Thursday, May 31, 2012

Defense of Marriage Act found Unconstitutional!

And another unexpected cause for celebration on an ordinary Thursday!

From Yahoo News / the  Lookout

Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, federal appeals court rules

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins
 at a May demonstration in favor of DOMA.
(J. Scott Applewhite/A …

On Thursday, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that the government's ban on gay marriage, called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), violates the Constitution and should be struck down.

If the Supreme Court hears the case and upholds this ruling, it means that the federal Family Research Council President Tony Perkins at a May demonstration in favor of DOMA. (J. Scott Applewhite/A …government would most likely have to recognize the marriages of gay couples who were wed and reside in the six states that allow same-sex unions.

The First Circuit Court found that the federal government does not have a right to interfere in states' definition of marriage, but stopped short of arguing that gay people have a constitutionally protected right to legal marriage. The First Circuit court is the first federal appeals court to strike down the law, and the case is likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court next year.

A section of DOMA, which was passed under President Bill Clinton, says that gay married couples are ineligible for federal benefits afforded to straight married people, such as tax breaks and Social Security survivor checks. DOMA encompasses about 1,000 federal laws tangentially related to marriage and affects 100,000 couples in the country,
according to the decision. A group of gay couples in Massachusetts sued the government over the law, and the state of Massachusetts filed its own suit, saying DOMA makes its Medicaid program illegal because the state combines gay married couples' incomes in calculating eligibility. (Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts.)

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama initially defended DOMA against this lawsuit, but last year announced that it found DOMA unconstitutional and would no longer back it. House Republicans then appointed outside attorneys to argue for the federal law.
The judges admitted that the decision rested on navigating difficult and thorny precedents. "Only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case," they wrote.
But in its decision, the First Circuit argued that the federal government has no interest in rejecting states' definition of marriage, and that the singling out of a minority group—gays and lesbians—was troubling.

"Many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today," the First Circuit wrote. "One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest."
If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, all eyes will (as usual) be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who moved to strike down laws banning anal sex in 2003 and a Colorado law that banned anti-discrimination rules that included gay people. So far, the Supreme Court has never held that sexual orientation can put people in a protected class, as it has with race and a few other things.

"I think this really does set up the issue for the Supreme Court to take this up next year," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal constitutional law professor at UC Irvine.

The decision marks the latest court victory for gay rights proponents after
the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California's ban on gay marriage in February. After North Carolina voters inserted a ban on gay marriage and civil unions into their Constitution in May, Obama announced that he personally thinks gay people should allowed to be married. But he stopped short of saying that the federal government should guarantee that right, indicating that states should decide.

WalMart Leaves ALEC!!!!!!

Five minutes of fireworks give or take celebrates this unexpected development appropriately. And after the fireworks the serious article from the Daily Finance about this new move by Wal Mart gives the details.   I knew they sold a lot of guns; I didn't know they were the biggest seller of guns in the entire United States.  That's gonna bite for the NRA. 

Play on, then read on!

Looks to me like that conservative / culture war agenda is significantly unpopular!

Walmart Ending Membership in Conservative Group

Walmart GunsBy Jessica Wohl

ROGERS, Ark. -- Walmart Stores (WMT), the world's No. 1 retailer and the biggest seller of firearms in the United States, is dropping out of a U.S. conservative advocacy group that has been a lightning rod over voting and gun laws.
Walmart said late Wednesday it is suspending membership in the American Legislative Council (ALEC), which the retailer joined in 1993.
ALEC sparked controversy recently because of its involvement in voting laws and in "stand your ground" gun laws, including the one under scrutiny in the Florida killing of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February.
A coalition of liberal advocates targeted the group for its support of the self-defense laws.
ALEC, which serves as a forum for corporations and mostly Republican state lawmakers and lobbyists to discuss model legislation, has been criticized by liberals for promoting laws that require photo identification to vote.
ColorOfChange, a liberal advocacy group for black Americans, has said the voting laws put the poor and minorities at a disadvantage.
In April, ALEC said it was abandoning the committee that worked on "public safety and elections" to focus on the economy. Despite the change, Walmart decided it was no longer focused on the same issues as the council.
With even the biggest corp-o-rats abandoning the ship, how long will Koch Industries, the evil Pirate Murdoch and his minions, and the NRA gun industry stooges cling to the decks?  How many more of the legislators will see the writing on the wall, flashing in neon, punctuated by alarm bells and sirens, leading them to bail on ALEC as well?

Corrupt Media Mogul linked to both ALEC and blackmail of British Members of Parliament

Rupert Murdoch in his pirate persona
It should come as no surprise that right wing propaganda mogul Rupert Murdoch corporate interests are part of equally crooked ALEC, an entity that engages in widespread right wing corruption of our legislators at all levels, but especially at the state levels, while also waging right wing culture warfare and actively disinforming right wingers to control their minds.

To illustrate the scope of the carrot / stick behavior of Rupert Murdoch and his corruption, was this latest story from the UK, about how Murdoch media tried to gather dirt to pressure, even blackmail, members of parliament in the UK:

From the Independent:
According to Mr Thurlbeck, reporters were told by those in "deepcarpetland" to obtain evidence of affairs or gay relationships. The aim, he claimed, was to "to find as much embarrassing sleaze on as many members as possible in order to blackmail them into backing off from its highly forensic inquiry into phone hacking". In a letter – a copy of which has been obtained by The Independent – to the Deputy Assistant Commissioner leading the Met's inquiries into News International, Sue Akers, Mr Watson wrote: "If these allegations are found to be true, it suggests there was a conspiracy to blackmail."

