"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, July 31, 2014

"Energy Companies"? You're Joking, Right?

Via David Atkins at Hullabaloo, an interesting point on how Germany is leaving us in the dust -- again. This time, it's energy from renewable sources. From Motherboard:

Germany is now producing 28.5 percent of its energy—nearly a third—with solar, wind, hydro, and biomass. In 2000, renewables accounted for just 6 percent of its power consumption.

This is further proof that Germany is, essentially, the world leader in renewable energy. No other country has demonstrated such a dedicated, accelerated drive toward transitioning to clean power—in Germany's case, away from nuclear to solar and wind. It has done so by intensely incentivizing private and commercial solar, aggressively pursuing wind power contracts, and, yes, by raising, slightly, the cost of energy in the process.

One point: Portugal has gotten as much as 70% of its energy from renewable sources (the first quarter of 2013) and overall for 2013, derived nearly 60% of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources.

Could we do the same? Sure -- we get a lot more sun than Germany, and the Great Plains have a lot of wind to spare, all the time. Do we want to? No -- our "entrepreneurial job-creating class" is locked into oil and gas because they don't have a lot of imagination and they're all about easy, fast cash.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Today's Must Watch

Remember Batkid? Well, here's the story.

Grab a hankie.

(It's so nice to run across something uplifting in the news.)

Culture Break: AB EX NY: The Painting Techniques of Mark Rothko: No. 16 (Red, Brown, and Black)

A relatively brief video on how Rothko did what he did. I have to confess that of the NY Absract Expressionists of the 1950s, Rothko is far and away the one who really gets to me. Oh, and that comment early on in the video about "floating in space" -- I've seen it: In a friend's apartment, a new Rothko, and a great one, not hanging on the wall but floating in front of it. It was pretty amazing.

And if you've got an hour or so, here's a documentary on Rothko.

Two Newly Revised Pages

If you look at the sidebar, you'll discover that the pages for "Reviews: Art and Nonfiction" and "Reviews: Graphic Lit" are now headed just "Reviews" rather than "Epinions Reviews," and that "Art and Nonfiction" now includes "Folklore."

Getting there.

(Also, some of the newly added reviews in the "Art, Folklore, and Nonfiction" section are prime examples of me at my most sceptical and scathing.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Marriage News Watch, July 28, 2014

All sorts of stuff going down,

Today In "Christian" Self-Absorption

OneMilion(minus 999,000)Moms is outraged at a Guinness ad because it uses a Christian hymn as background. Via Joe.My.God.:
Guinness & Co. is currently airing a commercial for its beer with a popular gospel hymn as background music. The song "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" is played during the entire ad and even though there are no lyrics it is unmistakably the beloved hymn Christians know and love. The cherished "Everlasting Arms" hymn has no place in a beer commercial. Christian music should not be associated with an advertisement promoting drinking. The choice of including this hymn in the ad disrespects the Christian faith.

If you actually watch the ad, you get a very different -- and arguably very Christian -- message. (Although I don't know that it's specifically Christian -- it's very human, and approaches the very best of very human.) Maybe if the OMM could realize that the universe does not revolve around them, they wouldn't have so much trouble keeping their blood pressure down. (I use the plural only as a matter of grammar -- I had heard that their membership is something like 40,000, but I remain convinced that the active arm is composed of one intern with an Internet connection.)

Judge for yourself:

I confess to getting a bit misty-eyed at this one.

And thanks to commenter "b" at Joe.My.God., I was reminded of this one:

Do you suppose OMM missed it somehow?

Explain To Me Again

why anyone considers Paul Ryan (R-Atlas Shrugged) a serious policy person. I mean, consider this:
Host David Gregory asked the representative to speak to comments he made in January of 2013, in which Ryan said the country struggles with "more and more able-bodied people" becoming "dependent on the government." Gregory said Ryan didn't sound like he had much "sympathy" for impoverished Americans.

"We don't want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty," Ryan said, pitching his poverty proposal that he says will allow for a customized approach to each individual's needs.

If this sounds familiar, maybe it's because it's what we've been hearing from the right for the last fifty years -- at least.

Here's a somewhat sketchy summary of Ryan's plan:
The centerpiece in Ryan’s new plan is what he calls the Opportunity Grant — a program that would consolidate as many as 11 separate federal initiatives into a single chunk of funding for states.

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, Ryan said that the setup would aid state governments and local organizations that should be the “front lines” in the war on poverty, instead of the federal bureaucracy.

“Success is measured by how many programs we create, how much money we spend,” Ryan said about the government’s current approach. “Not on outcomes. Not on results. How many people are we getting out of poverty? How many people are getting out of poverty and staying out of poverty?”

And here's a summary of some of the criticisms. And don't miss Paul Krugman's take:

What does scholarly research on antipoverty programs actually say? We have quite good evidence on the effects of food stamps and Medicaid, which draw most of Mr. Ryan’s ire — and which his budgets propose slashing drastically. Food stamps, it seems, do lead to a reduction in work and working hours, but the effect is modest. Medicaid has little, if any, effect on work effort.

Over all, here’s the verdict of one comprehensive survey: “While there are significant behavioral side effects of many programs, their aggregate impact is very small.” In short, Mr. Ryan’s poverty report, like his famous budget plan, is a con job.

As far as I can see, Ryan's proposing that all federal anti-poverty programs be lumped into one program to give block grants to the states, with, admittedly, some federal oversight. (Which, one hopes, will preclude the states using the funds to balance their own budgets while leaving their poor to starve. One hopes. Given the states' records with things like Medicare and other block grants, I'm not sanguine on that one. And of course, if they don't use the money for intended purposes what are the feds going to do? Take it back? There's still no help for the poor in that scenario.) And of course, Ryan doesn't address the fact that there are no jobs for the poor to move into -- unless they also move to Bangladesh or China.

Oh, and about the supposed ineffectiveness of the federal programs? Not so much -- in fact, Ryan's own report demonstrates that many of them have been very effective. Maybe if he weren't such a media whore he'd have time to read what his office is putting out. And there's a possibility, though I hate to bring up the obvious, that if Republicans would actually fund these programs at necessary levels, they'd work a lot better.

Just sayin'.

(For a commentary on Ryan's plan that's even snarkier than mine, read this at Mahablog.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Science: They Decorated Their What?

This little tidbit from Raw Story led me to this:

Men in prehistoric Europe scarred, pierced and tattooed their penises, likely for ritualistic and social group reasons, according to a new study.

Analysis of phallic decorations in Paleolithic art, described in the December issue of The Journal of Urology, may also show evidence of the world's first known surgery performed on a male genital organ. The alteration, or surgery, might have just been for ornamental purposes, or a piercing, the researchers suggest.

This is not just a curiosity: I'm not sure of the prevalence of male genital decoration these days, but this just demonstrates that it's nothing new:

The past may additionally be tied to the present, as Angulo and his team suspect that the Paleolithic phallic art may show the anthropological origin of current male genital piercing and tattooing.

The Persecution Complex

This is the tactic that's been coming more and more to the fore with the right wing, particularly the anti-gay right wing. It starts with the inversion of calling critics of the homophobic right "intolerant," as Alvin McEwen notes with regard to Sen. Marco Rubio:

One of the most transparent tactics opponents of marriage equality will attempt is to claim that supporters of marriage equality are intolerant of their opinion.

It’s not only a transparent tactic but highly cynical. And apparently it’s the tactic that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is attempting:

While Rubio has consistently held conservative positions on abortion and gay marriage, his current emphasis appears to be an effort to appeal to social conservatives who have yet to settle on a favored candidate for 2016. “Even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as someone who is a hater or a bigot,” Rubio said.

That's really only the tip of the iceberg. Enzo at Aksarbent links to this article from Right Wing Watch, which is a detailed analysis of the strategy.

