defrog: (onoes)
If you have any kind of social media account, you know that state legislatures in North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi are dithering over The Gayz.

The one in North Carolina is officially law. The one in Georgia was dropped after Gov Nathan Deal decided not to sign it when The Walking Dead team said it would film elsewhere. The one in Mississippi is pending, though Gov Phil Bryant seems pretty keen on it.

The first two are laws we’ve seen before. The NC bill basically says only the state govt can decide who gets protection under anti-discrimination laws (and BTW the LGBTs will never qualify as long the GOP runs the place). Tennessee passed a similar law five years ago (ostensibly in the name of pro-business workplace regulation consistency).

The GA bill was more like the Indiana “religious liberty” bill last year allowing business owners to refuse to cater gay weddings or refuse services to LGBTs, which Gov Mike Pence eventually amended to nullify that part.

I don’t have anything to add about the NC and GA bills that I haven’t already said about the TN and Indiana bills.

However, the MS bill is worth spending some extra time on because it goes further than the other bills mentioned above, not least in that it includes non-marital heterosex in its list of items you can legally discriminate against people for religious reasons. Which is odd because in Mississippi (and 27 other states, BTW), it's already legal to deny housing to an unmarried couple based on a landlord's religious objection to premarital sex. For that matter, it's already legal to do the same thing to LGBTs.

Consequently, I think it’s fair to say the MS bill has two main objectives for the GOP-led legislature: (1) make gay marriage illegal in MS despite the SCOTUS ruling, and (2) ensure the GOP is SEEN by their constituents fighting The LGBT Agenda™.

I suspect the second is the most important objective, as I’m sure at least some of the bill’s supporters know full well the law won’t survive a legal challenge – unless maybe they’re banking on Mitch McConnell keeping that ninth SCOTUS seat empty until Donald Trump wins the election. 

Whatever the motivation, I think it’s a bad law for the same reason the other ones are bad laws.

To be clear, I fully understand that some Christians don’t want anything to do with gay marriage because they’re afraid that even so much as providing a cake or a DJ service some how endorses or legitimizes it. I’m just not convinced the solution to what is admittedly a complex problem is to pass a simplistic law that essentially declares religious beliefs are above secular law. There’s just so much that can go wrong there.

One other thought: the MS law states that churches can’t be forced to officiate gay marriages. This is something I actually support. There’s a big difference between the state handing out marriage licenses and a church performing them, and I do think pastors should have the right to refuse.

The thing is, I’m unaware that this is actually a problem. I may be out of touch, but I don’t know of any church that has been forced to officiate a gay marriage in MS (or anywhere else), or has been sued for refusing to do so. The latter might happen at some point, but I don’t think any gay couple who tried it would succeed, because there’s no legal basis for it – churches are not compelled under the SCOTUS ruling to perform gay marriages on demand. There would also be no point in suing the ones that refuse, since some US churches have already decided to support gay marriage. So if you have yr heart set on a church wedding, it is an option.

So in that sense, the MS bill – and most bills like these – are solutions in search of a problem, and as such are likely going to create more problems than they’re purported to solve.

None of which will stop Phil Bryant from signing it. And whether he does or doesn’t, this won't be the last bill like this we will see. As the POTUS elections have demonstrated, America is angry and freaking out about everything, and people on both sides are no longer interested in compromise – it’s become an all-or-nothing game. The same is true of the LGBT culture wars.

Go down swinging,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
To be honest, most of the rhetoric I’ve heard has been recycled from every other racially-motivated shooting and mass shooting. Which is why I doubt much will be done about it apart from prosecuting the shooter. Let’s face it, if an elementary school full of 20 dead kids doesn’t convince you that gun violence is a problem, the events in Charleston aren’t going to change that.

But there’s a few things probably worth commenting on.

1. I enjoyed the attempts by Fox News to try and spin it as an attack on Christians and not black people. Really, that was cute in a horrible atavistic kind of way. It took Geraldo Rivera (of all people) to pop a hole in that narrative bubble. Not that it matters – the usual MO at Fox is to assert something until it’s proven wrong, then carry on as though they never said anything like that.

Anyway, that’s given certain POTUS candidates a great opening to talk about the importance of religious liberty.

Leave it to Rick Perry to blow it.

2. Speaking of religious liberty, the response of the families of the victims is nothing short of remarkable. And I hope it gets broadcast repeatedly. It’s a textbook example of what Christianity is supposed to be, and what we’re supposed to do in these situations.

That doesn’t mean Roof gets out of jail, of course. That’s not the objective of grace. Put simply: you respond to hate with love, not more hate. At a time when everyone’s media image of Christianity is one of grim narrow-minded hate, hypocrisy and intolerance, it would be great if people could see the nice side of it for once – even if they may not understand how anyone could forgive a racist for killing nine people.

Yeah, well, great is the mystery of faith, etc.

3. It was also nice to see NRA members up their game when it comes to saying The Wrong Thing after a mass shooting.

The NRA has said Charles Cotton doesn’t speak for the NRA, but I suspect that disclaimer only applies to blaming the victims out loud in public, not the overall point Cotton was trying to make.

Still, it’s probably a logical step forward for them. Every time this happens, the NRA seems to inch closer and closer to becoming the Westboro Baptist Church of lobby groups. It’s not hard to imagine them picketing the funerals of shooting victims saying their deaths were God’s judgment on them for not supporting open-carry.

4. Regarding the whole Confederate flag thing, I know this may not go over well with some people who are reviving the argument that the flag represents racism, but hear me out:

I fully understand why people of color see the flag as a symbol of white pride and hatred. Certainly white supremacists do. But it’s also important to understand that most white people in the South are not white supremacists. Consequently, they don’t see the Confederate flag and think, “I wish we could still have slaves” or “I wanna kill me some niggers”. They certainly don’t think of the racist speeches the founding members of the CFA gave to justify their secession (although that does goes to show how ignorant they are of their own flag’s history).

They generally see the Confederate flag as a symbol of states rights. In their mind, it’s the equivalent of Sailor Ripley’s snakeskin jacket.

Now, none of that is an argument against taking the flag down. Personally, as someone who grew up in the South, the Confederate flag doesn’t mean a thing to me. It’s a separatist throwback that serves no practical purpose, so I see no real reason to keep it hoisted. Also, it’s not a free speech issue if the govt decides to take down its own flag. (And while I was writing that, the US Supreme Court agreed with me, kind of.)

So I have no problem with people calling for it to be taken down.

My point is this: it won’t solve the problem, because the flag itself is not the problem. I don’t really believe that Dylann Roof would never have learned to hate black people enough to kill them if only the Dixie flag wasn’t endorsed by the South Carolina state government. Lowering the flag won’t make it less of a white pride symbol to white supremacists. It'll probably make it even more precious a symbol for them. 

Again, that’s no reason to leave it hoisted. I’m just saying, it should be treated as a symptom, not the cause, and the overall discussion of racism should acknowledge that.

The stars and bars of corruption,

This is dF

defrog: (onoes)
There is dithering about Josh Duggar. As there probably should be.

And I wouldn’t bother posting anything about it – I mean, do you really need me to tell you that molesting kids is not a good thing to be doing? – except that there is also dithering over POTUS candidate Mike Huckabee defending Duggar and saying his actions are not “unforgiveable”. And not just from Huckabee’s usual political foes – even his own fans have turned against him on that point.

As this story involves both child molestation AND politics, it’s impossible to have a rational discussion about it, and no one really wants to be rational about it. Also, I'm assuming there are probably more details about this that haven't yet emerged that could alter or invalidate this post. (They may have already, but remember I don't live in the weird 24/7 media bubble that passes for American pop culture these days.)

So I’ll just post a few bullet points here hat reflect my current POV and leave it at that.

1. The irony about Huckabee’s statement is that technically, he’s doing exactly what Christians are supposed to do in these situations. Grace is the core tenet of Christianity. That’s a hard nugget for most people to take (including most Christians) because it doesn’t come easy to humans, especially for something as heinous as child molestation. But we are called to offer forgiveness for anyone who really wants it. (Calm down and keep reading – this is not an apologetic.)

2. In Huckabee’s case, it’s hard to know how sincere he is, as he’s also a politician with a point to make. This also isn't the first time he’s defended sexual offenders – he even helped one get released from jail whilst governor of Arkansas (on the apparent grounds that conservative Christians at the time believed the man was a political prisoner of Bill Clinton – as you did back in the 90s).

But assuming Huckabee is sincere, in order for it to mean anything, Huckabee has to extend the same level of grace to all sinners: gays, liberals, Beyonce, and other people he has publicly complained about in terms of being morally terrible and dangerous people. Grace is for everyone, not select people you happen to know and/or like.

3. But however Huckabee may feel about it – and I can't really stress this enough – it’s really not up to him to forgive Duggar, and it’s not up to Duggar's parents who knew what he did and covered it up. It’s up to his victims. I haven’t heard either Huckabee or the parents say very much about the victims and how they feel about all this. Maybe they want to keep that private, though maybe it’s a little late for that. Which brings me to this:

4. For people who want to condemn Duggar’s parents for covering it up, it’s worth remembering that – in that respect – their actions were sadly typical of cases where parents catch one of their family members doing something like that. The instinct is to keep it quiet and (hopefully) seek help privately instead of calling the cops. That’s not necessarily the right thing to do for something like child abuse – and it’s certainly not an excuse – but people who are shocked and afraid don’t always make good decisions, regardless of their religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

5. Having said , most families who find themselves in that situation don’t go on to build themselves up as a national voice for Christian living and sexual morality, and warning everyone that LGBTs are dangerous pedophiles, much less start a “reality show” to let TLC document their lives. The nicest thing you can say about this is that it was dumb and irresponsible, and has done more to harm the image and core message of Christianity than promote it.

It’s especially dumb and irresponsible when taken in the context of the long and sad history of dumb and irresponsible decisions in the name of evangelical Christianity. Time and time again we’ve seen self-established leaders of Christianity scolding the nation about morality only to be revealed as failing to live up to their own standards – often dramatically so. I mean, come on, even the person who ran the “treatment center” where the Duggars took Josh turned out to be not the most qualified person when it comes to correcting sexual impropriety.

Well, nobody’s perfect. But if you’re going to actively promote a lifestyle based on a code of morality based on your religious beliefs and promote your own family as a model of that lifestyle – especially on national television – you have to be in a position to set a good example.

Some example. It’s no wonder so many people think Christians are joyless hypocrites motivated by vanity and pride who just want to tell people how to live their lives and get rich while telling them.

6. Although it hasn’t been mentioned in the media yet (as far as I know), it would be really really great to know if the Duggars sought help for Josh’s victims as well. If not, then one could argue their priorities are seriously misplaced (see Points 3 and 5).

7. One final point on forgiveness, because some people get confused on this point: grace and justice are two different things. Put another way, forgiveness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you kill someone, the victim’s family may choose to forgive you. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to stand trial or serve any time. And it doesn’t mean it’s okay if you commit the same offense again.

Unforgiven,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)


Okay, so I was wrong about that post being my only post about Charlie Hebdo.

One angle I considered touching upon – but opted not to, in the interest of time – is the one about free speech and the right to offend. But in light of the current discussions I've seen in the media, I thought I might as well get this off my chest.

Let me be clear up front about two things: (1) On an ideological level, I acknowledge the right of Charlie Hebdo to say what it wants, even if it involves insulting someone’s religion, and (2) insulting someone’s religion does not justify violence and murder as a response. At all. (And I say this as someone whose religious beliefs get insulted all the time.)

But listening to the free-speech discussion following the attacks (which is the same discussion we had back in 2005), it seems to me that everyone is focused on the ideology of free speech (Free Speech All The Time Motherfuckers) and not its practical real-world application.

The general argument is that we shouldn’t censor ourselves out of fear of offending people, especially when it comes to satire. Technically this is true. On the other hand, we do it all the time. There is always such a thing as going too far, and most editors and writers have a line they will not cross, and will not thank you for exercising yr 1A rights if you ever cross it yrself. When that line gets crossed, yr going to get a response, and there’s always the risk that the response is going to be something lethal. The fact that it’s unjustified (which it is) doesn’t mean it won’t happen. For example, I have a right to call (say) Sean Hannity a shit-eating pederast who learned to fuck women by practicing on his mom. Sean doesn’t have the right to punch me in the face for calling him that, but odds are he’s going to do it anyway. (Or at least hire someone to do it for him.)

It’s easy to say that satirists must be fearless in the face of possible violent retribution – and again, there’s truth in that – but there’s fearless, and there’s stupid. And every editor (including the ones in the US that elected not to republish the Charlie Hedbo art that started all this) has to decide if the real-world consequences (no matter how unjustified they may be) are worth the risk of being offensive.

Also, the thing about offending people on purpose is this: just because you have a right to do so doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea, whether in the name of self-preservation or just common decency.

And as has been pointed out here, the argument that everyone is fair game in satire doesn't mean all targets of satire are affected equally. Maybe you have a right to make fun of (say) Muslims, but given how many are already treated like second-class citizens in many parts of the world (including France, incidentally, where burqas and headscarves are actually illegal to wear in public, ironically in the name of promoting unity), you can’t realistically expect them to take it in the same stride as, say, an American televangelist or a Wall Street banker.

Which, again – and I can’t say this enough because a lot of people tend to assume that being critical of Charlie Hebdo means you support the shootings – does not justify violence. Ever.

I guess what I’m saying is that if anything productive is ever going to come out this senseless tragedy, we should be focused less on the simple idealistic right of free speech and more focused on a broader discussion on how to use that right more responsibly.

By that I don't mean passing laws governing satire or enforcing political correctness benchmarks dictating what’s taboo, or anything that generally tells people what they can and cannot say. I’m thinking more along the lines of a greater awareness of the purpose and impact of satire, and the understanding that there’s a fine line between lampooning authority and institutional sacred cows to make a point (which is the traditional role of satire) and just being a dick for the sake of a cheap joke.

Anyway.

You can read this piece from John Scalzi that covers this ground better than me.

Meanwhile, you can also read this debate at the NYT for a little extra insight on how far satire can (or should) go.

Also, while we’re at it, here’s an interesting interview with Robert Crumb, who lives in France, and who points out that French satire is expected to be ruthless and mean.

That joke isn’t funny anymore,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
ITEM: David Van Vleet of Pierce County, Washington has filed court papers to get the personal information of local strippers – i.e. names and addresses – that's on their state entertainer licenses in order to pray for their salvation.

Van Vleet is unhappy because, while he has a technical legal right to ask for the information, the judge opted to give a heads-up to all of the strippers involved, which allowed strip club managers to sue the county, thus delaying the release of the addresses – and thus violating Van Vleet’s 1A right to pray for the strippers:

“[The judge] essentially silenced seven million people in the state of Washington to protect 70 peoples’ so-called right to privacy who dance on a stage naked,” he said, according to RawStory.com.

The rest of the story is worth reading, but I’m going to end it here on the ponderous concept of needing the street address of the person yr praying for. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a Christian, and I don’t pretend to understand all the mysteries of faith, but I’m reasonably sure God doesn’t require a street address to answer prayers.

Who’s that knocking at yr door,

This is dF


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I’m pretty sure by now you know the outcome of the SCOTUS Hobby Lobby case. And I’m required by law to post something about everything that has a trending outraged hashtag on Twitter.

So.

For those of you who want a good breakdown of the decision, you can check out SCOTUSblog here and here and The Volokh Conspiracy here if you want a good breakdown.

(NOTE: SCOTUSblog is not the official blog of the Supreme Court, contrary to popular belief on Twitter.)

If you read any of those links – and if yr social media feeds look anything like mine – you may notice is that people are drawing conclusions and taking a stand based on what they think the Hobby Lobby ruling means, rather than what it actually means.

That’s fairly typical, especially with politically charged cases. However, this is one of those times where the disconnect is actually understandable.

Take for example the legal reasoning that a for-profit corporation can have religious beliefs. I’ve actually read it and I sort of get it, but I still have a hard time applying that legal concept to Real Life. The concept relies on century-old legal technicalities so labyrinthine and complex that it reads more like the product of an alternate universe that has little to do with the universe we live in now.

The same arguably goes for Justice Alito et al’s views on the role of contraceptives in healthcare, the government’s ability to cover the cost in other ways, alternative ways of acquiring them, and the ability of Congress to come up with legal remedies to the situation if they don’t like the outcome. On paper, strictly following the letter of the law, the argument makes a kind of sense. In real life, it’s misguided and impractical.

Hence all the dithering on Twitterbook.

So it’s no surprise people are upset over the ruling. Yes, it’s partly because Hobby Lobby won, but really it's because they haven’t been given a good and practical reason why their side lost. They’ve been handed complex conceptual legalese that – when applied to the real world – basically says this: (1) A corporation can have religious beliefs, (2) it is under no real obligation whatsoever to prove that a legal business requirement interferes with its religious beliefs as long as it says it is a sincere believer, and (3) the rights of religious business owners are more important than the rights of their female employees (religious or otherwise).

None of which sounds very sensible when you put it like that. 

It can’t help matters that J. Alito et al reached that conclusion without giving much (if any) thought to the realities on the ground for women affected by the ruling. (It’s probably no coincidence that none of the female justices backed the majority decision.)

And within the broader context of the current national discussion on Obamacare, birth control and women’s issues in general – to say nothing of the considerable power and influence corporations already have over our lives – it’s no surprise Hobby Lobby opponents are both angry and terrified of the potential consequences, real or imagined.

As for those consequences … my gut feeling is that the worst-case scenarios being tossed around (i.e. OMG now every CEO in America will suddenly find Jesus and use the ruling to not only get out of the contraceptive clause of Obamacare, but also fire gays and lesbians and refuse them service and opt out of minimum wage laws, etc) are way overblown, if only because (1) worst-case doomsday scenarios rarely happen and (2) as I understand it, they’ve theoretically been able to do that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act since 1993. I have doubts they’ve been waiting for a case like this to make their move.

On the other hand, we didn't have Obamacare in 1993, and we don't exactly live in rational times when it comes to Obamacare, contraceptives and women’s issues (among other things). So while most companies probably won’t exploit the ruling, some will probably try their luck. If nothing else, there’s already some early indications that the decision will have a much wider impact than J. Alito thinks. (By some accounts it already has.)

As for the conservative Christian groups crowing about religious freedom, I’ll repeat what I said in my previous post about this: they’re really in for a surprise when a “closely held” company run by Muslims or Wiccans or Satanists or whoever does what Hobby Lobby is doing now. And they’ll have a lot of nerve to complain.

Stop making sense,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Or, more specifically, my only post about the Hobby Lobby case currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Actually, there are two cases – one with Hobby Lobby, and another with Conestoga Wood Specialities, but I guess more people are familiar with Hobby Lobby, plus it rhymes and sounds a little silly in a courtroom setting.

Anyway, as you probably know, both cases focus on the same two legal questions:

1. If corporations are people, are they also religious people?

2. If they are, does that mean they’re exempt from Obamacare, which requires you to pay for contraceptives for all the sluts who work for yr company female employees?

As usual, there is a lot of debate about this on Facebook and Twitter. And by “debate” I mean “posting hysterical hyperpartisan memes that oversimplify a vey complex issue in the name of political convenience”.

If you prefer something with a little more depth and nuance, I recommend this piece from The Economist, this lengthy breakdown from WaPo, and this translation of the legal issues at hand from SCOTUSblog.

As a blogger, I'm required to post my own non-expert opinion on this. So let's break it down into two (2) questions:

1. Who will win?

No idea, though based on what little I’ve heard, Hobby Lobby has its work cut out for it. It will probably depend on to what extent SCOTUS decides that the law cited in the case (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) applies to businesses. Also, even if it does, the RFRA doesn’t allow you to do anything you want in the name of religious freedom, so they may also take into account the potential can of worms a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby will open, but that’s not necessarily guaranteed.

There’s also some indications that Chief Justice John Roberts knows all this and is looking to hammer out as narrow a ruling as possible to ensure it isn’t applied too broadly.

Meanwhile, if you have the time (which you probably don’t), you can always read this TL;DR assessment from a Stanford law professor who estimates that – if you go strictly by the legal arguments being deployed here – Hobby Lobby has a stronger case than you might think.

2. Who should win?

As you might imagine, I’m not with Hobby Lobby on this one, mainly because of the aforementioned can of worms (which is covered pretty well in the above links), even though others have pointed out that under both RFRA and various state laws already in place, the worst case scenario predicted under a Hobby Lobby victory (i.e. employers using religion as an excuse ton ignore every business regulation on the books) would have happened a long time ago.

It’s also worth mentioning – as others have pointed out to me from personal experience – that birth control pills aren’t always prescribed strictly as an anti-pregnancy tool. There are other medical applications, like treating hormonal imbalances. So it’s not as simple as the “we don’t want to pay for yr heathen slut lifestyle” argument championed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.

I do understand why a CEO would want to run a business in a way that doesn’t violate his/her religious beliefs and associated mandates. (That includes, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, etc.) But aside from the fact that I think it’s impossible to stick 100% to yr ideological guns without impinging on someone else’s rights sooner or later, I admit that I have a problem with Hobby Lobby’s argument that there’s no difference between a business and the person who runs that business.

That might be technically true for start-ups and family-owned private companies like Hobby Lobby. But it’s not true for other businesses, whose boardrooms and CEOs change all the time. And either way, for all intents and purposes, Hobby Lobby does not, as an entity, believe in God – the Green family does. I don’t see how they’re the same thing.

That said, given the increasingly blurred line between religious and political speech in modern America, thanks to the conservative Christian juggernaut – and given that corporations have a right to political speech (by which we mean $$$) – it’s possible they’re confusing one for the other. It’s also possible that it’s not entirely unintentional.

Anyway, I see a lot more downsides than upsides to Hobby Lobby winning their case unconditionally, so I’m hoping that, if SCOTUS decides Hobby Lobby has a point, whatever ruling they hand down will be as narrowly tailored and cautious as possible.

The other thing I’d add is that most of the conservatives championing Hobby Lobby’s case have – as usual – gone into this under the assumption that the freedom of corporations to exercise their religious rights will apply only to Christian-owned businesses. (See Oklahoma City for an idea of the potential surprises that await them if they win.)

Get off yr hobby horse,

This is dF


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You’ve heard about the passing of Fred Phelps by now – founder of Westboro Baptist Church, professional funeral picketer and coiner of the slogan “God Hates Fags™”.

Inevitably, some people have proposed picketing his funeral for heckling purposes, because irony/just desserts/fuck that guy.

I’d rather they didn’t. If it’s not cool for the WBC to do it, it’s not cool for you to do it. As emotionally satisfying as it might be for some people, stooping to Phelps’ level only justifies his legacy. It won’t be funny or clever, just sad, and kind of a dick thing to do.

That’s assuming Phelps even has a funeral, of course. Reportedly there won't be one because it contravenes the beliefs of his own church.

Well played, WBC. Well played.

As for the future of WBC, I doubt it changes anything. His followers have pretty much bought into his hate trip, so they will likely continue his work and spout his message of hate wherever they can.

Apart from that, I don’t have a lot to say about this. I’m sure many will celebrate Phelps' death and piss on his grave (literally or figuratively). But I’m not really down with that. I’m not especially saddened by his death, but I don’t take any joy in it, either.

Some friends have suggested marking his passing by making donations to the Matthew Shepard Foundation or similar pro-gay/anti-hate charities. I think that’s a good idea, and certainly a more productive one. 

Moving on,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Or, “Absolutely Positively My Only Post About Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A”.

So. Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy does not like the gay peoples, and feels strongly enough about it that he’ll go on record in public and talk about how much he does not like the gay peoples. 

My take on this is no different from similar incidents where CEOs decide to publicly take sides on emotional wedge issues like gay marriage and gay rights in general. Which is this:

Gibbity gibbity gibbity ... )

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve eaten at Chick-Fil-A only once in my life. Possibly twice. I may have eaten at the one near Carbondale in the early 90s, but that was 20 years ago, so I don’t remember for sure. I definitely visited the one in Maryville-Alcoa, TN around four or five years ago, before their president’s political opinions became a Facebook meme. 

In any case, I wasn’t all that impressed with their chicken sandwich. So it’s a bit disingenuous for me to boycott a business I had no plans to revisit on future trips to the US, is what I'm saying.

Taking my business elsewhere,

This is dF


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ITEM: Louisiana Republican state representative Valarie Hodges withdraws support for Gov Bobby Jindal’s new program to allow taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious schools after she discovers that Islam counts as a religion.

“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday. […]

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

This is a good illustration not only of how insanely afeared Republicans are of the Islams, but also how myopic they tend to be whenever they try to pass legislation that intentionally blurs the lines between church and state in the unspoken (and unwarranted) assumption that Christianity is the only religion that can legally benefit from such laws.

Naturally, I find grimly hilarious when the penny drops like this. On the other hand, I doubt this will make Republicans think twice about faith-based funding. It’ll probably just make them look for ways to ban Muslims from qualifying.

Back to school,

This is dF


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I’m from Tennessee. I don’t talk about it much. Except when I have to.

Which seems to be more and more often, now that the state govt is busy transforming Tennessee into a gun-owner’s paradise where the Bible counts as science, no one has sex until they’re married, and when they do, it’s hetrosexual sex only, even if yr just talking about it.

Their latest proposal:

I’m from Tennessee. I don’t talk about it much.

I should point out that I got that headline from Addicting Info, which means it’s both overwrought and misleading.

But not entirely false.

The bill in question, SB 3310 (which passed 28-1 in the state senate) and HB 3621 (now on the floor), is an update of Tennessee’s current abstinence-mostly sex ed law. The new law does NOT say you can’t mention hand-holding or kissing. Not specifically, anyway. What it says is that teachers cannot “promote any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with non-coital sexual activity”.

“And what exactly counts as a gateway sexual activity?” you may ask.

Well.

It doesn’t say. But it does say that if a teacher mentions any “gateway sexual activity”, parents can sue them. So if yr a teacher in Tennessee, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution and not say anything except “here’s where babies come from, now don’t do any of this or anything that could conceivably lead to this til yr wedding night.”

So theoretically, yes, if yr conservative enough (and if yr a Tennessee legislator, judge, police officer, or parent, there’s a good chance you are), that could include kissing or holding hands.

Or dancing, even.

Stephen Colbert is here to give you an idea just how far this logic can go.



Needless to say, I think the idea of “gateway sexual activity” is silly. But then I think abstinence-only sex ed is a bad joke, and I don’t particularly buy the “gateway drug” argument that beer leads to heroin, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

ADDENDUM: Oh, that part in the headline about banning teaching about contraceptives? That’s not accurate either. The law says that you can talk about them, provided you do so in a “medically accurate” way that’s consistent with the abstinence-mostly message.

Whatever that means.

And if you don’t, parents can sue you for that, too.

See what they did there?

And that’s why I don’t talk much about being from Tennessee. Though there are worse states to be from, I guess.

Don’t look at me,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
I’m originally from Tennessee, a state that doesn’t make national headlines very often, and when it does, it’s usually because of Republicans passing bad, atavistic laws.

Like allowing guns in bars. Or making it a felony to share yr Netflix account or post anything online that might offend anyone. Or allowing businesses to discriminate against gay people. Or banning teachers from mentioning gay people in any way, except when they’re acting on their moral convictions by denouncing gay students as demon spawn.

On the bright side, at least they haven't legalized the teaching of Creationism in science classes, which would –

Oh. 

Never mind.

It's called Senate Bill 893, and while it doesn’t permit teachers to swap out evolution for Creationism as a scientific explanation for man’s origins, it does permit students to ask about it in class, and once they do, teachers are now required by law to discuss and explore Creationism – presumably for as often as the students bring it up.

And TN being what it is, and fundamentalist conservative parents being what they are, it’s a fair bet it will come up often. It only takes one kid to put Creationism on the table – a point I’m sure isn’t lost on the people who came up with SB 893.

Is this that big a deal? I think so – at least as far as public schools go. I’m a big believer in making Rick Santorum vomit church/state separation, and that includes using publicly funded schools to promote religious beliefs. And Creationism definitely counts as a religious belief. Conservatives can dress it up as science all they want. It’s still a religious belief. So SB 893 looks to me like a fairly obvious dodge to get around the church/state issue so Creationism can be taught in schools.

Not that I’m not 100% opposed to that. I’m certainly in favor of Creationism being mentioned in courses like History, Social Studies and Political Science in the context of, say, illustrating the church/state debate and the tactics deployed by fundamentalist Christian politicians to get around that separation. I’m even okay with Creationism being mentioned in science classes, if only to give students a textbook example of what is science and what is DEFINITELY NOT BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION science.

But SB 893 is a bad way to enable that because it empowers students, rather than teachers, to determine their science curriculum, even if it’s not science. Which isn’t a problem if yr a science teacher who thinks Creationism is science and evolution is bunk (in which case, yr not much of a science teacher).

Class dismissed,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
A long time ago I started a series of posts (continued by [personal profile] bedsitter23  for a period of time) that compared cover songs to the original versions with the thesis that it’s rare for newer versions to become the definitive version of that particular song.

One recurring theme of doing cover songs is that artists can approach them one of two ways: (1) stay true to the original as much as possible, or (2) deconstruct and reinvent the song in their own artistic vision.

Which brings us to Pat Boone.

Boone, as you probably know, established his singing career by making Fats Domino and Little Richard songs safe for white people to listen to without consigning their souls to that special Hell where the kids have premarital sex right in front of you, reefers are mandatory, and there are no separate washrooms for black people. Or something.

Anyway, Boone was so squeaky clean he made Justin Bieber look like Mötley Crüe, and while he launched a successful career as a result, when people think of “Ain’t That A Shame” today, none of them think of Boone’s version (apart from people who still watch the 700 Club, I mean). Put simply, Boone didn’t pwn any of those songs as his own.

In 1997, Boone surprised everyone – not least his own fans – by attempting to do for heavy metal what he did for 50s R&B. He did a whole album’s worth of hard-rock/metal classics – all arranged in a swinging Big Band style.

It was called In A Metal Mood: No More Mr Nice Guy. It sounded like this.



Obviously there was nothing “metal” about it (apart from the brass section, maybe – brass being technically a metal and all). At the time, people like me laughed and laughed and laughed. Although we cringed while we laughed. Some of us wept, even. Or shook our fists in anger. And not in a metal way.

Listening to it now, though, I can’t really decide whether it’s a work of clueless abomination or artistic genius. I mean, think of the work it must have taken by Boone (or whoever his music arranger was) to take these songs, disassemble them and rework them into something Billy May would be proud of, with Boone crooning Dio lyrics as though he’s singing about dancing in the moonlight or how swell Jesus is.

It’s not the stretch it might seem to be. Bobby Darin proved it was possible to set lyrics about gratuitous and graphic gangster violence to Big Band music (see: Darin’s “Mack The Knife”, also a cover song). And of course it’s always possible to make a metal song work in an entirely different musical genre (see: Johnny Cash’s cover of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage”).

So in a twisted way, I can kind of appreciate what Boone did there.

At the same time, how many people prefer Boone’s version of any of these metal songs to the originals? About as many as the ones who prefer Boone’s version of Little Richard songs. Possibly less, since at the time many of Pat’s fellow born-again Christians were aghast that Boone would record Satan music (even if he did remove all the Diabolus chords and squiddly-doo solos and falsetto vocals and stuff).

Indeed, I fully admit I only like this in the same way that I like Dr Demento compilations and William Shatner records (and frankly, Shatner is better at this kind of thing).

Also, believe it or not, Ronnie James Dio is one of the backup singers on this version. So I guess it must be okay. Somehow.

No posers,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Well put.

Going down to Sin City,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
So. Rush Limbaugh said something stupid and offensive again.

Which should surprise no one – he’s paid tens of millions of dollars to do just that. Which is why I don’t make a habit of posting every time Limbaugh does say something stupid and offensive, because if I did, this blog would consist of nothing but incidents of Rush Limbaugh said something stupid and offensive, and then I’d have no time to post Bettie Page pictures and amateur book reviews and crap.

Still, the whole Sandra Fluke/contraception coverage thing deserves special mention for a few reasons:

‘Scuse me while I get this off my chest ... )

Okay, I’m done now.

Thrills, pills and bellyaches,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Previously on Senseless Acts Of Bloggery:

… the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature has passed a bill that would require a woman who wants to get an abortion to have an ultrasound done first – which, in most cases, will mean a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Under the law, the woman has no option to refuse this procedure, so consent is irrelevant. She does, however, have the option of not getting an abortion.

See what they did there?

UPDATE: The bill has been abandoned.

Allegedly due to national ridicule on SNL.

(And the Daily Show too, but somehow I don’t think Republicans at any level of govt base their votes on what Jon Stewart says – if only because he’s preaching to the choir and his ratings are lower than SNL’s because he’s on cable.)

Then again, how many of them really care if SNL makes fun of them? If that was the criteria for supporting or not supporting controversial laws, the GOP would never get any laws passed. And as states like Wisconsin and Arizona know, they be passing all kinds of laws.

Anyway, VA governor Bob McDonnell – who very much wanted to sign the Transvaginal State Rape bill – claims he backed away from the bill because he consulted with doctors and lawyers including the state’s attorney general before concluding the bill would likely face constitutional challenges.

Of course, if you believe the people at Slate, that was sort of the whole point.

And so much for that conspiracy theory.

Anyway, I’m sure the fact that SNL was making fun of his party is a coincidence – as is the fact that he’s rumored to be a potential VP candidate for whoever wins the GOP nomination. Because when you run for VP, no one cares if you advocate state-raping pregnant women with transvaginal wands in the hopes that it might shame them into having the baby.

Back to the drawing board,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
ITEM: The Westboro Baptist Church fails to make it in person to protest at Whitney Houston’s funeral, but makes up for it by Photoshopping themselves into a picture of the funeral.

Like so.



The photo was tweeted by Margie J. Phelps, daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, although media reports say if the WBC was there, no one actually saw them.

All part of the Liberal Media Conspiracy, I’m sure.

The Photoshop tactic is silly, of course, and a little sad.

On the other hand, I’m sure plenty of people would rather the WBC protest funerals via Photoshop rather than actually show up. So I shouldn’t put it down.

I think the WBC should seriously look into this. I mean, think of the money they’d save on transportation costs.

Being there,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Some people have been kicking this around on the Facebooks, and this is not a topic I usually blog about, but the whole thing is frankly bizarre to me.

The topic: the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature has passed a bill that would require a woman who wants to get an abortion to have an ultrasound done first – which, in most cases, will mean a transvaginal procedure, in which a probe is inserted into the vagina, and then moved around until an ultrasound image is produced. Under the law, the woman has no option to refuse this procedure, so consent is irrelevant. She does, however, have the option of not getting an abortion.

See what they did there?

The story baffled me at first because I couldn’t for the life of me work out why the Republicans came up with it in the first place (officially, I mean, since they can’t come right out and say “This is to prevent women from getting abortions”).

Turns out the official rationale (paraphrased) is “ensuring women have as much information as possible to make an informed decision about whether to go through with an abortion”.

Uh-huh.

Okay, that may be true in the sense that Republicans might be banking on some fantasy scenario where the woman seeing an ultrasound of an embryo in her uterus will somehow convince her (or shame her, or whatever) not to go through with the abortion.

That said, informed decisions are usually voluntary. Also, this is the same party that thinks teenagers will not have sex if you tell them not to and don’t tell them anything about contraception, and that the way to prevent kids from becoming gay is to never mention it out loud.

Also also, it’s a bit disingenuous for Republican lawmakers to blather on about informed decisions when they also go around saying really ignorant things like abortion is a “lifestyle convenience” (you know, like pedicures), and that non-consensual transvaginal procedures are no big deal because women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant”.

In fairness (such as it is), I should add that Slate has suggested that the Virginia GOP is deliberately playing the fool in the hopes that someone will challenge the law and force a review of Roe v Wade, which they’ve wanted for years. Maybe. But if that’s the case, it says a lot when you care about a given issue so much that yr willing to portray yrself and yr entire political party as a pack of ignorant misogynist hicks.

On the other hand, when you live in yr own media echo chamber, you do get to live in yr own little self-reinforcing fantasy world of truthiness where women soldiers should avoid combat because they’re a distraction and just asking to be raped, Obamacare’s rules on contraception coverage amount to an all-out war on Christianity (and will end the human race because there will be no more babies), and it’s unreasonable for sexually active women to object to doctors sticking medical gear up their hoo-ha because they should be used to having long hard things shoved up there by now.

So it’s not like they know they sound like ignorant misogynist hicks.

Open wide,

This is dF


defrog: (Default)
Yr Obama-Hates-American-Jesus lede of the day:

Answer: no.

As a professional journalist, headlines like that drive me bonkers – not just because NPR should know better than to use a question for a headline, but because they should know better than to use a silly question to which any sensible person knows the answer.

Which is: no.

Still, the article raises some interesting points about the perceptions behind the War On Religion meme – such as the tendency of Christian conservative politicians and pundits to drastically overstate the problem.

And O Hell there he goes again ... )

You can’t always get what you want,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
Yr New-Twist-On-Hypocrisy lede of the day

A new twist on an old theme …

To be fair, it’s always possible he had no idea some of the women he donated his seed to were lesbians. Except that, as it turns out, he did.

Even so, when you campaign against gay marriage on the grounds that it undermines the value of traditional hetero marriage, I’m reasonably sure one way to demonstrate the sanctity of trad marriage is NOT donating yr sperm to at least nine other women behind yr wife’s back – especially when sperm donation experts say it should be limited to four families max.

Still, points for being original in his hypocrisy.

And maybe the hypocrisy charge is unfair, as these are New Zealand lesbians. Maybe he thinks that gay marriage is only wrong when American homos do it. Or maybe he thinks if you give lesbians sperm, it makes them straight again.

Who knows? Who cares? At the end of the day it’s just one more reason why I don’t have to take conservatives seriously when they go on and on and on about The Gayz ruining the marriages.

Who’s yr daddy,

This is dF


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