Parental Music Resource Center (PMRC)

A Note on Politics and Accountability (NRA Responsible Rhetoric Remix)

Congressional candidate and Nevada Assemblyman John Oceguera (D-16).

One of the wilder variables in the American political discourse is figuring out just how inappropriate any given impropriety actually is, which in functional terms translates to just how wrong or outrageous the marektplace―citizens and voters―will deem any particular words or conduct. Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress offers a tale that brings this seeming bit of superficiality into some reasonable degree of focus:

Just a few hours after congressional candidate John Oceguera announced he was terminating his lifetime membership with the National Rifle Association, the angry comments began flooding his inbox and Facebook page, calling him, among other slurs, a “pussy traitor,” “kool aid-drinking zombie,” and “libtard.”

“May be [sic] he can get an endorsement from the Muslim brotherhood?” mused one commentator, while another advised, “Castrate yourself.”

Sitting in his office on the western edge of Las Vegas, the former Nevada Assembly Speaker and Democratic candidate for Congress told ThinkProgress that the “vitriolic” reaction has only strengthened his resolve.

“The NRA does a lot of good things, like with hunting safety, but they’ve just become so stringent and won’t compromise on any issue,” he said. “It’s like you can’t say anything about commonsense gun reform without people screaming, ‘You’re taking our guns!’ or ‘You’re an idiot’ or a lot worse than that. When I made this announcement, I became enemy number one. But do I really want to belong to an organization where I can’t have an opinion that’s just slightly different?”

There are a number of superficial things we might say about candidates and causes, to the one, and the supporters thereof to another, but in this case we might ask a less common superficial question: President Obama has been expected, in some corners of the legitimate discourse, to account for all manner of idiotic notions; the New Black Panthers and the “Obamaphone” wannabe-scandals come to mind. There is this weird idea out there that any criticism of the president is denounced as racist. In various ways we often hold certain people or causes accountable for the words and actions of others, but this isn’t even a question of whether rock music turns children into mass-murdering Satanic maniacs versus the effects of normalized violent rhetoric on unstable elements within the culture.

Rather, this is like Obamaphone, or the New Black Panthers. Do those people represent the average Obama or Democratic voter?

Similarly: Does the abuse hurled toward Congressional candidate, Assemblyman, and former Assembly Speaker John Oceguera (D-16) represent the average responsible gun owner?

This is the point: If the answer is yes, then the United States of America are in serious trouble.

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The Point: Supremacy ≠ Equality

Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Yesterday, Brian Beutler laid out a case for why Kim Davis should face jail for contempt of court; the article for The New Republic recalled:

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Today, Ms. Davis, the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was ordered to jail by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning; Steve Benen reminds, for msnbc:

Just so news consumers are clear, if you hear that Davis was jailed for her opposition to marriage equality, this is incorrect. She was taken into custody because she deliberately, brazenly ignored a court order. Davis was bound, not only to perform her official duties, but also to follow the law. She refused and is now in contempt of court.

This is important. But what neither Beutler nor Benen ever quite cut to―indeed, the larger discourse seems to avoid―is the basic functional reality. And perhaps there is a reason for this, but it comes down to something like we shouldn’t have to spell it out so simply, which is clearly insufficient since this really is the moment, and really is the argument.

Equality is equality. Functionally speaking, what Ms. Davis demands is that her “equality” requires her “superiority” and others’ “inferiority”. In theology, one of the practical limitations of God is inherent contradiction; even the Almighty cannot, by the classic example, fashion a square circle.

By definition, supremacy is not equality.

The functional reality that these Christian conservatives need to deal with is that equality is equality. This has been going on for a long time. As we have considered of Ms. Davis, the underlying device is the same as the library book argument. It’s also the same one we heard about pop music in the 1980s; the one that brought us the little black and white warning labels on heavy metal and rap albums. It is a traditional plea of the privileged, that another’s rights stop at the convenience or inconvenience of the privileged; one’s rights are violated as long as another’s are intact.

This is the functional reality: All Ms. Davis is asking is that her equality allow her supremacy.

So whatever one might say in rejoinder to Mr. Benen’s reminder, Mr. Beutler’s recollection of recent history is accurate:

Back before the Supreme Court found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, when it became clear that same-sex marriage would one day be the law of the land in most, if not all states, conservative culture warriors abruptly changed tacks. After organizing for years around the notion that states and the federal government should refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, they decided the time had come for everyone to be accommodating to one another—as if liberals were suddenly making unfair demands.

But liberals were doing no such thing. For generations, when disputes rooted in discrimination against gays and lesbians arose between parties, governments would generally side with discriminators. Liberals were simply demanding that moving forward, the presumption should be turned on its head—beginning with the states themselves, a great many of which refused to recognize same-sex marriages.

Conservatives responded by issuing pleas for mercy, and embraced the concept of pluralism, to wield as a cudgel against gay rights activists. Same-sex marriage might prevail legally and politically, but opponents should not thenceforth be treated like bigots or pariahs or scofflaws.

What was rendered as a call for pluralism, though, was really a counterbid to keep the old formula: when disputes arise between same-sex couples and religious people like ourselves, the state should side with us.

Thus it is worth reminding explicitly: What he is describing is the old formula of supremacism: In order to be equal, Ms. Davis and other Christians should be able to demand and enforce inequality unto others.

Whatever anyone else tells you about freedom and conscience, simply remember that functionally speaking, supremacy and equality simply are not the same, and cannot be reconciled as such. Kim Davis is about to become a martyr and legend; let us always remember why.

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Image note: Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis shows emotion as she is cheered by a gathering of supporters during a rally on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, Saturday, 22 August 2015. Davis spoke at the rally organized by The Family Foundation of Kentucky. The crowd of a few thousand included churchgoers from around the state. Davis has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for denying marriage licenses to gay couples. She says her Christian faith prohibits her from signing licenses for same-sex couples. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Benen, Steve. “Kentucky’s Kim Davis jailed, held in contempt”. msnbc. 3 September 2015.

Beutler, Brian. “Throw Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis in Jail”. The New Republic. 2 September 2015.

More Fun with Censorship

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. A.R.S. §15-115 A.R.S. §15-716

Call it a lesson learned. When I was young, parents the problem was kids listening to rock music, and the solution was to put stickers on albums warning parents that their children might hear explicit words.

These days the problem is apparently smart kids learning biology, and the solution is to put stickers on textbooks warning kids that they need to talk to their parents about what the state of Arizona thinks.

True, we are not certain what lesson was actually learned, but the tale is hardly unfamiliar.

And now, the update from the one and only Laura Conaway:

The board acted at the urging of the same group that backed gay discrimination bills in Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana, the Alliance Defending Freedom. Based in Arizona, the Alliance insisted that Gilbert’s biology books were out of compliance with an Arizona law requiring school districts to present childbirth and adoption as preferable to abortion. msnbcBut soon after the Tea Party majority decided to censor the biology books, voters in very conservative Gilbert decided to replace them with a new majority. Shortly afterward, the outgoing board reversed course and decided against going ahead with ripping pages out of biology textbooks.

From the beginning, superintendent Christina Kishimoto had warned her bosses on the board that removing information from the books would only send kids to the Internet to find out what they were missing. With the new majority taking over, Kishimoto told us late last year she would have a team of biology teachers go over the books this summer and likely put together two or three pages of information that they would include in an envelope glued to the inside back cover.

Last night, though, a local viewer emailed us Gilbert’s solution, and it turns out to be much smaller than expected.

As you can see below, teachers are adding this small sticker to the inside back cover of the honors biology textbooks.

The stickers read:The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona's strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents. (A.R.S. §15-115, A.R.S. §15-716)

The Gilbert Public School District supports the state of Arizona’s strong interest in promoting childbirth and adoption over elective abortion. The District is also in support of promoting abstinence as the most effective way to eliminate the potential for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. If you have questions concerning sexual intercourse, contraceptives, pregnancy, adoption or abortion, we encourage you to speak with your parents.

And there is a political moral to the story. Remember that this intrusion of the moral authority of the state government of Arizona is brought to you by small-government Tea Party Republicans.

To the one it is part of a conservative notion whereby small government means using local government to tamper in people’s lives, like citing square footage in order to censor Zombie Jesus. Or, you know, TRAP laws, by which Republicans use zoning regulations to shutter businesses providing goods and services they don’t like. Women’s health care, for instance. The infamous abortibudget, for instance, in which Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to use his line-item veto to strike anti-abortion provisions from the state budget. Here’s a fun one: Abortion providers must obtain transfer agreements with local hospitals. This is similar to the admitting privileges debate in other states; many abortion providers can’t get local admitting privileges because they do not admit enough patients to the hospital. But Ohio, knowing this wasn’t popular with the courts, went with another idea. A “transfer agreement”. A doctor needed a transfer agreement with a local hospital before providing abortion services. The hospitals, meanwhile, are explicitly forbidden under law from entering such an agreement. It’s no wonder Mr. Kasich didn’t want to discuss the anti-abortion law he signed, and the only real question remaining is why the Cleveland Plain Dealer tried to scrub that episode from history. One need not be a paid pundit to recognize, also, that it is always Christian supremacist moralism.

At least it’s not forcible insertion this time.

But it is using the state to deliver a moral message intended to undermine reality. And this in itself is problematic.

Which leads to the other. Only Tea Party activists in Arizona could rush to follow in the footsteps of Tipper Gore and somehow manage to screw up even worse.Parental Advisory: Explicit Content

No, really.

Come on.

At some point, we must admit the entire Tea Party brand really is that stupid.

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Benen, Steve. “Ohio’s Kasich approves sweeping restrictions on reproductive rights”. msnbc. 1 July 2013.

—————. “The gag rule Kasich doesn’t want to talk about”. msnbc. 31 October 2014.

Conaway, Laura. “Arizona town decides not to censor books, adds stickers instead”. msnbc. 14 August 2015.

Your Morning Metal (Welcome to Hell)

Venom, 'Welcome to Hell' (Neat Records, 1981)

The first black metal album, or so it is said. Of course, Venom followed Welcome to Hell with an album actually called Black Metal, so why not? This is the sort of thing that thrilled a generation precisely because it made the self-righteous murmur and fret.

Fight! We will fight right. Living low in a world of our own, destined to live right, fight. We’re taking Hell as our home; burning lives burning, asking me for the mercy of God. Ancient cries crying, acting fast upon the way of the dog. Welcome to Hell! Kill! We will kill death. Masturbating on the deeds we have done, Hell commands, “Death! Kill!” Argue not or feel the death of the sun. Burning lives burning, asking me for the mercy of God. Ancient cries crying, acting fast upon the way of the dog. Welcome to Hell! Leave your souls at His Feet. Kiss the flames, scorn defeat. Die! We won’t die! Live! Our choice of difference is what you’ll never know. Mortal voids live, die, buried deep beneath the fall of the snow. Burning lives burning, asking me for the mercy of God. Ancient cries crying, acting fast upon the way of the dog. Welcome to Hell!

Venom, “Welcome to Hell” (1981)

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Your Morning Metal (Male Supremacy)

Detail of cover art for 'Carnivore' by Carnivore, Roadrunner Records, 1985.

Look, this has always been hilarious more than anything else. I can actually give a nod to Tipper Gore herself for pointing the way to Carnivore, a band, as you might imagine, that horrified the moralists.

Carnivore, “Male Supremacy” (1985)

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Your Morning Metal (All the Fools Sailed Away)

Detail of front cover art for 'Dream Evil' by Dio.

This and that. Certain things bring the song to mind:

There’s perfect harmony in the rising and the falling of the sea. And as we sail along, I never fail to be astounded by the things we’ll do for promises and a song. We are the innocent; we are the damned. We were caught in the middle of the madness, hunted by the lion and the lamb. We bring you fantasy; we bring you pain. It’s your one great chance for a miracle, or we will disappear, never to be seen again. And all the fools sailed away. We bring you beautiful; we teach you sin. We can give you a piece of the Universe, or we will disappear, never to return again. And all the fools sailed away. They sailed away. And as we drift along, I never fail to be astounded by the things we’ll do for promises and a song. We are the innocent; we cut, we bleed. We’re your one great chance for a miracle, and a miracle is something you need. They’ll take your diamonds, and then give you steel. You’ll be caught in the middle of the madness, just lost like them, part of all the pain they feel. And all the fools sailed away. Leaving nothing, nothing more to say; all the fools sailed away. They say you’re beautiful, and they’ll always let you in. But doors are never open to the child without a trace of sin. Sail away.​

Dio, “All the Fools Sailed Away” (1987)

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