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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Big Mess

I am without Internet access for a while, so posting is going to be light to nonexistent until I get everything ironed out.

Hang in there

Monday, October 29, 2007

"Dog Pile on the Wabbit!"

Today's portrait of shame is Andrew Sullivan in his role as the Elmer Fudd of cultural commentators.

Our case in point is his post on this article by Selwyn Duke. The article itself is pretty much drivel -- straw man followed by red herring followed by bald assertions, misrepresentations, and insane cognitive leaps, none of which say anything at all about racism. The article itself is just more left-bashing, which Sullivan picks up. What's interesting here is the segment that Sullivan quoted with a comment about the "left's faith-based science." (Snicker.) Sullivan has a habit of plopping a paragraph from someone else's screed into his blog with a semi-snide comment, or none at all, I guess so that he can go back later and start flip-flopping on what he really thinks in true conservative fashion when someone calls him on it.

What is the truth about racial differences? For one thing, is it logical and rational to claim that, except for appearance and a few diseases and conditions of the body, every group is the same in every way?

This is the left's implication, and it's absurd. It seems especially odd when you consider that most of these inquisitors are secularists who subscribe to the theory of evolution. Yet, despite their belief that different groups "evolved" in completely different parts of the world, operating in different environments and subject to different stresses, they would have us believe that all groups are identical in terms of the multitude of man's talents and in every single measure of mental capacity. Why, miracle of miracles, all these two-legged cosmic accidents, the product of a billions-of-years journey from the primordial soup to primacy among creatures, whose evolution was influenced by perhaps millions of factors, wound up being precisely the same. It's really the best argument for God I've ever heard, as such a statistical impossibility could only exist if it was ordained by the one with whom all things are possible.

Notice how Duke not only manages to slam "the left," but also takes a swipe at those who give credit to reality-based science, in this case evolution -- why am I not surprised?.

The reality of the matter is, of course, that race and race-based differences are much more complex than either Duke or Sullivan is prepared to admit. Duke seems to be basing his argument on genetic/morphological data, which misses the point completely. Anyone who has been following work in the Human Genome Project or any of the historical genetic research done over the past several decades knows that the actual genetic difference between races is too small to measure. (Consider that the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees is somewhere on the order of 2% or less. That doesn't leave a lot of room for significant differences between a Norwegian and a Hausa. Consider that the mitochondrial DNA of representatives of just about every modern human population has been traced back to a small group of women in Africa about 200,000 years ago. To say modern humans "evolved" is different areas is misleading at best.) If you want to talk about differences in crime rates, out-of-wedlock births, education, "achievement," you have to look at cultural and historical markers, which Duke doesn't do -- in fact, there's barely any admission that such things exist.

(I will stipulate that there might be a biological basis for racism, based on the fact that the hominids, and the whole range of our relatives in general, with a very few exceptions, seem to have a deep sense of "us" and "other." That's adaptive -- we are social animals, and seem to have done quite well on that basis. Does this explain the current fuss on immigration? No. But it's a potential starting point, or would be except for the fact that such basic aspects of human behavior wind up with so many cultural overlays that a direct causal effect is apparently impossible to trace. And how do you explain those who have no problem with immigrants?)

No, it's much easier to land on "the left" because of the reaction to remarks from an important and influential biologist that were, at the very least, fuzzy and ill-defined, if not irresponsible, and to ascribe his repudiation of those remarks to the "left-wing thought police." (Excuse me -- Watson screwed up. He admits he screwed up. Selwyn Duke, whoever that is, however, sees it as an excuse to project the right-wing approach to public discourse onto the left. Sullivan, as is usual when he's operating from total ignorance, jumps on the bandwagon, gods know why. The man's reasoning power is apparently sadly diminished.)

The article, as you'll notice, appears on a site titled "American Thinker." It's to laugh.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stand Up

Christy Hardin Smith has the full text of Chris Dodd's speech in the Senate yesterday. Read it. Pass it along. Make sure everyone you know sees it.

Dodd is shaping up into the only real leader running for president.

And as an echo of this, read this editorial by Scott Wilson from the Port Townsend and Jefferson County (WA) Leader:

The wisdom of the people who wrote our nation's basic legal code remains intact. Executive power, especially in a time of high passion, must be restrained. Even the powerful must live within the law. The fact that our institutions forget this from time to time is a pattern we have seen before. Ultimately it's up to the common people to remember that freedom and liberty are not nouns, but verbs. They require constant vigilance and constant effort. Eventually little wins by the common people will add up to something significant.


As usual, Digby sums it up perfectly.

Getting What You Can Get

It seems that a trans-inclusive ENDA is not so easy. As it happens, Barney Frank has apparently been right and the leadership can't muster the votes for a fully inclusive bill. From The Hill:

Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.) and Ron Klein (Fla.), leaders of the class of freshman Democrats, carried a message to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday that their fellow first-term lawmakers did not want to vote on an amendment extending civil rights to transgender employees.

House Education and Labor panel Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.), whose committee passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, said he told the freshman lawmakers at their Wednesday breakfast with Pelosi that the amendment did not have the votes to pass and would not be brought to the House floor.

In addition, Miller told the freshmen he recognized that the amendment exposed the first-term lawmakers to political attacks from conservatives and liberals alike, said two sources who attended the breakfast.

I'm not sure how that amendment would expose anyone to attacks from the left, but then I can't figure out how Congress sees anything anyway. Apparently Tammy Baldwin is now considering withdrawing her amendment.

I actually have gone over Jillian Todd Weiss' response to Dale Carpenter's comments on Lambda Legal's analysis of the legal protections for transgenders, which I touched on in this post. Carpenter's comments are here; Weiss' are here. Lambda's original letter to Barney Frank is here (pdf).

To a certain extent, with this latest wrinkle, this is all moot -- Lambda had earlier rethought its position and backed off somewhat, Baldwin's trans-inclusive amendment is probably not going to see the light of day, and it may have endangered the entire bill, which Bush will veto anyway because it's "unconstitutional and abridges religious freedom" (another crock of merda from the White House -- that's an outright lie).

Summary version: Lambda built its case largely on Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble, which was not the best tactic -- the plaintiff in that proceeding didn't really have much of a case, and the court's decision did not hinge on gender-identity discrimination at all.

Back to the Carpenter/Weiss bit: Carpenter's comments are tightly argued and quite clear. Weiss, not so much. For example, Weiss notes this:

2) federal courts, particularly in conservative areas of the country, have made sharp and absurd distinctions between sex, gender stereotyping and sexual orientation and would continue to do so because of the anti-gay shape of federal law, whereas state courts in liberal states with sexual-orientation-only laws do not have the same problem.

But Carpenter has already answered that issue, with his Title VII argument: the courts have been very leery in their approach to this argument because of the "danger" of using it to sneak in protections based on sexual orientation, but there is now a body of case law based on Title VII that does protect gender expression. ENDA would most likely lessen the hesitancy on the part of the courts appreciably, according to Carpenter. Weiss disputes that, but winds with a quote from an ABA paper that supports Carpenter's interpretation, as far as I can see. Weiss sums it up by saying:

In other words, gender expression is a notion related to, but not the same as, sexual orientation, and one does not justify the other. Thus, by the same token, sexual-orientation-only ENDA would not have helped her with the gender expression claim. This would have been a major problem for Dawson, whom the court said had no evidence pointing to sexual orientation discrimination. This cuts against the sexual-orientation-only ENDA, not in favor of it.

This seems to wander off in some direction of its own. I honestly don't see how you can say that a mortally weak case in a sexual-orientation/gender expression lawsuit illustrates anything regarding the probable effects of ENDA, with or without trans protections. Dawson is largely irrelevant to this whole discussion, as far as I can see, and Lambda has recognized that.

That's only one example of what I think is a series of misreadings and misinterpretations of Carpenter's arguments by Weiss. Granted, I'm not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV (sorry -- I couldn't resist that). I only used to write their documents for them, because the ones I worked for couldn't express themselves very well, but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to employ a little logic. The bottom line is that I didn't find Weiss' comments persuasive, either in substance or in tone. She doesn't really seem to have met Carpenter's arguments very effectively.

As I say, this is all pretty much moot at this point, since events don't wait for us to find time to read and think very often (not to mention trying to fit our lives into whatever space is left over), Lambda has revised its position, and the politics of getting this bill passed has changed radically. It would be nice if we could count on the Democrats to march in step on this, but then, I've never tried to herd cats, either.

I do think that the House leadership has it right on one or two points: if we tack the trans-protection language back onto ENDA (which a number of sources keep calling the "original" language, which it is not), it will go down. And, it looks fairly certain that a trans-inclusive amendment will fail. Either scenario is pretty damaging to the long-term interests of trans people, and in the first, they manage to take gays and lesbians down with them.

So let's get what we can get, and not put our trans fellows at risk of having to wait even longer for what should be a no-brainer but in this country, regrettably, is not.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kissin' Cousins

Paleoanthropology note for the day:

Some Neanderthals may have had fair skin and red hair, giving them an appearance resembling modern Europeans, an international team of researchers said on Thursday.

The researchers homed in on the MC1R gene linked to hair and skin color and used DNA analysis to find a variation that produced the same kind of pigmentation changes as in humans with red hair and pale skin. . . .

The study, published in the journal Science, comes a week after another set of researchers looking at a different gene said Neanderthals may have been capable of sophisticated speech.

John McKay at archy takes this as evidence of something:

This is just one more piece of evidence that supports my theory that the first people were Scots-Irish and that the rest of you are living on our planet due to our good nature and generous spirit.

Not to tout my own Scots-Irish background (by way of Appalachia, of course), but I'm sure there's something to that. I have a major weakness for the big, red-headed caveman type.

Articulate, not so much.

Here's a more substantial article on these findings.

Footnote: Actually, being the kind of "let's follow this interesting looking tangent" sort of person I am, I just spent a fascinating few minutes reading about Neandertals according to various sources. (I also discovered a wonderful new search engine/website, Answers.com.) It's not only a fascinating bunch of entries on Neandertal man, but also a good look at the variations on interpretation of evidence in science, starting with the decision to classify Neandertals as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (that is, me and you) or a species of its own, which has direct implications for the provenance of, say, the red-headed gene in modern human populations (i.e., independent origin, which is certainly not out of the question, or by direct descent, which ups my chances of finding my own red-headed caveman).

Another Footnote:

Under the heading of "this looks like an interesting tangent":

Fascinating article on the evolution of maize from SF Matheson at Quintessence of Dust. (Another new and very interesting blog.) Very good, clear article on the evolution of teosinte into our everyday American corn (maize) through the agency of selection -- and only selection. Very good explanations of some of the mechanisms involved. Use it next time you have to deal with the neighborhood creationist. (Thanks to PZ Myers.)

Yes, I just made up the word "frivoling" from the same root as "frivolous."


Andrew Sullivan acknowledges Jon Stewart's advocacy of equal rights for gays, which started me thinking: at EA Forums, I periodically come up short when one of our regulars has, for example, problems with Obama's position on SSM -- this straight woman with kids doesn't think he goes far enough and demands that we be treated equally. (The "she" in question is an amalgam that includes straight women with kids, without kids, straight men ditto, real conservatives, liberals, and everything in between.)

Hearts and minds, people. Hearts and minds.

Bless 'em.

Obama Follow-Up

A follow-up on the Obama/McClurkin controversy from Think On These Things, a pro-Obama site. It seems like a reasonable post, in the same way that the "moderate" left wing is "reasonable" -- which is simply to say that the conclusion is, predictably, "Why can't we all sit down and talk?"

One of the commenters gets it right:

Still, I’m unconvinced and unmoved by your attempted parallel. You cannot pray the gay away. There is nothing for me to say (and no way to “dialog”) with an “ex-gay” Preacher convinced he has all the answers and that I’m sinful and God abhors my “lifestyle” and I need to change something that’s as basic as my eye color in order to avoid eternal damnation. Were it a political position, we would have some room for discussion, but it is a religious doctrine, not subject to facts, science or reason.

I have no place at their table, and never will. They are not people I can compromise with.

The left has compromised itself almost out of existence. We see the results of this kind of compromise in the workings of Congress -- take the confirmation of Leslie Southwick as an example, and the fate of the FISA bill, still TBD -- as well as the general tone of discourse in this country. And yet the moderates keep coming back and saying "Do it to me again."

As for Obama and McClurkin -- there isn't a gospel singer in the country who is pro-gay, or at least neutral? You have to find someone who is preaching a message based on ignorance and prejudice, and then come up with a white preacher to preach tolerance to black people? Excuse me?

On this kind of stage, everything you do has a message -- that's a part of contemporary public discourse that tends to be overshadowed by the specifics, but there's no getting around it. That may be good or not (I tend toward not, but I'm not making up the rules), but it's there.

Let me lay it out very simply: by choosing McClurkin for this tour, Obama has offended the gay community. That's built-in. You can say the gay community is being over-sensitive, but you can't tell me that there were no alternatives. Now, by choosing a white minister to counter McClurkin, Obama has reinforced the anti-gay prejudice in the black community by giving the message that gay is a white man's disease. Again, there were alternatives. You can sit there and try to justify this all over the place and keep moaning that we need to sit down and talk, but until you can tell me how to talk to people who unilaterally declared war on me and who dont' recognize my right to exist, pardon me if I have reservations.

The question is, why should I continue to be reasonable? I'm not being met with reason, I'm being met with lies and distortions. Being reasonable is only a recipe for defeat, and this fight is too important.

So pardon me if I'm prepared to come out swinging.

(Via Andrew Sullivan, who calls it "a sane post." Kee-rist!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sullivan and Evangelicals

Even Andrew Sullivan eventually gets it -- if you rub his nose in it.

I ran across this post on the fly sometime in the last couple of days and didn't have time to comment then. What did strike me was the overwhelming arrogance of the evangelical position on homosexuality, together with the cognitive dissonance of this comment from one of Sullivan's correspondents:

I’m for gay marriage, I’m for gay rights, I have many gay friends and bristle when my Christianist friends mention “They were gay, but really nice” or “He is gay, but seems like a great guy”, as if homosexuality is somehow incompatible with any other virtue.

But I cannot keep from standing on the ground to which my morals are attached. And so, on some distant day, once my friend has realized I still love and care for him, I will also have to tell him what my religious beliefs dictate concerning homosexual behavior. To stay silent would be to live as morally compromised a lie as those who choose not to come out of the closet.

If that's not a WTF? moment, I don't know what is.

Sullivan's comment:

But I understand that some evangelicals really do want to maintain legal proscriptions against gay relationships, while affecting tolerance in everyday life. Does that make them "bigots"? Not all of them, I'd say. Just reasons for us gay people to explain ourselves a lot better.

Yes, it does make them bigots -- just because your religion justifies your bigotry doesn't make it right. As for explaining myself? Sorry, I don't owe anyone an explanation -- I think, rather, they owe me an explanation for their attempts to cut me out of full citizenship.

At any rate, after hearing back from a few people, Sullian got it, and even admits to finding evangelism unspeakably rude.

Lest you think that's a shallow reaction, consider this: what kind of arrogance does it take to assume that someone whose beliefs do not match yours has not spent time and careful thought arriving at those beliefs? (Y'know, I wasn't raised a Pagan. I got here under my own power, and it was not easy, because real Paganism is hard. It's really, really hard.) How demeaning is it to assume that you are right and they are necessarily wrong simply because they don't agree with your beliefs? And how completely lacking in respect, love, and understanding is it? I think evangelicals are wrong, but I don't go around telling them about it unless they come at me first. I figure they've taken their own path to get there, even if they took a wrong turn, and maybe, if they have good examples in front of them, they'll eventually figure it out.

Obama Blows It

Two posts from John Aravosis, here and here, summarizing the flap around the Donnie McClurkin blunder and the "compromise." The comments from the black gay bloggers are telling in the second post: the stupidity displayed by the Obama campaign and HRC in this is beyond credible. From Jasmine Cannick:

It was bad enough that Obama’s people, and I say people because I eloquently explained on Tuesday how these types of things can happen, invited and announced a gospel concert tour through South Carolina with openly homophobic singers Mary Mary and the ex-gay Donnie McClurkin which sparked accusations of Obama running a homophobic campaign. But keepin’ hope alive, I tried to make the best of it hoping that the protests would be used as a teachable moment for Obama and his campaign advisers. No such luck....

Oh and please save your energy and mine too from having to press delete. I already know that what I am saying is harsh. Harsh not racist. Harsh but true. It’s already been established that using white gay folks to explain to Blacks have the gay civil rights movement is the same as the 60’s Civil Right Movement doesn’t work. In fact, it’s an automatic turn off for most Blacks, including this Black lesbian. With a sensitive issue like this, it’s important that Blacks talk to Blacks. Our community needs to see us and hear from us and no one but us. And if we sit up here and allow this to go down, we have no one but ourselves to blame for our invisibility....

Decisions like inviting Rev. Sidden, a white openly gay pastor to address a mostly African-American audience further push the idea among Blacks that gay is white. The belief that whites are trying to push gay issues onto Blacks further divides the African-American community from their same-gender loving counterparts who continue to remain invisible.

And here's Pam Spaulding's take:

The last thing a crowd of black folks who have a problem with homosexuality needs is: 1) to be "told" by the Obama campaign that a message about tolerance must be delivered from a white voice of faith, and 2) to have their beliefs confirmed that being gay is "a white man's perversion." Coming from a white pastor under these circumstances, can only be seen as paternalistic and patronizing; the shields of defensiveness will go up, the message will be ignored.

Obama hasn't lost my vote on this because he never had it to begin with. This just proves I was right.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Halloween Cactus

It started off as a Christmas cactus, but seems to have opted for its own schedule. I got it as a gift a few years ago, tiny little guy in a 3-inch pot with just a couple of stems. It's now crowding a 6-inch pot and has a couple dozen buds, the first of which opened yesterday.

And in the summer, it decides to be a Fourth of July cactus. Don't ask me why it wants to bloom twice a year, but it does. (The Evil Landlord was down and started bitching because my Christmas cactus is blooming now. He threw his out because they were blooming too early. There's no shortage of stupid in the world.)

In related news, posting's likely to be slim for the next week or so -- changing phone companies after I learned that with good ol' AT&T, not only do they breach your privacy rights but a call within your area code may be a long-distance call, the way they figure it -- and they don't tell you beforehand.

No immunity from prosecution!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Digby Said -- Almost

Digby has a post up on a response Howard Kurtz made to one of her comments. Now, granted Kurtz is pathetic, but this comment is lame even for him:

The excerpt ended with this from my post:

"The press, therefore, will go to great lengths to protect the people who give them what they crave, most of whom happen to be Republicans since character smears are their very special talent. There was a reason why Rove and Libby used 'the wife sent him on a boondoggle' line. Stories about Edwards and his hair and Hillary and her cold, calculating cleavage are the coin of the realm. Why we see so little of the same kind of feeding frenzies on the other side isn't hard to fathom. Nobody is spoon-feeding them to the press with just the kind of cutesy meanness they prefer."

His comment, in its entirety, was this:

I agree that leakers often get to set the story line, but I also know that Democrats are not unfamiliar with the practice. (Remember the Bush DUI leak just before the 2000 election?) And those who leaked information about domestic surveillance, Abu Ghraib and secret CIA prisons also had an impact.

Can everyone see what's wrong with that picture? I knew that you could.

Digby goes on to argue that the Democrats do not do the "same thing" in leaking little character smears. Which is true enough, mostly since the press ignores this sort of thing unless it comes from someone in power, which the Democrats are not, no matter the results of the last election. Well, that's their own damned fault.

But I think one thing that's drawn in bold relief by this is that the political operatives, the oppo researchers, the administration attack poodles, and the press itself have become so completely trivial that they don't see the difference between Abu Ghraib and John Edwards' haircuts. It's another aspect of the Rove Legacy: it's all about the next election, and information about American atrocities and war crimes is to be suppressed for the same reasons that one leakes "news" about Edwards' haircuts to one's favorite assassin: damage at election time. There's no moral issue involved in corruption, torture, war under false pretenses -- it's only that it could damage your prospects at the polls.

That's the real tragedy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pearl-Clutching as Political Theater

I've been meaning to post something about Rep. Pete Stark and his germane and, from my point of view, quite restrained remarks about the Preznitsy, S-CHIP, and frat boys who like to blow up frogs. Barbara O'Brien has done it better than I could.

A thought on this whole syndrome: So many in the blogosphere wonder why the media so faithfully parrot the faux everything coming out of the right while blowing off the real issues and the real stories. Part of it, of course, is that they're completely out of touch with the rest of the country. They'll publish poll results, but those results have no meaning to them -- totally outside their frame of reference, which is whatever comes out of the corridors of power is news. The "corridors of power" in their minds are still firmly Republican, so nothing commonsensical makes any sense to them. I suspect that's what's behind a lot of what the Democratic leadership is doing, too -- they're still locked in 2004.

They're all playing to each other.

As for Pete Stark -- we need another couple hundred like him.


Steve Benen at TPM has the right take on the right-wing hysteria over Stark's comments:

In other words, by throwing a fit, Republicans end up looking weak and hysterical. Indeed, it reinforces the least flattering GOP caricature of all -- these guys can't govern, but they can fall onto a fainting couch like nobody's business.

For years, Republicans worked to create the opposite reputation. They're tough. This is the macho "daddy party." They don't care about "political correctness" and wussies who cry over words that rub people the wrong way. This is a crowd that calls it like they see it, and doesn't look bad or apologize.

And yet, they've now spent the better part of a year trembling over mild rebukes from liberals. If Democrats were smart, they'd look at this as an opportunity to rebrand the GOP as pathetic cry-babies who can barely go a week without throwing a hissy fit over one manufactured outrage or another.

Unfortunately, the Democrats don't seem to be that smart. After all, as Atrios reminds us periodically, these are all Very Serious People, and so their manufactured vapors must be Serious, too.


I ran across a couple references to this story; the most comprehensive so far is Pam Spaulding's coverage at Pam's House Blend at at Pandagon. Trayce Hansen, Ph.D. or not, is a disgrace to the profession. She is, however, a prime example of the kind of sneaking dishonesty that forms the core of the anti-gay lobby. A relatively sophisticated reader looking at Hansen's comments would realize that there is no science behind them at all, notwithstanding her flouting her credentials as a licensed clinical psychologist. (Word to the wise -- if you live in San Diego, look for another therapist. Especially if you are a human being.) Actually, reading her article (appearing, of course, on the "Christian" News Wire) is enough to make you want to puke:

The accumulated wisdom of over 2,000 years has concluded that the ideal marital and parental configuration is composed of one man and one woman. Arrogantly disregarding such time-tested wisdom, and using children as guinea pigs in a radical experiment, is risky at best, and cataclysmic at worst.

Same-sex marriage definitely isn't in the best interest of children. And although we empathize with those homosexuals who long to be married and parent children, we must not allow our compassion for them to trump our compassion for children. In a contest between the desires of some homosexuals and the needs of all children, we can't allow the children to lose.

In other words, all the fanatical religious right hogwash gets bruited about again. I've actually e-mailed Hansen with a (cleaned-up) reaction to her piece, pointing out that it is fundamentally dishonest and completely misrepresents the reality of same-sex parenting. This, of course, is the standard right-wing tactic: there's no legitimate argument here, so let's preach the controversy. It's devious, it's dishonest, and somehow they never question their own morality while they're going it.

Spaulding posts a rebuttal from a real psychologist. It's right on point, scathing, and altogether terrific. Read it.

A New Public Media, A New Media Policy

Ellen P. Goodman has a challenging post at Balkinization (yeah, I know -- it's just a Balkinization kind of morning) on public media policy in the face of the growth of the Internet. I'll let her comments speak for themselves.

The irony here, however, which Goodman doesn't really address in any detail, is that we are faced with a real revolution in information flow, and the control of that revolution and the form that it will take are in the hands of the two most conservative and least flexible components of our society -- business and the government. The Net Neutrality fight is just the beginning.

Think about that.

Prescience Revisited

I keep doing this. My instincts must be good.

It seems, after my comments on his nomination yesterday, the real Mukasey stood up. See these comments from Andrew Sullivan, which echo a lot of what I'm seeing after his most recent testimony. Quoting Mark Kleiman:

I understand Mukasey is supposed to be a reasonably good guy, by comparison with the run of Bush appointees. But if Mukasey won't say that waterboarding is torture and claims that the President has some undefined power to violate statute law — even criminal laws, such as the ban on torture and other war crimes — under his "Article II powers," then why should the Senate Judiciary Committee even bring his nomination to a vote? If he says he hasn't read the latest torture memos or decided whether waterboarding is torture, Sen. Leahy ought to tell him to read the memos and observe a waterboarding session and come back when he's done his homework.

It's deeper than that -- it's not a matter of "doing his homework." Any idiot should know at this point that Bush is not going to nominate a candidate for any major position who is going to be independent, and certainly not one who has any sympathy for the American system of government. That's a given.


Catching up on some other posts on Mukasey, I can still claim to be prescient (or at least fully in tune with the Zeitgeist). See this one by Marty Lederman and this one by Brian Tamanaha and this one by David Luban, all at Balkinization. From Luban's post:

"Is waterboarding constitutional?" he was asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, in one of today’s sharpest exchanges.

"I don’t know what is involved in the technique," Mr. Mukasey replied. "If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional."

First off, I can't figure out how any person in this country, particularly a sitting judge, can legitimately claim not to know what's involved in waterboarding -- as if it hasn't been described in detail on the Internet, in congressional testimony, even in the MSM. That alone should disqualify Mukasey from any high-level administration post, even in an administration that values ignorance as highly as this one does.

Secondly, an "if/then" answer is simply not acceptable. Granted, the question was badly phrased, and I can see Mukasey's motivation for sticking to the question as asked. That doesn't make me any more comfortable with the idea of having another parsing lawyer as AG. It's that kind of thinking that got us into this mess.

From any rational perspective, this guy's a total loser.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Give me a break. I've been reading snippets of his comments to the Senate, and I can't believe we're going through this again -- John Roberts redux. The man is saying whatever will get him through the hearings and hasn't given a real answer to a single question, and the Senate is just sitting there smiling sweetly.

And what did anyone expect? Another stooge.

Two Quotes for the Day

Thanks to TRex at Firedoglake:

Billie Holliday:

“I’ve always been a religious bitch, but if that evil motherfucker believes in God, I’m thinking it over.”

And Barney Frank:

“Republicans believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth.”

For more on the Republican culture of life and compassionate conservatism, see this post by bean at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

Chris Dodd, FISA, and the Entirely Theoretical Democratic Spine

Finally, a US Senator with balls. See this by digby on a story that's all over the place the past day or two (sorry I've been away -- just a couple of rushed and screwed up days). And Dodd is going to a hold on the FISA reauthoritzation. Jane Hamsher alerts us that Harry Reid may do an end run around Dodd.

Digby lays out the dimensions of this thing pretty well. There's also a solid post by Jack Balkin on why the amnesty provision for the telecoms has to go down in flames.

Just keep in mind that when Hitler came to power in Germany, as when Mussolini did in Italy, it was a combination of business, the churches, and the government that formed the basis of their regimes. All that was needed was secrecy, a tame press, and contempt for democratic institutions. If you think the present administration has any respect for American principles of government, see Brian Tamanaha's comments on Bush and the rule of law.

If Dodd is not on the Illinois praimary ballot, I'm going to write him in.

Joke of the day (from Greg Sargent):

Bond said "we'll see" if other Republicans line up to support the legislation, noting that senators are "as independent as hogs on ice."

Hogs on ice? Sure. Independent? Not so much.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Joke du jour

It's sort of sad when, on any issue, you know what someone's reaction is going to be because their reaction to the last six issues has been the same.

An oldie but goodie from Down With Tyranny. In light of Right Blogistan's reaction to anyone who points out the facts of a situation, this seems like a pretty accurate answer. It's always the truth in a joke that makes us laugh.

And for a case in point, see this post from John Amato.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Executive Power

I really don't have anything to add to this:

The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has amassed so much central authority that the power-grab may undermine Moscow's commitment to democracy, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Saturday.

"In any country, if you don't have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development," Rice told reporters after meeting with human-rights activists.

"I think there is too much concentration of power in the Kremlin. I have told the Russians that. Everybody has doubts about the full independence of the judiciary. There are clearly questions about the independence of the electronic media and there are, I think, questions about the strength of the Duma," said Rice, referring to the Russian parliament.

Except to wonder if she has any sense of irony at all.

Free Speech

Here's an excellent column by Jamison Foser on Rush Limbaugh, the Senate resolution condemning Media Matters for the "BetrayUs" ad, and the strong beliefs on the right about freedom of speech -- that is, they should have it and no one else should.

And that said, do you suppose the Senate and House really have no clue as to how transparently partisan these things are to the rest of the country? Or do they really believe that we're all as stupid as the 28% who still support Bush?

Al Gore

Fortunately, the Europeans seem to be going through a phase of sanity while the US is losing its collective mind. (There have been times when the shoe was on the other foot.)

Al Gore wono the Nobel Peace Price, for which he deserves our congratulations and admiration. The vitriolic attacks . . . make that "sober, reasoned analysis" on the right is only what one might expect. WaPo ran this story on the reaction in Europe, which seems more appropriate, although I did notice that the reporter managed to end the story with a fairly snide remark.

Steve Benen points out a good rationale for the right's hostility toward Gore. Of course, that doesn't explain the press' reaction, unless you're finally willing to admit that our "independent" press is a bunch of right-wing toadies. (And see Tim Lambert's post on the reporting on Gore and global warming at Deltoid. Note that the Post article linked above also repeats -- once again -- the judge's finding of factual error in the film with no independent corroboration.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

ENDA Wrap-Up

This is probably the first of several ENDA wrap-ups, since I am still going back looking at loose ends, but with the new "compromise" announced, let's call it a day.

However, I do want to call attention to this post from Chris Crain on the controversy. It's an excellent summation, hitting on on a lot of the points I touched, often more clearly than I was able to do. Particularly in regard to the "we're all transpeople" meme, I found his arguments compelling:

You can hear that refrain in the more passionate commentary from those who object to removing transgender protection from ENDA. We are all gender non-conformists, they say, because men are supposed to be attracted to women, and vice versa. If you defy those roles, then you also defy the expectation of your gender.

To which he responds:

Like many other GLBs, I reject completely the idea that being gay makes me a gender non-conformist. For us, the hardest part about accepting our sexual orientation can be shedding the misconception that being gay makes us less of a man or a woman.

Many transsexuals and cross-dressers, on the other hand, have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, a mental illness that involves a complete disconnect between their biological and intellectual genders. Other trans folk reject the whole notion of gender and express themselves in a way that defies the male-female dichotomy.

That is certainly their right, but having integrated my sexual orientation into my personality, I don’t feel one bit of inconsistency between being gay and being a man. I know many lesbians who feel the same way about their gender. For us, the entire notion of sexual orientation revolves around maintaining the male-female distinction. How else can I have same-sex attraction, unless I am a man attracted to other men?

The argument as stated by the "all-or-nothing" contingent is a prime example of the sloppy terminology I've been criticizing. The term of "gender identity" itself is nothing more than a substitution of perfectly serviceable words by broader, more "inclusive" and consequently less meaningful words that aren't quite on target. It's a nice way to fudge the discussion. (I could be a purist here and note that words have gender, people have sex.) You can go ahead and accuse me of being a precisian if you want, but I just want to point out that if you're not going to be accurate about what you're talking about, what's the point of talking -- unless you like the label "demogogue." (I find the use of these terms in the legal literature scary, to be honest, but have to remember that the legal definition and the psychological definition do not have to inhabit the same universe.)

I might also point out that the "everyone is trans" argument is an echo of the early right-wing anti-gay rhetoric, when such luminaries as Lou Sheldon held to the idea -- and broadcast it loudly and often -- that gays were victims of "gender confusion." Some of them are still spouting that line. Let me ask the trans activists: do you really want to go there?

As a gay man who is perfectly comfortable being a man and not only loving -- and desiring -- other men but cherishing everything it is that makes them men, I have absolutely no confusion about my sex. Male. Period. And I will quite readily admit that I have no comprehension of women or where they are coming from, even though we obviously have some common ground.

On the other hand, I have no element of my identity invested in particular sex roles, either in the bedroom or out of it. Does this somehow make me a transperson? I don't think so and I think anyone is going to be hard put to prove that I am.

I think in this area I'm on clearer ground than Crain, although we agree no the whole ENDA question: let's clean up the terminology so that we can actually have a discussion without wallowing around in words that don't fit what they are meant to describe (or actually, that don't describe anything -- and I think that's quite deliberate).


I recently reviewed Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End (which just won either a Hugo or Nebula award, I forget which) which included as part of the milieu Internet access through clothing:

I'm not sure that Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End counts as cyberpunk, although it might seem like it at first glance. The "cyber" part is there in full measure. Vinge envisions a world in the not-so-distance future in which clothes are the means of Internet access and most of "reality" is virtual.

This morning, I saw this story.

From clothes riddled with sensors to name tags that detect our moods, computing's next wave could unleash small devices that increasingly augment everyday activities with digital intelligence.

That was the predominant vision at a conference on "wearable computing" held this week in Boston, where researchers showed off prototypes and discussed ideas.

What can I say?

Irony of the Week

Andrew Sullivan finds Al Gore "pompous."

Maybe If. . . .

From DailyKos (surprise!), DemFromCt says it best:

Maybe if more pro-life organizations were really, you know, pro-life, there'd be more common ground with Americans across the political spectrum.

ENDA: The New Strategy

Just like the old strategy: Pelosi will do just what she and Frank felt was best to begin with: pass ENDA now and pass GENDA when the self-righteous have done their job and drummed up the support.

This statement by Joe Solmonese is face-saving at it's best:

"Speaker Pelosi's promise to put a fully-inclusive ENDA to a vote continues to underline HRC's passionate advocacy on behalf of the entire GLBT community," HRC president Joe Solmonese said in a statement. "Our strategy throughout has been to stay at the table and fight for the ultimate goal that we all share. Today, that strategy has proven to be successful. With this commitment, the inclusive ENDA bill will continue to receive legislative action as it moves through the committee hearing process during the time HRC, and other coalition organizations, continue to advocate directly with [Congress] members to support this critical inclusive workplace protection bill."

Gee, and this is all brand new, now, isn't it?

This whole imbroglio demonstrates one thing and one thing only: Congressional Democrats, led by Pelosi and Frank, are committed to getting protections at the federal level for gay and lesbian citizens. The "gay leadership"? Not so much.

Thanks to John Aravosis.

From Pam Spaulding, this analysis, which incorporates most of what has troubled me about the controversy. There's all the rhetoric, both in her comments and the quotes she includes from other sources -- "throwing transgenders under the bus" is one of the phrases I've seen most frequently in this. There's all the mushy thinking -- "support" for a trans-inclusive bill in left-speak translates into "push for it right now and damn the consequences," and "pragmatism" is a dirty word. (And, keep in mind, this is Spaulding trying to be fair and balanced.)

The bottom line is pretty much where my side of the argument -- and that includes Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, John Aravosis, Chris Crain, and a few others -- has been all along: you don't want to negotiate, you don't want to compromise, you don't want to be patient and educate people about your cause and change their minds, no one's going to get anything, because if you have two intransigent parties, the one with the votes is going to win -- and we don't have the votes.

If it comes to a choice between making progress and keeping my virtue intact, I'll go for progress.

(Speaking of virtue, you really should read the HRC press release quoted in Spaulding's post. It's the most astonishing piece of self-serving cant I've ever seen. Well, one of them. Once you dig through all the mush, it's pretty obvious that Pelosi told HRC what's going to happen, and HRC is scrambling to make itself look like it is somehow relevant: the "compromise" is exactly what Barney Frank proposed that set off the firestorm to begin with. Spaulding's headline echoes the meme.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Outrage Allowance Used Up


The Michelle Malkin/Rush Limbaugh smear campaign against Graeme Frost and his family has really done it to me. See Paul Krugman, digby, -- it's even brought von out of semi-retirement at Obsidian Wings -- and von is no liberal freak.

It comes back to what I've said before -- Malkin, Limbaugh, et al. don't have an argument, so they can't float one. All they can do is character assassination.

Oh, and Mitch McConnell doesn't get any points for distancing himself -- it turns out one of his aides is in the thick of it.

I wish I could say that the controversy in the community on ENDA is different. It's not.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Seat At the Table

A couple of notes from AmericaBlog (here and here).

I keep remembering that Frank is one of the people who has actually made things happen with civil rights legislation for gays. HRC and the other national "rights" organizations haven't, and after thirty years, they are once again prepared to torpedo the boat if they don't get their ideologically pure way. It's an object lesson in how to be completely ineffective.

I hope I've made it plain that I support a trans-inclusive ENDA, but that the arguments for dropping the orientation-only bill, which can pass, in favor a trans-inclusive bill that can't, are not in the least persuasive. Frank is right, and that's all there is to it. I'm also more than a little bit irritated at the revisionist history I've seen coming out on the gay movement, with the not-so-subtle subtext that the transpeople have been carrying the rest of us on their backs and it's payback time.

Crock, that.

You're welcome to come in, but you don't own the house.

Oh, Camille! Oh, Andy! Oh, Brother!

Paglia once again demonstrates her ability to gaze longingly into her own navel (go to the second page):

This kind of partisan rancor and mutual recrimination are the sad legacy of two self-destructive administrations in a row. Bill Clinton's lies about his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky paralyzed the government and tainted his legacy, while George Bush's poor judgment and managerial ineptitude have mired us in an endless, brutal war with little chance for a happy ending.

'Scuse me, but just who made Bill Clinton's extramarital activities an issue? It wasn't Clinton, and it wasn't the American public. As for "tainting his legacy," well, Camille says so, so it must be true.

Andrew Sullivan, of course, concurs. (The irony of Sullivan's post title is exquisite.) (Update: Ezra Klein has some observations on Sullivan and the Clintons.)

I guess the stories about the Washington establishment really do have some substance. I'm also continually amused that a "cultural critic" is so completely clueless about what's going on.

I wish I could say I was surprised that Sullivan is dumb enough to fall for it.

What Republicans Want

Colin McEnroe finds the philosophical basis of the smear campaign against Graeme Frost and his family:

These people -- even with their combined income of a VERY modest $45,000 -- have no business turning to the government for help with their medical bills because they haven't been bankrupted yet. They're income is low, but they've managed to hang onto some assets that place them a little closer to the middle class. It's disgusting that they get help from the government if they have anything.

Of course, since privileged Republicans can afford insurance (or own stock in insurance companies), they don't have to worry, so things like an expanded S-CHIP are probably a socialist plot (Republicans who aren't wealthy are becoming a vanishing species):

And look at this! Malkin and her friends don't want to fix that problem. On the contrary, they insist on it! They insist on the risk of bankruptcy as kind of a moral imperative; and they say members of the shaky, eroding American middle class who are not willing to put up with the ruination of their financial health from medical bills are leeches and wussies! Wow.

Of course, if it's a moral good to be bankrupt, why aren't they volunteering? Like they did to serve in Iraq?

Commenter ny nick has a good question:

My question is, god forbid one of these kids had fallen into an irreversable coma like Terry Schiavo, Michelle Malkin and her friends in the flying monkey brigade would be more than willing to let the government pay to keep the brain dead person on life support. Why are they willing to spend government money on Terry Schiavo but not on rehabiliting a child back to health?

Simple -- because the right wing doesn't want to help anyone who can talk back.

Thanks to Atrios.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

S-CHIP and the Loonysphere

This very thorough post by Barbara O'Brien reflects the tenor of the left's reaction to the right-wing attacks on Graeme Frost -- who, as you might remember, is twelve years old and made the mistake of appearing in an ad supporting S-CHIP.

However, one thing I haven't seen in the online discussions of this, which focus on how disgusting the whole tactic is, is the real purpose of the Malkin-led swiftboating: aside from the fact that Malkin and her ilk have no moral standards whatsoever, their goal here is to scare anyone else who might lend their support.

Think about it -- would you want your kid to appear in a public forum in support of a good program that has proven its value if you're going to have your personal information published in some right-wing smear campaign and be subjected to total strangers peering in your windows at all hours and calling you with threats?

I'd have second thoughts.

Top Secret

Hilzoy has a terrific post on the courts and the whole problem of rendition and secret trials. This quote, I think, puts the whole thing in focus:

"By no means do we endorse El-Masri's theory that publicly reported information concerning his alleged rendition is ineligible for protection under the states secrets doctrine simply because it has been published in the media." --El Masri v. Tenet, 4th Circuit, footnote 5.

This is what happens when you let wingnuts pack the courts.

"By Their Works Shall Ye Know Them"

Isn't that how the quote goes? I've seen several posts on the topic of the current perception of Christianity, but this one by Sara Robinson at Orcinus seems to be the most thoughtful and complete. Worth a read.

I think I'd only like to add something that I've expressed to Christian friends and participants in discussion groups: it is not for those such as me to reject the rhetoric and activities of the rabidly anti-gay religious fanatics -- it is Christians themselves who must fight back against this, and fight strongly by rejecting these poeople and their smallness loudly and publicly. It's not enough to say "I don't agree with that" and change the subject.


If you've never seen The President's Analyst, try to find it someplace. It's an hysterical dark comedy with James Coburn as yoga-practicing, pot-smoking psychotherapist who is tapped to be the president's listening post -- and winds up being stalked by The Phone Company (TPC).

AT&T is on my shit list right now, to the extent that I am changing my service -- it seems that under the government-approved pricing system they now have, a local call is not necessarily a local call any more -- you can call the same area code and be charged for long-distance.

See this post by Pachacutec at Firedoglake on the telecom industry in general.


(A Footnote: I see a trend with my phone service similar to what I saw with my bank: AT&T bought SBC, which had bought Illinois Bell -- and as the company got bigger, the service got worse and more expensive.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


What digby said.

Keep in mind that these are the kind of people who thing others' misfortune is something to laugh about, not something to do something about.

Everyone's the Same Person

I did have some time yesterday to go back to Gabriel Rotello's post at HuffPo. I found it absolutely infuriating.

In broad terms, there's a lot of the same sorts of assertions I reject from right-wing anti-gay activists -- a lot of "researchers believe," "studies indicate," and the like, with no direct quotes (and even those can't be trusted, as we've learned from the likes of James Dobson) and no citations. Granted, this is an opinion piece, but by the same token, it's nothing more than opinion, with an unverifiable basis.

It strikes me as nothing more than an attempt to enlist science in the service of ideology, something with which I have no patience whatsoever. I had started a detailed critique of the piece, but there is so much wrong here that I would have been faced with a huge amount of reserach (for which I simply don't have the time) to be oon absolutely firm ground on the science, I'm just going to say that I dispute his conclusions, largely because they seem pre-ordained. Since the whole argument relies on definitions of terms that are not defined and I'm not buying the conflation of sexual orientation with gender identity (which he admits is a political definition), I can't give it much credit as a serious statement.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

ENDA, Yet Again

Chris Crain has a good post on Dale Carpenter's examination of the argument that transgender protections in ENDA will protect gays and lesbians as well.

I haven't had time to get back to Gabriel Rotello's piece -- I've really got to focus on doing some reviews today. Maybe tomorrow.

"Gay Fathers"

OK -- this is a wonderful post from Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin.

I'd add Gertrude Stein, Samuel Barber, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare to the list.

How about you?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Right-Wing Mind

Doing a little surfing and ran across this story from TPM via John McKay at archie:

"Are there wonderful Americans who happen to be homosexual serving in the military? Yes," [Gen. Peter Pace] told the Senate Appropriations Committee during a hearing focused on the Pentagon's 2008 war spending request.

"We need to be very precise then, about what I said wearing my stars and being very conscious of it," he added. "And that is, very simply, that we should respect those who want to serve the nation but not through the law of the land, condone activity that, in my upbringing, is counter to God's law."

I find Pace's attempt at qualifying his statement even more repulsive than the original, being the First Amendment freak that I am. McKay had a similar reaction:

Before going any further, everyone should notice the very disturbing implication of his last statement. Pace is firmly endorsing the Religious Right position that American law should not be allowed to run counter to their sect's interpretation of Biblical law. This position is firmly embedded in their revisionist "Christian Nation" theory of American history.

This is right in line with John McCain's contention that the Founders established the US as a "Christian nation," which is obviously and blatantly untrue. (McCain seems to be a prime example of what pandering to the nutfudge right will do to you -- he used to be worthy of some respect before he made himself into a raddled old doormat.) I really would like to see someone ask a subject like Pace just exactly what in the Constitution gives him the right to impose his own personal religious beliefs on the rest of the country. Alas, not with this press corps -- they're just as ignorant as their interviewees.

This all ties into Barbara O'Brien's comments about the conservative mindset:

Over the long years I’ve observed some consistent traits among righties. One is that they sincerely believe most people think the way they do, even when polls say otherwise. In fact, “most people agree with me” is a common fallback debate tactic. Some have an almost frantic need to believe they belong to a majority, possibly because it makes them feel powerful. Erich Fromm wrote that people who find autonomy isolating and bewildering often will submerge themselves in an authoritarian group. Such people often have a strong sado-masochistic streak, Fromm said. They derive pleasure both from submission to a higher authority and from aggressively dominating people who fall below them in the social/power strata. “Humor” is often a socially acceptable form of hate speech used to keep less desirable people in their place.

Naturally, people who submerge their individuality into an authoritarian group place much importance on the trappings of conformity. Today much of the Right Blogosphere is in a tizzy because Barack Obama has stopped wearing a flag pin in his lapel. From right-wing reaction you’d think Obama had announced his engagement to Osama bin Laden.

I've noticed similar traits in discussion groups and even in comments on this blog: anything that runs counter to their beliefs doesn't exist. And I'm using "beliefs" in the broadest sense, as in the legendary headline at GayPatriot at the height of the Abramoff-Coingate-Cunningham etc. scandals: "The Democrats' Culture of Corruption." The Republican-owned scandals received no mention there because, I would assume, Republicans couldn't possibly be corrupt.

O'Brien also has a lengthy quote from John Hawkins that you would swear was from The Onion. It's not.

Alphabet Soup: A Digression

Some cogent remarks from Rex Wockner on ENDA, LGBTPQRST . . ., etc.

I'm also not convinced that homosexuality and transsexuality are the same thing, and I really don't think there is such a thing as "the LGBT community." Gay men and lesbians are the same thing (homosexuals) -- and bisexuals, when they're not exercising their heterosexual option, are then exercising their gay or lesbian option. Many transsexuals I've known have had surgery and then partnered with someone of the opposite sex, at which point they are, I'd imagine, heterosexual. But, of course, in reality, it's all much more nuanced than that, and NGLTF head Matt Foreman is a very eloquent spokesman for T inclusion in ENDA. There's all sorts of good stuff at NGLTF's Web site.

A final word about "community." Whether you're talking about "the gay community" or "the LGBT community," I think these phrases are bandied about way too much. Gay men span all the same spectrums as straight Americans. Lesbians run the same gamut as all Americans. Ditto for the B and T folks. Is there really a gay-male community, let alone an LGBT community? Or are there, in reality, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who are as varied in myriad ways as the American population itself.

I've broached this subject myself. Homosexuality and transexualism are not the same thing. Never were. Never will be. Nor is there a true "LGBT community." We have the tenuous connection of being sexual outlaws, and as the country becomes more and more accepting, it's falling apart because our interests and concerrns are not the same. It's been a political alliance, pure and simple, dominated by the PC, include-everyone and their relatives left wing, which has become a serious problem with movement politics. HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, the whole crew don't really represent me any more -- they represent a construct that simply doesn't exist in this country. I'm of an age when I remember the major gay groups coming out in support of itinerant farm workers and any other oppressed minority they could find, all in the name of alliance-building. Fine. Look at the attitudes about us in the black community, and the latino community. That's what happens when you have a bunch of college sophomores running things. (My own feeling is that Urvashi Vaid, who for some reason symbolizes the whole gay left and the movement politics of the '70s and 80s for me, did more damage to our casue than Jesse Helms in his wildest fantasies.)

On "community" I think he has it basically right: it's an intersecting group of subcultures that have, as they develop, less and less in common. That seems to be a good, solid, basic reason why the movement is so fractious -- its composition is completely artificial, the way the alliance of the neocons and theocons, which is also on the verge of tearing itself apart, has been.

Wockner includes a statment from Shannon Minter that includes one sentence that I can't swallow:

But I bet that many of them would feel differently if they truly understood the whole picture -- that a gay-only bill will actually harm transgender people, that any delay in passing a viable bill that includes everyone likely will not even be that significant in this case, and that other [non-gay] groups have stood by us [gays] even when it meant their own protections were delayed.

Aside from the condescending tone -- I think I have a fairly firm grasp of the whole picture, and I don't think I'm alone in that -- the last part gets my back up: Please point out to my one non-gay group that has stood by us when it meant delaying their own protections. One. Just one.

Wockner also links to a post from Gabriel Rotello that on first reading strikes me as nothing more than politically-correct cant. Sorry, but this is a miserable example of one thing I've been bitching about: shallow, sloppy terminology, conflating several distinct phenomena, and driven more by ideology than any real understanding of the psychology involved. I may come back to this later for a closer critique, because it's an overall statement that has to be challenged.

(Thanks to John Aravosis)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Evolution, Darwin, and All That

Tristero has an excellent post over at Hullabaloo on intelligent design and Darwin. Recommended reading (and do follow the links).

Some Real Reasons Not To Support ENDA

Chris Crain comes up with Lambda Legal's analysis of the new ENDA and points out a couple of real reasons not to support it. They key points:

This version of ENDA states without qualification that refusal by employers to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees that are provided only to married couples cannot be considered sexual orientation discrimination. The old version at least provided that states and local governments could require that employees be provided domestic partner health insurance when such benefits are provided to spouses.

In the previous version of ENDA the religious exemptions had some limitations. The new version has a blanket exemption under which, for example, hospitals or universities run by faith-based groups can fire or refuse to hire people they think might be gay, lesbian or bisexual.

The domestic partner benefits exclusion is completely unacceptable. Crain is not so worried about the religious exemption being expanded, but I think he's missing a point.

I'm less concerned about the breadth of the religious exception. Anyone who goes to work for a company controlled by a religious group knows going in that there is a religious purpose behind the enterprise. Even so, it does seem worthwhile to revise ENDA so that again only employers or positions whose primarily purpose is religious are excluded.

This ignores the way the definition of "religious organization" has broadened under the Bush regime. Once upon a time, when we still had separation of church and state, if a religious denomination wanted to run a community-service organization -- hospital, homeless shelter, soup kitchen, what have you -- they organized a separate legal entity that could apply for and accept government funds without conflict with the First Amendment. The tit-for-tat was that the separate entity had to abide by all civil rights laws, including those dealing with religious discrimination. The way the religious right has begun interpreting "religious organization" (with the willing connivance of the Bush administration) has essentially left no public activity untouched -- hospitals, pharmacists, even landlords have cited "religious" exemptions as grounds for bias. I'm not at all comfortable with including that sort of language in a gay civil rights bill.

Let's get back to some Constitutional principles here.

ENDA and Alphabet Soup

A series of thoughtful and interesting posts from AmericaBlog on the ENDA crisis. First is this post from John Aravosis of a couple of days ago, followed by a link to this editorial from Bay Windows.

The House is on the verge of passing groundbreaking workplace protections for millions of Americans. It’s the first piece of legislation Congress has seriously considered since the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993 that offers American workers protection from arbitrary firings. It’s not perfect. Few pieces of civil rights legislation are. But it would provide a concrete base upon which to expand ENDA protections not just to transmen and women but to also add provisions to the bill that would require employers to offer domestic partnership benefits to the partners of their LGBT employees if they offer such benefits to their heterosexual employees — a provision that is not in the current bill. As it happens, that’s exactly how Congress dealt with the FMLA. It was a nine-year fight of submitting bills, amending them and persevering through two vetoes of the bill by President George H.W. Bush. The bill that was eventually signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993 was much more comprehensive than the one first approved by Congress. This is not unusual; it’s how the legislative process works.

There is much concern that if a bill protecting employees solely on the basis of sexual orientation is passed then protections for transmen and women will be forgotten. It’s hard to take that concern seriously given the flurry of support that’s been forcefully expressed for trans rights now that we know a trans-inclusive ENDA simply will not pass in the House as its currently configured.

Claiming that Frank has betrayed the trans community, as some are now doing (Los Angeles Times sportswriter Christine Daniels wrote this week that he was engaged in a strategy to “throw the transfolk overboard”) is breathtakingly ignorant of the facts.

The targeting of the Human Rights Campaign for its failure to align itself with the LGBT organizations that have promised to work to defeat a non-inclusive ENDA is equally ignorant of reality. Who can seriously expect the nation’s largest organization working to pass legislation on our behalf to refuse to work with Pelosi and Frank?

This petulant insistence on purity, principle and perfection is a hallmark not just of the LGBT community, but of American politics in general. Just look at James Dobson’s and the Christian right’s demands that the Republican Congress take up an overly broad Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when a much narrower provision that would have allowed for civil unions stood a much better chance of passage.

Not that I’m comparing progressive LGBT activists with the Christian right. After all, the Christian right is capable of delivering votes, huge sums of money to candidates and hundreds of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers when an issue is deemed important enough to warrant it. Progressive activists? Not so much.

He also publishes a response to his posts from Dana Beyer, a trans activist currently nominated for the board of HRC. Beyer's comments strike me as terrifically slanted and one-sided (the comment about Stonewall being "run by trans women" is only the most egregious example, although the assertion that "gays guys were added to the trans community" with Stonewall is a very close runner-up, particularly since there was no "trans commnity" at the time), and a prime example of the insistence on ideological purity that has effectively neutered the gay left. (I'm not going to comment on the anger in her post. I figure that transpeople are carrying a lot of the same load as gays, and anger is just part of the package. Hell, I'm very angry. I figure I have every right to be.)

Beyer also spends a fair amount of her response claiming that "mainstream" gays are afraid of the gender nonconformity represented by the trans community without once touching on the fact that it is those organizations who are now demanding the full monty on ENDA that repeatedly call for us to tone it down at Pride parades and the like -- the same organizations who are now on the side of the angels in refusing to support the first gay rights bill that might pass Congress. Forgive me if I smell more than a faint whiff of hypocrisy. Sorry, boys and girls, but you're not going to have it both ways here: to say that expressing gender nonconformity is desirable when it is going to kill our chances for federal civil rights legislation but not OK when we're celebrating the range and diversity of our various interlocking communities is one big load of manure. In my opinion, Beyer's full of beans on this one, and she should look to her political allies if she wants to pinpoint whose responsible for this.

A Note: Questioning gender norms has always been part of the gay experience, and it's a very complex historical phenomenon. As a young gay boy growing up before there was such a thing, I had no gay role models. I liked boys; therefore, my only model was women. Fortunately for me, the gay movement started to happen before I'd gotten completely screwed up, and I was able to reconcile being male with wanting males. (Let's hear it for the Information Age!) Also, as I've mentioned before, I count a large number of drag queens, female impersonators, transvestites and even a few transpersons among my friends and acquaintances, and they are not coming from the same place and don't, I think, belong in the same categories. Gender-fuck is one thing; transsexualism is something else entirely, and I seriously question the legitimacy of equating them. This is something that's implicit in a recent post by Chris Crain, where he talks about transgenders and their legal weddings: the point is, transsexuals are not interested in redefining gender, they are interested in moving from one to the other and seem to be quite willing to take on all the definitions of their new identity. Consequently, my attitude toward the conflation of transsexuals and gays is simply that it's a dodge and doesn't indicate anything except a political alliance.

Pam Spaulding has contributed a post discussing the discourse more than the nuts and bolts of strategy, and I think he makes some good points, underscored by Beyer's response and some of the I comments I received in my own posts on this subject: to repeat myself as a foundational statement, "sloppy definitions make sloppy arguments." Nor does backdating terminology convince me of anything -- you simply cannot go back to 1968 and talk about the "gay community" or the "trans community" -- those things didn't exist then, and it's questionable whether we can legitimately point to them as existing now.

One further thing that I think is very relevant to Aravosis' comments on the discourse, and that I think is patently obvious in Beyer's comments and the comments on my own previous posts is the incredible defensiveness of the trans responses, expressed in the finger-pointing that forms such a strong part of their comments. I take this as, in part, a reflection of the PC authoritarianism that forms the foundation of gay left politics, and perhaps also informed by the sneaking suspicion that Barney Frank, John Aravosis, Chris Crain and I are right. Pragmatism and the far left are pretty much strangers, in my experience, and I'm of an age at this point that I would like to see some results, not just more posturing.

Chris Crain also makes a strong point about the "gay leadership" in this issue: they are not in any way representing the community, despite their claims to the contrary. My own reaction to the groups who are demanding all or nothing is that they've once again sold me out. I really wish I were a major donor so I could call Matt Foreman and simply say, "No more money from me."

This is obviously an ongoing issue, so there may be more on it later. What you see here, however, is my thinking as of now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

ENDA, Again

As a follow-up to this post, see this note from Daniel Gonzales at Box Turtle Bulletin in response to the cries of abandonment from the trans community.

Somehow, seeing this, the "it'll never happen" argument loses some force. Those are all the states that have civil rights protections for gays and lesbians. You'll note that they all also have those protections for transgendered persons.

Here's a post from Pam Spaulding on the issue. I have a lot of problems with it, as might be expected, particularly when she gets into rhetoric like this:

Those who would throw our T brothers and sisters out like yesterday's trash to get any kind of weakened ENDA passed, even if it faced a presidential veto, fail to realize the serious flaws in other modifications in the bill.

Slanted, just a bit, wouldn't you say?

And suddenly there are all sorts of flaws in the bill. How did that happen? Or was it just that no one noticed until their PC sensors got tickled?

Let's get a few things sorted out here, before I get more angry comments: I support the full-dress ENDA, with the full alphabet soup included. That's not the question. The question is, if we can only get a partial bill through Congress now -- and, let me point out, for the first time in history that such a bill stands a ghost of a chance of passage -- shouldn't we do it? Opponents of this idea are working from the not-always-subtextual meme that once a sexual-orientation-only ENDA is passed, we'll all just pack up and go home and forget about it. That's bullshit. Anyone with any brains knows that's not the case, if for no other reason than that this fight -- for full legal equality -- is not going to be over anytime soon. Bush will veto ENDA no matter what its content. When it does finally become law, there will be radical fringe groups mounting campaigns for repeal. There will be a slew of nuisance cases in the courts argued by the Thomas More Law Center and Liberty Council on spurious First Amendment grounds. There will be state cases that have to be fought and won.

That's what's going to happen.

And taking your ball and going home isn't going to help anyone. Ever.


As usual, TPM is right on top of it. Check out the recent posts. Note particularly this one on Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. Note also this story from WaPo, which has some interesting information about his testimony, but is mum on his political affiliations.

I don't really have any comments on this whole thing, except to note that it's one of the prime examples of non-accountability in an administration for which "accountability" is treason. And let's not even get into the whole thing about in-group politics. The country's being run by Blackwater and Halliburton.

Good News

Via Andrew Sullivan, a report on a study that is really good news.

The study also found that, across all race/ethnic groups, younger cohorts of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (those in age groups 18 – 29 and 30 – 44 as compared with 45 – 59 years old) had lower prevalence of almost all mental disorders categories, and the difference was statistically significant for mood disorders. Younger cohorts also had fewer serious suicide attempts than did older cohorts (but this was statistically significant only for the middle cohort).

“The finding regarding younger cohorts of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals is consistent with social stress theories that predicted that the liberalization of social attitudes toward homosexuality over the past few decades can lead to a decline in stress and related mental disorders and suicide among lesbians, gay men, and bisexual individuals” said Dr. Meyer.

Sulivan's comments are, I think, a little off base.

Why some want to prevent this improvement, why they actively want to promote depression, anxiety and low self-esteem among gay people - and why they think this is better for society as a whole - remains a mystery to me. But that is currently the position of the Republican party. My best guess is that they're simply afraid of what they do not know or understand. And so they seek to persecute it.

I think that the phenomenon is a little more complex than that, particularly when dealing with the official positions of political parties and those who control them. I don't dispute that many social coservatives fear gays because they don't have first-hand experience of them, but I think the ultimate answer to the Republican position is somewhat more pernicious: those who have major influence on the party on social issues, such as James Dobson, the Wildmons, and their ilk, have a ready-made "other" to use as the enemy -- and they do need an enemy to stir up those fears. It's the classic authoritarian tactic: find the fears, find an enemy, and exploit it to hell, and forget about factual accuracy and reasoned discourse. That's not the point. Ultimately, it's not about gay men and lesbians (or immigrants or Muslims or Jews or any other group). That's just the target. The real issue is power.

Sullivan is too inclined, I think, to judge the leaders of the anti-gay right as being as sincere and honest as he is. I've seen no evidence to support that idea, and a great deal that denies it. I'm all in favor of the large of soul, but we're playing hardball here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Outrage Allowance

Mine's used up for the time being. There are lots of stories worthy of comment -- Blackwater, the coming war with Iran, the Christian jihadist third-party threats, you name it -- and I just don't have the energy today. Maybe tomorrow.

For me, we're having one of those wonderful foggy mornings that happen in Chicago in the fall and I think I'm going to go out and take a walk. Maybe even limber up one of my cameras and do some shooting. I love fog. Somehow the world is a lot more peaceful when you're walking in the fog along the lakefront.

I can use some peaceful right about now.