Tag Archive | rightwing

It still isn’t unfathomable!

“Stop quoting people saying the bomber was a nice guy... he was an angry, hateful person— the bombs themselves are proof enough!”

Click to embiggen

It was bad enough that mainstream U.S. media didn’t start covering the story of the exploding FedEx packages being delivered in Austin, Texas until a white person was injured. Black man killed? No big deal. Black teen-ager killed (and another black woman injured by the bomb that killed the kid)? Again, no big deal. Even after the third bomb went off, injuring a hispanic woman, what did the FBI do? They issued a request for the bomber to call them.

The asked the bomber to please call them.

Two people killed by bombs in unexpected packages in less than two weeks, with local police saying they didn’t believe the attacks were random, and the FBI just says, “Well, maybe if we ask nicely the guy will turn himself in.” The Unabomber only killed three people with his bombs (over the course of 17 years), but he warranted the “largest manhunt in FBI history”?

I realize that it they might have been doing more than that behind the scenes, but given how several federal officials said they saw no link to terrorism and otherwise made very dismissive comments, I suspect not.

And now the bomber blew himself up after a short police chase (we don’t know if he killed himself on purpose or if his next explosive went off accidentally). And authorities are making more, “There’s no more threat” in the same breath that they admit they haven’t figured out if he had accomplices, nor how he picked his victims.

And headlines and subheads are mentioning how neighbors described the bomber as a nice guy.

First of all, several of those stories also quote friends reporting that he was “rough around the edges” and that he “would be intimidating and dominate every conversation.”

Apparently headline writing editors and such don’t understand some simple facts:

  • Nice guys don’t intentionally kill people with bombs
  • Nice guys don’t put on disguises to go into FedEx centers and mail bombs that are intended to kill the unsuspecting recepients
  • Nice guys don’t intimidate their way into dominating every conversation
  • Nice guys don’t post angry bigoted screeds about gay people being evil abominations
  • Nice guys don’t post angry screeds about women who get abortions or who take birth control
  • Nice guys don’t post angry screeds that some women deserve to be raped and argue that guys who commit rape shouldn’t be labeled sex offenders for the rest of their lives

And journalists, don’t say that you’re trying to be fair, or give both sides. He was a cowardly, hateful killer. There aren’t two legitimate sides to these incidents. There are victims, and there is the killer who was obviously a bad guy.

Also, stop with the “why did he do it” laments. He was angry. He was hateful. The bombs alone prove that. When you dig into the bigoted rants he posted online, the friends who describe his bullying behavior, and so forth—all of that corroborates the initial characterization as an angry, hateful, bad guy.

In one of the stories I read, the friend who described him as intimidating and dominating every conversation during High School, opined that since then he must have “succumbed to some sort of hate.” No, buddy, that intimidation and other behaviors you describe were clear signs of anger already there.

I understand why people often wind up describing the mass shooters and other killers of this type as a nice guy. Some don’t want to speak ill of the dead. Some don’t want to hurt the feelings of the family of the killer. Some are trying to absolve themselves of not having seen him for the danger he was. We don’t want to believe someone we know is a monster. Particularly when they are someone we are obligated to spend time with (we’re students at the same school, we are co-workers, we are related to them, we are friends with someone related to him, et cetera) we will make excuses and tell ourselves he’s just “rough around the edges” but under that we’re sure he’s capable of being a nice guy.

Now, I’m not saying that every angry high school boy is going to grow up to be a multiple murderer. Some of us discover the source of all the anger and learn to be better people.

That’s right, I said us.

I don’t claim to know the all the sources of this guy’s anger, but part of me was cringing inside when reading that description of him dominating conversations by intimidating the other people in it—because I did that a lot. And it’s a form of interaction I can easily fall into to this day. I was lucky enough to first get out of the toxic environment caused by my abusive father, but I didn’t understand for a long time that I was still carrying all the toxicity around. I was in my early twenties when a good friend was brave enough to call me out as being a verbal bully. Making me see for the first time just how much of the abuse I had internalized. It was a couple years after that before I was ready to admit that another source of my anger (and self-loathing) was being a closeted queer man. And it was during my coming out process that I was able to identify just how toxic the evangelical churches I was raised in were. It wasn’t just my abusive dad who filled me with all that poison.

Which gets me to one of the articles that pissed me off most: the New York Times describes the killer’s family as a tight-knit, godly one. That description, plus knowing he was homeschooled, plus those anti-gay, anti-abortion (complete with the usual slut-shaming plus ignorance of biology) tells me what kind of religious background he came from, and therefore at least one source of that hate.

We don’t have to ask why. We already know, it’s just mainstream America doesn’t want to admit how much hate and anger is being cultivated in this country. It isn’t about the so-called extremist groups recruiting. Because we aren’t willing to recognize the extent to which fundamentalist Christian churches are engaged in manufacturing these angry young men.

Edit to add: I found more information about some of his angry rants on line, so I updated the bullet list above


Weekend Update 3/17/2018: Did no one see this coming?

Things you find in a closet (click to embiggen:

Another entry in my series on news that either came in after I posted my Friday Five, or new development in previously posted stories, or things that didn’t make the cut but deserve some commentary. This is also another in my series of posts pointing out that public figures who are most adamant about policing, judging, and criminalizing other people’s sexual behavior seem to always have some kind of immoral skeleton in their own closet.

Deputy Australian Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigns over sex scanda He’s a family-values politician, described as one of the “most staunch opponents of same-sex marriage” and gay rights in general, et cetera, has been having an affair with a staffer. Not only is he resigning his post, but he is leaving his wife (the mother of his four children) for the younger staffer who his pregnant. Did no one see this coming?

Last month in Utah we got first this headline: Rep. Jon Stanard resigns abruptly with little explanation followed up with this: Utah Rep. Jon Stanard, accused of meeting call girl for sex, used public money for hotel rooms. Before you ask, yes Stanard was also a typical family-values politician, pro-life, anti-gay politician: “Family values” politician Jon Stanard of Utah hates gay people… but he sure loves prostitutes!. Did no one see this coming?

