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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bigotry By Any Other Name. . .

Well, how about "U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops." Apparently they'd rather have people go homeless than compromise their "religious beliefs."

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has urged the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) not to adopt a proposed regulation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories for which discrimination in HUD programs is prohibited.

From an organization that has a history of providing not only housing but employment to child molesters, this is a bit much.

This is good:

"[T]he regulations may force faith-based and other organizations, as a condition of participating in HUD programs and in contravention of their religious beliefs, to facilitate shared housing arrangements between persons who are not joined in the legal union of one man and one woman.”

Hmm -- what about those jurisdictions where persons may be joined in the legal union of two men or two women?

And isn't it neat that your religious beliefs can dictate how others live their lives?

Frankly, I pay more taxes than the Catholic Church does, and I don't want my tax money going to support religious bigotry. If they can't follow the rules, get the hell out.

Via Pam's House Blend.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Still Waiting For Those Changes

This is an eye-opener. Or maybe not -- we already know that the Obama administration is just as fond of keeping secrets as any other has been.

The Freedom of Information Act, the main tool forcing the government to be more transparent, is designed to be insulated from political considerations. Anyone who seeks information through the law is supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose confidential decision-making in certain areas. People can request government records without specifying why they want them and are not obligated to provide personal information about themselves other than their name and an address where the records should be sent.

But at the Homeland Security Department, since July 2009, career employees were ordered to provide political staffers with information about the people who asked for records — such as where they lived and whether they were private citizens or reporters — and about the organizations where they worked. If a member of Congress sought such documents, employees were told to specify Democrat or Republican. No one in government was allowed to discuss the political reviews with anyone whose information request was affected by them.

This is on top of withholding relevant documents.

At least Bush was honest about trampling on the law.

There's more, from a slightly different angle -- remember "Miranda rights?" -- the Obama administration doesn't like them very much, at least not for terrorists. From Glenn Greenwald.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Hayate Kuku's Your Love Sickness

Your Love Sickness is a BL story collection that features some outre characters and appealing drawing. I picked it up at a store closing sale at Borders -- it turned out to be a bargain.

The title story features two fox spirits, A'ura and Unka. Unka is a low-caste red fox, while A'ura comes from the highest family of the white foxes. Unka, although he loves A'ura, is hesitant because of their difference in status; A'ura doesn't care.

In "Disappearing Into the Dew," Yoshiro is out on the mountain when heavy fog rolls in. Looking for a stream to guide him back to the foot of the mountain, he happens instead on a pond and a rain god, Kugira, who decided to go fishing. Kugira thinks Yoshiro is very cute.

Rick, the central character of "Cheeping," is a superstar model who's gotten into the habit of stopping by Oshi's bento shop for dinner every night -- he loves the, um, food, he says. Then he breaks his leg and his manager arranges for Oshi to deliver his supper. Oshi's rather cool, and Rick is really shy, but thanks to a rain storm, they get it sorted out.

"Cross My Heart" is about a promise Kaoru's friend Mickey made when they were children: Kaoru's family moved, but Mickey promised to protect their neighborhood. Now Kaoru's a police detective and Mickey's the heir to a yakuza gang -- but he has taken care of the neighborhood.

These are solid stories, and my only problems are that the title series could be a little more smoothly integrated -- it's a bit choppy -- and I think they would all benefit by more development. They might even be enough for full books by themselves.

The drawing is very appealing. Kuku has managed to catch a hint of wildness in these men, not only the gods but the humans as well. They're not only handsome but very sexy. (Oshi, I think, gets the total fox award, but it's a hard call.) Layouts are quite nice, smooth but flexible and very clear.

From Juné.

Dinosaur Du Jour

Leonerasaurus taquentrensis

Cute little guy. From Argentina.

In Memoriam

Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Wynne Jones, and Geraldine Ferraro.

Wow -- a hell of a week.


Crap! I forgot Lanford Wilson.

Some People Just Don't Get It

Via Joe.My.God.

Here's a little more information from LGM.

Not With A Bang

An interesting (although unfortunately truncated) segment from Bill Maher with actress Ellen Page on disappearing bees and the consequences.

Here's the trailer for the documentary Vanishing of the Bees.

Vanishing of the Bees - Trailer from Bee The Change on Vimeo.

Not much scares me. This does. It scares me because I know that instead of focusing on fixing the problem, our government will dither around and try to please everyone (read "the major corporations involved") and do nothing, or do too little too late. I doubt that the bees have much of a lobby in Washington -- or any other capital -- and not a lot of money to throw around. The makers of pesticides do.

Of course, maybe some Teabagger will come up with a compromise solution to this and our immigration "problem" -- we'll allow all the illegal immigrants to stay so they can hand-pollinate our crops.

Good luck with that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

An Antidote

The news is just the pits. The country's really gone insane. How many times can you drive the car off the cliff, after all?

Try this:

This is a bunch of great fiddlers, it's a terrific album, and the whole concert is on YouTube.

(I think I'm in love with the bassist -- he looks like a wild man.)

Thugs (Updated)

That's the only word that fits. Take a look at this post from Josh Marshall about the newest tactic of the Wisconsin state Republican Party.

Bill Cronon -- or William Cronon, as I think of him -- is a Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin. A few days ago he wrote an oped in the Times critical of Gov. Walker and his push to abolish collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin. About a week before that, he wrote a blog post -- the first in a new blog called Scholar as Citizen -- examining just who's behind this big anti-union push. He focused on a group called ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council).

Now, so far, nothing particularly controversial about any of this. But then it took a dark turn. Or perhaps better to say, then the story got into gear with everything else we've seen out of the Walker administration over the last three months.

Less than two days after Cronon published the blog post, the Wisconsin Republican Party filed a state open records request to gain access to Cronon's personal emails to get a look at what communications or discussions or sources or anything else went into writing it.

This is quite obviously an attempt at intimidation, with the hoped-for bonus of being able to make reprisals. This is the way the darling of the Teabaggers -- Scott Walker and his Republican henchmen -- choose to operate. It's like the Nixon days, with "enemies lists" and the whole shebang. Read Marshall's whole post, and Cronon's response.

Isn't it interesting that the right is more than willing to make use of laws it hates -- perverted use, to be sure -- when it suits their thuggery? It's a pattern: they pay attention to the laws that suit their purposes.

It's not just the Wisconsin Republican party. Think about Maggie Gallagher's respect for the law, or the Catholic hierarchy's.

That's contemporary conservatism.


Reprisal seem to be the name of the game. Catch this post from Terrance Heath at Bilerico.

Tula Connell notes the GOP’s latest strike at unionized workers: You strike, you starve.

How low can Republicans go in their attacks on working families and their unions?

Think Progress reports today that "a group of House Republicans is launching a new stealth attack against union workers" by prohibiting the family of a worker on strike from receiving food stamps.

And there's also the rights long-running campaign against the the judiciary. Remember Iowa?

Today's Must Read

This post by Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog, commenting on this article by Seymour Hersh.

Chris in Paris wrote earlier about the opening of the "Kill Team" trials, the court marshalls of the soldiers who shot up a bunch of Afghan civilians and then took pictures of them, Abu Ghraib–style. (Calling this "Abu Ghraib 2" would not be an overstatement, though "My Lai 2" would also fit.)

As Chris noted, the soldiers knew they were killing innocents:

Asked by the judge what his intent was, [Corporal Jeremy] Morlock replied, "The plan was to kill people."

"Did everybody know, `We're killing people who are completely innocent'?" the judge asked.

"Generally, yes, sir, everyone knew," Morlock replied.

Y'know, I really wonder why the self-appointed guardians of America's morals have been so notably silent on things like this. You would think that events like the casual murder of unarmed civilians by American troops would lead to outrage -- where are the Catholic bishops, the Mormon elders, the Southern Baptist Convention?

Oh, wait -- it's not about sex.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Today's Must Watch

Lawrence O'Donnell is always good. This is great -- he takes Glenn Beck and the Catholic hierarchy and every talking head on the airwaves apart:

People Lie

Especially, it seems, politicians. Especially politicians with an unpopular agenda. We've been seeing this for -- well, when did we develop the ability to speak?

And yet people are still amazed. Steve Benen gives a good description of the syndrome:

The Affordable Care Act had its flaws, but GOP officials simply weren't prepared for a credible discussion of the policy. So they lied uncontrollably. They'd tell a falsehood, be shown proof that it wasn't true, and then repeat the falsehood anyway. It was as depressing a display as anything I've ever seen in the American political discourse, and it's directly responsible for the widespread public confusion about the reform law that still exists.

They don't just lie about ACA. They lie about everything. Watch Tony Perkins on this clip -- David Boies calls him on his standard lie about social science, and he responds by telling another lie.

The key factor here -- and this is borne out by research -- is that if you repeat something enough, people will accept it as true. So maybe we need more people standing up and repeating the truth, loudly and often.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


An antidote to the news, in under two minutes:

Via Digby.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mike Huckabee Thinks the Military Should Be In Charge

I can't think of an interpretation of this that makes more sense:

"I would -- because that's really what the military wants," says Huckabee. "There's been some talk that the military is fine with having same-sex orientation people. But if you really surveyed the combat troops, that is not at all the case." According to Huckabee, currently a political analyst for Fox News, politicians should back out of the picture. "...I don't think that these are decisions that politicians should make. These are decisions that soldiers should make," he says emphatically. "And when the soldiers in the foxholes make the decisions, they choose something different -- and we should listen to them."

These are the decisions that politicians are mandated to make, Governor -- it's called civilian control of the military. And how typical of a conservative Republican: the opinions of the 10% of the serving troops that agree with him should overrule everyone else.

Another Republican who hates the American system of government.

(I linked to JMG rather than One News Now because Joe got the sense of the quote correct and I won't link to hate sites.)

Today's Must-Read

Scott Wooledge, one of the White House 13 arrested for chaining themselves to the White House fence, has a must-read post on what's transpiring with the DoJ and the charges against them. Read the whole thing, but one part that interests me hinges on this:

The key sticking point from day one of the plea negotiations has been the prosecution’s unrelenting insistence that we demonstrators must be left with a permanent adult criminal record for taking action.

Of course, we always recognized this as a distinct possibility from the start. But it isn’t actually the case for most acts of civil disobedience. This is especially true for first-time offenders, which I, and most of the demonstrators are.

I can think of one reason for the prosecutors to be insisting on this: Bush stacked Justice with a bunch of Liberty University graduates (the Monica Goodling Syndrome) that Holder hasn't managed to get rid of, and they're running loose. We know that that horrible DOMA brief was written by one of them, and it doesn't seem that the administration has wised up.

I'm also convinced that Obama sees us as one of the pawns that can be sacrificed to get something else. It's not working very well, but I don't feel I can accuse him of being a realist.

The reaction of the judge, I think, supports my Liberty University hypothesis: there's a huge First Amendment issue here, and they just don't get it:

Also, the more serious Federal statute that the US Attorney has elected to charge us with, “failure to obey a lawful order,” our attorneys contend has not been used before to discipline participants in a free speech demonstration.

The application of this Federal statute to our case seemed to strike Judge Facciola as both unusual and disproportionate to the infraction, as well. He seemed to entertain Goldstone’s argument it could be a troubling indication of an abusive measure taken to punish civil rights demonstrators. Judge Facciola himself, unprompted, offered a comparison  Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, a landmark unanimous Supreme Court decision of the Civil Rights Era. Fred Shuttlesworth was involved in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and an ally of Dr. Martin Luther King’s. In 1963, he was arrested for conducting a civil rights march in Alabama without obtaining a proper parade permit. He was convicted under a local Birmingham statute.
The Court reversed Shuttlesworth’s conviction because the circumstances indicated that the parade permit was denied not to control traffic, but to censor ideas.
We took Judge Facciola’s spontaneous citation of Shuttlesworth as an encouraging sign that he is cognizant and respectful of how seemingly benign statutes can be applied in a capricious, even malicious manner, to squash the free speech rights of disenfranchised and oppressed minorities.

The judge can't do anything about what charges are brought, except to ask the prosecution to reconsider, which he has done. But if the defense brings up the First Amendment issue, DoJ is dead in the water -- this is an obvious attempt to censor ideas.

It'll be interesting to watch this one play out.

There's a commenter who keeps harping on the "be nice and just talk to people" idea as a way of condemning GetEqual for its confrontational tactics, which seems to be a widespread reaction among gay bloggers, which I don't understand at all. As I pointed out in one of my own comments, no civil rights movement has ever made any progress in this country without making a lot of noise. We're not going to get anywhere by just talking to people -- that's what you do with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers. For politicians, you have to yell, because the professional homophobes are making a lot of noise and we have to counter that. There's also the fact that gay civil rights are not on most people's radar, and we have to get their attention before talking is going to do any good. We've seen from the sterling record of HRC and its ilk what just talking does -- you get played for a patsy.

I'm not anyone's patsy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

While listening

to Linkin Park's "Little Things Give You Away" (off their Minutes to Midnight CD), I thought back to the treatment of New Orleans after Katrina. (That's what the song's about, not the politics, but the loss.) New Orleans got shit from the feds because it was a Democratic stronghold -- mayor, governor, and senators -- full of black people. Compare to Mississippi, which suffered nowhere near the damage but had a good ol' boy Republican Bush backer in the governor's mansion.

I'm afraid the only way we could have elected someone as small and petty as George W. Bush to the White House -- twice -- is to have become that small and petty ourselves. Or at least, enough of us.

As an example, see this post -- and the comments left at the original. "Small and petty" hardly seems adequate.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Seven Days: Monday-Thursday

Seven Days: Monday-Thursday, a story by Venio Tachibana illustrated by Rhito Takarai, is another one I got based on a recommendation by Yaoi Rose. She has good instincts.

Touji Seryou will go out with anyone who asks him on a Monday -- but he always breaks up with them on Sunday. This Monday, Yuzuru Shino runs into Seryou and, on a whim, asks him to go out with him -- Seryou is the prettiest boy in school. Seryou, as always, agrees -- even though he's only dated girls so far. Inevitably, things get more serious than either boy had counted on.

This one's a stand-out. Even though we can predict with a fair amount of certainty what's going to happen -- it's BL manga, after all -- the interplay between the two and the reverberations of Seryou's past liaisons together provide a nice tension in the story that carries us along. Shino has his own hesitations, but finds himself flying into a fit of jealousy over one of Seryou's past girlfriends.

The drawing is completely charming. The characters are adorable, and Seryou especially is appealingly gawky. Layouts are relatively sedate, but the flow is good and clear.

This is volume 1. I can hardly wait for Friday through Sunday.

From Juné.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Marriage: Nurture and the Government

I promised a look at an article by Jason Kuznicki on marriage, and now I have time to do it. He reposted this one at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, which is one of my new finds on the internet.

First, my take on the history of this whole discussion. It starts with the anti-gay right wing mantra that we are trying to "redefine" marriage. The central problem with that is that the anti-gay groups have never come up with a "definition" of marriage, aside from its being something between a man and a woman. So now the more thoughtful commentators are trying to define marriage without ever considering the possibility that it can't be defined in any terms that are going to be conclusive. (Unless, of course, you want to write a multi-volume tome.) And it's interesting that on the right, these attempts are oriented toward denying the validity of same-sex marriages, while on the left, they head in the opposite direction. (Thus we have Robert P. George's laughable attempt to justify Catholic doctrine as a ruling paradigm, David Blankenhorn's repeated attempts to argue himself out of dead ends [I've analyzed one of Blankenhorn's attempts here, here, and here], John Corvino's thoughtful examinations of various aspects of the question -- and Corvino, to his credit, seems well aware that he's only dealing with parts -- and so on.) So now we come to Kuznicki, who seems to me, on reflection, to be dealing with parts and not realizing it -- or just not admitting it.

Kuznicki "defines" marriage as "about nurturing."

Marriage is about nurturing. That’s how we think of an ideal marriage. That’s how we, in our culture, judge marriages in the real world. A steady, profound, exclusive commitment to nurturing is what makes most people intuit the existence of a marriage, with or without state involvement, with or without children. With or without romance. Government may recognize either some, or all, or none of these nurturing relationships, but even unrecognized relationships may still be nurturing in this sense, and therefore be genuine marriages.

Again, we have a partial definition. It's very true that the nature of marriage as a relationship is, ideally, one of nurturing -- mutual care and concern, "in sickness and health," and so forth. But that really is only part of it, and it's a part that's not in dispute. Kuznicki chooses to ignore, at least for the time being, all those other aspects of marriage that are, after all, much more central to the current debate: the rights and responsibilities granted by the government, the social recognition of status granted by the community, the property rights granted by what is, in its most basic form, a contract.

He does acknowledge those aspects, then he slides back to the "nurturing" aspect, and frankly, I don't find it persuasive:

It cheapens the covenant to say that marriage is just about sex, or just about rights, or just about children. Marriage is about all of this — and more. Marriage is a complete, all-encompassing, nurturing relationship. It’s about care for the whole person, so much so that no one else in all the world is quite as important.

Eventually, he gets to the role of government:

I concede — happily — that the government has no interest whatsoever in regulating consenting adult sexual relationships. Government has every interest, however, in watching over individuals as they nurture one another. This is because while sex and nurturing are both natural rights that we all possess as human beings, it is far more difficult to safeguard the right to nurturing.

I think I object to the phrase "watching over." It's actually rather odd, coming from a self-confessed libertarian, and I don't like the implications. I also think it fuzzes the issue: government's role is not to "watch over" these relationships, but to provide the means and support for couples to engage in them successfully by delineating for our sometimes self-contradictory legal system just who has certain rights and responsibilities in relation to another person. That's actually something that Kuznicki states a bit earlier, but not quite so specifically.

He does go on to delineate ways in which government performs -- or should perform -- its role.

I think, after reading through this carefully, that in the basics I agree with most of what Kuznicki has written -- until we get to this part:

In closing, I imagine most people are expecting I’ll offer some inspiring words in favor of same-sex marriage. I won’t. One might even argue, consistent with this model, that homosexuals aren’t capable of the lifelong nurturing that marriage demands, or perhaps even that this nurturing has something intrinsically heterosexual about it: To care for a man requires a woman, and vice versa. Yet while this may be true for a great many people, it does not necessarily follow that it is true for all, nor does it follow that the exceptional cases somehow injure or degrade the ordinary ones.

This is a dodge, pure and simple. There is no reason to suppose that gays are not capable of the kind of relationship that Kuznicki describes, and it's worth noting that he casts this paragraph in terms of "some people say," which is a total cop-out.

I think my real objection is that Kuznicki, like so many others, is mis-identifying what is meant by "marriage." It's something that is central to the whole marriage/civil unions problem, and it's a matter of clarity. Let me try it myself, from my own anthropological/cultural background:

"Marriage" is the recognition by the community of a relationship and contract between two consenting adults for mutual support and nurturing that marks a new status for the couple in the community.

Most of the "definitions" I've seen fall into the "This is not a pipe" category: they attempt to define marriage as the relationship itself while leaving out the necessity for the community to recognize the relationship, which is, after all, what gives it its status. Sometimes they assume it, as Kuznicki seems to do, but unless that part is recognized, you don't really have a definition: the recognition is a necessity in any valid definition. That makes it a marriage, with all the social and emotional freight that word carries.

Your Teabaggers at Work

From Mahablog: if you vote for stupid, you get -- stupid.

Last month, House Republicans decided to hack the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by $126 $454 million. This is the parent agency of the National Weather Service, which in turn oversees the National Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

Democrats, on offense for a change, sent out a press release earlier this week pointing out that GOP budget cuts were defunding the tsunami warning system.

Now some Republicans are all huffy about that, saying Dems are playing a dirty trick. For example, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington) said that she only voted to cut the funding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “There is nothing anywhere that states tsunami warnings systems should be cut,” her spokesperson said.

In other words, she voted for all those cuts without bothering to find out exactly what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does, and what programs she might actually be axing. And she still doesn’t seem to know.

This is the Congress that came into office vowing jobs, jobs, jobs and "we'll fix the deficit -- right this minute." So far, all they've done is try to throw another million people out of work by cutting government programs. And you're not going to fix the deficit until you generate some revenue -- like going after the 25% of major corporations that paid no income tax on their record profits.

Well, those corporations have learned one lesson very well: you get what you pay for.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's Must Read

From PZ Myers, on marriage:

So, just a suggestion: if you want a relationship that lasts, don't rely on god, lawyers, and social pressure to force it to work. Love and reciprocal trust are the only chains that last, and the only ones that make you feel happy while wearing them.

I think those are the "secular, atheist" values that Newt and his ilk find heretical and threatening. Those values allow me to sit smug and content in a happy home while watching authoritarians discard wives.

Somebody Finally Said It

I don't need to comment on this:

That's Entertainment

Something I don't usually do, but I think these videos point to trends that we have to recognize:

First, the Big Gay Kiss from Glee:

This one's flipped from the original, but rather than making you sit through the whole episode. . . .

And some audience reaction:

And this, from Thailand, is a total knockout. This one's been subtitled; the version I saw first wasn't, but was still totally wonderful. And watch the audience reaction (not to mention the judges).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Marriage

Jason Kuznicki has reposted a piece he wrote several years ago on marriage and the government.

I think there's probably a lot wrong with this -- or at least, there are parts of it that have my instincts lifting their noses and sniffing the wind -- but I'll have to go over it later. No time right now.

If anyone else wants to take a swing at it, feel free.

Business Ethics

Let's hear it for Big Pharma -- can we call it "piracy"?

Preventing preterm births just got 150 times more expensive, now that KV Pharmaceuticals has gained exclusive rights to produce a progesterone shot used to prevent premature births in high-risk mothers.

Although the shot has been available in unregulated form from specialty compounding pharmacies for years for $10 a pop, the Food and Drug Administration recently granted KV Pharmaceuticals sole rights to produce the drug, which will be marketed as Makena and cost $1,500 per dose -- an estimated $30,000 in total per pregnancy.

We hear all about the high cost of developing new pharmaceuticals and how only a few are actually approved -- that's the rationale for the high prices. Well, this one's been around since 1956 and y'know what? KV didn't develop it:

Many doctors are particularly frustrated with the price hike because to date, KV Pharmaceuticals has not had to bear the cost of the clinical trials used to get the drug approved, but they have announced plans to conduct further trials in the future.

"All the upfront development of the drug was done by the National Institute of Health. You and I paid for that with our tax dollars, it's not like this pharmaceutical company is trying to recoup its investments in research and development, as is usually the reason for the price of new drugs," says Dr. Kevin Ault, associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

The company has offered a "patient assistance program" for households making less than $100,000 per year, but I have one question: why has the cost of the drug suddenly skyrocketed? If they can offer financial assistance on the order they're promising, why can't they just cut the price of the drug?

Diaz said if the drug had been $1500 a shot, "I think the price would have definitely locked me out, which means I could have potentially had a second or third premature child with disabilities." She added, "I would say to the pharmaceutical company, if there is any way they can cut the cost. I would ask them to consider these are lives at stake. "

Like they care.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Today's Must Read

John Aravosis' post on Coretta Scott King's support for gay civil rights.

Prejudice and bigotry is a bad thing. And it's motivated by the same hatred, regardless of the skin color or sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the victim. So the next time you're confronted by an anti-gay bigot like Delegate Burns, or anyone who claims that somehow racism is more evil than homophobia, quote the words of Coretta Scott King, when talking about racism and homophobia. And then tell them to STFU, unless they want to now claim that they know more about civil rights than Martin Luther King's widow.

He quotes her extensively.

I find it shameful that the black churches, which have been such a force for equal rights in this country, fail to recognize their own prejudice when it comes to gays and lesbians. It's even more disturbing that they use the same kinds of arguments against recognition of our rights that were used against blacks.

You'll remember the brouhaha over the role of black voters in California in the passage of Proposition 8, and the duel of survey results in which the politically correct -- for whom, apparently, it's fine to trash gays but you can't say anything negative about blacks, an apparent holdover from the New Left and its disdain for gays at the same time it was co-opting our movement -- essentially shouted down everyone who noticed the bigotry on the part of black voters. I think it's indisputable at this point that, although we're all very much aware that no group is monolithic (I mean, we have GOProud, after all), one of the major forces working against us is the black community, motivated by their churches. See this post from Timothy Beauchamp on why the Maryland marriage bill died. And this one from Alvin McEwen on homophobia in the black community.

And of course, this all plays into the hands of the divide-and-conquer right wing. (I won't remark on what it says about the link between blacks and privilege.)

The irony is too much.

Further thoughts: Is there a solution? Aravosis suggests throwing the statements from King back at people. I'm not sure that will work -- people's beliefs are not subject to rational thought, and that applies as much to those who believe that "civil rights" only applies to blacks as it does to those who believe that their god made the universe in seven days. I do think we have to challenge people like Bishop Harry Jackson at every opportunity, and challenge them on real moral and legal grounds, starting with the First Amendment. (And yes, opposition to same-sex marriage is fundamentally a religious belief, no matter how you dress it up as a universal tradition.) And we have to keep doing it.

And they need to know who we are, and that they are dehumanizing their brothers and sisters, their children, their neighbors, their coworkers.

That's about all I can think of.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Right Wing in a Nutshell

Or two nutshells, to be perfectly accurate.

The first, from New Hampshire, is nothing short of appalling:

Barrington Republican Martin Harty told Sharon Omand, a Strafford resident who manages a community mental health program, that "the world is too populated" and there are "too many defective people," according to an e-mail account of the conversation by Omand. Asked what he meant, she said Harty clarified, "You know the mentally ill, the retarded, people with physical disabilities and drug addictions - the defective people society would be better off without."

Harty confirmed to the Monitor that he made the comments to Omand. . . .

Omand says Harty then stated, "I wish we had a Siberia so we could ship them all off to freeze to death and die and clean up the population."

Of course, he now claims it was a "joke," as the Republicans understand such things.

I don't know if I'd call this worse, but it's certainly in the same league:

And from CNBC's Larry Kudlow:

I'm sure he just misspoke, but I think it says something about the way the right wing has poisoned this country that such a misstep is even possible.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today's Must Read

The Business of Government, at DailyKos. He has pretty much the same take I do, and very neatly answers my basic question: "Why do we have societies?"

Reviews in Brief: Yugi Yamada's No One Loves Me

I've been on a Yugi Yamada streak the past few days -- now that volume 2 of Close the Last Door! is out, I've gotten Open the Door to Your Heart and this one, No One Loves Me. Yamada seems to have a particular fondness for quirky characters.

Katsuhiro is pretty much a recluse. He owns a used bookstore and tends not to leave. Masafumi is a salesman for a small publisher who gets assigned to edit a book by a Cezch author, to capitalize on a film being adapted from the book. After a vain search for a translator, he finally finds Katsuhiro, who studied for several years in the Czech Republic. The chemistry is potent, even given Katsuhiro's abrupt manner and withdrawn personality. Things are complicated by the arrival of Tetsushi Hasegawa, from another publishing house, who happens to have been Katsuhiro's roommate in the Czech Republic. And then a mysterious stranger appears, looking for a particular book. Katsuhiro offers to order it for him, but the man keeps coming back, particularly when Tetsushi is hanging around.

This is a complicated narrative that takes place over a series of interlocked stories centering on, first, Katsuhiro and Masafumi, and then on Tetsushi and the stranger. It's a couple of oddball romances in which what is not said is at least as important as what is. And it's a long book -- over 300 pages. There's a lot going on, not the least of which is the way that everyone winds up "helping out" at Katsuhiro's store.

Yamada's drawing is in great form on this one, confident and clear. She's managed to avoid making any of the uke look girly, the men are all very appealing -- Masafumi gets the fox prize in this one -- and the visual flow is fluid, intuitive and clear.

I can't think why it took me so long to start investigating Yamada, but I guess it's a matter of so many books, so little time. Expect more from me on Yamada.

This one's from Juné.

Holy Plate Tectonics, Batman!

The quake moved Honshu eight feet.

The powerful earthquake that unleashed a devastating tsunami Friday appears to have moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet (2.4 meters) and shifted the Earth on its axis.

"At this point, we know that one GPS station moved (8 feet), and we have seen a map from GSI (Geospatial Information Authority) in Japan showing the pattern of shift over a large area is consistent with about that much shift of the land mass," said Kenneth Hudnut, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Reports from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy estimated the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters).

Japan is in a subduction zone -- the Pacific and Philippine Sea plates are sliding under the North American and Eurasian plates right there. The Japanese archipelago actually seems to have originated as part of the continent, separated by a rift at what is now the Sea of Japan. If you look at a map, it's pretty amazing -- here's what seems to be a decent site on the geology and geologic history of Japan. And here's a diagram of the plate boundaries.

That site's worth checking out if you want to get an idea of why that quake happened.

As for the human reality, I can't wrap my head around what people are going through -- it's just utter and total disaster for those caught in the quake zone and the path of the tsunami. I've experienced a couple of quakes here in Chicago -- very mild, on the edges of the zone -- they were centered in southern Illinois and Indiana, and neither was very strong, but it was still scary as hell -- the building shook for a good thirty seconds and the cats and I all freaked out. To have buildings coming down around you has got to the scariest thing there is. And to have that followed by 60-foot tidal wave? Here's an overview of the devastation from AP. Just reading that, it becomes a little more real, and even more staggering. (And as a footnote, among the things that the Teabaggers don't want to spend money on are the tsunami warning system and humanitarian aid.)

And now they're faced with the possibility of a meltdown at one of their nuclear power plants. Why would anyone build nuclear power plants in a place as earthquake-prone as Japan? Because people don't think very much.

Footnote: I was talking about Hawai'i the other day, and how it's sitting on a volcanic hot spot in the middle of the Pacific. If you want to see how the Pacific plate has moved over the past few million years, take a look at this:

Notice that long string of seamounts that starts in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and stretches all the way up to the Aleutians. Those have all been Hawai'i. (This is from the site linked above.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011


No, they didn't come across the border -- they came from Outer Space.

Richard Hoover has discovered evidence of microfossils similar to Cyanobacteria, in freshly fractured slices of the interior surfaces of the Alais, Ivuna, and Orgueil CI1 carbonaceous meteorites. Based on Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM) and other measures, Richard Hoover has concluded they are indigenous to these meteors and are similar to trichomic cyanobacteria and other trichomic prokaryotes such as filamentous sulfur bacteria. He concludes these fossilized bacteria are not Earthly contaminants but are the fossilized remains of living organisms which lived in the parent bodies of these meteors, e.g. comets, moons, and other astral bodies. Coupled with a wealth of date published elsewhere and in previous editions of the Journal of Cosmology, and as presented in the edited text, "The Biological Big Bang", the implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.

If you want to read the full (and technical) article, follow the link. But in the meantime, here's some food for thought:

Walking a Fine and Blurry Line

I've run across this story a couple of places.

"It seems to me that what we are doing is producing a tyrannous new morality that is every bit as oppressive as the old. The way to [handle this] is not to ban them, not to fine them. It is for them simply to put up what seems to me to be a quite proper notice in a small privately run hotel which says we are Christians and this is what we believe. Otherwise, we are as I said, we are producing a new tyranny."

This is from David Starkey, a gay historian who also happens to be an atheist. The impetus is from in incident in England in which a gay couple was refused a room at a hotel because two men sharing a bed violated the owners' religious beliefs. (I can't find the original story, but here's a sort of follow-up from Pink News.)

I think Starkey has it almost right -- and keep in mind that the U.K., and Europe in general, have gone a lot farther with anti-discrimination laws than we have in the States. However, we have a principle in our laws that I think addresses this kind of issue very well: public accommodation. If you are a business offering goods or services to the public, you offer those goods or services to everyone. You leave your personal beliefs at the door.

We've made huge, and I think disproportionate, accommodations to "religious institutions" in this country, and I think it has set the idea of nondiscrimination back, sometimes substantially. And I've noticed one thing that I think is indicative of the essential dishonesty of many of those "religious institutions": up until a few years ago, organizations such as Catholic Charities were run as separate entities from the Church so that they could collect public money for their work. This was an arrangement that worked very well -- they were, in effect, offering a public service and could be publicly supported as long as their work did not involve forcing the Church's doctrine on those who received those services. Now, almost overnight, it seems that Catholic Charities and like organizations are "religious institutions" and feel free to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs -- but they still want the public money. They've tried to use that as a club -- remember that the Diocese of Washington, D.C., threatened to cancel their adoption agencies and other public services if D.C. passed a marriage equality law. D.C. said fine -- there are other organizations offering the same services, and in fact several of them offered to fill the vacuum. The Diocese folded -- I guess the money was too attractive.

But I digress.

This is a principle that has bearing on any public accommodation. It's even more pertinent in cases such as pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control. We've catered to them, when I think their licenses should have been pulled. If you're licensed by the state, you obey the law and conform to the requirements the state imposes as part of your license. If you can't deal with it, find another line of work.

I suppose, in cases such as the hotel that Starkey's referring to, we could make allowances on the order he suggests, but I think rather than a sign on the premises, you make sure all your advertising and listings note that you discriminate on the basis of your religious beliefs.

We'll see what that does for your business.

Duck and Run

Well, it seems that marriage is dead in Maryland, at least for the time being:

The Maryland House of Delegates has voted to effectively kill for this year a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage in Maryland.

The House approved on voice vote a motion to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee, an acknowledgment by supporters that it did not have sufficient votes to pass on the floor.

Strategically, that's probably the best move, given the erosion of support in the House of Delegates, especially since a lot of them didn't want to be on record. I have to say, those churches certainly know how to twist arms. And it's better than losing a vote. My concern is that the delay gives NOM and its secret backers time to spread their money around.

OK -- next year in Maryland. Eyes are now on Rhode Island. (We should make it a contest.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The One Bright Spot

We have a putsch in Wisconsin, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have decided that discriminating against gay people is more important than jobs, that sleazeball James O'Keefe has scored another successful assassination, and on and on.

This is the one bright spot in my morning:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sitting on the Hot Seat

Which is where Hawai'i is -- it's on top of a hot spot in the earth's crust. You can tell the direction of the Pacific plate's movement by looking at a map of the islands. The hot spot is stationary -- and it's been there for a while.

The map:

I like this one because it shows the portions of the Islands that are below sea level -- they're actually the tops of undersea mountains, which is what islands tend to be. And you can see to the northwest of the existing islands the older ones that have eroded down.

It's all pretty awesome.

(The map is from the National Benthic Survey, which looks totally fascinating itself.)

(And here's an article on the birth of an undersea mountain.)

Maybe I'll just spend the rest of the day poking around NOAA's websites.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Good Faith

Yeah, right. And you thought DADT was history?

To hear Navy Petty Officer Stephen C. Jones tell it, what happened in his bedroom one night last month was purely innocuous: Another male sailor came by to watch "The Vampire Diaries," and they both dozed off in the same bed.

"That is the honest, entire story," Jones said.

Navy officials, however, have a different view of his bedroom behavior at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, near Charleston, S.C. Even though there is no evidence the 21-year-old sailor took part in any hanky-panky or that his friend was not permitted to visit, Jones has been charged with dereliction of duty. The Navy is seeking to discharge him, a move that he is contesting.

"The subterfuge is, they believe this kid is a homosexual, but they have no proof of it," said Gary Myers, Jones's civilian attorney. "So what they've done here is to trump this thing up as a crime. This is not a crime."

This is so patently an attempt to railroad someone for being "gay" -- even when he's probably not. And it's blatant defiance of the Commander in Chief.

Did someone actually believe civilians were still running the military?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Yeah, I Know (Updated)

In my own defense, I've been really busy now that I'm writing decently again. (Case in point, a new post at The Sleeping Hedgehog, with several new reviews by yours truly.)

And the news hasn't changed so much: populist uprisings in the Middle East and Midwest, Scott Walker is getting more and more desperate (someone called him "Muammar Walker"), and I really, really hope the Republicans in Congress step in to defend DOMA. I want them to make fools of themselves on civil rights in a major way, very publicly, and there's no way they're not going to. Maybe they'll get Maggie Gallagher and Tony Perkins to give expert testimony. That would make my year.

(Update: This just seems so appropriate in that context:

Delegate Neil Parrott, R-Washington, who criticized the bill for changing the definition of marriage, briefly made what he described as a tongue-in-cheek amendment to legalize incest.

"I don’t see any problem with incest in marriage if we are going to go ahead and allow something that hasn’t been allowed ever in all of human history by allowing one man to marry another man or a woman to marry a woman," Parrott said, before withdrawing the amendment. "I think this is the same type of thing that we’re talking about."

Do you suppose Del. Parrott is only repeating what he's been taught?

And now I have to try to find the top of my desk. As a stop-gap, here's a picture:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Today's Must Read

A brilliant piece by Tom Scocca -- an elegant and precise take-down of David Brooks and, by extension, the whole chattering class:

"We're going to be doing a lot of deficit cutting over the next several years," David Brooks announced, plurally, in their column in today's New York Times. Little-known fact: the byline "David Brooks" is produced by five guys named "David Brook." They all get together and agree on stuff!

. . .

David Brooks support thoughtful, constructive public policy. "The country could use a serious, competent manager," they wrote, in praise of Daniels. (Ergo, people who disagree with Brooks are in favor of unserious and incompetent country-management.) When Daniels spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Brooks wrote:

He spoke for those who believe the country’s runaway debt is the central moral challenge of our time.

Not merely a central moral challenge of our time, but the central moral challenge of our time. Maybe I was distracted and missed the day we let all the young black men back out of prison. (How are they doing? They must feel great now.) And I guess one David Brook showed all the others a satellite photo of how the glaciers are growing back.

I used to read David Brooks' column on a regular basis. And then it started having less and less to do with any sort of objective reality, and I finally stopped.

It's nice to see that some things haven't changed.

It's Called "Desperation"

Tony Perkins of the so-called Family Research Council has joined the conspiracy theorists.

"Less than three hours after Attorney General Holder's announcement, litigants seeking to strike down California's traditional marriage definition enacted by Proposition 8 filed a 'Motion to Vacate Stay' in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On pages 7 of 23 and 10 of 23 the Motion cited to and quoted from the Attorney General Letter.

"As the president of the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization that has filed amicus briefs defending both Proposition 8 and DoMA, I am troubled by the lightning-fast integration of concepts and actual language from the Attorney General Letter into the Motion to Vacate Stay. Let me repeat: the Motion was filed within two-and-one-half hours of Attorney General's press conference. Consequently, I am deeply concerned that officials at the Department of Justice were collaborating with the litigants in the Proposition 8 case. Even the appearance of collusion between the Department of Justice and litigants is highly damaging to the rule of law in America."

Well, the fact is that the the Olson/Boies team has proven itself to be a superlative group of attorneys, and I know from my own experiences in working under the gun that it's not that hard to plug in a late-breaking reference and still meet a deadline. But a conspiracy sells much better with the base, I guess. Got to keep the fires of paranoia burning.

Perkins is really getting desperate. I suppose next he'll be demanding a copy of Judge Vaughan Walker's birth certificate.

(Jeremy Hooper has the full text of Perkin's FOIA request at the link.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sea Change

The fact that this piece was written by Richard Mellon Scaife, funder of right-wing causes and candidates since the last Ice Age:

Now the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives -- urged on by conservatives opposed to abortion -- has voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

On this issue, Republicans and conservatives are dead wrong.

Abortions are a minor aspect of Planned Parenthood's mission to provide reproductive health care, education and other services to Americans, regardless of income.

More than 90 percent of its work focuses on preventing unintended pregnancies that almost inevitably lead to unwanted, neglected and abused children.

There's a realignment going on as the teabaggers unleash their full insanity. Look at this comment from Albert Mohler, president the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (via Box Turtle Bulletin):

"I think it's clear that something like same-sex marriage is going to become normalized, legalized and recognized in the culture. It's time for Christians to start thinking about how we're going to deal with that," he said Friday on the Focus on the Family radio program. . . .

Christians also need to start learning how to deal with the shifting culture and even face the fact that they may lose a few from their flock.

"I think we're going to be surprised and heartbroken over how many people are going to capitulate to the spirit of the age," he noted. "We're going to find now that there may not be as many of us as we thought."

Don't expect a major change in the Southern Baptists -- Mohler goes on to say that Christian must still defend marriage, at least in their own community -- and the homophobia is still there:

"It's interesting now that the world is so morally upside down that when we talk about marriage we have to make a distinction between natural marriage – heterosexual marriage – and this new thing that people are calling marriage," Mohler said.

My own reaction is that Mohler -- and the Christianists in general -- have a fairly primitive understanding of morality. Any "morality" that is intimately tied to plumbing doesn't have much going for it, and maybe that's why they're losing ground. What's amazing is that Mohler will actually admit it. But then, his living doesn't depend on gay-bashing.

We're seeing the cracks in the wall.

Pretty Much Sums It Up

Via AmericaBlog:

A public union employee, a tea party activist and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy he wants a piece of your cookie."