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Weekend Update 8/19/2017: Superheroes of all kinds

Shon helps his aunts take care of street cats (photo © Kolony Kats)

Shon helps his aunts take care of street cats (photo © Kolony Kats)

Now here’s a story I wish I’d known about to include in yesterday’s round up of links: 5-Year-Old Boy Wants To Do is Help Street Cats . “Every time Kris Papiernik and Kia Griffin’s 5-year-old nephew, Shon, comes for a weekend visit, he only wants to do one thing — go outside and take care of the street cats.” And you know what, you can be a superhero right along with Shon: “To help Shon and his aunts continue feeding and providing medical attention to the street cats of Philadelphia, you can make a donation to their mission.”


A so-called Free Speech Rally organized by neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and white supremacists in Boston today has not gone as the hater’s expected: An estimated 15,000 counter-protesters showed up Saturday at Boston Common to stifle a much-smaller Free Speech Rally scheduled for noon.

Veterans for Peace are among the groups protesting the hate speech rally.

Veterans for Peace are among the groups protesting the hate speech rally.

Among the thousands of people who are there to protest the hate are members of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. In previous demonstration, Veterans for Peace members have been known to get in front of protestors or counter-protestors when violence breaks out, not fighting back, simply taking the beating or pepper spray, et cetera.


Former California Governor (Republican), Arnold Schwarzenegger is no stranger to the hero/villain dynamic, having played both in many movies. But he’s also no stranger to Nazis, having been born in Austria shortly after the end of World War II. So he had a few words for what has happened in the last week, and the failure of the president to address the issue: Arnold Schwarzenegger to Neo-Nazis: Your Heroes Are Losers. The entire video is worth listening to, especially hearing what he though the president should have said:

“As president of the United States and as a Republican, I reject the support of white supremacists. The country that defeated Hitler’s armies is no place for Nazi flags. The party of Lincoln won’t stand with those who carry the battle flag of the failed Confederacy.” —Schwarzenegger’s suggestion of what Donald should have said.

And he had some words for the so-called alt-right marchers and demonstrators:

“Believe me, I know the original Nazis. I was born in Austria in 1947, shortly after the Second World War, and growing up I was surrounded by broken men. Men who came home from the war filled with shrapnel and guilt, men who were misled into a losing ideology. And I can tell you that these ghosts that you idolize spent the rest of their lives living in shame. And right now, they’re resting in hell.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

Schwarzenegger suggested we all donate to our favorite anti-hate charity. He’s also authorized a t-shirt sales of which will raise money for the Simon Wiesenthal Center: Arnold Schwarzenegger “Terminate Hate” Tee.

I agree with Arnold: it’s time to terminate hate, and that includes the symbols of hate. We understood that in 1945 in Germany. Time we applied the lesson closer to home:

Weekend Update 8/12/2017: Hugo Winners and many other things

The 2017 Hugo award base was designed by Finnish artist Eeva Jokinen. (Photo by Michael Lee.)

The 2017 Hugo award base was designed by Finnish artist Eeva Jokinen. (Photo by Michael Lee.)

The Hugo Award winners were announced yesterday at Worldcon 75, this year happening in Helsinki. I’m not there, but enough people I know are that my twitter feed was full of news and reactions. And it’s really fun when people whose work you love and who you have met in person are among the people bringing home rockets. I checked against my ballot after, and found that in four categories the person/work that I picked as number one had won. And it looks like in every other category, the winner was in my top three. Of course, as I said at the time, I thought that every category had at least four or five pieces that I absolutely thought deserved the award. It was a good year. And isn’t this year’s trophy gorgeous?

Anyway, the winners are:

Novel:

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit Books)

Novella:

Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com publishing)

Novelette:

“The Tomato Thief”, by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016)

Short Story:

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Related Work:

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Graphic Story:

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda (Image)

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Arrival, screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films)

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:

The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough (SyFy)

Editor, Short Form:

Ellen Datlow

Editor, Long Form:

Liz Gorinsky

Professional Artist:

Julie Dillon

Semiprozine:

Uncanny Magazine, edited by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas, Michi Trota, Julia Rios, and podcast produced by Erika Ensign & Steven Schapansky

Fanzine:

Lady Business, edited by Clare, Ira, Jodie, KJ, Renay, and Susan

Fancast:

Tea and Jeopardy, presented by Emma Newman with Peter Newman

Fan Writer:

Abigail Nussbaum

Fan Artist:

Elizabeth Leggett

Series:(Special Category added by option of Worldcon 75)

The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards)

Ada Palmer


And I’m sure that in certain corners of the trollnet there is a lot of angry thrashing: Women swept nearly every category at the 2017 Hugo Awards. To paraphrase Ruth Bader Ginsburg: and for how many years were the categories literally swept by men (and almost always white men, at that)? Let me repeat: I’m an old, literally grey bearded, cis male white fan who literally learned how to read from Robert A. Heinlein novels, and every single one of this year’s winners were fabulous sf/f works that deserve that award because they are awesome stories.

So, congratulations to all the winners!

Oh, another thing announced yesterday: Worldcon 2019 will be in Dublin, Ireland! It’ll be the first Irish Worldcon! Yay! There’s a lot of other fun news from the con, you can see a bunch of pictures and more here.

On to other things: Terry Gross is one of my favorite people to listen to on the radio. She’s been interviewing people for years, and much of what I like about her show is how many times she made me really connect with and care about people I didn’t expect to. Anyway, she was on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon this week, and it was funny in a way I absolutely did not expect. Watch the whole clip to learn about her process, but also to get a really good laugh when she tells the story of the time Bill O’Reilly angrily stormed out of an interview.

NPR’s Terry Gross Has a Sick Burn for Bill O’Reilly Walking Out on Their Fresh Air Interview:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.

Lots of people have been freaking out about all the nuclear war talk this week. I left most of it out of yesterday’s round up of links other than to link to an analysis of why it is almost certain that we don’t actually need to be worried just yet. But besides most people not understanding the technological hurdles as to why North Korea doesn’t have that missile-capable bomb there’s more. And Nothing New On North Korea Except Donald Trump’s Freak-Out. There actually isn’t any new news. Only one agency is saying this is a possibility, and that same intelligence agency claimed the same thing several years ago and was shown to be wrong then. Furthermore, Donald isn’t suddenly talking about this because of a security briefing he got. He started angrily threatening war when he saw a headline in the Washington Post… which he has also claimed in one of the fake news outlets, but obviously he doesn’t really think that, does he? Anyway, Rachel Maddow’s clip that I linked is really good. And she had an actual
(recently retired) intelligence expert whose specialty was North Korea for decades. It’s really worth the watch.

Related, I’m really irritated that this is even necessary: From the editor in chief of Christianity Today: The Use of Nuclear Weapons Is Inherently Evil. Even though I consider myself a former christian, it angers me to a level that is difficult to describe that there are so-called christian pastors saying the opposite, saying things like Megachurch Pastor Says Trump Has God’s Approval to Start Nuclear War. Geezus! Even the religious right’s favorite president, Ronald Reagan, condemned nuclear weapons as “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.” And who can forget what the late evangelist Billy Graham said on the subject: “I cannot see any way in which nuclear war could be branded as being God’s will. Such warfare, if it ever happens, will come because of the greed and pride and covetousness of the human heart.”

Well, we certainly have a president who epitomizes greed and pride and covetousness…

Grrrr! And don’t get me started on the literal Nazis marching in North Carolina… but at least some Republicans are waking up: Former GOP Senator Calls For Trump’s Removal “Donald Trump is seriously sick. He is dangerous. As a citizen, a former U.S. Senator and twelve-year member of the Armed Services Committee, I urge you to act at once. This is an emergency.”

I can’t end on a sour note. So, here’s some much better news: ‘Sense8’ is back in production, and the finale is going to be totally ‘epic’ and Formerly Abused Husky Now Helps Children Who Have Been Abused.

Weekend Update 8/5/2017: Let’s stick with happy stuff

Voyager: The Grand Tour and Beyond. Image © NASA

Voyager: The Grand Tour and Beyond. Image © NASA Planetary Science Division

As often happens, several interesting bits of news that I would have included in my weekly round up of links if I had seen them before Thursday night have turned up. And some of them are things I could write a bit of a rant on, but I’m just not in the mood to rant or be outraged. We can find bad or disturbing or worrisome news everywhere. So I will just save that for next week, okay?

I really wish I’d seen this story before I did this week’s Friday Links, because it would be a great candidate for Link of the Week: The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe. “As the Voyager mission is winding down, so, too, are the careers of the aging explorers who expanded our sense of home in the galaxy.” It’s bittersweet to think about: two devices built in the 70s that can only understand a programming language that has been considered obsolete for decades, billions of miles away, but parts of them are still functioning and sending their data back. It’s just a really good story. You should go read it. I’ll just point out that Voyager 1 launched just 20 days before my 17th birthday.

In much less serious news, this story (and the adorable video that accompanies it) is just funny: Gay Dads Obsess Over Baby’s First Haircut In Adorable Diaper Ad. Go, watch. Have a chuckle.

And then, in case you need some heartwarming family friendly goodness: In a Heartbeat – Animated Short Film:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

The learn more about this short film: YouTube Falls Hard for ‘In a Heartbeat,’ a Boy-Meets-Boy Story.

Self-loathing closet cases who bilk taxpayers to lavish international trips on their boy toys must be outed

Totally normal to have your photographer (far right) pose with you in all the official photos rather than actually operating a camera. Even if the taxpayer is picking up the photographer's tab, right?

Totally normal to have your photographer (far right) pose with you in all the official photos rather than actually operating a camera. Even if the taxpayer is picking up the photographer’s tab, right?

Former Rep. Aaron Schock Furious After Feds Ask If He’s Gay And If That’s Really His “Girlfriend”. And Shock’s lawyers are asking to have his 24-count indictment for financial wrongdoing tossed out because of asking about the gay questions: Aaron Schock lawyers seek dismissal over ‘prosecutorial misconduct’. There are many big problems with this, only one of them being this: among the financial improprieties the former Congressman (and almost certainly self-loathing closet case) is charged with is using taxpayer money to pay for accomodation, first class international air travel tickets, and more for the unmarried hot young man who lived with him as a roommate for years and with whom Shock would pose in photographs as if he was a spouse.

As Joe Jervis over at JoeMyGod.com observed, “investigators are trying to determine, among other things, if his traveling companions were legitimate staffers or, you know, his boyfriend(s).”

On one of those taxpayer funded trips Congressman Shock had this guy who was listed as a staff photographer (but he never took pictures) put in a hotel room with a door adjoining his, get upgrades and other things using programs that are usually meant for spouses, and so on. Those are among the many, many, many reasons that everyone with a lick of sense has been saying for years that the Congressman who pushed lots of anti-gay legislation when he was in office and made speeches saying the employers should be able to fire people who they even suspect might possibly be gay (and that landlords should have the right to evict tenants simply because the landlord suspects they might be gay, et cetera) is probably a closeted gay man. So the exact relationship between Shock and this string of good-looking unmarried “roommates” that Shock kept in his multiple extremely expensive homes is quite relevant to some of the financial shenanigans under investigation.

Congressman Shock has a great anti-gay voting record, but posts pictures of himself to Instagram like this, has never married, and has lived with a string of similar male “roommates” for over a decade.

It’s not just the former Congressman’s fashion choices. It’s not just the fact that at one point his personal Twitter account and Instagram account was following hundreds of gay models and male athletes who were always known for posting pictures of themselves scattily clad (and then unfollowing those hundreds of accounts en mass when a major news site finally mentioned the gay rumors). It’s not just the years of being unmarried and wealthy but always having unmarried male “roommates.” It’s not about the adjoining hotel rooms with the unmarried male roommate while traveling. It’s not about the way when he was walking around a gay neighborhood during Pride week with reporters where he was supposed to be talking about some urban issues but he kept getting distracted on camera with his eyes following the hot shirtless men who walked by. It’s not about using an airline perk that is supposed to be reserved for spouses to get the unmarried male roommate/supposedly staff photographer moved up to First Class to sit with him. It’s not about his decorating choices. All of that smoke adds adds up to a something, yes.

And no, I and hundreds of other queer people aren’t being homophobic when we point all those things out. We’re not stereotyping him as a gay man, we’re stereotyping him as a self-loathing closet case. That is different.

But the two issues are: he was a public official who voted for and campaigned on anti-gay causes. He tried to make it legal for people to fire folks merely for being suspected of being gay. That means the moral and ethical imperative is to look into all this suspiciously gay behavior. So the Log Cabin Republicans are absolutely wrong (again) when they insist that outing is always wrong.

But yes, with all the financial crimes that he’s been indicted for, including spending taxpayer money to take a so-called staff photographer who acted like a boyfriend the entire trip and never took pictures, those questions are completely legitimate. If the guy went along because he was the Congressman’s boyfriend and didn’t perform any legitimate staff duties, then that was a misappropriation of funds. Lock him up!

Definitions matter, except when they don’t — more adventures in dictionaries

The oldest book I own is an English/German German/English Dictionary published in 1856. It is only one of the books on my four and a quarter shelves of dictionaries/thesauruses in the living room of our new home.

The oldest book I own is an English/German German/English Dictionary published in 1856. It is only one of the books on my four and a quarter shelves of dictionaries/thesauruses in the living room of our new home.

I’m a word nerd, obviously, and there have been many times that I have based an argument upon the definition of a word. Sometimes, though, that is a disingenuous tactic—the person citing the definition is choosing one that sidesteps or distracts from the main issue at hand, rather than to engage in a genuine discussion. The argument becomes a matter of nitpicking and source citing and burying your opponent in a flurry of trivialities. It is a way to appear to win when all you’ve really done is, in essence, shouted the other person down.

Anyone who has ever dealt with an internet troll has seen this tactic.

Unfortunately, anyone who is paying attention to Seattle politics right now are witnessing a particularly loathsome use of the tactic. I’ve written before about the allegations that Mayor Murray hired teen-age prostitutes and/or sexually abused teens in his care 30-some years ago in Oregon. The allegations came to light because of a suspiciously timed lawsuit filed on behalf of an anonymous man, and the lawyer pressing the case behaved strangely—filing motions with the court that weren’t legitimate filings but rather press releases citing strange gossipy items about the mayor (leading the judge to both warn and fine the lawyer). The mayor decided not to seek re-election. When, not long after the filing deadline to run for mayor and one day before the first sworn answers to question were to be given by the plaintiff/accuser, the lawsuit was suddenly withdrawn, a lot of us thought that maybe there wasn’t anything to the allegations.

And since time immemorial, people have accused all queer people of being pedophiles or other kinds of sexual predators, so it was easy to see this as just another example of that prejudice, right?

Murray maintained that when the accusations came to light about 33 years ago and were investigated by both the police and other agencies, he had been cleared—investigators, he said, had all agreed that the accusations from the teens were unfounded. We knew the country prosecutor had declined to file charges. Oregon’s child protective services said that the case had been closed and that most of the files related to the case had been destroyed some years ago. Given how anti-gay the police and prosecutors in that part of Oregon were known to be in the 80s, it seemed that there must not have been any evidence to sustain the charges.

Well, now we know that’s not quite true.

Some of the records that were thought to be destroyed have been found. And after getting permission from the person who was the teen-age accuser at the time, redacted versions of the files have been released. Murray had been a foster parent at the time of some of these accusations, and one of the people who alleged he had sexually abused him was a foster teen in his care. The agency investigated and concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe abuse had occurred. Murray’s certification to be a foster parent was therefore revoked, with the agency officially finding that he should never be allowed to be a foster parent again.

The mayor’s response to this revelation has been to claim he had no idea of the finding and then argue that child protective services always errs on the side of believing the child, therefore the accusations shouldn’t be believed. There have been a series of statements from his lawyers in which the goalposts have been moved a few times while trying to draw a distinction between the criminal law standard of guilt of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and the standards adhered to by agencies like child protective services.

It is technically true that the standard for conviction in a criminal case is higher than the standard used by child protective services. But statistically it is absolutely not true that those sorts of agencies believe the kids all of the time, or even most of the time. The vast majority of the time when such accusations are investigated, the agencies determine that the allegations are probably unfounded. Unfortunately, other statistics indicates that they reach this conclusion erroneously more times than not.

We also now know that at least one prosecutor was convinced that Murray was guilty. She withdrew charges related to the foster child not because there was insufficient evidence, but because the troubled teen ran away from the group home he’d been moved to, and was literally unavailable to testify.

The teens were all kids who Murray had encountered because they were already troubled. They were in the system because of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment. They had drug issues. They were exactly the sorts of kids that people wouldn’t believe. We know now from numerous studies that they are exactly the sorts of victims certain time of abusers seek out, precisely because of that lack of credibility.

When the agency concluded the allegation of abuse by the foster teen were founded, they were required to notify Murray that his certification was being revoked and offer him a change to appeal the finding. Murray didn’t appeal. He instead left Oregon and returned to his home town, Seattle. Given the timing of his departure, I’m having a very hard time believing that he never received the notice and the offer of an appeal. So I don’t believe him when he says he never knew about the finding.

And that throws a shadow of doubt over the rest of his denials.

Each time the allegations were brought up to him over the years, his first reaction was immediately attack the credibility of each teen involved. Then it was to attack the credibility and question the motives of any lawyers or investigators who were looking into the allegations. And now, by asserting that child protective services always errs on the side of believing the accuser, he’s attacking the credibility of the agency.

And what makes it loathsome, is that each day he remains in the office of Mayor and gets away with attacking the credibility of the accusers, investigators, and agency charged with protecting kids has a chilling effect on other abuse victims out there. It sends a clear message that if they come forward, they will not be believed. If anyone believes them, those people will be discredited.

Whether Murray committed the abuse or not, the chilling effect helps abusers and hurts abuse victims.

So much time has passed and the waters have been so muddied that these allegations from 30-some years ago probably couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal court (which we’ll never know because of the statute of limitations). But “charges dropped because the witness went missing” is not the definition of exonerated. And “reasonable cause to believe the abuse had occurred” sure as heck isn’t the definition of unfounded. It doesn’t have to reach the criminal law definition of Guilty for reasonable people to conclude Not Innocent.

It has been argued that the city council can’t impeach the mayor because the charter only allows them to do that if he commits a willful violation of duty, which is general meant violation of his duties as mayor while serving in office. But the charter also says the mayor my be removed over an offence involving “moral turpitude.” Turpitude, according to my dictionaries, is “an evil way of behaving.” Whether he committed the abuse or not, I certainly think his behaviors of lying about knowing that the charges had been found as probably true and attacking the standard of proof that a child protective agency should use could be described as evil, don’t you?

We need to take the victories when we get them

An image from Seattle's Trans Pride March a couple of weeks ago. More here: http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/photos-seattleites-march-for-trans-pride/

A marcher holds a sign urging people not to support the the previous anti-trans initiative campaign. Image from Seattle’s 2016 Trans Pride March. More here: http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/photos-seattleites-march-for-trans-pride/

Last Friday was the deadline for people filing initiatives to the people to turn in their signatures in order to attempt to qualify for the fall ballot. One of those I was worried about was I-1552, the second attempt at enacting an anti-transgender bathroom bill into law. The anti-trans group that has been collecting signatures had made an appointment at 3pm on Friday to turn in the petitions (the Secretary of State’s office asks groups to make these appointments in part because receiving & cataloging the boxes of petitions requires a lot of people), but 3pm came and went and there was no sign of the group. Not long after 3pm word leaked that the group had apparently contacted the Secretary of State’s office to say they weren’t bringing in their signatures. So a flurry of happy and triumphant press announcements went out that the measure wasn’t going to be on the ballot.

I decided not to make this news the topic of my Weekend Update because I couldn’t find any confirmation of those triumphant announcements. Only one of the news sites I checked even mentioned the fact that, technically, the group could miss their appointment, they could even call and cancel, but if they arrived at the office at 4:59pm with thousands of signed petitions, the state would have to accept them and begin the process of verifying signatures. And some of the folks involved in the push for the initiative have played fast and loose with the rules before.

Anyway, I finally did find confirmation: Election Rarity: No Initiatives Qualify For November Statewide Ballot In Washington. So didn’t show up at 4:59 with petitions. No one did, even though about 30 different initiatives were filed this time. There’s more good news besides the fact that for a second year in a row the anti-trans people were unable to get enough signatures to even turn them in and attempt to qualify. I’ll come back to that.

As late as Thursday morning, the anti-trans folks were sending out money-beg emails to their supporters in which they claimed they had more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but they still needed to fundraise because those evil queers and their nefarious allies were preparing to challenge the signatures. I just want to clarify that we were prepared to do more than challenge signatures. Evidence had already come forward that some of the signature gatherers were circulating two versions of the petitions that didn’t conform to the law: they didn’t have the official approved ballot title on the top (instead having a misleading one), and others didn’t contain the full text of the law on the back. Those of us following this case knew that, and the organization leading the Decline to Sign campaign (and preparing to run a No on I-1552 campaign if it made the ballot), had lawyers standing at the ready to raise that issue, among others. Signatures on petitions that don’t meet the legal criteria aren’t supposed to be counted, right?

Anyway, the didn’t have enough signatures, and so decided not to turn them in: WASHINGTON STATE: Haters Fail To Submit Signatures To Place Transgender Rights Repeal On Ballot and Transgender bathroom rule won’t be on fall ballot; group seeking rollback fails to get enough signatures. So that’s good news, for now. This is the second time this has happened. They claim to have collected more signatures this year than last. Because they were prompter to get filed and so forth this year, they had more time to collect the signatures. This time around a lot more Republican politicians and former politicians came out urger voters not to sign, though some waited until awfully late to do so.

But the other bit of good news is that none of the other initiatives filed on other topics turned in signatures, either. Some of them were quite worrisome. I’m very happy that perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer Tim Eyman had a bunch of his usual garbage filed as of January and he was fundraising as usual right up until March, when the state Attorney General filed a lawsuit against him and one of his paid signature gathering groups for campaign finance violations including money laundering and Eyman diverting a lot of funds for his personal use: AG sues Tim Eyman for $2M, says he profited from campaigns. Suddenly, all of his fundraising efforts shifted to begging supporters for money to pay his legal fees: Eyman cries for contributions to counter AG’s ‘stunning witch hunt’.

The guy’s full-time job for a couple of decades has been running these shitty initiatives. He’s been having fewer and fewer successes as time has gone by, and previous disclosures have found a shrinking pool of people willing to donate. The bulk of the money coming into the campaigns and into his so-called political action committee has been coming from a single anti-tax crank millionaire for a while, now. And given the lies, distortions, and evasions he has engaged in over the years in the campaigns, it’s really a wonder he wasn’t charged with something sooner.

In the midst of so much anxiety-inducing news around the world, we need to remember to take the victories that we do get. Even if they’re only in the smaller battles just now.

Weekend Update 7/8/2017: Scandals and Schadenfreude

Muppet News Flash!

Yesterday’s round-up of news links (which covered two weeks because I’d been swamped at work then went on a short trip to deal with some family things) ended with a video of Tim Minchin singing his song, “Come Home, Cardinal Pell.” Which is a good song, but I failed to include a link in the news section about how the named Vatican official has finally been charged with sex abuse related crimes and ordered to return to Australia to face the charges. So first, a little background: Sex abuse scandal has followed Cardinal George Pell for decades.

The tl;dr version: back in the ’70s and ’80s he was the Catholic official in charge of educational institutions and programs in a region of Australia that included the notorious St. Alipius Primary School, a place described later by investigators as “a pedophile’s paradise and a child’s nightmare.” When Father Gerald Ridsdale, one of the worst offenders at that place and similar places for decades before, was finally charges with sex crimes in 1993, then Auxiliary Bishop Pell walked with Ridsdale as he was escorted into court (in hopes that his appearance and support would get Ridsdale a more lenient prison sentence), which cemented in the minds of many his dismissive attitude about accusations of sex abuse.

Eventually Australian legal authorities began turning up more and more evidence of people who had reported the sexual abuse to Pell over the years. Pell conveniently was transferred to a job at Vatican City, and then when the Royal Commission summoned him to testify, he suddenly conveniently became too ill to travel. Eventually, bowing to political pressure, Cardinal Pell agreed to testify via video conference.

“If kids got raped at Denny's as often as they get raped at church, every Denny's in the U.S. would be burned to the ground.” —Dan Savage

“If kids got raped at Denny’s as often as they get raped at church, every Denny’s in the U.S. would be burned to the ground.” —Dan Savage

Most of the allegations against him have been an all-too-familiar tale: Catholic official learns about priests or nuns sexually abusing children in their care, the situation is hushed up, the abuser is whisked away and given a job somewhere far off where they still have access to vulnerable children, the official denies any knowledge of the issue and takes other actions to protect the reputation and financial assets of the church, completely ignoring the victims. And, of course, said official continues in their own job, often rising to higher positions in the church: How Cardinal Pell Rose to Power, Trailed by a Cloud of Scandal.

Finally, it seems, Pell’s past is catching up with him: Police statement: Cardinal George Pell charged with multiple sexual offences – video and The charges against Cardinal George Pell – explainer.

So, we don’t yet know what the charges are. It’s possible that the criminal charges are for not taking action when crimes were reported to him (at least one occasion of which he admitted to during the video testimony). We’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I hope he spends the rest of his life in prison.

While we’re on the subject of officials behaving badly, former Congressman Aaron Schock (of whom I’ve written about a few times) has recently asked, once again, that the court throw out the 24-count indictment for corruption against him. While continuing to proclaim his innocence, he filed a 44-page brief which basically boils down to a claim that House Ethics Rules aren’t laws, so the fact that he violated them can’t be prosecuted. That’s right, he says he’s innocent, and then he says that he did the things but because of legal technicalities he shouldn’t be charged: Schock Rips DOJ, Urges Toss Of ‘Defective’ Indictment.

There is so much I could say about this, but I think this time I’ll give the final word to the Editorial Board of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, who observed:

“Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, once known for his six-pack abs and $5,000 office chandelier, is due in court next month on 24 criminal counts, including theft of government funds, fraud and making false statements.

The German word, schadenfreude, meaning to take joy in the misfortune of others, must have been created for this. It was hard to like Schock, 36, who flaunted the good life, allegedly achieved by treating government and campaign funds as a personal piggy bank. He gaudily redecorated his office to look like “Downton Abbey,” modeled for the cover of Men’s Health and charged thousands of dollars to his government-funded office account for such things as private flights, new cars and tickets to the Super Bowl.

Schock, who was the youngest member of the House when he went to Congress in 2009, resigned on March 31, 2015, immersed in scandal.”

Weekend Update 6/24/2017: Genders, Agendas, and so much more

A photo from New York City's Trans Day of Action. SAGE USA and Callen-Lorde.

A photo from New York City’s Trans Day of Action. SAGE USA and Callen-Lorde.

There are so many Pride events going on everywhere, it’s impossible to keep up. A couple of weeks ago one group in Seattle sponsored what they called a Pride March (the same day as Equality Marches around the country). Yesterday in Seattle we had a Trans March. New York City had a Trans Day of Action. Later today in Seattle we’ve got the Dyke March. And tomorrow is the giant Pride Parade and Pridefest—among other things. Of course, it isn’t only about parties: Trans Rights Activists, ACLU Ask Secretary of State to Investigate and Reject I-1552 Petitions. The group that is once again trying to get an initiative on the ballot to essentially make it illegal for trans kids to use bathrooms at public schools has been circulating petitions that don’t include the full text of the proposed law on the petition (as required by our state’s constitution), and others that do not carry the court-approved official title of the initiative, but have a reworded version that is very misleading. I agree with the ACLU, the signatures on the illegally made petitions shouldn’t count. Of course, we don’t know if the group has enough signatures this time. Last time they failed to collect enough (which is probably why someone decided to try these tactics to trick more people into signing).

Click to embiggen and read it.

Click to embiggen and read it.

Then there are just beautiful things. Dan Savage saw this poster somewhere yesterday and posted a picture of it to his blog. I don’t know who did it but it’s beautiful. And I’m ready to pledge allegiance and dance, aren’t you?

We’ve got a super full schedule this weekend and I’m already running behind, so please have a Happy Pride Weekend!

Fit Club of Columbus Ohio did a Mad Max: Fury Road recreation for the Columbus Pride Parade last weekend. They ride eternal--shiny and queer!

Fit Club of Columbus Ohio did a Mad Max: Fury Road recreation for the Columbus Pride Parade last weekend. They ride eternal–shiny and queer!

“Reblog if you are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or a supporter.”

“Reblog if you are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or a supporter.”

Queer Pride

Queer Pride

Pride

Heh

Love makes a family.

Love makes a family.

“Of course I'm PRO GAY, I didn't practice this much to stay an amateur gay.”

“Of course I’m PRO GAY, I didn’t practice this much to stay an amateur gay.”

Weekend Update 6/10/2017: Holy Wensleydale, Batman!

Gromit and Wallace © Aardman Animations

Yesterday’s weekly round up of links did not include a Farewells section, and it should have. With this morning’s news, I have to include another farewell.

Farewells

Peter Sallis, Who Voiced Wallace From ‘Wallace And Gromit,’ Dead At 96

Peter Sallis, Voice of ‘Wallace and Gromit’ Cartoons, Dies at 96

Adam West, TV’s ‘Batman,’ Dies at 88

Adam West, beloved actor and star of Batman TV series, dies at 88

Adam West as Batman from the TV series © Greenway Productions and 20th Century Fox Television

Adam West as Batman from the TV series © Greenway Productions and 20th Century Fox Television

When Batman the tv series came on the air in January 1966 I was immediately hooked! What 5 year old wouldn’t be? Sure, the show was campy to the point of ludicrousness, but there was Batman played with a droll unflappability by Adam West. He was smart, brave, and always ready to stop the bad guy. The fact that he and Robin were running around in tights all the time added to their appeal, as well, though I didn’t really understand my fascination with their costumes until I was older, watching it in re-runs.

It has been said in many interviews, including by West himself, that the reason why he got the role among the actors who were screen tested for it was because he was the only one who could deliver the dialog with a straight face. The series’ incredible blockbuster success typecast West, making it difficult for him to get work, but he eventually embraced the role, eventually calling his version of the Caped Crusader the Bright Knight (as opposed to the Dark Knight of later incarnations).

And while I appreciate some of the other versions of Batman, five-year-old me looked up to West’s Batman as a hero who stood for justice and compassion, who was willing to risk everything for others, and always ready to answer the call. It was West’s commitment to the role that made that version of Batman real. You’ve answered your final bat-signal, Adam West. Rest in peace, and thank you.

Weekend Update 6/3/2017: Heroes come in all genders

Jane Curtin anchoring Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Jane Curtin anchoring Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

Yesterday’s weekly round up of links had only one story on Wonder Woman: the fact that is had an extremely positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes (among all superhero movies of all time, second only to The Incredibles.) I didn’t include any stories about the man-babies who are complaining: Conservatives Cry Misogynist Tears Over All-Female “Wonder Woman” Show. So Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas announced a couple of “No Guys Allowed” showings at two of it’s theatres, one in Austin, one in Brooklyn. And a bunch of entitled douches got upset. This kicked of a string of responses. My favorite is: Austin Mayor Responds To Man Angry About ‘Wonder Woman’ Screening. I love that the mayor’s response begins, “I am writing to alert you that your email account has been hacked by an unfortunate and unusually hostile individual. Please remedy your account’s security right away, lest this person’s uninformed and sexist rantings give you a bad name. After all, we men have to look out for each other!”

Michael and I saw the movie last night at a theatre near our new place and the movie is very good. It’s a lot of fun. Wonder Woman is heroic and human and uplifting and… it’s really good. Go see it! You don’t have to just take my word for it: ‘Wonder Woman’ Review: Gal Gadot Lights Up The Screen In Comic-Book Gem That’s Funny But Not Campy. And it looks like audiences are happy: ‘Wonder Woman’ Breaks Glass Ceiling For Female Directors With $97M+ Debut; Earns ‘A’ CinemaScore.


And let’s talk about some real-life heroes. I had a bunch of stories yesterday about last week’s hate crime/white nationalist terror attack on a Portland train. The quick sum-up, an angry man started yelling at two teen-age women of color on the train, three guys tried to intervene, the angry man stabbed all three guys, two of whom died at the scene. Angry man is in custody and at his arraignment was screaming white nationalist slogans. People have donated a lot of money to funds to help the families of the two men who died and help cover the medical expense of the survivor. I covered all of that, yesterday.

Today we have: Portland stabbing victim Micah Fletcher calls out “white savior complex” in response to attack. Fletcher doesn’t want us to forget that the victims in these crimes are not the guys who try to stand up for the targets of hatred, but the people initially targeted:

“We need to remember that this is about those little girls. I want you to imagine that for a second, being a little girl on that MAX.This man is screaming at you. His face is a pile of knives. His body is a gun. Everything about him is cocked, loaded and ready to kill you. There is a history here with this. You can feel that this has happened before, and the only thing that was different was the names and faces. And then a stranger, two strangers, three strangers come to your aid. They try to help you. And that pile of knives just throws itself at them. Kills them.”
—Micah Fletcher

And while people like Micah are standing up, others are not: Trump misses opportunity to reassure U.S. Muslims after Portland attack and Will Donald Trump Ever Say the Words ‘White Supremacist Terrorism’?


The Google Doodle honoring Gilbert Baker, creator of the Pride Flag.

The Google Doodle honoring Gilbert Baker, creator of the Pride Flag.

It’s June! Queer Pride Month. Did you see yesterday’s Google Doodle: Google honors Gilbert Baker, late rainbow flag designer. And you really should go here and watch how the artist made the doodle. It’s cool! Gilbert Baker’s 66th Birthday.

Speaking of Pride Month: Netflix And FilmRise Separately Acquire Transgender-Themed Documentary Films. One of the documentaries is The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson; Johnson was one of the trans heroes at the original Stonewall Riots, and is often credited with being the actual person who threw the first brick that night.

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