01 December 2010

Today is a day for strong black women. I don't plan to blog at all the rest of this month.


30 November 2010

Why am I pessimistic about the chances for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell this year? Because at least 40 Senators are terrified* of people like Les Kinsolving, who thinks "self-announced homosexuals" in the armed forces would mean the end of civilization.

*Every Republican in the Senate is beholden to right-wing organizations like Concerned Women for America and Family Research Council for campaign contributions. Pundits love to talk about how 'moderate' some Republicans are, like Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and John Ensign (who was affiliated with the C Street "Family", which tacitly supported Uganda's death to homosexuals bill, but who really cares about that?). When the base starts hearing that one might support the destruction of "Judeo-Christian values" (probably the most frequently used code word for homophobia), one's vaunted moderation is prone to vanish in a second.

27 November 2010

Islam is a violent homophobic religion, right?

25 November 2010

It is one of my strongest pet peeves to see someone throw great amounts of time and money into an institution that is rotten to the core, thinking that they can somehow save it when thousands of others have failed.

This is exactly what the openly gay Fred Karger is doing with his bid for the Republican (yes) presidential nomination in 2012. He has the dubious distinction of being the first candidate to release a TV ad in Iowa, the all-important primary state. (Let us remember that two years ago, Iowa Republicans chose Mike Huckabee, who has spoken favorably of executing gay people).

I don't doubt that Mr. Karger is an eloquent spokesman for equal rights, and a credit to the gay community. Yet he is pissing away money (100 grand already) that could be going to --- homeless gay teenagers!!!

There is no need for him to stay within the two-party system if he really wants to arouse national publicity. Ralph Nader ran his 2000 campaign without having much personal wealth, and garnered over 2.5 million votes. For the love of all that is holy, Fred, do not persist in this folly. The Republican Party cannot be restored to its pristine Eisenhower-era state.

19 November 2010

America is clearly not ready for democracy. We need to build up a strong middle class and a good education system first.

16 November 2010

Andrew Sullivan writes in response to Glenn Greenwald:

I have no desire to prevent the ACLU or CCR from doing what they are doing. That is their right. But I sympathize with one board member of CCR who has reservations about this. The reason? Awlaki is not imprisoned; he has not been seized extra-judicially and tortured. What makes this different from defending the rights of terror suspects who are already under our physical control and in our custody (which I have not stinted in doing) is that Awlaki isn't. He is currently a core member of the faction of al Qaeda that is actively trying to murder us. You will find no such account of Awlaki's record of despicable Jihadist terror in Glenn's post. As for "imminent" and "immediate" threat, maybe Glenn could have a word with the cartoonist for Seattle Weekly who, even now, is living in hiding and has had to change her name because of Awlaki's fatwa of death against her. I'm sure she regards the threat as imminent.

And, at some point, standing up for her - and for Glenn's and my right to speak freely - seems to me more important than defending Awlaki's free speech, rather than noticing his enmeshment in a lethal al Qaeda faction that has already tried to murder countless innocents in the name of holy war.

It seems that Andrew believes al-Qaeda, which has failed to kill any Americans in America for nine years, two months, and counting, is still an "imminent and immediate threat." Of course Awlaki has acted despicably, and I would never minimize the emotional impact of a fatwa upon any author. Yet due process is due process, Andrew, even when the bad guy is a crazy Muslim. We might as well be living in North Korea if we throw constitutional rights out the window when it comes to people who have gotten themselves "enmeshed in a lethal faction."

12 November 2010

I forgot the title of this movie, but I knew enough to google "facebook stalker movie," and voila.

I saw a preview. It puts me in mind of what John Stuart Mill said (in the context of some bad poetry by Robert Browning): "the author seems possessed of a more intense and morbid self-consciousness than I ever knew in any sane human being."

11 November 2010

Bristol Palin keeps advancing on Dancing with the Stars despite her inability to dance.

Who cares what the judges say? Judges are evil activist elitists, and the people always know better.

09 November 2010

This letter from Bishop Desmond Tutu makes me very proud to be part of the Anglican Communion.

We have had our fair share of anti-gay voices in the Anglican Church--even the author of Uganda's 'death for homosexuals' bill, David Bahati, is Anglican--yet the example of Tutu, who lived most of his life under apartheid, articulating that God's message of liberation extends to all human beings regardless of whom they love, is immensely heartening.

President Obama, did you read this letter? Do you agree that "those of us who have freedom must speak out for those whose freedom is under attack?" Simply by dropping the Justice Department's appeal of Judge Phillips' DADT ruling, you can make a difference.

28 October 2010

I greatly appreciated this profile of Lt. Dan Choi.

Some have criticized him for going on a hunger strike. "When I saw that, I thought it was ridiculous! You look insane!" says Jake Goodman, a founding member of Queer Rising. Goodman, no stranger to direct action, chained himself to the New York Marriage Bureau last year, but he was "very turned off" by Choi's strike.

