"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, May 31, 2011

It's About Time

So maybe the government is finally getting serious.

It's getting personal now. In a shift still evolving, federal enforcers are targeting individual executives in health care fraud cases that used to be aimed at impersonal corporations.

The new tactic is raising the anxiety level — and risks — for corporate honchos at drug companies, medical device manufacturers, nursing home chains and other major health care enterprises that deal with Medicare and Medicaid.

Previously, if a company got caught, its lawyers in many cases would be able to negotiate a financial settlement. The company would write the government a check for a number followed by lots of zeroes and promise not to break the rules again. Often the cost would just get passed on to customers.

Now, on top of fines paid by a company, senior executives can face criminal charges even if they weren't involved in the scheme but could have stopped it had they known. Furthermore, they can also be banned from doing business with government health programs, a career-ending consequence.

I'd love to see this strategy expanded -- like to the SEC and bank regulators, maybe

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Real "Don't Say Gay" Bill

John Corvino points out the Law of Unintended Consequences as it relates to Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill as actually passed by the state senate. The actual language as adopted:

“Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any instruction or materials made available or provided at or to a public elementary or middle school shall be limited exclusively to natural human reproduction science.”

Essentially, the law mandates that the only subject that can be taught in public elementary or middle schools is sex education.

Coming from Tennessee, I think that's hysterical.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"The Spirit of Giving Back"

Just happened to glance at an article in one of the neighborhood papers here at my favorite coffee shop, about the Uptown Day of Service. For those who don't know Chicago, Uptown has been for decades one of the more desperate parts of town, although it's starting to turn around. Homeless shelters, "residential hotels," halfway houses, rehab centers, the works. I've lived there a couple of times -- not exactly middle-class. Day of Service is a volunteer day, for residents who can to mentor students, help out in soup kitchens, etc.

It reminds me very much of a philosophy I heard from a woman whom I consider to be one of the great ladies of Chicago, who put it quite succinctly: "I've been fortunate and had advantages. It's only right that I should give something back." It's an attitude I heard a lot, in a number of variations, from the people I knew in the art world, who were, most of them, at the very least well-off.

I feel like sending clippings of that story to a select group of corporate CEOs and members of Congress -- and maybe framed examples to Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Grover Norquist. I'm not sure they'd get it, though.

Reviews in Brief: Akira Kurosawa's Samurai 7

That's the official title, but this is not Seven Samurai, although it is based on Kurosawa's original story. It is an anime adaptation set in a dystopian future in which the world, after the end of a ruinous war, is run by the merchants. Those samurai who became partly mechanical during the war -- call them cyborgs -- have become bandits who regularly confiscate the peasants' crops. The village of Kanna has had enough; their water priestess, Kirara, reveals the way they can escape the constant terror: they will hire a samurai to do away with the bandits.

The story line, in general terms, follows Kurosawa's original, with some interesting variations -- there is an emperor in this one (who, strangely enough, strongly recalls Michael Moorcock's God-Emperor Huon from the Hawkmoon saga), which leads to some very good action with Kanbe, the leader of the samurai, who comes close to being executed. There is also a group of intermediaries/technologists, the Shikimori, creators of the power cells on which the merchants and the mecha-samurai rely, who have their own agenda.

The design concept is a sort of Star Wars steampunk, at least insofar as the bandits and cities are concerned. Character designs are superb, seamlessly fitting together a range from highly realistic to cartoon-abstract without a blip.

Animation is also excellent. The CGI effects are just great, and very effectively used. Battle scenes, as might be expected, are particularly good.

The voice actors are superb, although the character of Kikuchiyo -- the mechanical samurai who winds up being one of the seven -- is pretty annoying: he's a loudmouth, shoot-from-the-hip sort of guy, superbly voiced by Kuwata Kong, but he's a little bit much. My favorites, after Masaki Terasoma as Kanbe, are Romi Park as the young samurai wannabe, Katsushiro (and Park does an amazing job with boys and young men -- she voiced Hitsugaya in Bleach) and Shinichiro Miki as Kyuzo, a deadly man whose goal is to cut down Kanbe, although for the time being they're on the same side.

It's a long story -- 26 episodes -- and there are occasional slow stretches, but on the whole it's an absorbing and engaging series. I'm lovin' it.

From Funimation. Credits can be found at Anime News Network.

Poor Pete

He's been such a flop at getting a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Illinois that he's reduced to protesting civil unions. Here's a fairly good report from ABC:

The last time he had a petition drive for an advisory referendum, he didn't even bother to submit the petitions -- he couldn't get enough signatures to meet the minimum, even counting Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. May he have equal success with this one. Of course, this time he'll probably hit up Maggie's Laundry for funds.

Oh, and Pete? It is about civil rights. It always has been.

I Forget Who Said It --

that Rick Santorum is the stupidest Senator he's ever met -- but this sort of nails it:

"Run, Rick, run."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ryan on Medicare

I just (finally) watched this video of Paul Ryan touting his recipe for "saving" Medicare. Red flags went up all over the place: this guy is lying through his teeth. See if you can catch all the Republican talking points and scare phrases.

If I have time this weekend, I may come back and parse it -- there is a full script available.

Just as a start, this is from one of the commenters at No More Mister Nice Blog, which is where I found the video.

This argument seems to boil down to using taxpayer money to pay for insurance instead of medical care. I think most people would prefer to have a Medicare system that pays for their medical care rather than paying for insurance that may or may not pay for their medical care.

If he thinks there are too many layers between seniors and the cost of their care he really needs to take another look at how much seniors already pay, and then rethink this business of adding more layers.

Seniors pay a monthly premium and a deductable plus twenty percent of the cost of their care. That may seem negligible to him, but it is very real to the people who are paying for it. So how does he figure that seniors are distanced from the cost. They are perfectly aware of it and make their health care decisions based on it.
(Emphasis added.)

Maybe I will come back to this -- it could be fun.

The Message

"Republicans are Losers."

Chalk up another Democratic win this week: Alabama State Rep. Daniel Boman, who entered the legislature as a Republican in November, is switching parties to become a Democrat after he says the GOP went too far in attacking teachers in the state.

It's just the latest example of mainline Republicans turning on their party following the November sweep which put them in control of the House. On Tuesday, the solidly-Republican 26th Congressional District in New York rejected the GOP in part over the party's decision to end Medicare in the House budget. A few days before that, the Democrats stunned the Republican city of Jacksonville by electing the first Democratic mayor in 20 years. In New Hampshire, Democrats picked up a surprising win in a legislative special election.

I really hope the Republicans keep managing to shoot themselves in the foot like this. But the Democrats need to jump on it and keep repeating it over and over again: Republicans are Bad News.

I think the message is out there. From E. J. Dionne:

And by the way: Hochul’s victory wasn’t just about Medicare. Her most effective ad argued that Ryan was cutting Medicare while promoting tax cuts for the wealthy. “The plan Jane Corwin supports would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans,” the announcer intoned. “The budget would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. Kathy Hochul says cut the deficit but do it the right way: Protect Medicare and no more tax breaks for multimillionaires.”

Note to timid Senate moderates who race from the battlefield even before they smell gunpowder: Hochul ran against tax cuts for the rich and won—in a district John McCain carried in 2008 by six points.

'Nuff said?


I just ran across this: apparently some in the media get it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Morally Bankrupt

That would be the Catholic Diocese of Rockford:

Officials from the Rockford Diocese, which includes Aurora, Kane County and much of Kendall County, said they were forced to terminate state contracts worth $7.5 million after lawmakers failed to pass an amendment exempting religious groups from provisions of the state’s new civil unions law. . . .

Catholic Charities wanted to be allowed to refer unmarried or gay couples to other agencies, as it has for years.

Diocese officials said that allowing such adoptions or foster placements would violate teachings of the Catholic faith.

“The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion,” diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said. “Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion.”

First off, the Diocese was not "forced" to terminate their state contracts -- they chose to do so rather than comply with civil law in return for tax money. And no one's forcing the Church to change its doctrine -- it's just being forbidden to enforce it on the state.

And notably absent in all this pouting is any concern for the welfare of the children, who I think would be much better off in homes with parents who really want them and are willing to work very hard at being good parents than left to the tender mercies of the Catholic hierarchy.

Oh, But That Was Fifteen Minutes Ago!

Joe Jervis nails it.

Can you say "dumb as a rock"?

How Many Libertarians Would Do This?

Sort of makes the whole Teabagger/Libertarian ideology ring hollow, doesn't it? From the Telegraph:

More than 160 nuclear and civil engineers over the age of 60 are planning to set up a Skilled Veterans Corps to assist restoring control over crucial cooling functions at the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant.

Decades of professional engineering expertise combined with a desire to protect younger workers from radiation exposure have united the elderly workers in a desire to help fix the plant.

Do I really need to say more?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How Dumb Do You Have To Be

to write something like this?

Brown writes that Medicare's "increasing cost must be addressed" and that attempts to do so are "long overdue" as part of any "serious" effort to do something about the long-term national debt. But Ryan's plan is just too stingy, apparently: "As health inflation rises," Brown writes, "the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support—and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays." So Brown agrees that the problem with the current Medicare system is that it puts the public on the hook for ever-rising health care expenses, which are growing faster than we can afford to pay for them. Yet his first complaint about Ryan's plan is that it backs away from that commitment, altering the system in such a way that the federal government doesn't continue to spend on Medicare at a rate that's rising at a dangerous and unsustainable rate. Like many Democrats, Brown seems to be upset that Ryan's plan solves the problem Rep. Ryan intended it to solve.

The problem is that Ryan's plan doesn't even address the real problem.

The real problem, of course, is not the amount the government is spending on health-care, for seniors or anyone else, but the rising cost of health-care in general as part of the GDP. And of course, Ryan's plan does nothing to address that -- it's an insurance company's wet dream that the Republicans want to codify into law.

In reality, the post is a hit-piece on Scott Brown (R-Cosmo), and I probably shouldn't take it seriously, except that it is so butt-numbingly idiotic I had to take a poke at it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let the Lies Begin

NOM, the front group for the Mormons and the Catholic hierarchy, is gearing up for the marriage fight in Minnesota. From Alvin McEwen:

“We commend the bi-partisan majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives that voted Saturday night to put an amendment on the ballot preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The House joins a bi-partisan majority in the state Senate, and the amendment will now go before voters in November 2012. NOM looks forward to supporting the campaign and lending our expertise and resources to those of allies in the state. We will have a thorough, respectful, discussion with the voters of Minnesota on all the reasons why the definition of marriage should be preserved as the union of a man and a woman, and to explain the risks to Minnesotans if they allow an activist judge or liberal legislators to redefine marriage in the future without public approval."

The "bi-partisan majority" in the Senate included one -- yes, that's right, one -- DFL senator. The "bi-partisan majority" in the House included two DFL representatives. (And four Republicans voted against.)

The "expertise and resources" include lies and distortions paid for by secret donors (secret because it would be bad for business if everyone knew how anti-American you are). Brian Brown has never had a thorough or respectful discussion on anything having to do with gay civil rights in his career. I don't see that changing now. "Activist judge," as we all know, means you didn't like the decision, and the "liberal legislators" were elected to represent the people in the legislature. That's the way we do things in America -- we don't vote on other people's rights. "Public approval" is not required for guarantees of fundamental rights -- that's already been taken care of in the Constitution. That's what the "activist judges" base their decisions on.

NOM is already on the SPLC's watch list. My guess is they make full hate group status after this election.

Monday, May 23, 2011


George Takei steps up and delivers:

Take that, Tennessee!

A Republican Who's Actually Running for President

Tim Pawlenty, known as the "not-Mitt." Another commentary from Badash, and it's pretty devastating:

Pawlenty, 50, a Baptist, who claims he would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ban on openly-​gay service members, also vetoed a bill in his home state that would have allowed surviving partners of same-​sex couples the right to decide what to do with their loved one’s deceased body.

At the time, Pawlenty said he believed in “traditional marriage,” and that the bill would have “elevated” same-​sex relationships. “I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage,” Pawlenty added. . . .

Pawlenty believes in adding more prisons and tougher penalties for sex offenders, reducing taxes on businesses, requiring the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, and more oil drilling, including in AWNR.

That's quite a platform, isn't it? That's the best they can do -- Pawlenty and Romney.

And the Paul Ryan "Roadmap to Ruin".


David Badash has a nice commentary at The New Civil Rights Movement on Tony Perkins' latest attack in response to yet another poll that shows that most Americans (and that's "real" Americans, Tony) support same-sex marriage.

Tony Perkins, the homophobic, hate-​mongering president of the certified hate group, the Family Research Council, is grasping at straws over Gallup’s latest poll on same-​sex marriage, the sixth nationwide poll to show that a majority of Americans now support same-​sex marriage.

Perkins wrote via Twitter — which, evidently, is now the place to defend your hate — that, “If Gallup polling guides SCOTUS on marriage, (as it did with Blackmun’s Roe decision), decision could become a deep wound in our nation,” and that “[o]n Gallup’s #marriage poll, it should be noted that same-​sex “marriage” was used, not gay “marriage”, homosexual, etc. Words have meaning.”

Yes, they do, and "same-sex marriage" is perfectly correct -- there's nothing particularly gay about marriage, even if the married couple are two men or two women -- that doesn't affect the meaning of the word.

The delicious part of this is that the more shrill and hateful Perkins and his allies get, the more normal people realize that they're a bunch of charlatans. And no one likes seeing someone get that desperate -- it's embarrassing.

So my recommendation to Tony and Maggie and the Peters (both of them) and the rest is simply, "Keep up the good work -- you're winning us allies."

Totally Fascinating

This is a picture of two volcanic plumes on Jupiter's moon, Io, which is interesting enough itself, but what struck me is there's this whole world there, with what look like oceans and continents and the whole works.

I realize it's a composite image, and the colors are probably slightly exaggerated, but it's also beautiful.

I needed something to cheer me up today.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Kudos to NYT

For this series, which is long overdue.

“The amount of attention that has been given to debates over L.G.B.T. issues in the last year is another sign of how deeply American society remains divided over L.G.B.T. issues,” said George Chauncey, a Yale University professor of 20th century United States history and lesbian and gay history, referring to lesbians and gay, bisexual and transgender people. “And it has made it clear to young people just how much opposition remains.”

The New York Times embarked on the project “Coming Out,” which begins Monday, as an effort to better understand this generation’s realities and expectations, and to give teenagers their own voice in this conversation.

This is going to have a two-fold benefit, at least: one, the stories will get out there, the realities will start to hit people's consciousness, and two, these kids are going to become real people to too many who are used to thinking of us as an abstraction.

The third benefit is that the religious right is going to hemorrage bile, which will bring home just how sleazy they are.

It's a win-win.

I'm Still Here, You're Still Here

Some wag suggested leaving piles of clothes scattered around last evening. I sort of like that idea, and might have done it, but my neighborhood is so leftist and so secular that people wouldn't have understood it. Besides, it probably would have scared the children.

I have to wonder, though, about the kind of person who would feel such joy at the idea that they and those who are just exactly like them are going to be "saved" and everyone else is going to suffer torments. Somehow, that doesn't strike me as terribly Christian.

As for the guy who blew his life savings on billboards, I'm sorry to sound uncharitable, but he's an idiot.

So, we have managed to survive the end of the world yet again. I guess there's cause for relief in that. The downside is, this means I have to do laundry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Rapture

Well, it's 5:46 pm Chicago time, so I've either got 14 minutes or it's not going to happen.

I mean, there's supposed to be an earthquake, right? Shouldn't there be some preliminary signs? A few rumbles here and there? A sense of the earth shifting? A heavenly chorus? Something?

Meh. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Public Schools, Private Schools

Excellent post by Freddie deBoer at Balloon Juice on the thinking behind "choice" and school vouchers.

I said before that I think part of the point is not merely to hurt public education in order to move towards a privatized system, but also to erode the foundations of pluralistic society. I think that’s a big part of this. Public education is, at its heart, a radical and beautiful idea. It’s not merely that everyone should have access to education, and that we should all pay for it. It’s the idea that children from across class, racial, ethnic, and other boundaries can come together and work and learn together. They don’t merely learn the knowledge and skills that school teaches them, but how to operate in a democracy where everyone is not alike. Seeing that a multicultural, pluralistic society can work—not perfectly, not without angst, not without effort—is an essential part of a civic education. And that knowledge contributes to the understanding that society is a supporter of individual flourishing, not a threat to it, and that what ultimately benefits the individual is what benefits all of us. Urban people tend to be more liberal in part because they see every day the necessity of people working together to provide for the common welfare, which often means effective government. That in part is what vouchers threaten, as they contribute to the division of children into smaller and smaller subsections where they lack the ability to meaningfully interact with others from across the broad American range of difference, and to see the necessity of shared sacrifice.

“We’re all in this together” is a fundamental liberal insight. It’s everyone’s right to send their children off to private school for whatever reason they see fit, and many do so for exclusively enlightened motives. But to say that the public is obligated to pay for it, without real accountability and absent any meaningful evidence of superior outcomes, is nuts.

At one point he discusses the fact that no one would consider a voucher system for things like public transportation or defense spending, but we're already seeing that starting to happen: the Ryan plan for Medicare, which is, undoubtedly, a voucher system, using taxpayer funds to pay for private insurance. (And also, by the way, inserting a middle-man between the payer (the government, which is to say, us) and the provider, the same broken system we have now in health-care coverage in general.)

Read the whole thing. It's clear-eyed and very intelligent, although one point he makes that needs further emphasis: you have every right to have your child educated in private schools. You have no right to take my money to pay for it.

Required Viewing

Or it should be. This is a beautiful piece.

This is for Hugo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The News Is What It Always Is

which makes me think I should just stop writing about politics. We'll see.

I reread No Touching at All today as my refuge from everything else I have to do. It's really an amazing little gem: funny, touching, sweet, romantic, edgy and altogether wonderful. It's one of those books that gets richer as you go back into it -- there's much more to it than I realized in the Review in Brief.

And that's all, folks!

Monday, May 16, 2011

You Have to Wonder

Just what the people at WaPo are thinking sometimes. This is one of the most bizarre headlines I've ever seen:

What Trump can teach the GOP field

The post is even more bizarre.

I had just remarked to a colleague about what kind of ego it takes to call a press conference to announce that you're not running for president.

I'm not sure if there's a lesson from the Trump "saga" for the rest of the GOP field, but what it tells the rest of us is that the GOP has really gone round the bend.

And WaPo is right with them.

Mark Your Calendars

Thanks to Joe.My.God.

The Moral Foundations of the "Christian" Right

Very interesting article at BTB on the involvement of Liberty University Law School in the parent-kidnapping of Lisa Miller-Jenkins, and what they are teaching their students about "render unto Caesar."

Today, Religion Dispatches associate editor Sarah Posner reports that Lisa Miller’s attorneys Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen, who teach a required Foundations of Law course at Liberty University, are teaching their students that when confronted with a case like Lisa Miller’s, that the attorney has an obligation to resolve the conflict between “God’s Law” and “man’s law” by advising the client to solve the conflict through “civil disobedience”.

These are attorneys, teachers, and the dean of a law school telling students to counsel clients to break the law -- which means the students would have to violate their oaths as attorneys to uphold the laws.

Making up lies about GLBTs is certainly not a stretch for this bunch.

A hint for Mat Staver: if you want a clue about the moral decline of America, look in the mirror.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Utawarerumono (anime)

Utawarerumono was recommended by my manga sempai, and turned out to be much more engaging than I had expected. And just so you know, that impossible Japanese title winds up translating roughly as "Song of the Hero" or "He Who is Sung" or something like that.

An unconscious, severely wounded man is discovered in the forest by Eruruu, the granddaughter of the village healer, Tuskuru. He wears a mask that they cannot remove, and when he finally awakens, he cannot remember anything of his past life. Tuskuru names him Hakuorou, and he remains in the village -- he has nowhere else to go. He eventually becomes the chief of the village, and, due to circumstances beyond his control, embarks on the path to empire.

This one starts off looking like a fairly standard historical romance/fantasy, except the historical period is up for grabs: it's really more fantasy than history, even without the fact that the characters are all kemonomimi (animal ears) -- except for Hakuoro, a phenomenon which is explained later on, when the story starts to take on a definite science-fiction cast. (Hint: this is far in the future, and there's a mad scientist involved.) Then it goes back to fantasy, of a strange, almost mystical sort.

A big part of the appeal is the graphic work. It's nothing out of the ordinary in terms of character design, although very well executed. Hakuoro is exceptionally appealing, even with the mask -- I think it's a combination of his low-key personality and his large, expressive eyes: somehow the animators have managed to instill a great range of feeling into a character who is largely expressionless.

As far as the acting goes, it is, as seems to be the case more often than not, excellent. I'm not familiar with any of the seiyuu for the major characters, but they are pretty much right on target. Special mention to Rikiya Koyama as Hakuoro -- he does as much as anything else to make Hakuoro a real person. This is not to downplay any other contributions -- this one displays a full range of colorful, vivid characters, and the actors are up to it.

It's a two-season TV series -- 26 episodes -- and worth every second. I've been watching it online, but the DVD is on its way to me -- it's definitely a keeper.

Funimation has licensed it in North America. And rather than take up space here listing cast and staff, here's the link the to encyclopedia entry at Anime News Network, which is where I get all that information anyway.

A Further Thought

on Randian "philosophy." I made a point a couple of days ago that I think needs some amending.

Rand's "philosophy," if you want to dignify it by that, is pretty much upside down. Ask yourself why we have societies to begin with. Why is sociality an adaptive trait? I suspect it's not because it allows the strong to keep everything for themselves. In fact, every society I can think of that ever went that route collapsed pretty quickly.

OK -- my bad. I wasn't considering the evidence and just bought into the Randian vocabulary. It's not that these supermen are "strong" -- they're dishonest. Most people are honest, which puts the rest of us at a disadvantage when dealing with them. Like their goddess, they're sociopaths, pretty much. In any sane system, people like Rand Paul would be locked up, not elected to the Senate.

That Sports Thing

I've been noticing a strong trend in major sports figures and organizations against homophobia. It's more apparent in the UK than here -- the pushback seems to be stronger, with rugby clubs being fined for homophobic slurs by their fans, but it's starting to gain momentum here, too.

The Sean Avery episode is pretty instructive. Johnette Howard has a good commentary at ESPN:

It's hard to gauge who did more to advance the cause of legalizing gay marriage in the past week -- New York Rangers forward Sean Avery (the first pro athlete to publicly support New Yorkers for Marriage Equality), or the father-and-son sports agent team of Don and Todd Reynolds, whose swift attacks of Avery's stance caused a remarkable thing to happen. The Reynolds' reactions caused thousands of other people to step forward and out themselves as gay rights supporters, too, in a louder, longer show of support for Avery on Twitter and Facebook, radio and TV, in blogs and newspapers and sports fan message boards than Avery's appearance in a video advertisement for the marriage equality campaign might have generated on its own.

All of which led to a second surprise: Avery's support for gay rights isn't unique in male pro sports at all.

It's an excellent article -- read the whole thing.

And having the kind of mind that makes wide connections, there's another aspect to the whole trend if you back away a bit -- but we're still in the New York marriage context.

As gay rights advocates intensify their campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, the bulk of their money is coming from an unexpected source: a group of conservative financiers and wealthy donors to the Republican Party, most of whom are known for bankrolling right-leaning candidates and causes.

Their behind-the-scenes financial support — about $1 million in donations, delivered in recent weeks to a new coalition of gay rights organizations — could alter the political calculus of Albany lawmakers, especially the Republican state senators in whose hands the fate of gay marriage rests.

Add in the outcry over Paul Clemens taking on the defense of DOMA on behalf of King & Spaulding, and K&S subsequently dropping the case. (Although as it seems now, the reasons that K&S dropped the case had nothing to do with HRC -- it was, at least in part, the strong negative reaction from their own employees. Here's a good summary of the whole thing from Timothy Kincaid.)

The point, I think, is fairly obvious. Look at the trends in public polling over the past few years, and there has been a rapid and significant shift in public opinion about gay civil rights, including marriage, in our favor. The anti-gay Christianists are finding themselves more and more on the margins, which is what's making them so shrill these days. (Except for Peter LaBarbera -- he was always shrill. It's probably the pornography getting him all worked up.) The only ones who don't seem to get it are Republican legislators, at all levels, and the mainstream corporate press.

Bottom line: It's no longer respectable to be anti-gay.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Anyone who has a cat

will know why this is one of my favorite photos ever:

And you actually thought you were in charge.

Thanks to Digby.

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Is Just Sick

I don't think I need to comment at all, except to note that, if you go to the comments at this post (which is where I first found the video), pay particular attention to commenter "timjoebillybob" -- he never seems to have heard the phrase "the common good," and doesn't seem to understand that others are paying taxes for his benefit as well as their own. Big effin infant, all caught up in the idea that his taxes might actually pay for something that benefits someone else, too.

Here's a more complete version of that video -- Bernie Sanders calls it what it is.

See also this take-down of the "conservative" position on Medicare by Maha.

And as a footnote, and an indicator (if you needed another one) of the basic philosophy of the "fiscally responsible" right, here's Gov. Haley Barbour's reaction to the potential devastation in Mississippi from flooding:

As the water rose, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour moved furniture out of his lake house outside Vicksburg on family land that was inundated during the 1927 flood. A week ago, he urged residents to flee low-lying areas, saying that the state wouldn't assist the evacuations and that people should help one another secure their property and get out.

Mm -- that's "fiscally responsible, small-government conservatives." (But he did ask the feds for disaster assistance -- ya don't want government to get too small, now.)


And the Republicans don't like it.

The Republican freshman class in the House is very willing to forget the past and move ahead.

House Republican freshmen admit that their so-called "MediScare" attacks on Democrats helped them win a big majority in 2010. Democrats had voted for the health care law, which included $500 billion in "cuts" to Medicare -- primarily slashing overpayments to private insurers -- and Republican challengers never let them forget it.

Now, they say, it's time to let bygones be bygones.

They don't want anyone to remember that they got into office by sniping at the Democrats for gutting Medicare:

"Let's get past the past. Let's move forward to the future, and say, 'ok, today is today, and we have a real problem,'" Kinzinger said.

The teabaggers in Congress are the problem, if you ask me, so I think the Democrats are, for a change, doing the right thing: using their own tactics against them. After all, it worked for the loonies.

And let's face it, Paul Ryan's "Roadmap to Ruin," which they all voted for, is one hell of an albatross. I don't see why the Democrats should let anyone forget what these assholes are about.

Here's the letter. Talk about a mealy-mouthed piece of CYA.

My advice to the Democrats: hit them harder, and don't let up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Take That, Paul Ryan!

Paul Krugman, as usual, hits it right on the head: a very clear -- and clear-headed -- exposition of what went wrong and who did it.

Well, what I’ve been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite — self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing — is the claim that it’s mostly the public’s fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorate’s foolishness.

So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isn’t just self-serving, it’s dead wrong.

The fact is that what we’re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess weren’t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people — in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.

This group includes what Digby calls "the Villagers." You remember the Villagers -- they're the ones with the torches and pitchforks.

No one ever said they were right. In fact, if you've read the book, you know they weren't -- just ignorant and frightened.

Sounds like a match, to me.

A further thought: It occurs to me that, in spite of what you're hearing from the orthodox Randians, the parasite class doesn't create wealth -- they appropriate it. With the full connivance of our government. And not a single damned one of them could have made it to where they are without the rest of us.

Update: Here's some good background from Jonathan Turley on the Randian takeover of the Republican party, with particular reference to Paul Ryan's atrocity of a "budget proposal." This part struck me:

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.

See what I said above about who actually produces wealth. Rand's "philosophy," if you want to dignify it by that, is pretty much upside down. Ask yourself why we have societies to begin with. Why is sociality an adaptive trait? I suspect it's not because it allows the strong to keep everything for themselves. In fact, every society I can think of that ever went that route collapsed pretty quickly.

Naval Weddings

The Navy has decided to allow same-sex weddings on bases in those states where same-sex marriages are recognized. Tony Perkins, head of the hate group Family Research Council, is shocked! shocked, I tell you. Why, it's nothing more than a task force of Navy SEALs denying his constitutional right to force his religion down everyone else's throats. His, imagery, though, is telling:

If the administration keeps pounding its agenda through the military, we'll need the Navy SEALs to rescue marriage.

He seems to like the idea of Navy SEALs pounding. Or maybe he wants to pound a couple of SEALs.

It is, of course, an "an assault on religious freedom." I don't understand quite how that works -- no one is forcing him to marry a SEAL -- or even a midshipman. No one's forcing him to perform such a marriage, assuming he's otherwise qualified. No one's saying he can't continue to lie about it every time he opens his mouth (although no one's promising not to criticize him for the lies, either).

So where's the assault?

I'd note that he's arguably the biggest liar on the Christianist right, but the field's so crowded at this point that it's hard to differentiate between the bald-faced liars and the seriously deluded. But I suppose he's right to be desperate -- after all, he's losing.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Yuki Shimizu's Ze, Vols, 1-6

I've caught up on Yuki Shimizu's Ze -- volume 6 is out in English, out of eleven volumes total, so there's a lot to look forward to -- and I don't seem to have reviewed it here. That's certainly an oversight.

The basic situation is as follows: Raizou Shichikawa, having lost everything -- his grandmother, his home, even most of his clothes -- lands a position as housekeeper to the somewhat eccentric Mitou family, or at least part of it. This part of the family, composed of Kotoha Mitou, Ouka Mitou, Benio, Konoe and Kon, lives in a mansion that is actually owned by Waki Yoshiwara. It doesn't take long for Raizou to discover the family's secret: Kotoha and Ouka are kotodamishi, sorcerers who use the power of words. Konoe and Benio are their respective kami-sama, dolls given life by Waki, the dollmaker, who heal their masters (kotodamishi has some heavy-duty blowback) and protect them from the worst effects of kotodama. Kon is a kami without a master; Raizou promptly falls in love with him and claims him for his own. (And note that kotodamishi and their kami-sama must be of the same sex, for some reason.)

Volumes 1 and 2 focus on Raizou and Kon, with an added appearance by Asari (who actually appears almost throughout the story line) and Shoui Mitou, his kotodama and the actual head of the family. Volumes 3 and 4 focus on Genma Yashiro, who took his mother's name when his father, Seima Mitou, kicked them out, and Himi, first his father's kami and now his. Volumes 5 and 6 follow the story of Ryuusei Kitamura, a bastard child of the family, and Moriya, who is determined to become Ryuusei's kami -- he does not want to return to hakushi, blank paper -- that is, to die. There are side stories periodically that focus on particular pairs, and each adds another dimension to those characters.

