13 December 2011

I've stopped reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet at page 126.  David Mitchell tries really, really hard to scrub all Orientalism from his story, but the fact remains that he chose to write about a (married) white man falling in love with an unattainable Japanese woman.  This is supposed to generate some kind of deep human sympathy for the white man, and I won't go along with it. 

Doctor Marinus, the most interesting character, punctures the novel's own hackneyed sentiments in this piece of dialogue:

'It is not even Miss Aibagawa after whom you lust, in truth.  It is the genus "The Oriental Woman" who so infatuates you.  Yes, yes, the mysterious eyes, the camellias in her hair, what you perceive as meekness.  How many hundreds of you besotted white men have I seen mired in the same syrupy hole?'
'You are wrong for once, Doctor. There's no--'
'Naturally, I am wrong: Domburger's adoration for his Pearl of the East is based on chivalry: behold the disfigured damsel, spurned by her own race! Behold our Occidental knight, who alone divines her inner beauty!'

27 October 2011

To y'all semi-literate denizens of the Internet:

I know homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings) can be tricky.  But for crying out loud, "rain", "rein", and "reign" should not be.

RAIN:  watery precipitation that falls from the sky.  German cognate regen.
REIN:  a strap used to control a horse.   Latin cognate frenum.
REIGN:  the period of rule by a king, emperor, or powerful principle (e.g. "reign of terror") Latin cognate regnum.
Perhaps it's the fact that hardly anybody outside Mongolia rides horses on the job anymore that causes this silly confusion.

24 October 2011

This is my preview / non-review of the movie Anonymous, coming out this Friday:

The idiots who believe Shakespeare didn't write the plays of Shakespeare are no more respectable than the idiots who believe President Obama was born in Kenya.  Both kinds of idiots have a hard time accepting that talent sometimes comes from obscurity and villainous* backgrounds.  One kind of idiot is concentrated in the base of the Republican party, the other kind in Hollywood circles of actors whose egos have grown tumescent.

If you were tempted to see this movie, I advise you to watch The Princess Bride instead.  It will have much more of reality in it.  That is all.

*I'm using the word in the pre-modern sense, which meant someone of common birth and inferior education.  See Henry VI:  "base dunghill villain and mechanical, I'll have thy head for this thy traitor's speech."

23 October 2011

People who hate Rachel Maddow for being "mannish" aren't talking about her short hair, I suspect.  It's those opinions she has, and those books she reads.  A real American goodwife (and she is actually a wife) should lock her mind away and not sully her character with book-learning....

07 October 2011

The NY Times reports:
The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, will travel to Zimbabwe this weekend as part of an African tour and will seek to persuade President Robert G. Mugabe to help end a rift among the country’s Anglicans, according to the archbishop’s office here. Archbishop Williams, the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, wrote to Mr. Mugabe this year and urged him to stop “the continuing bullying, harassment and persecution” of Anglicans who support the global Anglican Communion rather than a breakaway group led by Nolbert Kunonga, an excommunicated bishop and ally of the president. Mr. Kunonga, an American-trained priest, broke with the church, one of Zimbabwe’s major denominations, in 2007, saying that gay priests and congregants had gained too much influence...
I'm all for dialogue and listening, but this seems like the very definition of a doomed mission.  Hopefully it won't give Mugabe an excuse to imprison or torture more dissenters in his country.

Worth noting that in 2007, when Kunonga broke with the Communion, there was just one openly gay bishop in the US Episcopal Church, out of 110 dioceses.  Too much influence, indeed.

03 October 2011

Actor Mark Ruffalo has some choice words for those who superficially attack the Occupy Wall Street protesters:
When people critique this movement and say spurious things about the protesters' clothes or their jobs or the general way they look, they are showing how shallow we have become as a nation. They forget that these people have taken time out of their lives to stand up for values that are purely American and in the interest of our democracy. They forget that these people are encamped in an urban park, where they are not allowed to have tents or other normal camping gear. They are living far outside their comfort zone to protect and celebrate liberty, equality and the rule of law.
He goes on:
Their message is very clear and simple: get money out of the political process; strive for equality in taxation and equal rights for all regardless of race, gender, social status, sexual preference or age. We must stop poisoning our food, air and water for corporate greed. The people on Wall Street and in the banking industrial complex that destroyed our economy must be investigated and brought to justice under the law for what they have done by stealing people's homes and savings.
My criticisms:  "Getting money out of the political process" is perhaps not the first thing we should be aiming at.  It's "sexual orientation," not "sexual preference."   And there is no "banking industrial complex," because the biggest banks aren't industrial.  They are parasitic, sucking from the economy of real goods and necessary public services.  Nonetheless, I thank Mark for trying to articulate the goal of this movement.

01 October 2011

At the Atlantic, someone is whining about Congress killing the debit card.  (What has actually happened, starting today, is that the cap on bank charges to merchants for debit card use has been reduced to 21 cents per transaction.) The argument laid out there plumbs new depths in baloney.  For example:

in particular, this action by Congress will hurt low- to middle-income Americans more than wealthier Americans. Banks find it very important to cultivate relationships with their wealthier customers, because they want their high deposits and to sell them other financial services. So banks' wealthiest customers will likely escape fees like this. Instead, less affluent Americans will end up paying more than their fair share.
Oh, because government is to blame for everything that banks do to raise profits?  A more self-evident proposition was never made, surely.

Courtier-lobbyists in old regime France made a similar argument against the abolition of feudal dues on the peasantry.  "The removal of these dues will gravely destabilize the ability of lords to care for their peasants.  Grands seigneurs will be unable to make an honest living without getting their 5 ducks a year!"

30 September 2011

If Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is accurately portrayed in Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker review (abstract here), God help those students who are assigned to read it. Consider this:
Do [New Orleans, St. Louis and Detroit] lag behind in "the civilizing process" because they're poor or educationally disadvantaged? No, Pinker argues; the key factor is that they have large African-American populations. Low-income blacks in the US are "effectively stateless," living in a sort of Hobbesian dystopia beyond the reach of law enforcement.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that every low-income black man who's ever been arrested for possession of marijuana would love to live in that Hobbesian dystopia. And this:
There is no indication that anyone but Hitler and a few fanatical henchmen thought it was a good idea for the Jews to be exterminated.
French Fascist collaborators? Didn't exist. Polish anti-Semites? Didn't exist. Catholic Church? Didn't exist.

26 September 2011

I suggest a new short mission statement for the Episcopal Church:
For those looking for abundant religious life and deepened spirituality, the Episcopal Church offers honest and unconditional acceptance. We worship the Trinity--God with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit--in a non-authoritarian community.

22 September 2011

19 September 2011

Then when Fingon heard afar the great trumpet of Turgon his brother, the shadow passed and his heart was uplifted, and he shouted aloud: 'Utulie'n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatari, utulie'n aurë! The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and fathers of Men, the day has come!' And all those who heard his great voice echo in the hills answered crying: 'Auta i lomë! The night is passing!'
Tolkien, Silmarillion, "Of the Fifth Battle"

16 September 2011

As a citizen of an EU member nation (United Kingdom) I am calling for Italy to be suspended from the EU until they can find a prime minister fit for civilized company.
Jennifer Rubin elaborates:
Conservatives can and should be anti-elitist to their heart’s content in attacking supercilious liberals who don’t trust average Americans to run their own lives...
Alas, it's not liberals who are telling me how to run my life. Most of the GOP candidates say they want to reinstate Dont Ask Dont Tell, keeping me out of the military, and to ban me from getting married everywhere (because states' rights only applies to straight people). Bachmann particularly wants me to undergo reparative therapy for my "immoral lifestyle."

15 September 2011

Jennifer Rubin is troubled by Rick Perry's pride in his lack of education.

Yes, he was trying to be self-deprecating, but it’s disturbing to see that he thinks being a rotten student and a know-nothing gives one street cred in the GOP. Is it so important to defy the MSM by flaunting affection for anti-intellectualism?

