"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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quote du Jour

Thanks to Charles Johnson at LGF:

An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.

— Arthur Miller

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today's Must Read

This column by Frank Rich in The New Yorker -- a little bit of history that needs to be remembered.

In the outpouring of provincial self-congratulation that greeted the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, some of the discomforting history that preceded that joyous day has been rewritten, whitewashed, or tossed into a memory hole. We—and by we, I mean liberal New Yorkers like me, whether straight or gay, and their fellow travelers throughout America—would like to believe that the sole obstacles to gay civil rights have been the usual suspects: hidebound religious leaders both white and black, conservative politicians (mostly Republican), fundamentalist Christian and Muslim zealots, and unreconstructed bigots. What’s been lost in this morality play is the role that many liberal politicians and institutions have also played in slowing and at some junctures halting gay civil rights in recent decades.

Read it. He names names.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Random Definitions


1) The art of the possible.

2) The lowest form of humor.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Mind Set

Caught the office sniffles, so I've been a little unfocused that last couple of days. (I really hate my head being clogged up. Really.)

However, this story sort of leaped out at me.

A bill passed by Republicans in the Utah House of Representatives would effectively ban comprehensive education about human sexuality, forcing schools to teach abstinence or nothing at all. . . .

The bill forbids advocating for “the use of contraceptive methods or devices,” sex outside marriage or homosexuality. It also restricts teaching about sexual intercourse or erotic behavior.

Public and charter schools would have the option of developing an abstinence-only curriculum or skipping the discussion of sexuality altogether.

Aside from the usual catch-all language (we know by now that "advocating" means mentioning with anything other than stern disapproval), this quote caught my eye:

"We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest[.]"

"How to get away with it"? What, sex is like shoplifting? Cheating on your diet?

Oh, and don't try to make any sense of the "intellectually dishonest" part. Aside from the busted irony meter, I think this guy just threw it in because it's one of the stock phrases used by blowhards who don't have any idea what they're saying.

All of which only reinforces my perception that fundamentalists, especially those of any brand of Christianity (yes, this guy was probably Mormon, seeing as how this is Utah -- which reportedly has the highest rate of online porn consumption in the country -- but Mormons consider themselves Christians), have a really sick attitude toward sex. I suppose that grows pretty much organically out of the idea that you're supposed to be ashamed of having a body, but credit Paul with a lot of the bad attitude. (Yes, that Paul -- the one who lived with a prostitute for fifteen years, had a child with her, and then left her to marry a rich widow.) Augustine gets a vote, too.

Wonder what this bill, if it makes it into law, is going to do to the teen pregnancy rate in Utah.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If It Works, Try Something Else

No doubt you've heard about the crisis in Greece (soon to be followed by Spain and Portugal, it appears) -- austerity as a fix for an ailing economy, enforced by the euro cartel (that translates as "banks).

Well, Iceland told the banks to shove it, and it's working. Via David Dayen at FDL:

Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger.

Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.

From the Bloomberg article:

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates. It costs about the same to insure against an Icelandic default as it does to guard against a credit event in Belgium. Most polls now show Icelanders don’t want to join the European Union, where the debt crisis is in its third year.

All the Republicans can think of is to screw up Medicare and Social Security in order to pay for more tax breaks for corporations and billionaires. Oh, and defund every government program that's actually putting money into the economy.

Maybe we need to stone some members of Congress.

(Read the Bloomberg article -- it's an eye-opener.)

On the other side of that coin, Argentina may be a good example of what the U.S. is headed for if we follow current economic policy. The first section is a history summary, but the second section is the meat of what's happening now, and it seems to be exactly what the U.S. has been doing. The third section is the authors' recommendations on how to fix the "social disaster" brought about by the "recovery."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Today's Must Read

You remember, I hope, my comments on NYT Public Editor Arthur Brisbane's seemingly clueless question to readers: Should we be refuting false statements in our news stories? Well, Jay Rosen has a blockbuster post at Pressthink on that story, with follow-up.

It's long, but it's worth reading. I have a few thoughts on it -- Rosen skips a couple of points that I think are important -- but I'll have to come back to it later.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

One Million (minus 960,000) Moms vs. Penney's: Coda

Remember the big fuss from One Million (minus 960,000) Moms about JC Penney's selecting Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson? You do remember that Penney's response was on the order of "yeah, whatever," don't you?

It gets better -- Greg Rothman organized a flash mob for an excursion to Penney's. The reaction from Penney's staff is beyond great:

As a sea of people dressed in pink descended the escalator to shop, to "flash our pink dollars," we noticed that all of the JCPenney staff were also wearing pink clothing, and they applauded as we reached their floor. It was a spectacular moment.

The times, they are a'changin'.

(PS -- according to one of the commenters at the link, the Facebook page "1 Million people who support Ellen for JC Penney" has 185,000 members. We've got them outnumbered.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bad Week for NOM

Same-sex marriage was recognized in Washington State on Monday, New Jersey on Thursday (although the governor has vowed to veto the bill), and Maryland looks likely today. Plus a probable referendum in Maine, a bill introduced in Illinois, civil unions under debate in Colorado, and hints that Rhode Island may soon be moving on it.

Brian Brown must be losing it.

For some reason, that makes me really, really happy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quote du Jour

"Who your friends are and who your enemies are isn't something someone else should be teaching you, much less deciding for you."

Genjo Sanzo, from Saiyuki

Monday, February 13, 2012

He's Not Blinking

John Aravosis on the contraception regs. There's a clear majority in support of the administration position, according to the latest PPP poll (Aravosis includes numbers).

What I particularly like is this: "I voted for President Obama, I didn't vote for the Pope."

David Atkins has, I think, the right take on this, and one that you've heard before (probably from me) but one that bears repeating:

[T]here is no reason to ever attempt to accommodate people like this. They will never be happy, and the person doing the accommodating will always be seen as more weak than reasonable.

Second, it's fairly clear that the Bishops don't really care all that much about this issue. They haven't raised this much of a stink about the subject at a state level, even though they're required by many state laws to provide contraception.

This is a political move by the Bishops to damage the President, and to rally support among the most extremist elements of an organization that lost its way and true calling some time ago. They're acting purely as an attack arm of the theocratic Republican Party, and they should be treated accordingly.

That's my take, on all points -- it's a power-play by the bishops, and I think Obama's absolutely right not to give ground -- we've already given to much to these "religious" extremists, who are nothing more than cheap politicians waving Bibles. Think about all the "conscience" clauses that allow people like pharmacists, NY state county clerks, nurses and doctors and the like to refuse to do their jobs. These are areas that are regulated by the state, and these people have no business giving their "religious" beliefs precedence over the needs of their constituents.

And it's about time.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In Memoriam

Whitney Houston, dead at 48.

I hadn't realized that her mother was Cissy Houston, and that Dionne and DeeDee Warwick were her cousins. And Aretha Franklin was her godmother.

Gods, she was beautiful.

I can't leave it at one clip:

Disgusting People

This, by Virginia Del. Ben Cline (R-Black Holes), on a bill to rescind the practice of shackling female prisoners in labor:

Del. Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge and chairman of the subcommittee, replied: “Does it show concern for the child for the mother to engage in criminal activity when she knows she’s pregnant? Do you agree choices have consequences?”

She's in prison, asshole. Isn't that enough for you? It's appalling that Virginia, or any state, could engage in such a practice to begin with.

Any bets on whether this guy considers himself a Christian?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Contraception Flap

I feel like I should comment on this, since it's not really about contraception or religious freedom or any of the stated excuses. It's about a power grab by the Catholic bishops, in part because they've lost their grip on the laity, and in part, I suspect, a way to deflect questions about their own moral failings. (Bishop Egan retracting his apology for the child abuse cases is his diocese didn't help that at all.)

That's all I have to say on the matter -- it's politics, pure and simple, and another example of the hierarchy, who, after all, take their orders from Rome, interfering in American politics.

However, check out Andrew Rosenthal, who seems to have pretty much the same take I do:

This is not about religious freedom; it’s about women’s health. Religions have the constitutionally protected right to worship as they choose, to require that their adherents dress in a certain way, or behave in a certain way, or shun birth control (although the idea that American Catholics generally follow that rule is pretty laughable). The government has no business meddling in that. But this is an example of where religious doctrine intrudes into public policy. The First Amendment also protects civic society from domination by any particular religion.

David Atkins also has a good point:

Ignore them, and make them follow the laws the rest of us do. My minority views on capital punishment and military spending are not respected in the tax code. There's no reason to give the Bishops any more credence.

And of course, there's Digby, who lets a picture stand for a little more than a thousand words:

Sort of nails the whole context, doesn't it?

SFPD: It Gets Better

Right on target -- these policemen and -women are all gay. This is probably the most encouraging IGB video I've seen. Word to the wise -- grab a hanky.

Whatever your feelings about police in general -- and I admit to more than a little concern with the way police forces are being militarized across the country, and the pernicious effects of "police culture" on actual law enforcement -- I think it's significant that a police department would get behind something like an It Gets Better video.

OK, Chicago -- your turn.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Timing Is Everything (Updated)

Zandar has a very interesting analysis of the whole uproar over the administration's "new" rules requiring employers who offer health insurance to include birth control at no cost to the employee. Let's not forget that the outcry is being led by the Catholic bishops, those paragons of compassion, who apparently have been living on another planet for the last twelve years (quoting an article by Nick Bauman at Mother Jones):

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.

“It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.”

As Zandar notes:

It wasn’t an issue at all until an African-American Democrat in the White House decided during an election year that “Hey, this is a good idea, let’s put this on the books for all 50 states” just after getting yet another monthly unemployment report that showed that his policies were starting to bring the jobs numbers back around, and that his prospects for re-election were improving along with that uptick on what basically everyone agreed up until that millisecond was the most important issue of the day, the economy itself.

Is this about "religious" freedom? No -- it's about four more years.

And the Catholic hierarchy is in the middle of it, it appears.

Update: Scarecrow has another angle on this at FDL:

Religious freedom doesn’t mean the Catholic Bishops, or any other religious leaders, have the right to impose what they believe on everyone else. When we cross over to the realm of what the rules should be for everyone, and the pushing is coming from a religious purpose, it’s more likely we’re talking about that other clause, the establishment clause. And that’s exactly where the Bishops are.

Those who oppose any contraception insurance coverage want to prevent the government from having a rule that requires contraception, or have it adopt a rule prohibiting the coverage of contraception. And they want this not for health/safety reasons, but for declared religious ones. In other words, they want a government rule that imposes their religious beliefs on everyone else. That’s not about the “free exercise” clause; that’s “establishment of religion.”

It is the Catholic Bishops and the GOP politicians exploiting this who are pressing to have government violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment. And that’s the real Constitutional violation at stake here.

We Need More Like Her

Washington state representative Maureen Walsh, a Republican, who voted for the marriage bill, explains why:

We need more people with that honesty and that courage in our state houses.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Today's Must Watch

This: Rachel Maddow and Ted Olson.

Olson is amazing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Sooner Than I Expected

Marriage equality rears its head in Illinois.

More as I find out more.


Who else?

The man's so shamelessly stupid that I can't help but laugh, and I usually try not to laugh at people for the way they were born.

Prop 8, The Dissent

Liz Newcomb has a very good summary of Judge Smith's dissent in the Prop 8 appeal, which is pretty weak.

Smith's dissent was weak. In it, he gave some credence to two of the anti-marriage equality side's bases for upholding Prop 8: (1) the "optimal parenting" basis, whereby the proponents of prop 8 argued that opposite sex parenting was optimal and the state has a rational basis for encouraging that through marriage; and‎(2) the "accidental parenting" theory, whereby opp sex couples can conceive accidentally, and same-sex couples can't, so it's supposedly rational to encourage accidental parenting within the bonds of marriage, and there's no need to offer marriage to same-sex couples.

Now, I will have to check whether rationale number (1) was factually refuted at the trial, but I think it was. In any case, I know of no legitimate study that shows opposite sex parents are better parents than same-sex. But Smith's dissent ignored the factual situation and seemed to say it's enough if the government thinks its justification is rational. That's a head-scratcher for me. Moreover, the state does not prevent other couples who cannot conceive from marrying.

Rationale number (2) also seems like a very limited and tenuous basis upon which the state supposedly provides marriage rights. Again, the government does not restrict couples who cannot conceive from marrying. So this rationale would seem extremely overbroad on its face. Smith ignored that.

What's even more telling here, I think, is that Prop 8 does not address either of those "rationales" -- denying same-sex couples the right to marriage does nothing to strengthen parenting within opposite-sex marriages, placing Smith's dissent firmly in the realm of ideology, not law.

I'm betting that the proponents will ask for a en banc retrial, in an attempt to draw the whole thing out for as long as possible -- that's been their strategy all along. I guess they think we'll get tired and go home or something.


Read Newcomb's piece and the comments. Good discussion.

PSD -- here's a thorough summary of the whole thing from Timothy Kincaid at BTB. As if you needed another one, but it's concise and clear.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

In Case You Missed It

The Ninth Circuit panel has ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional. It's a narrow ruling, and quote purposely so, it appears. Check Ari Ezra Waldman's analysis at Towleroad, which is pretty thorough and answers a couple of questions that I had.

I'm not going to bother with the reactions -- both our side and their side are pretty much as expected, so there's no news there. If you really want to know how the professional gay-bashers are reacting, Joe.My.God. has a series of posts today. So does Jeremy Hooper at Good As You.

And for you real law geeks, here's the opinion:

10-16696 #398_Decision

Monday, February 06, 2012

There's One Born Every Minute

But way too many of them are in Congress.

Follow the link. I don't have anything to add. I don't think I need to add anything.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Birth Control Mandate

Digby has a very clear, very good piece up about the realities of the new requirement that employers include birth control in insurance plans for their employees as "preventive care." The expected outrage from the Catholic Bishops, et al. (and why those clowns are not required to register as agents of a foreign government is beyond me at this point) has materialized: they are being persecuted, persecuted, I tell you!

Says Digby:

People are getting very confused on this issue. We ostensibly believe in rights and liberties in America and have a set of rules in our constitution guaranteeing them. But lately, we've decided that these phony constructs of institutional rights and liberties --- "corporate personhood","conscience of the church" --- actually supercede individual rights and liberties. I don't mean to evoke the sacred founders here, but I'm afraid they would say that idea is, in their words, total bullshit. They knew very well that the government wasn't the only possible oppressor. 500 years of bloody European religious history had taught them that.

If the Catholic bishops don't want people to use birth control it needs to convince people not to use birth control. That's how we exercise "conscience" in a free society. No Catholic employees anywhere, including a Catholic bishop, will be forced to use birth control, I guarantee it. Their individual consciences will be respected.

The key issue is institutional "rights" superceding individual rights. It's not only the rights of their adherents that are ignored --after all, if one subscribes to Catholic doctrine, then one is relinquishing a certain amount of decision-making ability, at least in theory -- but the rights of everyone else.

And if, as Digby points out, 98% of Catholic women have used birth control, it seems to me the bishops need to work on their sales pitch, and not expect the government to do their work for them.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Disgusting People (Updated)

You can figure that Rick Santorum (google it!) will show up here regularly. Here he is on drug costs:

It gets worse:

"Look, I want your son and everybody to have the opportunity to stay alive on much-needed drugs," Santorum insisted. "But the bottom line is, we have to give companies the incentive to make those drugs. And if they don't have the incentive to make those drugs, your son won't be alive and lots of other people in this country won't be alive."

"He’s alive today because drug companies provide care," the candidate continued. "And if they didn’t think they could make money providing that drug, that drug wouldn’t be here. I sympathize with these compassionate cases. … I want your son to stay alive on much-needed drugs. Fact is, we need companies to have incentives to make drugs. If they don’t have incentives, they won’t make those drugs. We either believe in markets or we don’t."

"Drug companies provide care?" Really? Since when?

Keep in mind that we pay at least three times more for prescription drugs here in the good ol' US of A than citizens of any other country in the world.

From Crooks and Liars.


The man just doesn't know when to shut up.

Catching Up: Pink Ribbons

It's been quite a week. As you can see from my comments (started this draft yesterday), this story happened almost too fast to keep track of, which is my excuse if this post is a little incoherent.

Most light -- and heat -- is the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation's decision to cut future grants to Planned Parenthood. PP currently is one of the largest organizations providing breast cancer screenings. SGK's reasons are -- shall we call them "flimsy" and let it go at that? I have a feeling that the foundation's not going to like the amount of light generated by this one, even less than they're going to like the heat.

Maha has a good summary of the origins of this. Key point:

According to Sarah Kliff, the Komen Foundation says it is de-funding Planned Parenthood because it is under congressional investigation. Of course, the only reason it is under congressional investigation is that wingnuts in Congress are subjecting it to a witch hunt.

Here's the story from NYT. The Grey Lady also had a bit of editorial commentary on the whole thing.

Mr. Stearns’s “investigation” is nothing more than a political witch hunt, stirred up by Republican leaders and by a right-wing antichoice group, Americans United for Life, which now displays the pink ribbon on its Web site as part of a fund-raising campaign for Komen. The inquiry is part of the Republican campaign to stigmatize Planned Parenthood and end financial support for its invaluable network of clinics. Abortions make up only about 3 percent of its work, but most of this crowd also objects to its leading role in providing access to contraceptives.

Digby has a few words about SGK's initial attempts at damage control:

Look, at this point it's quite clear that the Komen Foundation has gone over to the dark side. This isn't a result of bullying. This woman agrees with this decision and is simply dancing as fast as she can to tamp down the reaction. The willing hire of a forced childbirth zealot was the first clue.

Watch the video at the link, and see if you agree with me: Nancy Brinker is a) lying through her teeth, and b) desperately trying to get out of the shitstorm.

Read the article by Jeffrey Goldberg that Digby links to. Nothing like a little inside information to clarify things.

[T]hree sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process told me that the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut off Planned Parenthood. (Komen gives out grants to roughly 2,000 organizations, and the new "no investigations" rule applies to only one so far.)

Funny how that worked out, isn't it?

Charles Pierce points out that the "investigation itself is nothing more than part of a campaign to pull an ACORN on Planned Parenthood:

Of course, the real reason is a politically motivated audit undertaken a part of a general jihad against Planned Parenthood undertaken by Florida congresscritter Cliff Stearns, the chairman of an oversight subcommittee and a real freaking prize in his own right. Stearns is the guy who added to the Zadroga bill, which provided for federal relief to the first responders who worked on the pile at Ground Zero in New York, the ludicrous requirement that the names of all applicants for such relief first be checked against all terrorist watch-list. He also once attacked PBS because the South African version of Sesame Street introduced a character who was HIV-positive.

The prime catalyst for this seems to have been Karen Handel, SGK's new Senior Vice President for Public Policy. She's a Georgia wingnut. Ed Kilgore has the dirt on her.

(OK -- how bad is the backlash? Even rock bands are piling on.)

People are on to them now. (And I confess I didn't see this coming -- at least, not this fast.) Komen appears to have done a 180, which is being greeted with no little amount of scepticism.

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post got a Komen board member on the phone, and he said that “it would be highly unfair to ask us to commit to any organization that doesn’t go through a grant process that shows that the money we raise is used to carry out our mission. … Tell me you can help carry out our mission and we will sit down at the table.”

By the way, about SGK's "mission" -- 24% of their outlays go to research on a cure for breast cancer. This is the Susan G. Komer for the Cure foundation. 24%. Do the math.

The mantra, of course, is that Planned Parenthood is using SGK money for abortions. That's bullshit. It's become a McArdleism: "Money is fungible." No, it's not. I've worked for not-for-profits, specifically with grant writing and accounting. You have to account for every penny and show that it was spent in support of the program it was intended for. You don't move money from breast cancer screenings to abortion services. You can't. As for the idea that giving money for one program frees up money for another, that's also bullshit. If you don't give money for a particular program, it doesn't happen. That's the not-for-profit universe.

Does anyone see the pattern here? It's not just the so-called "pro-life" contingent. The right wing is going after everything that might actually do some people (read "those" people) some good. Remember ACORN? Gaius Publius has some good observations on the strategy here.

As my old Uncle Straight Talk used to say (who's much more direct than yours truly) — "Do they care about blacks? They care about winning. Do they care about gays? They care about winning. Do they care about women? They care about winning. Got that, son?"

Got that?

(Footnote: One source claims that Planned Parenthood raised $3 million in three days after SGK's announcement that PP was being de-funded.)

Thursday, February 02, 2012

At This Point

I would vote for Obama just because he hasn't been cluttering up the news and/or blogosphere nearly as much as Romney or Gingrich. I'm just sick of them.

Under the Weather

Just enough to scramble what's left of my thought processes. I'll try to catch up this weekend -- lots happening -- but I promise, nothing about the Republican primaries.

On a sad note, Wislawa Szymborska passed away at age 88. I reviewed her collection View With a Grain of Sand several years ago. I think it's time to revisit her work.