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Liberty Counsel

Liberty Counsel

Brian Tashman of Right Wing Watch put together a brief list―and thank him, since that means you don’t have to do it yourself―of strange arguments offered in support of Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who asserts her ad hoc religion entitles her, as an equally protected constitutional right, to decide who is entitled to their equally protected constitutional rights.

The list itself is pretty straightforward except for its unbelievability; yet here we are, and this is real:

(1) God’s law trumps U.S. law

(2) Davis was elected before Obergefell, so she’s exempt

(3) Davis is the only clerk obeying the law

(4) Gays can just drive to another county

(5) Anti-religious test for office

While it is true that these are all nonsensical, we might take a moment to consider that first, reminding of two points: Insurrection and bad attorneys.

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Just a Music Moment (The Microorganism)

Boiled in Lead, 'From the Ladle to the Grave' (Omnium Records, 1989).  Composite including detail of cover art.

In truth, I can’t believe it took me this long. You know, as if I really need an excuse for a plague song.

In April, when your barge sailed through, I fell in love with you; alas! my paramour, alack! a stranger to me ’til the test comes back. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism! Dive in the gene pool, down you swim, down to where the light grows thin. Flail, little fishies, flail if you can, but avoid the microorganism man. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism. Caffeine, sugar, and THC is all the doctors are gonna find in me when they do the autopsy, the microorganism won’t get me. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism. God is good, and God is great; God’s a big invertebrate. God made the river change its route, but He won’t pull the microorganism out. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism! The cowslips bloom, and the bluebells to; here’s advice I’ll give to you: Rattle your sword before you strike, and never kiss anyone you like. O! the microorganism! O! the microorganism!

Boiled in Lead, “The Microorganism” (1989)

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My Own Private Disgrace

'Two Shades of Grey': Remix of Bug Martini, by nobody important, for no good reason, 23 August 2015; original by Adam Huber, 19 August 2015.

With utmost apologies, of course, to Adam Huber, though in truth none could possibly suffice. Sorry, Adam, I couldn’t help myself.

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 19 August 2015.To the other, such exercises are useful; in printed news media, the notion of column inches is disappearing into the electronic aether, but it does still exist for those whose writing aims to appear in the paper edition. And the nature of cartooning, of course, will always force some consideration of panel space.

This is the important part, because just how far does one push in order to make the joke work? There is an obvious hole in the remix, but it’s hard to explain just how our hero comes to expect that the stuff in the container is his grandmother’s cremated ashes mixed into baby fat and other such disgusting ingredients that she might await chthonic resurrection. (more…)

Steve Beshear’s Headache

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear speaks during a press conference after a closed joint whip and caucus meeting on the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, 5 December 2013. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Meanwhile, in the Bluegrass State:

David V. Moore and his fiancé went to the Rowan County Clerk’s office, armed with a copy of that Supreme Court ruling, in addition to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s executive order requiring all county clerks to issue marriage licenses. In the video, employees appear to ignore the legal documents provided, continuing to refuse the couple’s request for a marriage license, while the Clerk Davis hid in the back of the office.

Writing on his Facebook wall, Moore says, “We were denied a marriage license on Monday, July 6 at the Rowan County Clerk’s office. Kim Davis is at the end of the video, but we turned it off at her request.”

The recording shows the men entering the clerk’s office and waiting patiently while other residents — including people who came in after the couple — are served. Staff at the counter refuse the men’s request and tell them that Clerk Davis is “busy right now.” Then employees called the police, insisting that the couple’s supporters stop filming the anticipated rejection.

A police officer arrives at the office toward the end of the video and speaks with employees. When Clerk Davis finally emerges from her office (around the 11 minute mark), she tells the supporter to “Put your phone away.” The two continue to bicker for a moment before the video ends.

Kentucky law does not forbid filming any interactions with public officials in a public place.

(Browning)

Oh, and you know there’s more.

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Francis the Red?

