"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Moral Centers

I had actually started a post this morning -- got about halfway through, as it happens -- when my wonderful antique computer froze up and I lost it. I haven't been commenting (combination of intentional hiatus and unintentional intestinal bug), but I have been reading. A couple of stories stuck out as illustrating one of my ongoing contentions about the anti-gay, Christianist right: they have no morals to speak of.

The first was the conviction of Scott Roeder for the murder of Dr. George Tillman. From LA Times:

Reporting from Wichita, Kan. - In a trial that never became the referendum on abortion that some abortion foes wanted, Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old airport shuttle driver, was convicted Friday of murdering George Tiller, one the nation's few physicians who performed late-term abortions.

When he was slain in the vestibule of his church last May 31, Tiller became the fourth doctor since 1993 to be killed by antiabortion extremists. In June, his family announced that his clinic would close permanently.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for only 37 minutes before finding Roeder guilty of premeditated murder. He faces life in prison.

Roeder has supporters:

"I don't condone what Scott Roeder did, but I cannot condemn the consistency of his logic," said Randall Terry, a founder of antiabortion group Operation Rescue. "George Tiller killed 60,000 innocent human beings in barbaric ways, and Scott felt the way to protect more babies from a grisly death was to kill Tiller."

Jan Holman, an elderly antiabortion activist, drove from Iowa for the trial. She came in a truck covered with photographs of aborted fetuses. "I support Scott Roeder," she said. "I guess you might say he's my hero."

First off, Terry's lying -- of course he condones it. He's one of the people whose inflammatory rhetoric and thuggish tactics made Tiller's murder, or something like it, inevitable. Then that Holman person -- her hero is a cold-blooded murderer. Without getting into the pros or cons of abortion itself, what's at issue here, as far as I'm concerned, is the arrogant assumption that someone like Scott Roeder or Randall Terry has the right to make other people's decisions for them. In spite of the "pro-life" rhetoric ( you know -- the "life begins at conception and ends at birth" crowd), being pro-choice is not necessarily being pro-abortion. It's recognizing that certain decisions are best made by those directly involved.

The other one I liked this week is the ongong saga of Andrew Breitbart's fair-haired boy, James O'Keefe, of ACORN scam fame. For some nice insights on the whole ACORN episode, see this summary (PDF). His latest little frat boy prank involves entering a federal facility under false pretenses with the intent (at this point still only "alleged") of compromising telephone equipment maintained by the federal government. Jonathan Turley has a good run-down on the whole thing here.

They have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony. However, that is likely only the first charge. There are a host of additional charges, particularly if the prosecutor support the widespread speculation of an alleged conspiracy to wiretap the office of a federal official. It is not clear if the authorities confirmed an effort to wiretap or found such equipment — as opposed to another prank-like video. Moreover, I would expect other possible arrests. Usually there are other individuals with knowledge of such a boneheaded plan.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

As John Amato points out, this is part of a fine old "conservative" tradition.

In the autumn election season of 1970, a cherubic, bespectacled teenager turned up at the Chicago campaign headquarters of Alan Dixon, a Democrat running for state treasurer in Illinois. No one paid the newcomer much attention when he arrived, or when he left soon afterwards. Nor did anyone in the office make the connection between the mystery volunteer and 1,000 invitations on campaign stationery that began circulating in Chicago's red-light district and soup kitchens, promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing" for all-comers at Dixon's headquarters.

That was Karl Rove.

And to bring it a little closer to home, Jeremy Hooper notes this little item from the indefatigable Maggie Gallagher:

A new government study just came out that looks at child abuse.

Question: What kind of family structure best protects children from child abuse?

Answer: Married biological parents. (see page 5-25).

Being the reality-challenged bigot that she is (and I realize it's no longer PC to call someone a bigot, even if they are), she tries to fold that into an argument against same-sex marriage, especially the Perry vs. Schwarzenegger trial in California. There's only one problem:

All the other family structures studied (which does not include same-sex parent families probably because these are such a small part of the population), but does include solo parents, other married parents (remarried primarily), single parents living with a partner, cohabiting parents, and no parents.

The big gap is between the intact married biological family and every other family form. Children living with both their mom and dad united by marriage have one-third the rate of serious child abuse, compared to children in any other family structure.
(Emphasis added)

In other words, the study doesn't cover the population she's using the study to argue against.

In other words, she's full of shit. And she knows it. Gallagher, like most of the anti-gay crowd, is deliberately using "studies" that don't address the question to target gays. It's the Paul Cameron "faith-based science" school of argument, which is intrinsically dishonest. Which sort of define Gallagher and her crusade: dishonest.

Is it any wonder that when these people talk about morality, I tune out?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I know. I've been on hiatus, and then was felled by a very bad intestinal bug for a week and am only just coming back. I have been following the testimony in the Prop 8 trial as much as I've been able, though (except for that lost week), and now that the defendants have started fielding their "expert" witnesses, it's starting to look enough like a slam-dunk to scare me.

The pro-8 side's first witness, Prof. Kenneth Miller, imploded. It quickly became obvious that he's no expert on discrimination against gays and lesbians, doesn't know the context of the gay rights movement or its history, has only the fuzziest idea of how widespread institutionalized discrimination is, and basically doesn't know what he's talking about.

The next witness is David Blankenhorn, due to take the stand this afternoon. This is the one I wish I could see. He's to testify on gay parenting. (Remember, this is the man who claimed that the UN Convention on the Rights of Children said that every child has the right to be raised by his/her biological parents, which it doesn't say.) I really want to see what he brings up as testimony. The plaintiff's team is good enough and on top of things enough that I expect them to reduce him to pulp in short order, simply because he's a blowhard who makes things up.

I may be back from time to time. I'm really busy writing right now,and the news is the same -- but then, what can you expect, when the White House and Congress are still controlled by the Republicans? So I don't have much to say about that.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It Just Keeps Getting Better

Via Andrew Sullivan this choice bit:

This afternoon, during the cross-examination of the psychologist Letitia Anne Peplau in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial, the Alliance Defense Fund tweeted, “Witness admits same-sex couples not similarly situated to opposite sex couples, same sex couples cannot have unintended pregnancies.” Now, why, you might ask, does that matter, and why was this an “admission” worth noting for the anti-gay-marriage side?

Sullivan quotes the supposed rationale:

In a 2005 case called Morrison v. Sadler, an appellate court in Indiana concluded that same-sex couples with children did not need marriage because they were already so stable—it was so expensive and complicated for them to adopt or conceive a child that they were bound to stay together. “By contrast,” the court observed, “procreation by ‘natural’ reproduction may occur without any thought for the future.” The stork could come calling on heterosexual couples without invitation, and when it did, marriage helped ensure that the surprised progenitors would stay around to raise the children.

This is almost as good as the "marriage is to insure continuation of the species" argument. Aside from the light it casts on heterosexual relationships -- i.e., gays are ready and willing to undertake the responsibility of raising a familiy, but straights have to be forced into it by the law -- it completely sidesteps the whole question of rights and protections for the parents and children.

And it's a decision from Indiana, for crying out loud. Given Indiana's profile on civil rights, both historically and currently (remember that Indiana was the point of origin of the KKK), I'd hardly look there for cogent reasoning on these issues.

One can't begin to imagine (at least this one can't) what the pro-8 side expects to make of this. It should be fun to see, though.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No TV on Prop8

The Supreme Court has spoken. I found this comment instructive:

"Not only did it ignore the federal statute that establishes the procedures by which its rules may be amended, its express purpose was to broadcast a high-profile trial that would include witness testimony about a contentious issue."

Gods forbid that the American public should be able to witness first-hand the testimony about a contentious issue. Why, the world would come to an end by Thursday afternoon at the very latest. We certainly need to be protected from such things. (By, according to best guesses, the likes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. No surprises there.)

(Aside: Anthony Kennedy has been making great capital out of being the swing vote. Has anyone told him that's just another term for a weak reed?)

That, of course, is the very reason this trial should be broadcast. The New York Times has the same attitude about this decision that I do:

The trial that started on Monday in San Francisco over the constitutionality of California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage could have been a moment for the entire nation to witness a calm, deliberative debate on a vitally important issue in the era of instant communications. Instead, the United States Supreme Court made it a sad example of the quashing of public discourse by blocking the televising of the nonjury trial.

The court blocked the public broadcasting of the proceedings by its familiar 5-to-4 split. In a vigorous dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer correctly objected to the court’s highly unusual intervention. He concluded, “The public interest weighs in favor of providing access to the courts.”

I think the American public should be entitled to witness testimony like this:

After the cross-exam, Therese Stewart, attorney for the City of San Francisco, asked Professor Chauncey to analyze some of the messages used in the Yes on 8 campaign. Stewart focused on statements made by one of the official proponents of Prop 8, Dr. Hak-Shing William ("Bill") Tam. Stewart played excerpts of Dr. Tam's deposition, featuring some extraordinarily inflammatory messages in campaign documents authored by Tam.

One of Dr. Tam's publications claimed that if Prop 8 did not pass, other states would "fall into Satan's hands." The document also claimed that "more children would become homosexuals," and that the next item on the "gay agenda" would be to "legalize having sex with children." Prof. Chauncey connected these messages, delivered by one of Prop 8's official sponsors, with the long history of fear-mongering and demonization of lesbians and gay men that he eloquently described yesterday.

This is from Shannon Minter's summary of Day 3 testimony.

And also be sure to check out the Prop8TrialTracker live blog. It's fascinating (at least, for a law geek like me).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Another Must-Read

Live-blogging of Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, Day 1.

Fascinating stuff. I see that the pro-8 side intends to use David Blankenhorn as an "expert." I hope the Boies/Olson team has been fact-checking him, because in his writings against same-sex marriage are not only logically fallacious, but openly contra-factual, as I've noted before. I really want to see Ted Olson make mincemeat of him, publicly.

And here's Olson's opening statement, as prepared.

Here's Prop8 Trial Tracker, the site that's providing all this information.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another Must-Read

This one is an OpEd in Newsweek by Ted Olson, one of the attorneys arguing Perry vs Schwarzenegger and, as he puts it, a "veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations" -- hardly a wild-eyed leftist.

Some have suggested that we have brought this case too soon, and that neither the country nor the courts are "ready" to tackle this issue and remove this stigma. We disagree. We represent real clients—two wonderful couples in California who have longtime relationships. Our lesbian clients are raising four fine children who could not ask for better parents. Our clients wish to be married. They believe that they have that constitutional right. They wish to be represented in court to seek vindication of that right by mounting a challenge under the United States Constitution to the validity of Proposition 8 under the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In fact, the California attorney general has conceded the unconstitutionality of Proposition 8, and the city of San Francisco has joined our case to defend the rights of gays and lesbians to be married. We do not tell persons who have a legitimate claim to wait until the time is "right" and the populace is "ready" to recognize their equality and equal dignity under the law.

Citizens who have been denied equality are invariably told to "wait their turn" and to "be patient." Yet veterans of past civil-rights battles found that it was the act of insisting on equal rights that ultimately sped acceptance of those rights. As to whether the courts are "ready" for this case, just a few years ago, in Romer v. Evans, the United States Supreme Court struck down a popularly adopted Colorado constitutional amendment that withdrew the rights of gays and lesbians in that state to the protection of anti-discrimination laws. And seven years ago, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down, as lacking any rational basis, Texas laws prohibiting private, intimate sexual practices between persons of the same sex, overruling a contrary decision just 20 years earlier.

It's a good strong statement. Read it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reviews in Brief

are on hiatus with everything else. Writing reviews right now is worse than pulling teeth, and I just don't see putting myself through that right now if I don't have to, and the nice thing about having your own blog is that you don't have to.

However, I'm getting new goodies, so this particular hiatus probably won't last all that long.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Of Note

First, a couple of good posts by David Link at Independent Gay Forum, one about the Prop 8 trial and the arguments the supporters have at their disposal, and one about religion and sex.

And Timothy Kincaid has one at BTB on the real reason the Church opposes gay marriage.

Looking at these again, they really do all tie together. Kincaid notes an article by Deacon Keith Fournier in Catholic Online. The core of Kincaid's piece is the demand that heterosexual relationships continue to receive favored status. Quoting Fournier:

They want the State to treat homosexual partnerships as the equivalent of marriage, thereby denying real marriage and the family founded upon it, the favored legal place it has long held as the first society.

That is telling enough, but I want to point out the very first sentence of Fournier's sadly slanted commentary on the Jenkins/Miler custody case:

This tragic custody case sets up what is called a conflict of laws issue, pitting the law of one State against another as a part of a homosexual advocacy agenda.

Right off the bat, I'd like to point out that this is not the situation at all: the court in Virginia has agreed to abide by the decisions of the Vermont court in this case, which at this point is that the child, Isabella, should be in the sole custody of Janet Jenkins. Lisa Miller has taken Isabella and disappeared. This piece is so scurrilous that I was moved to leave a comment, in which I was unfortunately only able to scrape the surface of the cesspool. The gist is that this Catholic deacon is coming out strongly in support of a woman who shows no moral compass herself, has reneged on her contractual obligations and disobeyed a court order to observe them. This hit-man thinks this is praiseworthy behavior.

The core of this, of course, is anti-gay bias. This is brought sharply to light by Link's second post, which has a very entertaining section on how acceptance of gays as real people is an assault on Christianity:

The CADC insists that the mere presence of openly gay people is not just wrong or even intolerable, but an attack on Christianity. And the fact that other Christian religions accept openly gay people is, itself, a further affront, an exacerbating act of prejudice and defamation against the non-accepting.

The key issue, of course, is same-sex marriage. I've been over the "arguments" (see -- we can use quotes, too) against, and Link makes an important point on this in regard to the Prop 8 trial:

But the rejection of a constitutional principle for a very small minority, a principle that is generally applicable to everyone in the majority, is not only not the solution to the problem being presented, it is, itself, the problem which the equal protection clause was supposed to address. Why would an equal protection clause be necessary if it was only there to protect the majority?

The Prop. 8 case will be addressing that question head-on, and the witnesses opposing same-sex marriage will have to present the kind of arguments that the New Jersey senators were not obligated to offer. The question is a focused one: What justification does the government have for treating same-sex couples and opposite sex couples differently in light of the fact that the federal constitution does include a provision that explicitly says all citizens should be treated equally under the law?

The fact that we have historically discriminated between those groups is not an argument. The fact that many voters have a predisposition to favor their own relationships at the expense of the minority’s is not an argument.

Finally, and most importantly, the fact that many religions believe that homosexuality is a sin is also not an argument – or at least not one the court will be able to properly assess. There are many religions and many theologians who think homosexuality is not a sin. No secular court could competently resolve that theological dispute. Nor should it. Ours are not religious courts, and the damage they would do if given the authority to decide what is sin and what is not, what God intends for us and what he (or she) does not is immeasurable.

I suggest you read all three posts, and even Deacon Fournier's screed (on an empty stomach, that one). They make some good points.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Health Care Link Dump

That's all I have the stamina for on this issue -- it's gotten so murky that I can't take a position any more.

First, this one from Lindsay Beyerstein, one of the few journalists left. It's largely about the kabuki, but that's what we've got left. She does note this from Kevin Drum, including what's still there to negotiate after Lieberman and Nelson got done gutting the Senate bill:

Warts and all, we're on the cusp of passing a bill that provides all of this:
* Insurers have to take all comers. They can't turn you down for a preexisting condition or cut you off after you get sick.

* Community rating. Within a few broad classes, everyone gets charged the same amount for insurance.

* Individual mandate. (Remember how we all argued that this was a progressive feature back when John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were championing it during the primaries?)

* A significant expansion of Medicaid.

* Subsidies for low and middle income workers that keeps premium costs under 10% of income.

* Limits on ER charges to low-income uninsured emergency patients.

* Caps on out-of-pocket expenses.

* A broad range of cost-containment measures.

* A dedicated revenue stream to support all this.

A trillion dollars in benefit for low and middle income workers. 95% of Americans insured. Medical bankruptcies on the verge of disappearing. And for the first time ever, an acknowledgement that decent healthcare ought to be universal in the United States.

One can dream -- my guess is, the good parts won't survive the Senate. Check out what Mark Sshmitt has to say on that score:

Instead, by passing a compromised but complete bill with 60 votes, Democrats will have plenty of room to expand its provisions, and even add ideas like the Medicare buy-in for older workers, using the budget reconciliation process in the future.

Schmitt is more optimistic than I am -- I have no confidence in the Democrats to do, or even attempt, any such thing. There will certainly be no push from the White House on it.

Digby has a discussion of the role Ben Nelson (D-National Right to Life Committee) is likely to play in scuttling the conference report. And he'll try, if there is any deviation from the Senate bill.

I'm not hopeful, but I could be wrong. I just don't think there is the political will among the Democrats to fix it. I think we're going to have to wait until certain incumbents have been discarded before we're going to see any meaningful health care reform in this country. And I think the Democrats will come back to us at the midterms this year crowing about their D-, when they could have had a B+.

Friday, January 01, 2010


It's very quiet this morning.

This is a little late, but it seems like a good way to start the year:

May your year be filled with love.