"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

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Other Side of the Coin

After the last post, I wanted to share this, which arrived in my e-mail this afternoon from Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center:

Dear Friends,

2012 was a year of amazing accomplishments and daunting challenges for the Ali
Forney Center. We kicked off 2012 with a special challenge grant by the Calamus Foundation, matching all new and increased dollars in 2012 (dollar for dollar) towards the opening of the nation’s first 24 Hour Drop In Center for Homeless LGBTQ youth. In June we celebrated our 10th Anniversary marking a decade of providing shelter, housing, and supportive services for young people who are rejected by their families for being who they are.

We saw our work honored by the White House’s Champion of Change Award last July. Also in July we learned that the City of New York would turn over an abandoned building to be developed as an 18-bed long term residence for our youths, to be named in honor of Bea Arthur, with the renovations financed by the NY City Council. And, realizing a long-held dream, we obtained a new space in Harlem for a drop-in center that would be open seven days a week, 24 hours per day.

But, in the greatest challenge we have ever faced, our current drop-in site was destroyed by hurricane Sandy months before we were ready to occupy the new space. Without the generosity and support of the community we would have been crippled in our ability to protect our most vulnerable kids, those struggling to survive in the streets without shelter. But in an extraordinary show of caring and support, thousands of individuals and groups came to our aid, helping us raise the funds to replace what was destroyed and expedite the move into the new space. I cannot possibly list everyone who helped in this short letter, but special mention must be given to the LGBT Center of NYC, who generously gave us space when our drop-in center was itself without a home.

We were able to open in our new site in Harlem a few days before Christmas, though months of renovations remain to be done. And on Christmas eve we were able to serve a wonderful meal to over 50 homeless LGBT youths there. It means so much to me that two short months after the devastation of Sandy we were able to bring so many homeless kids in out of the cold in our new space.

We look forward to 2013. We are eager to complete the renovations in Harlem and finally open overnight (it is always so terrible to close the drop-in center in the evening, knowing so many kids will be out on the streets all night!). The center will also feature a Time Warner Cable Learning Lab, a state of the art technology center for our youth to use to develop and support their educational and career needs. We will soon begin the renovations to the Bea Arthur Residence in the East Village. And we will open a new transitional living residence in Park Slope in the next few months.

I thank you for your kindness and support, and hope that you will consider continuing that support as we face a new year's challenges. Together we can demonstrate that LGBT kids deserve the same love and support as all other kids.

Happy New Year!


224 West 35th Street, Suite 1500, New York, NY 10001

Funny -- I didn't hear anything about the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities stepping in to help out -- did you?

Just in case

you thought that anti-marriage organizations in the U.S. had nonsensical rationalizations locked down, there's this, from the Iona Institute, a Catholic "think tank" in Ireland:

“Those who claim that same-sex couples and married opposite-sex couples should be treated identically must demonstrate that there is no advantage to children in encouraging men and women to marry. They must also demonstrate that children have no right to be raised by their own mother and father, even as a matter of first principle.

“Only after demonstrating that there is no relevant difference between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples, especially from the point of view of children, and that the right to a mother and father where possible does not exist, can same-sex marriage be justified."

There's no discernible connection between legal same-sex marriage and who raises children. No one "must" demonstrate anything of the sort. It's really a rehash of the argument presented in the Prop 8 case (and so many others) that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples encourages "responsible procreation" and supports families. It probably does, but excluding same-sex couples from marriage doesn't address that issue in any way.

And, of course, we can't call them bigots:
“It is also out-of-bounds to denounce as ‘bigots’ and ‘homophobes’ those who have perfectly rational, evidence-based reasons for believing that there is a relevant difference between opposite and same-sex couples."

Unfortunately, the Iona Institute hasn't offered rational, evidence-based reasons, so I guess they're stuck with the label.

You might guess that the move is on to legalize SSM in Ireland. You'd be right.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reprise, and Final Rinse

To get the last of the taste of the "guardians of Western Civilization" out of your mouths. I still get all sniffly when I see this one:

Antidote to Previous Post

That all left a bad taste in my mouth, so I thought I'd post these Christmas message to help rinse it out.

First, the President and First Lady:

And, from Her Majesty, the Queen.

There -- isn't that better?

Both via Blue Truck, Red State, which is a blog you should check out.

Unhinged -- And Downright Nasty

I've been putting this post off -- it is, after all, the season of peace on earth, etc. -- but it occurs to me that some people -- all "Christians" as it happens -- didn't get the memo.

This story sparked the urge:

In a pastoral letter to churches and chapels throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley claimed the Government could not predict the impact of its legislation on children.

In his letter, being read to worshippers tomorrow to mark the Feast of the Holy Family, the Archbishop of Birmingham said: "Government policy cannot foresee the full consequences, for the children involved or for wider society, of being brought up by two mothers without a father's influence or by two fathers without a mother's influence.

"We first learn about diversity and acquire a respect for difference through the complementarity of our parents."

Archbishop Longley went on: "The complementary love of father and mother is a precious gift that we should wish for every child."

Well, there are pretty much always unforeseen consequences. You know what? We deal with them when they happen. And, frankly, for a Roman Catholic priest to be harping on "respect for difference" is kind of a hoot.

