"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

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Required Reading

A heads-up on a series by Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin on "Love Won Out." Burroway in a lot of ways is much nicer than I am -- he actually attended the event and talked to people, trying to understand the mindset that has led to the whole ex-gay phenomenon.

See his posts:

Prologue: Why I Went to "Love Won Out"
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”

I do try to understand -- I don't want to sell myself short on that -- but I find myself suffering from a lack of "willing suspension of disbelief." I simply don't comprehend, first of all, how anyone can take anything anyone says -- expecially someone who obviously as an agenda -- at face value, and secondly, how anyone can ignore evidence that says that this is wrong.

Too rational. I'm way too rational for this world.

A Hero

And it's pretty revealing when you can quite honestly sit there and call an American who is standing up for justice and tolerance "a hero."

A straight Republican legislator in Wyoming, Dan Zwonitzer, who may very well have killed an anti-gay marriage bill. From Petrelis Files:

Thank you Mr. Speaker and Members of the Committee.

I am not going to speak of specifics regarding this bill, but rather talk about history and philosophy in regards to this issue.

It is an exciting time to be in the legislature while this issue is being debated. I believe this is the Civil Rights struggle of my generation.

Being a student of history, as many of you are, and going back through history, most of history has been driven by the struggle of man against government to endow him with more rights, privileges and liberties to be bestowed upon him.

In all of my high school courses, we only made it through history to World War 2. It wasn’t until college that I really learned of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. My American History professor was black, and we spent a week discussing civil rights. I watched video after video where people stood on the sidelines and yelled and threw things at black students walking into schools, I’ve read editorials and reports by both sides of the issue, and I would think, how could society feel this way, only 40 years ago.

Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.

It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.

And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long.

My kids and grandkids will ask me, why did it take so long? And I can say, hey, I was there, I discussed these issues, and I stood up for basic rights for all people.

I echo Representative Childers concerns, that testifying against this bill may cost me my seat. I have two of my precinct committee persons behind me today who are in favor of this bill, as I stand here opposed, and I understand that I may very well lose my election. It cost 4 moderate Republican Senators in Kansas their election last year for standing up on this same issue. But I tell myself that there are some issues that are greater than me, and I believe this is one of them. And if standing up for equal rights costs me my seat so be it. I will let history be my judge, and I can go back to my constituents and say I stood up for basic rights. I will tell my children that when this debate went on, I stood up for basic rights for people.

I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and you know it. I hope you will all let history be your judge with this vote. You all know in your hearts where this issue is going, that it will come to pass in the next 30 years. For that, I ask you to vote no today on the bill. Thank you.

Here's another post from Petrelis discussing the situation in Wyoming and echoing my complaints about HRC. My bottom line on the national gay rights groups is that they've become too devoted to not rocking the boat. If you don't rock the boat, nothing happens.

Stop Stop the ACLU

I just stopped by "Stop the ACLU" on a link from Digby. These people are really out there. Here's the quote from Digby:

But let’s tell the truth as we know it – the ACLU despises the fact that this nation is one that operates under Judeo-Christian principles. This is not a Muslim nation or a Hindu or Buddhist nation. This is a Christian nation, even if our morality is going down the sewer. This nation was founded by men who believed in the Christian God. There is no problem for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or others who want to practice their own “faith” here in America. We afford them that privilege under the 1st Amendment. But our foundation is that of the Judeo-Christian faith. If the ACLU doesn’t like it, I suggest they go to Communist Cuba or China where they can practice their godlessness. I’m getting sick of being told that all religions are equal. They are not!

I'm not going to link to these nutjobs. They're just another cog in the Christianist machine, with the required historical filter that ignores anything that undermines their fantasies.

The Problem Is Not Getting Them Out of Office

It's getting them out of the bureaucracy.

Alberto Gonzales is on the stump selling religious freedom. This in itself is enough to call for a barf bag:

Gonzales, in an address to SBC Executive Committee members during their Tuesday afternoon session, noted that he is charged by the president with “protecting and preserving not only the safety and security of all Americans, but also their rights, liberties and freedoms.”

If it were any other administration, I'd say "Fine." But this is the administration that's been not only courting the Christianists, but handing out religious pork though the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. This is also Alberto Gonzales, who never met a constitution he couldn't subvert.

I'd like to know how many of those investigations have been for denial of religious freedom to non-Christians. The ACLU's been doing a better job. Leave it to them.

(Thanks to AmericaBlog.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Map Note

No hits from Antarctica.



I've noticed with the "respectable" right-wing blogs (Glenn Reynolds, Ann Althouse) is that their own analysis and commentary are minimal. More often than not, their blogs are link dumps.

Tell you anything?

More on the Sincerity of the Right

Digby again, on the religious right. He makes some points here that tie into more of my thinking on the religious right and my own reaction to them.

As for the Reverend Latham's joining the burgeoning ranks of religious right closet cases, that's something else entirely. When you see this kind of cruel hypocricy on the part of Elmer Gantry after Elmer Gantry, it's not hard to see why some of the non religious might just think all this righteousness is a con that is not worthy of the kind of special respect and deference for religion that our society seems to require. . . .

When you look at the big picture you see that the religious are as politically varied as the population as a whole and that Democrats are as religious as are the Republicans. But the culture war is being waged by churches, if not all churches, and day after day these sexual scolds and allegedly traditionalist leaders are being exposed as frauds after years of self-righteous finger-pointing at anyone who doesn't toe their line. It results in real damage to real people.

The morality of the hucksters of the religious right has been almost entirely focused on other people's sex lives -- homosexuailty, abortion, contraception. They seem to have lost sight of the prohibitions against lying ("Thou shall not bear false witness"), deception (Satan, after all, is the Great Deceiver), separation of Church and State ("Render unto Caesar. . . ."), and the Christian mandate to succor the needy and defend the helpless.

Take this statement by Dan Riehl, as quoted by TBogg:

Sad that a political party is willing to gamble its future on a loss by the US military, but not really surprising, given said party has been more interested in treason than national defense for almost two years.

What kind of moral stance would lead someone to make a completely unfounded and untrue statement like that? Riehl holds himself up as some kind of "conservative," (I just spent some time going through Riehl's blog. Why do people pay attention to crap like this? I wasn't impressed.) But, back to the main issue: It appears very much as though the right doesn't see a statement like Riehl's as immoral. I do. Very much so. (Riehl's comment is only an example of the kind of thing we've been getting regularly from O'Reilly, Malkin, Coulter, the Circle Jerk in the Corner, and other "conservatives." Makes me wonder.)

Back to Digby:, quoting from this article:

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

Where are James Dobson, Lou Sheldon, Donald Wildmon, The Falbinson Twins, the Men at Concerned Women for America -- where are they? Where are the news conferences and the OpEds? Where are the statements decrying the growing poverty in America and their own part in creating it? Where are the strongly worded press releases condemning the departure from Jesus' teachings and promising repentance?

Oh, right. . . .

When they spend as much money fighting poverty as they do fighting gay rights, then I might start to believe they are sincere.

Digby on Medved

It ain't pretty:

I think he missed the boat here. A much better analogy would be to imagine what would happen if a shrunken little creep like Michael Medved entered a woman's gym naked, blowing kisses through his pathetic 70's porn star mustache. I would bet a million dollars that all the women, including the fat ones, would sooner fuck a corpse than that deplorable racist, sexist, homophobic jerk. (Townhall writers of both sexes, on the other hand, would undoubtedly be intrigued.)

He also notes this story, which I thought was illuminating:

Former NBA forward Charles Barkley said the fallout from Amaechi's disclosure has turned into a media firestorm.

"You don't think we all played with gay guys. Of course we have," Barkley said. "It has never been an issue.

"I just find it homourous and amazing people think we care if someone is gay or not.

"America discriminates against gay people but we all played with gay people."

So what's all the fuss?

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Christianist Left

I had reason to refer to Jim Wallis the other day in this blog, and found some problems with his comments. (Oops! Just checked -- I haven't posted that one yet -- it's in the post about my sincerity problems with the Dobson Gang. I think. Nevertheless, I did read a piece and did have some serious reservations about it. Nope -- checked again. Wallis is not in that post, which is now published here.) It was, in fact, the same opinion piece that Frederick Clarkson comments on here. Clarkson makes Wallis sound like a left-leaning Christianist, and from the little I know of Wallis writings, he's not far off the mark. My question is a little more fundamental:

Why can't we go along the way we have for something over two hundred years and just let people's religious beliefs be their own concern and govern the country according to the rules set down by the Founders?

What's so hard about that?

The answer, of course, is almost too obvious to state: too many people have too great an opportunity to get their hands on a bit of power. They are people who, by and large, are not content to leave others alone to live their lives with as little interference as possible. If they were, they wouldn't be after that kind of power to begin with.

And now they're on the rise on the left.


Subversive Organizations: Concerned Women for America

This is sparked by a comment by Gary Rosen, via Andrew Sullivan.

From the CWA Web site:

We are the nation's largest public policy women's organization with a rich 28-year history of helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy. . . .

Mission Statement

The mission of CWA is to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens - first through prayer, then education, and finally by influencing our society - thereby reversing the decline in moral values in our nation.

From the Constitution of the United States of America:

Amendment I:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .

A note on that "moral values" comment: this seems to be another group for which "morality" is a checklist of dos and don'ts, without much underpinning in a general attitude toward others. You can see that they lack respect for people in general by the way they refer to those they disagree with, whom they regard as "enemies of society" (see more on that below). "Society," of course, is something that should adhere strictly to their beliefs.

If you go to the "Culture and Family" page, you see the usual grossly distorted renderings of current events, all from the paranoid freak school of journalism: it's all a plot by immoral homosexual activists to deestroy America. Don't ask for rationality, here. That is something that is quite explicitly outside the parameters of the discussion. It begins with religious thought, which by definition is not rational, and carries over through the use of debater's tricks into "discourse." Read "monologue." You can't have a dialogue with someone who refuses the acknowledge the validity of the concept of different viewpoints.

It's another case of using religion to advance a political agenda, which always leads me to doubt the sincerity of the participants.

This is all in the service of a group that actually does want to destroy America by eroding our basic Constiitutional principles and establishing a religious test for just about everything -- their religion, of course.

Following standard practice on the Christianist right, when you call them on a distortion or fabrication, as I know from personal experience, it was "taken out of context" and "misquoted" and . . . . (insert lame excuse of choice). It's another "hate the sin, love the sinner" line. Tim Hardaway at least was honest about his feelings toward gays.

Like all such groups, CWA must have an enemy to justify itself. The enemy is much broader than just gays or feminists. It's secularism, on which this country was founded. So, if your enemy is the foundation of American society, what does that make you?

No, I'm not going to link to them. I don't do hate groups. I realize that term gets bandied about too much, but I have no other label: if someone is continually working against the interests of other members of their society, using a particular group as scapegoats for the ills that they themselves are largely responsible for, and doing so by not only refusing to accord them basic human dignity but by denying their humanity [in this case, limiting their descriptions of that group, gays, to "homosexual," which describes behavior, rather than calling us "gay," which describes our identities and culture -- and that's just the starting point], and doing so through the use of distortions, fabrications, misrepresentations, and scare tactics -- in fact, it goes beyond scapegoating into demonizing -- then what would you call them? Aside from "anti-American," I mean.


There is a longish post in the works about why I have credibility problems in the sincerity department with groups like CWA, Focus on the Family, etc. Unfortunately, my brain has been out of commission (too many reviews, too little time), which is why you've been getting so many cut-and-paste posts here lately. It's coming. Sometime.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Estate Tax Scam

I don't usually get into tax and economic issues, because I don't understand the intricacies -- or supposed intricacies (I'm not convinced they're as complicated as tax lawyers like to make out). This was an eye-opener.

Here's a brief article from Public Citizen about the cabal of superwealthy families who have been bankrolling the campaign to repeal the estate tax.

The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.

It reveals how 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

The report profiles the families and their businesses, which include the families behind Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. Collectively, the list includes the first- and third-largest privately held companies in the United States, the richest family in Alabama and the world’s largest retailer.

Here's a copy of the report (PDF).

And here's a post by Digby comparing some of the estimated tax savings for these eighteen families with the programs that are being cut back because of our deficit.

A note . . .

to Edwards, Richardson, Obama, Clinton, and all those other pols who are being "honest" in confessing that "they're just not there yet" on gay marriage, but they're willing to support second-class status for gay families:

No one cares what you believe. It's not about you -- it's about us.

Oh, the Stupid!

Michael Medved demonstrates his mastery of every cliche known about gay men. (And his complete inability to forumlate a rational argument.)

According to the “enlightened” advocates of gay liberation, this disgust gets to the very essence of “homophobia” – an altogether unjustified fear and distaste for male-on-male physical intimacy. When Hardaway says “I hate gay people” what he suggests at the deepest level is that he feels revolted by the very notion of same-sex eroticism and that he’d prefer not to face the distraction of such thoughts in the locker room or on the court.

In this sense, the reluctance to team (in athletics or the military) with announced homosexuals isn’t bigotry, it’s common sense. The recent “Astronaut Love Triangle” provides a pointed reminder of the way that even disciplined military careerists can be diverted, even ruined, by attraction, eroticism and romance.

Those who insist that basketball teams or submarine crews must welcome gay recruits must, for the sake of consistency, argue for the same welcome to teammates of the opposite gender. That notion – that a male player could, for instance, join a WNBA team without serious problems – shows the way that political correctness now seems to deny the obvious, often overwhelming potency of human sexuality.

Those who suggest that a guy could shower with young female athletes without risk of arousal, or that a gay guy could shower with young male athletes with problems or discomfort, don’t merely defy common sense. They ignore human nature.

Dear Stoopid:

I don't quite know how to break this to you -- and to Tim Hardaway -- but if you ever showered after gym class in school in a locker room shower, you were showering with a gay boy. I went through years of high-school and college group showers (as well as nude all-boy swimming classes) and y'know what? The straight boys showed more woodies than the gay boys.

Maybe the problem is that no one expects professional athletes to behave like -- well, like professionals.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On Sincerity

Atrios has an interesting post on a question that I touch here regularly: the religious motivation of values. I've mocked certain leaders of the religious right because I doubt there sincerity. Atrios has this to say about that, responding in different post to this statement by Ed Kilgore:

Here's how the regression from mockery of politics to mockery of religion to mockery of religious sincerity tends to work: Some people hold abhorrent political positions that they justify with religious principles you happen to consider a bunch of atavistic Hooey. You attack the positions on their dubious merits. You then go over the brink and attack the underyling Hooey. But since you think it's Hooey, you go on to suggest that the Hooey, being Hooey, is just a mask for very different motives (e.g., misogyny) that can be deplored without discussion of religion. Not being a regular consumer of Amanda Marcotte's blogging at Pandagon, I can't say for sure this is her pattern, but it is common in criticisms of religious-based opposition to equal rights for women and/or gays and lesbians.

Atrios responds:

I do agree that questioning the sincerity of peoples' faith does anger them. On the other hand, appealing to the sincerity of their beliefs is a way of privileging them, to put them in the realm of privileged discourse, as well as removing the person's responsibility. I don't really care if the desire to discriminate against gay people, or turn the uterus into state property, is motivated by sincere religious conviction. I don't think religious conviction, sincere or otherwise, makes your beliefs somehow special. If you think your misogyny or homophobia is sanctioned by God, it doesn't make you not a misogynist or homophobe.

Now, as one who has questioned the sincerity of belief in people such as James Dobson and Donald Wildmon, I should probably take a bit to explain that, if not justify it (the justification should, if I do it right, take care of itself). Another thing that's been cooking here is Jack Balkin's comments on the beliefs of the Christian right in the Ted Haggard matter -- Haggard and his fellows, according to Balkin, simply reject the idea of same-sex orientation as something innate and see it as temptation from the moral dictates of their god.

The thing that makes this an issue is the attempt to enforce these beliefs in the political realm, and it's there that I have trouble giving any credit to the Dobson Gang for sincerity.

It all revolves around the question of morality, which, in spite of what you may have heard from such luminaries as William F. Buckley, Jr. (One of the great howlers of the twentieth century: "Morality is an absolute.") or anyone else, is fluid and, if I may say so, tailored to the needs of a particular society at a particular time. What it boils down to is that morality is, in most instances, something that grows out of belief, and, as Atrios says, "people believe different stuff." (Yes, adherence to rationality and skepticism is as much a matter of belief as adherence to the idea that trinkets made of bone and hair have spiritual power.)

(Atrios has a series of posts on this, particularly one linking to this wonderful post by Mithras. Digby also weighs in.

At any rate, back to doubting the sincerity of the Christianists.

I have trouble believing that anyone can repeatedly espouse positions that fly in the face of all available evidence, particularly when those doing so reap great financial and political rewards for doing it. Take James Dobson, for example. He consistently misrepresents evidence concerning gays and child sexual abuse, child rearing, he's quoted quite cheerily Paul Cameron's gross distortions of other people's research, he has distorted others' research himself, has refused to acknowledge corrections he has received from many sources and, in the most recent case concerning his distortions of research in an OpEd for Time, engaged in specious arguments that "the data supported his conclusions" when in fact they didn't. And yet I'm supposed to believe that he is sincere.

I believe there is a commandment that says something like "thou shall no bear false witness." This is in the Bible, which Christians of Dobson's stripe insist is the inerrant word of God. Am I mistaken here?

Either the man is a cynical politician or he's delusional. (I'm sure there's a third possibility, but since Dobson lives in a black/white world, we'll play along for now.)

In other words, I'm basing my doubts about his sincerity on evidence, which is what one does when one is a post-Enlightenment American with training in science. The rhetoric heats up whenever there's an election, and now that the Republican party, through some vestigial instinct for self preservation, has started to move away from the Dobson Gang, there are calls of "payback time."

And, as Atrios quite rightly points out in the paragraph I quoted above, why give people like Dobson a free pass because their prejudices spring, at least ostensibly, from religious belief? If you're a bigot because of your religious beliefs, your still a bigot. As Atrios puts it:

I've had this conversation with anti-choice progressives, who think it's important for me to understand that their anti-choice views come from a sincere religious belief. The thing is, I just don't care. The fact that your political beliefs are motivated by your religion doesn't make them special to me.

This ties in with a couple of recent posts by Tristero over at Hullabaloo, here and here. He's coming from a slightly different angle, but I think plugging him in here is valid. Tristero's point is that you don't get any bonus points because your beliefs are based in your religion. (And at this juncture, the term "beliefs" is getting entirely too slippery -- for this post, it's been limited to the area of those beliefs centering on morality (and I mean as a real thing, not a checklist), social justice, and doing what society is basically supposed to do, which is take care of its members. All of them.)

So, the bottom line at this point is complete agreement with Atrios and Tristero: OK, your beliefs are sincere because they come from your religion. So what?

(PS -- this is the post I mentioned in the last post or two, and no, Jim Wallis isn't in it. I think I was probably going to write something on his piece and wound up junking it. Chalk it up to a shift in mode from verbal to visual. This hasn't been easy, you know.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Oxymoron of the Day

"Military Thinking"

See this post by Steve Clemmons on the spate of "moral waivers" being issued to fill the ranks.

While they continue to discharge gays. Including specialists. Like linguists fluent in Arabic and Farsi.

Can you say "stupid"?

Random Thoughts on DM

Yes, I'm still listening to Depeche Mode. They don't let go very easily. I can go long periods without Eagles or Foreigner, or even Mozart, and Krauss' Ring was good for a couple of weeks before I had to get away from it for a while. DM isn't like that. There must be a psychic bond of some sort.

You get primed for watching artists' development over time -- at least, when you have a body of work to draw on for your observations. It's like it's keyed into your basic programming. Yes, they matured and deepened, but theses guys were always geniuses. I suppose that's sort of obvious, but how many geniuses actually know what they're doing? (Hint: not as many as you might think.) And maybe it's obvious from the standpoint of once a genius, always a genius, but who was expecting geniuses to begin with?

I mean, go back to Some Great Reward and the song "Lie To Me." Sly, acidic, and the music is as brilliant as the attitude -- and then it goes a couple steps beyond tribal.

A real talent has the ability to take standard-issue stuff and make it something exciting. In anyone else's hands, most of the things DM have done would be cliche. With DM, even when they're cliches, they're fresh cliches. Even when they're lifting 19th century string accompaniments (by way of 1940s Hollywood tearjerkers), they make it seem like it's their own idea.

One of the necessities in a really great rock musician is the willingness to go right over the top when necessary. Listen to "In Your Room" sometime. That's just the example that comes first to mind. They do it regularly, and I think those are among their most successful songs. Those are the ones that are naked in all the right ways.

David Gahan and Martin Gore always had grown-up voices. They got more grown-up, but they were never boy voices, they were always man voices. It makes a difference -- the songs weigh more.

If you listen closely to some of the things they're doing musically, you'll get totally freaked. Take the end of "Here Is The House," how rich it gets when they start throwing in the polyphony. Machaut would be proud. And they do things like that a lot.

I said to someone at some point that Black Celebration was the album where they really became Depeche Mode. Then I went back and refreshed my memory and realized that with every album they did, they became Depeche Mode all over again. In fact, I'm just listening to Speak and Spell. They were already Depeche Mode.

They've done some of the most beautiful ballads I've ever heard. They make me all sniffly. (Except for "One Caress," which I'm not crazy for. It's just OK.)

I don't know why 101 was so popular, except it's DM live. It's one of the worst live albums I've ever heard.

I'm still making up my mind about Playing the Angel. Songs of Faith and Devotion is still my favorite, I think. I like the way they hit you over the head with this wall of sound on "Walking In My Shoes" and "In Your Room."

The funny thing is, rock is not about subtlety, but they are pretty subtle. Except when they're not. Take "Halo," for example. I think it should be the anthem for everyone who despises the Dobson Gang -- except, of course, the Dobsons wouldn't get it. Too many layers of meaning.

Strangely enough, a lot of their songs are about the sacred, in some form. Of course, by normal standards, they're also totally blasphemous.

Now That I'm Calmer

Suddenly, the Army moves into action. From this morning's WaPo:

Walter Reed and Army officials have been "meeting continuously for three days" since the articles began appearing [in the Washington Post], Weightman said. A large roundtable meeting with Army and Defense Department officials will take place at the Pentagon early this morning to continue talks about improvements in the outpatient system, he added.

Weightman said the medical center has received an outpouring of concern about conditions and procedures since the articles appeared and has taken steps to improve what soldiers and their families describe as a messy battlefield of bureaucratic problems and mistreatment.

"We're starting to attack how we'll fix and mitigate" some of the problems, he said.

Of course, why does it take a series of articles in one of the country's leading papers to get this started? Why isn't there anyone in the hierarchy who can take a look and say "This is unacceptable" and make things happen?

Of course, things like this probably have an impact:

For the past three years, Michael J. Wagner directed the Army's largest effort to help the most vulnerable soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. His office in Room 3E01 of the world-renowned hospital was supposed to match big-hearted donors with thousands of wounded soldiers who could not afford to feed their children, pay mortgages, buy plane tickets or put up visiting families in nearby hotels.

But while he was being paid to provide this vital service to patients, outpatients and their relations, Wagner was also seeking funders and soliciting donations for his own new charity, based in Texas, according to documents and interviews with current and former staff members. Some families also said Wagner treated them callously and made it hard for them to receive assistance.

Wagner claims innocence; former staff members say not. It's just one example of the corruption, waste, inneficiency, and misdirected priorities in the military.

John Aravosis seems to have at least part of the explanation. Wonkette came up with the meat:

Turns out the VA “misunderstood” the DoD numbers, because the Pentagon doesn’t want anybody adding up the 25,000 or so troops hurt in “non combat” situations to the 22,000 or so it admits have been injured in battle.

Blimes says it hardly matters if somebody falls off a ladder or gets blown apart by insurgents — if they survive, they will be in the VA health-care system for the rest of their lives. A soldier shot by “friendly fire” is no less hurt than one hit by whoever it is we’re supposedly fighting over there.

As for the Pentagon, it has ensured Blimes will never find those numbers on DoD websites again, because all the damning evidence has just been changed on the military websites.

(There's a link to Bilmes' paper at Wonkette.)

We've seen this way too much from the Pentagon. The first reaction always seems to be to cover it up. How about a little transparency in the military? Or maybe a new security classification: CYA.

That is by no means the end of the horror stories. From Army Times:

A soldier goes before a physical evaluation board if a medical evaluation board — a team of doctors — determines he is not able to do his job because of his injury. The physical evaluation board then determines again if the soldier should stay in the military and, if not, how much the Defense Department will compensate the soldier. If the soldier receives a disability rating of 30 percent or higher, he gets a disability retirement check based on years of service, rank and the rating percentage. He and his family will also receive medical benefits for life. If the rating is lower than 30 percent, he gets a one-time severance payment.

Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, the number of soldiers wading through the paperwork, physicals and appointments has doubled at Walter Reed. According to a Defense Department directive, it should take a total of 120 days from start to finish, but the average stay for Walter Reed soldiers is 270 days. The soldiers navigate a complicated system with the help of counselors with little more experience — or rank — than they have, and who lack training, according to a March 2006 Government Accountability Office report.

On March 2, 2006, Col. Robert Norton, deputy director, Government Relations, for the Military Officers Association of America, told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs that since October 2003, medical evaluation boards have averaged 67 days and physical evaluation boards have taken between 87 and 280 days.

“Taken together, the convalescence, [medical evaluation board] and [physical evaluation board] processes appear to average between nine and 15½ months for Army soldiers,” he said.

Whether we'll see any action from Congress is an open issue at this point. There's hope, now that the Republicans are in the minority, although I don't expect much from the Senate -- I think Reid lacks the will and he doesn't have that stable a majority. As for the Republicans, Robert Novak, of all people, shines a little light on their attitude toward our vets (note that this is a year ago -- it's not like no one knew there were problems):

"We are looking more and more like the Democrats we replaced," a House committee chairman told me Wednesday. That comment came before he learned, to his surprise and sorrow, that the House Republican leadership had removed Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The extraordinary purge buttressed the growing impression of arrogance as Republicans enter their second decade of power in the House.

The party's House leaders purportedly removed Smith, a tireless promoter of spending for veterans, to save money. But two days earlier, the same leaders pulled every string during a closed-door caucus to defeat reforms against pork barrel spending. Those disparate moves are united by a common purpose of making decisions from the top down. Smith was a committee chairman who did not take orders. The defeated spending reforms came from conservatives outside the leadership. . . .

The leadership's problem with Smith has been his insatiable desire to make life better for veterans during 24 years on the Veterans Affairs committee (six years as vice chairman, four years as chairman). That fits the job description set by conservative Democrat Sonny Montgomery of Mississippi during his 12-year chairmanship.

Don't look for any help from the right side of the aisle. I think it's time for John Murtha to take a hand.

(Note to country: Do you get the feeling the Republicans don't really care about you?)

AmericaBlog has a summary of yesterday's stories on this.

OK, one last time: these are the young men and women who are out there fighting for us. (I never served. I missed the draft for Vietnam -- high lottery number -- for which I was more than thankful, and now I'm too old -- until the Pentagon gets even more desperate for recruits. I wouldn't have made a very good soldier anyway -- I don't respond well to authority. I admire those who can pull it off.) It's unconscionable that a bunch of draft-dodgers in the White House and Congress would stand there and accuse anyone who disagrees with their hormonally charged fantasies of world domination of not supporting the troops when they are pulling shit like this.

Now I'm pissed all over again.

Monday, February 19, 2007

This Makes Me Angry

Really, really angry. The next time some yahoo claims that anyone opposing the failed Bush war doesn't support the troops, refer them to this article from WaPo and ask them about the administration's "support for the troops."

While the hospital is a place of scrubbed-down order and daily miracles, with medical advances saving more soldiers than ever, the outpatients in the Other Walter Reed encounter a messy bureaucratic battlefield nearly as chaotic as the real battlefields they faced overseas.

On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling."

Is this the administration's "support": "OK, you've stopped bleeding. We're done with you."

Apparently it is. Here's Bush's help for veterans:

The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now — even as wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system.

Bush is using the cuts, critics say, to help fulfill his pledge to balance the budget by 2012.

After an increase sought for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years — White House budget documents assume consecutive cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 and a freeze thereafter.

The White House claims this doesn't represent a "policy shift." So they're playing with VA numbers to make the borrow-and-spend White House look good, I guess.

And here's a a follow-up to the original WaPo piece.

Perks and stardom do not come to every amputee. Sgt. David Thomas, a gunner with the Tennessee National Guard, spent his first three months at Walter Reed with no decent clothes; medics in Samarra had cut off his uniform. Heavily drugged, missing one leg and suffering from traumatic brain injury, David, 42, was finally told by a physical therapist to go to the Red Cross office, where he was given a T-shirt and sweat pants. He was awarded a Purple Heart but had no underwear.

David tangled with Walter Reed's image machine when he wanted to attend a ceremony for a fellow amputee, a Mexican national who was being granted U.S. citizenship by President Bush. A case worker quizzed him about what he would wear. It was summer, so David said shorts. The case manager said the media would be there and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row.

" 'Are you telling me that I can't go to the ceremony 'cause I'm an amputee?' " David recalled asking. "She said, 'No, I'm saying you need to wear pants.' "

David told the case worker, "I'm not ashamed of what I did, and y'all shouldn't be neither." When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it.

Look, we all know that bureaucracies are the devil's work, but this is beyond incompetence. This is what we get when "support for the troops" means sending them off to fight Halliburton's war and then forgetting about them when the war chews them up and spits them out. Gods forbid the prreznit should actually have to see someone his war has damaged.

So help me, if some Bush-wacko accuses me of not supporting the troops because I think we need to get out of there, I'll just deck the SOB.


Some additional commentary by Kevin Hayden at American Street.

And myths will arise about how anti-war liberals mistreated the troops. In reality, it’ll be liberals working in underpaid non-profit agency jobs that will be dressing the psychic wounds of the injured long after the rest of the country’s forgotten them.

He also links to this post by Philip Carter at Intel Dump.

This is the tip of the iceberg. The Walter Reed hospital sees the most seriously wounded military personnel who come home. These personnel often require significant medical, mental-health, and rehabilitative care, and this is a mammoth undertaking. I am extremely disturbed to see these problems at the military's flagship hospital. We owe our wounded sons and daughters more.

But these wounded are not the only warriors who are suffering right now. We have had roughly 1.4 million troops rotate through the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of operation. Hundreds of thousands of reservists have rotated through mobilizations since Sept. 11, 2001. Our military will likely remain engaged in these wars for the foreseeable future, and hundreds of thousands more will rotate through these two theaters. Yet despite these operational facts, the VA budget continues to atrophy. Veterans seeking disability ratings must wait between 6-12 months to receive an adjudication. Veterans without a service-connected disability rating who do not meet a stringent "means test" may be excluded from the system entirely. Although the VA has been rated as the nation's finest medical system, it increasingly cannot deliver that care to the population it exists to serve. Why?

Why, indeed?

Update II:

Given the huge amount of waste and embezzlement in Iraq on the part of the independent contractors and the no-bid contracts to well-connected firms, I guess we can see where the money that should be going to our vets is really headed. See this comment by Skippy at American Street. You can also see how the Investor's Business Daily is supporting the troops.

Brooks on Clinton

I never thought I'd find myself agreeing with David Brooks, and certainly not about Hillary Clinton. However,

Far be it from me to get in the middle of a liberal purge, but would anybody mind if I pointed out that the calls for Hillary Clinton to apologize for her support of the Iraq war are almost entirely bogus?

I mean, have the people calling for her apology actually read the speeches she delivered before the war? Have they read her remarks during the war resolution debate, when she specifically rejected a pre-emptive, unilateral attack on Saddam? Did they read the passages in which she called for a longer U.N. inspections regime and declared, “I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial”?

If they went back and read what Senator Clinton was saying before the war, they’d be surprised, as I was, by her approach....

If they went back and read what Senator Clinton was saying before the war, they’d be surprised, as I was, by her approach. And they’d learn something, as I did, about what kind of president she would make.

The Iraq war debate began in earnest in September 2002. At that point Clinton was saying in public what Colin Powell was saying in private: emphasizing the need to work through the U.N. and build a broad coalition to enforce inspections.

She delivered her Senate resolution speech on Oct. 10. It was Clintonian in character. On the one hand, she rejected the Bush policy of pre-emptive war. On the other hand, she also rejected the view that the international community “should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it.” Drawing on the lessons of Bosnia, she said sometimes the world had to act, even if the big powers couldn’t agree.

She sought a third way: more U.N. resolutions, more inspections, more diplomacy, with the threat of force reserved as a last resort. She was triangulating, but the Senate resolution offered her a binary choice. She voted yes in order to give Powell bipartisan leverage at the U.N.

The column, of course, is on Times Select. Here's a link, for those of you who subscribe. I'm taking this from John Aravosis' post at AmericaBlog.

I don't agree with Aravavosis' reservations about Clinton. I have other reservations, but "genuineness" is not one of them. I don't think there's a candidate at this point, on either side of the aisle, who is genuine. (That includes Obama.) Not being an either/or person myself, I have absolutely no problem with someone who's willing to look for a third way.

I also am fed up with public figures -- or anyone else -- having to apologize for everything they say or do. It's one thing when you're deliberately hateful, like the Dobson Gang (who are certainly not going to apologize for anything they say), but for making the best decision you can based on what you know at the time? Nope. You can shove that idea right up your PC butt.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Update on "Evolution in Kansas"

This is actually about the Texas part. As might be expected, Josh Marshall has some fascinating background.

Fingers are pointing all over the place.

Of Browsers

The newest wrinkle at a/k/a Hunter: If you are not using Internet Explorer (and perhaps AOL or Netscape), links to some of the galleries vanish off the page. I found this out when I used IE to view the site, and then went back in Firefox.

Rather unsettling.

At any rate, there is a new gallery up this morning, a series I did in 1996 called "Veil." Use IE and go see it.


I just checked with the link on this post, using Firefox, and everything's fine. Don't ask me to explain, because I can't.

Did I mention that Mercury's in retrograde?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Bloggers

Melissa McEwan has now resigned, hard on the heels of Amanda Marcotte's resignation yesterday. I don't like McEwan's decision, but I do like her announcement.

I regret to say that I have also resigned from the Edwards campaign. In spite of what was widely reported, I was not hired as a blogger, but a part-time technical advisor, which is the role I am vacating.

I would like to make very clear that the campaign did not push me out, nor was my resignation the back-end of some arrangement made last week. This was a decision I made, with the campaign's reluctant support, because my remaining the focus of sustained ideological attacks was inevitably making me a liability to the campaign, and making me increasingly uncomfortable with my and my family's level of exposure.

I understand that there will be progressive bloggers who feel I am making the wrong decision, and I offer my sincerest apologies to them. One of the hardest parts of this decision was feeling as though I'm letting down my peers, who have been so supportive.

There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation.

This is a win for no one.

I simply don't know enough about the inside dealings to know whether she's being entirely accurate here, but I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. And before anyone starts screaming that "Democrats get a free pass," let me point out that I'm willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt until I know better. That means that people like Bill Donohue don't get the benefit of the doubt. I know he's a liar. I know James Dobson's a liar. I know Bill O'Reilly's a liar. I'm not about to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't know that Melissa McEwan's a liar. Q.E.D.

Considering the kind of comments she's likely to have gotten, I can't really fault her.

Speaking of comments, I particularly liked this little gem:

This whole story broke because Bill Donahue and Michelle Malkin happened to look up the things these two bloggers posted on their blogs.

Happened to look up? Excuse me? You know as well as I do that they had every resource available to them combing the internet archives for dirt. Unless, of course, they were fed the news by the RNC.

The problem is that the actual writings, offensive and out of line as they may have been, are largely a sidebar to the real issue here, which, let me repeat, is Donohue's use of dirt that is essentially irrelevant to Edwards' campaign to try to tar Edwards. Suddenly Edwards' judgment is in question? Bullshit. Donohue's tactics are in question.

Evolution in Kansas

Yeah, I know, kind of an oxymoron. However. . . .

I happened to see a headline for this story about the Kansas School Board yesterday, but couldn't follow up at the time:

On Tuesday, the board dumped the 2005 standards that had downplayed evolution and encouraged educators to teach that evolution was a controversial theory without sound basis. The new standards are the result of the 2006 election that gave a majority to those who voted this week to treat evolution as a bedrock theory underpinning biological science education. The standards represent the work developed and continually promoted by a committee of scientists and educators, even after being rejected in 2005.

Note that the Kansas School Board has rewritten the science standards five times since 1998. All because of evolution. The last time, they changed the definition of science.

Meanwhile, a couple doors south in Texas:

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, used House operations Tuesday to deliver a memo from Georgia state Rep. Ben Bridges.

The memo assails what it calls "the evolution monopoly in the schools."

Mr. Bridges' memo claims that teaching evolution amounts to indoctrinating students in an ancient Jewish sect's beliefs.

"Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called 'secular evolution science' is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion," writes Mr. Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, Ga. He has argued against teaching of evolution in Georgia schools for several years.

He then refers to a Web site, www.fixedearth.com, that contains a model bill for state Legislatures to pass to attack instruction on evolution as an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

If Kansasa and Texas didn't exist, we'd have to invent them. Or settle for Florida. (I know -- this originated in Georgia, but Georgia is so schizophrenic I can't quite get a handle on it.)

Chisum himself, by the way, although he believes in creation, doesn't hold with teaching religion in schools. Refresshing, isn't it?

(Thanks to Pharyngula for this gem.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

OK -- Thought About It

Not only do you get new pictures, you get a whole new gallery. Just go to a/k/a Hunter and follow the links from the Galleries page.

Hmm. . . .

I'm debating whether to give you a new picture today. You had a bunch a couple of days ago, and I don't want you to get blase about it.

Thinking. . . .


At AmericaBlog, a response to Donald Hitchcock's letter to the Washington Blade (which I posted here) from DNC Treasurer Andy Tobias. Note that the response is not an official one, but from Tobias personally.

Like John, I know Paul and Donald personally -- have even done their laundry when they stayed with me -- and wish them well.

But there's a lot in Donald's letter that's off the mark and, unintentionally, counterproductive.

Donald says "Gov. Dean barely addressed the LGBT caucus with only 5 minutes worth of comments, and no questions from the floor."

The Governor's comments to the DNC LGBT caucus were well received by a packed room. And when questions were invited from the caucus, none of the caucus members chose to ask one. (One audience member did raise his hand but, as it turned out, only wanted to offer thanks rather than ask a question.) If Donald or Paul have questions not answered below, I'd be glad to try to answer them.

Donald says, ". . . my reasons for standing up to Gov. Dean's reluctance to treating our community with dignity and respect, an action for which I was fired. I claim that firing as a badge of honor."

Donald is of course entitled to his view, but having spent a lot of time observing the Governor ever since he signed -- and then spent months stumping his state in a bulletproof vest promoting -- the nation's first civil unions bill, I have seen him consistently demonstrate nothing but a respect for and commitment to our community.

As for his "badge of honor," Donald frequently attacks the DNC, assuming it will not attack him back -- and he's right. But as someone who likes Donald and who shares his commitment to our community, I can nonetheless say that I do not share his sense of outrage over the way he was treated.

Am I sorry it didn't work out? Very.

Do I agree with his view of why it didn't work out? No.

"After Gov. Dean became Chair of the DNC, two LGBT political positions were abolished, and two finance positions were added, for a total now of four positions in Finance and zero in Political."

After Governor Dean became chair, ALL the constituency desks were "abolished" in favor of a different organization the Governor and his staff thought would be more effective. You can argue that the old system was better -- or not -- but you can't argue that our community was singled out. The African-American desk was "abolished," the "Hispanic desk" was abolished -- ALL the desks were "abolished."

Instead, you have now at the DNC the head of the Northeast political desk who happens to be gay, and the head of the DNC training program -- who, pivotally, interacts with hundreds of our field organizers every year -- who happens to be gay (and lets them know it!). And, yes, you have several finance staffers who happen to be gay (raising money IS a big part of what the DNC does), including Brian Bond, who has a sterling resume within our community, and who spends a lot of his time interacting with other LGBT leaders who I think would vouch for his good efforts.

Indeed, from a practical point of view, Brian brings our community clout that Donald -- through no fault of his own -- could not. That's because, as it happens, Brian gave the DNC's chief operating officer his very first job in politics. That is the kind of relationship and level of trust within the DNC that Donald can't be faulted for not having had -- but that is good news for our community.

Donald and Paul have both criticized the level of financial support the DNC put into fighting the anti-marriage amendments.

After eight years as DNC treasurer, I have pretty much given up on getting Paul's or Donald's support, much as I admire their passion and good intentions.

Indeed, Paul has called upon major LGBT donors to *withhold* financial support from the national Democratic Party committees.

He and I obviously disagree that this is the best way to advance the goal of LGBT equality, which we both share.

The DNC has worked hard ever since I've been soliciting funds to elect candidates who in almost every instance were FAR better on LGBT issues than their opponents.

(Of the 107 Senators and Congressfolk with perfect 100% ratings from HRC in this past Congress, 103 were Democrats and only four Republicans. Of the 156 who rated ZERO, 152 were Republicans. The difference could hardly be more stark.)

In 2006, our principal focus was on the effort to win back the House and Senate. That's where the bulk of the LGBT money went. I, for one, am pleased with the results. Not only are our newly-empowered leaders like Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Barney Frank far more fair-minded than their predecessors; our victory in the Senate may also have an impact on judicial appointments that last for decades.

The Senate victory was so close that I think it can be fairly said it might not have happened without support from the DNC that was made possible by LGBT dollars.

Of course, that is true of other communities' money and effort as well. But I think those of us in the LGBT community should feel very proud that we pitched in. And even leaving pride aside, it was simply in our selfish best interest to do so.

Donald is quite right that only a little DNC money was diverted in 2006 specifically to fight the anti-marriage amendments. But one reason for that is simply that the precious "federal" dollars the DNC raises (precious because contributions are limited by law) are not *required* to fund statewide efforts . . . whereas *only* federal dollars can be used to fund federal elections.

So it makes sense for someone like me to give his federal dollars to the DNC, expecting them to be used mainly for federal purposes, while giving non-federal dollars to non-federal groups to fight the anti-marriage initiatives.

On the non-monetary side of fighting the anti-marriage initiatives, we were able to do more in some states than others. But there's no question that GLLC director Brian Bond worked hard to be helpful. I don't think the same can be said of efforts over at the RNC.

As unfortunate as it is that things did not work out with Donald, there are important, historic battles to be joined and won for our equal rights. Widening our margin in Congress and winning the White House in 2008 will only help. That's what the DNC is working hard to do. Onward and upwards, guys.

One of the key things to note about this is that what we're getting from the Democrats, albeit only one of them, is dialogue (if you can forgive the politically correct corporate boardroom diction). A reasoned discussion. What do you think the response would have been if the context had been the RNC? One of the reasons I think most gays are left-friendly is that the left has, historically, been more sympathetic to our community. Keep in mind that, Andrew Sullivan notwithstanding, American conservatives have historically espoused limited government along with personal freedom for some members of society. The only difference now is that the criteria for determining who gets the goodies have changed -- wealth and position are no longer enough. (And please keep in mind that, from a historical perspective, "conservative" does not equate to "Republican" at all times.)

While you're at it, check out the comments at "That Anti-Catholic Nonsense", where my ongoing discussion with Robbie of The Malcontent is taking place -- at least, this installment.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pictures of the Past

Take some time to wander through Olduvai George, the website of natural history illustrator Carl Buell. I find his images of early mammals the most interesting, but he has some beautiful paintings of more modern things, as well -- even a couple of choice landscapes.

He's also a thoughful commentator on the interface between science and art, and about evolution. No agenda, just taking evolutionary theory, as I do, as a given and wandering around from there. He has a wonderful piece on Pakicetus, and if you don't know what that is, just let your fingers do the walking and go find out. I like his posts because he not only talks about the science, but the ways scientists -- and illustrators -- work to make it comprehensible. Immensely valuable, that.

Well worth a visit. I just wish he'd post more.

Dream Ticket


Yes, there are people who are serious about this.

On Going Through Old Photographs

Which is actually the title of a poem I wrote -- one of the few that have been published.

I do that periodically, because I've found, in thirty years of making pictures, that my artist mind far outstrips my editor mind sometimes. It's become all too common for me to go back through old material and say to myself, "Why have I never printed that? It's fantastic!"

So, here's a little something I found recently.

Every once in a while I run into an image that has too many possibilities. I do most of my work in the darkroom (or in Photoshop), unlike those photographers who do their work in the camera. As a result, I make crappy negatives, but they have a lot of ways to go. Here's one that first appeared on the scanner roughly like this:

I looked at it a bit, and liked it, but I wanted to see what else was possible. So I played around a bit and came up with this:

I'm not sure which I like better.

Funny Du Jour

Q: What do you call a thousand heavily armed lesbians?
A: Militia Etheridge

From TBogg.

More on Donohue

In case you were wondering just what kind of scum Bill Donohue of the Catholic League (it even sounds medieval) is, here's a little piece he wrote defending child-molesting priests.

The overwhelming majority of those abused are postpubescent males—they are not children. Breaking the seal of the confessional could not have saved any of them; nor will it protect anyone in the future. Let’s remember a few basic facts.

There's a little thing called "age of consent laws" that applies here. In all cases, the victims were legal minors. Donohue is at pains not to point that out. Nor does he touch on the Church's reaction to reports of abuse over several decades, but offers this possibility:

The seal of the confessional does not apply to the penitent. If someone confesses knowledge of abuse to a priest, there is nothing to stop him from contacting the authorities. Nor is there something that would prevent the priest from asking such a penitent to discuss this further in his office, thereby freeing the priest from his confessional vows. The priest could also withhold absolution until such time as the authorities were notified. In short, there are ways a priest can fulfill his duties without sacrificing anyone.

And just how many times did this happen? Among those not threatened with excommunication if they talked, I mean.

In other words, let the Church police itself. It's done such a good job so far.

More on Donohue, along with some insights on Mel Gibson, at Orcinus. Scarily illuminating.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

From Under A Rock In Arkansas

Actually, he was in Rhode Island or someplace when he came out with these whoppers. Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas. Who's a primary contender for Idiot of the Week. From 365gay.com:

Republican Mike Huckabee said Friday that marriage shouldn't be treated as an experiment in response to questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter should have the right to wed.

The former Arkansas governor, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, said heterosexual marriages face enough challenges without adding new configurations to the mix.

OK -- this is one of those cognitive dissonance things. Who's trying to treat marriage as an experiment? Mary Cheney and Heather Poe love each other enough to have been together for fifteen years (without any official support from society at large) and now they want to start a family. What's experimental about this? What's the new configuration here? Two parents and child. Seems pretty standard to me. Is this somehow worse than single mother and child?

Frankly, if Huckabee can't step back and look at the larger picture, he's certainly not fit to be president.

Huckabee declined to comment on Mary Cheney's decision.

"I wouldn't get near specific cases," he said.

But when pressed, he said the historic definition of marriage has worked for so long for a reason.

"People have a right to decide how they live their lives. But they have to respect not changing the definition of marriage," said Huckabee, who served as a pastor in Baptist churches before becoming governor in 1996.

Notice he is avoiding specifics. Maybe because if you have to deal with real people and the damage you're doing them, you don't feel so virtuous? Just sayin'.

Another version of the right defining the discourse. No one wants to change the definition of marriage, except to those who "define" marriage very tightly to fit their own worldview. Two people who love each other and want to be a family, with or without children. How hard is that?

I guess it's only hard when you have to confront real people with your smallness.

Here's one that just doesn't compute at all:

In 2006, when the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a ban on gay foster parents that had been put in by a state board, Huckabee said through a spokeswoman: "I'm very disappointed that the court seems more interested in what's good for gay couples than what's good for children needing foster care."

Another WTF? comment from the rabid right.

That Anti-Catholic Nonsense

Y'know, between Bill Donohue and the Pope, I think it's a wonder there's anyone who's not anti-Catholic.

I was going to dismiss the whole issue with that comment, but my reading this morning has brought up some interesting insights.

See this post by Glenn Greenwald on what the real significance of this whole "anti-Catholic bloggers" mess is. Greenwald has further comments here. And here's Sara Robinson in rare form on the Donohue strategy. It was written before Edwards decided to keep his bloggers -- or before he "rehired" them, and touches on my reservation about the whole thing: it took pressure from the netroots, apparently, for Edwards not to cave in to Donohue. That bothers me a lot. I think his response should have been, right from the start, "Bill Who? Do you have a question on a real issue?"

I think both Greenwald and Robinson hit some important points: public discourse in this country has been dominated by right-wing extremists for more than a decade -- really, their influence goes back to the 1980s, when Reagan used them to gain power, but also gave them legitimacy and a forum. (This is the same Reagan whom conservatives praise as the greatest president of the twentieth century. He is also the one who created the "imperial presidency," let us not forget.) The mainstream media has bought into the diction of the radical right, and even worse, has stopped questioning the assumptions within which our discourse is framed. The blogosphere is our only recourse, so I don't find it paranoid at all that Robinson advances the idea that one goal of the right is to silence us. (The historian in me reflects that history is, after all, a series of reactions, and we're just suffering through the reaction to the 1960s. As I remarked to a younger friend, "I realize your generation marks the end of civilization as we know it, but it's pretty annoying to have to live through it.")

From the other side of the aisle, this also touches on my exchanges with Robbie of The Malcontent about Mary Cheney and the reaction of "gay politics." (We really have to be more precise about what that means, otherwise we're getting nowhere -- precision, alas, seems to be another victim of the current mode. I do note, however, after reading several recent posts at The Malcontent, that Matt and Robbie seem to have a common response to certain questions: the left is always wrong, especially the gay left, and is moreover hateful about it. In Matt's post touching on the blogger controversy, the bloggers, of course, are totally wrong and evil; there didn't seem to be any question that Donohue's motives are of the purest. [There are other issues here, but this is not the place for them. Let's just say that I see the post as underhanded, at best.] I can see why the boys at GayPatriot find them soulmates. Considering that observation, perhaps imprecision is merely part of the arsenal, much in the way that creationists skate among various meanings of "theory." Actually defining what they were talking about would kill their "controversy." Just sayin'.) It's a context in which any criticism of the right is seen as based on a double standard (as though they don't), without reference to how deserving of criticism they are. As I stated, I think the Cheneys, father and daughter, deserve whatever brickbats we can throw: they are not our friends, they are out for themselves and themselves only. I'm not about to give Mary Cheney a pass because her closet has a revolving door. (Known in GayPatriotspeak as "out and proud.") This doesn't mean I won't criticize a Democrat when I don't think they're right, but I'm going to save my harshest comments for those who I think are doing to most damage to my community. Sorry, but Nancy Pelosi is not in the running.

At any rate, going back to Robinson's comments, the blogosphere is democracy in action, spontaneous, rough, dirty, and offensive. I've often said that you have to have a fairly thick skin to survive in a democracy, and I still have that opinion. You will maintain my respect if you show integrity and honesty, although you don't need to be particularly genteel about it (come to think of it, I've used a couple of naughty words myself from time to time) and if you don't, take the consequences. I'm not prepared to moderate my stance at all for some poseur like Bill Donohue, whose religiosity is arguably nothing more than a front for a politcal agenda. My only comment to him is "Grow up and get a life." (And even that, I think, gives him too much credibility -- after all, where are his comments from the time those "objectionable" posts were first available?)

PS -- if you scroll down the recent posts at Eschaton, Atrios has a wealth of comments by Donohue fully illustrating just what a piece of slime he is.

And this is the spokesman for American Catholics?


Jane Galt has some interesting thoughts on this, but I think she misses a point: If there were the slightest reason to believe that Donohue's outcry rested primarily, or even in large part, on genuine religious feeling, I daresay my reacton would be quite different. I don't believe it for a minute.

Beginning with a quote from Ampersand, she goes on to make what to me is the major error:

What the right is doing here is attempting to shift the Overton Window of Political Possibilities. The “window” is the space of acceptable ideas for political discourse. So, for instance, right now being either pro-choice or pro-life falls inside the window; it is mainstream and acceptable to hold either view. But being (say) pro-Nazi falls outside that window; being pro-Nazi means that you’ll get fired from political campaigns, because your views are that far outside of the window of accepted political views.

Should criticizing (and even making fun of) the political positions of the Catholic church, the Pope, and the conservative Christian movement be “within the window” of acceptable views? Or should criticizing the Pope — even on perfectly true grounds, such as pointing out that he supports pro-life and anti-gay policies — be outside the window of what it’s politically acceptable to say and to criticize?

I think this captures the essence of the argument, although I'm not sure that Amp is right about this being an attempt to shift it; my admittedly limited knowlege of Non-Coastal-Elite-America indicates that in most of the country, slagging off the Pope, or indeed making fun of religion qua religion, is mostly verboten.

The error is simply that the right has so distorted the discourse in this country that attacking (or satirizing) the political agenda of someone like Donohue (or the Pope, for that matter, who, let us remember, has said that separation of church and state is "a myth" and who is nothing if not a politican) is equated, almost automatically, with attacking his religion. This is an entirely predictable result of equating God with, for example, the Republican Party, not that it's a desirable result. We can lay it at the feet of Donohue's spiritual forebears, so to speak -- Robertson, Falwell, and their ilk, who repeatedly conflated their religion and their politics -- and those outside of that small coterie who let them get away with it. And, to the rejoinder that in their minds their religion and their politics are inseparable (the Rushdooney Effect), I say "So what?" As far as I can see, that's an example of taking political correctness way too far. If, living in a country founded on secularism, they can't separate their beliefs from the common good, and go so far as to insist that only their beliefs have any validity as a basis for our society, then I reiterate: they are not only un-American, they are anti-American.

(I got this link from Andrew Sullivan. It seems to be his only comment on the situation, which surprises me -- I would have thought that anything that so seamlessly intertwines the Catholic church and the Christianists would merit more scrutiny from him.)

Update II

(Channeling Glenn Greenwald again.) Steve Gilliard at Newsblog calls it just about the way I see it:

This is NOT about bloggers, but allowing the right to still determine the agenda of Democrats.

It's about allowing the right to determine agendas, period. That's Donohue's whole game. And Dobson's, and Limbaugh's, and Wildmon's, and. .

Friday, February 09, 2007

Scanner News

Finally! I found the magic button that got me back to optimum working conditions. Spent yesterday afternoon scanning my little brains out.

However, considering that I'm trying to go through thirty years of my work, I'm going to have to limit the number of images in the galleries. If I get enough positive response (hint, hint), I'll consider adding more in each group.

Pelosi's Plane

Can we lay this to rest now? Here's a statement from the House Sargeant at Arms:

February 8, 2007

As the Sergeant at Arms, I have the responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the House of Representatives, to include the Speaker of the House. The Speaker requires additional precautions due to her responsibilities as the leader of the House and her Constitutional position as second in the line of succession to the presidency.

In a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the Speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.

Via Josh Marshall.

Coming Soon To A Natural History Museum Near You

I'm waiting for this to start happening here -- if it hasn't already:

[Bishop Boniface] Adoyo, the Chairman of Evangelical Alliance of Kenya that represents 35 churches with a membership of six million faithful, says the theory confuses children who frequent the museum on educational tours. "I'm worried that children will believe we evolved from monkeys. Yet this is not the truth that's killing our faith," he says.

Saturday Standard has learnt that the alliance has enlisted a number of Western institutions to raise funds for anti-hominid campaigns in the media and through religious sermons.

The church plans to hold major demonstrations to the museum to press for the removal of the bones.

There is a strong element of denial of reality here:

But Adoyo dismisses the theory as "mere speculations".

He argues that the theory presents assumptions as facts. He says it takes more faith to believe in the theories than that God created man. "These are just speculations yet we believe in them. ...Man is uniquely created; there is nothing concrete about the evolution theory and that is why we as Christians are uncomfortable with the museum's plans to display the hominids and narrate the story of evolution as if it is the truth," he explains.

Reminds me of our home-grown creationists (who are probably the ones funding this campaign).

And of course, he has to play the race card:

But the NPC cleric insists that evolution is an archaic theory meant to perpetuate racism. "Even Darwin on his death bed expressed surprise that people believed his theory," Adoyo says. "Pure science has overtaken palaeontology.

This one got me:

The advent of DNA testing has helped us to trace the origin of man to Adam and Eve," he says. "Palaeontologists do not want to admit this because it will crumble their scientific edifice," he says.

This is sort of staggering, aside from simply not being true. RNA has been traced back to a group of women in Africa about 200,000 years ago, as I recall, who are lumped together metaphorically as "Eve" (but I forget -- fundamentalists don't admit to metaphor -- if they did, they wouldn't be fundamentalists). DNA mapping has led to the inescapable conclusion that we are closely related to chimpanzees and gorillas.

This goes back to Jack Balkin's comments on Ted Haggard, which I mentioned in my last post on that subject. The mindset seems to be that the universe is ordered the way you've been told by highest authority that it's ordered, and nothing that contradicts that exists. They just don't see it, even though they're staring it in the face. I have to admit, it's a way of looking at the world that I don't understand at all.

(Sidebar: I'm cynical enough that I have a hard time swallowing that anyone acts this way from pure religious belief and not from some political agenda. I admit it. I don't understand this attitude that "everyone must believe as I believe and my beliefs must be the law of the land" (nice little dose of proto-fascism there), probably because my own religion recognizes that there are many paths to Truth. I simply feel that those who insist on the unalterable rightness of their beliefs are up to something. It doesn't help that they usually are.)

Free Rides

Given the blanket condemnation of "gay politics" by Robbie that led to the exchange in this post, I though this letter from Donald Hitchcock was interesting.

Washington Blade

DNC Not Ready to Make Nice

Dear Editor,

After attending the recent Democratic National Committee LGBT Caucus meeting, it reaffirmed for me my reasons for standing up to Gov. Dean’s reluctance to treating our community with dignity and respect, an action for which I was fired. I claim that firing as a badge of honor.

Gov. Dean barely addressed the LGBT caucus with only 5 minutes worth of comments, and no questions from the floor. And unfortunately, his talking points had shifted from the comprehensive plan to address the anti-LGBT state ballot measures offered last year to throwing only “a little bit of money” into the states at the end of the fight. So much for the strategy to combat them that he touted in the LGBT press prior to the elections. A recent survey shows that the DNC gave states less than $20,000 in-total, despite having raised almost $2 million from the LGBT community in 2006. But we will never know the exact amount given to state groups since the DNC is embarrassed to officially release the numbers.

The most shocking revelation during the meeting was that Gov. Dean misspoke by claiming that there were no 2006 LGBT exit-polling numbers, stating that “people won’t admit that they are gay” to pollsters while walking out of the voting booth. However, as many of us know, there are indeed exit polls reporting that approximately 80% of LGBT voters voted Democratic. Obviously, either his staff still does not have access to brief him on our issues, or he is not listening. I wonder if he would address any other constituency group, not knowing this basic information.

At the meeting, LGBT finance staff and key fundraisers did sit at the Caucus table, as before, but what is different is that lately we seem to be treated solely as an ATM for the party, with our civil rights seeming an afterthought or burden. After Gov. Dean became Chair of the DNC, two LGBT political positions were abolished, and two finance positions were added, for a total now of four positions in Finance and zero in Political. Given the meeting, it’s obvious that we continue to be invited to the table, pay for the meal, but we are not allowed to eat.

I have great faith in the community to continue to ask questions, and hold our party accountable. That is the only way real progress can be made.


Donald Hitchcock
Washington, DC

Editors Note: Donald Hitchcock is the former Director of the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee

OK -- open letter from a gay former DNC staffer to a gay publication. Tell me again how we're giving the Democrats a pass.

(Reposted from AmericaBlog.)

Thursday, February 08, 2007


There arent's words in my vocabulary for this one. From WaPo:

Five of the seven Senate signatories to yesterday's letter [demanding a vote on the Warner resolution] -- including Warner, the bipartisan resolution's chief author -- had voted Monday to block the debate.


Oh, for the love of Pete! Can we get a grip, please? The commercial as aired was faintly funny and satirical. Even the alternative endings can be read that way, although they're a bit on the edge. They can all very easily be interpreted as a slap against homophobia. So will all those activists with knots in their panties please run right out to (pick one: Neiman-Marcus, Sears, WalMart) and pick up a sense of proportion?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reply to Robbie

Here is the comment left by Robbie of The Malcontent, in italics, on this post, with my comments in roman. I had thought I would probably just dump it in the comments on the original post, but he raises some issues that I think need to be addressed more widely. Just for convenience, here'a a link to his original post.

Well, for a start, I'm nowhere near as partisan or right-wing as Gay Patriot tends to be. I'm not a Republican, I don't like the GOP, and I typically have many harsh remarks for prominent figures on the Right. Not important in the larger scheme of your post, but I dislike being miscategorized at the outset.

I've reviewed my post and can's seem to find any categorization of you. Yes, I made several comments about the general tone of your post, but nowhere that I can find did I comment on your politics, which I don't know. (Although if you're talking about my reference to the right-wing historical selectivity gene, that was meant more for GayPatriot than you, although your post shows enough evidence of it that I can say "if the shoe fits, wear it.")

You seem to see my post through the prism of Republican apology. However, as written, my approach is less interested in Republicans as swell folks than gay politics as a hypocrisy-filled, double-standarding, unserious mess based in little more than narrow partisan ideology and heaps of emotionalism.

My beef (which you ignore) is that Mary Cheney is held to a standard that Democrats simply are not. She's held to a standard that most prominent gay people are not - if they possess the correct politics.

While you say Dick Cheney punted by asserting the president has the final say on policy, this is nothing compared to John Kerry lobbying for the repeal of gay marriage in Massachusettes. Both errors, I think, but the objectively worse decision is the man who would have the primary say in policy throwing gays under the bus vs. a second in command.

But the typical gay response to both men could not be more different. Instead of seeing individual positions, both are lumped into their parties. Democrats good, Republicans evil. My approach on these things is to give credit where due to individuals regardless of party.

The major question here is, "Who promulgates this 'typical gay response'?" I seem to remember both Pam Spaulding and John Aravosis raking Kerry over the coals for his position on gay marriage (not to mention Andrew Sullivan, who supported Kerry otherwise), and I, in my own small way, certainly did not give him a pass (I'd quote, but my archives from the old site are history). In the blogosphere, at least, I don't see Mary Cheney being held to a stricter standard, although I have to say that it might be justified to do so -- she's an out lesbian working against gay interests. No, I don't expect the same level of commitment from a straight who is by and large sympathetic, if not ready to jump on board for the most difficult issue facing us.

If you're talking about the national organizations such as HRC, I certainly have no faith in them and I've said so, time and again. I understand that they're working on a long-term strategy involving basic rights, and the marriage thing took them by surprise. By the same token, they've proven themselves unable to respond effectively to the issues of the day, and by their inactivity have done us considerable damage. I don't agree with allying ourselves to a party, and I think it's a stupid move. HRC should go back to supporting individual candidates, no matter their affiliation, if they meet our criteria for support.

If the Cheneys are going to be held to an utterly unforgiving standard, then much of the Democratic party must be as well. That doesn't happen, well, ever. I realize the HRC's full time job now involves full on fellatio of one political party - especially during this last election where they cheered on the election of people who support the FMA - but I do believe in having some integrity on these matters.

This only points up the validity of my comments on the degree of venom you seem to lavish on the left, or, in your parlance, "gay politics." As for the HRC, I understand their strategy, I think -- gettting Democrats into office was the major priority in this election -- but again, I don't agree with them and I think they're wasting valuable resources. In practical terms, though I'm not ready to give any Democrat a pass just because he or she is on the left, a Democrat is, at this point, much more likely to be someone we can work with. That doesn't mean anything they say or do is OK, and aside from HRC becoming an adjunct of the Democratic Party, I don't know of anyone who is willing to let them off the hook. I do take exception to lumping us all together, since there are numerous critics of HRC within the ranks of gay America, and they're not all on the right.

As for integrity, I fear we are long past the point where you can expect any in politics. To insist that a candidate adhere to the party line in all respects may be, in your eyes, "integrity," but in real life, it's a good way to wind up with no one to support.

Mary's not perfect. Her on again, off again lesbianism is schizophrentic at best. But given her family's position, I understand it. I don't agree with it - I never ever said I have - but I have sympathy for someone trying to maintain a very careful balance when it comes to leading her own life while tap-dancing in such a way that doesn't harm her father's political career.

It's not ideal, but it really is no different from a lot of behavior gay publications have no problem with in Democrats. John Kerry supported a repeal of gay marriage in his home state, and the apologists were out in full force. "Well, that's just what he has to do . . ."

Cheney's position was/is no different from a whole host of Democrats. From Obama to Edwards to Clinton, they're all mush-mouthed and ready to pass the subject at the first opportune moment. And again, isn't it objectively worse when the presidential candidate takes these positions over a vice-presidential one?

As far as I can tell, the gay community has reservations about the entire field of candidates at this point. However, considering how the Republican side of the roster is stacking up, any of the Democrats are preferable. Should we be supporting Sam Brownback or Mitt Romney? I don't think so. It's hard to tell whether Cheney has had any influence on the administration on gay issues, since the White House's attitude toward the religious right is an open secret at this point, and it's not pretty. Sure, the rhetoric is muted -- it was never very strident from that direction to begin with -- but there's been no action and no counter moves. I think we're safe in saying that, Cheney's public positions notwithstanding, these are not our partisans. When Cheney is making trips over to the Hill to lobby in support of ENDA, then I might change my view.

Cheney's out, she's not in an enviable position given her family, but she's still working to carve a place for herself in a very awkward environment. It's not the best situation, but I admire her for being open in a party as hostile to her as the Republicans. I think once her father is out of office, she'll be even more vocal about gay issues. Especially if she remains in Virginia.

It's important to have prominent, out Republicans if we're going to make gay rights a human thing rather than allow forces on both sides to minimize it as a partisan, easily marginalized special interest (the HRC strategy).

If I'm not as harsh on her as other people, perhaps it's because I don't believe in piling on when it isn't necessary, and I object to the self-righteous tone of those who yell and scream at a Mary while giving quiet hand-jobs to their political allies who behave in a very similar manner.

We either have standards and integrity, or we don't. Unfortunately, the loudest voices in GLBT discourse almost always come firmly down on the side of don't.

Your last comment sort of encapsulates the gist of my post, and I'm going to turn your own position around on you: why should Mary Cheney, who by all available evidence is as self-servingly hypocritical as any other public figure you want to name, be defended by any gay person in the country? Not for her integrity, that's for sure. What good does it do us to have a prominent, out Republicans (who is out when it suits her purposes, but calls people who refer quite legitimately to her orientation dirty names on television when it doesn't suit her agenda) standing there like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth when she has spent her entire career not only not giving a damn about the community at large but working against it for her own gain? Her work at Coors was nothing more than trading on her own right-wing connections to milk money out of the gay community to fund more right-wing nutjobs while she was making a very comfortable living at it. I'm supposed to give her a break? When pigs make poetry.

Mary Cheney has wealth and position, which most of us don't, and is going to be insulated from a lot of nastiness no matter where she lives. Do you honestly think anyone in Virginia is going to give her grief about Heather and their relationship? Not in this universe.

For all your talk about a double standard, I seem to see strong evidence of it in everything you've said regarding criticism of Mary Cheney. The gay community in this country is as diverse as any other, and probably more so than most, and to heap contumely (I love that phrase) on us because somebody criticized the Cheneys while giving Democrats a nod (and frankly, for our own interests, that makes a lot of sense) strikes me as more than a little confused. I'm still waiting for someone to point out this "typical gay response" when all I can see is the very broad range of opinion that is what we should be expecting.

If you want to take the gay press, the national rights organizations, or any other part of the gay community to task, do it for something they've done, not because they are quite justifiably criticizing someone who deserves it. Coming down hard on the Cheneys is not much indication of a double standard.

Frankly, you have more deserving targets out there than our own.