"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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Write Your State Rep

Sara Robinson over at Orcinus reminded me of this travesty from the late, great 109th Congress. You see, they did manage to pass a law or two:

We all know that whenever the 109th Congress was faced between a choice between fear and common sense, common sense was always the loser by a knockout. One of the greatest monuments to their casual relationship with reality has to be the federal Real ID act -- a Congressional done deal that's going to have all 300 million of us tagged for surveillance like feedlot beef within the next few years.

Looks like the states, where there is still some contact with reality (well, in most of them, anyhow), are digging in their heels:

The Rebel Alliance is forming -- and has begun to strike back. Last Thursday, Maine's legislature fired the first shot over the bow, telling Congress point-blank just where they could stick the whole idiotic idea. According to the Times, both houses voted -- unanimously in the Senate and 137 to 4 in the House -- to reject the act wholesale. They're also formally asking Congress to repeal Real ID. The ACLU confirms that several other states, including Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Washington, may soon fall in behind Maine's lead.

This is one of those rare situations where an important national civil liberties battle can successfully be fought at the state level. Given the short deadlines they're under, most states are going to be working out their policy responses to Real ID between now and this summer. Fortunately, it’s usually a lot easier to get the attention of a state legislator than it is to get through to a Congressperson -- so these people, in every state, need to be hearing loudly from us that Real ID is an unreal idea. It's going to be up to the individual states to hold the line, and refuse to cave in and do the dirty work of a federal government that has lost all sight of its own Constitutional boundaries.

Let's hear it for Maine. Now if Illinois will jump on the bandwagon. . . . (yeah, right.)

Come to think of it, write your congresscritter, too. Especially if it's a Republican.


Montana has joined the team.

My, How You've Grown!

Daniel Radcliffe, known to millions as Harry Potter, is now doing a stage production of Peter Shaffer's Equus in London -- including the nude scenes.

This is London has a brief notice detailing some of the reaction; those quoted in the story are largely negative. (Funny how that happens, isn't it?) From the few comments, I found this one choice:

I just wonder when nudity became a step up?

Of course, it's from someone in Ada, Oklahoma, but still -- as I recall from Sunday school in my childhood, the whole point of the story of Adam and Eve was that covering our nakedness was a step down.

And of course there was the commenter who wanted to know how and under what circumstances his parents had agreed to it. That stopped me for a minute, quite aside from the prissy attitude (one can almost hear the disapproving sniff), and as if it were anyone's business but Radcliffe's and his parents'. I suppose, since he's seventeen, his parents would have had to give permission (but, it being in the UK, I have no real idea of the legalities of it), but I don't see why they wouldn't. Not everyone is convinced that there's something "wrong" with being naked. That's actually very much a Middle Eastern concept. Take a look at early carvings and tomb paintings from Egypt and Assyria: captives are pictured as naked as an icon for their degradation. Kenneth Clark, in The Nude, made a distinction between "nude" and "naked" which I, quite frankly, found somewhat spurious. His idea was that "nude" was somehow noble and brave, while "naked" was ashamed and base. (Looking at Rafael Minkkinen's volume New American Nudes, I find "naked" challenging and self-confident.) Straight out of Christian thinking, that -- the very idea of having to make that distinction (although I will grant that it is much more justified for an art historian than in daily life). When you realize that pre-Christian Europe had few reservations about nudity -- not only the Greeks, but the Picts and Celts as well (the Romans being a somewhat prudish people by the standards of the day) -- it starts to hit home.

I personally have little reservation about appearing nude -- all you need to do is visit a/k/a Hunter to see that. (In fact, I'm planning a gallery tentatively titled "Boy With A Camera" that will be self-portraits. Relax -- they're all older photos.) My reservations have to do more with aesthetics than anything else, although I find that slipping by the wayside as well. I'm reminded of John Copland's series of nude self-portraits, done when he was, I believe, in his late sixties -- not pretty, but powerful. If I'm convinced that my belly is not taking over, I'm fine with it, even though I'm starting to sag a little bit. The idea that it's something "dirty" no longer occurs to me -- although, in retrospect, I'm not sure that concept ever had much hold on me anyway. (See? You can surmount the horrors of your early upbringing. In that light, I should note that casual nudity was not something that happened in our house. These days, I'd rather be naked than not -- weather permitting, of course.)

I also ran across mentions at Andrew Sullivan and towleroad. Interestingly enough, Andy Towle's comments are pretty much straight reportage. Andrew Sullivan calls the play ". . . a wonderful, if highly manipulative, exercize in psychological trauma." I think I've just spotted another lack in the conservative mindset: of course it's manipulative. Art is. If there's an artist alive or dead who ever made art without at least one motivation being to influence people, I'd like to know about it. (Think about all the great Church art of the Counter-Reformation -- Rubens and the like. Sole purpose: PR for the Church.)

Of course, it may not be the conservative mindset that's speaking here. It may just be the bourgeoisie, which only wants to be manipulated in socially acceptable ways.

I think it's just that I see comments like Sullivan's as an attempt to distance oneself from the experience of art, which is obviously something I'm not going to do. I stoutly maintain that the audience is as involved in the creation as the artist, and to shy away from that kind of all-out participation is missing the point.

I would love to see this production. It's a tremendously powerful play, and I'd like to experience it from my present perspective. I saw it in Chicago the 1970s, and was impressed. I don't remember the nude scenes, which I'm sure would have stuck in my mind, but then, it was Chicago in the 70s.

And Daniel Radcliffe is certainly easy on the eyes.


Some commenter somewhere (and I'm sorry I've forgotten where I saw it, so I could give credit where credit is due, but I have), came up with what is probably the definitive comment on this: "Harry Potter and the Treasure Trail of Doom."


Webster's Unhinged

Thanks to Left Coast Breakdown:

Gay Republican: N A person who loves the sin and hates the sinner. e.g. Foley, Mark; Haggard, Ted.

And from Joe. My. God.:

Today's Word Of The Day over on UrbanDictionary.com is "homoblivious": Not having the ability to recognize homosexuals as being homosexuals; a lack of gaydar. Example: "He was so homoblivious that he didn't know that guy was coming on to him."

A word a day, you know.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Started a new gallery at a/k/a Hunter this morning, but have to leave off for a bit. Another series, "Vanished," from 1994.

Send This Guy An E-Mail

Happy to report that the Dobson Gang is losing ground, even in the red states.

It seems to me Republicans spend more time thinking about gay sex than any other group of people in the known world even more so than gay people trying to find other gay people with whom to have sex.

It goes on, and gets better -- a blistering editorial against NM state loria Vaughn's revived effort to introduce one of "those" constitutional amendments. Even Wayne Allard has given up, for crying out loud.

Evidently, every New Mexican makes a decent living wage. No child will go to bed tonight with an empty stomach, because they are all well fed. For that matter, no child will go to bed with an empty mind because our education system is tops in the world.

Evidently our streets are free of drugs. Every New Mexican has a job and can feed their families with a $5.15 minimum wage. Our roads are the best in the nation. Everyone in the state has access to affordable health care.

We can only assume such is the case, because Vaughn isn't seeking to amend the Constitution to solve any of those problems. No. The most important item on her agenda is to make sure that gay people can't marry one another in the state of New Mexico.


I really think you should send him an e-mail congratulating him on a job well done. His addy is at the end of his piece.

All The News That's Fit To Invent

Digby takes a shot at the MSM, also known as the Freepers' PR machine.

In this instance you had a budding rightwing operative who sat with the Vice President's wife at the State of the Union address appearing with a group that hanged Jane Fonda in effigy in the middle of a peaceful protest march. The signs they held were violent, crude and purposefully provocative. Yet the mainstream media, in looking for some frisson of 60's street violence, reports it as if the protesters are the provacateurs. They had the story and they completely missed it.

He has more on Joshua Sparling, the poor veteran who was spit on -- except he wasn't -- and who also reportedly received a Christmas card from a child while in the hospital recovering from his wounds.

It also seems that Sparling's horrible Christmas card was actually sent by a white supremecist nutcase named Michael Crook. (Or at least he took credit for it.)

Sparling is a right nutjob front man, from all appearances. The problem, as Digby so cogently recounts, is that major outlets like NYT and WaPo are reporting these stories as though they were legitimate, even going back and re-editing them to make them sound better.

We have a real problem here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Scanner Woes

I had intended to spend most of yesterday scanning in new b/w images for a/k/a Hunter, but my Epson 1250 and Photoshop decided they didn't know each other the minute I plugged in the TPU. Not only did they not know each other, they didn't like each other. So I spent a good portion of the day reinstalling software. No go. It's fine as long as I'm using the Epson as a flatbed and scanning prints, but no negatives. I have one thing left to try, then I start shooting.

Did get one in, though, before the whole operation went south:

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Doing pictures today, for the most part. Expect some new galleries at a/k/a Hunter over the next few days.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A Note to Left-Wing Bloggers

I like Cheetos, dammit! And I am not a right wingnut!

Story of the Week

Nude Jogger Startles Hikers and Bikers:

'He's frumpy. Plain. Not in good physical shape,' Bowdoin said. 'It's not a pretty sight.'

So, would they not be offended if he were buff in addition to being in the buff?

No, I Haven't Forsaken You

It's just that the news is same ol', same ol' and even outrage needs to recharge periodically (Alberto Gonzales is still scum, and so is his boss), and I'm working obsessively on a/k/a Hunter. I want to do this right, and I have 30 years' worth of images to review and scan before I upload them to the galleries, which means, among other things, that I have to be sure the galleries are structured coherently so it all makes some sense.

It ain't easy being a boy genius, y'know.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Opera News

For the opera queens, this was in the news this morning:

Placido Domingo is making the jump from tenor to baritone. Domingo will sing the title role in Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" for the first time at Berlin's Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 2009. . . .

I should have seen this coming, ever since he sang Tristan. Obviously he's been developing his baritone range -- you can't do Heldentenor roles without a strong baritone support. (His Tristan, by the way, is wonderful.)

The Dobson Gang Gets Called Out

By a Christian sociologist:

The real question is not whether evangelicals can clean up their statistical act. The deeper question is whether American evangelicals can learn to live without the alarmism that is so comfortably familiar to them. Evangelicals, by my observation, thrive on fear of impending catastrophe, accelerating decay, apocalyptic crises that demand immediate action (and maybe money). All of that can be energizing and mobilizing. The problem is, it also often distorts, misrepresents, or falsifies what actually happens to be true about reality. And to sacrifice what is actually true for the sake of immediate attention and action is plain wrong.

I think, given the history of this sort of thing, that he is bending over backward to give the Dobson Gang the benefit of the doubt. These errors have been pointed out again and again, and the spiel hasn't changed -- they still trot out isolated statistics that indicate nothing, specious conclusions by Stanley Kurtz and Paul Cameron based on cherrypicking other people's research, misrepresentations of legitimate research, and complete fabrications.

I think, when you know something's not true and you say it anyway, that's known technically as "lying."

State of the Union

Via Think Progress.

The Democratic response, at AmericaBlog.

Bush's speech looks good. The State of the Union address always looks good. Why do I feel like I'm hearing the same speech over again, and that it's going to be as indicative of action as all the rest have been? Maybe because there are too many giggle lines -- like the one about using "every lawful means" to fight terrorism. Maybe because we've heard it all before, and I don't see much evidence that anything has changed. (I mean, aside from the fact that I disagree with him completely about Medicare, Medicaid, health care in general, and Social Security.)

Monday, January 22, 2007

And Another Picture

I decided I need to work on my Photoshop skills a little. A collage, if you will, all done on the computer.

"Where The Hell Is Matt?"

You have to check this out.

Pelosi for President

This story brings back memories of what Congress is supposed to be like:

The California Democrat rammed six major bills through the House at breakneck speed, stomped out smoking privileges near the House floor, partially sidelined a powerful Democratic committee chairman and decided she liked traditionally Republican office space so much she claimed it for herself.

By Democrats' timekeeping, she did it all in far under the 100 legislative hours she had allotted.

"We did what we promised the American people we would," Pelosi declared on Friday, pledging it was "just the beginning."

Pelosi's initial agenda, completed Thursday, included measures with wide popular support: increasing the minimum wage, broadening stem cell research, allowing government bargaining on Medicare drug prices, cutting student loan costs, putting in place terrorism-fighting recommendations from the Sept. 11 commission and rolling back energy company tax breaks.

Each bill passed with bipartisan majorities and Pelosi triumphantly gaveled down the votes, at one point banging the gavel so enthusiastically that it left a small dent in the podium.

This is via Glenn Greenwald, whose point is that all those pundits (and Greenwald names names) who were proclaiming her a failure by the end of November are so totally out of touch that no one should ever listen to them for any reason. They were dead wrong.

I guess that's why they get the big bucks.


A note about Orcinus, brainchild of David Neiwert. Neiwert and Sara Robinson write scary things that need to be paid attention to. Neiwert did a lengthy, multi-part series on the rise of Fascism that, as good history should, noted the characteristics of Fascism as a movement and drew parallels to the modern Republican Party, especially the neotheocon branch. He most recently followed up with a seris on eliminationism in America. Robinson's most recent series deals with authoritarianism at it applies to the American right.

I like them because they work the way I do, putting pieces together that others might not think would make a fit at all, and making it plain that they do, indeed, fit together. They also present reasoned, cogent arguments, which is not something you'll get from, say, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, or Rush Limbaugh (one of Neiwert's favorite targets). Bookmark the site.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Issues of Conscience

I wasn't going to post today, since I did so much yesterday and have other things to do, but of course the first story I ran across this morning changed all that. I get a little unreasonable when people mistreat children and animals.

The Catholic Church in England is trying the same stunt with regard to adoptions that it tried here. Blair's government is in a shambles over the question.

[Ruth] Kelly, [Communities Secretary,] already at the centre of controversy after admitting sending her son to private school earlier this month, insists she is acting in the best interests of the thousands of children placed for adoption each year.

The Prime Minister is supporting her efforts to water down new laws that are supposed to guarantee gay people equal rights to goods and services.

But Ms Kelly faces a humiliating defeat on the issue as senior ministers queue up to oppose what they regard as an unworkable and unfair loophole.

Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, who refused Mr Blair's request to grant the exemption when he was responsible for the issue last year, has been joined by Jack Straw, David Miliband, Des Browne and Peter Hain. Blairite loyalists such as Tessa Jowell and Lord Falconer have expressed their dismay. . . .

Ms Kelly refuses to say whether she regards homosexuality as a sin. She has defended failing to vote for civil partnerships or gay adoption on the grounds that they are "issues of conscience".

I have the same attitude on this that I do on pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control or Muslim taxi drivers refusing to carry passengers with guide dogs. Modern democracy depends on rational laws applied rationally. I don't know what the legal structure is in England, but in the United States until recently, religious organizations that wanted to bid for government contracts for social programs created separate legal entities to run those programs, charitable organizations without a religious connection. In other words, they were secular arms of the churches. Worked just fine. Under the increased drive for the dominance of Christianity in the US, and to a lesser extent Europe, and the Bush administration's overt contempt for Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom (along with every other Constitutional guarantee of individual liberties), we've seen a working system begin to collapse. Apparently the Catholic Church in England is equally interested in making something that worked fall apart.

My opinion on that is, if you don't think it's right to place babies with gay parents, get out of the adoption business. The Church's doctrines on homosexuality, which have no basis at all in objective reality -- and I want to emphasize that: no basis at all in objective reality -- are nasty to start with, particularly coming from an organization that is not only riddled with gay men at the highest levels, but also has a history of moral turpitude in general. We've seen too much in recent years of how the Church cares for children and its reaction to those who try to point out its failings.

The whole idea of "issues of conscience" in civil law is not nearly, to me, as knotty as many would like to make out. Perhaps it's because we have the benefit here of basic legal doctrine that keeps religion and the state from interfering with each other. In general terms, I have no problem with people of strong faith holding public office. My problems start when the particulars of that faith begin to dictate their policies. So, in your career as a legislator, work for the common good, help the helpless, defend the defenseless, succor the destitute? Fine, do it with my blessing and full support. Attack those who are different, interfere with people's personal decisions, teach religion instead of science? No way.

The Christianists are making big noises about how gay-inclusive civil rights laws are eroding their religious freedom, particularly laws that help gay families, which is, of course, an outright lie from the bottom up -- unless you, like they, believe that their religious freedom is paramount and means that their beliefs are the final arbiters of law and society. The Founders took steps to insure that was not the case and it seems to have worked out just fine. It would be very sad if an old and corrupt entity with only its own institutional interests at heart were able to ruin it.

Footnote: A take on the Catholic clergy's moral rectitude by a victim of sexual abuse by a priest:

Hand of God is a very unsensational look at Paul Cultrera's 30-years-after-the-fact reckoning with his molestation by a Salem, MA priest — seen through the eyes of his filmmaker brother, Joe. . . .

What does it mean, what does the post of Bishop in the Catholic Church really mean? The organization has just been around a long time. It’s built this incredible power, and it’s holding onto that power. It is more concerned with maintaining that power than it is in actually carrying out the mission that it says that it’s all about.”

Being the Bishop basically means... there’s a good chance that you probably are a rotten guy that has just climbed to the top of that corporate ladder. They’re just a bunch of corrupt businessmen, and they’re sitting atop the Evil Empire.

If you think it sounds harsh, also consider what it describes: not only the moral failing of an individual priest, but the power of the Church brought to bear on the victims, not the perpetrators. I don't think it can be harsh enough.

This is the Church that says that allowing a gay couple to give an unwanted child a loving home is doing violence to children.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Remember Katrina?

This should be on front pages -- maybe Joe Lieberman would notice it then:

Brown said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the hurricane be federalized, making the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking we had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor and we have a chance to rub her nose in it," he said.

The problem, of course, is that it's Michael Brown saying it.

More on Stimson

Michael Froomkin comes up with some reasons to doubt the sincerity of Stimson's apology.


This post from Firedoglake brings a lot of threads together before I had a chance to.

In a clear sign of an Administration-wide attack on the ability of the legal system to provide any accountability to the Administration in its handling of detainees, Attorney General Gonzales did his part on Tuesday by blaming the detainees' attorneys for any delays in bringing the detainees to trial. On Wednesday, he also criticized federal judges for presuming to interfere in these cases involving terrorists. Jonathon Turley summarized our Attorney General’s broad attack on the rule of law on MSNBC's Countdown Wednesday night, and that was before Gonzales tried to explain that the Constitution does not provide every person with the centuries old right of habeas corpus.

I love it when people do my job for me. I think.

By the way, it appears that the Fortune 500 are not heeding Stimson's call for retaliation.

Barbourofelis fricki

Check it out. Fascinating!

Lies, Damned Lies

Just in case you were wondering about the reliability of such organizations as Exodus International (which is losing its "international," as I hear, for being too wacko) and Focus on the Family, see this post and this one by Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin. (In fact, bookmark the site -- it's worth keeping in touch with for solid facts to counter the rabids' specious claims.) Exodus and FOF (known formally as FOTF, which sounds even sillier if you try to say it) are mounting a campaign against gay-inclusive hate crimes laws.

I wonder if they want to take away protections for racial and religious minorities as well? Probably not publicly.

a/k/a Hunter Update

I've begun installing the galleries at a/k/a Hunter. Still a little patchy, since I'm just working with images already up, but it's a start. Expect some fill-in and editing as I get more images uploaded and clean up the ones that are there. (I'll be doing a lot of new scans and editing, so you have my permission to expect great things -- within reason.)

About the Labels

I pick up on stuff eventually -- when I notice. I finally started tinkering around with the labels for these posts, and of course immediately discovered that if you click on one of the labels, you get all my posts on that subject.

Isn't that neat?


What a piece of crap.

His testimony before Congress the other day has gotten wide coverage on the left-of-Attila-the-Hun blogosphere, mostly, it seems, concerned with the end-run around the law in the new FISA deal. However, the best reason for getting pissed is that he's trying to build a case against the right of habeas corpus.

Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

Jack Balkin does an elegant and concise take-down.

More On Shady Real Estate Deals

From Greg Sargent at TPM. The comments on this are very interesting, including a comment from reader Liz, who seems to have a problem with Edwards advocating for the poor while being rich himself. She's full of shit, of course, and just digs herself in deeper the more she responds to others' comments.

The analysis of the whys and wherefores of the story is interesting, however.

This post from Josh Marshall puts the whole thing in focus.

Obama's A Terrorist!

I mentioned in the previous post that the PC left is not marked by particularly rigorous thought. Shortly thereafter I ran across this story. It seems the right not only is not marked by rigorous thought, but studiously avoids even the appearance of rigorous thought.

This sort of junk is really just an indication of lack of substance. At least.

Cultural Exchange

Chris in Paris at AmericaBlog asks an interesting question:

Also, is this just another rich foreigner (or foreign government or NGO) who wants to do it their way instead of working with the local community to build a solution that is more integrated with local communities?

Oh, me. The lessons of history, etcetera etcetera. Oprah's approach, in the final analysis, smacks very much of a slightly more subtle brand of the cultural imperialism of the nineteenth century (and earlier, in the case of the Spanish in America), which was really nothing more than the deliberate destruction of native cultures. While I have some sympathy for the idea that in certain areas, some cultures could benefit by changes, to be really hard-nosed about it, what gives us the right to demand or instigate those changes? Our superior morality? Excuse me?

That seems to be the quandary of the PC left, except that area of the political spectrum is not marked by particularly rigorous thought so I doubt they ever notice that little problem.

It's obvious from the results of past "interventions" in native cultures that the problems will eventually pass far beyond those peoples into the larger world, and it's not always the results of deliberate cultural destruction. Look at the use in the tropics of farming methods developed in Europe and North America: total disaster. Look at the repeated attempts to impose "democracy" on nations with no traditions that feed into that particular concept, or feed into it in a way that doesn't fit our model. Sure, the Euro-American model works fine in Europe and America, and even places like India, Japan, and most of South America (finally). But other places, with stronger cultural traditions of their own, are prey to perversions of the model that cause us to recoil in horror -- such as Iraq before the invasion.

To be really dispassionate about it, we should just let cultures develop on their own, but that's a) impossible in this world, and b) we probably don't want to have to deal with the results in some cases.

So, I think in most cases my vote comes down on the side of working with native cultures to develop solutions to problems that fit their traditions and will lead to a more stable result, mostly because it you just butt in and start making changes to fit your world view without having a clear idea of what you're replacing, you're just making a mess. That said, Oprah's school seems like a good compromise, if you want to take responsibility for mucking around with someone else's culture.

Footnote: this post by poputonian at Digby's Hullbaloo gives a native take on European encroachment in North America. I should point out that cultural disruptions do not belong purely to Europeans and Americans, nor the the recipients of this bounty always non-White. There is ample demonstration in the history of the world that it's a bedrock phenomenon, whether the means is conquest, gradual "infiltration" due to migration or other causes, or trade, and happens no matter the color or ethnicity of the perpetrators. One can see a reflection of it in the development of languages -- think about things like loan words, or even the development of a language such as English, with its Germanic roots and Romance overlays, and even the deliberate piracy of the modern version. (In this light, it's no mistake that the Jesuit missionaries who ran the mission schools on North American Indian reservations forbade children to use their native tongues.)

Friday, January 19, 2007


This is sort of related to the apology post about Isaiah Washington. I'm with Josh Marshall on this one.

And your point is?

(You may remember that Solomon is the reporter that oppo researchers love, because he will swallow any kind of dirt and ask for more.)

Paranoia, Anyone?

Not to mention some seriously misplaced priorities. This is from John Aravosis at AmericaBlog:

Evangelicals Wrangle Over Global-Warming Alarmism
from staff reports

Should evangelicals be worried about global warming? Some point to the Christian’s duty to take better care of the world, but others worry the issue could eclipse more basic evangelical values like the right to life and the sanctity of marriage.

Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals told Family News in Focus that global warming deserves attention.

“I’m not saying it’s the pre-eminent issue, the most important issue – no, it’s probably not,” Cizik said. “But does it deserve consideration? Most assuredly.”

But others warn evangelicals to beware of an ulterior motive.

“We’re observing a very strong effort by liberal environmentalists to use that sound motivation as a wedge,” said E. Calvin Beisner of Knox Theological Seminary.

Somehow, those evangelicals I know personally think that the basic Christian duties are things like defending the helpless, helping the poor, shit like that. When one considers that the "right to life" is actually code for "unlimited breeding" (and let me point out again that liberals don't have to use codes because they're not normally proposing things that most people find repellant), one really has to wonder at these people.

Let me also point out that the word "values" as used by the Christianists has no meaning. "Marriage is a man and a woman" is touted as a "value," which is not something that makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Aside from the fact that so far, it's a recipe for a 50% divorce rate, it's simply doctrine. The way I was taught, values are more abstract things like respect for others, tolerance and acceptance of differences, generosity, honesty, integrity -- you know, your basic American being-a-decent-person attitude.

None of which, come to think of it, you ever hear about from Focus on the Family.

How much you want to bet Beiser has a bomb shelter in his back yard? With lots of duct tape.


This is getting a little out of hand:

During a backstage interview Monday at the Globes gala, [Isaiah] Washington denied involvement in a heated on-set incident in October during which an anti-gay remark was reportedly uttered.

"No, I did not call (co-star) T.R. (Knight) a faggot," Washington told reporters. "Never happened, never happened."

In his apology Thursday, Washington acknowledged "repeating the word Monday night."


Knight, who said soon after the October fracas that he is gay, appeared in Tuesday's taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to discuss the original incident and Washington's recent comments.

"He referred to me as a faggot," Knight said of the October incident. "Everyone heard it."

So when does Knight come out with his apology?

I Needed That

Via Andrew Sullivan, the late, great Paul Lynde:

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A. Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q. Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A. Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps.
One is politics, what is the other?
A. Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark?

Q. If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
A. Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

Q. It is the most abused and neglected part of your body, what is it?
A. Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused, but it certainly isn't neglected.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
A. Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?
A. Paul Lynde: Point and laugh.

The man was really the genius of the one-liner.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Children of Men

Saw Children of Men yesterday. Don't bother. Check Green Man Review in a couple of weeks to find out why.

Another Picture

The problem with this one was we never fell in love with each other at the same time.

Headline of the Day

"Devils Seizing Control of Atlantic Early"

It's a sports story, of course, but doesn't it sound like something from Agape Press or the Christian Broadcasting Network?

Stimson Update

Even USA Today has nothing but contempt for Stimson.

It's easy to understand how annoying these pesky lawyers and their challenges must be to the Pentagon, which runs a prison camp that has given America an international black eye. Deriding their firms, many of which represent Fortune 500 companies, and trying to instigate retribution is certainly one way, albeit a pretty sleazy one, to discourage more challenges.

An interesting note:

Charles Stimson did not respond to a request to reply to this editorial.

Of course not -- he's done his job.

Update: I just ran across this article in the Chicago Tribune. This is the sort of thing that Stimson's defending:

Being an enemy combatant does not mean a prisoner did anything wrong, the administration said in documents written by the Department of Defense in 2004.

The term does not require evidence that a prisoner knowingly took any action against the United States, or even that he was a willing participant in the conflict. As a result, many prisoners at the base are, by any reasonable standard, completely innocent.

The article details stories of "detainees" at Guantanamo who were prisoners of the Taliban but were nevertheless determined to be "enemy combatants," some of whom have not yet been released. The larger issue, of course, is that the president can determine that anyone is an "enemy combatant," including American citizens who have no connection to terrorists at all. (I'm sure you all remember Brandon Mayfield.) Considering the demonstrations we've had of the president's judgment, that does not make me comfortable at all.

Update II: Stimson Apologizes:

From WaPo:

During a radio interview last week, I brought up the topic of pro bono work and habeas corpus representation of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Regrettably, my comments left the impression that I question the integrity of those engaged in the zealous defense of detainees in Guantanamo. I do not.

I believe firmly that a foundational principle of our legal system is that the system works best when both sides are represented by competent legal counsel. I support pro bono work, as I said in the interview. I was a criminal defense attorney in two of my three tours in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. I zealously represented unpopular clients -- people charged with crimes that did not make them, or their attorneys, popular in the military. I believe that our justice system requires vigorous representation.

I apologize for what I said and to those lawyers and law firms who are representing clients at Guantanamo. I hope that my record of public service makes clear that those comments do not reflect my core beliefs.


Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs
Defense Department

I actually cross-posted this comment at Epinions Addicts:

I think as an apology it's a high-water mark from this administration. He actually apologizes, a far cry from the standard inside-the-Beltway "I regret that some people were offended" sort of "apology." Granted, he doesn't repudiate the implied threats, but then I'm still pretty much convinced that was his mission. It wouldn't make any difference if he repudiated them or not -- the message is out there.

Of course, considering that whole issue, if the blue-chip law firms are all doing pro bono work for Gitmo detainees, who are the Fortune 500 companies going to find to represent them? (Under the category of "Empty Threats")

The Center

Well, whoda thunkit?

In their first days in session, Senate Democratic leaders reintroduced a bill that they said was indicative of their new approach: the Prevention First Act, which seeks to reduce the number of abortions by expanding access to birth control, family planning and sex education.

I was going to comment something to the effect that if the radical right shuts up for a minute, people of reason and common sense (not always the same thing) can make themselves heard. However, I don't think that's the case. I think it's much more that corporate media, being very sensitive to the sources of power, are now allowing the opposition to be heard because the "opposition" is now -- not controlling the debate, so much, but simply cutting through the bullshit.

This bill is the one effort in the abortion controversy that makes sense so far. It encapsulates what has always been the liberal position, but was shouted down by the Christianists. Remember, they not only want to outlaw abortion but contraception and sex education as well.

This whole article is disturbing for what it doesn't say, but I suppose that's merely a function of institutional blindspots.

And conservatives, by controlling which legislation came to the floor, succeeded in defining the debate over social issues for more than a decade, through votes on same-sex marriage and the procedure opponents call partial-birth abortion, in ways that highlighted the political limits of liberalism.

Well, no, not exactly. Conservatives controlled the Congress, and the MSM went along for the ride. Look, there are any number of articulate, intelligent people on the left who simply have not been able to be heard. In fact, the more I look at that paragraph, the more self-serving it seems. At any rate, on framing the debate, take Time magazine's stunt with asking James Dobson for an OpEd on Mary Cheney's baby. Conservatives defining the debate? Perhaps, but it's been conservatives in the editors' offices, not in Congress or anywhere else. Time did post a rejoinder -- two days later, after some heat began to build. There was no reason why they couldn't have posted both simultaneously, or even gotten a piece from someone with no horses in that race. Bruce Carroll of GayPatriot, for crying out loud, would have been a good choice. He's gay, conservative (as such things are understood these days), not particularly pro-marriage but not violently against it, and probably has a much better sense than James Dobson of what family relationships are about. But then, Henry VIII probably had a better sense of family relationships than Dobson does.

After a statement like that, all the quotes from Democrats saying "Oh, we goofed" ring hollow, simply because I find myself asking, "Who did they not talk to?" and "Who did they decide not to quote?" For a party that has been flailing around lost for ten or twelve years, the Democrats seem to have a very well thought out program. (And, as I have noted, it's all things that could have been done if the Republicans cared.)

Bottom line on this is that when a particular player "defines the debate" in the public arena, it's because those charged with reporting to the public have allowed it, or even facilitated it. We're seeing the same crap going on right now with regard to the escalation of the Iraq war: the conservative mantra, duly trumpeted by the media, is that the Democrats have no plan, which is a lie. (Big surprise, that.) The Democrats have several plans, which we should be studying. Beats doing the same thing over again expecting it to work next time.

Oh, and today's irony:

“I can tell you what I expect,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee. “I think the Democratic leadership will seek to advance the policy agenda of the hardcore groups but do so under the cover of deceptive rhetorical campaigns.”

Pot, kettle. (And where did they learn that tactic, you snake-oil salesman?)

(A sidebar on this story from Glenn Greenwald detailing how the MSM forms the "debate." This one's about the lead-up to the Iraq debacle. Scroll down past the first three paragraphs.)

The "Other"

Well, the end result of Republican policies and rhetoric:

A federal jury has ordered American Airlines to pay $400,000 to a computer consultant who was pulled from a flight at Logan International Airport because of security concerns, then denied reboarding even after he had been cleared by State Police.

"I felt like I was being treated like a terrorist and there was no way I could prove I didn't do anything or say anything at all," said John Cerqueira , 39, who grew up in Fall River and now lives in Miami. "I'm grateful to the jury for sending the message to American Airlines that just the use of the word security isn't an excuse for unlawful behavior."

Cerqueira, who was born in Portugal and is a US citizen, was returning to Florida after spending Christmas with his family when he boarded a non stop flight to Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 28, 2003. But before takeoff, Cerqueira said, the flight crew called police because of concerns about two Middle Eastern passengers who were seated beside him .

Cerqueira said he didn't know the men, who were Israelis, but believes he was taken into custody with the men because he looked like them.

This, sadly, is not an isolated incident, and even more sadly, underscores American's incipient racism. What's amazing is the arrogance of American Airlines' reaction:

A spokesman for American Airlines, Tim Wagner , said the company would not discuss the case, but released a statement saying, "While we respect the jury system, we disagree with this verdict. This decision is simply not supported by the facts or the law. We will evaluate our legal options."

Obviously, the decision is supported by the facts and by the law. Poor, pissed-on AA.

On the "racism" issue, I want to point out one thing: people are, I think, inherently "racist" in a sense, to the extent that I suspect it's hard-wired. Among social mammals one finds a deep sense of "us" and "other." It's particularly blatant among wolves and our own close relatives. The disturbing thing here is that our ideals say we shouldn't behave on those impulses, that it is not OK to cater to that innate distrust of the other -- if someone is to be denied the benefits of membership in our society, there must be a solid, rational reason, not one that takes its genesis from our "baser" instincts, but those who would cater to those instincts are developing not only a strong following (not a surprise, really -- in any group, there are those who have nothing but baser instincts) but seeking to justify their agendas in the law.

Which makes politicians such as Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, James Dobson and Donald Wildmon about the lowest scum you can find.

Of interest in this light is the series "Eliminationism in America" at Orcinus. A chilling portrait of the worst we can offer. Here's a link to the latest, which will give you links to the earlier installments.

Neiwert (I believe it's Neiwert, since it's uncredited and it's his site) notes one thing that struck a chord in me:

I also would sometimes hear black leaders and community members in Seattle talk about the somewhat hidden, institutionalized nature of racism in places like the Pacific Northwest, where people can be nice to your face and not so nice in action. And they would sometimes phrase it in stark terms, usually something along these lines:

"I would rather deal with Southerners, where the racism is up front and in your face, than people in places like this, where it's all nice and hidden."

I've run into the same thing with anti-gay prejudice, which, I suppose, is one reason I take social liberals with a grain of salt. I think they truly do believe what they're saying as long as it's an abstract concept, but when it comes closer to home, they're still closet bigots.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

a/k/a Hunter Update

Finally, I've started getting the indexes to my online publications into the new website. Right now it's only book reviews at Green Man Review (three pages of them); forthcoming will be the music reviews and other writings from that site, as well as links to my indexes at Epinions.com and Rambles. (Rule One: Keep your lists updated.)

I am also giong to start working on the galleries, but this takes some thought: this time, images will be presented with some sort of rationale rather than just randomly. It' probably going to be two main categories, nudes and landscape, and more than likely chronological so that you have some sense of the issues that concerned me at any given time and the development of my imagery.

Or something like that.

Stay tuned.

PS -- I know I haven't caught all the broken links. Feel free to let me know if something doesn't work.

Stimson and Liberals: A Sort of "Grand Synthesis"

David Luban at Balkinization comes through on Stimson's attack on the Gitmo lawyers, and does a bang-up job: he relates it to the ongoing right-wing efforts to do away with Legal Aid and any other program that will insure that those who can't afford high-priced legal counsel actually do get represenation before the law.

One remark of Luban's is worth noting especially:

. . . the Defense Department disavowed his remarks in strong terms, and made all the right noises about how important it is for the legal process to have excellent counsel for detainees.

How’s that again? For five years, the government (not least Defense) has fought in every way possible to avoid access to legal process for the detainees, a campaign that culminated in the habeas-stripping provisions in the Military Commissions Act. Why would they want excellent representation for the detainees, given that they don’t want the detainees ever to find a forum to be represented in? The hypocrisy boggles the mind. I assume that what bothered Defense about Stimson’s remarks is not their content but their candor.

I suggest that it's not their candor but the reaction those remarks generated. "Plausible deniability" (even when it's not in the least plausible) is the staple of any administration, but this one takes it to extremes. As Luban points out, DoD doesn't want these people to have any representation at all, but then they turn around and condemn someone who, in essence, says so. Bullshit. The mode for the Bush administration has been, from the beginning, lie through your teeth. And if it doesn't work, lie some more. Beat us over the head with the lies until we're numb.

As Luban goes on to delineate, it's not an isolated incident, but part of an ongoing effort by the right to cut off liberty to those who don't agree with them. It's still, of course, a reflection of the Bush administration's contempt for our basic institutions and the Rovian tactic of damnation by insinuation -- any bets on how heavily Stimson was programmed for those remarks? It's already obvious that he had a handy list of the law firms in question. No, Virginia, this was not off-the-cuff. It was a set-up.

By extension, and it's not such a long stretch, I take this as emblematic of contemporary "conservatism" as reflected by such as Rick Santorum, Sam Brownback, Marilyn Musgrave, and The Dobson Gang. I should point out, vis-a-vis my previous post on "Liberals," that, while I think contemporary liberalism has maintained a strong connection to its origins in the Enlightenment, contemporary conservatism has lost that connection and become heavily tainted by religious dogmatism. (And I mean "religious" both in kind and in structure. I refer you back, at this point, to David Neiwert's series on Fascism (there's a link at Orcinus -- just scroll down the sidebar), with particular note that an important component of Fascism as it manifested itself in Germany, Italy and Spain in the twentieth century was the willing partnership of the Church, as an explanation of the "kind." The "structure" is simply the reliance on authority, the cult of personality -- in its bare essentials, Christianity grows from the cult of Jesus, and who can forget the billboards in certain Red states dedicated to "Our Leader"? -- and its intolerance of other points of view.) If you want a nice simple example, look at the attitude of liberals toward science as against that of conservatives. I think even at the extreme, liberals are more willing to entertain open inquiry; conservatives demand creationism, and try to call it "freedom of speech." (OK -- you already know what I think of their methods: they are, without exception, snake-oil salesmen.)

The Sullivan camp of "traditional" conservatives have become what the rest of us would call "moderates." It's part and parcel of that large common ground in the middle that both classical liberals and conservatives share. (I've often thought that there is little distinction in the foundations of the philosophies; mostly it's a matter of priorities and the role of government in implementing those priorities.)

Back to Stimson. When you take a corrupted political philosophy and give it to a gang of thugs, you get stuff like this. This was a trial balloon. A lead balloon, as anyone who has any sense would have realized, but the thing to remember about this administration and the base from which it springs is that they won't stop. They are right -- God told them so -- and so it's just a matter of finding ways to pervert the system until they can have their way. I am reminded of Peter LaBarbera, Illinois' foremost anti-gay activist (and one of the most comically inept in the history of demonization), who tried to get a referendum on the ballot instructing the legislature to ban same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment; when it failed, he went to the activist courts looking for a little judicial tyranny -- he wanted Illinois' election laws overturned because it was too hard for him to get his referendum. This is what we're dealing with. Even after the Dover intelligent design case (Kitzenmiller), it's just a matter of time until the creationists come back for another try. It's a broad-range effort, because they have a broad agenda. Stimson is just the latest wrinkle.

Monday, January 15, 2007

McCain's War

I don't think anyone has mentioned the fact that Bush is such a lame duck that the Iraq War now belongs to McCain.

I don't know if that's good or bad, especially since king-maker Dobson has now turned his nose up at a McCain candidacy. I think it would be a scream if McCain won the nomination. Maybe I'll vote in the Republican primary (which I can do in Illinois).

And in connection with that, what universe is Joe Lieberman living in?

I think the consequences for the Middle East, which has been so important to our international stability over the years, and to the American people, who have been attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we’re fighting in Iraq today, supported by a rising Islamist radical super-powered government in Iran, the consequences for us, for—I want to be personal—for my children and grandchildren, I fear will be disastrous.

I mean, just read that carefully (as quoted by Atrios), keeping in mind that Lieberman prefaced that statement by saying there are two strategies in Iraq, victory or defeat. WTF???

Thankfully, Chuck Hagel nailed his ass:

First, as I said before, I am not, nor any member of Congress that I’m aware of, Tim, is advocating defeat. That’s ridiculous, and I’m offended that any responsible member of Congress or anyone else would even suggest such a thing. Senator Lieberman talks about his children and grandchildren. We all have children and grandchildren. He doesn’t have a market on that, nor do any of my colleagues. We’re all concerned about the future of this country. But we have an honest disagreement here, and that’s what democracies are about.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


We're finally getting the freezing rain they've been predicting for days. I'm going to brave it to go see Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (which I have never seen on the big screen) this morning, but you can stay home and browse some beautiful pictures.

Another Plug

for Slap Upside the Head. All Canadian, all gay, all the time -- and the most delightful blog around. Always makes me grin.

After That . . .

You need another picture.

This one seemed appropriate, considering the last post. It's from a series entitled "Vanished Men."

And You Wondered Why I Like To Read Fantasy

This is the DOD's guy on detainee affairs:

In his radio interview, Mr. Stimson said: “I think the news story that you’re really going to start seeing in the next couple of weeks is this: As a result of a FOIA request through a major news organization, somebody asked, ‘Who are the lawyers around this country representing detainees down there?’ and you know what, it’s shocking.” The F.O.I.A. reference was to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Monica Crowley, a conservative syndicated talk show host, asking for the names of all the lawyers and law firms representing Guantánamo detainees in federal court cases.

Mr. Stimson, who is himself a lawyer, then went on to name more than a dozen of the firms listed on the 14-page report provided to Ms. Crowley, describing them as “the major law firms in this country.” He said, “I think, quite honestly, when corporate C.E.O.’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those C.E.O.’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out.”

Needless to say, lawyers are all over this.

David Kurtz at TPM has been following this story, here, here, and here.

The DOD is, of course, "disavowing" the remarks, but anyone want to make any guesses on consequences for Stimson? Aside from a Medal of Freedom, I mean.

Jonathan Adler and Eugene Volokh at Volokh Conspiracy have also been following this one. From Adler:

I have also noticed that Stimson is a graduate of my alma mater, the George Mason University School of Law. [Ack!] I guess he must have slept through professional responsibility; he should have to take it again. Hilzoy is less forgiving: "if either having no clue whatsoever about how our legal system works or being willing to try to subvert it is grounds for disbarment, then Charles Stimson should be disbarred."

Volokh's analysis is devastating.

Is he really appealing not to the CEOs' patriotism, or anger over mass murder, but to their anger that terrorists cost business money? To look at the flip side, should construction and security contractors who made money (perfectly honorably, I should stress) as a result of the terrorist attacks start giving more business to law firms who are representing detainees, on the theory that "those firms are representing the very terrorists who [benefited] their bottom line back in 2001"? Yes, CEOs should surely look out for the bottom line; that's their job. But this strikes me as a context in which the concerns about past impacts on the bottom line should be the least relevant.

Unfortunately, Balkinization doesn't touch on this one, which surprised me, and I would really love to see Glenn Greenwald's comments, which at this point don't exist. Pity. Michael Froomkin had a comment on it with this observation:

It's true that the list of law firms donating time to representing the victims of torture, humiliation (and a total lack of due process) at Guantanamo reads a bit like a who's who of the elite of the corporate bar. And they deserve credit for it.

I'd just add one thing: the first firm to cave on this issue is going to find it awfully hard to recruit elite law students, as they will have demonstrated a serious lack of moral fiber. If you won't stand up for your most desperate clients, what kind of firm are you?

Referencing this comment by Alberto Conzales:

"Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases."

Ann Althouse says:

Gonzales is obviously right, and I would like to know how Stimson could even entertain the notion that it might be acceptable to say what he did.

Even Andrew Sullivan gets it, and makes the necessary link:

But the more you think about it, the threats of a Pentagon official, Cully Stimson, against lawyers doing a constitutional duty defending terror suspects speaks volumes about the core malice of this administration. Sources among the heroic community of pro bono lawyers who are defending some of the innocent and some of the guilty at Gitmo tell me that Stimson's comments are not isolated, that there has been a full program dedicated to the harassment of Gitmo lawyers - surveillance, pettty harassment, pressure on their law firms.

TPM, in one of the posts linked above, also mentions this program of harassment.

Does anyone really need any further proof of this administration's complete disdain for the American system of government?

(And after looking at the photo, I wonder where the wingnuts find all these cute guys with really badly warped heads?)

Update: Looking back, Carpetbagger Report was was one of the first on the scene.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Songs of Faith and Devotion

My album of the month, I think. (Der Ring des Nibelungen is so end-of-year.) I will say again that I think Depeche Mode is one of the most adventurous groups I've ever listened to, at least in terms of what they were willing to explore with sound. (Not claiming any great expertise in popular music of the past ten years or so, but frankly, most of what I've heard is either rehashes of 70s and 80s soft rock or heavy metal; the German pop scene seems to be much livelier and more creative.)

I still think Black Celebration was the big breakthrough album for them -- that's the one where they turned into Depeche Mode.

Songs of Faith and Devotion is equally amazing, and somewhat more mature. The tunes are irresistible. Hands down favorite right now (and this is something that changes and that's one way I recognize a superior collection -- if I come away with new favorites on repeated listenings, I know I've got a winner) is "Walking in My Shoes." Everything -- vocals, instrumentals, melody, lyrics -- comes together in an exceptional song. Man, even the bass line is exciting. (I will admit that their lyrics could sometimes be better, in terms of being a little more transparent, but all things considered, I'm willing to make allowances. One expects a bit of murky inwardness in pop songs, anyway, particularly the "loaded with Angst" type.) On this one, which is true of a lot of their songs, there's a lot of anger, which is something I understand. Particularly in the US social climate right now, the message of this song (which echoes so strongly so many of Christ's teachings) is right on point -- don't judge me until you've been me, and even then, tread softly, because I don't have to justify my life to you. (That's also a big plus for "Halo" from Violator -- a big "in your face" to the moralists.)

Update: About lyrics: songs like "Stripped" from Black Celebration and "In Your Room" from this CD reach a point of intensity that is way too rare in pop music. The closest I can think of, aside from Sara McLachlan's "Fumbling Toward Ecstacy," is -- well, I can't really think of anything, except maybe Hans Hotter's rendering of the "Leb' wohl" at the end of Die Walkuere.

They're not all perfect. I'm not overly fond of "Condemnation" or "One Caress," even though in the former, at least, I can see what's going on very clearly. And some of them are really exciting, just the way they're using old standard devices in new ways -- the "uh-uh uh" backup in "Mercy In You," for example -- or going off in new directions with sounds and combinations that no one else quite had the guts to use -- like, for example, the arrangements for "Walking in My Shoes" or "Higher Love."

A sidebar, which is really a concept underlying this whole discussion: this is art. It has to be, no matter what you may think of its "seriousness" or quality (and I don't think there can be any legitimate disagreement that the quality in Depeche Mode's work is consistently high). It's vernacular art, but then, most art worth dealing with at all either is vernacular or started there. I've often maintained that the more "pure" art becomes, the less interesting it is, with some notable exceptions (Mark Rothko being one that comes immediately to mind, and I'm not sure how "pure" you can really call his painting; Minimalism, with its emphasis on formal considerations as the basis and, indeed, the raison d'etre, is pretty boring because it doesn't say much about the human condition -- except that art collectors can be talked into buying just about anything, and how much meaning does that have for most of us?)

In terms of music, I think it behooves us to remember that one of Mozart's greatest works is The Magic Flute, which was, after all, a Singspiel, a popular form like our musical. You can't hardly get more vernacular than that.

As for the next question -- will it be around in fifty years? -- well, cream rises to the top, so check back with me then.


Been hitting some choice stuff lately. Highly recommended: John Clute's Appleseed. I'm planning a more in-depth review for GMR in the next couple of weeks, as well.

Also, Samuel R. Delany's Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, which might be better than Dhalgren. Maybe. Not sure.

Gene Wolfe's Castelview. Wolfe is like Delany -- you can't take anything he writes at face value, and you have to remember that he likes to fuck with your head.

Finally read Pride and Prejudice, which, of course, I loved. I honestly don't understand why there's ever been any controversy over Austen's place in the literary firmament -- devastating satire, and relevant to much more than early 19th century England.

Working right now on Steven Erickson's Deadhouse Gates, the second book of Malazan. Loving it. Also Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End, which has been hanging around too long waiting for me to get to it. Cyberpunk run amok.

By the way, tomorrow morning bright and early check out "What's New at Green Man Review" for the best literature selections from 2006. I seem to have reviewed a lot of them (blush, giggle). I have to confess, picking "bests" out of what crossed my desk last year was not easy -- very high quality stuff.

Map Note

Making headway in the frozen North -- a visitor from Alaska.


Sullivan on Iraq -- Again

Sullivan really comes a croppper lately on his war commentaries, starting off with this post:

But I went to the pre-war anti-war marches as an observer. I did not hear arguments about the difficulties of managing a sectarian society, nor questions about troop levels, nor worries about the impact of the war on Iran's status in the region. I heard and saw often reflexive hostility to American power, partisan hatred of Bush, and blindness toward Saddam's atrocities.

Two comments on this statement:

You don't hear reasoned arguments at marches and rallies. You hear slogans. If you go to a rally or demonstration expecting to hear reasoned arguments, you're too stupid to live. To take the pose that the anti-war forces were a bunch of knee-jerk hate-America-first libruls based on behavior you saw at an anti-war march is beyond disingenuous. Being a right-winger, of course, Sullivan forgets that on the left, everyone can join in. They just represent themselves, and not necessarily anyone else.

Second, Sullivan's interpretation of what he heard is just that -- his interpretation. I happen to participate in online forums in which the immediate response on some parts to any criticism of Bush or the administration is accusations of "knee-jerk Bush-hatred" and "anti-Americanism," which seems to be Sullivan's stance in this case. That does not constitute a valid response, as far as I'm concerned -- the minute that no one is allowed to criticize Our Leader or his policies, we've lost it. It appears that Sullivan can witness events but not really see them.

I don't know if he's deliberately ignoring the commentaries of people like Josh Marshall, Atrios, John Aravosis, Jane Hamsher and the other members of the "real" progressive blogosphere, or if he's just not aware of them, steeping himself as he seems to have done in East-Coast elitist right-wing publications and Farenheit 9/11. Despite his stance, there was a lot of closely reasoned and highly accurate argument against the war in the beginning. It's sort of like me taking the sentiments expressed in the comments at LGF as representative of the right.

In another post, he starts off by agreeing with a reader's comment, but moves back into the same indiscriminately anti-left territory immediately (known technically as a bait-and-switch):

But it doesn't detract from my continued opposition to those Michael Moore elements that dominated the rhetoric of the anti-war forces before the war, many of whom opposed the war in Afghanistan as well.

Sullivan is moving into Malkin/Coulter/Reynolds territory here in trying to lump everyone who opposed the war in Iraq with the Michael Moore wing of the left. I might as well call Michelle Malkin the voice of the right. In point of fact, as I recall there was widespread support for the war in Afghanistan because that's where the enemy was. The Iraq war was so obviously illegal and unjustified that the administration had to cherrypick intelligence and lie to Congress and the public to make a case for it at all, and it was obvious to some of us that was happening. Sullivan has taken refuge in a sanctimonious and self-serving stance of "But Saddam was a bad man," which in itself cannot justify our invasion of Iraq, because he can't seem to deal with the fact that he supported the American violation of international law and our own treaty obligations with regard to that particular misadvernture. Even when he has criticized Bush for the conduct of the war, he has refused to face the fact that there was no legitimate justification for the war to begin with. His attempt to cast all those who opposed Bush's policy as radical leftists is just a cheap way to dodging his own responsibility and his own fallibility and a reflection of his inability to introduce any real rigor into his own thinking.

But I'm not clinically delusional.

"Clinically delusional"? Probably not. Shallow? Much more likely.

Here's the original post. Sullivan's characterization of it as "condescending" is typical, if not particularly accurate. The man just doesn't get it.

(The Ur-post, Sullivan's analysis of the Escalation Speech. He's at least got part of it right.)

As for the "Bears uber Alles" issue, I'll deal with that some other time.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


The dumbing of America seems to be inevitable, but I don't see any reason why we can't have space somewhere for the better things that humanity has produced. From Captain Ed:

[T]he Washington Post reported on the efforts of the Fairfax County public libraries to create shelf room for best sellers by culling out the classics that have received little attention. Research on the library computer system reported on titles that had not been loaned to readers in over two years, but among those titles are classics of literature and letters.

I agree with him on this -- his summation is that libraries are meant to be repositories of our literary legacy, which is not, I hope, Stephen King or Danielle Steele.

That's one reason I keep accumulating my own library.

Another picture

Climate Change?

In Chicago, where the normal January temperatures used to hover in the single digits and 20 was a heat wave, snowdrops are blooming six weeks early. Temperatures have been in the upper 30s the past few days, edging into the 40s -- and that's a drop of a few degrees from the holidays.


Just a note -- more of a ramble, really -- on the continuing vilification of "liberals" by the right. I'm not even talking "classical" liberalism, necessarily -- today's liberalism in its essential characteristics is little different than the liberalism that informed the Founders when they put this country together.

A summary: liberalism is characterized by an emphasis on personal freedom balanced by the common good. It's as prone to nannyism as conservatism, but I think the motivations are more wholesome. (If you don't believe conservatism is prone to nannyism, you haven't been paying attention.) The problem with liberalism in this regard is that it wants everyone to conform voluntarily, and if they won't, liberals will pass laws to insure that they do. Conservatives won't bother with the voluntary part. This is the sort of thing conservatives come up with.

Liberals are skeptical, particularly about strong leaders. By way of contrast, Josh Marshall, in his follow-up to the post I linked to yesterday, points out a significant characteristic of the right:

President Bush [is] an epochal figure, a man of destiny in a grand historical struggle who has powers to answer to grander than Congress or the constitution.

I remember Clarence Thomas, I believe it was, in his Senate confirmation hearings, stating that he believed in a "higher law," which, if I had been in that chamber, would have diqualified him in my eyes immediately. For a Supreme Court justice, there can be no "higher law" than the Constitution. Liberals are willing to let the Constitution be the "sacred document" that forms the foundation of our society. Conservatives seem to need a god of some sort. Perhaps it's just that they can't bring themselves to trust humanity to that great an extent, whereas liberals are all about trusting people to do the right thing.

If you think Marshall's making this up, note this comment reported by Glenn Greenwald:

Boston Herald columnist Jules Crittenden assures us that salvation is imminent, in a post solemnly entitled "On Reflection":

George Bush will address us tonight, and show us the way forward.

We need merely place our Faith in the Strong and Great Leader and everything will good:

Tonight, our president is expected, once again, to defy the logic of polls and popularity, and dole out the bitter medicine. What must be done. What should have been done a long time ago. I remain confident in our future and the future of Iraq, because for now, we have a president who will do this.

Conservatism, particularly the messianic, evangelically tinged conservatism of today's far right, is prone to authoritarianism and hero-worship -- and frankly, they don't have a very good record in picking heroes. Remember, in 1776, it was the conservatives who wanted to be ruled by a king. Liberals find this sort of adulation suspicious, at best, and are much more prone to be looking at reality -- i.e., what has he/she actually done? (OK -- on the reality issues, the right wing has George W. Bush, the left wing has PETA. That just supports my ongoing contention that the extremes tend to meet in an area that has nothing to do with right or left.)

I'm not sure that the Republican party has been "hijacked" by the Christianists. I think that the Republicans always had that potential because they are, in effect, the party of received wisdom. They prefer a strong executive, while liberals prefer the brawling mess that is Congress. The Republicans move in lockstep, while the Democrats can't come up with a coherent agenda. (Sidebar and explication: A fault in contemporary discourse: the idea that the forms override the substance. In this example, to have an agenda doesn't say anything. The value of having an agenda depends entirely on content. Bush has an agenda. It's repellent to anyone who believes in what this country has always stood for, but he has one.)

What I find remarkable, Andrew Sullivan and other apologists notwithstanding, is conservatism's poverty of ideas. Liberalism can deal with rational argument based on empirical evidence. That's the basic mode. It's not mistake that this country is a product of the Enlightenment -- if it weren't for classical liberalism, there would be no USA as we know it. Conservatism, with its basis in received wisdom and tradition, is ill-equipped to deal with the rapidly changing circumstances of life in general, not to mention life in the contemporary world. It falls back on "realism" and "pragmatism" because the world doesn't behave the way it should to a conservative's way of thinking, so the theory goes out the window.

Liberalism is the basis of America. It always has been -- it's that basic thrust toward rule by the governed and the inclusion of everyone in that system that goes back to Andrew Jackson, if not before. It's been an incremental progress, but the basic idea has always been the same. Conseratives, by their very nature, are suspicious of the American system of government. (Granted, both the left and right have trouble with basic concepts such as minding their own business, but I don't think that's a matter of political philsophy, just that we are, biologically, social animals, even though theortetically we may admire the rugged individualist as he has become an American archetype -- Daniel Boone, for example, who I think would have been appalled at today's conservatives. The Puritans would be delighted.)

OK -- so it turned out to be more about conservatives than liberals.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Can I Scrooch Him Now, Gidney?

From Carpetbagger Report, this lovely possibility:

Says Craig Shirley, a public relations executive who represents many conservative groups and who has written a book on the Reagan revolution: “There’s anger, there’s angst, there’s dismay in the conservative movement.” Some activists, Shirley adds, have even begun talking quietly among themselves about forming a third party."

Anything we can do to encourage them?


I may tackle this one if I get some clear space. I've still got a lot of catching up to do, but what's amazing is the calls for "bipartisanship" and "civility" in public debate. No, no one's surprisesd that the Republicans are doing it -- we know they can't face the consquences of their own actions. As a stopgap, check out this post by Digby.

Oddly, however, in the last couple of weeks, the media has been obsessing that the election reflected a desire among the American people for the congress to stop fighting and work together, which makes no sense. The Republican congress didn't fight --- the Democrats just caterwauled ineffectually from the sidelines, while the Republicans did what they wanted. There was no gridlock, they passed virtually every piece of legislation they wanted and the congress was perfectly in sync with the president. If comity was what people were concerned about they obviously would have kept undivided government.

The American people voted for the Democrats because they wanted them to stop the Republican juggernaut. Look at the poll numbers. Look at the election results.

It's sort of instructive, as if we needed to reinforce it at all, but this is the rightwing mindset: if you don't get your way, whine about it. The Republicans in Congress are whining, the theocons are whining, the knuckle-dragging right is whining (when they're not threatenting assassinations).

Grow up, assholes.


A very good post by Josh Marshall on Congress' control of the purse strings and why Congress must exercise it.

. . . we have a president who has a basic contempt for our system of government and the rule of law and that the normal rules of inter-branch comity simply aren't in effect.

Nancy Pelosi has taken exactly the right tack on this, with her declaration that Congress will not fund the president's escalation of the war in Iraq -- and please note that critical point: will not fund the escalation.

"If the president wants to add to this mission, he is going to have to justify it," said Pelosi, speaking to host Bob Schieffer. "And this is new for him because up until now the Republican Congress has given him a blank check with no oversight, no standards, no conditions. And we’ve gone into this situation, which is a war without end, which the American people have rejected."

"If the president chooses to escalate the war, in his budget request we want to see a distinction between what is there to support the troops who are there now. The American people and the Congress support those troops. We will not abandon them."

Barack Obama, of whom the more I hear the less I like, seems to be coming down on both sides of the question. On the one hand, he's opposing the "surge." On the other hand, he's claining the Congress can't stop it. (I've seen him quoted on both sides of the question in the past couple of days -- I'll post the links if I can find them again.)

Joe Biden, whom I have never considered presidential material, screwed it up even worse:

MR. RUSSERT: ...there’s really little Democrats can do. Why not cut off funding for the war?

SEN. BIDEN: I’ve been there, Tim. You can’t do it.


SEN. BIDEN: You can’t do it. It’s—what—because it made sense in the Constitution when you said you could cut off funding when you had no standing army. We have a standing army with a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars. You can’t go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, “You can’t spend the money on this piece and this piece and”—he—able—he’ll be able to keep those troops there forever constitutionally if he wants to.

It's unconstitutional to tell the president no? As John Murtha pointed out, that's bullshit.

UPDATE: Mary Lederman pretty much demolishes Biden's position"

Even if there were a prohibition in the Constitution against so-called congressional "micromanagement" of a war -- and there's not -- this wouldn't be that. There would be no congressional officials here overseeing the President's discretionary responsibilities; no requirement that the President get approval of one or both Houses before taking certain actions. There would, instead, simply be limitations on a war imposed by statutes passed with the President's signature or by supermajorities of both Houses of Congress over the President's veto.

Read the whole post.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Another Picture

Thanks, Piet.

I really am going to start working on the new site again.

Dah Nooz

Spoken like a true Chicagoan.

This has been popping up here and there on the Internet. Of course, it's Fox, so we know the reason for it.

However, Digby linked to this story, which points me in a somewhat less obvious direction:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that a deal reached yesterday between the city and EarthLink could make San Francisco the first major city in the country to offer free universal wireless Internet access.

The implications of this are enormous, and it's the sort of thing that should have the knuckle-dragging wing of the Republican party shaking. You see, if everyone has access to information, it becomes very easy to figure out that they're lying.

Y'know, we could do a lot worse than turning the country into San Francisco. I like San Francisco.

And, by one of those strange loops that tends to happen here, I come back to the Jamil Hussein story. Take Fox as the "mainstream" version of the Malkin-Reynolds-Coulter-Limbaugh axis. (Yeah, well. . . .) Digby has an eye-opening post comparing the MRCL axis to the holocaust deniers who recently met in Teheran. As Digby says, same methods, same logic (which is to say, logic, yes, but rationality, none).

We keep expecting that reality is going to change things. For instance, we logically thought that the president would have to begin to withdraw in Iraq once his popularity tanked to unprecedented lows and his party lost the election. Instead, he just carries on, no matter what happens out here in the real world, because in the world the right wing has created, this last election shows that he has a mandate to escalate the war.

Likewise, I would have thought that Michele Malkin would be compelled to issue a mea culpa for her jihad against the AP once it was proved that they didn't make up their source. Nothing. In fact, Eason Jordan chastizes the AP for its attitude rather than the relentless "critics" many of whom commonly accuse them of being in league with terrorists.

The AP erred in part by responding in a hot-headed, antagonistic way to questions about the existence of Jamil Hussein and the credibility of AP reports featuring comments from Captain Hussein. The AP's harsh statements fueled the suspicions of critics and those who otherwise would give the AP the benefit of the doubt.

This is the Eason Jordon who, as Digby points out earlier, is busy sucking up to the nutcases who took him down earlier. Thre's some sort of syndrome here that I don't understand, maybe because I really don't have a good attitude toward authority, partiucularly people who claim authority they don't really have. People like Malkin, Coulter, Reynolds are obviously conniving asshats who have no morals, no integrity, and no shame, and yet somehow people in positions of power and influence are trying to cater to them instead of calling them out.

The most blatant example, and arguably the first to reach national prominence, is the Dan Rather story and the "fraudulent" memos concerning Bush's National Guard service -- or lack of it. See this post by Glenn Greenwald, and partcularly the e-mail from Mary Mapes, who produced that story and lost her job fo it. I confess that I had assumed that the documents had indeed been proved to be forgeries. I, at least, am willing to admit that it was no more than an assumption, fed by the volume and vitriol of the right blogosphere.

I really don't like the idea of dismissing news out of hand because of the source, but when the sources have been wong again and again, and not only mistaken but have actually, as we say in the blogosphere, "made shit up," I have to discount people like Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter (who has all but admitted she's in it for the money and doesn't believe a word of it herself), and the whole run of rightwingers. (This seems like an apt place to point out once again GayPatriot's story on "The Democrats' Culture of Corruption" at the height of the Abramoff scandals. This is ludicrous. And Chris Crain says he's "always found their perspectives to be fresh and interesting and thought-provoking." As you know, I seldom find any evidence of thought on that site at all. One thing that's instructive from Crain's post, however, is that he, Carroll, Sullivan, et al., all fit very nicely into the Republican country-club mentality. It's the same syndrome I've noticed in a couple of Malkin's posts -- one of the most significant aspects of their output is the name-dropping.)

Back to an important point that Mapes raises in her e-mail to Greenwald, and one that is implicit in the image that heads this post:

Sadly, I worked for a news organization that had become little more than a corporate brand.

Of course the MSM is sympathetic to Bush and his agenda -- he's corporate-friendly, and they are corporations. Ethics, factual accuracy, real reporting are secondary to the bottom line, and the bottom line depends on sucking up to power. In that context, who can realistically expect journalism?