Protect us all, or let it be

Since the Supreme Court affirmed that the execrable calumny produced by Fred Phelps’ clan (Westboro Baptist Church) is protected speech, Congress is considering passing laws that would expand the exclusion zones of time and space around military funerals. Unfortunately, I think this is a bad move on many levels, most of all because Congress should either protect all funerals or acknowledge that enduring some truly vile speech is the price we pay for freedom of speech.

My partner got into a passionate discussion with someone the other day because the other guy was insisting that members of the military are extra-special, better people, overall, than non-military. My spouse, who has made his career in the military, disagreed. He doesn’t think he’s anything special, and certainly not a better person than non-military people. He also knows first-hand that people in the military are a lot like any other kinds of people: they screw up and do bad things. Honor is something they strive for, not something that automatically accrues to them when they join.

I said afterwards that the other guy was trying to express a deeply-felt sentiment (mostly gratitude) but that he kept translating the depth of his feeling into hyperbole, but not realizing the difference between his hyperbole (with respect to the facts) and his feelings. Regardless, it deeply disturbed my partner because he does not want to see the country put the military on a pedestal to the point where that attitude could destabilize our democracy.

This potential law is an example of that kind of attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad most citizens have learned to separate their feelings about the members of the military from their feelings about the national policy those members are enacting. But my partner is right that perpetuating the idea that the military is sacrosanct is dangerous.

If I saw this sort of legislation being sought to protect the funerals of high-profile QUILTBAG people* (which are the Phelpses’ other favorite target), I would still be concerned about it as a potentially unconstitutional limitation on free speech. But as it is, this proposed legislation is an insult to all the other grieving families that the Phelpses target. If grieving families are worth protecting, and the speech can be limited in this way, then the law should protect us all. That’s what the military lives and dies for.

*QUILTBAG is an acronym that arose on The Slacktiverse’s comment threads. It’s intended to capture the alphabet soup of the ever expanding GLBT… acronym. It means Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transsexual/Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, and Gay.

Protected speech: Ur doin it rong.

Slacktivist recently argued that

If [groups spouting anti-gay diatribes] have been arguing in good faith all along, then they will be gladdened by yesterday’s decision. They will be happy to learn that they need not fear any abridgment of their rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion just because they believe that homosexuality is a sin. They will be joyously and genuinely relieved to see this confirmed, unambiguously, by the highest court in the land. And they will stop making this argument, stop spinning scary scenarios of pastors getting arrested by the Gay Police, stop arguing that legal protections for others must entail a loss of legal protections for them.

But I don’t think they will stop making this argument.

News today shows that Slacktivist was half right. Notably execrable anti-gay bigot Bryan Fischer said that while he disagreed with the ruling, he was glad that because Phelps’ speech is allowed, “it certainly must be okay for students in a classroom, for public officials, and for radio talk show hosts to express reasoned and rational criticism of homosexual conduct without any kind of penalty whatsoever.”

First of all, it’s pretty rich for someone to say this when he works for an organization labeled by the SPLC as a hate group precisely because they use misinformation, distortion, and outright lies in their “rational criticism” of gays. Second, this statement looks to me like an outright declaration that Fischer intends to use the Phelps decision to continue to peddle his hateful falsehoods in support of the idea that recognizing gay rights is harmful, especially to the military. The SPLC is right, and Fischer cannot be arguing in good faith. He’s right that his freedom of speech is protected, but he is doing it wrong.

Creeps and Shariah

A perfect and perfectly horrifying example has emerged of what I was talking about when I said that the American Religious Right is in favor of their own version of the religious laws they pretend to defend us against. CBS journalist Lara Logan was assaulted in Egypt, and a lot of the response is about her looks and whether she should be a journalist, especially in dangerous places. It’s truly evil.

Let’s have just a quick refresher, shall we?

You show me a Christian Dominionist and I’ll show you the American Taliban.

Witches’ Pyramid in action: Ban large handgun magazines

After I wrote about how the Witches’ Pyramid helped me understand how to frame my response to the Arizona shootings, I’ve been working on acting in accord with my words. One of the best opportunities for doing so is to support legislation to ban large-capacity magazines for handguns. Sen. Lautenberg is working with Rep. McCarthy on such a ban. I urge you to write your Senators and Representative to support this legislation. Detailed discussion, including a sample letter to Congresspersons, is below the fold. Read more

News flash: Ending DADT will be a non-event

Fox News uses “Fair and Balanced” as its tagline. What Fox really means by that is “Since all the media except us have a liberal bias, we need to be extremely conservative in order to balance them out. It’s only fair!” In keeping with that policy, Fox has declined to sell ad time to show the following ad:

Transcript below the fold.

Read more

Possible evidence for precognition?

A paper is about to be published in a peer-reviewed journal that shows possible evidence for precognition. Rather than pursuing the usual parapsychology tests for psi effects, such as Zener cards, psychologist Daryl Bem has taken some standard psychology experiments and run them backwards. For example, when people are “primed” by being subliminally exposed to a particular word, that affects how quickly or slowly they react to subsequent stimuli. Bem showed volunteers the stimuli first, and then did the priming – and still got a correlation greater than chance. More details at New Scientist.

Let me be clear: this is not divination in any sense that Wiccans practice. But it is evidence for something that defies the reasoning skeptics use to insist that divination is impossible. In fact, it’s pretty stunning evidence! For those not active in the academic community, it’s hard to express how amazing this is – it’s as big as the impact in the news media when the first blogger got White House press credentials. This is the big time, the show, the mainstream.

I’m sure we’ll all wait with bated breath – and plenty of predictions of our own – for news of attempts to replicate these experiments.

Order of the Pentacle News from Circle Sanctuary

On Sunday, October 31, 2010, a memorial was held for Pagan Navy veteran Bruce Kirk Parsons at Circle Cemetery, located at Circle Sanctuary headquarters near Barneveld, Wisconsin.

Several members of the Order of the Pentacle assisted Selena Fox, high priestess of Circle Sanctuary, in conducting the rite, which included cremains scattering & interment as well as the dedication of his VA-issued pentacle grave marker.His marker
is the 8th VA-issued pentacle marker at Circle Cemetery.

The ceremony was held as part of a pubic dedication of the newly expanded Circle Cemetery.

Photos and an article about the memorial are in the November 1, 2010 issue of the Wisconsin State Journal.

More information about Circle Cemetery:

In Memoriam: Bruce Parsons photos & tributes: