"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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Those Who Talk to Themselves

and don't even listen. I feel like I should have an award for the kinds of things I've discovered this week from the mouths (or keyboards) of right-wing loonies. The most high-profile example is the pope, who can be counted on for self-serving wackery. On pedophilia:

“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said. . . .

“We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,” he said, citing the growth of child pornography “that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society” he said.

No one I know considers the sexual abuse of children "normal," not now and not in the '70s -- but then, I don't know any Catholic bishops. In spite of all that has come to light regarding the Church's concerted efforts not only to overlook priestly abuse of children, but to actively enable it, I find it hard to believe that the pope is still looking for scapegoats. Or maybe not -- when he was simply Cardinal Ratzinger, the current pope was the first one to blame gay priests for pedophilia. He's consistent in not taking responsibility, at least.

Digby also has some thoughts on this one.

We have another strong dissociation from objective reality from Michael Medved, who came up with this doozy:

If men and women are profoundly different-and both science and common sense tell us they are- then an all-female couple is even more different from an all-male couple than either homosexual bond differs from a heterosexual union. This distinction helps explain the oft-noted quirk in public attitudes that sees stronger opposition and denunciation, in the Old Testament and elsewhere, to a physical relationship between two males and intimacy between two females. A physical connection between a female couple, like a physical connection between man and woman, is based primarily on acts of affection. The most common sexual practice between two men involves an act of aggression ---inflicting more pain than pleasure for at least one of the parties.

Point one: if it hurts, you're not doing it right.

Point two: how is anal (i.e., penetrative) sex between men "aggressive," but vaginal (i.e. penetrative) sex between a man and a woman an "act of affection"?

I take this as deliberate demonization on Medved's part, with a full helping of the ick factor. As for the stronger disapproval of sex between men, Medved gives himself away when the cites the Old Testament: of course patriarchs don't like to think about that -- they're afraid of losing their (masculine) power. If anyone stopped to think about it for thirty seconds (and judging from the comments on that post, few of his audience bother to think at all), they'd realize that if straight men are capable of affectionate and loving sex, then so are gay men. Duh.

Star Parker is just plain dumb as a rock. (I'm giving you the link through Box Turtle Bulletin, because Rob Tisinai did a good, if too charitable, take-down. If you want to read Parker's piece in all its glorious incoherence, you can follow the link in Tisinai's post.) You can tell she's not operating with a full deck:

Americans are becoming more prone to believe that individuals cannot take personal responsibility for their sexual behavior. Thirty six percent believe today that homosexual behavior is genetically determined compared to 14% who believed this forty years ago.

Tisinai published a link to the poll, and as might be expected, the poll is about orientation and identity, not about behavior. Parker, apparently, doesn't know the difference. The whole post is close to word salad -- I wasn't able to find a logical progression between any two parts of it.

Apparently, one basic characteristic that's missing on the anti-gay right is the ability for self-editing, not in terms of not saying things, but in terms of looking at what you've actually said. Maybe it's just that they've become so fundamentally dishonest that they just don't know the difference any more.

A Good Way to End the Year

Via Joe.My.God., here's a terrific interview with Dan Savage that covers a lot of territory. The real treasure is toward the end, but take the time to watch the whole thing.

And that is why I'm willing to consider Savage one of the real spokesmen for GLBTs.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In case you haven't figured it out yet,

don't expect a lot of blogging over the holidays. I need some time off.

(Of course, if I find a story I just have to comment on. . . .)

Yeah, We're the Greatest.

Sobering article from AlterNet on how Europeans view America during the economic crisis. Key point:

Some social scientists think that making sure large-scale crime or fascism never takes root in Europe again requires a taxpayer investment in a strong social safety net. Can we learn from Europe? Isn't it better to invest in a social safety net than in a large criminal justice system? (In America over 2 million people are incarcerated.)

Everyone is so nervous about fascism rearing its head in Europe that they forgot to think about how to stop it here.

It's also worth remembering that Germany, with strong unions, a strong social safety net, and diligent regulation of the financial industry, wasn't hit as hard by the recession as the U.S. and is recovering more quickly.


This clip of Glenn Greenwald vs. Fran Townsend and Jessica Yellin is fascinating:

Everyone expects Townsend to be a shill for Big Gov, and I suppose no one should be surprised that Yellin has no clue as to what journalism is about, but note that their only counter to Greenwald is to repeat what they said before.

And Yellin's obvious agenda is shameful.


Here's Greenwald's post about the segment.

And more from Digby.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Jim Henson's Labyrinth

I picked Jim Henson's Labyrinth up for a steep discount, for which I am eternally grateful, and on the basis of my memory of an engaging and delightful film. Well.

For those not familiar with the story, Sarah is stuck babysitting her baby brother Toby again, and he won't stop crying. She tries telling a story, and that doesn't work. She finally makes a wish that the goblins will steal him. It takes three tries, but she finally gets it right. (Did I mention that Sarah tends to live in a fantasy world?) The Goblin King appears and tells her that unless she rescues Toby from his castle, at the middle of a labyrinth, within thirteen hours, he will keep the child. So of course, Sarah sets off on her quest.

The big plus on this one is the Henson puppets, which are suitably bizarre and (almost) thoroughly engaging. (Brian Froud did the concept designs for this one, so you know what to expect.) Sadly, everything else is mediocre at best, although Jennifer Connelley as Sarah does move into the role effectively after a bad start. (The first couple scenes are good to skip -- they ring pretty hollow.) I remember David Bowie as the Goblin King being much better than he is this time around, and while I realize if you've got a major rock star in a major role in your major movie, you're going to want to let him sing, in this case he would have been much better off concentrating on his acting -- the songs are not his best efforts, and are actually fairly jarring in context.

It gets pretty repetitive, with Henson and the writer, Terry Jones, seemingly going for weird at the expense of story, and even with the puppets and the weirdness, at some point you've got to rely on the story. Characterizations are pretty shallow, and while there's a certain unreality to the film, it's not the right unreality, if you know what I mean.

If you're about seven, this might make the grade. For anyone older, take a pass.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Social Security and the Press

Here's a great interview from the Columbia Journalism Review on the realities of the Social Security "crisis" and how the press has fallen down on it.

The bare facts:

Opponents of Social Security are deliberately confusing Social Security with Medicare; they are distorting reality. There are simple facts that should be reported: 1) Social Security never contributed a dime to the deficit; 2) Social Security softened the impact of the Reagan deficits by building up a surplus; 3) the federal government borrowed the money and spent it on other things; 4) the federal government has to pay this money back because it really belongs to the working people who paid their FICA deductions every pay day. The elites in both parties know the day is approaching when the federal government has to come up with the trillions it borrowed from the workers. That is the crisis the politicians don’t want to deal with, so they create a phony argument that slyly blames working people for their problem. That’s the propaganda they want the public to believe.

And the role of the press:

WG: I am daring reporters to go and find out the truth about this and report it. I’m not asking them to draw big conclusions or to assert their opinions. Just be honest reporters. It’s so frustrating to see the coverage. I’m not asking reporters to change any minds. I’m just asking them to do some real reporting. I mean, go to the facts—the actuarial records—and talk to a variety of experts. Reporters ring up the same sources and ask them how to think about Social Security.

TL: What does the public understand about what is happening?

WG: Not everyone understands what is happening. But most do. Most people know they have paid money into Social Security all these years and the money belongs to them, not the federal government. This is not welfare. It’s probably the best-understood program in the federal government. In fact, polls indicate in these troubled times the public believes people need increased benefits.

TL: Why hasn’t the press talked about Social Security as social insurance?

WG: My guess is that very few reporters understand what it is, or know that the concept of social insurance originated as a conservative idea—conserving social solidarity. It was first proposed more than one hundred years ago in Germany by Bismarck—not exactly a left-winger. Today’s critics style it as an entitlement program, and therefore reporters think that it’s like welfare. It’s not something the government gives to greedy old people. Alan Simpson has been relentless on this point. The press has picked up on Simpson’s language and made it sound like it’s a hand-out.

It's a great interview. Read the whole thing -- and then write your senators.

White Christmas

It snowed again last night.

It looks something like that, although that's an old image. Maybe I really should consider going digital with the photography, even though I've have a full darkroom set-up. Here's a couple more:

I was actually out in a blizzard shooting when I took that one.  And one that I've always liked, even though it bothers me a little -- the dark diagonal through the middle is actually the image, not something I did in processing or printing.


After having read through too many screeds by the likes of Bryan Fischer, Ann Coulter, Peter LaBarbera, Tony Perkins -- well, the list is too long to put all the names here -- I thought I'd pass this story along:

Yeah, we are so freakin' self-centered and hedonistic. I have to wonder how The Usual Suspects would handle something like this: what do you suppose they're doing for those in need this Christmas?

Thanks to Joe.My.God.

Friday, December 24, 2010

I < 3 Barney Frank

I don't think there's anyone in Congress who deals with idiots as effectively as he does. Watch how this "reporter" gets completely derailed:

Insight du jour: It Is About Civil Rights

This post grew out of a comment that I left at Pam's House Blend on the lessons of the DADT repeal fight.

One thing we've missed in the whole DADT, DOMA, ENDA, etc. series of gripe sessions has been the kind of man we're dealing with in this president. It occurs to me that, given Obama's history as a candidate and his background in community organizing, gay activism -- and I mean real activism, GetEqual, Dan Choi, SLDN, all of us who have pushed -- have been part of the strategy.

Obama is an extraordinarily intelligent and well-educated man who earned his chops as a community organizer. That's the kind of thinking that we haven't paid enough attention to. We wanted a leader, but his performance so far has not been as the kind of leader who says "follow me" but one who says "march with me." I think we've misread him in some essential and very important ways, and I also think that we've allowed ourselves to move into the realm of "tell us what to do" rather than taking the reins ourselves. Maybe his one mistake -- and I'm not sure I can really call it a mistake -- is in expecting us to be, not as smart as he is, but more quick on the uptake than we have been.

I think the posts I've seen congratulating those who did the pushing come close to the point without ever identifying it: Obama has said "push me" and "hold our feet to the fire" and that's exactly what he meant -- he's still building that grassroots movement that he started during his campaign. And I suspect very strongly that he really does see our fight for equality in the same terms as the Black Civil Rights movement, and understands, as we are beginning to understand, the tactics and methods that are necessary to make it work: not only lobbying and the courts, but lobbying the people at large, if I can call it that: demonstrations and large gestures designed to make the news.

One thing that strikes me as I read through the "mainstream" blogs and the non-gay press is how much this particular episode has penetrated the awareness of the non-gay world. (And let's be honest here: gay issues are not on most people's radar, especially now that they have so much else to worry about.) And that's a big part of success: grabbing headlines and keeping them is a necessity, and I think Obama probably deserves as much credit for our success on that score as Robin McGehee and Dan Choi: he gave us no alternative. The result is that we are now a regular part of the news. (And I have to give credit to Tony Perkins, Peter Sprigg, Pete LaBarbera and the other usual suspects for helping us stay there.)

At this point, my respect for the president has gone up a couple of notches, and I'm sitting here saying "Mr. President? I think I got it -- finally."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I just, quite by mistake, read an absolutely amazing piece of tripe at Catholic Online (no, I'm not going to link) about what a disaster the repeal of DADT will be, graced by some of the most fundamentally brainless comments you've ever seen.

And once again I'm reminded of the amazing inability of Christian fanatics to even admit that there is a point of view besides theirs. The piece is full of references to the "homosexual agenda" and "social experiments" and the "liberal" attempt to take God out of everything.

The prize was the comment from someone that "homosexuality is defined by an act, but heterosexuality is defined by God." I have to admit, this was one of those situations when I almost spit all over my keyboard. Think about the mindset required to come up with something like that.

Y'know, I generally refrain from criticizing believers on the basis of their belief -- after all, I'm a believer myself, although of the sort that most Christians characterize as "godless" (which has always puzzled me -- I have more gods than I can keep track of, while they only admit to having one), but there are limits. What I can't forgive is the kind of smug ignorance displayed by this particular group, which in the case of the essayist, as well as many of the commenters, was couched in fairly inflammatory terms.

Believe whatever you want, but for the love of all the benevolent gods, use the brains you were given.

Well, It's a Beginning

Two related stories this morning, that I hope point to a trend. First, via C&L, John Kerry ripping Mitch McConnell a new one:

I would say to my friend from Kentucky: Just because you say it, doesn’t make it true. Our friends on the other side of the aisle have a habit of repeating things that have been completely refuted by every fact there is. … The facts are that this treaty is not being rushed.

This treaty has been delayed at the request of Republicans. It was delayed 13 times… to have more time to deal with the modernization issue, which the administration has completely, totally, thoroughly dealt with in good faith. I’d like to know where the good faith comes from on the other side. They [the administration] put extra money in, they sat and negotiated, they sent people to Arizona to brief Senator Kyl personally. For weeks we delayed the process of moving forward on this treaty in order accommodate our friends on the other side of the aisle. And now fully accommodated, with their requests entirely met, they come back and say ‘oh its being rushed.’ Well Mr. President today marks our sixth day of debate on the New START treaty. That’s a fact. … I mean is there no shame.

I was debating whether to include this video, but it's a good speech. It's a really good speech:

And, from TPM, Fox News's Shep Smith naming names:

"We called a lot of Republicans today who are in office at the moment," he said Monday afternoon. "These are the ones who told us 'no': Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Enzi, Grassley, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Baucus, Gregg, and Inhofe. No response from Bunning, Coburn, Ensign, Graham, Hatch, and McCain."

"Why does no one want to talk about this?" Smith asked.

These are just two late examples of something that I've been seeing more and more of lately -- here's another from Fox News -- well, the local affiliate:

AFTAH's website currently hosts content denouncing gays in the military, gay marriage and civil unions, and gay parenting. It suggests that there are links between homosexuality and pedophilia, and even presents an argument that gay airport security screeners be banned from frisking passengers of the same sex, complete with a fake, photo-shopped image of gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) "patting down" a would-be traveler.

SPLC's Potok said such messages are "false, demonizing propaganda."

It's a good report -- and LaBarbera sounds like a real snake-oil salesman.

Let's hope it's a trend.

Sound Familiar?

Let's see:

1. Corrupt "pro-business government" - check
2. Regulators not regulating - check
3. Huge bonuses to bankers for wild risk-taking - check
4. Huge government bail-out - check
5. We're paying the bill - check
6. They're living high on the hog - check
7. The rest of us, if we're lucky enough to have jobs, are struggling - check

U.S.A., or Ireland?

Or both?

Except the Irish seem to be smarter than most of us -- they know exactly who's responsible. Of course, they don't have the blessings of Fox News.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DADT: For Those Who Oppose Repeal

Read this story from Fox News. Yes, that's right -- Fox News.

But if it's one thing I have learned from the U.S. military, that institution I so love and am honored to have worked with, it is that it is a master at adapting. It adjusted from an offensive force to a heart-and-minds corps where troops are often more social workers than soldiers. When it realized it had to rethink tactics in Iraq, the military changed from a Cold War-era conventional army to a counter-insurgency force. I am most certain it will adapt in the case of the repeal of D.A.D.T.. Even those admirable model embodiments of masculinity, the Marines.

The U.S. military is a cross-section of American society and it genuinely prides itself in it being one big family, warts and all. They live and breath that essential value on the frontline and back at home base.

When it comes to gays, they say every family has one and the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Marines have plenty. It'll be rocky at first but let's all move on. By nature, America is a progressive and inclusive society – which makes it the envy of other nations.

Read the whole thing. Then send a copy to John McCain.

Monday, December 20, 2010

DADT: This Is What It's About

From WaPo, an excellent article on DADT at the front lines:

KABUL - The gay Army lieutenant's heart had been racing all night.

Shuffling between meetings at his outpost in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday night, the 27-year-old officer kept popping his head into the main office to catch a glimpse of Fox News's coverage of the Senate debate that led to a vote lifting the ban on gay men and lesbians serving in the military openly.

"Don't cry," a 21-year-old specialist, one of the lieutenant's confidants, told his boss jokingly when news broke that 65 senators had voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell."

"I'm completely numb," was all the lieutenant could mutter. . . .

The stakes were also high for the specialist. His brother is gay and had vowed to join the Air Force if the policy were repealed this year. Their father is also gay, which made attending military events somewhat awkward for the family.

"It just made for a weird situation," he said.

This points up one thing that you never hear from the anti-repeal contingent: we're there, people know we're there and it's been fine, but somehow everything is going to dissolve into total chaos if we're allowed to say so.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Congressional Oxymoron

I couldn't pass this one up:

Bachmann gets on Intelligence Committee

Reviews in Brief: Rakun's U Don't Know Me

Rakun's U Don't Know Me is a Korean BL man hwa, about two childhood friends, Seyun and Yoojin, who are separated when Seyun's family moves away but reunite years later in high school. And as it turns out, in spite of their closeness as children, they don't know each other very well at all.

Although it doesn't come through with absolute clarity, this is another character-driven story, with conflicts seated in assumptions on either side that turn out to be unjustified. It's also a little bit on the seamy side -- Seyun's acquaintances are not all upstanding citizens, although Yoojin seems to be pretty much squeaky clean -- star athlete, excellent student, good relationship with his parents. (Seyun's parents are not always the most understanding.) Seyun is deceptive -- he seems very frail but is anything but.

It's the parents who offer another one of the surprises in this story, particularly Yoojin's, who discover the nature of the boys' friendship when it's progressed somewhat beyond mere cameraderie.

There's very little comedy in this one, and what there is is pretty understated, although there are a series of vignettes at the end that give us some real -- well, "comedy" is perhaps too strong: call it "humor" of a mordant sort.

The drawing is very clean,, and there's a good clear flow to the graphics, and although the layouts are not too adventurous, they have their moments. Character designs are, of course, appealing, although not as expressive as they could be.

It's from NetComics, a new one for me, but a publisher who looks interesting.

What Does It Take?

Via C&L:

This is another one that should be a no-brainer, and I think Weiner's tirade on the floor of the House was perfectly justified (we've lost Alan Grayson, but at least we still have Anthony Weiner, for which we can be thankful). Here's a key point:

We figured out a way to pay for it. It's completely paid for now. And we have the votes and so for John McCain to say this is some kind of a game or a stunt... no.

John McCain is a disgrace to the Senate. (This is the same John McCain who's talked to "thousands" of enlisted personnel who oppose DADT repeal. Yeah, right.) That, at this point, is too obvious to need repeating. Sadly, it's at the point where the Senate is a disgrace to America. They've forgotten why they're there. And yes, it's largely the Republicans, but not entirely. There are enough Rahm Emanuel Democrats on board with the whole kabuki thing that the Senate is a waste of time -- they can't even manage basics, like voting on bills.


Well, it seems there was another player in the defeat of the first responders bill -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

I was surprised to find out that the Chamber put the full court press on the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 ”because it was funded by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations doing business in the United States.”

Here's the story from ThinkProgress.

And when the Senate does manage to pass something, it's a stopgap or a maybe -- like DADT "repeal," which is not repeal. The Pentagon will slow-walk that one until they manage to make a mess of it, I suspect because, like the Senate, there are no leaders left there, just kabuki actors and politicians -- which have become pretty much the same thing.

It's kind of appalling to have two failed presidencies in a row. (Yes, I've written off Obama as someone who can actually get anything done without bastardizing it enough to make it useless -- except, for some reason, budget-busting tax cuts for the rich.)


This is what John McCain does for a living:

If he had any integrity left, he'd retire.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


From this post at C&L, detailing some of the appalling behavior of Illnois' junior senator -- from John McCain, we expect appalling behavior at this point -- this little nugget:

Senator Tom Coburn has a database of the earmarks that made it into this year’s omnibus – you can see what kinds of projects are funded – things like Army Corps of Engineer projects, funds for Community Colleges, Universities, and other research facilities, foreclosure assistance programs, anti-drug programs, crime prevention programs, vaccine programs, assistance for farmers, green energy projects, medical research, funding for military bases, etc. This is funding that will help keep people in jobs and help innovate at a time when we need to create jobs. So what did Republicans do? They voted against the American people and voted for playing politics – and then they laughed like sociopaths.

And there you have it -- the country's being run by a bunch of sociopaths.

That explains a lot.

Poison Pill

This is choice. Via Joe.My.God.:

We are pledging today to endorse, and help fund, conservative primary challengers to any U.S. Senator who votes during the lame-duck session to overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ FRC Action PAC will work to remove any U.S. Senator who would place liberal special interests ahead of the priorities of the American people. The U.S. Senate has twice rejected the overturn of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Despite this, Majority Leader Harry Reid continues with his obsession while failing to address the essential responsibilities of the federal government. As three of the four service chiefs have made clear, the men and women of the Armed Forces who are engaged in fighting two wars should not be distracted by Congress using them to advance a liberal social agenda.

What kind of whack-job do you think is going to accept funding and an endorsement from a designated hate group?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Leadership" in the Marines

Via Joe.My.God. (and not a few other sources), a report on the latest horseshit from Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marines.

The chief of the US Marine Corps said Tuesday that ending a ban on openly gay troops in the military could jeopardize the lives of Marines in combat by undermining closely knit units.

General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps and an opponent of lifting the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" prohibition, cited a Pentagon study saying Marines fighting in Afghanistan were worried that permitting gays to serve openly could disrupt "unit cohesion."

"When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behavior of the young man ... who sits to your right and your left, you don't want anything distracting you," Amos told reporters at the Pentagon.

"I don't want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs," he said.

He added that "mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines' lives. That's the currency of this fight."

Ya wanna do some parsing? How about this interpretation:

"The Marines under my command are not mature enough nor dedicated enough to accomplish their missions. Nor are they capable of concentrating on the mission at hand. Their training isn't good enough to insure that they can perform their duties. And I am not a strong enough leader to implement a change in this policy."

That's what it sounds like to me.

At this point, taking this at face value would be a serious mistake. And I'm not the only one calling him on it:

Servicemembers United executive director Alex Nicholson, meanwhile, said in a statement that Amos's "commentary is moving from the realm of reasonable disagreement in the provision of professional military advice to hysteria-inducing absurdity on this topic that reflects very poorly on DOD and on the administration."

The commander-in-chief should have already had this joker's balls nailed above the door of the Oval Office.

Before You Throw Money in That Bucket

Read this.

In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all its soup kitchens in the New York City area—which would have ended $250 million worth of contracts with the city—if they were forced to offer benefits to same-sex couples. This move would have lost the Salvation Army around $70 million in direct funding from the city and endangered the lives of several thousand people reliant on the Salvation Army.

Was this supposed to be a principled stand? All the homeless people receiving care from the Salvation Army would be turned out on the street. What would have motivated The Salvation Army to make such a callous move? They said that, by offering benefits to same sex couples, they’d be supporting HIV/AIDS because HIV/AIDS is only the product of homosexual intercourse.

AIDS? How does AIDS factor in? Oh yeah, I forgot! Gay people don’t suffer from non-gay sex related maladies. If a same sex couple needs health benefits, it must be from all that AIDS they’re spreading around.

You probably know of other charities that do good work and are honest. Donate to them. You can also check out charities at the Charity Navigator.

You don't need to subsidizing discrimination, especially over the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fighting Back

I mentioned this awhile back, in this post, but haven't had time to do a proper follow-up. Here's the original story, from HuffPo:

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) spoke on Fox News Wednesday morning and explained his outrage over the critically acclaimed installation.
"This is a museum that gets $5.8 million in taxpayer dollars and in the middle of a high deficit, 15 million unemployed Americans, they decide to have money to spend like this. This is a museum that, by the way, has next to it a display of the American presidents, on the other side, Elvis, and then you go through this -- which is really perverted, sick stuff -- ashes of an AIDS victim, in a self-portrait, eating himself. Male nudity, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her own breast - lots of really kinky and really questionable kind of art."
Kingston continued, explaining his concern that federal funds, though not at all related to the materials in the gallery, were being used to subsidize the building that the specific piece was housed in.

Got that? Federal funds are being used to subsidize a building that is showing art (the exhibition was privately funded).

Art has no place in the conservative mindset, I guess, unless it's saccharine paintings of Christ holding a lamb or something. (Or suffering on the Cross. They really seem to like suffering.) That's the sort of thing that happens when a legitimate political philosophy is hijacked by a bunch of radical religious thugs.

And a congressional investigation? You want to investigate something, how about giving the president sole authority to order the assassination of American citizens? That's worth investigating.

Bill Donohue, who speaks for four or five Catholics, was involved, of course:

Today, after a few hours of pressure from the Catholic League and various conservatives, it decided to remove a video by David Wojnarowicz, a gay artist who died from AIDS-related illness in 1992. As part of "Hide/Seek," the gallery was showing a four-minute excerpt from a 1987 piece titled "A Fire in My Belly," made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist-colleague and lover of Wojnarowicz who had died of AIDS complications in 1987. And for 11 seconds of that meandering, stream-of-consciousness work (the full version is 30 minutes long) a crucifix appears onscreen with ants crawling on it. It seems such an inconsequential part of the total video that neither I nor anyone I've spoken to who saw the work remembered it at all.

But that is the portion of the video that the Catholic League has decried as "designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians," and described as "hate speech" - despite the artist's own hopes that the passage would speak to the suffering of his dead friend. The irony is that Wojnarowicz's reading of his piece puts it smack in the middle of the great tradition of using images of Christ to speak about the suffering of all mankind. There is a long, respectable history of showing hideously grisly images of Jesus - 17th-century sculptures in the National Gallery's recent show of Spanish sacred art could not have been more gory or distressing - and Wojnarowicz's video is nothing more than a relatively tepid reworking of that imagery, in modern terms.

They just don't get it. They don't understand art, they don't like challenges to their world view (which is what art is supposed to do, for the love of all gods beneficent), and they're really big on displays of naked power. If they were less aggressive in their ignorance, I'd be able to feel sorry for them. As it stands, I consider them about the lowest form of life. (That's an excellent piece from WaPo, by the way -- read the whole thing.)

Happily, we're now getting some pushback. Via Towleroad:

Mr. Wayne Clough
Smithsonian Institution
SIB Office of the Secretary
MRC 016
PO Box 37012
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012

Dear Mr. Clough,

The Warhol Foundation is proud to have been a lead supporter of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, but we strongly condemn the decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly from the exhibition. Such blatant censorship is unconscionable. It is inimical to everything the Smithsonian Institution should stand for, and everything the Andy Warhol Foundation does stand for.

Although we have enjoyed our growing relationship during the past three years, and have given more than $375,000 to fund several exhibitions at various Smithsonian institutions, we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear.

Last week the Foundation published a statement on its website www.warholfoundation.org, condemning the National Portrait Gallery’s removal of the work and on Friday our Board of Directors met to discuss the long-term implications of the Museum’s behavior on the Foundation’s relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. After careful consideration, the Board voted unanimously to demand that you restore the censored work immediately, or the Warhol Foundation will cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions.

I regret that you have put us in this position, but there is no other course we can take. For the arts to flourish the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.

Sincerely yours,

Joel Wachs

You may know that I'm an artist myself, and a great deal of my work would cause aneurysms in people like Rep. Kingston. I don't want my work censored, and I don't see any reason why some pig farmer from Georgia should have a say on what gets shown in a national museum -- and yes, it's taxpayer funded, and I'm one of those taxpayers.

Blake Gopnik, in the WaPo piece, had the best -- and truly conservative -- solution:

If anyone's offended by any work in any museum, they have the easiest redress: They can vote with their feet, and avoid the art they don't like.


Mahablog brings it all into focus:

Any attempt to suppress free expression by threats or bullying ought to be condemned. However, righties, that means any attempt to suppress free expression by threats or bullying ought to be condemned. That means your attempts, too.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Kairi Shimotsuki's Madness

Madness is a two-volume BL manga that brings together more or less equal parts post-Apocalyptic adventure, psychological thriller, romance, and weird.

It's far in the future, and the world is recovering from a series of massive earthquakes that destroyed civilization -- or most of it. One effect of the collapse has been the rise of a group of wanton killers, the gang "Madness," who knew no limits on their savagery. But they've been missing for a while, disbanded -- their leader, Kyo, was killed.

In the Church of Saint Shuhamiel, there is a prisoner, a young man who has lost his memories, tended to by the gentle young priest, Izaya. The prisoner was jailed by Iazaya's father as a criminal; he also possessed a sword, named "Siegfried," itself a fearsome weapon. The prisoner is Kyo, and one day another member of Madness, Sae, arrives -- he wants the sword. After things have sorted themselves out, Kyo, Sae and Izaya flee to another city -- but it seems someone is on their tails, assassins intent on obliterating all trace of Madness.

The story is more than a little rough around the edges, a quality unfortunately reinforced by the graphic work, which, will arresting and sometimes quite beautiful, is as often as not unreadable. It's not until the second volume that we have any idea what's really going on, and the whole thing turns out to hinge on a somewhat trite science-fiction device. It really takes two or three readings to get a clear idea of the story line.

The cast of characters, however, is engaging, if somewhat weird, and the drawing makes it clear who is who, although they are all quite lovely.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one -- it's not horrible, but it could be much better with a little more clarity in story line and graphics.

It's from BLU.

The Whole Mess

in less than fifteen minutes. A brilliant segment from Rachel Maddow on the tax "compromise" (a/k/a "throw your hand down before the game starts"), featuring Bernie Sanders' marathon speech in the Senate (with graphs and charts) and commentary by Jan Schakowsky, who really comes out swinging (in the nicest possible way).

This brings it home: the Republicans are running a scam, and we're the ones who are paying for it. There's not a lot to add to Maddow's commentary, and there's even less to add to Schakowsky's. The Republicans are offering bullshit, and president is lapping it up, and it's up to us to stop it.

If you want a good take on how pernicious this deal is, think about the payroll tax holiday. Sounds good, right? Except FICA is the funding for Social Security. It's a Wall Street wet dream.

"They have to look everywhere for ways to stimulate the economy," said Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works and author of The Battle for Social Security. "Republicans suggested this, they went for it."

Dean Baker, progressive economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, agreed.

"I think that's speculation, I don’t believe the administration planned in advance for this situation," he said. "It simply wasn’t a priority for them. First and foremost, [it was to] get a deal with the Republicans. They weren't really thinking down the line."

Barbara B. Kennelly, President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said the payroll tax holiday was "a longstanding Republican idea. I have no idea why they went for it. They wanted to give some stimulus to the economy."

Of course the Republicans suggested it -- the Republicans have been trying to gut Social Security since it was created. It's the one big government program that works, it's keeping seniors out of poverty (now that the bankers have eaten their retirement savings), and the Republicans want to "fix" it -- like you have your cat fixed.

Meanwhile, the EU is getting its act together and clamping down on the bankers who caused the mess.

Bankers were yesterday told there will be no backing down from an EU demand that they should be paid no more than 20 per cent of their bonuses up front in cash, as experts said Europe's pay rules would be the "toughest in the world".

The Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS) has resisted an intense lobbying effort by UK officials and the banking industry
, which pleaded for the rules to be watered down and phased in only gradually.

Applying from 1 January, the requirements finalised yesterday will cover this year's forthcoming bonus round. Many bankers in Britain are top-rate taxpayers, so any cash component of their bonuses is hit by a hefty 50 per cent tax take.

Just remember: It can't happen here, because the bankers own the government. Or at least, what's not owned by other major industries.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Must Read: We Can Grow

Great story from AP.

It occurs to me that the group building the not-mosque that's not at Ground Zero are also Sufis.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm So Sick of This

From Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room, a list of military priorities the lockstep brigade in the Senate managed to stall.

What’s happening here is that the very same Republicans who were blasting Democrats for voting against military funding to protest the Iraq war are now using their objection to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — which the majority of the military actually supports — to obstruct and delay the above benefits and pay increases. In fact, they’re even prioritizing extending tax cuts for the richest Americans to the provisions in the defense bill. And, they’re somehow getting away with it all.

Of course they're getting away with it -- the Democrats and the MSM are working overtime to make sure they do.

I'm about to fire off an e-mail to my freshman senator, Mark Kirk, who made such capital of his military service (or tried to -- it turns out he was lying through his teeth) during the campaign. It's quite obvious that the Republicans think that somehow national security is dependent on making the rich richer, hence hanging everything off the Bush tax cuts -- which, as it happens, were the single biggest factor in our current deficit, give or take a war of choice and the war that Bush didn't want to fight -- at least, not once we were actually there.

The House is on top of it, though:

To be sure, some (but not all) of these pieces will be transferred into the continuing resolution (CR) and several are already included in the House CR, which passed last night. For instance, the CR “Provides DoD broad authority to realign funding to accommodate programs and projects planned for FY 2011″ and “Extends several authorities required for military pay and bonuses and compensation for civilian employees serving in theater, and authorities needed for overseas contingency operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.” The House CR also includes including “funds for a 1.4% military pay raise” — which was part of the Senate defense bill.

But only in the Senate are two pages in a bill and a completely unrelated priority reason enough to vote against even starting debate on the issue.

The left blogosphere seems convinced it's all because of DADT, but I'm not so sure: we're still in "sink the president" mode, and he's not been doing much to fight that. I think DADT is just this week's excuse.

However, we'll see on that one. Lieberman, Collins and by some reports Mark Udall are preparing to introduce a stand-alone DADT bill. Reid has promised a floor vote.

Pelosi has promised to push it through the House if it passes in the Senate.

But then, when's the last time anything actually passed in the Senate?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

We Can't Get Married,

but we can get divorced. In Illinois, at least. Interesting article from Mike Miner at the Chicago Reader on some of the wrinkles in Illinois' new civil unions law.

I have a couple of quibbles (mostly to do with him quoting opponents of equal civil rights without rebuttal) which I may get into later. (Yes, I know the article is not the place to rehash all the arguments pro and con, but I hate it when people quote these arguments as though they hold up to scrutiny.)

But for now, read and ponder the concept of "unintended consequences."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


Courtesy of the SPLC.

Apply as needed.

In Memoriam

Elizabeth Edwards has died.

She's one of the few people in pubic life I've unreservedly admired, and it's a shame she didn't have more influence than she did. We need more like her.

Communities of Faith

Some bright news, via Pam's House Blend, about active steps the Jewish community in New York is taking to combat bullying and persecution of GLBT youth:

Back in October I featured an Op-Ed by Orthodox Rabbi Steven Burg titled "There's no place for bullying in God's world".  As the international director of NCSY, the youth program of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Burg's Op-Ed provides an important counter-balance to the public anti-LGBT voices of other clergy in his sect.  I have since learned that the Rabbi's very meaningful contribution is only one of many efforts by diverse Jewish faith communities to speak as people of faith in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) youth and in opposition to bullying. 

Last month Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Keshet and Nehirim joined together to launch the "Strength Through Community" project, a Jewish response to LGBTQ youth in crisis. The project brings together the many ways these Jewish organizations have begun to respond to the bullying faced by many LGBTQ teens. 

"The energy in the Jewish community around this issue is inspiring - rabbis giving sermons, queer Jews sharing their stories for the fist time, synagogues posting GLBT Safe Zone stickers - and a clear rebuke to the idea that the religious community does not support GLBT members," said Bonnie Rosenbaum, Deputy Director of Communications and Planning at Keshet. 

It would be nice to see the Christian communities raising their profile a bit on something like this.  And it would be even nicer for the MSM to take notice:  it's not fair to people of genuine faith or to us to let the assholes have all the publicity.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Jan Schakowsky

I may have mentioned this before, but 1) she is my representative in Congress; and 2) she's serious. As a counter to the joke perpetrated by Erskine Bowles and Alan "310 million tits" Simpson, co-chairs of the Catfood Commission, she's come up with her own plan -- and it actually does something about the deficit. (The link is to a pdf file that for some reason has all the detail pages sideways. Don't ask me to explain that.) Here's her summary and critique:

* My plan recognizes the need to create jobs – a deficit-reducing strategy – that some, incorrectly, view as just more spending. Their plan does not include up front investments to lower the unemployment rate. It is important to note that if America’s unemployment rate were still at its pre-recession level of 4.5%, we would only be facing a modest deficit.

* Their plan addresses rising health care costs by asking elderly Medicare beneficiaries to pay more out of their own pockets, even though they already pay about 30% of their mostly meager incomes (the median income for seniors is $18,000 per year) on their own. Their plan cuts Medicare by $110 billion by imposing higher cost-sharing requirements on seniors and people with disabilities. Mine requires Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices like the Veteran’s Administration does, bringing down the cost to seniors and the government by billions of dollars. It also would implement a public option, which we already know would save $10 billion by 2015.

* Their plan cuts the bloated military budget, which is a very good thing. Mine does as well, but not by freezing noncombat military pay for three years or by cutting military health care benefits. These military families are not getting rich serving our country and should not be the target of deficit reduction.

* Responding to Republican calls to slash spending, the Bowles-Simpson plan calls for deep cuts in domestic discretionary spending. Using the Bowles-Simpson formula, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities calculates a 22% cut in current funding levels in 2020, jeopardizing everything from nutrition and education to medical research and job training.

* Amazingly, their plan opens a new huge loophole to incentivize companies to outsource jobs. By adopting a territorial tax system, U.S. based multi-national corporations will never have to pay taxes on profits earned from subsidiaries in foreign countries.

* Finally, the Bowles-Simpson plan would require cuts in Social Security benefits. The good news is that they acknowledge that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit, and their plan is to make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years and not to use it for debt reduction. The bad news is that average benefits for middle-income workers (average lifetime earnings of between $43,000 and $69,000 per year) could be cut up to 35% depending on when they retire. There is no need to cut Social Security in order to save it as my plan proves.

I have highlighted just a few of the ways that the Bowles-Simpson plan further erodes the middle class and threatens low-income Americans. There are many things in their plan that are also in mine, however. I appreciate that there has been consensus that the defense budget must be subjected to scrutiny and trimming in ways never seriously suggested before. It is very significant that tax expenditures, or as they call “tax earmarks," all those deductions that are largely skewed to the wealthy, are finally being recognized for what they are – spending, but through the tax code.

Schakowsky is smart enough to realize that the deficit isn't going to come down as long as the economy is in the toilet. Pity Bowles and Simpson aren't that clever -- or they think we're not.

And here's some commentary on Schakowsky's plan from Pat Garofalo at The Wonk Room

But That's (Gasp!) Socialism!

Interesting post at DailyKos about how the Germans managed not to buy into the banker-inspired collapse of the rest of the world:

Germany's government helps the unemployed start businesses with start-up capital. Maybe we should consider giving something like this a try.

Der Gründungszuschuss roughly translates into "start-up grant." It is a program for the unemployed that gives a monthly amount of seed capital for those on unemployment. The grant is means-tested and is paid on top of unemployment, health and other benefits. For example, a married couple with children can get a grant up to just under $32,000! A single person who is unemployed and has no children can get up to just over $25,000. The benefits are paid out over a period of nine months. After that, there is an extension of benefits called the "building phase" that pays an additional $400 per month for six months.

The German government expects that 20 to 30 percent of these businesses will fail. No matter. As policy, they've decided that they'd rather have people with an entrepreneurial bent out doing something rather than sitting around.

Germany also has strong unions, and they don't let the parasite class dictate the rules.

Maybe we should try something like that.

Reviews in Brief: Makoto Tateno's A Bloody Kiss Tonight

Makoto Tateno has entered the BL vampire subgenre with A Bloody Kiss Tonight, a set of interrelated stories about young men and the vampires who love them.

The core is the tale of Riku, a junior in high school, and Keito, who orders a dozen roses from the flower shop where Riku works part-time, with the stipulation that Riku deliver them. But it seems that Riku is the reincarnation of the man that Keito has loved for centuries.

Keito shares his house with two friends, Natsui and Saisei, each of whom has his own story: Saisei finds a young man he can't control, and so, of course, is captivated. Natsuhi runs across a boy on the street, obviously ill, and senses bad blood. Quite in spite of himself, Natsuhi sucks out the bad blood -- and then goes on his way.

The stories are kind of thin, to be quite honest about it -- in fact, "The Scent of Lilies," which finishes the collection, is barely more than an anecdote. One thing that I've always liked about Tateno's work is her careful delineation of character, and it just doesn't come through here -- "A Bloody Kiss Tonight II," Saisei's story, is the best in this regard, and still a little flat. I just didn't believe a lot of what was going on, and she's always been good with clear motivations. Not so much here.

The drawing is Tateno through and through -- not so prettified as Yokan: Premonition, but not quite up to the standard of Yellow or others of her earlier series. (This one was originally published in 2009.)

So, it's sort of mid-range -- not her best, but not her worst, either.

From DokiDoki.


I haven't commented on this one -- which, as Digby points out, is the most genuine political discussion we've had in this country in over a decade -- and now Digby, bless 'er, had done a great summation, so I don't have to.

There are definitely huge threats in the world. And they are coming from many directions --- terrorist violence, massive economic corruption, global warming, extremists of all sorts. What should be clear by now, however, is that the system by which we manage threats is failing. It seems to me that one thing we might want to do is start talking about that problem. This is an opportunity to do that.

I do want to mention this, however:

“PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity,” reads a statement on PayPal’s website. “We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”

Most of the over $1 million in contributions WikiLeaks has drawn in the last year have come through its PayPal account, which belongs to the Wau Holland Foundation, a German non-profit group that manages the bulk of WikiLeaks’ money.

Attempting to donate to Wau Holland though PayPal on Friday night produced the message “This recipient is currently unable to receive money.”

PayPal’s move comes amid mounting U.S. pressure against WikiLeaks over its cache of over 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables. Struggling with denial-of-service attacks on its servers earlier this week, WikiLeaks moved to Amazon’s EC2 cloud-based data-storage service, only to be summarily booted off on Wednesday. Then on Thursday its domain-name service provider, EveryDNS, stopped resolving WikiLeaks.org, after the DNS provider was battered by the DoS attacks.

Isn't it reassuring to know that major corporations are working with our government to protect us from things they don't want us to know?

And here's Julian Assange himself.

As for my own stance -- well, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I don't like people trying to control what information I have access to, under any circumstances. I say this will full understanding that sometimes particular parts of government operations must be kept secret for the time being. When the Bush administration started classifying information that had been published years before, that broke it for me: someone needs to take away the government's ability to keep secrets, and I'm glad Assange is doing it.

As for the people calling for his assassination, trial for "treason" (excuse me? He's not an American) and the like -- well, read Digby.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Civil Unions in January

That's when Gov. Quinn will sign the bill, with a signing ceremony and everything. The law takes effect in June -- how timely.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fire in My Belly

I'm posting this clip, even though I haven't watched it, because it's got the asshole right up in arms, and that's always a good thing -- it's one step closer to their heads exploding once and for all. I'll have more on this later:

Needless to say, the asshole brigade is out in full force, led, of course, by some Congressman from Nowhere, Georgia. In case you had any doubt, the Republican party, in addition to lining the bank accounts of its corporate owners, is real big on censorship -- of everyone else.

Note: as one commenter at Bilerico Project points out, this is an edited version. I'll see if I can find the full piece.

I'm Gonna Miss Mayor Daley

Well, in some respects -- like this:

After a historic vote legalizing civil unions this week, Mayor Daley on Thursday welcomed the Illinois General Assembly into “this new century” and urged lawmakers to “move faster” — and legalize gay marriage.

“Finally, they realized they should have the same rights under state law. But eventually, [gay] marriage will take place. It has to. . . . We have to move faster,” the mayor said.

Can you imagine our leading candidate to replace him, that heroic risk-taker Rahm Emanuel, making a statement like that?


Of course, considering some of the other clowns cluttering up the field . . . Well, there's always James Meeks:

"I would hope people are not looking for your average politician in the next mayor of the city of Chicago," Meeks said. "We have a lot of systemic problems that are going to have to involve people working together, blacks, whites, North Siders, South Siders . . . You need somebody that can bring all of those different groups together, so I don't want to be the average, normal, square peg in the round hole."

Meeks is presently a state senator, and the only member of the Black Caucus to vote against the civil unions bill. He's also a pastor at a South Side church. He is not the person to bring this city together. (He's making nice noises now, in spite of his civil unions vote. He's been pretty vicious in the past.)

DADT: The Hearings

I'll probably be coming back to this throughout the day, but I want to start off with Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen's statement. It's terrific.

