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

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

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

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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Some DADT Odds and Ends

First, from the rapidly fading Ann Coulter, this, via Joe.My.God (with my reactions in bold):

"Only eight Republicans in the entire U.S. Senate supported eliminating Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (There are a lot more than Republicans in the Senate; in fact, the majority are Democrats.) It's safe to assume that no one on the stage supported this sexualization of the military, except maybe one of the nut candidates polling at 3 percent. (Ann's diving into the "if it's gay, it must be about sex" mantra; there are and have been gays serving all along, and somehow no one's having sex in the trenches. Fail on this one. Double fail on this one: no one on that stage wanted to be torn limb from limb.) This is not an anti-gay position; it's a pro-military position. (No, it's an anti-gay position. Coulter has as much experience with military life as Elaine Donnelley.) The basic idea is that sexual bonds are disruptive to the military bond. Soldiers, sailors and Marines living in close quarters who are having sex with one another, used to have sex with one another or would like to have sex with one another simply cannot function as a well-oiled fighting machine. (It's all about sex, Part II.) A battalion of married couples facing a small unit of heterosexual men would be slaughtered." (See The Sacred Band of Thebes).

Either she's an idiot or a liar. I'm voting for liar.

And sure enough, here comes Chris Barron. This is laughable. (Also via JMG):

Ann's position on this clear, and so is GOProud's. We respectfully disagree. We aren't the pod people here at GOProud. Unlike the left and their RINO enablers we don't believe that every person who opposes DADT repeal is anti-gay. Indeed Ann has done more for gay people -- courageously speaking out at CPAC, for example -- then most of the gay organizations here in D.C.

I might point out that aside from repeal of DADT, GOProud's positions are consistently anti-gay. So I guess they don't disagree all that much. And I seem to remember that her "courageously speaking out at CAPC" was pretty insulting to gays.

And a clear lose on establishing an enduring precedent for DADT's unconstitutionality: the 9th Circuit not only dismissed LCR's appeal, but vacated the District Court's ruling in toto. From Lambda Legal:

"We are deeply disappointed that the Ninth Circuit chose to erase the factual findings and legal conclusions reached after years of litigation and a lengthy trial that thousands upon thousands of lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members' constitutional rights were violated for 18 years by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" Davidson said. "The end of antigay discrimination by the military was required by the Constitution, not just by political considerations."

"It is wrong to require the more than 14,000 service members who were unconstitutionally discharged to start from square one in obtaining the military benefits they lost, getting their military records corrected, and fighting government efforts to collect educational loans they were prevented from working off, among other harms," he added. "The work to end the damage done by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is far from done and we call on the administration to provide justice to those our country has wronged."


Here's more on that from Aravosis again.

On the other side of the coin, there's this:

After months of legal review, the Department of Defense announced Friday that military chaplains may officiate in same-sex wedding ceremonies of service members in states where gay marriage is legal. Such ceremonies can be performed on military bases, officials wrote in a Friday memorandum.

In connection with repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford L. Stanley wrote in the DoD memo:

"A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation, provided that the ceremony is not prohibited by applicable state and local law. Further, a chaplain is not required to participate in or officiate a private ceremony if doing so would be in variance with the tenets of his or her religion or personal beliefs. Finally, a military chaplain’s participation does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by DoD."(A PDF of the memo is available here.)


John Aravosis seems to have the rationale nailed down.

I'm waiting for Ann Coulter's head to explode. Chris Barron's, too.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Out In the Open

It seems there's been a spate of public honesty lately, usually from people who probably shouldn't have opened their mouths. The latest example to cross my radar is one Alessio Rastani, a stock trader who tells all. From David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

But of course, the greatest honesty in his rant is not about his love of profit from economic calamity, but rather his frank admission that the financial industry owns the world's governments lock, stock and barrel. Some would call that arrogance. I would call it a frank assessment of reality. Senator Durbin has already admitted as much for the American government; the only surprise is in hearing such candor from one of the Wall St. players on the inside.


So you see, it's not that I'm paranoid. It's just that I can connect the dots.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Amendment? What First Amendment?

I guess you don't need to pay any attention to the Constitution if everyone agrees.

"Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders," Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said. "It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people."

Rowland said the idea was simple: get people who are not yet hardened criminals to become involved in positive programs — hundreds of free resources offered by some 104 churches in the region with 56 agreeing to help monitor first-time, nonviolent offenders. Under the program, pastors would report weekly to the chief and offenders in the program would bring a signed sheet to prove they attended church.