Let’s not forget the governor of Missouri, arrested last week on charges that while he had his mistress tied up in bondage gear, he took pictures of her against her will, threatened to release the pictures to her family and the public if she told anyone about the affair they were having, and then did send the picture to someone. That’s three separate crimes under Missouri law. He’s refused to resign and had been blaming the whole thing on a jewish billionaire that the Republicans keep naming whenever they want to claim that protests aren’t genuine and so forth. Apparently somehow this guy forced him to take the pictures and store them on his computer and make the threats that were secretly recorded by the mistress’s husband? Well, things aren’t looking good for the family values, anti-gay, pro-life governor, as more bad news piles on: Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ nonprofit is an example of ‘secret cash’ trend, report says. So, the pro-family, anti-gay guy was cheating on his wife, blackmailing his mistress, sending revenge porn, and is breaking campaign finance laws. Did no one see this coming?

The headline on this one is true, but leaving out a lot: Anti-gay discrimination just cost this judge 3 years of pay Vance Day is a state judge in Oregon, and you may recall that Oregan legalized marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. This guy repeatedly had his staff construct an elaborate system that included lying to any same sex couple that came in to get married that the judge wasn’t there, and so forth. As the state Supreme Court ruled when handing down the punishment: “That screening process demonstrated to respondent’s staff that, in exercising his statutory authority and judicial duty to solemnize marriages, he would not treat all couples fairly.”

But that’s not all he’s being sanctioned over. Day also had a strange relationship with a veteran suffering from PTSD whose case in Veteran Treatment Court had been presided over by Day. Despite the veteran being under orders not to have guns (because of previous felony Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol convictions), Day provided him with a gun on at least two occasions, and promised the man that Day would somehow get his other legal restrictions lifted. These details make very little sense, at the moment. Day invited the veteran to dinner at his house before this things happened, and this was after the veteran had appeared in court in front of Day, and at some point after that the gun incidents took place. One reason we don’t have details is that Day has been indicted on three criminal counts over these incidents (all separate from the judicial suspension). Until this goes to trial we won’t know what was going on. Oh, and also, after some altercations with referees of his son’s soccer games, he lied and claimed a ref assaulted him. So, the pro traditional values judge who went to extreme links to deny some gays equal treatment in his court, has been making false criminal allegations against people he disagrees with, circumventing laws to give guns to a convicted felony, and committed other yet-to-be specified in court (when those indictments are unsealed) official misconduct. Did no one see this coming?

But I have to ask, why, oh why would a vehemently anti-guy official suddenly take a peculiar interest and start offering big promises to another man? I’m just asking.

In other news, Maine House candidate who attacked 2 survivors of Florida shooting drops out of race. Leslie Gibson is (again) a so-called family values, pro-life, traditional marriage supporting politician. He had called one of the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting a skinhead lesbian (whatever that means), and another a bald-faced liar. When members of his own party called him out, he issued an apology to the young woman he called a skinhead lesbian, but left the comments about the other student standing. This all happened when he was running unopposed for reelection to his state legislative seat. A few days later, on the last day to register, a young woman registered as a democratic candidate for the seat, and another republican registered to run again him. And that’s when he dropped out of the race.

Listen: you can’t simultaneously dismiss these high school students’ protests and such as meaningless because they are merely children and don’t know anything, and also attack them as if they are public figures involved in the process. That’s super hypocritical. And an asshole move. Anyway, he did the usual claim that he’s not dropping out because he did anything wrong, but because this controversy is a distraction.

Yeah, right. Good riddance.

Weekend Update (3/10/2018): Another homophobe arrested for being a sexual predator

“I refuse to take gun control suggestions from people who ave never touched a gun, eat soap, and get confused about which restroom to use. Merica.” “'How can you talk about gun control when you're never fired a gun' how y'all anit gay and you've never sucked cock?”

(click to embiggen)

Once again stories that didn’t make it into the Friday Five, or new developments in stories that did, have come to my attention. So I’m going to share them with you, along with some commentary and context. Dan Savage used to post this irregular feature on the blog of the Seattle biweekly newspaper, The Stranger called “Youth Pastor Watch.” He had a Google news alert looking for the key phrase “youth pastor” and he would post stories about youth pastors being arrested or charged with molesting girls or boys, having affairs with the wives of congregates, and occasionally other crimes. And there were always concern trolls asking why he only posted news of youth pastors committing crimes. So he started occasionally throw in a story about a Youth Pastor who was in the news for doing something good. And half the time the youth pastor who hadn’t committed a crime would be shown the post with his story in among all these horrible crime stories and he would post a comment to the blog to the effect, “Not quite sure what I’m doing in this post.” You can’t please everyone, I guess.

The point of his posts and my referencing the now is merely a subset of a bigger problem. The evidence of the hundreds, nay, thousands of virulently anti-gay pastors and politicians who have turned out to be hiding some sexual shenanigans of their own has reached the point that I seriously think it should be required of journalists and police to start sniffing around in the background of the vocal anti-gay folks. In hopes of stopping things like this for going on for years: After Threatening Suicide, Anti-gay Pastor Ronnie Gorton Indicted on 47 Charges of Sexually Assaulting Boys. One of this guy’s victims was under 13 years old when the sexual assaults started and went on for more than seven years. At which point he found another teen victim. For some more details Munford pastor indicted on 47 counts of sexually assaulting teens.

I don’t want to deny anyone due process. But this stuff is crazy.

Other pastors have similar secrets: Pastor was ‘counseling’ the young, naked man tied up in his car, he says. Please note that’s what he says, now. When the police first came up to the car parked on a well-lit residential street that neighbors had called in for suspicious activity, the pastor had a different story. The young naked man was bound in nylon rope, sitting in the front seat. The minister was sitting in the back and had to “re-arrange his clothes” when he saw the police walking up. That pastor didn’t identify himself right away, and tried to assure the cops nothing wrong was happening because “We were just playing. We meet up from time to time to play.”

Playing is not counseling. Clearly, the pastor was afraid he was going to be arrested for kidnapping or something, so he told the truth. Sexual play. The young man probably has a humiliation/exhibition kink, and the pastor like to jerk-off while making naked young men do whatever he says. Mostly technically not illegal (public nudity laws being a thing), but when you rant from the pulpit about the supposed sexual immoralities of other people, encouraging your congregation to oppose gay rights laws in order to stamp out perversion, et cetera… well, no one at all should be surprised when it turns out you have more than a bit of experience with that perversion.

And I’m going to have to remember this the next time:

“If you insist that ‘How can you talk about gun control when you’re never fired a gun’ is a valid argument, then I’m free to conclude that the only reason you could possibly have a legitimate opinion about gay sex is if you have a lot of experience with it.”

(In addition to that fact that this liberal queer blogger used to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, has owned guns, has used those guns to hunt various game animals, and so forth, as I explained here. So by their logic I can indeed lecture them about gun control.)

ETA: And then I saw this story after posting: Medical Board Finds Ex-Gay Torture Psychiatrist Guilty Of Having Sex With Male Patients. It wasn’t just having sex. Two of the patients thought the groping and such was supposed to be therapy at the beginning. So there was some coercion/deception going on. One of the patients was an 18-year-old sent to the doctor by his parents…

Weekend Update 2/24/2018: Mutually Assured Massacre

“The 2nd Amendment should always be defended and adhered to in the spirit in which it was conceived... everyone has a right to a flintlock musket that takes a skilled shooter about a minute to load and is accurate to about 25 yards.”

Click to embiggen.

Once again stories that didn’t make it into the Friday Five, or new developments in stories that did, have come to my attention. So I’m going to share them with you, along with some commentary and context.

Many new developments related to the Parkland shooting: Sources: Coral Springs police upset at some Broward deputies for not entering school. Turns out, not only didn’t the armed deputy who was on school grounds specifically to guard the students just hunker down and hide for the entire shooting, the other deputies from the same county office all did the same thing when they arrived. Only the city police actually entered the building to confront the shooter.

Just one more reason why arming more people doesn’t lead to children being safe.

In case you’re curious about how the myth that more guns somehow make us safer came to be, read this: Gun Rights, ‘Positive Good’ and the Evolution of Mutually Assured Massacre.

A lot of idiots out there are sharing the conspiracy theory posts that these high school kids who are confronting lawmakers are fake. Given that all the tech companies have pledged to try to root out fake news, we need to ask, Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But The Tech Companies? After multiple tragedies and national security disasters made worse by hoaxes and misinformation, why is this even a question? The article explains.

And while we’re on the subject: The collective outrage over Facebook and its actions might result in a lot of talk, but it won’t really change Facebook, its ethos, and its ethics.

And let’s not forget all the people who are trying to pedantically argue that the AR-15 the shooter used to kill 17 people isn’t an assault weapon: What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns. I’ll let the surgeon explain it himself:

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

It’s also important to note that contrary to popular belief, the issue isn’t the Constitution: Why the Second Amendment does not stymie gun control.

And if you’re one of those people trying to tell me that guns don’t kill, it’s people who kill remember first that yeah, there are a lot of evil people out there plotting: Report: Washington state home to one of the largest cells of notorious white supremacist group. So maybe we should make it less easy for them to get weapons.

Finally, I want to end on some good news: Oregon legislature passes bill strengthening state’s gun laws. In Oregon and many other states it is already illegal for someone with certain types of domestic abuse convictions and such to own guns. The problem in those states that have them is the “boyfriend” loophole. Most people convicted of domestic abuse wind up pleading down to a misdemeanor charge, which doesn’t kick in the federal ban against felons, right? And statistics have shown that the number one predictor of whether someone will go out and attempt (or commit) a mass shooting is past domestic abuse, so many states amended laws over the last few years to include the misdemeanor abuse charges in the gun ban. Except that the misdemeanor only counts if the person who committed the abuse either had shared living quarters for a certain number of months with the victim, or if they are married to the victim. So boyfriends who beat their girlfriends before tricking her into moving in with him or marrying him can still buy guns. No matter how many different girlfriends they abuse over the years.

That is now no longer the case in Oregon. Only 49 states to go…

When the roll is called up yonder, or queer confessions of an ex-evangelical

Me wearing part of the uniform for the interdenominational youth touring choir I was a member of for many years.

Me wearing part of the uniform for the interdenominational youth touring choir I was a member of for many years.

Just a few months ago I was trying to explain to a friend who lives in the U.K. the weird hypocritical dogma of the typical American fundamentalist Christian, and wound up mentioning that although I disagreed vehemently with many things that Billy Graham preached, I always felt his basic faith was sincere. This is in contrast to my opinion of Graham’s son who has taken over running the ministry, who both on air and in-person came across as an especially unethical used car salesman.

Even so, I was a bit surprised at my reaction to the news that the 99-year-old Billy Graham, oft described as “America’s Pastor,” died yesterday. Let’s make no mistake: while Graham was unusual among Southern Baptist ministers in the 1950s to embrace desegregation (“there is no segregation at the foot of the cross”) and at least gave lip service to decrying racism, he was an unrepentant homophobe. Statements he made over the years included: “Let me say this loud and clear, we traffic in homosexuality at the peril of our spiritual welfare.” Or: “Is AIDS a judgment of God? I could not be sure, but I think so.” Graham claimed to be non-partisan, but often came down on the Republican side of many issues. “At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.” And it’s really hard to justify some of the comments he made while discussing Jews and the media with President Nixon in the 1960s.

But Billy could preach! Oh, how he could preach! It’s difficult to explain to someone who didn’t grow up in an evangelical community in the 50s, 60s, or 70s the cherished place Graham inhabited in the hearts of the faithful, semi-faithful, and faithful-adjacent. Graham wasn’t just held up as an example of a good man and great preacher, people were so certain he was inspired by god, that quoting him sometimes had a stronger effect than quoting from the scripture.

As a teenaged Southern Baptist (very closeted) queer boy in the 70s, I was perhaps more acutely aware of how much Graham was revered than most. While many saw my flare for the dramatic as a troubling hint of queerness, others saw it as a calling from god to become a preacher. The combination of that theatricality with my ability to memorize and recall huge sections of the Bible, as well as a facility with language, and being quick-thinking on my feet had people talking about what a great preacher I would make when I was still in grade school. Once I was older, and had more experience thanks to musical groups, drama club, and the debate team, well, it surprised no one when elders of the church started trying to convince me to get ordained in my late teens.

At the same time, completely unbeknownst to me, Mom and several women in our church were meeting once a week to pray that god would “rescue” me from the temptation of homosexuality. I hadn’t come out to anyone, at all, at the time. And while there are been some very furtive sexual relationships with a few boys my age during middle school, by the time people’s suspicions had risen to that point I was celibate, secretly praying even more fervently than they were, and doing everything I possibly could to be straight.

Which is precisely why, when I was approached about ordination, I started meeting with one of the associate pastors and studying to become a minister. Like millions of religious queers before me, for some time I thought that embracing “full-time Christian service” might be the only way to make my feelings for other guys go away.

I should mention that in Southern Baptist churches at the time, ordination was something that happened usually at your local church before you went off to Bible college. Which is the reverse of the way most other denominations do it. So I was still a teen in my first year attending community college while meeting with the pastors and deacons of our church several times a week to study and pray about my future.

I wish I could say that what caused me to back out was an epiphany about my sexual orientation resulting in self-acceptance replacing the self-loathing I had been taught all my life. That tipping point wouldn’t come for a few more years, yet. I also wish I could say that it was learning that the origins of the Southern Baptist denomination were much more racist and pro-slavery than I had been taught. That shocked me a little bit, but I was already quite familiar with the fact that only a few years before this the Southern Baptist Convention had finally denounced segregation of the races.

What did bring me to my senses were two conversations that happened close together, each with a different deacon in our church.

In the first, the elder in question took issue with my continued interest in science, particularly my interest in astronomy and evolution. He was quite unimpressed by my argument that a god who could plan and carry out a plan involved 15 billions years of stellar evolution eventually leading to humans was a far more impressive feat then simply waving a magic wand and making everything at once. While he referenced the Baptist principle that interpreting the scripture was something each person must do on their own, he also made it clear that my adherence to scientific fact was not an asset for a pastor.

In the conversation with another deacon, I mentioned an article I had read recently in which I learned that Fred Rogers, famous as Mister Rogers on PBS stations, was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who considered his work producing the children’s show his ministry. I thought it was a great example of how doing god’s work could take many forms The deacon had a very different view. First, he pointed out that (in the opinion of typical Southern Baptists), Presbyterians were “soft” on Biblical inerrancy. Further, if Rogers was actually doing god’s work, he would use that daily television show to tell children directly the story of Jesus. Since he didn’t do that, he wasn’t doing god’s work, according to this deacon. Finally, he said, “You know that Billy Graham was raised Presbyterian? He joined the Baptists because we’re actually doing god’s work.”

And those two conversations were the final nails in the coffin of me becoming a Baptist minister. The epiphany I had after those conversations was that all of the church leaders who had been urging me to become a minister didn’t really see the makings of a pastor in me. Instead, they thought that anyone who had Talent, whether it be intelligence, a gift for language, or whatever, who didn’t use that to evangelize wasn’t doing god’s work. That simply being a good person and doing what you can to make the corner of the world you were in a better place and to love your neighbors wasn’t enough.

I didn’t call things off until the end of the Sunday evening Church service where, as part of the process, I delivered a sermon and otherwise conducted the service. I still think that my John 16:33 sermon is an incredible work of art. But even as I was giving it, I knew the whole thing was a mistake. I suspect if I hadn’t called it off, that the deacon who was so concerned about my love of science would have done what he could to derail things. Regardless, there were a few more times over the next couple of years that leaders in that church and related churches came to me and asked me to prayerfully reconsider become a preacher.

I had learned my lesson: if the evangelical faith couldn’t accommodate both scientific fact and Mister Rogers, well, it didn’t have a place for me, either. I didn’t find my real place until several years later, but that’s a story for another day.

Offended offenders — the joke is on who, exactly?

“When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded.” — Roger Scruton

“When art becomes merely shock value, our sense of humanity is slowly degraded.” — Roger Scruton

We hear it all the time: “How dare you call me racist! I don’t hate anyone! I was just making an observation.” And there’s: “It is so rude of you to call me a homophobe! I’m just advocating for my beliefs {that queer people don’t deserve legal rights/to exist openly in public spaces if at all}. You’re the real haters!” Let’s not forget: “Can’t you take a joke? You’re trying to silence me!”

People behave like jerks, make threatening remarks, harass people, advocate for policies and propositions that will cause actual harm to others, and then get angry if other people take offense. They try to hide behind the idea of free speech—they’re just expressing themselves, and everyone has a right to do that, right? But the defense is built on one or more false equivalencies. The most basic is equating disagreement with censorship. If you say that all Freedonians are criminals, and I point out that isn’t true, and show the statistics to prove it, you haven’t been silenced. If other people decide the don’t want to listen to your rants about the evils of the Freedonians anymore, they stop inviting you to their social events and if you show up uninvited they ask you to leave, that also isn’t silencing you. The right to express an opinion doesn’t obligate other people to listen. Then there’s the false equivalence that accurately describing some of their statements as bigoted is just as bad as the bigotry we’re decrying. And so on.

