Friday, May 30, 2014

160.6 - Outrage of the Week: domestic violence is not like beer

Outrage of the Week: domestic violence is not like beer

Finally for this week, our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week. And this was truly so bad - well, I had something entirely different in mind for this segment, but when I dame across this, I found it so outrageous, so offensive, that I can hardly describe my reaction.

This appeared on a chalkboard at Scruffy Duffies, a bar in Plano, Texas:

"I like my beer like I like my violence. Domestic."

And someone thought that was funny.

To make it worse, if that's possible, when a woman named Courtney Williams, who was at the bar, complained to multiple managers about it, saying it was in extremely poor taste and should be taken down, she was told she was overly emotional, too "aggressive," and should "calm down."

Apparently, she was just some hysterical female, not to be taken seriously.

However, after she left and apparently when it could be done without the managers admitting they did it because some hysterical women wanted them to, the sign was taken down.

But the story got out and the bar got flak, so management responded with a statement blaming an unnamed female - yes, they specified female - employee with "writing something offensive without owner's approval." Apparently the multiple managers to which Williams complained weren't concerned with the owner's approval, either.

And the worst of it, as always, was in the comments on the article, heavily populated with knuckle-dragging yahoos - when they get together like this, I have coined the group term "a malevolence of machos" - with a malevolence of machos going on about how by objecting to this sort of scum-baggery, "you're taking away our freedom," and "it was just a joke," and blaming Williams for the whole incident.

Each day, on average, three women in the US are murdered by an intimate male partner - husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends. Despite the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, the US still has the highest rate of domestic violence murder of any industrialized nation.

No, the only "freedom" you could lose is the "freedom" to be a complete rock-brained jackass and no, it was not "just a joke." It was an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

160.5 - Clown Award: Michael Boggs

Clown Award: Michael Boggs

Now it's time for the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

Okay, here's the deal. Trying to fill six vacancies on the federal court in Georgia, Barack Obama made what was called an all-nothing deal with Georgia's GOPper senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. Again showing the negotiating skill for which he is so famous, the Amazing Mr. O made a deal in which the conservatives got to choose four of the six.

One among those four is this week's winner of the big red nose: Michael Boggs.

Boogs has been the target of the righteous wrath of progressives and even some liberals based on his record as a state legislator in Georgia, where he stood clearly against gay rights, civil rights, and the right to choose.

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did his best to squirm away from his own record, claiming he "regretted" this vote on this and that he was "glad" something else he supported failed to pass and yada yada yada. It was a hard sell, especially for me when he said that he meant no disrespect to African-American residents of Georgia with his vote in favor or keeping the confederate symbol on the state flag and went on about how "agonizing" the vote was.

"If someone is accusing someone of being a racist, I don't know how you disprove that," he said.

Well, not voting to keep the Confederate symbol on the state flag would be a start.

But he wasn't done yet.

As a legislator in 2001, he supported a measure that would have required doctors to publish online their profiles, including the addresses of their practices, along with a statement of how many abortions they had performed that year, a bill that would essential hang a target on the back of any abortion provider in the state.

What was Boggs' excuse for voting for this? It came up as a floor amendment, he whined, and he hadn't had time to talk to colleagues or study the issue. Leave aside the fact that it seems to me that if you get faced with an amendment you don't know enough about or don't understand, what you do is not vote on it, realize what he's saying here:

This guy is claiming that he was totally, blissfully unaware of the physical risks the bill presented
to abortion providers. Putting on his best Sgt. Schultz face, he insisted that he knew nothing about the shootings, the murders of doctors, the clinic bombings, none of it. He simply had no idea.

And if that wasn't enough, it turned out that he damn well did have an idea.

An audio recording of that March 2001 debate in the Georgia House makes it clear that legislators - including Boggs - knew what the amendment would do and why it was so dangerous, a danger that had caused this same amendment to already have been rejected by the Georgia Senate.

What's more, it also develops that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the largest newspaper in Georgia, was at the time publishing articles about risks to abortion providers, including an editorial a month before the vote focusing on that risk and opposing exactly the sort of amendment which Boggs claimed came as such a surprise to him.

There is just no way around it: Michael Boggs is either a liar or a complete lamebrain - and in either event, Michael Boggs, Barack Obama's nominee to the federal court in Georgia, is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

160.4 - A Memorial Day thought

A Memorial Day thought

Just speaking of things about the flag and the like, I missed mentioning Memorial Day last week because, well, frankly, because I'm old and I never got used to it being a moveable holiday and not on May 30.

But because May 30 is traditional day and that is this week, I figure I can still mention this now.

First I want to note that even though there is always a touch of "the honor and glory of war" about the day, not everyone embraces that:

The Boston chapter of Veterans for Peace marked the day with a ceremony to remember both the dead and the wounded, both physically and psychically, from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and to call for an end to war.

The Boston "Globe" quoted Pat Scanlon of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of the Veterans for Peace as saying “Memorial Day is not a day to espouse militarism. Memorial Day is a day to remember.”

Maybe that was why, on a day peppered nationwide with parades, 21-gun salutes, patriotic speeches, and praise of all things military, the observance of the Veterans for Peace was what the "Globe" called "stunningly quiet." As, I would think, it should be.

One other thought: In May 2002, someone on a mailing list I was on posted a message asking people to take a moment of silence on Memorial Day, saying "Let us ensure that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom are not forgotten."

In response, I wrote this, which I like to recall every Memorial Day:
And in that silent moment remember, too, the many nonviolent warriors who struggled, searched, sacrificed, for justice and freedom, who remain without songs or memorials to celebrate their lives or their passing, but who at some moment stood weaponless against the machinery of oppression and showed in their simple “No more” a force that can move history.
It is indicative of how we as a culture regard things, that on the whole, we celebrate our soldiers while they are alive and our nonviolent warriors only when they are safely dead. Then again, I'm not so sure we're so different from others in that way.

Sources cited in links:

160.3 - Update: can you refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

Update: can you refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

Two weeks ago, in talking about the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's decision that the phrase "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance has nothing to do with religion and so does not violate the rights of atheists, I noted that part of the court's argument was that reciting the Pledge is voluntary, that students, the Court said, "are free to recite the pledge or any part of it that they see fit" or they can "choose to abstain."

Which, as I noted, is true legally - but, I asked, just how true it is socially, just how free are we in day-to-day reality to not join in reciting the Pledge.

Well, we have our answer.

The Elmira City School District of Elmira, New York, stands accused of bullying a high school sophomore who refused to stand for the pledge because she objected to the reference to "under God."

She was ordered to stand by her teacher, who threatened her with disciplinary action if she didn't. The teacher also told her, in front of the whole class, that not standing for the Pledge is "disrespectful to America and to military personnel."

And it seems this was not an isolated incident there. The American Humanist Association, in a letter to the school demanding it recognize students' constitutional right to not say the pledge, said:
We have been informed that teachers - and even an administrator - in your school have inappropriately pressured students to participate in the Pledge exercise. For example, students have been told that nonparticipation is disrespectful and unpatriotic, that nonparticipation would itself be disruptive, and that participation is expected because nonparticipation would encourage others to opt out.
Even though the legal right to refuse to recite the pledge is clearly and well-established, the question about the practical ability, the day-to-day freedom, to abstain remains.

Sources cited in links:

160.2 - USPS under fire by those who want to destroy it

USPS under fire by those who want to destroy it

Okay, they're still at it. They in this case being the people who think that public services, that is, taxpayer-paid, government-supplied services, to the general public or the poor, pubic services in general, are inherently just plain bad and want to destroy them.

They've now taken renewed aim at a perennial target, a target for two reasons, one being that it's successful and has been for a long time: the US Postal Service.

I'm sure you've heard more than once how the Postal Service is on the brink of financial collapse, of fiscal disaster, of crushing bankruptcy; it's on the edge, the precipice, of utter failure and ruin. You might be forgiven if you wonder how this can continue for year after year, how the agency can continue for year after year to be on the precipice without ever falling into the abyss, but that doesn't matter to the true believers in imminent catastrophe - most specifically, Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and who on an almost regular schedule introduces bills to "save" the USPS by slashing away parts of it.

He has, for example, proposed eliminating Saturday delivery, closing post offices, contracting out retail services from the USPS to places like Staples, and closing mail processing plants, which was somehow supposed to speed up delivery. And now, he's gotten through the committee he chairs a demand that the USPS end “door delivery” for 15 million postal customers over the next 10 years, forcing them to use banks of so-called "cluster boxes" at curbside.

Opponents say it's a lousy idea, noting that it just can't work in a lot of urban areas where there is no place to put a cluster box, but Issa just responds that it will save money - about $2 billion a year, he says.

And make no mistake, the Postal Service does have and has had financial troubles. Despite continued cost-cutting, a 2.3 percent rise in operating revenue this year, and increased employee productivity, the Postal Service still reported a $1.9 billion loss for the first three months of 2014.

But here's the thing, the thing that is almost never mentioned in media coverage of this. Remember what I said, what, two weeks ago, about the media failing to inform us, about how we are uninformed. malinformed, and misinformed? This is another example.

The Postal Service is in a truly weird situation. It is a quasi-governmental agency, run independently but still subject to legal restrictions set down by Congress even though it receives no federal money, no taxpayer money at all. It's entirely funded through the sale of postage and postal services. Despite that, despite contributing not a penny to its support, Congress has a huge say in how the USPS is operated.

For example, it has banned the agency from raising the cost of postage beyond the inflation rate. In other words, in real dollars, the only way the USPS could increase its income is by expanding its business - the very thing all the plans to, we're told, "save" the Postal Service would prevent by making it hard if not impossible for the agency even to maintain the level of service it provides now.

What's more, in 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act, one of those classically misnamed bits of legislation. Among other things, that bill mandated that within 10 years, that is by 2016, the Postal Service fully fund retiree health benefits for future retirees out to 75 years in the future. That is, Congress was requiring of the USPS that within 10 years it have enough money set aside to fully fund health care benefits for future retirees who hadn't even been born yet. That is a requirement of, a task taken on by, no other agency, corporation, or organization in or out of any level of government in the US. And it's costing the USPS about $5.5 billion a year.

Hey, there's a way the Postal Service could save a hunk of money: Release it from this onerous, totally unnecessary, and utterly ridiculous requirement! But oh, no, we can't do that. Oh, no, what we have to do is cut services and fire workers.

Which raises the other reason the Postal Service is such a frequent target of attempts to cut it down or undermine it. (Remember I said there are two reasons.) The USPS has a strong union which is also one of the largest unions in the US, with something approaching 600,000 members, a union that has secured decent pay, decent benefits, and decent job protection for its members. Which, in case you've forgotten, is what unions are for! So when someone tries to make you resent the pay or benefits a postal worker has, you keep in mind that the issue isn't why they get so much, it's why you get to little. I keep saying this: Make sure you're mad at the right target.

And the one thing that people like Darrell Issajerk hate more than successful public services is successful public services that have strong unions.

Make no mistake, that, at the end of the day, is what the attacks on the Postal Service are about: They are about breaking the union. And if they have to take the entire USPS down to do it, they will.

Sources cited in links:

160.1 - Some dare to say "gun control"

Some dare to say "gun control"

As you know, I like to start every show with some good news when I can. This week, it's not actually good news, but it's not entirely bad news. It has to do with something I haven't talked much about of late: guns.

You know, I know you know, about the killing rampage in Isla Vista, California last week. A man identified as 22-year-old Elliot Rodger shot and killed three people, stabbed to death three more, and injured another 13, some by gunfire, before shooting himself.

It's clear the Rodger was an actual example of the "disturbed young man" who has almost become a cliche in media accounts of mass shootings. The tragedy of his life became the tragedy of many other's lives, including not only the dead and injured by the friends and families left behind to mourn.

One of those left behind made his feelings clear: In a press conference the day after the shootings, Richard Martinez, the father of 20-year-old Christopher Martinez, one of those killed, blamed "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA" for his son's death. He ended his statement by saying
When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, "Stop this madness!" Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, "Not one more!"
I can't say that with the emotion with which he expressed it. If you haven't seen the statement, you should. A link to the CNN broadcast of his press conference is below. Watch it.

So the question is, what good - or what not entirely bad - can come out of that? It's that a few people, in a few places, are again daring to breathe the word "gun control."

For example, Rep. Peter King, who is in many ways a total loss as a human being, nonetheless is a longtime advocate of stricter gun control. He said the shootings re-raise the need for expanding background checks for gun owners. Considering that Rodger had three semi-automatic handguns in his car along with more than 40 loaded magazines of ammunition, all of which he got legally, that would seem to be a given, but in this issue, it never is.

He was not the only member of Congress to raise gun control: Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was another.

There is little, make that no, chance the murders in Isla Vista will move the national debate - the word "craven" was well-chosen; "cowardly" would fit, too. And there is a problem with the idea of "a greater focus on mental health resources" such as Blumenthal proposes as a way to try to move legislation forward: There is no reliable evidence that mentally ill people are more prone to violence than supposedly normal ones. Yes, we hear about the Elliot Rodgers, the Seung-Hui Chos - while we forget that on any average day in this country, 86 people die from gun violence, including 32 murders and 51 suicides, almost all of them committed by "normal" people.

Despite that, we can at least take heart in the fact that not everyone has given up, that some people, at least, can raise a candle in the rain, that some people can maintain the dream that some day when NRA President Wayne LaPePe LePew screeches "they're coming for your guns" that it might actually be true. And even better, we can take heart in the fact that there are even some people in a position to do something.

For example, on May 27 Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo proposed the most comprehensive changes to Massachusetts gun laws in 16 years, saying that the state can't wait for the feds to act.

Local police would be given expanded discretion to consider a person’s “suitability” to own a gun (and what constitutes "suitability" would be more clearly specified by the state), the state would join a national database for criminal and mental-health background checks, and all private sales of firearms would be conducted in the presence of a licensed dealer.

DeLeo hoped the bill, which he said was originally prompted by the Sandy Hook massacre, in 2012, could be enacted by the end of the legislative session in July. With heavy Democratic majorities in both the state House and state Senate and a Democratic governor, the chances for passage look reasonably good.

In fact, maybe better than reasonably, considering that the objection raised by House assistant minority leader was in some ways that the bill is not strong enough, for example on penalties for straw sales.

Meanwhile, the city of Chicago has come out with its response to a federal court ruling from January which said that the city's ban on handgun sales "goes too far."

That response is a sweeping ordinance loaded with strict regulations, including requiring the videotaping of all gun sales and special-use zoning that sharply limits the possible number of gun stores in the city.

All of which will come as horrible news to Sam Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, who was neither Joe nor a plumber, who, apparently jealous that Sarah Palin was soaking up all the "why are we still paying attention to this person" vibes, published an "open letter" to the parents of those shot and killed by Elliot Rodger and particularly to Richard Martinez, telling him to, in just these words, "back off" because, again in so many words, "your dead kids don’t trump my rights." There is no pit deep enough to contain the bottom of such a soul.

So as I said: It's not really what I could call good news, but it's not altogether bad news. Some weeks, that's the best you can do.

Sources cited in links:

Link to Richard Martinez' statement:

Left Side of the Aisle #160

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of May 29 - June 4, 2014

This week:

Some dare to say "gun control"

USPS under fire by those who want to destroy it

Update: can you refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

A Memorial Day thought

Clown Award: Michael Boggs

Outrage of the Week: domestic violence is not like beer

Link to Richard Martinez' statement:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

159.5 - Outrage of the Week: author of "kill US citizens with drones" memo nominated to US Appeals Court

Outrage of the Week: author of "kill US citizens with drones" memo nominated to US Appeals Court

Updated Finally, we have our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week. This week, it's actually a series of interrelated outrages.

We have to start with a bit of history. Back in April 2010, I responded to the revelations that Barack Obama had ordered the “targeted assassination” of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was a suspected terrorist but also an American citizen abroad, by writing, in part,
Mr. President, just who the hell do you think you are?

We (supposedly) have no king, no czar, no leader with absolute authority. So who do you think you are that you can order the murder - and let’s be honest here, that’s what we’re talking about, the cold-blooded murder - of an American citizen? An American citizen who has been convicted of no crime, who has had no day in court, but is to have his body ripped to shreds based solely on the kind of intelligence that has served us so well in the Middle East, from the fall of the Shah to the supposed existence of WMDs.

You are claiming for yourself a power, an authority, that even the Bush administration - that shredder of the Constitution, that underminer of privacy, that stripper of civil liberties, that embracer of torture, that invader of foreign lands without justification - an authority even the Bush administration did not claim for itself: the power to order, on your own authority, subject to no oversight and no need for proof beyond your personal belief, the “extrajudicial killing,” the “targeted assassination,” the murder, of American citizens.
I was far from the only one outraged at the time and the issue has remained let's call it contentious to at least some degree since.

That's the first outrage here: that there is such a policy, a policy to kill with drones, a policy including killing American citizens with drones, the only restriction - as of now - being that those citizens must be outside the territory of the US.

The thing is, the Obama administration claimed to have legal authority to do that based on, it claimed, a legal memo expressing that judgment - a memo that was, of course, classified. Several members of Congress requested, asked, begged, or demanded to see this memo, but it was all talk to the hand.

Several suits were filed over this, one of which finally succeeded: In April, in response to a Freedom of Information Act suit by the ACLU and the New York Times about some memos related to the drone program, including the one authorizing the killing of Americans, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the administration to release the documents.

Obama of course didn't want to and had 45 days to file an appeal. So much, yet again, for "the most transparent administration in history."

But The Amazing Mr. O had a problem: He had nominated an author of that memo, one David Barron, to a seat on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. And a number of folks, including several Senate Democrats, were unhappy enough about not being able to see the memos Barron wrote to use his nomination as leverage to force their release.

Here, by the way, is the next outrage: the very fact that this guy, the Obama gang's John Yoo, is being nominated for a lifetime position on the federal bench. In fact, he's worse than John Yoo: Yoo only came up with an argument for why it's okay for a president to order the torture of people; this guy came up with an argument for why it's okay for a president to order the murder of people, including US citizens.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, the O. gang offered a compromise: members of the senate could see the memos, but they still wouldn't be released where we mere peons might get a look at them.

That, as it turned out, didn't satisfy some people such as Sens. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, who said they might oppose Barron over the issue.

So on Tuesday, the day before a key procedural vote on Barron's nomination, "two officials who are not authorized to comment publicly" - that is, it was a leak, which as we all know is a horrible practice which Obama deplores - two officials made it known that the administration would not appeal the order to release the memo.

It will, however, try to convince the appeals court to redact - that is, censor - even more of the memo and the other information involved in the decision than the court already did in ordering the release of its own redacted version. Which is another layer of the outrage, because it means even after saying the administration will not oppose release of the memo, the O. gang is still going to try to suppress as much of it as it possibly can, no doubt while declaring its commitment to "openness."

It also means it easily could be weeks or longer before the memos actually see the light of day and we have no idea how much will be stripped out and remain hidden behind the administration's wall of secrecy.

Even so - and this is where the outrage starts to boil over - even so, that promise of "something will come out some time in the future" was enough for those stalwart Democrats - including both Udall and Wyden - to start falling all over themselves to get in line.

Just throw 'em a bone and they come licking your face.

Licking face even to the point where some, such as Pat Leahy, were dismissing the whole issue of the memos and their release, the whole question of Barron's role in providing the basis for a policy of legalized assassination of American citizens - something which by the way, we denounce as a violation of basic human rights when other nations do it to their own citizens even when they claim, as we do, "national security" as justification - some senators were dismissing the entire question as irrelevant. Apparently this is another part of Obama's policy of "look forward, not backward" and amnesty - and amnesia - apply to members of his administration as well as to the Bush gang and Wall Street.

So sum it up: We have a policy that allows the president - any president - to assassinate, to murder, US citizens based solely on their unreviewable, unchallengeable, conclusion that the person is some kind of "terrorist" or they are around where some kind of "terrorist" is, the person who came up with a legal justification for it is rewarded with a seat on the federal bench, and the supposed liberals, the great humanists, of Senate Democrats can't even rouse themselves enough to say no and mean it.

Yeah, that is an outrage.

Updated with the news that on Thursday, May 22, the Senate confirmed Barron to the federal bench in an almost straight party-line vote.

In support of Barron, our own Senator Ed Markey said Senators should ignore the whole memo business, saying Barron was merely "a lawyer who was asked to do legal analysis for his client: the president of the United States." Yeah, a legal analysis that - gasp! shock! sacre bleu! whooda thunk it! - wound up telling his "client" exactly what that client wanted to hear,, leaving Obama sighing "Thank God for coincidence."

I'm sure, by the way, that on request Senator Ed can provide copies of the statements he must have made defending John Yoo against criticism of his role in writing the torture memos for George Bush.

Sources cited in links:

159.4 - Clown Award: Pat Sajak

Clown Award: Pat Sajak

Now for one of our regular weekly features, it's the Clown Award, given for meritorious stupidity.

This week we had two worthy competitors; they were neck and neck for a while, but only one can win the day.

So our runner-up is Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant.

You may have heard about the Common Core standards, a program being promoted across states with the idea of establishing some baseline education standards, some benchmarks, that would be common nationwide. It's something of a divisive topic in some education circles: The right wing doesn't like the idea because the standards of necessity say things about science and history which they just don't want to hear, while there are those on the left who don't like it because its measure of progress, of success, is weighted far too heavily on standardized testing, which is a lousy way to do education.

But forget all that, Charles Van Zant knows what is the real problem with them. The standards, he said, "will promote double-mindedness in state education and will attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can."

That's right, according to Mr. van Zant, the real goal of the Common Core standards is to turn your kids gay.

In a normal week, that would be a winner. But this is not a normal week.

So the winner of big red nose this week is "Wheel of Fortune" host and all-around rw nut job Pat Sajak, who on Monday tweeted this:
I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends. Good night.
Now to call this loopy does not begin to do it proper justice. And it's hardly the first buffoonishly stupid thing he's tweeted on the topic.

But this one sets new standards for inanity. Rather than wondering, as some have, just what patriotism and race have to do with the scientific reality of climate change - other than, of course, the fact that poor, non-American, non-whites are going to be hit the earliest and the hardest - I figure Mr. SadSack is just pumping out the current right wing meme that anything they don't like is either unpatriotic or racist and he lacked the wits to come up with anything better than just combining them.

This came the same day that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, announced that worldwide, April 2014 tied for the warmest April on record. It was also the 350th consecutive month with global average temperatures at or above the 20th century average for each month. That's over 29 full years of above-average temperatures. Oh, and if you think we had a cool April, we did - but we are not the world, remember?

That report followed a week in which three separate studies of Antarctic glaciers found increasingly rapid ice loss, raising the specter of a significant, damaging rise in sea level of anywhere from 4 to as much as 15 feet, depending on the breaks. Two of those reports described how the ultimate collapse of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet has become "irreversible" while the other, a week later, showed that the rate of ice loss in Antarctica since 2010 is double that of the period from 2005 to 2010.

I have to note that the recent reports from the IPCC, theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, don't include any sea level rising from melt from West Antarctic or Greenland in their projections because the data wasn't considered rigorous enough - so the rise from this Antarctic melt would be in addition to the 1-2 foot rise in sea levels by the end of the century which the IPCC's most report predicted.

I also have to say, however, that this is not going to happen immediately: There is a reason the word "glacially" means "slowly" and this collapse could play out over a couple of hundred years.

But there are two important points: One, as I said last week, the issue here is the inevitability. In considering the climate, we have to realize that various processes can reach a point of no return, where it is no longer possible to stop it from happening. This is one where we have already passed that point: Even if the world immediately stopped adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the West Antarctica Ice Sheet is going to collapse. The only question is how long it will take.