"I have a lot of respect for Dan, and I know him personally," Goodman says. "If you feel someone shouldn't chain themselves to the White House, I say too bad. You can do your tactic, and you can see how well it's working." Still, he thinks a "hunger strike has to be about life and death. It shouldn't be done lightly as something just to raise the stakes."

Being kept in the closet is a kind of silent, unnoticed death. I am in awe of Lt. Choi's courage.

20 October 2010

A would-be senator from West Virginia thinks Obama has a "white working-class problem."

I am white, and working class (I don't expect to earn more than $25,000 a year at my job). I am sick to high heaven at white Democratic politicans stabbing the president in the back to curry favor with racist fucktards.

12 October 2010

Ron Johnson: A Dangerous Man.

An 'intensely private guy with a good business and a nice house on Lake Winnebago' wants to unseat Senator Russ Feingold in my state. God knows what he actually wants to do in office, except shovel subsidies to his beloved plastics industry. He doesn't like this year's health care bill, saying Obama has been 'demonizing doctors.' Can he show me any evidence of this tendency, or is this just another claim valid only in the ethereal plane, as so many Tea Party rallying cries are?

I remember distinctly that Republicans demonized Obama from day one of his campaign for (among other things) 'lacking experience.' So it only stands to reason they would nominate someone with zero political experience to a position of great power. Mr Johnson's current Rasputin, Curt Anderson, "presented [him with] two options: legislator or messenger."

"I will be a messenger," he says, pointing to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) as a kind of guiding star in the Senate.

Here we have a morsel of what kind of Senator Ron Johnson would be: theocratic, ever-ready to demonize gays, Muslims, and blacks, virulently anti-science.

I implore Wisconsin voters to think twice about voting for this 'good businessman.'

08 October 2010

Mrs. John McCain, a strong supporter of gay rights?

No. She is an enabler of the rotten homophobic tyranny that her husband practices in the Senate. If she really wants to 'stop hate,' she should stop appearing in public with her husband.

21 September 2010

Closing Guantanamo Bay prison: rejected by the Senate.
Creating a public option health care plan: rejected by the Senate.
Doing anything whatsoever about climate change: rejected by the Senate.
Now, repealing the unconstitutional Don't Ask Don't Tell law: rejected by the Senate.

"With the omnipotent means of corruption in the power of our spoilers, all struggle is vain. We must wait for our redress and regeneration till corruption shall have exhausted the means of corruption..." Sir Francis Burdett, 1807.

"NO let them exist not one day longer, we are the Sovereignty...Drag the Constitution from its hidden place--and lay it open to publick inspection--Shake the Earth to its centre." A handbill distributed in Bingley, Yorkshire, 1801.

[Both quotations from E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class]

14 September 2010

Every Democratic candidate in a tight race should be airing this on TV.

09 September 2010

An Estimate for the House Elections on Nov. 2nd

The Republicans will not take back control. I project they will emerge with 190 seats. This is not based on any statistical analysis -- for that you can wait for Nate Silver to announce his numbers -- but on my hunches concerning the inaccuracy of most national polls (which do not attempt to survey households without landline phones).

As an example of where Republicans will find troubles of their own, take a look at Minnesota's 6th district, where Michelle Bachmann is facing Tarryl Clark. The Republican share of the vote has steadily declined over the last eight years (2002: 57%; 2004: 54%; 2006: 50%; 2008: 46%).

08 September 2010

Look, the Aeneid, isn't it such a sweet, happy story?

03 September 2010

I was wandering around a major chain bookstore today and I couldn't help but notice that a lot of new fiction is being sold with covers featuring naked female flesh. Usually it's either a naked arm, backside (above the waist), or a leg.

Considering that women probably read more novels than men, this seems peculiar. Are publishers just trying to keep up with movie and video game marketing (neither very shy about showing skin), or is it some kind of woman-affirming cultural statement that never quite reaches the level of pornography?

At any rate, I do think Susan B. Anthony would be appalled.

30 August 2010

My history reading so far this year:

A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game, Jenny Uglow
A great and grisly read.

The Industrial Revolutionaries, Gavin Weightman

Citizens, Simon Schama.
Beautiful narrative history: but it may give you nightmares considering the similarities between late Ancien Regime France and the modern United States.

I just recently began The Age of Wonder, by Richard Holmes.

27 August 2010

To paraphrase William F. Buckley, I would rather be governed by the top 100 YouTube users than the current 100 U.S. Senators.

It would mean that Taylor Swift or Shane Dawson (the latter would actually have two votes) could be chairperson of the Armed Services Committee. However, with JamesNintendoNerd as chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, I would sleep very soundly indeed.

26 August 2010

Bush Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman Comes Out.

