Friday, March 27, 2015

Truth will always out, if pushed hard enough.

Mark Joseph Stern finds a little legislative colloquy really illuminating:

One of the most irritating aspects of the campaign to legalize anti-gay discrimination in the guise of “religious liberty” is the fact that anti-gay activists are so snidely mendacious about their true aims. Legislators from Arizona to Indiana have openly conceded that the intent of their bills is to protect business owners, like florists and bakers, from having to serve gay couples. Yet the right-wing media continues to sneeringly insist that anyone who detects discriminatory intent behind “religious liberty” legislation is, in one writer’s childish words, “a complete idiot.”
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer forSlate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.
On Thursday, however, the façade fell away. During a Georgia House Judiciary Committee debate over the state’s new religious freedom bill, Rep. Mike Jacobs—a Republican!—called anti-gay legislators’ bluff. Jacobs proposed a simple amendment to the legislation clarifying that it must not be interpreted to legalize discrimination. Conservative representatives cried foul, asserting that an anti-discrimination amendment would defeat the purpose of the bill. When the amendment narrowly passed, conservatives quickly tabled the bill, postponing its consideration indefinitely. A religious freedom measure with an anti-discrimination provision, they decided, was not a real religious freedom measure at all.
This kerfuffle is both illuminating and, frankly, satisfying for those of us who have maintained that discrimination was the actual purpose of these bills all along. After the campaign to defeat Arizona’s religious liberty bill succeeded, the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway called those of us who viewed the measure as discriminatory—that would include me—“ignorant,” “dumb, uneducated, and eager to deceive.” Never mind the fact that Arizona legislators openly declared that the bill’s purpose was to let businesses turn away gay couples, baking discrimination into the measure’s legislative history in a way state courts can’t ignore. In the topsy-turvy sophistry of the far right, heeding committee minutes qualified as “ignorance,” while ignoring the stated intent of a bill qualified as intelligence.
But if anti-gay conservatives have any intellectual integrity, Thursday’s Georgia dispute should put an end to this charade. Jacobs, the representative who introduced the anti-discrimination amendment, is no flaming liberal; he is a moderate Republican who was legitimately concerned that a broad measure protecting businesses’ “religious exercise” could function as a license to discriminate. If Georgia’s religious freedom bill truly wasn’t designed to legalize discrimination, this amendment would have been utterly uncontroversial. Instead, it spurred heated opposition from conservatives, who refused to support any religious liberty bill that explicitly forbade discrimination.
There’s one interesting (and revealing) coda to the Georgia conflict. Eric Erickson, a viciously anti-gay Christian commentator, has long supported the Georgia legislation in the name of religious rights. But on Thursday, his wording suddenly shifted: Now the Georgia bill was about protecting Christians’ rights. This unsubtle revision may be due to the fact that Jacobs, the sponsor of the anti-discrimination amendment, is Jewish. In a vitriolic blog post following the vote, Erickson slammed Jacobs as “the man who wants to deny protection to Christian businesses.” Not religious businesses—Christian ones.
You’d have to be deaf not to hear that dog whistle, and you’d have to be blind not to see the desperation in Erickson and co.’s maneuvering.

As the hat hovers above the ring...

Dodgy friends with money, tenuous claims to any sense of a home base, a tetchy, persecution-driven style, the constant rolling out of "the New" self to test a different sort of planned authenticity: the she-Clinton is starting to look like Richard Nixon in a pants suit:
Clinton aides want to reintroduce her with “humility,” the source added. “They are making sure she understands there are no guarantees, and I think we’re going to see that in her posture and her words. I don’t think people are expecting that.”
And in the boiler room, they're dealing with the 3 a.m. phone call questions:
“We still don’t know why she wants to run,” said the operative. “That’s what she has to explain to the American people in her announcement. It’s not that it will establish whether Hillary Clinton is running for president, but why she is running for president.” 
Allies admit their nightmare is that without a clear justification for her campaign, Clinton could draw comparisons to Ted Kennedy’s rambling, incoherent and campaign-dooming answer in 1980 to a softball question: “Why do you want to be president?”


The Republican's Party's chief goober- the man who would have benchmarked "CRAZY"- is not going to run for President.

