If you know me at all, you know I love The Rachel Maddow Show. One of the things that Rachel often says, both on her show and her website, is that they really do read the emails that they get. So I decided to send her an email about an idea that's been floating around in my mind for a while. We'll see if they respond, or maybe even mention my idea on the air (unlikely, but possible, right?). Here's my message (linkified for my blog audience).

First of all, I love your show. I guess I'm more of a liberal on most issues, but more than wanting to take sides, I really just like hearing the facts about what's going on. So much of the "news" is about poll numbers or speculation. It's almost like the news anchors have become pundits, and you're the one that just gives us the actual facts. Plus it's hilarious when you get all excited about things like which cocktails were served at a White House cocktail party. =)

Anyway, I'm glad you're still following the "Discrimination based on sexual orientation? Yup, that's fine" story from Virginia. It's really shocking and horrible and most people (news people and regular Americans) only seem to have the attention span to follow it for a day or two. I was thinking: Though it doesn't happen often (maybe ever), if someone were fired for being straight, that would also constitute discrimination based on sexual orientation, wouldn't it? Which means it would be perfectly legal to do in Virginia, and in several other states that don't have an ENDA-like law.

What do you think about the following scenario: There is a government official in VA who is gay, but has straight employees who work under him. He picks one of them and fires him without explanation. When questioned, he says that the official was "one of those heterosexuals" and although he was a good employee, "it was just hurting the morale of our government office to have a breeder in our offices. After all, there were women who worked in the same office with this guy. Who knows what might have happened? I wish him the best of luck in life, with his "partner" and hold no personal grudge against him, but this is what is needed for the proper functioning of the Virginia government" etc.

Of course, you would probably want to get the permission of the person who was going to be fired, maybe make it someone who was planning on leaving anyway, or has enough money saved up to be out of work for a little while. But the idea is that then straight people across Virginia and across the country would be livid. "How dare you fire someone just because they're not the same sexual orientation as you are! What he does in the bedroom has no bearing on how he does his job or serves his state! We should judge people based on their work ethic and intelligence, not their sexual orientation!" And then anyone who agreed with the governor's position (maybe even the governor himself?) would pause for a second and go "Ohhhhhh, so that's how it feels when the law doesn't protect you."

What do you think? Is it feasible? Do you know any straight Virginia government employees that would be up for it? Would people dismiss it as a cheap, irresponsible publicity stunt? Maybe just presenting this as a hypothetical would make people think twice about it.

Tyler Breisacher


Jax and his webcomic

Everyone go to my friend Jackson's webcomic, Majestic 7. I fully admit that most of the reason I'm writing this is because I'm hoping it shows up on the first page when I do a Google search for Majestic 7. You know because I'm way too lazy to just remember the address or bookmark it or something.

But yeah, it's fun. It's made with legos! Check it out.

... Majestic 7


NCAA Nicknames on Sporcle

If you liked my last post, you might like this Sporcle game I just made: NCAA Nicknames. I looked at all the answers (because I had to in order to create the quiz) and I still only got about 44.


Mascot/Nickname Bracket

I thought it would be fun to fill out an NCAA tournament bracket where the winning team is the one with the better team nickname and/or mascot. What makes it better? Oh, you know. If there's something funny about the mascot, or I think it's clever, or just more original than the opponent, then I'll put it through to the next round. I may also select the one who I think would actually win in a fight. I'm not going to spend a ton of time researching each mascot (i.e. this is based on whatever I can find on Wikipedia in a couple seconds) but in some cases, I've actually seen the mascot in person at previous tournaments so I may draw on that experience.

Some notable matchups:
  • #5 Michigan State Spartans vs. #12 New Mexico State Aggies (Round 1). While I have to admit that Spartans is at least a little more original, I would bet New Mexico State is the only "Aggies" team whose mascot carries a gun. Maybe the only mascot of any kind that has a gun. Also, the Spartan is named Sparty and he looks like Jay Leno. Sparty? Come on. Winner: Aggies
  • #8 UNLV Rebels vs. #9 Northern Iowa Panthers (Round 1). Both pretty boring, honestly. But the Panthers mascot is TC Panther. An homage to T.C. Boyle, perhaps? Or a nod to the school's founder whose name was T.C. Something-Or-Other? Nope, it stands for "The Cat". Really. But he's won all kinds of awards at cheer competitions and stuff, so I'll give it to him. Winner: Panthers
  • #3 Georgetown Hoyas vs. #14 Ohio Bobcats (Round 1). It turns out, no one is quite sure what a Hoya is. It may have come from this weird Greek/Latin mishmash phrase that students used to say, but no one quite knows why they said it. I can't decide if it's kind of cool that they're willing to use a mascot that they don't even know what it is, or if it's really tooly, like having a tattoo of a Chinese character on your ankle without knowing what it means. Luckily, they're up against one of the most boring and generic mascots ever. Winner: Hoyas.
  • #2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #15 UCSB Gauchos (Round 1). I think you guys know where I'm going with this. It's a nut. Or a... big seed. Or something. Winner: Gauchos.
  • #7 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. #10 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Round 1). Normally I would go with the bees on this, because I think it would be the only chance for an insect to make it to the second round. But it turns out the mascot for the the Cowboys is Pistol Pete, a name I recognized from when I read about New Mexico State a few minutes before. It turns out the same guy is the mascot of two different schools. Technically, I can't let him be eliminated in the first round and make it to the second round at the same time. It might cause a rip in the spacetime continuum or something! Winner, by a spatial-temporal technicality: Cowboys.
  • #4 Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Murray State Racers (Round 1). I think this is my favorite first round matchup. "Commodore" reminds me of the stuffy British sailors in Pirates of the Caribbean who are always running around with bayonets asking each other how the hell Jack Sparrow has escaped yet again. Racers, on the other hand, refers to racehorses, which sounds like a team you can bet on. Literally. I have to admit, there aren't too many teams named after people instead of animals, that actually sound cool. Winner: Commodores.
  • #2 Kansas State Wildcats vs. #15 North Texas Mean Green (Round 1). Normally, I would eliminate a mascot that's a color, instantly. But unlike the Syracuse Orange or the Stanford Cardinal, at least they thought to add some sort of adjective to it. And they're up against one of the most unoriginal things ever, yet another Wildcats. Winner: Mean Green.
  • #5 Temple Owls vs. #12 Cornell Big Red (Round 1). Remember Owl from Winnie the Pooh? He was awesome. Winner: Owls.
  • #4 Wisconsin Badgers vs. # 13 Wofford Terriers (Round 1). I was about ready to give this to the Terriers because they're so cute. Until I remembered that, when I was in high school, badgers were the funniest damn thing in the world. If there's a "Fighting Mushrooms" or "Garden Snakes" in the tournament next year, I promise to put them through to at least the Sweet Sixteen. Winner: Badgers.
  • #7 Clemson Tigers vs. #10 Missouri Tigers, and #5 Texas A&M Aggies vs. #12 Utah State Aggies (Round 1). What the hell, guys? How did this happen? All four of you lose the first round.
  • #11 Old Dominion Monarchs vs. #14 Sam Houston State Bearkats (Round 2). Yes, with a 'k'. What the hell is a bearkat? I can only assume it's a cross between a bear and a kat. I bet that kind of unholy hybrid would be pretty good at basketball. Unfortunately, this bracket is rigged. See below. Winner: Monarchs.
  • #11 Old Dominion Monarchs vs. #15 Robert Morris Colonials (Sweet 16). AMERICA! Winner: Colonials.
  • #1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #4 Maryland Terrapins (Sweet 16). I know, I know. How did a turtle make it this far?! But look at him. That looks like a pretty badass turtle. And plus, his name is Testudo. Like a combination of testosterone and Menudo. Obviously pretty badass. And, did you know the Jayhawk is a mythical cross between two birds -- the noisy blue jay and the quiet sparrow hawk? So these are some pretty sweet mascots. But ultimately, the power of flight wins out over the power of... plodding. Winner: Jayhawks.
  • #15 Robert Morris Colonials vs. #9 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Final 4). I hate to see America lose this one, but isn't a "demon deacon" like being a double-agent in the ultimate war? Winner: Demon Deacons.

The complete bracket:

Final thoughts:
  1. There are too many Golden Somethings. You can't take a boring mascot like a Bear and make it somehow interesting by calling it a Golden Bear. Come on. I think there were four of these.
  2. If your team name is literally a color, I have no respect for you at all. Figure it out, Syracuse.
  3. I wish there could have been a matchup between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Richmond Spiders.
So what do you think? Which mascot was unfairly eliminated? Who's your favorite mascot that didn't even make the tournament? What would your mascot/nickname bracket look like, and who would be the ultimate champion?


Apparently, yes, they are.

In my last post, I told you about a comment I left on the blog for the anti-same-sex-marriage group NOM. It seemed that NOM had deleted it, but I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. So I posted another comment, which I thought was fair and unoffensive and such. I took a screenshot in case NOM took it down again, and sure enough, when I checked tonight, it was gone.

If NOM doesn't want certain comments on their blog, they certainly have the right to delete or censor any comment they like. But it would be nice if they had a clear set of criteria for what is allowed. Even something as simple as "We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason" would be great, but as far as I can tell, they don't have a policy like that, or any other policy, posted anywhere.

I want to make sure I'm being clear here. It seems like every time something like this catches people's attention, someone mentions the First Amendment, claiming that their Constitutional right to free speech is being violated. This is not a First Amendment issue. I was posting on their blog, which they own, and they have the right to absolutely control the content on it. I just think it would be nice if they explained their rationale. Don't you think?


Is NOM censoring comments on their blog?

Several weeks ago, while the Prop 8 trial was underway, someone posted a comment on the blog of the National Organization for [opposite-sex only] Marriage and it almost immediately disappeared without warning or explanation. He posted another comment expressing disagreement with NOM's position, took a screenshot to prove it, and sure enough, it was gone within a few minutes. (If anyone has the link to that blog post, that would be great. I don't remember whose blog it was but maybe someone can find it.) There was a some outrage on Twitter and a few other blogs, but nothing huge, because everyone was more worried about the trial. At some later point, I posted a comment disagreeing with NOM so I believed they had stopped taking down pro-SSM comments.

Today, they posted an entry about a Catholic charity in Washington, D.C. which has decided not to offer benefits to any of their employee's spouses, after same-sex marriage became legal in that city today. As a charity, they receive a lot of money from the city each year, so the city told them if they're going to offer benefits to opposite-sex married couples, they should do the same for same-sex married couples. Since that goes against the teachings of the Catholic church, they decided not to offer benefits to anyone's spouse. It was a very difficult decision for them, and this is an issue that same-sex marriage supporters should consider. Even if you believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, no matter what, you should realize that it can have unintended consequences like this, and be careful that you're not advocating anything that would force charities into uncomfortable positions like this, if possible.

But NOM picked the following title: "Church Forced by DC Government's SSM Law to Drop Future Spousal Benefits" As another commenter before me pointed out, that's not just misleading, it's an outright lie. In fact, the very first sentence of the blog post itself (from the Washington Post article I linked to above) is: "The church faced two options with the approval of the new law." So, yes they were put into a very difficult position. Yes, they were forced to make a choice. Yes, perhaps the DC City Council should have considered the charity's complaints more carefully before passing this law. But no, sorry, the government didn't force the church to drop future spousal benefits. That is just not true.

I posted a comment saying something to the effect of "Look, there's a real debate to be had here. But if your post title says the church was forced by the government to do something, and the very first line of the text says they had two options, then how are we going to have that debate?" When I looked at the entry again, my comment was gone. I don't want to accuse NOM of censoring comments, especially because there are several other dissenting comments on that entry which have not been deleted. But it does seem suspicious. I went ahead and posted another comment saying more or less the same thing. So far it is still there but I'm excited to see if it gets taken down again. If my first comment was indeed removed, I'm curious how they decide which ones to leave up and which ones to remove.

P.S. I have to give NOM credit for using the term "SSM" instead of "gay marriage" or "homosexual marriage." As you might have seen in a recent poll about DADT, people feel a lot differently about "gays and lesbians" than they do about "homosexuals" so thanks NOM! I appreciate you using a term that is less likely to stir up emotions. That is a big step in the right direction and I very much appreciate it!