"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Which is worse: a demogogue or an idiot?

Antonin Scalia, from 365gay.com:

"Question comes up: is there a constitutional right to homosexual conduct? Not a hard question for me. It's absolutely clear that nobody ever thought when the Bill of Rights was adopted that it gave a right to homosexual conduct. Homosexual conduct was criminal for 200 years in every state. Easy question."

Wrong question. The question is, does the state have any right to interfere in personal relationships between adults?

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," Scalia said, adding that he has "nothing against homosexuals."

He's just pissed because the Court didn't take his side. He's also a bald-faced liar.

What looks to be a good discussion of Lawrence vs Texas; here is Scalia's dissent. It's a pathetic example of ideologically driven "argument," as one might glean from the fact that the second paragraph begins "Most of the rest of today's opinion has no relevance to its actual holding. . . ." Translation: "I have a forum for my neotheocon screeds, and I'm going to use it." What follows is a carefully edited history of Bowers, which was widely decried as a terrifically bad decision at the time (except, of course, by the theocons); in fact, I believe it was Justice Stevens who is reputed to have said immediately after the opinion was rendered that he wished he had voted differently.

It's quite obvious to anyone who cares to look at the evidence that Scalia is pushing a social agenda and he's not going to let something like the Constitution stand in his way. His dissent in Lawrence is bad enough. His dissent in Edwards vs Aguillard is a joke. (He also ignores the decisions in Epperson and McLean.

Can you impeach a justice for incompetence?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

At Random, 3/29/06

I really need to be writing something besides blogs. It's just too compulsive.

Habeas Corpus:

Bush seems intent on forcing a constitutional crisis. His interpretation of "commander in chief" seems to be equivalent to Mussolini's interpretation of "Il Duce." From WaPo:

The Detainee Treatment Act, a measure passed by Congress and signed by Bush after the court had agreed to hear Hamdan's case, creates sufficient due process for Hamdan and others, including the opportunity to appeal after their trials, Clement argued. Meanwhile, he said, it rules out habeas corpus petitions, so "the courts no longer have jurisdiction over this case."

But that contention immediately landed him in trouble with several justices, who found the terms of the act, a bipartisan compromise engineered with administration support, too vague to warrant cutting back what they regard as a vital judicial check on unlawful executive detentions.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that it would be "an extraordinary act, I think, to withdraw jurisdiction over a pending case."

Souter was even more indignant, admonishing Clement that "given the significance of suspending the writ of habeas corpus, should we not have a pretty clear statement requirement?"

Some of the arguments advanced by the administration in this case left me scratching my head. From NYT:

For example, Justice Kennedy was questioning Mr. Clement on the government's position that even if the court had jurisdiction, it should abstain from ruling on the validity of the military commission until after Mr. Hamdan's trial.

Justice Kennedy said he found the argument troubling, pointing out that Mr. Hamdan was arguing that because the commissions lacked the procedures required by the Geneva Conventions, they were invalid. "The historic office of habeas corpus is to test whether or not you're being tried by a lawful tribunal," Justice Kennedy said. "And he says, under the Geneva Convention, as you know, that it isn't."

Mr. Clement replied that Mr. Hamdan could raise that argument later, before the military commission itself. He predicted that the argument would fail and said that in any event, there was no reason "why that claim has to be brought at this stage."

. . .

Mr. Clement argued that the detainee law would allow a detainee to argue in federal court, after a conviction by a military commission, that the commission's procedures were illegal or unconstitutional.

Justice Ginsburg then asked him to "straighten me out." She said, "I thought it was the government's position that these enemy combatants do not have any rights under the Constitution and laws of the United States."

"That is true, Justice Ginsburg," the solicitor general answered.

The bottom line, in this case, seems to me to be that Bush and his tame Congress are trying to strip the courts of their role in the government.

Truer Words. . . .

Ken Livingstone does it again:

"Good on him," said Ann Love, 29, who works in financial services and supported Livingstone's tough words. "I think he just blurted it out -- he's just too honest to be a politician."

'Nuff said?

Losing Steam:

Another defeat for the hate groups. From the Baltimore Sun:

An attempt to revive a constitutional amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage failed in the Maryland Senate today, apparently leaving no further options this year for opponents of gay marriage.

The interesting thing is that it is becoming a matter of parliamentary maneuvering -- it's boiling down to electoral politics, and in those states that have Democratic majorities, the Democrats do not want these things on the ballot.

And of course, the old "activist judge" chestnut:

"Polls show that a majority of people in this state support making a marriage between a man and a woman," Stoltzfus said. And Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick, said the legislature should stand up to activist judges who make law instead of interpreting it.

This whole line is such a crock of shit -- repeat after me class: The people have limited sovereignty, and the laws passed by their elected representatives must satisfy constitutional requirements. In every case on SSM that I've seen, that's what the courts have done: compared the laws to the constitutions and passed judgment on whether they do, indeed, meet those requirements.

Can it be that the Republicans don't want anyone to have civil rights?

SSM Update:

Ran across this on Andrew Sullivan this morning, quoting Vaclav Havel on the Czech Republic's new registered partnership law. After yesterday's post on GayPatriot's misreading of the arguments in favor of SSM, this seemed like a nice pendant:

I was most intrigued in the debate by the absurd ideology advocated by the Christian Democrats and Klaus, who argue that family should have advantages since, unlike homosexual couples, it brings children to life. This is the concept of family as a sort of calf shed in which bulls can inseminate cows so that calves are born ... This is nothing spiritual, nothing intellectual. This is a purely material concept of family.

If you're going to condemn (unjustly) proponents of SSM for materialism, why not condemn opponents for the same thing? Where's the love and the covenenant with God in being breeding stock?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

SSM Again: A Prelude

I never do this. I never go through someone else's post and take it apart element by element, but this is such an egregious example of being ideologically blinded, cherrypicking information, specious arguments, lame reasoning, and every other intellectual sin that I can think of that I can't let it pass.

This is GayPatriot on same-sex marriage.

As the result of this posting yesterday and the comments that followed, I would like to take this opportunity to re-state my personal position on “gay marriage.” It pretty much comes close to the comments of Matty here, and Michigan-Matt here.

I personally oppose intruding on the religious institution of marriage via court mandates or legislation.

I think most people probably agree. That has not been the argument, unless you are a totally credulous clown who actually believes people like Donald Wildmon and James Dobson. The debate has been about the civil institution of marriage. I don't know of anyone (or perhaps I should say "anyone else") who is dim enough to believe that anyone seriously wants to intrude on others' religious beliefs (except, of course, the aforementioned stalwarts of American liberty and their fellow Christianists). GayPatriot and his readers also have, in my recollection, a notable deficiency in drawing a distinction between their own religious beliefs and civil law. (Yeah, I got into it in his comments section once before on that very issue.)

One of the main reasons, aside from intruding on religion, is that I have never once, during the entire gay marriage debate, heard anyone say they favor it due to wanting a covenant with God and their partner.. or frankly because of love.

Where does he think this whole thing started? The economic aspects have always been a subsidiary argument, simply because it's impossible to quantify or find an objective standard for discrimination without recourse to illustrations of "harm." The lack of benefits for same-sex families is one of the ways that the arguments can be presented in a legal framework. (In fact, the decision in the Massachusetts case, which I've forgotten the official name of, was based in large measure on discrimination against the children of the plaintiffs, as illustrated by just those criteria.) Aside from that, most of the arguments I've heard from people actually involved in the court cases have revolved around love and the social validation of their relationship as committed partners. That is the basis for the whole push for hospital visitation rights, power to make life decisions, and the rest. As for a covenant with God, we don't need the courts or legislatures to validate that, now do we want that validation in that sphere -- that's between the individuals and their gods, as it has always been.

I should note, in passing, that "love" as a motivation for marriage is a late arrival -- maybe nineteenth century? Certainly no earlier. "Traditional" marriages were arranged, involved property transfers in one direction or the other, and were -- surprise! -- basically economic and political arrangements.

The entire gay marriage debate has come down to this: We want financial benefits. That is a legitimate argument for civil unions, which I and the President support.

That's simply not true. That is a blatant case of cherrypicking. And frankly, I'm surprised that he can make the statement that the President supports anything -- it really depends on who he's talking to, or had we forgotten that?

But it is a very selfish and love-less reason to support gay “marriage” as Gryph describes here.

"Gays and lesbians don’t want “gay marriage”, what we want is traditional monogamous marriage. It’s people such as yourself that attach all the labels to it. The facts are that we have families and children to take care of just like straight people. So we should have benefits of marriage to help us shoulder those responsibilities like everyone else. So quit hiding simple prejudice behind pseudo-intellectual word games."

Me, me, me, me, me. That’s the problem with the American gay communities’ stance on gay marriage. “It is all about me.” Guess what folks, real marriage is not “all about me.” It is all about a covenant between God, you and your spouse. Until the language of the debate from our side moves to talking about love, commitment and covenant — and less about financial gain and selfishness — we will continue to lose. Straight Americans know what marriage is about. We, by and large, haven’t figured it out yet. No one in the straight world gets married in a serious relationship only in order to improve their financial situation on April 15. That is the only argument we seem to bring to the table.

Man. This one is just full of problems. Notice how an argument based on legal and social support for families is miraculaously revealed to be "all about me." The quote he includes has nothing to do with his argument, and in fact is diametrically opposed. And yet somehow he equates protecting one's children with self-gratification, which simply eludes me. Did he actually read what he was quoting? It's things like this that make me wonder why anyone pays attention to this site. (And it's worth noting that it was brought up in the comments section that straight couples do, in fact, get married to improve their financial situation.)

Finally, much has been made by our friend Andrew about this public exchange between a 16-year old Virginian and US Senator George Allen over the issue of gay marriage. Says the teen,

"I never dreamed of the day when I would reach a political debate on a human rights issue based on civil liberty and the foundations of our great country with a Senator, former Virginia Governor, and a potential candidate for the Republican Presidency. Senator George Allen (R-Virginia), held a public hearing in Culpeper this evening."

If you haven’t, please read the whole posting. I agree that this young man was very courageous and professional in the way he handled himself and I applaud him for it. But it reinforced my mystification at the argument that gay marriage is a “civil right.” Huh? Andrew loves citing this over and over. But aside from saying your tax refund would be higher under “marriage”…. no one has yet explained (to me) how withholding marriage (Gryph’s definition) is “trampling on my civil rights.”

The remark I left in in the comments for this post was to check the Supreme Court's opinion in Loving vs Virginia, which struck down miscegenation laws. The Court held that marriage to the person of one's choice was a fundamental right and the state, absent an objectively compelling interest, could not interfere. It's not like it's a radically new concept -- Loving was decided in the 1960s. (And yes, I linked to the same post.)

Sorry folks, I don’t see it and I think it demeans true civil rights infringement such as senseless gay bashings in Blue State cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York City where most seem to take place.

As someone else pointed out in the comments to this post, most Africans are killed in Africa. 'Nuff said? There's an obvious agenda (read "chip on the shoulder") here that doesn't bear comment. The idea of gay bashing being a "true" civil rights infringement while denial of equality under the law is not is another one I just can't fathom, quite aside from being simply wrong: gay bashing is a crime, known officially as assault. Civil rights is not a legal argument in that case. Denial of equal rights under the law is a civil rights issue, since the government is doing it. Duh.

I’m sure there is much more to be said in my “re-re-clarification”… but I figured this was a good start to get the moonbats a’jumpin!

Somehow, the use of the term "moonbats" to designate "other" in this context is hilarious.

I don't really pass by GayPatriot very often. After reading this post, I remember why.

I've been accumulating a new batch of blogs, etc. for another post on SSM. I guess it's about time. Look for it.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Some Further Comments on the News

Billmon on the MSM, with special reference to the WaPo/Baby Ben debacle:

Who knows? Who cares? Not me. But the larger issue here is what the Domenech fiasco tells us about the rapid ingestion of the conservative blogosphere into the belly of the big bad MSM.

A couple of years ago, I published an op-ed in the LA Times on the Selling of the Blogosphere -- for which I received an enormous amount of shit, much of it from bloggers (such as Michelle Malkin) who were most aggressively peddling their talents, such as they are, in the media marketplace, even as they decried the influence of the evil MSM.

After reading his comments, I'm more convinced than ever that my original take, in my comments on Al Gore a couple of days ago, was correct:

One thing that the debate over the "role of journalism" in contemporary political discourse has missed is that the major media outlets are no longer "journalists." They are major corporations, and their goals and philosophies are those of major corporations. Their newspapers and broadcasts are bottom-line driven, and the bias is going to be toward those politicians who will satisfy their needs as corporations.

Like any corporation, they are looking for new product, and blogging is, among certain elements, at least, the latest thing. And, like any arm of the establishment, they will coopt whatever will give them entree into a new market. (Look what happened to the gay liberation movement, $6 billion in disposable income later.)

Back to Billmon:

Maybe pasty-faced Young Republicans in bow ties really are the new black. But it feels a lot more calculated and cynical, not to mention mutually exploitative. The liberal mavens who feted Angela Davis and Huey Newton were powerful -- or at least privileged -- people who felt vaguely guilty about being powerful and privileged. The corporate suits now opening the journalistic doors to the propagandists of the authoritarian right are powerful and privileged people who hope that appeasing the blogswarm will help them remain powerful and privileged -- or at least avoid the fate of Eason Jordan and Dan Rather. This, as I (and many others) have already noted, bears a striking resemblance to a successful protection racket.

And in a way, that's what the current incarnation of Eisenhower's "military/industrial complex" is -- a corporate/government mutual protection racket.

Part of the whole phenomenon is that the driving paradigm in the twentieth century has been economics -- even Edward O. Wilson, in Sociobiology, casts his arguments in terms of the economics of genetic inheritance. The irony here is that, even in neotheocon America, we are all, one way or another, Marxists, whether we follow Marxist philosophy or not, because the basic structure of the argument is Marxist. The further irony is that the Marxist paradigm fits so neatly into the bourgeois world view (or perhaps vice-versa): it's all about the money.

Which, of course, leaves journalistic ethics high and dry:

The Post, it seems, isn't so far gone it's willing to ride out the storm with a redbaiter who's also a serial plagiarist. But the obvious reluctance of the paper and its editorial minions to face the facts, either before or after hiring Baby Ben, is rather telling -- as is the absurdity of their lies:

". . . We obviously did plenty of background checks" on Domenech, Brady said . . . .Plagiarism, though, is not an easy thing to spot, Brady suggested.

