7 things @ 11 o’clock (8.13)

1. Bank of America’s business model involves gouging its customers with fees and surcharges for the rest of their lives. We already knew that. What we didn’t know was that Bank of America continues gouging its customers with fees and surcharges even after they’re dead.

Bottom line: If you have an account with Bank of America, write a clear will or you won’t be able to leave that money to your heirs. Bank of America will just keep it for themselves.

2. Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew does not understand either the First Amendment or the meaning of the word Christ. The judge changed the first name of a 7-month-old boy from Messiah to Martin. “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Ballew said.

Ballew seems to think “Christ” was Jesus’ last name rather than a Greek title meaning, basically, “Messiah.” She also seems to think she has the right to make her sectarian pronouncements legally binding. She doesn’t.

Plus she’s disingenuous. Ballew has never seen fit to tell parents they cannot name their child Dean, Earl, Abbott, Bailey, Deacon or Judge because “it’s a title.”

3. Thanks to aunursa for alerting me to the flurry of recent casting news for the Left Behind reboot. Still no word on who will be playing our favorite Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, but American Idol winner Jordin Sparks has joined the cast. Sparks will be playing “Shasta, one of the passengers on the plane during the drastic event.” Most of the casting, so far, has involved characters who aren’t from the book, and most of them seem to be passengers on that plane — further evidence that this looks like a more conventional disaster-movie plot than a didactic “Bible prophecy” seminar.

The cast also includes Han Soto — who says, regarding his name, “Imagine the conversation that I had to have with Harrison on set.”

4. If an atheist who was also a big Dallas Cowboys fan tried to volunteer with the Dallas Cowboys Fan Club, but got turned away because she’s an atheist, then you’d be right to suspect that this fan club is not really what it claims to be. You’d be right to suspect that — despite the name and the group’s claims about its purpose — it wasn’t really about the Cowboys or the team’s fans, but about some other, unspoken cultural agenda that it regards as far more important.

Well, that didn’t happen to an atheist Cowboys fan, but it did happen to an atheist who tried to volunteer with several “pro-life” organizations. It didn’t matter that she fully shared their ideas about what they said was the central purpose of their groups. She didn’t understand the larger, unspoken cultural agenda that they consider far more important than that. (I don’t know that the groups themselves fully understand that larger agenda either. It’s unspoken because they cannot articulate it, even to themselves.)

5. This Jesus juking around the recent British royal birth is more of a tribal pep-rally than an attempt to communicate or to persuade. But as James McGrath reminds us, the pronouncement of a royal birth is an important part of the context for what we Christians mean when we talk about evangel-ism or when we sing about the herald angels singing.

6. Non angeli, sed Irishman:

Posted by Fr. Patrick Dowling on Friday, Aug 9, 2013 8:20 PM (EDT):
I had Mass in Ewing MO as the regular priest was sick. As I was returning, I arrived at the scene. The authorities were redirecting traffic. I waited till it was possible to drive up closer. I parked behind a large vehicle about 150 yards from the scene. I asked the Sheriff’s permission and approached the scene of the accident. I absolved and anointed Katie, and, at her request, prayed that her leg would not hurt. Then I stepped aside to where some rescue personnel and the pilot were waiting, and prayed the rosary silently. I left when the helicopter was about to take off, and before I got to my car it was on its way to Quincy. I was amazed at the calmness of the two Highway patrol men. The sergeant was completely in control, amazingly calm. Everybody worked as harmoniously as a Swiss watch despite the critical nature of the scene. I gave my name to one of the authorities, perhaps to the sergeant of Highway Patrol, explaining that I was returning having celebrated Mass at Ewing. It was the sergeant who, at the Sheriff’s request, gave me Katie’s name as I was leaving, so I could visit her in hospital — I assumed she would be taken to Columbia. I think there may have been angels there too and, in this context, I congratulate the fire team from New London and Hannibal, the Sheriff/deputies of Ralls County, the Highway Patrol personnel, the helicopter team, the nurses and all who worked so professionally. God has blessed your work. I hope the credit goes where it is due.

7. Kit Whitfield’s series on first lines gets to the most infamous of them all: “It was a dark and stormy night …” and finds it’s better than its reputation.

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  • fraser

    So in addition to “abortion is the most horrifying thing in the known universe but we won’t stomach birth control or sex ed to prevent it” we also have “We won’t stomach atheism.”

