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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cluelessness Squared

The anti-gay right in 51 seconds:

I only have one question: Melody, were you born that dumb, or did you have an extra study hall?

Reviews in Brief: Ayano Yamane's Finder, Vol. 1: Target in the Viewfinder

Ayano Yamane was one of my early favorites among mangaka doing yaoi, and Finder is one of her best-known series. Volume 1 has come out in a new edition, so I thought it was worth a try.

This volume is a story collection, with the Finder series forming the core. The title story, the following entry, "Fixer," and the final story, "In the Heat of the Night," all center on a young freelance photographer, Akihito Takabana, who gets his first big scoop -- and manages to run afoul of the crime lord Asami. Takabana is conflicted about the whole thing -- Asami is not the tenderest of lovers, but for some reason, Akihito keeps coming back for more.

The next two stories, "Love Lesson," about a first-year high-schooler who runs afoul of the student council president, and "Plants in Love," about two track stars who discover that their fathers are romantically involved, are pretty much throw-aways. The stories are thin, somewhat contrived, and mostly an excuse for sex scenes.

The remaining story, "Risky Society," about a group of "gifted" young men who work as a special ops force for the government, is somewhat more substantial and deserves to be continued. In fact, I found this one the most appealing story of the group, probably because it's the one with the most "story."

The saving grace here is Yamane's drawing, which is lush, rich, and full-bodied. Almost sounds like a good wine, doesn't it? She does have a definite character "type," although she does show some variation -- once again, mostly apparent in "Risky Society." Layouts are fairly pedestrian, and sex scenes are, as usual, quite explicit.

Yamane can come up with some good, tight, absorbing stories, although this is not a prime example. The "Finder" stories are fairly predictable, and the two "inside" stories are pretty much as I mentioned -- excuses for sex scenes. It will be interesting to see if she manages to salvage "Finder," although in my own opinion, "Risky Society" has a lot more potential.

From Juné.

Clint McCance

I haven't commented on the Clint McCance story -- enough people have -- but here's an excellent segment from Anderson Cooper on it:

I'm going to be very charitable and point out one thing about McCance's "apology" that no one else seems to have stated directly: he just doesn't get it. Dr. Phil has it right in one regard: McCance is displaying some of the characteristics of a sociopathic personality. How much of that is actually his personality and how much is the standard for "apologies" these days is up for debate -- how many have we seen that are not apologies at all? In this case, and what's more germane, is that without the huge outpouring of very negative reactions to his horrific post, it never would have occurred to him that he'd done anything wrong.

And the problem, of course, is exactly what Dr. Phil points out: McCance is apologizing for his words, not for the attitudes those words came from. He says that his core beliefs haven't changed, and I suppose he thinks that's somehow admirable. It's a pity that the core beliefs of his brand of Christianity don't include compassion and understanding -- if your core beliefs are that repellent, not changing them is not something to be proud of.

At least we've seen the "free marketplace of ideas" in action. Are you listening, Tony Perkins?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Stray Thoughts: Hillary Clinton

It occurs to me that Hillary Clinton has led the president on a couple of things concerning gay civil rights. She instituted the partner benefits mandate at State before he did it for federal employees overall, her It Gets Better video appeared a couple of days before his. I don't know if she's acting as the canary in the coal mine or pushing him a little. (It's entirely possible that there's a little bit of oneupmanship going on.)

She hasn't been real visible on DADT, but then, that's not her purview. Gates is leaving soon -- wouldn't it be interesting to see Clinton as SecDef? I'd bet there would be some action on DADT toute suite.

Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres

She talks about bullying, and has a good message, but I'm reposting this mostly because it's just great.

She comes across as very real and very human. And of course, there are those who thinks this is horrible. Pity them.

Teenage Sex, European Style

This, by Rachel Phelps, is one of the most illuminating things I've seen recently.

In contrast with many Americans, the Dutch view teen sexuality as being "right." The Dutch use the phrase "being ready" to talk about how their teens will know they are prepared to have sex. They spend less time and effort trying to prevent young people from becoming sexually active, and more on educating them to be responsible when they do.

Some interesting statistics included. In both the U.S. and Europe, teens become sexually active at age 17, on the average. Our incidence of teen pregnancy is three to six times higher than theirs. Germany's incidence of HIV infection is six times lower than ours. And there's one key factor that makes a difference.

The Dutch see love as common, ordinary, and something teens as well as adults can expect to experience. Their corresponding expectation is that sex only occurs within a loving, committed relationship. Here is the Dutch government's public health campaign: "Step 1: You fall in love. Step 2: She feels the same. Step 3: You kiss. Step 4: You use a condom." There are probably a few steps between 3 and 4, but you get the idea. Research shows that 74 percent of Dutch teens are in a committed relationship with their sexual partner and 80 percent enjoyed their first sexual experience.

The attitude in Europe is infinitely more commonsensical and, ultimately, caring than what we find here:

Another difference across the pond is the role that parents play. In the United States, sex is generally kept secret from parents. In a 2004 study, Schalet asked parents: "Would you permit your son or daughter to spend the night with a girlfriend or boyfriend in his or her room at home?" Not surprisingly, nine out of 10 American parents said, no, often adding, "Not under my roof!"

Contrast those findings with this French television ad. A pharmacist dad watches a boy buy five condoms and then lets his daughter go out with him. We see him take a deep breath (it's true, this is not easy!), and then advise his daughter to "make sure to wrap up well." The message is that you want your daughter dating the boy who prepares well by carrying condoms.

The big difference seems to be a sort of basic honesty: sex is normal, sex is fun (or should be), teenagers are learning about love and sex and their parents are there to help them, and being responsible about it is a given. It would be nice to see that attitude here.

Via Sullivan. And click through on the link above to see the whole thing -- it's a slide show with text, condom ads, and commercials. It's a real eye-opener on how different -- and how sane -- European attitudes are.

The "Survey" Leak: Update

An update to this post from yesterday. Ran across this from Timothy Beauchamp at AmericaBlog Gay:

Color me one of the first gay veteran surprised that the leaked survey's findings were positive. I do NOT mind and am actually excited about being wrong on this one. The indirect pressure that I thought would have been placed on troops to answer questions in the negative was an overestimation. Especially dismaying was the way the questions were worded and the use of the term "homosexual" to describe gay troops. Well, according to anonymous sources, the results of the survey are in our favor!

Being the trusting individual I am, I suspect an end-run around the brass on this, maybe an attempt to forestall them massaging the results. You will remember that this is the same Pentagon that commissioned a study from Rand Corporation in 1993 on this same issue, and then suppressed it when they didn't like the results. This is also the same Pentagon that lobbied fiercely for the imposition of DADT in the first place. (Not all the same people, obviously, but the same attitudes.) Gates and Mullen can sit in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and testify that they favor repeal, and maybe they actually do, but let's face it -- the president's stated policy position is repeal. What else are they going to say? In the meantime, the opponents of repeal, including a large number of senior officers, are stalling like crazy. You can tell this is hitting a nerve simply by the fact that they decided these surveys were necessary -- of the now 26 other countries that have adopted open service policies, not one of them polled the troops to see how they felt about it. They announced the policy and then implemented it. (I understand that Britain made the change in a month.) We, for some reason, have got to fart around on it because -- our officers can't control their troops? Hah?

At the very least, taken in context I think this points to a major division of opinion within the Pentagon. I suspect that they're banking on the "compromise" language (known in chez moi as the "sell-out language", and why was Winnie Stachelberg involved, anyway?) to torpedo the whole thing.

And it's sort of appalling that I've developed such a jaundiced view of this administration that I can even consider that.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Our Economy Is An Ecosystem"

Watch this (the audio is weak). And then read Karoli's post:

The gentleman who accuses Hanauer of misrpresenting the "no taxes creates growth" case doesn't ring true to me. Illinois has relatively modest taxes (give or take the 10% sales tax in Chicago), and it's hurting. And I don't see that Washington is an economic powerhouse right now -- it's running about median in unemployment, at 9.1%. Angry Bear has some information on corporate tax rates and their relation to unemployment. I don't see much of a pattern there, and I suspect the relationship between unemployment and the marginal tax rates for the very wealthy is even sketchier.

Done on the fly -- nail me if I'm wrong on this, but I think I've got a good take.

DADT Quickie

Don't have time right now for a lot of comment on this, but it looks like the study isn't doing what the brass wanted it to.

One fun thought experiment: Given that the Marines are the most resistant, what do you think the chances are of them leaving en masse and the Marines becoming an almost entirely gay force?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Get the Mindset Here

From Christine O'Donnell, the gift that keeps on giving, via WaPo

During the interview, which was broadcast live and streamed on the Web on Tuesday, the Delaware Republican candidate and tea party favorite "answered a variety of questions from listeners as well as the host," according to the station, WDEL.
At the conclusion of the interview, a representative from the campaign who had been in the broadcast studio with O'Donnell asked that the video be turned over to the campaign and not released. He stated that the videotaping had not been approved by the O'Donnell campaign.

O'Donnell also told show host Rick Jensen that she would sue the radio station if the video was released. [...]

O'Donnell's campaign manager, Matt Moran, called WDEL and demanded that the video be immediately turned over to the campaign and destroyed. Moran threatened to "crush WDEL" with a lawsuit if the station didn't comply.

And from the Alaskan dynamo (whom Sarah Grizzly still supports), Joe Miller, more screw-ups:

The release of documents late Tuesday showing that Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller of Alaska lied about his misconduct while serving as a government attorney in Fairbanks delivered yet another blow to a tea party-backed candidate who was considered a shoo-in just two months ago, when he defeated incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary. . . .

Miller's candidacy has suffered from a series of damaging headlines in recent days, including an incident last week in which a Miller-hired security guard handcuffed a reporter after he tried to ask the candidate a question.

And from Kentucky (where opthalmologists certify themselves), this one:

The Rand Paul campaign volunteer who stepped on the head of a liberal activist after she had been wrestled to the ground outside a debate said Wednesday that the incident has been blown out of proportion and that the activist owes him an apology.

"She's a professional at what she does," Tim Profitt, who was fired Tuesday from Paul's Senate campaign, said in an interview with local television station WKYT. "When all the facts come out people will see that she's the one who initiated the whole thing."

Profitt acknowledged that "I put my foot on her and I did push her down" as she attempted to confront Paul outside a debate Monday night but said, "I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you." He said he believed the activist, 23-year-old Lauren Valle, posed a danger to Paul, a Kentucky Republican and darling of the tea party movement.

Can I call bullshit on this guy? From Valle's comment, and those of witnesses, it looks like that's the most appropriate description of his story.

And Paul's no better:

"We understand that there was an altercation outside of the debate between supporters of both sides and that is incredibly unfortunate. Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election. We are relieved to hear that the woman in question was not injured."

Actually, she was injured. Other than that, that's about as mealymouthed as it gets.

Oh, the mindset? How about "Above the Law"? Or even "common rules of civilized behavior"?

Perry vs. Schwarzenegger

There are times when a legal brief transcends mere legalities and becomes art. This is one of them.

From the opening:

This case tests the proposition whether the gay and lesbian Americans among us should be counted as “persons” under the Fourteenth Amendment, or whether they constitute a permanent underclass ineligible for protection under that cornerstone of our Constitution.

It goes on from there. It's truly a thing of beauty.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For Juan Williams

So he can keep up with the latest in "Muslim garb".

I like this one especially:

Pilot Mazin Shalabi, shown here with his family, wears a uniform and ID card that allows him to get on a commercial airliner — and then fly it safely to its destination. He is a highly qualified pilot, that just so happens to be Muslim.

And have we forgotten this one?

Foreclosures in Chicago

Not so fast.

This is one I haven't been following closely, at least not locally, but it's good to see that someone in the country government is sticking up for us.

The situation's even worse in New York.

One of the commenters at Madrak's post brought up RICO. Sounds good to me. If the executives of these lending organizations suffer no consequences from this, why should they bother changing things? Bad PR? Please -- the press will report on what they tell it to.

Legal Geek

I don't know what it is about legal filings -- briefs, decisions, and the like -- but I can't resist reading them.  In this case, it's pretty entertaining.  LCR demolished the government's motion for a stay of Judge Phillips' injunction barring enforcement of DADT:

LCR Opposition to Motion for Stay                                                                      

Monday, October 25, 2010

Taxes as Punishment

Or, Spoiled Brat Libertarianism takes another hit.

A two-parter, by Thomas Levenson. Here's part 1.

Over at Balloon Juice, a number of posts culminating here, and a gazillion (technical term alert) comments, have fully roasted Andrew Sullivan (and James Joyner) for their whimpering over the hurt feelings of the deserving rich.

That last link from John Cole decisively rends from limb to limb the pathetic straw men trotted out by Sullivan and Joyner.  It is not the rich that require deference for their contribution to the nation’s well being; rather, it is the working stiff who has forked over what John accurately calls “a direct transfer payment to the most well off in the country.”

I have to confess, I simply don’t understand the possible chain of reasoning that would lead someone to write as Joyner does of taxes on the rich (and remember — we are talking about a very minor increase from historically low levels of taxation), that “to confiscate it from the successful without acknowledgment of the sacrifice… is to court resentment.”

I've been sniping at Sullivan about this for awhile, but Levenson's critique is both elegant and pithy.

Part 2 is even better:

But even more than the argument that some of the super rich in the financial sector basically ripped off the economy and the average American, the key point here is that our financial system, just as much as our technological economy, depends deeply on a strong governmental infrastructure. Bank insurance schemes, (FDIC etc.); loan facilities (the Fed); extensive research into every corner of the economy (half of the executive departments); market regulation (SEC, many others — known to be highly imperfect, but essential to the system nonetheless) and so on — modern capitalism requires an enormous infrastructure to create markets in which the participants can participate. I know that this is a little subtle — but the collapse of the banking system in Sept. 2008 and its rescue over the next weeks and months provide an at-the-extreme example of the central role government, supported by taxation, plays in the system through which one quarter of the 400 richest Americans gained their fortunes. And that role keeps on going even in more placid times.

Self made, perhaps, many of them, but only within a system made workable by, in essence, the willingness of 300 million Americans to pay their taxes and empower their government to guarantee the system.

And that's the whole point -- the Randians are full of it, simply because we don't live in a world in which a single "entrepreneur" can buck everyone and come out on top -- said hero depends on the work of too many other people, and as Levenson points out, the infrastructure (and tax breaks) provided by the government.

I don't know Joyner's writings at all, but I've never thought of Sullivan as a particularly deep thinker. In fact, I may even have called him "shallow." I probably have. He is. But now that he's been sounding off more regularly on how the super rich are victimized by the rest of us, I realize he's just not very smart.

And to be honest, those who have it all don't really come across as very sympathetic victims.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Caliber of Our Military Leadership

is sometimes breathtaking. From Gen. Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs:

"Why do you think it would?" interrupted Amanpour. "I mean some of the great allies of the United States have. Whether it’s Canada, whether it’s Britain, France, Australia, even Israel allows openly gay men and women to serve in the military. And they have great armies, great militaries."

"They have great militaries, great armies," Shelton answered. "But if you check the historical records, Christiane, as you know, we've never lost to any of them. We are the top of the pile. We are the best in the world. And we want to stay that way."

We haven't fought the British and/or Canadians since 1815, long before they adopted their open service policies. We haven't fought France since the 1750s, although I'm not sure that counts -- we weren't us yet. And we've never fought the Israelis.

So how dumb to you have to be to get a chest full of fruit salad?

It's The Churches, Stupid! Part II

Via Joe.My.God., Dan Savage and Jim McGreevy, courtesy of Joy Behar:

Reviews in Brief: Ellie Mamahara's Baseball Heaven

Right up front, I love Ellie Mamahara's work. Her stories are absurd and funny enough to carry themselves, and her drawing is immensely appealing. I happened on a copy of Baseball Heaven when I had a discount coupon in my pocket -- 'nuff said?

Chiaki Ogata, shortstop for the Tokyo Elephants baseball team and a strong contender for the batter's trophy, has his nose a little out of joint. The team's new pitcher, Eiji Uno, who will probably make Rookie of the Year, is friendly, outgoing, and easy to get along with -- for everyone but Ogata. Ogata's getting self-conscious about it -- after all, they're teammates and they should try to get along, right? He finally confronts Uno one evening and discovers the horrible truth: Uno's been avoiding him because he's in love with him and is too embarrassed to get close. Ogata is nonplussed and immediately distances himself -- and then realizes that the idea makes him happy.

The comedy here is on the same general order as Alley of First Love, a matter of crossed signals and missed opportunities in a constantly shifting landscape: first Ogata and then Uno will abruptly change his behavior, so everyone's at sea. And there are enough complications to keep things lively.

Mamahara's drawing is wonderful. I've said this before, but think Alberto Giacometti does manga: Mamahara's style incorporates those kinds of elongated figures, in her case angular, almost blocky, with huge hands and feet (and why is that so sexy? I don't know, but it is). It's definitely a cartoony style, but she never falls into chibi frames, which is a blessing: she doesn't need to -- and the drawing still supports the comic aspects, as well as the more serious moments. And there are some frames that are simply beautiful in their own right.

From BLU.

It's the Churches, Stupid. . . .

Two bits that came together.

First, from earlier this week, this story about homophobia in the pulpit:

Two out of three Americans believe gay people commit suicide at least partly because of messages coming out of churches and other places of worship, a survey released Thursday found.

More than four out of 10 Americans say the message coming out of churches about gay people is negative, and about the same number say those messages contribute "a lot" to negative perceptions of gay and lesbian people.

Catholics were the most critical of their own churches' messages on homosexuality, while white evangelical Christians gave their churches the highest grades, the survey found.

It seems, though, that in America, people just tune out the sermons (except for evangelical "Christians"). In Finland, they leave:

The minister in charge of church affairs Stefan Wallin (Swedish People’s Party) said on Sunday that Päivi Räsänen, the leader of the Christian Democrats, could not escape her responsibility for the record number of people leaving the Evangelical-Lutheran Church after the televised gay rights debate. Räsänen was one of the programme’s guests.

Wallin added that Räsänen should bear in mind her long career as lawmaker and as leader of a party representing Christian values.

“But if Räsänen’s objective is to prune the Church’s membership register and turn back the Church’s clock, she should be honest about it rather than departing the scene at a time when the consequences of her views – views that lead to inequality – begin to affect the church’s reputation as well as its finances,” Wallin said.

24,000 left the church in one week.

Speaker Pelosi: It Gets Better

This strikes me as a very honest and direct statement by someone who actually has been trying to make it better. (Mr. President, please take note -- she could use some help here.)

And another poke at the authoritarian gay left, just simply because they piss me off so much -- when you do something this effective, something that generates this kind of resonance in the country at large, something that gets the highest officials in the country to participate, let me know, mmkay? Until then, keep your carping to yourselves.

Looking again

at this post, particularly the comments by Ritch Savin-Williams -- take a good look at the comments at Jason Cianciotto's post at BTB -- much the same criticisms I've leveled, more detailed and more precise. Definitely worth reading.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bishop John Shelby Spong: A Manifesto

I've always admired Bishop Spong, ever since he testified before I forget what legislative committee and offered to quote everything Jesus said condemning homosexuality -- and then sat there silent for two full minutes.

He's done it again:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant." I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.

There's more. Read it.

Like Timothy Beauchamp, who posted this at AmericaBlog, I reserve the option of -- well, not debating, because you can't debate someone who's not listening, but pointing out the misrepresentations, the false assumptions, the distortions and the lies promulgated by those who are still fighting this battle (and losing, it appears).

About Juan Williams

When it comes right down to it, I don't care.

If you care, here's Glenn Greenwald.

And this is news exactly how?

One of My Heroes

Apropos of nothing, but worth watching.

Teen Suicides --- More Thoughts

I realize I've been posting on this topic a lot, but it's one that has hit me really hard. My past is full of dead friends -- not all suicides, but enough -- and I can't deal very well with the waste of life involved here.

First, the president spoke, and Dan Savage reacted:

I have to agree with Savage: the president is good at making speeches, and like Savage, I'm grateful that he made the effort in this case -- but he is the person in this country uniquely equipped to do a lot more than talk, and he hasn't done it. In fact, the message from the White House undercuts the video more than a little. It's quite clear that the administration doesn't think we're worth fighting for.

Strangely enough, in the dark recesses of my mind, that ties in with this post from Box Turtle Bulletin (quoting from this interview):

On October 21st, Ritch Savin-Williams, professor of developmental psychology at Cornell University, was interviewed by NPR’s Robert Siegel about LGBT youth suicide and the significant attention the issue has received over the past several weeks. In the interview, Savin-Williams claims there is no “epidemic” of LGBT teen suicide and that attention to the issue may be stigmatizing the majority of LGBT youth who are, in fact, just as happy and healthy as their straight peers.
SIEGEL And what, if anything, is harmful about all this attention?

Prof. WILLIAMS: For me, first off, scientifically it’s not true. That is that, as a developmental psychologist, when we look at the wide population of youth who identify as gay or who have same-sex attractions, it appears to me when I look at the data that they’re actually just as healthy, and just as resilient, and just as positive about their life as are straight youth.

So from a scientific perspective, there is certainly no gay suicide epidemic. But the more problematic aspect for me is that I worry a great deal about the image that we are giving gay-identified youth.

I left a comment that started off:

Savin-Williams’ critique strikes me as roughly analogous to saying “Well, Katrina wasn’t so bad — most of the country wasn’t flooded.”

First off, now that I've thought about Williams' statements a little more, he's flat wrong on some things. Yes, there is an epidemic of gay suicide. There has been for years. It seems more prevalent now because it's finally getting some media attention, and of course, nothing's real until it's on the news. But the point remains that gay youth are more likely to attempt to kill themselves.

At one point, Williams makes this statement:

Indeed, if you look at the attitudes of this cohort of young people, there's never been a better time to grow up gay and young. And I feel like that's the message that we ought to give, rather than the image of, oh, gay youth are fragile. They are so delicate that they can't defend themselves.

It's a laudable attitude, but the difficulty here is that we're talking about gay youth who are more fragile, perhaps -- certainly more desperate and more alone. So what happens when we start delivering the message that gay youth are strong and resilient to kids who don't see themselves that way at all? I figure chances are better than even that they're going to feel worse about themselves because in their own minds, they're not like that.

And that's today's lesson in Missing the Point.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The President of the United States: It Gets Better

I'm not his biggest fan, but this gets him points:

A footnote: In light of this video, that by Sec. Clinton, the one by Joel Burns of the Fort Worth City Council, and of many others from so many people, political leaders, celebrities, and just everyday people, maybe the PC alphabet-soup left should just take it for what it's worth -- people trying to help rather than sniping from the sidelines.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Obama and the Constitution

Another blunder for the administration. From the Washington Blade:

The White House has rejected the recommended nomination of a New York attorney who would have become the first openly gay man to sit on the federal bench, because of comments he reportedly made about the Pledge of Allegiance and Christmas that were deemed anti-Christian.

In February, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recommended the nomination of Daniel Alter to serve as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Presidents traditionally follow the guidance of senators from the state where there’s a vacancy for judicial nominations.

But informed sources told the Washington Blade that the White House rejected Alter’s nomination because of remarks he reportedly made regarding a case challenging inclusion of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In addition, the White House reportedly objected to remarks that Alter made suggesting that merchants not wish shoppers “Merry Christmas” during the holidays.

I seem to remember a provision in the Constitution that there be no religious test for public office. How do you suppose our constitutional scholar in the White House missed that one?

Found it: Article VI, Par. 3:

. . . but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

And the cherry on top?

Lauter said Alter doesn’t recall speaking to The New Republic for the 2004 article and that Alter was misquoted in the 2005 CNS article.

“It was an inaccurate report and ADL should have insisted the record be corrected at the time,” Lauter said.

Way to go, Barry!

The Morality of Being Rich, Part II

This little fantasy speaks for itself.

Sea Change

Happened across this video this morning, and one thing struck me about it. It's with Joel Burns and his husband, about the circumstances and reactions to his speech in the Fort Worth City Council about growing up gay and being bullied. Watch.

Think about this: ten years ago, this report would not have happened. Maybe even five years ago. And note O'Donnell's tone: respectful, open, sympathetic -- just another human interest story.

Maybe those news outlets (such as Time and WaPo) that feel an uncontrollable urge to call up James Dobson or Tony Perkins whenever there's a bit of gay news should take a hint.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Morality of Being Rich

Ran across a post by Andrew Sullivan this morning that touches more or less directly on my post about Frans de Waal's article on "Morals Without God".

Sullivan's post is a continuation of an earlier post on taxation of the very rich. It starts off with a reader's comment, and note Sullivan's response:

As a liberal, I don't have any problem acknowledging that many of the wealthy people in our society have worked hard to earn what they have. What I question is whether their financial rewards are proportionate to their work, given that the creation of wealth is the product of collaborative efforts far more often than it is the product of individual acts of genius. What I also question is why conservatives so often forget that many people of ability work very hard and do not accrue such wealth. If it is a question of hard work, tell me Andrew - who works harder than a single mother employed at Wal-Mart?
I don't deny that. But if an entrepreneur works just as hard but because he's smarter or more driven or more innovative, I think he deserves as much of his rewards as is compatible with a basic safety net and core public goods. After all, he is the person whose success makes taxation possible at all - or rather far more successful than if there were only Wal-Mart workers. But I am content with inequality as the price of freedom, and do not believe the government should punish people for being successful.

Sullivan completely blows off his reader's point that success is very seldom an individual affair. That wouldn't fit in very well with what I suspect is his underlying Randian premise that it's the supermen who create all the wealth and who therefore should reap all the benefits. I don't think he's ever said any such thing outright, but that seems to be a subtext to much of his political/economic thought -- although he does seem to be moderating a bit now that the right has thrown him out on his ear for being rational. (Sullivan does recognize the provision of a safety net as a legitimate purpose of government, among other things -- a definite weakening in his libertarian cred.)

The "taxation as punishment" idea is a stance that's pervasive on the right, and Sullivan reinforces it later:

The successful already pay the bulk of the taxes. I just don't see why tax hikes should be framed as some kind of revenge on them, or long-overdue comeuppance.

This round of the libertarian anti-tax hike polemic (and can I point out once more that it's not a "hike," it is merely allowing a temporary tax cut to actually be temporary?) seems to have started with this post, in which Sullivan wrote:

Most of the tax hike is going to come from people like me; and I don't like it, and do think it adds a disincentive to work harder.

First off, if your tax bill is a major determinant of how hard you work, there is something wrong with you. Secondly, it's not a "tax hike" -- see above.

I don't understand where this whole idea of "taxes as punishment" is coming from, quite frankly. The imputation is that the left, somehow, is enjoying a great amount of glee in "sticking it" to the rich. I suspect there's more than a little projection in Sullivan's attributing that idea to the left, in a sort of reversal: I don't really know anyone, liberal or otherwise, who derives that kind of satisfaction from the idea that the rich pay more taxes. It's really playing the victim card on the part of those who are not being victimized. (His misreading of DougJ's post, below, is just that -- a misreading. I make no guesses on whether it's deliberate or just clueless.) There is a hint of the origins of this, on Sullivan's part, at least, here:

His fellow blogger Doug J pulls no punches:
Why the fuck does it matter what Democrats are willing to acknowledge about how hard some rich people work when they’re not proposing a marginal tax rate much over 40%? For God’s sake, isn’t it enough that we don’t tax rich people much, now we have to get down on our knees and tell them how great they are for working so hard? And what would fellating these geniuses accomplish anyway?
Doug J - with his snarl at the rich - proves my point. As a moral matter, I see no reason why people who work hard shouldn't keep as much of their earnings as possible, and the only reason to tax them is to provide a safety net for the unlucky and sick and poor, and to fund essential functions of government (defense, law and order, public works, education, basic scientific research, etc). But my real point was about making the case for the necessary evil of such taxation in a civil and constructive way.

DougJ's snarl doesn't prove shit, except that maybe he's a little bit out of patience with the likes of Sullivan demanding that we treat the privileged classes (of which Sullivan, by his own admission, is a member) with respect verging on subservience. As for making the case for the "necessary evil" of taxation, why the hell should we need to? Especially in light of this finding from de Waal's essay:

Chimpanzees and bonobos will voluntarily open a door to offer a companion access to food, even if they lose part of it in the process. And capuchin monkeys are prepared to seek rewards for others, such as when we place two of them side by side, while one of them barters with us with differently colored tokens. One token is “selfish,” and the other “prosocial.” If the bartering monkey selects the selfish token, it receives a small piece of apple for returning it, but its partner gets nothing. The prosocial token, on the other hand, rewards both monkeys. Most monkeys develop an overwhelming preference for the prosocial token, which preference is not due to fear of repercussions, because dominant monkeys (who have least to fear) are the most generous.

I think that in the right-wing libertarian arguments against graduated taxes -- or any taxes at all -- we're seeing a perversion of our natural impulses.

Let's go back to Sullivan's contention that ". . . if an entrepreneur works just as hard but because he's smarter or more driven or more innovative, I think he deserves as much of his rewards as is compatible with a basic safety net and core public goods." Let's try a reality check: is Sullivan proposing that the CEOs and other officers of financial services corporations responsible for the present depression were "more innovative" and thus deserve their hundred-million-dollar bonuses? Or for that matter, any of those executives from any industry who are making a million or more a year in compensation? I don't see a lot of innovation coming out of these people. What I do see is an expectation of rewards that amounts to privilege much more than an expectation of fair compensation. (The awarding of enormous "retention bonuses" in an industry in which no company was hiring is, I think, indicative.)

Full disclosure: I've worked with and for a lot of very rich people over the years, almost all of them what we call "lakefront liberals" in Chicago. Every single one of them, including a futures trader who regularly made or lost a million dollars in a day, subscribed firmly to the belief that they had been fortunate and very highly rewarded, and had a responsibility to give something back, which they did, both in resources and in time. And they were all Democrats.

I realize that someone is going to come back spluttering about voluntary giving to charities. Let me point out one central problem with that: there is no charitable organization big enough to handle the kind of things we're talking about here -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, disaster relief on the scale of something like Katrina (a royal eff-up in that case, but that's the end result of a noxious combination of right-wing thinking and rewarding incompetence -- um, excuse me, I mean "party loyalty.")

What I find most reprehensible about the values of the spoiled brat brand of libertarianism, and even more, those of the teabagger sockpuppets, is that they make a lot of noise about "personal responsibility" but that concept never seems to translate into actual responsibility toward anyone. (Although Sullivan, at least, admits that we need government, but he seems uncomfortable that those who derive the most benefit from it should foot most of the bill.) It's the end result of St. Ronnie's "Greed is Good" philosophy. And it's all based on fairy tales of how "entrepreneurs" have all earned it. Bullshit.

Even chimpanzees can do better than that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It Gets Better

From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

And remember, tomorrow is Spirit Day -- wear purple:

Spirit Day honors the teenagers who had taken their own lives in recent weeks. But just as importantly, it's also a way to show the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth who face the same pressures and bullying, that there is a vast community of people who support them.

Purple symbolizes 'spirit' on the rainbow flag, a symbol for LGBT Pride that was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978.

As one of the event's Facebook pages says: "This event is not a seminar nor is it a rally. There is NO meeting place. All you have to do is wear purple."

Wearing purple on October 20 is a simple way to show the world that you stand by these courageous young people and a simple way to stand UP to the bullies. Remember those lives we've tragically lost, and show your solidarity with those who are still fighting. 'Go Purple' today!

Another Hole in the Wall

So to speak. Jason Mazzone has this commentary on the administration's "major disruption" rationale for staying Judge Phillips' injunction to halt enforcement of DADT. It's one I hadn't thought of, but it's telling:

Courts have broad discretion when they craft remedies to cure constitutional violations. And when remedying a constitutional violation requires overhauling the organization or longstanding practices of a government entity, courts always aim for an orderly transition if possible. There are many examples. Most obviously, segregated schools were not desegregated overnight but pursuant to a multi-step process overseen by the courts over an extended period of time.

And of course, as Judge Phillips has pointed out, the government did have an opportunity to suggest modifications to the order and didn't bother.

Read it -- it's short but right on target.

(I'm really starting to think that the DoJ is staffed by lawyers all personally vetted by Monica Goodling, with any that showed signs of competence weeded out.)

It's Heading Into Fall

Cool weather, longer nights. Maybe I'll finally get around to some of the housecleaning I've been putting off -- like a page for the yaoi reviews, and a listing of resources for gay teens in the sidebar, some new links to blogs I've found interesting, that sort of thing.

There's a lot to do.

(Maybe I'll even work on my sadly out of date website. Wouldn't that be nifty?)

Another "Must Read"

This essay by Frans de Waal, on the interface between biology and morality. De Waal discusses the grounding of our moral impulses in our origins as social animals.

Perhaps it is just me, but I am wary of anyone whose belief system is the only thing standing between them and repulsive behavior. Why not assume that our humanity, including the self-control needed for livable societies, is built into us? Does anyone truly believe that our ancestors lacked social norms before they had religion? Did they never assist others in need, or complain about an unfair deal? Humans must have worried about the functioning of their communities well before the current religions arose, which is only a few thousand years ago. Not that religion is irrelevant — I will get to this — but it is an add-on rather than the wellspring of morality.

Read the whole article -- it's a little long, but has huge implications.

For those who insist there can be no morality without religion -- well, the portion quoted above settles that -- and is amply supported later in the article. And just remember one important fact: religions don't make themselves. We make them.

It also puts some foundation under my concept of "society" as an arrangement that provides for the well-being of the entire group -- not just the ones with all the goodies. Libertarians, take note: I've been calling libertarianism morally bankrupt, and it looks like I'm on solid ground.

Go at it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Must Read

Excellent post by Jane Hamsher on the Valerie Jarrett debacle and the HRC.

I might have a few quibbles, but in the main I think Hamsher has it right.

The telling factor to me is that Jarrett, and by extension the whole Obama administration, are so far removed from the GLBT community that it never occurred to her that to haul out a phrase that, let's face it, is the exclusive usage of the professional homophobes was going to be offensive. Is this possible?

I think it goes far beyond listening only to HRC (who certainly have no apparent value to the community at this point). It's just being totally fucking clueless about a major constituency. And it's part of a pattern, starting with Donnie McClurkin and going right down the line. (Has anyone noticed that the major "achievement" of the Obama administration on gay civil rights was a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill -- which was introduced under Bush and is something that Obama had nothing to do with?)

If the best you can do for the GLBTs is to install someone so completely ignorant as the ultimate liaison, it becomes patently obvious that all those rude extremists are right.

Here's some further commentary from Pam Spaulding, one of those rude extremists.

AOL Has A Propaganda Arm

And it's anti-gay propaganda, to boot.

Via Pam's House Blend, I found this article at AOL News by Paul Kix, touting a new "study" by Walter Schumm, which is a rehash of a previous study by Paul Cameron. Jim Burroway has a pretty thorough analysis at BTB, so I don't need to debunk the study here. Let it suffice to say that Walter Schumm is not a reputable researcher, any more than is Paul Cameron (who, depending on your source, is either a joke or an embarrassment among social scientists). You may remember Schumm as the other "expert" witness in the Florida gay-adoption trial, who, like George "Rentboy" Rekers was found by the court to be not credible -- in fact, his testimony helped the plaintiffs.

What's egregious here is 1) the fact that this "study" was reported at all, and 2) the completely credulous nature of the reporting. Add #3: the political slant, which paints Schumm and Cameron as lonely warriors fighting a tide of politically correct (and by implication, baseless) criticism.

As Burroway points out, Schumm's "study" is badly flawed, not least because of the "data" that he used, which was drawn from popular books for a lay audience. At least one author has already stated that her sample was deliberately skewed because she wanted even representation of both gay and straight children. Nowhere in the AOL article is there any hint that Schumm's study is anything less than scientifically valid, when in fact it is anything but.

Schumm says it shouldn't have taken until 2010 to do the meta-analysis. Too often his colleagues impose "liberal or progressive political interpretations" on their studies, which inhibit further inquiry. "It's kind of sad," he tells AOL News.

As if expecting a political backlash himself, Schumm concludes his study with a quote from philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. "All truth passes through three stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

The idea that Kix is holding Schumm up as some sort of prophet is appalling. And he's so clueless that even when Schumm states his bias baldly, he doesn't get it.

But also in his testimony was an inkling of the robust research Schumm has just completed. His study on sexual orientation, out next month, says that gay and lesbian parents are far more likely to have children who become gay. "I'm trying to prove that it's not 100 percent genetic," Schumm tells AOL News.

I have a real problem with a scientist of any sort who engages on research directed toward "proving" a particular hypothesis. Sorry -- science doesn't work that way. Most research is not directed at proving anything -- it's directed toward testing the validity of a particular hypothesis. And from other comments in the story, it appears that Schumm started with data that was skewed, and then skewed it further. Kix just swallowed it whole, and doesn't seem to have questioned anything that Schumm said. Color me unimpressed.

Kix is obviously unqualified to be writing about science of any sort, and his cheerleading in this article is almost embarrassing -- at least, he should be embarrassed.

(Sadly, the comments are largely as ill-informed as the article itself.)

(The more details I notice about this article, the more warning signals go off. Let it suffice to say that, because of Schumm's agenda, he's probably not asking the right questions. And because of Kix' incompetence, neither is he.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010


One-line reactions to current headlines. Or, if you like, simple answers to unasked questions.

From 365gay.com: "New Vince Vaughn film poses a ‘Dilemma’ for gays"

Don't go to see the film.

Also, and: "Mormon church says cruelty toward gays is wrong"

President Obama says he supports equality for GLBTs.

From NYT: "Lincoln in Lonely Race in Arkansas"

So what did you think was going to happen after you screwed your party and your constituents, Blanche?

From Raw Story: "50 percent chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years."

Set your clocks.

And finally, from the Mail Online: "Cancer 'is purely man-made' say scientists after finding almost no trace of disease in Egyptian mummies"

If you're looking for a chain of logic there, give up.

Marriage, Again

Ran across this story just now, about how some people are striving mightily to keep the same-sex marriage debate front and center.

This election will be the first since the 1990s without a measure to ban gay marriage on any state ballot, yet the divisive issue is roiling races across the country during a time of tumult for the gay rights movement.

In Minnesota, New Hampshire, California and New York, gubernatorial campaigns have become battlegrounds for rival sides in the debate, with the Democratic candidates supporting same-sex marriage and the Republicans opposed.

In Iowa, voters will decide whether to oust three state Supreme Court justices who joined last year's unanimous decision making the state one of five where gay marriage is legal.

Let's take Iowa, for example"

Polls show Iowa voters evenly split on whether to oust three Supreme Court justices who were part of the decision legalizing gay marriage. If the effort succeeds, it would be the first time since Iowa adopted its current system for appointing judges in 1962 that voters opted to remove a Supreme Court justice.

The targets include Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, who said the three wouldn't undertake a counter-campaign because they don't want to set a questionable example for judges by campaigning and raising money.

Brown said removal of any of the justices would be a "game-changer" with national impact.

"Judges will have to sit up and take notice that they can't just arbitrarily make up the law," he said.

That's Brian Brown, president of NOM, Maggie Gallagher's money-laundering organization. The whole thrust of the campaign in Iowa is "accountability" -- i.e., it's the political equivalent of the AFA boycotts of any corporation that acknowledges that GLBTs are human beings. "Arbitrarily make up the law?" I trust that Mr. Brown has heard of "constitutions" -- all the states have them. So does the U.S. And laws are supposed to conform to them, especially in the area of civil rights. Mr. Brown seems to have a somewhat limited understanding of what "rule by law" actually means.

Interestingly enough, NOM doesn't believe in accountability for its donors. Or for itself. Google "National Organization for Marriage+election laws" and see the number of lawsuits that NOM has launched to avoid any disclosure of its donors or its funding in general. Since many of these cases are being handled by the Alliance Defense Fund, you can see why NOM has had such trouble winning. Of course, I'm sure part of it is that the cases have no merit to begin with. I understand the fallback position is that if they lose a case, NOM just ignores the verdict, as it has done in Maine. Here's the judge's decision in the Maine case:

Dbh 08192010 1-09cv538 Natl Org for Marriage v Mckee

It's kind of confusing, but the bottom line is that, although some provisions of the Maine law are unduly burdensome and overly broad, those provisions do not impact NOM's legal responsibility to turn over its donor lists. Be that as it may, as far as I've been able to determine, NOM hasn't complied. The decision was handed down in August.

Oh, and just for fun, I stopped by NOM's website. (Well, it wasn't very much fun, but I was curious.) The "National Organization for Marriage" doesn't have one single program or resource in support of married couples. It's just another anti-gay hate group.

I was going to include photos of Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher, but that was just too depressing. Brian Brown looks like an axe-murderer, and Maggie Gallagher looks like a spoiled brat.

I'm sure that's significant, somehow.

Total Chaos, Continued (Updated)

This post from Pam's House Blend sort of says it all.

I just want to add an observation of my own -- a thought that occurred to me this morning:

Over two dozen other countries have instituted open service policies in their militaries for gay and lesbian personnel. All of them instituted the policies within four to six months, and none have reported any disruptions or serious incidents -- and even the unserious incidents were few and far between.

It's taking our military ten months just to figure out what they have to do.

Can you say "incompetent"?

Update: I just ran into this post by John Cole -- coming from another story, but the bottom line is the same:

There seriously is something wrong in the military- I have no idea what they are teaching in the military schools or ROTC, but somewhere along the line they have dropped the ball when it comes to honor, integrity, and recognizing there are laws in the land. The officer corps, when you look at the overt politicking, the proselytizing, the rampant cover-ups, and so on, is just rotten to the core.

Reviews in Brief: Hinako Takanaga, The Tyrant Falls in Love

I mentioned this one in passing in my survey of the work of Hinako Takanaga, but it does deserve some space of its own.  Originally published in Japan in 2005, it recently made its appearance in English.  I'd venture to guess that Takanaga has caught on in America, since this seems to follow a pattern I've seen with other mangaka:  one or two recent works are licensed for English editions, and then suddenly earlier works start making their appearance.  Since manga publishing seems to be entirely market-driven, I think it's safe to say that Takanaga has a following.

Souichi Tatsumi is a graduate student in agriculture sciences, and vociferously homophobic.  His lab assistant, Tetsuhiro Morinaga, is gay and madly in love with Tatsumi.  Needless to say, the relationship is not all roses, but it's manageable.  That is, until a friend of Morinaga's gives him a bottle of aphrodisiac, which Morinaga stashes under the sink, thinking he'll never use it.  Then Tatsumi gets upset because his little brother is living in San Francisco -- this is just the time that the city started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Tatsumi decides they need to drink, and while Morinaga is out getting more beer, he discovers the hidden aphrodisiac.  Of course, you can guess what happens.

The psychology here is downright weird, although fairly common:  even after sleeping with Morinaga, and realizing he can't do without him, Tatsumi won't admit to any feelings on his part -- except outrage.  It's almost abusive, except that Morinaga is pretty much in control.  At any rate, Takanga plays it for laughs, and the comedy is broad and somewhat raucous.

That quality comes through in the drawing, as well.  It's a very active piece of work visually, and although there are one or two spreads where we start to see Takanaga's ability with design, mostly it's about the action.  Character designs are in line with her other work, very appealing -- these guys are really cute.

This is volume one of a series.  It's not great, but it's not bad, either.  From Juné.

The Universe

is an amazing place. Take a look at the pictures in this post -- it's a gas cloud where stars are being formed. This one is fascinating:

That's a new star shooting out streams of -- well, streams of something.  Read the article.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DADT: The Politics (Updated)

Two analyses of the situation with DADT right now, vis-a-vis the White House and DoJ. The first, very sympathetic, from Marc Ambinder:

According to news reports, the Justice Department is preparing to ask a federal judge to stay her ruling ending enforcement of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gays in the military. But my sources insist that, as of last night, the White House, meaning President Obama, had not signed off on that course of action even though the Justice Department sent the White House a legal brief in near-record time.

Perhaps the decision has been made by now, but the last time I checked, senior officials were still debating both what to do and how to do it, cognizant that an appeal of the ruling could turn the party's activist base from petulant to pissed off in a matter of seconds.

And of course, the DoJ has filed for a stay, noting its intent to appeal, and it has, in fact, pissed off the base.

The other analysis, not so sympathetic, is from Andrew Sullivan:

What they're saying is both that retaining the ban hurts "military readiness, combat effectiveness, unit cohesion, morale, good order, discipline, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces" and that precipitously ending the ban hurts "military readiness, combat effectiveness, unit cohesion, morale, good order, discipline, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces."

That's the exquisite knot they have tied themselves into. And it might work, I suppose, if the orderly process was inevitable. But it seems pretty clear to me isn't. The Senate has filibustered this once in a Democratic majority session. What are the odds that, using exactly these Obama arguments about "morale" and "unit cohesion", the GOP will not filibuster again in a lame-duck session even if the military top brass give the go-ahead? I have little doubt there will be enough resistance in the report itself to give the GOP a reason to keep the ban alive.

You have to wonder how someone who manages to get elected president can paint hiimself into a corner like this.

Here's the filing:

DOJ Request for Stay of DADT Injunction

I'm not convinced that the Pentagon is doing anything but kicking and screaming, but it starts to look as though even the kicking and screaming is not uniform, as witness the memo from the JAG yesterday.

I really wish I could think that Obama has some sort of master plan -- besides "Let Congress do it." Sullivan points up where we've been with that strategy so far, and the Democrats are going to lose seats in November. (I remain convinced that the "study" is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. It's completely unnecessary.) Obama's inconsistency of defending laws is too well-documented for me to comment on it further.

I'm too pragmatic to have a lot of patience with Obama's focus on "process." Is it better to have DADT repealed legislatively? In theory, that's the way it should work, I guess. But laws can be changed. Court rulings are harder. And legislators don't pay a lot of attention to constitutional issues when they're passing discriminatory laws. The courts have to.

I find this statement interesting (from the NYT article linked above):

In his declaration, Mr. Stanley discussed those efforts. He argued that ending the policy would require training of military service members, as well as a reworking of dozens of policies and regulations involving issues like “housing, benefits, re-accession, military equal opportunity, anti-harassment, standards of conduct, rights and obligations of the chaplain corps, and others.”

“Amending these regulations would typically take several months,” he said. “To change all of the implicated policies and underlying regulations will require a massive undertaking by the department and cannot be done overnight.”

One: how inefficient is the military, by the way? Two: how deeply embedded in the regulations is homophobia?


Just found this post by Amanda Marcotte that pretty much reflects my own thinking.

So, are they arrogant or stupid in thinking this brilliant “let the Senate do it instead of simply instructing the Justice Department to let it go”? The one thing they need to understand is the longer they let this question linger, the more option #3 seems possible---that the Obama administration is homophobic and actually supports DADT, despite their protests.

Take, for instance, Valerie Jarrett calling a gay teenager’s orientation a “lifestyle choice”. (She’s since apologized.) That’s not the sort of thing that’s going to quell suspicions that the administration is doing the wrong thing by gay people because of some procedural bullshit but because they don’t like gay people. What it’s going to do is ramp up suspicions that they don’t give a shit how this actually affects the fighting men and women in uniform who have to live lies, because they think that all you have to do to avoid DADT is to choose a different “lifestyle”.

Just remember this, when the administration is making excuses: just because the Justice Department doesn’t pursue this case doesn’t mean the Senate can’t go ahead and codify the federal judge’s decision into law.

And so does Rachel Maddow's commentary:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I'm so sick of this bullshit.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Total Chaos

Well, I guess Gates was right on one thing: The military can't deal with fast action.

Via Pam's House Blend, this little tidbit on part of the reaction to Judge Virginia Phillips' injunction against enforcement of DADT:

Email from Richard C. Harding, The Judge Advocate General, U.S. Air Force:

Members of The Judge Advocate General’s Corps,

On 12 October 2010, a federal district judge of the Central District of California issued an injunction barring the enforcement or application of 10 USC 654, commonly known as the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" statute. A copy is attached. At present, the United States Government is contemplating whether to appeal and to seek a stay of the injunction. In the meantime, effective 12 October, the Department of Defense will abide by its terms, as follows:

The District Court "permanently enjoins defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense, their agents, servants, officers, employees, and attorneys and all persons acting in participation or concert with them or under their direction or command from enforcing or applying the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Act and implementing regulations, against any person under their jurisdiction or command."

The District Court further "orders defendants United States of America and the Secretary of Defense immediately to suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation, or other proceeding, that may have been commenced under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Act or pursuant to 10 USC 654 or its implementing regulations, on or prior to the date of this Judgment."

Further guidance on this and related issues will be provided as it is made available by DoD. Inform your commanders of this injunction and its terms. Direct any questions to the Administrative Law Division, AF/JAA.

Lieutenant General, USAF
The Judge Advocate General

Meanwhile, a gay serviceman discharged under DADT tried to re-enlist:

With a briefcase full of commendations under his arm, Omar Lopez walked into an Austin, Tex., recruiting office Wednesday. Mr. Lopez, 29, had served nearly five years in the Navy. He was honorably discharged in 2006 for “homosexual admission,” according to documents he carried. He wanted to re-enlist.

But recruiters turned him away hastily, saying they had no knowledge of any injunction or any change in military policy.

The DoJ, of course, is going to appeal, and has filed a request for an emergency stay of the injunction. Their "argument" is the Working Group:

In support of the President’s decision to seek a congressional repeal of the law, and as directed by the Secretary of Defense, the Department of Defense has established a high-level Working Group that is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the statute and how best to implement a change in policy in a prudent manner. The Working Group is nearing completion of its report to the Secretary, which is due on December 1. The immediate implementation of the injunction would disrupt this review and frustrate the Secretary’s ability to recommend and implement policies that would ensure that any repeal of DADT does not irreparably harm the government’s critical interests in military readiness, combat effectiveness, unit cohesion, morale, good order, discipline, and recruiting and retention of the Armed Forces.

But it seems the Working Group's is playing with a stacked deck:

The Pentagon task force charged with examining the issue is "well along" in formulating recommendations, and the ruling is not expected to affect its work, another senior military officer.

The task force found deep resistance to the idea of repealing the law in some elements of the armed services, especially within the combat units, an officer familiar with the findings said. But the surveys also have found segments of the military who were not overly worried about allowing gays and lesbians to serve, the officer said.

There's been a huge amount of commentary on how badly flawed the surveys were, and how prejudicial the wording of some of the questions included was. I've also seen reports by some people (who are not presently in the armed forces) detailing how they participated in the survey. I'm going to take a step back for a longer look and guess what -- I come up with one conclusion: the whole idea of the survey was bullshit from Day 1. The survey was developed by an outside contractor commissioned by the DoD, and it's not brain surgery to figure that the DoD got exactly what it asked for. There was never any intention of doing this honestly.

Don't expect anything from the "fierce advocate." Odds are he's working for a trade-off, probably in Afghanistan. Besides, it's only a bunch of fags who are affected.

Thoughts on Tyler Clementi

For some reason, Tyler Clementi's death seems to be resonating much more than those of the other kids who've killed themselves because of bullying. I'm not sure why -- perhaps it's the information age/social networking aspect. Whatever the cause, it's been the focus of a lot of the commentary.

I just ran across this post from Gareth Higgins that is worth reading. It's also about the only commentary I've read that even comes close to identifying the dynamics of that particular tragedy:

I’m sorry, Tyler. I wish I’d known you. I’m sorry that I have been part of the reason you were humiliated. I am sorry that I have been so divided within myself that even though I know what it’s like to experience sexual humiliation, I held onto my own homophobia because it felt safer and more known. I owe something to you. I owe it to you to be honest about myself, to stop dehumanizing others, and to do everything I can to make sure that your place in history is simple and clear: that you would be the last.

I don't think, however, that Higgins really nails it. I've been thinking about this one off and on ever since I posted by own reaction to the criticism of Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project, and I've finally realized what I think is a major contributing factor, not only to Clementi's reaction to his romantic interlude being live-streamed on the Internet, but to the resonance it holds for so many of us: paranoia.

I'm not saying that Tyler Clementi was pathological. I'm saying that in a culture that demands that gays keep their affections secret, in which the consequences of coming out can be literally life-threatening, think about the ramifications of realizing that there is no place where you are safe. Not even in your own room.

That's what the culture that Higgins describes has created.

In Clementi's case, it seems to have been not only that realization, but also, from all appearances, there was no place he could go, and no one he could talk to. That's a really bad combination.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not Getting It

A bit of a recap first (and believe it or not, I consider this post to be a direct sequel to this one):

Dan Savage had quite an earthy riposte to the Christian reader who protested his remarks about the role of churches in anti-gay bullying and hate crimes. The reader had this to say:

To that end, to imply that I would somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person for any reason is completely unfounded and offensive. Being a follower of Christ is, above all things, a recognition that we are imperfect, fallible and in desperate need of a savior. We cannot believe that we are better or more worthy than other people. I have never in my life know someone who loved the Lord who wished ill will on other people and certainly not death "so that [we] can perpetuate [our own] agenda."


The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from lips of "faithful Christians," and the lies that spew forth from the pulpit of the churches "faithful Christians" drag their kids to on Sundays, give your straight children a license to verbally abuse, humiliate and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your straight children—having listened to mom and dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to the family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry himself to sleep—feel justified in physically attacking the gay and lesbian children they encounter in their schools. You don't have to explicitly "encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate" gay kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It's here, it's clear, and we can see the fruits of it.

There's more, and as far as I'm concerned it's right on point. So of course, via Sullivan, we get this from Benjamin Dueholm:

The wild free-associating Savage is doing here--between traditional views of marriage and Christian sexual ethics, children's attitudes, bullying, and suicide--surely sounds plausible to his apparently quite credulous readership. But plug in just about any other religion or group and see how it sounds to you. Would you want to see some evidence for the bolded statements above? Are the bullies who cause so much high school trauma devout and practicing Christians? Are average churches writing licenses to abuse gay kids? If so, I'd sure like to know. They may well be! For all I know, Savage is merely describing statistically robust correlations between youth church attendance and high school bullying. But when you claim that defining marriage as a heterosexual institution = bullying = gay teen suicide, one would like to see the facts of the case.

Frankly, to cast Savage's comments as "wild free-associating" is a little over the top. I don't mean to sound condescending, but apparently someone needs a map and a flashlight here, although I don't see how anyone could not understand Savage's point.

Christianity, even the most peace-and-love, warm-and-fuzzy, puppies-and-kittens varieties, teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Granted, this is a tenet of the desert monotheisms as a group, and there are some denominations and sects that are at least trying to rethink their positions, but by and large, this is the message from the dominant Western religions. It can be as extreme as the pronouncements of the pope or such charlatans as Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer, all condemning same-sex attraction as the worst possible danger for Western civilization, or it can be as relatively benign as the "acceptance" of the Episcopal Church, which even ordains gay clergy -- as long as they remain celibate. (Which is not required of their heterosexual clergy. "Benign," sadly, is not an absolute value.)

And after that, the exhortation to treat these poor, "intrinsically disordered," immoral and degenerate gays as real people might not have much of an impact, don't you think? (One of the things that came closest to causing me to lose my lunch within living memory was an op-ed by Tony Perkins in WaPo that had "compassion" in the headline. Printed on National Coming Out Day. I think the appropriate word here is "travesty." And quite likely meant to be deliberately insulting, considering the smarmy assholes who are the titular editors of that section.)

And, to get back to the marriage question, which is always central these days: Until gay couples have the same right to unfettered participation in marriage that their straight counterparts have, the message is still that gays aren't as good -- they are lesser, and they are "Other." And as long as the churches that are preaching that message stand in the way of that participation, whether through lobbying legislators or trying to appropriate the institution itself (and make no mistake: marriage has never in its history been solely or even predominantly a religious institution), then they are culpable, because that institution has come to symbolize the acceptance of gay people by society at large. (We're at the point where the material benefits of marriage, although they may add weight to arguments at law, are beside the point. It is marriage as a marker of status within the community that is the key issue.)

So, to answer Dueholm, yes, the kids who are doing the bullying are quite likely church-going Christians (although their devoutness is open to debate). And yes, average churches are writing licenses to abuse gay kids. And yes, the sun still rises in the east.