"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, August 31, 2010

Social Security Basics

An interesting article by economist Dean Baker, in response to Alan Simpson's intemperate and ill-informed (read "stupid and inflammatory") comments about Social Security.

Once again, class: there is no Social Security crisis. The only "crisis" is the Grover Norquist faction of the right wing that wants to dismantle it so that retirement savings will become to sole province of their buddies on Wall Street -- and we've seen how that works out. Oh, they also want to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, veterans' benefits, roads, bridges, public transportation, and probably the U.S. Mint. You know, all those pesky government intrusions into daily life.

Anyway, read Baker's piece -- it's good basic information that you need to have.

I'm So Tired of Glenn Beck

He's a circus clown, and I'm appalled that so many people are taking him seriously.

Gods, what's happened to my country?

My Bad

I've been too lazy this summer. I have to do some clean-up work here, like updating the yaoi reviews at Epinions (which are going to their own page, when I get around to it) and going back and updating the indexes at a/k/a Hunter. (Although on that one, I'm still debating setting up a site under my own domain. We'll see.)

And there's other work to be done on the sidebar -- new sites I want to link to, etc.

Patience. Summer's coming to an end and I'll go back to being a nerd. Eventually.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Must Read

This post.

Ken Mehlman

I haven't weighed in on Ken Mehlman's coming out, except for one comment at Pam's House Blend. I'm willing to take him at face value, with the caveat that my estimation is contingent on future actions. As for personal journeys, well -- you know, I never "officially" came out. I just appeared, gradually. I'm not going to judge how others deal with that.

This piece from Kerry Eleveld, although concerned mainly with marriage and how it's become the signature issue -- sort of a "where we are now" commentary -- does pretty accurately encapsulate my feelings on Mehlman:

Of course, Mehlman is just beginning to put his money where his mouth is on marriage, and I agree with people like Pam Spaulding who are pushing him to do the same with antigay politicians, where he could have considerable influence.

I fully understand that Mehlman’s revelation this week picked the scab off a wound that runs deep throughout the LGBT community, and I’m not absolving anyone of anything. But nor do I think it’s my place to stand in judgment.

Every morning newsprint slaps my coffee table with a mountain of injustice that often rims my eyes with sadness and occasionally rushes my heart with rage. And I would much rather train my sights on creating a future of fairness than stay mired in yesterday’s despair.

So instead of crucifying Mehlman, let’s hand him a pickax and a shovel and let him get to work on dismantling the hate he and his cronies helped heap upon a vulnerable and undeserving minority.

One additional observation -- both Mehlman and California state senator Roy Ashburn mark a distinct shift in the way closeted politicians are handling the public recognition of their sexual orientation. It's no longer a matter of denial, stonewalling, or a "cure." It's acceptance and a willingness to do a one-eighty on matters of gay civil rights. Ashburn's been working hard. Mehlman, with his greater resources, should work twice as hard. I'm not sure he will, but I'm waiting to see.

And if he does, that's going to make a big difference. The Democrats, and especially the current administration, have largely been a failure on our issues in terms of meeting expectations that they themselves have created. One thing that Obama has done, though quite unintentionally, I'm sure: he's created a crisis in which we as a community are no longer willing to let the Democrats and their appendages such as HRC and GLAAD get away with inaction. I've been hoping for a more activist activism in our community, although I'm ill-equipped to spark anything like that myself -- I'm not an activist, I'm a gadfly.

But I'm encouraged.

And You Thought We Had Problems

Nice little bit from BBC:

Previously, scientists had identified a huge impact crater in the Gulf of Mexico as the event that spelled doom for the dinosaurs.

Now evidence for a second impact in Ukraine has been uncovered.

This raises the possibility that the Earth may have been bombarded by a whole shower of meteorites.

Life is a crap shoot, and the dice are loaded.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Evil Done in God's Name is Not God's Work" (Updated)

That's a quote from, believe it or not, a fantasy novel by Tanya Huff, one of her Summon the Keeper series. I found it apropos for today's subject, which I'm finally feeling able to tackle now that I have less nasal congestion and, consequently, the return of some cognitive function.

It all grows out of this post, about Gail Sweet's attempt to scrub an "offensive" book from the Burlington County, NJ, library system on the sly. (That post was a follow-up to this one on the same topic, which became a separate post because of the lengthy and somewhat hysterical comment left by "SafeLibraries." I won't comment on the irony in that moniker.)

The bottom line in that story is that Sweet, acting on her own and without following regular procedures that would have left her decision open to public debate, tried to remove Revolutionary Voices, a collection of essays, stories, poems and art by GLBT teenagers, from the library shelves because of a complaint by a wingnut Beck-worshipper lodged with a high school library in the county. Note that the complaint was not lodged with the county system, but one high school. SafeLibraries' defense of Sweet was shrill and didn't really hold up to scrutiny, but was in a way quite revealing of a mindset that I think I captured in my response to a comment in the second post:

The real issue in this case is not whether Revolutionary Voices is, in fact, appropriate for a school library. That question was never open for discussion or review and was instead decided on the basis of one woman's judgment. (Frankly, the assertion that a collection of works by teenagers is not appropriate for teenagers is itself somewhat suspect.)

The issue so far has been Sweet's method of removing the book, not just from a school library, but from an entire county library system. Has she now appointed herself the arbiter of what's permitted for adults to read as well as "impressionable youth"?

