so very not safe for work

You guys! If you go and join the United State Army right now, you can totally have sex with a goat. Or any other animal — it doesn’t have to be a goat. And it doesn’t have to be the Army, you guys. The Marines and Navy and even the Air Force — all of them offer the very same animal-sexing privileges (probably the Coast Guard too, but are they really part of the Armed Forces…really?).

You probably didn’t know this amazing true actual fact on account of you probably don’t read reliable conservative news sources. But back on December 1st of 2013 Congress repealed Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. What, you ask, is Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice? I’m glad you asked.

Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense.

Unnatural AND carnal copulation, you guys! According to every conservative source I can find, Congress repealed Article 125 so that Obama can pack the military with the gays and turn These United States into France (or maybe Saudi Arabia, it’s not entirely clear). Also? It was repealed so soldiers can fuck goats instead of fighting wars, which will destroy the morale of our brave, heroic men and women in uniform and make it easier for Obama to institute Shari’a law.

Tony Perkin, president of the Family Research Council and snappy dresser.

Tony Perkin, president of the Family Research Council and snappy dresser.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, says “It’s all about using the military to advance this administration’s radical social agenda.” That radical agenda clearly includes soldiers sexing with the beasts of the field, probably while in uniform (the soldiers, not the beasts — that would just be wrong).

The Christian News Service (and they’re really really Christian, so you know they wouldn’t just make this shit up) interviewed former Army Col. Bob Maginnis (who by coincidence also works for the Family Research Council), who said:

“If we have a soldier who engages in sodomy with an animal — whether a government animal or a non-government animal — is it, in fact, a chargeable offense under the Uniform Code? I think that’s in question. Soldiers, unfortunately, like it or not, have engaged in this type of behavior in the past. Will they in the future, if they remove this statute? I don’t know.”

Col Bob Maginnis, Family Research Council authority on gays in military and bestiality.

Col Bob Maginnis, Family Research Council authority on gays in military and bestiality.

Non-government animals, you guys! Soldiers totally sexed them back when it was illegal, and now that the UCMJ has lifted the animal-sexing ban (which, let’s face it, is the very same thing as encouraging them to do it), will those soldiers still want to do the sex with goats? Maybe! Maybe not! Colonel Maginnis just doesn’t know!

The modern military, I declare. In the old days, all the military had to offer was the chance to learn a skill, the comradeship of your fellow troops, and the opportunity to visit exotic lands and kill the people who lived there. But I guess that’s just not enough for kids these days.

Honest, they're just good friends.

Honest, they’re just good friends.

Still I suppose if you’re going to require members of the military to be deployed to war zones four, six, ten times, then you probably have to look the other way while they fuck a goat now and then.

Editorial note: Tony Perkins and Col. Maginnis are apparently unaware of (well, okay, they just choose to ignore) Article 134 of the UCMJ, which outlaws “all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces” as well as “all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.” Which, not surprisingly, includes fucking goats.

the devil is loose

Naming new things is tough work. Back in the 1850s they had to coin a term to describe the physical manifestation of communications sent over a distance by electrical signal. Somebody came up with telegram. That’s a portmanteau of tele, which is Greek for ‘over a distance’, and gram, also Greek, meaning ‘something written or drawn’. It’s really pretty catchy, but telegram totally pissed off language purists of the day. They absolutely hated it. Hated it.

May I suggest to such as are not contented with ‘Telegraphic Dispatch’ the rightly constructed word ‘telegrapheme’? I do not want it, but … I protest against such a barbarism as ‘telegram.’ [Richard Shilleto, Cambridge Greek scholar, London “Times,” Oct. 15, 1857]

I’m not any sort of purist, but I find Instagram objectionable as a word. It’s so bland and corporate. It could have been worse; they might have called it Instagrapheme which, let’s face it, would have been intolerable. Still, Instagram is an unattractive and unappealing name, and it made it easy for lots of folks (including me) to sneer at it. And we did.


We sneered at Instagram for being a cheap, easy, lazy way to turn crappy photos into images that look artsy. Not ‘artful’ or ‘artistic’ but artsy. We sneered at it because the learning curve for using Instagram is — well, it’s hardly a curve at all. It’s almost a straight line. You shoot a photo with your cell phone, you flip through a couple dozen preset filters until you find one you like, tap to apply it, and hey bingo, you have yourself an artsy photo of your drunken friends at a tacky Chinese restaurant.

That ease of use is a big part of the appeal, of course. It allows any tunahead to bang out a halfway decent photograph. But it pisses off photography purists (purists of every persuasion spend a lot of time being pissed off, have you noticed?). The ease of use is another thing that makes Instagram so sneerable.

on the far side of the river_1

I grew up shooting film — and shooting it with a completely manual rangefinder camera without a resident light meter. That gave me certain inalienable sneering rights. But at the same time, I’m totally in favor of the democratization of photography. I love the fact that so many people are out there photographing so many things. 

That put me in a damned awkward position. How can I embrace the democratization of photography and at the same time still be able to sneer at Instagram? I told myself the app, at its best, was just a cheap imitation of real photography. At its worst, it was the devil itself. I told myself a lot of people — people who might otherwise actually learn the important mechanics and physics of photography — would substitute the creative process (which, let’s face it, can be really hard work) with the unthinking application of a filter. So I could argue that sneering at Instagram was actually good for photography. Right?


All that sneering was made a lot easier by the fact that I’d never really looked at Instagram. Then I bought a smartphone with a tolerably decent camera. And suddenly everybody was all “Dude, join Instagram.”

So I reluctantly decided to look at it. And to my smug delight, I discovered I was right. It really was a cheap imitation of real photography. It really was an artistic wasteland of hipsters in vests photographing their lattes, and hiphop wannabes shooting pictures of their two hundred dollar sneakers, and women shooting duckface selfies in bathrooms, and …whoa…hold on hold on…what’s this? What the hell is this?

‘This’ turned out to be good work. I started to come across photography I actually wanted to see. Images that impressed the hell out of me and made me want to see more. On Instagram.


I found solid, serious street photography. And good travel and landscape photography. And lawdy, good fine arts photography. I found good editorial news photography. Good color photography, good black-and-white photography. Good portraiture. Good photography. All of it right there in a 3-inch square on Instagram.

And that good shit, it was scalable. It looked good in a 3-inch square on my phone, but it continued to look good in larger versions. I was not expecting that.

Yes, yes — there’s a staggering amount of appalling crap on Instagram, but there’s a staggering amount of appalling crap everywhere in the world of photography. It’s one of the facts you accept if you believe in the democratization of photography. You accept the existence of the crap, and you try to help stem the tide by not making crap yourself.


So hey, I joined Instagram. Quietly. Uncomfortably. Under an assumed name. Like an atheist going to Sunday School. I began shooting a simple little series — something I could delete easily if I decided I was contributing to the crapitization of photography. That project gradually transformed and grew into something more complex, but coherent and constrained — which is how real photo projects start. I may write about that project at another time, but what it meant for me was that I was taking Instagram seriously. How the hell did that happen?

It also meant (in my mind, at least) that I should limit that account to that project.

So I created a second Instagram account. Yes, I actually created a second Instagram account, and devoted it to shooting black-and-white images.

wink and a nod_1

The photographs you see here, and along the side of the blog (and if you’re interested, you can see more of them here) have taught me that Instagram is an incredibly flexible and elastic app. You can shape it to fit whatever you want to photograph, in whatever style you want to photograph it. You don’t have to rely on their crappy little filters; there are some very fine processing apps for your mobile phone that give you a metric buttload of control over the image.

Instagram, it turns out, is not about filters. It’s not even about easily turning crappy photos into artsy ones. It’s about distribution. It’s about putting the photos out there.


Instagram may, in fact. turn out to be the devil after all. It can be that seductive. But it’s the devil that’s likely to have the most influence on the shape of modern photography. 

Here’s where I drop in some more esoteric information. Eight hundred years ago King Richard I of England was captured on his way back from the Holy Land, where he’d been cheerfully slaughtering Muslims during the Crusades. While he was imprisoned, his brother John attempted to usurp the throne. When Richard won his release, King Philip of France sent a message to John, warning him. The message read: Look to yourself. The devil is loose.

The analogy isn’t perfect, but the warning is. The devil IS loose. And you know what? I kind of like him.


celebratory gunfire

For the longest time, Texas has held a comfortable lead in the highly-contested Loopiest Legislators race. There are some seriously crazy-ass folks making laws in Texas. But you have to hand it to Florida — they’ve been making a big push to unseat the Texans. And they’re doing it almost entirely on gun laws.

I mean, Texas will hand out a concealed carry permit to almost any bozo who applies, but even they insist that the permit be issued by a criminal justice agency. Florida? Pffft. Their concealed carry permits are issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Seriously — I am NOT making this up. The fucking Department of Agriculture. Why? Who the hell knows?

But this is even more stupid than it appears on the surface, because only law enforcement agencies are allowed access to NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Is the Florida Department of Agriculture a law enforcement agency? Why no, it’s not. Do they have access to federal criminal and mental health information when determining who merits a concealed weapons permit. Why no. No, they do not. (This is where we all shake our heads and say ‘Jeebus on toads’.)

Marion Hammer, pistol-packin' cat fancier.

Marion Hammer, pistol-packin’ cat fancier

That sets the tone for Florida’s other gun laws. We’re all familiar, of course, with Florida’s first-in-the-nation Stand Your Ground Law. That law was essentially written by Marion Hammer, the first woman president of the National Rifle Association (and cat fancier!). A couple dozen states in the U.S. have followed in Florida’s footsteps and have similar laws now. The law basically rewards the person who shoots first in a dispute (the party who shoots first is often the only person who shoots at all, since the other party is often too dead to return fire).

Stand Your Ground essentially indemnifies any shooter who claims to have fired his weapon out of fear for his personal safety. Like Curtis Reeves, the former police officer who recently shot and killed Chad Oulson during an argument over texting during movie previews. The texting led Reeves to argue with Oulson, which then led to reckless popcorn-throwing, which (because this is Florida) led inevitably to a dead guy on the floor of the theater. Reeves is claiming he was in fear for his life when he shot and killed Oulson.

Chad Coulson, loser in popcorn versus semi-auto .380 pistol dispute

Chad Oulson, loser in popcorn versus semi-auto .380 pistol dispute

Hell, you don’t even have to hit the person you were shooting at to use a Stand Your Ground Defense. In South Carolina, whose law is modeled on Florida’s, some teen-aged girls got into a fuss with other girls in a club. The second set of girls followed the first set to their home. Shannon Scott, a 33-year-old man (who had a sign in his window — and honest, I’m NOT making any of this up — saying Fight Crime – Shoot First), met his daughter and her friends at the door. He brought them inside, saw the other girls in their car, said he felt threatened that they might attempt a drive-by shooting. So he shot first. Didn’t hit them, though. Hit 17-year-old Darrell Niles, who was across the street, minding his own business. Hit him right in the head. Killed him. Was Scott charged with a crime? No sir.

“[It is] unreasonable to expect Scott is required to go back into his house, in his castle and hope that the cavalry (police) are going to come…. [And people like Scott] cannot be expected to shoot straight always because they are not supposed to have their life in jeopardy.”

Had Scott stayed inside with his daughter and her friends, Niles would be alive. But hey, what’s the point of having a gun if you can’t point it at somebody now and then. Or, in this case, point it in the general direction of somebody who might be thinking about maybe threatening somebody safely tucked inside a solid-walled structure.

Darrell Niles, interrupted bullet's flight path

Darrell Niles, interrupted bullet’s flight path

And now Ms. Hammer (and no, again, I am NOT making it up — that’s her actual name) is pushing another law in Florida, expanding Stand Your Ground. She’s written new legislation and has convinced two Florida legislators, Greg Evers and Neil Combee (do I need to say they’re Republicans?), to sponsor it. The proposed law would permit gun owners who feel in fear for their lives “to display guns, threaten to use the weapons, or fire warning shots.”

Warning shots. Like in the movies. Because that always works.

Florida legislator Greg Evers, opposed to Shari'a law, okay with random gunfire

Florida legislator Greg Evers, opposed to Shari’a law, okay with random gunfire

You see, it’s okay to fire your gun into the air because those bullets just disappear. Well, okay, they don’t just disappear — they eventually come back to earth. But when they fall back down, they never hit anybody. Well, okay, they sometimes hit people. But they never kill anybody. Well, okay, sometimes they kill people. But hardly ever.

But c’mon, if you can accidentally kill an innocent person across the street by accident, shouldn’t you also be able to accidentally kill an innocent person anywhere? Not all the time. Just now and then. When you’re afraid, of course. Kill them with a gun, that is. Not with a car. That’s criminal. Cars are dangerous.

If this law passes, there’ll probably be celebratory gunfire. Let’s hope those bullets come down in the right place.

where all the white fish-holding womens?

Okay, yeah — there was another school shooting earlier this week, but nobody died (yet) so it’s not really news. And okay, yeah — there was that retired police officer who shot and killed a guy for texting his daughter during the previews at a Florida movie theater (well, that’s not entirely accurate; he got his gun out because of the texting, but he only killed the guy for throwing popcorn at him), but that’s Florida and what do you expect? And okay, yeah — Senate Republicans blocked 1.4 million jobless folks from getting aid, but that’s what Republican Senators do and what do you expect too? And okay, yeah — after spending what seems like a decade accusing President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of failing to personally take up arms and repel the assault on the US compound in Benghazi (Benghazi!) Congress has decided to reduce funding for embassy security, construction and maintenance by $224 million, but jeebus on toast, did you expect anything else?

Yeah, okay — it’s been a big news week and it’s only Wednesday. But ain’t nobody talking about the really important news. You guys! Sarah Palin has a new teevee show! That’s right — she’s back on television

OMG OMG OMFG It's Sarah!!!

OMG OMG OMFG It’s Sarah!!!

Well, she’s not back on it right now. But according to the countdown clock (yes, there’s a countdown clock!) it’s only 2 months, 19 days, 6 hours and 39 minutes until Amazing America debuts! Starring Sarah Palin, you guys!

What will Sarah be doing (besides amazing America)? I’m glad you asked. She’ll be exploring and experiencing…

… the coolest and most original people, places, businesses, and gadgets that appeal to Red, Wild and Blue America.

Gadgets! There’s going to be gadgets! And original people! Actual original people (Sarah doesn’t like those icky cloned people, and who does because clones totally suck). The show is going to be on The Sporstman Channel, which you may not have ever in your entire life heard of, but which features such engaging quality programming as Addictive Fishing with Captain Blair Wiggins, MeatEater (the new season), Skull Bound, and Pigman: The Series.

If you do not watch her new show, Sarah Palin will Godfather your ass with an elk's head.

If you do not watch her new show, Sarah Palin will Godfather your ass with an elk’s head.

According to the show’s producer, Governor Palin (that’s right — people don’t believe it, but Sarah was an actual real I’m-not-making-this-up no-shit real governor for half a term of the most socialist state in the Union) deserved a larger stage than “just hunting and fishing.”

“We wanted to have a little more fun than that. So we’re doing bull riding. We’ve got the NRA Museum. We have some fire rescue workers. It just runs the gamut of cool things in America.”

The gamut, you guys! Because what could be more fun and more cool than the NRA Museum and riding bulls while rescuing people from fires? Nothing! The audience will also be educated about Sarah’s philosophy and world view, in which she offers insights like this:

“I think this world would be better off having more young women holding a fish in a picture than holding their camera in front of a bathroom mirror, taking a selfie.”

So true! We’ve all noticed how rare it is these days for women to hold fish. It’s been years since I’ve seen a woman holding a fish. Why don’t women hold fish anymore? That’s what’s wrong with America (plus we have a negro president — and isn’t it curious that there are NO PHOTOS OF HIM HOLDING A FISH!!!).

Real governors don't need no cell phones and bathroom mirrors

Real governors don’t need no cell phones and bathroom mirrors

So set your alarm clocks, America. Thursday April 3rd at 8 o’clock in the evening on the Sportsman Channel. Watch it, or the terrorists will abort a white Christian baby. During a gay pride parade.


In this post-9/11 world, it’s increasingly important for ordinary citizens like yourselves to be wary and on the alert for suspicious individuals engaged in suspicious activities. The law enforcement community needs your help. It is your civic duty to keep the authorities informed about any suspicious behavior you might observe, especially when undertaken by suspicious characters who are acting suspiciously. suspicious How do you determine who is a suspicious individual? I’m glad you asked. Just answer these simple questions:

1) Does the individual have a higher melanin concentration than Mitt Romney?
2) Does the individual have a penis?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the questions above, then the individual can safely be assumed to be suspicious.



It must be understood that not ALL high-melanin penile-laden individuals are active criminals; several are not. It’s vitally important to consider the social context of the person’s activity before notifying the police. For example, is the individual serving you food? If so, then he is probably not suspicious. Is the individual looking at a white woman? If so, notify the proper authorities.

Not suspicious

Not suspicious

It is imperative for penis-bearing high-melanin individuals to AVOID engaging in any behavior that might be viewed as suspicious. If your skin is any shade darker than Brad Pitt’s AND you have a penis (or look like you might have a penis), then DO NOT:

— drive a nice car (it could be stolen or you could be a drug dealer or a pimp)
— look directly at law enforcement personnel (it could be seen as a challenge)
— avoid looking at law enforcement personnel (it suggests you want to avoid detection)
— wear a hoodie (especially in Florida)
— wear any item of clothing that is red or blue (gang colors) or yellow or pink (pimp colors) or dark blue or black (burglar colors) or white (pimp again) or multi-colored (African nationalist gang terrorist anti-authority racist-against-whites colors) or camouflage (insane mass murderer colors). Green is okay. Or polo shirts.
— speak loudly (aggressive)
— speak softly (sneaky)
— speak
— use your cell phone to text in a movie theater (hell, they even shoot white folks for that)
— be in a suburban neighborhood after sunset
— be in an urban neighborhood after sunset
— leave your home after sunset
— carry a gun, or anything that looks like a gun, or anything the approximate shape or size of a gun, or anything that might suggest you could be carrying something remotely like a gun
— go to Monongalia County, West Virginia
— go to North Korea and sing Happy Birthday
— vote
— get elected President of the United States
— engage in other suspicious activities



Understand that this is NOT racist. No, really. Honest. Seriously, I mean it — nothing racist about it. Some of my best friends people who have cleaned my golf clubs have penises and dark skin. It’s simply exercising reasonable caution. To suggest otherwise is racist against white people. Also racist against men. And guns.

Not suspicious

Not suspicious

As crime and terrorism and more crime and more terrorism increase, we all have to come together as a society. We have to overcome our differences. We have to strive to be like Jeebus (only better armed and not…you know…Jewish). We have to pull together and stand up to suspicious people behaving suspiciously. Otherwise the terrorists and criminals win, and those brave Americans in Benghazi will have died in vain. Because of Obamacare. And probably feminists.

ridiculous and marvelous

There was a freezing mist in the air on Friday. Great weather for sitting inside — for the reading of books and the making of soup. It was wretched weather for driving or for walking, or for being outside at all. But because the freezing mist coated the entire area in a thin, barely perceptible but incredibly lovely casing of ice, outside is where I went.

Driving on primary roads was treacherous, but it was relatively easy to drive on the secondary gravel roads that abound in the American Midwest. Gravel means traction, even in icy conditions. So that’s where I went. And this is what I saw.

dirty snow

A great deal of nothing much. Eighty-five thousand years ago a glacier pushed its way through here. It hung around for about seventy thousand years, then gradually withdrew. It left behind a landscape that alternates between rolling hills and large swathes of flat terrain. Farmland. Good for growing things; not much to hold the eye.

Or so it seemed at first. As I drove down this gravel road I found my eyes drawn to the ditch. At first I gave my attention to the ice-coated weeds, but I quickly found myself more interested by the wind-sculpted snow, and the abstract patterns created by the windblown topsoil.


There’s an East Asian form of ink-and-wash painting that’s generally referred to by the Japanese name sumi-e. Other East Asian cultures practice the art, and they each have different names for the style. The Chinese (who likely invented it) call it shui-mo hua; in Vietnam it’s called tranh thuỷ mặc, and it’s sumukhwa in the Koreas. There are minor differences between the styles, but in general the techniques and the approach are the same.

In essence, sumi-e paintings are created using subtle gradations of black ink diluted by water. The approach attempts to interpret the spirit of the subject rather than to create an accurate representation of it. If, for example, the painting was of a duck, the artist would be more concerned with instilling it with duckness — with a sense of the way a duck moves, with that absurdly duckish dignified waddle — rather than with a detailed illustration of the bird. There are variations of the style in which color is used, but in its purest form it’s just black and white and spirit.

more dirty snow

As I drove along, stopping periodically to get out of the car and walk the ditch, I realized I was seeing a sort of organic sumi-e. Not in the sense that some Cosmic Artist was at work interpreting the spirit of the wind along a quarter-mile stretch of earthen canvas, but in the sense that the wind itself had revealed something of how it moved, and did it largely in black and white.

The thing I found most intriguing, I think, was that the beauty of the dirty snow wasn’t limited by scale. I found the same delicate shading, the same unexpected lines and shapes, the same beautifully uneven distribution of soil whether I was looked at an area of a few inches or several yards.


I suppose I was out exploring the freezing mist for about ninety minutes. I spent maybe fifteen minutes getting out of town and finding that road, and another fifteen getting back to the warm, dry house. The other hour was spent rambling down a quarter-mile stretch of gravel road, looking at dirty snow in a ditch.

I’ll be meeting my brother for breakfast this morning, and at some point he’ll ask me what I’ve been up to. And when I tell him I’d spent an hour out walking in the freezing mist, getting cold and wet, looking at a ditch, thinking about glaciers and East Asian art and unevenly distributed bits of soil, I know he’ll grin and shake his head — because it sounds ridiculous.

And maybe it is. But we live in a wonderfully ridiculous world, and even in a great deal of nothing there’s a lot to see.

gun control / legal pot — spot the difference

Sometimes smart people make stupid arguments. That surely happens more often when you’re writing on a deadline. I don’t know if that’s the case with S.E. Cupp’s recent opinion piece in the NY Daily News, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

SE Cupp

S.E. Cupp

Cupp describes herself as a ‘mainstream conservative’ but she’s not — not in the modern conservative movement. She’s an atheist who supports the Log Cabin Republicans, which takes her completely out of mainstream conservatism. I rarely agree with her views, but I’m willing to admit she sometimes makes a point worth considering. Not this time. She suggests the legalization of marijuana in Colorado will pose a political problem for progressives. Why?

[T]he legal weed experiment could at least put the politics of progressivism – all the rage in liberal circles now – in a tricky spot. For one, there are glaring inconsistencies between the liberal argument for pot legalization and positions on other issues. An obvious one is gun control. The same argument used against guns is used for pot: that legalizing pot and making it more available will reduce crime.

It’s not the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard from a conservative, but it’s pretty close. Of course legalizing pot will reduce crime, if only because possession of pot is no longer criminal. A person who purchased pot last month was a criminal; this month, that same person making that same purchase is an honest citizen supporting the local economy and increasing the State’s tax base. Hey bingo, crime reduction!

Honest citizen supporting the local economy

Honest citizen supporting the local economy

That’s stupid — but it’s not the stupidest part of her opinion piece. Here’s part of Cupp’s argument:

We’re told pot users will “responsibly” use marijuana in the privacy of their own homes…. [W]hy aren’t lawful gun owners afforded the same level of trust?

Why? Because nobody cleaning their lawfully obtained pot accidentally wounded or killed themselves. Or another person in the same room. Or a neighbor in an adjoining apartment. Because nobody ever pulled out a lawfully obtained dime bag in a moment of road rage and used it to kill another driver. Because nobody ever went into a school and slaughtered teachers and students with lawfully obtained marijuana. Because no unattended infant ever found lawfully obtained pot on a table and used it to accidentally blow his brains out. Because nobody ever tried to put lawfully obtained pot in his pocket and accidentally put a hole in his leg.

Jeebus on toast, this seems pretty fucking obvious, doesn’t it? Gun owners aren’t afforded the same level of trust because marijuana isn’t a lethal weapon. Let’s make this even easier to understand. Last Sunday a 13-year-old Chicago boy killed his 16-year-old cousin by shooting him in the head. This is from the Chicago Sun Times:

The boy gave a statement to police admitting to shooting his cousin, according to court records. Police said a possible argument over video games may have led to the shooting. It is unclear how the 13-year-old obtained the gun, police said.

Now, let’s apply the Cupp Argument:

The boy gave a statement to police admitting to getting his cousin stoned, according to court records. Police said a possible argument over video games may have led to them getting high. It is unclear how the 13-year-old obtained the marijuana, police said.

And that, Ms. Cupp, is why gun owners aren’t afforded the same level of trust. Ain’t nobody has to worry about an irate 13-year-old with a blunt doing you a hurt.

I suspect the bear would prefer to be stoned

I suspect the bear would prefer to be stoned

But Cupp also has another concern.

“While there’s obvious support among libertarians, others worry about the moral implications of legalizing risky behavior simply because people are ‘going to do it anyway'”

Yes, she’s right — there are risks associated with marijuana use. One obvious risk is to the user’s health; smoking anything damages the lungs — but research strongly indicates that smoking pot is much less injurious than smoking tobacco. A significantly greater hazard is the risk of injury — to the user and to others. Pot clearly impairs psycho-motor performance. There’s certainly evidence of drivers impaired by marijuana being involved in auto accidents. Again, though, the numbers are much lower than for drivers impaired by alcohol.

I’m going to say this again: S.E. Cupp isn’t stupid. I often disagree with her, but she’s definitely not stupid. I don’t know, maybe she was high when she wrote that opinion piece. You can write opinion pieces when you’re stoned — another advantage of marijuana over guns (just ask the bear). But just to settle the question — no, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado doesn’t pose a political problem for progressives.

Stupidity, on the other hand, does pose a political problem for — well, for everybody.

ADDENDUM: Last night Kentucky State representative Leslie Combs was attempting to unload her handgun in the capitol building annex “when it accidentally fired. The bullet struck the floor and ricocheted into a bookcase.” Nobody was injured. Combs, though, might have been high, given her calm response to the accident: “I am a gun owner. It happens.”

he’s no gandhi

So there’s this guy in Utah who’s decided to go on a hunger strike. His name is Trestin Meacham. He’s a Mormon, a former candidate for the Utah State Senate (he lost), and a member of the Constitution Party. As you might guess, the Constitution Party is a pretty conservative group. Their goal:

[T]o restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.

They want a moratorium on immigration, English as the official language of Utah and the United States, an end to legal abortion (even in cases of rape and/or incest), a ban on pornography, to criminalize certain sexual behaviors, and marriage to be legal only for a man and a woman.

Trestin Meacham

Trestin Meacham – hunger striker

It’s the last issue that’s sparked Meacham’s hunger strike. The day after District Judge Robert Shelby ruled Utah’s Amendment 3 (which prohibits same-sex couples from marrying) was unconstitutional, Meacham began to fast. He wrote:

I cannot stand by and do nothing while this evil takes root in my home. Some things in life are worth sacrificing one’s heath and even life if necessary. I am but a man, and do not have the money and power to make any noticeable influence in our corrupt system. Never the less, I can do something that people in power cannot ignore.”

He’s been called crazy, a nut case, an unhinged whack job, and an extremist. He may well be all those things. But even though I disagree with his beliefs and his position on same-sex marriage, I respect his approach.

Suffragette hunger striker being force-fed

Suffragette hunger striker being force-fed

The hunger strike belongs to a very long and honorable tradition. Under Brehon Law (the civil law which governed behavior in pre-Christian Ireland), it was called troscadh. A person who believed he’d suffered an injustice would set himself outside the door of the offending party and refuse food. He would remain there, outside the door, until the offending party relented, or until he abandoned the troscadh, or until he died.

The moral weight of the act was staggering for both parties, especially in a culture where hospitality was so highly honored. There was tremendous social pressure on both the person fasting and the person accused of the injustice to reach a settlement. It was rare for the injured party to be sincere enough in his claim to actually starve himself to death, and for the offending party to be sincere enough to allow that to happen. On those rare occasions, it was understood that the person accused of the injustice would pay compensation to the family of the dead man.

When used by an individual against a group or a policy or an entire government, the act was called cealachan. It was more about social justice than individual justice. It was used by the Irish against the British for centuries, but the practice of the hunger strike is pretty universal. Gandhi used it several times, American suffragettes used it, Cuban dissidents used it, and detainees in Guantanamo have used it.

Gandhi during one of his hunger strikes

Gandhi during one of his hunger strikes

And now Trestin Meacham is using it. I confess, I don’t understand his reasoning. I can’t think of how allowing same-sex couple the legitimacy of marriage could be considered an injustice. This is what he says on his blog:

On Friday the 20th of December, a federal judge overturned the State Constitution of Utah and ruled against and its restriction against same sex marriage.  In so doing, Article 1 Section 8 and the 10th Amendment of the U.S Constitution were violated.  Even worse a law voted on by a strong majority of the people of Utah was rescinded, thus robbing the people of their voice in government.  And if this law remains, the natural rights of free speech and religious freedom, vouched safe by the first Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, will be violated.

But how is free speech violated? He has a blog that can be read by anybody, in which he openly expresses his religious and political views. That IS free speech. Nor can I see any barrier on his ability to openly practice his religion. Nobody is preventing him from attending services, nobody is interfering with his right to live his life according to his religious beliefs. Nor is anybody interfering with his hunger strike, which is in itself an expression of his civil rights.

This has nothing to do with hatred of a group of people.  I have friends and relatives who practice a homosexual lifestyle and I treat them with the same respect and kindness that I would anyone.  This is about religious freedom, and an out of control federal government.

Well, no — it’s not about religious freedom. It’s a ludicrous claim. Nor is it about ‘an out of control federal government.’ It’s about the simple fact that Meacham’s religious and political beliefs are in conflict with the law. He may not hate gay folks — I can’t see into his heart, so I don’t know. But I do know he wants the right to discriminate against them.

Suffragettes engaged in hunger strikes to secure the right of women to vote. Gandhi went on hunger strike to support Indian independence from Britain and to stop violence between Muslims and Hindus. IRA hunger strikers were fasting to assert their right to be recognized as political prisoners, not common criminals. The Gitmo hunger strikers are protesting their continued incarceration without having been tried or convicted of a crime.

Trestin Meacham, on the other hand, is fasting to prevent people who love each other from marrying.

I support Meacham’s right to protest the law. I support his right to speak out against same-sex marriage in Utah. I support his right to go on hunger strike, and starve himself to death for a cause he believes in — despite the fact that I think his cause is absurd and hateful. I even support his right to claim he’s doing this a noble cause.

But there’s nothing at all noble about denying other folks the rights you enjoy yourself.

Addendum: Today Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor put a halt to Utah’s same-sex marriages pending an appeal of Judge Shelby’s ruling. More than 900 same-sex couples were married during the interval between Shelby’s decision and Sotomayor’s order. None of this had anything to do with Meacham, his fast, or his civil liberties.