"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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reviews in Brief: Passion, Vol. 1, by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku

In the realm of yaoi, it's not, apparently, all that unusual for a boy to fall in love with his teacher. (Come to think of it, it's not all that rare in real life -- my freshman biology teacher was a total hottie.) In this case, Hikaru Umino, a tall, gangly, and perfectly adorable boy, falls in love with Mr. Shima, who is small and terminally cute. Unfortunately, Hikaru starts off on the wrong foot by raping Mr. Shima -- there were rumors that Mr. Shima was to be married, and poor Hikaru, terrified at losing the object of his affections, never thought of just confessing his love. Shima says that, as penance for his deed, Hikaru must study hard, and if he does, they can play at being lovers -- but only until Hikaru graduates. And, if his scores on his final exams are higher than previous exams, they can go on a date. Hikaru's in ecstasy.

In the meantime, Amamiya, a fellow teacher who was Shima's lover when they were in high school, has decided he wants his boyfriend back. Amamiya being the self-confident character he is, his methods tend to be somewhat high-handed, and Shima is justifiably pissed off.

It becomes very clear, though, that Shima is playing his own game, and there's legitimate doubt as to whether he's being terrifically upfront in his dealings with Hikaru: the inescapable conclusion is that he's up to something, but whether it's directed toward Hikaru or Amamiya is open.

And Hikaru is a prize: he's a big boy, very popular (although as he says early on, no matter how many girls cluster around him, and no matter how good their conversations, his heart belongs to Mr. Shima alone), and, as it turns out, fairly bright. He's also just a puppy where Shima is concerned -- you can practically see his tail wagging when Shima smiles at him.

The graphics are clear and lean, with a good sense of that comfort with abstract design that marks the best manga. Takaku has given us a fluent narrative flow, and even on those pages that break the rhythm, the visual organization is pretty clear.

This is the first volume of a four-volume series, and if it holds up, it looks to be a good one. From Digital Manga Publishing. I got mine at Borders, but it's also available online from Amazon and Best Manga Books.

Our New Police State

I've just spent the past few minutes writing my Congressional delegation. Here's the bare-bones letter (I did include variations tailored to each recipient, and I've inserted hyperlinks in place of plain links):

I am writing to you in the hope that the events outlined in the posts linked below will not be allowed to happen again. This post is from Lindsey Beyerstein, a reliable and respected journalist who has been quite active in online reporting for several years. This one is from the Minnesota Independent. And this one is from Glenn Greenwald, another highly respected online journalist and commentator.

What they report is beyond appalling, and is the logical result of eight years of the Bush regime, with its passion for secrecy and unbridled power, which has too often been willingly enabled by the Congress.

While the arrests of protesters in Denver at the Democratic convention were also questionable (see this story), they were not pre-emptive, which I suppose in this climate we can consider a sign of adherence to American values. (Please pardon my sarcasm, but these stories disgust me beyond words.)

It is a sad comment on the state of affairs in this country when I have to sit here and hope that there will be massive lawsuits as our only recourse against this blatant violation of fundamental rights. I am asking you to use your office to call for a congressional investigation of these actions, which appear, from all reports, to be a clear instance of abuse of power.

It starts to appear as though being a law-abiding citizen in this country is not the best option.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin for VP


Joke of the Week.


If you want a good take on what's wrong with the left wing of the Democratic party in this country, read this post by Melissa McEwan.

I'm pissed at the Dems because it feels like they let Clinton get beat to fuck against that glass ceiling until she was black and blue only for the fucking Republicans to make use of her sacrifice. . . .

And of course, neither the Republicans nor the corporate press had anything to do with it at all -- it's all Obama's fault.

But mostly I'm pissed that John McCain and Karl Rove and the GOP shat all over a historic moment in our nation's history and couldn't give Obama one. goddamn. day. to be rightfully celebrated as a candidate of national historical significance.

Excuse me -- this is John McCain and Karl Rove and the GOP doing what they've been doing for the past generation or more. And McEwan expected something different in this campaign?

Do you start to understand why I don't go to Shakesville for analysis?

Ditto for Bilerico -- get this one:

One of my best friends and I have been Hillary supporters from the beginning. Today my friend e-mailed me to say that she might be voting for McCain because he picked a woman. How many other voters like her are there? I'm willing to say a lot. And if you want to call my friend a moron, let me pre-empt your attacks by saying she's a prosecuting attorney and was a nationally competitive debater for ten years. So this woman knows a thing or two about politics.

I know lawyers. I've worked for lawyers, gone to school with lawyers, hung out with lawyers, including litigators -- do you want to know how many lawyers I know who can't find their butts with both hands and a map? And why should a lawyer know anything more about politics than any cabbie? By the same token, creationists and the anti-gay right are star debaters -- but they aren't really concerned very much with reality or things like, you know, facts. If picking Sarah Palin -- who's nothing more than a trophy VP pick -- is a reason to vote for a completely and thoroughly anti-women ticket, someone's best friends are not playing with a full deck.

What we have here is a bad case of identity politics run amok, not to mention a seriously gender-centric worldview. Can we just get over ourselves for a minute and think about what other considerations might play a role in the selection of a running mate -- like complementarity with the head of the ticket, as well as ability to govern? And, dare I say it, some sort of expertise?

Publius has much more rational commentary at Obsidian Wings.

Aside from that, I'm not going to comment further on McCain's VP pick, except to note that the press will handle her with kid gloves, because that's the way the press handles Republicans.

Matthew Mitcham Wrap-Up

Now that NBC has decided that not mentioning Mitcham's sexual orientation or his partner was a mistake, here's a good video assemblage of Mitcham from Waldo Lydecker's Journal.

Laugh Break

This is from one of my online discussion groups. Too good to keep to myself:

Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services. (Summer, 2007


The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.


The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'


Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.


Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.


The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.


Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say 'Hell' to someone who doesn't care much about you.


Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.


Miss Charlene Mason sang 'I will not pass this way again,' giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.


For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.


Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.


The Rector will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing: 'Break Forth Into Joy'


Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.


At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be 'What Is Hell?' Come early and listen to our choir practice.


Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.


Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.


Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.


The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.


Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.


The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.


This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.


Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.


The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.


Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.


The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.


Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.


The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours'.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging

Via Sullivan, another first-person account on marriage.

The Federalist Society has posted a "Debate on Same-Sex Marriage" that turns out not to be much of a debate. Arguing in favor are Andrew Koppelman and Dale Carpenter (natch), against Robert Nagel and Amy Wax, neither of whom I find terribly persuasive.

Nagel's argument seems to hinge not on the rightness or wrongness of legalizing same-sex marriage, but on the mechanics -- who is going to do the honors?

Tocqueville’s “singular principle of relative justice,” however, can have special problems when applied by a court. If publically accountable institutions had extended the rights afforded homosexuals to include the designation “marriage,” the dignity and respect that goes with that term might have been convincingly bestowed. But dignity and respect are not necessarily bestowed by judicial decree. Indeed, now that a court has required that homosexual couples be included within the circle of marriage, such couples may feel increased sensitivity to any remaining signs—including signs less overt than the possible passage of a proposed amendment prohibiting gay marriage-- that many Americans do not view homosexual marriages as being worthy of as much respect as traditional marriages. If so, this remaining hurt will seem even more intolerable than older inequalities.

My real problem here is two-fold: first, the flaw inherent in much of the arguments from both sides is simply that neither the courts nor the legislatures are "extending" or "granting" a right -- they are confirming a right that is intrinsic. Second, Nagel's contention that somehow confirmation by the legislature is going to automatically grant validity to same-sex marriage is chancy: he is right that social acceptance will probably incline the courts to extend the boundaries of what is necessary, but extending those boundaries by legislation is not going to make an appreciable difference in social acceptance. Forty-odd years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we are still battling racism in America. I don't see that Brown vs. Board of Education held anyone back -- in fact, it provided the impetus for the civil rights movement of the '60s.

Amy Wax loses any credibility in her first few sentences:

Here are a number of concerns with legalizing same sex marriage.

First, whether we like it or not, a big part of the gay agenda for decades has been to repudiate what are regarded as overly restrictive expectations of monogamy and sexual fidelity.

She has no basis here. None. She has, however, managed to combine a red herring and a straw man in new and interesting ways.

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers provides this insight:

She worries that gays will destroy marriage by bringing a lack of sexual monogamy to it. How can you accuse a group of not practicing monogamy while arguing against giving them the legal right to enter into life long, monogamous unions? Once marriage is on the table, monogamy becomes the goal.

Sure, we'll enjoy sleeping around just as much as any other male in their twenties, but every gay male I know of my generation seems to be in a constant search for someone he can move to the suburbs and raise a family with.

Unfortunately, Wax's specious contentions dominate much of the discussion. Carpenter and Koppelman take way too long to call her on the bullshit; when they finally do, she has nothing left.

From Good As You, a report on a poll that I find encouraging: the majority of Californians against Proposition 8 is holding pretty steady.

And then, of course, there's the Manhunt brouhaha. This OpEd by James Kirchik seems to be the center point of this.

Frankly (and I urge you to read Kirchik's piece), the OpEd is no better than I would expect from Kirchik, beginning with what I think is a misrepresentation of the issue: a donation to John McCain is not a donation to a "Republican" -- it is a donation to the campaign of someone who has been consistently against equal treatment for gays throughout his public life. Why should anyone put money in Crutchley's pocket if it's going to serve the interests of people who want us treated as less than full participants in this society? and why shouldn't that be an issue for those of us who, for example, do not have the option of leaving the country if we're not getting what we think we're due?

To say that I find Kirchik's reasoning less than persuasive is understating things. He does have his supporters, most notably Chris Crain, who has done a series of posts on the controversy (here, here, here, and here). As you might guess, I don't particularly agree with Crain -- I think Kirchik's essay is shallow and really nothing more than a propaganda piece, and I think Crain has a tendency (particularly now that Hillary-bashing is so early 2008) to bash the gay community when it doesn't fall into line with his own rightist tendencies by typifying it as "leftist" and "activist." (It's the conjuction that's important here, I suspect -- the only rightist activists are those that no one wants to be associated with.)

Backing off a little bit, let me make some observations: Of course the gay community at large is going to tend to support Democrats. In spite of their failings, they have been consistently pro-gay, if not always as much as we would like. Frankly, in a contest in which one candidate (McCain) offers nothing but a continuation of policies that have been uniformly disastrous for the country at large, why shouldn't a candidate's stand on gay issues be a factor? It's not, as far as I can see for most of us, the single overriding factor at all. For Kirchik and Crain to damn the community because of the actions of activists is patently silly: they're activists, for Christ's sake -- what does anyone expect from them?

Now, Crutchely may sincerely believe that McCain offers the potential for the best leadership in this "dangerous time." I think Crutchley is seriously deluded, but hey, it's his nickel. By the same token, I'm not going to put money in the pocket of someone who's going to turn around and give it to a candidate whose stated policies I disagree with in toto, and I'm going to urge my friends and acquaintances to follow my lead. I don't think that constitutes a "witchhunt."

And can I mention the fact that casting it as a witchhunt is highly prejudicial? But somehow I suspect that was the intent. (See above under "bashing the gay community.")

To be quite honest, I can't say that I'm surprised to see this response from gay "conservatives" (not to question their identity, but to point out that I'm not sure what that word means any more, and I'm not sure anyone does -- it seems to have entered the realm of "it means what I say it means until I change my mind"), who, as events develop, have less and less apparent justification for their political stance. (The irony here, under the category of "beware of labels, because they will turn around and bite you") is that the Democrats seem to have moved more and more into the territory once occupied by conservatives as the conservatives have abandoned everything that made them conservative to begin with.)

I may come back to this later, if I decide there's more to say. Right now, I'm sitting here staring at a bunch of CDs for review and remembering that I promised those reviews today.

Dessert today courtesy of Queerty:

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Read this post by Dover Bitch at Hullabaloo on the media coverage:

But, as Digby wrote this morning, the media narrative is like a piece of Ikea furniture. The holes are already drilled, the dowels already measured out and there's only one way to put it together, no matter how painful it is to assemble it into its catalog-photo orientation. And in the end, of course, there are obviously a few screws loose.

For the loosest screws, we can always turn to Fox News, where they set the bar low yesterday, explaining that Michele Obama's speech actually re-enforced her negative image -- that is, when you replace her words with completely different words.

It gets better.

At Andrew Sullivan, you have to connect the dots. First, this reminder from a reader:

For God's sake - I have never seen such a group of hand-wringing nervous nellies! Has everyone already forgotten that the Obama team thoroughly dismantled the most vaunted and powerful Democratic family in the country? All of this talk about how Obama is wasting opportunities sounds awfully familiar. That's right! I heard the same thing during the primary. How did that turn out? Not so bad for Obama. This team has a strategy and they are going to ride right into the White House.

Keep in mind that everyone -- and I mean everyone -- has been moaning about how boring the convention has been and how it's presenting the wrong picture. Then think about the following:

Hillary Clinton moves that Barack Obama be selected by acclamation:

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright rips McCain a new one on foreign policy.

Even Sullivan has to admit that Bill Clinton's speech was a great one.

Biden threw out some red meat.

John Kerry gave the speech of his life:

If you look at what's developing here, I think you'll see that this post nails it:

My husband is a basketball coach, and runs the same offense as Craig Robinson. It's called the Princeton Offense, and it's all about constant motion on the floor, tight passing, back-door cuts, and disciplined teamwork. That's how Obama's run his campaigns thus far, it's been about timing, discipline, and teamwork.

When I sit in the stands, I hear people criticizing my husband.

"Why all of the passing? Why not just let X player take over? They're taking too long to take a shot. Don't listen to the coach, son, listen to me, I know better." But what those fans fail to appreciate is the overall strategy of the coach and the ability of the players to execute against it.

Obama's not an attack dog. As it turns out, he's got a whole pack of them, so he doesn't need to be. He can spend his time running the game.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This is the sort of thing that infuriates me beyond reason. This post from PZ Myers is to my way of thinking fairly mild, until you get to the section he takes from Nathan Acks, who was an observer for the National Lawyers Guild. Read Acks' account of his arrest and the activities of the police at the demonstrations outside the convention.

It seems the police state is here to stay, no matter which party you support. I'm going to backtrack to something I said a while ago: don't expect any new president to make any moves toward relinquishing any of the powers the Bush administration has arrogated to itself. It's not going to happen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Guess This Is "Wingnut Watch"

Hallmark has unveiled a group of wedding cards suitable for same-sex marriages. It is the end of civilization as we know it. Ed Brayton, quoting your friend and mine, Illinois' resident laughing stock Peter LaBarbera:

But Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality says the cost of that relevance is ignoring what God's Word says about behavior that God considers sin. "It's very sad to see these large corporations choosing the almighty dollar over basic Christian morality," he comments.

Hmm -- excuse me? Capitalism is now Christian?

And of course, the AFA has declared a boycott:

Oh geez, the christianist group American Family Association has their panties in a twist about Hallmark Cards and their new line of Gay Marriage Greeting Cards.

I have to agree with AFA on one point: “Hallmark is a private company obviously driven by greed.” Duh. Hallmark is not selling a lifestyle, they’re selling product. These cards sell because people in love with each other are getting married!


If you follow the links from the post on They Gave Us A Republic (go ahead -- give the AFA's website a hit, I don't care), you'll note that the photo of Donald Wildmon makes him look like a carp.

Bottom feeder.

Joe.My.God has the best summary:

A full-scale boycott against an uninspired line of greeting cards that don't even use the WORD marriage. These people have empty, empty lives.

'Nuff said?

In Other News

It's all convention stuff, which I'm not going to do -- there are people who are there who are blogging, and any number of talking heads who are getting it wrong. Surf a little.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Art Note

Spencer Tunick, who does sculpture/performance/land art piece involving large numbers of naked people, is working on a new series. It's interesting stuff, with ramifications that I like.

London 4 Selfridges, 2003
C-print mounted between plexi
71 x 89.25 cm 27.97 x 35.16 in.

Check out the slide show.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Australian Gold: A Perfect 10

From Joe.My.God, a story that's all over the gay press: Australia's openly gay Olympic diver, Matthew Mitcham, took the gold with a perfect dive. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

From teenage retirement to Royal Easter Show high-diver to gay icon to gold Olympic medallist; Matthew Mitcham's journey to success has been an amazing roller-coaster.

Mitcham's pulled off a stunning final dive in the 10 metre platform, scoring an incredible four perfect 10s, to steal the gold off favourite Chinese diver Luxin Zhou. Mitcham finished with 537.95 points.

It was a massive upset defeating the premiere and form Chinese divers Liang Huo and Luxin Zhou in front fierce home crowd.

I don't know if this is "the" dive -- from the comments, I think it is, although documentation on YouTube can be kind of sketchy -- but it's Mitcham in action, and it's impressive:

Mitcham and his medal:

By Jamie Squire/Getty.

Update: From Pam's House Blend, this report on how Mitcham's boyfried was ignored by the media.

Does the Peacock Network have a homophobic slip showing? Diver Matthew Mitcham of Australia won the 10 meter diving competition, besting the dominant Chinese divers in the event. He's also the first openly gay athlete to medal (Greg Louganis came out publicly after his win).

We saw plenty of significant others' reactions to their loved ones winning medals, but NBC chose to ignore the partner of Matthew Mitcham (or any of his family, for that matter.

As Cyd Zeigler at OutSports noted (quoted by Spaulding):

Only a handful of sites and newspapers are mentioning it. Even the New York Times decided to not mention his sexuality, or his struggle to get his partner to Beijing with him. People will say, "it's not part of the story, he's just an athlete," but they are wrong. His sexuality, specifically because he's the ONLY ONE, and because gay men are painted as unathletic in our culture, makes it a big part of the story.

Spaulding notes that LA Times, the Guardian, and the Sydney Morning Herald did acknowledge Mitcham's sexual orientation.


The commentary is rolling in, and, aside from the usual suspects, it's pretty positive. Via Andrew Sullivan, this:

Biden is deeply thoughtful, serious, passionate, experienced, highly knowledgeable, and incredibly sensible and clear when talking about major issues. He has a vast and creative understanding of politics and policy, a sharp mind, and a sincere heart. He’s totally ready to be president. Together, Obama and Biden would represent the best of the last 30 years of the Democratic Party, and the hope for the next 30.

There's more.

And here's publius at Obsidian Wings:

Biden it is. Personally, I’m pretty psyched — I’ve always liked Biden. But I also think it’s a strong political choice, despite all the potential criticisms.

The first criticism — echoed already by the great visionary Ron Fournier — is that Obama’s pick shows a lack of “self-confidence.” Another way of looking at it is that Obama had the guts to endure these types of criticisms to put someone on the ticket who would be a real governing asset.

And here's Biden in action:

Another 10.

The Candidates

Andrew Sullivan has a commentary on the "character" of the candidates, sensitive and well-expressed, finding the "Americanness" in each of them. It's worth a read, but I suggest you keep one question in mind as you go through it: is this the kind of man we want for president?

Reviews in Brief: Yukimura's Love Song for the Miserable

Asada is a young executive who desperately wants to move into event planning, but all his efforts are stymied. After a night of drinking, he passes out in the shrubbery and is discovered by Nao Iwasaki, a young pastry chef who has gotten lost while out for a run -- Nao runs to think. Asada gives Nao instructions to find his way home, and Nao invites him to visit his family's cake shop, which Asada eventually does. The two form a close relationship, with Asada acting as Nao's "taster" and mentor while Nao polishes his skills as a patissiere. Nao eventually decides that he must study in France; Asada vehemently rejects the idea, fearful of losing his contact with the one person who seems to value his talents. Thus begins a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications that mark the relationship on Nao's return, when he becomes the chef at a new cake shop, Northern Star, which Asada, who has finally made it into the events planning division of his department store, insists must be included in the store's upcoming Bake Fair There's one problem: Nao is very cold toward Asada and wants nothing to do with him or the fair.

This is an interesting variation on a theme that seems to crop up again and again in BL manga: one partner, who is inevitably the uke, must overcome very strong feelings of inadequacy in order to accept the love offered by his partner, who, after all, values him above all others. In this one, Nao (who is, reflecting another frequent variation in the conventions, a younger seme) proves himself, once he has mastered his anger toward Asada, the prime mover: it is he who finally beats down Asada's self-pity and makes him confront his own value in Nao's eyes, the first step toward Asada learning to value himself.

The graphic style is very clean and spare, and page layouts are relatively consistent: Yukimura has not taken too many liberties with design in this one, which makes the narrative flow very steady and easy to follow. Visually, the characterizations are very good -- Nao is a complete charmer, the picture of the earnest, serious young man, while Asada's vulnerability is readily apparent.

Another one from Juné. I think I picked this one up at Borders.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Quote of the Day

This is too good to pass up:

In a post about something else entirely, Ed Brayton comes up with this beauty from US Olympic archery coach Kisik Lee:

To be an effective archer, Lee said, athletes must learn to clear their heads and focus. "If you are Christian," he said, "then people can have that kind of empty mind."

Hey -- he said it, I didn't.

The Problem with Democracy

is that we get the leadership we deserve, not the leadership we need. See this post from Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog. I found this particularly revealing:

Columnist William Kristol, a high priest of the religion of stupid, wrote of Saturday night’s whatever it was:

Obama made no big mistakes. But his tendency to somewhat windy generalities meant he wasn’t particularly compelling. McCain, who went second, was crisp by contrast, and his anecdotes colorful.

