"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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I'm Speechless

I was going to blow off today -- Noye's Fludde, Day ??, and the first day of my weekend, when all I want to do is sleep and eat, but I ran across this. This woman is one of the most disgusting creatures I've ever experienced.

Chris Matthews was harsh:

Keith Olbermann was even harsher:

I'm speechless.

The upside is that the bill passed, 249-175. Maybe that's because of people like Rep. Foxx.

I think I should institute a Sally Kern award. Maybe I will.

(And I might note that it's refreshing to see the MSM landing on this bitch like this. What a change.)


Jim Burroway has some backup on just how far off Foxx was. John Amato has even more detail at C&L.

Interestingly enough, Andrew Sullivan is ignoring this one -- maybe this is why.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter

Brand-new Democrat. Seat 59 in the Democratic coalition (counting Lieberman *snicker*).

Does anyone really expect anything to change? Specter's already said he's not going to be an automatic Democratic vote, and I don't think his voting patterns are going to change one bit. This is all a last gasp at getting re-elected. He said so himself.

But all the talking heads are really excited.


Or actually, very hot, I would guess. Here's a report on the oldest thing we've found so far: a star that exploded 13 billion years ago.

Analysis of the light spectrum confirmed the blast had a redshift of 8.2. Redshift is a measure of the degree to which light has been "stretched" by the expansion of the Universe. The greater the redshift, the more distant the object and the earlier it is being seen in cosmic history.

The figure 8.2 equates to a distance of 13.035 billion light-years. Put another way, the explosion is being viewed when the Universe was only 630 million years old, a mere one-20th of its current age (estimated to be 13.7 billion years old).

The previous record holder was a GRB witnessed, also by Swift, in September 2008. It had a redshift of 6.7, making it 190 million light-years closer than GRB 090423.

Scientists have seen what they believe may be faint galaxies at redshifts 8-10, but their true nature is still being investigated.

Researchers are very keen to probe these great distances because they will learn how the early Universe evolved, and that will help them explain why the cosmos looks like it does now.

Just a little something to keep you humble.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Christian the Lion

If you want to start the week with tears streaming down your face, watch this:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Very Good Move, Way Overdue

Joe Sudbay has a good analysis of Obama's latest move to get health care reform passed: he's insisting that the Senate go back to working the way the Senate is supposed to work. You'll remember that the Iron Man (a/k/a Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) caved to the Republicans and managed to wind up with a non-functional Senate in which everything had to have 60 votes, for fear of filibusters -- but of course, when Republicans do it, it's "debate."

Here's the NYT report. The gist:

The no-filibuster arrangement is fiercely opposed by Republican leaders, who say health care is too important to be exempted from the Senate rules that usually mean major bills must win support from 60 senators.

At the White House meeting this week, Mr. Obama told senators from both parties that he did not want a health care overhaul to fail if it came up a vote shy of the 60 needed to break filibusters, the people with knowledge of the session said. Republicans have used the procedure themselves in the past, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told Mr. Obama in the meeting that that approach was likely to heighten partisan tensions in Congress.

In other words, McConnell is pissed because the Democratic majority is prepared to act like a majority. Awww.

Frankly, I think this should have happened long ago. Once again, class: the Republican definition of "bipartisan" is "do it our way."

Reviews in Brief: Jun Mayama's Live for Love

I've arrived at the point in my BL manga education where new titles are starting to remind me of older ones. Jun Mayama's Live for Love, from a story by Itsuki Sato, has similarities to both Makoto Tateno's Yellow and, even more, Sanami Matoh's Fake: Two private eyes as The Oddest Couple -- with a romantic twist, of course.

Yoshiyuki Nomura is sitting in the park feeling sorry for himself when Yasuie Kiryuuin happens by and, seemingly out of the blue, invites him to join his detective agency. Yoshi was discovered in a coin locker at the train station as an infant and adopted by the Nomuras when he was twelve because, he says, his grades were good. Four years later, the Nomuras had a child of their own and Yoshi felt as though he no longer had a place in the family. What Yasuie offers him is a place where he belongs.

Yoshi is the ant to Yasuie's grasshopper: Yasuie is, as Yoshi says, "foolish, and not very smart, and has a temper, and is terrible with money." It's this last that leads to the crisis: they are broke and Yoshi's family offers a job if Yoshi will agree to an arranged marriage and return home. By this time, it's not really a surprise that Yoshi agrees if they will pay off Yasuie's debts and put some money in his bank account.

The tension between these two does remind me of that between Taki and Goh in Yellow and even more that between Dee and Ryo in Fake. Yoshi and Yasuie, however, are more believable than the latter and more volatile than the former. There's a good tension between them that drives the story, which is really about the somewhat cockeyed romance between them: Yasuie makes playful advances, but won't admit to being serious, and Yoshi never really thinks about how he feels toward Yasuie.

The graphics are manga-standard in a lot of ways -- lean, spacious, and firmly within a bishonen aesthetic -- and layouts are firmly within shoujo conventions. The character designs are fairly sylized but the two protagonists are very appealing: Mayama has managed to provide a great deal of expressiveness with a bare minimum of means. The sex scenes fall into the "unambiguous without being graphic" realm.

I found Live for Love to be thoroughly charming, although it was not what I expected. Another happy find.

From Juné.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Maine Marriage Hearings

Fantastic testimony by a Catholic woman in Maine, rebutting her bishop's anti-gay message:

By the way, here's a bit of the bishop's remarks, as quoted in Pam's House Blend:

Richard Malone, bishop of the Diocese of Portland, said he was speaking for 200,000 Roman Catholics in Maine in opposing the gay marriage bill.

"We support civil rights for all. But we are deeply concerned about the institution of marriage itself," said Malone. "We are concerned about the high rate of divorce and the increasing rate of single parents. Marriage is not merely a social compact. It is to ensure that the next generation grows up in a secure, balanced environment."

And just what, pray tell, does this have to do with same-sex marriage? Hmmm? (Except, of course, that married gay couples can provide secure environments for children.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging: Marriage: The Backlash Continues

In New Jersey:

A new poll finds about half of New Jersey voters support allowing gay couples to marry.

The Quinnipiac University Poll results are similar to a Monmouth University poll in

The latest poll finds 49 percent support gay marriage while 43 percent are opposed. Women and whites tend to favor a gay marriage law, while blacks, men and those who attend religious services weekly are more likely to oppose it.

In New York:

A majority of New Yorkers support a bill legalizing gay marriage, according to a poll released on Monday, but the measure still faces an uphill battle in the state legislature.

By a margin of 53 to 39 percent, New York voters said they backed Governor David Paterson's proposal enabling same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses, said the poll by the Siena Research Institute at Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

And in Maine:

The poll, conducted by a Portland-based firm earlier this month, showed that 47.3 percent of those surveyed support changing Maine statutes to allow marriage licenses to be issued to any two people regardless of their sex while 49.5 percent oppose it. The rest of the Maine residents polled hadn’t made up their minds on the issue. The poll has a margin of error rate of 4.9 percent.

That's a statistical dead heat.

And in Iowa, on the eve of the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling:

A new University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released Thursday shows 60 percent of Iowans under age 30 support same-sex marriage, and three-fourths of Iowans under 30 favor some formal recognition of same-sex relationships. That indicates that passion objection could fade over time. . . .

Overall, only one-third of Iowans polled say they are opposed to any form of same-sex relationships. The rest either favor same-sex marriage or civil unions, although the court’s ruling clearly eliminated civil unions as an option.

Consider other aspects of the backlash:

In Massachusetts, opponents of same-sex marriage weren't able to get a constitutional amendment through the legislature, at least in part because legislators who opposed SSM lost their seats in the interim election.

Opponents of SSM in Illinois weren't able to get enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot -- in two successive elections. (Illinois only permits an advisory referendum, which makes it even worse.)

The legislature of Vermont overrode the governor's veto of SSM-enabling legislation.

The opposition in California to SSM dropped from 62% to52% in ten years.

Yeah, there's a backlash, alright. The only question is, against who?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SCOTUS Note, and Trickle-Down Effects

We may get through this with some rights left intact after all -- but I'm not ready for a party yet. From the LA Times:

The Supreme Court put a new limit on police searches of cars Tuesday, saying that "countless individuals guilty of nothing more serious than a traffic violation" have had their vehicles searched in violation of their rights.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices set aside a 1981 opinion that had given police broad authority to search cars whenever they made an arrest.

Instead, the justices said that an arresting officer could search a vehicle only if weapons were potentially in reach of the suspect or if there was reason to believe that the car contained evidence related to the arrest. For example, if the driver was arrested in a drug crime, the car could be searched for drugs.

Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the court, said that merely arresting a driver does not "provide a police entitlement" to search the vehicle without a warrant.

Considering the way police have been running amok the past few years, let's see if this sticks. It would be nice, wouldn't it?

Further thoughts: I'm thinking back over all the reports of Taser deaths and police brutality involving Tasers -- and from the reports, police are much to willing to use them under dubious circumstances -- and other stories that show police departments -- which, quite honestly, are not strongholds of civil rights protections, as I can attest from my own experience -- out of control, and it occurs to me that this is an unlooked-for trickle-down effect from the Bush administration's abuse of power, and another reason that Obama has to order investigations of those abuses: when the executive branch is beyond the reach of the law, no one is safe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Taking a Day Off

No post today -- there's news, just nothing I want to comment on.

That's part of the problem lately. The news is the same old crap I've been writing about for several years now, and I have very little left to say about it that I haven't already said. And I don't enjoy repeating myself.

I am, however, working on a post for FGB that is not news -- more of a comparative cultural commentary. It interests me. We'll see if it interests you.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Universe

Is a marvelous place. And beautiful. The Cassini spacecraft has been sending back pictures of Saturn. Amazing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Evanescence, Fallen

Back to music, and I am starting a definite campaign to make these really "in brief," so look for brevity, substance, and (hopefully) wit.

Someone called them "goth metal," and that makes sense to me. Fallen was Evanescence's first studio release, and it's a strong one. I ran across them on one of my YouTube jaunts. That video is at the end of this review, followed by the second one that grabbed me. At that point, I had to get the CD. Was captivated. It took about a week of sort-of listening before I twigged to the fact that the song in question, "My Last Breath," is about suicide. (I wasn't really paying attention to the lyrics.) Come to think of it, their strongest songs on this album are about suicide (I'm thinking also of "Tourniquet"). Not something I like to contemplate (it's been a long time since I've been a depressed teenager). But the music is compelling, Amy Lee's vocals are always apt, sometimes astonishing -- she's really flexible and has a lot of power behind her -- Ben Moody is strong support, and the images the songs call up are potent and sometimes staggering.

This is another one of those albums that doesn't have a song I dislike. The test, of course, is the low-key stuff -- "My Immortal" is beautiful, "Hello" is poignant, and both reveal the sophistication of this group. ("This group" includes a host of back-up artists, all turning in excellent performances.)

And it's music that gets to you. At least, it gets to me: it's another one that has hogged my playlist for weeks, displacing Backstreet Boys' Unbreakable (which I'm going to comment on here soon, I promise). Fallen ranges from metal to pop and goes a lot of interesting places in between -- as always, I like the way they layer textures, pass phrases around (although that's not as complex as Nickelback), work the dynamics.

The fun stuff. This one is "My Last Breath" as the soundtrack to an AMV from Winter Cicada:

The AMV is very well done, too.

And this one is "Imaginary," backing an AMV from Mirage of Blaze:

Stray thought for the day: I wonder how much impact these songs would have had on me if I had first heard them without the videos. I am strongly affected by music (and I don't think I'm at all unique in that) and by images (ditto). The combination sometimes can be overpowering. And of course, the best music is that which calls forth my own images.

But, I will continue to surf YouTube on occasion and suffer the consequences.

The Kindness of Strangers

I think my sharpest difference with Christianity (and, regrettably, it's not just the Christianist theocrats but the religion as a whole) is that I believe people are basically good and just need the chance to show it, while Christianity teaches that people are basically evil and need to be "saved" from themselves. Introducing Tweenbots, an argument for my side:

The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, "You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road. . . ."

. But of more interest to me was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy for an anthropomorphized object. The journey the Tweenbots take each time they are released in the city becomes a story of people's willingness to engage with a creature that mirrors human characteristics of vulnerability, of being lost, and of having intention without the means of achieving its goal alone.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging: Saturday Edition

I may have to change it to "Saturday Gay Blogging" -- the new schedule doesn't leave me a lot of time on Friday mornings.

It's some random stuff this week.

First, I would be falling down on the job if I didn't post this video from Stephen Colbert:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Colbert Coalition's Anti-Gay Marriage Ad
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

On that score, Steve Schmidt, one of John McCain's chief advisors during his presidential campaign, has called on the GOP to support same-sex marriage. Here's a report from Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin with the full text Schmidt's remarks. Key point:

But it cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others. On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence – liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force.

However, the Democrats in Congress don't seem to be all that motivated. From the Bay Area Reporter:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) told the Bay Area Reporter Wednesday, April 15 that repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act is not a top priority of hers right now.

The speaker said that her two legislative priorities for the LGBT community are passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the federal hate crimes bill; the latter was introduced in Congress earlier this month. She indicated action on those items would occur before any effort to repeal DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex relationships and allows states that do not provide equal rights to gay couples the ability to ignore such marriages granted in other states.

Coupled with this item from Defense Secretary William Gates, let me tell you, I'm not real happy with Team Obama right now. From NYT, via Box Turtle Bulletin:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made clear on Thursday that any repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law would have to be undertaken slowly, and suggested that it might not happen at all.

“If we do it,’’ Mr. Gates told reporters on his plane enroute to Rhode Island, “it’s important that we do it right, and very carefully.’’

I second Timothy Kincaid's comment: Congress needs to act on this, since Obama's not going to. (I told you he was just another politician.) Time to write your rep -- no, your whole delegation, reps and senators, and demand that they get moving on it.

So the Dems are backing off. Gee -- who would have guessed?


