Day: 2014.12.15

Kansas, Failing to Cope

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

It is a Kansas thing:

A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit alleging that science standards for Kansas public schools promote atheism and violate the religious freedoms of students and parents.

(Associated Press)

There are a number of questions one might wonder about, but perhaps it is time we pause to consider what, exactly, these religious fanatics are doing to their children.

That is to say, we are accustomed to the fundamental argument, and it really does seem a matter of one being unable to tell the difference between unlike things. Thirty years ago groups representing parents, churches, and politicians unleashed a daily spiel about how children were not smart enough to listen to music.

Here’s one: Have you heard Trans Siberian Orchestra? Okay, you know that song they play toward the end of the set, called, “Believe”? It was first recorded in 1990 by Savatage, and describes the epiphany of an unfortunate soul stumbling into the light. But think about that for a minute, one of our best new Christmas songs comes from a band once denounced on a regular basis as being satanic.

Sometimes it seemed a matter of simple jealousy; the “Christian” version of pop music does not seem to carry very far outside its dedicated audience. Those who remember the South Park episode “Faith Plus One”, and the crack about how Christian pop sounded like lust songs about Jesus, need only look back to this time in order to understand where that joke comes from. Brief moments of exposure over the years suggest it hasn’t gotten any better, but if one had to guess without knowing who Stryper was, would “Calling On You” sound like an appeal to salvation or begging for some fumbling teenage intimacy?Stryper

It was a futile effort to keep children away from popular music, but it also made one point clear: These people do not believe their kids are smart enough to listen to pop music.

Over the years, religious advocates have humiliated themselves. Christian censorship advocate Bob Larson demonstrated himself unable to comprehend liner notes, and, furthermore, could be caught rewriting the lyrics to some of the songs he complained about in order to make musicians sound scary.

The psychopathology of the underlying parental fear is open to certain argument, but functionally speaking the argument was clear: I do not trust my child to be smart enough to resist what I find objectionable and scary about the music. It is what it is.

But here is a new proposition: I do not trust my chiled to be smart enough to resist what I find objectionable and scary about science.

(more…)

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Another Case of NYPD Public Relations Heartburn

NYPD-car

There are those who suggest there is no such thing as bad press, but Tinseltown wisdom does not necessarily carry over into other industries. Certes, there is an argument to be made on a case by case basis, but some days other things are clear. To wit, the New York Police Department probably doesn’t need more bad press right now.

Taken individually, the cases seem to be routine examples of differences between the police account of an arrest and that of the person arrested. But taken together, the cases — along with other gun arrests made in the precinct by these officers — suggest a pattern of questionable police conduct and tactics.

Mr. Moore’s case has already been dismissed; a judge questioned the credibility of one of the officers, Detective Gregory Jean-Baptiste, saying he was “extremely evasive” on the witness stand.

Mr. Hooper spent a year in jail awaiting trial, eventually pleading guilty and agreeing to a sentence of time served after the judge in his case called the police version of events “incredible.”

In another example, Lt. Edward Babington, one of the four officers in Mr. Herring’s case, was involved in a federal gun case that was later dismissed and led to a $115,000 settlement. In that case, a federal judge said she believed that the “officers perjured themselves.”

(Clifford)

You know, like that.

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Clifford, Stephanie. “In Brooklyn Gun Cases, Suspicion Turns to the Police”. The New York Times. 11 December 2014.

A Geopolitical Public Relations Clusterbumble

Secretary of State John Kerry testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 9, 2014, before the Senate Foreign Relations hearing on "Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against IS." (Molly Riley/AP)

Sometimes there isn’t a joke to make. That is, we can’t even say the secret is out because it never really was a secret. Rather, it is a quiet gratification within the spectrum of grim news coming at us from all sides, and once again Americans are sort of late to the party:

Secretary of State John Kerry is a distinguished diplomat with impeccable manners — but that doesn’t mean he’s above lobbing a well-placed insult when it comes to enemies of the United States.

Kerry made clear earlier this week that he is committed to referring to the Islamic State as “Daesh,” a name that the group considers so degrading that it has threatened to kill anyone under Islamic State rule who uses it. The Islamic State’s opponents in the Muslim world have already embraced the name.

So, to the one, yes, as Akbar Shahid Ahmed explains for Huffington Post, them’s fightin’ words. Which is why others have dispensed with the whole ISIS/ISIL question. That is to say, really, this isn’t quite the same as when the Tea Party referred to themselves as “teabaggers”, but there is a similar aspect insofar as Daa’ish has apparently done this to themselves.

“Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (though the last word can also be translated as “Damascus” or “Levant”), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.

Daesh in Arabic “sounds like something monstrous. … It’s a way of stigmatizing [the Islamic State], making it something ugly,” Joseph Bahout, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Huffington Post.

Appearing Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss a new congressional authorization of military force, Kerry said the Obama administration sought an authorization “specifically against the terrorist group known as ISIL, though in the region is it called Daesh, and specifically because they believe very deeply it is not a state and it does not represent Islam.”

So, yeah. Keep up. This is about as much as we’re going to get for humor in war.

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Ahmed, Akbar Shahid. “Bye-Bye ‘ISIL’? John Kerry Calling ISIS By Arabic Term It Hates”. The Huffington Post. 11 December 2014.