Thursday, May 4, 2017

A synoptic history of the separation of church and state: Our first update for 2017!

(And it's a doozy!):We update this history today for the first time since 2015 when  Jeb! Bush, who almost – but not quite – reclaimed some Kennedy territory. But p3 First Amendment fans ain't seen nothin'  yet!

(NOTE: This timeline was originally published in shorter form in 2009, driven by the somewhat-naive thoug ht that the time that then the process of theocratic overreach in the US was probably already at or near its zenith. Now it appears that p3 must stand ready for further revisions from time to time, as the exigencies of Republican electoral politics require it. We welcome the task.)

1791 James MadisonCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

1802 Thomas Jefferson: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment guarantees Americans a wall of separation between church and state.

1954 Dwight Eisenhower: The separation of church and state surely won't be hurt by adding "under God" to The Pledge of Allegiance in the name of anti-Communism, will it?

1960 John F. Kennedy: The separation of church and state is absolute. My church will not dictate my policy decisions.

2008 Mitt Romney: The separation of church and state is relative. My church will dictate my policy decisions, but only to the extent that I will discriminate against the same people Christian conservatives would already be discriminating against anyway.

2009 Bart Stupack: The separation of church and state is a fairy tale. My church will show up at the Capitol steps in a limo to dictate policy.

2012 Rick Santorum: The separation of church and state is an abomination. "Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech [by JFK to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960], and I almost threw up."

2012 Sally Quinn: The separation of church and state is impossible. “This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.” Agnostics, atheists, and other nonbelievers need not apply.

2014 Rick Santorum (again): The very notion of the separation of church and state is "a Communist idea that has no place in America."

2015 Fifty-seven percent of surveyed Republicans: The separation of church and state is sacreligious, since the U.S. Constitution is a document inspired by Our Lord Jesus Christ, so it counts as Holy Scripture.

2015 Rand Paul, libertarian-of-convenience:  The separation of church and state is a one-way street: "The First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn't say keep religion out of government."

2015 Jeb Bush, "moderate" GOP presidential candidate: The separation of church and state is nothing more than a "game" of "political correctness."

2015 Bobby Jindal, 2016 vice-presidential hopeful (and staunch opponent of executive orders, when it's Obama, who not that long ago told fellow Republicans they had to stop being "the party of stupid"): The separation of church and state can be disposed of by simple executive order from the governor, even after the GOP-controlled state legislature killed the same anti-LGBT bill the week before.

2015 Jeb Bush (again), apparently ignoring his promise of roughly six weeks earlier (see above) that his Catholic faith would naturally influence how he governed as president: "I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope," adding "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”

Ooh! So close to what JFK promised in 1960 (also above) – so close! Except that Kennedy pledged that the church would not dictate his policy decisions – Period. Full stop. – whereas Jeb only pledges that the church won't dictate his economic decisions. This means that, as both a good Cafeteria Catholic and a Republican candidate who must pander to his base to make it through the primaries alive, he feels free to ignore anything he doesn't like that the Pope says about matters like climate change, economic inequality, privatizing Social Security, or similar things that could make a difference to his donors' bottom line.

But, of course, he considers himself totally free to invoke his faith in the name of being anti-choice and anti-contraception, to say nothing of attempting to use the Florida National Guard to cruelly prolong the life of Terri Schiavo. (You didn't forget that one, did you?)

2017 45th President and widey-noted Christianity practitioner Donald J. Trump,signing his "Religious Liberty Executive Order" coinciding with National Prayer Day: "The order, which Trump inked during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, directs the IRS to exercise "maximum enforcement discretion" over the Johnson amendment, which prevents churches and other tax-exempt religious organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It also provides "regulatory relief" for organizations that object on religious grounds to a provision in Obamacare that mandates employers provide certain health services, including coverage for contraception."We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore," Trump proclaimed during his remarks.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday, December 23, 2016

I'm out! See you at spring training next year.

I got nailed in the great p3 “Little Drummer Boy” challenge last night, Thursday the 22nd, at 8:30pm, with two days and a threee-plus hours before the deadline. It's one of my best non-winning scores.

oh, who am I kidding? I didn't have a “best non-winning score;” I lost. Period.  Rules are rules. I have to wait until next year to try again. I'll be ready.

I got caught by the host at pub trivia, who played the Pentatonic cover of the dreary holiday classic in question between rounds. Ironically, I had a near miss about an hour earlier when he played the Bowie/Crosby 1972 cover. After that one came and went, I breathed a sigh of relief, since that version is specifically exempted under Rule 3b. Obviously, that was a bit presumptuous of me.  Still, as Commissioner; I have to set an example.

Several worthies have already gone out (and there's certainly no shame in that); at least one from outside the US. The International “Little Drummer Boy” Commission thanks them for making the competition all that it is by taking part. And at least three friends remain in the running, two of them back in the state of my birth (if not the state that I'm from); good luck to you all. May the odds be ever in your favor.

I'll join you back here at 12:01am, Friday, November 24, 2017, when next year's games begin.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Place your bets it'll probably be as safe as putting the money toward your 401K)

The p3 over-under for the moment (assuming it didn't already happen and I missed it) when a congressional Republican, or a member of the Trump inner circle, or one of their spokespersons goes on TV and proclaims that deficits no longer matter (again):  11:00am Sunday, November 27th.

Tie-breaker: Whether the interviewer pushes back in any detectable way.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Let the games begin!

Tonight, in just two minutes at 12:01am Friday, November 25, 2016, begins what the Commissioner has somewhat arbitrarily declared the twentieth annual running of the "War on the Little Drummer Boy." You are invited to take part. No registration fee or peeing in little cups is required.

The rules are as follows:

1. The challenge begins at 12:01am local time on the day after Thanksgiving – this year that's today, November 27th. It ends at 12:01am local time on December 24th.

2. If you hear even a tiny snatch of TLDB at any time during that period, if it's recognizable as such, the game's over until next year. Thanks for playing.

3. There are two exceptions to Rule #2.
3a. The first exception is that if someone deliberately plays TLDB just to make you lose, it doesn't count (this, I'm sorry to say, is known as the My Sister Jane Exception).

3b. The second exception is that the early 1970s cover of TLDB by Bing Crosby and David Bowie doesn't end the game. I treasure it for its transcendental weirdness.
4. Since the date of Thanksgiving floats, scoring is based on how many days remain until Christmas, not how many days have passed since Thanksgiving. So, e.g., December 15th from any year always beats December 14th from any year. (That's based on a 2013 ruling by the Commissioner.

(Note that Rule #4 will mean that this year has a slightly higher degree of difficulty, since Thanksgiving falls on one of the earliest calendar dates possible.)

Odds favor those who do not work in retail, and who do not drive around in cars with satellite radio tuned to all-Christmas channels.

Last year, for the first time in at least 15 years, meaning well before the sport went pro and appointed a league statistician and its first commissioner, I successfully made it to 12:01am December 24th without hearing "The Little Drummer Boy," which means I earned the equivalent of straight 10.0's from the judges.

The precise origins of The Annual "The Little Drummer Boy" Competition are shrouded in antiquity and legend, but many reputable historians of the sport believe it traces to this moment on December 18, 1963.

You can read more about my war with "The Little Drummer Boy." and relive highlights from previous seasons-- including the crucial importance of Rule 3b -- here.

If you played last winter, I hope you'll play again this season. If you're a beginner, I hope you'll join. Feel free to check in via the comments here, or at @nothstine, to let me know how you're going.

May the odds be ever with you.

The definitive Thanksgiving song.

It's almost as if they were . . . organized!

One of the two best 1970s sitcom moments (here's the other one, but it doesn't have anything to do with Thhanksgiving, so . . . ). Slightly edited, the only way this clip seems to be available now.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The unforgiving minute: Re-evaluating my entire adult life

(I also posted this on my Facebook feed, but trust me: no one there will notice this.)

A "mondagreen" is a song lyric that you've gotten wrong because you mis-heard the original, e.g.: "Hold me closer, Tony Danza," or "Revved up like a douche," or "El Kabong, what's that flower you have on?"

Pandora just played The Hollies' 1972 classic "Long Cool Woman," and for the first time I followed along with the lyrics and discovered that over the last 44 years that entire song -- except for the title itself, which I got entirely right -- that song has been, for me, one complete 3-minute 15-second mondagreen. Every single line I had wrong. Every one. That song hasn't even remotely been about what I always thought it was about. Not. Even. Close.

I have to think about this.

The one song I ever came this close to getting entirely wrong was “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the only song my high school garage band ever wholly ruined.

Minute's up.