"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, November 30, 2008

Reviews in Brief: Yun Kouga's Loveless, Vol. 1

Loveless by Yun Kouga is a series I've been eyeing for a while now, and I finally broke down and started it. It's cryptic, bizarre, and fascinating.

Ritsuka is twelve years old, has recently lost his older brother, and is sharing his head with someone else. Or it may be that his difficulties stem from amnesia: he doesn't remember anything of his life before the past two years. His mother is convinced that, whoever is inhabiting her younger son's body, it's not her son, which, as you might imagine, leads to a somewhat problematical relationship between the two. However, Ritsuka shows himself to be a self-assured boy, very intelligent and used to taking charge of his life, on his first day at a new school, where he is greeted by, among others, Yuiko, a classmate who refers to herself in the third person and is desperate to be liked.

All of this is complicated by the appearance of Soubi, a friend of his brother, whom Ritsuka is willing to accept at face value, even if he is a grown-up. It gets even more complicated when Soubi, who seems to have many, many secrets, declares that he loves Ritsuka (although he doesn't want to have sex with him) and he will do anything Ritsuka says -- because Seimei, Ritsuka's dead brother, told him to. While they are talking, they are accosted by two children who call themselves "Breathless," a team of some sort, who are appalled at finding Soubi defending Ritsuko: they were to bring him back to Septimal Moon -- the entity, it so happens, who murdered Seimei.

I think one thing I find appealing about this series so far (it's presently up to eight volumes) is that Kouga doesn't tell you what's going on. You, the reader, discover information as Ritsuka does, in pieces and bits. The oddness of the story is evident from the very beginning: children have cat-ears, in addition to their human ears, and tails. (It sounds grotesque, but they're adorable.) We gradually understand that there is a connection between the ears and having sex -- one assumes, after a few hints, that once you've done it, the ears disappear. (I've really got to figure out what it is with the Japanese and pets. Any hints would be appreciated.)

There are also the battles: Soubi is a fighter unit who was part of the team "Beloved" with Seimei; he has now linked up with Ritsuka, who, unknown to himself, is "Loveless"; this is supposed to be impossible, but Seimei, who obviously suspected he was a target, seems to have made arrangements to protect his little brother. Soubi is a top-notch spellcaster, which is how the battles are fought -- it doesn't hurt that he's an adult, or at least that's the impression one gets. (And we're not sure that he's entirely human.)

Nor are we sure who Ritsuka is; neither, it appears, is he, except that he's pretty sure that he's not really Ritsuka.

Graphically, the story is very well done, with the open, sometimes free-form narrative flow I've come to expect from manga in general. Character designs are wonderful -- Ritsuka is one of the cutest characters I've seen so far, and Soubi is what I can only call a quiet beauty, composed and enigmatic. The drawing is exceptionally expressive and sometimes very subtle, especially in facial expressions, and the battle scenes are wonderful -- clear, direct, with a terrific sense of motion in them.

This one's from Tokyopop, and I can tell where all my extra money is going for a while.

Green Man Review Special Edition

Devoted to the writing of yours truly, and I'm pleased with it -- at least, as pleased as I ever am with anything I've created.

There will be a Review in Brief today, as soon as I sit down and write one. Anything else, we'll see.

But you do deserve a picture:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging: Gay Rights, Civil Rights

I have a feeling this is going to turn into a tip-of-the-iceberg kind of post. There are some big questions here, and a lot of mistakes have been made, all of which I may or may not be able to at least touch on.

(This post may be a bit of a ramble, but it's been a couple of days in the making, and I'm not sure that I've managed to gather all the strands together again. There are elements here I know need fuller development. Patience, I beg you.)

First off, it's time to change the rules. It's something I've been advocating for a while, and now I've got some rather more high-profile allies.

The type case is that of Richard Raddon, until recently the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival:

After Raddon's contribution was made public online, Film Independent was swamped with criticism from "No on 8" supporters both inside and outside the organization. Within days, Raddon offered to step down as festival director, but the board, which includes Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Lionsgate President Tom Ortenberg and Fox Searchlight President Peter Rice, gave him a unanimous vote of confidence.

Yet, the anti-Raddon bile continued to bubble in the blogosphere, and according to one Film Independent board member, "No on 8" supporters also berated Raddon personally via phone calls and e-mails. The recriminations ultimately proved too much, and when Raddon offered to resign again, this time the board accepted.

'Profoundly sorry'

In a statement, Raddon said, "I have always held the belief that all people, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation, are entitled to equal rights. As many know, I consider myself a devout and faithful Mormon. I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter. But I am profoundly sorry for the negative attention that my actions have drawn to Film Independent and for the hurt and pain that is being experienced in the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender] community."

I'm with Dan Savage on this one:

[Raddon] goes on to whine about being a "devout and faithful Mormon," and about how his contribution to "Yes on 8" was a "private matter." Uh... no. A donation to a political campaign is a public matter; and civil marriage rights for same-sex couples did not infringe upon the religious freedom of Mormons, devout or otherwise.

Bill Condon, the gay guy who directed of Dreamgirls, attempted to get Raddon's back: "Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs."

No. No. No. Raddon lost his job due to criticism of his public political actions, not his private religious beliefs, and his public political actions were a part of the public record. If Raddon wanted to go to church and pray his little heart out against same-sex marriage, or proselytize on street corners against gay marriage, or counsel gay men to leave their husbands and marry nice Mormon girls instead, that could be viewed as an expression of his "privately held religious beliefs." Instead he helped fund a political campaign to strip a vulnerable minority group of its civil rights.

Bottom line: if you want your privately held religious beliefs to be private, keep them out of the public arena. This is something that the churches who backed Prop 8 don't seem to get, especially the Mormon church, but the others as well -- I've seen statements from Catholic bishops assailing anti-Prop 8 activists for "assaults" on freedom of religion. (This is, of course, part of the staple stump speech of the Dobson Gang: anything that curtails their ability to deny other people's religious freedom is a blow against their religious freedom.)

Part of the problem here is that the anti-gay right has successfully managed to cast the issue of equal civil rights for gays as a religious issue, not as a civil rights issue. Andrew Sullivan calls attention to this interview with Richard Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is of the opinion that the real threat that conservative churches feel is from feminism, and that the gay movement evokes those fears because it and feminism gained prominence at the same time. I can't dispute that, but I'm not convinced that it's the whole picture, or even a major portion of it.

Monotheistic religions feel threatened by the rise of feminism and the insistence, in many communities, that women take a bigger role in the church. At the same time that women are claiming more responsibility for their religious life, they are also moving out of traditional roles as wife and mother. This is why abortion is so threatening to many religious people -- it represents some rejection of the traditional role of mother.

In such a world, we need to identify the relationship between feminism and homosexuality. These movements began, in some sense, to achieve visibility alongside one another. I know a lot of black churches take offense when gay activists say that the gay movement is somehow analogous to the black civil rights movement. And while there is some relationship between the persecution of gays and the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States, I think the true analogy is to the women's movement. What we represent as gays in America is an alternative to the traditional male-structured society. The possibility that we can form ourselves sexually -- even form our sense of what a sex is -- sets us apart from the traditional roles we were given by our fathers.

I think there's a lot of truth in what Rodriguez says, but I don't agree that this situation can be allowed to stand without challenge. I think black resentment of gays insisting that theirs is a civil rights struggle stems from their feeling of ownership over that whole concept, at least in part. For many blacks, that is a defining part of their history in this country. However, for Rodriguez to say that there is "some relationship" between gay civil rights -- by which I assume he means same-sex marriage bans and anti-miscegenation laws is something of a howler. The point is that in both cases we are talking about guarantees of basic rights for two historically disfavored groups. I'm going to state a baseline here that's probably going to raise some hackles: blacks to not "own" civil rights. They had a struggle to have them acknowledged and guaranteed, but do I need to point out that it was a struggle that involved more than black people? There were a lot of us out there, black and white, straight and gay, Christians, Jews and atheists. Blacks were the focus, but we were fighting for everyone's rights, and we still are. For blacks to refuse to acknowledge that, or to take umbrage at the very idea that there is any similarity, is not something that inclines me to sympathy for their point of view. This is said with full understanding that the black community is no more monolithic than the gay community, but if people are taking a public posture with an implicit claim to represent your community, then it's you who must challenge them, loudly and publicly.

The rest of the interview is largely concerned with Rodriguez' explication of his basic idea of why the churches perceive gay rights as a threat, which makes it largely off-point here, but informative as background. The fact remains that the gay movement is, in all its defining characteristics, a civil rights movement, whether it is perceived that way by religious communities or not. One danger I see in Rodriguez' stance, and in the debate as it has been shaped by the religious right, is that we have allowed them to define the whole thing in terms of a religious
worldview, which I don't think can be allowed. This is not, when it comes right down to it, a theological debate. It is a debate about equality under the law in a secular society.

In connection with the "civil rights" designation, I ran across this laudatory post by Chris Crain on this column by Jonathan Rauch. It's largely a recap of the history, and on that score unexceptional, but Crain's "money quote" is one that I question:

The old civil rights model, with its roots in an era when homosexuals were politically friendless pariahs, focuses on such matters as protection from bigoted employers and hate crimes. In truth, for most gay Americans the civic responsibility agenda, with its focus on service to family (marriage), children (mentoring and adoption), and country (the military), is more relevant and important.

With a comparatively sympathetic administration and Congress taking office in Washington, the time has come to pivot away from the culturally defensive pariah agenda -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, for instance -- and toward the culturally transformative family agenda. Priority 1, and well ahead of whatever comes second, should be federal recognition of state civil unions.

First off, I wouldn't bank too much on our "friends." The relationship between the gay movement and the Democratic party, which has gotten entirely too cozy, is also, from the Democrats' side, by all indicators a marriage of convenience -- theirs. I don't dispute that there are sincere advocates in the party for our cause -- certainly more than we'll find in the Republican party as it's now constituted -- but they have been so ineffective as to render themselves irrelevant. And aside from the standard conservative position of "go all out for second best," Rauch's take is, I think, a misreading of what's actually going on, and this is a question that seems to have caught both sides of the "national leadership" debate without an answer -- or at best with part of one. HRC and the other national groups have been devoutly wishing that the whole marriage issue would go away, but, as I've pointed out before, it is the issue of the day, and probably the key issue both in practical and symbolic terms. Rauch's solution, however, is no solution: it's an old rule that if you ask for a little, you'll get less.

What's more important here is that his analysis is wrong because he's missed the most important point of this whole debate, which I mentioned above: it's been cast as a religious war, and needs to be taken out of that context and posed as a question of civil rights, with a much broader focus than the national advocacy organizations have: as we've seen in most of the court cases involved, and most clearly in the California decision, marriage is a fundamental right. To allow, first of all, the proposition that there is such a thing as "gay marriage" is a big mistake. The issue is "marriage" as a social institution, not "traditional marriage" or "gay marriage" or any other subset, real or imaginary, of marriage, but "marriage." Period.

(Two footnotes here:

The religious right has been very successful in using religion as a tool in their campaign for political power: Americans have a deep-seated unwillingness to interfere in questions of religious belief, and it's a powerful motivator for the so-called "values voters." And the left has allowed them to frame the debate that way: Yes on 8 was not only supported and funded by religiously motivated groups, but also played that card repeatedly, casting opponents as attacking religion and so-called "religious" values (which, when it comes right down to it, are no more religious than secular). You can see the result of that in calls from the right and the left to get government out of the marriage business and leave it to the churches, when historically marriage has been a religious institution only sporadically.

Hmm. . . . I seem to have forgotten the second.

Ah -- I remembered: one thing to keep in mind about HRC, GLAAD, No on 8, and all the big-time operators is that the cause has become a job. It's no longer a passion. Think about the implications of that when you read stories about Lorri Jean's month-long vacation in the middle of the California campaign.)

When marriage is taken out of a religious context and shown as a basic right, it's a direct counter to the right's program of discrediting the courts, as well as forming an umbrella under which all the other issues -- ENDA, DADT, the whole shebang -- can shelter. It becomes much easier, then, to cast opponents of gay civil rights as opponents of American values.

That might be helpful in implementing this agenda:

Rotten, bigoted aspects of contemporary religion does not mean that all religion is an obstacle and an overall negative component of society. Indeed religious institutions have been at the forefront of so many of our world's social justice battles... Regardless of one's individual beliefs, we must recognize that our enemies today could, with a little love and yes with a lot of push for reform, possibly become our allies tomorrow.

It can be said that leaders like MLK, Tutu or Gandhi were inspired by common humanity and basic decency, not religion. Only those individuals know, but it was the vehicle of religion which they chose to deliver their messages and inspire millions. Regardless of what you think of religion, it is a pillar of society whether we like it or not. No large scale movement can progress without religious voices helping to nurture the movement along with other forces. That's the whole idea of coalition building and community. We must reach out to those who do not subscribe to our way of thinking 100%, but where we can find common ground.

Try finding common ground with this. Yes, the extreme, but in essence the position of the Mormon leadership, the Dobson Gang, the Catholic bishops. The answer is that yes, I would be very, very happy to find a workable compromise, but we're dealing with groups who do not have that word in their vocabulary. The only viable alternative that I can see is to make their position untenable.

OK -- ran out of steam. I may come back to it, or (Hah! A flash of inspiration!) you could add something in the comments.

Friday, November 28, 2008

FGB Will Happen

Maybe even today, if I get around to it.

It's turning into another one of those.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day Off

I'm not reading the news. I'm not reading any more blogs.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where To Start?

although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reactionary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut

There's only so wide you can open, honey. (snicker)

There are actually other reasons Coulter's been so quiet lately. The jaw is just the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Universal Health Care

James Pethokoukis, quoting Ramesh Ponnuru:

Obama’s health-care plan is designed to evolve into a national health-insurance program along the lines of Canada’s. The resulting government monopoly or near-monopoly on health insurance would stifle innovation, require bureaucratic rationing, and infringe on freedom. But it would also move American politics permanently leftward ... the inevitable disappointments and failures of a nationalized system would just as inevitably be blamed on underfunding, creating a bidding war that liberals would usually win ... the creation of a new system would make free-market alternatives look more radical to the public than they do now, because they would be more radical. The public’s aversion to risk, which now hurts advocates of liberal policies as much as it helps them, would only help them. So national health insurance could be a lasting political success for liberals even if it is a colossal policy failure; it could, indeed, succeed politically because of its failures.

Guess what part of this really bothers Ponnuru.

It would probably have more impact if Ponnuru weren't known to have nothing in the way of insight whatsoever.

Dday had a post a day or two ago that's relevant here, quoting hilzoy:

Pethokoukis and Cannon claim that if Obama succeeds in passing health care, then people who might have been conservatives will like it, and will be more likely to vote for the people who passed it. This is unexceptional. An honest conservative might accept this claim and say: well, I guess our ideas are unpopular, so we'll just have to make our case more persuasively.

But that's not the conclusion they draw. Pethokoukis and Cannon say: because people will like health care reform, if we do not block it, our party will lose support. So precisely because people would like it if they tried it, we need to make sure that it fails.

To which dday adds:

They have to block health care reform because people will like it. And if government produces, the entire GOP worldview is lost. Bill Kristol said this a long time ago.

And so they're all falling into line to block any attempt to provide healthcare for everyone in the country because people will favor it. What both hilzoy and dday leave out is that the Democrats are witless enough to think that they should just take the blame that the Republicans are going to heap on them for failure.

I hope to hell I'm wrong on this, but I'm not holding my breath for the Democrats to finally develop some smarts.

A Day Late

Well, OK -- it's just that I seldom go online in the evening. But please note this anniversary, thanks to C&L:

British naturalist Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, which explained his theory of evolution. The basis for the theory is natural selection, the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable (genetically based) physical or behavioral traits.

Such changes allow an organism to better adapt to its environment and help it survive and have more offspring.

Evolution is now universally accepted among scientists, and is the organizing principle upon which modern biological and related sciences are based.

Because I Feel LIke It

From Dark Horse.

Here's the Epinions review. And I did a Review in Brief.

And a full-scale retrospective review of Nickelback will be included in the November 30 Special Issue of Green Man Review, coming soon to an Internet near you.

Filth on the Internet

Andrew Sullivan had a link to this screed posted as a Malkin Award nominee. As appalling as it is, take a look at it, and think about a couple of things.

Notice how often the editors ascribe "hate" to gays demonstrating against the Mormon Church because of Prop 8. There is no hint that gays are justifiably outraged at the Church's campaign to strip them of fundamental rights in California.

Notice the inflammatory language.

Notice the scary buzz words.

Notice the complete lack of any reference to the lies, distortions, and misrepresentations that were the core of the Yes on 8 campaign -- funded in large measure by Mormons at the instruction of their leaders.

I won't mention the reasoning, because there isn't any.

Notice especially how objecting to the role of the Mormons in the campaign is taken as evidence of an assault on freedom of religion, but the imposition of the beliefs of some Christians on the entire state of California -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists -- is "the will of the people."

Here's the contact information for National Review. I suggest you let them know what you think -- nicely. After all, we're better than they are.

That much is obvious.


This drives me crazy. Can we try getting it right?

The ABA is a "legal council."

Your lawyer is your "legal counsel."

Got it?

Republicans, Post-Election

With apologies to the cat:

A Must Read

David Lee on standing up to the religious right.

We as a group have become tolerant of intolerance.

Whenever anyone justifies their bigotry with what I call DHRB (deeply held religious beliefs) we roll over as if that were the end of the discussion.

We have confused respecting a persons right to hold whatever religious beliefs they chose with respecting those beliefs. The truth is there are plenty of DHRB that are simply not worthy of our respect. Can we start with the ones that have no respect for us? Can you imagine an African American respecting someone’s DHRB that the Bible justifies slavery? The right to believe it, yes. The belief itself? No way.

To quote myself:

If you're religion says it's OK to be a bigot, you know that that means? You're still a bigot.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Retroactive Brickbat

I've decided to take umbrage at this post by Andrew Sullivan from last week, starting with this comment:

We lost. They won in a fair fight. No whining.

How you can call a campaign funded by enormously wealthy religious interests and based on deliberate deception (or, to call it what it was, lies) a "fair fight" is beyond me. Is this to say that anyone who sticks to the truth in putting issues before the electorate is somehow ceding the field to those who have no compunctions about waging smear campaigns? Granted, Sullivan has never shown himself to be the most incisive thinker in the blogosphere, but this is way out there. Rovian campaigns may have become the norm, but to call it a 'fair fight" simply means you've sold out -- you're giving approval of their tactics, but how can you use them yourself if you want to maintain any moral authority whatsoever? (Assuming you even wanted to use crap like that.)

Actually, now that I look at it more closely, the post is largely incoherent. Sulivan starts off by saying "no whining" -- and what he means by that is anyone's guess -- but then goes on to say:

My own view is that we can protest and have; we are also within our rights to boycott businesses who bankrolled the initiative, and to confront the Mormon church.

I'm sorry, but how is this different than what the right has characterized as "whining"? Sullivan seems to be trying to have it both ways here, and is only making himself look superfluous, which, considering his long-time advocacy for same-sex marriage, is both bizarre and sad.

And then Sullivan concludes by recommending that we do everything that we're doing, with the for him obligatory swipe at HRC. (I don't disagree with him there: they've been pretty much worthless in the marriage fight, which is, after all, the most important issue we face, both in substance and as a symbol. And after fifteen years, HRC still hasn't figured it out.)

Maintenance Note

I'm still adding a few things here and there, as the mood strikes me. Notice that I've added a link to Join The Impact in the sidebar, and also, please note the new subhead above. It's from the quote I picked to head up the November 30 issue of Green Man Review (I still can't believe I wrote the whole thing; it'll be up next Sunday). The more I think about it, the more relevance it has.

It may also mark a shift in focus here. I don't know yet. This blog has been pretty much about outrage for the past couple of years -- not that there's been any shortage of that, and I will still probably continue to snipe at public idiocy -- but there's a lot more to life. It's only reasonable to acknowledge that.

(Sean Russell's duology, The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds, by the way, is one of the great works of contemporary fantasy. I think you should read it, but be warned: as I was sitting with the books intending to skim through and find a quote, I found myself again and again caught up in the story. It's magical that way.)

A Modest Proposal

This is pretty depressing.

In line with calls to begin the process of repealing Prop 8 by referendum in California, I think we should begin working to repeal all state constitutional amendments and DOMAs across the country.

The next election's two years away. That's just enough time to get started.

Worse Than Irrelevant

HRC seems to have two left feet working in the public perception department. In the wake of the defeats in California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas, and the demonstrations in favor of full civil rights on the 15th, this is what they come up with -- an excellent follow-up to their spa night.

Lord. Love. A. Duck.

Outrage du jour

From Ed Brayton:

Some of the other bands inexplicably not in the hall of fame - Deep Purple, Yes, and Genesis. It makes no sense at all. For god's sake, Run-DMC is going into the hall of fame in 2009 but those bands aren't in.

Along with this:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More Not-Politics

Nice little post by Dale Dougherty at Boing Boing on the Burgess Shale. With some spectacular (but chilly-looking) photos.

Read it.

Today's Silliness

From this website, this analysis of the writer of this blog:

The Thinker:

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Well, sort of half right -- I hope I'm a little more sensitive to others than indicated.

The author of Booklag, however, is this type:

The Mechanic:

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Driving race cars? I hate speeding.

I should obviously start another blog or something. If I do enough of them, we might even start to get an accurate picture of what I'm like.

Reviews in Brief: Nickelback's Dark Horse

Taking a break from manga for this week to take a listen at Nickelback's new release, Dark Horse. You all know by know that I love Nickelback; as one reviewer at Epinions put it, their music speaks to me. What amazes me is that so many people who are supposedly knowledgeable about music don't get it. Maybe that's a subject for another post, one of these days, once I figure out what's behind it -- I suspect a combination of snobbery and narrow focus. After all, it's easy to be a snob if you can't see anything but the end of your own nose.

OK -- high energy, from the very beginning, and a lot more polish than we've seen in their music to date. Some, I think, are going to take this as evidence that they're "selling out" -- as though a multi-platinum band had to. Starting with "Something in Your Mouth," we've got momentum. It's something that holds up through the entire disc, even through those songs that aren't quite so flat out (and I have to say that even the "slow" songs have got that momentum driving them).

And the band continues to hit all the points that have formed their foundation since they became a recognizable entity -- which is to say, ever since they left the posturing that was grunge and post-grunge and assumed an identity of their own. "Gotta Be Somebody," the first single off this release, is just the tip of the iceberg. It's a lot smoother than much of their material has been until now, but front-man Chad Kroeger still has that urgency in his vocals, the band can still build that wall of sound behind him, and they do a few things that are new for them. The very opening bars of that one make you stop for a minute -- Nickelback? Huh? And then Kroeger starts, with that unbelievable combination of world-weariness and innocence in his voice that snaps everything back into focus. Yes!

There's a certain artlessness in the way Kroeger constructs his songs that is so subtle that I just now noticed it, listening to "I'd Come For You," one of the "ballads" on this album. The form sounds so amateurish, when you notice it, and then you start to register on the tension between that quality of the song's construction and the sophistication of their rendering. Maybe it's just that they're a lot more savvy than anyone, even I, had given them credit for.

It's a winner, but then did you really expect me to say anything else? It's smoother, more polished -- some will call it more "commercial," whatever that means -- altogether more finished than previous efforts (and considering the quality of those efforts, I have to think this is a deliberate decision). It still goes to some of those hard places -- "Just To Get High" is as much a heartbreaker as "Side of a Bullet" or "Where Do I Hide?" and very much in the same vein -- and doesn't really make them more palatable: the anger in Kroeger's delivery, coupled with in this case almost tangible grief, makes sure of that.

It's from Roadrunner Records, came out last Tuesday (I got my copy Thursday morning), and forms the final section of a major survey of Nickelback that will be posted on November 30 at Green Man Review.

(Update: Yeah, I know I'm updating this before it's even published, but I read a couple of the less favorable reviews of this album, from Village Voice and All Music. They are so funny -- they read like parodies of rock reviews. The delicious irony is the critic from Village Voice citing "the Los Angeles Times–approved genre "flyover rock," an earnest and hedonistic style that elitist coastal types rarely even acknowledge." Maybe I missed something here, being a Chicagoan.

Maybe it's just that I concentrate too much on what the music does, rather than what I think it should do.

Reality Break: Orca Song 2008

There is something besides politics in this life. (You have to remember that you're reading this in the reverse order from the way it was posted.) Dave Neiwert, who has a thing about orcas, but together this neat slide-show of orcas -- with singing, mind you.

Here are a couple more orca shows from Neiwert: Orca Song and Orca Song II.

There's something very peaceful about these vids.

Candace Gingrich Weighs In

An open letter to Newt:

Then again, we've seen these tactics before. We know how much the right likes to play political and cultural hardball, and then turn around and accuse us of lashing out first. You give a pass to a religious group -- one that looks down upon minorities and women -- when they use their money and membership roles to roll back the rights of others, and then you label us "fascists" when we fight back. You belittle the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, and yet somehow neglect to explain who anointed you the protector of "traditional" marriage. And, of course, you've also mastered taking the foolish actions of a few people and then indicting an entire population based on those mistakes. I fail to see how any of these patterns coincide with the values of "historic Christianity" you claim to champion.

Again, nothing new here. This is just more of the blatant hypocrisy we're used to hearing.

What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That's really so '90s, Newt. In this day and age, it's embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it.

We need to hear more from the brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the chief anti-gay icons. My only problem with this letter is that it should have appeared in WSJ or NRO rather than HuffPo. (Hmmm -- don't hold your breath.)

Thanks to AmericaBlog

Reality Gap

From one of Andrew Sullivan's readers, this comment on repeal of DADT:

Allow me to be a dissenter on the criticism people have been leveling at Obama for wanting to move slowly on DADT. The public and younger folks may be perfectly supportive of opening the military to gays serving openly, but that's not the case with the military. No matter how delicately the administration approaches the issue, there will be resentment within the military. And it could turn violent at the lower echelons.

My fear is that moving too quickly and creating resentment by repealing the ban will simply make things dangerous for gays who are currently serving. I want Obama to take the time building consensus and support. I want him to work with the JCS to make that happen. If servicemembers see that the policy isn't being ramrodded down the military's throat, there may not be as open hostility as there currently is or will be.

I want DADT repealed and the ban on gays lifted. Badly. But, I've been with the military for the past 11 years under DADT. Another year is not a long time and worth it if the policy change is implemented smoothly and people are safer as a result. I don't want Clinton's mistakes repeated or compounded.

The difference is that there is now widespread support for repeal of DADT: it's not 1993 any more. That support extends to enlisted personnel: there are clear majorities in favor of repeal, except among the brass -- the same ones who film Christianist videos in the Pentagon. The comment about resentment within the military is questionable: I suspect the resentment this correspondent mentions, and the potential violence, is going to be found among the same groups who are passing out Bibles in Iraq and trying to convert recruits to hard-core evangelical Christianity. Give or take the ones in on moral waivers. Neither of those should be in the military to begin with.

Either someone's been feeding me a line of bull about support for repeal of DADT both within and without the military, or this writer is not living in the same world in the rest of us. The problem is, I don't know the answer to that. Anyone have any hard information?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging, Saturday Edition

Finally -- catching up with myself. It's mostly about marriage, still, which is a good thing. Do you think maybe the defeat in California woke us up a little bit? First, a reality check, via Andrew Sullivan:

Well, some of us. There are others who still have their heads off in some alternative universe. Dale Carpenter, for example. It's hard to know what part of his post to start with -- it's pretty incoherent:

But when you enter the political fray, you are not exempt from public criticism and protest just because you are a religion or have religious reasons for your advocacy. It's not anti-religious bigotry to call attention, loudly and angrily, to what you have done. . . .

Nevertheless, I am uncomfortable with pickets directed at specific places of worship like the Mormon church in Los Angeles. It's too easy for such protests to degenerate into the kinds of ugly religious intolerance this country has long endured. Mormons, in particular, have historically suffered rank prejudice and even violence. Epithets and taunts directed at individuals are especially abhorrent. Individual Mormons (and blacks and others) bravely and publicly opposed Prop 8. Even those who supported Prop 8 are not all anti-gay bigots, though I saw plenty of anti-gay bigotry when I was in California last week. As I've repeatedly argued, there are genuine concerns about making a change like this to an important social institution. Those concerns are misplaced and overwrought, but they are not necessarily bigoted.

There's a certain unreality to these statement: Yes, Mormons have the right to express their views and work for such a campaign. No, they're not beyond criticism for doing it. But we shouldn't criticize them because that looks like religious bigotry, even though they should be held accountable for their own religious bigotry. Oops -- that last part was mine. It's interesting that Carpenter nowhere addresses the religious bigotry that was the foundation of Proposition 8 and the campaign of lies that led to its victory.

His solution: good ol' sixties style sit-ins -- at government offices. Did he notice that members of the state government of California were among the most visible supporters of No on 8? Did he notice that the whole Yes on 8 campaign was organized and funded by religious bigots? The same ones who are now claiming that their religious freedom is being violated by being held accountable for their actions? (And on that score, see these comments by a reader of Andrew Sullivan.)