A sample:

My belief is, if and when the law changes, our people will lead that change in a manner consistent with the oath they took. As one Marine officer put it, “If that’s what the president orders, I can tell you by God we’re going to excel above and beyond the other services to make it happen.”

And frankly, that’s why I believe that in the long run, repeal of this law makes us a stronger military and improves readiness. It will make us more representative of the country we serve. It will restore to the institution the energy it must now expend in pursuing those who violate the policy. And it will better align those organizational values we claim with those we practice.

As I said back in February, this is about integrity. Our people sacrifice a lot for their country, including their lives. None of them should have to sacrifice their integrity as well.

Read the whole thing.

And from Igor Volsky at WonkRoom, a summary. Republican talking points get trashed:

- CLAIM: Should not lift ban in a time of war.

MULLEN RESPONDS: I find the argument that war is not the time to change to be antithetical with our experiences since 2001. War does not stifle change, it demands it. It does not make change harder, it facilities it.

- CLAIM: Combat troops believe repeal would be disruptive.

HAM RESPONDS: A subsequent question to that was, under intense combat, what would your response be. And we saw the negative rates drop dramatically.

- CLAIM: 28% response rate is too low.

HAM RESPONDS: Twenty-eight percent overall response rate is well within the historical range of Department of Defense surveys of military personnel.

- CLAIM: 265,000 servicemembers would leave the military.

GATES RESPONDS: Based on the survey itself, experience would dramatically lower those numbers. If I believed that a quarter of a million people would leave the military would leave immediately, if given the opportunity, I would certainly have second thoughts about that.

- CLAIM: Servicemembers should have been asked if they believe policy should be changed.

GATES RESPONDS: I can’t think of a single precedent in American history of doing a referendum of the american armed forces on a policy issue.

This whole thing about polling the troops on whether the policy should be changed is weird. Excuse me -- the U.S. military polling the troops on whether they're willing to follow orders? Hah? (That's Japanese for "Huh?")


Greg Sargent has an excellent piece at The Plum Line about the human dimension of DADT and one question that no one has asked:

One thing that's been oddly missing from the debate in the Senate over repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell is any discussion of the moral and human dimensions of this story, at least as it concerns the gay service-members themselves. The discussion has mostly focused on how straight troops will be impacted, and has otherwise been bone dry: It's all about what the statistics in the Pentagon report actually reveal and whether Robert Gates will implement repeal on a sufficiently flexible timetable.

Indeed, when Senator James Webb today asked the Service Chiefs a simple question about the gay human beings impacted by this discriminatory policy, everyone at the hearing acted a bit startled. Webb asked: What should we do with gay patriotic Americans who have already served our country for years, and want to lead free and open lives? Everyone looked uncomfortable, as if Webb had gone way off topic.

I have to admit, I hadn't even thought about it, but it's true: it's been all about the straights.

Sound familiar?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Telling It Like It Is

Former Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander:

I don't think I need to say anything.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Excuse Me, Tony -- Who's Losing the Debate?

A good, perspicacious piece from the LA Times on why the SPLC is perfectly justified in designating Tony Perkins' Family Research Council a hate group:

So long as even the most objectionable religious dogma stays under the church roof, it's a constitutionally protected view. People's religious beliefs — even when noxious — are a private matter. Our churches are free to order their internal affairs as they will — to set the terms of sacramental marriage as they see fit, to discriminate in the selection of their clergy, to racially segregate their membership or to separate the sexes in their schools or places of worship.

However, when a group sets out to impose its views on the rest of society by lobbying for public policies or laws, it can no longer claim special protections or an exemption from the norms of civil discourse simply because its views are formed by religious beliefs. This is precisely the dodge the Family Research Council has been running.

Sounds to me like Tony is the one who is losing the debate.

Civil Unions in Illinois

Done deal. The bill passed the House last night, by all reports it has the votes in the Senate,and the Governor has said he'll sign it without delay.

I want to see Meeks squirming on this one -- he's suddenly figured out that he can't be elected mayor of Chicago without the gay vote, and he's one of the worst anti-gay voices in the Senate.

I figure we'll have full marriage rights in two years -- and I want to see NOM's reaction to this one -- we only have advisory referenda here, and the last time Peter LaBarbera tried to get one on the ballot for a constitutional amendment banning SSM, he couldn't get enough signatures -- that's not verified signatures, by the way, that's signatures, period.

I'm hyped.

How to Fix the Deficit

Make cuts in programs that aren't part of the budget. This is the kind of wisdom we're getting from the Cat Food Commmission.

The new plan by panel co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, to be unveiled Wednesday, faces an uphill slog because of proposals to raise the Social Security retirement age and lower cost-of-living increases, cut Medicare costs, curtail a huge assortment of tax breaks, like the deduction for mortgage interest, and almost double the federal tax on a gallon of gasoline.

I suppose it's better than the original -- caps on medical malpractice awards, for example, would have reduced the federal deficit exactly how? Eliminating pork? Good luck with that one.

My favorite -- lowering the income tax rate. That's really going to help.

This is going nowhere, but the real gem in this is Erskine Bowles, co-chair with Alan "310 million tits" Simpson.

"Our goal in this whole process has been really simple," Bowles said. "It's basically been to start an adult conversation here in Washington about the dangers of this debt and the deficits we are running."

Two big problems with that: first, you need some adults involved, and those are in short supply in Washington, and second, you need to offer something that has a positive impact on the budget. It would be helpful to start with something that actually involves the budget, which is not Social Security.

Congratulations, Mr. President -- you really picked a couple of winners here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


So busy watching the marriage progress around the country that I forgot to look at home. The Illinois House was expected to vote on a civil unions bill today. It's probably going to be tight, but if it passes, it goes right to the Senate, where it's expected to sail through. The Governor has said he'll sign it as soon as it hits his desk.

Next year, marriage.


The sister bill has cleared a Senate committee.

An Antidote

to the sickos in the previous post: here's Dan Savage on The Colbert Report:

Kind of cleans your brain out from the filth of Tony Perkins and his ilk, doesn't it?

The New Enemy

is the world as God made it. It seems the religious right may have finally figured out that bashing gays has limited shelf life and is moving on.

Here's the cream of the crop warning against the dangers of keeping the planet habitable. I don't know whether to laugh or throw up watching this:

Coming from a group that has lost whatever tenuous contact with reality it once had (if any), this is pretty bizarre. Think about it: stewardship of the planet is anti-Christian.

One thought at the back of my mind: who do you suppose is supplying the money behind this campaign?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reviews in Brief: Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins

I finally did it: I bought a live-action, English-language movie (two of them, in fact). Look, Ma! No subtitles!

Batman Begins is the groundwork, and since this is the post-Alan Moore Batman, with all the attendant psychological self-examination, half the film is set-up: backstory on the childhood of Bruce Wayne, the murder of his parents, and his own quest to find a way to fight the bad guys in a Gotham City that is rotten to the core. And it turns out that the enemy in this case is the man who trained him, Ras al Ghul.

I have to say, I could have used a bit less backstory on this one. It's not tight, and I think the point(s) could have been made more economically. When Wayne returns to Gotham and begins his clean-up work, the film really does come together. Action scenes are very well done (although I noticed that most of the actual hand-to-hand stuff is done is close in and tightly framed), and the techno-wizardry is top-notch. Effects are the best that money can buy. (I especially like the use of the bats as a distraction.)

The cast is superlative. Christian Bale is a revelation -- I've never seen him before, but he does the switch from playboy Bruce Wayne to caped vigilante Batman without a hitch. (He's also quite appealingly buff without being body-builder grotesque.) Michael Caine as Alfred is, as expected, flawless. Morgan Freeman is a delight -- Freeman is a really potent actor, if this is any indication. (I have to confess to not having seen his other work.) Liam Neeson is appropriately cold-blooded, and really kind of scary.

The only real annoyance is that the credits don't list roles, only actors, so it took me a while to figure out who, for example, Rutger Hauer played (I haven't seen Hauer on screen in years -- he's changed). The only "feature" is the trailer, and since it's an Area 1 release, you can watch in English or French, or with English, French or Spanish subtitles.

This was a spur-of-the-moment thing, the result of layered discounts at Borders, but it was worth it. I think I'm going to enjoy this one again and again.

(DC Comics/Warner Bros., 2005)

This is really funny

and I don't even understand what they're saying:

Interesting commentary on this at Joe.My.God.

The title of the clip, as Joe notes, is from whoever put it up -- and from the sound of at, it's some religious wingnut trying to spark a boycott. Meh -- get over it. You've lost already.

Doctrine, or Dotage?

The pope has a new book out. Everybody has a book out, but this one's from the pope, so that makes it . . . well, incoherent. Here he is, via Towleroad:

"At the same time, though, sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction, which is not homosexual," he said. "The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future."

Pretty flimsy. We assign meanings. Nothing that I can think of has an "intrinsic" meaning. Although I'm willing to recant on that: Ned Rorem once said that music has no intrinsic meaning, but we find that certain patterns of sound evoke particular emotional responses. But is that "meaning"? I'll leave it to the philosophers.

To limit the meanings of sexuality this way is pretty sad. It's also a little bit on the edge: it's a peasant philosophy, in which bloodline is sacred and in which only shared DNA has value. (Hmm -- can you say "patriarchy"? How surprising.) Which, by logical extension, means that if you adopt children, you don't really have a family and you and your children are less worthy -- you're not genuine.

This is really all bullshit, frankly. It's authority for the sake of authority, divorced from humanity, based on one truth: control sex and you control the people.

And it's not like there's any shortage of children.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Their Own Words

We all know that Tony Perkins is a serial liar -- at least, those of us who have bothered to fact-check his statements. Now he's whining about the FRC being designated as an anti-gay hate group. I like this especially:

. . . in fact, they seem more interested in fundraising ploys than fighting wrongdoing.

Pot, kettle, black.

Get this:

"Family Research Council will continue to champion marriage and family as the foundation of our society and will not acquiesce to those seeking to silence the Judeo-Christian views held by millions of Americans. We call on the Southern Poverty Law Center to apologize for this slanderous attack and attempted character assassination."

Lies, in order:

1. No, FRC is doing nothing to support families; it's purely an anti-gay group;

2. No one's trying to silence you, Tony -- you certainly get enough play from WaPo and cable news;

3. Just how many millions are we talking about here? One? Two? Out of 310. I doubt that it's more -- most of us have some moral sense.

John Aravosis did a little research and came up with quite a list. I'm not going to excerpt it here, because one example is worse than the last, and I advise you to read it on an empty stomach. Jeremy Hooper has his own list.

I'll think you'll agree, there's nothing slanderous about FRC's new status.

The Republic Economic Plan: How It Will Fix the Economy

It won't. Here's an excellent case in point.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The New Hate Groups Respond

I'm not going to spend time commenting on Tony Perkins' reaction to his Family Research Council being named an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC. Towleroad has a report.

All I'm going to say is, "If the shoe fits, wear it, Tony."

But do take a look at this piece of crap that passes for reporting at WaPo.

About Those Barons of Commerce

You know, the Masters of the Universe who inhabit Wall Street, and the feckless idiots in Washington who let them get away with their shenanigans. The free market, down with unions, outsourcing kings. Harold Myerson has a very interesting article about Germany, and how its economy, in a nation with strong unions, government support for retaining jobs, and all sorts of socialistic stuff like that, is now the strongest in the world.

You have to wonder what our home-grown boy geniuses have been smoking. Hundred dollar bills?

And as a commentary on that, read Paul Krugman's blog.

Both tidbits via Maha.

Happy Wanderers

Interesting story about a possible explanation for those blue-eyed Chinese in the western regions:

Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers.

It's an interesting story, about a group of Roman legionaries fleeing east after their legion was decisively defeated -- in fact, almost wiped out -- by the Parthians in 53 BCE. But there's no hard evidence.

Given the propensity for peoples to wander around -- we certainly know about migrations in historical times, and there's no reason to assume they're something new -- I'd have to place this as a legend rather than a theory -- absent some historical records or a couple of really spectacular archaeological finds. After all, there is a language family that includes not only almost all European languages but those spoken in north Asia as well. It would be a stretch to think that they weren't brought there by people who actually spoke them as their first language.


From Mahablog, this reflection on Thanksgiving, a bit of Zen wisdom:

First, reflect on all the work that went into putting the meal on the table. This goes beyond just the cooking. There are grocers and truckers and farmers and suppliers of farmers. And all of those people are sustained by food provided by other cooks and grocers and truckers and farmers and suppliers. And don’t forget the non-human creatures represented on the table, from the turkey to the dairy cows and even the bees who make pollination possible. If you think about it, you realize the food in front of you represents a huge web of relationships that spreads across the globe.

Second, reflect on whether you are contributing to the greater good with your own life, and if the work you do is sustaining other people as much as their work sustains you.

Third, reflect on not being greedy.

Fourth, reflect on what food is really about — keeping us alive and healthy.

Fifth, reflect on “attaining the Way,” or realizing enlightenment. . . .

One of the things I like about the Reflections is that it reminds us we are not just passive recipients of God’s Blessings, but that we have received what we need to stay alive through the work of countless people. Further, we have a moral duty to contribute to others in return. In other words, it’s a reflection on how interconnected we all are and that we all depend on each other.

It's not too different from the basic Pagan mindset: we are all connected, we all derive benefit from each other, and thus, we all have a responsibility toward each other. I seem to remember something like that in Christianity, from my childhood Sunday School -- I think it starts off, in one version, "Do unto others. . . ."

There are some who don't feel that way:

The president could speak about Wall Street handing out record bonuses this year -- an estimated $144 billion to a relative handful of people, many of whom get richer by destroying wealth, including assets of state and local government pension funds whose losses we have to make up for with more taxes.

Those bonuses, by the way, are about 2.4 times expected Wall Street profits.

How about a presidential lecture on entitlements focused on Lloyd Blankfein, whose firm's bad bets taxpayers paid off at 100 cents on the dollar? The Goldman Sachs boss whines about making only $9 million last year because of his "sacrifice" and plans an extra-big payday this December to make up for last year.

The president could change the terms of our economic debate by talking about how much the vast majority props up many of those at the very top, starting with Blankfein. He could tell people about the trillion dollars a year of tax favors for corporations and the rich, as documented by the Shelf Project.

There's a basic concept here that apparently has eluded the Masters of the Universe: "enough." I mean, who needs $9 million a year? Who really needs that much money? And what does it say about anyone who expects that kind of "reward" after screwing over millions of people?

And in another vein, the same thing: just note anything that comes from Maggie Gallagher, Tony Perkins, Peter LaBarbera, Matt Barber, Mat Staver, or any of the other voices for the self-anointed "Christian" right: it's not about recognizing our interdependence -- and certainly not about "Do unto others."

And just remember, it's you, your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, your kids, your neighbors, your coworkers that they're talking about.