Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Left Side of the Aisle #220


Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of September 17-23, 2015

This week:

Good News: writing a nasty comment on your traffic ticket is free speech

Some more on the Kim Davis circus

Hopes for peace in South Sudan

Clown Award: Gov. Bobby Jindal

Outrage of the Week: GOPpers admit no illegality in Planned Parenthood videos, move to defund anyway

Are police taught to be scared? Yes.

Black woman confined in mental hospital for eight days because NYPD could not believe she owned a BMW

Recalling a time when being white may have saved my life


Monday, September 14, 2015

219.5 - Say It With Numbers: "Black Lives Matter = warfare on law enforcement" is a lie

Say It With Numbers: "Black Lives Matter = warfare on law enforcement" is a lie

This is a very occasional feature, so occasional that we don't have a real name for it. You could call it the Statistic of the Week, but since we do it so rarely that doesn't seem to fit, so we more think of it as Say It With Numbers.

Amid all the accusations about the Black Lives Matter movement being responsible for "open warfare on law enforcement" and our being treated to the front-paging of any shooting of a cop, consider this:

Last year, 2014, 47 police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty. At the pace established so far this year, 43 police officers - that is, fewer - will be shot and killed in the line of duty in 2015.

Meanwhile, in 2013, the most recent year for which records are available, 126 police officers, three times as many, committed suicide. Police killed themselves at a rate 1.5 times that of the general public, with indications the actual rate was even higher as such suicides are more likely to be underreported or misclassified as accidental deaths.

What's more, studies say that 20-25% of police struggle with problems of drug abuse and addiction, a level double that of the general population.

Police work is very stressful and those figures bear that out and those cops who do their jobs honestly and professionally, without prejudice and according to law, are worthy of deep respect. But the notion, the claim, that the Black Lives Matter movement is making that job more dangerous Is. Utter. Crap.

[Special thanks to shaunking at, my original source for the above.]

Sources cited in links:

219.4 - Outrage of the Week: new Pentagon manual could allow for indefinite confinement of journalists

Outrage of the Week: new Pentagon manual could allow for indefinite confinement of journalists

Now for our other regular feature, which is called the Outrage of the Week.

The Pentagon has just released a new version of its Law of War manual, updated to apply to all branches of the military for the first time. It pulls together all international laws on war applicable to US armed forces, and is designed to be a reference guide for the military.

And it includes a vaguely worded provision that would allow local commanders to treat journalists as "unprivileged belligerents," a variation of that weasel phrase "unlawful combatants," if such a journalist is believed to be sympathizing or cooperating with the enemy, with the terms "sympathizing" and "cooperating" open to interpretation - and experts in military law and journalism both say that military commanders could interpret the terms broadly.

Bear in mind that a person deemed an "unprivileged belligerent" is not entitled to the rights afforded by the Geneva Convention as a prisoner of war, so a commander could do anything to a reporter considered to be such an "unprivileged belligerent" from restricting them from certain coverage areas which are available to others up to holding them indefinitely without charges .

Defense Department officials said the reference to "unprivileged belligerents" was intended to point out that terrorists or spies could be masquerading as reporters. Well, duh. But it doesn't say that.

Another provision says that "relaying of information" could be construed as "taking a direct part in hostilities." Officials said that is intended to refer to, for one example, passing on to an enemy information about locations of troops or other classified data or for another acting as an artillery spotter. But it doesn't say that.

Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was not the Defense Department's intent to allow an overzealous commander to block journalists or take action against those who write critical stories.

But it's already happened, long before there was a manual telling some "overzealous" commander that "relaying of "information" which he or she doesn't want sent out is justification for a journalist to be accused of "taking a direct part in hostilities" or "spying, sabotage and similar acts behind enemy lines." For one example, journalists working for The Associated Press and other news organizations have been detained or thrown out of embed arrangements for stories, video, or photographs that the military found unflattering.

And during the Iraq war, the US military detained several Iraqi journalists, some of whom worked for established international news organizations like the AP, Reuters, and AFP. Fortunately, ultimately, all were released without being prosecuted, though one, Pulitzer-winning photographer Bilal Hussein, was held without charge for two years.

Reporters Without Borders called the language in the new manual "dangerous," while others in the media used terms like “threatening,” "disturbing,” "speculative," and "hostile."