That's one of the chief attractions of this series: as it progresses, the characterizations become more complex, situations become less straightforward, and relationships become more nuanced. And somehow, the drawing, which is very appealing to start with, becomes clearer and stronger.

It's definitely a series to follow, and I can't believe I haven't highlighted it here yet.

It's from 801 Media.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Threats and Intimidation

I'm sure you've all heard about the deep-seated anxiety on the anti-gay right about the potential -- that's "potential" mind you -- threats and intimidation from "militant gay activists" if, for example, they publicly list their donors, or if their "expert" witnesses appear to testify at trial, or if their supporters put campaign signs in their yards. In that light, I found this interesting -- from NYT:

As in past years, the local religious opposition to same-sex marriage will have the support of a Washington-based national political lobby, the National Organization for Marriage, which formed in 2007 to fight same-sex legislation around the country. That organization was behind the April 12 blitz of automated phone calls singling out voters in about a dozen Senate and Assembly districts where legislators have said they are undecided. Brian Brown, the group’s president, said the calls urged voters to tell lawmakers they opposed same-sex marriage.

“We spent over half a million dollars in New York” in 2009, he said, “and we’re ready to spend that and more this time. We are willing to spend a million against any Republican senator who votes for gay marriage.”

Sure sounds like a threat to me. (And that money's from secret donors.) And from an out-of-state organization seeking to interfere in the politics of New York. And Brian Brown, being the well-spoken, civilized person he is, is bragging about it.

Actually, he's starting to sound a little shrill.

The religious leaders in this effort are making arguments -- well, the Times calls them arguments -- that just don't hold water:

They make a two-tiered argument. First, they cite biblical injunctions against homosexuality.

Umm -- have they read the First Amendment? The part about establishment of religion? That objection's completely irrelevant. And to those who say we have to understand their deeply-held convictions, try this: point out to them that those convictions are theirs, not anyone else's, and they don't belong in the civil law. In fact, they're not allowed in the civil law.

Second, they warn that social services, like foster care and adoption, provided by religiously sponsored charities could be endangered by the legalization of same-sex marriage. They point to Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., where Catholic Charities stopped participating in adoption services rather than face a mandate to place children in homes without regard to the sexual orientation of the couple.

Sounds like another threat, to me. And they don't mention, for some reason, that other agencies were very happy to take up the slack -- and the taxpayer funds that went with it. In Illinois, religiously-affiliated adoption agencies are being audited to make sure they're complying with anti-discrimination laws, and they're not happy about it. Why do you suppose they think that they shouldn't have to obey the law just like the rest of us? Now, it would be perfectly allowable if Catholic Charities wanted to support adoption services that discriminate on the basis of Catholic doctrine -- with their own money. But not with mine. Another bit from the article on that score:

But State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has co-sponsored the same-sex marriage bill in past years, said civil liability for violating discrimination laws was already a fact of life.

And this, from Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin:

And to the Catholic Church in Illinois, I say:

I support you.

I totally agree that if Catholic girls wish to give their children up for adoption and want them to go to Catholic families and be raised in the Catholic faith, then Catholic organizations should be able to facilitate such adoptions. With Catholic dollars.

Read Kincaid's post. It's a good one. (Sounds like something I'd write.)

I find it highly instructive of the nature of modern Christianity -- and Judaism, or at least segments of both groups -- that they are so insistent on maintaining their ability to preach marginalization and exclusion against those they disapprove of -- and to insist that the rest of us allow their biases to form the basis of our law. And pay for it.

And here's the howler of the day:

The Rev. William Gillison, vice chairman of the Empire Missionary Baptist Convention, which represents several hundred Baptist churches around the state, said he had preached against legalizing same-sex marriage many times at his church in Buffalo, and would again. “This is a case where the state has entered an area that rightfully belongs to the church, not the other way around,” he said. (Emphasis added)

Um, no. Marriage has always been a civil contract. That's why we call it "civil marriage." It doesn't belong to the church and never has.

I find the assumption on the part of these people that the laws of the land that apply to everyone must conform with their limited and authoritarian world view to be fairly repellent. It's time the rest of us pointed out that their authority is limited to those who choose to permit it. I'm not one of them.

Friday, May 06, 2011

It Just Occurred To Me

That I enjoy reading articles about what's going on in state legislatures and city councils and such, as opposed to Congress. As to why -- maybe it has to do with the fact that at the state and local level, progressives and Democrats (not always the same thing) are fighting back. In Congress, Democrats are part of what we're having to fight against.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

You Call This Living?

Melissa McEwen has a strong post at Shakesville that starts this way:

I am listening to the House debate on HR3, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Eprehensible) just said, "We are a culture that values life."


Here's Amanda Marcotte with a slightly more level discussion, and a further commentary on the real purposes of the bill. She also points out some of the ramifications (although some of them are a bit of a stretch, I think -- but with the Republicans in control of Washington, you never can tell.)

HR 3, in case you haven't been following, is the latest Republican attempt to do away with a woman's right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. It's billed as the "No Taxpayer Money for Abortion" bill. Well, I'm a taxpayer, and I have no problem with my tax money being used to support the decision of those women who decide on abortion. (The bill, as might be expected, passed overwhelmingly in the House, because the Republicans have an overwhelming majority in the House.)

But McEwen only hits part of the problem -- although it's a big part.