I am not going to praise your courage, Mr. Mehlman. You came out after there were no political consequences left in doing so. In fact, I believe you owe PFLAG an apology.

You are a professional 'message man,' so forgive me for putting words in your mouth:

I, Ken Mehlman, apologize for the hateful campaign rhetoric of the Republican Party in the years 2001-2009. I know that the president I worked for gave his approval to demonizing gay people in order to turn out more voters. I admit that President Bush did not once speak out concerning the civil rights of gay Americans.

It is relatively easy to be an openly gay man where I live now, in Manhattan, but I know the same cannot be said for gay people in rural Arkansas, West Virginia, and other places that my campaigns targeted with their homophobic appeals. To all the people whose lives were deluged with shit-buckets of hatred in the years 2001-2009: I am sorry.

23 August 2010

I've been reading State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America. My home state's contribution, by Daphne Beal, mentions the author learning "eighth-grade paleontology, dating from some 500 million years ago, when Wisconsin was still under a shallow inland sea."

I would like to point out that Wisconsin was under a shallow inland sea for several days this summer, as some crazy monsoons hit us.

Other thoughts: Illinois by Dave Eggers is riotously good. California by William T Vollmann is depressing and a trifle sanctimonious. Massachusetts by John Hodgman is funny, of course, but punctures forever the illusion of the 'most liberal state in the country.' Speaking of the most liberal state in the country, Washington by Carrie Brownstein is also a very good read.

22 August 2010

A poem in response to the endemic misspelling of a favorite novelist's name

I can't get China Melville out of my head
Whales, warlocks, and insect-babes give me wet dreams
The Scots have always been good at steampunk
My son thinks so too--he's reimagining J.M. Barrie
With Peter Pan as a leather-clad airship captain
Of reptilian fairies. Robert Halflein would be proud
Don't you think?

19 August 2010

If the Cordoba community center is forced out of its current planned location, don't think for one second that Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and their hysterical followers will be satisfied. This is just the beginning of a fell tide of nativism that will attack every Muslim place of worship in this country. This is not about 9/11 and the feelings of victims' families. This is about the bullying of minorities.

I write as an Episcopalian, belonging to a minority American religion. I urge my co-believers, as well as Jews, Mormons, atheists, to stand in support of the Cordoba initiative. This tide will not stop if we suspend the First Amendment and make 'compromises' for the sake of civility.

18 August 2010

Today will be forever remembered for the invention of a new music genre: Biebient.

06 August 2010

Ten weeks, and still no action from the Senate on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Instead, we had this tantrum from John Mccain.

29 July 2010

The gay community in Chile is reacting with indignation to recent comments by 83-year-old Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, who led the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments from 1996 to 2002.

Reacting to Argentina’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, the cardinal said that “the Church distinguishes the homosexual tendency and homosexual practice. If a person has a homosexual tendency it is a defect, as if one lacked an eye, a hand, a foot.” On the other hand, homosexual activity, he noted, is immoral.

“In my life as a priest, I have had [pastoral] care of many people with this problem,” he added. Some, like alcoholics, have overcome this tendency by “discipline, education, or reeducation,” he said, while others have heroically resisted this tendency for their entire lives.

Same-sex marriage, he added, “is something in opposition to the law of God, and no human law can go against the law of God. If a human law goes against the law of God, that human law does not exist.”

In a 2002 letter, Cardinal Medina Estévez, in his capacity as a Vatican prefect, had reiterated the Church’s discipline against ordaining men with homosexual inclinations.

“Ordination to the diaconate and the priesthood of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent and, from the pastoral point of view, very risky,” he wrote. “A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency is not, therefore, fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

Sad. I am praying for all gay children who are being raised in Roman Catholicism--a church consumed by hatred for anyone who cannot conform to a narrow and arbitrary idea of sexuality (this includes thousands of its own priests) and dependent on the "natural law" scam for moral justification. Natural law was unheard of for the first twelve centuries of Christianity.

A footnote: if you 'heroically resist' a homosexual tendency for your entire life, you may well end up as this man.

24 July 2010

If it were up to you, what works of non-fiction would you assign to be studied as literature?

1. Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln
2. Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror

17 July 2010

This November I will not vote for any U.S. Senate candidates. Instead, I will write in REFORM!

When a minority of 40 Senators can stop the passage of any bill--and, all too often, do so out of pure nihilist malice (disguised under the pretense of 'stopping socialism')--we should demand a change in the rules. The filibuster was never envisioned by the drafters of the Constitution; in fact, it only made its first appearance in 1946.

The filibuster procedure is uniquely injurious to democracy: 40 senators, who may represent as little as 10.08 percent[1] of the national population, can block legislation with the stroke of a pen. (All-night recitations of Shakespeare are no longer required.) The months of sucking up to Ben Nelson and Olympia Snowe during the health care debate were a product of a threatened filibuster. At this moment, we have been waiting for seven weeks for the full Senate to vote on the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, because most Republicans feel icky about gays in the showers and Harry Reid thinks they have a valid point.

