"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, October 25, 2011

You Have To Wonder

Via Joe.My.God., this gem from Rev. Jason McGuire, who seems to be NOM's go-to guy in New York State:

“It is not a bigoted statement to say that children need a mother and a father,” he wrote in a letter to Cuomo today. “I contend that many of the issues our state is struggling with can be traced back to absentee fathers, a general lack of parental involvement and the breakdown of the family: low graduation rates, out-of-wedlock births, runaway welfare and Medicaid costs, even the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.”


It's not bigoted, but it's not true, either -- at least, not in the real world. (Oh, but don't forget, this is the man who said that supporters of marriage equality are "of Satan." Nope, not bigoted at all.) Two mothers or two fathers do just fine. And what do any of the "causes" he lists for New York's problems have to do with same-sex marriage? Anyone?

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Think the 1% Have Had It

I mean, when you've got the Marines against you, you're finished.

“#OccupyMARINES Are Currently Assessing The Current Situation To Ascertain What Is Currently Needed To Support OWS America. We Are Humbled At The Substantial Support OWS America Has Provided And Ask That Everyone Continue As You All Do While We Implement Organization Nationwide. As We All Know, ‘Occupy’ Groups Are Being Established Even Now And Would Like To See This Trend Continue. “

Their website OccupyMarines.org, is calling for “Non-Active ‘Occupy’ Military Supporters Only” and they are organizing a dress code which will help identify their branch affiliation. So we should be seeing Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel dressed to impress at Occupy events across the country. Their goal will be to talk sense into police officers and recruit them into supporting the cause.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cute

Baby meerkats.


Here's the rest of the pictures.

There's a -- tribe? -- of meerkats at Lincoln Park Zoo, as well as a group of dwarf mongooses. A couple of years ago the meerkats had young, which are too cute to deal with, almost. Ditto baby dwarf mongooses.

About Face, Forward March

From Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marines:


That's the way it's supposed to be.

The Frightening Part Is (Updated)

that these people are being treated seriously.

First, Ron Paul:

Take a look at the state of Nevada. Do the people own the property in Nevada? No. Who’s the biggest landowner? It’s the federal government. I would like to see the development of this state the way that Texas had the privilege of developing. Before we went in the Union, it was owned entirely by private owners and it has developed all the natural resources, a very big state. So you can imagine how wonderful it would be if land will be or should be returned to the states and then for the best parts sold off to private owners.


First, the blinding ignorance: I don't know if anyone has pointed out to Congressman Paul that the government holds the land on behalf of the people. Yes, stupid, the people do own the land, which is held and managed in trust by the federal government. That's sort of basic.

I live in Chicago and one thing we are justifiably proud of in this city is our park system, fully tax supported. As part of this system, we have beaches, marinas and harbors, wildlife refuges, open space, a first-class zoo, and conservatories. You know what? No admission. It's all open to the public and you don't have to pay to get in. I go to Lincoln Park Zoo a lot, because it's a wonderful place to just walk and watch the waterfowl in the lagoon, see if the lions have finished their nap yet, watch the monkeys and apes being just a little bit too human sometimes. Aside from the animals, I see a lot of families, school groups, young couples on a cheap date. And our parks in general get a lot of use, maybe because of something that those like Ron Paul who worship money haven't figured out: people need open space, they need to be able to get out someplace where there are grass and trees and flowers blooming, so they don't get as crazy as he is. It's not a luxury -- it's a necessity. In private hands, you'd have to pay admission and a lot of people would be excluded simply because of that. (Food service in the parks is privately run, and it's expensive. I mean, six dollars for a taco?)

And next, never to be outdone, Vatican spokesman Rick Santorum:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country,” the former Pennsylvania senator explained. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be”:

[Sex] is supposed to be within marriage. It’s supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal…but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen…This is special and it needs to be seen as special.


Get that? "Counter to how things are supposed to be." That man's head is so fucked up that I can't even think how to address it. How about, for starters, that fact that not only am I not Catholic, I'm not even Christian, and I'm gay. I don't see any reason to pay any attention to someone who subscribes to a tradition in which women were sold as property for "procreation." As for how sex is "supposed to be" -- it's supposed to be whatever you want it to be. Some approaches are more rewarding than others -- I'm not too keen on casual, anonymous sex just to get my rocks off, myself (that's why God made pornography), but I'm not about to tell anyone else that they can't do it.

Santorum seems to live in a world in which we are all children and have to be under someone's control at all times. I don't quite know how to break it to him, but I'm a grown-up, and have been for a long time. I'm used to making my own decisions about things like sex, and I don't need him or the government telling me what to do. It's not his business.

More from Santorum (go ahead and google it -- you know you want to).

I may come back to this -- I thought about including a recent experience at a "progressive" blog, but it's still too raw -- I haven't been that effectively bullied since I was in high school. Maybe it's just enough to say that those blinkered, authoritarian patterns of thought are not limited to the right.

Update:

Can't leave out the John Boehner/Paul Clement team fighting to maintain DOMA.

In an Oct. 14 motion filed with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, attorneys representing the House make the case that gay people "are far from politically powerless" and can't say they face "discrimination [that] is unlikely to be soon rectified by legislative means" -- unlike other groups of people who are discriminated against.

"The very significant gains made by homosexual-rights groups both in legislative terms and in popular opinion -- and the phenomenal speed at which those victories have come -- demonstrate that they have ample ability to attract the favorable attention of lawmakers," reads the 36-page brief filed by Bancroft PLLC, the firm hired by House Republican leaders to defend the constitutionality of DOMA.


Of course, they left out all the setbacks, including all the "marriage" amendments and the semi-repeal of DADT. More rehash of the same tired old "arguments" that no one's buying any more. This hard on the heels of their last pathetic attempt, which included the time-honored technique of misrepresenting scientific research and a desperate attempt to avoid having to call "expert" witnesses.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NYT Does It Again (Updated)

An article that could have been -- well, it could have been a lot of things, but don't look for any real insights here. It's all a surface reading, and the surface isn't even right. Like this:

In fact, the two movements do share key traits. They emerged out of nowhere but quickly became potent political forces, driven by anxiety about the economy, a belief that big institutions favor the reckless over the hard-working, grievances that are inchoate and even contradictory, and an insistence that they are “leaderless.” “End the Fed” signs — and even some of those yellow Gadsden flags — have found a place at Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests alike.

Where they differ is in where they place the blame. While Occupy forces find fault in the banks and super-rich, the Tea Party movement blames the government for the economic calamity brought on by the mortgage crisis, and sees the wealthy as job creators who will lift the country out of its economic malaise. To them, the solution is less regulation of banks, not more.


Start with the "where they came from part." It's widely known at this time that the Tea Party movement was initially organized by conservative campaign consultants funded by, among others, the Koch brothers. Their first target was health-care reform, followed quickly by the social safety net in general. Come on, people, these "protesters" were being bussed in to town hall meetings with other people's Congressional representatives with instructions to disrupt the proceedings as much as possible. This is "inchoate and even contradictory"? These people were all but scripted.

The article merely echoes the right-wing blogosphere and conservative media characterizations, with little evidence of anything even remotely resembling fact-checking, and certainly no trace of skepticism. Sorry, but if you note that the right wing is portraying the Occupy Wall Street crowd as anti-Semitic, let's have some real analysis of the accuracy of that statement. And the article is full of assertions that raised flags for me, none of them examined at all.

It doesn't even rise to the level of "he said, she said" -- it's all "he said."

Recommended use: liner for litter box.

Update: There is some ray of hope here, although I can't credit the Times in particular -- just some of its contributors. Nicholas Kristof has a very lucid layout of the major focus of the Occupy protesters,and Paul Krugman, as might be expected, ha been on it for a while. (Check here, here, and here.

Best quote:

The modern lords of finance look at the protesters and ask, Don’t they understand what we’ve done for the U.S. economy?

The answer is: yes, many of the protesters do understand what Wall Street and more generally the nation’s economic elite have done for us. And that’s why they’re protesting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Giggle du jour

From my Web pal Nikolaos in Oz:

A Polish immigrant went to Vicroads to apply for a driver's licence. First,
of course, he had to take an eye sight test The tester showed him a card
with the letters

'C Z W I X N O S T A C Z.'

'Can you read this?' the optician asked. 'Read it?' the Polish man replied,
'I know the guy.'


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Another Look at Kimi Shiruya?

I recently picked up Satoru Ishihara's Kimi Shiruya -- Dost Thou Know? again after quite some time. Looking back, I realize that I've written quite a bit about this book (not only a Review in Brief, but another extended essay, and a a Friday Gay Blogging commentary, not to mention a review at GMR that has since been moved to Sleeping Hedgehog.

So what can I find to say that's new? Not much, really, but I was struck by how fundamental the use of metaphor is in this book. It starts almost from the beginning, around page eight or ten, when Masaomi compares Tsurugi to a sword, and later to a spring gale. Ishihara continues, piling metaphor on metaphor around the central one: the romance as a duel.





Speaking of gales, it's worth nothing the title of the first chapter, "The Wind Cometh." A wind, in Japanese culture, as far as I've been able to tell, marks a change. We have a similar image, "A change in the wind," but to the Japanese, as nearly as I've been able to puzzle out, the mere fact of the wind in itself is sufficient. (Note that in Makoto Tateno's Ka Shin Fu, the wind is a central image, as well.)

Ishihara noted that it took her three years and a range of drawing styles to complete Kimi Shiruya?, and one can see the change in the art, but it really is a progression, from a rather rough, strongly graphic style to a much more elegant and subtle presentation. The spread below is one of my favorites in the book, since it demonstrates the development of Ishihara's drawing style and points up the role of metaphor in the story: Masaomi is allowing his relationship with Tsurugi to develop -- to "ripen in its own time."




It says something, I think, that I can come back to what is, after all, a romance in comic-book form two years later -- and one directed toward teen-age girls -- and still find it not only appealing, but terrifically sophisticated, especially since I've gained so much more experience with the medium in that time. I guess that means I should continue to trust my instincts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ironies of Modern Life

Someone just called the newspaper where I work to ask about the price of an ad to advertise her Web site.

The Writing Is On the Wall

Good news from California, via Joe.My.God.:

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! From a Stop SB 48 email blast:

"The News is Not Good ... it is doubtful we will get the number of signatures we need to qualify. Unfortunately the last several deliveries of mail have not been what was expected and a large number of petitions have been pulled out because of errors. From all appearances, we would need a miracle to qualify this referendum."


Reminds me of the last time Peter LaBarbera tried to get an anti-marriage referendum on the Illinois ballot. Granted, referenda in Illinois are advisory only and carry no legal mandate, but he couldn't even get enough signatures for that. But I'm seeing a trend -- growing support for gay civil rights, including marriage; overwhelming support for repeal of DADT; the rapid shrinkage in the margins by which anti-marriage referenda have passed -- from 60-70% in 2004 to 51-52% in 2008 -- and the likelihood that at least one such referendum will fail next year.

You can also tell by how shrill the professional gay-bashers are getting. (Yeah, I know, Fischer started off shrill, but you have to admit, he's reached a new level lately.)

Time is on our side.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Only Good Stuff Today

Because I've been down in the dumps and need it.

First, this story about the Oregon U.S. Attorney's office's It Gets Better video:

Ever since he heard Savage talk about the "It Gets Better" project, Holton said making a video has been on his to-do list. He said he wasn't sure what to expect when he put out the call for participants, and he was moved by his colleagues' willingness to share their personal experiences. Since the video was posted to Youtube last week, he's heard from other U.S. attorneys across the country interested in doing their own videos. . . .

"The U.S. Attorney's Office has a tremendous capacity to make change in the community," he said. "This is an opportunity we couldn't miss. We have credibility and forcefulness as a voice in the community that lots of folks don't have.

"When we weigh in to say we're on your side, it matters," he said.



And you can always count on the Marines:

Whether the end of "don't ask, don't tell" will open recruitment floodgates remains to be seen. As soon as the policy was repealed last month, a top Marine recruiting trainer for the Southwest showed up at the biggest gay community center in Tulsa, Okla., bracing for insults and protests. Instead, he conversed quietly with a trickle of gay women who wandered in to ask about joining the Marines.

At Pasadena City College on Saturday, Wallace was among eight Marines at the recruitment booth. From the morning opening, the Marine contingent proved the biggest draw amid tables representing healthcare organizations, church groups and vendors of rainbow-colored garden decorations. It might have helped that the Marines handed out a lanyard, a pen or a sticker to each man who tried to do a pull-up, or to each woman who tried the flexed-arm hang. To the rare volunteer capable of performing 20 pull-ups went a navy-blue T-shirt.


