"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, April 30, 2015

Well, This Is Interesting

Backlash seems to have lasting effects:

Members of the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Tuesday on whether Michigan needs a law that backers say protects people's religious freedoms and opponents say permits discrimination against gays and others.

The bill appears to have little chance of passing and may not go any further in the Legislature. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has threatened to veto the legislation unless lawmakers also extend anti-discrimination protections to gays, and Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones of Grand Ledge said Tuesday that no further hearings were planned on the measure.

It seems that state legislators are not so eager to adopt broad "religious freedom" bills after the double debacle in Indiana and Arkansas.

Of course, there's always Bobby Jindal:

In 2010, Louisiana adopted a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits government from unduly burdening a person’s exercise of religion. However, given the changing positions of politicians, judges and the public in favor of same-sex marriage, along with the potential for discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses that comes with these shifts, I plan in this legislative session to fight for passage of the Marriage and Conscience Act.

Oh, this is good:

I hold the view that has been the consensus in our country for over two centuries: that marriage is between one man and one woman. Polls indicate that the American consensus is changing — but like many other believers, I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion.

Translation: I'm going to impose my religious beliefs on everyone, no matter what.

And now you know why everyone laughs when you say "Bobby Jindal."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Culture Break: Robert MirabaI: The Dance

I ran across Robert Mirabal many years ago, when I was investigating American Indian music. He was, at that time, a noted flute player. He went on to move into a more pop/rock oriented mode, but still with strong roots in tradition. This is more or less in that mode:

I'm always impressed by the way traditional musicians from any number of cultures can adopt and adapt Western pop modes to their music without losing the sense of the original tradition.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Redux

There's a huge discussion going on at Joe.My.God. about the dinner for Ted Cruz thrown by Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass. What bothers me about many of the comments is evidence of what I call "right-wing logic": I know it's true, therefore it must be true, even though I have no evidence indicating it's true.

This stems largely from the insistence that the dinner was a fundraiser, even though the hosts insist that it was not -- but it must have been, because Cruz is running for president.

That's sort of like saying that Hillary Clinton having lunch at Chipotle must have been a fundraiser because she's running for president.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

After too many days of news reports about two gay New York developers/hoteliers, Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, hosting a dinner party for Ted Cruz (which was definitively NOT a fundraiser), all I've got to say to the gay "activists" kicking up all the fuss is, "Is this all you've got to worry about right now?"

Sorry, boys and girls, but this is something rich people do: if someone important is coming to town, if you have the right connections, you throw a dinner party for them. If you're involved in politics, it's going to be a politician.

So by all means, give the likes of Erick Erickson more ammunition. That'll help the cause.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Marriage News Watch, April 27, 2015

We'll have oral argument before the Supreme Court this week. Ted Cruz has introduced two new bills in Congress to stop marriage, but they may backfire on him. And the National Organization for Marriage has lost yet another court case.

More later -- if I can find the links.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Image of the Week

I don't really have anything in mind, so I'm just going to dip into the files and see what looks good.

Here's one from Bernice. We don't have butterflies on the loose yet, but you can find them year 'round at the Nature Museum:

And from me, one looking through the fence at the Addison Street nature reserve. It doesn't look like this yet, but it will.

The Tony Perkins Award

Today, the proud recipient is Pastor/Governor Mike Huckabee (and maybe, one day, he'll figure out the difference), for this whopper:

If the courts rule that people have a civil right not only to be a homosexual but a civil right to have a homosexual marriage, then a homosexual couple coming to a pastor who believes in biblical marriage who says ‘I can’t perform that wedding’ will now be breaking the law. It’s not just saying, ‘I’m sorry you have a preference.’ No, you will be breaking the law subject to civil for sure and possible criminal penalties for violating the law. If you do practice biblical convictions and you carry them out and you do what you’ve been led by the spirit of God to do, your behavior will be criminal. God help us all.

Strangely enough, Pastor-Governor Huckabee seems to have forgotten the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause. I guess he thinks that only applies to bakers, florists, and photographers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Theocracy on the March

Looks like the gloves are off in the "Christian" right's war against everything not of the "Christian" right -- including the United States of America.

First up, the ever-reliable Family Research Council, with day something or other their prayer jihad against the Supreme Court. The give-away:

May [Justice Sotomayor] refrain now and for the rest of her tenure as a justice from supporting any law that forces people to do anything the Bible calls sin and that violates their religious conscience. . . . May God move Justice Sotomayor to vote for each state’s right to reflect the deeply held faith of a majority of its citizens, especially as expressed by their votes to uphold traditional marriage.

In other words, forget the Constitution and rule according to Tony Perkins' interpretation of Leviticus.

The military, with its history of "Onward, Christian Soliders," is a prime target:

[Mike]Huckabee told Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson that the Obama administration “orders its chaplains to put its Bibles away, not to pray in Jesus' name, not to counsel people on the issues of sexual morality.”

“When you have this attitude that is more about promoting gay marriage and gay rights in the military than it is about being able to protect religious liberty for those people of faith,” Huckabee said, “it’s going to be hard to find people that are truly devoted people of faith and Christian believers and Orthodox Jews and others.”

Interesting that only Orthodox Jews count as "people of faith." The rest of Huckabee's comment is pure bullshit.

Military chaplains are not there to proselytize. They are charged with counseling those of all faiths -- there's even a section in their manual on Wiccan practices, although there are apparently no Wiccan chaplains. (Here's a nice litle story about what happened to the first chaplain to try to change his affiliation to Wiccan.)

And of course, it's in the states that you're going to find the most rapid theocrats. Let's teach Christianity in the public schools!

"What you don’t know is that yesterday, the imam prayed. That one didn’t make the press. You see, when we’re not willing to defend our God in the public square, we shouldn’t be surprised when others try to replace Him. When we fail to teach it in the public school, the history of this nation, the God mentioned in our Declaration, the Supreme Being mentioned in the preamble of this constitution of the state. And we not only don’t teach it, but we suppress it and refuse to allow it to be taught.

We shouldn’t be surprised when others do differently and expect differently and think that religion is just about equality, because it’s not,. There’s only one true God. And the Bible’s quite clear about what happens when we refuse to tell the truth and we allow others to tell a wrong truth. That’s where we’re at. We’ve been neglectful, we’ve been very neglectful. So no one even spoke about the imam being there yesterday or the Muslims that were all around the center of the capitol, talking and evangelizing about their way of life.

Do they have that freedom? Absolutely. But the shame is that so little people know the truth about the heritage, the Christian heritage — I’m sorry, Mr. President, but we are, we were a Christian nation and we were founded on Christian values."

All straight out of the echo chamber in which she was raised. Do I really need to rebut this nonsense?

Fasten your seat belts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marriage News Watch, April 20, 2015

I've rounded up the weirdest Supreme Court briefs that argue in favor of preventing gays and lesbians from marrying. Some are full of mistakes, others have baffling arguments. And at least one is incredibly sexist, and signed by a member of Congress.

Desperately hoping something sticks to the wall.

Here's yet another one, from fifteen state attorneys general.

One thing that strikes me, reading through a number of these briefs, is that they all start, as they must, with the "Questions Presented," the two questions the Court said it wanted responses to. (Except for NOM's amicus brief -- NOM rewrote the questions.) Those two questions are:

1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

And then they lay out arguments based on reproductive biology, "vox populi", tradition, natural law, and a whole resale shop full of bizarre arguments (including one brief about Alfred Kinsey, for some reason), and nothing about the Fourteenth Amendment.

Question: Is it reading comprehension, or attention span?

Stupid Tweet du Jour

This is actually from yesterday: it's über-blowhard Bryan Fischer's response to Marco Rubio's statement that he thinks gays are born that way.*

WTF is "anti-genetics credibility"?

*Rubio still thinks marriage should be reserved for straights. The whole argument is nonsense anyway, as far as civil rights are concerned -- although I'll be willing to reconsider when someone discovers the "Christian" gene.

So how's that for a bargain? Two idiots in one post.

Sidebar: In some comment thread or other -- I've forgotten where it was -- some nitpicking genius made the breathtaking announcement that sexual orientation is not genetic, it's epigenetic. News flash: for all practical purposes, it's the same thing.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Image of the Week: Oops, Did It Again!

Yesterday was so beautiful, I couldn't wait to get out, so of course I forgot to post an image.

I've been playing with edges, which right now means a series I'm calling "Skylines." Here's one:

It occurs to me that my images these days are based as much on color field painting as Garry Winogrand or Todd Papageorge.

Go figure.

Here's another, not in the "Skylines" series:

Hmm -- looks like the edges are invading the center.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hardball Diplomacy

Laurent Stefanini
I don't know if you've been following the adventures of France's new nominee for Ambassador to the Holy See, but it's been interesting:

Last January, the Council of Ministers appointed Laurent Stefanini, (photo above) a 55-year-old career foreign service officer who is openly gay, to be France's ambassador to the Vatican. That post, to the historic Villa Bonaparte Embassy in Rome, is considered a plum assignment, often given as a reward for years of service by members of France's diplomatic corps.

The Vatican was notified of the new ambassador in early January, and the ambassadorship has been vacant for more than a month now, but Stefanini has yet to be credentialed by the Vatican. Reports are Pope Francis himself personally rejected the posting, telling members of the Curia that he would not yield.

This, apparently, is the way things are done at the Vatican: no outright refusal to accept the Ambassador's credentials, just silence. In the good old days, after a certain period of non-response, the nomination would be withdrawn and a substitute named. But that was the good old days:

France has announced it will not rescind the nomination of Laurent Stefanini as its ambassador to the Vatican. Speculation is that French officials have determined to force Pope Francis to either accept Msr. Stefanini's appointment or openly reject it for all the world to see.

A government spokesman, Stephane LeFoll, told France24:

"France has chosen its ambassador to the Vatican. This choice was Stefanini and that remains the French proposal. ...We are awaiting the response from the Vatican."

I'm with France -- if the Pope is going to reject the nomination, let him do it openly.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out -- the article notes that "negotiations are underway."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Culture Break: New Order, "True Faith"

There's a story here, of a sort: this is a song that I have heard over the years every once in a while, inevitably over the sound system in some establishment where the staff have no idea what's playing. Well, I walked into a local resale shop recently and there it was, coming over the sound system. I asked. They checked. And so, Dear Reader, we bring you New Order's "True Faith."

And since I know nothing about the band (during the '80s I was listening to mostly classical music), this is what Wikipedia has to say -- or the beginning of what Wikipedia has to say:

New Order are an English rock band formed in 1980 and currently consisting of Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert, Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman. The band was formed in 1980 by Sumner (vocals, guitars, keyboards and synthesisers), Peter Hook (bass and vocals) and Morris (drums, electronic drums, keyboards and synthesisers) – the remaining members of Joy Division, following the suicide of vocalist Ian Curtis – with the addition of Gilbert (keyboards, synthesisers and guitars).

By combining post-punk and electronic dance music, New Order became one of the most critically acclaimed and influential bands of the 1980s.

And now, to the reason for this post:

Today's Must Read: It's the Economy, Stupid (Redux) (Update, Update II)

Very good, concise view of a recent study on income inequality and its effects on the economy -- which, of course, anyone who stops to think for a minute will realize is not good:

The United States has a private economy, but relies on public spending to guarantee a (low) floor of economic wellbeing. And it’s no secret that, for decades, private companies have taken advantage of that public floor to pay workers less than what they’re worth.

But now that fact has a number: $153,000,000,000. According to a new study from UC Berkeley, highlighted by the Washington Post, that’s how much taxpayers spend in public assistance every year on families that are also receiving a paycheck.

These are families that don’t want to be on TANF or SNAP, and don’t want to be shamed by the GOP for not qualifying for the federal income tax, but the jobs they hold down aren’t paying them enough in wages to make ends meet on their own.

The favorite targets on something like this are WalMart and McDonald's, and they certainly are egregious scrooges when it comes to paying their employees a living wage, but it's a fairly widespread phenomenon. Apple, for example, brags about creating over a million jobs in the past few years -- and then as you scroll down, you notice that Apple's employees in the U.S. number 66,000. The number is significantly higher -- as in, an order of magnitude higher -- overseas, counting in Apple's suppliers. It makes good sense from their point of view, which has little or nothing to do with the state of the American worker. Come to think of it, it's not so great for the Chinese worker, either. And they're not alone.

Read the whole thing. There are also some good comments.

And add to that this post from Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo which notes a key observation from Robert Reich:

In recent decades Republicans have made a moral case for less government and lower taxes on the rich, based on their idea of “freedom.”

They talk endlessly about freedom but they never talk about power. But it’s power that’s askew in America –concentrated power that’s constraining the freedom of the vast majority.

Update: Factor in this:

It’s hard to comprehend the thinking of people who cut funding for homeless and hungry children. It may be delusion about trickle-down, it may be indifference to poverty, it may be resentment toward people unable to “make it on their own.”

The indifference and resentment and disdain for society reach around the globe. Only two nations still refuse to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: South Sudan and the United States.

Maybe it makes them feel powerful.

Update II: Of course, the Republicans have a solution to the problem:

GOP leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) have begun to recognize that the vast gap between rich and poor is detrimental — and to blame the problem on President Obama. Their solution, so far, has been to propose cuts of hundreds of billions of dollars from food stamps, Pell grants, Medicaid and other programs for those without means — and, on Tax Day, to give $269 billion to the few who already have the most.

That'll fix it, all right.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marriage News Watch, April 13, 2015

We have more details about the Supreme Court arguments at the end of the month. The National Organization for Marriage has fumbled yet another brief. And two public officials are suing for the right to discriminate.

I commented on NOM's "amicus brief" here.

Today's Must Read: It's Not All Christians


John Pavlovitz . . . is an 18-year local church ministry veteran.

He is currently the pastor of a house church community called North Wake House Church, and also a volunteer at North Raleigh Community Church.

He is married to wife, Jennifer, and has two young children, Noah and Selah. He’s also a keen blogger, and a blog that he posted last week – entitled ‘If I Have Gay Children: Four Promises From A Christian Pastor/Parent’ has gone viral and prompted thousands of comments.

The reason? Because he believes he would treat his LGBTI children with exactly the same love and support as if they were straight, and would pray that they weren’t the victims of ignorance or hatred.

You can read his original blog post at the link. Do it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Over the Top and Through the Looking Glass

It's time for the Through the Looking Glass Award, and we've got a couple of candidates this morning.

First, the "Family" "Research" Council, on Day Four of their twenty-one day prayer and fasting vigil leading up to oral arguments in Obergefell et al. before the Supreme Court. This one's good:

Today, we must pray for each member and the collective court:

-- May those Justices who fear God, prepare and rule in the fear of God (2 Sam 23:3),

-- May the literal fear of God fall upon those Justices who do not fear Him.

-- May the Fear of God be upon each member’s staff: their clerks, their assistants, their friends, their families and all who influence them.

-- May they collectively sense the very power and presence of God hovering over them, warning them of his righteousness and justice; warning them that they must give an account to the Supreme Judge of the World for their actions.

-- May they receive visions and dreams like Abimelech, Pharaoh, Pilate’s wife, Belshazzar; Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, warning them of what will come to pass if they rule wrongly in this important case. May they be shown the consequences of their decision.

-- And finally, may they, like Balaam, who was warned by God’s voice not to take an assignment from Balak, to curse the Jews, be rebuked supernaturally as Balaam was, by a dumb donkey speaking, and an angel of the Lord, his sword drawn, ready to kill Balaam. When he met Balak to fulfil his contract, he could only speak the words God commanded him – to “bless and not curse” the Jews. May that power fall upon the entire court, in such a way that those who now lack the fear of God will be moved by the fear of God to vote in a way they would not otherwise have voted. Take the time to read 1Samuel 22-24, and God will stir you to pray. Read all of Hebrews 11 and He will give you faith to believe for Him to move upon these men and women in miraculous ways.

Prayers like we’ve always prayed will not do today, this is life or death. In Acts 4:23-31.

God has supernaturally intervened to save America at crucial moments throughout our history, and had he not, our nation would not even exist today.

I have to say, a religion founded in fear doesn't really inspire a lot of respect -- at least not from me, but then, I don't respond well to authority.

But, "God has supernaturally intervened"? I'd really like to see some evidence of that -- and I don't mean one of David Barton's fantasies.

And just exactly how is someone else's marriage a matter of "life or death"?

And if you want to do some interpretation of the story of Balaam, which group is a better fit for the Jews?

And, again regarding Obergefell, et al., another amicus brief, from a group of "religious organizations". This section is just overflowing with something:

Representative democracy matters to religious organizations and people of faith.

Unless the vote doesn't go their way, in which case, they run to -- you guessed it -- the courts. (I understand someone's still trying to overturn same-sex marriage in New York.)

Their capacity to build communities where their values are respected and their ways of life protected depends on the plu­ralism that our democratic institutions foster and secure. The fundamental liberty of religious believers to participate with other free citizens in deliberating about and shaping the character of their common destiny has been protected by this Court’s determina­tion to read the Constitution as a charter for “people of fundamentally differing views.”

Considering the lack of tolerance on the part of these organizations for "fundamentally differing views," this is beyond laughable. We are talking about denominations that have spend a great deal of energy and resources attempting to deny equal rights to others throughout their histories.

To de­clare an unprecedented constitutional right to same-sex marriage would deny people of faith who support traditional marriage the liberty to participate as equal citizens in deciding which values and policies will govern their communities.

First, I have to ask whether any of the groups filing as amici on this side of the question have any capacity for reading comprehension at all. This is not about whether there is a consitutional right to same-sex marriage, but, as the Court quite plainly stated, it's about whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to treat same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples in regard to marriage laws. As to their liberty to "participate as equal citizens," see my previous comment.

We urge the Court to trust the people and their democratic institutions to resolve the marriage issue, as it has on other divisive issues so many times.

Right -- just the way those democratic institutions resolved the divisive issues of slavery, segregation, voting rights, women's rights, interracial marriage, stuff like that.

I'm hard put to decide which of these efforts is more deserving of the Through the Looking Glass Award. Care to offer an opinion?

Friday, April 10, 2015

Image du Jour

Let's see, what's in the picture files today?

Geese, from Bernice. They're always here, but they seem to be everywhere these days. And they'll always find time to tidy up.

Headline du Jour

Via Joe.My.God.:

The article.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Culture Break: Icehouse, "Love in Motion"

The song is titled on the videos as "No Promises," but on the album it's "Love in Motion," so that's what I'm using.

There are songs songs that grab you right away. Some of them stay with you. I first heard this one in a bar in the late-1980s-early 1990s, had no idea who it was, so I asked. Wound up buying a couple of Icehouse albums. Icehouse was, basically, Iva Davies and whoever was working with him at the time. And yes, it's Australian.

Today's Press Release from NOM

Sorry -- excuse me: they're calling it an amicus curiae brief. It just reads like a press release, starting with NOM's version of the questions to be argued:


1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to redefine marriage and license a marriage between two people of the same sex, contrary to express, recently reaffirmed vote of the people of the state?

2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex performed out of state, when doing so is contrary to the state’s own fundamental policy decision?

The questions the court actually wanted addressed are as follows:

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

It goes downhill from there. The whole brief is at the first link above. I may come back to it -- it's a cloudy, nasty day, so I may get bored enough to pick it apart.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Tony Perkins Award

I haven't awarded this one in a while, but today's example is so egregious, it deserves special mention. And the winner is, none other than Tony Perkins:

Appearing on Newsmakers Sunday, Perkins claimed that there is no Biblical foundation for racial discrimination, but claimed marriage as a Biblical institution which is therefore governed by Biblical principles reserving marriage for one man and one woman. Therefore, Perkins argues, it is perfectly reasonable to allow businesses to discriminate based upon their religious beliefs. . . .

Even the Family Research Council amicus brief doesn't argue that. Instead, it uses the same argument used to discriminate on the basis of race in the Loving case. Worse yet, they claim in their brief that the laws in states which define marriage as between one man and one woman weren't intended to discriminate against LGBT couples. That was just a happy accident!

Not only is he a bald-faced liar -- the Bible is replete with examples of racial and ethnic bias, not only implied but overt -- but he doesn't even bother to try to adhere to his own organizations amicus brief. (Of course, he doesn't mention it, because it doesn't reflect the lie du jour.) And considering Perkins' long ties with white supremacists, the irony is palpable.

Click through and read the whole post -- there's video, which I can't embed, and there are some good rebuttals of everything Perkins says.

The Perfect Response

I'd love to see this sort of thing spread:

Daintree Paper, a handmade paper shop in Dublin, has launched the campaign ahead of the country’s referendum on same-sex marriage on May 22.

Extreme anti-gay leaflets have been distributed by groups ahead of the referendum, with some claiming that being gay will give you cancer, and equal marriage “exposes” children to the “sounds of Sodomy”.

In reaction to the deluge of leaflets, Daintree have begun to offer a special service – shredding the anti-gay literature and re-purposing it as wedding confetti for same-sex couples.

The company has appealed to members of the public to forward them any homophobic literature they receive, with the proceeds from the confetti sales going to campaign group Yes Equality.

You Know You're Losing

When most of your Congressional representatives are jumping ship:

Six U.S. senators and 51 U.S. House members have signed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage, the AP reports.

So, how is this jumping ship? Well, out of 435 members of the House, 247 were Republicans as of December 31. (Since then, two Republicans have resigned and one died.) And as for the Senate, out of 100 senators, 54 are Republicans. You do the math.

But wait -- it gets better:

Last month over 300 Republicans, including 23 current and former GOP congressional members, signed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of marriage equality.

Looks like the tide has turned.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Marriage News Watch, April 6, 2015

Michigan says that they don't want to let gay people get married because that would be demeaning to gay people. Kentucky says that their marriage ban isn't discriminatory, since LGBTs are free to get straight-married. Ohio wants to maintain its marriage ban out of concern for the people who voted for it. And Tennessee is just fixated on sex.

The oral arguments before the Supreme Court should be an absolute scream.

Gays vs. Christians?

The debate over Indiana's "religious freedom" law has drawn in stark relief a meme that's been around for awhile: it's gays and their allies (which apparently include everyone except evangelical Christians) against Christianity. Now, anyone who stops to think for a minute is going to realize this is bullshit. I've run across a couple of posts in the past few days that point this up quite clearly.

Max Mills, in a very erudite post at AmericaBlog, goes through and discusses the very few references to homosexuality in the Bible, and how they have been interpreted -- or misinterpreted. He starts off with "abomination":

The Hebrew word, to’ebah, is most accurately understood to mean “that which goes against the accepted order”. Dr. Friedman offers several examples in his book, The Bible Now:

“…in the Bible the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they are cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians do not eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and do not find it offensive. See also the story of the exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (tō‘ēbāh) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

He gives several more examples, all of which point to the fact that the "abominations" in the Old Testament are really no more than things that depart from accepted custom.

He also gives us the real story on the "sin of Sodom."

In a post at Mahablog, Barbara O'Brien points up an essential fact:

A number of religious groups, including Christian ones, have spoken out in opposition of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law and call it plain old bigotry. Here’s a roundup. I’d already mentioned the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Indiana Episcopal diocese, and other denominations speaking out in support of equal treatment for LGBT people include the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. I’m betting the BJCRL doesn’t include Southern Baptists, but still … also the Unitarian Universalists, the Sikh Coalition, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

The dichotomy we’re seeing is a faction of hyper-reactionary religionists — some of whom are about as genuinely religious as the Las Vegas strip — versus everybody else. Let’s keep that straight.

Both posts are worth reading in full.

Now, the lesson to be learned from this is one that I've found myself repeating again and again lately, to the point where I'm getting a little tired of it, but here it is again, with a slight variation: In the sacred texts, teachings, and doctrines of any religion, you can find something to justify what you wanted to do anyway -- or something that can be interpreted to justify what you wanted to do.

I'm also a bit more cynical about motivations, and just want to point out that for some -- Family Research Council, American Family Association, National Organization for Marriage -- anti-gay is a big cash cow. I point this out because in American politics, it's always a good idea to follow the money if you want to know what's really going on.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

About Reviews

Another couple of updates of things newly republished at Sleeping Hedgehog, and discovering that eBay has really screwed up my Epinions reviews: half the links on the Reviews pages no longer work, and the only way you can find some of them is to go to my profile page and scroll through. (And I just discovered that I can't even link to my profile page any more.)

I'm considering uploading them to pages here from my own files, but I'm not sure I'm ready to start that yet. I still have most of the older GMR things to get through.

It's going to be a long summer.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Coming Soon: Daredevil

On Netflix, April 10:

I'm planning on watching it. Daredevil is one of those characters who interests me, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the series has done with him.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

On Backlash and Tipping Points (Update, Update II)

The backlash on Indiana's RFRA keeps growing -- I've lost count of how many cities and states have banned official travel to Indiana, of how many corporations have threatened to cancel programs, expansions, and new business in the state (you can check out Joe.My.God., Towleroad, and/or The New Civil Rights Movement to get the latest reports -- Update: WaPo has published a handy list) -- hell, even NASCAR has condemned the bill -- and how many other high-profile condemnations have come out -- to the extent that Indiana legislators are scrambling to find a fix that will take off some of the heat.

And Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has sent their version of the RFRA back for amendments.

OK, I've discussed the backlash and some of the possible reasons for it, but one thing jumped out at me in reading through the news that makes me think the tipping point is stronger than we thought: it's even working its way into major league baseball:

Oakland A's star pitcher Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend have offered buy the tickets from fans that object to attending the team's upcoming first-ever LGBT Pride Night at the Oakland Coliseum. Doolittle's girlfriend has two moms and she writes:

If attending a baseball game on LGBT Pride Night makes you at all uncomfortable, it is probably a good idea to sell your tickets. And I have the perfect buyer. ME! If you'd like to sell your tickets to June 17th's LGBT Pride Night game, I will buy them from you at face value. As many as I can. No judgments. No questions asked. From there, I will donate any tickets I purchase to the Bay Area Youth Center's Our Space community for LGBTQ youth.

And, in what I can only take as a "SuhNAP!" to the bigots, the city of Madison, WI, has amended its human rights ordinance to include atheists as a protected class.

This starts to be about more than a rejection of anti-gay bigotry: it's starting to look like a wholesale rejection of the "Christian" right's entire agenda. After all, when you've got such lucid, rational spokesmen as Rafael Cruz, Sr., on your side. . . .

It looks more and more as though Anti-Gay, Inc., had better start looking for a new business model.

Sidebar: David Neiwert points out that some segments of the "religious community" are looking at these bills very carefully -- and drooling.

The furor over recent "religious freedom" bills being passed in various states -- particularly Indiana, with similar viruses festering in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas -- has caught the attention, I'm sure, of a certain class of religious believers.

Namely, the people whose own religious faith, such as it is, dictates a belief in the supremacy of the white race and the diminution and demonization of all non-white races. They are real, they do exist, and they go by such names as the Christian Identity movement or its Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, or the Creativity Movement, aka the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC).

I suspect that the only reason the backers of these bills in places like Indiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, Georgia will be bothered by this is that it's going to make them look worse than they already do. That is, if they think that far ahead, which is questionable.

Update II: See this post at Mahablog on how the reaction just isn't sinking in: It's all the fault of "the secular left" -- like NASCAR, Disciples of Christ, and the Episcopal Church.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Culture Break: Dead Can Dance, "The Lotus Eaters"

I've been a sort-of fan of Dead Can Dance for quite some time. "The Lotus Eaters" is one of my favorites by them. The video's not the smoothest, but the sound is pretty good:

This one was included in their "best of" album, Wake, which, of course, I reviewed -- a couple of times. You can find both reviews on the "Reviews: Music" page.

Today's Must Read

Amanda Marcotte has an excellent analysis at TPM of how the religious right has managed to co-opt the idea of "religious liberty" to mean its exact opposite.

Up until recently, most of us seemed to understand that the best way to maximize religious freedom for everyone was to stay in your own lane: You can choose what to believe yourself, but if you start trying to force your beliefs on others, that is when a line has been crossed. And while conservatives grumbled about it, there was widespread acceptance of the idea that “force” meant more than just government force. An employer trying to force his employees to follow his religious rules, for instance, was violating religious freedom. A shop owner who refused to serve Jews would also be considered in violation (in most people’s eyes, at least).

She goes on. As I said, a must read.