Oh, but don't worry, the manual also has helpful suggestions as to how journalists can avoid being dumped in some version of Gitmo because some "overzealous" commander takes a dislike to their reporting. First, they should always gain permission for their reporting from "relevant authorities" - without, we should not be surprised, providing guidelines about what to do in conflict zones, which are often chaotic. And second, they should submit all their relevant work for review and censorship, so the military can have total control over what is reported to the public.

In short, just go when and where the military tells you and report what the military wants you to and you'll be fine.

Which I'm sure the Pentagon would regard as the best of all possible worlds, a dream world.  A dream that is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

219.3 - Clown Award: David Brooks

Clown Award: David Brooks

Now for one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

This week, the dishonor of the Big Red Nose goes to syndicated columnist and all-around goofball David Brooks.

On Tuesday, September 8, his column was about what he called "four anti-party men" who have seen their political stars rising of late. The four are Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, who was at the time of Brooks' column the leading candidate for the post of leader of the Labour Party, a campaign he has now won. All of these men, he says, "have little experience in the profession of governing."

I won't speak for Trump or Carson, I will say that Bernie Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, for eight years, a member of the US House for 16 years, and was elected to the US Senate in 2006, where he is now the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, has been a Member of Parliament since 1983. I suspect he picked up something about the "profession of governing" in those 32 years.

But that, it seems, is not what Brooks means by "the profession of governing" - rather, he means what he calls the "civic institutions" of political parties, created to "win elections and pass agendas," and, he declares, none of these four has a "plausible path toward winning 50.1 percent of the vote in any national election. They have no prospect of forming a majority coalition that can enact their policies." In other words, as far as Brooks is concerned, if you're not part of a majority, you're not part of real political life, you loser.

David Brooks
He rather wistfully expresses his hope that "Maybe this is a summer squall and voters will get interested in the more traditional party candidates come autumn, the ones who can actually win majorities and govern." That is, the Hillary Clintons. The Jeb Bushes. The "we've seen this all before" show of candidates chosen because they were "electable" and then flop, such as Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, or who get elected only to turn their backs on the majority that elected them in order to do favors for the rich and powerful - such as all the rest of them, including liberal heroes Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, under whose administrations the wealthy have received the overwhelming majority of the benefits of economic growth while most of our futures stagnated.

And if you respond to those sorts of repeated betrayals by deciding you would back someone who actually said what you thought, who actually proposed what you could support, if you supported someone you figured you could actually believe in? According to Brooks, you've created a "cult of personality" because people like Bernie Sanders "are not really about governing. They are tools for their supporters’ self-expression" in what "sociologists call expressive individualism." Put another way, support for Bernie Sanders is a sign of the breakdown of the American community.

Put still another way, put the direct way, if you don't support the official, establishment-blessed, party-approved, "electable" candidate, then according to David Brooks, there is something wrong with you and supporting candidates based on what you believe in instead of on who has the biggest lowest-common-denominator appeal in is a sign of some sort of mental dysfunction.

There is a dysfunction here, surely, but it is not ours. And David Brooks, who wrapped up his column by wishing for - and he really did this - wishing for "a sensible Donald Trump," has made it clear to one and all that he is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

219.2 - To Laugh, Not Weep: FDA approves Oxycontin for children as young as 11

To Laugh, Not Weep: FDA approves Oxycontin for children as young as 11

This is an occasional feature, nicknamed "To Laugh, Not Weep," where we look to embrace the absurdity of something just to avoid the ugliness of it.

The evidence is indisputable. Marijuana, or more precisely cannabis, is a beneficial plant with a range of demonstrated and potential medical applications, including treatment of severe pain. While it, like any other chemical substance, can have some undesired effects, there is no evidence to date that anyone has ever died from it.

The evidence is also indisputable. OxyContin and other opioid-based prescription drugs have a small range of uses from pain management to cough relief. There are many harmful side effects. They are highly addictive, kill thousands of people a year, and sicken tens of thousands more. Opioids have a place in medicine as they are used to treat severe pain. But they are incredibly dangerous.

In the US, 23 states and Washington, DC have legalized marijuana for medical use. However, in all but five of those states, it is nearly impossible to obtain. In the other 27 states, you can't legally get it at all.

On the other hand, narcs won’t kick down your door, shoot your dog, and throw you in prison if you have doctor-prescribed OxyContin, which is legal in all 50 states.

Here's one outcome: Tens of thousands of children suffer from epilepsy in this country. Of those tens of thousands, only a very small handful have access to medical marijuana, which has shown some benefits in reducing seizures. But if you want your child to start a regime of opioid drugs, you can: Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved the use of OxyContin for children as young as 11.

Its use is to be highly regulated, but it still means that the federal government is allowing children as young as 11 to be given a highly-addictive, dangerous drug while denying them even the opportunity to find out if the non-addictive, far, far safer, alternative of medical marijuana would help them.

It is to laugh - so we don't weep.

[Special hanks to the linked article at AlterNet, from which this is largely taken.]

Sources cited in links:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

219.1 - Kim Davis and the religious right

Kim Davis and the religious right

I'm going to go on about this at some length this week because after this I hope to put it aside until there is some real development.

Kim Davis
So Kim Davis has been set free because Judge David Bunning, who jailed her for contempt, said he was satisfied that in her absence her assistant clerks were following the law and issuing marriage licenses to all qualified couples, including same-sex ones.

He did this, I think mistakenly, without obtaining any promise from her that she would not interfere with those assistant clerks continuing to do so, although he did warn her against doing it. Frankly, I don't expect her to follow the law now any more than she did before, particularly since Davis has already told Bunning that she would not allow any same sex marriage licenses to be issued from her office, even if she wasn't the one signing them. So I strongly suspect we will be right back here before too long.

Anyway, she was freed to the cheers of a throng of supporters crying "Amen" and "Praise Jesus" with - get this - "Eye of the Tiger" blaring from the PA.

Which, when you come down to it, is the real issue here: not Kim Davis, but her supporters and what they tell us about the desires and intentions of the right wing and the religious fanatics who have a significant voice in driving it. Kim Davis is not the issue, she is just the current focus of the issue.

So no, Kim Davis is not the real issue. She is one person, but what's significant is that she is one person who is being turned into the symbol, the poster child, for anti-gay bigotry and don't let anybody try to tell you that it's anything else.

Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckleberryhound was at the rally when Davis was released and he said “We don’t gather here because we hate anybody. We gather here today because we love God and this country. And we do not want to see this country become the smoldering remains of a great republic."

And what will make for the US being reduced to smoldering remains? By all appearances, it's being unable to discriminate against LGBT people.

So again, Kim Davis is not the issue. But I want to pause there because there are some things I do want to say about her.

First, I can accept that Kim Davis really does believe what she is saying about same-sex marriage. She is hopelessly, totally, perfectly wrong, morally, ethically, and legally, but I can accept that she really does believe it. What I am curious about is what she believed on the topic before what she calls her conversion experience, which she dates to about four years ago.

Which before I go on brings up something else. I mentioned last week, lots of people mentioned, that she is on her fourth husband - although you could say it's her third because she married the first one, then the second one, then the third one, and then the second one again - and she had twins as the result of an extra-marital affair while married to her first husband.

Now while I think it is relevant to mention all that, it is part of the context, it is part of the history, I don't think we should dwell on it because she will say (and has said) that as part of her conversion she was "forgiven" for all that and that she is a different person now, the latter of which you can accept may well be true even if you don't believe in the former.

However, I still wish someone would ask her what were her views on same-sex marriage before her conversion. Frankly, I would suspect that she held an "anti" view even then - which would mean that she is not against it now because of the Bible but rather that the Bible is now the justification for that prejudice.

Obviously, I don't know that for certain but I'm reasonably confident. First because polls say a majority of those in Kentucky even now are against same-sex marriage and it would be reasonable to expect the figure was even higher four years ago, so she would be part of a heavy majority. And second, because it is a pretty constant pattern for people who have such conversion experiences to not change their social and political opinions in its wake. People generally don't find that if they were tolerant of various things before they suddenly are against them or that if they were intolerant of those things before that now they are suddenly much more open-minded. As a general rule, those sorts of attitudes don't change much. There might be some degree of shift in one direction or the others, some change in emphasis, but overall, not a lot of difference.

So the idea that Kim Davis could be using the Bible as an excuse for her prejudice is not at all unreasonable.

But even so, I can believe that, with all the passion of the new convert, she is sincere in believing it's all about "God's authority." I can believe, that is, that she believes this is for her a matter of conscience. I believe in the power, the dignity, of the human conscience and I believe in the inviolability of the human conscience. As a result, I can respect, even admire, her willingness to go to jail rather than do something she honestly believes is against her conscience.

What I can't accept is her insistence that she should be able to continue as a county clerk, that she should get exactly what those of her ilk are always claiming same-sex couples are after: special treatment, special rights. Which of course same-sex couples aren't, they are only looking for equal rights, but special treatment is exactly what she is demanding.

