"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, September 30, 2006

Ah, yes --Values

Strange how the Republicans keep falling afoul of family values. I hadn't thought much of this story when it first appeared at AmericaBlog yesterday, simply because John Aravosis has a tendency toward shrillness and it simply didn't look, from the e-mails he published, that there was much there. Apparently there was enough:

Here's the original post. Based on the e-mails he published, it seems to go a little overboard, although I would say that Foley should have had more sense than to demonstrate that degree of interest in a teenager.

However, take a look at these copies of e-mails from ABC News. And, while the Republican House leadership is scrambling to cover its collective ass on this, Foley has resigned.

And of course, this is no surprise (from the San Francisco Chronicle):

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California proposed to the House that its ethics committee investigate and make a preliminary report in 10 days. She demanded to know who knew of the messages, whether Foley had other contacts with pages and when the Republican leadership was notified of Foley's conduct.

Instead, majority Republicans engineered a vote to allow the ethics panel to decide whether there should even be an investigation.

Note the last sentence. Does that sound familiar?

House leadership knew about these incidents a year ago. As a matter of fact, according to ABC's Brian Ross:

[O]ne page said his "entire class was warned about Foley from people involved in the program". Now if warnings were issued, then why was action never taken? Sounds like the leadership in Congress really needs to be asked some serious questions about this.

So, what do you suppose they've learned from the Vatican on pursuing pedophiles? And when do you expect we will hear about screening House pages to weed out "hommaseksuals"?

According to a bit on Pam's House Blend, Foley is gay. According to J. Jennings Moss, of ABC:

Ten years ago, I outed Foley as a gay man for The Advocate, the national gay and lesbian newsmagazine. But aside from one story in the St. Petersburg Times, no other Florida or national publications would touch the tale, either because Foley and his camp did a great job of shooting the messenger or because of the inherent fear the media have to delve honestly and without judgment into a person's sexual background.

The issue, of course, is not that Foley is gay but that he made advances to minors, which is a very different thing. Unfortunately, we can count on the Dobson Gang to conflate the two. Look for major gay-bashing from the Christianists.

It's disheartening, simply because it is not a subtle distinction, that between a gay man and a pedophile, but the Dobson Gang has managed to spread so much misinformation that it's almost impossible to focus people on the actuality. What needs to happen, probably, is for someone to get up and publicly call Dobson et al. liars and then maybe people will listen to the reality.

Actually, is sounds as though that's starting to happen:

Former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, once a stalwart ally in the culture wars, appears to be turning his back on Christian conservatives and their leaders.

The former majority leader of the House of Representatives reportedly told Ryan Sager, author of a new book on the Republican Party, that values voters and their leaders — especially Focus on the Family Action Chairman Dr. James Dobson — are "nasty bullies."

Pity that Armey is such a neanderthal on gay issues, but it's a start.

(Also from Pam Spaulding, who got it from Dobson, to whom I refuse to link.

Some Comments on Torture

From David Horowitz, as quoted by Andrew Sullivan:

Waterboarding is fleeting in duration with the actual discomfort lasting seldom more than a couple of minutes. And since a man can be safely deprived of oxygen for at least twice as long, there is almost no risk of long-term harm. The possibility of injury is further reduced by the fact that the procedure calls for no direct physical contact between the subject and his interrogators. Not even as much as pushing or chest slapping is required at any time, making waterboarding one of the safest and least confrontational among interrogation methods. Involving the lowest risk of long-term harm and the least amount of cumulative discomfort, it is also the most humane.

Moral vacuum, anyone?

And from The Onion:

Led by a bipartisan group of senators critical of White House policy on suspected terrorists, the Senate passed a bill Thursday that prohibits interrogators from exceeding 100 amps per testicle when questioning detainees. "Even in times of war, it is counterproductive and wrong to employ certain inhumane interrogation techniques, and using three-digit amperage levels on the testicles of captives constitutes torture," said Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who has also supported reducing the size of attack dogs and the height of nude pyramids.

So much for the "maverick" Republicans.

On Being Disappeared, or the Possibility Thereof

From William Rivers Pitt at Truthout:

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.

The point is, we fought a war over the idea of giving one man that kind of power. In our history books, it's called "The Revolutionary War." Has everyone forgotten that?

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Torture Bill

And the Democrats finally speak out:

Hillary Clinton's speech on the Senate floor.

It's a great speech. Even Andrew Sullivan liked it.

Scroll down for comments by Obama, Edwards, Kerry, Feingold, Dodd. (For some reason, all of Atrios' permalinks go back to the top of the page.)

The "mavericks" voted against habeas corpus. I think the whole "rebellion" was stage-managed.

Here's an aglen I hadn't thought of, from Jack Cafferty:

President Bush is trying to pardon himself. Here’s the deal: Under the War Crimes Act, violations of the Geneva Conventions are felonies, in some cases punishable by death. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Convention applied to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, President Bush and his boys were suddenly in big trouble. They’ve been working these prisoners over pretty good. In an effort to avoid possible prosecution they’re trying to cram this bill through Congress before the end of the week before Congress adjourns. The reason there’s such a rush to do this? If the Democrats get control of the House in November this kind of legislation probably wouldn’t pass.

You wanna know the real disgrace about what these people are about to do or are in the process of doing? Senator Bill Frist and Congressman Dennis Hastert and their Republican stooges apparently don’t see anything wrong with this. I really do wonder sometimes what we’re becoming in this country.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

At Random, 9/28/06

The Press, Victimized

Fox defends itself:

Fox News chief Roger Ailes said that former President Bill Clinton's angry response to interviewer Chris Wallace's question about going after Osama bin Laden represents "an assault on all journalists."

Ailes said Clinton had a "wild overreaction" in the interview, broadcast on "Fox News Sunday." Hundreds of thousands of people subsequently watched clips over the Internet, with Fox foes rallying behind Clinton.

Considering that it's Roger Ailes saying this, please pass the salt. Does it sound just the least little bit self-serving?

And note that Rudolph Giuliani comes to Clinton's defense, although, being a Republican candidate for president, he has to defend Bush as well. However, TBogg brings a little bit of detail to Bush doing "everything he could" to kill bin Laden.

Here's an asinine post by Glenn Reynolds, and TBogg's synopsis.

It's the Economy. . . .

Speaking of Fox News, this is choice. Nonpartisan, of course. But, as Atrios points out, it's just getting back to where it was before the tax cuts. Not allowing for inflation.

The Christianists:

I'm not linking to their sickness. If you want to know what's going on at the "Values" conference in Washington, check out Andrew Sullivan or Pam's House Blend. The degree of viciousness is amazing.


This post, by my namesake at DailyKos, is tremendous. Snaps the whole thing into focus.

The anti-torture choice was abandoned long ago. The "moderate" Republicans could have chosen to block any authorization for torturing U.S. prisoners right from the bat; they refused.

This legislation is political salve; it is not required law. The Constitution and existing law, presuming for the faintest half-shadow of a moment that the administration could be expected to follow it, speak clearly and decisively on the issues of habeus corpus, and trial, and on torture. This legislation is simply a show trial against the Constitution, done for the expediency of displaying Republican toughness, where toughness is defined as having no moral, ethical, or legal boundary that cannot be moved, if a poll number sticks up against it.

It all sort of makes you sick, doesn't it.


I went to Lincoln Park Zoo the other day. It turned out to be a beautiful September day, sunny and mild, not too many people at the Zoo. Some observations:

I sat watching the rhino pacing in his larger but still not quite big enough enclosure and noticed something odd: several families with ery small children came by and stopped to watch as well. All of the Latino parents picked their kids up so they could see the rhino. The single Black family, the same. None of the white parents did. No conclusion, just an observation, statistically insignifant (there were only six or seven families observed).

Watched the lions for a while. The male walked over and flopped down on the ground near the moat. They are definitely cats.

Bought some popcorn -- an indulgence -- and fed the birds with some of it. Mostly a brawling mob of sparrows, actually yelling at each other, with a couple of starlings, which always make me think of dinosaurs because of the awkward way they walk. But then, direct descendants, don'tcha know.

I didn't go into any of the houses -- it was an outdoors day. I did stop off at the conservatory to see the orchids. Some Stanhopeas in bloom, which is one I've always wanted to try -- someday -- and a decent Cochleanthes, but the color could have been stronger. That's a group I love, the Zygopetalum family.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

God's Country

This, from the ACLU:

The Public Expression of Religion Act, or PERA (S. 3696 / H.R. 2679), would bar the recovery of attorneys' fees to people who win lawsuits asserting their fundamental constitutional and civil rights in cases brought under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Since these cases are characteristically filed against the government, it means that while the government can call upon huge amounts of your money to defend them, the plaintiffs -- that is, the people whose rights are allegedly being violated -- can go whistle.

This, from a reader at Andrew Sullivan:

I went to the Family Research Council/Focus on the Family/American Family Association "Values Voters" summit this weekend at the Omni.

It is much, much worse than we know.

The first woman I spoke to (from Erie, PA) railed on about how Chuck Hagel is a flaming liberal and John McCain should be tried for treason. I thought that maybe I'd run into an isolated crazy. Oh no - it only got worse from there. The level of contempt for anyone who diverges from the Holy Word of W is beyond description. I was sort of 'undercover' so I could just let people talk to me, not leading the conversation, not baiting, and it horrified me to hear how many were perfectly comfortable with any form of torture in the name of patriotism if the Commander In Chief gave it the ok.

Granted that anyone who actually spends the time and money to attend something like this is out there somewhere anyway, it's not so far off base. I have relatives who think like this. Truly. (Which just demonstrates that being a wingnut is a choice.)

Another from Andrew Sullivan:

As a Presbyterian pastor, I continue to be stunned by the unthinking support of many evangelicals for a policy that permits torture. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when the so-called "Traditional Values Coalition" decided that torture was among the traditional values that they feel compelled to support.

I've already made my comments about these pricks and their "values."

Sullivan, again:

Do I understand Jerry [Falwell] correctly? Is he saying he supports the misnamed Patriot Act, a law that all but eviscerates the Fourth Amendment and does serious injury to several others, a law that was first proposed by Bill Clinton and Al Gore? Is he saying he supports domestic surveillance, which many fear does more to create an American police state than fight terrorists? Does he mean he supports warrantless searches and seizures and warrantless eavesdropping?

I had always believed that Christian conservatives were among our country's most ardent defenders of liberty and constitutional government. All that I knew and understood from my schooling at Thomas Road Baptist Church and the Thomas Road Bible Institute, plus all of my involvement and effort in Jerry's Moral Majority, convinced me that if we Christian conservatives believed anything, we believed in freedom and constitutional government. Am I now to understand that we are supposed to support a Big Brother philosophy to government and must willingly surrender constitutionally protected liberties?

From Digby:

But we aren't going to see the moral scolds standing up on this, I'm afraid. At least I'll be very shocked if they do. They believe, as do so many Republicans and members of the press that morals are attached to somebody elses crotch. They apparently don't see that institutional torture isn't just something that a few bad apples learn from popular culture.

Concerning Digy's last sentence here, the "moral scolds" are the ones who have contributed the most to this -- look, boys and girls, they elected Bush, they've pressured McCain to back down on torture, they want government focused on your crotch to the exclusion of everything else. It only highlights their complete lack of morality and their complete lack of Christianity. Frankly, I can't think of any religion that condones mistreating those who can't defend themselves, which leads me to propose that there is no sincere religious philosophy involved here.

The Moral Majority and its descendants have brought us to this: a nascent police state, a totalitarian regime that advocates torture, a theocratic nightmare. When did I start pointing out that the Christianists are not un-American, they are anti-America? Like, when I started blogging?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


As of this morning, we (meaning I) have 4242 hits at Hunter at Random in the last nine months. By DailyKos standards, that's nothing, but for a blog I didn't think anyone was going to read, it's not bad.

I'm also still fascinated by the map.

One, Two -- And A Warning

St. John the Turncoat

It seems Andrew Sullivan is willing to consider, at least, being as cynical as I am about McCain's behavior on the torture bill.

McCain, in other words, is a shrewd politician and he knows when to fight a battle he can win and when to punt on a fight he will lose. If he becomes president, he could, with the discretion given the president in this bill, rescind the torture that Bush has authorized. Maybe, he could repeal the bill, with a Democratic Congress or even a Republican Congress that returned to its decent conservative principles. At the same time, it's clear he has also acquiesced to giving complete legal impunity to the civilian architects of the torture policy within the Bush administration. Maybe that's the real deal here - I'll give you legal protection for past war-crimes if you give me the nomination in 2008. But surely McCain knows better than to trust the likes of Rove. He may have sold his soul ... for a promise from a professional liar. The tragedy of 9/11 keeps deepening, dragging with it men of conscience and principle into the pit of opportunism and Caesarism.

If McCain actually winds up as the front runner for Republicans in 2008, look for a sharp turn to the right during the campaign. Payback time is going to be fun, though, if he's elected, although I'm not as confident as Sullivan that he will immediately turn back the torture brigade. Things like that tend to stay in place in the absense of a strong backlash. You have the Christianists going googoo eyed over mistreating helpless people (why does that not surprise me?), and they still have some political muscle, even though BushCo. has been duping them for six years.

Sullivan has been hot on the torture issue, but nowhere near as forceful -- nor as lucid -- as Digby. Just go to Daily Dish and scroll down.


I'm considering taking a couple of sites off my links because they show no evidence of thought and may be brain dead (although I am not about to diagnose on the basis of a home-made video). I may just put them in a new category, something like "Alternate Realities."

I'm thinking about it.

Off to the Wilderness

Not really (I wish!). I have to get myself organized so I can start writing a series of coordinated reviews around the idea of slipstream fiction (coming up on the next GMR). It's the first time I've ever deliberately tried to do a metareview.

We'll see.

If I figure out what slipstream is, I may post about it here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

October Surprise

Rove promised one. I'm not making any guesses, but. . . .

From The Nation:

As reports circulate of a sharp debate within the White House over possible US military action against Iran and its nuclear enrichment facilities, The Nation has learned that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have moved up the deployment of a major "strike group" of ships, including the nuclear aircraft carrier Eisenhower as well as a cruiser, destroyer, frigate, submarine escort and supply ship, to head for the Persian Gulf, just off Iran's western coast. This information follows a report in the current issue of Time magazine, both online and in print, that a group of ships capable of mining harbors has received orders to be ready to sail for the Persian Gulf by October 1.

I'm just sayin'.

Elitist Discourse (Reprise)

I must be in tune with something. After my comments on Nyhan's elitist little piece yesterday, I ran across these two posts by Atrios ("Unity" and "Consensus" -- scroll down a bit).

It's the same set of people who imagine that partisanship somehow creates disagreement rather than the other way around. It's true that there's some degree of tribalism in political identification, but mostly partisanship exists because people choose the party which best represents their political views. Partisanship is the political expression of disagreement, not the creator of it.

What "why can't we all agree" really means is "why can't everybody just agree with me."

Democracy is messy. Hurray!

Told you so.

More on Torture

Digby has been all over the torture bill. Start here and just keep scrolling down:

In case anyone's not convinced, how about this "Report on Guantanamo Detainees: A Profile of 517 Detainees through Analysis of Department of Defense Data:"

There are now about 490 prisoners at Gitmo, and "55 percent of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or coalition allies.

"Only 8 percent of the detainees were characterized as Al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40 percent have no definitive connection with Al Qaeda at all and 18 percent have no definitive affiliation with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

"Only 5 percent of the detainees were captured by United States forces. [A total of] 86 percent of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86 percent of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were turned over to the United States at a time at which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies."

These are some of the people Bush wants to torture.

Digby's summation on the "compromise":

This is it folks. There will be no judicial oversight of torture which means there is no way to enforce the law. The world will just have to trust George W. Bush to follow those laws based upon his superior morals and decency.

Note especially this one by tristero.

And Digby on the Democrats:

The Democrats showed they are ciphers who don't have the stones to even say a word when the most important moral issue confronting the government is being debated.

One very important thing to note, and to write your Senators about: both Bush's bill and the "compromise" bill take away habeas corpus and the right to judicial review for detainees. So, anyone that Bush decides is an "enemy combatant" could just sit in Gitmo for life, based on absolutely nothing.

Yes, I bolded that whole thing. That's how important I think it is.

And after seeing this story, I wonder how much of the "rebellion" was staged. Like, all of it?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Elitist Discourse

A piece by Brendan Nyhan
, lamenting the increasingly partisan/ideological slant of the blogsphere and its effect on opinion journalism.

At a deeper level, these developments may offer a preview of the future of opinion journalism. Ex-reporters and political insiders currently dominate the nation's op-ed pages, but mainstream news organizations like the Washington Post are hiring a new generation of ideological bloggers who are likely to take their place. And conservative magazines, while less heterodox than their liberal counterparts, also face competition from ultra-partisan blogs like Power Line, Time's 2004 blog of the year (sample quote: "It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice.")

Ironically enough, the liberal writers who decry the excesses of capitalism have failed to recognize what it is doing to their business. In a marketplace where publications compete on partisanship and ideological consistency, our democracy loses.

Take a look at that last sentence and think about the mindset that decrees that when publications compete on partisanship and ideological consistency -- that is, on the presentation of clearly differing viewpoints (which I think is accurate, considering the splinters that the traditional ideological camps have broken into) -- then democracy loses.

This is democracy, SFB, at its most energetic and most alive. Last I remember, someone -- probably Jefferson, who was eminently quotable -- referred to that as the "free marketplace of ideas." (It was probably really someone like Frankfurter, but I'm not worried enough about it to look it up.) And people like Nyhan hate it.

Not that I want to accuse Nyhan of elitism, but -- well, OK -- he's an elitist, which are generally the first to rail against that brawling example of total democracy known as the Internet.

I ran across this via Retardo Montalban at Sadly, No!, who missed the real issue completely:

This is the real workings of democracy. It's not civilized, it's not well-behaved, and it's completely unfiltered -- we get to decide what we look at. The only limit on what you find on the Internet is what your porn blocker is set for, and you get to set the porn blocker.

Strangely enough, the aristocratic centrists don't like it any more than the knuckle-dragging rightists or the latte-sipping leftists do.

Why am I not surprised?

No One From Antarctica -- Yet

Sorry, but I'm just fascinated by the ClustrMap. I keep trying to find some pattern in the new visits from around the world, and of course I can't. But it's fascinating -- looks like we've added Greece, India, somewhere in the Caucasus, Hawai'i, either Haiti or the Dominican Republic (? -- I never remember which is on which side of Hispaniola), Latvia or Estonia, the Ukraine, Costa Rica (or maybe Nicaragua -- I'm trying to remember my Central American geography, and the map isn't really high resolution) -- lots of new places.

The most visits seem to be coming from Chicago (natch) and the San Francisco Bay area, the DC/Philly/Big Apple corridor, as well as what looks like western North Carolina/eastern Tennessee, Kansas (!), and London. Hmm -- a couple of hits from Norway. Nice -- I have a thing about Norwegians.

Hey! Leave a comment, even just to say hello and tell me where you're from.


Marty Lederman at Balkinization has been on top of the "compromise" torture bill. This is a summary post as well as a further discussion of details (lots of links -- pay attention to them).

The serious problem with the bill, as I've discussed, is that it would define "cruel treatment" for purposes of the War Crimes Act in a confusing and inadequate manner that could readily be construed not to cover some or many of the CIA techniques. More to the point, numerous Bush officials' statements over the past 48 hours indicate that the Administration has already construed the definition in exactly that way, and that, in its view, this means not only that the CIA techniques would not be "war crimes," but also that they would not be "cruel treatment" under Common Article 3 by virtue of that statutory definition.

This conclusion demonstrates the terrible mischief of this "compromise," but it's substantively wrong. I don't know whether and to what extent McCain, et al., intended the definition of "cruel treatment" in the proposed War Crimes Act amendment to cover the CIA techniques. If McCain and other Senators do think such techniques are covered by that language, it would behoove them to say so publicly, and to explain how the proposed WCA should be construed to cover such techniques, so as to counter the Administration's manifest contrary reading. Here's what I wrote yesterday:

If Senators McCain, et al., are truly serious about bringing a halt to interrogation techniques that would place us in violation of the Geneva Conventions, then at the very least they must do this one thing: Amend the definition of "serious physical pain or suffering" to make certain that it does, in fact, encompass the physical suffering that is attendant to the cruel treatment prohibited by Common Article 3, including that caused by the CIA's "alternative" techniques.

If the Senators do not do so, it seems clear from what we've already seen that the Bush Administration lawyers will instruct the CIA that such techniques are not "cruel treatment" (even though under anyone's ordinary understanding of that term, they would be).

Jack Balkin provides a link to the text of the compromise, with this comment:

Here is the latest version of the Military Commission Bill, including all of the compromises agreed to by the Administration and Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner. The worst parts begin on p. 81, eliminating the writ of habeas corpus, denying anyone the right to invoke rights guaranteed by Geneva in judicial actions, prohibiting the use of any foreign sources in construing the meaning of the Geneva Conventions, proclaiming that the President is the authoritative source of the meaning of Geneva with respect to the War Crimes statute, amending the War Crimes statute with language that allows the President to continue to engage in torture-lite (after all, he is now the authoritative source of its meaning), and finally, making all these amendments retroactive to November 26th, 1997 (i.e., well before September 11th, 2001. I wonder what led to this particular change?)

Balkin makes the most important point:

The reason why the President and his Administration are daring to offer this bill now is that they believe that we Americans will not punish them politically for doing it. Quite the contrary: they believe that we Americans will think them strong and courageous and forceful for doing so.

They think that we Americans will actually reward them at the polls for legalizing torture.

That is one of the most chilling things about this entire episode. Have we become so complacent as a country, so easily lied to, that our leaders now think that they can legalize torture before our very eyes and that we will actually thank them for doing so?

I thought to check out the Volokh Conspiracy to see what a more conservative group of legal bloggers might think. Strangely enough, not a word.

OK -- just in case anyone was wondering, this is making me sick.

(A footnote:

From Pam Spaulding, this struck me. We're in the process of becoming a rogue state, and this is what the Christianists think is the most important issue facing us. Quoting Marilyn Musgrave:

As we face the issues that we are facing today I don't think there's anything more important out there than the marriage issue. And I've been a pro life activist most of my adult life. I care very deeply about the sanctity of life. But this issue that's in front of us today is critically important.

Remember -- these are among those who support torture.

These people are really disgusting.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

At Random, 9/22/06

About Muslim Violence:

From today's headlines:

Christian mobs torched cars, looted Muslim-owned shops and burned a prison, freeing hundreds of inmates, in violence touched off by Friday's executions of three Roman Catholics convicted of instigating attacks on Muslims.

In light of the number of comments I've heard lately about how Muslims are basically violence-prone and Christians just don't do things like that, this story seemed worth noting. C'mon, people --it's a human failing, and the sooner you recognize that, the better off we'll all be.

And here's a comment I'd like to hear from closer to home:

Vice President Jusuf Kalla appealed for calm, saying the deaths of the three men had nothing to do with religion.

"It's a matter of law," he told reporters in the capital Jakarta. "If the people resent the law, we are doomed."

Perhaps I've become cynical, but a good portion of the remaining story, dealing with pressure that may have been applied to the judges and evidence that others were more culpable in the original violence, seems to have a lot of "perhapses" and "might haves." Not that I would ever accuse AP of stretching a point. Not me.

Gay Terrorism:

A note to the producers of "The Path to 9/11" -- if you're going to slam American Airlines, at least slam them for the right things.

Science and Faith:

From Andrew Sullivan. I think both Sullivan and Benedict miss the point. Science doesn't claim to explain everything. It never has. The "war" of science against religion is a war invented by religion and maintained by it. Sure, there are scientists who are outspoken atheists. There are scientists who are people of faith. I have to confess I'm not terribly surprised to see Sullivan defending Benedict's straw man, any more than I'm surprised to see Benedict espousing such an argument to begin with.

Christian Virtues: Torture:

Reader PietB sent this snippet from a recent Molly Ivins column (I've been having trouble getting through -- must be a really popular column):

I was interested to find that the Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition is so in favor of torture he told McCain that the senator either supports the torture bill or he can forget about the evangelical Christian vote. I'd like to see an evangelical vote on that one. I don't know how Sheldon defines traditional values, but deliberately inflicting terrible physical pain or stress on someone who is completely helpless strikes me as ... well, torture. And, um, wrong. And I've smoked dope! Boy, everything those conservatives tell us about the terrible moral values of us liberals must be true after all.

Marty Lederman weighs in at Balkinization with this commentary. Note particularly this statement that Ivins mentions from the Traditional Values Coalition:

"Our rules for interrogation need to catch-up with this awful new form of war that is being fought against all of us and the free world. The post -World War II standards do not apply to this new war.

"We must redefine how our lawful society treats those who have nothing but contempt for the law and rely on terrorizing the innocent to accomplish their objectives. The lines must be redrawn and then we must pursue these criminals as quickly and as aggressively as the law permits.

"And since this debate is, at its very core, about preserving the traditional value of prosecuting injustice and protecting the innocent, TVC will score this vote in both the House and the Senate. We encourage all of our supporters and affiliated churches to contact their elected representatives and let them know we support President Bush's efforts to update our methods of interrogating terrorist detainees in order to provide greater protection for our troops and the innocent."

Once you translate the code words, Sheldon is simply saying that evangelical Christians should support torture, even in those cases where there is no evidence that the vicitm has done anything wrong. Sorry -- this is a traditional value I want to have nothing to do with. The man wouldn't know a moral act if it bit him.

Someone noted, and I forget who, that liberals don't need to speak in code because liberals aren't generally proposing something that most people find morally repellent.

It's interesting that Sheldon thinks we have to update our thinking to allow torture of innocent people, but we don't have to update our thinking to recognize sincere love between two people of the same sex. But then, maybe that fits.

McCain Sells Out -- Again:

About that "compromise" on the torture bill: I am so fed up with the Democrats. They sat there, riding on McCain's coattails, and of course they got shafted. Lord love a duck -- I can't believe they didn't see this coming. It's an election year, for crying out loud, what do they think the mechanics are going to be? And not one of them has the balls to stand up on his hind legs and rip Bush and McCain a new one.

Read what Digby has to say, here, here, and here.

What it boils down to is that the Republicans are too corrupt to govern and the Democrats are too stupid.


I've been working a lot lately, so I treated myself to a shopping expedition -- some new (used) books (Delany, Card, Pynchon), and new (used) CDs (Nickelback, Eagles, R.E.M., and Turandot, my usual strange mix), and then went to my favorite Indian restaurant and ate too much. Sure beats reading the papers. (Or paying retail.)

Of course, what I really need is a new pair of jeans.

A heads up -- I'm working on a set of interlinked reviews for GMR, all about slipstream. Look for it in October. I'll also be doing an overview of the fiction of Charles de Lint for our special de Lint issue on November 5.

Next time -- which will be when I can stand to look at the papers again, unless I think of something else to comment on.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christians and Torture

Andrew Sullivan echoes my question. He follows up in his next post, starting with the documentary Jesus Camp. I am reminded of the "Our Leader" billboards in the South during the last election. It's a scary phenomenon.

The torture issue should be a no brainer for any Christian, or any person of any faith whatsoever. That we're even having this debate is grotesque. That the administration is at the point of parsing the nuances of torture just makes it even more grotesque.

As far as the torture bill goes, the Democracts have, once again, given up the lead to the Republicans. Everyone seems to be noting the division in Republican ranks on this issue, but I haven't noticed anyone remarking that the Democrats are largely invisible. Here is the chance to call it like it is and to take the moral high ground and the Democrats, once again, are standing on the sidelines.

I may just sit out the next election. There's no one to vote for.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Moral Question

Has anyone seen any sign of any of the following having spoken out on the president's push to legalize torture?

James Dobson
Donald Wildmon
Ralph Reed
Tony Perkins
Jerry Falwell
Pat Robertson
Phyllis Schlafly
Peter LaBarbera
Lou Sheldon

It would seem to me to be a moral issue worthy of their attention.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


The word "gay" is turning into one of those words that has all sorts of meanings. Not so surprising, given the imprecision with which we use language. Don't misunderstand -- I don't think we always need to be so precise, and even if we are, half the time people still don't understand what we're saying.

This is sparked by my contention, in the Brokeback Mountain review that I mentioned a few days ago, that it was not a "gay" film. Thinking about it this many months later, I still hold to that position.

Pre-Stonewall, the accepted designation for man who love men, if one was being polite, was "homosexual." There were a lot of things that went into that term, first and foremost being that it was considered a pathology. "Homosexual," to most people these days who are at all au courant, denotes a behavior. There are those, of course, who cling to that designation, mostly the gay bashers on the far right -- Wildmon, Perkins, Sheldon, Dobson, the usual suspects. They will not use the term "gay" because "gay" is a person. They don't want gay men to be seen as people. (They're not quite so vociferous about lesbians, but that's not so hard to understand. For a nice, hard-line patriarch, it doesn't really matter what women do.) It's that simple: if they start referring to gays as "gay," then they take on an identity, they become part of a culture, real people, and that doesn't fit the agenda. The agenda is there, of course, but if they allow that gay men, in particular, are individuals, all too human, who are doing the best they can with the hand they've been dealt, how can they transform them into sick, sinful, perverted predators?

"Gay" is an identity. It is a culture, a social context, a framework within which people can build lives. It may very well be a temporary thing, a culture that was necessary for a reviled and disenfranchised group to participate in as they established their legitimacy. Frank Browning, in A Queer Geography, notes that younger men are impatient with the designation and the separateness that it implies, and perhaps there really is, in some quarters, a post-gay identity developing. I'm not sure whether I approve. Assimilation just makes finding a boyfriend that much harder.

My reason for that is not just that I'm an aging gay man who came of age as that culture was being forged, but also that I believe that one of the most important things we have to offer the world is our difference. We may very well be more creative than most straights, more inventive, more adventurous -- we are certainly more colorful. I treasure those aspects of Pride celebrations that the religious nuts and our own political organizations decry: the drag queens, the leatherfolk, loud music, nearly naked dancers. Otherwise, why bother? I don't need to spend three or four hours in the sun watching a gaggle of politicans waving at me.

So, Jack and Ennis were not "gay." There was no such identity at that point. We're much too apt to project our contemporary attitudes back to inappropriate places -- a correspondent remarked that Alexander was gay. I think if you could go back in time and explain to him what that meant, he'd think you'd lost your mind. In his context, that identity had no meaning.

It does have meaning now. Like all such meanings, this one is elusive of definition, because the context has become so much broader than its origin -- I know straight men who are very gay, and gay men who are not gay at all.

So, what is my conclusion? I don't know that I have one. I'm not even sure I need one.

Maybe you have one.


I started a post about 9/11, Five Years After, and got nowhere. Thinking about the disaster, and what's happened since, there was just too much disappointment, too much anger, too much rage at the way a bunch of cheap politicians took one of the worst days of this country's history and used it for their own tiny little purposes. Fortunately, there are people like Keith Olberman around:

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.

Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?

A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.

Thanks to Spencer Windes at LeftCoast Breakdown for posting the whole thing.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Boys In Love

Wonderful column from Jennifer Vanasco in the current Chicago Free Press:

Most teenage boys, it seems, aren’t players. Most boys have sensitive hearts.

They are in love with and attached to the people they are dating. They are romantic. They think about what it would mean to give their own lives for the one they love. They are, it turns out, as emotionally driven in love as girls are.

I knew that.

Brokeback Revisited

I happened to reread one of my Brokeback Mountain reviews this morning. I'd been thinking that I had perhaps been a bit too passionate about the film, perhaps even shrill.

No. I wasn't.

Incendiary Poo

I love that phrase. It comes from one of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books -- Dresden is being pursued by a giant winged monkey hurling incendiary poo.

I just use it to mean the latest "terra" speech from the presnit.

Sullivan Does It Again

I really want to like Andrew Sullivan, even though I've never met him and never expect to. We agree on many basic issues, and then he comes up with something like this:

I have no idea why the Clinton administration should get a pass in dithering while a mortal threat gathered in the 1990s. I hope ABC stands firm.

The one who's getting a free pass in The Path to 9/11 is George Bush, who is, granted, apparently some sort of Sullivanesque wet dream. Sullivan apparently still sees Clinton as the Antichrist, in tandem with the more extreme elements of his party. So instead of questioning ABC's motives in airing this fiction rather than producing a factual account, he picks a self-serving quote by a Republican member of the 9/11 Commission as his "Quote of the Day."

It's fairly obvious at this point, even if you don't remember the 90s, that Clinton was repeatedly stymied in his efforts to combat terrorism, and specifically Osama bin Laden, by a Republican Congress that felt embarrassing the president was much more important than national security.

I've accused Sullivan of fuzzy thinking in the past, and this only underscores it. I really wish he would use a little more rigor from time to time, but I'm starting to think that he is essentially shallow. I hate that not only because he could be so much more effective, but it plays to stereotype.

Apparently, though, if Clinton isn't in the mix, Sullivan is able to see clearly what a lying scumbag Bush is.

How bizarre.

Update: As an antidote to Sullivan's shallow and highly partisan comments, see Kevin Hayden's very carefully researched commentary on the reality of the path to 9/11.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Right Question

I was going just to edit my post from yesterday on the marriage amendment, but decided that there is an important issue here that needs to be highlighted.

Too many judges, particularly those who call themselves "strict constructionists" (which means they only get activist if it will suit the right wing), have insisted that there is no constitutional right to homosexual behavior, including same-sex marriage. Under that doctrine, there is no constitutional right to any sort of behavior. They're asking the wrong question. And they're not even coming up with the right answer.

The whole point of the Bill of Rights is not that it "grants rights" to the people (which, given the idea that "all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights" from the get-go, is certainly a ridiculous proposition to begin with), but that it limits what restrictions the government may impose on the behavior of the people and under what circumstances. The Ninth Amendment does, in fact, quite plainly state that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." There it is, in the plain language so beloved of the strict constructionists. (Note to Justice Scalia: Duh!)

So the correct approach to the question of same-sex marriage is not whether the US Constitution (or any state constitution) specifically grants such a right, but whether any government has the authority to deny it. Considering that the Supreme Court has found that marriage to the partner of one's choice is a fundamental right (and considering the Court's attitude toward government instrusion into personal decisions in general, going all the way back to Griswold, as well as the Court's insistence on a rational basis for legislating against a specific group), it seems that opponents of SSM are on shaky ground. (Of course, this also makes the recent New York and Washington decisions even more ludicrous.)

Which puts Judge Wilkinson's reservations on gayhood (did I just make up a word?) even further in limbo. And leaves the "strict constructionists" looking like the political hacks they are.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I ran across the same tired old thing this morning about how those who support same-sex marriage routinely label their opponents as "bigots" and "homophobes." Some do. A lot don't. This is, however, a staple comment by those who are trying to insure a "reasoned discourse" and an "open debate."

But it occurred to me that I never hear them objecting to anti-marriage proponents calling gays "sick," "diseased," a "threat," and "immoral."

Now why do you suppose that is?
A fairly interesting OpEd by J. Harvie Wilkinson III (who happens to be a judge in the 4th Circuit) in WaPo, arguing against the anti-marriage amendment in terms of not using the Constitution to enshrine public policy, which to me seems like a very good idea: that's not what the Constitution is about. (If I were feeling really snarky this morning, I'd comment that those pushing the amendment don't really know what the Constitution is about, but I'm not feeling really snarky.)

There are a couple of missteps, however, that I want to point out.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court concocted a state constitutional right to marry persons of the same sex. The court went on to say that opposing views lacked so much as a rational basis. In other words, centuries of common-law tradition, legislative sanction and human experience with marriage as a bond between one man and one woman were deemed by that court unworthy to the point of irrationality.

No, not really. The Massachusetts court merely asked the right question: does the state have the right to deny marriage to same-sex couples? From that viewpoint, the opposing arguments do not have a rational basis. It's really the same thinking that the US Supreme Court used in Romer and Lawrence. There's also the fact that the "legislative sanction" is a fairly recent phenomenon. Like since the 1970s, if I recall correctly. Marriage law before that rests on assumptions of heterosexuality, but doesn't make it an explicit requirement. It's only with the rise of the Moral Majority and its unholy descendants that you get "defense of marriage laws."

As for the "rational basis" comment, consider this:

Marriage between male and female is more than a matter of biological complementarity -- the union of the two has been thought through the ages to be more mystical and profound than the separate identities of each alone.

How rational is that?

He goes on:

Without strong family structures, there will be no stable and healthy social order, and alternative marriage structures might weaken the sanction of law and custom necessary for human families to flourish and children to grow. These are no small risks, and present trends are not often more sound than the cumulative wisdom of the centuries.

But how, then, does anyone justify denying the chance for a strong family structure to same-sex couples? Same-sex marriage is not an "alternative marriage structure" at all. It is exactly the same marriage structure enjoyed as a fundamental right by heterosexual couples.

While I'm sympathetic with his idea that marriage law does not belong in the Constitution, I can't really support his reasoning. I can, however, agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion:

Is it too much to ask that judges and legislatures acknowledge the difficulty of this debate by leaving it to normal democratic processes? In fact, the more passionate an issue, the less justification there often is for constitutionalizing it. Constitutions tempt those who are way too sure they are right. Certainty is, to be sure, a constant feature of our politics -- some certainties endure; others are fated to be supplanted by the certainties of a succeeding age.

That is probably the best argument against the amendment.

The Map, Again

I'm fascinated by my ClustrMap. It's really fun to check in periodically and see how this blog is spreading. Latest additions: mainland China (looks like Beijing), the Philippines, Malaysia, South America (finally! Looks like Rio), and someplace in the middle of the Mediterranean -- Malta? -- and a couple more Canadians. I seem to be making headway in central Europe (quite a few hits from Germany now) and even one from Yugoslavia (or what's left of it).

I'm sort of bemused by some of the places it shows for visitors from the US. I had expected the coasts, pretty much, but not the numbers, and even the upper Midwest, which is, after all, home. But Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, (? Could be Mississippi -- the resolution isn't so great, even on the large map) and Tennessee, the central Plains, Georgia, all sort of surprised me. Don't know why -- the Internet is everywhere, and anonymous. In spite of all the scare pop-ups, not that many people really care where you're surfing to.

Welcome, all. Please stop for a minute and leave a comment. I'd love to know more about you and how you found me.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I realize I don't spend a lot of time talking about making. I'm a person who makes things -- that's what I do -- whether they come out in words or images or some other way. I guess it's just that if I'm making, I don't have to talk.

That's the only explanation I can think of.