We are now approaching points of no return on various processes. We don't have unlimited time.

The other point is that are already seeing the effects of sea level rise. For example, sea level in the New York City area rose by about a foot between 1900 and 2012. As a result, when Hurricane Sandy struck, about 80,000 more people were affected by flooding in New York and New Jersey than would have been without that increase in sea level.

And the Union of Concerned Scientists has just released a report on how some of the United States' most cherished historic sites and national landmarks are as risk from rising seas, floods, and wildfires. The report came with 30 case studies.

Wildfires? Oh yeah, wildfires: another already-visible effect of global warming.

The US Forest Service and Department of the Interior are likely to go $400 million over budget fighting fires this year. Rhea Suh, Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior, specifically blamed climate change as a cause, noting that fire seasons - the period of time each year when the risk of wildfire is high - are 60-80 days longer than they were thirty years ago.

And in case you forget, again, that it's not all about us, the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, a leading government-funded military research organization, stated in a report issued last week that the accelerating rate of climate change acts as a catalyst for global political conflict - for example, climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water, causing existing longstanding regional and ethnic tensions to escalate into turmoil and violence. Put at its simplest, the report, an update of one from 2007, declares global warming to present a threat to US national security.

I'll leave it to you to figure out how a leading government-funded military research organization is "unpatriotic."

Which brings us back to Pat SadSack. There were a number of funny responses to SadSack's tweet. My personal favorite was one that said this:
On one hand 97% of scientists on the other hand a guy that got his job because chuck woolery came across as too intellectual.
Which just nails it down: Pat Sajak, you are such a clown.

Sources cited in links:

159.3 - Not Good News: no freedom from religion

Not Good News: no freedom from religion

On the other hand, that poll from the Pew Center I just mentioned is a case of good news-bad news. I told you the good news, now the bad news.

What the survey did was list 16 possible attributes for a hypothetical potential presidential candidate. Attributes included things related to personal background, professional background, ethnicity, religion, political experience, and so on. The question was, for each attribute and assuming the candidate is otherwise qualified, would that attribute make you more likely to vote for that person, less likely, or would it make no difference.

Of those 16 attributes, there were only two where a majority of respondents said it would make them less likely to vote for that person for president: One, with 52% saying "less likely," was if the person had never held elective office. The other, with 53%, was being an atheist.

In fact, even if you add together the "less likely"s, you would be better off, you would turn off fewer voters, if you were a gay pothead than if you were an atheist.

This is just further backup for a study from the University of Minnesota few years ago, which found atheists to be the least trusted minority group in the country and also the minority group which the greatest number of Americans would not want their children to marry.

Last week, in discussing how the media's preference for conflict over fact, I cited an AP poll revealing how that failure had left many of us woefully uninformed on matters of science.

The poll, as do all these polls, included some questions to gather demographic information about those polled. One such question this time was "What is your religious preference?"

The choices were "Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Other, Don't belong to religious denomination, Refused/Not Answered." I you answered "other," you were to be asked "Do you consider yourself a Christian, or not?"

Notice carefully that in that list there is no option to say "I'm not religious, period." The closest you can come is to say you don't belong to a specific denomination. But at one point in my life, I was what I called an "undifferentiated Christian," trying to understand the teachings of Jesus without regard to the interpretations or practices of any denomination. If "religion" is understood to be a matter of faith and of seeking understanding rather than one of rites and rituals, that was probably the most religious period of my life. But I was not a member of any denomination - so not being a member of a denomination and being "not religious, period" are far from the same thing; in fact, they don't have much to do with each other.

Which brings me back to the point: The poll did not allow for the option of not having a religion.

In this country, we a justifiably proud of our freedom of religion. We are free to practice just about any religion we want. But what are not truly free to do is not have a religion. We have freedom of religion, but not freedom from religion.

Sources cited in links:

159.2 - Footnote: evidence that marriage justice is gaining goes beyond court decisions

Footnote: evidence that marriage justice is gaining goes beyond court decisions

As something of a footnote to the above, the evidence that marriage justice and the whole idea of LGBT rights is gaining ground is found in more that just court decisions.

One way to tell is by noting how ridiculous and desperate the arguments of antis are becoming. It's not just, as for example happened in the case of Idaho, that the antis are using arguments that have repeatedly failed, it's that the other arguments they try are getting just silly.

Here's an example: In February, a federal court ruled that Kentucky officials must recognize legally valid same-sex marriages performed in one of the states that allow them. That is, if a same-sex couple got married in say New York and then moved to Kentucky, they're not suddenly unmarried.

Last week, the state filed its appeal of that decision in which it argued that the ban on recognizing such marriages should be upheld because, quoting the appeal, the "laws are rationally related to the state's interest of preserving the traditional man-woman marriage model," because "man-man and woman-woman couples cannot procreate" and Kentucky has an interest in encouraging procreation in the name of promoting "long-term economic stability through stable birth rates."

In other words, same-sex marriages are bad for the state's business climate.

There's an obvious flaw in the argument, which is that this requirement for fertility is enforced in no other way. You don't have to prove both parties are fertile in order to get married; being past child-bearing years is no bar to marriage; if you decide you don't want children, your marriage is not annulled; there is no requirement of any sort anywhere in the state's laws. Which means, in strictly legal terms, the state has not demonstrated any such "interest" in "stable birth rates."

The other thing, and this is where the silly comes in, what is it that the government of the state of Kentucky imagines will happen if the ban on recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages is maintained?

Do they think that all those gays and lesbians who suddenly find themselves not married to the person they love will go out and find someone of the opposite sex, get married, settle down, and start pumping out the demographically-appropriate number of babies? What is going through their minds? It's just silly.

Another way you can tell that things are changing for the better comes from the results of a survey from the Pew Research Center For The People & The Press which was published on May 19: The organization said it showed "immense changes in American attitudes towards the sexual orientation of their political leaders."

The question was about a candidate for president, assuming they were otherwise qualified. Those who said they would be less likely to support a candidate if they were gay or lesbian accounted for 27% of the total, while 5% said it would make them more likely to support that person - and most, a whopping 66%, said it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. As recently as 2007, nearly half, 46% said they would be less likely to vote for a gay or lesbian candidate, a 19 percentage point shift in seven years.

Even if that 66% is inflated, even if it includes people who are saying that only because they feel it's socially unacceptable to express prejudice toward gays and lesbians, that still means that it's becoming socially unacceptable to express prejudice toward gays and lesbians, which itself is evidence of progress.

Things are changing, justice is coming. There is no denying it. We may be losing in a lot of ways, but on this one, justice is winning.

Sources cited in links:

159.1 - Good News: marriage justice comes to Idaho, Oregon, and Pennsylvania

Good News: marriage justice comes to Idaho, Oregon, and Pennsylvania

Updated We are starting, as I always try to do, with some good news - and there's a bunch of good news on this topic this week.

Last week, May 13, federal Magistrate Judge Candy Dale ruled that Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution.

In trying to defend the ban, Idaho state officials used the same sorts of arguments that have failed elsewhere: For example, they claimed the ban was necessary to protect children - but as always, they were not able to say from exactly what. When Michigan actively tried to go down that road at trial over its ban, the state got shot down in flames.

Idaho also said that overturning the ban would violate voters' rights. But that ran into the long-standing legal principle that Constitutional rights trump voters' rights. Majorities, even heavy majorities, do not override basic rights. Indeed, Judge Dale said precisely that in her ruling:
[A] state's broad authority to regulate matters of state concern does not include the power to violate an individual’s protected Constitutional rights.
She described the ban as relegating gay and lesbian families "to a stigmatized, second-class status" and found the ban "does not withstand any applicable level of constitutional scrutiny."

Idaho governor Butch Otter filed a preemptive motion to have Judge Dale stay her ruling, a motion which was granted by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Remember, this does not overturn the ruling, it merely says it can't go into effect during appeals. This is a pretty common part of the judicial process and Appeals Courts rarely decline to stay a lower court's order unless it feels that the appealing party - in this case, the state of Idaho - has essentially no chance to prevail on appeal.

Dale's ruling marked the 16th consecutive favorable marriage equality ruling in state and federal courts since the US Supreme Court ruled last June in Windsor v. United States that central portions of the Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional.

Idaho is not only source of good news on this front. On Monday, May 19, US District Judge Michael McShane threw out Oregon's same-sex marriage ban.

The interesting thing here is that Oregon state officials earlier refused to defend the ban in court and said they wouldn't appeal the decision. An attempt by the anti-equality National Organization for Marriage to intervene in the case was denied by at both the district and appeals levels.

What that means is that this is likely is end of the line for this case - and Oregon has become the 18th state with marriage justice.

On that same day, May 19, a federal judge in Utah ordered state officials to recognize some same-sex marriages that recently took place in Utah. Earlier, a federal judge who ruled Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional refused to stay the effect of his order and it was about two weeks before the Supreme Court issued the stay, blocking any further same-sex marriages in the state during appeals.  In that time, more than 1,000 same-sex couples had gotten married in Utah and the issue here was the legal status of those marriages. The court ruled that Utah must recognize those marriages.

Rounding out a good week for marriage justice, on Tuesday, May 20, US federal District Judge John Jones ruled that Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Which, including the Utah case, makes 19 straight court victories for marriage equality.

By the way, it was a tough week for Pennsylvania Governor Tom "Space Cadet" Corbett: Last week, I told you about his voter ID law getting shot down, now this. So last week he couldn't hinder the ability of the poor and minorities to vote and this week he can't keep gays and lesbians from marrying those they love. What a shame.

Oh, and as a quick sidebar, some poetic justice:

On May 20, the city council of Topeka, Kansas, the hometown of the fascistically anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, passed two ordinances in favor of LGBT equality. One will create a domestic partnership registry in the city; the other will add gender identity as a protected class for city employment.

Updated with the news that after the show was recorded, Tom "Space Cadet" Corbett, admitting that the ruling about same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania would be “extremely unlikely” to be overturned on appeal, announced that his administration would let the decision stand. Which makes Pennsylvania the 19th state to recognize the right of same-sex marriage.

Sources cited in links:

Left Side of the Aisle #159

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of May 22-28, 2014

This week:
Footnote: evidence that marriage justice is gaining goes beyond court decisions

Not Good News: no freedom from religion

Clown Award: Pat Sajak

Outrage of the Week: author of "kill US citizens with drones" memo nominated to US Appeals Court

Saturday, May 17, 2014

158.8 - Global warming: getting hot under the collar

Global warming: getting hot under the collar

The media failure of self-awareness, the media failure to inform, the media persistence in preferring conflict to resolution and the resulting general ignorance about climate change is especially important because the damage from global warming, from climate change, is not coming in the future, it's here now.

The most recent US National Climate Assessment, released May 6, shows that fact in stark terms, laying out how every region in the country is already seeing the effects of climate change,

It begins to sound Biblical in its impacts: The Assessment reports heat waves, more extreme precipitation events, coastal flooding due to sea level rise and storm surge, increased risks of extreme events such as hurricanes, decreased water availability, droughts, floods, shrinking glaciers, thawing permafrost - leading to wildfires, disruptions of agriculture, decreased food and water security, and damage to infrastructure, all resulting in what it calls "far-reaching ecological and socioeconomic consequences," perhaps particularly for Alaska Native communities, whose lives are already disrupted and will be disrupted more.

The study says that, depending on how hard we work to contain the warming, temperatures could go up anywhere from 5 - 10 degrees F. (that is, from 2.8 to 5.6 C.) by the end of the century - which would mean it's predicting we already will bust through the limit of an increase of 2C. which climatologists say is the most temperatures should increase if we're to avoid truly major impacts.

The assessment is the result of two years of work. It was written by more than 250 scientists, academics, and government officials overseen by a 60-member panel called the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee. They held 70 workshops nationwide, revised the final drafts to reflect thousands of public comments and twice had their work reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.