One comment on this article (there are over 1400, and no, I didn't read them all) stuck out a bit:

Time we woke up and worked out why male homosexuality has been taboo in so many societies for so long. It cannot be just on religious grounds, but on the basis that it undermines the family group on which many societies are based, that it puts lust before nurture of children and that where it is tolerated, where men enjoy sexual relationships with boys and men whilst retaining marriage, there is very often a situation where women are treated like property.

This is what happens when people start commenting on things they obviously know nothing about. I didn't feel like opening an account at The Telegraph, so here are my reactions: ". . . on the basis that it undermines the family group. . . ." Read Edward O. Wilson on kin selection. He offers a solidly grounded argument for the persistence of homosexuality -- which so many "Christians" claim is a choice because if evolution is true, homosexuals would have all died off -- in the idea that gay siblings are likely to help the survival of their own siblings' children, thus passing on at least part of their genetic heritage.

". . . that it puts lust before nurture of children. . . ." Somebody has a real hang-up about sex, given that this person (and why do I think it's a man?) can apparently only see same-sex attraction in terms of "lust," which any gay man will tell you is not the case at all.

". . . where it is tolerated, where men enjoy sexual relationships with boys and men whilst retaining marriage, there is very often a situation where women are treated like property." Sometimes -- if the society is strongly patriarchal to begin with, as in ancient Greece -- or ancient Israel. On the other hand, there's ancient Ireland, where homosexuality was tolerated and women were very independent, owning property and often ruling in their own right. (And even in early Greece, before the advent of the Achaeans, you have a matrilineal society in which women held the real power, which is to say, control of inheritance, and where men ruled by right of their marriage to the queen.)


Let's to on with more "good will toward men." You can always count on the pope:

In his remarks, Benedict quoted the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, in saying the campaign for granting gays the right to marry and adopt children was an "attack" on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.

"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves."

"The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned," he said.

It was the second time in a week that Benedict has taken on the question of gay marriage, which is currently dividing France, and which scored big electoral wins in the United States last month. In his recently released annual peace message, Benedict said gay marriage, like abortion and euthanasia, was a threat to world peace. The Vatican went on a similar anti-gay marriage media blitz last month after three U.S. states approved gay marriage by popular vote.

This is his message for Christmas. Do I have to say anything? Via ThinkProgress, which has a bit of a summary of the pope's messages of "good will toward men":

Benedict has repeatedly condemned same-sex marriage as “defection in human nature” that bears an “immense human and economic cost.” Most recently, he used his World Day of Peace message to claim that marriage equality presents a “serious harm to justice and peace.”

And moving on -- the Tony Perkins Award is split, between none other than Tony Perkins and Major George Hood of the Salvation Army. From Zack Ford at ThinkProgress:

Gay activists will be putting a little something in the red kettle this year-but it won’t be money. They’re asking people to drop in complaints instead because the Salvation Army has a biblical view of sexuality.

Despite decades of community service, activists say those kettles are pushing an anti-gay agenda. Nothing could be future from the truth says Major George Hood. You don’t have to be straight to get help from the Salvation Army, he explained. Not a single “policy, practice, or program” even asks about sexual orientation. “The very mission of the Salvation Army calls for meeting the needs of humans without discrimination.”

The truth is, homosexuals are only targeting the Salvation Army because it’s Christian. And they’d rather help their agenda than the needy.

Actually, the gays I know tend to contribute directly to charities that are helping the needy without strings. As Ford points out:

LGBT bloggers Bil Browning and John Aravosis have thoroughly cataloged the Salvation Army’s anti-gay record. Major Hood, Perkins’ ringing endorsement for LGBT-inclusion, defended the notion of discriminating against gay employees in 2001 because “it really begins to chew away at the theological fabric of who we are.”

That's all I have the stomach for today. I'm sure 2013 will bring more of the same, if not worse -- people who see themselves becoming irrelevant tend to get shrill.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Flowers

And they're orchids, which makes it even better. I love orchids, and the weirder they are, the more I love them. Here's a report on two new species from Cuba. And here are the flowers:

That's Tetramicra riparia, a tiny one -- flowers smaller than a dime. (There are smaller ones -- you need a magnifying glass to make out any details on most of the Dendrochilums -- but this is a little cutie.) And here's Encyclia navarroi:

I realize it's sideways, but that's the way they arrange themselves on the flower stalk. I'm especially fond of Encyclias -- I have an Encyclia tampensis, which is native to Florida, which I have managed to bloom exactly once in the last ten years, but it's a great one. It's darker than this -- real mahogany in color:

Maybe once I get into a decent apartment, I'll start growing orchids again -- miniatures, on the windowsill. There are Oncidiums that grow smaller than the palm of your hand, and have these long flower stalks with tons of flowers. Something to think about.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Poor Linda Harvey

People are picking on her. Do you suppose it was something she said?

Joe Jervis has her rant here. I'm not going to repost it -- it's pretty much self-serving bullshit. But I will respond to her initial statement, which Joe has taken from a tape of her radio program:

"Why should the equal protection argument be made in favor of homosexual behavior, which is changeable? People are not naturally homosexual, so the definition of 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment is being twisted to make this assumption. 'Person' should be understood based on historic, beneficial, or at least neutral and fact-based traits; it should not be twisted to incorporate behavior that most religions and most cultures have said a firm 'no' to."

