Cartoonish DA Tells ACLU: “Come Get Some!”

After reading yesterday about the local teenager being charged with “desecration” for taking an idiotic picture then sharing it with his friends on Facebook, I immediately knew what I would be posting here at Foster Disbelief.  Just writing about it and expressing my fears and outrage didn’t seem like enough though.  This was in my backyard and being covered in my local fishwrap.  I’ve seen the statue before, and I’ve spent time in the teen’s hometown.  When I was in high school, I actually had several friends from down his way.  In addition to the close proximity to me of the events, the story also scared the hell out of me.  While I don’t routinely pose for pictures with Jesus statues, taken so it appears the Son of God is about to receive a shot of my holy spirit right in the face, I do post much that many in my area would consider blasphemous.  With this teen being charged for offending the religious feelings of locals, since he did no actual damage to the statue at all, and the evidence against him being pictures he posted on Facebook, I started to wonder how long it would be until one of my posts “offended local sensibilities.”  Yes, there is a First Amendment in this nation that supposedly protects my speech, but then again, this teen is being charged with a misdemeanor, publicly shamed, and exposed to threats of Christian violence.  Some people think that I blog under a nom de guerre due to my past status as a heroin addict, but to be completely honest, with the depth of the heroin problem Altoona has been struggling with since the 1990’s and the law enforcement strategy of gleefully targeting addicts by using fellow addicts*  as a weapon in the war on drugs, having a non-violent drug felony on your record is pretty common around here.  I am rather sloppy in protecting my actual name; to be honest, I really do not care if it gets out.  I am open about both my felony and my atheism to those who know me.  The only reason I don’t use my real name here is that I do not want the less grounded local fundamentalists to be able to tie my name to my posts with no effort at all.  My last name is extremely uncommon, and my home phone and address are listed.  I would rather not have threats delivered to my home because after I offended an unhinged person, all they had to do was grab the phone book to find out where I lived.  And then a story like this comes out, and I start to wonder if I should be more careful in protecting my identity.

Once I decided that just blogging about the story wasn’t enough, I tried to figure out what else I could do.  First off, for what I believe to be only the second time in the history of Foster Disbelief, I asked my readers to share the story.  Then I wrote a message to The Friendly Atheist and sent him the details.  Hermant Mehta wrote a post about the story and exposed a huge audience to the story.  (He also linked to and quoted from my blog post, which I didn’t ask for but greatly appreciated.)  I have a few more messages out to atheist bloggers and podcasters, and after being covered on The Friendly Atheist, I am sure it will draw attention from many in our community.  My final e-mail then went to the ACLU, and while I do not suffer from delusions and have no doubt others contacted them as well, the Altoona Mirror this morning brought a smile to my face and once again proved that we can all make a difference, as long as we make ourselves heard.  (The story is behind a pay wall, so I will be quoting most of it here.)

The American Civil Liberties Union is expressing interest in the case of an Everett 14-year-old charged with “desecrating” a statue of Jesus.

On Thursday, a Pittsburgh-based ACLU attorney said the state law cited in the case – a rarely invoked ban on “defacing, damaging, polluting or … mistreating” venerated symbols – poses constitutional problems. State police charged the teen Tuesday, several weeks after he posted photographs online of a simulated sex act with the Everett statue.

“There are some serious First Amendment issues with this statute” if merely gesturing next to an image is enough to be charged, said Sara Rose, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

The case has been debated nationally, with news websites and bloggers on both sides of the issue discussing the charge. An ACLU media representative said several people have sent her office copies of the article.

“Bloggers on both sides….several people have sent her office copies of the article.”  That’s me!  And a whole bunch of other people, but me as well!  Unfortunately, any good feelings from making a difference and having my voice be heard quickly faded when I read the reaction of the Bedford County District Attorney, a man who clearly has vastly different ideas of religious freedom from those not basing their understanding of the Bill of Rights on their religious beliefs.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins, who is in Puerto Rico for a Lions Club gathering, did not return a message seeking comment.

“I guess I should take solace in the fact that the liberals are mad at me – again,” Higgins said Thursday on his Facebook page. “As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

Let’s take a break here for a second, and see what Wikipedia has to say about  District Attorneys: (bolding mine, as always)

The district attorney (DA), in many jurisdictions in the United States, represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses. The district attorney – an elected or appointed official – is the highest officeholder in the legal department of the jurisdiction – generally the county in the U.S. – and supervises a staff of assistant (ADA) or deputy district attorneys. Depending on the system in place, district attorneys may be appointed by the chief executive of the region or elected by the voters of the jurisdiction.

In a moment, we will talk more about whether or not this “troubled” young man actually broke the law, and if that law is even constitutional.  But right now I want to dwell on an elected official who “represents the government, the highest officeholder in the legal department” of Bedford County, a man who’s job is to, without bias or malice, prosecute criminal offenses, making the following statement: ” If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

Last election, Blair County filled a vacant spot on the bench with an election for Judge.  When the Republican candidate (eventual winner, Wade Kagarise) came to my door during his campaign, I couldn’t help but notice that the most prominent statement on his handouts, other than his name and the office he was running for, was the statement pledging his firm opposition to abortion.  Out of all types of political pandering, this is perhaps the type that annoys me the most.  There is absolutely no reason anyone in Blair County needed to know the candidates stance on abortion to cast an informed ballot in November.  He was running to be a Judge on the Blair County Court of Common Pleas.  Roe V. Wade is not likely to come in front of his bench to be challenged.  He presides over criminal trials, child support and custody cases, and a myriad of other types of cases, none of which his stance on abortion rights has any bearing on.  He stressed his opposition to abortion rights because he knew it would get him votes from the overwhelmingly conservative local majority, not because that information was relevant on his qualifications to be a judge.  I bring this sort of political pandering up because Bill Higgins is using Facebook and this case to win himself votes the next time he is up for re-election.  He sounds like a host on Fox News, not a representative of our criminal justice system.  Either he actually believes the insanity he is spewing, in which case it terrifies me that he has the power to prosecute, or he is parroting right wing talking points to score points with the rabid local far right.

Either way, how can any non-Christian accused of a crime read that statement and not worry about malicious prosecution, or prosecutorial misconduct?  Let me be clear that I am not accusing DA Bill Higgins of either act, merely pointing out questions that may arise in the minds of non-Christians who find themselves prosecuted by his office because of idiotic, antagonistic, bigoted, prejudicial, unprofessional, inflammatory statements of his that make it clear that as the highest ranking official in the Bedford County legal department, he only represents the Christian majority.  Statements like that word salad of Christian far right delusions should cause him to have to recuse himself from every case where the defendant is not a member of the Christian religion.  I know that if I found myself on the wrong side of court opposing him,  I would wonder how much of his prosecution was due to the law, and how much was due to my beliefs.

Okay, let’s get back to the ACLU and the story, shall we?  Once again, you can find the pay wall here:

Rose said the state law is cited rarely enough that she had never researched it until this week. News accounts indicate a Wilkes-Barre college student was charged under the law in 2010 for urinating on a Nativity scene; in the 1980s, Pittsburgh authorities threatened a charge against an unnamed vandal who daubed pro-Palestinian graffiti on a public Hanukkah decoration.

At the root of the issue, Rose said, is the law’s distinction between “objects of veneration” and other items. While the Wilkes-Barre student could have been charged with urinating in public and the Everett teen could arguably be charged with public lewdness, she said, a special law protecting religious items from that violation is harder to justify.

And while not all symbolic speech is protected, the fact that the boy took photographs, posted them publicly and commented on them with friends is enough to be considered “expressive” and therefore legally protected, she said.

It’s an issue she said ACLU attorneys have faced in the past: The courts have repeatedly ruled that flipping a middle finger, while offensive, is a matter of free speech and not a criminal act, Rose noted.

Prosecutors have faced similar difficulty enforcing flag-protection laws, which also punished “desecration” of revered items until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in 1989.

Once again, he did no damage to the statue.  DA Bill Higgins is claiming that taking a picture he finds offensive is criminal.  Until the pictures were seen online, no one even knew a “crime” had been committed.  There was no public nudity, no defacing or vandalism of property, nothing.  Just a picture some people find offensive.

That is not criminal.

As the ACLU seeks to contact the teenager, it could take at least several weeks for a hearing on the misdemeanor charge to be held. Bedford County President Judge Thomas S. Ling said the next set of juvenile court hearings is scheduled for Oct. 3.

I believe that if the ACLU represents this young man, the law will be ruled unconstitutional.  I think it is a rather open and shut case, to be honest.  No matter how much it offends you, I can flip you off and you can not arrest me for it.  We have a right to our own religious beliefs, and a right to freedom of speech, what we do not have is a right to not be offended.  The statements DA Bill Higgins made on Facebook sure the hell offend me, yet I do not think he should be arrested for it.  And as much as I question such statements being said by a representative of the government, and feel it reflects poorly on his ability to prosecute non-Christians without bias, I do not claim that he doesn’t have the right to make nonsensical statements.  What worries me the most is that the parents of the teen deciding that they just want their son to plead guilty to the misdemeanor and put this all behind them.  Perhaps they even feel that he broke the law, but even if they are just as outraged over the charges as I am, I could understand why they would want it all to just quietly go away.  The teen is already facing threats of violence over the issue.  Hopefully, those threats as well as the statements of DA Bill Higgins lets my readers understand that I am not exaggerating how insanely conservative the central part of Pennsylvania is for a state that votes blue in most national elections.  Our electoral votes may go Democratic, but the center of the state is as scary for atheists as any part of Georgia, Mississippi, or Texas.  I think it would be worth the backlash to fight this unconstitutional law because I am an atheist who sees how tightly the Christian religion is wrapped around local government in my state, and because of the gerrymandering of districts, races in areas such as mine are over after the primary with the only question being how conservative will the winner be this time.  I look at the words of DA Bill Higgins and then wonder if I will ever hear a knock at my door, resulting in my arrest for something I wrote, or for a picture that I posted, not of Jesus giving me a scrubby, but something that offended the wrong people with the right powers.  While it would be worth it for me, perhaps this teen and his family will have a different result to the equation.  His name is already out in the public domain (Thank you, Bedford County Free Press).  I have no doubt that if he fights it and his family stays in the area he will be ostracized at school and his family will face the type of Christian love reserved for those who dare have a different religion, no religion, or merely just a different understanding of Jesus and ask that their rights be respected as well. (Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars specializes in telling the stories of the retaliation faced by those who take part in church/state separation cases.  Unless things changed since I last heard, he is even writing a book on the subject.)

If the teen and his family are not willing to fight this law, maybe it is time for me to get myself arrested again.  *sigh*

 

*The use of “addicts as weapons” in the war on drugs.  The Drug Task Forces in the Altoona area and surrounding counties claims that they are going after drug dealers.  And during one of the bimonthly drug round ups, one or two (up to five in a especially good month) dealers are included in the thirty or so people arrested and charged with selling drugs.  How does this happen you ask?  By targeting addicts, and using addicts as weapons.  It is standard operating procedure to try to turn arrested addicts into confidential informants (C.I.s).  In exchange for a reduced sentence, or withdrawal of charges, these C.I.s are given task force money to buy drugs, thereby setting up the seller for arrest.  There are many reasons this is a shady practice.  From discussions with C.I.s and situations I witnessed, C.I.’s are allowed to use some of the drugs they bought with no punishment.  Some C.I.s are then rewarded with money for their actions, money law enforcement is very aware is going to be used to purchase drugs.  Otherwise, in exchange for performing observed buys, the task force enables an addict to continue their addiction.  Sooooo ethical.  Perhaps it would be a tolerable (perhaps not, but I’m trying) practice if it took dealers off of the streets.  But as I said,  actual dealers make up a very small percentage of those arrested and charged with these methods.  The vast majority of the time the C.I. calls up one of their fellow addicts, someone who uses with them and therefor trusts them, and tells them that they have 100 dollars or so but can’t find anything.  Of course, if the person they called could somehow find some, they would be more than willing to share with them.  Which results in the target taking the money and buying dope for the two of them and then both of them getting high.  The target will even be thankful that the C.I. thought of them, and helped them out, until the day of the raid comes and the target finds out he is now somehow a drug dealer, even though he never sold a bag of dope in his life.  You may think this is all sour grapes; you may think it is justified to get users off the street; you may think we should all rot in a cell for ever experimenting with drugs in the first place.  You are free to hold your opinions, just do not delude yourself that drug task forces outside the larger cities are sweeping up truckloads of drug dealers.  Actual dealers use drug runners and other techniques to insulate themselves from shady tactics such as these.  Meanwhile your tax dollars are being used to shove your neighbors through the system for being addicts on trumped up charges for crimes that would never be prosecuted in a large city.  But regardless of the human cost, it sounds like they’re making progress in the War on Drugs, so fight on.

 

 

Follow Up on “Desecration” Case

Hey all.  I have to take my mother to a doctors appointment at the moment, so it will take me a bit to get the article I want to write about this subject up and posted, but I wanted to get something up before I leave.

The ACLU has taken an interest in the case and the constitutionality of the law the teen is being charged under, after several people (myself included) alerted the organization to the story.  The Altoona Mirror has the story, but I believe it is hidden away behind a pay wall again/  When I return, I will quote most of the article for those who can not access it,  but I wanted to point out one comment right now.

As an outspoken atheist in a neighboring county, the words of Bedford county District Attorney Bill Higgins send a chill down my spine.

“I guess I should take solace in the fact that the liberals are mad at me – again,” Higgins said Thursday on his Facebook page. “As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.”

I will be back in a few hours with much more on the subject.

I’m Too Pissed to Come Up With a Witty Headline

There is so much wrong with this story that I don’t even know where to begin.  (Since the Altoona Mirror is now online for subscribers only, the link may not work, but I’ll be quoting much of the story below.)  Death threats, the “press” overstepping its bounds, the police trolling Facebook for “criminal” activity, and a stupid teenager.  Yep, this story has it all.  If it came out of a theocracy, it would be just one more thought crime out of many, but this took place in the United States, in Pennsylvania, in a town not far from my home.

An Everett teenager faces a misdemeanor charge for allegedly “desecrating” a statue of Jesus outside a religious center in his hometown, an act that drew violent threats online.

Now I know what is going through your minds right now.  “He desecrated a religious statue, why did Foster put “criminal” in quotes?  That is a real crime.”  Stay with me for a minute, let me describe the “desecration” for you.  Any guesses?  Do you think he painted a pentagram and “666” on the statue?  Toppled it over, perhaps?  Smeared it with feces?  Maybe he dressed up a statue of the Virgin Mary in Victoria’s Secret products?  Make sure you use a number 2 pencil for your answers, and…………..pencils down!

In a report issued Tuesday, state police said the 14-year-old boy posted photographs of the desecration on the Internet. Photos on his Facebook page dating to July appear to show the boy standing over a statue of a kneeling Jesus, simulating a sex act.

If someone has the ACLU on speed dial, give them a ring.  This kid needs a good lawyer.  Yeah, you read right.  He didn’t vandalize the statue in any way.  He did no physical harm to the statue at all.  He took a picture of himself in front of the statue so it looked like Jesus was giving him a hummer.  How the fuck is that criminal?  That isn’t desecration, or vandalism, he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for a thought crime.  He is being charged with blasphemy, disguised as “desecration.”  But wait, it gets oh so much worse, thanks to a vigilant organization known as the Bedford County Free Press.  See, while this teenager is being railroaded by the police for taking a picture that offended their invisible sky daddy, the police can not release his name because of his status as a juvenile.  The Bedford County Free Press however, with their pearls firmly clutched and their knickers mega twisted, were offended.  Those folks in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia may be Satan worshiping, feminist, Muslim, liberal, socialist, Nazi, Demon-crats bowing to the altar of secularism, but this is Pennsyl-tucky, the God fearing, Atheist hating, church going, Republican voting, women submitting, gun toting, bathed in the blood of the lamb, Jesus meek and mild, real American part of the state, and they are not going to stand for anyone making it look like their statue of Jesus on his knees is down there for any other reason than prayer, thank you very much!  So they published the 14 year old kids name.

While police released few details and didn’t mention the juvenile’s name, the Bedford County Free Press – an online news organization that shares police reports and gossip – first discussed the case last month, posting the photos and sharing the child’s name and hometown.

With predictable results from the Christian community.  You know, the community who believes in Jesus, the son of God who preached such tactics as “turning the other cheek.”

Hundreds of comments followed, many from outraged county residents. Several posted violent threats. A new post on the charges has drawn more threats.

“Break his arms and legs, teach him some respect,” one read.

Can you feel the Christian love?

The teenager’s juvenile court charge, formally titled “desecration, theft or sale of a venerated object,” is a second-degree misdemeanor in the Pennsylvania Code. The law defines desecration as “defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities” of people who learn of the action.

Did he deface it?  No.  Damage it?  No.  Pollute it?  No.  Physically mistreat it in any way?  NO.  THERE WAS NO CRIME COMMITTED!  (Apologies for the caps.)  He took a picture at a certain angle that made it look like Jesus would have supported marriage equality.

Charges under the 1972 law appear to be rare: The last case to make widespread news in Pennsylvania was in 2010, when a Wilkes-Barre college student urinated on a Christmas Nativity scene. The student in that case pleaded guilty and apologized publicly.

Do you see the major difference in the cases?  Perhaps how the student in the 2010 case actually did something?

Look, I never do this.  I post here for the few that stop by, and enjoy knowing that a small amount of people care enough about what I say to follow my blog.  But this is a local story in a small city, and I am afraid this is going to get passed over by the larger community.  I’m sending it on to other outlets, but please, share this post if you can.  This poor teen is getting a raw deal from an unconstitutional law.

I am a very vocal atheist with beliefs that are on the fringe in some cases.  I believe that teaching children that people who do not follow your exact religion are going to Hell is child abuse.  I’m also of a mind that home schooling your kids so you can teach them made up garbage in place of factual science and history should be illegal.  I think using a 6 year old as a prop at an anti-abortion protest is immoral.  I think the Quiverfull movement and America’s favorite freak show, the Duggars, are harmful to their children, no matter how many smiles they give the cameras or even what they say themselves.  Dissent is not a trait nurtured in families such as those; more like a weed to be pulled as soon as it sprouts.  Yet as harmful as I find much of religion, I do not advocate the vandalism of churches, or the desecration of their symbols.  We as an atheist community are supposed to be above things like that.  We claim we hold our ideas because of evidence and rational thought, and in an open society, our ideas will win.  Vandalism and desecration moves the conversation away from rationality.  Let them lash out and vandalize atheist plaques and displays out of fear.  We have no need to respond in kind.

But this is a kid.  Who took a photo.  That’s it.  The only damage he caused is in the minds of people who viewed the photo and lost their shit.  The statue is still there, longing for a dick to suck deep in prayer.  If he would have vandalized, or damaged in anyway, the statue, then I would back up the charges, though not the Bedford County Free Presses’ irresponsible act of publishing his name.  But he didn’t.  He took a picture.

That is not a crime.

 

 

Raven’s Terminate Ray Rice’s Contract.

ESPN is reporting at this moment that the Baltimore Ravens have terminated the contract of Ray Rice.  While the Ravens have stood firmly behind their star running back since the first video of the aftermath of the incident , it became an impossible to defend stance after TMZ released the video from inside the elevator.

The NFL claims that they only saw the video when it was released this morning.  One really has to wonder if that is true, or if this is just a major ass covering move.  Now that the Ravens have cut Rice, will the NFL reexamine the Rice case and perhaps their “strengthened” policy on domestic violence that I mocked earlier today?

How sad is it that when the only video was of the fiance lying unconscious in the elevator due to a domestic violence incident, Ray Rice received a 2 game suspension and a standing ovation.  Real punishment only came when America had their noses rubbed into a hulking athlete throwing a hay-maker at his now wife.

I applaud the Baltimore Ravens for taking a zero tolerance approach to domestic violence.  As much as I question their previous actions, we have to reward those who do the right thing.  It took a while, but they did the right thing.

The NFL and their increased six game suspension can still eat a bag of dicks.

The First Person to Bring Up the First Amendment Fails Constitutional Law.

Let’s get this out of the way real quick.  The First Amendment means the government can not throw me in jail for expressing an unpopular viewpoint.  It does not mean that I am shielded from all repercussions brought about by my speech. If I decided to spend the next few hours writing an article blaming all of America’s ills on the feminist movement, the government could not remove it, or arrest me for writing it, no matter how incredibly idiotic any thinking person would find that article.  I couldn’t then apply for a job with the National Organization for Women and claim a First Amendment violation when they decide not to hire me.  The countless people who would rightfully rip my article to shreds, and more than likely metaphorically rip my head off and force the disembodied skull up my rectum, could not then be accused of violating my First Amendment rights.  We all have the right to free speech, not the right to consequence free speech.  Stupid is still stupid.  Racist is still racist.  Vile, is still vile.  Countless times during the Donald Sterling fiasco I heard the argument that the NBA had no right to force him out of the league, because of the First Amendment.  *headdesk*  The NBA is not a government run organization.  They have the right to protect their image and product by limiting who can own a franchise in the league.

Does the NBA attract racist owners, or is it just especially good at exposing them?  For the second time this year, an NBA owner’s racism has cost him his team.  This time, instead of a taped racist phone call, the evidence is a racist email.  “I would have got away with it, if it wasn’t for you meddling technology.”  What does Satan’s media outlet have to say about it?:

Bruce Levenson, who has led the ownership group of the Atlanta Hawks since 2004, informed N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday that he intended to sell the team, effectively cutting short a league investigation into an email that Mr. Levenson sent two years ago to fellow Hawks executives detailing his thoughts on how the team could attract more white fans.

Well that doesn’t sound all that bad.  I mean, it doesn’t sound good, but it isn’t a Donald Sterling.  Let’s see what the email said:

On Sunday, when the issue came to light, the Hawks released the text of the August 2012 email, in which Mr. Levenson speculated that the team’s black fans had “scared away the whites” and that there were “not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

“I think Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority,” Mr. Levenson said in his email, pointing out that he had earlier told the executive team that he wanted “some white cheerleaders” and “music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy,” and that he thought “the kiss cam is too black.”