So hard, in fact, it took a few left-wing bloggers three whole days to come up with about twenty zillion examples of it. (Note to Jim Brady: Google. Check it out.)

Or, for that matter, ethics of any sort. Look at Congress. Now that its fifteen minutes of fame are over, ethics reform in Congress is definitely a red-headed stepchild. (Not that I have anything against red-heads. Quite the opposite.)

And I think this comment by Billmon is telling:

The point is that when it came to Ben Domenech, the Post tried desperately to handle the situation with kid gloves -- even though the paper's own editorial credibility, as opposed to its hiring judgment -- was never on the line. One suspects that if the sins of a Janet Cook or a Jayson Blair had been exposed so quickly, they would have vanished without a trace within minutes. But of course, they weren't former political appointees who had powerful friends (and Daddies) in high places. (emphasis mine)

Ah, yes -- the MSM/Bush White House connection. Don't leave home without it.

The whole Ben Domenech/WaPo flap is the MSM in a nutshell: the news media no longer even pretend to be in the business of reporting and analyzing current events; they are in the business of currying and maintaining influence. They should, perhaps, think about how they became influential in the first place.

Maybe that would help.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


It's a very complex issue these days, and one that could lead to further division in the Republican party (not that that's a bad thing at all). I'm not going to get into it, because I don't really comprehend all the ramifications -- mostly because in this day and age, you have to pick your problems and focus on them, and immigration is not one that I've picked. Most of my family were immigrants at one point, anyway, so I'm a little ambivalent about it. I'm sure that, as usual, I would wind up somewhere in the middle, between the total-amnesty-and-let's-make-them-all-citizens-right-now left wingnuts and the throw-eveyone-out-and-don't-let-anyone-else-in right wingnuts.

But: Think about the symbolism of building a wall along the Mexican border.

Just think about that for a while.

Please, Rev. Wingnut, Boycott Me

If you want to be a financial and popular success, try to get yourself boycotted by the right wingnuts.

This on the Dixie Chicks, from DownWithTyranny!:

Highway 16, the country hits channel on XM Satellite Radio, is playing the new song and asking listeners if they should keep playing it. The last time he heard a report, the DJ said the response was overwhelmingly positive so far, 95% in favor. The 5% opposing it is even smaller than Dick Cheney's 18% approval rating. And John over at CROOKS & LIARS points out that the over $100 million dollar income since the boycott started isn't exactly the nose dive the far right was looking for.

Remember the 9-year boycott of Disney by the AFA, which finally called it off, claiming a major success? After Disney posted record earnings for the entire period?

And Ford is running scared? They must all be Democrats.

I should try to get Donald Wildmon to boycott me. Truly.

(Thanks to Atrios for the link.)

A Teacher, a Student, and a Log

I shudder to think that Florida under Jeb Bush might be the bellwether of the nation, but coupled with this story (not to mention trends over the past couple of decades, mostly fueled by the "3 R's" right wing -- but not completely, by any means), I think we have a problem.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks.

Given that Bush's education "reforms" are garbage at best, it's becoming more and more apparent that education in the U.S. -- where the government pushes faith-based science, sex education boils down to "just say no," and history is considered irrelevant -- is marked by a complete investment in the status quo. The fact that anyone felt that something like No Child Left Behind was necessary should be an indication that public education is in trouble, but to make the response more of the same strikes me as -- well, words fail me.

Anecdote: When I was two, my mother would sit me in her lap and read to me. Being a stubborn child, I insisted that she point at the words while doing so. By two-and-a-half, I was reading to her. (I've recently come across others who had the same experience.) Maria Montessori, in fact, discovered that children had what she called a "sensitive period" to reading at about that age. (That makes a lot of sense -- children begin to talk at about a year, so it would seem that linguistic development is very important during that period.) So the answer of the education establishment to low levels of reading skills is not to start teaching reading earlier, when it might do some good, but to focus on more reading after the sensitive period has waned. Good move.

The first question, of course, is what do we want education to be? The traditional view of the "educated" person, of course, is someone with at least basic knowledge in a number of fields, someone who keeps himself informed of developments in a variety of areas, and can reason effectively. Since the growth of federal involvement, an educated person is likely to become educated in spite of school. I'm cynical enough to think that instilling reasoning skills and a broad general knowledge base in the general populace is not a high priority for the politicians who are running things -- if people could actually reason in this country, most of those in government would have to go out and get real jobs.

The big problem, of course, is the acceptance of standardized tests as the benchmark.

But Lorie Turner, who teaches English to some pupils for three consecutive periods and to others for two periods each day, said she used some students' frustration to persuade them to try for higher scores on the annual exams administered under California's Standardized Testing and Reporting program, known as Star.

"I have some little girls who are dying to get out of this class and get into a mainstream class," Ms. Turner said. "But I tell them the only way out is to do better on that Star test."

The problem as I see it with standardized tests in education is what they don't measure, which is, simply put, most things. (Although to be perfectly honest, I don't hold that much confidence in their ability to accurately measure what they do measure. And in case you think it's sour grapes, I always scored very high on the tests, which frustrated the hell out of my teachers -- I didn't always perform that well in class.)

The social implications of this are what cause me the most unease. So, we now have children going to school where the majority of them study only reading and math, with a gym period. Then, to take the Florida model, they get to high school and are required to declare a major when they have vanishingly little knowledge of anything but reading and math (and I question if what they know of reading and math can actually be called "knowledge"). From the NYT article on Florida:

But supporters hope the state's dropout rate will fall and classroom achievement will rise if students can concentrate on subjects they enjoy. Majors could include basics like English and math or vocational fields like carpentry and auto repair.

Someone, of course, is going to say, "Why should an auto mechanic know anything about music or literature or history?" My response, of course, is "Why shouldn't he?"

This is not, of course, the whole story. There are many schools where students are doing just fine and the curricula are as rich as we could wish (as long as we can keep the religious wackos out of the science classes). I can't really say whether stories like my lead indicate a trend in the dumbing of America, or merely reflect the MSM's periodic wish to do its usual half-assed reporting job in another area. From what I've heard from teachers, though, NCLB is grotesque, and at least in general philosophical terms I have to agree: "educating" children to take standardized tests does not bode well for the society at large.

I'll leave the questions as to motivation to the conspiracy theorists, but the main consequence I see these trends pointing to is the deliberate, if not entirely witting, creation of an underclass. (If I thought anyone in government actually knew what they were doing, then I would be really worried.)

There's a lot more to say about this, but not today.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Middle East Policy

From someone who knows what foreign policy is.

It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction.

Remember reality-based administrations?

Oxymorons In The News

I've been pretty busy, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to note this headline from WaPo:

Area Soon to Be Mostly Minority

(If I were Andrew Sullivan, I'd do a piece on something about the misuse of language and how it indicates something, just to prove how clever I am. If I were Sullywatch, I'd quote someone picking holes in his argument, just because. If I were Michelle Malkin, I'd use it to justify detention camps for someone, preferably someone brown. If I were the Circle Jerk in the Corner, I'd be brief and smug and completely self-referential. If I were John Aravosis, I'd be shrill and want to know what the Democrats in Congress are going to do about it. If I were Andy Towle, I'd link to a picture.

I'm not any of those. I'm just me. So I can just sit here and note that I think it's really, really funny.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

At Random, 3/23/06

Where Do Conservatives Come From?

From the Toronto Star:

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

This makes perfect intuitive sense, when you stop to think about it. However, one critic, social psychologist Jeff Greenberg, had this reaction:

"I found it to be biased, shoddy work, poor science at best," he said of the Block study. He thinks insecure, defensive, rigid people can as easily gravitate to left-wing ideologies as right-wing ones. He suspects that in Communist China, those kinds of people would likely become fervid party members.

It's not a matter of right versus left, it's a matter of authority and security versus freethinking and intellectual curiosity. In the West, conservatism is the dogmatic, authoritarian mode; in China, it's the Party. Maybe it's time to rethink the terms "liberal" and "conservative" to reflect the actual mechanics of what's going on. It's not a matter of tax-and-spend liberals versus borrow-and-spend conservatives, Andrew Sullivan notwithstanding, but a matter of authoritarian political philosophies.

I strongly suspect that, with a broader study, you will find insecure kids turning as readily to PC liberalism as to conservatism, depending on what influencing factors they encoutered growing up. As far as I'm concerned, it's the same mindset.

For conservatives whose feelings are still hurt, there is a more flattering way for them to look at the results. Even if they really did tend to be insecure complainers as kids, they might simply have recognized that the world is a scary, unfair place.

Their grown-up conclusion that the safest thing is to stick to tradition could well be the right one. As for their "rigidity," maybe that's just moral certainty.

The grown-up liberal men, on the other hand, with their introspection and recognition of complexity in the world, could be seen as self-indulgent and ineffectual.

Whether anyone's feelings are hurt or not, the work suggests that personality and emotions play a bigger role in our political leanings than we think. All of us, liberal or conservative, feel as though we've reached our political opinions by carefully weighing the evidence and exercising our best judgment. But it could be that all of that careful reasoning is just after-the-fact self-justification. What if personality forms our political outlook, with reason coming along behind, rationalizing after the fact?

I've run across other polls and studies lately that indicate that personality influences political philosophies heavily, but the article again misses the real connection -- it's a matter of spin, if you like. For example, I take moral certainty to be a symptom of rigidity, not the other way around -- morality is as fluid as anything else, if you're going to take it seriously. Nor does introspection necessarily lead to ineffectuality -- it can as easily lead to a willingness to make the hard decisions and to act on them in the face of necessity. It's just that the consequences of action are more likely to be carefully considered

Thanks to AmericaBlog for the link.

This is Really Scary:

Americans, especially Catholics, approve of torture

But the portion of Catholics who justify torture is even higher, according to the survey. Twenty-one percent of Catholics surveyed said it is “often” justified and 35 percent said it is “sometimes” justified. Another 16 percent said it is “rarely” justified, meaning that nearly three of four Catholics justify it under some circumstances. Four percent of Catholics “didn’t know” or refused to answer and only 26 percent said it is “never” justified, which is the official teaching of the church.

As it turns out, Catholics and evangelical Christians in general are more in favor of torture than secular respondents. Think about that.

During Lent especially, he says, the image of Jesus, who was tortured to death, should be powerful for Catholics, reminding them that “Christ is being crucified today through the practice of torture.”

Link from Andrew Sullivan.


Interesting statistics.

Gay marriage remains a divisive issue, with 51 percent opposing it, the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. But almost two-thirds, 63 percent, opposed gay marriage in February 2004.

"Most Americans still oppose gay marriage, but the levels of opposition are down and the number of strong opponents are down," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "This has some implications for the midterm elections if this trend is maintained. There are gay marriage ballot initiatives in numerous states."

. . .

The number of people who say they strongly oppose gay marriage has dropped from 42 percent in early 2004 to 28 percent now. Strong opposition has dropped sharply among senior citizens and Republicans.

People are now evenly split on allowing adoptions by gay couples and six in 10 now favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

I've been pointing to the processes of history in this and related issues. The other factor, of course, is that familiarity breeds acceptance. That's one reason the Christianists have been so vehement about the urgency of passing anti-marriage amendments: they had a very small window when they could count on knee-jerk reactions (aside from their core, of course, who are nothing more than knee-jerks), and now it's passing.

This e-mail from Andrew Sullivan explains part of it:

As such, let me tell you and your readers this: this amendment never had any chance of passage from the start, for political "inside pool" reasons as well as our "Live Free or Die" motto. The widely-held view by state legislators (off the record, of course), was that the committee's recommendation of an amendment to ban gay marriage was more indicative of the committee chair's views than a general consensus of what the state felt on the matter.

That's been the case across the board, I think, plus the usual barrage of lies and distortions from the Christianists. Didn't work this time, and (prediction time) it's going to work less and less, simply because, as far as we have a set of national traits, it's un-American.

Gore, Again:

Interesting article from The American Prospect on Al Gore. I think I'll vote for him in 2008, whether he's running or not. (I did it in 2000 -- maybe next time it will work.)
One thing mentioned in the article struck me:

The reason Gore sought this out, as former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, Gore’s friend since 1961, told me, is that “Gore wants to make change, not be part of the distortive, stifling process of the mainstream media.” Speaking into the cameras, the former VP had learned, was like talking into one of those gag gift bullhorns -- what came out had little relation to what went in. “Gore’s own view,” says Hundt, “is that he sighed noisily in the debate and used the wrong telephone line to ask for money and the media said these are momentous events. Meanwhile, they ignore global warming and the failure to catch Osama and the destruction of the safety net.”

One thing that the debate over the "role of journalism" in contemporary political discourse has missed is that the major media outlets are no longer "journalists." They are major corporations, and their goals and philosophies are those of major corporations. Their newspapers and broadcasts are bottom-line driven, and the bias is going to be toward those politicians who will satisfy their needs as corporations. It's the stock market that's shaping the news today, not any idea of public discourse. Both the NYT and WaPo periodically takes steps to "balance" their liberal bias (WaPo's latest is being treated to something an order of magnitude above scorn on the blogosphere right now). I've always wondered, "What liberal bias?" I haven't seen any evidence of it.

The Democrats:

Pam's House Blend linked to this article from the New York Observer:

“Both Democratic politicians and pundits are afraid,” Mr. Feingold said on March 21 by phone. He was between constituent tours during the week’s Congressional recess. “Time and again, they allow themselves to be intimidated from taking a strong stand against the administration.”

Pam comes up with this analysis:

In a related development, evolutionary scientists researching today's Democrats are confused, as there is no evidence in the fossil record of a vertebrate species ever de-evolving into an invertebrate.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Next time. . . .

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Check This Kid Out

Just a quickie, because I'm too unfocused to even do an At Random today, but check out this post by a 16-year-old high schooler who confronted Sen. George Allen on his two-faced bigotry.

Why isn't this kid my senator?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

At Random, 3/19/06

I realize there have been a lot of "At Random" posts the past few days. I haven't been writing well recently and I have a horrible backlog of reviews to catch up on (oh, the words come, but it's sheer torture, and they don't seem to hang together very well). There's also the fact that the news is so disgusting lately that I can't bring myself to make any in-depth comments -- the stories seem to speak for themselves. (I do have some links and stuff on SSM that I will try to develop into a substantial piece before it gets too stale.)

