Thomas Galvin
Purveyor of Fine Pulp Fiction

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One of the justifications for the tanks, armored personnel carriers, riot gear, and assault weapons currently employed by our police departments is the fact that being a police officer is so dangerous. Every time you pin on the badge, they say, you’re risking your life.

That is, to an extent, true. Let’s set aside the fact that this could largely be eliminated by ending the drug war, and focus on just how dangerous being an officer of the law is.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 15 out of every 100,000 police officers die on the job every year. That’s 0.015%, annually, or about equal to the number of maintenance and repair workers who die on the job every year.

Yes, the maytag man also takes his life into his own hands every time he slips into his coveralls.

It’s even worse for garbage men, who die at more than twice the rate of police officers, with 32.3 out of every 100,000 dying on the job each year.

Fishing, apparently, is an unrelenting horror of death and tuna. 120.8 fishers out of every 100,000 die on th ejob each year. Deadliest catch, indeed.

But the “winner,” if you can call it that, is the logging industry. Almost 130 out of every 100,000 loggers die on the job annually. I think it’s high time we arm our brave loggers and lumberjacks, time we gave them the tools they need to protect themselves from the scourge of old growth forests.

In conservative areas, it’s all the rage to build a monument to the Ten Commandments on government property. This doesn’t violate the separation of church and state, they lie, because it’s funded with private donations, and any other religion would toooootally be welcome to set up their own monument.


And anyway, America is a Christian nation! The Ten Commandments are the foundation of our democracy!

Or are they? Let’s take a look and see just how well the Commandments underly our American legal system.

1: I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt have no other gods before me

Well, we’re already off to a bad start. The First Amendment explicitly prohibits this from being codified into American law. Not only is this not a foundational idea of our nation, it’s expressly illegal.

2: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

A graven image of President Lincoln

A graven image of some old, dead white guys

A graven image of the anthropomorphic realization of lLiberty

Uh huh.

3: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

The First Amendment also prohibits this from becoming law. You can say “God,” “YHWH,” “Jehova,” “Allah,” or “Xenu” all you want.

4: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

We actually used to have Blue Laws, which first prohibited all work, and later the sale of alcohol, on Sunday (which is not the Sabbath, by the way; that’s Saturday), but these have fallen out of favor as of late.

5: Honour thy father and thy mother

A nice sentiment, but still not codified into law.

6: Thou shalt not kill

We finally have a winner! We had to go more than halfway through the Ten Commandments before we found one that actually applies to modern-day America, but Thou Shalt Not Kill is a pretty reasonable rule. Of course, this isn’t unique to Judeo-Christian law, but yes, this one counts.

7: Thou shalt not commit adultery

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA), and a bevy of other moral crusaders, who just happen to be serial adulterers, are living proof that this commandment had no place in American government.

8: Thou shalt not steal

Another winner! So far, we are two for ten.

9: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour

And the hits just keep on coming! Perjury is expressly prohibited by law. Three for ten.

10: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s

This is so laughable it almost hurts. Coveting thy neighbor’s stuff is what capitalism is built on. If we followed this commandment, the US economy would collapse.

So there you have it, folks! Proof positive that the Ten Three Commandments are the cornerstone of American law! All hail Baphomet!

As I’m writing this, missiles are falling from the sky onto a place called Gaza, and about one thousand people have been killed.

Sadly, it almost seems like it’s not worth talking about. What, another armed conflict? What, more innocent civilians dying? Must be Friday.

But I don’t want to just look the other way on this, because what’s happening is terrible, and at least some of it is our fault.

Palestine is controlled by Hamas, a radical Muslim group. These people are evil, and they have murdered innocent people.

Here’s the problem. Israel? They’re kind of evil, too, and they have also murdered innocent people. It’s just that when they do it, it’s called “civilian casualties,” instead of “victims of terrorism.”

Israel has a right to defend itself, just like any other country. But I have a hard time believing that that’s what’s happening right now. The thing that started this whole conflict, the kidnapping and murder of three Isralie teenagers by Hamas? Well, it wasn’t really Hamas. This “war” is being fought on false pretenses.

Also, it isn’t really a war. This is a completely one-sided conflict. Israel destroys whatever they want, and the people of Palestine are almost completely unable to retaliate. As I’m writing this, more than one thousand Palestinians have died, and about fifty Israeli Defence Force soldiers have died. That’s twenty-to-one.

Most of the Palestinians who have died are civilians, too. Twenty-three civilians were killed by a stray shell. Israel bombed a UN-run school, killing at least fifteen. Some people are calling Isarel’s actions war crimes. Experts wonder is this is a matter of poor training, or if Israel just doesn’t care.

Hamas is evil, but the kids in that school? I doubt they were a threat. Their loved ones, though, are probably thinking about taking up arms. I mean, after your whole family is killed, what do you have left to lose? This is how terrorists are minted.

And on top of all this, America supports Israel’s actions, pretty much unquestioningly. Part of it is because of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who spend about $70 million every year lobbying for pro-Israeli policies.

But a lot of it is also due to this country’s weird religious fetish. In America, we have a small, but very vocal, minority of apocalyptic Christians, people who take the Bible literally, and believe that we are a few years away from living through the Revelation. In order for their Messiah to return, they believe, Israel must exist. Because of this, and because they believe the Jews to be “God’s chosen,” they will support Israel with a terrible fury. This sect of Christianity has a powerful degree of control over the Republican party, and over US politics in general.

And that disgusts me. The fact that we give bombs to people because some barely literate Bible thumpers think it will speed up the end of the goddamn world is the stuff of nightmares. For me, figuratively. But for the people terrified that they will die tonight, quite literally.

Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine… Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men…

It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, “I tell you what: These doggone white people” — not a word!”

-Phil Robertson, noted duck seducer

Phil? You’re fired.

-A&E (paraphrased)

So a horrible old bigot said something horrible and bigoted. Shocking, right? Except this time the horrible old bigot was also the star of the most popular TV show in the universe, A&E’s Duck Dynasty. And A&E, in an attempt to salvage the coveted gay-supporting, redneck-watching 18-45 demographic, fired him. Sorry, placed him on “indefinite suspension.”

Conservative media, of course, launched into an epic shit fit. And their arguments are, predictably, as ill-informed as their policies.

A&E is violating Phil Robertson’s First Amendment rights!

No, they aren’t. Because they can’t. The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Conservative pundits cry foul on two counts: that A&E are taking away Phil’s right to free speech, and his right to exercise his religion.

Here’s the thing: you see that first word there. “Congress?” A&E isn’t congress. They aren’t the federal government. They aren’t a state government. They aren’t even a town board. The constitution protects us from the government, not from … from whatever the fuck A&E shows. I sure as fuck don’t know.

But that brings us to the second argument:

You shouldn’t be fired for your opinions!

I agree. Completely. Your beliefs, and your religious practices, are your own, and shouldn’t affect your employment.

I’m a fairly liberal Democrat. A majority of the people I work with, including some of the people I supervise, are staunch, conservative Republicans. I give zero shits about this, because their belief in a 6,000 year old Earth or the therapeutic value of lax gun laws doesn’t do a goddamn thing to their job performance. Similarly, my contention that Marco Rubio is a semi-sentient cancer stuffed into a too-small business suit has no impact on my ability to deliver on a contract.

But I would have an issue if, during a meeting with our customers, one of them stood on table and started screaming about how the darkies are going to rape all our wimmens. And they would have a problem if I pulled a customer aside and started rubbing my groin while talking about Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential prospects.

And that’s what this is about. A&E didn’t take action on Phil’s beliefs or religion, they took action on his behavior in front of the customer. Sorry, Phil, but you’re a public figure, and when you make shit-headed statements, it reflects poorly on your employer.

Of course, our conservative friends counter with:

You can’t put a redneck on TV and get upset when he says redneck things!

First, these guys are about as rednecked as I am:

Duck Dynasty cast in polo shirts

I hate to break it to you friends, but Duck Dynasty contains about as much reality as a Time Warner Cable ad.

But that’s okay, because the audience doesn’t really want to watch real rednecks. They want to watch a loveable, mockable caricature of rednecks. Duck Dynasty is a cartoon with surprisingly realistic graphics. It’s a chance for people who spend eight hours a day selling goddamn sweaters to horrible mall trolls to laugh at the crazy guys with the squirrels in their beards, and for stock brokers to pat themselves on the back for not being born in Louisiana.

People watch Duck Dynasty to have a good time, not to be confronted with real, good-old-boy bigotry.

Of course, being offended at someone’s stone-age philosophy is outrageous, because:

You have to tolerate my intolerance!

Fuck you.

No, really. Fuck you. And you know what? Fuck tolerance, too.

“Tolerance” implies that you’re giving someone permission. That you have some sort of power. Asking homophobes and racists to tolerate gay people and minorities amounts to saying “You’re right! Those gays sure are disgusting, and wow are those Mexicans lazy! But hey, can you just cut them some slack? Just tolerte them?”

Horse shit. The mere existence of gay people isn’t infringing anybody’s rights. The existence of black people doesn’t make it any less awesome to be white. These privileged, powerful, protect-the-white-man’s-world-at-all-cost assholes don’t have the right to oppress the people they hate, and asking them to tolerate their victims is fucking ridiculous.

Phil Robertson has the right to hate gays, but he doesn’t have the authority to tolerate them.

And finally, the poor, oppressed conservatives crow:

He’s not hurting anybody!

Really? How many states allow gay marriage? How many states protect you from being fired for your sexual identity?

Until the answer is “all of them,” gay people are suffering very real harm, and that’s happening because of people like Phil Robertson. And in places like Uganda, where “aggravated homosexuality” can earn you life in prison, where American evangelicals are pushing for the mother fucking death penalty for homosexuals, it’s even worse.

Phil Robertson, and people like him, are causing real harm to real people. And so is anyone who gives him a pulpit to preach from. A&E did the right thing by saying he doesn’t represent their views.

Satan at the state capitol

According to the US constitution, the Federal and State governments cannot establish an official religion. This means they can’t force you to go to Sunday school, and they can’t punish you for going to Mosque, for example. But it also means that the governments can’t show preference to one religion, either. It’s illegal for a town council to have an unending parade of Christians give the invocation while excluding speakers of other faiths.

It’s also illegal for the governments to spend money on religious activities. Like a Ten Commandments monument, for example. But some, erm, enterprising politicians have tried to do an end run around this by allowing private donors to erect religious monuments on public land. “Hey, we’re not discriminating!” they chortle. “It isn’t our fault that this billionaire Christian, who I just happen to play tennis with every week, is the only guy who could afford to set up a giant fucking statue on our completely neutral, open to anybody public lands!”

Enter the Satanic Temple of New York. Muahaha.

The Satanic Temple is raising funds to build a statue commemorating the literary Satan, which will sit right next to the statue commemorating the biblicalTen Commandments. And there’s really nothing the Oklahoma government can do about it, because they really aren’t trying to discriminate, are they? And hell, both displays honor the nation’s so-called Christian heritage, don’t they?

To be clear, most Satanists don’t actually worship the Devil. They’re atheists with a flare for the dramatic, mostly.

( via SlashDot.)

I have a lot on my mind.

Some of the worries are big. Some of them are very small. I’m trying to sell my house. I’m worried about the economy, and the Congress’ near-constant efforts to destroy it. I’m worried about teaching my dog not to eat our shoes. I’m worried about the outline for my next novel. I’m getting old enough that I’m starting to worry about my health, about taking care of myself.

But there are a lot of things I don’t have to worry about.

Even though the economy is crap right now, I have a very good job and earn a very good salary. And if this job went away? I have skills that are very employable. For people like me, people who went to college and work in a professional field, the Great Recession and the crushing unemployment rate aren’t really a thing.

Even though I can’t pull all-nighters and live on pizza and Mt. Dew anymore, I have good health insurance and a good doctor, and those two things have kept me in good health. I don’t worry about getting sick and not being able to afford getting well. I don’t worry about getting sick and being told that getting well is actually against the law.

There’s been some crime in my area recently. Drug busts, a murder not far away. But I don’t worry about someone breaking into my house and killing me. I don’t worry about the police breaking into my house and killing me. I don’t worry about being followed down a dark street and killed because of my choice in clothing.

I have a lot of worries, but there are a lot of things I will never, ever have to worry about, simply because of who and what I am.

I’m a straight, white, college educated male, and I can tell you from experience that it is fucking awesome. There are more job prospects, and those jobs are better paying. For the most part, no one is trying to legislate my health choices. No one is trying to pass laws that make it harder for me to vote. I’m not going to be shot dead because I go for my cell phone.

But there are entire classes of people for whom this is not true.

If you didn’t get to go to college, it’s far more likely that you’re out of work right now. And if you did go to college, and you had the bad luck of being born ten years or so later than me? Well, good luck with your debt and your non-paying internship.

If you’re a woman, there is a religious crusade to legislate what happens in and to your reproductive organs. Old, angry, white men, apparently, have to step in and make women’s medical choices for them, and need to correct the medical advice given by doctors. And if you dare try to exercise your constitutional rights? Well, they may have to let you, but they’re going to rape you, first … and the law will back them up, because they wrote it.

And if you’re a young black man? Well, in Florida at least, it’s now legal for an armed man to pursue you and, if you resist, for him to kill you. But if you’re a black woman who tries to use that same law? You get twenty years in jail.

Gay marriage has gotten a lot of good press lately, and the US Supreme Court has recently made some incredible strides toward marriage equality, but the fact remains that in thirty-seven of our fifty states, you cannot marry the person you love if they’re the wrong gender. You can’t be carried by their health insurance. You don’t benefit from inheritance laws. It’s possible that you won’t be allowed to be by their side when they die.

I have a lot of worries, but being a straight, white, college educated man is still fucking awesome.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” That is the founding sentiment of this nation, that is the goal we’re striving for, but we are still learning, discovering, exactly what that means.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote those words, “all men” were white, male, land owners. Over time, we looked inside of ourselves and realized that it isn’t fair to deny a man his rights because he rents an apartment. We realized that maybe having a penis isn’t a prerequisite for participation in government. We woke up to the fact that melanin isn’t a good metric by which to judge a person’s worth.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote those words, it was acceptable for one human being to own another. We believed that all men were created equal, but we didn’t know what that meant, not exactly.

We still don’t. There are still systematic, fundamental forces that make being anything other than a straight, white, college-educated male harder. Sometimes, a lot harder.

That’s what privilege is. It isn’t about being part of a secret club where we all light cigars with hundred dollar bills and plot to screw over black people. It isn’t about knowing a secret handshake that gets you a job even though a single mother was better qualified. It isn’t about you, or me, at all. It’s about all of the things we don’t have to deal with. All of the things that keep other people up at night.

So maybe, just maybe, we should have a little empathy for the people who don’t have the same privileges we do. And maybe, just maybe, we should think about how we can make them a little more equal.

I’ve been pro-gun rights my entire life. I’ve never owned a gun, but I know the basics about how to load one, aim it, and fire it, and I’m an okay shot if I take my time. And I’ve never had a problem with someone else owning them, whether it be for hunting, for recreation, or for self defense.

For years, that has been my only remaining conservative position. I’ve seen the light, so to speak, on taxes, health care, gay marriage, climate change … the list goes on and on. But I’ve consistently supported gun rights.

That changed yesterday.

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Romney/Ryan 2012

There’s been a flurry of posts on Twitter telling people that it’s illegal to Instagram their ballot. I Am Not A Lawyer, and This Is Not Legal Advice, but here are some thoughts on the matter, as it applies to New York. Here’s the relevant legal code:

§ 17-130. Misdemeanor in relation to elections. Any person who:

9. Having lawfully entered a voting booth with a voter, requests, persuades or induces such voter to vote any particular ballot or for any particular candidate, or makes or keeps any memorandum of anything occurring within the booth, or directly or indirectly, reveals to another the name of any candidate voted for by such voter; or,

10. Shows his ballot after it is prepared for voting, to any person so as to reveal the contents, or solicits a voter to show the same; or,

Number 9, “any person who … makes or keeps any memorandum of anything occurring within the booth” seems to be the thing that has most people spun up, but that doesn’t apply if it’s your own ballot. Just consider the end of the paragraph: “or directly or indirectly, reveals to another the name of any candidate voted for by such voter”. If this applied to the person casting the vote, you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone who you voted for. Clearly a violation of free speech. No, this applies to election officials who enter the voting booth with a voter, to read for them, help them work the machine, et cetera. That’s why the paragraph starts with “having lawfully entered a voting booth with a voter”.

Number 10 is more clear-cut. “Any person who shows his ballot after it is prepared for voting” means the person casting the vote, not somebody helping them. I think the intent of this is to prevent electioneering inside the polling place. They don’t want you waving your ballot around saying “this is who I voted for, and you should vote for them, too.” That is illegal to do within one-hundred feet of a polling place. Also, the law might be designed to prevent people from begin bribed for their vote, in which case preventing any photo of a ballot makes sense.

And will ballots that show up on Instagram be thrown out? I don’t see how that’s possible. There’s nothing on a ballot to tie it to a particular voter, so throwing out ballots would allow people to cancel out other people’s votes by taking a picture of their ballot. That would be punishing the victim.

Again, I Am Not a Lawyer, and This Is Not Legal Advice. There might not be anything wrong with Instagraming your own ballot, but for safety’s sake, why risk it?

One of the biggest problems conservatives have with Obamacare – other than the fact that Obama introduced it – is that it forces you to purchase something. The Supreme Court actually sided with this line or argument. The Government doesn’t have the power to force you to buy an iPad or a car, and they don’t have the power to force you to purchase health care, either.

The Supreme Court realized this is bullshit, of course, and sidestepped the issue by declaring the mandate a tax. This is fine, but I want to look at the reasoning behind “the Government can’t force me to buy something.”

That is clearly, plainly wrong. The Government has been forcing us to buy things from the very beginning. Let’s take, for example, the military. The Government forces us to buy, through our taxes, machine guns and tanks and fighter jets and bombs. The Government forced us to buy the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The Government forced us to buy those porno scanners the TSA uses at airports. You know, the ones that don’t work and might give you cancer? Yeah, we paid for those.

The Government forces us to buy a retirement plan … it’s called Social Security.

And the Government foces us to buy health care … for other people. It’s called Medicaid.

The reason we’re forced to buy these things is that they’re for the common good. Our country as a whole is safer when we have a military guarding our borders. Our nation is safer when we have people stopping terrorists from hijacking planes … or would be if said people weren’t complete fuck-ups. Our nation is better off with the safety nets we’ve set up for the elderly.

And you know what? Health care is a national good. We are all better off when we all have coverage. You, yes you, are going to get sick some day, and you’re going to need treatment. If you live long enough, you are going to get cancer, or have a heart attack, or develop diabetes, or … something. Because we all do.

We already subsidize people without health insurance … we just do it in the stupidest way possible. We send them to an emergency room, where they receive free care … free to them, at least. Taxpayers still foot the bill. Under Obamacare, people who can afford insurance will have to buy it, or pay a tax to offset the cost of their eventual heath care costs. Health care costs that they will have.

This is going to lower costs, not raise them. And it’s going to penalize free riders. This is about as fair and equitable as a health care system could be, unless we went to single-payer.