"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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Calling BS on Aravosis

AmericaBlog is one that I read daily, with full awareness that it's rabidly partisan, often shrill, and sometimes borderline unhinged. This one, however, stopped me cold. Citing this WaPo story, John Aravosis says in his post:

Washington Post calls being gay a "lifestyle choice"

[. . .]

And it's not just the headline, it's in the article itself. They're talking about being gay (unless they're going to claim that they meant opposing abortion is a "lifestyle choice," and if so, they're entering Alice in Wonderland territory).

In point of fact, no.

In the online version of the story, the headline is different, and the only use of the term "lifestyle choices" in in the lede:

For nearly two years, a young political aide sought to cultivate a "farm system" for Republicans at the Justice Department, hiring scores of prosecutors and immigration judges who espoused conservative priorities and Christian lifestyle choices.

I think we can all agree that a "Christian life" is a matter of choice.

Even in the version Aravosis has posted, the "lifestyle choices" bit in the subhead can't really be taken as a reference to gays. The widest interpretation, as far as I can see, still leaves it value-neutral, and the obvious connotation is that it's about the right wing.

There's been plenty to criticize WaPo for over the past few years, enough that I don't think we need to make shit up. I've seen Aravosis spin stuff until it made me dizzy, but this is beyond the Pale. (He's even got this one labeled "gay." Please.) One of the advantages Left Blogistan has over Right Blogistan is that we don't do that.

Let's keep it that way.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

DADT: The Video

I hadn't realized how screamingly funny the testimony supporting DADT could be.

Brian Jones is a laugh riot even without Jon Stewart's commentary.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And This Is News

Exactly how? From NYT, confirmation of what was pretty obvious:

Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions, picking less-qualified applicants for important nonpolitical positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department’s credibility, an internal report concluded on Monday. . . .

The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general and its internal ethics office, centered on the misconduct of a small circle of aides to Mr. Gonzales, including Monica Goodling, a former top adviser to the attorney general, and Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff. It also found that White House officials were actively involved in some hiring decisions.

According to the report, officials at the White House first developed a method of searching the Internet to glean the political leanings of a candidate and introduced it at a White House seminar called The Thorough Process of Investigation. Justice Department officials then began using the technique to search for key phrases or words in an applicant’s background, like “abortion,” “homosexual,” “Florida recount,” or “guns.”

The levels of corruption achieved by the so-called "values" wing of the political spectrum are more or less stupefying. Whether Goodling can be charged with perjury is, when it comes right down to it, an open question, but "prevarication" seems to be her middle name.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's All One Thing

Which is actually the title of Will Shetterly's blog. (Shetterly is a marvelous writer who needs to write more stories.)

However, this is about something different.

First, from Marshall Jon Fisher in The Atlantic, an essay on bike messengers from 1997:

Although couriers spend their days delivering the packages that keep corporate America running, they share a distrust of authority and a disdain for the pallid indoor worker. Ford, who is twenty-six, graduated from Wesleyan University with a dual degree in studio arts and premed. Like a number of messengers I have talked to, he was thoughtful and articulate, despite the Dudes and "like"s peppering his speech. His goatee twitched and his tongue studs flashed as he spoke in a machine-gun rhythm. "I was thinking about medical school, but this is just so much more entertaining. Why would I want to forfeit my youth to go to medical school?"

Next, what may be the next breakthrough in physics:

Lisi knows that by even addressing the Einstein comparison he risks coming off as a lunatic, but too many people have reached for the E-word for him to ignore it totally. "Yeah, I am a guy working on physics outside of academia," he says, shuffling his bear paws on the Pergo floor. "But I'm nowhere near Einstein's caliber. Certainly in terms of what I've accomplished, and also because this theory might be wrong. It's not a justified comparison."

There's nothing unusual about Lisi suggesting that he might be off target. Only one grand theoretical picture of reality can be correct, after all—both mathematically consistent and experimentally validated against the real world. All the rest are just scribblings on paper. What is truly peculiar is that this scientist hobo, a man who abandoned the security of academia to take his chances as a physics nomad, has any shot at all at being right.

What's the connection? you say.

According to Joshua Goldstein, a demographer at Princeton, adolescence will in the future evolve into a period of experimentation and education that will last from the teenage years into the mid-thirties. In a kind of wanderjahr prolonged for decades, young people will try out jobs on a temporary basis, float in and out of their parents' homes, hit the Europass-and-hostel circuit, pick up extra courses and degrees, and live with different people in different places. In the past the transition from youth to adulthood usually followed an orderly sequence: education, entry into the labor force, marriage, and parenthood. For tomorrow's thirtysomethings, suspended in what Goldstein calls "quasi-adulthood," these steps may occur in any order.

From our short-life-expectancy point of view, quasi-adulthood may seem like a period of socially mandated fecklessness—what Leon Kass, the chair of the President's Council on Bioethics, has decried as the coming culture of "protracted youthfulness, hedonism, and sexual license."

Actually, I tend to think youthfulness, hedonism and sexual license are good things, which is probably why I'm not a Republican. Aside from that, though, I find the idea of social drop-outs as a defining element of culture a fascinating one.

Just think about the possibilities.

(All via Patrick Appel at Daily Dish.)

McCain on Gay Adoption: Incoherent At Best

Again from Patrick Appel, this choice segment from a McCain interview with George Stephanopolous:

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the “New York Times" you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn’t find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit. What is your position?

MCCAIN: My position is, it’s not the reason why I’m running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it’s not the reason you’re running for president of the United States?

MCCAIN: Because I think — well, I think that it’s — it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it’s very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too. I’m running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent — families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don’t have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what’s wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know. And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation. And I’m running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.


As several commentators have pointed out, a gay couple is two-parent family.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reviews in Brief: Makoto Tateno's Yellow

Makoto Tateno is a mangaka doing yaoi whose work I've learned to keep an eye out for. The first series I happened across by her was Yellow, an action adventure involving two "snatchers," free-lancers who recover illegal drugs for various clients, usually the police. Inside the larger story line, there are several substories of the more-or-less standard cops-and-robbers variety.

Taki and Goh are partners: they are snatchers and get their assignments from Tsunuga, the somewhat mysterious owner of the cafe below the apartment they share and where they take their meals. Goh’s attempts to seduce Taki form an ongoing motif throughout the series. We see Taki’s resistance start to erode in Volume 2, as we also see more and more that Goh is quite serious in his feelings. This "main" story finally becomes the focus in the third volume: Taki, as might be expected, has a dark secret in his past, and when he realizes how that secret has come back to occupy his present, in the guise of two assassins who have come back for him, he is devastated. He also realizes that he loves Goh, who the assassins see as an impediment to their goal. All the threads come together in the last two volumes -- Taki's past, Tsunuga's past, the assassins who call themselves the "Sandfish," and Taki's growing love for Goh.

Oddly enough, if you search this series online, you will meet a repeated blurb that claims Taki is masculine and straight, and Goh is feminine and gay. Nothing could be farther from the truth: yes, Taki is straight and Goh is gay, but both are tough, aggressive men (and, in fact, Goh is the seme to Taki's uke). It’s a treat to see in this series the interplay between these two, particularly as the final crisis comes and we realize just how deeply their feelings for each other run.

Tateno's graphic style falls well within the standard for manga; the men are slender and muscular, with elfin features. One notes that Taki's eyes are more prominent than Goh's, which I'm coming to take as a signal as to which partner will be uke and which seme in a yaoi.

The series is published by Digital Manga Press, and I do recommend it highly: it’s a cut above most in this genre in the complexity of characters, and there’s a refreshing dearth of big-eyed waifs. There is a more detailed discussion at Epinions.

A note: The covers in this series accurately reflect the black-and-white graphics inside, which doesn't always happen.

PZ Myers

PZ Myers

I've quite deliberately refrained from commenting on PZ Myers and the consecrated cracker controversy. If you want to backtrack on it, you can do a search at Pharyngula. However, a reader at Daily Dish has composed a forceful and passionate commentary on the issue. The key quote:

That bears repeating: this is not the middle east; this is not the middle ages. This is a free society. And in a free society, there exists no right to not be offended. If the Catholic church can get away with desecrating what others consider sacred (or, for those of us who have no concept of sacredness, at least special) - if they can call a loving union between two gay men or women an "abomination", if they can call the union into which I hope to enter someday a "perversion", then damn it, I reserve the right to desecrate what they consider sacred also. Respect is a two-way street - if they want my respect, they must give me theirs. If they want Myers to respect them, they must also respect him (and Mr. Cook for that matter). But this is something of which religion in general seems incapable - they always want respect, but reserve the right to give none in return.

The Church's history is one of cynicism, arrogance, and exploitation. And for that it deserves my respect? I think not.

Read the whole thing.


Good post by Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog on the composition of evil. I've called it "the abuse of power," which I think incorporates her comments on empathy, but she may be going a level deeper. Worth a read.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not the Brightest Porch Light on the Block

It's hard to pinpoint that one, sometimes, but fortunately, it seems lately that all you have to do as a default is check out K-Lo's posts at The Corner. Via John Cole, this gem:

If Obama could go to Germany and give a speech in English and be not only understood but well-received, why does he say we all need to learn another language?

Cole didn't include this part, which I think is even funnier:

I say that as a big proponent of Latin learning. But I'm guessing Obama had other languages in mind ...

Does anyone really wonder why I think the right is just totally clueless?

(And, for those who are about to say I've missed the point, no -- I get it. It's just that Lopez' sense of humor is about as polished as that of any other right-wing hack.)

Wingnut Watch

A post by The Author at Pam's House Blend with a timeline of anti-gay Christianist distortions of social science research.

The reason they do this is obvious: they can't find any legitimate research that supports their agenda.

And they have no problems with lies in the service of Christ.

Stray Thought

Among the reasons given by psychologists and sociologists for the popularity of yaoi among teenage girls is that it broaches the subject of sexuality in a non-threatening manner.

Isn't it odd that teenage girls find male/male relationships non-threatening, but grown fundamentalists see them as the worst threat possible?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging

DADT, Again

Elaine Donnelley is just amazing. She was, for some reason, invited to testify to the House Armed Services Committee on the repeal of DADT. This report is from Pam's House Blend, citing this piece by Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Inadvertently, Donnelly achieved the opposite of her intended effect. Though there's no expectation that Congress will repeal "don't ask, don't tell" and allow gays to serve openly in the military, the display had the effect of increasing bipartisan sympathy for the cause.

Milbank's quotes from the questioning are priceless.

Timothy Kincaid debunks Donnelley yet again. Steve Ralls has a good post at HuffPo. Queerty has videos, and HRC Back Story has videos and live-blogging.

I hate to say it, but I get a real charge out of someone like Elaine Donnelley getting up in front of a congressional subcommittee and making a total fool of herself. My bad.

Proposition 8

The language of the proposition as it will appear on the ballot in November has been changed significantly. From Boi from Troy:

The State Attorney General and Legislative Analyst have amended the language for Proposition 8’s Title and Summary. The new ballot label now reads:


Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact to state and local governments.

Since most voters don’t get beyond what is on their sample ballot, this language is critical.

This stands to boost the "No" side significantly. Do you get the feeling no on in the administration there wants this thing to pass?

And on a related note,

So Who Is Justin Caster?

Apparently he's an actor who is supporting Proposition 8. Jeremy Hooper, being the near-saint he is, has allowed Caster to hang himself in his own words. Here's where the double-speak starts:

I believe that marriage is an institution created by God, a union He designed for one man and one woman. The Bible is very clear on the boundaries God set on marriage, and I will do all I can to uphold His standards. The world is changing around us (which is written about in detail in the Bible), but Christians are instructed by God not to change our beliefs or try and change what the Bible teaches.

My efforts to support Prop. 8 had nothing to do with keeping anybody from enjoying civil rights. We are free in this country, a privilege I hope I never take for granted. With that freedom, I am free to stand up for what I believe.

This is wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. I won't even start on his complete ignorance of what the Bible says about marriage, since I'm not really versed in the Bible. However, even the most casual reading points up the fact that one man/one woman is not in the mix.

The bottom line is simply that Caster, pious words about "freedom" notwithstanding, is, like so many of his fellow-travelers, using his freedom to take away the freedom of others. To Caster, apparently the Constitution doesn't count, although this is a secular country and California is, last time I heard, a secular state: Caster's religious beliefs should be the law of the land. It doesn't matter that many of his fellow citizens don't share those beliefs. And the second paragraph begins with an outright lie: if he's not trying to prevent people from enjoying their civil rights, what is he doing? In case he doesn't understand, Proposition 8 specifically takes away rights that gay couples hold under the California constitution. Caster supports that.

Ini common with most opponents of equal rights for gays, Caster seems to be quite comfortable ignoring the fact that his freedom also includes reponsibility to acknowledge and support the freedom of others. I don't really care what he believes marriage is: in California (and eventually in the rest of the country, once we get the idologues out of the courts), it's a fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution.

And frankly, whining about being called a bigot when you are doing bigoted things doesn't move me in the least. He claims to have gay friends: he must really love them, to treat their dreams as worthless.

However, I'm not going to call him a bigot. I'm not going to call him anything. I think you can draw your own conclusions.

Dessert, courtesy of Queerty:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Place of Art

A bunch of interesting ideas from Bill Ivey, author and former head of the NEA, at Utne Reader. This one, in particular, has some resonance:

To start with, we need to have artists working on important nuts-and-bolts projects in their communities. If we’re talking about a new sewage disposal system, there should be an artist on that panel; there should be artists on school boards and neighborhood commissions, not to make the project look pretty, but to bring a unique approach. Artists are very good at metaphor, at seeing less-obvious links, at right-brain thinking that might not be linear but that gets you to a good result by making an imaginative leap.

The interview does touch on the Internet, but only briefly, and in the negatives -- i.e., not enough people have access. It would be interesting to hear Ivey's ideas on how the Internet may affect the role of the amateur, particularly when we are talking about entities such as YouTube and Flickr (not to mention LOLCats!). For example, there is a huge amount of stuff on YouTube, and it's not all political and music clips.

There are other possibilities. I have a friend who uses his blog as a showcase for new collages (see the "Blog O' Doug" link in the sidebar), and just about anyone can set up a personal website to show off their efforts.

At any rate, Ivey has some good things to stay about the state of artists and amateurs in this country and how we got here. Worth a read.


Since the hearings are going on this week, I decided not to wait until Friday for this one. A strong piece from NRO:

“Don’t Ask” should yield to equality: Sexual orientation should be irrelevant while inappropriate sexual conduct — gay, straight, or otherwise — should be punished. Our enemies are Islamofascists who murder Americans, not gay patriots who unravel terrorist plots and introduce jihadists to Allah.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a Clinton-era relic. It belongs in the Museum of the 1990s, wedged between the Nirvana CDs and shares of WorldCom stock.

DADT is what soured me on Clinton. I don't necessarily buy the "Democratic-controlled congress" bit, although Sam Nunn was a major cheerleader for the effort -- as though the measure had no Republican support, when it seems that it has been the Republicans who most want to maintain it, and it was the right wing that pushed for it to begin with. One irony here is that before his death, Charles Moskos was using the same arguments against DADT that he had used to support it.

This should be a no-brainer, even for an organization as brainless as the U.S. Congress: get rid of it. It's counterfunctional and no one wants it anyway (except Elaine Donnelley, who knows nothing about the military anyway).

Well, Yes, It Is Stupid

But not, I think, for the reasons everyone is citing. I'm referring, of course, to this piece by Patrick Ruffini, which is drawing jeers from Left Blogistan because Ruffini objects to Obama's campaign advertising in German for an event in Germany.

What's really stupid, though is this:

The sea of Germans drummed up by the Obama campaign will be used as props to tell us Americans how to vote, and the campaign isn't trying to pretend otherwise. That's breathtakingly arrogant, and par for the course for Barack Obama.

Ruffini's entitled to his opinion, of course, but I would call it shrewd rather than arrogant. Consider Dubyah's ventures into Germany over the past couple of years and how embarrassing they have been for this country. Consider also that this trip is kicking the feet out from under the Republicans' "foreign policy" mantra. Good move on Obama's part, I'd say.

And of course, that's why Ruffini's complaining about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oh, Man. . . .

Sorry, boys and girls, but I'm really, really busy today, so no news or commentary. Tomorrow, I promise.

Here's a nice picture:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Took 'Em Long Enough

This story's around; this report from HuffPo:

Among the most notorious on-screen gaffes ever, Janet Jackson's breast-baring "wardrobe malfunction" on CBS during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show drew a $550,000 indecency fine from the Federal Communications Commission. Now a federal appeals court has thrown it out.

A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the FCC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in issuing the fine for the fleeting image of nudity, which it noted lasted just over half a second.


PBJ: The Environmentalist's Dream

Interesting note via Hilzoy about the environmental consequences of eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Quoting the PB&J Campaign:

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

If you have a PB&J instead of a red-meat lunch like a ham sandwich or a hamburger, you shrink your carbon footprint by almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

I hadn't realized that at all. The interesting thing is that I have, although a confirmed and unrepentant carnivore, been, over the past couple of years, gradually decreasing my consumption of red meat for a variety of other reasons, based on health concerns, moral issues (factory farming is absolutely the lowest thing I can think of), and simply because eating a lot of meat at once makes me respond like any other carnivore: I need to take a nap afterwards, and I usually don't have the time.

And, as Hilzoy points out:

Reducing your consumption of meat doesn't have to involve becoming a complete vegetarian, any more than reducing your consumption of fuel has to mean selling your car. Every little bit helps.

Incrementalism is a valid way to change your lifestyle, I think.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In the Mirror

Everything is reversed. From Mahablog, some thoughts on the origins of the Nanny State.


Good news on the environmental front, in spite of the Bush administration:

In his ruling, Molloy said the federal government had not met its standard for wolf recovery, including interbreeding of wolves between the three states to ensure healthy genetics.

"Genetic exchange has not taken place," Molloy wrote in the 40-page decision.

Molloy said hunting and state laws allowing the killing of wolves for livestock attacks would likely "eliminate any chance for genetic exchange to occur."

2000 individuals spread over the immense area represented by the northern Rockies in this country is not a strong population -- in fact, it represents a highly vulnerable population. And the ranchers' perennial complaint that the worlves are killing livestock is a little sketchy: if you know anything about how livestock are managed in the West, you know that they are let out to graze and pretty much ignored, with minimal protection, if any. Losses may or may not be due to wolves -- they are just as credibly ascribed to dogs, whether feral or not: dogs are often allowed to roam free in the West, and will kill anything.

Another problem revealed by this story:

The federal biologist who led the wolf restoration program, Ed Bangs, defended the decision to delist wolves as "a very biologically sound package."

"The hunting of wolves clearly wouldn't endanger threatened wolf populations," Bangs said Friday. "We felt the science was rock solid and that the delisting was warranted."

The problem? This man speaks for the administration and has no credibility. That's the price of politicization.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

About Yaoi

OK, fine -- "More About Yaoi." You may have noticed that I'm focusing the Reviews in Brief on yaoi manga. That won't be forever, but there are a couple of reasons for doing so now.

First, that's what I'm reading, and that's as much about me as about anything: when I encounter something new that interests me, I tend to immerse myself in it In this case, I've gotten totally addicted. (There's also the fact that almost everything else I'm reading is for review, and those things come under an agreement of exclusivity: they get reviewed for the sites that provided them, and only there.)

Secondly, and the major reason that I'm writing about them here, is that I think, in the realm of young adult literature, they're important. Fully realizing that the targeted market is teenage girls (and there are any number of commentaries on the reasons for their success there), I'm convinced that they are also important for teenage boys who may be questioning their sexual orientation, or simply trying to find something they can relate to as young gay men.

In spite of the fact that the conventional wisdom teaches that boys are all about hormones and getting their rocks off, anyone who stops to think about it knows better, or should: that's the model we present them, but the reality is that they are just as interested in romance and relationships as girls are, and there are vanishingly few resources there. (There was even a study published fairly recently that backs that up, if you're looking for scientific validation.)

There's also indication that dating is harder for boys to deal with -- they are hugely vulnerable in that area. Researchers ascribe this to limited communications skills among boys, and that's another area in which I think some of the better yaoi can be of value: the emphasis is on relationships, falling in love, and communicating those feelings as the key to success.

An excellent example of this is Hyouta Fujiyama's Lover's Flat, in which the conflicts are largely a matter of lack of communication. It's a graphic illustration, not only of what can go wrong, but how to set it right. I'd recommend that one, along with Fujiyama's Spell, Yaya Sakuragi's Tea for Two, and Modoru Motoni's Dog Style without hesitation to any gay teenage boy trying to deal with his own first attempts at love. (The lessons are equally valuable for young straights, but the interest is not going to be there.) (I might be persuaded to add to that list two by Makoto Tateno, Yellow and Hero-Heel (which I will be commenting on soon): although they involve slightly older men -- in their early 20s -- they describe many of the same conflicts and resolutions, even though the romance is not the "story" so much as it is in the others.)

Oh, and about the sex: big deal. The ones I've noted are really quite demure, and I'd be willing to guess that most teenagers know more about what's going on than is illustrated in these stories. Besides, we have a really sick attitude toward sex in this country that I think poisons our attitudes about relationships in general, and it's all to the good, I think, if young people can get some input that's a little more realistic and a little more intelligent than what they're otherwise going to get. A key factor here, and a major reason that I can't consider these thing pornographic in any sense, is that this is all keyed to relationships: pornography is about sex, yaoi is about love. It's that simple.

OK -- that's today's sermon.

Reviews in Brief: Hyouta Fujiyama's Lover's Flat

Hyouta Fujiyama is another mangaka doing yaoi whom I've taken a liking to. She puts together solid story lines graced with clean, strong graphics for some of the best yaoi out there.

Lover's Flat is a series of interlinked stories about two young couples. Kouno transfers into Natsu's school, and the boys hit it off right away. Kouno has his own tiny apartment, where Natsu is a regular visitor, and one Christmas, the inevitable happens: virgin Natsu is a virgin no longer. Next door, Naomichi and Kei share an equally tiny flat. Childhood friends, they take a place together when Naomichi decides he has to get out of his parents' house. Kei soon confesses that he's had a crush on Naomichi for a long time, but poor Naomichi doesn't know what to do. He meets Kouno, a sympathetic ear, and pours out his heart in several all-night drinking sessions. Fortunately, he follows Kouno's sensible advice, and realizes that he loves Kei. Unfortunately for Kouno, he has trouble following his own advice: his relationship with Natsu is quite stormy, but in the end, their love weathers the storms.

I like this one because, even though it's terrifically romantic, there's a lot of emotional realism: the conflicts are not in the least contrived, being the result of jealousy, insecurity, and miscommunication, and come across as pretty damned serious, at least from these boys' standpoints. When Kouno and Natsu get into a fistfight in the middle of school over a letter from Kouno's old boyfriend, it's totally believable. It's another one I would recommend to a gay teenager with no reservations, particularly since in this one, Kouno's worried about being "found out," but when their classmate Sugo expresses his relief that they haven't broken up, and just says, in reaction to their dismay that he knows about them, "You're happy together, aren't you? There's nothing wrong with that," it reinforces their commitment. (In fact, the yaoi I've been reading in general offer strong validation to gay kids and put same-sex love -- and sex in general -- in a sensible perspective, absent the hysterical and highly unrealistic moralizing so often found in American public discourse.)

This is a reprint of an early series by Fujiyama, and it's interesting to see the development of her style, both in the contrast between the original stories and the coda she has added for this edition and in relation to Spell. Graphically, she started off good, and just got better: this is a group of handsome young men with strong features and marvelously expressive faces, rendered in a clean, definite style that catches the key elements of the action without distraction. Word and picture work together beautifully in her work, and this one's no exception.

This is another from Juné.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Glenn Greenwald on accountability and the rule of law. “Politics as usual.”


I remember being shouted down when I raised questions about the 2004 results from Ohio -- "delusional" and “conspiracy thinking” were only two of the accolades I received. Well, I hate to say “I told you so,” but. . . . (OK -- I don’t hate it that much, but I do get tired of being right.)

It actually goes back farther than 2004. This report about shenanigans in Georgia in 2002, via Shakesville, from Raw Story.

It's ironic that in Chicago, which for so long was the type specimen for crooked elections, we have a choice of electronic or paper ballots, and the electronic ballots have a paper trail.

November should be a scream.

You didn't think they'd stop now, did you?

Friday, July 18, 2008

FGB -- on Friday, Yet

Even Dead, We Can't Get Rid of Him

I was considering titling this bit "Liddy Dole is an idiot," but some things are so self-evident they don't bear saying. This one has been all over, but C&L has a good summary.

McCain on Families

This started as a much longer and more analytical post, but I am on such short sleep this week that I simply couldn't make it coherent. So, the short form:

The Straight Talker has done it again. This time, "Straight Talk" translates as "straight man talks about how awful gay parents are." Here's the key quote, courtesy Pam Spaulding:

Mr. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted daughter, said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. "I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption," he said.

Let's not worry too much about what a fuzzy, unfocused statement this is. Others have done the parsing on it and it's pretty pathetic in terms of actually making sense. Here's a good analysis from Steve Benen at C&L. And here's a transcript of the NYT interview. Dale Carpenter has a couple of commentaries at Volokh Conspiracy that I find somewhat problematical, but I can't quite pin down the reasons. His first discussion seems fairly sensible, except for his comments on the social sciences and the reasarch on gay parenting:

In the context of the culture wars, I think McCain hears a question like, "Do you favor gay adoption?" as, "Do you think gay parents are as good as a married mother and father?" I don't think he hears it as, "Do you think that, once a child is up for adoption because his married mother and father are out of the picture, a gay person should be eligible to adopt that child?"

There is considerable debate about the first question, though even if you think opposite-sex parents are generally better it's not obvious why this should lead you to oppose adoption by gay couples under all circumstances.

I can only credit Carpenter's statement on the first question is we assume he's talking about political debate rather than scientific debate, which his further comments on the "state of social sciences" on this issue lead me to believe is not the case. TerranceDC points out at Booman Tribune:

But, in fact, there are nationally representative studies of children raised by same-sex couples. The public use files of the 2000 U.S. census contain information about thousands of individual children living with same-sex couple parents, and a million children living with other family types.

We can tell, by analyzing the census data, whether children raised by same-sex couples are any more likely to be held back in elementary school than children from other families. If being raised by same-sex couple parents were such a profound disadvantage as critics claim, we should expect children raised by same-sex couples to do poorly in elementary school.

The census data show that children raised by same-sex couples are just as likely as children raised by heterosexual couples to make normal progress through elementary school, given the same levels of parental education and income.

And Charlotte Patterson, a recognized expert in the area, says quite unequivocally:

Social science research has shown that parents' sexual orientation has no bearing on that of children, and that children of LGBT couples fare as well as other children in many objective measures[40]; the American Psychological Association, Child Welfare League of America, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other relevant professional organizations believe LGBT parents to be as qualified as heterosexuals.

This agrees with the thrust of the research I've seen, in studies and testimony going back to the early 1990s.

After putting his foot in it, McCain sent a spokesman to "clarify":

McCain could have been clearer in the interview in stating that his position on gay adoption is that it is a state issue, just as he made it clear in the interview that marriage is a state issue. He was not endorsing any federal legislation.

McCain’s expressed his personal preference for children to be raised by a mother and a father wherever possible. However, as an adoptive father himself, McCain believes children deserve loving and caring home environments, and he recognizes that there are many abandoned children who have yet to find homes. McCain believes that in those situations that caring parental figures are better for the child than the alternative.

Carpenter has some comments on the "clarification," that are pretty nonsensical and seem to reveal nothing so much as a definite bias toward McCain, no matter how unjustified.

This is another one that makes me wonder if Carpenter actually knows any thing about the current state of research in this area. It's not exhaustive, but it's pretty definitive: no serious researcher has any major objections to the conclusion that children raised by same-sex parents are equivalent in every measurable category to children raised by opposite-sex parents. (I've lost most of my prior research in this area, but I did find one link: a summary report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.)

On the whole, McCain's position is not defensible in the least, unless you count pandering to far-right anti-gay organizations as a defense. I'm hard put to find a rationale behind Carpenter's remarks. Maybe if I had more sleep. . . .

Terrance DC at Pam's House Blend on "natural families" and a day at Washington's family court (where he and his husband finalized their adoption of their second son). This one's long and has a major punch. (Terrance Heath is great for putting a human face on these issues. I recommend you follow his blog, The Republic of T.)

And it looks as though the Census Bureau is going to make sure our families don't count.

I'm going back to bed for a while. I am really, really tired.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I don't write much about religion per se -- I don't really see the point. It's one of those areas in which minds that are made up are not going to be changed, and my religion says that it's wrong to try to force my beliefs on anyone else because there are many paths to Truth.

I found this post from Andrew Sullivan to be right on the mark. One of his readers writes:

That said, I'm probably an atheist. What I am not, however, is an anti-theist. Religion has the same potential for good as for bad. If all faith ceased to exist tomorrow, there would still be war, persecution, crime, etc. What upsets me, and I assume many atheists, is the inability of many in the religious fold to admit that they might be wrong.

Sullivan calls it "doubt," I call it scepticism applied to oneself. It leads to inquiry and serious contemplation, and hopefully, if you're doing it right, better answers, as temporary as they might be. (A core principle of science: there are always new facts. That's probably one reason science doesn't threaten my beliefs -- we agree on that principle.)

That scepticism, when I stop to think about it, is probably the driving force of my life.

Sullivan concludes with a telling quote from Thomas Merton that contains a fundamental truth that shouldn't even have to be stated, but people being what they are, it bears infinite repetition:

You cannot be a man of faith unless you know how to doubt. You cannot believe in God unless you are capable of questioning the authority of prejudice, even though that prejudice may seem to be religious. Faith is not blind conformity to prejudice - a "pre-judgement". It is a decision, a judgement that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven. It is not merely the acceptance of a decision that has been made by somebody else.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Check out this post from D-Day. It's long, but pretty thorough, with good analysis.

If this administration doesn't wind up being the most reviled in American history, there is something seriously wrong with historians.

Good Bones

I just love stuff like this: turns out the problem with the IDers is not that they don't understand science, but that they don't understand English. (I'm sure reading comprehension factors in there somewhere, too.)

(I'll try to find a snappy picture when I'm back at the right computer.)

Ta Da!

Hypocrisy and Morals

Stories like this one are almost too unremarkable to comment on.

The principal of a New York Catholic school was arrested Sunday after being caught naked with two other men on a vacant property.

The easy reaction, of course, is to point and start railing about the hypocrisy of the Christian right (within which I most firmly include the Catholic hierarchy). There's a deeper mistake here, although I won't discount the hypocrisy argument completely (under the heading "Glass Houses").

My question is simply, how much of this anonymous, random sex is simply a natural part of male behavior? And, ancillary to that question, depending on your approach, how many instances of solicitation in public restrooms, parks and the like can be ascribed to the frustration -- call it "desperation" -- engendered by overly restrictive "moral" codes that simply don't acknowledge the realities of human behavior?

The question for the moralist, as far as I see it, is not whether this is "good" or "bad," but how this can be incorporated into a moral stance that leads to behavior that is positive.

This is something that deserves more careful thought than I can give it today, but keep in mind one thing: if you're a regular visitor here, you know that I consider "traditional" morality a shallow and completely insufficient framework on which to build values.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Empathy Paradigm

Elizabeth Edwards, as quoted by dday at Kos:

Can't we start with something easy on which we can agree? That no one should die of a disease we can find and stop? And when we agree—and agree to do something about it—then we can move on toward those fault lines, like Tony, not taking no for an answer.

I wish I could believe that. I really do wish that I could believe that all of those involved in these questions -- which means all of us -- were working in good faith. And I suppose that each, by his own lights, is. That doesn't mean we can readily agree on the "truths" that both Edwards and dday point out.

Yes, it does seem like a no brainer. There are many questions like that: shouldn't everyone have the same rights? Shouldn't children all have safe and loving homes? Shouldn't we work to provide opportunities for everyone? These all seem to have obvious answers, to me, at least.

Ah, but, as they say, the devil in in the details. How many stories have we heard recently about insurance companies deciding that some people should die of a disease we can find and treat because treating it costs too much money? How many reports have we heard from too many sources that some -- including some of our elected leaders -- don't believe everyone shouild have the same rights. How many are there working against children having safe and loving homes because they don't approve of the way the potential parents were born? And how much have we heard remarks that translate into the belief that those who are poor and ill-educated are to blame for their own predicament because they didn't take advantage of opportunities that weren't open to them?

Just exactly what is a human life worth? Apparently, to some of us, not very much.

Dday concludes:

When you face a conservative movement that is wholly dedicated to putting up roadblocks and turning off the spigot of empathy, making this a cruel and angry and paranoid and fearful nation, it can be hard not to fight back in the same manner. But I think, while engaging in the fight is fundamental to the survival of this democracy, occasionally we have to step back and recognize the human truths. Elizabeth Edwards is heroically battling on the front lines for reforming our broken health care system. But she hasn't forgotten that the issue goes beyond spreadsheets and mandates - it's about fathers dying young, sons without treatment for their ills, mothers who can't afford their pills. It's about healing. And you can only be on one side of that debate.

There's no calculation in these remarks. They are simply truths. It so happens that these truths, and the courage and bravery exhibited in saying them, are unquestionably progressive.

From my own point of view, we have people like Jim Burroway and Jeremy Hooper and Joe Brummer who are able to maintain some sort of grace in the face of the right-wing lies and return with reason and compassion. For some of us (including me), the anger is too strong, but I won't return with lies. Ridicule seems to be more appropriate, from my vantage. It's the best weapon I have.

And that anyone can say that it takes courage and bravery (which is not, although it might seem to be, redundant) to say these things -- and we know at this point that Elizabeth Edwards is not someone lacking in courage or bravery -- is a sad comment on America.

John Derbyshire Actually Got It Right!

Via Ed Brayton, Derbyshire calls it on the Discovery Institute:

See, the Discovery Instutute [sic] does not want any Louisiana school boards bringing religious instruction into science lessons. Heaven forbid! They would never encourage that. Absolutely not! Why, that would be wrong.

All they do is encourage state legislators to pass, and clueless governors to sign, laws that tempt local boards to unconstitutional behavior. The sucker school boards are then on their own, stuck with spending their taxpayers' dollars on the defense of hopeless lawsuits. But, you know, the Discovery Institute had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing! Not a thing! All they did was offer some mild support to a perfectly harmless bill.

OK, as much as I hate to rely on Derbyshire as validation, can you still doubt my contention that the far right is as cynical as it is loopy?

Update on Insure.com

I decided not to save this for FGB this week. Timothy Kincaid and Jim Burroway have given us a follow-up post on Insure.com's maliciously nonfactual articles on their website.

There have been further exchanges with CEO Robert Bland, including this:

Soon after Kincaid’s exposé appeared, Mr. Bland wrote a response defending his company’s material, and he has left other comments on this web site which suggest that Insure.com has little interest in factual accuracy or professional responsibility. With these latest comments, whatever hope we first held that Insure.com would act responsibly and in the best interests of their customers, shareholders and participating agencies has now vanished.

In a comment on Kincaid’s article, Mr. Bland wrote:

We expect to take another look at this article over the next 4 weeks because we want to make certain that we encompass all available current research on this topic. We think that there’s a human interest story to be researched here on why all U.S. life insurers decline HIV-positive applicants (many of whom are healthy and have been for two decades) but will not even attempt to segregate gays who, according to a growing body of evidence, may have a much shorter lifespan than non-gays. [emphasis ours]

This comment left us dumbstruck. There simply is no “growing body of evidence” to suggest that gays have a different lifespan — let alone a “much shorter” one — from non-gays. In fact, there’s no evidence for it at all. . . .

Mr. Bland claims that he is not homophobic and that Insure.com does not have an agenda. We believe that the “growing body of evidence” suggests otherwise.

You will recall that in last week's FGB I stated that Bland's comments left me unconvinced of his sincerity in attempting to put accurate information on the site.

Sometimes I hate being right.

Things I Have No Intention of Blogging About

The New Yorker cover. (See also what Atrios has to say. He's got it.)

PZ Myers and the Eucharist.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Environment Note

Although he's had his problems, Arnold Schwarzenegger has one big advantage: he makes intelligent statements on issues. Hard on the heels of his comments on same-sex marriage (i.e., that he personally believes one man/one woman, but doesn't think his personal beliefs should be the law, which I found to be refreshing for its clarity, if for no other reason), come these comments on Bush's lack of global warming policy (I can't really call "do nothing" a policy):

SCHWARZENEGGER: (I)t just really means basically this administration did not believe in global warming, or they did not believe that they should do anything about it since China is not doing anything about it and since India is not willing to do the same thing, so why should we do the same thing?

But that’s not how we put a man on the moon. We did not say let everyone else do the same thing, then we will do it. We said we want to be the pioneers, we want to be out there in front. [snip]

Anyone that tells you that drilling, nuclear power, alternative fuels, fuel cells, solar, all of those things will bring down the price right now, I think is pulling wool over your eyes, because we know that all of those would take at least 10 years.

But that should not mean that we should not do those things, because here is the important thing. What’s the biggest problem in America? It’s not that we don’t have any ideas. It’s just that we are not consistent, that we have Jimmy Carter in the late ’70s that came in with a great energy policy, talked about shale oil exploration, giving tax credits for people that were investing in windmills and in solar and all of those things.

Schwarzenegger is the kind of Republican I can vote for, the kind that shows up in Illinois periodically (and the kind that gets elected here).

There's a full transcript at C&L.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Environmental Note

This is a speech by Severn Suzuki, 12 years old, at the 1992 environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro. Pay attention:

I think she sort of says it.

And then we get this sort of crap from the preznit:

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world's richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

I think describing him as a self-absorbed frat boy is being much too generous.

Green Man Review, July 13 Edition

It's up. Go visit (this link is good for two weeks only).

One of my music reviews is one of those still floating in cyberspace, so it will appear in two weeks; however, I just noticed (a little slow on the uptake here) that two of the finalists for the Mythopoeic Awards are novels I reviewed, so those reviews are linked as well.

I'd love to hear some reactions.

Reviews in Brief: Modoru Motoni's Dog Style, Vol. 1

Teru Chiaki is a stray dog. At least, that's what Miki Terayama calls him when they meet at the abandoned building Miki, unknown to Teru, has also made his secret refuge.

They need a refuge. These are not "nice" kids. In fact, they are delinquents, or at least trouble-making hard guys. Teru hangs out with the younger Kashiwa brother, Miki with the older. They are periodically pursued by a bunch of punks from another school (the younger Kashiwa's fault): Teru, though not particularly large, proves himself to be a mean customer.

And they have sex. In the beginning, they tell each other right up front, "I don't think I like you," but they keep coming together, even though each is in love with his "best friend," whichever Kashiwa that happens to be. And, for Miki at least, the sex is lousy: Teru is well-endowed but not very sensitive to his partner's needs, while Teru is experienced -- after all, he does it for a living -- but somehow keeps winding up on the receiving end.

This one demands close attention, which is amply rewarded. Motoni has captured what she calls "teenage angst" -- the posing and posturing, the tough-guy facades, the moments of introspection, the emotional turmoil, the rebellion -- almost perfectly. The passages in which Teru and Miki run from the toughs are not only about flight but also about the need to be free, to leave behind all constraints, and about the sheer joy of running, while the secret refuge -- well, we all needed a place that was our own. The image of the stray dog is apt: Teru and Miki circle each other, snarling and snapping, but they need to run together. The narration (a common feature in yaoi, in which one character or another will provide commentary around the main narrative) builds another dimension that snaps the whole story very close to the realm of poetry.

Motoni's visual style is beautifully suited to the story: detailed but clean, almost spare, with a sensual line that retains great clarity. Teru and Miki, with their Billy Idol pouts and cocky attitudes and barely disguised vulnerabilities, all of which Motoni has caught visually, are protagonists a cut above the usual cute boys of yaoi.

This is the first volume of what promises to be one of the best yaoi series out there: rough, tender, hard-edged, sympathetic. And please note: despite the connotations in English, the "dog style" of the title doesn't refer to how they do it, but to how they relate to their world: a pair of stray dogs.

It's published by Kitty Press, and I think I picked it up at Borders. There are, however, a number of online sources with better prices.

Update: Since I wrote this, I've read it again -- like most manga collections, it's a quick read -- and I am even more impressed. Motoni has these guys down pat -- they really come to life. Top rating for this one.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

FGB: Saturday Edition

I warned you this would be coming. Pictures later.

There -- all better now?


If you follow Box Turtle Bulletin (which I highly recommend), you're aware of Timothy Kincaid's reports on Insure.com and the untrue articles included on their website about sexual orientation and life expectancy, as related here and here. The first report does a good job of detailing the flaws, misrepresentations, and fabrications included in the articles. The second includes the response of Robert Bland, CEO of Insure.com; somehow, I find it unconvincing.

Kincaid reports, in the first post, the initial response to his inquiries:

On June 1, we contacted the Robert “Bob” Bland, the CEO of Insure.com and informed him that his company was hosting articles that were factually inaccurate and based on the work of an anti-gay activist that had been discredited.

Bland responded that because the articles were based on third party studies and not original research they would require time to do fact-checking. He did not pull the articles.

We offered to provide Bland with additional information, if needed. He responded:
I may, thank you. We want to do a wider-ranging issue that is fair and balanced and include more research and debate, maybe even quotes from you and your organization.

Can you give me a list of studies or links regarding gay male life expectancy that you think may be valid? Or are you saying that there’s no difference in mortality there?

We discovered that, while the 35 major life insurance companies do not ask about sexual orientation, virtually all of them immediately decline any applicant who is HIV positive, indicating to me that their actuaries have sound data showing reduced mortality for this group, just as they decline anybody who engages in risky hobbies or racing.

Aside from the ignorant offensiveness of his comment about "risky hobbies," I have one question: why is Insure.com waiting to vet these articles until after someone complains? Bland calls it a "human interest story from an actuarial standpoint" whatever the hell that means -- how "human interest" is an actuarial standpoint, anyway? It would seem to me, however, that this is merely an attempt to crawl out from under the apparently unwelcome attention Kincaid has brought to this item. If his agency has half the integrity he claims, it would seem that assertions like this should be checked before publication. And, given his linking of HIV status and sexual orientation, I think I don't put a lot of faith in his knowledgeability in this area.

As for the claim of no political agenda, that's quite possibly true, although I remain unconvinced, but the lack of responsible oversight on this leads me to believe that, while Insure.com may not be overtly anti-gay, they don't seem to worry too much about being accurate or fair. And this is one area where ignorance is no excuse: to publish an article based on results from "studies" by authors such as Paul Cameron, who has no scientific standing whatsoever (even James Dobson won't cite him any more), without any attempt to verify them until fingers start pointing, is simply not good enough.

DNC vs Itself

Chris Crain has a perceptive post on the Hitchcock/DNC controversy; DNC has lost another round in court. Read the first part of the post to update yourself on the circumstances.

Unlike people like Crain, Andrew Sullivan, Dan Blatt and others, I have no particular party loyalty to confuse the issue, although I've been more likely to support Democrats on social issues. (Wait -- I take that back, or at least should modify it to note that statement holds true much more on the national level. I've quite readily voted for Republicans for state and local offices in the past, and the only thing that stops me from doing that again is that they're Republicans, and that brand, right now at least, smells many days dead.) So it seems to me that Crain has hit it right on the head with this comment:

It's sad because, in reality, the DNC could really live up to the ideals that made Donald and Paul so fervently committed in the first place. The Democratic Party could actually win over people like me. They could get waves of support and dedication -- as could the Human Rights Campaign and other pseudo-party branch organizations in the gay community -- from a lot of now-very-disaffected gay people if they really did show the level of commitment and support and guts that they blather on about promising to have. But time after time, like in this case, they show themselves to be narrow-minded, petty, arrogant jerks who will throw you under the bus at the first sign of problems (or dissent) and then expect you to stand up and support them still, or else. (And no, guys, simply comparing them to the other party isn't an answer.) The Democratic Party's passive-aggressive relationship with many constituencies isn't a new story, but it seems to be one which teaches its leaders no lessons at all episode after episode, chapter after chapter.

My real concern in all of this is, given the records of both parties over the past generation or so, we're going to wind up with no one who can actually govern, with or without ideals.

(Citizen Crain has another post, this one from Kevin, about gays and party affiliations that links to this article by James Kirchik in The Advocate. Both together, I think, point up some of the pitfalls of ideology, or at least the kind of ideology that can be summarized as "the other side is Satan incarnate." Of course, without ideology, we have no political parties. Although I wonder if we actually have any now. Or whether their demise might be all bad. Probably confuse the hell out of the knuckle-draggers on both ends, though.)

Hold That Thought

At last: a concession from one of the fruitiest of the fruitloops on the right, Don Wildmon, reported by Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend:

If we lose California, if they defeat the marriage amendment, I'm afraid that the culture war is over and Christians have lost. I've never said that publicly until now -- but that's just the reality of the fact.

If the homosexuals are able to defeat the marriage amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then the culture war is over and we've lost -- and gradually, secularism will replace Christianity as the foundation of our society.

--Don Wildmon, President of the American Family Association, as quoted at OneNewsNow

I don't quite know how to break this to you, Don, but secularism has always been the foundation of our society. Think maybe you've been fighting the wrong war?

And finally, thanks to Queerty, who brought dessert today:

Well, There's Dumbing and Then There's Dumbing

From Digby, some comments on the reaction from the right to Obama's call for Americans to learn foreign languages. Remember, this comes from the party of nativist, racist, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-education (as Digby points out, they don't think American children should learn science, either), pretty much anti-everything Bush fans -- the ones who think Bush is dong a heckuva job.

There was a time when Obama's comment was considered completely mainstream. It's true that Americans have never learned new languages easily, but they respected the idea that kids should learn as much as possible so they could better themselves. Clearly Obama didn't get the memo that we have embraced cretinism and that all knowledge is suspect.

I don't really have anything to add, except to note while Digby ascribes it to the "dumbing of America," I think it goes back much farther: it's an extreme example of our long tradition of anti-intellectualism in this country, which has come, on the right, to favor authority rather than free inquiry and evidence. On the upside, that anti-intellectualism has sustained a tradition of scepticism and pragmatism in American thought. On the downside, we have the the Bush White House.

Jesse Helms Update

More a stray thought, actually:

By all the evidence, Jesse Helms believed in Hell.

Serves him right.

Sparked by this post by D at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Friday, July 11, 2008

FGB, Part I

Light blogging today -- still busy, still running on short sleep. This'll probably spill over to tomorrow.

DADT: Another Nail in the Coffin

This report, from AP, reveals something that the rest of the world has known for -- well, years and years:

"Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion," the officers states.

To support its contention, the panel points to the British and Israeli militaries, where it says gay people serve openly without hurting the effectiveness of combat operations.

Here's an article (somewhat dated, from 2001) about the "dangers" other countries have discovered in allowing gays to serve openly, which is to say, none.

In country after country, the idea of allowing gay people to serve openly in the armed forces triggers dire warnings from military leaders. But once a gay ban is lifted, those same leaders are shocked and relieved to find that nothing bad happens: The seemingly explosive issue is, in reality, a dud - a bomb that never goes off.

“We find literally the same thing again and again, which is people report the lifting of a gay ban as a non-event,” says political scientist Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

“It has no effect on unit cohesion. It has no effect on military performance. It has no effect on recruitment. It has no effect on any of the indicators of military capability,” adds Belkin, whose center has thoroughly studied the impact of having lifted the gay bans in Britain, Israel, Canada and Australia.

It's not just a handful of countries that allow gays to serve openly, either -- all NATO members except the US and Turkey (and Turkey may have changed its policy by now) allow gays to serve, and the EU insists on non-discrimination policies.

Good Service

Local Illinois wingnut Peter LaBarbera has started making these really neat lists of pro-gay organizations and now, gay-supportive corporations. Jeremy Hooper calls it a service to the gay community, and I have to agree. Hooper has posted the list of companies with suggestions for use.

I'm sure LaBarbera will be happy to learn that he's finally done some good in the world.

Not Out, Not Proud

Read this post. It's long, but it's powerful. It's also the reality for more of us than we like to think about.

Real Christians

Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin has a report on California UMC churches and their reaction to Proposition 8. Expect this sort of thing to take on a higher and higher profile: the bigots who claim to speak for Christians don't, and as I've been saying for a long, long time, it's the real Christians who have to take them on.

The support of the state’s United Methodists is most welcome. As more houses of worship declare their opposition to exclusionary political efforts, this debate becomes less a battle between the Holy and the Profane and becomes better understood as an effort by a few to introduce discrimination into the state’s constitution.

And that holds nationally, across the board on gay issues.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Assholes Did It

Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats just gave Bush and the telecoms carte blanche.

Crap. Why in the hell do we have a Congress?

Here's the roll call. Write your senator: if he or she voted "Nay," thank them. If he or she voted "Yea," tell them they just lost your vote.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


I've commented on these remarks by Fred Barnes before, but Pam Spaulding has a post with more detail that leads me to look at this in a new light. It might seem like this should be an FGB post, but . . . well, no. She quotes from Chuck Wolfe of teh Victory Fund:

If McCain decides to take Barnes' advice, his campaign will no doubt be forceful in its effort to convince fair-minded Republicans and independents that ending marriage rights in California and barring gays from serving openly in the military are not anti-gay positions. McCain will say with a straight face that these are merely policy differences, and that he does not condone discrimination against anyone.

...The targets of that twisted message, both inside and outside the campaign, will have to make a choice. Will they let themselves imagine McCain is cringing through such a speech, regretting what he knows he is doing to his friends and staff, and that later, in private, they'll get a wink and a nod and whispered assurances that he's only doing what he has to do to win?

This goes far beyond gay issues, into a fundamental crisis in American politics, and, indeed, the whole cast of public discourse in this country. We've seen Obama move from what we thought were position statements embodying the ideals of change to more "moderate" statements designed to appeal to the middle -- whatever that is these days. My own thought is that the pundit class has moved discourse so far to the right in this country that the "middle" equals what used to be known as "moderate Republican," give or take the Neanderthal positions on social issues (and I might point out that the tactics here reveal a distinct distrust of the American system, but that's only to be expected of an authoritarian philosophy; we won't even address the hypocrisy involved in decrying government involvement in just about every aspect of our society while attempting to use that same government to impose ideologically acceptable policies -- but see more on that below). Given the results of public opinion polls on a range of issues over the past few years, it's obvious that the pundit class -- and their joined-at-the-hip twins, the political establishment -- are seriously out of touch. (I think I noted that Barnes is full of it regarding DADT and same-sex marriage, but it seems to be a scientifically confirmed fact that if you repeat something often enough, even if people know it's not true, they believe it.)

I think one reason I'm so fed up with the political process in this country is that I was really hoping that Obama, at least, would take a position and pull the country to him, not take a position and then abandon it (or appear to abandon it) to chase after what the pundit class says the country thinks. (There's no hope for McCain -- he's proven himself a vote whore time and time again over the past eight years.)

And let's not forget ideology: someone like Andrew Sullivan and, one assumes, the Log Cabin Republicans, find themselves in the position of espousing a philosophy that has become somewhat more than tarnished. Sullivan's response is to try to distance himself from the reality while maintaining the identity -- his periodic attacks on the Christianists and neocons while maintaining that he is a "true conservative" amount to no more than that, when the reality is that the name is most of the identity. I think America has been, historically, pretty much a non-ideological experiment. We are, when all is said and done, pragmatists -- we're interested in what works, and the philosophy can fall by the wayside -- or be developed after the fact. (Which to me says there is an upside to our deeply held anti-intellectualism.) And I think we're right: what we're seeing now is how ideology can cripple us.

So I guess we just go through the motions again this year while we're waiting for someone with the balls to stand up and say "Wait a minute! What the hell are you doing here?"

I'm not holding my breath.

2 + 2 = . . . . Uh, What Was the Question?

Barbara O'Brien has a wonderful post at Mahablog about the latest incarnation of the WMD argument on the right fringe of (pseudo)reality. It's not only devastating in itself, but it captures my mood precisely.

Education and the Constitution

Jonah Goldberg, you may know, is another right-wing pundit who, according to most views, can manage to open a door as long as he has an instruction manual. So of course, it's no real surprise that he is a regular columnist for the LA Times. He has taken the perhaps not surprising, if vastly ludicrous position that fulfilling performance requirements to obtain federal funds is "slavery." His target this time -- and there's no real surprise here -- is Barack Obama.

For those not familiar with Goldberg's level of thinking, try this:

here's a weird irony at work when Sen. Barack Obama, the black presidential candidate who will allegedly scrub the stain of racism from the nation, vows to run afoul of the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery.

For those who don't remember, the 13th Amendment says: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime ... shall exist within the United States."

I guess in Obama's mind it must be a crime to be born or to go to college.

I find it very interesting that the Constitution becomes a rallying cry when it's a matter of attacking Democrats. (OK, fine -- it's not interesting, or surprising, or even remarkable. The Constitution, in the Republican mind, is a matter of convenience, after all.)

Goldberg's objection this time is Obama's linked proposals for community service requirements for schools -- federal aid will be contingent on participation in the program, and Obama is also proposing a federal tax credit for college students basesd on community service. Goldberg thinks that linking federal support to participation in such a program is heinous, tantamount to slavery. Unfortunately, I have really, really bad news for Goldberg: federal aid to schools is already contingent on participation: kids don't come to school, the amount of aid goes down. Goldberg also ignores one significant difference between Obama's proposal and current requirements as embodied in No Child Left Behind: Obama's actually proposing to give money to schools, rather that require particpation with no funding in sight.

Of course, Goldberg is one of those who holds the position that participation in American society -- at least, the hard parts that actually require effort -- should be "voluntary."

Actually, as far as I can tell from what Obama actually said, he's proposing new funding, so Goldberg's statement that schools and students will lose money they can't afford to lose is so much trash.

Andrew Sullivan, while he claims to agree with Goldberg's basic point (and what would that be? compulsory education is unconstitutional?), grants the piece a Malkin Award. Hilzoy is succinct and devastating in her critique, as is Jeff Fecke.

The bottom line is that Goldberg is a sloppy thinker with only a passing acquaintance with reality, which these days is ample qualification for a slot in the opinion pages of a major daily.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Would This Be the Same Haley Barbour

who is a former RNC chairman? The one who got aid for Katrina victims much faster than (Democrat) Kathleen Blanco was able to do?

Is this government totally FUBAR, or what?

What? Again?

Look for light blogging this week -- I'm working on stories, and I'm determined to have one done by Friday.

I also have to make time to sit down and practice drawing, and I've got a heavy week at the office.

I'll try to come up with something interesting every day, but no promises.

Oh, and in case I forget to mention it, be sure to check out the July 13 edition of Green Man Review, being posted on Sunday -- I'm all over the place: I wrote the continuity (part one of two), I'm told the Brust interview is going to be featured, I have two book reviews and two CD reviews in, and as of yesterday, I'm blurbing the music reviews. Just go to "What's New" and start reading.

Today's Giggle

I'm taking the liberty of posting this post from Nicole Bell in its entirety. I don't get it, but I love it.

Xander: You were looking at my neck.
Angel: What?
Xander: You were checking out my neck. I saw that.
Angel: No, I wasn’t.
Xander: Just keep your distance, pal.
Angel: I wasn’t looking at your neck.
Xander: I told you to eat before we left.

The Basswoods Are Blooming

Which is a lot better than "The British are coming!"

You can get drunk on the scent just walking down the street. Sometimes you'll get just a whiff, other times it's almost overpowering, and I can't offhand think of anything that smells better. (Well, I can, but I'm not going to talk about that right now. Besides, he's not a tree -- but he's almost tall enough.)

So, a little information. And a little more information.

Look, it beats the hell out of politics right now.

Monday, July 07, 2008

In Memoriam: Thomas M. Disch

Thomas M. Disch committed suicide on July 4. I didn't know him, and I hadn't read much by him since the 1960s, maybe '70s, except a novella that I read and reviewed recently for GMR which was impressive as hell. One of his books is sitting in the ever-growing "to read" pile.

Here's more information from Ellen Datlow and Cory Doctorow.

Cross-posted at Booklag.

This is not FGB

This is Wingnut Watch. Via Crooks and Liars Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard:

“He needs to touch on, and - some of the social issues which energize the right. In particular, gays in the military for one. We know Barack Obama is for allowing gays in the military, and Bill Clinton tried to do and then backed off. This is not a popular issue. Gay marriage is another one. These are both issues that I think McCain’s gonna have to use. He can’t ignore the right. If he does, he’ll lose.”

First of all, Barnes is flat-out wrong: clear majorities of both the general population and serving military personnel support repeal of DADT, and that's a trend that's been growing for years. Gays in the military is unpopular with Elaine Donnelley, maybe, and I guess Fred Barnes, but most people don't care. As for marriage, he's bucking the trends again -- there's a plurality opposing it, which is falling, and the percentages of the population supporting it are rising.

This is the face of desperation: the Republicans have no solutions for the mess they've made of the country, and can only come up with "let's do it some more" on the issues that most voters are concerned with. Time to haul out the hate campaigns, I guess.

Here's a good, brief article from McClatchy on the marriage issue (cited by C&L).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Reviews in Brief: Hyouta Fujiyama's Spell

Spell by Hyouta Fujiyama is one of those yaoi that I would certainly recommend to a teenager trying to come to grips with himself. That's actually one of the reasons I'm reviewing yaoi: while my own taste is for those that deal more with relationships between adult men, I'm on the lookout for those that give some resonance to boys taking their first stumbling steps toward loving. Sure, it's a romantic vision in these books, but that doesn't invalidate it: we need our dreams, and maybe gay kids need them more than most of us.

Takama Natori is a second-year college student when he meets Junpei Kisugi at a mixer. Both were invited by their friend Takeda and both are bored with the party, but they hit it off with each other instantly. Natori is somewhat of a bumpkin, although much more sophisticated than he was at the beginning of his first year, and finds it a little hard to deal with the fact that Kisugi is openly -- at least, openly to some -- bisexual. As it turns out, Kisugi is a perfect gentleman in that regard: he's already dating someone, an older man named Tooru, and he makes it a policy not to hit on Takeda's friends. So things are fine, and they become fast friends. And then Natori realizes that he's falling in love with Kisugi.

There's some good conflicts in here that keep the story moving: first Natori's recognition of his feelings for Kisugi, then his qualms about moving in on Natori's relationship with Tooru, and the fallout when his friend from home, Yasuha, who was starting to have her own feelings for Natori, sees him kissing Kisugi. Kisugi has his own conflicts, crystallized in a monologue after a painful interview with Tooru.

That interview is the one major flaw in the narrative: it is included as a separate chapter at the end of the story, when I think it would have been much more useful and made the story more coherent if it had been integrated into the main narrative. It would also have provided much more support for Kisugi's conflicts. As it is, the placement makes no sense.

Fujiyama's graphic style is bold and spare, figures and features rendered deftly and economically, and she has a great ability with facial expressions. Features are more human, less elfin than the general run of manga -- more realistic -- and although eyes are still emphasized, they're not the grotesquely oversized eyes that tend to dominate the genre. And the boys aren't always pretty, although they are handsome.

High marks for this one, although it's a slight story. It's from June, an imprint of Digital Manga Publishing.