This would have gone in the science links on Friday if I had been able to find an article whose headline didn’t have misleading things in it. I know, I should have just written my own. Anyway, so the magnetic field of the planet always fluctuates and wiggles around a bit, and back in the day when a compass was always a object at least big enough to fill the palm of your hand, the amount of drift didn’t matter. But modern navigation devices (and the way we use them) require a bit more precision, so scientists map the field changes and try to build mathematical models that allow the computerized navigation aids to take the changes in the field into account. Well, things have been a bit dicey than usual the last few years: Erratic motion of north magnetic pole forces experts to update model that aids global navigation.
So we desperately need to start updating the models more often, and also, we really need to update now because the drift has exceeded the previous model’s margin of error. Simple, right? Well: Scientists Can’t Fix Map of Earth’s Magnetic Field Thanks to the Government Shutdown –
The federal government was set to update the World Magnetic Model but had to delay it because of the shutdown.
That’s right. Cadet Bonespur’s temper tantrum is messing with global navigation systems, too.
Weekend Update 1/12/2019: The wheels of justice may grind slowly, but Alex Jones, they grind on you!
Families of Sandy Hook shooting victims win legal victory against InfoWars, Alex Jones. The families haven’t won their lawsuits, yet, but this is an important step in the trials: ALEX JONES MUST REVEAL INFOWARS DATA TO SANDY HOOK FAMILIES AS THEY WIN LEGAL VICTORY.
In case you don’t remember: the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred back in 2012 were 20 six- and seven-year-old children (along with six teachers) were murdered by an angry 20-year-old. Alex Jones used to be a radio host (his show is carried only on the internet now) of a thing called Info Wars where he spouts all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories, while peddling gross survivalist food and other shit to his gullible (and fearful) listeners. And one of the conspiracy theories he pushed hard on his show for years was that Sandy Hook never happened, that no children actually died, and that the grieving parents people saw on the news were all actors.
And the issue is, that a bunch of people who are just as dangerous as the original shooter, believed him. They began harassing the parents, threatening them and their surviving children. They staked out the graves of the buried children and harassed anyone that visited those graves. The families have had to move and try to rebuild their lives several times because of the evil, deplorable followers of this greedy, evil, deplorable man.
And so the fact that some of the families have finally found a court that will hear their case is pretty awesome. I hope he winds up penniless and on the street.
I also wish more of the idiots who have harassed the families were sitting in jail, but I’ll settle for Jones being ruined.
Once again some news stories either broke after I had finished this week’s Friday Five or new developments related to stories I’ve posted about before. And these are stories I want to make a bit more commentary on than I usually do with the Friday Fives. So, let’s jump into these things…
First, the shutdown is still a thingL Pelosi and Schumer Meet With Trump – Say He Vows to Keep Government Shutdown for ‘Years’ Over Wall Funding. And later in the day Trump confirmed his words. This is bad. There are hundreds of thousands of federal employees being forced to work without pay (and they are ordinary people who need to pay rent, buy food for their kids, et cetera), and hundreds of thousands more that have been sent home without pay. ‘I feel used and insulted’: Furloughed IRS employee on CNN shames Trump for treating him like a pawn.
This isn’t just bad for them, it is bad for the economy. What makes the economy work isn’t the giant billion-dollar companies or wealthy investors: it is ordinary people spending money day to day.
And the really insane part is contained in this article: Millions face delayed tax refunds, cuts to food stamps as White House scrambles to deal with shutdown’s consequences. Go read some of those quotes! There are a number of Republican congresspeople quoted who were cheering the shutdown a week ago, who are only now learning that government shutdown means that people who voted for them aren’t getting their foodstamps, or the social security checks, and won’t get tax refunds. There are Trump cabinet officials quoted in there who didn’t understand it.
They didn’t understand that ‘government shutdown’ means that the government shuts down!?!?
It isn’t just Trump who is ignorant and doesn’t know how things work. It’s like half the goddamn Republican party!
The thing is, they can end this. The first deal, the one Trump vetoed a couple of weeks ago, passed the Senate unanimously. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the deal with no wall funding already. Congress can override the President’s veto. Now, since new Congresspeople were sworn in and this is technically a new Congress, I believe that means that they have to first pass the deal again, let him veto it, and then if all the Senators who voted for it before, and a bunch of these Republican Reps in the House who are finally realizing what this means joins the Democrats on the reconsideration, BOOM, veto overridden and government is running again.
I’m going to repeat something that I say from time to time: the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution with the assumption that it is Congress that runs the country. Article I of the Constitution describes the Congress, its powers, its responsibilities, and its limitations. Everything that follows in the Constitution (the Presidency, the Judiciary, the Amendment process, the Bill of Rights) are in relationship to the Congress. The President isn’t supposed to run the country, Congress is. And they can. I realize it means some Republicans (not even half of them—just enough to with the Democrats—reach two-thirds) growing at least a teensy bit of a spine.
I’m not terribly hopeful at the moment, but…
There are some Republicans with spines: Bush speechwriter uses Bible to slap evangelicals for sucking up to ‘unethical and racist’ Trump. Wow, he even understands what the Bible actually says!
“In this struggle, many evangelicals believe they have found a champion in Trump. He is the enemy of their enemies. He is willing to use the hardball tactics of the secular world to defend their sacred interests. In their battle with the Philistines, evangelicals have essentially hired their own Goliath — brutal, pagan, but on their side… A hypocrisy becomes unsustainable. A seed gets planted. And a greater power emerges, revealing new leaders and shaming those who reduce Christianity to a sad and sordid game of thrones.”
I think another point he makes is the most important:
“The employment of an unethical, racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist Giant is not likely to play well with women, minorities and young people, who are likely to equate conservative religion with prejudice for decades to come.”
Honestly, polling information indicates that’s already happened. Which actually gives me a lot of hope.
There were several things I started to blog about this morning. I’ve been very sad, for instance, that chickadees, juncos, sparrows, and the jays have all completely stopped visiting my bird feeder. I know the hawk killed and ate many of them, and that caused the rest to become much more cautious and less prone to lingering at the feeder. I don’t know if the hawk has actually just wiped out enough of the local population that I’m going to have to wait until new birds are hatched next year and start spilling over into the neighborhood. Today I’m going to dump out the birdseed that has been in the feeder apparently untouched for a few weeks, clean out the feeder, and only put a small amount in when I hang it back up. Because though the feeder seems to keep the seed dry, I still assume in our super damp climate that at least some of the seeds are starting to rot in there.
This is one of those times of years where all the news sites get very sparse. I understand. Writers, editors, and reporters have families and want to take time out for the holidays, too. It’s one reason so many end-of-year lists get published: the can be assembled before someone goes on vacation and scheduled to publish during the holidays. Sometimes such lists are interesting, though, so I’ll give you at least one below.
Hey, how about a little schadenfreude to close out the year: Laura Ingraham’s Radio Show Cancelled Due To Advertiser Boycott. I repeat my earlier comments on these kinds of stories: this isn’t censorship, it is consequences. I find it amusing that the end of the political spectrum that most insists on the value of personal responsibility never wants anyone they agree with to actually be held responsible for their hateful behavior. Similarly, they’re so obsessed with letting the marketplace decide, until the marketplace doesn’t pick them…
OMG, and then a Republican says what I think the Dems should have been saying all month: GOP Congressman: Trump Is ‘A Wealthy Man’ and if He Wants a Wall He Should Fork Over Some Cash for It. We won’t mention that all the best guesses out there that Trump actually has a negative net worth mean this literally can’t happen, but still…
Okay, maybe a little more schadenfreude:Republican losers we won’t miss in 2019. Good-bye and good riddance!
Hey, science is still happening: NASA spacecraft to make record-setting flyby on New Year’s.
The first one also involves me geeking out about two of my favorite topics: Parliamentary Procedure and the Constitution. And since it is politics and you’ve already had plenty of that this year, please feel free to scroll down to the First Kisses and Double Dads sections. I promise this update ends on a happy and adorable note!
Empty Seat in District 9
I have posted lots of links (and written some longish posts) about the Blue Wave that happened in the midterm elections. Well, that story is still developing. One of the issues is related that the misreporting that happens pretty much every election night in America: networks and the reports, anchors, and analysts that work for them all like to declare winners on election night, so they can then spend time explaining what this means. The problem here is that there are often a lot of ballots left to count in every district of every state on the morning after election night. And sometimes races which don’t appear close on election night turn out to be very tight. This is why on the morning after election day news services all over the place were declaring that the Blue Wave was just a ripple, when it fact, once all ballots were counted and elections were certified, it turned out to be more of a tsunami.
To wit: on election night is seemed the Democrats had only taken a net 20 seats from Republicans in the House of Representatives, but by the end of November, when nearly all of the elections were actually certified, it turned out to be 40 seats. A lot of races that networks had decided were likely Republican actually were won by Democrats.
And then there is the 9th District of North Carolina: House won’t seat North Carolina Republican amid ongoing election fraud dispute. Why won’t they be seating him, well, it’s simple: he hasn’t officially won, yet: North Carolina De-Certifies NC-09 Republican Win For Potential Fraud – By the time this is all over, we could have yet another win in the Democratic column..
Here’s what we know. During the primary, before the actual mid-term election, voters in one region of the state began reporting receiving absentee ballots that they had not asked for. Then reports came in of people showing up at the doors of some people who had absentee ballots and offering to take them to turn in for them. Turns out there was an extensive operation to steal absentee ballots, filling out and forging signatures on blank ones when they could and discarding those that had been properly filled out but didn’t vote for the Republican. And the crazy thing is that the people running it kept records of their activities! North Carolina election-fraud investigation centers on operative with criminal history who worked for GOP congressional candidate.
North Carolina law requires the election board to, if election fraud is proven, void the election and call a special election. The law also authorizes the election board to void even if fraud isn’t proven if the there is sufficient cause to doubt the integrity of the outcome. Because the investigation was ongoing, the margin of “victory” is only 905 votes, and the number of illegally diverted in at least in the hundreds, the Election Board voted unanimously to not certify a winner in the race. One wrinkle: the vote was on Friday, the last day of operation for the current Election Board, which had to dissolve because of another, unrelated, lawsuit. The new governor has to appoint a new board. At one point the outgoing governor was discussing appointing a temporary board, but decided that it was unlikely any decision of temporary appointees would survive any court challenge.
This means that the investigation into the fraud won’t be concluded before the new Congress meets next week.
Now a lot of people have been sharing on social media the claim that a Supreme Court case from 1969, Powell v. McCormack, prohibits the new Congress from refusing to seat the so-called winner of the District 9 race. And that’s where my nerdiness got triggered. Powell v. McCormack was a complicated ruling about two statements in the Constitution, both from Section 5 of Article 1: “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members…” and from the next sentence: “Each House may…, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.” It is true that the Court ruled that the House couldn’t vote to expel a member without first allowing said member to be sworn in a seated. But the Court also said that this only applied to members “only after a member-elect had been elected under the laws of the state in which the congressional district was located.”
Under the laws of North Carolina, the person isn’t elected until the Election Board certifies the results. It doesn’t matter that one candidate has declared himself the victor by 905 votes. It sure as heck doesn’t matter if a bunch of television talking heads declared him the winner on election night. He does not become a member-elect until the North Carolina Election Board certifies him as the winner. The Board unanimously voted that not to certify. North Carolina law requires a new election if fraud is proven, and allows a new election if fraud seems likely.
The Blue Wave may actually turn out to be one victory bigger than we thought!
The U.S. Navy has a tradition that when a ship has been deployed for an extended time, that upon return to shore, there is a symbolic first kiss of a spouse welcoming home one of the sailors. The ships hold a raffle to determine who will be the sailor who does this. Naval spouses are typically on hand to meet the ship, and there is usually a whole lot of kissing and hugging and joyful welcoming that happens after that first kiss. This happens all the time, so it should be no big deal, right? Well: Gay Sailor’s Homecoming Kiss Prompts Wrath from Local News Viewers, Jubilation from Social Media.
First, this is hardly the first time a same sex couple has been the first kiss for a returning ship. Queer people have been allowed to serve opening in the U.S. military since September 20, 2011. The very first same sex married military couple were married on that very day. These two guys are hardly the first same sex couple to win that silly first kiss lottery (that is believed to be a lesbian couple back in December of 2011), and not the first to go viral. So I’m not exactly sure why this one blew up the way it did.
Same-sex Navy couple faces backlash for re-creating iconic WWII kiss: ‘We’re just showing our love for each other’. Is it because they’re an interracial couple? Was it the recreation of that old WWII photo? Who knows?
I’ll just leave it at: if you object to a pair of spouses kissing after being separated from months, you don’t ever get to claim you’re not a bigot.
For the first time ever, Nickelodeon’s ‘Double Dare’ features a family with two dads. So, Nickelodeon is considered a kid’s programming network, and the Double Dare game show is one of its most popular programs. In the show, families compete in what is essentially a trivia contest, where the family can perform a physical challenge rather than answer the question in order to win a round.
What I liked about how this story was how casually it was handled. The host asked them how they had become a family, the dads responded that six years ago they adopted their two sons, and then the host said, “And now you’re on Double Dare as Team Double Dads.”
That was it. And you know what? That’s all it needed to be.
Adoption by same sex couples is still under very active attack from many bigots, so I want to remind everyone that letting queer couples adopt children doesn’t mean that straight couples are being denied those kids. There is a serious shortage of qualified foster parents and adoptive parents. The Foster Care Crisis: The Shortage Of Foster Parents In America. For lots of kids without parents, the alternative to a gay or lesbian couple or a single parent adopting them isn’t a straight couple, it’s no family at all. Officials currently estimate that 65,000+, or about 4 percent of all adopted children live with gay or lesbian parents at this time.
Adoption questions aside, there are a lot of children being raised by queer parents. It’s a difficult number to nail down, because even now it isn’t always safe for people to openly declare their sexual orientation. Most of the studies indicate that at least 160,000 families headed by a gay or lesbian person include children under the age of 18. One reason for that is that lots of queer people, particularly in conservative states, make a go at straight marriage, wind up with kids, and then come out of the closet afterword. So a lot of kids are being raised by their divorced queer parent (with or without a queer step-parent).
A bigger take-away is to remember this: Most kids don’t live in a so-called traditional family; only 46% of kids live in a family led by two heterosexual parents in their first marriage. And there isn’t anything wrong with that.
Besides, why shouldn’t people get to cheer on these adorkable dads and their adorable sons:
So I was a little surprised when, several months before the anniversary, some relatives from out there contacted me to invite me to a 60th Anniversary party, just before Christmas. I said that I would have to look into travel logistics, but it would be nice to see the old hometown again. The relative in question hoped that I would be able to stay through Christmas and so forth. I made the comment that I wasn’t sure how much time off Michael would be able to take, since he got a lot less paid vacation at his place of work than I did.
I could almost feel the temperature drop on the line. “Oh, no. You can’t bring your friend. You understand, that would really upset everyone.”
“You expect my husband to stay back in a hotel while I’m at the party?”
”No. We expect you to be sensible and leave your friend back in Seattle.”
They then explained (as if I needed to be reminded) that Grandma and Grandpa were elderly and weren’t as open-minded as this relative currently talking to me. They explained how many of the equally elderly siblings of both Grandma and Grandpa were planning to attend. “You can’t expect people their age to put up with… um, well, you know.”
I said that, as a matter of fact, I could expect that. And if my husband wasn’t welcome, than neither was I.
That wasn’t the end of it. Several other relatives called, urging me to come. Reminding me that this might be the last time I could see them, and surely I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting that, just over a silly thing like this? Where was my family loyalty? Where was my Christmas spirit?
It eventually reached the point where I said, rather angrily, “You want me to take several weeks off from work, fly to Salt Lake City, drive 6 hours in a rental car, to attend an anniversary and various other social events, including Christmas all the time pretending that I’m perfectly happy to be spending the holidays 1200 miles away from my husband! If Grandma told you your husband couldn’t come to Christmas dinner, would you go?”
“I’m just saying that your friend doesn’t belong at a family event.”
Recently I shared this story with a couple of friends while we were discussing family issues, and one friend who is ordinarily diplomatic and calm reacted to this part of the tale with a vehement, “F— them! He’s your husband and he’s sweet and smart and gives good hugs!”
And while 17 years ago I didn’t mention the hugs, my final words before hanging up were quite similar.
Seventeen years later, some of those family members still think that asking me to go to all that trouble and expense to be a closeted prop in their fantasy of a perfect 60th Anniversary Party/perhaps Final Extended Family Christmas Reunion was a perfectly reasonable request, and I’m the bad guy for not subjecting myself to that.
And I want to point out, that even after the initial call that ended with me saying that if my husband wasn’t welcome I wasn’t coming, I went ahead and did the research of what it would take to get there, maybe just to attend the party by myself and then come back home to spend Christmas with my husband. That’s why I talked about where I would fly into and how long the rental car drive would be assuming only typical winter driving conditions in the two mountain passes involved in the journey. I also want to point out that before they told me my husband wasn’t welcome, they had already told me that because of my “lifestyle” it was a given that none of the relatives who lived nearby were willing to have me stay in a guest room at their house, so two weeks at a hotel at my own expense was an assumed part of the event.
Despite that, for a while I did consider subjecting myself to at least some of that as a sop toward an illusion of family harmony or something.
So I understand why some people who otherwise appear to be reasonable and even understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed minority, sometimes get up in arms when some of us are perceived as being less than tolerant of other peoples’ intolerance.
People are up in arms about Tucker Carlson Facing Advertising Boycott Over Immigration Comments to the point that supposedly reasonable people, like FiveThirtyEightDotCom’s Nate Silver to say that this is going to end all political discourse. The argument being that if we assume advertisers are endorsing everything that is said on a political analysis show, that soon we will have no actual debates.
I have four initial responses to this so-called argument:
1) Fox News, the network that broadcasts Tucker’s show, doesn’t classify his show as either news or analysis. In official filings with the FCC, in order to avoid what few regulations remain about libel and so forth, Fox News classifies nearly every pundit you have ever heard of as “entertainment.”
2) Tucker is not engaging in political analysis or debate, he is spewing lies (not opinions, lies) and inciting hatred against specific ethnic groups, religious groups, and transgender people. He is not making good faith arguments. To equate his program (and Bill O’Reilly’s whose earlier boycotts are being alluded to by everyone writing to defend Carson) with a serious political analysis program is a false equivalence. Incitement is not analysis. A lie is not a difference of opinion. Saying that some people don’t have a right to exist in our society is not a policy dispute. Locking up children in concentration camps after stealing them from parents who lawfully presented themselves at a border crossing to request entry is not a simple implementation of existing law. For some other analysis on this: Tucker Carson’s Racism is Not ‘Political’.
3) It’s a classic slippery slope argument. It’s the equivalent of saying that charging the alt-right guy with murder after he intentionally drove his car into a crowd and killed an innocent person means that now no one is ever allowed to state an opinion again.
4. It’s hypocrisy. None of these people ever scolded the National Organization of Marriage when they were trying to organize boycotts of companies that extended medical benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, or tried to get shows that included a single queer character canceled. None of these defenders of free speech said that those boycotts would lead to the end of all health benefits or all TV shows and movies. They only come out when it is the proponents of hatred that are threatened with consequences.
And to tie this back to my opening anecdote: here are the parallels.
- My husband isn’t a friend and our life isn’t a lifestyle. He’s my husband. Trying to reclassify him doesn’t change the truth of our relationship.
- Being civil if I bring my husband to a family get-together isn’t a Herculean feat that no one has ever been expected to perform at a family event. Big extended family get-togethers of every family include some people that others present don’t approve of but that makes nice and deals with it. Being disapproved of by half the family is practically the definition of in-law, in some families!
- Bringing my husband to family events isn’t me forcing a political agenda on the family, nor does anyone being civil to him imply that they endorse everything that we believe. Just as Cousin Daisy bringing her husband that thinks the moon landing was faked doesn’t make any of us who are civil to them flat-earthers.
- It’s hypocritical to claim that my declining the “invitation” which excluded not just my husband, but also my true self was the rude act, while the exclusion itself is merely a reasonable request. Yes, it was their party, and they can choose who to invite, but it is also my invitation which I can choose to decline. And while I had to get huffy on the phone, my huffiness was restricted to the relatives who were harassing me after I had already, as politely as possible, declined the invitation.
Which isn’t to say that I believe the exclusionary invitation was the polite or correct thing for them to do in the first place, but no one is required to aid and abet their own denigration. Because it wasn’t just that my husband wasn’t invited, but also that I was expected to effectively go back into the closet for the length of my visit. I was expected to agree that there was something wrong with me, and something wrong with the person that I loved. Further, note that they didn’t just say he wasn’t invited to the party, they were insistent that he was not allowed to accompany me on the trip at all. Think about that, for a moment.
Me not attending the family event (at considerable trouble and expense) was not me abandoning my family. Nor was it a decision I should feel guilt and regret over for the rest of my life. Neither was it an attack on Christmas. Just as declining to be kicked in the teeth is not an assault on the would-be tooth kicker.
Finally, to be clear: when some of us contact companies whose products we use and express our displeasure that their money (money that ultimately comes from us) is being used to spread falsehoods and to incite or excuse violence, we are not telling anyone that they don’t have the right to any opinion that disagrees with us. This isn’t censorship, it is consequences.