It seems that Carpenter is talking out of both sides of his mouth here, and that's not what we need right now: we need people with his kind of visibility and acumen to call it what it is, not pretend it doesn't exist.

Someone like Andrew Sullivan, for example. He's been an advocate for same-sex marriage from way back, but sometimes he just doesn't seem to get it. Take this, for example. Now, Michael Medved, in spite of Sullivan's spin, is not advocating for full civil equality for gay couples, and it's strange to me that Sullivan, who otherwise has revealed himself to understand very well why marriage, including the word itself, is the key practical and symbolic issue in gay civil rights, can miss what's going on here.

But not the M-word. A key member of the religious right backs civil unions containing all the rights - federal and state - that apply to civil marriages. So if the far right now favors comprehensive civil unions at the state and federal level, why won't Obama propose a federal civil unions bill? Or will the Human Rights Campaign try to dissuade him?

If you read Medved's post, which is basically quoting Elton John being contrary, it's painfully obvious that Medved doesn't back "full civil equality" for gay couples.

And yet Sullivan seems to be able to grasp the philosophical basis for the conflicts, he just can't seem to find the bridge between that and the everyday world. Perhaps it's just that he's too willing to let the logically challenged, such as Ramesh Ponnuru, frame the questions.

Some Republicans believe that their reputation for intolerance is costing the party the votes of the next generation of Americans. But that argument got harder to make when California, one of the most liberal states in the country, passed a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage.

But the next generation of Californians, even after the dreadful No on 8 campaign, still favored marriage equality by huge margins. Ramesh may be right that gay-bashing can still produce some small gains for the GOP (although in most states, it cannot be banned any more than it has been), but California sure didn't disprove the generational argument.

That's not the basis on which I would have challenged Ponnuru: his proposition is deeply flawed, based simply on the reality of the Yes on 8 campaign, which was a Rove-style campaign from beginning to end. I mean, Sullivan's right, as far as he goes, but he doesn't go far enough. And gods know, Ponnuru is an easy enough target.

The reasons for the defeat are manifold. Analyses are running rampant (here, here, and here are some good ones). I'm inclined to side with Chris Crain on it.

Change may well be coming to HRC, for no other reason but that many of its leaders are no doubt jockeying for jobs in the incoming Obama administration. (Query whether they will be embraced by the White House, given how obviously they sided with Hillary Clinton during the primaries. It's noteworthy that none of the seven out gay politicos with roles in the Obama transition team hail from HRC.)

Either way, the gay rights movement is moving on with a retooled HRC or without it. The question is whether the D.C.-based gay groups want to remain relevant to the constituents and the movement they claim to lead.

I still remember vividly opening my e-mail on November 5 and seeing a glowing report from Joe Salmonese on our "victory" on November 4. I think if I hadn't been over HRC for years already, that would have finished it. Can you say "Out of touch"?

Crain is absolutely correct on this, as far as I'm concerned: every gain we have made on this issue has been in spite of the national leadership. Maybe it's just that it's too real for them, but one thing is becoming painfully obvious: they're now part of the problem.

And speaking of people who are now part of the problem, I hate to say I told you so, but get a load of this:

President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

This is one of those times I really hate to be right, and I wish my cynicism about politicians were a little bit less grounded in reality. Brian Doherty points to some other realities:

It has been an extraordinary decade of progress in public acceptance of gays, with gay marriage, for example, going from a Falwellian horror fantasy to gin up donations for halting American moral decay to something courts are willing to grant as a right, and the voting public can get close to supporting when asked. And as the article mentions, "Today, gay activists cite national polls that show public sentiment, unlike in 1993, support removing the ban." See one such poll here, from early 2007, with 55 percent support for open gay service in the military.

The last figure I saw said 70% support repealing DADT. How close to consensus to we need to come? Andrew Sullivan cites 75%, as well as some other concerns on Obama's commitment to equal rights for gays:

Two major Clinton hacks are among the transition team - Fred Hochberg, perhaps the central pillar of the Human Rights Campaign and Clintonite dead-ender, and Roberta Achtenberg, formerly at HUD. The legacy of these people was DOMA, a doubling of the rate of discharges of gay servicemembers, and the perpetuation of the irrelevant Human Rights Campaign. Appointing people like these Clinton retreads and establishment Dems is of a piece with pushing DADT repeal back years.

Let us review the politics of this: the most recent poll shows 75 percent of the American public favors lifting the ban, including 64 percent of Republicans. But Obama cannot go there until 2010. It's sooo controversial. I understand the need not to repeat Clinton's errors, especially at the very beginning of an administration. Delaying and consulting is fine. But the way in which gay servicemembers, risking their lives for their country as we speak, are still regarded as radioactive in the Democratic establishment, enabled by the internalized homophobia of the Human Rights Campaign, is appalling.

Is this change I can believe in? Is this change at all?

Digby has a post that throws the whole issue into a wider perspective, addressing the "center-right" mantra, of which Obama's probable course on civil rights is simply one facet:

This is an article of faith among the political establishment. In fact, it's one of the greatest successes of the conservative movement to persuade these villagers that Democratic presidents are doomed to failure before they even begin.

So, this "center-right" trope is just their way of preserving their belief system in the face of a repudiation by the people. It's not a problem in and of itself, except to those of us who actually identify as liberals and progressives and feel that it's useful to take political credit for policies that actually help humans. The problem is that Democrats take them seriously.

Well, this dessert will wipe that taste out of my mouth.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Gay Blogging

will be delayed today -- maybe later this morning, maybe this afternoon, maybe tomorrow. I'm finishing up the near-legendary Special Issue, and I just want to sit around, read yaoi and eat horrible things for a while.

I can't believe I wrote the whole thing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Get Rid of These People

Just get them out of the government:

Important US research to reduce HIV infection may have been prevented in recent years because scientists have censored their funding requests in response to political controversy, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Writing in PLoS Medicine, the academic journal, Joanna Kempner from Rutgers University identified a “chilling effect” on researchers seeking grants from the government-backed National Institutes of Health after their work was questioned by Republican lawmakers and Christian groups.

The findings suggest politics influence scientists’ willingness to conduct research, and raise warnings at a time of continued sensitivity over medical research topics from sexual behaviour to stem cells.

Among 82 researchers polled by Ms Kempner, who had received money from the NIH, almost a quarter had dropped or reframed studies around sexual behaviour they judged to be politically sensitive, and four had made career changes and left academia as a result of the controversy.

Let me put it this way: do you really want these kinds of people, who worship ignorance and arrogance, with their shallow, mechanistic idea of morality, in a position to decide whether you live or die?

Via AmericaBlog.

Even some conservative pundits are starting to get it. (Parker's focus is too narrow: the brand of God in the public sphere that has been touted by the "Christian" right for thirty years is killing America, not just the Republican party.)

And trust Andrew Sullivan to come up with a quote from de Tocqueville:

I have no belief in the virtue or durability of official philosophies, and when it comes to state religions, I have always thought that, though they may perhaps sometimes momentarily serve the interests of political power, they are always sooner or later fatal for the church.

Nor am I one of those who think that to exalt religion in the eyes of the people and to do honor to the spirituality of religious teaching, it is good to give its ministers indirectly a political influence which the laws refuse.

I am so deeply convinced of the almost inevitable dangers which face beliefs when their interpreters take part in public affairs, and so firmly persuaded that at all costs Christianity must be maintained among the new democracies that I would rather shut priests up within their sanctuaries than allow them to leave them.

Combining church and state is bad for the church, and even worse for the state. Remember that the people I'm talking about -- James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Donald Wildmon, Elaine Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Fred Phelps, the whole crew -- while spending millions to spread the idea that some Americans are not worthy of being full citizens, have acquiesced in, and sometimes openly condoned, the kind of torture and brutality that has no place in a civilized nation. And it's been demonstrated far too often that they have no intention of living up to the standards that they want to impose on the rest of us.

Just get them back to the fringes where they belong.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Prop 8 Suits (Updated)

From one of Andrew Sullivan's readers, a succinct summary of what it's about:

So, just to help you think about this a little more clearly: Prop 8 stands for the idea that we could put on the ballot tomorrow the question of whether Catholics could marry. We could also put on the ballot the question of whether someone with HIV could vote or own property. We could put on the ballot the question of whether mexican catholics can be discriminated against in housing or employment.

This, of course, is the "Christian" right's goal: to put everyone else's rights up for popular referenda. I've been saying it all along: the people do not have unlimited sovereignty in this country, never did, and unless the Christianist alliance is successful, never will. This is the fundamental lie being spread by those who keep nattering on about "the will of the people": the will of the people is subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution. That's the whole point of judicial review, which of course is one the first things the right wants to do away with, but only on those decisions they don't like. Regrettably for them, it's difficult to predict those ahead of time.

I'm not going to go into how stupid and short-sighted this is, because the Dobson Gang, while shrewd, is not, as a group, very intelligent, and they are most definitely short-sighted. They're banking on having a permanent majority of wingnuts, which any fool could tell you is a pipe dream. There's no such thing as a permanent majority in this country -- thanks to the will of the people, which is as fickle as anything else in this life.

The right is already making threats about what they will do if the court overturns Prop 8. It's up to us to pull their teeth.

Footnote: This is the AFA's idea of a Christmas decoration, which seems terribly appropriate. It does look like it's burning, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I have a little list . . .

Via Andrew Sullivan, a list of those who gave $5,000 or more to Yes on 8.

This Bothers Me

This bothers me a whole lot:

Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.

Two Obama advisers said there's little - if any - chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.

This is something that I was afraid of, and I suspect the arguments against investigating are more political than anything else: I'm not sure that the primary consideration is anything other than that fusillade of accusations from the right if the Obama administration actually does anything to hold those responsible for these outrages accountable. Frankly, I think it might be a useful bait: the ones who are going to scream the loudest are the ones who are going to be doing whatever they can to torpedo Obama anyway, so give them this to worry about. Maybe that will leave some maeuvering room to actually accomplish something.

There's also the fact that this is another recitation of the "let's forget the past and move on" mantra. Again, this is something that the right is very devoted to right now, although they have been the first to demand accountability from everyone else. I suspect that the establishment Democrats are not all that averse to joining the chorus, because they are almost equally culpable, in this area, at least.

It's also too much of a piece with the stance taken by the anti-gay right when facing the backlash against Proposition 8: suddenly, we must respect the law of the land and let it stand, and not infringe on their inalienable rights by protesting the fact that they have taken ours away through a campaign of lies and deception to overturn the law of the land.

And let us not forget the telecom immunity issue, another piece of the pattern, and one that will, unfortunately, most likely be allowed to stand.

Do you get the idea that the right wing in this country just wants to do whatever it wants and not be bothered by actually having to take responsibility for it? Or that it's not limited to the right wing, since the Washington establishment has been singing along?

OK -- let's call this a "trial balloon" and make the only appropriate response: No Way!

Update: Hilzoy has has some thoughts on this issue that, strangely enough, are very close to mine.

This is a big mistake. It is enormously important that we establish the principle that members of the government cannot break the law with impunity, and we cannot do that without being willing to prosecute them when, as in this case, there is overwhelming evidence that they violated the law. This is especially true of the most senior members of government, like the Vice President.

That said, I can easily see why Obama might not want to do this. The problem isn't just that it would be bad for him to be seen as carrying out a partisan witch hunt; it would also be bad for the law, and for these prosecutions, if they were seen as a partisan witch hunt.

And you can bet there are any number of voices in the right that will do their best to make it look as bad as possible. (The comments to this post are instructive; I recommend that you read them.)

How Pathetic Is This?

Nepal, for crying out loud, is legalizing same-sex marriage, while we still have to cater to the likes of Randy Thomasson, the Pope, and the elders of the Mormon Church.

The Nepali Supreme Court is translating its decision into English, but highlights from the published Nepali decision are (unofficial translation):

■ In relation to this matter, directive order has been issued to the Government of Nepal to enact new laws and amend all existing discriminatory laws so that all individuals with different sexual orientations and gender identities can exercise equal rights like any other citizens of Nepal.

■ A seven-member committee to be formed by the government of Nepal to study the different same sex partnership/marriage bill/act in other countries and recommend the government to make same sex marriage/partnership act. Based on the recommendation of this committee, the government must introduce a same sex partnership/marriage act.

■ The decision also addressed “cross dressing saying can’t be taken as “pollution” but should be taken as individual’s freedom of expression.

■ All LGBTI must be defined as “natural persons” and their physical growth as well as sexual orientation, gender identity, expression are all part of natural growing process. Thus equal rights, identity and expression must be ensured regardless of their sex at birth.

Bless 'em, but . . . Nepal?

Stepping Up the Fight

This is infuriating, but only to be expected. We're dealing with a group here that has relied on lies, intimidation,and threats throughout their campaign because they have no real arguments.

I wish I could say the threats are empty, but they're not, entirely. I suspect, though, that their support is not going to be as widespread and enthusiastic as they are banking on: the Mormon leadership already has a black eye and it's going to get worse. The Catholic hierarchy, who facilitated child molesters for decades -- and threatened those who protested -- is on thin ice.

I think a lot of people who voted for Prop 8 are having second thoughts. I'd like to be in a position where I could say, "Let's see how this plays out," but we don't have that luxury right now.

So yes, boycott Cinemark and any other company or individual who supported Prop 8 and who supports those who support Prop 8. Here's that list again -- the only useful thing HRC has done in this fight so far.

If you want to see what the anti-gay right is all about, good ol' Newt Gingrich lays it out for you:

Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank -- for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school.

There's a psychological mechanism called "projection," by which an individual imputes his or her feelings and motives to others. The right has been using that for decades, blaming their opponents for using the tactics, and having the goals, that they embrace themselves. Here you see it in action.

And implicit in this is the idea that Gringrich's religious views should be imposed on everyone. (Andrew Sullivan has a strong post on Gingrich's allies of the moment, the Mormons. And on that topic, I'm looking forward to the civil war when they start losing consistently. We're seeing the tip of the iceberg right now among the Republicans; just wait until the Christianists start.)

Jim Burroway has a wonderful response to Gingrich:

He seems to think that ambling down the boulevard, holding signs in front of a Temple or gathering in front of city hall constitutes a violent act. The sight of homosexuals on the streets, parading openly in their, you know, street clothes was just too much for him. American citizens exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and lawful assembly, well that’s just downright fascist!

So Gingrich equates exercising constitutionally guaranteed freedoms with fascism. I can't top that.

The reassuring part is that the shrillness is a sure sign that they see themselves losing. Let's make it come true for them, OK?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Counter Protest

There was one in Los Angeles that Timothy Kincaid caught on camera:

There was also a counter-protest consisting. The following isn’t the best picture (phone camera) but I think I got all five in the pic.

By way of contrast, the real demonstration:

Church Militant

Via Andrew Sullivan:

You have to wonder

From a reader at Andrew Sullivan who seems to represent nothing so much as the great, complacent mass:

Yesterday my girl friend and I drove to downtown San Diego to attend the wine and food festival. We encountered much difficulty because of the No on 8 Marchers.

Efforts at mob rule have always worried me. This great democracy is fragile and I think we do not fully realize how very small numbers of people can cause great disorder. We had an election and the majority of Californians voted to preserve the thousands of years old institution of marriage. Demonstrations like the one I witnessed yesterday gain no sympathy from those of use who still believe the the rule of law and democratic process.

I am afraid we are going to lose this country.

WTF? Anyone who can equate peaceful demonstrations with "mob rule" is not driving with a full tank. Do I need to add that he apparently has no concept of how this country actually was meant to work?

He should go back to watching American Idol.

Race and Marriage

Yeah, I finally got around to it. This is what happens when you fall asleep reading at about 4 o'clock on a blustery Sunday afternoon and wake up at 2 am with no thought of going back to sleep. This is a "first thoughts" kind of post and is subject to updates and addenda: there's still a lot of material to digest.

William Saletan, with whom I almost never agree, has pulled together a lot of information in this piece at Slate. If his numbers are correct, he has some interesting observations:

The National Election Pool exit poll tells the story. Whites and Asian-Americans, comprising 69 percent of California's electorate, opposed Proposition 8 by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Latinos favored it, 53-47. But blacks turned out in historically high numbers—10 percent of the electorate—and 70 percent of them voted for Proposition 8.

This is no fluke. Black support for Florida's ballot measure against gay marriage ran 11 points higher than white support and 7 points higher than Latino support. The adoption measure in Arkansas turned out differently—black support was 4 points lower than white support—but nationwide and over time, there's a clear pattern. In Maryland and New Jersey, polls have shown whites supporting gay marriage but blacks opposing it. A report from the pro-gay National Black Justice Coalition attributes President Bush's 2004 reelection in part to the near-doubling of his percentage of the black vote in Ohio, which he achieved "by appealing to Black churchgoers on the issue of marriage equality." This year, blacks in California were targeted the same way.

I think it's safe to say that blacks were targeted not to change their opinions on same-sex marriage, but to get them to the polls -- as if that were necessary in this election -- and to make sure they voted on Prop 8.

This post from Pam's House Blend is fairly typical of the objections to this line of argument: the poll is flawed, the sample is not representative, and, in its basic form, You. Can't. Blame. Blacks. For. Anything:

One last note: if despite the evidence, you want to take the CNN poll as representative, the numbers indicate that 3,185,452 white people voted for 8. That's almost a million more people than the entire black population of the state of California.

I'd say there's plenty of homophobia to go around.

No argument there, but the flaw here is that we're not talking total populations, we're talking margins. Whether blacks and latinos handed the Prop 8 forces the victory is an open question, but I'd guess that a small percentage shift in either of those populations would have made the difference. As for the reliability of that 70% number, here's a post by Nate Silverman at 538, whom many people have been citing as the numbers guru for this election, in which he addresses everything but the numbers:

Certainly, the No on 8 folks might have done a better job of outreach to California's black and Latino communities. But the notion that Prop 8 passed because of the Obama turnout surge is silly. Exit polls suggest that first-time voters -- the vast majority of whom were driven to turn out by Obama (he won 83 percent [!] of their votes) -- voted against Prop 8 by a 62-38 margin. More experienced voters voted for the measure 56-44, however, providing for its passage.

Now, it's true that if new voters had voted against Prop 8 at the same rates that they voted for Obama, the measure probably would have failed. But that does not mean that the new voters were harmful on balance -- they were helpful on balance. If California's electorate had been the same as it was in 2004, Prop 8 would have passed by a wider margin.

Furthermore, it would be premature to say that new Latino and black voters were responsible for Prop 8's passage. Latinos aged 18-29 (not strictly the same as 'new' voters, but the closest available proxy) voted against Prop 8 by a 59-41 margin. These figures are not available for young black voters, but it would surprise me if their votes weren't fairly close to the 50-50 mark.

Two things about this: note that he starts off by blaming No on 8. Yeah, well, failure is always evidence of fault, I guess. (And I'm not going to say that they didn't screw up -- they did, in a couple of major ways.) And note how much of his argument is based on "if" and "it wouldn't surprise me." Not bankable, in my book.

On the other side of this, see this post from Timothy Kincaid at Box Turtle Bulletin. He's been very careful about it, as usual, and while not damning, his comments should force a second look at this question.

I'm going to make an outrageous statement here: given the well-known propensity of respondents to lie to poll takers on exit polls -- telling them what the respondent thinks they want to hear -- it wouldn't suprise me to learn that the "yes" vote in the black community was even higher than 70%.

Terrance Heath resurrected a couple of older posts at Pam's House Blend (here and here) on the extent of homophobia in the black community. Given this kind of history, I think the idea that blacks did not play a role in our defeat in California is somewhat disingenuous. Should they be singled out? Not necessarily, because it's that old conundrum, and in that regard, at least, the PC left has it right: a significant shift in any population would have changed the outcome. The fact remains, however, that the response among blacks is disproportionate. This is in large part due to the churches, and there's where we get the intersection between conservative Christians and blacks: most black Christians are, in terms of religion, at least, very conservative, I think -- at least, insofar as I have any experience in that area. (It's one of those things that is subject to a wide degree of variation. My own black friends may be very committed to their churches and ascribe a great deal to the workings of their faith, but there seems to be some compartmentalization going on: they are all very supportive of equal rights -- including marriage -- for gays. I think that may be the Baptist tradition: I have an aunt, very religious, who at the end of her life just didn't go to church any more because she's argued with every pastor within reach. There's an element of independence there that you have to respect.) For a commentary on the role of the church in the black community, see this post from Pam's House Blend. I'm by no means endorsing a lot of what's in it, but it is instructive.


Lest anyone come away with the opinion that I'm looking at these groups as monolithic, I'm well aware that they're not. We had supporters among blacks in California, some of them quite prominent, as well as among national black leaders. One of the No on 8 campiagn's big flubs is that they were not enlisted as active members of the campaign. For an illustration of this part of the question, see this post by Fritz at Pam's House Blend.

And now back to the post:

I'm not blaming blacks and latinos, really, although I'm not letting them off free, either. I got a lot of crap for statements made in in this post, and I admit -- and have done -- that my remarks were intemperate. I was angry. However, the substance, I think, is still valid: we don't let people off the hook for things like this, we challenge them. In this case, we have to challenge them on this basis:

From prenatal hormones to genetics to birth order, scientists have been sifting data to nail down homosexuality's biological origins. As they advance, it will become easier and easier to persuade African-Americans that being gay is a lot like being black. The lesson of Proposition 8 isn't that blacks have stopped the march of gay rights. The lesson is that when they turn, the fight in blue America will essentially be over.

I think Saletan, for a change, has it right, or nearly so: the lesson is not that blacks have stopped the march of civil rights in America, but that they have to be shaken out of ignorance and hostility by the only means that will work: information.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reviews in Brief: Nanae Chrono's Vassalord, Vol. 1

Vassalord is not, strictly speaking, yaoi, although the two protagonists are locked in an intense, if somewhat bizarre, relationship. (There is some debate on this issue, but as far as volume 1 is concerned, it's not, really, although it gets scorchingly close. I'm actually leaning toward the yaoi camp, myself.) It seems to be written from a very marked gay sensibility, both sexy and erotic (they're not the same), more than a little campy, and certainly over the top, but it's really a science-fiction/dark fantasy/action-adventure thriller.