Let's take a good look at this.
"Why should the equal protection argument be made in favor of homosexual behavior, which is changeable?"

There's no evidence to support that assertion, just the "testimony" of interested parties who have done no scientifically rigorous studies on "changing" sexual orientation. Yes, she says "behavior," but I'm not willing to let her get away with that sleight-of-hand: she means orientation, as becomes quite clear:

"People are not naturally homosexual . . ."

People, penguins, porpoises -- well, over 400 species of vertebrates, so far, exhibit not only homosexual behavior, but same-sex pair-bonding. I'm not really convinced that all those lizards, seagulls, dogs, cats, etc., just decided to spit in God's eye.

Next is the meat -- she's complaining that others are twisting her words to make it seem as though she claims that we are not people. It's pretty obvious what she means:

". . . the definition of 'person' in the Fourteenth Amendment is being twisted to make this assumption. 'Person' should be understood based on historic, beneficial, or at least neutral and fact-based traits . . ."

Seems pretty clear to me: she's saying that gay people should not be considered "persons" under the law on the basis of their sexual orientation. She's saying "Let's excise the 'homosexuals' from the whole area of fundamental civil rights -- pretend they don't apply." Ignore for the moment that her reasoning in arriving at this point is, at best, specious. She's also trying to substitute her own meaning for "person" based on entirely subjective terms -- at least, that's the thrust of "beneficial" and "neutral." As for "historic" and "fact-based" -- well, she doesn't seem to know much about history or facts, as witness her grand finale:

". . . it should not be twisted to incorporate behavior that most religions and most cultures have said a firm 'no' to."

Actually, if you have any familiarity with a range of cultures and religions at all, you know that most of them don't really care about sexual orientation. How about the ancient Greeks? The ancient Irish? The medieval Chinese, or the Japanese of the Edo period? The pre-Columbian cultures of North America? And all their associated religions? I'm not going to get into a numbers game with Linda Harvey -- she's quite obviously operating within that hermetically sealed universe in which "most religions and most cultures" means Jewish, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant. She certainly evidences no awareness of anything beyond that. (Although I bet her attitude toward Islam is worth investigating.)

So, in spite of her hurt feelings -- and I'm finding it exceptionally difficult to have any sympathy for her, although anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm a pretty empathic person -- I have to come to the conclusion that she is not only ignorant, but mendacious.

That's not pretty at all.

Change You Can Believe In

OK, maybe not. From NBC News:

A landmark Environmental Protection Agency report concluding that children exposed to toxic substances can develop learning disabilities, asthma and other health problems has been sidetracked indefinitely amid fierce opposition from the chemical industry.

America’s Children and the Environment, Third Edition, is a sobering analysis of the way in which pollutants build up in children’s developing bodies and the damage they can inflict.

The report is unpublished, but was posted on EPA’s website in draft form in March 2011, marked “Do not Quote or Cite.” The report, which is fiercely contested by the chemical industry, was referred to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where it still languishes.

This is maybe not such a surprise:

Some present and former EPA staffers, who asked not to be named for fear of losing their jobs, blamed the sidetracking of the report on heightened political pressure during the campaign season. The OMB has been slow to approve environmental regulations and other EPA reports throughout the Obama Administration — as it was under George W. Bush according to reports by the Center for Progressive Reform, a nonprofit consortium of scholars, doing research on health, safety and environmental issues, which generally advocate for stronger regulation and better enforcement of existing law.

Just like Dubya. Who would have guessed?

Via AmericaBlog. Interesting comment there on one of the probable players, linking to this article at ThinkProgress (from 2009, no less):

How would progressives respond if President Bush nominated as “regulatory czar” a person who:

– Once called for changing the Clean Air Act to require a balancing of costs and benefits in setting national clean air standards – a fundamental weakening long sought by big polluters who believe it would help them resist cleanup;

– Urged the federal government to devalue senior citizens in calculating the benefits of federal regulations because “A program that saves young people produces more welfare than one that saves old people.” This is a concept dubbed the “senior death discount,” and that environmentalists forced EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman to renounce in 2003;

– Argued that it “might be better” to help future generations deal with global warming by “including approaches that make posterity richer and better able to adapt” than by “reducing emissions.”

– Even raised questions about the value of cleaning up Love Canal, reducing arsenic in drinking water and using child restraints in automobiles?

Progressives would’ve screamed, of course. But what will they do now that President-elect Obama appears poised to nominate Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein to head the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)? For it’s actually Sunstein who has articulated the views noted above regarding clean air and the other issues involving costs, benefits and risk.

If you had any doubt that the Obama administration is firmly in the pocket of corporate America, wake up. The global warming bit is particularly rich: the government has been doing exactly the opposite on "making posterity richer" (although it's not all Obama's fault -- but enough of it is). You sort of have to ask: Whose posterity?

I think progressives need to start screaming again. As if anyone in Washington is listening.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Have you noticed

how many Christmas pictures on blogs feature cats peering out of the tree?

Just sayin'.

Remedial Civics (Updated)

Piers Morgan, the British journalist who presently is working as a commentator on CNN, has been vocal in his calls for tighter regulation of guns and ammunition. The expected response is, of course, just as expected: a petition to deport him has gotten 62,000 signatures in two days. I'm sure those 62,000 are all "real 'Murricans" who have the Second Amendment memorized.

British Citizen and CNN television host Piers Morgan is engaged in a hostile attack against the U.S. Constitution by targeting the Second Amendment. We demand that Mr. Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.

Wayne LaPierre could have written that, don't you think?

Unfortunately for the signers, they should have spent some time memorizing some of the other ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights -- like the First. You know, the one that guarantees freedom of speech.

Oh, and a little dose of reality wouldn't hurt: Morgan, has vocal as he has been, has absolutely no power to do anything to the Second Amendment, or any other.

More's the pity.

Update: Just caught this story:

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

Josh Marshall has an interesting quote at TPM:

“This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council,” said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “So when a man with a gun who didn’t identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.”

Maybe that's the whole point.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry, Happy, Blessed

You can fill in whichever holiday you observe.

Going over the news for the past few days, I'm sort of appalled at the amount of smallness, meanness, and nastiness coming out of figures both public and not so public. It's Christmas, for crying out loud. Even though I don't observe it as such (same holiday, though -- birth of the Sun/Son), you'd think people (especially the pope) would have a little more loving message.

I'm not going to do that today, but watch for another installment of Disgusting People real soon.

For today, relax, enjoy family and friends, observe as you wish.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Best Response

To the NRA's response to the Sandy Hook massacre:

British news is covering the NRA response to Newtown and has had to clarify twice that what they're showing is not a spoof.

— @HelenLOHara via web

From DailyKos.

Click through and read the other reactions.

And Good Will Toward Men

From the pope:

"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves."

"The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned," he said.

If that sounds incoherent, it's because it is. It's supposed to be his usual rant against same-sex marriage and gay people in general, but to me it sounds like a condemnation of ex-gay therapies. You have to be supremely ignorant about the origins of sexual orientation to think that something like that is making your point against homosexuality.

This is good:

"When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God," Benedict said.

The one trying to strip me of my dignity is Benedict.

When people are obviously senile, I think we should have pity on them and not allow them to make fools of themselves in public.

Here's the full text of his speech.

It Doesn't Stop (Updated)

Well, the NRA has finally spoken.

The National Rifle Association broke its silence Friday on last week's shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school that left 26 children and staff dead.

The group's top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, said at a Washington news conference that "the next Adam Lanza," the man responsible for last week's mayhem, is planning an attack on another school.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.

He blamed video games, movies and music videos for exposing children to a violent culture day in and day out.

"In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes," LaPierre said.

In other words, it's everyone else's fault. That's becoming the standard reaction on the right any time their policies backfire.

I've only seen snippets of LaPierre's "press conference," but it's been characterized as meandering, incoherent, defensive, and combative. From what I have seen, I smell desperation.

(Update: Found a video of the whole thing:

Jason Linkins has a slightly different take on LaPierre's speech (because it was a speech).

Granted, if you believe that what LaPierre was trying to do today was to sincerely join in a national conversation over school shootings, or offer a coherent set of preventative policy options, or even just demonstrate some baseline sensitivity for the lives that were lost, it is easy to see why you'd deem LaPierre's press conference to be an ineffective, tone-deaf failure. But what you should remember that the National Rifle Association does not exist to offer sensible public policy or participate in conversations or pretend to be sensitive about tragedies. The National Rifle Association exists to assist the manufacturers of guns and gun-related accoutrements in selling guns and gun-related accoutrements to people. That is their job, summed up, in its entirety.

The NRA are lobbyists who represent a bunch of gun retailers, and this is what lobbyists do -- they help their clients sell their products. And every action that LaPierre took today can and should be viewed through that prism.

There are people who claim to be legitimately gobsmacked today that LaPierre did not come to Washington, D.C., and say, "You know, I honestly think we can give ground on the assault weapons thing." Those people need to ask themselves: Why would a guy who is paid to help assault weapon manufacturers sell assault weapons to people who want assault weapons say, "Hey, let's restrict the sales of assault weapons?" If you thought that the NRA was going to sign on to any sort of weapons ban, then you have not been paying attention to what the NRA is all about.

John Aravosis has a post with some of the post-infomercial (his term) Twitter reactions.

And in the meantime, the shooting deaths continue. From HuffPo, the Top 100.

Here's a screen cap via AmericaBlog (for some reason, I can't do print screen on this computer) of the headline for that story:

This is since Sandy Hook -- one freakin' week. Go ahead -- tell me we need more guns.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What the Democrats Should Be Proposing

From Cliff Schechter:

1) Lower the Medicare age to 40

2) Bulk negotiation and reimportation of prescription drugs for Medicare

3) Double Social Security benefits (per the New America Foundation)

3) Add an additional tax rate for over $1 million per year of 50%, let's call it the "First Term Reagan" tax rate, end the ridiculous Romney-ish "carried interest loophole" (per Warren Buffett)

4) Decriminalization of recreational drugs--you know, to save the billions wasted in criminal justice costs, if not for moral reasons (per Richard Branson)

5) Cut defense spending by at least $110 billion as Rep. Jan Schakowsky has called for (explained best by Red Dawn...sort of)

6) Get out of Afghanistan--yesterday (explained best by common sense, experiences of the last century and War Of The Worlds)

Oh, and Mr. President? Social Security and Medicare are not "entitlements" -- they are earned benefits.