Your conscience says you can't do the job? I understand - perhaps more than you think, because I have in the past quit a job over a matter of conscience. Which is exactly what she should do: You can't do the job, you quit and do something else. But no, not Kim Davis, not her lawyers, not her supporters, no, they say she gets to keep the job, the rest of us just have to change the rules to suit her.

Rev. Emily Heath
That is what she and her lawyers are demanding: special exemptions carved out for her convenience, special treatment for her so she can deny equal treatment to others. That is hypocrisy.

At least partly in response, Rev. Emily Heath of the United Church of Christ recently wrote about her own decision to not apply for a job as a chaplain in a federal prison because of her opposition to the death penalty, deciding she could not work in a system that upheld the option of killing someone:
"Religious liberty is guaranteed in this country. But that does not mean that every job needs to bend to your particular interpretation of your faith. If you really believe doing your job is violating your faith, then stepping aside would be a small price to pay for the love of the Gospel."
But apparently quitting her $80,000-a-year job is too big a price for Kim Davis.

You want more proof of the hypocrisy? Her lawyers have gone to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the same federal court system whose orders she openly and repeatedly defies, demanding it order Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to let Davis refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

On the other hand, I have to add that maybe, just maybe, its not hypocrisy; maybe its something else. After Kim Davis was jailed, her husband Joe emerged to say "They have illegally put my wife in jail so we’re gonna ask Beshear to do his job or step down.” The lack of self-awareness truly is astounding.

Her supporters have made comparisons to Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Are they kidding or just nitwits, I say before noting they are not famed for their sense of humor.

Rosa Parks was a private citizen defying what she knew to be the law for the purpose of challenging it for the benefit of an entire community. Kim Davis is a public official, charged with following the law, who wants an exemption from her duties just for herself. As John Culhane put it at, Kim Davis is "Rosa Parks' bus driver, denying a service to the public."

The comparisons to Dr. King are, if possible, more absurd. Not only was King, like Parks and unlike Davis, acting on behalf of many, but if Kim Davis feels a conflict between the law and her conscience, she is free to stop being a county clerk. When black Americans experience a conflict between the law and their conscience, their dignity as human beings, they are not free to stop being black. There simply is not comparison.

"You will follow my Bible!"
But this brings us back around to what I said was the real issue: not Davis, her supporters. Because like the man in the play said, "Ignorance and fanaticism are forever hungry and need feeding." And Kim Davis is the caterer of the moment.

Because with all their "Praise Jesus"'s and all their woo-hooing of Davis's invocation of "God's law," Davis's supporters are emblematic of the fact that there are those, too many of those, there are those who hold that members of government in their official duties must be allowed to carry them out in accordance with their personal understanding of the Bible - more properly, with the fundamentalists' understanding of the Bible. That is, what the shouted "Amens!" of the Bible-thumpers amount to is a declaration that the Bible, their interpretation of the Bible, overrules civil law - which, if it's not a working definition of a theocracy, I can't imagine what would be.

Oh, but "Wait, wait!" we'll get told! "It's the other way around! Its religious freedom! You're oppressing our religious freedom!"

Rev. Heath had a good response to that nonsense:
When someone is being asked to follow the law, and issue a marriage license, and they say they are being persecuted, I just don't buy it. You are being no more persecuted than I was when I decided not to be a prison chaplain. If you really believe doing your job is against your faith, then quitting would be an act of faith. Defying the law so two people you will never see again can't get married? Not so much.
Unfortunately, there are those, not many but even a handful is too many, there are indee3d those in government who hold that being expected to live up to their oath of office is religious persecution from which they should be freed by being able to decide what parts of that oath they will follow.

A few examples: In  Oregon, in the wake of a May 2014 federal court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in that state, Marion County Judge Vance Day instructed his staff to refer same-sex couples to other judges and then, apparently wanting to avoid a discrimination claim even though discriminating was exactly what he was doing, stopped performing weddings altogether.

Two other clerks in Kentucky - Casey Davis, no relation, in Casey County, and Kay Schwartz in Whitley County - are also refusing to issue marriage license to same-sex couples based on the same bogus religious-freedom argument. You haven't heard about them because they have not yet been the target of any legal challenges.

And last month, the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct found it necessary to say judges can’t refuse to marry same-sex couples on personal, moral, or religious grounds - that is, they can't refuse to do their jobs. The very fact that they had to say it shows just how deep is the determination among some to refuse to face the reality of social change.