Not to worry, though. There are sixty more potential GOP candidates preening in their bathroom mirrors.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

And we haven't even gotten to his forgetting to register his domain name, or signing up for Obamacare the day after he called for its repeal

At Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell consider's Mr. Haney's vision of his place in the cosmos:

John Sladek Had Ted Cruz’s Number

Ted Cruz on … well himself.
The similarities between Texas Senator Ted Cruz and 16th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei are remarkable, according to Cruz. In an interview on Tuesday with the Texas Tribune, the newly-minted presidential candidate compared himself to … Galileo when discussing, of all things, whether climate change was actually occurring. “Today the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers,” Cruz said. “You know it used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.” … “Anyone who actually points to the evidence that disproves their apocalyptical claims, they don’t engage in reasoned debate. What do they do? They scream, ‘You’re a denier.’ They brand you a heretic,” Cruz added.
The late John Sladek discusses the ubiquity of this trope among crankish defenders of pseudoscience (specifically palm-readers) in his glorious book, The New Apocrypha.
Palmists are of course in no doubt as to who was right. As with all cranks, they feel they haven’t been given a fair hearing and that orthodoxy is ganging up on them. [quoting palmistry author Noel Jaquin] “The reward of the pioneer is so often the ridicule of his fellow-men. We are not very much more just today. Of recent years men of genius have been deprived of their living and literally hounded to death by the ridicule of their more ignorant brethren.” How true, how true. They laughed at Galileo, they laughed at Darwin, they laughed at Edison … and they laughed at Punch and Judy.

"So, sorry, Miss Taylor, an eighth cake? No, no, sorry, and one of them twice? For shame, Miss Taylor, but while you are here, would you like some crullers?"

Last year Waldo tackled a Forbes article by a friend he's been sparring with for over thirty years, in which he expressed dismay at the modern vogue for pestering people who sling marzipan and will accept good money for mounting one little Thomas E. Dewey atop a wedding cake, but not two.

We went on at some length analyzing that item. Now that pipe bags have become the sword-point of a conservative movement to make following laws a personal option requiring no more thought than that of a peeved six year old ("Because I wanted to!"), one baker somewhere (we poached this from Facebook) has come up with a riposte Waldo deems worthy of the moment and the arbitrariness and hypocrisy of the defenders of the cake faith:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Keeping up with the Joneses: getting stoned is bad

Former Bob Jones University president Bob Jones III is sort of sorry about words he thought so little of that he promptly forgot them for 35 years:

BJU Chancellor Jones was president of the university in March of 1980 when he and a group of fundamentalist ministers went to the White House with 70,000 signatures on a petition opposed to extending provisions of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals. 
"I'm sure this will be greatly misquoted," Jones said. "But it would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel's day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands."

Saturday, Jones called those comments "antithetical to my theology and my 50 years of preaching a redeeming Christ.""Upon now reading these long-forgotten words, they seem to me as words belonging to a total stranger — were my name not attached," he said in a statement.

"I cannot erase them, but wish I could, because they do not represent the belief of my heart or the content of my preaching. Neither before, nor since, that event in 1980 have I ever advocated the stoning of sinners."

He added: "I apologize for the reflection those remarks bring upon Jesus Christ, Whom I love; Bob Jones University, which I have loved and served; and my own personal testimony."

From a related news account:

Through the years, Jones and other university leaders have made statements, especially during the weekday chapel services, calling homosexuality an abomination. Jones said homosexuals wanted the right to pedophilia and the right to go into schools and push their agenda. 
"If somebody wants to be a murderer or a homosexual or a thief or a rapist, nobody can stop them, but don't ask law-abiding citizens to accept it," Jones said in a chapel sermon. 
The day after Sept. 11, 2001, Jones said the attack on the United States was God's punishment for homosexuality."He did a lot of prancing and swishing and making fun of gay people," [BJUnity gay alumni group head Jeffrey] Hoffman said.

The University has also won renown for threatening known gay alumni with arrest for trespassing if they attempted to enter the grounds, even for alumni events.

While BJUnity which petitioned the school for an apology, accepted Jones' comments, a plain reading of the statement makes clear he simply regrets having made an inflammatory comment; that he didn't remember it until it was brought to his attention again recently; and that he is sorry that the comments reflect badly on Jesus, the University, and his personal theology. And he isn't in favor of stoning people.

There are no indications of an apology to the people Jones thought worthy of putting to death, nor that the University will change its longstanding policies.

The Auld Necromancer Speaks

GOP POTUS bench full of walk-ons for '16

Columnist Russell Baker used to write a lot about The Great Mentioner, the mysterious source who gets people into the press as potential presidential candidates.

Not that Mr. Haney has officially snarled his candidacy, the Republican party now has three declared candidates for the presidency (Waldo's favorite is straight out of central casting: Mark Everson, former deputy commissioner of immigration and naturlization under Ronaldus Magnus and commissioner of the IRS under Dubya. In a TV series he would have to be played by actor Charles Lane).

But this season, it seems, The Great Mentioner just can't stop talking. According to one source, behind the three declared candidates, there  are eight more "formally exploring" a run; fourteen giving it some thought; twenty three more who have just gotten Mentioned; and thirteen who, apparently, want to stand out by being the handful of Republicans, anywhere on earth, who are not running for President.

Anti-gay pol, poli sci major with an agenda, calls out local paper's news editor for being a poli sci major with an agenda- and gay

Lenoir-Rhyne University's alumni office must be figuring out how to showcase their new poster boy from the Class of 1982, Gary Glenn:

On Sunday, Glenn- elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2014 after previous, failed, campaigns for Congress in Idaho and the US Senate in Michigan- shared an "agenda alert" about the promotion of a journalist to news editor of a paper in his district, on Facebook and Twitter:

Agenda Alert -- Midland Daily News' new news editor: political science major who "lives in Midland with (his) husband"

What "agenda"? Why, the gay one, apparently. Whatever that is. Glenn has an idea: he has been president of the American Family Association of Michigan since 1999.

But when you consider Glenn has been a gay-baiter for two decades, it's not surprising at all. He was an author of Michigan's marriage equality ban and ran robocalls last year urging opposition to a county LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. His record is so clear a group of Democrats organized "Gays Against Gary Glenn" to raise money for his opponent in last year's legislative contest. For some of his more strongly-held views, click here.

In fact, Glenn's outing of Midland Daily Record news editor Tony Lascari a bit daft: the practice arose in the 1990s as a response to public figures whose public positions were anti-gay and family-oriented, yet whose private conduct involved same-sex relationships. It was intended to highlight the hypocrisy of those who advanced their careers by condemning things they enthusiastically practiced on the side.

Family and nature are also important to Lascari. 
“I enjoy spending time with my nieces and my nephew, I’m an occasional runner and I love spending time in Midland’s parks,” Lascari said. “I live in Midland with my husband, Mark.” 
Along with that comes a love of travel, reading and movies. 
“Traveling gives me a chance to reconnect with friends and family in other parts of the country while learning about other cultures,” Lascari said. “I also really like watching movies. It is another form of storytelling.”
Lascari's reporting seems resolutely non-gay-agenda-pushing. So what's the agenda Lascari is peddling? It must be somewhere in the article about his promotion:

An internship at the Ludington Daily News prepared Lascari for his tenure at the Daily News.
“It showed me what community journalism is in smaller towns — the impact the paper can have and the kinds of stories you can tell,” Lascari said. “I appreciated seeing that and it has directed where I’ve gone in my career.” 
That path started in 2005 when the Daily News offered Lascari a position. 
“I was interested in the position because it was the city government beat,” he said. “Since I had a major in political science, it fit with my interests.” 
Since then, Lascari has covered a multitude of topics, including The Dow Chemical Co., Dow Corning Corp., Midland city government, health news, nonprofits and general assignments.“This is a great region to live in and there are always new stories to tell about our lives here,” Lascari said. “We want to reflect our community in our articles online and in the newspaper, while sharing information that is accurate, interesting and important. I’m glad I will continue to have a chance to be a part of that in my new role at the paper.”
Or is there a code in this comment, one that only Garry Glenn- who, apparently, is hypersensitive to the nuances of the Gay Agenda- can find?:
“I’m excited,” Lascari said. “I think it is a great fit for me. I’ve been learning the skills needed for it. I have a lot of the relationships in the community so I’ll be able to help shape our news coverage. I think it is an opportunity to bring some new ideas in.”
But here's the really odd thing about Lascari being a poli sci major: so is Gary Glenn, who definitely has an agenda.

Why not contact Rep. Glenn and ask him why he felt the need to "alert" his constituents?


Postscript:  Happily, Lenoir-Rhyne University doesn't share Rep. Glenn's views. One imagines he must be withholding alumni campaign support, so great must be his dismay.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dick Butcher, Legislator

BOISE – The Idaho House on Friday voted 44-25 in favor of a non-binding memorial to Congress calling for federal judges who rule in favor of gay marriage to be impeached.“I think somehow, someday we’ve gotta take a stand,” GOP Rep. Paul Shepherd told the House. A sixth-term state representative from Riggins who owns a sawmill and log home company, Shepherd was the author and sponsor of the measure.“You can’t say an immoral behavior according to God’s word, what we’ve all been taught since the beginning, is something that’s just, and that’s really kinda what this is all about,” he told the House. “We’d better uphold Christian morals. As an example, how about fornication, adultery and other issues.”There was bipartisan opposition, with 11 Republicans joining all 14 House Democrats in opposing HJM 4.

...which makes the installation guy the Holy Ghost

In today's New York Times, Henry Alford considers how old ideas- like the two-way wrist radio in Dick Tracy fifty years ago, paved the way to a new one- the Apple smart watch. 

Among the many examples Alford gives, here's one for some Sunday meditation:

THEN: Faith
NOW: Unplugging your cable box and waiting 30 seconds


CreditLeif Parsons

Friday, March 20, 2015

Who says gays get special rights when it comes to the death penalty? and other modest proposals.

A lawyer in California, Matt McLaughlin, has filed an initiative proposal for the next election ballot. He calls it the Sodomite Suppression Act, and you can read it here. Among other things, it calls for the summary execution of gay people, grants the right of private enforcement to individuals is government slacks off on the task, and requires a copy to be posted in every public school classroom in the state.

This has generated much interest, going, as it does, well beyond the suggestion of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore calling for the placement of gays in internment (with some namby-pambily vague talk about resort to the sword) in 2002, and takes the kind of affirmative steps Oklahoma pols have been unwilling to take ever since then-U.S. Senate candidate Tom Coburn sounded the alarm about "rampant lesbianism" in the public schools of the southeastern sector of the state. Eleven years later, nothing has been done.

Under California law, it is charmingly easy to propose an initiative, and astonishingly difficult to keep one off the ballot. So the betting is the measure will be cleared for publication and offered to the public for signature.

This likelihood has generated predictably choleric outbursts on the Left, and a po-faced silence on the Right. Such escapades suit many on theirs side of the aisle; homophobia is alive and well among far more Americans than one might suppose. Letting mountebanks and zanies like McLaughlin, the Westboro Baptist cultists, Bryan Fischer, Peter Sprigg and Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, Scott Lively and his Ugandan Carpetbaggers' Club, Limbaugh and Savage and the host of other, farm-team talk radio hatemongers, carry the water gets, and keeps, the basic animus viral and exploitable, and makes it possible for the quadrennial frat rush of Republican presidential hopefuls seem moderate and mild-toned in comparison. If- and this is a big if, given the bargepole-length most reporters like to keep from gay rights issues (other than baying at candidates, "Are you still against gay marriage?")- anyone does press one to denounce, say, Matt McLaughlin (so far, near as I can tell, no one has, and no one has), they can.

Waldo, typing furiously in his bath, looked up for a moment. 

"That sentence should be put out of its misery," he told me.

Then he said, "The answer is obvious."


"Yes. Obvious. Do nothing."


"Do nothing to oppose it. If anything, sign the petitions and help the Sodomite Suppression Act get on the ballot, even if you oppose it. Get it on the ballot and make the Republicans take a stand. Ask them, are you for it? Against it? If it goes to far, then how far is far enough for you? How much discrimination is OK, if this is now the state line of acceptability?"

"A legislator in Oklahoma has done just that," he explained. "When the legislature took up a bill to let people discriminate any way they like, any time they like, against anyone they think might be gay, she proposed an amendment to make them put up signs in their businesses announcing the stand they insist God has forced the to take. The signs can be very tasteful. None of that old-fashioned "No Gays Served sort of thing. Something more like, "For the benefit of our valued patrons, we maintain a homosexual-free dining room."

"Take the law in Michigan allowing emergency medical services to deny treatment to gay people. Make the EMS vans carry notices on the sides of their trucks. Make them subject every injured potential passenger to close questioning to make sure they are heterosexual. Require them to publish statistics to show they are duly enforcing the law; make them publish how many injured people they left behind, and what their fates were.

"Adopt the idea Senator Rand Paul expressed on the Rachel Maddow Show, that while public transit may be required to carry a homosexual to the sidewalk in front of a restaurant along with black people, the owner of the eatery may then deny him service. Make those owners, too, publish reports on how diligently they have interrogated potential customers, and how many they have rejected..."

"Won't that just lead to a rush to privatize public transit services, or justify their termination if enough drivers refuse to carry the gays because God says if everyone worked harder he could have his own car?"

Waldo scowled. "Pay attention. These measures are the perfect opportunity to hold conservatives' feet to the fire they have fed for so long. If they back away from any of such provisions, they risk the ire of the true haters they are happy to accept money and primary votes from in return for some vague promises of goodwill and homophobic legislation some day. Look how well it has worked in the past- they repealed Obamacare 40-some times to keep their base happy, and are promising to repeal it some more in the future.

"It' a perfectly free-market solution," Waldo concluded. "Look at what Senator Thom Tillis said about market forces taking care of this sort of thing," he said, picking up a water-spotted newspaper:
The senator said he'd be fine with it, so long as businesses made this clear in "advertising" and "employment literature." 
“I said: ‘I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” Tillis said. 
“The market will take care of that," he added, to laughter from the audience.
"And if they don't reject, or clearly qualify how much codified hatefulness is too much for them, they set themselves up for all manner of sport at the hands of their opponents." Waldo smiled a wintry smile and looked back to his typescript.

"Any other questions?"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Consider yourself on notice. Hell is the ultimate slippery slope argument.

What next: Soloflex endorsement? Abercrombie & Fitch model?

This is not how the public career of an entrepreneurial and political prodigy — he started his own I.R.A. at 14 and was elected to his local school board five years later — was supposed to end. Schock’s stock-in-trade has always been that he was good with numbers, whether managing a bookstore chain’s database when he was only in fifth grade, or doing the accounting for a local gravel pit in junior high. So his fuzziness in accounting for Super Bowl tickets, foreign travel, charter flights, cufflinks and cigars seems all the more puzzling.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A smiling crocodile

From Crooked Timber, a holiday meditation by Henry Farrell:

And as a St. Patrick’s Day present, a lengthy article on Ireland, written by an American journalist, which (a) hasn’t a hint of stories about fairy rings and the Little People, and (b) actually gets things right. Patrick Radden Keefe’s story on Gerry Adams and the murder of Jean McConville does an excellent job at summarizing multiple perspectives on a complex story, while making it clear which of those perspectives is most believable. And this, on Gerry Adam’s Twitter account:
Adams is now sixty-six and a grandfather, and his evolution into an approachable grandee has found its surreal culmination on Twitter. He intersperses studiously boring tweets about small-bore political issues with a barrage of cat pictures and encomiums to sudsy baths, rubber duckies, and Teddy bears. (“I do love Teddy bears,” he told theBBC. “I have a large collection of Teddy bears.”) One characteristic tweet, from last January: “Dreamt I was eating Cream Eggs. Woke up this morn. Pillow & beard covered in chocolate & cream thingymebob.” The Irish writer Damien Owens has likened all this to “Charles Manson showing you his collection of tea cosies.”

Next up: financial gerrymandering

Redesigning city and county councils, taking over airports and water systems isn't enough. NC GOP legislators have figured out yet another way to punish counties that vote Democratic: Take away sales tax revenue and firehouse it out to rural counties that know how to vote the right way.

Now we know why North Korea hacked Sony: they wouldn't product-place the whole country in the next 007 flick

James Bond films have always been notorious for product-placement shills, but the new one carries the practice to new heights. It also illustrates the way government film boards (state or national) are increasingly being drawn into the same every-more-costly bidding spiral as economic development agencies chase in attracting factories:
The [Mexican] government reportedly offered the makers of the upcoming “Spectre,” directed by Sam Mendes, $14 million in exchange for four minutes of the film portraying the country in a positive light. 
Emails released from the Sony hack, published by tax policy website Tax Analysis, show that the studio was concerned that the film's costs had spiraled, to a gross budget of $300 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever made. Executives pressured the filmmakers to make changes to the script that would keep the Mexican money coming in. 
“You have done a great job in getting us the Mexican incentive,” wrote Jonathan Glickman, president of MGM’s motion picture group, in an email to the film’s producers. “Let’s continue to pursue whatever avenues we have available to maximize this incentive.” 
To allow the studio to gain the maximum financial incentives available from the Mexican government, the email said that the producers needed to cast a "known Mexican actress" for the role of Estrella, a woman whose hotel room Bond uses to begin his hunt for an assassin named Sciarra. 
The villainous Sciarra, however, "cannot be Mexican," it added.
Last week, it was announced that Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman would play the role of Estrella. 
In addition, emails revealed that Mexico asked that the character of a Mexican governor, who was the target of an assassination, be replaced with an international leader, and that Mexican police be replaced with "some special police force" instead. 
A further $6 million was said to have been achieved by means such as replacing a cage fighting scene with footage of Mexico's popular Day of the Dead festivities, and highlighting Mexico City's "modern" skyline, the Telegraph reported.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Damn voters won't do what they're supposed to."

Republicans in North Carolina aren't content to wait for redistricting time every decade; here's two Charlotte Observer stories that nicely illuminate the power grab:

For Republicans, Mecklenburg and Wake are more than North Carolina’s most populous counties. They’re windows into the future of state politics.
That’s why the N.C. Republican Party last week launched what it calls “Project Listen,” a concerted effort designed to improve the party’s brand in the state’s biggest counties.
“That’s the place to start,” says GOP strategist Paul Shumaker. “This is just a first step in what needs to be an ongoing process for the Republican Party to remain a competitive, viable force.”
The project grew out of a meeting Shumaker had in the home of his longtime client, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who faces re-election in 2016.
Presidential election years haven’t always been kind to Republicans of late.
In 2008, while Democrat Barack Obama squeaked out a narrow win in North Carolina, Democrat Kay Haganbeat Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole by 362,000 votes.
She rolled up nearly half that margin in just two of the state’s bluest counties – Mecklenburg and Wake.
Since 2010, the counties have been the state’s growth engine, accounting for almost half of its total growth. Already about 1 in every 5 North Carolina voters lives in Wake and Mecklenburg.
Those are also the kinds of voters who interest the GOP.
In both counties, registered unaffiliated voters have overtaken registered Republicans and are closing in on Democrats. And unaffiliateds may be the state’s only genuine swing voters.
Burr has an immediate interest in figuring out the two counties – it’s called 2016. Shumaker says there’s a longer-term interest as well.
“This state is a competitive state,” he says. “It is there for the taking by either side at any time.”Jim Morrill

GOP bills could face opposition – from a Republican lawmaker

Last week, the N.C. Senate passed bills to dramatically reconfigure the Greensboro City Council and the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
Republican lawmakers initiated both bills over the protests of many local leaders in Greensboro and Wake. Both passed by virtual party-line votes. Now they head to the state House.
There, the votes might not be quite as partisan.
Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican, plans to vote against the GOP-sponsored bills unless they’re changed to at least include a referendum.
“For me, self-governance is about as constitutional as the Constitution gets,” he says. “The City Council in Greensboro has not asked for it – in fact they’ve asked not to do it. The county commission in Wake County has not asked for it – in fact they’ve asked not to do it.
“Without a referendum or without a request from the government in question, I will vote against both measures.”
That position could make him popular with the bills’ critics. Says Jeter: “I could get elected in Greensboro right now.”Jim Morrill

Read more here:

According to this map, there's at least one good thing coming from a porous border.

Oh, the things that roil our days...

Giving them a short, sharp shock

John Quiggin, writing at Crooked Timber, fingers one of those things that has bothered me about the Republican Party over the last two decades, but I hadn't the data to see it clearly. 

Before that, they opposed things they had reason to oppose, and if they lost, they devoted themselves- mostly- to a useful opposition of trying to improve programs, and save money in such ways.

Now, and increasingly, they just want to dismantle, and replace things with nothing. I find that troubling, and deficient in both general empathy and specific historical knowledge of how bad things used to be for those who didn't choose their parents wisely enough:

The US government didn’t lose the War on Poverty: it changed sides

by JOHN QUIGGIN on MARCH 14, 2015
I made this observation in comments on Chris’ ideal theory post, and got some pushback, so I thought I’d take a look back at the data
US Households in Poverty, 1959-2013
Both the number and the percentage of families in poverty dropped sharply during the 1960s when the “War on Poverty” was being waged actively, and remained near their all-time lows through the Nixon and Carter years until 1979, when the Volcker recession hit, followed by the election of Ronald Reagan. These events can reasonably be said to mark the point at which the government unequivocally changed sides.
The number of households in poverty has risen steadily since then and is now higher than in 1959, the year for which the poverty level was first defined by Mollie Orshansky. The poverty rate has remained consistently higher than in the 1970s, except for a brief deep at the peak of the late-1990s boom.
A quick note on the data: Unlike most other countries, the US uses an absolute poverty line, rather than a measure set relative to median income. Orshansky estimated a food budget that was adequate but austere by the standards of 1960, then multiplied the cost by 3 on the basis that the food share of a poor families budget should be 1/3. It’s been adjusted for inflation since then, but not increased in real terms. It might be argued that the CPI overstates inflation somewhat. But much the same point applies to measures of GDP per person which has increased dramatically over the 35 years since the US government stopped fighting poverty and started fighting the poor.
The measure includes cash transfers, but not some non-cash benefits, notably including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) the Earned Income Tax Credit introduced in 1975 . The result is to understate the progress made on poverty reduction since the 1960s, but not to change the basic story. Food stamps have been under attack from the right since the early years of the Reagan Administration. EITC had bipartisan support until the 1990s, but is also now under attack.

App Pupil

An interesting article, read against the fuss over the she-Clinton's emails, suggests, once again, that she- and Bubba, preparing to offer themselves again as a New and Improved Twofer- believes in the magical realism of technology and cleverness:
Clinton’s utopian faith depends on fantasies of a reified technology, unmoored from class and power relations and operating autonomously as a global force for good. Early in her tenure at the State Department, she decided to ‘take a page from Steve Jobs and “think different” about the role of the State Department in the 21st century’. This led to the birth of 21st-century statecraft, which aimed to address what Richard Holbrooke, then Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, identified as a fundamental anomaly in the struggle against terrorism: the most powerful nation on earth was ‘losing the communications battle to extremists who are living in caves’. As part of Clinton’s ‘smart power’ agenda, the US would reclaim online space by creating alliances with high-tech entrepreneurs.
The crucial figure in this project was Jared Cohen, a Condoleezza Rice protégé who served as a senior adviser in both the Rice and Clinton State Departments. Cohen’s chief achievement was to promote the power of social media in the Iranian elections of June 2009. Cohen privately ‘reached out’, in Clinton’s words, to Jack Dorsey of Twitter, persuading him to delay a scheduled maintenance shutdown in order to keep the Twittersphere open for the dissidents protesting against government electoral fraud. Clinton and Allen and Parnes all treat Cohen’s intervention as a mischievous caper – going outside normal channels, secretly enlisting business in the service of government – that turned out brilliantly. A few months later, Cohen and Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs that promoted the idea of ‘coalitions of the connected’ to fight alongside the military in the struggle against jihadism. In late 2010, Schmidt hired Cohen to head Google Ideas, a ‘think/do tank’ in New York. His career trajectory reflected the new intimacy of Washington and Silicon Valley. 
Still the question remained: how to put the undisciplined geniuses of the tech world at the service of the sclerotic State Department (and vice versa)? According to Allen and Parnes, Clinton created an ‘innovation team’ charged with projects ‘as benign as setting up social media accounts for State in various countries and as insidious as providing tech tools and training for rebels in Middle Eastern countries’. Indeed, these journalists claim, ‘innovation … tied together her ambitions as a diplomat, her chances of running a successful campaign for the presidency, and her religion-inspired commitment to social justice.’ Once thought a Luddite, she fell in love with her iPad. ‘Use me like an app!’ she told an audience of high-tech company executives, ‘eliciting a round of laughter’. She believed that tech CEOs could collaborate with State Department officials in offering carrots and sticks to Bashar Assad: when he refused to co-operate, the State Department waived sanctions for Skype, allowing the company to operate in Syria in the hope that it could help bring the regime down.  
The futility of that hope epitomised the general failure of 21st-century statecraft, at least when its practitioners tried to use technology to get round inequalities of power. The magic of social media did nothing to change the outcome of the Iranian elections; Skype didn’t bring down Assad. Technological panaceas proved inadequate elsewhere as well. In Congo, Cohen and Alec Ross, who headed Clinton’s ‘innovation team’, brought high-tech solutions to intractable bureaucratic problems: a mobile app for the military’s muddled pay system, a text-message warning system for refugee camps threatened by militias. In both cases, as in Syria and Iran, fantasies about the power of technology proved unable to overcome existing structures of political, military and legal power. This would be a pattern in the Clinton State Department: rhetoric would outstrip results.

Update from a nearby planet

Now that the Swedes have relented and agreed to interview Julian Assange- the WikiLeaks guy- in his London ambassadorial bolt-hole, it's fascinating to read a ghost writer's account of how Assange tried to write an autobiography/manifesto by doing everything possible to make it not happen. Offered the opportunity, Andrew O'Hagan thought this:
I remembered Victor Maskell, the art historian and spy in John Banville’s The Untouchable, who liked to quote Diderot: ‘We erect a statue in our own image inside ourselves – idealised, you know, but still recognisable – and then spend our lives engaged in the effort to make ourselves into its likeness.’ The fact that the WikiLeaks story was playing out against a global argument over privacy, secrets and the abuse of military power, left me thinking that if anyone was weird enough for this story it was me.
As it turned out, dealing with Assange was like a comment of the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." For a long, fascinating read, click here.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

In Vietnam, they called this destroying the village to save it...

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma would stop issuing marriage licenses under legislation passed Tuesday afternoon by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  
House Bill 1125, by Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, would instead require those officiating marriage ceremonies to file after-the-fact “certificates of marriage” with court clerks’ offices. Alternatively, couples could file affidavits of common law marriage.
Russ said his bill is intended to “protect” county court clerks who do not want to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 
“This takes them out of the trap,” he said. 
Somewhat ironically, the bill removes from statute language limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Other marriage restrictions would remain unchanged. 
Opponents, most of them Democrats, said the bill would create a scenario in which Republicans will have legalized same-sex marriages even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the lower court rulings the bill seeks to counter...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The black hole of human rights, sucking in and destroying all but its own existence

Watching the marriage equality backlash gain steam in Republican legislatures, I've been wondering, how big a hole in antidiscrimination laws do marriage opponents need before their piety is affirmed and its exercise satisfied?

So has Jeremy Hooper, who gives a good example:

This weekend was my nephew's Bar Mitzvah.  The firstborn son of my husband's only brother and his wife, it was obvious that Andrew, Savannah, and I would have a lot of involvement in the weekend's events. 

And we did.  We had a Torah portion to read, we had video messages to send, photos for which to pose, a candle to light, and much more.  Many of these situations involved the services of for-hire vendors.

On a few different occasions, the DJ that my brother- and sister-in-law hired had to introduce Andrew and I as an obviously married couple.  Several different photographers had to setup photographs that clearly reflected our family of three, which was on the same footing as our heterosexual counterparts.  Planners and caterers had reasons why they had to address Andrew and I as Daniel's married uncles.  And more.  It took a village of involvement to create the vision that my straight brother- and sister-in-law had for their son, and this vision demanded that any vendor who took the jobs recognized us as we are.

Which made me wonder: Would the conservative "religious freedom" proponents say that these vendors had a "right" to turn down the job simply because of the demand that they recognize my marriage and family?  After all, these anti-equality voices often cite "creative expression" as the reason why photographers and florists and what-have-yas supposedly have the "right" to deny service.  So what if the DJ who had to call up Andrew and Savannah and I for our candle lighting said that he couldn't use his music and voice to support a married gay couple and their child?  Or, more pointedly, what if the photographers who took countless shots of us in various configurations said that he couldn't shoot a family that included a married gay couple?  Or what if one of the owners of the venues that hosted our weekend lodging said that he wouldn't extend the special family rate to a married gay couple and their kid?  Based on the other side's own exclusionary standards, I don't see any of these questions as far-fetched.

Where, exactly, do our oppositional forces believe we gay families become too visible for their liking? What moves the job from just one of the many others that the vendor takes on in a year into a supposedly special space where they get to discriminate without repercussion?  It's unreasonable to say that there has to be a gay-specific ceremony in order to trip the wire, since most of the situations that arise do not even involve the wedding ceremony itself, but rather ephemera from the reception.  So since the vendors who took my brother- and sister-in-law's money in exchange for performing a service were tasked with honoring a gay family on the same footing as the other aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, would the other side claim it's "okay" for them to decline the job for this pointed reason?  And if not, then why not?

That I even have such questions speaks to the dangerous slippery slope that the other side is trying to create with their "religious freedom" carve outs.  If they had their way, I don't see how any logical way that any nondiscrimination law could apply for much longer.  Which might be what they want.