their very existence. (I'm not going to go into Godwin territory, but you can connect the dots.)

Some troll jumped in, unfortunately, the kind who thinks every post on every blog should reflect his priorities, so most of the comments are responses to him, which is silly. Jerks like that just want the attention.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Am Really Sick of Hearing About Sochi

The Russians are not going to change their anti-gay laws: Putin is finding them too valuable a tool at home. I will be very surprised if the IOC does anything that smacks of having a spine. They're still sitting there with their heads in the clouds -- I mean, really, who thinks that a competition between national teams can possibly be "apolitical"? And the IOC doesn't have a great record of being pro-active on gay equality. More on the order of being dragged kicking and screaming into the fold. No government is going to do anything to precipitate a confrontation. Obama cancelling a summit with Putin is as close as anyone is going to get, and Obama has stronger reasons than the Games. As for the third-world countries, half of them are worse than Russia, this is their moment in the spotlight, and they see Russia (and China) as a useful counterweight to US influence.

And what's more worrisome than official government action if someone does in indulge in "propaganda" are the Russian far-right groups and religious nationalists -- they have no compunctions about violence, they don't care about causing an international incident, and they're operating with the government's tacit approval. (I won't say that they're getting their marching orders from Putin, but I wouldn't be surprised.) If some athlete is killed, then there might be a reaction that justifies the use of the word. More likely, there will be a sacrifice of some low-life street thug.

There will be repercussions for the games if some major sponsor pulls its support. That's what the IOC will notice, and that's all it will notice.

And in the meantime, we're getting breathless reports on the latest posturing by the Russian government, the IOC, and various national leaders and high-profile spokesmen.

You might infer from this that I'm disgusted. You would be right.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Marriage News Watch, August 12, 2013

Here it is:

I Couldn't Resist

From Digby:

I hear Drudge is having his usual August hissy fit because they transported Bo for the First Family vacation. Fuck him.

Drudge is probably just pissed because they didn't strap Bo's carrier to the top of the plane.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Marriage Quickie

This story, via ThinkProgress, was good for a laugh. Jennifer Thieme, of NOM:

I believe that, in spite of the intentions of its advocates, the policy of gender-neutral marriage policy (commonly known as gay marriage) will come to treat mothers like slaves and children like chattel.

Actually, as I recall, that's traditional Biblical marriage -- you know, the kind where, if you wanted to get married, you went to a respectable man in the village and bought one (or two) of his daughters. The kind where you could sell your daughters into slavery.

NSA Oversight -- Right (Update, Update II)

Digby has a good post on this this morning, that sort of sums up everything that's wrong with trusting the government to govern itself, at least as far as safeguarding Americans' privacy rights. To start off, Digby has this choice little bit from the Guardian:

The National Security Agency has a secret backdoor into its vast databases under a legal authority enabling it to search for US citizens' email and phone calls without a warrant, according to a top-secret document passed to the Guardian by Edward Snowden.

The previously undisclosed rule change allows NSA operatives to hunt for individual Americans' communications using their name or other identifying information. Senator Ron Wyden told the Guardian that the law provides the NSA with a loophole potentially allowing "warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans".

The authority, approved in 2011, appears to contrast with repeated assurances from Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials to both Congress and the American public that the privacy of US citizens is protected from the NSA's dragnet surveillance programs.

I'm sure you've all heard this story, from the late days of the Bush administration:
Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer.

"Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News.

Do you think anything has changed under Obama? Then:
In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are not intercepted.

"It's not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it," Gen. Hayden testified.

He was asked by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), "Are you just doing this because you just want to pry into people's lives?"

"No, sir," General Hayden replied.

And now:

The day after the Guardian revealed details of the NSA's Prism program, President Obama said: "Now, with respect to the internet and emails, this doesn't apply to US citizens and it doesn't apply to people living in the United States."

Speaking at a House hearing on 18 June this year, deputy attorney general James Cole told legislators "[T]here's a great deal of minimization procedures that are involved here, particularly concerning any of the acquisition of information that deals or comes from US persons.

"As I said, only targeting people outside the United States who are not US persons. But if we do acquire any information that relates to a US person, under limited criteria only can we keep it."

Do you believe that?

Digby has what I think is the best summation:

There is every reason to be skeptical about the NSA's oversight of its own programs. After all, Edward Snowden was able to do a whole lot of things they claim nobody can do. Is it reasonable to think that there aren't other operatives digging in where they shouldn't be? Or certain people who think they have good patriotic reasons to do it and can't see why a stupid legal technicality should stand in the way? These are human beings not machines. They can talk themselves into anything.

My own prediction, based on my admittedly jaundiced view of the government and its respect for the Constitution, as filtered through "national security!!11!!!": This will change when major corporations find out how much of their "privileged" communication is sitting in a government data storage facility.

Update: Another post from Digby, with the president's response to the stories coming out about the abuse of the NSA surveillance apparatus.

He seemed to have been saying today that Snowden's revelations ruined his plan to have an orderly investigation of the NSA programs even though there is no evidence that he was doing any such thing. Certainly, there is no evidence that there was any "plan" to inform the American people since the senators who were running around with their hair on fire were lied to right to their face in open testimony by the intelligence community.

Somebody's in full damage control mode.

And another story on the President's news conference, from TPM, with a slightly different take:

President Barack Obama made it clear Friday he has no intention of stopping the daily collection of American phone records. And while he offered “appropriate reforms,” he blamed government leaks for creating distrust of his domestic spying program.

No, Mr. President, the distrust has been created because you and the national security apparatus have far overstepped the bounds of what's allowable and lied to us about it. That's what's created "distrust."

And this just points out how clueless Obama and everyone else in Washington is:

“Understandably, people would be concerned,” the president said. “I would be, too, if I weren’t inside the government.”


Update II
And from Glenn Greenwald, favorite bete noir of some elements in our polity. (Fine, he has an agenda. Good luck finding someone who doesn't. And I happen to agree with most of Greenwald's.)

A Texas-based encrypted email service recently revealed to be used by Edward Snowden - Lavabit - announced yesterday it was shutting itself down in order to avoid complying with what it perceives as unjust secret US court orders to provide government access to its users' content.

What's instructive is this:

What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it. Just as is true for people who receive National Security Letters under the Patriot Act, Lavabit has been told that they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company. Thus we get hostage-message-sounding missives like this:
I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what's going on - the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests."

Via Balloon Juice. John Cole has a slightly different take on my prediction about big business, above:
Money talks, which is why we had a big press conference today. You and I can’t afford a lobbyist, but you start screwing with the high tech industry’s bottom line, and you bet your ass some changes will be coming.

Talk among yourselves.

Friday, August 09, 2013

The Mind Boggles

Forty years later, we're still hearing stories like this:

Earlier this year, Matthew Moore said he started seeing the new doctor who suggested he undergo a complete physical examination.

The tests revealed that he was B-12 deficient, and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol — conditions that Mr Moore joked were “normal for me”.

When Mr Moore, who is openly gay, went back to the Manhattan Beach office to discuss these findings, the nurse gave him the results of his physical.

Among other diagnoses, the doctor listed “homosexual behavior (302.0)”.

“Homosexual behavior” was also listed as a “chronic condition” on Mr Moore’s patient plan.

The American Psychological Association de-listed homosexuality as a pathology in 1973; the American Psychiatric Association followed suit in 1975. It's no longer listed as such in the DSM and hasn't been for decades. Gods know what manual this doctor was using, or how old it is.

It Gets Worse

I didn't have the full quote when I noted Sandy Rios' disgusting comments about "real love" yesterday, but it's even worse than I had thought. Here's what came before (via The New Civil Rights Movement, which has audio):

I stand by what we say…As unfortunate and uncomfortable, heartbreaking, irrational that seems to some of you that are so steeped in the homosexual lifestyle, you’re steeped in popular culture, it’s still the truth.

Needless to say, Sandy Rios has the sort of relationship to truth that Ariel Castro had with his victims.

Rios this week also claimed that same-sex relationship almost never last, but if gays would just marry members of the opposite sex, all that would change.

I seem to remember that the states with the highest divorce rates are those with the most regular church-goers -- the Bible Belt. (And let's not mention unwed mothers.) Know which state has the lowest divorce rate? Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. And you know what happened after SSM became the law in Massachusetts? The divorce rate went down.

And this is just total bullshit:

"If what we’re saying is not true, it should have no power over you, it shouldn’t bother you,” Rios claimed this week on her show. “Because I think in time, what’s true and what’s right, what works, what comports with reality will be lasting. So, let’s just see if your view of this is lasting. Let’s just see if homosexual marriage is all that you think it is, if it’s a pure and wonderful expression of love for two people.

See Rios' relationship with truth, above. And there's the principle underlying laws against libel and slander: words don't have to be true to cause injury. Of course, libel and slander require malicious intent . . . well, this woman works for Fox News and the AFA. 'Nuff said?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

They Just Don't Get It

This is probably one of the most offensive things I've read in a good long while -- and I don't mean "offensive" in the polite, PC way that so many people use the term, I mean outright, grievously insulting. And this is a statement meant to ameliorate previous insults. Sandy Rios, who has the double whammy of having a radio show for AFA and being a Fox News commentator. (Uh, Ms. Rios -- be careful. You know what they say about three strikes.) >Via Joe.My.God.

I would never say that homosexuals cannot love. They can, of course. Capable of great love. And I know there’s been tremendous heartbreak in the homosexual community – and I’ve talked about this before – heartbreak when you lose a loved one, heartbreak when you break up. Because, you know, there aren’t many lasting relationships – maybe among lesbians, but certainly not among gay men, that’s not the norm. So, there’s a lot of heartbreak, a lot of rejection when you get older, so I know that you’re capable and able. You’re humans, you love. The point is, the right kind of love. The right kind of love is life-giving. And the right kind of love is love for God, love for your natural family, love between a man and a woman and a woman and a man in marriage. Not cohabitating. There’s just some standards that God lays down.

The key part, of course, starts with "the right kind of love." I imagine that's the love experienced by the "right kind" of people, if you know what I mean. (And I have to give the standard response to the "God" part: Which god would that be, exactly?)

And this is supposed to somehow ameliorate the comments she made equating the love between two men or two women with the "love" that Ariel Castro felt for the women he kidnapped and imprisoned.

For Your Information

The FBI's 2011 compilation of hate crimes statistics. Useful to know.

Today's Required Reading

Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog has done my work for me this morning, taking off from stories by John Schiffman and Kristina Cooke at Reuters and Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism. Just a few key points from those articles:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

… The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

So all these agencies -- two dozen, you got that? -- are funneling information into DEA. Why DEA? Well, the program was started in 1994 as a resource to fight Latin American drug cartels. But the DEA doesn't just sit on the information. No, it shares it.
Today, the SOD offers at least three services to federal, state and local law enforcement agents: coordinating international investigations such as the Bout case; distributing tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps; and circulating tips from a massive database known as DICE.

The DICE database contains about 1 billion records, the senior DEA officials said. The majority of the records consist of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. Records are kept for about a year and then purged, the DEA officials said.

About 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents have access to the DICE database, records show.

And as Gaius Publius points out, the information doesn't necessarily stop with those local cops. Being a Chicagoan, I know better, and I'm going to take it one step farther: you can bet that information is finding its way to outside parties -- non-law enforcement -- who have an interest. In return for (insert your favorite quid pro quo here).

And then when they nail someone based on an "anonymous tip," they lie about the source.

After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.” … “Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day,” one official said. “It’s decades old, a bedrock concept.”

Gee, perjury on the part of prosecutors. Who would have guessed?

Smith draws an interesting parallel:
In a weird but more disturbing analogue to chain of title abuses, where banks would forge signatures and fabricate documents to remedy the failure to transfer assets properly to securitization trusts, Reuters reported today that the Drug Enforcement Agency would doctor up where it got evidence from so it could use it in court. Now why would the DEA bother to go to all that trouble? Chorus: Because if a decent defense lawyer found out where it came from, it would in most cases be inadmissible.

Just another facet of the corporate state: Banks and the Feds operating on the same principles. And who else, do you suppose?

But it's all for "national security." There, don't you feel safer?

Read GP's post, then dig into the linked articles.

And then check your blood pressure.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

There's Crazy

and then there's crazy and stupid. Meet Gordon Klingenschmitt, who doesn't know where he ends and God begins. Here are his "arguments" against marriage equality. You'll note that many of them involve weakening our national security, probably because Klingenschmitt is a former military chaplain who was drummed out of the service for -- well, not knowing where he ends and God begins. Read the list -- there are seven "reasons," but he's sure he could come up with more. One or two of them are almost coherent, but that's only because they're flat assertions, with no elaboration.

This is the money quote:

. . . my own marriage has been adversely impacted (as I said twice on your show), and yet my love for my wife and my relationship with her remains faithful and unchanged.

Another WTF? moment from the "Christian" right.

This Is Major

From TPM, we learn that Obama has cancelled a scheduled meeting with Russian president Putin.

In a rare diplomatic snub, President Barack Obama is canceling plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next month.

The decision reflects both U.S. anger over Russia’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow’s stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights.

Obama will still attend the Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, but a top White House official said the president had no plans to hold one-on-one talks with Putin while there. Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, the president will add a stop in Sweden to his early September travel itinerary.

There are lots of reasons, obviously, for cancelling, but I like to think that we're at least part of it.

Coming hard on the heels of Obama's comments to Jay Leno, I suspect things are going to get very interesting for the IOC very shortly.

OK -- How Desperate Are They?

I'm not talking about the Republicans, necessarily -- I'm talking about the mainstream media. You have to wonder when you spot a headline like this:

Race is on to define Hillary Clinton’s potential presidential candidacy

That's the lead story in this morning's online edition of WaPo.

Granted, the Republicans are already in panic mode over the prospect of a potential Clinton candidacy -- as witness RNC Chairman Reince Preibus' threat to pull GOP primary debates from those networks if they go ahead with planned Hillary documentaries, not to mention Benghazi-gate, which they tried to pin on her -- but is this what "the news" has come to? Stories about possible reactions to and pre-emptive strikes against a potential candidacy for an election that's three years away? Here's the lede:

The 2016 presidential contest is more than two years away, and Hillary Rodham Clinton has not decided whether she will be a part of it. But the race to define her potential candidacy is well underway — and far outside her control.

I think some of these people need to get out of Washington from time to time.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Finally -- Marriage News Watch, August 5, 2013

I did check back yesterday afternoon, but this wasn't uploaded yet:

Add to that the beginning of marriage equality in Uruguay.

Some Things Never Change

Just ran across this post from a couple of years ago. Here's the summation:
What I find most reprehensible about the values of the spoiled brat brand of libertarianism, and even more, those of the teabagger sockpuppets, is that they make a lot of noise about "personal responsibility" but that concept never seems to translate into actual responsibility toward anyone. (Although Sullivan, at least, admits that we need government, but he seems uncomfortable that those who derive the most benefit from it should foot most of the bill.) It's the end result of St. Ronnie's "Greed is Good" philosophy. And it's all based on fairy tales of how "entrepreneurs" have all earned it. Bullshit.

Even chimpanzees can do better than that.

Given the fact that the right is willing to torpedo everything (except defense, of course) to avoid taxing the rich -- again -- it's still relevant.

(About that "entrepreneurship" -- I'm reminded of a news item from a couple of years ago, about a project Sony undertook under a DoD contract, to develop a solar batter/panel system that could be used on vehicles. They did it, built a factory, built prototypes, and everything worked. Project over. I believe it was Conoco who bought the patents and the factory, leveled the factory and buried the patents somewhere in the "drop dead before reading" file. That's the kind of imaginative, outside-the-box thinking you get from major corporations -- in this case, an "energy" company that could have cleaned up in the renewable energy market.)

The Perils of the Internt

This post at HuffPo has gone viral. In short, the poster, Katie Vyktoriah, let her son wear a pink headband to Walmart. There, the child was slapped by a guy in camo who called him a fag and took the headband and was generally reprehensible. There are almost 11,500 comments at HuffPo alone, all (at least all that I read) very sympathetic and most outraged. I have to admit, I bought it at first. (It's the meds. It has to be the meds.) Then I ran across a comment at The New Civil Rights Movement that brought up Katie Vyktoriah's past history. And thinking back, there are lots of holes in her story -- she didn't call for help, didn't report it to the checkout, didn't ask for a manager, didn't even yell back at the guy, nothing. (I mean, if some big burly stranger walked up and attack your two-year-old, would you just stand there?) She went home and wrote a blog post about it the next day. I did some checking and ran across this story from a local paper. And then found this post.

Word is also out that HuffPo moderators are dumping any comments that question the veracity of the story. I left one to the effect a while ago, which seems to have been disappeared.

But then, it's HuffPo. (I consider HuffPo a mediocre site for news, and even less interesting for commentary -- sort of a middle-of-the-road Fox News at this point. One more reason I should have known better than to take that story at face value. And now they seem to have adopted the right-wing policy of deleting any unfavorable comments. Choice.)

Monday, August 05, 2013

Your Laugh for the Day

Peter King (R-Lipton's) may run for president:
New York Republican Congressman Peter King is warning his party not to abandon its longstanding emphasis on national defense as he launches a two-day tour of New Hampshire.

The 11-term congressman sipped Coke and posed for pictures Sunday evening at a backyard barbecue deep in the state’s Lakes Region, an event that served as a coming-out party of sorts for King’s presidential ambitions. He says he is at least a year away from a final decision, but King has officially joined the ballooning group of Republican leaders teasing a presidential bid.

“I believe the Republican Party would be receptive to my candidacy,” King said ahead of the New Hampshire visit.

Now if Louis Gohmert and Virginia Foxx will throw their hats in the ring, my life will be complete.

More on Health Care Costs

Just to give you a good idea of what's going on here, read this from NYT:
Michael Shopenn’s artificial hip was made by a company based in this remote town, a global center of joint manufacturing. But he had to fly to Europe to have it installed.

Mr. Shopenn, 67, an architectural photographer and avid snowboarder, had been in such pain from arthritis that he could not stand long enough to make coffee, let alone work. He had health insurance, but it would not cover a joint replacement because his degenerative disease was related to an old sports injury, thus considered a pre-existing condition.

Desperate to find an affordable solution, he reached out to a sailing buddy with friends at a medical device manufacturer, which arranged to provide his local hospital with an implant at what was described as the “list price” of $13,000, with no markup. But when the hospital’s finance office estimated that the hospital charges would run another $65,000, not including the surgeon’s fee, he knew he had to think outside the box, and outside the country.

. . .

“Very leery” of going to a developing country like India or Thailand, which both draw so-called medical tourists, he ultimately chose to have his hip replaced in 2007 at a private hospital outside Brussels for $13,660. That price included not only a hip joint, made by Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, a week in rehab and a round-trip ticket from America.

As Mr. Shopenn notes, most expensive is not necessarily the best. The "pre-existing condition" thing is the biggest dodge the insurance companies use, when they don't just up and cancel your policy because you got sick.

Read the whole article -- the numbers in there are staggering. And it's all about profits, layers of profits from manufacturers through all the middle-men, including the hospital. Hip replacement joints cost about $350 to make, but a hospital will pay between $4,500-$7,500 for it. And then the hospital will turn around and charge two or three times that -- or more. Plus the surgeon's fees and whatever else they can think to tack on. (Like $1.50 Tylenols.)

But we can't have "socialized medicine" -- that will destroy Uhmurrica.

Via Digby, who ascribes a large part of the problem to the industry lobbyists, who are no doubt effective. But there are other factors in play, such as a Congress that's owned in large part by major industry groups, including the health care industry. And their plans for your health care? See this interview with Eric Cantor. We spend $2.7 trillion on health care in this country, and the Republicans want to take the government plans, with their leverage (OK, weak leverage, because the government won't use it) out of the picture. Sweet.

(Of course, it does occur to me that it's not the ACA itself that's the problem for Republicans -- but it's the "signature legislation" of that Kenyan usurper in the White House. Not that they're racists, or anything like that.)