Pope Francis is presented with a gift of crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.  Apart from the carved hammer and sickle, Morales gave Francis another politically loaded gift, a copy of "The Book of the Sea," which is about the loss of Bolivia's access to the sea during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1979-83.  Morales said things ahve changed with this pope and the Bolivian people are greeting Francis as somone who is "helping in the liberation of our people." (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Sometimes, the unsaid really is that important.

This is something worth considering:

Pope Francis avoided altitude sickness in La Paz, Bolivia, but he may have woken Thursday with a ringing headache anyway.

The day before Bolivian president Evo Morales gave Francis a large garish cross carved into the shape of a hammer and sickle – the symbol of Communist unity between workers and farmers.

That’s a bit bang-on-the-nose for his holiness, who has been branded a Marxist by Rush Limbaugh, and dogged by claims that he is a radical with dreams of toppling the global economy.

To be fair, a communist is typically defined as a member of the party, which denies the existence of God. That’s not Francis. But the pope is indeed a bit of a radical with dreams of a fairer global economy. In a much-anticipated papal letter released by the Vatican last month, he warned “every living person on this planet” about the reckless pursuit of infinite growth and boundless, buyable pleasures.

(Dokoupil)

Every once in a while, conspiracy theories arise among conservative Christians having to do with Catholics, communists, and other groups, such as Wiccans, as one iteration had it, trying to redefine morality and destroy Christianity in the New World Order.

The question of whether or not Pope Francis is a “card-carrying member” of the Communist Party is pretty much a distraction. In truth, a Christian’s command to seek from each according to ability and give to each according to need predates Karl Marx (1875), Louis Blanc (1851) or Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (1755).

He diagnosed it as “the deification of the market,” and argued that if we hope to flourish, we need “a bold cultural revolution” in the way we live and work. But by Thursday morning, Francis was busy pushing back on the c-word.

“When I talk about this, some people think the pope is a communist,” he told a gathering of peasants and workers, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t realize that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel.”

One wonders about politics, and whether the straightforward Biblical truth would simply make too many Christians’ souls explode in confusion.

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.

(Acts 4.32-35 (RSV))

Critics who worry that Pope Francis is communist are missing the point.

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Image note: Pope Francis is presented with a gift of crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Apart from the carved hammer and sickle, Morales gave Francis another politically loaded gift, a copy of “The Book of the Sea,” which is about the loss of Bolivia’s access to the sea during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1979-83. Morales said things ahve changed with this pope and the Bolivian people are greeting Francis as somone who is “helping in the liberation of our people.” (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Dokoupil, Tony. “Is the pope a communist?”. msnbc. 9 July 2015.

Weigle, Luther, et al. The Bible: Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971.

The Conscience of North Carolina

Kamon Dreams and Stranger Things: Detail of frame from 'FLCL' episode 5, "Brittle Bullet".

In addition to the obvious, that we are talking about North Carolina, here, there is another aspect we might pause to consider:

After a third-grader tearfully recounted how another boy had called him “gay” during gym class, teacher Omar Currie chose to raise the issue during story time by reading his students a fable about a prince who falls in love with another prince, ending with a happily-ever-after royal wedding.

That decision in April ignited a public outcry from some parents in the rural hamlet of Efland, North Carolina, resulting in Currie’s resignation this week from a job he loved. The assistant principal who loaned Currie her copy of “King & King” has also resigned, and outraged parents are pressuring administrators at the Orange County Schools to ban the book.

“When I read the story, the reaction of parents didn’t come into my mind,” Currie, 25, said Tuesday. “In that moment, it just seemed natural to me to read the book and have a conversation about treating people with respect. My focus then was on the child, and helping the child.”

Currie knows firsthand what it is like to be bullied. Growing up gay and black in a small town in the eastern part of the state, his memories of middle school are of being a frequent target for teasing and slurs.

(Biesecker)

Right. Welcome to North Carolina. To the one, we shouldn’t be surprised.