Well, this should take that nasty taste out of your mouth. Via Queerty.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Problem with Conservatism

Sparked by a couple of posts from AmericaBlog, here and here. I'm not talking about conservatism as a political philosophy so much as a mindset, a world view that looks backward while desperately holding onto a vision of the now that may or may not have something to do with reality. I think it's a structural problem that we can find reflected not only in the radically reactionary "conservatism" that we've suffered under for the past twenty years or more here, but also in the "classical" conservatism espoused by such as Andrew Sullivan. It's the default position of the bourgeoisie: maintain the status quo at all costs, and if you can bring it back to the status quo of the last generation (or, in the case of the Dobson Gang, a status quo that never existed in the real world), so much the better.

This story says a lot, I think:

“Somebody’s got to bring zero emission cars into the market—we think we can do it,” said the CEO in an interview with CNBC. “We have the batteries and we are at the point where in 2010, cars that we will be putting in the U.S. market will be totally attractive to the consumers.”

In the business sector, this conservatism is reinforced by greed (I searched for a synonym, but that's the word that works). I've no objection to a company making a decent profit, I just have sharp differences with many over what actually constitutes "decent" in this case.

The real question is, why is this coming from an overseas manufacturer? With two of the Big Three automakers teetering on total collapse and the third just barely treading water, a lot of fingers have been pointed -- unions, government subsidies to foreign competitors, "the economy" -- but the truth is that they're selling the same cars they've been selling for generations -- the only improvements have more or less been forced on them. They've had ample reason to innovate, but they don't seem to be capable of actually doing it any more. (Maybe it's the fault of marketing people and focus groups, which don't really always tell you what you really need to know.)

I wrote about this sort of thingalmost a year ago here, when I posted this little tidbit:

Whether or not Toyota wanted to continue production, it was unlikely to be able to do so, because the EV-95 battery was no longer available. Chevron had inherited control of the worldwide patent rights for the NiMH EV-95 battery when it merged with Texaco, which had purchased them from General Motors. Chevron's unit won a $30,000,000 settlement from Toyota and Panasonic, and the production line for the large NiMH batteries was closed down and dismantled. Only smaller NiMH batteries, incapable of powering an electric vehicle or plugging in, are currently allowed by Chevron-Texaco.

My comment at the time was: "Gee -- a major oil company got rights to the battery and squelched it. Imagine that." This is a sterling example of the kind of retro thinking that has made a mess of things. Which leads us right back to the second post at AmericaBlog (and actually an issue that's impacted net neutrality and a lot of other things involving telecoms) and this story:

If Internet service providers' current experiments succeed, subscribers may end up paying for high-speed Internet based on how much material they download. Trials with such metered access, rather than the traditional monthly flat fee for unlimited connection time, offer enough bandwidth that they won't affect many consumers — yet.

But as more people use the Internet to watch TV and stream movies, they could bump up against the metered rates' caps, paying expensive over-use fees. Watching a movie may then require paying two fees: one for the movie, another to the cable company.

I've changed phone companies because of that kind of crap. But at least I could -- if the telecoms and the ISPs have their way, you won't be able to.

This is the kind of thinking that's throwing American business onto the ropes -- and the rest of the country along with it: a backward-looking cast of mind coupled with the power to maintain the status quo for as long as possible. The flaw here, of course, is that it only works at home, and we do, indeed, now live in a global village.

Think about that.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Men For Marriage

That's the name of the website started to counter the pernicious propaganda of NOM and its new campaign. The site is at -- you guessed it -- 2M4M.org.

Stop by and look.

Better yet, join and participate.

Belated Dessert

I realize I haven't served dessert with the FGB posts lately, but this should make up for it. Quite a nice gallery, if you follow the link.

Belated Stuff

There -- that's my belated Easter post. (I swiped it from Digby.) My holiday was actually three weeks ago, so I almost forgot.

(Sidebar: my colleague at work somehow managed to place a picture of the cutest little bunny you ever saw as a wallpaper on a transitional window that pops up as I'm shifting from the general login to my login. I am totally delighted -- I mean, it's a really cute bunny.)

As for the rest of the news:

The captain was rescued from the Somali pirates by the simple expedient of shooting three of them while the fourth was negotiating. I haven't really been following this story (or any other) that closely, but apparently some quarters feel we need to understand the pirates. What's to understand? They're pirates.

Lots of finger-pointing on the economy. Still. Lots of resistance from the Republicans toward actually doing anything about it. And this is news exactly how? (The teabagging parties are still a lively topic. Snicker.)

Pesticide manufacturers want Michelle Obama to spray her organic garden with just about anything and everything. I also just learned that potatoes, my chief comfort food, are the worst for pesticide residues. Damn! (I have been known to eat a bowl of mashed potatoes for dessert.)

Amazon has delisted gay-themed books. Or not. (Sorry, but I never have any trouble finding yaoi at Amazon -- maybe Amazon doesn't know they're gay-themed? No, that's not right.)

And for this I surf every morning.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Shungiku Nakamura's Junjo Romantica, Vol. 1

Junjo Romantica is one of those early yaoi encounters that got revisited recently: I remember that on my first reading, it annoyed me, but I decided to give it another chance. It was better this time around.

Misaki Takahashi finds himself in an odd situation: his brother's best friend is the famous novelist Akihiko Usami, who goes by the nickname of "Usagi." Usagi is elegant, beautiful, a genius, and filthy rich. He also writes boys' love novels on the side -- and pretty racy ones, at that. And he is Misaki's tutor for his college entrance exams: Misaki is not the world's best student but is determined to get into M University as a payback for his brother Takahiro, who left school to raise Misaki when they lost their parents. Usagi is openly contemptuous of Misaki's intellectual achievements, but he does start to improve. Misaki also figures out pretty quickly that Usagi is in love with his brother, but has never confessed his feelings. Things come to a head when Takahiro introduces his fiancee and announces that he's being transferred to another city. Misaki, who is more sensitive than we might expect, gets Usagi outside, where he breaks down; strangely enough, Misaki offers him comfort, and even shares his tears. Usagi offers to let him share his penthouse apartment when Takahiro moves, and soon confesses that his own feelings have changed. That does not mean, however, that their relationship is conflict-free.

The second story, "Junjo Egoist," involves an old admirer of Usagi's, Kamijo Hiroki, who finds himself, after a fair degree of badgering, tutoring Kusama Nowaki, an orphan who works a slew of part-time jobs but who wants to go to university: Nowaki needs to ace the exams because he only completed middle school. Hiroki starts to feel like he's dealing with a stray cat -- Nowaki is in and out, displays a series of unexpected skills and accomplishments, and is very, very bright. He also admits quite openly that he's in love with Hiroki, and the torch that Hiroki has been carrying for Usagi starts to gutter. Hiroki, however, finds it distinctly difficult to admit his feelings.

The thing that initially irritated me, and that I now find refreshing, is the personalities involved in both of these stories: these are not easy people to deal with. Usagi is spoiled, caustic, domineering, and downright weird, while both Misaki and Hiroki have really short fuses. Nowaki really is like a stray cat, enigmatic, self-contained, and intent on his own agenda. The interactions are very entertaining, particularly when jealousy rears its ugly head, as it does in both cases. The stories work their way through a series of events that would be improbable if these people were any more normal, but make perfect sense in this context.

The graphics are excellent, crisp, definite, expressive and very rich. Needless to say, the men are gorgeous, even when they're losing it -- which Misaki and Hiroki do with alarming frequency.

In fact, I now wonder why it irritated me. It really is engaging and highly entertaining. You don't need to take my word for it: Volume 10 in this series is due out later this year -- it's sort of popular, you think?

Another one from BLU.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging: Frustrated Edition

Thanks to the wonders of the Intertubes, I have now lost not one, but two FGB posts. (Thank you, Flash Player and YouTube.) To hell with it -- life is too short.

Nevertheless, I did want to give a special mention to Maggie Gallagher and her National Organization for Marriage, always a source of wonder and delight. Their latest campaign is under the banner 2M4M.

That supposedly stands for "Two Million for Marriage," but really -- are they serious?

Three-way, anyone?


Oh. My. God. How did I forget the teabagging?

Watch Rachel Maddow go through this trying harder and harder not to laugh every time she says "teabagging" -- until she gets to Sen. David "Diapers" Vitter's Senate resolution in support, when she loses it. It's a scream.

These people really need to get a clue.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Draggy, Droopy, Bleh

And on top of everything else, I'm fighting a cold. So far it's pretty much a draw, but it's a huge distraction right now.


Stop Gap

I have yet to find the time to get back to the Dreher/Linker debate (and any number of others have weighed in at this point, so the catch-up is rather massive) -- it may wind up being a link dump with brief comments. However, David Link has come up with an interesting post dissecting one of Dreher's commentaries that I recommend.

I do, however, take issue with one of Link's assumptions:

As a gay man who’s worked on this issue for a quarter century now, I am fascinated to watch the debate move fully into the heterosexual world, since they are the 97% of voters who will be charged, in our democracy, with deciding the legal rules that will apply to lesbians and gay men.

Considering the tension between court rulings and right-wing propaganda on the issue of judicial review, I find this statement chilling, as well as essentially thoughtless: the legal rules are already established: the state must provide a rational and compelling reason to withhold a fundamental right from a segment of the populace. The question is whether majorities of the populace, influenced by deceptive and mendacious campaigns by those who don't really believe in our system of government to begin with, are going to be permitted to override those rules. For an interesting series of commentaries on judicial review as it pertains to the Iowa decision, see these posts by Scott Lemieux and Paul Campos, here, here, and here. I like this point in particular:

Almost everybody's conception of democracy (including, I assume, Paul's) entails some protection of individual rights from majorities, but once we assume this claims that judicial review is presumptively undemocratic become almost impossible to sustain, at least in this form. What we should consider the normative ends of democracy is beyond the scope of a single blog post, but certainly it seems to me that if you arrive at a place where arbitrary exclusions of fundamental benefits require less justification than removing such exclusions you're doing something wrong.

Sounds right, yes?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Next Week

I'll be returning to my old work schedule, which means I will have more time for posting here. Now, if the news will just shape up. . . .

Done Deal

The Vermont Legislature has overridden the governor's veto of the same-sex marriage bill (in case you've been under a rock since yesterday). So, the people's elected representatives have expressed the people's will over the objections of a single man whose personal beliefs are in opposition. Here's what Tony Perkins (of the so-called "Family Research Council") had to say about that:

“Same-sex ‘marriage’ is a movement driven by wealthy homosexual activists and a liberal elite determined to destroy not only the institution of marriage, but democracy as well.”

Somehow, the argument gets thinner and thinner.

The District of Columbia is going the New York route:

The D.C. Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a measure that would recognize same-sex marriages performed outside of the District of Columbia, and supporters say it's the first step toward allowing gay marriages in the District.

At-Large D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson introduced the amendment to a pre-existing bill Tuesday. The amendment was signed by all 13 D.C. Council members. Mayor Adrian Fenty released a statement saying he will sign it.

Prediction: Congress will overrule it, because Congress is scared of its own shadow.

And in Iowa, the Court's decision will stand:

Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said Tuesday he will not support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court found that denying gay and lesbian couples marriage is discrimination under the Iowa Constitution’s equal protection clause. With that in mind, Culver said he is “reluctant” to add a provision to the constitution that was already found “unlawful and discriminatory.”

The Vermont decision, in particular, is being hailed as knocking the props out from under the anti-gay right's "democratic process" argument (to which Andrew Sullivan still adheres). You know what I think of that one: the courts are set up with the power to review legislation against constitutional requirements for a reason, and it's something that applies to state courts no less than federal: the Founders did not trust the whim of the people. Watch for repeal movements in those states with anti-marriage amendments within the next five years, probably starting with California (assuming the Court upholds Prop 8) next year.

As for Perkin's reaction, he goes on to say:

Time and again, we see when citizens have the opportunity to vote at the ballot box, they consistently opt to support traditional marriage.

Perkins, being the mendacious charlatan that he is, doesn't note that those votes have gotten narrower and narrower -- no more 70% majorities for the fundies -- while the funding has gotten higher and higher and the lies have gotten more outrageous. In that vein, here's a telling comment:

"You've already lost."

That sort of says it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How Cynical Can I Get?

Let me put it this way (and this is just a stray thought while I was brushing my teeth): the "new" evangelicals such as Rick Warren can emphasize helping the poor and stewardship of creation (i.e., going green) because, under the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, they had a potential gold-mine within reach.

I am such a bitch sometimes.

Common Courtesy Examined: A Friday Gay Blogging Post on Sunday

Reader PietB, bless his heart, has come up with another e-mail that deserves aknowledgment and discussion:

I read this morning's post and was thinking that the people Dreher was talking about are the very people who most need to learn a little manners. My housemate was at the nursery the other day and some woman was talking with him about the bedding plants he was buying. The conversation eventually got around to the fact that he wasn't married, wasn't divorced, did have a housemate, and was in fact a -- gasp -- homosexual, at which point she began to loudly and insistently recommend that he take Jesussss Chrisssst as his personal savior because that would bring him into a right relationship with Gawd and keep him from burning in the eternal flames of Helllll. In the middle of a plant nursery on a bright, chilly day in late March. At the top of her lungs. Apparently she kept pressing him about religious issues: why did he reject Jeezusss, why did he not go to a Christian church now when he had gone to one as a younger man, why did he insist on being one of those homosectionals, etc., and at one point she proclaimed that she couldn't believe he was really one of those homosexionated people because he was "so nice".

Of course, the reaction I have to all this is to be completely horrified by the lack of good manners displayed. And I wonder why it is that modern evangelicals can't see the rudeness of their approach. I guess that having been brought up in an anti-proselytizing religion makes me cringe even more than I would if my particular childhood church had been neutral (much less a proselytizing sect), but that just seems so ill-bred and wrong. And of course that is the very thing they fear. They don't really fear censorship; they fear that their active and insistent proselytizing in all sorts of improper settings will be criticized and labelled for what it is: rude, intrusive, arrogant, condescending, stupid, and wrong. And they are probably not even consciously aware of what the actual fear is, which is even more telling.

I've had similar experiences. The one that sticks most in my mind is an incident in which I was approached in a fairly deserted subway station one night by a smiling young man who was determined to save me. I said, quite politely, that I wasn't really interested. (I am, believe it or not, a very polite person in the normal course of events, particularly with strangers. It just works better.) He persisted, until I finally lost patience and told him that 1) I am a practicing and very devout Witch,* and 2) if he didn't go away and stop harassing me, I was going to call a cop.

A couple of issues here: "common courtesy" is, as I pointed out in the post that Piet's referring to, the grease that keeps the wheels of society turning smoothly. The last portion of Piet's post hits this one square on the head: rather than admit that they have no respect for other human beings at all, much less differing viewpoints, they'd rather claim persecution for their religious beliefs -- i.e., if their ability to condemn others loudly and publicly for not sharing those beliefs brings repercussions, they are being deprived of their "rights." As I noted in the earlier post:

Yeah, if you feel the need to constantly express your disapproval of those around you, you're going to be marginalized -- not because of your beliefs, but because you don't have the civility to keep them to yourself when expressing them is inappropriate.

For crying out loud -- if someone asks you nicely to go away and stop bothering them, do it, for the love of all that's holy. And if you don't approve of something you learn about a total stranger, why on earth would you feel bound to inform them of the fact? As though they care -- you're no one to them -- except now you are obnoxious and offensive, having gone out of your way to hurt their feelings.

The point of this is that courtesy is much more than window dressing: it is a fundmental and very important part of making a society work. "Courtesy" is much more substantial than mere "manners," although we use the two terms almost interchangeably. "Courtesy" implies respect for others, it implies that one values others and recognizes their legitimate place in the order of things. It is, to all intents and purposes, something that one can easily include among one's values -- it is a motivating force for dealing benignly with one's fellows. "Manners" are just the forms for expressing that, and, as is too often the case, the forms can take the place of the substance (which is something I find true of so-called Christian "morality" -- morality also grows from respect and honest caring, but you won't find indications of that in the propaganda of the anti-gay, "Christian" right -- lip service is the best they can come up with).

Vis-a-vis so-called "Christians" and their propensity for knee-jerk condemnations of those who don't agree with them, it's another facet of something that is widespread in the evangelical/fundamentalist movement: they serve a higher purpose, so mere human considerations -- not to mention ordinary standards of morality and decency, including their own -- are beneath notice. Hence someone like James Dobson or Tony Perkins can quite comfortably lie about gay people in the national media because they are doing God's work. One wonders what God would say about that. I seem to remember a saying from somewhere: "Evil done in God's name is not God's work."

And of course, this all comes into focus in their opposition to treating gays as human beings in any regard. There are, of course, the purely political considerations -- which as far as I can determine, form the major part of their purpose -- which their moral posturing and claims of persecution merely serve. (And no one has yet explained to me how a religion that claims 80% of the population and whose followers have controlled the government for at least the last twenty years can claim to be "persecuted.")

The bottom line here is that if some stranger comes up to me and starts haranguing me about my sinful life, and they don't go away when I ask them to, I'm calling a cop.

* A note on this, at the risk of getting personal: My religion is something that I embraced relatively late in life, after a great deal of introspection and, to put it plainly, prayer. It was like coming home. I'm not changing. Period. It fits me, it accepts who I am -- and not just my sexual orientation, but my whole personality and point of view, my whole way of engaging with the world -- and provides a constant and strong foundation for the ongoing series of moral choices that is my daily life. It's not an easy religion to follow, but it suits me. Just as one example, the story of the Lord willingly offering Himself at Samhain and entering the Underworld moves me to tears, which is something the story of the Crucifixion, with its focus on cruelty and brutality -- and politics -- never did. There is an element of joy mixed with the sadness in our version that I never really saw in the Christian version, even though both look forward to His return.

Reviews in Brief: Hinako Takanaga's You Will Drown in Love

Hidako Takanaga's You Will Drown in Love is not exactly a sequel to You Will Fall in Love. Focusing on Reiichiro Shudo, it actually occupies roughly the same time frame as the earlier story.

Jinnai is taken aback by his boss' sudden announcement that he's retiring, but sees it also as an opportunity: he's the assistant manager, and can look forward to greater responsibility and a chance to make his mark -- after all, their shop deals in fine silks and kimonos, and Jinnai has established good relationships with their customers. He is somewhat dismayed to learn that the new manager, Reiichiro Shudo, is fresh out of college, ten years younger than he, and also knows nothing about retail. In fact, it seems Reiichiro knows nothing about how to deal with people at all, but, surprisingly, is willing to be tutored. After some initial missteps, the two settle into a working relationship that gradually begins to move into the personal -- and then it gets more personal still, especially after Reichiro tells Jinnai that he's been rejected by Haru, but they've agreed to remain friends. Jinnai responds that if he's happy just being friends, he was never in love to begin with.

Tsukasa also make a cameo, brief but pointed: it adds a new dimension to the tensions between the brothers, as well as opening up Reiichiro's character still more.

If you've read You Will Fall in Love, the Reiichiro of this story is an eye-opener. We learn that his cold, seemingly calculating exterior is actually a cover for someone who is shy, sensitive, tactless, naive and totally inept at interpersonal relationships. Jinnai begins by being crticial and sometimes sarcastic about his new boss, but as he begins to understand what Reiichiro is really like -- essentially clueless -- he begins to feel somewhat protective, especially after Reiichiro begins confiding in him about personal matters. The story is really about the interplay of these two characters as they learn about each other and grow closer.

Looking back, I'm starting to think that this one may be even better than its predecessor: it's subtle, completely character-driven, with touches of sharp humor illuminating the growing relationship between two strongly independent men. The drawing is just as polished and strong. (It's worth noting that Reiichiro looks younger in this one, and it fits, somehow.) And again, the cover art is beautiful and gives a good sense of the interior drawings.

Takanaga is becoming one of my favorite mangaka, based on the strength of offerings like this one. From BLU.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Common Courtesy: A Stopgap FGB Post

I know I pretty much promised FGB today, but this will have to do for the time being.

Andrew Sullivan notes this comment by Rod Dreher:

The lawyer said that as soon as homosexuality receives constitutionally protected status equivalent to race, then "it will be very hard to be a public Christian." By which he meant to voice support, no matter how muted, for traditional Christian teaching on homosexuality and marriage. To do so would be to set yourself up for hostile work environment challenges, including dismissal from your job, and generally all the legal sanctions that now apply to people who openly express racist views.

Now, we all know that Dreher is full of it -- it's the usual right-wing scare scenario of what's going to happen if. And Sullivan almost gets it right:

But it must and can be perfectly possible for public orthodox Christians to live side by side with politically equal homosexuals. Just as it is perfectly possible for devout Catholics to live and work alongside divorced co-workers, even if they feel the need constantly to profess the impermissibility of divorce. This is not and need not be a binary choice. We can live together as equals. And when we do, we may find the conversation we can have that much more interesting.

My question is, in what sort of civilized context does one feel impelled to be constantly criticizing one's fellows on the basis of one's personal religious beliefs, particularly in a pluralistic and secular society? Has either one of these buffoons heard of a basic concept that keeps the wheels greased: common courtesy?

Yeah, if you feel the need to constantly express your disapproval of those around you, you're going to be marginalized -- not because of your beliefs, but because you don't have the civility to keep them to yourself when expressing them is inappropriate. The shorthand is "manners."

Friday, April 03, 2009

Now, Iowa

This morning's news. We've been waiting for this decision, and it looks fairly strong. Interestingly enough, from this article, the only ones who seem upset by it are the usual anti-gay theocrats: no politicians looking for brownie points so far.

Update: Well, there are politicians looking for brownie points, but from the right side:

Via John Aravosis, AmericaBlog, a joint statement from the Iowa Legislative Leadership:

News Release
For Immediate Release: April 3, 2008
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal
House Speaker Pat Murphy

Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing civil rights

This is a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today's Supreme Court decision:

"Thanks to today's decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights.

"The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.

"When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.

"Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights and responsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.

"Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.

"In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision that found that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.

"In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated "separate but equal" schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

"In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.

"In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.

"In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, the Iowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.

"Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws."

If it stands -- and there's no reason it shouldn't, as long as we keep the national gay "leadership" out of the inevitable constitutional amendment fight -- this is an important one -- it's the heartland, babydoll.

Here's a link to the decision (PDF), which I haven't read yet. (OK -- I've now read it. It's a good one --solid, intelligent, and rational.)

Stray Thought

There are now seven countries in the world that permit same-sex marriages, and Japan recognizes such marriages performed in other countries where they are legal.

What do you suppose will happen the first time a gay diplomat brings his/her spouse into the U.S.?

More FGB later, probably tomorrow. The Linker/Sullivan/Dreher debate still seems to be going strong, and I think I want to weigh in.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Number 7

By my count. The Swedish parliament has just passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.

Asa Regner, secretary general of the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, told CNN that Wednesday's vote meant a very important change in Swedish law.

"This was the last area where same sex couples were treated differently," she said.

Thinking about the implications of that last statement, it only points up that civil unions and domestic partnerships are stop-gaps. Full equality is full equality, and "separate but equal" is, by definition, not.

Sweden joins Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, and Norway.

And, making a rare prediction, same-sex marriage will be a done deal in most of the American Northeast by the end of this year.