Read Schechter's whole post. It's appropriately scathing.

Short Marriage Update

First, a pathetic video from NOM celebrating the "victories for marriage" in 2012:

The comments at YouTube are scathing. And here's a run-down from Laurel Ramseyer at Pam's House Blend on just what those "victories" were.

Courtesy of Rex Wocker, here's a list of where same-sex marriage is legal. Short form: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Saba, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. It's recognized nationally in Mexico, but couples must be married in the Federal District or the states of Oaxaca and Qintana Roo. Similarly, in Brazil marriages can be performed in the states of Alagoas, Bahia, and São Paulo, and elsewhere in Brazil couples can enter into a "stable union" and have it converted to full marriage by appearing before a judge. And in the US:

In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington -- and in Washington, D.C. It also is legal within the Suquamish Indian tribe in Washington state and within the Coquille Indian tribe in Oregon.

And for next year? France looks possible, as do England and Scotland. Uruguay is considering a marriage bill, and the Constitutional Court of Colombia has instructed the congress to pass legislation post-haste; failing that, same-sex couples will have full marriage rights in June, 2013 (the bill has passed the first vote). New Zealand is in the process of amending its marriage law to permit SSM. Nepal, as far as I can determine, is still debating its new constitution, which will legalize SSM. (Although apparently a separate bill has been introduced.) Finland is working on it. And Taiwan may have legal SSM early next year. Vietnam is in the first stages of considering the issue. Japan, although it recognizes marriages of its citizens performed in other jurisdictions, domestically seems to wish the whole thing would just go away.

What about the U.S.? Just off the top of my head, likely candidates are Illinois, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Hawai'i. A group in Minnesota is pushing for legislation to legalize SSM, after the defeat of NOM's anti-marriage amendment, and with a heavily Democratic legislature. Offhand, I can't think of any others that look likely (and I don't consider the effort in Minnesota likely, but you have to start somewhere). California depends on the Supreme Court at this point, but my guess it they'll uphold the 9th Circuit if they get past the standing issue.

OK -- this turned out to be not so short -- there's a lot going on with marriage these days.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Short Answer

to the wave of shooting sprees in this country: First, you take away the guns. No private citizen needs assault weapons. Most don't need handguns. Ban the former, license the hell out of the latter. Also hunting rifles. Make it a big pain in the ass to buy a gun -- miles of red tape, reams of forms to fill out, background checks, the works.

The same day that Adam Lanza went nuts at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a nut armed with a knife went into a school in China and started stabbing people. I forget how many kids were wounded, but nobody died. He didn't have a gun because it's against the law in China for a private citizen to own one. The Australian government instituted bans on certain types of guns in 1996, after the Port Arthur Massacre. It hasn't had a similar incident since, and gun homicides are down.

So how do you stop mass killings? You take away the means.

Then you start working on the causes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Well, That Didn't Take Long (Update)

This is what hit me first this morning:

President Barack Obama's offer to slow the growth of Social Security benefits would force fellow Democrats in Congress to abandon promises to shield the massive retirement and disability program from cuts as part of negotiations to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff.

Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pledged not to touch Social Security as part of deficit reduction talks. Now that Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have agreed to a new measure of inflation that would reduce annual cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, for Social Security and other government programs, Democrats are reluctant to call it a deal-breaker.

Umm -- I seem to remember a candidate up for re-election who insisted that Social Security was off the table in deficit reduction talks. And he's been insisting that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, which anyone who's been paying attention knows. Via e-mail from DailyKos:

This proposed benefit cut goes against previous statements from the White House which indicated that Social Security cuts would not be part of negotiations because Social Security is not the cause of or solution to our budget woes. On November 26, 2012, White House spokesperson Jay Carney stated, “Social Security is not currently a driver of the deficit. That's an economic fact.”

Gaius Publius has a couple of cogent posts on this at AmericaBlog. First, the cave, quoting WaPo:

President Barack Obama has agreed to curtail future cost-of-living increases for recipients of Social Security and softened his demand for higher taxes at upper income levels as part of accelerating talks with House Speaker John Boehner to avoid a “fiscal cliff,” people familiar with the talks said Monday.

Read GP's post -- he's got good detail on what's under attack (it's not just Social Security) and how bad it will be.

And here's his post on the "chained CPI" proposal. A good analysis from Salon:

The CPI, or cost of living index, is used to make sure benefits keep pace with inflation, but there are lots of different ways to calculate it. The current measure, called the CPI-W, is generally accepted to overestimate inflation, but the liberals say the proposed alternative, the chained CPI, is too stingy. The chained CPI assumes seniors will adjust their buying habits in response to price shifts (e.g., if the price of oranges goes up, they’ll buy more apples), so they should be able to afford to take a haircut on benefit checks. But liberals say that seniors often barely make ends meet with current benefit levels, so cutting them more would be devastating.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, noted that 102 House Democrats have already said that Social Security changes should be kept off the table in these negotiations. “Everyone has a grandparent, a friend or a neighbor who relies on the Social Security benefits they earned to pay for medical care, food and housing. A move towards chained CPI would be a long-term benefit cut for every single person who receives a Social Security check,” he said in a statement.

The chained CPI would cut about $6,000 worth of benefits in the first 15 years of retirement for the average 65-year-old, and $16,000 over 25 years.

For those who like pictures:

Here's another showing just how much the chained CPI would lower benefits compared to the current index:

Both images from StrengthenSocialSecurity.org.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should have voted for the robot instead of the snake. The result would have been the same, but at least we would have known what we were getting.

You know the drill -- call or write your reps and make a lot of noise. Maybe you should even write the president, just so he knows we're not as stupid as he thinks we are.

Update: Here's Matt Yglesias on the Chained CPI.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In the wake

of another massacre of school children, the cockroaches have certainly come out from hiding. It's time for another installment of Disgusting People.

Let's start with Mike Huckabee, who's either a pastor or a former governor, or both -- I suspect he has trouble telling the difference. At any rate, this time he's in full-blown religious nut mode:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee attributed the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in part to restrictions on school prayer and religious materials in the classroom.

"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee said on Fox News, discussing the murder spree that took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in Newtown, CT that morning. "Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"

Law enforcement has released few details on the alleged gunman, but Huckabee suggested that the separation of church and state may have spurred his rampage.

Nothing like using a tragedy -- dead 6 and 7 year-olds, for the love of all that's holy -- to push your personal agenda.

In as similar vein, Bryan Fischer, who can usually be counted on to be scraping at the bottom of the barrel, came out with this:
Fischer said that God could have protected the victims of this massacre, but didn't because "God is not going to go where he is not wanted" and so if school administrators really want to protect students, they will start every school day with prayer.

There's video at the link. I just don't want Fischer's face on my blog.

This is choice: Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, came out with this:
“Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun.”

Can you say "f**ked up"? Add this man's mind to the list of places I wouldn't be caught dead in.

And you can always count on Westboro Baptist Church:

I'm sort of surprised that Tony Perkins and Brian Brown aren't out there blaming it on same-sex marriage.

That's all I can deal with right now. This whole thing has depressed the hell out of me for two days.

Except -- John Cole sort of sums up my feelings on the whole "gun control" thing:

Because in the middle of one of the most dangerous regions in the world, even with clear Rules of Engagement, every time I went on gate duty, there was a piece of tape over my ammo clip on my M-16 and M1911 .45. Why? Because the most heavily armed military in the world did not want accidental shootings. If a situation arose, I would have to eject my ammo clip, remove the tape, and reinsert and work the action before I could fire.

This was in a combat zone. Yet I have spent the last two fucking days dealing with armchair commandos telling me they need unlimited firepower to be safe in… Connecticut.

If there are bigger pussies in the world than gun nuts, I don’t know who the fuck they are.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Guns (Updated)

I was going to post on the Sandy Hook shooting, and some of the attendant idiocy from the right, but words fail me. Maybe later.

Update: As as stopgap, take a look at this timeline.

Pam Spaulding brings up a couple of relevant issues that most other reports ignore.

Since gun control legislation is a non-starter, why not focus on an area — mental illness — that is under-discussed because of stigma and help unearth the origins of our anti-social behavior and inability to serve those in emotional and psychological distress before they act out violently? It’s at least a more realistic starting point than hitting heads against the wall while these shootings keep mounting.

My hope is that in this politically polarized nation that we can find some common ground on mental health policy and perception of treatment of it as no less important than addressing any physical chronic disease. And it has to go hand in hand with a serious look at our culture’s “me first”, hair-trigger-temper mentality. Look at the atrocious, almost expected violent mob and aggressive behavior of some shoppers on Black Friday over big screen TVs or the latest toy. Or road rage where guns are pulled out in lieu of shouting or even fisticuffs. We are a society that always seems to be on the edge of blowing a gasket over minor crap.

See also this post by Josh Marshall -- we worship guns and violence in this country.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sound and Fury

Signifying nothing.

That seems to be the take in the country on the "fiscal cliff" noise coming out of Washington. This is an illuminating story about people's reactions to the "negotiations" and the players.

John Baker, 65, a Denver psychologist, said he had little faith in Congress' ability to fix the problem: "I don't think Congress can fix a flat tire."

"It's a typical Washington, 'Let's hit the panic button and keep people scared so they will let us do what we want to do,'" Baker said in a downtown Denver Starbucks. "Ultimately, it will be fixed but not until a lot of pockets are lined."

That pretty much sums up my feeling. Congress and the President made this mess, it's all kabuki marking time until the next election, and I have no faith in their ability to come up with something that works. I will credit Obama one thing: he's offering options that have a chance of actually working, unlike the teabagger caucus and Grover Norquist. And at least he doesn't seem to be negotiating with himself this time, but who knows how long that will last. I have no faith in the Democrats in Congress, or most of them -- the couldn't find their asses with both hands and a map. The Republicans are even worse -- they just deny that they have asses.

Can you see why I get fed up reading the news?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

More on Marriage

There's a lot of speculation and theorizing on what SCOTUS' grant of cert in the two marriage cases portends, which I may address later.

First, however, Joe Jervis has a post with reactions to the Court's decision, which he has been updating. The ones in the post are all from "our side."

He's also got the reaction from Protect Marriage, which is a hoot:

The day we've been waiting for is finally here. Today we scored a MAJOR victory for traditional marriage in the Supreme Court of the United States!! Just moments ago, the Supreme Court GRANTED our petition seeking the Court’s review of the Ninth Circuit’s erroneous decision striking down California's Proposition 8. Thankfully, now we finally have a fighting chance at a fair hearing to defend the votes of over 7 million Californians who approved Prop 8 to restore traditional marriage. This is a great relief, after a long and difficult journey through the lower courts where the deck was stacked against us from the start.

