"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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Compare and Contrast

From WaPo, as might be expected:

The group’s attack called to mind last year’s assault on Justice Department lawyers who had in private practice represented detainees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “Who are these government officials? . . . Whose values do they share?” asked a video produced by the conservative group Keep America Safe, which questioned the patriotism and loyalty of the “al Qaeda 7 lawyers.” Never mind that these attorneys were acting in the best traditions of the country by representing even those accused of the most heinous acts. HRC similarly branded King & Spalding with the political views of its client and set out to make the firm pay. . . .

Not so long ago many lawyers would refuse to represent openly gay clients for fear of ruining their careers. It was wrong then to give in to pressure, and it’s wrong now. HRC and King & Spalding seem to have forgotten this.

So much for the "liberal" press. And, refreshingly, this from The Economist:

This is the way social justice happens. Not with a bang, but with white-shoe law firms becoming uncomfortable taking certain kinds of cases.

It seems that WaPo has once again gone for form over substance -- and equating criticism of attorneys defending constitutionally guaranteed rights with criticism of those seeking to deny those rights is pretty clueless, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How Small Can You Get?

This proposal came from a Republican. Why am I not surprised?

Under a new budget proposal from State Sen. Bruce Casswell, children in the state’s foster care system would be allowed to purchase clothing only in used clothing stores. . . .

Under his plan, foster children would receive gift cards that could only be used at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and other second hand clothing stores.

This reaction comes close to the nub of the proposal:

“Honestly, I was flabbergasted,” Jacobs says. “I really couldn’t believe this. Because I think, gosh, is this where we’ve gone in this state? I think that there’s the whole issue of dignity. You’re saying to somebody, you don’t deserve to go in and buy a new pair of gym shoes. You know, for a lot of foster kids, they already have so much stacked against them.”

But you don't understand: the whole Republican philosophy is built on punishment, much like evangelical Christianity. (Funny, that similarity, isn't it?) If you're not rich and powerful, then you should be punished for it. And if you're a kid who doesn't even have parents or a home, then you should be punished even more.

Builds character.

Fortunately, humanity prevailed and the provision was pulled.

Monday, April 25, 2011

King & Spaulding Pulls Out

That's the firm roped into defending DOMA for the House Republicans under a shady contract that included a gag order for all employees -- whether they are involved in the case or not -- who might want to engage in anti-DOMA activities.

There's huge outcry from the left on this, and comments from the right, to the effect of "defending an unpopular law is going to have repercussions." In fact, Paul Clement, the partner who would have argued the case, put it this way:

"I resign out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular clients is what lawyers do," Clement wrote to King & Spalding chairman Robert Hays. "I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides. But having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it."

Read the full letter at the link.

Let me point out the obvious: No law firm of the stature of King & Spaulding is going to back out of a case because it's unpopular. I'm betting that at least part of the reason is the gag order making it a violation of the terms of the contract for any employee, anywhere, of K&S to engage in any advocacy for repeal of DOMA. My guess, and I admit it's a guess, is that the chairman of K&S heard from some of his partners at length and probably with some degree of heat about how the whole deal stinks. (I say this having heard bits of partners' meetings through closed doors when I worked for a law firm -- and our conference room doors were pretty solid.)

I do wonder why Boehner felt it necessary to write that provision into the contract -- it's certainly not something that K&S came up with, I'd be willing to bet on it. It's beyond overreach, but it's a good indicator of the way the modern Republican party (if you can accept the idea that statement is not an oxymoron) thinks.

The anti-gay right will, of course, make great capital out of this, beating the "evil homosexual activist lobby picking on the civil rights of bigots" drum for all it's worth. I suspect Clement landed W&S in a hot place with its own employees and principals with that contract, but acknowledging that would be inconvenient for the likes of Maggie Gallagher, who would much rather be a very public victim of the people whose lives she's trying to ruin.

I also find it interesting that Clement was able to announce joining a new firm this quickly. Someone had his escape hatch greased and ready. Like maybe he knew this was going to happen.

Or maybe I'm just too cynical.

"War on Christmas" Was Taken

So now we have a "War on Easter."

The victim card is getting kind of tattered, don't you think?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

American Democracy, Republican Style

Via Crooks and Liars, this report on the burgeoning dictatorship in Michigan.

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

Once upon a time, you could believe that the Republican party treasured American-style democracy as much as the rest of us do. Not any more -- as Maddow points out, they see democracy as part of the problem.

It seems that Scott Walker is trying to institute the same kind of centralized dictatorship in Wisconsin. And here's an interesting little commentary on the way these things work.

And thanks to the Supreme Court, Inc., major corporations are now perfectly free to buy elections whenever they want.

I used to be able to vote a split ticket with a clear conscience. Not any more, at least not on a national level. I've become very happy to be a native of Illinois -- well, nearly native: I've lived here since I was six months old. Illinois is about the most average state in the union, and happily, wingnuts have a short shelf-life here, if they ever manage to gain any traction at all. (And a thought: don't look for a vote to throw out the Republicans to have any lasting effect if they manage to get their agendas through the state legislatures: as we can see from the Obama administration's reverence for basic civil liberties after the Bush administration tore up the Constitution, once the power is there, whoever's in office is not going to give it up. But I digress.)

Yes, we have a serious budget shortfall, just like everyone else. Our governor took the obvious tack and, in addition to cutting expenses, raised taxes. Not much -- our state income tax rate is actually below average, even with the hike -- but it seems like such an obvious thing to do. Tools like Walker in Wisconsin and Snyder in Michigan would rather sell off public assets to their campaign contributors.

And you wonder why reading the news turns my stomach.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Bothers Me

Inevitably, there's talk of action against King & Spaulding, the law firm retained by House Republicans to defend DOMA in federal court.

Jon Davidson, legal director of Lambda Legal, the nation's oldest and largest legal organization working for LGBT equality, had one word on the firm's decision to take the case: "Depressing."

"I think it's going to hurt them in their recruiting of future lawyers," he told The Huffington Post.

King & Spalding has touted its ties to Lambda Legal in recent years. In 2006, the firm announced it was a national sponsor of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. In its 2007 "Achievements in Diversity" report, the firm boasted, "Among other programs aimed at diverse law students, King & Spalding is a national sponsor of Lambda Legal, provides pro bono work for Lambda, and sponsors the organization in New York and Atlanta."

Davidson said in light of the DOMA announcement, he is no longer comfortable working with King & Spalding on cases.

"As legal director, I would take the position that we should not use them as cooperating attorneys with us -- that is, people who work with us on a pro bono basis in cases," said Davidson. "I wouldn't want to team with them, so long as they're actively harming our community by defending DOMA."

This is pretty lame. Lawyers are supposed to be advocates for their clients, but they wind up taking cases in which they know the client is wrong frequently enough that this shouldn't cause a ripple. As for Davidson's comment that "they're actively harming our community," they're only harming us if they win, and given the recent track record of same-sex marriage cases, that starts to look fairly remote. If they lose, they've given us a big boost.

On a deeper level, this is equivalent, in kind if not degree, to the attempts to oust the Iowa Supreme Court justices because of their decision on same-sex marriage. It's pretty un-American.

So, King & Spaulding agreeing to take the case doesn't upset me all that much -- Boehner's at least savvy enough to look for someone who can at least mount a credible defense, unlike Liberty Counsel or another of the wingnut legal groups.

What does bother me is this:

The contract, which was entered into with U.S. House of Representatives General Counsel Kerry Kircher on behalf of the House's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend DOMA in court, contains a provision that prohibits all King & Spalding attorneys and non-attorney employees from any advocacy to "alter or amend" DOMA.

The paragraph in question states that "partners and employees who do not perform services pursuant to this Agreement will not engage in lobbying or advocacy for or against any legislation ... that would alter or amend in any way the Defense of Marriage Act and is pending before either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate or any committee of either body during the term of the Agreement."

Moreover, the preceding paragraph, 4(f), contains a similar prohibition on the partners and employees who are participating in the litigation. Paragraph 4(g), thus, clearly is intended to apply to those who do not participate in the litigation.

Here's the agreement; the paragraphs in question are on page 3, paragraphs f & g:


As the article points out, in some states this is illegal, and this provision is the one that I think ultimately could be the biggest liability for King & Spaulding, which makes a lot of noise about its inclusive non-discrimination policies. (Not that all that many of their attorneys are actually gay.)

What bothers me is that they didn't have to agree to that provision. I wonder why they did.

In the meantime, can we stop all the huffing and puffing until there's a reason for it?

Tine to Lighten Up

This is totally the funniest thing I've seen in ages.

Via Towleroad.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'm in a mood

The whole damn system looks so rotten that I can't deal with it any more today. I'm going to spend the day translating the German edition of When a Man Loves a Man by Youka Nitta, finishing my reread of No Touching at All by Kou Yoneda, and tonight I'll watch the latest episode of Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, and then maybe a couple more episodes of Utawarerumono (which is turning out to be really very engaging).

And that's my plan.

Have I mentioned

that Chris Barron is an ass?

And sort of juvenile, at that.

We Need More Like This

This is NY state senator Diane Savino in 2009, when the New York marriage equality bill last came up for a vote.

Was it Newt Gingrich who thought that every schoolchild in America should be forced to listen to wingnut "historian" David Barton? I have a counter-proposal: this video should be required viewing in every church in America until the congregations get it figured out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


It's what you find when a "cause" is tanking. It seems NOM is threatening to sue everyone they can think of -- now it's the Miss California organization for releasing Carrie Prejean's sex tapes.

They've also threatened NOM defector Louis Marinelli with legal action. For what? Telling the truth?

I wonder if it has anything to do with this?


The idea that the teabaggers and religious right wingnuts are actually interested in liberty should by now be shown up for the sick joke that it is.

Let's start off with this clip from Rachel Maddow:

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

Add in the book challenges in libraries -- school and public -- every year, most of which go unreported. There seems to be quite a cottage industry in this area, as a matter of fact, with librarians making pre-emptive strikes -- or trying to until they get caught.

What this reveals is an ugly mindset, antithetical to everything that America stands for -- these people (meaning the so-called "conservatives" who are trying not only to censor ideas but to eradicate them) are not content with avoiding things they object to, or forbidding their children to experience them, but insist that no one, child or adult, may have access to them.

These are extremists, and one finds a similar mindset on the extreme left. Actually, it needn't even be that extreme. They won't burn books, but they'll try to silence those who aren't politically correct enough. I call it the "What will the neighbors think?" syndrome: it's those who want to eliminate the drag queens, leather folk and nearly naked dancers from Gay Pride parades, for example, so that we'll be more "acceptable." Thankfully, their voices seem to be fading, but I had occasion to pose this question in a comment thread recently: "Acceptable" on whose terms -- how much of yourself are you willing to give up to be tolerated?

But I digress.

Granted, those who physically attacked works of art are seriously disturbed people, but that disturbance has to have an anchor point. For them, that anchor is the same attitude that infects people like Tony Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Peter Sprigg, Peter LaBarbera, and their ilk.

Why do you suppose they get all the air-time?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Nate Silver has a very clear exposition of the current trends in support for same-sex marriage, and some observations on the Republicans now finding themselves in a quandary on that and related gay issues.

I've been seeing this coming for a while, and it's nice to have someone like Silver pointing it out. It will be interesting to see what happens to the "social conservatives" in 2012.

This is especially interesting in light of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives taking time off from their busy job-creation schedule (ahem!) to defend the unconscionable DOMA in court. Good luck with that.

The Lower Depths

That's where it seems we'll find the anti-marriage faction. This one's been around for a couple of days: it seems that someone has made a documentary on the Question 1 campaign in Maine, and guess what: the head of Yes on One admits that they were lying through their teeth:

Courtesy of Jeremy Hooper at Good As You, and the subject of a blistering post (blistering for Hooper, anyway).

Marc Mutty, the man featured in the video, is also an employee of the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, "on leave" to enforce Church doctrine on the citizens of Maine.

This is the sort of thing that should be getting national press coverage, if we had a press.

Update: See also this post from Alvin McEwen at Pam's House Blend on Maggie Gallagher's appearance before the House Committee on Preserving Heterosexual Privilege. It's not just in Maine. I actually watched part of her testimony -- she's quite personable. But then, sociopaths are.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dumb Headline of the Day

From WaPo:

Obama’s numbers down, but he’s still a 2012 contender

Ya think?

Another Deficit Post

I don't remember whether I've directed you to this column by Paul Krugman, but if not, you should read it. If so, you should read it again. It's pretty tough. Here's the conclusion:

For what it’s worth, polls suggest that the public’s priorities are nothing like those embodied in the Republican budget. Large majorities support higher, not lower, taxes on the wealthy. Large majorities — including a majority of Republicans — also oppose major changes to Medicare. Of course, the poll that matters is the one on Election Day. But that’s all the more reason to make the 2012 election a clear choice between visions.

Which brings me to those calls for a bipartisan solution. Sorry to be cynical, but right now “bipartisan” is usually code for assembling some conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution.

This would be a corrupt, undemocratic way to make decisions about the shape of our society even if those involved really were wise men with a deep grasp of the issues. It’s much worse when many of those at the table are the sort of people who solicit and believe the kind of policy analyses that the Heritage Foundation supplies.

So let’s not be civil. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.

Events have gone a long way toward quenching my normally unquenchable optimism: the system's gotten corrupted. I say it that way because I still think the system -- the basic system of our society as it was cast by the Founders and shaped by the 230 years of our history since -- is still valid. But we have political parties that have lost sight of their ideologies -- which once upon a time really did embody different visions of achieving the greatest good for the greatest number -- and become completely focused on gaining and maintaining power. They are both in the service of those whose sole interest is in gaining and maintaining wealth. And they're aided and abetted by a press that is also more concerned with maintaining its position than doing its job -- and that position is dependent on the goodwill of those it should be confronting.

One of the most visible symptoms is the way in which reality has been warped and how that warped reality affects the flow of information. I got an e-mail from my junior senator the other day that typifies the nonsense:

S&P Issued a Pessimistic Outlook for the Value of U.S. Debt

We Have Been Warned

S&P Today: “if an agreement is not reached and meaningful implementation is not begun by then (2013), this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker than that of peer ‘AAA’ sovereigns.”

Dear Friends:
S&P just announced a negative outlook for the future of U.S. debt – a warning that if we do not stop spending, a crisis could come.
The rate of U.S. spending and debt is unsustainable -- our economy is on a dangerous course.  We are borrowing $4 billion a day and will pay our creditors over $200 billion just in interest payments this year.
In times of crisis, we face a choice: 1) raise taxes and provide government bailouts, or 2) cut spending and enact pro-growth policies.  I strongly support cutting spending.
The Case of Ireland
If we do not change course, we face the fate of many European debtors.  Take the case of Ireland.  During the economic downturn, Ireland guaranteed the debts of its banks – essentially a bailout.  Ireland increased spending and borrowing while its tax revenues shrunk.  In response, Moody’s cut Ireland’s debt rating.
The price of Ireland’s bad government was paid by the people of Ireland.  In August 2010, Ireland issued 40% fewer mortgages than before. Residential and commercial lending fell so fast that Ireland’s state-run National Asset Management Agency stepped in to find a way lend something to someone.
Lenders charged the Irish taxpayer more and more for the privilege of spending other people’s money.

The Case of Canada
Compare this to Canada.  When faced with the same dilemma, Canada cut spending during its 1990s economic crisis.  After Moody’s downgraded Canada’s foreign debt rating in 1994, the Canadian government cut 20% of federal spending.   Because Canadian leaders waited until after their debt situation reached a crisis, they had to eliminate 40,000 public sector jobs. 
Canada’s tough choices lowered borrowing costs and strengthened the country as the government sought pro-growth solutions.  In fact, Canada came out of the recent financial crisis healthier than most other countries – lenders charged less and less, with new confidence that Canada had its act together.

The Case of the United States
We now face similar choices.  To protect you and your income, I think we should follow Canada’s fiscally responsible path and avoid the drop in incomes suffered by the Irish people.  If the government makes hard choices now, you will be protected from hard choices later.
In Ireland, the government said ‘yes’ to everyone and ‘no’ to its economic future.  In Canada, the government learned that restraint and responsibility led to a very bright future.
With today’s report from S&P, we Americans have been warned.
Thank you for your continued interest in these important issues. As always, please feel free to contact me at (312) 886-3506 or online at kirk.senate.gov if you have any questions or comments, or should issues of concern to you come before the Congress.
It is an honor to serve you in the U.S. Senate.
Very truly yours,
Mark Kirk
U.S. Senate

Now, for Standard & Poor, see this post from Dave Dayen at Firedoglake, which I think contains a dose of healthy scepticism:

The Dow is down 2% today on the news. Incidentally, this is not the first US credit downgrade threat that I recall; Moody’s threatened this in March 2010. The difference is that we’re in the throes of deficit fever now.

It seems like a rather convenient announcement, no? We’re right at the start of a discussion on the federal budget, and here comes S&P, which derives most of its revenue from the financial industry, warning that if the parties don’t come together on a deficit reduction scheme, they’ll downgrade debt. Of course, since the Republicans are more inflexible, Democrats will be persuaded by serious people to do the responsible thing and drop the revenue increases for the sake of protecting the AAA rating. And this would have wide-ranging effects: practically every other bond sold in this country that’s rated AAA, such as municipal bonds, would be downgraded as well.

I think at this point it’s prudent to call everyone’s attention to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report on the financial crisis, and its ample section on the rating agencies, and their complete failure to accurately rate mortgage bond products that were obviously unstable. In fact, Standard & Poor’s is specifically targeted in that report. Why rating agencies still exist is a pertinent question, given their contribution to the near-ruination of the global economy. In particular, the report hones in on the inaccurate models of the rating agencies:

The conflict of interest problem was not the only reason that Moody’s and S&P issued inaccurate RMBS and CDO credit ratings. Another problem was that the credit rating models they used were flawed. Over time, from 2004 to 2006, S&P and Moody’s revised their rating models, but never enough to produce accurate forecasts of the coming wave of mortgage delinquencies and defaults.

In another post, Dayen comments further on the threat and the reactions:

The reaction to S&P’s warning of a debt downgrade has been as predictable as it was swift. Paul Ryan responded that the debt “threatens not only the livelihoods of future generations, but also the economic security of American families today.” Eric Cantor described the S&P action as “a wake-up call.” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, another “Young Gun,” said pretty much the same thing. It’s all very precious. An entity funded by the big banks makes a judgment (which shouldn’t be seen apart from their other discredited judgments) about the debt. The party most allied with the big banks uses that judgment to demand that their preferred policy, which doesn’t reduce the national debt for THIRTY YEARS, must be enacted immediately. Incidentally, that preferred policy reduces taxes on the rich, including the rich executives at the big banks.

Here's Krugman on Standard & Poor.

Now, Kirk's heart is sometimes in the right place, but as far as the economic picture goes, he seems to be less savvy than I am, and that's pretty unsavvy.  (Or he thinks his constituents are gullible fools.  He may have a point there -- he got elected.)

There's an underlying point here, and one that Kirk's staffers know, because I bring it up every time I contact him: where are the jobs? We're not going to solve the deficit until we have a working economy, and, in contravention to the Truth as promulgated by the Villagers, we're not going to have a working economy until there are workers pumping money into it. It's not the bankers that drive the economy -- in fact, they are part of the problem -- it's us working stiffs.

Note that Kirk does not bring up Germany in his little scare memo: Germany regulates banks pretty closely, it has strong unions, and a strong safety net, so that even when people are out of work, they are still able to participate in the economy.

And yet someone like Paul Ryan comes out with this crap that he calls "Path to Prosperity" or "Roadmap to America's Future" or some such shit that is just a corporate minion's wet dream and everyone in Washington is awed by the audacity of his vision. Gods save us.

Gah! That's all I can stand this morning. The reason I've been commenting so much on gay news is that that's the only place where anything good is happening, believe it or not.

I'm going to spend the rest of the day reading real fantasy -- the kind with real heroes.

Update: It's not like nobody saw this coming:

Our story was a newspaper series and then a bestselling book, America: What Went Wrong? that caused a sensation in the early 1990s by explaining to millions of middle-class Americans why they were losing ground, and why it wasn’t their fault. A:WWW pinned the blame squarely on an alliance between Washington and Wall Street that was implementing policies that were destroying good-paying jobs and eroding hard-earned benefits.

America: What Went Wrong? was controversial. We took plenty of heat from some economists and others who claimed that the agony millions were experiencing had nothing to do with policy, but was just one of those rough patches America had to go through as our economy reinvented itself.

But to thousands of Americans who wrote to us, America: What Went Wrong? explained what had happened to them — and why things might get even worse.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I < 3 Anthony Weiner

I wonder how many millions the Koch brothers are going to spend trying to get rid of him.

I'm really sort of amazed (well, not really all that amazed) at the pearl-clutching on the right about Obama slamming the Ryan Roadmap to the Banana Republic. The whole proposal sucks, so why should he make nice about it? And then some of the most vicious Democrat-baiters in Congress start complaining about partisanship.

I like this part especially:

Still, Republicans said, did Obama have to attack the men to their faces? “Reagan had the decency to insult his enemies when he was out of town,” grumbled one GOP aide.

My mama always said "If you're going to criticize someone, do it to their face and not behind their back." We see where the Republicans are coming down on the issue.

I think Mika Brzezinski had it exactly right: Obama in fact was being unusually respectful in inviting Ryan and his cohorts to hear directly what he had to say, because he doesn't believe in doing things the Republican way: Slamming people not to their faces but waiting till they're not around and can't answer.

It's just such a radical concept for Republicans that they become utterly flabbergasted when confronted with it.

It really would be nice to have a free press in this country, so more people could know what's actually going on.

Update: Here's Jonathan Chait's take. Read the comments. Here's my favorite, which puts the whole thing in perspective:

Harry Truman - “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.”

Adlai Stevenson - "We should make a deal with Republicans - if they'll stop lying about our policies, we'll stop telling the truth about theirs."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The DOMA Circus

Also known as congressional hearings. My first reaction when I heard that the teabaggers were doing this was "WTF?" Here are Rep. Jerrold Nadler's opening remarks:

I wish I had footage of some of the reactions. This should be fun.

When Dealing With Wingnuts

the best strategy is to raise the stakes. You may know that the Proponents of Prop 8 filed a motion in the Circuit Court to recall all video recordings of the trial in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger and put them under seal. Now the Plaintiffs in the case have filed a response.

10-16696 Appellees Opp

I have to confess, my first reaction when I ran across this at AmericaBlog Gay was to laugh outright. Timothy Kincaid managed to pop off a post wondering how anyone could be so stupid before he had his giggle fit.

Here's a report of Vaughan Walker's reaction to the Proponents' complaint.

The Plaintiffs' response, of course, is the only possible one: you rebut their arguments (no hard task, in this cases) and then go for the throat.

Sidebar: ran across this piece at Evangelical Outpost when I was looking for a link to a story about the Proponents' filing. Worth a read -- very clear exposition of the basics of the case.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Made My Day

This is just priceless -- I think some of the House Democrats must have a sense of humor like mine.

The vote was on the Republican Study Committee's alternative budget -- a radical plan that annihilates the social contract in America by putting the GOP budget on steroids. Deeper tax cuts for the wealthy, more severe entitlement rollbacks.

Normally something like that would fail by a large bipartisan margin in either the House or the Senate. Conservative Republicans would vote for it, but it would be defeated by a coalition of Democrats and more moderate Republicans. But today that formula didn't hold. In an attempt to highlight deep divides in the Republican caucus. Dems switched their votes -- from "no" to "present."

Panic ensued. In the House, legislation passes by a simple majority of members voting. The Dems took themselves out of the equation, leaving Republicans to decide whether the House should adopt the more-conservative RSC budget instead of the one authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. As Dems flipped to present, Republicans realized that a majority of their members had indeed gone on the record in support of the RSC plan -- and if the vote closed, it would pass. That would be a slap in the face to Ryan, and a politically toxic outcome for the Republican party.

This is the prize, though:

Moments after it failed, RSC Chairman Jim Jordan took to Facebook.

"Our Republican Study Committee (RSC) balanced budget came within 18 votes of passing on the House Floor today," he wrote. "I am disappointed we did not win, but this is the closest we have ever been to passing our balanced budget. I am motivated to keep fighting to balance the budget and begin paying down our national debt."

The question of the day is, "How dumb do you have to be to get elected to the House as a teabagger?"

The chaos, as TPM calls it:

Thanks to Joe.My.God.

Update: Here's WaPo on what did pass:

The House on Friday passed a Republican budget plan for 2012 aimed at privatizing Medicare and dramatically scaling back the size of the federal government.

Voting along party lines, the House approved the $3.5 trillion GOP blueprint 235 to 193 after final debate was repeatedly interrupted by protesters chanting and singing in the gallery. Four Republicans joined all Democrats in voting “no.”

How is it that when four Republicans join the Democrats in a vote, it's "along party lines," but when four Democrats join the Republicans, it's "bipartisan"?

Isn't It Nice

when people who break the law actually get arrested, no matter who they work for?

The News of the World reacted to the unexpected arrest of one of its most senior reporters by clearing his desk.

Despite the paper having promised that it would co-operate fully with police inquiries, executives descended on the desk of former news editor James Weatherup moments after learning of his arrest. Under the eyes of their legal team, they bagged up notebooks, papers and recording machines and removed them "via our lawyers", a firm whose identity the publisher refused to confirm.

A few hours later, the police arrived and took the bags to Scotland Yard. Detectives also conducted a search in the tabloid newsroom while staff were asked to decamp to a nearby bar.

The unexpected arrest of Weatherup, one of the most senior journalists at the News of the World, at his home leaves little room for doubt that the new police team investigating the phone-hacking scandal is determined to succeed where its much-criticised predecessors failed.

Can't happen here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Significant Things (Updated)

These stories are all over right now, but no one -- at least no one commenting on them -- seems to have picked up on the most significant thing about them.

First, a report from MSNBC on the First Lady's military families event:

And then via Joe.My.God., the report on Kobe Bryant's gaffe:

While Bryant acknowledged the outburst earlier today and said in a statement it did “not reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities,” he failed to apologize or to take full responsibility for the homophobic slur. This afternoon, the NBA and Commissioner Stern issued a strong condemnation of Bryant’s action and in an unprecedented move, fined the Lakers’ superstar $100,000. “We applaud Commissioner Stern and the NBA for not only fining Bryant but for recognizing that slurs and derogatory comments have no place on the basketball court or in society at large, “ said Joe Solmonese, HRC President. “We hope such swift and decisive action will send a strong and universal message that this kind of hateful outburst is simply inexcusable no matter what the context.”

What's significant about the first report is that it happened, and the treatment was, subliminally at least, somewhat critical of the administration. The significance of the second is that the NBA moved so quickly and decisively against Bryant -- they get it, even if he doesn't. I don't think his apology is insincere, but it's obvious he doesn't understand the ramifications of the incident.

It's things like this that reveal how much the views of society have changed, and that support my contention that the only thing anti-gay referenda prove is that if you run a well-funded campaign based on lies and distortions, you can scare a lot of ignorant people into going to the polls. Maybe the most significant part of this is that MSNBC didn't call Tony Perkins to comment.


Here's a third story that's been around -- a good summation by Lawrence O'Donnell:

Not only is this being reported on the MSM, it's a real body-blow to the folks at NOM. I certainly hope they treasure it.

Jeremy Hooper at Good As You really broke the story and has done a lot of follow-up. Here's one of his posts, including the first interview with Marinellli. The significance of this is that NOM is being shown for the shell game it is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

From John Cole

A great post, partly on the Ryan "Roadmap To Becoming a Banana Republic" and partly on the response from all those rich libertarians in Washington. (And have you noticed how there are no poor people espousing libertarianism?) It's a spin-off from this post by DougJ, and it starts like this:

What I don’t know for sure is if Brooks, Klein, Sullivan, etc. are cowardly careerist sociopaths, just plain stupid, or both.
Well, both, obviously, but I would add a couple more things- lazy, incurious, insulated, and well-rewarded for staying that way.

And then Cole proceeds to demonstrate.

Read both.

All Those Jobs Will Come Back

beause we're becoming a Third World country.

Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.

What's more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.

Swedwood's Steen said the company is reducing the number of temps, but she acknowledged the pay gap between factories in Europe and the U.S. "That is related to the standard of living and general conditions in the different countries," Steen said.

Can you say "banana republic"?


I've let go over the winter, and it's showing -- I've got a belly, which is a total bummer. Now, I could start working out, which would address the issue, get me back in shape, make me feel better, and in general solve the problem.

Or I could go on a Republican diet plan: stop eating.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reviews in Brief: Youka Nitta's When a Man Loves a Man, Vols. 1-6 (German Edition)

A bit of an update. I posted briefly about this series when I first started it, and it's been an adventure. The upside is that my German is coming back to me, although I've discovered that if I don't do a little bit every day, I lose vocabulary. But it's a long series -- nine volumes total, of which I now have eight and have managed to translate six.

The story in brief is the doings of four hosts who work in two different host clubs (sort of the male equivalent of geishas). Kyosuke Iwaki leaves early on to start his own club, the Rusty Nail, leaving Ryo Takaaki (whose real name is Yoji Kato) as the head host of Schnapps. The meet again, and Iwaki, as it turns out, is in love with Ryo. Things are complicated by another host at Schnapps, Takaaki Shinkawa, who is also in love with Ryo. Rejected, he leaves Schnapps to go work for Iwaki, unaware of the relationship between his new boss and Ryo. Things are complicated further by Kenzaki, who professes not to like men, but who falls in love with Shinkawa.

It turns into a character study of Ryo, who is certainly the main character through all of this, with flashbacks to his arrival in Tokyo and his mentoring by Iwaki. (Ryo's mother was a hostess in Tokyo before she moved back to her home town and opened her own club, so the milieu is a natural fit for Ryo.) It's also a fairly complex series -- almost a soap opera -- with subseries detailing the various encounters among the four men. Through it all, Ryo remains somewhat remote and uninvolved, although there are a couple of scenes in which he opens up a bit. Iwaki is similarly dispassionate, although we come to realize that he's only playing his cards close to his chest -- he understands Ryo better than anyone else and has a good sense of what's needed to win him. Shinkawa is impatient and ultimately drives Ryo away from Tokyo and back to the country, where a conversation with his mother forces Ryo to confront himself. At the end of volume 6 he returns to Tokyo, and to Iwaki -- but there's no guarantee that's going to last, particularly since Ryo is firmly convinced that relationships between men are necessarily ephemeral.

Nitta has a tendency toward melodrama, which sometimes jars, although in the case of Shinkawa, it's perfectly apt -- sometimes you want to shake him and ask him what the hell he's thinking of. On the whole, the story is complex enough and moves well enough to keep us interested. Interestingly, unlike some later efforts, there's not much in the way of sex through most of the series -- it's much more about the emotional context.

The drawing, although early Nitta (as it happens, this is her first BL series), has all the hallmarks of her style: firm, clear lines and a sense of openness in the frames. Layouts are coherent, not particularly adventurous, although firmly in the shoujo canon. And after six volumes, I'm able to discern the subtle differences in features that distinguish the characters. (It's also interesting to note Nitta's tendency to re-use character names. If Iwaki and Kato sound familiar, that's because they are the protagonists in Embracing Love: Cherished Spring -- also known as Haru wo. . . .)

It's turning out to be a good one, and I was right on one thing: it's turned out to be the ideal way to relearn German.

From Carlsen Manga.

The New Globalism

In light of this story, you have to wonder what Murdoch, Inc., is up to here.

It seems that money buys access there as well as here.


That's one of those words I can never remember the translation for, and it's a very commonly used word. It translates as "finally" or "after all," and I can never remember it.

It's only one of many.

However, I did a 20-something page marathon yesterday and finished volume 6 of When a Man Loves a Man. I may make an update on that the Review in Brief for today. I'm thinking about it.

In other news, I'd rather not deal with other news today -- it's just as depressing as it was yesterday, except that both Brazil and Uruguay are now considering bills to legalize same-sex marriage. Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to institute civil unions, so it's a good bet the bill will pass, and Brazil's new president has made legalized SSM a priority. The U.S., of course, has Republicans wanting to repeal the repeal of DADT because they share Elaine Donnelley's shower room fantasies.

And the president wants to share credit with John Boehner for trashing what's left of the economy.

Do I sound fed up?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Stockholm Syndrome, With Fantasy Road Trips

Well, it seems the government's not shutting down. I guess that means I have to do my taxes.

This is pathetic:

“Today, Americans of different beliefs came together,” Obama said. He said the cuts would be painful but necessary to maintain the country’s fiscal health. “We protected the investments we need to win the future.”

This is going to cost over a million jobs. Can someone explain to me how that's going to maintain the country's fiscal health? And what investments did he protect? You have to give the Republicans credit, though -- when we hit the second part of the double-dip recession, Obama's going to own it. Good move.

And you have to love WaPo -- they swallowed the BS that is Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Scott Walkerstan) "Path to Prosperity":

Already, many Republicans have called for the party to finish this fight, and focus on a much more ambitious one over the 2012 budget. This week, the House Budget Committee approved a plan that, over 10 years, would save $6 trillion.

The fight over the 2011 budget “is the first bite of the apple,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the budget committee chairman and the architect of that proposal. “We want to get billions in savings and then we want to move on to get trillions in savings.”

Ryan's fantasy is a bold stroke toward making the U.S. an official banana republic. Read Paul Krugman on Ryan's "plan." (Just start at the top and scroll down -- he's been devoting a lot of space to it over the past few days.) The difference is that Krugman's an economist, and he even knows how to do math; Ryan is an ideologue, and doesn't. WaPo, of course, thinks that Ryan is Serious. I have to wonder what WaPo considers a Joke.

This is choice, talking about the stand-off and the "negotiations."

And none of them wanted to be the first to blink. That might have set a damaging precedent for future fights with higher stakes, over the decision to raise the national debt limit, and to pass a 2012 budget.

Obama blinked two years ago, when he ditched the public option in the health-care reform bill, and has never recovered. The Republicans are masters of demanding the outrageous and settling for the extreme, and he's never called them on it. And now he's starting to act as though he likes it that way.

WaPo makes one observation that may be more accurate than they realized:

And in the White House, President Obama seemed interested in cementing his role as a calm mediator, a CEO.

We've seen the kind of crap that CEOs come up with in this country -- is that what we want running things?

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Bigger They Are

You know the rest. It seems that NOM champion and strategist Louis Marinelli has had a change of heart on the same-sex marriage front. The scoop is Jeremy Hooper's at Good As You.

It seems Marinelli began to see the light on the great NOM Bus Tour Disaster of 2010 -- which he originated and organized.

As you may already know, I was the one behind the 2010 Summer for Marriage Tour which the National Organization for Marriage sponsored and operated throughout July and August last year. It was my doing when, in March that year, I approached Brian Brown about sponsoring and participating in a series of traditional marriage rallies scattered around the Nation.

In fact, the tour route itself, while chosen largely by NOM itself, incorporated as many of the sites I had originally chosen and helped independently organize. Other locations were added due to strategic, political or simply logistical purposes.

Ironically, one of the last tour stops added to the itinerary was Atlanta and I bring this site up because it was in Atlanta that I can remember that I questioned what I was doing for the first time. The NOM showing in the heart of the Bible-belt was dismal and the hundreds of counter-protesters who showed up were nothing short of inspiring.

Even though I had been confronted by the counter-protesters throughout the marriage tour, the lesbian and gay people whom I made a profession out of opposing became real people for me almost instantly. For the first time I had empathy for them and remember asking myself what I was doing.

What is especially delicious is his comment about Peter LaBarbera:

Any support or endorsement of what Peter LaBarbera does I retract. I have been reading via Twitter and his website what this guy has to say, and it is clear that he is just a hateful man and I would be embarrassed and ashamed to be associated with him.

Furthermore, the issues Peter takes on, even if they were true, are not in themselves valid reasons for denying same-sex couples access to civil marriage. I am aware how he was upset by my public support for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in December. His reasoning for such seemed to be something along the lines of “in order to protect marriage, you have to oppose everything homosexuals do”. If that were the case, Peter, how far should we go in restricting homosexuals’ lives?

Of course, we know what LaBarbera's response to that last question would be.

I suspect that Marinelli has only started on a journey. It would be interesting to see how far it takes him.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Monday, April 04, 2011

Today's Must Read

The mortgage/foreclosure mess is even bigger than I had imagined. Here's the transcript from 60 Minutes.

It's bizarre but, it turns out, Wall Street cut corners when it created those mortgage-backed investments that triggered the financial collapse. Now that banks want to evict people, they're unwinding these exotic investments to find, that often, the legal documents behind the mortgages aren't there. Caught in a jam of their own making, some companies appear to be resorting to forgery and phony paperwork to throw people - down on their luck - out of their homes.

It's not only sloppiness -- in a lot of these cases, it's outright fraud:

One of the strangest signatures belonged to the bank vice president who had signed Szymoniak's newly discovered mortgage documents. The name is Linda Green. But, on thousands of other mortgages, the style of Green's signature changed a lot.

And, even more remarkable, Szymoniak found Green was vice president of 20 banks - all at the same time.

Where did all those documents come from? We went searching for "the" Linda Green and found her in rural Georgia. She told us she has never been a bank vice president.

In 2003, she was a shipping clerk for auto parts when her grandson told her about a job at a company called Docx. The company, that was once housed in Alpharetta, Ga., was a sweatshop for forged mortgage documents.

Y'know, one thing I don't understand -- why aren't some of these banksters in jail? Oh, wait -- it's probably because they're not poor and brown.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Conservative Vision of America

Is to be forced to listen to wingnuts at gunpoint. Mike Huckabee says so, so it must be true -- the money quote (which has been edited out of the "official" version) is within the first minute.

Here's the quote, via Box Turtle Bulletin:

“I just wish that every single young person in america would be able to be under his tutelage and understand something about who we are as a nation. I almost wish there would be like a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced — forced, at gunpoint no less — to listen to every David Barton message. And I think our country would be better for it.”

You have to wonder if these people are even thinking about what they're saying. As an American, that's the sort of sentiment that turns my stomach. (I realize there is a remote chance that Huckabee was "joking," as conservatives understand the concept. Considering that they seem to consider humor as being against God's will, somehow I doubt it.)

The remarks about being forced to listen to a screwball like David Barton are bad enough, but I found it very interesting later in the clip (if you can stand to watch that long), when Huckabee is praising the organizer of the event as being "a perfect servant." Right there, I think, is what bothers me most about Christianity (well, give or take the exclusion of the Goddess, and all the focus on breeding): the idea that we are all servants. There's something really wrong about that.

But back to Huckabee: that clip has gone viral. I think we have a good idea where the Christian right stands in regard to American values, in case we had any doubts.

Bipartisanship Works!

In Illinois, at least. Of course, we don't have much patience with teabaggers here. The State of Illinois has just passed a Medicare reform bill -- with real bipartisan support(not the kind you find in Washington) -- that actually looks like it will work:

From Crooks and Liars:

Lots of states are having a hard time with Medicaid. In states with Republican Governors, like oh, for instance, Arizona? The "answer" is to cut people from the rolls without regard to long-term impact on the health and welfare of their citizens. 

Here in Illinois we did something a little different. We re-elected (in a very close race) our admittedly lackluster, but hard-working Governor, Pat Quinn. Quinn and the Democratic-led legislature put together a bi-partisan committee to reform Medicaid in Illinois, and the Bill was signed into law at the end of January. Medicaid recipients were informed by mail of the changes with their April Medicaid cards.

I don't really care that Pat Quinn is "lackluster" -- he's capable, intelligent, and (gasp!) liberal. And this is what happens when you have a governor like that: the bill will save money and provide better results.

(Note: Heather Steans, who was one of the prime movers on this, is my senator.)

Friday, April 01, 2011

More on William Cronon

A little while ago I noted the Wisconsin Republican Party's attempt to retaliate against Prof. William Cronon for a blog post critical of Scott Walker and his high-handed attempts at union-busting by filing a freedom of information request for all e-mails on his university account. The University has responded:

To our faculty, I say: Continue to ask difficult questions, explore unpopular lines of thought and exercise your academic freedom, regardless of your point of view. As always, we will take our cue from the bronze plaque on the walls of Bascom Hall. It calls for the "continual and fearless sifting and winnowing" of ideas. It is our tradition, our defining value, and the way to a better society.

Read the letter from the University's chief counsel to the head of the Wisconsin Republicans, detailing what has been withheld and why. It's just great.

These idiots can't seem to stop giving themselves black eyes, can they?

Jon Stewart

on GE's negative tax rate:

I don't really have anything to add.


The latest high-profile DADT case has a surprising ending:

Derek Morado -- who was faced with discharge even though we were "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was history -- just telephoned GetEQUAL to let them know he won his battle to stay in the military today. . . .

According to Derek, all three members of the hearing board voted to retain him in the military -- an incredible result.

I really didn't expect that.

I'd love to know what was on the appeal panel's minds behind this decision. No statement from them yet, though, and I doubt there will be one.