Open Thread for Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kind of a slow news day. But here are some possible topics:

1. Darius Rucker tells ‘Today’ Hootie & the Blowfish will reunite — If you’re a Midlands resident of a certain age, this has got to be kind of exciting, right?

2. Airline admits it knew of co-pilot’s depression in ’09 — I’m really glad that I’m not in charge of crisis management at this airline.

3. Comedy Central stands by new Daily Show host Trevor Noah — Wow, that didn’t take long. I mean, how about letting a guy at least get into the room before you jump him?

4. Iran Nuclear Talks Deadline Will Be Extended By A Day, U.S. Says — And will that make all the difference? Will another day cause Iran to change its mind about wanting to be a nuclear power?

… or whatever y’all want to talk about…

64 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, March 31, 2015

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    You gotta do an Open Thread when everybody hasn’t been commenting all over the rash of posts you’ve recently made…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m not sure what you mean. Do you mean I shouldn’t have used the Trevor Noah and depressed pilot items?

      Well, maybe not. But I chose them BECAUSE they were new developments on something we had been talking about.

      Maybe that’s not the best way to handle it. I’ll try to make further Open Threads mostly new topics. Although today that would have been a bit hard, since it’s a soft news day…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        No, I’m saying Open Threads are better utilized when there are not a lot of other items…

  2. bud

    I find it fascinating that Governor Pence of Indiana has landed himself in such hot water over his non-answer to the ridiculous freedom of religion act he signed into law last week. For one thing politicians on those shows always dodge those type of yes/no questions. They go on those shows to make some type of point rather than to seriously address relevant questions. Usually no one pays that type of political gamesmanship little attention. But this time was very different with a very strident response from many corners.

    Second, isn’t it just remarkable that this gay rights issue has evolved so rapidly in the last 10 years? Pence pointed out that Bill Clinton signed similar legislation 20 years ago without any hint of controversy. Now this blows up in a politicians face in a very big way, including corporate boycotts and pushback from some Republican politicians. The mayor of Indianapolis in particular is horrified at the prospect of demonstrations at this weekends final four games.

    Finally, what in the world is the purpose of a religious freedom law? Isn’t that pretty well covered by the first amendment? It can’t be for any other reason that to give businesses carte-blanche right to discriminate.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Finally, what in the world is the purpose of a religious freedom law?

      To protect religious practices that conflict with laws of general application unless the laws serve a compelling government interest.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      “Isn’t that pretty well covered by the first amendment? It can’t be for any other reason that to give businesses carte-blanche right to discriminate.”

      Let’s explore this, because having done one hypothetical tonight, I’ll toss out a few more.

      1. Frederich, the Illinois Nazi, strolls into his local bakery and requests that the baker make him a Hitler Cake to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. — Does the baker have the right to refuse?

      2. Terry the Tea Partier has decided that he isn’t going to continually have his comments moderated on Brad’s Blog anymore, so he goes down to the local print shop and requests 10,000 flyers reading “OBAMA IS A KENYAN COMMUNIST”. — Does the printer have a right to refuse?

      3. If a minority of bakers refuses services to gay weddings, what actual damage befalls gays? There are still many, many more bakers who will bake them their cakes. So what is the actual harm?

      1. Doug Ross

        While all of your examples probably follow the intent of the law, how about the case where Joe and Tom go into a car dealer and want to buy a car together but the dealer doesn’t want to sell to a gay couple? Suppose the only dealer in town who will sell to them charges a $1000 more than what the original dealer charges “regular” couples.

        I think it comes down to the request made – it can be denied based on the request but not the requester.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          how about the case where Joe and Tom go into a car dealer and want to buy a car together but the dealer doesn’t want to sell to a gay couple?

          Ok. The answer, and you’re not going to like it because it’s a lawyerly answer, is: It depends. If the gay couple sues the car dealer who completely refused to sell them a car, a court would have to make a determination as to whether selling a car “substantially infringed” on the car dealer’s religious practices balanced against the compelling government interest in not having people discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality. RFRA just sets forth the balancing test – that’s it. So, the Court would have to make an inquiry, and each side would argue their case. Is there another car dealer anywhere who will sell to the gay couple? Are they actually harmed? Has the defendant car dealer ever sold cars to gay people before? What are his specific religious beliefs on this matter? It’s all very fact specific, and a court would make a determination.

          Suppose the only dealer in town who will sell to them charges a $1000 more than what the original dealer charges “regular” couples.

          I assume this a totally separate hypothetical?

          Leaving aside the fact that people pay different prices for cars all the time, I’ll assume the car dealer explicitly states that the $1,000 is a “gay penalty”, but he will in fact sell them the car. In this case, I think the gay couple has a meritorious claim against the car dealer here. It’s one thing to say that I won’t engage in some transaction at all, based on a religious belief. However, it’s another thing to say that you’ll engage in the transaction, but to somehow assuage your religious guilt, you’re going to charge the other person more money. That doesn’t seem to be a sincerely held and principled religious belief to me.

          1. Doug Ross

            Yes, but you neglect, or at least minimize, the cost and hassle of having to go to court to resolve these types of hypothetical situations. The burden should be on the service provider to demonstrate harm in delivering a service or goods versus the buyer having to prove it. Selling a gay couple a cake doesn’t imply supporting gay marriage any more than selling a cake to a Democrat implies supporting Obama.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              “Yes, but you neglect, or at least minimize, the cost and hassle of having to go to court to resolve these types of hypothetical situations.”

              Correct. I did not address the time and expense involved in litigation because that’s not relevant to the inquiry. Complaining that litigation is a “hassle” is like complaining about the weather. Don’t get me wrong, litigation is certainly no picnic, especially if you feel that you’ve been wrongfully sued. But unless we go to a loser-pay system in the US, which ain’t gonna happen, then that’s just part of the world we live in.

              “Selling a gay couple a cake doesn’t imply supporting gay marriage any more than selling a cake to a Democrat implies supporting Obama.”

              Frankly, I agree with you. However, others may feel differently and I don’t feel the need to make them think the way I think. However, to me, simply engaging in an economic transaction with someone (providing a good or service for money) does not implicate my approval or disapproval of their values. I was making this same point to some of my law school friends the other day. For instance, I sometimes represent people who have done things I don’t approve of. Maybe that makes me unprincipled, or maybe it doesn’t. Criminal defense attorneys do it all the time. When Vincent Sheheen provides legal services to an individual accused of Criminal Domestic Violence, it doesn’t mean that Vincent Sheneen condones CDV, which is why I thought that line of attack on him was absurd beyond words. Maybe some lawyers would turn down that kind of client. Maybe some do.

              I guess the thing is, I don’t disagree with those who refuse to serve gay weddings, and I don’t necessarily agree with them, either. I don’t have to. That is the point of tolerance of diversity of opinion and thought. It’s not that I either disagree or agree with someone’s decision or someone’s self-expression, but I support his rights to decide for himself, and express himself, as he sees fit. I don’t have to agree with everyone, and they don’t have to agree with me.

              Ultimately, what seems like is being pursued here is not gays’ rights to have wedding cake or stay in hotels, or have flower arrangements – even in Indiana. Gay people already have this, (obviously) and do not need the law’s insistence to get it. What it kind of seems like is that the hardcore gay rights people are insisting that no one has the right to disagree with them on their Sacred Belief that gay marriage is good, ok, and no big deal, and that the law can and should be perverted into punishing ThoughtCrimes.

              Personally, I think gay marriage is no big deal. Also, I’m fine if other people want to say that it IS a big deal, and if they do not care to endorse it by transacting business with gays, then that’s their own decision. I kind of don’t care either way, because in the end, no one is really hurt either way. If gays were being denied services in some sort of wholesale way that resembled the Jim Crow South, then I’ll re-evaluate. But that’s clearly not happening. It’s telling that all the Parade of Horribles that the gay rights crusaders are talking about are hypothetical.

              Accordingly, I give the tie-breaker to letting people do, think, and express themselves how they want when there’s no real downside other than hurt feelings.

              But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Actually, it does, especially if there are two little men dressed like grooms on top. Just as putting donkeys on the cake is an act of expression that endorses the Democratic Party.

            You are participating in a celebration. You are part of it. The act of making the cake is an expressive act, and you should of course be free to express that sentiment or not.

            I’m probably more acutely aware of this, as a person who was a journalist for so long, and now engage in an enterprise in which we express things for clients.

            I’ve not been asked to express anything I disagree with yet. And as someone who is still essentially a journalist, my alarm bells would go off pretty loudly were that to happen.

            Perhaps a person who has always provided clients with whatever they want — putting whatever they want on a cake, for instance — would not be as sensitive. Or maybe he or she would be. I don’t know, not being such a person…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              To clarify: “Selling a cake” to someone, as you put it, is one thing. MAKING a cake for someone — a creative act — is something else.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                Excellent point. Again, this goes to my point of each case being fact specific. It’s possible that an outcome of a case could turn on one store is simply being a “middle-man” and selling cakes someone else made, while another store actually makes the cakes there. See, it depends.

            2. Mark Stewart

              That’s absurd. The baker of the cake is not a party to the celebration; the cake itself is.

              It has long been commonly held that manufacturers sell their goods – and have nothing whatsoever to do with them once sold (other than to warranty – sometimes – their quality). Just look at the gun lobby arguments, as but one example.

            3. M.Prince

              Just as an aside, a professional cake-baking friend of mine was once asked, post-9/11, to bake a cake depicting the Twin Towers, complete with a jet liner crashing into one. She was appalled at the idea and begged off for “technical reasons,” saying she didn’t think she could pull it off (though she’s done some amazing things). So, people can get out of doing things without having to say what their real motivations/objections are.

            4. Brad Warthen Post author

              Mark, I’m surprised that you are so dismissive.

              It seems to me fairly obvious that the baker — assuming he or she makes the cake to order, rather than simply selling one of a bunch of cakes that are just alike — is a sort of hired co-celebrant in the wedding, along with the coordinator, the band (if you have one of those kinds of big-deal receptions), the priest or preacher or justice of the peace or whatever officiating, and so forth. Participation is, to varying degrees, an endorsement of the proceedings. (So is attending the wedding as a member of the congregation.)

              It involves negotiating the quicksand between what the client wants and one’s own creative sensibilities… Which, I can tell you from several years of doing that, is no walk in the park…

              I’m still struggling with the adjustment, from always writing and saying exactly what I thought to always ultimately doing what the client wants. 🙂

            5. Brad Warthen Post author

              And M., I sympathize with your friend’s predicament. But is lying one’s way out really a long-term solution to such problems?

              Perhaps so. Perhaps the white lie to spare feelings is the way to go. I don’t know. And I don’t mean to sound judgmental about the way your friend handled a tricky situation. Sounds like it worked…

            6. M.Prince

              Oh, I think in this case the ole white lie was perfectly acceptable. Frankly, I’d have had trouble stifling my disgust at such a horrific request. Plus, it’s questionable how much of a lie was involved, since the depiction was meant to be 3D: two upright towers with plane crashing into one, all made of cake (and icing, of course). That’d be no small feat, even for an experience cake baker.

            7. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, though it sort of runs against the grain, the white lie approach is growing on me.

              We’re trying to legislate what amount to awkward social situations. Maybe we should just let people muddle through in old-fashioned ways…

              Of course, what we’re talking about is whether to protect people from laws that don’t LET people muddle through on their own, but which legislate certain responses. RFRA is about protecting someone who says “I just don’t think I can make a 9/11 cake” from being sued by someone who thinks it’s for another reason… Or a similar situation (I don’t suppose that one involves RELIGIOUS beliefs exactly)…

            8. Mark Stewart

              Attending as a guest and the presence of a minister are certainly actions in support of the proceedings. The band? The caterer? The flowers? Nope. Just business. Of course, the reverse IS true; who people pay to provide services is in fact (mostly) an indication that the user has or had approved of the vendor.

              Did I sound dismissive? Didn’t mean that. It does strike me as an absurd extension of the religious protection article. All of these efforts to rationalize boorish behavior irritate me, actually.

              I do agree that these are all just attempts to legislate social behavior – something that never works out well, or as “intended”.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        1. Jadaveon’s mom wants to buy a cake to celebrate his victories, but none of the top bakers in town will sell to black people.
        2. Maurice makes the best barbecue in town, but won’t allow blacks in his restaurants.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          So you’re going to fall back on that one? A conservative Christian who (unlike such recent converts as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) has NOT changed his mind about the definition of marriage is the exact same thing as a racist?

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            You do know there were same sex common law married couples back in Colonial days (common law marriage was pretty much the norm for opposite sex common law couples, back then, too).

          2. Doug Ross

            Not the same level of bigotry, but bigotry nonetheless. How can a definition of marriage be the basis for denying a customer?

            Can an atheist refuse to serve Catholics? Can a member of MADD refuse to serve a person with a DUI conviction?

            It’s a transaction, not a confirmation.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Maurice totally believed in all sorts of racist stuff, as a matter of Biblical TRUTH–and he was a Lutheran, for Pete’s sake!
            Lots of racist stuff was preached from pulpits back before you were a twinkle in your dad’s eye, BC. Lots!
            The Methodists were one of the few Southern churches to back integration.

          2. M.Prince

            It’s a valid point: that there were religious objections raised to racial mixing (i.e.God created the races and it is not for man to mix them together). The difference is that it is now a general principle of law that discrimination based on race will not be tolerated — which does not hold in all places with respect to homosexuality. So is it a matter of simply carving out protected minorities in law? Moreover, is that, in a sense, what lies at the heart of RFRA, creating another protected class? If so, isn’t the snake sort of devouring itself — creating a situation in which equal “compelling interests” are competing with one another, as it were?

            1. Bryan Caskey

              Moreover, is that, in a sense, what lies at the heart of RFRA, creating another protected class?

              RFRA doesn’t create another protected class. It simply sets forth a balancing test to apply facts to. The government can still substantially burden your religious practices. It just has to show a compelling government interest is served and is being done in the least restrictive way possible.

              For instance, if you decided that it was against your new, groovy religion to disregard stop signs, and were prosecuted for it, you could assert the RFRA defense. However, the State of South Carolina would likely convince the trial court that it has a compelling government interest in regulating traffic, and they are doing it in the least restrictive way possible. And you would have to pay your ticket for disregarding a stop sign.

              RFRA isn’t a licence to do whatever your “religion” says. It just sets forth the standard that the facts are applied to.

            2. Mab

              Mr. Prince,

              The LGBT ‘movement’ is either population control or an open invitation for some kind of religious takeover. 2% of persons are historically ‘born this way’ — the others are either 1) really hurt individuals from heterobrutes or 2) sleeper cells persons hoping for takeover.

              Much like my husband — welcomes police intrusion; thinks it is for his benefit. King David Syndrome. Only royalty has their own military — right?

            3. M.Prince

              If a law’s primary if not sole intent is to promote or uphold discrimination against one class of people based on the religious beliefs of another, as appears to be the case when viewed in context, I’m not at all sure that it would stand up to judicial scrutiny. I mean, if anti-discrimination laws also apply on the basis of “sexual orientation,” why should the balancing test be applied in the now classic florist v. gay couple case when it cannot be applied to those whose “closely held religious beliefs” tell them that race mixing is an abomination against God’s creation and therefore refuse to serve Blacks or, at a minimum, insist on segregated seating or other separate accommodations for Whites and Blacks?

              1. Bryan Caskey

                I can’t explain it any more than I already have. If you don’t get it by now, I can’t help you.

            4. M.Prince

              Oh, so sorry for being so dense. But then, I reckon I’m not alone — given the controversy over the Indiana law, including among some pretty high-powered legal scholars and practitioners.

              In any case, the Hobby Lobby decision certainly appears to have muddied the waters in matters like this by effectively granting to private companies at least some of the protections for religious objections previously reserved for churches and church-affiliated institutions.

            5. Brad Warthen Post author

              When one tries to balance competing interests for the good of all, unsatisfactory results will abound.

              Which takes me back to the origins of RFRA — which was about letting Indians use peyote in rituals.

              I’m sorta kinda sympathetic to people exploring their heritage (and their consciousnesses) that way… and yet… I’m a big believer in the government’s legitimate interest in not having people running around completely fried out of their gourds.

              So I can’t say I’ve EVER been entirely comfortable with the effects of RFRA.

              But this debate is taking place in a context in which people don’t accept uncomfortable solutions. Absolutism rears its head, and no messy solutions are to be allowed!…

            6. M.Prince

              I have no problem with RFRA where it involves the protection of practices that are strictly religious in nature (such as wearing religious symbols or, as you mentioned, smoking peyote). But I start to get twitchy when religious exemptions start to be applied in what are essentially business or commercial transactions.

            7. M.Prince

              It’s also interesting that in the Smith decision that prompted passage of the federal RFRA (and in turn all the state RFRAs), Justice Scalia wrote that using a religious exemption in conflict of a valid law “would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.” Looks that’s the kind of muddle we’re seeing now.

  3. Harry Harris

    I’m 68 and glad to hear Hootie & Co may be back into action. They saved rock and roll from the grunge binge all those years ago. Rucker was a young guy with a grown man’s voice.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I looked up Eddie Vedder to make sure I was spelling his name right, and discovered that he was listed No. 7 on a list of best lead singers in Rolling Stone.

        It was a list determined by readers’ votes, so it definitely didn’t apply any sort of guiding theory. The six ahead of Vedder were:

        Robert Plant
        Freddie Mercury
        Mick Jagger
        Jim Morrison
        Roger Daltrey

        All of which I would say were there based on the popularity of their bands, with the possible exception of Freddie Mercury, who likely made it on singing ability.

        Vedder was just ahead of John Lennon, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, and Kurt Cobain.

        Really? Lennon makes the list and McCartney doesn’t? And no Elvis? Admittedly, Elvis was a solo act, and not technically a “lead singer,” but still…

        The list ran in 2011. I guess it’s a tribute to the readers’ taste that all of the singers honored had had their heyday 20 or more years before. Note that no one who rose up through “American Idol” made the list…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          The list was of course a listicle, which meant I had to click again for each name on the list.

          I hate listicles almost as much as Illinois Nazis…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Dang. I was hoping to get a “top five lead singers of the rock era” thread started here. Maybe I’ll have to make it a separate post…

          1. Bryan Caskey

            We’re too busy talking about gay people and wedding cakes. You know, the important stuff. 🙂

          2. Brad Warthen Post author


            I was never a big fan of Hootie’s original stuff, although I like the guys personally (they said “yes” when I asked them to sponsor a Habitat for Humanity house, and showed up to work on it).

            I might have liked them better as a cover band. I THINK I once heard them doing a cover of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” that really impressed me.

            I say I THINK because that’s just weird — anyone but John Lennon singing that narcissistic song about himself and Yoko. But I think that’s what I heard…

            1. Norm Ivey

              Darius has a really nice catalog of solo country stuff. His latest (Southern Style) was just released Tuesday. He always includes a reference or two to South Carolina, which I like. ( Need You More on the new album has a line “Carolina needs a redshirt.”)

          3. Norm Ivey

            Top 5 lead singers of the rock era? Based on voice quality, here are my nominations…

            1. Freddie Mercury (Queen)
            2. Steve Perry (Journey)
            3. Brian Johnson (AC/DC)
            4. Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones)
            5. Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)

            I look at this as sort of a MVP of rock bands–which singers helped their bands the most? These bands would have been less if they did not have these persons as lead singers.

            Now if you want of list of singer-songwriters, the list would look very different, I think.

            1. Norm Ivey

              Oh. Who do I take out to add Roger Daltrey? Or Stevie Nicks (maybe not THE lead singer, but still…)?

            2. Bryan Caskey

              Bono has to be in there somewhere, right? I’d take out either Brian Johnson or Steve Perry and add Bono. Plant should be higher.

            3. Norm Ivey

              Bono would make my top 10 list, but I’d be hard pressed to remove anyone to give him a spot on this list.

            4. Kathryn Fenner

              Yeah, Bono sings in tune, for the most part, with decent diction for the most part.
              Paul McCartney

            5. Bob Amundson

              Kathryn: Do you wanna be the singer? Do you wanna be the song? Let me tell you something; you just couldn’t be more wrong.

            6. Norm Ivey

              I went for the obvious, I’m afraid. Yeah, Greg Lake had one of those “big” voices. He’s a good nominee. As is David Clayton Thomas. I like Puckett’s voice, but don’t see him making a top 5 list. Joplin belongs on the list. I’d probably replace Brian Johnson with Joplin on my list.

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