Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In Fear We Trust

Oy. So I'm doing a Wednesday special, because a post on Facebook caught my eye. This is not a regular thing, but I have plans for Monday's post, and this is too messy to pass up.

Apparently, a few months back (April 5-8, to be precise) there was a great huge hullabaloo about an Army Reserves Equal Opportunity briefing that contained a slide equating Catholicism and Evangelical Protestantism with terrorist organizations.

Presented for your consideration, the leading salvo of said hullabaloo: Pentagon Classifies Evangelical Christians, Catholics as "Extremists."

Here's the kicker, and your first caveat: I can't find any independent sourcing on this. None. Which is not to say it doesn't exist, simply that I can't find it. And by independent sourcing, I mean any story that provides actual background, actual traceable information. But as near as I can tell, Todd Starnes is the point man on this. Many of the articles I've found cite Starnes as a primary source, and all of Starnes "source material" is self-referential. To clarify, aside from the attributed quotes, Starnes relies on his own articles as source material. Solely.

So yeah, there's my first problem. The second is that Starnes clearly states that the Army views this as an isolated incident and does not stand with or endorse the views espoused by this individual. Who, by the by, is left completely nameless. Yep. The one person in this thing who is clearly guilty of wrongdoing is never identified. Which is also a problem for me, I have to say.

Fourth problem, this paragraph:
The Chaplain Alliance uncovered in more than 1,500 pages of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request after a U.S. Army training instructor told a Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania that Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Sunni Muslims, and the Ku Klux Klan were examples of extremism.
 Wait...what? It leads off like it's going to say they uncovered something, but then goes on to describe a separate story about how the founding fathers are listed as examples of extremist behavior.From there, we jump to a bit about how the slide was uncovered, then jump back to a bit about how these documents show that the Southern Poverty Law Center was cited as a reliable source/sole source for a training briefing in South Carolina.

Then we jump back to a story about a slide that appeared in a Pennsylvania.

Hold on, this gets better: Starnes indicates that this information came just days after Judicial Watch found out about the whole Founding Fathers bit. Judicial Watch posted their piece last week. You know, three months after the incident in question? 

And just for one more whack on that nail, I'd like to make you aware that Starnes is a fierce proponent of the theory that President Obama only supports LGBT civil liberty because he's gay.

Step back, take a moment, breath that in. The man leading the charge on this is the same guy that, rather than choose any one of the many viable options (political power, obfuscation, cultural reform, etc.) for a president to take up a cause that is felt to be morally ambiguous (or, you know, evil, if you swing that way,) chooses to just go with "the president must be secretly gay."

No, seriously. Check out these Tweets.

So, we've got this guy who can't source to save his ass, trying to wring some fear out of a four month old story. By, and I want to stress this, using a current story that at least has some paperwork and research behind it as a springboard for a sourceless story that misleads and confuses.

How does it mislead, you ask?

Well, I'd like to point out again that it claims the Pentagon is in on this. And then turns around and says this:
Last April, spokesman George Wright told Fox News the training briefing in Pennsylvania was an “isolated incident not condoned by the Department of the Army.”
“This slide was not produced by the Army and certainly does not reflect our policy or doctrine,” he said. “It was produced by an individual without anyone in the chain of command’s knowledge or permission.”
The Army said the slide was removed, the presenter apologized and they considered the matter closed.
So, the Army denied having anything to do with it, flatly stated that they neither condone nor support the beliefs espoused, and that they fixed it.

So why the hullabaloo? I mean, the Army, sure, but it's made of people. And people can be part of a good organization and still be idiots. Well, the hullabaloo comes from Starnes only source, Ron Crews.

Just for a little variety, here's Crews talking to the Army Times:
“Our concern is that everyone who attended that briefing should be given the corrected information,” Crews said. And he is concerned that the unit didn’t use chaplains as their source of experts on religious extremism. “We’re concerned there’s an environment in the [Equal Employment Opportunity] world that allows this to be presented to soldiers,” Crews said.
The problem could be more widespread, Crews said, because his organization has received information about briefings at other Army units and at least one Navy installation that labeled groups as “religious extremists” who were part of the Evangelical Christian community.
I'd like to take a moment to point out that Crews is worried that we didn't go to a religion to have religious extremism defined for us. Because, of course, a system that holds as a default belief that it is the one true way would be the perfect source for a clear and unbiased opinion. Beyond which, if you've read Starnes' story, you're aware that Crews has also gone on the record as stating that the Army has overstepped its apolitical stance. In this article, however, he would prefer that the Army ignore that same stance to get facts about religious extremism from religious people rather than a secular organization devoted to civil liberties and an end to hate speech.


Well, you remember how the SPLC was mentioned waaaay back up there at the beginning of this post? Well, Crews doesn't like them. Those groups labeled as religious extremists who are "part of the Evangelical Christian Community"?

Those would be groups the SPLC lists as anti-gay hate organizations. Organizations like the Family Research Council. Seriously, read some of the quotes on that page. You can Google that shit. There's a difference between saying, "I have a religious objection to homosexuality" and saying, "Child molestation is a homosexual problem." One is a valid personal point of view, and yes it is valid. You're allowed to not like things in this country.

The other is scare tactics and hate speech. Flat out. So, and let's pause and clear this up, holding a belief or article of faith that conflicts with my beliefs or self-expression is fine. But insinuating that I must be a pedophile as a way of invalidating my existence is hate speech, not religious expression.

Oooh, how about the American Family Association? You know what, here's a quote:
"Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews."– Bryan Fischer, AFA director of issue analysis for government and public policy, 2010
And while that quote does appear on the SPLC page, I've actually taken that second step of sourcing it for you. I won't say you're welcome, because that link takes you to a blog post wherein Fischer passionately defends that comment. Yeah, that's good Christian thinking, right? Ban the homos, because otherwise we'll turn into a new Nazi state. That's not hate speech at allll...nosiree, them's the fine folks you want to be associated with.

Would it surprise anyone that the third anti-gay group profiled on the SPLC site is the Westboro Baptist Church? And would anyone seriously argue that they're a hate group? No?

Then why would you argue that a group which spews identical rhetoric isn't a hate group? Because the AFA and FRC don't protest funerals? So, for instance, if one kid punches other kids while calling them names, and another kid sticks to name-calling, we're ok with kid number two?

What's my bottom line, here?

For starters, I'd like to be clear that I am in no way saying this didn't happen. I absolutely believe that some idiot would try to sneak their personal bias into an EO briefing. Hell, I'll offer $5 to anyone who can prove to me that this particular incident did not happen. That's how low my faith in humanity is.

But that doesn't mean the government is out to take your religion away from you. It means that some people are absolute morons who think that a bit of authority gives them the right to cram their personal beliefs, void of any rational or logical thinking, down our throats.

Second, the Army isn't persecuting Christians of any stripe. Beyond, that is, forcing them to live in close quarters with us dirty homos. You know, like people are forced to live alongside us every day, but closer. Forcing them to eat and shower with us. You know, like when you go to a restaurant and there's gay people there. Or when you go to a gym...and there's gay people there.

So, since the only force here is that you can't discriminate or commit crimes against someone for being gay, I'm going to have to say that's not much like persecution.

Third summation, if the concern that the Army is persecuting Christians is rooted in the fact that they may or may not accept the SPLC labeling of prominent Christian organizations as "hate groups," kindly remember that they use much the same rhetoric and logic as the WBC, or racial supremacy groups. And if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, Imma go with it being a duck.

Finally, can we please all focus on something important now? I mean, yeah, I'm all for getting my full civil liberties as a gay man. I'd really like for hate crimes of all flavors, discrimination against anyone, and bigotry of all kinds to stop. Be it against gays, women, Christians (in certain circumstances, it still happens,) Muslims, racial minorities, you name it.

But frankly, I'm confused as to why we're still bitching about this. Let's get it done, and move on to cancer, hunger, know, problems of circumstance that require attention, funds, and work to opposed to social issues that we haven't fixed yet because we're all too busy arguing about whether or not they're actually a problem and who has the moral high ground.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pictures, Piercings, & Politics

A few days ago, I saw something on Facebook that started the ol' blood boiling. Arkansas is most of the way to passing legislation to limit body art based on what is socially acceptable!

Grrr! Rawr! Grah! And other Angrish phrases, and so on, and cursing, etc.

Ready the mind bullets! (Source.)

And then research ensued. Followed by facepalms. See, the average article on this looks like the following:

Bill to Ban Certain Tattoos, Body Piercings Passes Senate
The Arkansas Senate passed a bill to ban tattoos, piercings and other similar body modifications which it characterizes as “non-traditional,” recently.

Senator Missy Irvin of Mountain View, Arkansas sponsored the bill entitled ”An Act To Limit Body Art Procedures”. She says that body modifications should be limited to “traditional” tattoos and piercings. Her proposal was to essentially ban scarification procedures and dermal implants, as well as certain tattoos which remain yet to be defined as by the vague language of the bill she sponsored.

And that's one of the more temperate articles that actually mentions the fact that the bill specifically bans dermal implants. Most of them run straight to, "They're taking our freedoms, man!" I have yet to see a single article on SB 387 that runs under an accurate headline, like "certain body modifications banned" or "surgical body modification by non-medical professionals banned."

Not only that, but most throw in a reference to "vague language" and ominous portents that they could gasp BAN TATTOOS AND BODY PIERCINGS!

I give you SB 387. Seriously, go take a look, it's only three pages. I'll wait. 


Confused? So was I, initially. Because, my dears, aside from the eminently clear language banning subdermal implants, those are definitions. Scarification isn't banned, it's defined as distinct from tattoos and branding. Tattoos, body piercings, etc. are all left perfectly alone.

In fact, SB 387 was a springboard, a proposal to change the specific wording of the Arkansas Health Code regarding body artists so that they could have a clear set of definitions while passing SB 388. You don't have to go read that one, it's fifteen pages. A hedgehog will slap a hypocrite if you do, however. 

Slapmaster Spiky, standing by. (Photo by TBurgey)

But it's essentially a clarification and simplification of existing health laws regarding body art. The new stuff it does is to make the laws simpler and more transparent, as well as setting some minimum age requirements. 

On a side note, I did find a decent article on 388, that ran under an accurate headline and reported clearly. Here you go.

So what does 388 do for public health and safety? Well, as a for instance, it specifically makes it illegal to brand anyone under 18, without exception. It makes it illegal to tattoo or pierce anyone under 16 without parental consent. It clarifies the penalties for those, and changes some of the licensing requirements. To be clear, it changes them in favor of the artists in some cases, not against them wholesale.

How would you like to have to go through college again every time you change states? That would suck. So, instead of forcing artists through a re-certification course, SB 388 sets up a one time $500 license transfer fee. You show proof of licensure and operation in another state, pay your money, and you're done. Now that seems a bit high to me, but honestly? It's better than going back through training, or taking a state certification course.

I mean, you still have to take a blood borne pathogens course. However, it used to look like this:

(b)(1)(A) The department shall promulgate rules to establish standards for the blood-borne pathogens course required under this section.

(B) The course shall require a minimum of two (2) hours of direct instruction.
(2) The course may be taught by providers approved by the department, including without limitation:
(A) The American Red Cross;
(B) Any nationally recognized body art organization;
(C) Any institution of higher learning; and
(D) Any other individual or group approved by the department.
 Now? You take it through OSHA. And you can take it online. That's it, that's the whole thing, nice and simple.

So, let's get to the one thing that is actually banned. Dermal implants.

Now, I'm all for self-expression through body modification. I've had my ears pierced, my nips pierced, I have three tattoos, one constantly visible, a brand, and four scarifications. I have more tattoos planned, and am currently searching for jewelry I'm not allergic to so I can get permanent piercings. But the thing is, I totally understand where Sen. Irvin is coming from on this one.

Subdermals are installed surgically. By non-surgeons. Without anesthetic.

Is it possible for someone to get good at this and do it safely? Ayup. Obviously, because there are people that do it. But is it possible for a state to allow licensing and training for this, safely, effectively, and within national medical practice laws? Not without a hell of a lot of changes to what constitutes a surgical procedure. Which would cause all sorts of problems.

At the core, subdermals are being banned because there's no way to enact legislation that allows them to be performed by body modification artists without mucking about in some fairly serious pieces of legislation that work quite well and should not be fucked with in ways that muddy them up.

And that makes sense.

Health codes are there to protect people. And the sucky thing about subdermals is that to pass legislation allowing them would be to basically say, "No-one may practice plastic surgery without extensive training and licensing...unless it's a body artist, who, you know, is going to...uhhhh...implant that's ok, of expression?"

Now for everyone that just screamed at me, I'm not saying subdermals aren't cool, or that we shouldn't explore ways to make them safely legal.

What I am saying is that there's a thing called legal precedent that no-one wants to play with. If a body artist can implant a small piece of silicone under your skin, or several pieces, or a plate, or a ball...well, at some point, you're looking at a procedure that is indistinguishable from plastic surgery. Nose jobs, boob jobs, butt implants, certain kinds of reparative surgery...those involve implanting a measure of silicone under the skin, for cosmetic or medical purposes.

And if someone sticks a boob implant in a someone illegally, but it's legal for a body artist to stick a silicone ball in someone, eventually some fucker somewhere might get the bright idea to use that as a defense for practicing medicine without a friggin' license. Is that certain to happen? No. But do lawmakers want to open that door? Probably not.

All of this leads here: fear tactics suck no matter who's using them. The laws, as they read, are a set of definitions with a single bit of CYA inserted and an overhaul of a section of the health code for clarification and further regulation to protect kids and artists.

And honestly, if you have to obfuscate the issue to create a fight against a law while claiming to protect freedom of expression, you've sort of missed the point. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Living La Vida Asok

As most of you know, Uncle Jere completed an associates degree this year. And, despite all attempts to convince me that an internship would be an amazing addition to my life, I refused to participate. Why? Well, because internships are horrible, horrible things.

It's funny because it's true! Wait... (Source.)
Ah, there it is. The sweet smell of outrage. Bear with me, y'all. We'll get there.

First up, lets look at paid internships. Obviously, these are the gold standard. Unfortunately, a golden turd is still a turd. Why is this turdish? Well, since they can pay you far less than most employees (i.e., you can end up getting minimum wage for professional work) and since you work part-time during regular semesters, you're likely to end up making less than if you took a job at McD's.

"But valuable work experience!" calls out Strawman Schmoe.

Well, yes. Sure. And networking. But did you know that colleges aren't obligated to offer you college credit for paid internships? In fact, most won't, because you are being compensated for your time. When my college prof was trying to set me up with an internship, she straight up told me that she couldn't offer full credit on a paid internship.

So, in addition to taking a grunt job that pays birdseed and sucks out as much of your time as a full time class load, you still have to carry a class that will take up the slot an unpaid internship would. Oh yeah, and if they pay you? They can absolutely demand a full workload concomitant to a normal entry level employee. I knew several students who saw their houses when they slept and showered, and spent the rest of their time bouncing between internship and school. Because they took up equal time and effort.

Ok, but what about unpaid? I mean, you have to have an internship on the books for your grade, and your field is all about networking.

Welp, that's a turd's turd. On top of not getting paid to do whatever work they can convince you to do, you're also not protected under sexual harassment laws. Oh yeah. If you're not "technically" employed, employee protections don't apply. Oh, and that's still a 10-20 hour drag on your schedule.

But hey, at least you get college credit, right?

Well, here's the rub. That counts as a class. And at my college at least, and most colleges I've checked, you pay for it just like a class. Yep. You pay the college for the credits gained by working a part time job.

Does this sound like a wage scam to anyone else yet? To recap: unpaid = high workload, no legal employee protections, and you may have to pay your school for credit.

Paid = usually entry level or lower for a high workload, no credit, a significant drain on your time, oh, and if you want to keep a full course load, you'll be running at least 22-55 hours between school and internship depending on how many hours your internship runs.

Now, all of the above info? That's reality in a vacuum. That's excluding social and family commitments, bills, drive time, gas, health issues, homework load, sleep, eating. That's just the internship and time spent in class.

At the bottom of all this, I'll hit my point. If your prof is pushing an internship, do look into it. But outside of "high networking" fields like politics, law, and medicine, or fields where internships can pay extremely well (petroleum engineering and investment banking are apparently the best) or fields that call for security clearances to work, you should probably see what your school has in your field. Lab assistants make good money, as do tutors.

As an example, I worked at my school paper, gained real life experience in a news room, and got paid decently well for it. I did everything but online editor and advertisement over a period of three years, and was the editor for close to a year and a half. And that counted as work experience I could have touted should I have chosen to advance in journalism as a career. It's not the path for everyone, but it worked for me.

Which, of course, is the same argument I would apply to internships. Again, barring networking being a barrier to entry in your field, internships should be a personal choice that you make knowing that they have an excellent chance of sucking Lucifer's monstrous wang.

So you really need or want an internship, for the love of gods, look at it very closely. Because a little research can be the difference between being an unpaid or underpaid slave, and gaining valuable life experience and networking while not working yourself into the ground.

Monday, August 12, 2013


Hello sports fans. So yeah, I've been sporadic of late. Sorry bout that. I'm not promising anything, as depression and exhaustion suck donkey hide, but I'm going to try to get back to my Monday update schedule.

Today's pile o' crap comes to us via email, in the form of a lovely chain letter:

This is a heads up/wake up call for the average American citizen. If the manner and way this country and states within it are being governed is upsetting and you want change to occur, then get up and let's stand together and do something about it... 
Are we prepared  for this revolution within our own  beloved  USA?

Pic came with the email.
"You  old white people.   It is your duty to  die."
Augustin  Cebada,  Brown Berets; "Go back to  Boston!   Go back to  Plymouth Rock, Pilgrims!  Get out!  We are  the  future.  You are old and tired.  Go on.  We   have beaten you.  Leave like beaten rats. -you  old white people.  It is your duty to  die.  Through  love of having children, we are going to take   over.
Richard   Alatorre,  Los Angeles City Council. "They're  afraid we're  going to take over the governmental  institutions and other  institutions.  They're  right.  We will take them over . .  . We are here to   stay."

Excelsior, the  national  newspaper of  Mexico , "The American Southwest seems  to  be slowly returning to the jurisdiction of  Mexico  without  firing a single shot."

Professor  Jose Angel Gutierrez, University of  Texas; "We have an aging  white  America.  They  are not making babies.  They are  dying.  The  explosion is in our population . .. . I love  it.  They  are shitting in their pants with fear.  I love  it."

Art Torres, Chairman of the  California Democratic Party, "Remember 187--proposition to deny taxpayer  funds for services to non-citizens--was the  last gasp of white   America in  California .."

Gloria  Molina, Los Angeles County Supervisor, "We are politicizing every  single one of these new citizens that are becoming citizens of this  country..... I gotta tell you that a lot of people are  saying, "I'm  going to go out there and vote because I want  to pay them  back."

Mario Obledo,   California Coalition of Hispanic Organizations and  California State  Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare  under Governor Jerry Brown,  also awarded the Presidential  Medal of Freedom by President Bill  Clinton, " California is going to be a Hispanic state.  Anyone who  doesn't like it should leave."

Jose  Pescador Osuna, Mexican Consul General, "We are practicing 'La  Reconquista' in  California."

Professor  Fernando  Guerra,  Loyola  Marymount    University ; "We need to avoid a white backlash by using codes understood by  Latinos . . .  "



When I  was young, I  remember hearing about the immigrants that came   through Ellis Island ..  They wanted  to learn  English.  They wanted to breathe free.   They wanted to become  Americans.  Now too many  immigrants come here with demands.   They demand to be  taught in their own language.  They demand  special  privileges--affirmative action.  They demand ethnic   studies that glorify their  culture.


Send copies of this email to at least ten  other people, 100 would be even better.  Help  us get the word  out.

Remember  when  you vote that we need someone in the  White House who will balance the  budget and control  illegal immigration.  If we make all  illegals legal, then we have lost our country forever.    Liberalism will have won and you will have a one party  system  forever.  Redistribution of wealth will be  the law.  It is  called socialism.  Our  country is heading in the wrong direction  and we are  doing it to ourselves without serious   protest.     


If you are too Politically Correct  to pass this on -Then you, my friend, are Americas biggest  problem.

Well, wasn't that a fun bit of fear mongering?  The first thing to be aware of is that this list was compiled in 2006. So it's easily 7 years out of date. The second thing to be aware of is that the various quotes are largely out of context, or false. Which is not to say that these people didn't say these things, but, as I've mentioned before, context is everything.

Third, if you'd like a complete break down, have some Snopes. Yeah, that's the ever wonderful site taking this point by point like I usually do, providing context for all and disproving some.

Due to the awesomeness of Snopes, I will not be taking this point by point. Suffice it to say that this is essentially fear for its own sake, playing off extreme views and highlighting the most inflammatory bits.

So if I'm not breaking it down, what's the point of this?

To knowledge-ify! (I can make up a word if I want. Yes, yes I can. If Barney Stinson can do it, then a journalism major can.)

First off, here's the 2010 census results, emphasis on race. Hit up page six. It can be a bit confusing, because they changed the way it works for the most recent census. Here's how it works: There was two sets of boxes, one for those claiming Hispanic or Latino origin, one for those who weren't. To be clear, that means that in the set for "Hispanic or Latino origin" 53% were white. Full stop.

In both category, those who self-identify as what we think of as Hispanic or Latino fall under Other Races. So in the Non-Hispanic or Latino Origins category, white folks are sitting at 76%.

But hey, lets straight up compare: ~50.5 million respondents claimed Hispanic or Latino origin. And remember, of those, only 37% are what we think of as Hispanic or Latino.

258 million responded as not having a Hispanic or Latino origin. That's more than five times as many people. So no, we're not exactly in danger of Latinopocalypse.

Stepping over to the other side of the question, what about illegal immigrants? Well, there's between 8 and 11 million. And, as the Council on Foreign Relations notes, most of those won't seek to naturalize. The CFR believes that it will be 2030 before the voting population of Hispanics and Latinos doubles. That's almost two decades.

Where does that sea of numbers leave us? Well, for starters, the fear mongering crap can go blow. There's nothing up there to indicate that them damn fererners are going to take over the country anytime soon. Now, by 2050, the white population is projected to be less than half the total population, but that's 37 years away.

"Oh Jaysis, save us!" whimpers Strawman Schmoe.

If you agree with the Strawman, shame on you. Not to play a tired old card too hard here, but we're a nation of immigrants. All of us (except the Native Americans) came from somewhere else originally. And I've mentioned before that shutting down or more tightly restricting legal immigration is a horrible idea.

Bottom line, here? Yep, there's a decent sized population of Hispanic/Latino peoples around these here parts. And yeah, that number's going to get bigger in the future. But frankly, the only reason to be afraid of that is if you happen to be a white supremacist.