Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Speak the Speech

I was going to write something about Jonathan Chait’s column on the resurgence of “political correctness,” but here are two people who do it a lot better:

Melissa McEwan:

There’s little I can say in response to this piece that wouldn’t merely be a variation on what I’ve already said before.

But I do want to note this important context: Chait et. al. have spent a very long time making a living treating defining the terms of debate as the debate itself.

And that’s why we get these petulant thinkpieces about “the nature of the debate” and tortured explanations about how what they do is speech, but what their critics do is something that endangers speech.

Chait is a professional gatekeepers, whose career is built upon having conversations he defines as important exclusively with people who view his being white and male as credentials, but don’t practice identity politics. Ahem.

And the thing about professional gatekeepers is that they get very miffed indeed when people start saying fuck the rules of sitting at your table; we’ll build our own table.

Oh the terrible rending of garments when you make it clear you don’t care about their rules of engagement for discourse, because their discourse is garbage.

Betty Cracker:

Chait also seems to engage in some magical thinking about the curative powers of the “free market of ideas,” wherein more speech is always the cure for bad speech and therefore all speech must be protected (with the usual caveat about yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, one presumes). I subscribe to that view myself, in the absence of a better one. But as always, there’s a difference between protecting speech and insisting that it remain free from criticism — even from harsh criticism that results in hurt feelings and blog-flounces!

And maybe it’s important to acknowledge that there will always be an imbalance in the free market model of speech, just as there is in the commodities market. I’m just as free to invest in political speech as defined by the Roberts Court as the Koch Bros. are; I just have a lot less to invest. And that matters.

Well said.

Short Takes

The blizzard in New England isn’t over yet.

Americans among those killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Libya.

A lot of people, including President Obama, showed up to pay respects in Saudi Arabia.

Consumer confidence is at its highest rating since 2007.

Mormons try to balance marriage equality and the right to discriminate.

Obamacare cost estimate keeps getting smaller.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rights and Wrongs

Frank Bruni in yesterday’s New York Times:

I’ve been called many unpleasant things in my life, and I’ve deserved no small number of them. But I chafe at this latest label:

A threat to your religious liberty.

I don’t mean me alone. I mean me and my evidently menacing kind: men who have romantic relationships with other men and maybe want to marry them, and women in analogous situations. According to many of the Americans who still cast judgment on us, our “I do” somehow tramples you, not merely running counter to your creed but running roughshod over it.

That’s absurd. And the deference that many politicians show to such thinking is an example not of religion getting the protection it must but of religious people getting a pass that isn’t warranted. It’s an illustration of religion’s favored status in a country that’s still working out this separation-of-church-and-state business and hasn’t yet gotten it quite right.

We’re at an interesting crossroads, brought about by the rapid advance of same-sex marriage. It’s now legal in 36 states, including, as of last week, Florida. Equality is increasingly being enshrined into law, and one response from those opposed to it is that the law shouldn’t apply to them.

Why? Because it contradicts their religious beliefs, which they use as a fig leaf for intolerance.

Fifty years ago the opponents of civil rights and integration asserted that “states’ rights” affirmed their belief that discrimination should stand.  Today “religious liberty” bears the same burden, and it fails to carry the weight.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Reading

The Right to Be Offended — Karl Sharro in The Atlantic on the retreat of free speech.

As a satirist who focuses on the Middle East, I’ve bumped up against my share of boundaries. Two years ago, for example, I struggled with how to satirize the tendency of some Western observers to distort conflicts in the Middle East by attributing those conflicts to “ancient rivalries” rather than, say, contemporary political struggles. Ultimately, I decided that the best approach would be to push that logic to its absurd conclusion by writing a “tribal” guide to the region, which relied on familiar stereotypes about Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, and others. I hoped readers would understand that these caricatures were meant not to be crude and bigoted, but rather to show how disconnected the ancient-rivalries thesis is from reality. And readers did understand—for the most part. This ability to test the boundaries of good taste, and even to be offensive, is essential to effective satire. But it’s now under threat.

Following the attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris and the cold-blooded murder of 12 people, a familiar refrain rang out in some quarters. The assault on the satirical magazine, so the argument went, represented a collision of cultures: a Western one that champions freedom of speech and an Islamic one that does not tolerate offenses to its religious symbols. But one of the real storylines here isn’t some clash of civilizations; it’s the steady erosion of freedom of expression and the rise of the right to be offended—in the West as well as other parts of the world.

The culture-clash interpretation of the horror in Paris transcends political divides in the West. On the right, some claim that Muslims’ beliefs are incompatible with modernity and Western values. On the left, some construe the attack as a retaliation for severe offenses, essentially suggesting that Muslims are incapable of responding rationally to such offenses and that it is therefore best not to provoke them. The latter explanation is dressed up in the language of social justice and marginalization, but is, at its core, a patronizing view of ordinary Muslims and their capacity to advocate for their rights without resorting to nihilistic violence. This outlook also promotes the idea that Muslims and other people of Middle Eastern origin are defined primarily by their religion, which in turn devalues and demeans the attempts of Arab and Middle Eastern secularists to define themselves through varying interpretations of religion or even by challenging religion and its role in public life. By seeking to present religion as a form of cultural identity that should be protected from offense and critique, Western liberals are consequently undermining the very struggles against the authority of inherited institutions through which much of the Western world’s social and political progress was achieved.

Given that I often deal with the issue of jihadism in my satire, the Charlie Hebdo attack highlighted the dangers that my colleagues and I face when we mock extremists. Still, there is a risk in framing what we do as satirists and cartoonists as a heroic battle against extremism. For one thing, this implies that only ‘worthy’ works of satire should be defended on the grounds of free speech. For freedom of speech and expression to mean something, they must be defended on their own terms, not because of their political usefulness in the fight against extremism.

This is a critical distinction given the current climate in the West, where a culture of taking offense has found fertile ground and is increasingly restricting what artists and writers are able to do and say. The British writer Kenan Malik traces the origins of this trend to 1989, when the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomenei issued his infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie for allegedly blaspheming Islam in The Satanic Verses. In From Fatwa to Jihad, Malik argues convincingly that the response to the fatwa and similar threats has been counterproductive, coming to pose a grave threat to free speech. “Internalizing the fatwa has not just created a new culture of self-censorship, it has also helped generate the same problems to which self-censorship was supposedly a response,” he writes. “The fear of giving offence has simply made it easier to take offence.”

[…]

The murders in Paris have certainly brought the struggle for free speech into stark relief. But it’s premature to expect the episode to reverse the trend toward more restrictions on expression in the West. This week, for instance, the gush of support for freedom of expression was quickly countered by backlash against an op-ed written by Anjem Choudary, in which the radical British Islamist justified the Charlie Hebdo attack by claiming that Muslims don’t believe in free speech and that France shouldn’t have allowed the cartoons to be published. Many people argued that he shouldn’t have been given a platform in the press, particularly at a moment like this (for a sense of the intensity of the response, just look at Twitter).

But restricting free speech further, even in the case of so-called hate speech, would be precisely the wrong response to the carnage in Paris. Instead, we should reassert the rights of satirical magazines and radical preachers alike to express their views, and the freedom of anyone and everyone to challenge them. That’s the best lesson to learn from this tragedy.

What’s Funny — Colin Stokes in The New Yorker.

Over the past few days, it has become apparent that many people have lost their ability to laugh. Some of us could laugh at one point but, owing to recent events, have become unable to do so. Others of us seem never to have been able to laugh in the first place. This is a guide both for those who only now find themselves incapable of laughter and for those who have had difficulty laughing their entire lives.

Part I. A joke is a thing that is meant to make life tolerable.

Suffering is all around us, just like furniture when you are at an IKEA store. Sometimes it comes from the natural world, like the wood used to make the furniture that is currently surrounding you at the IKEA store. Sometimes it comes from other people, like the people who pick things up and then leave them in totally random places around the IKEA store. Sometimes it’s just there, and we don’t know where it came from, like that ownerless dog that follows you around the IKEA parking lot, and then wants to come home with you, but the second you let it into your car, it poops everywhere.

When people make a joke, what they are doing is combining words and/or images in ways that are intended to surprise you a little. They may even surprise you a lot. These surprises make us laugh because we weren’t expecting them, and we involuntarily react by laughing when we are released from a state of not knowing what is about to come. Laughing lets us forget about the suffering that is an unavoidable part of life, at least temporarily. It frees us to lie down in a bed that we don’t own at IKEA, and to try to forget about the small dog that changed the way our car smells forever.

Part II. Sometimes jokes make people upset.

Necessarily, in the course of trying to surprise people, jokes can surprise some people a little too much. Once I told a joke to James Bond when he was suspended above a tank of sharks, trapped in a device that would drop him into the tank if he laughed. He didn’t laugh, though, because he’s a professional spy. Also, it was a current-events joke, and he’s a fictional character from the nineteen-fifties, so he didn’t get it, even though it was really funny, I swear. People often get angry about a joke that they think went too far, and they lash out at the person who told it to them. After he escaped from the shark-tank-laughing device, James Bond was pretty upset with me.

But those who write jokes come to expect negative reactions from a certain number of people. James Bond doesn’t come to any of my standup shows anymore, and certainly not when he’s stuck in the shark-tank-laughing device, which is surprisingly often.

Part III. Jokes can tell truths about things.

Some jokes are more than just surprising per se, because they articulate a truth about something in real life. My friends used to joke that I didn’t know what the term “per se” meant, because I always used it when I was talking about pears that could talk. We laugh at these types of jokes and then, when we’re done laughing, we realize that some of the things we heard in the jokes relate to real life. In this case, I realized that I was, in fact, using “per se” incorrectly.

Part IV. Sometimes getting upset at jokes helps you learn new things.

There are some people who have distorted beliefs about reality. I once fiercely believed that priests and rabbis rarely frequented bars together. When people hear jokes that challenge what they think they know, they can get angry. Did you hear the one about the priest and the rabbi in the bar? It took me a long time to wrap my mind around that one. But now I am surprised by almost no one entering a bar.

Part V. Jokes can be bad.

Some jokes are just completely horrible. Did you hear the one about the blind ship captain? He couldn’t sea anything. That’s a horrendous joke. But I still should have the right to tell it. Just like you have the right to say that it’s not funny, and then temporarily blind me and make me the captain of a ship to show me how unfunny it is. Actually, you don’t have the right to do that—that would be false imprisonment and the infliction of grievous bodily harm. What you should really do is say that it’s not funny, perhaps call it insensitive to blind ship captains, and then move on.

Doonesbury — Hot tips.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Matter of Degree

It’s interesting timing that on the day the world finds out just how methodical and brutal an agency of our government can be against its fellow man, the good citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas, voted to repeal an ordinance that protected some of its own citizens from being tortured.

Richard Drake of the Arkansas Times:

While no doubt those who were trembling at the thought of sending their sons and daughters into public restrooms alone can now sleep the sleep of the just (and the paranoid), and those who also relish the idea of turning away business from those they find yucky can run up and down the streets in victory, it might be a good time to quietly reflect on the fact that, though some might vociferously deny it, in the not-so-recent past, Fayetteville hasn’t been such a healthy place for those who have been gay, or even the children of those who have been gay.

There is a difference between the C.I.A. torturing terror suspects and a landlord in Arkansas refusing to rent a house to a gay couple, but it’s really only a matter of degree.  Both systematically deprive the subject of their basic humanity.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Cause and Effect

Dr. Ben Carson, one of the more interesting characters running for the GOP nomination, knows who to blame for the riots in Ferguson.

“Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities, where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life. Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority,” Carson said. “So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you have really no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system.” […]

“I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘me generation,’” he replied. “‘What’s in it for me?’ I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, ‘I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?’ You know, it really should be about us.”

Gee, and all along I thought it was a cop who shot an unarmed man, not some selfish woman looking to burn a bra.

Except that Michael Brown was raised with a father and a mother.  So too was Trayvon Martin, as was Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old in Cleveland who was shot to death by police last week.

There’s another perspective, though, on why there has been seething rage in places like Ferguson or other places where demonstrations against oppression have taken to the streets and rousted the cable news anchors out of the studio.  It’s the rage the cameras don’t see or pass by without acknowledging what it is.  It is, as Carol Anderson writes in this Washington Post op-ed, the white rage against equality.

Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.

White rage recurs in American history. It exploded after the Civil War, erupted again to undermine the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and took on its latest incarnation with Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. For every action of African American advancement, there’s a reaction, a backlash.

[…]

So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.

Only then does Ferguson make sense. It’s about white rage.

We have seen this played out in other areas as well.  The advancement of LGBT rights and marriage equality has led to a rash of claims of “Christian oppression,” as if 80% of the country suddenly lost their right to worship in their own fashion instead of writing laws and promoting discrimination against the gay community.

This comes from the viewpoint that in order for one group to be granted the rights they are entitled to, someone else has to give up their rights.  But where does anyone get the idea that rights and the right to them is a zero sum game?  Granting African Americans the right to vote or granting same-sex couples the right to marriage does not require a white person to give up their vote or a straight married couple to get divorced.  It doesn’t even dilute them.  It strengthens them because letting everyone vote brings out the truth.

What the oppressors are afraid of is that after generations of holding people back, the floodgates will open and those they’ve kept locked up will seek them out and exact revenge for all the wrongs that were done to them.  They’re not afraid of the riots or the looting; after all, they have the police to protect them against unarmed teenagers.  What they’re most afraid of is that they will vote and elect people who will right the wrongs and enforce the rights.  That’s what makes them truly angry.

Bonus: Jon Stewart.

HT to CLW.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Beginning Of The End

Looking at some of the reactions to the Supreme Court’s non-decision on marriage equality by the anti-equality folks — outragejudicial activism by unelected judges, a violation of God-given rights, and so on — tells me that the battle for same-sex marriage is coming to the end the way I thought it would: by the slow inexorable march, state by state, court battle by court battle, until finally the freedom to marry is as ordinary as any other exercised right.

The losers are outraged because they believed that they had the right to encode their bigotry and religious prejudice into law.  They also have gone over the top because they hear the distant approach of oblivion.  It won’t happen overnight; history tells us that overcoming pride and prejudice (h/t Jane Austen) takes a long time.  But they know the jig is up and the anti-gay movement will in time become as relevant and forceful as the temperance movement.

This may not be the solution some of us wanted: a firm holding from the Supreme Court that the Fourteenth Amendment, contrary to Sen. Cruz’s assertion, does guarantee equal protection under the law and that marriage, established as a fundamental right in cases going back generations, should be available to all citizens regardless of genitalia.  Those who criticize the Court for not taking up the case should understand that in order to do so they had to have conflicting rulings: a ruling for and a ruling against.  So far no federal bench has sided with the anti-same-sex side, therefore there’s no decision to make, and they let the lower courts rulings stand.  In baseball, it would be called a walk-off: there’s no need to have the final out when the winning run has scored and the other team has no more at-bats.

They’re going to go out in the same way they came in, though.  They will grift the foolish and the fearful of their money and hope to hang on to their cash while desperately finding some other line of work.  They know that the lies they tell and the fundamental misstatements about the make-up of our government are meant only for their pigeons.  They carry on about “unelected judges,” knowing full well that the federal judiciary doesn’t face the voters for a very good reason: they — at least it is to be hoped — should not be swayed by political or financial ambition (even if that concept has been put to the test by the current Supreme Court).  Judicial activism is clearly in the eye of the beholder.  These same people praised the genius of the Court when it decided that corporations themselves can hold religious beliefs and that a checkbook is the same thing as a soapbox; two decisions that legal scholars of every stripe agree were outside the scope of the original cases.  And while appealing to heaven and the Almighty make for some thunderous rhetoric and get the money flowing, using a religious argument to enforce an untenable violation of the Constitution should automatically disqualify it from consideration.

A federal court could rule against marriage equality and that could set up a hearing before the Supreme Court.  But yesterday’s move basically opened the door and hundreds of couples have already tied the knot in places such as Virginia, and Utah (!); states that up until yesterday morning did not have marriage equality.  Even the losers concede that undoing those bonds would be impossible.

This is not the end.  Florida still has the ban — for the moment — as do nineteen other states.  But it is only a matter of time, and I’m not talking years.  It will be months, perhaps weeks now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Athesists Need Not Apply

Via TPM:

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave its blessing to local governments that want to open their public meetings with religious prayer.

It was a victory for the town board of Greece, N.Y., which stressed that it was fighting not just for Christian prayer but for the right of all people express their views regardless of their faith. In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the Court ruled against the Jewish and atheist plaintiffs, who argued that the practice violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Less than four months later, the town of Greece has adopted an invocation policy that excludes non-religious citizens and potentially shuts out faiths that aren’t well-established in the town, according to a top secular group.

Seeking to “avail itself of the Supreme Court’s recognition” that government prayer is constitutional, the new policy restricts opening remarks to “assemblies with an established presence in the Town of Greece that regularly meet for the primary purpose of sharing a religious perspective.”

Translation: atheists and agnostics need not apply. And unless the board clerk decides that your faith has an “established presence” in the New York town of fewer than 100,000, you may not deliver an invocation.

I realize that it takes a lot of study of the law and you really have to be good at it to get appointed to the United States Supreme Court, but if the five men who ruled in favor of the town Greece didn’t see this coming, then they’re idiots.

Of course there’s always the possibility that they knew that this would happen but ruled in favor anyway.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fits The Description

Thirty years ago Beverly Hills Cop was a laugh-riot of a comedy with Eddie Murphy as a hip Detroit police officer working with the uptight white cops in the ritzy L.A. suburb.  The premise was that a black man would completely discombobulate the force and create plenty of fun moments on the screen.  What a hoot.

Yeah, well, here we are today in 2014, but it’s not so funny when you see that a black man walking down the street in Beverly Hills can still get busted for walking down the street.  It happened to Charles Belk.

It’s one of those things that you hear about, but never think it would happen to you.

On Friday afternoon, August 22nd around 5:20pm, while innocently walking by myself from a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd, to my car up LaCienega Blvd my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Within seconds, I was detained and told to sit on the curb of the very busy street, during rush hour traffic.

Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb.

Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.

Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded…..All because I was mis-indentified as the wrong “tall, bald head, black male,” … “fitting the description.”

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn’t matter if he’s a “Taye Diggs BLACK”, a “LL Cool J BLACK”, or “a Drake BLACK”

Mr. Belk was released six hours later thanks to the intervention of the NAACP attorney who got the police to finally review videos of the robbery and decided that oops, they had the wrong man.

Welcome to post-racial America.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Short Takes

First of 300 military advisers on the ground in Iraq.

Thad Cochran wins run-off in Mississippi.

No-Fly List process deemed unconstitutional.

Two dead and 10 injured in shooting in Miami.

Verdict in British phone hacking scandal.

Bite me — Italy loses to Uruguay in a strange match.

R.I.P. Eli Wallach, 98, actor on stage and screen for over 60 years.

The Tigers beat the Rangers 8-2.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Down The Hatch

Last week Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was warning us that the Democrats were going to repeal the First Amendment with another amendment governing campaign finance.  But perhaps he’d better keep his eyes on one of this fellow Republicans.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said on Monday that if the Supreme Court rules against Hobby Lobby, which sued the federal government to block Obamacare’s contraception mandate, he’ll propose a constitutional amendment.

“I hope the Supreme Court doesn’t screw that up is all I can say,” Hatch said about the Hobby Lobby case during a Memorial Day speech in Wood Cross, Utah, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “Because if they foul up the First Amendment again, we are going to have a constitutional amendment. And I believe I can put one on that everybody in this country, except the nuts, will support.”

Mr. Hatch is worried that corporations won’t be able to impose their own religious views on their employees without amending the Constitution.

Huh?

If being against the idea of an employer forcing his or her religious belief on employees and dictating the terms of their health insurance based on religion makes me a “nut,” then count me in, along with the guys who wrote the First Amendment in the first place.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

He’s On To Us

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told some folks that Democrats are trying to repeal the First Amendment.

Cruz was speaking to pastors at a Family Research Council conference when he warned that Democrats were moving to quash political speech and “muzzle” pastors and their communities, according to video of a portion of Cruz’s speech posted online by Right Wing Watch.

“I’m telling you, I’m not making this up,” he said as the audience offscreen gasped. “Sen. Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.] has announced the Senate Democrats are scheduling a vote on a constitutional amendment to give Congress the plenary power, the unlimited authority to regulate political speech. Because elected officials have decided they don’t like it when the citizenry has the temerity to criticize what they’ve done.”

Cruz was referring to a proposed constitutional amendment from Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) that would reverse recent Supreme Court rulings invalidating campaign finance limits, including Citizens United and McCutcheon. Schumer said the Senate would vote this year on the constitutional amendment, which seeks to capitalize on the unpopularity of the Citizens United decision in an election year.

Rats.  Now we’ll have to come up with some other plan to keep the Koch brothers from buying the next election.

It’s ironic that Sen. Cruz would bring this up in front of the Family Research Council, a group whose very existence is founded on the belief that certain people don’t deserve all the rights guaranteed under the Constitution and who raise a shitload of money to advance their point of view.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Slow On The Uptake

A group in Texas that advocates “open carry” of guns encouraged its membership to walk into restaurants with their weapons.  Other than assuring that they’d get frontsies at the order line, it went over like a ham sandwich at a Seder.  A number of restaurant chains, most recently Chipotle, told their customers to stay away if they insisted on packing.

Well, Open Carry Texas and other muzzlestrokers have issued a non-apology apology and told their members to not scare the shit out of people in restaurants because it’s bad P.R.

Looking back, it has become clear that there is one area in which we have gotten the most resistance and suffered the largest setbacks: open carry of long arms into private businesses. This is not a new phenomenon. Early on, because of our efforts, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) sent a message to all TABC licensees warning them about allowing our members to open carry into their businesses. This resulted in places like Smashburger asking us to leave our guns at home. Since then, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Jack In The Box, Applebees and most recently, Chipotle have come out asking we not carry our firearms into their establishments.

[…]

Whereas, our mission is to get open carry of handguns passed in Texas, we must once again adjust in a way that shines a positive light on our efforts, our members, and our respective organizations. We have decided the prudent path, to further our goals, is to immediately cease taking long guns into corporate businesses unless invited.

You have to give them a little credit for at least getting the hint.

To paraphrase the saying about religion, guns are like penises: It’s fine to have one, fine to be proud of it, but it’s not a good idea to whip it out in public and start waving it around.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Peak Eich

The story of Brendan Eich and his resignation from Mozilla over his donation to Prop 8 has gotten to the point of internet infinity: where the story itself has been put gently aside so that we can all discuss various bloggers’ and columnist’s reactions to it.

If you feel compelled to follow along with them, be my guest.  I’ve said what I have to say about this particular story for now.  What is being lost in the fog is the movement towards equality — not just marriage equality for which Mr. Eich bid against in California and found himself held accountable for it — for one community is a movement for all people, not just those of us who are currently defined as less than full citizens by a majority of states.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Find Another Baker or Florist

The veto of the anti-gay law in Arizona may have settled the issue for the moment in that state — although bigotry always needs feeding and I’m sure the proponents of the law are planning a comeback.  But the people on the losing end of it are still saying that the law was not really that big a deal and that if there are businesses like bakers or florists who don’t want to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony, you can always find another one who will.

That’s not the point.

Aside from the practical matter that not everyone lives in a place where you have a lot of bakers or florists to choose from, the idea of having to choose where to shop shouldn’t be based on a social policy — separate but equal — that was supposed to have been killed off sixty years ago.  It is, in the words of the United States Supreme Court, inherently unequal.  It doesn’t work for public education, public accommodation, or city planning, and it shouldn’t work for catering and decoration.

More to the point, though, is why should the burden of proving to be worthy up to the customer?  No one should have to prove anything to a business other than their honest ability to pay for the services purchased.  Anything else is a big mistake.

The only time that anyone should have to find another baker or florist is when the first one has gone out of business because they’re bigoted assholes and no one — gay, straight or anything — doesn’t shop there anymore.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Special Rights

Paul Waldman has a good piece in The American Prospect on the folks who are demanding special rights for themselves.

Up until now, the distinction between religious practice and the things religious people do when they enter the secular world has worked pretty well. Anti-discrimination laws don’t mean that a rabbi has to conduct a wedding for two Baptists. Religious organizations can hire only people of their own faith. But once you enter into other realms, like commerce, you have to obey the laws that govern those realms.

If we grant religious people the kind of elevated citizenship conservatives are now demanding, where the special consideration given to religious practice is extended to anything a religious person does, the results could be truly staggering. Why stop at commerce? If things like employment law and anti-discrimination laws don’t apply to religious people, what about zoning laws, or laws on domestic abuse, or laws in any other realm?

The supporters of these laws, and of Hobby Lobby, argue that religious people shouldn’t have to put aside their beliefs when they act in the secular world. “It’s alien to me that a business owner can’t reflect his faith in his business,” said one Republican Arizona legislator. But when your business puts you in contact with people who don’t share your faith, putting aside your religion is precisely what you have to do, if “reflecting” that religion means violating the law.

He goes on to note that ironically, the Religious Right has been claiming for decades that the gay community has been demanding “special rights,” including the right to have a job, to live in an apartment, get married, or collect tax benefits because they’ve been denied them based on their sexual orientation.  (Even if they were granted, they’d only be catching up to everyone else, so they’re not really all that “special.”)

Now the Religious Right is claiming their own special right to discriminate against other people not just in their churches but in their workplace, as if their faith was the shield against being held to the same standards as the lower forms of life who have not accepted Jesus Ronald Reagan Christ as their personal savior and insurance agent.

That’s not how it works.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Suddenly They Care

Back in 2005 when it was revealed that the Bush administration was conducting wholesale warrantless wiretapping, a lot of progressives and liberals were not happy about it.  But the Republicans thought it was just dandy; violating the 4th Amendment in pursuit of terrorists was absolutely necessary, and they let us know that with a full-throated defense of the practice at their RNC winter meeting in 2006.

“Do Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean really think that when the NSA is listening in on terrorists planning attacks on America, they need to hang up when those terrorists dial their sleeper cells inside the United States?” Ken Mehlman, then RNC chair, told the RNC gathering in his keynote speech at the time.

So now that we know that the N.S.A. was doing the same thing under the Obama administration, you would think that the Republicans would have his back.

Well, you would be wrong.

In a jarring break from the George W. Bush era, the Republican National Committee voted Friday to adopt a resolution demanding an investigation into the National Security Agency’s spy programs.

According to the resolution, the NSA metadata program revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is deemed “an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.” In addition, “the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

So suddenly because there’s a Democrat in the White House — and specifically Barack Obama — the Republicans care about the Constitutional rights of Americans.

Okay, if that’s how they roll, I suggest that in order to make marriage equality the law of the land, President Obama should condemn same-sex marriage as abhorrent and an abomination.  We’d see Republicans tripping all over themselves to rush to the defense of couples who want to live their lives in peace regardless of their gender without interference from the state.  In addition, Mr. Obama should take up the mantle of the immortal Charlton Heston and stand up for unfettered gun rights.  We’d have gun control by sundown.