It's Time To Renew Your ACLU Membership

I was reminded the other day by a commercial on 1050-AM WZAA to renew my ACLU membership. Here’s a little something that might remind readers of KIAV:

The actions of a Kentucky high school football coach have been questioned after he took nearly two dozen players on a field trip to an evangelist church service where nearly half the kids were baptized.

Breckinridge County High School Coach Scott Mooney last month used a public school bus to transport the kids approximately 35 miles but arranged for a volunteer driver and promised to pay for the gas himself, according to Superintendent Janet Meeks, who attended the service and witnessed the baptisms of her public school students.

“It was completely voluntary,” Meeks told ABCNews.com, noting that of the team’s 46 players, about 20 elected to go on the trip. Of those attendees, nine were baptized.

“They didn’t get anything for attending,” she said. “They didn’t get anything for not attending.”

The mothers of one of the baptized boys has said publicly that she was upset to learn her son had been baptized without her consent on a trip sponsored by a public school employee.

“Nobody should push their faith on anybody else,” Michelle Ammons told the Louisville Courier-Journal.” They have no right to take my son on a school bus across county lines to a church to be baptized.”

But Meeks said that Ammons was the only parent to express disatisfaction with the trip. A couple of parents were in church at the time of the service.

The purpose of the outing was to see noted evangelist Ronnie Hill, and that was seemingly known to every parent but Ammons, Meeks said. Since the trip, school officials have spoken with Ammons in an effort to rectify the situation, but Ammons told the Courier-Journal that she is considering legal action.

Mooney, the school’s coach for the last few years, she said, “talked with the kids a few times about what the trip invoved.”

Mooney did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages.

No permission slips were issued, she said, because “it wasn’t considered a school-sponsored event.”

Bill Sharp, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said the trip seemed to violate the Supreme Court’s separation of church and state clause, especially since the coach likely discussed the trip with students during practices.

“The message conveyed to the students is there’s an official endorsement,” Sharp told ABCNews.com.

“There’s certainly a coersive element,” he said. “He’s in a position of authority.”

I hope the school and the coach get sued out the ass.

Quoth

Nothing is more evident than that religion is ever a matter between God and individuals; and therefore, no man or men can impose any religious test without invading the essential prerogatives of our Lord Jesus Christ.

—Rev. Isaaac Backus

(From “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism” by Susan Jacoby.)

What's Really Wrong With Health Care

Today is a busy day. First, I have to properly diagnose the health care issue since nobody in the punditocracy is doing it correctly. Second, I owe a big Johnny Cash welcome to Concerned Women for America.

First. I watched The Ed Show eagerly last night, and Ed dealt with it pretty well. They talked about the exclusion of single-payer advocates from recent congressional hearings. They talked about single-payer and its benefits and its foibles. They talked about a public system. But they didn’t address the real issue with health care.

The real issue with health care is that coverage is tethered to a full-time job. Fix that, and you might have something.

Here. Read it in Slate. (In fact, read the entire article. It’s a good history.)

The success of the Blues persuaded commercial insurers, who initially considered medicine an unpromising market, to enter the field. Private insurers accelerated these efforts in the 1940s when businesses, seeking ways to get around wartime wage controls, began to compete for labor by offering health insurance. If government regulators had thought to freeze fringe benefits along with wages, we might have avoided making the workplace primarily responsible for supplying health insurance, a role that most people now agree was ill-advised.

America is supposed to be a nation of free-market entrepreneurial daredevils, a place where somebody with enough acumen can turn a lemonade stand into a million bucks. But that’s not a reality in this America, which has become a virtual feudal state thanks mostly in part to the practice of tethering health coverage to a 40-hour-per-week vocation. I for one think the best way to address this problem and to stone the other bird of an increasingly bankrupt system is to expand Medicare coverage and allow it to compete with these corporate insurance a-holes. However, I don’t really give a crap how it’s done. Just find a way for people to get coverage apart from a full-time job without paying double or triple via COBRA, and you’ll really have something, including a more entrepreneurial America, an easier time for folks who are now just pre-retirement or who are considering semi-retirement, and a population not in danger of getting thrown out of coverage in the event of an economic downturn. Divorce health coverage from full employment. Period. There’s your health care reform right there.

Now. On to the Concerned Women for America, who for my money has the worst made-up NGO name in Washington. Are you women who are concerned for America, or are you concerned women who are generally in favor of America? Which is it, you idiots? Which?

Anyway, regardless. Let’s give these morons a big Johnny Cash welcome, shall we?

See, the CWA didn’t like the way President Obama recognized the “National Day of Prayer” yesterday because he recognized it like every Preznit prior to the Immediate Past and Utter Failure Dickwad did: He signed a proclamation—which is really more than any Preznit ought to do at all—instead of patronizing the day by inviting all kinds of Jesus freaks to the White House and kissing their fat, (generally) white asses, as did the Torturer in Chief. Here. Why don’t we let the Corporate News Network explain it to you.

Nah. Let’s let Rachel Maddow and Rev. Gaddy tell you instead.

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

This “Concerned Women for America” may be the most misguided, foolish, assclown NGO in D.C. May their poop come to life and give them a kiss.

Happy Easter

Wishing my Christian friends and neighbors a glorious day today. I for one have always wondered why the whole resurrection business hasn’t seemed to take into account a perfectly logical explanation, that Jesus had a twin brother. But what do I know.

I did want to note that the Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm is an incredible success. Congratulations to its organizers on an event that has inspired terrific participation. It is worth sitting down on this fine Easter Sunday to read some of the posts and to participate in the discussion via comments. And I think I will leave my link to it up for the duration because it is such a good opportunity to learn about other fine blogs out there.

Outvocation

I have previously mentioned my Uncle Bonk who used to be my Auntie. He is married to a lovely young woman the family adores, and they make their home in the handsome midwest. I always love to watch straight and uninitiated people try to figure that shit out.

“But wait,” they say, wrinkling their noses. “‘His’ wife is a lesbian? That means she likes women, right? Then why’s she with a woman who looks like a dude? Why not just go with a dude?” Then their heads explode and fireworks and monkeys shoot out, and the monkeys scream and jump around and throw their own poop. You should see it. It’s awesome.

Here, fellow straight people. Let me sort it out for you.

When people are becoming aware of their most basic identifying traits, they learn three things about themselves. They discover what kind of naughty parts they have. They learn what gender they are. And, they figure out if they want to grope males or females. For straight people, these three aspects all happen to line up all in a row. So we commit a gigantic post hoc ergo propter hoc, and that post hoc delves a large, central brain ridge with the assumption that our genitals dictate our gender identification and that those dictate our sexual preference, and we put a nice pretty little bow on that and we stick it under the I’m-Straight-So-Life-Is-Nice Tree.

In truth, though, or at least by my theory, it is profound ambivalence, not the nice neat lines that the straight of us have to work with, that is the natural order of things. The truth is that these three human aspects are separate issues. One’s junk doesn’t determine anything but one’s junk. Gender I.D. and sexual preference are arrived at independently. Don’t think so? What the hell else explains how I know a F-M transgendered person who still likes boys?

(Do not expend too much effort on that last sentence at once. I don’t want to cause any more spontaneous cranial explosions than I absolutely have to.)

This is why many straight people have such difficulty understanding and accepting homosexuality. We assume that A leads to B leads to C, but it just doesn’t. Just because you’ve got an outie doesn’t mean you’re a man, and just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you feel like cozying up to a lady. Sit alone with this idea for a little bit, and it might just explain a thing or two.

This is why a guy like Rick Warren and his ilk sound so utterly ignorant to me, when they compare homosexuality to goat-fucking and pedophelia. And, certainly, this marks my first disagreement with the President-Elect, who is having “Pastor” Warren deliver the inauguration invocation.

This is a bad idea. If it’s meant to appease the religious goofies, it won’t. Remember, Bill Clinton’s invocation was led by Billy Graham, whose ground troops spent the next eight years sniping at him from the stands. You cannot appease these people. You cannot appease these people because they are people who will not rest until we pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. All this will accomplish is to piss off the folks who hit the streets and the dial tones for him in October.

Which brings me to this: It’s not just Warren’s astounding pronouncements about homosexuality that renders him unqualfied for the job. It’s his statement that those who “do not believe” are not qualified to serve in public office. That probably qualifies him even less than his biggotry of homosexuals. The man is an admitted theocrat, and theocrats make up a tremendous bulk of the scourge that has ruined this country.

Besides, it is time now to dispense with the notion that all American Christians are politically conservative whackos. Believe it or not, some Christians actually voted for Barack Obama! In this entire world, Barack, you can’t find a Pastor who doesn’t equate a gay person to a goat-fucker? You don’t need to go far, sir, to find a tolerant, progressive church. You really don’t.

Look, I understand that President Obama isn’t going to be able to govern from the hard-core left, and I don’t even think that he gave any indication that he intended to try. I do, however, think that Obama did promise to bring back a certain level of civility and respect to public discourse. In other words, I know he didn’t promise to get out in front on gay marriage, in fact, he said quite plainly that he’s more of a “civil unions” guy. But I think he did promise to be the kind of President who wouldn’t point and laugh and yell “fag.” That is essentially what this pick does, and it is entirely the wrong foot from which to step first.

Putting Eyebrows On It

For my first official Zappadan entry, I must confess that Frank Zappa is directly responsible for the creation of the Ketchup Is A Vegetable blog.

Zappa fans will know exactly to what I refer. Their minds will automatically jump to Zappa’s throwaway line on “When the Lie’s So Big” on Broadway the Hard Way. It is that line, when Frank throws out the reference to the now infamous Stockman scheme, that was stuck in my head and that forced me to the registrar’s Web site to see if “ketchupisavegetable.com”—later abbreviated to kiav.net—was available. Many of our categories are as well inspired by Frank, as is at least half of everything I do.

Zappa is this much to many people, I am sure. It is why they started Zappadan, which I now understand to be a blogswarm that starts on the date of Zappa’s death and ends on the date of his birth. I hope this growing community will accept KIAV as a very enthusiastic participant. A bit about me and Frank Zappa: I am a second-generation freak.

Papa Bonk used to play Freak Out when I was like three years old. It scared the hell out of me. When you’re that age, there is nothing scarier than “Who Are The Brain Police.” Nothing. And I grew up as a child staring for hours at those album covers. Who are these people with all the hair? Why are they wearing bandanas? And why in shit are they wearing dresses?

Frank Zappa is at the top of my short list of heroes. He was, for many reasons, one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century, and that is not merely hyperbole. It is a fact. He was a prolific composer. He was funny, smart, and compelling. He was an absurdist genius. He was a unique and gifted guitarist. He had the best facial hair in the universe. He was the Head Freak. And, while I know that Frank Zappa considered himself a conservative of sorts (a “practical conservative”), he did rail against the goose-stepping ways of the Ray-gunner and the pompous Jesus-heads who supported him. Zappa certainly did share the vision of America that I have and that I think a lot of other liberal folks have. He said this of his children in his testimony at the PMRC hearings:

I want them to grow up in a country where they can think what they want to think, be what they want to be, and not what somebody’s wife or somebody in Government makes them be.

I don’t know if that’s conservatism or liberalism necessarily. But it is American.

Zappa saw it coming long before anyone else, saw the neo-cons marching up the square. I’ve referred to it at KIAV before, his jaw-dropping appearance on Crossfire. Zappa refers to our burgeoning fascist theocracy at at about 10:10. (John Lofton resorts to Reductio ad Hitlerum at 15:56. Update: As he has now just done again in the KIAV comments box. Thanks, John!)

Freak Out is an anthemic wonder, both spoof and tribute to Frank’s beloved doo-wop, both strong political statement and da-da masterpiece. For me, especially at about age 21, Freak Out was one of the most inspiring statements I’d ever experienced. It got me through.

History will be kind to Frank Zappa; it will eventually accord him the greatness he was. Because I do not know how to otherwise end this entry, I will end it with my very favorite Zappa quote of all time.

The most important thing in art is the frame. You have to put a “box” around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?

P.S. Here are the kids who are down with the Zappadan, according to The Aristocrats.

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Dear Sen. Dole,

I am writing you as a proud American, a former resident of your beautiful state, and as an atheist. Well. I prefer “Bright,” but you may not be familiar with the term.

I have just viewed your campaign ad accusing your opponent of being associated with the Godless Americans Political Action Committee. It is a despicable ad, and you have lowered yourself as a political candidate and as a person by approving it.

There are, believe it or not, Americans who do not profess any particular regligious faith. Some of them reside in North Carolina, as I did in the late ’90s. I do understand that I was among a slim minority. But I also understand that, under the purvue of the United States Consitution, my faith is just as protected as is yours.

As such, there is nothing sinister about a Political Action Committee that advocates for those interests in Washington. America has of late become a much more hostile place for Brights and to the more general idea of the secular commons, a construction that is actually necessary to defend the right of every American to worship freely. The day that we become a theocracy, Sen. Dole, the day that we are beholden to a state-sponsored religion, is the day that religious freedom dies. GAMPAC doesn’t merely advocate for heathens. They advocate for a continued, proud tradition and history of a truly free nation.

Your handlers’ defense of the spot just makes it worse. Comparing this attack to Kay Hagan’s assertion that you have oil interests in your corner—whether Hagan’s charge is truthful or not—is scummy. Questioning your connections to oil interests is not the same thing as untruthfully painting your opponent as a wanton nonbeliever in the Bible belt’s buckle, and you know it. The former—again, truthfully or not—questions your susceptability to political influence. The latter spreads malicious lies about your opponent’s religious faith. It is disgusting.

Not to mention incendiary. When your campaign goes there, Sen. Dole, it could perhaps have the unintended effect of electrifying the reptile brains of your constituents. We were tragically reminded in July what can happen when just one man brands a secular congregation as a scapegoat. Do you really want a Knoxville to happen in the Tar Heel State? How would you feel if it did, knowing full well that your ad may have provided the spark?

Until now, I have considered you to be a New Republican, as one of those of your party who might actually be capable of “reaching across the aisle,” as they say, someone who might be able to help lead us out of this mess after in the post-Bush era. You initially came to your seat eschewing the questionable, race-baiting tactics of your predecessor. But, I reckon the chips are down right now, so, what the heck? Bring on the crusades!

I will be sending your opponent a few dollars. It won’t be much, but I hope it helps. I will also be sending some money to GAMPAC. I should thank you because before this flap, I did not know that such a PAC even existed!

I wish you a happy, productive retirement. God bless you.

Sincerely,
Brady Bonk

Gravity!

Steven Pinker in The Atlantic swears about cursing. I find this interesting. I myself am a long-time strident vulgarian; I think that people speak using such language because it is useful, and there are few words I consider taboo. However. I do try, usually unsuccessfully, to weed out the curses that refer to an imaginary deity in the sky. It’s kind of disingenuous, isn’t it, for a Bright to say “God damn it?”

I have found a suitable substitute, one I do hope will catch on. It is useful because it is actually more to the point: This curse refers to the force that is more times than not actually the cause of the problem. The curse is “gravity!”

Think about it. You drop your keys on the ground, why do you say “God damn it?” God didn’t force your keys to the ground. Gravity did. Something falls on your toe, you fall on your ass, you spill your beer. More often than not, the thing you’re cursing about is actually caused by gravity. If you are not inclined to perceive the world in supernatural terms, why not employ a curse that is actually in line with that world view, one that carries the added bonus of actually striking out at the very force that has caused your predicament?