30 June 2010

Dismantling homeopathy.

If you've ever wondered what "homeopathy" is all about, read this brief and brilliant illustrated history from the blog Darryl Cunningham Investigates.

In short, faith-healing remains faith-healing, even when the faith is veneered by bogus "science."

Read it. Now.

29 June 2010

Like Jackie Robinson was an "activist" ballplayer.

I have only this to say regarding the conservative senator's invitation to Tony Perkins (head of the antigay Christian hate group The Family Research Council) allowing Perkins to interrogate Elena Kagan for her presumed sympathies to gay rights:

It is in no way different from inviting The Aryan Nations to the Senate interrogate to Kagan for her presumed Zionism.

It is, to say the least, a novel interpretation of the "advise and consent" clause to allow some extremist, religiously motivated ideologue the right to confront a judicial candidate for her moral shortcomings with the imprimatur of the United States Senate. Kagan is a candidate for judge, not bishop.

No, the law and your morality are not interchangeable, you sanctimonious dumbasses.

And speaking of sanctimony, this really turned my stomach.

Since he was not there to defend himself, permit me put Justice Thurgood Marshall's quote in context. Every year the judicial clerks of the Supreme Court have a formal lunch with a sitting justice in attendance. One year it was Justice Marshall's turn. When asked by a clerk to define his judicial philosophy, Marshall replied, "You do what you think is right and let the law catch up."

He was correct. Very often the law lags behind the Constitution.

It's probably difficult to notice that when you're a rich white man who's never had a single opportunity foreclosed based on your race, gender, religion or sexuality, and you've never been shackled by an unfair and unreasonable legal disability or received anything but the benefit of any disparate treatment, and never even been slightly harmed by the institutional bigotry of the State.

No, I suppose the legal status quo looks just peachy from where you sit, senator.

It would be absurd and unhinged to believe that Justice Marshall — in his capacity as a Supreme Court Justice, in a statement to the world's most elite law students — meant to say that what he thought was "right" might justifiably be untethered or unharbored to what he thought was Constitutional.

Yet the conservatives are making precisely that specious argument. In fact, that is exactly their definition of "judicial activism," at least to the extent they object to the outcome. 

They have no problem with conservative judges inventing doctrines like "standing" that prevent people from having their day in court, or deciding that corporations have all the benefits of legal "personhood" with few of the liabilities, or carving out new exceptions to the Equal Protection Clause, or discovering some "automobile exception" to the Fourth Amendment, etc.

That's all fine, but when a black judge decides in a way that benefits black people, that's "judicial activism." And such "activism" is precisely the reason conservatives are terrified that Dean Kagan might decide in a way that benefits...softball players.

Ultraconservatives prefer the "originalist" judicial philosophy of Justice Antonin Scalia as followed slavishly by Justice Clarence Thomas. Scalia doesn't do what he thinks is right. Oh, no! He performs some kind of Shirley McClaine-style past-life regression where he grasps the prevailing morality of 18th Century post-colonial America in one hand (as if there was ever one "community standard") and the collective intent of the Founding Fathers (as if they ever unanimously agreed on anything) in the other. Scalia is thus steered by Madison et al, in the same way spirits move a planchette across the Ouija board. 

"Originalism" is law-by-seance, with Nino Scalia as medium. Yet the "judicial activism" of Thurgood Marshall merits...ridicule?

How can any serious person suggest Marshall's positions were "outside the mainstream"? He favored full civil rights for racial minorities, favored a woman's right to make family planning decisions, opposed the death penalty in all cases, and believed the government needed warrants to tap your phone and arrest you in your home. Those may not be your positions, Senator John Kyl, but they're all squarely within the mainstream public debate. Or are you still pissed off by Thurgood Marshall's "outside the mainstream" belief that the Constitution was wrong about slavery, that Dred Scott and Plessy v Ferguson were wrongly decided, and "separate but equal" is not, in fact, equal at all?

Here's a question from Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III:
Does the judge understand that they can’t utilize the power — the lifetime appointment — to redefine the meaning of the Constitution? To have it promote an agenda in an activist way that the American people won’t vote for?
What? No. Actually senator, a first-year law student wouldn't "understand" your absurd construction that makes a mockery of the Separation of Powers generally, and the independent judiciary specifically. In fact, it is most definitely and even explicitly the "power," as well as the competence, and even the obligation of judges to utterly ignore the collective will of any plebiscite that acts in contravention to the letter of the Constitution, its purpose or its principles.

Senator Sessions is himself a failed nominee to the federal bench. Apparently that is what qualifies him to lead the conservative assault on Elena Kagan. It's another thing he will fail at.

Conservatives, seriously — read a fucking book.

28 June 2010

Absolutely badass.

This lady probably makes the toughest hombre you know look like a pussy. Read her story.

A few words on the demise of Robert Byrd.

Senator-for-life Robert Byrd is being tenderly eulogized today in the media, who dutifully reminds us of his early KKK affiliations, then tells a noble tale of redemption by his later virtuous work on behalf of civil rights.

It's all such bullshit.

When Byrd was finally forced to abandon his disgusting racism, he simply refocused his foul bigotry on gay Americans.

Transferring one's bigotry to a different group doesn't redeem a goddam thing.

The world is a fractionally more intelligent, nicer place today.

25 June 2010

Boy Scouts continue to suck.

One day, the Boy Scouts of America decided to rid itself of gays, starting with James Dale — Eagle Scout, assistant scoutmaster, and Hollywood-handsome New Jersy guy.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey said not so fast, BSA. Because you let any boy join, and because of your heavy reliance on public funding and public property, you are indeed a public accommodation. Mr. Dale's presence within the BSA does not affect your organization's ability to accomplish its purpose, and merely having one incidentally gay employee doesn't work as an institutional endorsement of homosexuality. New Jersey's public accommodation law reasonably prohibits discrimination, so you can't kick out Mr. Dale just because he's gay. Un-revoke his membership and give him back his job.

BSA appealed it to SCOTUS, and the ultraconservative Rehnquist Court unsurprisingly and unquestioningly accepted the BSA's revised argument that Scouting is not only a selective private religious membership club, but it is — more importantly — an expressly anti-gay organization. Ergo, the BSA cannot be compelled to include gays (for the same reason than the KKK can't be forced to include blacks.)

The BSA and the conservative justices believed that Mr. Dale's private romantic behavior could somehow be detected by every Scout in the United States, utterly undermining the BSA's own "values" instruction regarding young men's sexuality, which was...nothing. The BSA admitted that it assiduously directed Scoutmasters to avoid the topic of sexuality entirely. They simply insisted they had a double-secret "NO HOMO" policy down at the Texas headquarters, and that ought be good enough for the Court.

It was.

Rehnquist, O'Connor, Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas decided that New Jersey's laws intended to promote equal protection under the law (pursuant to the purposes of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments) were ultimately goals less worthy of Constitutional protection than the BSA's First Amendment right to express contempt for gay people generally, and the subsidiary right to hound one particular college kid out of his job (despite the fact that no allegation was made that Mr. Dale behaved in any sexually inappropriate way with any Scout, and without any evidence that Mr. Dale had, or ever intended to discuss his sexuality in his capacity as an assistant scoutmaster.)

Justice Stevens, in dissent, noted that neither the majority nor the BSA bothered to dispute the fact that their bigotry had caused serious harm to gay Americans. Stevens then concluded that the majority's decision had created a "constitutional shield" for antigay bigotry, and that they had fallen into the trap of converting their prejudice into legal principles.

His dissent was prescient.

On Wednesday, a federal jury unanimously decided that Philadelphia's anti-discrimination law barring organizations that discriminate from using publicly funded facilities also unconstitutionally failed to accommodate the BSA's First Amendment right — and avowed institutional purpose — of expressing its contempt for gays. (The BSA lost on two other Constitutional arguments).

