Monday, September 26, 2016

Unconstitutional laws? This Buck never stops, anywhere.

District 11 Sen. Buck Newton speaks in favor of House Bill 2 during the North Carolina Senate session on on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C.

State Senator Buck ("Keep North Carolina Straight!" and, yes, he *really* said that) Newton is bad news for Republican Party-shortlisted lawyers who've hoovered up $9 million in tax money defending laws Art Pope's think tank ("We think, therefore, we're a tank"), have come up with in their research lab's Ideological Vacuum Chamber.

(N.B.: Newton has called for Attorney General Roy Cooper to resign because he is running for governor. Newton has not resigned his senate seat to run for Attorney General).

Newton says he will eschew the GOPassion for private sector solutions, and waste tax money directly if he is elected AG in November. "Using cheaper state lawyers is the fiscally prudent way to go" (and, no, he didn't *really* say that).

One can say in Newton's favor, however, that he knows more about what makes unconstitutional law than his opponent, Josh Stein. Here's the tally of unconstitutional laws Newton has passed as a legislator:

The 2011 budget bill stripped Planned Parenthood of state funding. A federal judge ruled against the state in 2011.

Funding for the women's health provider has continued to be an issue at the General Assembly.

Lawmakers used a midnight veto override session in 2012 to take away the North Carolina Association of Educators' ability to charge dues through payroll deductions. A state judge ruled that bill unconstitutional.

A 2011 bill required abortion providers to show a woman an ultrasound and describe the images in detail four hours before she can have an abortion. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that law.

Voters passed an amendment to the state constitution in 2012 banning gay marriage. Federal courts ruled that measure invalid in 2014.

Lawmakers crafted a sweeping rewrite of state election laws in 2013. A federal appeals court found much of that law, including a voter ID provision, to be unconstitutional. This case is still on appeal, but the 4th Circuit ruling governs the 2016 elections.

The state Supreme Court sided with Gov. Pat McCrory over lawmakers in a disagreement over who ought to control certain environmental functions, including coal ash cleanup.

State courts ruled that a plan to have state Supreme Court justices elected in retention elections was invalid under the state constitution.

The state Supreme Court struck down an effort to strip veteran teachers of their tenure rights this year.

Federal courts have also struck down redistricting plans passed by lawmakers for Congress,

the state House,
the state Senate,
the Wake County Board of Education
and the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

#14, pending, is HB2, which Newton introduced on the Senate floor March 23. Some call it "Buck's Bill." Given his attendance record last session- one of the worst in the senate- you know HB2 meant a lot to him.

Here's the hour-long debate.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Reverend" "Graham" speaks. Again.

There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about sports figures taking a knee in protest. I’m encouraged to see people taking a knee, not in protest, but in prayer. These NC State Troopers are kneeling in prayer before going in to do their jobs in the riots and demonstrations in Charlotte. Prayer does make a difference. God’s Word tells us, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). I’m thankful for the men and women trying to bring order and an end to the violence and unrest.

NC State Trooopers Take a Knee Before Protecting Charlotte -- But They Aren't Protesting 'Oppression'

Here's Franklin Graham's weekly meditation on Scripture as revealed to him by his Bible, the Gospels of Republican Jesus of Conservative Media (complete with the original, God-inspired typo. Inerrancy knows no limits).

In 2003, Andrew Sullivan coined the term "Christianism" to describe people like Franklin Graham:
"One of the core messages of Christianity is a rejection of worldly power. The core message of Christianism is, in stark contrast, the desperate need to control all the levers of political power to control or guide the lives of others. 
"...Christianism is all about power over others, and it has been fueled in the last decade by its mirror image, Islamism, and motivated to fury by hatred of what it sees as is true enemy, liberalism. Both Islamism and Christianism, to my mind, do not spring from real religious faith; they spring from neurosis caused by lack of faith. They are the choices of those who are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon."
In today's miniscreed, Franklin Graham carries on the Christianist process of turning faith and logic inside out. To his ilk, the First Amendment only protects speech that praises the government for control of which they so lust. Once they get that power, they promise, they will help us all practice the One Way of Thinking with new laws that will liberate all from the burdens of treating fellow citizens fairly, and the even greater load of forming, and being able to defend, one's own belief- religious and civil.

Toward that end, Franklin Graham cites a source whose author believes the weekly killing of unarmed Americans by police forces terrified of being outgunned by the NRA's demand that we will only be truly safe when America a billion guns and anyone can shoot anyone else, any time, for any reason of which white Christianists approve, is vacuous. So they put "Oppression" in quotes to marginalize with words what they cannot-yet- stop by law.

The use of air quotes by conservatives to diss what they despise made me think of a great skit that never was for Mike Myer's SNL character, TV host and New York Jewess Linda Richman: "Tawk among yourselves. I will give you a topic: 'The Reverend Franklin Graham is a Franklin, but is neither a "Reverend not a "Graham". Discuss.'

I suggest it's time to start putting "evangelist" in quotes whenever the term is used in conjunction with the name Franklin Graham. It will draw a useful, respectful distinction between his sort and real evangelists.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

― Terry PratchettGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

Politico, May 6, 2016:

Asked why she chose to register as a Libertarian on Thursday, two days after Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, Matalin insisted it was purely coincidental.

"Because I'm a Republican in the Jeffersonian, Madisonian sense," she said. "I'm not a Republican for party or a person, and the Libertarian Party represents — continues to represent — those constitutional principles that I agree with."

Co-host Mark Halperin pressed her minutes later, asking whether there truly is no connection between leaving the Republican Party and Trump becoming the presumptive nominee.

"Let me make this clear here, Mark and my friends there. I am never Hillary, I am always liberty," she said. "As you know, and I’ve said it publicly here and in many places, after two successive blowout elections for conservatives with a nonresponse from Washington, a lot of conservatives are angry with the party. The party was falling apart. I can still vote for Republicans. I will never vote for Hillary and never trump means always liberty. Hence, Libertarian."

"But Mary, you've left the Republican Party," Halperin said, asking again whether it really did not have anything to do with Trump.

She responded, "I said I'm provisional. I'm a provisional Trumpster. I don't know enough about Trump. I know, like, three things about his economic policy. We know everything we need know about Hillary."

Donald Trump Campaign Press Release, September 22, 2016:

NEW YORK, NY - Today, the Donald J. Trump campaign announced a new group convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues and policies important to Catholics and other people of faith in America.

The Catholic Advisory Group is a key element of the Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to the campaign. And Mr. Joseph Cella, Founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, will serve as the Catholic Liaison for the members and the campaign.

The formation of this group represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of a range of issues and policies important to Catholics and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders.

“On the issues and policies of greatest concern to Catholics, Donald Trump will fight for Catholics whereas Hillary Clinton is openly hostile to those issue of greatest concern to Catholics and will attack the core teachings of the Catholic Church, and has worked against them as First Lady, as US Senator and as Secretary of State, and would continue to do so if she is elected President,” said Congressman Sean Duffy.

“Catholics are particularly concerned that she would pack the Supreme Court with 3-5 young ideological liberals whose decisions will have far reaching and long lasting implication for the Catholic Church and the lay faithful on everything from the pro-life issue, to religious liberty to health care and educational mandates, just to name a few,” Duffy concluded.

“America is on the wrong track, as economic opportunities wane and families face a coarsened society where people of faith feel bullied, disrespected and marginalized. We have slipped so far, so fast, at a pace quickened by our failure to uphold the dignity of unborn life,” said Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union. “There are moments when people of deep faith have to stand up. Voters who know deep in their soul that America needs to heal also know we need refreshing, bold conservative leadership. 2016 is one of those times and I’m proud to support Donald Trump for President.”

The Catholic Advisory Group Members are as follows:

34. Mary Matalin, Former Counselor to the Vice President

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Young Massa Trump strikes again

Surely there is one village in America in need of this idiot.

"Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don't feel it's an appropriate analogy," Vice President of Corporate Affairs Denise Young said in the statement. "We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Carolina Mondays: 50 days left

In The Bitter Southerner, Brian Miller lives up to the title with his essay, “The South Is a Neolithic Fort of the Forgotten”.

Incumbent Senator Richard “Sockless Dick” Burr has agreed to a debate with NRA target face Deborah Ross, October 13. She wants three more. Burr prefers to let the NRA and a gaggle of PACS do his pandering to vets, old people and blacks for him. The ad where a black educator intones- in perfect RP- how much the senator cares about underachieving children- using stock footage from a school in Africa- will be a deathless classic of tone-deafness and the complacency of an incumbent.

The Carolina Mercury predicts that, if Governor McCrory loses the election, Job 1 for the General Assembly will be stripping away Governor Roy Cooper’s ability to make appointments.

In Chapelboro, Jeff Clayton recaps why HB2 is, as he puts it, “just dumb”:

The bathroom deal is a sideshow.  The real deal is the fact that HB2 banned cities, towns, and counties in North Carolina from enacting laws that prevent discrimination against people in the LGBT community.  Charlotte wanted to extend their discrimination ordinance to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.  That’s a common goal among major cities in the United States.  When the city passed their nondiscrimination ordinance, they joined New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, Austin, Detroit, Seattle, Boston, Denver, and many more cities that protect people in the LGBT community from discrimination.

HB2 took Charlotte out of that group and prohibited them from trying to get back in it.  The only reason you could possibly be in favor of a law that bans cities from protecting people in the LGBT community is that you don’t like people in the LGBT community.

That’s why you need laws to protect people in the LGBT community.

The always hard-hitting Charlotte Agenda has the latest on “5 Corn Mazes Within 30 MIles of Uptown Charlotte.”

HB2 will celebrate six months of spite-as-law September 23. Facing South’s Alex Kotch reckons the losses to date are over $200 million (Wired figures twice that). Another four years of Pat McCrory’s Carolina Comeback will, it seems, be offset by somewhere between one and two billion dollars.

Congressman Richard Hudson wants Congress to revoke the tax-exempt status of sports organizations whose insistence on not driving off potential ticket purchasers over things like HB2 displeases him. Indy Week’s Paul Blest eyes other sacred cows wandering the feedlot:

[C]hurches are also tax-exempt, and countless church leaders from all over the state have been outspoken in their support of the legislators and governor who made HB 2 happen. Wonder if Hudson will propose taking any religious organizations' tax-exempt status away anytime soon.

Hudson previously tried to block direct air flights between Havana and Charlotte. He worries Communists will buy cheap tickets on Air Che to fly up here and get Mahs Pawk matrons hooked on crack, thenrape and murder them.

Below the fold, NC Capitol Connection takes up the cause of House Speaker Tim Moore’s new sheepwrangler:

Bell says he can think of more new ways to rig elections, shift tax burdens, and throttle the gays than any sumbitch in Raleigh. You wanna step outside?

Michael Bitzer, the NC politics guru, is tracking mail-in ballot returns.

At Talking About Politics, where Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn play “Crossfire”, Pearce considers last week a bad innings for Team McCrory:

Pat McCrory just got slam-dunked by the ACC. His teammates are starting to switch sides. Tamara Barringer was the first legislator to undergo a deathbed conversion. More will surely follow.

But a long-time veteran of the legislative sausage-making machine doesn’t expect much from the Jones Street crowd:

“The latest HB2 shame on North Carolina will be apocalyptic for Republican legislative leaders, but they won’t act.

“They don’t care what the NCAA thinks, because nobody from the NCAA lives in a doublewide in their rural legislative districts or attends one of the local snake-handling tent revivals. The Greensboro Coliseum isn’t in the districts of Phil Berger or Tim Moore, so why should they care? The NBA is black. Entertainers are gay. That’s the apparent attitude of Berger and Moore.

“In a state of 10 million people, Berger got elected last time by 40,000 of them. Moore got 15,000 votes and only needed 1 because he had no opponent. Less than one half of one percent of the state’s population elected these guys. They are not statewide leaders. These are small-time, isolated bumpkins who have their heads so buried in the red clay of their districts’ dirt roads that they are incapable of leading a large sophisticated state.

“So, expect no action from these heroes, even though the state’s actual thought leaders are unanimous in their screams to fix the HB2 disgrace.

“There’s a bright side: the GOP brain trust’s inflexibility on HB2 will speed their demise and hasten their replacement with leaders who care about more than the dusty, dark corners of the backwoods where bigots fear enlightenment, tolerance and good sense.”

Speaker Moore’s home turf- where he collects another government paycheck as county attorney- is Cleveland County, where I graduated high school and got the hell out in 1974.

Are there other politics/news blogs I’m missing? Let me know.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Memento mori.

jeff shiver.jpg

When we are young, dying is something aged relatives do from time to time. I was, as a child, always on the periphery of such events, subject to adult decisions about the degree of my participation. When my grandfather died in 1962, the sub-teen cousins were allowed to go to the viewing at his home, but not the funeral. We were all gathered up and tended to by an aunt's maid.

We become adults in time, and death is still mainly the province of aged relatives, though friends die in freak accidents and of rare, aggressive tumors, and heart attacks. But overall, death takes a backseat in our lives as we head into our thirties and forties.

Except when it doesn't. Some generations are hit hard, and at random.

The family cemetery in which I still hope to be buried is filled by the headstones of those- young and old- carried off by the influenza epidemic of 1918-19.

Many men of my generation wondered, quite seriously, if we'd see 35 as a rolling, mutating plague set upon us. We survivors all carry a giant personal memory quilt in our heads, bearing so many names taken too soon, and wonder, as we get old ourselves, how we escaped the reaper.

Now life has shifted, as President Clinton once remarked, into the period of more yesterdays than tomorrows. The aged relatives are all gone. We are the aged relatives, and our high school and college reunion letters are, more and more, bordered in black.

Death mocks our hope to avoid so many reckonings, and gloats over its random power to shock and dismay. Here is a report of the death of a friend whose demons overwhelmed him.

When we met, Jeff had built a successful restaurant, and I was trying to launch a book business. Having met no one but people who told me books were dead, and stores not far behind, Jeff, when I told him my plans, not only thought they had legs, but wanted in.

We spent several months conjuring a bookstore/cafe. It was an exciting, complementary concept, and offered the combination of our skills in ways that could boost both sides of the house. Where I counted deficits- looks, personality, mastery of the fickle arts of retail- he reveled in luxurious surpluses. He would have put the sizzle on the steak.

Then, some other friends made a better offer: a new eatery down on the coast. Restaurant/bar people are born to it: it's the stage on which they perform their working lives.

Jeff walked away from our project to pursue his vision, and I carried on with mine. I filed the experience under "it made sense at the time", nursed my bruised ego, and never heard from Jeff again. Occasionally I heard of him second-hand, and always hoped he'd find his dream at the water's edge.

As was the case with my Oxford friend Phil Geddes, a journalist killed in an IRA bombing of Harrod's 35 years ago, the shock of the news is compounded by knowing his parents, wonderful people who stuck it out with him when things were dire. And now they must bury their son.

I moved Jeff to the "What If?" file tonight, where the cold cases rest, and I know no answers will come.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Poking about in the ash heap of history, looking for shiny bits for souvenirs

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Another write-in option.

GOP says, "We can do it in seven days. Everything. Free."

Cool Video Du Jour

"Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions."


Who makes the fog surrounding the Golden Gate simply disappear?
Phyllis; Phyllis.

Who makes the warning bells on the cable cars play "The Gang's All Here"?
Phyllis; Phyllis.

Who charms the crabs of Fisherman's Wharf right out of their shells?

Who lights the lamps of Chinatown just by walking in view?


Phyllis; Phyllis; Phyllis....

(Opening theme to Cloris Leachman’s sitcom, Phyllis, 1975-1977)

She was frail and wheelchair-bound in Cleveland. It was Phyllis McAlpin Stewart Schlafly's seventeenth Republican National Convention, and she was there to support Donald Trump, who shared virtually none of the nineteenth-century views Schlafly spent seventy years promoting. It seemed like she would live forever: the half-life of spite is long indeed.

Yet Phyllis Schlafly is dead. She died last night, of cancer, at the age of 92.

It is hard to think of much Phyllis Schlafly was for in her long career. She was about a past long passed, and wanted to drag America back further still into it, and beyond.

She spent decades on the road, speaking, hectoring, canvassing to defeat candidates and ideas, proving that travel does not broaden the mind an inch. She wrote twenty-five books on everything from childcare to pornography (she was against it) to phonics. In 1965 she published a scifi screed called Strike from Space: A Megadeath Mystery.

She was a very smart woman who never learned a new thing, earning her college degree by day during World War II, and working in a machine gun factory at night. She won a master’s degree in government from Harvard and, at fifty, earned her law degree.

Phyllis Schlafly had a churning, volcano-like store of superheated bile in her gut, and turned it into hand-forged hate in decades of network commentaries, a political newsletter, a radio show that was aired on 460 stations, a 100-paper syndicated column, and all those endless books against things.

Her most famous was a scorching indictment of Republican Establishment values, A Choice, Not An Echo, published in 1964. It sold three million copies and galvanized the Goldwater for President movement.

It also positioned Schlafly as the right wing’s matronly, perfectly-coiffed, snarling attack dog against feminism in the 1970s. When she launched her campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment, it had been passed in 28 states, with ten to go. By turning it into a referendum on gender roles and the legitimization of homosexuality- advanced, she claimed, by a flying wedge of militant lesbians- she slowed, then stopped its once-inevitable march so thoroughly forty years have passed and no one has made an effective effort to revive it.

The ERA was three states short when it was declared dead, and Schlafly used the victory to play queenmaker again, this time helping Ronald Reagan win the GOP nomination in 1980.

She was, by then, cemented into the core of the new, right-wing Establishment of the Republican Party, yet continued her crusade to drag it, and its nominees, further and further rightward, ending up backing Trump against what she considered a squishy, accommodationist Establishment in her dying days.

She gloated over the death of her old nemesis, Richard Nixon, in 1994; she’d opposed his 1960 nomination for president because he opposed “segregation and discrimination” in public life, and made deals with the Communists in China and Russia. Schlafly was a longtime Bircher who left when she couldn't convince them the real Communist threat was not under their beds but at the borders.

Never wrong and never sorry: that was Phyllis Schlafly. Facts with which she disagreed, she simply declared nonexistent. The tribune of stay at home moms, she had the luxury of a full-time career because she married well and had household help to mind her six children while she was on the road. Her Harvard degree hanging on her office wall, a one-person publishing house, she could dismiss fellow alum Barack Obama as “an elitist who works with words” with no sense of irony whatever.

In 1972, Phyllis Schlafly founded Eagle Forum, an ideological stronghold that never made much of a dent in public life- after 44 years, at her death, it claimed only 80,000 members- but that she could mold and sculpt to her most exacting needs. Her last year she spent in a family feud over its control, after she- and, for all practical purposes, Phyllis Schlafly was the Eagle Forum- announced that she and her handpicked successor, Ed Martin, had determined Donald Trump a worthy heir to the retrograde traditions of her heroes: Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater and Robert Taft.

For once, her supine board- which included at least two of her children- rebelled, ousting Martin. Several board members resigned, and others were locked out by EF’s treasurer, Schlafly’s son John. “This could be my Dobson moment,” she lamented, flying to the phone to give interviews like SOS signals across the conservative world, recalling how her fellow social warrior, James Dobson, was retired from Focus on the Family after a stroke left him, all too briefly, unable to spew in public.

She was also busy fighting a nephew, a St. Louis microbrewer, over his trademarking a beer as Schlafly's. She made the name world-famous, she declared, and it did not comport with conservative values for it to appear on beer bottles guzzled by hipsters.

She lost, as she often did. Phyllis Schlafly ran for Congress in 1952, backed by billionaire reactionaries H.L. Hunt and John M. Olin, but not even all that money could buy enough voters. She tried again in 1970 and lost again. She lost nearly all the social issue fights she picked; only the core values of her soul- racism, abortion and the subjugation of women, and cramming the queers back in the closet, remain alive and well, if still mostly being fought from the back foot.

As The Advocate noted, Schlafly despised the gays harder, and longer, than any other group in her very long list of those wouldn’t be missed. They were, she maintained, at the heart of everything bad:

Ahead of the Supreme Court ruling favorably on marriage equality, she called on governors to ignore the justices, who she said “think they’re God or something.” And after the ruling, she kept right on insisting “we don’t have to obey it just because a few judges said so.”

In her syndicated column, she called on Congress to pass a resolution that affirmed the “dignity of opposite-sex married couples,” once again using it to idealize couples where “a provider-husband is the principal breadwinner and his wife is dedicated to the job of homemaker.”

Schlafly said the true purpose of same-sex marriage was to "wipe out the Christian religion."

“The use of same-sex marriage to attack Christian businesses but not businesses run by members of other religions,” she said, “demonstrates what is really driving the demand for the new constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

It wasn’t the first time she’d suggested gays and lesbians were faking their support for marriage equality.

“I do think that the main goal of the homosexuals is to silence any criticism,” she said in 2013. “Most of them aren’t interested in getting married.”

Her other theory was that LGBT activists actually wanted to get rid of marriage for straight people.

“Knowing how at odds same-sex marriage is with our legal and cultural traditions, we should not be surprised that some homosexual activists are trying to get rid of marriage all together,” she said in 2014. “Same-sex marriage isn’t about granting equality of human rights. Gays are not denied any human rights. Same-sex marriage is about getting rid of the traditional values and institutions that have guided the Western world, including America.”

As marriage equality reached more and more states, Schlafly said she knew of Christians who were leaving those states, “dissenting with their feet.”

Schlafly was by no means focused exclusively on same-sex marriage, though. She ranted about sodomy — “a central feature of same-sex marriage” — and longed for the days when it was criminalized. Then when Caitlyn Jenner transitioned under the public spotlight, Schlafly lamented, “I don’t know what the world’s coming to, I think it’s just plain nuts.”

And even in her last years, Schlafly could create headlines with outrageous things she said about women. In 2014, she suggested women could avoid sexual assault by getting married.

“Marriage settles men down,” she said. “So what’s the answer for women who worry about male violence? It’s not to fear all men. It’s to reject the lifestyle of frequent 'hookups,' which is so much promoted on college campuses today, while the women pursue a career and avoid marriage.”

Which made it all the more awkward, when, in 1992, a gay magazine outed Schlafly's oldest son, John.

Well, it seemed awkward to everyone else in America. Same-sex marriage had reared its head; Pat Buchanan poured boiling oil on LGBT Americans from the pulpit at that year’s GOP convention.

But the Schlaflys rallied behind mom, who said the outing was aimed at her, and she was right. She made a good living vilifying one of her own.

While acknowledging his homosexuality, John Schlafly refused to repudiate his mother and other Republicans who publicly mocked gays. Instead, he attacked “a band of screechy gay activists and Washington-based pressure groups who get all the attention. The truth is, family values people... are not out to bash gay people.''

“I was proud of him,'' Phyllis Schlafly said. Whenever the subject came up over the next quarter century, she did all the talking for her son, as in this early interview:

She hasn't a clue why her firstborn child is gay, unlike his three brothers
and two sisters.
“I don't know and he doesn't know,'' Schlafly said. ``He thinks he's always
been. But about this thing of being born gay, he doesn't know that. I don't
know if anybody knows that.''

She knows of nothing she might have done to start her son down the road to
gayness. The presence of a strong mother and weak father, long used to explain homosexuality, especially doesn't fit: ``He had a very strong father,'' Schlafly says. The late Fred Schlafly, 15 years her senior, was a well-to-do lawyer who took an active role in anti-Communist issues.

John, who was 41 in 1992 and still living with his parents, was one of his mother’s biggest fans until the day she died.

Human nature and religious faith direct us to find the best in people and to feel for their mourning survivors when they die. Some people, however, make it really hard.

A columnist at Patheos put the best spin one can, I believe, on Phyllis Schlafly’s life yesterday:

I’m reminded of what Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps‘ estranged son said after his death:

I will mourn his passing, not for the man he was, but for the man he could have been… I ask this of everyone- let his death mean something. Let every mention of his name and of his church be a constant reminder of the tremendous good we are all capable of doing in our communities.

To paraphrase a famous saying, live your life so that Phyllis Schlafly would have called you a threat to our country.

Shakespeare in Our Time

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The art of comic timing

Here's a wonderful clip about old age: 90-year-old Mel Brooks reminisces about his friend of half a century, Gene Wilder, who died this week at 83.

But it's more. Watch Brooks start fiddling with his hair. It's not just an old man worried about his combover slipping out of place.

It's a long, subtle setup to a brilliantly,-executed gag.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Maggie Gallagher: As goes North Carolina, so goes hate everywhere


Maggie Gallagher is back, sounding the tocsin at National Review. She says if Pat McCrory isn’t re-elected governor of North Carolina, conservatism is doomed, and you all’ve got 69 days to stand in the gap.

How bad is it? The moon will be in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligned with Mars. There’ll be earthquakes, volcanoes. The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria.

The lapsed, then born-again Catholic- who, during a lacuna as a “pro-life atheist” got her world view from Ayn Rand and Robert A. Heinlein, and, during the 1991 Murphy Brown TV outrage, published an op-ed called “An Unwed Mother for Quayle”-  says,

The future of religious liberty for traditional religious believers hangs on what happens to North Carolina governor Pat McCrory’s bid for re-election this November, and he is down six points in the latest CNN poll.

Just seven years ago, Gallagher, then co-chair of the fearsome National Organization for Marriage with the bristling uber-Catholic Princeton professor, Robert P. George- Naomi to her Ruth for over a decade- crowed that she had broken the back of the gay rights movement.

Now she whinges that a victory for “the Left’s interpretation that people with penises can be women, too” will be dispositive proof that conservatives have no balls:

Part of the process the Left has discovered to quickly change the culture involves, first, controlling the framing of issues in mainstream media; second, bringing in entertainment media (including sports) to validate and repeat the idea that outrageous things are being done to gay people by letting gay-marriage dissenters keep their jobs; and, three, persuading GOP elites to shut up about the issue, leaving the pathway to cultural change uncontested.

Politics is really not a separate thing from culture; it is part of the way conservatives contest, and Liberals complete, the Left’s cultural domination. Its most important cultural effect in a democracy is to determine which views are “inside the mainstream” and which are “radical and outside the pale.” Thus, persuading Republican elites to shut down on an issue has enormous cultural, as well as political, consequences. That is how “consensus culture” is created.

(Phallocentrism means a lot to Gallagher: at the article’s end she rears its ugly head again: “The particular issue in North Carolina is whether schoolgirls should be forced to shower with people with penises”).

Take away their lurid bathroom sex fantasies, Gallagher argues, and the GOP will be left a dessicated shell:

Once gay issues are out of the way the Left will use these same techniques on the other things it cares about most, hoping to reduce the Republican party to a sterile and politically impotent quasi-libertarian, pro-business economic message.

In other words, what Republicans were before 1980.

Maggie Gallagher abandoned NOM several years ago, admitting her spite-filed campaign to keep the gays in their place had failed. It now exists as a spam factory run by her successor, Brian Brown, who spits out daily money begs with up to two dozen links to his electronic donations portal. Still raising money at to pay for buses to an anti-marriage equality rally in April 2015, NOM mainly pays Brown’s reported $500,000 annual salary, and asks for more money to keep paying it.

Brown launched a laughable campaign to chose the 2016 GOP presidential nominee from its shortlist of “Champions of Marriage”- Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal- who, coincidentally were the only four of the sixteen primary flameouts to sign NOM’s marriage pledge. Brown has so bled NOM of credibility that it is a near-zero among anti-LGBT religious leaders. Dobson, Graham, Perkins, none mention or associate with him, and he wasn’t invited to Donald Trump’s pre-convention cattle call.

Among the more epic fails of Gallagher's leadership was a Starbucks boycott campaign (they hired homos, and sold them coffee, too) for which she garnered 25,000 supportive online signatures (a pro-Starbucks group got 637,000).

During NOM’s defense of a Maine lawsuit to force the group to comply with the state’s public disclosure laws for campaign financing, a 2009 Gallagher memo surfaced in which she called on anti-marriage supporters to foment accusations of bigotry by LGBT groups by being bigots themselves:

The memo was contained in a trove of documents unsealed by a federal judge on Monday in a case in Maine, where the group, the National Organization for Marriage, spearheaded a successful ballot initiative in 2009 to outlaw gay marriage and has sued to overturn state ethics laws that would require the group to reveal the donors who financed that effort.

“The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies,” reads a portion of the memo, describing an initiative called the “Not a Civil Right Project.”
The project’s goal, according to the memo, is to recruit blacks who oppose gay marriage to serve as spokespeople for the group, then “provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots.”

Another initiative, described under the heading “Internationalizing the Marriage issue: A Pan-American Strategy,” is to convince Hispanic voters that efforts to legalize gay marriage would force them to assimilate to “the dominant Anglo culture.”

The memo suggests that the strategy was inspired by successful efforts to outlaw same-sex marriage by initiative in California in 2008, when the measure passed with strong support from black voters, who turned out heavily to support Barack Obama for president.

Feeling her oats after her 2008 California win, Gallagher pumped out a 2009 National Review article with the tragically unprophetic title, “Why Gay Marriage Isn't Inevitable.”

Having sought to call down the heavens upon its supporters for political gain, NOM has wasted vast sums of money- led by John C. Eastman, the hired gun North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger parachuted in to defend their 2012 constitutional amendment banning marriage equality- to keep its membership and donor lists secret, lest the mean gays hunt them down and flog them with lillies: the very backlash they so assiduously courted.

Forced to cough up the list, NOM turned out to get almost no financial support from anyone but the Knights of Columbus and a handful of individuals in Maine; while they raise money for buses to bring Americans to DC for their annual antigay rally, nearly all the crowd, and buses, are provided by a Harlem hate preacher who promises his parishioners a day trip to the nation’s capital; they just have to sit through the timeshare pitch and pretend interest.

Seeing defeat of NOM’s 2008 California marriage equality referendum looming in federal court, Gallagher wailed that cameras must, simply must! be barred from the courtroom, lest the public learn just how bigoted and spiteful were its advocates. Not to mention that their lead scientific witness was going to admit he couldn’t think of a single way same-sex marriage would harm anyone.

Another Gallagher brainwave was to argue that if marriage equality became the law, straight people would see marriage as so devalued they would abandon it in droves, leading to more unwed mothers, abandoned children, and abortions- and all to be blamed on The Gays.

In 2010, after the gay college student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after discovering his roommate videod him making out with another man and broadcast it on the internet, Gallagher huffed,

I do not think the absence of gay marriage is the cause of these tragedies or its presence will resolve them. We can make this a symbol of all our other fights, or we can try to save all our kids, gay and straight, from this kind of ugly and mindless cruelty. My heart goes out to the family of the young man. God bless him and them.

Of course, Gallagher’s solution has always been “reparative therapy”, the snake oil peddler’s wagonload of flummery and torture long peddled by closeted gay men like former University of South Carolina professor and antigay adoption expert witness for hire George Rekers, who got caught schlepping suitcases off a Miami airport carousel while his rent-boy baggage handler (Rekers claimed a bad back necessitated an aide for his madcap holiday spree in Europe, sans Mrs Reker) preened before a glass partition. Gallagher spewed pixels galore defending the New Jersey-based JONAH Project as it fought, and lost, a consumer protection fraud suit over its gay cure program while not revealing she was also one of its board members.

Since marriage equality won, Gallagher has tried to waddle out, repeatedly, as the leader of a new-re-galvanized Gay Resistance Movement, offering up all the failed nostrums of her time as a leader of the old, big-league movement she helped sink. She is at once Cassandra and Joan of Arc, bemoaning the doom that gathers to rally the defeatist homophobes of America to her God-blessed banner, retrieved by her from the stricken field where she abandoned it.

Ponderous is the house style at National Review, and Gallagher has made herself into a discount store David Brooks with columns like this celebration of the Kentucky moral scold, Kim Davis (with whom she shares an unerring fashion sense), and the inconveniences of civil disobedience:

Kim Davis is showing us what conscience looks like. After all, getting in front of a slavishly approving media à la Ferguson does not confer moral significance on one’s willingness to break the civil law for a higher law. What makes civil disobedience noble is a willingness to sacrifice, if necessary, rather than submit to the civil law.

But is civil disobedience really necessary? The conscientious objector’s willingness to pay a price throws the ball back into our court: Are we satisfied with this result? Can we do better? Do we want to?

In the runup to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, Gallagher lumbered to podiums across America to predict the coming of “"legal and the moral equivalent of racism in the public square."

"Christianity in this country is going to enter a new phase where we are a hated minority group. I think we had better be psychologically and spiritually prepared for that and be prepared to rebuild from the ruins of the collapse of civilization that we're witnessing."

And she warned of an apocalypse, of sorts – which, apparently, is already here.

"At least one civilization is over with and what the next phase of American civilization will be is yet to be determined."

A month later, she penned an open letter to Justice Anthony Kennedy, author of the Obergefell decision, on behalf of “the newly-stigmatized” ranks of politicovangelicals wanting their right to freely stigmatize back, either in custom or under legal armor she says Republican legislators owe them in spades.

In March, Gallagher turned her gimlet eye to the turmoil among Georgia conservatives, their religious discrimination law in peril:

The fight, a window into the soul of the GOP,  spilled over into the Georgia GOP convention, when all 11 Congressional delegations among others voted to support the original language.

However, the bill is still not law, and Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston both side with the let the little guys be punished out of business in the name of avoiding gay equality wrath.

What are the lessons to be learned from the Georgia fight?

This is an issue that can tear apart the Republican Party.  Corporations had best think a bit about how much they like working in Democrat-controlled territory before jumping on board this train.

State RFRAs are bad vehicles for this fight, because they are broad and vague and their outcome is uncertain. It is very unlikely that a state RFRA will protect anyone from any gay equality wrath, precisely because courts uniformly view equality as a compelling interest, and because there is no way to make sure everyone gets treated equally while permitting some people to refuse to serve gay weddings.

A better vehicle is some version of a Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (MARFA), which prevents governments from punishing individuals and small businesses for refusing to participate in a wedding they do not approve of. If you ask me, I would carve out an exception for race and leave it at that. The protection is narrow, but tight and clear; they can be crafted to be viewpoint neutral (meaning you can refuse Maggie’s wedding if you object to it, too).  And they can be narrowed to apply to small businesses, so that the big corporations have no excuse to getting involved unless they want to be mean to the little guy.

Ted Cruz was a rock star, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, delivering two crowd-enthusing speeches, and when he went behind closed doors to speak to the press, delegates gathered behind him chanting, “We want Cruz! We want Cruz!” There is an opportunity here for presidential candidates to make a difference pushing for the federal Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. When the Justice Department is at the Supreme Court saying religious schools and charities could lose their tax-exempt status if they don’t support “marriage equality,” it’s time to get serious about carving out protections.

Christian conservatives need to raise hard money and spend it defeating Hillary Clinton in one or two swing states by showing this anti-religious extremism is going to cost Democrats votes not only among white working class voters but also among Hispanic and black evangelicals..  I know I am repeating myself, but I am going to say it a lot.  Because Christian conservatives don’t usually do this. Time to get serious about being in politics. Past time.

A devoted recycler of trash- and past columns (the two so often overlap)- Gallagher ends her Dog Days jeremiad with this:

In Georgia and elsewhere, GOP politicians are watching: If McCrory loses, the GOP will concede whatever the Left demands on gay rights, including the right to fire gay-marriage dissenters from public position  and deprive us of our right to form nonprofit schools and charities and organizations on an equal basis with other Americans.

The Left knows it’s that serious and they are acting like it. Where are we?

Maggie Gallagher is never very strong on legal accuracy. She writes that McCrory's free pass law for district court magistrates to shun same-sex couples seeking a civil wedding (while remaining free to discriminate against LGBT litigants in any cases they hear) was passed for "marriage clerks".

Her entire thesis about McCrory's re-election fails in light of HB2 now being in the hands of the courts.

But if you can think of a more compelling reason to get out and vote against Pat McCrory than that Maggie Gallager says defeating him will kill religious discrimination laws in America, I want to hear it.