"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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Indiana, Again: Why, Exactly?

Yesterday, in this post, I wondered why Indiana's "religious freedom" law was getting such strong blowback from all quarters. Josh Marshall has an insight that pretty much mirrors one of my own possible reasons:

But all of this seems to miss the point. There are tipping point moments in which things that were once uncontroversial or unpunished suddenly become very controversial and bring in their wake a storm of backlash. What's most interesting is how these changes are often not incremental. They build slowly and then suddenly the terms are entirely different. It's not surprising that something like this would eventually happen. But just why it happened in this case and in this way is less than clear.

He has some interesting ideas on what caused this particular backlash at this particular time:

Two things have changed. In the last eighteen months, social conservatives have recognized that they've lost the public battle over gay rights. Marriage equality will almost certainly be the law of the land nationwide in the near future. And the rulings that set the stage for that change will likely knock down all remaining legally sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the coming years. So social conservatives have retreated to a defensive action of accepting legally sanctioned equality but trying to create a carve out of discrimination under the guise of 'religious liberty.' The second thing is Hobby Lobby and that the signal that the Supreme Court will accept a concept of religious liberty far more expansive than anything seen in the past.

It's the second thing that worries me: the Supreme Court is a random factor when it comes to "religious freedom" these days, and I think any argument that is going to persuade the Court to overturn these RFRAs is going to have to be very carefully crafted. Most judges have held that non-discrimination laws embody a compelling government interest, which ordinarily would override the assertion that individual religious beliefs deserve pride of place. The Roberts Court, however, has not been notably assiduous in protecting individual rights, and have tended to side with the states on things like the Voting Rights Act and DOMA -- which, of course, means that the Court can jump in either direction on "religious liberty" laws.

The strength of the backlash in the case of Indiana is indicative of the "tipping point" idea: Tim Cook of Apple, Inc., has been quite vocal in his broad condemnation of these laws. Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, has stated point-blank that the company will expand only in states that do not entertain such laws. These are only the first two (well, there's also the White House, which, although focused on Indiana, implies that this is not a good thing in general), but I suspect that idea is going to gain momentum. What's noteworthy is that their reaction is not limited to Indiana.

Arkansas is poised to enact a similar law; the bill in Georgia was scrapped after it became obvious that the whole point was discriminatory.

Do I see a trend here?

Marriage News Watch, March 30, 2015

Texas has won the right to have gays and lesbians fired for taking medical leave. The state's also working on a sneaky work-around to stop marriage equality, just in case the Supreme Court overturns the state's ban. And Alabama officials says that maybe gays and lesbians don't want to get married after all.

Ain't Texas just the most wonderful place? Almost as wonderful as Alabama, which has moved into first place in the race for "Alabama of the 21st Century."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Well, I Did It Again: Image of the Week

I suspect that what I thought was a cold was actually a mild (!) case of bronchitis -- recovery is taking forever, I have no energy, and I'm spacy as hell.

But I do have pictures. I'm just going to wander through and see what looks good.

From Bernice: I don't remember if I've posted this one before, but I like it.

And if I remember correctly, I have one with a similar idea behind it:

I have a file titled "Urban Studies." Some of the images are pretty abstract:

Bernice gets abstract, too, but not in quite the same way:

And finally, just for fun:

Like I always say, There's a picture everywhere you look. You just have to look at it right.

Indiana: Let the Backpedaling Begin!

Looks like the heat was a bit much for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence:

Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

Governor, the intent of the law is quite clear, and has been from its introduction.

Sen. Schneider was the sponsor of the bill.

And of course, it was all a misunderstanding:

Amid the deepest crisis of his political career, Pence said repeatedly that the intense blowback against the new law is the result of a “misunderstanding driven by misinformation.”

And here I thought it was taken out of context.

But everyone else is doing it!
In defense of the legislation, he noted that 19 other states and the federal government have adopted RFRA laws similar to Indiana’s. And he pointed out that President Barack Obama voted for Illinois’ version of RFRA as a state senator.

Actually, I'm hard put to figure out why Indiana's bill is getting such blowback, except that it is very broad. It may just be that this one marks the tipping point. I bet Pence and the Republicans in the legislature thought they were going to sneak this one through, just like everyone else has.

And drawing comparisons with Illinois' RFRA doesn't cut it:

But the Republican governor and possible presidential contender left out an important fact. While Illinois does have a law that gives special protections to religious objectors, it also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. Indiana, on the other hand, has no such ban.

That distinction is crucial, legal experts say, because anti-discrimination laws are considered stronger than religious exemptions.

According to Pence, a similar ban is "not on his agenda."

It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out: the "clarification" is going to be happening under a microscope. And there's also no guarantee that this and similar laws are going to hold up in the courts:

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Brent Steele, a group of 16 legal scholars from across the country — including law professors from Indiana and Notre Dame universities — write that "it is not at all clear that the proposed Indiana RFRA would lead courts to recognize such an exemption."

In fact, only one such case has arisen in states that already have a religious freedom law. In that case, a Christian wedding photographer was sued after refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in New Mexico. Although that state has a religious freedom law, the photographer lost.

"Courts generally believe that anti-discrimination laws serve compelling governmental interests, and nothing in the proposed legislation would change that," they wrote.

On the other hand, I can't quite shake the idea that these laws are as much a delaying tactic as anything else: like the sodomy laws that are still on the books in a number of states, the RFRAs will serve as a means to intimidate and harass gays and lesbians.

Friday, March 27, 2015

What's Interesting About Indiana

In fact, about the only thing interesting about Indiana, is the pushback on the new "religious freedom" bill. Towleroad has a summary of some of the organizations that are joining in.

One of the most notable is the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which is looking into moving its 2017 General Assembly:

Response from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) leadership regarding the signing of ‪#‎SB101‬:

"Thank you for the overwhelming response supporting our opposition to SB101. Unfortunately, Governor Pence has signed the bill. We will keep you posted (and please be patient) as we sort through the contracts, costs, and decisions around the 2017 General Assembly. We also have attorneys reviewing similar legislation in the states that are finalists for 2019 and in states where we would consider moving the 2017 General Assembly. Not all of these bills are the same and there is a lot of misinformation about each of the state laws.

We are ONE people serving the ONE who welcomes us all.

Salesforce was one of the first to react:

And today, the CEO of Yelp warned those states that have or are considering similar bills:

It is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.) I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books. I also hope that other companies will draw a similar line in the sand for equality on behalf of their employees and the greater public to persuade legislators to do the right thing and stop or rescind these harmful laws.

And, a small coda, the mayor of San Francisco has banned all city-funded travel to Indiana.

It starts to look as though Indiana bit off more than it can chew.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

About Those Reviews

Once upon a time, Shopping.com bought Epinions.com. In due course, eBay bought Shopping.com and proceeded to remake things in its own image. That meant, first, no new reviews by the crew at Epinions. Then, it meant that if a product was not in eBay's catalogue, you weren't going to be able to find the review. Now it means that it's even harder to find reviews, so that some of the links in my "Reviews" pages for Epinions material no longer work.

Sorry, but I just don't have the energy to go through and try to fix them or weed them out.

I have, however, started republishing some of the older Green Man Review stuff that got moved to Sleeping Hedgehog, and will update the Reviews pages as necessary.

That's all I have to say about it.

Culture Break: "Zangetsu"

I thought it might be nice to feature something Japanese, but it's hard to find videos that aren't completely static. (And what's the point of a static video?) This is a nice piece, "Zangetsu," from the Edo period, as performed by Tomoko Sunazaki on koto and Masayuki Koga on shakuhachi. Unfortunately, the last minute or so got cut off the upload, but you get the idea.

Today in Stupid

Or ignorant. Or both. A Republican (natch) congressman from Texas (again, natch) has introduced a bill to "protect religious freedom" by forcing everyone in the Air Force to include the words "under God" in their oath.

Last week, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) introduced a bill called the Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015 that would force cadets at the Air Force’s Academy to say “so help me God” during their oaths.

“Our Constitution’s very First Amendment protects every individual’s freedom of religion. But our servicemen and women who protect our county [sic] with their lives are seeing that freedom under fire,” he said in a statement. “Let me be clear: Americans have the freedom of religion – but not freedom from religion.”

It's obvious that to the congressman, like that state legislator in Louisiana, thinks that "religion" means "Christianity." (And you want to bet the doesn't consider the Pope to be Christian?) And he's flat out wrong: we do have freedom from religion, which, if the moron ever stopped to think about what "freedom of conscience" actually means, he might be able to figure out. Maybe.

The really ludicrous part of this is that it recently came to light that the Air Force had changed its oath to make the phrase "under God" optional. Apparently the congressman doesn't understand what that word means.

Today's Must Read: It's the Economy, So Let's Lie About It

It was made clear to me some while ago that the economy does better under Democratic administrations. There are a number of reasons for this, the major one in my mind being that Democrats understand how our economy works, while Republicans understand how they think it should work. (That seems to be the prevailing right-wing mindset -- see "natural law" as an example.) There's an interesting post at Mahablog about a fairly recent study that lays out very clearly the Democratic vs. Republican record on the economy since World War II:

Last year some Princeton economists came out with a study that showed a rather startling gap between Dem and GOP administrations in how the economy performed, going back to World War II.

“The U.S. economy not only grows faster, according to real GDP and other measures, during Democratic versus Republican presidencies, it also produces more jobs, lowers the unemployment rate, generates higher corporate profits and investment, and turns in higher stock market returns. Indeed, it outperforms under almost all standard macroeconomic metrics.”

Strangely enough (hah!) the story somehow got mostly ignored in the "liberal" press. Not completely, but the spin from those who did note it is breathtaking:

But the two articles I found about this, one by Chris Matthews (the one linked above) and the other by Robert Samuelson, both go to great lengths to not give Dems credit for being better on the economy. Samuelson is particularly brilliant —
If Republican presidents were saddled with most recessions, their growth and job creation records would naturally be worse. And that’s what the Blinder-Watson study shows. Since the late 1940s, the economy has spent about 12 years in recession. But 10 of those 12 years occurred under Republican presidents; only two occurred under Democrats. On average, the economy spent slightly more than a year in recession for each Republican term and only three months for each Democratic term.

If only Republicans hadn’t been saddled with those damn recessions!

Talk about flipping reality on its head. . . .

Monday, March 23, 2015

Marriage News Watch, March 23, 2015

It's been nearly two months since marriage was supposed to start in Alabama, and the state still doesn't have its act together. Texas just filed a lawsuit to prevent gays and lesbians from taking family medical leave. And it's going to take at least five different bills to overturn Michigan's marriage ban.

Let's see . . .

Texas AG Gomer -- uh, Ken Paxton (R, of course, and to all appearances, a Roy Moore wannabe) is suing the feds to prevent same-sex spouses from taking family leave:

The 52-year old Republican former state senator has filed a lawsuit against the Dept. of Labor over the definition of the word "spouse." The DOL recently updated the definition to align with the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which struck down Section 3 of DOMA.

The change affects the rules in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA is a 1993 federal law that protects the jobs of employees who need time off to care for a spouse or family member.

AG Paxton does not want gay people to be allowed time off to care for their spouses, or newborn or newly adopted children.