This is also the party that is mainstreaming the destruction of the middle class, that wants to yank insurance coverage from 45 million people by repealing the Affordable Care Act (and how many deaths will result from that?), that wants to bomb anyone anywhere who doesn't do exactly what we tell them, that wants to revoke the right of some citizens to form secure families, and that otherwise doesn't give a shit about peoples lives.

So on the face of it, I'd say Cantor's a liar.

Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Update on Sen. Frothy Mix

Timothy Kincaid has this great post at BTB on Sen. Frothy's confusion about rights and privileges (which we noted yesterday), with a stunning quote:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the PRIVILEGES or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [emphasis added]

And for former Senator Teabagger Wannabe, just in case he was wondering -- that's from the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Today's Must-Read

This article, about two dads with twelve kids.

And then send a letter to this asshole.

You'll probably want to wash your hands after writing his name.

Timothy Kincaid on Bob Barr

Timothy Kincaid has an excellent post up at BTB on Bob Barr, whom you may remember as the author of DOMA. You may also know that Barr has changed his mind -- not out of any newfound love for gay people, but as a matter of principle.

But the bombing of the World Trade center in 2001, coupled with the federal government’s crack down on civil freedoms, woke Barr up. His libertarianism ceased to be (as it is for many Republicans) a platitude around which exceptions are the norm and he began to question whether many of the positions he had one time championed were not actually in direct violation to the principles which he espoused.

It's a good analysis -- read it.

Although Kincaid thinks that Barr's new stance may serve to reposition the discourse, at least in legitimately conservative circles, I'm not so sanguine. It's certainly going to have no effect on the professional homophobes, who already see their cash cow drying up, but as we learned from the experience of GOProud and CPAC, establishment wingnuts are not going to sit still for any accommodation with gays: Barr's appeal is to principle, and these are not principled people.

As for the base, they're largely operating on lizard brain, and to demand that they actually consider the ramifications of the Constitution they claim to worship, especially when it applies to people they disapprove of, is going to overtax their resources, I'm pretty sure.

I don't mean to sound morbid, but the idea that American political discourse is driven by reason or principle these days is clearly wishful thinking. If Barr can be enlisted to lobby his former colleagues in Congress, that would be wonderful -- he has the contacts and the knowledge to be very effective (assuming the teabaggers will listen to an ex-Republican, because in spite of their rhetoric, they're no more libertarian than I am -- in fact, I'd say demonstrably less).

But Barr's speech, which Kincaid links to, and Kincaid's post do serve the very useful purpose of moving the gay rights debate up a level, for those who are inclined to listen, an may provide an additional resource for those willing and able to use it. And I think this comment by Kincaid puts the whole thing in the proper perspective:

Marriage is a contract, a social, emotional, and financial agreement based on terms, conditions, and promises. These vows we may pledge, be it in front of an alter (sic) with family, friends and God as witness, or privately and quietly.

We can marry; that isn’t really our issue. Our issue is whether the state will recognize and enforce this contract.

And we have the right to demand that it do so. And opponents who argue that we can have wills, and powers of attorney, and ‘designated funeral-planning agent’ forms to provide “many of the same benefits” should be made to explain why it is that the state may enforce those contracts, but not the one we have already made.

It's not that we have to prove that we deserve the same rights as every other citizen; the government has to prove that we do not, and so far, it can't.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Mission Finally Accomplished

Osama bin Laden is dead, killed in a raid by U.S. military forces in Pakistan.

Interestingly enough, most of the headlines are just screaming "Bin Laden is Dead!" -- but not NYT. Read their headline:

Bin Laden is Dead, Obama Says 

Why does that strike me as weird?  Maybe even a little snide.  At any rate, read the article -- it's fairly thorough.  Joe Sudbay has an equally cogent article at AmericaBlog.

I just want to point out that it took a Democratic administration to do it, because Democrats are focused on results -- at least, when they're being Democrats.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I Know, Part II

I haven't done a Review in Brief for a couple of weeks, mostly because I've written almost nothing in a couple of weeks. I do have some new things coming in, though, and a couple of anime that are really good, so maybe I'll be able to get something up here next weekend.

Wish me luck.

Yeah, I Know

I've been slacking off again. I'm tired,and it's really becoming spring, so I have no attention span whatsoever, and the news is not new.

I do have some thoughts on the King & Spaulding/DOMA mess, but I think there are a couple of posts that summarize my thoughts pretty effectively, without me having to do the work of actually thinking about it. Try this one from David Link at Independent Gay Forum. I don't often agree with Link, but in this case I think he's hit it right on the nose. Link's post is a response to this bit of handwringing from Jonathan Rauch, which typifies the response of the "acceptable" left and the Very Serious People in the corporate media.

This post from Scott Wooledge at The New Civil Rights Movement takes, I think, exactly the right tone: unmitigated snark.

My own reaction to most of the tut-tutting has been to the effect that no matter what small victories we achieve, we can count on finding those both inside and outside the community who will take it as an opportunity to proclaim once again what bullies we are (always prefaced, in this case, with "I personally believe DOMA is abhorrent. But. . . .")

It's also gratifying to learn that most of my surmises in this post turned out to be pretty accurate.

The real lesson from all of this, which is the one the right doesn't want you to hear, is that anti-gay bigotry is bad for business.