"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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Honor Among Thieves

I love stuff like this.

The Marvels of Modern Technology

For some reason, my Earthlink DSL is subject to massive slowdowns this morning, so navigating and posting is turning into a real trial. There may be more, if it resolves itself, but don't count on it.

I may just go back to bed -- it's snowing.


Friday Gay Blogging

William F. Buckley, Jr., is dead, after poisoning the mainstream of American political thought for decades. You may think this has nothing to do with gays, but it does. Andrew Sullivan points out the connection:

He was much too civilized to have been personally hostile or rude. He published Marvin Liebman and David Brudnoy - and in his day, National Review was not as uniformly homophobic - or virtually Homorein - as it now is. But Buckley never challenged what he believed was a necessary moral and social injunction against gay love, marriage and sex. (In a heated debate with Gore Vidal, he responded to the vile accusation of being a Nazi by accusing Vidal of being a "goddamned queer." At least being a NAzi is a choice.) Gay men were allowed sex, as a function of a civilized society's benevolence, but only allowed. We were never to be regarded as equals, and our rights were always contingent on others' toleration.

Given Sullivan's normally flabby thinking, it's not surprising that he seems to want to excuse Buckley his hideous position on gay equality because he was "polite" about it. Of course, Buckley really wasn't much of a thinker himself. My favorite quote from him is the bald assertion I heard on a television broadcast sometime in the 1970s that "Morality is an absolute." I laughed about that one for days. Even the most casual acquaintance with the history of Western civilization will show it to be poppycock. This is not much better:

"You are absolutely correct in saying that gays should be welcome as partners in efforts to mint sound public policies; not correct, in my judgement, in concluding that such a partnership presupposes the repeal of convictions that are more, much more, than mere accretions of bigotry. You remain, always, my dear friend, and my brother in combat."

No one ever accused Buckley of being less than arrogant. Of course, those convictions really are nothing more than "accretions of bigotry." Just because you've been a bigot for a few hundred years doesn't mean you're any less of a bigot.

To my mind, the real conservative was Barry Goldwater, although his hawkishness repelled me. Buckley, by comparison, was simply a rigid reactionary. Here's Goldwater on the issue of gay equality:

"The Constitution says that all men are created equal, and it doesn't say that all men are created equal except for gays. Just like everyone else who is born in this country, gays are endowed by their creator, God, with inalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Somehow, I find that much more palatable than the mean-spirited pontifications of Buckley. (Which, by the way, might have been the template for the contemporary attitude of Democrats: "Sure, you're welcome to join the fight and fund our efforts, but you're never going to be real people.")

Sullivan concludes:

Liebman was indeed a brother in combat, one of the great gay foes of totalitarianism, up there with Whittaker Chambers and Alan Turing. But he was always reminded that his gayness would bar him from full inclusion as an equal in the conservative movement. I wish that times had changed. But the stance remains - absent Buckley's grace and manners, and compounded now by the dark strains of fundamentalist bile.

I don't see how bile is any better for being sugar-coated. When it comes right down to it, Buckley was a small man who had a pernicious influence on American politics for far too long. The adulation is full-throated from the rightards, but keep in mind that Buckley is the man who epitomized the right wing's racism, homophobia, religious bigotry, isolationism, and exceptionalism.

Hardly praiseworthy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


OK -- been surfing, reading blogs, news articles, what have you, and nothing stands out. It's just one vast mass of lies, misdirection, irrelevancies, and junk -- and that's just the reports on the last debate.

However, there are some discernible trends:

McCain's campaign will take advantage of the right-wing noise machine's anti-Obama smears (Muslim, black, not patriotic, black, radical, black, terrorist sympathizer, BLACK!) while trying desperately to remain unimplicated. (The way to remain unimplicated, of course, is to stop them, which is not something that the probable nominee of the the party of goose-stepping rightards should find difficult -- given any sort of motivation at all.)

Tim Russert and his clones will continue to try for gotcha! moments rather than any substantive coverage of the candidates.

Obama will continue to be held accountable by the press for comments from people not associated with his campaign, while McCain will get a free pass.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. . . .

Gad! I really hate election campaigns.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


just doesn't get it. Dana Milbank is today's illustration:

The Christian Science Monitor had assembled the éminences grises of the Washington press corps -- among them David Broder of The Post, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times and columnist Mark Shields -- for what turned out to be a fascinating tour of an alternate universe.

First came Harold Ickes, who gave a presentation about Hillary Rodham Clinton's prospects that severed all ties with reality. "We're on the way to locking this nomination down," he said of a candidate who appears, if anything, headed in the other direction.

But before the breakfast crowd had a chance to digest that, they were served another, stranger course by Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer. Asked about an accusation on the Drudge Report that Clinton staffers had circulated a photo of Barack Obama wearing Somali tribal dress, Singer let 'er rip.

"I find it interesting that in a room of such esteemed journalists that Mr. Drudge has become your respected assignment editor," he lectured. "I find it to be a reflection of one of the problems that's gone on with the overall coverage of this campaign." He went on to chide the journalists for their "woefully inadequate" coverage of Obama, "a point that has been certainly backed up by the 'Saturday Night Live' skit that opened the show this past Saturday evening, which I would refer you all to."

The brief moment explained everything about the bitter relations between Clinton's campaign and the media: Singer taunting the likes of Broder, who began covering presidential politics two decades before Singer was born, with a comedy sketch that showed debate moderators fawning over Obama.

"That's your assignment editor?" responded Post columnist Ruth Marcus.

"That's my assignment editor," Singer affirmed.

That Clinton's spokesman is taking his cues from late-night comedy is as good an indication as any of where things stand in the onetime front-runner's campaign. To keep the press from declaring the race over before the voters of Ohio and Texas have their say next week, Clinton aides have resorted to a mixture of surreal happy talk and angry accusation.

This is really a very funny article, in a dark, morbid kind of way, although I'm sure Milbank didn't intend the humor the way it comes out. Can I just point out that a substantial number of Americans get their news from "The Daily Show"? When you rely on comedy venues for accurate information -- well, Singer's not so far off base, is he?

That Singer is "taking his cues from late-night comedy" doesn't say as much about the Clinton campaign (which in my own humble opinion has been bungled almost from the start) as it does about the Washington press corps. Most of us are taking our cues from late-night comedy -- it's a hell of a lot more accurate than Matt Drudge has ever been. (And do note Milbank's sniffy comment about the length of Broder's career -- but when's the last time he was right? About anything?)

If you need a type specimen of the faults in press coverage of this election, this is a good one. It's the sort of nasty, mean-spirited, biased crap that's been choking the media for far too long.

(Thanks to BooMan.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Sleaze Factor

Two related posts from C&L on Republican smear tactics. The first, from Steve Benen, I find deliciously humorous:

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s.

Look, RNC officials know the difference between a clean attack and a dirty one. They recognize when an attack is driven by race-based politics, and when one is substantive and above-board. The only reason they would need a focus group to help them out on this is if they planned to walk right up to the decency line, and wanted to know how far they could go without crossing it.

I'd say they're really trying to find out how far over the line they can go without getting caught.


Looks like I was right on that one -- this, from Politico:

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s. . . .

Republicans will be told to “be sensitive to tone and stick to the substance of the discussion” and that “the key is that you have to be sensitive to the fact that you are running against historic firsts,” the strategist explained.

Of course, they could always based their campaign on policy issues. Oh, wait -- the country hates their policies. Well, stick with the sleaze -- it's all you've got left.

The second, from John Amato on the "patriotism" smear, is nice and succinct, and leaves the argument to Obama -- who, by the way, is responding in the way that I've been wishing for a Democrat to respond for years.

“A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans’ benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?

“That is a debate I am very happy to have. We’ll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.”

Here's the post by Glenn Greenwald that forms the basis of Amato's comments. Greenwald nails it:

By far, the most significant pattern in how our political discourse is shaped is that the right-wing noise machine generates scurrilous, petty, personality-based innuendo about Democratic candidates, and the establishment press then mindlessly repeats it and mainstreams it. Thus, nothing was more predictable than watching the "Obamas-are-unpatriotic-subversives" slur travel in the blink of an eye from the Jack Kingstons, Fox News adolescent McCarthyites, and Bill Kristols of the world to AP, MSNBC, and CNN. That's just how the right-wing/media nexus works.

Far more notable is Barack Obama's response to these depressingly familiar attacks. In response, he's not scurrying around slapping flags all over himself or belting out the National Anthem, nor is he apologizing for not wearing lapels, nor is he defensively trying to prove that -- just like his Republican accusers -- he, too, is a patriot, honestly. He's not on the defensive at all. Instead, he's swatting away these slurs with the dismissive contempt they deserve, and then eagerly and aggressively engaging the debate on offense because he's confident, rather than insecure, about his position.

I recommend Greenwald's post. If, like me, you've been under a rock for the past few days, this is all coming out of a scurrilous piece of trash by Nedra Pickler circulated by AP, w hich is nothing more than another example of the press mainstreaming another right-wing swiftboat campaign. It's really a piece of tripe. Here's Greenwald's report on that one (item 2).

I'm starting to think that, even though I don't agree with a lot of his policy positions, Obama has the right stuff.

Depressing News

Via Chris in Paris at AmericaBlog, most of the antidepressants on the market seem not to work, starting with Prozac. It's not the lack of effect so much as the way in which these drugs were presented to licensing agencies and then promoted. From The Guardian:

The review breaks new ground because Kirsch and his colleagues have obtained for the first time what they believe is a full set of trial data for four antidepressants.

They requested the full data under freedom of information rules from the Food and Drug Administration, which licenses medicines in the US and requires all data when it makes a decision.

The pattern they saw from the trial results of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), venlafaxine (Effexor) and nefazodone (Serzone) was consistent. "Using complete data sets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger data set of this type than has been previously reported, we find the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medication is below recommended criteria for clinical significance," they write.

Two more frequently prescribed antidepressants were omitted from the study because scientists were unable to obtain all the data.

I think any American has the right to ask the FDA why complete trial data is being analyzed for the first time -- why wasn't it analyzed before the drug was approved? It's much deeper than another Bush corporate hand-out -- Prozac's been around for years. This is systemic.

The FDA's always been pretty permissive toward pharmaceutical companies and food manufacturers (and where but America could you say someone "manufactures" food?), and maybe it's way past time that stopped. Not that I expect it from any administration or Congress -- the chance for profit under the present system is too high. But I honestly think that withholding trial data from applications before the FDC, rather than being permitted, should be a felony with criminal penalties. C'mon -- Eli Lilly has made billions from a drug that not only is not effective, but has killed people.

The responses from the pharmaceutical manufacturers are what might be expected, ranging from indignation to complete denial:

Eli Lilly was defiant last night. "Extensive scientific and medical experience has demonstrated that fluoxetine is an effective antidepressant," it said in a statement. "Since its discovery in 1972, fluoxetine has become one of the world's most-studied medicines. Lilly is proud of the difference fluoxetine has made to millions of people living with depression."

A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Seroxat, said the authors had failed to acknowledge the "very positive" benefits of the treatment and their conclusions were "at odds with what has been seen in actual clinical practice".

He added: "This analysis has only examined a small subset of the total data available while regulatory bodies around the world have conducted extensive reviews and evaluations of all the data available, and this one study should not be used to cause unnecessary alarm and concern for patients."

The holes in these responses are obvious: Lilly's bald assertion that Prozac has "proven itself" is obviously on shaky ground. Even from the summary in the article, GlaxoSmithKline's objection doesn't hold water: it's easy to see that the study did address the "benefits" demonstrated in clinical practice: placebo effect. The second part of that is a dodge: the complete data was not available to the regulatory bodies. That's the problem.

The whole damned thing's broken.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

There Is Something Lower Than an Administration Hack

As if this were a surprise: Ralph Nader is running for president. Nicole Bell asks the key question:

Making independents more meaningful isn’t an eleventh hour appearance on a talking head show. It takes years of sustained effort and commitment, something I haven’t seen Nader do. So the question must be asked: who is this run really for?

We can make a good guess that his money is going to come from the Republicans, and I think the short and probably correct answer is that this run is to indsure Bush's third term. Nader's only purpose is as a spoiler. That's so painfully obvious that only the talking heads can possibly miss it.

Be interesting to see what kind of coverage he gets.

The quote from Nader is classic, and straight from the Karl Rove playbook.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sometimes I hate it

when my expectations are met. This comes under the heading "Pretty much what I figured, but I didn't really want to know."

There have been rumblings for a while about the fairness of the trials under the military tribunals at Guantanamo, and this just puts the nail in the coffin. The administration now wants to kill some people just to prove that it was right all along.

Secret evidence. Denial of habeas corpus. Evidence obtained by waterboarding. Indefinite detention. The litany of complaints about the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is long, disturbing and by now familiar. Nonetheless, a new wave of shock and criticism greeted the Pentagon's announcement on February 11 that it was charging six Guantánamo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with war crimes--and seeking the death penalty for all of them.

Now, as the murky, quasi-legal staging of the Bush Administration's military commissions unfolds, a key official has told The Nation that the trials have been rigged from the start. According to Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo's military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees to foreclose the possibility of acquittal.

In case there's any doubt that there is any motivation aside from face-saving:

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions.'"

A question for the rightwing blowhards who've been criticizing Michelle Obama's remarks about finally being really proud of this country: Is this what you've been so proud of all along?

(Thanks to C&L.)

On a Related Note

Which is to say, the corruption of our entire government, dday has this post at Hullabaloo:

They buried it on the same night as the Oscars, but 60 Minutes will be airing the Don Siegelman story on Sunday. Siegelman, the Democratic former governor of Alabama, is sitting in a jail cell right now for trumped-up reasons, almost certainly orchestrated by Karl Rove and his charges. Jill Simpson, a former Republican campaign worker, has powerful evidence of this travesty of justice, and she'll go on the record in the story.

And from Kagro X, a take on the implications:

But worse than that, it means that anybody who finds themselves under scrutiny by the federal government now has license to charge that they're being politically targeted. Because if this can happen as Horton describes it happening, all bets are off. It has all the ingredients of the complete and total undoing of all federal law enforcement capability for the foreseeable future.

Nobody indicted by the Bush-Cheney DOJ can possibly help but wonder whether they're being targeted by the White House political machine. Not Don Siegelman. Not Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio. Nobody.

And once America realizes this really can happen (it's previously been unimaginable, and therefore all too easy to dismiss as "conspiracy theory"), you can bet your last dollar that any Republican indicted by a Democratic administration will be making that claim, too.

I wonder if we can fix it. The first step, of course, is to put the whole crew in jail.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging

And Tango Makes Three: This story has been making the rounds. Pam's House Blend has a good summary.

From the article in the Loudon Times:

It was first thought the book was pulled from the school system altogether, but Wayde Byard, public information officer for Loudoun County Public Schools, says there was no county-wide ban of the book.

"It was moved to the teacher's reference shelf only at the elementary school level. It is still in general circulation at the middle and high schools."

Byard says the elementary school level has the greatest range of ages, from Kindergarten to 5th grade.

"Developmentally, some students in the younger grades might not have been able to understand this without having an adult, such as a teacher, parent or guardian reading it with them. So we recommended that this would be a book that a child read with an adult so it can be put in context."

That's mealy-mouthed bureaucrateses for "We just wanted to shut the bitch up." The story illustrates a number of things, starting with the degree to which objective reality is not allowed to intrude on the christianist world view, and also the sheer cowardice in school administrations. The "developmentally inappropriate" argument might have some validity in some circumstances, but in a case like this, where, as poster dana points out, kids are very accepting of a variety of family arrangements, it's a dodge.

I love this quote from WaPo:

Nikki George, a Sterling parent, said her daughter, a second-grader, tried to take the book out of her library at Forest Grove Elementary in Sterling last week and was told that she could not. She had heard the story last year, when a minister at her Unitarian Universalist church read it to a group of children during a service.

George said that the book helps teach a lesson that she wants her children to know: There are all types of families.

"We happen to be a mom and dad and a boy and a girl," she said. "But sometimes you have a grandmother and a mother, sometimes you have just a dad, sometimes you have two moms or two dads. The important thing is that it's a family of love."

One nice thing about this story is that other parents are pushing back.

Other People Have Wingnuts, Too.:

Israel seems to have its share:

Israel decriminalised homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognising gay rights.

Two earthquakes shook the region last week and a further four struck in November and December.

Mr Benizri made his comments while addressing a committee of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, about the country's readiness for earthquakes.

He called on lawmakers to stop "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes".

TRex has an illuminating comment.

A Comment. . .

on telecom immunity

First off, the very concept is reprehensible. But, coming from the Bush administration, that's only to be expected. However, there's a major misperception here: that Bush is actually trying to shield the telecoms from liability. No, no, no, no!

Bush is trying to shield himself from scrutiny. That's what it's always been about. He doesn't care about the telecoms any more than he does anyone else.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Smears Are Starting

It was only a matter of time. The racist right is after Obama, and for a good illustration of how low they will sink -- and it's early yet -- I present Laura Schiffren. The story's around, but Maha made some interesting connections.

Unfortunately, Maha's post is so seamless it's essentially unquotable. Just click through and read it.

Gods, these people are repellent.

Redefining the World

That's what the wingnuts want to do. This post, from Bean at L, G & M, is just the latest episode:

There's news today that lawmakers in Missouri are trying to get emergency contraception (aka Plan B) classified as a drug that induces abortion. The proposed law would also (or perhaps principally) provide protection for moralizing pharmacists who don't want to do their jobs and who refuse to distribute EC.

You may remember that a few years ago, the Kansas Board of Education redefined "science" so that ID could be included in science curriculums -- along with astrology and Tarot reading, I guess. (I should note that I don't find Tarot reading laughable, for reasons that seem sensible to me, but prognotisications of the future are not in the cards, so to speak. Astrology, I'm dubious about.) After being laughed at for a couple of years, the good citizens of Kansas kicked those idiots out and redefined "science" to mean "science."

But this is the tactic. It's not a new one, it's merely an extension of the straw-man argument: instead of holding up a false picture of your opponent's argument, you redefine the basis terms so that the false picture is the "real" picture -- see, it says so right here. It's a fairly simple-minded tactic, and I'd have to be thinking you're a bit simple-minded yourself if you expect it to work.

Another characteristic of the nutty right: they think they're smarter than anyone else, despite all the evidence.

(Question of the day: Why does this sort of thing comes out of government bodies?)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Offside, with occasional music

It's interesting, coming out of this viral fog, to rediscover how shallow and inconsequential most of our political discourse is. I'm trying to catch up on what's been going on while I was out of it (Musharraf lost badly in the Pakistani elections -- another great call for BushCo) and most of it, when I bounce it off my concerns and the concerns of people I know, is irrelevant.

Of course, I've been reading The Daily Dish.

We need a picture.

This one came to mind mostly because "Mount Nemo" from Danna and Clement's North of Niagara album was playing. It's that kind of music, although a little foggier. Of course, like most of my favorite landscapes, it reminds me of North Carolina.

The CD, by the way, is pretty good -- not your typical self-absorbed New Age pap at all. I reviewed it some time ago at Rambles, mostly as a reaction to some self-absorbed, etc. that I had gotten for review, and it still holds up. Danna is known largely for his film scores (he did the music for Vanity Fair, which I also reviewed), although I have several of his "personal work" CDs. Tim Clement is one of those Canadian musicians who should be better known. I haven't run across any of his solo work, and have only another collaboration, Wolfsong Night, a CD he did with guitarist Kim Deschamps, which is wild and wonderful.

At any rate, I recommend them both in whatever combinations you can find them.

(A note about Epinions: They are having severe problems with either their database or their search engine -- which has never been very good -- and half my reviews are missing. Half the stuff I've reviewed is missing. If you want to see my reviews there, I suggest you use the link in the sidebar and scroll through the listing.)

Friday Gay Blogging

Yes, I realize it's Tuesday, but I was otherwise occupied. A few thoughts on marriage for this round.

From an article in the Morris County (NJ) Daily Record that discusses (not in much detail, I'm afraid) a report that NJ civil unions confer a "second class" status (whicih we all knew anyway):

A commission established to study same-sex civil unions in New Jersey has found in its first report that civil unions create a "second-class status" for gay couples rather than giving them equality. . . .

State lawmakers made New Jersey the third state to offer civil unions with a law adopted in 2006 in reaction to a state Supreme Court ruling that year that found gay couples were entitled to the same legal protections as married couples.

The civil union law sought to give gay couples those benefits -- but not the title of marriage. As a part of the same law, the review commission was created to look into whether it was working.

Gay rights advocates say the civil unions do not deliver and have pledged to push lawmakers to vote to allow gay marriage. Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he would be willing to sign such a bill into law -- but doesn't want the issue to be taken up before the election.

The activists say that civil unions, in practice, do not offer the legal protections that marriage does. The commission largely agreed with them.

The commission held three public hearings last year where the majority of the testimony came from people who were in civil unions and said they were still not being treated the way married couples are by government agencies, employers and others.

For instance, the commission finds that many companies in the state that are self-insured, and therefore are regulated by federal rather than state law, refuse to provide health insurance to the partners of their employees.

While employees in Massachusetts could legally do the same thing, most do not, according to the report.

The commission also finds that many people in the state do not understand civil unions. "Civil union status is not clear to the general public," the report says, "which creates a second-class status."

The commission's report says the misunderstanding of civil unions makes it more difficult for a child to grow up in New Jersey with gay parents, or to be gay themselves.

And a slightly less recent essay by Steve Swayne at Independent Gay Forum on civil unions vs. marriage:

I’m deliberately avoiding the M-word here because for years now I’ve argued that we as a nation need to divorce the legal benefits of marriage from the religious connotations of the word. I’ve argued that civil unions need to be available to all. And the collective shrug seen in New Hampshire suggests that a move in that direction is possible, both on a statewide and on a federal level.

After all, most of us intuitively grasp the distinction between a license filed away in a musty vault somewhere and the moment enacted before witnesses where two people wed their lives to each other. The latter, not the former, constitutes marriage. The rest is paperwork.

I do not discount the symbolic important the M-word has for many in our world today, which is why I’m happy to report that people routinely refer to my partner and I (neither one of us likes the word “husband”) as married. The state cannot withhold the word or the ceremonial rites of marriage.

The legal rights of marriage, in contrast, are held exclusively by the state. Let’s keep prying those rights free from the word itself. One of the fastest ways we can do that is to elect a president who can help make this distinction clearer, who respects all couples for their intrinsic worth and sees their genuine need for the protection of their relationships that only the law can afford. And when the GOP nominee starts squawking about civil unions on the state and federal level, say: You had your chance to speak up in New Hampshire. It’s time for you now and forever to hold your peace.

On the whole, it seems as though the opponents of equal rights are losing ground as people come to see that, by George!, gay couples are recognized and the world hasn't ended. A comment, though, about terminology seems in order here:

Both Swayne and the Daily Record article note the reluctance to apply the word "marriage" to same-sex relationships, and Swayne specifically mentions the "regligious connotations" of the term. The "religious" meaning of "marriage" has become a meme in this discourse, which has always bothered me, which I largely ascribe to the fact that, for the Christian church, marriage wasn't even considered worthy of being a sacrament until the twelfth century (or the early thirteenth, I forget which), and it has always been much more about property than any sort of "holy union" (of course, some people think that combining your property is about as holy as it gets). And also consider that, although I believe all states automatically grant clergy the right to perform marriages, they are acting as agents of the state and not as religious officials in that capacity. Another of those mistaken courtesies that we extend religion in this country.

And, as I was doing some bleary-eyed surfing over the weekend (trust me, it was merely bleeding off nervous energy -- I wasn't really tracking very well), I ran across a key factoid: the religious word for marriage is "matrimony." It always has been. Matrimony has always been a word reserved for the religious institution, while marriage has been the word used to designate the social and legal institution.

I think we need to take that word back, because no matter the religious context of your relationship, it is the social and legal context that is critically important.

A couple of final comments, regarding backlash in New Jersey:

Opponents of gay marriage have been pushing back in New Jersey. Roman Catholic churches around the state have been planning special prayers on marriage for today. A major aim is to promote marriage as being between only a man and a woman.

Um -- sounds like someone wanting more than their share to me.

A conservative Princeton-based group, the National Organization for Marriage, has aired radio commercials that say allowing gay marriage would undermine some religious teachings that homosexuality is wrong.

And what's wrong with that? If your religion has nasty things in it, perhaps you need to find a new religion.

OK -- It's Over

This round, at least. I put in a full day at work yesterday, actually ate some food (not telling what -- I just stocked up on whatever looked appealing) and got a good night's rest.

I feel much better.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Down for the count

thanks to another bout with DeathBug07, v. 2.1. Sorry about that, but this thing strikes without warning.

Still very uncomfortable trying to sit up. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Strict Constructionist"

Which translates as "activist judge that fringe right-wingers agree with."

It has long puzzled me how Antonin Scalia got his reputation as a legal scholar. As you might guess from this article, he's largely a grandstander who, it seems, is more interested in headlines than careful analysis, and an unashamed ideologue as well. I've read some of his opinions, mostly dissents in creationism-in-the-shools cases, and the man is not a deep thinker. Here's a link to Edwards v Aguillard, with Scalia's dissent. (You'll have to scroll down quite a way to get to Scalia's opinion. Although this case dates from 1987, making it one of the earlier cases in this vein, it's quite apparent that Scalia was picking and choosing which facts he was going to pay attention to: in his eyes, if the Louisiana legislature said that creationism was science and not religion, that's good enough for Scalia. (The U.S. District Court, in MccLean v Arkansas (1982), was only the first court to find that creationism was religious doctrine, and not open to legislative definition as anything else, an opinion which Scalia ignores, as I recall, in his dissent in Edwards.)

Did I mention that he specializes in asking the wrong questions? There is his often-reiterated statement, in regard to Lawrence and Garner v Texas, that the Constitution does not guarantee anyone the right to engage in homosexual behavior. In point of fact, the Constitution does not guarantee anyone the right to engage in any sexual behavior -- that's one of those rights that falls under Chief Justice Warren's badly worded "penumbra" opinion. However, this seems to be one of Scalia's trademarks, and to me a sure sign of someone who either doesn't get it, or doesn't want to deal with it and so throws up a smokescreen.

Here are some comments by dday at Hullbaloo on Scalia and his mindset.

It could be worse, I guess -- the Senate could have confirmed Robert Bork.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How Low Can They Go?

From Suburban Guerilla, an alert on just how underhanded and venal insurance companies are. Here's some choice words from the LA Times story:

Blue Cross of California is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose "material medical history," including "pre-existing pregnancies."

"Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately," the letters say. The Times obtained a copy of a letter that was aimed at physicians in large medical groups.

Blue Cross' defense boils down to "we're trying to keep costs down and besides, we've been doing it for a while." Let's be blatant about it, OK?

The doctors are not amused, and neither is the California state insurance regulatory agency.

Lynne Randolph, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Managed Health Care, said the agency would review the letter. Blue Cross is fighting a $1-million fine the department imposed in March over alleged systemic problems the agency identified in the way the company rescinds coverage.

A spokesman for state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said the Insurance Department had not received any complaints about Blue Cross' letter. But because the medical association had sent a copy of its complaint to the department, the letter is "on our radar now," spokesman Byron Tucker said.

The letter is "extremely troubling on several fronts," Tucker said. "It really obliterates the line between underwriting and medical care. It is the insurer's job to underwrite their policies, not the doctors'. Doctors deliver medical care. Their job is not to underwrite policies for insurers."

Anthony Wright, executive director of HealthAccess California, a healthcare advocacy organization, said the letter had put physicians in the "disturbing" position of having to weigh their patients' interests against a directive from the company that, in many cases, pays most of their bills.

"They are playing a game of 'gotcha' where they are trying to use their doctors against their patients' health interests," Wright said. "That's about as ugly as it gets."

Let me see -- we need mandate plans that force everyone to pay money to these thugs? And is the government going to be allowed to negotiate the cost?

And why do you suppose we've never heard about what a serious problem insurance fraud is before this? Maybe it's like the voter fraud that the Bush Justice Department was so busy investigating that they didn't have time for corruption cases.

Major Bummer

Polaroid is going to stop making instant film. This is a real problem for me, since some of my most interesting work was done with a Polaroid Spectra System camera. (If you go to a/k/a Hunter and look at the series "Vanished" and "Shatter," those were all done with that camera It was a marvelous tool, and if I can get it repaired, I would love to be able to use it again.

But I can't do it without film, dammit.

Via Andrew Sullivan

(Image from "Vanished", 1994)


From Crooks and Liars:

On Thursday, Chairman John Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee held a hearing at which Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that he would not investigate torture (video) or warrantless spying (video), he would not enforce contempt citations (video), and he would treat Justice Department opinions as providing immunity for crimes (report).

None of this was new, but perhaps it touched something in Conyers that had not been touched before. Following the hearing, he and two staffers met for an hour and 15 minutes with two members of Code Pink to discuss impeachment.

From this story, it sounds like Conyers is afraid of actually taking any action in the face of the administration's brazen dismissal of our form of government. Push him a little.

Here's contact information:

Call 202-225-5126
Fax 202-225-0072
Email john.conyers@mail.house.gov

And here's the e-mail I sent to him and to my own representative:

Dear Rep. Conyers:

I understand that you are considering instituting impeachment hearings against Attorney General Mukasey. Given his recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, in which he dismissed both the Congress and the Courts as partners in our government and essentially declared that the Department of Justice (and hasn't that become a misnomer of vast scale?) will be the sole arbiter of law, I feel that you have no other responsible course.

I would like to feel that the Democrats, at least, have some regard for our institutions and ideals and are willing to take the actions necessary to preserve the rule of law in this country. I urge you to begin such hearings as soon as possible. I am sending a copy of this e-mail to my own Congresswoman, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, to advise her of my support.

Thank you, and best wishes.

Translation of the second paragraph: Show some spine. Impeachment is way overdue and you don't help any of us by sitting there worrying about who's going to say mean things. We already know the answer to that.

These People Are Really Crazy

It just gets worse and worse.

The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.

The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as "blackmail" and "troublesome", and could see west Europeans and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington's requirements.

According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals, EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America, senior EU officials said.

And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket, a procedure that will take several days.

This would barely be justified if there were any indication that it might be effective in counteracting terrorism. So far, all we have is assertions from an administration known for lying that they've stopped "terrorist plots," at least one of which, in Miami, seems to have happened mostly at the instigation of a US agent.

Aside from kissing our tourism industry good-bye, want to guess what form the EU retaliation is going to take?

The Fourth Branch

I guess that's the unofficial name of our new fourth branch of government, Cheney's Office. He obviously doesn't want anyone to know anything about what he's up to. You may remember the incident in Denver in which Secret Service agents arrested an Iraq war opponent who confronted Cheney at a mall. The charges were thrown out, largely due to conflicting testimony from two of Cheney's people. Now Cheney doesn't want the tapes of their depositions released because, according to this Denver Post story,

the videotapes could be used to invade the privacy and embarrass two aides called to testify about the encounter in a civil lawsuit.

The motion for a protective order expressed particular concern that both aides' faces could wind up on YouTube.com.

"As courts have recognized, using digital technology, a video recording can easily be 'cut and spliced,' so as to embarrass and even humiliate a witness," Cheney's lawyers wrote in a U.S. District Court filing.

"That much can readily be seen from a visit to YouTube. . . . A simple query using the search term 'deposition' yields over 400 video clips, in which many of the deponents are made to look boorish, mendacious, or unintelligent."

How thoughtful of him. How about the plaintiff's right for redress when his constitutionally guaranteed rights are violated?

It seems to me that, since these two witnesses were not private citizens at the time, this is total BS. They have severely limited rights to privacy as holders of public office, and their testimony is public record. Capiche?

Thanks to AmericaBlog.

Well, It Worked in Florida

The Washington State Republican vote count is getting a lot of press. I liked this post from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. Seems that Luke Esser, The Republican party state chairman, has a long history of vote suppression.

Now your average leftist loudmouth is a committed individual and can almost never be persuaded to ignore his constitutional rights. the deadbeats, however, are a different matter entirely. years of interminable welfare checks and free government services have made these modern-day sloths even more lazy. they will vote on election day, if it isn’t much of a bother. but even the slightest inconvenience can keep them from the polling place.

Many of the most successful anti-deadbeat voter techniques (poll taxes, sound beatings, etc.) that conservatives have used in the past have been outlawed by busybody judges.

Didn't he know you're only supposed to use these tactics against Democrats?

Of course, chances are at least 50/50 that this was an attempt at satire, although Horsesass does link to a PDF of the original column. But what kind of world do we live in when satire and reality meet on the right?

Here's a more sedate post on it by Will Bunch.

Monday, February 11, 2008

If you want to know . . .

what a conservative is up to, listen to what he's saying while he's pointing at someone else.

Here's a post by Jack Balkin on a recent WSJ OpEd about the courts and the election. The OpEd is basically a scare piece about how the Democrats will pack the courts with judges that will destroy our constitutional republic. The opening paragraphs of the OpEd sort of spell it out:

The conservative movement has made enormous gains over the past three decades in restoring constitutional government. The Roberts Supreme Court shows every sign of building on these gains.

Yet the gulf between Democratic and Republican approaches to constitutional law and the role of the federal courts is greater than at any time since the New Deal. With a Democratic Senate, Democratic presidents would be able to confirm adherents of the theory of the "Living Constitution" -- in essence empowering judges to update the Constitution to advance their own conception of a better world. This would threaten the jurisprudential gains of the past three decades, and provide new impetus to judicial activism of a kind not seen since the 1960s.

Funny, I was thinking the same thing about the Republicans.

Given that the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have become political forums, I think Balkin's contention that it's merely a matter of "a choice between liberal and conservative interpretations of the Constitution" is probably correct but doesn't go far enough. (Although I have to say his post is a nice, polite exercise in calling "bullshit" on these guys.)

If you read this piece carefully, it's obvious that what's at stake here is the whole Republican stranglehold on the government:

With many more Republican senators up for re-election than Democrats, the nomination of Mr. Romney could easily lead to a Goldwater-like debacle, in which the GOP loses not only the White House but also its ability in practice to filibuster in the Senate.

Not as long as Harry Reid is majority leader. Seriously, though, snark aside, it's an open admission that the Republicans have no interest in compromise or any real bipartisan efforts to heal the country from the damage done by BushCo -- gods forbid they should lose their power to paralyze the Senate. (Of course, this is the Wall Street Journal, with a constituency composed of those who have benefitted most from Bush's policies.)

And the Roberts court is well on the way to rolling back the basic law supporting individual rights in favor of advancing a series of decision that gives primacy to the rights of powerful institutions. That's the Republican agenda. The whole idea that the Democrats are making an all-out assault on the Constitution is ridiculous on its face. The administration, the Congress, and the courts under Bush have already done enough damage, thank you. As Balkin notes:

From my perspective, at least, there is no small irony in Calabresi and McGinnis' call for restoring constitutional government, given the activities of the current occupant of the White House; if anyone has made constitutional restoration necessary, it is not the demon liberals but George W. Bush.

He's being much too nice about it.

The Maverick. Yeah, Right.

The more I read about John McCain and his campaign -- and his record -- the more he scares me.

First, he's another one running for Bush's third term. "Bomb everybody" seems to be the basis of his foreign policy, and look who's advising him:

McCain's advisers are reluctant to criticize President Bush, even in private. But they suggest that while their candidate agrees with many current White House policies, he's critical of how they've been implemented. . . .

McCain's foreign-policy team is sprinkled with people, including Scheunemann, who were ardent backers of the 2003 Iraq invasion and who dismissed critics who warned of unintended consequences. They include former CIA Director James Woolsey, an adviser mostly on energy security, and William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.

There you have it -- more of the same, masterminded by the very people who advocated the mess we're in in the Middle East now. Whether the "surge" -- which McCain supported -- is working or not is a side issue. The underlying and much more serious issue is our position in the Middle East, which has been badly eroded over the past five years. McCain wants to continue the policies that put us there.

McCain is extending the Kool-Aid vision.

At a January town hall in New Hampshire, McCain told a questioner that it "would be fine with me" if the United States had a military presence in Iraq for 100 years. He stressed that he meant a peacetime presence like that of U.S. troops in Germany and Japan.

I'd like for him to explain to me, given the state of the Middle East and our role in creating the problems, just how that's going to be possible. Are we going to conquer the entire region, the way we did Germany and Japan? And are we going to do it all by ourselves?

NP (which, since most of you have never seen this before, stands for "now playing." Sometimes I may think of a song that fits the situation.): Foreigner, "Double Vision." Of course, that's the theme for the last seven years.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Slow News Day

So take the opportunity to read about Ice Ages. This occurs to me because it's about 0 outside and very windy, so I'm looking to being housebound today -- there's no way I want to go out into that.

Actually, I'm just not finding anything that moves me to comment (and how often does that happen?).

If you've got something interesting to say, say it. If not, don't.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Another Feature, Maybe

Now that I've started off with Friday Gay Blogging, I think I may do another regular feature, Wingnut Watch. Not sure what day I want to do it on yet -- we'll see how the news develops.

It Had To Go Somewhere

This is really scary:

A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

I honestly don't know what to say, except that when you start screwing around with the ocean, you're really playing with fire (if you'll pardon the oxymoron).

Thanks to AmericaBlog.

Administration Newspeak, EPA v. ?.0

This is choice, from NYT. The appellate court has voided the EPA's regs on mercury emissions from power plants, which were, as the court found, in violation of the clear language of the law. The EPA's response?

A spokesman for the agency, Jonathan Shradar, said that officials were “disappointed that the court suspended the first ever regulation for mercury emissions from power plants.”

“Because of the court’s action,” Mr. Shradar said, “the U.S. has no national regulation to cut mercury from existing power plants.”.

Of course, if the Bush administration had done its job, there would be regulations in place.

Oh, wait -- I forgot: laws are for the little people.

Somehow, I Wound Up in the Wrong Gneration

This, via Andrew Sullivan, sort of nails my political philosophy:

Three quarters of Generation X agree with the statement "Our generation has an important voice, but no one seems to hear it." Whatever this voice may be, it does not fit comfortably within existing partisan camps. "The old left-right paradigm is not working anymore," according to the novelist Douglas Coupland, who coined the term "Generation X." Neil Howe and William Strauss, who have written extensively on generational issues, have argued in these pages that from the Generation X perspective "America's greatest need these days is to clear out the underbrush of name-calling and ideology so that simple things can work again."

To my way of thinking, the argument that the world has gotten too complex to be understood by most of us has one obvious counter-argument: simplify the world. And, as we've seen repeatedly over the past generation or two, ideology only gets in the way of governing. Please note that the first two presidents of my generation were Clinton and Bush II. What can I say, except to note that Clinton, whatever his personal failings, was not an ideologue and was a successful president; Bush, who has been much more ideological, has been a disaster.

More On "Get Out Of Jail Free"

From Digby, her usual excellent analysis of a phenomenon I haven't discussed much because it disgusts me. (I really am a sensitive sort, you know.) From all appearances, it appears that private contractors, such as KBR and Blackwater, are operating outside anyone's jurisdiction.

There is plenty of evidence to support the plaintiffs' claims. But at this point, thanks to the arguments of KBR lawyers from McKenna Long & Aldridge, the facts are irrelevant, at least as a legal matter. In September 2006, shortly after KBR hired McKenna to take over the case from longtime KBR counsel Jones Day, the federal district court in Houston dismissed the case, declaring it nonjusticiable. McKenna partners David Kasanow and Raymond Biagini convinced the court that the case raises a political question beyond the competence of the federal judiciary.

The plaintiffs have appealed that decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But if the district court's decision stands, it will mean that the actions of virtually any military contractor working for the federal government could be deemed beyond the authority of the courts -- and immune from American law.

All this outsourcing and contracting was done for many reasons, some of it no doubt to sneak around regulations and budgetary accountability. But legal immunity may have been the main reason. We may find that CIA contractors who torture are not only considered immune under the Mukasey" I was only following orders" legal interpretation, but that they don't fall under any legal jurisdiction at all.

Considering that all this was done by people who had previously brought us secret wars in Cambodia and sold arms to our alleged enemies to fund illegal wars from a shadow government run out of the white house, it really shouldn't be surprising that they did what they did. And unless there is a reckoning, it would be criminally stupid if we are surprised the next time they get their hands on the white house and do it all again. It's what they do.

Legal immunity has been one of the ongoing goals of this administration -- no transparency, no accountability, neutralize Congress and neutralize the courts. To quote Digby, "It's what they do."

Note: Be sure to follow Digby's link to Charles Pierce's comments. I feel the same way about it, and it's one reason I'm so appalled at the Democrats: they don't want to talk about the most serious damage Bush has done to this country. Probably because they hope to reap the benefits.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More on Mukasey

From Crooks and Liars, some comments on the new AG's testimony before Congress:

Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) asked if Mukasey was prepared to prosecute admitted instances of administration-ordered torture. No, the AG said, because the Justice Department decided it was legal.

In the same hearing, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) pointed out that the president had authorized an unlawful warrantless wiretapping program, and inquired as to whether this was an example of the president breaking the law. Mukasey said it couldn’t be against the law, because the Justice Department decided otherwise.

David Kurtz at TPM had this to say:

President Bush has now laid down his most aggressive challenge to the very constitutional authority of Congress. It is a naked assertion of executive power. The founders would have called it tyrannical. His cards are now all on the table. This is no bluff.

Kurtz misses a point here: Bush has already dismissed Congress, through his signing statements. What Mukasey is saying is that the courts are irrelevant -- the DoJ will now interpret the law and, based on its own interpretation, will decide whether to prosecute violations.

One of Kurtz' readers hit the same point:

David Kurtz's "Mark This Day" blurb misses the most important point -- it's not just that the Attorney General's position is that a DOJ Order makes the subject activity legal but that, as Nadler brought out, there is now no recourse to a judicial test, either criminal (through refusal to prosecute) or civil (through the state secrets privilege based solely on a DOJ affidavit). The DOJ is entitled to take whatever position it wants, however self-serving and unitary, but now there is no avenue for judicial review and so that is the end of the story. That is the important point here.

I start to wonder, quit seriously, if we are going to be able to get this asshole out of the White House. Any bets on whether Mukasey decides the November election is invalid?


Here's a weird post from Marty Lederman on this. Afraid it just makes no sense to me (granted, I'm not a lawyer, but I'm what you could call an "educated layman."):

Well, for one thing, it remains DOJ's view that the waterboarding was lawful at the time it used. (Hayden also testified today that its current legality would be a harder question, because of the intervening enactment of the DTA and MCA, and the Hamdan decision. This confirms my earlier surmise that in the Administration's view, waterboarding is not torture under the torture act (a statute that was in place in 2003), and that its legality today thus depends only on whether it is "cruel treatment" under Common Article 3 and on whether it shocks the conscience under the McCain Amendment.)

This view might be wrong on the merits -- I certainly think it is -- but nevertheless it remains the view of the prosecuting entity, the Department of Justice, and, more importantly, it is the view of the President. Given that that is the case, it would simply be nonsensical -- indeed, unconstitutional -- for the Department to prosecute persons for conduct that it considers to have been lawful, or to invite an outside prosecutor to consider such a prosecution. Would you try to send someone to jail for conduct you thought was legal and beneficial to the national security?

I go back to the whole issue about the courts: while the DoJ is certainly correct in providing opinions on the legality of any particular course of action (no matter how ridiculous those opinions may be), those opinions are not binding on anyone else. (It's even questionable whether they're binding on the DoJ, Lederman notwithstanding.) It's an open question whether Mukasey or any other AG would be correct to refuse to prosecute something like this --say, under instructions from Congress -- and whether such refusal would constitute an impeachable offense. (As a practical matter, Congress ain't going to do squat about this. We all know that.)

As usual, the comments at Balkinization are worth reading.

Update II:

Here's the post by hilzoy that Lederman refers to.

Wingnut Note

I guess if one has pull with Jehovah, it doesn't make any difference when you endorse a candidate.

Not that Dobson's ego is oversize, or anything, but Huckabee's been getting creamed ever since the fluke in Iowa. Does Dobson really think that's because he hadn't endorsed him yet?

I guess Jehovah will make up the difference.


Here's a wonderful post from publius at Obsidian Wings on McCain and Right Loonistan.

I honestly have no idea who these people think they are dictating terms to John McCain, winner of the Republican primary. All of these demands may have mattered two months ago, but that ship has sailed.

Easy answer: they're who they've always been, putting up a front with smoke and mirrors (pay no attention to the man behind the curtain -- he's gone back to Texas or somewhere) and pretending that they actually have some weight outside their merry band of vote-how-they're-told automatons. (Perkins et al don't seem to have figured out that Rove put together a coalition, and they were only part of it.)

Given the enthusiasm for the Democratic candidates as opposed to that for the Republicans (if turnout figures are any indication), the Dobson Gang might as well start stockpiling Kool-Aid and some chaw for those long evenings on the porch. The only way the Republicans have a ghost of a chance in November is by moving toward the center; McCain knows that.

(If Dobson/Perkins/Coulter and the Ilk were to declare their support, McCain would be dead in the water. Of course, they may not realize that: I don't think they understand that it's their ideology that most people find repulsive. And the fact that I think the country is past the time when you can lie your way into the White House -- not that some candidates aren't giving it a try.)

Update II:

John McKay has some thoughts on Dobson's posturing.

Dobson can't change the behavior of millions of voters, and probably doesn't believe he can (though I'm not entirely sure on that point). If he can convince enough people of the narrative that the election was lost because the Party lost the favor of Dobson, then he will maintain a influence with the people who matter, the pundits and Party leaders who flatter him and the little people who are impressed when they see him flattered and send money to him to continue to be a big man representing their agenda. He doesn't need to actually accomplish anything to advance that agenda to keep the checks flowing in; he just needs to maintain the illusion that he could accomplish something in the very near future if--and only if--the checks keep coming.

Dobson, his influential friends, the Dobson flatterers, and the Dobson wannabes are scared this year. This profitable structure that has been almost forty years in the making is starting to crack and crumble. Dobson is fighting for his life. His tantrum and the narrative of his influence are a desperate throw of the dice. The whole edifice of the religious right and the conservative money machine won't go in one election but, if we're lucky, it will be considerably diminished after November. When the pundits and conservative opinion makers get together to decide what happened, there will be a lot of finger pointing, and someone (several someones) will need to be purged. I expect the ax to fall hard on the religious right, but there will be plenty of blame for others to. Dobson might be able to save his precious influence with this act, but it's just as possible that he will find himself among the purged and retire from politics. It was an ungodly place to begin with, we can expect to hear him sniff.

Music to my ears.

Friday Gay Blogging

Since I don't presently have a cat, and my orchid is not quite ready to bloom.

From Independent Gay Forum, an interesting article by John Corvino on the "gay fruit fly" experiments. I think the title is a little misleading -- the research wasn't "bad science" that I can see. It's more a matter of bad science reporting (which is more or less a given) and making unwarranted extensions of the result of experiments on fruit flies to human behavior.

There is one basic flaw in Corvino's comments:

To put the point another way: while scientific study can reveal the biological origin of our feelings and behaviors, it can’t tell us what we should do with them. Should we embrace them? Tolerate them? Change them? Those are moral questions, and simply observing fruit flies—or humans, for that matter—is insufficient to answering them.

But can’t these studies prove that homosexual attraction is “natural”? Not in any useful sense. Specifically, not in any sense that would distinguish good feelings and behaviors from bad ones. Discovering the biological origin of a trait is different from discovering its value.

The question here (and I think this reveals that Corvino has bought into the right-wing framing of this issue to a certain extent) is simply the anti-gay article of faith that homosexuality is a choice, to which many of them still subscribe and which any thinking person has to reject as ridiculous on its face. The value of experiments on sexual orientation is that such research has been piling up evidence that position is wrong. (That's not going to make any difference among the hard-core believers: they don't believe in evidence anyway.)

In that light, Corvino's argument about science vs. morality gets pretty thin: the arguments against gay rights are based on morality as promulgated by people who reject any contact with the realities of human behavior. (Think "Prada Pope," among others.) For those of us who still believe that public policy should be a matter of rational thought -- which still seems to be most of the country on most issues -- the scientific evidence has an impact: the studies do demonstrate, over and over again, that homosexual behavior is "natural" and makes those who fulminate against "crimes against nature" look like the ridiculous blowhards they are.

An equally interesting article by Paul Varnell about the misconceptions that underlie a lot of research into male homosexuality.

Take the issue of research into the origins of (causes of, reasons for) male homosexuality. That would be interesting to know, just as it would be interesting to know the equally mysterious cause(s) of heterosexuality. But scientists aren't quite researching the right thing. Most researchers seem very confused about what homosexuality/homosexual desire actually is. And most seem overly impressed with the fact that most women are also attracted to men and so draw the logically invalid conclusion that male homosexuality must be caused by something female in gay men—as if desire for men can have only one cause.


Salt Lake City, of all places, has passed legislation for a domestic partner registry. (I realize SLC is to the left of Utah as a whole, but "left of Utah" is sort of like saying "Left of Atilla the Hun.") It looks like it's not quite as toothless as Chicago's DP registry, which carries no rights or benefits at all.

The irony here is that the ordinance makes DPs "available to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples who cannot or chose (sic) not to marry."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out just exactly what's doing the most to weaken marriage here. I think it's pretty funny, actually -- every time some anti-gay loon tries to water down a civil union or domestic partnership law to de-emphasize gay relationships, it makes marriage more and more superfluous. Good work, guys!

I've commented on this case already: it appears the Parkers and Wirthlins will appeal to the Supreme Court. Frankly, this one is so open and shut that I doubt the justices will take it. If they do, the anti-gay ideologues on the court are going to find themselves in a quandary: how to balance anti-gay bias against their need to preserve the power of large institutions over common citizens?

OK -- this is a transitional post. I've already commented on some of these stories, and there are others that I've posted on in the course of normal, day-to-day outrage venting. Unless something gay-related is totally egregious or really time-sensitive, though, I think this weekly spot will be it for gay-related news and commentary.

We Also Torture Logic

Read this exchange from the House Judiciary hearings. Lord. Love. A. Duck.

The Right in Tatters

Good column by E. J. Dionne on the split in the right.

Yet whatever divisions the Democrats face, it is the Republicans who have confronted an ideological civil war in which popular talk show hosts -- in vain as it turns out -- served as field generals determined to beat back McCain's advancing army of Republican dissidents.

Despite his impressive victories, McCain continued to fare poorly on Tuesday among the conservatives who have defined the Republican Party since the rise of Ronald Reagan.

McCain won, as he has all year, because moderates and liberals, opponents of President Bush, and critics of the Iraq war continued to rally to him despite his stands on many of the issues that arouse their ire. And he prevailed because Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney continued to divide the right.

I have to admit that I'm enjoying the meltdown in Right Loonistan. I mean, those are a scary bunch of people, and they've done immense damage to the country. The Democrats may have forgotten how to govern, but at least they believe in America. I'll be just as happy if Dobson and Coulter and their ilk do sit out the election. Neither Obama nor Clinton could possibly be worse than Bush's third term.

Thanks to Mahablog.

Tapper Strikes Again

Jake Tapper, of the infamous Clinton collage (which I discussed here and here), has now christened the Obama campaign a "cult." From Will Bunch:

Jake Tapper (left) is an ambitious Philly-area kid who parleyed a date with Monica Lewinsky into early admission into the Gang -- now he's ABC's chief political correspondent and when he sees the excitement generated by the Obama campaign, he can only think of it as one thing: A cult.

His alarmist blog post is actually called: "And Obama Wept":

Inspiration is nice. But some folks seem to be getting out of hand.

It's as if Tom Daschle descended from on high saying, "Be not afraid; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of Chicago a Savior, who is Barack the Lord."

He does find a variety of sources to back it up, including Gang leader Joe Klein:

Joe Klein, writing at Time, notes "something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism" he sees in Obama's Super Tuesday speech.

"We are the ones we've been waiting for," Obama said. "This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It's different not because of me. It's different because of you."

Actually, if you read all of Klein's piece, it's not nearly as alarmist as Tapper makes it sound, and it certainly doesn't echo the hysterical tone of Tapper's piece. (Check out his over-the-top conclusion in particular.)

Tapper's conclusion is more ridiculous than anything else, but check out his update. (I'm having real problems with Tapper's site, so follow the link yourself, please.) It demonstrates quite effectively that conservatives are sadly deficient when it comes to detecting humor. (Yeah, I'm lumping Tapper in with the right-wing fringe. He's one of the Villagers, who have been parroting the Kristol/Dobson/Norquist talking points for over a decade now,so it amounts to the same thing.)

I have one thing to say to Tapper and Klein: Walk into CPAC and say "Ronald Reagan." Then talk to me about cults.


Thanks to John Amato, who had this to say:

In essence he’s telling you that exuberance for Obama is bad, Mmkay? If the CPACers were as excited for McCain—then exuberance would be good, Mmkay?

'Nuff said?

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Yes, those are real buses and boats and stuff.

Via Digby, comments from Monkeyfister on the desperate situation in the Mid-South after the tornados last night. It's huge.

I can't describe how wide-spread the damage is down here. It's enormous. The Media, per usual, is only just now waking up to the situation, after their Super-Duper-Let's-All-Wet-Our-Pants-Together- Tuesday Political Hangover. Like NOLA, these are REALLY poor folks down here, and have nothing, and nowhere to go.

Here's another post, with contact information to those organizations in the best position to give immediate help.

Since we can't expect anything from FEMA or DHS, it's up to we the people. Lend a hand.

Bush Lite

Hullabaloo is rich pickings this morning. Dday notes McCain's absence from the vote on the economic stimulus package (which lost by one vote under Harry Reid's new "60 votes for everything" rule) -- a vote that both Clinton and Obama returned to the Senate for. He also brings forward Howard Dean's definition of McCain, which is choice and right on.

John McCain is a media darling, but don't trust his carefully-crafted image - he's worked for years to brand himself. From Iraq to health care, Social Security to special interest tax cuts to ethics, he's promising nothing more than a third Bush term.

If the Democrats don't stick him with the "Less jobs, more wars" slogan, they need to disband as a party.

Update: Scott Lemieux has some thoughts on McCain's potential for destroying the courts, based on this post by Jack Balkin.

From my perspective, at least, there is no small irony in Calabresi and McGinnis' call for restoring constitutional government, given the activities of the current occupant of the White House; if anyone has made constitutional restoration necessary, it is not the demon liberals but George W. Bush. But I suspect they probably don't see things the way I do.

In any case, Calabresi and McGinnis somewhat exaggerate the dangers of new Democratic appointments: Given the most likely retirements, the most plausible scenario is that a Democratic President will be able to ensure that Ginsburg, Stevens (and possibly Souter) are replaced by liberals, thus preserving the status quo. On the other hand, it is the Wall Street Journal editorial page, so a degree of foaming about the mouth about the liberal judicial menace and its imminent destruction of the country is de rigeur.

I shudder to think of John McCain as president.

Democratic-Controlled What?

Way up at the head of the list of things I'm really tired of is the "Democratic controlled Congress." Maybe Bush is right -- maybe we really don't need a Congress. Again via Digby, a not very cheery take on that body and its so-called "leadership."

To me, none of the "why" matters. What matters is that in the past year, we have worse FISA laws, more crimes committed by this administration – all of which have had no accountability, prior crimes by this administration being uncovered with no accountability, another 1,000 or so of our troops killed in Iraq with no end in sight - either in money or in lives, more people uninsured and an economy that is worsening by the day with no real plan other than bogus "rebate" checks that will do nothing to stimulate the economy or help the general population.

What matters is that these two leaders have done very little leading when it comes to what many people in the Democratic Party as well as the country in general, want from their leadership.

As Digby notes:

The red state Republican senators are an awesome obstructive force for the GOP. Unless we get over 60 (not counting the Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelsons) they are going to keep playing these games very effectively until somebody figures out a way around them.

That should probably read "somebody else figures out a way," because it's obviously beyond Reid. It's not very hard -- Bill Frist managed it for six years, and if Frist can pull it off, what does that say about Reid's intelligence and determination?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Possible Department at Hunter at Random

I'm thinking of doing a weekly gay news round-up here, just to keep my hand in. With the election and everything, I tend to lose track, and maybe setting aside one day a week for exclusively gay news (depending on the outrage index from other news) would be a good thing.

Probably a survey of what other gay bloggers are covering.

You get a vote. Use it.

A Small Anti-Hillary Backlash

I'm not really all that enthusiastic about Clinton or Obama (and actually, to my shame, wound up not voting yesterday -- I was feeling kind of oncoming-coldish and when it came right down to it, couldn't figure out who to vote for in any race, since all the Democrats seem pretty much interchangeable). But the more I read Andrew Sullivan and Chris Crain, the more I'm inclined to support Hillary. If she scares gay Republicans (which I still consider an oxymoron) that much, she must be the one I want.

Wingnuts in Review

I seldom comment on the doings of the high-profile crazies on the right any more -- they've become so predictable and so far out of touch that it hardly seems worth it. However, since I'm not really enthused about working on what I should be working on today, I thought I'd do a short summary, with commentary.

The destruction of the Republican Party by its base seems to be going quite well. First Ann Coulter, who believes that common courtesy and respect for others is a communist plot, has declared that she'll work for Hillary Clinton's election if John McCain takes the Republican nomination, an offer that the Clinton campaign would be well advised to ignore. I mean, really, does anyone want that woman on their side? She hasn't even been invited back to that hotbed of patriotic neo-nazi college kids, CPAC, this year. Can you say radioactive?

Now James Dobson is planning on sitting out the election is McCain is nominated. We can only hope he'll talk his friends into doing the same.

Mostly, this sounds like a bad case of "I'll pick up my marbles and go home," which is about the level of dialogue that we expect from these loons. Can't these pesky voters do what they're told?

Tony Perkins (the right-wing religious nut, not the actor, who was much better looking) gets his own heading today -- he's been working overtime at being an obvious idiot.

First, Attorney General Mukasey is stopping the discrimination against gay and lesbian DOJ employees instituted by Ashcroft and continued by Gonzales. Perkins has a statement that has to be read to be believed; from Good as You:

In his statement, Mukasey notes that his goal is to create "an environment that's free of discrimination." What the DOJ's new boss fails to understand is that it's possible to treat all employees fairly without elevating homosexuals to a special status. Rather than invoking unique privileges for a group that most consider controversial, Mukasey should have made it clear that celebrations of anyone's sexual behavior do not belong in the workplace--particularly at taxpayer expense!

Perkins is another one who seems to have an unhealty obsession with gay sex. If it fascinates you that much, Tony, I'm sure your pal Peter LaBarbera could recommend some places to go. For research, of course.

Tony also is aghast at the NY Appellate Court ruling in favor of recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. He's not so quotable on this one, but the level of unreality is close to the same.

Speaking of Peter LaBarbera, he's still flailing around blindly, this time lashing out at Mitt Romney for "enabling the gay agenda." Seriously. LaBarbera is unhinged enough that I'm sure I don't need to quote him -- we can all think of instances where he went right over the top.

At this rate, the Republicans won't be able to vote for anyone. That's OK -- I'm sure the left will gladly donate Ralph Nader to the cause. After all, he gets all his money from Republicans anyway.

Looks like Ted Haggard has given up on being straightified. Actually, he's not a bad looking guy.If he could just kick the drugs. . . .

And in Virginia Beach, police confiscated a promotional poster from inside an Abercrombie & Fitch store after a "resident" complained. (Some stories say "outraged shoppers". Please -- at Abercrombie & Fitch?) Of course, it's probably just a coincidence that Virginia Beach is the home base of Pat Robertson.

Update: The charges have been dropped.

Do You Suppose It's Genetic?

A fairly appalling post from Andrew Sullivan, on race and intelligence. He just can't seem to let that one go -- I'm not going to accuse Sullivan of racism, but without that motivation, I just can't figure out what his fascination with this fantasy is. His comment was the really disgusting part:

New data suggest a weaker connection than some have posited.

I've got some hot news for you, Andrew: the old data did the same. Apparently everyone knew that except you and William Saletan.

Loons Running the Schools

On the other hand, Sullivan directed us to this report from Ed Brayton.

The ACLU has filed suit against Ponce de Leon High School in Florida on behalf of several students who have been forbidden from any form of expressive support for gay rights - t-shirts, buttons, even a rainbow symbol on a bookbag or a notebook. The school board is taking the bizarre position that any such symbol is evidence that students belong to an "illegal organization" and that all pro-gay speech is inherently disruptive.

Read it. It gets worse.

Where but in Florida, which seems to have become a home for the right-wing crazies?

NOTE: I thought I had seen mention of this story elsewhere yesterday, but I can't find it now. The mind plays tricks.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I'm actually taking a vacation -- which means I'm going to be working on other stuff. I have no idea how this will affect blogging here, but if I do it right, posting may become a little sketchy.

Deal with it.

Are Evangelicals Moving Left? Show Me

Steve Benen takes Nicholas Kristof to task for his recent column on the mockery directed at Mike Huckabee, and quite rightly so: as Benen points out, people are not mocking Huckabee for his faith, as Kristof claims, but for his ideas:

He rejects modern biology. He thinks wives should “submit graciously” to their husbands. He’s equated homosexuality with bestiality. He’s publicly endorsed “quarantining” AIDS patients; he’s boasted that God is directly helping his presidential campaign; and he’s said that if a man and a woman live together outside of marriage, they’re engaging in a “demeaning … alternate lifestyle.”

Benen's quite correct on this -- as a matter of faith, these ideas are Huckabee's business as long as they remain private. As an agenda for a potential president of a modern, secular nation, they are quite definitely laughable and deserve all the ridicule anyone can heap on them. Kristof isn't completely off base, however: these ideas come from Huckabee's faith, through a somewhat bizarre interpretation of Christian scripture. I think, however, that Kristof is carrying liberal tolerance too far: just because someone cloaks their ignorant and hostile opinions in the guise of religious doctrine is no reason to accept them as valid. In the context respect for others' religious beliefs, Huckabee is home free; in any context outside of that, he's a loon and should be laughed at.

Kristof goes on in his column, however, to address the wider issue of evangelical Christians and their changing focus.

“Evangelicals are going to vote this year in part on climate change, on Darfur, on poverty,” said Jim Wallis, the author of a new book, “The Great Awakening,” which argues that the age of the religious right has passed and that issues of social justice are rising to the top of the agenda.

He cites Rev. Rick Warren, who has developed a reputation over the past few years as a relative "liberal" among evangelicals. However, Warren is still, in terms of pubic exposure, a minority voice, and I question his influence relative to such pustules as Pat Robertson and James Dobson. I think Kristof begs the question -- he notes that "many" evangelicals are working for social justice -- overseas.

Mr. Warren acknowledges that for most of his life he wasn’t much concerned with issues of poverty or disease. But on a visit to South Africa in 2003, he came across a tiny church operating from a dilapidated tent — yet sheltering 25 children orphaned by AIDS.

“I realized they were doing more for the poor than my entire megachurch,” Mr. Warren said, with cheerful exaggeration. “It was like a knife in the heart.” So Mr. Warren mobilized his vast Saddleback Church to fight AIDS, malaria and poverty in 68 countries. Since then, more than 7,500 members of his church have paid their own way to volunteer in poor countries — and once they see the poverty, they immediately want to do more.

“Almost all of my work is in the third world,” Mr. Warren said. “I couldn’t care less about politics, the culture wars. My only interest is to get people to care about Darfurs and Rwandas.”

And what are they doing here? I consider this a valid and significant question, and one that Kristof ignores. How many of Warren's flock are paying their own way to work in an AIDS hospice in New York or San Francisco? How many of them are working with poor children the slums of Chicago? How many are helping to rebuild New Orleans? (I won't even get into gay rights, even aside from marriage -- I know the answer to that.)

I would submit that it's very easy to have sympathy and compassion for the unfortunate somewhere else -- not only does that not point up your own moral failings, your own lack of compassion for your neighbors, but leaves a nice warm glow of moral superiority. Let's see some of this happening here at home -- then we can talk about evangelicals and social justice. When I see signs in a gay pride parade that read "Evangelicals for Equal Rights," I might start to believe it.