Let’s treat gun owners like we treat pregnant women

This is making the rounds but can’t be repeated often enough, so…

The text from the image (so it’s searchable):

“Gun violence problem solved. Or, “hey, how about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion” — mandatory 48-hr waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a guantlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.

It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?” — via a friend of a friend

Comcast charges me a $5.99 “convenience fee”

I wrote about the fact that I missed my initial payment because Comcast did not email my bill to the address I gave the installer and who assured me would be used for all emails from Comcast. When I received a phone call from Comcast telling me my account was past due two months after the installation I immediately paid via a credit card.

So imagine my surprise today when I received an email from Comcast telling me my bill would be $5.99 more than I expected because of a “Convenience Fee”. What the fuck is a “convenience fee”? Apparently they expect me to pay 12% more this month for the “convenience” of paying in full for my first two months of service after they fucked up notifying me that my bill was due the first month.

I now understand why Comcast has been rated the most hated company in America. I intend to call Comcast tomorrow and tell them where they can stick that $5.99 “convenience fee”.

P.S., I’ve filed this under “politics” because companies like Comcast do not see enough government regulation of their practices in my opinion.

Update 2015-09-24: I called Comcast customer support this afternoon and asked what a “convenience charge” was. The support rep didn’t answer that question but did say there was a note on my account that there should not be a convenience charge as a result of my prior payment and they would remove it from my current bill. I then noticed on the Comcast web site that the link to pay your bill by calling them had a note saying extra charges might apply. So apparently Comcast adds $5.99 to your bill if you pay via credit card by calling them (or them calling you) but not if you pay via their web site or by sending them a check. Greedy amoral assholes is the nicest thing I can say about the company executives who think up such policies.

The FRC wants you to “Help free Kim Davis from jail”

Todays I received the following email from the Family Research Council (FRC) headed by Tony Perkins. A theocratic grifter of some renown.

Kim Davis is the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky. She has been jailed by a federal judge for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. And Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) wants to keep her there.

Gotta love the gratuitous swipe at a Democratic governor. Especially since he has no control over whether Ms. Davis is in jail or for how long. Also, she wasn’t jailed for refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. She was jailed for contempt of court.

Her refusal is based on her belief that God has ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Regardless of the recent Supreme Court decision claiming same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, Kim is standing on a higher law, one she believes derives not from the decision of any court but from the hand of our Creator.

Apparently the FRC believes that everyone should be able to flout civil law if they hold a belief incompatible with that law. Not to mention all the people who want to be paid to do jobs that conflict with their deeply held religious beliefs. What do you want to bet that they will hastily modify that assertion once it is pointed out that by their reasoning

a) A Protestant paramedic can refuse to give aid to a Catholic and vice-versa.

b) A Muslim working at the DMV should be able to refuse to give a drivers license to women.

c) A Hindu working at McDonalds should be able to refuse to cook or serve hamburgers.

d) An Amish bus driver should be able to refuse to drive busses but still be paid.

Etcetera.

Our Constitution guarantees Kim Davis the right to practice her faith. It's called "freedom of religion," and is the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights.

Yes, Ms. Davis is free to practice her faith. She can attend the church of her choosing as often as she wishes. She can give that church as much of her $80K/year salary as she wishes. She is free to read and write about her religion without government interference. What that right does not include is violating civil law and refusing to do the job for which she is paid.

The couple demanding she issue them a marriage license claims Kim's exercise of her freedom of religion has imposed a burden on them. Yet they have had many other options for obtaining a license and have, in fact, now gotten one.

Irrelevant point. Also disingenuous. Ms. Davis’ behavior imposes an unreasonable burden on the members of her community she is obligated to serve.

Apparently Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is more concerned with imposing a moral and personal burden on Kim Davis than he is with accommodating her deeply-held Christian convictions. So, he is keeping her in jail.

Yawn. Repeating a tiresome lie doesn’t make it true. A federal judge is keeping her in jail. You’re asking that Gov. Beshear provide her a “get out of jail free” card.

This is wrong. We jail criminals, not people of conscience. We penalize wrong-doers, not people who simply decline a service for moral reasons -- a service which is readily available in other places.

We do jail people of conscience. All the fucking time. People who protested the Vietnam war were jailed. People who protest nuclear war are jailed. And by telling a federal court she won’t abide by their ruling in a matter she has committed a crime known as “contempt of court”. What the FRC really means is that Christians shouldn’t be jailed for following “biblical law”. But only the parts of biblical law they feel like following. Not those other bits like killing adulterers (I’m looking at you Ms. Davis) or people who work on the sabbath.

American Christians need to stand with Kim Davis's right to stand by her religious convictions. You can help by signing our petition below to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear asking him to issue an accommodation to Kim Davis allowing her to live and work according to her beliefs…

I followed that link. A full 48 hours after I received the FRC’s email they had 32,158 signatures including mine. Yawn. And, of course, the petition page had the obligatory prominently placed “DONATE NOW!” button. Grifters gotta grift.

It is easy to edit video to make people opposed to Planned Parenthood look like they support it

The group Majority Ohio has created a video showing how easy it is to edit video footage to make it appear that “pro-life” supporters who are trying to shutdown Planned Parenthood actually support the organization:

It isn’t difficult to take sentences (or fragments) out of context and portray them to mean the opposite of what the speaker intended.

The irony is that if the forced-birthers get their way and Planned Parenthood didn’t exist there would be even more abortions. Regardless of what you think about abortion you should support Planned Parenthood. That so many people want to see the organization killed makes it obvious their real agenda isn’t about abortion. It’s about controlling peoples sexual activity and keeping sex something that is only done if you intend to create a person.

H/T Daily Kos

70 years ago the nuclear nightmare begins

The following movie came to my attention thanks to Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog. Since today is the 70th anniversary of America’s bombing of Hiroshima the following video showing when and where nuclear explosions have occurred from 1945 to 1998 is relevant and sobering.

I was born in 1961 and remember “duck and cover” drills at school. When going shopping at the local mall or department store meant looking for the nuclear civil defense fallout shelter signs indicated you should go in the event of a nuclear explosion. I didn’t know anyone who had a bomb shelter in their back yard but it was certainly discussed and magazines like Popular Mechanics had articles about building one. So when I watch todays GOP representatives argue against the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear agreement I think about stuffing the lot of them into a suburban backyard bomb shelter without food or water and padlocking the door.

How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions

I can’t take credit for this post. It came to my attention via a comment at the blog Why Evolution Is True. That lead me to the Daily Kos article which was the source of the WEIT comment. That in turn lead me to the original article by Rev. Emily C. Heath. It’s a shame more religious people aren’t as reasonable and rational as Rev. Heath.

It seems like this election season “religious liberty” is a hot topic. Rumors of its demise are all around, as are politicians who want to make sure that you know they will never do anything to intrude upon it.

I’m a religious person with a lifelong passion for civil rights, so this is of great interest to me. So much so, that I believe we all need to determine whether our religious liberties are indeed at risk. So, as a public service, I’ve come up with this little quiz. I call it “How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.” Just pick “A” or “B” for each question.

1. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

3. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am being forced to use birth control.
B) I am unable to force others to not use birth control.

4. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to pray privately.
B) I am not allowed to force others to pray the prayers of my faith publicly.

5. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Being a member of my faith means that I can be bullied without legal recourse.
B) I am no longer allowed to use my faith to bully gay kids with impunity.

6. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to purchase, read or possess religious books or material.
B) Others are allowed to have access books, movies and websites that I do not like.

7. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious group is not allowed equal protection under the establishment clause.
B) My religious group is not allowed to use public funds, buildings and resources as we would like, for whatever purposes we might like.

8. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) Another religious group has been declared the official faith of my country.
B) My own religious group is not given status as the official faith of my country.

9. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) My religious community is not allowed to build a house of worship in my community.
B) A religious community I do not like wants to build a house of worship in my community.

10. My religious liberty is at risk because:

A) I am not allowed to teach my children the creation stories of our faith at home.
B) Public school science classes are teaching science.

Scoring key:

If you answered “A” to any question, then perhaps your religious liberty is indeed at stake. You and your faith group have every right to now advocate for equal protection under the law. But just remember this one little, constitutional, concept: this means you can fight for your equality — not your superiority.

If you answered “B” to any question, then not only is your religious liberty not at stake, but there is a strong chance that you are oppressing the religious liberties of others. This is the point where I would invite you to refer back to the tenets of your faith, especially the ones about your neighbors.

In closing … remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Michigan representative Todd Courser wants to make it hard for non-hetero Christians to get married

Updated 2015-09-11: Todd Courser, bigoted homophobic Republican state representative, has resigned. His coworker, that he was having an adulteress affair with, has been fired (technically “expelled”) by the rest of the state legislature. Please excuse me while I experience some schadenfreude.
Updated 2015-08-08: I just learned that Todd Courser, the elected representative responsible for the Christian motivated legislative bill I discuss below was having an affair (i.e., committing adultery) with legislator Cindy Gamrat. You can read about it in the Detroit News. Honestly, what the fuck is with these moralizing assholes who insist on imposing their religious morals on everyone else when they themselves are breaking that very code of conduct?

I read this article at The Friendly Atheist blog. It so outraged me I took the time to send the following email to Rep. Courser:

Mr. Courser,

Have you actually thought about the ramifications of your proposed legislation? What about atheists? Mixed faith couples? Religious couples who simply don't want a religious "leader" involved? No one is asking that government officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses agree with the beliefs of people seeking to be married. If a government official is incapable of doing the job they were hired to do they should be encouraged to seek another job.

To my surprise I received a reply:

from:      toddcourser@house.mi.gov
to:        krader@skepticism.us
date:      Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM
subject:   Re: so you believe atheists shouldn't be able to marry?
mailed-by: email.nationbuilder.com

Dear Kurtis,

Please read the bills.  You will see that you will not be required to be married in any faith.  In fact, the marriage does not have to be religious.  There does not have to be a ceremony.  The marriage can be recognized by an affidavit signed by both parties and given to the county clerk.  The bills are taking the government out of the marriage process, not determining who should be married and how.  There will be more freedom, not less.

Respectfully,
Karen Couture
Legislative Aide
Rep. Todd Courser

Hmmm, perhaps Mr. Mehta and other sources I’ve read about this legislation have drawn the wrong conclusion. So I did read each of the three bills: HB 4731, HB 4732, HB 4733. There is also an announcement at gophouse.org regarding the three bills. This is the reply I sent Ms. Couture and Mr. Courser:

Ms. Couture,

I just finished reading all three bills (HB 4731, 4732, 4733). What you say is literally true in as much as the bills do not require the  applicants to affirm a specific faith. However, the bills expressly require the applicant to have their "MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY CLERGY"(from page one of HB 4733 but similar language and provisions are in the other two bills). At the top of page two it says "AS USED IN THIS ACT, "CLERGY" MEANS A MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, CLERIC, OR RELIGIOUS PRACTITIONER."

The bills also explicitly modify the language to read "minister of the Gospel" rather than simply "minister" which makes it quite clear Mr. Courser favors Christian sects. These bills quite clearly make it more difficult for anyone not a member of a Christian, Muslim, or Jewish faith tradition to get married. The bills effectively make it impossible for an atheist to be married in your state unless they're willing to disregard their beliefs regarding religion and beg a "minister of the gospel" to grant them the boon of a certified marriage certificate.

You should hang your head in shame for lying like that. Lying for Jebus is still lying and not acceptable in civilized society.
Rep. Courser’s office sent me another email pointing out that section 1A (page 3, line 13) of HB 4733 does provide for registering a marriage by filing a notarized affidavit. I’m not a lawyer but it does appear that section allows for atheists, homosexuals, and any other minority group to have their marriage recognized by the state of Michigan.

Nonetheless I find the bill odious. It clearly signals that Christian marriage is preferable to marriages not recognized by Christian sects. There is absolutely no legitimate secular (i.e., government interest) for doing so. Rep. Courser could simply omit section 1 and require everyone follow the requirements in section 1A and his goal of protecting the fragile religious sensibilities of state employees would still be met.

Wealthy Californians should pay dearly for their ornamental lawns

The Washington Post published an article titled Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’. It’s getting a lot of attention. Such as this article at Daily Kos. The article includes many memorable quotes including the one in the title. Here’s another one from a self-centered, entitled, oblivious asshole throwing a tantrum:

What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?

I should point out that as a software engineer in Silicon Valley my income is only slightly less than the median for the community that was the focus of the article. And yet I can’t identify with the douche-nozzles featured in the article. Nor do I have any sympathy for their situation.

This quote caught my eye:

Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.

You know what? I agree. However, I think the cost of that water should be progressively priced with a steep increase in each tier. For residential use every home should receive an allotment large enough to meet the basic living needs (drinking, bathing, toilet) for, say, a family of four at a base rate. The next tier might allow enough water for plants, but no lawn, on a typical 1/8 acre single home plot and be priced at double the base rate. The third tier would provide double the allotment of the second tier and be priced at eight times the base rate. That should give you enough water for a decent size lawn and to wash your car every week. If that still isn’t enough water for your landscape, pool, jacuzzi, and to wash your four cars twice a week then you can purchase even more water but at a rate 50 times the base rate.

People should be free to piss away their money in pretty much any manner they see fit. If that means wasting potable water when there isn’t enough to meet the needs of the entire society they should be free to do so. But “free” only in the sense they can make that choice. The financial cost of wasting that resource should most decidedly not be “free”.

Ben Carson wants to implement the East German Stasi in the USA

If you haven’t watched The Lives of Others you should do so at your earliest opportunity. It’s necessary to provide context for 2016 presidential candidate Ben Carson’s remarks regarding the need for our own secret police:

The pediatric neurosurgeon-turned-candidate told a crowd of Iowa Republicans he is “thinking very seriously” about adding “a covert division of people who look like the people in this room, who monitor what government people do.” Carson suggested people would work harder if they suspected their coworkers of monitoring their work. “And we make it possible to fire government people!” he said to loud cheers.

As Charles P. Pierce is known to say: “We are indeed very fcked.”

Newspaper gives honest answer to “Why do you support such a liberal agenda?”

The title of this post is from Daily Kos where Black Max points out that the newspaper’s answer contains

No snark, no smartassery. This is one of the finest responses I’ve ever seen to this kind of question.

I encourage you to read the article by Taylor Batten. Here are a couple of the answers that resonated especially strongly with me:

We believe in consistency, so if you are going to drug-test recipients of public assistance, drug-test them all, including the corporate chieftains who are the biggest beneficiaries.

That’s because the “masters of the universe” on Wall Street who precipitated the 2008 economic collapse and received enormous bailouts by the US government have suffered no consequences. No drug testing let alone jail time. And

We believe if you’re a fan of a politician solely because he has a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ after his name, then you’re not paying attention.

That last quote struck home because until the 2010 midterm elections I gave little consideration to the political affiliation of a candidate. Until 2010 I had always believed in voting for the most qualified candidate regardless of their party affiliation. But in the 2010 election I voted for any candidate who was not a Republican. It didn’t matter to me if the Republican was a better choice than their opponents. The Republican party was so toxic that I would vote for anyone who was not a Republican as long as they had not been convicted of a crime.

Having said that I’m still in agreement with Batten’s point that you should not vote for someone simply because of the political party (i.e., tribe) of which they are a member. Whether you should vote against someone due to their political party affiliation is an open question. As I write this I’m sorry to say the Republican party has been taken over by insane people unable to distinguish between reality and what they wished were true. Thus while I won’t vote for someone simply because they’re a Democrat I will vote against someone because they’re a Republican.

Also, you’ve got to read some of the comments to the article by Taylor Batten. Including this by John Keller:

He lost me with the Obama is not from Kenya comment. That was an obvious dig at conservatives, the majority of whom never believed that was true. …

Several people replied, correctly, that there was nary a conservative (and certainly not FOX News) arguing against the assertion that Obama was not a USA citizen and thus eligible to be president.