To the other, please consider a cetain symbolic value. Twenty-three years ago, Oregonians went to the ballot box and rejected Measure 9, a vicious anti-gay initiative. That year, voters in Colorado passed a similar measure. Amendment 2, as the Colorado version was known, died in federal court, and conservatives still complain about the judicial activism of saying a popular vote in a state cannot overturn the U.S. Constitution. In Oregon, though? The fight in Oregon orbited a library book. To be specific, if Lesléa Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies was not censored, then a Christian’s equal rights were under siege.

So for all we might recall and raise a glass to the efforts of zealots whose animus has driven gay rights all the way to the marriage equality threshold, it is also important to remember that the running electoral firefight leading from local supremacist ordinances all the way up to questions of constitutional amendments and open insurrection two decades later all started with a book that bigoted parents didn’t like.

There is, then, some symbolic value in this latest tale whispering up out of Efland, North Carolina.

‘Round and ’round, back to where we started.

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Biesecker, Michael. “Teacher resigns after reading students book about gay couple “. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 16 June 2015.

Worth a Few Minutes of Your Time

Suou's Reflection: Detail of frame from Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor.

This is worth keeping an eye on:

Few recent books have spawned as many arguments as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Until last week, though, I hadn’t seen anyone claim that Sandberg’s feminism-in-the-workplace manifesto is anti-science. And yet that’s exactly what Amy Alkon, an advice columnist who frequently dips into psychological research, argued in the New York Observer on Friday.

Drawing on evolutionary psychology — basically, the idea that many of our behavioral tendencies were shaped long ago, when the sorts of pressures that needed to be overcome in order to survive and reproduce were a lot different than they are today — Alkon writes that Sandberg simply ignores fundamental, biologically, and genetically predetermined differences between male and female behavior, and that because of these differences, Sandberg’s advice could actually be harmful if followed.

This sort of thing pops up from time to time — it’s not uncommon to see pop-science accounts that use evo-psych to make sweeping statements about human nature, particularly on gender issues. In one recent incident Science of Us readers might remember, for instance, researchers used evo-psych principles to tell a rather nonsensical story about why Kim Kardashian’s butt appeals to so many men. But Alkon’s column, even if it draws on some long-standing and stale claims about the differences between men and women, deserves a thorough debunking simply because it’s such an egregious example of the subgenre.

Jesse Singal of New York magazine’s Science of Us blog offers the well-considered response to one of those strange defenses of sexism that starts with the premise that “women are meeker than men, and less likely than men to bond, friendship-wise, with members of the same gender — behaviors forged by, you guessed it, evolution”.

And Singal really does deserve some credit for patience; repeatedly dismantling these arguments does nothing to prevent them from popping up again, but this is also the sort of thing people can steel themselves against for the future; and once one learns the familiar patterns, one is well equipped to respond to this nonsense when it arises in personal circles. The thing is that being polite does not mean sitting back and letting your friends embarrass themselves and denigrate others blindly pushing this sort of stuff. The number of advocates who, when challenged, resent the suggestion of misogyny suggests blithe ignorance, lest we have grossly underestimated the will while focusing on the habit.

And, frankly, that latter is a bit unsettling; this isn’t really some sort of conscious calculation so many people make in such a way that it looks like a conspiracy. This is just people being people. But that’s the thing: We can attempt to politely correct the record, and if it really is that big a deal to one of our friends, well, yeah, good luck with that. No, really, I can’t tell you to leave them behind; neither can I suggest you are remotely obligated to stick around.

But it seems somehow improper to leave them to wallow in potentially contagious ignorance. Indeed, we might even suggest it is dangerous. The thing is that this comes up enough that it would probably be helpful to have a response at hand. For now, Singal’s is pretty useful.

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Singal, Jesse. “No, Evolution Doesn’t Disprove Lean In’s Arguments”. Science of Us. 18 May 2015.

Not Helpful (National Sunday Law Edition)

State Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-6), then representing the Fifth Legislative District, speaks at a Nullify Now! rally in Phoenix, Arizona, 29 January 2011.  (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

Oh, for ....

This was one of those crazy bills in which lawmakers want people to be able to bring concealed weapons into public buildings. Allen got upset because a few people expressed common sense opposition to the idea. Lawmakers here cannot abide common sense.

Allen said, “Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth,” adding “that would never be allowed.”

She hinted that guns in public buildings might be necessary until there is a moral rebirth.

(Montini)

Okay, this is actually really important.

The idea is called National Sunday Law, and is a particular paranoia of certain Christian sects in the United States. And it ties into anti-Catholicism, conspiracy theories about the influence of Marxists and Witches in the New World Order, and even the black helicopter tinfoil, because apparently at some point the U.N. is going to send its secret army to invade the United States and arrest all the Sabbatarians and put them in tiger cages to await execution. Or, at least, so says at least one version of the conspiracy theory.

And if one has never heard of this discussion, perhaps some of our hardline right-wing discourse seems shot through with some sort of incomprehensible fear. And, yes, these conspiracy theories are actually exceptionally important. This is one of those seemingly incomprehensible fears; there are more believers than we might ordinarily guess.

One easy way to familiarize yourself with the idea is to walk into a Seventh-Day Adventist bookstore and simply ask someone to show you the section on National Sunday Law.

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Not Quite a Polish Joke, or, Rather, a Joke from Poland That Isn’t Really a Joke

Sorry, Pooh-Bear, you’re just not manly enough for Tuszyn.

Pooh-Bear is apparently not masculine enough for the satisfaction of Tuszyn, Poland.  Fuck you, Tuszyn, you stupid fucking bigots.Officials in a Polish town have opposed a proposition to name a playground after Winnie-the-Pooh due to the bear’s unclear gender and immodest clothing.

The matter was debated in a closed-door meeting weeks ago in the central Polish town of Tuszyn, but didn’t get much media attention in Poland until recent days.

Voice recordings of the meeting were leaked to the media in which officials complained that Pooh Bear is immodestly dressed and also lacks a clear gender. One called the bear a “hermaphrodite.”

(Associated Press)

Sorry, Tuszyn, you’re just not smart enough to demand respect.

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Associated Press. “Polish town opposes Pooh Bear for unclear gender”. KATU. 22 November 2014.

A Shot in the Somethin’

Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 12 May 2014.

“I think it’s partly [suspicion of authority], but I also think it exposes something about liberal politics. It exposes the libertarian vein that can run through liberal politics. This is an issue where you see people who call themselves liberal and say that they’re concerned with social justice joining the same movement as people who are actually libertarians and more on the far right side of things or part of the Christian right.

“I think it has less to do with the suspicion of experts than it has to do with this thing that we treasure and nurture in America, individualism, which can actually be quite damaging if it’s taken to political extremes. And we can see it both on the right and the left.”

Eula Bliss

Here is a hint to any parent who might well be caught up in the process of trying to convince a coparent that skipping vaccinations is a bad idea: If you’re the parent who takes the kids to the doctor, just get them the freakin’ vaccinations.

The RumpusThat’s what we did. And, sure, there was some back and forth in there about who ever objected—as if I, for some reason, would—but surely enough it came up again from familiar quarters, this time repeating the vapid Michele Bachmann line—you know, the one about cognitive disabilities so ridiculous that the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement to make the point?

Right. So, yeah. If the coparent wants to show up and pitch a fit in front of the doctor, she is welcome to do so. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward. To the other, I doubt she would actually go so far as to show up at the doctor’s office and pitch a fit. After all, nobody likes being laughed out of the room. And, besides, it would require actually showing up at the doctor’s office.

Not everyone is gifted with such disposable tinfoil, but there are likely more than we might otherwise guess.

And for those, yes, subterfuge by omission is completely acceptable, because when it comes to harming your children, the fact that the other parent is a parent only matters so much.

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Koven, Suzanne. “The Big Idea #10: Eula Bliss”. The Rumpus. 17 November 2014.

Drobnic Holan, Angie and Louis Jacobson. “Michele Bachmann says HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation”. PolitiFact. 16 September 2011.

Burton, O. Marion. “American Academy of Pediatrics Statement on HPV Vaccine”. American Academy of Pediatrics. 13 September 2014.