I meant to do a Weekend Update on the morning of Independence Day before logging in to play a roleplaying game with friends, but Saturday was one of the “there’s not enough caffeine in the world” mornings. I kept falling back to sleep, and then had trouble making coffee because I couldn’t think straight, et cetera. On the other hand, I only had one news story I found after posting the Friday Five. Whereas today, well, I ran across a few stories of people behaving badly on the Fourth, so, maybe not getting to it until today was for the best.
First, though, that one link: 36 Years Later, Conservatives Finally Read The Lyrics To ‘Born In The USA’. This one both cracked me up and made me very sad at the same time…
The chorus of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” gets included in the musical accompaniment of civic fireworks all the time. And people put the song in playlists for parties around Independence Day. And it’s a good song! I have it in several of my playlists for this time of year, myself.
The problem that has occurred for the person who is being mocked in the above story, is that he finally listened to the whole song, and realized the story of the song is told from the point of view of a Vietnam Veteran who served his country, came home to a recession, had difficulty finding work, didn’t find the Veteran’s Administration terribly helpful, and so on. Which he thinks means it isn’t a patriotic song.
I really, really get tired of conservatives defining “patriotic” as blind obedience and unearned praise and denial of history. Because I love the ideals of the country and try to hold my elected representatives to those ideals, they view me as disloyal. Not understanding the loving someone in spite of their flaws, and hoping to help them become a better person is a more authentic love.
The Vietnam War was something that happened. Our less than stellar treatment of veterans, particularly of that war, is something that has and continues to happen. Despite my personal belief that the Vietnam War was a mistake (and generally wars are bad ideas), I also believe that as a citizen, I owe a debt to the people who served in the U.S. military and especially those who were wounded or otherwise harmed in war under the auspices of the U.S. Which means acknowledging that we failed many of them. We can’t fix what’s wrong with the Veterans Administration and so forth without admitting that those wrong things exist.
Springsteen’s song has all that, and it absolutely belongs in any patriotic playlist.
Let’s move on!
Mississippi Election Official Concerned Blacks Are Registering To Vote, ‘People Should Too’. “The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too,” Welch posted on Facebook. If you read the article, notice that the only thing she is apologizing for is accidentally posting her comment publicly. She is refusing to admit that her statement means that she doesn’t think of Black people as actual people. Even her clarifying comments still categorize Black people living in Mississippi as a completely separate category as “citizens of Mississippi.” I mean, we all knew that’s how folks like her think already, she’s just said it out loud. At least twice.
Minister goes to Gettysburg on the Fourth of July to visit the grave of an ancestor, and then: Right-Wing Militias Found No Antifa Event at Gettysburg—So Harassed a Man in Cemetery Instead. Why, exactly, did police escort the victim out of the cemetery and leave the people who attacked him there to keep roving looking for the imaginary antifa?
Again, instead of arresting the seven men, the police escorted the victims of the hate crime away from the beach. I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s not right, am I? Edited to Add: turns out the men were arrested (The version of the story I read Saturday night didn’t mention that, and then I missed the update) ‘Highly intoxicated’ white men arrested after harassing Black family with Nazi salutes.
And one more: Cashier loses job after allegedly being battered, subjected to gay slurs at work. Again, why did he get fired?!
Let’s go full circle and end it on a musical note:
Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
. I figured this had to be a joke. No way would this court, with two Trump-appointed arch conservatives on it, rule in favor of queer people! Right?
Yet, it did. And one of Trump’s appointees wrote the opinion!
It’s a 6-3 ruling, which is also unexpected. I want to pause here to point out that one of the rationalizations many Republican politicians have been giving for supporting Trump was that he had promised to appoint conservative judges that would start taking rights away from all us queer people. And one of those justices and just voted the other way. What was it a particular angel said? Oh, yes: “Evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction.”
One thing that is important to note about this decision is that it is about interpretation of legislation. This ruling does not assert that this is about a constitutional principal. So, if Congress passed a law amending the Civil Rights act of 1964 to change the verbiage of this section of the act (and whoever is President at the time of such passage signs it into law), this could all go away.
Clearly the Democrats currently controlling the House of Representatives aren’t going to vote for such a change, so there isn’t an immediate danger. But it is worth remembering this.On the other hand, this case would appear to invalidate the reasoning the Trump administration used for writing the anti-trans rule that was announced on Friday. The policy that health care providers can discriminate against transgender people relies on the argument that when the Affordable Care Act says providers can not discriminate against an individual based on sex, that the term “sex” does not include gender identity. But today’s ruling says the opposite: it lays out that discrimination on the basis of sex does include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The reasoning is summed up in this sentence from the majority opinion: “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.”
Now, this doesn’t settle everything, and I’m sure there are going to be multiple legal challenges involving this, but I think we should all take a moment to savor a win.
