And Now We Have Arkansas (What the Fuck?)

Following the footsteps of Kansas, Arizona and Mississippi, the state of Arkansas is trying to use legislation to keep anti-LGBT discrimination alive and well. But this approach is a bit different. Rather than using “religious freedom”, which has proven controversial–and gotten legislation dropped in Kansas and vetoed in Arizona–they are going for the innocuous sounding “standardizing” non-discrimination ordinances across the state.

According the AR branch of the ACLU, “SB 202 prohibits cities, counties, and towns from passing laws that create any “protected class” or “prohibit discrimination” that go beyond state law.”

This means cities can’t restrict discrimination any further than the state does. And guess what? The state doesn’t protect against anti-LGBT discrimination! The ACLU claims it’s “a direct fear response to Fayetteville’s passage of an ordinance protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A different technique for the same old shit! They aren’t even being subtle about it.

State Senator Bart Hester has introduced an emergency bill, SB 202, which would strike down all nondiscrimination ordinances in the state permanently.

Hester believes that to allow LGBT people to have protections in the workplace and to have legal recourse against cases of discrimination goes too far, granting “special rights” to people who aren’t like him.

The 37-year-old GOP official told BuzzFeed that sure, LGBT people get discriminated against sometimes, but these days, “we are all singled out for discrimination.”

“I am singled out as a politician. I am singled out because I am married to one woman,” Hester said. “I want everyone in the LGBT community to have the same rights I do. I do not want them to have special rights that I do not have.”

(source)

Oh, he’s “singled out” as a politician (maybe because politicians do shit like this?) and for being “married to one woman”? Really?

There is a site dedicated to encouraging the governor to veto it. Let’s hope he does.

Not sure this is a bad law? Hate group leader and general asshole Tony Perkins loves it. What more do you need?

Battle For The Net

LoadingIf you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.

Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.

If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

Arizona, What the Fuck?

While my attention was elsewhere the Arizona legislature passed an anti-gay discrimination law similar to the nonsense that was considered in Kansas.

What the fuck?!

The Arizona legislature gave final approval to legislation that allows business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays, drawing backlash from Democrats who called the proposal “state-sanctioned discrimination” and an embarrassment.

The 33-27 vote by the House Thursday evening sends the legislation to Republican Governor Jan Brewer and puts Arizona back at the forefront of a polarizing piece of legislation four years after the state enacted an immigration crackdown that caused a national furor.

from the Guardian

Of course, the GOP supporters claim this is about preventing discrimination!

“This bill is not about allowing discrimination,” Yarbrough said. “This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”

So if someone’s “faith” tells them to kill infidels, we should probably protect that too, right? My faith tells me to punch those fucking jackasses in the nuts. I’m so over this bullshit.

If Jan Brewer signs this, she and all those who voted for it should be impeached for failing to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

The People of the Gun

Guns & Ammo column backing Illinois gun law brings vitriolic backlash, costs writer his job

I don’t have the time I’d like to properly comment on this story, but it makes me sick. What sort of compromise can we hope to achieve when one side will tear apart one of their own for calmly and rationally expressing a viewpoint that deviates even slightly from the extreme?

The one thing I will point out is this response from a gun rights advocate:

I’m going to stop there. Anyone who says “I believe in the Second Amendment but–” does not believe in the Second Amendment. They are not friends, they are not frenemies, they are enemies of The People of the Gun.
More than that, whether or not these nominal gun rights supporters (e.g., President Obama, Senator Charles Schumer) “believe” in the Second Amendment is irrelevant. As stated above, the right to keep and bear arms is a natural right, stemming from our natural right of self-defense. It doesn’t require belief, faith or political justification.

“The People of the Gun”? It’s like a religious fanaticism, and it’s nearly impossible to reason with religious fanatics; rational thought doesn’t enter the picture. There’s more to pick apart in this statement, but I really do need to get back to work, so I’ll let you read the full piece for now, and try to post more later.

Straws and Windmills

They feel the change in the air. And they’re scared! The opponents of marriage equality sense that the tide is changing against them and they are growing increasingly desperate in their myopic efforts to thwart an enemy that isn’t really there.

First, let’s look to the antics of the oddly named Family Research Council (it’s not clear to me what–if any–actual research they conduct), which brings forth an argument that is old and tired. Now an old argument isn’t necessarily a bad argument, but in this case it’s so preposterous that I didn’t expect to see it voiced again in any serious way. The group has filed amicus briefs related to DOMA and Prop 8 that Zack Ford on ThinkProgress summarizes thus:

FRC claims that gays and lesbians do not deserve nondiscrimination protections because of their sexual orientation, but adds that even if they did, the Court could still rule against them in these cases. The group explains this by pointing out that gay people can enter opposite-sex couples, and thus laws like DOMA and Prop 8 do not discriminate specifically against gay people, just same-sex couples.

FRC states, in part:

…the right to enter into a marriage that would be recognized under § 3 of DOMA “is not restricted to (self-identified) heterosexual couples,” but extends to all adults without regard to “their sexual orientation.” … a law that restricts marriage (or the benefits thereof) to opposite-sex couples does not, on its face, discriminate between heterosexuals and homosexuals.  The classification in the statute is not between men and women, or between heterosexuals and homosexuals, but between opposite-sex (married) couples and same-sex (married) couples.

This is of course just a long-winded way of saying that if gay people want to get married, they are free to marry an opposite-sex partner just like straight people are. Therefore, this is clearly not a matter of discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Case closed, thank you very much.

Except, well, that’s stupid. First, they are really letting their homophobia shine through here. These people who are self-appointed protectors of marriage think that it’s less of a threat to the institution for (let’s say) a gay man and a lesbian to get married to each other for the rights and privileges that come with the title than it is for two men or two women to get married to each other. They hate and fear the gays that much! Second, the implication of this argument is that marriage under the law is about nothing more than said rights and privileges. But if that’s the case, why does it have to be between and man a woman? There is no logical reason that it would have to be. Of course, it is about more than that. This is obviously an attempt to spin the situation so that no protected class is being harmed. But no matter how you try to spin it, it is discrimination. There are people who are free to marry the consenting adult whom they love and wish to spend the rest of their life with, and those who are not. It’s pretty damn clear cut.

As Mr. Ford puts it, the same (il)logic could have been used in 1967: “The classification in the statute is not between white people and colored people, but between same-race couples and mixed-race couples, differentiated for the purposes of racial integrity.”

But let’s keep going further down the rabbit hole, shall we? Paul Clement, the attorney hired by the House GOP to defend DOMA, presents this argument:

It is no exaggeration to say that the institution of marriage was a direct response to the unique tendency of opposite-sex relationships to produce unplanned and unintended offspring. Although much has changed over the years, the biological fact that opposite-sex relationships have a unique tendency to produce unplanned and unintended offspring has not.  While medical advances, and the amendment of adoption laws through the democratic process, have made it possible for same-sex couples to raise children, substantial advance planning is required. Only opposite-sex relationships have the tendency to produce children without such advance planning (indeed, especially without advance planning).

I’m no scholar on the origins of the institution of marriage, so I won’t weigh in on that opening claim. His claim that “opposite-sex relationships have a unique tendency to produce unplanned and unintended offspring” is more or less accurate, but irrelevant. No state in the union outlaws marriage between two opposite-sex people on the basis that they are incapable of producing “unplanned and unintended offspring”. Men who are sterile (through nature, disease or vasectomy) get married all the time, as do women who are incapable of conceiving (due to nature, menopause, surgery or disease). If marriage is substantially about whoopsie pregnancies then why give all these people access to it? Also, it’s not so much opposite-sex relationships that cause accidental kids as it is opposite-sex relations (i.e. sex). By this “logic” polygamy should be legal, so that a man can marry his mistress or an already-married woman can also marry the coworker with whom she had a one-night stand at the office party (who himself is married). At best this gives a rationale for encouraging heterosexuals to marry, but not for preventing homosexuals from doing the same. It’s not like marriage is a non-renewable resource; there’s an infinite supply of it!

It’s rather refreshing to see that this is the best they’ve got. Those who would stand in the way of marriage equality are not only tilting at windmills, but they’re also grasping at straws.

Further Reading:

There’s Absolutely No Logical Argument Against Gay Marriage – Business Insider

Gays Can’t Marry Because … They Plan Babies? – NY Magazine

More Guns

This is something that I just now stumbled on, many months after the fact. But it’s still highly relevant, particularly to my recent post about guns. If you didn’t read it (it’s long, I know) my point was in countering the preposterous NRA claim that having more guns would deter violence.

Anyway, this is a post from a friend of mine relating to the mass shooting in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater in the summer of last year. He is a gun owner, a Marine veteran and a police officer. He addresses a slightly different angle than I do, namely how more guns would (or would not) have helped. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but I’ll post a couple snippets below.

My Perspective on the Colorado Shooting

If an officer, or two, had been in the theater when this happened they would have been in no better situation then those there to watch the movie.  Someone told me that they would have guns and could have shot back.  Really?  Once the tear gas and shots rang out PANIC also began.  As a police officer, I can tell you that just because I have a gun does not mean I am super man.  Hundreds of people began to run, jump, drop to the floor.  Even the best trained officer would find this situation a nightmare to find out who is doing the shooting and then to even try to take a shot without hitting one of the hundreds of people running.

The other what if … is one concerning a law abiding citizen carrying concealed in the theater….  Again you still have mass panic, disorientation, darkness, lack of formal training and the big one in my mind how do you shoot at a single person without hitting the hundreds that are trying to flee.  My biggest issue with this is what would keep the fleeing people from thinking you were just another gunman in the dark trying to do the same thing the suspect was doing, kill people.

Indeed! If some good Samaritan had been carrying in the theater, he or she may well have been shot (as was such a would-be helper in one of the examples in my Guns post) or have accidentally hit bystanders, as trained police officers did in NYC last year outside the Empire State Building(also an example in my post). And if you do have good & bad guys packing heat, how do you tell them apart in a hyper tense, deadly (not to mention dark) situation?

I’m sharing this because I think it’s an interesting perspective from someone knowledgeable on guns, security and policing. Check it out.

Guns

Yosemite Sam shooting pistols into the airAfter a full week of silence following the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT, the National Rifle Association (NRA) finally held a press conference. They didn’t take any questions, so they might as well have just posted a statement or video response online.

In their statement, they blamed everything but guns for killings: video games, music videos, movies, mental illness and… well, not having enough guns.

There is so much to say about all this. Given my propensity for wordiness I could spend the next several hours writing and still leave some stones unturned. So I will focus in on one thing in this post: The notion that having more guns is a deterrent for violence. It’s an idea completely not rooted in reality.

Let’s start with some anecdotes. Now, anecdotes by themselves do not prove anything, but they can still be very informative.

In November, 2009 Major Nidal Hasan wounded 29 and killed 13 at Ft. Hood, the most populous U.S. military base in the world. Military bases are not know for having a shortage of firearms. (Update: After subsequent shootings at more military installations, I learned that most servicemen on bases in the U.S. aren’t armed. There are, however, armed military police on the bases.)

In March, 1981 president Ronald Reagan, his press secretary James Brady, a police officer and a Secret Service agent were shot. None of them were killed, but Brady and the cop were seriously wounded. The presence of many highly trained, armed men didn’t deter John Hinckley, Jr., the shooter. In the end, he was stopped by a civilian, not by using a gun, but by hitting Hinckley in the head and pulling him to the ground.

INTERMISSION. From the NRA’s statement today: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Oh, really?

In February, 2005 David Hernandez Arroyo Sr. opened fire (with a MAK-90 semi-automatic rifle) at his ex-wife and child, outside a courthouse! And courthouses, as the NRA correctly pointed out, are already protected by armed security. A civilian, armed with a pistol, attempted to intervene and was shot and killed. Arroyo was able to escape from a gunfight with police, including a trained sniper, and take officers on a car chase before eventually being taken down.

Less than a day after the shooting in Newtown, a gunman shot a police officer and two employees in a hospital in Alabama before being fatally shot by a second officer. Alabama is a state with relatively lax gun laws. It’s not clear what the gunman’s intentions were, but it sounds like he didn’t open fire until being confronted by police.

These are all instances where the presence of guns did not act as a deterrent to gun violence. In fact, mass shooters often turn their guns on themselves or are shot and killed by police anyway. So while it’s possible that more guns might mean the bad guy gets taken out sooner, it takes some serious denial of facts to say it would be a deterrent.

As an aside, let’s talk about guns stopping the shooter… in August, 2012 in New York City, a workplace dispute turned violent and a shooting in an office near the Empire State Building lead to police shooting at a fleeing suspect–a suspect who had shot the one person he wanted to shoot already. The officers managed to shoot and wound 9 bystanders before killing the gunman. None of the bystanders died, which was more a matter of luck and–probably modern medicine, than anything else.

Back to deterrents. The homicide rate in Chicago is very high. It’s on pace to hit 500 this year, and many of them are gang-related shootings. Now gang members are known for having guns. Surely whoever starts the fight has to know that their targets (or their nearby friends) could well be armed, right? That doesn’t stop them from shooting and it doesn’t stop innocent bystanders, including children, from being killed.

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, have much tougher gun laws. According to the CBC, “It takes up to 60 days to obtain a firearm in this country, after registering, taking a course and going through background checks.” Oh, dear! By the NRA’s logic crime in Canada must be out of control! Is it? No. In fact, there were 598 homicides in the entire country in 2011! How about in the USA? According to the FBI that number was 14,612 last year! OK, to be fair let’s adjust for population differences.

Homicides per 100,000 population (2011):

Canada: 1.73

USA: 4.7

Shockingly, this rate in the US has been decreasing for the last 5 years, and was 9.0+ in the early 90s!

Well OK, do stricter laws really mean fewer guns in Canada? Yes, as a matter of fact.

Gun ownership per 100 people (2007):

Canada: 30.8

USA: 88.8

I suggest clicking the link above and checking out the infographic, which is quite informative. You can find countries with low gun ownership and high gun-related homicides, but they are mostly places where drug cartels or other criminal organizations are strong and the police/government is weak, such as Mexico, South America and South Africa. You can also see many countries like Canada (and better), like Sweden, Norway, France, New Zealand, Greece, Armenia, Jordan, Spain, Israel, Algeria, the UK, etc. Note that this infographic deals only with firearms and firearm-related homicides, so it doesn’t tell a complete story and should thus be taken with a grain of salt.

The point is that the U.S. should, as the country with the most guns per capita in the world (oh, did I forget to mention that little takeaway from the infographic?) have one of the lowest if not the lowest homicide rates in the world. That is, if the NRA is to be believed. And clearly, without a doubt, it should not.

If you haven’t read enough yet, I will leave you with this little gem, a collection of things Wayne LaPierre, CEO and VP of the NRA–who spoke today–has given us over the years: via ThinkProgress.

Full text of said address is here.