People You Prefer

It’s amazing how infrequently the news cites or links to original source material. The hardest part of posting today was finding the dang statutory language.

In relevant part the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) stipulates that

a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion . . .[unless it] (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Guess what? This is literally already the law.

Indiana didn’t make these words up. And they aren’t words without meaning. “Substantially burden” and “compelling governmental interest” and “least restrictive means” are legal terms of art.

It’s called strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny is the test courts must apply to any governmental action (law) that attempts to regulate the free exercise of religion. It’s literally already what is required by the United States Supreme Court. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 546 (1993).

That’s why the federal RFRA analog to the Indiana bill has been deemed constitutional. It’s just not applicable to the states and that is why twenty some states have passed their own version, including Indiana.

But, in the wake of protest over it, the Indiana legislature has agreed to compromise language, which specifies that the new religious freedom law cannot be used as a legal defense to discriminate against patrons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Well what about race or national origin? Or pregnancy or sex? Can Indiana’s RFRA justify disparate treatment on account of those characteristics? Well those immutable qualities are already protected from discrimination either by constitutional interpretation or specific federal statute. It’s not necessary to accuse Indiana’s RFRA of enabling discrimination on those grounds because it is understood already that it can’t. But, no such comparable protection yet exists for sexual orientation and gender identity, thus the necessary specificity.

So, here’s the amazing result. The public pressure on Indiana’s RFRA has transformed a law that was simply an echo of the legal status quo into literally an affirmative protection for sexual orientation and gender identity that did not previously exist (at least expressly).

I think in wrestling that’s called a reversal. And pin.

Regardless of the legal merits and effects, the cultural ones continue to be sort of ridiculous. On both sides. The controversy over RFRA sure involves a whole lot of can’t. You can’t eat here. You can’t tell me I can’t eat here.

I know there is some mutually-exclusiveness between the positions, but I sure would just prefer that both can. The religiously orthodox or shortsighted bigots can exercise discretion over their business interests and the LGBTQIA community can take their business and prodigious wealth just about anywhere else. I don’t believe this is going to result in significant exclusion.

When the equal access battle was fought for racial minorities in this country 50 years ago, there was no cultural capital on that side. To have waited on a cultural tide or the greed of capitalism to erode the segregation wall would have been a long, tortured wait.

It’s not the same cultural or economic ecosystem that the LGBTQIA community faces. First, our economy is so pluralistic, for every one fundamentalist burrito spot that denies you, there is an organic burrito, gay burrito, sports burrito, actually mexican burrito, or anti-burrito burrito restaurant to direct your appetite and dollars. Second, the momentum is now all on the LGBTQIA community’s side. The people who would deny service on these grounds are officially outliers. That’s not a value judgment; it’s just true. As a business person you’re somewhere along the following spectrum: (1) wildly, enthusiastically Andy Dick pro-gay; (2) gay friendly; (3) neutral; (4) personally uncomfortable but professionally ambivalent; (5) personally and professionally intrepid; or (6) passionately, comfortably Chik-Fil-A against-gay. (That’s not fully fair to CFA; I don’t even know a public enough name for this camp; which is the whole point.) I just don’t think the number and quality of the businesses desiring to publicly be (6) can be that significant. It’s just generally not very cool anymore or good for business. That’s not to say there isn’t financial opportunity in bigotry; there is. There’s just a whole lot more in non-bigotry.

And, speaking of the hipness of the relative positions, it has officially flipped. It wasn’t sexy to be an abolitionist or a non-segregationist. It definitely wasn’t cool to stand beside AIDS victims in the Eighties. But, as soon as it’s cool to be for a particular civil right, you’re on the wrong side of the issue. That’s the whole point. The community being denied the right is, by definition, marginalized not popularized. If you actually gain cultural cache among the masses by being so outspoken on a topic, you’re not a hero or martyr; you’re bandwagon. So no one should be patting themselves on the back for the most obvious possible observation that deep proponents of the RFRA are probably and mostly bigots on this topic. But, if you really count yourself a civil libertarian, the fight is now officially on the other side. People are entitled to be wrong. And, live wrong lives in furtherance. Let’s please not forget that.

I wanted to rank my favorite Easter candy just because I like ranking things. Growing up, I spent most of my Easter mornings trying to brandish various candies to my father but blinded by the Damascus Road movie camera flash. It looks like interrogation footage. Seriously.

5. Jelly beans. And, not just Jelly Belly snobbery.
4. Giant bunnies. Anything oversized at seven years old gets top 5 billing.
3. Whoppers Robin Eggs. Because someone still has to stand up for malt.
2. Mini Cadbury Cream Eggs. Am I the only one who gags trying to eat the original?


1. Grayson Allen. A delicious Easter candy too??! What can’t this kid do?

What are the chances that the vintage Paas image I chose for today would advertise “Gay Calicos”? 98. 100%?? Seriously. Total happenstance.


Written and performed by sintax.the.terrific. Music produced by Dalama Jones.

Today’s blong here:



The Rule of Two

We were warned.

There are always two. Apprentice and Master.

We thought George Lucas was the Master. The genius who brought us the greatest Sci-Fi universe ever conceived. But, in the immortal words of Ben Kenobi, “There is another.” And, so apparently George was only a kind of Lord Vader to Disney’s Emperor. Which makes sense because Lucas’ hair has plainly been horribly disfigured in a lava accident.

(And no doppleganger jokes.)

If you haven’t heard, Disney bought Lucasfilm and by extension the entire Star Wars franchise — for $1000.

Sorry. Strike that. 4.05 billion dollars. (I always round to the nearest .05 billion.)

And, in case you’ve forgotten, Disney “is not a moon. It’s a space station.”

So, plan on Vader helmets with mouse ears for the foreseeable future. And, if you don’t think a Blu-Ray version of Little Mermaid isn’t being released with a Jabba cameo you’re naive. He loves the ladies with the seashell-bras!

I’m sort of conflicted, though. As so many who were raised on the classic installations, this sort of piling on is a kind of heresy. The volume of Star Wars movies and spin-offs is going to make the Bond franchise look like a Lifetime three-part mini series.

But the Anakin in me is sort of mischievously excited. Light sabers and wookies and jedis every two years??!

Welcome to the Disney World Dark Side.


Written and performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced Matt Pelishek.
(No joke I just have these kind of beats lying around. Crazy right? Providence and joys of song blogging.)

Today’s blong here:

The Empire

[Correction: I’m aware that the production company was originally “Twentieth Century Fox.” You can’t be too careful with Star Wars nerds. I would have never heard the end of that one.]


Amen Corner

I’ve been going all Ryan Lochte at the neighborhood pool. Giant chains. Monster tires. Ice grill. I even tried to trademark “Pah-shhh!

In Lochte fashion, I can also swim four 25 meter laps. In a row. Without stopping. Well, maybe one stop. But, very short. And a nap. With only one snack. And I might walk the last 25 meters, water aerobics style. With floatable hand weights (2.5 kgs). In goggles. And a scuba mask. Two tanks. Only one flipper, though. Otherwise it’s exactly how Ryan does it. Except slower. And, less swimming. More swim trunk. But a good bit less swimming. But, I’m like the 5th fastest at the McCarter pool in my age demo. Just saying. A lot of the lifeguards think I could have been pretty good if I had learned to swim as a kid. So I’m pretty decent.

103 miles. Do you know how many 25 meter laps of your neighborhood pool that is? 1 Trillion. 1 Trillion laps. That’s what Diana Nyad is doing. Right now. While I’m song blogging in an Ed Hardy Snuggie, she is swimming from Cuba to FLORIDA. What?? Not canoeing. Or jet skiing. Or wake boarding behind a Disney cruise liner. Or hydra-foiling. Or even hydroplaning. Swimming. Like one-arm-in-front-of-the-other, legs-kicking-up-and-down swimming. Not to be confused with “watching swimming” or “reading swimming books” or “not swimming from Cuba to Florida” swimming. Swimming.

I’ve been infatuated with Diana for what feels like about 20 years now, although I don’t think it can be more than about 2. She is a long-distance swimmer (has there ever been a more wild understatement?). She set all sorts of long distance records in the seventies for similar caliber swims to what she is now attempting and, in fact, tried to swim from Cuba to Florida in 1978 as a 28 year old. Strong winds apparently took her too far off course to continue.

She is now 62.

I’d like to end the post there. That number says it all.

103 & 62. The only details that matter.

Oh. And the sharks. And the cramps. And lightening bolts. And Poseidon, God of the Sea. And the 3 day sleep deprivation. And the 30 foot swells. And probably like a flock of snapping turtles. And hypothermia. And 25 mph squalls. (Whatever those are.) And the Box Jellyfish.

For all my life, it was the Portuguese Man of War. But, apparently, those are like firework sparklers compared to the Box. The divers intrusted with protecting and rescuing Diana were put out of commission by one, during her failed attempt last year. (Oh did I forget to tell you this is her third attempt post-60? If I can raise a spoon thrice to my mouth after 60 I’ll consider it an upset.) She, however, suffered multiple stings AND KEPT SWIMMING THROUGH THE NIGHT.

I’ve taken a half day from work for too much static cling.

Augusta National Golf Club the home of arguably golf’s fines tournament, The Masters, invited for the first time in its history, two women to become members: Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. Among many more notable accolades, Moore is from my home state of South Carolina and the namesake of the nationally recognized School of Business at the University of South Carolina. I’m just saying. We’re amazing. (Let me double check. Nope. No Clemson gals were invited.)

Anyway, it’s a pretty big deal. The exclusion of women, in the 21st Century, from such a high profile club was this really strange juxtaposition. Even after some pretty serious heat for the policy, starting in the early 2000s, the club seemed unlikely to cave. And, they were facing relatively modest consequences. But, it’s not any kind of secret that women remain on the outside to a certain extent in business and politics, when they can’t get in the clubhouse or out on the course.

So you’d like to celebrate the reversal. But, it feels just sort of like a “duh.” Not super courageous or progressive or even polite to get around to inviting women in 2012. Mostly just a late pass.

Augusta National is known for many eccentricities, none more famous than a trio of holes beginning with the second shot on 11 through the tee at 13, called “Amen Corner” that require spectacular heroics to survive. Sort of like Diana’s swim. And, almost certainly like the advancement of women through these many centuries. Patient. Perilous. Precocious.

When I got up this morning I intended to write about a really special swimmer, exhibiting the highest sort of personal courage. By the end of the day, the story was even more profound for the symmetry in the two events. Diana’s outrageous refusal to quit. And the unrelenting patience of women to be accepted in the Club. The wallet and the purse. Surf and turf.


Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s song blog here:

Surf and Turf


In the Conservatory with the Wrench

Look. Our house is a mess. I think I saw my kids using full stalks of celery to spoon peanut butter from the same tupperware our cats use. In the bathroom. The crunchy. I’m just saying. I’ve worn an oven mitt to do yard work. And, to groom the aforementioned feline. And, to bake Tollhouse. Honest: I’m staring right now at a diet Mountain Dew can on top of a silver-sequined dress on top of a Fed Ex overnight box on top of a lampshade on top of a wicker bowl on top of a pile of laundry. It’s like squaller Jenga.

Our finances are about the same. We run roughly 13 small business and a cash-for-gold scam out of our home. I couldn’t balance a checkbook on J. Lo’s backside.

All this to say, when JP Morgan admitted recently that it lost 2 billion dollars, I was like, “Hey, guys, I get it.” You put it down. You’re grabbing the keys. The kids are screaming. Your late for ballet. The baby has a poop diaper. Your wife is nagging (I mean, I’ve heard that that sort of thing can happen to some husbands.) You drive off, and the 2 billion cold ones slide from the hood of the Honda Odyssey onto the lawn where your neighbor’s yard stuber accidentally mulches it into a confetti pile with the riding lawn mower.

It happens. I personally make it a rule not to throw stones at a JP Morgan when you live in a glass JP Morgan Chase financed house. Nah mean?



Oh, that’s messed up, man. You guys are seriously effed.

That’s more than the GDP of like 37 countries. Although, only twice the amount Jerry Jones spent on the Cowboys God forsaken football stadium. But, still.

No, seriously. What are you going to do? I lost $83 and a Frankie’s Funpark Rewards Card once and I thought my wife was going to kill me.

How are you going to explain this to your shareholders? The SEC? Congress?

Huh? What? You already did? Today? And, it took under 50 minutes to meet with your shareholders? And, you just said, “We lost it. Super sorry”? I’ve given a longer apology for a flatulent.

Anybody still think that the modern economy can be managed by the bodiless, invisible hand of Adam Smith anymore? It wasn’t really his hand. Just his metaphor.

The quality of both capitalism and democracy is determined principally by one thing: information. If people have it, they can make informed decisions with their dollars and votes and hold business and politics to account. If they don’t, they get hosed. And, ironically, we live in an age of unprecedented access to information. The internet, smart phones, Wikipedia, Tosh.O, Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live. But, that’s the problem. Having ALL the information in the world available actually makes none of it available.

And, so we don’t know what JP Morgan is doing. They don’t know what JP Morgan is doing. Apparently, the $2 Billion dollar loss was the unforseen product of another exotic derivative gone wild. Another topless algorithm shaking it for the camera. JP Morgan was apparently trying to manage their non-client fund assets but may have run afoul of something called the Volker rule. Or maybe it’s the Vulcan rule.

Live long and prosper.

I did some new math in the blong today. All the numbers check out. The 2 bills is definitely gone.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by dj clutch.

Today’s song blog here: