"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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Memoriam

This is another "In Memoriam" post that's slightly off-topic. Adrienne Rich died this week, and anyone who knows anything about post-War American letters will recognize the name, and it belongs to a poet who will be missed.

Imagine my reaction when I ran across this this morning:

That's William Donohue, of the so-called "Catholic League," a far-right Catholic supremacist organization.

Maybe my family was strange, but my parents valued education, and that included literature and the arts. And bragging about being ignorant wasn't something one did -- if you didn't know about something, that was the signal to learn about it.

And y'know what? I've discovered life's a lot more fun that way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The cat is out of the bag. NOM Exposed has posted previously confidential internal documents from our good friends Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher that detail NOM's strategy for denying civil rights to GLBTs. And it turns out they're not only anti-gay, they're race baiters as well.

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage, develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots…”

Alvin McEwen has a pertinent comment about this:

NOM has portrayed whatever African-American opposition to marriage equality its spotlighted as spontaneous attempts by leaders and members of the black community to keep its civil rights legacy from supposedly being "tainted" by a comparison to gay equality.

But now we see that there was nothing spontaneous about this. It was a cynically planned effort by NOM - which the organization continues to exploit - in order to drive a wedge between blacks and gays.

I wonder how the black community is going to react to the news that they've been manipulated by a bunch of white folks who want to get rid of President Obama.

Expose Obama as a social radical. Develop side issues to weaken pro-gay marriage political leaders and parties and develop an activist base of socially conservative voters. Raise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty at the federal level.

And then there is the Latino bloc:

"The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity - a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation."

Their problem there is that, while family is very important to Latinos in general, that can work against NOM: sons and daughters may be gay, but they are still family. It's also notable that Latin America is making great strides in equal rights for gays and lesbians, in some cases far ahead of the U.S. The assimilation argument is going to backfire, big time, if the folks back home in Mexico or Brazil or Argentina or Chile recognize same-sex marriages and adoption rights.

If you look at the documents (all available at the NOM Exposed link), it becomes clear that NOM is nothing more than a Republican front with a Republican agenda -- "traditional marriage" is simply a screen.

NOM is right in line with Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, the Catholic bishops, and the rest of the right-wing theocrats.

Jim Burroway has an excellent summary of the whole thing. Read McEwen's full post as well.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Highs and Lows

Nope, not about politics -- that's pretty much lows these days. It's about mountains and deep sea trenches, in the news because director James Cameron just dove to 35,756 feet below sea level. That's in the Marianas Trench, which is fairly close to Japan.

There are a number of trenches in the oceans, places where one plate of the crust is being forced under another, also known as "subduction zones." The Mariana Islands, which are right there at the edge, are the result of volcanism from the activity of the two plates. But the Marianas Trench is the deepest.

That got me to thinking: what's the highest point above sea level? Well, yes, it's still Mt. Everest, at 29,029 feet. It's probably safest to stick with "above sea level" because if you start looking at "highest mountains," you have to take into account sea mounts. Mauna Kea, for example, is only 13,802 feet above sea level. From its base, however, it measures 33,474 feet. That's over six miles -- normal cruising altitude for a commercial jet liner.

And yet, all these mountains and trenches are just bumps and wrinkles on the surface of the earth. Just to put things in perspective.

Footnote: Think about cranes. They summer in Siberia, and then migrate to India and Southeast Asia in the winter. Over the Himalayas. That's pretty amazing.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Just for the hell of it, I decided to check and see how many countries now recognize same-sex marriage. Ten: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, and Sweden. Marriages performed in Mexico City are recognized nationally in Mexico, and marriages performed in jurisdictions where they are legal are recognized in Israel, the Caribbean possessions of the Netherlands, and all states of Mexico and Brazil. Japan also recognizes marriages between same-sex partners performed overseas, but does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in Japan.

And there are several countries that are now in the process of joining the group: Colombia, Nepal, Finland, the UK, Luxemburg, Germany, and Denmark.

And the U.S. is still debating DOMA.

Footnote: And in regard to the "religious freedom" arguments of those who oppose the recognition of same-sex marriages, it's interesting to note how many religious traditions recognize them.

This is the real-life version of Left Behind.

Puzzle du Jour

Recent finds from the caves of China. Fascinating possibilities:

Last week, an international group of researchers reported the discovery of fossils belonging to a strange population of hominids that lived in southwestern China as recently as 11,500 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch. The fossils resemble modern humans in many ways but possess some unusual characteristics. The traits may be evidence that Homo sapiens were more diverse in the past—or a sign that scientists have uncovered a new species.

By 11,500 years ago, humanity was already well established in the Americas. That's really recent.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

About That Starbucks Boycott (Update, Update II)

NOM's "Dump Starbucks" campaign has, as of this morning, 7,721 supporters. The online "thank you" card to Starbucks for supporting gay rights -- well, I was signer number 93,033.

A little lopsided, isn't it? I can hardly wait for Brian Brown's spin -- how long before he'll be proclaiming "victory"?

Thanks to Jim Burroway for the heads up.

PS -- Considering the reaction of the Starbucks shareholders to the NOM plants at their annual meeting, is anyone really surprised?

This really ties in to this post from Jeremy Hooper, on the legal counsel for CWA bemoaning that fact that we're winning the culture war. Mario Diaz:

"The fact of the matter is that this is a cultural and political issue and, as we discussed, homosexuals are slowly winning over the culture. Let them continue that work and change the laws if they are able to convince their fellow citizens. We will make that case as to why God's model for marriage is best."

And of course, the point is that we are convincing our fellow citizens that the scare campaigns coming from the professional gay-bashers are just that and no more. Same-sex marriage is a reality in this country, and it is happening through the courts, the legislatures, and I predict that this year, we're going to have victory on at least one referendum. (I'm hoping for a rejection of Amendment One in North Carolina, simply because that's home, as much as Illinois is, but the numbers are wobbly and I can't find a real trend. I suspect it's going to be Maine, and I'm holding out hope for Washington state, which would actually be a stronger result -- both of those will actually institute SSM; North Carolina will avoid a particularly nasty constitutional amendment.)

And just to provide some perspective, my reaction to Mr. Diaz' final statement, which I left as a comment at Good As You, is simply: "Which god would that be, specifically?"


OK, this is funny.

Update II:

It gets even better: From The Advocate, this choice observation:

On NOM’s anti-Starbucks website, the group suggests alternative coffee shops for homophobes to patronize. However, many of its suggestions, including the popular West Coast chain Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, have either voiced support for gay rights or are actually owned by LGBT individuals.

It pays to do your research, y'know?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Surprise du jour

Marriage survives in New Hampshire:

The New Hampshire House has rejected a bill that would have repealed same-sex marriage.

The Republican-controlled House voted 211-116 against the repeal Wednesday. Same-sex couples have been able to marry in New Hampshire for two years.

The vote came after about two hours of debate on the bill and associated amendments, including ones that would have implemented civil unions instead and called for a nonbinding referendum on the issue.

The comments at the article are not social-conservative friendly.

On to North Carolina.

(Footnote: This marks a double whammy today for NOM. Jeremy Hooper has audio of portions of a Starbucks shareholders' meeting in which opponents of -- well, gays in general, I guess -- a trying to put Starbucks in the hot seat for its support of same-sex marriage in Washington state. The response of the CEO -- and the rest of the shareholders -- is worth listening to. He calls it a smack down. I call it annihilation.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

In Honor of Rep. Darryl Issa

With thanks to John Cole.

If This Doesn't Freak You Out

you're beyond hope. A major article in Wired about the surveillance state.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

Judicial review? We don't need no judicial review. Or anything else in the way of oversight, for that matter. I love how Congress killed the project, and the administration -- now two administrations -- went ahead and did it anyway.

Talk to me again about Obama and civil liberties. But be sure there are no drones in the neighborhood before you open your mouth.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Myth of Global Warming

High temperatures in the low 80s are forecast for Chicago for the next two days. It's been in the 70s for the past week.

It's St. Patrick's Day.

About Wall Street

This sort of says it all:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Lower Depths

That's where you'll find the Catholic hierarchy. If you ever had any doubt that the institutional Church was about anything but money and power, this should answer that question for you.

Turning the tables on an advocacy group that has long supported victims of pedophile priests, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Church and priests accused of sexual abuse in two Missouri cases have gone to court to compel the group to disclose more than two decades of e-mails that could include correspondence with victims, lawyers, whistle-blowers, witnesses, the police, prosecutors and journalists.

The group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the litigation. But the group has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis, and its national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of lawyers for more than six hours this year. A judge in Kansas City ruled that the network must comply because it “almost certainly” had information relevant to the case.

Of course, Bill Donohue has to stick his two cents in:

But William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York, said targeting the network was justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”

Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys.” (Emphasis added.)

And talk about a busted irony meter -- yeah, those altar boys are pretty useless, aren't they? At least, they are if they complain about being abused.

Y'know, it's interesting that I don't have to comment much on this story. I just need to let the bishops' actions speak for themselves.

Digby, as usual, nails it:

You can't help but wonder if that's the smartest move for an institution that's claiming that it's "conscience" won't let it's employees have access to insurance provided birth control to go on a crusade against rape victims of Catholic priests. But hey, why not. Nobody's even allowed to mention that the same people who covered up decades of sexual abuse in their own institution are all over the country declaring their moral righteousness. Why should they think they can't get away with this too?

Disgusting people, indeed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Robocall of the Week

I got one yesterday. They left a message, since I don't answer the phone. It was from a volunteer calling for Rick Santorum. In Chicago, which is about the most thoroughly Democratic city in the country. (Republicans are doing good if they can even find someone to run for mayor.)

Talk about throwing money down a rat hole.

Limbaugh: The gift that keeps on giving

Rush Limbaugh -- or at least his producers -- are starting to feel the heat:

Liberal watchdog group Media Matters noticed that on at least two occasions on Thursday, Limbaugh’s flagship station in New York, WABC, broadcast several minutes of dead air during commercial breaks.

There were over two and a half minutes of dead air leading into the show and then another minute of dead air during the first hour of the program.

It's not just affecting Limbaugh's show, either -- there seems to be a move on to cut right-wing shock-jocks loose completely:

Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”

This is big. According to the radio-industry website Radio-Info.com, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are “carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).” Together, these talk-radio advertising staples represent millions of dollars in revenue.

The other side does it, too:

It’s been interesting to see Limbaugh’s allies try to defend him indirectly over the past few days, pointing out (rightly) that the left does not cry foul when liberal political entertainers use derogatory terms about conservative women in politics.

But the left-wing talkers being condemned are actually following a model that Rush & Co created. Complaining about the escalation on the other side while ignoring the ugliness from your ideological allies is the larger problem, and it goes beyond hypocrisy.

Yeah, yeah, Bill Maher used the c-word about Sarah Palin -- and then he apologized. It was a real apology, not like the one Rush came up with. The difference is, high-profile Democracts aren't scared shitless of him of Maher. Clarence Page has some clear-eyed comments on that whole phenomenon.

If you read Limbaugh's "apology," it's obvious that he either didn't bother to listen to Ms. Fluke's testimony or read a transcript, or he did and didn't want to be bothered with what she actually said. Her testimony was centered on medical reasons for taking the Pill.

But then, Limbaugh obviously had his script prepared -- approved, no doubt, by the Catholic bishops -- and didn't want to be bothered by the facts. And then when the shit-storm hit, he apologized for his "word choice." Let's face it, it's not his word choices, although those were outside the Pale -- it's his whole mindset. Check this article out. Of course, this kind of thinking has a long history in the GOP -- and, sadly enough, in some parts of the left, as well -- but very few capture the flavor of misogyny, wrapped in a nice blanket of racism and disdain for the poor, as good ol' Frothy.

I need to wash my brain out after reading this crap.

It's Not Just Me

I've been thinking the winter has been extraordinarily mild -- I mean, stretches of temperatures in the 40s in February is not normal here.

I was right:

It occurred to me, as I was thinking about this winter, that the pattern used to be that an arctic air mass would move down toward the end of December and settle a sharp chill over the region. That didn't happen this year, probably because there's next to no Arctic left.