“This lawsuit is about defending the sovereignty of our state, and we will continue to protect Texas from the unlawful overreach of the federal government. The newly revised definition of ‘spouse’ under the FMLA is in direct violation of state and federal laws and U.S. Constitution,” AG Paxton said in a statement. “Texans have clearly defined the institution of marriage in our state, and attempts by the Obama Administration to disregard the will of our citizens through the use of new federal rules is unconstitutional and an affront to the foundations of federalism.”

Paxton has also directed all state agencies to ignore the federal directive and "Follow Texas law," not the "unlawful" Dept. of Labor rules.

The Idaho legislature doesn't really seem to have a handle on how this country works. File this one under "empty gestures":

The Idaho House on Friday voted 44-25 in favor of a non-binding memorial to Congress calling for federal judges who rule in favor of gay marriage to be impeached.

“I think somehow, someday we’ve gotta take a stand,” GOP Rep. Paul Shepherd told the House. A sixth-term state representative from Riggins who owns a sawmill and log home company, Shepherd was the author and sponsor of the measure.

“You can’t say an immoral behavior according to God’s word, what we’ve all been taught since the beginning, is something that’s just, and that’s really kinda what this is all about,” he told the House. “We’d better uphold Christian morals. As an example, how about fornication, adultery and other issues.”

How about fornication, adultery and other issues? Well, let's see -- the first two are legal. What others do you suppose Mr. Shepherd had in mind?

A further thought: this is obviously grandstanding -- it has no legal force whatsoever -- but one has to wonder at the intelligence of the voters of Idaho. I mean, even their own representatives think they're idiots, if this is any indication.

At least officials in Puerto Rico have the good sense to stop flogging that pony:

In a filing on Friday afternoon at the 1st Circuit, lawyers for the commonwealth wrote that a prior Supreme Court decision holding that same-sex couples’ marriage claims lacked a “substantial federal question” could no longer be considered good law given that the Supreme Court in January accepted marriage cases out of four states for review.

Without that procedural hurdle, they write, “it follows from recent doctrinal developments in this area of law that government regulations that affect people based on their sexual orientation cannot withstand constitutional attacks under the Equal Protection Clause unless they seek to further, at the very least, an important state interest by means that are substantial related to that interest.”

Puerto Rico’s marriage laws “distinguish based on sexual orientation and/or gender,” they continue, and “the Commonwealth cannot prevail” under the heightened scrutiny that they believe such laws should receive from court.

Additionally, they note that the laws also clearly “burden fundamental rights” to marriage, meaning the ban “does not survive constitutional muster under due-process analysis as well.”

As for Louisiana -- you're on your own.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Today in People Are Basically Decent

and often enough, better than that:

Odin Camus thought no one could make it to his 13th birthday party. Then love and kindness showed up. . . .

It all started with a polite plea his mother Melissa Camus posted on social media that morning, asking if a few of her friends could help make the day special for her son. He’s bullied, has Asperger syndrome and has trouble making friends, she wrote. “Unfortunately, not one kid rsvp’d to his birthday ‘hang out’ invite.”

Read the whole thing. It's a nice antidote to all the crap U.S. Republicans are tossing around.

And check out this story to see some of the messages from well-wishers.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Today's Must Watch

Rachel Maddow's report on a video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence:

Suddenly the NRA wants an investigation.

And I don't have anything to add.

It's Spring, Part Two: Image of the Week

I've been under the weather for the past couple of days, big-time, but here's a fairly new one from Bernice:

The duck population at the Waterfowl Lagoon at Lincoln Park Zoo has dropped dramatically in the past week, as the winter residents have moved back to North Pond and South Pond. I expect we'll soon be seeing herons and cormorants again.

And I did see maples in bloom, which I don't seem to have any images of. I'll see what I can do -- maple flowers are fascinating, and they're generally the first to bloom.

It's Spring, Part One

And that means it's budget time in the good ol' U.S. Congress. The Republicans have come up with not one but two proposed budgets, both consisting mainly of mumbo-jumbo, says Paul Krugman:

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

And of course, the cuts are to come from Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security (which, strictly speaking, is outside the budget, but it's a long tradition on the right to try to dismantle Social Security, and it plays on Wall Street), food stamps, and whatever else will harm the most vulnerable. Oh, don't forget repealing the ACA, including that taxes that pay for it.* And, of course, there are tax cuts for the upper brackets -- but don't worry: they will let jobs and prosperity trickle down their pants legs. Or something.

* As for health care, the Republicans actually do have an alternative to the ACA:

Guess what they're talking about as the alternative?

[Rep. Paul Ryan's] remarks Thursday offered the most detailed vision yet of the House Republicans’ thinking. Mr. Ryan suggested the GOP caucus was most enthusiastic about allowing states to strip some of the health law’s requirements that insurance plans must provide certain minimum benefits and a requirement that insurers sell to all customers equally regardless of their medical history.

“We think things like community rating and other regulations make insurance needlessly expensive for most people and that there are better more targeted ideas out there to help those with pre-existing conditions get affordable care,” he said. “We just want to give people market freedom and personal freedom so that they can buy what they want.”
The single most important aspect of Obamacare, the one thing that one would assume nobody would try to mess with --- the ban on denying insurance because of a pre-existing condition --- is the main provision they want to get rid of. In other words, they want to make sure that people who are sick are either tied to their insurance companies (with back-breaking premiums that go with that) for life. Or maybe death since a lot of people just won't be able to afford insurance at all so they'll just die.

Back to Alan Grayson's summary of the Republican health-care plan: "Don't get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly."

But I digress:

Now, those are the budgets that are going to get all the attention, because the Republican are Fiscally Responsible. Just ask them. There is, however, a real budget being offered:

Too often neglected in this Beltway brawl is the budget alternative offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The fifth annual CPC alternative — “The People’s Budget: A Raise for America” — is about as close to common sense as Congress gets. And it is honest: Its numbers are carefully laid out and add up. It actually says what it would invest in and how it would pay for it.

Did you notice the part about the numbers adding up? That's not something you're going to find in any Republican budget.

This, of course, is the budget that's going to be ignored by the Very Serious People, because everyone knows that progressives are fiscally irresponsible. That's why we keep having to elect them to office after the Republicans have screwed up the economy again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

By Their Deeds Shall You Know Them

I'm sure you've heard about the planned bake sale to support homeless LGBT youth that was cancelled at the last minute.
Fundraiser bake sales for the homeless are allowed at Andrews University – as long as the homeless aren’t LGBT kids.

A planned bake sale had to be abruptly cancelled last week, after student members of the unofficial LGBT group, AULL4One, were told they couldn’t raise money on campus for a Chicago-based homeless organization, Project Fierce , because the western Michigan university felt the charity didn’t align with its mission.

“Andrews University recognizes the special challenges facing LGBT youth and believes that efforts to help them are worthy”, the university said in a statement released on March 10. “[But only those] whose mission and practices do not conflict with those of the University”, referring to the LGBT grassroots organization.

Their “mission” suggests they would help LGBT homeless organizations, as long as they don’t “advocate behaviors contrary to Adventist beliefs”. (Read: actual acceptance of the youth being LGBT.)

This picture was posted in the comments. I thought it particularly apt.


I thought it particularly apt. But apparently, there are too many "Christians" who were absent that day.

Words Fail Me

From (former) Senator Frothy Mix, his own brand of incoherence:

The European Union doesn't have the word God in its Constitution or in any of its documents. It is a secular society and it is the model for America. It is the reason you are seeing this assault. The left cannot be successful in a country with God-given rights. It can't because they want to be the purveyor of rights and if God is the purveyor then they lose. America is at a crossroads and a tipping point. This means it can go either way. This means you have the potential right here to make a huge difference in the future of our country. Be not afraid.

Just remember who it was who made word salad fashionable on the right.

And he thinks this will somehow result in votes as he begins his (not yet official) campaign for the Republican nomination. Again.

The scary thing is, he could be right.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Marriage News Watch, March 16, 2015

Texas is pushing a proposed law that would let the state overrule the Supreme Court. There's just one problem: they can't actually do that. Alabama judges have decided that they don't have to obey federal courts either, except that in reality, they do. And Oklahoma politician wants to switch from marriage licenses to marriage certificates, which would accomplish ... not very much.

I wrote about Molly White here. I don't seem to have commented on the other idiots Baume mentioned. If I happen to run across any stories, I'll post links.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Today's Must-Read

Archbishop Salvatore "DUI" Cordileone, Pope Benedict's last slap in the face to San Francisco, is getting some pushback on his new "guidelines" for the area's Catholic school teachers:

When Gino Gresh, high school senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Catholic school in San Francisco, California, returned home from a religious retreat in early February, he said he was “shocked” to learn what had happened while he was away: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, head of the San Francisco archdiocese and key organizer behind California’s short-lived same-sex marriage ban known as Proposition 8, had unveiled a new handbook for Catholic high school employees in Gresh’s area, instructing them to refrain from “visibly” contradicting the Church’s teachings on birth control, abortion, and homosexuality.

Worse, Cordileone was vying to designate teachers as “ministers” so the archdiocese could benefit from the so-called “ministerial exception,” a legal category expanded by a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case that exempts religious groups from non-discrimination laws when hiring for “ministry” positions that can include people who are not clergy.

Read the whole article -- it's fairly detailed and, I think, a good analysis, but hard to excerpt. But those opposed to the Archbishop seem to be on firm ground:

But Sally said Cordileone, when speaking to the teachers about the morality clause in the cathedral, derided “those protestors” outside. Teachers were furious, and Sally said that, more than anything, she wanted to tell the archbishop, “‘Those protestors’ are your children, and you are an educator, and you are trying to create an environment of mistrust, fear, and harm for these children.”

Yet Catholic students like Gresh mostly shrugged off the insult, responding by organizing more protests. Raised and taught by instructors such as McGarry and Sally and formed by Francis’ inclusive rhetoric, their activism — and their concept of Catholic teaching — already seems very different than that of Cordileone. Gresh said the core inspiration driving the students, like most Catholics, comes from a higher authority than the archbishop, or even the pope himself.

“We all model the faith after Jesus Christ,” he said.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saturday Science: Volcanoes

Well, one volcano, and this is more of a news item than a science item, but there's a new island in the South Pacific:

Thanks to volcanic activity, a new island has risen out of the waters of the South Pacific. Just don't start making Spring Break plans to go there yet. Scientists are warning that the new island is highly unstable and even boats should avoid passing too close.

Popping out of the water just 28 miles west of the tiny island nation of Tonga, the new land mass sprouted from the Hunga Tonga volcano, which became active back in December. It's the second time in five years that the volcano has erupted.

There's a lot of land that's formed this way -- think Hawai'i.

The surface is still very unstable, and the volcano could erupt again at any time, which hasn't stopped seabirds from nesting.

At any rate, for more photos, click through.

Idiot du Jour

Bryan Fischer, who I don't really think is an idiot -- he's just an asshole who will say anything as long as it's derogatory and inflammatory. Today's pearl of wisdom:

Fischer was upset over a report saying that more than 50 percent of Los Angeles residents between the ages of 18 and 34 speak a language other than English in their homes while speaking English outside of it.

“You know what this means, ladies and gentlemen — we are losing the ability to talk to each other,” Fischer complained. “We’re losing the ability to communicate with each other. And this means that we’re on the road to no longer being one nation under God, indivisible. No longer one nation, no longer indivisible, and in many ways no longer under God.”

Instead, he said, the idea that people could speak more than one language was fracturing the U.S. into “subcultures.”

Don't look for logical consistency or any sort of coherence in that -- there isn't any.

