"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, November 30, 2010


So busy watching the marriage progress around the country that I forgot to look at home. The Illinois House was expected to vote on a civil unions bill today. It's probably going to be tight, but if it passes, it goes right to the Senate, where it's expected to sail through. The Governor has said he'll sign it as soon as it hits his desk.

Next year, marriage.


The sister bill has cleared a Senate committee.

An Antidote

to the sickos in the previous post: here's Dan Savage on The Colbert Report:

Kind of cleans your brain out from the filth of Tony Perkins and his ilk, doesn't it?

The New Enemy

is the world as God made it. It seems the religious right may have finally figured out that bashing gays has limited shelf life and is moving on.

Here's the cream of the crop warning against the dangers of keeping the planet habitable. I don't know whether to laugh or throw up watching this:

Coming from a group that has lost whatever tenuous contact with reality it once had (if any), this is pretty bizarre. Think about it: stewardship of the planet is anti-Christian.

One thought at the back of my mind: who do you suppose is supplying the money behind this campaign?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins

I finally did it: I bought a live-action, English-language movie (two of them, in fact). Look, Ma! No subtitles!

Batman Begins is the groundwork, and since this is the post-Alan Moore Batman, with all the attendant psychological self-examination, half the film is set-up: backstory on the childhood of Bruce Wayne, the murder of his parents, and his own quest to find a way to fight the bad guys in a Gotham City that is rotten to the core. And it turns out that the enemy in this case is the man who trained him, Ras al Ghul.

I have to say, I could have used a bit less backstory on this one. It's not tight, and I think the point(s) could have been made more economically. When Wayne returns to Gotham and begins his clean-up work, the film really does come together. Action scenes are very well done (although I noticed that most of the actual hand-to-hand stuff is done is close in and tightly framed), and the techno-wizardry is top-notch. Effects are the best that money can buy. (I especially like the use of the bats as a distraction.)

The cast is superlative. Christian Bale is a revelation -- I've never seen him before, but he does the switch from playboy Bruce Wayne to caped vigilante Batman without a hitch. (He's also quite appealingly buff without being body-builder grotesque.) Michael Caine as Alfred is, as expected, flawless. Morgan Freeman is a delight -- Freeman is a really potent actor, if this is any indication. (I have to confess to not having seen his other work.) Liam Neeson is appropriately cold-blooded, and really kind of scary.

The only real annoyance is that the credits don't list roles, only actors, so it took me a while to figure out who, for example, Rutger Hauer played (I haven't seen Hauer on screen in years -- he's changed). The only "feature" is the trailer, and since it's an Area 1 release, you can watch in English or French, or with English, French or Spanish subtitles.

This was a spur-of-the-moment thing, the result of layered discounts at Borders, but it was worth it. I think I'm going to enjoy this one again and again.

(DC Comics/Warner Bros., 2005)

This is really funny

and I don't even understand what they're saying:

Interesting commentary on this at Joe.My.God.

The title of the clip, as Joe notes, is from whoever put it up -- and from the sound of at, it's some religious wingnut trying to spark a boycott. Meh -- get over it. You've lost already.

Doctrine, or Dotage?

The pope has a new book out. Everybody has a book out, but this one's from the pope, so that makes it . . . well, incoherent. Here he is, via Towleroad:

"At the same time, though, sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction, which is not homosexual," he said. "The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future."

Pretty flimsy. We assign meanings. Nothing that I can think of has an "intrinsic" meaning. Although I'm willing to recant on that: Ned Rorem once said that music has no intrinsic meaning, but we find that certain patterns of sound evoke particular emotional responses. But is that "meaning"? I'll leave it to the philosophers.

To limit the meanings of sexuality this way is pretty sad. It's also a little bit on the edge: it's a peasant philosophy, in which bloodline is sacred and in which only shared DNA has value. (Hmm -- can you say "patriarchy"? How surprising.) Which, by logical extension, means that if you adopt children, you don't really have a family and you and your children are less worthy -- you're not genuine.

This is really all bullshit, frankly. It's authority for the sake of authority, divorced from humanity, based on one truth: control sex and you control the people.

And it's not like there's any shortage of children.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Their Own Words

We all know that Tony Perkins is a serial liar -- at least, those of us who have bothered to fact-check his statements. Now he's whining about the FRC being designated as an anti-gay hate group. I like this especially:

. . . in fact, they seem more interested in fundraising ploys than fighting wrongdoing.

Pot, kettle, black.

Get this:

"Family Research Council will continue to champion marriage and family as the foundation of our society and will not acquiesce to those seeking to silence the Judeo-Christian views held by millions of Americans. We call on the Southern Poverty Law Center to apologize for this slanderous attack and attempted character assassination."

Lies, in order:

1. No, FRC is doing nothing to support families; it's purely an anti-gay group;

2. No one's trying to silence you, Tony -- you certainly get enough play from WaPo and cable news;

3. Just how many millions are we talking about here? One? Two? Out of 310. I doubt that it's more -- most of us have some moral sense.

John Aravosis did a little research and came up with quite a list. I'm not going to excerpt it here, because one example is worse than the last, and I advise you to read it on an empty stomach. Jeremy Hooper has his own list.

I'll think you'll agree, there's nothing slanderous about FRC's new status.

The Republic Economic Plan: How It Will Fix the Economy

It won't. Here's an excellent case in point.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The New Hate Groups Respond

I'm not going to spend time commenting on Tony Perkins' reaction to his Family Research Council being named an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC. Towleroad has a report.

All I'm going to say is, "If the shoe fits, wear it, Tony."

But do take a look at this piece of crap that passes for reporting at WaPo.

About Those Barons of Commerce

You know, the Masters of the Universe who inhabit Wall Street, and the feckless idiots in Washington who let them get away with their shenanigans. The free market, down with unions, outsourcing kings. Harold Myerson has a very interesting article about Germany, and how its economy, in a nation with strong unions, government support for retaining jobs, and all sorts of socialistic stuff like that, is now the strongest in the world.

You have to wonder what our home-grown boy geniuses have been smoking. Hundred dollar bills?

And as a commentary on that, read Paul Krugman's blog.

Both tidbits via Maha.

Happy Wanderers

Interesting story about a possible explanation for those blue-eyed Chinese in the western regions:

Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers.

It's an interesting story, about a group of Roman legionaries fleeing east after their legion was decisively defeated -- in fact, almost wiped out -- by the Parthians in 53 BCE. But there's no hard evidence.

Given the propensity for peoples to wander around -- we certainly know about migrations in historical times, and there's no reason to assume they're something new -- I'd have to place this as a legend rather than a theory -- absent some historical records or a couple of really spectacular archaeological finds. After all, there is a language family that includes not only almost all European languages but those spoken in north Asia as well. It would be a stretch to think that they weren't brought there by people who actually spoke them as their first language.


From Mahablog, this reflection on Thanksgiving, a bit of Zen wisdom:

First, reflect on all the work that went into putting the meal on the table. This goes beyond just the cooking. There are grocers and truckers and farmers and suppliers of farmers. And all of those people are sustained by food provided by other cooks and grocers and truckers and farmers and suppliers. And don’t forget the non-human creatures represented on the table, from the turkey to the dairy cows and even the bees who make pollination possible. If you think about it, you realize the food in front of you represents a huge web of relationships that spreads across the globe.

Second, reflect on whether you are contributing to the greater good with your own life, and if the work you do is sustaining other people as much as their work sustains you.

Third, reflect on not being greedy.

Fourth, reflect on what food is really about — keeping us alive and healthy.

Fifth, reflect on “attaining the Way,” or realizing enlightenment. . . .

One of the things I like about the Reflections is that it reminds us we are not just passive recipients of God’s Blessings, but that we have received what we need to stay alive through the work of countless people. Further, we have a moral duty to contribute to others in return. In other words, it’s a reflection on how interconnected we all are and that we all depend on each other.

It's not too different from the basic Pagan mindset: we are all connected, we all derive benefit from each other, and thus, we all have a responsibility toward each other. I seem to remember something like that in Christianity, from my childhood Sunday School -- I think it starts off, in one version, "Do unto others. . . ."

There are some who don't feel that way:

The president could speak about Wall Street handing out record bonuses this year -- an estimated $144 billion to a relative handful of people, many of whom get richer by destroying wealth, including assets of state and local government pension funds whose losses we have to make up for with more taxes.

Those bonuses, by the way, are about 2.4 times expected Wall Street profits.

How about a presidential lecture on entitlements focused on Lloyd Blankfein, whose firm's bad bets taxpayers paid off at 100 cents on the dollar? The Goldman Sachs boss whines about making only $9 million last year because of his "sacrifice" and plans an extra-big payday this December to make up for last year.

The president could change the terms of our economic debate by talking about how much the vast majority props up many of those at the very top, starting with Blankfein. He could tell people about the trillion dollars a year of tax favors for corporations and the rich, as documented by the Shelf Project.

There's a basic concept here that apparently has eluded the Masters of the Universe: "enough." I mean, who needs $9 million a year? Who really needs that much money? And what does it say about anyone who expects that kind of "reward" after screwing over millions of people?

And in another vein, the same thing: just note anything that comes from Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, Mat Staver, or any of the other voices for the self-anointed "Christian" right: it's not about recognizing our interdependence -- and certainly not about "Do unto others."

And just remember, it's you, your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, your kids, your neighbors, your coworkers that they're talking about.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Really, truly, in spite of the tone of the last post. That's what the news does to me lately -- it's not that things are shitty, it's that they never change.

So for today, at least, just forget about it.

Found this at Box Turtle Bulletin, and I love it.

We Have Much To Be Thankful For

And the government is doing whatever it can to take it away from us. It's nice to see bipartisanship in action.

But it's nice to know we can rely on our law enforcement agencies to take care of us:

Because the bedridden grandmother sat up a bit straighter, Officer Duran stated that she “took a more aggressive posture in her bed,” and that he was fearful for his safety and the safety of others.

Tinsley said, “Don’t taze my Granny!” But the cops said they would taser him instead. Tinsley was wrestled to the floor, handcuffed and forcibly removed from his grandmother’s apartment to wait in the back of a police car.

The lawsuit states that officers fired tasers at the bedridden woman, hitting her twice, “causing burns to her chest, extreme pain and to pass out. The police then grabbed Ms. Varner by her forearms and jerked hands together, causing her soft flesh to tear and bleed on her bed; they then handcuffed” and arrested her.

Y'know, if Al Qaeda really did hate us for our freedoms, they must love us now.

The next step in tightened security could be on U.S. public transportation, trains and boats.

You want a revolution? Make people go through scanners -- or submit to molestation -- before they can get on the subway to go home from work. Actually, you know what the real fallout is going to be? More people will drive. Happy traffic jam, everyone.

The crux here is implicit in this bit:

But Mr. Pistole, 54, said that while he had been surprised by the “fullness of the public reaction,” he was happy to take the heat if it meant keeping travelers safe.

“My hope is that, whatever people want to call me, they recognize that we’re simply doing everything we can to work with people to provide the best possible security,” Mr. Pistole said.

But the problem here is that there's no evidence that these procedures are actually increasing safety. I can't find the story right now, but there is the one going around about the guy who walked through a scanner with two 12-inch razor blades that went undetected. Of course, they weren't near his junk.

And business is booming.

The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever.

The article does point out that wages and salaries rose in the third quarter, but let me ask a couple of questions: how much did they rise for those making less than $100,000 per year, as opposed to those making $500,000 or more? And did the increase offset the losses over the past ten years? And what are the corporations doing with all that money? They're not hiring.

The country is being run by idiots and cowards.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Teabaggers in a Nutshell

From Box Turtle Bulletin, this just says way too much about the Palins and the Teabaggers in general:

Bristol Palin answered a question about how it would feel to win, with ” It would be like a big middle finger out there to all the people out there who hate my mom and hate me.”

All of her competitors who have put months of training – with no days off – and who pushed themselves farther than their bodies really were ready to go, meant nothing. No, this was all about Sarah Palin and her Tea Partiers flipping off those who don’t support her.

How small can you be?

Faith and Reason

I read a lot of material by atheists, as well as, perforce, by believers. (Or at least, those claiming to be believers, most of whom seem destined to wind up on the SPLC's hate groups list.) I've seen appallingly few who manage to avoid the pitfalls of dichotomous thinking, although Amanda Marcotte comes close in this post.

But more than that, the argument fails to honor the people who actually show up, who actually give money, and who actually care about this event. Those people want to talk about religion. They fall into two camps, though many people have a foot in each one. First you have people like me, who are atheist activists because we see the horror religion does in the world and we simply think challenging it is more important than challenging beliefs in, say, fairies. Then you have people who’ve actually been the direct victims of horrible actions taken in the name of religion, or they’re close to someone who has, and for them atheist organizing is a healing thing to do. For instance, there’s a whole lot of child abuse going on in this country in the name of Jesus Christ, and people who see that and are distressed by it don’t need someone blabbing on to them about how they have to turn down the volume on their objections because they might offend someone.

But not quite. It's that lamentable tendency, which I've seen among atheists as much as any other group, to conflate "religious" with "Christian." (Or one of the other desert monotheisms. I can't tell you how many times the statement "But I'm not a Christian" is greeted with "Oh, Jewish?" as though there were no other alternative.) As if there were only one system of religious belief in the world, when we all know better. (And don't start on me about "American religious traditions" -- America being what it is, we have Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and followers of any number of older religions, including traditional Indians, as well as those such as Paganism that have been taken out and dusted off for new generations.)

For my own part, I just don't understand how reason and belief must necessarily somehow cancel each other out. To follow Marcotte's comments on the creationists picketing Skepticon, I certainly don't find evolution threatening -- in fact, it reinforces a central tenet of my beliefs, that all living things are part of the same whole, all from the same act of creation, if you will. I don't find that a grounding in science at all diminishes my wonder in the universe and its marvels -- it is, if anything, even more wonderful when you understand something about how it all works.

I don't see why so many people are so intent on forcing science -- or rationality, if you prefer -- and religion into the same sphere. They don't really deal with the same things, and while they have things to say to each other, neither has a monopoly on "truth," since there are different truths, ranging from factual accuracies to moral certainties, and they're not necessarily amenable to the same kinds of analysis. (Which is to say: "No -- your way of thinking is not the only way to think.")

Y'know, our brains have two hemispheres for a reason.

You Can Rely on Religious Conservatives

for one thing, that's for sure: no matter who disagrees with them, they're wrong.

Catholic teaching has never totally barred condom use for protection against HIV and the Vatican has no official, authoritative policy on the issue.

In 1987, the U.S. bishops' conference issued the statement, "The Many Face of AIDS," that stressed limiting sex to marriage as the best protection against the virus, but said public education "could include accurate information about prophylactic devices" to prevent transmission. The document was criticized at the time by conservatives and some Vatican officials.

Years ago, Vatican officials reportedly began studying the topic, with the goal of writing a document on the morality of condom use as protection against AIDS, but no statement was issued. . . .

"I maintain that nothing new has happened, that the church's teaching hasn't changed," said the Rev. Joseph Fessio of Ignatius Press, the English publisher of the book, in a phone interview from Rome.

Yet, the pope's remarks are still seen as significant and must be analyzed and explained by church leaders. U.S. bishops oversee AIDS care programs through local and national Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services. In a brief statement, Catholic Relief Services said, "Our current policy holds: we do not purchase, distribute or promote the use of condoms."

It's nice to be able to rely on something.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Holidays Are Upon Us

The restaurant in the hotel across the street from my office already has a Christmas tree up, and it's not even Thanksgiving yet. However, the inevitable is going to happen, which means that the Salvation Army will be all over the place asking for donations. Before you drop any coins in their red buckets, watch this:

(A note: I have no trouble with Christmas, even though it's not, strictly speaking, "my" holiday. Indeed, under the old reckoning, Yule was celebrated five days after the Solstice, so Christmas is just a somewhat altered version of Yule. I don't love the commercialism, though.)


The news is depressingly the same today, except for one small bright spot, via Joe.My.God.:

With the final vote now officially tallied, voters in Bowling Green, Ohio, have passed two ordinances protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and public education based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Last year, the city council added those categories to Bowling Green's Fair Housing Law with Ordinance 7905, and the Unlawful Discrimination Ordinance with Ordinance 7906. The majority of voters backed those ordinances, allowing LGBT people to be protected under the city’s nondiscrimination laws. According to the results released today, Ordinance 7905 passed 52.67 percent to 47.33 percent and Ordinance 7906 passed 51.65 percent to 48.35 percent.

That's about the same margin that passed Prop 8. A big loss for the Christianists.

Also via Joe (and others), the SPLC has added a whole slew of our very favorite people to their hate groups list:

1. Abiding Truth Ministries [Scott Lively]
2. American Family Association
3. Americans for Truth About Homosexuality
4. American Vision
5. Chalcedon Foundation
6. Dove World Outreach Center [Terry Jones]
7. Faithful Word Baptist Church [Steven Anderson]
8. Family Research Council
9. Family Research Institute [Paul Cameron]
10. Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment
11. Illinois Family Institute
12. MassResistance
13. Traditional Values Coalition

Here's the full list, with commentary, from SPLC.

And now you're asking why I've titled this post "TSA." OK: put together all the incidents you've heard about and seen reported of people being arrested for making video recordings of police officers abusing their authority, of unarmed and sometimes physically restrained people being tasered, of unwarranted police raids on gay bars in which the police used unnecessary force and otherwise exceeded their authority, and of those cases, in those rare instances in which charges are actually brought against the police, the penalties, if any are imposed at all, are negligible to the point of insult to the victims, and then consider that the TSA is only the most currently high-profile example of the country being given over to the tender mercies of government-backed thugs.

And, as much as I hate to say it, the current furor is probably at least in part because the victims are not brown or gay, but middle-class white people.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ghailani: Another Comment

Ed Brayton, who can be counted on for level-headed commentary, also took a look at wingnut reaction to the verdict, and came up with a nice, succinct statement of what it's all about:

More importantly, it's important to note how badly these conservatives misunderstand the purpose of the criminal justice system. The purpose is not to obtain convictions, it is to ensure that justice is done. Some people who are tried are actually innocent and it is not a "failure" of the system when it finds someone innocent. Scott Horton explains:
The take-away message from the Ghailani verdict should be this: the system worked exactly as it should. The jury sorted carefully through the evidence, reviewing hours of transcripts and apparently having some heated argument about it. They rendered a verdict for the government on the charge which was, in their view, best supported by the evidence, and they acquitted on charges where the evidence was unpersuasive. This is exactly how the criminal justice system is supposed to work.
Horton also notes that civilian trials for terrorism suspects actually have a better conviction rate than military tribunals. And he points out that it's not clear at all that Ghailani could be tried under the military tribunals because his crimes were committed prior to 9/11.

Whether or not Ghailani could be tried by a military tribunal is moot anyway: he had a trial in civil court, and was convicted. The sentence will likely be enough to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. And somehow this means, to the likes of Reps. Peter King and Pete Hoekstra, that the system isn't working.

Somehow, the logic doesn't quite fall together. Of course, I guess if you're a U.S. Congressman, right wingnut variety, logic isn't part of the toolbox.

Pam Spaulding

If you don't already know, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend is one of the left blogosphere's treasures. If you stop here with any frequency, you know that PHB is one of the most-frequently linked blogs here.

She's having surgery today, and I'm joining probably thousands of others in wishing her well. Here's the low-down.

With hopes for a speedy recovery.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Kazuya Minekura's Wild Adapter, Vol. 1

Kazuya Minekura has a habit of placing wild mixes of characters in edgy territory and letting things fall where they may. Saiyuki is a prime example, as is Araiso Private High School Student Council Executive Committee, which is pungently funny. The two main characters from that anime, Makoto Kubota and Minoru Tokito, appear as the central characters of the manga series Wild Adapter. The two have been used to seed a new series, and a fairly dark one, and their relationship has become even more ambiguous. Araiso is quirky and mordant; Wild Adapter is dark and bitter.

Kubota is recruited by the Izumo gang to run its "youth division." He's cold-blooded and seemingly unconcerned with most thing that concern most people. He's a born gambler, and he always wins. And he's only in high school. Tokito is running from someone, but who that might be is a mystery to us. This volume is mostly about Kubota, so we only catch glimpses of Tokito's story, but we do see that he wears a glove on his right hand, which he loses fairly quickly. That hand is furred and clawed.

This volume is set-up for another series. The central motivator is a series of strange deaths, caused, apparently, by a drug overdose. The victims have all been transformed into beasts of a sort, and no one knows where this stuff is coming from. It's called "Wild Adapter."

The series is pretty episodic, so you can, if you wish, jump in any place, but this first volume gives some very helpful basis. Minekura has built a fair amount of complexity into Kubota's character here, not to mention some vivid portraits of the supporting cast, although Tokito is pretty much a mystery still.

She also maintains her in-your-face attitude, and she's playing with a boys' love element. Kubota's boss in the gang wants something more than a lieutenant, although Kubota, typically, is not interested. That element will resonate strongly in the relationship between Kubota and Tokito as it develops later in the series.

Minekura tends to occupy a territory somewhere between shoujo and shounen manga: narrative is fairly straightforward, although she doesn't tie herself to regularly shaped frames. The drawing style can only be described as hers: quirky, based on a bishounen aesthetic, sometimes startlingly expressive, and ultimately very appealing.

It's Minekura diving headlong into the dark side of human nature. I've finally picked up volume 5, and volume 6 is due out soon. There are episodes that aren't so appealing, but in general it's worth the time.

It's from Tokyopop.

Through the Looking Glass Award Reinstated (Updated)

I haven't done this one in a long time, mostly because there are so many candidates that no single example sticks out, but it seems I have to give a group award to the right-wing noise machine on the whole Ghailani "controversy."

Just to bring you up to speed, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an accused terrorist involved in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was convicted on 1 count of 285 in a civilian court, and now faces 20 years to life in a maximum-security prison. Most of the charges were insupportable because the evidence was obtained under torture, which makes it inadmissible in court.

First, here's former governor George Pataki on Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Can anyone say that the outcome would have been different in a tribunal?

PATAKI: Well, I certainly believe it would have and I hope it would have. But the professor`s recent rant is exactly what`s wrong with the whole idea of trying these murderers in a civilian court system. He just talked about not the fact that this person was intimately involved in the murder of 224 innocent civilians, including 12 Americans, but he goes after the Bush involvement in enhanced interrogation. This should be about, was this person a murderer and a criminal and a terrorist...

SMERCONISH: But Governor...

PATAKI: ... not about our system of law.

SMERCONISH: Governor, respectfully...

PATAKI: We need to protect ourselves!

SMERCONISH: ... I need to ask you -- I`ve got to ask you an evidentiary question, though, Governor.


SMERCONISH: Is it so clear to you, sir, that this evidence would have come in in a tribunal? Because it`s certainly not clear to me.

PATAKI: Well, Judge Kaplan in a footnote said he had reservations about whether or not it would, and that`s perfectly understandable. But the whole point here is that we should never be having these trials in the first place. We tried that after 1993, when the towers were bombed the first time. We brought criminal proceedings in the civil justice system against those terrorists who were responsible for murder. And what was the growth (ph) of that? September 11.

SMERCONISH: Professor...

PATAKI: And now we have captured foreign combatants. This person was captured in Pakistan after being intimately involved in the murder of 224 people. We shouldn`t have to listen to the propaganda about how what the United States did was wrong.

That one comment -- "We need to protect ourselves!" -- says it all. Wimp.

Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, and Deborah Burlingame, as quoted by Daphne Eviatar:

"Bad ideas have dangerous consequences," said Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol and Debra Burlingame, directors of Keep America Safe, an organization dedicated to undermining Obama national security policies. "The Obama Administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war," they said in a statement released after the verdict on Wednesday. "It's dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war."

So an open, fair trial conducted under the standards imposed by the U.S.Constitution is a "bad idea." As Eviatar points out:

Really? The notion that it's a weakness to provide a fair trial in an established and respected justice system where the verdict is not pre-ordained seems rather odd. Is it "reckless" to rely on our Constitutionally-mandated jury system to determine whether an accused man is guilty or innocent?

Ever since this trial started, critics of the Obama administration have used the case to score political points. But they've taken it in a particularly disturbing direction. The claim that trying Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani in a federal court is "rolling the dice" exhibits a shocking disdain for the American Constitution and justice system.

What the hawks want is trial by military tribunals. Let's let Jonathan Turley, also on that segment of Hardball linked above, comment on that:

TURLEY: That`s right. We`ve had hundreds of trials. I`ve been counsel on terrorism cases. We have an entire system that tries terrorism cases. We tried the blind sheik and convicted him and gave him life. We have a system that works very, very well. But the governor`s problem in this case is not just with the judge, but 12 citizens that looked at this evidence and said, We don`t buy most of these counts. But he was still convicted...

Military tribunals have managed to come up with four -- count 'em, four -- convictions of accused terrorists.

(A note here: read that Hardball transcript -- it's absolutely amazing. If you want to take the time, here's the video:

The real honors go to Rep. Steve King (R-Black Hole of Calcutta). Here's Jonathan Turley again, from his own blog:

In a truly disturbing response to the verdict, Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) denounced the jury verdict as “a total miscarriage of justice” and insisted “this tragic verdict demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama administration’s decision to try Al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts.” Of course, no one would accuse New Yorkers as being ambivalent on terrorism.

Nevertheless, Rep. King’s solution to a jury of citizens acquitting an accused person is to rig the system to avoid such juries in the future. It is the most raw demonstration that the interest in the tribunal system is the view that it is outcome determinative and pre-set for convictions. Rep. King appears to be joining the Queen of Hearts that we must have a system that guarantees “sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Let's set aside the obvious disconnect with reality suffered by those who favor the tribunals for these trials (for crying out loud, people, they don't work!), and look at what Turley and Eviatar have pointed out: These people not only don't like the American system of justice, they want to get rid of it, while holding themselves up as true patriots who want to keep American "safe."

My question is, who's going to keep America safe from them?

Update: As might be expected, Barbara O'Brien has an intelligent commentary at Mahablog:

Alas, conventional wisdom says the Dog is probably right — this will be the last civilian trial for terrorism suspects. The rest of the terrorism suspects at Gitmo very likely will be tried out of sight, and without the unpredictable factor of an impartial jury, so that the “correct” verdicts can be produced. Or, at least, that’s the theory. Glenn Greenwald says that the current rules governing military tribunals require exclusion of the same torture-obtained testimony that the civilian trial excluded.

What is that saying? Evil hates the light?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Must Reads (Updated)

Mahablog over the past couple of days. Topics: The Ghailani verdict, Dems challenging Republicans on healthcare, and Republicans balancing the budget.

Update: See also this excellent commentary on Ghailani by Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings. It's one of those "emperor's new clothes" pieces about the right-wing reaction to Ghailani only being convicted on one charge.

Add this one from Reverend Manny on the health-care racket and Arizona's implementation of the Republican health-care plan.

And from Rude Pundit, a note on what the Democrats used to be.

It Gets Better

A very good video from Joe Biden.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jan Schakowsky

Jan Schakowsky is my representative in Congress. She represents a district that is so blue it's almost indigo, and she's right in there: a member of the Progressive caucus, the LGBT caucus, and a supporter of all the right policy measures. And happily, it's a safe seat.

Although I sometimes get a little irritated at her for not making more noise, this was a welcome find.

“The President’s Fiscal Commission has been given a concrete goal: to achieve primary budget balance in 2015, ensuring that all spending is paid for except for interest on the national debt. Last week, co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson laid out their plan, which they presented to the Commission and to the public. Their proposal would have serious consequences for lower and middle class Americans, and that is why I cannot support it.

“I am releasing my own plan today because I believe that there is a better way to achieve our goal – one that protects the poor and the middle-class.

“Lower and middle class Americans did not cause the deficit.

“Just ten years ago the federal budget was generating a surplus as far as the eye could see. That surplus was turned into a deficit due to massive tax cuts – mainly to wealthy Americans; two wars paid for by borrowed money; and a major recession caused by the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks.

“Over the last decade the incomes of middle class Americans have actually shrunk, while those of the wealthiest two percent of the population have exploded.

“The middle class did not benefit from the Republican economic policies that led to the current deficit – they were the victims – they should not be called upon to pick up the tab.

She does know how to push back.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If Jonathan Swift and Franz Kafka Had a Child (Updated)

It would be the TSA.

Noah Schachtman spots the intrinsic failure built into the present system:

Even the most modest of us would probably agree to a brief flash of quasi-nudity if it would really ensure a safe flight. That’s not the deal the TSA is offering. Instead, the agency is asking for Rolando Negrin-style revelations in exchange for incremental, ineffable security improvements against particular kinds of concealed weapons.

It’s the same kind of trade-off TSA implicitly provided when it ordered us to take off our sneakers (to stop shoe bombs), and to chuck our water bottles (to prevent liquid explosives). Security guru and scanner suit plaintiff Bruce Schneier calls it “magical thinking . . . Descend on what the terrorists happened to do last time, and we’ll all be safe. As if they won’t think of something else.” Which, of course, they invariably do. Attackers are already starting to smuggle weapons in body cavities, going where even the most adroit body scanners do not tread.

Scanners are not the ideal solution (they're potentially dangerous, depending on what kind of radiation they're pumping at you), but there are worse aspects of this system:

"Do the imagers, for example, detect sanitary napkins?" women wanted to know. "Yes," wrote Sharkey.

"Does that then necessitate a pat-down? The T.S.A. couldn’t say. Screeners, the T.S.A. has said, are expected to exercise some discretion."

Given what we've seen and some of the incidents being reported, "discretion" is not part of the TSA training regimen. This one's unbelievable -- or would have been before the Bush/Obama police state:

At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn't know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents' supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped. He told me that their procedures are on their website, and therefore, I was fully informed before I entered the airport; I had implicitly agreed to whatever screening they deemed appropriate. I told him that San Diego was not listed on the TSA's website as an airport using Advanced Imaging Technology, and I believed that I would only be subject to the metal detector. He replied that he was not a webmaster, and I asked then why he was referring me to the TSA's website if he didn't know anything about it. I again refused to re-enter the screening area.

The man asked me to stay put while he walked off to confer with the officer and Mr. Silva. They went about 20 feet away and began talking amongst themselves while I waited. I couldn't over hear anything, but I got the impression that the police officer was recounting his version of the events that had transpired in the screening area (my initial refusal to be patted down). After a few minutes, I asked loudly across the distance if I was free to leave. The man dismissively held up a finger and said, "hold on". I waited. After another minute or so, he returned and asked for my name. I asked why he needed it, and reminded him that the female supervisor/agent had already taken a report. He said that he was trying to be friendly and help me out. I asked to what end. He reminded me that I could be sued civilly and face a $10,000 fine and that my cooperation could help mitigate the penalties I was facing. I replied that he already had my information in the report that was taken and I asked if I was free to leave. I reminded him that he was now illegally detaining me and that I would not be subject to screening as a condition of leaving the airport. He told me that he was only trying to help (I should note that his demeanor never suggested that he was trying to help. I was clearly being interrogated.), and that no one was forcing me to stay. I asked if tried to leave if he would have the officer arrest me. He again said that no one was forcing me to stay. I looked him in the eye, and said, "then I'm leaving". He replied, "then we'll bring a civil suit against you", to which I said, "you bring that suit" and walked out of the airport.

So after being told to leave and escorted away, he's now being investigated and faces civil penalties and fines for leaving without permission.

So you see where Kafka comes into all this? It's not the equipment and procedures themselves that are the major problem (although from here it looks as though they're contributing their share to the mess), but the assholes who are supposed to be implementing the procedures. (Anyone besides me remember the handicapped five-year-old who was forced to take off his leg braces and crawl through the checkpoint while his mother, who was not permitted to help him, had to stand there and watch? An obvious threat to the security of the good ol' US of A.) (And to forestall the cries of outrage, of course I realize that not all agents are like this, but to those of you who are doing your jobs with some degree of common sense, do you realize that these petty little bureaucrats are tarring you with their incompetence? Yell at them.)

Trust the Germans to come up with an appropriate response:

The Jonathan Swift part of the title should need no explanation, except to point out that these yahoos don't need for someone to satirize them -- they're doing a bang-up job of that all by themselves. But, to bring in an element of absurdist theater, we can always count on Peter LaBarbera:

“But what about homosexual TSA agents?” AFTAH President Peter LaBarbera responded. “Isn’t it just as inappropriate for a ‘gay’ male TSA agent to pat down male travelers as it is for a normal, heterosexual male TSA agent to pat down female travelers? “The reality is, most traveling men would not want Barney Frank to pat them down at the airport security checkpoint,” LaBarbera said. “Neither would it be fair to assign Ellen DeGeneres to pat down female travelers. (In the same vein, the Army should no more force normal male soldiers to shower and bunk with homosexual male soldiers than it would force females soldiers to bunk and shower with their male counterparts.)” [snip] “To allow homosexual agents to conduct same-gender pat-downs is tantamount to a new form of discrimination that must be recognized and prevented.”

Obsessed much? (And just a note to Porno Pete: I don't really know what you consider normal in this sort of circumstance, but gay men don't necessarily want to feel up anything with a penis. We do have standards.)

And as a footnote to all of this TSA stuff (which looks like it's turning into T&A, if you'll pardon me), consider this in relation to the Bush/Obama police state:

If the law in New Haven is as clear as DeStefano makes it out to be, not only should Luna have never been arrested, but in ordering the arrest, Assistant Chief Melendez clearly violated Luna’s civil rights—and he, of all people, should have known as much. New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington (or whatever subordinate handled the case) also should have known that carrying out the prosecution of Luna was also a violation of Luna’s rights. Finally, the cop or cops who deleted the video on Luna’s phone destroyed evidence, of both the arrest Luna was filming and of the illegal arrest of Luis Luna himself.

So who will be punished? Will the cops who deleted the video face criminal charges, as any citizen who destroys evidence of unlawful activity likely would? Will they be charged for destroying Melendez’s property? Will Melendez be disciplined for ordering an arrest that was, very clearly, a violation of New Haven law and Luis Luna’s civil rights?

[. . .}

As it stands, the only person to suffer any consequences in Luna’s case is Luna, the one party who, according to the mayor and chief of police, didn’t do anything wrong.

Does this sound familiar?

Update: Melissa McEwen has a good, pithy comment on the TSA's groping policy.

Must Read

Some people do make it better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The News is Making Me Crazy This Morning

so if I post at all today, it will be something that's not about politics.


I do want to comment on this.

POWELL: My position has been, it has been 17 years since we put that policy in place. Lots of things have happened. Attitudes have changed within our society. But i always believe, as I believed in 1993, that we have to take into account the views of our military leaders who are responsible for the well-being of the armed forces.

KING: So you support the McCain’s view?

POWELL: Yes. But, you know, our military leaders have now spoken. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, there is some, some difference of opinion among the chiefs that will have to be resolved. But I wish that we would just let that study be finished, let it be published and let everybody read it and not leak parts of it. And so I share Senator McCain’s view that we ought to let the process unfold and not try to intercept it with court rulings or with people trying to get a vote out of the Congress when the Congress is not ready to vote on it.

First point, we should listen to the best advice our military leaders have to offer. I will even given them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're not blinded by their own prejudices. From this vantage, that's a big assumption, but. . . .

However, I'm real tired of this "process" mantra, especially as it applies to a body -- the Senate -- that has become all about process at the expense of substance, if any of them even know what substance is any more. Can someone explain why, when we have a policy opposed by clear majorities across all demographics, a policy that is demonstrably harming our national security, and a policy that 22 studies to date, as well as the experience of 26 other countries, show that no one will miss for a second, we have to fumble around with this "process" that is no more than an attempt to delay and, hopefully, scuttle repeal?

It would be really nice if we had someone in the government who knew how to make things happen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

McCain on DADT

This is probably the calmest commentary I've seen on John McCain and DADT.

MR. GREGORY: That said, seven in 10 members of the military think it would be just fine to have it lifted.

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah. You and I have not seen that study. And this study was directed at how to implement the repeal, not whether the repeal should take place or not. But, very importantly, we have people like the commandant of the Marine Corps, the three other–all four service chiefs are saying we need a thorough and complete study of the effects–not how to implement a repeal, but the effects on morale and battle effectiveness. That’s what I want. And once we get this study, we need to have hearings, and we need to examine it, and we need to look at whether it’s the kind of study that we wanted. It isn’t, in my view, because I wanted a study to determine the effects of the repeal on battle effectiveness and morale. What this study is, is designed to do is, is to find out how the repeal could be implemented. Those are two very different aspects of this issue.

I'm not going to get all bent out of shape about McCain moving the goalposts. He's a politician, and one of the cheapest. And, like military establishments from time immemorial, he's fighting the last war: DADT is going to be repealed. That's all there is to it. (I also have to question McCain's basic intelligence: if he actually does filibuster or otherwise manage to kill repeal in the lame duck session, he's further undercutting the government's case in LCR vs. US, which is pretty sad to begin with. Does he even realize that he's not the only player here?

Why doesn't someone deliver to him copies of the 22 studies we've already done?

Must Read

A great post on the legal foundations for American homophobia. Read it,

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Michiko Yokote, Kunihisa Sumishima: Nabari no Ou

The anime Nabari no Ou surprised me.  I had started watching it on Funimation's YouTube channel and decided by halfway through that I wanted my hot little hands on it.  It was worth it.

Rokujo Miharu has within him the Shinrabanshu, the most powerful ninja technique ever.  But he can't call it up or control it.  The leader of the Iga ninja clan wants it, along with the forbidden techniques of all the other clans -- he intends to appropriate the Shinrabanshu himself and use it to make the world a better place -- better in his eyes, at least.

The key here is the relationship between Miharu and one of the Iga Kairoshu, the Grey Wolves, Yoite by name.  Yoite is a sixteen-year-old boy who uses the kira technique, which is slowly killing him.  Both boys, orphans, have no memory of their pasts.  Miharu forbids himself to want anything; Yoite only wishes never to have existed.  The slow unfolding of the relationship -- not romance, something beyond friendship, an almost tangible empathy -- provides a surprisingly powerful story that leads to an ending that I can't call "happy" in the fairy tale sense that we always seem to want, but it is a happy ending from the standpoint of the logic of the story.

What's more, it left me completely emotionally satisfied, and how often does that happen?

It's a beautiful series.  The animators were not only on top of the visual characterizations, but even seem to have paid close attention to colors and how they worked together.  Gorgeous.

The Japanese voice acting is superb, the English-language, not to much.  I have a theory that the English voice actors are too worried about synchronizing with the lip movements to spend time digging into the emotional context.  Maybe, maybe not, but I recommend the Japanese language with subtitles.

From Funimation.

Stage 1 Complete!

The Epinions BL manga reviews page is updated and cleaned up.  I may decide to go back and include some images, but we'll see -- I can't do them all, so I have to decide which, if any, I want to do,

I guess the links are next.  I may do them as a page, too.  Have to think about that.

Playing Around

I've decided it's time for some changes here, so I'll be playing with the design and format for a while.

Fasten your seatbelts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride -- it looks like I have to transfer everything on the sidebar manually.

DADT: NYT Calls It

Right on the head:

The Supreme Court’s order included no explanation, so it’s sensible to look for that in the Justice Department filing that urged the court to rule as it did. Repeatedly, it mentioned repeal of the law by Congress and the process under way in the executive branch laying the groundwork for that. It said the wrong way to overturn the law is by “judicial invalidation” and the right way is by “repeal of an act of Congress by Congress itself.”

Sometimes the courts have to act when Congress lacks the sense or the courage to do so. The Senate could have joined the House in repealing the antigay law in September. It did not. Given the sharp rightward turn of Congress in the elections, how can the Justice Department now make that argument with a straight face?

This whole idea that there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to overturn an unconstitutional law is ludicrous. It sounds like the DoJ has bought into the right wing's "will of the people" mantra -- of course, the will of the people is only valid as long as "the people" can be stampeded by scare campaigns. Does anyone remember how the "activist judges flouting the will of the people" became "elite legislators flouting the will of the people" (who had elected those legislators, you will recall) when Massachusetts refused to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage? The same sort of thinking seems to be going on in the DoJ -- and do keep in mind that it's still Bush's Justice Department, staffed by political appointees that he shuffled into civil service positions in his last few weeks in office. And Holder doesn't have the sense to isolate them.


I < 3 Nancy Pelosi

She's the only Democrat in Washington with balls. From WSJ:

Among those rooting for Ms. Pelosi to stick around are Republicans, who are giddy at the prospect of reprising in 2012 the attacks they used in the past election cycle, tying Democratic incumbents around the country to the liberal from San Francisco.

Ms. Pelosi’s reply: Bring it on. “The reason they had to take me down is because I’ve been effective in fighting special interests in Washington, D.C.,” Ms. Pelosi said, citing the health insurance and financial services industries. “I’m effective. They had to take me out. I’m also the most significant attractor to support for the Democrats.”

“So, I’m not looking back on this,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They asked me to run, I’m running. We don’t let the Republicans choose our leaders, and again, our members understand, they made me a target because I’m effective, politically and policy-wise.”

Here's a transcript of the interview. Money quote:

MONTAGNE: I'm wondering though if it might be more comfortable leading a predominantly liberal Democratic minority rather than the quite fractious majority that you've been leading. Do you have some sympathy for Republican Jim DeMint's famously stated preference for a hardcore group of conservatives over having even a majority - in his case, the Senate?

Rep. PELOSI: Absolutely not. That - don't put me - put me there with the Democratic majority, because no matter how diverse and broad the philosophical range of our party, our approach is: Does it work, and is it fair? And we need to hear the Republican views. We have an obligation to listen to what they're going to put forth. And if it can create jobs, if it can solve problems for our country, then we owe it to the American people to work together to do that.

If it is just more tax cuts for the rich and it'll trickle down and somebody will get a job, maybe, then we have to do something different. But let's be optimistic. We're here to solve problems.

And there, in a nutshell, is the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans -- the Democrats are looking for solutions that work for everyone, the Republicans for "solutions" that line their own pockets. (Helpful hint: tax cuts for the rich don't solve anything. We know that.) The problems start when Democrats start trying to be Republicans.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This Is Cool

From NYT:

Something big is going on at the center of the galaxy, and astronomers are happy to say they don’t know what it is.

A group of scientists working with data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope said Tuesday that they had discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles, they said at a news conference and in a paper to be published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, extend 25,000 light years up and down from each side of the galaxy and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions.

And this is what it looks like:

From end to end, the newly discovered gamma-ray bubbles extend 50,000 light-years, or about half of the Milky Way’s diameter, as shown in this illustration.

OK -- This Is Fun

I don't think it needs any commentary:

The Cat Food Commission (Updated)

What did anyone expect? From Paul Krugman:

My misgivings increased as we got a better feel for the views of the commission’s co-chairmen. It soon became clear that Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chairman, had a very Republican-sounding small-government agenda. Meanwhile, Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman, revealed the kind of honest broker he is by sending an abusive e-mail to the executive director of the National Older Women’s League in which he described Social Security as being “like a milk cow with 310 million tits.”

We’ve known for a long time, then, that nothing good would come from the commission. But on Wednesday, when the co-chairmen released a PowerPoint outlining their proposal, it was even worse than the cynics expected.

It's obvious what's going on here. The commission is softening us up so that the real proposals, which will be slightly moderated but have the same effect, will look reasonable. At least, to those who live in the Fox universe. Rand Paul is going to love it.

Read Krugman's whole column. Whatever the corporate poobahs may think of him, he's been consistently right throughout this mess. Which is probably why Obama didn't make him Secretary of the Treasury.

The goal, of course, is to gut Social Security -- or really, to hand it over to the people who caused the financial crisis to begin with. Here's a good post from Karoli at C&L on that leg of the scam. Here's a bit of the transcript of -- well, Karoli calls it a "face off," which seems as apt as anything -- between Robert Kuttner and David Walker:

KUTTNER: Let's separate out social security. Social security is going to be in surplus for the next 27 years. Social security has nothing to do with the budget deficit.

WALKER: That is just false. That is false. Social security is running a cash flow deficit. It is adding to the deficit. It will be in a permanent cash flow deficit starting in 2015. That is just false.

KUTTNER: I'm sorry. It is not false.

WALKER: I'm a trustee. I know what the numbers are.



KUTTNER: This commission was charged with -- the report says social security has nothing to do with the current deficit and the cuts are not going to take effect for decades. I don't know why social security is part of this at all except ideological opposition to the whole idea.

And there you have it. Social Security is not part of the problem, and in spite of what you've been hearing from the right, Social Security is in fine shape. It may need some tweaking in twenty years or so, which seems about on schedule -- it last got tweaked in the '80s.

Look, I'm not an economist, but even I can figure this out.

And Obama will fall into line with it.

Update: Here's Kevin Drum's analysis:

To put this more succinctly: any serious long-term deficit plan will spend about 1% of its time on the discretionary budget, 1% on Social Security, and 98% on healthcare. Any proposal that doesn't maintain approximately that ratio shouldn't be considered serious. The Simpson-Bowles plan, conversely, goes into loving detail about cuts to the discretionary budget and Social Security but turns suddenly vague and cramped when it gets to Medicare. That's not serious.

There are other reasons the Simpson-Bowles plan isn't serious. Capping revenue at 21% of GDP, for example. The plain fact is that over the next few decades Social Security will need a little more money and healthcare will need a lot more. That will be true even if we implement the greatest healthcare cost containment plan in the world. Pretending that we can nonetheless cap revenues at 2000 levels isn't serious.

And their tax proposal? As part of a deficit reduction plan they want to cut taxes on the rich and make the federal tax system more regressive? That's not serious either.

Bottom line: this document isn't really aimed at deficit reduction. It's aimed at keeping government small. There's nothing wrong with that if you're a conservative think tank and that's what you're dedicated to selling. But it should be called by its right name. This document is a paean to cutting the federal government, not cutting the federal deficit.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Veteran's Day Post

A day late, and it's not that I didn't mean to honor our vets, but I'm glad I waited. This is sincere and consequently, moving. I'm only going to paste in the editor's introduction: follow the link and read the whole thing.

Editor’s note:

This open letter was sent to me by a reader, James Fallis (photo.) He writes, “I am a retired US Marine, with over 17 years of service in Infantry, Artillery, Reconnaissance units, and have been personally decorated three times for meritorious service. I have served as a member of C company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion-2nd Marine Division, during the ground combat phase of Operation Desert Storm. I spent four years in the Mid-west Recruiting region as a Marine Corps Recruiter, and Recruiter Supervisor. I now work for a Services and Transportation consulting firm owned by a fellow veteran, and I currently live in Waukegan, Illinois with my wife of five years.”

We thank him for his service to his country, and to the better ideals of humanity.

"It Can't Happen Here"

A rather surprising story (from an American viewpoint, at least) from Finland:

That all changed in October. On Tuesday, the 12th, a televised panel discussion addressed the legalization of same-sex marriage (Finland has recognized Domestic Partnerships since 2002 and is discussing whether to convert to full marriage equality) among other gay-related issues. Among the panelists were a religious politician, Christian Democratic Party chairwoman Päivä Räsänen, and the conservative Bishop of Tampere, Matti Repo. Räsänen and Repo stated their opposition to marriage equality by appealing to the authority and the positions of the church.

The response was immediate.

The church allows for on-line resignation of membership, and the cancellations began while the program was still airing. By Friday 7,400 had rejected the church and the number grew to 18,000 by that Sunday. Over the next two weeks more and more Finns expressed their discontent with the church’s position on gay people and as many as 41,000 Finns resigned in protest, a huge number in a country with a population of about 5.4 million.

That's surprising enough -- I mean, can you imagine 41,000 Catholics resigning from the Church after an anti-gay screed by the Archbishop of Boston? But it gets better:

This caused a national discussion and shook up the church. But rather than take a position of moral indignation, the head of the ELCF, Archbishop Kari Mäkinen welcomed the shake-up. He found the resignations to be a reasonable response to the church’s positions and called on his church to make bold change. . . .

And today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland announced a change in its response to gay parishioners. By an overwhelming vote of the ministers and bishops, the church welcomed and offered recognition to same-sex couples. (AFP)
After years of debate, Finland’s state church took a step towards accepting gay relationships with an announcement Friday it would create a “prayer moment” for registered partnerships.

“The proposal offers a positive opportunity to minister to church members who are sexual minorities,” the General Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s highest administrative body, said in a statement.
This prayer (which will be carefully drafted) is not the same as a blessing of the union, per se, nor will it be a sacrament of the church. But it is the church’s sanction of same-sex relationships and a step in the direction of full inclusion.

I have to say, the LDS Church is taking steps in this direction (lots of negative publicity will work wonders), and most of the other mainstream denominations are at least confronting the issue honestly (if slowly), but can you actually see any of the high-profile, conservative so-called "Christians" in this country rethinking their positions? Nope -- as they lose followers, they just scream the same shit louder.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fantasy Economics

running headlong into reality. Another excellent post from Barbara O'Brien, based on this article by Michael Lind. From Lind:

Neither Jeffersonian populists nor libertarian ideologues have the slightest clue about how to run a complex technological society in the 21st century. Why should they? Jeffersonianism is a program for a primitive society of small farmers of a kind that no longer exists anywhere. At least, once upon a time, there were genuine Jeffersonian agrarian societies in the real world. There has never been a libertarian country and there never will be, because the maximum of government authority allowed by libertarian theory is well below the minimum required by a functioning community.

I don't think I've ever seen a libertarian ask one simple question: Why do we have societies? (Randians, of course, if they think about it at all, think in terms of alpha males with no responsibility to anyone else. Even hyenas recognize the interdependence of the members of the pack.) How much government is necessary is way down the list of questions to be asked. But, now that I think on it, libertarians -- and conservatives, such as they are these days -- aren't much for asking questions.

And from O'Brien:

And it also sorta kinda goes with the last post, which points out that guys like Rand Paul, who thump their chests and declare they are going to take an axe to the federal budget, often have no clue what government does. In addition, in Paul’s case, he has no personal experience working within a large organization to provide a product or service, yet he deems himself qualified to go to Washington and decide which civil service jobs are necessary and which are not.

Lind’s point is that movement conservatives and libertarians fancy themselves to be friends of business and tough-minded economists just because they are conservatives and libertarians. It’s like the rightie bloggers who believe they must have an inherent understanding of war and the military just because they are conservative and not liberals, who of course are born with their “understanding war” gene missing.

It must be nice to live in a world where adopting a label means you don't actually have to know anything about anything.

All of which goes a long way to explain why the economy historically has done better under Democrats than Republicans: Democrats tend to focus on solutions that actually work. And the heads of major corporations have developed a habit of thought that is proving disastrous: they are focused on the next quarter's bottom line and have no interest in anything beyond that. Except their own incomes, of course.

And O'Brien makes one final, very important point:

The economies most likely to sustain themselves and survive as democracies into the 22nd century are those with strong unions and a commitment to providing a strong safety net, including national taxpayer-funded health care, unemployment benefits, education benefits that are not loans, etc. In other words, the United States is unlikely to make that cut.

The road the U.S. is on now will either lead to utter chaos or a fascist-style takeover by corporatists and the mega-wealthy. And, ironically, this is being made possible by people marching around pretending to be liberty-loving patriots who want to save the constitution.

It's not by chance that the German economy seems to have suffered the least from the recent melt-down: Germany has just those strong unions and that strong safety net that O'Brien mentions.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I Can't Believe They Left the Door Open

Via Joe.My.God, ran across this: FRC is actually running a survey to see what people think of them.

Pile on, boys and girls.

This Is Our Only Recourse

From Pam's House Blend, something that I consider good news:

Today Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed its second major, multi-plaintiff lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the government's denial of protections and responsibilities to married gay and lesbian couples. Today's action specifically addresses married couples in Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and comes on the heels of GLAD's Massachusetts Federal District Court ruling this summer finding DOMA Section 3 unconstitutional.

Here's GLAD's press release.

The ACLU is taking action:

Windsor was the sole beneficiary of Spyer's estate. Because they were married, Spyer's estate normally would have passed to her spouse without any tax. But because DOMA refuses to recognize otherwise valid marriages of same-sex couples, Spyer's estate had to pay more than $350,000 in federal estate taxes. Earlier this year, Windsor requested a full refund from the government. The IRS rejected that claim, citing DOMA.

"Edie and Thea were together for 44 years, the last two of which they were lucky enough to spend as a married couple," said James Esseks, Director of the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. "All Edie is seeking is the same treatment for her marriage that the federal government appropriately gives to married straight couples. It is completely unfair for the federal government to pretend that Edie and Thea were strangers, and to tax them that way."

In the lawsuit, Windsor alleges that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it recognizes marriages of heterosexual couples, but not of same-sex couples, despite the fact that New York State treats all marriages the same.

The courts are the only way we're going to get anywhere on the federal level. Count on it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

DADT, Inevitably

A couple choice items. First, it seems that the new commandant of the Marines, Gen. James Amos, opened his mouth and put his foot in it. But then, this is the head Marine, right?

First off, Amos is full of it. That's all -- just full of it.

"There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women — and when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men — laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers," Amos said Saturday. "I don't know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that's what we're looking at. It's unit cohesion, it's combat effectiveness."

Both of which have been demonstrated not to be affected by open service. Or does Amos expect us to believe that there are no gay Marines?

The second is from a piece by Adam Serwer, pointing the DADT issue more directly at the ineffectiveness of the Democrats:

The Wall Street Journal reports Democrats are ready to cave on DADT in the lame duck:
Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and John McCain of Arizona, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, are in talks on stripping the proposed repeal and other controversial provisions from a broader defense bill, leaving the repeal with no legislative vehicle to carry it. With a repeal attached, and amid Republican complaints over the terms of the debate, the defense bill had failed to win the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle in the Senate in September.
Look, if Democrats can't repeal a policy more than two thirds of the American people, including a majority of conservatives want gone then they can't expect people to vote for them.

This is all symptomatic of the administration's record on progressive issues in general, and gay issues in particular. John Cole doesn't get it:

Obama is elected on a platform that included support for a wide number of gay issues. He is openly opposed to DADT, DOMA, and favors ENDA. He appoints a record number of LGBT officials to his administration, more than ever before.

The Matthew Shepard Act passes the House with 175 votes against, predominantly Republican. It passes the Senate with Republicans voting against. Obama signs it into law in a very public ceremony.

Obama delivers address to HRC dinner. By contrast, Clinton, who signed DADT and DOMA, only showed AFTER he had won his second term.

Obama ends the 22 year old odious HIV travel ban while extending the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.

Obama issues memorandum to expand the rights of LGBT people in regards to medical rights.

Obama extends federal benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

Obama works with the Pentagon to create a smooth path forward on DADT. He has the support of Mike Mullen, Sec. Def. Gates, and numerous other high-ranking military officials. DADT is included in the Defense Bill, and all but two Democrats vote to end DADT, at the President’s urging. Every single Republican votes against. DADT falls a little short.

Let's take these in order:

Yes he did appoint more gay and lesbians to positions that anyone before him. His credit.

He didn't have anything to the with the Hate Crimes bill, except for signing it -- and what was he going to do at that point, veto it? No credit.

Yes, he addressed HRC. HRC is in vast disfavor in the gay community right now, and has been the object of growing discontent for a while. They're Democratic lapdogs -- of course he addressed them. No credit.

Again, the HIV travel ban and the Ryan White Care Act: the legislation mandating the ban was repealed in 2008. It took the Obama administration a year to change the rules. The Ryan White Care Act is a no-brainer. No credit.

It's a memorandum, with little force, that can be rescinded any time; it doesn't expand rights, it merely restates rights that are already present by law. no credit.

The federal benefits were already available; Obama made them mandatory, but again, this can be rescinded by another executive order. Half credit.

DADT. OK -- this one's worn out. Obama has not done half of what he could have on DADT if he had been willing to display some leadership. No other country has taken more than six months to institute an open service policy. It's taking us 10 months to figure out what to do. No credit.

I would have left a comment at Cole's blog, but there were already over 200.

Enough's enough.

Expect Some Disruption

in the sidebar over the next few (or many) days. I'm making some changes, updating some categories, trying to add pages for links, and the like.

Wish me luck.

Minority Leader Pelosi

She's going to run, and I'm all in favor, especially after reading this post at C&L. If Eric Cantor thinks the Dems are making a mistake, you know they're on to something good.

She's the most effective leader the Democrats have in Washington right now. That's why the Republicans want her out.

Go for it, Nancy!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Ellie Mamahara and Takana Mizuhashi, Double Cast

Another new title from Ellie Mamahara, based on an original story by Takana Mizuhashi.  It's a little odd for Mamahara, but worth a look.

Yuki Yamamuro is an actor -- in fact, he's a very popular TV star who presently is working in a stage production, a modern-day version of Goethe's Faust.  He's double-cast in the role of Mephistopheles, alternating performances with a rising young star, Mitsuru Sawaki.  His producer, mentor, and sometime lover, Ryousuke Otaki, wants both of them for a 50th anniversary production for his TV network.  Yuki, knowing how Otaki works, decides to make a pre-emptive strike and attempts to seduce Mitsuru.  Things don't turn out quite the way Yuki planned.

Double Cast is not the usual comedy of errors that we've come to expect from Mamahara, but Mizuhashi's story has more going for it than I had thought at first.  It's a fairly serious story, more drama than comedy -- in fact, there's almost no comedy at all -- and quirkier psychology.  Otaki knows that Yuki needs constant reassurance and has provided it for ten years.  Now it's time for Yuki to stand on his own two feet.  Strangely enough, it's Mitsuru who gives him the direction he needs.

Mamahara's drawing is gorgeous.  I've always been fond of her character designs -- those tall, angular guys with huge hands and feet -- but everything's up a notch or two in this one.  It's a recent work, originally published in 2007, and the style and layouts are that much more sophisticated than in the past.

Don't let your expectations get in the way of this one -- it's got some meat and deserves a careful reading.

From DokiDoki. (Note: The English-language edition is so recent that I had to use the Japanese cover. It's the same art, just the language is different.)

On the Light Side

Get it? We just moved our clocks back an hour. And in view of the results of the election, I thought these two tweets were perfect. Via Towleroad:

For Veterans

This came in via a discussion group based in Australia, from an American member. Thanks, Rock, for the information, and I hope readers wills pass it on.

For Veteran's Day, the following are for your information; please share with any active duty military or veterans that you know.

FYI - Veteran's Day Restaurant Freebies - please pass it along


***Restaurant Freebies*

Applebee's Restaurant - Free dinners to veterans throughout Veterans Day November 11th; selections will be from a new Veterans Day menu.

Chili's - Choose from 6 free entrees.

Outback Steakhouse - Free Blooming Onion and beverage.

Golden Corral- Free buffet dinner from 5-9 p.m. on Nov. 16 to anyone who has ever served in the U.S. military Staff.

In celebration of Veterans Day 11 Nov 2010, Subway is showing its thanks with free six inch subs to all Veterans or Active Duty members.

On Nov. 7, McCormick & Schmick's restaurants will offer a free entrée to military veterans for its 12th annual Veteran's Appreciation Event. Menu picks include such seafood items as parmesan crusted tilapia, roasted cedar plank salmon and almond crusted rainbow trout. "Our Veterans Appreciation Event has become a tradition that our restaurants look forward to each year," said Bill Freeman, CEO of McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants, in a statement. For more information: www.mccormickandschmicks.com

Krispy Kreme - One free doughnut of any variety.

UNO Chicago Grill- Free entree or individual pizza with an entree or pizza purchase of equal or greater value.

Coushatta Casino Resort - The Louisiana casino and resort is offering a free seven-clans lunch or dinner buffet to veterans or active military.

MarketPlace Grill & Express - Veterans and active-duty military receive free entrees.

Masala Wok - The Northern Virginian restaurant is offering a free entrée to veterans.

Hy-Vee supermarkets - The mid-western supermarket chain is offering a free breakfast to veterans.

Abuelo's Mexican Food Restaurants - All veterans and active-duty military receive a free entree.

Carolina Burgers & BBQ - In Matthews, NC is offering a free meal to all service members and veterans.

*Retail Freebies*

Brides Across America - Provides free wedding gowns to qualified military brides.

Lowe's & Home Depot - Extra 10% off to active-duty military members, National Guard and reserve members, retirees, honorably discharged veterans and immediate family members.

Sam's Club - Over 25,000 Hugo canes will be given away to U.S. veterans in need of mobility assistance. Membership is not required, but supplies are limited, so check with your local store.

Amazon.com - Free "Veterans Day Honor" MP3 album download. The album includes 12 songs by The Bands and Ensembles of the U.S.
Armed Forces.

Cabela's Outdoor Store - Offers their employee discount to all veterans, active-duty military and reserves, law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel Nov. 11-12. Discounts vary from 5% to 50%, depending on the item (Springfield)

Build-a-Bear Workshop - Members of the armed services including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Reserve Officer Training Corps, will receive a 20% discount Nov. 11-15 on any one transaction at Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Dollar General - 10% discount for all veterans, active-duty military,
National Guard and reserve and their immediate families.

Fashion Bug - 20% off all plus-size and misses clothing purchases with a copy of military ID or spouse's military ID.

* Entertainment Freebies*

National parks, forests and monuments - Admission is free to everyone on Veterans Day.

Knott's Berry Farm - Free park admission to U.S. armed forces personnel and a guest during Veteran's Month, November 1-26.

Colonial Williamsburg - Free admission Nov. 6-11 for active-duty military, guard and reservists, retirees, veterans and their dependents.

San Jacinto Museum of History - Free visits to the Observation Deck,
theater, and special exhibit for veterans, active duty military personnel, and their families.

Historic Jamestown - Free admission to veterans, current Armed Forces members and their family members.

Battleship Cove - Free admission and a special ceremony for veterans, active, duty and reservists.

Vicksburg National Military Park - Free admission for all.

Birmingham Museum of Art - Free admission to the ticketed event "Life and Liberty" on Nov. 10-11 for veterans and active military.

Vulcan Park and Museum- In Birmingham, Alabama is offering discounted admission through November to the park and museum.

Green Bay (WI) New Zoo - Free admission to veterans and their families.

Central Florida Zoo - Free admission to the Sanford, Florida zoo with proper ID.

Strategic Air & Space Museum - Free admission for veterans Nov. 11-14 to
the Ashland,Neb. museum.

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum - in Oklahoma City offers free admission to veterans and five guests from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Veterans Day.

Natural Elements Spa & Salon - In Chesapeake, Virginia, will provide free services from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to both active duty and retired military.