Because that's what this is: a refusal to face reality. We knew - or we damn well should have known - that the victory on same-sex marriage at SCOTUS would not be the end of the issue, that the dead-enders would throw up every roadblock they could. And they are doing just that. There is still a fight to be fought on same-sex marriage and even more on the broader question of LGBTQ rights.

But at the same time, let's keep in mind and take heart from what that reality is: The fact is that in most places in this country, same-sex couples can get married without problems, that most of those judges and magistrates and county clerks and whatever who do disapprove of same-sex marriage are saying "my job is to uphold the law so I will," and most of all that the reason Kim Davis is such big news is precisely because she is by far the exception.

Justice is coming, justice will come.

Sources cited in links:

Left Side of the Aisle #219

Left Side of the Aislefor the week of September 10-16, 2015

This week:

Kim Davis and the religious right

To Laugh, Not Weep: FDA approves Oxycontin for children as young as 11

Clown Award: David Brooks

Outrage of the Week: new Pentagon manual could allow for indefinite confinement of journalists

Say It With Numbers: "Black Lives Matter = warfare on law enforcement" is a lie

Monday, September 07, 2015

218.7 - Man’s sunflower tribute to deceased wife

Man’s sunflower tribute to deceased wife

After all that I needed something lighter, gentler. And so we have this, a story I wanted to tell about something I wish I could have the chance to see.

You have to take Wisconsin state road 85 a few miles southwest of Eau Claire to find it. By all accounts, route 85 is a pretty road, going through farm country and often lined with fields of corn or soybeans. But at for now there is something different: a strip of sunflowers, 60 feet wide and four-and-a-half miles long.

They were planted by Don Jaquish as a tribute to his wife Babbette, who died last November from multiple myeloma. "She always loved flowers, but sunflowers were her favorite," he said.

The tribute crosses five farms. Neighbors opened up their land, telling Jaquish to pay whatever rent seemed fair.

What makes this even better is that the seeds will be harvested and sold as bird seed under the name Babbette's Seeds of Hope with a portion of the proceeds going to support hospitals, research, and patient advocacy with regard to cancer. This actually was Babbette Jaquish's idea and now stands as her legacy - and her face is printed on every bag of the seeds. Which may not have been her idea, but it was her husband's, whose loving tribute to her memory is a thing of true beauty.

Sources cited in links:

218.6 - Outrage of the Week: blaming Black Lives Matter for shooting of deputy sheriff

Outrage of the Week: blaming Black Lives Matter for shooting of deputy sheriff

Now for our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week.

You surely know about the execution-style murder of a policeman in Houston. Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth was filling his patrol car at a gas station when someone came up behind him, shot him in the back of the head, and they continued to shoot him as he lay on the ground. Within 24 hours, police had arrested Shannon Miles for the crime. Goforth was white, Miles is black.

It was a vicious and apparently unprovoked crime committed - making the assumption for the sake of the discussion that Miles is guilty - by someone with multiple previous arrests, including criminal mischief, disorderly conduct with a firearm, and two for resisting arrest and in 2012 was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial after being charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Despite that background, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman claimed to know immediately the real cause for the shooting: the Black Lives Matter movement. There's no evidence linking Miles in any way to that movement, but that didn't matter to Hickman:

"When the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happens, this rhetoric has gotten out of control. We've heard Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. Well, cops' lives matter, too."

He wasn't the only one. Devon Anderson, who is the district attorney for Harris County, called it "open warfare on law enforcement."

Criminal history? A history of violence? We don't need no stinking history!

Motive? We don't need no stinking motive! No, we know! It was all that talk about how black lives matter!

A connection, any connection, to that movement? We don't need no stinking connection! I told you! We know! That was the cause! You got people saying black lives matter like they actually mean it, you got people who are angry about the fact that despite progress blacks still are more than twice as likely to be killed by cops as white people are, you got people who are furious that nine months later, officials are still "investigating" the police murder of Tamir Rice, and first thing you know, you get "those people" all riled up and out of control!

And of course once some jackass like Sheriff Hickman - emphasis heavily on the first syllable - says it, it becomes "news" and Fox is all over it, pounding away, desperate to turn it into a meme that the right wing can hide from reality behind.

In "discussing" Deputy Goforth's murder the evening of Monday, August 31, "Fox and Friends" ran an onscreen banner calling the Black Lives Matter movement a "murder movement," and their guest called protesters "slime," "filth," and "cop-haters."