They would also have to answer some questions about the services, Rowland said. And the offenders who voluntarily choose church over jail get to pick the churches they attend. If they complete a year’s attendance, Rowland said, their criminal case would be dismissed.


There's a little problem here -- it's called the First Amendment, specifically the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise clause. They're apparently holding out "community service" as a non-church option -- but all the community service programs seem to be administered by churches. I don't think even Antonin Scalia's going to buy this one.

Banned Book Week

We're right in the middle of it, more or less, and I was thinking that I should make a comment or two, and then I ran across this post by Batocchio at Vagabond Scholar. He pretty much says everything I was going to say, and probably much more politely. Read it. It's long, but read it.

One thing to notice, and that's the frequency with which "age appropriateness" comes up as a reason for objecting to books. Batocchio addresses that issue quite nicely (from last year's post on the subject):

I'm not dismissive of parental anxieties, but as with questions brought up by students in class, normally they can be addressed. Racial slurs in Huck Finn, The Elephant Man and Invisible Man can and are discussed in the classroom, and that's usually a better, safer place to do so. The reality is that parental discomfort generally emerges when a parent doesn't want to discuss something with their kid. Age and maturity are legitimate issues, of course, but teenagers are often more mature or informed than their parents admit. It's that same maturity, not the lack of it, that can further unnerve an anxious parent. Navigating all this is an important part of growing up for students, and a crucial part of good parenting for the parents. Challenging a book is often just a proxy for deeper issues...

Kids are able to handle a lot more than parents want to admit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Grandparents

Fascinating article from National Geographic on the recent discoveries on our Neanderthal genetic heritage.

This is part of a discussion at Nick's Place sparked by the news that the Australian Aborigines were the first modern humans to migrate out of Africa, which I commented on a couple of days ago.

Two things that strike me about this whole thing: people were amazingly mobile throughout prehistory, and all the bullshit about "racial purity" is just that -- bullshit.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rainy Sunday

I'm about to head out the door (I have editing to do today, and somehow it goes better out at the coffee shop), but I was just browsing around waiting for the rain to stop (or at least lighten up) and ran across this old post on "Top Ten Most Memorable Anime Characters" from Jan Suzukawa at Neo-Shonen Fujoshi. I particularly like her comments about Naoe Nobutsuna from Mirage of Blaze, which was also one of my early favorites -- very sensitive and solid description of his character.



I may do something like that myself one of these days -- maybe on another rainy Sunday.

Reviews in Brief: Masara Minase's Der bittere Kuss der Lüge


Now that I've finished volume 8 of When a Man Loves a Man (and if volume 9 ever comes down to a reasonable price, I'll go back and finish the series), I've gone on to a BL manga by an artist new to me, Masara Minase. If Der bittere Kuss der Lüge is any example of her work, I'll really be looking forward to the next one on the stack, a two-volume series.

Tatsuya Soga is trying to find a long-lost half-brother, and his investigation is about to bear fruit. While out one night at one of his favored establishments, his eye is caught by a young waiter who also plays the piano, and quite beautifully. It brings back memories of his little brother, Haruka, and his toy piano. Tatsuya strikes up a conversation with the young man, Haru Igarashi, and eventually takes him home. After some initial misgivings, Haru realizes that he's in love with Tatsuya, who is more than willing to return the favor: Tatsuya is smitten. Enough that he insists that Haru move into his apartment.

And then he discovers that Haru is the long-lost Haruka.

This is another "brothers who fall in love" story, similar to Yugi Yamada's Open the Door to Your Heart, this time through a agency of a somewhat fickle mother: while Tatsuya was the product of his father's first marriage, he's convinced that Haru is his half-brother by his father's second wife.

The story is knotty enough, and carries enough tension, to keep the reader engaged. Tatsuya's reaction to finding out who Haru really is, and the involvement of another of Haru's "altere Brüder" only serve to complicate an already complicated situation. (Did I mention that Haru is underage?) Minase's drawing is appealing, somewhat reminiscent of Kae Maruya (who also seems to be quite popular in Germany) -- clear and open, and subtly expressive. Layouts are fluid enough to be interesting.

The German seems somewhat simpler than WaMLaM, or else I've improved more than I thought. I'm not quite done with the actual translation/adaptation, but I cheated -- I read ahead to the happy ending.

This one's from Carlsen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

History Lesson

Via my Web pal Nikolaos, this article about human migration:

DNA from the hair demonstrates that indigenous Aboriginal Australians were the first to separate from other modern humans, around 70,000 years ago.