But the defense that really annoys me is the, “But I’m only joking!”

I have several responses to that. The first is: every bully and abuser who ever lived has tried to claim that they were only joking, or they were just playing around. They didn’t meant to cause those bruises or broken bones or to break that laptop or whatever. It’s a lie. Maybe the bully and the bully’s audience were laughing, but real harm is being done.

The second response is: the fact that you think a particular topic is suitable for joking demonstrates the ignobility of your intentions. They only way that one can think the sexual assault is a joking matter is if they either don’t think the sexual assault is a bad thing, or if they think the victims of sexual assault are worth less than other people. There are topics that go beyond the pale, understanding that requires moral fiber and empathy. Not knowing that tells us you possess neither.

The third response is that doing something like “ironically” pretending to believe neo-Nazi ideology is indistinguishable from actually doing it. In other words, if you’re pretending to be an asshole, it doesn’t sound or feel any different to your targets than when a “real” asshole behaves that way. It also has a very scary normalizing effect. The more people feel it is acceptable to express racial bias, for instance, the more likely some of them are to act on the racial bias.

And my fourth response is that jokes are supposed to be funny. Calling entire classes of people inferior, saying they are a waste of space and so on isn’t funny. The objection that is usually raised around this point is that they are just trying to make people think, and they have to shock people out of their complacency to do that. I’ll agree that good political humor pokes at us to get us to think outside the box, but these guys aren’t quite getting it.

“Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” “Electricity is really just organized lightning.” “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” “At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom.” “'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in English. Could it be that 'I Do' is the longest sentence?”

Several classic George Carlin one liners. (Click to embiggen)

Let’s look for a moment at the work of a comedian who was often characterized as offensive. The Late George Carlin said things that shocked some people’s sensibilities. Go listen (many recordings abound) to his notorious “Seven words you can’t say on TV or the radio” routine and tell me that wouldn’t give people in the Religious Right conniptions. And sure, you can pull out individual lines from his routines and make him sound almost like some of this current generation of jerks with their racist or homophobic or misogynist rants on their Youtube channel. But that’s taking him out of context. Look over the classic Carlin corpus (excluding the last few years where he seemed to turn into a prophet of doom and things got a little weird) and you’ll find the most prevalent underlying theme is summed up in one of his best one-liners:

“Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?”

While the line works great on its own, it was actually the introduction to a longer bit, where he went on to make humorous observations about foolish and dangerous and weird things that people do while driving. It ranged around for a bit, and the audience laughed. You could certainly characterize the routine as making fun of bad drivers. And that doesn’t seem all that different from someone else having a comedy routine where they make fun of women, or immigrants, or queer people, right? But that’s not what the routine does. Every version of it I ever heard him perform varied a bit, but all stuck to one underlying theme. And it’s in that line I quote. That line isn’t just a joke, it’s a thesis statement.

Read it again: “Have you ever noticed that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” Explicitly it says that we classify and judge people in categories like stupid and maniac by extremely subjective criteria. But implicitly it is also saying that sometimes all of us are idiots, and sometimes all of us are maniacs. Because implicitly everyone that we observe is an idiot for driving too slow, knows they we are maniacs. And every person that we can see is a maniac for driving too fast, can observe that we’re driving slow and therefore we are idiots.

Yes, the point of his routines is that some people do very foolish things and isn’t it ridiculous that such people exist? But by the time he has covered the subject, there is a point where he says something that hits close to home. We, the listeners, see ourselves in some part of that routine. In that way, his routines adhere to the classic definition of political humor: to hold a mirror up to society.

That is humor with a purpose. That is how you jostle people out of their complacency. You hold up a mirror, so that we look into it and see our own foibles and flaws. But what these other guys are doing? They aren’t working with mirrors. No, they are putting targets on other people, aiming their fans at those targets, and encouraging the fans to pull their triggers.

That is why the rest of us don’t listen to their rants. We disinvite them from our events. We tell them that their behavior is not welcome at our conventions or on our forums and so forth. That isn’t censorship, that is making a choice of who we will associate with. It’s deciding that we don’t need jerks and abusers in our lives.

Self-loathing self deceivers—they are never just hurting themselves

“Conversion therapy is harmful to both the individuals who are subjected to it, and society more broadly, as it perpetuates the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a disorder which requires a cure.”

(Click to embiggen)

I know this story broke a couple of weeks ago. If I was still doing the really long weekly round up of links, it would have been included that week, and I might have typed a sentence or two of strongly worded commentary. But it didn’t make it into the top five stories for Friday Five. And besides, if I’m going to comment on the whole Josh Weed situation, I ought to make it a full-fledged post.

Let’s begin with the headline: This Gay Mormon Man Who Got Famous For Marrying A Straight Woman Is Getting Divorced. Quick sum-up, back in 2012 Josh Weed and his wife went public about the fact that he was gay, but that as devout Mormons they were choosing to be married. He claimed to be happy and fulfilled in this loving marriage with a woman, and by the way, he mentioned he was a therapist who was always happy to take on new patients.

He was quick to deny that he was pushing so-called ex-gay or conversion therapy. He was simply “helping those with sexual identity issues, unwanted sexual attractions and behaviors.” In interviews he insisted again and again that this wasn’t conversion therapy because he knew that no one could stop being homosexual. No, he was just helping people (“particularly young people”) struggling with this problem by “meeting them where they are and helping them find a solution that meets their needs.”

And specifically, he was holding himself up as an example of a gay man who could enter into a heterosexual marriage, never act on his same-sex attractions, while living a happy, fulfilled life that was congruent with his church’s belief that being gay was an abomination. Except, of course, he didn’t mention that abomination part.

To claim this wasn’t conversion therapy was to draw a distinction without a difference, at best. To do it while advertising one’s therapy services moves it squarely into the lying category.

“The couple is now apologizing to the LGBT community for how the “publicity of our supposedly successful marriage” has been “used to bully others.””