Once upon a time, when I was in high school, you had to take at least two years of a foreign language -- it was a state requirement. And being conversant in another language was considered the mark of an educated person. (When I graduated, I spoke four with varying degrees of fluency. I continued German in college -- another requirement for graduation.) Now, it's cause for suspicion.

I should also note that in my neighborhood, one is likely to overhear conversations in Russian, Hindi, Arabic, Farsi, any one of several African languages, and Vietnamese -- but English is still our lingua franca. (And I find that statement itself inexpressably funny, given that it's Italian -- English is not what you'd call a "pure" language.)

I wonder if Fischer has ever read Beowulf in the "original" English. I did.

Image of the Week: Catching Up

Yesterday was a very bad day for the Internet -- specifically, my connection to the Internet, which was nonexistent for about the first half hour of the day, and more than a little sketchy after that.

So, here's another nice one from Bernice:

Let's see if I have one that fits. Well, sort of -- same time of day, rather more optimistic, in the sense that "summer will come again."

"Religious Freedom"

For some. This article by Eric Ethington on Utah's "breakthrough" gay-inclusive civil rights legislation lays the whole strategy out very clearly:

That's why, when just a few weeks ago Oaks held a press conference to announce that he and the Mormon church were ready to endorse a statewide nondiscrimination law for LGBTQ people if only the leaders of the local LGBTQ community would sit down and negotiate a “compromise,” many were suspicious.

Oaks was up front about what he was looking for. He and other leaders of the Mormon church enumerated the religious exemptions they wanted included with a nondiscrimination law, including a right for government and health care workers to deny service to LGBTQ people.

SB296, the bill that resulted from those negotiations, was hailed by equality groups and the Mormon church as a “historic compromise” of nondiscrimination and religious freedom. The bill does indeed ban workplace and housing discrimination against LGBTQ people in Utah. But buried underneath those important protections, is a small clause guaranteeing the right of individuals to express faith-based anti-LGBTQ views at work.

This is similar to bills passed in other states, which include similar provisions, although not as explicit, allowing "people of faith" to avoid obeying laws they don't like -- specifically, ant-discrimination laws.

Maggie Gallagher's on board with this, among others. In a laughable attempt to establish that sexual orientation is a choice, she inserted this little nugget:

The place to rest our case for equal treatment of traditional believers is that actions are choices, choices which in a free society must be subject to moral reflections, not policed as if they were skin color, something over which the individual has no control.
(Emphasis added.)

That gives the whole game away, although Gallagher, still trying to present herself as the "reasonable" face of anti-gay bigotry, is doing her part to reinforce the "Christian martyr" mantra.

Ethington's essay is a "must read." Gallagher's is garbage.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Today in Stupid

This is going to be something of a link dump -- there's just so much out there in the past couple of days.

Do you know why frat guys do racist chants? Dan Savage. At least, so says Ken Blackwell of FRC.

"Dan Savage, who is now having his life story being portrayed on a new sitcom on ABC, you know, here’s a guy that’s responsible for the coarsening of civil discussion and conversation being celebrated, at a time when there are knuckleheads who are still spewing from their lips the sort of nonsense that we’ve heard from these fraternity members."

Yes, that's the same Ken Blackwell who did his best to rig the 2008 election results from Ohio.

And let's not forget Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-Where?), who wants to hold Congress at gunpoint until they add to the already bloated defense budget:

Here is the first thing I would do if I were President of the United States: I wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We’re not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts. We’re not leaving town until we restore the intel cuts.

I wonder how many defense contractors have facilities in South Carolina.

And which Senate committee do you suppose invited Tony Perkins to speak on religious liberty?

And it's Ken Blackwell again, comparing marriage equality rulings to not only Roe v. Wade, but to Dred Scott.

I believe the Court may be headed for more than a Roe II ruling. It is also headed for another Dred Scott opinion. That 1857 ruling of the Supreme Court said it was legal to take slaves from slave states into free territories and the slaves would remain slaves.

Note that his sole claim to originality is combining the two.

And finally (at least, I think so, but you never can tell), a group of state senators in South Carolina are trying to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. (Yes, you read that right.) The reason it's so important?

“It has to do with the propagation of our species,” [Sen. Larry] Grooms said today, according to The Post and Courier. “It is what is in the best interest of our species."

Yeah, we're obviously in danger of extinction Real Soon Now.

That's it, but who knows? There may very well be more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Coming Soon to Netflix: "Daredevil"

Daredevil is one of those characters who fascinates me, but the movies don't seem to have done much with him. Let's see if TV can do better:

Meet Matt Murdock. Blinded as a boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, Matt fights injustice by day as a respected lawyer and by night as the masked vigilante known as Daredevil in Hell's Kitchen, New York. He'll do anything to make his city a better place, but at what price?

Coming to Netflix on April 1.

Updtate on the Economy: Compare and Contrast

I while back I posted come comments on the contrast between the economies of Wisconsin and Minnesota resulting from the economic policies of their governors. Well, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has got his "right to work" bill, and it's having an effect -- just not the one he expected:

A Wisconsin business owner upset over enactment of a right-to-work law and other policies says he is expanding in Minnesota because the economic policies there are more conducive for his operation.

James Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction in Black River Falls, said Monday that he was accelerating plans to expand an office in Lakeville, Minnesota, that currently has two full-time employees.

I'm not sure that the "right to work" bill was the sole impetus -- in fact, I'm sure it's not: Walker has cut back on government spending, including infrastructure projects -- but it looks like a case of the final straw.

Via Crooks and Liars.

Today in WTF?

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at this:

Now, [Texas State] Rep. [Molly} White has filed a bill that she believes would effectively nullify any U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would find a right for same-sex couples to marry.

