"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, July 31, 2009

Y'Know, It's Like Evolution

You reach a point where the evidence is so overwhelming that you have to take it as fact. From Ezra Klein:

In my chat today, a reader asked me to respond to Megan McArdle's lengthy case against national health insurance. The problem is that, well, there's not a lot to specifically respond to. In 1,600 words, she doesn't muster a single link to a study or argument, nor a single number that she didn't make up (what numbers do exist come in the form of thought experiments and assumptions). Megan's argument against national health insurance boils down to a visceral hatred of the government.

He goes on from there. It's pretty devastating.

DougJ sums it up at Balloon Juice:

McMeghan does not deserve to be taken seriously. What bothers me most about the whole MCMEGHAN IS A SERIOUS THINKER stuff is that it stems not only from the strange respect the Atlantic imprimatur inexplicably yields, but also from the soft sexism of lowered expectations.

My own summation is somewhat more concise: Jeebus, are people still paying attention to her?

(It may be symptomatic of something that Andrew Sullivan has repeatedly noted how much he respects her opinions. I'm just not sure what.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging Goes Random

Since we elected a "progressive" president who has proven himself to be a "fierce advocate" for gay civil rights, the gay news has started hitting fast and furious. Since my Friday schedule no longer allows me much time to assemble a weekly summary, you'll be getting it as it happens -- or as much as I can keep up with. It will still carry the "Friday Gay Blogging" tag, so you can search using that.

(And all you Obamabots, please pardon the snark. You get what you pay for. Or less.)

Obama's Gay Rights Score Hits Negative Numbers

This is sort of devastating:

I don't think I need to add anything, except to note that when a progressive introduces a bill to help move toward what 70% of the American people want and is told by the White House to stop, just what is it that we're dealing with here?

There's nothing controversial about repeal of DADT -- even majorities of church-going Republicans endorse that one.


Here's a summary post of the results from our Democratic allies.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

On Free Speech, With Some Comments on Hate Crimes

Time to take another poke at Andrew Sullivan. My first reaction to this post was pretty negative, but in some respects Sullivan has it right: Thio Li-anh, who was recently forced to withdraw from consideration for an NYU human rights course, does have a right to express her opinions, no matter how wrong and baseless they are. (And I'm sure you're asking yourselves "Can an opinion be wrong?" Yes, of course it can, if it's based on false information.):

It seems to me that gay rights supporters should always, always, always defend the freedom of speech and association of our opponents. In a free and open debate, we will always win because our arguments are so strong.

At its best, that's a naive assumption that ignores everything we've learned in the past thirty years or so. If it were true, we wouldn't have to be campaigning for equal rights now.

There's also the question of whether Thio is really an appropriate teacher for a human rights course, given her views on human rights. From her public statements that I've read, she's not willing to include gays in the "human" part of that concept, and she's woefully ignorant of the realities of "gayness," its origins, and its context.

Be that as it may, does she have a right to express her views? Of course. Although from what I hear -- and that's supported by this snippet: "Dr. Thio, for one, "supported the imposition of a $15,000 fine on a free-access Singaporean television channel for presenting a gay couple and their child as a family unit." -- she's not willing to extend that right to others if she disagrees with them. That's an interesting question for Sullivan: If Dr. Thio and her like are not willing to extend those rights to others, why should we extend those rights to them? They are not, after all, playing by the rules.

But should the university provide a forum for those views without protest? That's a little knottier, and a question, I suspect, that's beyond Sullivan's depth.

Sullivan's taking off from this post by Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic, which is another abstract, in the ideal world sort of discourse on free speech. Kaminer does touch on the key issue, which she at least notes, although she doesn't discuss it at all:

In responding to her withdrawal, NYU law school dean Richard Revesz smartly finessed questions about her appointment by noting that while her views should not have disqualified her, despite their variance from the university's ideals, the quality of her arguments in support of her views were relevant to her evaluation. "Leading academic institutions benefit greatly from a diversity of perspectives, not from hiring only people who share the same views," Revesv observed (he is quoted at length at abajournal.com). "At the same time, our evaluation of Professor Thio's strength as a scholar might have been usefully informed by an assessment of the analytic cogency and methodological integrity of the arguments and evidence she marshaled for her position."

Kaminer doesn't seem to have really read any of Thio Li-anh's statements. I did find a transcript of the notorious speech to Parliament defending section 337A, Singapore's anti-gay law. It's a mish-mash of flat assertions, appeals to "morality," misinformation, unsupported statements -- the standard right-wing scare speech. This is just an example:

Homosexuality is a gender identity disorder; there are numerous examples of former homosexuals successfully dealing with this. They claim a right of sexual reorientation. Just this year, two high profile US activists left the homosexual lifestyle, the publisher of Venus, a lesbian magazine, and an editor of Young Gay America. Their stories are available online. An article by an ex-gay in the New Statesmen this July identified the roots of his emotional hurts, like a distant father, overbearing mother and sexual abuse by a family friend; after working through his pain, his unwanted same-sex attractions left. While difficult, change is possible and a compassionate society would help those wanting to fulfill their heterosexual potential.

This is crap from the beginning. "Gender identity disorder"? Conflating two different typologies -- one of the right's favorite tactics. I'm a man. I've always been a man. I love being a man. I love other men for being men. None of us think we're women, nor do we want to be: we are not transexuals. Transexuals have an entirely different psychological make-up.

Ex-gays: This is another assertion as fact of something that is highly debatable at best. "Numerous examples" is an overstatement. "Ex-gay" proponents in the U.S. have claimed "thousands" of successful conversions, but have never been able to produce more than a handful, most of whom have relapsed at the first opportunity. Even Alan Chambers admits that his orientation hasn't changed -- he's just denying it expression. And of course, Thio didn't mention the fact that such conversions have been condemned by every reputable association of psychologists, psychotherapists, and other caregivers.

So if this is the caliber of Thio Li-anh's reasoning ability, I have to say that, in formal terms, she's not all that great, as well as being reality-challenged. She's arguing an agenda, and doing so using specious methods. I don't see how that qualifies her to teach human rights law.

As for the content of her remarks, I personally think she should have been allowed to teach the course -- and let the students nail her there, both on content and form.

Oh, and about hate crimes. Sullivan shows, once again, his essential shallowness:

And yet the authoritarian part of the left is often there, waiting in the wings. We need vigilance against them and their arguments, including the poisonous concept of hate crime laws.

Why he felt it necessary to throw in the reference to "the poisonous concept of hate crime laws" I think owes more to Sullivan's own issues than anything else. To put it in terms that even Sullivan should be able to understand, "hate crimes" are, by definition, a form of terrorism: their effect is to intimidate members of a group. Hate crime laws stipulate enhanced penalties for violent crimes motivated by bias. Enhanced penalties based on motivation are nothing new in Western jurisprudence -- the difference between murder and manslaughter is one of motivation. To equate enhanced penalties for violent crimes in this category with criminalizing thought, as Sullivan and others have done, is specious at best. I find it hard to believe that Sullivan would willingly put himself in the same class as James Dobson, Bill O'Reilly, Mat Staver, and their ilk. He really needs to rethink that whole thing, with some grounding in reality.

Don't misunderstand -- you should know by now that I have little patience with the PC left. I don't respond well to authority, no matter which end of the political spectrum it originates from. I suspect, however, that Sullivan and I have different criteria for assigning membership in that particular group.

It's the Democrats, Stupid!

I sort of saw this coming, but I didn't think it would be so blatant. The Democrats have spent the last fifteen years as a minority party catering to the Republicans. Now that they have the majority in both houses and the White House, they're . . . catering to the Republicans (including the Blue Dogs, who in a sane world would have run as Republicans to begin with).

Via Jane Hamsher at Campaign Silo, this knock-out interview with Maxine Waters (D-CA):

Note particularly Waters' comments on the White House's stance:

WATERS: Well that may be difficult for Rahm Emanuel, because don't forget -- he recruited most of them. As when he was over in the Congress, in the leadership, Rahm Emanuel recruited more conservative members and based on some of the information I'm getting, they told them that they could vote the way they wanted to vote, that they would not interfere with what was considered their philosophy about some of these things. So, now the chickens have come home to roost.

Of course they did. Because Rahm believes what the Blue Dogs believe. What's to interfere with? And let's remember -- Rahm beat the shit out of progressives on the supplemental/IMF and on Waxman-Markey. It's not like he has a "hands off" policy.

And Andrew Sullivan takes a swing at the Dems on gay rights:

It's vital for the gay rights movement to understand that the Republicans are intent on discriminating against gay citizens at every opportunity in order to win votes from bigots. And the Democratic party's only interest in gay equality is getting gay money.

(Clinton saw the money angle first and realized that the gay establishment was so desperate for any sort of recognition that he could get millions even while ramping up discrimination in the military and doing all he could to destroy our chances for marriage equality. And he intuitively knew that HRC's poobahs would worship him for it). Once you disillusion yourself of any other fantasies, it all gets easier to explain. None of the leading Democrats really believes that our civil rights are being trampled on; including president Obama, who has still achieved nothing substantive whatsoever for gay Americans.

I'd like to take Sullivan's comment on Obama one step farther -- not only has Obama not achieved anything substantive for gay Americans, he's said point-blank that he's not even going to try: he's leaving it up to Congress.

(As I've noted before, I -- and many others -- lay this at Rahm Emanuel's door. What surprises me is that Emanuel represented a very liberal, heavily gay district in Chicago, but got burned by the Clinton DADT debacle. And he hasn't figured out yet that it's not 1994 any more. It's just another example of how Washington works: screw your constituents, it's all about the Club.)

What it boils down to is that the Repubicans still have a majority in Congress -- it's just that a lot of them are calling themselves "Democrats."

Update: Here's a post by Publius at Obsidian Wings on one way to deal with the Blue Dogs. I wonder if anyone in Congress or the White House has any interest in doing that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's Missing From This Picture?

An interesting case from Britain, reported by Pink News: A Christian doctor was removed from her position as a member of an adoption panel because she refused to vote on same-sex couples who were being considered as prospective parents. Just to show how far out of whack political correctness has gotten in some places, the reasoning is as follows:

However, in February a same-sex couple applied to the Northamptonshire panel. Dr Matthews told the head of Northamptonshire's children's services, Martin Pratt, that she was intending to abstain from any vote the panel made, and would not discuss her concerns with other panel members so as to not influence their decision.

Despite her promises she was barred from attending the panel and asked instead to meet with Mr Pratt to explain her position. Dr Matthews then told Mr Pratt that she felt unable to recommend same-sex applicants as suitable candidates. A few days Dr Matthews received notice from Mr Pratt informing her of the council's decision to replace her due to the "significant problems" her views created for the adoption service.

In the letter, Mr Pratt stated: "There are three concerns that I have: that we have to comply with the law, that we attract the widest possible range of suitable adopters and that we comply with our own policies.

"I believe that we could not allow a panel member to continue to participate in the process who is unable to consider, on the merits of the application alone, applications to adopt."

Her rationale is the standard-issue Christianist dodge:

In a statement, Dr Matthews said: "I don't feel that placing children for adoption with same-sex couples is the best place for them."

She added: "Mothers are more nurturing and fathers are more challenging and the combination of both is best for the development of a child."

She went on to express concerns that "The children of gay adoptive parents are also more likely to be bullied at school, on top of being singled out as different because they are adopted."

"As a Christian, I don't believe it's an appropriate lifestyle and I don't believe the outcomes for children would be as good as if they were placed with heterosexual couples."

Citing professional and personal reasons, she continued: "I cannot recommend placement in a same-sex household to be in the best interest of a child, despite what politicians may have legislated for."

I fault the panel's director for one thing: she was a medical advisor and her reasons for refusing to vote on gay couples have no scientific basis -- there is no support for any of her "beliefs" in real life. The other reasons he cited are tailor-made as fuel for the Christianist "victim" strategy. Why not use a perfectly valid -- and perfectly ideology-free -- reason?

As it happens, she has been reinstated but is not allowed to vote on any applicants, which seems fair to me.

Core Issues

This post by Chris Bodenner at Daily Dish is instructive, but not for the reasons Bodenner discusses.

Along those lines, the chart's creator, ReligiousTolerance.org, opted for the label "homosexual orientation" over "gay sex," while it referred to "teen sex" and "premarital sex" elsewhere. So it appears their methodology took into account the Catholic parsing of desire and behavior. I personally think such parsing is bullshit (e.g. how exactly is "deliberately engaging in fantasies" an action?). But in the mind of a strict Catholic, a homosexually-oriented person who's never engaged in gay sex is still neutral to sin.

The Church has the same position on masturbation that it does on homosexual behavior: "The Catechism calls masturbation 'an intrinsically and gravely disordered action' (CCC 2352)."

Bodenner is quoting from Catholic.com, and this I found revealing:

[W]e must reject sin, including homosexual behavior—that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law.

Now, divine law is an iffy sort of thing -- there seem to be as many "divine laws" as there are divinities, and anyone who has studied religion in any depth, particularly those faiths outside one's own, knows this. Even more ludicrous is the Church's repeated insistence on "natural law," a construct that is wholly theological and not only has nothing to do with nature, but flies in the face of observed fact. (I mean, come on -- monkeys masturbate, probably for the same reasons people do: they're horny and bored. So what's "intrinsically disordered" about it?)

I am put in mind of nothing more than a dictum that I ran across in my reading at one point, about the role of religion as a political instrument for maintaining those in power in their comfortable positions, which was expressed very succinctly by the author (and regrettably, due to the erosion of my bear trap-like memory by the inevitable advance of years, I don't remember who it was or where I ran across this gem): Control sex and you control the people. The Christian churches, thanks to the pernicious influence of St. Paul, have made controlling sex -- for everyone else, at least -- one of their primary purposes for the past 2,000 years. (Remember, by all reports, Paul didn't like sex -- unless it came with a rich widow.)

Rather than fostering any true understanding on the part of their followers into the moral ramifications of sexuality, the churches have opted for fear -- the first resort of those who have no substance to advance, as we can well see from the condition of our own political discourse. And, I might point out, it is the Roman Catholic Church in particular that has proven itself incapable of understanding morality in any real sense, particularly when a legitimately moral stance might erode its power.

There are those who will claim that by attacking their churches, I am attacking their religion. Nothing could be further from the truth: being a believer myself, and one whose religion recognizes that there are many ways that lead to the one Truth, I'm not prepared to condemn religious belief out of hand. Churches, however, are another story: no matter what their claims, they are purely man-made institutions (and for the overwhelming majority of such institutions, that is the literal truth), and their doctrines are no better than any other manifestation of human thought, and worse than many. We'd best keep in mind that they are flawed, imperfect as we are imperfect, and should be understood in the context of their times and their political aims, because they are as much political as anything else.

So, take Catholic doctrine on homosexual behavior for what it's worth: it is, after all, a human creation, based on nothing so much as a stray Bible verse, which may or may not have been interpreted correctly, used as a gloss to dress up the Church's overriding definition of humanity, which as far as I've been able to figure out, equates fairly closely with the term "breeding stock."

(Afterthought: Regarding "natural law," it strikes me that this is a deeply flawed doctrine developed from unfounded assumptions based on an imperfect understanding of nature and its workings -- or it might be more accurate to say "a complete disregard of nature and its workings." Remember that Nature fell from grace with humanity, but Nature, I'm told, is not redeemable, Teilhard de Chardin notwithstanding. Think about that for awhile.)

More Persian Music, and Some Thoughts on Origins

This time, classical. One thing I found interesting: listen to the melody in the opening segment, before the vocals begin. Could be Irish, couldn't it?

Merritt Ruhlen, a linguist who teaches at one of my alma maters, wrote a very interesting book titled The Origin of Language: Tracing the Evolution of the Mother Tongue, in which he posits the existence of a real Ur-Sprache, a single language from which all other languages derived. It's not a new idea, apparently having support among a sizable number of linguists, and I found it intriguing. (While fully realizing that the book is in part polemic: Ruhlen seems to have a woody for the Indo-European supremacists, and with good reason. He makes a convincing case.)

And I mentioned a couple of posts ago my own experience with music: my range has broadened considerably in the past few years, and the piece highlighted above brings one of my perennial conundrums to the fore: especially when dealing with Irish and Nordic traditional music, I see many, many correspondences and sometimes almost identical elements. Of course, for centuries the British Isles and Scandinavia were linked, by the Viking raiders if for no other reason. (Don't forget that Knut the Great was not the only Dane to sit on the English throne. And Dublin was founded by the Vikings.) Given the movements of peoples in prehistoric -- and even historic times, and taking that back a few millennia, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find even more correspondences. Hearing passages of the piece above, and thinking back to "traditional" music from the Balkans and medieval music from the Iberian peninsula, might there not be an "Ur-Musik" with characteristics that we can still hear today?

Add in the processes of folklore as outlined by Joseph W. Campbell in The Flight of the Wild Gander, with constant intercultural feedback as a basic element, and you have an intriguing question, no?

(But keep in mind that in the music of Ireland, Scandinavia, India, Persia, and all the other places I mentioned above, we're dealing with Indo-Europeans. But still, I bet if you were able to dig a little farther. . . .)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Kazuya Minekura's Araiso Private High School Student Council Executive Committee (Anime)

Kazuya Minekura is the creator of Saiyuki, one of my all-time favorite manga and anime series. Araiso Private High School, etc. is a comic anime that -- well, it's hard to describe, but I'll try.

The Executive Committee of the Student Council is the body charged with maintaining peace and order on the school campus -- the enforcers, as it were. Headed by Katsuragi, the group includes Kubota and Takitou, who travel together and are the focus of the story; Murota, a huge young man who always seems to be working out; Matsubara and Ainoura, whose specialties are hard to figure out; and Fujiwara, who is hopelessly in love with Kubota and winds up always being low man on the totem pole..

The first episode centers on the school ball-game tournament, and the efforts of Ootsuka, the leader of the school's less desirable element, to get revenge on Kubota and Takitou for repeatedly thwarting his petty criminality -- usually at great embarrassment to him. Needless to say, Ootsuka and his followers don't get things their way. The prize here is an appearance by Igarashi, the school's doctor, who obviously has the hots for Kubota and whom Takitou accuses of being a transvestite. It turns out she's into S&M, much to Ootsuka's dismay.

The second episode involves a rash of strange occurrences, and the inevitable ghost stories, on campus. It turns out that some of the ghosts are real.

I love the character designs in this one, which take Minekura's typical drawing style and add a little bit of clarity. One thing that struck me especially is the way characters smile -- there's is something fundamentally appealing about those smiles, even Ootsuka's. The contrast between Takitou, small, energetic, high-key, and Kubota, tall, taciturn, and quiet, is engaging. The subtext between them is interesting, and leaves a lot of room for interpretation -- they are either playing just to yank everyone's chains, or the play is masking real feelings. We never know, but it's fun to speculate. Igarashi is a delight, as are all the characters -- all the seiyuu get high marks for this one -- the delivery of the lines is half the appeal, and everyone is perfectly on target. (In fact, I can just sit and listen to the spoken dialogue on this one -- it's that appealing.)

Minekura has used Kubota and Takitou as the main characters in Wild Adapter a manga series of a decidedly dark cast. Their relationship in that one is very complex and somewhat tangled, and when I get around to finishing it (so many manga, so little time!), I may discuss it here.

This one is a treat, and only two episodes, running somewher ein the vicinity of 50-55 minutes total. It doesn't seem to have been released on DVD in the U.S., but there are fansubs online.

Here's the closing titles to give you a feel for the thing:


Director: Shinji Satoh
Screenplay: Mami Watanabe
Music: Koichiro Kameyama
Original Manga: Kazuya Minekura
Character Design: Hiroyuki Horiuchi
Art director: Norifumi Nakamura, Takeshi Waki
Animation director: Hiroyuki Horiuchi
Director of Photography: Akinobu Majima
Producer: Sanae Mitsugi (Tokuma Shoten), Takeshi Oikawa (MOVIC), Takeyoshi Matsushita (Tokuma Shoten), Yutaka Takahashi (MOVIC)
Animation producer: Atsushi Tanaka
Assistant Animation Director: Kumiko Shishido, Yoshiko Nakajima
Color design: Makiko Nishidate
Production Administrator: Daisuke Hagihara (MOVIC), Kenta Nishikawaji (MOVIC), Ryouta Hayashi (Tokuma Shoten)
Production Cooperation: Sawako Oshio (Tokuma Shoten)
Sound Direction: Jun Watanabe
Theme Song Performance: Hideo Ishikawa, Toshiyuki Morikawa


Hideo Ishikawa as Tokitoh Minoru
Toshiyuki Morikawa as Kubota Makoto
Akira Sasanuma as Matsubara Jun
Atsushi Kisaichi as Fujiwara Yusuke
Ken Narita as Matsumoto Takahisa
Kousuke Toriumi as Ainoura Seiichi
Nobuo Tobita as Tachibana Haruka
Tomoko Kawakami as Katsuragi Kazumi
Tomoyuki Shimura as Toshihiko Murota
Yuko Kobayashi as Igarashi Tohru

(Please note: The only cast list I can find seems to be incomplete. If I ever find a complete one, I'll add the missing names.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Music Video

But maybe not what you were expecting from me. I have some acquaintance with Indian music and slightly more with early and traditional Iberian and Balkan music in which the Islamic influence is apparent, but I don't know all that much about music from the Middle East. This is wonderful -- the video is almost eight and half minutes, and you don't notice:

From a reader at Daily Dish:

The Iranian trio Niyaz blends traditional Persian music with a modern electronica sound. Azam Ali, Carmen Rizzo, and Loga Ramin Torkian are very cool ambassadors of their culture, IMHO. This performance is one of my favorites, filmed a couple of years ago in LA.

The lead singer, Azam Ali, is a great artist in her own right. She has been a featured vocalist in many film scores in recent years, notably "300" and "Matrix Revolutions". (Also see her earlier work as half of the group Vas, with whom she made 4 albums.) I don't know how popular Niyaz or Azam Ali are in Iran, but their music is absolutely superb - not to mention sensual, even erotic - and I'm a fairly picky classical musician working for the Catholic Church.

As far a music is concerned, I'm fairly omnivorous -- my collection at this point contains everything from reconstructions of Greek banquet music, ca. 450 BCE, to John Luther Adams, Terry Riley, Richard Einhorn and Michael Nyman to German medieval electropop to country rock to classic '80s pop to Celtic and Nordic trad (and not so trad) to Mozart, Mahler, Beethoven and Brahms to Native American-based New Age and on from there.

Check out the post -- there's also a clip from the 300 soundtrack.

And leave a comment -- What kind of music do you have in your collection?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging

will probably be delayed. My Friday schedule no longer leaves me much time to put together a post, and I'm considering moving the whole thing. Maybe Saturday, maybe Thursday.

I'll let you know.

The Politics Is The Policy

I don't really have a point of entry for anything this morning, except to note that the problems with getting a health-care reform package through Congress are not really about the substance of the package, but about the political maneuvering. A key point is the Republican strategy of "kill everything":

Later in his interview with Hewitt, Inhofe also revealed why the GOP strategy to “slow down” health care is really an effort to “kill it.” “If he is unsuccessful — which I anticipate and will predict he is — on getting a vote prior to the August recess, then I would say there’s no way in the world they’re going to get this done this year,” said Inhofe. “And next year would not be any easier.”

That's an interesting post, with a couple of audio clips that you should listen to. What amazes me is that Inhofe is dumb enough to come right out and say it. (Well, considering that it's Inhofe, maybe not.)

And where are the Democrats on this? Dday has a report that, regrettably, doesn't surprise me at all. It's really too complex for me to excerpt it, so read the whole thing.

Hullaballoo has been tracking this whole thing very closely. Keep an eye on them for what's going on behind the scenes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

If Ya Can't Beat 'Em, Burn 'Em

Another book-burning attempt, although to be fair, the guy who wants to burn the book isn't even a resident of the community in question -- he's just some Christianist wing-nut from Milwaukee.

Outside West Bend, the fight caught the attention of Robert Braun, who, with three other Milwaukee-area men, filed a claim against West Bend calling for one of the library's books to be publicly burned, along with financial damages.

The four plaintiffs -- who describe themselves as "elderly" in their complaint --- claim their "mental and emotional well-being was damaged by [the] book at the library."

The claim, unconnected to the Maziarkas, says the book "Baby Be-bop" -- a fictional piece about a homosexual teenager -- is "explicitly vulgar, racial and anti-Christian."
(Emphasis added)

Can I repeat this? They don't live there, and it's questionable whether they've ever even visited that library. What we're left with is a favorite Christianist claim: they suffer injury because something that they don't approve of exists. Remember the infamous NOM "Coming Storm" ad?

The core dispute is somewhat knottier. As usual, some parents objected to something available to their children. Being the kind of people they are, instead of just telling their children that they are not allowed to read those books, they demanded that access to the books be restricted for everyone.

The strife began in February when West Bend couple Jim and Ginny Maziarka objected to some of the content in the city library's young-adult section. They later petitioned the library board to move any sexually explicit books -- the definition of which would be debated -- from the young-adult section to the adult section and to label them as sexually explicit.

Ginny Maziarka, 49, said the books in the section of the library aimed at children aged 12 to 18 included homosexual and heterosexual content she thought was inappropriate for youths.

She and her husband also asked the library to obtain books about homosexuality that affirmed heterosexuality, such as titles written by "ex-gays," Maziarka said.

"All the books in the young-adult zone that deal with homosexuality are gay-affirming. That's not balance," she said.

Of course, one of the basic objections is that the library makes books available to young people that are "gay-affirming" while not including titles written by professional homophobes. "Balance"? Can I make a statement here? When the conflict is between reality and ignorant opinion based on lies and distortions, it's not a question of "balance" -- it's a question of factual truth versus untruths, no matter how popular the latter might be. This is something that seems pretty basic to me, although it seems to elude a lot of people, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine, and a few others of note. And has anyone pointed out to this idiot that heterosexuality doesn't need "affirming"? I mean, when's the last time a kid had to come out to his parents as straight and hope that they would accept him? Sheesh!

Fortunately, there is someone in this community with her head screwed on straight:

Maria Hanrahan, also a West Bend mom, set up a rival blog to argue the other side.

"I'm against any other party telling me what's appropriate for my child and what isn't," said Hanrahan, 40, who also created a West Bend Parents for Free Speech group. "We don't mean to say these are appropriate for everyone, but we don't feel they should be set apart from other materials or restricted from the young-adult section."


And suddenly we see some moderation:

"We want parents to decide whether they want their children to have access to these books ... and we want the library's help in identifying [them through labeling and moving]," Maziarka said. "It's just common sense."

Why don't the Maziarkas start with telling their own children what they have permission to read, and leaving other parents to make that decision for their kids?

I've reviewed a fair amount of YA literature in the past few years, and it's a lot different than the stuff I was reading when I was a kid -- it's the difference between this and this. Let's just face it, the world is a lot more complicated and much scarier than it was then, and hiding things from kids is doing them no service. I think parents need to be there for their children, to talk about these issues honestly and openly. It's no stretch to say that you can always point out that these are your beliefs and your standards, and others may see things differently, but to insist that your children can't have all the information is doing them real harm.

And to insist that someone else's kid can't have access to information is beyond the pale.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Well, who would have guessed?

From lambert at Corrente, this choice bit on the public option:

When the “public option” campaign began, its leaders promoted a huge “Medicare-like” program that would enroll about 130 million people. Such a program would dwarf even Medicare, which, with its 45 million enrollees, is the nation’s largest health insurer, public or private. But today “public option” advocates sing the praises of tiny “public options” contained in congressional legislation sponsored by leading Democrats that bear no resemblance to the original model.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the “public options” described in the Democrats’ legislation might enroll 10 million people and will have virtually no effect on health care costs, which means the “public options” cannot, by themselves, have any effect on the number of uninsured. But the leaders of the “public option” movement haven’t told the public they have abandoned their original vision. It’s high time they did.

France spends half as much as we do on health care -- and that's the second highest figure. France has a public/private system, eveyone is covered, and by all reports care is excellent and efficiently administered. Somehow, American can't manage something like that.

Jane Hamsher has a take on this as well.

Obama's numbers on health care are tanking. And much as I'd love to believe it's because he hasn't embraced a public plan aggressively enough, it's probably more due to the relentless hammering he's getting from the GOP over the cost. It's a cumulative bill, as the cost of the bank bailouts and the auto company bailouts and the IMF bailout and the big coal bailout and the stimulus start to add up in the public mind. From a political perspective, Obama wants it off his plate.

And that means that the calls from Joe Lieberman, the Republicans and the Blue Dogs to "slow things down" are toxic. He doesn't want this dragging on, with each day giving Boehner and DeMint more time to hammer him. He wants it done.

Which works out well for progressives -- because getting a bill passed in the House and the Senate before the recess means that members of Congress won't go home and get pounded by millions of dollars' worth of ads that might change their votes. It also means that Obama needs to shore up the base, which means that a public plan is very much on his agenda.

But if one of them has to go, he'll sacrifice the public plan for speed. So, I'm not quite where DDay is. I think the battle is still very much on.

I'd like to get Digby's thoughts on this as well, but I'm losing focus on it, and she's written a lot, along with Dday, on the issues here. Maybe later.

At any rate, what we're being promised -- or what it seems we're being promised -- isn't even being discussed in Congress, and the guy we elected to lead us is dying to get out from under.

Yeah,and today is Wednesday.


Here's a piece from NYT that points out at least part of the mess that's being made:

This is the crux of the issue, economists say: the current fee-for-service system needs to be remade. The administration has made some progress, by proposing a powerful new Medicare overseer who could force the program to pay for good results and stop paying for bad ones.

But even a strong Medicare plan won’t be enough. Reform will need to attack the piecemeal system in numerous ways. Among the most promising, which Mr. Obama has resisted, is a limit on tax subsidies for the costliest health insurance plans. This limit would give households and employers a reason to become smarter shoppers.

Above all, reform can’t revolve around politely asking the rest of the medical system to become more like the Cleveland Clinic.

In recent weeks, polls have shown that a solid majority of Americans support the stated goals of health reform. Most want the uninsured to be covered and want the option of a government-run insurance plan. Yet the polls also show that people are worried about the package emerging from Congress.

Maybe they have a point.

I'm worried about what Congress is coming up with. I'm beginning to think we all should be -- except, of course, for the insurance companies.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beach Weather

Update: Reader PietB has pointed out that this could very likely be satire, which I suspect is the case -- at least, I hope so. In that case, my remarks about the writer's psychology obviously don't pertain. My reaction to the attitudes, however, remains the same. With that in mind, read on:

This rather bizarre article by Paula Marantz Cohen came my way via The Daily Dish, thanks to Conor Friedersdorf. Although I try very hard not to psychoanalyze people on the basis of what they've written (unlike some Freudians I've known), here it's almost impossible to avoid the temptation.

Even as a child, I understood this. As I ran under the sprinkler in my electric orange two-piece, I knew that it was one thing for me, with my hairless legs and flat chest, to wear such a scanty, silly thing, and quite another for my neighbor with her gargantuan boobs, my piano teacher with her varicose veins, and my dentist with his protuberant beer belly to do the same. Even my own parents — relatively attractive, fit people — were an embarrassment. I could see that while some grownups looked really bad in bathing suits, all grownups looked unseemly. Here, I vaguely intuited, was another example of adult hypocrisy. Breasts and penises, subject to so much discretion under normal circumstances, were somehow allowed to be baldly delineated in the vicinity of sand and sun.

Offhand, I'd say this woman has some real body issues. And not just about her body -- you have to wonder if she insists her partner dress in a "seemly" fashion when having sex.

Full disclosure: I don't particularly like wearing clothes to begin with, but I'm really sensitive to cold, so living in Chicago, I'm sort of stuck with it. (And please don't ask me why I have more clothes than God -- I really don't have an answer, except that variety is the spice of life.) It's sort of indicative of my attitude, though, that my wardrobe until quite recently was about 80% tank tops and skimpy little shorts.

It's not only beachwear that Ms. Cohen considers "unseemly" (such a delicious, antique sort of word):

I should note that swimming is not the only activity whose outfits I find unseemly. I feel the same way about football and ballet. Different as these two activities are, they share an X-rated taste in costume. When I go to the ballet do I really want to see the bulging codpieces of all those Nureyev wannabes? When I watch the Super Bowl, do I want to stare at so many well-muscled butts? It’s not that I’m a prude (well, maybe I am), it’s just that when I watch ballet and football, I don’t want to be schooled in the fine points of male anatomy. It’s distracting.

Frankly, a bulging package and a tight ass are not what I'd consider "fine points" -- that's just a glimpse of the possibilities. "Distracting"? Maybe Ms. Cohen should be focusing on the game or the performance, rather than concentrating on male anatomy.

And maybe that's part of Ms. Cohen's problem: she, like so many Americans, seems unable to separate nudity from sex. Granted, it's a fuzzy boundary, but any adult should be able to pull that one off: not every revealing image is prurient. In fact, some are downright anti-erotic.

As for the aging naked on Europe's beaches, that's where Ms. Cohen gets totally offensive -- added into her mix of prudery and outrage is some good old-fashioned American exceptionalism. This is choice:

I acknowledge that as Americans we’re ahead of Europeans, who have reduced the bathing suit to a jock strap, for men and women alike. But just because Europeans act like damn fools doesn’t excuse us from being a few inches of spandex less foolish. Haven’t we learned anything about the Euro-capacity for knuckleheaded behavior after two world wars?

Who on earth has the gall to claim that America is ahead of anyone on healthy attitudes towards sex and the body? We're not quite as bad as the Saudis, although we'd probably be closer to them if we didn't take such delight in guilt. As far as I can see, the Europeans (and, believe it or not, the Japanese, as modest as they tend to be) have much healthier attitudes in those areas than we do. (And do I need to point out that Europeans hardly have a hammerlock on starting wars?)

As one who habitually wears something that is little more than a jock strap to the beach (actually, in terms of actual fabric used, it's probably somewhat less than a jockstrap -- although very elegant, if I do say so myself), I find her objections somewhat ludicrous. As for the age/physical condition factor, can I hazard the guess that Ms. Cohen has been watching too many commercials -- or maybe spending too much time looking at the ads in Vogue. It's not until you're willing to take people as they are that you begin to see the beauty in them.

Friedersdorf mentions one point that I take as central:

Oh please. If by "unseemly" the author means that adults in bathing suits are transgressing against accepted standards, she is obviously wrong, and if she means something more -- that the human body is inherently shameful, and needs to be more thoroughly covered -- her argument is scarcely better.

First off, her "argument" is largely incoherent -- to be perfectly frank, it strikes me as little more than spoiled, self-centered posturing. I take it as a tantrum, and nothing more. But the issue noted is the Judaeo-Christian idea that somehow having a body is cause for shame, which seems to grow out of the idea that being human is somehow awful. (Yes, I'm talking about "original sin" and all that other Old Testament crap -- which is nothing more than manipulation -- none of which I believe in.)

I'm hardly young any more, but if I've ever been reluctant to appear nude, it's been a matter of vanity, nothing else. (I've been an actor, a dancer, and a photographer's model. "Modesty" no longer really occupies a place in my vocabulary, at least as one of my own personal attributes. And I do have a couple of nude self-portraits of me at my heaviest -- which for most people would be maybe a little beefier than normal -- because there was something to say about that.)

There is one legitimate point to Cohen's concerns, which she doesn't voice and I doubt she's even aware of: observing someone naked is, ultimately, an invasion of their privacy. If they give permission by wearing scanty clothing or appearing nude, then no invasion. And if you're worried about the flip side of that -- appearing scantily clad is invading others' privacy -- well, don't look. It's really very easy not to be offended in this world.

Bottom line: this is an incredibly vapid, petulant piece of writing. Why am I spending so much energy writing about it?

(PS -- there is a picture that goes with this piece that somehow got lost in the editing process, and I can't reattach it from this computer. So you'll have to wait for that one.)

As promised:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Telling It Like It Is

A blistering editorial at NYT on the Republicans and Sotomayor. This is one of the more polite parts:

[T]he Sotomayor show was still rich in historical significance. Someday we may regard it as we do those final, frozen tableaus of Pompeii. It offered a vivid snapshot of what Washington looked like when clueless ancien-régime conservatives were feebly clinging to their last levers of power, blissfully oblivious to the new America that was crashing down on their heads and reducing their antics to a sideshow as ridiculous as it was obsolescent.

The hearings were pure “Alice in Wonderland.” Reality was turned upside down. Southern senators who relate every question to race, ethnicity and gender just assumed that their unreconstructed obsessions are America’s and that the country would find them riveting. Instead the country yawned.

These people are a joke, and the New York Times, at least, has finally figured it out. I'm not so sure of the Washington Post, which just doesn't seem to get it. Get this quote from Sen. Jeff Sessions:

Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, said the White House and Democrats have been hobbled because, despite Democrats' strong victories in recent elections, public attitudes have not moved correspondingly. "The left's view of judges is not supported by the people," Sessions said.

WTF? This was plopped down into an article about the "liberal" reaction to the nomination and the confirmation hearings, and it's another example of the reliability of WaPo in acting as a stenographer for the right. (Anytime a right-winger like Sessions says something about "the people," you know he's making it up. The fact that our Democratic president got damned near a landslide, and the Republicans have lost 11 Senate seats in the last two elections doesn't seem to say much to Sessions about what the people think.)

(Oh, about Jeff Sessions: Matt Yglesias has has this to say:

I would pay good money to hear Sonia Sotomayor say, “Senator Sessions, I think it’s ironic to be facing these questions from a man whose judicial nomination was rejected by this very committee on the grounds that he’s a huge racist.”)

Full disclosure: I have not been watching the confirmation hearings, nor really following the news reports all that closely, so I'm not giving out any opinions on Sotomayor or her ability to serve on the Court. I think she's probably competent, and pretty mainstream, and not nearly the judicial activist that Roberts and Scalia are. Bottom line: I'm as lukewarm about her as I was about Obama.)

About That Fort Worth Bar Raid

Jim Burroway has an update -- it seems the TABC agents were not following policy. From the Dallas Voice:

The administrator of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said this week that two TABC agents involved in a raid of the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 committed multiple “clear violations” of agency policy.

In an exclusive phone interview with Dallas Voice on Wednesday, July 15, TABC Administrator Alan Steen also said the supervisor directly responsible for the two agents — a sergeant in TABC’s Fort Worth district office — announced his retirement last week in the wake of the raid and amid an ongoing internal investigation. . . .

Steen said he doesn’t think there was sufficient cause for the inspection, which apparently was based on the fact that one person had been arrested for public intoxication at the Rainbow Lounge on Thursday, June 25. Steen also indicated that the eight law enforcement officers and the paddy wagon that were present likely constituted an excessive show of force.

“You can read that policy and you can figure out really quickly, TABC shouldn’t have even been there,” Steen said. “If our guys would have followed the damn policy, we wouldn’t even have been there. … We have these conversations all the time, and we don’t participate in those kinds of inspections when there’s not probable cause or reasonable suspicion or some public safety matter to be inspected.”

A few bad apples? Sounds like it.

And a lesson to those who counsel that we should wait until someone wants to give us what should be ours already: if you don't make noise, you don't get action.

That seems clear enough.

(Follow the link and read the complete article -- Steen seems to be very anxious to set things right, including building some transparency into the process [are you listening, Mr. Obama?], and I think that's a very positive sign.)

Reviews in Brief: Momoko Tenzen's Suggestive Eyes

Suggestive Eyes is another one of Momoko Tenzen's collections of related stories, this time taking place in a university setting.

Megumu Okazaki is a gradate student who works for one of the professors. He's been going out with a third-year student, Hisashi Kina, who caught him on the rebound. As might be imagined, this hasn't served to put a firm foundation under their relationship, and both men are wondering just what's going on. The first two stories follow them as they're trying to sort it out.

The third tale, "Don't Let It Be Light Yet," segues very nicely into the second couple featured in this collection, the aforementioned professor, Shibata, and the "professor next door," Kikugawa. They're obviously close, although with her usual reticence, Tenzen doesn't actually give us the full picture until much later. This story involves a stray dog and her litter of puppies, and the death of Kikugawa's cat, who died a year before, leaving him devastated.

The final story, "On the Road to Love," gives us a flashback to Shibata and Kikugawa fifteen years before, when they first met. Shibata has recently been dumped by his boyfriend, and Kikugawa finds himself intrigued by the younger student -- he comes down with a cold, and Shibata decides to take care of him.

These are quiet, reflective stories, particularly the two about Shibata and Kikugawa. They partake of Tenzen's elliptical storytelling style, with dialogue often seeming to run in a parallel track to the action portrayed. The drawings are typically Tenzen, not quite as spare as those in Seven (this one is later, originally published in 2006), but still beautiful and marvelously expressive. She's also lost that stiffness in the figures that I noticed in Seven and The Paradise on the Hill.

As always with Tenzen, recommended without a qualm: no major drama, no major angst, just charming, low-key stories, not particularly romantic in themselves, but somehow offering what is almost the essence of romance. She's hard to explain that way, so I suggest you just kick back and enjoy.

From Juné.

The Banking Fiasco

If you want a good commentary/analysis of what's happened in the banking industry since we bailed their asses out, here's one by dday at Hullaballoo.

Read it and weep.

The Kindle Fiasco

The irony here is the two books that were pulled. From NYT:

In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

Now, this story has hit the blogosphere big-time, but it seems that Amazon had a legitimate reason for the recall:

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

First, I find it strange that anyone can add a book to the Kindle inventory without it being vetted by Amazon -- given the fluster over copyrights that we've been subjected to since the advent of file-sharing and the like, that would seem to be one of the first concerns for anyone developing such a system. So, dumb move number 1.

Second, to remove the books remotely and unilaterally, without notification, is just a little bit arrogant, done't we think? Apparently, that sentiment got back to Amazon:

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.

Dumb move number 2. Tell people what you're going to do and why you have to do it, FTLOP.

And it appears that Amazon has violated its own terms of service:

Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content.”

Frankly, I never had any intention of buying a Kindle anyway. I spend enough time reading from a screen, and these old eyes get really tired. And I like books. I like the physical feel of a book in my hands, I like turning pages, I like the whole experience of reading a book. And I like the fact that once I buy it, it's mine. Forever. No matter what.

Does anyone really think I'm going to spend a few hundred dollars on a reading device that remains under their control? I don't think so.

Chalk one up for tradition.

Our Loss

Hilzoy is hanging it up.

She's one of the people on my read daily list, and probably one of the two that I respect the most. She has the same attitude toward the mechanics of commentary that I do -- fact check, link to primary sources, lay it out as evenhandedly as possible and let people make their decisions. And while she hasn't been as combative as I am (OK, I admit it -- when I see the same deliberate lie being thrown out again and again, I get pissed), we really do have the same attitude toward public discourse, albeit couched in different terms. Given our different circumstances, that's not really much of a surprise: she's all for treating those who disagree with respect, as am I, unless respect has been taken off the table, which, for the overwhelming majority of the people I'm commenting on, is the case (James Dobson, you know we're talking about you).

And I think I've also tried to keep it based in reality, as she has been so successful in doing: Hilzoy's another one who knows to ask the next question and not accept pat answers.

I'm not as patient as Hilzoy, nor, no matter how hard I try, as well informed, but she's been one of my role models in this sphere. Miss her already.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another one of those days. . . .

I've been reading the news and commentary, and there's nothing I want to discuss here -- I'd just be repeating myself, and even I get tired of that after a while.

But -- I found a new AMV that I like, so you get to watch that. My favorite anime, and a good song from one of my favorite groups:

It's another perfect pairing from this creator -- Soubi and Ritsuka from Loveless and "My Immortal" from Evanescence. The song catches the relationship almost perfectly.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wait a minute. . . .

It's been that kind of week. Too busy doing the wrong things, to unfocused to do the right things.

and my damned cantaloupe froze.

I'm taking the rest of the day off. Tomorrow -- maybe.

OK -- I'll be nice. One of my first exposures to Evanescence, and a very nice AMV from Ai no kusabe:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Support Terrorism: Join ALG and NRN

I keep getting these action alerts from Adam Bitely, who's with something called the NitRight Nation, and Bill Wilson, of Americans for Limited Government, demanding that we call our senators to kill a piece of legislation designed to thwart domestic terrorists.

From Carter Clews of NetRight Nation:

The highly charged "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009" (S. 909) would make it a federal crime to violently attack anyone you hate.

Unless, of course, the anyone you hate happens to be a white heterosexual.

Lie #1. The Act increases penalties for anyone attacked because of race or actual or perceived sexual orientation.

And if your readers are as stupid as you hope, you have to repeat it to make sure they get it:

That's right, S. 909 -- aka, the "hate crimes bill" -- being pushed through by the Obama Administration as one of its highest legislative priorities would make it a federal crime to commit a violent act against anyone based on race or gender orientation -- unless the race was Caucasian and the orientation was towards the opposite sex.

This is fairly disgusting for any rational human being.

The same screed appears at Americans for Limited Government's website. I'm not going to link -- I don't link to hate groups. But here's the meat of the comment I left:

So let me see if I'm understanding you correctly: you support violence against racial, religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, but only against minorities, and especially if it has the effect of terrorizing others in those communities. You could have said it much more concisely.

At that site, your comments must be "authorized." Want to bet this one never sees the light of day?

Gods, these people are vile.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Stick It To 'Em

A nice post from Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog about Rush Limbaugh, racism, and the Republicans. It involves an ad being run on Spanish-language television:

It's about time the Republicans took ownership owned this sort of nastiness. Add me to the list of bloggers endorsing the campaign.

And about Sotomayor: the hearings started yesterday. They're not about Sotomayor, from all reports. They're about Republican smear tactics.

Did we really expect anything different?

Monday, July 13, 2009

David Brooks' Thighs

OK -- that's not something I think about much, to be perfectly honest, but given the blogosphere lately, there doesn't seem to be room to think of much else, unless you're really in to Michael Jackson being dead. And in today's Daily Dish, we have Conor Friedersdorf defending Brooks against Hilzoy.

As a straight man, I can assure Hilzoy that we rarely if ever have that kind of experience (though we're vaguely aware that women fare worse, despite the fact that many aren't fond of talking about the matter in mixed company). That's why I think she's being entirely too hard on Mr. Brooks in her next paragraphs. . . .

In fact, Mr. Brooks made the remark that offended Hilzoy as a throwaway laugh line in an off-the-cuff television interview -- the kind of setting where it's easy to make characterizations based on your life experiences without being perfectly attuned to the fact that other people experience some aspect of the what you're describing differently. Upon reflection, I imagine David Brooks would grasp that women are touched in the way he describes, and perhaps he wouldn't cast that particular act as an example of contemporary societal decline.

Do you see something here? Somehow, making a remark like that as a "throwaway laugh line" strikes me as exactly the thing that Hilzoy is condemning. To be quite honest, an experience such as Brooks related is offensive, period.

And to be even more honest, as a gay man, I can top both Brooks and Hilzoy: I have had not only thighs but other portions of my anatomy grasped, fondled, and otherwise handled without invitation under circumstances in which there was no possibility of misunderstanding the availability of said anatomy. Contrary to what Brooks, Friedersdorf and other straight guys might think (depending on the degree of credence they bestow on the fantasies expressed by their colleagues on the right), this is not something I welcome, nor, I think, do most gay men.

Personal space is personal space, and to invade it without invitation is asking for it -- unless, I guess, the space involved belongs to David Brooks. My typical response in the situations I described above was to offer to break the offending appendage.

One question I have to ask, which I haven't seen asked anywhere else: Why the hell didn't Brooks tell the asshole to keep his effing hands to himself? Works wonders, especially if you say it loudly.

Although I suspect the answer to that one would reveal a great deal about why the relationship between the press and government officials is so fundamentally corrupt.
Civil Rights Are Civil Rights -- Aren't They

I got some flack last November for an admittedly angry post about the polls that showed 70% of African American voters voted in favor of Prop 8. Granted, the post was somewhat intemperate, and my more measured comment later pointed out that a massive outreach and education program is necessary to counter the entrenched homophobia in the black community. This interview with Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP only points it up:

Contra Aravosis, I think that Jealous is being quite honest and reasonable in his response. NAACP can't exercise leadership in the area of gay rights until its membership has reached a consensus. I question whether it should be leading in that particular fight at all -- we have oiur own rights orgainzations that need to show some leadership.

The one thing that bothers me is his comment that the civil rights struggles are not the same, and I wish the interviewer had followed up on that one. Yes, they differ in detail -- blacks haven't had to fight for the right to have their families recognized by the State, at least not since Emancipation -- but they come from the same basis: a pattern of legal discrimination that has no rational basis. I'd like to know more of what his thinking is that led to that statement.

It's quite obvious to me, at least, that there is still a lot of learning to be done in the black community, and an automatic charge of racism against white gays isn't going to convince me of much: that seems to be as much a reaction from the autonomic nervous system in some quarters as anything else, and I've not seen any solid evidence that such is the case. In my own experience, just let me note that for years my favorite hangout was a small, "neighborhood" type bar on the North Side that was very diverse -- white, black, latino, the occasional asian, transgender, female impersonators, even the occasional straight Cubs fans who wandered in after a game. I've also heard the charges against other gay bars on the North Side, but never witnessed anything that would cause me to give them credence. I really need to see some evidence: yelling "racist" as a first response just doesn't cut it. (I might add that my remarks in the post I mentioned above were characterized that way, and I am probably one of the least prejudiced people you are going to find. That's the way my parents raised me, and it stuck. Skin color is simply not a criterion by which I evaluate people.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Maki Naruto's Seikimatsu Darling, Anime

One commentator said that Seikimatsu Darling is the funniest BL anime ever, and I think he might be right. It's certainly a delight, and take it from me -- as someone who sits through comedies, dramas, what-have-you pretty much stone-faced -- you can't avoid at least cracking a smile -- and maybe even cracking up.

Ogata is in love with Takasugi, and finally goes to his friend Shikibu for advice -- Shikibu has a male lover, Tsutsumi, and so should be in a position to help Ogata out. The course of action is simple: Ogata invites Takasugi out on dates -- and Takasugi always accepts. Finally, on the way home one night, Ogata confesses. It turns out that Takasugi feels the same way toward him, but is afraid their feelings are too similar. Ogata's not quite sure what this means until Takasugi explains: who's gong to be the seme and who the uke? He then invites Ogata to spend a long weekend at an onsen (hot springs resort) owned by a friend: the gauntlet is down. Ogata talks Shikibu and Tsutsumi into "coincidentally" meeting them on the train, and off they go.

The comedy is a distinct and very funny satire on masculinity and the often ridiculous patterns of behavior it encourages: neither man is willing to give in and be the uke in this relationship, but they love each other so much that each just keeps trying to show off his good points and not admit to any weaknesses. And of course, the weaknesses eventually come out, but they don't seem to change anyone's feelings. Both protagonists are completely appealing, and Shikibu and Tsutsumi are perfect comic accompaniment.

The visual style is wonderful, although there are many chibi passages (I must be getting used to them -- they didn't bother me all that much). The character designs are wonderful -- all these big, hunky, adorable men running around, with lots of pecs and delts and biceps. Don't believe anyone who tells you that gorgeous guys can't be funny.

There's a short at the end of the episode, "End of the Century Rangers," with the five characters from the main story (Takagi is Ogata's coworker) as superheroes -- the "Darling 5" -- out to defeat a super-villain whose main weapon seems to be naruto, a kind of fish cake, used as a take-off on "Transformers." It's markedly more silly than the main story, and just as funny.

It's a short one -- one episode, at just under half an hour -- and doesn't seem to have been released in the U.S.


Screenplay: Shino Taira
Storyboard: Kenichi Maejima
Music: Harukichi Yamamoto
Original Manga: Maki Naruto
Character Design: Kazunori Iwakura
Animation director: Kazunori Iwakura
Supervising Director: Kenichi Maejima
Sound director: Fusanobu Fujiyama
Producer: Ken Mochizuki
Animation: Akihide Saitō, Eiji Ishimoto, Hidetoshi Namura, Hisashi Ishii, Kiyotaka Nakahara, Koji Moriyama, Michiko Yamamoto, Shino Takada, Syuji Sakamoto, Takashi Hyoudo
Art Coordinator: Hiroko Ito
Assistant producer: Shigeharu Sekiguchi
Background Art: Atsuki Betsumiya, Ayari Yake, Junichi Kuroda, Miyoko Kohama, Shoichi Shimomura, Takumi Honma, Yoshinori Hishinuma, Yukari Yasuda
Background Supervision: Takashi Waki
Color Key: Hiroko Ito
Cooperation: Aki Arakawa, Akiko Kusunose, Katsumi Satoh, Seiji Biblos
Editing: Harutoshi Ogata, Satoshi Terauchi, Yukiko Itou
In-Between Animation: Akihiro Fukui, Masaki Sekine, Rie Kaneko, Ryoko Yoshimura, Satoshi Nishimura, Yukako Tsuzuki
In-Between Check: Fusae Sato
Ink & Paint Checker: Hitomi Morishima, Naoyuki Sawada, Takashi Tomihata
Photography: Masaki Nakamura, Mitsue Motomiya, Motomitsu Hishino, Shigenari Nishi, Tatsuya Masuzawa
Photography Supervision: Hideo Okazaki
Production Assistant: Tomoharu Komiyama
Production Coodinator: Shinobu Tsunaki
Production Desk: Tetsuo Mikami
Production Manager: Yoshiyuki Matsuzaki
Recording engineer: Akiyoshi Yoda
Sound Effects: Mitsuru Kageyama
Sound Manager: Kouichi Iizuka
Special Effects: Takashi Maekawa
Theme Song Arrangement: Yasunori Tsuchida
Theme Song Composition: Yasuhiro Mizushima
Theme Song Lyrics: Arisu Satô
Video Editing: Ayumi Tabira


Kazuhiko Inoue as Yoichuroh Takasugi
Yasunori Matsumoto as Kohsaku Ogata
Hideyuki Hori as Yukari Shikibu
Juurouta Kosugi as Naoyuki Takagi
Tetsuya Iwanaga as Masayuki Tsutsumi

Health Care Link Dump

It's too multifaceted for me to get into today, but there are a number of good posts out there on health care. Don't worry, though -- it's a very small link dump.

To lead off, here's Digby the medical/insurance industry as an arm of Wall Street. From a Bill Moyers interview with Wendell Potter:

Looking back over his long career, Potter sees an industry corrupted by Wall Street expectations and greed. According to Potter, insurers have every incentive to deny coverage — every dollar they don't pay out to a claim is a dollar they can add to their profits, and Wall Street investors demand they pay out less every year. Under these conditions, Potter says, "You don't think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you're going to meet Wall Street's expectations."

Here's Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog on treatments that work versus treatments that cost a lot. She's focusing on a new treatment for prostate cancer costing billions to develop that is probably no more effective than what we already have.

There are a number of treatments for early-stage, slow-growth prostate cancer. These treatments range from “watchful waiting” — not treating the cancer at all, but just keeping an eye on it — to surgical removal of the prostate gland, to high-tech proton radiation therapy using a proton accelerator. The costs for the various treatments range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, there is little evidence that the more expensive treatments are any more effective than the cheap ones, including watchful waiting. Indeed, for an older patient, watchful waiting makes sense, as there is a high probability he will die of other natural causes before the prostate cancer becomes a problem for him. On the other hand, younger patients, meaning men under the age of 65, might benefit from more aggressive treatment. But which more aggressive treatment?

Having just been through three months of having my whizzer nuked five days a week, I feel qualified to comment on this one. The results were positive, but not definitive. I would have preferred another treatment that is cheaper and just as effective, but the hospital I was at doesn't do that one. One thing that O'Brien doesn't mention is side effects, which are a consideration when making a decision on therapy. I was intent on avoiding surgery at all costs, because the side effects are unacceptable and largely permanent, and it's only slightly less expensive than the radiation therapy I was undergoing. So now I'm back to the baseline -- watchful waiting. And, me being me, you'd better believe my doctors got grilled on effectiveness of the various treatments proposed. I live by one rule when dealing with professionals: they are professionals, they know the field, and their advice should be listened to. But how to proceed is my decision.

OK -- those two are required reading.


The nativist "Americans" who are against immigration, illegal or otherwise (all of whose ancestors were immigrants), seem to share a certain world view with their fellow travelers in the Republican party. (I don't think any of these people are Democrats, although perhaps the day is coming.) They share with the anti-gay religious nuts and the forced-birth "right to life" contingent a casual disregard for human life that I find chilling.

Here's an example, via Dave Neiwert at Crooks and Liars. You can watch the video if you've the stomach for it. Here's a bit of the commentary by the first "interviewee":

Baron: I say, give orders to shoot to kill, and kill any man, woman or child who comes across the border illegally. I'll bet you, you kill enough of them, right off the bat, people will stop coming over that way.


That's what I just said. Personally, I think a minefield would be good. Why build a fence when you can plant some mines?

Q: You just said that you would kill kids.

Baron: If they're being drug across the border, hell yes. The difference between those people and us -- Our country is No. 1. Theirs? Pffft!

These are the people Sarah Palin appeals to. This is the Republican base.

Is it any wonder that I no longer can in good conscience support Republican candidates for office?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging, Saturday Edition

From Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin come these reports (here and here) on the latest wrinkle in what I've been calling the Boies/Olson challenge to Prop 8.

I have to wonder what’s going on with three pro-gay groups who have petitioned the court to be admitted as parties to the case. The three groups — American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights — have asked the judge to allow them represent three gay community groups in the lawsuit seeking to overturn Proposition 8.

These same groups were among the eight who immediately opposed the lawsuit when it was first announced. Last week, they reversed their position and filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs, which is, I think, a very positive move. . . .

But now all of the sudden they want to become parties of the lawsuit itself, even though they wanted nothing to do with the move in the beginning.

The response of the Boies/Olson team has been cool, to say the least. From the letter from AFER to the three groups:

Even after you filed an amicus curiae brief urging the district court to grant our motion for a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of Prop. 8, you refused to characterize your position as one of “support.” Indeed, Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal went so far as to insist that we alter a press release that described your amicus curiae brief as “supporting” our suit. In response, we issued a second release addressing her concerns.

Pam Spaulding has also been covering this:

If these groups' direct involvement cause a delay in the courts because they failed to act earlier, then they shouldn't have direct involvement. But AFER is open to their consultation and assistance, and if that's the best resolve for a united front, then these groups need to accept their position and assist in fighting to the end for the common goal of full equality under federal law.

Read the comments on this post.

I think that we need to remember, as some of the commenters don't seem to have done, that Lambda Legal, ACLU, and NCLR are not HRC and GLAAD, etc. The former three organizations have been effective where the "national leadership" has not. However, I think that AFER is correct in accepting their expertise and support, and in insisting that they otherwise stay out of it. The case is in process, why in the hell do they want to be butting in now -- except that it looks as though the case might be successful and they screwed up by criticizing AFER to begin with.

Here's a comment by Chris Geidner with a slightly different take on the issue. However, looking at the text of the letter, it appears that Geidner is doing some editing here. I think I detect an agenda in his post.

The other big marriage case news this week is the Massachusetts case. Dale Carpenter has a good preliminary analysis:

The federal complaint in Commonwealth v. HHS was filed yesterday by Massachusetts, which is asking for federal recognition of its same-sex marriages, not for the invalidation of all state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Massachusetts makes two federalism-based constitutional claims against Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law.

The first claim is that Section 3 "violates the Tenth Amendment, exceeds Congress’s Article I powers, and runs afoul of the Constitution’s principles of federalism" by creating an extensive federal regulatory scheme in a field ("domestic relations") reserved exclusively to the states. Complaint at 22. That, says Massachusetts, interferes with a state's traditional authority to define marriage as it sees fit.

The second claim is that Section 3 "violates the Spending Clause" because it (a) induces the state to violate the Equal Protection Clause and because (b) "there is no nexus between discriminating against individuals in same-sex marriages and the purposes advanced by" specified federal programs. Complaint at 23-24.

The lawsuit is different from other pending challenges to Section 3, see here and here, because it's brought by a state, not gay couples, and because the core issue is federalism, not individual rights.

And, just to leave things on a light note, this story from Box Turtle Bulletin about Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz. I'm not going to quote from it because I don't want to spoil it for you, but it's nice to see the intellectual resources of the anti-gay right have not changed much.

And for dessert, I've decided I like the idea of BL anime, so here's another one:

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Big Question

Is Bill Wilson stupid, or does he think I am?

Bill Wilson is president of American For Limited Government, and I get periodic e-mails from him and a few other wild-eyed sorts on the right that I even occasionally read, if I need something to lighten my mood. This one is about his organization supporting Sen. David "Diapers" Vitter's demand that Obama confirm in writing that ACORN (a periodic whipping boy for the right) will not be involved in the census.

Americans for Limited Government today called upon its 400,000 members nationwide to support Senator David Vitter's (R-LA) moves to block the nomination of Robert Groves as Census Bureau Director until Barack Obama responds to the Senator's request to confirm "in writing that ACORN will in no fashion be involved in gathering data for the 2010 census."

Vitter's request to the White House came in a June 25th email. The email also asked that the President confirm "in writing that he will not direct the Census Bureau to use 'statistical adjustment,' also called sampling, to determine the numbers for the 2010 census." To date, Obama has not responded to Vitter's email. Nor has Groves responded to similar requests from the Senator.

"This President has a long and tawdry track record as 'ACORN's Senator,' to quote Investor's Business Journal," said Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government. "Now, with rumors rife that he intends to hand over census-taking to his former cronies at ACORN, Senator Vitter's questions are not only legitimate, they are vital to the sanctity of the census process."

This is only the first three paragraphs, and if you've been following this at all, you can see how full of lies and distortions it is. All it says is a rehash of the babblings of such perspicacious -- and undeniably truthful, just ask them -- wingnut mouthpieces as Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, World Net Daily, and a few more whose names I have mercifully forgotten. In fact, the only kernel of truth I can find here is that Sen. Vitter sent an e-mail to the president, and that hasn't been independently confirmed.

You may wonder how I got on this e-mail list. So do I.

(It's worth noting here that I wasn't getting outraged e-mails from Wilson when Bush II was trampling the Constitution or doling out welfare to various well-connected corporations. Wonder why?)

Friday Gay Blogging, Stopgap Edition

There's lots to comment on this week, and of course I ran out of time this morning. This should tide you over:

The song is "You Should Be Mine" by 98 Degrees, which I've totally fallen in love with. The AMV is clips from Saiyuki, which is not a BL anime, but the subtext is veeery interesting.

So enjoy. (Gods, is this gay, or what?)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Another One of Those

I had a nice post almost complete about the essential corruption of the Washington establishment -- you know, how they're all about staying in office and not about governing. Well, between Earthlink and my antique computer and one of those websites that's overloaded with ads and other frou-fou, it's gone.

However, Hullabaloo has a wonderful series of posts on the politics of it all that should be required reading. In fact, they are. So go do it.

I may be back later, but I have an article to write that is fighting me tooth and nail. Slippery little devil. Fortunately (for a change), I'm not staring a big, mean Deadline in the face.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Selective Memory

Here's an interesting bit by Chris Geidner at Law Dork, about Obama's long-range strategy for gay rights, applying some observations by Andrew Sullivan to the issue, which Sullivan does not address:

Although Andrew wasn’t writing about “gay issues” in his column, his analysis of Obama is proven all the wiser when applied to the LGBT concerns and issues that I’ve been focused on these past few weeks. Andrew’s conclusion, as well, might serve as a statement to LGBT activists, specifically:

[Obama] wants deep structural change, not swift superficial grandstanding and conflict. He is taking his time and keeping his cool. The question is whether a volatile [constituency] will be patient enough to wait.

Isn’t deep structural change what we want? Aren’t political grandstanding and culture-war conflicts the very problems that we, as LGBT activists, want to work to end?

Many people would say that we shouldn’t need to “wait” for equality, and they would be right. But let’s be clear that having the patience to take careful, intentional steps that will best accomplish our goals, which is Andrew’s point, is not the same thing as being told that our issues don’t matter and that we’ll just need to wait on our changes. This isn’t waiting for waiting’s sake; this is waiting so that solutions are real and permanent.

People want change and we want it now, but that’s not going to make it reality. Maybe, just maybe, if we give this President a chance, he could actually come through for us — with real, lasting equality advancements.

I have one question: how do you fit the notorious DoJ brief in Smelt into this "deep structural change"? Hmm? (Sorry, but that brief -- the administration's whole defense of DOMA -- could have been stopped anywhere in the process if anyone wanted to do it.) And how about the continuing discharges under DADT? While Gates explores "more humane" ways of applying the law? Strange that we got stop-loss orders under Bush, but not under Obama.

I think it's called "cherry-picking."

I need convincing, because this looks like more of the "just behave yourselves and wait until someone feels like giving you what everyone else already has" school of activism.

Health Care

"Reform" has come to mean "nightmare." Or "sellout." "Bipartisan" means "We're still afraid of the Republicans."

Susie Madrak notes this about the Massachusetts model, one of the favorites of the Republicans and DINOs in Congress:

The Massachusetts plan is struggling because it's nothing more than an insurance co-op - something that keeps paying the middleman:
Tens of thousands of Massachusetts patients who grapple with some of the most intractable mental health problems - eating disorders, addictions, autism, and post-traumatic stress - should face fewer barriers to treatment under a state law that went into effect July 1. But the cost of the state’s latest healthcare expansion remains an open question. . . .

Insurers’ overall spending in Massachusetts, estimated at about $13 billion a year, will increase by $13 million to $39 million a year because of the new law, according to regulators’ calculations.

But a coalition of employer and insurance groups contends that the costs are likely to be significantly higher. Insurers said that the state’s calculations substantially underestimate the costs. They have not, however, come up with their own estimates.

And they won't, because they don't have any.

Here's part of the problem. Watch the dodge and weave here:

And get this, from BarbinMD at Kos:

But if you have more than a million dollars a day to spend, have a vested interest in stopping real health care reform, and better yet, if you have a past, personal relationship with key lawmakers, pull up a chair:
The nation's largest insurers, hospitals and medical groups have hired more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress in hopes of influencing their old bosses and colleagues, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosures and other records.

Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups ...

A June 10 meeting between aides to Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and health-care lobbyists included two former Baucus chiefs of staff: David Castagnetti, whose clients include PhRMA and America's Health Insurance Plans, and Jeffrey A. Forbes, who represents PhRMA, Amgen, Genentech, Merck and others. Castagnetti did not return a telephone call; Forbes declined to comment.

That goes a long way in explaining why Baucus, one of 60 Democratic Senators, has been fighting so hard against a public option. You know, the one that more than 70% of all Americans support. But Baucus aides "bristle" at the idea that lobbyists are getting any special access or treatment.

It becomes more and more obvious that Washington is intrinsically corrupt. Maybe we need term limits for every elective office.

And Krugman gets it:

Let me start by pointing out something serious health economists have known all along: on general principles, universal health insurance should be eminently affordable.

After all, every other advanced country offers universal coverage, while spending much less on health care than we do. For example, the French health care system covers everyone, offers excellent care and costs barely more than half as much per person as our system.

Y'know, it's not like we have to come up with something entirely new. There are all sorts of models out there, because most developed countries' governments care more about their citizens' welfare than ours does. I mean, I'm not a health-care guru, by any means, but I've been in discussions with Canadians and Brits -- which, by the way, do not have the best systems in place, although those seem to be the ones most often cited by opponents of reform (how strange! but then, that's probably why) -- and noted the commentaries by Chris in Paris at AmericaBlog -- first-hand accounts of how the French system works -- and I can see quite plainly that apologists for the status quo have been doing the usual number -- cooked numbers, ignored facts, and focus on horror stories. (I remember one beef about the waiting time in Canada as it applied to critical procedures, and was told by a Canadian that they can come to the States if a procedure is time-critical, and the Canadian plan will pay for it -- as well as housing for the family members. You didn't hear that from the insurance lobby.)

The problem? I have no confidence in Obama or Congress on this. They're going to listen to the money, not the voters.

I may come back to this. Depends on how pissed off I get.