"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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gay Boy Makes Good

Remember Jim McGreevey? He's not only turned his life around, he's helping others do the same:

He is in a healthy, happy relationship with Mark as he studies to become an Episcopal priest. He is giving back to others who have made mistakes, often because they were caught up in the circumstances of their lives.

Gay people mostly forgave McGreevey for his affair when it came to light five years ago. We are well aware of the many ludicrous situations that occur because men, particularly in McGreevey’s generation, have been forced to live their lives in the closet. That he is living such an honorable and giving life freed from the shame of the closet is testament to the real Jim McGreevey.

McGreevey volunteers at Exodus Transitional Community at the Church of Living Hope in East Harlem, New York, which tries to help newly-released prisoners learn life skills and handle the significant challenges that ex-convicts face.

News like this starts connections forming in my head, such as the fact that, in most non-Judaeo-Christian societies, those with same-sex orientation seem to occupy a very high proportion of spiritual roles in the community -- one thinks immediately of the North American berdache, men who adopted women's roles and dress, and who were regarded as spiritually very powerful by their community. The men who married them were seen as specially favored. There are equivalent institutions in other cultures.

There is also, in shamanism, a recurring motif of the shaman-in-the-making becoming, at least psychically, a member of the opposite sex. This is supposed to complete him/her and enable the shaman to serve the whole community.

And can we talk about the high proportion of gay men in the priesthoods of various Christian denominations? (It would also be interesting to see a breakdown of members of the "helping" professions -- doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists -- by sexual orientation.)

Edward O. Wilson once posited the development of altruism as a result of genetic economics: if a non-breeding member of a group devotes his/her time to caring for others in the group -- offspring, mostly -- that behavior and the root causes of it (i.e., the non-breeding part) would be reinforced as an adaptive trait and carried on through siblings and their descendants. Can we see the same mechanism at work in the maintenance of same-sex orientation in vertebrates?

No conclusions, but some interesting trains of thought.

Irreverence du jour

Patrick Appel notes a disagreement between Paul Krugman and John Cole, two of my favorite people: Cole objects to Krugman's use of the word "treason" in public debate over global warming, suggesting a version of Godwin's law. Appel wonders:

How do we apply this law when both sides of the debate accuse the other side of treason? They can't both "lose automatically."

Yes they can.

About That Stonewall Anniversary Celebration

Not the one at the White House -- I'm so disgusted with the Obama administration right now that I don't even want to comment on their dog and pony shows. I'm talking about the one in Forth Worth. Jim Burroway and Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin have been pulling together the resources. Just scroll down their posts over the past couple of days -- and pay attention to the pieces in the sidebar, as well.

It becomes plainer and plainer that the police claims just don't stand up to even the barest scrutiny.

Look, we've all been in gay bars -- well, all of my gay readers, and probably a lot of the straight ones -- and we know that conditions are radically different than the police are claiming. Kincaid notes the reaction of one straight visitor to a gay bar: Jeff Prince of the Fort Worth Weekly's blog has this to say:

As I sat there, I kept figuring one of these guys would hit on me. I was going to politely explain to them that I wasn’t that way. Except nobody paid any attention to me. For 10 or 15 minutes not a single person spoke to me or approached me. I was relieved and offended at the same time. What am I chopped liver?

Another straight dude Weeklyteer Dan McGraw did a cover story called “Waking Up the Rainbow” in 2005 about gay politics in Fort Worth and spent several nights incognito at a gay bar called Best Friends. He had a similar experience of being ignored. “It was like hanging out at any other bar,” he said. “Most of the guys had been married before and had kids.”

For some reason, however, Fort Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission officers went into a gay bar on Saturday night and the patrons allegedly became fraught with horn and damn near raped our boys in blue.

Yeah, gay bars can get kind of raunchy, late at night when the conditions are right. Somehow, a police raid doesn't really spark the right mood, you know? And to tell the truth, I've had straight guys come on to me in gay bars. I remember one who was there with his wife -- he was cute, she was -- well, a women. They wanted a three way. I explained that I don't do women, ever. Normally, however, if you don't know people there, they won't talk to you for a while -- even if you're gay. (Sometimes I think it's especially if you're gay.)

At any rate, check out the posts at BTB. The story we're getting from FWPD stinks. (Note: One of the commenters at Prince's post was there -- he says the police are lying.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stonewall Revisited

So on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, what do we get? A raid on a gay bar.

The Dallas Voice’s blog is reporting that a gay bar in Ft. Worth, Texas, was raided sometime last night:

This fish smell many day dead. The police are coming up with all sorts of rationales that sound pretty bogus. Reports are still coming in on this one, so there's not much I can say, except to wonder if they really think they can get away with it? Of course, now that we live in a police state, there's no way to know. I have to say, though, no one reports the police claiming illegal drugs. How odd. Do you suppose they actually thought about this before they did it? Doesn't sound like it.

Here's a report from Joe Sudbay, with this bright note:

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns issued the following statement:
I want all citizens of Texas and Fort Worth to know and be assured that the laws and ordinances of our great State and City will be applied fairly, equally and without malice or selective enforcement. I consider this to be part of "The Fort Worth Way" here. As an elected representative of the city of Fort Worth, I am calling for an immediate and thorough investigation of the actions of the City of Fort Worth Police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in relation to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge earlier this morning, June 28, 2009.

It is unfortunate that this incident occurred in Fort Worth and even more so to have occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall protests. Unlike 40 years ago, though, the people of this community have elective representation that will make sure our government is accountable and that the rights of all of its citizens are protected. I are working together with our Mayor, Police Chief, the City of Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, and our State Legislative colleagues to get a complete and accurate accounting of what occurred.

Rest assured that neither the people of Fort Worth, nor the city government of Fort Worth, will tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens. And know that the GLBT Community is an integral part of the economic and cultural life of Fort Worth.

Every Fort Worth citizen deserves to have questions around this incident answered and I am working aggressively toward that end.

It will be interesting to see how much effort the Fort Worth police expend on protecting the instigators here. Maximum, I would suspect. There was one patron who suffered a head injury and is hospitalized. Should be an interesting law suit coming out of this -- a lot of them, I hope.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I know, I know. . .

I haven't posted in a couple of days. Chalk it up to the most annoying week in the history of Western civilization -- I finally just pooped out. I managed not to finish a single writing project yesterday, although I started several.

It was that kind of day.

However, I ran across something in passing at Pam's House Blend that made me think a bit. It's a post by The Author on those pre-medieval minds at Manifest Glory Ministries who tried to exorcise "the homosexual demons" from a sixteen-year-old boy.

I don't think I really need to comment on that, except to point out that the pastor and congregation appear to be a few centuries behind the rest of the world. (By the way, the boy, according to the blogosphere, is now attending an LGBT-affirming church.)

This comment made me stop:

I'm not even going to answer that silliness except for to say that not all gay pride parades are the same. Down here in South Carolina, our events are extremely family-friendly.

I'm not sure what that means. I was on a float a couple of years running, and there are lots of families in the audience here in Chicago. Most of them are straight. And all of them are cheering, the leatherfolk and dancers no less than the politicians. (Actually, for the dancers, probably more.) I suspect that "family friendly" doesn't mean the same thing in Chicago that it does on South Carolina. In fact, I'm sure of it.

I've commented on Pride Parades and their context before (here and here), but just want to restate it once again for those who have internalized their closets: It's our parade. It's not James Dobson's parade, it's not Barack Obama's parade, it's not Middle America's parade. It's our parade, with all the color, vitality, and in-your-face outrageousness that are the gay community. If it bothers you, stay home.

And, come to think of it, today is Parade day in Chicago. I'm probably not going to go -- those pesky writing projects, which do need to be finished tout suite. And I'm not really in the mood, although if I didn't have to work tomorrow I might be tempted to go out and tie one on. After this week, that might be the best course.

But no. I'm going to be responsible.

I hate myself sometimes.

Reviews in Brief: R. M. Meluch's The Sagittarius Command

A little departure for us today, an old-fashioned space opera (known these days as "military sf") with a couple of interesting twists.

The Sagittarius Command is the third volume in R. M. Meluch's series, The Tour of the Merrimack. The known galaxy is dominated by two interstellar empires, the United States of America and the Palatine Empire, a resurrected Rome. In previous volumes, we've seen the reaction of both to the advent of the Hive, an alien species that travels in groups, seems to have no particular intelligence other than a hive-mind, and eats anything organic in its path. In previous volumes we've seen the discovery of the Hive, the victory of the Merrimack over Roman forces that enabled its captain, John Farragut, to enforce an alliance (called by the Romans "The Subjugation," and bitterly resented), and gotten a good idea of the political context, both interstellar and earthbound.

This installment begins with a surprise encroachment by the Hive on a Roman colony in Near Space, close to both Palatine and Earth. Farragut and the Merrimack are able to save most of the inhabitants and destroy the Hive (individually known as "gorgons," "soldiers," and "gluies," depending on the type), much to the disgust and resentment of its Roman garrison, Legion LXXI Draconis, and its commander, Herius Asinius. The Dracs wind up as part of Attack Group I when the allied strategy changes and it looks as though the point of origin of the Hive has been located.

Meluch's earlier works were relatively straightforward, hard-edged, poetic stories. The edge is here, as well, but this series is a space opera with a lot of intrigue and political maneuvering -- try to think of a cross between E. E. "Doc" Smith and C. J. Cherryh. She also set up an anomaly in the first volume that continues to play itself out, although at this stage I'm beginning to wonder whether it's a device she's actually going to use, or she's just playing with our heads: at the end of The Myriad, she shifted everything into an alternate universe. We're still in that universe, but the previous one does crop up in something that Farragut remembers that he shouldn't.

Characters, by the way, are a treat: larger than life, and basically stereotypical, but strongly drawn, and they do manage to surmount their origins to become real people. And the relationship between Farragut and Augustus, a Roman patterner, is a nice, edgy, not-quite-homoerotic kind of thing (although Augustus' interest is not entirely platonic). (Augustus' brain and body have been altered to enable him to process vast amounts of data and draw connections; he has no memory of anything before that process began.)

I've reviewed previous volumes in other places. The Myriad is at Rambles, and Wolf Star at Epinions. This one's published by DAW.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Two Must-Reads

From Timothy Kincaid and Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin.

The first, from Kincaid, about building bridges with Christians. It's strategic, and makes a lot of sense.

Wendy Gritter of New Directions is seeking to increase communication and decrease hostility between the Christian community and the gay community. While I do not see these as necessarily exclusive communities, it is unquestionable that conservative Christians and gay people are to some extent at war with each other.

Towards the goal of healing, Wendy came up with the concept of a synchroblog, a time in which everyone would focus on their perspectives about such communication. She chose today, the Wednesday of Pride Week, for this effort. So today, a couple dozen bloggers with various Christian or gay perspectives will be participating in this joint conversation and Wendy invited me to join them.

Kincaid goes on to give his position. It's a good, and thought-provoking, read. Realizing full well that I am one of the angrier posters on gay issues (although in my own defense, I do try to maintain a relatively moderate tone and not go into shrill mode -- I have this thing about factual accuracy, you see, although my diction is sometimes blunt), I strongly support what's being proposed here.

Burroway's comments are more tactical:

About the White House cocktail party on June 29:
But a cocktail party? I can’t imagine that any self-respecting gay person would agree to go to a cocktail party at this stage in our difficult relationship with the current administration. . .

The seeds for my turnaround were planted when I finished that sentence:
…although I have to concede that House and Senate Republicans, even some of the most conservative ones, have taken the White House up on similar invitations.

Burroway points out something that I hadn't known and that radically changes my thinking on this event:

The third argument concerns His Friendly Gays themselves, and builds on the much-hated image of “A-Gays” drinking and schmoozing and not getting much done. That’s a hard image to knock down, but we do have to remember that in a town like Washington, D.C., relationships are formed and messages put across over exactly these kinds of activities. This is true in D.C. much moreso than in anywhere else, where these events are typically little more than non-work social hours.

And as for His Friendly Gays, it appears the gathering will be much broader than that. Some of those invited include some of the administration’s harsher critics on LGBT issues. One of those who will be there is Lt. Colonel Victor Fehrenbach, who is about to be fired from the Air Force for being gay. He’ll be there as a guest of the Servicemember’s Legal Defense Network. The invite list isn’t limited to those from inside the Beltway, which is exactly what’s needed to punch through the Presidential bubble. They aren’t the get-along-to-go-along usual suspects, although I’m sure some of them will be there also.

Knowing that it's not going to be the A Gays only makes a big difference in my thinking on this, because it's the non-As that need to be heard.

I'm still not happy with Obama's lack of support for gay issues, and to be honest I don't expect a big turn-around after something like this, but frankly, if increments are all you've got, then use the increments.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Local News

This is a good one -- and (my bad!) I had to go to Lawyers, Guns and Money to find it.

I don't know if anyone remembers this incident, of an off-duty Chicago cop beating a tiny little female bartender because she wouldn't serve him another drink. He was obviously inebriated, and by law she's required to cut him off. Here's the video:

It came to court, and the judge -- that Judge John J. Fleming, remember that name -- well, here's Paul Campos' summary:

Judge John J. Fleming thought this didn't merit any jail time, because a two-minute vicious beating of an 115-pound woman by a 250-pound drunk psychopath only resulted in "some bumps and bruises."

On the upside, the CPD is trying to fire the guy -- she was the third person he'd beaten up that day (yes -- that day!).

And Judge John J. Fleming is up for retention in the next election. Guess how I'm voting on that one.

It Just Doesn't Stop

I realize this has become almost a one-issue blog, but -- well, it's an important issue, at least for me, and it's very revealing, I think, of just what we've installed in the White House.

Here's the latest on the appeal by members of Congress to Obama to stop discharges under DADT. From Kerry Eleveld at The Advocate:

The White House has responded to an inquiry from The Advocate about a letter sent from 77 House members Monday urging President Barack Obama to take immediate action to stop the investigations of "don't ask, don't tell" violations.

"President Obama remains committed to a legislative repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which he believes will provide a durable and lasting solution to this issue. He welcomes the commitment of these members to seeing Congress take action," read the statement.

The president's position is ridiculous on its face: we're talking about the repeal of a law here. Yes, the law is odious and reflects a terrible policy, and it should be repealed. But that's the whole point: laws can be repealed, so what is this bullshit about a "durable and lasting solution?" It's noise, that's all. It's white noise to mask the fact that the Obama administration, if spite of his fine words, has absolutely no commitment to insuring equality for gay Americans -- and is, in fact, backing off from opportunities to do just that. (And note that the letter didn't even request an executive order -- just an implementation of the "Don't Pursue" part of the policy. The full text is included in the article, along with a list of signers. If your congresscritter isn't among them, make noise.)

Let's get it straight: nothing is permanent in a democracy, not even in a democratic republic like ours: laws can be made and repealed, court decisions can be overridden, even the Constitution can be amended -- and fundamental rights, at least in some places, can be withheld by popular vote. Let's cut the crap, OK?

Well, boys and girls, there you have it: we seem to have another liar in the Oval Office.

There may be more: I'm just getting started this morning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Deconstructing the Memes

Jim Burroway has an excellent analysis of the DoJ Motion to Dismiss in Smelt, with particular reference, at least at the beginning, to the "incest" and "pedophilia" charges. I'm withholding judgment on this one: Burroway makes an excellent case, contra Aravosis, that there is no such comparison. However, I'm also very conscious of the effect that a decade and a half of right-wing reiteration of the gay man=child molester mantra, false as it is, has replaced the reality in people's minds. As I said in a previous post, I'm surprised DoJ didn't find a way to include bestiality: it's the gay-baiters' trifecta, and has been for some time.

So, even though the brief doesn't make explicit comparison, by advancing arguments founded on those relationships, they are evoking the worst calumnies the right can think of against the gay community. (Guess they figured "destruction of Western civilization" wasn't going to work.) If you doubt me on this, just remember that, although it sounds like a joke, it's been borne out by psychological studies: if you repeat something three times, it's true.

But do read all of Burroway's post. He goes on to point out the ways in which the DoJ brief is explicitly insulting to the gay community, all of which were unnecessary. It's right on point.

The Torture Club

Interesting article in Slate on a recent decision in Padilla vs. Yoo that may finally give us, as the citizens whose names have been blackened by the previous administration, some relief.

In 2002, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo wrote a memo recommending that Jose Padilla, arrested in Chicago in the wake of 9/11 and held on suspicion of plotting a dirty-bomb attack, be classified as an enemy combatant. Yoo also wrote memos arguing that American law does not prevent the president from ordering such enemy combatants tortured. This January, after enduring years of abuse in prison, Padilla sued Yoo for violating his constitutional rights.

And a week ago, Judge Jeffrey White ruled that Padilla's allegations were plausible enough to justify denying Yoo's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. White was appointed by George W. Bush the year Yoo was writing his memos.

Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, the calls to "move forward" and "not dwell on the past" on the issue of torture, Guantanamo, rendition, and the like are just a way to keep the Bush administration jackasses off the hook. And it doesn't do Obama's credit any good in this quarter for him to be acceding to this bullshit. (I did wonder how much he was going to love unlimited presidential power once he was in the Oval Office. I guess we're starting to get the idea.)

(As an aside, I also have to wonder what kind of wars are going on over at DoJ, staffed at this point with a strong contingent of Bush loyalists who got moved into civil service jobs from their political appointments once Bush finally figured out that he would not be serving a third term.)

This is sort of disgusting, but no more than I'd expect of the Supreme Court as presently constituted:

In order to hold high-ranking government officials liable, plaintiffs need strong evidence that the officials personally authorized the conduct. Just last month, the Supreme Court made it a lot harder to get that evidence: It dismissed the lawsuit brought by Javaid Iqbal, who was rounded up in New York after 9/11 along with thousands of other Muslims, against John Ashcroft. The court held that Iqbal hadn't provided enough preliminary evidence to justify "subjecting high ranking Government officials ... to the burdens of discovery." That's right—he didn't have enough evidence to go get the evidence he needs to prove his claims.

Maybe Judge White's decision will help to circumvent that kind of crap -- this Court is no friend to American citizens at all.

It Still Hot in the Kitchen

And it's going to stay that way until dinner is served.

First, from Jane Hamsher, some insight:

I've heard about A-List gays in DC having their arms twisted to push back against criticism of the White House for its handling of DADT and DOMA. I know many of these people and their commitment to ending DADT and DOMA is sincere, and having their livelihoods (and those of the people who work for them) threatened if they don't intervene on behalf of the White House is truly low politics.

The campaign that John and Joe Sudbay are waging to stop people from attending the $1000 a head DNC gay fundraiser this Thursday has been impressive. Movements that start at the grassroots create the space for everyone to operate in, and aren't susceptible to being squelched because those at the top are able to put the screws to a few key people.

That sounds about right. Unfortunately, it's not the kind of tactics that ever occur to me -- I don't consider myself particularly virtuous or anything, but I'd not stoop to that, I think. Of course, with this White House crew, we still down know how much -- or how little -- they have to stoop to touch bottom. We're starting to get an idea, though.

And of course, the administration's solution, since the dog-and-pony benefits thing didn't work, is to have another cocktail party. Mike Signorile:

This is pretty outrageous. In the midst of all the anger from LGBT people over the DOMA brief and the inadequate response -- so far -- by the Obama administration, gay lobbyists, executive directors and assorted others who comprise what is identified as the gay leadership apparently have been invited to a party at the White House thrown just for them.

It's another photo-op in which everyone -- the president and the gays -- can look happy and like they're having fun, but more so, it's a way for the White House to wank off the gay leaders a bit while still not delivering. None of them should fall for it -- and that means they should not attend this event -- most all the Human Rights Campaign. We don't want cocktails for high-paid gay and lesbians lobbyists and executive directors looking to schmooze and feel important. We want action on our rights, and at this point it means DOMA and DADT.

Let me point out something once again: DOMA repeal is a tough nut, no doubt about it -- but that's why Obama has to get behind it. DADT, on the other hand, is a no brainer -- at this point, FTLOP, a majority of Republicans favor repeal. What the hell is Obama waiting for, and if you tell me it's the Joint Chiefs, will someone please enlighten us as to just who the comander-in-chief is?

And please don't spend money on another cocktail party. Put it into AIDS research or something useful. (Read Signorile's complete post -- it's a good take.)

This OpEd by Jonathan Capehart in yesterday's WaPo has drawn a lot of fire from Aravosis, Spaulding, and others, and it's really a mixed bag, but not as bad as has been claimed. Capehart's comments on the DoJ brief in Smelt are intelligent, give or take the still debatable standing argument (although most lawyers seem to regard that one as substantial). Capehart misses on small point:

The plaintiffs lack standing. Case closed. That would have been fine with gay rights groups, which viewed Smelt-Hammer as an imperfect vehicle for challenging DOMA's constitutionality. "We had no problem with DOJ getting rid of this case," one legal expert told me. "The plaintiffs didn't tell a good story."

What Capehart misses is that the "gay rights groups" he's talking about no longer have the support of their constituency. They are widely viewed in the community, with some justification, as lobbyists to the community for the administration, and not the other way around.

Where critics are correct on this one is that Capehart blows the "memorandum signing" out of proportion. It's not new, it's not enough, and it's an attempt to deflect criticism from the substantive issues.

As far as Capehart attempting to put the blame on Congress, Congress is doing something. From my own Congressional rep, Jan Schakowsky, via Pam's House Blend:


There is good and bad news but nothing that can't or won't be overcome in time.

The bad news -- The Justice Department filed a brief supporting DOMA. I read it. First of all, it wasn't necessary to file a brief at all, especially one that asked for the entire lawsuit to be dismissed. Very disappointing. I was unaware that it was coming, as were all of the House members.

The good news - Just this week, the President, in unequivocal terms, called for the repeal of DOMA. He said, "Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it." Rep. Jerry Nadler, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, is working on a DOMA repeal bill that he plans to introduce after the July 4th recess. I'll be on it.


Legislation has been introduced by Ellen Tauscher, the chief sponsor of the bill, HR 1283, to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I'm a co-sponsor. I have good reason to believe the President will support this legislation -- but it's not clear when.

There are some barbs here -- note that last sentence -- and some good news.

What's coming back to haunt Obama now is that what's happening is not happening because of him, and in some cases in spite of him (or at least, his DoJ). And you expect me to call this leadership?


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reviews in Brief: Kazusa Takashima's Man's Best Friend

Kazusa Takashima seems to be one for charming stories with not a whole lot of substance, and absolutely gorgeous drawing. I've been looking for Man's Best Friend since I read Wild Rock, and finally got hold of a copy.

The title story concerns Ukyo, a student who rescues a very dirty, very scruffy stray. He takes him home, gives him and bath and a name -- Kuro -- and starts wondering about his sanity when Kuro turns into a gorgeous young man -- with dog ears and tail.

There are actually three stories about Ukyo and Kuro. The second details what happens when you take your dog for a walk, if the dog happens to have gotten so excited about going out that he turned into a human. The third is about what happens when a boy and his dog decide to play in the water on a hot summer's day.

The second set of stories are about Kasumi and Ken, childhood friends separated at an early age by Kasumi's parents' divorce. Kasumi eventually comes back to spend summer vacation with his father, which is when Ken finally realizes two things: Kasumi is a boy, and he's gorgeous.

The final fiction selection here,"Princess Goldfish," is fairly weird: Keisuke is just about to make some time with his friend when he is distracted by a couple of kids, disappointed in their winnings at the Pet Lottery -- a goldfish. As they are on the verge of tossing it away, Keisuke buys it from them and takes it home. As he's sleeping that evening, he suddenly realizes there's a beautiful boy in his bed: the goldfish he rescued, taken human form to thank him. And thank him he does.

Yes, the stories are light, but very entertaining, especially the Ukyo/Kuro series. Kuro, in particular, is a wonderful characterization, both through dialogue and drawing: he is about as believable a dog-turned-boy as possible, from his awkwardness in walking on two legs to his puppyish enthusiasm to his rambunctious sexuality. Even his difficulty with human speech is wonderful. Strong characterization is something that holds good throughout this collection.

And the drawing is indeed wonderful. Not as finished as Wild Rock, but somehow more appealing because of it. And Takashima has done some beautiful things with page layouts and flow here. There is a gorgeous two-page spread of Kuro in the third story. (And for those concerned with such things, sex scenes are quite restrained.)

This one's from BLU, and imprint of Tokyopop.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

After the Storm

I'm rained out, thanks to localized severe storms yesterday that appear to have been localized on my block -- no power since yesterday morning, soggy carpets (there's something unnerving about a floor that goes "squish" when you walk across it), and a computer that may or may not be functional -- I won't know until I have power back. (I'm actually at the office right now, since I really need to catch up on some writing, and there's nothing I can actually do at home. I could have gone to a coffee shop and done everything longhand, but a) my hand gets tired, and b) not even I can read my handwriting any more. And I have to listen to their crappy music.)

It seems a 100-year-old tree a couple of doors down took out the power lines, a pole, the neighbor's garage, and, I'm told, part of her house. We lost a Volvo or two down the street, but otherwise, there's amazingly little damage overall. As for me -- I think the computer is probably OK, because it doesn't look like there was actually any standing water in my place. The Books of Magic will never be the same, though. Ditto for 07 Ghost, Volume 1 and Blue Skies. (Of course you use the floor as emergency shelf space -- what else it is for?) And I was going to defrost the freezer anyway.

I happened to have been standing on the el platform when the microburst, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, hit. It was pretty spectacular. And bizarre. (Imagine winds so strong that you're not getting rain any more, just fine spray. Blowing horizontally.) I did get on a train, and half a mile south, nothing.

Today, of course, is a perfect summer day -- sunny, warm, light wispy clouds, soft breezes. Welcome to Chicago.

(Crossposted at Booklag.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Gay Blogging, Friday Edition

Since I haven't blogged on anything else this week, this is sort of a coda. I may add to it later, but I have another running around day ahead.

If a preschooler can figure it out, what's wrong with Obama?* Very nice story I found in my e-mail from a friend.

* And the Pope, and the Elders of the LDS Church,and Maggie Gallagher, and Michael Heath, and all the people who have voted for constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.

I told you there would likely be more.

Andrew Sullivan has fnally had it. John Aravosis quotes it in full here. (He doesn't link to it, and my system can't handle The Atlantic very well this morning. If I'm able to get a direct link, I'll paste it in.) I decided to post the whole thing -- Aravosis is right: it can't really be excerpted.

One way to get the Obama administration's attention on civil rights is for gay people to stop funding the Democrats. That's all these people care about anyway when it comes to gays: our money. If the Democrats refuse to support us, refuse to support them. This is a start. But we need to get more creative. We need actions to highlight the administration's betrayals, postponements and boilerplate. We need to start confronting the president at his events. We need civil disobedience. We need to tell him we do not want another fricking speech where he tells us he is a fierce advocate for our rights, when that is quite plainly at this point not true. We will not tolerate another Clinton. No invites to these people for dinners or fundraisers. No cheering him at events while he does nothing to follow up on his explicit promises. Of course these things can be done. If anyone high up in the Obama administration or the Pelosi-Reid Congress gave a damn, much would have been done.

We need to swamp Pelosi with phone-calls.

We need to target Reid for his inaction. We have to pressure Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin not to excuse the disdain that the Obama administration is showing toward gay equality, and their cynical use of our votes, money and passion to enforce real and potent discrimination against us and our families. And we have to refuse to attend White House signing ceremonies like yesterday's farce. Really: until they are serious, we should not be coopted and placated with pathetic sops. I am not a Clintonite. I worked my ass off to get this man to power. On many issues, I support him and will continue to do so.

But I am a proud, self-respecting gay man with HIV. And I am not going to take this crap for much longer on civil rights. Fight back. Act Up.

Aravosis has also posted a really good comment from one of his readers:

I believe we may have arrived at another turning point. It is still early days, but I sense there has been a shift in the mood of a significant and highly vocal segment of our community as we have made the unpleasant and highly painful realization that we have - once again - simply been strung along by the Democratic party.

Read the whole thing -- it's solid.

Not to pat myself on the back, but this is where I've been for a week, pretty much. I seem to recall that I went on record as supporting Obama with strong reservations. I'm sort of disappointed to have been right.

I'm just going to say it again: the Democrats are not our friends. They're not going to do anything for us until we make them. The only way to get them to pay attention is to make them feel pain. No money, no effort, no votes, until we see actual results.


Check out this report from CBS News. Doesn't pull any punches.

Update II:

The Stonewall Democrats are also up in arms. Ben Smith has a report at Politico. As John Aravosis notes, these are not activists, and have been the most reliable supporters of the Democrats since their founding. This is major.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guess What

I hadn't intended to post on this today -- my outrage quotient is pretty much used up, at least I thought it was, but it just doesn't stop from these bozos.

Yeah, the much-ballyhooed "administrative memorandum" regarding government benefits for same-sex partners of government employees was just as little as we had aexpected. From NYT:

The package of domestic partnership benefits that President Obama established for federal workers on Wednesday drew the loudest protests from some of those it was intended to help, gay men and lesbians who criticized the move as too timid. . . .

But several of the nation’s most prominent gay and lesbian political leaders quickly attacked the president for failing to extend full health care benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers, questioning the administration’s explanation that it is precluded from doing so by the Defense of Marriage Act, which Mr. Obama had vowed to repeal during his presidential campaign.

Read the article -- it's pretty obvious that the administration is trying to make something out of nothing on this -- the "administrative memorandum" (which, mind you, is not an executive order and is of limited duration) doesn't actually do anything new.

And the remarks -- ah, yes, what would an evening with the president be without more promises?

John Aravosis picks up some of the reaction. Briefly, it looks like HRC, after criticizing Obama for the DoJ motion, has jumped back on the bandwagon. SLDN points out that the memorandum does not apply to all federal employees, because of DADT (which Obama has also pledge to repeal -- someday).

Andhere's a very interesting bit from Lambda Legal on the "can't provide health benefits under existing law" bullshit:

Lambda Legal is representing Karen Golinskii, a federal employee who works for the judicial branch and who is seeking health insurance coverage for her same-sex spouse. A federal judge has already issued an administrative decision in that matter, concluding that, within the existing rules, the federal government can choose to provide health insurance for same-sex partners. We think they should, and we'll keep fighting for Karen and her spouse -- and for all federal employees.

And this, from Rep. Gerald Nadler:

Today’s announcement, while a fine first step, falls dramatically short of what federal employees need, and, of course, does not at all provide the LGBT community the recognition and equal treatment under the law that are long overdue. To many of my constituents, today’s memorandum unfortunately feels less like real progress for civil rights, and more like a reactive effort to reassure gay and lesbian Americans and their supporters who were recently angered by the Justice Department’s offensive and unnecessary arguments in a case challenging DOMA.

This is what we should be hearing from every Democrat in Congress.

Lurleen at Pam's House Blend has posted, among other things, the text of Obama's remarks. I like this especially:

Hundreds of Fortune 500 companies already offer such benefits not only because it's the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent -- and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever.

Excuse me, Mr. President? How many mission critical personnel have been drummed out of the military since you took office under DADT? You remember DADT -- another one you promised to repeal. Somehow you seem to be enforcing it zealously. Did I miss your 180 on that one?

Here's the video:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Attempt at Clarity

Just to clear things up in my own mind, this is sort of a summary post on the administrations latest gay rights fumble (and it is only the latest).

OK -- the Obama DoJ filed a Motion to Dismiss in Smelt vs. United States that may or may not have some validity in at least some of its arguments.

Point 1: defending DOMA, which Obama has pledged to repeal (although he has done absolutely nothing about it so far) was a judgment call on the administration's part. It's not, according to most of the opinions I've read from lawyers, a requirement. (The White House's own spokespersons have moved from "we must defend" to "as is the general practice, we are defending. . . .")

Point 2: while there might be grounds to dismiss on standing and one or two other technical points, the brief as filed is a "kitchen sink" style exercise. The aim seems to have been to counter all possible constitutional challenges to DOMA. Some of the arguments offered here are, to be charitable, specious: DOMA is constitutional because the government has a legitimate interest in abridging fundamental rights that might cost money if recognized? It doesn't discriminate because gays and lesbians have the same right to marry someone of the opposite sex as heterosexuals do? Give me a break.

Point 3: the tone and language used are demeaning in the extreme. While the brief does not make specific one-on-one analogies between same-sex relationships and incest and pedophilia, who needs the lines drawn after twenty years of right-wing hyperbole? I'm just surprised DoJ didn't find some way to make reference to bestiality.

Point 4: Obama -- and the majority of the Democratic majority in Congress -- have made no effort to distance themselves from this act. For Obama, of course, the only thing that would be acceptable is to withdraw that motion.

I hate to say it, but I will, with the full admission that I have not followed Rahm Emanuel's career with any degree of closeness. He was almost, however, my congressman (I moved), and the man's a snake. I do detect his work here -- he's a past master at snubbing the gay community -- but I'm amazed that there's no one, apparently, in this administration able to counter something like this. The indicator here is that Emanuel has been running scared of the Republicans from day one, and he's not what I'd call gay-friendly.

This is a big black eye for Obama. (I'm sorry, but signing a presidential memorandum to extend limited benefits to the partners of gay government employees just won't cut it. And scheduling the signing and the president's "remarks" for 5:45 pm? Puh-leeze!)

Couple this with his complete inaction on any of his campaign promises (except, of course, for trying to pass the buck to Congress), and it comes back to what I said previously: we voted for a leader; what we got was a Chicago politician.

Snowball Effect

I'm rushing this morning, but check out AmericaBlog, Pam's House Blend, and The Slog for more on the Obama/DOMA debacle. It seems that the White House is finally getting a clue -- at least, a clue that one of their customary teats is drying up. People are pulling out of next week's GLBT fundraiser, so the president is going to sign a memorandum -- not an executive order mind you, a "memorandum," which will expire when he leaves office -- granting gay and lesbian government employees "some" partner benefits. That doesn't include health insurance or retirement benefits. Can you think of any other employer-provided benefits off the top of your head?

I'm also going to spend some time today writing to my congressional delegation -- none of them has let out a peep about this, and I know they're sympathetic. They need to be prodded to open their mouths. So do yours -- write them. They need to condemn that DOMA filing in the strongest possible terms, and sign on to any legislation repealing DADT and DOMA -- if none exists, tell them to introduce it themselves.

Jim Burroway (who is also pissed off, you can tell), has a brief summary.

He also notes statements from Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis. Guess who's missing?


Here's a post from John Aravosis on the president's "employee benefits" dog and pony show, scheduled for this evening.

First off, Chuck Todd on MSNBC said that because this is only a "memorandum," as he called it, it will expire when Obama leaves office. Lovely. Second, health benefits for federal employees won't be covered. Why? Because of DOMA, so says the Advocate.

Just which benefits will gay federal employees be getting? The White House is refusing to say. But it's unlikely it's anything involving money, like Social Security, or, as we now know, health care. Which is ironic, since health care is Obama's number one issue (but not for us). Also ironic, which I wrote about earlier, is that health care reform likely won't cover us either, since they'd have to include us as "families" and "dependents" - and let's face it, they just compared us to incest and pedophilia, does anyone think this administration or this congress is going to define us as "family" in their health care package? (It's also not clear that DOMA would let health care reform provide us any benefits anyway.) In any case, Obama's inaction on DOMA, and outright defense of DOMA, is now undercutting his other efforts, meager that they are, to help us. It's all tied together.

Dan Savage, with his usual eloquence:

Could the Obama administration possibly be ANY MORE incompetent when it comes to gay issues? Let it leak that you're going "extend federal benefits" to the partners of gay federal employees, hope that this move mollifies furious gay rights organizations and activists still reeling from your DOMA betrayal, and THEN announce that—sorry!—the package of benefits doesn't include the single most important work-related benefit: health insurance.Could the Obama administration possibly be ANY MORE incompetent when it comes to gay issues? Let it leak that you're going "extend federal benefits" to the partners of gay federal employees, hope that this move mollifies furious gay rights organizations and activists still reeling from your DOMA betrayal, and THEN announce that—sorry!—the package of benefits doesn't include the single most important work-related benefit: health insurance.

And Pam Spaulding:

This administration, the Congress and the DNC need to see the LGBT ATM shut down. NOW. That June 26 LGBT DNC fundraiser is toast. No one is buying a partner benefit plan that doesn't include health insurance, for god's sake. Will he announce an effort to send Congress something to act on? Uh, keep dreaming - his DOJ just wrote up a brief that uses defenses against incest and underage marriage to claim our relationships are unworthy of equal treatment under the law.

Why do I detect the fine hand of Rahm Emanuel in this? I really can't shake the feeling that it's Emanuel who's decided to throw us to the wolves and Obama -- and remember, he's now proven himself to be just another Chicago pol -- is going along with it so that we don't interfere with his efforts to placate a bunch of losers in Congress who represent 20% of the country.

As of now, I will not support any Democrat running for anything. I'll just stay home, with the purse strings pulled tight.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Letter and Spirit

This is refreshing: a government body that actually understands what "civil rights" means. From WaPo:

The opinion states that city officials would "authorize discrimination" if they were to permit a referendum on whether to afford same-sex couples married elsewhere the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

The two-member board cited District elections law, which prohibits a vote on a matter covered by the Human Rights Act. The 1977 act outlaws discrimination against gays and lesbians and other minority groups.

"The Referendum's proposers would, in contravention of the HRA, strip same-sex couples of the rights and responsibilities of marriage that they were afforded by virtue of entering into valid marriages elsewhere," the ruling states. "Because the Referendum would authorize discrimination prohibited by the HRA, it is not a proper subject for referendum, and may not be accepted by the Board."

Opponents of equal rights for gays, of course, don't recognize the concept of "inalienable rights":

Bishop Harry Jackson, a same-sex-marriage opponent who is pushing for the vote, called the ruling an "insult." His attorneys said they plan to file an appeal today in Superior Court.

"The real human rights issue at stake in this decision is whether the people of D.C. will be given their right to vote," Jackson said. "We are not going to sit still for allowing an unelected board of bureaucrats to deny voters their rightful say on this issue and, by their action, allow the institution of marriage to be radically redefined."

I think Bishop Harry Jackson deserves a Through the Looking Glass Award for turning reality on its head.

The Big Time

This is important: the flap over the DoJ brief in Smelt has hit CBS news -- yes, the MSM, which has been blind to our concerns for how long now? Via John Aravosis, this story:

The anger from gay rights advocates toward President Obama is starting to boil over. . . .

The Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, mandates (1) that the federal government not recognize same-sex marriages and (2) that states not be forced to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

Mr. Obama vowed to repeal DOMA as a presidential candidate but he has not taken any action to do so since becoming president. The Justice Department brief calls the legislation a "valid exercise of Congress' power" and says it is "reasonable and rational for Congress to maintain its longstanding policy of fostering this traditional and universally-recognized form of marriage."

And CBS starts connecting the dots:

As CBSNews.com reported earlier this month, the president has also declined to take action on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits gays from serving openly in the military, despite campaign promises to do so. While the administration has suggested it is working with the military to repeal the policy responsibly, the Pentagon says there have not been any serious discussions along those lines.

And, from Aravosis again, Congress ain't gonna do shit. (And exactly what did you expect from Harry Reid, anyway?)

It's a scathing story, and frankly, with all the news coming out of Iran, as well as the developing fight over health-care reform, I'm surprised it got this much notice. The trick is to keep up the heat.

Aravosis also notes the lack of coverage, but has some striking news: people are starting to pull out of the Democratic fundraiser scheduled for later this month -- most significantly, David Mixner, one of the real gay power centers in this country. Aravosis' post has a lot of good information -- a must read. (Aravosis has been on top of this one.)

Update: A strong editorial from NYT that characterizes the brief as a "fumble." You can say that again.

Update II:

And, believe it or not, a story in WSJ:

A prominent gay-rights organization, long supportive of President Barack Obama, sent him a scathing letter Monday to protest the administration's recent legal backing of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The frustration, expressed in an emotional letter by the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also stems from Mr. Obama's reluctance to move on other issues on its agenda, such as allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

As a candidate for president, Mr. Obama said he would try to repeal the law known as DOMA. It prevents same-sex couples married in states where gay unions are legal from benefiting from federal benefits of marriage, such as Social Security spousal benefits.

But on Friday, the Obama administration filed a brief seeking to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, a California couple married during the brief period when gay marriage was legal in the state, who are challenging the 1996 federal act.

This story's pretty uninflected, but the mere fact that it happens is instructive: if NYT and WSJ are starting to notice, things are really hot.

Monday, June 15, 2009


is up for grabs. See Andrew Sullivan for for ongoing reporting on the situation in the streets -- pulled mostly from Twitter.

Dday has a scathing commentary at Hullabaloo, including this bit from Robert Farley:

So, I'm trying to find out something about what's going on in Iran, and on CNN I can watch a rerun of Larry King interviewing several gentlemen without shirtsleeves who apparently assemble choppers. On Fox Mike Huckabee is trying to explain why Jesus hates credit card relief. MSNBC is rerunning something about a prison in New Mexico. CNBC is evaluating whether college students should be able to afford Chanel tote bags.

Sullivan also points out a few instances of total media fail on this.

Regular readers will have a good idea at this point of my opinion of the MSM in terms of providing actual information. This only renders it in stark tones: total failure to cover one of the most significant news stories happening right now. And most of what coverage there is seems to be doing what the media has learned to do best: acting as stenographers for those in power. This says a lot:

Sadly, the situation in Iran is not one I'm prepared to comment on -- I just don't have the information on which to base anything intelligent (and, if I rely on TV news, I never will have). I will say, though, that this looks worse than 1979. It's already nasty. It's going to get really, really bad.

I can, however, comment on the media coverage, which seems to be lacking. I've had my own run-ins with the slack-jawed complacency of the press, including an instance in which a reporter wanted to talk to me about comments I had left on a story she had done. I simply pointed out that everything I had to say I had said in the comments, that she gave her subject a free pass on some very substantive issues, that she didn't know enough about the issues even to have done the story, and she didn't even pick up on the comments by people she had quoted in opposition. She decided she didn't want to talk to me after all.

That's the free press in the U.S.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

DOMA, Once Again

And, I suspect, not for the last time.

Joe Sudbay has a good, strong post on the "defenses" of the Bush -- um, I mean Obama administration's brief in support of DOMA:

Lawyers get very sanctimonious about the law, and the need to obey the law and legal precedent, above all else. But, the law can be very fluid -- and lawyers are taught in law school to find new ways to interpret words. Lawyers who craft new legal strategies and theories that sway courts are venerated in history as civil rights heroes (we even name buildings and airports after them). So, the notion that the Obama administration had only one recourse yesterday -- to file a brief in support of DOMA -- is very narrow legal thinking. Sure, the brief was a legal document, but it was also very much a political document. It had the backing of the President of the United States. And anyone who says that Republican and Democratic presidents alike don't let their politics influence their arguments before the courts is either a liar or terribly naive.

It seems to me that Sudbay shouldn't have to point this out. Any legal document comes from policy, and policy is always a political phenomenon. Laws don't exist in a hermetically sealed environment, and to maintain that they do is, to put the best face on it, naive indeed. To maintain that the administration has no choice but to defend a law that the president has vowed repeatedly to repeal is disingenuous. To maintain that Obama, in filing this brief, is upholding his promise to return us to the rule of law, as Lars Thorwald did in that ludicrous DKos post that I noted yesterday, is somewhat worse than disingenuous.

Pam Spaulding noted Sudbay's post and commented on it herself. She included this (sadly, no link):

Journalist Karen Ocamb asked Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal to comment on the brief and the choices the Obama DOJ had -- and decided to follow through with on this civil rights issue.
Whether or not the administration felt a need to defend, there are many ways one can defend. The administration could have rested on the first two arguments raised in their papers (jurisdiction and standing) that these plaintiffs were not entitled to sue without arguing at this point that DOMA is constitutional. Doing that would not have waived those arguments. What they need to be asked is why they gratuitously went out of their way to make the outrageous arguments they unnecessarily included such as that DOMA does not discriminate based on sexual orientation or that the right at issue is not marriage but an unestablished right to "same-sex marriage" or that DOMA is somehow justified in order to protect taxpayers who don't want their tax dollars used to support lesbian and gay couples (while it's apparently fine to make lesbians and gay men pay the same taxes but be denied the benefits provided heterosexual couples). Their public statements about the filing try to sidestep these points. They absolutely knew they did not need to make these additional arguments, especially at this time and consciously decided to do so. I am seething mad.

When will our progressive "friends" address this? We're waiting.

I think we're going to be waiting for answers on this one for a long time.

David Link has a good analysis of why the DOJ brief is such a disaster. It almost answers the questions, but I have a couple more:

The vast majority of employees at the DOJ, as with most government entities in the U.S., are civil servants protected from the political winds that blow through the top of their organizations. In that sense, every civil servant at DOJ is a Bush (and perhaps Clinton, and perhaps Bush I) holdover.

But we know that Bush was placing many of his political appointees in civil service slots in the final weeks of his residency (I can't honestly call it a "presidency" at this point). So no, they're not "insulated" from the political winds except insofar as it's much harder to get rid of them now. They're still right-wing ideologues.

But how could this derision not have been noticed by the President’s men? First, and most obviously, I can only imagine that no lesbian or gay men ever set eyes on this brief. Perhaps I am wrong, but I honestly can’t see how any self-respecting homosexual in 2009 could possibly think this brief was acceptable.

That was my next question: you mean to tell me no one in the Justice Department is gay? No one? I wish I could be as comfortable with the idea that no gay person would pass something like this, but Link obviously has not read some of the "gay conservative" sites I have. Yeah, they could do it, and likely would.

A little compare and contrast: see Jim Burroway's post on California AG Jerry Brown's response to the complaint filed in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, the case being pursued by Olson and Boies.

Digby, as usual, nails it:

Needless to say, after so many slights, snubs and various betrayals it's pretty hard to deny that the LGBT community is being used as a pawn in the president's "outreach" to social conservatives. It's a cruel dismissal of a strong and loyal constituency on an issue of fundamental civil rights.

Once again, boys and girls: Obama is a politician, first and always.

Reviews in Brief: Shungiku Nakamura's Junjo Romantica (anime), Season Two

There's not actually all that much to say about Season Two of Junjo Romantica, except that in the main story line, Misaki, who seems to have a knack for falling into improbable situations, manages to meet both Usagi's older brother and his father -- on the train. Otherwise, it's all about resolution. But then, that's half the fun.

Aside from the family interference -- and that's of a magnitude that could only happen to Usagi and Misaki -- Misaki is getting closer and closer to finally admitting to himself that he loves Usagi. The season is worth watching just for the wonderful scene on the Ferris wheel in episode 9 (episode 21 of the complete anime), when Misaki finally lets the cat out of the bag. After watching several times, I've come to have a lot more appreciation for Misaki and understand his character better. I still want to grab him and shake him sometimes, though, particularly in a couple of scenes with Isaki and "Usagi-chichi" ((Usagi's father), who are trying to break them up. The key to understanding Misaki is that he doesn't want to make trouble for anyone -- to the extent of always putting himself last, even when it would be better not to.

Nowaki and Hiroki, in "Junjo Egoist," have their own problems, as always stemming from their seemingly complete inability to communicate with each other. The draw here is in watching Hiroki as he finally starts to get it: he's dense enough that he has to be beaten over the head with Nowaki's insecurity before it finally dawns on him that it's a problem for them. "Dense" and "grouchy" sort of summarize Hiroki, but there is some movement here.

The final installment of "Junjo Terrorist" (Episode 8 [20]) is just wonderful. This is the episode that won me over to Miyagi: we get a good look at his history and some good depth in his character, and a couple of great scenes for Shinobu, who really comes to life here. Another one that makes it worth watching the season.

I'm one who likes to see relationships and character develop, so there's no question that I'm very fond of this anime. There's enough here that you start wishing for a Season Three -- I do, at least. (And just to refresh your memory, here's the RiB for Season One.) I can't find an American distributor listed anyplace, so this may not be out on DVD for a while. (It hit Japanese TV last fall, from what I can dig up.)


Director: Chiaki Kon
Script: Michiko Yokote (ep 2, 4, 8, 10), Rika Nakase (ep 1, 6, 9, 12), Yoshiko Nakamura (ep 3, 5, 7, 11)
Original creator: Shungiku Nakamura
Character Design: Yoko Kikuchi
Art director: Junichi Higashi, Junko Shimizu
Sound director: Hozumi Gôda
Theme Song Performance: pigstar (OP)


Isshin Chiba as Keiichi Sumi
Ai Hayasaka as Female student (ep 5), TV newscaster (ep 10)
Aiko Aihashi as TV anchorwoman (ep 4)
Asumi Kodama as Woman (ep 7)
Daisuke Kishio as Takatsuki Shinobu
Hatsumi Takada as Child (ep 6)
Hikaru Hanada as Usami Akihiko
Hiroka Nishizawa as Announcer (ep 6), Reporter (ep 10)
Hiroshi Yamamoto as Guest (ep 5) , Man (ep 11)
Hitomi Harada as Woman (ep 3)
Hozumi Gôda as Kyou Ijuuin (ep 12)
Juurouta Kosugi as Usami Fuyuhiko
Kazuhiko Inoue as Miyagi You
Kazutaka Ishii as Student (ep 5)
Kenta Miyake as Tanaka (ep 3, 11)
Kentarou Itou as Kamijyou Hiroki
Kishô Taniyama as Takahashi Takahiro
Kousuke Toriumi as Usami Haruhiko
Mayumi Asano as Risako Takatsuki (ep 8)
Miki Suga as Female student (ep 5), Nurse (ep 6)
Nami Mizuno as Child (ep 6)
Nana Mizuki as Kaoruko Usami (ep 10)
Nobutoshi Canna as Kusama Nowaki
Noriko Namiki as Aikawa Eri
Reiko Sasakawa as Sensei's mother (ep 8)
Ryotaro Okiayu as Asahina Kaoru
Saori Seto as Maid (ep 3)
Susumu Chiba as Tsumori
Takahiro Sakurai as Takahashi Misaki
Tetsya Kakihara as Shinobu's friend (ep 8)
Toshiyuki Morikawa as Isaka Ryuuichirou
Yuki Masuda as Sensei (ep 8)
Yukito Souma as Editor (ep 12)
Yuuko Nishihara as Woman (ep 3, 7)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Defense of Obama, and a Roundup

Lars Thorwald defends the DOJ's brief in Smelt on the basis that Obama is keeping his promise to uphold the laws. Andrew Sullivan buys it. I don't.

I want to address the brief filed in support of the Defense of Marriage Act. That Act preceded Obama. He inherited that law. It was on the books when he came into office, and because it has been challenged, he and his DOJ have an obligation to defend the law if there is a legal basis to defend it.

Thorwald slides past the big question here: is DOMA actually legally defensible? There are serious questions about that, which he doesn't address. The arguments presented in that brief are, to be kind, tenuous -- DOMA doesn't violate our rights under the Constitution because we're free to marry, as long as it's to someone we can't love and don't want to marry? It's constitutional because it saves the government money? No precedent recognizing marriage as a fundamental right or recognizing the right of citizens to form intimate relationships without government interference has relevance? If these are legitimate legal defenses, we are in serious trouble in this country. (Dale Carpenter has some observations on the quality of the arguments advanced:

It's identical in form to the defense of Texas's Homosexual Conduct law in Lawrence v. Texas: a law banning only gay sex doesn't discriminate against gays because it equally forbids homosexuals and heterosexuals to have homosexual sex and because it equally allows homosexuals and heterosexuals to have heterosexual sex. This sort of formalism has incited howls of laughter over the years when made by religious conservatives. Now it's the official constitutional position of the Obama administration.

The interesting thing is that Carpenter says that much of the brief seems defensible to him, and then proceeds to what is, in my reading, a complete take-down.)

Thorwald also makes the flat assertion that John Aravosis is wrong is saying that the administration is not obligated to defend the law in court, but offers no real support for that. We all know that I don't buy argument by assertion here. Aravosis is a lawyer, too, and he's not an idiot. Volatile, but not an idiot.

And Thorwald ignores the tone and language of the brief, which is what is fueling most of the outrage.

It seems that DKos has become the official blog of the Obama administration. (This isn't the first time in recent days that the gay community has been told on the blog to cool it.)

Here's another defense, from one of Sullivan's readers, that I find more persuasive. However, Sullivan picks up on the same point I did above:

But the zealous defense of DOMA - including repeating countless spurious and unnecessary slurs against gay people - need not be a lawyer's duty. It is a choice by his political superiors. It is not the fact of this brief, it is its contents and rhetoric that sting. They did not have to go this far.

In trying to understand why the Obama administration would seek to go to such lengths to make arguments embraced by James Dobson I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. I was probably wrong. The more I learn the clearer it is that this was a conscious decision by Obama's DOJ to use evey conceivable argument to kill any constitutional attack on DOMA. At the same time, they are clearly committed to doing nothing in the foreseeable future to enact any redress for those couples currently denied their civil rights. On top of this, they obviously did nothing to prepare gay couples or any gay leaders for this swipe at them. Why? Are relations that broken? Some judicious explanation ahead of time would surely have been in everyone's interest. But again, one gets the impression that for the Obama administration, gay people are a burden, a distraction and a bore.
(Emphasis mine)

Jim Burroway has another roundup of reactions.


It seems I wasn't prone to conspiracy thinking after all. Aravosis has unearthed this tidbit:

Andrew Sullivan discovered that one of the three Obama Justice Department attorneys who wrote and filed the anti-gay DOMA brief last night is W. Scott Simpson, a Mormon Bush holdover who was awarded by Alberto Gonzales for his defense of the Partial Birth Abortion act.

Sullivan raises the questions I want answers to:

So who signed off on this brief? Who is responsible for this mess? Or are gays that low a priority for DOJ?

I think we all know that answer to that last one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Black-Tie Event

Maybe they can get the Log Cabin Republicans to attend.


Update to "Ballistic"

I've had a chance to think about this one a little, and I think that my initial suggestion may have more to it than it might seem at first. I don't think this is the product of the Obama administration. This is not a case that would be under the direct scrutiny of any of Obama's high-level appointees, as nearly as I can figure, and the whole tone of the brief just reeks of Bush loyalists. Lest I be accused of conspiracy thinking on this, remember, that's exactly what Bush was doing in his final weeks in office, especially at Justice, which was the most heavily politicized department of his government. If you want to screw up the country forever, what better way to do it than stuff the part of the government charged directly with enforcing the laws with right-wing ideologues? Particularly if it's going to make clowns out of the Democrats (not that they need much help). (John Aravosis has another with some of the reaction from the blogosphpere that makes me think I'm on the right track here: the language and arguments are so completely out of the Focus on the Family hymnal that I don't see how a progressive could have written this brief.)

Jim Burroway initially had a take close to mine: take another look, after he noted some of the more colorful reactions from the blogosphere. (I'm not going to get into the incest/pedophilia argument here, except to note that, as Burroway says, it's not a direct comparison, but at this point it's a conditioned response: say the words, particularly in relation to gays, and two decades of right-wing, homophobic bullshit come right back to you. They don't need to make a direct link -- it's already in people's minds.) His most recent post highights some of the "official" reactions from the major advocacy and lobbying groups. Andrew Sullivan has a short, sharp rejoinder to what he calls "the most egregoius line." Frankly, I'm hard put to pick out my own most egregious -- the brief seems to have been written by a committee headed by Maggie Gallagher and Rick Warren. John Aravosis has a follow-up post demolishing some of the rational for filing this brief. I think Aravosis is on solid ground here -- the precedents he cites are convincing, and there are probably more.

I'm not letting Obama off the hook on this. If lawyers in his DOJ prepared and filed something like this without review by someone senior enough to quash it, then it's his fault. Cases challenging DOMA, DADT, and any other gay-related legislation should be automatic red flags to this administration.

Look at it this way: this is a win/win for the Republicans:

1. It further marginalizes the gay community;

2. It erodes support for the Obama administration (What's the reaction of any minority going to be when something like this sinks in?). (Sullivan twigged to this one in a follow-up.) ;

3. It may very well serve to derail gay civils rights (I'm not so nearly convinced of that as Aravosis is, but I don't think it can be completely discounted), or at least make it harder to effect changes on a state level, which is where the real battle is happening. It's becoming more and more apparent that any action at the federal level will happen in spite of Obama.

Here's the brief:

Obama's Motion to Dismiss Marriage case


Trying not to go there, but it's hard when faced with stories like this one.

Aravosis makes it sound pretty awful, and it is. I do want to point out one thing though, before I go into my own diatribe:

We just got the brief from reader Lavi Soloway. It's pretty despicable, and gratuitously homophobic. It reads as if it were written by one of George Bush's top political appointees.

It probably was. Remember, Bush not only stacked the Justice Department with ideologues, he put them all in civil service jobs before he left so they wouldn't have to resign when the new administration took office. Odds on this all comes out of a Bush holdover, or a group of them, with their own agenda, which is not going to be gay-friendly -- the reasoning has that sort of John Yoo flavor to it, after all.

However, my next bet is that Obama does nothing to repudiate this brief. Then I will go ballistic.

Friday Gay Blogging: Patience

In terms of our civil rights and some display of leadership by that "fierce advocate" in the White House, I've run out of it.