And from the other side of the world, think of Kiribati:

It's pretty grim, but fortunately, Kiribati is not being governed by the Republicans -- its president is dealing with reality.

(PS -- Did you remember to spring forward?)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Christian Compassion

As exemplified by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

On the one hand, a laudable bit of lobbying by the Catholic Bishops, in which they at least pay lip service to the teachings of Christ:

While many conservatives belittle and mock anyone who takes assistance from the government, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to lawmakers this week urging them not to cut funding for social safety net programs that help the poor, many of which have been targeted by Republican lawmakers in their quest to implement austerity to reduce the budget deficit.

“We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase,” wrote Bishops Stephen Blaire and Richard Pates, the Chairmen of the Committee on Domestic Justice and the Committee on International Justice, respectively.

Unfortunately for the glow of our shared humanity, this story was still resonating:

The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento no longer will fund programs at Francis House, a nonprofit agency that serves homeless people, because of its new director's views supporting abortion rights and gay marriage.

In a letter last month, the diocese's director of social services said the Rev. Faith Whitmore's public statements on the issues clash with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Therefore, said the Rev. Michael Kiernan, the social services director, it is "impossible for the diocese to continue funding Francis House" as part of its annual Catholic Appeal.

This is perhaps the most appalling part of the story:

In its letter to Whitmore, the Sacramento diocese said it respects the work Francis House does and cannot expect every organization it supports financially to "actively promote Catholic teaching."

"We can expect, however, that they or their leaders not publicly oppose Catholic teaching and that, unfortunately, is the situation in which we find ourselves," the letter reads.

Given that Catholic Charities has closed adoption services in Massachusetts in retaliation for the legalization of same-sex marriage; in Illinois because of having to treat same-sex partners in civil unions the same as married heterosexuals (that is, actually obey the law); and threatened to close all services for the poor in Washington, D.C., trying to strong-arm the City Council into defeating a same-sex marriage bill; not to mention their attempts to deny contraception to every woman of every faith; and now this, I'm afraid I can't take the bishops' letter to Congress as anything more than an empty gesture.

Sorry -- a bully is a bully, no matter how sweet they are to their mothers.

Footnote: As for the hierarchy's stance on same-sex marriage in general, this little rant by Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, is choice. It's as good as the pope's latest nonsense:

"Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature."

Can someone explain to me how a man who has been celibate for his entire life, at least in theory, knows anything about the "true nature" of marriage? Anyone?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Mmph. . . .

I seem to be leaving comments at other blogs more than posting here, but I do have a couple of things I want to comment on this weekend -- the Rush meltdown (and why did I visualize a wave of hot grease as I typed that?), and poor, persecuted Kirk Cameron (who?).

I may even start doing Reviews in Brief again, who knows?

And, given Google's impending world dominion, I may move over to Typepad or Wordpress. I'm getting more than a little fed up with Google changing all my log-ins back to an account I don't ever use.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Contraception Mandate

Digby makes a very good point about the big flaw in the "conscience" exception to the contraception mandate -- a/k/a the Blunt Amendment.

[E]mployer paid health insurance is a form of compensation, not some perk like free coffee in the break room. . . .

It's part of a worker's wages and unless one agrees that an employer's "conscience" allows it to withhold part of its employees' salary if the employees do something with that money it doesn't approve of, this entire argument is more than just an assault on women --- it's an assault on workers in general.

Welcome to 1984 -- who knew that Big Brother would be a corporation?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Who Gets It -- And Who Doesn't

Two e-mails this morning that connected in my head. One was from People for the American way asking me to sign a petition to Congress supporting the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. The other was a comment alert for this post at Joe.My.God, quoting Jonathan Rauch quoting Maggie Gallagher and asking us all to play nice. (I'm not going to link to the petition because it's got my personal information plastered all over it, and I do have some small sense of self-preservation.)

The PFAW petition is pretty straightforward -- just asking Congress and the President to get rid of DOMA, which was a mistake to begin with. The significance of this is that PFAW is not a gay advocacy organization. As progressive organizations go, it's pretty mainstream. It's even more significant when you realize that PFAW is only one of the establishment progressive organizations coming down on the side of equality -- and most of them quite publicly and vocally. Gay and trans rights issues, especially marriage, have also started showing up on "mainstream" progressive blogs. Crooks and Liars, for example, on a search for "marriage," turned up 638 results -- posts on that blog. A search of Hullabaloo turned up posts by Digby and Tristero (one by Digby, which is delightfully scathing, going back to 2004), even Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has weighed in on the issue. This, I think, marks a sea change -- ten years ago, no one in the mainstream blogosphere was really noticing gay civil rights.

Now contrast Jonathan Rauch:

"Justified or not, fear spread in conservative circles that getting on the wrong side of gay marriage could cost you your job. 'People tell us that their livelihoods have been threatened solely because of their public advocacy opposing same-sex marriage,' said Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage. 'Fine,' say some gay rights activists. “'If they’re going to be bigots, they should be afraid to speak out.' Wrong. What the gay-rights movement has always really stood for is a country where we can all express our identities and convictions without fear: a country without closets, gay or straight."

To say that Rauch is playing Pollyanna here is understating the point, to say the least. First off, taking a quote from Maggie Gallagher, who not only has an agenda but is known to be a liar, at face value speaks to me of naivete verging on stupidity. He's lining up on the side of what Joe Jervis styles the "homocons" -- Jimmy LaSalvia and Chris Barron (GOProud), Bruce Carroll (GayPatriot), and Rauch's co-contributor at Independent Gay Forum, Stephen H. Miller, whose ideology, like the rest of those named, seems to be based on trashing the left rather than any positive statement of principles, at least as reflected in what I've read from them.

Rauch doesn't get it, and that's not based on this statement alone -- I did a full commentary on one of Rauch's essays on marriage, specifically in regard to Kerrigan vs. Commissioner of Public Health (the Connecticut case). My comment at Joe.My.God. on this quote was based on this dog-and-pony show between Rauch and David Blankenhorn, to the effect that they managed to reach a "compromise" on the question of same-sex marriage: second-class status for same-sex relationships. And this is the man who's telling me what the gay civil rights movement is about?

The core of this is actually that Rauch simply has no clue as to the "free marketplace of ideas." No matter that our government is a democratic republic, in the hurly-burly of public discourse this is a democracy. Sure, you have the right to state your opinions, and even lie about the facts. I have the right to challenge you, criticize you, ridicule you, and basically to respond in whatever manner I feel appropriate. So according to Rauch, people like Maggie Gallagher can lie their heads off about us, and we're supposed to just take it? No, Jonathan, that's not the way it works: if you express unpopular opinions, people will react negatively. They may even say mean things about you -- maybe even as mean as the things you've said about them. That's life in America -- deal with it.

Whew! That's the longest post I've written in a while. As your reward for reading all the way through, here's some dessert:

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Saving a Really Big Bug

Enough of Limbaugh. Here's a great story -- another species saved from the brink of extinction.

On Lord Howe, there used to be an insect, famous for being big. It's a stick insect, a critter that masquerades as a piece of wood, and the Lord Howe Island version was so large — as big as a human hand — that the Europeans labeled it a "tree lobster" because of its size and hard, lobsterlike exoskeleton. It was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Local fishermen used to put them on fishing hooks and use them as bait.

Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island, where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.

Totally gone. After 1920, there wasn't a single sighting. By 1960, the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, was presumed extinct.

Somehow, they got here:

There is a bush on this island -- one freaking bush. That's where they hung out.

The will to survive is awesome.

They're actually kind of appealing, in a buggy sort of way:

It's a great article -- go read it.

Limbaugh (Update, Update II, Update III)

I'm sure you've read more than enough about Rush Limbaugh's latest outrage. There are reports and updates all over the place. In fact, the shitstorm is bad enough that Limbaugh actually "apologized" -- after losing half a dozen advertisers. (I've seen no indication that he actually called Sandra Fluke and apologized to her personally -- he just issued a "statement.")

Karoli over at C&L has a good update on the whole thing, including the full text of his apology, which I am not going to reproduce here. She, like I, did zero in on what I consider the key part of this text. Limbaugh:

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.

Limbaugh is trying desperately to reframe the whole discussion as the Democrats bending over backward to accommodate a loose, hedonistic lifestyle. It's a variation on Daryl Issa's attempt to reframe it as an assault on religious freedom by holding a congressional hearing with seven witnesses -- all male, all religious.

Oh, and might be expected, Limbaugh is lying -- no one is asking "American citizens" to pay for "these activities" -- except the citizens who are making use of the benefit. This is preventive care included in insurance paid for by the insured (ultimately; even if the companies they work for are paying the actual premiums, the participants are taking lower wages in return for the benefit).


On to the second paragraph, which is where he shows plainly that he did not intend a real, true apology. By framing contraception as something for a "social activity," he endeavors to minimize and trivialize women's health needs. Yes, contraception is used to prevent pregnancy, for married and single women. But Sandra Fluke's testimony very specifically pointed to other uses for it, including treatment of PCOS (an incredibly debilitating condition), endometriosis, pelvic inflammation, ovarian cysts, and other conditions specific to women. Further, some women use it to actually regulate their cycles so they can become pregnant. Some young women use it to treat acne!

These are not social. These are not recreational. These are serious health issues. They matter, and they should be covered as part of health insurance that provides basic benefits. Rush Limbaugh intentionally tried to frame this as a debate about sex when it was never a debate about sex. He did it, and Fox News picked up the banner and marched forward with it to the point where now the "slut" meme has been echoed all over the Internet by the far-right wing.

It's the conservative mindset, and Limbaugh played right into it with no discernible effort -- probably because he's one of the people who created it. Listen to Rick Santorum, the darling of the social conservative set: it's all about sex, especially when it's about women.

That's the whole focus of "conservative" morality. Morality has nothing to do with ethics, integrity, social responsibility, standards of behavior, the social contract. Morality is purely and simply about sex, specifically about engaging in sex outside the bounds of whatever these "guardians of decency" deem appropriate. In its essentials, its about making babies -- humanity as glorified breeding stock. And it's all derived from a warped focus on Leviticus, or any other book of the Bible that forbids something. (If you're unsure of my reaction to something like that, read the quotes at the top of this blog.)

And in point of fact, Ms. Fluke never mentioned sex. Here's her testimony:

The mantra's all over the place at this point -- see this post by John Cole on Ed Morrisey's comments. Mission accomplished.

Update: Maha has an on-the-nose (and scathing) post on the contraception/sex mantra.

Update II: David Atkins does a point by point dissection of Limbaugh's "apology."

Update III: One last update: Adam Serwer seems to be under the impression that Rush Limbaugh doesn't know how the Pill works, as evidenced by the header in his post: Dear Rush Limbaugh: Birth Control Doesn't Work Like Viagra. Clue: Limbaugh doesn't care how birth control works. It's irrelevant. He's relying, not necessarily on the ignorance of his listeners (well-attested by the fact that they are his listeners), but on their willingness to believe whatever he says. It's part of the social conservative hymnal: women who have sex without paying the consequences, i.e., getting pregnant, are dirty whores. That's the message. It's not about contraception -- for him, it never was.

8, the Play

Being me, of course, I forgot to watch, but here it is:

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Difficult and Traumatic

Found this via numerous sources in the comments on this article on the Archie comic featuring Kevin Keller's wedding. Commenter Kate P sort of tells it like it is:

I've been forced to explain homosexuality to my kids (aged 3 and 4) because their uncle is gay. This incredibly difficult and traumatic experience went as follows:

Child: Why does Uncle Bob go everywhere with Pete?

Me: Because they're in love, just like Mummy and Daddy are.

Child: Oh. Can I have a biscuit?

We're all scarred for life. Scarred, I tell you.

It's sort of astonishing that kids get it when the One Million (minus 960,000) Moms don't.

Tonight Only

There will be a reading of Dustin Lance Black's play 8 tonight in Los Angeles that will also be live-streamed on YouTube beginning at 7:30 PST. Jim Burroway has a post here with a cast list and other details.

Friday, March 02, 2012

No, This is Not From The Onion

Joe Arpaio, who is seeking to bolster his reputation as America's looniest sheriff, had a news conference.

I can't even begin to comment. Just read the post at the link.

The Genuine Article

This should lay the whole controversy to rest:

In Memoriam

This is an unusual In Memoriam post for me -- usually I reserve these for those I will miss. Not in this case: Andrew Breitbart is dead at 43.

I won't go out of my way to speak ill of the dead -- there's no point, really. I despised his public persona and his tactics when he was alive, and I see no reason to change my opinion now. (Needless to say, I didn't know him personally, but I wonder if that would have changed my opinion of him. I do know people whose attitudes and methods I disdain, and I get along with them because in context, I have to. They are not friends.) So don't look for anything from me like Alyssa Rosenberg's comments, which read like a puff piece in the service of "even-handedness." The man was pernicious, a liar and demagogue, who did more damage in his brief career than most manage in their entire lives. His influence was, in my mind, a complete negative. (And for Rosenberg's commentary, to divorce the man as "showman and provocateur" from the ends to which those characteristics were enlisted misses the point.)

The problem is, that influence is not going to go away. Gaius Publius has noted that the conspiracy theories have already taken wing -- Obama had him killed.

I'm sure there are people who will miss him. David Atkins sums up my feelings pretty well.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Today's Must Read

A very clear exposition by Ari Ezra Waldman on an underlying issue in the cases against Prop 8 and DOMA.

Judge White in Golinski went further: Baker v. Nelson could not be a barrier to a gay person's fundamental right to marry because all the fundamental right to marry cases -- from Loving to Zablocki to Turner -- were not about particular kinds of marriages or particular kinds of spouses. They were about a single fundamental right to decide to marry that everyone enjoys, regardless of the character of the spouse.

That's been the basis of my objections to the bullshit about "the Constitution doesn't include a right to homosexual marriage." If you actually read the document, it doesn't mention marriage at all -- no one is specifically guaranteed the right to marriage. Anyone want to argue that all marriages in the United States should be nullified? Anyone? Scalia?

But there is ample precedent going back over 100 years at this point that recognizes marriage as a fundamental right, and none of those opinions stipulate that marriage is between a man and a woman. White is perfectly correct -- the right described is the right to decide to marry, not the right to marry someone designated as acceptable by the state.

Waldman's post is a good one. Read it.

They Seem To Be Batting 1000

That's the One Million (minus 960,000) Moms (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Family Association, a recognized hate group), who most recently demanded that Toys 'R' Us remove an issue of the Archie comic featuring Kevin Keller's wedding -- to another man. The outrage is palpable:

These comic books are displayed at the front checkout counters so they are highly visible to employees, managers, customers and children.

Unfortunately, children are now being exposed to same-sex marriage in your toy store. This is the last place a parent would expect to be confronted with questions from their children on topics that are too complicated for them to understand. Issues of this nature are being introduced too early and too soon, which is becoming extremely common and unnecessary.

A trip to the toy store turns into a premature discussion on sexual orientation and is completely uncalled for. Toys 'R' Us should be more responsible in the products they carry.

I'm reminded of a five-year-old's reaction to a gay married couple, which once came with a delightful video, which sadly has now been pulled. His reaction is great, though:

“I usually see husbands and wives,” the unnamed 5-year-old boy says, speaking to a gay couple in a new viral YouTube video. “But this is the first time I’ve seen husbands and husbands. How funny. So, that means you love each other? Yeah. You’re much alike — you’re much alike. Okay I’m going to play ping-pong now. You can play if you want to.”

Something tells me the kids have less of a problem with same-sex marriage than their mothers do.

And the reaction? From John Goldwater, CEO of Archie Comics:

“We stand by Life with Archie #16. As I’ve said before, Riverdale is a safe, welcoming place that does not judge anyone. It’s an idealized version of America that will hopefully become reality someday. We’re sorry the American Family Association/ OneMillionMoms.com feels so negatively about our product, but they have every right to their opinion, just like we have the right to stand by ours. Kevin Keller will forever be a part of Riverdale, and he will live a happy, long life free of prejudice, hate and narrow-minded people.“

And the result? That issue is sold out.