My first reaction to this one, aside from content, was "Look at the level this is written on." Random capitalized words, multiple exclamation points -- tell you anything about the intended audience?

And calling the Court's decision to grant cert a "major victory" -- oh, excuse me, that's "MAJOR victory" -- is more than a little premature. Most people wait to proclaim victory until they've won. This group is calling it a victory because there's going to be a hearing. Come to think of it, the whole thing -- being heard is a "victory" because in the lower courts, the "deck was stacked" against them: poor, beleaguered, persecuted Protect Marriage. Looks like the victim mindset has taken over.

NOM's reaction is just as far removed from reality. Here's the most objectionable part:
We believe it is a strong signal that the Court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8. That is the right outcome based on the law and based on the principle that voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect.

At the risk of duplicating the comment I left at the post, notice the weasel words: this is, in NOM's lexicon, a "basic policy judgment," not a civil rights issue. That's been their stance all along, which is a real denial of reality: there are fourteen Supreme Court precedents and a couple of Constitutional amendments that make this a civil rights case, pure and simple, but of course, if NOM allowed that, all those nice fat salaries would go away.

And Jervis came up with a priceless comment, titled "GOProud Reacts to SCOTUS Decisions."

For the legal geeks, there's an interesting discussion of the theory behind the grants and what it could mean for outcomes by Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog.

Friday, December 07, 2012

It's Official

The GOP is the Party of Rape:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the author of the Senate VAWA bill, went to the Senate floor on Thursday and plainly announced that House Republican leaders are blocking his bill "because of their objections to [the] ... tribal provision."

Leahy explained the provision, probably the least understood of the three additions in the Senate bill: It gives tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal lands. Currently, federal and state law enforcement have jurisdiction over domestic violence on tribal lands, but in many cases, they are hours away and lack the resources to respond to those cases. Tribal courts, meanwhile, are on site and familiar with tribal laws, but lack the jurisdiction to address domestic violence on tribal lands when it is carried out by a non-Native American individual.

That means non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on tribal lands are essentially "immune from the law, and they know it," Leahy said.

Spearheading the effort is Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who joins Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin, Richard "God intended it to happen" Mourdock, and Rick "Rape babies are a gift from God" Santorum as one of the lowest forms of life.



Finally -- I was almost convinced they were going to keep punting the marriage cases down the line as long as they could. From NYT:

The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would enter the national debate over same-sex marriage, agreeing to hear a pair of cases challenging state and federal laws that define marriage to include only unions of a man and a woman.

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Another case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

The cases are Hollingsworth v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown, the Prop 8 case) and United States v. Windsor (DOMA).

Ari Ezra Waldman, as usual, has a good clear analysis of the decision to take these cases at Towleroad; you might also take a look at this report, which includes some fairly entertaining reactions.

I know, I know. . . .

I haven't been posting much lately. That's what reading the news these days will do to you. Let me see if I can find something of interest. . . .

First off, one of the Liars for Jesus(TM), Brian Brown, who has this to say in the wake of Maryland's successful ballot initiative to recognize same-sex marriages:

Well, actually no. No one's being "forced" to do anything.

"We’re a Christian-owned company, and we just can't support gay marriages," Grubbs said. "We're not trying to make a statement. We're not trying to make a point. We're just trying to be faithful Christians."

A couple of things about this: Maryland has had a gay-inclusive non-discrimination law on the books for a while. Suddenly, when it involves legal recognition of same-sex relationships, it's an intolerable burden on the religious beliefs of the owner of a public accommodation. Interesting timing, isn't it?

And yes, he is trying to make a statement -- if you read the story, he's petitioned for a religious exemption to the non-discrimination laws on the basis of his personal religious beliefs. The statement he's making is that his private beliefs trump everyone else's right to be treated equally under the law.

Read the comments at the article -- the ones about "government guns" are a scream.

And there you have a sterling example of why "Christian" has come to be synonymous with "bigot."

Oh, and Brian Brown is lying, but we sorta figured that. It's Brian Brown, after all, who I think gets today's Tony Perkins Award.

And next, the Liberty Counsel, trying to push the idea the belief is fact:

Pay special attention to the first sentence, and then read the rest. "Drug addiction"? That's certainly respectful, isn't it? It occurs to me that one could draw the same parallels, with a stronger correspondence, between drug addiction and adherence to certain forms of Christianity -- that certainly becomes a dependency, which, if you know anything about the science of sexual orientation, homosexuality is not.

The whole screed comes from some alternate universe, it really does.


On the home front, so to speak, marriage equality is coming to Illinois, one way or another, pretty soon. Some interesting numbers from PPP:
Fifty-eight percent of voters under age 45 support marriage equality, compared with 37 percent who oppose it, the poll found. Black voters supported same-sex marriage 60/16, PPP said. Latinos supported Illinois marriage equality at 70/23. The majority of white voters did not support same-sex marriage in Illinois with 40 percent supporting and 51 percent opposing.

The overall figure is still a plurality, and there's no way to figure how that's going to translate into votes in the legislature, but there's a court case that the state if refusing to defend, so the whole question of legislative action may become moot.

