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

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

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

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

Friday, April 30, 2010

Letters from the Front Lines: Former Army Capt. Rebecca H. Elliott

April 30, 2010Rebecca Elliot

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I am the mother of two young children, and an Iraq war veteran. I joined up just like my dad – a retired Army officer – and my sister, who currently serves in the Guard. My brother is a reservist and has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, our family gathered together as he is leaving again for Afghanistan -- his 4th deployment. Even my husband, Jay, served as an officer in the Air Force until 2008.

Like my dad, I chose the Army. I reached the rank of Captain and was a platoon leader in the military police. I was there during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I had some of the best NCO's (non-commissioned officers) in the Army who could accomplish any mission. Several members of my platoon received decorations for valor during the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On my last day of active duty, some of my old squad leaders revealed to me that one of my former team leaders was gay. They figured it was safe to tell me, as I was leaving the Army. My first feelings on the matter were, frankly, a little surprised, followed by complete indifference.

I was surprised because I had never suspected the soldier of being gay. But then, I never really had any thoughts about her sexual orientation whatsoever.

When I reflected on it, it didn't make one bit of difference in how she performed her job or how she related to the other soldiers in the platoon. She had the respect of her squad leaders (fairly conservative men, mind you), who kept her secret and continued working with her side-by-side for years.

As an officer, I would have been bound by my position to report such “credible information” that would have led to the discharge of a great NCO. I am glad that I was never placed in the position of having to choose between one of my soldiers and enforcing this terrible law, which I feel is unfair and wrong.

Please, Mr. President – at this critical time -- do not allow those serving their country to be forced to choose between good, honorable soldiers, and upholding an unfair law.

Please, do not continue to allow gays and lesbians in the service to have to choose between hiding a part of their identity and continuing to serve their country.

Please, help Congress repeal “Don't Ask Don't Tell” now.

Respectfully,

Former Capt. Rebecca H. Elliott
Untied States Army

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maybe Even Illinois

My standing joke is, in the event I get married, I would most likely have to go to Iowa. "Can you imagine how embarassing it would be for a Chicagoan, a resident of one of the major cultural capitals of the world, to admit that he had to go to Iowa to marry his husband?"

Well, it ain't just me. Here's state rep. Deb Mell, announcing her engagement:



She got some congratulations, too.



We have a civil unions bill stalled in committee in the Assembly, and a marriage bill, introduced by my senator, Heather Steans, stalled in committee in the Senate. It's sort of sad that in the first state to repeal it's sodomy laws in 1961, we can't move a little more quickly on this. They can't blame it on the Republicans any more -- they're no longer in control of the Legislature. So what gives?

Stories from the Front Lines: A Military Chaplain

April 29, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As an active-duty military chaplain who just returned from a 15-month deployment in Iraq, this is my appeal for justice:

Over the years some of us have buried our closest friends -- officers and enlisted, African American, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, Whites, rich, poor, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. They had the courage to make the supreme sacrifice in order for us to reap the bounties of freedom. We owe them a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid.

What is remarkable about these Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen is they understood the personal risk when they answered the highest calling of our nation. What could be a nobler act then to give one’s life to one’s country, knowing that in their lives many freedoms would be denied them?

And when their story is told a significant piece of their life would be missing.

As they sleep under the crosses, the stars of David and the crescents there is no bigotry. There is no prejudice. There is no hatred. And within the sacred confines of their resting place there is no law of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” There is only purest democracy.

When the final cross has been placed in the last cemetery, will it only be then that we as a nation acknowledge our gay brothers and sisters who took the risks of life and truth to answer their nation’s highest calling? How many of these brave men and women lie in military graves and still hide in death?

They are among the unknown soldiers.

There are only a few who know the truth of those who lie in these graves. There are only a few who know the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn them in silence and fear. The nation remains silent and owes no allegiance to who they truly were nor does it honor their loved ones. What does that say of our sacred values?

If one gay person was killed in defense of America, issues such as the destruction of unit morale or the fear of people not wanting to join the military devalue their sacrifice. This is not about appeasing the uncomfortable feelings of a minority; this is a universal and transcendent matter of justice. America was built on the common Jewish and Christian heritage of justice when the Bible commands: “Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

It is easy for those who do not live in fear of being ‘outed’ to say: ‘We must wait and examine this law further.’ But when you have to watch what you say, where you go, and who you talk to, this erodes the human person. When you live in fear that the wrong pronoun slips through your lips, or a co-worker see you in public with your life long partner and you respond ‘this is just a friend’, this degrades your human self worth.

Gays and lesbians wait not for justice, for them justice is denied, but they wait for the ‘knock on the door.’ They are haunted daily waiting ‘to be found out.’

We went to foreign lands to wage war to liberate people so they would not have to live in the fear of waiting. But citizens of our own land who served nobly, who died to secure freedoms which they would never profit from, must live in fear waiting for justice.

"Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" is an unjust law. It degrades the human soul because it forces those who willingly serve to live in shameful humiliation because of deceit and fear. It undermines the very principles and values of what it means to be an American. Living the fa├žade of a life goes against the Core Values of every Armed Service. How much longer is justice going to be denied? There comes a time when despair and fear must end.

Mr. President, we depend on your sense of justice and fairness to help end this gross injustice so we, as a nation, do not have to wait for the final marker to be placed in the last cemetery.

We ask you to lead the way in repealing this unjust law and replace it with a policy of non-discrimination that advances open and honest service. A law that is consistent with true American values and honors the sacrifices of so many who have served – and died -- in silence.

With deepest respect,
A military chaplain
(The writer is currently serving and unable to identify himself publicly.)

Open Secrets

This looks promising:

The Supreme Court seemed skeptical Wednesday of arguments by gay rights opponents that the names on a petition asking for the repeal of Washington state's domestic partnership law should be kept secret.

Several justices questioned whether people who voluntarily signed a petition asking for a public referendum could then expect privacy. They were concerned that keeping the names of petitioners private might invalidate other vital open records like voter registration rolls or lists of donors to political candidates.

"Running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage," said Justice Antonin Scalia, who also called the arguments to keep the names private "touchy-feely."


That's Antonin Scalia saying that.

Jake Blumgart has a summary of the session. This is choice (and it's Scalia again, landing on James Bopp, arguing for the anti-gay groups):

JUSTICE SCALIA: What about just—just—what about just wanting to know their names so you can criticize them?

(Laughter.)

MR. BOPP: Well...

JUSTICE SCALIA: Is—is that such a bad thing in a democracy?

MR. BOPP: Well, what is bad is not the criticism, it's the public—it's the government requiring you to disclose your identity and belief.

JUSTICE SCALIA: But part of the reason is so you can be out there and be responsible for the positions you have taken.

MR. BOPP: Well, then why don't they require both sides?

JUSTICE SCALIA: So that people — people can criticize you for the position you have taken.

MR. BOPP: Then why don't they require both sides if that was the purpose?

JUSTICE SCALIA: What do you mean, "both sides"? The other side hasn't signed anything.

MR. BOPP: The other side...

(Laughter.)

JUSTICE SCALIA: When they sign something, they will be out there for public criticism as well.

MR. BOPP: Okay. But this is a one-way street.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Oh, this is such a touchy-feely, oh, so sensitive about—about any—(Laughter). You know, you can't run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known.

MR. BOPP: I'm sorry, Justice Scalia, but the campaign manager of this initiative had his family sleep in his living room because of the threats.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, that's bad. The threats should be moved against vigorously, but just because there can be criminal activity doesn't mean that you—you have to eliminate a procedure that is otherwise perfectly reasonable.


Quite aside from the fact that the campaign manager is a paranoid freak, the R71 side has no argument. Their position is simply that they want to be able to operate in secret -- look at the fight NOM is giving the Maine Board of Election Commissioners, who've found them in violation of campaign disclosure laws.

It's almost a shame that they don't get to play the Scary Homo Brownshirts card, but that's not the issue before the Court. I'd love to see Scalia tackle some of their examples. (If I find that post that had some of the better ones, I'll give you a link.) What they boil down to is on the order of the guy who was hurt because the gay members of his country club won't talk to him any more because of his support for R71. Poor thing. That's real harassment, isn't it?

As usual with SCOTUS, I hesitate to be optimistic, but it looks like, aside from Alitto, the R71 crowd isn't getting much sympathy. Of course, to expect the Supreme Court to trash a fundamental aspect of the American political system is asking a lot, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ROFLMAO

This is just wonderful:


Via Crooks & Liars

I Hadn't Thought of This Angle

But then, I don't think like a Republican.  Very interesting article from Greg Palast that brings back the Rove years:

What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote -- and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.

In 2008, working for Rolling Stone with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters ... directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer's command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.

That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you're not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: after all, they give their names and addresses.


Captives of Sheriff Joe's prison, Maricopa County, Arizona
So I asked Brewer's office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution?

No, not one.


I keep forgetting that Republicans don't really like the American system -- they think elected representatives passing legislation by majority vote is totalitarian, remember.  They prefer their own brand of totalitarianism, like deciding ahead of time who gets to vote for those representatives.

No, on thinking about it it doesn't sound like conspiracy thinking.  It sounds like the way Republicans do elections.

Stories from the Front Lines: LCpl. Danny Hernandez, USMC (Separated)

April 28, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I was humbled to have earned the title of U.S. Marine just two years ago – my goal since I was 14 years old. But just nine weeks ago, I was informed of my discharge under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

Mr. President, if I could be serving my country right now – I would be. Instead, I was fired while you were my Commander and Chief.

The stories we hear of discharged service members are becoming far too common and are based around a primitive law that we should have eliminated years ago. As this injustice continues to hurt our country, we are in desperate need of your support and leadership as we work to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

After I finished my training, I was a 20-year-old reservist. I returned to school to continue working on my undergraduate degree with hopes of becoming an officer. I wish I could tell you about my distinguished service, about stories from the war overseas, or about how being a Marine has changed my perspective on life, but I can’t.

My discharge came from the fear that my sexual orientation was going to be revealed by a third party; a group of unknown Marines who threatened to use my sexuality as a way to retaliate after a dispute in a bar. I had spoken with two fellow Marines from my unit; both of whom I trusted. They calmed me, told me that it wasn’t a big deal, and reassured me that everything was going to be fine.

I returned to drill only to find out that the two Marines – the Marines I confided in -- had mentioned it and word had reached my 1st Sergeant and Commanding Officer. They told the two Marines to submit written statements detailing everything I had told them.

When I walked in to my 1st Sergeant's office the first question out of his mouth was, "Are you gay?"

I answered honestly. The investigation was now underway.

The 1st Sergeant proceeded to tell me that there was no way he could protect my privacy in the matter, citing the “grapevine,” and having no control over what people within the unit said or did. I was told by my CO to hang tight and wait to hear from the Battalion Commander.

Ultimately I was discharged, a fate I found out only through my persistent calls and emails. My dreams of being an officer had been shattered and it felt as if the world was tumbling down on me and all I could do was step aside.

Upon earning the title of Marine, I took an oath and vowed to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This enemy is a domestic one, and with your direction as Commander and Chief, this is a war in which we can be victorious.

“Semper Fidelis” is the Marine Corps motto meaning “Always Faithful.” Not only am I willing and anxious to go overseas, but I am prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect our freedoms.

I have remained faithful to my country; please be faithful to me.

Very Respectfully,
LCpl. Danny Hernandez,
USMC (Separated)

OK -- I Might Decide I Like Harry Reid

According to The Hill, Harry is finally playing hardball:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has deployed unusually tough tactics to pressure Republicans to back Wall Street reform — a move that could shore up his liberal base, but one that GOP centrists say is counterproductive.

Reid will need at least one Republican vote in order to move the legislation forward, but centrists in that party caution that the Democratic leader’s actions have been divisive and unnecessary.

"Counterproductive" -- ya think?  Of course the "centrist" Republicans (who are only slightly more right-wing than "centrist" Democrats) are going to say that -- their Wall Street paymasters and the wingnut party leadership are going to make them look like -- well, spoiled five-year-olds, just like Lindsay Graham.

Reid shows no signs of backing down and has even suggested the Senate no longer has any Republicans who could be considered moderate.

On Tuesday, Republicans voted to defeat a motion to begin debate on Wall Street reform legislation.

It was the second time in two days that Reid scheduled a vote on the matter, and he plans a third vote on Wednesday and a fourth on Thursday, according to a Democratic aide.

Reid also scheduled a vote Monday evening, during the dinner hour, to force senators to show up on the chamber floor, a move that was seen as punishment for Republicans voting to block the Wall Street bill earlier in the day.

Reid could bring lawmakers back to the chamber again after regular hours to discuss Wall Street reform, disrupting their evening schedules.

Yee-hah!  Maybe the Democrats have finally figured out that the Republicans are not operating in good faith (which, come to think of it, the Republicans have said, almost in so many words).

I hope he keeps scheduling vote after vote after vote until the Republicans finally cave.  From the urban heartland, this is making the Republicans look just like what they are:  waterboys for the oligarchy.

Chuck Grassley (R-Bank of America) is priceless:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the only Republican to vote for Democratic legislation regulating derivatives, said the tactic “sours” the mood of the Senate.

“The reason it sours it is because [the Democrats] keep wanting bipartisanship, but they’re always defining bipartisanship as one Republican and 59 Democrats; that’s not bipartisanship,” Grassley said.

Grassley said he told Reid on Monday that he had a problem with the leader’s strategy of putting political pressure on Republicans in hopes of getting one or two to defect.



"'Sours' the mood"? Are you serious? And Grassley has problems with Reid putting political pressure on Republicans. Well, sweetheart, turnabout's fair play, you know?

If we think back a day or two to Lindsay Graham (R-Good Ol' Boi) and his snit about Reid wanting to move immigration reform to the front burner, I think we'll see a pattern: the Senate really is all about process and perquisites and collegiality, and substance be damned. I think the Republicans want to hold on to that because that way the don't actually have to do anything, you see? (They've already demonstrated quite graphically that they're not interested in actually governing -- it's called the George W. Bush administration.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stories from the Front Lines, Maj. Mike Almy

Here is the first in this series from SLDN.

April 26, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

If you end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), I’d re-enlist the day you sign repeal into law.

For thirteen years, I served in the United States Air Force where I attained the rank of major before I was discharged under DADT.

As the Senate Armed Services Committee considers including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill, we’re very close -- just two or three votes -- to passing repeal in committee. I ask for you to voice your support to put us over the top.

I come from a family with a rich legacy of military service.  My father is a West Point graduate who taught chemistry at the Air Force Academy, flew helicopters in Vietnam, and ultimately retired as a senior officer from the Air Force.  One of my uncles retired as a Master Gunnery Sergeant from the Marine Corps, with service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  Another uncle served in the Army in Korea. 

Growing up, I didn't really know what civilians did, I just knew I would follow in my father's footsteps and become a military officer.  

I joined Air Force ROTC in 1988 and was awarded a scholarship.  I earned my jump wings in 1991.  In 1992, I graduated from ROTC in the top 10% of all graduates nationwide.  In 1993, I went on active duty, just as DADT was becoming a law.

Stationed in Oklahoma, I was named officer of the year for my unit of nearly 1,000 people.  Later, I was one of six officers selected from the entire Air force to attend Professional Military Education at Quantico, Virginia.

During my career, I deployed to the Middle East four times.  In my last deployment, I led a team of nearly 200 men and women to operate and maintain the systems used to control the air space over Iraq.  We came under daily mortar attacks, one of which struck one of my Airmen and also caused significant damage to our equipment.  Towards the end of this deployment to Iraq, I was named one of the top officers in my career field for the entire Air Force.

In the stress of a war zone, the Air Force authorized us to use our work email accounts for “personal or morale purposes” because private email accounts were blocked for security.

Shortly after I left Iraq -- during a routine search of my computer files -- someone found that my “morale” was supported by the person I loved -- a man.

The email -- our modern day letter home -- was forwarded to my commander.

I was relieved of my duties, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated.  

In my discharge proceeding, several of my former troops wrote character reference letters for me, including one of my squadron commanders. Their letters expressed their respect for me as an officer, their hope to have me back on the job and their shock at how the Air Force was treating me.

Approximately a year after I was relieved of my duties, my Wing Commander recommended I be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, even though the Air Force was actively pursuing my discharge.

But instead, after 16 months, I was given a police escort off the base as if I were a common criminal or a threat to national security.  The severance pay I received was half of what it would have been had I been separated for any other reason.

Despite this treatment, my greatest desire is still to return to active duty as an officer and leader in the United States Air Force, protecting the freedoms of a nation that I love; freedoms that I myself was not allowed to enjoy while serving in the military.  

Mr. President, I want to serve.  Please fulfill your promise to repeal DADT and give me that chance.

Thank you,

Major Mike Almy
United States Air Force

Stories from the Front Lines

I'm going to try to keep up with this project at SLDN. This is the second in the series.

April 27, 2010

President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Joan Darrah and I served in silence under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) for almost two decades. I share my personal story with you as we’re at a critical point in the fight to repeal this discriminatory law.

We urgently need your voice and leadership as we lobby the Armed Services Committees and the full House and Senate to end DADT this year.

I’m sure, as I do, you remember exactly where you were on September 11, 2001.

At 8:30 a.m. that day, I went to a meeting in the Pentagon. At 9:30 a.m., I left that meeting. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon and destroyed the exact space I had left less than eight minutes earlier, killing seven of my colleagues.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a lesbian Navy captain who, at that time, had more than 28 years of dedicated military service. My partner, Lynne Kennedy, an openly gay reference librarian at the Library of Congress, and I had been together for more than 11 years. Each day, I went to work wondering if that would be the day I would be fired because someone had figured out I was gay.

In spite of that stress, somehow Lynne and I had learned to deal with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"; we had made the requisite sacrifices. I had pretended to be straight and had played the games most gays in the military are all too familiar with.

But after Sept. 11 our perspective changed dramatically. In the days and weeks that followed, I went to at least seven funerals and memorial services for shipmates who had been killed in the Pentagon attack. As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone Lynne would have been had I been killed.

The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the "military family" which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need. But none of that support would have been available for Lynne, because under "don't ask, don't tell," she couldn't exist.

In fact, had I been killed, Lynne would have been one of the last people to know, because nowhere in my paperwork or emergency contact information had I dared to list Lynne's name. This realization caused us both to stop and reassess exactly what was most important in our lives. During that process we realized that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was causing us to make a much bigger sacrifice than either of us had ever admitted.

Nine months later, in June 2002, I retired after 29 years in the U.S. Navy, an organization I will always love and respect.

Today, nine years after that fateful day at the Pentagon, I am now committed to doing everything I possibly can to get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" so our military can finally be open to all qualified and motivated individuals who want to serve their country. This is the right step for our country, for our military, and for all gay men and lesbians.

As a veteran, and as a witness to the 14,000 men and women who have been discharged, I thank you for your bold words in your State of The Union address: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.”

I have great love and respect for our country, and I know that we will be a stronger and better country when we repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

With great respect,

Capt. Joan Darrah
United States Navy (Ret.)

Today's Must Read

This is a stunning indictment of Wall Street the Reagan legacy of "greed is good," and the soulless idiots who think Ayn Rand is god.

The summary header says it all:

The investment bank's cult of self-interest is on trial against the whole idea of civilisation – the collective decision by all of us not to screw each other over even if we can.

And why is it, do you suppose, that our "moral guardians" are silent on Goldman Sachs and its cronies?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again

This is starting to sound so much like the Bush years. Kevin Naff has a great piece on the state of our world:

Another kerfuffle erupted when Sarvis said he was excluded from a key White House meeting related to “Don’t Ask” repeal. Several HRC staffers reportedly attended the meeting; it appears that Sarvis wasn’t invited because he had publicly criticized the administration’s handling of the issue. Americablog’s John Aravosis, who was in the audience, angrily denounced Sarvis’ exclusion from the meeting during the radio event.

It's actually mostly about the ineffectiveness of HRC, but do read it -- it's not unfair, just brutally honest.

Here's another dot to connect with the first:

First the rumor. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina are so upset that the gay community is challenging the President's broken promises on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," ENDA, and DOMA that they're now threatening to cut the gay community off entirely, and do nothing more for the gays for the rest of the Obama administration.

John Aravosis is calling this "bullshit," but to be quite honest, the Obama administration has come pretty close to cutting us off already -- I mean, how much have they really done for us so far, besides giving us things we already had? It's not such a far move -- and who knows? Maybe Mitch McConnell will say something nice about him.

Integrity in the Marketplace

I couple of days ago I made the comment that the free market doesn't work if not everyone is honest. I'm not alone.

William K. Black thinks President Obama didn't acknowledge a key component in the financial crisis that the bills before Congress won't address — fraud. A former regulator who helped crack down on massive fraud during the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s, Black tells Bill Moyers on THE JOURNAL that, despite evidence of fraud at the top banks, prosecutions seem far away. "If you go back to the savings and loan debacle, we got more than a thousand felony convictions of the elite. These are not, you know, tellers or something. We today have zero convictions, zero indictments, zero arrests of any of the elite, non-prime lenders that, through their fraud, drove this crisis."

Need I say more?

We're All Ilegal Now

And please note, this happened before the new Arizona law was signed:

A Valley man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned when he arrived at a weigh station for his commercial vehicle along Val Vista and the 202 freeway.

Abdon, who did not want to use his last name, says he provided several key pieces of information but what he provided apparently was not what was needed.


Do you suppose he would have been handcuffed and grilled if he were a big burly blond?

A representative at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 3TV’s calls after researching the incident and she said this was standard operating procedure.

The agents needed to verify Abdon was in the country legally and it is not uncommon to ask for someone's birth certificate. She also said this has nothing to do with the proposed bill or racial profiling.


Y'know, even if this is credible I still find it revolting. In fact, if it's standard procedure, it's worse than revolting.

If fact, you know it's unconstitutional, because Bill Kristol says it's not, and Bill Kristol is wrong about everything.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It Doesn't Seem to Get Better

From NYT, this story on Warrior Transition Units. It seems as though there are some things the Pentagon is just not equipped to deal with -- like wounded soldiers.

But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson’s unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse.

I have a feeling there are gaps in the Pentagon's world view on this sort of thing:

Senior officers in the Army’s Warrior Transition Command declined to discuss specific soldiers. But they said Army surveys showed that most soldiers treated in transition units since 2007, more than 50,000 people, had liked the care.

Those senior officers acknowledged that addiction to medications was a problem, but denied that Army doctors relied too heavily on drugs. And they strongly defended disciplining wounded soldiers when they violated rules. Punishment is meted out judiciously, they said, mainly to ensure that soldiers stick to treatment plans and stay safe.

“These guys are still soldiers, and we want to treat them like soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Andrew L. Grantham, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson.

The colonel offered another explanation for complaints about the unit. Many soldiers, he said, struggle in transition units because they would rather be with regular, deployable units. In some cases, he said, they feel ashamed of needing treatment.

“Some come to us with an identity crisis,” he said. “They don’t want to be seen as part of the W.T.U. But we want them to identify with a purpose and give them a mission.”


The problem is, "these guys" are wounded soldiers, and the treatment has got to be different. I will readily grant that there are a lot of good people doing their best to help these guys get their heads back together, but there are conceptual gaps in the way the Army thinks that are undercutting those efforts.

I have no solutions -- I've got ideas, because I've dealt with emotionally damaged people, but I'm not going to be making recommendations on the basis of a newspaper article. I just want to point out, though, that the military, aided and abetted by those in Congress who "support the troops" by giving them inadequate equipment and inadequate care when they have been wounded-- whether physically or emotionally, or both -- doesn't have what it takes to do it right.

Last year, The Associated Press reported that the transition unit at Fort Bragg in North Carolina had a discipline rate three times as high as the 82nd Airborne Division, the base’s primary occupant.

General Cheek said the Army’s own survey of other major posts showed that discipline rates in transition units were about the same as in regular units.

He asserted that most cadre members, who receive extra pay and training for the job, do their jobs well, working long hours and spending weekends checking on soldiers. Discipline, he said, is a form of tough love.

“If we are going to maintain safe discipline, all rules must apply,” the general said. “We do have an expectation that our soldiers want to get better.”


The question is, can the Army actually help them get better?

And as usual, there are the glaring discrepancies between what the Army says and what outside sources say. I'm generally against argument by anecdote, because you can find an anecdote to refute anything. But the point is, and maybe the brass should start thinking along these lines, those anecdotes need extra attention.

Friday, April 23, 2010

They Just Can't Let Go Of It

More crap from the right on ACORN, via that consummate idiot, Adam Bitely at NetRight Daily.* This piece of tripe is written by someone named Kevin Mooney, which sort of gives you an idea where his head spends most of its time:

A good starting point would be with the $352,510 The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) funneled to ACORN in 2009 just as the organization's employees were caught on videotape describing to uncover investigators how they can arrange for legal loans, set up brothels, advance child prostitution and human trafficking.

Maybe it's because the AFT knew, as did most everyone else (except, apparently, anyone in Congress) that James O'Keefe is nothing more than a rabid right political hit man and Andrew Breitbart (who has, as far as I know, still refused to release the unedited ACORN tapes) is an even bigger liar.

This isn't the first alert I've gotten from NetRight Daily about ACORN. Note to Adam Bitely: Hey, stupid, in case you hadn't noticed, ACORN has gone belly up, due largely to the vicious lying attacks of dishonest assholes like you.

But I suppose if you try to beat a live horse, it might hit back.

* Don't ask me how I got on their e-mail list. Whatever they did, it was probably dishonest.

Sarah Palin testifies in e-mail hacking case

So what?

(That's WaPo's lead story this afternoon, via e-mail, and no, I'm not going to link to is. Who the hell cares?)

Your Insurance Company Is A Crook

A must-read from Crooks and Liars:

Time for Kathleen Sibelius to step in again. This time Wellpoint leads the way by targeting key groups of insureds for fraud investigations. Their first experiment appears to be women diagnosed with breast cancer. . . .

Simply stated, these audits are intended to build a database of people they can target for fraud or misrepresentation if they should be diagnosed with anything from acne to hives to breast cancer later on.


Well, after all, what do you expect from the kind of organization that pays people bonuses for letting people die?

Death panels, anyone?

Update: Here's more detail from Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings.

The problem here is that these practices, while at least marginally legal (although that's still to be determined in some cases), belie the whole purpose of health insurance. Or at least, the original purpose -- it looks like the real purpose these days is billion-dollar profits.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kids and Us: Convenient Lies

Just ran across this article by John Corvino, centered, of course, on the Church pedophilia scandal.

Comments earlier this week by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone linking homosexuality to pedophilia have drawn almost universal condemnation from medical experts, gay-rights organizations, and government officials.

“Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia but many others have demonstrated, I was told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. I have the documents of the psychologists. That is the problem.”

He’s nearly half-right.


First off, in spite of Corvino's statement, he's nowhere near half right. Bertone may not be deliberately lying, but his statement is in direct opposition to statements by the pope and the Vatican's own study, as well as on the accumulated scientific research.

I'm not going to critique Corvino's article here -- it strikes me as diffuse and faintly muddy, as if he weren't quite sure what question he wanted to deal with. He seems to want to talk about the cover-up -- "complicity" he calls it -- which is a huge facet of the whole problem, but to hang that on the gay/pedophile connection, specious as it is, doesn't really do his argument any good.

Just a couple of comments on the gay priests/pedophiles angle of the Church distaster.

I've seen the argument, advanced by Bill Donohue and others (including a couple of the commenters to Corvino's article) that, since many of the incidents involve post-pubescent boys and adult men, they qualify as "homosexual." This is really a case of dodging the central issue: this is not about sexual orientation, it's about abuse of power. It strikes me that child molestation (and I'm taking "child" in this context to refer to any individual under the legal age of consent) is about power. That should be obvious from the methods the hierarchy has used to hide these cases, particularly swearing those involved to secrecy, often under threat of excommunication. It strikes me that child molestation is somewhat akin to rape, even if the child is ostensibly willing -- it's a power trip on the part of the perpetrator.

There's also the question, in the cases that can be strictly defined as "ephebophilia", of consent. We're talking about boys who are adolescents and who cannot be expected to make mature decisions about sex -- for crying out loud, they're not much more than hormones and energy at that age. And let's face it, it's easy to turn their heads. From a report on cases in Latin America:

Congressional investigators said more than 20 witnesses were called and some testified Barbosa and two other priests in the same northeastern archdiocese had abused boys as young as 12, plying them with money, clothes and other gifts.

As for the argument advanced by a Latin American cardinal that the victims were being deliberately seductive, my only response to that is: Excuse me, one supposes the priest is an adult. He doesn't know how to say 'No' to a child?" Asshole. (Sorry -- didn't think to store the link when I ran across that article.)

I do have to take issue with those who are characterizing all of these cases as rape. Statutorily, they are strictly accurate, but the picture they're painting is not a real one. The force being used here was not necessarily physical (although in some cases, I don't doubt that it was), but emotional. Calling is "rape" just fuzzes the issue.

If you want a carefully thought out and meticulously documented summary of the current research on the question of sexual orientation and child sexual abuse, see this article by Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin. This, I think, is a key point.

In some cases, he [the regressed molester] may temporarily relate to the child as a peer, much as a fixated offender relates to children. But more often, he is simply lashing out against the stresses in his life, and the child becomes a convenient target. The offender may find a sense of power in his sexual relationship with a child that he doesn't get with an adult. When that happens this relationship with the child is often violent. But regardless of the nature of the relationship, the gender of the child is often irrelevant — it’s the easy access and vulnerability that makes the child a target.

Regressed offenders are typically heterosexual in their adult relationships. Unlike our three percent sample, they date women and marry them. They often are parents, stepparents or extended family members of their victims. By all appearances — and by their own self-identification — they are straight. Drs. Groth and Birnbaum emphasized this point, saying:
In over 12 years of clinical experience working with child molesters, we have yet to see any example of a regression from an adult homosexual orientation. The child offender who is also attracted to and engaged in adult relationships is heterosexual.27
While Drs. Groth and Birnbaum were emphatic on this point, there’s no reason to believe that there’s no such thing as someone who is engaged in homosexual adult relationships while also molesting children. Surely they’re out there. I don’t think any group of fallible human beings can claim perfect innocence on this. But the experts generally agree: the phenomenon is rare.


It seems that even the Vatican has distanced itself from Cardinal Bertone's remarks -- or it's been trying to.

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it, by any means. It will be interesting to see if the Church will do any real soul-searching because of this.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

They're Starting to Get It

I like this article from WaPo:

After a week of attacking the proposals as paving the way for new taxpayer "bailouts," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor that he was "heartened to hear that bipartisan talks have resumed in earnest." Later, after a meeting with fellow Republicans, he told reporters that while he believes that there are still serious flaws in the legislation, "I'm convinced now there is a new element of seriousness attached to this, rather than just trying to score political points. . . . I think that's a good sign." 

The change in tone came as the Security and Exchange Commission's lawsuit against Goldman Sachs for allegedly defrauding investors continued to dominate headlines, underscoring public anger at Wall Street and reminding lawmakers of the potential consequences of inaction.

Maybe McConnell got tired of trying to explain the link between his fundraising pitch to Wall Street bankers and Republican opposition to any substantive reform.  (And as far as just who was trying to score political points -- well, do I really need to say it?)

Y'know, thinking about the way some in this country worship the free market -- Alan Greenspan, one of the architects of the meltdown, comes to mind -- you have to ask yourself:  Doesn't the free market required a certain amount of honest and integrity on both sides to work at all?  And have we seen a lot of that on Wall Street in the last decade or two?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beyond Homophobia

It's just inhumanity.  I'm sure you've seen this story.  I'm not going to quote the summary the way everyone else is doing -- you can read it at the link.

I am going to say something that no one else seems to be saying:  this goes way beyond simple  homophobia (if such a murky and tangled disease can ever be called "simple).  This is unadulterated and gratuitous cruelty.

I really, truly hope that Greene bankrupts the county and everyone involved is blacklisted from ever working in social services again.  But then, I'm not always a very nice person.

Does anyone need any further evidence that we need to have our relationships recognized nationwide?

Update:  Here's a post with more context.  And even more from NYT.  And, from Joe.My.God, more detail, more links.  It's chilling.

As one if the commenters at J.M.G. points out, we're only seeing the complaint -- half the story.  However, the charges are so outrageous that I doubt very much that there's no basis -- you don't get to first base filing a complaint like on nothing, and the NCLR is not an organization to go off half-cocked.  I'd like to see if any criminal charges come out of this, because if there's any truth at all to the allegations, there are criminal violations here.

 

Prom Night


They should all be like this. But even less controversial.


JULIE HUBBARD/THE TELEGRAPH Richard Goodman, left, and Derrick Martin enter the Bleckley County High School prom Saturday in Cochran.


Aren't they a cute couple?

I especially like this bit:

“Oh, and by the way we’re going to my prom May 8,” Goodman said to a surprised Martin.

Martin simply replied, “That’s your fight.”

Spaced

I have been so out of it since yesterday. Don't ask me why, but it's been pretty bad. At least I haven't stepped off the curb into traffic -- yet.

A minor example: I just read a headline over at The Daily Dish as "Why We Should Legalize Cannibals."

It's a post about legalizing marijuana.

I think I'll just try to stay away from anything with sharp edges.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

There are none so blind., ,. ,

etc., etc. I seem to have gotten myself into quite a discussion over at this post at AmericaBlog Gay. You can see my thoughts by scrolling down the comments -- it's mostly an exchange between me and one other commmenter.

It's all a take-off from the press-release and demand for an apology quoted at the start of the post. Sorry, boys and girls -- I don't see every comment that I don't like as evidence of deep-seated homophobia. That just smacks too much of a willingness to play the victim card -- although you sort of have to admire anyone who can turn that into a means of aggression.

The really weird part of the whole thing is that a bunch of people who should be all over Ben Domenech and CBS for publishing the post in question to begin with are instead all over Obama for responding appropriately, if a little too seriously.

My reasoning on this is pretty much in the comments there, so give it a read.

Reviews in Brief: Tsuta Suzuki's A Strange and Mystifying Story


I really am trying to get back on schedule with RiB. I do have some new manga and anime coming in, so there's hope.

Tsuta Suzuki's A Strange and Mystifying Story certainly counts as strange, but I wasn't really mystified. It was a fun read, though.

Akio's family -- at least the maternal line -- is cursed: they all died early from a devastating disease. Except for Grandfather, who somehow managed to hold on until he died of old age. On his deathbed, Grandfather tells Akio that there is something in the family shrine that will save him from the curse. Sure enough, soon Aki is suffering from a dreadful sickness. Frantically rummaging through the shrine, he happens upon what looks like a fossilized animal fang. The fang wastes little time in turning into a tall, handsome, wild-looking man with wolf's ears and tail -- who also happens to be totally naked. He demands that Aki name him before he can get to work; Aki names him Setsu, and Setsu starts sucking the sickness out of Aki. He engages in a couple of other activities as well, which sort of freak Aki out. Eventually, though, nature takes it course.

The fun here is watching the personalities as they are revealed. Aki is sort of a nebbish, young, not too sure of himself, and fairly uptight about most things. Setsu is not human, although he can pass, and tends to adopt a fairly breezy manner. And, he likes to drink. Volume 1 serves to establish the basics of the relationship, as well as containing two side stories that are just as weird and engaging as the main one. Volume 2 gives us a good view of Setsu's past, as well as some of his friends that Aki doesn't know about, and more or less cements the relationship. It's not easy going, at least on Aki's side, and we learn that Setsu, in spite of his gruff manner, also has his own set of hesitancies and vulnerabilities. It's really pretty rewarding reading -- a lot is left to subtext, and you need to pay attention.

The drawing is not really remarkable -- clean, spare, good layouts that keep the narrative flow moving clearly, and apt character renderings. Setsu really is gorgeous, and Aki has his own appeal, particularly as he starts to actually think about Setsu as an individual -- you can see his growing attachment in his face.

From Juné.

Must Read

This article from Kerry Eleveld.

No one can deny this was a savvy move. Richard Socarides, former LGBT adviser to President Bill Clinton, said he wished the directive had come sooner but acknowledged that it was a strategic win.

“Politically, I think it’s very smart,” he said. “It’s a horrible problem with an easy and inexpensive solution. No one isn't for hospital visitation rights. Obama needed to show that he was taking action, and now he can point to this — a small step but certainly better than nothing. And it shows that he is thinking about gay rights.”

The problem with these advances is that almost every one of them could essentially be swept away by the next administration. Just look at what kind of havoc Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has wreaked in Virginia in terms of rolling back discrimination protections for LGBT people.

Die-hard Obama supporters often complain that the president never gets enough praise for his pro-LGBT achievements. And while the president certainly deserves credit for pushing the hate-crimes bill and giving life to “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal with his State of the Union address, LGBT advocates cannot afford to wallow in those victories.


The problem with Obama's "pro-LGBT achievements" is exactly as Eleveld points out: they're small, they're politically safe, they're relatively insubstantial, and they're potentially ephemeral. (We saw how that works when Bush's head of OPM stripped protections for gay and lesbian government employees from the books.)

He promised us a leader. We got a Chicago politician.

Counterpunch

I don't condone the actions of the counterprotesters, but it's nice to see that sort of thing directed at an appropriate target, for a change.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Maybe, Just Maybe

the president has learned something from the HCR debacle.



As quoted at AmericaBlog:

Now, unsurprisingly, these reforms have not exactly been welcomed by the people who profit from the status quo – as well their allies in Washington. This is probably why the special interests have spent a lot of time and money lobbying to kill or weaken the bill. Just the other day, in fact, the Leader of the Senate Republicans [that would would be Mitch McConnell] and the Chair of the Republican Senate campaign committee [that would be John Cornyn (R-tX)] met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue.

Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican Leader came out against the common-sense reforms we’ve proposed. In doing so, he made the cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts – when he knows that it would do just the opposite.


What's amazing to me is that the Republicans are coming out as such transparent tools. Of course, their supporters get their news from Fox, which isn't going to mention any back-room deals between them and Wall Street. And now, thanks to the Supreme Court, Inc., Bankers can pour as much money as they want into Republican campaigns without worrying about silly things like contribution limits.

I just wish Obama would get behind DADT repeal that way.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bait and Switch?

Interesting to notice that, with all the foofooraw over DADT repeal, an inclusive ENDA is moving forward, relatively quietly.

Interesting because, in general, ENDA is a much more dicey affair, particularly with the "T" inclusion -- say what you will, but the religious right's "men in dresses" mantra does have an effect. DADT repeal is basically a no-brainer, but it's instructive to see the display of relative power in this -- White House vs. Pentagon. Let's face it, the main resistance to repeal is coming from the upper brass. We can question Obama's commitment to repeal (and I do, believe me -- I don't think his support was ever more than slightly above lip service), but we have to ask ourselves why that support is so wobbly. I think it's the Pentagon, which is exerting its influence on the White House, and that, in conjunction with DoJ, which doesn't seem to have gotten the gay rights memo, and whatever political homophobes are advising the president, is probably going to scuttle DADT repeal.

Congress is reluctant to do anything without some show of support from the WH, the WH isn't going to move because of the generals, and the generals are playing a waiting game hoping to scuttle the whole thing.

In the meantime, Congress, not willing to move on DADT without some visible support from the WH, is quietly getting ENDA ready for floor vote. It's doubtful that it will not pass the House; the sticker, as always, is the Senate, where a combination of a Democratic minority (to their way of thinking, at least), a fair number of fossils on both sides of the aisle, and a determination among the Republican leadership that nothing will pass without great rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, may very well stall it. (Happily, both my senators are on record as supporting both ENDA and DADT repeal. What I need is for them to get right up in Mitch McConnell's face.) But who knows? It could very well sail right through -- the only corporate interest involved is the corporate religious right. It's not like Bank of America or WellPoint are going to be lobbying against it.

There will be a quiz on this next time.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ignorance: A Self-Perpetuating Phenomenon

I read this post by Daniel Oliver out of curiosity after reading this take-down by Julian Sanchez.

Sanchez was way too kind.

I've never seen so much misinformation bruited about as "well-known" fact since the last time I read anything by Peter LaBarbera or heard Tony Perkins on a talk show. And the comments are even worse.

I mean, have you ever seen a post with comments where nobody knows diddly about the subject? Not the poster, not the commenters.

I didn't think it was possible.

Obama's a Liar . . .

. . . according to his own Justice Department. It seems that when defending DADT, the DoJ doesn't put much store by the president's words.

As a matter of legal fact, the Obama Adminstration’s Department of Defense has stated that the President was not speaking the truth. As Dan Woods, a partner at White & Case, Log Cabin’s law firm put it
Using President Obama’s exact words, Log Cabin’s lawyers then asked the government to admit that what the President said was true. Justice Department lawyers objected, Log Cabin filed and won a motion to compel the government to answer the questions, the government appealed, and the court rejected the appeal. Consequently, on Monday, April 12, 2010, the government finally had to answer the questions and, when the Justice Department lawyers answered, they denied the truth of what the President had said.
This puts the President in a difficult position. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth. His Department of Justice speaks for him. It makes legal arguments that are consistent with the principles and factual conclusions of his administration.


Here's a lengthier comment on this contretemps from Joe Sudbay.

If anyone's confused as to what Obama's position is on this issue,, see this, from John Aravosis.

I'm bemused by the continual references by Speaker Pelosi and others to DADT being a "controversial" issue. Huh? FTLOP, 67% of teabaggers think it should be repealed. Although to be fair, the teabaggers don't fall into the religious right/anti-gay nutjob range of far righties. They're don't seem to be too rabid about so-called "social issues" -- maybe because they favor people minding their own business.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sweet

Found this video via a commentary by David Link at Independent Gay Forum. It's sweet.



Every kid's coming out should be like this.

Link's commentary is a good one, and points up something that we don't think about much -- this show was not a "special" or a documentary -- it's just part of a regular series. And it's not the only one -- we're even on soap operas:


First teen gay soap opera kiss on US TV
Uploaded by PlanetQTV. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.

We're becoming part of the fabric of daily life, and it's no big deal.

(Nice antidote to the Fred Phelpses and Peter LaBarberas of the world, isn't it?)

How Free Is It?

I don't usually comment on the doings of such as the Phelps family church because they're disgusting people and there's a lot else to discuss. But this looks interesting.

The question is, once again, what are the allowable limits on the exercise of fundamental rights. I've noted before that there is no such thing as an absolute right: any individual's right to do anything must have limits if society is going to survive. The problem with the Phelps family is that they have no sense that others have rights, too -- of course, if they had any sense, they'd join a real church.

By engaging in the activities they do, they endanger everyone's right to free speech, simply because they have been irresponsible in their exercise of the same right.

This case is going to the Supreme Court, and frankly, we can't count on this Court to support constitutional rights or to draw reasonable limits on the exercise of those rights. Either way, this is going to be a problem.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Really Hope Huckabee Runs in 2012

because he's such an idiot that there's no way he can win the general election.

Get this (yeah, I know, it's been all over the place, but even Sullivan noticed, so I guess I have to):

“You don’t go ahead and accommodate every behavioral pattern that is against the ideal,” he said of same-sex marriage.

I won't to into the rest of the quote and the deliberately insulting comparisons he makes, but I do have one question: Whose ideals, Mike?

And as for this part, referring to gay adoption:

“Children are not puppies,” he continued. “This is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out, how does this work?”

Actually, we already knows how it works: very well. Particularly for the children.

I am so sick of these sanctimonious assholes.

Aw, nuts!

I hate having my stereotypes challenged as much as the next guy, but every once in a while, you need to be a grown-up about it. Two posts that I ran across on militias: the first, from Ed Brayton, has some wider background, but mostly pointed me toward this one by Todd Heywood, specifically on the views of some members of the SMVM (Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia) toward gay rights. (And apparently most of them seem to feel this way -- be sure to read the comments on this one.) These guys are much more in the mold of Barry Goldwater than the loons running the Republican party these days, and not at all in league with the religious nuts on the right. It also looks as though the "mainstream" militia members do understand that the founding document of this country is the Constitution, not the Bible.

No, I'm not going to run off to Michigan to join a militia -- there's still a lot I don't agree with them about, but at least it's nice to know they're not all crazy terrorists.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Goldmine

That's Hullabaloo today.

First, Digby posted a speech by AFL-CIO president Richard Tumka, delivered at Harvard. A must-read for anyone who wants to see the "debate" between the teabaggers and rational people clearly.

Second, Tristero has an excellent post on why ID is bad science and bad theology. Tristero touches on a point that's one of my favorites:

Here are two real world examples of the meaninglessness of the question of God's existence for the evolution debate. Exhibit A: Kenneth Miller. Exhibit B: PZ Myers. Both are first-rate scientists and thinkers whose expertise in evolutionary theory is beyond dispute. For one, Miller, God exists. For the other, Myers, God doesn't. Anyone who agrees with PZ and thinks Miller is an intellectual lightweight by being both Catholic and an evolutiionary biologist needs only to read his testimony in the Kitzmiller trial; Miller knows exactly what he's talking about, and is far more knowledgeable and nuanced about it than just about anyone around. LIkewise, anyone who agrees with Miller and thinks PZ is cold-hearted and soulless needs only to read the truly astonishing posts on biological science and evolution available on Pharyngula to understand that this is someone who confronts the natural world with a highly developed sense of amazement, awe, and wonder. (And on a personal level, if you're lucky enough to spend some time with PZ Myers (and you're not a creationist), you'll soon realize that he is a very kind soul. Or, as he may prefer, very kind person. Whatever.)

That's pretty much akin to the christianist idea that only those who believe in (their version of) god can be moral. As I think I've said before, I'm not a Christian of any stripe, and I'll hold my moral values up against those of any Catholic bishop or Republican Senator (or Mike Huckabee*) any time.

It's not only Hullabaloo,though. McJoan has this post at Daily Kos on the comments of a veteran of the company in the "Collateral Murder" video. He deserves a read and some serious thought.

Also at Kos is Angry Mouse's dissertation on sex in America. It's a fun (and sometimes funny) read, particularly things like this:

Feminists have long fought amongst themselves about this very issue, with Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin arguing that all heterosexual sex is, by its very nature, rape. Camille Paglia, on the other far end of the spectrum, argued that when a woman goes to a man’s home, she’s asking for sex.

I have long recognized that Camille Paglia is a buffoon. I hadn't realized that MacKinnon and Dworkin were also vying for the title.

* Why Mike Huckabee? you may ask. Remember, he's the one who released a convicted rapist/murderer because of political pressure from the man's friends, even though the man was clearly guilty -- and the rapist/murderer went out and raped and murdered some more. It's easy to see what counts in Huckabee's world, and it ain't women or the American system of justice. Or children.

Every Link Is A Missing Link --

until it's found. That's the lesson to be learned, not from the discovery of Australopithecus sadiba, but from media hype (and it's rather sad that that's the best you can say about science reporting in the popular press).

The term missing link is misleading. Any fossil that shows characteristics of two or more documented species is called a transitional. There are great examples of transitional fossils for whale, horses, and of course people, as well as less visible lineages among invertebrate animals, plants, and microbes.

The classic example of a transitional fossil (so much so that I'm surprised that Steven Andrew, the author of the above paragraph, didn't mention it) is, of course, Archaeopteryx, discovered only a couple of years after the publication of On the Origin of Species. I actually take that one as an indicator of the validity of evolution, maybe not so much when it was discovered, but certainly now -- we know that birds have anatomic features in common with one group of the dinosaurs, the Ornithyschia, and there is living proof -- after a manner of speaking.

The rest of Andrew's article is a nice summary of the transitional fossils from Australopithecus to Homo -- certainly worth a read to brush up.

In Memoriam

Wilma Mankiller.  This post offers a bare-boned outline of the life of a remarkable human being.

Here's a bio with more detail.

Reviews in Brief: Red, Innocence and Instinct
















Another Review in Brief, finally.  Yes, I'm finally writing about Red, after highlighting gokusanzokami's AMV featuring "Start Again." I've been listening to this album for a week now, and, as you might guess, it's grown on me.

Overall, it's a kind of music I've started calling "orchestral metal" or "orchestral electronica" -- rich, heavy-textured sound, strong melodies, and the kind of over-the-top emotionalism that I happen to love. It's also, I think, necessary to drive the vocals over the instrumentals. This is not a function of relative volume, but intensity -- and Mike Barnes, who sings lead, delivers.

The high point for me is still "Start Again" -- sorry, but that is just my kind of song, and it's not atypical of their material. The band seems to occupy, to my mind at least, territory somewhere between Linkin Park and Nickelback. (And that probably explains why I like them.)

There's a dark cast to a lot of the songs, which approach the degree of loss and angst that you'll find in Linkin Park. (I'm sorry to keep comparing like this, but I'm trying to build some context.) The lyrics aren't as angry -- there's a lot more of honest pain. These are all, ultimately, love songs, but there's an element of need in them that adds poignancy, which might seem an odd quality to find in heavy metal, but it's there.

They don't hit the layers of sound that Linkin Park or Back Street Boys manage, or even Nickelback -- it's pretty straightfoward, musically, with not a lot of the polyphony that I enjoy in the vocals by those groups -- that all happens in the instrumentals.

I have a feeling I'm going to be looking for more of their music.

Footnote:  I just discovered, checking them out at Amazon, that they are a "Christian" rock band.  I'm not sure what that means in this context, but I don't think it changes anything I said above.  Whether the need I mentioned is for Christ or just someone to love, they're still love songs.

And I still like their music.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

This Is Getting Tired

Via AmericaBlog, this post at Daily Kos on the real "changes" in implementation of DADT -- not much.

Yesterday news came out from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network(SLDN) that contrary to popularly reports, the ban on third party outings of LGB servicemembers was not entirely a thing of the past.

This is the latest in an oddly familiar pattern of big happy news announcements on DADT, followed by small—but critical—corrections. If you're not playing close attention, beyond the sweep of headlines, you've probably missed a lot. Some of us are paying close attention though, and there is an awful truth: repeal is far from the sure bet many people seem to think it is.


The pattern is: we stage a nice little dog and pony show to make a thrilling announcement about some gay issue or other, and then we don't do much. Joe Solmonese goes home happy and no one is asking the hard questions.

Take it tandem with this post from Queerty:

From the Pentagon saying it's going to poll the families of military personnel about their thoughts on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, to actually holding a forum to invite ostensibly soldiers' feedback on a repeal, the military is making clear its strategy on repealing the discriminatory policy: let's have everyone weigh in and see what they think and make this a democratic decision! The premise is certainly a bizarre one, since military leaders don't have much of a history asking what subordinates — or their husbands and wives — think about their policy making.

Read both these posts. They're scathing, and they should be. Also take a look at John Aravosis' comments on the "family friendly" approach -- for once, I don't think he's over the top -- this certainly deserves all the ridicule anyone cares to heap on it.

They're stalling, hoping they can kill it.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy

Bart Stupak (D-American Catholic Bishops Conference) will not seek reelection. This is an interesting article, more for what it doesn't say than what it does.

Stupak had mulled retirement for the last several cycles but had always found a reason to return. He was contemplating his next step in politics long before the vote on final passage of the health-care bill last month and actively considered a run for the state's open seat governor's race earlier this year before deciding against it.

But, with the passage of health care reform - the main issue on which he ran eighteen years ago - finally completed, Stupak decided his work in Washington was done.


My reading of that is that Stupak listened to the Catholic Bishops and then they left him hanging out to dry when the pushback came. He was played, pure and simple. And maybe this time, he finally figured it out.

I Thought I Was Joking

Noticed this post at Crooks and Liars, quoting Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation from this article at Military trimes (you know where this is going, don't you?):

The Nuclear Posture Review unnecessarily takes sovereign U.S. options off the table when responding to various types of chemical or biological attacks.

Americans intuitively understand the flaw in this approach. Special agent Jack Bauer of "24" had to thwart terrorists attempting to steal nerve gas. If this had actually occurred, the President should not tie one hand behind the nation's back when evaluating the appropriate response to defend American citizens.


Question 1: So we're supposed to nuke thieves now? Doesn't this strike you as overkill?

Question 2: You do understand that 24 was fiction, don't you?

It's the answer to the second question that worries me. I've made references in the past to the fact that right-wingers have a tenuous relationship with objective reality, but for some chicken hawk to seriously base an argument on nuclear policy on a TV action thriller? I mean, mostly I was talking about the Christianist theocrats, who don't seem to have much of a grasp of anything that's really going on in the world, but it seems to be a problem throughout the right: they start believing their own bullshit.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

What You Expect to See -- More Comments

A couple of posts at Balloon Juice on the Iraq tape from Wikileaks. A bit of meta-analysis, if you like, here, from John Cole, and here, from Mistermix. From Cole, on the question of the Iraqi reaction:

We’re issuing death threats to congressmen and half the nation has been whipped into a frothing mob and wants to secede because… we expanded health insurance coverage after a legitimate legislative process that was the result of open, free, and fair elections. Can you imagine what would happen if foreign helicopters were gunning down our neighbors in the streets?

(I don't want to be snarky, but I think it would depend on whether Beck/Limbaugh/Palin identified them as Democratic helicopters or not. No, wait: that crew would ID them as Democrats no matter where they came from: "Obamacopters," for sure.)

And via Mistermix, from James Fallows:

We could not know that this episode would occur. But we could be sure that something like it would. It's not even a matter of "To will the end is to will the means." Rather the point is: You enter these circumstances, sooner or later you get these results.

I can't see this as such a far remove from the point I brought up the other day: when we're granting moral waivers to racists and violent criminals, and awarding no-bid contracts to independent forces who are staffed by men (mostly, I believe, if not exclusively) trained to kill and who have no accountability for their actions, what the hell does anyone expect? Aside from the combat priorities (and frankly, in this instance that argument sounds a little lame -- begging a wounded man to pick up a gun so you can shoot him again?), you've got a problematic attitude already endemic among the troops. And the Army says no one did anything wrong.

What the hell do you do when your country has lost its mind?

Must Read

This post from a few days ago at David Frum's site:

I am an old Republican. I am religious, yet not a fanatic. I am a free-marketer; yet, I believe in the role of the government as a fair evenhanded referee. I am socially conservative; yet, I believe that my lesbian niece and my gay grandchild should have the full protection of the law and live as free Americans enjoying every aspect of our society with no prejudices and/or restrictions. Nowadays, my political and socio-economic profile would make me a Marxist, not a Republican.

Currey lays it out very sensibly and -- dare I say it? -- rationally, which is not something I see in the Republican party as it's presently constituted.

I almost never voted a straight ticket before Bush II -- now I can't bring myself to vote for a Republican, even on the local or state level, for the simple reason that, as sensible as they may be, they are still tied to a party that has left reason far behind. That's the only reason I didn't vote for Judy Baar Topinka in the last gubernatorial election -- I like her, she's got a head on her shoulders, she's a realist, and she would have been a hell of a lot better governor than Blagojevich. But the Republican party in Illinois, like the rest of the state parties, is run by rich, old, white, straight guys -- the kind of people who put Alan Keyes up for the Senate because none of the moderates in the party wanted anything to do with them.

Of course, the Democrats have become a big disappointment -- the party of lip service. I may continue to vote straight tickets, but I think it's going to be Green.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

What You Expect to See, Revisited

Read this post from Digby, adding more detail to the 2007 massacre in New Baghdad.

And then think about what I noted about moral waivers and the bleed effect of the behavior of independent contractors -- who are not governed by any rules of engagement.

I think the courts martial should start with whoever elected to cover up the story to begin with -- and then work their way up, for a change.

We're Not The Only Ones With Teabaggers

Nice little tidbit to start the morning:

An opposition member in Kyrgyzstan says a mob of angry protesters beat up the Central Asian nation's interior minister, who died shortly afterward.

Opposition activist Shamil Murat told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he saw the dead body of Minister Moldomusa Kongatiyev in a government building in the western town of Talas.


I guess our congresscritters should be careful about visiting their districts. Of course, Sarah Palin would rather just shoot them -- from a safe distance, of course.

In case you thought I was just being funny, read this:

A Washington state man was arrested for threatening to kill Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) over her support for healthcare reform.

According to the Seattle Times, 64-year-old Charles Alan Wilson made several vulgar calls to Murray's Seattle office over the last few months, criticizing her for supporting healthcare reform. That vulgarity eventually escalated into death threats, police reports state.

"I hope you realize there's a target on your back now," Wilson reportedly said in once message. "Kill the [expletive] senator! I'll donate the lead."


Stray thought: This just occurred to me: think about the degree of cowardice involved in using guns.