Rupert Murdoch is at the top of a huge national scandal in the UK, one that appears to have spilled over to the United States -- it cannot fairly be said that Murdoch contains his corruption outside the U.S.  One can argue that Murdoch corrupts not only our government and business, but causes deterioration of your mind,  Not only is ALEC corrupt, but trying to get your news from Faux News will only dumb you down anyway, so you can get twice the benefits by boycotting Fox News - you can push back against corruption, and you can get smarter at the same time.  Actually, you're smarter if you have NO sources of news, than if you rely on Fakes News.  That is the result of multiple polls and studies, most recently this one:

Yet Another Survey: Fox News Viewers Worst-Informed, NPR Listeners Best-Informed

A new survey from Farleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that people who watch no news at all can answer more questions about international current events than people who watch cable news outlets like Fox News and MSNBC. The survey also finds that Fox News viewers are the worst-informed on domestic and international current events, while NPR listeners are the best-informed.
The poll report claims that “NPR and Sunday morning political talk shows are the most informative news outlets, while exposure to partisan sources, such as Fox News and MSNBC, has a negative impact on people’s current events knowledge.”

Minnesota's Own Medtronic QUITS ALEC!!!!

This has been a great week for ALEC news!  We have the corp-o-rats leaving the Pirate ship of ALEC.
I couldn't be happier to see this particular home-grown Medical Technology company getting out of the corrupt entity that is ALEC!
ALEC corporations write the legislation, IN SECRET not transparently in public forums, which is crafted so that it
benefits them, and pays both directly and indirectly to have conservative majority legislatures pass the legislation which benefits their special interests rather than the public interest.  We elect these legislators to serve US, not to serve a corp-o-rat master, often out of state. 
I for one do not want to see a company like Medtronic funding the social culture wars as part of getting preferential treatment for their business in this underhanded, corrupt manner.  Corruption has been defined, as the best working definition I have seen, of use of public office for private gain --- and these ALEC corporations are buying public government for their gains - and they DO make unfair gains at public expense.
'swinging' corp-o-rat pirates
We need to be supportive of innovative industries like Medtronic in Minnesota, but we need to do so in the full light of day, not by buying off legislators to make dirty secret deals.  Personal disclosure, my family has old, profitable deep ties to the  Medtronic corporation, going all the way back to the earliest days of the corporate founders.  So I am especially happy to see the corporation leave the dark side of dirty conservative 'pirate' politics as the public pressure for ALEC disclosure and abandonment continues.  In the interim, there is an almost unlimited number of images available of rats as pirates for me to play with for these stories of ALEC diminishing.
As was noted in a recent op ed rebuttal posted in the Star Tribune, "Bribery equals corruption -- from any angle" about business ethics (or lack of them) generally, and WalMart core corporate member of ALEC specifically, good business can act legally and ethically, and still be very successful.  This is not ONLY about bribery in Mexico; the WalMart executives who did so are now sitting smugly in the corporate boardroom of WalMart, having earned big corporate rewards in terms of personal compensation for doing so, and having apparently violated U.S. law not once, but twice in a cover up effort.  They should be fired, not promoted, if any corporation is serious about their ethics.  And if WalMart were serious about not bribing American politicans and authorities, they would quit ALEC, and not simply move their shady practices to the cover of other entities instead -- as is allegedly the case with ALEC as more and more businesses end their support for it.  The right wing is not about government reform, it is about private greed, and only the most blindly ideologically ignorant continue to support it believing otherwise. In opposing the looting and pillaging and bribery and other forms of corporate corruption on the right, conservative voters are hurting themselves, and they are hurting the rest of us -- INCLUDING honest Minnesota businesses.   The author of this op ed piece is NOT 'anti-business', the usual label that the right tries to paste on their critics to distract from their corruption, and he is quite famliar with both good honest capitalism thriving in Minnesota - and with Mexico.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And in Related Content to Blog Harassment part 3... continues

It is worth noting that there is increasingly cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of cyber crime, which mostly involves porn and fraud, but can also involve cyber stalking and cyber harassment, like that which has targeted our blog.

Here is another example of the serious recognition by law enforcement of the various kinds of cyber crimes, and how they are attempting to cooperate to address these problems.  From the STrib:

High tech crime calls for high-tech crimefighting

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 29, 2012 - 4:44 PM
Anoka County law enforcement hosted two-day conference to teach others how to track crooks by following cyber trails.
Craig Schmidt was talking about botnets, almost matter-of-factly.

A botnet is a collection of compromised computers connected to the Internet. Schmidt is the senior manager of investigation of Microsoft's digital crimes unit. And, besides the fact that Schmidt grew up in Spring Lake Park, what do botnets have to do with Anoka County?
Quite a bit, actually.
Members of the Anoka County attorney and sheriff's offices -- considered local pioneers in the investigation of cyber crime and the use of computer forensics -- met recently with investigative and crime specialists from Microsoft. The two-day closed conference at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids offered strategies in fighting modern crimes with modern technology.
Topics included e-mail header analysis, social networking, instant messaging, steganography (writing hidden messages), basic encryption, anonymization techniques, Internet service providers and domain name systems. These are topics that many law enforcement officials might never have approached 10 years ago. But for a video-game-playing, text-messaging generation that has grown up wearing ear buds and considers a cellphone to be the modern-day pocket watch, using all this technology is as natural as breathing.

(read more here)

In revisiting the problem communication in our harassment problem, it was surprising how far back it went, and how much of it we have.  The volume as well as the quality of the communication was a shock when we revisited it, and we have yet to get through it all.  We are fortunate to be assisted by trained law enforcement specialists who in turn have access to other specialized help. 

