Monday, February 20, 2012

Invisible Sky Monster

Invisible Sky Monster podcast of Dumbass (aka Parrot) master of Dumbass' Media Empire and frequent contributor on the SGU forums is a show that I have found myself listening to from time to time.  The reason usually is that a podcaster that I enjoy is a guest on the show, and Parrot normally mixes and matches guests who do not know each other to discuss a topic or the skeptic news of the day.  The latest episode features guests Infinite Monkey and Astronomer Royale to the Conspiracy Skeptic Podcast and of his own excellent Exposing PseudoAstronomy Podcast and blog, Dr. Stuart Robins to discuss gay issues.

Genesis back in the day.  Not the panel for I.S.M.
Be forewarned like other Canadian podcasts tight editing is not in the cards.  Therefore, this particular episode, while highly thought provoking and entertaining, clocked in at over two hours.  I walked Ike twice, and took him with me to pick up lunch, and I folded laundry but the show still had ten minutes left after all those activities.  To listen to an episode of this program is making a commitment like watching Alex Haley's Roots or playing "Supper's Ready" by Genesis when Peter Gabriel was at the helm.


The episode wanders hither and yonder all over the gay issues map from how accurate are gay stereotypes, to the existence of gay-dar, to same sex marriage, to gay body image, to what should be a protect class for civil rights purposes.  For me one of the more interesting topics was the last in that list on when should a person be allowed to discriminate.  The panel basically agreed that if one takes government money the actor should not be permitted to discriminate against a client/patron from services regardless of race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation.  The panel did get into a interesting discussion on when should a private actor without any government funding or connection be allowed to discriminate.  Infinite Monkey took the basic position that a private individual should not be permitted, for example, to block gays from entering a restaurant if the proprietor disagrees, for whatever reason, against a particular sexual orientation.  Parrot and Dr. Robins both took the basic position that a private individual should be allowed to discriminate even if the person is being an inmoral ass.  One should be allowed to be exercise there freedom to be a jackass.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin in public accommodations in restaurants, hotels, theaters, etc.  There is a lot of case law on what is a public accommodation.  There are also, if memory from law school serves me, exceptions the prohibitions.  A big hotel cannot discriminate, but a small Bed and Breakfast might be able to get away with a whites only policy since its facility falls below a certain threshold.  Sexual orientation was not an enumerated class in the Act.  I was hoping somebody was going to bring this Act up, but I guess this how Dr. Novella feels when a podcast talks medicine and falls to bring up an angle on the topic.  All the Federal Government would have to do is add gays as a protected class, and suddenly a potent anti-gay discrimination weapon is at hand.

What I have enjoyed most about the two or three episodes so far is that Parrot is fairly fearless in picking his topics and steering the discussion.  It is not a no hold bar politically incorrect festival that used to be a hallmark of "Irreligiosophy" for example, but it is quite open.  Also, the guests do not tend to agree with each other all the time, which occurs on a number of other skeptically minded podcasts.  It's not that they disagree for the hell of it, but it sounds to be an honest dialogue.  I should try and listen to this podcast more often.

The only thing I thought was a bit odd, and I do not know if Parrot does this on most of his podcasts, is that he added an addendum to the show.  Parrot brought up a new angle on an topic the panel was disagreeing over after the other panelist were not available.  To be fair, Parrot did note this might not seem fair, but he wanted to get his thoughts out there.  While the host of a podcast has the liberty to tack on an after the fact idea, I think such things are best left for a future date or never shared.

**edited for a typo or two found after initial publishing**