"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

Monday, June 30, 2008

This is probably an FGB post,

sort of, even though it's Monday.

Participants dance on a float during the Pride Parade in Chicago. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / June 29, 2008)

The Chicago Pride Parade was yesterday. I didn't go. I was writing pretty much all day, and it was rainy -- the first time in living memory that it has rained on our parade, although I think it held off during the hours the parade was actually happening. It's been known to rain before the parade, but as nearly as I can remember, it has always cleared up before noon, when the parade starts.

At any rate, it's appropriate, I think, to pass on some thoughts about Pride and where we are now. I'm not going to talk about the obvious victories, the apparent progress, the remaining threats: I've done it enough, I think, and you all know what they are. I'm looking at the less obvious stuff, such as the fact that Gay Pride is such a normal thing here that the story in the Chicago Tribune focused on the California marriage decision and the pending civil unions bill in the Illinois legislature. The Sun-Times focused on DADT. The Chicago Reader, our local alt weekly [and, to be honest, one of the oldest and best in the country, in general] acknowledged that the parade was happening, if you cared to look hard enough. Maybe if Boys' Town were in Bucktown, the gay community would get coverage at the Reader.* TimeOut Chicago gave Pride a box on the home page (for Sunday's edition of the website; it's been bumped, but I note that TimeOut has a "Gay and Lesbian" section), similar to the Trib, and UR Chicago gave it a lead story, home page. And this, from the latter, catches my attitude pretty closely:

Oh, Pride. What a wet, boozy, resilient testament to the LGBT crowd's visibility. Sure, some delusional conservative envangicals might ascribe the day's scattered downpours on God's disapproval (which would ignore the gorgeous, sunny weather from the previous couple of years), but actually, the less-than-desirable weather just proved how determined the Gay Pride participants and audience were to celebrate. Besides, if the rain was an act of God, it just goes to show how willing God is to turn an entire strip of Lakeview into one long shower contest. I mean, in case hot guys in Speedos wasn't enough, God wants them to be wet, too? Amen, indeed.

Of course, Windy City Times and Chicago Free Press normally run series during the whole month of June. And we can expect reports in the coming week.

The point of all this is simply that Gay Pride is now, in this city at least, Business As Usual. Pride, like Halsted Market Days in August (which is still, I believe, our biggest neighborhood festival), is simply another celebration in the city. They happen almost every weekend in the summer, although I have to say our two are among the biggest and splashiest. (Whatever else has happened over the years, we still know how to party.)

Chicago Police officers participate in the Pride Parade. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / June 29, 2008)

Which leads me to believe we are witnessing, in what is arguably the most conservative major city in the country (I mean, "major" for longer than the last ten years -- Midwest, Heartland, white ethnics, all the rest), not only tolerance, but acceptance. In the public perception, we're part of the fabric here.

That's the real gain. That's the reality. And that's the way it should be.

(I love this picture. That's the future, man. Go for it.)

Mike Allegretti (right) and Christoper Littmann, both of Chicago, watch the Pride Parade. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / June 29, 2008)

*Footnote: I'm not a journalist. Maybe it's just that legal same-sex marriage in a state without residency requirements, a civil unions bill in the Illinois legislature (with some sectors already pushing for full marriage rights), a mayor and county clerk who are on record as supporting marriage equality, a County Board that has just proposed to extend benefits to gay couples married elsewhere, and a Chicago politician running for president who wants to repeal the federal DOMA, aren't something for an in-depth article during Pride Week. I wouldn't know.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The News

OK, I just looked at the news, surfed a few blogs, and I was right.

Meh. I don't want to talk about it.

Reviews in Brief: A Foreign Love Affair

Since the news has been so depressing, and I'm in writing mode, I thought I'd try out something a little new here. Actually, it's not all that new: if you remember, this incarnation of Hunter at Random began with a series of commentaries on Brokeback Mountain. I thought I would continue in that vein, just commenting on books, music, films, and so on that catch my interest. I've thought about doing it before -- I may even have mentioned it here -- but I've run across a couple of things that seem suited to this.

The first is Ayano Yamane's A Foreign Love Affair, which is a yaoi manga I had been looking forward to on the basis of the clip of the anime that I posted here. It is, in short, the story of a romance between Ranmaru Ohmi, son of a Yakuza boss, and Alberto Valentiano, the captain of the cruise ship on which Ranmaru and his bride (who do not get along at all) were married -- the affair actually begins on Ranmaru's wedding night, which he spends with Al. Ranmaru is eccentric -- he refuses to wear Western clothes (and he is certainly seductive enough in kimono) and has a short and nasty temper. The affair picks up again when Ranmaru and Kaoru, his wife, are on their honeymoon in Italy and Al rescues Ranmaru, who has been left behind by their bus and decides to walk to Rome from Florence. After several more-than-steamy sex scenes between Al and Ranmaru, a kidnapping, a sex-slave auction, and a daring rescue, the lovers are reunited.

Al is the agressor in this affair, the seme to Ranmaru's uke, and the story's a little beyond the standard yaoi school-boy romance: these are grown men, and while the romantic element is almost palpable, it's also fairly rough-edged.

On first reading, this one seemed somewhat unresolved, but on looking back, I may have simply not picked up on something: it ends with Kaoru on a rampage because Ranmaru is missing again. Gondoh, Ranmaru's childhood friend and current rival, doesn't quite have the courage to tell her that he's with another man.

The volume finishes with another story, "The Love Guide," about a university biology professor, Hirotaka Takaoka, who is looking for a wife and goes to a matchmaking agency, where he is taken in hand by Tohru Serizawa, a perfectly charming young man. Takaoka is devastatingly handsome but does not socialize well, and his one attempt at a mixer winds up in a brawl -- among the women -- that results in Serizawa getting a faceful of Tabasco. The first sparks are visible when Takaoka takes him in hand to get him cleaned up and his eyes cared for. Then they run into each other on the street; Serizawa has been drinking, and the inevitable happens: on the way to Serizawa's apartment, Serizawa confesses that he's in love with Takaoka, and Takaoka returns the sentiment. This one is smooth sailing, except for an additional chapter about Serizawa's doubts about their relationship -- and Takaoka's very direct way of dealing with those doubts.

Yamane's pictorial style is clean but sensual, and has what I can only describe as "body" -- figures are almost sculptural, although rendered without a great deal of detail, and of course the characters are idealized: the end result is that both pairs of protagonists are total hotties. (I should point out that the sex scenes are quite explicit, including the dialogue, and next to nothing is masked. Actually, maybe I should say that less than nothing is masked.)

A Foreign Love Affair is published by 801 Media; I got my copy through Amazon.com.

This may become a standard feature. We'll see. I'm reading a lot of yaoi lately, much of which I won't be reviewing elsewhere. If I do, I'll try to remember to come back and provide links to fuller discussions.

Feedback, of course, is welcome.

And as an added attraction, here are a couple of my reviews of yaoi at Epinions: Yaya Sakuragi's Tea for Two (which is delightful) and Makoto Tateno's Ka Shin Fu.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Very good post from Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog on the Heller decision. I think, on first reading, that I agree almost completely with her reasoning: it seems odd that the Founders would plop a collective right down in the middle of a list of individual rights like that, and if one looks at the time, of course the Second Amendment would guarantee the right of individuals to own firearms. And, it's quite obviously a states' rights issue as well -- a federal gun regulation standard is simply unworkable, not to mention downright stupid. (Watch for a bill to appear in Congress.)

And the NRA? As seems to be the case with advocacy groups these days, they seem to think that their position requires an extremist response. Bugger 'em.

FGB Update

The Arizona anti-marriage amendment passed yesterday with 16 votes, the minimum needed. Apparently, the chicanery was fairly open. Pam's House Blend has the story.

And for our Irony of the Week, the FMA is back, co-sponsored by -- are you ready for this? -- Sens. Larry Craig and David Vitter, both well-known proponents of family values, as long as the family includes high-priced hookers and public men's rooms. Pam's House Blend has this story, too.

It looks as though Iceland may have joined the list of countries in which same-sex marriage is legal. There's a brief report at Box Turtle Bulletin.

More later. Probably.

Time Lag

Stray thought for the day:

I keep hearing about these evangelical activists who claim that they are merely trying to lead people to behave according to God's will as revealed in Scripture.

So basically, their information is at least 2,000 years out of date.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Via Pam's House Blend, this report from Arizona: The anti-marriage amendment is dead. Jim Burroway has some details:

[T}hey can still bring the amendment up for a vote at any time between now and the official end (”sine die”) of the session. In a just-released statement, Equality Arizona characterized the move as a “desparete maneuver” by Senate Republicans to force a vote. Sixteen votes (a simple majority of the Senate) was needed to pass the resolution. Five Senators did note vote.

I'm not going to say this is a real victory -- it seems to be more a lack of enthusiasm than an outright rejection, and there's a strong indication that politicians really don't want to deal with this any more. First, we have real problems in this country that need attention. Second, the religious whackjobs on the right are losing their control of the Republican party. (Not how Dobson is flailing around attacking everyone and sounding less and less rational every time.) Third, the public mood has changed. Gays have been getting married since 2001, and the world is still here, and more and more people are realizing that these are their neighbors and coworkers and friends and relatives they are being asked to vote against.

In five years or less we'll be ready for the federal case that repeals DOMA, unless Obama manages to do it first.

Update: It's back on the table, scheduled for a vote today.

And in that vein, the group of anti-gay activists in California who were working for repeal of the state's anti-bullying law have given up. Report at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Wingnut Watch: James Dobson has finally gotten so extreme that even his fellow fundamentalists can't deal with him. Via Good As You, James Dobson Doesn't Speak for Me, a website started by a coalition of pastors. It's pretty strong -- take a look.

I'm a little blah today (another one of those short-sleep nights: room too warm, mind too busy), so that's it for now. There may be more later (today, tomorrow, whenever). Until then, from Queerty:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Fallacy of Labels

Andrew Sullivan (bless Andrew -- I rail at him continuously, but he still manages to range far enough afield from pure politics -- especially now that he's in Clintonphobia recovery -- that he stays interesting) brings up this point, and misses:

The remarkable thing about those in Obama's past who rave about the guy is that so many are ... conservatives.

There are many, many problems with this statement, but I want to focus on one thing, and that's the labeling that goes on regularly in daily life, and especially in the blogosphere. We'll use, as an easily available example, me.

Most people would think, reading through the posts on this blog, that I'm a liberal. And in some areas, particularly social policy, that would be true, except . . . there's always that qualifier, isn't there? My position on social issues is really a very conservative one, but not in the contemporary sense of government regulation of people's private lives according to James Dobson's interpretation of scripture (and note that Dobson insists he is not a minister or theologian, so why should we listen to him about the Bible anyway?). In fact, my position, and the traditional conservative position, is just the opposite, and in keeping with the law of the land as reflected in Supreme Couirt decisions such as Griswold, Loving, Roe, and Lawrence: get the government out of our private lives and keep it out. Where I am a "liberal" is in my belief that one of the major functions of government is to provide for the welfare of its citizens. Just how much welfare to provide is open to discussion, but the basic concept is non-negotiable.

Now, back to Sullivan: I'm not notable for raving about Obama, but I think he's the best alternative we have, and maybe even a little better than that. I don't trust him, particularly, because, as the world, even including Maureen Dowd, has begun to realize, he's a politician. Politicians say what they think they need to say to get into office, and then they do what they were going to do anyway. And this is news exactly how? At any rate, Obama's big failure on social policy is the SSM issue, in which I think he is dead wrong on every level. I don't care if it's what he believes -- he's wrong. As to what he's actually going to do, who knows? By the same token, I would be very reluctant to label him as a "liberal" or a "conservative," and I figure that he's running as a Democrat because, let's face it, if you don't have to, would you want to run as a Republican right now?

So it occurs to me that, aside from a few doctrinaire movement-politics fixtures, the labels are really misleading.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Swamp News

This is a good thing: The state of Florida is serious about restoring the Everglades.

In an ambitious maneuver to help restore the Everglades, the state of Florida has struck a tentative deal to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. for $1.75 billion and turn many of its 187,000 acres of farmland into reservoirs.

The plan, described by Gov. Charlie Crist as the largest conservation purchase in Florida's history, envisions restoring some of the natural flow of water to the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee. . . .

The surprise effort is aimed at halting the degradation of the Everglades, which at 1.5 million acres is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states, behind Death Valley and Yellowstone. Over the years, water from areas north of the massive marsh has been diverted to the fast-growing cities of South Florida and for agriculture, and pollutants from sewage and farming have flowed in.

Nice move.

Which is Which?

From publius at Obsidian Wings, this note about Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana (thanks to reader PietB for the correction) who exorcises demons.

However, this particular tidbit from the actual Pew report (pdf) is depressing:
Nearly seven-in-ten Americans (68%) believe that angels and demons are active in the world.

Who gets to decide?

Link Dump; Update, Update II

I'm still really focused on writing projects right now (with breaks for yaoi) and not commenting on the news, but read Dday at Hullabaloo on the disaster waiting to happen at DoJ, Digby and Glenn Greenwald on Steny Hoyer and the FISA sellout he engineered (although Greenwald also offers a ray of hope), Hilzoy on how we treat our injured veterans, Ed Brayton on the cases against detainees, hiding detainees from the Red Cross, and the myth of released detainees "returning to the battlefield."

And if that doesn't depress you, go out drinking and listen to country music.


This is worth reading, just so you know that there are some people in the government who still believe in America.

Update II:

Chris Dodd should be the Democratic candidate for president: one of the few opponents of the Village's "business as usual" philosophy. Read this.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Music and Images

Odd experience the other day, except that thinking about it, maybe it's not so odd. Surfing around, exploring YouTube, with the particular goal in mind of seeing whether any of my favorite yaoi had generated some anime series, and ran across a clip from the anime Ikoku Irokoi Romantan, which I posted about on Sunday. And now I'm completely possessed by it. Thinking about it, I come to appreciate even more what a good composer can do for a film. In this instance, it's a hypnotic song, full of repetition that builds intensity, played off against images of two very attractive men in the process of falling in love. (And in that whole vein, I'm thinking of doing a survey review of some of the yaoi I've been reading. Don't know when I'll get it published, but I'll try to remember to let you know. I have some thoughts on that, too [big surprise].)

At any rate, given that we're such a visual species, and that we also rely on our hearing to a much greater extent than most people realize, I think (I can't stand to walk around plugged into an iPod or something like that, because I can't hear clearly what's around me, and I start getting really nervous), I suppose it's no surprise that the impact of vivid images and music together is so strong.

Yeah, I know it's a cartoon, but I've not forgotten what an impact cartoons and comic books have had on my life, particularly when I was younger (and where was yaoi when I needed it?). Of course, I'm notorious for treating popular culture and vernacular media just as I do "high art." Comes from the same place, boys and girls, and I don't buy into the idea that pop culture is somehow lesser. The impulses are just as pure, and there's a lot more immediacy to it. It occurs to me that high culture struggles to achieve the kind of impact that pop culture assumes as a given.

Take another look at that video and see what you think.

(Cross-posted at Booklag.)

Songs of the Humpback Whales: Duets, Yet

From the BBC, via AmericaBlog, a musician in an impromptu duet with a humpback whale:

US musician and writer David Rothenberg has recorded a whale's response to the sound of his clarinet - and says that sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

(National Geographic. Photograph courtesy Dr. Louis M. Herman/NOAA)

Be sure to listen to the audio clip at the link. It's pretty interesting.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


As appalling as the news is, particularly the FISA debacle in Congress, I just don't want to comment on anything today. Besides, I'm writing my brains out right now.

Found something nice, though: great song, interesting-looking anime:

The song is Nickelback's "Far Away." The scenes in this video are from the anime Ikoku Irokoi Romantan, which is also a manga series that has been licensed in the US as A Foreign Love Affair.



Saturday, June 21, 2008

FGB II: More Marriage Stuff

I've seen this argument several times, mostly from Andrew Sullivan, who haven't framed it nearly so concisely or eloquently. A conservative in favor of same-sex marriage:

It's just that same-sex pairs are instinctively unnatural to me. The mental image of a wedding ceremony joining two men who seal the bargain with a deep kiss makes me squirm.

But here's where I think my fellow conservatives have it wrong.

That wedding ceremony wouldn't be about me or my personal discomfort. It would be about those two people who love each other and decided to publicly announce their permanent mutual commitment. Should my personal attitudes prevent them from doing that? Should my religious beliefs keep them legally unrelated even if they remain committed to each other for life?

I will disagree with the "instinctively unnatural" bit -- that's demonstrably not true, and there is a fair part of this commentary informed by ignorance, but Garlock's argument comes back to the basics of conservatism, and is pretty much the same reasoning that Sullivan, Jonathan Rauch and others have used. One key point that Garlock makes that I appreciate greatly:

Marriage is a legal status to which we are free to choose to add religious covenants, but those religious covenants should not govern the legal status of marriage, especially since we are free to choose our religion and even free to reject religion entirely. We shouldn't codify religious beliefs into law.


(With thanks to Waldo.)

Timothy Kincaid, at Box Turtle Bulletin, notes an article in the Baptist Standard featuring Maggie Gallagher and Barry Lynn. In light of Garlock's comment on marriage as a legal institution, I have some objections to Maggie Gallagher's "solution" to the problem of same-sex marriage (and if you follow these things at all, you know it is a major problem for Gallagher):

Gallagher argues that the government should recognize only such marriages are are determined by religions:
“A real alternative would be for government to recognize and enforce religiously distinctive marriage contracts so long as they serve the government’s interest—say, permanent ones for Catholics,” she continued. “But what people who talk about ‘separating marriage and state’ really propose to do is simply to refuse to recognize religious marriage contracts at all. This is not neutrality; it is a powerful intervention by the government into the lives of religious people.”

Oddly, I could be persuaded to support this idea. If the government were to allow churches to define marriage and then recognized and enforced those religiously distinctive marriage contracts, gay people could marry in every state of the union and in any nearly every city that had a Unitarian Universalist fellowship, a Quaker meeting, or a United Church of Christ congregation.

This sort of "solution" ignores the history of marriage and its fundamental nature, and as far as I'm concerned represents an attempt to appropriate marriage for the benefit of religious hierarchies. Gallagher is, as usual, running to extremes on this, and of course, there is the requisite scare message: refusing to recognize religious marriages interferes in the lives of religious persons. Again, a patent untruth: just exactly how is that an intrusion, pray tell? If anyone wants to do so, they can have a religious ceremony without government recognition (which has been fine for gay couples and their "commitment ceremonies" for years, but apparently is not enough for straight couples). No one is stopping them. Ah, you say, but what about those government benefits? What!? I say, can we be reducing marriage to tax breaks and Social Security checks? Oh, wait, haven't I heard that argument before? I don't know if Gallagher has ever used it, but I wouldn't be in the least surprised.

And of course, I sharply disagree with Kincaid about allowing churches to define marriage, simply because I think churches already wield too much clout in this country, and I'm not willing to turn over the enforcement of any part of the law to them. Let me repeat one more time: marriage as an institution has been a going concern probably since there have been recognizable societies; it has always been a contract, and has always been governed by the civil law. The Christian Church didn't recognize it as a sacrament until the early 12th century. Little bit slow on the uptake, don't you think? And now Maggie Gallagher (who is demonstrably not rational on this issue: you can google her to see just how unhinged she can get -- oh, and ignore that paid administration shill controversy in the corner) wants it all to be turned over to the churches? I don't think so.

Kincaid goes on to note that Barry Lynn thinks government should offer civil unions to all and sundry and let the chuches, once again, control "marriage."

No. Under any circumstance, No.

Friday, June 20, 2008


There is a trend: Via Pam's House Blend, this report from Maine:

"We're pulling the plug," said Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine. Heath said the evangelical group failed to attract voter, volunteer and financial support it needed to continue its campaign.

The group collected only a third of the 15,000 voters' signatures it had set as a goal for primary election day June 10, said Heath. He added said that potential volunteers "don't want to be aligned with bigotry and homophobia and hatred," tags their opponents had applied to the initiative backers.

Well, as I always say, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Same thing happened to Peter LaBarbera's anti-gay group here in Illinois this year -- they couldn't get enough signatures on their anti-marriage petitions, even with the bogus ones.

Update: Add Oregon to the list, per this report from Box Turtle Bulletin:

The fact that the initiatives are stalled offers more evidence that opponents are losing support, say gay rights activists, who were also celebrating the legalization of same-sex marriages in California on Monday.

But conservatives and church groups that are pushing the Oregon initiatives say their support is growing. “We’re just getting stronger,” said Marylin Shannon of Brooks, a former Republican state senator and chief petitioner in the initiative drives. “The network is growing daily.”

If they say they're support is growing, you know that means they're losing ground.

And, according to a commenter at BTB, Pennsylvania is getting fed up as well.

I'm sick of this, too: Via Queerty, Obama on marriage -- again

I'm just as angry as Sara Whitman, quoted in Queerty and at Pam's House Blend:

If I hear “Marriage is between one man and one woman” one more time from Obama’s mouth- or any Democrat’s mouth- I’m going to scream. Last night, while being questioned on California’s decision, Obama just had to say it. One man, one woman.

How is this change? Leadership? Hope?

Or do only straight people get to hope?

As historical as having an African-American man run for the highest office in this nation is, it is not the only history being made. The fact that the second state in this country- and a fairly big state- has laid claim to the belief that separate is not equal is just as historically significant.

Sorry, Barack, but your answer's just not acceptable.

There may be more later. Here's a pretty to tide you over:

FISA Redux

Or, "Same Old, Same Old." The House-Senate "compromise," from all accounts, gives the White House more than it could have hoped -- and more than it got from the Congress when it was controlled by the Republicans. Andrew Sullivan seems to think it's not so bad:

Still: I'm not as livid as Glenn. At least the White House appears to have conceded that the Congress has the final say on what is and what is not legal in eavesdropping.

And if Congress is saying just what the White House tells it to say, what's the difference?

Here's Glenn Greenwald's analysis.

Now that Democrats have agreed to this bill, the GOP isn't even bothering with the pretense anymore that this is a "compromise." Instead, they're rubbing the Democrats' noses in the fact that this was a full-scale capitulation. From Eric Lichtblau's New York Times article:
With some AT&T and other telecommunications companies now facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere "formality."

"The lawsuits will be dismissed," Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.

The proposal -- particularly the immunity provision -- represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. "I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get," said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.

Do you really need to hear more?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

FGB Preview

A quick flyby today: Found this post by Andoni at Citizen Crain (via Sullivan):

President George W. Bush’s presidency has been marred by its rigid thinking with little ability to change when new circumstances on the ground dictate that new ideas, policies, or plans should be tried.

I would argue that the Human Rights Campaign has been using the same modus operandi for the past 14 years. Their two prime priorities have been Hate Crimes legislation and the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA). Neither has successfully become law despite year s of trying and literally millions of dollars spent.

One would think that after 14 years of failure, some leaders of the gay movement would try to assess the situation on the ground and change priorities or strategy.

It's a good variation on my often-repeated comment that marriage is the fight we have, so let's fight it. HRC et al. got blindsided back in 1993 and not took until now to figure it out, but kept insisting that everyone else had to accept their (patently ineffective) strategy. That sort of rigidity is a major reason why I have no patience with the national gay rights groups at this point.

What is that definition of insanity? Trying the same thing over and over under the same circumstances and expecting a different result?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Update on Douglas Kmiec

Ed Brayton zeroed in on the OpEd by Kmiec that I commented on briefly in this post. He and his commenters do a nice, thorough job of ripping Kmiec a new one, which is fully deserved. As I said at the time, Kmiec's piece is simply garbage, which is made twice as offensive because we have every expectation of something more thoughtful and more intelligent -- and more factually accurate.

Men and Tears

I've seen references to this project several places, and one thing strikes me about all of them: they all seem to think it's somehow amazing that men cry. That's not precisely what I mean, but it's hard to conceptualize the reaction in clear words:

[Photographer Sam] Taylor-Wood explains, "Some of the men cried before I even finished loading the camera, but others found it really difficult. People can decide for themselves which they think are the authentic tears and which they think are fake. It's about the idea of taking these big, masculine men and showing a different side."

It's the subversion of the masculine ideal, destructive as it is, that engenders the reaction, I guess, and our apparent lack of being able to deal with that subversion. I'll readily confess that I'm subject to tears, but I tend to run close to the surface anyway, and it's not a constant: for most of my life I've been the prototypical long, cool drink of water.

It would be interesting to know how Taylor-Wood got these men to cry, or how they got themselves to do it. Music works for me, every time -- want to see me turn into Niagara Falls? Put the "Heilige Dankgesang" from Beethoven's Fifteenth String Quartet on, or Steve Perry singing "Faithfully." That'll do it. The cat died? That's good for tears, but quietly, in private, because they come before I'm ready to share my grief.

Some truly beautiful pictures in that group -- take the time to look at them, and follow the link to the 10 others he put up.

Break's over -- back to work. I may try to post a couple of them here later. Check back.

Just Who Is Running This Country?

Hilzoy makes a point that no one else seems to have caught in the latest Halliburton/KBR scandal:

In fact, KBR did at one point threaten to stop providing basic supplies -- little things like food -- to our troops in Iraq. (I've put the account of this episode below the fold.) What that means is, to my mind, even more scandalous than simple corruption by a company with good connections. It means that we have outsourced absolutely critical functions to private companies, companies which, unlike military personnel, can threaten to stop doing their jobs without facing courts-martial. In wartime, when a company is doing something as important as providing food to our troops, the military has no choice but to cave to their demands. (That's one reason I said it was more scandalous than simple corruption: it virtually ensures that that corruption will occur, while simultanously leaving our troops at risk.)

I'd put it in stronger terms: the Bush administration has abdicated the government's responsibilities to ensure the uninterrupted provision of basic necessities to the ground troops and handed to a private and completely unaccountable corporation the power to dictate under what conditions the war will be fought. (And if you don't think feeding the troops is a "condition," guess again.) I, like Hilzoy, find this completely unacceptable. She's written a good post on it: go read it, because I don't really have much to add, and I don't have time this week anyway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't Say You Weren't Warned

Just for fun, one of my favorite Pet Shop Boys songs (there are so many!):


In case you missed the denouement of my "discussion" with David Benkof, here's the post with comments. My thanks to Timothy Kincaid for saving me a lot of research.

And that's it -- I really do have heavy writing commitments this week, along with lots of time at work, and have to get busy. There are a couple of stories I wanted to comment on, but they will have to wait.


(Illustration by Michael Daley)


Del Martin, seated, and Phyllis Lyon were the first same-sex couple in San Francisco to exchange wedding vows on Monday. Mayor Gavin Newsom, left, presided. (Photo: Jim Wilson, New York Times)

I don't remember this much excitement when marriage started in Massachusetts. Maybe it's just that we're used to California being in front of the camera. At any rate, yesterday was the day, beginning at 5:01 p.m. Pacific time.

Here's coverage from WaPo and from NYT:

San Francisco, Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84, longtime gay rights activists, were the first and only couple to be wed here, saying their vows in the office of Mayor Gavin Newsom, before emerging to a throng of reporters and screaming well-wishers.

Ms. Martin and Ms. Lyon, who have been together for more than 50 years, seemed touched, if a little amazed by all the attention.

“When we first got together we weren’t thinking about getting married,” Ms. Lyon said before cutting a wedding cake. “I think it’s a wonderful day.”

SFGate, of course, has it as front page news:

Like San Francisco, Los Angeles County married just one couple. Robin Tyler and Diane Olson, who were plaintiffs in the landmark marriage case, exchanged their vows in a traditional Jewish ceremony in Beverly Hills.

"We're not nervous. We've known each other 15 years," Tyler said.

Here's the photo gallery from SFGate. Just go through it, look at their faces, read the stories about the couples, and then think about the comments coming out of the Dobson Gang. Who would you rather know right now?

And here's an article on the situation over the world from the Chicago Tribune.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Busy Week

So, light posting this week, boys and girls. But here's a picture to tide you over:

And if you want to know what my life is like right now:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Journey, YouTube and Me

I've been living and breathing Journey for the past month, maybe more. The story is, a friend and co-worker asked if I had any Journey (I think I'd brought Foreigner's The Best of the Best and Beyond to work) and I didn't. I did once upon a time, but all my pop albums were stolen (don't ask -- it's long and complicated and involves someone I'd just as soon forget). So I picked up a copy of Journey's Greatest Hits, since I can't afford to replace all the vinyl I lost with CDs and the "best of" albums can be a good stop gap.

There's a particular song on the disc -- "Faithfully" -- that has sort of crept up on me. I find that happens with a really superior band: I keep finding new things to love about them. And, as it happens (call it synchronicity) I was poking around YouTube for quite a different reason and decided to see what they had from Journey. Wound up opening an account.

At any rate, here's "Faithfully" from a concert in Japan in 1983 with Steve Perry fronting. (The 1983 "official" video is not embeddable.)

And of course, now that I have a YouTube account, you may be getting all sorts of goodies -- I have to see if they have any clips of Placido Domingo singing Tristan.

The New Scary Thing

Douglas Kmiec, in the San Francisco Chronicle, comes up with this:

Separating marriage from procreation may also have other remote, but frightening, ill consequences. Society should be skeptical of wider use of asexual procreation. An earlier dark moment in U.S. history employed eugenics to forcibly sterilize the mentally disabled. The push for artificial wombs and the genetic manipulation of intelligence already peppers scientific literature - a push that would no doubt grow, accommodating even the minimal same-sex desire for simulating natural child birth - claimed to be of interest for 20-30 percent of same-sex couples. When carefully assessed, the acquisition of unnatural reproductive means often advances the interests of the very affluent through a libertarian exercise that would threaten all hope of democratic equality.

In a depopulating world, the claim that there is a universal right to marry regardless of gender becomes a frightening ally of a claimed universal right to access to genetically engineered children. People should reject this claim by returning traditional marriage to its rightful place.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there it is: artificial babies. That's what we can expect from same-sex marriage. (Oh, and don't forget to link it to eugenics. I'm surprised that he didn't work in a slam at evolution while he was at it.)

In the previous paragraph he introduces a gloss on Stanley Kurtz' completely specious "studies" of declining marriage in Europe by insisting that same-sex marriage will contribute to declining birth rates -- and trend that, by the way, he doesn't substantiate. I suppose he means declining birth rates among white, upper-middle class law professors. It doesn't seem to penetrate that one of our most severe global problems for that past generation or more has been overpopulation. It would be interesting to know what groups he's including in this; perhaps he should talk to someone from Africa or Asia or South America about declining birth rates.

(As an aside, I've been reading science fiction since I was in grade school. It's sort of interesting to see it making its way into the OpEd pages. I guess there's some validation there, somewhere.)

Kmiec is a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, a noted conservative, and a devout Catholic, which should give you a hint as to his attitude toward gay issues. The whole piece is badly flawed, starting from assertions that are in themselves questionable and making a couple of conceptual leaps that would garner wild cheers in a performance by Barnum & Bailey/Ringling Brothers.

Sorry, boys and girls, but I have little patience with this sort of thing. It's deja vu all over again: the same tired arguments backed by the same assertions. And every time I see something like this, I think "Well, we're still waiting for a rational argument against SSM."


The news coming out of Iowa is scary.

(AP Photo/Steve Pope)

Via Digby, this story from AP

Rising water from the Cedar River forced the evacuation of a downtown hospital Friday after residents of more than 3,000 homes fled for higher ground. A railroad bridge collapsed, and 400 city blocks were under water.

In Des Moines, 100 miles to the southwest, officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for much of downtown and other areas bordering the Des Moines River. Mayor Frank Cownie said the evacuations were an attempt "to err on the side of citizens and residents."

Des Moines is Iowa's capital and largest city, with about 190,000 residents. But the hardest-hit was Cedar Rapids, a city of 124,000 people.

Here's a video report from Reuters:

And via Andrew Sullivan, this story from Oil Guy at DailyKos:

Not only is the Obama campaign helping to raise money for the relief effort, the websites Community Blogs are providing information on where volunteers who live in or near the affected areas are needed to assist local residents in building sandbag levees to protect peoples' homes. They had specific information on what towns needed help and where volunteers should go to offer their help. This included an appeal for volunteers to bring cold bottled water for the folks working at sandbagging - it is grueling hard work and the floods have contaminated many of the local water supplies.

I am amazed that this story is not getting more attention in both the blogoshere and the media. When is the last time a Presidential Campaign devoted its resources to a relief effort of this kind? What a beautiful way to put the "Peolpe Power" of the Obama supporters to work.

He notes that Obama will be sandbagging in Quincy, Illinois this weekend. Just think about that for a minute -- go ahead, compare and contrast to Bush's reaction to Katrina, and go see if there's anything on McCain's website. (As of this posting, the only acknowledgment of the disaster is a two-line statement of the standard "Our prayers go out. . . ." variety. Obama's site has a front-page story, a call for volunteers, and a link to the Red Cross.)

And, when it comes right down to it, which of the two is more likely to give a damn about regular people? I'm really waiting for some vacuous columnist from a right-wing rag to come up again with the idea that Obama doesn't connect with "real Americans" or that he has to prove his "Americanness." (So, Ms. Noonan, when are you heading to Cedar Rapids to help out?)

(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty)

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Just for fun, here's a bit from the Basilisk anime. I have a review of the manga coming up at the end of the month at GMR. The anime catches most of the style of the manga, but it's not quite as finished. (Parental advisory: this is, after all, an adult series.)

FGB Saturday: Big Discussion on Marriage

This group of posts first came to my attention through this post by Andrew Koppelman, responding to David Benkof, who was responding to Koppelman. (It's all very civilized, and I wish some of the people I respond to would do me the courtesy.). The immediate subject is fairly specialized (interstate recognition of same-sex marriages) and may or may not be of interest. We'll see.

However, I of course checked out Benkof's blog. The title should have tipped me off: "Gays Defend Marriage." It's described as "A website for LGBT folks who support marriage as the union of husband and wife—and getting the gay leadership to return to more pressing LGBT issues for our community." If you've been following FGB here, you'll have noticed that this sort of thing seems to be rearing its head more and more frequently. Let me make it very clear: I support the right to marry for everyone because I support equal treatment under the law. Period. Unless there is what the courts call "a compelling state interest," you're going to have to do some pretty spectacular reasoning to convince me otherwise. This does not mean, however, that I don't recognize the importance of ENDA, the repeal of DADT, and guarantees of basic civil rights to gay citizens across the country. Please explain to me why suddenly we're only able to do one thing at a time, since we've been working on all of the above for the past forty years. And I might point out that the "gay leadership" has been working on those "more pressing" issues, with results that we can all applaud (cue crickets). It appears that marriage, for those who've been hiding under a rock for the past decade and a half, is the fight we have, so let's fight it, mmkay?

Nevertheless, I decided to give Benkof a look, thinking maybe there is someone who really has some logical, rational, reasonable and secular arguments against same-sex marriage. I started with Benkof's post on whether marriage is a civil right.

Well, here we go again. Benkof notes that "The United States Supreme Court, for example, has never found a right to same-sex marriage in the text of the Constitution." True. I defy him to find a right to marriage for anyone in the text of the Constitution. He won't, I promise you. This is something that lawyers don't like to deal with, but there are a whole host of rights that are assumed in the Constitution, as evidenced by the Ninth Amendment, which was included specifically to point out that those rights enumerated in the previous eight amendments are not the sum total that the Founders expected the government to recognize. The Supreme Court did find, in Loving v. Virginia, that the right to marry is a fundamental right; if you're going to grant that, and I think you must, then it necessarily follows that the right to civil marriage is one that belongs to all, not just a select group -- absent, of course, the aforementioned "compelling" reason to withhold it. (I know it's irritating to have to keep reading that, but the minute I don't put it in, some screwball is going to start pointing and yelling.)

So, Benkof manages to fall flat on his face right at the beginning. The fault here is one shared by such as Antonin Scalia, which is simply that the question is fined down in such a way as to produce a foregone conclusion: sorry, boys, but the quesion is not whether there is a right to same-sex marriage, but whether there is a right to marriage. The courts say there is. If I'm going to be persuaded that same-sex marriage should be a special case, I need to see some pretty tight reasoning employed, and I mean something that goes beyond "tradition." Benkof doesn't deliver.

He ends his post with this cute little story:

Personally, I like the approach to this question of a bright law professor and liberal activist from Illinois who said in 2004 that “I don’t think marriage is a civil right” while at the same time attacking gay-bashing and supporting workplace protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. He’s done very well for himself since then - in fact, he’s the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States. That fact alone is probably the civil rights achievement of the century. If it’s good enough for Barack Obama, it’s good enough for me.

Well, it's not good enough for me. (And, as you may have gathered, Obama was wrong about marriage not being a civil right, too. And he, of all people, should have known better.)

I will be looking at some more of Benkof's writings here over the next couple of days. He has posts about the California case, religious freedom, and Loving, and so it may be worth our while to take a poke here and there and see what squirms. I may even get back to Koppelman's post and that whole discussion, although it still seems a little specialized.

Update: On second thought, I just read through Berkof's post on the religious freedom aspect of the marriage debate. OK, this guy is your standard issue right wingnut. Benkof offers a completely specious argument in favor of religious belief being a determining factor in the marriage debate, because, among other reasons, Barack Obama says that religious beliefs should enter into the discussion. Apparently Benkof forgot one little detail: the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. He apparently can't see the difference between activism based on religious belief and writing sectarian doctrine into the law.

Benkof displays a marked tendency to argue from authority, which those of you who have any familiarity with reasoned debate know is at best iffy. In scientific discussions, you're automatically disqualified. It's not that authority said it that counts, it's what they said and how it holds up to scrutiny. All of which is by way of saying that Benkof doesn't seem to have an argument and knows it, so Barack Obama's personal opinion is going to have to take its place.

I doubt that I'll waste any more time on this clown.

FGB, Saturday Edition: The Real Thing

Another Marriage Note:

From Waldo Lydecker's Journal, this story on the latest word from the national gay rights organizations on marriage, which boils down to, indeed, one word: Don't:

'"Make Change, Not Lawsuits" was signed by four LGBT legal groups - the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Lambda Legal, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) - and five other LGBT organizations: the Equality Federation, Freedom to Marry, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.'

Considering that much of the breakthrough litigation in marriage equality was accomplished by lawyers not associated with the Big Gay Clubs In DC, we'd be inclined to tell them where to get off.

Here. Now.

Considering that these are the very groups that have been caught flat by the marriage movement, and have never really caught up (well, if it comes to a choice between getting out on the streets and actually working for equality, or going to another black-tie fundraiser, which would you do?), and, in fact, have been among the biggest impediments to the fight, I'm inclined to agree with Waldo. I'd only add that this has been their message all along, so what is it, exactly, that's new here?

But, when it comes right down to it, I couldn't have put it better myself. Wouldn't even try.

Lawrence: Confusion in the Courts

Dale Carpenter has a brief discussion of what seems to be a mounting tide of confusion around the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which I had thought was fairly clear-cut in that it was quite obviously (to me) dealing with private sexual intimacy between consenting adults as a fundamental right. (Granted, it's been a while since I read the decision, and I'm not up on the fine points of interpretation relating to Supreme Court decisions, but still.) Carpenter agrees with that perception, but apparently the various circuit courts around the country are finding it hard going. Forest, trees. (I also have a sneaking suspicion that, if one were to check on who appointed these various judges, a lot would come clear.)

Sheesh. Particularly for those who are finding Justice Antonin "Answer the Wrong Question" Scalia's dissent illuminating.

There's more coming, boys and girls -- be patient. Here's another snack to tide you over, from Made in Brazil:

Not FGB: Left Meets Right

at the extremes. From Pam Spaulding, who got it from Shakesville, who got it from Michelle Obama Watch, this story, which features Pam Spaulding doing her best Jeremiah Wright imitation:

It's the level of rationalization, excuse-making and countercharges that what we are seeing isn't racism that has been mind-boggling. It reveals the sickness that needs to be cured. We are a diseased nation.

Via Kate @ Shakesville -- Gina of What About Our Daughters launched a Michelle Obama Watch site to combat the right-wing attack machine on the future First Lady. Who knew she was going to have to feature this morally bankrupt "art" by someone named Yazmany Arboleda that, among other things, calls the two Obama daughters "nappy headed-hos."

Spaulding links to this blog post from LA Times, which in turn links to the NYT story, this article from the Sun-Sentinal (Broward County, FL), and this piece from David Segal at WaPo, which provides the most detail. However, all three of the posters seem to have gotten their information and their stance from commentary from Warren Ballentine, "The People's Attorney", who seems to have misreported the incident and places the same emphasis that Spaulding does: after noting the title, Ballentine writes:

The artist thought his racist views were protected under the Constitution because he was expressing himself through his art. Wrong.

Sorry, but comparing Ballentine's comments with the information from the news stories, I think there's an element of misrepresentation here. I'm not going to accuse anyone of editing the news to fit a polemic. I will say, however, that we seem to have a group of bloggers who have let their ideology blind them to the reality of this particular incident. In point of fact, the so-called "racist" views (and more on that peculiar construction later) are protected. Ballentine doesn't strike me as much of a lawyer.

Another part of the exhibition was an "Assassination of Hillary Clinton" piece, which is what one of the stories comments with precipitating the police involvement, but it's got to be the title of the exhibition itself: The Assassination of Hillary Clinton/The Assassination of Barack Obama. NYPD, however, was quite explicit that the exhibition was not shut down and that the artist was not charged. The title on the street-level glass front of the building was blocked out. Assassination in relation to a presidential candidate is a legitimate concern of the authorities, and needs to be investigated to be sure there is no real threat. Spaulding, however, doesn't want to be bothered with that little detail, and wants to "step back" and bring her own agenda to the forefront:

So, the big picture is that the whole assassination thing is what deep-sixed this, as the artist learned the hard way. But stepping back from that aspect of it, should this have been shut down, or is it freedom of speech and Arboleda's work should have been seen and commented upon by the public who saw it first hand?

Given the tone of the whole post, I strongly suspect that a) Spaulding is offended, and not by the assassination piece (sure, it's offensive, no argument); therefore, everyone must be offended to the extent that the artist's head is in jeapordy; b) because the artist doesn't portray Obama with the respect Spaulding feels he deserves, he's a bad man and probably deserves whatever the police hand out (not that she comes out and says so, but read her post -- it's hard to escape that conclusion).

And, just to answer her question, under a heading borrowed from Atrios: "Short Answers to Stupid Questions": No, it should not have been shut down, not on the basis she's proposing, and it has not been shut down specifically because of the artist's First Amendment rights. And not only does he have a right to express his views, the public has a right to see them. I'd like to know who said art has to be inoffensive -- oh, wait, wasnt' that Jesse Helms or some other right wingnut who kept trying to pull funding from the NEA?

I wonder if Spaulding likes the company she's in.

I am grossly offended by the way this incident has been misrepresented. The MSM did a much better job on it (give or take the stupid blog post from NYT). Spaulding's beef is the "racist" aspect, which she can't even support except on the basis of her perception: she presents no evidence that this artist is a racist, but a tenuous and not very believable diatribe on how this country is sick and every portrayal of a black man that doesn't fit her criteria is "racist." This exhibition is quite obviously a commentary on racism and misogyny as they has appeared in the MSM coverage of the Democratic primaries. (And I might note that Spaulding has been more than happy to pile on when those subjects come up.)

There a context issue here, as well. All three bloggers have stripped the events as well as the exhibition of their original context and substituted one of their own, which is a standard tactic we've seen from the anti-gay right wing. For example, we had to learn the title of the exhibition from one of the commenters at Shakesville. That is a pretty significant omission from all the posts.

I could extend the benefit of the doubt to these posters and say perhaps they just didn't know the title. I don't think that would be justified: it's not that hard to learn (it's called "Google," people), and it's an important aspect of this exhibition. I have to conclude that they just didn't bother to find out -- someone's agenda is hanging out, and it's not pretty. I think one reason I'm so incensed about this is that we have enough problems with racism, misogyny, and homophobia in this country that we don't need to go looking for it where it doesn't exist.

And I think what amazes me the most about all three of these posts is that they just don't get it. Nor, for the most part, do their commenters. I've had a long-standing suspicion that religious fundamentalists just don't understand metaphor, which is why they need the Bible to be literal truth. And now we're seeing it among the PC fundamentalists. There are way too many comments about "targeting" little girls, when to anyone who bothers to think about it at all, that was obviously not the case. We may decide that it's good art or bad art, but if you're not going to take into consideration that it's a commentary on current events, and not an event in itself, you're really missing the point completely. (My own take, based solely on the installation photos I've seen, is "eh." Could have been a lot more subtle, and I think that way a lot more effective. One has to consider that the blatancy of the works is going to turn people off, and where's your message if no one wants to listen? On the other hand, the artist is all of 28 and probably can't be expected to know any better.) I'm not sure I like the idea of the arts in this country being an equal opportunity victim. (And of course, as I type that sentence, it occurs to me that what we have here is victim politics being milked for all it's worth.)

And after reading , you will see just what garbage the posts from Gina, Harding, and Spaulding are. Just change the labels, and you've got something worthy of Little Green Footballs or The Corner. And people wonder why the blogosphere is in such disrepute: there's a lot of information out there on this incident, and all three of them got it wrong by the simple expedient of jumping on their high horses and charging madly off in all directions without bothering to digest any of it.

And now you see why the extreme left leaves me with the same taste in my mouth as the extreme right: The term is "knee-jerk," emphasis on the second syllable.


Digby has some pointed remarkson the misogyny side of this question, which I think apply at least as well to the racism side. Maybe we would all be better served by treating the questions that Arboleda tried to address with some seriousness, and stop trying to shoot the messenger.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging: The Real Thing

O, Pioneers!
: This statement by Andrew Sullivan stopped me cold:

Added to Massachusetts, more gay people will be able to marry in the US than in any other country in the world. In the end, America still came through as the pioneer of full equality.

Sullivan mystifies me sometimes. I sit there and read a comment like that and wonder what he's been drinking. "Pioneer"? We sure as hell haven't been first on the scene. For that matter, "we," as in "we as a nation," aren't even in the running. (Norway just became the sixth country to legalize full marriage for same-sex couples.) The United States is in with such progressive nations as Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia as far as recognition of same-sex relationships, and somewhat better than Jamaica in our treatment of gays and lesbians (albeit in some states, only marginally).

One shudders to think what Sullivan would consider retrograde.

Fathers' Day: No, the apostropher is not in the wrong place. Here's a wonderful article -- with video about two fathers and their three young sons.

“All we’re trying to do is raise three healthy boys to be participants in society,” said Geoffery, Devin’s partner for a decade.

That’s a modest description for what the county judge who finalized the adoption in December called an act of heroism. The boys, taken from substance-abusing and incarcerated biological parents, faced long odds against growing up together. Given their treatment by the birth parents, there were far more questions than answers about physical and emotional issues that might arise for them down the road.

"You are heroes in our community," Judge Mary Yu said, beaming from the bench while the boys frolicked about the courtroom, the whole family decked out in red-and-white Mickey Mouse ski sweaters. “Who’s going to assume the burden of taking care of children like this, children who possibly have been neglected or set aside in some way? … People like you, who step up. Thank you.”

Thanks to Good As You.

The "Aiming at the Left Foot" Series: That series of posts, taken along with other notes and news (such as the comments noted in this post by Jeremy Hooper at Good As You) points to a trend among the anti-gay Christianists: if you don't like reality, pretend it's not happening. That's the only explanation I can think of for that whole slew of lawsuits and recommendations that public employees don't do their jobs, and for those who are public employees, simply claim that their religion overrides their oath of office.

So far, we have:

The Alliance Defense Fund has filed suit in the Bronx County Supreme Court asking the Court to instruct Gov. Paterson to ignore the NY courts' recent rulings on out--of-state marriages.

The County Clerk of Kern County in California, Ann Barnett, has decided if she can't exclude gays from marriage, she'll exclude everyone. I initially reported this one in the same post as the note above; Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin has been keeping up with this one, and has updates and links here.

Randy Thomasson of CCF has proposed an ordinance to the Kern County Board of Supervisors that unilaterally overrides the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage.

The Liberty Counsel has filed suit asking a California appeals court to override the Supreme Court's decision, which it has no authority to do.

Do these clowns really believe that people who live in the real world are just going to fall in line?

Stupid Comment of the Week: Joseph Couture, as quoted at Joe.My.God:

As for gays who want to get married, I call them Borg homosexuals. They want to assimilate us, destroy individual choices and turn us all into drones. Or should I say hypocrites? Do you know how many straight married men I’ve done at the baths? And do you have any idea how many of the authentic straight men have affairs or cheat on their wives? Soon I can look forward to a little adultery with the gay married ones, too. They’re the ones who should be embarrassed. At least we sluts have the courage to be proud about whom we are without wearing that breastplate of righteousness.

1) Having the right to get married doesn't mean one must get married. 2) I have nothing against sluts -- been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt. But methinks someone doth protest too much. (And as for the "breastplate of righteousness," does anyone else see the cognitive dissonance there? Not to mention that over-the-top shade of purple in the prose.)

There's a certain dog-in-the-manger element in comments such as this one and Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's rants that no one should get married. I'm afraid my response still hovers between "If you don't want to get married, don't" and "Eff off!"

There are a couple of really substantial topics coming up over the next couples of days that really are part of FGB, so brace yourselves. And, just to help ease the transition, something pretty, thanks to Queerty:


Friday Gay Blogging

will be delayed this week, probably until tomorrow, because a) I have to go into work, and b) I have to go into work early.

Y'know, stuff happens.

As a stopgap, try this article, under the heading Aiming for the Left Foot, about the latest move by the fundies against equal marriage rights in California:

A conservative Christian legal group on Thursday made a last-ditch effort to stop gay marriage from becoming legal in California by asking a midlevel appeals court to temporarily prohibit county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

It's really hard to know how to react to something like this: Liberty Counsel is asking a lower court to reverse the state Supreme Court. You have to admit, the right wing has comic value.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Beyond Unhinged

This bit, via Andrew Sullivan, is really remarkable. Quoting Melanie Phillips:

"We are entitled therefore to ask whether the Muslim world supports him because it believes he is still a Muslim. We are entitled to ask precisely when he stopped being a Muslim, and why. Another of Obama’s former classmates, Emirsyah Satar, now CEO of Garuda Indonesia, has been quoted as saying:
At that time, he was quite religious in Islam but after marrying Michelle, he changed his religion.

Did Obama embrace Christianity as a tactical manoeuvre to get himself elected? Why indeed has he dissembled about his family background if not for that end?"

It actually gets worse. Phillips' whole article seems to be built on assertions from Little Green Footballs that someone is posting anti-semitic, anti-white, anti-everything-the-rightwing-nutjobs hold sacred comments on Obama's own website!

And what are the chances that those posters and commenters are trolls from somewhere such as, say, Little Green Footballs?

Her case for Obama being a Muslim Manchurian candidate is built entirely on the blogosphere. Anyone with half a brain knows you can't rely on anything you read in a blog. Some are more reliable than others, but it's really a matter of sifting through to get as close as you can to primary sources and erasing as much spin as possible. (Even I, who pride myself on being even-handed, have my own viewpoint, which colors my comments. I admit it, though.)