That said:

Honor Among Thieves:

From NYT:

Meanwhile, cable news commentators Tucker Carlson and Lou Dobbs have questioned whether the church should maintain its tax-exempt status, given its political activism on immigration. And in an interview, Mr. King accused church leaders of "committing the sin of hypocrisy" in their campaign to sway Congress and Catholic voters.

Of course, it's OK if the churches engage in political activity as long as their agenda matches the wildmons'. As for the "hypocrisy" charge -- well, if you want to know what a theocon is doing, listen to what he's saying while he's pointing at someone else.

The Courts of Chaos:

Also from NYT:

This month, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told an audience at Georgetown University that a judiciary afraid to stand up to elected officials can lead to dictatorship. Last month, speaking in South Africa, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the courts were a safeguard "against oppressive government and stirred-up majorities."

Of course, I agree with them. The worst thing we could do is to put the courts under the control of either the executive or legislative branches, both of which have proven themselves corrupt and incompetent. (Not that the courts are perfect, but we're dealing with basic principles here. It's because the Founders realized the capacity for abuse of any system inherent in the human psyche that they set up checks and balances to begin with. Duh.)

The Times, of course, is all a-twitter because these remarks seem (gasp) political!

However, on the other side of the coin, Digby notes this story:

Today, I have been catching up on some things and started reading in depth about the decision of Federal District Judge Trager's heinous decision to dismiss Maher Arar's case against the US for kidnapping him at Kennedy Airport and rendering him to Syria to be tortured for almost a year.

He quotes from Nat Hentoff's article in the Village Voice about the decision.

Now let us hear how Judge Trager justifies his dismissal of Maher Arar's suit for the atrocities he endured in Syria because of the CIA. In his decision, Trager said that if a judge decided, on his or her own, that the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" were always unconstitutional, "such a ruling can have the most serious consequences to our foreign relations or national security or both."

A judge must be silent, even if our own statutes and treaties are violated! What about the separation of powers? Ah, said Trager, "the coordinate branches of our government [executive and legislative] are those in whom the Constitution imposes responsibility for our foreign affairs and national security. Those branches have the responsibility to determine whether judicial oversight is appropriate."

This is really a horrible decision, and fundamentally troubling not only in regard to the use of torture and rendition, but indicative also of a trend toward judical abdication I've noticed in several recent cases. The one that sticks most in my mind before this is the Third Circuit's refusal to hear a case challenging the Florida anti-gay adoption law on the basis that it is up to the legislature to change the law.

Well, yes, but it is up to the courts to direct the legislature to change laws that conflict with the constitution. Again, Duh!

These sorts of decisions seem to be coming from the more conservative courts (no real surprise), which often follow the official Republican doctrine of craven subservience to the preznit. (Not always -- it was a Bush appointee who threw ID out of the Dover, PA, school curriculum.)

Not a good trend.

Cut and Run:

Digby also has a lot to say about the Democrats' reaction to Feingold's censure bill. I pretty much agree with him.

Ditto another post from Digby:

*sigh* How many more years are we going to hear this tired nonsense from establishment pundits before people wake up and realize that ever since the Democrats took on this appeasment strategy they have been losing.

When Chamberlain did it in the 1930s, they called it "appeasement." Didn't work then, ain't workin' now.

And this is all the good news.

Friday, March 17, 2006

At Random, 3/17/06

Oh, right -- It's St. Patrick's Day. I am slightly more Irish than I am Catholic, but only slightly. There. I've noted it.

A couple of good items from Andrew Sullivan:

How Much Fixing Will They Have to Do?

The first, a pocket analysis of Bush's supporters, seems to me to miss in one area, perhaps because Sullivan is somewhat naive:

The question is merely whether the anti-left card will work any more. It barely did the trick last time - in a buoyant economy, in wartime, against a candidate as pathetic as Kerry, Bush could have lost if a few thousand votes in Ohio hadn't been beaten out of the anti-gay scrub.

What Sullivan doesn't mention is the very real possibility that those votes didn't come from real voters. There are enough credible concerns about the elections in Ohio (and other states) that were swept under the carpet that we have no surety that Bush actually won the election in 2004.

The question is now, How strong does the backlash have to be to overwhelm attempts to fix the elections?

It's an Orientation, Not a Choice:

The second items hits very close to home, this one from Jonathan Rauch:

"Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

If so, do you tell this person he is "too serious," or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?

If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you have an introvert on your hands—and that you aren't caring for him properly."

Mmm -- that would be me. I really can't deal with large events -- they literally make me crazy, and so I avoid them. People don't bore me, although that seems to be the immediate assumption; in fact, I find them very interesting -- at a distance, and for short periods. Then I need a break.

I can be very lively one-on-one, even for an entire evening. One of my closest friends is also an introvert; when we would spend an evening together, we usually went to a concert or performance so that we wouldn't have to talk (he liked talking even less than I do); afterward, we would have dinner or coffee amid silence, or he would ask questions about things I know about so there would be some sort of conversation, generally a monologue by me. Then I would need the next day to recover from all that talking.

How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice?

First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don't say "What's the matter?" or "Are you all right?"

Third, don't say anything else, either.

(Read Rauch's article. It really is thought-provoking and pretty funny.)

They Are Really, Truly Anti-Woman:

On the other side of the spectrum (from humorous to not at all) is this post from Pam's House Blend:

Kathy finds herself concerned on behalf of her three daughters, "who have to live in Bush's America."

"I see the impetus for most of these laws as either political payback to religious conservatives or deep-seated contempt for women—or both," Kathy said. "Banning abortion certainly won't stop it, but girls and women will start dying again. The inherent lack of concern and lack of respect for women does not bode well for the future of my three daughters."

Kathy's frustration with the current attack on abortion rights is coupled with what she sees as a selective interest in protecting life.

"I also have big problems with the hypocrisy of those who oppose abortion under any circumstances but also oppose comprehensive sex education, use of contraceptives, and provision of funding to ensure that all pregnant women have access to good prenatal care and that all children have food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. They seem more interested in punishing women for having sex than they are in 'saving the unborn.'

I understand (again) why this is a feminist issue, and how it's been derailed by the smokescreen of "saving the children." It's not about children any more than the Catholic Church's stance on adoption by gays is about children. It's a reflection of a really sick, anti-human philosophy disguised as religious belief.

Thinking about it, it's not about Jesus, either. The religious part is pure crap. As I said to an online correspondent recently, you can believe anything you want. That doesn't mean I have to credit you with any intelligence.

It fits in with this development, in the following post:

An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles.

Missouri stopped providing money for family planning and certain women's health services when Republicans gained control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2003.

The House voted 96-59 to delete the funding for contraception and infertility treatments after Rep. Susan Phillips told lawmakers that anti-abortion groups such as Missouri Right to Life were opposed to the spending.

I Love Happy Endings:

And finally, on a cheerful note:

A group that has spent years battling LGBT civil rights in Maine is out of money and says it will likely have to lay off staff.

The Christian Civic League of Maine is pleading with supporters for cash, but it appears after a series of high profile defeats the plea is falling on deaf ears.

The organization spent all of the money it had for the first quarter of 2006 on last year's effort to repeal the state's LGBT civil rights protections.

They're losing. They're really, really losing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Demogogue du jour

Scalia speaks, from WaPo:

Scalia decried his own court's recent overturning of a state anti-sodomy law, joking that he personally believes "sexual orgies eliminate tension and ought to be encouraged," but said a panel of judges is not inherently qualified to determine the morality of such behavior.

Can anyone see the hole in this? It's big enough to fit Washington, D. C. into, with room left over for most of Maryland.

The case he's referring to, Lawrence and Garner vs. Texas, did not pass on the morality of consensual sodomy. It merely told the state of Texas that it had no right to legislate private morality without a compelling, rational reason. Demogoguery like this is one reason Scalia is the ideal justice in the eyes of the wildmons. And it is demogoguery, pure and simple. And this man is held up a a fine legal scholar?

He goes on:

"Judicial hegemony" has replaced the public's right to decide important moral questions, he said. Instead, he said, politics has been injected in large doses to the process of nominating and confirming federal judges.

The public has always had a limited right to decide important moral questions -- all questions, for that matter. That's a well-entrenched and very basic principle of American government. The will of the people comes up against the hard rock of the Bill of Rights, resulting in decisions such as that in Lawrence and Garner: governance of this country is based on the limited sovereignty of the people, subject to the basic principles enshrined in the Constitution. Scalia should know that, and I'm sure he does. It just doesn't fit his political agenda to acknowledge it.

I want to be there when someone introduces a constitutional amendment to control private, consensual sexual behavior. I really do.

Notice also that he doesn't make reference to the fact that Lawrence and Garner overturned Bowers vs. Hardwick, quite explicitly. Is it perhaps that Bowers was always a marginal decision to begin with (I don't recall, in the course of paying attention to such things, any decision that was so completely excoriated by legal scholars) and that the public sentiment no longer has much patience with the state dictating private sexual behavior? Could that be germane, do you suppose? So that maybe the Court's decision does reflect the will of the people?

And an we look back in recent history and see who started insisting on litmus tests for judicial nominees? Could it be -- the Republicans?

Nota Bene: The article cites Scalia as "well-known as a strict constructionist." He is one of the two most thoroughly activist justices on the Court (measured in votes to overturn laws), the other being -- yep -- Clarence Thomas.

Big surprise.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We Need a Picture

This is one of my favorites:

At Random, 3/15/06

The Only Possible Answer:

I've seen this a couple of places, including a Yahoo group based in Australia. Obviously it has some resonance.

"Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

A quote from Jamie Raskin, a law professor at Annapolis University. Read the short piece at Wayne Besen for the context.

And send a copy to your cogresscritters.

The Losers in the Senate:

An interesting article on Russell Feingold and his censure motion, from WaPo.

Many Democrats, while sympathetic to Feingold's maneuver, appeared to be distancing themselves from his resolution yesterday, wary of polls showing that a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics.

I'd like to know what polls they've been reading -- is that the slanted ones with only partial questions that don't really ask about what the administration was doing?

Just once, I would like to see a Democrat, preferably Durbin or Obama (although that's probably beyond hope --Obama isn't ready to take a position on anything, and after Durbin caved on the Abu Ghraib comments, I have little confidence there), rear back and let Frist have it. The guy's a mealy-mouthed, morally challenged politician who's proably as crooked as anyone in the White House and should be called on some of his slanders. (In fact, see this comment by Marty Lederman on Frist's integrity.)

Reid is turning out to be what I was afraid of.

Oh, well. . . .

The White House Easter Egg Hunt:

From The Detroit News:

"For crying out loud, at the Easter egg roll? This is a family event," said exasperated executive director Andrea Lafferty, who called it "very distasteful" and inappropriate to politicize the occasion and to use children to do so.

Apparently, only for some families. Poor Ms. Lafferty -- she finds children distasteful. What are her traditional values about, then? (I mean, aside from hate, viciousness, and ignorance?)

I start to think we should have elected Laura Bush instead of the Loser:

"It's an event that has a great tradition, and all families are welcome to attend," said Peter Watkins, deputy press secretary to first lady Laura Bush, who is the official overseer of the roll.

Thanks to LeftCoastBreakdown for the link.

(Spencer Windes ties this to the Catholic Charities' exodus from adoption services in Boston. Apparently, homophobia over concern for children is a defining characterisitc of the Christianists.)

Gavin Newsom for President:

Gotta love the man. A Democrat with a spine:

San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has cancelled a trip to Rome for the installation of the city's former Archbishop as a cardinal reportedly after learning the Church is considering a ban on gay adoption in San Francisco

The Numbers:

Hey! In less than three months, I've had over 1500 hits. Thanks, everyone.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

At Random, Again: 3/12/06

The Pope Hates Kids:

Dan Savage on the Church's latest anti-gay move:

Catholic Charities 42-member board voted unanimously in December to consider gay households for adoptions. So it wasn’t lay Catholics who had a problem with gay couples adopting children, but the bishops—all conservatives, all appointed by Rome, all out of touch.

And all hurting children.

. . .

And, finally, the ultimate irony: This is the Catholic Church in freaking Boston, epicenter of the sex-abuse scandal. The same bishops who refused to protect children from rampaging pedophile priests are now “protecting” children from qualified, screened, and thoroughly vetted adoptive parents who happen to be gay.

I really can't think of anything to add to that.

Link from Andrew Sullivan.

A Wingnut History Lesson:

Two quotes from Pam's House Blend that seem to go together:

"Martin Luther King once said 'nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,'"

And from Judge Roy Moore:

"Legally, we not only have a right, we have a sworn duty to acknowledge God. … The founders of this country said God gives us rights and secures them for you. That was the principle upon which this country was founded."

Seems like a good match. The problem with Moore's statement is that its simply not true. But then, deliberate misrepresentation (known to us common folks as "lying") is apparently not a sin in the new Christianist theology. I suppose if he really believes it, that makes it true.

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying:

From World O'Crap, a good take on why the Iraq war is costing so much:

While working on a $21 million contract to safeguard Iraq's new currency as it was being distributed, Custer Battles set up shell companies through which to bill items needed for the contract so they could "inflate costs and create a mark-up in excess of that normally permitted under a cost-plus contract."

. . .

"This is a smashing victory for U.S. taxpayers and these whistle-blowers, though the Bush administration did nothing to help," said Alan M. Grayson, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Robert Isakson and William Baldwin. Under the federal False Claims Act, citizens can sue on behalf of the government and the Justice Department can then decide whether to join the suit, which it did not in the Custer Battles case.

. . .

Grayson said yesterday that there are "dozens" of other fraud cases about contracts in Iraq that remain sealed because the [Justice] department has not decided whether to join them or not.

After the slaps on the wrist handed to Halliburton, I can't say I'm surprised.

Musgrave Follow-Up:

From Josh Marshall. I think Marshall has some good questions:

Three other points about the spokeswoman's statement strike me as suspicious. One is the inherently engaged nature of the response. She doesn't state policy; she spins.

Second, she can't be identified? Military spokepersons in some contexts won't give their names. But this context? I find that odd.

Third, and most important, the spokesperson ducks the principal issue: appearing in uniform. It's the essence of the issue. And she dodges it.

After a couple of news days like this, I may just go out and drink. Or go to the zoo, which is cheaper.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain: Post Mortem by Annie Proulx

A brilliant little piece by Annie Proulx that says pretty much all I want to say about the Academy Awards.

Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.

She goes on from there.

This is certainly not the first time that Hollywood has proven itself the last refuge of the blind and artistically challenged. I'm sure it won't be the last. The irony is that the wildmons spend so much time and energy railing against Hollywood when it time and time again proves itself completely irrelevant.

Proulx brings up something I hadn't thought of (and I should have, once having been an actor myself):

But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page? I don't know. The subject never comes up.

So much for the craft(s) of filmmaking.

I'll have more to say on this. The film and story became so iconic and have generated not only controversy but commentary that it should be some indication even to Hollywood that they are important.

At Random, 3/11/06

Which One Is the Surprise?:

I couldn't have said it better myself. From NYT:

We keep hearing that the Republicans in Congress are in revolt against the president.

Some rebellion.

For once the New York Times is even more cynical than I am about the Republicans. Whoda thunkit?

An "Activist Judge" Fights Back:

Pam Spaulding picks up on a story from Raw Story: Now that she's retired, Sandra Day O'Connor is free to speak her mind.

In an unusually forceful and forthright speech, O’Connor said that attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms. O’Connor began by conceding that courts do have the power to make presidents or the Congress or governors, as she put it “really, really angry.” But, she continued, if we don’t make them mad some of the time we probably aren’t doing our jobs as judges. . . .

Check out the post at Pam's House Blend, especially the comments by the freepers. Easy to see where slack-jawed idiocy is leading the country.

Children Last:

Another one from Pam's House Blend. I actually saw this story at 365gay.com a couple of days ago.

"In spite of much effort and analysis, Catholic Charities of Boston finds that it cannot reconcile the teaching of the Church, which guides our work, and the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth," Hehir said in a statement.

"We plan to begin discussions with appropriate agencies of the Commonwealth to end our work in adoptions. We will do this in an orderly, planned fashion so that the children we have been entrusted with will be cared for, supported and found permanent homes," the statement said.

The state's four bishops asked the legislature to grant Catholic Charities the right to refuse to allow gays and lesbians to adopt children. The proposal was opposed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers but earlier this week was endorsed by GOP Gov. Mitt Romney.

I start to wonder how much hypocrisy American Catholics can stand from their hierarchy. It becomes more and more obvious that the Church's priority is the authority of the Church. We all remember how concerned they were about the welfare of children who were being molested by priests. (And if you're sick of hearing about that, too bad. As long as the Church continues its hateful and immoral teachings about gays, that's how long you'll continue to hear about it condoning the activities of predatory, child-molesting priests.) Archbishop O'Malley, who was widely touted as someone to pull the Diocese of Boston together after the disaster that was Cardinal Law (who, be it remembered, was kicked upstairs rather than being punished) has shown himself to be as unprincipled as the hierarchy as a whole.

Mitt Romney is such a whore I can't believe he can look himself in the mirror. From the story in the Boston Globe:

"This is a sad day for neglected and abandoned children," Romney, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, said in a statement issued while he was in Tennessee to address the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. "It's a mistake for our laws to put the rights of adults over the needs of children.

"While I respect the board's decision to stay true to their principles, I find the current state of the law deeply disturbing and a threat to religious freedom," he said.

If by "adults" he means the Catholic hierarchy, he's perfectly correct. And, as we learned from earlier in the story, this wasn't the decision of Catholic Charities' board -- it was the decision of the Vatican. The board was unanimous in continuing to provide services under the terms of the law. Let's give credit where credit it due.

And note one thing: the commentary I've seen is mostly from gay bloggers, who are unanimous in their concern for the children.

Real Evil

Andrew Sullivan's e-mail of the day. I do take exception with one statement:

Here's the fundamental problem with Bush: he's not evil, he's certainly not corrupt in the Jack Abramoff sense of the word. I'm sure he lives a life of rectitude compared to many. But he's an incurious man, he's intellectually lazy, and, in the White House, that amounts to moral laziness, which, frankly, amounts to evil. Once Bush makes a decision about something, he never revisits it, because if it was right then, surely it must always be so.

I've become convinced over the past five years that Bush is evil. It's the blank-faced, corporate evil that is so pervasive in this country (and that his administration has done so much to support). It's the evil of power with no accountability, of no one being responsible, which will become, I think, the Bush legacy, as Reagan's legacy was that "greed is good." It's the evil of the bourgeoisie, which they take as a virtue. Bush has no moral foundation save his own perceived self-interest, which makes him a member in good standing of the Boomer generation (sad to say, also my generation). Bush has no ideals and no morals. That's evil.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Blind Disputing the Deaf

What's most interesting about this comment by Jonathan Rauch on Stanley Kurtz' continuing self-serving rants against SSM is Spencer Windes' comment.

Rauch says:

I'm increasingly suspicious that Kurtz has no consistent hypothesis to defend and no consistent method by which to defend it.

My own feeling is that Rauch takes Kurtz way too seriously. He has a history of massaging data and changing the ground rules mid-argument, and to try to meet him on particulars is a waste of time -- he'll just do another paradigm shift and keep spouting.

It's indicative of Kurtz' methods -- and Rauch's blindness (excuse me -- "increasingly suspicious"? Puh-leeze!) -- that the whole argument is based on a careful and arbitrary limitation of data. Windes has it right -- if you're going to talk about marriage, culture, and policy, you have to consider a much broader range of factors than Kurtz is doing. Real life isn't nearly that tidy, and Rauch should know enough to figure out that the methodology of anyone arguing from an ideology, as Kurtz is, is suspect. There's ample evidence of that.

Link courtesy of Andrew Sullivan, who falls into the same trap Rauch does.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Party Time!

Bonus: this is actually yesterday's post, but it didn't get posted yesterday because Blogger was having issues.

OK, so I was cranky. Mercury's in retrograde and it was cloudy. I'm entitled.

Why single-party government has no credibility in this country: From NYT:

Moving to tamp down Democratic calls for an investigation of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight but allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.

Horselaugh of the week:

"We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight," [Sen. Olympia J] Snowe said.

How can anyone not see where this is going?

The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the court whenever possible.

If the administration elects not to do so after 45 days, the attorney general must certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant. The attorney general would be required to give an update to the subcommittee every 45 days.

"Whenever possible"? From a president who didn't want to use the existing system because he felt providing justification for eavesdropping was too great an infringement of his powers? I really like the part about "the attorney general must certify that the surveillance is necessary." This is the attorney general who thinks the president has the authority to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

This is interesting. From Wonkette:

Unfortunately anonomizers don't work out here (never have). Anyway, I had a few minutes today and thought I'd look and see what else was banned on the Marine web here. I think the results speak for themselves:

* Wonkette - “Forbidden, this page (http://www.wonkette.com/) is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/Opinion.”
* Bill O’Reilly (www.billoreilly.com) - OK
* Air America (www.airamericaradio.com) - “Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
* Rush Limbaugh (www.rushlimbaugh.com) - OK
* ABC News “The Note” - OK
* Website of the Al Franken Show (www.alfrankenshow.com) - “Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion.”
* G. Gordon Liddy Show (www.liddyshow.us) - OK

Control information, and you control the Marines. Can we dare suggest that the military is becoming an arm of the Republican party, like the MSM? (I'm told by a correspondent in the military that these are merely warning windows and can easily be bypassed. Porn is verboten, period, but sites with political content are not. I do, however, find it instructive that these warnings are posted to begin with.)

This comes hard on the heels of a news items about that really stupid, bigoted congresswoman from Colorado -- sorry, can't think of her name -- senior moment here -- having uniformed military personnel at a Republican fundraiser, which happens to be against regulations. (She's running scared, so she's got to hide behind a uniform. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of that in coming months.)

Musgrave -- that's her name. The really vicious one. From Colorado, as opposed to the really vicious one from Ohio. This story from AmericaBlog. Further alerts from Josh Marshall here and here:

The existence of this ban and the enforcement of it are hugely important both to good order and discipline within the military and to preserving our democratic republic. The military can't be made into an arm of one or the other political party. Nor can the executive be allowed to enlist members of the armed forces, either individually or en masse, willingly or not, as soldiers in his domestic political battles.

Another insight into Musgrave's character, again from Josh Marshall:

The uniformed member of the military who appears at such an event can be court-martialed for the violation. It's not some technicality in UCMJ terms. But there's no law against a politician or party leader putting them up to it or facilitating it. So there's no risk for them.

So Musgrave and whomever else organized the event is putting this guy's career on the line as well as encouraging this misconduct for their own partisan gain.

Maybe I wouldn't worry so much about one-party government if I thought anyone involved had any glimmerings of adequacy. Unfortunately, that seems to be only a fond wish at this point.

I refer you once again to David Neiwert's essays on the rise of Fascism.

Brokeback: Debriefing

It's been a long time since I've expected the Academy Awards to be an indicator of merit. Ever since Elizabeth Taylor won an Oscar for something I've forgotten the title of because she'd been ill and had not won for Butterfield Eight (or maybe she won for that one because she'd been sick and hadn't won for the one she should have won for -- it's been a while), I've realized that the Oscars are all about Hollywood politics, not artistic quality.

So, in spite of the face-saving "I didn't think it was that great" statements by a number of gay commentators, I'm simply going to say that, like the Supreme Court in Bowers vs. Hardwick, the Academy doesn't always make the right decisions. The difference is the Academy can't go back and fix it.

And thus this take on how Crash won Best Picture at the Oscars, from The Film Awards Tracking Database:

In 10 years’ time, this result will probably be seen as an embarrassment to the Academy. It will likely go down in history as a time when fear won out over progress, and when playing industry politics won out over honoring a true work of art. But for now, the industry has dodged their perceived bullet. Ann Coulter is gloating that liberals have been slapped in the face, and conservative housewives in Nebraska can feel okay taking their kids to the multiplex without fear that they’re inadvertently endorsing something ungodly.

It is doubtful this move will improve the industry’s box office success—only producing films with actual quality and whipping theaters back into shape so people actually want to go out will do that. It is also doubtful this will negatively affect the historical perception of one of the most brilliant love stories ever put to film. The number of kudos "Brokeback" received, along with what will likely be at least $85 million in domestic box office, the largest total ever for a gay drama, cement its place in history as one of the greatest films of the modern age. That it didn’t win this last prize will ultimately be insignificant to this perception. What will be significant is the perception that the industry, far from being out of touch with mainstream moviegoers, is so terrified of offending them that it will sell out the credibility of its awards to avoid doing so.

It's a very interesting article. Do read the whole thing. It's not that long.

(And the studios are wondering why their numbers are tanking? Maybe it's because their product is tanking.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


The non-writing phase seems to have hit bottom. Not a word in my head. I did produce a couple of reviews this weekend but it was a struggle.

I need something warm and quiet.

Maybe I'll go to the Zoo and Conservatory (that's Lincoln Park, for you non-Chicagoans). Always a good place to clear your head out.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Coffee shops used to be these dark little places in half-basement storefronts where poets and artists and musicians hung out and you could linger over a cup of coffee, talk, play cards, have a cigarette and actually relax.

Now they're non-alcoholic fern bars where the politically correct meet to network. And the coffee's not very good.

Talk about going to hell in a handbasket.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

History Lessons

From Andrew Sullivan. He's not putting the pieces together.

First, the thank-you letter from Samuel Alito to James Dobson:

In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the Focus on the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have done.

A short comment on the Catholic right:

These theocons are indeed hard and merciless; and it's time take back our Church from them.

Then he cites an "Anti-Islamist Manifesto":

"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism."

I would take issue with the Anti-Islamists. The threat is not Islamism, it is fundamentalism. The methods vary, but the ends are the same: to dispense with political dialogue in favor of monologue, as is so evident in Sullivan's own Catholic Church.

We've seen the methods the Islamists are using, and they are, by any measure of civilized people, repellent. What I find equally repellent is the use by the Christianists in America of the mechanisms of democracy to subvert democracy.

Take the courts, for example. Bush has packed the courts with right-wing judges, and even granted that some of them will, indeed, rule according to the law, it is no mistake that the most activist justices on the Supreme Court, for example, are those most acceptable to the Christianists -- Thomas and Scalia. The blasts at "activist judges" are, as usual, no more than a smokescreen, to deflect attention from the fact that the wildmons are packing the courts with their own activists. The idea has been put forward that Alito was nominated not because he would not legislate from the bench, but because he will; the key factor is that he will do so in ways acceptable to the right.

In this context, I recommend David Neiwert's series at Orcinus on "Bush, the Nazis and America," which starts here, as well as "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism," which is available at Cursor.

Scootmaroo starts putting it together in yesterday's post at cabanaboyscoot, coming from a slightly different angle than my own comments.

In the 1980's, Margaret Atwood wrote a prophetic novel called The Handmaid's Tale, which imagines the United States being replaced by a Christian Theocracy called The Republic of Gilead. Apparently, we are moving closer to her vision than any of us cares to recognize.

Put the pieces together: the cult of personality (remember the billboards with Bush's picture and the simple statement "Our Leader"?), elimination of checks and balances in the government, government operations conducted in secret, unlimited power in the hands of one person, the government in control of the flow of information (one area in which we are still, thank the Lord and Lady, holding our own --although you will recall that Congress periodically tries to censor the Internet) -- which includes rewriting history to fit the agenda -- cries of "persecution" by the ruling clique, demonizing certain groups of citizens as well as the creation of outside enemies (or at least, the gross inflation of the threat they present -- it's much easier to assume dictatorial powers in wartime), enlisting the aid of religious leaders in the "crusade". . . .

The tip of the iceberg.

"Hitler" is too easy and too shallow. It's the way every dictatorship that's ever been has maintained its power, and the way many of them have gained control in the first place. It's very comforting to say "it can't happen here" but that assumes that someone will do something about it, rather than collaborating, actively or passively, in the repeal of liberty. Guess who has to be that someone.

Yeah. We own it, we get to fix it.

(A late note. It's pervasive, and it's not all originating with the admimnistration. Take a look at this editorial in today's NYT:

After a murky legislative process distinguished by a lack of any public hearing, the House is ready to rush to approve a special-interest measure for the food industry today. The bill would pre-empt all state food safety regulations that are more protective than federal standards.)