Well Tom, I’d Say It Has Been Fun, But We’d Both Know I Was Lying. (Like You Did. All Campaign Long.)

“Esteemed” Pennsylvanian Governor Tom Corbett became the first Pennsylvanian Governor in modern history to lose his bid for re-election yesterday.

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Ya know, typing that sentence felt so damn good that I refuse to ruin my mood by talking about the rest of the expected, yet still insane, results of this mid-term election.  (Brownbeck?  Again?  Really Kansas?)  So instead, I will just wish I lived in Oregon or Alaska, where I would be well on my way to legally being able to smoke a celebratory joint.  (I’d add Washington, D.C. in as well, but we all know citizens of D.C. don’t have actual rights like the rest of us and are only counting the days until the federal government tells them that it doesn’t matter what they voted for, Congress knows best.)  (Which may be the most frightening possible statement with the make up of the incoming Congress.)

So get off of my cloud.  I’ll be back tomorrow to deal with the hangover.

(Hangover preview?  The head of the committee on the Environment is going to be possibly the most strident climate change denialist in Congress.  Happy days.)

Yes, The Sun Even Shines on Atheists!

Beautiful day for a rally/protest.  Other than one knuckle-dragger in a Bedford County Free Press shirt who insisted on exercising his right to curse and yell his disapproval of our rally in front of the children in attendance, and an adorable elderly couple who visited to explain to us all how Darwin knew he was full of shit and how we were all going to burn in eternal fire, it was just a peaceful little gathering of those who believe the Constitution is worth defending.  In attendance were The Bar Room Atheist gathering audio for his podcast, David Silverman from American Atheists, and Brian Fields of PA Non Believers!

While I got to plug Foster Disbelief on The Bar Room Atheist, have one of my signs make Tom and Cecil’s (from Cognitive Dissonance) day, and got a picture of me with David Silverman, the real winner today was the Constitution, the teen charged in this mess (who will have as many lawyers as he needs if he fights the case), and the locals who cared enough about the issue to risk “offending the Christian sensibilities” of Bedford, PA by showing up to protest.

Here are three quick pics from my phone.  Once everyone else gets home and gets stuff posted, I will link to more images from Bedford.

0927141250-00David Silverman and Foster Disbelief

1 2Various protest pics!

Enjoy your weekend!

 

Plans for Saturday….

Well I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow: (From the Altoona Mirror, and it is behind a pay wall.  Sorry.)

Three groups will lead a demonstration Saturday in support of a Bedford County teenager who faces charges of desecration of a statue of Jesus.

The event, coordinated by Truth Wins Out: Center Against Religious Extremism, American Atheists and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, will feature a slate of speakers who will discuss why some believe the 14-year-old’s rights to free speech were violated by the charges. The protest is set to begin at noon near the county courthouse, 200 S. Juliana St.

Some organizers wanted to make it clear that the law is a problem, whether or not you support the specific actions of the teen in question.

Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, said that although the organization doesn’t necessarily support the boy’s alleged actions, there are large implications for his prosecution.

“Regardless of whether the kid’s actions were polite – I think we can all agree that what he did was rude – there is a larger issue here, and it has to do with free speech,” Hurst said.

The teen was charged with desecration after he posted photos of himself on his Facebook page that show him standing over a statue of a kneeling Jesus and mimicking a sex act. A number of national groups have taken interest in the case, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and the story has gone viral online.

The press this story has received has me overjoyed.  For those not following along at home, I jumped all over the story on September 10th when my local paper first covered it, blogging about it first and then reaching out to the ACLU and The Friendly Atheist, amongst others.  Hermant Mehta then wrote about it at The Friendly Atheist, and the next thing I knew it had exploded.* ( For my readers who missed my coverage of the story,  you can find the original piece here, and the two update articles here and here. )  While I knew the ACLU had taken an interest in the case, seeing a coalition form around Truth Wins Out to organize a demonstration really brought a smile to my face.  (And yes, I am pretty much going to find a reason to quote the whole article since The Altoona Mirror made the decision to stick their entire fishwrap behind a pay wall.)

Hurst said Truth Wins Out reached out to Pennsylvania groups about putting together a rally for the boy and received positive response from the Pennsylvania Nonbelievers.

American Atheists asked to get involved shortly after, he said.

The leaders of all three groups – Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, American Atheists President David Silverman and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers President Brian Fields – will speak at the demonstration.

Hurst said that Truth Wins Out is not an atheist organization but works with religious groups to protect freedoms. According to its website, the organization “works to demolish the very foundation of anti-gay prejudice” by debunking myths about the LGBT community.

