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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 31, 2009


That's this criticism of Rachel Maddow by Adrian Chen, which only demonstrates that 1) Chen doesn't understand humor at all, and 2) he's as prone as anyone to logical fallacies (using the "Pie Spy" satire to tar Maddow, when there's no evidence that Maddow had anything to do with it, except that it's her show). He is right on one score -- the segment's not funny, but it has nothing to do with the reasons he cites, nor, for that matter, anything to do with Maddow.

Sullivan pointed the way to this one, which only figures: he seems to have only a rudimentary sense of humor himself, and certainly isn't one to sit still for someone practicing actual civil discourse in public -- at least, not if it's not on the Village's terms, which is to say, one may only repeat received wisdom, the only variation being in the source.

Sullivan's post is a reader response, and this I found hilarious -- quoting a prior post of Sullivan's:

"Maddow is better [than Olbermann] but oozes toxic levels of smug."

The mind boggles.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Words Fail Me

I just ran across this one, thanks to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Bill Maher strikes back:

Wait for this line:

When the year started, 'teabagging' was a phrase that referred to dangling one's testicles in someone else's face. And they managed to turn it into something gross and ridiculous.

Friday Gay Blogging on Thursday

Just a few links and quotes this morning -- I just realized I have a doctor's appointment that I have to leave for soon.

The theme for today seems to be "scum." First, take a look at this report from Think Progress:

Yesterday, the Family Research Council (FRC) put out a statement objecting to the Obama administration’s pledge to “establish the nation’s first national resource center” to assist communities providing services to elderly LGBT communities. The statement from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that there are now “as many as 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals are age 60 and older.” Nevertheless, FRC is arguing that there aren’t many LGBT senior citizens because “homosexual conduct” makes them die early:
In reality, HHS has no idea how many LGBT seniors exist. No one does! The movement is only a few decades old, and people who are 80- or 90-years-old didn’t grow up in a culture where it was acceptable to identify with this lifestyle.

Of course, the real tragedy here–apart from the unnecessary spending–is that, given the risks of homosexual conduct, few of these people are likely to live long enough to become senior citizens! Yet once again, the Obama administration is rushing to reward a lifestyle that poses one of the greatest public health risks in America. If this is how HHS prioritizes, imagine what it could do with a trillion dollar health care overhaul!

It still amazes me that groups that live in a fantasy world like this -- a "reality" composed, it seems, of equal measures of the nastiest, most mean-spirited reading possible of Christian scripture and the fantasies of a loon like Paul Cameron -- can get press coverage, and yet they've been defining the debate on gay rights for years.

However, I'd like to point out that FRC has maintained its perfect record: nothing that they claim in that statement is true.

And speaking of the unhinged, check out this report from Louise at Pam's House Blend: Peter LaBarbera, Brian Camenker, and Paul Madore held a "press conference" in Maine in support of Yes on One, the ballot measure to repeal Maine's new marriage law. Louise has also put together some related videos. This one's priceless -- LaBarbera at his best:

"Nobody wants to talk about it?" Peter, you don't talk about anything else.

By the way, if I'm remembering correctly, the "crowd estimate" for this shindig was 8 supporters, 10 press, and 15 representatives from No on One.

Louise has been doing amazing work reporting on the Maine campaign at Pam's House Blend; ditto Lurleen on the initiative in Washington State. Check them out.

Finally, NOM, the Mormon front run by Maggie Gallagher, has to obey the law, which is really going to twist her knickers. From Box Turtle Bulletin:

A federal judge has denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage for a temporary restraining order to suspend Maine’s campaign reporting requirements for ballot initiatives. NOM is currently footing nearly two-thirds of the total bill for Stand for Marriage Maine’s effort to pass Question 1. NOM complained that because they were not a Maine-based group, that they should be exempt from what they consider to be overbearing regulations for Political Action Committees. The court disagreed (PDF: 187KB/32 pages):
Maine’s compelling interest in ensuring that the electorate knows who is financially supporting the views expressed on a particular ballot question cannot be satisfied by one-time reporting. Instead, Maine is entitled to conclude that its electorate needs to know, on an ongoing basis, the source of financial support for those who are taking positions on a ballot initiative. It will not do to say that a one-time disclosure in the week before the election is sufficient. That would not give the opposing viewpoint the opportunity to point out the source of the financing and seek to persuade the electorate that the source of support discounts the message.

Note that a similar suit was filed in Washington State to block release of donor names for the attempt to void the expanded domestic partnership law there, and the Yes on 8 supporters in California are also trying to block release of information about the workings of their campaign.

Why do you suppose these people have such problems with being open and honest about what they're up to, hmmm?

Racing. Catch ya later.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sketchy. Sporadic, Even.

That's what blogging is likely to be for the next few days. I'm feeling better, but snowed by too many books/CDs, too little time to read/listen.

And the news seems to be evenly divided between more dodging and weaving from the White House and more, nastier insanity from the usual suspects on the right. (PFAW sent me an e-mail titled "Have They No Shame?" No, of course not -- if they did, they wouldn't be saying the things they're saying, now, would they? Remember, we're dealing with Liars for Jesus here.)

I hope by this weekend things will be back to normal.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Working on it

I owe you a Review in Brief, which I'm actually working on, but was still too sick Sunday to finish. Maybe later today.

I'm also thinking about a post on "The Other." It's an interesting concept that I've run across a couple of places in the past couple of days. We'll see what I come up with.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

They Should All Be This Honest

Via Lindsay Beyerstein at Obsidian Wings, this nice little story:

Mr. Douthat became suddenly fidgety when asked to respond to a question from the audience on gay marriage.

The question came from Christopher Glazek, a fact-checker at The New Yorker, who wanted to know whether Mr. Douthat and Mr. Salam believed that former RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, who has apologized on behalf of his party for the Southern Strategy, should also apologize for the Republican party's gay politics.

At first Mr. Douthat seemed unable to get a sentence out without interrupting himself and starting over. Then he explained: "I am someone opposed to gay marriage who is deeply uncomfortable arguing the issue in public."

Mr. Douthat indicated that he opposes gay marriage because of his religious beliefs, but that he does not like debating the issue in those terms. At one point he said that, sometimes, he feels like he should either change his mind, or simply resolve never to address the question in public.

The degree of conceptual backflipping involved is sometimes amazing:

He added: "The secular arguments against gay marriage, when they aren't just based on bigotry or custom, tend to be abstract in ways that don't find purchase in American political discourse. I say, ‘Institutional support for reproduction,' you say, ‘I love my boyfriend and I want to marry him.' Who wins that debate? You win that debate."

Mmmm -- "abstract in ways that don't find purchase"? How about specious enough to be obvious to anyone?

Beyerstein is a lot blunter about it:

It's obvious why Ross is uncomfortable talking about gay marriage in public. He wants the state to impose his religion on other people, but he doesn't want to look like a theocrat in front of the liberal cultural elite.

That sort of says it, now, doesn't it?

Family Values

From Chris in Paris at AmericaBlog, this bit of news from the despised Europeans:

Sounds pretty good and it would be nice to see more policies that focus on this. The recession has scaled back some of the government plans but there's always going to be a good excuse to postpone changes. Good for them for pushing this now. Finding a new balance between work and home is an interesting subject and something that I tend to think a lot more of today than I did ten years ago. Would anyone really not like more flexibility in the workplace?
Employers will be expected to offer more part-time jobs for working parents under a major shift in government thinking on family life. The move is likely to provoke an outcry from business and accusations that ministers are not taking into account the financial burden of extending workers' rights during a recession.

Yvette Cooper, the work and pensions secretary, wants firms that advertise full-time posts in jobcentres to consider opening them up to job sharers or part-time workers. However, the Observer understands senior ministers are also considering proposals to extend flexible working laws - which allow parents to ask only their current boss if they can reduce their hours - to future employers. That could permit a woman applying for a new job to ask first about changing her hours to fit school runs, for example.

Waiting for the "family values" Republicans to come up with something like this? Don't hold your breath.

Another post from Chris, this time on the Danes and vacations.

As Americans we often scoff at the long holidays in Europe and some even say workers over this way are lazy. (I plead guilty to making the same argument years ago.) Sounds like jealousy to me because despite the work-life balance and despite the long vacations, the work gets done and the companies prosper. People are more productive when they can relax and come back reinvigorated. The countries with more vacation days are not doing much worse than the US during this recession and many cases, doing better. Could more vacation really be so bad?

In my own case, I'm sort of semi-retired by necessity: with years of experience in arts administration (in all areas, including a major museum, a major auction house, and a commercial dealer) at high levels and a very solid reputation in my field, I couldn't get a job. So I work three days a week as a receptionist, and you know what? I love it. I have time to pursue my own interests, I don't make a lot of money but I make enough, and I have a much better sense of what's necessary for my well-being and what's just foolishness.

(My favorite story was the HR assistant who kept bugging me to use my vacation time or I was going to lose it. At the time my schedule was such that I already had two two-day weekends every week, and I finally asked her what I was supposed to be taking a vacation from?)

I see stories like these, and then I see stories about the Catholic Diocese of Portland forking over more than a quarter-million dollars to strip rights from gay and lesbian couples (total contributions from the Catholic Church and its members are well over half a million), and the "Christians" in the news freaking out because Congress finally passed an amendment to standing hate-crimes legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and I have to wonder just who has family values most to heart. Especially when I read a story like this one from Timothy Beauchamp:

Fortunately, there are churches, like the two little open and affirming to the LGBT community UCC churches I attend in the Tulsa area, who focus on things like feeding the homeless, local HIV/AIDS ministries and the "Food 4 Kids Backpack" program where we deliver backpacks of food to local elementary schools so children who are "food insecure" do not go hungry. Whatever the reason, some kids are not being fed properly by their parents. I don't care why they aren't being fed, but I feel like one hungry child in the United States is ONE CHILD TOO MANY!

The Catholic Church, it seems, feels that one child who finds a loving, supportive, secure home with same-sex parents is one child too many.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Under the Weather

I ran into an old friend on the bus the other day, who was going to work with a bad cold because there was no one to sub for her (she's a nurse private practice. So guess who came down with a cold yesterday.

And the news is it's depressing self, so I don't have much to say about that, except I thought this was good:

The culture of homosexuality is a culture of self-absorption because it does not value self·sacrifice. It is a glaring example of what John Paul II has called the culture of death. Islamic fundamentalists clearly understand the damage that homosexual behavior inflicts on a culture. That is why they repress such behavior by death. Their culture is anything but one of self-absorption. It may be brutal at times, but any culture that is able to produce wave after wave of suicide bombers (women as well as men) is a culture that at least knows how to value self-sacrifice.

Point one: self sacrifice: this man obviously only knows those gays within his own hierarchy. (I don't think anyone can accuse the Catholic hierarchy, at least the higher reaches of it, of "self sacrifice.") Another case of what's known as a "straw man" -- make something up, ascribe it to your victim, and then demolish it. I suspect if anyone were do actually look at the issue, they'd find gay men and lesbians represented in the helping professions -- psychotherapists, counselors, doctors, nurses, etc. -- far out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. And what about gay police officers, firefighters, and, yes, soldiers, sailors, marines and other military personnel?

Point two: for a Christian of any stripe to call anyone else's beliefs a "culture of death" is ludicrous in the extreme. Christianity is built on the worship of death and a complete disdain for life on earth. Look at the central image of Christianity: the Crucifixion. And the goal, of course, is the afterlife, not happiness in this life.

Point three: is this now official Catholic doctrine, that it's OK to kill gays? Is this what we're to expect from the hierarchy now -- be just like the fundamentalist Muslims? (Not that that hasn't been underneath their attitude toward gays for years, but it's interesting to see a Catholic bishop go public with it.)

Damn! I'm really cranky this morning. I suppose reading crap like that first thing doesn't help.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One Down

Via Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog Gay, this news:

The U.S. Senate just passed, by a vote of 68 - 29, the conference report on the Department of Defense Authorization. That was the final step in the legislative process for this bill, which contains the hate crimes language.

The Defense bill now heads to the White House for President Obama to sign it into law. This will be the first pro-LGBT legislation to become law in the history of our nation -- but won't be the last, even in this Congress.

On Testosterone

This is interesting. From ABC News:

Republican men nationwide may have experienced a drop in testosterone levels the night Barack Obama was elected president, according to the results of a small study that found another link between testosterone and men's moods.

By taking multiple saliva samples from 183 young men and women on election night, researchers found that the testosterone levels of men who voted for John McCain or Robert Barr dropped sharply 40 minutes after Obama was announced the winner.

The testosterone levels of men who voted for Obama stayed the same throughout the evening. This could be significant because testosterone levels normally rise and fall throughout the day.

This I stopped me for a moment:

However, Dr. Abraham Morgentaler author of "Testosterone for Life," said research linking testosterone to moods isn't as solid as doctors would like, and the saliva test for testosterone itself isn't well studied or validated.

"What we have is an association -- it's hard to know what that means for people, did it [testosterone] go down because the men were upset and disappointed, or is it totally unrelated?" asked Morgentaler, who is also an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School.

Morgentaler said despite the inability to prove cause and effect in the study, overall doctors are seeing more evidence that testosterone is linked to men's moods.

I detect a bit of special pleading here. There is ample evidence that hormones, particularly sex hormones, are linked to moods. Granted., to be on absolutely solid ground, experimental evidence would have to confirm that, but ask any man who's ever had testosterone injections about his reaction -- or, for that matter, any man who's been on estrogen therapy for something such as prostate cancer.

As for whether testosterone causes shifts in men's moods -- can anyone think of why it wouldn't? That seems the most logical to me -- think about the way you feel following sex as opposed to before. A lot calmer, right? Yeah, well guess what hormone levels just dropped sharply.

The interesting question is what causes the testosterone drop in a situation like this? Testosterone is manufactured quickly, but I don't know that it breaks down as quickly. Be interesting to see some guesses on that score.

And, as for the other ramifications of Republicans with drops in their testosterone levels -- well, do I need to say it?

(Thanks to John Aravosis)

Andrew Sullivan also touched on this one, and cited one of his own articles. He relates some of his own reactions to testosterone injections:

At that point I weighed around 165 pounds. I now weigh 185 pounds. My collar size went from a 15 to a 17 1/2 in a few months; my chest went from 40 to 44. My appetite in every sense of that word expanded beyond measure. Going from napping two hours a day, I now rarely sleep in the daytime and have enough energy for daily workouts and a hefty work schedule. I can squat more than 400 pounds. Depression, once a regular feature of my life, is now a distant memory. I feel better able to recover from life's curveballs, more persistent, more alive. These are the long-term effects. They are almost as striking as the short-term ones.

Because the testosterone is injected every two weeks, and it quickly leaves the bloodstream, I can actually feel its power on almost a daily basis. Within hours, and at most a day, I feel a deep surge of energy. It is less edgy than a double espresso, but just as powerful. My attention span shortens. In the two or three days after my shot, I find it harder to concentrate on writing and feel the need to exercise more. My wit is quicker, my mind faster, but my judgment is more impulsive.

It's a long essay, but it's worth reading.

I have some observations of my own, altough coming from the opposite direction: I suffered through estrogen therapy to depress testosterone levels during a recent bout of prostate cancer, which was an interesting experience. As the therapy progressed, I got a lot calmer, a lot less active,and ultimately, almost lethargic. It wasn't, on the whole, an experience I want to repeat. (Well, none of it was, and happily it looks as though I won't have to, at least not anytime soon.) And, as my therapy ended and my testosterone levels returned to normal, I found myself more energetic -- I started working out again regularly -- more alert, and a lot edgier. Back to being my usual scatterbrained, nervous wreck of a self. So, to a certain extent, I can confirm Sullivan's observations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Honor Equals Heterosexual," Revisited

I did a take-down of James Bowman's ludicrous piece The Weekly Standard on "why we should keep DADT" some while ago, but, via Sullivan, here's a point-by-point dismemberment from Nathaniel Frank.

This particular bit caught my attention:

BOWMAN: "The robust heterosexual... knows, or believes, what it seems the homosexual cannot know or believe, or doesn't want to know or believe, namely that the two sorts of love [brotherly and erotic] are different in kind and not just in degree. The resistance from military men to the idea of gays in the military seems to be due to this perception... Eros is so strong that it corrupts and destroys the other kinds of love."

RESPONSE: Putting aside the question of what makes a heterosexual "robust," the idea that all gay people refuse to distinguish between brotherly and erotic love is simply bizarre. More to the point, the idea that open gays must be banned from the military because erotic love destroys military friendships is belied by the millions of healthy bonds in both the U.S. and foreign militaries that have open gays throughout their ranks.

Graham Jackson, a Canadian Jungian psychologist, wrote a very interesting book titled The Secret Lore of Gardening: Patterns of Male Intimacy that deals specifically with this issue. (In fact, a large part of his source material is the work of the WWI British poets and writers, who actually served in the military and whose writings explore the relationships of comrades in arms -- which itself is the term used to describe relationships between peers.) First off, Bowman is mischaracterizing the concept of "eros" as it is used in psychology, particularly the Freudian and Jungian brands. (Somehow, this doesn't surprise me. I don't know whether to ascribe it to ignorance, of which Bowman seems to have an ample supply, or the regulation right-wing hat trick of changing definitions, as in the creationists' use of "theory.") As Jackson describes it, eros is a fundamental drive that, while probably generated by sex (as is most everything, at least almost everything to do with interpersonal relationships, it would seem), has a much wider effect as a means of structuring relationships. What it boils down to is that Bowman is flat wrong -- as Jackson quite effectively demonstrates, the two kinds of love are, indeed, a matter of degree. Going off on my own speculation a bit, I would suggest that, if we accept the idea that human sexual orientation is fluid and does not fit tidily into a "gay/straight" dichotomy (and there is evidence to support that idea), then the relationships between comrades in arms do indeed partake of the erotic in the sense that Bowman uses it.

A personal footnote on this: I've had too many experiences of "straight" guys coming on to me (as in "Dammit, man! Watch those hands!" and no, they weren't all closet cases) to subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea that "friendship" is a different order of creature than "desire," or for that matter people are either "straight" or "gay." The mechanisms and sources of attraction, like so much else in human behavior, are far more complex and variable than we can understand, at least right now, and to try to fit such things into nice tidy boxes speaks to me of nothing so much as an agenda powered by a limited and unrealistic world view.

At any rate, Frank does a thorough job of debunking everything that Bowman wrote, which strikes me as tedious rather than difficult. I admire his patience.

And what is a "robust heterosexual," anyway?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

He Says He Was Lying . . .

but we know he's a compulsive liar, so was he really lying?

Here's a link to the MPBM piece on the "schools" issue in the marriage fight in Maine. (For some reason, Blogger won't accept the code to allow me to embed it.) And here's a transcript of Mark Mutty's remarks (toward the end of this segment) from Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin:

We understand that schools will not be mandated to provide one curriculum or another, but neither will they be discouraged or will they be unable to provide the kind curriculum that they so choose that well could include teaching about same-sex marriage.

… We have never said that schools will be mandated — or, actually, perhaps we did in one ad, or certainly led people to believe that, inadvertently.

This has shown up several places (here's Joe Sudbay's report), and here's Jeremy Hooper's), but everyone is focusing on the "We lied" part. (And why is anyone sur-- . . . oh -- because he actually admitted it.)

But look what he says in the section before that: "neither will they be . . . unable to provide the kind of curriculum that they so choose. . . ." In Maine, public school curricula are determined by local boards of education, and anyone who thinks parents have no input has never had a kid in a public school -- especially in a small town. So what Mutty is saying is that SFMM -- and the Catholic hierarchy -- are against letting parents and local boards make the decision as to what's taught in public schools. Any guesses who they think should be making that decision?

You're right!

And it gets better: NPR is demanding that SFMM pull their ads using materials from its broadcasts because of copyright infringement. (Have you noticed how often the right wing has a problem with stealing other people's stuff?) A report from AmericaBlog, with this choice bit:

National Public Radio is demanding that the Stand for Marriage Maine group stop using its content in television ads supporting a people’s veto of a new same-sex marriage law.

Content from an NPR story was used in Stand for Marriage Maine’s latest television ad, which began airing Oct. 16 and suggests that gay relationships and gay sex may be discussed in schools if the law isn’t overturned.

The Sept. 13, 2004 story, titled “Massachsuetts Schools Grapple with Including Gay & Lesbian Relationships in Sex Education,” was part of an All Things Considered program, according to Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s senior vice president for marketing, communications, and external relations.

“NPR did not license use of this story or its content, and would certainly not have licensed or permitted it if we had been asked,” Rehm said in a statement. “NPR is a highly respected news organization and does not allow its content to be used by political or advocacy groups. Such use is harmful to the integrity and independence of NPR. NPR does allow – even encourage -- personal, non-commercial use of our content, so long as it is not modified, and not used in a manner that suggests NPR promotes or endorses a cause, idea, Web site, product or service. The use made by Stand for Marriage Maine violated all of these terms.”

I love it when a plan comes together.

Not Fit to Serve

From one of Andrew Sullivan's readers, a glimpse of the kind of people that the right wing doesn't think are fit to serve in the military:

In 1998 I was the XO of a Marine artillery battery. One of our Marines, LCpl Parker (name has been changed), had been discovered as gay, admitted it, and was slated for administrative discharge, even though he was a model Marine in all other respects. However, about this time, Secretary (of Defense) Cohen had found out that more people were being discharged under DADT than before the policy and ordered a full review. He also canceled all open cases and instructed all services to place the personnel in question back in the same units they had come from, as if nothing had happened. In essence they got a reprieve.

Well, in LCpl Parker's case, it was well known what has happening to him and why by every other Marine in the unit. So we, the leadership, had the same concerns expressed by many who advocate continuing DADT today.

We feared reprisals.

But our higher leadership also warned us that we had better make damn sure we allowed no such thing. So the commander of the unit got all the Marines together, spoke openly about the whole matter, and told them that we were under orders to receive this Marine back into the unit, and would follow orders. He also explicitly warned them that any Marine who hazed or assaulted the returning LCpl would be fully prosecuted under the UCMJ.

A few weeks went by without incident. And we were so busy that I actually forgot about it. Then one day out in the field I remembered that I hadn't heard anything from Parker's gun section leader, so I went down and asked him about it. I got the Staff Sergeant in charge of the section aside and asked if he had any problems with the Marine or within his section in connection to this matter. The Staff Sergeant piped up, "No sir, no problems at all. He's King of the Gun!" Which basically meant he had beat down all the other members of the section, thereby winning their respect. There was an unofficial wrestling/fighting contest that went on in each gun section whereby the "King" could be challenged and dethroned at anytime. Of course, the whole tradition was not endorsed or allowed by the officers, but I knew that these things went on. And it appeared that our Marine, who we found later was a kickboxing champion, had challenged and beat the reigning "king" as soon as he checked back into the unit. The Marine successfully served out his enlistment (even got promoted to NCO) and left with an honorable discharge.

Decorated servicemembers, distinguished military careers, essential personnel -- and the King of the Gun. That's who Elaine Donnelley and her kind think are not fit to serve the country.

There's one other tidbit here that maybe someone in the administration should pay attention to: note that then-Sec. of Defense Cohen cancelled all pending discharges under the policy pending review. Somehow, I get the feeling that the Obama administration could be doing a lot more than it is doing on this score.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Immutable Characteristics: A Footnote

I can always count on Andrew Sullivan and his readers. This one's a sidebar, actually, a reader's response to this post:

I'm against hate crime laws - every single one of them. I also understand and respect the argument for them, even as I strongly disagree. But what you cannot coherently hold is that there should be hate crime protections for people of faith and no hate crime protections for gays. Even if you believe, erroneously, that homoesxuality is a choice, so, obviously, is religion. The GOP's current position - against hate crime laws only when they apply to gays (even with strong guarantees of freedom of speech and religion) - is pure animus. It's bigotry - and it's coming from the very top.

The "top" he's referring to is John Boehner, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. We've already done Boehner's boner, and I've lit into Sullivan enough about his position on hate crimes laws.

The reader opines thus:

In a recent post, you wrote that "Even if you believe, erroneously, that homosexuality is a choice, so, obviously, is religion." I've heard that from a number of people recently, and I'm curious as to whether this is actually true. I certainly don't remember choosing to be an Atheist--as far back as I can trace, it simply fit in with what I believed and how I perceived the world around me. At what age did I choose to be an Atheist? What were my range of choices? Does the fact that both my parents were atheists decrease my choice?

I'm curious as to when you chose to be a Catholic. When you write about your belief and faith, I don't recall getting the sense of you weighing multiple options and choosing the best answer. Often, faith can be very, very difficult.

But, that misses the point of Boehner's statement, and misses any sensible reading of the issue: Boehner was repeating the anti-gay mantra that being gay is a choice, in the face of all evidence. (Or perhaps we're dealing with a little Thomist sophistry here: if you choose to be honest about being gay, and try to make a life as a gay person, then you've made a choice to be gay. You see the problem? It's condemning the "choice" to act on an intrinsic part of your personality. OK -- I don't want to go any farther into this -- my head will explode from the logical disconnects.)

If one is to believe recent findings from psychologists and geneticists, there may be a genetic component to the tendency toward belief. That's a very general category. Boehner's statement implies that there is a Baptist gene, and, as might be expected, there's no support for that one at all. As for this reader, the fact that both his parents were atheists may imply a predisposition toward non-belief, which seems a reasonable obverse to the idea of a genetic basis for belief.

The point is, of course, that safeguards for religious belief, and hate-crimes laws that increase penalties for violent crimes stemming from bias against another's beliefs, are not based on an immutable characteristic, simply because the choice of which faith to follow is a choice. It's a choice that's guaranteed in our Constitution. (It's worth noting here that none of the rights protected in the Bill of Rights are based on immutable characteristics.) It's not a rational choice, necessarily. In fact it's probably not at all rational, which is where I think Sullivan and his reader miss the boat: religious sentiment is an emotional experience. I was raised a Christian -- well, they tried, although it didn't stick very well. I came to Paganism because it felt like coming home. That's the key phrase -- "felt like." I knew a little bit about it -- I have a number of Pagan friends -- but it was after -- call it my "epiphany" -- that I began the serious study of the beliefs and traditions of my new faith. (It was never a question of whether the gods exist. It was a question of how I conceive of them. And there's an element of choice in those two statements. In addition to its other virtues, Paganism gives me some room to maneuver. I'm probably the Pagan equivalent of a Deist.) (Note: Let me also add a bit about how the story of the Lord's self-sacrifice at Samhain, when he willingly gives himself to slaughter and enters the Underworld, affects me more deeply than the story of the Crucifixion ever did. I don't know why -- it's essentially the same story, but there's an emotional load to the Pagan version that hits me right in the gut.)

Any guesses on whether John Boehner wants to protect my "choice" to become a Witch? How about if I call it "my immutable Witchhood"?

Reviews in Brief: Shouko Hidaka's Restart

As promised, here's this week's "Review in Brief." Restart by Shouko Hidaka had been on my list of "pleasant, but not terrific" BL manga until recently, when I took it out again. There's more here than I had thought.

The main series is about the romance between Tadashi Yoshizawa and Akihiro Kudo, both models working for a large agency. Tadashi was, in fact, something of an inspiration to Aki, but they have been distant for a while, after a night that Tadashi only barely remembers, and then not in detail. Not so far beneath the surface is Tadashi's resentment that Aki has eclipsed him as the agency's number one attraction, and it's not until Aki confronts him directly that Tadashi faces his feelings. (Of course, it helps a lot that Aki says he loves Tadashi, and always has.)

The five stories in the main series -- "Restart," "Step," "Clear," "Reverse," and "Contact," the last in the volume -- move back and forth in time, so that we get a view of the growth of the relationship between Tadashi and Aki that is somewhat outside the standard linear narrative. It's an interesting concept, and it works.

The next story, "For You," focuses on another model from the same agency, Shunsuke Honma, a senior in high school, who is tapped for a portraiture project by a rising young photographer, Tomomi Kishida, who begins his work with Shunsuke by telling him he's always liked him, while simultaneously rejecting every pose and expression that Shunsuke comes up with. That bit of information preys on Shunsuke's mind as he gets more and more frustrated, until Kishida is ready to call it all off -- at which Shunsuke says "No way!"

"Overlap" strikes me as the most substantial of the group. Tomohiro Tatsumi only realized he was in love with his friend Shinozaki after Shinozaki went missing on a scuba-diving trip. On a visit to his parents, Tomohiro meets Shinozaki's younger brother, Ryo, who spends his time studying in the old clubhouse his brother used to use. The two don't hit it off so well, but that changes.

Hidaka's graphic style is very clean, minimal, and expressive. The guys are all beautiful, and the faces have much more the feel of "real people" than is so often the case -- one rapidly forgets that one is reading a comic. The cover illustration gives a good idea of the elegance of the drawing -- it's not far from the interior graphics in style and quality. Sex scenes are reticent-standard. Visual flow is very clear -- Hidaka is not one for adventurous layouts, but that serves the stories well -- they're ambiguous enough on their own.

It's the ambiguity in these stories -- of time, of place, of feelings -- that give them their interest. They're certainly worth a look, and probably more than one.

This one's from Juné.

The Pedophilia Smear

This is one that crops up regularly, either explicitly or implicitly, in what passes for "discourse" on the right. This particular episode was brought on by this post by Timothy Beauchamp at AmericaBlog Gay. This is Bill Donohue, "Mr. Catholic," preaching to the choir on the 700 Club, if you can stand it

(Looks like the video has disappeared again. I'm not going to do somersaults to try to fix it. Beauchamp has it imbedded as well -- maybe.) (Strangely enough, it shows up when I preview the post, but not when I post it. Maybe it will come back on its own.)

From Beauchamp:

"The Catholic Church has a homosexual problem, not a pedophilia problem..." -Bill Donohue

Uh, the Catholic Church is experiencing the insidious results of repressing human sexuality in all its consensual adult STRAIGHT and gay diversity. The absolutely unacceptable sickness of pedophilia is the result of that repression, Bill. Of course, to allow someone to make that kind of statement on their network, without challenging it, makes CBN culpable in spreading hateful lies about the LGBT community.

To expect CBN to treat gays fairly is on the verge of fantasy. No, wait -- it's there. Donohue, of course, is going to get no objections to his rant from this group. Don't expect anything rational there.

Beauchamp makes one error in his post, which I called attention to in the comments:

Anyone for schooling Bill on the percentage of gay to straight pedophiles? It hovers right around 10%. Pedophilia is an equal opportunity sickness affecting both the gay and straight community in the same ratio in which we naturally exist, and the Catholic Church has a PEDOPHILIA problem.

The actual figure for pedophiles with a same-sex (male/male) adult sexual orientation seems to hover between 1.5-3%, making us underrepresented as against our percentage of the general population (which I'm taking as around 5%, based on studies indicating 3-6%). Jim Burroway has an exhaustive post on the subject here, extensively documented with (gasp!) real studies, which is not something you're going to find Bill Donohue using.

The psychology behind this right-wing conflation of gay men and pedophiles is not hard to figure out. Aside from the obvious propaganda/fear-mongering value ("Save the children!"), as Burroway points out there is a basis for honest confusion, stemming at least in part from the way researchers use the term "homosexual." (It's somewhat kin to the way scientists use the word "theory" and the way creationists use it.) His commentary is worth reading, because it is exhaustive, it's based in reality, and it's full of ammunition against the likes of Bill Donohue and Pope Whats-His-Name XVI (who, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger and the whole pedophilia scandal in the Church broke wide open, immediately blamed it on the gays.)

I did some digging in my own archives on this subject, and ran across some interesting reading on child sexual abuse, homosexuality, and the age of consent in an article titled "Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse: Science, Religion, and the Slippery Slope" by Mark E. Pietrzyk:

Executive Summary

In response to the scandal involving former Congressman Mark Foley, a number of conservative religious groups have claimed that homosexuals pose a substantially greater risk of committing sexual abuse against children than heterosexuals, and have issued papers citing a number of scientific studies to support these claims. However, when one examines the studies cited in these papers, one finds that the religious right has engaged in some serious distortion of the works of others. The scientists who authored the studies made no such claim about homosexuals posing a greater threat to children, and in fact in many cases argued the opposite.

In addition, many in the religious right have employed a version of the “slippery slope” argument, charging that the gay rights movement has led inevitably to tolerance for pedophilia by eroding all traditional norms of sexual behavior. However, the “slippery slope” argument is based on the false premise that the protection of children from sexual activity is a long-standing part of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which has only recently come under assault as a result of the gay rights movement. In fact, throughout most of history, the Judeo-Christian tradition tolerated and even approved of sexual relations between adult males and girls of twelve years of age or even younger. The contemporary taboo against sex between adults and minors developed only in the late nineteenth century, as societies became increasingly committed to the ideals of individual rights and personal autonomy, which led to concern about the possibility of coercion and exploitation in adult-minor relationships.

I also ran across this bit from an old post of mine (regrettably, in a previous incarnation of this blog; no links are available, but I did quote A. N. Groth and H. J. Birnbaum, also cited by Burroway above):

"A random sample of 175 males convicted of sexual assault against children was screened with reference to their adult sexual orientation and the sex of their victims. The sample divided fairly evenly into two groups based on whether they were sexually fixated exclusively on children or had regressed from peer relationships. Female children were victimized nearly twice as often as male children. All regressed offenders, whether their victims were male or female children, were heterosexual in their adult orientation. There were no examples of regression to child victims among peer-oriented, homosexual males. The possibility emerges that homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia may be mutually exclusive and that the adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater risk to the underage child than does the adult homosexual male." (Emphasis added.)

Other studies have pretty much confirmed this conclusion. Overall, the percentage of child molesters who are adult gay men seems to be no more than 3%. (This is borne out not only by scientific studies, but by the FBI's figures, as well.)

Another note from that early post: most of the "numerous studies" cited by anti-gays as supporting their outrageous claims are the result of the fevered imagination of Paul Cameron, who is a well-known laughingstock in scientific circles, having been kicked out of or censured by every professional organization to which he claimed membership. He now publishes in his own "peer-reviewed" journal. The peer is his equally whacked-out son.

I'm addressing this issue again because the scare mantra is still being used, although it's now laregely become code. That's what forms the core of the attacks on Kevin Jennings, including the letter from 53 Republican House members, and the concern about "education" in the most recent anti-marriage ads in Maine, not to mention the Catholic hierarchy's repeated attempts to deflect criticism of its handling of its own moral lapses.

I may come back to this later, but I have a very full day, and I figure this is enough to get you started.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's All One Thing (Updated)

I'm stealing Will Shetterly's title again -- it's so apt, and so true. I've been saving up a few links until I had time to think about the stories, and it seems that they are all really just one story.

Let's start with this one, about the ongoing war against Kevin Jennings, who has done more good in his life than all 53 representatives involved in this letter put together. Via TPM:

Today, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and 52 other House Republicans have taken their criticism of Jennings a step farther, writing a letter to the White House asking that President Obama fire Jennings. King has made that request before -- but never with the formal backing of so many other GOPers.

The letter claims that Jennings has "played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools."

"The totality of Mr. Jennings' career has been to advocate for public affirmation of homosexuality," the letter continues.

King hauls out the lies that have been circulating about Jennings (which even Fox News has admitted are not true), but I think the gist of his discomfort with Jennings is summed up in the quote above, if you dig just barely beneath the surface: it's not that Jennings "promotes" homosexuality (at least, not in any way that any normal person would recognize), it's just that he's admitting that it exists, he is one, and he wants to make schools safe for the baby fags and dykes. When you look at the statistics on the suicide rates for gay youth, that strikes me as a good goal. Not for King. King is just as happy that they're dead, apparently. This is a key element:

You should replace him with someone who has a record of educating children in a safe and moral environment.

I have to take it that King is referring to "moral" as meaning his own shallow, mechanistic, Christianist idea of "morality" of the sort espoused by every right-wing loon in the country. I'm not impressed -- their understanding of morality, by my standards, is primitive, at best. For instance, "immoral behavior" does not, apparently, include lying about people you disapprove of.

TPM has the full text of the letter, which is pretty disgusting. My congresswoman, I think, is getting a letter from me on this one, with the request that she publicly denounce King, his co-signers, and the lies they are telling about Kevin Jennings.

(Update:: Timothy Kincaid dissects the letter very effectively and quite accurately, finishing with this:

And lest you think that either of these two additional “concerns” are central to their objection, they close with the following:

You should replace him with someone who has a record of educating children in a safe and moral environment. [emphasis added]

In other words, someone who isn’t gay.

As I recall, the courts call it "animus."

Alvin McEwen has assembled some of the backlash.)

And via Sullivan, this commentary by Julian Sanchez on this really wacko editorial from the Moony Times. Says Sanchez:

But what’s really baffling is that it’s never quite made clear what the authors find problematic about the rather anodyne goal of promoting tolerance and civility between students. Given that actual kids in actual schools do bully and harass kids who don’t fit gender stereotypes, or who come from nontraditional families, what does the Times regard as an acceptable approach by the schools? They’re supposed to stand by in silence, for fear that they might “indoctrinate” someone with the radical communist view that it’s unacceptable to use “gay” and “faggot” as terms of abuse? Or perhaps they should just ban the word “gay” without explanation, as though it’s some kind of profanity, or an especially heinous thing to accuse someone of? It seems to me you’ve got to be awfully dense not to get that there’s also an implicit lesson when schools casually and routinely reference hetero relationships, while gay and lesbian couples—who, like, go to supermarkets and have kids in little league and stuff; students are going to notice they exist—are under some kind of omerta, never to be mentioned. Is the conservative position now that schools are supposed to remain indifferent to harassment in their halls, or to treat the families of certain students as a shameful secret? Because that appears to be the alternative.

It's formless, but it's of a piece with King's letter: there are people who, because of the way they were born, are so awful you can't even admit they exist. Particularly if you live in the fantasy world of such as Rep. John Boehner. This piece by Steve Benen jogged me a little, about something I hadn't really registered when I first discussed Boehner's statement on hate-crimes legislation:

"All violent crimes should be prosecuted vigorously, no matter what the circumstance," Boehner argued. "The Democrats' 'thought crimes' legislation, however, places a higher value on some lives than others. Republicans believe that all lives are created equal, and should be defended with equal vigilance."

First off, he's lying. Republicans don't believe any such thing. Just take a look at their positions on gay civil rights, women's right to govern their own bodies, and, when you get down to the Limbaugh/Beck hybrids (ewww!) in the base, minorities in general. In Boehner's Republican party, all lives are created equal as long as they're white, Christian men.

Benen's summation:

The Minority Leader could just acknowledge he doesn't like gay people. It'd be easier than coming up with bizarre rationales like this one.

I think Rep. King and the editors of the Washington Times should do the same thing. Save themselves a lot of anguish. But then, that course involves a certain amount of honesty.

The core I discovered in this story from Pink News concerning, believe it or not, the death of Stephen Gately (about which I was first informed, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, by a correspondent in Singapore, who was devastated).

[Daily Mail columnist Jan] Moir wrote today: "Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

"And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy."

She also drew comparisons between Gately and Kevin McGee, the former civil partner of Matt Lucas, despite Gately dying of natural causes and McGee committing suicide after months of depression and addiction.

She wrote: "Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships. Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael.

"Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately's last night raise troubling questions about what happened. It is important that the truth comes out about the exact circumstances of his strange and lonely death."

(The quote is from a prior post on Moir's column. For some reason, no one wants to link directly. Go figure. It may be because, as Stephen Frye noted: "I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane." Ya think?

Now Moir is playing the victim card (no shit!), and as part of her self-justification, she wrote:

The point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.

Can you say "judgmental"? And there's the core, both to Moir's unseemly rant and Boehner's willful ignorance (unless it's immutable supidity), King's propagation of disproved lies, and the Moony Times' formless discomfort with gay people: there's an assumption of superiority resting in the fact that heterosexuality is "normal." That in itself is an indication of ignorance, if not outright denial.

A side comment here -- or maybe not: there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying intimacy with "a stranger," as Moir calls it. Sleaze is in the eye of the beholder, as they say, and she's playing a very convenient card here: it's not that it's something that "nice" people don't engage in, it's just that they're not very honest about the fact that they do it. I've done it myself, although to be honest, they didn't stay strangers for very long. I'm still alive. Thus, her attempt to construct a cause-and-effect argument falls flat. (And I start to wonder how much of it is constructed from bits and pieces of fantasies and stereotypes.) Once again, it's simply a matter of "her way is the only way," even giving her the benefit of the doubt and assuming she's never slept around. (And just to make it very clear, I don't care whether she has or not. I'm not the one making the "sleazy" comment.) It's that "morality" thing, the kind espoused by those who don't really understand what morality is. Repeat after me: it's not about who you sleep with, it's about how you treat them.

So, back to that whole "normal" thing. Y'know what? I'm gay, and I'm one of the most normal people you're ever going to meet. (Not average, by any means, but normal to the point of being so normal that sometimes I bore myself.) And it's this idea of "normality," resting on ingrained heterosexism, unquestioned patriarchy, and implict (although more and more overt since last November) racism that is being threatened by the possibility of equal civil rights for gays. I mean, they can't attack women or racial minorities (at least not openly) without strong backlash, and they know it. (Just take a look at the GOP's standing in the Latino community.) And as more and more people come to realize that they know someone gay who is pretty much just like them, the rabid right is getting more and more scared and more and more angry because it's becoming more and more obvious, even to them, that they're not superior to everyone else. Not even close. Which means in turn that holding on to their somewhat delusional idea of being in charge is getting harder and harder. It's about power and authority, and they're beginning to realize that they don't have it any more.

Let them stew. I've got to write a letter to my congresscritter.

(PS -- I did write the letter, about Steve King's letter about Kevin Jennings. I insisted that she get up on the floor of the House and call him on it.)


Via Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog Gay, a report from Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate:

In response to an inquiry from The Advocate, the White House sent the following statement regarding President Barack Obama’s position on same-sex relationship recognition voter referenda in Maine and Washington.

“The President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples, and as he said at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, he believes ‘strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.’ Also at the dinner, he said he supports, ‘ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country.’"

I've seen a couple of commentators express the hope that this will stop the use of Obama's statements about "marriage is between a man and a woman" by the anti-gay contingents fighting against recognition of same-sex relationships. Don't count on it -- lying comes as naturally to these people as ignoring reality does.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Was Laughing So Hard I Could Barely Click

This should get some sort of award. I'm just not sure what award. (I wouldn't normally link to RedState, but hey, credit where credit is due.)

Earlier this evening, as most of you now know, one of our own, Rush Hudson Limbaugh, while taking withering fire, crashed and burned.

Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a radio personality.

Tonight, Rush is no longer ‘just’ a NFL owner denied

Tonight, Rush is us. And we are him.

Tonight Rush became the metaphor for all of us… every man woman and child in this great nation of ours.

The enemy of this great nation, the enemy of you and me, Rush’s enemy… those on the left, inside and outside of this nation abhor success… and when faced with it will destroy it… by any and all means possible.

And it goes on. I found it through both Barbara O'Brien and John Cole. And, as Cole points out, it closes with the obligatory quote from Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the communists. . . ."

I really have a hard time believing that people are truly delusional, but sometimes the evidence is overwhelming.

Go ahead -- click through. Just don't have anything in your mouth, because it will be all over your keyboard.

(PS: My favorite comment from Cole's post:

The media, the courts, the NFL… is there anything liberals don’t control?


Dear Rep. Boehner:

This is choice -- or would be if it weren't so ubiquitous:

Based on that statement, CBSNews.com contacted Boehner's office to find out if the minority leader opposes all hate crimes legislation. The law as it now stands offers protections based on race, color, religion and national origin.

In an email, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said Boehner "supports existing federal protections (based on race, religion, gender, etc) based on immutable characteristics."

It should be noted that the current law does not include gender, though the expanded legislation would cover gender as well as sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

"He does not support adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes," Smith continued.

Boehner's position, then, appears to be grounded in the notion that immutable characteristics should be protected under hate crimes laws. And while religion is an immutable characteristic, his office suggests, sexual orientation is not.

Uh, Rep. Boehner? Religion is not an immutable characteristic. Stupidity is an immutable characteristic.

Note: The article is good -- it actually does something besides stenography. Like, actual journalism. The comments, however -- well, let's just say the Republican noise machine has once again successfully fuzzed the discusson.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'm going to put it in terms even Andrew Sullivan can understand. (I single out Sullivan because his views on hate crimes legislation are ridiculous and completely wrong-headed.):

Hate crimes, by their result if not their intention (and frankly, I'd say as often as not by intention as well) are acts of terrorism. Their effect is to send a message to members of a group: You could be next, because we don't like you, you uppity (fill in favorite target here).

So, using the approved logic of the right wing, Boehner, et al., support terrorism.

De Facto Hiatus

I know I haven't posted for a couple of days. It may be a couple more before I post again -- I'm knee-deep in review material right now, and that has to be dealt with before I go under for the third time. (Got another box of stuff yesterday. A box. Not an envelope -- a BOX.)

And the news is more of the same and I don't have a lot to say about most of it. I may put together some commentary later, but first things first.

Enjoy the rain -- or whatever.

A little something to tide you over:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review in Brief

I know -- I didn't do one yesterday. Mea culpa. Having spent the morning fighting with a major and unexplained slowdown on my Internet activity (I was lucky to get a blog post up at all -- I'm not going to tell you how long it took to get that one posted), I just said to hell with it.

So maybe sometime this week, maybe not. But next Sunday for sure -- I promise.

Pajamas, Cheetos, and Other Distinguishing Marks

Full disclosure: I haven't worn pajamas since I was fifteen years old. Shocked the hell out of my father the first time he realized it -- but after that, he always knocked before he came into my room.

I used to like Cheetos (one of my favorite why the hell not? pig-out foods), but I can't eat them any more. Ditto chicharones and potato chips -- my stomach rebels. I've gotten too thoroughly conditioned to fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks.

With that out of the way, I'd like to address a couple of reactions to the reactions to the "internet leftist fringe" remark, since stoutly disavowed by the White House, both of the "why'nt you all grow up?" variety.

First, from Jim Burroway, this comment:

An NBC reporter quoted an anonymous source with an axe to grind — who is it? Chief of staff? Press Secretary? Electrician? — and bloggers go off the deep end fulfilling every blogging stereotype. Take a deep breath. I know people are frustrated with the slow pace of change with this president. I am too. But if an anonymous minion complains that bloggers are acting like cry-babies throwing temper tantrums, one doesn’t exactly counter that image by throwing a temper tantrum. We’ve all been called names before on the playground. Sheesh!

I think Burroway's overstating his case just a bit -- he starts off his post by noting "Aravosis shrieks" before quoting him, and frankly, Aravosis was no more over the top than he usually is -- in fact, a little less. As I pointed out in my update to the previous post on this, there are some questions I have about this whole thing, starting with "Did Harwood actually have a source?" (It wouldn't be the first time that a story got legs based on nothing.) And the White House has been coming out with statements disavowing previous statements (or not, depending on their mood, I guess) almost since day one.

There are also a couple of commentaries from John Cole that build to an interesting climax. The first is about the stump speech:

I understand that may not be as cathartic as knee-capping your own guy while chanting “just words,” but it might be more productive. And it isn’t settling. It isn’t telling you to shut up or relax or be patient. It is telling you that working to change the status quo is more productive than hurting your own team, even though throwing eggs and making farty sounds with your armpit is more fun.

I have to point out one thing here: there is a split in the gay movement, and it is a deep and serious difference, and that is between the people who are out there working to change the status quo and those who have steadfastly counseled "wait" -- and it's this latter group that the president is willing to speak to. The rest of us are, I think, getting quite justifiably impatient. We're not looking for catharsis, we're looking for action.

The second stems from the furor surrounding the "fringe leftist" remark:

I doubt it, but hopefully this will stop the insanity:
“That sentiment does not reflect White House thinking at all, we’ve held easily a dozen calls with the progressive online community because we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth.”

You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. Now that we have our daily affirmations out of the way, can we stop lobbing grenades at each other? Hug it out, bitches.

I'm going to point out one thing I think these two commentaries have in common, whch is actually something that disturbs me a little: as in the Village, every item inhabits its own universe, and has no contact with any other.

(I'd also like to point out something that relates to the original comments by Harwood, but not directly to these comments by Cole and Burroway, but still serves to fuzz the issue: did anyone else notice how the LGBT and allied demonstrators yesterday have suddenly become the "internet fringe left"? Not to mention those of us who have been critical of Obama and the "establishment" gay rights groups. Somehow, I can't really think of John Aravosis, Andrew Sullivan, Pam Spaulding, or even Jane Hamsher (not to mention myself) as "fringe left.")

Unfortunately for that doctrine, there are some of us who do connect the dots, and who remember previous and too similar situations, starting with the infamous motion for dismissal, known in blogger shorthand as "the DOMA brief." (Word is that the president had not seen the brief before it was filed and was not happy. I have to ask -- doesn't anyone in the DoJ have any idea what's acceptable to this president? Were they all asleep?) This was supposed to be assuaged by inviting a select group to the signing of an executive memorandum (not, mind you, an executive order, which remains in force until specifically rescinded, but an executive memorandum, which expires when this presidency does) guaranteeing some benefits for gay government employees and their partners that were already available -- but not including anything that might even remotely be construed as a benefit of marriage, like health insurance or pension benefits. And meanwhile, we've seen action in Congress when we've been able to find someone -- interestingly enough, usually someone fairly new to the Village -- to go to bat for us.

