"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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Culture Break: Linkin Park: Skin to Bone

In honor of the House Select Witch-Hunt Committee:

Skin to bone, steel to rust
Ash to ashes, dust to dust
Will tomorrow have it's way
With the promises we made
Skin to Bone, steel to rust

Ash to ashes, dust to dust
Your deception, my disgust
When your name is finally drawn
I'll be happy that you're gone
Ash to ashes, dust to dust

(Aaah) Ash to ashes, dust to dust
(Aaah) Skin to bone and steel to rust

Right to left, left to right
Night to day and day to night
As the starlight fades to gray
I'll be watching far away
Right to left and left to right

(Aaah) Ash to ashes, dust to dust
(Aaah) Skin to bone and steel to rust

Will tomorrow have it's way
With the darkness it betrayed?
Skin to bone and steel to rust


So, there's another report:

Credit: Cagle Cartoons

(Via Crooks and Liars)

The report itself is a big, fat nothing:

Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

The report goes on to blame everyone except Congress, which repeatedly denied requests from the State Department for funds for additional security for embassies and consulates.

Ambassador Chris Stevens' family has the right take. From Ann Stevens, the Ambassador's sister:
It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.

And don't forget this:

Never, ever forget that this wasn't just some random effort to smear Hillary Clinton. It was planned, it was timed, it included meetings at midnight between Darrell Issa and right-wingers like Family Research Council's General Jerry Boykin, Justice Clarence Thomas' wife Ginni Thomas, and a whole host of others. The media timing was planned for maximum damage to Hillary Clinton, and executed by outlets like Breitbart News and more.

The very existence of the Select Committee with unlimited subpoena power was all part of the plan. If it wasn't Benghazi, it would have been something else. And we have all of this, on audio and in emails. All of it, through early 2013. The facts about Benghazi were known to all, but they went ahead and spent $7 million anyway to manufacture claims that they could not prove.

Well, back to the private e-mail server.

Giggle du Jour

Brian Brown has finally sent out a press release on Saturday's March for Marriage, and it's -- well, a sample:

I’m writing with great news — the 2016 March for Marriage this past Saturday in Washington was a tremendous success! We had about 400 people join us at the rally and march and they were an enthusiastic and inspiring group of supporters!

Many families came together to march. One family I spoke with drove down from Philadelphia. Another family came from Long Island. We had people join us from as far away as Utah and California. I met people from throughout the north east and the south. One supporter even came from Sri Lanka to be with us! In short it was a great event! You can see some photos here.

Sri Lanka?

Joe comments:

This, despite a physical head-count by ThinkProgress showing that only 237 people turned out. And that count included babies, passersby, counter-protesters, and the media.

Brown's losing steam. In past years, 237 would have translated into an "official" count of at least 5,000.

Quote du Jour

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Two Must-Reads

The first, from Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin, on Stonewall and what it means.

It’s kind of like the story about Paul Revere’s ride and the Battle of Lexington. Or the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving. Or the story about Christ in the manger or Adam and Even in the Garden. What actually happened that day matters relatively little because Stonewall has gone way beyond all those mundane details. It has become our origin myth. And like all origin myths, it’s all about the idea of what happened when that world began: a police raid on a dingy and not particularly popular mafia-owned gay bar, people who had nothing to lose and who fought back, a community that organized against all odds and marched, and kept marching for more than four decades to bring us where we are today. It all traces back, like a straight line — at least in our imagination — to that hot Friday night on Christopher Street.

As you might imagine, the origin myth idea resonates with me in a big way. (And I'm chagrined that I didn't spot that right away. Me, of all people.) He's right: human beings are myth-makers; it's how we find our place in a universe that is much bigger than we are.

This, in particular, relates to my post of yesterday, at least the part about the so-called "whitewashing" of Stonewall:

As is true with all origin myths, this one gets recast with each generation’s telling, complete with new heroes. Last summer, the semi-fictionalized Stonewall movie, which bombed at the box office, was criticized for “whitewashing” the rioters and “erasing” other minority communities who were out that night. That criticism was part of a newer re-telling of Stonewall, where some argue that it was a specifically transgender uprising and a specifically people-of-color movement. Gay white men, that argument goes, have stolen the real history of Stonewall.

People who were actually there in 1969, including two leading transgender activists, dispute that. Dana Bryer wrote, “I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night, too, and the streets were overwhelmingly filled with white men (which included the way I was perceived back then, too).” Lesbian activist Robin Tyler added, “I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night. The majority of protesters were white gay men.”
But of course, transgender people were there. So were people of color. And women. Some were all three, and more. All of that is true. And it’s also true that history is typically recorded from a white male viewpoint. And so ensuring that history is accurately recorded matters a lot, as does making sure it is comprehensively recorded.

Yet the arguments over “whitewashing” (or historical revisionisms to accommodate political imperatives, depending on your perspective) miss the far bigger picture. Because Stonewall has become our creation myth, we all have a natural human need to see ourselves, directly, in that story. Just as Ethiopian Orthodox Christians have for millennia painted their icons depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as Africans, just as Asian missionaries gave the saints Asian facial features, just as Egyptian Coptics drew the martyrs and prophets (perhaps most accurately) as inhabitants of a harsh Mideast desert, and just as Caucasians around the world turned their prayerful gaze upon a Nordic blue-eyed Jesus, we too, in our rich diversity, also need to see ourselves in our foundational story. Those very parochial responses are powerful illustrations of the truly universal ways those stories speak to us. As I said, no impulse could ever be more human.

What we seem to have here, at least in terms of myth and metaphor (and the two are intimately related) is a collision between versions of the creation story. One hopes that eventually they will settle out into a version that includes all of us. (To go back to my original contention about the film Stonewall: It's fiction, and by that measure contributes to the myth-making. It's not "history" and never claimed to be, so as far as I'm concerned, the cries of "whitewashing" are out of place.)

The second is not about myth-making, but establishing a benchmark. The Supreme Court yesterday handed down its decision in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt Et Al striking down Texas' law restricting access to abortions.

As Tara Culp-Ressler notes, this decision is likely to have a significant impact across the country, and it’s easy to see why. Laws such as the one that was before the Court in this case are on the books in twenty-five other states. While many of them are in one stage or another of Federal Court review, they have yet to proceed as far as the Texas law has. This ruling means that their legal journey is effectively at an an end, and that those laws that have not been challenged as of yet are likely to find themselves being challenged as unconstitutional as well. The outcome of those cases would seem to be rather obvious. This means that a significant legislative strategy of the anti-abortion/pro-life movement is now cut off, leaving them searching for a new strategy to try to restrict access to abortion while not running afoul of the law. Today, the Supreme Court made clear just how difficult that is going to be.

What the court did in Whole Women's Health was to clarify the "undue burden" requirement established in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, mandating a much tighter reading of the concept with much less deference to legislatures' stated (as opposed to real) motivations. Oh, yes, this is going to have repercussions.

Monday, June 27, 2016

And History Repeats Itself

Two stories that caught my attention this morning (well, over the past couple of days, but I was focused on other things).

First, this, from Towleroad:

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, gay state Senator Mark Leno, and gay SF Supervisor Scott Weiner were booed off stage at a kickoff event for the annual Trans March in San Francisco, KRON reports:

“My first year in Sacramento, we added gender identity to the Fair Employment Housing Act,” state Sen. Mark Leno said.

But he was mooned by a heckler and booed by several others. Openly gay state Sen. Leno was yelled off the stage, as was Scott Weiner, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and also openly gay, and Lee.

Lee and Weiner didn’t even have a chance to speak.

“Though this has not been a warm welcome or one of respect, I will continue to fight for transgender rights, equality, and the respect that you’re not giving us today,” Leno said.

This is what caught my eye:

“I’m upset because I’m a Trans woman who has a lot of Trans friends who are homeless, and I’m tired of people using our community as a prop, a political prop,” Ashley Love said. “I’m tired of white, gay men riding the Stonewall movie and reducing Trans women of color to secondary props, to historical props, to social props, political props. I’m tired of politicians coming here for 5 minutes, do a little sound bite, and run off, but do they really care about us?”

I've seen this before: in the 1970s-80s, I watched the New Left take over the gay rights movement, which up until then had been pretty well focused and pretty effective. All of a sudden, it was "Yes, we'll work on equal rights for gays and lesbians, but first we have to end war and world hunger." It took a decade and the AIDS epidemic to regain momentum. Now, suddenly, the trans rights movement has to take on homelessness.

And as for white gay men "whitewashing" Stonewall, read this:

Two longtime LGBT leaders/activists, who were at the Stonewall uprisings, one transgender and one lesbian, have just weighed in publicly. Here’s what they witnessed that night.

Trans leader Dana Beyer writes:

“I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night, too, and the streets were overwhelmingly filled with white men (which included the way I was perceived back then, too).”

Lesbian activist Robin Tyler:

“I was there [at the Stonewall Uprising] the second night. The majority of protesters were white gay men. And a lot of people were very upset about the death of Judy Garland and their grief turned into anger. We talked about it.”

All the documentary evidence, eyewitness accounts, what have you, point to the fact that the majority of the demonstrators/rioters were white gay men. As Aravosis points out, yes, there were trans people of color, mostly trans women, heavily involved, front and center, but let's not have a lot of bullshit about "whitewashing."

It's worth noting that the controversy was sparked by a two-minute trailer.

Pat Cordova-Goff, an 18-year-old who describes herself as a “trans woman of color” and a student at Citrus College in Glendora, Calif., created the Gay-Straight Alliance Network petition calling for a boycott of “Stonewall” after watching the trailer. The petition has now racked up more than 24,100 signatures.

And, strangely enough, we hear from Ashley Love again:

“Seeing the film in its entirety was disappointing in how once again white gay men reduce trans women of color down to historical, social and political props,” said Ashley Love, 35, a journalist and coordinator with the education group Stonewalling Accurate & Inclusive Depictions. Describing herself as a black and Latina woman of transsexual history, she said that the film further highlighted “issues of classism, trans-misogyny, anti-blackness, Hollywood trans-face casting, misgendering, identity appropriation and transparent propaganda.”

What I'm hearing is a lot of ideologically generated bullshit, backed by a desire to be in the spotlight.

And, for the love of all that's holy, the film is not a documentary, it's fiction.

What I'm seeing in both these stories is ideological (read "moral") purity overtake all other considerations. (Fiction is supposed to reflect your agenda? Since when?) I saw it in the '80s, with the rise of the New Left and its "politically correct" approach to everything, and if you look real hard (actually, not all that hard), you'll find it on the anti-gay right, and in fact, the contemporary conservative movement (which shares with the fringe left the inability to differentiate fiction from reality).

And that approach is self-defeating. By all means, boo the people who are in the best position to help advance your cause, and boycott a movie that's going to do more to raise awareness than you're ever going to do. That will be real effective, won't it?

Oops -- Happy Belated Pride Day

Yesterday was Chicago's Pride Parade, and by all reports, it was, as usual, a huge success. (And I mean "huge," and not in the Trump sense: over the past several years, Pride has drawn a million people, making it one of the largest in the world.) And, as expected, the predicted storms did not happen: in 47 years, it has never rained on Chicago's Parade. (There have been years when the morning started with downpours, but the skies always clear up by the time the Parade starts.)

And the date this year was especially significant: on June, 26, 2003, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Lawrence vs. Texas, voiding all sodomy laws; on June 26, 2013, the Court found Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, thanks to Edie Windsor; and on June 26, 2015, the Court found, in Obergefell v. Snyder, that same-sex couples have the same right to marry the person of their choice as anyone else.

As for me, I'm past the point where standing in 90 degree heat with a million of my closest friends for several hours to watch a parade is appealing. I went downtown and tried to work on other things, which is another story.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Today's Must-Read

Josh Marshall's thoughts on Brexit, Trumpism, and the similarities and differences:

Put simply, Trumpism and the greater arc of rightist politics in the US in recent years seems to follow this pattern. A declining but still very large fraction of the population which feels that it is losing power, wealth and something between ethnic familiarity and dominance to rising segments of the society. To map this on to the specifics of US society this pits a one group that is both older and whiter against another that is generally younger and less white.

Two points are worth recognizing about this deep social and political cleavage. First, this rebellion on the right is based not on strength but on weakness, the loss of power, control, demographic dominance, privilege. Second, in key respects it is an accurate perception of the change overtaking America.

I think this goes way back, to the Civil Rights movement of the '60s and the social movements that have come after -- women's rights, gay rights, the increasing presence of non-white minorities, and the slow but steady excision of religious assumptions from our civil law. It's no longer the white, Protestant America that people assume is the only possible America.

And I think this dissatisfaction has been manipulated to direct it against the wrong targets: it's not Mexican immigrants who are "stealing" American jobs, it's the corporations who are moving them to Chinese sweatshops and who have enough influence in government to push trade deals that benefit them and no one else. It's easy to point to feminists, gays, immigrants as the cause, when those groups are tangential at most. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Read Marshall's take. It's interesting, but I don't think it's the whole picture.

And speaking of Brexit, we're seeing some buyer's remorse.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Saturday Science: Earth, a Biography: Two Concepts and a Calendar

We have living organisms, although no one is really sure how that happened. But, before I get into that discussion, I want to introduce a couple of things that are critically important.

First, plate tectonics, also known as continental drift. We're at a point where we have landmasses and oceans on a planet that is still geologically very active. Those landmasses, which we will call "continents," move around. They still do, because the planet is still active. Earth's crust is divided into plates that are subject to the influences of convection currents in the planet's mantle, that layer of molten rock between the crust and the core. Where the currents rise, the crust splits -- what we call "rifts." Where the currents sink, so do the edges of the plates -- subduction: in other words, the edge of one plate moves under the edge of the adjoining plate, leading to lots of earthquakes, volcanoes and things like the Himalayes, the Andes, the Rockies -- pretty much every mountain range that ever existed. (It is possible for mountain ranges to be created other ways -- such as when the crust moves over a "hot spot" -- the Hawaiian Islands and the Galapagos are good examples: they're really huge mountains -- sea mounts -- created as the crust moved over a hot spot on the ocean floor.)

It's worth remembering that the plates are not static. In addition to moving around, they split and combine over time. Here's a nice animation of the movement of landmasses over time, created by a user named Algol at YouTube:

You'll notice that there seems to be a lot more land at the end of the video than there was at the beginning. In part this is due to fluctuations in sea level, but of more import, I think, is the fact that more land was being created by volcanic eruptions: a lot of that molten rock from the interior is now on the surface. However, in spite of all this activity, we can still find rocks that date nearly to the creation of the planet.

Continental drift is important because continents moving around have a huge influence on climate. One of the Great Extinctions resulted from a large continental mass moving over the South Pole, which lowered global temperatures and sea levels as the water in the oceans became locked into snow and glaciers. And climate is a key element of the environment to which organisms must adapt -- climate, along with geography, determines whether a given area is desert, rain forest, savannah, or whatever. If I can, I'll include maps showing the contemporaneous distribution of continents as we go along.

The second thing is evolution. In spite of what you've been told by your creationist uncle, evolution does not have a thing to do with the origin of life. It kicks in once life has already happened. One thing I'd like to point out about how it works: all too often, we hear people say (even people who should know better) say that such and such an organism evolved to fit such and such an environment. Not really. In fact, that's just about the opposite of what happens.

Evolution happens in populations, and thanks to sex, populations have a fair amount of genetic variability -- some individuals will have traits that others lack and vice-versa. (We'll get to sex later -- it hasn't happened yet.) One or a combination of these traits may allow an individual to take advantage of a new environment. The descendants of that individual will, for the most part, possess that trait and are more successful at exploiting that environment than their fellows who lack that trait. This is what Darwin meant by "natural selection": the environment exerts selection pressure that favors certain traits over others. This will eventually lead to the appearance of new species and, early on, to new orders of life. Remember, we all started out as a single-celled organism.

And in that regard, I will probably be including from time to time what are called "cladograms" -- diagrams that show the descent of various groups from common ancestors, based on what we know about their relationships from genetics, morphology, biochemistry, and the fossil record. The image to the left is a sample of what a cladogram looks like -- I think this one is mostly concerned with fishes.

I should also mention here geologic eras. Earth's history is divided into sections (as you might well imagine -- 4.5 billion years can be pretty much unmanageable without some markers along the way). The largest are eons, which may be composed of several eras; subdivisions of eras are named periods, and further subdivisions, the smallest segments, are called epochs. The Hadean Era, which we've already encountered, is usually considered part of the Precambrian, which is where we are. (I'm probably not going to deal with anything larger than periods here.):

And that's enough for now. I'll get into the thorny question of how all those organic molecules got themselves organized into an actual organism next week.

Well, It Took A While

But it does: the Armed Forces are very thorough:

The Pentagon plans to announce the repeal of its ban on transgender service members July 1, a controversial decision that would end nearly a year of internal wrangling among the services on how to allow those troops to serve openly, according to Defense officials.

Top personnel officials plan to meet as early as Monday to finalize details of the plan, and Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work could sign off on it by Wednesday, according to a Defense official familiar with the timetable but who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly about it. Final approval would come from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the announcement will be on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend.

The plan would direct each branch of the armed services over a one-year period to implement new policies affecting recruiting, housing and uniforms for transgender troops, one official said.

And as usual, there's a Republican congressman from Texas bitching and moaning about it:

“If reports are correct, I believe Secretary Carter has put the political agenda of a departing administration ahead of the military’s readiness crisis," Thornberry said. "The force is exhausted from back to back deployments and spending their home-station time scrambling to get enough equipment and training before they deploy again. My focus is on helping the troops now — to be the most effective, deployable force possible.

Back to back deployments because we've had to extricate ourselves from the mess the last Republican administration left in the Middle East.

"In particular, there are readiness challenges that first must be addressed, such as the extent to which such individuals would be medically non-deployable. . . ."

There are an estimate 2,500 transgender enlisted personnel. That's obviously going to have a huge impact on the readiness of a military force that numbers just over 1.3 million enlisted personnel, plus another 800,000 plus in the reserves.

But back to the main topic. I can't help but wonder how much of that "internal wrangling" was obstructionism. I do have to hand it to the Pentagon, though: once DADT was repealed and the necessity was plain, they've really focused on making open service work.

And in related news:

Navy Department officials are urging the thousands of sailors and Marines forced out of the military because of their sexuality in previous decades to come forward and appeal their discharge — in a step to restore benefits and right a historical wrong.

The Board for Correction of Naval Records can overturn a wide range of records, from counseling letters to detachments for cause, but recently they have been putting the word out to veterans who were separated because of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — and its previous across-the-board ban — that they can have their discharges upgraded and their reenlistment codes or reason codes changed to reflect a post-DADT world.

Both via Joe.My.God.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Coming Soon to an Election Near You

Britain has voted to leave the EU, which has pretty much shocked the hell out of everyone. The world is still digesting the results, but what I found very interesting was the campaign of the exit proponents:

The British campaign featured assertions and allegations tossed around with little regard to the facts. Both sides played to emotion, and the most common emotion played upon was fear.

The “Remain” side, citing scores of experts and elite opinion, warned that leaving the bloc, a so-called Brexit, would mean an economic catastrophe, a plunging pound, higher taxes, more austerity and the loss of jobs.

The Leave side warned that remaining would produce uncontrolled immigration, crime and terrorism, with hordes pouring into Britain from Turkey, a country of 77 million Muslims that borders Syria and Iraq and hopes to join the European Union. . . .

In England especially, 85 percent of the population of Britain, many people fell back on national pride, cultural exceptionalism and nostalgia. Many English voters chose to believe the insistence of anti-Europe leaders like Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and potential challenger to Mr. Cameron, that as a great nation, Britain would be more powerful and successful outside the European Union than inside.
(Emphasis added.)

Sound familiar? I just hope to hell it's not a harbinger of November.

I'm still digesting this -- sadly, it's not something I've been paying much attention to, but the results could shatter the EU, which has already started showing some cracks due to its inability to handle things like the Bush Recession of 2008/09 and the refugee crisis. The first indicator, though, is that the pound took a nosedive and the markets in general are not reacting well to the news.

Via Joe.My.God. It's worth reading the comments there -- Joe has a lot of European readers and their insights are worth knowing.


Lots of repercussions. First, the markets are tumbling:

Global markets buckled as Britain’s vote to leave the European Union drove the pound to the lowest in more than 30 years. U.S. stocks joined the selloff with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 400 points, though losses were roughly half what was signaled overnight.

This is most likely going to have a major impact on Britain's economy:

The vote appears likely to prompt multinational banks to shift significant numbers of jobs from Britain to competing financial centers in the European Union, led by Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin and Amsterdam. Many experts assume Brussels will move quickly to restrict trading of euro-denominated assets — a major business for Britain. Prominent banks including JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup warned during the campaign that an exit would cause them to transfer some operations elsewhere.

Scotland is preparing for another referendum on independence:

[First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland faced the prospect of being taken out of the EU against its will.

She said the Scottish government would begin preparing legislation to enable another independence vote.

Sinn Fein is pressing for a vote on the reunification of Ireland:

The UK's deicision to leave the EU means Sinn Féin will press for a border vote in the North.

Both Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU, but the leave campaign was able to convince Wales and England to leave the union.

“We have a situation where the north is going to be dragged out on the tails of a vote in England… Sinn Fein will now press our demand, our long-standing demand, for a border poll,” Sinn Fein’s national chairman Declan Kearney said after the UK as a whole had vote to leave the EU.

Northern Ireland could now be faced with the prospect of customs barriers for trade with the Republic.

(All via Joe.My.God.)

Oh, and Texas wants to secede. Again.

After residents of the UK voted today to leave the European Union, the movement for an independent Texas may be gaining serious momentum, with thousands online calling for a “Texit.”

The largest group agitating for secession is the Texas Nationalist Movement, which has been promoting its own version of Brexit, called Texit, over the past several weeks. The group has taken inspiration from the pro-exit campaign in Britain, noting that the two movements share many of the same principles.

Same principles? You mean like racism, Islamophobia, isolationism, nativism, all that good stuff?

Please, do it. It would do the federal treasury a world of good, and we wouldn't have to deal with Ted Cruz or Louie Gohmert any more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

And That's the Way It Should Be

Which is my response to this:

Donald Trump questioned Hillary Clinton’s commitment to her Christian faith on Tuesday, saying that little is known about her spiritual life even though she’s been in the public eye for decades.

Speaking to a group of top social conservative evangelical Christian leaders at a gathering in New York City, Trump said, “we don't know anything about Hillary in terms of religion.”

“Now, she's been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there's no — there's nothing out there,” Trump said. “There's like nothing out there. It's going to be an extension of Obama but it's going to be worse, because with Obama you had your guard up. With Hillary you don't, and it's going to be worse.”

And of course, since it's coming from The Hairpiece, you know it's bullshit. Read on at the link to find out just how bullshitty it is.

Culture Break: Benjamin Britten: War Requiem: Agnus Dei

This came up on Box Turtle Bulletin (in a brief biography of Peter Pears), and given the events of the past ten days, it seems fitting:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is Anyone Surprized?

People were actually crowing about the Senate Republicans agreeing to hold a vote on gun control measures after the Democrats staged a fifteen-hour filibuster. Guess what happened:

The US Senate failed to advance new restrictions aimed at curtailing gun violence on Monday, as lawmakers voted down four separate measures just one week after a terrorist attack in Orlando marked the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.

Democrats and Republicans had put forth competing amendments to both strengthen background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms. But all four bills fell short of the 60 votes needed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate, in a near replica of a vote held in December when a pair of shooters killed 14 people and wounded 22 more in San Bernardino, California.

The series of votes on Monday evening came in the aftermath of 12 June massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead and another 53 injured. Senate Democrats had secured the votes following a 15-hour filibuster last week demanding action against gun violence, a politically vexing issue that has yet to produce any major legislative breakthroughs in more than two decades.

It's "politically vexing" because the NRA owns enough senators and congressmen to make it that way.

(And a sidebar: Republican control of Congress has been a disaster for this country. Sixty votes to do anything in the Senate? And you wonder why nothing gets done?)

And from the "I'm not interested in staying in the Senate" Senate candidate from Florida:

Nelson’s Florida colleague, Marco Rubio, voted for the Republican amendments while opposing those offered by Democrats. Rubio issued a lengthy statement explaining his vote, in which the former Republican presidential candidate emphasized the need to refocus on the threat posed by homegrown extremism and the broader war on terror after the Orlando attack.

“We can’t say for sure if anything in our laws would have stopped this maniac from carrying out some form of attack, but I know that the proposals I supported today would specifically fill gaps that are evident after this attack and protect people who may one day find themselves needing firearms to protect themselves,” Rubio said.

Bullpucky. Hey, Marco, why don't you offer prayers for the victims -- that would be just as effective. And of course, it's all about terrorism, because the shooter (whose name is not to be mentioned) was Muslim. That's the standard Republican/NRA dodge: it's not about guns, it's about radical Islam. No, it's really about how much bullshit you can shovel down people's throats before they start choking on it.

A couple of points: this was quite obviously a hate crime: those targeted were at a gay club on Latino night.

The Orlando killing is uniquely at the intersection of gun violence, anti-gay violence and anti-immigrant violence (it was Latin night at the club, and 90% of the victims were Hispanic).

Hate crimes are, by definition, a form of terrorism: they are intended not to target an individual, but a group.

And as the FBI releases more information, it's apparent that the shooter was not affiliated with ISIS and received no support from them. Yes, of course they claimed credit. They always do. That's how they make themselves seem powerful. This was one really mixed-up man who had a lot of issues, a history of violence, and was basically a walking time bomb.

It starts to look more and more as though the only way to get this country back on track is to boot the teabaggers and their fellow-travelers out of office, across the board. That's going to take a while, since they have so many voters convinced that getting screwed is good for them.

Gaius Publius, at Hullabaloo, links to this piece by Joe Sudbay that deserves a read:

So, as we consider what to do moving forward in the wake of the worst shooting in American history, here’s a key thing to know: Al Gore didn’t lose because of the NRA. He lost because he ran from the gun issue instead of owning his record. The NRA capitalized on that thinking and for that past 15 years has run amok. That group and the politicians who kneel as the gun lobby’s altar give us a nation where 49 people can be mowed down. But, we all have a part in it for letting our politicians be controlled by them.

Most people in this country -- even gun owners -- favor regulation of guns, especially assault weapons. But then, it's been a while since Congress listened to the people.

Today in WTF?

All the leftie sites are carrying stories about Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent in Utah vs. Strieff. First, some background:

The Supreme Court issued an extraordinarily disappointing 5–3 decision on Monday in Utah v. Strieff, a Fourth Amendment case about police searches. . . .

Strieff itself involves a fairly simple question of constitutional law. Typically, when police illegally stop an individual on the street without reasonable suspicion, any fruits of that stop—such as the discovery of illegal drugs—must be suppressed in court, because the stop was “unreasonable seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. Strieff gave the justices an opportunity to affirm this constitutional rule. But instead, Justice Stephen Breyer joined the court’s four conservatives to add a huge loophole to that long-established doctrine. In an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court found that if an officer illegally stops an individual then discovers an arrest warrant—even for an incredibly minor crime, like a traffic violation—the stop is legitimized, and any evidence seized can be used in court. The only restriction is when an officer engages in “flagrant police misconduct,” which the decision declines to define.

The end result of this decision, according to Justice Sotomayor (and anyone else who still has two functioning brain cellsl), is far-reaching, to say the least. She concludes:

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.

We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

In short, anyone is fair game.

Let me leave you with this parting thought, courtesy of Linkin Park:

Welcome to American, land of the free -- once upon a time.

An Antidote

And a reminder:

We're all in this together.

Monday, June 20, 2016

And Just Because

of the last post's title, this;

Somehow, this seems to fit the season.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

From the Washington rumor mill, this:

Justice Clarence Thomas, a reliable conservative vote on the Supreme Court, is mulling retirement after the presidential election, according to court watchers.

Thomas, appointed by former President George H.W. Bush and approved by the Senate after a bitter confirmation, has been considering retirement for a while and never planned to stay until he died, they said. He likes to spend summers in his RV with his wife.

His retirement would have a substantial impact on control of the court. The next president is expected to immediately replace the seat opened by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, providing a one-vote edge in the court that is currently divided 4-4.

Of course, these "court watchers" are anonymous, and absent any independent corroboration, I'm taking it as rumor.

But one can dream.

And via NCRM, Keith Olberman nailed it:

Wait. Clarence Thomas may be the next to leave the Supreme Court? How will we be able to tell?


Forgot to remind you -- yesterday was "What's New" day at Green Man Review, with newly published reviews, so head on over.

(What do you mean, you don't have it bookmarked?!)

Today's Must Read

Very interesting article at The New Civil Rights Movement by Claude Summers on Justice Anthony Kennedy's "jurisprudence of dignity."

Justice Kennedy is author of four historic gay rights rulings from the Supreme Court, Romer v. Evans (1996), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), U.S. v. Windsor (2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). These decisions, each building upon the other, are marked by a deep concern for human dignity. More precisely, they address forthrightly the ways in which discrimination against lgbt individuals is an affront to personal dignity. Indeed, his rulings on gay rights may be said to constitute a jurisprudence of human dignity, one that has expanded and given heft to the principle of equal protection under the law.

There's more, including historical background on Kennedy and these four crucial cases, and several videos. The CBS Special Report on the decision on Obergefell especially is worth watching -- it gives a good sense of the excitement of the day. In fact, here it is:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Today in Persecuted Minorities

I'm speaking of "Christians," of course. This story's been making the rounds, but here's tengrain's version from Mock, Paper, Scissors:

In an email sent to the the county human relations director Peggy Rowe on Thursday, [Commissioner Stacy] White said he received an anonymous complaint from a county employee that the presence of the flag was “nearly unbearable” for her to pass on her way to work and created a “hostile work environment.”

Oh? Was this anonymous Christian employee by any chance named, um, “Whacy Stite”? Just asking. Anyway, White continues and tips his hand (emphasis mine):

I wish to state for the record that, even if there is deemed to be zero liability from an HR perspective, it is still – in my view – unconscionable that the county administrator didn’t express to the board that this divisive symbol might create an uncomfortable workplace environment for many of his employees.

So, a symbol that symbolizes inclusion and equality (which, after all, are things this country purports to stand for) is now a "divisive symbol"?

I happen to agree with tengrain on the possible identity of this "anonymous" employee, and I have a couple of comments about the whole fracas:

What kind of "Christian" is offended by a commemoration of the victims of the worst mass murder in American history?

And, for the offended party: Grow up and get over yourself. Most of the rest of us figured out we were not the center of the universe by the time we were two.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday Science: Earth, a Biography: And There Was Life

As we discovered last week, Earth itself was formed about 4.5 billion years ago from the aggregation of all sorts of things circling the sun: rocks, dust, molecules, chunks of ice, and so forth. The early Earth was one big explosion -- or actually, a whole series of smaller explosions, as debris collided with the forming planet. It was hot, very active, and prone to sudden impacts. After about a few hundred million years, things had calmed down enough for the new planet to start to resemble, however remotely, the Earth we all know and love.

There were some significant differences: it was extremely active seismically and it was bombarded by heavy, lethal radiation from the sun because there was no free oxygen. All the oxygen was tied up in carbon dioxide, water, and other oxides, so the atmosphere was not only not breathable, there was no ozone layer to shield the Earth from the sun's radiation.

Hadean Earth

This eon is known as the Hadean, for obvious reasons: Earth was a sort of hellish place at that point, but very soon it rained. And rained. And rained. And thus we had oceans, and then things started cooking. So to speak.

OK -- so how on Earth, then, did life happen?

Modern stromatolites in Shark Bay, Australia; photo UC Berkeley
The first evidence we have of living organisms are fossils dating to about 3.5 billion years ago, from microfossils -- which are just what it sounds like, fossils to small to be seen without a microscope, and structures known as stromatolites, which are produced by colonies of microorganisms that trap sediments and build up structures like those pictured at the left. The show-stopper is that these microorganisms were mostly cyanobacteria, which had already developed the ability to photosynthesize -- using energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water to simple sugars and oxygen. So already, we have life and free oxygen in the atmosphere.

To be honest, no one is quite sure how living organisms happened. There are several schools of thought on this; you can get an overview of several of them here, but I'm going to stick to the two or three that seem to have the most current support. (Well, mostly support from me.)

One theory that's very popular is that life came from outer space on the meteorites that had been, and continued to bombard the planet, in the form of organic molecules. It doesn't really answer the question of how, but assumes that life already existed. This is proposed as an alternative to the idea that organic molecules were formed through the action of lightning on what has been called the "primordial soup" -- a mix of methane, ammonia, water, carbon dioxide and other hydride molecules that made up most of the early atmosphere. (Based on the Miller-Urey experiment of 1952.) Another alternative is that these molecules originated around deep sea vents (remember, the earth was practically one big volcano at this point), which even today support ecosystems that are based on sulfides dissolved in superheated water jetting from vents in the crust.

I personally, although I favor the stuck-by-lightning and deep sea vents theories, don't see why it has to be an either/or situation. Molecules are molecules, no matter where they come from, and living organisms aren't very choosy about origins as long as whatever it is isn't lethal.

At any rate, we've got organic molecules, but we're still nowhere near actual organisms. However, scientists from the University of North Carolina think they've solved at least part of the problem:

Their answer tackles the 'RNA world' theory. In today's world, RNA—DNA's chemical cousin—is crucial to the production of proteins in the cell. The 'RNA world' theory claims that RNA arose from the chemical soup, and created an RNA world before any proteins or single cells existed. These RNA strands then created the first short proteins, which manifested themselves into single cells.

However, the scientists have another suggestion: They argue that it is equally likely that little proteins were the catalysts for RNA formation, which is the opposite suggestion of the 'RNA world' theory. In fact, amino acids and other molecules swimming around in the simple soup could have co-created proteins and RNA at the same time. This new finding makes our origin story much more complicated and exciting. . . .

To test their theory, the pair examined twenty different amino acids and observed how they joined together to form useful proteins. Then they put the amino acids through their paces by testing how effectively they form useful proteins at a range of temperatures. Before life started on Earth, the atmosphere is predicted to have been extremely hot so proteins had to be able to form under these conditions.

The research found that even when the heat was cranked up, they could still link together to form proteins that were useful for the building blocks of life. "Our experiments show how the polarities of amino acids change consistently across a wide range of temperatures in ways that would not disrupt the basic relationships between genetic coding and protein folding," said Richard Wolfenden. This research brings up the question of whether an 'RNA world' ever existed or whether it was instead a 'protein world'.

Proteins will bond together under different conditions. It wasn't a big leap from there for them to start replicating themselves. One interesting filip on this is that metabolism predated the origin of organisms, so you have the basic process of life already in existence. All you need is a mutation here and there -- say, one that creates a barrier between this group of self-replicating, metabolizing proteins and the rest of the universe -- a membrane -- and you have the first organisms.

There's still a way to go before we get to life as we know it, but we have life.

Today in Disgusting People

There's quite a field in the aftermath of Orlando. I'll let you take your pick.

Let's start off with Congressman Rick Allen (R-GA -- no surprises there), who thinks it's appropriate to read Bible verses at meetings of GOP legislators:

The freshman Republican opened the House GOP weekly meeting by telling his colleagues who had voted the night before for an LGBT protections bill that they were "going to hell," then read from the Christian Bible's Books of Romans and Revelations passages that attack LGBT people as sinners in devastating detail.

"Yes. I read a scripture from Romans and that’s what I did," Allen told Roll Call. “I just simply shared that, in what’s supposed to be a private setting with fellow members of my conference, just like I would in a Bible study.”

Something tells me he just doesn't get it.

Pastor Kevin Swanson (and that's "Pastor" with a capital "P" and don't you forget it) is always a prime candidate for this slot:

Yesterday, Colorado-based pastor Kevin Swanson addressed the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando by arguing that homosexuality and Islam are both inherently violent because God gives gay people and Muslims up to their dishonorable ways and other sins like murder.

“Why do homosexuals murder homosexuals?” he asked. Because, according to Romans 1, “God gave them up to vile passions.” “Violence” and “murder,” he said, are deeply tied to homosexuality.

“What’s the bottom line as we view what’s happening in Orlando today?” he said. “I think it is, again, the Romans 1 scenario, it is that God gives them up.”

The Orlando massacre, Swanson added, shows what happens when God’s “restraints have been lifted entirely and when God doesn’t restrain, people go nuts in their sins.”

Swanson has a history:

Swanson on homosexuality:

Boycotts Girl Scout cookies because they “promote lesbianism” and “I don’t want my little girl turning into a lesbian.”

Discussed whether the Rose Bowl should include a float where a gay person is stoned to death.

Lamented that these days country singer Kacey Musgraves wasn’t lynched for her “promotion of homosexuality” through song.

Urged people to hold up signs telling gay couples to die on their wedding day.

Defended a Ugandan measure to make homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty, saying he was glad the country was “standing strong” by adopting extreme anti-gay laws.

Agreed that gay marriage is like the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Wanted America to have anti-gay laws “much like what the Pilgrims had” (the Pilgrims believed that homosexuality should be punishable by death, banishment and whippings) and enforce biblical law “that says that homosexuals should be put to death.”

There's more at the link. The man hates everyone.

You may have heard of Pastor Roger Jiminez, who celebrated the massacre in a sermon. He's not backing down:

Police were still identifying and removing bodies from the Pulse gay night club in Orlando when Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church posted a sermon on YouTube equating gay people with pedophiles and wishing that more people were dead. “If we lived in a righteous government, they should round them all up and put them up against a firing wall, and blow their brains out,” he said. “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”

The video was removed by YouTube for violating its standards on hate speech. But Jimenez was unrepentant on Tuesday, telling the Sacramento Bee:

All I’m saying is that when people die who deserve to die, it’s not a tragedy,” he added. Jimenez spoke these words in a kind monotone befitting a loan officer discussing interest rates at a local bank branch. …Though he didn’t talk long, he wanted people to know he wasn’t backing down from his words. “There are many people who agree with us,” he said. “In America, you are no longer allowed to have an opinion that goes against mainstream society.”

Actually, in America you are allowed to have an opinion that goes against mainstream society. And you'll be criticized for it. Sorry, but it takes a thick skin to survive in a free society.

And last, but certainly not least, Pastor Steven Anderson (and have you noticed how many of these creeps are pastors?):

“The good news is there’s fifty less pedophiles in the world. You know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of just disgusting homosexual at a gay bar, okay?”

There's more at the link, if you can stomach it. I'm not going to bother with the fact that his whole screed is counter-factual: for people like this, ignorance, especially if it hurts someone, is their stock in trade.

Gah. I have to go wash my brain out with bleach.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Politico Nails It

I'm sure you've heard about the Senate Democrats finally growing a pair and filibustering all activity in the Senate until gun control amendments were brought to a vote. Well, the Turtle caved, and they're getting their vote. For what it's worth. Here's the headline from Politico:

 Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 10.16.23 AM

Via Box Turtle Bulletin, where Jim Burroway thinks it's worthy of The Onion.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Two Rays of Hope

Both, via Box Turtle Bulletin.

First, from the Republican Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox:

I grew up in a small town. I went to a small rural high school. There were some kids in my class that were different than me. Sometimes I wasn’t kind to them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I know now that they were gay. I regret not treating them with the kindness, dignity and respect — the love — that they deserved. For that, I sincerely and humbly apologize. Over the intervening years, my heart has changed. It has changed because of you. It has changed because I have gotten to know many of you. You have been very patient with me as I went through this change.

There's a lot more, and it's pretty potent. There's a transcript of his full speech at the link.

And from evangelical pastor Joel Hunter:

When they asked me to pray for the LGBTQ community, at first I was honored and thrilled, and then I was convicted. I‘m not sure how to do that. I‘ve never been a part of a vulnerable community. I‘ve been a part of powerful communities all my life and never been a part of a persecuted community.

Considering the usual cries of "persecution" coming from "Christians" who don't get their way, that's a surprising admission.

And more, via Christianity Today:

Speaking in the aftermath of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Hunter told RNS that he had “to go back and examine my own heart, starting tonight in services.

“I’ve got to confess to my congregation that if there’s anything I’ve said that could have ever led to anything — the dismissal or denigration of any other population — God, I am so sorry for that.”

He admitted that “many of us, especially those in the conservative evangelical branch of the faith, don’t normally think of the vulnerability of many of the communities around us…but this has put it on the agenda.

This is such a contrast to those "Christian leaders" who are elbowing their way to front and center to mouth empty platitudes without ever admitting their part in the Orlando atrocity and the persecution (I hate to use that word, but it's the only one that fits) of gays. Maybe Christians are redeemable.

Baby steps.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Culture Break: Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings

As performed by the Kronos Quartet, which is the best version I've ever heard. Since the piece was originally the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11, this seems appropriate.

In memory of Orlando.

Compare and Contrast

From Right Wing Watch:

Today on “The 700 Club,” televangelist Pat Robertson reacted to the massacre at an Orlando gay club by making the absurd claim that liberal LGBT rights advocates have aligned themselves with radical Islamists and are now reaping what they have sowed.

Robertson said that liberals are facing a “dilemma” because they love both LGBT equality and Islamic extremism, and that it is better for conservatives like himself not to get involved but to instead just watch the two groups kill each other.

“The left is having a dilemma of major proportions and I think for those of us who disagree with some of their policies, the best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves,” he said.

I used to make excuses for Pat Robertson on the grounds of senility. I can't any more -- the man has really become nothing more than distilled poison that comes out every time he opens his mouth. And, like all "Christians," facts have no bearing. There's more at the link, if you can stand it.

Oh, and this is rich:


The antidote:

Like you, I am sickened by the news that a terrorist killed 49 people and wounded 53 more in Orlando. in the most deadly shooting in American history. Naturally, we each ask ourselves, what can you possibly say in the face of horror? But then sadly you realize you know what to say because it’s been said too many times before.

You have a pretty good idea what most people are going to say. You know a president, whoever it is, will be saying. You know what both sides of the political aisle will say. You know what gun manufacturers will say. Even me, with a silly show like this, you have some idea of what I will say. Because even I have talked about this when it’s happened before.

It’s as if there is a national script that we have learned. And I think by accepting the script we tacitly accept that the script will end the same way every time, with nothing changing. Except for the loved ones of the families and the victims for whom nothing will ever be the same.

It’s easy, it’s almost tempting to be paralyzed by such a monstrously hateful act, to despair and say, well, that’s the way the world is now.

Well I don’t know what to do, but I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything.

Now these people in Orlando were apparently targeted because of who they love. And there have been outpourings of love throughout the country and around the world. Love in response to hate.

Love does not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script.

So love your country, love your family, love the families of the victims and the people of Orlando, but let’s remember that love is a verb, and to love means to do something.

(Via Box Turtle Bulletin)

Thinking back, I'm reminded of many times that I've heard some of the most dogged anti-gay "Christian" activists insist that their slanders, their distortions, their calls to change something that can't be changed, their insistence that we don't really exist are all born of love. It occurs to me that when your idea of love starts with judgment and ends with condemnation, you've missed the point.

Colbert gets it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Point

And one I've been making for a while, even before the Orlando shooting. From Hank Plante, in the Desert Sun:

Every anti-gay politician, every bigoted preacher, every self-hating bully has blood on his hands. Make no mistake about it, the shooting in Orlando which targeted the LGBT community was the end result of decades of anti-gay hate speech and gay bashings.

Every time a politician or community leader has advocated second-class citizenship for gay Americans, it has given permission to the haters to strike out – in this case in a mass slaughter. . . .

The fact is, gays and lesbians are no strangers to violence. My friend David Mixner, a gay rights pioneer, reminded his Sunday readers on the site Towleroad of the 32 gay bar patrons who died in 1973 when someone fire-bombed the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans. Mixner is right when he says, “Every one of us knows someone who has been gay bashed.”

So imagine the message that anti-gay hate speech sends to someone who is mentally unstable, let alone such a person who has an assault weapon.

Harte makes a point: they don't even get it. They either don't understand or won't admit that they have created this environment.

You'll notice the number of right-wing figures who have been very quick to point the finger at Islam (when they're not blaming Obama -- and some of them manage both), when it's they themselves who have in some cases devoted their careers to creating the environment in which something like Orlando is not only conceivable, but inevitable. (And a special shout out to Wayne LaPierre of the NRA: you have lots of blood on your hands.)

There's history here.

I mean, come on -- this is a no-brainer: remember Mama Grizzly with her map showing certain congressional districts with targets on them? And Gabby Giffords got shot. But it wasn't Palin's fault, no, not at all.

These people really need to be called out, and our ball-less media isn't going to do it.

Orlando: Compare and Contrast

From Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national Executive Director, in reaction to Orlando:

We offer condolences to the families and we pray for recovery of the survivors. This is a hate crime, plain and simple. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. It violates our principles as Americans and as Muslims. Let me be perfectly clear. We have no tolerance for extremism of any kind. We must not tolerate hateful rhetoric that incites violence against minorities. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of our beliefs as Muslims and as Americans. Today, we must stand united.

For many years, members of the LGBT community have stood shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community against any act of hate crimes, Islamophobia, marginalization and discrimination. Today, we stand with them shoulder to shoulder. The liberation of the American Muslim community is profoundly linked to the liberation of other minority groups: blacks, Latinos, gay, Jewish, trans and every other community that has faced discrimination and operation in this country.

There are statements from local and state chapters of CAIR at the link.

And from the Archbishop of St. Petersburg (Via Box Turtle Bulletin):

Second, sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.

Those women and men who were mowed down Sunday were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.

Even before I knew who perpetrated the mass murders at Pulse, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search for religion as motivation. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe and judge and act from some kind of religious background. Singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality must be offensive to God’s ears. It has to stop, too.

From the Anti-Defamation League:

We must remember that Americans should not blame all Muslims for the actions of one individual. Whether citizens like the individual suspected of committing this act or war-torn refugees seeking safety, we must remember that we do not define people by their faith. We are deeply concerned that this attack could lead to a backlash against American Muslims. We urge all Americans to not fight hatred with hatred, but rather to come together around our common values of decency and respect.

At this time of sadness and tragedy, we express our full solidarity with members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. During this time of year when we celebrate Pride, they should know that they are not alone. As we mourn the victims and extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those lost, we will redouble our resolve to fight against the forces of hatred and extremism that led to this barbaric act of hatred.

And then there are the "Christians". Pastor Steven Anderson, another of the "kill the gays" contingent:

The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was a victim here, are a bunch of, just, disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar, okay? Obviously, it’s not right for somebody to just, you know, shoot up the place, because that’s not going through the proper channels. But these people all should have been killed, anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in they should have been executed by a righteous government that would have tried them, convicted them, and saw them executed.

There's more. It's even worse.

And I'm noticing a thundering silence from most of the anti-gay leaders, give or take the Republican politicians who have made statements without naming names. Surprisingly, the AFA has issued a statement, but no telling which community was targeted from their press release:
“This is a time when a nation must come together, reminding that God loves all people, and all are His creation, made in His own image,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “All lives are precious, and because the American Family Association is known for its commitment to family values, we deeply mourn when lives are lost due to senseless violence. We know there are millions praying for the families and friends of the victims, and we ask all to join together with them and for those who are wounded, that a healing of both the body and the community will be reality.”

Ah. Thanks to Joe.My.God., Perkins speaks. It's his usual exercise in turning reality on its head, but this is absolutely astonishing, even for him:

What a stark contrast to Christianity, which believes that everyone is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value, regardless of the choices they make. And yet Christianity is the faith Obama won’t tolerate — a religion that teaches people not to confront sin with violence but to love people into the kingdom by speaking truth.

One wonders when Perkins is actually going to start practicing the Christianity he describes. And do note, it's all Obama's fault. Perkins and his fellow travelers had nothing to do with creating the climate that makes something like the Orlando shooting not only conceivable, but inevitable.

Can I Tell You How Much

I hate Google right now?

I made the mistake of enabling two-step verification when signing in to my Google accounts. So this morning I entered my gmail address, my password, and waited, and waited, and waited for the call to give me the verification code. I tried again. Ten minutes after the first try, I finally got the call, entered the code, and signed in. And now Google's robot has called me five times with verification codes.

I disabled two-step verification once I got signed in, since Google has ignored the box I checked that said "Don't ask again on this computer."


Monday, June 13, 2016

The Only Thing I Can Think Of

Arvo Pärt, Kyrie:

Orlando: Reactions

President Obama:

Today, as Americans, we grieve the brutal murder — a horrific massacre — of dozens of innocent people. We pray for their families, who are grasping for answers with broken hearts. We stand with the people of Orlando, who have endured a terrible attack on their city. Although it’s still early in the investigation, we know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.

I just finished a meeting with FBI Director Comey and my homeland security and national security advisors. The FBI is on the scene and leading the investigation, in partnership with local law enforcement. I’ve directed that the full resources of the federal government be made available for this investigation.

We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred. Over the coming days, we’ll uncover why and how this happened, and we will go wherever the facts lead us.

This morning I spoke with my good friend, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, and I conveyed the condolences of the entire American people. This could have been any one of our communities. So I told Mayor Dyer that whatever help he and the people of Orlando need — they are going to get it. As a country, we will be there for the people of Orlando today, tomorrow and for all the days to come.

We also express our profound gratitude to all the police and first responders who rushed into harm’s way. Their courage and professionalism saved lives, and kept the carnage from being even worse. It’s the kind of sacrifice that our law enforcement professionals make every single day for all of us, and we can never thank them enough.

This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.

So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country. And no act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that make us Americans.

Today marks the most deadly shooting in American history. The shooter was apparently armed with a handgun and a powerful assault rifle. This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.

In the coming hours and days, we’ll learn about the victims of this tragedy. Their names. Their faces. Who they were. The joy that they brought to families and to friends, and the difference that they made in this world. Say a prayer for them and say a prayer for their families — that God give them the strength to bear the unbearable. And that He give us all the strength to be there for them, and the strength and courage to change. We need to demonstrate that we are defined more — as a country — by the way they lived their lives than by the hate of the man who took them from us.

As we go together, we will draw inspiration from heroic and selfless acts — friends who helped friends, took care of each other and saved lives. In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give in to fear or turn against each other. Instead, we will stand united, as Americans, to protect our people, and defend our nation, and to take action against those who threaten us.

May God bless the Americans we lost this morning. May He comfort their families. May God continue to watch over this country that we love. Thank you.

Via Box Turtle Bulletin, as is the following:

We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.

— Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

That one's important, because of this (via Joe.My.God.):

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility Sunday for a deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., that left 50 dead and 53 injured.

"The attack that targeted a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida and that left more than 100 dead and wounded was carried out by an Islamic State fighter," ISIS said in a statement.

The organization offered no proof for the attacks.

There is a report that the shooter called 911 and claimed allegiance to ISIS before the attack, but I'm not buying any coordinated effort here until the FBI has gone over it thoroughly.

From Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin, National Center for Transgender Equality head Mara Keisling, and NAACP president Cornell Brooks:

Surveying all the coverage on the "national" sites, I noticed one glaring omission: my home town, which is one of the most gay-friendly places in the country. Well, Google is your friend. Some highlights, courtesy of CBS News:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

“Last night’s horrifying act of terrorism in Orlando was an attack on our most fundamental values as Americans. On behalf of the City of Chicago, Amy and I send our deepest condolences to the friends and family members of those who were lost. June is a time when all Chicagoans and all Americans proudly celebrate the contributions of our LGBT community. This horrendous violence will only deepen our resolve to continue building a society that values everyone, regardless of who they love. The thoughts and prayers of Chicago will remain with the victims of this attack as they seek comfort and courage in the days ahead.”

Archbishop Blase Cupich:

“Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

“We are grateful to the first responders and civilians who heroically put themselves in harm’s way, providing an enduring reminder of what compassion and bravery look like–even in the face of such horror and danger.

“In response to hatred, we are called to sow love. In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.

“The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no longer stand by and do nothing.”

Even our sports teams and athletes reacted.

There are statements from major political figures and others at the link. One thing they all have in common is the admission that this was directed at the gay community (even our Republican governor's statement makes the inference). But, if you look at some of the responses from major anti-gay politicians, you'll notice what's missing. (Aravosis labels them all "homophobes," but I won't go that far; I'll just note that these people are not known as friends of our community.) This one sent my irony meter to the repair shop:

by default 2016-06-12 at 12.51.20 PM 

You mean, like the Republican party platform?

That's about all I can handle right now. I'm really just numb about this. All I can think is "Where will it stop?"

Oh, and of course The Hairpiece reacted. I'm not going to post any of his belchings. The man's an ass.