"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, November 30, 2006


I saw John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus yesterday. Yes, there's lots of sex, lots of nudity. There's also a lot more to it than that. It's one of those films that you want to go back and see again, right away. I may, in fact. It's not perfect, but the whole basis of it fascinated me -- it was developed through improvs with the director and cast. The end result is a treat. I'll be reviewing it, somewhere. I'll post the links in the Featured section.

Remember Brandon Mayfield?

Brandon Mayfield was arrested in connection with the Madrid train bombings in 2004 under provisions of the Partiot Act. From CNN:

According to an FBI affidavit at the time, his fingerprint was identified as being on a blue plastic bag containing detonators found in a van used by the bombers.

The FBI's fingerprint identification was wrong, however, and Mayfield was released several days later.

What the article doesn't mention is that Spanish authorities, who had forwarded the fingerprint info, knew it was a bad match and told our the FBI so and that Mayfield wasn't a suspect. The FBI, of course, knew better. As the case developed, in the words of Gertrude Stein, "there was no there there" to the extent that even the FBI could figure it out.

That's $2 million of our (yours and mine) money.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Signs of the Season

For those of you who saw the story on the couple who were being fined by their homeowners' association for displaying a wreath with a peace symbol, here's a follow up from NYT:

In any case, there are now more peace symbols in Pagosa Springs, a town of 1,700 people 200 miles southwest of Denver, than probably ever in its history.

On Tuesday morning, 20 people marched through the center carrying peace signs and then stomped a giant peace sign in the snow perhaps 300 feet across on a soccer field, where it could be easily seen.


Thinking about my 'Net pal Scoot's "post-partum depression" post. I left a comment that includes a comment about my own reclusiveness. I can be very good with people, but it's a learned thing -- the demands of a high-level job that involved a lot of contact with high-level clients. It's not natural -- it takes a lot of energy and leaves me exhausted. My idea of a great party is no more than six people for dinner.

The holiday season gets -- I won't say hard, because lack of company is not something that bothers me usually. I just think that at what I call festival times there's a natural impulse to gather in groups -- that's when a sense of community becomes more important. So I go to favorite hangouts -- being me, I go to a bar and make friends with the staff, not the customers -- where I feel comfortable, and they know I don't like to talk. (Amazing, but true. Actually, I'll talk your ear off, but you have to push one of my buttons -- the history of science fiction, or evolutionary biology, or orchids, or something like that. Small talk doesn't do it.) Unless it's a matter of hanging out with a couple of close friends, I'd rather be among people than with them, if you understand what I mean.

So, for all the recluses out there, if you find yourself hungry for human companionship, throw a party. Or go shopping, if you don't want to talk to anyone.

The Greeks Called It "Hubris"

This, by Kenneth Prager, is the most unbelievable piece of crap I've ever seen in print (give or take anything Ann Coulter ever plagiarized.)

Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

As one of Andrew Sullivan's readers points out:

The very first law passed under the Constitution was enacted on June 1, 1789 (Statute I, Chapter 1 (1 Stat. 23)): "An Act to regulate the Time and Manner of administering certain Oaths." That law says nothing about what someone taking the oath of office is supposed to do with his hands; nor does it say anything about Bibles or any other books being involved in the process. That original law currently is disbursed in 2 U.S.C. Sections 21, et seq. and 5 U.S.C. Section 3331 and in none of these sections (nor in the Rules of the House of Representatives) is there any requirement about what one does with his hands.

James Joyner points out Article VI of the Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Not to mention the First Amendment -- remember the Establishment Clause?

Stephen Bainbridge also dissects Prager's column, much more nicely that I would do it. The comments on Bainbridge's post are instructive, particularly this observation:

As I understand it, Ellison doesn't have to take any oath at all. The Constitution says (Article VI), "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned... shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution". Everywhere else that an Oath is required, the Constitution likewise says "or Affirmation". Some religions forbade the taking of oaths (I believe the Quakers did); the Constitution specifically allowed those people the option of "affirming" their intent to uphold the Constitution, instead of swearing an oath.

Of course, I'm reminded of Jamie Raskin's comment in his campaign in Maryland (?), which I paraphrase: "When you took your oath of office, you put your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution; you did not put your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

Thanks for the two links above to Glenn Greenwald, who as usual makes the most telling point:

As always, it is the most basic constitutional principles -- which were previously beyond challenge -- that are placed in doubt by the most rabid Bush followers. And these attacks on our constitutional values are, with no sense of irony, waged in the name of defending "America."

The first question, as always, is "Is Prager that stupid, or does he think we are?" I think it's just an attention-getting device. Of course, if he'd done just a little bit of research -- a stretch, obviously -- then he would have actually had to come up with an idea for a column.

Aside from the Prager's arrogance in presuming to speak for "America" -- whatever warped version of that concept he may have in his head, and he sure as hell doesn't speak for me -- he's just flat wrong on every count. I don't mean an "I don't agree with this" wrong, or a "not a very nice thing to say" wrong, just a flat-out, no contact with reality, never read a history book, wouldn't know a fact if it bit him kind of wrong. That much is obvious from the comments of people who do know what they're talking about.

If anyone taking an oath of office should be required to place a hand on a book, it should be a bound copy of the Constitution. Just goes to show -- Althouse and Reynolds notwithstanding, Sullivan is absolutely right about the Christianists.

And these people think they should be running things? (Of course they do -- God told them so.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blog Wars

I usually stay out of the blog wars, simply because it's just too much of a tiny little group thing, but this is a very intelligent post by Glenn Greenwald in response to attacks by Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds on Andrew Sullivan's use of the term "Christianist."

I myself, as you've probably noticed, find "Christianist" a useful term, and I consider Althouse and Reynolds perhaps one step above sitting in a corner and drooling on themselves, at least as far as political commentary is concerned. Greenwald's discussion of the term and its uses is, I think, a very clear exposition of the background Sullivan has built into it. Pity that Althouse and Reynolds don't get it. But then, I wouldn't expect them to -- it's too close to reality. (I'm not going to address the question of how much of that avoidance is deliberate.)

The objection to the term on the right seems to stem directly from 1) the victim strategy, and 2) "it's OK for me to say it about other people, but no one can say it about me."

Take that for what it's worth.

(The comments at Althouse's post are instructive: a prime example of misreading, although whether it's purposeful or just sloppy, it's hard to tell. Lots of straw man going on there, starting with Althouse herself. And this is a law professor?)

Add in this post by Tristero over at Hullabaloo.

Stumbling Toward Irrelevancy

The title is a take-off on the Sara McLachlan song. No particular reason.

Here's an editorial from the National Catholic Reporter that says it all.

Frankly, if the American bishops want to make themselves and their church irrelevant, I have no problem with that. I only wish the Southern Baptist Conference would follow their lead.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

With a Zero

Today's my birthday, and as usual, I have no idea what to do about it. I don't really feel like business as usual, nor do I feel like really cutting loose. I have to be at work early tomorrow, and I've gotten just too responsible for hijinks. I could go all Witch calendar and celebrate tomorrow, since I don't have to work Tuesday. (We're allowed a couple days' leeway on observing holy days, in case you were wondering. It's a practical religion.)

This is one of those with a zero at the end, and I thought I might just spend the day reflecting about my life, but decided I'll freak out if I do that. I spend too much damned time reflecting anyway, and my life has been kind of haphazard. Fun, mostly, but haphazard.

One thing I am going to do -- not because of my birthday, but because it's time to do it -- is get back into some regular exercise. Parking my butt in front of a computer all day just generates a huge amount of tension, not to mention the disastrous effect on my wardrobe (none of my pants fit any more). So it's time to see if I can get back anywhere close to this:

That's ten years ago. So, what's a decade here or there? I've done it before. (In fact, ten years before that photo, I was in worse shape than I am now, so there's hope.)

There's always hope.

PS -- check the "Featured" topic in the sidebar -- a new double review of the first two volumes of Glan Cook's Iinstrumentalities of the Night. Great reading.

And the Rest of the World Marches On

From Chris Crain, on events in Brazil:

The "land of the free" fell another step behind the largest Roman Catholic country in the world on Wednesday when Brazil's lower house passed a law adding gender, sexual orientation and gender identity to the country's hate crime law, which currently covers race, color, ethnicity and religion.

It's interesting to note that even in countries where the repressive force of the Catholic Church is of major proportions, civil law is making strides -- Mexico City just passed a civil unions law, Spain has legalized same-sex marriage, and now Brazil not only is about to enjoy a gay-inclusive hate crimes law, but already as a mechanism for recognizing gay couples and allows second-parent adoptions for gay partners.

The list of countries that have pulled ahead of the US on various areas of gay rights is getting longer and longer. And the Democrats are afraid of tackling the repeal of DADT. Tell you anything?

Dobson on Gay

From Larry King Live:

KING: We discussed this before in the past, but not recently: Do you still believe that being gay is a choice rather than a given?

DOBSON: I never did believe that.

KING: Oh, you don't believe it.

DOBSON: I don't believe that. Neither do I believe it's genetic. I said that...

KING: Then what is it?

DOBSON: I said that on your program one time and both of us got a lot of mail for it. I don't blame homosexuals for being angry when people say they've made a choice to be gay because they don't.

It usually comes out of very, very early childhood, and this is very controversial, but this is what I believe and many other people believe, that is has to do with an identity crisis that occurs to early to remember it, where a boy is born with an attachment to his mother and she is everything to him for about 18 months, and between 18 months and five years, he needs to detach from her and to reattach to his father.

It's a very important developmental task and if his dad is gone or abusive or disinterested or maybe there's just not a good fit there. What's he going to do? He remains bonded to his mother and...

KING: Is that clinically true or is that theory?

DOBSON: No, it's clinically true, but it's controversial. What homosexual activists, especially, would like everybody to believe is that it is genetic, that they don't have any choice. If it were genetic, Larry -- and before we went on this show, you and I were talking about twin studies -- if it were genetic, identical twins would all have it. Identical twins, if you have a homosexuality in one twin, it would be there in the other.

KING: Right.

DOBSON: So, it can't be simply genetic. I do believe that there are temperaments that individuals are born with that make them more vulnerable and maybe more likely to move in that direction, but it usually is related to a sexual identity crisis.

Well, let's see -- no, the causes as Dobson describes them are not "clinically true." That's a variation on Freudian theory (developed by Freud's followers, not by Freud, who admitted he had no clue as to the causes of homosexuality) that has been discredited for quite some time. It's also a gross oversimplification. What the hell is a "sexual identity crisis," anyway?

My own theory is simply that, like so many other human conditions, homosexuality is the result of a series of conditions and events, starting with a genetic pre-disposition and cascading through the events and circumstances of an individual's development. (And the way human genetics works, the search for a "gay gene" is futile -- as we are learning, there is a series of influences that genes exert on each other, which is why, I think, Kinsey finally came up with his scale -- there are degrees of orientation, as seems to be borne out by the range of behaviors.) Some people are able to repress their same-sex desires. Others don't bother. Some just can't. I think that's the logical result of predisposition and conditioning. The only "sexual identity crisis" happens when following one's natural orientation is not held out as an option.

And please note, it's been a long time since I've followed this topic closely and a lot of research has been done in the meantime, but everything I've seen tends to support my thinking. And I, at least, am willing to say that I don't know for sure, not having the kind of mindset that relies on absolute truth handed down from absolute authority.

As to what motivates people like King to give demogogues like Dobson air time -- well, they created him, so now they can make use of him. I guess. Won't do to have a legitimate discussion of something like this. That would be too much like Dick Cavett.

There Actually Is A Republican With Sense

An incredible OpEd from Chuck Hagel in WaPo:

America finds itself in a dangerous and isolated position in the world. We are perceived as a nation at war with Muslims. Unfortunately, that perception is gaining credibility in the Muslim world and for many years will complicate America's global credibility, purpose and leadership. This debilitating and dangerous perception must be reversed as the world seeks a new geopolitical, trade and economic center that will accommodate the interests of billions of people over the next 25 years. The world will continue to require realistic, clear-headed American leadership -- not an American divine mission.

The implied criticism of what has passed for "foreign policy" in the Bush administration is deep and bitter. It's also pretty astonishing. Read the whole thing -- and remember that this is coming from a Republican senator from Nebraska.

Thanks to Crooks and Liars.


An interesting story from my streaming headlines this morning, about a prison industry in Maryland:

Beeson said inmates who work in the plants tend to re-offend and return to prison at about half the rate of those who don't. Inmates must have a high-school diploma or GED to work for the agency, which can help with their schooling.

Damn. A prison program that works. Now, if we could just decide exactly why it is we have prisons in this country -- rehabilitation? punishment? deterrent?

But of course, enter the fly in the ointment:

Private furniture makers aren't as keen on prison industries. The Independent Office Products and Furniture Dealers Association, based in Arlington, Va., supports a bill passed in September by the U.S. House of Representatives that would require Federal Prison Industries Inc. to compete on a more even footing with the private sector for federal contracts. A 2004 law ended its monopoly on supplying office furniture and other items to federal agencies, but left it with some advantages, said Michael Ochs, the trade group's director of government affairs.

He said the association has concentrated on the federal, not the state level. But Ochs said state prison industries - and every state has such an agency - also cut into private industry sales.

"We would like to see open and fair competition where the industry can compete on an equal footing," Ochs said.

This stopped me for a mnute. Of course, on the face of it, a business that is paying its workers a dollar or two a day is certainly at an unfair advantage, or it would seem to be. Until you read a little farther.

Beeson said Maryland Correctional Enterprises tries to limit its negative economic impact on the private sector by producing things not made by Maryland companies.

"Every year we study it, and for the whole state of Maryland, we constitute less than 3 percent of anyone's business in any one category," he said.

Less than three percent. And the private industry association thinks that's too much. They want a level playing field. Open and fair competition. For the three percent of the market that they don't have.

Cue violin.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Newt and Al: Will the Real Abraham Lincoln Please Stand Up?

Another good post from Robinson, this time about the Newt:

Here's Newt:

I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem' .... 'I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen.'

Y'know, he did that last time -- just before he became the most unpopular politician in the United States. It was called "The Contract on America."

Here's Robinson's summation:

[W]e may decide that we like Al's principles and leadership well enough to elect him. But the difference is that we all know Al is going to do his global warming thing for as long as it takes, with or without that inducement. Yeah, it may put him in a great position to run; but he seems to see that as an optional side benefit of Doing The Right Thing.

Newt, on the other hand, has already taken himself off that high road by announcing his overt political intentions right up front. He's being very frank that any attempts to create any kind of movement will be an electioneering gambit, a means toward the end of power. Which, right there, tells you all you need to know about his commitment to higher principles and priorities.

This is part and parcel of why I feel justified in calling today's conservatives cynical hypocrites: it's about power, and they can't even conceive of pushing an inssue because it is the right thing to do. Rovian thinking has so completely permeated the right wing that there is no such thing any more as an issue that carries "good" on its own terms. It's good only insofar as it plays to the base.

And I agree with Robinson's conclusion. Completely:

That said: If this issues-advocacy-based model does turn out to be a new trend in campaigning, I gotta say that it beats anything else currently on the scene. We could do worse than having our pols running around trying to find real problems to solve, and devoting themselves to creating effective solutions in order to prove to us that they're serious change leaders worthy of our respect and our votes.


A very interesting post by Sara Robinson over at Orcinus about the life cycle of religious movements, with particular focus on the Christian Coalition and its recent problems:

For both those reasons, I speculated last week that the evangelical right in America is headed for that calmer stage of organizational maturity. I further noted that this was likely to fuel some schisms over the short term, mostly between hard-core religious authoritarians who thrive on high levels of fear, anger, and intensity, and want to stay the old course; and the softer core looking to expand their sights, so that they can live their values.

The coming split in the evangelical right will be fueled by the different ways its various factions adapt to this new reality. The possibilities are likely to take two main forms. On one hand, we'll see the amoral authoritarian leadership fade away, and the hard-core authoritarian followers in retreat. On the other, however, are growing numbers of Christians who are already beginning to moderate -- some of them to the point where we may start seeing them in the progressive mainstream. --What If God Loses? 11/15/06

I found this bit particularly instructive (OK -- validating: it supports what I have been saying about the Christianists for a while):

The Florida pastor recently tapped to lead the Christian Coalition of America resigned his position in a dispute about conservative philosophy - more than a month before he was to fully assume his post, he said this week.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Longwood, Fla., said he quit as president-elect of the group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson because he realized he would be unable to broaden the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

He hoped to include issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said. . . .

Hunter hoped to revive the group by expanding its agenda to include what he called "compassion issues." He also planned to teach evangelicals how to "vote with their life," or integrate and apply their Christian values to public life.

The coalition's rejection of Hunter's approach means it is unwilling to part with its partisan, Republican roots, Hunter said.

I happen to agree with Hunter, and not just because of his name -- stewardship of the earth, easing poverty (which has come to be, in my mind, the great destroyer), extending the benefits of society to those left outside, the "compassion" issues to which he refers, seem to be to be the proper sphere of Christian activism. I think the greatest Christian heroes of the twentieth century are Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Berrigan brothers. Christ, as I remember from my childhood Sunday school classes, was not a negative thinker -- he taught an active approach to love and compassion that seems to be foreign territory to the Dobson Gang.

Pat Robertson, Pat Robertson, why hast thou forsaken me?

The Cure

A reader at TPM makes an interesting point in Dobson's pulling out of the "cure" of Ted Haggard:

Okay, so here's Dobson, the leader of America's anti-gay lobby, telling us he's not going to bother working on curing Haggard cuz it'll take too long. This from the "movement" whose only rational argument for discrimination rests entirely on the (wrong) assumption that homosexuality is a behavior of choice -- and demonstrably curable.

You'd think Dobson et al would embrace the opportunity to deploy the latest in Exodus-style conversion therapy, especially on Haggard, one of their own most glaring and needy cases. Imagine the PR value! If the almighty priests of family values can "restore" Haggard, they can restore anyone, guaranteed!

My guess -- everyone knows it's a lost cause. The best they're going to be able to do with Haggard is to re-repress his nature. Back in the box.

Hiring Quotas

Thanks to Pam Spaulding for a look at the Army's own affirmative action:

The recruiters told people showing interest in being a soldier to keep their homosexuality to themselves.

Military policy states that if a potential service member discloses that he or she is gay, they are supposed to be immediately disqualified.

"We encountered one recruiter who said 'I'll pretend I didn't hear that. Is that right?" CBS4 asked the head of Army recruiting in Denver.

Oh, and don't worry about being a gang member:

A CBS4 employee also went in with a hidden camera and this time suggested he was a gang member.

"Does it matter that I was in a gang or anything like that?" he asked the recruiter.

At first, he was told the Army doesn't accept enlistees who were gang members, but then the senior officer stepped in.

"You may have had some gang activity in the past and everything, ok, and that in itself does not disqualify you," he said.

From what I hear, people with antisocial behavioral patterns, petty criminals and the like are also now acceptable.

Homosexuality, however, is still a "defect" -- if you get caught.

Somebody needs a slap upside the head.


Wayne Besen has joined the "hold back on repeal" chorus, and, like the other singers in the choir, his reasoning doesn't make sense to me.

Unfortunately, I left off my short list overturning the ban on gays in the military. I think we should steer clear of this issue until after the presidential elections. This topic is too prone to demagoguery with conservatives, once again, descending into submarine barracks. If a Democrat wins the presidency and the party holds both branches of Congress, this would be a good issue for 2009.

I'll simply repeat what I said earlier: repeal of DADT is a no-brainer. It has popular support, including growing support among new recruits; it has demonstrably cost us manpower in critial areas and consequently weakened our military; it is unfair, which has a certain basic appeal to Americans anyway just as a general principle; and it's an easy win. If Bush vetoes it, he looks like a loser.

The idea that the idea is "too prone to demagoguery" is another way of saying that not only the Democrats but the gay "leadership" has no balls. Being a somewhat confrontational personality, my own take is that Clinton was too willing to be reasonable. I would have simply announced to the Joint Chiefs that resignations would be expected on my desk by 5 pm, ordered them not to speak to Congress about the issue, on pain of court martial, and let the chips fall where they might. The end result couldn't possibly have been worse.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

To those of you in the States. It's really our most significant secular holiday. It's also close to my birthday, so it's always been "my" holiday -- turkey and birthday cake.

Consequently, it's also the time of year when I spend a lot of time thinking about my life and not talking much. This year's birthday is one of the ones with a "0" so I really do have to do some thinking.

As for today, what plans I did have have been disrupted by news that, on the whole, is very positive. I think I may go to the zoo -- it looks like a beautiful day, clear and sunny and in the 50s -- make myself a nice dinner, and just take it easy for a change -- a hold on self-generated stress.

And maybe I'll come back with some comments on what a dipshit John McCain has turned into.


Well, the Democrats are about to take control of Congress, so it's time to start sniping at them. (Finally, you get to see the truth of my claim to even-handed snark.)

A summary of the new Speaker's priorities. I remain unconvinced.

Pelosi has also tempered hopes of reversing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the service of gays and lesbians in the military, after two key Democrats -- Representatives Martin T. Meehan of Lowell and Barney Frank of Newton -- said last week that they want to repeal the policy.

Though Pelosi believes homosexuals should be able to openly serve, she has made clear that she believes Democrats have more urgent national-security priorities -- including changing course in Iraq and investigating war-related contracting.

Is this an admission that the gay vote is the Democrats' equivalent of the "values voters"? Or is Pelosi setting herself up for another black eye?

"We hope to get something done that's serious, that's beyond political," [Representative Michael E.] Capuano said.

(Capuano is leading Pelosi's transition team.)

It seems to me that an item like DADT is a signature item for the Democrats -- it's a way to brand the Republicans for what they are. It's a small-minded piece of shit that doesn't work, that has cost the military 11,000 talented people, many of them trained specialists, has also cost about $400 million dollars. Every poll over the last two years shows widespread support for repeal. The bill as introduced in the last Congress had well over 100 sponsors, and I think it's pretty safe item. If Pelosi's ready at the get-go to table that one, it just bears out my suspicions that we're nothing more than cannon fodder.

I should point out that the Democrats have no credibility with me. Their main value so far has been to get the Christianists who control the Republican party on the defensive, and I suspect that they simply don't have the balls. It starts to look as though I'm right -- not only have they had no success with calling the Dobson Gang to account, they're buying into the mentality.

Here's a commentary by Robbie at The Malcontent.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stray Thoughts

Stubbornness is not integrity.

The Big Question for 2008: Which Republican contender is going to hire Karl Rove?

The White House is right: Pat Robertson is unhinged.

In spite of everything the right wingnuts can do, Pelosi is going to kick Republican ass.

We're looking at two years of government gridlock.

I'm thinking of voting in the Republican primary in 2008. For Mitt Romney. He's the biggest loser the Republicans have.

It's not race -- it's class.

Check out Slap Upside the Head.

Also check out Scootmaroo's experience with the Laramie Project.

If you look at the links in the sidebar, you must think I'm interested in everything. You're probably right.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I'm out of commentary mode today, so there are just a couple of updates on the sidebar. If you surf the blogs at all, you know the stories -- the ridiculous commentaries by the MSM and other Republican apologists on the "disaster" for Nancy Pelosi in the House majority leader election -- what a crock. And there's the backstabbing among the neocons and theocons and all the other cons, in and out of prison, that enabled the Worst. President. Ever. to gain and maintain his title. (Y'know, these people may have studied history, but they sure as hell don't understand it.) And then there's the so-called AG scoring people who still believe in the Constitution.

At any rate, I'll go back to my brilliant analyses when I get in the mood again. Or when something outrages me so much I can't keep quiet. Or something.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Moral Minority

Time has an interesting article on the myths being spun about the election. The last one is the one I found most interesting:

MYTH: Republicans lost their base.
REALITY: The base turned out, they just got beat.

I seem to remember saying, some while back, that these people are a minority. It's the big dirty secret that they -- and their political tools -- don't want you to know. This time, the wingnuts lost the independents. Wham!

Mike Pence is claiming it's because the Republicans lost their limited government princples. What a load. Does he really think that if the Republicans had reduced the size of the government, kept the budget under control, etc., etc., etc., the electorate would have been willing to swallow Abramoff, Katrina, Iraq, and Foley?


(Actually, thinking about it, they might have. Except the two are mutually exclusive, I think.)

The Bill

Here's a link to the text of Dodd's bill, courtesy of Michael Froomkin.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Somebody Gets It!

Hooray for Chris Dodd:

November 16, 2006 202-224-5372


Washington- Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), an outspoken opponent of the Military Commission Act of 2006, today introduced legislation which would amend existing law in order to have an effective process for bringing terrorists to justice. This is currently not the case under the Military Commission Act, which will be the subject of endless legal challenges. As important, the bill would also seek to ensure that U.S. servicemen and women are afforded the maximum protection of a strong international legal framework guaranteed by respect for such provisions as the Geneva Conventions and other international standards, and to restore America’s moral authority as the leader in the world in advancing the rule of law.

"I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists,” Sen. Dodd said. “But there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. It’s clear the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.”

The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act:

* Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees

* Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants

* Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials

* Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence the deem to be unreliable

* Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions

* Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight

* Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions

“We in Congress have our own obligation, to work in a bipartisan way to repair the damage that has been done, to protect our international reputation, to preserve our domestic traditions, and to provide a successful mechanism to improve and enhance the tools required by the global war on terror,” Dodd said.

Thanks to Atrios.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


From AP via Earthlink; it's also in NYT. The actual document doesn't seem to be available yet.

Just a couple of random thoughts. First, a misstatement of fact:

On the subject of therapy to change same-sex attraction, the bishops said there is no scientific consensus on whether it can succeed.

Actually, there is: changing sexual orientation is, as far as we know, not possible. However, behavior can be changed so that gays can live as heterosexuals. Even the "ex-gay" wingnuts now admit that. They will be miserably unhappy heterosexuals, and will probably at some point break down and start chasing teenage boys or keeping secret trysts with gay hookers, but they'll be living as "straight." Of course, we've been doing that for a long, long time anyway -- it's just that no one demanded that we believe it.

Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics, said the document is damaging because it recommends that gays "stay emotionally and spiritually in the closet."

But there you have it: in spite of protestations that the Church values the human dignity of gays and lesbians, it can't seem to make doctrine follow suit. It's perfectly OK to be born gay, but try to pretend otherwise, just to avoid being sinful, won't you?

I have a serious problem with this because sexual identity is a significant part of one's identity overall. It's so deep that tampering with it is tantamount to tampering with the personality as a whole. Most societies consider that a violation of basic human dignity. Apparently the Church hierarchy has no problem with this. I guess they think that they're the only ones who should be allowed to torture people. (The part about not being open about your sexual orientation with the congregation or the world at large really frosts me. That is pure, unadulterated merda, and represents nothing so much as yet another attempt to punish gays by denying their inherent humanity.)

This is the kind of thing that can only come out of a completely self-referential system that is slowly being eroded by reality. I suppose it's a step forward in that the bishops have decided that same-sex orientation is not sinful in and of itself. It's only sinful if you try to make it part of your overall humanity.

I'm probably going to be accused of being anti-Catholic (of course, I've been accused of that already), but to be quite honest about it, I can't really comprehend why anyone expects me to take this level of bullshit seriously, particularly coming from an organization that has run through its complete inventory of moral authority. This whole exercise in navel-gazing only demonstrates once again that the Founders were absolutely correct in their distrust of organized Christianity: it is inherently opposed to the ideals of a free and democratic society.

This will, of course, translate into political activity. Are we now going to have priests denying communion to anyone who disagrees -- including political candidates? Are we going to have pastoral letters insisting that our elected representatives vote the Catholic line? Word of warning from this sissy -- you don't want to go there.

As John Aravosis points out, it only took the Church until 1992 or so to admit that Galileo was right. So, give them four hundred years. Maybe they'll come around.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

True Belief

Another dynamite post by Glenn Greenwald, this one about Russ Feingold. A couple of thoughts on it:

[W]hen Feingold stood up and advocated censure -- based on the truly radical and crazy, far leftist premise that when the President is caught red-handed breaking the law, the Congress should actually do something about that -- the soul-less, oh-so-sophisticated Beltway geniuses could not even contemplate the possibility that he was doing that because he believed what he was saying.

The comment here is simply "Why is it so easy to believe, against all the evidence, that religious belief should be the directing force of national policy (and not a general sort of belief in a Creator as demonstrated by the Founders, but a specific belief in the nasty, vengeful and unloving God held up by the Pope, the Dobson Gang, and the President) but it's so hard to accept the idea that someone can actually believe in our Constitution? Based on Greenwald's comments and what I know of Feingold's record, he seems to be one of the few politicians in this country who actually has a grasp of the morality of public life and government policy.

Quoting David Limbaugh about Feingold's introduction of the censure resolution:

Feingold's move is not one of moral courage, but raw political ambition. In the words of Democratic senator Mark Dayton, Feingold's move is "an overreaching step by someone who is grandstanding and running for president at the expense of his own party and his own country."

I remember how disgusted I was, as a voter likely to lean to the Democrats, with the Democrats in Congress for running wildly away from the issue: the president broke the law, and the Democrats went along with it.

(Snarky Sidebar:

In an online editorial titled, "Feingold's Gift to the GOP," the conservative magazine wrote that Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman would hug Feingold if given the chance.

I'm sure he would, but not because of the censure resolution. In fact, I'm sure Mehlman would do more than hug -- Feingold's an attractive man.)

The thrust of Greenwald's comments is how out of touch and completely off-base the Washington insiders are. But I think it's interesting to contemplate the idea of a politician who actually believes in something besides lining his pockets while holding on to power.

It's a real shame Feingold has decided not to run for president. He's probably the only one worth having in the Oval Office at this point.

And, believe it or not, this post by David Neiwert at Orcinus is related. Honestly.

It's clear to any cognizant non-Kool-aid drinker that the public had had enough of the bile and antics -- and really, the core extremism -- of people like Hayworth. And Beck. And Limbaugh. Malkin. Coulter. Hannity. The list just became too long.

Guys like this, of course, want to force Republicans to swim farther out to sea after this tidal wave because that's the only direction they know. I mean, if Republicans were to wake up and realize what's happened to them -- that their formerly good name has been sullied by years of being led by fanatical demagogues -- folks like Beck, Limbaugh, Malkin, Coulter, and Hannity would shortly be out of demand and out of work.

The point being, of course, that the named pundits don't believe the crap they spew any more than their controllers in the government do. (Think about Limbaugh's relief that he no longer has to be a "water carrier" for the Republicans. Excuse me -- just who was holding a gun to his head?) The "institutional conservatism" that Greenwald refers to in this post is just that: the loyalty is not to the conservatism, but to the institution. It's an institution composed of many facets -- the Israeli lobby-neocons, the Christianists, the anti-immigration white supremacists, and even a few genuine theoretical conservatives (those who haven't been marginalized, as was Andrew Sullivan) -- directed toward one goal: the acquisition and retention of political power, the "permanent Republican majority." (Which in and of itself is not something I think is desirable -- that is to say, a permanent majority of either party would be a disaster for this country. Twelve years has been bad enough. Of course, that kind of thinking denies the lessons of history (quelle surprise!) -- it's a series of reactions, so a permanent majority is a pipe dream to begin with -- unless, of course, you're prepared to do away with the last vestiges of democracy.)

Of course, when ideology meets reality, something's got to give. In Feingold's case, it seems to be the ideology. In the case of the Republicans, it comes back to their Reaganite guiding principle: if you say it often enough and loudly enough, it's true.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Haggard, Hypocrisy, Marriage, Theocrats, and All That Stuff

Blogger's being more than a little difficult this morning (yesterday it was completely nonfunctional, so I guess that's an improvement). But, as promised, I'm going back to David Klinghoffer's essay on Ted Haggard and how that justifies opposition to same-sex marriage. Or whatever. This is really long -- print it out and sit down with it over your coffee -- or take your laptop to brunch.

By way of caveat and introduction, it seems fairly obvious to me that Klinghoffer is writing, not from a "conservative" perspective, as he claims (except as that term has been corrupted by rightwing religious political activists), nor even from a mainstream Christian perspective. It is germane, I think, to point out that he's a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, best known for its determined attempts to replace science with the Bible. His stance is simply that of a political Christianist, a wannabe theocrat.

Klinghoffer begins by spinning history:

Accused of conducting a sordid homosexual affair, he admitted on Sunday, “The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.”

No, that's not quite accurate. First he denied it; then he admitted to hiring Jones for massages; then he admitted bying crystal meth but throwing it away. Then he finally admitted it all. Whatever the motivations (and I have no doubt that fear and disgust were major ones), there's a certain amount of hypocrisy involved here, in spite of what Jack Balkin says (see below).

And then, of course, there is the characterization of same-sex orientation as "repulsive and dark."

The conservative case against redefining marriage is based on the observation of human vulnerability to temptation. Haggard confirms what we’ve said all along. It is pervasive moral weakness that makes such things necessary.

There are a host of problems with this statement. First, the view that anything that does not fit the conservative Christian idea of "morality" is a temptation. (Based, of course, on the Christian idea that people are essentially bad.) On its face, that makes perfect sense, but step back a bit -- Christians see everything outside what I consider narrow boundaries as "temptation." The whole religion is built on resisting temptation to sin, which includes eating, drinking, sex, art, music, dancing, and just about everything humanity has created that makes life worth living. A second step back, and let's please remember that we are living in a secular republic in which not only is everyone not a conservative Christian, but not everyone is even Christian and there are significant minorities that do not even recognize "sin" as such. That such a consideration is not even on the theocrats' radar is borne out by Klinghoffer's next statement:

If everyone were in control of his appetites, there would be no need for the government to be involved in endorsing some sexual relationships while withholding endorsement from others. The more society undermines ancient standards of moral conduct, the harder it becomes to withstand temptation.

In other words, the government should be enforcing Klinghoffer's view of morality, which is based on the teachings of a very narrow and restrictive brand of Christianity. My own view, of course, is that the government has no business doing any such thing, in the absence of coercion.

As for marriage specifically, Klinghoffer keeps rolling:

This is why gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. When the awe in which people once held matrimony is diluted, by treating it as a man-made and thus amendable institution rather than a divinely determined one, heterosexuals find sexual sins of all sorts harder to resist.

This is so specious I can hardly figure out where to start. The point is, of course, that marriage, especially civil marriage, is a man-made institution, purely and simply. Even the religious ceremony can't reasonably be demonstrated to be anything else: the idea that it is otherwise relies on dictum, with no basis except that men have decided to ascribe this particular institution to god -- once again, a human decision. I mean, let's look at it head on: organized religion itself is a human institution, no matter what its claims. As for the threat, see what Jack Balkin has to say below.

But if even Haggard, this Christian fighter against homosexual culture, succumbed, doesn’t that prove that gay identity is natural, inborn, and therefore normal? Well, yes, in a way it does. But all temptations are natural, many are inborn, and to be called to fight against them in ourselves, according to a religious view, is the most normal thing in the world.

That's something I can dispute as well. If the whole idea of temptation is a religious construct out of the minds of prophets and saints, then how can it be "natural"? (This presupposes that we're referring to "natural" as it actually occurs, i.e., something that takes place outside of the control of humanity,, not in the sense of an arbitrary concept created by dictat, as in "homosexual behavior is unnatural," which it demonstrably is not.) It strikes me that among human societies, those most in touch with nature and least "civilized" from our point of view also tend to have less conflict of this sort -- if there is sin, it is a social event, a transgression against the group, not against the gods. The more the gods take primacy of place, the more artificial the society becomes. No, sorry -- temptations are not natural, or at least not entirely: they are, by and large, the result of imposing artifical constraints on natural behavior (same-sex attraction, for example) and the excesses available in an artificial culture, particularly when there is no real need to do so. Let's face it, from the time of the first god-kings, religion has been a means of controlling the population.

After more of the same, Klinghoffer gets into outright lies:

When we fail, it hardly impugns the Biblical framework. This basic religious view, whether in its Christian or Jewish version, stands at loggerheads with secularism. The latter denies personal moral responsibility, which may in turn be the bottom-line point of disagreement between conservatives and liberals.

That's simply not true. It's a repetition of the false argument that only religion is the basis of morality, which, quite frankly, doesn't hold up under any sort of scrutiny. In fact, one could, without too much trouble, recognize the exact opposite as the case: morality grows out of the requirements of sociality (don't eat the neighbors, etc.) and religion, given a creature with creativity but as of yet (in this historical view) limited intellectual capacity, becomes a way of transmitting those necessities. "God" is a nice way of conceptualizing everything you don't understand about the universe, and best of all, it serves as a concise description. Transmission of culture is, after all, one thing that distinguishes us (and our cousins) from the so-called "lower" animals. As for the idea that conservatives have a hammerlock on personal moral respponsibility, has anyone taken a look at Congress lately? There's been several million dollars' worth of lack of moral responsibility in play there. (Aside from the fact that the assumption itself is blatantly false.)

Of course, Klinghoffer would just claim that this proves his point: temptation is everywhere, and anyone can fall, which is an argument that I find as intellectually dishonest as his claim that Christians and Jews are somehow intrinsically more moral than secularists. (By the way, notice that Muslims, followers of the other major monotheism, are not included.) For that matter, one can be both religious and a secularist. That's a gimme.

Essentially, Klinghoffer's stance is that of a Christian Dominionist, which is what really underpins of the entire conservative Christian political movement -- the Chrtistianists. The reasoning lacks coherence, the assumptions are insupportable, and the view lacks depth, completely ignoring the real context of the question, which is simply, as I noted, we live in a secular state, and, as much as they might like to be, the Christianists are not in control.


Ran across this this morning at Andrew Sullivan. This comment by Jonah Goldberg is telling:

I work from the Hayekian assumption that there is a vast amount of social-evolutionary knowledge and utility embedded in traditional marriage that should be respected even if I cannot tell you what it is...

This, to me, is more an argument in favor of same-sex marriage than against it. As Sullivan points out in the quote from his own book, given that the social context changes, the conservative response -- which I think is the only rational response -- is to fit the changes into existing institutions to cause as little disruption as possible. (Unless, of course, the institutions were inappropriate to begin with.) The right, in this case, casts this as a major restructuring of marriage, which it is not. It's merely an expansion of the marriageable class, not too different than adjustments in that particular institution that have taken place in the past. The question is really whether we want to bring gays and lesbians into the mainstream of American culture. Ultimately, the answer will be "yes," as both Goldenberg and Sullivan concede.

Fascinating take by Jack Balkin on Ted Haggard. He's headed toward the same place I am, I think, but from a different (and much more forgiving) perspective (although I'm getting there):

Viewed from Ted Haggard's perspective-- a man who, despite his shame and guilt, is attracted to other men-- gay marriage and the gay lifestyle really are a threat to heterosexual relationships and heterosexual marriage. That is because they are a threat to his heterosexual identity and his heterosexual marriage. He knows the Devil is always tracking him, waiting for him to slip up. That is because he conceptualizes his sexual desires as sin and as alienation from God, and not as the expressions of something that might actually become valuable to him if accepted them as part of himself. If Haggard accepted that he was bi-sexual or even gay, and that it was morally permissible to be either of these things, he would have to change his understandings of his own desires and what they mean. He would have to view himself and his relationship to God very differently. But he has not been able to accept these things, because he is closeted from himself. That is why he has been a vocal opponent of people he has a great deal in common with.

I really do find Balkin's take on this very interesting. Being a Pagan, I have no conflicts between my gods and my sexuality. (Nor, apropos of nothing, does evolution threaten my faith -- in fact, it reinforces it.) I'd like to hear from any of you who think of such things about your relationship with your god(s) in light of your sexual orientation, particularly those of you who still profess Christianity. I know there are gay Christians, but I don't think I know any personally.

By the way, read the comments to Balkin's piece, especially the one by Andrew:

Pastor Ted, and his congregation, have a deeply held world view which allows them to make sense of the challenges of life. He didn't, and doesn't, lack self knowledge. He frames it in a very different way than I would.

For what it's worth, his congregation, and others with that world view, absolutely will not see his actions as hypocrisy. They see themselves as battling the armies of Satan every day, just as our troops are battling terrorist armies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We do not morally condemn a soldier or marine for being killed in Ramadi or Fallujah by an IED. To the sacralist, falling into sin is something we all can do. Provided we repent and abjure the sin, salvation is still held out to us, along with the welcoming arms of the believing community.

That resonates very nicely with this note from Towleroad:

"When I was on a radio program down in Colorado Springs, they all thanked me. In fact, when I was checking into the hotel in Colorado Springs last night, the desk clerk, he goes, 'Are you the Mike Jones of....' I answered, 'Maybe.' And he said, 'I want you to know that I am from the New Life Church.' And he extended his hand and said, 'Thank you. You did us a service for Ted and our church so he can get the help he needs.'"

In spite of what I consider a very warped attitude toward gays, there is an underlying sense of goodwill that, while it may be absent from too many of the pastors, seems to linger on in the parishioners.

I should make it clear my objections to Christianity as a religion are largely theoretical -- the denial of the female half of deity, its historical disregard of stewardship of the earth, that sort of thing. To followers of Christ, I have no real objection. For the most visible "Christians" I have no use: theirs is a narrow, punitive, hypocritical view that has less to do with the teachings of Christ than I do.

Who's In Charge Here?

Glenn Greenwald, as usual, got me thinking with this post highlighting the consensus on the right (such as that may be) that "the terrorists" welcome the Democratic victory in the elections. He links to a number of pundits, but this particularly brainless post from Ann Althouse really struck me:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei interprets the American election.

"With the scandalous defeat of America's policies in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan, America's threats are empty threats on an international scale."

What will the Democrats do to push back against that?

I left a comment there, which basically boiled down to: Why should the Democrats have to push back? (I used to read Althouse regularly, but she's so determinedly irrelevant that I stopped.)

This is sort of a capsule version of comments I've seen all over the place, both from the left and the right, which all boil down to: The Democrats are now in charge. COming from the right and the MSM, it's a nice way to avoid any responsibility for anything: now, according to this mantra, if the Democrats are so smart, why don't they fix it?

Well, no.

They've taken Congress. Not the White House. (Pity, that, although I can't think of a Democrat I'd like to see there except maybe Al Gore or Bill Clinton.) They're in a position to put the brake on some of the administration's excesses (can we hopefully kiss the Patriot Act and the Torture Bill good-bye?). I'm looking for two years of deadlock, which might be the best thing.


I took a poll yesterday, and a few of the questions stopped me because they asked things like "Do you consider yourself . . . ?" with the usual multiple choice answers ranging from "Very Conservative" to "Very Liberal."

My answer: "Yes."

From a reader at TPM:

Was anyone besides me delighted to note that the last two Republican senators to concede were Burns and Allen?

Say goodnight, Gracie.

I read a whole column by Ann Coulter the other day. People actually pay attention to this woman? Why? I've seen more politically informed -- and better written -- grafitti in bus station johns.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Election, In General

Ballot Initiatives:

Here's a listing from CNN of the results on various ballot initiatives in the states. On same-sex marriage, there is an interesting trend: Arizona defeated a constitutional amendment handily (please note, this was without the participation of the national organizations, which leads me to wonder if perhaps HRC should just stay in Washington where they can't do any harm). Of the remaining seven states with similar initiatives, only two -- Tennessee and South Carolina -- were within the ranges of previous vote totals on this question. The margins on the other five were much narrower, mostly in the 50+/40+ category. That's significant.

Add in this report from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund:

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund today reported unprecedented success in electing openly gay candidates this year. Sixty-seven Victory-endorsed candidates were elected to federal, state and local offices, with some winning historic races that make them the first openly gay or lesbian candidates ever elected in their states or legislative bodies.

Rending of Garments, Wingnut Style:

OK -- Just in case you thought anyone at Townhall had all their marbles, this should help you figure it out. Hugh Hewitt has it nailed:

Handed a large majority, the GOP frittered it away. The chief fritterer was Senator McCain and his Gang of 14 and Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, supplemented by a last minute throw down that prevented the NSA bill from progressing or the key judicial nominations from receiving a vote.

You see, it's all McCain's fault.

Here's the prizewinner:

Senator Santorum is now available for a seat on the SCOTUS should one become available.

I mean, do I really have to say anything? Anything at all?

The summation:

The GOP couldn't recover from Foley's repulsive conduct, and the enemy was willing to kill randomly in the run-up to the vote in order to demoralize an American public.

If it sounds incoherent, is that really a surprise?

The comments on this piece are interesting. Several people had giggle fits over the idea of Santorum on the Supreme Court. What's most disturbing is the repeated characterization of Democrats as the "enemy." What can you do with a mindset like that?

Glenn Greenwald, as usual, hits it right on the head:

Hewitt took the data that he didn't like, literally changed it in his own mind to make it more pleasant, and then embraced the fictitious data as his reality. And he expressly acknowledged doing so by insisting that data is biased.

I'm still trying to figure out how polling data can automatically and by definition be biased in favor of Democrats.

The really scary thing is that the far right takes this sort of shit as gospel.

Speakinng of Santorum:

Yes, I'm overjoyed that bigoted prick is out of the Senate. I like Dan Savage's gloat, particularly this part:

It would have been a lot easier to be a total dick about Santorum’s defeat if he hadn’t made such a gracious—and apparently sincere—concession speech last night. I almost fell off the couch when Santorum asked the crowd to give a round to applause to Bob Casey.

Where was this graciousness and respect for political differences while Rick Santorum was in the U.S. Senate? And where was this graciousness during the actual campaign? Santorum stopped just short of accusing Bob Casey of flying off to Pakistan twice a week to rim Osama bin Laden. If Santorum had spent the last 12 years in the Senate being the person he was for 12 minutes during his concession speech, well, he might not have made so many enemies in Pennsylvania and all over the country.

Santorum thinks that the pursuit of happiness is bad:

Maybe the Republicans as a whole should take that to heart. Why don't y'all just try being reasonable people? Why don't you stop playing politics with people's lives and just do your effin' jobs?


He's resigned. Dubyah knew last week that he was out. You can read all about Bush's lying about it on the lefty blogs, about how Our Leader is no longer saddled with a liability on the righty blogs, but I wonder.

The election was a repudiation of Bush and his policies, and, I think, if you look at things like the numbers of openly gay candidates who were elected, the figures on the "values" ballot initiatives, and the like, of the religious right.

Given Bush's history, I'm betting that he will see it as all fixed now that Rumsfeld is gone. You see, it wasn't about him at all.

Bipartisanship (Yawn), Again:

I love Glenn Greenwald. He usually voices my questions just as I get them formulated. The preznit is all of a sudden conciliatory, and looks forward to working with the Congress.

You know as well as I do that it's a crock.

But what the Bush administration really means by "bipartisanship" -- as they are already making quite clear -- is that the Democrats in Congress do nothing to stand in their way and, most especially, that Democrats recognize that there will be no looking into what the Leader has done or subjecting his Decisions to any scrutiny. From Time's Mike Allen, today:

Advisers expect a battle royale over the balance of powers if Democrats use their new subpoena power to try to conduct what the White House is already calling "witch hunts." Bush and Vice President Cheney have made the expansion of executive power one of their hallmarks, and advisers say they do not plan to give up any of the ground they have won without a fight all the way to the Supreme Court. "We're going to have a fierce constitutional showdown over the boundaries of power between the executive and legislative branches," one adviser said. "The executive usually wins those battles, so we think we'll consolidate our gains."

Think about that: "consolidate our gains." What kind of administration thinks like that?

Oh, and the "executive usually wins those battles"? Have you read the Hamdan decision? (And of course Greenwald brought up that point as soon as I thought it.)

The next couple of years should be really, really interesting. I just hope the Democrats don't fold. I think most people in this country have the same attitude I do: I want transparency in government, I want openness, I don't want energy policy decided by power and oil companies behind closed doors, I don't want James Dobson dictating AIDS policy, I don't want ranchers and logging companies deciding environmental policy, I don't want the administration lying about everything and the Congress going right along with it.

"Witch hunts" my ass. Nail the bastards.


And after all that, something to level us off a bit. If you want to saturate yourself with something beautiful, weird, and totally fascinating, visit Orchid Species Photographs by Eric Hunt. They are great photos, and there are pages and pages of them, eveything from Aa to Zygostates. Out of respect for the work Hunt has put into this, and for his rights as the creator of these photos, I'm not uploading a picture here, but check out Cyprepedium kentuckiense. It's a native ladyslipper, and he has several juicy shots.

Later -- I'm on deadline again. . . .

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Marriage and a Warped World View

Just skimming this post from Tristero at Hullaballoo on David Klinghoffer's defense of the defense of marriage from people who want to get married. (Here's Klinghoffer's essay.)

I want to come back to this, although Tristero does a nice dissection. What's obvious on first reading is that to those Klinghoffer claims to be speaking for, there is only one possible view of the world -- theirs. He assumes as fact some things that are not and bases his arguments on those assumptions. The arguments, as far as I can tell on first reading, are junk. This statement is particularly noteworthy:

If everyone were in control of his appetites, there would be no need for the government to be involved in endorsing some sexual relationships while withholding endorsement from others.

There's little need for the government to be endorsing most sexual relationships, except for disapproving those of a predatory nature, and there's nothing religious about that.

(OK -- I should have realized. Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institution, which is a strong indication that reality does not impinge on his discourse to any great extent. You are, after all, known by the company you keep.)

At any rate, this is one that I do want to spend some time on, so you may see another post about it this weekend or so.


Michelangelo Signorile interviewed Michael Jones, the escort who outed Ted Haggard. It wasn't until I read that interview (excerpts posted at AmericaBlog) and had a chance to think about it that I really began to feel for Haggard. I still have no sympathy for this gay bashing, and never will, but I feel for the person.

MJ: He said he wanted an appointment with me. He came to my apartment. And the clothes came right off. The first time it was pretty much mutual masturbation, then in time oral sex. He was really pretty vanilla. Only once in three years did we try anal sex.

MS: Was he a top or bottom? What was he interested in?

MJ: When I was on the radio show in Denver, the question was asked: Did you practice safe sex? I said, 'We used a condom once." The talk show host goes, "You mean he wore the condom once?" I said, "Uh, no, I did."

Strange as it may seem, this is the part that got to me. It describes a man who is tentative, maybe a little fearful, and desperate -- not for hot sex, but for sex of any sort with a man, and maybe something more. I started to wonder if maybe the sex wasn't just an excuse. Maybe not -- Jones said they never spent more than an hour together. Haggard obviously wasn't interested in a relationship other than the barely physical. Of course, that could also be because he subscribes to a religion that sees sex as only physical, when his soul knows better, even if his mind doesn't. (Remember, it's not the godless liberals who want to turn everyone into breeding stock.)

Among other things, acting the bottom means you want to be held, you want to give up your "masculine" role for a while, maybe even feel cherished and protected. (If you have the right partner.) I don't know -- I can't know, in this case -- but maybe.

At any rate, that suddenly became my image: frightened, desperate, and maybe finally just tired of living a lie.

The Election

OK -- we've won. Whoever "we" is. We may even wind up with a government that works. Or doesn't work in the right ways.

This morning's NYT headline says the Democrats picked up 24 seats. It's now more.

The DCCCC has an ongoing tally. I'm pretty disappointed in some of the results -- Pete Roskam won in IL-06, Marilyn "Marriage Is the Most Important Issue Facing the Country" Musgrave in CO-04, Jean "Murtha is a Coward" Schmidt in OH-02 (very narrowly). It's easy to say that the voters in those districts got what they deserved, but the rest of us don't.

So far, TBogg's predictions seem to be right on target.

Even some of the disappointments have a positive side: the margins on anti-marriage amendments were on average much smaller than in the past (except for Virginia, which is now officially on my boycott list), and three "Red" states handed the conservatives a good slap: South Dakota repealed its abortion law, New Mexico dumped an anti-marriage amendment, and Missouri came out in favor of stem-cell rsearch.

The preznit has called a press conference for this morning. Any bets on whether he's going to declare all Democrats enemy combatants? (Sorry, but sometimes I get a kick out of playing at being a lefty wingnut, mostly because the rightwingers have so much trouble understanding the concept of "playing.")

Damned activist voters! I'm tired of this electoral tyranny!

Update: Faith Exonerated:

Just ran across this post with a much-needed dose of level-headedness from Glenn Greenwald:

Karl Rove isn't all-powerful; today, he is a rejected loser. Republicans don't possess the power to dictate the outcome of elections with secret Diebold software. They can't magically produce Osama bin Laden the day before the election. They don't have the power to snap their fingers and hypnotize zombified Americans by exploiting a New Jersey court ruling on civil unions, or a John Kerry comment, or moronic buzzphrases and slogans designed to hide the truth (Americans heard all about how Democrats would bring their "San Francisco values" and their love of The Terrorists to Washington, and that moved nobody).

All of the hurdles and problems that are unquestionably present and serious -- a dysfunctional and corrupt national media, apathy on the part of Americans, the potent use of propaganda by the Bush administration, voter suppression tactics, gerrymandering and fundraising games -- can all be overcome. They just were.

Q. E. D.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

You're Doing a Heckuva Job, Part II

I received this via e-mail from Teresa Chambers, and I'm posting it here in full:

The plight of whistleblowers – those employees who sound the alarm about anything from dangerous conditions in the workplace to missed or ignored intelligence regarding our nation's security – is a story that seems to grow stronger and with more frequency every day. My guess is that those stories have always been there; I suspect I am just paying closer attention to them now.

You see, I joined the "ranks" of whistleblowers on December 2, 2003, when a major newspaper printed a story in which I confirmed for them what many of us already knew – we, the members of the United States Park Police, could no longer provide the level of service that citizens and visitors had grown to expect in our parks and on our parkways in Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco. The world changed for all of us on September 11, 2001, and the expectations of police agencies across the country grew exponentially overnight. As the Chief of the United States Park Police, an organization responsible for the safety and security of some of America's most valued and recognizable symbols of freedom – including such notable sites as the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, and the Golden Gate Bridge area – I knew it was my duty, as chiefs of police across the country do every day, to inform the community of the realities of the situation.

For being candid – for being "honest" – while still being supportive of my superiors, I was, without warning, stripped of my law enforcement authority, badge, and firearm, and escorted from the Department of the Interior by armed special agents of another Federal law enforcement entity in December of 2003. Seven months later, the Department of the Interior terminated me.

Frighteningly, the issues I brought to light about our citizens' and visitors' safety and security and the future of these American icons have not been addressed – other than to silence me. In fact, there are fewer United States Park Police officers today than there were in 2003 when I was sent home for daring to say that we weren't able to properly meet our commitments with existing resources. Other security concerns I raised internally have also gone un-addressed.

Imagine the outcry if I had stayed silent and if one of those symbolic monuments or memorials had been destroyed or the loss of life had occurred to someone visiting one of those locations. I did not want to be standing with my superiors among the ruins of an American icon or in front of a Congressional committee trying to explain why we hadn't asked for help.

Despite the serious First Amendment and security implications of my case for each American, there has been no Congressional intervention, no Congressional hearing, no demand of accountability by elected officials for those who took action to silence me and who have ignored all warnings about the perils to which I alerted them. Through it all, it has become clear that Federal employees have little protection for simply telling the truth. Following my termination and the publicity that accompanied it, it is unlikely that any current Federal employee will be willing to speak up with straightforward, accurate information about the realities of any danger we face now or in the future.

My story is told on a website, www.HonestChief.com, established by my husband in December 2003 so that the American people could "witness" the issues in this case. Through the webmaster’s regular updates, the website has provided transparency to my situation by including an audio library and making key documents available for viewing, including the transcripts of depositions of top officials and their testimony during a key administrative hearing.

Suppression of information is spreading – gag orders, nondisclosure agreements, and the government's refusal to turn over documents. In agencies that span Federal service, conscientious public servants are struggling to communicate vital concerns to their true employers – the American public. Is anyone listening?

Teresa Chambers

It brings to mind this administration's record on honesty and integrity in the government. There was Sibel Edmonds:

Sifting through old classified materials in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, FBI translator Sibel Edmonds said, she made an alarming discovery: Intercepts relevant to the terrorist plot, including references to skyscrapers, had been overlooked because they were badly translated into English.

Edmonds, 34, who is fluent in Turkish and Farsi, said she quickly reported the mistake to an FBI superior. Five months later, after flagging what she said were several other security lapses in her division, she was fired.

It's not just the administration, however -- it's his whole damned, bloodsucking, corrupt party. I posted about Stuart Bowen yesterday. Glenn Greenwald has covered that in more depth.

[I]t seems that "the termination language was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008."

Hunter also happens to have a nice campaign chest stuffed with money from -- guess who: the people that Bowen was nailing.

And the U.S. Attorney in Guam, whose name I've unfortunately forgotten (which limits my ability to come up with links) who was "reassigned" at the request of Jack Abramoff.


Thanks to Erik Kosberg at Epinions Addicts:

Fred Brown was Acting U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands when he began a corruption investigation that centered on Jack Abramoff. It's an old story, but here's a bare summary:

Fred Black, the acting U.S. Attorney in Guam, advised the public integrity section of the Justice Department in November 2002 that he had opened an investigation of Jack Abramoff. Days later, Black was demoted. His new boss then prohibited him from pursuing public corruption cases.

There's a slightly more substantial report at B12 Partners Solipsism.

Ken Mehlman, who at the time was a senior White House advisor and reportedly was contacted by Abramoff, is now dodging questions about the whole thing.

In the meantime, butt-sucking incompetents get medals.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

At Random, 11/4/06


This sort of says it all:

According to former senior U.S. military officers and others interviewed by TIME, sending a convicted abuser back to Iraq to train local police would have sent the wrong signal at a time when the U.S. is trying to bolster the beleaguered government in Baghdad, where the horrors of Abu Ghraib are far from forgotten. "If news of this deployment is accurate, it represents appallingly bad judgment," says retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded a division in the first Gulf War. "The symbolic message perceived in Iraq will likely be that the U.S. is simply insensitive to the abuse of their prisoners."

What does anyone expect of the Torture President?

You're Doin' a Heckuva Job:

And then, there's this. Let's hear it for the Rubber-Stamp Congress:

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Do I really need to say anything here?

Ah, Yes -- Ted Haggard

Is this a surprise to someone? Anyone? Well, maybe in the particulars, but Haggard joins a long line of super-evangelists who preach one thing and do another. Tristero, at Hullabaloo, makes some cogent comments on the morality of those who preach "morality." Particularly interesting is this post by David Wayne at Jolly Blogger. Tristero objects to this statement by Wayne, or at least hte last sentence:

But lets also be careful that we not assume some moral superiority to, or moral authority over, Ted Haggard. Those of us who do not base our ministries on moral superiority and moral authority may feel morally superior to those who do. We may feel morally superior because we rely on grace not moral superiority.

The truth is, I am Ted Haggard, we are all Ted Haggard, and Ted Haggard is all of us.

I object to the last sentence, but I wonder about the substance of the quote. Wayne rejects moral superiority as a grounds for interaction with non-Christians (even though he may not realize it), and moral superiority is the main message of the political arm of the evangelical movement. (Wayne also notes that evangelicals are uneasy with political activity, or should be, but I wonder how true that is. Maybe we need some further slicing and dicing here -- I know that not all evangelicals are of the Dobson Gang mold, but I wonder if they do, and I wonder how many of them realize they're hanging out where they don't belong.)

No, I am not Ted Haggard because I am not a hypocrite. For starters, I'm a very poor liar. Mostly, it never occurs to me to lie, and when it does, I fumble it, so I long ago decided it just makes more sense to be as truthful as possible all the time. Nor do I castigate people for doing things that I do myself.

Granted, Haggard has not been as anti-gay as others in his movement, but if anything, I'm less patient with those who would grant us a second-class existence in the name of "charity." I don't need your charity. Just get out of my way.

If Haggard were unique, it would be one thing. But. . . .

New Jersey Redux:

See Jon Rowe's comments on the New Jersey decision.

I've read the opinion, and had actually started writing a post on it, and forget whether I ever posted it. I find the dissent's argument that the majority's reasoning is circular to be convincing -- "it's never been this way, so it can never be this way" just doesn't really cut it for me, y'know?

While it makes political sense to pass the question of means back to the legislature, I'd be happier with a firmer stance on constitutional absolutes. But, as Rowe points out, it takes time, and while an unwilling populace could be brought into line with the Constitution as far as racial bias goes, times have changed, the opponents of equality have much better funding and are much more vocal. In the absence of anyone in a position of prominence to call them on their lies, I guess we'll just have to wait until the Democrats develop some morality of their own.

I hate to think they've got the courts on the run, though.

Footnote: Remember that the majority and the dissenters all found that same-sex couples merit the full protection of the law, and that the only real difference in the opinions is that the dissenters -- including one Republican -- felt that, indeed, a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet.

Another Page Scandal:

This is the way it ought to be handled:

Some lawmakers have said parts of the special legislative session should be held behind closed doors to protect the page when he testifies, but Schoenbeck said he believes the entire session should be open.

If testimony is heard in private, all 35 senators and the other people involved would later give their own interpretation of what happened, Schoenbeck said. It would be better for the public to hear the testimony firsthand, he said.

"The public either gets to see the facts in an open session or they hear a bunch of different people's versions of the facts after a closed session," he said.


It looks as though anti-marriage amendments in South Dakota and Wisconsin might fail, and even that big nasty in Virginia won't get the margin that was normal at the height of the panic.

There's something very comforting about being on the right side of history.