And there are two gay candidates for mayor of San Diego -- both Republicans.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Occupy America (Update, Update II)

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, which are now spreading around the country, represent one of the biggest media failures of the decade. The contrast with the coverage of the early Tea Party demonstrations is, I think, revealing of the influence of corporate money on the MSM -- which in effect means that we have very little in the way of independent news any more.

Remember that the Tea Party originated as and is still largely an astroturf movement, funded by a few billionaires interested in maintaining their control of the government in the face of a new administration that promised change. (Well, promises are easy, and before you start listing the grand achievements of the Obama administration, please explain to me exactly what's different now.) So major media coverage was assured. (Hey, these people know who's paying them.)

But when the media deign to notice Occupy Wall Street at all, it's a matter of looking down their noses at the "lack of focus" and disorganization. Of course, the Occupiers don't have paid media consultants and political strategists to sharpen them up. This has spread to what I'm starting to call the Establishment Blogosphere, as witness this sad post from Mahablog:

Compare/contrast Occupy Wall Street with last winter’s protest in Madison, Wisconsin. Now, y’all know I found the Madison protests thrilling. What I loved about it is that the people who participated really were there for the cause, not just to draw attention to themselves. And the cause was not just some amorphous sense that, y’know, stuff is bad and we’re angry about it. There was a specific focus, a particular message, that everyone came together to deliver. And they’ve been following it up with good old-fashioned shoes-on-the-pavement, door-to-door political activism that resulted in the recall of two state senators.

This is how it’s done.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, reeks of the usual crowd of juvenile attention-seekers who protest for the sake of protesting. Their “demands” (which, they are careful to say, are not really demands, just ideas) are a grocery list of feel-good sentiments, not a call to action.


Sorry, but this is what a real grass-roots movement looks like. It starts off somewhat inchoate, and the more grassroots it is, the more unfocused it is. Over time, however, as we're seeing, it focuses itself as people who know what to do move into leadership positions. As for effectiveness, anyone remember the Arab Spring? I mean, I know it's more than fifteen minutes ago, but geez. I used to have a lot of respect for Maha's opinions, but either she's changed or I have -- she seems now to be taking the position that passes in Beltway circles for "realism," which equates to nothing more than the status quo. Maybe I've gotten more radical, but I don't know how that's possible. I've always been radical, but equally, I'm a pragmatist, which boils down to "Don't tell me it can't be fixed, let's figure out how to fix it."

The Madison protests had a specific target and began with people who were organized to start with -- members of the teachers' unions and their students, ultimately joined by more union members from the police and firefighters. Occupy Wall Street has only the sense that the people who are responsible for our problems right now, especially the economic mess, are not only not being held accountable but are being rewarded because they own Congress and, as it starts to look more and more, the White House as well. As for ultimate effectiveness, it's too soon to tell. I found this bit from an NYT article (now that the Times has bothered to notice) instructive:

“Rants based on discontents are the first stage of any movement,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University. But he said it was unclear if the current protests would lead to a lasting movement, which would require the newly unleashed passions to be channeled into institutions and shaped into political goals.

Publicity surrounding the recent arrests of hundreds in New York, near Wall Street and on the Brooklyn Bridge, has only energized the campaign. This week, new rallies and in some cases urban encampments are planned for cities as disparate as Memphis, Tenn.; Hilo, Hawaii; Minneapolis; Baltimore; and McAllen, Tex., according to Occupy Together, an unofficial hub for the protests that lists dozens of coming demonstrations, including some in Europe and Japan.


Arrests are sometimes what it takes. I'm thinking about Dan Choi, Autumn Sandeen, Jim Pietrangelo and their fellows.

About 100 mostly younger people, down from 400 over the weekend, were camped outside Los Angeles City Hall on Monday morning. Several dozen tents occupied the lawn along with a free-food station and a media center. People sat on blankets playing the guitar or bongo drums or meditating. Next to a “Food Not Bombs” sign, was another that read “Food Not Banks.”

Am I the only one who remembers the '60s? That started off pretty diffuse and unfocused, the product of, as Maha puts it, "the usual crowd of juvenile attention-seekers who protest for the sake of protesting." Sure as hell changed the direction of this country, if only until the inevitable swing in the other direction, which we're experiencing right now.

Update II: For a balance to Maha's somewhat disdainful commments, read this.

Update:

Here's an interesting comment by David Atkins at Hullabaloo that tackles the traditional circular firing squad on the left:

The Occupy Wall Street protests are doing more than just galvanizing anger against the predatory practices of the financial sector. They are also providing the latest excuse for the left to self-immolate in the most recent version of the same argument that has been tearing natural allies apart since at least the turn of the millennium. Most of the players in this conflict position themselves along the same battle lines as the combatants in the so-called "Obama Wars" that have been all the rage on the left for the last two years.


It's a pretty even-handed analysis of where we are and the pitfalls of popular demonstrations as a motivating force (although I don't agree with him at all regarding the anti-war protests of the '60s), but this is key:

In order for change to take place, good Democrats do need to be in power. But only an angry and motivated populace angry with both Parties and strongly intent on holding Democrats accountable will scare and motivate Democrats enough to do what they were elected to do.


And people are on to the media in this one, as witness this encounter between a Fox News reporter and a protester:


There's a transcript here at C&L.

As for getting media attention, Second City has a lock on it.


I may come back, as more thoughts occur to me. But given the reaction of the corporate press to this one, I think we're seeing another aspect of the corporate takeover of America.

Oh, and the reaction of the banksters and traders?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

In the Indonesian Jungle

Surprisingly interesting video of activities of some of the inhabitants of the jungles of northern Indonesia. There are animals here I've never heard of.


Thanks to Little Green Footballs.

Hypocrite du Jour

I'll be perfectly frank: Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York is a pretty disgusting person, and like most of the Catholic hierarchy, has now proven himself a) anti-American, and b) morally bankrupt. He wrote a letter to the President threatening religious war if Obama doesn't stop supporting The Gays.

Lance Mannion has a come-back that strikes me as the best possible retort. It's impossible to excerpt -- go read the whole thing.

Father Tony has an observation about this escapade that I could have written:

At the end of its legal analysis, the USCCB finally makes clear that its overriding concern about the repeal of DOMA, about the repeal of DADT, and about the Administration's support for gay adoption rights is a diminished revenue stream. "We will face an additional layer of government punishments, such as the cessation of long-standing and successful contracts for the provision of social services, and other forms of withdrawn government cooperation."

In the context of this letter, the suddenly thunderous saber-rattling of the US Catholic bishops appears to be rooted in the prospect of lost funding rather than in the imaginary moral outrage of its flock.

Obama in Attack Mode

From his speech at the HRC Annual Dinner:


We don’t believe in a small America. We don’t believe in the kind of smallness that says its okay for a stage full of political leaders, one of whom could end up being the President of the United States, being silent when an American soldier is booed. We don’t believe in that. We don’t believe in standing silent when that happens. We don’t believe in them being silent since.

You want to be commander in chief? You can start by standing up for the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States, even when it’s not politically convenient.

We don’t believe in a small America. We believe in a big American, a tolerant America, a just America, an equal America that values the service of every patriot. We believe in an America where we’re all in it together and we see the good in one another. And we live up to a creed that is as old as our founding, “E Pluribus Unum” — out of many, one. And that includes everybody. That’s what we believe. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. I am confident that’s what the American people believe in. I’m confident because of the changes we’ve achieved these two and a half years, the progress that some folks said was impossible.


He's pretty effective. Let's hope he keeps it up.

(Transcript via Box Turtle Bulletin.)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Update on that DoD DADT/Marriage Thing (Updated)

Any base, anywhere.

Signed Chaplains Memo

And let's just slide around DOMA:

Signed Facilities Memo-1

This may or may not work -- there's the little matter of getting a license, which is going to be hard for two men in, say, Alabama or Florida.

Update:

Well, that didn't take long:

“The Department of Defense has decided to put the White House’s liberal agenda ahead of following the law," Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri and chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said in a Friday statement, The Hill reports.

"The Defense of Marriage Act makes it clear that for the purposes of the federal government, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman," Akin said. "The use of federal property or federal employees to perform gay marriage ceremonies is a clear contravention of the law."

Actually, as usual for Republicans when it comes to actual laws, he's full of it. Performing or hosting a wedding is not against the law. The federal government just will not recognize it as a marriage.