"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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Joke du Jour (Update, Update II)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, as quoted at Joe.My.God.:

"We've been caricatured as being anti-gay," Dolan said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. "And as much as we'd say, 'Wait a minute, we're pro marriage, we're pro traditional marriage, we're not anti anybody,' I don't know. "When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it's a tough battle," he said. The legal battle over same-sex marriage has moved to states, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down a tenet of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. "I think I'd be a Pollyanna to say that there doesn't seem to be kind of a stampede to do this," Dolan told David Gregory of Meet the Press. "I regret that. I wish that were not the case for the states."

"Caricatured"? Is he serious? This from one of the most stridently anti-gay voices in the public sphere -- who, incidentally, did his share to cover up child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and to shield the Church's money from the victims' awards for reparations.

If the hierarchy really wonders why the Church is losing adherents, they need look no farther than Cardinal Timothy Dolan, whose moral compass seems to be pointing due South.

And if the good Cardinal wants to know why the Church is seen as homophobic, he might want to consult with one of his colleagues from Malta:

Malta’s Auxiliary Bishop has spoken out to express his displeasure at the lack of a clear difference between marriage and civil partnerships in the debate around civil partnerships for same-sex couples in Malta, saying that gay people do “not produce offspring” so do “not have a role in society”.

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna made the comments on PBS’s Dissett, during an interview with the PBS Head of News Reno Bugeja.

“While the sexual activity of heterosexual couples has a fundamental role in producing future members of the society, that of same-sex couples does not have a role in society as it does not produce offspring,” he said.

The more I look at that statement, the more mind-numbingly stupid it appears. What ever gave the bishop that anyone's sex life has anything to do with "society"? I'll continue to keep mine private, thank you.

(Update II:)
A number of the commenters on this story have pointed out that, if he's following the rules, the bishop has not procreated either, and thus has no place in society.

Science Saturday: Gamma Rays

This is an interesting story, if a little esoteric.

An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.

Now, I don't know if you're interested in astrophysics or not (outside the version that's operating in Thor: The Dark World), but there's one thing in that paragraph that ought to make you think: the star that exploded is 3.8 billion light-years away, which means that explosion actually happened 3.8 billion years ago. That's about the time that life arose on Earth.

And we're just now seeing it.

If that doesn't make you stop and think, I give up.

Christian Science Monitor, via Raw Story.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Image of the Week

I'm changing the title on this one, since I only do it once a week.

This one may not be safe for work.

This was actually shot in black-and-white. I like to play around with Photoshop sometimes.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving, 2013

I've been down and out, but never, thank the gods, actually homeless -- I've always had somewhere to go. Not everyone's that lucky. Joe Jervis saw fit to print this message from Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center at Joe.My.God. as a post for today, and I think he's right: it's a day not only to be thankful for what you have, but to do something for someone who's not as fortunate.

Make your blessings mean something.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Culture Break: Philip Glass' "Satyagraha," Act II

Or part of it, at least. Satyagraha is my other favorite Glass opera. I was trying to find a clip of the final soliloquy, but the ones I found on YouTube are all static clips, not excerpts from a live performance. (Not that performances of Glass' operas are particularly lively anyway.)

At any rate, this is one of the more engaging (and livelier) sequences:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Marriage News Watch, November 25, 2013

Sorry -- I did look for it a couple of times, but they were apparently running late.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Reviews in Brief: Masahisa Fukase's "The Solitude of Ravens"

This is really an edited version of an essay I did a few years ago at Epinions, sparked by Fukase's book The Solitude of Ravens. It's worth reading, so check it out. For the short version, read on.

Masahisa Fukase (1934-2013) was a Japanese photographer who created a body of work that is sensuous, compelling, and emotionally challenging. His photographs of ravens began in 1975, on a train ride from Tokyo to Hokkaido after his divorce from his wife. Ravens and crows became Fukase’s overriding image, providing themes for five exhibitions between 1975 and 1984. The Solitude of Ravens (if you can find a copy) gives a good survey of his work from 1975-1978.

Not all of the images in this book are of ravens. It’s a “winter” book – darkness, snow, cold gray seas, a barrenness and spareness that surround and reinforce the central “journey” (this book is a journey, no doubt of it). While there is one sequence of a cat’s head, a nude woman, and a dead fish that, individually and together, state the idea of “round” with finesse and droll humor, the overriding thrust of this book is ravens. Fukase’s ravens are images of great power, sometimes overtly aggressive, sometimes remotely ominous, sometimes harrowing, and take on a mythic component that reaches into all of the meanings of “raven” in all cultures. This partly due to the folklore of ravens themselves, and partly due to Fukase’s treatment.

The photographs in this book don’t defy the Western idea of photographic modernism so much as ignore it. They seem much more akin to the work of William Klein, Robert Frank, or Bruce Davidson, but far, far darker, more on the edge. Fukase somehow manages to wring much more in the way of emotional impact out of similar, but more extreme, techniques. The images are dark, they are grainy, they are sometimes highly abstract and at others depressingly realistic. Dead ravens in the snow, ravens roosting at twilight, perched on temple gates, reflections from ravens’ eyes in the dark, combine with visions of snowstorms, deserted nighttime streets, a tramp wandering alone, fog on gray winter seas to present a picture of loss, loneliness, alone-ness. There are several remarkably beautiful images that provide no detail at all, merely shades of gray finally resolving into a landscape, like dreams of being lost in the wastelands.

It is unfortunate that this particular book is so unobtainable, although some of Fukase's images can be viewed online: there is a sequence of ten of Fukase’s images at Robert Mann Gallery’s website, and the biography at Steven Wirtz Gallery’s website has a series of unpublished works. And of course, you can always do an image search under the book title.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Science Saturday: Nuts!

Just ran across this article, which I found very reassuring:

According to the largest study of its kind, people who ate a daily handful of nuts were 20 percent less likely to die from any cause over a 30-year period than those who didn’t consume nuts, say scientists from the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, contains further good news: The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate fears that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.

I find it reassuring because I eat at least a handful of cashews just about every day, mostly because I love cashews. With this news, I may broaden my repertoire -- I'm rather fond of almonds, too.

A note: This may become another regular feature, although I don't know if it will remain on Saturdays, although that seems like a good day: by the weekend, I'm really sick of all the posturing by the assholes in Washington and the media.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Image du Jour

I like the geometry of this one.

Our Christian Military

John Aravosis broke this story a couple of days ago at AmericaBlog:

The US Air Force Academy hired a man to run their character coaching program for young cadets who, for the past two decades, has devoted his entire professional career to the cause of “curing homosexuality,” and who claims that he himself has been “cured” of the “addiction.”

The news of “ex-gay” activist Dr. Mike Rosebush running the academy’s character and leadership coaching program comes on the heels of growing concerns as to whether the academy is serious about becoming a welcoming place for gay cadets in the post-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era.

Rosebush is the chief of Character and Leadership Coaching at the US Air Force Academy, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, putting him in charge of a team of “coaches.”

He's done a couple of follow-ups with more detail, particularly here and here. This is typical:
We learned this morning that the acting-Secretary of the Air Force has directed the Air Force Academy to investigate its own cover-up of the anti-gay culture at the academy. That should go well.

Rachel Maddow got hold of it, and did an in-depth segment on it. It's worth watching.

You'll remember that the Air Force Academy has historically been one of the worst parts of the US military for illegal proselytizing and a generally hostile atmosphere not only toward non-CHristians, but toward those who don't profess the "right kind" of Christianity. Apparently, some things never change.

About That "Religious Freedom" Thing

Just in case you thought the "religious freedom" argument now being pushed by the professional gay-bashers is really about religious freedom, take a look at this:
The proposed Protect Religious Freedom Initiative would create a “right to discriminate” for any business that normally works with weddings. Were it to pass, florists, bakers, photographers, and other wedding professionals could simply refuse to serve same-sex couples without being in violation of the state’s public accommodation nondiscrimination protections. Here’s the proposed text:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if doing so would violate a person’s deeply held religious beliefs, a person acting in a nongovernmental capacity may not be:

(a) Penalized by the state or a political subdivision of this state for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements; or

(b) Subject to a civil action for declining to solemnize, celebrate, participate in, facilitate, or support any same-sex marriage ceremony or its arrangements, same-sex civil union ceremony or its arrangements, or same-sex domestic partnership ceremony or its arrangements.

Notice how easily "deeply held religious beliefs" can be read as "anti-gay prejudice"? There's no exception included for "deeply held religious beliefs" concerning separation of the races, or interracial marriage, or serving those who follow "false religions" or any other of the stupid and narrow-minded beliefs so many people hold dear.

So it turns out the Oregon Family Council is just like any other organization with "Family" in its name -- anti-gay. Period.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Culture Break: Kimmo Pohjonen and Kronos Quartet: Emo, Parts I and II

You can find some pretty interesting things wandering around YouTube. I know nothing about Kimmo Pohjonen, but I think I love this:

Part I:

And Part II:

Time to do some research.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Marriage News Watch, November 18, 2013

Quite a week:

The Denouement

An update to this story from a couple of days ago. From the press release:

Edward “E.” Nigma, aka, “The Riddler,” and Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, aka, “The Penguin” were formally arrested today and charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and kidnapping for their all too familiar villainous ways in Gotham City, according to Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.

The unique and somewhat unprecedented indictment not only outlines the charges against “The Riddler” and “The Penguin” but it also includes a special thanks to a certain caped crusader who was pivotal in making this day a reality.

“We’ve been chasing Nigma and Cobblepot for years and just when I was about to give up hope that we would ever bring them to justice, wouldn’t you know it – Batkid shows up and saves the day,” said United States Attorney Melinda Haag. “I’ve been involved in some unbelievable cases and I’ve worked with some pretty remarkable law enforcement officers, but the bravery displayed by Batkid is off the charts. I’m absolutely certain that there is no villain this remarkable super-hero can’t defeat.”

Via Talking Points Memo,.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reviews in Brief: John Krokidas' "Kill Your Darlings"

This is really first impressions, and I doubt that I'll see it again -- I just didn't find it that interesting.

If you don't know, this is about Allen Ginsberg's (Daniel Radcliffe) years at Columbia University, where he falls in with Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a dissolute (and fairly pretentious) young man. The core of the film, supposedly, is a murder: Carr kills his -- one hardly knows what to call him -- lover? Pursuer? -- David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). It's somewhat up in the air as to whether Carr actually murdered Kammerer or was acting in self-defense, as he contends. Along the way, Ginsberg meets William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston).

Formally, the film does have a narrative line, which doesn't really go anywhere, broken by flashbacks and broken sequences of action in the now. Even the famous "gay sex scene"* is broken by other vignettes, and sequences of Ginsberg writing (at one point, under the influence of drugs) are fragmentary. This is a technique that can work beautifully in terms of filling in backstory and developing character, but I didn't get that here.

One problem may be the characters themselves. None of them are really sympathetic, even Ginsberg, who seems for the most part to be along for the ride: he enters university as a blank slate, falls in with Carr, and it's downhill from there. Carr is, ultimately, a spoiled brat, a sociopath in the making (actually, pretty much finished), Burroughs is a self-centered snot who hates being rich, Kerouac is pretty much a cardboard cut-out, and Kammerer is just a weak personality. Those characterizations, at least, are beautifully realized.

All of that contributes to a distanced quality to the film. The characters are revealed more than they develop, with the exception of Radcliffe's Ginsberg: by the end of the film, we can see that he's poised to become the voice of the Beat generation, but we're not sure how he got there.

I will hand director John Krokidas this: I've been thinking about this movie for two days. But when it comes right down to it, I didn't really care. None of these characters are people I want to know better, and there are huge sections of the film that are just plain dull. It's not tight, and it's not really what I'd call focused.

* About that sex scene: Radcliffe gave at least one interview in which he talked about filming that scene, and how Krokidas coached him through it, with special emphasis on how much it hurt. You didn't really see that in the action that wound up on the screen -- Radcliffe/Ginsberg was just taking it in, as far as we could tell, and his reaction was muted, to put it mildly. What should have been a moment of realization for Ginsberg was just another moment of "Oh, well, that was interesting." No pleasure, no pain, not much of anything. And that's pretty much my reaction to the whole film.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fortunately, Most People Are Good Souls

As an antidote to the last post, get this:

Backstory here.

San Francisco values, indeed.

Today in Disgusting People

There are a lot of disgusting people rearing their ugly heads this week -- it seems like more so than usual -- but today we have a double whammy.

First is the World Congress of Families, a group that was formed to "protect" "traditional family values." From its website (no, I'm not going to link. I don't link to hate groups.):

The World Congress of Families (WCF) is an international network of pro-family organizations, scholars, leaders and people of goodwill from more than 80 countries that seek to restore the natural family as the fundamental social unit and the ‘seedbed’ of civil society (as found in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948).

What that actually means in practice is noted on their agenda for a meeting in Washington, D.C.:

While the current U.S. administration persists in its efforts to redefine marriage and family, other nations are seeking a reaffirmation of the natural family. Australia has just elected a conservative government and given the largest budget area to Kevin Andrews, long-time defender of the family and World Congress of Families supporter; Russia recently banned the propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors; and across Europe and Africa, nations are concerned with life issues, shrinking populations, and the disintegration of the natural family. Here in America, what can our pro-family legislators learn—positively and negatively—by studying our colleagues’ actions abroad?

In other words, how to import the worst aspects of discrimination in Russia and Uganda to the US. I'm not even going to ask what equal rights for LGBTs have to do with "shrinking populations" -- which I don't think are a real problem in Africa. (Oh, wait -- I think that translates as "shrinking white, "Christian," conservative populations.")

Right Wing Watch has a post listing some of those "pro-family leaders and organizations," which include not only Brian Brown of NOM, Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family, and Alliance Defending Freedom, but Austin Ruse and Janet Shaw Crouse, not noted for their gay-friendliness. Right Wing Watch has a series of posts on their "allies" and their activities.

Well, they scheduled that meeting in Washington, and got the use of a meeting room in the Senate office building, courtesy of Mark Kirk (R-IL). Then Kirk's office did some research and found out who they are, and withdrew Kirk's sponsorship. According to Kirk's office, “Sen. Kirk doesn’t affiliate with groups that discriminate.”

(A note on Kirk: he's one of my senators, and started off on the wrong foot -- I was getting -emails about the deficit and cutting spending with all the teabagger talking points. I think his stroke woke him up -- he's turned into a real Illinois Republican, supporting ENDA, the equal marriage bill in Illinois, and the like.)

Well, John Boehner (R-Desperation) to the rescue:

“One of the duties of the Speaker’s office is scheduling rooms throughout the Capitol complex, and we routinely provide a forum for discussion of public policy issues from across the political spectrum, including for liberal causes,” Boehner’s spokesperson said, according to Buzzfeed. “This administrative task obviously does not imply endorsement of any particular point of view.”

Of course, this is Republican John Boehner, who this week already blew off teenaged girls wanting to talk with him about immigration reform, and who said that he sees “no basis or no need” for protecting LGBT workers, calling ENDA “unnecessary.”

See? You get a twofer.

Friday, November 15, 2013

And On a Lighter Note

This post from Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice. I can't excerpt it -- click through.

Image du Jour

Another picture to finish off the week on an up note (at least, I hope it's an up note).

From 2000.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Four Billion Years Ago

NASA has made a video of what Mars looked like four billion years ago. A little craggier, not so worn down, but not much different than it looks today -- give or take the oceans.

If you were expecting lush greenery, stop and think a minute -- four billion years ago, there wasn't life on Earth yet. In fact, Earth probably looked a lot like Mars. One thing -- the article mentions an "oxygen-rich atmosphere" a billion years before Earth's developed. Last I heard, free oxygen on Earth was the byproduct of early bacteria, causing the first mass extinction -- everything before that was anaerobic. So I wonder what produced the oxygen on Mars.

Via Towleroad.

Culture Break: Philip Glass, Funeral of Amenhotep III from "Akhnaten"

I always envision this with somewhat -- how shall I put it? -- livelier staging. Oh, well. At least it's nice to have the translation from ancient Egyptian.

Today In Disgusting People

Pat Robertson is one of the most appallingly ignorant people with access to broadcast media, and that's saying a lot. This one has been all over the gay blogosphere, and the more I see it, the more disgusting it is.

On today's 700 Club, televangelist Pat Robertson responded to a question from a mother who asked what she should do with her 16-year-old son who recently came out as gay.

Said Robertson:

"I think you need to counsel with him and see, you know, is there really a biological thing going on or has he been influenced, has a coach molested him?...[gay youth] don't know what they're doing, they're teenagers."

"Has a coach molested him"? What, every coach is Jerry Sandusky (who is straight, by the way)?

Robertson is one of the most consistently ignorant anti-gay voices around in a field that derives a major portion of its support from those credulous enough to believe what these charlatans are saying. (I have faith enough in humanity to believe that if most people are given accurate information, they'll see the light, so to speak. It's people like Robertson that shake that faith.)

As long as I'm on the topic, a nod to Rep. Karen Awana of Hawai'i, who came out with one of the most ignorant and vicious screeds on record during the debate on the now-passed-and-waiting-for-the-governor's-signature marriage bill.

Claiming that “civil unions and reciprocal benefits was [sic] the ‘great compromise’ just a few years ago in 2011,” Awana told her colleagues, “we were told that if we provide these options to the GLBT community, they would be satisfied. Have the people of Hawai’i not done enough? We gave you your civil unions. We gave you your reciprocal benefits.”

(Actually, Rep. Awana voted against that bill.)

It gets worse. It's long -- watch it only if your stomach can take it.

Just as a footnote, again from Hawai'i, this guy doesn't seem to be vicious so much as -- well, he's obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Some People Have Really Screwed Up Priorities

This was actually in the comments to this story, about a program by a group of American evangelicals to air-drop Bibles to starving North Koreans. Bibles. The people are literally starving, and they drop Bibles -- which are illegal in North Korea. Having a Bible in your possession could land you and your family in a prison camp.

At any rate, this seems to sum up most of contemporary conservative thought:

With thanks to commenter Homo Erectus.

And it actually ties into this post from Timothy Kincaid at BTB. At least it does if you have a sense of how my mind works.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Today Is Veterans Day

And to all who have served in our way too many wars, Thank You.

And an interesting insight into that:

I fought in Afghanistan. When people learn of my military service, I get a variety of comments — none more common than “Thank you for your service.” My response sometimes surprises people. I look them in the eye and say, “You’re welcome.”

For years, I struggled to find the appropriate response. I felt uncomfortable when thanked because I didn’t know what to say. My friend and mentor Eric Greitens , who founded the Mission Continues, experienced similar feelings. He suggested that I simply reply the way my mother taught me.

When I began to respond with “You’re welcome,” I was concerned that it shocked people. I wondered if I was being too flippant or prideful. Then I realized that their reaction said something about what “Thank you for your service” now means in American culture. The phrase has become a reflex for civilians who don’t know what else to say. Most people today play a minimal role in national defense beyond expressing gratitude to those who have served on their behalf….

Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice.

A Late Entry from Hawai'i

A floor speech from the Hawai'i house, from Rep. Kaniela Ing:

I can't think of anything to add.

Via Towleroad.

Marriage News Watch, November 11, 2013

Do I need to say anything?

New Feature

I'm thinking of instituting a new feature here, a regular thing to happen one day a week. It will be an image from my own archives, and is likely to be almost anything I've pointed my camera at.

Here's an example:

This is from a series I started and didn't pursue very far, titled "Earth Gods." I may go through my archives as see if I have more pairings that would fit, because it's an idea I like a lot:

I'm thinking Fridays, but I'm open to suggestions.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reviews in Brief: Nickelback, "Here and Now"

Nickelback's latest, that I missed when it first came out. I did a full review at Epinions, with my track-by-track first impressions, when I first downloaded it. Since then I've listened to it a few times, and just threw it in the queue again this morning. My basic impression hasn't changed all that much -- it's Nickelback, unmistakably, a little darker than previous releases, but back to their grunge/country/rock sound, which is one of the things I like about them. It's got a slightly more focused feel to it, their essential sound distilled down to -- well, essentials.

Chad Kroeger's vocals are even more evocative than in the past -- on tracks like "Trying Not To Love You" and "Lullaby," two of the stand-out tracks, that urgency and plaintiveness pack a punch. There's a poignant quality to "Lullaby" that cuts through the irony of the title (and it is a little bit ironic, in a way I can't quite explain) and turns it into a beautiful, gentle song.

On the other hand, songs like the opening track, "This Is War," and "Kiss It Goodbye" (that one's a bitter song, and heavily satirical) reveal a kind of harshness that I haven't seen in them before -- it's in the same vein as "Rockstar" from All the Right Reasons, without the self-deprecating humor.

It's a solid collection, although not all the songs are what I'd call "strong," but the ones that are make up for it.

My favorite from the album. (Well, one of them.) The video's kind of trite, but the song has everything it needs:


Well, this had to happen -- it seems that the "key witness" to the debacle at the consulate in Benghazi has some credibility problems:

Dylan Davies claims to have been there the night terrorists attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  Davies’ account of that evening, and what he calls massive security failures leading up to the attack, were so damning that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) put a hold on all Obama administration nominations until he gets to the bottom of Davies’ serious allegations.

Then Davies’ story went poof! — and was no more.

Unfortunately for Senator Graham and Davies, Davies’ story imploded last night in the face of a New York Times blockbuster alleging that Davie’s explosive account of events at the US consulate that he gave CBS’ 60 Minutes, and his book publisher, flat-out contradict the story he told federal agents during an FBI interview.

The publisher has pulled the book (because they always write books), CBS has apologized (hint for the future -- try taking a little time to do some fact-checking in your rush for a sensational headline), And Lindsey Graham -- uh, Sen. Graham? Are you there?

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) trumpeted the recent "60 Minutes" piece on last year's attack in Benghazi perhaps louder than any other Republican, but he's been mostly silent since CBS News retracted the report on Friday.

After TPM submitted multiple requests for comment, a spokesman for Graham finally responded with an email saying that the senator "will be a guest on CNN State of the Union discussing the latest on Benghazi and the Iranian nuclear program" this Sunday.

He's waiting to talk about it on State of the Nation because he knows he won't be asked anything that's really embarrassing or that calls into question his standing as a Very Serious Person. He also won't have to admit that he behaved irresponsibly for partisan political purposes. He doesn't have the balls to admit he was wrong.

And this man is a United States Senator of some seniority. Do you wonder why the government's in the shape it's in?

Same-Sex Marriage: A Metaphor

It's been dizzying -- Illinois and Hawai'i in the past week, following hard on the heels of Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Minnesota, right after Maine, Maryland, and Washington in last year's elections. David Atkins came up with the perfect metaphor in a post at Hullabaloo:

Big economic and political change works like punctuated equilibrium. Nothing changes for a long time--until suddenly it does. And then everything changes quickly.

For those of you not familiar with evolutionary theory, "punctuated equilibrium" was the contribution of Steven Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge to the basic theory. In short, punctuated equilibrium says that speciation, the development of new species from old, occurs in isolated populations and happens relatively quickly. It pretty much torpedoed Darwin's theory of gradualism, in which one species changes into another over time, in favor of the idea that species split from a common ancestor, which is what actually seems to have been happening.

Of course, it's not a perfect analogy -- they very seldom are -- but look at the history: Massachusetts in 2004, then nothing until 2008 (California and Connecticut), then in 2009, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and D.C., and then the floodgates opened, to the extent that ten years ago, one state had passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage; now there are sixteen plus D.C., with measures and/or court cases pending in another eighteen or twenty (I'm losing count), some of which will be resolved in the next six months to a year.

It's also known as "momentum."

As for the future, you may have seen this video, but it bears watching again:

Friday, November 08, 2013

Let's Finish the Week on an Up Note

But be sure to have a hanky ready. It's a Christmas ad from British retailer John Lewis, and demonstrates the value of practical gifts.

The song is Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" performed by Lily Allen.

Via Joe.My.God.

Today In "Disgusting People"

A school in Texas.

Barber Middle School in Dickinson, Texas threw out a student’s breakfast because his account was short 30 cents, according to ABC affiliate KTRK.

The student receives reduced priced meals, but they are paid for by an account that his mother, Jennifer Castilleja, puts money into. While the school gives warnings when accounts are low, his family must have forgotten to replenish it, but rather than letting her pay it later in the day, Castilleja says the school told her the money would have to come before her son could get breakfast. The cafeteria threw his lunch in the trash.

Of course, it is Texas.

Word fail me. I mean, aside from words like "stupid, nasty, mean-spirited assholes."

Another Stereotype Down in Flames

I love stuff like this:
However, homosexual men were rated as more masculine than heterosexual men, which may explain the misjudgment of sexual orientation. Thus, our results showed that differences in facial morphology of homosexual and heterosexual men do not simply mirror variation in femininity, and the stereotypic association of feminine looking men as homosexual may confound judgments of sexual orientation.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

About Those School Athletes

We've heard too many stories recently about high-school and middle-school athletes getting away with what, in at least one case, amounts to murder. Just remember -- they're not all like that.

Via Digby.

And To Wash the Taste Out of Your Brain

a picture. I haven't posted one in a while. This is one of my favorites:

"Save Religious Freedom!" (Update, Update II)

That's the new version of Anita Bryant's "Save the Children!" campaign from the 1970s, and it's having the same effect on gay-inclusive civil rights legislation. The call is coming from the usual suspects -- the Catholic bishops, the "family" organizations (if you've ever checked out their websites, you discover very quickly that almost none of them have any programs of their own to help families -- in most cases, the best you're going to come up with are links to other organizations), the watchdogs to preserve "Christian" supremacy. As far as I'm concerned, these demands for "religious" exemptions to marriage laws, and now ENDA, are pretty much superfluous -- there's no way you can force a church or minister to officiate or host and same-sex wedding if it's against their doctrine -- and, as they grow broader, pernicious.

There are limits on rights and freedoms -- otherwise, society doesn't work. It can't, at least not the kind of society we have here. If one group or person has unlimited rights, unlimited freedom, that's dictatorship. That's what the "Christian" right is after.

Michelangelo Signorile has a good piece up at HuffPo examining this issue in relation to ENDA. The key point:

But ENDA has a problem: a disturbing religious exemption that has been included in the bill in one form or another ever since it was first introduced in 1994 -- light years ago in terms of the speed of LGBT progress -- and by gay advocates themselves, to appease conservative, religious Democrats and Republicans. In that regard, they haven't updated ENDA for 2013. And really, the exemption should never have been in this civil rights legislation in first place, as The New York Times pointed out in an editorial this week:
The exemption would extend beyond churches and other houses of worship to any religiously affiliated institution, like hospitals and universities, and would allow those institutions to discriminate against people in jobs with no religious function, like billing clerks, cafeteria workers and medical personnel. The exemption -- which was inserted to appease some opponents who say the act threatens religious freedom -- is a departure from the approach of earlier civil rights laws.
So a Catholic school teacher who's done a great job for years could still be fired under ENDA if the school's principal discovers that she is a lesbian.

That's already happening -- and not just in red states like Arkansas -- it's also happened in Minnesota and in California. The message here is clear -- stay in the closet if you want to keep your job.

(There's a related issue here, of course -- how much of your life is your employer's business? That's a really broad one, and I'm not going to deal with it here, but keep it in mind -- it's important, if for no other reason than that it stems from the same sort of authoritarian mindset we're seeing in the "religious exemption" claims.)

One can only hope that the overreach on this will come sooner rather than later -- and there will be overreach. I'm waiting for the first lawsuit alleging that the "religious" exemptions in a gay or trans civil rights law violate someone's religious freedom. After all, what sauce for the goose. . . .

Here's another discussion of the "religious" exemptions from Ari Ezra Waldman at Towleroad, with some reference to the position of our "advocacy groups" on the issue:
According to BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner, spokespersons for the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Work, and the ACLU all had the same basic response: Senator Portman's amendment is "unnecessary." The ACLU went a bit further in its conversations with Mr. Geidner, mentioning that the exemption in ENDA would be "unprecedented." But despite some groups, like the ACLU, raising concerns about the religious exemptions, Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade shows us that there is simply no urgency, no stomach for a fight over the religious exemptions. Our community's goal, Mr. Johnson discovers, is merely to raise the issue. The ACLU told Mr. Johnson that "it’s certainly [their] hope more and more pro-equality members of Congress and their staff will come to understand the potential harm of the current exemption."

That's it?

HRC, Freedom to Work, and ACLU leaders are engaging in the art of the possible. ENDA needs 60 votes to pass. To get sixty votes, it needs Republicans. To get a sufficient number of those Republicans, it needs to pay homage to religious liberty. To fight against that political reality is at once silly and dangerous to the organizations' future influence.

But no one is talking about what today's cavalier approach will mean for tomorrow's fights.

Needless to say, that approach seems to me, as it does to Waldman, both short-sighted and eventually harmful. What needs to be done it to characterize those religious exemptions as overly broad and infringing on the rights of others -- an attempt at religious supremacy.

Update II: Zack Ford has a pretty devastating run-down on the US Catholic Bishop's objections to ENDA. The Bishops, of course, don't believe in "unjust" discrimination, but their discrimination against LGBTs is just. Just ask them.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Wow. Just Wow.

I haven't given out the Through the Looking Glass Award in a while, but these two certainly deserve it. This is Bob Vander Plaats on Steve Deace's radio show. From Right Wing Watch, via Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

"Constitutional crisis"? I'm pretty much speechless.

Culture Break: The Communards, "So Cold the Night"

I'm sure you've seen the video of Jimmy Somerville joining the street musician in Berlin in a rendition of "Small Town Boy." I thought I might throw the original video up, and then "So Cold the Night" came up in the queue. So, forthwith:

OK, so it's pop culture -- it's still culture.

And I keep wondering what a remake of this video would be like now, maybe what, thirty years later? For those of you who've ever lived in close-packed high-rises -- think about it.

And wasn't he adorable?

He Actually Said That

Here's a tidbit from yesterday's Illinois House debate that I just ran across. It's priceless.

Illinois state Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) on Tuesday complained that supporters of same-sex marriage frequently spoke about human rights but neglected the Biblical scriptures.

“The other thing I didn’t hear today was the fact that this nation was built on the scriptures,” he said on the House floor. “And then came the Constitution. Is that not right?”

“I think it is,” Kay continued. “Our Constitution has always looked to the scriptures for its guidance and its columns and its foundations and its leanings, its underpinnings. And, yet, I’ve heard nothing today about the scriptures. The only thing I have heard is about human rights.”

I honestly didn't think we had anyone this ignorant in elected office in Illinois. I should have known better.

I guess he was a "no" vote on SB10.

Video at the link.

This Is Funny

In a schadenfreude sort of way. You may remember reading a few days back that NOM and its offspring, the Ruth Institute, had formally parted ways.
Ruth Goes independent!

The Ruth Institute is happy to announce that it will be running as an independent organization effective November 1, 2013.

The Ruth Institute has operated as a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund over the last three years, and has grown to the point where it will operate independently.

The Ruth Institute is grateful for it’s association with NOM and the many wonderful people we have met. We wish the NOM team much success.

A commenter at Good As You tried to access the Ruth Institute's website and got this:

So much for "Dr. Jen."

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Breaking: #15 (Updated)

tIllinois House passed the equal marriage bill this afternoon, 61-54. It's on its way to the Senate for reconciliation, which is expected to happen within a few hours, then to the Governor for signature. From Equality Illinois, via Joe.My.God.:

I am thrilled to share that just moments ago, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the historic freedom to marry bill! That was the biggest hurdle we faced to secure marriage equality in Illinois. The Illinois Senate, which passed the bill last Valentine's Day, must now agree with the House version of the bill, and that should happen within hours. Then the bill heads to the desk of Governor Pat Quinn, who has promised to sign it. The bill passed with a bipartisan vote, with Chicago, suburban, and downstate, African-American and Latino lawmakers all joining forces to do the right thing by Illinois families. Illinois now joins the inevitable march to marriage equality for all gay and lesbian couples throughout the U.S.

Marriages can start June 1, 2014.

Bet you never thought you'd see breaking news here.

And for your daily dose of schadenfreude, again courtesy of Joe.My.God.:

As Joe points out, he lives here. Not only that, but he was the founding director of the Illinois Family Institute, the only state organization listed as an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC. It's nice to see they've kept up his tradition of complete ineffectuality.

Update: Via Box Turtle Bulletin, the Senate has approved the changes to the bill, 32-21. Now on to Gov. Quinn, who has been pushing for this bill for about a year.

And it occurs to me: the anti-gay groups can stop nattering about a federal constitutional amendment -- with 15 states in which marriage equality is the law, including three of the five most populous, that is not even worth talking about.

About That Orson Scott Card Blockbuster

Meh. It did OK, on a weekend with no competition, but not enough to warrant a sequel.

Industry analysts say decent but not dominant start means momentum for Harrison Ford space thriller is not sufficient for second film

A relatively weak $28m box office opening in the US this weekend means controversial science fiction adaptation Ender’s Game is unlikely to get a sequel, according to industry experts.

The Hollywood Reporter compiled the views of a number of analysts whose job it is to review the franchise potential of blockbuster wannabes. Most felt Gavin Hood’s film, which has been targeted by gay rights activists, would struggle to make back its $110m budget after debuting with a solid but unspectacular $28m in North America.

That figure was enough to put the movie, which stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin, in first place in the US. But with Marvel studios’ latest superhero sequel, Thor: The Dark World, arriving at the weekend, it has not built the sort of momentum likely to lead to a long box office run.

Looks like the damage control didn't help.

It is not known whether the campaign by Geeks Out, which called for a boycott of the film due to source novel author Orson Scott Card’s highly publicised homophobic views, ultimately effected [sic] the film’s box office. But Hood and his stars – Ford, who plays a gruff military leader, in particular – were often forced to point out that the movie did not come from the same mean-spirited place. And that cannot have been helpful.

Ya think?

Cheat First

Lie about it later. It's the "Christian" way. This, via Joe.My.God., from Garrett Sakimoto, head of the Hawaii Christian Coalition:

MONDAY IS CRITICAL. We need to drag the hearing out as long as possible but at least until 9:00 pm. The reason is because Chair Rhoads announced that decision-making would be right after the hearing (decision-making or DM means we will vote on the measure in committee). He is assuming we will be finished early on Monday and if this is the case, they will DM right after the hearing, and hold floor session on Monday night which will be 2nd reading. If Monday night is 2nd reading, then WED will be 3rd reading. Thus, all of our plans for the rally and flooding the house chambers for 3rd reading on Thursday will be moot.

PLEASE make the final pitch! Anyone who submitted testimony and who received a number MUST SHOW UP ON MONDAY TO TESTIFY! If they cannot make it, please find someone to show up on that person's "behalf." So for example, if John Doe has a number but cannot testify because he's at work, he has Jane Smith show up on his behalf and read his testimony. Jane is NOT REPLACING John's testimony with her own but is reading his testimony to the group in order to waste time! If you organize people from your churches who can stay at the capitol all day and "read testimony" on behalf of others, that may be a start.

Have you noticed how the "Christian" right has such a hard time playing by the rules? Unless, of course, they get to make them up. Although I've noticed, even then they have trouble -- you should read all of Leviticus sometime.

Honesty doesn't seem to be a "Christian" virtue.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Marriage News Watch, November 4, 2013

Oh, it's up and down.

This Is Almost As Funny

Via Digby, this choice bit from Dianne Feinstein. From AP:

Bu[t] the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said if Snowden had been a true whistle-blower, he could have reported his concerns to her committee privately.

"That didn't happen, and now he's done this enormous disservice to our country," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

As Digby points out, oversight of the NSA has been so stellar.

Read Digby's whole post. It's worth it.

The Tony Perkins Award

This time, it goes, appropriately enough, to the Family Research Council, and organization founded to maintain discrimination in America, and of which Tony Perkins himself is the president and chief liar. Via Good As You:

I hope you aren't drinking anything right now -- coffee is hell on keyboards.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Brothers in Arms

There are dots to connect here. First, this post from Gaius Publius at AmericaBlog, on the rich and the way they see the world, based on this piece by Chris Hedges. Hedges writes:

“The rich are different from us,” F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have remarked to Ernest Hemingway, to which Hemingway allegedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”

The exchange, although it never actually took place, sums up a wisdom Fitzgerald had that eluded Hemingway. The rich are different. The cocoon of wealth and privilege permits the rich to turn those around them into compliant workers, hangers-on, servants, flatterers and sycophants. Wealth breeds, as Fitzgerald illustrated in “The Great Gatsby” and his short story “The Rich Boy,” a class of people for whom human beings are disposable commodities. Colleagues, associates, employees, kitchen staff, servants, gardeners, tutors, personal trainers, even friends and family, bend to the whims of the wealthy or disappear. Once oligarchs achieve unchecked economic and political power, as they have in the United States, the citizens too become disposable.

See also this piece by digby.

My own experience is somewhat different, but not very. At one point I worked at an art museum as the executive secretary to the director, which meant working closely with the board. I raised eyebrows and caused comment all over the institution early on in my tenure because I dared to argue with the president of the board, who in retrospect, fits fairly neatly within the paradigm described by Hedges -- and this was one of Chicago's "lakefront liberals." For most of my tenure there, however, I worked with his successor, a woman of great charm and intelligence to took me into the fold, so to speak -- she learned to value my judgment and intelligence (and my political acumen), and when I followed her to another job, I had great input into policy and had the day-do-day operations left entirely in my hands. But there was always an underlying attitude that came out when she started talking about people's social standing -- including mine: I just wasn't in her class.

It didn't help matters that I simply refused to recognize the "superiority" of the people I was dealing with. It wasn't rebellion -- it just never occurred to me that they were superior, except that they had more money. They didn't share that opinion.

Now, some connecting, with this piece by Rob Tisinai at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Thomas Peters, NOM’s communications director, shows us the limits of empathy.

Peters suffered a diving accident that left him with a fractured fifth vertebrae, a severe spinal cord injury, and doubtful prospects for recovery. Fortunately, it seems, he’s doing better than most with this kind of injury, though he still may never walk and has limited use of his upper body. Recently, on NOM’s website, he posted “Reflections on my Time Away.”

. . .
The accident has taught me more about the incredible gift of marriage. My father, during his speech at my wedding reception, said the sacrament of marriage gives us the grace to do the impossible. I have met people during these months who think it is incredible, even impossible, that my wife and I survived a trauma like this having been married only three months. I tell them it helps to marry the right woman and get married the right way, the way the Church taught the two of us what marriage is and why it should be honored. People have told us that they are inspired and receive hope from the witness of our marriage – it inspires us too, I respond! We feel it is possible to face anything, even a future of me paralyzed, so long as we cling to each other, to God, and to our marriage vows.

I think the connection is somewhere in the comment I left at Tisinai's post, to the effect that ideology trumps humanity: Peters is not capable of independent thought and has to rely on what the Church has told him to think, especially, in this case, about marriage and gay people. (In my comment I noted that, in my opinion, it's a morally and intellectually stunted outlook.)

It comes down to the Other -- for the rich, everyone else is the Other, to be kept in their place; for Peters and his cohorts, those who don't follow their ideology, and especially LGBTs, are the Other, to be fought at every turn -- and to be kept in their place, preferably out of sight and, consequently, out of mind.

There's an element of pathology in both, and I suspect it's the same, or a very similar, pathology: lack of ability to connect with others, lack of empathy, and consequently, a lack of social consciousness. In some cases, I hesitate to go so far as to call it sociopathy, but it's at least the seeds of it: it's an outlook that is totally self-referential and self-absorbed. (By way of illustration, I'm reminded of the story about one of NOM's interns who went to a rally of some sort or other and was "saddened" by the preponderance of marriage equality demonstrators and the relative paucity of the "pro-marriage" contingent. Her reaction was that allowing same-sex marriage "diminished" her relationship with God, and "demeaned" her own -- future, and therefore hypothetical -- marriage vows. So it was all about her, and not about the people -- not really people, mind you, but abstractions -- whose rights, and whose essential humanity, she was working to deny.)

And also common to both the anti-marriage activists, as exemplified by Peters, and the rich is the element of control: they must be the ones controlling others.

The sobering part is that the rich are succeeding. The NOMbots, happily, not so much.

Reviews in Brief: Journey’s Greatest Hits

I’ve decided to re-institute the Reviews in Brief column, probably every Sunday, as in the past. And I happen to be sitting here listening to Journey’s Greatest Hits, and that seemed as good a place as any to start.

There are a number of rock bands from the 80s that deserve the title of “major,” and Journey is certainly one of them. This album sort of sums it up – the songs, the band members, everything. Not to sell Arnel Pineda short – he’s a fine singer and front man – but Steve Perry was “the Voice,” no dispute. It’s Perry’s voice, I think, that became the band’s identity. The band was pretty much anchored throughout its history, though, by lead guitarist Neil Schon. Rhythm guitarist George Tickner, Jonathan Cain on keyboards, Steve Smith on drums, and Ross Valory on bass joined Perry and Schon as the line-up for most of the ‘80s, when the band had its greatest success.

And now to the music. There’s not a less than strong track on this album. The big hits are here – “Wheel in the Sky,” “Open Arms,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and my favorite, “Separate Ways.” The sound is, quite frankly, manufactured – the band went through several changes in personnel and direction in the 1970s until it came up with a sound akin to Foreigner and Boston (and any number of other bands from the period). It’s Perry, I think, along with Schon’s guitar work, that made the difference.

The sound, like that of most of the ‘80s bands, is rich, dense, heavily textured, with accents popping up to lend definition. One of Journey’s strengths, very much in evidence on this collection, is their ability to maintain that sound without becoming repetitive – the songs are not carbon copies of each other, but they are unmistakably Journey.

This is one of two albums I had on CD – I seem to remember having more on vinyl, lost in a messy break-up years ago – which are now MP3s. No matter – it’s the music that matters, and this is quintessentially the music of the ‘80s.

My favorite:

(Gods, that is so '80s!)

Saturday, November 02, 2013

They keep coming

Another via Discourse.net. I took statistics. I know how he feels:

Court Filing of the Year

Maybe the decade. It's short, read it -- the fun begins on page two. The set-up is that the prosecutor filed a motion to forbid the defense from referring to him as "the government," as being prejudicial.

Made my day.

Via Discourse.net.

In Case You Were Wondering

The news is just as depressing as ever. Why can't these idiots in Washington get their act together?

And there's an update post at Booklag on what I've been writing for the past couple of months.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Empire Strikes Back

Remember those states in which the National Guard was refusing to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses because of their state anti-marriage laws? Well, DoD is coming right back at them. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the ADL:

The balance between security and civil rights sends an important message to the world. At the Department of Defense, we work to preserve America’s individual liberties as well as defend our freedom.

When the Supreme Court issued its decision on the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the Department of Defense immediately began working on providing the same benefits to all eligible spouses, regardless of sexual orientation. We did it because everyone who serves our country in uniform should receive the full benefits they earned, fairly and in accordance with the law. Everyone’s rights must be protected.

This means that all spouses of service members are entitled to DoD ID cards, and the benefits that come with them. But several states are refusing to issue these IDs to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities. Not only does this violate the states’ obligations under federal law, their actions have created hardship and inequality by forcing couples to travel long distances to federal military bases to obtain the ID cards they’re entitled to.

This is wrong. It causes division among the ranks, and it furthers prejudice, which DoD has fought to extinguish.

Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.

The states involved now number nine (it's spread, like a virus -- last time I paid attention to this, it was four or five): Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and West Virginia. Note that all have Republican governors and/or Republican majorities in the state legislatures. (I'm surprised Kansas isn't in the group.)

My guess is that at least one state AG will file suit to block the orders, with no hope of success. Whatever their feelings about same-sex marriage, they're up against the Supremacy Clause, and their ultimate commander is in Washington, not the local state house.

This is what the Republican party has become, and we've seen it in voting rights, reproductive rights (any guesses on which state is going to be the first to try to outlaw condoms?), and now gay civil rights. They'll chip away with restrictive state laws, frivolous law suits, anything they think they can get away with, hoping, I guess, that the tide will turn and the entire country will see the light.

And they're going to lose. Get ready for a big dose of Schadenfreude.

Via AmericaBlog.