Three things:

First, Jennifer Vanasco, in a piece titled "Another Shrug from Obama":

Obama has been mostly silent on our issues since taking office. Insiders tell us that he will keep his promises. They tell us to be patient. They tell us to wait.

Maybe they're right. Maybe not. Maybe the Obama Administration really is working like crazy behind the scenes to dismantle DOMA and Don’t Ask, to support the Employment Non—Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act. Maybe they're just hoping if they placate us enough, we’ll go away.

All we know for sure when it comes to this Administration is that hope is not enough. Promises of "change" are not enough. We supported Obama with our dollars and our labor, and it is time he supports us in return.

But until he does, the good people of Illinois — like good people all over the country — have to wait for their rights.

And then, Dale Carpenter, who counsels patience:

The problem is that losing has consequences beyond the immediate loss. Initiatives -- from gathering the needed signatures to running an effective campaign to winning -- require a huge investment of money, people, and time. Such resources are finite. The $60 million or more that will be spent in 2010 could go to other things, like state and congressional elections or fighting a possible SSM repeal (Maine? Iowa?) or amendment ban in another state. Those volunteers and organizers could be doing other productive things with their time. And losing in 2010, especially if the margin is greater than in 2008, will be deflating. It will harm morale. It will scare off legislators elsewhere. And it will be taken (incorrectly) as a sign that the tide is beginning to turn against SSM, with numerous political consequences in the short term. Losing doesn't mean you start from scratch the next time you try. It means you start from scratch with a bigger political, psychological, and financial burden. Waiting until 2012 would be better, in this sense, than losing in 2010 and trying again in 2012.

I have a fundamental disagreement with Carpenter on this, aside from the fact that he seems almost gleeful at the prospect of losing a repeal effort in 2010. I don't think waiting is a viable strategy, if it ever was (and I'm not convinced on that score: waiting has gotten us exactly what?). We need to be at least as determined and dogged as our opponents, who will keep trying again and again until they get what they want. The difference is that if we keep trying, we reach out to people. People come to know who we are, and that's to our advantage, win or lose.

We made progress on civil rights when we were yelling and screaming. Then we decided to be prudent. Know what? People aren't impressed with how responsible you're being. They're impressed with the emotional reality that you bring to your cause: when they see your face, hear your words, know who you are, that changes them. Sitting on the sidelines being prudent doesn't change anything. It just means you've been co-opted. (See above, re: "fierce advocate.")

As for the perception that a defeat in California will give the impression that marriage is now a losing proposition, let me point out a sequence of events:

Proposition 8 adopted in California
Iowa legalizes same-sex marriage
Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage, overriding the governor's veto
Maine legalizes same-sex marriage
Prop 8 upheld by California Supreme Court
New Hampshire legalizes same-sex marriage

And let me point out that Prop 8 was No on 8's election to lose, and they did it -- by being prudent.

Finally, via Andrew Sullivan, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

It occurs to me, reading this passage, that those potential "supporters" who are going to be repulsed by confrontational tactics maybe aren't supporters at all. They are "more devoted to 'order' than to justice" and will support our reach for civil rights as long as it doesn't actually impinge on their reality. They are also the very people who will turn around and vote to take away those rights in the next election. They're not our friends. The most that can be said for them is that they're not crazy.

(I'm rushing this morning. I may come back and clean this up a bit, but I wanted to get these thoughts at least sketched out.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Pam Spaulding has a good, strong post on blow-back from the left over criticism of Obama's complete inaction on gay civil rights issues. (I mean, the best he can do is a proclamation for GLBT etc., etc., Pride Month? That's all?)

Call this one "required reading."


Another one of those posts from Andrew Sullivan that sparked a few thoughts of my own. I've probably taken issue with Sullivan on this before -- he spends a lot of time decrying "identity politics," particularly when engaged in by people he doesn't identify with -- but I have to hand it to him: he does spark some thinking from time to time. I'm not researching this one -- I'm just following the thoughts to see where they lead.

He says something that once again betrays a lack of depth in his thinking:

As to the broader issue, it is undeniable that our identity forms us; but it is still important in my view to aspire to something beyond it.

My question is, does he honestly think that people have only one "identity"? I'm positing this in full realization that his use of the term is fluid: there is any individual's identity, which is composed of any number of facets, and then there is the group identity that is generally being referred to in discussions of "identity politics." But these group identities are never monolithic.

The stellar illustration of that last observation is the gay movement: What started off once upon a time as "LGB" is now "LGBTQ" and growing. (I've seen extenstions of that one that stagger the imagination, but I've forgotten all the initials.) This is identity politics carried to the point where it no longer has a coherent identity, and no longer has any effectiveness as a mode of operation. If you don't believe me, just look at the overwhelming success of the national movement organizations in the past decade or so. Right.

Sullivan's use of the term is inevitably pejorative. It seems that no one who discusses movements and interest groups in those terms is in favor -- except of course, for their own movement and interest groups, which are by definition not based on "identity." (I'm sorry, but I can't resist: Does this mean that old, white, straight Christian guys don't have identities?) I mean, once again, what we're dealing with here is lazy thinking, this time apparently focused on Sonia Sotomayor, and I have to say that I'm amazed at Sullivan, or nearly: you have figure that if the far-right noise machine is saying it, it can't possibly be true. (This is based on empirical evidence, so is subject to change as new evidence becomes available. I'm not holding my breath.)

My problem with Sullivan's statement is that people, and even groups, do aspire to something beyond -- not only aspire, but achieve, regularly, and as a matter of course. Not to acknowledge that is not only lazy, but sloppy. You're going to come to the right conclusions only by accident because you've set artificial parameters for a discussion of real phenomena.

I'm not saying that identity politics is not real -- look at the alphabet soup that's the gay movement, or any one of a number of blogs that hew to the party line (whatever the party happens to be, and whatever the reality of the subject under discussion). In most cases that's a natural outgrowth of the demands of the situation: there's an issue at stake, and most issues do not affect 100% of the population. Those that do don't affect everyon the same way. Identity becomes a viable rallying point for a point of view.

This is sort of interesting:

I have long struggled to achieve a balance in writing about homosexuality - objective and subjective - and haven't always succeeded. But the point was trying. On this blog, I write passionately about the subject but I hope I do not do so out of a sense of victimhood or in a way that doesn't assume that heterosexuals can easily grasp and agree with what I'm saying.

As to Sullivan's "balance in writing" about homosexuality, why? I make no bones about the fact that I'm an advocate. Otherwise, I wouldn't be blogging. Frankly, I think that's pretty much the case across the board on the blogosphere. I'm a lot more fair than many bloggers (which regularly gets me trashed from both directions, when anyone bothers to notice), but I'm not at all reticent about my agenda.

My basis is different: I'm not apologizing. (And frankly, that surprises me in one regard: not that I'm unapologetic, but that Sullivan, who is substantially younger than I, is bending over backwards to make himself acceptable to non-gays. I guess it's not purely a generational thing after all.) I'm putting the shoe on the other foot: anyone who is going to be critical of me solely because of my sexual orientation has to prove to me that their opinion is acceptable and deserves attention.

That may very well be using identity as a club, but in a different way than is the usual case when discussing "identity politics." Sure, my politics, at least on social issues, particularly on the issue of gay rights, stems from my identity as a gay man. To be honest, I've never been very good at being a victim -- I'm just too damned ornery for that, and I don't have much patience for it in anyone else. My feeling is that if you're a victim, chances are you've been cooperating. (Don't take this as an absolute: there are certainly situations in which someone is a victim without any influence on their situation. Interestingly enough, those people don't seem to spend much time playing the victim card. They tend to sue.)

To loop back around to Sullivan's remarks and my objections to them, where this is leading seems to be one more blast at Sullivan for dismissing a perfectly legitimate strategic basis for activiy by what is a perfectly circular argument: the arguments are invalid because they are based on identity politics, and identiy politics are by definition suspect. (Full disclosure: as I noted at the beginning of this post, I don't know the circumstances that prompted Sullivan's post, but he seems to have jumped on the "affirmative action" bandwagon with regard to Sotomayor's career, which he now admits was wrong. "Affirmative action" is simply one of the mechanisms of identity politics.) In this case, the argument -- Sonia Sotomayor's successful career, and consequently her qualifications as a Supreme Court nominee -- has been given a suspect pedigree -- identity politics -- in order to carry out a radical right-wing agenda. I'm sort of surprised at Sullivan for being a party to it, but at the same time I'm not: it's Beltway thinking, after all.