Category Archives: Politics

Do Republicans plan to campaign on the SCOTUS nom?

As if their prospects weren’t already looking, well,.. a little mealy in the first place,.. it really begins to seem like Republicans are planning to campaign on the SCOTUS vacancy. Like it or not, without confirmation hearings, SCOTUS will be a big part of the campaign. For a really long time.

Almost a year. Through all the debates. Every single time you hear a Republican speak or be interviewed, the question will come up. One will accuse the other of wanting to appease Obama. The other will complain about a negative attack advert featuring Scalia’s face. Over and over and over again.

How long before the public is just straight-up bored and filled with resentment of the topic by Election Day? How soon before late night comedians are making snarky, “just get it over with” jokes on a nightly basis?

If anyone on the Democratic side chooses to use the topic to highlight the profound lack of appointments in the Republican-led Senate, people might start asking questions. Why is this almost OCD obsession with obstruction necessary?

It just seems like a long-term loser, to me.

Are Cons really ready to let Donald Trump nominate the next SCOTUS Justice?

I have no illusions that either I understand the Trump movement nor that my sense of logic is shared by any of them. But it does make me wonder, now that Antonin Scalia is gone: does the Conservative Movement really let Donald Trump call the shots on the next SCOTUS Justice?

Because the problem mainstream Conservatism has had with Donald Trump is also his greatest electoral strength: his willingness to go his own route at any expense and come out smelling like a rose. His “Brand,” to which I am sure he has great fidelity, wouldn’t suffer being told who to pick.

Or maybe it would, if Cons strike the right bargain. But I don’t think they planned for more horse trading.

The extreme poles of any political argument are usually the worst deal-makers. And it’s clear from this article that a great deal of Conservative wish-list ruling hangs in the balance. Is there a better option among the field of candidates?

Bush will say yes to anything, I’m pretty sure. Nobody likes Cruz except his mysterious voters. Carson is… oh, hell no. I wouldn’t trust Carson with a bag of old oranges. Kaisich seems an unlikely choice for pretty much anything more ambitious than County Clerk.

On second thought, maybe the Cons really don’t have a reliable horse in the race, anymore.

It is reasonable to believe, then, that the Supreme Court will try to avoid a 4-4 split when it can by getting a majority of the eight justices to agree on some sort of a comprise that either makes a decision that is narrower, takes a more moderate course or sends the case back down to the lower court for further consideration. Chief Justice John Roberts can also opt to have certain cases reargued once a ninth justice is confirmed, though the calculus for that route is complicated by Senate Republicans’ vow to delay any nominations until after the 2017 inauguration.

Source: Scalia’s Death Came As Conservatives Were About To Seize Historic Legal Gains

Rubio invokes the Butterfly Effect to blame Clinton for 9/11

Technically, because the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 was signed by John Adams, President Adam’s act of cowardly capitulation is probably what lead to 9/11. But don’t tell Marco. He’s on a roll.

“No, he made a decision not to take out its leader, which I think ended up being there, the situation that happened with 9/11. And as this was a response to an attack, that the reason why 9/11 happened was because of George W. Bush,” Rubio said. “And my argument is, if you’re going to ascribe blame, don’t blame George W. Bush, blame a decision that was made years earlier, not to take out bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.”

Source: Rubio Clarifies Whether He Thinks Bill Clinton Is Responsible For 9/11

Post-debate thoughts: wrapping it up.

I hope that if you read my blog tonight, you enjoyed the Marshallesque debate blog. I’ve avoided these things all season because frankly, there’s just so much a healthy person can take of politics for whom politics are not a second nature. No offense to those who enjoy it. It’s just not my bag. Anymore.

But Antonin Scalia’s passing just made the debate too important not to take a first-person temperature test of the fever swamp. Just how bad is bad, these days?

I think that South Carolina’s decisiveness as a primary state meant that everybody was at their wonkiest best tonight. No matter how fired up the debate got, it was based on facts. Whether those facts were relevant – as in the case of Rubio’s attack on Cruz’s amendments, where it was not – probably doesn’t much matter. They’re arguing over issues of substance.

Trump is definitely tracking to the center, as well as towards the sane. His criticisms of the Bush Administration were considered and accurate. Much of the reporting tonight will be about his attack on the Bush Administration. But in reality, he gave cover for everyone to make harsh criticisms of the Bush Admin. Even Jeb.

What made the whole debate worth watching was how hard the second tier of the race bent towards the sane donor class. It’s part of what makes Trump’s simultaneous scornful joking about the donor class and obvious bowing towards the donor class so interesting. Whether he’s trying to assuage their fears or elicit their money remains to be seen, but any business man would be a fool not to accept willful support and financial donation.

Trump’s political career, such as it is, relies on being independent from the establishment and by extension, the donors. But if he’s going to appeal to the great swath of Middle America, he may need more money than is reasonable for one man to lay out.

Debate Blogging

http://f9:03: “Brilliant legal scholar” and a moment of silence. GAME ON!

9:07: Trump decided to go Google a few good options for SCOTUS. But otherwise, he seems resigned to the idea that Obama will nominate.
Kaisich doesn’t want this to run into politics, and thinks the best idea is to either not nominate, or else nominate someone everybody just love, l0ve, loves. Good idea.
Carson: doesn’t think lifetime appointments are a very good idea. Also, we don’t need to be political, we need healing, fuck Obama.
Rubio: pretty boy studied some talking points. Says it’s not unprecedented, but cites a completely bogus idea that lame duck presidents don’t nominate. Forgetting the God of Republicans, Reagan.
Bush: Surprisingly lucent argument that nominating justices with no record isn’t working. Better to fight for the nomination you want. We need concensus, so fuck Obama..
Cruz: “80 years of not confirming.” Getting the facts straight gets a boo from the audience. But the grandstand on the SCOTUS is actually very effective and sounds legitimately heart-felt. Really, I think he comes off a lot better than Trump, whom to the crazies, probably sounds too soft.

9:18: Trump’s commentary on our overall foreign policy is lucid and effective. Not specific, but very few politicians are in this context. Rubio is the best speech maker on the stage. But I don’t hear a lot that is any less robotic than it was before. Carson just sounds wobbly in the beginning, but his idea of being an experimental doctor is interesting. Not sure if interesting gets across in this environment. Kaisich is way too wonky. Bush sounds schooled and informed. His answers sound rational and considered, not posed and rehearsed.

9:27: Trump says you can’t fight two wars in front of a room full of people who supported fighting two wars for how long? Oh, and he tries the “special interests” joke a second time. Bush rises to the “bitch-slap politics” of Trump pretty decent, in my view. He still sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Trump just sounds angry. Cruz argues against regime change in front of a room full of people who have supported regime change for how long? He also supports air attacks, which generally is received as pussy work by Republicans.

9:32Vomiting child break. Sorry. I won’t be continuing this live blog. But the statements on the SCOTUS were what I was after.

9:50: Ok, I’m back. Kaisich sounds informed. But in being informed, he’s required to accept the expansion of Medicare, which is an anathema. “Repeal and replace” is the Bush line. I’m not sure that the “replace” thing works anymore for Republican audiences. Kaisich cites Reagan. It becomes a Traditional Conservative-off. Probably not a winning strategy. I don’t know what the hell Ben Carson just said. Absolutely no idea.

Commercial break thoughts: It is genuinely breathtaking how little sanity seems to matter in this primary. Kaisich and Bush have substantive differences on real policy issues. And they’re fighting an uphill battle against pure id and bitch-slap. How does any of that anger play out against an electorate made up of people who actively support the things Republicans are so pissed off about?

Trump seems a lot more focused on genuine answers to policy questions than in the past. He’s got his applause lines. He’s not letting go of the Republican Screaming Id’s hand. But he’s also getting just serious enough to be taken seriously by the people who want him out, the Republican establishment.

Also: what does “vicerous” mean?

10:04: Cruz tries to get in on the “donor class” schtick. Trump can do that. Cruz needs those dollars. Cruz’s debate skills are showing through, though. Somehow, Rubio backs Cruz up on his record on immigration and it backfires against Cruz. Bush is a lot less informed on this issue, or else doesn’t know how to communicate it. Least of all to this red-meat crowd.

Jeb Bush’s defense against Trump was laughably weak. But Trump’s whole “take his pants off” thing is weirdly weak as well. Kaisich argues for less negative adverts. In a Republican primary. What is he smoking?

10:14: Shorter Carson: Financial execs committing crimes? We need less regulation! Because reasons! Cruz can’t even complete a sentence when the question is about helping the poor and minorities. Trump gets asked a basic question. He spins it into a crap argument about “deal making.” He was asked how he could promise taxes on companies leaving America like he promised his supporters.

Commercial break thoughts: Trump is way off right now. It really seems like he’s trying to pivot to the general right now by offering solutions that sound cogent. This is exactly what most observers have always assumed he would do eventually. But right now seems way too early. What is he seeing in South Carolina that the rest of us don’t? He’s four points ahead and falling in SC. Arguments among the second tier seem focused on seeming rational to the Republican donor class, which has yet to fully commit to anyone specifically.

10:24: Trump is now a “common-sense Conservative.” Fully in pivot mode. Meanwhile, Cruz hits Trump on abortion. Trump responds with bitch-slap about lying.

Messaging in a Time of Micro-celebrity

I mentioned this on social just a little while ago, but I wanted to expand on my thoughts here. Watching the below-linked video, it occurred to me that what separates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in the minds of lots of Internet-aware voters is that Hillary is ready to find a message and pound it into your head the old fashioned way. Sanders has shown a willingness to let his supporters define their own versions of the message.

In a world where every individual with a smartphone – including yours truly – can become a celebrity in their own minds, is it self-defeating to try to define your own message at those voices’ expense? We hear a lot about Hillary’s lack of authenticity, but it seems like the real problem is that she’s trying too hard to get the old Clinton mojo back.

Even if she could play sax, showing up on a late night show to play an instrument didn’t do Mike Huckabee shit, so why would she expect that we’ll all behave as we did in the 90’s? Maybe it’s because, as a career messenger and “triangulator” in the parlance of our day, she can’t afford the messiness of an off-message supporter.

Bernie Sanders has no such hang-ups. He’s been willing to say “we don’t need you.” And he can do so without irony, because he’s not secretly huddling up with them in some bank-funded private luncheon.

The Senator didn’t reach out to me all of a sudden because he needs help with Black people. He didn’t put out a press conference announcing that we would be working together. He didn’t force me to frame my support of him around a subject matter that special interest groups that support him can get behind. They said we are glad to have your support, how do you want to plug in. You will see a lot of Black leaders handing out endorsements, think to yourself, have they historically been a rubber stamp for the establishment? I hope this expresses why I think Bernie is our guy!

Source: Erica Garner’s Commercial Endorsing Bernie Sanders for President – Erica Garner

The Flaming Id: a theory of Republican primary lunacy.

Last presidential election season, it was easy to spot. A seemingly endless stream of candidates ascended to the top slot on a weekly basis. From Herman “Nein-nein-nein” Cain to a desperate attempt to get the now-deceased Fred Thompson into the race, the clown car never seemed bereft of options.

This season, it’s been harder to spot because one name has managed to dominate the sideshow so long. Many of us braced for an entire general election season of The Donald. Trump did to lock up the crazy vote; a vote which to the dismay of many – not least the crazy people – wasn’t nearly enough to carry the day in Iowa.

Donald Trump got taken down by predictable means: Religious Right members who’ve raised enough children not to be gulled by his idiocy. Cruz will likely be hobbled by New Hampshire Republicans to whom his gross brand of ur-Conservativism is an anathema.

But there is a common thread between these two primary seasons and many before them. It’s what I think if as The Flaming Id.

The Flaming Id

Deep within the breast of every die-hard Conservative, there is a spoiled child that’s as certain they’re being cheated by someone less Conservative, as they are that the sun will come up tomorrow. They’re not sure if it’s The Blacks®, The Gays®, some sort of terrorist/Muslim/Kenyan cabal… but they’re damned sure it’s someone. Someone, of course, wrapped up in the iron-clad Politically Correct® armor Liberals built for them.

And they’re just as certain that if they breathed a word of any of this at work, they’d be fired. If they breathed a word of it in public, they’d be shunned. But that doesn’t mean they can’t cheer on a candidate to the presidency who says it!

Fundamentally, Democrats and Republicans think of and experience primaries completely differently. For Democrats, the challenge is always to get through the primaries with the sharpest elbows and the sweetest tongues. You don’t need to go about winning primaries by pissing off core constituencies. Primaries are awful things to the weak coalitions built of such disparate interests.

But primaries are like a $300 car to Republicans. They don’t mean shit except as an excuse to go joy riding through the mud. Cheerlead anyone you like: you know they won’t win. There’s no need to assume any responsibility for the way the primaries turn out, because one way or another, you know who will win. The man that will win will always be the stock Republican.

He’ll be the company man. The former governor. The business exec. And no, he won’t be whore-mongering, loud-mouthed Donald Trump. He’ll be someone that Establishment Republicanism can bank on for incremental change on taxes and due platitudes to religiosity.

Rubio is probably not the best stock candidate you’ve ever seen. He’s not very experienced. He’s pitifully inept on immigration. In general, he really doesn’t look that tough. But just because he’s not the best, that doesn’t mean he might not do the job. Time will tell. But the primaries? The primaries have nothing to do with it.

What is Ted Cruz eligibility to be President? Let democracy sort it out.

Don’t get me wrong: I just love the schadenfreude of Republicans, having now purchased eight years of good will and continued power on the basis of a wink-wink/nudge-nudge Birther flirtation, finding themselves with a potentially – even just arguably – illegitimate candidate for President. Or more specifically: that Republicans have a choice of leadership between a lock of hair with an Il Duce complex or an illegitimate alien. Love it, love it, love it.

But as a citizen, I’m actually a bit caught off-guard that this question even exists? What is and what is not a legitimate candidate for President? Our nation’s relationship with Europe before and after the Revolution was a lot closer than it is now. I would have thought this question would certainly come up quite a bit.

Senator Ted Cruz’s eligibility to become President of the United States seems very-much in question, hinging on a very arcane set of conventions and historical interpretation of what a “natural born” citizen is.

Obama, McCain and The Ted Cruz Eligibility Problem:

In order for a person to become the President of the United States, that person must meet only three criteria: they must be over 35 years old, have lived in the United States for 14 years and be a “natural born” citizen of the United States. I think the Senator would forgive me if I say we’re not worried about his age. And he’s been in American political life for longer than 14 years, so we’re ok there. But this “natural born citizen” business? That’s different.

Ted Cruz is born to an American mother and a Canadian father, in Canada. To the casual observer, this would seem to be a pretty cut-and-dried case. But I’ll bet if you compared notes with your neighbor, you’d find that you came to different conclusions.

History isn’t much of a guide and the Constitution never makes clear what a “natural born citizen” is. Perhaps this is because at the time, there wasn’t a question: American law was founded by the British before the Revolution and after the Revolution, American lawyers would have followed British Common Law. The Constitution only concerned itself with building a government and the rest was left to the citizenry.

The Common Law process for citizenship would have been to base the solution on the patrilineage of the child. In other words, where Dad’s from is where Baby’s from. That puts Ted Cruz up to his flag pin in maple syrup.

This is actually a very different case from the two previous (and in President Obama’s case, perpetual) cases of citizenship and the Presidency. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the paper trail of President Obama’s life is one of an American born on American soil in Hawaii. In John McCain’s case, an American father and mother gave birth to a son on an American base, therefore American-occupied soil. Senator Cruz is very clearly born in Canada. Only the question of his parentage remains.

To any modern ear attached to any modern-thinking brain, this sounds pathetically, backwardly sexist. Like, wenches-and-knights sexist. Leprosy-and-mutton-legs backward. But it’s also the law, and you can’t just ignore it because you don’t like it. And so the issue remains.

Right now, there are Constitutional and legal scholars pouring over the records for some kind of precedent. Anything that would prove that, in the United States, the law was widely interpreted one way or the other. But they probably needn’t bother: it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Americans would have broken with sexist tradition unless it was very, very recent.

The Good News: it’s not a Constitutional question.

As complicated as the question might be, it strikes me that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a question we leave to the scholars. For a start, since the basic problem is that the Constitution does not proscribe a solution in this case, this isn’t really a Constitutional question at all.

It is a question of whether we choose to live in a society that embraces a backward legal interpretation at the expense of modernity and gender justice. It’s also a question of whether we choose to live in a society that ignores legal precedent when it is inconvenient to our mores. It’s a hell of a question, as a matter of fact. And it probably shouldn’t be answered by anyone else but us.

Syrian Refugees: we can have security and dignity, together.

Let’s be honest: as much as some Americans might wish it otherwise, our history is filled with examples of us being the same scared herd animals the rest of humanity is. Our current imbroglio over Syrian refugees is not surprise. Yes, we are absolutely as willing as the next large group of hairy animals to jettison our stated morals and standards when convenience dictates. When fear dictates. We are, in the end, only human.

How many times in our history can we cite in which we fell below our Lady Liberty’s standards? When we’ve asked for our immigrants to be a little less tired and a little less poor? When we’ve asked those seeking our shores to huddle a little less closely to us?

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    Today it seems clear, we’re poised to make the same mistakes with the Syrian refugees for many of the same reasons. In fact, some of our nation’s leaders are willing to directly – and positively – compare our current situation with that which prompted Japanese internment camps during WWII. And then apologize later, because they didn’t realize it would be a big deal:

    The longtime mayor of Roanoke, Va., who faced criticism this week for citing Japanese internment camps in his defense of limiting Syrian refugee assistance, apologized on Friday.

    He said he did not anticipate the international attention his comments would bring.

    Add to this the presidential nomination process, which is bringing the firebreathers out in full force. We can perhaps forgive (or at least ignore) the overheated rhetoric of political season. After all, our political process depends on free voices, even if they’re nuts. But somehow, we’ve graduated from refusing Syrian refugees to the idea of somehow “registering” Muslims.

    Neither can we blame only our Republican presidential hopefuls: Rochester’s own Louise Slaughter capitulated to the popular fever of the moment, signing on with the bill to restrict refugee intake by preposterously-high standards. Everywhere, it seems, “caution” appears to rule the day.

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    There is nothing new or exclusive about Syrian refugees, compared to the millions of displaced people across the globe. There is nothing new about the State Department accepting refugees, nor even of accepting Syrian refugees. Yet, because we suddenly turned our attention to this non-story after the actual story of loss and tragedy in France, everything is different.

    Can we respect Syrian refugees and our history?

    However often we have trended towards nativism in the past, we don’t have to succumb to the same knee-jerk fear response now. Unfortunately, we know we can’t expect the Fox News Network to ignore this “issue,” any longer. Because Benghazi. But cooler heads can prevail.

    We can live up to our self-imposed obligations and find a way to show that “peace through force” can mean the force of our will. We can look to our Lady Liberty and understand that the poem written there wasn’t a bragging point for the rest of the world: it was a challenge to our own people. We can, even through the ugliness of our political process, show the world that democracy trends toward respect for humanity.

    For now, it’s enough to just lay out a few bare facts about Syrian refugees and let you make your own mind up. For that, I present the first in what I hope will be a long series of the DFE Datagram, our attempt at a story through numbers:

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    So, it now appears Bill Cosby is “that guy.”

    There are a lot of people who think they grew up with Bill Cosby. They saw him with his bee pen. They saw him on The Cosby Show. They remember him acting all weird for those Jell-O Pudding Pop commercials – a series of commercials I’m sure Jell-O is working overtime to remove from every corner of the Internet.

    For me, it’s been a couple of decades since I last listened to a Bill Cosby record. But I’m quite certain I can recite a routine of your request on the spot from memory. This is the level of dedication my 8 year old self gave to learning the Ways of the Coz. Like many other comedians, he taught me lessons about the English language no high school teacher ever did or could.

    Noah? Please, don’t insult me. The Chicken Heart? That’s more like it. I have heard just about everything from his early days. Wonderfulness, Why is There Air?, I Started as a ChildTo My Brother, With Whom I SleptRevenge. Even a live album called 7:15-8:15, 10:15-11:15 – his supposedly “dirty” album, at least by his buttoned down standards.

    In short, I idolized the man for most of my childhood.

    Many of us did. So much so, in fact, that when allegations of sexual abuse surfaced a few years back, most of us just seemed to laugh it off. The allegations barely registered in mainstream media circles. Why wouldn’t they disappear? This was the Coz we were talking about!

    Our Idol Reappears

    In the last few decades, my interest in Bill Cosby has been on the back burner. I’ve had a life to lead and new lessons to learn. At first, I learned those lessons at my jobs; I learned those lessons being a musician. I learned later by being a father and a husband. And rightly or wrongly, I learned a lot of lessons in the bars and clubs that I hung out in, the ones I visited and the ones I got kicked out of. One lesson in particular stands out to me, now that my idol reappears.

    That guy.

    If you’ve ever bothered to hang out in public spaces, you know the guy I mean. If you hung out in bars and clubs filled with 20-somethings, you definitely know the guy I mean. You didn’t know what he did outside the club, you didn’t know where he worked, you didn’t know where he lived. You had no evidence to support any claims made against him; any claims you had heard were slim and not altogether credible. Let’s face it: most of us were never really good witnesses in the first place.

    But if you hang out in public spaces, you know there’s always that one guy next to whom you do not want to be found standing when the lights go on.

    If we know nothing else based on accusations, depositions and the rest, it is that Bill Cosby was definitely that guy for a certain clique somewhere in this world. Bill was the guy around whom you recommend your female friends keep their drinks covered. He’s the guy that, if the cops raided the place, there was no telling what manner of drugs might be on his person, but you’re sure as shit you didn’t feel like answering for any of them.

    No, he wasn’t the guy you demanded leave the club. You couldn’t really do that, anyway. You had no evidence, no specific crimes, just a world-weary feeling about this smiling guy with the easy appearance. When he arrived, you found yourself clinking glasses with him and then quietly moving to the opposite side of the room. He was everybody’s friend, and all the girls seemed to love him. You couldn’t make him leave, but he was the guy that you made sure none of your friends left with.

    Bill Cosby: That Guy.

    This is my idol. And yours, as well. Whether or not Bill Cosby is guilty of any specific crime in any specific allegation, it now appears we’ll never truly know. The statute of limitations is up for all civil cases against him. But you weren’t wrong about that guy, and you aren’t wrong about Bill Cosby.

    I’m not even sure that defining his behavior as “rape” helps, though certainly, it fits the legal definition. Bill makes it clear in depositions that, not only does he not seem to take responsibility for what happened, he actively believes himself to be a Don Juan to whom women are naturally attracted. That he needed drugs to seal the deal doesn’t appear to connect for him.

    Why would a person so famous and so beloved need to dope up women to sleep with them? If you’re asking that, you’re already starting on the wrong foot. Nobody needs to. He wanted to. And on some level, I guess we let him.

    Sooner rather than later, all of us grow up and find out our heroes weren’t quite what we’d hoped they would be. Sooner rather than later, the lessons we learned in our lives come back to reassert themselves and we’re forced to reinterpret our childhood fascinations. But in the Coz’s case, his lack of culpability makes him seem all the more monstrous. Out of our sight, our favourite funny man has already fought and won a battle on the wrong side of ethics. And the guy got away with the whole thing. I’m struggling to understand what it means, but it seems like this is somehow the last lesson Bill Cosby taught me.

    Of “Bill Clinton Signed It,” and other ahistorical perspectives.

    Just a quick note on the flap over Indiana’s terrible and soon-to-be-neutered “Religious Freedom” law. I don’t expect to spend a whole lot of time on a subject that barely has anything to do with Rochester or science. Nevertheless, this constant drumbeat about how Bill Clinton signed something and that therefore this bill and any other similar bill should be embraced by every liberal in America can’t really go without comment.

    Firstly, to state the obvious, presidents do things that even their most ardent supporters don’t like much. It’s part of the give-and-take of politics. Just because Bill Clinton signed NAFTA doesn’t mean that most liberals don’t mention trade agreements through gritted teeth. So it goes.

    Secondly, that two bills were modeled one after the other – a dubious declaration, but let’s concede the point – doesn’t mean that the devil doesn’t still lurk in the details. After all, if the Federal law was so wonderful and Federal law supersedes state law, what would the need have been for this new Indiana-specific law? One reason is that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was ruled unconstitutional as applied by states. So no, the Indiana law is not at all the same thing as the original RFRA.

    What really matters, however, is the insistence that “nothing bad happened” as a result of the RFRA’s passage. I’ll leave it to others to recount the history of the RFRA and what harm might or might not have been done. But even if we take it as a given that “nothing bad happened” as a result of the RFRA, twenty years is a long goddamned time.

    Specifically on the issue of gay rights – indisputably the primary reason for the Indiana bill, despite Republican back-pedaling – twenty years has changed opinions across the country. Gay marriage was once thought to be a fringe issue or an indulgence to a small minority. Now, it is a mainstream issue on which the average American has already ruled in favour. I doubt very much that, should the subject of gay marriage have been raised in 1992, anyone would have taken it seriously, yet now it is a regular point of contention in presidential and gubernatorial debate.

    This law was established specifically to roll back the changes that history will deem justified and moral. To roll back the tide of public sentiment solely for those who, as even the language of the law provides, feel “uncomfortable” with those changes. Because a segment of our population “feels” it’s rights are being infringed upon, another segment of our population is expected to keep it’s true identity secreted away in some small-minded state.

    Yes, there is a huge difference between the bill first introduced in the Senate by New York’s own Chuck Schumer and signed into law by Bill Clinton and the despicable attempts to roll back human rights in one state.

    Hype Aversion: the curmudgeon’s guide to the #IceBucketChallenge

    “But it’s all in good fun! And it’s for a great cause!”

    If you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of these rationalizations, you are not alone.  If your Facebook feed is filled with shocked-but-not-shocked faces beneath cataracts of chilly water – celebrities great and small, politicians and friends – and it leaves you with even less reason to check Facebook, you are not alone.

    What you may be experiencing is a phenomenon sometimes called “Hype Aversion.” It is the idea that it is the social promotion of an idea, more than the idea itself, that you find repellent. The social pressure, the constant discussion, the inescapable nature of a ubiquitous social event makes you ill. If you’re like me, you might feel it better to be anti-social than get swept under what feels like an ever-widening storm. Because most shockingly of all, your friends seem to be having such a moonishly lovely time as they succumb.

    The Ice Bucket Challenge

    Credit where credit is due: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has done amazing things for the fight against a somewhat obscure and oft-overlooked issue, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In a world overflowing with worthy causes, this worthy cause is getting the attention it deserves. At last check, the ALS Association has raised as much as $40m from folks taking an icy bath on camera.

    “They’re brilliant,” says Professor Melissa Brown of the College at Brockport, “I’m not sure they thought about it like this, but humans are a pack animal. And we tend to look first to our alphas for direction.”

    And so, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started with Kennedys, Jimmy Fallon and a host of alpha-celebs taking their respective plunges first. And in our everyone-is-a-celebrity social networking culture, the tide moved rather rapidly down the scale until it finally hit me.

    I’ll admit that, after a couple cocktails, the vanity of being called out by Jennae Moran was almost too much to resist. Jennae is Rochester’s resident lioness of Autism awareness, and a friendly voice on social. In fact, she knows me only because of the work I’ve done on social media. Out of any number of people she could have picked, she picked me. How could I possibly say “no,” to that?

    Because it was for a good cause. Because it was all in good fun. Because vanity. For giving to a charity, I’m to be given a little squirt of endorphins. The Ice Bucket Challenge really does work.

    Conformity, Cognitive Dissonance and Justification

    Ultimately, I did say no. A well-placed, disapproving eye-roll shocked me out of my revery.

    But before you and I go sulking into our selfish little uncaring corners, my dear fellow curmudgeon, consider what we already know about what social pressure does to the mind. Professor Brown referred me to the Asch Paradigm.

    Back in the 1950’s, researcher Solomon Asch put subjects into a room with what those subjects believed were fellow participants in a study. But those fellow participants turned out to be stand-ins whose role was to uniformly answer a simple set of questions. Sometimes they answered correctly, sometimes incorrectly. But always in unison.

    When researchers allowed everyone in the room to answer honestly, the rate of incorrect answers among subjects was less than 1%. However, when the stooges intentionally answered incorrectly, that rate jumped to one-in-three.

    In fact, 75% of test subjects answered at least one question incorrectly in concert with the stooges. The conclusion being that social pressure can over-power one’s own ability to decide for themselves.

    … none of which is to say that donating to a worthy charity is an incorrect decision. What I am asking, is whether those who choose to take part in the Challenge actually chose at all? Or did the group choose for them?

    It’s just sociology: the study of humans acting in groups. But it is one that our culture is instinctually hostile too. We’re all fiercely independent souls, and none of us fall for peer pressure.

    It’s a nice vanity that we all aspire too, but it is fundamentally untrue. And that dichotomy sets into motion another instinct we see repeatedly in the Ice Bucket Challenge: Cognitive Dissonance. Our brains need to rectify the dissonance between our self-image and our actions, so we justify, excuse and defend that glaring logical error away.

    You may find your friends unwilling or unable to be satisfied with your answer to the challenge. You and I, dear curmudgeon? We’re just uncomfortable with being dared to follow the leader. Surely, people understand that?

    Instead, they’ll point out repeatedly that the Ice Bucket Challenge is “for a good cause,” as though the ends justified the means. And it’s “all in good fun,” as though if you’re not having fun, there must be something wrong with you. And “of course,” dumping a bucket of water on your head is necessary, because everybody else is. Even complete strangers can be openly belligerent with any curmudgeon so bold as to raise any objection.

    If some people are having fun, I say, “great!!” If the ALS Association is making money for a good cause, awesome! Have at it.

    But before too many more people go pressuring too many more friends into the “fun” of the Ice Bucket Challenge or STFU, it’s worth demanding a Naked Lunch moment. It’s worth our time, fellow curmudgeon, to strip away the justifications and ask them to just look at what’s at the end of their forks. Is it really what they want to eat, just because it’s “for a good cause?”

    My point is not that “some people” are cruel. It is that we do fall along these statistical borders every day. I’m not always on one side, you’re not always on the other. It isn’t a reflection on one’s character, but it is a reflection on what will and won’t cause discomfort. It seems strange and disconcerting that so many people ignore others’ discomfort, “all in good fun.”

    And if our friends cannot see all this, then my dear fellow curmudgeon, I say we’re fine to “Harumph,” all we like.