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April 3, 2015

a proud/sad day

Speaking of Tom Cotton, even though we've been laboring with the Iran nuclear talks in the background for some months now, I don't think I ever consciously thought that an actual, viable agreement would result.  And I know, there's still some hammering to be done, but the outline of the deal reached yesterday is pretty specific and ambitious, long-ranging and with actual teeth.  And now that I think of it, it has been so long since a major international situation was resolved with diplomacy rather than boots and bullets, I'm really unaccustomed to the feeling.  Was the last time something like this happened the Dayton Accords?  But, fuck yeah, diplomacy!

And of course on the flip side, there is that weird unified front of the GOP (who will oppose anything Obama achieves reflexively) and the Netanyahu administration (whose political future is staked on belligerence towards Iran), who will not rest until they have somehow scotched this deal.  I understand the motivations even though I am dismissive of them.  Here's what I don't get: the alternative to a diplomatic solution is war.  Sanctions (in my limited recollection) have never caused a nation-state to capitulate, and to think they will is conceited and xenophobic.  Would the GOP/Netanyahu ever just give up because of crippling economic sanctions?   Then why would they expect anyone else to?

This somehow got lost in history, but after 9-11, the rhetoric from Iran had ratcheted down, the government was moderate, and they were making overtures to the U.S.  Then came the Axis of Evil bullshit, which sent everything back to the default antipathy.

I have a hard time that anyone could be openly wishing for war, and further destabilization of an already destabilized region, for whatever reason.  So this is fantastic news, and I am sick to think that anyone would try to kill this nascent agreement in the crib.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:24 AM

April 2, 2015

once again with a little tom cotton

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act has given us so much, we should be grateful!  It has introduced Gov. Mike Pence to the national stage (which stage he promptly fell off of), and it launched Memories Pizza to media stardom, giving bigots the perfect martyr they were waiting for.

Maybe most importantly it coined the term "Big Gay," which was snarled in a tweet from notorious hater Bryan Fischer and then promptly appropriated and gleefully splashed all over the place.   (Props to Ana Marie Cox for doing the heavy lifting/splashing.)  Who knows if it will stick, or if it will be accepted, as people can be pretty prickly about things like words, but it would solve the problem of: What collective phrase should I use to describe gays/lesbians/etc,?  I usually end up going with LGTB, which is comprehensive yet inelegant.  Here's to hoping!

But no kerfuffle is complete without the thoughts of Sen. Tom Cotton, who has this to add:

"In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay," he added. "They're currently imprisoning an American preacher for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran. We should focus on the most important priorities that our country faces right now. And I would say that a nuclear armed Iran, given the threat it poses ... is the most important thing we could be focusing on right now."

Some patently offensive bullshit, followed by Nuclear Armed Iran.  Tom Cotton might be the only public figure that it's actually fair to wonder whether he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:26 AM

March 31, 2015

mike pence

Sure, this is one of those times (one!) where the world probably does not need my two cents, as the controversy surrounding the so-called "religious freedom" law enacted in Indiana has exploded in a way that one usually hopes this sort of this thing would.  You can't turn your head without noticing if not another impassioned essay decrying the situation or another business interest pulling out of Indiana, then at least a pal who you wouldn't think paid that close attention saying, "Hey you hear about that Indiana thing?  That's fucked up."

In fact a large portion of your media diet for the next couple of hours will consist of this, unless you are one of those people who actually work during the day.  And I'm sure much of it will be good!  (And some of it will be EWW.)  What I want to focus on is one little thing that Gov. Mike Pence (who is rightfully the focus of the backlash) said while appearing on "This Week With George Stephanopolous":

"The issue here is: is tolerance a two-way street or not?" Pence said. "There's a lot of talk about tolerance in this country having to do with people on the left. Here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance that's been poured on our state is outrageous."

That first sentence out of Pence's mouth — well, nothing wrong with asking a question, I guess.  But the rest of those sentences are absolute garbage.  The answer to that question is NOT.  There is no give and take, no back and forth, in tolerance.  Tolerance is: one party is intolerant of the second party's behavior.  At some point, the first party realizes that such behavior is either monstrous (or agreed to be monstrous) and then ceases such behavior.  Viola!  Tolerance!  And the second party has no obligation to do a single thing but sit there and be tolerated.  There is no equivalent response to tolerance, and not even a thank you is required.

So those sentences that follow?  How people are being intolerant of the other side?  Well duh.  Hide behind the Bible all you want, but intolerance is intolerance, and you don't get to pretend to be right because you end every sentence with "freedom" or some other dog whistle.  The context of the passing of this law, whether anyone will say it out loud or not, is to protect Evangelical bakeries from having to bake cakes for gay marriages.  That's it, that's all!   The language of the law has been altered to differ it from all the religious freedom acts passed in the 90s to weaponize it in a way as to enable discrimination against LGBT interests.

I was wondering if this was another example of that weird GOP self-justification of heinousness on the grounds of infallibility, but given Pence's inability to answer the direct question of whether this law will be used to defend prejudice against LGTB, it's pretty obvious that he is a prevaricating coward, with the guts to sneak an unconstitutional bill through to throw red meat to his base but unable to own up to it to a reporter.

But he's giving a press conference in a little more than an hour.  Let's see if he owns up, or goes with some variation of, "Oh, I meant to get my head stuck in the banister and like it very much."

Posted by mrbrent at 10:11 AM

March 30, 2015

the concessionist

I'm back from staycation!  (Ha.)  And it was everything you'd ever want from a staycation: got some stuff done but not half what I planned, good times, bad times.  Not so many bad times, but a dear friend moved away, and I'm never good with those sorts of things.  And I was trying to get this very interesting interview I did transcribed, and my little dog decided that she is okay with everything I do in the apartment, unless that thing I am doing is transcribing, in which case she climbs up on a little shelf under my desk and stares at me dolefully.  No I did not get as much transcribing done as I'd hoped.

But hey it's a new week and let's start it off on the right foot and recommend something good you may not know about.  You know how the more respectable (lazy?) or our Internet media properties take the weekends off?  Well, the foremost of these, The Awl, has started running an advice column on Saturday mornings.  I know, advice column.  But this column is written by Choire Sicha, who is a writer that our admiration for him is only exceeded by his reluctance to ramp up his output.

And he is literally one of two people in that peculiar industry that I would humbly approach for advice, so not only do we get an extra dose of Choire to read while we're watching Saturday morning cartoons, we are also getting the benefit of his wisdom in a prescriptive fashion.

So treat yourself!  (Here is this week's.)  Now let's go fight crime.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:09 AM