Disorganized Post-Election Thoughts

1. Fuck. Seriously, what the fuck?

I realize this is a very widely-held opinion,  it today, I am not particularly contrarian.

2. Corollary: how did everyone manage to get this wrong? Polls, pundits, prognosticators all had Clinton in the lead, and comfortably so. Unless there were shenanigans, they all got it wrong in a failure of Dewey-defeats-Truman-es que proportions. And I haven’t seen any obvious signs of unforeseen shenanigans.

3. Could there have ban shenanigans? Could Anonymous or someone have rigged the election? I suppose anything’s possible, and I’m sure people will be looking into this possibility in the coming days, but it doesn’t feel like it.

Rather, this feels like a systemic mistake everyone made. Like underestimating how many bigots would come out to vote for one of their own.

4. In a way, this is understandable, because even though Trump’s an unabashed bigot and sexist who’s broken many of the rules everyone took for granted, surely some ground rules must still hold, right? Like, having a GOTV operation to get your voters to the poll helps you, and not having one hurts you, right?

And for this reason, I can’t really resent the people who voted for third-party candidates and handed Trump victory in races that turned out to be closer than expected. They probably didn’t think they were really going to change anything, and neither did any of the rest of us.

5. Looking forward, it’s possible that the Trump regime won’t be as bad as we fear. For as much as he’s talked about setting up horrible policies, he’s not Hitler. He’s not enough of an ideologue for that. He’s just in it for the attention and the glory.

Of course, that means that we need to start worrying about what de facto policymaker Mike Pence is going to do.

6. And related to point 5, since the Republican party is going to be in control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress, whatever happens over the next two to four years, they’re going to own it. If it turns out to be good, then great, although given recent history, I have low hopes for the Republican party.

But if it turns to shit, don’t let them forget it.

7. And as a follow-up, dust off your activism handbooks, because we’re going to need them. I’m not advocating an intransigent obstructionism like what Republicans have been inflicting on Obama for the past eight years. Oppose bad ideas, not Republican ideas.

8. Finally, no, I don’t have any uplifting parting thoughts, or even a picture of a kitten. Come back later.

Is Peeing A Sacrament?

Erick Erickson has an article with the sensational headline, “State of Iowa Says Churches Must Let Men Use the Women’s Bathroom” (retweeted by the lachrymose Glenn Beck). ZOMG! The big bad government is sending legions of men in dresses to diddle your children in your very churches! And they’re not Catholic priests, even! Be afraid!

The government FAQ linked to says,

DOES THIS LAW APPLY TO CHURCHES?

Sometimes. Iowa law provides that these protections do not apply to religious institutions with respect to any religion-based qualifications when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose. Where qualifications are not related to a bona fide religious purpose, churches are still subject to the law’s provisions. (e.g. a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public).

This, of course, raises the question of what consitutes a “bona fide religious purpose”. Erickson spends some time talking about cases about who is and isn’t a minister, then admitting that no church has actually been, you know, oppressed, before reminding you to stay scared of creeping liberalism and impending tyranny.

But I still want an answer to the question: what’s a bona fide religious purpose for a bathroom, even in a church? Is peeing a sacrament? I know that the Bible includes the phrase “he that pisseth against the wall”, but it just seems to mean “man and boy”. There’s 2 Kings 18:27 (note to Donald Trump: that’s pronounced “second Kings”, not “two kings”):

But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?

But not only doesn’t this sound like an exhortation for good Christians to emulate, they’re not even using a bathroom.

Obviously, maybe some church has a religious ritual for peeing, one that’s not found in the Bible. But in that case, I want to see the church in question explain itself.

“Guns Don’t Kill People”

A story from the Associated Press tells of a clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Sacramento (emphasis added):

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A white nationalist group’s rally outside the California state Capitol building turned violent as fighting broke out with a larger group of counter protesters, leaving 10 people injured with stab wounds, cuts and bruises.

Fights erupted when about 30 members of the Traditionalist Worker Party gathering to rally around noon Sunday were met by about 400 counter-protesters, California Highway Patrol Officer George Granada said. [&hellip]

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Chris Harvey said nine men and one woman, ranging from 19 to 58 years old, were treated for stab wounds, cuts, scrapes and bruises. Of the injured, two were taken to the hospital with critical stab wounds, but they were expected to survive.

The thing that leapt out at me is that in a country where we keep having mass shooting after mass shooting, week after week after blood-soaked week, to the point where most of them don’t even make the news, this clash, which sounds like a 400-person brawl, didn’t kill anyone.

The other thing that’s missing from the reporting: guns.

So yeah, people are stupid and violent, and if they don’t have guns, will find other ways of killing each other — after all, we did it for thousands of years before the invention of gunpowder — but guns make it so much easier.

Let’s not make it any easier to kill our fellow humans than it has to be, okay?

I Should Have Known the Pope Wasn’t Going to Change Policy

The news today mentioned that Pope Francis I had okayed contraception for women in Zika-struck areas. Yay, liberal hippie pope! My complaint since the beginning of his tenure is that while he gives good press conference, that’s all he does: he hasn’t changed the church’s policy, and that’s the real problem.

At least so far, the Catholic church has been opposed to both contraception and abortion; Catholic hospitals don’t provide contraceptives when they have a choice, the previous pope famously told Africans that condoms make the AIDS crisis worse. Claims that contraceptives cause abortions. So against that backdrop, saying that contraception ≠ abortion is a step in the right direction, no?

Except, well, maybe not so much: according to AP,

Abortion “is an evil in and of itself, but it is not a religious evil at its root, no? It’s a human evil,” Francis told reporters. “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one (Zika), such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”

That’s a reference to a document from 1968 in which that okayed contraception for nuns in the Congo who were being raped.

In other words, Francis still isn’t changing policy. He’s just reaffirming Catholic policy from fifty years ago, policy that’s slightly less dogmatic than the way it’s usually portrayed.

U.N. officials have called on Latin American countries to loosen their abortion laws to allow women to terminate pregnancies if they fear the fetus may be at risk for microcephaly, a rare birth defect that causes brain damage and may be linked to the virus.

But Francis told reporters, “Taking one life to save another, that’s what the Mafia does. It’s a crime. It’s an absolute evil.”

So if you’ve found out that your fetus will likely never develop normal brain function; or if you have an ectopic pregnancy; and decide to abort, well, then apparently that makes you just like the Mafia.

After Scalia

You’ve probably heard that Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away of natural causes a few days ago. I wish his friends and family solace in this difficult time.

But setting that aside, I’m glad he’s off the court. From Lawrence v. Texas to Obergefell v. Hodges to many others, he did more to fight the advance of civil rights in this country than anyone else on the court, or indeed anyone else I can think of.

And now, of course, there’s a storm of speculation in the opiniosphere: will Obama nominate a replacement? (Yes. That’s his job.) Should he leave it to the next president? (No, that would be not doing his job.)

Will the Senate block his nominee? Yes. That’s what this Congress does: block Obama. Isn’t there a tradition of not nominating SCOTUS replacements in an election year? No, that’s just something Republican senators made up so they wouldn’t have to do their job.

Will Obama nominate a liberal, or a moderate? Will Mitch McConnell refuse to let the issue come to the floor? Those are interesting questions, and the pundits are applying the full force of their three-dimensional-chess-playing brains to them, because there are so many interesting ways this could go, so many ways the actors could position themselves. Obama gets to pick a nominee. The Senate can drag its feet on the confirmation. But the longer the position isn’t filled, the more pressure there will be on the Senate to do so. And it could be a big issue in October, at the height of election season.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. But one thing I’m fairly certain of: Scalia’s replacement will be more liberal than him. He or she would pretty much have to be, unless Obama somehow nominates Bryan Fischer or the reanimated corpse of Atilla the Hun.

And that in turn means that some number of cases that would have been 5-4 decisions with Scalia’s vote will become 5-4 the other way. And maybe this country can move forward.

BillDo Has A Totally Practical Solution to Zika

Looks like it’s time for another edition of Bill Donohue Is A Terrible Person.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commented on the current Zika epidemic:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday, adding that laws and policies that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services in contravention of international standards, must be repealed and concrete steps must be taken so that women have the information, support and services they require to exercise their rights to determine whether and when they become pregnant.

So if women get to decide when they get pregnant, there’ll be fewer pregnant women with Zika, and thus fewer kids with microcephaly. Does that sound pretty reasonable to you? Yes? Well, that’s because you’re not a frothing anti-contraception dogmatist like BillDo.

The way he sees it (emphasis emphatically added):

Zeid wants restrictive abortion laws repealed. More than that, he is fuming over the notion that women are in charge of their bodies. They are not. Moreover, he smirks at the advice that women should delay getting pregnant. According to the High Commissioner such advice “ignores the reality that many women and girls simply cannot exercise control over whether or when or under what circumstances they become pregnant, especially in an environment where sexual violence is so common.”

Okay, back up to that “They are not” for a moment. Is that poor phrasing, or did Bill just say that women are not in charge of their bodies? And if the latter, is it safe to assume he means something abstract and nebulous like “all our bodies ultimately belong to Baby Jesus, and we’re just caretakers”, rather than a more concrete bit of horribleness like “men get to decide whether women get and stay pregnant”? (I mean, we know he endorses the “stay” part of that, but I don’t know to what extent he’s willing to say so out loud.)

Be that as it may, he continues:

Here’s some advice for Zeid. Number one, girls should not be getting pregnant, and it is his job to say so.

Okay so far. I’m curious to know how BillDo proposes to enable them to make this choice.

Second, women are not the powerless wimps that he says they are: they can, in almost all circumstances, control when to have sex and with whom.

Yes. In almost all circumstances (let’s say over 95%), women decide when and whether to have sex. The other cases are called rape.

Third, he needs to man-up and name those Latin American nations (those were the ones he was addressing) where rape is commonplace.

Oh, Jesus Mary-fucking Christ on a consecrated cracker! Is this really that hard to look up in the age of Google and Wikipedia? Here’s a chart of rape rates in Latin America. And here’s Wikipedia’s section on rape in Brazil, one of the countries currently worst-hit by Zika.

Whichever way you slice it, we’re talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of women whom BillDo dismisses with a wave of his in-almost-all-circumstances, women far more alive and breathing than the virgin Mary, the only woman he seems willing to protect.

Fourth, killing innocent persons is never a morally acceptable remedy for any disease. Fifth, he ought to be policing the U.N. instead of lecturing us about the wonders of abortion

For some reason, BillDo doesn’t mention that the document he’s complaining about isn’t a paean to abortion, but rather talks in more general terms about letting women control their bodies, including sex ed, medical services, and contraception, as well as (and preferably before) abortion.

But I guess none of that matters, because when women use contraception instead of abstinence, it makes Baby Jesus cry.

Still, I’d like to end on a positive note by treating Bill better than he would half the human population, and allow him to choose for himself whether or not to choke on a barrel of contraceptive jelly.

R.I.P. David Bowie

David Bowie has died at the age of 69, of cancer. You may remember him as the guy who changed the direction of rock six or seven times.

I wish I had something clever to say here, but I don’t, so just read the AP’s retrospective (or Wikipedia‘s, if you’re reading this in a dystopian future where the AP’s links have gone dead) while listening to Moonage Daydream:

Young Americans Are Finally Figuring out Evolution

According to Slate, a Pew Research poll has found that a bare majority of millennials accept evolution as described by scientists. This is in contrast to findings from the last few decades, that a significant number of Americans favor a magic-based or -friendly explanation of where human beings came from. Oddly enough, this seems to go hand in hand with the fact that young people are increasingly non-religious. Go figure.

Vatican Values

From AP and the Washington Post, the latest on the Vatileaks story (that I mentioned earlier)

MILAN — A Vatican judge on Saturday indicted five people, including two journalists and a high-ranking Vatican monsignor, in a scandal involving leaked documents that informed two books alleging financial malfeasance in the Roman Catholic church bureaucracy.

I’m surprised at how quickly the Catholic church is moving in this case. I mean, the alleged crimes occurred less than twenty years ago!

I guess the lesson here is that it’s okay to rape kids; it’s okay to be a Nazi. But don’t you dare talk about the Vatican’s finances.