Details, Details

Details and facts matter. This is true whether they are convenient for us or not. So some time has passed, we know more about Donald’s executive order about immigration, and some other historical context has come to my attention. So let’s talk about it.

About that list

First, like many others I implied that Donald cherry picked the list of countries to be effected by the ban based on his business interests. This appears to not be the case. As many conservatives, including the administration, are pointing out today, the list of countries originated during the Obama administration. It started with the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law. After that, the Department of Homeland Security (again, under Obama) added to the list, bringing it to what it is today. Mea culpa! So the administration didn’t create this list, but I’m sure they were overjoyed to find one that happened to align with Donald’s businesses AND was created under Obama, giving them deniability. Nonetheless, the facts are what they are and we need to acknowledge them.

So that means this is really Obama’s policy, right? Wrong! The list of countries is shared, the policy is not. Due to the Act, the people from these countries (or who had recently traveled to them) are not be eligible for visa waivers, meaning they have to apply for a visa (and go through the requisite screening process) to enter the US. This legislation was criticized at the time, from both sides, but the fact is it goes nowhere near as far the latest executive order. The policies are not at all alike.

But wait, there’s more

Another attempt to tie this to Obama, and therefore indicate that protests are either wrong or hypocritical, is to compare it to his 2011 action regarding Iraq. In a nutshell, in 2011, after a terrorist plot was discovered, the Obama administration stopped processing applications for refugees from Iraq for six months. This article does a good job of describing the differences between this executive order and Obama’s 2011 action, but I’ll summarize the key ones here: Continue reading

Why Your Point is Pointless

Are you someone who has said something like the tweets below, in the media, on social media or just to friends?

You probably thought you were gosh-darned clever, and caught these guys red-handed being hypocrites!

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the point you’re making doesn’t actually exist. You’re really making a terrible analogy. Continue reading

How Not to Cover Mass Murder

I’m sure by now everyone, even my international followers (hi, guys!) have heard about the horrific mass shooting earlier this week at a South Carolina church. You may even know the name of the shooter. But how many victims can you name? Any at all?

It’s a sad truth that we remember the names of mass murderers, but rarely the names of their victims. This is, in part, a numbers game; by definition, there will always be more victims of mass murderers than there are mass murderers, so that’s fewer names to memorize. But the media also plays a significant part in this. They put orders of magnitude more emphasis on the killers than the victims. And it turns out this may be more than a sad injustice, it may be dangerous.

The video below is from Charlie Brooker–who Wikipedia calls an “English satirist and broadcaster”–while working for the BBC, in response to a mass shooting in Ireland. It was a complaint and a plea about how the media covers these events. Give it a watch (it’s only 2:48) and then join me below. (h/t to someecards, where I first saw this)
Continue reading

Cleaning House

Sweeping broomIf you’re like me, you can hardly keep up with the deluge of reports of apparent police misconduct, often with fatal results.

The biggest case in the news right now is of course, that of Freddie Gray. Just today, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges against 6 officers involved in the Gray incident. Those charges included false imprisonment, because her investigation concluded there was no justification for the arrest in the first place!

Recently a judge in Cook County, Illinois dismissed a case against a Chicago police detective who–while off duty–fired into a small crowd of people and killed an innocent bystander, Rekia Boyd. Of course the cop claimed that someone in the crowd had a gun…but no gun or evidence of a gun was found, and the intended target (who was injured but not killed) had a cell phone in his hand. Interestingly, the judge who tossed the case implied that the officer should have been charged with murder, a more serious crime than that he had been charged with.

Not long ago, most of us probably saw the incredibly disturbing video of North Charleston police officer Slager shooting a fleeing, unarmed Walter Scott in the back several times, then planting his taser next to the body.

I think what we are seeing is the inevitable result of the complete abdication of responsibility of police to police their own. I still believe many if not most police officers are basically good people. But as John Stuart Mill wrote, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” We have seen that police will not keep their own house in order. In fact, those who try may find themselves punished instead of the bad guys! That leaves us–the rest of Society–no choice but to clean their house for them. The time has more than come.