This challenges current theories of a single phase of dispersal from Africa.

An international team of researchers published their findings in the journal Science.

While the Aboriginal populations were trailblazing across Asia and into Australia, the remaining humans stayed around North Africa and the Middle East until 24,000 years ago.

Only then did they spread out and colonise Europe and Asia, but the indigenous Aborigines had been established in Australia for 25,000 years.


This sort of thing fascinates me -- it's one of those areas where evidence from all sorts of disciplines comes together -- genetics, archaeology, linguistics, you name it. Here's another article, from NYT, with slightly more detail.

Australian, the language, seems to be pretty much unique. According to Merritt Ruhlen in The Origin of Language, it's distantly related to Indo-Pacific (New Guinea), and very distantly related to other languages in the Austro-Pacific family -- Malaysian, Indonesian, and the various Pacific Island languages. And I mean distantly -- the Aboriginal peoples of Australia were pretty much isolated for several thousand years. In terms of language, that's a hell of a long time. (Think about how much English has changed in just a few hundred -- remember having to read Chaucer and Malory?)

Ah -- I've been away from this too long. I really need to catch up -- if I can ever get ahead of my review backlog, and decide whether I'm going to learn Japanese, and at least get started on a couple of other projects.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm sure you've all heard. . . . (Updated)

about the teabaggers booing a gay soldier (or a YouTube of a gay soldier) at the last Republican "presidential" debate. Greg Sargent has what seems to me to be the best summary of what actually happened, and what the real outrage was.

Putting aside the question of whether the “audience” really booed Stephen Hill at last night’s debate — that’s an overstatement by any measure — the simple fact is that when Hill, who is serving in Iraq, was pelted with scattered boos, none of the GOP candidates rose to his defense. . . .

Multiple news stories today are claiming that the GOP candidates didn’t object to the booing of a “gay soldier.” That is an accurate description of what happened. An even more accurate description of what happened is to say that the GOP candidates didn’t object to the booing of a soldier.


This is your "God and Country" party, the "real" Americans who are taking back their country from -- well, all the other Americans.

And here's the one who wound up fielding the question. Former Senator Frothy Mix is perfectly incoherent.


Does this man honestly think he has a shot at the presidency?

Update:

Here's an update from Joe Jervis, in which Santorum claims not to have heard the boos. It just makes his comments on DADT even more incoherent and senseless -- after all, here's a gay soldier who is serving without causing the collapse of Western civilization, and Santorum just doesn't get it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

R.I.P. DADT (Update, Update II)

It's gone. Here's a good summary of the whole thing from Jim Burroway at BTB.

Here's the official statement from the Army.

One thing that Burroway touches on is the FRC's latest scare/fundraising letter. Laurel Ramseyer at Pam's House Blend goes into more detail, but I think she misread it a little bit. Perkins is just claiming to be a powerful voice for religious liberty, which is bullshit -- he doesn't care about religious liberty, at least, not for anyone but himself. I think he's counting on President Perry reinstating an anti-gay policy and is making a pre-emptive strike for credit.

Timothy Beauchamp at AmericaBlog Gay has a well-considered cautionary post.

TIME TO CELEBRATE! Then, we need to prepare for battle with the knowledge our enemies never rest, and will be furiously trying to regain the upper hand. We can not allow that to happen. We must continue marching forward until we achieve FULL EQUALITY in every aspect of American life.

He's right in large measure. Repeal of DADT itself is vulnerable -- the law itself mandates no antidiscrimination policies -- anything along those lines is a matter of regulations -- and we are already seeing discrimination because of DOMA. There have been calls for president Obama to issue an executive order mandating non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation which is not going to happen, and even if he does issue such an order, the next president can rescind it with the stroke of a pen. It has to be a matter of law or a constitutional mandate from the courts.

(On the regulations front, here's a list of deletions and changes to regs from the Marines. It's quite lengthy.)

I may come back to this as I run across more articles and commentary, but this will do to start.

Update: Here's a nice story on one of the effects of repeal:

When Navy Lt. Gary Ross and his partner were searching for a place to get married, they settled on a site in Vermont, in part because the state is in the Eastern time zone.

That way, the two men were able to recite their vows before family and friends at the first possible moment after the formal repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Just after midnight Tuesday, the partners of 11 years were married.

"I think it was a beautiful ceremony. The emotions really hit me...but it's finally official," Ross said early Tuesday.


Update II:

I hesitated about including this, but it's worth watching. It's a little long, but you won't notice.


I got all sniffly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Quote of the Day

I remember feeling like this during my Party Boy years:

You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.

— Dean Martin

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Heads Up

for anime and manga fans. I've been spending some time over at one of Jan Suzukawa's blogs, Neo-Shonen Fujoshi, and have to thank Jan for being a great source for what's coming up. If you don't know it, check it out.

Of course, the downside is that my list of anime to catch up on is now officially out of control.

Fear

From an interview with Brad Pitt, this is the part that struck me:

What are you so afraid of? That’s my question. Gay people getting married? What is so scary about that? It’s complicated. You grow up in a religion like that and you try to pray the gay away. I feel sadness for people like that. This is where people start short-circuiting—instead of being brave and questioning their beliefs, they are afraid and feel that they have to defend them.

That's it, the key question: What are you afraid of? Because you're afraid, that much is obvious.

Time to Lighten Up

This is totally silly. I love it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

For Those of You Who Were Worried

about all the straight kids being bullied to death by gays, here's a complete list.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Newspeak

This is staggering. I honestly don't recall any time I've seen reality turned so completely on its head. As quoted by David at Crooks & Liars:

"I've met with the opposition," Folwell said during a House Rules Committee debate. "And like in every bill that I've ever worked on, when I meet with with the opposition, I learn something. Recently I met with the professor over at -- [Dr. Maxine Eichner] from UNC Chapel Hill -- and I asked this question... Is it possible that if we don't bring certainty to this issue in North Carolina -- give people an opportunity to vote on it -- is it possible that people that she advocates for can actually lose rights?"

"What we just learned after I asked that question, today or last week the University of Rochester, a private institution in New York that previously gave health care rights to same sex couples, are now rescinding those rights by saying that if you want to receive health care benefits then you have to get married. So, that's a right that was taken away from a private institution because of laws being uncertain."


"Certainty"?! I mean, leave aside the fact that he's using an example from another state in which same-sex marriage is legal to bolster a constitutional amendment banning it, but "certainty"? Y'know, same-sex marriage is the law in New York and the NOMbots have a snowball's chance in hell of reversing that. And if the good, God-fearing rednecks of North Carolina manage to prevail at the polls on this one, there's every chance it would be overturned in federal court, if anyone ever gets around to filing a lawsuit. How that for "certainty"?

And just to be sure there's no evidence of political motivation, they've moved the bill up from the November general election, in which you can assume many voters of both parties will dutifully traipse to the polls, to the May primary -- except there is no Democratic primary in North Carolina next year, so guess who's going to be voting?

"Shame" is a term that vanished from the conservative lexicon quite a while ago, apparently.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Toko Kawai's Café Latte Rhapsody


Café Latte Rhapsody, created by Toko Kawai, is a charming bit of fluff that I ran across in my Amazon Recommendations. The reviews made it sound appealing, and I found it in the Marketplace for next to nothing.

Hajime Serizawa is short, freckled, and works in a bookstore. He notices Keito Tsudo McCloud, who is very tall and looks pretty scary -- at first. Seri-kun soon realizes, however, that Keito is shy, awkward, and sweet, as well as being more than a little exotic: aside from being phenomenally tall, he has hazel eyes and dark auburn hair. It turns out he is part Japanese, part French-Canadian, part French, and part Chinese. Serizawa is strongly attracted, but it's Keito who confesses first.

There's not a lot of tension in this story, which for some reason didn't really bother me that much, even though I tend to prefer stories with a lot of undercurrents. The conflicts are minor, and largely centered on the respective insecurities of the two young men: Serizawa doesn't think he's very attractive, and Keito has trouble communicating -- Japanese is not his first language. The characters have a bit more depth than one might expect, and Kawai has been somewhat circumspect in revealing them -- there's enough subtlety in the writing that the reader does have something to do.

The drawing has a lot of charm, and I didn't even mind the many chibi frames, perhaps because they're not limited to broad comedic reactions, but also include moments of what I can only describe as "quiet comfort" -- those moments when the boys are just being happy together.

All in all, it's a feel-good story, very good for an hour or so when you don't want to tax your brain but want something light to fill the time.

From Juné.

9/11

I'm not going to make any grand pronouncements. Observe it as you see fit. but also think about this image. (Via Towleroad)


And read Joe Jervis' 9/11 post. And Jim Burroway has some biography/history on some of the gay men who, one way or another, found themselves in the middle.

I Have to Comment on This

This blog post has been noticed in a number of gay blogs, with pretty negative comments, so I checked it out. The blogger,, Stacy Transacos, is a Catholic convert and stay-at-home mother in Massachusetts, and the whole post is pretty pathetic. After a couple of paragraphs describing the horror of same-sex couples at the park and the public pool, some with children, behaving just like normal people, she comes up with this:

We are responsible citizens. We live by the rules, we pay our taxes, we take care of our things. I'm supposed to be able to influence what goes on in my community, and as a voter I do exercise that right. But I'm outnumbered. I can't even go to normal places without having to sit silently and tolerate immorality.

Point 1: they are also responsible citizens, by all visible evidence just like you -- except not as self-centered. Point 2: we all have to tolerate things we don't like in this world. It's part of being an American -- you know, recognizing that not everyone is just like us and they have the same rights to express themselves that we do.

I had sort of passed over this a few times then decided to read the actual post to see if she is really has narrow as the quotes made her look. She's worse. Her children, who are ostensibly the root of her discomfort with gay couples being gay couples in public, are quite obviously merely an excuse.

I also held my breath in anticipation of awkward questions - questions I'm not ready to answer. My young daughters are all under the age of eight and they are not old enough to understand why a baby would have two women calling themselves "mommies".


How about answering the questions honestly? As in, "Sometimes two men or two women fall in love and want to have a family, just like a man and a woman."? How's that for starters? And from all available evidence, children are able to deal with this sort of thing just fine. It's their parents, particularly conservative, strongly judgmental parents, that have problems.

And then we get to the misrepresentations.

Our taxes are being used to fund contraception, abortion and IVF already. That offends me in ways that are inexpressible. I read last December in the Wall Street Journal how two men near us are raising two assembled daughters after announcing to the world how they killed two other siblings in surrogate mothers in India.


If you actually read the article she links to, it's quite obvious the men made a difficult decision in the best way they could, and really had to fight for some distance on it. It's an article about offshore surrogacy, and she skipped all the parts about straight couples.

You can read the whole rant if you want to. Her word, not mine -- I consider it more of a tantrum. I did think about reading some of her other posts to see if she's really as childish and self-centered as this one makes her seem, but after working through the whole thing, I didn't have the stomach for it.

The comments are instructive. I did read some of them, and her responses to those who disagree with her, however politely, are what you might expect.

The post is titled "Can't Even Go To The Park." Of course she can. I recommend, though, that she do so with adult supervision.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It Does Get Better

This video pays for all:


To echo the comment I made at Box Turtle Bulletin, where I discovered it, it should be required viewing for those who can't seem to do anything but bitch at Dan Savage for not waving some sort of magic wand and making it perfect right now.

Spent (Update; Update II)

It's been a hell of a week, hence no posting. Maybe this weekend.

The president gave a speech. He's good at that. I haven't had the energy to go through the whole text -- I missed the speech itself, being in transit while he was talking -- but from what I've seen of excerpts, he's getting ready to continue the assault on Social Security, screw up Medicare and Medicaid, and in general -- well, given his record so far, I'm not expecting much. The "details" are to come out next week -- probably Friday night about six o'clock.

I'm going to the Zoo.

Update: Krugman likes it. Sort of. With some of my same reservations.

It calls for about $200 billion in new spending — much of it on things we need in any case, like school repair, transportation networks, and avoiding teacher layoffs — and $240 billion in tax cuts. That may sound like a lot, but it actually isn’t. The lingering effects of the housing bust and the overhang of household debt from the bubble years are creating a roughly $1 trillion per year hole in the U.S. economy, and this plan — which wouldn’t deliver all its benefits in the first year — would fill only part of that hole. And it’s unclear, in particular, how effective the tax cuts would be at boosting spending.

Still, the plan would be a lot better than nothing, and some of its measures, which are specifically aimed at providing incentives for hiring, might produce relatively a large employment bang for the buck. As I said, it’s much bolder and better than I expected. President Obama’s hair may not be on fire, but it’s definitely smoking; clearly and gratifyingly, he does grasp how desperate the jobs situation is.

But his plan isn’t likely to become law, thanks to Republican opposition. And it’s worth noting just how much that opposition has hardened over time, even as the plight of the unemployed has worsened.


I don't think Obama is going to be twisting arms on this -- he doesn't have the stomach for it, from all indications.

And, cynic that I am, I don't think this is motivated by the "plight of the unemployed." I think it's motivated by the 2012 election.

Update II:

Here's the White House's fact sheet on the plan. Pity none of it will get through Congress.

Here's Barney Frank on the prospects:

Monday, September 05, 2011

This post by Jonathan Turley seems to have been the catalyst this morning, but I'm going to start with this quote that I mined from Digby:

Those who own the country ought to govern it. --- John Jay

She's commenting on that horrific rant by Matthew Varnum that I discussed here, and finishes up with this observation:

The question is just who the "owners" are today and I would suggest that an awful lot of these Tea Partiers would be quite surprised to learn they aren't actually among them.

The tie-in, of course, is the teabaggers, who were manipulated into crashing town halls a couple of years ago to make their displeasure with our government known. The fact that most of their concerns were based on fantasies promulgated by Fox News is really beside the point: they had access and they used it. Now the shoe's on the other foot, and the reaction is interesting to say the least. From Turley:

As Washington has grown less responsive to what voters tell them and operate in the favor of monied special interests more openly than ever, the voting public has taken notice. An Associated Press-GFK poll recently showed that 87% (you read that right, eighty-seven percent) of Americans disapprove of lawmakers’ job performance. In a democracy, the voters who no longer feel like they have a say in the political process have started to take their justifiable anger and frustration out on politicians whenever given the access to do so. Faced with vocal and public oppositions to policies unpopular with the public, some politicians have adopted a new tactic: ignoring the public and canceling Town Hall events while attempting to place the blame for their choice on the public for daring to criticize politicians or voice their displeasure at Town Hall meetings. When dealing with angry and frustrated people, let alone voters, is ignoring them a wise strategy? Or is it a recipe for even greater public anger and frustration at a system most already perceive as non-responsive?

This is just the latest facet of what's really been an ongoing process. Remember a couple of years ago when DADT repeal was first being seriously considered? Polling showed consistently that 70-80% of the public favored repeal. And the Obama administration dragged its heels, seemingly willing to put it off forever, until GetEqual embarrassed the hell out of them and Congress decided to take action on its own. The special interest here, of course, was the conservative military brass -- not the Secretary of Defense or the Joint Chiefs, who obviously had their marching orders, but the second tier of senior officers, who are among the most conservative elements in American society.

So now we see the administration trying to short-circuit investigations into mortgage fraud by the big banks, Congress and the president focusing on deficit reduction -- including tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy -- when what we need is jobs (and both, apparently, trying their hardest to blow the economy to smithereens), backing off tighter standards for ozone emissions, on the verge of granting approval for an oil pipeline that gives every indication, given the record of the oil companies on safety and maintenance, of being an environmental disaster, and on down the line.

And Congress doesn't want to hear from us. (I notice that my junior senator, Republican Mark Kirk, has stopped sending me e-mail surveys -- I guess his staff got tired of my standard response: "Where are the jobs?")

So, really, the next time you contact your Congressional delegation (if you're allowed to), ask them who they're really representing.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Another Fact-Free Rant from Ann Coulter

I'm really convinced that Coulter has devolved into a stand-up routine looking for an audience. She published this little fantasy about evolution and I have to say, she's off her game: it's just lies and misrepresentations and flat assertions piled on one top of the other willy-nilly, and it's not even funny. I mean, you used to be able to count on her to be funny, albeit repellent.

I wonder if she really is that stunningly ignorant, or if it's just a measure of equally stunning cynicism. Or maybe it's just that the boys at GOProud have left her for Michele Bachmann, and she needs more attention.

About the only thing I have to say is that the existence of Ann Coulter disproves Intelligent Design.

Reviews in Brief

I know -- there haven't been any. Partly it's a matter of burn-out, and partly a matter of no new material. I may pop in some retrospectives views, but right now I'm taking some time off.

"Un-American"

I debated on whether to comment on this comment by one Matthew Vadum, writing for a journal somewhat laughably titled American Thinker, but it's so egregious that I can't not do it. If you want to read the whole article, Joe.My.God links to it at the post I'm linking to. Take my word for it -- it's a few hundred words of conspiracy thinking, and not something you want to read on an empty stomach -- or a full stomach, for that matter. (The comments are even worse.) The key quote, and Vadum's real agenda, are right here:

Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote. Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn't about helping the poor. It's about helping the poor to help themselves to others' money. It's about raw so-called social justice. It's about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers.

First, a little bit of conflation going on -- notice how "the poor" somehow become "welfare recipients." Frankly, a lot of us are working and we're still poor. This is the sort of rhetorical sleight of hand one expects from the radical right, but I thought I'd make note of it.

And now "the poor" are the "nonproductive elements of society." As I pointed out, a sizable proportion of the poor are working, so am I supposed to think that I'm going to work for nothing -- that none of us contribute anything? I suggest that the real nonproductive elements of society are the parasite class -- those bankers, brokers, corporate CEOs who don't actually create wealth, but merely appropriate it the wealth created by others. But then, those are the ones who are paying people like Vadum to be their mouthpieces, so you're not going to hear about that from him.

The really good part is the idea that registering people to vote is "un-American." I looked at the Constitution to see what it says about voting rights, and it's quite instructive. Article I, Section 2 says that the Representatives of each state in Congress are to be "chosen every second year by the People of the several States." Amendment XV states that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Vadum's already in hot water here. Amendment XVII provides for the direct election of senators, "elected by the people." Amendment XIX states: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." Amendment XXIV notes that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote . . . shall not be denied or abridged . . . by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax." Amendment XXVI sets the legal voting age at eighteen and forbids any denial or abridgement of the right to vote because of age.

So it seems to me that Vadum has a little bit of a problem here in stating that registering poor people to vote is un-American. I think, rather, that the shoe's on the other foot. Of course, he does call on the Founding Fathers, who are so conveniently dead so we have no way of finding out what they really think of his ideas -- although why we should care all that much is beyond me: They lived two hundred years ago and were all the best American had to offer in terms of landed aristocracy. But then, that seems to be what Vadum is aiming for: just return control of the country to our betters and let them take care of things.

We can see how that's working out.

Update: Here's a comment from Andy Towle, with a video.

Uodate II: Read this article by Ari Berman at Rolling Stone on the Republican attack on voting rights. It's not just Vadum -- he's just a tool.

Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." But since the 2010 election, thanks to a conservative advocacy group founded by Weyrich, the GOP's effort to disrupt voting rights has been more widespread and effective than ever. In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Procreation, Yet Again

Rob Tisinai has a post at BTB on this post by Robert John Araujo, SJ, attacking Lawrence Tribe on the Constitutional inevitability of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Aside from the somewhat bizarre assertion that "natural law" is the basis of America's founding documents, which, frankly, I find more than a little suspect,* the core of Araujo's argument turns out to be nothing more than "procreation," advanced in this "scientific argument":

Let us assume that two planets which have not yet been inhabited by humans are to be colonized by them; on Planet Alpha, heterosexual couples only are assigned; on Planet Beta, only homosexual couples. In one hundred years, will both islands be populated assuming that reproductive technologies are not available to either group? I suggest that Planet Alpha will be; but Planet Beta will not. Why? The basic answer is to be found in the biological complementarity of the heterosexual couple necessary for procreation that is absent in same-sex couple. This is a scientific argument, but perhaps it is, in Tribe’s estimation, counterfeit.


Araujo's argument doesn't even make it to "counterfeit," and it's certainly not scientific -- it's a fantasy that has no bearing on the question of the validity of same-sex marriage. First, let's get one thing clear: gays are not sterile, and there are plenty of them who have fathered or borne children. (And yes, I am including lesbians in this mix, although I'm not convinced that Araujo has considered that.) There are even cases of lesbian couples who have asked gay male friends to be sperm donors. (And lest there be objections on the "reproductive technologies" front, I'm including the original, hot-and-sweaty form of donating sperm.)

Second, Araujo's discussion is, I think, very revealing of the kind of sleight of hand so often used in the procreation argument: what is the key role of parents in regard to children -- creating them or rearing them? You'll note that the two are always conflated in the anti-SSM arguments, but they're not the same thing at all. After all, you don't need a license to make babies -- just ask anyone in Texas who has been through the "abstinence only" sex education course. I suggest that the essential component of marriage in regard to children is to provide a stable, safe home environment where they can be nurtured and brought up as secure, self-confident and self-reliant adults, and that, based on actual scientific evidence, gay couples are just as capable of doing that as are straight couples.

And let me point out that Araujo's "scientific" argument betrays a depressingly condescending attitude toward love, sex, marriage, and people in general, implicit in the dictum that marriage is for procreation. I read that as an assertion that people are breeding stock, sex is a mechanical act directed toward reproduction, and marriage is the means of identifying whose children are whose. (Meaning, in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, who their father is; mothers don't count for much in that world view.)

There's a lot more to sex than making babies, but I'll grant that most of it may elude those who, at least in theory, are celibate. Sex is also about bonding, reinforcing those emotional connections that underlie what we call "love," a way of sharing yourself with that one person who means the world to you, a way of building trust and empathy. And it feels good, which, after all, is why people do it. (And that is not a selfish thing at all -- one of the joys of sex is giving your partner the same pleasure that you are feeling.)

All in all, this is a good example of the "angels on the head of a pin" school of theology. I'm pretty sure that anyone who thinks about it for a couple of minutes will see through it.

Tisinai's post is titled "The Stoner Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage," and it's a hoot. Read it. And note: Prof. Robert George has advanced essentially the same argument, just as badly reasoned, but dressed up in flowery speculations about "mystical unions" and the like, which Tisinai has also disassembled. I noted his series here.

* The United States of America is a child of the Enlightenment, and its founding documents -- the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution -- were written by a group of men most of whom regarded organized religion with deep distrust. I suspect we're seeing something of a bait-and-switch here -- the Catholic doctrine of "natural law," which is entirely a human construct that has no basis in nature whatsoever, is not something that they would have based anything on. But it sounds good, doesn't it?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Infantile

That's about the only word I can think of that adequately describes the right these days. I mean, first-graders have more dignity.

This is brought on by a couple of stories I've run across this morning. Let's start with this one, which gives us a heaping dose of whatever it is that the Republicans are dishing out these days, with an added helping of He Who Must Be Obeyed.

The scheduling conflict. Puh-leeze! It seems that Boehner knew all about it ahead of time, but he's such a statesman that he turned it into yet another "I'll hold my breath until I turn blue" moment. (Read that post -- it's pretty damning.)

"Obama's trying to destroy the country!" That we're hearing this from The Quasi-Official Head of the Republican Teaparty is no surprise. But that it's coming also from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal -- well, that's not much of a surprise, either, is it?

Yet there is something more than inexperience or lack of character that defines this presidency: Mr. Obama came of age in a bubble of post-'60s liberalism that conditioned him to be an adversary of American exceptionalism. In this liberalism America's exceptional status in the world follows from a bargain with the devil—an indulgence in militarism, racism, sexism, corporate greed, and environmental disregard as the means to a broad economic, military, and even cultural supremacy in the world. And therefore America's greatness is as much the fruit of evil as of a devotion to freedom.

Mr. Obama did not explicitly run on an anti-exceptionalism platform. Yet once he was elected it became clear that his idea of how and where to apply presidential power was shaped precisely by this brand of liberalism. There was his devotion to big government, his passion for redistribution, and his scolding and scapegoating of Wall Street—as if his mandate was somehow to overcome, or at least subdue, American capitalism itself.


Because, you know, we're special.

Ed Schultz also had words to say about the scheduling nonsense.

Once again, this President has smoked 'em out. He has proven to the country one more time that he can't even schedule a speech to the joint session of the Congress without it being obstructed, that he one more time has proven to the country that the Republicans, their number one priority is not in line with the priorities of the American people and that is jobs. They're priority is their schedule, their tee time, their debate, their tax cuts, their deregulation, and they don't give a damn, nor do they respect the president of the United States or the office.

There's been speculation as to whether the president was engaging in another round of 11-dimensional chess. I don't see that he had to -- Boehner and his gang of whiners did all the work for him.

Santorum

Go ahead -- google it. You know you want to.

That aside, this one's been making the rounds, and I have a response for the former, booted out of office by his constituents because he's nuts senator. As quoted in the post:

Santorum countered that the Church's position is founded on more than 2,000 years of history. To adapt those beliefs based on the changing ways of society, he said, would be immoral.

So what? I'm not living 2,000 years ago. I'm living now. In a secular country where we don't use religious dogma as the law. So why should I care what Santorum's bible says? And I care even less what that raddled old pedophile-enabling bigot the pope says.

As for "immoral," Santorum seems to have the same rudimentary understanding of that word as his fellow-travelers in the anti-gay right. Have you noticed that none of them ever addresses the quality of a relationship as a measure of its morality? Nope -- it's all about plumbing, because your genitals, I guess, are the repository of your soul. Or something like that.

So maybe some talk-show host should ask Santorum about love, trust, respect, honesty, caring, sharing, empathy, affection, and commitment. Just on the off chance that he might have something to say. (Of course, if he's an idiot like Robert George, he's going to maintain that only opposite-sex couples can participate in that kind of relationship, because Teh Gay is just about sex. Just ask Peter LaBarbara.)