I am a cyber-luddite of sorts, in that I only tend to learn the techno-tricks that I need.  I have been fortunate to have someone teaching me much more during the course of our battles with the harassment problems.  If we were on our own, if we had to rely on our own very limited techno-expertise this would be going much more slowly, if at all.  For what I am learning, I am very grateful.

But apart from that leap forward that I'm sure must seem obvious to those who do a better job of staying current with techno-developments, (go ahead, roll your eyes here), there is the element that I suspect we have in common with other victims of this kind of abuse.  You argue with yourselves about acting, about doing something that will escalate the problem.  You worry about not wanting to cause difficulty to others, the 'turn the other cheek' conundrum.

In looking through past communication, I realized that I had passed that point where I was willing to try to negotiate or reason, I was at the point where I no longer was willing to put up with the crap that harassment entails in order to protect the harasser from the consequences of their bad behavior.

I had reached a tipping point, and in consultation with my blogging partners, WE had reached a tipping point, a point where we would no longer go back to just trying to cope with it, or ignore it, or try to tolerate it.  We just really no longer care why someone does this kind of thing, but we care very much about stopping it from going through another cycle.  We are determined to stop it permanently, not temporarily.  It is an important stage to reach for anyone who has to deal with these kinds of harassers, the point where you will learn how to do what you need to do, acquire the techno-expertise, and the determination to stay on the phone or make as many contacts as necessary with those who are in control, either law enforcement or the technical community such as the companies who handle the IP end of things.  You have to reach the point where you are willing to take the lead to see that what needs doing gets done, even when it is dull and time consuming, and when you might get put on hold a lot or transferred six times to the wrong people before you get the right people.

Because when you get the right people, finally, it all starts to turn around.  And when it begins to turn around, then life is better for you, and it is going to be better for every other person who has been harassed that won't be harassed again in the future,  THAT makes the effort worthwhile.  The Tech stuff? that turns out to be a blast, the whipped cream with hot fudge and sprinkles on the whole gooey good Sundae with a cherry on top.  I actually LIKE it!

Update on blog harassment part 3

The crazy lady in White Bear Lake Minnesota had her day in court this morning in Ramsey County, and the verdict has hit the news media; there was no delay, it was prompt and it sent a clear message.  Thanks to my blogging friend J-Pete for catching that the news was out, and kindly alerting me.

I'm not sure which is the more serious part of this sentence - the 90 days behind bars, or debarring her from ever returning to her home for the next 4 1/2 years.  This woman appears to be the single mother of a daughter; she has a pet.  Will her boss hold her job while she does another 90 days on top of the 30 she just did?  How does her stuff get moved out, etc.?  Will she sell her house - and what poor unsuspecting neighbors will get her next?  She has to live somewhere.  More to the point --- will THIS be enough to stop her behavior from continuing? OR will she do this again?  The hard core harassers despite incarceration, have been known to continue their illegal conduct even while in the clink.

It will be interesting to see how stalking charges play out in this case.  It is an aspect of the harassment that interests me particularly.  I'll have to keep an eye on this kind of local news to see when those charges are heard in court, and what happens.

I feel badly for the harassed neighbors, especially their children.  I feel very badly for this woman's daughter; living with someone who behaves like this must be a matter of perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop, for some new unacceptable behavior to be expressed, some new disruption to occur to upend home stability.

The people, like this woman going off to jail for harassment, I would bet don't see themselves as bad parents, bad spouses, or bad neighbors.  But despite how they see themselves, I can't imagine these people who engage in this kind of behavior are very nice to those around them.  There seems to be something off, or missing or misfiring, something internal that gets jazzed about trying to make others feel badly, including in this case particularly going after making children miserable.  There is some compassion connection, some empathy capacity that may work intermittently, but that doesn't seem to quite function normally in these people who harass others in comparison to other people.  This behavior seems to be about bullying other people because it builds up some weird sense of power in the harasser.  That sense of power, in my opinion, is an illusion; it really only isolates and alienates the harasser from everyone else, not just their target for that most recent bad act.  Maybe that is what drives them to do the irrational things they do; I don't know, making sense of the nonsensical is beyond me.  But here is the update today on the scandalous crazy lady from White Bear Lake, MN.

The STrib covered it here:

Lori E. Christensen, who is accused of the serial harassment of her neighbors, was sentenced to serve 90 days in the Ramsey County workhouse after she admitted Wednesday that she had violated terms of her probation.
She is to report to jail Monday.
Ramsey County District Judge George Stephenson also told Christensen, 49, that she could not be within a mile of her house at Homewood Place in White Bear Lake, an order that is expected to last at least for the remainder of her probation of about 4 1/2 years.
Her attorney, Gary Wolf, told the judge that Christensen had no intentions of returning to her house.
Last week, Christensen was charged with two counts of aggravated stalking in connection with the recent videotaping and phone calls regarding neighbors Kim and Greg Hoffman. Those charges have not yet been dealt with.
The incidents occurred after Christensen previously served time in the county correctional facility for violating a harassment restraining order obtained two years ago by the Hoffmans.
The two have accused Christensen of repeatedly taunting Kim Hoffman, a recovering alcoholic, with numerous signs that included a handwritten statement, "I saw mommy kissing a Breathalyzer."
Christensen's behavior has generated at least 80 calls to police in the past three years, Police Chief Lynne Bankes said last week.
[by]Anthony Lonetree

What Minnesota harassment looks like in the national media - blog harassment part 3

This is the national  television coverage of the woman harassing her neighbors in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.  I am hoping that our harasser won't be this hard core, but we won't find out how bad it will ultimately be until we get further into the process of dealing with it.  As someone documenting past harassment, I found the documentation of THIS harassment both inspirational and instructional.
Harassment, as I understand it has several components; it is intrusive, it is  unwelcome, it is persistentently recurring or obsessive, it is offensive and/or abusive, it obstructs normal activity. 
While it can be focused on only one person or group of people, as with this woman, who is documented as having harassed other neighbors as well, it is often part of a larger pattern of conduct that is inflicted on multiple targets. 

