"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, July 30, 2013

Russia, the Olympics, and Boycotts

Yeah, huge topic, I know. Unless you've been vacationing on Mars, you know by now that the Russian Parliament passed a bill that essentially makes it illegal to say or do anything gay-related without spitting and making a sign to avert the evil eye, which His Majesty -- err, the president -- Vladimir Putin signed into law so fast that the ink on his signature was smoking.

Harvey Fierstein, whose piece in the New York Times started the ball rolling, has what I think is the most accurate take on the motivations:

Mr. Putin’s true motives lie elsewhere. Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia. Counting on the natural backlash against the success of marriage equality around the world and recruiting support from conservative religious organizations, Mr. Putin has sallied forth into this battle, figuring that the only opposition he will face will come from the left, his favorite boogeyman.

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook.

I'm generally against falling back on the Nazis as a parallel, but in this case, it's probably pretty accurate. Sadly, this sort of tactic has become a staple of would-be dictators. (Robert Mugabe, president-for-life wannabe of Zimbabwe, is getting ready to steal another election, and has found the perfect distraction -- Teh Gheys. Strange how those who fancy themselves "African" through and through fall back so readily on the worst aspects of colonial rule. And we all know what's been going on in Uganda, which has one of the most corrupt governments on a continent noted for corruption.)

The reaction has been to boycott, with two prongs. The first has been Russian vodka, specifically Stolichnaya. John Aravosis has a fairly good post on the whys and wherefores:

It’s a multi-front psychological war, really. You’re trying to throw as much at the enemy as you can, from all directions (caveat: without watering down your assault by overextending yourself or your message), in order to make them finally admit, even if just to themselves, that it simply was not worth the price they are paying for having taken you on. And hopefully, once burned, twice shy.

It's about bad PR. Economic damage is helpful, but the main target is credibility.

Credibility also has a lot to do with the second prong: boycott the Winter Olympics in the Russian resort city of Sochi. (And why anyone thought it made sense to have winter games in a city with a semi-tropical climate is beyond me.) The IOC, of course, is all bland assurances that Olympic athletes and attendees will be exempt from the law:

As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” the IOC said in an emailed statement.

To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.

Of course, the IOC has its own credibility problems, particularly as far as gay rights are concerned. And in this particular instance, Nancy Goldstein, writing in The Guardian, has pretty much reflected my attitude:
So who on earth does the IOC, or Putin for that matter, think they're kidding with their "assurances"? Can they really be so entirely naïve or so thoroughly cynical that they don't think non-Russian LGBT people or our allies care about what's been happening to our Russian counterparts in the wake of Putin's edicts so long as our own skins are safe? That we'll just happily ignore last week's news of skinheads luring gay teenagers with an online dating scam, then taping the sessions where they torture them so long as no one blocks our view of the figure skating events? That we can't recognize Third Reich-style politics or bureaucratic complacency? That, per the IOC, "it remains to be seen whether and how" the recently-passed legislation "will be implemented"?

NBC, which reportedly has paid a few billion dollars for the right to broadcast the games, is also playing "wait and see." They're dodging the issue, and probably hoping it blows over before February.

What I'm seeing on the part of the "official" participants in the games -- IOC and NBC, in particular -- is an effort to deflect criticism in the hope that everything will blow over and they can get back to business as usual.

I may have further thoughts on this, but that's it for right now.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Some Perspective

The news is the usual mix of non-scandals, made-up scandals, idiotic commentaries, and dodging and weaving by the movers and shakers. Just to give you a good take on how important it all is, consider this:

The Mesozoic Era, which lasted from about 250 million to 66 million years ago, is often called the Age of Dinosaurs. As a kid, this brought to mind one endless summer when dinosaurs flourished. And many of the books I read picked one environment from three different periods within the era to represent dinosaur life. Little Coelophysis was the canonical Triassic dinosaur; the huge sauropods and theropods of the Morrison Formation represented the Jurassic, and a Cretaceous Tyrannosaurus versus Triceratops face-off ultimately capped off the succession. With the periods juxtaposed this way, millions of years didn’t seem so very long.

But let’s unpack some of that scenery. Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus and their neighbors roamed western North America about 150 million years ago. This slice of time falls in the latter portion of the Jurassic. The traditional representatives of the latest Cretaceous scene—Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops—did not evolve until about 67 million years ago. By themselves, these dates are just labels, but think of them falling along evolution’s timeline. About 83 million years separated Apatosaurus from Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus from Triceratops. The so-called Age of Mammals—which began when the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out—has been going on for about 66 million years. Less time separates us from Tyrannosaurus rex than separated T. rex from Stegosaurus.
(Emphasis in original.)

And just to give you an idea of what the world looked in the time of Diplodocus and Stegosaurus:

There's a really neat site called "The Paleomap Project" with maps of the earth through time. It's fascinating, particularly when you think about how they can identify various landmasses -- do you know where Alaska was during the Cambrian era?

I may just spend the next hour browsing through that.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dumb Remark du Jour

I've more or less ignored the royal birth -- I mean, royals have babies. That's what they do, when they're not cutting ribbons or waving at crowds. But this observation stopped me cold:

But on CNN, one contributor — CNN Royal Contributor Victoria Arbiter — took the celebration a bit too far, offering her own insights into the relative merits of the baby’s sex:

My first thought, I have to say, was this is how brilliant a royal Kate is. There are women throughout British royal family history that have panicked not being able to deliver a boy, and here we are, Kate did it first time. So it does mean, of course, the change in the next succession conversation is over for another 30 years or so, but we’re celebrating and thrilled that Kate has had a healthy, bouncing baby boy.

The succession issue has already been decided, as ThinkProgress points out, with the passage earlier this year of the 2013 Succession to the Crown Act -- the first-born, boy or girl, is the heir.

But that's not what elevates Arbiter's comment to the realm of once-in-a-lifetime ignorance. The father determines the sex of the child: women have two X chromosomes, so they contribute an X chromosome; men have an X and a Y, so they contribute one or the other. That's what decides the sex of the child.

That's high-school biology.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday, July 15, 2013

Marriage News Watch, July 15, 2013

Starring the adorable Matt Baume:

The California Supreme Court has denied Protect Marriage's request for an injunction.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Maggie to the Rescue (Updated)

Jim Burroway has a post on Maggie Gallagher's reaction to the call to boycott Ender's Game. Needless to say, she considers it reprehensible that one in her camp is actually being held accountable for his public statements on gays, gay rights, and marriage equality. From The Corner:
Victor Davis Hanson’s article on “thought crimes” raised this question for me. Gay marriage advocates are trying to build up a boycott of Ender’s Game because of Orson Scott Card’s personal views on marriage.

To start with Victor Davis Hanson and "thought crimes" in the same sentence should give you a clue. And the misrepresentation starts right off the bat: it's not "gay marriage advocates" that are calling for a boycott, but a group of LGBT comic/gaming geeks who are offended by the idea that a vicious homophobic bigot stands to cash in on a movie made from a very popular, albeit in my opinion second-rate, book. The title of Gallagher's post is instructive: "What is McCarthyism?" As if she knew. (And Lionsgate, the distributors of the film, are distancing themselves from Card as much as they can.)

She elaborates in another post, and this is where the self-serving framing comes into full play:
But here’s what I believe about boycotts:

It’s fair to boycott a corporation as a corporation for something that corporation does as a corporation.

I think it’s unfair, destructive, and wicked to boycott a whole corporation because of the personal beliefs of one member of that corporation.

I think its repellent to boycott or blacklist an artist because of his personal views. It’s the heart of McCarthyism to me.

That said, people are free to buy tickets or not if they feel differently.

Line by line:

Boycotts: In this case, the corporation is pushing a film by a well-known and very vociferous bigot, which is not really different in kind from hosting "Gay Days" or supporting marriage equality in the corporation's home state. And, under the heading of "Self-Serving Rationalizations," note that NOM's boycotts are perfectly justified, even if spectacularly ineffective. No one else's are.

"Personal views" -- I'm going to reprint a comment I left at Burroway's post and go on from there:

It’s a given that an artist’s personal views and his/her creations are inextricably intertwined. (I seem to remember hearing about that recently in the case of a certain purveyor of wedding cakes in Washington State.) Whether those views always show up in the artist’s work is iffy — I’m reminded of the operas of Richard Wagner, a blatant anti-Semite. Are his operas anti-Jewish? Not on the surface, although the treatment of the Nibelungs in the Ring Cycle, for example, can certainly point that way. And that’s the whole point about art: it’s not on the surface, if it’s worth anything. But the ideas are there.

This has nothing to do with McCarthyism. (And I find it highly ironic that one of the foremost "social conservatives" in the country would hold McCarthy up as a villain. Any port in a storm, I guess.) This is not using your position as an official of the government to bring the power of that government to bear on those whose ideas you personally find unacceptable, which is out and out persecution. What we're seeing here is the free marketplace of ideas: Geeks OUT, the group behind the boycott, is calling on the public to make its disapproval of Card's bigotry apparent. Of course, Gallagher has made it known in the past that holding her or her allies accountable for their public statements is a violation of their rights. And like her fellows on the right, she has no patience with that particular free marketplace: For them (and only for them), freedom of expression means freedom from criticism.

The last line is Gallagher being magnanimous -- of course you're free to disagree with her. Just don't do it publicly.

And the saga continues to unfold.

Update: Jeremy Hooper has a good response to Gallagher's whining.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ender's Game

I've got some energy this morning, so I suppose I should weigh in on this one, being, as I am, a long-time aficionado of speculative fiction and a recognized authority (in some quarters) on the oeuvre.

Basic story: Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, which has been a very popular science-fiction novel, as is the way of such things is slated to become a block-buster movie. It seems, however, that Card himself has a very public record as a vicious homophobe,* serves on the board of NOM, has condemned marriage equality, and is poised to make pots of money from this. Needless to say, the natives are getting restless, and a group calling itself Geeks Out is organizing a boycott of the film.

His response? A plea for tolerance. Rachel Edidin has a good come-back on that one at Wired:

In a recent statement to Entertainment Weekly, Orson Scott Card responded to a proposed boycott of the upcoming film adaptation of his novel Ender’s Game by informing the movie-going public that it doesn’t really matter that he’s been working ceaselessly for the last decade to make sure gay people don’t get basic human rights, or that he advocated the violent overthrow of the government should same-sex marriage become legal, or that he’s used his position as a popular author as a platform from which to spew increasingly aggressive anti-equality rhetoric like his comment in a 2004 essay that gays “cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”

“The gay marriage issue is moot,” Card reassured readers in his statement to EW, apparently under the impression that the recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 were sufficient to erase the history of legislated bigotry he worked tirelessly to promote and preserve in his fight against equal rights.

Really, Card could have stopped there. Instead, he went on to wonder “whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” His concern, ostensibly, is that someone might be petty enough not to see his movie simply because he spent years lobbying for laws that treated certain people as less than human. The fallacy he employs here — that calling out hate-speech is intolerance on par with curtailing the human rights of others — is a favorite fallback of cowards and bullies, and a way of evading responsibility for the impact of their words and actions.

Edidin is not the only one responding. Science-fiction writer Dave Gerrold (who is gay, and who, in my estimation, is a better writer than Card, not nearly so given to self-indulgent preachiness) also had words for Card's attempt to duck out from under:

After twenty years of despicably virulent homophobia ... no. This is just another detestable characterization of LGBT people -- that we are intolerant.

Intolerant? Of people who want to lock us up, put us in concentration camps, deny us our civil rights? Intolerant? Are you fucking kidding me?

You want me to be tolerant, Scott? First be one of those people who understands. Or to put it bluntly -- get your fucking foot off my neck, then we'll talk tolerance.

So in addition to being a bigot (although now he's soft-pedaling -- or do I mean "back-pedaling"? -- as much as possible on his previous statements with the excuse that "those were the conditions at the time." There's something in there about reeds and wind, I think. What Card is doing by playing the victim card is displaying in high relief the lack of moral foundation -- not to mention strength of character -- that seems to be endemic on the anti-gay right. Basically, he's a coward.

What's my own take? Aside from the "morality" of boycotts (and I can't believe the number of comments and posts I've run across about whether a boycott of the film is justifiable, or a violation of Card's rights. WTF?), there's the quality of the product. I remember Ender's Game as being one of those books that's just great when you're a teenager, and that looks kind of shopworn and shallow when you come back to it. The series degenerated badly -- Speaker For the Dead was barely readable, and displayed in full colors all of Card's weaknesses as a writer -- over-written, self-indulgent, preachy, wordy, and pointless. Same thing happened with the Alvin Maker series. He's written some very good books, but he doesn't seem to be able to sustain a level of quality. I never considered him more than second-rank at his best.

Will I see the movie? Probably not. I don't remember the story as being that compelling, I don't need to put money in Card's pocket, and besides, Thor 2 is coming out about the same time.

* I was going to include some sample quotes, but they're scattered all over the place. If you follow the links in this post, you'll find enough to give you the picture.


I'm still recovering from the onslaught on my lungs, and maybe having some side effects from meds -- spacy as all hell lately, even more than usual. But I wanted to bring you an update on what seems to be the beginning of the end for NOM and its allies.

Everybody's getting sued.

In Illinois, Lambda Legal and the ACLU have filed a motion for summary judgment in Darby vs. Orr and Lazaro vs. Orr. They're not waiting for the legislature to get off its collective butt. And those cases are not being defended by the state.

They are also planning to sue Virginia and North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and once again, the attorney general, Kathleen Kane, will not defend the law.

I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania's (law banning same-sex marriage), where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional," Kathleen Kane announced to reporters at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Thursday.

And under the heading of "Whistling Past the Graveyard," we have this from NOM's official spokesperson:

He's wrong, of course, but with NOM and its affiliates, you're never sure if it's ignorance or deliberate obfuscation. The fact is that Prop 8 is no longer the law in California -- it's been nullified by the Supreme Court, a motion for reconsideration has been turned down, the Ninth Circuit has lifted its stay, and marriages are taking place.

Something tells me this is just the beginning.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

A Little Catch-Up

A few quotes that have stuck with me over the past couple of days, so I thought I'd lay them out for your amusement.

I try not to be mean about people's personal appearance, but this kicked my irony meter into the red zone. Maggie Gallagher:

Our bodies matter. They are part of who we are.

Read the post -- Gallagher is in rare form. The quotes from the interview are close to word salad.

This one is priceless -- from a bunch of interns for Concerned Women for America, via Ed Brayton:

As young, unmarried women, we feel the meaning of our future vows have already been diminished. As Christians, we believe that marriage is a union between a husband and wife that displays the love God has for His church. However, when this union is recognized as something different than God’s holy plan for marriage, the meaning of those sacred vows are no longer there.

Ed takes it apart. My first response is: Doesn't this strike you as shallow, self-centered and immature? My advice to these young ladies is "Resign your internships, get as far away as you can from this organization, and any organization like it, get out and meet some people who are not like you, and grow up." And quite frankly, if my marriage diminishes your sacred vows, the fault is not in me.

Via Digby, from the WSJ Editorial Board:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

Unfortunately, the link is busted, so I can't send you to the whole thing. I'm sure it's an exercise in WTF?

From David Atkins at Hullabaloo, scratch a Republican and you get a -- well, this speaks for itself.

Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern.

Is it any surprise that it's David Brooks? Dennis G. at Balloon Juice also has some choice comments on this.

Just in case you think Brooks is a special case, how about this from Phyllis Schlafly?

Speaking with a Bakersfield, California, talk radio host last week, Schlafly further explained this view, claiming that Latinos don’t “have any Republican inclinations at all” because “they’re running an illegitimacy rate that’s just about the same as the blacks are.”

She added that Latinos “come from a country where they have no experience with limited government. And the types of rights we have in the Bill of Rights, they don’t understand that at all, you can’t even talk to them about what the Republican principle is.”

OK -- that about did me in for today.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Just for Fun

The sequence including the song "Chaiyya Chaiyya" from the movie Dil Se.

There. That should keep you occupied for a bit.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy Fourth!

I've just had my ritual 4th of July hot dog, with cole slaw, and am determined to take it easy for the rest of the day, after my second visit to the emergency room in ten days.

I thought it might be a good time to ruminate on just what the holiday means, because it obviously means different things to different people. Take this little rant from Brian Brown, of the hysterically mis-named National Organization for Marriage, via Joe.My.God. I'm going to do a little parsing on this one.

First, the headline with graphic:

Who said we have to? No one on our side of the fight. I can be gay and American at the same time, and there are millions like me, much as it might sour Brian Brown's stomach. Any guesses as to who is trying to cast whom as "The Other" (cue scary music, with storm clouds)?

We're a nation where citizen rights come from God, not from government, and where the people are sovereign, not politicians or judges.

And that happens to be whatever god you worship. The government merely recognizes those rights, which is what the two cases that have raised Brown's blood pressure lately were about. Oh, and the people do not have unlimited sovereignty and never have -- we have this little thing called "The Constitution of the United States of America," which among other things guarantees those rights, in spite of everything "the people" might do to circumvent them. See in that regard Romer v. Evans.

But those principles are under siege, by the culture, by our federal government and, increasingly, by the US Supreme Court. We need your help to fight to preserve America's founding principles such as religious liberty which is greatly at risk wherever marriage is redefined.

Let's see, "under siege" by "the culture" -- that would be "the people," if I remember correctly. The members of a society are, after all, the ones who determine the culture's direction.

As for religious liberty being "greatly at risk wherever marriage is redefined" -- what the Supreme Court did, in both Perry and Windsor, is to restore the religious liberty of those whose beliefs were being dismissed by the government, although the question was never couched in those terms. Think of it this way: if a sectarian idea of "morality" and/or "marriage" is imposed on society as a whole, particularly a society as diverse as ours, by definition the beliefs of those who do not hold that sectarian idea are being violated. That's a no-no. See Lawrence v. Texas.

Our opponents blithely claim that religious liberty and same-sex 'marriage' [sic] can peacefully coexist, but experience shows that is not the case. Anybody who doesn't abandon their faith principles and fully cooperate with the new gay marriage regime is likely to face consequences.

Of course religious liberty and same-sex marriage can co-exist. The ones who are having problems with it are the ones who want to impose their personal religious beliefs on everyone. No one is stopping them from believing what they wish, nor from worshipping as they wish. No clergy is being forced to solemnize a same-sex wedding against the doctrines of their religions. What Brown is attempting to do is conflate same-sex marriage with existing non-discrimination laws governing public accommodations. That's the new mantra from the right, and it applies equally to pharmacists who don't want to dispense birth control to business owners who don't want to pay for insurance coverage for family planning, to bakers and florists who do not want to "participate" in same-sex weddings. (Which frankly I think is laughable -- you're being asked to provide goods, not be part of the wedding night.)

As for the "consequences" -- yeah. People are going to think you're a small-minded bigot. Know what? You are.

I think one reason my blogging has fallen off as marriage has risen to the front of the civil rights debate is simply that the likes of Brown and Perkins and their ilk have gotten terrifically repetitive. The didn't have very good "arguments" (see, I can use sarcasm quotes too) to begin with, and they haven't come up with anything new. It gets pretty boring refuting the same bullshit over and over again.

At any rate, I think Brown gets a Tony Perkins Award for this one. It's pretty much a lie from the beginning to the end.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


I know -- one of the biggest news weeks in gay history, and I missed it. I was in the hospital, and am still recovering. There is so much to catch up on that I'll probably never manage it, although I may hit a story or two that points up something egregious.

In general, though, the reaction is about as expected: the Obama administration is moving very fast to bring regs into line with the Windsor decision -- the first green card for the non-US spouse of an American citizen has been approved, the Defense Department is doing everything possible to bring benefits in line with the new requirements, couples are getting married in post-Prop 8 California, and the heads of the professional gay-bashers are making very satisfying Splats! all over the place while they keep lying about everything.

I thought this was funny:

When asked his opinion on the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, the Governor of Iowa declined to give a personal opinion, and instead just said that his state would “live with” the decision.

Republican Governor Terry Brandstad said on Monday, that individuals would have to make up their own mind on the issue, and declined to offer a personal opinion.

“I guess it depends upon your perspective and your point of view on those things,” Branstad said during a weekly news conference at the Iowa Capitol. “I guess people can make your their own judgement on that. We’re going to live with the law and make whatever adjustments are necessary.”

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Iowa for four years now (and there seems to be diminishing enthusiasm for changing that), the Windsor decision doesn't affect state law at all, so what's he going to do about it? I can't understand why anyone even asked him the question.

One thing that's notable -- the bigotry is out in full colors now, no holds barred. Man, are people ever going to be turned off. It's delicious.