"We can't be kicked out of the building or evicted and we don't have to pay any rent," cooed the BSA attorney, William McSwain, who essentially relied on the "constitutional shield" argument.

He's not entirely right. The lease apparently allows the city to evict the Scouts without providing a reason.

While that lease provision might ultimately provide a favorable outcome to the dispute, the perverse outcome of the Dale decision is that the government can put you out for no reason, but it can't evict you for being a hateful gaybashing bigot freeriding on amenities subsidized by the very people you willfully discriminate against.

Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts continue to accomplish their purpose without engaging in  discrimination or bigotry,

09 June 2010

Click this. Seriously.


The Banana Republic of California

California election results:

Billionaire Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, spent $81 million to win the Republican primary election for governor, about $70 million from her own account. She received 1,101,528 votes. That's $73.53 per vote. On a California governor's salary, it would take her 463 years to earn $81 million.

Here's Whitman's financial promise: "Cut SPENDING: Meg will ensure that Sacramento spends no more than it takes in...[and] give Californians faith their money is well spent..." Her most serious opponent spent about $20 million, or approximately the amount of money sitting in Whitman's couch cushions.

More than 1 in 4 California Republicans wanted lunatic conspiracy theorist Orly Taitz to be California's next Secretary of State. Jesus tapdancing Christ, people! Really?

Voters approved Proposition 14, which effectively prevents third-party candidates from holding statewide or federal office. It accomplishes this by limiting the general election ballot exclusively to the 2 candidates who got the most votes in the primary election (which will always be 1 Republican and 1 Democrat), and also eliminates "write-in" candidates.

So to the dozens of candidates who ran as Green, Libertarian, American Independent, or Peace and Freedom party candidates, and to the tens of thousands of people who voted for those candidates, here's the message: your neighbors have decided that you have no right to be "unconventional," or to embrace or promote any idea that departs from the mainstream. Not sure how to deal with that? Ask your gay neighbors.

08 June 2010

Well, I'll be damned.

The Supreme Court of New Mexico has decided that the crime of "driving while intoxicated" requires the perpetrator to be driving.

Sleeping it off in a parking lot is no longer considered "driving."

How absolutely...sensible.

06 June 2010

Know the real enemy.

UPDATE: Received the following anonymous email since I originally posted:
I am one of the victims in this case.

a. the JAG did not agree with this deal. 
b. That was a follow up e-mail to notify the victims of the sentence the judge gave. The JAG had already called me to break the bad news about the plea deal. I believe she called the others too, since it said as much in her e-mail. it was clear it was a follow up. Too bad no one printed the whole thing.

This is an outrage, but the anger needs to be focused on the right area...namely, the people who agreed to this deal.


Twenty-three different soldiers on two continents had accused the Navy physician of manually raping them during routine medical examinations.

Last month, his victims received the following email from the Judge Advocate General's office after it secured the doctor's guilty plea:
...the judge awarded a sentence of 24 months, a $28,000 fine to be paid right away or else an additional 6 months would be imposed, total forfeitures of pay, and most iportantly [sic], a DISMISSAL from the Navy.
However, the JAG cagily omitted the details of its plea agreement with Lieutenant Commander Anthony L. Velasquez, M.D.

The deal allowed the doctor to avoid both the prison sentence and the fine as long as he can avoid being convicted for raping anyone else within the next 730 days. Twenty-nine counts of sexual misconduct and related charges were dropped in consideration for a guilty plea on 2 counts of wrongful sexual contact and 2 counts of conduct unbecoming an officer. Ultimately Lt. Cmdr. Velasquez served a whopping 7 days in the brig — less than 7 1/2 hours incarceration, per rape. Even the astonishingly misogynistic government of Afghanistan demands that rapists pay a fine.

Had Dr. Velasquez's victims been male soldiers instead of females, I'm sure that would be used as evidence during the upcoming DADT hearings that gay soldiers clearly have no place within our outstanding, honorable military. The homophobic hate group The Family Research Council (co-founded by George "Rentboy" Rekers) has already helpfully invented some statistics regarding homosexual military rape and then released a "study" of their imaginary data. Conclusion: gays rape about 3X as much as straight ones, and repeal of DADT will inevitably turn the military into a homosexual-rape free-for-all.

The reality is, according to 2006 Defense Department study, that 3.5% of male servicemembers experienced military sexual assault, compared to 23% of females, and 1.2% of male servicemembers filed a complaint alleging rape, compared to 11% of females.

Last year, Chair the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence Jane Harman (D-CA), pointed to more recent DOD statics that demonstrate that "Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq." Those more recent statistics include 2,280 solid cases where there was both physical evidence and a victim willing to testify. Only 317 of those cases went to courts-martial, such as the case of Lt. Cmdr. Velasquez. Another 247 received some type of unspecific "nonjudicial" discipline.

There's a pretty serious problem with "unit cohesion" in the armed services that deserves to be confronted.

And it isn't gays.

02 June 2010

Homebrewing with the bastard.

I love me some pineapple, and eat one every week or so. I was butchering one on Friday when Beloved reminded me of my threat to make Tepache, a lightly fermented agua fresca drink also known as Mexican Prison Wine. Mmmm, prison.

Bea says I need to work on my sales pitch.

Okay, um...it's not Mexican Prison Wine, which would be equal parts ridiculous and disgusting. It's...um, tropical hard cider. Yep, that's what it is.

So anyway, I did a little innertoobs research to get a sense of the ingredients and proportions, cobbled together my own recipe inspired by several others, and whipped up a batch over the weekend.

Besides being cheap and easy, it's freaking awesome! Seriously. It's moderately sweet and astringent, and lightly effervescent like a pineapple lime soda with some vague woody, spicy bottom notes. Delightful! I first had to assure Beloved it wasn't like bathtub gin, so blindness was unlikely. After that, tastiness was conceded. However, you, dear reader, homebrew at your own risk.

The only Spanish I know is, "Tu madre tiene mucho pelo en su pinga," so the best I could do was:

Tepache del Bastardo

1 large ripe pineapple, well-rinsed
~ 8 c. water
1 1/3 brown sugar or piloncillo
1 stick canella or cinnamon
4-6 cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Crock Pot Slow Cooker
stock pot
bottles sufficient to contain 2 liters, clean with tight-fitting lid/s
Note: Don't scour the fruit with cleaners or boil your water — you'll destroy the microbes you need for fermentation.
Rinse and butcher a ripe pineapple. Compost the leafy top, pack up the edible parts for snacks. Chop the remaining rind and core coarsely, and chuck 'em in the Crock Pot. Dissolve the sugar into warm water, and put enough water in the Crock Pot to cover all the fruit. Add spices. Cover and turn the Crock Pot on LOW for a half-hour, just to mingle the mix so it feels sexy. Keep the Crock Pot somewhere warm, but ferchrissakes — don't leave it turned on. 

On Day 2, remove the lid, give it a stir, replace the lid. Don't panic if you think it's too sweet — the yeasts will eat most of that sugar up during fermentation. On Day 3, stir and recover again. You should be seeing the frothy evidence of fermentation. It's still going to be a bit sweet — don't flip. Put the stockpot in the sink and the colander in the stockpot. Dump the Crock Pot into the colander. Wrap the fruit inside the cheesecloth and wring out as much juice as you can, compost what's left.

Using a funnel, bottle your Tepache, leaving some headspace in each bottle, like a beer. Don't screw the lids on yet! Leave the bottles on the countertop with the bottle's mouth covered by a kitchen towel. On Day 4, cap and refrigerate. There's going to be some bottle fermentation happening (like champagne), so open the bottles sloooooowly over a sink. Apparently, if you don't drink Tepache fairly promptly, it turns into gourmet pineapple vinegar.

Heh, I reckon there's very little danger of that at Chez Bastard.