The more I look at this story, the more it becomes obvious to me that Sweet has engaged in a naked attempt to impose her values on the community at large, and to do so undercover. Offside quotes about inappropriate material in a situation where the designation of "inappropriate" rests on one woman's questionable judgment are not going to change that.

Believe it or not, that's related to this post from Pam's House Blend covering two counseling students who let their religious objections to homosexuality get in the way of their desire to help people. First, Jennifer Keeton:

Professors asked Keeton to complete the remediation plan after she said she opposed homosexuality and would tell gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit filed in the case.

And Julea Ward:

"The university had a rational basis for adopting the ACA Code of Ethics into its counseling program, not the least of which was the desire to offer an accredited program," Steeh said in a 48-page opinion.

"Furthermore, the university had a rational basis for requiring its students to counsel clients without imposing their personal values.

"In the case of Ms. Ward, the university determined that she would never change her behavior and would consistently refuse to counsel clients on matters with which she was personally opposed due to her religious beliefs -- including homosexual relationships."

The judge said Ward's "refusal to attempt learning to counsel all clients within their own value systems is a failure to complete an academic requirement of the program."

The link in these examples is one that is a fundamental characteristic of the Christian right in this country: the attempt to impose one set of values and standards on those who don't adhere to them. That last quote from the article on Julea Ward is the key, and it's a concept that carries over to the Gail Sweet controversy: libraries, like counselors, are not in the business of imposing one set of sectarian values on the general populace. It's particularly reprehensible when they position themselves to do so with a vulnerable population: those in need of help and support in general, and particularly teenagers who may be trying to come to terms with their sexuality.

There also seems to be a cognitive deficit in these people, revealed by their utter inability to recognize that there are other points of view and other value systems in play. There are over three hundred million people in this country, who come from all sorts of different cultures, religious backgrounds, and social contexts. It's arrogance beyond belief to take it upon oneself to dictate what they must believe, particularly in the context of a secular society founded in part on the guarantee that no one has that right.

And they will always paint themselves as victims, when in reality, they are the greatest danger to our way of life.

Update: As a pendant discussion to the above, see this post at Mahablog:

But “rights” according to Rep. Fleming is the right of the majority faction to maintain tribal dominance by erecting its totems in government buildings (the Ten Commandments in courthouses) and to force everyone to participate in its religious rituals (prayers at graduation ceremonies and football games).

I think too many Americans have no idea what “rights” are. They throw the word around a lot, but they have no idea what it means. As in the Park51 controversy, even people who pay lip service to the rights of a Sufi congregation to build an Islamic center on their own property seem to think that others have a “right” to stop them by force, either legal or physical. In this context, “right” seems to mean “power.”

It's this Alice-In-Wonderland approach to discourse that makes the religious right such a threat -- they have no compunctions about turning history, current events, and even the Constitution on their heads to get their way. It's a natural outgrowth of the idea that only their point of view (values, beliefs, what have you) has any legitimacy, because they simply can't recognize any other.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Basic Economic Problem

Here's a very good post from Nicole Bell at C&L on some economic observations from Fareed Zakaria -- good, basic, core stuff that tells us a lot. I recommend it, but here's the key observation:

As Fareed Zakaria describes it, it's is because Germany is investing in its own long-term economic success, by focusing on strengthening their manufacturing base, educating future employees, and offering social safety nets to keep the workforce happy and secure.

I've talked to people in my private life who question whether we could actually adopt Germany's policies here, given that our GDP is exponentially much larger. I don't think it's an issue of GDP so much as it is a willingness to stop structuring all of our economic policies for the short-term benefit of corporations over everything else.
(Emphasis mine.)

There are examples of what the Germans have been doing -- made possible, I suspect, because German corporations are not running the government the way American corporations do -- or maybe it's just that German CEOs are smarter than ours.

I have some fairly strong ideas about things like this, and I'm running into this Wall Street corporate think on a daily basis: staff is your key element in any business. Without staff, you're screwed, and if you don't value them, you're screwing yourself. The movers and shakers don't get it -- they think staff are like gears or something -- if upkeep gets to be too much, you get rid of it and get a cheaper one. (Although Zakaria has some good thoughts on that aspect, as well.) So now we're in a situation where the upper reaches of management are populated by frat boys with MBAs who have no idea what they're doing because anyone with experience and solid judgment (not to mention common sense) has been put out to pasture.

I have a history of successful staff management because my staff always knew that I supported them and would back them (although they also knew I would haul them into my office and rip them a new one if they really screwed up -- as soon as we got the screw-up fixed) and they also knew that they could talk to me. And I ran a couple of very efficient, productive and successful offices because of it.

Yeah, it's old-fashioned -- but it works.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yes, I'm Still Alive

but still a little disconnected. What is it about a stuffy nose and higher cognitive functions? Some sort of inverse relationship there, for sure.

Anyway, I just wanted to pass along this bit from Barbara O'Brien, who has been running the best commentary on the so-called "Ground Zero mosque":

I had a let’s-bang-heads-against-the-wall moment this morning when I found an editorial in the Joplin (Missouri) Globe written by some guy who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He wrote of the builders of the Islamic Center: “These folks should not expect a neighborhood welcoming party.”
Excuse me? Where the bleep does somebody who lives in Tulsa Bleeping Oklahoma get off talking about the “neighbohood welcoming party”? Clue, dude: Manhattan ain’t your neighborhood.

I can't really add to that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Down for the Count

Really bad head cold, and of course the highs are in the 80s and humidity too high to discuss (right now it's 60%). This morning I am able to sit in front of the computer for 15 minutes for the first time since Friday.

I did some surfing. Nothing registers.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Dodging and Weaving

And changing the subject. This is the anti-gay right in a nutshell -- an extended version of Tony Perkins' reaction when David Boies hit him with actual facts (and called him a liar to his face).

Tom McCluskey of Perkins' outfit, seems to have learned his leader's lessons well.

Pity we didn't get McClusy on video -- I wonder if he's also learned Perkins' reptilian blink.

I didn't vote for John McCain

because I didn't want George W. Bush's third term. It seems that was the only option available. From Raw Story:

In one of the first military commissions held under the Obama administration, a US military judge has ruled that confessions obtained by threatening the subject with rape are admissible in court.

I've always been leery of the military commissions idea anyway -- they have proven to be ineffective, since so much of the evidence is tainted -- unless, of course, the judges ignore the taint, as in this case. This is the fifteen-year-old boy captured in Afghanistan 8 years ago, so it's worse than just abusing a prisoner -- he was a kid.

Read the whole article -- it's a disgusting example of the executive run amok.

Via Shakesville.

Irony du jour

From Glenn Greenwald's post titled "Imperial Ironies", my choice is this one from Politico:

Odierno: Troops staying in Iraq to prevent foreign interference

U.S. forces are staying in Iraq to prevent foreign powers from meddling with the new government, Gen. Ray Odierno said Sunday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


This post by Scott Lemieux points out some of the obvious bullshit in Steve Chapman's post about "backlash". I was actually just going to make an additional point about the quote that Lemieux cites, but when I followed the link (which you should do from here, not there -- it's seriously messed up there) and started to read Chapman's piece, I discovered a bonanza of ignorance and misinformation. The subhead sort of says it all:

Voters should decide the future of same-sex marriage—not federal judges.

Now, granted that Chapman didn't write that himself, but one only need start reading to hit the dogsquat.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 because it "fails to advance any rational basis for singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license." But it's silly to believe only nut jobs and bigots could rationally oppose same-sex marriage, or that millions of Californians who accept other laws protecting gays were acting irrationally.

They might reasonably fear that in some subtle way, the legalization of gay marriage may gradually weaken the appeal of marriage among heterosexuals. They might think it will modestly increase out-of-wedlock childbearing. They might believe our understanding of the possible repercussions is so limited that we shouldn't tinker with an age-old institution in this way.

Are those concerns persuasive? Not to me. But they are plausible enough to contradict Walker's assertion that the only real justification for the ban is "the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."

Those very notions were addressed head-on by the plaintiffs in Perry and in Walker's opinion, beginning at Par. 79 on p. 107:

79. The Proposition 8 campaign relied on fears that children exposed to the concept of same-sex marriage may become gay or lesbian. The reason children need to be protected from same-sex marriage was never articulated in official campaign advertisements. Nevertheless, the advertisements insinuated that learning about same-sex marriage could make a child gay or lesbian and that parents should dread having a gay or lesbian child. . . .

80. The campaign to pass Proposition 8 relied on stereotypes to show that same-sex relationships are inferior to opposite-sex relationships. . . .

and on to the Conclusions, beginning on p. 123, which I am not going to insert here because they are long and legal and, all else being equal, the court has dealt with those issues quite thoroughly, but according to Chapman, that's not good enough because everyone knows that vague, unfounded fears trump reality and form a legitimate basis for limiting others' rights.

Chapman goes on to the Biblical right's favorite slippery slope: but what about polygamy?

What about it? That's not the question under discussion. If you want to sue for the right to marry your friend's 14-year-old niece and her sisters, go right ahead. We'll talk about it then.

This final bit is the icing on the cake:

The decision may very well lead the Supreme Court to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. If so, it would be the most polarizing decision since Roe v. Wade in 1973, which we are still fighting about.

It would spark a furious backlash from Americans who, whatever their views about homosexuality, think such decisions belong with them and their elected representatives. It could even lead to a constitutional amendment overturning the decision.

Thanks to Judge Walker, the debate is no longer about whether gays deserve protection from the law, a debate they were steadily winning. It is more about whether democratic processes should be trusted to resolve the question. That's a debate they are likely to lose.

1. Yes, Roe vs. Wade has been, although a consistently popular decision, polarizing because a minority on the right have chosen to make it so. They are well-funded and indefatigable and won't take "No" for an answer because God said so, or something.

2. No, it's not going to spark a furious backlash from Americans in general. It's going to spark a furious backlash from the wingnuts (see #1 above).

3. The courts are part of the democratic process in this country, a valuable and necessary part. Because of their unique and critically important role in upholding the rights of minorities, they have become a favorite target of the right, particularly those who have no love for our democratic institutions. Chapman seems to want to be counted among that number. The only way gays are going to lose the debate as Chapman frames it is if writers like Chapman continue to lie in print about the way our country really works for an audience that doesn't know any better (although it should).

Oh, and ignore the repeated protestations of Chapman's social liberalism. I'm calling bullshit of the Obama school: I believe in equal rights for all, but. . . .


A great post from Andrew Sullivan on the meaning of the word "marriage":

My in-laws have always been supportive and loving and tolerant. They accepted me at Christmas and other occasions and were glad their son had found a partner. But it was not until we told them that we were "engaged" that something suddenly clicked. They finally had a way to understand us and our love because they had the linguistic architecture to make sense of it. I was going to be their son-in-law! With those words. I became family - not Aaron's friend, or roommate or boyfriend or lover or what-have-you. But his husband. And thereby their family as well.

That's the whole point.

Spin (Updated)

For an excellent example of how the corporate media legitimizes right-wing nutjobs, see this story by Anne Barnard from NYT:

Clearly, the idea that Ms. Khan and her partners would one day be accused of building a victory monument to terrorism did not come up — an oversight with consequences. The organizers built support among some Jewish and Christian groups, and even among some families of 9/11 victims, but did little to engage with likely opponents. More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post-9/11 passions and politics.

The first question to Ms. Barnard: How is this an oversight? You have to be traveling with a lot of baggage for that to be a primary consideration, but Barnard swallows the mantra and spits it right back out. If it weren't for the Becks and Palins who are looking for every opportunity to demonize someone (and frankly, it doesn't have to be Muslims -- look at the right-wing/Republican positions on immigrants and gays), this wouldn't be a consideration.

How Ms. Khan’s early brainstorming led to today’s combustible debate, one often characterized by powerful emotions and mistaken information, is a combination of arguable naïveté, public-relations missteps and a national political climate in which perhaps no preparation could have headed off controversy.

Blame the victim.

This article is pandering garbage. Nowhere does it mention the role of right-wing agitators such as Beck and Palin and goes out of its way to make it sound as though the opposition to the community center had been self-generated.

This is your free press at work.

Update: Adam Serwer goes at it.

Everybody Else Gets It

Via Pam's House Blend, this little item:

OMG. What IS going on in Latin America! Just a couple of hours ago, the Supreme Court in Costa Rica ruled that a referendum scheduled for December 1st which would have banned marriage rights for same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

The article does not give the vote total but says that the majority determined that the issue of marriage rights was a judicial issue and not an electoral issue and that the rights of minorities should never be subjected to a referendum process where they might be subjected to the wishes of a majority.
(My emphasis.)

There's a link to the article (Spanish language) at the post.

As to how that applies here, I refer you to the video of Ted Olson and Chris Matthews in this post.

An update, via AmericaBlog:

Mexico's supreme court has ruled that same-sex marriages in Mexico City must be recognised throughout the country.

I also just learned that Uruguay recognizes same-sex civil unions.

Monday, August 09, 2010

It's Only Censorship When They Do It

This post from last week brought this comment from SafeLibraries:

I support your efforts to oppose violations of rights. However, what has been reported by most sources is not what the actual facts are. For a little balance, take a look at what I wrote, after actually speaking with Gail Sweet, at "Et tu, Mary Minow? Then Fall, Gail Sweet!"

It wouldn't hurt to take a peek at this:

WILL UNWOUND #193: “Why do Librarians Hate Conservatives?” by Will Manley. (Or this by the same recognized library expert.)

I've been avoiding this one. Not that it's hard, not that I'm stumped for a response, simply that I'm tired to death of hysterical, dishonest rants against godless liberals and how they're the ones who are really trying to censor everything.  I get fed up, to be quite frank about it.  However, since I feel committed to a response, I am going to hit some of the most egregious misrepresentations in the posts SafeLibraries (hereinafter "S/L") recommended.

First, the post from the SafeLibraries blog.  The second sentence of the second paragraph starts to indicate the direction in which this is going:

Gail Sweet is the library director of the Burlington County Library System.  She removed a book from her library for failure to meet its book selection policy—a picture from the book is included at right.  For this she has been misrepresented in the media, e.g., "NJ Library, Citing Child Pornography, Removes GLBT Book," by Lauren Barack, School Library Journal, 27 July 2010, and criticized on partisan blogs—what a sin it is to be "active in the tea party movement"—e.g., "NJ Library Removes LGBT Book, Calling It 'Child Pornography,'" by Jim Burroway, Box Turtle Bulletin, 28 July 2010.  The comments are particularly egregious.

OK, first -- she removed a book from the collection for failing to meet the selection policy.  My question is, if it didn't meet the selection criteria, why was it in the collection?  Next question, if the book had been placed in the collection properly, why didn't Sweet follow the regular procedures to have it removed?

Next we have this:  "'[D]irect calls to Sweet were not returned.'  So you go ahead and publish false information uncritically?"  S/L is trying to make this look like a smear campaign against Gail Sweet, and this seems like the opening salvo:  there's no evidence that the information published was false, only S/L's say-so, which I regard as less than reliable.  My take is simply that Sweet had an opportunity to defend her actions and chose not to.  There may be any number of reasons for that, one of which may be that her actions are indefensible.

S/L makes great capital out of the "child pornography" quote and how it was "shorthand" between colleagues.  What S/L doesn't give is the context, which we can get from this story in the Courier-Post:

The county system's decision to remove "Revolutionary Voices," an anthology of first-person works by gay youths, was made quietly in the spring. But it's now stirring an online furor with the release of e-mails on the issue by the county's library director, Gail Sweet.

"How can we grab the books so that they never, ever get back into circulation?" Sweet asked in one e-mail to a library employee. "Copies need to totally disappear (as in not a good idea to send copies to the book sale)."

And when another librarian asked why the award-winning book was being removed, Sweet responded with two words: "Child pornography."

One could take the "child pornography" comment as a joke, until one sees the rest of the story.

I'm going to let the next two paragraphs speak for themselves before I comment:

Gail Sweet applied the library's selection policy initially due to the high school issue and before any patron complained.  This frees the library from the need to use the materials reconsideration policy designed for patrons.  I note the ALA article did report some accurate information that corroborates my findings based on my discussion with Gail Sweet, namely, "We were aware of the challenge at Rancocas Valley High School and took a look at the book…."  In other words, she was doing her job the taxpayers pay her to do.  This is partly why Gail Sweet is a model library director.

Everyone seeking to reverse the decision, on the irrelevant issue of homosexuality by the way, is complaining she should not have applied the selection policy and instead should have followed the policy designed for patrons.  What a double standard.  When people seek to add ex-gay books to the public library, in others words books that explain how to leave homosexuality, patron input is ignored and the selection policy is used to weed out such books, not the patron policy.  Read the Annoyed Librarian on how selection is used to censor certain materials sought by "conservative Christians."  Gail Sweet is guilty of refusing to follow a double standard that is used nationwide to block ex-gay material from public libraries without even a whimper from the national groups who are suddenly strident in Burlington County.

On the woman who complained about the book in the high school:

The book was pulled from the county library and from the library at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly after objections from Beverly Marinelli, a Lumberton woman and a member of the 9/12 Project, a conservative group founded by Fox News Channel pundit Glenn Beck.

OK, let's take this in order:

1: Sweet was trying to do this on the down-low and got caught. It's a pattern that we've seen again and again, as witness this comment from Patricia Tumulty of the New Jersey Library Association:

About 500 book challenges are reported annually to the American Library Association, said Angela Maycock, who oversees the group's Office for Intellectual Freedom.

In most cases, the book is retained, she said. But Maycock said libraries often do not publicize a book's removal.

"The reason they get removed is it's done under cover of darkness," she said. "When public attention is brought to the situation, that's when the books remain on the shelves."
(My emphasis)

2: Homosexuality is not, as S/L claims, irrelevant to this case, it is the motivation for the book's removal.

3: The "ex-gay" double-standard: Frankly, I think it is perfectly legitimate to resist the inclusion of books that present junk science and junk theology and prescribe dangerous and often harmful therapies under the supervision of perverts, with a strong dose of disapproval, to kids who may very likely be vulnerable.

This seems to be an appropriate place to note the state library association's statement:

Patricia Tumulty, president of the New Jersey Library Association, did not address the county library's action directly, saying it was not clear how the removal took effect.

But she noted her group had issued a statement after the Rancocas Valley decision, saying books should not be removed "because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval."

"Libraries do not discriminate against unpopular or controversial ideas," it said. "To the contrary, they select resources so that the library collection meets the needs of everyone in the community it serves."

S/L insists that everyone involved (except, of course, S/L, Gail Sweet, and Beverly Marinelli) is misrepresenting events, but does not manage to support that contention in any way. (Sorry, S/L, mere assertion doesn't work here.)

I do agree that children do need to be protected and their reading should be supervised. I do not agree that some Beck-worshipper is the person who should decide what everyone's children have access to. Maybe S/L should think about the appropriate role of parents in all of this, in determining what their own children will have their permission to read. Just maybe we can all figure out that parents should stop ducking their responsibilities.

I'm not going to bother with the two posts from Will Manley, which you can read yourselves if you follow the links. The first is a comment from one of Manley's readers along the general lines of "I was a liberal, but I was saved!" (See "ex-gay" above.) The second is a straw man argument based on the idea that the ALA does the Devil's work.

(A Note: S/L takes an opportunity to denigrate Box Turtle Bulletin, which I have found to be a reliable online source for issues of gay civil rights. Jim Burroway is an extraordinarily thorough and careful writer and is always ready to admit a mistake -- which he seldom has to do. His two posts on this controversy are here and here. After comparing his analysis with S/L's -- well, you can make your own decision on who to believe. As for the comments that S/L objects to: y'know, comments on blogs are comments from just anybody. Get over it.)

Another WTF? Moment (Updated, Updated Again)

This Op-Ed from Ross Douthat, who reveals himself to be an up-and-coming non-thinker on the right. It's a David Blankenhorn-type piece that boils down to "Hetersexual marriage is better because." I'm not going to bother to dissect it -- Glenn Greenwald did a fine job of that here.

TBogg, in his own inimitable way, summed it up pithily:

Shorter Ross Douthat:
I will concede the inevitability of gay marriage if we can all agree that a bland sterile heterosexual marriage like mine is, in the final tally, say, 3% more awesomer. Deal?

Tristero isn't quite so kind.

Update: I just ran across this from David Frum. It's even more incoherent than Douthat's piece. It's like, you should read this before brain surgery -- you won't feel a thing.

Update II: Amanda Marcotte is elegantly bitchy.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

I < 3 Boies and Olson

Two videos. First, Ted Olson telling Chris Matthews (why does this man have a higher-level job and errand boy?) how the country actually works:

And then David Boies sticking it to Tony Perkins (and why the hell is Perkins, who's a demonstrated liar, wind up on these shows?):

Boies doesn't stick to Perkins as strongly as he could, but I think that's because the host wouldn't let him. One question I wish he had asked: Mr. Perkins, if you have so much definitive research available, why didn't you offer yourself as an expert witness?

(Apropos of nothing: it's really sad when I have to correct the embed code on these things -- I am not an HTML whiz at all.)

"Appalled" Is Too Mild

There are groups of people in this country that are too stupid to walk and breathe without close supervision. From this story at NYT, here's this gem:

Recently, a small group of activists became alarmed about the mosque. Diana Serafin, a grandmother who lost her job in tech support this year, said she reached out to others she knew from attending Tea Party events and anti-immigration rallies. She said they read books by critics of Islam, including former Muslims like Walid Shoebat, Wafa Sultan and Manoucher Bakh. She also attended a meeting of the local chapter of ACT! for America, a Florida-based group that says its purpose is to defend Western civilization against Islam.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.”

“I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” she said. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.”

Point 1: I doubt this woman has any idea what's in the Constitution.

Point 2: Sorry, but Islam is a religion in the same tradition as Christianity.

Point 3: If you don't want to live under Sharia law, just say no.

The really scary part is that they let this woman breed.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Prop 8: Where Do We Go From Here? (Updated)

Judge Walker's decision is going to be appealed. We knew that before the trial started. Ran across this from Jonathan Rowe,, via Andrew Sullivan:

The case will very likely be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. Assuming Kagan is on the bench and the lineup remains, I predict there will be 4 votes for gay marriage, 4 against with Justice Kennedy breaking the tie AGAINST constitutionalizing gay marriage. BUT Kennedy being Kennedy he very likely would “split the baby” by demanding a federal constitutional right to civil unions that grant all the rights of marriage other than the name.

Somehow, the idea of Anthony Kennedy deciding that the word "marriage" should be reserved for heterosexual couples while simultaneously demanding a new right to civil unions seems to me a little far-fetched. (Sullivan calls is "plausible.") I can't think of a basis for it, frankly, and Kennedy will have to have a basis. Given that there is court precedent on the importance of the word itself (I couldn't resist and left a comment in reply to someone who called the distinction "silly"), for Kennedy to come up with a "constitutional right" to something that is inherently unequal is really reaching. (And I can't stress enough that the term "marriage" has a social and cultural importance that far outstrips material rights and privileges.)

And of course, the matter of backlash comes up in the comments, which leads me back to this piece by B. Daniel Blatt, which I touched on a couple of days ago. I've already commented on Blatt's assertion that Walker usurped "the power from the people to decide this issue." It's a power the people don't have and never did. He also quotes this piece from Jonathan Rauch that seems to be based on the same nonexistent power of the people.

“The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”

Ms. Kagan may not have had gay marriage in mind when she made that statement, but it could not be more relevant. She seems to be saying that protecting minority rights is the Supreme Court’s job description, but also that a civil rights claim doesn’t automatically trump majority preferences. This is something absolutists on both sides of the gay marriage debate don’t like to hear, but it has the virtue of being right.

As far as legal theory goes, the idea that Kagan's statement is right is highly arguable. It's an established principle of American law that the will of the people does not trump Constitutional guarantees.

Back to Blatt. He asserts that Walker's consitutional reasoning is "particularly sloppy" (and isn't it interesting how the determination of the tightness of Walker's reasoning depends on whether you are to the right or left of center?), but doesn't really support that assertion very well, and in fact dodges it to go to into a discussion of sexual difference that completely misses the point. He spends most of the rest of his essay discussing the biological case for sexual difference while completely avoiding the cultural construction of sex roles, which is what is relevant to the discussion. No one is arguing that men and women don't differ biologically, but that's simply not germane here: the point is, as Walker points out in his opinion, that the cultural/social definition of sex roles as they pertain to marriage has changed radically in the past half-century, the end result of a much longer process. The more marriage becomes an egalitarian arrangement, the less justification there is for withholding it from same-sex couples. (And I suspect that is a root cause of much of the disapproval of same-sex marriage -- people will maintain an idea in their minds long after it has ceased to be a reality.)

Update II I'm inserting this here because this is where it fits. See this comment by David Link for a slightly different approach to the question of sex differences. Once again, note that we're talking about culturally determined roles, not biological differences.

OK, I know you're sitting there saying "So what about backlash?" That's a concern in both Rauch's and Blatt's essays, although a subliminal one, implicit in the idea of the people's "right" to decide. Walker made a good case for same-sex marriage not being a "new" right, but merely an extension of a fundamental right to a group that has historically -- at least recently, and in this country -- been excluded. The attitude is at the base of what I call the "Christmas stocking" school of gay rights, to which both Rauch and Blatt adhere: just be a good boy or girl, and Daddy will give you a present.

We've been this route. Doesn't happen that way, although people have a remarkable ability to rewrite history in their heads.

I really don't know what to say about this one -- Jennifer Smetters is an idiot (which does not preclude her being an attorney). There was a groundswell of support for civil rights for racial minorities in the 1960s? Coulda fooled me, and I was there. I remember the marches and the demonstrations and the dogs and the firehoses. The whole states's right thing, as well, is a prime piece of nonsense: this is a federal trial on questions of federal rights guaranteed in the federal constitution. Read the Fouirteenth Amendment again, people. And remember, the federal government intruded itself into states' rights regarding the definition of marriage with the passage of DOMA in 1996. I know Obama sees it as a states' rights issue -- he says (that's only one of the ways he's ducked the question) -- but he also supports full equality, although he opposes marriage. (Axelrod's statement at the beginning of the clip is a travesty.)

It's amazing how much empty verbiage can be generated by one single issue. You can read all the sources yourself and decide if I've got it right on this one.

Update: Under the heading, "Will of the People, Usurping," see this post at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Almost 50 years ago, the California Legislature passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act, which banned discrimination against “colored” renters or buyers. About 2/3 of California voters overturned the Rumford Act when they passed Proposition 14, which, like Proposition 8, amended the California Constitution, this time to say that Californians could refuse to sell or rent to anyone for any reason. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 14 violated the 14th Amendment, and it didn’t matter if 100% of Californians had voted for it — it was discrimination, and unconstitutional.

For the full context, here's the article that quote is from.

Repeat after me, class: the citizens of the United States have limited sovereignty.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


I just ran across this quote from B. Daniel Blatt, also known as "GayPatriot West," at Joe.My.God.

"Walker’s ruling, however, is not a policy brief, but a judicial decision striking down a popular provision in the California Constitution stipulating that the state only recognize unions between one man and one woman as 'marriages.' With his decision, the judge prevented the people from settling the controversial issue of how states could recognize same-sex couples and personally assuming the responsibility for determining how the state may regulate the unions it recognizes as married.

"To be sure, he makes a good case for gay marriage, but a lousy one for usurping the power from the people to decide this issue. In this sense, his ruling becomes a political boon for the GOP — as it can tie his decision to the increasing sense that our governing bodies (e.g., Congress and the various bureaucracies it has created) are disregarding the popular will as they make laws and set policy."

In the interest of fair play, here's a link to the full article.

I'm not going to deal with Blatt's full essay right now because I'm actually just taking a break from other things. It does seem on first reading, however, to be largely incoherent. (Granted, maybe it's not as bad as it seems, but I'll have to come back to it.)

However, just in this portion, Blatt makes a major error that he appears to have adopted wholesale from the anti-gay right, in his reference to the District Court "usurping the power of the people to decide this issue."

Y'know, I've got a copy of the Constitution sitting here on my desk, and I'm damned if I can find the part where it says the majority can rescind the fundamental rights of minorities by plebiscite. Nor have I ever run across a court decision affirming that right. I invite Dan to send me a citation from either the Constitution or the case law in support of his statement. (And I might note that Judge Walker does have precedent for his statement that in matters of fundamental rights, referenda are irrelevant.)

On top of everything else, the mere existence of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, which enjoins the states from abridging those rights, as integral parts of the Constitution (under Article V) argues against Blatt's statement: these are fundamental rights that cannot be abridged or rescinded except by an amendment to the Constitution itself. The "will of the people" is in fact, as Judge Walker pointed out, irrelevant.

Blatt is also playing into the cheap mantra about "activist judges," although he doesn't use the term (which would make his essay even more of a cliche than it already is). Point of fact, however, regarding his last sentence: the federal judiciary is not a "federal bureaucracy" created by Congress -- it is a separate and co-equal branch of government created by the Founders. (Are we making a little bid for some Tea Bagger support here?)

I am just so tired of reading this kind of crap from people who know better, or should, and quite frankly, if Blatt doesn't want to be lumped with those cynical politicians masquerading as "family values" activists -- as in, Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Andrea Lafferty, and their ilk -- he should just drop this sort of thing.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Prop 8 Unconstitutional

Big suprise.  Towleroad has the opinion.

I can't copy the quote here, but on page 114, beginning at line 9, Walker blows the bottom out of Scalia's favorite dictum, "The Constitution doesn't guarantee the right to same-sex marriage."  Walker's response, basically, is that all same-sex couples are asking for is "marriage," plain and simple.

Another key quote: "fundamental rights may not be submitted to [a] vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."

Which I've been saying for a long time.

OK -- now that I'm home and have a couple of minutes, here's the decision:

Prop 8 Ruling FINAL                                                                 

Both AmericaBlog and Box Turtle Bulletin have a summary of reactions -- all from supporters, as far as I can tell, but this one's sort of fun -- from Box Turtle Bulletin:

This is hilarious. Matt Staver’s Liberty Counsel, which is closely aligned with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, issued a press release blaming the Prop 8 decision on the Alliance Defense Fund[.]

And this final quote should give you a good idea as to why the rabid right is on such shaky ground:

Mary McAlister, Senior Litigation Counsel for Liberty Counsel, commented: “This is a classic case of judicial activism. The Constitution is unrecognizable in this opinion. This is simply the whim of one judge. It does not reflect the Constitution, the rule of law, or the will of the people. I am confident this decision will be overturned.”

This is the senior litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, who can't recognize the Constitution in what strikes me as a very straightforward decision. Good luck.

Cue the circular firing squad, wingnut version.

Another note: I've been reading some of the "pro-marriage" (in the Biblical sense) reactions. They are so predictable -- mostly along the lines of the quote above -- that I'm surprised these bigots (and yes, sorry, they are bigots by any definition you care to adopt) even bother to issue the press releases -- everyone knows what they're going to say: judicial activism, right to vote, overturning the Constitution, will of the people, etc., etc., etc. It's called making it up as you go along, I guess, except they don't even seem to be able to come up with anything new.