White's bill, HB 2555, would amend Texas law to state that its ban against same-sex marriage would "apply regardless of whether a federal court ruling or other federal law provides that a prohibition against the creation or recognition of a same-sex marriage or a civil union is not permitted under the United States Constitution."

Apparently, Rep. White (who we all remember for displaying the flag of Israel in her office on Texas' Muslim Capitol Day) has never heard of the Supremacy Clause -- or much else having to do with the American Constitution, American law, or American history.

Note to Texas voters: If you don't want to look like idiots, stop electing idiots to state office.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Isn't the President Supposed to Conduct Foreign Policy?

I'm sure you've heard about this little effort by a group of Republican senators (well, a majority of Republican senators) to hamstring negotiations with Iran:

Bloomberg News reports on an open letter signed by 47 Republicans warning Iran that whatever they negotiate with President Obama can be undone in two years by the next President, who they presume will side with them.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber's entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
(Emphasis added.)

It seems that Iran's foreign minister knows a bit more about it than our Republican senators do:

Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.

Foreign Minister Zarif added that "I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations.

The Iranian Foreign Minister added that "change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Irans peaceful nuclear program." He continued "I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.

The president had a pointed response:

So did Vice President Biden, who was rather more thorough.

The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.


This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.


In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.

The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.

One thing, I think, that Biden's response and those of other Democrats miss: the Republicans want a war. That's their first response to anything: "Bomb, bomb, bomb -- Bomb, bomb Iran." The fact that they're so bad at it doesn't faze them in the least.

Even the Daily News doesn't think much of the Republicans' effort:


Ireland is holding a national referendum on marriage equality in May, and so far, public opinion is strongly supportive (like, 76% in favor). But some Irishmen aren't leaving things to chance:

(Via Joe.My.God.)

Meanwhile, Americans are, slowly but surely, catching up.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Marriage News Watch, March 9, 2015

The Alabama Supreme Court just went rogue on marriage, and that has George Takei pretty annoyed. Hundreds of Republicans just asked the U.S. Supreme Court to enact full federal equality. And the National Organization for Marriage's losing streak continues with yet another slapdown in court.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Today's Must Watch

The President's Selma speech:

It's a hell of a speech.

And the best response I've seen:

Wesley Lowery

"What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this...than the belief that America is not yet finished."

2:29 PM - 7 Mar 2015

My favorite: "Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.”"

And here's a transcript.

Diversity in TV

That's something that's been at the back of my mind since I got a TV and a subscription to Netflix, brought to the fore by this post at Towleroad: they've been running a series on "gay icons," highlighting all the usual suspects, but this one's a little different: Shonda Rhimes, whose visibility is not anywhere near the level of a Madonna or Lady Gaga, but whose influence is probably greater:

But what about an ally that’s leaving her mark on pop culture behind the scenes?

Enter Shonda Rhimes, a TV master so powerful that ABC handed her an entire night of their primetime schedule. Her shows have become some of the most talked about series of the last decade, blending steamy sex scenes, ripped-from-the-headlines commentary and so much soapy melodrama. But through it all, she’s also been committed to diversifying the kinds of stories we see on television. Her casting process for breakout hit Grey’s Anatomy made headlines for the “colorblind” role descriptions that yielded one of the most richly diverse ensembles on television.

Part of that inclusive approach includes telling stories of LGBT characters.

Eureka Cast
Their emphasis, of course, is on increasing visibility of gay and lesbian characters on hit TV series. What I've been noticing, watching older series (or the older seasons of current series -- I'm a binge-watcher who hates having to wait a week for the next installment) is that the overwhelming majority of series I've been watching are much more diverse than what I remember from the past: women in major roles, including leads, who are not window-dressing, but strong, independent characters in their own right (Audrey Parker (played by Emily Rose) in Haven, Rosalie Calvert (Bree Turner) in Grimm, just to name the two that come immediately to mind); and a marked racial diversity, including mixed couples, on just about every series that I've been watching (which include Haven, Grimm, Firefly, Arrow, and Eureka -- and which reminds me, I have to catch up on The Flash).

Nathan Wuornos' Dream
I have to say, though, that most of them do not include gay characters, with the exception of Torchwood, but then again, these are all older episodes, and limited pretty much to what's available on Netflix. I have noticed a tendency, however, for a lot of male skin -- major male characters in Haven and Firefly have nude or nearly-nude scenes, and both Oliver Queen (Steven Amell) and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) spend a lot of time shirtless in Arrow. Another thought: there is some very interesting chemistry between Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant) and Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour) in Haven.

What I do find interesting is that both DC and Marvel have incorporated gay characters into their comics (Marvel with rather more success than DC), but neither has made the jump to incorporating them into their films or TV series.

Eventually. Can we hope for a Young Avengers or Teen Titans movie?

Housekeeping Note

There are a few more older Green Man Review reviews links in the "Reviews" pages, but once again, I had to do more moving than linking, and there are a few that somehow got their URLs changed, resulting in broken links, so that's another thing that has to be dealt with.

But I'm working on it.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Saturday Science: Asteroid News

Although in this case, it should be "dwarf planet" news, since that is the current official designation of Ceres, one of the two largest objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

We're about to get a lot more information on Ceres:

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

"Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home."

Ceres on approach from the dark side:

Ceres is seen from NASA's Dawn spacecraft on March 1, just a few days before the mission achieved orbit around the previously unexplored dwarf planet. The image was taken at a distance of about 30,000 miles (about 48,000 kilometers).
Image Credit: 

The most recent images received from the spacecraft, taken on March 1 show Ceres as a crescent, mostly in shadow because the spacecraft's trajectory put it on a side of Ceres that faces away from the sun until mid-April. When Dawn emerges from Ceres' dark side, it will deliver ever-sharper images as it spirals to lower orbits around the planet.

