"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, March 30, 2010

Can We Start Again?

A new video from my YouTube friend gokusanszokami. The anime is Code Geas; the song is "Start Again," by Red.

Maricela has a real talent for these, and she keeps finding anime and musical groups that I have to follow up on.

Check out her channel at YouTube.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

HRC Fights Back!

This is sad. Pathetic, even.

Jarrod Chlapowski, the gay former Army specialist and Korean linguist, arrives in Newsweek lauding the Human Rights Campaign's means of trying to push through a Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal — an effort that's turned up short every single year. It's part of a well-orchestrated campaign from HRC to battle back against criticism, and it'd be beautiful were it not so transparent.

If nothing else, this proves what I and others have been saying about HRC for a while -- it's become the establishment, and its constituency -- or its claimed constituency -- is not. This ties it up in a neat little bow:

One HRC source tells us: "There is more coming," and that leadership is for the moment "more concerned with" defending HRC's reputation than anything else.

I have no use for that.

Say It With Flowers

Nancy Pelosi is one of the unsung heroes in Congress. I've had my differences with her priorities, but I'll readily admit that she has proven herself more effective than any other member of the Democratic leadership.

On the heels of the HCR victory, the Kos community sent her flowers for her birthday. To give a hint of what kind of person she is, first watch the following video:

And then read this post.

She deserves them, not only for shepherding HCR through the House, but for what she had to deal with in doing it. As a taste of the contrast between the right-wing noise and the reality, one of Sullian's readers sent this translation of some of Newt Gingrich's maunderings. (I can't quote it with all the formatting, so follow the link.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Am I Being Cynical? (Updated)

From Pam's House Blend, this report on the latest antics of the anti-repeal crowd at the Pentagon. From Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway:

"We want to continue (two-person rooms), but I would not ask our Marines to live with someone who is homosexual if we can possibly avoid it," Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway told Military.com during an exclusive interview at the Pentagon. "And to me that means we have to build BEQs (bachelor enlisted quarters) and have single rooms."

This guy is a horse's ass of the first water -- just look at the actual content of his remark: he doesn't want to ask Marines to live with a gay roommate. If any of the reports coming back from veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are to be believed, they already are, and don't really give a damn.

He's a little off-message, as I recall: His commander-in-chief has said unequivocally that he wants DADT repealed. Actually, his comments are a little more than off-message:

Other top generals have noted that uniformity is what's needed for this policy change, and that divided leadership and separate rules or facilities will make the transition harder, not easier. In a 2009 op-ed in the Washington Post, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, said mixed messages from leadership could be toxic, and that it was crucial for top leaders to communicate consistent signals that the force is capable of carrying out new orders. "Given the inevitability of change," he wrote, "it will be important for senior leaders to send clear signals of support to the rank and file. Every general officer knows that mixed signals undermine leadership. Indeed, studies show that when organizations implement controversial change, signals from the top must be clear." Gen. Shalikashvili wrote that when senior officers oppose the inevitable, their messages "could cause the very disruptions they predict."

Has it occurred to anyone besides me that that's why he said it?

Let's not make any mistakes here: from the president on down, everyone involved is doing as much as they can to make DADT repeal impossible.

I have more on this, but I'll come back later this evening. Things are not conducive to posting right now.


I promised more on this. First, Dan Choi on Rachel Maddow:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The "changes" announced by Sec. Gates, as Maddow points out, are nothing more than implementing the policy as it was written. And, as far as I can see, this "study," which is taking on all the trappings of a holy mission, is nothing more than a smokescreen. We've been studying this issue for decades, and every bit of available evidence points to the conclusion that if the repeal is implemented swiftly and if the message from leadership is clear (and excuse me, but this is the military, right? They follow orders, right?), there is minimal disruption. And no study has pointed to a breakdown in unit cohesiveness or morale. Here is the conclusion of the 1993 Rand study, commissioned by the Pentagon and then suppressed. If you read through, you can see why it was sat on.

And just to give you a hint of the kind of thinking we're dealing with in the Pentagon, this jumped out at me as I was reading the summary:

Senior military leaders have stated that, in their professional judgment, the effects would be substantial. The experience of analogous organizations such as foreign militaries and domestic police and fire departments suggests that any increase is likely to be quite small.

So, in their "professional judgment," the military brass think the whole house will fall down, in spite of the evidence. Tell you anything?

It's foot-dragging, from the White House on down.

This video is possibly one of the most infuriating things I've seen in this whole debacle. This is not from the video, but from the article cited above:

''In my discussions . . . the practical aspect,'' said Gates, came down to availability of two-star generals, particularly in the Marine Corps. ''Having a one-star do it made it more practical.

''I just wanted to make sure that in terms of the experience and leadership level and so on, that we elevated this to a level of people who have a lot of experience and a lot of maturity.''

So he's handing the decision on whether to initiate discharges to those least in favor of allowing gays to serve openly -- the ones whose "professional judgment" is seriously in question at this point.

Nathaniel Frank of the Palm Center does a nice summary of the changes. I thought this went right to the heart of it:

History shows that earlier attempts to make a bad, unnecessary, harmful failure of a policy "more humane" have been unsuccessful, in part because the changes were not enforced consistently, and in part because beating your wife gently is still beating your wife. . . .

[A]s admirable as Secretary Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen have been in showing leadership on this front, they are sending highly mixed messages that will end up making the job of repeal harder when it inevitably comes: they continue to say every chance they get that the repeal process could be dangerous and complicated, and must go slowly, even though research consistently says the opposite: that this kind of transition is best done quickly to avoid confusion and obstruction. Gates said today that moving swiftly to implement repeal "is very risky" and Mullen agreed, saying it could "generate a very bad outcome."

More "professional judgment," I guess.

And the president is lying low.

Following up on what he previously referred to as the ''ambiguous'' nature of the White House's support for a repeal this year, Rep. Frank said, ''They're ducking. Basically, yeah, they're not being supportive, and they're letting Gates be the spokesman, which is a great mistake.''

If even Barney Frank is pointing his finger, you know it's bad.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

X Woman

No, not a superhero, but a newly found cousin.

To the trained eye of the palaeontologist, the tiny fragment of fossilised bone can be identified as coming from the little finger of a child who lived about 40,000 years ago in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia. But in the hands of molecular biologists, the bone has revealed that it belonged to a new lineage of human being, an unknown "hominin" who, although human, was not a member of our own species, Homo sapiens.

The finger-bone was unearthed in 2008 from the floor of Denisova Cave, a rock shelter known to have been inhabited by ancient humans for several hundred thousand years. Now, after exhaustive tests on DNA extracted from the fragment, scientists can reveal that in Siberia at this time there lived a hitherto unknown type of human who was neither Homo sapiens nor Neanderthal, the only other human species living in the area at about this time.

It raises the intriguing possibility that in this part of central Asia about 40,000 years ago three species of human were living alongside one another, perhaps for thousands of years. Nothing is known of how they interacted or whether they interbred but it is clear that only one of the three species survived, anatomically modern humans.

The universe is an amazing place.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And the Winner and Still Champion

for the title "Most Clueless Pundit Ever" is Megan McArdle.

What I hope is that the Democrats take a beating at the ballot boxand rethink their contempt for those mouth-breathing illiterates in the electorate. I hope Obama gets his wish to be a one-term president who passed health care. Not because I think I will like his opponent--I very much doubt that I will support much of anything Obama's opponent says. But because politicians shouldn't feel that the best route to electoral success is to lie to the voters, and then ignore them.

McArdle seems to be another one who doesn't see the need for the American system of elections and majority rule. I'm sure everyone would be much better off if all the decisions could be made by those as insulated from the realities of life in this country as she is.

I seem to recall that the electorate gave Obama a resounding victory, and the Democrats unbeatable majorities of both Houses, in November, 2008, and that a huge part of Obama's campaign was health-care reform. And that the Republicans, who are past masters at manipulating data, have spent the past year pointing to polls that didn't ask critical questions. (Like the polls that showed "huge majorities" were against the HCR package -- until they found out what was actually in it.)

This "will of the people" mantra is so much bullshit -- McArdle has no more use for the will of the people than George III did.

There comes a point where you just have to finally say it: "This person is not smart. She's not even close to smart. Glib, yes, clever, yes, but not smart." (Actually, even "clever" is stretching a point.)

Sullivan actually published some responses to his "Quote of the Day" from that piece of blather. They're generally much more polite than I am. (Well, maybe not "much more.")

And Scott Lemieux does some admirable parsing of the best bits.

Short and Sweet

This sort of tells us exactly where the Republicans' minds are:

GOP Amendment: No Viagra for Sex Offenders

As if we needed reminding.

I Guess They Haven't Hit Bottom Yet

The Catholic Diocese of Portland is turning out to be one of the more disgusting facets of the Church:

Preble Street's Homeless Voices for Justice program has lost $17,400 this year and will lose $33,000 that it expected for its next fiscal year.

Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the Washington-based Catholic Campaign for Human Development say that Preble Street violated its grant agreement by supporting Maine's "No on 1" campaign last fall.

No on 1 opposed a ballot proposal to overturn the new state law legalizing gay marriage. Voters approved Question 1 on Nov. 3.

Homeless Voices for Justice, a statewide advocacy group, is led by people who have been homeless. It works on issues that affect the homeless, such as supporting affordable housing and preventing violence against the homeless.

Portland-based Preble Street, which runs a dozen programs to provide housing and other services for the poor and the homeless, provides staff support for Homeless Voices for Justice.

Catholics for Marriage Equality has begun an effort to replace the lost funding by raising $17,400 for Homeless Voices for Justice. Anne Underwood, a co-founder of the group that advocates for same-sex marriage, said Bishop Richard Malone is punishing the homeless because of politics.

"This is petty vindictiveness," she said. "After the election is over, suddenly the money is revoked from poor people because of a political opinion held by the bishop."

This is perhaps the most revealing part of it:

In December, Catholic Charities Maine, which is led by Malone, sent a letter to Preble Street asking it to return $2,400 that the diocese had granted for the Homeless Voices for Justice program.

"We regret the collaboration must end at this time," wrote Sandra Thompson of Catholic Charities Maine, who coordinated the distribution of the church's local anti-poverty funds. "Accountability to the Catholic community requires this."

"Accountability to the Catholic community"? When pigs fly.

It's Not Either/Or

OK -- we all know about Dan Choi and Jim Pietrangelo and their very dramatic demonstration last weekend. (Although Choi maintains his position as poster child.) This is rebounding very badly against HRC, which committed a grave tactical error in not joining Choi and Peitrangelo at the White House. In fact, it's close to being a direct confrontation between Choi and HRC.

Andrew Sullivan quotes Choi:

"When I get messages from people who want to be a part of this I ask back: what are you willing to sacrifice? ... I'm giving up my military rank, my unit—which to me is a family—my veterans' benefits, my HRC health care, so what are you willing to sacrifice? They say freedom is not free, but it doesn't have to cost anything either. Jesus up on the cross did not have a party with all his major donors to raise money for his cause, his cross was free. Ghandi did not need three-course dinners and a cocktail party to get his message out. These are people who sacrificed their lives. For them it was hemlock, a cross, the bullet that shot Harvey Milk … it was not the size of their distribution list, but their message that endured...

When I heard Kathy Griffin was going to be a spokeswoman for Don't Ask, Don't Tell, I wondered about that. I have great respect for her as an advocate. But if [the Human Rights Campaign] thinks that having a rally at Freedom Plaza with a comedienne is the right approach, I have to wonder. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is not a joking matter to me. To be at Freedom Plaza and not at the White House or Congress? Who are they trying to influence? I felt like they were just trying to speak to themselves. If that's the best the lobbying groups and HRC can do, then I don't know how these powerful groups are supposed to represent our community."

One of Sullivan's readers reacts:

I read your quote for the day and agree with Dan Choi. I also agree with you on all things HRC. However, I don't think Dan Choi is the right poster child for the DADT repeal movement either. I met many people at the SLDN [Servicemembers Legal Defense Network] dinner that told me something along the lines of, "Dan Choi does not represent the LGBT military." Chaining himself to the White House fence was an attention grab, just like Kathy Griffin marching in Freedom Plaza was an attention grab. Neither action invited the opposition into real discussion, and neither action provided much sympathy from the opposition. Over-activism usually works against a worthy cause, and chaining yourself to a fence and making a spectacle makes it easy to dismiss the seriousness of DADT. This kind of behavior makes us look like the radical fringe that the right wing wants us to be. Most gays in the military are neither radical, nor fringe.

I want to point out, both to Sullivan's reader and those at SLDN, that this is not an either/or choice. Yes, chaining himself to the White House fence was an attention grab, and there you have, in a nutshell, the whole problem with the establishment gays: they don't want the attention. I'm not going to impute motivations for that stance, but you can see how effective it's been -- HRC has been working on DADT repeal, DOMA repeal, ENDA, and hate crimes for well over a decade and we finally have hate crimes legislation on the books. And all HRC can think to do is say "we're working on it" and lock down the building when some real activists hit down. Dan Choi may not "represent" the LGBT military, but he is the public face, by default -- and that is SLDN's doing.

Pam Spaulding published the results of a reader poll that bears me out:

Spaulding has a good, succinct post that lays it out:

As you can see, putting more LGBTs into office is a great way to change the landscape, and more notably, direct action is effectively tied with letting the professional gays and grassroots activists do the heavy lifting. The element of surprise and action does have a positive impact and breaks movement inertia.

We have an arsenal of effective ways to effect change. Each of us can and must find and use the avenue that is most effective to help the equality effort -- just do something.

We cannot rely on someone else to move Congress or the White House; the reality is that we have more freedom to act because we don't have relationships to maintain with the White House or elected officials on the Hill.

They work for us and it's time to treat them that way. If they don't listen, then it's time to ratchet up the pressure. We, as peons without access, don't have to worry whether we are going to be invited to the next tea or cocktail party at the White House. We're not on the invite list anyway so there aren't any social or political bridges to burn.

It's not about being liked, it's about obtaining our equal rights denied us by our government -- progress blocked by purported allies who are paralyzed by political homophobia and CYA mentality.

This is related to comments I left at PHB at this post:

Solmonese, et al. made a huge blunder by not marching with Choi. Every officer and staffer of HRC should have been there. You can't get anything from people who take you for granted. In my heyday I had the reputation of being a nice, easygoing, patient guy who was very reasonable and realistic and who would eat your liver if you crossed him. Nobody's afraid of Solmonese or HRC because they won't, and now can't, call down thunder and lightning. If you expect to get anything from anyone you're negotiating with, you have to make them a little nervous. Otherwise they'll just nod and do what they were going to do anyway.

I guess my bottom line here is that HRC has no credibility with anyone, that I can see. That doesn't make for effective advocacy.

There's a synergy that develops when you have more than one prong to your attack. We need HRC to be our reasonable face. We need Dan Choi to be our confrontational face. And, I might point out, HRC needs Dan Choi to put some teeth behind its smile. The ufortunate part is that we out here in the boondocks see that, as witnessed by the response's to Spaulding's poll. HRC doesn't get it.

I realize this is kind of scattered -- as usual, I'm trying to do two or three things at once while pulling together threads from the past few days, so be patient. I think I've hit all the major points, though, so -- well, connect the dots.

Update: Here's another dot. Dr. Jillian T. Weiss makes a point I missed: people blogging on our civil rights are necessary, too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Next Step

Alan Grayson is one of my heroes. He's already working on moving toward the public option, in this case by allowing those of us under 65 to buy into Medicare. This is another "sign the petition" post.

Prison Rape

Change.org reports that standards for reducing prison rape are opposed by corrections officials because it's "too expensive." Think about that -- it's too expensive to prevent people under your control from being raped. And consider that the most vulnerable groups are youth and transpeople.

Too expensive.

Sign the petition.


That's what I was when I read this quote from Ben Stein at Lawyers, Guns & Money:

This is not how the U.S. government is supposed to work. This is how a South American junta does its work with a puppet legislature and a supreme Caudillo above law. This is, tragically, Barack Obama’s America. It took a mere 14 months to get us from the government of Jefferson to the government of Trujillo.

You may remember Stein as the creator of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the laughable film that attempted to discredit evolution, which should give you an idea of what we're dealing with here.

As for the substance of Stein's remarks, all I can say is: We had that and rejected it. It's known as the "Bush Administration."

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Free Markets" and "Republican Values"

A couple of bloggers have referenced this piece by David Frum, mostly referring to the opening paragraphs and his analysis of the Republican Waterloo represented by the health-care reform package just passed by Congress. Most of the references have praised Frum for his rationality (yeah, well, they're liberal bloggers -- they love when the right points fingers at each other), and I think Frum has the right take on who is in control of the right and therefore responsible for the disaster (and I don't think it's hard to figure out that the Limbaugh-Beck Axis constitutes a disaster), but one thing stuck out at me, near the end:

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

I like the part about "defeat for free-market economics." We're talking here about a "free market" that enjoys exemption from anti-trust regulation, and in fact is almost completely unregulated, and has proven itself to be almost completely dysfunctional for everyone except those who are raking in huge profits -- the insurance companies and drug manufacturers. There is no "free market" operating here -- there is a corporate oligarchy that is making a lot of money charging for services it then refuses to provide. There's no competition, and the "marketplace" is rigged.

And what does that tell you about "Republican values?" Except that they're a large part of the problem. I'm not talking about the wild-eyed, "keep your government hands off my Medicare" contingent. I'm talking about the very sober, responsible leaders who just don't get the idea that their job is to serve all of us, not just those who are paying for their re-election campaigns.

Paul Krugman gets it:

And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”

That last line, I think, encapsulates "Republican values": votes by our elected representatives are "totalitarian." Just think about that.

And under the heading "Doesn't Get It," check out this little fantasy by Megan McArdle, who easily maintains her position as quite possibly the most clueless pundit ever -- given that Bill Kristol is emeritus, at this point.

Vocabulary Lesson

I've seen this one too much lately (Digby quoting Politico):

The White House and anti-abortion Democrats have reached an agreement to diffuse the controversy over abortion in the health reform bill – planning a series of steps that will secure the support of Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and other Democrats to give party leaders the votes they need to pass reform, sources tell POLITICO. (Emphasis added)

The word is "defuse," as in "take away the ignition device." That's what you do to a controversy -- you don't dilute it by spreading it around (that just makes it worse). I don't know that I expect a writer for Politico to be literate, but it would be nice, wouldn't it?

Oh,and Bart Stupak is not, as Digby says, a hero -- he's a jackass, a religious nut who I hope is going to lose his seat over this one.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

This sort of thing makes me crazy . . .

and not in a good way. From ABC News, via Digby:

"Certainly we don't want to be censoring art or anything like that," said Jeremy Wells, a gallery board member, church elder and artist. "Artwork being provocative in nature can be beneficial to the church if it's provocative in the right way."

I wrote recently about the arrogance of the desert religions, with their assumption of sole proprietorship of The Truth. Here it is again: there is a "right way" to be provocative.

There is, of course, the argument that we've heard from Human Rights Campaign and other "rights" organizations, that we must be "reasonable" so we don't turn off those we're trying to persuade. News flash: most people turn off when you tell them something that conflicts with what they "know." That's why HRC has been so effective lately. You have to break through that, one way or another, and being offensive, while it will turn off most people, will also make others stop and think. That's your audience.

Given the way police are behaving toward citizens lately -- tasering 17-year-olds for being unruly, for example -- the image is beyond brilliant. It's an illustration of the Seventh Station of the Cross:

Photo by Jackson Potts II

See also Digby's remarks on that tasering incident. And the artist has a blog.

Reverting to Type

I'm borrowing Digby's title. This story has been all over the place, and my only reaction is, "What did you expect?" Did anyone honestly think these people are concerned about health care? They are small, ugly, mean people who are frightened, and that fear has been groomed and nurtured by the Republican party -- which has now lost control. The first thing that comes to mind here is Frankenstein's monster, but the monster, at least, had some justification -- he really was mistreated.

Oh, and has anyone else noted how the corporate press is helping the Republican party distance itself from these loons? Of course, they're all in the same club.

Pushing It

A couple of things I've seen over the last few days have started connecting, under the heading of "public discourse." First, the items in question.

This video was made by Greenpeace, which represents a kind of activism that has pretty much vanished from American life. Warning: it's pretty shocking.

Nestle tried to block it, having it pulled from YouTube:

According to Greenpeace, Nestlé asked YouTube to remove the clip citing copyright concerns. In its place was the message, "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Societe des Produits Nestlé S.A."

A spokesperson for the environmental campaigners told CNN the copyright infringement claim was "a pretext for stopping the word being spread and an apparent attempt to silence us."

But Nestlé UK, one of several divisions of the company that produces Kit Kats, denied this, saying it had contacted YouTube via their official copyright complaint web form.

"We notified YouTube about the campaign video's infringement of the visual identity of our Kit Kat brand. The video is now back up and we will not submit the form again," a Nestlé spokesperson told CNN.

They have no case, frankly -- this seems a clear case of fair use, although I'm sure Nestle doesn't consider it fair.

Nestle has at least made the attempt to do the right thing, at least in the palm oil department, but Greenpeace is pushing for more. I'm sure there are those who will think that Greenpeace's position is extreme, and it probably is, but bear with me.

The second item is, of course, Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo. (They're out of jail now.)

You will remember that they were jailed for chaining themselves to the White House fence while demonstrating for repeal of DADT. Demonstrators for passage of ENDA were also arrested at Nancy Pelosi's offices in Washington and San Francisco.

Frankly, I welcome this sort of thing. Something that the far right learned long ago: if you want to push public opinion toward your viewpoint, you have to take extreme action. We've seen the "center" move right in the past few years because of people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter (who seems to have been pretty quiet lately). Note how Glenn Beck makes them start to seem sane. For the same reason, the Dobson Gang has tolerated the Westboro Baptist Church -- Fred Phelps makes James Dobson and Tony Perkins seem like upright citizens. I'm reminded of groups like ACT-UP in the '80s, who were more than a little confrontational. They were pretty effective at moving the discourse. Sadly, our national groups, with the exception of GLAD and Lambda Legal, have allowed themselves to be co-opted. They won't push for fear of alienating our so-called "allies" in Congress and the White House, to the extent that it now looks as though they're on the other side.

Maybe we're finally seeing a resurgence of some real activism on the left, to counter the teabaggers and other assorted loons on the right. Someone's got to light a fire under the establishment, and it ain't going to be HRC.


I'm not alone in my assessment.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

"What I've Done"

The Linkin Park song that's been in my head the past few days. The video is from 300

Friday, March 19, 2010


Seems at least one retired Marine who testified against DADT was lying through his teeth. Via Towleroad:

At today's hearings regarding "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", Retired General John Sheehan argued that the allowance of gay soldiers in the Dutch military was responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995.

SHEEHAN: The case in point that I’m referring to was when the Dutch were required to defend Sbrenecia against the Serbs, the battalion was understrength, poorly led. And the Serbs came into town, handcuffed the soldiers to the telephone polls, marched the Muslims off and executed them. That was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II.

LEVIN: And did the Dutch leaders tell you it was because there were gay soldiers there?

SHEEHAN: It was a combination –

LEVIN: Did they tell you that?


LEVIN: That’s my question.

SHEEHAN: They included that as part of the problem.

LEVIN: That there were gay soldiers among the Dutch force.

SHEEHAN: The combination was the liberalization of the military, the net effect of basically social engineering.

The problem is, he was way off in his own private reality: The Dutch say he's full of it, including the officer who seems to the one he's citing.

Gen. Henk van den Breemen, Dutch chief of staff at the time of the Srebrenica genocide, called Sheehan's comments "total nonsense" and denied ever having suggested gays in the army might have played a role in the Srebrenica massacre.

Idiot couldn't even get the name right.

Here's the NYT comment on the fallout, with some additional information on Sheehan, who seems to have been a loose canon for most of his career.

What We Ask For

The really surreal part of the whole DADT squabble is that that we're asking for is a responsibility. A duty, if you will. We're not asking for a "right" or a "privilege."

So what's all the fuss? You'd think people would be happy to pass off some of the onus.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I Couldn't Help It

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Blogswarm on ENDA

I'm getting to this late, but it's looking pretty massive. I'm joining The Bilerico Project, Daily Kos, Open Left, Americablog, Towleroad, Joe My God, Michelangelo Signorile, David Mixner, Daily Gotham, Culture Kitchen, Taylor Marsh, PageOneQ, Dan Savage, GoodAsYou, Joe.My.God and many other sites in demanding action on ENDA.

It's simple: Call Speaker Pelosi (202-225-4965) and demand, in your best "best little boy in the world" manner, action on ENDA, HB 3017. We've been stalled enough. It' stupid to make people vulnerable in the workplace for dismissal because of other people's prejudice. That's not the way we do things in this country.

They're tallying results, so let them know the results of your call here.

And here is the post that gives the background.

Even Chris Matthews Gets It

What can I say?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Update: Add this into the mix:

– 60% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans believe that being gay or lesbian “has no bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties.” Only 29% disagree.

– 73% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say it is “personally acceptable to them if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military.” Only a quarter (25%) would find it unacceptable.

– 73% Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say “they are personally comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians.” Only a quarter (23%) is uncomfortable, and hardly anyone is very uncomfortable (only 7%).

And the best the opponents of repeal can come up with is this (PDF).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Moral Vacuum, Part ??

Here's a post by Ed Brayton that illlustrates the complete moral lack on the far right. Be sure to read the comments, as well.

Note particularly the assumptions implicit in the whole smear campaign against the DoJ lawyers who have in the past provided legal counsel to detainees. We are dealing here with people whose ideas are distinctly contrary to the foundations of our society and, in fact, in direct opposition to the ideals expressed in our foundational documents. In their own parlance, they are "anti-American."

It occurs to me that one problem on the left is that we assume that those involved in public debate are basing their arguments on reason and scepticism -- two characteristics that are fundamental to the heritage of the Enlightenment, on which our society was founded (the Texas Board of Education notwithstanding), and noticeably absent from the mindset of the right. We have to get used to the idea that we are confronting people whose world view is based on superstition, obedience to authority, and the idea that belief always trumps empirical evidence.

The problem is, as we've learned from the gay civil rights struggle, they won't accept defeat. If we out-argue them, they just ignore the fact. If we defeat them at the polls, they come back in the next election, repeating the same lies over and over again until people believe them. (And this is an across-the-board phenomenon, applying to everything from global warming to health-care reform to DADT repeal. The lying is OK because you're doing God's work.)

(Sidebar: The collusion of the media, both national and local, in this process is beyond shameful -- can someone explain to me why Tony Perkins, the head of a major anti-gay group, is constantly on the air opining about gay civil rights? Or why James Dobson, of all people, was invited to write an OpEd for Time about Mary Cheney's baby? [In which, as is his habit, he distorted and misrepresented the work of legitimate researchers to support his own agenda.] Or why it was published without a rebuttal until two weeks later? I don't think "collusion" is too strong a word.)

The question is, how do we save America from these self-designated "patriots"?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm Not Impressed

I'm sure this will be greeted with toasts and confetti, but as far as I can see, Petraeus is not saying anything outside the Pentagon line.

Petraeus told a Senate panel Tuesday that he wants to see the results of an internal study ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates before any changes are made. He said he wants to know if allowing gays to serve openly might hurt recruiting and retention, or the military's ability to fight.

Y'know, we, meaning our own military, have been studying this question for about fifty years now, and we have the experience of 28 other nations that allow gays to serve openly in their armed forces. What the hell do we need with another study?

And why isn't anyone in Congress asking that question?

It's a delaying tactic, because the upper brass hates change. (Although I do note that the Army has dropped bayonet drills from basic training. When do you suppose was the last time anyone in the Army actually used a bayonet?)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Food for Thought, Part II

Very nice post from Tim Fernholz at TAPPED.

Why [Glen] Beck would make such a huge mistake reveals his superficial approach to faith -- he cares more about politics than an authentic religious experience. His dislike of social justice talk mimics that of some -- though certainly not all -- conservative Christian religious figures. It stems from a certain obsession with the "thou shall nots," simply because it's much easier for people with a political agenda to stress prohibitions, archaic and otherwise, rather than the pro-active approach mandated by many belief systems that asks you to change others' circumstances.

Illuminating, as they say.

News from New Hampshire

From Pam's House Blend. It seems that many in New Hampshire understand that civil rights are not appropriate for a popular vote. It also seems that a statewide campaign of lies and fear-mongering is necessary for anti-gay bigots to carry the day. Read the whole post -- some of the comments by New Hampshire residents are wonderful. And the town of Plainfield gets a gold star:

Plainfield CRUSHED the article on marriage by amending it to be pro-equality with a 185-40 vote, and then passing the amended version. The amended version instructed the Selectboard to send a letter to the governor and state legislators "commending them for passing and signing into law legislation affirming marriage equality for all New Hampshire residents."

There's an incredible degree of arrogance in assuming the mantle of the one who should determine how others live their lives. It's an arrogance that infests a certain brand of Christianity -- that's the segment that only reads the Old Testament (and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that many of them believe Jesus wrote it.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Embracing Love: Cherished Spring (anime)

Finally! Another Review in Brief after a looong hiatus. Maybe it'll become a regular feature again.

Embracing Love: Cherished Spring is the first installment of the anime adaptation of Youka Nitta's Haru wo Daite Ita. The story is unusual for BL anime in that it deals with the trials and tribulations of maintaining a relationship rather than the normal story line of connecting.

Kyousuke Iwaki and Youji Katou are adult film actors who want to break into "legit" film. Iwaki lands the lead role in a feature film, beating out Kato in the auditions; Kato lands a supporting role, and falls in love with Iwaki during the shooting. Kato winds up moving in with Iwaki -- Iwaki is aghast, but acquiescent. And then another film actor, who had to leave Japan because of his own gay love affair scandal, turns up in a role opposite Kato -- but his eye is on Iwaki.

What's interesting in this one, aside from the gorgeous drawing (more later on that) is the way character moves the story. Kato is wide open, somewhat of a bad boy, and a media darling -- he knows how to play the interviews and how to get to his fans. Iwaki is the quiet one, ducking publicity when possible, afraid that Kato doesn't really love him, and determined that Kato is not going to find out how much he cares for him. He's also older than Kato, and feels at a disadvantage both for that and because of his history in adult films.

The visuals are more than a little appealing. The animators have stayed true to Nitta's style, which is unique among mangaka doing yaoi. Spare and reductivist, it's nevertheless very expressive and appealing. I have to confess, though, that I find cartoon sex iffy -- it's never arousing, and often ludicrous.

It's my second DVD purchase (the first, of course, was Loveless), and I'm glad I bought it. It's distributed by Kitty Media. The DVD contains a couple of special features, including trailers from some of Kitty's titles.


Director: Yoshikata Nitta
Script: Mami Watanabe
Storyboard: Yoshikata Nitta
Episode Director: Naosumi Ishizuki
Music: Sousaku Sasaki
Original Manga: Youka Nitta
Character Design: Hirotaka Marufuji
Art Director:
Mitsuharu Miyamae (ep 2)
Noburo Numai (ep 1)
Sound Director: Nobuyuki Abe
Executive producer: Masaki Kobayashi
Saburou Oomiya
Toshiharu Tanada
Animation Supervisor: Hirotaka Marufuji
Casting Management: Kouta Suzuki (81 Produce)
Music Director: Atsushi Yabe
Music Production: Akira Yoshikawa
Production Assistant: Eiko Torikai
Theme Song Performance:
Shinichiro Miki (ED)
Toshiyuki Morikawa (OP)


Shinichiro Miki as Youji Katou
Toshiyuki Morikawa as Kyousuke Iwaki
Chihiro Suzuki as Yukihito Sawa
Kazuhiko Inoue as Nagisa Sawa
Ken Narita as Katsuya Kikuchi
Kentarou Itou as Kazunari Urushizaki
Chihiro Suzuki as Staff B (ep 1)
Haruhi Terada as Female Reporter A (ep 1)
Tomokazu Sugita as Reporter B (ep 2)

Olson and Boies on Prop 8

This is via 365Gay. Take the time to watch it (it's just shy of an hour).

Check about 17:30 in, when Ted Olson tackles the key question in my mind: it's not about a right of same-sex marriage, but the right to marry. Period.

Here's a recap from Jennifer Vanasco.

Food for Thought

Surfing around this morning and ran across this excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail:

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. 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.

Digby quoted it in a post mainly about the continued assault on reproductive freedom, but if has, of course, much larger resonance.

My own pet cause, of course, is gay civil rights, but that's part of basic human rights as well -- in spite of what you hear from the likes of Peter LaBarbera and Mat Staver, we're human too.

And we've seen all to plainly that our biggest problem right now is not the anti-gay right -- people are justifiably disgusted at their rhetoric and tactics, and it's beginning to show. Our biggest problem is the "sympathizers" on the left -- the Obama administration, the Democrats in Congress, even those among us who counsel us to "wait until public opinion catches up with us." Got news: it won't unless we push.

Chalk it up in part to the fact (if you're willing to trust the polls, which in this case I think are pretty accurate) that so-called "hot button" issues like same-sex marriage just are not on most people's radar. They don't really care one way or the other, and while in theory at least most people support equal civil rights for gays, they don't care enough to get off their butts and go out and vote on it. In the case of our sogenannte political leaders (that's German for "so-called" -- somehow the English doesn't carry the sense of disdain that the German does), I suspect that, like the "liberal" press, they are simply afraid of the vilification from the right if they take a stand -- I mean a real stand, beyond mouthing platitudes. The assaults from the right are so vicious and so hateful and so extreme that they worry about their continued comfortable residence in the corridors of power, and they're probably right: James Dobson and his ilk have armies of voters who get themselves worked up over the lies they're being fed and head for the polls on command.

So we keep pushing, because there's a lot of inertia to overcome, and the Christianists are not going to stop.

Here's a piece by Michelangelo Signorile, writing in The Advocate, that underlines some of the points I've broached above, this time about DADT repeal.

Despite the seismic shift in public polls, with most showing more than 75% of Americans in favor of repeal, Democratic consultant Douglas Schoen wrote in The Washington Post that Obama’s promise to end DADT “may well be the right decision morally, ethically, and militarily. But it could have a dramatic and deleterious impact on Democratic fortunes in November.”

It’s a ludicrous statement, divorced from reality, and an example of what AmericaBlog’s Joe Sudbay called “political homophobia,” where politicians and analysts who claim to support gay rights nonetheless believe that fighting for gay rights will always damage political capital. It ignores the dramatic changes that in fact have occurred: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior military man in the nation, testified that repealing the law was “the right thing to do,” while a Republican senator long touted as a military authority was finally reduced to the status of an out-of-touch troglodyte.

We see it play out again and again -- it took the state of Illinois, which was the first state in the union to repeal its sodomy law, in 1961, thirty years to pass a gay-inclusive civil rights bill. And I mean thirty years after the first bill was introduced. Chicago and Cook County only beat the state by a couple of years, and when it comes right down to it, Chicago's a pretty accepting city. But no one wanted to do anything until the Mayor finally figured out that we vote.

Maybe we need to remind Congress of the same small fact -- and then put our votes where they count.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Apropos of Nothing

This just popped up while I was surfing -- Justice Harry Blackmun's dissent Bowers vs. Hardwick. I've seldom read a legal opinion more solidly constructed and more intelligently based.

This case is no more about "a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy," as the Court purports to declare, ante at 191, than Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557 (1969), was about a fundamental right to watch obscene movies, or Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), was about a fundamental right to place interstate bets from a telephone booth. Rather, this case is about "the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men," namely, "the right to be let alone." Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting).

The statute at issue, Ga.Code Ann. § 16-6-2 (1984), denies individuals the right to decide for themselves whether to engage in particular forms of private, consensual sexual activity. The Court concludes that § 16-6-2 is valid essentially because "the laws of . . . many States . . . still make such conduct illegal and have done so for a very long time." Ante at 190.

It's always about asking the right questions.

Plausible Deniability

It seems that wherever there's a Catholic church, there's a child sexual abuse scandal. Now it's Germany, and it's at the pope's door -- but of course, he didn't know about it.

The archdiocese said that a priest accused of molesting boys was given therapy in 1980 and later allowed to resume pastoral duties, before committing further abuses and being prosecuted. Pope Benedict, who at the time headed the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, approved the priest’s transfer for therapy. A subordinate took full responsibility for allowing the priest to later resume pastoral work, the archdiocese said in a statement.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he had no comment beyond the statement by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which he said showed the “nonresponsibility” of the pope in the matter.

Even some within the Church are not buying that line:

The former vicar general took full responsibility for the decision to reinstate the priest to pastoral work. “I deeply regret that this decision resulted in offenses against youths and apologize to all who were harmed by it,” he said, according to a statement posted on the archdiocese’s Web site.

There was immediate skepticism that Benedict, as archbishop, would not have known of the details of the case.

The Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, who once worked at the Vatican Embassy in Washington and became an early and well-known whistle-blower on sexual abuse in the church, said the vicar general’s claim was not credible.

“Nonsense,” said Father Doyle, who has served as an expert witness in sexual abuse lawsuits. “Pope Benedict is a micromanager. He’s the old style. Anything like that would necessarily have been brought to his attention. Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope.”

And the Church has the nerve to claim that I'm "intrinsically disordered"?


HuffPo also has a write-up, which notes this little detail:

The pope, meanwhile, continues to be under fire for a 2001 Vatican letter he sent to all bishops advising them that all cases of sexual abuse of minors must be forwarded to his then-office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and that the cases were to be subject to pontifical secret.

Germany's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has cited the document as evidence that the Vatican created a "wall of silence" around abuse cases that prevented prosecution. Irish bishops have said the document had been "widely misunderstood" by the bishops themselves to mean they shouldn't go to police. And lawyers for abuse victims in the United States have cited the document in arguing that the Catholic Church tried to obstruct justice.

But canon lawyers insisted Friday that there was nothing in the document that would preclude bishops from fulfilling their moral and civic duties of going to police when confronted with a case of child abuse.

They stressed that the document merely concerned procedures for handling the church trial of an accused priest, and that the secrecy required by Rome for that hearing by no means extended to a ban on reporting such crimes to civil authorities.

"Canon law concerning grave crimes ... doesn't in any way interfere with or diminish the obligations of the faithful to civil laws," said Monsignor Davide Cito, a professor of canon law at Rome's Santa Croce University.

The letter doesn't tell bishops to also report the crimes to police.

Or you can just threaten the victims with excommunication if they complain to anyone.

It's about time

The F.C.C. is waking up to the possibilities of the Internet, and the telecommunications industry doesn't like it:

The proposal already faces resistance from the TV industry. Stations say they still serve a valuable public service, especially during emergencies, and say the F.C.C. proposals could cause gaps in signal coverage.

"Valuable public service" -- well, TV is the opiate of the masses, I guess, although whether corporate news media can be called a "public service" is up for discussion.

And wait until AT&T unleashes its lobbyists -- we'll see Congress mandating that the F.C.C. go back to policing costume malfunctions as its main order of business. Any number of congresscritters should be up for that one.

You may have guessed how disgusted I am with service providers in this country. (Earthlink sucks, basically, but I can't see that it's worse than any other -- one of its major virtues is that it's not AT&T, which is nothing more than a nest of thieves.) They've bought in to the American business model of crappy products for high prices. Chris Ryan at AmericaBlog has reported on the comparison between Internet service in the U.S. and in Europe. (You'll have to dig for the posts, but it's an ongoing topic for him.) We're looking pretty sad in comparison. (I remember noting in one of his posts that the U.S. ranks something like 19th in Internet access speeds.)

[T]he plan will include an initiative the chairman calls 100 Squared — equipping 100 million households with high-speed Internet gushing through their pipes at 100 megabits a second by the end of this decade. According to comScore, the average subscriber now receives speeds of three to four megabits a second.

The government is “setting a stake in the ground by setting a standard for broadband speeds in order to be a competitive nation,” said Dan Hays, director of PRTM, a global management consulting firm in the telecommunications industry.

He said the plan could place “significant pressure” on incumbent providers to improve their networks.

It seems, now that competition is more buzzword than reality, providers need "significant pressure" to provide the service they're in business to provide. It's getting like the insurance industry -- rake in the money for not doing much, not even what you said you'd do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Have You Noticed

that everything that happens, no matter what it's actually about, is a referendum on someone's pet issue?

I'm a little over it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Kids Will Manage

This sort of shoots a hole in the "Save the Children!" argument. This kid's about as cute as it gets.

A transcript from Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:

Text onscreen: Thanksgiving.

[Calen, a little boy, is standing in a bathroom next to a sink, looking up into the camera.]

Calen: A husband's a boy.

Adult male voice from behind camera: Right.

Calen: A wife is a girl and a husband's a boy. Then you two are husbands! [He hold up two fingers on both hands.] Wifes are girls; husbands are boys.

Voice from behind camera: Right.

Second adult male voice, from next to camera: That's right. So, if you're a boy—

Calen: You'll be a husband.

Second Voice: Right.

First Voice: Yeah, we're both husbands.

Calen: [puts his head in his hand] You're both husbands?

Second Voice: Is that confusing—

Calen: You married each other?! That's funny! [slaps hand to head]

Second Voice: That's funny, right?

Calen: Yeah. [looks thoughtful] I usually see husbands and wives, but this is the VERY FIRST TIME I saw husbands and husbands! [grins excitedly]

[The two men laugh; Second Voice peers around and grins into camera.]

Calen: So funny. [edit] So that means you LOVE EACH OTHER!

First Voice: Yeah.

Calen: Yeah. Yeah, they're much alike. You're much alike. Hey, I'm going to play ping-pong now.

First Voice: Okay.

[Camera follows Calen out into the hallway; he turns back and looks at the two men.]

Calen: You can play if you want to.

Text onscreen: You're much alike.

McEwen's comment sums it up:

"So that means you love each other!" Congratulations, kid. You've now got a more sophisticated understanding of marriage equality than about a third of the adult populace of the United States.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


By which I mean Liz Cheney. Bill Kristol is off the hook because he's obviously incompetent.

I've been passing on this one because the stories on Cheney's attacks on the Justice Department (echoed by the sycophants who call themselves "journalists") literally turn my stomach. It just seems self-evident that a strong legal defense is a necessary part of our justice system. Cheney and Kristol are obviously of the opinion that justice is only for white folks, and rich white folks at that.

It's nice to see some push back from the right. Follow the link and 1) read the letter carefully. It's pretty strong. Then b) look at the list of signers. Some of them may surprise you.

Here's a commentary from Glenn Greenwald.

There is a real opportunity here to cause that rarest of political events: namely, having someone's credibility and standing be diminished by virtue of repugnant acts. Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol and Andy McCarthy (with whom it originated) have so transparently crossed every line with this ugly smear campaign that they are being condemned across the political spectrum. Only the hardest-core ideological dead-enders are defending them. It would therefore not only be politically plausible, but valuable, for the Congress to officially condemn these McCarthyite attacks on Justice Department lawyers. If the Democratic Congress was willing (indeed eager) to do so against the nation's leading progressive group, why wouldn't it do the same in response to a far more repugnant and potentially destructive campaign launched by a Far Right group? In 1954, the U.S. Senate condemned the original Joe McCarthy, so why not his progeny? I think it'd be worthwhile to find a sponsor for a Resolution that achieves this -- I think I'll work on that and hope others will, too -- and then urge its passage.

And read Glenwald's following paragraph for some more background to my "journalists" remark above.

What seems to elude the national media and the mouthpieces for the right (inasmuch as there is a difference) is that the Cheney/Kristol version of McCarthyism, like the original, is a direct attack on our system of government. This, as far as I'm concerned, is the major danger of the right: the left, in spite of its excesses, seems to have erred pretty constantly in the direction of greater liberty for more people. Cheney and Kristol, like their predecessors and fellow travelers, seem to be interested only in shredding the fabric of our republic for personal gain (and that means power as well as money, since the two are roughly equivalent -- ask any corporate lobbyist). In Cheney's case, I suppose this is no surprise -- she is, after all, chief apologist for a man who never found a principle he couldn't sacrifice. Bill Kristol is just an idiot who hasn't been right about anything in living memory, which seems to be the major qualification for a position as a high-profile columnist in a major daily.

Taken in tandem with Janet Porter's "prayer (below), can you see why I throw up my hands sometimes?

But you can't really do that -- you have to call them on their bullshit, and since the corporate media won't do it -- well, that leaves us.

Must See

D.C.'s first legal same-sex wedding.

I have nothing to add, but I hope you have some Kleenex handy.,

The Gloves Are Off, Part ?

From Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, this surreal performance by Janet Porter, professional right-wing Christian theocrat:

Black Tsunami had this to say:

Porter, who has done many bizarre things such as claiming that anyone voting for Obama is going to hell and writing a fictional account of Christians forced into "re-education camps" had Hilary Clinton won the 2008 presidential election, actually prayed for the "Christian takeover" of the media. Apparently amongst other things, she wants "more influence than Oprah Winfrey, " and desires "to make CBS 'the "Christian Broadcasting System.'"

Aside from the fact that the Christian right is largely in control of the public discourse in this country already -- have you noticed how often Tony Perkins, leader of a recognized hate group, is on the air "debating" gay civil rights? -- in light of open calls by "Christian" beauty queens for the execution of gays, or at least, if we listen to the American Family Association, the recriminalization of homosexual behavior, and now wanting to control the media, you start to wonder if any of these people have ever read the New Testament.

WWJD? Throw up, probably.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Have you noticed. . .

that the Republican idea of "reform" is to crack down on "fraud" and "abuse" that may or may not exist (and when it does exist, it's never to the degree that they claim), but only if perpetrated by those who are not part of a corporate hierarchy?

If the fraud and abuse are perpetrated by corporations, their solution seems to be to rewrite the law to accommodate it. Sadly, that's the sort of thing that seems to garner bipartisan support.


Again from Andrew Sullivan, some comments on cloning Neanderthals. This is the worst:

"If we could really do it and we know we are doing it right, I'm actually for it," says Lahn [who studies the evolutionary history of the genes that control human brain development at the University of Chicago]. "Not to understate the problem of that person living in an environment where they might not fit in. So, if we could also create their habitat and create a bunch of them, that would be a different story."

These are people you're talking about, Mr. U of C Professor. Human beings. OK -- this is a quote and I don't have the full context, but the implications of a statement like that are stupefying and make this guy look like the worst kind of mad scientist.

It's not even the issue of playing god that bothers me so much as the complete lack of sensitivity to consequences -- because there are always consequences, and in the case of something like "creating" a group of people to study them, the consequences are pretty much unknowable. Right off the top of my head, if you think we have problems with race in this country now, what about when you stir Neanderthals into the mix? (And don't think there aren't going to be those who will point to them as demonstrably "inferior.") Do they get citizenship? The vote? Are they going to go out into the world, or remain in a sort of zoo for their entire lives? What if one of them is gay? (I couldn't help but think of that.)

I'm pretty much aghast at the level of thinking displayed here.

On the Nose

I'm going to echo Andrew Sullivan this morning and say "If you read nothing else today, read this.

He's right, near as I can tell.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Moral Compass

You have to wonder what the moral climate in this country would be like right now if the Catholic hierarchy and its allies on the evangelical right had been as vocal and forceful about torture as they have been about gay civil rights and reproductive choice.

I mean, has anyone heard of a Catholic priest refusing the sacraments to a candidate or incumbent who supported "enhanced interrogation techniques"? I haven't.

Moral guidance? Church teachings? Pfah.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

DADT: An Overlooked Wrinkle

It appears the Pentagon has been violating the law in at least some discharges under DADT. In nine western states, the Circuit Court has ruled that the military must prove that discharging an openly gay service member would actually help unit cohesion and morale. They haven't been doing that, and it could blow up in their faces:

At issue is a ruling in the case of an Air Force major from Washington state who was dismissed from the military after she was found to have been in a lesbian relationship.

The court ruled that for a gay service member's discharge to be constitutional, the military must demonstrate that the firing promotes cohesion or discipline in the unit.

That is a much higher standard than what has been practiced since the "don't ask, don't tell" policy took effect in 1993: The military simply has to show that the person has engaged in homosexual activity, made statements about being gay, or tried to marry someone of the same sex.

The two standards represent a thorny issue for the Armed Forces, and military brass are keenly aware of the dilemma.

The military branches say they haven't changed how they go about issuing "don't ask" dismissals in the states covered by the 9th Circuit — Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

But if the military is found to have been discharging people within the 9th Circuit without applying the higher standard, it could be forced to pay punitive damages in federal court, some lawyers say.

Furthermore, if the military cannot demonstrate a gay member's discharge would hurt the unit, that person might end up serving openly — even as others around the globe continue to be discharged.

(I think that last sentence was supposed to read "a gay member's retention. . .")

I hope Victor Fehrenbach sues.


Catch this, from the always incisive Rachel Maddow. Her guest is former Army Sec. Clifford Alexander, who rips two of the ignorant buffoons -- both former high-level brass -- who oppose repeal new assholes. It's longish, but it's worth it:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I can't really add to that.

Friday, March 05, 2010

More on Marriage

First, this racist rant from Jasmyn Cannick. This is the sort of thing that leads me to think that the government is not the only dysfunctional aspect of this society:

As I pointed out before, it is a privilege to be able to focus solely on the issue of obtaining marriage for lesbian and gay couples. A privilege that many of us aren’t afforded.

It continues to be issue number one for the gay civil rights movement because for its leaders it is the last step in achieving parity with their heterosexual counterparts who already have the six-figure income, house, vacation house, an adopted son or daughter from somewhere in Africa or some other impoverished nation, and two or more cars.

This is the kind of argument we might see coming from Maggie Gallagher or Tony Perkins, except that I doubt either of them would play the race card quite so reflexively, as Cannick hastens to do. In formal logic, it's known as a "straw man" -- you invent a position or a condition that is supposed to represent your opponent's opinion or condition but doesn't do so accurately, then demolish it. It's an automatic "FAIL."

OK -- I'm white. I'm not rich, and I don't think I've ever been what anyone would call "privileged" (although I realize that to some, "white" and "privileged" are synonyms) -- I grew up poor, worked my way through college, and have at times been financially secure, but never what you'd even call well-off. I've never owned even one car, and the only thing I've ever adopted was a cat. So I think I'm quite legitimately calling "bullshit" on this one.

Add in that the post is factually challenged: marriage is the most high-profile issue right now because it's the most controversial, thanks to the fundies and, at the risk of ruffling some PC feathers, some high-profile leaders of the black community (although I'm very happy to acknowledge the role that black churches and the black community played in Washington, D.C., in securing our rights there). (Note to Jasmyne Connick: you won't get any sympathy from this quarter when you attack people who are actually fighting for equal rights for all of us and let Bishop Harry Jackson off the hook.) But marriage is not the only issue, and anyone who says that our organizations are not working for ENDA, DADT repeal, and any other facet of this struggle you care to name, both locally and nationally, is full of it. This is even more grossly distorted than it might seem at first when you remember that it was only recently that the national organizations even acknowledged the push for marriage rights as a legitimate area of concern and tried for years to redirect those efforts toward other issues. It's taken immense pressure from independent gay activists to reorient their priorities, and now Cannick is bitching because we haven't made black lesbians the main concern.

It's also a strategically critical issue: if we can get married as easily and freely as anyone else, if our families have the same legal and social recognition, if we have equal access to what is a core element of any society, denying us other rights becomes very obviously indefensible.

And now that I've vented my temper a bit, let me point out that none of these issues are either/or for most of us, and none of our national advocacy organizations is focusing solely on any one of them -- that's just more BS. We all meet prejudice in our daily lives, even in places where we least expect it. I don't see that the attempt to co-opt the gay civil rights movement into fighting racial prejudice on a day-to-day basis is helping anyone, frankly, and, trying to be as nice about it as I possibly can, Cannick's post strikes me as terribly self-centered and childish.

Dan Savage has a much more succinct rejoinder, underscored by the first couple to get their marriage license in D.C.

Marriage Update

Add Washington, D.C., and Mexico City to the list -- now we can get married in any North American capital.

Internationally, Timothy Kincaid has an update. Countries that are advancing same-sex marriage laws include some surprises: Portugal, Nepal, Iceland, Luxembourg, Argentina, Cyprus, and Slovenia.

The big surprise for me on that list is Slovenia. Eastern Europe is not, on the whole, terribly gay-friendly (to the extent that I'm almost ashamed to admit my Lithuanian ancestry, but there is a much more praise-worthy history there than current attitudes reflect), and the bill in that parliament has passed its first reading. (Three readings are required; the first, from the sketchy information I've been able to find, seems to be the most difficult.) What's causing the most controversy in this instance is a provision that also allows gay adoptions. These people need some good information.

And here, of course, we're limping along having to challenge discriminatory marriage laws in the courts, which has become a crap shoot.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Via Susie Madrak at C&L, this load from that great humanitarian, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Wall Street) (from Ryan Grim at HuffPo):

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Republican whip, argued that unemployment benefits dissuade people from job-hunting "because people are being paid even though they're not working."

Unemployment insurance "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work," Kyl said during debate over whether unemployment insurance and other benefits that expired amid GOP objections Sunday should be extended.

"I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here," said Kyl.

Grim makes the point:

Unemployment benefits are generally so small that much of it is often used to pay for COBRA health insurance, even when subsidized. The size of the benefits does not generally cover the cost of living and it would be hard to find a single person who would prefer unemployment to having a job so that they could get subsidized COBRA.

For two years, I sent out resumes every day. I put in applications and Walgreens and Jewel/Osco. I finally took a job as a part-time typist, making just enough to disqualify me for unemployment -- except my benefits had run out six months before. When I was getting unemployment, I had to drop COBRA -- I couldn't afford the premiums. I couldn't have managed food if I hadn't been getting food stamps. I couldn't afford my rent, and I couldn't move without a job. I don't ever want to be there again.

Jon Kyle is an overfed ass.

Level Heads and DADT

Again via Pam's House Blend, this from the Palm Center:


As scholars and experts on American civil-military relations, we are keenly aware of the critical balance that it is necessary to maintain between military and civilian leadership. We are concerned about a precedent reflected in the current debate about gays and lesbians in the military involving consultations by U.S. lawmakers of top uniformed personnel.

Civilian leaders must, of course, consult with the military before making decisions that affect the men and women who serve in our armed forces and which might affect the national security of the United States. The recent invitation by the Senate and House for the Service Chiefs to offer their best judgment about whether it is time to end the current ban on openly gay troops was therefore appropriate.

We are concerned, however, that political leaders seem poised to accept advice provided by the Service Chiefs uncritically, advice which does not seem to take into account considerable research that has emerged over the past fifty years about the impact of openly gay service on military effectiveness. Much of that research was conducted by the U.S. military’s own experts.

In particular, we are perplexed by the Chiefs’ claim that they have insufficient data to assess the impact of openly gay service; by their argument that the transition to inclusive policy will be an upheaval that will be difficult to manage; and by their suggestion that because the military is engaged in a two-front war, it is unable to manage that transition. (We note, for example, the recent recommendation to allow women on submarines).

Acting on advice which is not grounded in data would be inconsistent with the tradition of civilian control of the armed forces. We hope that the ongoing conversation surrounding this issue will take these concerns into account and that civilian leaders will properly exercise their Constitutional authority to govern the military, rather than the other way around.

This addresses squarely one of the questions I raised recently: since when does the military dictate U.S. national policy?

We have a bunch of spineless idiots in Congress.

This is Significant

Via Pam's House Blend, take a look at this little history of Bishop Harry Jackson's last-ditch effort to block same-sex marriage in D.C. -- total FAIL. Here's Chief Justice Roberts' opinion -- dry, but effective.

And you know Jackson's going to lose before the D.C. Court of Appeals because under D.C. law, the voters do not have a right to pass on the fundamental rights of minorities.

Monday, March 01, 2010

"It's Working"

More from the eternal maverick, John McCain, on DADT:

But the Arizona Senator seemed to dismiss the opinions of those military leaders Sunday. "Admiral Mullen was as quote speaking personally. Just this week commandant of the Marine Corps said he did not want Don't ask, don't tell repealed. There are many in the military who do not want to," said McCain.

McCain went on to say that the discriminatory policy is effective. "I believe that it's working," he told David Gregory Sunday.

Point 1: Last I heard, the military doesn't determine public policy.

Point 2: What's the basis for saying "it's working"? McCain is not the only person I've heard saying that, but no one seems to want to talk about what that means. (And is that any surprise?) What was the policy meant to do? If its sole purpose was discrimination (which seems to be the case), then it's working beautifully. If it was meant to somehow enhance our military capabilities, can someone please point to examples of how it has done that?

Just asking.