As part of the process of the downfall of the explicitly ex-gay conversion business (and it was always a business), there were a number of court cases (often parents of children sent off to this quack therapy now suing over the wrongful deaths of their children) where the practicioners were forced to admit under oath that at least 99.9 percent of the time no one was ever cured of being gay. Their previous claims about cure percentages was to count anyone who was able for a period of time to resist their feelings and put on a good front pretending to be happy while the refrained from acting on those feelings as a “cure.”

In other words, all the people doing it knew that it never worked.

Part of Josh’s and his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s apology now is to claim they are deeply saddened and ashamed that their story was used to bully other people. They write a supposedly heartfelt account of a person in his twenties coming home for Thanksgiving not long after the Weeds’ story first came about and being physically assaulted by his father because, “If Josh Weed can stop being gay, so can you!” And many many other horrible tales.

Here’s one of my problems taking this apology as sincere. This assault? Happened back in 2012. The young man who endured it wrote to them about in shortly after it happened. And he wasn’t the only queer person from a conservatively religious family who during the time the Weeds were in the headlines previously experienced something like this, went to Josh Weed’s website, and posted a comment years ago.

If Josh Weed was sincerely sorry about people supposedly misconstruing his allegedly not-homophobic story, he would have began issuing apologies and clarifications when the comments first turned up on the website. What he did instead, was to continue to insist in interview after interview in various publications throughout the years since that 1) he wasn’t providing conversion therapy himself, and 2) he didn’t think that him choosing to live in an opposite sex relationship implied that other people ought to do it.

That’s not my only problem with this. As part of their announcement and apology, they recount the epiphany that Josh had that his sexual orientation isn’t a “biological aberration” after all. Back in 2012 and in all those subsequent interviews, he constantly insisted that he didn’t think there was inherently anything wrong with being gay, he was just offering help to those who didn’t want to act on their desires. But now we clearly know that he and his wife (because while talking about the epiphany he also talks about all the conversations he had with his wife about it) believed all along that being queer was a biological aberration.

So in his apology he is tacitly admitting he was lying for all those years.

Listen, I used to be a self-loathing closet case. I spent most of my teens and twenties scared to death that people would find proof that I was the faggot that many of them called me all the time. I prayed and cried and pleaded with god during those teen years to make it go away. The Southern Baptist churches I was raised in are no more welcoming to queers than the Morman churches Weed grew up in. I understand how he got in that situation. I understand how the fear of being rejected by your family, your church, and everyone you know drives a closeted queer person to terrible rationalizations. I understand that when you’re in that situation, you are lying to yourself and trying to convince yourself to believe the lie even more than you are lying and selling the lie to everyone else.

And, yeah, I’m happy for him now that he’s finally realized that forcing himself to pretend to be happy and fulfilled in a marriage to someone with whom he wasn’t in love—a marriage in which his sexual and emotional needs weren’t being met—was actually harmful. And I’m happy that, unlike a lot of other ex-gays out there who came to their senses he’s actually gone public about it. And sure, it’s nice that he’s apologized for some of what he did.

But it isn’t enough. The current apology is just a variant on the old “if someone was offended” non-apology. He’s apologized that other people used his story to hurt queer family and friends, as if it’s just a completely unexpected side effect that he has only recently learned about. We know that he was contacted by a lot of the victims years ago. He knew. He knew and yet he used the impression people had that if he could pretend to be heterosexual than anyone can to advertise his own counseling services. And in those therapy sessions he told many patients all the things that he says now he’s realized weren’t true.

When people like Josh Weed tell their story of choosing not to act on their sexual orientation—when they actively seek out interviews and coverage in the religious press for their story—that lie he’s telling himself is weaponized by other people. It is used as an excuse by those people to bully their own queer children or any other queer people in their families and communities. It is used in far too many cases to bully those queer people to death. It is used as an excuse to throw queer and gender nonconforming children out on the street.

I’ve written before about my personal experience of having family members use the stories of people like Josh Weed as the justification to reject me, threaten me, and say I and my husband aren’t welcome. I don’t know a single queer person who hasn’t had someone browbeat them with stories like Josh Weed and other ex-gays.

I’m going to keep insisting that Josh was an ex-gay. It doesn’t matter that he rejected that label. The hair-splitting he was doing to justify the rejection was ludicrous. And I’m not going to accept this apology because it is incomplete. He wasn’t just deluding himself for those years, he was literally selling that lie to other people. And until he admits that he was doing that; until he admits that the weaponizing of his story wasn’t happening without his knowledge; until he admits that his denials about the nature of his counseling was wrong; until he admits his silence until very recently in the face of that weaponization was also wrong; he doesn’t have an ethical right to ask for forgiveness.

Weekend Update 1/20/2018: One year later…

“1 year later, 10x more outrage”

“1 year later, 10x more outrage”

It seems fitting that the anniversary of the tyrant’s inaugural and the women’s march would coincide with a government shutdown that has come about entirely through the Republicans’ incompetence. They have a majority in both houses of congress, and while in theory the Democrats could filibuster the spending resolution, they haven’t had to, yet, because the Repubs can’t get all of their own people to vote for the bill! It’s just symptoms of the problems ushered in when the tyrant who lost the popular vote slipped through the Electoral College and the white supremacist wing of the Republican base felt free to take off their civil disguises. Now Republicans who would normally be willing to make a deal are scared of being primaried out by angry Trump supporters.

Russell Burman, writing in the Atlantic explains:

If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans (some publicly, many others privately) agree on, it’s that the president’s negotiating style has made it much harder for the two sides to reach a deal. Trump has veered wildly from one extreme to the other—telling lawmakers in one meeting that he’d sign any DACA bill Congress sent him, then issuing a list of hard-line demands in the next. His vulgar reference to African nations, among others, as “shithole countries” while rejecting a bipartisan DACA proposal blew up the negotiations at a critical juncture.

Republicans have begged the president to tell them exactly what he’d accept in an agreement and then stick to it. But Trump hasn’t delivered.

The Republicans have tried to paint the Democrats as the villains in this, but their attempts make them look worse: Mitch McConnell shutdown tweet a ‘ransom note,’ says DNC head.

On January 20, 2018 March to commemorate the first anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March.

On January 20, 2018 march to commemorate the first anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March.

Meanwhile, across the country, millions of members of the resistance are turning out to march again: Women’s March draws crowds to DC and WATCH: Thousands Mark Trump’s Anniversary with 2018’s Women’s March. Most cities in the country will see these marches today, and I think that’s a good thing.

I’ve seen people arguing that marches don’t do anything, but they’re wrong. They said that same thing in 1993 about the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, because congresspeople who had opposed queer rights didn’t all spontaneously change their minds afterward. But that isn’t the point of these demonstrations. When more the 800,000 queer people trekked across the country to stand up and protest, it did more than send a message. It demonstrated, for one thing, that there were a lot more of us than most people realized. More importantly, it demonstrated to us that we weren’t alone. It inspired hope in the individual queer communities among people who didn’t go. And those that did came back energized and inspired, and they did stuff! We organized new groups. More of us volunteered for local political campaigns. We staffed phone banks, we opened our wallets. We began to believe that if we worked together we could convince the rest of society to come around to our way of thinking. We didn’t have immediate success, but progress noticeably accelerated after that.

Last year’s Women’s March was the first time after the election that I felt hope again. And I’m the kind of person who normally never gives up hope. At a deep, fundamental level my brain does not believe in the no-win scenario, right? But when Trump won the electoral college, all of that crashed down.

Until I saw the hug crowds, vastly outnumbering the inaugural crowd not just in Washington D.C., but in cities all across the country.

There are more of us than they realized. There are more of us than we believed.

It’s from that moment of inspiration that moment such as Run For Something was born. The march inspired people back in their communities to get involved. Not just to wear a pink hat and make protest signs, but to join political action groups, to staff phone banks, to support progressive candidates, and to run for office. We got the dramatically different results in the Virginia elections this year than before in no small part because there were dozens of districts where previously the Republican had run unopposed again and again that finally there was an alternative!

And last year’s march can take credit for that.

“Trump ends first year with lowest average approval rating” - ever!

“Trump ends first year with lowest average approval rating” – ever!

The fact that the tyrant is such an incompetent, creepy, and transparently bigoted cretin is also a contributing factor. I’ve seen a few experts make the claim that White House ineptitude and biases are solely to blame for their failures. But that ignores the fact that what we are protesting is this administrations bigotry and callous disregard for facts or other people, and overarching greed—in other words, their biases and ineptitude. We’re fighting a good fight, and the fact that the opposition is not fighting well is not unrelated. However, there is a lot of fight left to go. We have to keep the momentum going not just in the Congressional election next fall, but in local elections, and continuing to make those phone calls to congress, and showing up at protests and more. But it’s a fight we can win.

Click to embiggen

And our country isn’t the only one dealing with corruption:
UK government kept awarding public sector contracts to Carillion despite fears about its future, minister admits and UK government officials set up Carillion collapse task force to support companies and workers. So there’s a lot of bad to fight against…

May the calendar keeping bringing happy holidays to you!

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”

“Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”

In 1942 Irving Berlin composed several songs for the movie, Holiday Inn. The most famous song from that movie is “White Christmas,” and it is the only song in the movie that is specifically about Christmas. However the first song in the movie is “Happy Holiday” which in the context of the movie is about New Year’s Day, as well as an introduction to the conceit of the film—that someone could run an inn that is only open for business 6 days a year, each of them a holiday. Still, this song that doesn’t mention anything Christmas-y at all has been considered a staple of Christmas music since the mid 1940s:

Happy holiday, happy holiday
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your ev’ry wish come true

Happy holiday, happy holiday
May the calendar keep bringing
Happy holidays to you

An advertisement from the Duluth News-Tribune of January 6, 1890 is just one example of the use of the phrase for more than 125 years!

An advertisement from the Duluth News-Tribune of January 6, 1890 is just one example of the use of the phrase for more than 125 years!

But one can’t credit Irving Berlin with the invention of the phrase, “Happy Holidays!” It’s been in use for more than 125 years, and was clearly not part of any attempt to secularize the holiday.

Most people point to Bill O’Reilly’s segment on December 7, 2004 about the so-called assault on Christmas as the origin of the myth. But you have to go much further than that, back to the 1920s, when in recurrent segment of industrialist Henry Ford’s newsweekly entitled “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem” which opined: “Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth. People sometimes ask why 3,000,000 Jews can control the affairs of 100,000,000 Americans. In the same way that ten Jewish students can abolish the mention of Christmas and Easter out of schools containing 3,000 Christian pupils.” Notice that even 97 years ago the American rightwing was antisemitic.

I was not alive back when Ford and others were trying to use Christmas to inflame anti-Jewish sentiment, but by the time of my childhood in the 1960s, that notion (along with the John Birch Society’s theory that the United Nations and Communists were trying take the Christ out of Christmas) had soaked deep into the psyche of evangelical fundamentalists. Though it took slightly different forms. I’ve written before about how the various Baptist churches my family attended considered Santa Claus an anti-Christian emblem. Some churches banned Christmas trees from the sanctuary, because of their pagan origins. Poinsettias were allowed because popular myth was the the red leaves represented Christ’s blood. But many of the common symbols of the holiday were believed inappropriate for the church.

Which isn’t to say that they forbade you from decorating your home and a tree or Santa — there was just a clear distinction between the sacred meaning of the holy day and the more general public celebration of the holidays. Which is why some leaders of the Christian Right in the 60s and 70s started advocating that Christians should encourage businesses to use phrases such as Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays precisely because all that commericialism shouldn’t be associated with Christ.