Kansas, What the Fuck?

Work has been kicking my ass (and still is) so I don’t have time to get into this, but I wanted to get a WTF post out there, in case people aware of this bullshit.

The Kansas state legislature is on the verge of approving—and Kansas’s Republican governor has pledged to sign—a bill that legalizes discrimination against gay couples. Businesses, individuals, government employees—anyone will be able to discriminate against gay couples once the law is signed. Under the law firefighters could refuse to put out a fire if the house was owned by a gay couple.

What in all the fucks are they thinking?

The piece this quote is taken from is definitely worth a read, and a share.

I just… I can’t even right now.

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.

Chicken and Free Speech

I am pissed off. At whom, you ask? Well I’m about to tell you. I’m pissed off at the mayors of Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. It’s not because they support equal rights for LGBT citizens; obviously, I do as well. It’s because they opened their mouths and finally gave those gay-fearing right winger so-called Christians a legitimate complaint! Saying that Chick-fil-A is unwelcome in their cities and/or should be banned sounds like a clear violation of free speech to me (and to Jon Stewart).

I’ve been telling people about Chick-fil-A’s issues with gays for a long time, well before Dan Cathy opened his mouth and confirmed his bigotry. I won’t patronize them. I never have and likely never will, unless something big changes. It’s not because of the opinion of the founders/owners, it’s because they put their money where their mouth (finally) is. According to Equality Matters, WinShape Foundation–a charity funded mostly by profits from Chick-fil-A–donated “$1.1M to anti-gay groups from 2003-2008, the last year for which public records are available”. There have also been allegations of employment discrimination against unmarried employees or those who engage in “sinful behavior”.

Needless to say, I don’t much like Chick-fil-A, or the Cathy family. However, for an elected official to say that Mr. Cathy’s statements are grounds for banning the restaurant is completely inappropriate. For once, the anti-equality crowd saying their free speech is being infringed upon have a leg to stand on. And I hate that.

Let’s take a moment to talk about what free speech, in the U.S., is and is not. Many people–on the left and the right–get this wrong. What the First Amendment tells us, in essence, is this: the government shall not prevent someone from expressing an opinion or punish someone for expressing an opinion. It does not say you can shout “FIRE!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. It does not say you can knowingly make false negative statements about someone else (see “defamation“) or make false claims about a product or service, or lie under oath. It also does not guarantee freedom from repercussions or criticism based on your speech. It doesn’t apply to non-government entities. This is where most of the confusion seems to come in.

If Bob goes on TV and says “I think widgets are terrible and should not be used for anything!” and then widget lovers criticize Bob, the widget haters may decry that Bob’s free speech is somehow being threatened by the widget lovers. But it’s not. In fact, both sides are exercising free speech, and the system is working as intended. Suppose that Bob works for ACME Widgets, Inc., a company that manufactures widgets (duh) who finds out about Bob’s statement. Bob’s boss pulls him aside and says “Hey, Bob, we can’t have a representative of ACME saying things like that. If you do that again, we’re going to have to let you go.” Now are his free speech rights being violated? Nope. ACME is a company, not the government. Without taking possible employment laws into account (that’s another whole can of worms), ACME could let him go on the spot. From a First Amendment standpoint, they’d be free and clear. If Bob owned…oh, let’s say a restaurant (Bob’s Burgers), and widget lovers called for a boycott of Bob’s, they would also not be violating Bob’s First Amendment rights. I’ll say it again: freedom of speech does not mean freedom from repercussions. Such regulation would be ridiculous, not to mention impossible to enforce. What if the mayor of Bob’s town (or the governor of his state) was pro-widget and tried to get Bob’s Burgers shut down because of his statements? Now we have a First Amendment issue! Not until the government gets involved does it become a threat to free speech.

And that’s what happened, in a limited but real way, with Chick-fil-A. Those mayors would have been free to express their own opinions, that Cathy was wrong and marriage equality is important. But to try to impose legal restrictions against the chain is going too far. Note that the thousands of private citizens criticizing Mr. Cathy and Chick-fil-A are not in any way violating anyone’s free speech rights; they are in fact, merely exercising their own.

Now the people who “flocked” (in the words of the New York Post) on their so-called “Appreciation Day” are being called “free speech supporters” by the Post and the HBIC (Head Bigot In Charge) of the movement, Mike Huckabee. And I’d love to believe that’s what they are. I’d love to believe those people are just–like me–pissed at the Mayors Three who overstepped their bounds. But come on, I’m not an idiot. Even if we assume most of those people don’t really understand free speech (and I’m pretty sure Huckabee at least does, he’s actually a pretty smart guy) I just know that many of them went because they heard “Gays shouldn’t be getting married!” and thought “AMEN!” And that makes me sad. But as Jon Stewart said, we’re going to win in the end. It’s inevitable that we will eventually get gay marriage, and they will “get Type II diabetes”.

I have more to say on this topic, but I’ll save it for another post another day in the near future. In the meantime, happy Friday and enjoy your weekend.

Amendment One

An Open Letter to the People of North Carolina

Dear North Carolinians,

I realize there are hundreds of thousands of you that voted against Amendment 1 this week, and many who campaigned or donated it against it. I’ll start by addressing you, and saying thank you! You’re probably hearing a lot of negative stuff about your state, lumping everyone together. Please understand that most of us are pissed off and hurt and just letting off steam. Don’t take this stuff personally; we know there are some good people in your state. While you didn’t succeed, we appreciate your support. The deck was stacked against you anyway. Rest assured that you, not your opponents, will be on the right side of history on this.

And now on to those opponents. It’s time for me to address you (or should I say “y’all”?). Shame. On. You. What were you thinking?! Do you subscribe to the Pat Robertson philosophy that two dudes (or chicks, but let’s face it you’re more worried about dudes) getting it on pisses God off so much that he punishes everyone around for it? If that’s the case, I can kind of understand. I mean, I think you’re an idiot for buying into that claptrap, but at least there’s a dollop of good in your motives. But I hope you realize this isn’t going to stop gay people from having sex. Not a one (nor two, which would be the minimum required number). So what have you really accomplished here?

But the rest of you Yes voters, what’s your excuse? Don’t tell me, I’ve heard them all and they’re all nonsense. Complete garbage. How does it in any way hurt any hetero marriages if two guys or girls get married in the eyes of the law? We’re talking civil marriage here, folks. No one (except maybe a very small number on the fringe) is talking about forcing your precious Church, whatever it may be, to perform or recognize same-sex marriages. We don’t care about that. We want equal rights (and protection) under the law. And if marriage wasn’t bad enough, your nefarious amendment had to go and include civil unions and domestic partnerships, too.  Why? What possible interest does that serve? Nothing good, that’s for sure.  Let go of the hate and fear! I promise, you’ll feel better.

I am not religious but I hope there is a God. I almost wish I could be there to see the expressions on your  faces, you self-righteous so-called “Christians”, when you die and go to Hell. Meanwhile, those of us–gay or straight–who lived our lives according to the Golden Rule, helping our fellow man and generally minding our own business as long as no one was getting hurt, zip through the Pearly Gates into Heaven. I can’t believe hate and oppression will put anyone on the path to Paradise. No god worth worshiping would allow that to happen. You know, it’s not too late to change.

Finally, for those who didn’t vote at all. I’m glad you didn’t vote FOR it, but why sit on the sidelines? When there’s an injustice you can fight just by taking a trip to the voting booth, why not do it? Are you conflicted? I get it. I do. But remember we’re talking about some pretty basic rights here. You don’t have to to like (or even be comfortable with) gays to give us the rights we deserve.

In closing, North Carolina, thank you, fuck you, and come on!

Regards,

Josh