And the quote from one of "Obama's classmates" turns out to be a "mistranslation" -- from a blog. The man quoted didn't say that.

The whole article is a study in right-wing paranoia.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Aiming for the Left Foot, Part II

I know it's not Friday, but this is too good to wait on. Timothy Kincaid came up with this note on the latest nonsense from the Christianists on the California question:

The Bakersfield Californian reported on the County Supervisors meeting this morning. There, Randy Thomasson of the CCF presented an proposed ordinance for consideration
The ordinance states “no employee of (blank) County, and no elected or appointed official of (blank) County, may issue a marriage license to any couple other than a statutorily qualified man and woman.”

There Thomasson made the rather bizzare claim that the County Supervisors could override the decision of the State Supreme Court.

I really have to wonder if it's blind stupidity or some sort of cosmic arrogance: it seems that the "Christians" fighting the battle against the forces of Satan (read: gay and lesbian citizens and their families) have become so completely absorbed by their theology that they can no longer comprehend the idea of non-Biblical authority.

Of course, the default position is simply that they think everyone else is stupid.

FISA Sell-Out

In the works, even as we speak. D-day has a solid post on the latest episode, complete with Russ Feingold and Chris Dodd throwing down the gauntlet to the Democratic leadership.

Dear Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Chairman Leahy, Chairman Conyers, Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Reyes,

As you work to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, we urge you to include key protections to safeguard the privacy of law-abiding Americans, and not to include provisions that would grant retroactive immunity to companies that allegedly cooperated in the President’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.

As related by this letter, the proposed "compromise" is no compromise at all: it merely writes into law everything that Bush and the telecoms want in order to save themselves from public scrutiny of their quite probably illegal activities in spying on American citizens.

D-day also gives a prime example of why the telecoms need to be held accountable, and why consolidation of the holdings in news media is the worst possible idea for a free and independent press. Quoting from this post by Glenn Greenwald:

But the danger of allowing corporations like Comcast to control the content of vital political debates by refusing to broadcast ads that are critical of them or their Congressmen is manifest, and that's particularly true where -- as is the case for Rep. Carney's district -- one company controls the bulk of the important television outlets. In an age where corporate consolidation of our most influential media outlets is increasing rapidly, companies such as Comcast can suppress the expression of political views it dislikes -- or conceal their own illegal behavior -- by censoring any political viewpoints that are contrary to their interests or to the interests of the political figures who receive substantial contributions from them and then serve them. Obviously, that is precisely what Comcast is doing here.

The danger here is so obvious, especially given the history of the past decade, that it shouldn't need to be stated: our so-called "public" media has become a corporate gofer for government interests that serve a select group rather than the American people. That group includes the owners of the corporate media, who certainly can't be expected to put their own political power at risk. As Greenwald puts it:

Just consider the ramifications of Comcast's behavior when engaged in more generally. The debate over whether to immunize telecoms is one of the most vigorously contested in Congress over the last several years. At the heart of that debate lies the illegal behavior of our nation's largest telecoms in allowing spying on their own customers in violation of the law (and reaping substantial profits from their burgeoning relationship with the Government). Yet these same telecoms can then use their control over vital media outlets to prevent citizens from learning about their behavior or having the Congressman who seek to protect them criticized in any way. The threats posed to free debate and an informed citizenry by such venal conduct is substantial and transparent.

This should be a no-brainer for anyone in Congress, and apparently it has been for far too many of them. Unfortunately, they are coming down on the wrong side on this one. My delegation is getting a letter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some Thoughts on Public Morality and the Place of Religious Belief in the Political Process

Sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?

Andrew Sullivan points us to this post by Kathryn Jean Lopez. I know, I can't believe I'm linking to KLo, but there are some interesting points here. One nut is this juxtaposition:

But politics can never be wholly divorced from religion. Our religious morality necessarily informs our political judgments.

The thing about abortion is, it’s not just any other issue — as serious as so many others are. Abortion is not open to debate.

I certainly agree with the idea that morality informs political judgments, but I'm not so sure about the "religious" part (although in practice, I'll take that as a given): there is such a thing as a secular morality, even a public morality that comes not from religious beliefs per se, but from our ideas of what a society is for. To be very honest, I'm not sure that commentators such as Lopez or Megan McArdle even think in those terms. I do. (After all, the first point after the title of this blog is "First causes." What did anyone think that meant?)

On the second point, Sullivan comments:

It is indeed not open to debate whether Catholics believe abortion is wrong. It does strike me as open to debate how best to prudentially reduce and end it, as this blogger explains. And it is open to debate whether a Catholic can vote for a pro-choice candidate, when the broader spectrum of issues is taken into account, as even Lopez concedes. But to my mind, it does make a difference whether a particular position is about other citizens committing a moral evil or whether it's about the political leader himself committing a moral evil.

It's at this point where I part ways with doctrinaire Christian advocates, and I agree with Sullivan in essence, but (as usual) I don't think he goes far enough into the question. Taking the issue away from one of Catholics voting (or members of the hierarchy using their position to threaten candidates, which as far as I'm concerned is an absolute no-no -- and like the Catholic position on abortion, that's not negotiable), let's focus on the idea of taking a position on other citizens committing a moral evil.

This really is the whole focus of the Christianist movement, which Sullivan abhors as much as I do: dictating the private morals of others. There are certain things we can agree on as a matter of public, secular morality: it's not acceptable to kill the neighbors or steal their property, for example. (And as far as I know, those are the only two of the Ten Commandments to appear in the law, so let's drop the "nation founded on Biblical principles" bullshit.) Homosexuality, the great bugbear of the Dobson Gang, is a personal matter in which the government has no right to interfere, which the courts have come to recognize. Abortion is an iffy sort of thing, and the sort of thing in which we're going to arrive at a compromise, eventually: there's no alternative to that. I think we can all pretty much agree that abortion is not desirable, but public policy after Roe vs Wade has been a matter of refinement, or would have been if all the players were honest.

Sullivan goes on to consider the Catholic reaction to torture, pre-emptive war, and the like, the many sins of which the Bush administration is guilty, but there's no real point in highlighting the hypocrisy of the Christianist position: it's there, it's obvious, and it destroys their credibility as far as I'm concerned. I don't see, for example, how anyone can look at Dobson's reaction to the new movement among evangelicals for refocusing their efforts and continue to believe that the man is anything other than a cheap politician. I'm afraid I have the same attitude toward the pope: if he weren't a politician, he wouldn't be pope, and his condemnations are both selective and unhinged.

At any rate, back to the private morals issue: I see these as those basic concepts -- call them "values" -- that shape our behavior toward others and the world around us. They quite often spring from religious beliefs, but not always. (Yes, Virginia, atheists have morals, too.) We live in a secular nation, in which I have to take it that our overarching public morality is laid out in our Constitution. The idea that anyone would attempt to override that document to enforce their own concept of morality on the rest of us leads me to believe that they really do seek the destruction of America: that is, after all, the basic plan of our society, and in spite of those who think it needs to be redone at present, I think it's served us very well, if not always very smoothly. And I think it's implicit in the Bill of Rights that the government may not be used in that way, as the enforcer for private agendas. (Lopez, let it be known, doesn't bother herself the the ramifications of Church teachings on the sanctity of life -- and frankly, in the quote she uses from Benedict, I detect an inherent self-contradiction -- but merely reiterates the party line.)

It's a complex topic, and I need to think about it some more. Maybe I'll get back to it soon, or maybe not until later. Your thoughts are welcome.


Terrance DC has a good post on this topic. Read it.