August 31, 2010

Why Ken Mehman Deserves Nothing

In case you hadn't heard, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee decided to come out last week. Not in any interesting way, alas: just that he's what most folks either suspected or knew.

In his interview with the Atlantic Monthly, Mehlman tried to gain sympathy by talking about how long it took him to "get comfortable" with being gay - 43 years, apparently. For those of you keeping track, that's his entire life. So I guess he wasn't one of those "converted" types we so often hear about from the more paranoid branches of the conservative tree...

So why is he coming out now? Because in September he's going to be a speaker at a fund raiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. That would be the folks who worked against California's infamous Proposition 8, banning gay marriage.

Funny story: while Mehlman was the chairman of the RNC, Republican strategist Karl Rove made sure that anti-gay referenda and initiatives were on the ballots in 2004 and 2006 as a scare tactic to get conservative voters to the polls.

"I can't change the fact that I wasn't in this place personally when I was in politics, and I genuinely regret that[...]If they can't offer support, at least offer understanding."

Gosh, and who can argue with that? Let's see...

Well, how about everyone who's not gay and has argued in favour of gay rights? In fact, how about everyone who has ever worked for the rights of any minority that they weren't a part of? Think they might have something to say, Ken?

You didn't have to be black to abolish slavery.

You didn't have to be native to demand action of residential schools.

You didn't have to be a woman to support the Equal Rights Amendment (in fact, it failed because a woman worked hard against it).

And you don't have to be homosexual to support gay rights.

You didn't even have to come out when you were "in politics", Ken: you could simply have opposed the decision to use gay people as bugbears to panic social conservatives and herd them to the polls. You could have objected to the hysteria that was actively encouraged by your party.

But then, you were also confused why so few gay people supported Republicans against "Islamic jihad", so maybe it is that you're simply not that bright. (Here's a hint: Democrats don't support "Islamic jihad" either. And of the two political parties in the United States, only one of them has openly compared homosexuality to atheism or acceptance of gays to encouraging bestiality, paedophilia, and incest.)

If you're going to ask people to forgive your past transgressions when you were in a position of power to do so, it's going to take some time. Opposing Prop 8 is a good start - but now you've got another 22 states in which specifically anti-gay initiatives were put onto the ballot at the insistence of the RNC while you were in power.

Good luck with that!

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posted by Thursday at 3:31 pm 1 comments

August 25, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does Is

You remember that movie?

You know - hugely popular, all about how, just by being nice and honest and not thinking too hard, you could be a massive financial and social success (even if you were as dumb as using two bricks to make a house)? Yeah, that one.

I was reminded of it while in a conversation lasting several days with an opponent of the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" (a term, that consists of three words: two of which are wrong and one other being misleading). It was both surprising and not for me - I have encountered stupidity before, and I've certainly met people who don't actually seem to be aware of what they are saying before. But what was surprising was the complete lack of self-awareness, even when they have their own written words that they can reference not half a page away on the same screen, but don't bother to.

I did finally get tired of ending my days smacking my head into the desk, so called it quits. Here, of course, was his final post:

Once again, an untenable position descends to name calling.
Now, can you guess what his second to last post was? Go on, guess! Oh, all right:

Oh I get it now Erin. People with lesser minds than yourself have a tendency to be swayed by simplification.

What is most telling, is that you do recognize a Mosque inside of Ground Zero would be offensive. Not offensive enough to penetrate... through your cool rational mind of course, but offensive enough to legitimize the protests. So from now on, let's just refer to it as: "The Mosque and More, Adjacent to Ground Zero," so there will be no more outrage from the simpletons.

Did it ever occur to you that people who paint the placards just prefer the shorthand, because it uses less paint?

There are few mock-arguments that annoy me more than the idea that being smart is a bad thing. He was insulted because I pointed out that the term "Ground Zero Mosque" is a horrible description, but great if you want to inflame emotions while misinforming the public.

Yes, he really meant that last sentence to be a cogent point in his favour!

Look, when people are being stupid, they're being stupid. And you know what? I'm not going to patronize them by pretending that their point of view "could be correct" when it patently isn't. The moon is not made of cheese, no matter how people you get to agree with you.

When you're stupid, you're stupid; and someone really should tell you when you are before you do something stupid, permanent, and public.

You can go look if you want, though it is on Facebook, so fair warning there.


posted by Thursday at 10:25 pm 3 comments

August 23, 2010

Love and Romance

Romance is... Romeo & Juliet
Love is... Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward

Romance is... "My Heart Will Go On"
Love is... "I Got a Crazy Wife"

Romance is... "I Can't Live Without You!"
Love is... "Yeah, I could live with ya."

Romance is... Happily Ever After
Love is... See you tomorrow!

Romance is... I'm the only one for you, and you're the only one for me.
Love is... If live is ever better without you than with you, I'm outta here.

...And 13 years later, life is better with you than without.

Happy Anniversary, Love! And, as you know, if I didn't have you...


posted by Thursday at 7:15 pm 0 comments

August 12, 2010

Area 51, Manhattan Branch

Anyone who has watched television, read a newspaper, or been on line any time in the past two weeks knows that there is a plan for a mosque to be built "somewhere near Ground Zero" - the site of the former Twin Towers.

The reactions to this have been very diverse, and generally along the expected intelligence curve from "AAAAGGGHH! AAAGGHHH! AAAGGGHHH!" through "Not there! Anywhere but there!" to "How about a few more blocks away?" to *shrug* "Okay."

It's perfectly understandable for people to have an emotional response: for many, it was as if aliens had come to Earth, and they were the ones from Independence Day instead of E.T. These strange creatures that no one knew about had done terrible things for no known reason, and now they want to make a holy shrine right where they did those terrible things!

This, as it ends up, is not exactly true. Pointing out that it's not true doesn't often help, but maybe -just maybe - it could be possible to show where some of the worst arguments are a touch inaccurate:

"It's on Ground Zero!" Well, no it's not. It is fairly close - two blocks away at 45 Park Place - but there are no plans for building on the Twin Tower site other than those already in place. As it is, the planned site is as close to City Hall as it is to Ground Zero: lower Manhattan isn't a big place.

"It's a MOSQUE! A big, onion-domed MOSQUE!" Not really; or at least not just a mosque. One of those wouldn't fit very well for starters, what with requiring a lot of space to get a dome built and space being at such a premium on the island. The primary reason for the facility is the mosque, certainly: but there are also plans for a community centre involving a fair amount of rental space (available to any group), a permanent 9/11 memorial, auditorium and classroom spaces... Currently, the largest community centre in lower Manhattan is in a basement.

"There shouldn't be any more mosques in New York!" There are more than 100 in New York right now, and of the two mosques in Manhattan one holds about 450 people, and another about 60. This isn't anywhere near enough for the number of Muslims that are in the area. The community board in charge of the area already approved of the plans well before it became the national and international spectacle it is now. Now, if you want the federal government to step in and tell local communities how to plan out their towns, shouldn't you just say so? Plus, the building is currently being used as a mosque right now: Muslims gather there to pray. It is, in every sense, a mosque.

"It's an insult to America!" Americans want to build the site. There are approximately a million Muslims in New York City right now: they are Americans.

"Okay, it's an insult to the Americans who died in the 9/11 attacks!" Presumably that includes the 300 or so Americans who were Muslims who died directly in the attacks and the others who have suffered along with all the other rescue workers who were at the scene trying to save lives and care for the survivors, yes? Unless you are saying that those people killed themselves by having other people fly into building they worked in, then you're dividing people into "Good Americans" and "Bad Americans" based on their religion.

"But Islam is so violent!" The Koran often makes references to violence and war, it's true. As does the Bible. You do remember your Bible, don't you? Comparing the two is a bit unfair, as Christianity has 600 more years of historical violence behind it. Islam has a ways to go if they want to catch up!

"Christians only follow the New Testament!" Sure they do! Right up until it's convenient for them to bring out the Old Testament to prove their moral superiority. Or have you forgotten the fights over race relations and women's rights in North America? Heck, look at any group that is protesting gay marriage and count the signs with Leviticus quotes on them. But this does bring up the good point that treating any group with more than a billion members as a single, homogeneous blob is ludicrous. Pretending to believe that the Muslims in America all get marching orders from Saudi Arabia is just as insane as pretending all Christians get marching orders from the Vatican. Know who turned in those idiots in Toronto? Other Muslims.

"It (is/going to be) funded by extremists in the Middle East!" First off, the funding isn't in place yet because they want to apply for tax-exempt status. If that succeeds, then the funding is going to have to be transparent. Second, the funding is likely to come from Muslims themselves; meaning yes, some is probably going to come from the Middle East. You know what else? A huge amount of funding for the terrorist group the Irish Republican Army came from the United States, specifically from Boston and New York. And yet Americans are allowed into England - why do you think that is?

"Look at the terminology: Muslim World Visionaries aren't even called 'extremists': they're called 'Islamists'! That proves their vision of a world dominated by Islam is accepted as normal!" Why, yes: and those who see the world being overcome by Christianity are called 'Christians'! The very reason behind the largest groups of Christians is to 'spread the word' as commanded by God. I like to think of this point as just being spectacularly non-self aware rather than deliberately misleading. See also: missionaries.

"They put up mosques whenever they conquered new lands, and now they're doing it here! It's historical fact!" *Le sigh* That is a tiny little bit of an historical fact. Here's the rest of it (and this holds true for every single religion in existence): when members of a faith go to a new land, there isn't going to be a place of worship already there. Really. It's not like a native tribe in Ecuador suddenly thought to themselves, "Hmm, we had better build a church for when Christians arrive!" No, the church gets built after the missionaries get there and bring the faith with them.

It's unlikely any of these arguments will sway anyone's mind, of course: folks have to overcome their prejudice on their own. But maybe seeing that there is an answer to their "unbeatable" arguments could get the opponents of the New York mosque proposal thinking about why they feel the way they do and asking themselves whether their opposition as logical as they believe.

Oh, and welcome to the second day of Ramadan!

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posted by Thursday at 11:26 am 0 comments

August 05, 2010

Hard Concepts, Hard Time

Neil Gaiman is a writer who is perhaps most famous for his anthropomorphic personifications: dreams, death, despair and many other concepts humans have formed take bodies in his tales. They can be touched if they wish (though you might want to watch it with the second one, there); they talk, and travel, and fight.

Terry Pratchett is another author whose Discworld series has showed us the Tooth Fairy (actually a conglomerate), the Hogfather (a Santa Claus stand-in), and a Death who loves cats.

And now, the Canadian government is bringing that idea to life!

Here's the plan: Team Blue is planning to build new prisons and (improve current ones) because the rate of unreported crime went up from 1999 to 2004.

Let me repeat that.

Stockwell Day wants to build prisons because of the unreported crime rate. Now unless I'm thinking wrong, you can't actually catch, try, and jail someone who commits an unreported crime because the crime is unreported. So there's no one to put in these new jails. Which means he must be planning to imprison the concept of crime itself!

This is a startling development, to say the least.

Sure, you could "titch" away about the Conservatives' inability to come up with any reason for claiming their plans are going to cost $2 billion, or you could complain about the survey they quoted being from six years back and why are they talking about this now when a new one is coming out this fall. You could even point out that Team Blue is eliminating the long-form census because they don't think any census is valid after five years.

But you'd be missing the point.

The point is, if they can do this, if the Conservatives have somehow come up with a way to imprison the very idea of crime, then...

Hunger? You're next.


posted by Thursday at 2:48 pm 0 comments

August 04, 2010


So it looks like the rather silly Proposition 8 (the vote to ban gay marriage) got struck down by a federal judge in San Francisco today as being flatly unconstitutional. Which can't be that much of a surprise to those folks who thought about having a majority voting on minority rights.

While that could probably be filed under the category "No Shit", you do have to be a little concerned for the opposition. After all, what started as certainty that "God would make things right" in their battle against people getting hitched by (for instance) shooting a meteor at Orlando has devolved into complaining that they can't get anyone to appear in court for fear of "retaliation".

That they had no evidence and incompetent witnesses had NOTHING to do with it, I'm sure. Just ask Peter Barber Gallagher-Sprigg!

No it's all about fear of "retaliation", despite the people who have appeared as witness for them not being retaliated against. These are well known people, directly opposing rights for millions of Americans - and the retaliation is... where?

The reaction from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM NOM NOM!) president Brian Brown managed to spit this out:

"Never in the history of America has a federal judge ruled that there is a federal constitutional right to same sex marriage. The reason for this is simple – there isn’t!"

...without bothering to mention that the reason why no federal judge has said such a thing is because the only federal legislation is the Defence of Marriage Act, brought in in 1996. Federal governments have been terrified of touching marriage before or since, and have been leaving it up to the the states to decide for themselves. Hence gay marriage in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Iowa (!) without the feds saying boo about it. Varied rights have been given in a slew of other states, too: Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, Rhode Island, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon (!), New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

California and Maine both have given some rights to gay unions, but both states have also had popular referendums overturning a previous legislative decision to grant full marriage.

Which is why the feds aren't going to get involved this time, either. And left in the hands of the courts, the decision is startlingly obvious: it's going to become legal. I'm sorry, but when the best witnesses in your favour $35 million can buy cites "preventing states from falling into Satan's hands", you're going to lose the argument.

It really couldn't come as a surprise, though: the lack of self-awareness comes right from the top. Maggie Gallagher, the chairman for the National Organization for Marriage:

"Gay activists treat Americans who disagree with them about same-sex marriage like bigots. They want to use the law to suppress and marginalize and stigmatize."

(Bigot: a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc. Webster's New World Dictionary)

NOM is using their influence to ensure a large portion of society is suppressed, marginalized, and stigmatized in a very specific way; we can clearly see what they are trying to do.

But Maggie and her ilk never do quite get around to what those in favour of gay marriage are going to do to those who are opposed to it. How exactly are the members of NOM going to suffer if gay marriage is legalized?

Other than eventually have to look for real jobs, that is.

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posted by Thursday at 6:30 pm 0 comments

Incoming Nerdgasm!

An up-and-down weekend, but a lovely finish:

It started off with a class reunion needing to get into a hall they rented from the Lions on Saturday night. Their key didn't work after trying it for an hour, so out I went. Simple picking open a cheap deadbolt... except whoever had installed the thing put it in upside down, and the reason they couldn't get it open was that one of the springs inside had given out. I had to wait to get permission to drill the lock out, which the president of the club was reluctant to give for the first hour, even as the reunionists were getting drunker and surlier. This stuff always goes better with an audience, you know?

I finally got permission, popped out the lock (and replaced it) and got people inside before getting home two hours later from a 15 minute job. And now their treasurer is telling me they don't want to pay because I "never got authorization" to drill out the lock, and there seems to be some kind of power struggle going on in the club and I may have to take these idiots to small claims court over a $70 bill.


But then on Sunday, we had a lovely little gathering in our back yard with pakoras and beer and some fantastic weather, and all was right in the world. I've never had a mojito before; that is a very nice drink. Doesn't look like much more than ditchwater and grass clippings, but boy it does its job!

And then... (drum roll please!)... I got tickets to the twentieth "First Annual IgNobel Awards" in Boston! W00T! It goes on in Harvard, and features Nobel Prize winners handing out prizes to researchers for studies and discoveries and inventions that "cannot, or should not, be repeated". Last year, for instance, on of the winners (for "Public Health") designed a bra that could, in the event of emergency, be converted into a pair of protective face masks. In 2001, the IgNobel Peace Prize winner was the designer of the Soviet playground "Stalin World".

Boredom is not an option, as there is a very strict time limit on winners' speeches, enforced by Miss Sweetie Poo since 1999. This year also has the world premiere of The Bacteria Opera, with arias interspersed throughout the ceremony.

Being in Boston itself is just an added bonus, really. Packed with history, universities, and bookstores, I'm only disappointed that our stay will only be for a week!

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posted by Thursday at 2:30 pm 0 comments