Abbott and his Trumpist cronies know no depths to which they will not descend:
As District Attorney of the most populous county in Texas, I oppose attempts by Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton to designate life-saving care for transgender children as ‘child abuse.’ As a member of the LGBTQ community myself, I am particularly sensitive to the invidious nature of this order—it turns family members against each other at the expense of their children. It is a remnant of a hateful past that I had hoped our society had matured beyond. I will not prosecute any parent, any facility, or anyone else for providing medically appropriate care to transgender children. I will continue to enforce the Constitution and the state’s criminal laws to assure the greatest degree of freedom and order that we can achieve.
I’ve gotten a couple of notifications now from people who make some sort of “Oh yeah? Well take this!” comment, and then they block me so I can’t see it. It’s cool, I do that too sometimes. Usually I make the abandoned reply a warning sign for like-minded people who think they know what the argument is about. There is little point in saying anything to the person that you will block because they won’t see it anyway.
Most people have no clue what the argument is about, just like this public debacle that is Abbott’s targeting of transgendered children. These children exist and the evangelical base that supports Abbott and Trump (Trumpists) would like to pretend there is a wave of medical and parental malpractice that must be countered by governmental action.
This is as much a figment of their overactive imaginations as any number of other things that I might mention here; but that is just another conversation I don’t want to have. It is sufficient for me to say that it is evil for Abbott to use these children as pawns in his reelection campaign. They are already suffering enough. They don’t need to be used this way by politically motivated religious zealots on a crusade.
A few days ago it was announced that Hillary Clinton will attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States. Of the groups I belong to where this was posted, almost no one took the tack that I would think made sense in the kind of weather we are about to be facing. Most people lauded her for being big enough to go to the swearing in for the victor in the election she most wanted to win. I believe the complete opposite. I don’t think she should go. I don’t think anyone should go.Trump should have to pay attendees to show up. He should have to pay for the judge to swear him in. That is how we should hold him to account for all the bills he’s never paid, and for all the bills he’s going to make us pay.
We have reached that point in US politics. That precise political instant where it will profit us to understand what the words Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware really mean. Donald J. Trump is a successful businessman as so many of his supporters insist. He is his own biggest booster. He talks about himself incessantly, Tweets pictures of himself constantly, congratulates himself publicly for things that he thinks he’s done whether he has actually done them or not.
But he is a businessman, that much is true.
There are many different kinds of businesses. One might easily argue that there are as many different kinds of business as there are people doing business; however the real estate developer is a special kind of business animal. They ain’t quite like any other form of business on the planet, these real estate developers. Their business is selling their delusions. Delusion is an essential part of the psyche of the real estate developer, and it helps if he is a charismatic delusional because his job requires him to infect the people he talks to with his delusion. He has to infect them with his delusion, or they won’t give him their money, their property, their effort.
Let’s say you want to repurpose a downtown Washington D.C. post office, just to pull a random location out of thin air. We’ll pretend we’re going to take this random location and turn it into a hotel. Not just any hotel, but the most fabulous hotel you’ve ever seen. I mean beautiful, you know? The first thing you need to do to start this project is actually not what you might think. No, the first thing you do, before anything else, is get money for the project. If you have money, then you can influence people to see things your way. You can say “you see my investors over here? They believe in me. They’ve promised me money, so this is going to happen one way or the other and I know you want to be part of this.”
The most important factor in real estate development is getting the money for the stake, for the start of the process. People don’t give you money for nothing, not even if you are trustworthy and you ask real nice. No, you only get money if you have collateral, something you can promise to the lender in exchange for their capital investment. Now, depending on who has the money and where the money came from, what your collateral can be is very flexible.
It is a dirty little secret in the real estate business, especially development and construction, that a large portion of real estate development is done for the purposes of laundering money. It isn’t merely happenstance that some of Donald J. Trump’s business partners are a little on the shady side. That is the kind of money that a big developer needs access to. Liquid capital, and lots of it. The people with dirty money know they are going to lose at least half of their money just making it clean anyway, so they really aren’t interested in tight accounting practices. They just want their share when the clean money starts coming back in.
In New York City back when Trump was laundering his father’s fortune and building Trump tower, you didn’t do business in real estate without being friends with several of these types of people, and Trump knew and dealt with them for as long as he was active in real estate there. What do I know precisely about his connections to organized crime? Nothing. I don’t know anything about his business and the sad part that fact is this, all of us should have demanded we know about his business before electing him to the highest office in the land.
I can tell you that the reason we never saw his tax returns is he doesn’t want anyone to know how much money came in, how much money went out, and who the money went to. How much money he currently has, and how much debt is stacked against it. Those are the things no one can know aside from his bookkeeper, and I guarantee you that person isn’t talking to anyone. The one thing bookkeepers are paid for is discretion and they know it.
When Savings & Loans were a thing, I worked for a few different real estate developers. I was the guy who had to make the developer’s delusions look real. I was the draftsman/graphic artist and eventually a staff architect in several different firms of architects. But back in the S&L days I was just a flunkie newb draftsman and what I did was what the developer told me to do. If he wanted letterhead for a new company, I made new letterhead. If he wanted art for a cover, I drew or found better artists to draw convincing art to sell his delusions, his dreams. My drawings were my stock in trade and my drawings were masterpieces of illusion, because very few of them were ever built. But damn they did look good when I was finished with them.
I have actually lost count of the number of different proposals I worked on back then. It was one every few months for several years. The number of sales pitches I’ve heard really aren’t important for this story. But the charisma? Oh, yeah. They all had it in spades. You’d believe any damn thing they told you while they were talking to you. It was only later that you would kick yourself for agreeing to do whatever stupid thing they asked you to do. But invariably the dream of getting paid would be too much and you’d do the thing on the off-chance that the crazy guy could sell it, and damned if they didn’t generally get something for their effort.
When I say they got something for their effort, I mean the real estate developer got something to show for our collective efforts. They usually made off like bandits. As a paid flunkie draftsman I punched a clock and I got paid, even paid time and a half for time over forty hours a week. You don’t work less than forty hours a week if you are drafting for someone who wants drawings ASAP. So the pay wasn’t bad compared to the minimum wage I had been making previous to studying drafting. But what I made was chickenfeed next to what they banked, and you’ve never heard someone whine so hard about writing you a check until you’ve had a developer by the balls, him needing his next drawings, and you won’t give them up till the check is in your hand.
That is rule number one when dealing with a developer. You don’t do jack shit until at least half the money is in your hand. If you do work on contingency for a developer, you are working for free. You are working for free because he never has to tell you whether he made money or not, which generally means not. Not money for you, anyway.
So let’s say you’ve been around the block a few times. You’re pretty savvy. You know your contracts and your in’s and out’s. You know to get money up front and to get signed contracts before doing any work and all that business school stuff they teach you or you learn from hard knocks along the way. None of that means a thing to a developer like Donald J. Trump.
Nope. That’s what shell corporations are for. The best (and when I say best, I mean wealthiest) architects in the business also use shell corporations. You create this legal fiction and you make it responsible for all the contracts you sign as a businessman. This is all completely legal and above board even though it is a fiction you are engaged in. You pay all your employees and rent and utilities on your place of business through that corporation; but don’t forget the important part of this equation. You also pay yourself a salary.
In fact, you can be paid a salary from all the corporations you own at the same time. All you have to do is justify the expense to the board, and if it is a shell corporation the board is probably you or someone you appoint to say yes to the things you want. So spend a half-hour a month, make a half-million dollars. No one will complain because no one will know except you and your bookkeepers.
I left the best part for last. When you pay yourself too well (and Donald J. Trump does this in spades) you just get to walk away from your contracts. The business you created and hopefully sold beforehand (that is the important part) will go bankrupt, sure. But that really isn’t your problem. You paid yourself a salary and that debt comes before paying contracts. Designers and craftsmen, engineers and architects; everyone who signed contracts and aren’t working for a wage, they get the scraps. You and the investors walk away smelling like roses with freshly laundered money in your pockets.
It is a neat financial trick, one that Donald J. Trump has repeated 6 times now. He has been sued more than 4,000 times. You don’t rack up that many bankruptcies or get sued that many times unless you are doing something bordering on illegal. Bordering on illegal is still legal though, and that is what counts.
Ruthlessness and business acumen only get you so far. You still fall prey to the same failures to predict the future that everyone else does. The crash of the gaming industry nearly did Trump Incorporated in. Even he didn’t understand just how big the financial bubble we were all sitting on was, and he was caught flat-footed just like everyone else as the Wall Street money dried up and Atlantic city’s gaming industry cratered. But hey, that is when the charisma that someone like the Donald has really comes in handy.
If you’re good at it (and Trump is very good at it. Just ask him, he’ll tell you) you can turn yourself into a TV star. He hawked himself onto every media outlet that would have him, spending so much time on radio that he became the butt of several jokes in the New York area radio business. But it paid off in the end, just like he knew it would deep in his delusional heart. The only reason he has any money today is because The Apprentice and its spin-offs have made money, and he made money just like everyone else who works in TV does, successful or not. If you are working you are making money in television. And if your show has ratings you make lots of money. Producers can make more money than anybody and they do less work if they know what they are doing. The Donald talked his way into a producer’s percentage, and he still gets paid to this day for producing the show that he no longer works on.
But down deep in his rotten heart, Donald J. Trump is still that delusional little kid that thought a million bucks gifted from his father was a pittance, and even that is a lie. The same guy who took dirty money from shady characters in NYC to finance his early projects. The same guy who believes every single lie he’s ever told just to make the next buck in a nearly endless line of billions of bucks. Believes those lies and every single conspiracy fantasy he’s asked to put stock in by people like Alex Jones and Breitbart news. He believes them but knows they are false. It doesn’t matter, because the charisma makes him the next buck, and the next buck is what really matters.
That is why we as citizens of the United States need to understand caveat emptor, and we need to understand it now. It would have been better if we had understood it before November 8th, but that deadline passed and we were #MAGA in a big enough percentage in the wrong places. He’s going to be sworn in as the leader of our country on January 20th, with a congress willing and able to do his bidding, if actions and trends are to be believed. He will have the keys to the White House soon, and we need to understand that this life-long con artist is about to pull off the biggest con of his life.
…and that he has no idea how to do the job we’ve given him.
The wealthy believe that they shouldn’t be governed by the same laws as the rest of us. The lives they lead are almost unbelievable to those of us who have never had more money than we could spend on a single purchase. Trump is one of these people. He has always lived that lifestyle.
His contempt for our system goes far beyond simple greed, his need for more money and more fame. He’s hired relatives to run parts of the administration in violation of nepotism laws. He’s named appointees for cabinet seats that have clear conflicts of interest. He’s named appointees who have declared their intention to destroy the department they will be in charge of, pretty much across the board. He’s been bought and paid for by billionaires across the country who are counting on him to deliver on the promises he’s made to roll back clean energy and approve expanded drilling and pipeline proposals.
Robert Reich asked Facebook What do you think? in the wake of Trump’s pick of former Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. What do I think? I find it impossible to take anything about this election seriously; which is weird, because I was one of the people who took Trump seriously from the beginning and discounted his chances with the voting public because he was demonstrably unqualified for the office he was seeking. Everything that he has done since the election has demonstrated, again and again, just how unqualified he is financially, mentally, temperamentally.
He can’t be president.
…and still the media people act like he can be president and “aren’t you outraged about this?” I’m well beyond outraged now. The surreality of the approaching cataclysm, surrounded by the same old news organizations parroting the same old garbage news as if there would be a United States for us to live in if this dangerously deranged person were to be allowed to take and hold the office of the president for the next 4 years has me all but convinced I’m the only real person in a video game gone horribly wrong.
He can’t be president. If they make him president anyway the US won’t be here for long if we don’t remove him, and we may not survive his removal if we do. You may well say “that can’t happen” but I guarantee you the average inhabitant of the USSR never thought that they would be reliant upon the truncated government of Russia and the other severed states of the former Soviet Union, either. But they did all the same; and if you think that isn’t Vladimir Putin’s favored dream, the end of the USA, then you really don’t understand the mind of a former KGB agent turned dictator like Putin.
Donald J. Trump is going to step up to take that oath in less than 24 hours now, and you as an American citizen need to understand that you are about to buy into something with no warranty and no guarantees, and you had best inspect each and every proposal put forward by these delusional people as if your life depended on it, because it very well might.
He will come into office with a House of Representatives packed with delusional people who think they can spend money and cut taxes at the same time (it worked for Bush. Temporarily) and there is only so much more of our debt that the Chinese will be willing to buy. Willing to buy from His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump, that is. He has insulted the Chinese more times than I can count now. Apparently no one has told him that the Chinese have been the biggest buyer of American debt for several years now.
That debt load the country has been carrying? That is about to come due. Guess who will have to foot the bill for paying it? We will, the citizens of the United States. That bill and all the money Trump spends or puts in his pocket during his brief term in the White House. We have to pay that. Us, our children, or grand children and their grandchildren. But not Donald J. Trump and his family. No, they don’t pay taxes, because they are smart. So they won’t be paying the bills, at least not directly and not in a way they would notice. The currency will inflate and those of us with the least will go hungrier than we are now. We’ll lose property to foreign investors spending dollars we’ve convinced them to buy as debt. Federal lands will be privatized and sold. Federal programs will be privatized in the name of cost-cutting.
Don’t believe me? Remember that wall the #MAGA wanted Trump to build, the wall he said he’d make Mexico pay for? We’re going to pay for it. But trust Donald J. Trump when he says he’ll bill Mexico for the cost of the wall. The wall that there will already be tunnels under when it is built.
Illusions are important when you are trying to sell someone on your dream of pocketing that next dollar.
In reality, Trump’s administration is a rebuke to the very notion that the public interest diverges in any way from private ones. The Labor Department will be run by a man whose interest in the field is dominated by a mania for cheap labor; the Environmental Protection Agency will be run by a virtual pass-through for fossil-fuel interests. Trump’s government will make policy by and for the rich and well-connected. As Politico reports, “the extent to which donors are stocking Trump’s administration is unparalleled in modern presidential history.” As Kudlow makes clear, Trumpism regards the fear that government might favor capital over labor or some other public interest as inherently nonsensical.
Since Obama’s election in 2008 it has become fashionable amongst the conservative elite to pretend that they never were in favor of anything government might do. Not in favor of anything a government headed by a black Democratic president might do, which equates to not in favor of government, embracing anarchism from behind. Too bashful to look anarchy in the face, but heading down the road to anarchism all the same.
Now they find themselves with the reigns of power, all of the reigns of power, unexpectedly in their hands. These people have clearly voted for what they believe is a strong leader. People who want that leader to ignore the constitutional limitations on the office of president. People who want desperately to pretend that their opponents are the bad guys. The brownshirts. The people who want to destroy America. The truly surprising thing about the current crop of conservative Republicans isn’t that they are ignorant; as in, they don’t know that fascism was a right-wing ideology. That strong central leadership is one of the defining attributes of dictatorship. No, the surprising thing is that they know what the truth is, but simply deny it because they want the opposite to be true.
I’ve seen this type of willful ignorance applied to atheism, to evolution, to climate change. But I never thought I’d see the day when they denied their own political ideology, their worship of the strong leader as being anything other than what it truthfully is. This is newspeak/newthink on a really frightening scale. They have to know that they are being false, but they simply lock that knowledge away and blithely pretend that white is black and black is white. I don’t know of any way to deal with this level of insincerity (I first noted in conservative pundits like William Kristol and Pat Buchanan) no way to deal with this level of denial of reality short of eradication. Open warfare. I’d love to hear a way to get through to people who have voluntarily shut their brains off. Please let me know if I’m missing something here.
I mean, they can’t be reasoned with. They simply redefine everything to mean the opposite of what it is for their own convenience. They not only lie to everyone around them, they lie to themselves and believe the lies. This is why Donald Trump is their current leader. He is the king of liars, leading a host of liars.
After eight tedious years of one wild-assed glassy-eye conspiracy theory after another, after nearly a decade of endless birthers and a parade of truthers and more goddamned lame-ass Benghazi reboots than the Batman franchise, after robot alien reptiles in rubber human suits, after Obama is a Muslim, Obama is gay, Obama went to Mars (no really, there are people who believe the CIA teleported Obama to Mars as a teenager, twice, and those silly sons of bitches write me letters), Obama killed Antonin Scalia, Obama has 39 different Social Security numbers, Obama secretly worships Satan, Obama is going to invade Texas, Obama was adopted, Obama’s wife is a man, Obama’s kids were stolen from Africa (because Obama’s wife is a man), Obama is a commie, Obama is a Nazi, Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama is a time traveling super-villain here to gayify white Christian babies with his Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, and etcetera, and etcetera, and etcetera up to the part where conservatives are actually floating the idea Obama is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to kidnap kids for some world-spanning Soros-funded pedophile wholesaler operating out of a pizza joint in Washington D.C (which they’ve figured out from “clues” they “deciphered” by reading John Podesta’s emails which were stolen by Russians and fenced via an international criminal organization run by a guy who actually is wanted on sexual assault charges), after 8 years of that, let’s not resort to the same defective Creation-Science based reasoning here. Please.
The problem with #MAGA, this undefinable need to take America back to a previous era, is that America was never the place they believe it was. The problem is also deeper than that. America has a near-terminal case of amnesia when it comes to its own history.
After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us. Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit. Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt.
The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either. This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real. It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
The future has not been written yet. There is still hope for the future. The errors of the past are revealed for us. Hindsight is always 20/20. If the Democrats had not let the Clintons control the party the way they did, if Hillary had allowed real competition at the top of the party and ticket, not forced an outsider to challenge her, if the people who want justice and equality from their system get up and join their local precinct meetings now, if the Democratic party itself embraces new technology to ramp up inclusion; then we’ll get candidates with a broad base of grassroots support rather than the crop of power brokers we currently have to pick through.
But that just deals with the open question of who to vote for in 2018 and 2020. That doesn’t get us through the next two years. Doesn’t get us through the harrowing times that await us on the other side of January 20th.
With The Art of War firmly in mind; Rather than meeting your enemy on their battlefield, pitch your tents where you want to fight. Make them fight on your battlefield, out in the open where greater numbers (and we have greater numbers than they do) will turn the tide of battle and we will be able to win handily. That observation relies on the vast majority of Americans to take an interest in their own government. I’m not holding my breath on this occurring since Americans getting off their couches and doing anything proactive in the realm of politics would be an unprecedented act in the history of human governance.
Which is why I repeat the title of this post again, one last time.
I have practiced this principle almost by rote for most of my adult life, having pretty much always been poor since leaving my hometown in Kansas. I can’t afford to be taken to the cleaners by shady dealers. I prefer to think of caveat emptor more as due diligence, ensuring that what is being promised is reality, making sure that what you are buying is actually what the seller claims it is. When money is tight and purchases are made on promises and shoe strings, you have to know that what you are buying is actually going to do the thing you want it to do.
I say all this, every single word of it that I’ve written on the subject of Donald J. Trump or his 3am rage tweeting alter-ego The Orange Hate-Monkey over this past year with the personal knowledge I have gained through experience. That we have elected a con-artist to the presidency. That when you are forced to deal with a con-artist you keep your hands on your wallet and don’t agree to anything without seeing it first in writing; and even then, don’t let go of those purse-strings. Keep your legal representation on retainer and make a point of running every single thing the con-artist says to you past your counselor before responding in any fashion to him.
Above all, understand that you’ve already bought whatever it is he does while he has the office of the president in his control. If that knowledge keeps you up at night, then you are just beginning to glimpse the nightmares I’ve been having since November 8th.
I’ll see all of you at the polls in 2018. I hope.
This article pre-dated the Orangification and so it didn’t need to be de-Orangified. I wrote it after the Orange Hate-Monkey post, but I hadn’t slipped into always referring to Donald Trump as the Orange Hate-Monkey as of this article. There is that one Orange Hate-Monkey link at the end, but that hardly needs to be mentioned. If you are offended by the reference, please put a gun in your mouth and blow your brains out. You will be doing all of the rest of us a favor, and the final act of failed fascists is generally to blow their brains out. You’ll be following the general trend, just one of the pack. Just like you always have acted, a predictable member of a predictable pack. A pathetic excuse of an individualist.
The phrase failed fascist is the only reference I will make here for how history transpired after this writing. If you want to know what I wrote after this piece, every article that is about Donald Trump’s pathetic excuse for a presidency is grouped in the category Trumpismo. Go there and read all you like of it.
Code Switch is one of those podcasts that I make a point to listen to even when the titles make me cringe. This is one of those episodes that I cringed through while at the same time having some relevant old white guy points I really felt were worth addressing.
The podcast hosts bring on Hari Kondabolu (whose podcast Politically Re-Active isn’t one I listen to) to talk about why he takes a break in the middle of a subject riff in order to explain the subject matter being discussed.
He refers to it as Hold Up, Wait a Minute which is amusing, the right move for a podcast that is humorous in nature. However the title of this podcast Explanatory Comma had me yelling explanatory pause at my headphones by the end of the episode.
In my opinion, the breaking point for when/when not to explain things is entirely subjective. If the audience member knows about the thing, they will think you are talking down to them. If the audience member doesn’t know, then they will be lost if you don’t explain it. I knew who Tupac was, so was not lost during the previous episode of Code Switch that dealt with him but didn’t explain who he was.
On the other hand Hari Kondabolu says Tribe Called Quest and stands on his outrage at having to explain that this was another music reference. I know it is a music reference now, because I went out and looked it up and realized that my ignorance on the subject is a product of not having any interest in Rap, Hip Hop, or any other form of music that wasn’t Rock or Classical or the Country music my mother made me listen to as a child.
All of us are products of our experiences. If our experiences don’t include your experiences, then any attempt to connect will be fruitless unless a common ground of conversation can be established. So you have to take time to explain to the audience so that you can bring them along with you if you want them to go where you are going by the end of your narrative. If you don’t do that, they get bored, stop reading/listening/watching and your attempt to communicate fails.
When you can’t see your audience, the curse of the A/V field, you have to attempt to gauge what your audience will understand without your providing an explanation. Which is largely what this entire episode of Code Switch is about.
But I didn’t start writing this entry to talk about why explanatory pauses are necessary.
What I wanted to address was making sure that you don’t take time to explain things that really shouldn’t have to be explained. All of us have our own lives, our own heuristics, our own foibles and our own prejudices. Most of us are smart enough not to air our dirty laundry or (as Hari Kondabolu quite pointedly says) force our white supremacy onto the rest of society.
There are exceptions, the entirety of the FOX news team springs immediately to mind, but generally we keep our thoughts to ourselves because, hey, everybody is busy and why burden a total stranger with the bullshit in your life? Right?
On the other end of the spectrum we have something like the TED talk below;
When I look at that couple I do not see the complex characters they want us all to accept them as. What I see is a perfectly average couple who clearly love each other. If I’m passing them on the street, serving them food, or any of the dozens of jobs of the people they will encounter every day, none of those people will have the time or the desire to understand and accept these two as what they see themselves as. There comes a point where you have to rely on your gender presentation (clothing, hair style, scents, makeup, whatever) to communicate all the myriad things you think are important as a first impression. You cannot go back and make a second first impression, and an angry explanation about why your presentation should have been understood will be accepted just as well as the FOX news junkie who goes around insisting that Santa is white.
This TED talk is an example of the dreaded internet oversharing. The needy posts on various social platforms that start with “Let’s see who reads this” or “if you really are my friend”. The entire TED talk is an explanatory pause; and frankly, I’ve contested a few of the belabored points in the talk. Contested them because, in the end, no one really should care that much about you unless they are having sex with you. You aren’t having sex with the entire internet and if you are you probably need therapy of a different kind.
A Queer Version of Love and Marriage goes over the line from explanatory pause into the realm of browbeating. If you are in an educational setting like a podcast or a TED talk, then you are going to get things explained to you that you probably already know. That is what the 30 second jump button is for (if your podcast app doesn’t have that, go get this one) if you don’t have the patience to hear something explained for the 97th time, skip ahead 30 seconds. But if you are getting a gallon of milk at three in the morning, don’t expect the cashier to know your preferred gender pronoun. Just pay the person behind the counter and say “thank you” and walk out. He’s got mopping to get back to and he really doesn’t care about your frustrations.
When I’m listening to a podcast about Code Switching I expect to have musical references, as well as many other references, explained to me. That is why it is called Code Switch. Because we are trying to Switch the Code; Race and Identity Remixed. Understand the other side. Broaden our understanding of the human animal. Can’t do that if we don’t understand the references. Hope I’m being crystal clear here.
I edited the first sentence in the second to last paragraph to be more clear as to where the line between explaining and over-explaining is, or where it is for me. Your Mileage May Vary, as the saying goes. Damned indefinite pronouns, the bugaboo of all attempts at clear writing.
Earlier on I changed the last paragraph to link the FAQ for Code Switch so that anyone who disagrees with what is being said can just go to the FAQ and educate themselves.
The most amusing thing about writing this piece, about my initial response to pushback against White Supremacy being attached to everything white people do, to the explanatory pause being denigrated as a distraction from the actual storytelling, is that the overwhelming number of negative attacks have come from White Knights who feel obliged to jump in and defend minorities from aggression. As if Old White Guy points are always going to be aggressive. Or White Supremacist. As if minorities aren’t capable of defending themselves in a battle of words and ideas.
May I always resist the urge to come to the defense of someone whom I consider to be my equal and does not appear to be losing a battle of words. All Social Justice Warriors should be compelled to adhere to that oath.
Gene Demby‘s sole response on Twitter was two characters.
Those two characters, and then he promptly blocked me on Twitter. I think the blocking was a bit overboard, but fans can be a bit oppressive. I practice prophylactic blocking of MAGA trolls on all venues myself, so I will take the fact that it is Twitter and what would I do in his shoes? and go with that.
I puzzled on the meaning of those two characters. Puzzled on them off and on for months. I puzzled on them until the next time they needed to explain something on the show and they said it’s time for an explanatory comma. After about the third repetition of the phrase, I realized that the NO meant that I had completely missed the point the show hosts were driving at. They were introducing a new segment to the show, and this was to be its cringe-inducing title. I also missed the point that I was not in the segment of the audience that the phrase was directed at. It was the people resenting having things explained to them that they already knew. A cute way of attempting to disarm them, I guess.
The last episode put a bug in my ear about the miscommunication of what Code Switch means to black people and why it might mean something different to white folks. I talk in code to old white people; old being my age and older (yes, there are older white people than I am) I will occasionally put on a filter for children that aren’t mine as well. I have found that being dead honest with the children of strangers can be more troublesome than being dead honest with old white folks.
However Code Switching takes on a whole new meaning when you take things like this into account.
The Green Book, or to give it its full title, “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” was first published in 1936. It was a revolutionary publication which listed restaurants, bars and service stations which would serve African-Americans.
Traveling during the Jim Crow era was difficult for African Americans. In the South, “black code” laws targeted them for loitering. In many towns, black travelers risked death if they stayed past sundown.
Travelers came up with their own ways to avoid violence and humiliation. One was called ‘The Green Book’ created by Harlem postal worker Victor Hugo Green. It was an invaluable tool to help black people plan a safe route across the country.
When you might be lynched or shot for simply driving into the wrong town, knowing what the code is takes on a whole new meaning. I know this. I knew this. But knowing isn’t being. While I know that I don’t speak freely (to not speak in code) around parents, children, people who aren’t into SF or video games or recreational drug use (legal. All my drugs are legal now. Have been for at least 25 years. I have the prescriptions to prove it) the downsides of slipping out of code for people like me are radically less life-ending than for people who face the possibility of death at the hands of people who hate them just for existing. Which is why a Code Switch takes on much more weight for minorities than for people like me.
My apologies for approaching the subject with less gravity than it probably deserved. I still see the refusal to explain as a missed opportunity to connect; but truthfully there is little use in telling me about one more artist whose rap I probably won’t be interested in either. The explanation for how I lost my music (and with it the appreciation for pretty much all music) is a story I haven’t tried to write down yet.
I started to write this post after Jim posted Unknown unknowns over at Stonekettle Station, which was a post in response to the tempest in a teapot that represented the 24 hour news cycle reporting on the clinic standoff and shooting incident in Colorado Springs. I shelved it for various reasons at first, none of them really earth-shattering. Of course, a week later and we have the inexplicable mass shooting in San Bernardino, which instantly eclipsed the previous story.
I could easily spin this into an screed against the gun lobby and their paid cronies in Washington DC who won’t let the CDC even study gun violence in an effort to figure out how to address it, considering that we have had more than one mass shooting every day of this year (2015) which has to be some kind of record that no society on the face of this earth is really interested in breaking…
…but that isn’t the article I want to write. This isn’t going to be the article I started out writing, either. The issue is much bigger than the specific subject of what we know or don’t know about a specific person set on doing wrong, or having been caught doing wrong. It is even bigger than the problem that Jim was trying to address, the 24 hour news cycle, which I agree probably represents the greatest threat to human civilization in the modern age. The need to fill time, to produce facts and counterfactuals when no hard facts are known about the specifics of the incident in question, can lead to greater and greater flights of fancy.
I turn the TV off when that feeding frenzy starts. It is hard enough to separate the wheat from the chaff on good days. On bad days like the two events above bring, listening to the news just feeds confirmation bias until you end up looking and sounding like an idiot.
I will include the specific arguments for the Colorado Springs incident in this post, but the point that I’m seeing come into focus now that the shooter has appeared in court and indicted himself is the argument about what we know vs. what we believe. How we can know what we think we know, and how is that different than belief?
That is the reason why the 24 hour news cycle is such a threat. Being not much more than the talking heads that sold soap in the early days of television, the current crop of news faces appear to have even less familiarity with what facts are and why fact-checking is important. They are, after all, just selling soap. Keeping the most number of eyes on the screen is how they sell soap and so the factual content of what they say isn’t the important part of the equation. That they tell you things that reinforce your beliefs on a subject so that you will keep watching, is.
Most of the white-looking people in the US trust the police intrinsically, for example. Most of us older types were raised on police dramas portraying the cops as the good guys who enforce the laws and keep the peace. It is very uncomfortable for most of us to be confronted with stories if entire police departments covering up the details of killings done at their hands. And yet, time after time over the last few years, we have been shown just how human police departments are everywhere in the US. Be it Chicago, Baltimore or Saint Louis, just about anywhere USA, there are examples of police who brazenly violate laws and procedures who are then protected by their brothers in uniform.
This really isn’t news. If you’ve been paying attention you would have run across stories by people like Radley Balko who have been documenting police excess for several decades now. The police are humans, they make mistakes just like the rest of us. If you were in their place you would act no differently than they would, because that is what humans do. But that doesn’t excuse the excess, it is a point of data that needs to be accounted for when deciding what you know or don’t know about any given subject.
For the black or brown people who are almost always the bad guys in police dramas, the revelation that cops are only human really isn’t news either. They’ve lived with the reality of constant police scrutiny for generations. So much so that stories abound of fathers and mothers cautioning their children not to become police statistics. So it is no wonder that the chant black lives matter resounds with them. The counter offered by clueless whites that all lives matter is heard by these same people as just another call for them to sit down and be quiet. How is this possible? How can realities and beliefs about these realities be so widely separated?
When it comes right down to it, what you know with certainty is a very small number of things. Whether it is night or day. Whether it is cold or hot. You know these things because you can test them directly with your senses. Solipsists will argue that you can’t even know those things because we are all just brains in jars at best, but I’d like us all to pretend that the shadows on the cave walls actually represent something real, and try to make sense of that. If that much can’t be granted, then there is little point in continuing to read this. Even less in my continuing to write.
Beyond what you can test yourself (fire burns) there are grades of factual knowledge which you can probably safely rely on. At each point where the facts exchange hands, the ownership of that data has to be documented to be trusted. This is why, when doing research, it is important to seek out source material and not just rely on wikipedia. The more obscure the subject matter the less reliable secondary sources are.
When watching the news on television or reading news stories on any other site than AP, Reuters or UPI you are already dealing with information that has been through at least three hands if not dozens. When you’ve gone beyond the point where the witness is being interviewed in person, you are dealing with evidence that wouldn’t be accepted in court. That doesn’t mean it is without value, it just means the news you are being offered could be just this side of fantasy.
It might even be pure fantasy. Case in point, the FOX/conservative/anti-abortion counter-narrative about the Colorado Springs shooter. When I logged on Blogger that night, the first thing I saw wasn’t the Stonekettle Station article. The first article that caught my eye was a piece over at Friendly Atheist in which Ted Cruz voices the notion that the shooter was some kind of leftist. No, I could not make something that stupid up myself.
Cruz is basing that characterization on a supposed voter registration form in which Dear was listed as a woman. Whether it’s a mistake, or Dear was just messing around, or simply not the right form, we don’t know, but no other evidence indicates that he was transgender.
There’s even less evidence that he was a “leftist.”
The problem that I had with Jim’s Unknown unknowns piece now surfaces. Jim mentions this story in opposition to the reports (which he attributes to Planned Parenthood) that the shooter was heard to say “no more baby parts” as he was being arrested. But the contrast between the veracity of these two stories is as marked as they are in opposition to each other.
The statement no more baby parts was repeated by an officer to a reporter directly on the scene, a reporter who dutifully passed the comment on to their viewing audience. While that is hearsay and not evidence admissible in court; the officer, if he were to appear in court, could repeat the statement and it would be admissible. It would also be accepted by an overwhelming number of juries who trust police officers to be truthful (see above) even in the face of so much evidence that police will lie to protect their own.
Since this case isn’t about one of their own, and since the police showed remarkable restraint in bringing a cop killer in alive, I was inclined to believe the statement of the arresting officer. That the shooter (not alleged, he plead guilty) repeated a version of the same statement at his hearing just confirms the motivation that lead him to commit the crimes he is guilty of.
On the other hand, the preferred story of conservatives/anti-abortionists is based on what? Essentially no evidence whatsoever, more wishful thinking than anything else. And yet it is repeated by a Republican Presidential candidate as if it was the unquestionable truth.
That is the nature of belief. It doesn’t require facts. Facts are counterproductive because they can be questioned. If facts are presented that counter a belief, it only takes the briefest scrutiny to discover or manufacture an anomaly which the believer will use to discard the entirety of the factual information presented. Ted Cruz wants to believe that the shooter couldn’t be one of his fellow anti-abortionists. Ted Cruz believes that leftists are dangerous people, and that LGBT people are a threat to his way of life. The story he repeats is ready-made to fit into his preconceived view of the world, and it matters not one bit that the story makes no sense on its face. That the average liberal and LGBT person would be in support of Planned Parenthood and consequently wouldn’t see a need to attack one of their clinics never enters into the mind of a conservative repeating this laughable story.
Given the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood, and the current cloud of controversy artificially created by anti-abortion activists faking videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts, the story of a shooter in a clinic almost serves itself up ready-made as a vehicle to attack the religious right and conservatives in general. Of course they would want to craft a counter-narrative (however flimsy) to give themselves an out, a way to disavow accountability for their actions over the last twenty years and more.
A conservative could easily counter all of the above (most probably will) with the adult equivalent of I know you are but what am I? Since about the time that Reagan was elected, conservatives started to complain about the liberal media. Even I, for a time, fell for this notion that the media was somehow biased in general against conservatives. As the years have progressed, and conservatives have created their own outlets like FOX news, conservapedia, and uncounted news sites including the whacko fringe like prisonplanet and infowars, it has become clear that conservatives aren’t satisfied with simply presenting news from their point of view. No, what they want is their own set of facts which are unassailable. Unassailable because they aren’t based on anything real.
Another example is the softer, nicer language of pro-life and pro-choice adopted by the two sides of the endless argument over abortion. Having softened the language, pollsters can get majorities of citizens in the US to say they are pro-life. Who would be against life?I’m pro-life, I’m also pro-choice; militantly pro-choice. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be legal gets lost in the conservative rush to declare the opposite, that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. This conservative view on the matter simply isn’t true as polling shows.
What has occurred since the creation of FOX news is the division of the US into two camps; one of those camps thinks they are right, and the rest of us are liberal. In their attempt to prove that the rest of the media is based on a liberal conspiracy, conservatives have consciously created a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy where they tell lies which they know are lies, because the ends justify the means.
When you evade the truth, when you spin tales to hide your true goals, what you get are people who believe your lies so firmly that they will act on them as if they were truths. You get what transpired in Colorado Springs yesterday, to the embarrassment of every single person who identifies as pro-life. Remember that the next time you hear the phrase liberal media.
The last political piece I wrote for this blog was titled Pharisee vs. Christian and it was about the Kim Davis farce that continues to play out in Kentucky.
I’ve apparently pissed off some people on this subject. Not the religious people that the wife said would firebomb us for the title; no those people really can’t seem to care one way or the other (as I’ve noted over most of my life, the vast majority of people who identify as christian are reasonable, sane, and capable of rational discussion even on the subject of religion. There are exceptions as there are in any group) no, the group that I appear to have pissed off is Democrats.
The most frequent response I get from this observation is that conservatives can be Democrats, stated in a voice that seems to drip with disdain for requiring them to state the obvious. This isn’t news to me, nor is it the point that I’m trying to make when I bring this fact up, although I could have worded my initial comment more clearly.
Specifically the fracas emerged on a Facebook post on Jim Wright’s wall. Jim rightly notes that the comparison that Huckabee is making (go to the link and read about it, I don’t care enough to even try to summarize it) really doesn’t hold water for various reasons; mostly because Huckabee is a grandstanding buffoon competing with Donald Trump for air time. Huckabee and Ted Cruz (another buffoon) are now embracing Kim Davis as their poster child for the persecution of christians. But I’d still like to point out to these two Republican Presidential hopefuls that they are defending a Democrat as being the best example of conservative christian in office.
A Democrat. A Democrat who refuses to do her job.
Now, I’ve been active in political circles for a long time. There was a time when fraternizing with the opposition was commonplace, but that was before Newt Gingrich and the birth of FOX news. These days having anything nice to say about a Democrat spells disaster for conservatives who are trying to out-conservative all the other conservatives. To this day the most telling criticism that can be leveled by conservatives at fellow conservative Governor Chris Christie is that he hugged President Obama. His hand in costing the state of New Jersey uncounted man-hours with the George Washington Bridge fiasco barely registers outside his own state. Now these two buffoons are hugging a Democrat on national television.
This Democrat might be conservative, I don’t know. She hasn’t changed her party affiliation, something that former Democrat and former Governor Rick Perry can tell you is easy to do. So her claim to be conservative doesn’t equate to her huggability as a Republican by other Republicans. She is demonstrably not acting in a christian manner, so I doubt very much that she really qualifies as a christian. She is acting in a way that the homo-obsessed religious-right lead GOP embraces, I get that part of the equation. Homophobia equals conservative in that light, if conservatives want to go there that is their business. If the GOP wants to endorse homophobia as a plank in their party platform, more power to them.
But what will this little farce look like in a year, a month before the 2016 elections? That really is the question. What will the optics be in the rear-view mirror? I imagine that neither of these two will be on the dais debating whoever the Democrats end up nominating, but just how will the GOP attract votes from any group outside of the aging white demographic of the religious right when they’ve gone out of their way to embrace lawlessness, racism and homophobia all in the space of the campaign for selecting their nominee?
November 9, 2018 – Neither Huckabee nor Cruz were ultimately the nominees for the Republican party in 2016 in spite of all the demagoguery and pandering. They were apparently too sane to make the cut. We got the Orange Hate-Monkey instead. Kim Davis switched to the Republican party and ran for reelection this year. So at least the headline Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Republican Official can now be substituted for what actually happened that day in 2015.
However, Kim Davis lost her reelection bid. The gay man who was refused a marriage license by Kim Davis was not the candidate that defeated her, unfortunately; although he did run as a Democrat in the primaries this year. That would have been a priceless bit of news. But he lost to the same challenger that faced off against Davis previously and lost, when she was also running as a Democrat. This time the Democrat won, again. Hooray for partisan loyalty? I guess so. Let’s see if he’s a better human being than Kim Davis was when she was a Democrat holding that office. It would be hard to be worse.
I obsess about things that aren’t things. I do this frequently. I obsess about it so frequently that I created the tag definition just to talk about the things that aren’t things and the definitions of the things that are. Because things have to be definable and definitions are important for understanding. Christian is one of those things that isn’t a thing (because there is no one set of beliefs that all christians, or even a majority of christians, will agree upon and practice in their daily lives) Comparative labeling, on the other hand, is sometimes illuminating.
There is a perspective on this story that I do find interesting. She’s already lost her faith although not many of her fellow faithful will even notice. How’s that, you ask? Because she’s a doctrinaire, and doctrinaires are the kinds of people who killed the man she calls savior.
It really is too bad that most people do not read. If they read they might understand the subtleties of the stories that swirl around them. In this case it doesn’t even take reading to really grasp the argument. Just ingest a sufficient quantity of your preferred mind-altering substance and then watch Jesus Christ Superstar(a link to make the process easier for you) one of my favorite soundtracks, if not one of my favorite films. In fact, you probably should listen before watching. Create images in your own head for what the songs mean before polluting them with images that others have come up with.
Working for a Real Estate Developer in San Angelo (feels like a lifetime ago) the first real drafting job that I landed in that oasis in the desert of West Texas, an architect named Constantin Barbu was running the design studio there. An immigrant from Europe, he had the most amazing collection of classical music I’ve ever seen before or since, and a sound system built into the studio that an audiophile would commit mass murder to possess.
Constantin was a decent mentor. In the short time I worked there he not only convinced me that classical music was beautiful and inspiring, but he managed to teach me the value of the narrative in construction documents; something I carried forward through the rest of my years drafting and designing architecture.
He had an original vinyl copy of Jesus Christ Superstar. I forget how the subject came up, but I’m sure we got to talking about religion (no subject being taboo to me) and to prove some religious point or other he demanded that we listen to the soundtrack. Like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and then The Wall which were so different from the pop music that I had been listening to up to that time, that soundtrack opened vistas of thought that I’d never experienced before.
I had never thought to look at the story of Jesus from outside, from an artistic perspective. The stories that I had grown up with suddenly had a completely different meaning for me than they had when told in a religious setting. Suddenly the characters became characters in a play, people with feelings and dreams. The caricatures that are communicated religiously are pale comparisons to the real people who lived those moments in history, if those moments were ever real at all.
Put yourself into that time, the beginning of an age. All life is change. Jesus was an instrument of change if he was anything at all. The doctrinaires of his time, the pharisees of the bible, rejected his calls for change. they knew the law and his preaching violated that law. It was their hands, and the hands of their followers that delivered Jesus to Pilate for judgement.
We are in the midst of another time of change, and the doctrinaires who know the law would declare to us what the law says and what the punishment should be. What is good and proper and what is not, deciding for their fellow men what course they should take, transgressing on every man (and women)’s freedom of conscience.
That county clerk took an oath to execute her office. She is bound to that oath, and to what the office of a county clerk requires. If she cannot do her job, then she should leave the job. Let someone else who can cope with the change handle it. If her religion is really that important to her, then what she needs to do is go find what the teachings she claims to honor really mean. Because from where I’m sitting it is obvious that she doesn’t have a clue.
Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.
On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him. But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. I’m trying to stick to the legality of the issue at hand here.
It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial, that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex. Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.
I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don’t see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.
I know, I know, I’m a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I’ve heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?
The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually. I know that I wouldn’t have to make that deal with a business partner. But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them. This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.
Most people don’t even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We’ve discussed so many different scenarios that I’d be hard pressed to name an event we haven’t discussed and what her wishes would be. Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy. Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years. The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.
That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.
Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction. That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.
I’d like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.
The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they’re making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.
As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I’ll leave that to Stonekettle. He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could.
You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from.
About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist
Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.
It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70’s persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.
Fewer people marry these days. That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce. Can’t get divorced if you never marry.
The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.
The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement. She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I’m sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal. Their rejection of this observation doesn’t actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor’s benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them. Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970’s. That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.
When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn’t even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial. If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.
The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.
But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.
No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week. We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place. Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.
The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.
Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz’s behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.
I’ve been a fan of John Varley’s SF since the Wife first introduced me to it. Common in most of Varley’s work is the idea that sex was something you could change on a whim. That you might actually simply choose to be sexless as a statement (which lead to other perversions) that you could become female in order to have children (something I might have done) but then reverse to male in order to have more strength for work later in life if strength was something you needed. The idea that sex was a irreversible state you were assigned to at birth would be a foreign concept in a Varley future. The one part of Varley’s futures that I really didn’t have a problem with.
I’m starting with the subject of John Varley’s futuristic SF because I want there to be no confusion about my overall intentions while discussing this subject. The subject of gender, of sex, and changing it. This is about categorization. I’ve breached this subject a few times now in other places, and I’m not convinced that the overall subject, false categorization; the creation of groupings which don’t actually exist, really is understood as the point of it all.
This is not about nature, or about god. There isn’t some stamp that is placed on us at birth that says we have to be either female or male. Sexual attributes appear on a curve, just like all other attributes that we possess. Some small percentage of people identify more with the opposite sex than their own external appearance. Some even smaller group have sex organs for both sexes.
I mentioned in a parenthetical above that I might have opted for changing my sex to female had that been an option, for the purpose of having children. This is a true statement. The Wife has problems with the birthing of children. Had she been born even a generation before ours, she probably would have died in childbirth. Which is a very sobering thought. So sobering that I would have willingly changed places with her in order that we could have the children we both wanted, and save her the risk to her health. But that wasn’t possible. Still isn’t possible. If it were, it would be possible for her physiology to be altered in a way that allowed her to have children without dying, without my having to change my sex.
But would I do it anyway? I’ve always been a nurturer. Played with dolls as a child. My mother had to explain to me why I couldn’t take my dolls to school with me. How the other boys would not understand and would make fun of me. Giving up the dolls did not change who I was. I’d sooner spend an hour rocking a baby than doing almost anything else. Had I needed to carry my own children to term I’d like to think I’d have done it, despite the pain involved.
I’m not afraid of being mistaken for female, on the other hand. If you put a wig and breasts on me (as on most men) I’ll look like a dude with a wig and breasts. Just like most men will. So my status as male is secure; so secure that I would look stupid trying to be anything other than male.
I can understand being personally convinced that you are in the wrong body. I understand the quandary, or at least I like to think I do. I’m just not willing to concede that gender is a thing. A thing that can be altered. A thing that can be altered without altering the sex of the person.
This fact is easily demonstrable. If you gave the people who want to change their gender the option of simply modifying their birth certificates (which in a general sense is impossible) the vast majority of them would probably change the sexual designation on their identity papers and give up the gender argument. It is only the documentation’s immutable status that makes this entire argument so convoluted.
Documents are fallible, as humans are fallible. Some drunken buffoon on duty at the delivery ward at night can’t uncross his eyes and figure out if the baby in front of him is male or female, and writes the wrong identification out on the birth certificate. Maybe the child just has ambiguous genitalia. Who knows? What is certain is that people are being asked to live their lives as one sex, when they know that they are not of that sex.
If you accept that the sexual role you will want to play as an adult can be determined by an outside observer at the time of your birth, then you might as well assume that there are also innate designations of dominant or submissive; that BDSM roles are also assigned at birth. That you might not want to play either role, or find the concept that you will have to play one or the other role insulting is beyond the comprehension of the record keeper. Obviously everyone will be in one group or the other. It has to be that way, right?
The birth certificate as an unchangeable document just doesn’t add up to a rational system capable of being defended, from a sexual designation point of view at least. What if you are physically capable of handling any role at birth? What if no sexual role mentally suits you as an adult? What if you think that role-playing should be left to fantasy and not real-world interactions?
Gender isn’t a thing. Gender is a perception. More than that, gender is the perception of an observer, the identity the observer assigns in their head when dealing with other people. Gender is the presentation that you attempt when you dress in a particular fashion. Wear your hair a particular way. In the choices of accessories. You cannot dictate what gender someone will assign to you before they meet you. It is the interaction which will define how they deal with you as a person. You can prime that interaction with overt displays of the gender you want to be seen as, but that doesn’t (especially for men trying to be women) mean that you’re going to pull it off without looking silly.
It is actually easier to pass as a man than it is as a woman. Most men (as the Wife has discovered) will treat the unknown other as an equal, as a guy, if the woman simply acts like a man. Dresses like a man. Even if she is curvy. It was common in earlier times when gender roles were more strictly defined for women to pass themselves off as men. To simply assume the role of male, and do it so flawlessly that most men they dealt with never knew.
We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards of beauty. We idolize and worship the prettiest among us as if they are representations of ourselves. It is a fantasy that a regular person can ever match the beauty of models, as if even the models look that good in poor lighting. This is not a trans-gendered man, this is just a man. More of a man than I ever have been, if static beauty is a measure of manliness (could do without the tattoos, but it isn’t my body, so knock yourself out) Just as this person is a woman. What this is, more than anything else, is an error in record keeping; a bug in the process of sexual identification which needs to be addressed. This is a manifestation of the worship of documentation as some immutable testament to what is good and natural instead of serving as a reference to what is real and substantial.
I’ve been barraged with this lately from many different corners. It’s been on Skeptoid. I’ve argued about it on Facebook. It’s in my e-mail newsfeed. I’ve watched several TED talkson the subject. The celebration of the trans-gendered, and the labeling of the rest of us as cis-gendered. The idea that a minority can dictate to the majority what labels that majority will wear is farcical on its face. Never mind the fact that it is an invented label and not a correct usage of the terms. Just trying to give fair warning here.
On top of that, just exactly how do you determine who the cis are?
I’d like to speak to all the lumpy old people out there for a minute or two. You know who you are. You remember how, when you were growing up, everyone told you that you had to do this or that, or you weren’t manly? You had to paint your face, be happy and agreeable, like to clean house (or at least pretend to) or you weren’t feminine? And you, being who you are, either hesitantly agreed, said nothing, or offered a rebuttal; but then went on to ignore everything said on that subject by others and just went on to live you life like you wanted anyway? Are you trans or cis? Dom or sub? Do any of the many labels others want you to wear matter in the slightest? Or are these labels annoyances that you’d just as soon not have to deal with?
Just because the majority don’t go around complaining about the gender stereotypes they are saddled with, doesn’t mean that they are cis in any measurable way.
I’ll happily give up gender specific pronouns, given alternatives that don’t sound forced in conversation. I have no problem using they instead of he or she. Their instead of hers or his. Don’t have a problem with mixed-sex restrooms since I hate urinals in the first place and won’t use them. Wouldn’t put them in restrooms that I designed unless told to. I don’t see the problem with allowing people to change their sex designation on their identification.
I’m just not willing to accept that gender is a thing separate from sex. Not willing to adopt an invented label just because people who want to change their sex have been forced to wear the label trans. I’ll happily support your right to not have to wear that label, either. Not going to start loving sports, hating house cleaning, or conforming to the myriad of gender stereotypes that are out there in the world. I’m not cis. I’m not trans.I’d appreciate it if you didn’t presume to put labels on me that I don’t freely adopt. That statement should echo with quite a few people out there.
My children have friends that are struggling with this issue right now. Children and young adults who want to know what labels they should put on themselves. A few of them I’m actually quite worried about. To them I want to say STOP. Don’t harm yourself. Be who you are, don’t try to change to fit some perception that other’s hold for you. We love you just the way you are. There is no need to change. To pretend. Just be. Try to be happy, if you can. Experience all the joy you can wrap your head around. Good advice, no matter what label you want to hang on yourself.
I expected to get pushback from the trans community because I thrash that communities insistence that there is a thing called cis. Instead what I got was a whole lot of hell from non-trans people who kept insisting that trans was a problem. I continue to disagree with those people. No matter the source of pushback, no matter the source of the attempt to label non-trans as cis, there still isn’t anything called cis.
The reason why there isn’t a thing called cis is the same reason why there really isn’t a thing called natural; at least in the experience of everyday average human beings. The reason why cis and natural are not things you can define is because there is no default property or state which is then modified by biology or human intervention. There is just the world as it exists in all its riotous varieties of life and experience. Human modification of things from their natural state renders objects that are in many ways still natural since humans are themselves creations of nature. Something manmade is not necessarily something that is unnatural.
There were several comments on this post that were lost when I shifted commenting back to Blogger comments from G+ comments. This was an unanticipated and unavoidable outcome from my perspective. I hadn’t realized that comments would actually disappear from G+, I figured they’d stay there and you just couldn’t see them on the blog. I was tired of having to fight pitched battles on G+ that were visible on the blog and I was equally tired of seeing my posts to G+ show up as comments on the blog posts I was promoting on G+, so I migrated back to the Blogger comment structure which also allowed me to write comments with HTML code that would display properly. Things change and loss of information is always a potential outcome during change. The form this blog is published under is likely to change to a more mobile friendly framework shortly, and that itself may cause some information to be lost. My apologies if this troubles people who like things to stay the same. However, those comments are gone, gone, gone and that leaves me struggling to grasp the arguments that I can no longer reference for clarities sake. My apologies if I tangent while trying to present the argument thrust at me previously, an argument that is now lost.
There is a common misconception among the people who believe in concepts like cis or natural; the misconception solidifies with conscious modification of whatever the thing is. A thing that was natural becomes unnatural. A thing that was cis is now trans. This misconception manifests in belief that genetics are absolute and deterministic. That XX yields women and XY yields men and there is never a miscommunication. That if you have a penis you are a boy and if you have a vagina you are a girl. This kind of rigid codification is not the reality of life as it occurs, but I couldn’t explain or produce an exception to the presumed rule that was thrown at me. Until now.
Listening to LatinoUSA today I was introduced to the concept of Intersex. Intersex people can be male, female or both simultaneously, or even neither as the case may be. These individuals have been the subject of millennia of mistreatment by both society and the medical community. Mistreatment that is only now being rectified, and then only in places that honor the UN declarations on human rights for the most part.
It is possible to have sexual development produce these vague outcomes because a fetus doesn’t have any sexual variation until after the seventh week of gestation. Specifically, the story in the LatinoUSA piece was of an individual suffering from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome producing an outcome of externally male appearing genitals but with no ability to produce secondary sexual characteristics at adulthood because the male sex hormones had no effect on her cells. She was subjected to corrective surgery against her wishes in her teens, surgery which made her female, the gender she identifies as today.
There are several different scenarios that will lead to a fetus not developing along expected male/female lines producing individuals who fall into one of the other two possible sexual outcomes neither/both, outcomes which don’t actually have accepted labels or words to define them. Yet. But what this information does provide is an explanation of how you can be of one genetic type and not be of the sex for that genetic makeup.
Given the potential permutations of complex organisms like humans beings, it is quite likely that any number of LGBT people could have some form of intersex affectation that has never been discovered. Many people who want to be identified as cis may actually be affected by one of the many diseases and syndromes that lead to what was once seen as a serious handicap requiring emergency surgery to correct as soon as possible. In the end it benefits us all to accept that there isn’t a clear-cut dividing line between boys and girls and to end these ridiculous rules of separation along sexually predetermined lines. We harm ourselves in trying to set such rigid boundaries to our own sexuality.
Let me see if I can explain this to the slow of mind.
People used queer to describe homosexuals because the idea of homosexuality scared them. This fear is born of latent homosexuality, fear that you are homosexual. Ergo calling something gay because it upsets you means you experience latent homosexual feelings.
To put this bluntly; if you are a man, you like to look at other men’s butts. No point in denying it, we’ve caught you looking, so just admit it and we’ll get on to the next point.
You’ve been taught that there’s something wrong with finding other men… (or women, if you are one. Not as much of a problem with women, so I understand. Being a man I don’t want to speak out of turn, so I’ll offer this up as an explanation of my sexism on the subject) …attractive. Consequently you think that there should be some kind of punishment involved for people who find members of their own sex attractive enough to actually engage in sex acts with them.
It’s 39th, and almost none of the other rules are things that christians feel the urge to make laws about. No wine for Catholics and no dogs as pets. I just can’t see that list as being anything worth losing any sleep over.
Having a verse in your holy book to point to that explains your reaction does not lend credence to your latent homosexual fears. It just makes you look silly when the other laws in the book are things that you’d either get awards for today (sex with three generations of the same family, here’s your trophy) or laughed out of culinary school for proposing in the first place. Much less follow them yourself, privately. Go ask any number of prominent church leaders who lead closeted private lives about it if you don’t believe me.
It is a fact that a small percentage of the population are afraid of the biological imperatives that they feel. In some cases that’s a good thing. You really shouldn’t go around murdering people who call out your latent homosexuality just because you feel an overwhelming desire to do so. Some of those feelings are harmless, however, and mean nothing. Indulge them or not, it really makes no difference.
It was accepted tradition in Western society that there was something wrong with homosexuality. It wasn’t just laws in the bible, because the tradition predates the christian church. When civic law became a thing, that law was adopted because of the tradition. And why not? Look at the way they live, there’s clearly something wrong with them.
Never mind that ostracizing individuals causes the very problems that are attributed to the behaviors in the first place. Research has shown, time and again, that creating an outgroup leads to the kinds of behavior patterns seen in the homosexual community. So it’s not them, it is the rest of us. It is us and our need to see ourselves as better than them.
My daughter, very rightly, pointed out that not everyone who uses the word gay to mean bad is a homophobe. I get that as well. Not everyone who thinks that there is something wrong with homosexuality is actually afraid of finding other men’s butts attractive. The vast majority of us really don’t notice. We just accept that the things we’ve been taught are true, even though they aren’t. Contrary to popular belief, there’s nothing wrong with being a homosexual, if that’s what you want to be, if that’s what you are. There is no clinical evidence that shows harm in just being a homosexual. There is no social reason why homosexuals would be any different than the rest of us, if they were simply accepted as part of the ingroup. The majority would be ok with that, if we simply knew the truth.
Homophobes are a tiny little subset of the larger whole.
You know the kind of group I’m talking about, a minority that wants the rest of us to behave the way they feel comfortable. So the next time you misuse the word gay to mean bad, ask yourself if you actually like that guy’s butt or not. Because that is the signal you are sending. The next time you stand up and denounce homosexuals ask yourself if that guy over there (you know who he is) doesn’t actually turn you on and that scares you.
Because if the answer is no, then you aren’t a member of that group, and you really shouldn’t be doing their work for them. Let them haul their own baggage. Put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps it’s time that we call out the homophobic for the sick individuals that they are, and prescribe for them some of the treatments that they have demanded we subject others too. Ostracise them, see how well they fare without the rest of us.
With the shoe on the other foot, maybe we can finally put this contentious issue to rest.
Bake for them two, the image (and the article) said. The SCOTUS came to the opposite conclusion. I’m beginning to see a pattern here. In hindsight, there were more articles about the art of cake baking than there was about the issue of whether homosexual couples have a right to exist in the world today, able to buy the same things that everyone else buys. Apparently they aren’t allowed to buy the same things the rest of us do. Please explain to me how this totals out as equality, because I’m seeing a deficit in at least one column.
The Westboro Baptist Church was forced to cancel its plans to protest at Leonard Nimoy’s funeral at the weekend when no-one would tell them where it was.
The group often descends upon the funerals of celebrities and soldiers with neon signs filled with homophobic slurs, but couldn’t locate the late Star Trek actor’s after planners decided to make the memorial private.
I’ve said my piece about Leonard Nimoy’s passing, albeit it took me two years to write what I thought about it and never posted the article anywhere aside from this blog. It is like a lot of entries on this public blog. They are here if anyone is interested enough to go back through the archive and look for them. These articles aren’t for general consumption, they are my thoughts set down for my own reasons, thoughts that I don’t mind sharing with the curious if there are people who are curious. So this blog entry really isn’t about Leonard or my feelings for Leonard or Spock. This is about a penchant for grandstanding in self-destructive ways by a particular religious cult in the US.
I have broached this subject several times on bulletin board systems and email groups, but I’ve never said a word about Westboro Baptist church on this blog because I really don’t have much of an opinion about the beliefs of others unless they potentially impact me or the people I love. I don’t talk about things that don’t interest me on my blog, so I generally don’t talk about religion. Being an atheist and freethinker myself, I have almost no use for religion, but there are occasions when the discussion of religion can’t be helped. This is one of those times.
The Westboro Baptist Church members are essentially the same as most other christianist/dominionist cults in that they think we are in the end times and they want to bring about the second coming of Christ. They hope to do this by provoking attacks upon themselves, and they do this by inciting rage in people who really cannot be relied upon to be sensible in the face of provocation. Those people are the survivors of tragedy, the funeral parties for the recently deceased.
What has evolved over the years that these protestors show up at funerals is, the Westboro Baptists are penned into a protest area where they are out of sight and hopefully out of earshot of the grieving. This is stalemate between the grieving and the protesting is achieved by local police forces who are understandably just trying to keep the peace. I believe that this entire effort is counter-productive and in the end ineffectual. There is a simpler, albeit more violent, solution that will end this stalemate, permanently.
We should not be protecting the Westboro Baptists when they attempt to picket funerals. What should be done instead is that local law enforcement takes the time to explain to the leadership of this church that the grieving are statutorily exempt from criminal charges if they attack outsiders who attempt to disrupt funerals. Funeral attendees are demonstrably not of their right mind. The leadership should be informed that picketing funerals is an attempt to have oneself killed as a martyr. That attempting suicide in this fashion is an admission of insanity on the part of the Westboro Baptists; and that they consequently can be detained without trial for mental evaluation indefinitely, and possibly committed to a mental institution for the rest of their lives if they insist on persevering in this deranged behavior. Then we as a culture sit back and wait. If the Westboro Baptists picket, they get to go talk to headshrinkers for the rest of their lives, the few of them that survive. I’m good with that, and they do need help.
As a side note, I’ve had quite a few people object that we shouldn’t require funeral attendees to kill the Westboro Baptists in this fashion. I agree. We should be able to have the insane committed for their demonstrable insanity. Insanity like believing that if they die martyrs they’ll go to heaven. Insanity like believing that Jesus hates homosexuals (he doesn’t, that passage is in the part of the Bible that came from the Torah, the Old Testament) There are a whole host of ideas which are insane on their face that the religious really should be cautioned about espousing belief in, in public. What they believe inside their own heads is their own business, just don’t expect the rest of us to endorse these ideas when you speak them or act upon them because there are broader concerns that should be of more importance than their personal insanity.
This article started life as a facebook status update which I backdated and expanded on for the blog. This is the first of the Let’s Talk About Religion Then articles which will be published eventually. They will be published because religionists can’t stop telling me about how right they are. They aren’t, and these articles will document the facts behind this judgement of mine. Chronologically the article will appear before Atheism is Not a Belief System on the blog, but that can’t be helped now. I’ve written many things in other places over the years and this monologue about the Westboro Baptists emerged about the same time as my original authorship of the atheism article on that now defunct BBS that I continually mention.
The article’s title is partially derived from one of the many alternate titles I tried for the Atheism is not a Belief System thread on that long-dead BBS, during the phase of trying to kill the damn thing. I have spent years of quality time listening to dissections of religion, as have most atheists who spend time around other atheists or who have personally had to divorce themselves from a religion forced on them by their parents. That process is painful and requires thought, some of it worth going through again just for the purpose of exercise.
August 11, 2021 – Then again, maybe this is the way to deal with them:
The band first started by trolling a Westboro Baptist Church protest back in 2011, where the Church had been staging one of their homophobic protests. The band crashed the protest by performing the song “Keep it Clean”, which had some suggestive lyrics regarding “hot man muffins.”
Following this, the two groups had another run-in in 2015 when the Church were protesting another Foo Fighters concert. Grohl responded to this by “rickrolling” the hate group, drowing out their protest by blasting Rick Astley’s classic hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.”