Maybe I should start husband-hunting.

The "fiscal cliff." Gods! what a bunch of bullshit. Margaret and Helen, bless 'em, have the best take:

In truth, I am pretty disgusted with all politicians right now. They’ve all gotten a little too predictable for my taste. Republicans want more money for the wealthy and more war. Democrats want to take care of the poor, the elderly and want more money for education programs… On second thought, I’m really just disgusted with Republican politicians.

If this is the best we can expect from Republican leadership, we have a bigger problem than going over some cliff. How about we just pass the President’s plan? If it fails, the Republicans might actually stand a chance in the next election. If it succeeds, the Republicans might finally have to move into the 21st Century.

Show me a fiscal cliff and I will gladly push McConnell and Boehner over the edge. Maybe then the grown ups can roll up their sleeves and get something done. Because how the hell is any deep thinking going to happen if those two insist on spending the whole day pissing in the baby pool? I mean it. Really.

Footnote: This is just the frosting on the cake:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced legislation to raise the debt ceiling on Thursday, apparently with the intent of showing that even Democrats would not support such a bill.

However, McConnell’s plan backfired after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called for a vote on the legislation, which would have given the president the authority to raise the federal debt ceiling on his own. The top Senate Republican was forced to filibuster his own bill.

And here I though Rand Paul was the stupidest sitting senator.

This is the Republican-controlled Senate:

And on the happy side, Washington State began issuing marriage licenses at 12:01 am yesterday. And lots of couples were there to take advantage of the early opening.

Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, a West Seattle couple of 35 years, were the first couple to get a license, after waiting decades to get marrired. As the clock struck midnight, a crowd led by King County Executive Dow Constantine clapped and cheered, and Lighty, 77, and Petersen, 85, raised their hands to take an oath.

"People who have been waiting all these years to have their rights recognized should not have to wait one minute longer," said Constantine, who stayed up into the wee hours to issue the county's first marriage licenses.

"To have our 35-year loving relationship publicly honored and celebrated and have this be a legal marriage means everything to both of us," said Lighty, a former nurse. She and Petersen, a former Korean War flight nurse, will be wed at a Seattle Men's Chorus concert at Benaroya Hall this weekend.

Because of Washington's three-day waiting period, the first weddings will take place on Sunday.

And in Maryland, which also began issuing licenses yesterday, the couples have to wait until Jan. 1 to be married, although the attorney general said it was OK to issue post-dated licenses.

Maine's marriage law takes effect on Dec. 29, a Saturday, but there's no waiting period. And the Portland City Hall will open at 12:01 am.

There, that's enough of a catch-up.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Heterosexual Awareness Month

As though anyone were not aware of heterosexuals.

This came to my attention this morning, and I think it needs to get out there:

This was the image on Facebook that sparked this response from a gay man's son:

"How come nobody asked me what I want?..." It's clear to me that no one who was involved in the creation of this BS site ever bothered to ask children of gay parents how we feel about it. Well, even though you scrupulously avoided asking (because you knew you probably wouldn't like the answer, and it certainly wouldn't be useful to this campaign of slander), let me tell you, as the son of a gay man. My father is a remarkable man, he's an accomplished artist, he was a caring and involved father and mentor, and I love him. Therefore, I'm glad he was lucky enough to find love and happiness with someone who loves him back and appreciates him. I certainly don't care what that someone has between his legs; that's your PRURIENT AND WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE CONCERN, and I really wish you'd stop putting it on people like me. You already claim to speak for gay people ("It's a choice," "Every gay relationship is dysfunctional," "No gay person can really be a Christian," etc) is that not enough? Do you need to appropriate the speech of their children too?

As you might guess, the "Heterosexual Awareness Month" people deleted the comment and blocked this young man from posting.

I have a question for the "Heterosexual Awareness Month" group, but I'm not going to try to post a comment at their Facebook page -- first, I don't do Facebook (I do value what little online privacy I've got left), and second, they'd delete it and block me. But here it is: Just who asks any child what kind of family they want? And when are you supposed to do this? At birth? At conception? Or, if you're in Arizona, two weeks before conception?

Oh, and don't forget: these are among the people who are always complaining about the gay side of this discussion not engaging in "civil" discussions. Of course, to be able to engage in a civil discussion, you've got to be willing to have a discussion to begin with. I guess their idea of "discussion" is "I talk, you listen."

Read the post at the link -- it's worth it. Oh, and for those of you who do Facebook and/or Twitter, or any of those other "social media" things, go to it -- this is something that needs the widest possible dissemination.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Story du Jour

There are good people in the world. Some of them even wear uniforms to work.

On a cold November night in Times Square, Officer Lawrence DePrimo was working a counterterrorism post when he encountered an older, barefooted homeless man. The officer disappeared for a moment, then returned with a new pair of boots, and knelt to help the man put them on. . . .

The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, readily recalled the encounter. “It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” he said in an interview. “I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” They started talking; he found out the man’s shoe size: 12.

As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue on his heels, Officer DePrimo went into a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 p.m. “We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, 28, a manager working at the store that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”

Mr. Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring down the regular $100 price of the all-weather boots to a little more than $75. The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”

This all came to light thanks to a photo shot by a tourist from Arizona on her cell phone. It's gone viral.