Keep the government out of my wallet and in my pants, inconsistent Republicans say

The past year and a half has really been entertaining. The far right-wing of the Republican party, the Teabaggers, got everyone all up in a tizzy and found themselves influencing the 2010 elections, as if they knew anything about any issue. They ousted a lot of Democrats by campaigning on no more than austerity – which has worked out just so well for Europe – but once they got in office, they switched gears and started passing laws that told women they were too stupid to know what abortion entailed, which I presume was also their basis for repealing laws which said women deserve equal pay for equal work as compared to men. Apparently the government has no place in the wallets of Teabaggers – unless we’re talking about Medicare and Social Security – but it should have everything to do with the uterus of a woman. But worry not! The GOP is turning over a new leaf. That’s right. Now they’re going after the genitals of boys and girls – particularly before they even get stimulated:

[Tennessee] legislation banning teachers from promoting or condoning “gateway sexual activity” is headed to the governor’s desk after approval by the state House of Representatives on Friday.

The bill, which passed the full Senate earlier this month, would require all state sexual education classes to “exclusively and emphatically” promote abstinence while banning teachers from promoting any form of “gateway sexual activity.” The latter term, which has garnered national media attention and been lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert, is not specifically defined in the bill.

The vote was 68-23, with all but one Republican for it.

In other news, Republicans in 14 states have passed bills which mandate books be carried by boys at all times and that the temperature in school building is to never dip below 72. GOP leaders said boys need to carry the books, especially around the age of 11, because time has proven that to be one of the most effective ways of covering up a poorly-timed erection. As for the temperature, one house member said, “We don’t want girls getting cold and pointing their thingies at the boys. Those books are there for emergencies, not leisure.”

High school student dresses up as Jesus for “Fictional Character Day”

I don’t know as I would have done this in high school, but I certainly would seize such an opportunity now:

A couple of months ago, Summit High School in Spring Hill, Tennessee held a “Fictional Character Day” in which students could come to school dressed as their favorite fictional character. Like the Mad Hatter. Or Darth Vader. Or SpongeBob SquarePants.

Jeff Shott came dressed as Jesus.

Before class even started that day, Shott was asked by the principal and other staffers to remove his costume. It was inappropriate, they said.

That’s sort of the default excuse the courts have given to schools, isn’t it? You want to do something remotely controversial? Nah. Sit down and shut up so you don’t disrupt anything. Or, in other words:

Here is part of what Jeff had to say about this in his own words:

I’d arrived at school this Monday before 8:15 a.m. and waited in the cafeteria until classes started, eating breakfast with friends and adding finishing touches to my Jesus costume.

The head principal, Dr. Farmer, soon came up and asked me to come to his office. The assistant principal, Ms. Lamb, and Officer Pewit, school resource officer, were waiting outside the cafeteria. Dr. Farmer asked me whom I was portraying. I told him that I was Jesus Christ. He said he had been hoping my answer would have been Zeus (or some other variation of a mythological deity).

Even though I’m typically very openly atheistic and have no problem discussing my views, I was a little distraught that all three school authority figures were addressing me at once. Dr. Farmer claimed I couldn’t have things both ways — I couldn’t complain about teachers talking about Jesus and also dress up as Jesus on Fictional Character Day.

Apparently one of Jeff’s “science teachers” is a creationist and had expressed as much, undermining the theory and fact of evolution with typical creationist tripe. Now it looks like the administration at Jeff’s school understands the constitution about as well as its teachers understand science. The fact is, whether or not dressing as Jesus is allowed on school grounds, Jeff’s teacher was promoting Christian creationism in the classroom, something which has long been established as illegal. It doesn’t matter if Jeff has a problem with that and he wants to wear a funny costume. Indeed, what a teacher tells her students and what a student wears as a costume are independent situations.

Anyway, Jeff has been given a $1,000 scholarship from the Freedom From Religion Foundation because of all this, so the end result isn’t so awful. And even better? I guarantee more students have been talking about him at school than ever would have if he wore his costume for the whole day.

This is why no one respects the South

You’d think Tennessee, of all places, would know better:

Tennessee, where the nation’s first big legal battle over evolution was fought nearly 90 years ago, is close to enacting a law that critics deride as the “monkey bill” for once again attacking the scientific theory.

The measure passed by the Tennessee General Assembly would protect teachers who allow students to criticize evolution and other scientific theories, such as global warming. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said this week he would likely sign it into law.

Interestingly, the governor is claiming that the law will basically do absolutely nothing while changing approximately zilch. The truth is different:

The bill says it would encourage critical thinking by protecting teachers from discipline if they help students critique “scientific weaknesses.”

In other words, teachers won’t be punished for telling students lies.

I think a great test of this horseshit bill would be for a teacher to go into a dead-pan routine where he questions the validity of the theory of gravity. Talk about its weaknesses, cast doubt on its validity, and maybe even propose some alternatives. Of course, those “alternatives” would need to be couched in science-y language, but I’m sure there are plenty of creationist groups out there willing to lend their expertise to those who wish to abuse science.

Ridiculous story of the day

A transgendered woman in Tennessee wanted to change the sex on her driver’s license from male to female. The DMV said no, so the woman became proactive about the situation:

As WATE.com is reporting, Andrea Jones was arrested for indecent exposure after taking her shirt off after the Morristown Driver’s License Office refused to change her sex from male to female on her driver’s license.

She was out in the parking lot when this happened, so it can’t particularly be said that she was being a disruptive jerk right in the middle of the DMV office.

“If I was a male, I had the right to, when I stepped out the door, take off my shirt,” Jones, who has had a partial sex change, explained. “It’s not right for the state to ask me to be both male and female. A choice needs to be made. They cannot hold me to both standards.”

I have no doubt there are conservative Christians out there who would be perfectly happy to condemn Jones’ plight in its entirety, but I’m hard pressed to see an iota of rationality in any of this on the part of Tennessee. She is having two separate standards applied to her; this whole thing is fundamentally unfair. And utterly ridiculous.

Compassion is more than just human

This story about an elephant and her friend is incredible:

In 2009, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman introduced you to a couple of very unlikely friends who couldn’t have been more different. But from the moment Tarra the elephant met Bella the dog, they were inseparable.

The Elephant Sanctuary south of Nashville is more than 2,000 acres of freedom for elephants. But for a resident named Tarra, there’s not enough room in Tennessee to escape the bad news she got last week.

“Certainly her whole demeanor changed,” said Rob Atkinson, the sanctuary’s CEO. “She became more reserved, quieter, she was depressed.”…

Last week, sanctuary workers found Bella’s body. By all indications she’d been attacked by coyotes. Whether Tarra witnessed it, tried to intervene or was too late – no one knows. All they do know is that where they found Bella is not where she was attacked.

Tarra carried Bella’s body close to a mile, laying it down near a building on the sanctuary. It is the same building where Tarra stayed for three straight weeks when Bella previously became injured.

This is a tremendously fascinating story. It goes to demonstrate some amazing characteristics present in the animal world, especially amongst elephants. The article seems to sum things up quite nicely, but do go to the link to watch the video.

New Jersey, Tennessee, and emotional distress

New Jersey passed an excellent law earlier this year in partial response to the bullying-caused death of Tyler Clementi. (The process of developing the law began prior to Clementi’s tragic death.) Primarily directed at the junior high and high school levels, the law provides administrators easier ways of dealing with bullies. This follows from the basic premise that harassment is not okay, even between minors.

I mention New Jersey’s law for two reasons. First, it bears relevance to a recent law passed in Tennessee:

A new Tennessee law makes it a crime to “transmit or display an image” online that is likely to “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress” to someone who sees it. Violations can get you almost a year in jail time or up to $2500 in fines…

The new legislation adds images to the list of communications that can trigger criminal liability. But for image postings, the “emotionally distressed” individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court decides you “should have known” that an image you posted would be upsetting to someone who sees it, you could face months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

I say this bears relevance to the law in New Jersey because of the second reason I’m posting this. Some random scrotebag on a friend’s Facebook wall thinks the two laws are equally or nearly as bad as each other. It’s obvious this person is an idiot. The law in New Jersey protects individuals from systematic harassment. The law in Tennessee prevents people from posting offensive images. There really is no comparison. Opposition to one is a macho-bullshit exercise in chest-thumping for the small dicked whereas opposition to the other is premised in the U.S. constitution:

If you’re posting…say, pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group [then you’ve violated this law]…Pretty clearly unconstitutional, it seems to me.

It’s inane to me that people who can’t make such simple distinctions manage to dress themselves in the morning.

Media failings

The mainstream media often fails us. It isn’t because it’s THE CRAZY LEFT-WING OMG OMG OMG!!1!!. It’s because it sucks. The people running the media care about superficial things. What’s Britney doing today? Why are Angelina and Jennifer fighting? What in the fuck have we said these people’s name so much that we’re on a first-name basis?

Well, of course, it comes as no surprise that the worst of the news outlets, FOX, is trying to blame a typo on a vast liberal conspiracy.

Who was this ballot cast for?

Ballot

Norm Coleman, right?

No, this is not a trick question. Unless your name is John Lott, Jr., Ph.D. and you just published an analysis at FoxNews.com.

So where did Lott get the idea that the vote had been counted for Franken? Apparently from the Star Tribune’s website, which had it listed it that way. The Star Tribune, keeping an unofficial tally of more than 6,000 challenged ballots, apparently made a boo-boo.

This possibility appears not to have crossed Lott’s mind. Faced with two alternatives…

1. The Canvassing Board somehow determined that this was a Franken ballot;
2. The Star Tribune screwed up.

…Lott took Occam’s Razor and cut himself with it, and concluded that the former must be true, using it as his primary piece of evidence to allege the recount was slanted in Al Franken’s favor. The ballot is now featured prominently on the front page of the FoxNews.com website:

FOX

So, we all expect FOX News to be filled with a bunch of stupid fuck-ups. That’s their thing. But how about EVERYONE else?

This is happening right now, here in the United States. Yesterday, a retaining wall failed, and 500 million gallons of coal ash — the vile grey slime in the video — poured down into the tributaries of the Tennessee River, the water supply for Chattannooga and environs.

We’re looking at a major environmental catastrophe, bigger than any oil spill, and most of the news media are silent about it. I checked CNN, MS-NBC, even Fox News…not a word. The local newspapers have a few articles, and the regional blogs are trying to follow it, but otherwise, I guess we’re going to pretend it didn’t happen.

I just did my own search through Yahoo! News and came up with an astounding 27 results. Except for Scientific American and The Huffington Post, all the results are from local sources. In fact, after the first page of 10 results, there is only one more result which has anything to actually do with this event, bringing the total to 11 sources, 9 of which are local. A search of “Britney” provided 5,190 absolutely ridiculous results. Presumably, a large portion of those go to Britney Spears (4,040 come up when I search her full name).