Tennessee Bans Discussing ‘Gateway Sexual Activity’

Every time I think I’ve seen the outer extremes of pseudo-Christian prudishness on the part of Republican-dominated legislatures, I am taken aback by the latest offering. From TPM’s David Taintor:

You’ve heard of gateway drugs — smoking marijuana supposedly leads to harder, more addictive substances. But what about “gateway sexual activity”: the hand-holding, lip-locking and light-grazes that can lead to … other things?

The Tennessee Legislature on Friday sent a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk that, according to the Tennessean, would require sex-ed classes to “exclusively and emphatically” promote abstinence and ban teachers and outside groups from promoting “gateway sexual activity.”

The bill defines “gateway sexual activity” as: “sexual conduct encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior.” The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Gotto, said the bill wouldn’t address things as innocuous as holding hands, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. But critics of the legislation say the offending behavior is not clearly defined. Gotto did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

According to the News Sentinel, groups like Planned Parenthood and others who provide sex education information in schools could face a $500 fine. …

Gateway Sexual Activity
Brandenburg Gate

I’d say the Tennessee legislature is involved in more than a gateway sexual activity: they’re fucking nuts!

Laws like this should be anathema to a free society. Many of us think that kids should freely discuss sex: they’re going to discuss it anyway; what possible purpose is served by banning it? And they may as well learn something from the discussions, and from people who actually know something, such as teachers, counselors and yes, Planned Parenthood advisers. The “appropriate” limits of sexual expression are none of the legislature’s goddamned business. Parents should teach their kids according to their own lights. I, for example, would teach my kids every biological fact about sex, every social reality of bearing a child when the couple is unable to care for it, and yes, every means of contraception and every alternative to actually fucking. And I would also mention gay sex, on the outside chance that they were born gay, unbeknownst to me. They should know. Your kids will learn it, from you or from other kids or from radical fundamentalist nut‑jobs: the choice of source is yours, but they will, with certainty, learn it. Do your duty. Teach your kids age-appropriate sex-related facts and social context: it’s the human thing to do.

And tell your state legislature to fuck off!

Ce Mois De Mai! – Clement Janequin

And here we are, with a chanson of Clement Janequin (sometimes Jannequin), Ce mois de Mai

The text is in old French (first half of 16th century), which even mighty Google Translate runs aground on, but some fragments are more or less comprehensible: “The month of May, I put on my green coat this pretty merry month of May in the morning… one [leap], two [leaps], three leaps…” the rest is pretty much hash to me, but the linked YouTube also has the original text, if anyone would like to make a go at it. [UPDATE: l’Enfant de la Haute Mer has kindly translated the text in the comments… better her translation than Google’s or mine!]

This “pretty merry month of May” in Houston has a temperature of 79°F at only 10:30 AM; it’s going to be a hot one before the day is through.

There are literally hundreds of events listed for May 1, including an assortment of ancient (and not-so-ancient) holidays… Beltane in the Gaelic calendar, International Workers’ Day (called “Law Day” or “Loyalty Day” in the US, considering America’s unrestrained prejudice against workers), Labour Day (in a lot of places), and the birthdays of Calamity Jane, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Kate Smith.

Oh, and this week (Thursday) is the grotesquely inappropriate National Day of Prayer in the US: the notion that we should all fall down and pray at the same time rather offends me. Quick… somebody tell me whom I’m supposed to pray to… perhaps the one true god in America… Mammon?

Breaking From Juanita Jean: Texas Cannot Exclude Planned Parenthood – It’s Unconstitutional

I’ll just quote this wonderful woman’s post up to a point. It’s hard to know when to stop, because Juanita Jean is so wonderful…

Holy Writ Writer! God Loves Planned Parenthood.

April 30, 2012

Breaking News. Good news. Texas cannot exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program. It’s un-freekin-constitutional.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge on Monday stopped Texas from preventing Planned Parenthood from getting state funds through the Women’s Health Program.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin ruled there is sufficient evidence that a law banning Planned Parenthood from the program is unconstitutional. He imposed an injunction against enforcing it until he can hear full arguments.

This surprises exactly no one, outside of the fundamentalist-evangelical-plus-Catholic right wing of the GOP. Then again, those folks are surprised when they wake up in the morning and find that the rest of us have not been transported bodily to Hell overnight for our wicked ways…

Obama To Press: ‘Play Dead, Rover!’

Glenn Greenwald, in an article with the well-aimed title “Dog-training the press corps,” makes a convincing argument, with plenty of examples, that the reporters who praise Mr. Obama in print… i.e., those who kiss his ass… are rewarded with greater access and sweeter exclusives. This is not new with Obama, of course; the Bush 43 White House worked exactly the same way, and I suspect (without having actually researched the matter) that the practice goes back at least to the Reagan administration. Here’s Greenwald, following about a dozen examples of press asskissery:

I could spend the rest of the day doing this; this doesn’t even include the MSNBC personalities who spend every day of their lives, literally, praising the President and attacking his political opponents and are then amply rewarded with all sorts of “exclusive” interviews with White House officials and Obama campaign aides, which are exactly as hard-hitting and adversarial as you’d expect. This dog-training treatment of media figures was just as prevalent — and just as effective — during the Bush years (although, as someone with many dogs, I can honestly say that actual dogs are much more difficult to train than these journalists, who just need one or two biscuit crumbs in exchange for life-long devotion and obedience).

Indeed. Our White House press corps sucks, especially compared to dogs, and all presidents make use of that ugly fact. It is part of that fast drive down the slope and over the precipice that I spoke of in a recent post. Yes, of course, Obama is to be castigated for his dog-training of the press. And yes, we have to “keep [our] eyes wide open all the time,” as Johnny Cash sang it.

But as I mentioned in that same recent post, you don’t have to like the man; you don’t even have to reluctantly admire him… I don’t, and I don’t. All you have to do is recognize that on Jan. 20, 2013, one of two men will take an oath and begin issuing orders. Does Rmoney [sic] scare you in that role more than Obama? That’s the question that matters most when you decide how to vote. If you feel that you’re being played by O, you may well be right, but remember… you have a nation to save.



Maybe it’s symptomatic of my transformation into an O-bot. 😈 More likely, by the feel of it, it’s one of those things that last either 24 hours or 2 weeks. By tomorrow I should know which. In any case, I’ll post something real at least by tonight.

Obama Is A Tyrant And A Killer… Please Vote For Him – UPDATED

Yes, you read the hed correctly. Yes, it is a significant change in my position.

Yesterday I posted a comment on the site of a friend which was apparently so strongly worded in opposition to voting for Obama that it prompted the friend to remove the post and the entire comment thread. At least I cannot find it today.

Of course I regret any offense given, especially to people I admire, but these are parlous times, and we discuss things that evoke strong feelings even among people of good will. My hope in posting that comment was that it would provoke a lively discussion about the limits to the obligations of liberals to the candidates of the Democratic Party, especially their candidate for president. We will all have to do without that discussion now, but the whole affair had one salutary effect:

I have changed my mind about voting for Mr. Obama. I shall now hold my nose and do so.

Look: the United States is on a steep road to the bottom. It is probably too late to prevent the ultimate collapse, maybe five years from now, maybe 20 years from now. (A lot depends on the rapidity of global climate change and the tenacity with which America clings to fossil fuels for everything.)

I have no love for Mr. Obama and his policies: his frequent cave-ins to Republican pressures, his propensity to unitary executive actions against individuals who oppose him, and his willingness to bend the Constitution, including legal due process, well past the breaking point. He is not an admirable person.

But I believe that a President Romney, a man with a level of fundamental human sympathy inferior to that of a drunken wealthy frat boy, especially if he were to end up with a Republican Congress, would bring about at least America’s economic collapse almost immediately, while the re-election of President Obama would leave us not much worse off than we are at present… still nothing to dance about, but at least there may be some chance of a recovery in a few years. And perhaps a few radical social-conservative bills in Congress, of which we’re seeing a lot lately, will draw an actual veto from Obama.

I know… “maybe he won’t be unbearably bad” is not the strongest endorsement of the man, but it’s the best I can offer under the circumstances. Let me phrase it slightly differently: with Obama, perhaps the US will not immediately turn into Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.

If your outlook on Mr. Obama is similar to mine, you have a decision to make of far greater consequence than mine, because you probably live in a state that is not so red that Obama would never win it anyway… that describes Texas, of course. My vote means nothing. My lack of a vote would have meant nothing, too. So it’s up to you… not me… to see to it that Romney is swept into the dumpster of history. Help me out here!

(Click the graphic above to be taken to a place from which you can buy a bumper sticker. For the sticker in context, please click (link deleted… web site is registered to a web designer for the Republican Caucus of the legislature in a state out West). Something seemed fishy about the wording and by-and-large anonymity of the site. Worse, its list of links to major liberal/progressive sites was not labeled… are they participants? endorsers? just a blogroll? a fake-out to make you think it’s a progressive outfit? I don’t know why a Republican web designer would be tweaking liberals/progressives in that way, but it’s not the first such spoof I’ve encountered.)

‘Three Quarks For Muster Mark!’ – LHC Discovers Previously Unknown Particle Comprising, Er, Three Quarks

Carl Franzen of TPM:

An entirely new type of particle has been discovered by scientists using the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), near Geneva, Switzerland.

The discovery of the new particle, called “neutral Xi_b^star baryon,” was made by the CMS experiment, one of six separate particle physics experiments running at the LHC. It was announced Friday by Symmetry Magazine.

“Besides helping to understand how quarks bind and therefore further validate the theory of strong interactions, one of the four basic forces of physics, this measurement represents a tour-de-force that opens up good perspectives for future discoveries,” wrote Carlos Lourenco, a senior researcher with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the organization that oversees the experiments at the giant accelerator, in an email to TPM.

The new type of particle is so rare that it cannot occur anywhere else on Earth outside of the accelerator, and only occasionally in outer space.

The particle’s rarity is due in part to its composition: It is made up of three quarks which normally aren’t found locked together.

“When these three quarks get together, they immediately divorce, instantaneously,” Lourenco explained.

The new particle was actually created in 2011, when the CMS researchers collected collisions between two beams of protons going in opposite directions …

… and they just now convinced themselves that the data really implied a new particle. Well, you know how those quick, messy divorces can be dragged out forever!

CISPA Passes House On Hurried-Up Vote After Surprise Changes Effectively Eviscerating Fourth Amendment Online

Remember Dan Quayle? Remember how we laughed at him? In our brave new world under our new overlords (whom I, for one, do NOT welcome), Quayle has had the last laugh. Here is Leigh Beaden of TechDirt on the sudden passage of CISPA, and the same author on the Quayle amendment to CISPA.

If this bill becomes law (for what it’s worth, Obama has issued a veto threat), companies that partner with DoD and NSA agencies can gather information on American citizens online without a warrant and with no application of the Fourth Amendment, just by listing certain keywords in their justification for the acquisition. It’s easier for me simply to hand you off to the ACLU for their initial impressions of the bill as passed in the House yesterday:

The House of Representatives just passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a dangerously overbroad bill that would allow companies to share our private and sensitive information with the government without a warrant and without proper oversight. CISPA gives companies the authority to share that information with the National Security Agency or other elements of the Department of Defense, who could keep it forever. The Obama administration issued a veto threat on CISPA earlier this week.

In a statement that we issued just after the House vote, ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson stated, “CISPA goes too far for little reason. Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Obscurity indeed… either that’s where the bill will go, or where your privacy will go; we can’t have both.

It seems to me that we must have had “Americans” in our midst for several decades just waiting for an opportunity to repudiate the Bill of Rights and turn our form of government into something most of us would regard as totalitarian. The “global war on terror” seems to have provided that opportunity, and these un‑Americans have whipped out their swords and begun whacking away at the freedoms listed in our fundamental document. Personally, I expect the worst. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. If you “welcome our new overlords,” please fuck yourself with a corkscrew.

(H/T Avedon.)

AFTERTHOUGHT: the wiki is also worth reading, especially the quotes from the bill’s opponents outside of Congress.

A: ‘Hispanics, Women, And Young People’

According to Robert Reich, that’s the answer. So what is the question? Well, actually, there are two:

Q: “What are the three demographic groups whose electoral impact is growing fastest?”


Q: “Who are Republicans pissing off the most?”

Reich details his answers in a bit of election-year analysis that leaves me not quite so despairing about the likely outcome of this year’s elections.

Now all we have to do is somehow dodge the voter suppression bullet…


Don’t You Love It When Your Political Adversaries Squabble Among Themselves?

In this corner, we have the over-the-edge budget-slasher (social programs, of course) and self-proclaimed “good Catholic” Paul Ryan. And in the opposite corner, we have the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who despite their overwhelmingly politically conservative leanings… just ask Planned Parenthood, or most women in America… perceive Ryan’s budget as contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ (more like those of Ayn Rand, they say) regarding assistance to the poor, and aren’t afraid to say so. (Indeed, as far as I can tell, the USCCB aren’t afraid to say anything: they must somehow be judicially assured of retaining their tax exemption as they actively engage in politics. Could their ace in the hole be those six (6) Justices on the Supreme Court who are Catholic?) Tonight, Ryan and the USCCB will go far more than 15 rounds, battling over the classic contradiction built into religious conservatism: call it “budget‑busting vs. Bible‑thumping.”

Here to narrate the fight for our “radio” audience are John Nichols of The Nation and Sahil Kapur of TPM.

Come out fighting and beat each other to a pulp, “gentlemen”!

Oh, and Nichols provides us with the Malapropism of the Week, attributed to Paul Ryan: “Ryan says: ‘The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, …’ ” Would those Catholic tenants be in Catholic tenements? I don’t doubt for a moment that “tenants” is the word Ryan said.