I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, March 06, 2015

It's the Economy, Stupid: Compare and Contrast

Via Digby, this interesting piece by Steve Benen comparing the economic performance of neighbors -- in this case, Minnesota and Wisconsin:

Wisconsin and Minnesota have long made fascinating bookends. As longtime readers may recall, the two neighboring states have similar sizes, similar populations, similar demographics, and even similar climates. But they don’t necessarily have similar politics, at least not lately.

In the 2010 elections, the Badger State elected Scott Walker (R) governor and gave control of the legislature to Republicans, while the Gopher State made Mark Dayton (D) governor and, in 2012, elected a Democratic legislature*. The former got to work targeting collective bargaining and approving tax cuts, while the latter raised taxes on the wealthy and boosted in-state investments.

So guess which state is doing better economically:

Nearly five years later, one of these two states is doing quite well. Policy.mic had an interesting report this week.
Since 2011, Minnesota has been doing quite well for itself. The state has created more than 170,000 jobs, according to the Huffington Post. Its unemployment rate stands at 3.6% – the fifth-lowest in the country, and far below the nationwide rate of 5.7% – and the state government boasts a budget surplus of $1 billion. Forbes considers Minnesota one of the top 10 in the country for business.

As Patrick Caldwell recently explained very well, Minnesota’s gains come on the heels of tax increases on Minnesota’s top 2% and higher corporate taxes, both of which state Republicans said would crush Minnesota’s economy. As for their neighbors to the east:

By a number of measures, Wisconsin hasn’t fared as well as Minnesota. As the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports, Wisconsin’s job growth has been among the worst in the region, and income growth is one of the worst in the country. It has a higher unemployment rate than Minnesota. And the budget is in bad shape.

It doesn't surprise me that Republicans keep peddling voodoo economics. What surprises me is that people keep buying it. Digby's comment is germane here I think:

And yet all the smart money in political establishment circles has it that Walker is a real threat. Because even though he was elected in a Republican sweep year and then quickly recalled, he managed to hang on and then barely win in another Republican sweep year. This makes him a brilliant politician. He can't make a public statement without looking like an out of touch fool. And now we find out that he's barely doing better than Sam Brownback who has made Kansas into a toxic supply side petrie dish. A winner for sure.

And there you have it: the Koch brothers' dream ticket: Walker/Brownback.

They should have floated that idea at CPAC: I'm sure the 'baggers would have eaten it up.

Sooner Than I Expected

It was fairly obvious that the "Christian" right would be reacting to the impending Supreme Court opinion on marriage equality -- and at this point, while I hesitate to say that anything with this Court is a foregone conclusion, unless it involves corporate interests, from the weight of Circuit Court opinions and the complete lack of rational justifications for state bans, it does look as though the Court has no option but to find in favor -- I hadn't realized how quickly they would be piling on. The latest is from Oklahoma, with the "Oklahoma Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2015" -- although no one seems to be able to explain why something that has not been taken away needs to be restored. The excuse -- because it sure as hell is not an argument -- is close to what we've been seeing from the "Christian Martyrs"™ who bake cakes and arrange flowers:

Silk told The New York Times in an article published today, that the "L.G.B.T. movement is the main thing, the primary thing that’s going to be challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions."

Forget the fact that the same arguments have been used against every advance in civil rights for every group. See, Sen. Silk is being "sensitive," because he has "homosexual friends." The reactions to that statement have not been kind.

The other prong of the attack that's come into play recently can be found in this bill being considered by the Texas Legislature:

The proposal from GOP Rep. Rick Miller (above) would prohibit cities from enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances that include protected classes not contained in state law.

The Texas Observer reports:

Texas law doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. If passed, Miller’s bill would undo LGBT protections passed by numerous cities, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston and Plano. Altogether more than 7.5 million Texas are covered by such ordinances.

Texas is a little behind the gun on this one: a similar law passed in Arkansas late last month.

Matt Baume has a couple of videos on these and other tactics and how to deal with them:

And, last but not least, sue. The courts are our last defense against this sort of thing (which is why Anti-Gay, Inc., hates the idea of an independent judiciary), and my own feeling is that if anything is going to make it obvious that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression should be included in suspect classes, it's this kind of back-door, systematic discrimination written into the law.

Image(s) of the Week

For some reason, I've been concentrating on figure studies, landscapes, and still lifes in this series, but both Bernice and I have some good city scapes. For example, Bernice just sent me this one:

So of course, I went searching through my files to see what I had and came up with this:

Nice pairing, isn't it?

And now that the weather is getting better, I may find myself out shooting more. It's about time.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Just Discovered: "Eureka"

OK, I admit it, I added Eureka to my Netflix list because Colin Ferguson is the star. Watched the first couple of episodes and it looks like fun -- sort of a lighthearted Haven.

(By the way, I discovered Ferguson in Season Four of Haven.)

(And I just realized -- it's another series that takes place in Oregon.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Coming May 1: Avengers: The Age of Ultron

And of course I'm going to go see it. This is billed as a "trailer." Sorry -- it's a teaser:

Culture Break: Harold Budd: "The Gunfighter"

I'm not sure when or where I first ran across Harold Budd -- I'm sure it must have been in my New Age days, when I ran across a lot of interesting music -- and even more that was not so interesting.

At any rate, Budd is one of those artists who has worked with everyone -- Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, you name it, he's probably collaborated with them on something.

It's also almost impossible to find a video of his music that is actually a video -- that is, moving pictures. This one's rather expressionistic, especially compared to the music, which is from Lovely Thunder, which is the first of his albums I got my hands on, and still one of my favorites.

(Be warned -- this is from a playlist, which means it will keep going to the next video unless you tell it to stop.)

The Latest in Air Travel

Your very own woodpecker:

The backstory, in case you've somehow missed this one, is that the weasel (a very young weasel, please note) was trying to kill the woodpecker to eat it. The woodpecker took the weasel for a bit of a joyride, and then left.

The best laid plans. . . .

The (Alabama) Supreme Court Has Spoken

Somehow, the Alabama Supreme Court seems to think it is the final authority on questions of civil rights. (Ahem.)

Weeks after a United States District Court judge in Mobile ordered a probate judge there to issue same-sex marriage licenses, the Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in the state.

"As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman," the order said. "Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty."

Apparently, their lessons on the federal Constitution did not include sessions on Article VI, Par. 2 (the Supremacy Clause) or the Fourteenth Amendment. There also happens to be long-standing Supreme Court precedent that directly contravenes their action, namely Ableman v. Booth, 62 U.S. 506 (1859), which found that state courts do not have the authority to overrule federal court decisions.

Here's the full ruling, but be warned: the justices quote Robert P. George as an "authority."

My own opinion, in which I am not alone, is that this one is going down in flames as soon as someone files a federal motion.

Via Joe.My.God.

The two funniest reactions so far:

From Mat Staver, whom Ed Brayton calls "the dumbest lawyer in America not named Larry Klayman:

The ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court is historic, and is one of the most researched and well reasoned opinions on marriage to be issued by any court in the country.

That's just the beginning.

And this one:


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Giggle du Jour

You know what we really have to worry about if we legalize marijuana? Stoned rabbits:

Wild animals could “cultivate a taste” for marijuana if Utah lawmakers permit medical use of the plant, according to testimony by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Agent Matt Fairbanks, a member of the state’s “marijuana eradication” team, warned Thursday that wildlife would be constantly stoned and lose their fear of humans if the medical marijuana bill passed, reported the Washington Post.

“I deal in facts,” Fairbanks said. “I deal in science.”

Something tells me agent Fairbanks has been smoking the evidence.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Marriage News Watch, March 2, 2015 (Updated, and Updated Again)

Texas lawmakers are gunning for the judge who let two lesbians to get married. Meanwhile, homophobic lawmakers celebrate the 10th anniversary of the state's marriage ban. There's just one problem: the law will probably be overturned before it actually turns ten. Plus various native American tribes are in the process of legalizing marriage.

Here's more on that complaint from Tony Tinderholt:

Tinderholt wrote out a two-paragraph complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Then his staff called reporters.

But Tinderholt’s publicity ploy had problems:

▪ First, he complained about the wrong judge and case.

▪ Then, he applied the law the wrong way in his complaint.

▪ Had he managed to apply the law the right way to the right judge, he still would have come out wrong.

Tinderholt, 44 and in his fifth marriage, said in a published statement that he wants a judicial system that “respects the laws” and separation of powers, as if judges shouldn’t declare the Texas Legislature’s laws unconstitutional without prior permission from the Legislature.

I hate to deal in generalizations, but it's Texas.

I mentioned the shenanigans in Iowa, among other things, here.

Update: Via Joe.My.God.:

A federal judge has struck down Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage.

According to an order filed in federal court Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon said 'all relevant state officials are ordered to treat same-sex couples the same as different sex couples in the context of processing a marriage license or determining the rights, protections, obligations or benefits of marriage.' The order is effective March 9 at 8 a.m.

Update II: Nebraska has filed a Notice of Appeal.

Why do I think they were expecting that decision?

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Today's Must Read: Speaking of the Economy

Because everyone's always talking about the economy, there's a very interesting post by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

Demos research associate Sean McElwee's post this week reviews economic research showing that "Democrats make the pie bigger for everyone, while Republicans redistribute income toward the rich and whites." But you already knew that. Still, McElwee's link-filled column at Aljazeera compiles a lot of supporting studies in one convenient location.

Examining changes in poverty, unemployment and income under every president since 1948, political scientists Zoltan Hajnal and Jeremy Horowitz found that blacks, Latinos and Asians fare better under Democratic presidents. But so do whites[.]

Some very interesting information, including a long section on what Democrat Mark Dayton has done for Minnesota, following Republican Tim Pawlenty's abject failure to do anything -- well, anything positive. (Sadly, Illinois' new governor, Bruce Rauner, seems determined to follow in the footsteps of Pawlenty and the Republican party's latest great white hope, Scott Walker (R-Koch Industries).)

It all just bears out something I've noticed: Republicans, eager to establish the state religion of voodoo economics, manage to screw up the economy, and then Democrats have to come in and fix it.

Today in Persecuted Christians

I seldom comment on CPAC -- I see it as little more than the clowns gathering to try to fit themselves into the car (by the way, Rand Paul won the straw poll -- again; that should tell you something), but this is sort of cute:
Columnist Cal Thomas, radio host Dana Loesch, and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins took part in a CPAC panel on religious freedom Saturday. . . .

None of whom actually believe in religious freedom for anyone but themselves.

This says it all:
“I feel like it’s time to make Christians a protected class,” Dana Loesch said, as the discussion reached a fevered pitch of self-pity.

Thomas chimed in that “our commander in chief” — who is Jesus, not President Obama — instructed his followers that they would experience persecution.

Then Thomas and Loesch admitted that it just wouldn’t be worth being a Christian if you couldn’t feel persecuted.

“And since we have the victim competition in the United States,” Loesch added, “I think we win.”

It gets better:

Tony Perkins's answer also sounded like a warning.

"The loss of religous freedom," he said. "People are losing their businesses because they're refusing to leave their faith at home."

"Our future is only as bright as our religious freedom is," he remarked. "It requires personal effort and action."

Even though the Ten Commandments are being driven out by the courts, pray at home, he said.

"We should be able to take it into the workplace."

Um -- do you suppose he ever read Matthew 6:6?

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

More cafeteria Christians.