“If my right to speak out and criticize whatever I want to criticize is being infringed upon, then that is an issue for everybody, and that includes conservative Christians,” Hurst said. “The fact of the matter is that this 14-year-old kid is not a sticking point in the culture; he’s a kid who did something stupid. It really quickly just spiraled out of control.”

The District Attorney in Bedford County is Bill Higgins, a far right conservative Christian in an area that practically requires those religious beliefs in order to get elected.  He is openly antagonistic to anyone who holds a different opinion than him on the issue of church and state separation, and since he displays practically zero Constitutional literacy, that group includes just about everyone.  Remember this comment he posted on Facebook when the story was just beginning to catch fire?

“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 don’t know about you, but for me, the instant someone mentions “the war on Christmas” in a non-sarcastic way, I know I am dealing with a true winged nut.  Adding in support for school prayer is just a bonus.  Predictably, DA Higgins does not disappoint now that this story has hit the rally at the courthouse stage.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said that concerns with the case are blown out proportion and were made worse by exaggerated media reports that suggested the teen would serve multiple years in jail or in juvenile detention.

Higgins said that by filing charges, the case can be handled in the appropriate way – through the courts.

“The place to dispute it is in a courtroom,” he said. “I don’t want to stand on a street corner and protest, though they’re welcome to do that.”

He said the teenager is going to likely do some community service for his actions but will not face jail time or juvenile placement.

“The kid did something stupid. He’s 14 years old,” Higgins said. “It’s obvious this kid needs some help, and we’re going to get him the help that he needs.”

Sigh.  He really doesn’t get it, does he?  Reading his Facebook comment about all the horrible anti-Christians he loves to upset unfortunately doesn’t really reveal much about his own personal beliefs or opinions.  He could truly believe each word in that post, believe me, I know people who do.  But at the same time, he could just be pandering to the local GOP base, knowing that by posting that knuckle-dragging screed he just earned a bunch of votes the next time he comes up for reelection.  His most recent comments, however, reek of just plain missing the point.  Sure, some articles covering this story have stressed the range of punishments this teen could face if convicted in court, and while two years in a juvenile facility is indeed the maximum punishment, he would almost certainly receive a less severe sentence.  The severity of the punishment is a red herring in this case.  I would be writing about it, as I believe others would be as well, if the maximum penalty was a 5 dollar fine.  The point is this: Taking a picture is not a crime.

The problem isn’t the punishment, it is the law itself.  Remember, the teen did no actual damage to the statue.  He took a picture so that it looked like the statue was performing oral sex on him.  That’s it.  The statue is still there, on its knees, wantonly luring those with immature, blasphemous senses of humor to violate it.  In fact, this could be the only time in history that the phrase “asking for it” could be used legitimately.  For this statue of Jesus is, without a doubt, asking for it.  This teen was arrested because someone saw his pictures on Facebook.   Period.  Full stop.  He didn’t slide a copy under every door in the community.  He didn’t send one to the statue’s owners with a note demanding the removal of the statue, or the next time he would give Jesus a facial.  He took a picture of questionable taste and posted it on Facebook.  Strangely enough, teenagers are known for having questionable taste.  They are fucking teenagers!  His pictures were not the first pictures taken of that statue, I will guarantee it.  We live in the age of smart phones.  Half of his school probably has pictures of themselves and the statue.  Some probably have their arms around it.  Some probably show acts much more perverse than oral sex with statue Jesus.

This is the second time I have seen DA Higgins make a comment that “it’s obvious this kid needs some help…”  Obvious?  To who?  Other than DA Higgins, I mean.  He’s a teen who took a picture.  He isn’t naked in the picture.  He isn’t shoving his bare junk in statue Jesus’ face.  He took a picture that I am willing to bet 50 people took before him.  But DA Higgins thinks it is obvious that he needs help, and that, not the possible punishments, is the real problem here.

You see, as much as many of my fellow central Pennsylvanians want it to be, not believing in Jesus is not a crime.  DA Higgins may indeed think that anyone who would pose for this picture “needs help,” but that thought requires a belief in Jesus, and the belief that posing for the picture constitutes blasphemy or desecration.  But for non-believers, including those who just believe in other faiths than Christianity, it is just a statue of a man on his knees.  Sure, most realize that it is a statue of Jesus, but Jesus, as much as it offends your delicate sensibilities, doesn’t mean anything to them.  This area may indeed be overwhelmingly Christian, but no matter how large of a percentage the Christians may be locally, you can not force non-Christians to hold your statue in reverence.  The United States, no matter how many David Barton’s the right vomits up, is decidedly not a Christian nation.  We are a product of the Enlightenment, with freedom to believe, or not to believe, enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution.  We have no religious test to hold national office.  Our founding documents avoid God and religion.  Our founding fathers left libraries full of documents and letters explaining the wall of separation.  Blasphemy is not illegal.

DA Higgins “said that by filing charges, the case can be handled in the appropriate way”.  The only “appropriate way” to handle this case is to dismiss all charges and then repeal the law.  Either the police and the DA are overreaching by charging this teen under the law, or the law is unconstitutional.  Period.  There is really no other way to look at it.  Charge him with trespassing if you really must extract your pound of flesh, although I am not aware of any “No Trespassing” signs in the vicinity of kneeling Jesus.  This law is going to cost Bedford County money; this teen and his parents may just want it all to go away, quietly pleading guilty and moving on, but now that the law is well known, someone will push the issue in order to get it into the courts.  Hell, I’ll snap the picture if I must.

I realize that some people may read this and wonder why people are so concerned about this issue.  Here is my answer to them:

A blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammad in his postings on Facebook has been sentenced to death.

You should go and read that story, but that is the only part that I need to post here.  Don’t even try throwing any “slippery slope” fallacy claims at me either.  I realize the difference between Iran and the United States.  I also realize that there is a nice portion of Christians who are actively working towards turning the United States into a Christian theocracy.  American Christians routinely shame their country by working on things like Uganda’s “kill the gays” law, and praising things like Russia’s laws against homosexual tolerance and activism.

That blogger, Soheil Arabi, faces death for what he posted on Facebook.  This teen faces up to 2 years in a juvenile facility for what he posted to Facebook.  Yes, the two possible punishments are worlds apart, especially since the teen, if found guilty, will likely only suffer community service and a fine.  But as I said earlier in this post, the actual punishment does not matter.

Right now in Pennsylvania, part of the United States of America, they can arrest you for posting a picture on Facebook that offends their religious sensibilities.  Just like in Iran.

If this stands, how long until some town or county, also with a super majority of conservative Christians, decides they don’t need the picture, just a post on Facebook that offends their religious sensibilities?  How many of you practice no religion, or religions that are not the majority religion, and write about similar issues on the internet?  How long til you offend the majority?

Blasphemy laws are anti-freedom, anti-liberty,anti-Christian, and anti-American.  Make no mistake about it, this is, as currently being enforced in the Facebook photo case, a blasphemy law.  Those in the Christian majority would do well to remember the early days of Christianity, when it was a minority religion that dealt with real persecution.  There are areas of the world right now where Christians are persecuted over their religion, real persecution, not the false “persecution of the majority” Fox News and other outlets wants you to believe takes place in the United States.  How sad, how quickly the once persecuted flip the script once they find themselves in power.

While I am aware that prohibitions against representations of the prophet preclude this example, ignore that fact for argument’s sake.  The very Christians who support this law, this case in particular, and who will be making up the counter protest I totally expect to see tomorrow would be rioting in the streets if the teen in question would have been charged for taking the same picture with a statue of Muhammad.

Though I doubt it will do any good, I’ll urge supporters of this law and the arrest of this teen to do the same thing I ask of supporters of school prayer, prayer before council meetings, displays of the Ten Commandments, crosses on public land, or any similar dismantling of the wall of separation.  Imagine you are the minority.  Imagine your child is led in a prayer to Allah every morning before class.  Imagine having to swear to tell the truth on a Koran before testifying in court.  Imagine your tax dollars paying to erect and light a huge pentagram for Winter Solstice each year.  Imagine entering a courthouse, seeking justice on either side of a case, and first passing by a stone slab carved with the Purusharthas.  And imagine that it is you, or your child, being arrested because the police decided something you posted on Facebook insulted the Prophet.

You won’t, or if you do, you will quickly justify the law and your support with a quick “but we’re the majority, not those heathen Satanistic mooslembuddhishindiwiccatheists.”  Cause if logic and rational thought worked, we wouldn’t need the sections of our nation’s laws that are intended to protect the minority from oppression by the majority.  And I’m sure the GOP never even thought about the demographics of the nation changing enough that whites would be a minority when they were developing their inherently racist “Southern Strategy.”  Things can change.

Okay, I have signs to make.  Hope to see some of you tomorrow!

Fact Box

If you go

What: Protest in support of Bedford teen

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Downtown Bedford, near the courthouse

I’ll be back with pictures from the rally tomorrow.  I really hope that I can write a story of an inspiring, peaceful event.  Knowing the area as I do, I just worry that some of the more fringe “Christians” may get a bit drunk and drive into Bedford to go bash them some atheists.  I doubt it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit worried about it.

*Once again, I am not claiming that Foster Disbelief is the reason the story got covered.   The story more than likely would have gotten picked up no matter what I did, and I have no idea if other sites were covering it before Foster Disbelief and The Friendly Atheist posted our articles.  No horn blowing here, just going over the timeline I’m aware of.

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.

 

 

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 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.

The First (and Quite Possibly Last) Celebrity Instagram Account I Have Visited On Purpose

While reading an Inventory article on documentaries that saw their story and direction change drastically during filming, over at the AV Club, I noticed a sponsored link begging to be clicked upon.  I hesitated briefly.  The link was a potential rabbit hole, I knew, and I have spent far too much of my time wandering through them as of late.  Just yesterday, two simple questions  queried to Google led to sore eyes and a sore back as I finished the hours long chase by falling asleep at the keys, muttering “just one more theory,” as I once did with strategy PC games; “just one more turn.”  Yet this link was not related in anyway to A Song of Ice and Fire.  It was a link about a celebrity, and not a celebrity that has appeared on Game of Thrones either.  Just click-bait, lying in wait, making its immodest claim and offering proof for the simple act of a left click.  I am aware of Amanda Seyfried; I liked Mean Girls, though I can’t recall what I thought of her acting individually, which I imagine means she was at least passable.  Until 30 seconds ago, I believed she played Peter Parker’s Russian neighbor, Ursula Ditkovich, in Sam Raimi’s Spider Man series.  (A role actually played by Mageina Tovah.  Oops.)  Red Riding Hood was suitably awful, but her work as Sarah Henrickson on Big Love proved that she possesses legitimate acting talent.  Strange how television is becoming the place, if you can wade past the reality show swamp and avoid the major network’s farm of clones, for well acted. “serious,” prestige projects..  (As I would surely choose Big Love over anything Ms. Seyfried has appeared in since departing the show,  a similar choice would be made if confronted with the recent works of say, Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey?*)

Avoiding that tangent, why does Amanda Seyfried have the best celebrity Instagram account?  What sets her account apart from the endless swarm of other people, gifted for some reason with fame, who use social media to “connect with the fans” and gain more fame, or to connect with the fans and gain more fame.  What moves her page above Dakota Fanning’s on the list?  Who is keeping this list?  Instead of searching out something to read on the AV Club, or playing a game on Steam, instead I found myself mentally calling “shenanigans” on a never visited web site based on the click bait sponsored link I noticed at random, only because I was out of open tabs.  Now it would be more of a rabbit hole to not click the link.  While I would almost certainly end my exploration of celebrity Instagram accounts where I began it, not clicking it would place me on a timeline where my last words, given either** at the age of 164 in a bed on the space hospital Inquiry 2, in orbit around Neptune, dying of lung cancer, the only disease not cured by science by 2050, or the age of 59, a split second before being swallowed by the wall of water from the Atlantic Ocean that decimated an area from New York state down to parts of North Carolina, leaving an eastern seaboard with Pittsburgh, PA as the largest port in the new Northeast, with docks both on the Atlantic and to the new Gulf of Eire (sometimes also called “The Gulf of Lakes.”), after a series of unfortunate events started by the collapse of the massive system of dams and walls built to keep New York City habitable after the 27 foot rise in sea level during the 2020’s ended in the largest tsunami in history***, were “What does make Amanda Seyfried so fucking special anyway?”  If there was only one possible end to the time line, perhaps I would have chosen to live in ignorance of the amazing world of Amanda Seyfried’s Instagram account.  But I couldn’t risk it with two possible options.  After all, who wants to die in orbit around Neptune?  I had to change the destiny I do not believe in as a concept.  It wasn’t a question of if I would click the link or not anymore, the link had been clicked before I even saw it.  (I know.  Trippy, right?)

Knowing the recent films Ms. Seyfried had appeared in, I clicked the link practically expecting to see screen captures from Lovelace.  “Was that really it?” I thought. Was her Instagram account the best because she released outtakes of her bare breasts there?  Was it a tricksy link, with no true affiliation with the actress herself, rather a Trojan Horse of an ad for Mr. Skin?  And then….

And then I understood.  And while it may not be the bestest celebrity social media site in the whole world fer realzzzersz!1!1!, it was worth a click and a moment of my time.  Since the model is wearing no clothing in the pictures, I will post one after the more tag….

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Shark Week (No Jumping Required)

Assuming you own a television and a service provider, you are probably aware that this is Shark Week (Trademarked, Rights Reserved, Copyrighted, Intellectual Property Protected) on The Discovery Channel.  While I will be the first to admit that it is ridiculously over-hyped, and advertised in ways that border on the offensive, I still find my television channel locked to Discovery.  It isn’t due to any overwhelming fascination with sharks, although I do find them, like most animals, quite interesting.  No, what draws me to Shark Week is what it pushes off the station: reality shows.

Long time readers of this blog may already have a fair idea of where this post is heading, so I will try to keep it short this time, to avoid repeating myself.  While I have never been a fan of mainstream television, I fell in love with The Discovery Channel and The History Channel when my family first got cable television.  As time went on, The National Geographic Channel and Animal Planet came to south central Pennsylvania, and were added to my favorites list in turn.  Not everything on each channel appealed to me, but there was enough that I was almost always able to find something to watch if I desired, something that not only provided entertainment, but at least a taste of education as well.  I do not know when things went off the rails, and I do not know what started the train wreck, but in my mind the change started with Discovery and the building of custom motorcycles.  I forget the name of the show, and honestly don’t care enough to Google it, but I do remember that while I would change the channel the second it came on, my tastes were apparently being outvoted massively by viewers who loved watching a father and son loudly argue over the proper way to build a chopper.  With the drugs I’ve consumed over my lifetime, I would never claim that my memory is one of my strengths; other “reality” shows may have came first on these edutainment networks, but in my recollections, this is the domino that started the fall.  Channels that were once filled with seemingly endless documentaries were the new home of reality television.  History morphed from “All Hitler, All the time” into a channel about a pawn shop and countless attempts to duplicate the success of Pawn Stars.  Animal Planet replaced shows starring animals to shows starring a crazy guy who captures animals, a crazy guy who lives in the forest, and for some reason I still don’t quite understand, a crazy guy who builds rich people tree houses.  National Geographic films the clinically insane and the hell that they put their children through for a show called Doomsday Preppers, and routinely mocks the Amish for all manner of shows.  And Discovery?  Naked and Afraid.  Say no more.

If you are willing to hunt for it, you can still find worthwhile shows on these networks.  Mythbusters is still on the air, History airs documentaries on the anniversaries of historically important events, and National Geographic has nights of inspired programming.  Animal Planet, as far as I can tell, still dedicates one night a week to animal documentaries, (I believe it is Tuesday nights) and they air one of my favorite television shows of all time, which also happens to be one of their most popular shows, River Monsters.  But River Monsters’ season is much too short, and when it ends it is replaced with idiots tramping through a forest looking for a creature that almost certainly does not exist.  (Sorry.  The United States is no longer uncharted territory, and if there was an actual breeding population of Sasquatches <Sasquatchi?> one would have turned up already.  Hell, if they were widespread enough to account for all the reported sitings in the myriad number of claimed locations, it would be impossible to swing a cat without hitting a Sasquatch.  No matter where the Finding Bigfoot team goes, no matter how much bacon they throw into the forest, all they are going to find is known animal species and humans who can’t resist fucking with them.  I know if they came to my area, I’d be in the woods fucking with them.  The two shows, River Monsters and Finding Bigfoot, actually make a rather decent primer on rational thought.  On River Monsters, Jeremy Wade investigates reports of people being attacked by river monsters, then follows the evidence to attempt to rationally figure out what the creature may really be.  After coming up with a hypothesis, he tests it out by trying to catch the creature he thinks is the cause of the reports, and he normally gets his fish.  While some of the fish are much larger than science believed they grew, or living in a habitat the species was not known to reside in, the answers, surprising as they may be, still fit in with our increasing base of knowledge.  On Finding Bigfoot, a group of people try to find Bigfoot by first going to a location and calling a town hall meeting for people who have seen Bigfoot, listening to the tales of sitings and quickly deciding that it was Bigfoot, then strapping on night vision cameras and going into the forest to not find Bigfoot.  Sometimes they cook bacon and throw it in the woods to show Bigfoot they are friendly as well, although that may have only happened on the one episode I actually watched.  Anyway, Science vs. Hunting for Pixies!)

That unexpected rant aside, whether you like sharks or not, Shark Week transports The Discovery Channel back in time, to the days where it was filled with documentaries and education was something they claimed to care about.  And that alone is enough to earn my recommendation.  Too soon it will be over and you can all go back to watching naked strangers argue in the woods.