That’s right, there was a time when the very same sorts of people that today are foaming at the mouth about Starbucks’ holiday coffee cups not being sufficiently Christmas-y were asking businesses not to profane Christ’s name by labeling their products with the word Christmas.

“Christians be like 'God bless this pork you told us not to eat on this most holy pagan holiday that you told us not to celebrate.'”

“Christians be like ‘God bless this pork you told us not to eat on this most holy pagan holiday that you told us not to celebrate.’”

The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. It’s been popular across the political spectrum to lament the commercialization of Christmas for many years, for instance. But the funning thing is that this commercialization: the emphasis on exchanging gifts (specifically gifts for Children) are part of a puritanical push during the 19th Century to make the holiday family friendly. For most of its history, the Christmas season was associated with drinking and feasting and various kinds of wild partying. So the Victorians decided to wage a war on the previous forms of the holiday. Unlike the Puritans, who banned Christmas entirely when they set up their colonies in the U.S., the Victorian prudes at least understood that you couldn’t ban the celebration outright, but you could encourage people to observe it in a different way.

So the next time someone gripes about commercialization of Christmas, point out that little historical tidbit and watch their head explode.

I could ramble some more, but why not watch this video instead?

Adam Rules Everything- The Drunken, Pagan History of Christmas:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here

You fight it on the ground: register, remind people to vote, help them get to the polls, and be ready to challenge voter suppression

“Republican Logic: It is wrong for two adults of the same sex to get married; but it's ok for a child molester to become a Senator.”

“Republican Logic: It is wrong for two adults of the same sex to get married; but it’s ok for a child molester to become a Senator.”

I tried to avoid the news last night, because I didn’t want to relive the horror of last year’s election night. So many polls showed that it was either too close to call or that the Republican twice-ousted judge who molested teen-age girls, wants to “outlaw” queers (not just take marriage equality back, but also to make it a criminal offense for us to be gay), wants to bring back slavery, wants to repeal the parts of the constitution giving voting rights to people of color and to women, wants to ban muslims from public office, insists that only Christians are have civil rights was actually leading in the race. Republicans were so fixated on retaining their two-vote majority in the U.S. Senate that some of them said that while they believed the allegations of sexual misconduct, they were still going to vote for him. Evangelical leaders were saying that they were going to vote for him!

But later in the evening, I peeked at my main twitter feed. And then I went the FiveThirtyEight.com’s live coverage. I skimmed through their updates (and wonky math-y talk about polls and margins). When I reached the point when they were calling it for the Democrat, Doug Jones—calling it with a margin large enough to avoid a recount!—I started crying.

A lot of people are going to try to say that this is only because of Moore’s sexual scandal. And while it was a big factor, I think this win in a deeply red state with a well-documented history of suppressing the vote of African Americans and other demographics believed to favor Democrats is a sign. So, how did they do it?

Once a Long Shot, Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race

Propelled by a backlash against Mr. Moore, an intensely polarizing former judge who was accused of sexually assaulting young girls, Mr. Jones overcame the state’s daunting demographics and deep cultural conservatism. His campaign targeted African-American voters with a sprawling, muscular turnout operation, and appealed to educated white voters to turn their backs on the Republican Party.

Jones does marathon get-out-the-vote effort while Moore is quiet

“We’re trying to work all angles,” said Patricia Mokola, spokeswoman for the Alabama NAACP. “We’re trying to reach not only African Americans, we’re trying to reach millennials as well. They will be instrumental in this election … We’re not telling people who to vote for, but their vote is their power.

Rallies, leafleting and door knocking all part of effort to urge voters to cast ballots in Alabama Senate race

“We have got to find a way to come together, and we need leaders that are not going to divide us, and separate us, and cut us up, and dissect us, and stand in judgment over some, and lord over others,” [New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory] Booker said at a canvass kick-off in Birmingham on Sunday. “We need someone that is going to remind us of the calling of patriotism, the calling to love, and so this is the moment now. There are consequential moments in our American history, and this is one of them.

How Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race

Jones’ victory is all the more remarkable in that it didn’t rely on many Republicans defecting to the Democratic side. Less than one in 10 Republicans crossed party lines to vote for Jones. But Democrats – who overwhelmingly favored Jones – came out in stronger numbers, trailing Republicans in vote share by just six percentage points. And Independents – who make up just one in five voters in this highly partisan race – also favored Jones by nine points: 52 percent to 43 percent.

They mounted a massive get-out-the-vote campaign and sustained it for months. They registered people to vote. They put out leaflets everywhere reminding people when election day was. They called. They went door-to-door. The campaign spent a lot less on TV ads and more putting up billboards in neighborhoods that had lower turnout in the 2016 general election. They funded programs to give people rides to their polling places. They put out information on social media, pamphlets, posters, and signs explaining what kind of ID you need to have to vote, and a phone number to call if a poll worker refused to let you vote. They had observers at polling places. They had teams and lawyers available to respond to those voter suppression issues at the polling places.

Exit polling showed that white voters overwhelming went for the pedophile, but they also showed that Trump’s approval rating even among them has gone way down, and their enthusiasm for the candidate they voted for was lukewarm. Meanwhile, the African American vote (especially women) overwhelming went to the Democrat. And because of the way that the state has reduced the number of polling places in Black communities, and reduced the number of voting machines at those few polling places, it means that those African American voters were more likely to have to stand in line for hours and hours just to vote—and they did!

The ground game—registering voters, reminding them when election day is, reminding them what they have to do to vote, offering them rides, and so on—is how we got results in leaning-blue Virginia, and it’s how we won in deeply-red Alabama. It’s the new strategy of the Democratic National Committee. It’s not the way they fought in 2016. One of the journalists I saw tweeting about this last night summed it up: less money on TV ads, more money to help people vote.

That’s a strategy that can turn the midterm elections.

We can do it! We can do it!

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