Censorship Is Alive and Well in the U.S.A.

I haven't commented on this story -- I'm not sure why, but I just didn't.

The public library system for Burlington County, New Jersey, has ordered that all copies of Amy Sonnie’s Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, which the library director labeled as “child pornography,” be removed from library shelves.

Library director Gail Sweet ordered the book’s removal without having followed a formal book challenge process. Instead, she acted on an informal complaint from a member of the local chapter of Fox News commentator Glenn Beck’s 9.12 Project. Emails (PDF: 11 pages/296 KB) obtained by American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey show that the complaint was made by Project member Beverly Marinelli, who is also credited with persuading Rancocas Valley Regional High School to ban the same book in May.

However, there's a very good follow-up at BTB that's worth a read:  the way to confront those who want to sweep you under the rug is to call them on it --  loudly and publicly.  Because what happens is you get this:

Meanwhile, Sweet contends that while they “always willing to reconsider things,” she called the library’s attempt to withdraw the books without public notice “a nonevent that has become one.”

Yeah, well, they'd love for it to remain a non-event, but we're not going to let them.

A Must-Read and Maybe a Few Comments (Updated)

From Mahablog, this excellent commentary on the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy. O'Brien demonstrates one thing conclusively: so-called "conservatives" hate the idea of the Bill of Rights, and have no compunctions about lying their faces off to subvert it.

Update:  If Joe Lieberman is against it, ;you know it's the right thing to do.

"I'd say I'm troubled by it, but I don't know enough to say that it ought to be prohibited," Lieberman said on "Imus in the Morning" on the Fox Business Network. "But frankly I've heard enough about it and read enough about it that I wish somebody in New York would just put the brakes on for a while and take a look at this."

The key thing here is that he doesn't know enough to say anything, really.  But being the total tool he is, he's got to weigh in in the side of "wait and see."

This is even worse -- now he wants a religious litmus test for being able to put up a building:

The Connecticut senator, who's often been hawkish on national-security issues, has said the project should be put on hold until the developers of the project can be more fully vetted.

"I've also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations. So I don't know enough to reach a conclusion, but I know enough to say that this thing is only going to create more division in our society, and somebody ought to put the brakes on it," he said. "Give these people a chance to come out and explain who they are, where their money's coming from."

Leaving aside the tinfoil hat element here, this is a pretty disgusting thing to say.  (Think about it -- he wonders about the "motivations" for putting up a community center.)

The issue seems fairly clear-cut to me:  a moderate Islamic group wants to build a community center on land it owns a few blocks from the site of the Twin Towers.  The community center will contain a place for worship, which is being labeled a "mosque," which, strictly speaking, it's not.  The right wing of the right wing is up in arms at the idea that a group that Osama bin Laden would like to wipe off the face of the earth might want to put a Muslim place of worship a couple blocks from "sacred ground" as an insult to the memory of those who died on September 11, 2001 -- some of whom, by all reports, were Muslim.

We were also told by the former hero of this wing of of the wingnuts, George W. Bush (who now, apparently, cannot be counted as a "true conservative"), that Osama bin Laden hates us because of our freedoms.  So the solution to this is to launch our own attack on those freedoms so he doesn't have to?  Excuse me?

Another Update

Read these remarks by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- the only politician I've seen who has confronted the issue squarely.

And of course, the "conservatives" have no sense of proportion, nor even the instinct for self-preservation that would save them from things like this:

Yeah, there is a constitutional tie-in here, although it's as thin as most of the Prop 8 proponents' arguments in Perry -- God (that's their god, not yours) forbid that Teh Gays should actually be allowed to travel across the country -- by train, yet -- being . . . um, gay. (Actually, that's just a thin excuse to repost this video, which is a stitch.)

This bit, via Bil Browning at Bilerico, is almost as good.

 It occurs to me that no one -- and I mean no one -- refers to riding a horse without a saddle as "barebacking."  As far as I and my Anglophone peers know, that's always referred to as "bareback riding."

Oh, wait -- this is a Republican from Indiana.  'Nuff said.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Oddly Enough

I find myself reading the gay news more than the general news these days.  I'm starting to think it's because, believe it or not, the gay news is less depressing.  I need to be able to find something positive in the world, and we seem to be winning the battle against the forces of authoritarianism -- at least, the evangelical, Old Testament, condemnatory brand.

Although it seems everyone except the select few are going to lose to the forces of greed.

However, I ran across this excellent post by Timothy Kincaid about why people go into "ex-gay" ministries.  Read it.

I may be back later for more discussion, but it's Monday morning and I have got to start getting ready to deal with the world at large.

Update: It's now Monday afternoon, and I don't yet have more to add. Later. Maybe.

God Doesn't Believe in Professional Standards, II

An update to this post, from Pandagon. It not only recaps the story of the bigot from Michigan, but also includes a link to a story about the Carrie-Prejean-of-the-Week from whatever week that was. (Be warned: the link is to Hot Air: be careful on the slant.)

The comments are worth reading through -- you can skip the ones on role-playing games -- including a couple from professional therapists/counselors (#s 82 and 83).

This brings up the question, once again, of "conscience clauses": I'm against them, for the very simple reason that the state cannot cater to your religious beliefs at the expense of others. You have a constitutional right to believe as you wish; you don't have a constitutional right to be a pharmacist.