I'm going to hold up one glaring example of what I think has been typical of this administration on gay issues. Here's a bit from Jim Burroway on repeal of DADT:

This is David Morgan characterizing CBS News Chief Political Correspondent John Dickerson’s description of the administration’s prioritization of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
John Dickerson says the message from the administration is: Don’t hold your breath.

The indication from the White House is they want to show the president is still committed to this, but that it’s further down on the list of priorities,” Dickerson told “Early Show” anchor Harry Smith. “He’s got a lot in front of him, and the big question is how much political capital he’ll put behind this. Will he pressure Congress? Will he pressure the Pentagon?

“There’s just no indication right now that he’s going to spend his political capital in that way.”

This didn’t come from a White House Staffer, named or unnamed. It’s Morgan’s summation of Dickerson’s observations, which is consistent with what we’ve seen so far. No political capital.

I'd like to ask what political capital has to be expended on legislation that is supported by clear majorities in every demographic you can think of -- except retired right-wing generals. I mean, FTLOP, 58% of Republicans support repeal of DADT.

Burroway quotes an AP item in the last post he links to above:

President Barack Obama will focus “at the right time” on how to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays serving openly in the military, his national security adviser said Sunday.

When is the "right time"? Does he think Elaine Donnelley is going to have a hissy fit? WTF?

OK -- now can I connect a few more dots? Think about the clear majority of Americans supporting health-care reform legislation with a good, strong public option. This has been a fairly stable number all along. And guess what's likely to be stripped from any bill that passes. Yes, you're right.

Which leads to the not-so-startling conclusion that it's been a while since anyone in the Village (and this includes the government, first and foremost) gave a shit what anyone outside the Village thinks.

I guess we don't go to the right cocktail parties.


Glenn Greenwald tackles this one as only he can do it. One point that had occurred to me:

Greg Sargent reports that the White House, on the record, is denying that the anonymous comment reflects their view of blogs and the gay protesters. Did anyone expect them to do anything else? Greg also says that the White House has taken steps which show that they recognize the importance of blogs. That's true; they're willing to harness the power of blogs to help advance the President's agenda, and that's smart. But the issue is how they view criticisms from Democrats and the left of the President, not whether they're willing to use blogs to support Obama.

I was thinking of doing an addendum myself this morning pointing out that, like everyone else in Washington, Obama wants to control the Internet. He, however, doesn't want to regulate it -- he just wants to use his "bully pulpit" to enforce his message on the blogosphere. Got news for ya -- the Internet isn't like that. That's its value.

Backtracking aa bit, Greenwald also starts connecting some dots, in more detail than I did:

In the updates to her post about all of this last night, Pam Spaulding notes with exasperation the excuses and denials flying around everywhere, with all sorts of people expressing doubt that anyone in the Obama White House could possibly be capable of such an ugly sentiment, particularly in light of the President's eloquent, on-the-record commitment to gay equality (other than marriage). As is true for all instances of reckless and petty uses of anonymity like this, it's impossible to know how reflective it is of administration sentiment generally -- was this a senior White House official or some obscure low-level aide? -- but how could anyone who has paid any attention at all to the way Washington functions be doubtful that this sentiment is pervasive or find this at all unusual?

Just this weekend, a "top gay Democrat close to Obama" was granted anonymity by Politico to dismiss administration critics on gay issues as "naive." Just six weeks ago, an equally cowardly "senior White House adviser" hiding behind anonymity told told The Washington Post that the only people who cared about the public option in health care were "the left of the left" -- those same fringe, irrational extremists. In June, an anonymous "friend of John Brennan's" told Jane Mayer in The New Yorker that the people who prevented Brennan's nomination as CIA Director (because of his support for some of the most radical Bush Terrorism policies) were nothing more than "a few Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear who write blogs." Last year, "Democrats on the Hill" anonymously dismissed opposition to telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping as nothing more than a fringe issue being exploited by Chris Dodd for his presidential campaign, and then anonymously warned Dodd to abandon his left-wing obstructionism if he wanted to resume good standing in the Democratic caucus. Can anyone miss the pattern?

So we have a contingent that's criticizing "The Left" for criticizing Obama based on one incident while refusing to see the pattern that is quite obvious to anyone with a memory reaching back farther than fifteen minutes.


This is the denouement for Obama's HRC speech Saturday night -- really a response to the march yesterday. Didn't take long, did it?

As you might imagine, the reaction in the gay community is not positive. Both John Aravosis and Pam Spaulding were right on top of this one, and neither was being very nice.

FDL has a transcript of the relevant portion, but I'm going to zero in on one comment:

LESTER HOLT: John what we saw in that protest today, was it simply frustration or does it represent a serious problem the President is having with an important part of his base?

JOHN HARWOOD: As a practical matter Lester I don’t think it’s a serious problem. we’ve seen and certainly Bill Clinton learned that they Democratic President can get punished by the mainstream of the electorate for being too aggressive on social issues so for now I think the administration feels that if they take care of the big issues — health care, energy, the economy — he’s going to be just fine with this group.
(Emphasis added.)

It appears that the White House really is stuck in 1993. It's this kind of thinking that informs the entire HRC, "wait-and-see" wing of the movement, and it's this kind of thinking that gets Obama a pass for not producing. And let's get a little real about this -- it's not the mainstream that Obama -- that is, Emanuel -- is afraid of. It's the rabid right. Jim Burroway has done us the signal service of rounding up some of the more coherent initial reactions from the Neverneverland set.

Digby sums it up nicely:

It's Goldilocks punditry: since the gasbags had to admit that the teabaggers are a bunch of loons, they also have to dismiss the LGBT community and "the left" as loons as well. That means the village is juuuuust right.

Also keep in mind that John Harwood is one of the biggest putzes in town.

Unfortunately, it's the putzes who are getting the air time. (And this is new exactly how?)

The big problem with the Obama administration to date, as I see it, is that it took no time at all for them to become establishment politicians and adopt the Village mindset.


From The Plumline, the White House is denying, denying, denying the "internet left fringe" slam:

Asked for comment, White House senior communications adviser Dan Pfeiffer emailed:
“That sentiment does not reflect White House thinking at all, we’ve held easily a dozen calls with the progressive online community because we believe the online communities can often keep the focus on how policy will affect the American people rather than just the political back-and-forth.”

Now, of course that "administration advisor" is safely anonymous, and I will grant that the administration does seem to be interested in keeping the blogosphere in the loop. So was it Harwood just stirring shit, or do we have a case of plausible deniability here? I, and most other commentators I've run across, have taken those remarks as being directed against the gay blogosphere in particular, and given the circumstances -- nice campaign speech to HRC, complete indifference to the March for Equality, an "anonymous source" and a swift denial -- I'm not sure I'm convinced.

As always, actions speak louder than words, and actions have been in pretty short supply.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Let's Do the Time-Warp Again

Various reports on Obama's speech to HRC last night. Louise has posted videos of the speech at Pam's House Blend. (Which I've decided to post here as well):

See if you can spot anything that anyone else has missed.

Pam Spaulding is trying hard to be even-handed, but winds up pretty much where I am:

There are two realities, the Beltway reality, a myopic view that is so disconnected from the lives of everyday LGBTs (particularly Ts) that has us setting such low expectations. The reality outside the Beltway doesn't exist, the focus is on cultivating the relationships with power brokers with the secondary focus on obtaining "what's possible" politically, which of course is pretty subjective and dependent on whether there is professional peril in rocking any boats.

The reality outside the Beltway is often too impatient about the logistics of moving legislation in many respects, but the impatience is borne of the peril of losing a job, losing custody of children, or myriad other problems that will not be solved in their Red state any time soon. To see such inaction and promises and action delayed or deferred is disheartening -- and very personal. For activists in this sphere, a speech like this is a reality check of its own -- beautiful, empty prose telling us we are on our own for who knows how long.
(Emphasis in original.)

It's a good post, one of her best -- read it.

As for realities on the ground, get this exchange from the comments to that post (edited for cleanup only):

# Thank you for posting this.

I was outside picketing. My signs and those around me called for real action and for Obama to keep his promises. Just before his motorcade came by, the Secret Service had the MPD force us back from where we had our premit. It seems that our fierce advocate can't stand the heat.
by: TrumpetDC @ Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 21:24:21 PM CDT

# P. S.
I did two on camera interviews. Pam, I don't know how you do it. I felt like I was going to hurl.
by: TrumpetDC @ Sat Oct 10, 2009 at 21:25:38 PM CDT

How far back did they move you?
What was the excuse?

Or didn't they bother to offer one?

"In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant." The Colbert Report
by: Lev Raphael @ Sun Oct 11, 2009 at 03:55:19 AM CDT

They tried to move us two blocks away to the other side of the convention center. That way we would have been out of site from the motorcade.

We moved about 30 feet (1/4 down the block) and then sat down. We had filled out all the propper paperwork for a permit, so we used that motivate us and them.
by: TrumpetDC @ Sun Oct 11, 2009 at 07:22:16 AM CDT

# As to why...

One police officer pulled one of our organizers aside and appologized. He said that they were being pressured to do it by Obama's Secret Service detail.
by: TrumpetDC @ Sun Oct 11, 2009 at 07:23:23 AM CDT

Somehow, sadly, I have to say that I'm not surprised -- it seems to have become the norm to insulate the president from anything that might cause him to actually notice people's reactions to what he says and does.

John Aravosis was very funny:

Barack Obama just promised us that if he becomes president, he's going to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and get ENDA passed. It was a bit surreal. I'm sitting at a fundraiser for the No on 1 effort in Maine (that Obama didn't even bother to mention), and we were all just speechless (actually, hardly speechless - and I thought yelling at the TV was long since over). Obama repeated his campaign promises. That was it.

Joe Sudbay wasn't quite so amused:

This speech offered less than the cocktail party speech for the A-listers back in June.

The expectations were very high. The president spoke for approximately 25 minutes. And, tonight, he did not deliver anything new or exciting. He did not assuage our concerns.

I'm sure HRC is happy. This was a big night for the institution. But, I'm not sure what it did for the movement -- or HRC's actual mission of full equality.

Dan Savage:

Imagine all the wonderful things this guy is going to accomplish if he ever actually gets elected president.

Andrew Sullivan, from his live blog:

8.56 pm. More campaign boilerplate. This speech could have been made - and was made - a year ago.

8.53 pm. His major achievement - the one thing he has actually done - is invite gay families to the Easter egg-roll.
(Ed. note: So did Dubyah. Does that make George W. Bush a "fierce advocate" for gay civil rights?)

8.51 pm. Again, more of a campaign speech. I've called on Congress to repeal DOMA. Does he think we're fools? He has done nothing to advance this.

8.50 pm. Now we get the campaign speech on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Does he not realize he is now in office? "I'm working to end this policy. I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Solmonese has given us the timeline: 2017. This is bullshit. .

Jim Burroway:

When he becomes President, he’s going to sign the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, he’ll sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it ever sees the light of day, and sometime during his presidency he’s going to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Oh, and he’s gonna appoint a gay ambassador or two, and we’re all invite to the big Easter Egg roll.

Jeremy Hooper, noting Obama's stance on marriage:

Dear HRC dinner attendees:

The president does not deserve a standing ovation on anything involving our relationship recognition unless and until he comes out for FULL marriage equality. He did not do that. On this issue, let's not rise to our feet (in a supportive way) until he does.

A polite applause? Sure. Even a standing O when he vows to repeal DOMA? Okay, fine. But when the official position is still "one man, one woman = marriage," his support for our bonds really has no other way to fall but short.

I think you get the idea -- there is, after all, a recurring theme in these responses -- and I'm sorry, once again, that Obama has fully met my minimal expectations. What's left to say? Has he made any real progress on gay civil rights? No, he hasn't. I'm afraid I'm of the camp that says extending benefits that were already available to gay government employees is no big deal. Neither is appointing a gay ambassador. When there are substantive issues, embodied in actual pieces of legislation, that have widespread public and institutional support, across party lines, and he can't be bothered to push for them, why should I listen to a rehash of his campaign speeches? Yes, I am talking about DADT. I am talking about the HIV ban on overseas visitors. These are no-brainers. Look, everyone has their favorite bit of "most important" on gay civil rights, and some are going to be easier to get done than others. Certainly DADT is one of those. As I believe Pam Spaulding put it, the face of opposition to DADT reform is Elaine Donnelley, for crying out loud! And you will remember that her last testimony before a Congressional committee hearing on this issue sparked outright laughter.

And yet, what reaction are we getting to questions on DADT repeal? Somehow, that timeline keeps getting longer and longer. Not good enough.

(Stray thought: If, as seems to be the rationale, gay issues are too likely to bring fire from the right [and the thinking there, if you can call it that, just floors me], it would appear that the administration is really not cynical enough to use them to draw fire away from the stimulus and health-care reform. Bunch of tyros.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Now I Get It! Revisited

Andrew Sullivan has a blistering and spot-on post in reaction to Joe Solmonese's e-mail that I quoted yesterday. He not only nails Obama but Solmonese and the HRC, in a post titled "The Battered Wife Syndrome of the Human Rights Campaign":

What HRC have now done is give away any leverage or bargaining power the gay community has with the Obama administration. They are doing what they did with the Clintons: essentially apologize for being a burden and prostrate ourselves to the Democratic party in the hope that they will be kind to us in the very, very long run. And since at a federal level, almost everything is a Congressional act, there's absolutely no guarantee that Obama will even be able to fulfill any pledges past 2010, let alone 2017. And there's no guarantee that he will be re-elected in 2012.

You know, it took me years of getting to know myself and realizing that I am indeed a gifted and worthy human being. I was fortunate to have strong reinforcement from some very good people who were able to take me as me and not as a "gay man." Maybe that's one reason I resent so thoroughly the tack that HRC and the "wait and see" wing of the movement invariably take. I didn't get this e-mail for some reason. Probably because I don't donate to HRC. Even if I had money, I wouldn't. Sullivan gives credit where credit is due, but I would be more willing to cut some slack in the absence of oily, self-serving, spineless actions like this e-mail. Sullivan includes the full text of Solmonese's letter, and it's appalling. This particularly jumped out at me:

More importantly: today, and for the next seven years and three months, Barack Obama is the most powerful person in the world, with the largest bully pulpit, and the most power to effect change. To do the work, we have to work with our supporters in Congress and with the Administration. Whatever you think of the Administration's first nine months, you don't pass laws by sitting out. You pass laws by sitting at the table.

"You don't pass laws by sitting out." That is exactly what Obama has been doing on DADT, DOMA, ENDA, and the HIV ban -- nothing. Sitting out. "It's Congress' job."

But when the President signed a memorandum providing family protections and an inclusive non-discrimination policy for federal employees—policies for which HRC and our sister organizations had advocated—I was proud to be present. Our disagreement about DOMA did not require me to ignore a step forward for transgender federal workers and for same-sex partners. In turn, the President invited me because he recognized HRC's accomplishments in promoting those fair policies, and because he would not exclude a civil rights advocate for speaking up about our community's rights.

I wish he's stop making a big deal about Obama offering protections that already existed -- and that after Hillary Clinton had already made them mandatory in the State Department. (Now there's someone who has a very full plate and managed to pull off a victory for gays without a hitch.) Yes, Obama made them mandatory across the board. He could have done that on Day One and not after getting pinned to the wall because of that atrocious DOMA brief. (But then, of course, he would have been forced to come up with a substantive response on that issue. I guess it makes sense to keep something shiny and sparkly in reserve for those sorts of occasions.)

I'm with Sullivan, Aravosis, Andy Towle, Dan Savage, and Pam Spaulding. Even Jeremy Hooper, who's about the gentlest of gay bloggers, raises an eyebrow -- not at the specific content (and Hooper does make a good point that it can be interpreted not as a free pass, but as a "when we look back" message), but at the timing and tone, which I think are what offend me the most.

Now, is Joe right to be so optimistic? Well, that's a separate question. And in my humble opinion, this was not the best type of message for the head of the biggest, most oft-criticized LGBT rights group to send at this, a time when most LGBT activists want to see more of a crystal clear plan than a crystal ball. But I do think it's a little disingenuous for any of us to pile on to HRC simply on the basis of the wording of this one email message. Especially when we can criticize HRC for that ivory tower that they call an office. ;-)

Jeremy does know how to twist the knife, doesn't he?

Spaulding has an update: Solmonese "clarified" the message.

And here are Solmonese and Cleve Jones, organizer of the March for Equality, on Hardball:

Frankly, as I've noted here before, I have reservations about the March, but it turns out that the president is in town and Congress is in session after all -- except for Barney Frank, who doesn't seem to be in favor of gay civil rights this week.