Defenders of the filibuster spin magical tales of the 'slow, organic' character of our politics. There is something profoundly conservative and stabilizing about the filibuster, they say, as if Burke and Disraeli had wet dreams about a three-fifths supermajority rule in Westminster. They claim that without the rule, Congress would make too many 'unwise decisions.' As I recall, we do have elections where the people can throw the makers of unwise decisions out.

Paul Krugman wrote a perceptive column on this very issue in February.

51 Senators could reform the rules right now. To let your senators know you want an immediate elimination of the filibuster and anonymous holds, write in REFORM! on your ballot this year.
1. The smallest 20 states by population comprise 10.08 percent of the US population. As for anonymous holds, one man from Wyoming (0.17% of US population) can stop a presidential nomination from advancing.

28 June 2010

I have read three stories from the collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. A sample of her lovely work:

I have been staring in the mirror for an hour or more. I was always amazed at Cambridge how quickly people appeared to take offence at everything I said, but now I see plainly that it was not my words they hated--it was this fairy face. The dark alchemy of this face turns all my gentle human emotions into fierce fairy vices. Inside I am all despair but this face shews only fairy scorn. My remorse becomes fairy fury and my pensiveness is turned to fairy cunning.

24 June 2010

A piece of excellent local opinion and reporting.

18 June 2010

Thoughts on World Cup 2010

After England's humiliating 0-0 draw with Algeria today, we have seen the ruin of yet another branding campaign by the English Football Association and a sad day for fans hoping to see St George's banner honored by fine playing.

I use the term 'branding' because the new manager, Fabio Capello, has stood out more for his political views and fashion sense than for any inspired approach to the game. He replaced former Middlesbrough manager Steve Mclaren in 2007 after England lost to Croatia 3-2, thus failing to qualify for the Euro 2008 tournament.[1]

Capello has imposed a more rigorous training regimen, and banned players' wives and girlfriends from visiting the team hotel[2]. This is merely fussing over the symptoms of a deep-rooted disease.

A fan writes:
I love that the US players are hard-working, honest guys who play for each other and hustle until the last whistle....I love that when my kids met midfielder Stuart Holden just weeks before the World Cup, he treated them with genuine respect and affection. I love that our underdog team can beat mighty Spain and draw over-rated England. I’m afraid if soccer ever does “blow up” in the US, so much of what I love about the game in the US won’t be true any more.

Having lived two years in Britain, I can attest that its elite football world is over-commercialized, arrogantly complacent, and homophobic. It saddens me to see a country I am so fond of suffer such bad football.
1. Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland all failed to qualify as well.
2. This perhaps only encourages them to seek out unsafe sex with prostitutes.

10 June 2010

Finished reading Blue at the Mizzen, by Patrick O'Brian.

28 May 2010

From last night's debate, a verbatim transcript.

Rep. Buyer: I wanna thank Ike Skelton for years ago, for his thoughtful considerations to make this policy the law. We should not be changing this policy. It is very clear that homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The purpose of the military--we kill and break things. We inculcate young men and women with values. Values are extremely important. Now some are trying to make this argument, somehow, that tolerance requires a moral equivalency. It does not, when it comes to homosexuality. If, in fact, military is the inculcation of values, to say that we're going to say that sodomy now should be repealed from the uniform code of military justice--

Chair: The gentleman's time has expired.
History of one kind or another is being made tonight on the House of Representatives floor, as a debate over the Murphy amendment to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell has just concluded. (The chair deemed the Ayes to have won the voice vote, but, predictably, the opposition requested a recorded vote).

Bigoted monster of the evening: Rep. Steve Buyer (Indiana)

Saints of the evening: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. John Lewis (Georgia).

I will post all of Buyer's 30-second speech later, for historical interest, and refer you to other websites with video for Lewis's great burst of oratory (something only a veteran of the Freedom Rides and Selma could have produced).

11 May 2010

Britain has gotten no closer to a majority coalition government since the election five days ago.

The cynic in me thinks Gordon Brown has already made a private arrangement with David Cameron, allowing Cameron to become Prime Minister in September without any coalition partners. This is just enough time for the public to become totally disgusted with Brown's obstinacy and primed to look favorably upon a minority government led by someone else.

The Liberal Democrats' condition of participation in government, a referendum on electoral reform, is something neither Labour nor the Conservatives want. Any policy differences between the two parties (and I can see none) are overshadowed by this existential threat to their dominance.

09 May 2010

After 606 pages, I am putting Vanity Fair aside. It has been a pleasant ride, but the horses are showing marked signs of fatigue.

04 May 2010

This Bible passage caught my interest tonight:

Malachi 1:7-8
"You offer polluted bread upon my altar; and you say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that you say, the table of the Lord is contemptible. And if you offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor: will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of Hosts."

22 April 2010

As the Liberal Democrats' popularity rises in the run-up to Britain's general election, some are resorting to ad hominem attacks on its leader.

Do comments like these sound familiar to Americans? "Lobbyist, MEP*, no proper job on CV, doesn't sound very new and fresh to me."

*An MEP is a delegate to the European Parliament, which, although it doesn't decide a great deal, is a perfectly respectable international body. (It is no less serious than the U.S. Senate, and certainly more prestigious than being a community organizer).

20 April 2010

Why am I not surprised that there is a second recall campaign against Mayor Sam Adams?

The first campaign's leaders said it wasn't about homophobia, but Adams' illegal relationship with a 17-year-old intern, and his denial of said relationship. He admitted his wrongdoing in January 2009. The first recall vote was held in October 2009, and Adams was reaffirmed handily.

Of course, one vote of the people is never enough when it comes to puritanical crusades. I would like to think the people behind this would hold all politicians to such high ethical standards, but as we have seen over the past decade those who make ostentatious displays of "faith" and piety are often given a free pass.

Mark my words: when one American state elects its first openly gay male governor (and I am sure it will happen in my lifetime), there will be a vociferous recall campaign against him. He will be accused of 'setting a bad example for children.' No matter how big his margin of victory, he will have been 'foisted upon us by immoral elites.'

19 April 2010

Continuation of Thomas Carlyle poem

Thomas speaks his opening words;
Napoleon opens his regime.

Thomas learns his ABCs;
Jefferson doubles America's extent.

Dundas and Pitt squeeze the reins of Britain
Dumfriesshire sees its taxes go to placemen

Masons and weavers, farmers and tailors
Keep abreast of the times as they can
Seeing their grown sons turn into sailors
Thinking which one could be a great man.

His village schooling done, Edinburgh calls;
The winding road northward beckons.

O city of Hume, Robertson, Scott
Look not unkindly upon a rural lad

May he find his Socrates in your northern Athens,
May he master the knowledge to glorify God.

A dappled sky above, he takes himself to Lockerbie,
With oatcakes and berries for food,
Moving on to Moffat, well-wishing family,
Cleaving the high hills, alights at Holyrood.

Lectures in Latin, street games in broad Scots
Education comes to him in diverse forms.

The law regii Scotorum, materia medica
Both vie for his attention, seek to mold his mind

The land enfolds him, every local mound
Braid, Corstorphine, Calton Hill

Friends progress with their careers,
Set to become quite happy gents;
Thomas is gripped by enfeebling fears
Is the World naught but a floating tuppence?

A Sunday comes when the Spirit comes,
Hovering fiery above Arthur's Seat;

Not one shape in Legendre's Elements
Can define what is happening to him.

Footfalls on Leith Walk, walking to the sea
Christ is here among the merchants and loafers.

The skeptic brain reels at the thought made flesh,
Machine-Man evaporates in the ray of truth.
O there is grain in God's world to thresh,
Wisdom to be found among the uncouth.

08 April 2010

I have finished the first 27 chapters in Vanity Fair, Thackeray's great novel of high and low society. If you need a modern analogy, think Mad Men circa 1848; the events of the novel are thirty years before that, and nostalgia (along with its opposite) runs through the story consistently.

06 April 2010

The more I think about the iPad, the more it seems like we are living in 2500 BC Sumeria. An expensive tablet that you can read from!! You can even 'write' with the virtual keyboard and erase!! OMG! (Clay tablets were erasable too, as long as you didn't leave them in the hot sun too long).

This issue of changing the batteries perturbs me too. Those who say Apple is a cult might not be so wrong when suppliants--excuse me, customers--must tramp to the nearest Apple Store to request the arcane service of changing the batteries.

31 March 2010

Video Game Addiction.

I just spent an hour reading every d---d comment in this thread (I had already read the Tom Bissel article mentioned). The subject struck a deep chord with me, not least because today I spent 30 dollars to get this game. I fondly recall the days my brother and I hacked our way through the Sonic series (and how we had to bring in outside high-school age help to beat Sonic 2; remember, there were NO SAVES anywhere in the game....)

So I played for an hour today, enjoying the catchy tunes, dying every two minutes, re-learning the importance of not speeding through every level (the sheer wickedness of the developers of Chemical Plant Zone cannot be fathomed), and not having a great deal of fun. It mortifies me all the more because I had no need to spend money to hear the music of every zone--it's all on YouTube now--and I could be happily dancing to the Ice Cap Zone beat* with my discretionary spending untouched.

The folly of a Sega fanboy (for such, I must confess, I have become) knows no bounds.

*Perhaps the best thing Michael Jackson ever composed.

26 March 2010

On the Seattle Sounders' victory over Philadelphia, March 25 2010

Resound, fair city, with the cheers of folk
Who have attended this field in bulk

Captain Schmidt and all his green-blue crew
Will give you a sight to thrill the heart anew

The champions of Congo, Sweden, Oregon
Play with the pleasure of a baker's mum

Gracious in triumph, they extend a hand
To Union men of the far east land

The season ends in Europe, but the crown
Of Football has to Puget Sound come down.

25 March 2010

A reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog writes:

The best way to advocate for the rights Dan Choi deserves is for him to stand up and speak to people, in Congress, in public - to show them he's just as good as anyone so that folks, no matter where they're from, can understand the depth of the injustice done to him. Chaining yourself to a gate isn't relatable; it's a stunt.

Poppycock. Dan Choi has repeatedly spoken on national TV about his predicament. Don't Ask Don't Tell is one of the most glaring examples of unequal treatment of gays in this nation, and civil disobedience is definitely appropriate. If Martin Luther King had waited for Joe Lieberman to arrange a Congressional audience for him instead of taking to the streets, when do you think civil rights would have been secured?

22 March 2010

The voice that shouted 'baby killer' at Bart Stupak is familiar to me. This is the very same voice that shouted 'nigger lover' at abolitionists 150 years ago.
Andrew Sullivan writes:

There is only one story better than Icarus falling to earth; and it’s Icarus getting back up and putting on some shades. The media will fall for it. The public will merely notice that the guy can come back and fight. Even when they don’t always agree with such a figure on the issues, they can admire him.

Again, the real parallel is Ronald Reagan. People forget how unpopular Reagan was at the same point in his presidency — and passing a big tax cut was legislatively a lot easier than reforming a health sector the size of the British economy. But like Obama he persisted and, with luck and learning, aimed very high.

I would rewrite his second paragraph:

Again, the real parallel is Abraham Lincoln. People forget how unpopular Lincoln was in the first year of the Civil War--the humiliation of Bull Run, the cotton famine battering New England's mills--but like Obama he persisted and aimed very high.

20 March 2010

An interesting monologue from game designer Sid Meier.

Re: your Dinos game: if you had given each dinosaur one of five elemental powers, and thrown some artifacts in, I bet it would have been a real hit...

19 March 2010

Father John-Julian of the JON Order writes:

Prayer, then, needs more and more to be nothing more than a recognition of Christ's presence -- not a praying that Christ will come to be with us, but acknowledgement that he already is. And then true prayer becomes nothing more than a response to his presence which prayer has led us to recognize. Our prayer is, then, not ourselves doing something to God, but God leading us away from the blind lies to the reality of God's presence and motive power within us -- indeed, the only motive power for prayer or good works available in the universe.

18 March 2010

The Economist Democracy in America blog describes itself thus:

In this blog, our correspondents share their thoughts and opinions on America's kinetic brand of politics and the policy it produces

I don't think kinetic was the best choice of word.

15 March 2010

This story is chillingly reminiscent of the Dred Scott case of 1857. Both are complicated by federalist issues of jurisdiction. Slavery was by that time increasingly reviled in the northern states, but studiously ignored as an issue by the Buchanan administration. Today, gay people are daily becoming more visible and respected, while Congress is still stuck in the paddywagon era (one only has to see the Eric Massa scandal unfolding to realize this).

I can only hope that Sergeant Newsome finds justice (though I am pretty sure it won't be coming from the Roberts Supreme Court). I pray for her.

10 March 2010

Today's weather puts me in mind of this passage from Brian Aldiss's Helliconia Spring:

The long fogs were alive with darting birds. Multitudinous winged life flashed like jewels across what had been sterile icefields only a moment before. In a torment of life, the mammals stretched their legs in full gallop towards summer.

08 March 2010

The Start of a Poem Singing the Life of Thomas Carlyle.

Come wind and rain, and other wet offsprings of heaven
It is 3 o'clock and darkening on the Carlisle road

The men of Ecclefechan wind up their labors
A hard day's work of the kind not done in London

Margaret Aitken is with child, her first
A child who shall with mason's trade be nursed

Amid the green and gray of nearby land
The child wanders, with eyes and feet
He dips his toes in Solway sand
And sings his psalms as the folk think meet.

04 March 2010

I note that the temperature here has risen 13 degrees Celsius (from -11 to +2) in four hours. (according to accuweather.com)

02 March 2010

I finished reading Iron Council, a fantasy epic by China Mieville. It is well worth plowing through his ornate vocabulary to reach the end.

There were actually several points which I thought would be natural endings to the novel. Without gross spoilers, I will describe the tone of each one.

page 550: melancholy acceptance of fate
page 552: militant anarchist pride
page 554: Christ-like death
page 561 (actual ending): we are beginning another epic narrative.

27 February 2010

A gigantic, two-pronged icicle hanging from my house just fell. The sound was really something. I imagine if Spring was riding a bulldozer and pushing the ailing body of Winter over a cliff, it would sound like what I heard.

20 February 2010

So, gays are incapable of reproduction? I think that's what he was trying to say. Tell that to President Lincoln, who fathered four sons, and Bishop Paul Moore, who fathered nine kids.

Glad to hear vocal opposition within the conference to this a--ewipe.

18 February 2010

I was going to transcribe a sermon by John Donne for the beginning of Lent, 1630. It is just too depressing, though, a hallmark of its depressing era. Instead, since Lent is partially about counting your blessings, I will list all the books on my master bookshelf. The intent is not to brag about my erudition.

Section A

King James Bible
Paradise Lost, Milton
Blood Meridian, Cormac Mccarthy
Collected Poems of A.E. Housman
The Master of Ballantrae, R.L. Stevenson

Section B

Building Jerusalem: the Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, Tristram Hunt
The Making of the English Working Class, E.P. Thompson
Bible and Sword, Barbara Tuchman

Section C

Iliad, Homer
Histories, Herodotus
Persian Expedition, Xenophon
History of the Peloponesian War, Thucydides
Annals, Tacitus
Twelve Caesars, Suetonius

Section D

Satyricon, Petronius
French Revolution, Thomas Carlyle (an ancient yellowing copy given by my dad)
Sartor Resartus, Carlyle
Gulliver's Travels, Swift
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Simon Armitage translator
All Points North, Simon Armitage
Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Vikram Chandra**
Gentlemen of the Road, Michael Chabon
The Beautiful Struggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates

**Chandra's other novel, Sacred Games, lies heavy on its own in a shelf below. At 916 pages, with a blood-red cover, it could pass for a codex of sorcery.

15 February 2010

Some New York News.

Over the last ten years, the New York Post has called Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman a cheapskate, a tyrant, an illegal maid-payer, a friend to unsavory characters, a bad businessman, a racist, a friend of terrorism, a firer of pregnant women, a publisher who uses his editorial page for the his own real estate interests, a constructor of dangerous buildings, the provoker of staff suicides, as well as wild-eyed, mercurial, panicky, a cheater of readers, a scoffer at laws, a "horrible, nickel-and-diming boss," and the publisher of boring publications. And now, they want him as the Senator from New York. Yes! Today's Post editorial declares that "the emergence of real-estate magnate — and Daily News Publisher — Mortimer Zuckerman as a potential candidate for the United States Senate is an event all New Yorkers of good will can welcome….. without qualification… Zuckerman's entry into the race would — on Day One — markedly improve the quality of the candidate pool."

From Wikipedia:

Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for senators: 1) each senator must be at least 30 years old, 2) must have been a citizen of the United States for at least the past nine years, and 3) must be (at the time of the election) an inhabitant of the state he or she seeks to represent. The age and citizenship qualifications for senators are more stringent than those for representatives. In Federalist No. 62, James Madison justified this arrangement by arguing that the "senatorial trust" called for a "greater extent of information and stability of character."

09 February 2010


red--Federated States of America
blue--Free United States
green--Provisional American Federation
gray--Kingdom of North Carolina and Free Republic of Alaska

March 1, 2030

Chief Minister Gregoire cast her eye over the map, still not really believing it had come to this, a splintering of her native United States. Half-remembered lessons from high school history were not much of a guide to dealing with this kind of world.
"Lord Hagan on line two, maam." An assistant reminded her of a call from the Foreign Minister of North Carolina.
"Good morning, Rob."
"Good day to you, Michelle. But it's been nonstop work here in Raleigh." She could hear murmured conversations in what must be a crowded Foreign Office. Someone had told her they didn't even have live chat set up there yet.
"I had a look at your communique on Virginia. You're very optimistic about the chances for detaching it from the Free States."
"With good reason, my dear. Thirty percent non-white population, education levels among the highest in the South. The referendum last year was aberrant--"
"OK, Rob, I wish I could share your hope, but this is the state that elected Taliban McDonnell. The mass graves of homosexuals are out there in public view."
Gregoire already looked forward to her afternoon jog along the Embarcadero, four blocks from work. It was touchy dealing with Carolinians; one grandiose plan after another belched out of Raleigh while the Free Staters steadily tightened their blockade of its ports. Her primary worry these days was the mushrooming refugee camps in New Mexico. Every week brought more "illegals" fleeing the gulags of Texas.

08 February 2010

I just finished reading Big Planet by Jack Vance (first published serially in 1952). A cleverly plotted mystery, with some quiet social commentary. WARNING: your wholesome enjoyment of the book may be marred by paragraphs such as these:

"The gully was choked with hot-eyed men and their horny black beasts. The steep slope was a mass of clawing legs, hulking shoulders."

07 February 2010

Claire Messud writes:

Here’s the deal: men, without thinking, will almost without fail select men. And women, without thinking, will too often select men. It’s a known fact that among children, girls will happily read stories with male protagonists, but boys refuse to read stories with female protagonists. J.K. Rowling was aware of this: if Harry Potter had been Harriet Potter, none of us would know about her.

And we don’t change our spots when we grow up. Last year, I was one of nine judges awarding an international literary prize for a writer’s body of work. Each of us nominated a candidate, and five of us were women; but only one of our nominees—only one out of nine—was female. (I myself enthusiastically nominated a man.) Our cultural prejudices are so deeply engrained that we aren’t even aware of them: arguably, it’s not that we think men are better, it’s that we don’t think of women at all.

Four years ago I read The Golden Compass, which has a female protagonist, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, I had ceased to be a 'boy' by that point. I admit that the vast majority of my fiction reading these days is written by men. And yet, at the age of 12 I absolutely loved Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's fantasy novels. Funny how that works.

03 February 2010

A Slightly Misogynist Poem

The young man drums the floor with his foot,
Here in the brewpub, sun streaming in.
He eats to feed his corporeal engine.

You are the motor of society, young man
Whether you father children or no
The drum of your foot holds power intense
That no lass's arm can match.

Would we all but keep drumming,
Grinding out matter with our bodily sparks,
Work not for appearances, but for things:
Strive for noble ends, not silken strings.
What (s)he said:

Like you, I am impatient about the ban on gays, and wish the President would just change the law with a stroke of a pen. But, on reflection (months of reflection and quite a bit of disappointment), I am beginning to come around to this approach. His approach, no matter how frustrating, is essentially good governance. It forces Congress to act, which is appropriate, since they passed “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the first place. It gives the military months of time to change policy, to educate and to operate, which is important when dealing with one of the largest bureaucracies in the world. Beyond that, it makes the process distinctly apolitical, which, when I think about it, is the only way to make it stick.

02 February 2010

A Political Poem in the Style of Milton

His orient face shines through the milky mists,
A round Padishah making his fixed rounds,
The snow streams downward as the heads of enemies slain.

Venerate, abase yourselves on this Saint Brigid's Day
My lords and ladies with employments endowed,
Our world-wise king in Washington sits today
Revolving his plans for the commonalty.

Bend your knees to the sun of knowledge
Arts and sciences, be triply fortified
Raise paeans to justice, truth, and charity

Attend to the parliament who bridles at his ways,
Consider their darkling, obstructive Nays,
Kyrie eleison for them, for you, for all our frays.

29 January 2010

The Houston Chronicle reports on the Senate vote to confirm Ben Bernanke:

Senators from opposite ends of the spectrum formed alliances. After Sanders, who calls himself a socialist, finished denouncing Bernanke, Sen. Jeff Sessions, a conservative Republican from Alabama, rose to do the same.

WTF, Chronicle? Since when are you qualified to decide who is a real socialist and who is a true conservative? Oh, pardon me, it's so obvious that Sessions is a conservative: he has supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq from the get-go, and voted in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, an extraordinary intervention in a matter traditionally left to the states.

18 January 2010

Brian from Tucson comments on Towleroad:

Agreed that Obama has been a huge disappointment and a crappy leader, kissing the asses of Republicans and pushing gays to the side. Still...STILL...we are better off with Obama than we were under Bush and the Republicans. The right wingers were actively anti-gay, pushing state referenda to enshrine discrimination in state and the federal constitions. Better to be poorly led than to be continually attacked.

I must disagree. The gay American has exactly the same legal status as he did at the end of Bush's presidency. His marriage has no value whatsoever in federal law and he can be discharged from the military for admitting his sexuality.

While it is nice that we have a leader who can construct English sentences, we have every right to demand real change. On this MLK Day I thank Ted Olson, David Boies, and everyone who is contributing testimony to the ongoing Prop 8 legal challenge in California. As so often, the West Coast is forging ahead where Washington fears to tread.

16 January 2010

Apparently there was once a Democratic candidate in the Massachusetts special election who was willing to speak out against corporate abuses.

The sovereignty of big business in a two-party political system cannot be underestimated. The British Labour Party has gone down the very same road as the Democrats, quietly sidelining anyone who questions the sacred status of the financial sector in the UK economy. Labour has become the "caring" side of the political oligarchy, offering no substantial differences in policy from the Conservatives, but speaking in soothing, paternalistic tones and relying on an outdated sense among the elderly that they are the "people's party." In reality, Labour is a non-Etonian elite club as rotten as the Tories.

This is why I endorse the Liberal Democrats in this year's general election.

08 January 2010

My favorite movie of last year gets a new endorsement:

'Christ, I JUST now saw District 9 and cannot believe Cameron doesn’t cower in shame when he finally gets to see how one-upped he was by a rank newcomer EVEN WHEN IT CAME TO HIS ROBOT FIGHTING MACHINE ENDING'

Brought to you by Abe Sauer