And of course none of that mattered to the nanny-nanny naysayers of the right wing, who dismissed the report as anything from political to part of some plot to undermine the greatness that is America because they would rather send their children and grandchildren into an ecological Armageddon than admit they were wrong or, worse, have to stop sucking at the teat of those who get rich by polluting and despoiling our world.

I would appeal to their consciences, but it has become apparent they have none.

Sources cited in links:

158.7 -The little Thing: the media’s utter lack of self-awareness

The little Thing: the media’s utter lack of self-awareness

Now for an occasional feature called "The little Thing," where either some minor point in a story is the part that really annoys me or, more commonly, where something mentioned in passing in some news account is actually important and deserves far more attention than it got.

Okay. So there were some marches and rallies in Seattle for May Day. After they were over, in the evening, there were some incidents. This is how AP reported it; this is the opening paragraph of its coverage, quoting now, in full:
Police fired pepper spray and arrested a half dozen people Thursday night as anti-capitalist marchers meandered through Seattle, hours after hundreds of peaceful demonstrators took part in a May Day march in support of immigrant rights and a boost in the minimum wage.
Okay, note first that while the day's main march was mentioned, the opening, the actual lede, is the evening troubles.

The article then goes on for eight paragraphs about the evening incidents, about violence at past protests in Seattle, and about threats of violence at this one.

It then devotes a total of three sentences to the "earlier boisterous rally," two of which referred to a quote by a participant, before rounding out with reports about vandalism and a threat to kill police.

So here's the point, here's the little thing: In the middle of this article, the AP says, again quoting,
Violence has plagued May Day in Seattle during the past two years, with protesters challenging police in the streets and sometimes stealing the thunder of much larger daytime events.
And whose fault is that? Whose fault is it that a relative handful of people who fantasize that vandalism is an appropriate political tactic can "steal the thunder" from a much larger, "boisterous" but peaceful, group? Who made the decision to emphasize one over the other? Who made the decision that "this" is more important than "that?" Who decided to give most of the attention to some black-clad prima donnas rather than to those offering some substance?

It doesn't have to be this way: In it's article about the day, a local paper, the Seattle Times, focused on the large daytime events, then reported on evening clashes, and wrapped up by referring back to what the main demonstration was about - the exact opposite of what AP did.

But the Seattle Times is a local paper and the AP is a national wire service. Which means that most people around the country who read about the events will get their image - their distorted image - of what happened in Seattle from the AP, not the Seattle Times. And that image will not be about immigrant rights and raising the minimum wage, it'll be about spray-painted walls, burning trash cans, broken windows, and threats to kill police.

And whose fault is that? Whose fault is it that that will be the image many people have of May Day in Seattle?

We are, by our national media, by our corporate media, uninformed, malinformed, and misinformed. When it comes to the actual issues we as a people, as a nation, are facing, we are among the worst informed people in the entire industrialized world.

Because this is hardly the only example. Years ago, a friend told me she wasn't concerned about media monopolies because "I think what I think, not what I'm told to think." Which, I said, is true, the media can't control what you think. But for things beyond your immediate experience, the media does have a great deal of influence on what you think about, on what is and isn't regarded as important and, of greater impact, about what's important about what's important; that is, what are the features, the factors, the elements, of those stories that deserve emphasis in understanding them.

I'll talk more about this in the future because I have some specific illustrations of ways in which the media fails us, but today I'm going to mention just one of them: what you might call the myth of the never-ending debate.

Part of the reason a handful of loudmouths romanticizing vandalism as revolutionary gets the attention of the media is because the media loves drama. Closely-related to that is that fact that the media loves controversy. Members of the media would much prefer to report on "the controversy" than to report the dull settled facts. Not only does it sell better, it's simply more fun. What's more, by engaging in a journalistic version of "he-said-she-said," reporters can tell themselves that they're "independent" and "unbiased" because they "report both sides" even when by treating opposing sides as equals they are actually creating the bias that there really are two sides.

That is why, for example, the media keeps giving respectful attention to proponents of so-called Intelligent Design and other varieties of creationism rather than just saying evolution is real, the theory of evolution has overwhelming proof, the creationists' alternatives are debunked claptrap, and there is no genuine scientific controversy about it.

That failure is not the only reason, but it is a notable part of the reason why in a recent poll, only 31% of respondents said they were "extremely" or "very" confident that living things, including people, evolved through natural selection.

Now, whether or not you as an individual accept the reality of evolution is probably not going to have a major impact on the world at large. But another finding of that same survey could: Only 33% were "extremely" or "very" confident in the reality of human-caused global warming, while 37% were "not too" or "not at all" confident in that. That's even worse than the 25% who are, according to how a Gallup poll describes them, "solidly skeptical" about global warming - while only 39% are labeled "concerned believers."

You can, if you want, chalk up a good portion of the determined ignorance about climate change to ideological rigidity and narrow-mindedness - but if you think the media, constantly presenting global warming as "controversial," as the subject of "debate," as a "question," if you think the media doesn't bear significant responsibility for the fact that only 2/5 of Americans accept scientific reality, a reality that, if ignored, if not acted on, will have a major impact on our and the world's future, you just have not been paying attention.

Sources cited in links:

158.6 - Clown Award: Grover Norquist

Clown Award: Grover Norquist

Okay, now it's time for our other regular feature, it's the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity. And oh have we got gold medal material this time, true championship form.

The winner of the big red nose this week is right-wing political operative Grover Norquist.

You know about Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton's paramour back in 1998, leading to the whole investigation-impeachment-blah-blah imbroglio. You also know about her recent article in Vanity Fair in which she talked about the affair, saying she was speaking about now because, quoting her, "I turned 40 last year and it’s time to stop tiptoeing around my past."

Well, of course in response to this the right wing reacted as it always does: It was immediately chock-a-block with conspiracy theories, the time about "why now," most of which revolved around somehow protecting Hillary Clinton as she prepares for an expected 2016 run for president.

For example, Lynne Cheney, wife of "The Big" Dick Cheney, suggested that the Clintons may have pushed Lewinsky to speak now so that any rehash of 1998 will be “old news” by the time of the 2016 primaries - as if it wasn't already.

But Grover Norquist had a different idea. Quoting him:
This is the same trick the Clintons pulled on us back in ’98. We didn’t campaign against the massive overspending or anything else. We were distracted by this bright, shiny object they handed out, which was Monica Lewinsky. It'll be the same this time.
That is, Grover Norquist is claiming that the entire Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, with all the months of attacks, dodges, and humiliations; with all the months of supposed "investigator" Kenneth Starr giving new meaning to the term "Star Chamber" with his ever-expanding claims of authority and lurid obsessions with stained dresses; with the civil suits, the depositions, the threats to criminally prosecute Clinton after he left office, the suspension of his law license, his impeachment and his trial before the Senate; that all of this was a plot by the Clintons to keep GOPpers from campaigning against "liberal overspending" in the 1998 off-year Congressional elections.


I tell you, that has got to be the single stupidest bit of supposed political analysis I have ever read.

Grover Norquist: You have become the absolute definition of clown.

Sources cited in links:

158.5 - Footnote: freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

Footnote: freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

And there is, as there often is, a footnote to the issue of the Pledge of Allegiance:

In its decision, the Supreme Judicial Court also made a point of saying that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is voluntary, that students "are free to recite the pledge or any part of it that they see fit" or they can "choose to abstain." Which is true: The Supreme Court ruled that way all the way back in 1943.

Or, I should say, it's true legally. Socially is a different story. Seriously, how many school children feel truly free not to do what all their classmates and their teacher are doing? How truly voluntary is it?

If you question that, if you question that sense of social coercion, ask yourself this: Meetings of the Board of Selectmen in my town start with the Pledge of Allegiance. How comfortable would you, as a fully grown adult, feel about not standing for the pledge, about not participating in the pledge? How free would you feel about just sitting there silently as all those around you stood and recited it? Then try to tell me that a 3rd grader is "free" to "choose to abstain."

Sources cited in links:

158.4 - Outrage of the Week: atheists don't count - again

Outrage of the Week: atheists don't count - again

Now it's time for one of our regular weekly features, the Outrage of the Week.

Look, I didn't mean to be talking about this topic again; I really didn't. As I've said before, it's not high on my list of personal social and political priorities. But it keeps coming up in one form or another.

This week, the source of the outrage is the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, which ruled on May 9 that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools does not violate the rights of atheists, despite containing the words "under God."

The case arose in 2010 when an atheist family in Acton,  Massachusetts, filed a suit asserting that the the daily recitation of the pledge in classrooms violated the First Amendment rights of their three children.

The real outrage here is not so much the decision itself; the Court could for example have said something like, "yes, it's a violation but it's so minor that it really doesn't rise to the level of Constitutional concern." A decision like that, well, I would have disagreed with it, I would have been disappointed, but it wouldn't have seemed like such a big deal to me.

No, the outrage is the logic the court used in reaching its decision. It said, quoting,
Although the words "under God" undeniably have a religious tinge, courts have concluded that the pledge, notwithstanding its reference to God, is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one.
That is, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has declared that the phrase "under god" actually has nothing to do with religion except to have a "religious tinge" - in the same way, I expect, that the phrase "out of touch, disconnected, historically-ignorant, black-robed jackasses" has an "uncomplimentary tinge."

Of course "under God" is a religious expression! That was the purpose of including it! A very quick history:

The original Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by a Baptist minister and socialist by the name of Francis Bellamy. It was published the following month in a popular magazine called The Youth's Companion and read, in full:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
It was amended to say "and to the republic" the following month. One interesting thing is that Bellamy considered including the word "equality" in his pledge but didn't because he knew that the state superintendents of education he worked with in promoting the pledge were opposed to equality for women and African-Americans.

The next change came in 1923 when the National Flag Conference changed the words "my Flag" to "the Flag of the United States of America," a change Bellamy opposed to no avail. Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942.

The change we're concerned about, though, did not come until 1954. That is when the phrase "under God" was added by Congress to the official wording. The idea had been kicking around for two or three years, but in February 1954, one Rev. George Docherty preached a sermon attended by President Eisenhower in which he said that "there was something missing in the pledge ... the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life," because, he said, lacking any mention of God, "I could hear little Muscovites repeat a similar pledge to their hammer-and-sickle flag in Moscow."

When Eisenhower enthusiastically endorsed the sermon, that provided the political impetus to pass the change. On signing the bill, Eisenhower said:
From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty.

In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war.
That is, the addition of the phrase "under God" was done avowedly and consciously to contrast the supposedly "religious" United States with the supposedly "atheistic" Soviet Union.

Oh and by the way, what group initiated the campaign, which group spearheaded the campaign for the change and was subsequently recognized by the American Legion as having done so? The Knights of Columbus.

But oh no, "under God" has nothing to do with religion. Nothing at all. It's merely a "patriotic exercise."

Which if anything makes it worse! Because the clear meaning of that, the undeniable meaning of that, the only rational interpretation of that, is that part of being "patriotic" is believing in God - so if you don't believe in God, you can't be patriotic, you can't be truly American. You are always, in some way, "other."

And you also have to remember, this dismissal, this limitation on who gets to be a true American, who gets to be truly part of "us," does not apply just to atheists - it would also apply to any religion which is non-theistic. It would apply to Buddhists. It would apply to Jainists. It would apply to some Hindus. It would apply to animists, to members of the Ethical Culture movement, to followers of some Native American beliefs, even, potentially, to agnostics. If "under God" as part of the Pledge of Allegiance is truly nothing other than a "patriotic exercise," if declaring yourself and your country to be "under God" is part of what it means to be patriotic, none of those people can be said to be truly American, truly part of the American community.

If that notion sounds absurd, and it is, then "under God" is what is plainly is: a declaration of religious conviction and a violation of the rights of those expected to recite it.

And that, particularly the court's culturally-blinkered denial of it, is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:
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