"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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

FGB III: Thoughts on Parada

A post by Kevin at Citizen Crain on the Sao Paulo Pride festivities, weighted with gloom and doom, and a certain amount of schadenfreude. He seems troubled by the fact that Parada, as it is called, is not only the largest gay celebration in the world, but the most chaotic.

It's almost surreal to stare into the enormity of the annual São Paulo gay pride parade (known here simply as the "Parada") and to see within that image the past, present and possible future of the gay movement in the United States all at the same time. The picture is a mash-up of self-discovery and self-destruction, incredible power and pathetic weakness, great hope and miserable failure. And we should all be drawing lessons from it.

Why? Why should we be drawing lessons from it? That's my first question. It's a celebration. Perhaps it's not the celebration that Kevin thinks it should be, but then, he's not in control of it. From the looks of things, no one is, but that's not unusual in this world. In fact, it's more or less normal.

By comparison, Chicago's Pride weekend, which is a lot more organized than Sao Paulo seems to be, is pretty dull. Well, not the weekend so much, but the parade. But it's remained for the past 30-odd years a smallish (if 250,000+ people can be termed "smallish") neighborhood festival. There are sporadic moves to relocate it downtown, which I oppose -- I like having it in the neighborhood, and I don't see what moving it downtown would do for us. I'm funny that way: it's our celebration.

Kevin seems upset at the lack of "message." I think maybe he's just not seeing it.

But with all these incomparable strengths, what is most remarkable about São Paulo pride is its utter failure to articulate even the most basic message. Beyond a few pronouncements and a banner or a website, a coherent message of any kind fails to reach anyone in the street. Instead, the Parada is a sea of drunken recklessness, criminal violence and disturbing overcrowding which has begun to actually drive the resident gay population of the city away from it. The organizers are very competent in breaking world attendance records, but are hopelessly inept at finding some way to truly organize the attendees around any sense of mission or purpose beyond getting loaded, and getting laid.

What else are parties for? Seriously. I don't see why everything has to be a political event. There's lots of room at a Pride celebration, but remember one thing (which I will probably keep hammering on): it's a celebration, and like an Irish funeral, it's likely to be pretty exciting. (Speaking of Irish, the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago is notorious for the drunken brawling that seems an integral part of it. I mean, people bar-hopping from 9 am on. I doubt that Sao Paulo is anywhere close.)

But back to the main thread: why does there have to be a serious mission at a Pride parade? Sorry, but that's an assertion that I can't take as a given -- it's got to have some backing, some clearly articulated reason why the celebration of who we are has to have a message other than "this is who we are." I'm reminded of nothing so much as those in the US who seem to feel that drag queens and leathermen should be excluded from the parades (even though they would never say so -- publicly) because they give a "bad impession" of the gay community. No, they don't. They're as much a part of the community as the PFLAG marchers or the bar floats. Deal with it.

And, when it comes right down to it, what message is Kevin proposing we focus on? He doesn't seem to offer one.

Kevin seems to see the negatives:

My understanding of gay pride events is that they provide a zone of safety for gay people to come out and feel more confident and secure against a tide of intolerance in society. Ironically, at the biggest such event in the world, gay people feel ever more insecure and unsafe. Last year's Parada was marred by a brutal, anti-gay murder in the heart of the Jardins neighborhood just hours after the event ended. A gang of "punks" picked out a man at random outside a gay bar/restaurant and stabbed him to death right on the sidewalk. The police hunted down the perpetrators and began cracking down on gangs as a result.

But this year, the death of a 25 year old gay Brazilian has come to symbolize the growing failure of this event to leave any sense of greater meaning behind than a sense of insecurity, distraction and self-destruction.

Sorry -- does he have any evidence for this? Any surveys? Exit polls from the circuit parties? All I see evidence of here is institutionalized party-pooping. Yes, it is horrific that a gay man was murdered by a gang after the parade. It happens enough that it's not unusual, and usually the thugs don't even need a parade as an excuse. And it's terribly sad that such a vibrant young man died from what looks like an accidental drug overdose. Frankly, to use these two incidents (and I'm sure they're not isolated, but they don't seem to be defining, either, to anyone except Kevin) as an excuse to slam the Parada for not being virtuous enough is pretty damned cheesy.

And my understanding of Gay Pride is somewhat different. I've always seen it as containing a strong element of defiance, and the idea that they provide a sense of safety strikes me as odd. Those who want safety, in my experience, tend to stay away -- they might be seen. (Well, this was true in the beginning. Now, everyone wants to be seen at the Pride Parade.) But the Parade -- and I assume the Parada -- are not about safety. They are about defiance, strength in numbers, joy, and celebration (there's that word again). There's always been a certain "fuckyouness" to the very idea of Gay Pride: it's us standing up and telling the world "We're here, we're queer, deal with it!"

I get emails from American gays fairly often which tell me of a rising level of disgust at gay politics in the United States. To many of them, it is run by a group of hacks who lack vision and courage, who cater to politicians of both parties that have no qualms about throwing us overboard. And these critics are not outraged so much as ready to turn their backs on something that was once an inspiring movement full of hope and joy. One of them, an activist who started in the 1980s, wrote me that she felt like she was watching "my baby, all grown up, just laying there dying and I can't do anything about it."

Today, I read a comment by a Brazilian posted today on the gay news portal, MixBrasil. The frustration I saw in it matches the frustrations in emails from back home. And I wondered, will we end up defeating ourselves more handily than our enemies, simply because we don't have a message anymore?

So here we get to it -- Gay Pride is just an extension of the Human Rights Campaign and its black-tie dinners. (And why didn't I see this coming?) Look, I'm as unhappy with the national gay rights organizations as anyone, especially with HRC, because I think, like Chris Crain, Andrew Sullivan, John Aravosis, any number of other commentators, that they have lost touch with the heart of the movement. They completely missed the boat on the marriage issue, and their rationale -- working on nuts-and-bolts issues first -- while it makes a certain amount of sense, puts them in the position of attempting to control the movement, not of working to further our cause. There's a difference. Yes, people are frustrated with gay politics as it used to be run. Excuse me -- have you heard of the Internet? Gay politics is not a matter of black-tie-dinners any more (which organizations such as HRC, GLAAD and a few others would do well to learn, and learn fast). It's the major gay bloggers, gay news on the Web, and even the little guys like me making their thoughts known to anyone who wants to listen. No filters, no carefully worded press releases, no sucking up to politicians, no pulling punches. That's gay politics today.

And maybe that's why Kevin is so disappointed in Parada: as a reflection of "gay politics" (and I remain unconvinced that it needs to be), it's not old-style, which is to say organized, top-down, focused on message (and just exactly which message is it supposed to be focused on? We have many messages), and controllable.

No, thank you. I like this yeasty, messy thing we've developed here, and I like the way it's reflected in our celebrations. I hate the violence, but we don't start it, usually. (In fact, I don't know of an instance where we have.) I hurt for people like Lucas as much as I hurt for anyone whose life is cut short. How is that a function of Gay Pride?

Kevin closes with an e-mail from a friend (his translation):

When I went to my first gay pride (in São Paulo) seven years ago, it was an incredible experience. It wasn't perfect, of course, but everyone tried however possible to make that parade really be something to be proud of, and set a real goal to gain visibility and tolerance in society. Last year, when I went to it with a friend, after two hours trying to walk along one of the floats, we decided it was impossible because of the number of people and we gave up and went home. Now at home, thinking about the parade, we also feel like we don't have that sense of pride when we left the party, as it's no longer the party it was. Today I live in London and I compare the gay scene of São Paulo with the one here, and I have to say that for all the ways our scene is better, it has a lot of growing up and learning to do. Along with this, after reading the details here and on other sites, and the comments of some friends, I have to say I'm disappointed to see our parade and it's not even Paulista or even gay, it's been turned into a party that sadly promotes just the opposite of what it proposes. Tourists coming to São Paulo to hit the parties in the clubs instead of going to Avenida Paulista, people afraid to get up on the floats or dress up for fear of some kind of retaliation - robbery, crimes, violence and breaking the rules of its own participants is shameful. We have to be more aware and do something that really lives up to being proud.

Look, I'm sorry they feel that way, but that's not the whole picture by any means. That's their reading, their interpretation, of an event that didn't fit their expectations, whatever those were. I've marched, ridden floats, or just watched the parade for over thirty years now, off and on, and no, it's not the same as it was thirty years ago: we have politicians marching now, and support groups, and church groups, and gods know what else, as well as the drag queens and nearly-naked dancers and leathermen (and -women), because they all want to be part of this.

This is who we are: vital, lively, colorful, unruly, unorthodox, sometimes lawless, sometimes fearful, sometimes very brave indeed. And yeah, people still get drunk and puke in the street, have sex in alleys, and get beat up. Sorry we haven't all turned into a bunch of bourgeois bores, but there's room for those, too.

You may have gathered that I think Kevin's post is pretty much wrong-headed. There are many messages at Pride celebrations, just as there are many facets to our community. I'll readily admit I'm resistant to the idea of focusing on "a message" for something like a Pride parade. That smacks too much of organized movement politics, which haven't been all that successful lately.

One thing about this that keeps stirring at the back of my mind, and it's something I run into again and again in reviewing: how much of what you're seeing is what you're looking for, and how much was actually put there for you to see?


This is a reconstruction. I actually had a post composed that got thrown out by either Windows, Firefox, or Earthlink. Or it may just be that my computer is a certifiable antique and just can't handle all the stuff on some websites. At any rate, here we go again.

(Don't worry, boys and girls -- the picture will be posted as soon as I have a chance.)

My Own Private Neverneverland

Or something like it. I think that's the reality the right wingnuts inhabit, and the pickings have been so choice this week that I decided to do a "Wingnuts on Parade" segement.

Remember Matt "I'm Not Gay" Sanchez, the former gay porn star turned right-wing kewpie doll? He's come out of the shadows to strike again, in the pages of WingNutDaily, no less. Most of his diatribe is against Barack Obama -- focusing, laughably enough, on Obama's "gay problem," which Sanchez never quite seems to pin down. (The idea that "I'm Not Gay" is now the right's expert on gay issues sort of puts the whole thing in perspective, now, doesn't it?). What's really choice, though, is this:

Ever notice the LGBT advocates constantly compare the same-sex struggle to the civil rights movement? According to polls, African-Americans are the most opposed to the legalization of gay marriage, and no black leader has endorsed the comparison between racial equality and the "right" for pre-op transsexuals to get a taxpayer funded sex change. The liberal interpretation of the civil rights struggle through the rainbow-colored glasses of the "queer theory" activist would have given the Rev. Martin Luther King a nightmare, rather than a dream.

Well, let's see, if marriage is a fundamental right, which it is according to the Supreme Court of the United States, and gays are barred from marriage because of irrational prejudice written into the law, then I guess it is a civil-rights issue. And I guess Sanchez never heard of Coretta Scott King, who supported equality for gays and lesbians under the law, or Al Sharpton, who supports same-sex marriage. And what about David Paterson, Governor of New York? And I'd really like to know when Sanchez managed to read the mind of a man who's been dead for forty years. (Or is this the gospel according to his patron saint, Ann of the Faggots?) And don't talk to me about polls. I have a degree in psych, with lots of time spent on experimental psych and statistics. I know about polls.

And speaking of crawling out from under rocks, here's former Senator Rick "Man On Dog" Santorum, sounding off from a platform of complete ignorance, which is what he does best. TerranceDC pretty much demolishes Santorum's OpEd, so I don't have to, except for a couple of points. Terrance quotes this:

Let me go out on another limb here and make another crazy prediction. Within 10 years, clergy will be sued or indicted for preaching on certain Bible passages dealing with homosexuality and churches, and church-related organizations will lose government contracts and even their tax-exempt status.

Well, it's been five years since the Massachusetts decision, and not only has the world not ended, but I haven't been able to locate a single instance of clergy being hauled off to jail for preaching against gays. (There are a couple of prime candidats, such as Ken Hutcherson, but not for his preaching; I'd advocate his being investigated for his support of Watchers on the Walls, which advocates murder of gays. But maybe Santorum sees that as a free speech issue.) As for losing their government contracts and tax-exempt status (and why do I think that's the most important point for Santorum? Oh, right -- he's a Republican), if they're not going to adhere to applicable law, they should. I don't see giving religious organizations the right to abrogate laws on their own authority. They don't have any such authority, for starters. (Y'know, for years churches running social service agencies with government contracts managed to create quasi-independent organizations that were not, legally, part of the church to maintain those contract in compliance with the law. Somehow, with the rise of the theocrats, suddenly all these separate entities got religion and the system doesn't work any more.)

However, my favorite part of Santorum's screed is this:

Look at Norway. It began allowing same-sex marriage in the 1990s. In just the last decade, its heterosexual-marriage rates have nose-dived and its out-of-wedlock birthrate skyrocketed to 80 percent for firstborn children. Too bad for those kids who probably won't have a dad around, but we can't let the welfare of children stand in the way of social affirmation, can we?

Of course, if you keep abreast of the news from overseas, you may have seen this story from AP:

Two Norwegian opposition parties on Thursday backed the rights of gay couples to marry in church, adopt and have assisted pregnancies, effectively assuring the passage of a new equality law next month.

The ruling three-party government proposed a law in March giving gay couples equal rights to heterosexuals but disagreements within the coalition cast doubt on whether it would receive enough votes to pass. But two opposition parties announced Thursday they were backing the proposals, a move welcomed by gay rights groups, which should ensure a parliamentary majority and allow the law to be passed.

Oh, by the way, note the dateline: May 29, 2008.

Jim Burroway has some comments on this one. If you're wondering about that 80% figure for first children born out of wedlock, Burroway tracked it down: it doesn't seem to have come from anyone in Norway, but from Stanley Kurtz, who shares Paul Cameron's amazing ability to pull completely insane conclusions from cherry-picked data.

(As a note, a wonderful little nugget from a book I'm reading right now on the recent history of Ireland: Ireland and France have the lowest marriage rates in the EU. Neither has legalized same-sex marriage. Draw your own conclusions.)

A group of Republican attorneys general have filed a petition with the California supreme court asking for a stay of the marriage decision. (Republicans? Really? How -- uh, expected):

The attorneys general of 10 US states have applied to the Californian Supreme Court to delay finalising its ruling to legalise gay marriage.

Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah all say that they need time to consider the status of their residents who marry in California. With the exception of Florida and New Hampshire, they all have a consitutional ban on gay marriage.

"We reasonably believe an inevitable result of such 'marriage tourism' will be a steep increase in litigation of the recognition issue in our courts," said Utah Attorney General Mark L Shurtleff in the application on behalf of the ten states.

As Waldo points out,

Mr. Matt scooped around and found that nine of the ten states already have state constitutional amendments in place on the marriage question. So the AGs want to study on something that requires no study. (Apologies to Mr. Matt, but it's eight of the ten.)

So, what impact do you think a same-sex marriage performed in California is going to have in Utah, which has a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage? Needs study, right?

What they're afraid of is that it will go to the federal courts and their nasty little constitutional amendments and DOMAs will be overturned as being in violation of just about everything. At least, they would if we had a real Supreme Court.

Joe Brummer has a post on Peter LaBarbera, one of my favorite right-wing buffoons. (LaBarbera, you'll remember, is so effective that his organization didn't bother to file their anti-marriage petitions this year because they knew they didn't have enough signatures to make it to the ballot.)

Peter writes:

Surely the homosexual (and atheist) lobby’s vindictive, selfish and shameless campaign against the Boy Scouts of America is one of the cruelest ever orchestrated by the Left. They could care less about this wonderful organization for boys, which they are helping to destroy and bankrupt through endless legal harassment.

Do you still have a problem saying that organized homosexuality is a force for evil in our society?

The problem is “HOW” Peter expresses his issues and concerns that makes it hate speech. Could Mr. LaBarbera not express his concerns without calling gays and lesbians “evil”, “Selfish” or “Cruel?” Using such language to discuss your opponet is only a demonstration of the pot calling the kettle black. Could he not express his opposition and respect his opposition’s point of view? Could he not express himself without using name calling, judgmental language and insults? That is the difference between an opposing view and hate speech. Most of what comes out of Peter LaBarbera’s organization is hate speech because it fails to present opposition in a humane and dignified method. If LaBarbera cannot manage to express his opposition to the inclusion of gays and lesbians into nondiscrimination policies in a way that is respectful to gays and lesbians than he is just another hate group.

Add another few names to that group, such as Matt Barber, James Hartline, Sally Kern -- you know the list. Brummer's absolutely correct: it is hate speech, and it's getting more and more shrill because, I sincerely believe, they're getting more and more desperate. They're losing, and they know it.

TerranceDC has another post at Pam's House Blend (the man does get around, now, doesn't he?) on more of the wingnut reaction to the California decision. The quotes from Dennis Prager are a scream. Not quite as funny as LaBarbera's "organized homosexuality" (and can you think of anything less organized than a bunch of queers? Herding cats isn't even in it), but there are more howlers per paragraph than LaBarbera could ever manage. And do note how they all fall back on the "scary future" scenario: all the terrible things that are going to happen if we allow gays to be treated as real people. Strangely enough, as Terrance points out later in the post, other times and places, gays have been treated as real people, and the world just went trundling on.

Somebody Sees the Elephant

Via dday at Hullabaloo, a story that's one of the most important of the entire election. From Reuters:

f elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.

Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said.

During a fund-raiser in Denver, Obama — a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School — was asked what he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office.

“I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama.

Considering the degree to which the Bush administration has circumvented the Congress and the courts, this is very welcome news. As far as I know, it's the first time a candidate has acknowledged this particular issue.

He also has to have his cabinet officers take a look at every regulation and departmentaI directive. I can only hope he'll follow up by getting rid of all the political appointees to nonpolitical positions, starting with Justice.

Dog Bites Man

I haven't commented on Scott McClellan's book because nothing he says seems to be new. He's just covering his ass, as former administration hacks tend to do. As for the major focus, the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, here's some information from McClatchy, which bought Knight-Ridder a couple of years ago. You'll recall that Knight-Ridder was about the only press outlet that was questioning the war and the dog-and-pony show leading up to it.

Via Digby

Another reason I don't have to comment is because digby's crew has been on it: here's just a sample, from dday, tristero, and digby.

Friday, May 30, 2008


This is turning into an ongoing department that seems to spill over more than it occupies Fridays only. Well, that's life. As you can tell from the title of this post, this is this week's first installment of Friday Gay Blogging.

The Times, They Are A'Changin'

Marriage is still the big news. The latest Field Poll in California shows support for SSM and a majority against a constitutional amendment. Andrew Sullivan does some projecting:

The first reason for optimism is a new Field poll, a little larger than the LAT poll, that shows an actual majority in favor of marriage equality: 51 - 42. The poll was taken after the court decision. This is the first ever majority for same-sex marriage in a California poll, and it's a solid one. What's driving the dramatic shift upward toward support for inclusion? You guessed it:
Californians age 18-29 favor the idea of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry by a greater than two to one margin (68% to 25%). Those in the 30-39 age group also approve of such marriages by 24 percentage points. However voters age 65 or older disapprove by a wide margin (55% to 36%).

The next generation doesn't simply approve of gay marriage; it does so by a massive majority. The poll suggests an Obama-Clinton-style generation gap - and an Obama candidacy this fall will surely increase the number of these demographics in the California voting this fall.

What's germane here is that Field is "the" California poll.

And of course, the predicted backlash has started -- sort of. Here's Scott Lemieux's comment:

An outraged California populace has reacted to the Outrageous Judicial Activism of their "unaccountable unelected"* state court. As you remember, the court, with only the support of other unrepresentative and undemocratic institutions such as the state legislature and governor but in the teeth of strong opposition from pundits who support social change in theory and always oppose it in practice struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. The response: California is showing if anything more support for same-sex marriage than ever. I have no idea if the initiative will pass, but I certainly don't see much evidence of the predicted political firestorm here.

(* In Lemieux's original, these words were lined out. Blogger doesn't want to acknowledge that.)

Here's a bit of Matt Zeitlin's comments Jeffrey Rosen's analysis:

Rosen’s argument is that, essentially, because conservatives view homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, the California Supreme Court shouldn’t offend them by basing their ruling on the fact that discrimination on basically immutable characteristics like race or sexual orientation should have strict scrutiny applied to it.

I think I've linked to Rosen's piece before, but this struck me this time around:

If the gay marriage decision triggers a backlash that hurts the Democrats' chances in November--as the Massachusetts Supreme Court hurt John Kerry with its unnecessarily expansive gay marriage decision in 2003--the politically controversial result, rather than the legal reasoning, will be the main culprit.

Mmm -- Kerry had enough problems. I don't think anyone can make a cogent argument that the Goodridge decision did him in. (And, as Lemieux points out, Rosen can't seem to back that assertion up with anything. He doesn't even try.)

In case you have any doubts about where this country is headed on this issue, check out this ad for Macy's in the LA Times:

Gov. Paterson of New York has instructed the state to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere:

Gov. David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to begin to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada.

In a directive issued on May 14, the governor’s legal counsel, David Nocenti, instructed the agencies that gay couples married elsewhere “should be afforded the same recognition as any other legally performed union.”

The revisions are most likely to involve as many as 1,300 statutes and regulations in New York governing everything from joint filing of income tax returns to transferring fishing licenses between spouses.

In a videotaped message given to gay community leaders at a dinner on May 17, Mr. Paterson described the move as “a strong step toward marriage equality.” And people on both sides of the issue said it moved the state closer to fully legalizing same-sex unions in this state.

(A note on framing: this quote is a good example of how the anti-gay right is misrepresenting the issue:

“It’s a perfect example of a governor overstepping his authority and sidestepping the democratic process,” said Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization opposed to same-sex marriage. “It’s an issue of public policy that should be decided by the voters.”

Sorry, but this is wrong on several levels. First, public policy issues are not decided by the voters, although they can certainly weigh in. As in pretty much every other area of public life in this country, decisions on public policy come from the dialogue, which includes the voters, the legislatures, executives, and the courts.

Second, this is more a civil rights issue than a public policy issue, and on that score, the courts are the final authority. Sorry again, but that's America for you. Love it or leave it.)

Good As You has a video of Paterson's press conference (which, unfortunately, I can't seem to get code for).

From Brad Blog, a take on O'Reilly's latest gambit on the marriage question:

We've long argued that same-sex marriage was, for all intents and purposes, a done deal. Marriage equality, under virtually any legitimate conservative reading of the U.S. and most state Constitutions, cannot be denied.

If the segment [. . .] from tonight's O'Reilly Factor is any indication, it looks like even Bill O'Reilly is finally coming to grips with that fact, in light of the new poll showing for the first time that a majority of Californians are finally in favor.

Bill's guest is Don Schweitzer, a "family law attorney," who can't seem to come up with a real reason to oppose same-sex marriage -- as you may have noticed.

Frankly, I'm surprised at O'Reilly's approach on this. But I have a feeling he's another weathervane on the air, who will take any position that's going to keep his ratings up.

Footnote: Andrew Koppelman wrote an article some time ago -- late 1990s, I think -- about same-sex marriage. It's dated, and some of his assumption are questionable, but it's worth reading for a theoretical legal grounding in the issues. (PDF, and long.)

There'll be more.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Post-Ideological World

From Andrew Sullivan, this comment by a reader. Sullivan finished up by saying, "For me, it's about a man and this moment. It's no longer about ideology."

I think, quite inadvertently, Sullivan has put his finger on what Obama means, and what this election means: it's no longer about ideology. Call Obama the first post-ideological candidate. If he is able to shape the Democratic platform -- and based on his performance to date, he will do just that -- we're going to see a sharp split between the Democrats and Republicans, not in terms of "liberal" versus "conservative," but in terms of blind adherence to "conservative policies" and an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to making goverment work. The question will become who the government is working for. I think we've seen one answer already, and the people don't seem to like it very much.

If this happens, expect to see a lot of people switching parties over the next few years. But this is the most likely course of the realignment that some commentators have been talking about.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Identity Politics

From David Brody, via Andrew Sullivan, a quote that I think puts the whole mindset of the far right in a nice, tight package:

Another pro-family leader who did not want to be named tells The Brody File:

"There would be an open revolt. We would just not put up with it. He's not one of us and McCain pretty much needs to get somebody that is going to make people happier if he seriously wants to hold the base to being supportive. . . .

"He's not one of us." That's the whole shot, right there. It's the kind of thinking that allows some people to declare themselves "real Americans" and rail against immigrants, even though their families, unless they are full-blooded Natives, were immigrants, too.
Digby, as might be expected, has some astute observations, focusing on comments by Mark Schmitt.

The most important thing about it is that he defines something we've all observed as a form of identity politics, which in this election particularly, is a very, very clever insight:
David Frum calls explicitly for this brand of identity politics, declaring that while the Republican Party's issue positions have evolved over the years, "there is one thing that has never changed: Republicans have always been the party of American democratic nationhood," whereas Democrats "attract those who felt themselves in some way marginal to the American experience: ... intellectuals, Catholics, Jews, blacks, feminists, gays--people who identify with the 'pluribus' in the nation's motto, 'e pluribus unum.'" In case it's not clear, in Frum's Latin, "pluribus" means "parasites," and he tells us helpfully, "As the nation weakens, Democrats grow stronger. . . ."

The politics of American-ness needs to be cloaked in policy, simply because it's unpalatable otherwise. Without the helpful crutches of symbolic issues like welfare, crime, and immigration, the raw edges of the politics of people-not-like-us would be a little too uncomfortable, and not just for those of us who fall into one or more of the "pluribus" categories. But thanks to the unlikely trio of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and John McCain, the usual game is impossible. Clinton took welfare and crime off the political agenda. Bush made global belligerence and eternal tax cuts unpalatable. And McCain's inconvenient position on immigration takes away what Republicans last fall were dreaming would be their silver bullet. As a result, with Americans saying they are willing to pay more taxes for health care and better schools, with Republicans at a disadvantage in the polls on every single issue, there is no respectable costume in which to dress up identity politics.

As Digby points out:

The Republicans have flogged this idea that they are the party of the salt of the earth Real America for quite a while. But what they have been working toward, really, for quite some time is to be the party of the Old Confederacy with just a tiny reach beyond it with the right candidate and the right circumstances. The problem, you see, is that this mythical Real America is actually a country filled with all those undesirable identities to which they see themselves in opposition. In fact, these undesirables, from gays to uppity women to Hispanics to Asians to the ultimate interlopers, the African Americans who came over to "our" country against their will (long before "we" did) comprise a majority.

I'm not so confident as she that merely composing the majority is going to work to keep the Republicans out of power. I fully expect that if Obama (assuming, as seems to be the case right now, that he is the nominee) wins, he will win by a small margin because of the race issue, which I think is going to be a real consideration in this election. I don't think a Democratic White House in 20009 is by any means a sure thing, simply for that reason.

You Want Glazed or Frosted?

It seems that the universe may be shaped like a doughnut. Here's some background from Cosmos.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge did not cost John Kerry the presidential election.

Although this editorial from USA Today doesn't use that argument, the thrust is the same. (I didn't make that one up -- I've actually seen that as an argument against the California ruling. Seriously.) I've seen the same approach in posts by Chris Crain, B. Daniel Blatt, any number of newspapers editorials, all of which have the same cast: we support equal marriage rights for same-sec couples, but. . . . And the message winds up being "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Because the basis of contemporary conservatism is fear, I guess -- be afraid of terrorists, be afraid of gays, be afraid of Muslims, be afraid of immigrants (and notice how in some quarters it's become not "illegal immigrants," but just "immigrants"), be afraid of everyone who's not just like you. It's been an effective electoral strategy for the Republicans, but it's based on demagoguery and I'm a little impatient to see it coming from the left. (I know, Crain and Blatt can hardly be considered "the left," but neither of them comes close to Donald Wildmon or James Dobson in terms of wild-eyed radical "conservatism.") And I have seen similar argumentn from the left, and it's symptomatic of something that worries me: too many people seem to have internalized the baseline of the right-wing agenda, which is that what we really need to be afraid of is their disapproval.

It's an authoritarian, patriarchal position, and, as you may have noticed, I don't respond well to authority.

Marriage and Morality

There's a fascinating comment thread going on over at this post by tristero, exploring a lot of facets of the controversy over same-sex marriage, the morality of gay relationships, and the like. Weighty thoughts being expressed eloquently and elegantly. Have a look.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

This post by hilzoy brought it home to me. I'm swiping this image of Andy Olmsted from hilzoy: I was going to insist you go to her post and look at it, but I want to take away her context. You can read her post later. For now, I just want you to look at that lively, intelligent, good-humored face and then remember that he's dead.

I suppose I could go into a long post about death and dying and the reasons we sacrifice ourselves, but I'd rather you look at that picture and think about it yourselves, on your own terms, in your own frame of reference. I'm not going to make any suggestions as to your approach. Just think your own thoughts.

And remember.

The Phoenix has landed:

Mars, courtesy of NASA.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More Marriage Discussion

This piece at NYT by Austin Dacey engendered this response by tristero at Hullabaloo.

I may get back to this one. Dacey's essay bothers me, but I can't pin some of the reasons down. I think I agree pretty much with tristero's analysis, but I need to think about it some more.

Except that I'm actually having a three-day weekend for a change, and thinking is not on the agenda.

So there.

Catch Up

The following are actually yesterday's posts that I never got around to posting.

It was just one of those days.

PC Amok

I have to confess that I'm more than a little mystified by the left blogosphere's reaction to Hillary Clinton's remarks about Robert F. Kennedy, not to mention the reaction of the "liberal" media. Keith Olbermann went completely batshit (as reported by John Aravosis:

The politics of this nation is steeped enough in blood, Senator Clinton, you cannot and must not invoke that imagery! Anywhere! At any time!

And to not appreciate, immediately -- to **still** not appreciate tonight -- just **what** you have done... is to reveal an incomprehension of the America you seek to lead.

This, Senator, is too much.

Because a senator -- a politician -- a **person** -- who can let hang in mid-air the prospect that she might just be sticking around in part, just in case the other guy gets shot -- has no business being, and no apacity **to** be, the President of the United States.

Lord. Love. A. Duck. First of all, just who in the hell is Keith Olbermann to be telling anyone what they may or may not say? And as for not appreciating "what you have done"? And just what is that?

Andrew Sullivan is all over it (here, here (another link dump), here, here, and here).
Of course, given that it's Sullivan, the type specimen of Clintonphobia, that's no real surprise. And given the link dumps with reactions from other sources from both Sullivan and Aravosis, you can see that this has hit big.

I see two things here. It wasn't the brightest comparison, given that assassination has been in the air since the first rumors of Obama's possible candidacy, but it's not so inflammatory or reprehensible as Olbermann makes out, nor is it worth the time and effort that Sullivan has put into reporting it. The whole flap reminds me of nothing so much as the attempts to either ban or bowdlerize classic literature such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it contains the "N" word. (Oh, and can you say "$400 haircut"?) If we have to be afraid of something that should provide an opportunity to deepen understanding, then there's something really bad wrong here. If one cannot take a dispassionate look at what actually happened, in the context of what was intended, then I think you're probably suffering from badly impaired interpersonal skills. (I'm reminded of a very active thread a while back at EA Forums about hate speech and insults that concluded that intent is a large part of any insult, and that we are, in general, good enough at picking up nonverbal cues from each other that we can usually tell what's going on. Granted, it's harder when relying on the written word -- which most of these commentators seem to have been doing -- but it's not impossible unless you just don't get it. Or if you have an agenda.)

One might also, for example, point out that Clinton was talking about long-running primary contests, not assassinations. While there are public figures of such a low standing on the general humanity scale that they might relish such an idea, I can't quite convince myself that Clinton is one of them, no matter what Sullivan thinks.

The second thread to this is that I see the blogosphere setting itself up as the new Washington Insiders. That bothers me. I'd much rather be part of a swarm of gadflies. Taking something like this, blowing it out of proportion, and not discussing the substrate that's leading to that reaction (which we will probably get eventually from Dave Neiwert or Glenn Greenwald), makes you one of the Villagers.

(I'm happy to note that Scott Lemieux, who is one of those bloggers whose opinions I tend to respect, agrees with me And Robert Farley has, I think, the proper attitude about the whole brouhaha.) (Update Sunday morning: Surfing around a bit more yesterday afternoon, I'm gratified to see that several commentators have maintained some sort of rationality about it.)

More on Benjamin Wittes' "Defense of Marriage"

Hate to keep harping on this one, but Benjamin Wittes' essay on the decision in the California case just won't go away. It is itself a wonderful case study in the caliber of argument coming from the right on this. Aside from Glenn Greenwald's definitive dissection, Scott Lemieux made an apt comment with overtones of Gertrude Stein: "there's no argument in it." Wittes' sole claim to originality is his contention that the California supreme court has designated everyone who favors civil unions as a "bigot." No, sorry: the people who are floating the referendum to override the decision are bigots. Most of us recognize that civil unions are a compromise -- you know, a solution that makes everyone equally unhappy. They are, as the residents of New Jersey have learned, not adequate. The court was smart enough to see that.

One of Lemieux's commenters wonders whether Wittes even read the decision. I don't see how that makes a difference: he would have used the same tired and false arguments no matter what. As Lemieux points out, this seems to be a habit of his.

Other than his remarkably consistent conviction that decisions that piss of conservatives are bad and decisions that piss off liberals are good, I frankly don't know what the content of his standards regarding the democratic legitimacy of judicial review is.

Probably because that is his sole standard.


Wittes replied to Sullivan with comments that seem to me at best tangential to the discussion. The kernel, I think, is here:

We are talking here about the transformation and broadening of an institution, not--as in the civil rights cases--the question of whether this society was going to honor the promises it made to black people in ratifying the Civil War amendments.

I'll admit to difficulty that including same-sex couples in the realm of "marriage" is somehow tranforming the institution. There's no real structural change that I can see at all, any more than there was a structural change after Loving. You have to be welded firmly to the idea that marriage is necessarily a matter for persons of opposite sex, that no other relationship bears any significant resemblance to marriage, and a host of other ideas that I just can't accept fully. Marriage is, first and foremost, a contract. It has always been as much about inheritance of property as anything else, and the idea that it reflects and sanctifies the love between two people is a late gloss.

The argument is really not whether we are changing the definition of marriage, but whose definition is going to prevail: the traditional one of a contract between two parties to determine inheritance and property rights, or the more recent one proposed by the religious right of a sacred covenant between a man and a woman. And if we accept the latter as "the" definition, why? Why accept a particular sectarian doctrine as applicable to all? (And it is sectarian: a number of religions and denominations have seen their way clear to recognizing same-sex marriage as a valid example of the institution, so why should the religious views of evangelicals prevail?)

(Sullivan also links to an essay by Stuart Taylor at National Journal that is as mendacious as it is biased. The thrust seems to be that the California supreme court usurped the rights of the people (that one again?) and anything in the opinion that indicates otherwise is a lie. And sadly, it looks as though we're not going to be able to pack the Supreme Court with more right-wing ideologues like Scalia, Roberts and Alito.)

Wingnuts in the Schools

I had been looking for this link for the "Schools" note in FGB:

From Balloon Juice, possibly one of the most bizarre responses in the whole GSA controversy:

During the trial, which was held in Panama City yesterday and today, Ponce de Leon High School’s principal David Davis admitted under oath that he had banned students from wearing any clothing or symbols supporting equal rights for gay people. Davis also testified that he believed rainbows were “sexually suggestive” and would make students unable to study because they’d be picturing gay sex acts in their mind.

Have you noticed how obsessed some of these people are with gay sex?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Republican Agenda

Via Andrew Sullivan, this quote from Patrick Ruffini:

In the minority, our job is to 1) make the majority’s life miserable, grinding the House and Senate floors to a halt, and building a narrative of the Democrats as broken and incompetent, and 2) offer big, bold alternatives to this mess like the Contract did in 1994.

Ruffini goes on to offer some possible agenda items in an agenda of "change." They're laughable:

* A total ban on earmarks (Yeah, good luck on that one, coming from the Earmark Party.)

* Let the half of Federal workers due to retire in the next few years retire – and don’t replace them (Say, didn't Bill Clinton do that? Nothing like a fresh idea.)

* Personal Social Security accounts (And we've seen how popular that was -- among Wall Street brokers.)

* A 50% cut in farm subsidies (yeah, good luck on that after this week) (I don't even need to comment -- he did it for me.)

* McCain’s idea of replacing supplementing the UN with a league of democracies (Oh, great -- UN Lite, given the unity displayed among the world's democracies under the Bush foreign policy. Sorry, when you've lost it, it's gone.)

I like Sullivan's comment:

Whatever you do, don't cooperate for the common good.

That says it all.

Friday Gay Blogging

As might be expected this week, most of the gay news is about wingnuts and their reaction to In Re: Some Marriages (which is the official shorthand for the California decision). Sorry -- not going there.

Birds Do It, Bees Do It. . . .

Well, OK, maybe not the bees. Via Good As You, this article from Fox News:

On this issue, Nature has spoken: Same-sex lovin' is common in hundreds of species, scientists say.

Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo, were a couple for about six years, during which they nurtured a fertilized egg together (given to them by a zookeeper) and raised the young chick that hatched.

According to University of Oslo zoologist Petter Böckman, about 1,500 animal species are known to practice same-sex coupling, including bears, gorillas, flamingos, owls, salmon and many others.

If homosexuality is natural in the animal kingdom, then there is the question of why evolution hasn't eliminated this trait from the gene pool, since it doesn't lead to reproduction.

It may simply be for pleasure.

"Not every sexual act has a reproductive function," said Janet Mann, a biologist at Georgetown University who studies dolphins (homosexual behavior is very common in these marine mammals). "That's true of humans and non-humans."

That's going to drive the Christianists wild -- sex for pleasure! Quelle horror!

Federal Court Slams DADT

They're telling the military that they have to justify dismissals under DADT on an individual basis. The story's around the internet; here's a good write-up from Towleroad. And here's some commentary from Box Turtle Bulletin.

A New Mayor

Portland, Oregon becomes the largest US city to have a gay mayor. Via Towleroad.
He won by a huge margin. And he's a real cutie, too. (Don't forget that the mayors of Paris and Berlin are gay. Slowly but surely, we're catching up.)

Here's a report from The Oregonian.

The Schools:

OK -- a couple of small bits about wingnuts, but they're choice.

First, the principal of a high school in South Carolina has resigned because he can't deal with the idea of a gay-straigth alliance.

I feel the formation of a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at Irmo High school implies that students joining the club will have chosen to or will choose to engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or members of both sexes.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, has anyone noticed how these guys are obsessed with sex? (And on that note, see this bit from Pam Spaulding.)

And the suit against Okeechobee High School has been reopened.


I've noticed that a number of commentators who support same-sex marriage (all, not surprisingly, on the right) have attacked the California Supreme Court's decision because the justices didn't seek to support the compromises that they have been trying to sell us as "good enough." See this essay by Jonathan Rauch at Independent Gay Forum. Chris Crain has also come out strongly on the side of "separate but equal" (here and in summary form here). My objections tend to be the same in all cases: there is a deep reluctance on the part of conservatives to take the next step, and an apparent willingness to let things "evolve" naturally. I've noted my disagreement with this attitude previously, but let me state it once again, hopefully more clearly and succinctly: in the realm of social policy and civil rights, things are not going to evolve unless someone is pushing. Someone has to take the next step, and if that step involves setting a legal precedent (as was done in Griswold, Loving, Roe, Goodridge, and Lawrence), then we are better for it.

And, just for the record, no: civil unions and domestic partnerships are not "good enough." The timorousness displayed by gay commentators on the right is, perhaps, not surprising: the main goal of traditional conservatism is not to rock the boat. The problem with that is that it's the people who yell who get listened to.

Crain's phrasing, in passages such as this one,

But these four justices robbed the public of that debate, as well as the democratic freedom of selecting which constitutionally acceptable form of legal recognition they wanted

is, as far as I'm concerned, inflammatory. Sorry -- no one was robbed. I've made the point over and over again that the legal aspects of issues are part of the debate. The ones who are seeking to close of debate on SSM are those who are pushing the constitutional amendments: if anything is going to take the topic off the table, it's that. Crain, Dan Blatt, several others are egregious in that respect. This is the sort of demagoguery one expects from the ant-gay right, but I'm appalled to see it coming from gay commentators.

Rauch ends his comments thus:

This kind of legal totalism, it seems to me, is tailor-made to rule out any kind of accommodation, even if that accommodation gives gay couples most of what we need with the promise of more to come (soon). As one of the dissents points out (PDF), it also may make legislators reluctant to even start down the road toward civil rights.

I think SSM is a better policy than civil unions (at least one of the dissenters agrees). And I think denial of marriage to gay couples is discriminatory. But to make even a well-intentioned compromise ILLEGAL strikes me as a step too far, and a good example of how culture wars escalate.

While courts necessarily deal in gray areas, they're not really allowed to fudge the question. I mean, what was the California supposed to do? Come out with a decision that said "marriage laws are discriminatory, but someone might be upset if we say so?"

Crain concludes:

That's a recipe for more divisiveness of the sort of that has plagued the abortion debate for a quarter-century, and places in grave jeopardy the very fundamental right that the majority sought to vindicate.

That's essentially the same comment as Rauch's. Unless you look at who is fueling the divisiveness, you're not going to come to the right conclusion. (I note that Crain makes this all the fault of "liberal" judges and activists by implication, when in fact the divisiveness can be laid almost completely at the door of so-called "conservatives." It wasn't us that declared the culture wars.) If you want to talk about the "evolution" of social policy and the forces that are endangering that evolution, don't look to the left.

Another commentary from Crain, with this that caught my attention:

Three justices dissented from the ruling, all Republican appointees. Writing for two of them, Justice Marvin Baxter said the majority overstepped their authority and should have left the decision of whether gays can marry to the Legislature and governor to decide.

“Nothing in our [state] Constution, [sic] express or implicit, compels the majority’s startling conclusion that the age-old undestanding of marriage - an understanding recently confirmed [by the ballot measure voters approved in 2000] - is no longer valid.”

Sorry, but the "age-old understanding of marriage" trope is so much empty noise. I refer readers to the debate between Patrick Chapman and Glenn T. Stanton at Box Turtle Bulletin on this very subject. That particular phrase, as I've pointed out before, translates as "when I was a boy."

The third dissenter, Justice Carol Corrigan, wrote separately to state her view that the California Constitution requires only that the state offer equal rights and benefits to straight and gay couples. The high courts in Vermont and New Jersey reached conclusions similar to Corrigan’s in their gay marriage decisions, and those states now recognize gay couples with “civil unions” - as do New Hampshire, Connecticut and Washington state.

What neither Corrigan nor Crain bothers to note is that in both New Jersey and Vermont, steps are underway to dispense with civil unions in favor of marriage for same-sex couples simply because civil unions are demonstrably not equal. It seems to be a pretty safe bet that New Jersey will enact marriage for same-sex couples within a year. (And watch for the fulminations from the right on "elitist, out-of-touch legislators thwarting the will of the people!") It seems to me that the reality of this somewhat undercuts Corrigan's comment.

Here's another comment on the possible fate of a referendum by Jonathan Zasloff. Some interesting speculation.

McCain vs. Degeneres:

Ellen Degeneres "debated" McCain on same-sex marriage. He doesn't show up well, she shows up magnificently. Here's a clip:




Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Appeasement Mantra

This one's been all over the place since the preznit opened his mouth at the Knesset. Barbara O'Brien has some good commentary that is particularly revealing of the right's sliding scale of truthiness. It's a take-down of the piece by Caroline Glick:

The Right is still trying to paint Barack Obama as an “appeaser.” In a hopelessly muddled column that, I believe, originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick argues that talking to Iran would be appeasement. Glick writes,
OBAMA’S RESPONSE to Bush’s speech was an effective acknowledgement that appeasing Iran and other terror sponsors is a defining feature of his campaign and of his political persona. As far as he is concerned, an attack against appeasement is an attack against Obama.

This, of course, is a flat-out lie. Obama’s position is that talking is not the same thing as appeasing, which happens to be true. Look it up.

O'Brien goes on from there, and it's pretty effective.

Of course, if this is how the neocons see the issues, it's no wonder our foreign policy is such an ungodly mess.

Here's hilzoy on McCain's reaction. McCain also starts off his statement by lying.

Lord. Love. A. Duck. Can't any of these people get it right?

More Comments on the California Decision (Updated)

Scott Lemieux notes something that I've been saying for a long time, in response to Eugene Volokh on the California marriage decision:

I am, however, somewhat puzzled by his implication of disagreement with the proposition that "California Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision actually consistent with the democratic process." In the American system, for better or worse, it's part of the democratic process for the judiciary to scrutinize the actions of the other branches as well as (in California's case) popular initiatives and pass judgment about their constitutionality. Strong-from federal review is a well-established part of this process, making California's effectively very weak-form review certainly consistent with it (as Volokh somewhat concedes here.) I can imagine, in the abstract, an argument that the courts should always defer to other branches or the people unless the text of the constitution is clear. But, in practice, virtually nobody in the American system believes this or acts like this in practice, so these claims generally amount to arguments that progressives should unilaterally disarm. I don't know if this is true of Volokh specifically, but certainly most of the critics of the California decision have no objection to cases where the courts use ambiguous constitutional materials to override electorally accountable officials to reach more congenial policy results (cf. Parents Involved, Garrett, Morrison) and are also strongly critical of the court in some case where it does defer in the face of ambiguity (cf. Kelo, Raich, Grutter.)

An integral part of the dialogue in the American system is legal action or the threat of legal action. The courts are one of the places that the dialogue happens -- we need the references to our founding documents in these cases, and explication of the varying interpretations to make clear just what the alternatives are. (If anyone thinks I'm going to be satisfied by having the argument laid out by Focus on the Family and the Human Rights Campaign, guess again.)

One of Lemieux' commenters nails it down in the words of Alexander Hamilton, no less:

"The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is in fact, and must be, regarded by the judges as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought of course to be preferred; or in other words, the constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people declared in the constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter, rather than by the former."

Volokh comments specifically on the two bills enacted by the California legislature and the governor's veto of those bills:

I think it's a mistake to ascribe much significance to these vetoed bills. Under California law, the California Legislature has no authority to by itself reverse -- even with the Governor's approval -- an initiative statute, such as the California ban on same-sex marriage (enacted in 2000); reversing such an initiative statute through the legislative process requires a subsequent popular vote. The legislature may at most place the amendment on the ballot.

As fas as I know, he's correct on the technical aspects of this, but I think it's a mistake not to ascribe some significance to the fact of the bills' passage and the reasons the governor gave for his veto, and instead to rely on a referendum that was 1) the outcome of a well-coordinated scare campaign, and 2) is eight years old in a time when attitudes about the question of same-sex marriage are undergoing rapid change.

I've touched on that last point several times, but I think it's an important chink in the anti-marriage argument in this case: Proposition 22 was passed eight years ago and by all available measures no longer accurately reflects the attitude of the people of California (if it ever did).

So what we're left with is that the California Supreme Court, as is its duty, passed on the constitutionality of Proposition 22 and found it lacking. Their finding reflects not only the substance of the California constitution, but also the changing attitudes on the subject as expressed by the actions of the elected legislature.


Glenn Greenwald also hits my point, based on a commentary by Benjamin Wittes, and does it much more elegantly and forcefully than I have been able to do. (I thought I had commented on Wittes' response to the decision, but looking at it again, I probably decided that the essay was so bad it didn't merit comment. I mean, it's really cheap.) (I had intended to, and e-mailed myself the link, which I just found. I'll just let this stand, since I just lost the post I wrote on it. Just let it be said that he miscasts the whole argument, hauls out all the standard right-wing scare words, and doesn't let reality interfere with his diatribe at all. Happily, a number of his commenters call him out on it.)

Update II:

More commentary from TNR: E. J. Graff, a fairly lucid look (although the commenters are woefully ignorant of history and basic civics); Jeffrey Rosen, who relies too much on the Dobson Gang talking points; Richard Just, who points out the flaws in Rosen's discussion; and David Link, who looks at the likelihood of it being overturned.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Smart OpEd

on -- yep, you guessed it: the California decision.

Here's an editorial by Harold Meyerson from WaPo that I think has a good take on this whole process:

A similar dynamic, I think, is at work today on issues of sexual orientation. Public opinion on gay and lesbian rights, domestic partnerships, and marriage is changing faster than it is on any other remotely comparable public issue. In 2000, 61 percent of California voters approved an initiative banning gay marriage, but polling last year showed that the gap between the numbers of supporters and opponents of the prohibition had virtually vanished. A constitutional ban on gay marriage will be on California's ballot in November. The odds on its passage, I'd guess, are no better than even money.

This shift is being driven by the young: Overwhelmingly, young people favor gay unions and, increasingly, gay marriage. Opposition rises in direct relation to the age of the poll respondents. In 20 or 30 years, I suspect gay marriage will be legal -- and no big deal -- throughout most, if not all, of the nation.

So was last week's ruling an impetus or impediment to that process? My hunch is that by basing the case for the right to intra-gender marriage so clearly and forcefully on the doctrine of equal rights, the court situated gay marriage not only in an established body of law but also within the essential definition of America. Opposition to gay marriage is most commonly rooted in tradition, religious tradition in particular. But the ideas that all men are created equal and have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness are the traditions that define our nation, and by basing its decision on those premises the court did gay rights, and American ideals, a huge service.

That's a point I've hit again and again about the far right: their ideals and their goals are fundamentally un-American. It's nice to see someone in the MSM picking up on that, even if it's only by inference.

A "Serious Person's" Thoughts on Marriage

That's Serious Person in the Eschaton sense -- i.e., all the other Serious People listen to him, so he must be Serious.

Andrew Sullivan has some comments on this piece of tripe from Dinesh D'Souza. I'm sorry, but it really is tripe -- from the first paragraph, D'Souza reveals himself as terminally shallow and probably not terribly intelligent -- or totally mendacious. (I mean, this essay is really mind-numbingly ignorant.) It's a piece that's very easy to take apart statement by statement -- the few that are factually accurate rest on really shaky foundations. In fact, it's such a piece of crap that I'm not going to waste time doing that. My time is better spent sitting here waiting for the next volume of Matsuri Hino's Vampire Knight to come out in English.

What's got Sullivan's back up is this one:

In issuing its ruling the California court appealed to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The basic logic is that gays have a right to be treated like everyone else. But just like everyone else, gays do have the right to marry. They have the right to marry adult members of the opposite sex!

I mean, this is a joke, right? I suppose D'Souza can be excused for expecting anyone to take that statement seriously -- after all, Sullivan did. Sullivan's problem is that somehow he's become convinced that D'Souza is a Serious Person who has Things To Say that we should listen to. (That seems to be a pattern among the Washington elite. No wonder the rest of the country laughs at them.) On the basis of this essay, that's obviously not true. But to advance that fourth-grade debater's trick as a legitimate argument? Are you serious? He must have staffers from The Onion ghostwriting his stuff.

(It's worth noting how heavily D'Souza relies on a tactic that I've seen most often in anti-evolutionist screeds: take half a statement, treat it as the whole statement, and refute it. In this example, "gays do have the right to marry" is obviously false because what D'Souza leaves out is the rest of the right to marriage as defined by the courts: the person of their choice.

Ed Brayton has rather more telling criticisms than Sullivan can seem to come up with.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neat Diagram

Thanks to PZ Myers, we have this diagram to show us how the main mammal lineages diverged.

Monday, May 19, 2008

OK, I Know, It's Another Marriage Post!

Well, I said until next time. It's the next time.

Steven Chapman, writing at Real Clear News, thinks that the California Supreme Court is all wrong -- being "judicial activists," even. Here's a quote that I think summarizes the caliber of Chapman's argument:

It's been only eight years since Vermont became the first state to admit same-sex couples to the rights and responsibilities of matrimony through civil unions. It's been only three years since California followed suit by letting gays enter into domestic partnerships.

But all of a sudden, the justices have discovered that their state constitution not only allows but requires that marriage include homosexual couples -- even though in 2000, 61 percent of the state's voters rejected that option.

So that, while Chapman is saying that the pace of change has been fast -- and does mention changing attitudes towards gays and same-sex relationships -- we still need to rely on a referendum that was passed before any of this happened. And note that he omits Massachusetts, which happened now five years ago -- and tell me the citizens of California haven't figured out yet that the world hasn't ended.

Andrew Sullivan thinks that this is a strong argument. I find it shallow and poorly reasoned, as much for what is not included as for what is. As an example, while Chapman makes reference to Bowers vs Hardwick, he neglects to mention Lawrence and Garner vs Texas, which overturned Bowers, and the fact that the majority opinion in that case called Bowers a bad decision from the beginning. We normally call this "cherry-picking your data." And that's the way Chapman's argument is built.

(I readily grant that in an opinion piece one is allowed to do that, but it makes one embarrassingly easy to refute. It does not make for a "strong argument.")

Chapman goes on:

At stake was not whether gay couples may acquire the rights and duties of marriage in a state-sanctioned framework. As the court acknowledged, they can already do so under the domestic partnership law. But it's not enough for them to get the substance of marriage. The court said they must also get the same terminology.

There's a Supreme Court decision that's quite famous, although Chapman doesn't refer to it. And while the California court didn't cite it, wisely sticking solely to California law and precedents, I can't help but think that it informed the majority's thinking on this. That decision is Brown vs Board of Education, which holds that separate institutions are inherently unequal. That has become a point that has permeated American jurisprudence.

Sullivan notes the California court's reliance on Perez vs Sharp, pointing out:

It will be argued that that ruling was based on racial discrimination which has a clear jurisprudential lineage. Applying strict scrutiny to sexual orientation has no such legal precedence.

Unfortunately, he's flat out wrong. One of Sullivan's reader's notes:

Those who would argue the latter are possibly forgetting when Perez was decided. Perez was decided in 1948 before Brown v. Board at a time when "separate but equal" was still the law of the land. There was jurisprudential lineage, but it was all in the opposite direction. Plessy v. Ferguson was good law at the time and stood for the proposition that it was constitutional to enforce racial segregation. Pace v. Alabama was also good law at the time. That was a case that said a law giving far harsher penalties for interracial fornication was constitutional since the law applied equally to both races. As the dissent in Perez noted every single court in the country that had looked at the issue of anti-miscegenation laws had declared them valid (many of the opinions going to say that they were in fact a good thing). The idea of "strict scrutiny" for racial discrimination did exist but was very new being established by the Supreme Court of the US only four years earlier in Korematsu v. US (dealing with internment of Japanese-Americans). But even that only applied to laws which curtailed the rights of a single race.

I'm afraid Chapman's "strong argument" and Sullivan's support of it are both sadly lacking. (And frankly, looking again at Chapman's critique of the court's reasoning, it smacks of the worst of right-wing sidestepping. One reads with the distinct feeling that Chapman a) has not read the opinion; b) doesn't understand the opinion; or c) simply isn't equipped to discuss it intelligently.

This is striking, from the same reader:

Even if you believe one or both cases were incorrectly decided, though, when it comes down to fundamental rights and minorities that have not always been treated justly, it is no virtue for a court to ignore the issue in deference to the wishes of a majority. They should strive instead strive in good faith to apply the constitution regardless of the popularity of the decision. Those that disagree should argue on against the reasoning used and the legal principles applied and not rely on overstated cries of judicial activism.

Chapman falls into the latter group:

The justices would have been wise to mark time while the people of California continued on their path toward full equality for gays. Instead, the court has practically exhorted them to stop the journey. Opponents of gay rights have mounted a drive to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November, which stands a good chance of passing.

This is exactly the attitude I have objected to in the writings of B. Daniel Blatt on this subject: let's just wait until it happens all by itself. Y'know what? Ain't gonna. As for Chapman's contention that the court has precipitated the backlash -- please, give me a break. That petition drive was underway long before the California court handed down its opinion. You don't get 1.1 million signatures overnight. If the court had upheld the current restrictions on marriage, or punted to the legislature, the backers of that referendum would still have gone ahead, merely amending their propaganda to note that marriage was under attack by a bunch of elite, out-of-touch elected representatives. Lame, but they've done it before. We are talking about people who want to roll back all civil rights protections for gay citizens. Same-sex marriage is just their best fundraising device.

And for a conclusion, I can't do better than another of Sullivan's readers:

To understand how inexorable the gay movement is, put yourself in the shoes of a social conservative. For as long as they can remember, they’ve won almost every referendum, legislative vote and (despite what they fervently believe) most court decisions. The electoral victories are not even close. And yet the gay movement keeps gaining! If you’re a social conservative, gay people must seem like vampires — they keep driving a stake in our heart and yet we keep coming back.

If you’ve got a heart that strong, Andrew, you pay attention to it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Last Post On Marriage

For a while. Until next time. I promise.

Sorry, but I had to drop this one in. From the LA Times, an interview with Chief Justice Ron George. This quote hits the nail right on the head:

Rather than ignoring voters, "what you are doing is applying the Constitution, the ultimate expression of the people's will," George said.

And from Governor Arnold, in SFGate:

"When the people vote, people are not legal experts, constitutional experts or any of that," he said. "I think that's why we have the courts. People may vote with good intentions, but then the court says, 'This is not constitutional.'

"It's not that the court interferes with the will of the people," he added. "But the court says, 'You voted for something, but it's not constitutionally right, so let's rework this.' That's really the idea."

My only question is why can't we get something that clear and level-headed from the three presidential candidates?

Both links thanks to Waldo Lydecker's Journal.

The Week In Review

If I may borrow a headline. See dday's listing of the week's significant stories.


Hey, surprise -- the Missouri anti-voting law died. Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, via Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog:

“This proposal not passing is a victory for voter’s rights. This debate has not been about having Missouri voters identify themselves at the polls. In Missouri, we already have common sense identification requirements in place. This debate has been about ensuring fair elections, and elections can not be fair if eligible voters are not allowed to make their voice heard on Election Day.

These past two weeks we heard from Missouri voters across the state that feared they would lose their right to vote because they don’t have a government-issued photo ID or a birth certificate, and I am glad the legislature didn’t put their right to vote at risk. The hard work of citizens and groups around this state who opposed this proposal played a key role in making sure this legislation was not passed.”

Sudbay goes on to note that the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a voter ID law in 2006, citing the burden it placed on eligible Missourians rights to vote -- unlike SCOTUS, which apparently doesn't believe the right of Americans to choose their own government. (Didn't our pal Tony Scalia make some comment about there being no right to vote for president enumerated in the Constitution? Typical right-wing double-talk: he's strictly speaking correct, but that doesn't abrogate the right to vote for the people who are going to choose the president, which is in the Constitution.)

(I should point out that voters in Chicago are asked for ID at the polls. State IDs are easy to get if you have a morning to spend -- the usual bureaucratic lines, although it actually doesn't take so long -- and are free for seniors. I'm not sure what provision is made for the poor.)

Another bit of good news for free elections in the U.S.: Hans von Spakovsky has withdrawn his name from consideration as chairman of the FEC:

President Bush’s contentious nominee for the Federal Election Commission removed his name from consideration Friday, potentially ending a stalemate that had paralyzed the agency.

Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who never had Democratic support to win confirmation, withdrew his nomination, saying it was time for the protracted deadlock to end.

Harry Reid finally showed some spine:

I welcome the President’s decision to withdraw the controversial nomination of Mr. von Spakovsky. It is an action I have repeatedly urged the President to take for more than six months. Democrats stood united in their opposition to von Spakovsky because of his long and well-documented history of working to suppress the rights of minorities and the elderly to vote. He was not qualified to hold any position of trust in our government.

Reid was quoted elsewhere as saying that von Spakovsky's confirmation was not going to happen.

FGB: Marriage: What It Means

Some comments on what this all means. First, from Andrew Sullivan:

When people talk about gay marriage, they miss the point. This isn't about gay marriage. It's about marriage. It's about family. It's about love. It isn't about religion. It's about civil marriage licenses. Churches can and should have the right to say no to marriage for gays in their congregations, just as Catholics say no to divorce, but divorce is still a civil option. These family values are not options for a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay relationships in some other category--civil unions, domestic partnerships, whatever--may alleviate real human needs, but by their very euphemism, by their very separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people and their families. They put back the barrier many of us have spent a lifetime trying to erase.

It's too late for me to undo my past. But I want above everything else to remember a young kid out there who may even be reading this now. I want to let him know that he doesn't have to choose between himself and his family anymore. I want him to know that his love has dignity, that he does indeed have a future as a full and equal part of the human race. Only marriage will do that. Only marriage can bring him home.

And from Terrance at Republic of T:

I knew as soon as the California Supreme Court marriage ruling was posted, that I would read the whole thing. I started reading it at my desk, after it was posted, but stopped once got to the “bottom line” of the ruling — and, truly, because as I realized what I was reading, and what the California Supreme Court had said, the emotion was too much.

I wasn’t born when the Brown v. Board of Education ruling was handed down, so I don’t know what it was like for those Black Americans who heard it or read it and realized what the court had done. But I think I have an idea, based on what I felt yesterday after reading the decision.

I know it was a state supreme court decision, and one that doesn’t apply to me all the way over here on the other side of the country. But yesterday, reading the decision, I felt a little bit more like an American. And maybe even just a little proud of my country.

A little bit about what it means to me:

I'm old enough that, growing up, marriage was simply not on my horizon. Anywhere. I never even thought to look. That's changed. I think in large part because of activists who have been pushing for years to make this an issue, and who have been successful enough that it's become a real motivating force for most of us. I find myself wondering what it would really be like to have a husband and children. I might even have grown up enough at this point that I'd make a good father, but even in my own "thought experiments" I can see the advantages of being part of a couple raising a family -- less wear and tear on all concerned.

I'm looking back through my own files from previous incarnations of this blog and realizing that the overwhelming majority of course cases that have been argued on same-sex marriage, going all the way back to Hawai'i in, I think, 1993 or '94, have found in favor of same-sex couples. It's only a well-organized and well-funded campaign by right-wing radicals that has forestalled same-sex marriage becoming the law in Hawai'i, Alaska, and a few other places.

There's a kind of momentum here. You'll see that people such as Tony Perkins, in the clip below, are still spouting the same lies and misrepresentations, but the signs of panic are unmistakable: this has been their bread-winning issue, and they are starting to lose. First, Vermont with civil unions. Then Massachusetts and now California with marriage. New Jersey will probably have marriage within a year, and I expect New York to follow suit fairly quickly. Vermont is now considering changing civil unions to marriage. Illinois may very well have civil unions within a year, and I expect that that will become marriage shortly after. Add in the other states that have some form of recognition -- Rhode Island, I believe, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon, and now there's a bill in the Minnesota house -- and there's an obvious trend.

And what does it mean fo rme personally? Depends on whether I fall in love again. I can't think of much that's more demanding, or more exciting, than raising a child. Unless it's having a husband.

It's nice to know I have the option.

More Reactions, via Joe.My.God. Joe also has this video of comments by Tony Perkins and Dan Savage.

Watch it -- it's worth it just to see Savage call Perkins out on the "children do best with mother and father" bullshit. I can't tell you how happy I am to see that on national TV. Perkins' face froze in that smarmy smile of his -- he didn't know what to do.

Footnote: This keeps popping up in odd little places, but in the context of idiots like Perkins ranting about "San Francisco liberals" and "activist judges," note that six of the seven justices on the California Supreme Court were appointed by Republican governors. And if I remember correctly, that includes all four who concurred in the majority opinion. (I take it back -- the sole Democrat on the panel was one of the majority justices.)