  • Wednesday

    Yep, heaven forbid an atheist help Save A Baby, however indirectly, except by giving money. Life is sacred, but not so sacred that they aren’t willing to risk Not Saving A Life by turning away assistance.

    I suppose the fact that they were willing to accept her money puts them slightly ahead of the American Cancer Society, though?

  • Michael Pullmann

    That priest story is wonderful. Especially the ending; onlookers and commenters try to dream up all sorts of otherworldy explanations, and it turns out to be the simplest, and best answer: The priest was just a priest, doing his duty not just as a priest and a Christian, but as a human being. Kindness and goodness are perfectly ordinary.

  • Carstonio

    The Jesus juking is ironic because when Prince George is crowned king, one of his titles will be Defender of the Faith. Maybe for his coronation, he’ll ride into the church on a Harley while wearing leather and studs.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    I thought his granddad was planning to drop the the. The next monarch will, I believe, swear to defend faith in general, not any specific faith.

    I’m not entirely sure what faith needs to be defended from, mind you.


  • Vang

    No, no, by Defender of Faith he means that the crown will go total fanboys in all discussions of George Michael.

    More seriously, that’s a good thing for them to revise.

  • Ross Thompson

    It’s an odd title: One of the Pope Leos granted it to Henry VIII for his strident defence of Catholicism. Then he converted to Protestantism and burned down all the Catholic monasteries. The Vatican revoked the title, but Parliament voted for him and his heirs to keep it anyway, and when Anglicanism was invented by Elizabeth I a little later, that was the faith that they were defenders of.

    Given that Prince Charles will still be Supreme Overlord of the Anglican Church, it seems a little odd that he should see himself as defender of all religions; maybe this is an overture to disentangling the monarchy from the church?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    4: It’s all about the tribalism. It’s always all about tribalism.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    Fred, The James McGrath link is the same as the previous one. Was it supposed to be different? I’m guessing this is a copy-paste error.


  • Jessica_R

    I feel this is a good place to post this. I was missing Roger Ebert today, and I noted The Last Temptation of Christ had turned 25 too. So I looked up his review, and it’s one of the most incredibly thoughtful pieces on theology and the nature of God I’ve read. I figured it’d be of interest to this crowd, http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-last-temptation-of-christ-1998

  • Carstonio

    The only flaw with Ebert’s otherwise excellent review is that he gives the film’s protesters too much credit. The controversy over the film was purely a manufactured one, just as with Life of Brian, Satanic Verses, and the Dutch cartoons about Muhammad. In all four cases, demagogues selectively quoted from the material, and sometimes told outright lies about the content, to bolster their own power. (Michael Palin’s account of the Friday Night Saturday Morning debate makes it clear that the their opponents were hucksters.)

  • Jessica_R

    And can I just say that there are few things more depressing than learning “secular pro life” is a thing. Gah. At least with regular prolife I can understand the religious tribalism churning at the heart of it. This? “Well I don’t believe any deity is pushing me to this I just want to decide what you get to do with your body regardless. Thanks.”

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I understand it a lot better than I understand secular discrimination against homosexuality.

  • Carstonio

    Really? it’s more understandable to me the other way around. In my experience, “secular” opposition to homosexuality almost always involves pseudoreligious notions about nature and about the roles of the sexes. Often the arguments sound like redacted versions of Catholic or evangelical theology

    While some of the secular pro-lifers share those notions of nature, most of the others I’ve encountered seem to believe in Rand’s just world.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    There’s plenty of “secular” folks who are profoundly sex-negative for entirely non-pseudoreligious reasons. Someone who’s sex-negative can very easily convince themselves to oppose any kind of “nonreproductive” sex.

  • Carstonio

    The question is why they’re sex-negative. Every opponent of nonreproductive sex that I’ve encountered has argued from religion or from “nature,” and the latter is fundamentally a pseudoreligious concept.

  • Lorehead

    Oh, yes, if you’re an opponent of nonreproductive sex, or even less defensibly, of anything QUILTBAGs do with each other, including reproducing, but not of the same things when a man and a woman do them, you’ve internalized arbitrary cultural taboos against QUILTBAGs. (These are only religious insofar as people tack after them, “And God’s so smart, I’m sure he must agree!”)

    Sex-negative feminists, for example, don’t object to “non-reproductive” sex in particular.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    To me, characterizing it as “pseudoreligious” seems like you’re playing Bill Mahr’s game of “All evil in the world comes from religion. And if a group is evil but atheistic, that’s a ‘secular religion’ too, because I’ve defined ‘religion’ to mean ‘anything that motivates people to evil’.”

  • Carstonio

    Not at all, and I apologize for giving that impression. I’m using the term to mean any assertion of inherent purpose or meaning, or of a way things are supposed to be, that isn’t explicitly theological. Gender essentialism that purports to be secular uses the same assumptions about “natural law” as some religions while not using the term. Essentialism’s proponents may have not set out to translate the ideology of, say, Augustine into secular terms, but the resemblance is still there.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Gender essentialism doesn’t need a religious justification. You just need to dress it up with a misunderstanding of the difference between sexual dimorphism and innate traits, which in turn go back to a very superficial understanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    And this, in turn, provides a “reproduction = good, non-reproduction = bad” secular ‘justification’ for being anti-QUILTBAG.

  • Carstonio

    My point is that “nature” is a religious concept in everything but name. What you describe is the misuse of dimorphism and allegedly innate traits to argue for a way things are supposed to be. That’s simply another version of “the will of God” even if that isn’t the proponents’ intention.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    That about sums up someone I know. Atheist, fine with gay marriage (now, didn’t used to be), but heavily against transsexual and transgender normality because “that’s not how people are supposed to act. If you’re a man, be a man. If you’re a woman, be a woman.”

    We don’t talk much. I’m neither.

  • banancat

    I know an atheist man who is sort of like that. He’s actually completely fine with gay people doing whatever, but totally against trans people. He seems to think it’s all a ploy for straight men to sneak into women’s bathrooms or something. My guess is that he actually knows (out) gay people and has known them for a long time so it’s just a normal part of life, but there are fewer trans people and he has never had the chance to just meet someone who is trans and realize that they aren’t defined by that one characteristic.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    He seems to think it’s all a ploy for straight men to sneak into women’s bathrooms or something.

    Argh, I’ve heard so many people say things alluding to that, including earlier today when news broke about California passing a transgender student rights bill. One of the replies from Facebook:

    Is our culture with its gender-segregated bathrooms and such ready for this? Could not a person claim to be TG just to be able to go into the dressing room filled with members of the opposite gender and look at them? I’m just wondering. We’re not accustomed to co-ed dressing rooms and restrooms in our culture. We associate seeing nude bodies with voyuerism and sex. We’re not like some cultures where co-ed living and bathing and such are just daily things, no big deal. Are we ready???

    The idea that I could go into a bathroom and look at people for a kick has never once occurred to me.

  • Ross Thompson

    Yeah; I don’t know what it’s like in women’s bathrooms, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone nude in a men’s bathroom. If someone’s not in a stall, they’re no less modestly dressed than they are outside…

  • Shaenon K. Garrity

    Restrooms are a major source of sex-role anxiety for some reason. Back in the ’80s, the ERA was defeated partly by conservatives claiming that equal rights for women would lead to coed restrooms.

    Where are these restrooms and dressing rooms that have stalls with no doors and people just standing around naked? Because I kind of want to see that.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Well, there is a restaurant somewhere (I want to say Las Vegas, because really) where the mirror is actually one-way glass, so people on the street can look in on the bathroom.

  • Tapetum

    My college had coed bathroom, which worked just fine, thank you. Separate stalls, like every bathroom ever, and a sliding sign on the door men/women. If the sign was slid the wrong way for your gender, you knocked and hollered to check if anyone inside cared if you came in.

    (Sign rules said sign was set to “women” unless there was a guy, but even one guy in the bathroom slid the sign over. Primarily, I think, because it was a women’s college.)

  • Wednesday

    Half the dorms at my undergrad institution had coed bathrooms (showers, too). They tended to have two or three stalls apiece, but tended to function as single-user. Students were really good about respecting privacy in general, and I am aware of no cases of sexual harassment that involved the co-ed ness of the bathrooms.

    We had the biggest problem during parent weekend, because the visiting parents would ignore all the “knock if the door is closed and wait for permission to enter” signs.

    My current institution finally has unisex restrooms in academic buildings (they basically changed the signs on all the single-user restrooms), but none yet in the dorms.

  • That’s Not Yogurt

    In every single school I went to through 12th grade not one of them had a stall with a door on it in the boys’ bathrooms. I believe this was to keep guys from beating off in school. In my experience, it only kept guys from shitting at school unless absolutely necessary. The beating off took place elsewhere.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Hardly surprising given the fact that “One of the attendees turns out to be a sexist douchebeck. Attendees divided equally between allies and assholes. Dawkins says something insensitive,” has been a recurring theme whenever some kind of convention summons a bunch of prominent atheists lately.

    Some of the worst misogynists I’ve known have been secular ones. They tend to confidently back up their positions with evolutionary psych bullshit.

  • Baby_Raptor

    That was my exact reaction to seeing this article on the friendly Atheist.

  • Andrew Marchant-Shapiro

    Many years ago, I help coordinate campus antinuclear efforts at a Major Midwestern University. I mean, major–55,000 students (or so). Interestingly, there was one group that was absolute poison, and that other groups simply refused to work with. It was called, IIRC, “Pro-Lifers for Survival.”

    I’m not saying that what happened to Sarah Terzo was right. I’m saying that what happened to PLFS was also wrong.

    It’s hard to get past the sort of simplistic analysis that says “the enemy of my friend is my enemy.” Those of us who say we’re progressive need to be self-aware as well.

  • glendanowakowsk

    Treebeard the Ent had a much more pragmatic outlook:

    “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me…”

  • Andrew Marchant-Shapiro

    A good point, well made. I’m a lefty member of the LDS, and let me tell you, the LDS Church has made some single-issue alliances in the past with people who would throw us under the bus so damn fast…

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    We saw some of those recently in a thread about the LCMS, which was quickly bombarded by trolls. They were quick to distance themselves from anything which might imply the LDS was correct in any way (because their theology outright states that theirs is literally the only true faith and all others are pagan in nature), but when it came to allying with the LDS to pass Proposition 8, yadda yadda Common Cause and yadda Not Religious in Nature yadda gherkin pickles. This from a church who condemned a pastor for participating in a group vigil for the Sandy Hook victims because they feared people might get the impression the LCMS agreed with other faiths in any way.

    For my part, I think it’s possible for two separate groups to work toward the same goal for entirely different reasons — for one of them to even be deeply wrong in their convictions and yet still accomplish something good. I don’t think it’s necessarily duplicitous to accept the support of someone with whom you disagree on other principles, but I think a measure of honesty is warranted under such circumstances- “We agree on this, if nothing else, and if this is accomplished, it may remain the only thing we have in common.”

  • Andrew Marchant-Shapiro

    I think I agree. I really felt bad for the PLFS people–I felt that the principle on which they were being excluded wasn’t relevant, and deserved its own discussion.

    OTOH, the LDS-Prop 8 thing looked doomed from the start to me. That is, it was absolutely an alliance of convenience, and if the fundies ever gain power, Mormons will likely be the first against the wall. Having spent time as a non-practicing Jew, a Lutheran, an agnostic, and finally a Mormon (yes, it’s been weird) I have some insights into how these groups treat each other. In general, it’s not pretty. Groups *in general* aren’t nice to outsiders (see Durkheim).

    I also think there’s a distinction between cooperating with someone else (1) where because you agree on A there’s the possibility that you will communicate as to A’ or B and grow together, and (2) where that possibility doesn’t exist, and you both know that A is the only thing you agree on, and that A’ and B are the issues on which you will say “Here I Stand!”

  • MaryKaye

    Do you feel it was wrong because no group should ever be shut out of a cause with which it agrees, or because they had done nothing to deserve it?

    I’ve known groups that no amount of ideological matching would persuade me to work with, because they are dysfunctional or malicious; conversely, I know a Pagan group in trouble that was given enormous help by a Baptist Womens’ Association, which is not where you’d expect Pagans to find friends.

  • Andrew Marchant-Shapiro

    I think what bothered me was the notion that PLFS was so *entirely* off-limits. Literally no group with which my group was engaged would join hands with PLFS in opposition to nuclear weapons, though PLFS’s outlook was pretty much internally consistent. I believe they also (at least at the time) opposed capital punishment. A quick look at Wikipedia shows that the founder of PLFS later went off into Operation Rescue, but I honestly don’t know if (again, at the time, and remember, this was pre-internet) her ideology drove others away, or the fact that others kept away contributed to her developing ideology. It’s very hard to disentangle cause and effect. Still, it seemed like the fact that the group was openly pro-life was a kind of third rail for the other antinuclear groups at the time. Again, remember that this was before all of us had instant access to perfect knowledge…

  • Ross Thompson

    It’s hard to get past the sort of simplistic analysis that says “the enemy of my friend is my enemy.”


    (Not entirely relevant)

  • Andrew Marchant-Shapiro

    Nor entirely unrelated. :-)

  • aunursa

    On the set: Jerry Jenkins takes LaHaye’s the pilot’s seat of Pan Con 257.

  • rrhersh

    The presence or absence of a will has nothing to do with the BofA story. If you die with a will, it will have to be probated through the court. If you die without a will, an intestate succession will need to be approved by the same court. Most states (I don’t know about California) have some provision for a small estate for just the sort of situation as in this story.

    The real problem is that the son bought into the idea that the process is big and scary and massively expensive. Therefore when someone at the bank told him it was big and scary and massively expensive, he was primed to believe it. Again, I don’t know how it works in California, but in Maryland a small estate is something any literate person can do himself, and will kill maybe a morning. The thing is, this might not even be a case of BofA lying in order to get a few bucks. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the guy at the bank also bought into the idea that the process is big and scary and massively expensive.

    The moral is educate yourself. If you find yourself having to deal with an estate, learn how estates work in your state. Don’t believe the first guy you happen to meet over a water cooler.

  • Alix

    Out of curiosity, do you have any good starting places? I’ve got a relative who’s tried looking into this before and got rapidly overwhelmed and confused.

  • rrhersh

    It’s hard to say without having a specific state. Different states work slightly differently, and use slightly different vocabulary for the same thing. We also have to have some idea of what sort of estate we are talking about. Did the decedent have everything major jointly with a survivor, or with the survivor named as beneficiary? If we are talking about just the odd bank account with perhaps a few thousand dollars in it, then it is easier. If we are talking about real estate in just the decedent’s name, then it is a whole different ballgame. If the latter, and if the survivor is feeling overwhelmed, then it might make sense to hire a lawyer. There are guys who specialize in this sort of thing. Of course they expect to be paid. If there is real estate and it is going to be sold, an experienced realtor can be invaluable.

    The essence, whether of a small or a large estate, is to get letters of authority from the court, naming an individual as “executor” or “administrator” or “personal representative” of the estate. The other half is to have a stack of death certificates. The funeral home will typically provide this. Otherwise, go to the state vital records office. Walk into a bank or DMV office with these two things and you have full authority to act.

    Where to turn in the meantime? I would go to the county courthouse and seek out the “register of wills” or “orphans court” or “probate court” and throw myself on the mercy of a clerk to get started. They are used to civilians coming in and needing help. Be polite and friendly and they can be your best ally.

    (edited to correct typo)

  • Alix

    Thank you! I’ll pass that on.

  • MaryKaye

    This may require a big city, but here in Seattle I see listings for “Probate 101” one or two session classes through community colleges, community centers, University extension, etc. fairly often. You might call the law department of your local college or university, if there is one.

  • heckblazer

    California does indeed have a provision for estates worth less than $150k. The paperwork required consists of a two-page form, an inventory of the estate, and a $435 filing fee.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    $435?! Good grief.

  • heckblazer

    That’s pretty much the standard fee for initiating any sort of civil action in California.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s also a really asinine thing to charge someone who’s already having to deal with someone close to them being dead.

    Also, conveniently, have you noticed that that fee is just onerous enough to keep an average person from being able to take a company to small claims for screwing them around?

    Why, it’s almost like the legal system’s for rich people or something.

  • heckblazer

    You have to wait 40 days after death before filing that particular petition, so hopefully the family has had time to recover. This is also an example why having a will with a named executor is a good a idea, as the executor of the estate would be in charge of dealing with all the legal stuff.

    If someone can’t afford the fees they can apply for a fee waiver from the court. That’s pretty important since the first response to a complaint also costs $450.

    Limited cases involving $10,000 to 150,000 are lower with the complaint costing $370. Small claims have even lower fees. They’re $30 for claims under $1,500, $50 for claims from $1500 to $5000 and $75 for claims from $5,000 to $10,000. Oh, and restraining orders have to filing fee.

    And heck, I may as well include a link to the official fee schedule, since this is way more than any normal person wants to know about court fees :).