In a different segment on the same show, Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked a different guest, "Why has the Black Lives Matter movement not been classified yet as a hate group?"

(The answer she got, by the way, was "Well, they should do it, but unfortunately, it's being financed by the leftists," which has got to be one of the most totally non sequitur non sequiturs I have ever come across.)

Also on Monday, a guest called Black Lives Matter a "criminal organization" on the Fox talk show "The Five."

And also on Monday - this is all just coincidence, you understand, there surely is no coordination of message going on there - but also on Monday, Bill O’Reilly on his show called the movement a “hate group” and declared he was “going to put them out of business.”

This is beneath contempt, nothing other than a conscious and deliberate campaign to undermine and discredit the movement with a program of misdirection and deception looking to make all black people responsible for the actions of every individual black person - no "lone wackos" allowed if you're not white - plus fear-mongering with the blatantly racist dog-whistle that black people are incapable of controlling themselves so their anger is inherently threatening and dangerous, making any black protest movement "murderous," "criminal," and "hating."

And why are they so eager to discredit the movement? Because it's having an impact. A Pew Research Center survey from last month found that 53 percent of white Americans think the country needs to continue changing to give blacks equal rights. The number is distressingly low, but it is an increase from 39 percent, an increase of 14 percentage points, last year. In addition, a new Gallup poll found that 53 percent of whites said they are satisfied with the way blacks are treated in the United States. Again, the number is distressing, in this case distressingly high, but it is a drop from 67 percent in 2013, again a shift of 14 percentage points.

So the lies get told and the memes get spread to head of the terrifying prospect of change and worse yet, loss of white privilege. And they will be readily, eagerly, happily, lapped up by the bigots, buffoons, and bozos who make up far too large a portion of the American people and who are ever prepared to find a new way to tell themselves that the only racists are the people who protest racism. I fully expect the phrase "murder movement" to appear in comments in various places quite soon if it hasn't already.

It is frustrating, it is depressing, it is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:

218.5 - Clown Award: Patrick Couderc

Clown Award: Patrick Couderc

Next up, one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

Remember Mike Jeffries? He's the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, who got himself into hot water a couple of years ago when he was found saying that "In every school there are the cool kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. We go after the cool kids," that "A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes," and that he didn't want larger people shopping in his stores.

Well, it appears he has company. His name is Patrick Couderc, and he is the UK managing director of the fashion line known as Herve Leger. In a rather bizarre recent interview with the UK newspaper The Daily Mail, he spouted off a list of the types of women who he had decided shouldn't wear the line's signature bandage dress.

Patrick Couderc
His list included "voluptuous" women and women with "very prominent hips and a very flat chest," none of who, it seems, can offer the proper "silhouette."

Oh, and older women because they shouldn't be wearing youthful clothes.

Oh, and lesbians, because lesbians, or at least "committed" lesbians, whatever the hell that means, want to be, he said, "butch and leisurely."

I have got to think that fashion - not just the designers, most of who it seems do not know how to style for more than one body type and then blame women for not being all the same, but the whole clothing business right down to the retailers - I have got to think that this is the most sexist industry in the nation if not the world.

I suppose you could argue that point, but you can't argue this one: Patrick Couderc, who is now the former UK managing director, is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

218.4 - More tragedy, still hope in South Sudan

More tragedy, still hope in South Sudan

I have talked about this a few times before. I don't know exactly why I do since I know few if any of you are interested in this except perhaps philosophically, but this is a story I have been following at least to some degree for years. I don't know why this particular world tragedy affects me more than others do, but I have found it a particularly sad tale. Maybe it's because it is so marked with hopes being raised and then being shot down - usually literally.

It's the case of South Sudan. The borders of Sudan, in the words of the BBC's Southern Africa correspondent, "seemed to have been drawn up on the back of an envelope by the colonial administration," resulting in a nation with a largely Muslim, Arabic north being stitched together with a largely Christian and animist black African south.

You can predict the result: Civil war came to Sudan i 1955 as the south tried to break away from the north. A settlement was reached in 1972 but it didn't resolve the basic problems. So civil war broke out again in 1983 and lasted for 22 bloody years. Two million died, the largest death toll of any war since World War II. Four million more were driven from their homes. Finally, when both sides were drained of blood and exhausted, an agreement was reached that allowed the south some autonomy for six years to be followed by a vote whether or not to become independent.

Despite obstacles, that vote came, on schedule, in 2011 and the vote for independence was nearly 99 percent. South Sudan became the world's newest nation. And it is, today, still the youngest nation on the planet. Hopes were sky high.

For a short time. Without an external opponent to override local ethnic and tribal rivalries and conflicts, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, or SPLA, turned on itself. The leaders of the two biggest factions, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, were, in the new government, president and vice-president - but soon Kiir was accusing Machar of fomenting a coup and Machar was accusing Kiir of oppressing and trying to destroy the opposition and it rapidly escalated into a new civil war in December 2013.

In the time since, the pattern has been months of fighting followed by supposed ceasefires which have soon broken down, leading to more months of fighting and new supposed agreements.

Salva Kiir                               Riek Machar
Well, about two weeks ago, Machar, the main rebel leader and former vice-president, agreed to a compromise peace settlement. What's important here is that this is a proposed settlement, not just a ceasefire. But President Kiir stalled, missing a deadline for reaching an agreement and saying he needed more time and had "reservations" about the agreement and how it was reached.

Credit where it's due, the Obama White House made no secret of its "deep disappoint" that Kiir was "squandering" the opportunity to bring peace to South Sudan. Kiir was stalling for time, and the White House in effect told him "you have no time." On August 26, Kiir signed.

So once again there is hope.

And again, there are already reports of violations of the ceasefire and each side is accusing the other of being the guilty party.

However, we shouldn't give up that fragile hope just yet. In chaotic situations like this, it is rare for a ceasefire to take immediate full effect, that is, for all fighting to stop completely and immediately. More common is a rapid tapering off and watching for that pattern is a way of judging if both sides are serious about this.

In fact, it's even more important to hold off judgment for a bit here because it's not even clear that all of the rebel units are under Machar's control. Fighting may be getting generated by small, independent groups. Which is both good and bad: good because it would likely mean that large-scale, nationwide fighting will not occur; bad because small, regional conflicts could go on for some time.

The conclusion I would draw here is that if I can come back next week without having to note a significant renewal of fighting or a breakdown of the frankly tenuous peace accord, one which I have to say still has a lot of "and a player to be named later" about it, but if I can come back next week and say the ceasefire is holding for the most part, then we can at least hope that the people of South Sudan will have enough time, enough of a respite, to bury their dead.

And the fact that merely that is something to be hoped for is a measure of just how great the tragedy is.

Sources cited in links:

218.3 - And not just Kim Davis

And not just Kim Davis

By the way, Kim Davis is not the only homophobic bigot who is learning that there can be a price to be paid for bigotry.

The Colorado state Court of Appeals decision has affirmed an earlier decision by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado and its owner, Jack Phillips, violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act when he declined to make a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding reception in 2012.

Phillips argued that his refusal to make the cake was based on his religious opposition to same-sex marriage, claiming he would sell the couple any bakery product except a wedding cake and so his refusal had nothing to do with the couple's sexual orientation.

The court didn't fall for it any more than the Civil Rights Commission did, stating the obvious that
the act of same-sex marriage is closely correlated to [the couple's] sexual orientation.
Jack Phillips
Nor did it fall for the claim that being unable to discriminate is a violation of his First Amendment rights. He argued that having to serve same-sex couples by making wedding cakes compels him to convey a celebratory message about the ceremony, which is similar in construct to the argument Kim Davis used and which I find utterly bizarre, particularly in a case like this. Have you ever, I mean ever, even just once in your life, looked at a wedding cake and thought "wow, the baker is conveying a celebratory message about this ceremony?" I mean, seriously, did you ever even think about the baker's opinion at all?

Phillips is not the only one to be on the losing side in a case like this. Colorado is now at least the fifth state - the others are New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and New York - to find that laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation do bar businesses from turning away same-sex couples and appeals to God and claims of a "right" to discriminate based on your personal religious beliefs will not make the cut.

As I said, the bigots are slowly being brought to heel. Too slowly, but it is happening.

Sources cited in links:

218.2 - Good News: homophobic bigots slowly being brought to heel

Good News: homophobic bigots slowly being brought to heel

On another front, it appears the bigots are slowly but surely being brought to heel.

You may have heard about the case of Kim Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who has refused to issue marriage licenses ever since the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the one that declared bans on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional. Davis insists that as an Apostolic Christian with a supposedly religious objection to same-sex marriage, she should be allowed to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That is, she should be free to impose her own lifestyle choices - because, after all, what religion you are really is a lifestyle choice, isn't it - on those who come before her. That is, more bluntly, she should be free to not do her job while still being able to keep it.

She was sued by four couples, two straight and two gay.

Kim Davis
US District Court Judge David Bunning ruled in favor of the couples, saying that Davis's claims about her religious belief do not free her from upholding her oath of office. On August 26, the 6th Circuit Court agreed. Bunning had stayed his ruling to allow the appeal to the 6th Circuit and after it ruled her lawyers wanted him to extend his stay while they appealed to the Supreme Court. He refused so they went to the Supreme Court, requesting it issue that stay. And on August 31, the Supreme Court refused. Kim Davis had lost.

Which meant that on September 1, Kim Davis had to go to her office and - refuse to issue marriage licenses, in direct violation of the court order. But while she is still defiant, it remains to be seen if that defiance will last and for how long when there start to be actual consequences. Judge Bunning is already being asked to hold her in contempt and there is a hearing set for September 3, which unfortunately is the day after I do this so I can't tell you what happened. I will say that the plaintiffs are asking for financial penalties rather than jail time for a contempt citation but I think that is a mistake. If she is fined, even a stiff amount per day she continues to refuse, you can be guaranteed that there will be cash pouring in from some crowd funding effort or another, potentially enough that she could actually profit on the deal, as has happened to other religious reactionaries who made a name for themselves by denying same-sex couples basic services.

Her argument is strained at best. At bottom, it involves claiming that issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple is a "searing act of validation" of same-sex marriage which would "forever echo in her conscience" - rather than such a license being, as any rational person would suppose, simply a declaration that the particular couple meets the legal requirements to get married.

And while issuing a license to a same-sex couple would "forever echo in her conscience," her highly selective conscience doesn't seem to be bothered by issuing licenses to previously-divorced people, even though, based on her claim about licenses for same-sex couples she would have to see that as a "searing act of validation" of divorce, fornication, and adultery, all of which were quite unpopular with Jesus.

Perhaps that's because they don't seem  to have been unpopular with Kim Davis. She is on husband number four. Five months after divorcing her first husband, she gave birth to twins. He was not the father. And no, neither was husband number two the father. Husband number three was.

And by the way, Kim Davis, what was the whole point of going to the courts, of crying for the protection of the courts, when you apparently were determined all along to simply ignore the rulings when they didn't go your way, determined to deny the courts' authority and instead appeal to "God's authority" over civil law and oaths of office, which sounds a lot like a Christian version of Sharia law? What did Jesus teach about hypocrisy?

Bottom line: This is not about God's word or "God's authority," it is about bigotry, pure and simple, a bigotry that now, hopefully, will exact a price on this particular bigot big enough to make her change her ways, even if changing her mind is beyond hope.

Sources cited in links:

218.1 - Good News: Connecticut Supreme Court finds death penalty unconstitutional

Good News: Connecticut Supreme Court finds death penalty unconstitutional

Back in 2012, the state of Connecticut abolished the death penalty, becoming the 17th in the nation and the fifth in five years to do so. However, the question remained about the prisoners who had been put on death row before the law was changed.

On August 13, the state Supreme Court answered that question: By a 4-3 decision, it declared the death penalty unconstitutional, freeing those convicts from the threat of officially-sanctioned death. They will now serve life without parole.

The Court made reference to the repeal in its decision, finding that in light of the 2012 law,
this state's death penalty no longer comports with contemporary standards of decency and no longer serves any legitimate penological purpose.
The ruling advanced reasons beyond the change in law, including, in wording significant in coming from a court,
the freakishness with which the sentence of death is imposed; the rarity with which it is carried out; and the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic biases that likely are inherent in any discretionary death penalty system.
Thus, the court found, the death penalty "fails to comport with our abiding freedom from cruel and unusual punishment."

And since medical experts will agree that no form of execution is "humane," despite the claims of proponents of various means of official murder, it can well be argued that execution is by its nature cruel and should be stopped. And in Connecticut, it now has been.

Sources cited in links:

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Left Side of the Aisle #218

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of September 3-9, 2015

This week:

Good News: Connecticut Supreme Court finds death penalty unconstitutional

Good News: homophobic bigots slowly being brought to heel

And not just Kim Davis

More tragedy, still hope in South Sudan

Clown Award: Patrick Couderc

Outrage of the Week: blaming Black Lives Matter for shooting of deputy sheriff

Man’s sunflower tribute to deceased wife
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