Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, July 10, 2015 10:28 pm

On the evil of niceness

It has been suggested to me on more than one occasion that my ideas might get a better reception if I would say them a little more … nicely.

I get it. I am a Southerner, after all, and I was not born in a barn. I was raised and remain a Christian ( albeit, as shall become obvious in a moment, a deeply flawed one).

But I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to those whose governmental policies carry a nontrivial body count, particularly when those bodies are defenseless.

I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to bullies. Bullies deserve nothing more or less than a kick in the teeth.

I am, shall we say, disinclined to respond with niceness to sociopaths. Sane societies lock their sociopaths up where they can never harm anyone else again. Our society, by conscious choice, is not sane, and whatever else that is, it certainly isn’t nice.

And I am, we definitely shall say, disinclined to respond with niceness toward people who meet all three criteria.

There are a couple of reasons for my disinclination.

One is that, being from the South, I know firsthand how the premium we place on getting along and being civil is still, even today, used way too often to paper over legitimate grievances. The Duke University historian William Chafe literally wrote the book on that topic with respectd to my adopted hometown, “Civilities and Civil Rights.”

My 80-year-old mother grew up in Charleston. Girls of her generation were brought up to “be sweet.” Being sweet meant  not only being civil, courteous, and polite, but also, “Don’t rock the boat.” That was the case even if that boat needed torpedoing.

Long story short, my mother decided a good while back that being sweet was overrated, and my sibs and I are all better off for that decision.

Another reason for my disinclination is that in my experience in covering and living with the consequences of politics, I have found that pleas for civility are too often the last refuge of a scoundrel who, as they used to say in pro wrestling, desperately needs to be hit with the chair.

Which brings me to Pat Buchanan’s latest screed for one of the right wing’s more virulent fever swamps, World Net Daily, known among the sane as Wing Nut Daily for demonstrable reasons. For a former speechwriter, Pat has not the first goddamned idea what a topic sentence is, so he’s kind of hard to excerpt. So I’ll paraphrase, and feel free to click the link, read behind me, and tell me if I got this badly wrong:

He is predicting, and calling for, civil disobedience against the Supreme Court’s striking down of bans on same-sex marriage. And he is saying that such a movement would be morally equivalent to, among others:

  • Harriett Tubman’s work as part of the Underground Railroad.
  • Northern abolitionists’ support of John Brown.
  • The original 13 colonies’ rebellion against the English crown — to which, he goes out of his way to claim, the Confederate rebellion was morally identical.
  • The civil rights movement, particularly Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Yeah. He went there.

He concludes:

But are people who celebrate the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village as the Mount Sinai moment of their movement really standing on solid ground to demand that we all respect the Obergefell decision as holy writ?

And if cities, states or Congress enact laws that make it a crime not to rent to homosexuals, or to refuse services at celebrations of their unions, would not dissenting Christians stand on the same moral ground as Dr. King if they disobeyed those laws?

Already, some businesses have refused to comply with the Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. Priests and pastors are going to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Churches and chapels will refuse to host them. Christian colleges and universities will deny married-couple facilities to homosexuals.

Laws will be passed to outlaw such practices as discrimination, and those laws, which the Christians believe violate eternal law and natural law, will, as Dr. King instructed, be disobeyed.

And the removal of tax exemptions will then be on the table.

If a family disagreed as broadly as we Americans do on issues so fundamental as right and wrong, good and evil, the family would fall apart, the couple would divorce, and the children would go their separate ways.

Something like that is happening in the country.

A secession of the heart has already taken place in America, and a secession, not of states, but of people from one another, caused by divisions on social, moral, cultural and political views and values, is taking place.

America is disuniting, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote 25 years ago.

And for those who, when young, rejected the views, values and laws of Eisenhower’s America, what makes them think that dissenting Americans in this post-Christian and anti-Christian era will accept their laws, beliefs, values?

Why should they?

I’ll give Buchanan the benefit of this doubt: As the late Molly Ivins said of his speech at the 1992 GOP National Convention, this piece probably sounded better in the original German. Leaving aside for a moment his claim that some things will happen that are by no means certain — ministers and chapels being “forced” to perform same-sex marriages being the big kahuna among a bunch that contains few small ones — what kind of moral illiterate equates the denial of rights with the expansion of rights? The phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” comes to mind.

Scot Eric Kaufman poses that question and related ones in this essay at Salon, which I linked to earlier today on Facebook. My doing so brought a rebuke from a friend of mine, who wrote that Kaufman “sounds like one bigot bashing another.” Apparently he took that position because Kaufman dared to allude to the fact that we do not have conclusive proof that the man many of us (myself included) worship as the Son of God actually lived on Earth.

The implication of his remark, upon which I challenged him and to which he has not responded as I write, is that because Kaufman said something that hurt his feelings with respect to his Christian faith, nothing that Kaufman said about Buchanan is valid. Because Kaufman wasn’t nice enough.

That notion merits three words of basic Anglo-Saxon: Bull. Fcking. Shit.

Part of the reason that evil runs as unchecked in this country as it does is that too many people, including my friend, are too nice to call out evil for what it is. Too many are far too nice to do anything but accept any vice whatever as long as it is clothed in Christianity. And too many are willing to be so nice that they will accept the dangerous notion that false equivalence, particularly false moral equivalence, is still equivalence.

Pat Buchanan worked eagerly for, and to this day defends, Richard Nixon, the most soul-sickened individual to inhabit the White House in the 20th century. Buchanan’s entire career is a testament to bigotry, anti-Semitism — a word that, unlike many people all along the political spectrum, I do NOT use lightly — and opposition unto death to all of the highest and best aspirations this country ever has had for itself. As I observed earlier today, Buchanan seems hell-bent on becoming the first person to ruin his party’s presidential nominee’s chances singlehandedly in two different millennia. If there is anyone in America outside of a few neo-Nazi groups who deserves to wear the brown shirt, it’s Buchanan. And Buchanan has been richly rewarded for this evil. He writes columns. He publishes books. He appears on TV. He commands princely speaking fees.

For all I know, Kaufman is just as evil. But the odds are against it. Moreover, he has nowhere near Buchanan’s reach and platform, even if Buchanan’s reach isn’t (thank God) what it once was.

But some smart people who ought to know better, including my friend, apparently think that what Kaufman did is exactly as bad as what Buchanan did, because Kaufman dared to raise the same question that millions of honest, educated Christians already struggle with every day. Their position seems to be that not only was what Kaufman wrote “bigoted,” it also was just as bigoted, and just as morally flawed, as what Buchanan wrote and what Buchanan has been pretty much every day of his long and benighted adult life.

If you think this way, you are intellectually silly and morally obtuse. It is literally laughable to think that raising a question about the physical existence of Jesus Christ equates in any moral way with Buchanan’s likening of legalizing gay marriage to slavery and Jim Crow. And if you think this way, you don’t deserve “nice.” You deserve mocking. You deserve ridicule. And here in this little corner of the Interwebz and whatever other digital real estate I control, you’ll get it.

Because I’m a nice guy, but even nice guys can only tolerate so much bullshit before they turn mean.

Saturday, June 27, 2015 2:02 pm

Depending how your dream goes


(I don’t know who this artist is; if someone knows, please advise and I’ll be happy to give credit. Cartoon by Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant, but was Photoshopped; the original included only the first three panels.)

“This has been the best week for all Americans of good will since Richard Milhous Nixon fled the presidency.”

This post started out to be a lot of gloating about how badly so many different people of ill will have taken it in the teeth this week. I was going to write a lot about how the moral arc of karma is long but this week it bent toward a righteous, multifaceted ass-kicking. I was going to write about laughing as the people on the wrong end of these decisions cried their bitter, bitter tears of frustration and rage, and how I intended to fill goblets and flagons with those tears and how the whole damn house was going to enjoy several rounds on them and so on. And I particularly intended to review Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissents in two Supreme Court cases so that you could enjoy the spectacle of a right-wing hack’s head exploding.

But overnight, those feelings receded. They didn’t go away. They’re still there, and for all I know could come flowing back in all their fury given the right prompt. But they’re no longer top of mind.

Instead, what I’m feeling most right now is something that feels quite foreign to me: satisfaction. Why? Because without doubt this has been the best week for all Americans of good will since Richard Milhous Nixon fled the presidency more than 40 years ago. Not only is the Confederate battle flag likely coming down at the South Carolina Statehouse (at this writing no vote has been scheduled), but a number of large companies have pledged to stop selling Confederate-themed stuff. And at the Supreme Court, not only was the Affordable Care Act upheld (again), the court also ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in this country.

That last one, though not unexpected, was particularly delicious because the bad guys were hoisted on their own petard. The anti-SSM crowd had argued that marriage was so important an institution to our society that it had to be protected. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a neat bit of judiciary jiujitsu, responded, in effect, “Yes, it IS important — so important that it is a basic right that belongs to ALL.” And then he dropped the mic.

Let’s look at who lost here:

So who won? Everybody, really, including the people who lost, because as a result of these changes, all of us, including them, are going to live in a better America. America is a little less bigoted, significantly more financially secure and a helluva lot more equal today than it was last weekend.

Now, this wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t point out a few caveats. For one thing, nice as it is to get the Dixie Swastika off the Statehouse grounds and to start a real conversation about the noxious culture surrounding it, we still have to start a real conversation about the larger culture of racism, of which the flag is only a symbol.

We would be morally obtuse if we didn’t grasp that the whole reason we’re even having a conversation about the Dixie Swastika is that a young man in the pernicious grasp of its culture walked into an old and beloved Charleston church and shot nine innocent people to death in cold blood. And we would be even more morally obtuse if we didn’t start that real conversation about the culture of racism. Oh, we’ve nibbled at it here and there — a number of politicians, including my own Sen. Thom Tillis, have been caught taking money from a white-supremacist group, the Conservative Citizens Council — but I’m afraid it’ll take even more bloodshed before we get serious about this.

We also need to talk about how easy it remains for crazy people to buy guns. I know that it looks like Gun America (including but not limited to the NRA) has shut down this conversation, and that more people will die needlessly as a result, but we need to keep having it anyway.

As for the Affordable Care Act and health insurance, we remain basically the only Western industrialized democracy where a health problem can bankrupt you. That still needs to change, for all the good, and it is a lot of good, that Obamacare has done in recent years (at lower cost than expected and with greater beneficial effects on the deficit than has been expected).

And while same-sex marriage remains the law of the land, there are still some holdouts, including some county clerks or deed recorders who are saying they simply won’t marry anyone rather than marrying same-sex couples. (Remember when public pools were closed outright during the desegregation era rather than be opened to African Americans? Good times.) They’ll have to be sued individually. But they will be. And they, too, will lose. And there no doubt will continue to be lawsuits because in areas other than marriage, some people will continue to insist, in the face of law, logic, and morality, that LGBTQ folks don’t have the same rights as the rest of us.

All these challenges, and some nontrivial losses, still lie ahead of us. More blood and treasure will be spilled. Reactionaries gonna react. It’s what they do. It’s how they roll. And they tend to get worse, to escalate, every time they do; as Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog reminds us, “they vote, they dominate many American states, and they own guns.” And they’re getting at least some positive reinforcement from high places; as my friend Mark Costley observed on Facebook of the Supreme Court’s dissenters:

… they are — I believe consciously — furthering a right wing theme calculated to weaken the confidence of the citizenry in our government. The right wing of the Republican Party (commonly understood to be the right 11/12 of the party) has embraced an anti-intellectual populism in which the courage to be wrong and stick with your position is one’s greatest trait. This anti-intellectualism makes it impossible to engage in any effective discussion of policy making, national priorities, or governmental accountability.

Few politicians in U.S. history have gone broke inciting lack of confidence in the competence and good will of government, and there are a lot of scared, uninformed, armed people only too willing to believe the worst. So this, too, will be an issue even as we now have 35 years of experience in seeing what horrors so-called limited government inflicts upon our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

But I actually have some hope. As I observed above, this is going to be a better country for the losers as well as the winners in this week’s events, and it isn’t foolish to hope that because the country will be better, at least some of those who may see themselves on the losing end eventually will come to see that it all was for the best.

And I hope everybody else sees that, too, for this week has been as transformative in America as any in decades. And even as we begin to think about what lies ahead, it would be churlish of us not to celebrate it. It is uncharacteristic of me to say so, but I suggest we celebrate — not with the bitter, bitter tears of our opponents, but with champagne.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 8:33 pm

Quiverfull of evil; or, Lock up Josh Duggar. And Jim Bob. And Michelle.

UPDATE: This post was originally published 5/27/2015 but was truncated during publication. I’ve attempted to reconstruct the missing portion in this version.

The headline is the short version. If you haven’t already heard all you want to hear about this toxic mix of crime, coverup, corruption, ISIS Christianity, misogyny (but I repeat myself), and bullshit — and if you have, I certainly don’t blame you — by all means read on.

First the background: There’s this Arkansas family, the Duggars. The parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, decided long ago that their weird perversion of Christianity, the Quiverfull movement (more on which anon), called on them to turn Michelle’s uterus into a clown car. As a result, they have 19 kids and became the subject of a “reality” series on TLC, “19 Kids and Counting.”

Which, well, as we here in basketball-crazy North Carolina know, any more than two and you have to switch from a man-to-man defense to zone, and that almost never works out. (Just ask my cousin Jay, whose second child was triplets.) But, hey, it is still a free country (despite the best efforts of the Duggars and their ilk; see below), so whaddayagonnado?

So, in addition to really warped notions of what constitutes responsible reproduction, the Duggars also have used their TV platform to try to make life miserable for people different from themselves. Eldest son Josh, now married with three kids (and another on the way, natch), became executive director of the Family Research Council‘s lobbying arm. That group is a fundamentalist “think” tank that has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center; its primary occupations are fitting government inside your vagina, harassing gay people, and whipping up enough Christianist butthurt to try to convince those of us who aren’t Shiite Christians that Shiite Christians are, somehow, “persecuted” in the United States of America and not, say, Mongolia. (As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.) And Michelle Duggar recorded a robocall last year in opposition to a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Ark.; in it, she likened gay people to sexual predators and child molesters.

This was bad enough inasmuch as there’s zero evidence that gay people are any more likely to be sexual molesters than are straight people. Now, however, it appears that every time she used the phrase “molester” or “sexual predator,” she should have added the modifier, “like my son.”

Because a police report has been located by In Touch Weekly that appears to document that the aforementioned Josh Duggar molested at least five young girls. The report was filed in December 2006 and pertained to events beginning back in 2002, when Josh was 14. Although the report is heavily redacted, additional information suggests that at least some of the five victims were his younger sisters. Since that report became public, Jim Bob, Michelle, Josh, and Josh’s wife, Anna, posted a statement on Facebook that appeared to acknowledge the truth of the report.

And it has been both fascinating and sickening to watch the outpouring of support for Josh from a bunch of so-called Christians who wouldn’t give a gay non-molester the time of day. How ridiculous has their defense of him been? Let us count the lies.

Josh just made a mistake. No, sweetie, spilling your milk is a mistake. Josh committed multiple felonies with multiple victims over an extended period of time.

All kids experiment when they’re young. A lot do, but not all; moreover, we’re not talking about youthful experimentation. We’re talking about an adolescent male — 14 and 15 when these events are reported to have happend — touching the vaginas of 4-year-olds.

All Josh did was touch them. He didn’t rape them. What, and “touching” them isn’t bad enough? We’re talking about 4-year-old victims here. Moreover, given ISIS Christianity’s attitude toward sexuality, it’s entirely possible that he had no idea that what he was doing was bad because he hadn’t had more comprehensive sex education, which might have prevented this.

Josh confessed to his parents. Well, yes — after one of his victims told his parents. He didn’t come forward on his own.

His parents told the cops. No, they told one copy, a family friend, an Arkansas state trooper named Joe Hutchens. And according to Hutchens, they only told him about a single, isolated incident, not about Josh’s pattern of behavior. (Of course, we might call Hutchens’s veracity into question, inasmuch as he’s serving 56 years on child-porn charges at the moment.) Hutchens gave Josh “a stern talk” but did not alert other authorities, even though he was legally required to do so. Unfortunately, that “report” started the clock ticking on Arkansas’s three-year statute of limitations on crimes of this type: The three years begins when the incident is “first reported to police,” even if the officer to whom it was reported, as was the case with Hutchens, didn’t do his legal duty and launch an investigation. Moreover, when a formal police investigation was opened years after the fact, in 2006, Jim Bob Duggar refused to let police interview Josh.

His parents got him counseling. Not true. They report having sent him to live for a few months with a friend who builds houses. There is conflicting information regarding whether he received “counseling” from a Christian center founded by Bob Gothard, who, years later, would be booted out of his own organization by his board after allegations from at least 34 women that he had sexually harassed them and from another five, one of whom was 16 at the time, that he had molested them.

If that description of Gothard doesn’t give you confidence in his teaching, this diagram from his organization will give you even less. Keep in mind, though, that ISIS Christianity is riddled with this kind of hyperpatriarchy, misogyny, shaming, and victim blaming, from insisting that the body of an abuse victim is “least important” to offering the conditional, “IF abused was not at fault” and the false dichotomy of “no physical abuse or mighty in Spirit” — and that the Duggars were and remain huge devotees of Gothard:
Gothard Counseling Sexual Abuse

























In short, there is no evidence in the record that Josh was ever seen by a competent, licensed mental-health professional. And that’s important, because we know that for many if not most pedophiliacs, the urge to molest never goes away; all such people can do is try to learn not to act on the urges.

The victims received counseling and forgave Josh. There’s even less evidence in the public record that Josh’s victims got counseling than there is that he did. As for forgiveness, given the misogynism and victim-blaming of this family’s culture, I’d be stunned if the “forgiveness” wasn’t coerced, particularly from the youngest victims.

Jim Bob and Michelle did everything they could. Some of these other items already give this notion the lie. I would add that at least one of the victims wasn’t an immediate family member. Did Jim Bob and Michelle fully disclose to that child’s parents or guardians what had happened? We have no evidence of that. Moreover, his parents failed to separate Josh from the younger children upon the first sign of trouble, thereby allowing him to continue to victimize them. And they failed to report evidence of a crime to a real cop, not a horribly compromised badge-wearer like Hutchens, who they knew would keep everything quiet. They’re guilty, at the least, of aiding and abetting Josh’s crimes and of criminally endangering the other children in the home (plus any friends or young relatives who might visit). They should go to prison, too.

It’s all over with, now, isn’t it, so why is everyone still talking about it? I can think of one very important reason why we need to keep talking about it. Roughly one in three male child molesters was molested himself as a youth. That means that there is a nontrivial chance that Josh was molested, by one or both of his parents and/or by some other adult they felt comfortable having around Josh. Whoever might have molested Josh presumably still has access to the children remaining in the home. So molestation might still be going on. Besides, Josh has three kids himself. Are they being protected from him? His wife seems to think this is “all in the past,” when it might not be at all.

Well, “19 Kids” has been TLC’s most successful series, but all that ickiness was too much for the network, which has pulled reruns from its schedule (but hasn’t said whether it will cancel the show outright), and for advertisers, who are fleeing in droves.

It would be nice to think that Josh Duggar will suffer earthly consequences for his actions, but the truth is that other than losing his job, it’s unlikely. It would be nice to think that Jim Bob and Michelle will learn enough from this experience to stop trying to hold up clown-car procreation as a model lifestyle, but that won’t happen either. For one thing, they crave the attention. For another, the Duggars and others in the Quiverfull movement really do believe that the way to defeat the heathen is to outbreed them. It’s a war, and the women are being drafted.

And what can we say about the Duggars’ hypocrisy on the subject of … well, pretty much everything, but especially their habit of likening gay people to molesters while harboring a molester of their own? That would require a whole ‘nother blog post, but I’ll just leave you with this: During Jim Bob’s 2002 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Arkansas, during the last two months of which he was hiding Josh’s secret, he said that incest should be punishable by death. Wonder if he still feels that way.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015 6:17 pm

Hey, Alabama judges, what part of the LAW don’t you understand? (Besides all of it, I mean.)

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage, as federal district and appeals courts (with one exception) have been doing across the country. The day after that happened, a nondenominational Christian minister named Anne Susan DePrizio agreed to marry a same-sex couple, as the federal appeals court entitled her to do.

Which would be fine, except for the part where Alabama is Bat Country, a third-world morass of corruption, stupidity, willful ignorance, hyperpatriarchal theocracy, and outright dickitude that leaves Mos Eisley in the dust as a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Because Alabama is Bat Country, etc., Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Shiite Christian and virulent homophobe, ordered all Alabama probate judges to ignore the federal appeals court’s ruling. This would be the same Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore who already got fired once, in 2003, by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for disregarding a federal court order regarding establishment of religion, but was voted back into office in 2012 because Alabama voters haven’t got the brains God gave a billygoat. Not that I am bitter.)

So this judge, Al Booth, decided that Moore’s (illegal) order gave him the right to have DePrizio arrested on “disorderly conduct” charges. Booth even claimed he had a duty to do so in light of Chief Justice Moore’s (illegal) order. DePrizio turned the other cheek, pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge May 18, and will serve 30 days.

Which, you know, God bless her for living out her faith, but were I her, I’d not only be fighting the charge as far up the ladder as it took, I’d also be seeking judicial sanctions against Moore and Booth. I’m thinking 30 days apiece for contempt might make an impression. At the very least, it would make deserving examples of them.

Because the constitutional issue is straightforward here: DePrizio sought to act not only within the scope of what is permitted under civil law but also within the scope of her First Amendment right to free expression of her religious beliefs. She believes that it’s utterly cool with God for her to marry same-sex couples. The government has no right to interfere with that belief, let alone label it “disorderly conduct” as long as she’s not disrupting traffic or scaring the horses.

Me, I’d be willing to give Booth another chance, but Roy Moore has long since exhausted his right to be on the public tit. And since Alabama is a net taker of federal revenue, that means an assload of American taxpayers are subsidizing his salary. That boy needs an escort into the private sector. Yesterday. Can I get an amen?

Friday, April 10, 2015 8:54 pm

Odds and ends for April 10 has created an interactive map showing at least some information on each of more than 5,600 officer-involved homicides dating to 2000. The data are badly incomplete, and Steve Buttry and others have noted that it would be nice if the data were searchable in some ways that they currently are not. But what’s there is scary, and depressing, enough.

Looks like overzealous New York cops may have finally messed with someone with the resources to mess back.

It isn’t Facebook whose mantra is “Don’t be evil,” and here’s one reason why.

Some liberal sites like Newscorpse are arguing that this Roger Ailes statement means he’s admitting Fox News isn’t news but entertainment. That’s true, but I don’t think Ailes is admitting it. Rather, I think he’s talking about competing with TNT, USA, and ESPN merely in terms of audience ratings and share, not content, and that the other interpretation is an unsupported reach.

I admire Simon Schräder’s initiative and creativity even as I hope and expect that his freedom-of-information request will be unsuccessful.

So with its very viability under attack by the N.C. General Assembly, the UNC system decides that its biggest problem is … raising salaries for chancellors? Way to paint a bulls-eye on yourselves, guys.

Its leaders keep saying the legislature’s top priority is jobs, but as the man said in “48HRS,” we all know the truth’s a little different. My friend Susan Ladd continues to call out the legislature for its efforts to shrink state government until it fits inside your uterus.

Duke Energy got off with a $25 million slap on the wrist for contaminating groundwater in New Hanover County. Naturally, it is whining about that.

Two magistrates who left their jobs rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as now required in N.C. by court order are — duh — suing, claiming that their religious rights were violated. Here’s hoping a court swiftly and violently upsides them with the clue stick because I have had it with religious wingnuts and their oh-so-tender fee-fees. If y’all want to know what violation of religious liberty really looks like, Kenya can show you.

The News & Record’s Joe Killian eviscerates the Rhino Times’s fake poll on SB 36, Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill to create a GOP-controlled City Council in a city that’s two-thirds Democratic because they can’t seem to win at the polls.

My friend Linda Hoopes, a psychology Ph.D. with a special interest in resilience — how people respond to and recover from adversity — now has a weekly radio show and podcast, Resilience Radio. It airs live at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Mondays.

Damn. CLT Blog, one of the most innovative and journalistically successful citizen-journalism efforts around, has given up the ghost after 6-plus years. (h/t: @underoak)

Study: People who curse a lot are f—–g awesome.

Sunday, April 5, 2015 8:10 pm

Odds and ends for April 5

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Cops in California are using a 1930s-era anti-lynching statute to intimidate protesters. Prosecutors so far have declined to press those charges, but it’s only a matter of time until a right-wing nutjob decides to try to make an example of someone.

Speaking of California, its people are in serious denial about its extreme drought, now in its fourth year. About 94% of the state considers the drought serious, but 61% still favor voluntary measures to deal with it. Y’all need to wake up.

Likely presidential contender and perennial horse’s ass Mike Huckabee thinks I’m a member of the “militant gay community,” inasmuch as that’s whom he’s blaming for the backlash against Indiana’s bigoted “religious freedom” statute. Who knew that Christians who take the Second Great Commandment seriously were militant gays? My wife certainly had no idea.

We have a system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent and this case proves it.” (Previously.)

In Florida, relatives of officers of for-profit charter-school companies are enacting legislation to divert money from public schools to charter schools. But none dare call it a conflict of interest, let alone a crime.

Randi Harper, somewhat unwillingly turned into an activist by GamerGaters and perpetrators of online violent and/or sexual threats, got SWATed — someone called in a false tip to police that led a SWAT team to raid her apartment. Her experience could have ended with her dead, or at least her dog. Fortunately, both are alive and well. She talks about what you need to do to protect yourself from such potentially deadly “pranks.” For the record, given the risk of gunplay anytime heavily armed cops storm a home, I think this “prank” should be treated as attempted manslaughter, at least. (h/t: Chip)

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh draws a useful distinction between what he does and much of the “news” you see in print and online today: Instead of taking a tip and building it into a story, too many reporters just run the tip.


Monday, March 30, 2015 7:23 pm

Odds and ends for March 30

The Klown Kar might have to be a stretch Hummer: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina puts her own chances of running for president at 90%. Fiorina famously crashed HP into the ground (stock price cut 50%, 30,000 workers laid off in five years), then ran an epically inept campaign for governor of California (who among us will ever forget the demon sheep?). She says Hillary Clinton has a “character problem.” Pot, kettle.

#FFS. All the crap that Indiana is getting over its so-called “religious freedom” bill in both the real and the virtual worlds notwithstanding, North Carolina now has its own version, HB 348. When the chairman of the world’s largest corporation tells you that that kind of law is bad for business, perhaps you shouldn’t take him at his word, but you at least should give his word due consideration. Heck, even Republican Gov. Pat McCrory says it isn’t needed, although I hasten to note that that’s not the same as vowing to veto it.

North Carolina’s senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, voted yes on same-sex marriage benefits for Social Security recipients and veterans, which sounds great until you learn that the measure was nonbinding.

At least two great Republicans think SB 36, state Sen. Trudy Wade’s hostile takeover of the Greensboro City Council, is bad for Greensboro: I and retired U.S. Rep. Howard Coble.

We have so little money that some of Guilford County’s worst-off students may get screwed. But God forbid we stand in the way of yet another $1 billion tax cut for the state’s wealthy and corporations. Jesus might love you, legislators, but I’m pretty sure he despises what you’re doing.

I have very little use for the band fun. (yes, the “f” is lower-case, and, yes, there’s a period after the name) — when their songs come on the radio, the word “lugubrious” comes to mind. But member Jack Antonoff’s solo project, Bleachers, is a lot more fun (ahem) to listen to even as the songs tackle some hard subjects.

Here’s “Rollercoaster” …

… and here’s “I Wanna Get Better” …

Thursday, January 29, 2015 8:46 pm

Odds and ends for Jan. 29

The only thing worse than the GOP’s batshit insane right-wing id is the GOP’s hypocritical denial that it has a batshit insane right-wing id. Or the so-called liberal media’s taking part in this hypocritical denial that the GOP has a batshit insane right-wing id. You pick.

Almost as bad as the GOP’s batshit insane right-wing id, speaking of the GOP, is the habit that id has of falling in love with schmucks every four years. The GOP leaders who do this are the same GOP leaders who would have us believe that they are the grownups in the room.

Relatedly, for reasons surpassing understanding, once in a blue moon I look at the home page of the Daily Beast to see it has become relevant yet. Nope.

Jon Chait haz a sad. Belle Waring points out that he also haz a idiotic.

In other idiot news (Thank God! I was afraid we were running out!), memo to Mike Huckabee: When even Fox News’s village idiot, Megyn Kelly, thinks you’re an idiot, you’re probably an idiot.

Before you cheer too loudly about bigoted loon Bryan Fischer being ousted as spokesman for the conservative Christian group American Family Association (the group most famous in my long memory for having seen Spinal Tap’s “Christmas With the Devil” on “Saturday Night Live” and thinking it was real), be aware that Fischer remains a talk-radio host for the association. In other words, funny as it might seem to think that Fischer was too crazy even for the wackaloons of the AFA, the truth is they’re still actually pretty comfortable with him. They merely found his raving about “counterfeit” religions such as Judaism an inconvenient hindrance to their current, full-metal pursuit of Zionism as avenue to Middle Eastern apocalypse.

I’m reasonably sure the entire Santa Fe, N.M., Police Department isn’t a bunch of  mutts. But it sure seems to contain a lot of officers who, for whatever reason, won’t inform on the mutts. There’s a word for that, one y’all have no doubt heard before: accomplice.

I’m late to this, but Charlie Pierce at Esquire has weighed in on the firing of UNC President Tom Ross. There’s a reason Pierce keeps calling us “the newly insane state of North Carolina.”

Public service announcement: Debbie Hill of Greensboro sure says racist things. (h/t: Doug Copeland)





Wednesday, January 7, 2015 7:51 pm

Je suis Charlie


So this morning, three men entered the offices of the satirical Paris magazine “Charlie Hebdo” and opened fire, killing the editor and other staffers (including four cartoonists) and also at least one police officer — 12 in all. Police believe they have identified the three suspects, but at this writing — unsubstantiated Twitter posts to the contrary — the suspects have not been captured. God willing, the shooters will be caught and punished severely.

The suspected motivation of the shooters was the fact that the magazine had published satirical, even crude cartoons of the prophet Mohammed and that the shooters were seeking to punish people they saw as blasphemers against Islam. Naturally, William Donohue, the sociopath who runs the far-right Catholic League, had no problem with this. More on that in a bit.

(I’m expecting all kinds of anti-Muslim hysteria over this, but I’m not going to deal with that here. I’ll just remind those inclined toward such that someone tried to bomb the Colorado Springs office of the NAACP this week, and only by the grace of God was no one injured. And we can be pretty sure that whoever did that wasn’t Muslim.)

A couple of people have suggested I republish some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I was tempted to. But I decided I’m not going to, not because I’m afraid of being attacked (N.C.’s gun laws are considerably laxer than France’s), but because I have some points to make that I don’t want complicated by cartoons that aren’t on point — that is to say, on MY point.

First, and I shouldn’t have to say this but I will anyway, this is a horrible tragedy for the victims and their families, and my heart and prayers go out to them. And it also is a tragedy for France, our ally since the Revolution and a bastion of freedom in its own right.

Second, and I also shouldn’t have to say this but will anyway, this is inexcusable, full stop. If you seek to attack — to physically harm — anyone because of their point of view, you have forfeited the right to have any contact with civilized society. I’ve believed this since I was a kid. And I have believed since I was a kid that it applies across all political and religious lines, without exception, whether you are an Austrian painter with a bent for authoritarian government and world conquest, a satirical French cartoonist, or a Communist Workers Party member trying to unionize a textile mill, full stop. If you don’t, too, then maybe you need to re-examine your principles.

And this is where Donohue and his disgusting response come in. In a column titled, “Muslims Are Right to Be Angry,” Donohue tries to have it both ways, writing:

Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.

Those who work at this newspaper have a long and disgusting record of going way beyond the mere lampooning of public figures, and this is especially true of their depictions of religious figures. For example, they have shown nuns masturbating and popes wearing condoms. They have also shown Muhammad in pornographic poses.

While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.

Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.

Shorter Donohue: Lord, how I miss the Inquisition.

Go to hell, Bill. Go straight to hell, you and the horse you rode in on. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. You want to stone blasphemers to death? You can do it there, you son of a bitch. You don’t get to blame the victim in a vicious act of terrorism and still call yourself a Christian. When you clearly wish for a world in which you can physically punish people whose beliefs you don’t agree with, you don’t even get to call yourself civilized.

While I agree that not everything that CAN be cartooned or otherwise satirized or lampooned SHOULD be, you know what? THAT’S JUST MY OPINION. And the hurt fee-fees of medievalist control freaks of any and all religions AREN’T WORTH ONE SINGLE HUMAN LIFE. Indeed, MY hurt fee-fees aren’t worth one single human life, and neither are yours.

I worked as a journalist for 25 years. My life was threatened several times, primarily when I was covering the Klan in Iredell County in the mid-1980s, so today’s tragedy hits me where I live. And it makes me feel obliged, even though I’m tired and would rather be doing other things, to stand up for the unconditional freedom from violence for those engaged in the work of sharing and expressing ideas. No idea, not even freedom and certainly not God, is worth committing murder for.

(Illustration via John D. Burns on Facebook)

Saturday, November 15, 2014 1:56 pm

All kinds of awesome: “Pieholes should be quiet.”

Filed under: Cool!,Religion — Lex @ 1:56 pm

I don’t know which is better about this, that a little girl is trying to shout down an amplified street preacher or that the street preacher is very politely ignoring her, thereby, in at least a small way, living Christ’s teachings. Me, I found myself pulling for both of them.

Monday, October 27, 2014 8:39 pm

In which Lt. Gov. Dan Forest writes me. And I write back.

Sweet baby Jeebus, but Teh_Stoopid is strong with my lite gov. He writes:

Lex —

Over the last two weeks, those of us who have publically offered that the states, rather than federal circuit and district courts, have the constitutional authority to make decisions on marriage have been met with derision by liberals.

Unfair name-calling and allegations of bigotry have reached ridiculous levels aimed at those of us who are defending the constitution.

The following is a quote from the United States Supreme Court on who holds the balance of power between the federal government and the state governments when it comes to marriage. See if you can guess which Justices signed off on it.

The recognition of civil marriages is central to state domestic relations law applicable to its residents and citizens. See Williams v. North Carolina, 317 U.S. 287, 298 (1942) (“Each state as a sovereign has a rightful and legitimate concern in the marital status of persons domiciled within its borders”). The definition of marriage is the foundation of the State’s broader authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations with respect to the “[p]rotection of offspring, property interests, and the enforcement of marital responsibilities.” Ibid. “[T]he states, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, possessed full power over the subject of marriage and divorce . . . [and] the Constitution delegated no authority to the Government of the United States on the subject of marriage and divorce.” Haddock v. Haddock, 201 U.S. 562, 575 (1906); see also In re Burrus, 136 U.S. 586, 593-594 (1890) (“The whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the States and not to the laws of the United States”).

Consistent with this allocation of authority, the Federal Government, through our history, has deferred to state-law policy decisions with respect to domestic relations. . .. Federal courts will not hear divorce and custody cases even if they arise in diversity because of “the virtually exclusive primacy . . . of the States in the regulation of domestic relations.” Id., at 714. (Blackmun, J., concurring in judgment).

The significance of state responsibilities for the definition and regulation of marriage dates to the Nation’s beginning; for “when the Constitution was adopted the common understanding was that the domestic relations of husband and wife and parent and child were matters reserved to the States.” Ohio ex rel. Popovici v. Agler, 280 U.S. 379 (1930).

This must have been Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas, right? Possibly Justice Alito or Chief Justice Roberts? Maybe a justice from the early 1900s or the late 1800s? If those were your guesses, you would be wrong.

The quote is from the majority opinion United States v. Windsor, a case from 2013. The Justice who wrote the quote? Justice Anthony Kennedy. The Justices who joined him in this quote? Four of the most liberal justices to sit on our nation’s highest court: Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

We stand for the State’s authority to legally define marriage. And we have over two-hundred years of constitutional jurisprudence on our side. It is the name-callers who seek to rewrite the constitution out of whole cloth by judicial order.

-Lt. Governor Dan Forest

So, being an attentive correspondent, I wrote him back:

Dear Lt. Gov. Forest:

The current Supreme Court has undone a total of centuries’ worth of settled law with no complaint from you, so it is more than a little precious that you’re now complaining that SCOTUS has undone some settled law in a way of which you happen to disapprove.

You fail to grasp that the question at issue in the recent legal proceedings wasn’t “defining marriage,” but one of an extraordinary — and unconstitutional — infringement upon the First Amendment free-exercise rights of religious organizations that wished to perform same-sex marriages. Even if you ignore the rights of the individuals involved (which you have seemed all too willing to do), the state cannot restrict the free-exercise rights of churches absent a compelling state interest — and no state government, anywhere, has been able to convince the Supreme Court that any such interest is even close enough to existence for four justices to vote to hear a case on the subject.

Your argument has been weighed and found wanting, so shut up, go away, and stop wasting my tax money trying to carry out unconstitutional restrictions of religious freedom.

Love Your constituent only until we can get rid of you,


I realize there will always be dead-enders, but, dude: 1) You lost. Get over it. And 2) You either don’t understand the issues involved, or you understand them and are lying about them, either of which disqualifies you from holding political office in any sane world. I realize that the likeliest explanation for your behavior is that you’re positioning yourself to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2020 — or in 2016 if McCrory goes wobbly on the Koch-ALEC agenda — but fat, dumb, and pandering to the mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers is no way to go through life, son.

I do so look forward to the day that North Carolina can bundle all this DERP back to Bat Country where it came from. A village in Mississippi has misplaced its idiot in our state capital.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 12:58 am

The Gospel According to Pierce; or, A Christmas Prayer, With Carrion

And Pierce wrote, saying:

But this is the argument in season over these holidays. That the poor must suffer in order to be redeemed. That hunger is a moral test to be endured. That only through pain can we hope. What doesn’t destroy you, etc. Santa Nietzsche is coming to town. The idea that we should — hell, that we must — act out of charity for each other through the institutions of self-government is lost in the din of a frontal system of moral thunderation aimed at everyone except the person who is out there thunderatin’ on behalf of personal-trainer Jesus, who wants us to work, work, work on that core. That was the way that government operated once before; the specific institutions that Scrooge mentions, and with which the Spirit eventually reproaches him in his own words – the prisons, the union workhouses, the treadmill, and the Poor Laws – were all government institutions based on the same basic philosophy that drives the debate over the food stamp program today.(We even seem to be going back to debtor’s prisons.) We have speeches on self-reliance given by government employees to people who increasingly have only themselves on whom to rely, day after grinding day. It is a way to keep the poor from having a voice in their own self-government. It is a way to keep the wrath of the boy at bay. There will be a reckoning, one way or another. But it can be staved off by platitudes, and by verses from Scripture wrenched from the obvious context of the Gospels. The sepulchers brighten whitely while the bones inside grow increasingly corrupt. This is what this Congress believes, as it goes home proud of itself and its members dress themselves to sing the midnight carols with no conscience sounding in counterpoint, and this is Christmas in America, and it is the year of our Lord, 2013.

Merry Christmas to all, and tonight, God bless us, every one. But forgive me, Lord, in advance, for hoping and praying that the year of our Lord 2014 brings plague and pestilence upon those who would force the suffering to suffer further, those who would insist upon morality tests for the poor that they themselves could not pass, those who would require that many of our fellow Americans be denied a voice with which to insist anything. Bring on the plagues for them, turn their fruit into locust husks, their wine and water into blood, and their foie gras to feces, and let their corrupt bones and those of their first born be cast out from the whitely brightened sepulchers to be feasted upon by jackals and vultures.

Except for those who repent and atone. Always except for those.

Amen. And Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013 9:18 pm

Religion in America, Oklahoma Edition

I can honestly say I’ve never been more proud of American Satanists than I am right now:

In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.

The Republican-controlled Legislature in this state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.

But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.

“We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”

I could have told the Oklahoma Lege that this would happen, had they but asked. But no.

Friday, December 6, 2013 7:35 pm

Quote of the Day, Response to Cardinal Timothy Dolan Edition

So Cardinal Timothy Dolan went on Press the Meat this past Sunday to argue that Catholic doctrine on gays and women has been “caricatured” by Hollywood and the media and that the Church has been “outmarketed” in spreading its message. No, he really said this. So Charlie Pierce responds:

And the Founder assured us that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church, and you’re arguing that you got “outmarketed” by the Sundance Festival?

(Dolan also argued that the Pope “can’t make doctrinal changes,” which would surprise the hell out of most Catholics, the Pope included. You can’t make this stuff up.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 8:58 pm

There is a different, and much lower, bar for conservatives

After pseudohistorian David Barton, who has been making money for more than two decades now by telling bald-faced lies about the Founding Fathers, published a “nonfiction” book so bad that it was repudiated by its own publisher, you would think that no one in conservative political circles would want to be caught dead next to him. He’d been called a liar by secular historians, evangelical historians, and his own publisher. Did I mention that his own publisher said his book was a pack of lies? Next to that, having your book voted “least credible history book in print” by readers of History News Network is nothing.

But you have to remember that Barton’s market is the same people who think Jesus rode dinosaurs, as Politico — and God forgive me for linking to it — explains:

Barton has huge standing among “social conservatives that make up a significant base of a caucus electorate,” said Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican website. “You want to appeal to those people if you’re a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul.” …

But to his critics’ astonishment, Barton has bounced back. He has retained his popular following and his political appeal — in large part, analysts say, because he brings an air of sober-minded scholarship to the culture wars, framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.

“It has been shocking how much resistance there is to critically examining what Barton says,” said Scott Culpepper, an associate professor of history at Dordt College who has critiqued Barton’s scholarship. “I really underestimated the power of the political element in evangelicalism.”

In March, Barton gave his presentation on America’s biblical heritage to dozens of state legislators in Kansas. In May, he spoke at the official National Day of Prayer breakfast at the Fort Leonard Wood Army base in Missouri. He rallied activists at the National Right to Life Convention in June with a rousing speech drawing on the Declaration of Independence to make the case for abortion restrictions. Cruz followed Barton in the program and echoed his analysis to thunderous applause.

“I’m not in a position to opine on academic disputes between historians, but I can tell you that David Barton is a good man, a courageous leader and a friend,” Cruz told POLITICO. “David’s historical research has helped millions rediscover the founding principles of our nation and the incredible sacrifices that men and women of faith made to bequeath to us the freest and most prosperous nation in the world.”

This fall, Barton will share that message before audiences in Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. He also continues to travel to Washington to lead his signature Capitol tours — sponsored and often attended by members of Congress — at which he expounds on America’s Christian roots.

Radio host Glenn Beck’s publishing company, Mercury Ink, has even announced plans to republish “The Jefferson Lies,” although a spokesman would give no details about timing, print run or whether the manuscript would be edited to address the criticism. [I just bet — Lex.]

Barton’s enduring popularity “embarrasses the academic community,” Throckmorton said. But, he added, no matter how loud the scholarly chorus, Barton has a trump card: His message “is useful politically.”

Indeed, political strategists say Republican candidates are wise to consult Barton and hitch their wagon to his star.

Your Republican Party, America. Be proud. And ask yourself: If they’re willing to lie about the Founding Fathers, what else are they willing to lie about? An easier question might be: What are they not willing to lie about?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 10:53 pm

I was right, bitches; or, A Dominionist theocracy is coming to a legislature near you, so GET DRESSED.

Back when Michelle Goldberg’s book “Kingdom Coming,” about the rise of Christian Nationalism in America, was published, I reviewed it for the News & Record and the blog I then wrote for the paper, The Lex Files. As you can see from the comments, as well as from this site, I took a lot of grief for stating, on the basis of my own reporting on the subject and my familiarity with some of Goldberg’s original sources, that there were significant numbers of people in America who wished to turn this country from a secular, constitutional democratic republic to a Dominionist theocracy; that is, a country where the law is based strictly on the Christian Bible.

Impossible, they said.

(You’ll also note that they accused me of saying all evangelical Christians want this. Rather, I said a certain subset of evangelical Christians adhered to that ideology. I didn’t believe all of them did then, I don’t believe that all of them do now, and I said so at the time specifically, not least because Goldberg herself was very careful to draw that distinction.)

Well, as it happens, down in Salisbury, the Rowan County commissioners want to be able to pray to Jesus in their official capacities, and so a bill, House Joint Resolution 494, has been introduced in the N.C. legislature that would allow that and much more besides.

This bill claims that the First Amendment’s ban on government making law “respecting an establishment of religion” applies only to the federal government, not the states, because in the minds of the (blessedly few) 11 sponsors signing on so far, the Fourteenth Amendment, whose equal protection  clause extends the protection of federal law to every citizen of the country, never happened.

It’s tempting to call these people batshit crazy and let it go at that. Tempting though that approach is, however, it lets them off too lightly. This is an attempt to turn one state among 50 in a constitutionally established secular democratic republic into a Dominionist theocracy in violation of the very Constitution the legislators have sworn an oath to uphold. They should be impeached and removed from office. Unfortunately, we don’t impeach legislators in North Carolina because we can’t. The best we could hope for would be for the House to vote to expel the offending members. But it won’t, because whether they’re ready to admit it or not, a majority of the N.C. House, or very close to a majority, thinks this is a great idea.

It would never stand up in court, I’d like to think. But “never” is a long time, and the Dominionists are playing the long game. They must be called out and they must be stopped, if for no other reason that Jesus had very specific notions about where one ought to do one’s praying and it would be a shame if our fellow North Carolinians went to hell for disregarding that directive.

(edited to remove duplicate grad)

Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:42 pm

Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one — VERY strange dude

Filed under: Religion,Weird — Lex @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yeah, OK,  I’m mixing my faith references here. Sue me. But I got tickled when my friend, ex-colleague and former boss Teresa Prout, then and now the city editor of the News & Record, posted on Facebook the other day about  getting an email from a man who claims his father is one of four prophets who have been designated by God to carry out His will before the end of the world, which is coming March 11. (Naturally, one of my midterm projects is due March 7. But, noooooo, the world couldn’t end a week earlier.) The prophet in question is in prison for killing his wife and a judge, by the way.

Nobody spends much time in the newspaper bidness without encountering religious zealots, and it can be hard sometimes to distinguish the merely overzealous from the outright insane. But her anecdote reminded me of an incident when I was the N&R’s religion writer (and Teresa was my editor at the time) that led me to write a column that, as it happens, was published 15 years ago last week. Unlike a lot of my older stuff, it actually has held up pretty well:

One busy afternoon just before Christmas, one of our receptionists called to say that a man had come in who wanted to talk to someone immediately about an important religion story.

I walked downstairs to the lobby, where I met a man about my height but heavier, with long, slicked-back, salt-and-pepper hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. He was dressed in black from his jacket and shirt down to the pointed toes of his boots. In fact, he cut such a Mephistophelian figure that I shouldn’t have been surprised when we had sat down in the lobby’s only two chairs and he announced that he was Jesus Christ.

A number of questions began running through my mind, the first one being the question of why there was no guard at our lobby security desk. The second one was: How can I get this man out the front door? The third one was: OK, even if this guy isn’t Jesus, he’s still a human being toward whom, according to Christ’s second great commandment and the dictates of good customer relations, I have some obligations, so how can I meet those obligations gracefully and compassionately?

And — hey, I am a reporter — the fourth one was: What if he’s telling the truth?

“I see,” I said. “Have you always known that you were Jesus?”

“Found out about 10 years ago,” he said.

“And where were you when you found out?”

“I was in prison,” he said.

“No kidding. Where was that?”

“Butner,” he said. Butner, just northeast of Durham on Interstate 85, is the home of a well-known state mental hospital and a lesser-known federal prison and mental facility.

“Why were you there?”

“I beat a man up in Eden pretty bad” — Eden being the Rockingham County town, not the garden, I ascertained.

“But you didn’t yet know you were Jesus when you did that?”

“That’s right,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that now, of course.”

“Well, if you are Jesus, that’s obviously a big story,” I told him. “But see, we’ve got a problem. We’ve got to convince my editors. We can’t just write a story saying that you’re Jesus. We need proof. Now, the Bible says there will be signs and wonders to accompany the return of Christ. Got any of that?”

No, he said. He couldn’t really prove he was Jesus.

“OK, as Jesus Christ, what is it you’re here to do? Anything in particular?”

“Judge the world,” he said, shifting a bit in his chair. As he did, I realized there was some kind of bulge under his jacket near the left armpit, and what had been a mild situation suddenly felt threatening.

Was it a gun? I couldn’t tell. But now, in addition to my obligations to this man, I had other obligations, namely protecting my co-workers — two receptionists were behind the desk nearby, and other people were walking casually through the lobby — and myself.

I gauged the distance between my left hand and the flowerpot on the table between us. I gauged the angle. And I resolved that if his right hand so much as twitched toward his jacket, I was going to smash that flowerpot against his temple as hard as I could.

“Judge the world,” I repeated. “And how are you going to do that?” He looked confused, so I added, “I mean, are you going to judge the world collectively or individually? Everybody at once or one person at a time?”

“Oh, one person at a time,” he said. “That seems fairest.”

“Well, won’t that take a long time?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I’ve got a long time.”

Whom would he start with? He wasn’t sure. When would he start? He wasn’t sure about that either.

We talked about 10 minutes more, and I kept steering the conversation back to the point that unless we had some kind of objective proof that he was Jesus, the News & Record wouldn’t be doing a story about him. He wasn’t terribly unhappy about that, but he wasn’t taking the hint, either, and there still was no security guard.

Finally, I mentioned that I might entertain the notion of his writing a guest column for the Religion page. That prospect brightened him a bit, and he agreed to consider it. We stood up and shook hands, and he walked out the front door.

No reporter stays long in this business without hearing — usually by mail — from someone claiming to be Jesus. And after almost every one of these contacts, I have speculated upon the exact manner in which Jesus might choose to make himself known if he were to return today. (In my more disgruntled moments, I even draw up an agenda for him.)

The Book of Revelation foretells the manner of Christ’s return, and its account bears little resemblance to the manner of my black-clad visitor. It certainly doesn’t suggest that he might come back as a rough-hewn man of the street with a simple, powerful and disturbing message.

But then, that’s pretty much how he came the first time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 4:44 pm

Quote of the Day, Athenae on Sandy and the Govt. Edition

What it boils down to is: What kind of country are we going to be — the kind people want to live in, or not?

When a disaster strikes I want big government, small government, medium-sized government. I want all the government ever. I want the neighbors and the charities and the churches and the families and the friends, too. Every crack in the plaster needs to be patched and every problem needs to be solved, and I want as many people putting that puzzle together as possible. All hands on the [expletive] deck. Here’s a bucket. Start bailing the water out.

I want everybody to be figuring out how to do more, instead of fighting over the best way to do less without looking like too much of an [expletive] about it.

And you know, I think the majority of Americans want this, too. It’s just that for the past 40 years we’ve had this constant drumbeat of no we can’t, it’s too hard, we can’t afford it, everybody fends for themselves, there’s no help for anybody, let’s all just go home and if you have to step over a homeless dude to get to your car then do it because that’s the price of doing business. People deserve to have their homes submerged and their shops wiped out and their lives ruined because of where they live or what they do or who they are, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, because only government is big enough to solve this problem and we all know government isn’t the answer to anything anymore.

But deep down we’ve still got that nagging feeling that somebody somewhere ought to be on top of [stuff] that most of the time people don’t deserve what they get (and thank God for that, by the way, she says while conducting the express train to hell), that we are better and bigger and stronger than this, and we’re just straining against the goddamn harness to do something. And disaster preparedness and emergency management are some of the most basic things government can do to prevent us from tearing ourselves apart when something [awful] happens, to take that instinct and direct it outward instead of inward.

To make us help, rather than letting us hurt.

I made the mistake earlier today of getting into an argument on Facebook with a couple of wingnuts. They argued that “compulsory charity” — which, for reasons that escape logic and which they declined to explain, they defined strictly as “government” charity; guys, go tell it to the LDS Church — is always wrong. (They also argued that abortion is the biggest sin there is, but then consistency is seldom a hallmark of wingnuts.)

Jesus said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s. The implication, often offered up by wingnuts as stone fact, is that the two differ. And certainly they frequently do. But there’s no practical or metaphysical reason why the two couldn’t overlap from time to time, as in, say, stopping the Nazi genocide machine.

Or helping our fellow Americans, our family, our friends, our neighbors to get their lives back in order after an unparalleled natural disaster.

No one with a lick of sense will claim that he knows what Mitt Romney believes, but it is a matter of public record that Romney has said that private interests ought to be responsible for disaster recovery. Given that mutant weather alone is likely to become an important aspect of our new normal in this century, that claim alone disqualifies him from any role in government. And yet somewhere around 50 percent of Americans say they are ready and willing to make him president, as if, in this “Christian” nation, the Golden Rule and the Second Great Commandment were tiny codicils in the articles of incorporation for a company that Bain Capital long ago acquired, stripped of its assets and steered into Chapter 7.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012 8:03 pm

A Wendy’s franchise owner steps into a big bucket of something warm and brown that is not hamburger

Jim Furmen, CEO of Tar Heel Capital, which owns 86 Wendy’s franchises in North Carolina, says he stands with Chick-Fil-A. Fine; I and mine are walking elsewhere.

Image (and story h/t):

ATTN: Jim Furmen, CEO, Tar Heel Capital.

I’m a Republican, a conservative and a Christian. And it is because of, not in spite of, those affiliations and the beliefs that undergird them that I will not patronize any Wendy’s franchise owned by Tar Heel Capital so long as the company supports Chick-Fil-A’s bigoted stand.

If you don’t like gay people getting married, don’t marry one.

And repent and come to Jesus, you jackass.

Thursday, July 26, 2012 8:53 pm

“This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.”

Filed under: Evil,Religion — Lex @ 8:53 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

From my friend Rabbi Fred Guttman, originally posted on Facebook, via my friend John Graham:

Food Stamps – Last week, the House Agriculture Committee passed a Farm Bill which slashes $16 billion from one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our nation, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. At the same time, the overall cost of the bill does not go down but adds an additional $9.5 billion over 10 years for an entirely new agribusiness subsidy under the guise of crop insurance. A cut of this magnitude means that at least 2 million families will lose access to the program. All told, about 1 billion fewer meals will be available to low-income families each year—meals that are a bargain for taxpayers at about a $1.60 a meal—as well as a basic responsibility for our society. 85 percent of those receiving Food Stamps are living on incomes below the federal poverty line of $23,350 for a family of four. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has calculated that each dollar of supplemental nutrition assistance benefits create $1.79 in increased economic activity. America’s “hunger bill”—the cost of avoidable illness due to poor nutrition and poor education outcomes due to hunger—is already over $165 billion.

Three points:

Here in Greensboro, both Conservative and Liberal congregations support the very needed and I would say holy work of the Greensboro Urban Minsitry. The leadership at GUM is extremely concerned about such proposed cuts.

Second, I cannot see how this is not class warfare, an example of taking from the poor to give to the wealthy.

Finally, I leave you with a small piece of rabbinical teaching from the time of Jesus himself. “When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17)

(Some additional context, from the News & Record.)

A presumably well-meaning but misguided friend of mine took issue with this point, suggesting that government anti-poverty efforts have been both inefficient and wasteful:

Now let me be clear, I don’t object to poor people getting help. My problem is a government throwing money at programs that clearly aren’t working. Consider this: All this welfare spending adds up to $20,610 for every poor man, woman and child in the country.

For a poor family of three, that’s nearly $62,000 dollars. The poverty line for that family is just $18,500. With this kind of spending, poverty should be wiped out – instead it’s growing.

Today, one in seven Americans is living in poverty. The most in almost two decades. All the while spending is soaring.

And, welfare spending for the last four decades — adjusted for inflation? Up, up, up. How can we spend all this money, and see so little progress? …

… we should be stopping the taxes and bloated regulations that hold back economic growth and job creation. People need work, not handouts.

Unfortunately the only solution the president sees is throwing more money at the problem. More government, instead of less. More dependency instead of empowerment.

Leaving aside for a moment the “up, up, up” argument, whether or not adjusted for inflation, and whether or not more properly calculated on a per-capita basis or as a percentage of GDP, that was an awful lot of both factual and contextual inaccuracy in just a few lines. I responded:

You know what, [friend’s name]? First of all, don’t change the subject. Second of all, I can sleep a lot better at night if govt money is being wasted so that people don’t go hungry than I can if it’s being wasted blowing sh*t up in an illegal war or bailing out criminal banksters.

Poverty is growing because the government hasn’t done enough direct economic stimulus to stimulate demand enough to lead businesses, which are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, to create jobs. And it hasn’t done enough because Republicans LIKE having American workers poor and desperate.

Deficits are soaring primarily because of 1) our broken health care system, the least efficient in the Western world, which the ACA at least goes some way toward fixing; 2) two wars, both of which Obama put back on budget after Bush ran them off-budget, and a defense budget unnecessarily sized at bigger than those of the next 26 largest combined, most of whom are our allies; and 3) the fact that federal taxation is at its lowest rate as a % of GDP in 60 years AND that top marginal rates on the wealthy are at their lowest rate in longer than that.

And why is that? Because of GOP obstructionism, aided and abetted by a few badly confused and/or corrupt Democrats.

You want to make excuses for screwing over poor people? Fine; go do it on your own page.

All most religions ask of us is basically that we not be dicks. And stealing food from the mouths of the hungry to give it to large corporations is being a dick.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012 8:13 pm

Today’s lesson in bad PR: Chick-Fil-A

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Evil,Religion — Lex @ 8:13 pm

And the lesson is: Things are never, ever so bad that you can’t make them worse. Congratulations, Chick-Fil-A. In the space of a week, you have crapped on your own brand — in this case, by trying to protect a “Christian” brand with serial violations of the Ninth Commandment and the Second Great Commandment — more thoroughly than anyone this side of Komen.

Sunday, April 8, 2012 9:05 pm

He Is Risen: An outsourced reflection, a prediction, a prayer

I spent this weekend finishing up a final project for one of my courses for the semester. Save a proofreading, it’s done, and I can turn it in two weeks early. Which is good, because the project in the other course is going to kill me, but that’s not today’s point.

What’s today’s point, and yesterday’s, and, really, the point for all of Holy Week and the point for all time for anyone who claims to be a Christian or just admires Christ as a historical figure, is the radical nature of what Jesus asked us to do and who he asked us to be. I’ve read volumes on that subject over the years, and despite my misanthropy, recent dearth of church-going and occasional proclivity for PG-13 language here, I take it seriously.

And I’ve found few pithier summaries than this one, posted on Good Friday by Charlie Pierce. He responded to a temporal event in a specifically Roman Catholic context with small-c catholic truths that show no sign of dimming after 2,000 years:

… the liturgies of Holy Week … are the most moving because the one thing they’re not about is authority.

Authority is the villain during Holy Week. Secular authority, in the person of Pontius Pilate. Religious authority, in the institution of the Sanhedrin. What matters most throughout the season is the individual conscience. As Garry Wills never tires of pointing out, Christ did not make priests. He did not make a Church. And he sure as all hell didn’t make a Pope …

What stands out in the Holy Week services is humility in the face of unreasoning authority. What stands out, ultimately, and whether you believe in the Resurrection or not, or think the whole thing is a bunch of hooey imported from the Egyptian mystery cults or somewhere, is that, in the story of Easter week, unreasoning authority loses. It loses badly.

I am under no illusions about what life is going to be like in this country in the coming decade or two. Our bankers are going to insist that the rest of us kiss their asses and give them our money, and no one is going to stop them. Our church leaders are going to continue to engage in the decades-long continuing criminal enterprise of protecting child abusers and enabling history’s biggest thieves. Our police officers are going to use sexual humiliation to subjugate us and pepper spray and worse to keep us from exercising the rights our ancestors (and some of our contemporaries) died to obtain and protect, all in the name of protecting unreasoning authority. And our so-called leaders are going to continue to ignore the protests that the Earth itself is voicing in the plainest language, because, as Upton Sinclair famously observed, it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his paycheck depends upon his not understanding it.

And, make no mistake, the pain will be widespread and it will be awful. We or people close to us will lose jobs, homes, health, even lives. And as bad as it will be here, it will be worse still in other places, many already enduring suffering unimaginable to most Americans.  I’m old enough not to care so much anymore about myself, but I’m terrified for my kids.

But, as cynical and pessimistic as I am, I also have faith — literally, the belief in and hope for something of which no evidence is visible — in this: Every single theft, every single swindle, every single assault, every single official lie, every act of abuse and dereliction of duty, every sin of commission and sin of omission by our unreasoning authorities, will, by engendering actions by Americans, others, or even God’s creation itself, bend the long moral arc of the universe just a tiny fraction closer to justice … in this world or the next.

Amen. Be armed, but go in peace.

Friday, June 18, 2010 8:02 pm

Shorter Pat Robertson: If your husband flirts with other women, it’s because you’re ugly and boring and don’t do that thing he likes.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Religion — Lex @ 8:02 pm

You can’t make this stuff up — but apparently Pat can:

TERRY MEEUWSEN (co-host): Pat, this is from Anne who says, “My husband has always been a flirt and loves to talk with other women he finds attractive. He says he would never cheat on me but his actions are starting to get to me. What should I do?”

ROBERTSON: Anne, first thing is you need to make yourself as attractive as possible and don’t hassle him about it. And why is he doing this? Well, he’s doing it because he wants affirmation that he is still a man, that he is attractive — and he gets an affirmation of himself. That means he’s got an inferiority complex that’s coming out. And he’s not gonna cheat on you. He’s just playing.

But you need to not drive him away or start hassling and hounding on him, but make yourself as beautiful as you can, as fun as you can …

I’d like to think that when Pat got home that night, Dede slapped him, but I kind of doubt it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 7:05 pm

Let’s say you’re a guy …

… or there’s one in your life whom you care for. And let’s say that you, a guy, are struggling to meet the demands of both your life and your faith. Well, hey, have I got a program for you.

It’s called Men in Balance. My stepdad, Jerry Hancock, started it. It’s sort of like Promise Keepers, only with 99% less  bullshit.

You can read more about Jerry and the program here. And unless your life and faith are already in perfect balance, you probably should.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 8:21 pm

At what point can we officially write off the entire Christian right as psychotic?

George Rekers of the Family Research Council apparently “hires an assistant to carry his luggage” the way Mark Sanford “hiked the Appalachian Trail”:

The pictures on the [NSFW] profile show a shirtless young man with delicate features, guileless eyes, and sun-kissed, hairless skin. The profile [describes him sexually and] explains he is “sensual,” “wild,” and “up for anything” — as long you ask first. And as long as you pay.

On April 13, the “rent boy” (whom we’ll call Lucien) arrived at Miami International Airport on Iberian Airlines Flight 6123, after a ten-day, fully subsidized trip to Europe. He was soon followed out of customs by an old man with an atavistic mustache and a desperate blond comb-over, pushing an overburdened baggage cart.

That man was George Alan Rekers, of North Miami — the callboy’s client and, as it happens, one of America’s most prominent anti-gay activists. Rekers, a Baptist minister who is a leading scholar for the Christian right, left the terminal with his gay escort, looking a bit discomfited when a picture of the two was snapped with a hot-pink digital camera. …

For decades, George Alan Rekers has been a general in the culture wars, though his work has often been behind the scenes. In 1983, he and James Dobson, America’s best-known homophobe, formed the Family Research Council, a D.C.-based, rabidly Christian, and vehemently anti-gay lobbying group that has become a standard-bearer of the nation’s extreme right wing. Its annual Values Summit is considered a litmus test for Republican presidential hopefuls, and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have spoken there. (The Family Research Council would not comment about Rekers’s Euro-trip.)

He has also influenced American government, serving in advisory roles with Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services and testifying as a state’s witness in favor of Florida’s gay adoption ban. A former research fellow at Harvard University and a distinguished professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina, Rekers has published papers and books by the hundreds, with titles like Who Am I? Lord and Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality. …

Rekers is a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization that systematically attempts to turn gay people straight. And the Huffington Post recently singled out Rekers as a member of the American College of Pediatricians — an official-sounding outfit in Gainesville that purveys lurid, youth-directed literature accusing gays of en masse coprophilia. (In an email, the college’s Lisa Hawkins wrote, “ACPeds feels privileged to have a scholar of Dr. Rekers‘ stature affiliated with our organization. I am sure you will find Prof. Rekers to be an immaculate clinician/scholar, and a warm human being.”)

“Warm human being,” huh? In English that means “self-hating bigot.” Either that, or Lisa Hawkins is failing epically in her ad-copywriting competition with

Extra-special ick factor: Rekers has taken in foster children and four years ago adopted a then-16-year-old boy who is now the same age as his rentboy.

These people are totally messed up, and yet they and people like them have real, and pernicious, influence on public policy in this country. And I’m sorry, but governing the greatest country on the planet should not be left to people so heavily in need of therapy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:27 am

Coming to Jesus

Filed under: Religion — Lex @ 5:27 am
Tags: ,

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), needs to repent of its ongoing, longstanding violation of Christ’s second great commandment.

(h/t: Barbara Dua on Facebook)

Monday, March 8, 2010 9:37 pm

Shorter Glenn Beck: Jesus sucks!

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Religion — Lex @ 9:37 pm

Yeah, pretty much:

On his daily radio and television shows last week, Fox News personality Glenn Beck set out to convince his audience that “social justice,” the term many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights, is a “code word” for communism and Nazism. Beck urged Christians to discuss the term with their priests and to leave their churches if leaders would not reconsider their emphasis on social justice.

“I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

Uh, dude, that “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of Heaven” that Jesus was talking about? He was talking about Heaven, all right, but he also was talking about our duty to others here on Earth, and he made that clear time and time again.

UPDATED to add “Shorter” to the title and remove the quotation marks, inasmuch as some readers are not familiar with the Internet “shorter” convention, invented by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. Some people are aware of all Internet traditions, but I realize that neither my readers nor I am among them.

UPDATE: One of my Facebook friends’ commenters adds, “Is there a SMITE button?”

At which college would you be most likely to find Jesus?

Filed under: Religion — Lex @ 8:18 pm
Tags: ,

The answer may surprise you. The reason probably won’t.

UPDATE: Article wasn’t behind paywall when I started the post, but it is now. Stupid Chronicle. Hmph.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 9:29 pm


Perhaps the least surprising aspect of this story is that the N&O had to shut down comments on it because they became so abusive:

A Wake County middle-school teacher may be fired after she and her friends made caustic remarks on a Facebook page about her students, the South and Christianity.

Melissa Hussain, an eighth-grade science teacher at West Lake Middle School in southern Wake County, was suspended with pay Friday while investigators review her case, according to Greg Thomas, a Wake schools spokesman. The suspension came after some of Hussain’s students and their parents objected to comments on her Facebook page, many revolving around her interaction with Christian students.

Hussain wrote on the social-networking site that it was a “hate crime” that students anonymously left a Bible on her desk, and she told how she “was able to shame her kids” over the incident. Her Facebook page included comments from friends about “ignorant southern rednecks,” and one commenter suggested Hussain retaliate by bringing a Dale Earnhardt Jr. poster to class with a swastika drawn on the NASCAR driver’s forehead.

“I don’t defend what the kids were doing,” said Murray Inman, a parent of one of Hussain’s students. “I just couldn’t imagine an educator, or a group of educators, engaging in this kind of dialogue about kids.”

Hussain did not return calls and e-mail messages Monday.

The Wake district doesn’t have a policy on the use of social networking sites, Thomas said. But the district, North Carolina’s largest, does have a code of ethics for employees that the school spokesman says applies to social networking. The code says employees’ conduct “should be such as to protect both the person’s integrity and/or reputation and that of the school system.”

Teachers across the nation have been suspended or fired because of questionable material posted on their Facebook pages and other online social networking sites.

Other thoughts:

  • The first rule of blogging about the day job is don’t blog about the day job. What the teacher did was stupid.
  • The second rule of blogging about the day job is don’t blog about the day job (unless blogging about the day job is part of your day job).
  • Commenters on one’s Web site/Facebook page can and will say all manner of stupid, objectionable stuff. While I would argue that one may have a moral obligation in some cases to take down such comments, I wouldn’t argue that one has any legal (or regulatory) obligation to, and I sure wouldn’t fire someone for comments someone else posted. In other words, whatever was posted in response to the teacher’s postings ought to be irrelevant for purposes of this discussion.
  • One irony about this case is that under current First Amendment law, government employees and non-government employees have roughly equivalent levels of freedom and risk with regard to speech about their respective employers, but the practical result is that government employees have less protection under the First Amendment itself, which protects citizens from government interference in their speech, than do private-sector employees.
  • The district’s employee code of conduct says employee conduct “should be such as to protect both the person’s integrity and/or reputation and that of the school system.” To the extent that this phrase even has any meaning, that meaning is BS. The school system cares only about its own reputation, and it cares about the employee’s reputation only to the extent that it is perceived to reflect upon the school system’s reputation. Moreover, who decides what actions do or do not damage one’s integrity or reputation? If, say, a war criminal like Dick Cheney claimed that I had a lousy reputation and no integrity for criticizing him, I would interpret that as proof that I had an outstanding reputation and a great deal of integrity, and so would many other people. I am not defending the teacher’s postings in this particular case; I’m saying that the code of conduct appears to be meaningless and therefore useless and irrelevant to this case.
  • If Murray Inman can’t imagine teachers “engaging in this kind of dialogue about kids,” then Murray Inman isn’t very imaginative. Everybody in every line of work imaginable says disparaging things about his/her customers from time to time, and teachers are not immune. If Inman meant he couldn’t imagine anyone would do so publicly, well, all I can say is that no level of human stupidity should be unimaginable; as a species, our capacity for Teh Stoopid approaches infinity. Some stupidity is fatal, and evolution is our friend in this regard, but it’s a long, slow process.
  • What the teacher did was stupid. It bears repeating.
  • What the children did was both stupid and cruel, which is worse than stupid alone even allowing for the fact that we’re talking about kids. These are middle-schoolers, not kindergartners.
  • What the parents who are defending their kids’ behavior and arguing for punishment for the teacher are doing is less teaching the teacher that actions have consequences, although it is that, than teaching their children that stupid, cruel behavior can and should be rewarded.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 9:14 pm

Odds and ends for 1/28

The ultimate Miller Time: Earlier this month, Harriet Ames turned 100 and then scratched the last item, getting her college diploma, off her bucket list. The next day, that sheepskin in her hand, she died.

To the best of my ability, I will never again say a bad word about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Conflict of interest?: The New York Times isn’t commenting on a report that the son of its Jerusalem bureau chief is serving in the Israeli military. I understand the problems that publication of this fact, if fact it be, is likely to create for the editor and the paper, as well as the possible security threat for the son and his unit if in fact this is the case. But this isn’t something the Times can ignore or stonewall.

Sen. Judd Gregg: PWNED!!111!!: Gregg, who has been pimping this idea of a bipartisan deficit-reduction commission to shield Congress from the political liability of making tough decisions, shows why he needs the shield when MSNBC’s Melissa Francis, whose work will never keep the Peabody Award people up nights, asks him to name something he’d cut from the budget and he refuses to answer. (To say nothing of the fact that he hems and haws around the question of cutting education spending when that has practically been Job 1 for the GOP since Reagan. Brother, please.)

But you don’t want to reward them, either: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz says we not only need a lot more stimulus spending, we need it targeted where it will provide a decent rate of return if we’re going to be able to reduce our debt long-term. And where would that be? Technology, infrastructure, education — all the things the Republicans have been trying, by and large, not to fund. Even a ROI of 6% will help pay off long-term debt. But the ROI on spending on banks is 0%. You listening, Mr. President?

Conservative victimization: Obama calls out the Supreme Court for its wrongheaded, wrongly reached ruling in a wrongly accepted case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the wingnuts accuse the president of trying to “intimidate” the conservative activist wing of the Court. Questions, for the wingnuts (which is most of ’em) who spent eighth-grade civics out back smoking dope: How, exactly, do you go about intimidating someone who already has been confirmed to a lifetime appointment? And how easily intimidated do you have to be to hold such a job and still be intimidated by … well, pretty much anything?

The cops lied, and fortunately, 12 of 14 jurors were willing to do something about it. I’ll say it again: I have too much respect for good cops to have any tolerance for bad ones.

George Stephanopoulos asks a good question. NewsBusters has a hissy fit, spouts objectively false claims. (“Liberal media” = “They won’t tell the lies we WANT them to tell.”)

In many important ways, the United States sucks compared to other countries, and it is important to remind ourselves of that. On the other hand, we — alone, I believe, among industrialized countries, and I’d be sad to be wrong about that but not for the reason you probably think — have given corporations more rights and fewer freedoms than people, so we’ve got that going for us.

Bigotry in Malawi: A gay couple in that country are being held “for their own safety” in jail. Where they’re being beaten up.

“I’ve never actually played FarmVille, but any game worth playing has to have Pork Knights”: How to Suck at Facebook.

The Great American Interrogation Disaster, from the man who may know more about interrogation than anyone else alive.

Memo to Andrew Breitbart from the Universe: Payback’s a bitch.

You may be a mansplainer if …: Consider me warned.

Freeloaders: In Moscow, stray dogs use the subway. For free. For real.

Britain’s libel laws are much stricter than America’s. There’s just one problem.

America loves Brett Favre: How much? More than anything that wasn’t a Super Bowl since the “Seinfeld” finale in May 1998.

Huge loss: Journalist Joe Galloway is hanging up his notepad. In recent years, Americans who have worn the uniform and those who wear it still have had no better friend.

Huger loss: J.D. Salinger, RIP.

I have just found the one college course even cooler than my employer’s “Ten Greatest Pop Songs of the Past 50 Years”: ZDI.001: Introduction to Zombie Defense. I forwarded this to several friends, one of whom said she also would post it and added, “I’m also going to read closely for practical purposes.”

And in that vein, I love people who think like this: Seated with Michelle Obama during the State of the Union was 18-year-old high-school senior Li Boynton, who’s researching ways to test water for purity. After reading Life of Pi, a novel about a guy stranded in the middle of the ocean, Boynton designed a solar-distillation device in case the same thing ever happened to her. She was in fifth grade.

And, finally, this is genius: Dante’s Internet:

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