"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, October 31, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging

Light blogging today. All the news is about Prop 8 and marriage, and you know what I think about that.

I'm fairly confident in the defeat of Prop 8. The climate is changing, and faster than anyone realizes, I think. I've noted a couple of times Illinois' favorite laughing-stock Peter LaBarbera's faillure to get a referendum on the ballot against same-sex marriage -- twice in a row. This year, he didn't even submit his petitions because he had so few signatures. Now, from Massachusetts, we see that MassResistance (certified as a "hate group" by the SPLC) has really come a cropper:

The effort by the anti-gay group MassResistance to reinstate the 1913 law has failed. The group had spent the past two months collecting signatures to place a referendum on the 2010 ballot to reinstate the law, which the legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick repealed in July, but by the Oct. 29 deadline for gathering signatures MassResistance had only managed to collect one-third of the total needed. The 1913 law, which banned marriages between couples from out of state whose marriages would be void in their home state, had been used by former Gov. Mitt Romney to block most out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. . . .

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said MassResistance turned in roughly 10,500 signatures, far below the 33,297 needed to place it on the ballot.

That's slightly less than a third. That's what happened with LaBarbera: the first set of petitions had so many signatures disqualified that the Secretary of State couldn't accept them. The second never even made the count.

(Via Good As You.)

And for those in California, Box Turtle Bulletin has published a list of newspapers supporting and opposing Prop 8. (Don't skim the head of the list -- those are the two that support it.)

I had worked up a major post for "Write for Marriage" Day, but it was all over the place. Most of it was a rehash of what I've said before, so just do a search on "marriage" here if you really want to know.

And for dessert, something sweet from Made in Brazil:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pass It On

Via Queerty:


I voted yesterday. I hadn't really thought about it until I realized that on Tuesdays I'm at work for a minimum of ten hours, and while I could have gone early -- the polls open at 6 am here -- it would most likely have been touch-and-go. So I went up to the local branch library and voted early.

After reading some of the horror stories from around the country, I have to say I'm glad I live in a Democratic stronghold. The line was long, but it only took a bit under an hour from walking in to walking out. We use touch-screen machines that make a paper record of your vote, everything is very clearly explained, the poll workers and judges were very helpful, there were chairs available in line for those who needed them, and everything was very relaxed.

It was interesting to see the crowd. Lots of young people -- students, I think, since the polling place is close to Loyola University, and people using their lunch hours to vote. Needless to say, this is the north side of Chicago, so everyone pretty much was an Obama supporter, although no one really discussed who they were voting for.

On the whole, it was a good experience -- but then, I think that's the way it's supposed to be.

It's the Economy, Stupid

Here's a spot from the Obama campaign.

That sort of says it.

Thanks to Hullabaloo.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lord what fools. . . .

I love freedom of speech. It allows the Dennis Pragers of the world to make total fools of themselves. I'm not really surprised that there are people like Prager running around -- there are always people who will do and say anything for a buck or some notoriety. What amazes me is that there are people who will believe what the Pragers say.

What's really repulsive about this is the applause. What are these people thinking? (Update: I just discovered that Prager was a a Michelle Bachmann rally -- so we know they weren't thinking.

And the refutation of Prager's remarks is so easy -- check out Frick's post for the first two examples that come to mind. I'm sure you can think of more.

It's tempting to say Prager has made dishonesty into an art, but there are so many who are so much better at it that I can't even credit him with any competence.

But then, competence isn't a conservative value, from what we've seen recently.

(Note: It took some linking to get back to the video; this one came to me via The Washington Monthly, to them via Oliver Willis, and from thence to Think Progress, which is the link above. One comment relative to the comments at Willis' post: if Prager was talking about economic equality, he should have said so. He's no more an economist than he is political philosopher -- he's just a rabble-rousing blowhard -- so that context is just wishful thinking.)

Write to Marry

Today's the day, and I've got a post sort of sketched out, but I've no time this morning. At some point in the day I may be able to put it together. We'll see.

Another Things Sullivan Doesn't Understand

Or he feels no compunctions about spouting wild-eyed libertarian propaganda:

A simple question. I'm a flat taxer, because I don't believe the government has any business punishing people for getting richer. But I don't think that people who support the kind of punitive taxation that Obama does or Cameron does in Britain or Reagan did in 1986 is a "socialist." Is it now the McCain campaign's assertion that anyone who isn't for a flat tax is socialist? I should add that if Obama is a socialist, Richard Nixon must have been a commie.

It's not the "socialist" mantra, which he rightly questions -- that's pure fear-mongering. It's the characterization of a progressive tax as "punitive." I could make a few guesses as to where this kind of idea comes from, but I'm not going to go there. But the assumptions on which it is built -- if you pay more in taxes, someone must be punishing you because you're successful, Has it occurred to Sullivan, McArdle, and the other members of the Grover Norquist fan club that one purpose of a society is to take care of the relatively helpless: the stronger protect the weaker kind of thing, right? In the case of government intervention, it's called "economies of scale": some problems are too big for individuals or even charitable organizations to handle, and while government may not be the best answer -- especially over the past eight years -- it can be the most effective (unless it makes a policy of hiring incompetents).

As for a flat tax, puh-leeze! Thought experiment: the basic cost of living in your city is $50,000 per year for those in your circumstances -- say, married with children. If you make $60,000 and the government takes 10%, you just make it, with a tiny bit left over for emergencies or extraordinary circumstances, like if you get sick. If you make $260,000 and the government takes 10%. . . . Get my drift? After all, you're paying the same prices for everything no matter how much you make. Do the math.

You may have figured out that I think libertarianism in economic matters misses the whole point of human sociality. I'll go a step farther: it's a callous, selfish philosophy that encourages greed and exploitation, which we have enough of in the world already. (Nor, when it comes down to it, does it have much to do with the realities of who we are as human beings.)

I really hadn't thought Sullivan was like that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sometimes I Wonder

From Waldo Lydecker's Journal, this endorsement from the Greenville (SC) News. The bulk of the text is quite judicious and evenhanded, in fact quite complimentary to both candidates -- until you get to the last couple of paragraphs, in which the rationale for the endorsement becomes crystal clear:

A powerful argument against an Obama presidency is that it most likely would put an extraordinary degree of power in the hands of one political party. Democrats are expected to build significantly on the working majority they hold in the Senate and their edge of about 30 seats in the House. This political muscle would be far greater than the four and a half years under President Bush when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, mostly squandered their leadership position and alienated many independent voters.

Americans often have shown disdain for the governing excesses that come when one party has virtually unchecked power through holding the White House and significant majorities in both houses of Congress. The first two years of President Clinton's first term and the four years of President Carter's one term offer clues about what can happen when one party has to pay little to no attention to the other.

Would you think that someone is trying to sweep the Bush II presidency under the carpet? The statement about "political muscle" is quite nonsensical. Aside from the fact that, unlike Republicans, Democrats tend not to march in lockstep, some of the worst legislation ever in the history of this country was routinely passed by the Bush Congress, sometimes without even being debated. It is perhaps instructive that the dire warnings are centered on the Carter and Clinton presidencies, the Bush II years having been, obviously, all good.


Dump Dobson

I keep meaning to write more on the travesty of inducting James Dobson into the National Radio Hall of Fame, which I've commented on before (Here and here). I simply have no time right now, but Wayne Besen is on top of it. I recommend you read his essays here and here.

Here's a video of the press conference:

This all grows, on my part at least, from this article in the Chicago Reader. I've spoken with the author, Deanna Isaacs, and we both would like to discuss it further. I may invite her to do a guest post or some such -- part of my objection rests in the coverage of the issue by the Reader, which I felt was off-point and displayed kid gloves handling of DuMont. Deanna certainly deserves a chance to respond.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Lower Depths

Conservatism, as anything else, is a vertical arrangement, and we can all name the ones at the top. Now we can name some of those at the bottom -- if, indeed, there is a bottom: Yes on 8.

In their newest television ad, the Yes on 8 Campaign focuses on the field trip that some San Francisco children took to celebrate their teacher’s wedding. It goes without saying that they distort the story; dishonesty is the hallmark of the Yes on 8 efforts. And although this lack of integrity is worthy of indignation, what truly reveals the immorality of their efforts is that they chose to exploit images of the children that attended.

It is one thing to criticize the decisions of the parents and the school’s administation. It is quite another to plaster the face of children across the television screens of all California households and present them for ridicule.

And, given the reactions engendered by the campaign, these children are being exposed to potential attack. Let's talk again about "family values."

It gets worse:

Ah, but these “good moral people” who believe that “parents and not liberal schools should be the protectors, guardians and ultimate teaches of their own children” seem to have no respect for parents when they don’t support their anti-gay agenda. They have told these parents that they have no intention of stopping the exploitation of their kids.

“The images of the children wouldn’t be in the public domain if they hadn’t called the press and publicized it. It’s been on national TV.”

Are these the kind of people you want to be associated with?

Update: From Andrew Sullivan, evidence that someone has been running around turning over rocks.

My Kind of Candidate

Here's a snippet of Joe Biden being interviewed by a wingnut in south Florida. Those are the kjinds of reactions I think I would give:

Interviewer: "You may recognize this famous quote: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." That's from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?"

Biden: "Are you joking? Is this a joke?"

Interviewer: "No"

Biden: "Is that a real question?"

Interviewer: "That's a real question"


Interviewer: "Are you forewarning Americans that nothing will be done, and America's days as a world leading power are over?"

Biden: "Umm, no, I'm not at all. I don't know who's writing your questions."


Interviewer: "What do you say to the people who are concerned that Barack Obama will want to turn America into a socialist country much like Sweden?"

I can't embed the video for some reason, but watch it. It's hilarious.

October Surprise

Given who's still in the White House, is this really surprising?

We'll see who escalates.

Shorter Barbara O'Brien

In her own words:

It may be that the most devastating thing you can say to a rightie is we’re not afraid of you any more.

Prop 8

I like this ad. The punchline is just great.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Manga and American Politics

Strange how my mind makes connections in unlikely places. One of the points in Saiyuki, reiterated again and again, is that the four heroes rely on themselves. It's stated various ways, but it boils down to that. As Sanzo says in a preview of Saiyuki Reload at the end of Saiyuki, vol. 9: "Since the day I was born and until I die, the only side I'm on is my own." It's an extreme statement, but then he's an extreme character.

And then I see something like this, from digby on opposition to Prop 8:

Conservatives are starting to feel very, very freaked out. And they tend to be the type of people who believe violence is the best answer for everything. You do the math.

Whether conservatives actually believe violence is the best answer for everything is an open question in my mind, although the evidence, such as it is, seems to point that way. But what's operative here is simply the fact that they tend to invest heavily outside themselves for validation. It's that authority thing again: truth comes from on high, and that includes the truth about who you are, whether "on high" knows beans about it or not. So it's easy to get violent about something like equal rights for gays: your authority figure -- and don't forget, it's sacred -- is being attacked, and if that goes down, you're toast.

Personal note: growing up when I did and where I did, there wasn't a lot of outside validation available to me. "Smart" and "talented" were double-edged: teachers though they were pluses; my peers, not so much. Liking boys was completely beyond the Pale. So maybe it's no surprise that I'm very sympathetic to Sanzo and his crew -- I've pretty much had to do it myself.

Joke of the Year

This is too good. From NYT:

Armed with polls that raise the possibility of decisive wins in House and Senate races, Congressional Republicans are trying to turn the situation to their advantage, warning voters about unchecked one-party government and urging them to split their tickets to deny Democrats unfettered control. The Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, issued warnings about one-party control as he campaigned Friday and Saturday.

That is also the premise of a recent television advertisement supporting Senator Elizabeth Dole, Republican of North Carolina, whose seat is an integral part of the Democratic drive toward 60 votes, as she fights to hold on against Kay R. Hagan, a Democratic state senator.

Ominous music plays in the background as a narrator intones: “These liberals want complete control of government, in a time of crisis. All branches of government. No checks and balances. No debate. No independence. That’s the truth behind Kay Hagan. If she wins, they get a blank check.”


Reviews in Brief Twofer

Since I screwed up last week, you get two today. Enjoy.

Reviews in Brief: Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki

Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki is something of a departure for Reviews in Brief, at least as it's been running so far: it's not yaoi, even though the character design tends quite markedly toward a bishonen aesthetic: characters are slender, muscular, androgynous, and very sexy, and that's where it stops. Pretty much.

The story is a retelling of an old Chinese tale, "Xi-You-Ji," usually translated as "Journey to the West." By way of forewarning, Minekura has written her title in kanji characters that also read as "Journey to the Extreme." The inside cover simply notes "Journey to the Max."

Once the world was a paradise called "Shangri-La," where all was in harmony, the foundations of law and religion were laid down, and men and demons ("youkai") lived together in a spirit of peace. And then a wave of minus energy started flowing through the world, created from the forbidden blending of human science and youkai magic: someone was trying to free the demonlord Gyumaoh, sealed in his castle five hundred years before. The Three Aspects summon the Buddhist priest Genjyo Sanzo, keeper of one of the Five Sutras, and charge him with stopping this sacrilege. He will have three companions: the Monkey King Son Goku, released from imprisonment for a crime he doesn't remember committing; Sha Gojyo, a kappa (water sprite), the son of a forbidden union between human and youkai; and Cho Hakkai, a legend himself, a demon slayer and keeper of the shape-changing dragon Hakuryu. This is the story of their adventures on the way to India.

It's a classic quest story, updated in an in-your-face sort of way: Goku is all stomach and fun, living for food and games -- and a good fight; Hakkai seems to be a kindly, somewhat abstracted young man who turns deadly in the blink of an eye; Gojyo has two weaknesses, good tobacco and bad women, and tends to chop his adversaries into cutlets; while Sanzo, who is a Buddhist only by misapprehension, smokes, drinks, and carries a pistol -- which he won't hesitate to use. And we see the dragon Hakuryu most often as the group's main means of transport -- a Jeep.

Minekura has put together a marvelous story, rich, funny, plumbing unexpected depths as the backstory on each character comes out, and refreshingly free of the black/white, good/evil dichotomy one might expect in a comic book adventure story. The graphics are excellent, somewhat more dense than I've been accustomed to, but clear and displayng a masterful use of tone. It's interesting to see Minekura's blending of Japanese, Chinese and Indian iconography, particularly in her portrayal of a group of characters with the worst attitudes you can imagine.

This one's from Tokyopop. The first series, which covers the first half of the journey, runs nine volumes, and is continued in Saiyuki Reload.

I am not, as I usually do, going to post the covers for each volume -- I mean, c'mon, there are nine of them -- but I'll give you an interior shot:

Reviews in Brief: Tamaki Kirishima's Ruff Love

I have to warn you right up front that I was completely captivated by this little volume, mostly because of the character of Shiba.

Taketora is a writer of historical fiction who is barely managing to get published -- his stories are pretty dull, because he is pretty dull. He makes his living working in his uncle's bar. One evening, as he is leaving offerings on the altar to his grandparents, he thinks to go out and leave something at the memorial to his grandfather's dog, Shiba, and finds Shiba lying in the back yard. It seems that Shiba has come back as a human boy -- with fuzzy ears and a tail -- to repay Taketora's grandfather for his kindness. Since grandfather has been dead for twenty years, Shiba decides that he will pay his debt by serving Taketora.

Shiba is enthusiastic but unpracticed -- which is to say, he's a complete klutz, but eager to please. And Taketora soon discovers depths of feeling in himself he had no idea existed. And as his feelings develop, his stories get better. However, things are complicated by the arrival of Akatsuki, another reincarnated dog, who is bad-tempered, always hungry, and terrifically horny. Akatsuki is a sad, embittered dog who came back to earth because of love -- his human, after promising that they would be together forever, died and left him.

It's really a slight story, and frankly veers a little over the edge of sentimentality, but offhand, I can't think of another that has charmed me so completely. The characters, while they could benefit from more development, are wonderfully drawn -- Shiba, with his bumptious enthusiasm and innocence plays off against both Taketora's emotional reticence and Akatsuki's bitterness to good effect, and even Akatsuki, as we learn his history, becomes an appealing, sympathetic character. I would just like to see more depth, because I think it's potentially there. (And I think I now have a take on the use of the term "mameshiba," which I've learned is a breed of small dog, and which I've seen used a couple of times as a descriptive term. Now I know.) The graphics are very well done, rich but clear, with excellent use of shading and tone. Be warned, however: the sex scenes are quite explicit and pretty steamy. My one objection in that area is that Kirishima falls too often into the "chibi" renderings in the comic relief frames; I think they would be funnier, and fit the story better, if more fully rendered -- she can create frames that are exceptionally beautiful, and the drawing overall is at a high level.

This one's from Deux Press, and I picked it up at Borders.


If you've been paying attention, you've noticed that I'm finally getting around to updating my links. Keep your eyes peeled -- some good stuff there.


The blogosphere is all over this one:

Sarah Palin gives a policy speech on scientific research:

You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

Of course, the inevitable PZ Myers had something to say about it:

This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.

Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

And here's tristero weighing in on the fitness of not only Sarah Palin, but whoever allowed her to say those things, for any office whatsoever.

Here's Biochemical Soul.

When I heard this issue forth from my T.V. I literally could not believe what I had just heard. I had to rewind my TiVo just to make sure. I write now filled with more anger at the the current state of this union than I have felt in some time (albeit, anger cut with a good dose of hope).

Why the anger, you say? What’s wrong with her statement, you ask?

This statement of “public policy” exhibits an almost unbelievable level of the ignorance of Palin and those that support her – and on multiple levels.

Read it -- it's a solid, concise take-down of Palin's position.

The general consensus is that the woman's ignorant as a rock, which I'm not going to dispute, but I want to take a step back and look at it from a slightly different angle. I mean, she's repulsive, not because she's ignorant, not even because she's happy being ignorant, but because she glorifies ignorance. One of our most serious problems over the past few years has been that we're falling behind in basic science, largely due to the efforts of people like Palin and her supporters. I don't know that there's any changing those atttitudes, because especially in science, they have a deep conflict: "science" in their minds is anti-god. Especially biology, because biology is all about evolution. That fact that we can't make any progress in treating things like autism without understanding evolution doesn't register. Hell, we can't even develop new drugs without understanding evolution. (This is a world view that rejects the idea of a continuum, and so rejects the idea that there are relationships in nature that we can find very instructive -- everything is absolute, everything was created as is. Yeah, right -- take a look around you.)

There's also the fact that science is, and always has been, an international endeavor. (That's why Ph.D. candidates in any discipline are generally required to have a reading knowledge of at least one other language, the particular language being a function of where the most important work has been done in the field.) Imagine how well that sits with Palin's exclusivist, isolationist, anti-immigrant base (whose ancestors, of course, were immigrants themselves).

No, she is ignorant, and I don't think she's particularly intelligent, but she's shrewd. This wasn't a policy speech, except incidentally, and the policy it outlines is distinctly anti-science. It was a political speech designed to once again rally the ever-shrinking base. (Here's tristero again nailing the tactics.) I'm sure it worked very well, and it's only a plus in Palin's eyes that the elite -- which is to say, people who actually know what they're talking about -- is attacking her for it. The only way to counter it is to wipe McCain/Palin out at the polls.

Sunday Silly

This is from Obama, Japan:

Thanks to AmericaBlog.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Visit Coyote Crossing

It's the new incarnation of Chris Clarke's "Creek Running North," and just as poetic, thoughtful, and impassioned as its predecessor.

It deserves a visit. In fact, bookmark it.

More on Marriage

Excellent post by Timothy Kincaid on the core argument against same-sex marriage as expressed by Dr. Albert Mohler, who, as you may remember, is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Distilled to its elements, Mohler’s argument is this:
Marriage is a differentiating term. And limiting the use of that term to heterosexuals will justly place limits on the stories, laws, families, and especially the aspirations of gay people. And that is a good thing. If gay couples are restricted from calling their relationships “marriage” they can be set apart and condemned. They should not aspire to be treated like me.

Now, of course, he does not put it in those terms. He’s neither a fool nor intentionally insulting. But behind his insistence on owning the words “marriage” and “husband” and “wife” is a proprietary instinct not based on his own reflections but rather on gay exclusions.

I think Kincaid has got it cold: the whole stance of the anti-gay religious right is that gays should not be treated equally. He sums up exactly what it is that Mohler and the rest of the anti-gay right want to stop:

Young kids coming out today dream of marriage and a fairytale life not unlike that of their classmates. They aspire to honesty, self worth, and advancement based on their merits, unhindered by discrimination or bigotry. And heterosexual kids today have expectations of their gay friends and siblings that mirror those placed on themselves.

Can't have that, now, can we?

Do I need to belabor the fact that Mohler's argument, and the entire campaign against gays by his colleagues, are fundamentally opposed to our basic American ideals and traditions? I didn't think so.

Kincaid's previous posts on Mohler and SSM are here and here.

Godless Morality

Interesting discussion starting up over at Archy. Check it out..

All You Need to Know About Voter Fraud

Given the widespread outcry on the right against actually registering voters who aren't, you know, white and rich, this seems like the right comment:

Also check out this article at BradBlog on some real fraud. (It's long, but worth reading.) If you're interested in keeping up with all the voting problems caused by Republicans and electronic voting machines, check out BradBlog.

And this little tidbit from the Arizona Independent. One thing about this last story:

UPDATE: Last week, Rogers told the Associated Press that the Party had hired a private investigator:

Rogers said a private investigator hired by the state Republican Party found Rivera and others like her have Social Security numbers on their voter registration forms that are being used by other people. They may be legitimate voters and could be victims of identity theft.

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for pointing that out, and for linking to us today!

And if there's possible identity theft involved, why is the Republican Party investigating? Isn't that a federal crime? And why is the Republican party investigating these people to start with? I hadn't realize that the GOP was now officially the federal government -- I thought it was still unofficial.

Wingnut Watch

Commercialism in Christmas: It starts earlier and earlier every year. Yep, it's the Great War On Christmas ("GWOC"), already appearing at a wingnut station near you. Archy got a heads up about Donald Wildmon's little whine session (if you'll remember, Wildmon's the one who looks like your Christmas goose after plucking, before stuffing).

The War on Christmas is big business for groups like Wildmon's. Keeping the faithful paranoid about persecution is a cash cow that keeps on giving. If Christians weren't paranoid that someone somewhere was undermining their faith and marriage, they might stop giving to people like Wildmon, Bill Donohue, and James Dobson. Then they'd have to lay off their big staffs and get a real job.

I think that says it.

Tony Perkins Declares War: No, not the tall, skinny and very sexy Hollywood star, but the short, fat-cheeked, smarmy Tony Perkins of certified hate group Family Research Council. And he's declared war on the NRCC. Here's a PDF of the declaration.

The left is attacking both of these outstanding women because they are true conservatives. They vote pro-life and pro-family. Both Congresswomen are against taxpayer funding of abortion. Both oppose embryonic stem cell research, and both are for a Marriage Protection Amendment. These are issues that motivate voters. These are issues they and other conservative candidates have won and can win with.

I just love stuff like this. It's remarkable to see a pathological liar like Perkins acting like he's running the Republican party.

Hey Tony, haven't you noticed? Gay-bashing is a losing strategy these days. Even John McCain's figured that out.

Thanks to Down With Tyranny.

Friday, October 24, 2008

There Doesn't Seem To Be A Bottom Limit

This, from esteemed "conservative" Dan Riehl, about Obama's grandmother:

Man. I hope his numbers don't start to drop. He might have to hold a pillow against her face and maybe later break into tears the way Hillary did. Only I suspect hers were genuine.

No wonder they're losing all over the place -- who'd want to be associated with a scumbag like Riehl?

Thanks to publius at Obsidian Wings.

Dump Dobson

I'm not putting this under FGB today because it has much broader application. I've mentioned it before, in relation to an exchange I had with the Chicago Reader about an article on Bruce DuMont, the Radio Hall of Fame, and Dobson's induction. (The discussion there is still going on, by the way, and the comments are certainly worth reading.)

Here's Wayne Besen's column on it, in which he puts the problem in a nutshell:

I once had a revealing conversation with an A-list news reporter, when I was trying to convince him to cover the scientific distortions of Focus on the Family's James Dobson. He declined to do so because he felt that Dobson lies so frequently that it wasn't news.

Dobson's dishonesty was the nut of what I pointed out to Deanna Isaacs, who wrote the article in the Reader: Dobson's a liar, it's documented exhaustively, and she didn't hold DuMont's feet to the fire on the fact that he was installing a known liar in the National Radio Hall of Fame after the results of an online vote. Of course, the NRHF doesn't have all that shining a reputation anyway -- as Andrew Patner points out in his comment.

Needless to say, as the time for Dobson's "induction" draws near, the issue is heating up again.

Friday Gay Blogging

FGB is going to be a bit piecemeal today -- I've been having computer crashing syndrome, and I'm tired of losing posts. So, here we go:

Prop 8 is the big news lately, along with Proposition 102 and Amendment 2. Here's a new ad from the No on 8 folks:

Meanwhile, Yes on 8 has resorted to blackmail.

A threatening letter has sparked a new controversy here in San Diego surrounding the gay marriage debate. Donors who gave money to the No on Prop 8 campaign say they received blackmail letters demanding money, and the Yes on 8 campaign now says the letters were sent by their employees.

Jim Burroway has more detail. I think it's time to call the FBI -- aren't they the ones who investigate blackmail and extortion attempts?

Update: Jeremy Hooper has a copy of the letter.

That's probably one step below this:

My husband is a phone banking coach for the local No on 8 campaign. Tonight, at an update meeting, they confirmed a rumor that was circulating around the phone banking session last week: Yes on 8 supporters are calling members of gay and lesbian communities and telling them that if they support same-sex marriage, they should vote yes.

Can you say "morally bankrupt"?

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan.

Well, I don't know if I can call this "dessert" -- it looks pretty meaty to me -- but it's what you're getting. From a project by Exterface titled "Animale Rhapsody":


Thanks to Queerty.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Proposition 8,

Amendment 2, and Proposition 102, and every civil rights bill ever brought forward. It's most relevant to the marriage issue, but it does apply to the others.

This passage from Joseph W. Campbell* struck me:

The tribal ceremonies of birth, initiation, marriage, burial, installation, and so forth, serve to translate the individual's life-crises and life-deeds into classic, impersonal forms. They disclose him to himself, not as this personality or that, but as the warrior, the bride, the widow, the priest, the chieftain; at the same time rehearsing for the rest of the community the old lesson of the archetypal stages. All participate in the ceremonial according to rank and function. The whole society becomes visible to itself as an imperishable living unit. Generations of individuals pass, like anonymous cells from a living body, but the sustaining, timeless form remains. By an enlargement of vision to embrace this superindividual, each discovers himself enhanced, enriched, supported, and magnified. His role, however unimpressive, is seen to be intrinsic to the beautiful festival-image of man -- the image, potential yet necessarily inhibited, within himself.

Social duties continue the lesson of the festival into normal, everyday existence and the individual is validated still. . . .

Rites of initiation and installation, then, teach the lesson of the essential oneness of the individual and the group. . . .

This is what we're fighting for.

*Joseph W. Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. New World Library, 2008, p. 331.

Scariest Interview Ever

James Dobson interviews Sarah Palin. I think the term is "barking mad."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Speaking of Migrations

This is just too wonderful:

Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia happens to have been built next to a mango tree that one family of pachyderms have always visited when the fruit ripens.

When they returned one year and found the luxury accommodation in the way, they simply walked through reception.

Thanks to Alas, a Blog.

How's This For a Workout?

Champion flyer, the bar-tailed godwit. From WaPo:

The bar-tailed godwit, a plump shorebird with a recurved bill, has blown the record for nonstop, muscle-powered flight right out of the sky.

A study being published today reports that godwits can fly as many as 7,242 miles without stopping in their annual fall migration from Alaska to New Zealand. The previous record, set by eastern curlews, was a 4,000-mile trip from eastern Australia to China.

Through the Looking Glass Award

To Grover Norquist:

McCain's choice of Palin brought his polling numbers above Obama's--until McCain endorsed the Bush bailout. Palin draws large crowds and has energized Reagan Republicans, gun owners, women and people of faith. Obama knows this and has his surrogates trashing Palin with a "sack the quarterback" strategy most recently joined in by Colin Powell.

She is an asset and the most consequential VP candidate in a generation. The Ds are wise to attack her.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Really Think She Just Doesn't Get It

From Dan Savage, a story that's hit several places today:

Christian Broadcasting Network: On Constitutional marriage amendment , are, are you for something like that?

Palin: I am, in my own, state, I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that that’s where we would go because I don’t support gay marriage. I’m not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can’t do, should and should not do, but I certainly can express my own opinion here and take actions that I believe would be best for traditional marriage and that’s casting my votes and speaking up for traditional marriage that, that instrument that it’s the foundation of our society is that strong family and that’s based on that traditional definition of marriage, so I do support that.

If you fight your way past the word salad, you start to get a glimpse of the full scope of the cognitive dissonance. Sorry, Sarah, but saying you're not going to be judging while judging doesn't impress me at all. Or maybe it does, in all the wrong ways.

And I suspect she really does not understand the fundamental moral vacuum involved in putting people's fundamental rights to a popular vote.

Biology and Morality, Pro Tem

Campbell won. It's partly that I'm on deadline for that review, but it's mostly that he's a more compelling writer than Wilson. (Sorry, E.O., that's just the way it is.)

It's also partly that I hate this kind of philosophical writing that is ostensibly very logical but has all these fuzzy places in it that slide off in weird directions. Sorry, but I'm one who insists on clarity, which starts with defining terms pretty closely. I realize that's a problem with something like arguments about the origins of morality -- part of the reason for this discussion, after all, is to arrive at a definition of morality.

By way of basis, two points:

First, I'm an empiricist, in Wilson's terms. I don't have a great deal of comfort with the idea of universal constants that cannot be measured by physical means -- or for universal constants of any stripe: the more we learn, the more it seems that there are none. If those constants are immaterial, my comfort level plummets, quite aside from the fact that those "constants" -- moral precepts -- are perhaps more mutable than any other part of our universe (if you bother to pay attention to the findings of history, psychology, and anthropology). Whether this empiricism grows out of my religious beliefs or causes them, I'm not sure (and how's that for a cause-and-effect wrinkle?), but since I don't recognize any force outside the universe (except possibly other universes, which have their own concerns), science poses no threat to my beliefs or the morality that grows out of them, which, as it happens, throws the whole issue of moral decisions right into my lap. There is one great "thou shalt not" in Paganism: "Do no harm."

Second, this whole argument strikes me as a facet of the nature vs. nurture quandary. The question that seems germane in this context is "How much of nurture is the product of nature?" If you accept the idea that behavior is adaptive and heritable, that's not just a smart-ass question.


Ironically enough (although I can't say that I'm really surprised), Campbell proves to be germane to this whole question: what The Hero With A Thousand Faces examines, after all, is the relationship between myth, dreams, and the "spiritual constants" that ultimately make up our moral precepts. Campbell seems to be an empiricist, but don't quote me on that -- I haven't thought about it nearly enough to make that a definite conclusion.

Biology and Morality, with Updates

The Atlantic has put Edward O. Wilson's article on the biological basis of morality online. It's one I'd like to get into, and also maybe comment on hilzoy's comments, when I've had a chance to read them. Maybe later this week. (I still have a review of Campbell's Hero With A Thousand Faces to finish.) It will be interesting to look at a controversy between two thinkers I admire.

(Just a wild guess, since I haven't looked at either article yet, but I'm betting that Wilson's comments hinge on the idea of behavior as not only adaptive, but heritable, which is really the foundational concept I got from Sociobiology. We'll see.)

But there's a little light reading for you.

Update: OK -- you really want to tie your brain in knots? Try reading Edward O. Wilson and Joseph W. Campbell in tandem, and keeping them straight.

Why do I do these things to myself?

Update II: Andrew Sullivan ;quotes hilzoy under the title "Hilzoy Gets Pissy." I think that's accurate. (Actually, looking at that quote again, it's odd that hilzoy would identify Wilson as an expert on insects -- which he is -- rather than the creator of sociobiology.)

Blind Workings and Human Endeavors

Via Mahablog, this piece by Robert McCain. Maha picks out this quote for a blast:

This idiotic liberal tendency to equate inequality with injustice is indefensible as logic.

Since I like to see the context of things like this, I checked it out. Here's the whole paragraph:

Most annoying is how Cohn offers Rawls' views as if they were self-evident. Why is random chance "unjust"? Whence the "moral" obligation to equalize outcomes? This idiotic liberal tendency to equate inequality with injustice is indefensible as logic. "We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one." (A famous guy said that. Maybe you should look him up, Jonathan Cohn.)

As you can see, she preserved the sense (nonsense?) of it.

Not having read Cohn or Rawls, I can't really comment, except to say that anyone who was really looking at things would realize the McCain is talking about two different phenomena here; Cohn may be as well, which is something that should have been noted.

By way of elucidation, "random chance" and "justice" occupy separate universes. Justice is a human concept, as is equality, so to equate the productions of chance with inequality is a stupefying example of misdefinition. Moving the argument back into the realm of human activities, however, I think O'Brien is right:

And speaking of racism and other forms of discrimination, I give you the Rightie Genius of the Week, Robert McCain, who writes,
This idiotic liberal tendency to equate inequality with injustice is indefensible as logic.

If you need to stop and reflect on that for a bit, take your time.

In context, I believe Mr. McCain was using the word equality to mean identical, which I think only works in mathematics — not even then, if I’m doing the mathematics. However, here in Real World Land, equality — as in equal treatment under the law — is the cornerstone of justice. When elements are equal they are not necessarily identical, but they have the same intrinsic value even if they have different attributes.

She does go on to to deconstruct that paragraph, and does it very well. Another reason I admire Maha -- she understands about asking the next question.

Daniel Larison also takes on McCain, about a different issue. I don't follow McCain's writing, and on the basis of these two posts, I'm probably not going to. But he seems to be getting it from both sides lately. Yeah, I can identify with that.

Not that I have any sympathy in this case.

It's About Time

Colin Powell, in case you hadn't heard, has endorsed Barack Obama for president. I can't really claim to be surprised about it -- Powell, in spite of being tarnished by the Bush administration, is a decent man. Here's Andrew Sullivan's post. I think Sullivan gets it right, pretty much:

Powell also is horrified, as decent Republicans should be, by the attempt to equate Obama with "the other" and to delegitimize Muslim-Americans or urban Americans or gay Americans or Arab-Americans or anyone else as somehow not "pro-America" or integrally part of this country.

Interesting, though, that it's taken this horror this long to manifest publicly. I guess the sight of a party in ruins has a way of opening people's eyes.

REcycling "Recycling a la Blankenhorn"

Alas, a Blog has reposted the first part of my series on David Blankenhorn's latest attempt to "defend" marriage from people who want to get married here, with the rest of the series, and perhaps some of my other writings on SSM, to follow. Alas with worth a visit, so give them a hit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Break Time

Reviews in Brief will be delayed today. I've got two other reviews to write and right now I have to eat some breakfast (bad habit of mine -- I get involved and forget to eat, then suddenly I'm starving and eat too much).


Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

This may be a bit of popular apocrypha, and I'm not going to claim it's a true story, but I couldn't let it pass. From Andrew Sullivan:

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

There's an element of psychological truth to this that inhabits all of ouir popular myths, and it's a nice antidote to the Palin portion of the McCain/Palin campaign.

Patriotism, with Updates

Just where is the "real" America? Do you suppose any of these twits have the slightest idea?

Tristero has a post that ties together two stories that have been butting heads for a day or two. First, Sarah Palin via CNN:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a fundraiser in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Thursday night:

"We believe that the best of America is in the small towns that we get to visit, and in the wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation," she said.

And of course, the inevitable "clarification":

It's all pro-America. I was just reinforcing the fact that there, where I was, there's good patriotic people there in these rallies, so excited about positive change and reform of government that's coming that they are so appreciative of hearing our message, hearing our plan.

Why do I not find this terribly convincing?

Question one: what plan? Question two: what about the ones who get thrown out of the rallies for wearing the wrong T-shirts?

(Footnote: the majority of America's population -- 54% -- lives in and around the major urban centers for the first time in history. Now, does Palin have a problem with geography, or is she living in a time warp? Yeah, I know -- Wasilla is the world.)

Update: Palin's "real" America seems to be whiter than average, which may or may not be germane. However, Dave Neiwert wrote a piece some while ago about Palin's association (there's that word again!) with the Patriot movement, which Neiwert quite simply calls "the latest step in the racist right's ongoing efforts to return to the mainstream of American discourse." That gives Palin's remark an ugly undertone.)

And another reason I'm sooo glad I live in Chicago -- I don't have to worry about morons like this representing me in Congress:

Dave Neiwert has a partial transcript at C&L.

Update: Those remarks were cited by Colin Powell as one reason he endorsed Obama; they also raised $620,000 in donations -- for her opponent.

But apparently, she never said it:

It must have been the Michelle Bachman action figure.

And Nancy Pfotenhauer, a McCain spokesman, on MSNBC:

I did say outside of north – well, I mean real Virginia, because northern Virginia is where I’ve always been, but real Virginia I take to be the – this part of the state that is more southern in nature, if you will. Northern Virginia is really metro D.C., as you're aware, Kevin.

Here's the video:

Update: Just to prove that idiots come in threes, Jake Tapper points out a little factoid:

One other thought about McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer's assertion Saturday that Northern Virginia isn't the "real" Virginia.

Um...isn't the Pentagon in Northern Virginia?

Didn't 184 people die there on 9/11 at the hands of terrorists?

What are these people thinking? You have to wonder if they really believe this shit or whether they're just Stepford politicians.

But there's the sticking point: they're politicians, so you have to wonder if they believe anything.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Update on the Field Trip

The one in yesterday's FGB. Timothy Kincaid has an excellent post at Box Turtle Bulletin on the anti-gay Christian reaction, including a lengthy analysis of a piece by Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I may take some time to get into that one myself, but for now, just read it.

Sex and the Presidency

No, not the way you were thinking -- we know way too much about that already. I'm talking about this commentary by Steve Waldman on Obama's remarks about sexuality in the last debate.

Here's why it's important. Obama showed himself to have a culturally conservative streak. The classic conservative wrap on liberalism is that sexual permissiveness led to numerous social problems including teen pregnancy and abortion. Obama declared, in effect, that he agreed with that critique. "Cavalier" sex, he said, cost society.

Neither Obama nor Waldman ask the next question: given that there's pretty much a consensus that it's not the government's role to be interfering in private decisions (some controversy still remains, to be sure -- mostly on the part of the "culture warriors" at the fringe of the right wing who think Uncle Sam should be part of your bedroom furniture), where do we find the answer? (I'm not disputing the validity of the remarks in a presidential debate: presidents are among those whom we take as role models and we should know what they think about issues like this.)

Full disclosure: I'm not one to engage in casual, uninvolved sex. As far as I'm concerned, that's called "masturbation," whether you're doing it alone or not. But I have a feeling that those who do are far fewer than some would like us to believe. I think most people are engaging in sex as a means of connection and have at the very least a certain amount of liking and affection for their partners. I don't understand the Larry Craigs of the world, but I think they are really few and far between.

That said, it seems to me that the whole issue really does work its way down to the personal level: it's something that parents, as Waldman points out, have to instill in their children. I was raised with some real American values, including respect for others. From that, it seems to me, flows the answer to the "cavalier" sex question: yes, people have sex because it's fun, but there's a lot more involved and I wonder how many people really work at demonstrating to their children that others need to be treated with consideration -- not just being polite, but a deep-down, fundamental courtesy that has as its basis respect and empathy.

I think Obama is almost there. He does demonstrate a culturally conservative streak, but it's a far cry from that of Donald Wildmon or James Dobson: I don't think Obama is at all enthusiastic about the idea of telling me how to live my life and hauling in the government to enforce it. (And, if the truth be known, I differ with him markedly on some of those issues.)

Commenter Mikkel hits the nail on the head:

I am representative of a lot of my generation who is socially conservative in that we think that "traditional values" are appropriate for most people, but also socially liberal in that we believe the prime goal is for people to live in a way that is healthiest for them even if it is different. I think that the stereotypical liberal/conservative dichotomy does a disservice by focusing on the acts instead of valuing moral development (either religious or not) and self respect. I also wonder how much of a difference there really is between the two sides or whether it's just political caricature.

Note: Reading this over, it occurs to me that Mikkel is even more on the mark than I had thought at first: there's a lot more variation in the way people are put together than is allowed for in something as mindless as "traditional" morality as espoused by the Dobson Gang. If the role of society is to work for the benefit of all of its members, we have to make allowance for that.

Instincts vs. Brains

From Daniel Larison:

“Palin may not know much, but she has good instincts.” Why are the two always set in opposition to each other? Why is it that the people with good instincts are invariably uninterested in knowledge?

One mistake here -- Larison should have written that "people with good instincts are invariably perceived to be uninterested in knowledge." That's one thing that Larison doesn't touch on (no fault to him -- that's not the point of his essay): what about someone who has good instincts and is interested in learning?


The right is finally starting to do it. It's only the very first stages -- sort of when you look around and decide whether to try to tidy up or just start in a corner with a shovel -- but it's starting, as witness this WSJ piece from Peggy Noonan. Now, I've accused Noonan of being ridiculous in the past (and she has been, in those cases, I'm still convinced), but she is one of the most respected voices on the right. She's taking Sarah Palin apart in this piece, but one paragraph struck me especially:

No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can't be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure. This has been Mr. Bush's style the past few years, and see where it got us. You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don't, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.

Noonan assumes that the McCain/Palin campaign wants to bring the country together. Perhaps McCain does, or would like to, when he stops to think about it, if he does at all. But the campaign is still locked into Rovian election strategies: smears, lies, false charges of vote fraud, dodging the issues, and, when push comes to shove, vote tampering (not proven, but then, never investigated) -- and Sarah Palin just . . . saying things, as Noonan notes. It's all about driving wedges into the electorate -- divide and win.

Uniting the country is not part of the agenda here. It never was. That doesn't work for the Republicans, because they are, when all is said and done, the minority party and the only way they can make a majority is through the tactics we've seen over the past eight years -- the tactics that Sarah Palin is using now. Take this example:

Palin also made a point of mentioning that she loved to visit the "pro-America" areas of the country, of which North Carolina is one. No word on which states she views as unpatriotic.

This is what one of Noonan's commenters called "a breath of fresh air."

(Here's a "clarification" of those remarks. OK -- I'm in Chicago. Does that make me "anti-American"?))

And let's face it: this sort of thing brought us the same idiot twice in a row; why not think it can bring us another?

(The comments, by the way, are 100% pro-Palin. The striking thing about this is that none of it -- not Noonan's essay, nor a single comment -- deals with issues.)

I wonder how this will pan out: the right's real substance, such as Noonan and Kathleen Parker and Christopher Buckley and Andrew Sullivan, at least those that have any credibility outside the inner circle, are the targets of attempted marginalization, while the pundit/whores like Ponnuru and Kristol are pandering to the base. It will be interesting to see who finally winds up at the fringe.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Baghdad Pups

I'm touting this post by digby today, because it deserves it.

First, we hear too much about the results of the "moral waivers" the armed forces are granting to keep up their numbers, and it's too easy to forget that most of the people in uniform are pretty much like us. (OK, I admit it -- I'm an extreme case: I'm one of those people who put earthworms back in the dirt when the crawl onto the sidewalk in rainstorms.)

Second, I think it's outrageous that it took until just recently for FEMA to provide for people's pets in disasters -- like letting them rescue them, too. As for the army regs as reported here, you can imagine what my reaction is to that.

Read the post.


I know I said I was through with wingnuts for today, and this isn't really about wingnuts. This post by Joe Brummer, who is one of those moderate, reasonable, polite, rational commenters on the left (i.e., one of the ones that the right says don't exist while they're trolling around for weirdos at DailyKos) brings a whole 'nother concept into play that has a place, I think, in the dispute between Carpenter and Besen (see today's FGB).

I don't generally accuse people of being haters. Well, sometimes I may have done that, but it's generally a slip -- I get pissed off, too. What is more to the point is that there are, without doubt, those who are using hate, whatever their personal feelings (such as George W. Bush, who claims to have gay friends but would die before he'd actually publicly support their rights), to gain political power. Among these are the people on the list I included in the post about Matthew Shepherd's funeral. I have no idea if any of these people actually hate any gay people they know, although they do a good job of giving the impression that they hate gays as a group. I don't know them (nor, all things considered, do I especially care to meet them -- once we've exhausted the weather as a topic, we would have nothing to talk about). But they are all actively engaged in using hate as a device to expand their own power. That, I think, is much more germane to Brummer's post and to Rev. Foster and his site. (Full disclosure: I haven't visited Foster's site, nor do I intend to. I have no reason to disbelieve Brummer, who has demonstrated his care and fairness in the past.) Foster's tactics as described by Brummer fit in very neatly with the general course of these things, which includes not only discussions of gay rights but creationism as well: in brief, it boils down to "We'll have a polite, reasonable discussion as long as we do it entirely on my terms and with my definitions." The exchange between Glenn T. Stanton and Patrick Chapman at Box Turtle Bulletin is a sterling case in point: every time push came to shove, Stanton attempted to reframe the argument. That seems to be what Foster is doing here.

This also has some resonance with the idea of "compromise," which is germane to my comments on Jonathan Rauch's reaction to the Connecticut marriage decision: we're dealing with people who are not going to allow a compromise. It's not in their vocabulary, and it's not like they're keeping it a secret. After all, when your god has told you the Truth, there are no other considerations. That's one reason I consider the whining of commentators such as Rauch and Dale Carpenter about being satisfied with civil unions as a step in the right direction to be entirely wrong-headed and blind: the right will do everything in their power to nullify civil unions and domestic partnerships. Witness the wording on the 2006 Arizona marriage amendment, and their attempts to link civil unions and domestic partnerships with marriage in the courts.

OK. End of rant, mild-mannered though it was.

Friday Gay Blogging

Jim Burroway has been running a series on the murder of Matthew Shepherd at Box Turtle Bulletin. Shepherd was buried ten years ago today; here's Burroway's post on his funeral, with links to previous commentaries. I'll be honest: I haven't read them closely. It's too painful. But Burroway makes some cogent points.

Ten years ago today also saw Robert Knight’s Family Research Council use the occasion of Matt’s funeral to denounce Phelps — and to boast about their part in the ex-gay advertising blitz that had begun the day before Matt’s murder. The FRC’s statement condemned Phelps’ tactics while sharing his message of condemning Matthew to hell:

While we share Mr. Phelps’ opposition to the homosexual political agenda, his belief that homosexuality is a sin, and his call for punishment of Mr. Shepard’s killers, we do not endorse his tactics, and have asked his group to stop letting themselves be used by the media to crudely caricature Christians.

The ‘truth in love’ media campaign reaches out to people struggling with homosexuality and offers them hope for change and redemption. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, homosexuals are included in a list of sinners, who, if unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God..

My first thought was to equate Knight and his cronies to Pontius Pilate for their handwashing when someone like Phelps makes the news, but by all accounts Pilate really did try to save Christ from execution. Say, rather, that Knight, Dobson, Wildmon, LaBarbera, Phelps, Barber (damn! The list keeps getting longer) are like the mob screaming "Crucify him!": They're perfectly willing to create an atmosphere that condones and even encourages the murder of Matthew Shepherd, but they don't have the balls to take responsibility for it. I can only say that in the final analysis, these people are among the great moral cowards of the age.

Burroway goes on:

And yet, too many things still haven’t changed. It is still legal to fire people from their jobs for being gay. Marriage rights are only secure right now in one state. Wyoming is one of twenty states which still does not have a hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation. And the federal hate crime statute still covers race, religion, and national origin — but not sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Yet official statistics continue to show that when hate crmes do occur against LGBT people, those crimes are more likely to be violent crimes when compared to other classes which are already protected.

Which leads, by means of one of those wide segues that my mind seems to favor, to the latest bitch-fight between the gay left and gay right. Dale Carpenter is threatening to take his marbles and go home because Wayne Besen said something he didn't like:

Not long ago columnist Wayne Besen wrote that gay Republicans have “no place” in the “GLBT movement.” Because they support John McCain this year, he charged they are “shamefully in cahoots” with anti-gay forces. He claimed they have a “suicidal tendency” they must overcome. The only thing missing was the tired analogy to Jewish Nazis.

Besen is no kook. He’s a widely read gay writer who fits squarely in the mainstream of the GLBT movement. It’s safe to say he was only expressing openly what many people, especially leaders and activists, within the movement privately think about gay conservatives.

In fact, Besen’s column was only the latest in a barrage of attacks against gay conservatives this election season. Time and again gay conservatives have been called self-hating, treasonous, and selfish. It’s the worst vitriol against gay conservatives I’ve seen in fifteen years in this movement.

The only place I can fault Carpenter is that he's taking the part as the whole. There are any number of gay commentators on the left who question the right's reasons for supporting the Republican party, and especially John McCain, but who aren't willing to consign them to the flames. (Hopefully, I can be numbered among them, although I will readily admit to a lack of patience with the knee-jerk reactions of such as Bruce Carroll, whom I no longer bother to read because I can pretty much predict what he's going to say on any given issue, and if I want to read Alice in Wonderland, I have a copy sitting in my library.) I've had my differences with Carpenter in the past, as I have with Andrew Sullivan, Chris Crain, and Jonathan Rauch, but I do think that they bring a valuable point of view to the argument. At least, in regard to things like hate crimes laws and the like, it's a point of view I can sharpen my teeth on. (And that's the connection to hate crimes. Told ya.)

And, to give Carpenter full credit, there are those commentators on the left who tend to go overboard. (I can give way to snark, for which I do penance on a regular basis, but I'm not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater.) All one needs to do is to pop by the Bilerico Project to see unrestrained, brainless leftism in action.

However, Carpenter loses my sympathy when he sinks into playing the victim card:

The co-founder of Manhunt was forced to resign from the company's Board of Directors because he dared to make a campaign contribution to John McCain, which started talk of a boycott against the company. People are free to boycott companies if they want to, but the fact that supporting McCain was seen as worthy of a boycott is deeply disturbing. The GLBT movement does not tolerate such dissent. What’s next, banning conservative columnists from gay newspapers?

Grow up, would you? Frankly, given McCain's positions on basic issues -- marriage, DADT, hate crimes -- and his selection of a raving anti-gay Christianist lunatic as a running mate, yeah, I think support for his candidacy is worth a boycott. And a howler like "the movement does not tolerate dissent" is, aside from pathetic, largely fictitious. It strikes me as being a little projective: it's not the left that tends to march in lockstep.

Regrettably, Carpenter didn't link to Besen's column, and I haven't been able to locate it (perhaps it didn't appear online?). But Besen's response is available. The core of Besen's argument seems to be this:

The issue I have with gay conservatives is that they consistently subjugate GLBT concerns. This is revealed when Carpenter says that “we disagree” with the movements “most visible activists…about how much weight should be given to purely gay issues in a time of economic and military turmoil.”

To a certain extent, he's quite correct. First off, Carpenter and other gay conservatives tend to attack gay activists for being gay activists, while they really do subjugate gay concerns to "conservative" concerns. (And more on those quotes in a moment.) Can I point out one small detail: these are, indeed, gay actvists. What the hell did anyone expect them to be concerned with? More tax cuts for the wealthy?

Besen does allude to one point, although it's not one that either of them confronts directly, and it's all about "conservative" in quotes: "conservative" and "Republican" are not, these days at least, at all the same thing, at least not as commentators such as Carpenter and Sullivan think of it. Sullivan, at least, has figured it out, and routinely divorces his brand of conservatism from what the Republican party has become. (And I feel fully justified in noting that what the Republican party has become is the reason that I, who for most of his voting life has routinely split his vote, no longer consider a Republican candidate as desirable -- even when I would otherwise vote for a Republican, as in Illinois' last gubernatorial election, they are still saddled with that party apparatus and "the base." I voted for the Green party candidate, by the way.)

So part of the problem here is that Carpenter is arguing "conservative" while Besen is arguing "Republican." They're not the same any more, and I would expect Carpenter, at least, to be able to figure that out without help.

I have to permit myself a small measure of bitchiness in response to this comment by Besen:

I wasn’t aware that Congress had to choose between the economy and protecting GLBT people from job discrimination. I had no idea that passing a hate crime law might hinder our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently, Carpenter and other conservatives think they should get to the back of the line and wait for their rights to be doled out at a time of peace and prosperity (when Democrats are in the White House, I presume).

Frankly, Besen doesn't seem to have been keeping his eye on Congress lately, otherwise he might have noticed that the Democrats do seem to be able to focus on only one issue at a time -- at least, when the other issue is gay-related. Somehow, hate crimes, DADT, ENDA, all got pushed aside. (Yeah, ENDA and hate crimes got a valiant (?) attempt -- one attempt. Did anyone else feel like the Democrats were standing there saying "Well, we tried. Now on to other, more important things."?)

As for the whole issue of labeling gay conservatives as "self-loathing," "suicidal" and the like -- that's between them and their therapists. I'll just opine that they are as short-sighted as anyone on the left is blinkered, and let it go at that.

OK -- that's enough weightiness for today.

Waymon Hudson gives us a rundown on the No on 2 ad campaign in Florida.

From Jeremy Hooper, a report on the wingnut reaction to a :"field trip" to a lesbian teacher's wedding in California. What the wingnuts are neglecting to tell people is that the parents all gave their permission. (Isn't there something in the Bible about not bearing false witness? Like a Commandment?) The SF Chronicle article is excellent, by the way.

And that's enough about wingnuts.

Ah, dessert! I think I'm moving to Toronto:

I'm taking a short break, so there may be more.

And then again, there may not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Update on Rauch on Connecticut

A little footnote to Jonathan Rauch's comment that the marriage strategy is "exhausted and counterproductive": according to a report from Connecticut,

A new poll says 53 percent of Connecticut residents support last week's state Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay and lesbian marriages.

42% oppose it. When you think about what the numbers most likely would have been even five years ago, for a tired old strategy, it doesn't seem all that counterproductive to me. It certainly seems more productive than waiting around for the majority to decide that it's time we were allowed to marry.

This seems to be what Rauch favors:

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rauch on Connecticut: The Full Monty

Sorry -- I just had to use that.

More on Jonathan Rauch's comments on the Connecticut SSM case, Kerrigan vs. Commissioner of Public Health:

Rauch makes a point of noting that Connecticut has passed civil unions legislation that gives same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples:

It's a defensible analysis. But here's the thing: like California, and very much unlike Massachusetts in 2004, when that state's Supreme Court ordered SSM, Connecticut was not proposing to give gay couples nothing as an alternative to marriage. To the contrary: in 2005, the state legislature enacted civil unions, granting every state right and responsibility of marriage, and withholding only the designation "marriage" itself.

Rauch ignores the very pertinent point that civil unions are not equal to marriage. From the opinion:

We conclude that, in light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians,1 and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm.

This was also a key element in the California decision: the term "marriage" in and of itself constitutes a value that is left out of alternative, newly created institutions such as civil unions and domestic partnerships. To miss that point is to miss the whole point of the debate.


As the smart dissent, by Justice Borden (joined by Justice Vertefeiulle), notes, most political observers in Connecticut agreed that the conversion of civil unions to marriage was just a matter of time, and "sooner rather than later." The state's steady stream of pro-gay legislation, topped off by civil unions, makes the idea that gays need the court's protection from a hostile majority seem obsolete. So says the dissent, and I'd add that, as a political matter, we ought to be maturing beyond official victim status, not welcoming it.

This is a point that parellels my comments in my brief prior post: Rauch is conflating the political and the judicial here, which is something that, all propaganda aside, we assiduously try to avoid. It's a matter of process: The court isn't allowed to say "Well, it's going to happen eventually, so we'll just wait." That is not in its purview (although several courts have tried that tack on related issues, and New York and Washington state actually avoided the issue altogether and threw it back to the legislatures by the simple expedient of asking the wrong questions.) Rauch's criticism of the court and its decision seems to be based on this idea that the courts should be content to wait; my contention is simply that they're not really allowed to do that. They have to decide the cases before them, particularly if there are fundamental rights issues involved. (We see a similar process going on right now in New Jersey, where the court told the legislature to come up with something -- very much akin to what happened in Massachusetts -- and the legislature came up with civil unions, which are now being seen as not equal to marriage. This one will be the result of legislative action, but the court has already spoken: this is just the court's instruction working itself out.)

Rauch again:

Second, the issue before the court was: Is man-plus-woman a discriminatory restriction on marriage, or is it part of the very definition of marriage? I, and probably most visitors to this site, hold the former view; but it's foolish to pretend that the notion of same-sex marriage isn't newfangled. If the people of Connecticut aren't quite ready to go all the way to changing what many regard as the core definition of marriage, should it be unconstitutional for them to compromise on civil unions while catching their breath? In effect, what the court has done here is to make patience illegal.

Back in May, commenting on the California decision ("Hold the Champagne"), I called this kind of all-or-nothing thinking "legal totalism", which,
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). I think SSM is a better policy than civil unions. 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.

And now, once again, a court pulls the rug out from under a compromise that gives us 95 percent of what we want uncontroversially.

First off, the whole "patience" thing is bizarre. I think I see his thinking here -- it would be nice if we all just waited our turn like good boys and girls, and eventually papa will give us something nice. Y'know what? I wasn't a particularly good little boy. Secondly, we've seen where that has gotten us -- and it doesn't seem to matter which party is in power. Somehow, when it comes to gay rights issues, the Republicans just laugh in our faces, and the Democrats can only deal with one issue at a time -- not ours.

I'm also bemused by the term "legal totalism." What is the alternative? "Legal partialism"? I answered that in my earlier post: can you imagine a court coming down with a decision that "all are nearly equal under the law"? Sorry, but constitutions tend to be written in absolutes.

I really can't figure out what Rauch's baseline is here. Is it simply that he wants to avoid controversy? And how do we make any progress that way, particularly since the controversy, when all is said and done, is not of our making? I hate to cast it in these terms, but we are in a fight. Trying to be quietly persuasive is going to get us exactly nowhere when we have very well-organized and well-funded opponents who are determined that we get nothing -- the Dobson Gang is not afraid of controversy. That's how they make their money.

As for the definition of marriage, I don't understand why Rauch is allowing himself to fall into the trap of thinking that there has always been one fundamental definition of marriage. I'll even grant that the idea of same-sex marriage is "newfangled" as such things go. (There are those who would argue quite convincingly against that assessment, starting with anthropologist Patrick Chapman and sociologist Stephen O. Murray.) Anyway, even granting that, if the traditional definition of marriage is one man, one woman, so what? Like we've never discarded traditions in this country? Like our basic system of government was traditional in the eighteenth century?


But at the moment I wish nothing more than that our side would recognize the court-driven SSM strategy for what it has become: exhausted and counterproductive.

I'm dubious. Massachusetts still has same-sex marriage, a constitutional amendment there failed, Proposition 8 in California will pass only if the Mormons manage to pack the polls, and both New York and New Jersey will probably have same-sex marriage laws on the books within a year. Watch for Vermont to follow suit. And I can hardly wait to see what the court in Iowa decides. The "exhausted and counterproductive" part just doesn't hold water. As for it being a "strategy," whose? The major gay rights organizations were dragged kicking and screaming onto this particular bandwagon, and still haven't been very useful. Rauch's implication seems to be that there's some master plan in place, when it's really been an ongoing battle waged mostly by individuals, starting in Hawai'i in 1993. And considering the way things have been going the past few years, I think the tide has turned.

(Side note: I discussed Rauch's comments on the California decision here -- (scroll down to the section titled "Compromise.")