The tales of horror keep pouring in: Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program; an Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage; a high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory; a Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages; a man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence; an elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch; a little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus.

None of these stories is true. But each has become a stock tale for Religious Right broadcasters, activists, and in some cases elected officials. These myths – which are becoming ever more pervasive in the right-wing media – serve to bolster a larger story, that of a majority religious group in American society becoming a persecuted minority, driven underground in its own country.

This narrative has become an important rallying cry for a movement that has found itself on the losing side of many of the so-called “culture wars.” By reframing political losses as religious oppression, the Right has attempted to build a justification for turning back advances in gay rights, reproductive rights and religious liberty for minority faiths.

We've seen this coming, first with the cries of "persecution" from the usual suspects when people in business -- photographers, bakers, etc. -- try to use their "deeply held religious beliefs" as a pretext for flouting anti-discrimination laws. It's a tantrum over the loss of privilege turned into a political strategy, and the next stage in the "Christian" right's ongoing war against everyone else. And I mean everyone, not only gays, lesbians, and trans people, but women (Hobby Lobby, anyone?), Muslims (the whole Ground Zero mosque flap and the Murfreesboro Islamic Center case, including claims that Islam is not a religion), and refugee children from Central America (see this post from Digby for some history of this attitude -- it's not a new thing).

Before you start parsing, the "Christian" right is the Tea Party is the Republican Party. And their heroes are crazy. (Michele Bachmann is the classic case, but just pick a Republican 2016 presidential hopeful at random and you'll find any number of equally bizarre statements.)

And as they lose more and more ground among the majority of Americans the rhetoric gets more and more shrill and it becomes more and more apparent what disgusting people they are. (Who was it who said, regarding yet another school shooting, that "Your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights"? Hint: he wasn't a liberal.)

And they complain of being persecuted.

Friday, July 25, 2014

More Housekeeping

You'll note that the page formerly titled "Epinions Reviews: Music" is now titled "Reviews: Music."

Yes, I've finally started pulling in reviews from other sites.

You may also note that one of the items listed has two reviews. This happened on occasion, as I wrote separate reviews for more than one outlet.

Anyway, more stuff for you to read.

I Could See This

I don't remember if I posted a comment here or at Booklag, but after watching Ben Affleck as Daredevil*, I had no problem seeing him as Batman. As long as he doesn't smile, an expression for which Batman is not noted anyway.

So, here he is:

* The movie wasn't that great, which is a shame -- I kind of like Daredevil as a character.

Land of the Free

This, via Digby:

Read the post.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Culture Break: Kazaky: "The Sun"

Something of a departure from what we're used to from Kazaky. I'm not sure what I think about it, except that it's sort of nice that it departs from my Kazaky comfort zone.

Gotta love those mid-air splits, though.

(I just realized -- if you click the play button in the middle of the image, you get a whole series of Kazaky videos. Enjoy.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Snake Oil Salesman

all dressed up for a party. Yep, none other than Archbishop Salavatore "DUI" Cordileone, via Good As You.

Instead of protecting persons, [the Employment Non Discrimination Act] uses the force of the law to coerce everyone to accept a deeply problematic understanding of human sexuality and sexual behavior and to condone such behavior. The current proposed ENDA legislation is not about protecting persons, but behavior. Churches, businesses and individuals should not be punished in any way for living by their religious and moral convictions concerning sexual activity.

Eliminating truly unjust discrimination – based on personal characteristics, not sexual behavior – and protecting religious freedom are goals that we all should share. The current political climate makes it very difficult to maintain a reasonable dialogue on these contentious issues, but we must keep trying.

This is just the quote that Jeremy Hooper published. The full letter is here. It's all of the same cloth, and a prime example of the ability of some people to turn reality on its head. Go ahead and read it, if you can stand it. I could go through and rebut every statement in it, but I'm sure you can do the same, so I won't bother.

This is the comment I left at Good As You:

I hardly know where to start -- Cordileone is as good as Tony Perkins at distorting and misrepresenting facts. (But at least we don't have to deal with middle-school word-play.)

1) "Deeply problematic understanding of human sexuality" -- in what way? Anyone who knows what they're talking about understands that homosexuality is part of the range of normal human behavior. It seems the Church's "understanding" of human sexuality, as in most areas of human behavior, is problematic.

2) "to condone such behavior" -- no one's insisting you condone anything, only that you keep your nose out of people's private lives.

3) "Churches, businesses and individuals should not be punished in any way for living by their religious and moral convictions concerning sexual activity." --No one's suggesting that. The law just says you can't force your religious convictions on anyone else. See # 2, minding your own business.

4) "Eliminating truly unjust discrimination – based on personal characteristics" -- you mean, like the decision to join the Catholic Church, or follow any religious tradition? Which I don't think anyone can characterize as a "personal characteristic" -- that's really a behavior. Or maybe you mean something more fundamental, such as being female? The Church has a real good record there. The consensus among those who actually know something about human psychology is that same-sex orientation is, in fact, an innate characteristic.

5) "and protecting religious freedom" -- trans.: I have the right to force my religious dogma on everyone else. Just ask me.

6) "The current political climate makes it very difficult to maintain a reasonable dialogue on these contentious issues," -- "dialogue" means you listen as well as speak, something for which the Catholic hierarchy is not noted. In fact, there's been a quite spirited dialogue, in the media, the courts, and the Internet. Sorry you missed it.

And all this, coming from a highly placed member of an institution that has repeatedly proven itself not only hypocritical, but morally bankrupt.

Oh, and I forgot one thing: it's also an institution that has, at best, a tenuous relationship with reality.

Addendum: I had to include this, the final paragraph of the Archbishop's statement. It's a prime example of the cynicism that seems to be a common characteristic of the so-called "religious" right. Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who believes that the authority of the Church cannot be challenged in any way and that he, as a member of the ruling hierarchy in that Church, has the right to determine the parameters of everyone's private behavior.

Lobbying for coercive laws that violate freedom will not promote justice in the workplace. Nor will it advance the common good to seek to silence debate about sexual morality. We, like all Americans, wish there was an easy way forward. There is not. But there is an honest one. And it starts with the unflinching commitment to the inherent dignity of every human person, and to the “healthy pluralism” we all wish to share.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Bright Side

Interesting post at Rethinking Religion on a) the appropriate role of religion in public life in America, and b) winning hearts and minds. Note this, after she recounts some atheist billboards put up for the Christmas season, which were abrasive, to say the least:

Seriously, atheist dudes, the Christian Right is not Jesus’ fault. The CR may have adopted Jesus as its team mascot, but it’s ignored his teachings for years. And seeing Jesus ridiculed is as jarring to Christians — including the tolerant, progressive ones — as watching their mothers being publicly humiliated.

This is not rocket science, by any means. In fact, the American Atheists could have learned a lesson from the very Christian right that they're attacking: think about the rhetoric coming from Tony Perkins, Tim Wildmon, Brian Brown, Bryan Fischer, the whole rotten crew, and how public opinion on gay rights and same-sex marriage has shifted in our favor. Do you see the connection?

Anyway, read the post. It's a good one.

Hell in a Handbasket

That seems to be where the world is headed: Russian separatists shooting down Malaysian passenger planes in East Ukraine, Israel invading Gaza (again), and the U.S. being invaded by children.

Why do I read the news?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Marriage News Watch, July 14, 2014

And Matt is back in California, although there's action everywhere.

Also, note this update from Joe.My.God.

More On the Refugee Children

Very good post at Mahablog, with some good insights:

What the children are fleeing is anarchy. they are fleeing failed states in which there is no functional criminal justice system and criminal activity, including murder, is carried out with impunity. People arm themselves and join gangs just to survive. In short, it’s the sort of place the “open carriers” and Bundy Ranch militia crowd are trying to turn the U.S. into.

I have nothing to add, except to note that conditions in Central America are the reality of what the Bundy Ranch morons and their confreres want to turn the U.S. into. Unfortunately, it's nothing like the fantasy in their minds.

(And do read the article linked in the quote -- quite an eye-opener.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Just An Observation

Call it progress, of a sort. This story about Ian Thorpe's coming out showed up at Raw Story. There's nothing in the story itself that's remarkable -- we've been reading about Thorpe in the gay blogosphere for days now -- so much as the fact that this story, and more like it, are showing up on "mainstream" sources.

I've noticed that happening more and more. I've even noticed that Digby has covered a couple of gay stories, mostly about marriage. (Not ascribing it to any bias on her part -- that's not her focus.)

That, as much as any poll numbers or any court victories (or the desperate shrieks of Tony Perkins, et al.) says to me "We're winning."

CONSPIRACY!!!11! (Update)

Via Digby, the latest in the ongoing outcry against -- well, something:

A federal employment ad posted in January showing that 65,000 unaccompanied minors will enter the U.S. illegally shows that the administration expected this cross-border child abuse and encouraged it.

Concrete evidence has shown up proving our earlier assertion: The breach of our border by waves of unaccompanied alien children was orchestrated by the administration based on a strategy straight out of the playbook President Obama studied as a community organizer. His goal is to get his way on immigration reform by overwhelming the U.S. Border Patrol and collapsing an already weakened system.

Needless to say, this isn't so much an editorial as a fantasy -- as Digby points out, the "anticipation" of the surge happened in the middle of it. It would be more accurate to call it an effort to deal with a crisis in progress, but that wouldn't fit the fantasy universe these people live in.

The degree of ignorance and paranoia in the comments on that article is -- well, I guess it's more or less standard for the teabaggers and their friends. (There are a couple of comments on the terrorist training camps in California -- seriously. Complete with a link to an article in "Liberty News" (whatever that is) and the Washington Times (yeah -- real reliable source, that). Not to mention the compassion, as evidenced by one commenter who "doesn't give a damn about these children."

The background on this is simply that the violence and disruption from the drug wars in Central America has gotten so bad that people are trying desperately to get their children, at least, out of the country, and the safest place for them is here. (Update: Here's more background.)

But Gov. Rick "You Can Tell I'm Serious Because I'm Wearing Glasses" Perry has a solution:

On "Fox News Sunday," guest host Brit Hume on Sunday grilled Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on his plan for addressing the influx of undocumented children at the border — sending in the National Guard.

Perry argues that the presence of the National Guard will deter immigrants from continuing to attempt to cross the border.

"They need to be right on the river. They need to be there as a show of force because that’s the message that gets sent back very quickly to Central America," he said.

Hume challenged Perry, asking what purpose troops could actually serve.

"They’re not, under the law, allowed to apprehend any of these children that are crossing, are they?" he asked.

"The issue is with being able to send that message because it’s the visual of it, I think, that is the most important," Perry responded. "If you don’t stop the bleeding. If you don’t staunch this flow of individuals that are coming up here, this is only going to get worse."

That's it -- just have the Texas National Guard standing there. They can't shoot, they can't apprehend anyone, they can't actually do jack all but the "visual" will produce the desired effect. Or something.

That's the Republicans for you -- it's all about the visuals.

(I couldn't help myself -- I left a comment at the IBD article. Now I'm wondering if any of the commenters are going to get the sarcasm.)

Addendum: I just ran across this story at TPM. I think it says something about Republicans and how low they've fallen:
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, said that while it was sad to see young undocumented immigrants at the southwest border, some of the teens looked like a "threat."

A 17-year-old refugee looks like the threat. But then, to a Republican, everything looks like a threat.

More on this idiot, from Raw Story:
When Hume asked whether Republicans would allocate money to deal with the children who have already crossed the border, McCaul spoke generally about “dealing with it in a humane and compassionate way, but I’m not in favor of building large warehouses in the United States to warehouse these kids.”

“It’s about deterrence, about security, and about dealing with these children in a humane and compassionate way — to send them home,” he concluded.

"Send them home." That's humane and compassionate, isn't it? Especially since he admitted earlier in the interview that conditions at home are desperate.

Or we could just bomb Central America.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Zombie Lies

Blogger doesn't want to let me embed this clip from Crooks and Liars, so go watch it here. It's one of Maher's best.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


The two articles linked by this post at Crooks and Liars seem to have the phenomenon neatly wrapped up. The first, from TPM, is one of those stories that makes my day:

Two Richmond, Va. open carry advocates organized a demonstration in the city's Carytown neighborhood on July 4, but they were the only two people to attend.

They invited more than 300 people on Facebook to walk down one of the city's main streets openly carrying handguns, rifles and long guns, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Organizer Jason Spitzer, a Chesterfield County steel mill worker, was unable to explain the low turnout.

"I don’t know why," he told the Times-Dispatch.

Spitzer said he thought Independence Day was the perfect day to "spread Constitutional awareness" and promote Second Amendment rights.

"But even if nobody came I’d still walk," he said. "It’s the Fourth of July and I love my country."

Somebody just doesn't get it. Of course, the idiot in charge seems to think that the only thing in the Constitution is the Second Amendment.

Oh, and just in case anyone didn't think that walking into a store or restaurant waving an assault rifle marks you as a real American hero, even the NRA gets it:

Even the National Rifle Association, which supports the legal open and concealed carrying of firearms, initially questioned the wisdom of the Texas tactics in a posting on its website.

“Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself,” the article said.

“To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.”

Of course, the NRA later backpedaled like crazy -- somebody must have been less than pleased at that expression of common sense.

As far as I'm concerned, any guy who has to walk around waving a big gun has a couple of problems: 1) either he's got a really tiny dick, 2) he's completely lacking in anything remotely resembling empathy (meaning his emotional development stopped sometime around age two; 3) he's not getting enough attention; or 4) all of the above.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Near-Miss du Jour

In Barcelona. The UTair jet was cleared for landing, but apparently someone forgot to tell the pilot of the Aerolineas Argentinas plane to stop.

I live on the approach path to O'Hare International Airport, so this is kind of a thing for me -- I see the planes coming in over Lake Michigan at all hours of the day. It's actually sort of strange, with that Chicago kind of surreality: sitting in the park, I can see swallows, gulls, sometimes crows, and the occasional heron flying by -- and a couple of jets.

Marriage News Watch, July 7, 2014

Matt Baume is still on the road.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Reviews in Brief: Warren Ellis’ "Ocean"

I’ve been doing some catching up (well, a lot of catching up) and ran across Warren Ellis’ Ocean in my stack of unread comics. As one might expect of Ellis, it’s pungent and heavily political, and it’s a good tight story.

UN Weapons Inspector Nathan Kane is on his way to the Jovian moon Europa – it seems the staff of Cold Harbor, the UN outpost station there, has discovered something in Europa’s all-encompassing ocean that could be of concern.

Also of concern is the much more elaborate and better-equipped station belonging to DOORS, a super-conglomerate that includes not only various sub-corporations, but a couple of countries.

And then there’s the matter of someone trying to kill Kane before he ever gets to Cold Harbor.

The political content is sometimes pretty blatant, sometimes not so much: the idea of a huge corporation being able to undertake investigations on another planet with much more in the way of resources to command than the equivalent government facility is almost too familiar: add together government priorities and perennial lack of funding, and there you are. What’s not so obvious are things like the staff of the DOORS station having to give up their own personalities and become, literally, corporate cogs for the duration of their employment.

Ellis’ dialogue is, as always, very naturalistic and very refreshing, full of the asides, non sequiturs and wisecracks that make up just about anyone’s daily conversation. And characters become distinct and individual with a few broad strokes – not fully developed, but developed enough to make us believe them.

Chris Sprouse and Karl story, respectively penciler and inker, have turned out artwork that is almost perfect – not too much detail, but enough, with frames lean enough to avoid obfuscating the narrative; layout is pretty standard frame-follows-frank, but there’s enough variation that they don’t get repetitive, and the frames themselves are lively enough to hold interest. The efforts of the various colorists are pretty much seamless, and the colors give just enough shading to avoid an overly flat rendering.

And it’s Warren Ellis. If you haven’t read it, go find it.

(Wildstorm, 2009;collects Ocean, #1-6)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Saturday Science: About This "Mom and Dad" Thing (Update)

As in "every child deserves a mom and dad" and the variations thereon we hear from the anti-gay mob when arguing against same-sex marriage (because in their minds, marriage = children). This, of course, is the short, easy version of Tony Perkins' perennial whopper, "Social science has conclusively proven that children to best when raised by their married biological parents." Unfortunately for Perkins, that's not true (no surprise there, but it certainly doesn't stop him from repeating it at every opportunity), which is something we knew already, but a series of studies coming out of Australia recently indicate that not only is it not true, the reality is slightly weighted in the other direction.

As witness this study from the University of Melbourne. It seems to be ongoing, but the preliminary findings are illuminating, to say the least:

On measures of general health and family cohesion children aged 5 to 17 years with same-sex attracted parents showed a significantly better score when compared to Australian children from all backgrounds and family contexts. For all other health measures there were no statistically significant differences.

And all the Tony Perkinses of the world have to offer is that pathetic political hit-job by Mark Regnerus. Pity.

The full study is out.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

More Hobby Lobby

I'm going to have to take the time to read the decision, which I admit I haven't done yet, but the quotes from Alito's majority opinion are appalling, when they make sense at all. Dahlia Lithwick notes:

Having read the opinion only briefly I am not at all clear on why Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, is so certain that he can hold the line here to closely held corporations and that the parade of “me too” litigants promised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, won’t show up on the court steps in the coming months and years.

Short answer: Neither Alito nor anyone else is going to hold the line, because they (the conservative wing of the court) have no interest in denying corporations anything. As for the "me toos," they've already started -- although not in court -- yet.

It's even worse than that. Lithwick notes:

For one thing we are—going forward—no longer allowed to argue the science. “It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” writes Alito.

If we're not allowed to argue the science -- Alito did hold that belief trumps reality, after all -- we're screwed on all sorts of fronts. (Anyone want to guess how long it's going to take for Liberty Counsel to file a suit against laws banning "reparative therapy" on the grounds that they violate someone religious belief that sexual orientation is changeable?)

We might as well kiss anti-discrimination laws good-bye, unless the Court at some point backpedals on this one. After all, it only took seventeen years to overturn Bowers v. Hardwick.

Via Mahablog.

Today's WTF? Moment

OK -- this one stopped me:

An Indianapolis woman has sued the city's police department, contending that an order to remove an "Unmarked Police Car" bumper sticker from her minivan violated her rights to free speech, the group representing her said on Monday.

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on Friday argued that Indianapolis police did not have the right to question and make demands of Pamela Konchinsky after pulling over her vehicle earlier this month.

"We contend that the police officers who detained and interrogated our client without legal grounds to do so violated her constitutional rights," ACLU attorney Kelly Eskew said in a statement. "The promise of our Constitution is that these lines cannot be crossed."

According to the complaint, Indianapolis police officers told Konchinsky the bumper sticker would make people think she was impersonating a police officer and could get her shot, before demanding that she remove it from her rear window.

Digby has a good reaction to the "could get her shot: argument:
If this is a big problem then I'm going to guess that cops should stop wearing uniforms and driving around in those black and white cars.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Another Take-Down

of the Hobby Lobby decision, which is not only piss poor on its own merits, but completely ignores precedent, and the "religious freedom" argument that it's based on. From Perrspectives:

To hear the best and the brightest of the conservative movement tell it, Americans' freedom of religion is in dire peril. At Liberty University in April, Texas Senator Ted Cruz cautioned, "Religious liberty has never been more under attack." Ben Sasse, the Nebraska GOP Senate candidate, went even further in declaring that "the free exercise of religion is co-equal to our right to life," adding "government cannot force citizens to violate their religious beliefs under any circumstances." Competing with Cruz in the 2016 Falwell primary, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal used his Liberty University commencement address to similarly warn his audience. "Make no mistake," Jindal said, "The war over religious liberty is the war over free speech and without the first there is no such thing as the second."

Coming as it did in the run-up to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the right-wing outcry about a supposed war on religious freedom is especially galling--and more than a little ironic. After all, less than two months ago in Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Roberts Court ruled that sectarian Christian prayers used to open a town council meeting did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion. On Thursday, the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley ruled that 35 foot buffer zones created to protect patients entering family planning clinics in Massachusetts were unconstitutional. (As Sarah Posner summed up the opinion limiting women's protections from verbal harassment and threats of violence, the Court in essence concluded that "your uterus is 'an important subject' about which your fellow citizens 'wish to converse.'") In April 2011, a 5-4 majority upheld an Arizona law designed to evade restrictions on school vouchers by giving gives taxpayers there a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit of up to $500 for donations to private "student tuition organizations." Meanwhile at the White House, President Obama has continued to pour billions of Americans' tax dollars into George W. Bush's so-called "faith-based initiatives," despite his unfulfilled 2008 campaign pledge to protect beneficiaries and employees alike from discrimination practiced by grant recipients.

It goes on, in detail. Worth reading.

Another One Bites the Dust

This time, it's Kentucky's turn to have a marriage ban discarded. And the judge, John G. Heyburn II, came up with some choice observations:

In striking down Kentucky's ban on gay marriage, a federal judge Tuesday rejected Gov. Steve Beshear's argument that the ban is needed because only opposite sex couples can procreate and maintain the state's birth rate and economy.

"These arguments are not those of serious people," wrote Senior U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II

And this one hits a key point:
In a 19-page ruling, Heyburn said he recognized that many Kentuckians oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons, but added, "In America, even sincere and long-held religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been outvoted."

The ruling:

Kentucky Gay Marriage Ruling

There's a clearer version at Scribd -- for some reason, this one came up kind of garbled.

And one other thing that has everyone tickled pink: Heyburn was appointed by George H.W. Bush, with the support of Mitch McConnell.

Via AmericaBlog.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Hobby Lobby

I suppose I have to comment on this one, the worst decision to come down since Citizens United -- not only are corporations people, they got religion. The Hobby Lobby decision seems, from what I've been able to find (I haven't read the full opinion yet -- just found a link as I was doing this post -- Mother Jones has it here, including Justice Ginsburg's dissent [see below]), to be an even worse exercise in logical gymnastics than its ideological forebear.

Digby has a choice quote from Justice Alito's majority opinion, and a pointed rejoinder:

"According to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients."
Fascinating. They aren't "abortifacients." That is simple scientific fact. But they say they believe they are and their "belief" trumps objective reality.

This is straight out of the Teabagger Bible. If this is the level of intellectual acuity in the Court, we are all in serious trouble.

Scott Lemieux does a survey of all the holes in the decision.

Today, a bare majority of the Court held that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, employers do not have to adhere to federal regulations requiring that health insurance offered to employees cover contraceptives if the requirement conflicts with their religious beliefs. The majority opinion supporting this view, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and joined by the Court's four other Republican appointees—all men—is a disaster. It is unpersuasive and illogical, and creaes a standard that is unworkable. It also reflects an instructive lack of concern for the interests of the women, whose statutory rights will be burdened by the majority's decision.

Read on at the link -- it's worth it.

Justice Ginsburg's dissent was blistering, by all reports, and she raised one question, among others, that the majority didn't seem to register, implicit in this observation:
"The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage."

In other words, what about the religious freedom of employees?

I may come back to this -- I have a lot to do today, and I'm still working in fits and starts.

Marriage News Watch, June 30, 2014

They were late, so I'm late.

And the delicious Matt Baume is still on the road: