So what have the religious right been doing lately?

Southern Baptist spokesman Daniel Darling insists, contrary to statistics, that evangelical conservative churches are drawing young believers. It’s only soft liberal churches preaching “the gospel of nice” that lose the young. As Slacktivist points out, the Bible has a lot to say about compassion and what might be called niceness. And as noted at the first link, a lot of its un-nice vitriol is reserved for the rich and powerful.
Despite which, Bryan Fischer (the man who believes the First Amendment is only for Christians) believes the poor should kneel down and kiss the ground where the rich walk because the rich pay the taxes that pay for welfare.
And here we have another true believer declaring her disgust for the Nabisco Honey Grahams pro-gay ad.
Oh, and here’s Rachel Held Evans on how evangelical churches continue driving away anyone who believes in social justice.
•Slacktivist has often noted that right-wing Protestants did not universally condemn abortion after Roe vs. Wade. Case in point, the Southern Baptists were fine with it.
•Meanwhile, Tennessee cracks down on women who use drugs while pregnant. And more and more right-wingers are pushing personhood measures that give the fetus full legal rights. This doesn’t lead anywhere good.

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The spineless Bond: Quantum of Solace, with spoilers (#SFWApro)

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No, Bond doesn’t turn coward in Quantum of Solace. It’s the narrative spine that’s lacking. Like Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, it doesn’t have much of a plot. Unlike the previous movie, it doesn’t have a strong personal arc to compensate.
The Story: Within an hour of the end of Casino Royale, Bond is driving his prisoner to M, dodging bad guys along the way. In the interrogation, the prisoner laughs at how little British intelligence knows about them and gloats they have people everywhere. And to prove it, M’s bodyguard suddenly tries to kill her and Bond. Surprise, he loses!—though M grumbles about Bond killing the man instead. M then delivers the film’s best line, “When someone says ‘we’ve got people everywhere’ you expect it to be hyperbole—florists say that!”
The bad guys’ trail leads to Haiti where Bond meets Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and his mistress Camille (Olga Kuryenko). We learn Greene’s organization, Quantum, is negotiating with a Bolivian general to put him back in charge of his country, in return for mineral rights to a stretch of worthless desert. As proof of his bona fides, Greene states Quantum organized the overthrow of Haiti’s President Aristides when business interests took a dislike to his policies. Camille’s working against Greene (we later learn she’s a Bolivian government agent), who decides to have her killed. Bond, of course, saves her and later has a shoot-out with Quantum. One of their people is high in the British government, so M revokes Bond’s passport and credit cards.
Bond makes it to Bolivia anyway and discovers, with Camille, that Quantum is using the land to dam up Bolivia’s water supply. Once the general makes them the water contractor for the nation, they’ll have a monopoly on water resources. The CIA has signed off on the takeover under the assumption Greene’s found oil in the desert and will cut them in. Fortunately Bond’s on hand and when the general and Greene meet in a desert hotel powered by hydrogen fuel cells, a lot of people die explosively. Bond mines Greene for Quantum’s secrets before abandoning him in the desert. With his new knowledge he hunts down the boyfriend Vesper betrayed him for in Casino, exposes the man as a Quantum agent and turns him over to M. His lover avenged, Bond’s back in action for good.
Why It Didn’t Work: As with the first film, there’s no immediate threat here. The plan to control the water supply is a threat, but it’s not an urgent one. It’s also a very real, down-to-Earth one (there are third world countries dealing with oppressive privatized water utilities now) but while that works for John LeCarre, it’s kind of flat for Bond. It’s true Live and Let Die had an equally low-key premise (massive drug-dealing) but it also had strong villains (Yaphet Kotto, Geoffrey Holder) and the wildly sinister voodoo stuff (racist though it is, it’s more interesting than Quantum). Greene, like Le Chiffre, is deadly dull—maybe it’s a Quantum job requirement?
The movie tries to give Bond another personal arc, but it doesn’t fly. Unlike Connery’s determined pursuit of Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, Craig doesn’t come across any harder than he is already. And the ending just feels incredibly forced, a convenient twist to give him closure over Vesper.
The end result is that Craig’s sophomore effort is more on the level of Man With the Golden Gun than From Russia With Love.
And now just one movie left! Back next month (unless time-travel films soak up all my viewing hours) with Skyfall.
(All rights to poster image belong to current holder).

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Hmm (#SFWApro)

So a magazine I submitted to turned the story down (our old friend Doesn’t Suit Our Needs). And didn’t encourage me to submit again, but did recommend I tell all my “writer friends” about them.
I’m inclined to think they really didn’t like my work.

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And all the seas do link

Phyliss Schaffly explains that increasing the wage gap between men and women can be a good thing, as more women will be able to find a husband who earns more than they do. As Echidne notes at the link, Schaffly has built an activist career out of telling women their careers are not important.
•Yes, what we did to prisoners under the Bush administration was torture. And we should call it by that name, because “harsh interrogation” just makes it easier for our leaders to excuse it.
•Tax-prep companies such as Turbotax are pushing against the idea of the IRS figuring out people’s taxes—and using religious and business groups as a front.
•Comcast’s proposed Time-Warner merger could lead to everyone enduring data caps on Internet use. Even without data caps, the industry has ways to squeeze content providers (and thereby consumers).
•Fear of witches can turn into child abuse.
•More on our government’s willingness to use social media as propaganda tools.
•A learning disabled teen catches his bullies on iPad. The result? The school punishes him for “wiretapping.”
•As you may have heard, a rancher who refuses to pay his federal-land grazing fees to the government is now claiming persecution. And the government has gotten out of hand, tasering his son for objecting (as Digby points out, there’s nothing political in that: taser abuse has been a problem for years). As LGM notes, all that said, the guy was clearly in the wrong, a welfare queen who wants to suck off the government teat. But rightbloggers are suddenly fine with that.
•A conservative pastor abuses a teenager, then (according to a lawsuit) warns her that if she goes public, she’ll be known as “damaged goods.”
•Forget malls. Restaurants and fast-food joints are the new teen hangouts.
•Griswold vs. Connecticut was a landmark case that established the right to privacy and the right to use birth control (for married couples—the unmarried came later). A blogger looks at what a game-changer that was, and what a blow to the religious right.
•The religious right also hated Dungeons and Dragons. But they lost that one. Slacktivist argues that D&D did indeed pose a threat to fundamentalist beliefs because “Fundamentalist ideology is a fragile thing, after all, so almost anything other than itself is correctly viewed as a subversive threat.”
•A new study suggests obese fathers make it more likely children will be autistic. Echidne looks at how tentative and carefully the media report that news, in contrast to when female obesity was the topic.

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Story Behind the Story: Number of the Least (#SFWApro)

My short story Number of the Least is now out in the fourth issue of Fever Dreams. So as usual, here’s how it came to be.
The ultimate inspiration lay, IIRC, in Fred Clark’s Left Behind critiques at his Slacktivist blog. For those who haven’t heard of them, they were a wildly successful series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, chronicling the events of the Rapture and the End Times, as conceived in LaHaye’s view of Revelation (Clark goes into some detail on why it is not, as sometimes described, a literal retelling of the book). Clark strongly disagrees with LaHaye’s conservative theology and his analysis makes great reading for the most part (I do not agree with him that you can draw any conclusions about the readers from the books. As I’ve said before, you are not what you read).
Anyway, one of the points on the LB posts was that becoming Antichrist is a really bad job. Sure, you have a fabulous life for seven years, but then you face eternal damnation. So what would drive someone to take the gig?
Those seeds lay and germinated until at some point, I got the mental image of a schmucky guy dismayed because his change is $7.77 instead of $6.66. It’s never $6.66, not for him.
And so the somewhat absurd story of the wimpy guy who dreams of being the Antichrist began taking form. It firmed up fairly quickly, in fact. The main changes other than general tightening were removing some of the sex references and making it clear just why it ends the way it does.
And that’s pretty much it—it’s a short story, though I’m really pleased with it. Read it for yourself—it’s free!

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Links in the morning

Wal-Mart is announcing the age of Cheaper Organic Produce. LGM points out, however, that Wal-Mart makes things cheaper by pressuring suppliers into cutting prices to the bone. And this will probably translate into less money for the workers (“just offering cheaper organic food under an exploitative labor system is not much of an answer to our ailing food system.”).
•I know I’ve made a similar point myself (though I don’t have the energy to link to it) but here it is again: Fear of becoming a minority makes some white voters more conservative.
•Echidne looks at one drawback with approaching education as a for-profit business: It’s hard to analyze just how good a product you’re offering students.
•You’ve probably heard of the Stanford experiment where students playing guards and prisoners slid into their roles to the point the guards were openly brutal. Northier Than Thou wonders if one student’s conscious decision to play Bad Cop skewed the results.
•How economic equality kills people.
•Unsurprisingly as Santeria draws more believers to the faith, the faith divides into sects.
•Brandeis University has invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a feminist and anti-Islamist, to speak, but refused to give her an honorary degree. As LGM points out, that’s not censorship.
•Witch-hunters have killed far more people than witchcraft. So logically, having witches around is safer than having witch-hunters. Some related thoughts from me here.
•Conservatives talk a lot about how women’s subordinate role is natural. But in that case, why do they like unnatural things such as women shaving their legs?
•Right-wing bullshit is the gift that keeps on giving. Did you know the federal government had nothing to do with freeing the slaves?
•Comcast continues to claim that merging with Time-Warner Cable will be wonderful for everyone.

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TV and Movies (#SFWApro)

Season Three of the BBC’s SHERLOCK has Benedict Cumberpatch return from the dead to find Watson about to get married to Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington). As he and Watson reconstruct their friendship (Watson is understandably unhappy Holmes neglected to mention staying alive), they take on the usual array of cases, but I think the personal interactions make for more fun than the mysteries. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Mary comes across as a fun character who likes Holmes and is open to him dragging Watson off on adventures; a good season, though I thought some of the elements in the final episode (His Last Vow) were too implausible.

After reading Picnic at Hanging Rock, I decided to check out the movie, which I’d watched years ago. PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975) improves on second viewing, though I’m still not as blown away with it as many people are. It’s much more narrowly focused on the ripple effects of the four girls’ disappearance than the book was, and comes off more openly supernatural. I think, though, that’s just the effect of seeing the events rather than reading about them. Worth a look. “Do your best to forbid any idle or morbid gossip about this wretched business.”
CAPTAIN AMERICA: The Winter Soldier (2014) is the sequel in which Captain America learns SHIELD under director Alexander Pearce (Robert Redford) is about to launch flying super-weapons for making pre-emptive strikes against America’s enemies. And no sooner does he suggest this is a seriously bad idea than he and Nick Fury find themselves in a world of trouble. A good thriller (though anyone who caught last week’s Agents of SHIELD first will get lots of spoilers) with plot elements that would qualify for my Screen Enemies of the American Way book; Scarlett Johansson plays the Black Widow and Anthony Mackie becomes the Falcon (though I’m curious if making him a VA counselor rather than the comics’ social worker is because social work is now regarded as People Who Hand Out Our Tax Money to Welfare Cheats). On the downside, turning the French mercenary Batroc of the comics into a murderous Algerian assassin feels like blatant anti-Arab stereotyping. Despite that, a very good film. “I’m sorry, did I step on your moment?”

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