Today’s announcements from the Supreme Court had two more pieces of bad news for Trump and his alt-right cronies:
Gun-Rights Appeals Turned Away by U.S. Supreme Court. There were ten different cases pending before the court where the court could have significantly expanded the definition of the right to bear arms and therefore invalidate some state restrictions. The court turned all of those away, leaving those restrictions in place for now (and signaling that if other states enacted the same restrictions, they would likely be left intact, as well).
Let’s talk about the hateful Uncle Sam sign near Interstate 5 in Washington state, in a community called Napavine (which is just south of the larger town of Chehalis). The sign went up near the interstate a few years before my family moved to southwest Washington in the mid seventies. For just a bit over 10 years I lived about 40 miles from this sign. Additionally, for just short of 35 years, I have had to drive past this racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic billboard whenever I travel across the state.It began when the Washington state legislature amended the existing Highway Advertising Control Act in the late 1960s, which placed several restrictions on what sorts of signs/billboard/et cetera could be placed within the line of sight of people traveling on roads funded at least in part by state tax payer money. That prompted Alfred Hamilton, the owner of a turkey farm, to put up his first political billboard. The billboard proclaimed that there are no billboards in Russia. When Hamilton was interviewed about his billboard, he ranted about both state and federal law limiting billboards and how unAmerican he thought the laws were. For various reasons, it wasn’t until 1971 that the state Attorney General’s office started enforcing the amended act, notifying owners of billboards that their signs were in violation of law, and outlining options for resolving it.
You’ll notice on that archive image the phrase “A R Hamilton 7 Turkeys.” At any given time, Hamilton owned a lot more than 7 turkeys, of course. The number 7 was something he used in the branding for his business for years. I don’t know if anyone knows what it’s supposed to mean.Anyway, he began posting various anti-communist slogans on the billboard, adding the creepy Uncle Sam, while he and the attorney general’s office fought it out in court. He reached a settlement with the state, agreeing to take down the sign, with the state compensating him for the cost of deconstruction. And then, shortly afterward, he put the billboard back up, on a different part of his property. The state law allowed signs of a certain size on the premises of a business so long as the sign advertised the business. He’s tried to qualify for that exemption before, but the court had ruled that while he owned the plot of land where he had initially put the sign up, it wasn’t a spot the public could drive to and make a purchase. So he moved the sign closer to the building where he had the office. The state came back, arguing that the sign wasn’t advertising his business, in part because he didn’t always mention the farm. So he added the name of the business in white letters on the bottom frame of the sign. And for a few years the top to the sign mentioned which road to take of the exit to get to the business office. Eventually the court decided that while the political slogans were much larger and so prominent that many people driving by would never notice the advertising part of the sign, that it did technically qualify for the exemption.
Because the sign often had racist and homophobic messages in addition to the knee-jerk anti-government screeds, from time to time over the years people living in nearby communities would petition to have the sign removed. There were a streak of years where the guy was really obsessed with gay people, so it seemed that half the time the sign had various homophobic proclamations.
I was trying to find a particular image, because one time, when he found out that the Evergreen State College was hosted a queer film festival, he put up what he thought of as a sarcastic criticism of the festival? But apparently people driving from Portland, Oregon to come of the festival saw the sign and thought it was advertising for the festival.In the mid-nineties Hamilton sold his farm to a large agro-business and prepared to retire to Alaska. The sign was deconstructed again, and people living nearby thought it was finally going away. But, nope, the billboard went back up nearby. Hamilton’s son still owned some adjacent land where he was running some sort of RV business, and he put the sign up, there. Still quite visible from the freeway. Apparently the messages stopped getting changed out weekly for a number of years. According to one of the articles I found while I was looking for representative pictures, Hamilton was still composing the messages up in Alaska and sending them to his son until his death in 2004. Now the son is carrying on the hateful tradition on his own.
The state has gotten involved a couple of times since, because for quite a while the sign no longer had any advertising on it at all. But eventually the names of the businesses the son was running got added back.
There was at least one point where a group of protestors show up to picket the business and cover the sign with a tarp that had a pro-gay message: 2014: TWACtion: Environmental and Gender Rights Groups Occupy I-5 Billboard.
I’m writing about this today because there’s a new petition calling for the sign to come down: 73,000 signature petition calls for takedown of landmark Uncle Sam billboard.
And I have a few quibbles with some of the people quoted in the various stories about the sign. The first thing is, no slogan that I’ve ever seen on the sign has made me think anything other than, “What an ignorant a-hole!” I mean, I realize if you are as ill-informed as Hamilton was and his son seems to be, I guess some of the signs would make you do something that resembles thinking.
Which isn’t to say that I think ignorant, hateful people don’t have the right to hold those opinions and even express them.
I hate seeing that billboard every time I drive down to visit family (and on the trip back). It usually puts me in a bad mood.
But do I want it banned?
Free speech is a topic a lot of people misunderstand. The Supreme Court has long held that certain categories of speech enjoy less protection (obscenity, fraud, defamation, incitement), but not necessarily no protection. For instance, if the billboard referred to me by name and asserted that I was a pedophile, that would be defamation and actionable. Because it is false and harmful to my reputation. But when/if the billboard said that all queers are pedophiles? While it is false, it’s a bit harder to argue that the statement harms any particular person’s reputation. At least that’s what the courts have said so far. Similarly, the courts have held that public figures have to meet more stringent criteria to sue for defamation than private citizens do.
Hamilton’s original billboard was trying to argue that any regulation of billboards by government was censorship. The government argued that because taxpayers fund highways, that the areas immediately adjacent to highways is public property, and therefore the government has a right to regulate signage to a degree. When they amended the law (after some court cases), they argued further that some regulation of signage in view from designated highways was also permitted. The amended law carved out exemptions, one of which I mentioned above about on premises signage for business purposes.
So, as odious as I think the Hamiltons are, it’s their property, and if they want to advertise their business with racist, homophobic, and similar slogans, they’re within their rights.
I do think that they have intentionally pushed the limits of the law, particularly during the times when there is no mention of the business on the billboard at all. And I think they have done so more out of spite than any noble desire to test constitutional limits. Because of that spiteful nature, I don’t think they will ever succumb to community pressure to quit posting their hate.
I also think that not only are most (if not all) of the things posted on the billboard reprehensible, bigoted, and ignorant—they are also false. Not all lies constitute legal fraud or defamation, but there is a difference between whether something is legal and whether it is moral.
One of my college professors, who was also my debate coach and a mentor, always looked forward to seeing what lunacy was on the sign whenever we were traveling to a tournament that required us to drive past it. And that’s what he called it, lunacy. It so happened that he had grown up in Chehalis, just up the road, and he said for him, the sign was a reminder of why he was glad he wasn’t raising his own kids in that area. “Ignorance is funny, as long as you keep it at arm’s length,” he once said.
Sometimes I wish I could laugh at the sign like he did. Because while I understand his sentiment, I think he’s wrong. As long as some people believe (and vote based on those beliefs) that sort of ignorance and hate, it’s impossible to keep it all at arm’s length.
For some more information, if you’re interested:
And now he’s back to shushing reporters and other B.S. and not sounding quite so troop happy. So what happened? In case you missed it, the military realized what he was trying to do and they said, ‘no.’
Milley’s memo to the troops was also his serving notice to the president–the military swears to protect the constitution and the people, and to only obey lawful orders. Even if he invokes the old Insurrection Act, it doesn’t give him the legal authority to attack American civilians.
I don’t think that means we’re out of the woods on this by a long shot. And I think what may have shaken Trump more is the fact that his own loyal voters have, for the most part, stayed home and far away from the protests.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t a bunch of them doing violent, stupid things: Wash State Hillbilly F*cks Terrorize Multiracial Family Who Must Be ‘Antifa’.
This is the same story, but with less swearing and snark, in case the Wonkette’s reporting style isn’t to your taste: Spokane family harrassed by Forks-area residents, accused of being “Antifa”.
Believe it or not, some Republicans think that some sorts of racism are too much — or at least are bad for public relations: Racist video prompts Republican outcry in Greene County.
We all know Trump is a liar and a hypocrit. We all know every one of his press secretaries have been liars and hypocrits, still in case you needed more proof: As They Scream Voter Fraud, Trump And His Press Secretary May Have Voted Illegally.
Meanwhile police continue to cause more violence: Police open fire on queer bar giving first aid and washing pepper spray out of Black Lives Matter protesters’ eyes.
This one is both said and scary. A guy shows up at the emergency room covered in blood, missing one hand, missing fingers off the other hand. While being treated, he tells the doctors a very implausible story about his lawnmower flipping over when he was mowing the lawn. Doctors are finding shrapnel in his body. So they notify the police that they have a patient that think is lying about how he was injured, and the injuries are consistent with an explosive. His records indicate a previous run in with the law having to do with explosives. Cops have to notify feds because there may be explosives involved. Authorities go to his home, where they note the grass is very tall and there is no sign of a lawnmower… Incel Blows Hand Off With Bomb Planned For “Hot Cheerleaders” – Cole Carini told FBI agents he had a lawnmower accident, but when agents searched his home they found blood and chunks of human flesh splattered on a bedroom wall.
HBO has made the entirety of this week’s episode of John Oliver’s show available for free on YouTube, and it really is worth the watch. Set some time aside and check it out:
Police: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO):
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)