Oh, ffs.

Mr. Levenson’s email was sent on the night of Aug. 25, 2012, to Danny Ferry, the team’s general manager, and Ed Peskowitz and Todd Foreman, two members of his ownership group. While commenting on various aspects of team business, Mr. Levenson included a long passage linking the team’s struggles to sell season-ticket packages to its inability to attract white fans and corporations. In bullet points, he observed that 70 percent of the crowd seemed to be black, that the cheerleaders were black, that music played at the arena and at postgame concerts was hip-hop or gospel, and that “there are few fathers and sons at the games.” He also noted that the racial makeup at Hawks games did not match other arenas around the league.

On the plus side, there is no video of Mr. Levenson knocking his fiance out cold in an elevator.

 

Dude, Your 15 Minutes are Up. Go Away.

Hercules, oh Hercules.  How did you fall so far?

I remember you chewing through scenery for years as you fought against evil and for truth, justice, and the American way, just as you did throughout classical mythology.  You brought the world Xena, and flexed your muscles as you ruled the landscape of bad 90’s B-TV.  You could have stayed a piece of 90’s nostalgia, and perhaps used your “fame” to make a decent, and honest, living, traveling from one convention to the next.  But no, be it your honest religious beliefs, or more cynically, a desperate longing for the fame that passed you by, you have reinvented yourself in the Christian idiocy movement.  First you starred in the “film” God’s Not Dead, playing a walking strawman, a stereotype of an atheist professor that was insulting to stereotypes everywhere.  While there are definitely atheist philosophy professors, there is not one like the strawman Kevin Sorbo portrays.  His character is strangely similar to what a conservative Christian who believes higher education is designed to rob young people of their faith would imagine a philosophy professor would act like, instead of a real, breathing professor.  Yet no matter a performance that makes his days as Hercules look Emmy worthy, it did bring him accolades from the poor persecuted piety.

“If I can ‘act’ in a shitty movie, then I can spout nonsense on Christian radio,” must have at some point went through his mind.  And so the protestors in Ferguson became “animals,” although I’m sure he didn’t mean anything racist by that at all.  Now that some of that publicity (no such thing as bad, ya know) has died down, he turned his godlike bigotry towards the Jews:

Kevin Sorbo continues to make the rounds of Religious Right radio programs to promote the the DVD release of his recent film “God’s Not Dead.” While appearing on Jerry Newcombe’s “Vocal Point” radio program recently, Sorbo noted that Mel Gibson had created a lot more opportunities for Christian filmmakers in Hollywood with the success of his film “The Passion of the Christ,” which made a lot of money despite concerns from Jewish leaders that the film was anti-Semitic.

Sorbo, for his part, does not really understand what Jews were so upset about.

“He got attacked when he was shooting ‘The Passion’ from the Jewish community, saying ‘look at the way you’re portraying us,'” Sorbo said. “News bulletin: you did kill Jesus!”

On the plus side, there is no video of him knocking his fiance out cold in an elevator.

 

Important Lessons From Week One of the NFL Season

Ignoring the protests of baseball fans, this past weekend saw the current national pastime kick off its regular season, once again bringing professional football to the televisions of countless Americans.  In a league with the parity of the National Football League, the opening weekend is one filled with championship dreams for fans of just about every team.  All teams are tied going into the first weekend.  It isn’t baseball, where the lack of a salary cap, the differing goals of team owners, and the “pay to win” mentality of the best funded franchises doom a good number of teams to irrelevance before the first pitch is thrown.  (Believe me, as a Pirate fan, I went through many a year where breaking the .500 barrier was a known impossibility, let alone making the playoffs.)  It is not the college version of the sport, where the few teams with legitimate championship hopes fill their schedule with over-matched opponents that then seem like impressive wins, while adding just enough competition to keep their strength of schedule respectable, in a quest to get the attention of those who can grant them a spot in the championship game (or 4 team playoff, no real difference).  No, this is professional football, where the draft and the cap have mostly put an end to dynasties.  Each year, a few teams will be great, a few horrid, but most will be average.  For a sports league, this is an incredible situation, and is more than likely one of many reasons that the NFL is far above all competitors.  Up until the last week of the regular season, many teams are still competing for playoff spots, and once you make the playoffs, anything can happen.

Even with a season that stays interesting through out, there are lessons you can learn from the first week, and this one was no different.  We have learned that the Steelers have a very suspect defense after barely holding on against Cleveland.  We learned that whichever member of the atheist fantasy football league mentioned on The Scathing Atheist podcast who drafted Tony Romo is in serious trouble.  And we learned, thanks to TMZ, exactly what Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens did to earn his 2 game suspension. (TRIGGER WARNING: Linked Video is a horrible example of domestic violence.)

Two games.  Two games and a standing ovation.

To put the two games into perspective, lets look at some other NFL suspensions.   On July 13, 2006, Odell Thurman was suspended 4 games for missing a scheduled drug test.  He was later suspended for 2 seasons for a DUI charge.  In October of 2006, Albert Haynesworth got suspended for 5 games for stomping on an opposing player.  2010 saw Steeler qb Ben Roethlisberger suspended for 6 games, reduced to 4, for an accusation of sexual assault.   2011 and misdemeanor assault saw Cedric Benson suspended for 3 games.  Before the 2014 season even began, Brandon Meriweather was suspended for 2 games for an illegal hit.  Looking over the violators of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, it becomes apparent that failing a drug test automatically costs a player 4 games the vast majority of the time.  Meanwhile, knocking your fiance out cold on video cost Ray Rice 2 games.

Two games and a standing ovation.

After handing down the draconian 2 game suspension, the NFL revamped their policy dealing with domestic violence:

“Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense,” Goodell writes, though the league may choose to make a suspension longer or shorter depending on various factors. “A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL.”

Wait, “sexual assault that involve(s) physical force will be subject to a suspension … of six games…”  What?  How the fuck is there not a “zero tolerance” policy regarding rape?

I was raised in a household that bled black and gold.  My mother is Catholic, convinced with every atom making up her body that she will go to heaven when her days on earth are over, yet I learned that Sunday’s were for football years before I was told they were also for Mass.  I was brought up with Steeler football, and Pirate baseball.  As I got older, the larger family structure added Penguin hockey to that duo.  I never watched the NBA growing up due to the lack of a Pittsburgh team, though Pitt basketball was a television event.  It was a sports household; on Steeler Sunday’s you could hear my mom screaming at the television from a block away.  For many years I was just as devoted as those who raised me, even though many of my friends looked at me a bit strangely, wondering why I cared so much about something so meaningless.

While the NFL continues to grow every year, they, and the Steelers, lost me in 2010.  I’ll still check the paper to find out the score, and watch the game with my mom if I’m home when it is on, but my days of Terrible Towel waving and Steel Curtain cheering are over as long as the quarterback is someone I believe is more than likely a rapist.  Perhaps even worse than seeing a reminder of rape culture taking snaps under center every Sunday is the reaction of the group I once was a member of, Steeler fans.  For them, the women were “sluts” who were “asking for it,” vindictively trying to get rich by accusing an innocent, rich, sports hero.  It doesn’t surprise me that the accuser didn’t want the case to continue in one example; some fans were attacking her because her accusations could take the Steeler’s star quarterback away from them.  It was a disturbing moment for me.  Like many others, I assume, I would watch players in all sports do disgusting things yet still be welcomed with standing ovations from the fans, as long as they were winning.  “He may be a cheater (rapist, murderer, drug dealer, armed robber) but damn it, he’s our cheater (rapist, murderer, drug dealer, armed robber), and he gets so many sacks (home runs, goals, interceptions, stolen bases, three pointers, etc)!”  I would always lie to myself, and think that Pittsburgh fans were different, that we would boo them off the field.  Big Ben took that lie away from me, and he took the Steelers from me as well.  (I still tell myself that lie.  “If Ryan Braun was a Pirate, we would have booed him off the field.”  Hopefully I won’t see that put to the test.)

Before this morning, the only video evidence of the altercation between Ray Rice and his now wife was of the aftermath.  Now you can watch this professional athlete use his fist to knock his fiance senseless.  This coming Thursday against the Steelers will mark the final game of his suspension, and he will be back on the field soon, to the cheers of those who care far more about how many yards he gains than what damage he causes another human being off the field.  Two games won’t stop actions like this, any more than 6 games will.  But for a league courting women fans, a league that depends on us to make it profitable, to see a video like this come to light after doling out the pitiful 2 game suspension is a nightmare.

The fans may give Ray Rice a standing ovation the next time he takes the field in Baltimore, but the question is how many Ravens fans, like I did with the Steelers, will tune out as long as the team makes scum like this millionaires?  As much as sports is in my genes, as much as I was raised with the Steelers in place of religion, I still tuned out.  How much easier for a casual fan to walk away?

Thursday night sees the NFL spotlight one of their fiercest divisional rivalries.  The Ravens versus the Steelers.  It wasn’t that long ago that it would have been the highlight of my week.  Now it is just an example of how sports stars are above the law, and how little respect we give women when athletes are involved.  Until this culture changes, the NFL has lost my attention.

I’ll be watching the Pirates chase the wildcard.

 

Yet Another Insulting Law Restricting Abortion Access

Earlier in the year, Missouri, a state with the grand total of one abortion clinic, passed a bill that would require a 72 hour waiting period between a patients first clinic visit and the procedure.  The bill was promptly vetoed by Missouri’s Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, preventing the state from becoming the third to impose such a law.  Since the state already has a 24 hour waiting period, you could be forgiven for wondering what pressing women’s health need justifies the increased waiting period.  And since there is exactly no reason for the increased waiting period other than “trying to stop them sluts from killing their babies,” you could also be forgiven for assuming this is just another of the right’s endless attacks on reproductive health care.  The reason for the increased waiting period, according to state Rep. Kevin Elmer, is so that women seeking abortion services have more time to think about a decision they already made, since they already went to the clinic to get an abortion.  Apparently, in anti-abortion fantasy land, waiting periods protect women who go to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test, only to find themselves strapped to a table with a vacuum bumping around their uterus the second the test comes up positive, as the doctor laughs and says, “Oh, you didn’t want this one, did you?”

Waiting periods are not needed.  Women do not find themselves at the abortion clinic by mistake.  “Oh shit, I thought this was a crisis pregnancy center!”  By the time the woman arrives at the clinic, she has already made her decision, and she has decided the best thing for her at this point in her life is an abortion.  It is degrading and insulting for the government to force a woman to then wait 24, let alone 72, hours to make sure she is making the right decision.  It is a misogynistic view that assumes women are flighty, making major decisions without thought, and that they need a paternalistic figure head to put them in “timeout” to analyze their choice.  While some current trendy abortion restrictions attempt to masquerade as legitimate concerns about the health of the woman (such as requirements for hospital admitting privileges, and ambulatory surgical center standards, which serve no purpose other than closing clinics, but at least sound like they are in the woman’s best interest), this restriction, along with mandatory ultrasounds, falls firmly into the “women are too stupid to know what an abortion is” camp.