In the case of this woman who harassed her neighbors, the solution for some was to leave.  In the case of blog harassment the solution is sometimes for bloggers to stop writing, at least for awhile, to escape the hassle of persistent unpleasantness.  In the case of neighbors, it was a person who ruined people's enjoyment of their home; in the case of bloggers, it was no longer fun to write, and it interfered with other people reading the blog for pleasure, and suppressed comments from those people.

As I watch the video of this woman taunting her neighbors, over and over, it strikes me that there is something in taunting behavior which seems to be an addictive reward to the harasser.  It seems to feed a need or a desire, to provide some kind of psychological boost that at least some harassers crave that is different from how most people would experience those actions.  There has to be something going on inside these people who behave this way that is drives them to expend so much time and energy in being unpleasant to others.  For most of us, that is not something we go out of our way to do, but rather is something we go out of our way to avoid.  Given the pattern of persistence and frequency, I think some functional identification of what happens might be important.  One cannot stop someone else who is acting irrationally with solutions that would work with rational people.  If that worked, police visits, restraining orders, and previously having served jail time would have stopped this woman.
Significantly for our purposes here in writing about harassment, it is illegal; this crazy lady has already done jail time for her conduct, but did not change her evil ways.  Either she chose not to do so, or she was unable to change.  This woman had her current court date moved up to this morning, in Ramsey County.  It also seems part of the pattern of harassment that the harasser tries to claim they are the person who is victimized by other people protesting or complaining about their behavior, because no matter how badly they act, they are angered at anyone stopping them from abusing others. As is the case with this woman, the abusers, the harassers, the stalkers like to inflate their accomplishments and importance; it speaks to an inherent arrogance, and a false self-image.   As a matter of observation, I am intrigued with how differently other people objectively see this woman compared to how she subjectively sees herself.  It is as if she has her own alternate reality that overlaps the objective reality the rest of us inhabit, but which is in some ways, important ways, an alternative reality without the facts the harasser chooses to ignore or disregard.

Oh, DEER Me!

REAL Sportsmanship doesn't involve using grenade launchers against Bambi. Although it wouldn't surprise me to see NRA stooge and hunting criminal Ted Nugent do it.

Right wingers want to privatize EVERYTHING for profit, to rip off the public, and in Koch-land next door, aka Wisconsin, where Walker has hire or appointed a lot of crooks under investigation for serious criminal activity, including current investigations of his circle for embezzlement and child 'enticement' - ie pedophilia, 

Where is the conservative family values outrage???????????  (How sincere can such outrage be if it is selectively (and factually inaccurately) outage that is only ever directed against perceived liberals?) 

These aren't the only Walker scandals; these are just the latest - and the guy has only been in office a year!  Why do conservatives love crooks like this?  Where is the conservative valuing of honesty?

Walker wants to ruin deer hunting. How many of our deer hunting conservatives are going to be supporting this guy? How many will stupidly follow ideology THIS TIME against their own interests?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blogging and Harassment Part 2

When I opened my e-copy of the STrib this morning, I was surprised to read the front page story:Recurring nightmare on Mean Street.  The story charts the course of a five year series of events, including court appearances and convictions, and restraining orders where one person inexplicably harasses others.  The primary focus of the story is one single family, but as in the case I am writing about of blog harassment, other people were also harassed by the same person.

I do not begin to understand what prompts a person to engage in the harassment of another.  I don't understand what drives a person to the nastiness, I don't understand what drives a person to the frequency, the persistence of the behavior in the face of requests to go away, to stop, to behave like a considerate and civilized human being.  I don't understand what drives a person to ignore the golden rule that should guide our conduct towards other people, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

I am learning as I go about technical aspects of this problem as I go; I am not generally a techno-savvy individual.  I don't think I should have to be.  I shouldn't have to take the time with either law enforcement or internet entities to make and resolve harassment complaints.  If you do decide you're no longer going to tolerate harassment, expect it to be time consuming, and budget your resources for it accordingly.  It is annoying but necessary, and  I believe ultimately it will be worthwhile.

At some point you may need to seek the help of an attorney; who may need to pursue subpoenas on your behalf.  That too may be a necessary allocation of your resources, both in terms of time and expenditure; it too is necessary and well worth it.  Subpoenas are necessary because of confidentiality issues, both legal and procedural.

There are aspects of my own personal journey through this experience that I have been directed NOT to share until it is concluded.  I will comply with that request.  There are a variety of choices in ascending level of severity available to bloggers who are seeking to end harassment that proceed through a variety of civil remedies to criminal actions.  As is evident in the STrib story, when people who harass others continue in spite of legal efforts to prevent their abusive behavior, they can ultimately serve time behind bars and have a criminal record as a result of their refusal or inability to stop.

I am hoping that will not be the case with our own harassment problem, but I am not holding my breath.  How far we need to go, how far I personally have to go to stop this is not entirely in my control.  It won't be entirely in your control if you begin this process either; you are in a reactive rather than entirely proactive role.

