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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Jason Collins Comes Out

If you don't know who Jason Collins is, or why it's important, welcome to the club. I didn't know who he was until yesterday. However, Collins' coming out is significant: he's the first player in a national sports league to come out and express his intention of continuing to play.

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.

I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.

With a few notable exceptions, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Joe.My.God. has a good summary of those responding in support, including the President and First Lady, a whole bunch of athletes, Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton (who went to school with Collins), and just about everyone else you can think of. The Red Sox offered him the opportunity to throw the first pitch:

There are, of course, the usual jerks who think this is terrible. Bryan Fischer came out with the hysterical (in both senses of the word, but I doubt he was thinking "funny") observation that now the straight players in the locker room will be "uncomfortable" because they're worried about Collins "eyeballing" them.

Um -- he's been sharing showers with them for twelve years. And isn't it interesting that Fischer feels that he's qualified to speak, not only for NBA players, but their wives? (Hey, Fischer -- remember all the horrible consequences of the repeal of DADT? Oh, wait. . . .)

The one that struck me was this:

What bothers me is not Wallace's tweets -- he doesn't get it, and he admits it -- but the reaction. The headline from the Pink News story catches the tone of what I've seen:

US: NFL player tweets homophobic message hours after first NBA player comes out as gay

The comments at that story are illustrative of what I've seen in other coverage: the assumption that since Wallace didn't immediately accept Collins' announcement without question, he must be a homophobe.

There's a category of people, I've discovered, who spend a lot of time looking for things to be offended about. It's highly prevalent on the PC, identity politics left, and the right has borrowed the idea -- the OneMillionMoms [sic] for example. John Aravosis has a good post on that subject:

It’s part of a growing problem I’ve noticed for years, but have recently felt coming to a head. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to comment about far too many things in the public sphere without offending someone and creating instant outrage, often unmerited. As a result, you end up not wanting to write about the possibly-offending topics, which works to the detriment of the topics involved, unless the writer is a flaming bigot.

In the past few months I’ve been accused of supporting rape, terrorism, and hating trans people, bisexuals, women, immigrants, and Bradley Manning, which apparently encompasses a larger category of mom-and-apple-pie things that I’m sure I must hate or at least have no respect for (apparently I hate Manning because I asked a simple innocuous question in order to better understand what most angered his advocates). The need to be outraged about everything, and usually for insufficient reason, I’m calling Outrage, Inc. It’s the Change-dot-org-ification of advocacy, where with only 30 seconds of effort, you too can be mad as hell about anything, everything, and nothing.

I've had the same experience, having once been accused of racism on a blog which shall remain nameless (but one in which they have turned victimhood into a fine and rare form of bullying) for asking questions. (In point of fact, until that incident, I wasn't much aware of race except as a descriptive category -- the idea of using race as a basis for judgment never occurred to me. That's the way I was raised: I don't see people as categories.)

I'll finish with the comment I left at Aravosis' post:

I've run into too much of that kind of nonsense, and it's not even that I tend to be somewhat plain-spoken: it's been because I dared to question assumptions, which apparently is the one sin that the ideologues on both the right and left consider unforgivable.

Since I don't believe in sin to begin with, I'm now at the point where my response to that sort of crap is simply: "Grow up, get over yourself, and leave the outrage to the OneMillionMoms [sic] and Tony Perkins."

Oh, and congratulations to Jason Collins.

Marriage News Watch, 4/29/13

Missed this one yesterday. (Actualy, it wasn't posted yet when I looked.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

I Like This One

Seeing as how I'm a new Spiderman fan:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quotes du Jour

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt"

-- Abraham Lincoln

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

-- Anatole France (Le Lys Rouge)

I know -- I've been largely absent lately. No energy and no focus, and the news is generally depressing -- except the gay news. Figure that out.

I may pick out a topic and go into it in some depth -- that's what I used to do here, and I've realized that I'm not doing that so much any more. Posts here have gotten more like drive-bys, and that's the sort of thing you can get any number of places.

We'll see how that works out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Grab Bag

Low energy week, but I thought I'd do a little catch-up on things that caught my eye.

First off, this morning, via Joe.My.God., this item -- the headline says it all:

Study: Belief in an angry God associated with variety of mental illnesses

Please note, however, that the researcher stresses that the study is examining correlation, not causation.

Speaking of correlations, check out this segment of Bill Maher's Real Time. I can't find the embed code for the video, so watch it at the link.

Maher remarked that it’s amazing how people think they can get away with anything when there is such a wide array of surveillance, and remarked that the reason the Boston bombers did not kill themselves is probably because they “don’t have the balls” of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. Maher asked if the U.S. needs to be more like Israel in its response to terrorism, by just dealing with it effectively and then moving on as if nothing happened.

Maher also threw out this observation.

“Isn’t the takeaway here that there are many bad things that can happen in the world, for many bad reasons, but the winner and still champ is religion?”

Holmes pointed to Newtown as not being religiously-motivated, pointing to a warped psychology as a more important motivator of people who seek to terrorize and kill others. She found it odd that one of the bombers, after living in America for ten years, didn’t have a single American friend.
(Emphasis added.)

I didn't post about Boston because it was just too difficult to figure out what was actually happening -- news outlets reporting random tweets like they had some validity? Please -- and by the time I could figure out what was happening, it was over.

The usual suspects were out in full force on that one, too. This is sort of typical, a retweet by Gay Patriot, via Joe.My.God.:

Charles Johnson has a good sampling of Pamela Geller's bile at Little Green Footballs. That woman is really sick.

On the other hand, the President:

"When a tragedy like this happens … it's important that we do this right. That's why we have investigations. That's why we relentlessly gather the facts. That's why we have courts," he said. "That's why we take care not to rush to judgment -- not about motivations of individuals, certainly not about entire groups of people."

And Tony Perkins is trying desperately to remain relevant:

In the aftermath of horrible tragedies like Newtown, the government desperately wants to do something–even if that something is the wrong thing. There seems to be this notion, at least among liberals, that more laws will protect us–but as we all witnessed in Boston, that isn’t necessarily the case. The government can’t make us safer until it recognizes that the problem isn’t the instruments of violence–but the environment of it. Stronger background checks wouldn’t have prevented the deaths of three people at the finish line on Monday, any more than it would have stopped Floyd Corkins from walking into our lobby and shooting Leo Johnson.

If Congress wants to stop these tragedies, then it has to address the government’s own hostility to the institution of the family and organizations that can address the real problem: the human heart. As I’ve said before, America doesn’t need gun control, it needs self-control. And a Congress that actively discourages it–through abortion, family breakdown, sexual liberalism, or religious hostility–is only compounding the problem.

Anyone who thinks Perkins gives a damn about the human heart is living in a fantasy world. However, we may be getting a glimpse of his next target, now that the gay-bashing gig is bottoming out:

Of course, some will say–and I agree–that transforming the culture is the church’s job. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place at the table for Christians in the gun debate. Not only did Jesus tolerate weapons, he instructed His disciples to buy them! In Luke 22:36, we read, “He said to them… if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Jesus did rebuke Peter for being too quick on the draw (John 18:11), recognizing that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal-but spiritual.

Why do I think that there's a substantial overlap between Second Amendment freaks and white supremacists (and don't forget, that's how Perkins got his start in politics)?

Speaking of gun control, how about our shining examples of leadership in the Senate? John Stewart has a very good analysis:

And John Oliver picks up the thread in this segment:

The comedy in this one comes from Van Cleave trying to make a coherent argument -- the man's a moron.

And how typical would it be for Perkins to jump from one losing cause to another?

That's enough for this morning -- at the rate I'm discovering insanity in the news, this post could go on forever, but I'll give you a break. But let's leave on a bright note: Rio de Janeiro has become the tenth Brazilian state to recognize same-sex marriages.

Looks like a nice place for a wedding.

(And note:  I figured out how to resize photos!  Yay!)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Another Solar System

with planets in the habitable zone -- Kepler 62.

The Kepler Space Telescope has been in orbit looking for planets around other stars since 2009, and it's started to find some startlingly interesting solar systems out there.

Today, the Kepler team announced the discovery of star system Kepler 62, a group of five planets circling a red star, two of which may be capable of supporting life. That doubles the number of Earth-like planets in the habitable zone that Kepler has confirmed in the cosmos. And they're the smallest, and therefore closest to Earth size, that astronomers have detected. The system is 1,200 light years away.

It occurs to me that even having to ask the question of whether there are other planets in the universe that can support life reveals a tremendously self-absorbed world view. Offhand, I can't think of any reason to suppose that there aren't. It's sort of exciting to have it confirmed, but really, what did anyone expect? I know, I'm dealing with meta-text here -- the assumptions underlying the story. I also realize that not everyone thinks that way, but too many do, particularly in this country. If you go to the comments at the article, someone else also brought that up.

Question of the day: What happened to Kepler-62a?

Via Anel Viz at Nick's Place.

(Footnote: Sorry about the size of the image. Blogger seems to have decided on a one-size-fits-all policy for jpegs, and I can't figure out a way to resize it. Even if I change the size on the file, it still crams it into that itty bitty format.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Zealand

The thirteenth nation to legalize recognition of same-marriages. Happened yesterday, but I was having an off day and didn't post. But this is the prize-winning speech, I think, for any debate on marriage bills, from MP Maurice Williamson:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Too Good Not To Post

This, from NYT:

Grateful Malian authorities gave the baby camel to Mr. Hollande during a triumphant visit to Mali in early February, after French troops intervened to drive back Islamist rebels who had seized the north of the country.

The French president, who was traveling with his defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, joked then that he could use the camel in Paris to get around traffic jams. But the animal screeched constantly, and did not seem to enjoy the president’s attempt to pat it on the head. In the end, Mr. Hollande left his camel in the care of a family in Timbuktu. 

The family, evidently misunderstanding the purpose of the custody arrangement, proceeded to slaughter the camel and feast on it. According to local reports, it was fashioned into a tasty tagine, a regional type of slow-simmered stew.

They're sending him a new one.

Via Balloon Juice.

You may wonder

why I've been focusing on marriage lately. Well, it's the best news going. I mean, what's the alternative -- Obama's "budget proposal"? Here's a good analysis of the chained CPI mess that he's proposing from Karoli at Crooks and Liars.
On a policy level, chained CPI is terrible, awful, Pete Peterson policy and shame on David Axelrod for spouting those policy ideas on Rachel Maddow's show and shame on the president if he's actually buying that bill of goods.

It makes almost no dent in the deficit or debt now or in the future.
It takes from those who can least afford it.
It relies on the false premise that Social Security is somehow compromised or bankrupt, neither of which are true.

Chained CPI also has an impact on tax preferences and Medicare benefit payment schedules to providers, so it is ostensibly a way to slow the growth of tax preference items and Medicare costs. While it's important to contain those costs, chained CPI is the gnat straining at an elephant. There is no unbendable law that says chained CPI can't be used for tax preferences without linking Social Security benefits.

Here's the Rachel Maddow segment she refers to:

Axelrod is such a tool. He's just repeating all the catch-phrases that the Very Serious People in Washington repeat. Ad nauseam. And Maddow is absolutely right -- Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, we can "fix" the solvency issue in SS by raising the cap on payroll taxes, there is no need to go after benefits.

Politically, the Republicans are already going after Obama on this -- "it's the Democrats who are cutting Social Security!" What the hell did he expect?

My own guess is that Obama really wants to go to work for Pete Peterson after he leaves the White House.

Footnote:  Here's some more information on the benefit cuts via Digby.  And more from David Atkins.

Wow! (Updated)

Just "Wow!" The marriage news this week is amazing -- just a quick run-down:

Uruguay: Done deal. The Chamber of Deputies approved the changes to the bill made in the Senate by a vote of 71 to 21.
"We are living a historic moment," said Federico Grana, a leader of the Black Sheep Collective, a gay rights group that drafted the proposal. "In terms of the steps needed, we calculate that the first gay couples should be getting married 90 days after the promulgation of the law, or in the middle of July."

The "marriage equality project" as it is called, was already approved by ample majorities in both legislative houses, but senators made some changes that required a final vote by the deputies. Gay and lesbian foreigners will now be allowed to come to Uruguay to marry, just as heterosexual couples can, said Michelle Suarez of the Black Sheep Collective.

President Jose Mujica, whose governing Broad Front majority backed the law, is expected to put it into effect within 10 days.

France: The key provision of the marriage bill has passed both houses. And it looks like it's being fast-tracked: the final vote in the Senate is apparently scheduled for today or tomorrow:

The upper house approved the article overnight by a vote of 179 to 157, with all Senators from the ruling Socialists voting in favour and five from the main opposition right-wing UMP breaking ranks with their colleagues to approve it, AFP reports.

The full bill must still be approved by the Senate, as well as another controversial article granting homosexual couples the right to adopt. A final vote is expected on Thursday or Friday.

As might be expected, the French do things bit by bit -- each part of the bill has to pass separately, but it looks like it's going to happen very soon.  (Update:  The French Senate passed the bill.  Now back to the Chamber for review of some minor amendments, with a final vote in late May, but it looks like it's a done deal.)

United Kingdom: The UK is still arguing about it.

Closer to home:

Delaware: They're about to get their own marriage bill to play with:
State lawmakers are poised to introduce legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Delaware.

Gov. Jack Markell and Attorney General Beau Biden planned to join lawmakers Thursday in Wilmington to announce the filing of the legislation.

The bill has the support of Democratic leadership in both houses, and Markell has pledged to sign it.

Nevada: The legislature has started the process to rescind Nevada's same-sex marriage ban.

Despite Gov. Brian Sandoval's belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, the Senate Judiciary Committee is poised Thursday to approve a constitutional amendment on gay marriage.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, says there are enough votes for Senate Joint Resolution 13 to clear both the committee and the full Senate. Some Republicans are supporting the measure, he said.

Illinois: Still in process, but momentum is growing in the House (the Senate has passed the bill), with Republican legislators starting to come on board:

[Rep. Ed] Sullivan [Jr., R-Mundelein] said he believes more Republicans among the 47 in the House will sign on.

"There is tremendous momentum leading up to this vote. I think we're very close," he said. "There's many of my colleagues that have talked about this, that have said it's the right thing to do."

The problem is likely to be downstate Democrats.

(All but the Illinois bit via Box Turtle Bulletin.)

So far, so good.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Victim Card

Yeah, they're out, chock full of outrage over the case of the Washington florist who refused to do flowers for a same-sex wedding because of her "relationship with Jesus Christ." Well, now she's being sued -- not by the couple, but by the state of Washington:

The Seattle Times reports that Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, had been asked by Attorney General Bob Ferguson to reconsider her decision and comply with the state's anti-discrimination laws before the lawsuit was filed.

"As attorney general, it is my job to enforce the laws of the state of Washington," Ferguson is quoted by KIRO News as saying. "Under the Consumer Protection Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. If a business provides a product or service to opposite-sex couples for their weddings, then it must provide same-sex couples the same product or service."

The Attorney General's Office is reportedly seeking a permanent injunction that would require Stutzman's business to comply with the state's consumer protection laws, as well as $2,000 in fines for every violation of the law.

This is, as is usually the case, about a business -- known formally as a "public accommodation" -- being in violation of existing anti-discrimination laws, not about marriage. (If you want to wade through the comments on the HuffPo article quoted, there are some choice examples of jaw-dropping ignorance.) That is not about to stop the usual suspects from sounding off about how this florist is being discriminated against because of her "deeply held religious beliefs." Joe.My.God. has a listing of the responses to date. From the ever-inflammatory Bryan Fischer:

He's got all the buzz words memorized, as you can see.

And I couldn't resist including this one from the arch-Liar for Jesus, Tony Perkins, complete with the wrong word choice:

Strange -- I always thought Perkins was literate, if not honest.

I'm sure there will be more. I'd say that I can hardly wait, but they're so predictable they're barely worth reading.

Here's a good background story on the circumstances. And this looks like the basis of her defense:
The AG's office had offered to avoid a lawsuit by giving Stutzman an opportunity to sign a contract that, in essence, would agree to "not engage" in the discriminatory practice in the future, according to a letter sent on March 21 (.pdf).

But instead of agreeing to the terms, attorneys for Stutzman fired back their own missive (.pdf) to state lawyers yesterday that appeared to lay out the crux of their legal defense. Stutzman claimed that "discrimination is not the issue," but rather that she is entitled to exercise her religious conscience and that arranging flowers is an act of personal expression, and as such, any restriction on how and where she sells flowers arrangements infringes on her First Amendment right to free speech.

"Although gay 'marriage' may be legal in Washington for the time being, the concept offends the conscious [sic] of Ms. Stutzman and many others in Washington," says the letter from attorney B. Craig Gourly of the firm Gourly | Bristol | Hembree, which is representing Ms. Stutzman.

I bet this this lawyer could get a job with Alliance Defense Fund -- after all, they never win a case anyway.

(Footnote: Here's a good analysis from Ari Ezra Waldman on the effects of the law on changing attitudes towards same-sex marriage -- and, by extension, towards gays and lesbians in general.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Oops! Almost Forgot

Yesterday was kind of a mess, but here's Marriage News Watch for this week:

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Domino Effect

There are now only four Democratic senators who have not come out in support of marriage equality: Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mark Pryor, (D-AR). The latest two to go public are Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelley of Indiana. Donnelley surprises me a little -- Indiana is not known as a hotbed of pro-gay sentiment. (Both of my senators, Dick Durbin (D), and Mark Kirk (R) are on record as pro.) Here's a report on the latest two from TalkProgress. (And note that Kirk was the second Republican to voice his support, after Rob Portman.)

And it looks as though Brazil is doing it American style: there are now ten states in Brazil in which same-sex marriage is recognized. And Brazil doesn't have a DOMA.

And the Senate of Uruguay has passed an equal marriage bill, with some small amendments to the House version, so it goes back for reconciliation. It looks like a sure bet, though -- the majorities in both houses were decisive, and President Jose Mujica has said he will sign it.

OK -- which country will be next to recognize same-sex marriages? And which U.S. state?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

One of Those Videos

The band Garbage paused during a concert in Detroit to allow one of their fans to propose to his boyfriend. Catch the crowd noises:

Take that, Brian Brown.

Via Queerty.