Waiting periods do real damage to reproductive health access.  Many opponents of abortion access make the argument that a 24 (or 72 I guess) hour waiting period isn’t an obstacle for legal abortion access.  Rational observers should be able to see this as a lie even if they do not personally see how a waiting period harms a woman’s right to choose; if it wasn’t a hurdle, if it wasn’t a deterrent, then anti-reproductive health advocates wouldn’t be pushing for it.  The foes of reproductive choice may have a point about it not being a hardship, as long as the woman has sufficient means; if she has enough money, what is two trips to the clinic instead of one?  And if she doesn’t want to wait, she can always fly to a state with different laws.  The true hardship falls on the backs of all non-wealthy women.  There is only one clinic in the state.  A 72 hour waiting period means two trips to the clinic, whatever distance that may be.  It means at least two days off of work.  It means extra expenses.  It is yet another hoop set up by anti-abortion lawmakers, who have decided that since Roe V. Wade stops them from outlawing abortion, they will try to force women seeking their right to jump through so many hoops that they give up and go home.  Pro-life until the child is born, then the GOP washes their hands of it, except to rail against single mothers on vitriolic talk shows and in crayon scrawled letters to the local newspaper.  They want abortion outlawed, but they are also against sex education and contraception access.  How a party that is anti-sex gets anyone elected, I will never understand.

Why am I writing about this today?  Because the Missouri legislature is holding a special veto session to strong arm the bill into law:

Earlier this year, Missouri passed a law that would require people seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours from their first clinic visit before they can access care. There are only two other states in the country, Utah and South Dakota, with such a restriction on the books. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the measure, in part because it lacked exceptions for rape or incest.

But as Molly Redden at Mother Jones reports, Republican lawmakers are planning to use a special veto session to take another vote on the measure, hoping to override Nixon’s veto. And as Redden points out, they stand a good chance of doing just that:

A vote could come as early as September 10. If the bill receives the two-thirds majorities in the House and the Senate required to override Nixon’s veto Missouri would become the third state, after South Dakota and Utah, to impose a three-day waiting period, the longest in the country. A veto override is nearly certain: In May, when the bill first passed, it received a veto-proof majority in the House and was one vote shy of this benchmark in the Senate; a Republican Senator who was absent that day intends to support the bill.

What will the next restriction be?  All abortions must have the consent of the fetus to be aborted?  Women must listen to a looped recording of a crying baby interwoven with a booming voice that shouts “That is what your baby will sound like in 7 more months.”?  A 72 hour waiting period, during which you are handcuffed to a nun who alternates from explaining how you will burn in hell, to telling you that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Virgin Mary all crawled up your vagina to lovingly place the fetus in your womb, to just crying uncontrollably?

How about a 72 hour waiting period before a man is allowed to take Viagra?  You know, so he is absolutely sure he wants to have sexual intercourse, since there is a possibility it could lead to a pregnancy.

The Fall of Governor Ultrasound

Strange.  It seems that throwing your wife under the bus is not the key to acquittal.  I’d say that the ex-Governor should ask his lawyers for his money back, but who am I kidding?  McDonnell’s lawyer was probably another “gift.”

It seems like it was only yesterday that Virginian Governor Bob McDonnell was dominating the news cycle, insisting that Republican lawmakers such as himself knew better than medical doctors.  He was the elected Governor of the State of Virginia, a position that gave him the knowledge and the expertise to realize that what women truly needed before having an abortion was an ultrasound wand slammed inside of them as part of a medically unneeded procedure.  When the medical professionals opposed him, arguing that the ultrasound was unnecessary and invasive, he argued that forcing women to undergo a procedure that they did not want was in their best interest.  “What gives these smug medical doctors the right to disagree with me?,” I am sure he thought to himself during the controversy. “Sure, they went to medical school, and did all of that outrageous work it takes to become a doctor,” he almost certainly continued, talking to himself out loud as he walked through his house, “but I am the one who got elected Governor, and more important than that, I went to Regent!”

In spite of his M.A./J.D. from Christian Broadcasting Network University (which changed its name to Regent University for some unknown reason), doctors still claimed the invasive ultrasounds were medically unnecessary. Thanks to pundits such as Rachel Maddow nicknaming him “Governor Ultrasound” and refusing to shut up like good little media lapdogs and let the elected men run this country like God intended,  this was starting to threaten his national political aspirations.  Insisting that sluts have wands shoved inside them for no relevant reason may play in parts of Virginia and other southern states, but so would stoning white women who take part in interracial relationships, removing the right to vote from non-whites and those not in possession of a penis, and “fixing” income inequality through a complicated system of forced servitude.  On a national platform, legislating the forced entry of any object into vaginas is not a political winner.  So Governor Bob backed off a bit.  The sluts would still have to pay for a medically unnecessary ultrasound, but they would be spared the insertion of the wand into their body.  Whether or not each procedure was to be witnessed by a clinic protester, with sign, pulled into the office off the street to shout hellfire at the patient by Government order is unknown.  Yet even with this concession to the evil Satan sexting women, they would not let poor Bob alone: (When he went on national talk shows to talk about his policies.)

The host asked the governor a pretty straightforward question: “You backed an abortion bill initially that included a very invasive procedure as part of an ultrasound that the state would have required and then you backed off of that. Were you wrong to support that initially or did you simply back off because the political heat got turned up the way it did?”

What a vile smear-disguised-as-a-question  by noted left wing attack hound David Gregory!*  The way the press went after Governor McDonnell, you would think that he publicly endorsed a proposal to require women, against the wishes of physicians, to undergo an invasive, medically-unnecessary procedure, because some right-wing culture warriors wanted to shame patients, and when that became politically toxic, ended up signing an only-slightly-less outrageous measure that still requires Virginians to undergo state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, to satisfy the demands of far-right activists.  What slander.  Let’s look at the facts:

He publicly endorsed a proposal to require women, against the wishes of physicians, to undergo an invasive, medically-unnecessary procedure, because some right-wing culture warriors want to shame patients. McDonnell ended up signing an only-slightly-less outrageous measure that still requires Virginians to undergo state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds, to satisfy the demands of far-right activists.

See?!?  Oh, the things poor Governor Ultrasound had to deal with.  And after all his maneuvering to be the obvious choice for Vice President, Mitt went ahead and picked equally-insane-but-much-more-attractive Paul Ryan to add “failed Vice Presidential candidate” to his CV.  While stewing over not being chosen, Governor Ultrasound almost certainly sat at his desk, stroking a black cat with white ears.  I totally believe that he then said, “You will regret this, Romney.”   “Sure, one or two homosexuals may ignore your policies and vote for you because of Paul’s sculpted abs, his bulging biceps, his stylish hair, and his hypnotic eyes,” he would have said if I was writing a script for a gay porn film with this plot, as he tried to ignore his engorged member.  “But I am a culture warrior, Mitt.  I was going to make doctors give it to those sluts, no matter what their medical opinion was,” he more than likely shouted to the empty office, before turning on the intercom and asking the secretary to send in Steven, the new intern with the deep blue eyes and lips that made you wonder.  “Tell him to lock the door behind him, Stella, and you can go home for the rest of the day as well,” he finished telling the secretary, in this fantasy version of the Governor’s Mansion as he undid his belt.  “I was a culture warrior,” he could have sighed.

It seemed like only yesterday.  I am sure the former Governor of Virginia longs for those yesterdays, no matter how disappointing it was to be passed over for an office taken so seriously that Sarah Palin was the previous candidate for his party, no matter how annoying it was to be called “Governor Ultrasound” by openly sinning homosexuals, no matter how disgusting it was to have to spend time talking about that icky pit of sin that women have between their legs, for now Governor Ultrasound is facing years spent with convicts who feel he should have to submit to forced internal ultrasounds**, if he is unfortunate enough to drop the soap.

Yes, the mighty Governor is guilty.

Jurors in the public corruption trial of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have found the couple guilty of several corruption counts. The McDonnells faced a 14-count indictment that alleged that they lent the prestige of the governor’s office to a Richmond area businessman and that, in exchange, the businessman lavished them with gifts and money.

….

the verdict — Robert McDonnell guilty of 11 charges; Maureen McDonnell guilty of nine, we will have to wait until the couple’s sentencing Jan. 6 to know what their fate will be. The couple could face decades in federal prison, though their actual sentence could fall well short of that.

The jury of seven men and five women spent nearly three days deliberating before announcing a verdict that left members of the McDonnell family in tears. The verdict, writes The Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman, sends a message that jurors, ” . . . believed the couple sold the office once occupied by Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson to a free spending Richmond businessman for golf outings, lavish vacations and $120,000 in sweetheart loans.”

Note: the jury did acquit the couple of several charges pending against them — both were acquitted of lying on loan documents — but the verdict means, jurors thought the McDonnell’s lent the prestige of the governor’s office to former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in a nefarious exchange for his largesse.

Poor Gov. Ultrasound.  He just wanted to be Vice President and to force doctors to shove things into dirty, slutty vaginas.  After all, it was the only way to make those stupid sinning seductresses realize that a pregnancy resulted in a baby being born, and abortion is the murder of babies, not a cosmetic procedure that removes body fat, firms up the breasts, tones the buttocks and thighs, and is a feel good milestone in a woman’s life, one that all women should experience as much as possible, like Planned Parenthood teaches.

I bet his wife snuck in to the jury room and cast a feminist spell on the jury, forcing them to convict the innocent McDonnell.  Before you even say it, she had to let herself get convicted as well, otherwise the conspiracy would have been exposed.  Don’t worry, Obama will pardon her.  Just you wait and see.  Planned Parenthood got to her, and told her that they wouldn’t let her have anymore abortions if she didn’t get him in trouble with the law.  Planned Parenthood is like that; the first abortion is free, and after that they got you hooked.  Next thing you know they have you accusing some poor man of rape to get your next abortion fix.

Our doomed nation.

 

*It physically hurt to write that sentence, even as satire.

**I apologize for that.  With rape culture as bad as it is, I probably shouldn’t be making a rape joke, even a prison rape joke.  But this is Gov. Ultrasound, who was trying to make women who wanted an abortion submit to having another person insert an object into their vagina for no medical reason, no matter what the woman herself or her doctor thought, which is veering quite near to state-sponsored rape, so I couldn’t resist one prison rape jab.  And he was enough of a bastard to try to get off by blaming his wife and painting her as a crazy, vindictive bitch, so fuck that guy.

Gov. Bob McDonnell Acquitted!!! Take that, Dems.

It is official.  After a disgusting campaign to smear and tarnish the reputation of former Virginian Governor Bob McDonnell, the jury has returned and vindicated the Republican, acquitting him and his wife of ludicrous charges of falsifying loan documents.  Public apologies to the defendants should be required from both the prosecutors office and the liberal media.  He should sue them for defamation of character.

Both were acquitted on charges of falsifying loan documents.

See?  Just ignore the part that came before that:

A Virginia jury has found former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of numerous counts of corruption during their time in the executive mansion. Bob McDonnell was found guilty on 11 corruption charges while Maureen was found guilty of eight corruption charges and one obstruction of justice charge.

Who cares?  He is innocent!  Of 3 out of 14 charges!

Schedule the parade.  Book him on The Factor!  Have Rush clear an hour of his imbecilic ravings.  He’s as innocent as O.J.

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