I have learned that the 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech does not apply to blogs; no one else has a right to post or comment on your blog if you do not choose to grant them access.  The content is yours, and within the terms of service the rights are on your side.  In conversations with other bloggers, it is amazing to me -- and disappointing -- how many ignorant would-be commenters believe they are entitled to have their thoughts and beliefs appear on your blog.  They do not.

I encourage you to re-read the terms of service of your blogging platform, whether blogger, or word press or other.  I encourage you to re-read the terms of service of your email provider as well, in case anything has changed.  Whatever response you make, be sure you are consistent with those terms of sevice.

I have learned in the course of this 'adventure' in red tape that it appears possible to get a restraining order on behalf of a blog, not only on behalf of individuals.  (Who knew?)  I have learned that merely annoying and persistent relatively polite behavior tends to fall into the civil sphere, but not always.  I have learned that when someone uses abusive language, like cunt, bitch, cocksucker, the f-bomb, and other derogatory or demeaning wording, that you are more likely to rise to the level of criminal harassment.  Whichever you are receiving, you don't have to tolerate it.

Whether people reading this post are politically right, left, center, or some outlier that doesn't fit easily into a category, it is my hope in writing about this unpleasant experience that you too will put an end to any harassment you experience.  There is a good chance you aren't the only person having the experience.  If there is one thing over which we can unite, it should be to stop this kind of conduct.
There are a lot of bad apples in the blogosphere; we don't have to roll over and accept it.  We can do something about it, each one of us. 

It isn't 'someone else's responsibility' ; it is ours, yours and mine.  It is like stopping bullying; someone has to stand up, and speak up, and to take the lead to make it stop. 

God Doesn't Hate Gay Humans, Gay Bottlenose Dolphins or Gay Penguins,
God Hates Ignorance and Intolerance

As a preface to this post, let me begin by asserting that no religion can be true or correct that promotes lies as a fundamental part of their core beliefs.  That should be true about politics as well.

Roy and Silo,
and their chick Tango
(I have no idea which adult is which)
The news recently has carried some interesting related news stories about sexuality, ranging from anti-gay southern bigots to pairs of gay penguins becoming parents, both caring for unhatched eggs, and hatched young.
In China, a bonded pair of male penguins were given an extra chick to raise, after they had demonstrated for years a desire to be parents.  In Spain there is a famous bonded pair of male penguins raising an egg together.  In Toronto there has been a famous bonded pair of male penguins, and in the Central Park zoo, two famous penguins, Roy and Silo raised a chick, Tango, from an egg that could not be successfully incubated by its biological parents.  Penguins as a species sometimes engage in stealing another penguin pair's egg.  It happens among bird species other than penguins, as does the practice in some bird species of laying eggs in another bird's nest to be raised by other bird parents, called brood parasitism.  In some species egg incubation is shared, including penguins.  Among birds (and other species) there are long term monogamous social patterns, but there is also polygyny, and there is polyandry - multiple female partners for males, multiple male partners for females.  Occasionally there are bonded trios rather than pairs.  In some instances of same sex female pairs, one of the females will mate outside that bonded pair, and then the female bonded pair raise the offspring.
Add to that the potential for birds to engage in parthenogenesis, completely asexual reproduction (although relatively rare).  And other species which change gender, when there is an imbalance between the genders, to re-establish that balance.
Jane Goodall is promoting a new Disney movie about a baby chimpanzee, Oscar adopted by a single, not mated but presumably heterosexual Alpha male.  The internet is full of mother dogs nursing adoptive kittens, or mother cats nursing adopted baby squirrels ad infinitum.  Fostering some puppies from a large litter on a mother from a smaller litter is not uncommon among dog breeders.  In the United States, we tend to spend far more of our childhood being fed -- essentially nursed -- on cow's milk than on human breast milk.  The line is a very blurry one on what is 'natural' reproduction or rearing of offspring, or pair bonding and family.
What we know about nature is that there are many variations of behavior, including mated same sex pair bonds that engage in very similar mating affectional behaviors, and many variations in child rearing.  There are monogamous and non-monogamous pairs, but even those species like swans, geese and wolves which are believed to mate for life are not in fact always sexually faithful.  Monogamy in practice is not the only pattern for either bonded or mated pairs, or for family or sexuality, nor is heterosexuality.  there are species that are female only, like the whiptail lizard. Nature is diverse, nature is adaptive.  Nature allows for successful individual variation, to a far greater degree than many people think. 
Don't even get me started on what is 'natural' human sexuality.  What is clear is that this dolt doesn't have a clue about it.  What he believes to be 'sodomy', oral and anal sex, is simply human sexuality, not exclusively same sexual practice, which is consistent with the practice of those species closest to us in taxonomy, the species with which we share the greatest amount of DNA.  But the reality is that we share a lot more DNA in common with other species than the anti-science crowd / pro-creationist fundies are aware. 
If you want to really get into who and what we are, and what is natural -- we humans even have quite a bit in common with plants.  From the Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences:


Tracing Similarities And Differences In Our DNA

What percent of their genes match yours?
Another human? 100% - All humans have the same genes, but some of these genes contain sequence differences that make each person unique.
A chimpanzee?98% - Chimpanzees are the closest living species to humans.
A mouse? 92% - All mammals are quite similar genetically.
A fruit fly? 44% - Studies of fruit flies have shown how shared genes govern the growth and structure of both insects and mammals.
Yeast? 26% - Yeasts are single-celled organisms, but they have many housekeeping genes that are the same as the genes in humans, such as those that enable energy to be derived from the breakdown of sugars.
A weed (thale cress)? 18% - Plants have many metabolic differences from humans. For example, they use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide gas to sugars. But they also have similarities in their housekeeping genes.
Why Were Genes Used In This Comparison, and How Do They Relate To DNA?

Genes are the fundamental units of DNA function. In DNA terms, genes are discrete sections of the DNA sequence that are part of much longer DNA molecules. They provide the biochemical instructions for producing all of the components of biological organisms. Some genes specify visible physical traits, while others govern metabolic processes. Most traits, such as the shape of your face, require the actions of many genes.

Also in the news was this nasty fool, this uniquely southern man of ignorance posing as a man of God.  No one should embrace this man's words as anything but a waste of air, and possibly as noise pollution.  But they do, and they are wrong.  Not just a little wrong, massively wrong, horrendously factually wrong, about human sexuality, about what is justice, about what is desirable in our society, and about what any deity could possibly want for those created by that deity.  This man is an embarrassment to his community, to his state, to our nation, and to the core concepts of religion.  He is a monument to the shame of ignorance, to false piety, to the most hateful and intolerant aspects of conformity and narrow mindedness.  This man has no clue what God wants or what is natural.  The truth is not in him; it has been driven out by hate and fear.

Rev. Right Wing Wrong-a-ding-dong Worley isnt even preaching sound theology, which might go a long way to explaining why he has one of those small congregations of 100 people, like the not so Rev. Jones in Florida, or the Westboro wackos in the central U.S.  I am consistently irritated when people posing as clergy are less literate in the Bible than I am; there is NO definition of marriage as one man and one woman for example in the Bible. The Bible supports polygamy, with a man allowed more than one wife, even REQUIRED to take more than one wife, as in Levirate marriage where a man is required to marry his deceased brother's wife and get her pregnant.  The Bible also institutionalizes mistresses / concubines, and sex slavery, which is NOT monogamy.  Monogamy is a european idea that the ignorant try to justify with religious teachings where the text does not support it - and that kind of alteration of the message of the text is a religious no! no!, especially for the fundies!

It is a shame that a church with a similar name and farm more mainstream congregation of a few thousand people had to make that distinction clear.  That there were a few thousand protesters of the Rev. Worley illustrates how far out of the mainstream some of these fundamentalists are, who are consistently on the extreme right where this sort of view is not just tolerated but courted.  It would not surprise me if a poll of this congregation turned up a disproportionate number of brthers, and other fringies.. This is the core constituency of the free-dumbers.
Across history, across our geography world-wide, it has been normal and natural for individuals who are attracted to the same sex to be born in our human populations, in roughly similar proportions, consistently.  In other words, it is a normal part of our species, not an abnormality.
There is no inherent superiority conferred by one's sexual orientation to parenting.  There are some excellent gay and lesbian parents; there are some heterosexual individuals who are terrible at it, who show neither ability nor interest in it.  There are homes where a single parent does a wonderful job, and where two heterosexual parents in an unhappy monogamous marriage are utterly dysfunctional.  A perfect example of a same-sex couple, in this case two women raising a son, which is successful by every metric is Zach Wahls.

Heterosexual couples give birth to same-sexual, bi-sexual, oriented children; sometimes they give birth to children who have ambiguous gender, or for some reasons we don't yet fully understand are inconsistent in their psyche with their bodies.  We are still learning about ourselves, and about other species.  We are still learning about how these differences come about naturally, and why they exist. 
To suggest that we should put our same sexually oriented parents, children, sisters and brothers, family or friends, in the kind of barbaric and brutal isolation that this so-called minister promotes is no different than when Hitler first put Jews, Gypsies, political activists, and people with handicaps behind wire fences with armed guards.  It denies the truth of where we all come from, it denies the truth of who we all are and what we have in common.  It is the desire to put others behind wire fences that is unnatural and ungodly and inhuman.
The earliest discovered art pieces dating back 40,000 to 50,000 years ago; the existence of these art remnants represent a change in our ability as a species to form abstract concepts. A lot of it is sexual. Some academics are pushing that figure back further, positing both art and religion in the middle Paleolithic. There have been discoveries at the same sites which produce these stone age artifacts that also suggest that those ancient human beings cared for their young, their elderly, their injured and their handicapped family - both nuclear and extended family.  Their very bones show the compassion they demonstrated in life, and their care for one another, so very opposite and oppositional to what the sadly misguided man in the video above preaches as religion.
We like to think we are progressing; certainly our science is expanding our knowledge and understanding.  Some religious charlatans like the crazy-hateful Pastor Worley appear to be going backward, back to the early Paleolithic, before humans found religion, stone tools and art -- back before they understood, much less mastered their understanding of fire, pointy sticks, sex or human compassion.  Maybe Whorley needs to spend less time in his church, and instead to start taking trips to the nearest arts and science museums.  It might make him a more Godly man, a more humane man.  It might even raise the IQ of his congregation; we can only hope enlightenment is contagious - more contagious than ignorance, fear and hatred, which is always at its worst when promoted in the name of religion.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On Memorial Day - Origins and Issues

Too often we don't appreciate a Holiday well enough because we don't know enough about it.  I wrote earlier this weekend, providing an overview of the official foundations of this day of recognition for the patriotic sacrifice of our troops, past and present.  The photo below was taken at the national cemetery at Ft. Snelling, where my own family members who served in the U.S. armed forces are buried.

Here is a bit more information on those origins.  It is particularly worth noting these origins in the continuing inequalities of our black American citizens.  We incarcerate more blacks than individuals from other groups; the states which still hold the death penalty AND execute the most people were traditionally the states which also had the most lynchings of blacks; and we still incarcerate - and kill - a too-large number of innocent people.  Let that be the context, the backdrop for the clips below.  Let me add that a certain right wing harpy (with a name which sounds exactly like Ann Coulter) who will do anything, no matter how unethical, how factually inaccurate, to get attention tried to portray Chris Hayes this weekend as not being sufficiently supportive or respectful of the sacrifice of our troops.  In point of fact he had some of the best pieces on both the historic origins of this day, and demonstrating respect for the sacrifices of our troops that I have seen anywhere.:

I would like our readers to join me in recognizing and honoring the deaths of so many of our military men and women who have died as a result of their service as a result of the emotional destruction that is not as well appreciated because it is not visible on the surface the way other injuries are visible. These are very much war related deaths which would be far less likely to have occurred if we were not at war. As such, they deserve to be honored and acknowledged more than they are in practice.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Is Donald Trump the GOP Court Jester to Birthers for R-money?

Birthers are the fools, fools who make up a significant percentage of regions of the GOP.

The cliche saying used to be 'there's money in them th'ar hills";
now it should be updated to there's money in them there fools -
the fact-averse, the not-living-in-objective-reality, the climate deniers and the creationists / intelligent design followers, and the people who go to fake museums to see fiberglass dinosaurs with saddles on them ridden by Adam and Noah.

Some people in political circles are wondering why R-money is making Donald Trump his new BFF.  Trump will pander to anyone; he has no shame.  He gave it up years ago, if he ever had any, along with any pretense of class.
It is not affection, it is not respect or shared political views that makes R-money and Trump bedfellows.  It is expediency,  money, and it is the numbers of fringies on the far right, all carefully calculated.  Most of all, it is a lack of ethics in politicking by candidate Mitt R-money, pandering to the low information voter, the bigot voter, the hateful and stupid voter.  In too many cases that is the tea party voter and other members of the conservative fringe.

Donald Trump is a 'surrogate'; he says what Romney doesn't or can't say to certain segments of voters, giving Mitt R-money deniability.  Mitt doesn't wish to court the birthers directly, so he courts them indirectly.  Outside the birthers, no one really takes Donnyboy seriously; but to birthers it is red meat and free beer.
Back in March during the primaries, before Santorum dropped out, he was trumping, as it were, R-money among the avowed birthers in this Public Policy Poll:
Sheriff Joe Arpaio's press conference  last week put the birther issue back in the news and our polling in these states finds that the birther contingent is still pretty strong within the Republican Party:
-In Tennessee only 33% of GOP primary voters think Barack Obama was born in the United States, while 45% do not.
-In Georgia 40% of Republican primary voters think Obama was born in the United States, while 38% do not.
-In Ohio 42% of Republican primary voters think Obama was born in the United States, while 37% do not.
If Romney ends up coming short on his late charge in Tennessee it may be due to his inability to compete with this fringe group. Among non-Birthers he trails Santorum only 34-33. But with the birther contingent he's in a distant third at 24% to Santorum's 35% and Gingrich's 32%.
Righties embarrassed by the considerable numbers of the numb and dumb among them try to downplay their numbers, but clearly they are trying, like the 'old south', to rise again, especially in the southern tier of states according to political developments just this past week.
The issue flared this week in Iowa, a closely watched electoral battleground, where the state GOP wrote a passage into its proposed party platform calling on presidential candidates to "show proof of being a natural-born citizen," beginning with the 2012 election.
Don Racheter, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party's platform committee, told Radio Iowa that the language was intentionally crafted as a "shot" at Obama.
"There are many Republicans who feel that Barack Obama is not a 'natural-born citizen' because his father was not an American when he was born and, therefore, feel that according to the Constitution he's not qualified to be president, should not have been allowed to be elected by the Electoral College or even nominated by the Democratic Party in 2008," Racheter said defiantly, even though the language may be tweaked at next month's Iowa GOP convention.

 The President had resisted before a year ago releasing his long form birth certificate, noting that those who were birthers wouldn't believe it anyway. He was right, based on this poll at the beginning of the year:
These polls demonstrate that the power of Obama’s action was short lived. Two-thirds of the initial 12-point increase in the percentage of respondents who say that Obama was born in the United States has disappeared since last April.This trend is again especially pronounced among Republicans – the percentage of respondents who accept the Birther myth is, if anything, even higher than it was before Obama released his long-form certificate.
"Barack Obama was born in the United States": Republicans Only
April 2011January 2012
Before Release of Birth Certificate
After Release of Birth Certificate 
Not Sure45%29%35%
These results might be troubling, but they are not surprising. They are consistent with my previous work on the lasting power of rumors in the face of new information. As I, and others, have shown, rumors and innuendo are powerful forces in American politics – and they are hard to undo.
 The right refuses to admit that they have a significant contingent of racist among their ranks, and the tea partiers have particularly tried hard to deny the evidence of their racism, both scientific and anecdotal, but it keeps growing stronger, and clearer.  The Award Winning study in Delaware released in December 2011 made the strongest argument so far between birthers, tea partiers, Republicans and racism:
The psychology  student, Eric Hehman, recently received the national Albert Bandura Graduate Research Award for his paper detailing a research study he conducted on the subject. The article, “Evaluations of Presidential Performance: Race, Prejudice, and Perceptions of Americanism,” was published in the March issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
...Hehman collected responses from about 300 white and black members of the UD community, asking them to evaluate the success in office of either Obama or Biden. "Our predictions were ultimately supported," Hehman said. "Whites who were racially prejudiced against blacks saw Obama as 'less American' and subsequently rated him as performing more poorly as president.
"Non-prejudiced whites, and both prejudiced and non-prejudiced blacks, did not do so. Additionally and importantly, this relationship was only found with Obama, and not in evaluations of Biden." 
 Early last month the Tea Partiers held a birther event in conjunction with the GOP in New Jersey, in Governor Chris Christie's own home district, appealing to the white racist red necks there.  I don't think I missed ANY prominent GOP members in that state repudiating it either:
Last Tuesday,  400 Republicans were in Morristown to listen to Jerome Corsi — author of “Where’s the Birth Certificate?” — revisit his race-baiting, made-for-the-internet theory that Barack Obama is ineligible for the presidency because he isn’t a natural-born U.S. citizen.
The fact that Obama released his Hawaiian birth certificate a year ago hasn’t stopped the tea party’s “birther” fringe from holding tight to its Kenyan fantasies. Tuesday’s shocker wasn’t the speaker; it was the guest list — including Morris County’s sheriff, a freeholder, a mayor and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco Jr. The shindig was sponsored by tea party groups and the Morris GOP.
The Star-Ledger asked Bucco what he thought about Corsi’s traveling sideshow. “There were interesting points I wasn’t aware of,” he said, “and it made me believe this thing wasn’t going away.”
Morris Republican chairman John Sette was asked, too: “I personally have a philosophy of staying close to the tea party people. ... There’s lots of people who might have outlandish views in every spectrum in politics. We’re open to everybody and we believe in freedom of speech.”
Freedom of speech means Corsi can’t be punished for questioning Obama’s credentials. It doesn’t earn his conspiratorial nonsense an equal seat at the table.
Bucco and Sette aren’t faceless internet trolls. They’re real-life decision-makers. This is an embarrassment for Morris County’s ordinarily straight-laced GOP. Bucco writes laws, remember.
                                                              * * * * * * * * * *
The thought is irresistible: is Trump set to be the Red Neck Czar of bigotry or maybe the Secretary of Republican Conspiracy Theories if R-money makes it into the White House?
He can assure R-money that 'the blacks just love him'. I'm guessing that doesn't include any of dunce Donald's close personal friends. Dunce Donald can be the chief Fool, the chief Court Jester to the red state rednecks. They're gathering now. They're old, they're white; they like funny costumes and they're on the far right. Donald Trump wants to lead their parade right into the voting booths for R-money ---- and R-money is fine with that maneuver. I hope dearly that R-money will be challenged and pressed to repudiate both Trump and the birthers along the course of his campaign. It hasn't happened so far.
The mad hatters are really angry, they are old, white, fanatically conservative, ill informed, politically naive, and they have tasted power.  They are not patriots, many of them are simply racist bigots who do not want their world to change, and who blame their problems not on the actual authors of their situations, but on minorities and liberals.  Donald Trump wants to head their parade, and Mitt R-money wants THEIR money - and their votes.  He has no morals.  He has no ethics.  And he may be one of the worst liars ever to run for office.  This is Memorial Day weekend.  This is not the land of freedom for all that our military died to preserve, if we let the free-dumbers win.  What unites us are those things we have in common, including respect and loyalty for our nation but also the common decency and morality that bridges groups of people, evangelicals and atheists, Mormons and Muslims,, protestants and pagans -- ALL.  Instead of dividing us, our differences should be celebrated as part of our individuality, not the basis for fear and hatred and rivalry.  What characterizes the right is not the qualities of birth or identity like gender, race or ethnicity, or sexual orientation.   What characterizes them are the qualities they have chosen, and that is what makes them fair game for criticism for promoting hatred and fear of those THEY see as other.  We are 'us', we are U.S., every bit as much as they are despite their attempts to wrap themselves in faux patriotism.  Hatred is NOT patriotic; fear is not patriotic. Suppressing voting by as many legitimate voters as possible is NOT patriotic.  Corporate welfare and eliminating help to individuals in need is not patriotic, and it is not beneficial to the nation.  Moderate is not a bad word, and socialism as they use it is not really socialism and not bad either.  Every nation that has a better standing economically, socially, educationally, medically is a mixed economy, and a mixed form of representative government which includes what the right wrongly identifies as socialism. 
It is representative government, government for and by people not corporations, that makes us free, in this country and anywhere else in the world.  We do not celebrate Memorial Day because our citizens and others who fought for this nation died for capitalism, corruption, or draconian gaps in wealth and income equality.  Those people died for a way of life that treats people fairly, not inequitably; they died for opportunity, and that freedom AND opportunity is disappearing under the politics of the right.
We need to repudiate the birthers, we need to repudiate the racism of the Tea Party and the GOP.  We need to repudiate their fears of gays, immigrants, women and minorities, and we need to oppose, emphatically, the right wing war on these groups.
That is honoring our war dead, that is honoring the core principles of this nation.  That is not Mitt R-money, the GOP, the Tea Party, or any of the conspiracy theorists or other tea bag or tinfoil hat wearers on the right.
An unrelated afterthought - given how much lip service the right gave to the importance of Sarah Palin's few months as governor and her job as mayor of a one-horse town as legitimate credentials that made her more qualified than Obama to sit in the top job chair.......isn't it amazing that R-money is NOT in any way shape form or location touting his performance as a governor of a much larger state, for a full term?  Why do you think that is?  Could it be because he did a really bad job?
At least Palin and Biden's children served in our armed forces, in combat zones.  Regardless of their respective politics, hats off to the members of their family who served, and for their families' sacrifice worrying for them during that period, with loud cheers. 
R-money's pampered stay at home mom with four housekeepers boarding school kids? So far as I can find out, not R-money,  not one son.  What love of country is that again?