Smart is boring. Stupid is much more “compelling,” i.e., entertaining and comforting.

(Later in the same column, Kristol challenges his readers: “Where in particular has the United States in recent years — at home or especially abroad — perpetrated evil in the name of confronting evil?” He really doesn’t know. Truly, this is the Stupidity of the Gods.)

She also talks, earlier in the post, about George W. Bush's supposed virtues versus Kerry's faults -- Bush was what they used the call a "wastrel," while Kerry oriented his whole life toward excellence. I don't know about anyone else (well, I do, based on election results and press coverage), but I've always felt that we should be selecting our best to lead the country. Quite aside from his policies (which, if you could filter out the bald-faced lies, were and are repellent), I would never have voted for Bush because he's a self-absorbed frat boy who failed at everything he put his hand to. I still don't understand why this country elected (and that just barely, the second time, at least -- the first time, he won by one black-robed vote in Washington) one of our worst.

I don't want a president who shares my failings -- I want someone better than that.

One thing that O'Brien hints at (evident in the quote from Kristol) is the role of the traditional corporate press in dumbing down the government. Granted, Kristol's an extreme example, but he's not really that far out of step with his colleagues in the Village. I find it instructive that now, when Bush's ratings have stayed in the basement for months, the press is finally finding the balls to be critical. Now, how did that happen? Do you suppose it's because their own ratings have tanked?

On the VP Selection

There will be thousands of trees and pixels murdered over the next few days on this one. I'm simply going to stick with the following, since I don't really have an opinion on Biden as VP myself:

Here's hilzoy on Obama's choice of Biden as his running mate. And here's some commentary from John Cole on Ron Fournier's snarky attack on the choice. From Fournier's piece:

Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence

By RON FOURNIER, Associated Press Writer Sat Aug 23, 2:12 AM ET

DENVER – The candidate of change went with the status quo.

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.


The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn’t beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden pick is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative — a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.

For more on Fournier and his "objectivity," see this take-down from Steve Benen. Fournier, it seems, has been one of the most faithful of the Washington stenographers.

My own take on reactions like Fournier's is this: OK, boys and girls, I realize you've gotten used to the idea that the VP is The Real Deciderer, but don't you realize that's the result of electing a stump as president? Somehow, I don't think Biden's going to be calling the shots in an Obama administration. If you do, it just proves you've had too much Kool-Aid.

The Mask Is Slipping

This, via Scott Lemieux at LG&M, from this post by digby:

McCain's decision to leave the platform untouched follows a warning from a prominent social conservative.

"If he were to change the party platform," to account for exceptions such as rape, incest or risk to the mother's life, "I think that would be political suicide," Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative Family Research Council, told ABC News in May. "I think he would be aborting his own campaign because that is such a critical issue to so many Republican voters and the Republican brand is already in trouble."
(Emphasis added)

I don't see how any woman in the country can vote Republican. Frankly, I don't see how anyone can vote Republican with Huns like Tony Perkins calling the shots.

Which Is Which?

From Anderw Sullivan, this quote from Susan Eisenhower:

Hijacked by a relatively small few, the GOP of today bears no resemblance to Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhower’s party, or many of the other Republican administrations that came after. In my grandparents’ time, the thrust of the party was rooted in: a respect for the constitution; the defense of civil liberties; a commitment to fiscal responsibility; the pursuit and stewardship of America’s interests abroad; the use of multilateral international engagement and “soft power”; the advancement of civil rights; investment in infrastructure; environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and its discoveries; and a philosophical approach focused squarely on the future.

As an independent I will now feel comfortable supporting people of any political party who reflect those core values.

For some reason, most of that sounds suspiciously liberal. Do you think we've seen a paradigm shift in party ideologies?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging

Timothy Kincaid has a post on the consequences of inhabiting closed systems. He quotes a theology professor on the compassion in denying gays their rights:

Yet, is it a rightly applied compassion that affirms a lifestyle that too often compromises the physical and emotional well being of fellow human beings? The data seems to indicate that homosexual practice for both couples and individuals leads to a greatly reduced life expectancy (as much as three decades, and not just due to AIDS). Among homosexual men, for instance, there exists a much higher risk of rectal cancer and rectal trauma (which causes a much higher risk of a wide range of diseases). Is it compassionate to affirm such a lifestyle?

Kincaid concludes that the man is sincere and honest in his concerns (they have been in correspondence), but one thing occurs to me that Kincaid doesn't really explore: this theologian is relying on evidence provided by those in his movement who are not honest, but why is he content to explore no further? He is a professor of theology, and surely the idea of intellectual inquiry is not a foreign one, and yet he doesn't seem to have investigated any findings outside of the AFA/FoF/FRI circuit. Does he perhaps think that legitimate sources are somehow less reliable? Or does he just not want to look past his prejudices?

Kincaid points out that "Dire Consequences" theology is built upon logic that will be its undoing:

But we know that there is no known reduced life expectancy at all. And we know that rectal cancer only impacts one thirtieth of one percent of gay men. So what does this say to the theologian?

He assumes that evidence that negates their conclusions will prove their undoing, if not persuading them, and least making their message laughable. I think Kincaid may underestimate the ability of people to ignore reality when it conflicts with what they "know."

There will be some interesting court cases from the recent decision by the Coquille tribe of Oregon to recognize same sex marriage.

Because the Coquille is federally recognized, a marriage “occurring within the tribe would actually be federally recognized,” Gilley said. And that would violate the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that says the federal government “may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose.”

As a result, the marriage between the Brantings - who share the same last name after changing it to reflect their commitment - could become a test case if challenged by the federal government. Gilley said it could test the boundaries of tribal independence nationwide. .

“This could be a test of sovereignty,” he said.

It's going to test a lot more than sovereignty.

From Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, choice bit: Americans more and more think churches should stay out of politics.

The greatest increases since 2004 in the view that churches and other houses of worship should not express themselves on political matters have occurred among less educated Republicans and people who say that social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage will be important to their vote. For example, among people who rate gay marriage as a top voting issue, the percentage saying that churches should stay out of politics soared from 25% in 2004 to 50% currently; there was little change over this period on this question among people who do not view same-sex marriage as a very important issue.

From Queerty, this heads up on what our friends in Washington are doing with ENDA. From the Gay City story:

A little-discussed provision of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would allow employers to give health insurance coverage and other benefits to married opposite-sex couples and deny those same benefits to the partners of their gay and lesbian employees who are legally married in Massachusetts and California. . . .

ENDA, which bans job discrimination based on sexual orientation, now says an employer cannot be required "to treat a couple who are not married in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits."

To define "married" and "marry," ENDA cites the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to not honor them. Because the new bill, to an extent, mirrored the earlier language, gay and lesbian groups agreed to it, though not necessarily happily.

Basically, the federal ENDA in this form would negate civil unions and domestic partnership provisions at the state and local level. I'm generally sympathetic to the efforts of Frank and Baldwin to get something through Congress that supports equal rights for gays, but I think this is going a little far. It would be much better -- and probably muzzle the rabid right to a certain extent -- if the language left that issue up to the states.

As it stands, this is infuriating.

Dessert this morning courtesy of Queerty.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Marriage

Or, to put it in terms the fringe right can understand, this is what they're "protecting" marriage from. From Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Atlantic:

The wedding occurred last August in Massachusetts in front of a small group of family and close friends. And in that group, I suddenly realized, it was the heterosexuals who knew what to do, who guided the gay couple and our friends into the rituals and rites of family. Ours was not, we realized, a different institution, after all, and we were not different kinds of people. In the doing of it, it was the same as my sister’s wedding and we were the same as my sister and brother-in-law. The strange, bewildering emotions of the moment, the cake and reception, the distracted children and weeping mothers, the morning’s butterflies and the night’s drunkenness: this was not a gay marriage; it was a marriage.

And our families instantly and for the first time since our early childhood became not just institutions in which we were included, but institutions that we too owned and perpetuated. My sister spoke of her marriage as if it were interchangeable with my own, and my niece and nephew had no qualms in referring to my husband as their new uncle. The embossed invitations and the floral bouquets and the fear of fluffing our vows: in these tiny, bonding gestures of integration, we all came to see an alienating distinction become a unifying difference.

It was a moment that shifted a sense of our own identity within our psyches and even our souls. Once this happens, the law eventually follows. In California this spring, it did.

Read the whole thing. This is what the Peter LaBarberas and K-Los of the world can't let themselves see.

Critical Thinking

Such a basic thing, you'd think it would be a no-brainer (if you'll pardon the word-play there). As has been too often noted, here and elsewhere, it's in critically short supply these days. It comes to my mind today from two widely divergent directions.

First, Hilzoy talking about civilian control of the military. She ends with a quote from the late Andy Olmsted:

I have no use for the support of people who uncritically assume that, since we're at war, it's their duty to support it in order to help the troops. History is replete with examples of troops getting the shaft during wartime, and the only way to protect them against that is through critical thought. You can oppose the war without opposing the troops; people do that every day. I would much prefer the support of people who have examined the war, found it wanting, and seek to bring me home than those who will continue mindlessly beating the war drum regardless of the circumstances on the ground. (Please note that my own position on the war remains one of principled uncertainty.)

The sooner people realize that critical thinking is an asset rather than a liability, the better off we will all be.

And yet this is the default position for far too many people, a reflexive "love it or leave it" mentality that has no bearing on the realities of the situation, whether it be war or anything else.

The other example comes from Ed Brayton, in a post about our perennial favorite, Peter LaBarbera. From the comments:

Actually, I don't know what else to say except that all children should take critical thinking, logic, and scientific methodology classes from a young age, so that the next generation will have at least some chance of stepping out from under the crushing religious bigotry of their parents.

Maybe it's not fair to single out LaBarbera as an example of grossly underused brain cells -- in his case, while I'm trying very hard not to make any assumptions, there seems to be evidence of severe psychological issues in regard to gays that would have the effect of impairing his reasoning ability, assuming he has such an ability to begin with. There's also the possibility that, like so many of his colleagues in the anti-gay right, it's a matter of deliberate scare tactics and he doesn't really believe a word of it -- a sort of "Liars for Christ" mindset.

Here's a good example of the current condition in action: K-Lo (granted, not the brightest porch light on the block, but always good as an illustration of impaired reasoning) as deconstructed by Andrew Sullivan:

"Divorced, stigmatized and barred any legal protections." Andrew Sullivan says that's how I want gays in America to live. No, I just want to protect the institution of marriage — which is between a man and a woman.

The Federal Marriage Amendment for which K-Lo campaigned would render my civil marriage null and void. It would also explicitly remove any legal protections even under the rubric of "civil unions" that would provide me and my husband security. It would give people other than my spouse legal claims on my property were I to die or be rendered in some way incompetent. It would effectively divorce us. This is not factually in dispute. And if K-Lo supports eual treatment for gay couples under the rubric of civil unions, I'd be happy to discover that. But that is the only way she can argue that she is not, in fact, insisting that gay couples be stripped of defensible rights and stigmatized under the law.

There's not, as Sullivan so aptly points out, a middle ground here (and can we please retire the "civil unions" option? It has no validity at all): the "protect marriage" contingent has done nothing to protect marriage from any of the real problems that beset it as an institution. The "pro-family" groups do nothing to help families. It's all empty posing that relies on a lack of critical thinking skills on the part of its audience to have its effect.

It's the same sort of thinking that allowed George W. Bush to steal two elections in a row.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wingnuts in the Courts

It seems that the fringe right is not having a good year in the courts. I noted earlier their losses in Oregon and New York*, and now the scene moves the California. From Pam's House Blend, first a report on "freedom of conscience" as a reason to deny medical treatments from Autumn Sandeen:

Do the rights of religious freedom and free speech, as guaranteed in both the federal and the California Constitutions, exempt a medical clinic's physicians from complying with the California Unruh Civil Rights Act's prohibition against discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation? Our answer is no.

This is one I can agree with wholeheartedly. My position has always been that you're perfectly free to observe your religion any way you want, but if you start dragging the state into it -- for example, if you are a pharmacist, stated-licensed and regulated, who refuses to dispense birth control -- then you are wrong.

And another report from Sandeen: the courts have found that the UC system does not have to accept courses in faith-based science as fulfilling entrance requirements:

The federal judge ruled that it's neither religious discrimination or the stifling of free expression for the UC system to have academic standards by which the system evaluates high school courses -- the judge cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts.

* Well, I thought I had posted about Oregon, but I can't find it now. Anyway, they lost their suit to have the domestic partnership law overturned. Assholes.

I Was Afraid Of This

Now that it's all over but the conventions and we are firmly into the general election campaign, it's even worse than I thought it was during the primaries. McCain is running a dirty, smear-infested campaign (mostly through surrogates, of course), and Obama is trying to be "above it all."


John Aravosis is reporting on this phenomenon, as though it were a surprise (well, Aravosis is no more surprised than I am, actually):

John McCain again today basically accused Obama of treason. Within that attack is the usual Republican blood lie about Democrats - that they hate America, hate the troops, etc. - with a bit of subtle racism thrown in (playing on Obama's African heritage, and on the fact that some of his ancestor's were Muslim, all adding up to someone "less than American").

He also notes that even Josh Marshall is getting fed up with the Obama campaign's inertia:

With so many instances of corruption and influence-peddling around him and whatever problems with the candidate that are keeping the campaign from letting reporters interview him anymore, John McCain is now again charging Obama with what amounts to soft treason -- wanting to lose the war in Iraq in order to make himself president. The lack of any consistent lines of attack against McCain is becoming palpable.

As Aravosis points out, when Marshall is that publicly annoyed, we notice.

Digby points out that Mary Matalin seems to be coordinating the swiftboating:

Her recent modesty doesn't let her off the hook, obviously. Regardless of her official job description, that quote in the NY Times shows that she enthusiastically in the effort to put Corsi's lies into the mainstream. And she certainly knew what the "potential interest" would be of rightwing neanderthals and the rich Republican propagandists who pay for bulk orders, in a book called "Obamanation." All of her Villager friends in the media sure did help her get it "out there."

And of course, as BooMan points out, there's no lack of points of attack.

Remember Maher Arar?

The Second Circuit has decided to rehear his case, on its own, without any action by his attorneys. Ed Brayton has this report:

This is extremely unusual. You may remember Maher Arar, the Canadian man who was arrested on a stopover at JFK airport and sent to Syria where he was tortured for nearly a year. With the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights, he sued the U.S. government. The district court dismissed the case based on the state secrets privilege, saying that it could harm national security to even hear the case. A 2nd Circuit appeals court upheld that dismissal in a 2-1 decision.

Now here comes the unexpected part: the 2nd circuit has announced that it will reconsider the case en banc, which means all the judges on the appeals court will hear it and vote on it. What makes this truly surprising is that Arar's attorney didn't ask for it; the court granted the rehearing sua sponte, on its own.

Several of the commenters on this one came to the same conclusion I did: basically, this fish (national security/state secrets) smell many day dead, and they are starting to be more than a little uneasy about it.

It's about friggin' time.

So What If He's Acquitted?

And then there's the Hamdan case. Brayton has another report that's not so cheerful. Quoting WaPo:

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said it has always been the Defense Department's position that detainees could be held as enemy combatants even after acquittal at military commissions or after serving a prison sentence. "That's always been on our minds in terms of a scenario we could face," he said. "He will serve his time for the conviction and then he will still be an enemy combatant, and as an enemy combatant the process for potential transfer or release will apply."

In other words, it doesn't matter whether he's acquitted or not, he's still an "enemy combatant" and so they don't need to release him.

This may be the quote of the month:

Defense Department officials said there are concerns about the public perception of holding Hamdan after his prison term runs out, because it could label the military commissions a "show process" with no meaning to its sentences.

Um, well, yes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reviews in Brief: Ai Hasukawa's Love Control

What happens when two control freaks fall in love?

Kei Yamashiro is a talented interior designer. Takashi Okumura is an important client who, on their first meeting, made a brazen and totally unexpected pass at Yamashiro, although it was passed off as banter. Yamashiro takes this as Okumura toying with him and decides to turn the tables on Okumura and make Okumura fall in love with him. Okumura sees Yamashiro's contrariness and curtness as a challenge, while Yamashiro, in turn, falls under the spell of Okumura's rakish good looks and bluntness. When Yamashiro realizes his feelings for Okumura, he is afraid that if he reveals himself, his beloved will lose interest.

Ultimately, the question of who fell for who is moot: the bonus chapter at the end of the book shows the two as confirmed lovers, Yamashiro still spiky and difficult, Okumura loving every minute of it.

The side story, "Near the Rainbow, and You," is an odd piece about memories of the past and future dreams: Shiro Seno is an up-and-coming young executive who one day gets a spam message on his cell phone. Responding out of curiosity, he discovers a teenaged boy sitting idly at a lighted fountain, sending spam messages just for something to do. The boy is Yuu Koubara, and the message reads: "Please find me. I'm at the end of the rainbow." Drawn to each other in spite of the boy's apparent antagonism to Seno, they spend time together, Yuu even seeking Seno out. At an amusement park, Seno forces Yuu to ride the ferris wheel, which terrifies him, and Yuu gives Seno some candy, which leads to a reminscence of his own childhood as an orphan.

It turns out that Yuu's stepfather is president of Seno's company's main bank. Seno escorts the boy home, and realizes that his home life is not a happy one: Yuu feels like an orphan himself. But now he has someone who cares, which makes all the difference.

Hasukawa has managed to take difficult personalities and use them in stories that turn out to be quite different in feel: "Love Control" is a straightforward contest between Yamashiro and Okumura, who repeatedly butt heads until they both surrender. "Near the Rainbow" is a poetic revery that treads the blurry boundary between friendship and love.

Hasukawa's graphics are clear and rich -- there's a good use of shading and tones to give density without clutter. (I should point out that one thing I've noticed about these comics in general is the spareness of the renderings: they are spacious in a way that's hard to describe, but essential components are the lack of busy-ness, a fault of many Western comics, which sometimes offer too much information that has little to do with the story, and a greater comfort with abstract design as an integral part of the page.) The faces are strong-featured and expressive, and of course the men are all terminally handsome.

This is a good one, and another from Juné.

This is Irresistible

Check this out, from the BBC via hilzoy.

A penguin who was previously made a Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Army has been knighted at Edinburgh Zoo.

Penguin Nils Olav has been an honorary member and mascot of the Norwegian King's Guard since 1972.

Over the years, he has been promoted through the ranks after being adopted by Royal Guard who visited the zoo.

During the ceremony, Nils had a sword dubbed on each side of his head, where his shoulders should be, to confirm his regimental knighthood.

From the proclamation:

We being well satisfied with loyalty, courage, and good endowments of our trusty and well-beloved Nils Olav, and reposing entire trust and confidence in you, as a penguin, in every way qualified to receive the honor and dignity of knighthood, and the office aforesaid.

What's left to say?


Didn't watch, but some interesting commentaries this morning. GIven what I know of the evangelical movement and Rick Warren (better than Dobson, but it's all relative), I think Digby has the key observation:

I know it's a small sample, but as Warren points out, social conservatism is not just about religion, it's a"'worldview" and McCain is the one who shares it, not Obama.

And it's a worldview based on "Thou shalt not."

Andrew Sullivan also has reservations about Rick Warren:

When you have had the kind of Christianity that Bush represents in power for so long, maybe it's only inevitable you will end up with thinkers of the caliber of Warren actually holding debates for presidential candidates. And even worse: have presidential candidates who will agree to attend.

I think Sullivan misses the point here: the appeal of Warren is not that he represents anything new in the evangelical camp, except in the most shallow reading, but that he is an evangelical who is not Dobson, Wildmon, or any of the usual suspects -- in fact, they hate him and what he represents. So, it's a chance to appeal to the evangelical base without appearing to pander to the entrenched powers in that faction. That's his attraction, and probably the main reason both candidates agreed to participate.

Sullivan also live-blogged. Here's his commentary on Obama and on McCain:

Sullivan's readers weigh in.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


From Andrew Sullivan, this bit:

A seal jumps at the zoo in the northern German city of Hanover on August 15, 2008. The zoo held an animal Olympic games to coincide with the Olympic games in Beijing. By Nigel Treblin/AFP/Getty.

And, also from Sullivan, is this what we've got to look forward to at the Winter Games?

This is a stop-gap -- another day I have to be out early. Maybe more later.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging: The Real Deal

OK, boys and girls, here it is: today's FGB:

It seems to be that the far-right's tactic of smearing opponents with the "g" word doesn't always work: sometimes, the candidate just pulls the plug on them by coming out. This story illustrates some new directions. Here's the article from Time:

Jared Polis has a chance to make history on Tuesday as Colorado goes to the polls - and not just because he has poured more than $5 million of his own money into one of the country's costliest primary campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. If he wins Tuesday's closely contested race for the seat Senate-contender Mark Udall is vacating in Colorado's second congressional district, the 33-year-old Internet mogul will almost assuredly join Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank as just the third openly gay member of Congress - and become the first openly gay freshman elected to the House.

"Sexual orientation shouldn't be a barrier to participation in the public sphere," says Polis, who has received encouragement from gays and lesbians from around the country. "It's a difficult issue for my opponents to try to use against me overtly without a backlash," he says, "but there have been some jabs, insinuations and whisper campaigns."

Polis won.

The key comment is Polis' statement about "backlash." Yes, if you start to make gay-friendliness an issue, it's going to bite you in the ass, most places. That's where we are now. (I notice that even the anti-marriage forces are trying to pretend that their agenda is not "anti-gay" -- the claim is that they're just trying to "protect" marriage. They don't want to tell you who they're protecting it from.) It's not just me seeing this -- Waldo comes up with some corroboration.)

On a related note, Joe.My.God points us to this story about Republican legislators in Albany introducing anti-bullying legislation in the state Senate, which had bottled up the bill passed by the House. Queerty has some behind-the-scenes highlights.

To paraphrase, I love seeing a plan come unglued -- the Dobson Gang's, that is.

Boycott Time: From Joe.My.God, a whole new group for the AFA and FOF to boycott:

Big money rolled in from labor organizations at Saturday's Equality California event in Los Angeles. The Service Employees International Union presented a $500K check and the California Teacher's Association kicked in $250K. Another $25K came from AT&T. A total of $2M was raised, much of which will be used to fund the No On 8 campaign.

A dessert extravaganza this week, thanks to, believe it or not, NBC: "Ab fab: Guess the swimmer".

But since I can't manage to pull any of those images, here's a nice one of Michael Phelps, courtesy Uh O, It's Minh.

Friday Gay Blogging

Will be up later today. In the meantime,just remember that Beijing is not the only place with water -- how about a nice bit of Lithuania? Thanks to Queerty, proof that the Baltic can also be a good place to go swimming.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Can See It

From hilzoy at Obsidian Wings, some surprising news about America's favorite chef. Quoting AP:

"Famed chef Julia Child shared a secret with Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg at a time when the Nazis threatened the world.

They served in an international spy ring managed by the Office of Strategic Services, an early version of the CIA created in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt."

It's All One Thing

I keep borrowing the title of Will Shetterly's blog, but that's only because it's true. Barbara O'Brien has an admirable post on the differences between Western and Chinese views of social patterns which strikes me as being right on target. Read it.

It resonates with me to some extent because, believe it or not, I've been reading a lot of manga this summer and find it very interesting that, in spite of the Western cast of the visuals in terms of facial features, coloring and the like (which is, of course, subject to wide variation), it is Japanese culture that filters through, and a large part of what O'Brien notes about the Chinese worldview is also apparent in the Japanese worldview. I think it's this sense of interconnectedness that lies at the root of Japanese formality: it's an indication of respect, a realization that what we do necessarily impinges on others, and a recognition of the need to recognize the boundaries between our spheres of action and those of others. Not so surprising in cultures that are much more communally-oriented than ours, and have historically been much more crowded than ours. It's a finely developed sense of the necessary balance between the individual and the group.

In those areas where we've adopted the Japanese model, we've manage to adopt those aspects that I can't consider all that positive. This is reflected most in our changing corporate culture: the tendency to bow to authority, the commitment to the company at the expense of one's own best interests (as an American would see them), the tendency to submerge our own identities in that of the team. (The context of Yukimura's Love Song for the Miserable, which will be the subject of an upcoming Review in Brief, is illustrative: Asada is terribly frustrated in his job, and when he does get into the division he wants, it's only as a temporary position until the division is outsourced. An American would bail; Asada sticks it out because it's his company, and they will decide where to use him. Makes me shudder.)

Food for thought.

And These People Want More Power?

Dday has a must-read on the FBI's mishandling of the anthrax scare case, which has resulted so far in the suicide of a scientist who was the prime suspect -- based on no evidence. And now they want more power to botch more cases.

It occurs to me that this sort of mess has its roots in the same mindset as faith-based science: the FBI has evidently decided on a perpetrator and is trying to fit the evidence to their conclusion -- except it doesn't fit. Think about how someone such as Paul Cameron does psychological research, or the YE creationists delve into the geological record.

Scary, isn't it?

Dave Neiwert has some observations on this, as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Under the Gun

Expect light posting for a while. The political news is still one outrage after another, and frankly, I've gotten a little numb. If you want to get your dander up, read Digby or Hilzoy.

If you happen to know of a good job in Chicago for an editor/writer/administrator/arts maven, let me know. It's that time again.

Speaking of which, I have a book deal I've got to get cracking on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Mask Is Off

Markos' post. I can't really add anything except to observe that I've been saying for a while that it is Christians who must repudiate the Dobson Gang. I find it illustrative of their desperation at this point that they can admit that their goal is to divide Americans.

Needless to say, this is all 100 percent opposed to the current Evangelical right wing, that has (pathetically) put all its faith in George W. Bush, that insists on injecting itself into the political process, that insists on defining itself based on who it hates and rejects, be it gays, or liberals, or people who have sex, or whatever.

Read that first blockquote above again. This isn't some left-wing spin. Engel admits it straight up:
Engle admits that the press conference and rally on the mall are designed to counter the Warren candidate interviews, which he predicted would be more politically correct and focus more on "what the church is for rather than what it is against."

These people thrive on division and wedge. And it burns them up that the presidential candidates -- including their Republican one -- are speaking to the "politically correct" Warren.
Engle, a vehement opponent of abortion rights, said the goal of the rally on the mall is to "drive the issue of abortion like a wedge into the soul of the nation."

The Christian Right has been trying to drive wedges for decades now. And if you're looking for why Rick Warren is on his meteoric rise while Southern Baptists bleed membership, look no further. Christians are rejecting the Engel/Perkins brand of religion for Warren's more uplifting and positive message of action and change.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday WTF? Hour

I don't have much to say about anything this morning, so I thought I'd just assemble a selection of choice stupidity:

First, via Crooks and Liars, this is really, really good:

Roberts: …going off this week I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place. He should be at Myrtle Beach and if he’s going to take a vacation at this time. I just think this is not the time to do that.

I suppose we can be grateful that Cokie Roberts (who somehow has a job, which amazes me) knows that Hawai'i is a state. I can only echo John Amato on this one: "It’s so exotic, visiting your grandmother."

And from Miss Cellania, this one:

Well, Duh!

And via Digby, this gem:

David Gregory on Edwards: "Is this another skeleton in the Democratic closet that Barack Obama must struggle to overcome?"

You're stretching just a bit, I think.

OK -- there's only so much of this I can take at a time. Feel free.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


And to finish off art day, a newish piece by my friend Doug. Go look at it.

Reviews in Brief: Isaku Natsume's Dash

It occurs to me that the more you are willing to go behind the surface of any form of entertainment, the more substance you are going to find. A good case in point in Isaku Natsume's Dash.

Akimoto has just started high school, and we learn right off the bat that he chose that particular school because of Saitou, star judo fighter and his idol. Akimoto first saw Saitou at a judo tournament he was forced to attend by his parents, and the die was cast. Saitou, after Akimoto's public announcment that he's there because he admires the judo star, makes Akimoto his personal servant. It rapidly turns into a love/hate relationship, at least on Akimoto's part, not only because of his servitude, but because Saitou no longer practices with the judo club.

After Saitou passes out from a hold he should have been able to counter, the story comes out: he was seriously injured in an accident and his left arm is still barely functional. He had been attending judo practice as physical therapy, but when the incoming freshmen began, he stopped because he was self-conscious about his injuries. Being Saitou, he tries to laugh it off, but winds up admitting his anger and frustration to Akimoto. And of course, they eventually become lovers.

Which may not be so obvious, even though there is the obligatory sex scene (which is not really very explicit, so relax). Given that Saitou can't admit to any weakness -- not even to caring for his "servant" -- it's significant that, even though he is graduating, he insists that Akimoto visit him at home to continue his massages, part of his therapy. We don't really get a glimpse of Saitou's feelings until the extra chapter, "Restart," which comes after the second story.

"Cheeky" is about two cousins, Ohyama and Yoshirou. Ohyama (known as "Taka-chan" to Yoshirou) gets a call from Yoshirou, who is looking for a place to stay. The boys had been very close when younger, but haven't seen each other for ten years, during which Yoshirou has run wild -- he not only sleeps around, he does it for pay. Ohyama has a hard time dealing with his cousin, until it comes out that Yoshirou has more or less been abandoned by his parents, who have been overseas for the past two years, and is generally disapproved by almost everyone who knows him. What has kept him afloat is Taka-chan's promise that no matter what happened, he would always be on Yoshirou's side.

As we've come to expect, love wins out.

Natsume has come up with two stories about spiky, difficult young men who live behind smokescreens that are, ultimately, very rewarding, if you're willing to dig a little bit. They are graced by a clean graphic style that allows for a great range of expression.

Altogether worth checking out. This is another one from Juné.

Update: I've looked at this one again, a couple of times (you should know that I'm an inveterate re-reader -- nothing I like better than curling up with a favorite book), and it's even better on second and third glance. If you decide to give this one a try, pay particular attention to Natsume's handling of Saitou's character. It's marvelously subtle and complex, with a lot of depth that you can miss on first reading. I keep thinking to myself "This is a comic book?"

Politics Sucks

So I'm not doing any of that commentary today. Today is art day, I think. To start off, a couple dances by Pilobolus, who I remember seeing many, many years ago at the Ravinia Festival: they were new, they were challenging, and were probably one of the things that tipped me toward studying dance.

First, a piece about life in the city:

And now one about biology:

I like the idea that dancers -- or any artists, for that matter -- can take concepts from other areas and turn them into something strange and wonderful and challenging like this. That's what we do, after all.

Is it overkill? Maybe. I know I have trouble watching a two-minute video online. It's an impulse to be conquered, that's all.

Besides, you can always come back.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

John Edwards

Ed Brayton pretty much catches my reaction to the news of Edwards' affair.

With the additional comment "So what?" Edwards isn't out there telling me how to live my life.

FGB, Saturday Edition

I told you there was a lot of news. Pictures later.

There -- how's that?

The nuisance-suit specialists are losing everywhere -- or at least in California and New York.

First, the suit brought by the supporters of Proposition 8 is dead in the water (which doesn't mean that the wingnuts will not appeal -- gotta be able to find an activist judge somewhere). In brief, Attorney General Jerry Brown changed the language of the initiative title and description to indicate that it removes a right from a protected class, which is an accurate statement of the facts. From Box Turtle Bulletin:

Proponants of the amendment sued to have the language changed. They argue that “eliminates” is a “negative verb” and thus should not be used. They wanted language that did not discuss married same-sex couples at all or make any reference to the change in circumstances that would occur to such couples.

They did not succeed. Today Judge Timothy Frawley ruled that the language can stay (SF Chronicle):
“The attorney general did not abuse his discretion in concluding that the chief purpose and effect of the initiative is to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry,” Fralwey right. “The attorney general’s title is an accurate statement.”

And in New York, it looks like the ADF, nuisance-suit specialists extraordinaire, are on the ropes in their suit against Gov. David Paterson. See this report from the New York Sun via Queerty:

During oral arguments yesterday, Judge Lucy Billings sharply questioned the lawyer representing the group, Brian Raum.

The most heated exchange came over one of the Alliance Defense Fund's key arguments: that the word "marriage" fundamentally means a bond between a man and a woman.

Mr. Raum argued that, if Mr. Paterson's interpretation of New York law were to stand, "then marriage would mean nothing. It would mean whatever any foreign jurisdiction says."

"Yes, it does mean that in New York," Judge Billings replied. She said that there could be an exception if a certain marriage were deemed "abhorrent" but did not say gay marriages fit that definition.

Judge Billings also implied that she would rule against the Alliance Defense Fund, forcing them to appeal their case. "The petitioners, I'm sure, are headed to a higher court," she said.

You know, I don't know why these groups keep suing -- well, yes I do: it's probably mostly for propaganda purposes, so they can continue to rail against the courts for failing to recognize the "will of the people." What they're going to come up with when Proposition 8 fails (and I'm beginning to think it will) is an open question: after all, the people of Massachusetts have spoken, and same-sex marriage is still happening there.

And on the boycott front, Donald's Wildmon's boycott of McDonald's is showing a resounding lack of effect -- in fact, check out this AP report via Pam's House Blend:

Despite a tough U.S. economy, McDonald's Corp. posted an 8 percent gain in July same-store sales on Friday as hungry consumers worldwide lined up for breakfast items and the classic Big Mac sandwich.

Many consumers have cut back on eating out amid economic weakness and rising gasoline prices, but business at the Golden Arches held up well in July, especially in the U.S.

For those who were looking for the Democrats to finally have the balls to carry the standard for gay rights, check out another report from Pam's House Blend. This story's all over the place in the gay blogosphere, with pretty much the same take: you couldn't even call us by name?

Looks like the Democrats are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama isn't nearly so mealy-mouthed about supporting gay families:

But we also have to do more to support and strengthen LGBT families. Because equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle; it's about whether millions of LGBT Americans can finally live lives marked by dignity and freedom. That's why we have to repeal laws like the Defense of Marriage Act. That's why we have to eliminate discrimination against LGBT families. And that's why we have to extend equal treatment in our family and adoption laws.

I'll be a president that stands up for American families - all of them.

And here's a little gem of an OpEd from the son of two moms, in response to John McCain's stupefying comments on gay adoption.

I mean, come on people -- this is a total no-brainer.

And thanks to Waldo, here's a wonderful analysis of the shortfalls of politicians when it comes to families. It's by British shadow education secretary Michael Gove, and directed against the Labour Party, but I think it describes both of America's major parties quite aptly.

Under Labour there is really only one relationship which matters. The relationship between the individual and the state.

The Labour conception of society is a thin, and impoverished, one in which there appear to be only two primary centres of decision-making, the central state organises and the individual is expected to respond appropriately.

Individuals are assessed by the State as economic units in need of upskilling, taxing, monitoring or redeploying as appropriate - according to priorities set, and policed, centrally.

The quality of the relationships we enjoy - with the teachers who might inspire us with the employers who might shape our career, with the partners who're helping us raise children, with friends and neighbours in the community we inhabit- are all neglected. Because they can't be measured, directed and controlled from the centre.

Sound way too familiar?

Read the whole thing. It may be the first time some of you have heard an actual idea abut supporting families from a politician.

Dessert courtesy of Hunk du Jour: