Saturday, May 31, 2014

Two weeks in sixteen pictures

So regular readers will note that my blog has been mysteriously quiet these last two-ish weeks. Believe it or not, I've started a few posts but just never got around to finishing them. Why? Well, mostly because I've been busy, busy, busy with work, and, of course, the yard, now that Wisconsin's long winter/wintery spring has ended. In summation of the last two weeks, I present you with the following journal of photographic highlights. 

Blossoming apple trees

Bleeding heart

"You can't make me!"
Viola after Rainstorm

Viola after Rainstorm 2
Heading Home
Sunrise Rose
Sunset Rose
Rainstorm on the Horizon

Early Bloomer
Sleepy Cat

Crab apple after rainstorm

Oh, and somehow, since last Easter, this little guy...

ended up turning into this great, jolly monster :)

What the pictures don't include are the ten bajillion times I've mowed, already; the new fountain we put in; and Memorial Day. But, really, the pictures do tend to convey the overall idea. And, in case you hadn't guessed, this time of the year is one of my favorites.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Thugs with jugs", death threats, insults: gun rights advocates targeting women

Mother Jones has an article on gun activists and their targeting of women that is at once elucidating and mortifying. It details some of the tactics these "responsible gun owners" sink to -- threats, lies, violence and obscenities. It's particularly curious to see how that treatment compares to men in the same scenario. For instance, when a high school teacher spotted a group of heavily armed people acting aggressively, she called the police. Brett Sanders of Plano's Open Carry Texas posted a video to YouTube with her name and phone number -- a video that was criticized "not only for outing the woman but also because it was misleading: It claimed that the woman had called 911, though she'd called the nonemergency line of the Plano PD. And the footage it used came from friendly-looking demonstrations elsewhere—not from the one that the woman encountered." On the other hand, "[a]ccording to Plano police records, two other people called in with concerns about the demonstration that day—both men. No member of Open Carry Texas publicized their information." The teacher (whose name MJ withheld for her protection) was "pummeled with text messages and voicemails, copies of which she provided to Mother Jones. Callers told her she was a 'stupid bitch' and 'motherfucking whore.'" Eventually, the abuse grew so bad that she had to change her phone number. Lest you think that the deceptive video was frowned on by OCT higher ups, have no fear: they've got their man's back.
Sanders "didn't do anything wrong" by posting the video, nor is it relevant that he misidentified the type of call or used footage from a different demonstration, CJ Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, told me. "Our point in doing that is to expose the kinds of people that are complaining about our rallies."
To Grisham's minimal credit, he did at least admit that he "would've personally done it differently." But lying and inciting threats against people is not wrong.

This is hardly the only charming activity in which Open Carry Texas has engaged. Grisham -- who would not, personally, have lied about and revealed the identity of the badgered teacher -- declared that it "warms the cockles of [his] heart" to see the following photo -- the conclusion of
a "mad minute" at a firing range [participated in by OCT members], pulverizing a female mannequin with a hail of bullets. They positioned the figure with her hands raised in surrender, naked from the waist up. Afterward, they posed with the bullet-riddled mannequin, her arms blown off and her pants down at her ankles. "Mad minute" is a military expression referring to a burst of rapid fire, and Open Carry Texas members have often referred to Moms Demand Action as "mad moms."

Aside from embracing symbolic violence against ideological opponents, Grisham has also referred to Moms Demand Action as "thugs with jugs" and other derogatory terms.

And, before anyone says, "oh, but these are just extremists, keep in mind:

Just three days before Open Carry Texas outed the teacher, a state Senate committee held a hearing to consider further loosening gun carrying laws, and Grisham was invited to give official testimony alongside NRA lobbyists. "Open Carry Texas was given a seat at the table," says Stephanie Lundy of the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action. "It's serious. You can't write them off."
Nor are OCT the only nutjobs on the block. The MJ article details, among other things, some of the outrageous threats & terrifying instances gun-owning, background-check advocate Jennifer Longdon has had to endure. It's very much worth reading.

Right-wing news gobbling up Sriracha CEO's comment that air-pollution regulation "almost the same" as communist Vietnam

Turns out, a regulation requiring you to put in an air filtration system so that your (very successful) business doesn't flare up allergies and stink your neighbors out for months at a time is the equivalent of a cold-blooded communist regime. At least, according to Sriracha CEO David Tran.

