Most people who favor gay rights are appalled at Fred Phelps, the founding pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church who is infamous for sending congregants to picket the funerals of soldiers armed with signs that read "God Hates Fags." Phelps, a one-time celebrated civil rights lawyer, is on his deathbed, according to an estranged son. When he dies, says Mark Silk at Religion News Service, instead of picketing his funeral "we should give thanks for his gift to American society." Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, lays out his counterintutive rationale:
So what's the gift? It's that he made religious hostility to homosexuality repulsive.... The picketing of military funerals, the rejoicing in all domestic tragedies, the celebration of whatever punishment God allegedly metes out to Americans. No one, not even Sean Hannity and the KKK could stomach this stuff. [RNS]
By being so flagrantly awful, Silk concludes, Phelps and his church have probably "increased the sum total of tolerance in America." It's something to think about, anyway.
NBC Universal knows that you like those Jimmy Fallon videos — and it wants to earn more money from his viral hits. And so, The Wall Street Journal reports, NBCU is in late-stage development on a subscription online comedy channel aimed at 35-and-under cable TV "cord cutters." The web service, which could cost as little as $2.50 to $3.50 a month, will probably include episodes of Fallon's Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and original content.
What that means for viewers is unclear. One idea NBCU is reportedly considering would be to keep content off of YouTube until it has appeared on the subscription service for a while. Or, if it wants those viral Fallon clips to keep going viral, it could reach a revenue-sharing deal with YouTube, which reportedly wants 45 percent of ad revenue. Is 55 percent unfair for NBCU? Well, last week, CEO Steve Burke said that 70 percent of Tonight Show views are online, and most of those viewings earn NBC next to nothing.
The Daily Show takes dueling full-page NY Times ads on Netanyahu to their hilarious, illogical conclusion
Even before Benjamin Netanyahu opened his mouth in Congress, his big controversial speech on Tuesday drew dueling full-page ads in The New York Times. "Jon, what a great day for traditional media," senior print analyst Aasif Mandvi told Jon Stewart on Tuesday night's Daily Show. It turns out the way to save print media, he added, was "angry Jews." (That's "one of the better iPhone games I've played," Stewart quipped.)
Sure, two $150,000 ads won't stop print newspaper from bleeding money, Mandvi conceded, but the pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps have now taken over the entire newspaper. This is where the segment hit its stride: In about a minute, The Daily Show mocks sponsored content and the New York Times' Vows and Styles section, and they make it funny even for people who don't care about print media or the "Grey Lady." Watch. —Peter Weber
There wasn't much that Jon Stewart liked about Tuesday's spectacle of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning a fawning Congress about President Obama's Iran nuclear talks — not Bibi's conceit that he was speaking for all Jews, not Obama's "eh, we're still cool" response, not CNN's weird Star of David graphics, and not Netanyahu's 19 years of urgent warnings about Iran. But you probably guessed that Stewart wouldn't like the speech.
Watch below to see Stewart argue that the world does need "Netanyahu's anti-aging secret," his crude analogy about Congress appreciating the big speech, and probably his best line of the night, about Tuesday marking "the sacred Jewish holiday of 'Suuk-On-It-Mr. President,'" a "festival of slights." —Peter Weber
If you don't know Zara Adil's story about an attempted robbery at her family's tobacco shop, Jimmy Kimmel showed the narrated security camera footage on Tuesday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live. He then interviewed the college student from her home in Lexington, Kentucky — and Adil's story doesn't get any less crazy. She'd never been robbed before, never fired a gun, and yet she fought off two armed robbers, at least one of whom has since been arrested.
Adil doesn't plan on staying in the family business, she told Kimmel: She is studying to become a trauma surgeon. "Oh, so then you can operate on people you shot," Kimmel quipped. Jokes aside, what Adil did was probably unwise, but it was undeniably gutsy. Watch her in action below. —Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forcefully laid out his case for why the Obama administration's prospective deal to curb Iran's nuclear program is misguided and dangerous, in an address to Congress. And he didn't skimp on the World War II analogies.
"Iran's regime is not merely a Jewish problem, any more than the Nazi regime was merely a Jewish problem," Netanyahu said. "The 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis were but a fraction of the 60 million people killed in World War II. So, too, Iran's regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also the peace of the entire world." Later, he gave a shout out to Nobel Peace Price–winning Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, repeating the mantra "never again."
But "there is a contradiction at the heart of the Israeli prime minister's argument," says William Galston at The Wall Street Journal:
If Ayatollah Khamenei is a Hitler (Mr. Netanyahu made the analogy), we cannot do business with him, and we shouldn't try. If Iran is really determined, as Mr. Netanyahu insists, "to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world," then why should we believe that any diplomatic outcome will make Tehran more tractable? Negotiations with the Nazis in the 1930s just whetted their appetite. The point isn't a better or worse deal, it's regime change. If the prime minister had followed his own logic, that is where he would have ended up — urging regime change in Tehran. [Galston, WSJ]
So why didn't Netanyahu make that case — as he did regarding Iraq's Saddam Hussein in 2002? "Because he knows that the American people are still reeling from their government's ill-starred effort to effect regime change in Iraq," Galston wrote. Also, he notes, U.S.-pushed regime change in Iran hasn't worked out to well, setting in motion "a chain of events that led to the Islamic Republic." Read Galston's entire argument at The Wall Street Journal.
In an attempt to curb overpopulation, wildlife authorities in western Victoria, Australia secretly killed hundreds of koalas in 2013 and 2014.
Environment minister Lisa Neville said it was a "very challenging and complex issue" and the koalas were suffering due to ill health and starvation. "That's just not good enough and that's a terrible way to treat koalas," she said. "I'm wanting to make sure that we're taking the best action we can in this terrible situation of overpopulation."
Almost 700 koalas were captured, sedated, and then euthanized, Australia's ABC reports. Neville said that despite the cull, there are still too many koalas in the area. "We need to stop their suffering," she said. "Our priority must be about treating these koalas humanely." Neville said that she is working with experts to put together a management program for the marsupials.
When Disney brought on Leonard Nimoy to direct Three Men and a Baby, Tom Selleck thought, "Well, there's a good choice — you've got this guy with no emotions who's gonna do a funny little comedy," Selleck told Seth Meyers on Tuesday night's Late Night. But it turns out, "Leonard was irreplaceable," he added. Not only was Nimoy "a lovely guy — he's not Spock, he's a warm, funny guy" — but he was a "fine director" whose contribution to the 1987 hit can't be overstated." Not that everything went smoothly — Nimoy's decision to hire twin babies wasn't such a success. Watch Selleck's remembrance — and reason the first director didn't work out — below. —Peter Weber
More information is coming out about the homeless man shot and killed by police in Los Angeles on Sunday, including that he was a convicted bank robber who took over a French man's identity 15 years ago in order to gain entrance to the United States.
— M. Alex Johnson (@MAlexJohnson) March 4, 2015
"He fooled a lot of people, including us, years ago," French consul general Axel Cruau told the Los Angeles Times. He said that the man, identified by the LAPD as Charley Saturmin Robinet, stole the identity of the real Robinet in the late-1990s. The man calling himself Robinet was convicted of a bank robbery in 2000, and Cruau said that French officials let the United States know that Robinet had assumed someone else's identity and was not a French citizen. The actual Charley Saturmin Robinet is still alive and living in France.
Students in Selma, Alabama, have started a petition to change the name of a bridge that honors a purported member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Protestors marching for black voting rights were beat after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965, and for the 50th anniversary this weekend President Obama will visit the landmark and give an address. Most area residents don't know much about Pettus, who was a Confederate soldier, U.S. Senator, and alleged grand dragon of the Alabama Klan in 1877. "They're responsible for too much death and misery," Rev. Joseph Lowery, a veteran civil rights leader, told The Associated Press. "We don't need to honor them. I'm with the kids. Let's change it."
There are conflicting opinions on Pettus; Selma historian Alston Fitts believes he was not part of the KKK, as Selma did not have much Klan activity following the Civil War, while history professor Michael Fitzgerald at Minnesota's St. Olaf College is almost certain Pettus was a member of another terrorist organization, the White League. Pettus himself shared his insights into race relations when he testified in front of a congressional committee investigating the KKK in July 1871: He stated that whites were the real victims in the post-Civil War South, not blacks.
On Tuesday night, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled, 7-1, to bar state probate judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The order is a direct violation of several orders by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade, allowed to take effect by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices also issued a lengthy defense of defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore sat out the vote, but the six-justice majority asserted in its unsigned ruling that the state court could "interpret the United States Constitution independently from, and even contrary to, federal courts." One judge on the all-Republican court partially assented, and Justice James Gregory Shaw was the lone dissenter, warning his colleagues that they are overstepping their authority and "and potentially unsettling established principles of law."
Since Moore originally ordered the probate judges to disregard Judge Granade's ruling, Alabama has been a confusing jumble of marriage law. Before Tuesday's ruling, at least 48 of the state's 67 counties were issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The state order didn't say what it proposes to do with the "purported" same-sex marriage licenses already issued.
The gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign called the ruling "bizarre," "outrageous and baffling," and "extralegal." "The Alabama State Supreme Court does not have the authority to interfere with a federal court order," legal director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement.
University of Alabama constitutional law professor Ronald Krotoszynski agreed, suggesting to The New York Times that the state court is "trying to lobby" the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of its big same-sex marriage case this term. "You might read it as kind of a brief or a political document to the Supreme Court of the United States," he said.