At any rate, we are faced with one of the oddest couples I've ever seen: Johnny Rayflo is a playboy, phenomenally rich, with his fingers in all sorts of pies, not all of them savory. He is also a 400-something year old vampire. Charles J. Chrishunds is a vampire hunter, a cyborg, and also a vampire himself. They've known each other for quite some time -- in fact, Charley, whom Rayflo calls "Cherry," won't feed from anyone but Rayflo. Charley is a free-lancer -- he calls himself a mercenary -- who works mainly for the Catholic Church hunting out vampires and finishing them off.

The have a couple of adventures, the first involving a vampire princess who seems determined to take Rayflo away from Charley, the second involving a weird offshoot of the Unitarian Universalist Church, a dead ringer for Rayflo who happens to be female, and an old, old vampire.

There is a chapter 3 which is really backstory, about the time that Charley and Rayflo met: a war zone in an unspecified time (although there is a flash of horse-mounted cavalry), Johnny having taken up residence in a ruined church when he is discovered by a starving child whom he names "Chris," and who eventually adopts the name Charles J. Chrishunds. It's good character development for both, and one of those little gems of manga: there is nothing in the rest of the book that quite matches the look of peaceful happiness on Rayflo's face as he cares for his foundling. I love it.

There are times when you find yourself wondering what the hell is going on, but I think the narrative is, on the whole, fairly clear-cut, and this is a case where patience will be rewarded -- if you get lost, you can generally get back on track from context.

The graphics are somewhat dense, and some of the action scenes are pretty much illegible, but on the whole the style is appealing. The characterizations here are the prize, though: Rayflo is broadly drawn, campy, insouciant, sometimes blatant, with a childlike element to his personality that gives some surprising depth, while Charley is reserved and dispassionate, seemingly almost rigid, but we get some hints of the potential for wild abandon, particularly where Johnny is concerned.

It's from Tokyopop, and I can't wait to get my hands on volume 2.

Here's a bit of the interior graphics, which will also give you an idea of just what kind of hunks we're dealing with here:


Yesterday was day of the national protest against Prop 8 and the hate campaigns waged by the Mormon Church, the Catholic hierarchy, and the Dobson Gang. I had planned on attending the Chicago rally downtown, but. . . .

I blew it. I was sitting here trying to make sense out of a piece of garbage I had written before submitting it, and when I looked at the clock, it was 1 pm. The rally started at 12:30, and it would have taken me at least an hour to get downtown. Damn! So, all I can do at this point is say thank you to those who were out there, and try to spread the word. It helps to know that there will be more protests, more demonstrations, more of everything: this is just starting, so I will have a chance to go out and freeze my skinny little ass off for a good cause.

Enough of us were on the ball that yesterday looked very good. Andrew Sullivan has a series of posts with reports from readers across the country this morning. Here are some comments from Chicago, and I just love this picture -- a wedding party who spontaneously joined the demonstration.

Andy Towle has photo albums from what seems to be every state in the union. Here's the tracking page at Calitics, where you can find out what's coming up. Yes, boys and girls, this is just the beginning.

From Sullivan, this comment, I think, points the direction:

There will be a campaign by the Christianists to define and describe the reaction to having our families attacked and marriages voided as bigoted, angry, vicious and the like. A few incidents will be used by the usual suspects - O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Kristol, Drudge, Fox, The Weekly Standard, National Review, FRC et al. - to tarnish the thousands who showed up today as nasty people hostile to religious freedom. Watch them also try to use code-words about children to stir up fear. There's nothing we can do about this kind of thing, except show that the overwhelming sentiment from today was positive.

I think it's time to start picketing the offices of Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, O'Reilly, and Westboro Baptist Church (put Phelps where he belongs, right with the rest of the Dobson Gang), the whole rotten, lying crew. Picket them every week, if we have to.

Keep it legal, keep it civil, but do it.

Note on the title: This is my response to Carpenter, Rauch, and the rest of the "don't make waves" contingent: here's some real backlash, fellas, not the carefully orchestrated rovian campaigns you're talking about.

Update: Box Turtle Bulletin has reports from cities all across the country and even one or two overseas.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Tactics

The LDS Church is all wounded about being held responsible for its role in the Prop 8 campaign. Via Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, this statement from the LDS Church:

Since the people of California voted to reaffirm the sanctity of traditional marriage between a man and a woman on November 4, 2008, places of worship have been targeted by opponents of Proposition 8 with demonstrations and, in some cases, vandalism. People of faith have been intimidated for simply exercising their democratic rights. These are not actions that are worthy of the democratic ideals of our nation. The end of a free and fair election should not be the beginning of a hostile response in America.

The Church is keenly aware of the differences of opinion on this difficult and sensitive matter. The reasons for this principled stand in defense of marriage have already been articulated elsewhere. However, some of what we have seen since Californians voted to pass Proposition 8 has been deeply disappointing.

Attacks on churches and intimidation of people of faith have no place in civil discourse over controversial issues. People of faith have a democratic right to express their views in the public square without fear of reprisal. Efforts to force citizens out of public discussion should be deplored by people of goodwill everywhere.

We call upon those who have honest disagreements on this issue to urge restraint upon the extreme actions of a few that are further polarizing our communities and urge them to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other.

Let us remind you of the tactics used by these "people of faith". First, from Jim Burroway;

I worked for a Mormon-owned CPA firm… I was fired from my job after admitting that I had voted NO on prop 102.

I was discussing the election on Wednesday with some co workers (who don’t vote) and I asked if you would have voted, what would you have voted on 102? She told me she would have voted no, so I said well at least I’m not the only one on the office that was against it. Then she said wait, what was a no vote for? So I explained 102 to her. She got extremely angry and started saying it was an abomination. So I told her that I had a cousin who was gay that was murdered in a hate crime because he was gay. So I supported it because it was just an equal rights issue. So I just dropped it and didn’t discuss it anymore.

The next day she had a meeting with the owner, and when I came in on Friday they told me that I was being let go. When I asked if it was because of my work performance, the owner said “Let’s just call it a management decision.” I had spoken to the owner just weeks before about the upcoming year and he was telling me he wanted to give me a raise. He had booked me for a tax seminar for the second week of Dec., so I know he was planning on me being employed with him for awhile until this.

And via Queerty, this report:

A lesbian mother in Fresno says she was forced to resign from her position as president of the parent-teacher association at her son's Catholic school after she spoke out against banning gay marriage.

Robin McGehee, who enrolled her son Sebastian at St. Helens Catholic School, says she went to a vigil for the "No on Proposition 8" campaign last Thursday. After that, a priest from the Diocese of Fresno told her to step down because she had gone against church teachings.

The PTA's vice president, Tiffany Rodriquez, confirmed that McGehee was removed. Rodriquez herself resigned in protest of her removal.

The school directed inquiries to Rick Sexton of the Office of Catholic Education, who said he couldn't discuss the issue due to privacy concerns.

It occurs to me that "privacy concerns" have been a godsend for the Catholic hierarchy. Just think about it for a bit.

And from Hooper again:

Prop 8 Threat Letter

Somehow I can't summon up a lot of sympathy for these poor, harassed "people of faith."