Now, an effective filtration system might sound like a good idea, when one considers the impact its absence has on people's lives:
"It's like having a plate of chili peppers shoved right in your face," said Ruby Sanchez, who lives almost directly across the street from the shiny, new $40 million plant where some 100 million pounds of peppers a year are processed into Sriracha (pronounced "sree-YAH-chah) and two other popular Asian food sauces.
As many as 40 trucks a day pull up to unload red hot chili peppers by the millions. Each plump, vine-ripened jalapeno pepper from central California then goes inside on a conveyor belt where it is washed, mixed with garlic and a few other ingredients and roasted. The pungent smell of peppers and garlic fumes is sent through a carbon-based filtration system that dissipates them before they leave the building, but not nearly enough say residents.
"Whenever the wind blows that chili and garlic and whatever else is in it, it's very, very, very strong," Sanchez said. "It makes you cough."
Down the street, her neighbor Rafael Gomez said it not only makes him and his kids cough and sneeze, but gives them headaches, burns their throats and makes their eyes water.
If the kids and their dog are playing in the backyard, he brings them inside. If the windows are open, he closes them.
"I smelled it a half a mile away the other day when I was picking my kids up at school," he said.
It might seem that way, but, of course, only if you're a godless communist. According to Tran, who "says he escaped from Vietnam almost 35 years ago to be free of the communist government there and its many intrusions":
"Today, I feel almost the same. Even now, we live in [the] USA, and my feeling, the government, not a big difference," Tran says.
Apparently, Vietnamese communism was deeply concerned with the right to breathe of asthmatics. Or maybe Tran is just an asshole who thinks his 80 million dollar business shouldn't be bothered with trifles like people's health.

Naturally, the right wing agrees. With him. Daily Caller ran an article highlighting his comments. So did Fox News. And TeaPartyNewsNetwork. Rather than pick up on the extraordinary hyperbole -- comparing the brutality of the Vietnamese communists with a measure that prevents you from poisoning your neighbors' air --  they treat the commentary as if it is reasonable and deserving of genuine consideration. The commentary from readers is surreal. "Socialist cesspool", "the only good commie is a dead commie", "Tyranny", etc.: it's all there. But the best commentary came from RightWingNews, which went so far as to turn their take on his comments into a fawning commercial, and a glorious stand for freedom against pro-breathing tyrants, all at the same time:
If you haven’t tried it yet… try this stuff. You will replace ALL of your hotsauce with sriracha and remember with every knockout bite that you are tasting freedom and that even in California it still prevails.
So there you have it, faux-patriots: go, buy in droves, because, you know, people wanting to be able to breathe the air near their home is totally like a repressive communist regime. Go on, hot sauce patriots. Defend your

(to breathe polluted air for someone else's enrichment).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Michael Sam is not Tim Tebow, and celebratory kisses are not showy envangelizing

As much as I hate to post on a topic that's been talked to death...there's one aspect that I have not seen addressed as I feel it needs to be.

As you almost certainly know, openly gay football player Michael Sam was recently drafted into the NFL. On hearing the good news, he engaged in one of the most non-controversial things a man can do: he shared a celebratory kiss with his significant other. Except, of course, Michael Sam is gay, so, you know, controversy. The predictable hate ensued. Satire site freewoodpost picked up on the hypocrisy: it's only "flaunting" your sexuality when you're gay. It's only forcing people to consider your bedroom life when you're gay. It's only injecting sexuality into the discussion when you're gay. Which is to say, it isn't at all, and it's only seen that way through the prism of extreme homophobia: what I do is "normal", but when you do it I'm uncomfortable. So, for the love of humanity, stop it you pervert!

As I say, though, this point has been addressed rather well by many before me. It's the Sam/Tebow comparison that I feel shouldn't pass by without a response.

A few examples (gleaned from supportive conservative media, no less):

So let's start with the obvious. Sam isn't being "praised" for being gay. Sam is being praised for having the courage to be openly gay in a field that is historically, shall we say, not welcoming to gay players. Of the three tweets above, only one person comes near the truth: it's not that people are celebrating that he is gay, but that he is brave enough not to hide that -- and that he is not excluded from participation because of his sexual orientation. Because of the historically homophobic locker room environment, this is big news; it's a sign of significant progress, evidence that barriers -- the like of which Tebow never had to face -- might have come down, a little at least. Not because Michael Sam loves another man.

And, just as -- perhaps more -- importantly, Tim Tebow wasn't mocked for being a Christian. Tebow was hardly the only Christian in the NFL, and -- unlike its cultural attitudes toward gay players -- there is no particular hostility toward religious players. It wasn't that Tebow was religious that bothered people. It was Tebow's particular brand of religiosity: the showy evangelizing, the constant effort to prove that he was the Christianiest of the Christians. Tebow made a show of his Christianity, from the pious on-field prayers to the painted-on-his-face verses; and it was a show people didn't find compelling. No one begrudged him his faith; but the showiness of his evangelizing is the sort of thing that does rub some people the wrong way. In fact, I seem to remember someone rather famous complaining about that exact type of religiosity. Now who was that...?

Matthew 6.1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners [d]so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Oh yes, I believe that was Jesus. Turns out the "Christ" in "Christ"ianity wasn't a big fan of Tebow's brand of religious promotion either. And Jesus, as god characters go, was a pretty cool dude. So maybe "#society" isn't doing so bad after all, if it views those who "love to stand and pray" "before men to be noticed by them" with disdain. Or maybe Jesus didn't know jack, and we're all doomed because, you know, people rolled their eyes at Tebowing.

At any rate, what it gets down to is this: there is a distinct difference between sharing a celebratory kiss during a special moment with a significant other, and Tebowing. Now, if Michael Sam somehow manages to turn every appearance on the field into a demonstration or endorsement of his sexuality, yeah, they'll be similar. But nothing of the sort has happened (or is even likely possible).

Where conservatives seem to be missing the point is that they are confusing their discomfort with a celebratory kiss between men with constant promotion of a thing. Yes, you might love Christianity; and yes, you might hate The Gayz. But Michael Sam being gay (including having a boyfriend) is just him being gay; Tebow being Christian (including praying, attending church, etc.), is just him being Christian (like all the other Christian players who are not "persecuted" for their beliefs). Tebow made a (decidedly non-Biblical) choice to, shall we say, celebrate his belief in a fashion that came off as smug and holier-than-thou to many people -- not because he acknowledged that he was a Christian or lived as a Christian, but because he turned the sport into a venue for promotion of that belief, for evangelizing. Sam has done no such thing. He simply exists as a gay man.

Existing as a gay man, including having a family, is not "evangelizing" for homosexuality. It's just existing. And being uncomfortable at the sight of gay men existing is not evidence that homosexuality is being "forced" on you. It's evidence that you have issues you need to work through.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The right has finally abandoned its remaining shred of humanity

It used to be that the right wing pretended to have a moral compass. Pretended, in fact, to have the only true moral compass. It wasn't that they hated women and want to pay us less, take away our reproductive rights, etc.; it's that they love us so much they can't possibly leave us to our own silly devices. It isn't that they hate gay people and want to take away their rights to marry, hold a job and even exist; it's just that they love them so much they can't help but shower them in the sort of Christian compassion that will isolate, impoverish and even kill them. It's not that they hate the poor and want them to starve to death or die of treatable illness, but that they love them so much that they can't possibly do them the disservice of feeding, clothing or healing them (because, really, what sort of sick bastard would foster dependency like that? Other than Jesus, I mean). Liberals were intent on filling bellies but emptying souls, whereas conservatives focused on tending souls (and it's not for nothing that this is a task that produces no measurable results, in a scenario where suffering is actually considered beneficial and character building).

My point is, even at their most depraved, even as they embraced all sorts of demonstrably harmful and hideous things, conservatives pretended that they were doing it because it was the right thing to do. They have, apparently, decided not to bother anymore. And what was the catalyst for this sudden change?

Liberals expressing concern over hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls. Not just kidnapped girls, but girls kidnapped by a militant Islamist group. And not just any militant Islamist group, but one apparently forcibly converting Christian girls to Islam. Forget Benghazi, the right's latest political viagra; this is the sort of story that, in any other situation, would get a rise out of Republicans that would last years. It's got all the makings of the ideal right-wing fantasy: bad Muslims. Innocent children. Persecuted Christians. Obama not declaring war on someone, somewhere, to prove that we carry the biggest stick. (And, while it's never necessary, this one even happens to be true).

So what happened? This happened.

Michelle Obama, expressing solidarity with the parents of these kidnapped children. Michelle Obama expressing concern over hundreds of children captured for sexual exploitation by a bunch of adult religious fanatics.

Now, concern over a child being kidnapped and raped -- much less, hundreds of children -- might seem like a no-brainer. It might seem like the province of any remotely decent human being, the sort of thing that even the most shriveled and stunted soul could agree with: it's terrible when children are abused, much less in such a hideous fashion.

And I think you'd be right to suppose so. But there are plenty of people eager to demonstrate just how warped their moral compasses are, to illustrate that they've long abandoned any lonely lingering shreds of humanity.

Because, in their world, it's fun to mock kidnapped and endangered children, to use them as a prop to throw a political jab at an ideological opponent.

It's entertaining to mock raising awareness of the situation (which has actually exerted pressure, by shining light on the situation, on the Nigerian government, which was previously content to do nothing).

Michelle Obama's participation really just demonstrates American powerlessness, after all. And isn't President Obama to blame?
I want to ask you, what message does this send? And then I want to ask you, is the United States really this powerless? And then if you answer yes, we are really this powerless, then isn’t Obama to blame?
And when you think about it, doesn't it all seem just a little too convenient anyway?
Remember the movie with Robert Deniro and Dustin Hoffman called “Wag the Dog?” Funny thing, that film was released just before the Clinton-Lewinsky kabuki dance and the infamous pharmaceutical factory bombing in Sudan by President Clinton (and by the way, Monica is back in the limelight thanks to an article in Vanity Fair – but I digress – or maybe not). 
Are we witnessing an Obama “Wag the Dog” moment with Boko Haram in Nigeria? I say yes.
Consider all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee, which Rep. Nancy Pelosi referred to as a “political stunt.”  
Bet you didn't see it getting back to Benghazi. But boy would you be wrong. Tens of thousands of likes and shares seem to indicate that you should never waste a good opportunity to mention BENGHAZI. To hell with kidnapped kids.

But don't think Benghazi is the only way to politicize matters.

It's really not. And, come on, what's not to laugh about? (Or so the almost million people who liked, and over 150K users who shared, apparently believed):

Because, really, this is all just "cheap". It's the equivalent of making an easy payoff by rehashing decades old presidential sex scandals: cheap, cheap, cheap.

It's astonishing to think that someone, much less so many someones, would turn the kidnapping and sale of young girls into a political issue, and worse yet a source of amusement. Even though it shouldn't be, based on the course the right has been following lately. And yet it still is. Since when is the kidnap and sale, the sexual exploitation and forced conversion, of children a laughing matter? Since when is concern over that kidnapping, sale and exploitation a cause for political pettiness?

I'm afraid it's official, my friends. When the plight of kidnapped children is a cause for conservative amusement, any semblance of decency has truly died. The right's moral compass is so skewed that mocking kidnap & rape victims is now okay. And that is beyond effed up.

Monday, May 12, 2014

“I am not Rebelling Against God”

From the first of the Clergy Project blog's former fundamentalist preachers. Very well articulated points. A good read.

“I am not Rebelling Against God”

Rebellion implicitly requires disliking or disagreeing with the system in question.  You don’t rebel against something that you like or agree with.  And, as a Christian, I very much liked Christianity.  It gave me assurance of an eternal afterlife in Heaven — an afterlife where I would be reunited with loved ones whom I’d lost.  It gave my life purpose, assuring me that I was created by an omnipotent, loving god who had a specific, intentional plan for my life.  It gave me comfort knowing that there was a god watching over me, caring for me, and guiding me. I valued all of those things — and rejecting them was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.  In fact, it took me more than a decade of soul-searching and contemplation before I took that final step and said, “I don’t believe.”

Friday, May 9, 2014

Matt Walsh has a meltdown over Emily Letts' abortion (grab the popcorn!)

Turns out, you can go on Fox News and talk about how shooting an unarmed teenager was just "God's plan", and right wingers will enrich and worship you. You can gun down, execution style, two non-violent teenage thieves, and Sean Hannity will have your back. But film yourself preparing for and talking about a legal medical procedure?

Holy Hallelujah, Batman: shit just got real.

That faint whine that's been evolving into an ear-splitting hysteria these last few days? That's the right wing screechosphere finding out about Emily Letts' abortion video. Ms. Letts filmed her abortion and published the video in part as an effort to remove the stigma and fear surrounding the procedure, as an educational effort.

The predictable outrage ensued. LifeNews had multiple articles on Letts' decision. Lila Rose of LiveAction responded with characteristic hyperbole and flair for drama. Even renowned logician Glenn Beck weighed in. But the best, absolute best*, of the frantic ravings from the right belongs to Matt Walsh. Now, readers of my blog might remember him for his failed attempt at taking on the bodily autonomy argument. Walsh is your typical feminism-is-evil (and useless -- see, anything feminism did, Christianity did better. Even though most of the misogyny feminism has taken on in the western world stemmed directly from Christianity, and was largely supported by the Christian establishment), women-don't-value-money-as-much-as-men (so the pay gap is a myth!), white-men-are-victims (so stop bullying them!) Christian conservative. As such, his ramblings are rarely worth addressing. Every once in awhile, however, he manages to put up something worth noticing. Like his take on Emily Letts' abortion. Let's start with his opening paragraphs.
It’s time for all of us to understand that we are at war, and lives are at stake. 
The enemy — the self-worshipping death cult known as modern liberalism — has become increasingly vile, violent, and deceitful, and so we must become increasingly bold, fearless, and aggressive in our response.
War. Enemy. Death cult. Vile. Violent. Deceitful. Fearless. Aggressive. For a guy worried about the scary badness and troubling naughtiness of modern liberalism, that's a lot of intense rhetoric, right out of the gate. I mean, what set him off was a young woman daring to openly speak about having a legal medical procedure; and he responds with a rant that, in its first two sentences, involves war, death cults, aggressiveness, vileness, etc. -- and he's supposedly worried about the alleged 'violence' of those he opposes?

That's just the lead-in, though. It gets better. (And by better, I mean worse. Much.) He spends some time suggesting that "dear Emily" is a "psychopath", but his smug postulations come back around to the Great Truths in time. He informs his readers that
All abortion advocacy is extremism. It is impossible to be moderately in favor of abortion, just as it is impossible to be moderately opposed to it. Seeking a middle ground on abortion is like searching for a middle ground on slavery or genocide. It doesn’t exist, and those who wish to find it will inevitably end up in favor, and those in favor of murderous atrocities are always extremely in favor of murderous atrocities. Your acceptance — however moderate – of a deep and depraved evil, will color your soul in blackness, and send you barreling into a darkness that will utterly distort your moral compass, leading you to bow at the altar of the Culture of Death, where abortion is the highest sacrament.
And no, my fellow Dark Souls, this isn't outrageous satire, meant to ridicule or diminish pro-lifers. This person and his purple patches fully appear to be the real deal. Interestingly enough, he moves from depraved evil, highest sacraments and altars of death to lunch trays in the very next statement:
Your conscience is not a lunch tray, with all of the different components separated into their own compartments.
A jarring juxtaposition of Sauron-like evil with school cafeteria monotony; but I digress. At any rate, while the facts completely contradict Walsh's assertion that people can not be moderate supporters of abortion rights, well, Matt doesn't let facts get in his way. It simply cannot be done, even though people do it all the time, because Matt says so. Anyone who disagrees is a "liar".

Walsh doesn't simply contradict reality, however. He lies through omission. For example, he notes that
Gawker lament[s] the fact that Emily is receiving lots of hate mail, because you totally would never expect angry feedback when you go through the effort to nationally publicize your decision to terminate your child. 
What he doesn't tell you -- what's mentioned in the very article to which he links -- is that the "angry feedback" and "hate mail" includes death threats. Matt is a master at downplaying the actual nature of a situation when it doesn't suit him, and this is no exception. After a quick mention that she "totally" received "angry feedback" and "hate mail", without ever alluding to the seriousness of this "feedback", he further downplays it by comparing it to him "whining" that people wouldn't approve of his drowning puppies (in a fictional scenario). So death threats are just "feedback", and people should stop "whining" when self-proclaimed supporters of life respond to a woman's medical decision in perfect pro-life form: by threatening to end her life. (And we're the folks with "distort[ed] moral compass[es]".)

Walsh further distorts the truth when he strongly implies that abortion is an unsafe procedure. He produces a list of potential side effects:
Heavy or persistent bleeding
Infection or sepsis
Damage to the cervix
Damage to the uterine lining
Perforation of the uterus
Damage to other organs
Matt rigorously ignores the obvious -- that there are potential side effects to just about every medical procedure. It's worth noting, by way of contrast, that the potential side effects of a tonsillectomy are hardly more reassuring, and include 
Potential reactions to anesthetics 
- Headache
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Muscle soreness
- Death
Swelling (which in turn can cause breathing problems, particularly during the first few hours after the procedure)
Bleeding during surgery (which may require additional treatment and a longer hospital stay)
Bleeding during healing (which may require emergency surgery, and is riskier than scheduled surgery)
As with abortion side effects, most of those are very rare. But, oh my god, we should, like, totally ban tonsillectomies, because they're not 100% safe, so therefore they're hideously dangerous!

Of course, the best part of all of this (take a guess if Matt so much as alluded to it...) is that abortion is not only one of the safest medical procedures around, it is far safer and far less likely to end a woman's life than an uninterrupted pregnancy, with 1 in 2,400 American women dying from pregnancy related causes -- as opposed to 1 in 11,000 women in late term abortions, and 1 in 1 MILLION women in early abortions.

That's right. Matt, along with the requisite medical gore fetishizing and late term fetus shots, posts the images of two young women (one of whom he refers to as having been "murder[ed]" by Planned Parenthood) who tragically died during abortions. He even slaps a quote, absurdly stripped of context, from Ms. Letts, that abortion was "right for" her, "And no one else", on the pictures of the dead women . (The quote referred to Ms. Letts' decision to have an abortion, and it being her choice to make; but, again, Matt seems to think that the need for honesty is superseded by the need to wage "aggressive" and righteous "war" against the forces of Mordor tarnished souls and dark hearts, the wayward reprobates and fearsome fiends, of the "death cult" of "modern liberalism.")

Allow me to reiterate: any medical procedure carries risks. People have died in the dentist's chair, on the operating table, and in the hospital parking lot (see: my grandfather). Every one of those deaths is tragic and utterly regrettable. But that does not change the fact that abortion is an incredibly safe procedure, and even its most dangerous phase (late term) is significantly safer than pregnancy. Matt's crocodile tears here are incredibly transparent, as the thing he's lambasting is actually considerably safer than forced pregnancy (which would carry all the usual pregnancy-related risks, in addition to the added factors like unsafe attempts to end unwanted pregnancies...).

But perhaps the most cynical and disturbing feature of his entire hyperbolic meltdown is the inclusion of Charlotte Dawson in his list of and-no-one-else's. According to Matt, Dawson, "racked with guilt after having an abortion, hanged herself". While it is true that she had an abortion, and that -- over a decade later -- she hanged herself, her ex's tell-all interview and another online Twitter battle with trolls (Ms. Dawson had attempted suicide in 2012 after a similar entanglement), both occurring at that time, are at least as likely candidates for "contributing factor". But the really chilling part of all of this is there is only one crowd who routinely belittles women, shames them, showers them with guilt for choosing to terminate a pregnancy. This would be the crowd that thinks death threats are appropriate "feedback" for exercising the legal right to obtain reproductive care of your choice; that filming your abortion is the equivalent of producing a "snuff film"; that to dispel myths about abortion is the mark of a "psychopath"; that to support a woman's right to chose is to be "vile", "violent" (unlike, apparently, sending death threats), and "murderous". (Sound familiar, Matt? Those are all your words). It's the crowd that stands to gain the most from convincing women that they're evil, vile, murderers if they choose abortion, the crowd that exploits the death of every woman driven to suicide, shame or sadness over an abortion. It's the pro-life crowd.  It's the pro-life crowd that, when the inevitable outcome of shaming, badgering and harassing women for making their own reproductive choices is realized, sheds its crocodile tears. It's the Matt Walsh's of the world who, in one breath screech "depraved death cult, murderesses!!" and in the next weeps, "Look what abortion does to these women!"

And that level of duplicity, of brazen deception, is really the most disturbing of all. It's one thing to spew unabashed hatred toward anyone who thinks a woman has a right to decide when and if she'll be pregnant; it's another to pretend that you actually give a damn about the women you just poured your rage-filled heart into blasting. It's like Matt forgets that we can read his whole post, that we can remember that half a page ago he was ranting about blackened souls and murderous cults of death performing the high sacrament of abortion, right before pretending to grieve the loss of those "murderers". Or maybe he's just hoping that, if the sanctimonious moralizing fails to reach his readers, if the overt misrepresentation is spotted, if the tired emotional appeals are too overblown, then maybe, just maybe, the last ditch gore attack will have the hoped-for impact.

At any rate, I have to give Walsh credit -- his is the most absurd, the most duplicitous, the most bizarre hodgepodge of anger and pseudo-concern I've seen in a long time. And that's no small feat, as the right's righteous indignation (and all the crazies that brings along with it) was on full display for this one.

* Of those that I've seen, at least. If I've missed anyone even more, ahem, noteworthy than Mr. Walsh, feel free to nominate them in the comments.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hobby Lobby's Steve Green pushing nationwide curriculum to teach the "danger" of ignoring his god

Steve Green
Hobby Lobby's president, Steve Green, really, really does not understand religious freedom. We already know that Green's vision of "religious freedom" is not a personal freedom to believe what you like, but a "freedom" for a boss to impose his questionably moral viewpoint on his employees. He has demonstrated this with his lawsuit to impose his religious beliefs concerning birth control (itz evilz!!) on his employees, limiting their healthcare coverage based on his belief system. While this seems to be pretty clearly in the "your fist, my nose" realm of freedom (that is, where your "freedom" ends, as it impedes mine), Green is hardly done.

Rather, Green is further illustrating his disconnect from any real understanding of the notion of constitutional freedoms by advocating a nationwide, public school Bible curriculum. While he claims the goal is not to proselytize, his own words on the subject very easily put the lie to such an assertion. Among other things...

No, it's not hypocritical for an actor who plays with guns onscreen to support gun control

Every time an actor has the audacity to voice his or her opinion that maybe, just maybe, a nation with more gun-related deaths since 1968 than in all American wars combined needs to take a look at how criminals have such an easy time of getting their hands on guns, the typical hysteria follows.

He/she glorifies guns in his/her movies (by using them), and he/she wants to take my guns away?! God damned un-American, leftist, hollywood elitist hypocrites! 

No, they don't have to advocate anything like taking guns away; yes, that's how it's filtered through the right-wing spin machine anyway. Seriously, pick a celebrity who has dared to speak about guns, and google their name along with "hypocrite" and "guns". Sylvester Stallone's a good example. Or, heck, just type in "hollywood hypocrites guns". You get article after article from the screeching mouthpieces on the right, alleging that playing with a gun onscreen disqualifies you from having an opinion on gun control. Indeed, a mere mention that you support gun control (notably stripped of all context and specifics) is enough to justify accusations that you hate the second amendment.

Now, I'm not saying that some people who demand gun control are not hypocrites. If you think that no one should ever own a gun, and yet you own guns, you're a hypocrite; if you think that no one should depict gun use or ownership, while doing it yourself, you're a hypocrite. But suggesting stricter gun control laws, while complying with what you're suggesting? Sorry, right wingers, that's not hypocrisy.

Of course, my saying so isn't going to convince anyone whose rage censor kicked off at the dreaded words "gun control". So let me illustrate by way of example.
I own and drive a vehicle.
I believe there should be limitations on who can and cannot drive.
Do those declarations render me an elitist, America hating, freedom-destroying car-hater? Or can we all agree that it's not a good idea to permit six year olds behind the wheel? What about those with significant visual or mental impairment, impaired to such a degree that they would present a hazard to other drivers and pedestrians? What about drunk drivers?

I'm pretty sure most people -- including most car owning, driving people -- can agree that those are reasonable limitations. I'm further fairly certain that agreeing that drunks should not be behind the wheel, while being a sober driver, does not render one a freedom-hating hypocrite. (On the other hand, if one rails about drunk driving while driving drunk, one is, of course, a hypocrite; but that's not what we're talking about here: we're talking about people who comply with the law they're advocating [be it driving sober, or refraining from bazooka ownership]).

So, just as calling for reasonable limitations on driving while being a driver yourself is not hypocritical, no more is it hypocritical to own (or play with onscreen) a gun while supporting reasonable regulations on gun ownership.

Furthermore, the notion that depicting something onscreen is an embrace of that thing is frankly ludicrous. Actors routinely depict evil, unsavory characters -- be they murderers, corrupt cops, gangsters, thugs, terrorists, pimps, drug lords, dark lords, evil sorcerers, wicked wizards, twisted Uruk-hai & ring wraiths, etc. Actors depict persons down on their luck, misguided, fallen and/or in desperate straits -- homeless, runaways, prostitutes, junkies, Smeagol/Gollum, etc. The magic of cinema would quickly diminish if everyone was a Mary Sue with a perfect life. And yet who would declare that an actor who portrays a violent gangster can have no opinion of gangs? That someone who plays a terrorist cannot speak out against terrorism? That Andy Serkis cannot warn of the dangers of the Precious? (Seriously, not even meth compares to *that* addiction...) It's an absurd proposition, and one that does not hold true under even the slightest scrutiny. Actors and actresses routinely address a host of issues, from body image to genocide, particularly as it is relevant to their work. Mentioning guns is not a magic portal into anti-Americanism, where all who cross over loathe the second amendment ever after. Frankly, the idea is beyond absurd.

In short, if it's not hypocritical to pretend onscreen to be a killer, but oppose killing; to pretend onscreen to deal drugs, while opposing drug traffickers; to pretend onscreen to destroy cities in dragon fire, while not being a dragon; then it isn't hypocritical to oppose guns in the hands of dangerous psychopaths while holding a gun and not being a psychopath. Whatever the right-wing screechosphere might say to the contrary, it is not hypocritical for an actor who plays with guns onscreen, or owns them, to support limitations to gun ownership, so long as his or her actions fall within those parameters.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Death-from-pregnancy risk in US on par with Romania, Iran

Here's some appalling statistics for you.

Women who are 15 years old in 2014 face a lifetime risk of dying of 1 in 2,400, up from 1 in 3,700 for women who were 15 in the year 2000, according to the report from the charity organization Save the Children. That means that in 2014, a woman in America has the same lifetime risk of pregnancy-related death as a woman in Iran or Romania, the report said.
Of course, don't tell the anti-abortion crowd that. While some of them, with enough prodding, will be honest enough to admit that they would see a pregnant woman's health and life ruined to preserve her pregnancy, this is most often not the case. Pregnancy related risks are downplayed -- and even denied altogether -- by people either ignorant of such a basic biological fact (pregnancy carries risks to a woman's health & life) or else clever enough to prevaricate on the issue (recognizing that it's impolitic to declare that women should be denied life and health saving care because they're pregnant).

It's worth noting that, despite the anti-choice crowd's pretense that pregnancy, even rape pregnancy, is a perfect gift from God, the best and most natural thing for a pregnant woman, 1 in 2,400 is a much higher rate of death than the risk associated with the most dangerous period for abortion (after 21 weeks), of 1 death in 11,000 abortions. (On the other end of the scale, with early abortions -- prior to eight weeks -- the risk drops astronomically, to 1 death in 1,000,000 abortions).

The simple fact -- a fact utterly disregarded by the anti-choice crowd -- is that choosing to be a parent is no small undertaking. There are real life health consequences -- up to and including death -- involved. No one -- no one -- but the woman whose life and health will be so profoundly impacted has the right to make that decision for her.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The right's "Reality Free Zones"

Thought of the you ever notice that, instead of a substantive debate with real solutions, the right's most recent responses to just about everything is denial?

There is no one in America who lacks insurance or ready access to healthcare (remember that this was, essentially, the point that Mitt Romney -- the GOP 2012 nominee, and the grandfather of the ACA -- ran on in regards to healthcare. It was never an issue, everyone had it, Obama's a tyrant: vote Republican.)

There is no racism in America. If many African Americans are in poverty, incarcerated at much higher rates/stiffer sentences for the same crimes as others, etc., it's clearly their fault.

There is no sexism in America. If anything, women have waged war on men.

There is no pay gap. At least, not one that women don't want/cause/really need.

There is no anti-gay hostility in America. (Now excuse me while I try to make it legal for businesses to discriminate against gay people, landlords refuse to rent to them, etc.; all in Christian love and charity, of course!)

There is no reason for a woman to get an abortion, ever. Women's bodies shut down rape pregnancies. Medical reasons, schmedical reasons. And otherwise, put an aspirin between your knees, you whore!

There is no evidence of global warming. (And I'll tell you why, once I'm evac-ed to safety from the flooded shell of my home).

There is no evidence that the world is more than a few thousand years old (because, you know, we have this book...).

There's no need to raise minimum wage -- that was only intended to be a stepping stone/teenager-level pay anyway. (Just ignore FDR on the topic...)
There is no evidence of negative environmental impact from fracking, etc. Earthquakes happen. In brand new places with no apparent reason why. Because it's not fracking related, okay?

And when they're not busily denying reality, they're making really bad arguments, believing contradictory things simultaneously, and applying wildly different standards between groups. These arguments are generally at odds with logic, and reality too. Like:
There's rampant election fraud & impersonation. Okay, no, we can't provide a single example. But it's an incredible problem that must be solved immediately, even if it does impede a few hundred thousand legal voters. Because, you know, this is a big one.

Only when everyone is armed will we be safe from mass shootings (despite the fact that in life-and-death situations, in general even trained professionals demonstrate abysmal rates of success -- nevermind your average untrained hero-wannabee who does not regularly encounter life threatening danger...)

Thus we need guns everywhere, in churches, libraries, and workplaces. Except the places where those making these laws work.

Stand your ground is a great, life-saving law. But we want to seal all records related to it, because it's so life-saving-and-amazing that no one has the right to know anything about whose killing who for what reason.
The freedom to bear arms is enshrined in the constitution, so it cannot in any way be infringed. Which is why we want to limit our free press (see above).
More Americans dead-via-bullet since 1968 than in all American wars combined is just the price of freedom. Those lost lives are collateral damage. The vastly, vastly, VASTLY smaller number of people who die in gun-free zones are compelling evidence that we need everyone armed, everywhere, because there's a small chance that an armed person might have saved lives in that scenario (any chance that they might have added to the bloodshed will be duly ignored).
The right to bear arms is  inviolable; no consideration can infringe upon it. A person's right to life, necessarily, is not as set-in-stone as someone's right to an assault rifle, when they come into conflict.
Inner city men are lazy bums who don't play by the same rules as the rest of us. They're the thugs, moochers, and takers tanking the economy. But old white guys who owe We the People millions are the patriotic folk heroes who are going to save us all -- all the more so when their supporters are training rifles on law enforcement and threatening revolution. You know, because, they love America so much, they want to destroy it!
Gay people are hateful bullies because they won't let me bully them. Anymore.
The twice-elected American president is an American-hating dictator. Democratically elected. Twice.
We're the champions of the constitution, protecting it from the dictates of scary liberals and said un-American president. Which is why we want to sh*t all over that constitution, and implement religious tests and religious law (which it strictly protects against).

I demand my constitutional rights! Oh, and I don't recognize the government whose constitution I'm citing. 
Republicans seem to have figured out that, since they can no longer openly embrace discriminatory and/or dangerous policy, actions, or beliefs that they favor, it's best to deny that they exist at all. It's no longer okay to embrace racism; so rather than declaring that god made the races separate, damn it!, simply insist that there's no inequality or racism at play. "If such-and-such number of African Americans refuse to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, why should I be responsible?!" It's no longer okay to say that women should, on principle, be paid less than men (unless you're Phyllis Schlafley, apparently). Now, one must consider that women really don't negotiate as well as men, do they? Clearly, their priorities are different: women just don't care about money as much as men do. It's not okay to say that gay people should be harmed and killed. On the other hand, there's simply no reason to protect them from being beaten or killed, either, because who would do such a thing? I mean, what kind of maniac would harm another human being?! Clearly, a preposterous and unnecessary protection. (On a separate note, we need everyone in every school packing heat, because, omg, there's maniacs lurking around every corner, and we need to keep our babies safe!!) It's not okay to say that you think the sick poor should just have the decency to die already, damn it; that the water, air and earth near average Americans should be poisoned, polluted and destroyed for the benefit of the privileged; that the working poor should enjoy devoting their lives to a job that doesn't pay enough to live; that you don't give a damn what science suggests, if it contradicts what your preacher man tells you. One simply denies that these issues exist. The sick never die because of lack of healthcare (I mean, emergency rooms, right?); fracking and drilling are absolutely clean and it's only those crazy tree-huggers who tell you otherwise; the poor aren't poor, they're lazy -- and they even have refrigerators, the bastards!

I suppose this is at least partially a result of the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Sean Hannity-sphere they've ensconced themselves in: reality, if it contradicts the narrative, is no longer welcome. Just like they've created their own media outlets, they've created their own "realities". Except, their realities are pipe dreams, fantasies and nonsense. And the scariest part of it all is -- when their pipe dreams do become reality, we all stand to suffer.