Duh. Less than 7 years ago Americans elected George W. Bush. Anti-intellectualism is an effective strategy in American politics. Nobody has gotten elected president, ever, by trumpeting his bachelor's degree, much less a law school record or any graduate education. (Some may think we have broken this phenomenon by electing Obama, but I don't recall Obama ever saying anything like "vote for me because I did so well at Harvard Law.")

If Rubin wants to make the electorate less anti-intellectual, perhaps she should start getting involved in campaigns to improve public education. She could also stop spreading false information in her Washington Post column.
Contagion, the new film directed by Steven Soderbergh, is the best movie about HIV's impact on the gay community ever made.

This is a strange statement, considering that there are no gay characters in the movie, and the fast-spreading disease depicted is certainly not HIV. What Soderbergh manages to pull off is showing us how a virus can rob people of the sexual lives they believe they are entitled to. Matt Damon's blonde, clearly heterosexual daughter, having survived the sudden death of her mother and young brother, is imprisoned with her father as her suburban Minnesota neighborhood is convulsed by the disease. She frantically texts her boyfriend and others about her situation, and how she might recover her romantic life.*

The national panic that ensues when the virus takes root in America is familiar to anyone who experienced the onset of AIDS in this country. Soderbergh focuses on the efforts of noble doctors in the CDC and WHO to understand and defeat the disease. The military is a vaguely sinister force butting in at unwanted moments. The President is never shown or given a voice, and nobody mentions him until at least an hour into the film: an interesting echo of Ronald Reagan's longtime refusal to talk about HIV.

By transposing the fear felt by gays in New York, West Hollywood, and San Francisco** onto Matt Damon's Midwestern family, Soderbergh does a service to millions of American moviegoers who would never see a thoughtful film about gay people. Philadelphia, released in 1993, discussed gay life and was popular, but a fat lot of good it did the gay community: Don't Ask Don't Tell was made law that very same year. I suspect that Contagion will be more effective in educating people who believe that gay sex is the root cause of all bad stuff.

*This is my interpolation. It would have been clearer if she were shown writing emails, but as we know, all teenagers are functionally illiterate and use numbers as hieroglyphs!

**In the film, San Francisco is being stalked by the muckraking blogger Jude Law. This was a very poorly drawn character.

13 September 2011

Nonetheless for long it seemed to the Numenoreans that they prospered, and if they were not increased in happiness, yet they grew more strong, and their rich men ever richer. For with the aid of Sauron they multiplied their possessions, and they devised engines, and they built ever greater ships.
from Tolkien's legend of the second age of Middle-Earth, Akallabeth
"I think we're making too much out of the bedroom."
RIP Bishop Walter Righter.

12 September 2011

And in the state of my birth, legislators (i.e. white men over 40....this is what happens when most people forget to vote) are plotting to bring back the days of witch trials.  (Yes, really:  the Republican chairman gloats that 1679 was a great year for the colony).
On a visit today, I discovered the problem with Barnes & Noble in a nutshell:

I found 21 copies of Newt Gingrich's novels.

I found 7 copies of Richard Wright's books (remember the guy who wrote Black Boy and Native Son ?  Yeah, him).

10 September 2011

Women shouldn't be serving in combat because....CHILDREN!!

I guess if a male soldier develops PTSD, comes home and terrorizes his kids, this is an acceptable cost of war.  But woe to any female soldier who ventures near depleted uranium--her uterus is national property.

08 September 2011

The recent hurricane and storm damage to Washington National Cathedral is unfortunate, but it has made me wonder why a supposedly secular nation has a National Cathedral at all. Yes, their website says they provide an "indispensable ministry for people of all faiths and perspectives." However, I don't see any regularly scheduled services for non-Christian faiths.

02 September 2011

Sometimes answers are easy.

Isthmus asks "how far right will the Wisconsin GOP go?"

As far right as they can get away with. Please remember this is the party that called for the execution of Obama on a conference call.

01 September 2011

People can say that I should have become a nurse, or an engineer or whatever else, but when I started college and the economy was still good young people were sold the idea that they should 'follow their passions'. The jobs were supposed to come. I didn't take out a mortgage for a property I couldn't afford; I didn't participate in credit default swaps or create a Ponzi scheme. I went to college and educated myself. I've spent countless hours at libraries educating myself. I've taken care of sick relatives and taught immigrants how to read and write in English--with no pay. But I'm not responsible enough to run a retail store.

A must-read
for anyone who believes my generation (born 1980-1990) lacks motivation.

31 August 2011

The people at the Liberty Institute should be ashamed of themselves for whipping up a frenzy over the fact that not all military families choose to have Christian prayers said at the funerals of their loved ones.

Perhaps you could try defending actual liberty for a change.
Why don't you pray to live and ask to be freed? The God you serve is the God of Paul and Silas who opened their prison gates, and if you have all the faith you say you have, you ought to believe that He will open your prison doors too. If you do believe that, let all your songs and prayers hereafter be songs of faith and hope that God will set you free; that the judges who have to pass on your cases will be given the wisdom and courage to decide in your behalf....Pray to live and believe you are going to get out.

Ida Wells-Barnett speaking to black men imprisoned in Arkansas during a 1920 race war (the word is not too strong, read On the Laps of Gods by Robert Whitaker for the whole story). Today I pray for all gay American servicemembers, who have 20 more days before their prison doors are flung wide open.

30 August 2011

Yes, conservatives really don't care if Tammy Baldwin is gay, but you know, homosexuality is abhorrent to God.

28 August 2011

Protesting while Korean--a serious crime.

20 August 2011

"I don't want somebody telling me what stupid lightbulb I gotta put in my house."

But apparently you do want somebody telling you what religion you can practice in your house.

Linda Clark, Retired Cosmotologist [sic] and Childcare Professional

18 August 2011

In response to Ta-Nehisi Coates's recent post "This Culture War Is Over: We Win":

I wish I could believe this, sir. The position of Jews in Germany in 1930 looked pretty good on the face of it--lots of Jewish doctors, professors, politicians; plenty of integrated marriages with non-Jews; a lively Jewish culture in Berlin and other cities. The last burst of anti-Jewish violence was more than a hundred years ago.

The temptation for America's gay people to declare victory in the culture wars is hard to resist today. But it is pernicious: we could lose everything in a general social upheaval--which is hard not to see coming in today's economy.

One of Ta-Nehisi's commenters seemed to understand the problem:

"The right-wing are the only truly invested party, and thus only they can claim victory. The culture war is over when they say it's over."

17 August 2011

I took particular pleasure in this one [defending the freedom of protest at a considerable distance from a funeral] because the major funeral protestor, as people know, is the bizarre homophobe from Kansas, who announces that Americans are killed in wars because God dislikes the increasing gains we are making in providing legal equality for LGBT people. His reaction when he was asked by the Boston Herald to comment on the fact that one of the few openly gay members of the House was one of his few defenders was predictably satisfying.

Barney Frank, letter to the Boston Phoenix, issue of August 12-18 2011.

16 August 2011

Maybe the President should talk to Iowans about Martin Luther King and save lamenting our dirty politics for his 'high-dollar New York' donors.

14 August 2011

a political dispatch, in the style of Hunter S. Thompson

Morning in America, that is to say dawn in San Francisco, early morning in Denver, sultry beginning of midday in Philadelphia, and Marcus Bachmann, the latest right-wing doughboy iteration of Liberace, is thrusting his gay-ass arms out like Nixon in a confetti-strewn room in Des Moines. It is his wife's victory, and she is smiling submissively--don't ask what that adverb means.

Look at this generation of Iowans, idiotically desperate for a charlatan to follow: how they suffer in the corn-oil-suffused August heat. Unemployed or not, evangelical or not, potbellied or not, they are in the throes of some frenzy. God only knows but it's a frenzy worse than any adrenochrome binge, the mania of mindless patriotism

13 August 2011

Blog comment of the day:

Both the Tea Party and al-Qaeda seem to me to be nihilistic movements relying on an imaginary past to rationalize retrogressive politics and whose goal is to remake the political status quo in their own image. Moreover, the imaginary past in defense of which they purport to act is an explicitly political artifice, an ideological narrative, one that has been quite deliberately constructed so as to "prove" what passes for "points" in their respective discourses. And both are equally willing to harm those they claim to defend -- ordinary Americans and Muslims -- in order to advance their respective, peculiar ideology.

So what if the teatards haven't committed (many) acts of violence yet? If a terrorist cell hasn't committed an act of violence, is it not still a terrorist cell? Was Iyman Faris not a terrorist because he only planned to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge? Does that make him a "pre-terrorist" or perhaps a "latent terrorist?"

Tea Party people have committed acts of violence, of course. Many are reluctant to call them terrorists only because no one has (luckily) yet died at their hands.

11 August 2011

Those seriously concerned with national security should awaken themselves to the fact that there is absolutely nothing safe or secure about soaking your country in gasoline by ignoring, and exacerbating, the plight of its most disenfranchised citizens. Eventually an event will come along to strike a match; at which time the meaning and utility of “national security” will quite viscerally move from the abstract to the concrete.

Murtaza Hussain

09 August 2011

Islam as a rescuing religion has determined specific dignity for women, Islam has valuable instructions for women...Women have the responsibility as a teacher or coordinator for her family.

1996 Decree of the Kabul Religious Police (translated from Dari). Included in the appendix to Taliban, by Ahmed Rashid.

I haven’t seen anyone make the argument but it seems obvious to me that for the law to say that same-sex marriage is the moral equivalent of one-man, one-woman marriage is simultaneously to proclaim that the unique gifts of women are officially, by government decree, not in any way important.

By that token, it’s opposed to the dignity of men, too, in that it (ironically!) un-sexes all of us. The challenge to women is direct, however. The womb? Child-rearing? Same-sex marriage proclaims them—and the policies and lifestyle needed to support them—insignificant.

Rebecca Teti, Catholic blogger, somewhat more recently.

06 August 2011

If the United States elects a fascist president, plenty of people in the mainstream media will be shocked, shocked, that this president wants to put gay people in internment camps, expel all Muslims from the country, criminalize birth control, etc. etc. Reporters like Erik Eckholm will doubtless scratch their heads in bemusement. "How could anyone have known," they will say, "so-and-so was this extreme? After all, it was only 'liberal critics' who were saying that so-and-so wanted to put gay people in internment camps, expel all Muslims from the country, and criminalize birth control."

04 August 2011

...even John Henry wasn't forced to smile and praise the steam drill that replaced him. John Henry took the dignified way out when he saw the way things were going: His heart exploded, and he lay down and died.

A first-class investigation of the Borders phenomenon, by Paul Constant.

25 July 2011

An alternative proposal for an American third party:

The Agro-Industrial People's Party*

We believe--

1. anyone working in American agriculture full-time for 6 months should be given US citizenship.

2. all corporations that do not make food or durable goods should be taxed at 20% of profits.

3. the US Senate should be abolished, and its advise-and-consent powers transferred to a committee of the House of Representatives. (The Onion suggested it first.)

*I would call it the Socialist Party, but that might cause Rupert Murdoch, praise be upon him to reach for his smelling salts.

23 July 2011

The recent mass murder in Norway is a tragic reminder of the poisonous power of hyper-nationalism and religious bigotry.

Let's pray for Europe today.

22 July 2011

07 July 2011

England and France are facing other in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals, but the BBC, apparently mindful of ancient Jewish law, is reserving the match for the "red button" service.

The last time England and France's male teams faced off in tournament competition was June 2004. Seven years is a long time to wait for such a storied rivalry to be acted out.

06 July 2011

"And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. / It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever..." Isaiah 34: 9-10 (KJV)

05 July 2011

It is an interesting question, incidentally, why pain has to be so damned painful. Why not equip the brain with the equivalent of a little red flag, painlessly raised to warn, “Don’t do that again”?...Isn’t it plausible that a clever species such as our own might need less pain, precisely because we are capable of intelligently working out what is good for us, and what damaging events we should avoid?

Ladies and gentlemen, the "best site on the internet."

29 June 2011

Obama's reluctance to embrace gay marriage, putting him among a minority of Americans in national polls, appears part of a broader effort to avoid alienating voters in battleground states, like Ohio and Nevada, where majorities have traditionally shown less support for the unions than voters overall.

It is the peculiar arrogance of leaders in a two-party political system that they can break promises (e.g. "I'm a fierce advocate for gay and lesbian Americans") and expect that the group they hoodwinked will take no notice, because the only alternative is beyond the pale.

If Obama keeps up with his Strom Thurmond shtick, he runs a real risk of losing New York and Vermont, whose people decidedly support same-sex marriage, to a liberal third-party candidate. That would be 32 electoral votes lost, compared to the 24 in Ohio and Nevada.

25 June 2011

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus

22 June 2011

Jon Huntsman just said all of human history "is impossible." I thought he was supposed to be the smart GOP candidate?

21 June 2011

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

The Thirty Years' War is incredibly complicated. Perhaps it is too much to say that there was no "Germany," or no "Italy," I'm too early in to tell. But there are so many effing princes, of so many effing principalities, and then religion will come in and either support or obstruct their rule.

One way to think of the war is as a sectarian conflict that began with some ornery Hussite Protestants in Bohemia and escalated into a bloodbath fueled by the great powers: France, the Habsburg empire, and Sweden. (Although the French kings had always been Catholic, France was encircled by Habsburg territory along most of her frontiers and thus drawn to the anti-Habsburg side.) It resembles, perhaps, the civil war in Iraq post-2003 more than any European war that came after it.

20 June 2011

It was with great interest and a kind of fascinated horror that I read the New York Times profile of Michael Glatze, "My Ex-Gay Friend."

The only way I can make sense of Glatze's transformation is that he has rejected, not just homosexuality, but all sexuality. He seems to be responding to a divine call to celibacy, and probably feels intense guilt over his sexual history (which was probably never very promiscuous, but that hardly matters to him).

He is absolutely wrong to say "God creates us [all] heterosexual"--this is a hackneyed argument from the natural law tradition, which, since the days of Aquinas, has never bothered to study nature--and his hateful repudiation of his past gay activism work is very dispiriting. I am not ready to consign Glatze to the tent of Jerry Falwell, though. When his attempts at being happily heterosexually married fail, as is inevitable, I think he will be able to contribute to the gay community again.

17 June 2011

When did we become Rome, Andrew Sullivan asks.

Quite a while ago, according to Henry Adams:

...in forty years, America had made so vast a stride to empire that the world of 1860 stood already on a distant horizon somewhere on the same plane with the republic of Brutus and Cato, while schoolboys read of Abraham Lincoln as they did of Julius Caesar. Vast swarms of Americans knew the Civil War only by school history, as they knew the story of Cromwell or Cicero, and were as familiar with political assassination as though they had lived under Nero. The climax of empire could be seen approaching, year after year, as though Sulla were a President or McKinley a Consul.

16 June 2011

Note to Google:

I appreciate your backing of the It Gets Better Project very much. Now, could you stop recommending the video "Why Homosexuality Should Be Banned" to me on YouTube?

15 June 2011

This piece from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is the crowning glory of the braindead drivel that has seized hold of many American newspapers.

I divined the true character of Jim Stingl's idiotic exhalations when I read: "Most of us pay our property taxes grudgingly enough and can't imagine sending another nickel to the city after we die."

How brave of you, Mr. Stingl, to tap into the most banal, commonplace complaint of the rich elderly. How dare the government not recognize our sacred right to own a huge house, send 5 kids to a good public school, and pay no taxes!!

But it gets better: the pretext* for this piece has some relatives who aren't happy with his post-mortem financial decisions.

"I thought I was in the will, you know? He told my mother that her and I were in his will, and all of a sudden I called the attorney today and found out, man, he left it to the city. What a shocker. That's all he had, I guess, is friends at work," Stutz said.

He visits Wisconsin from time to time and would stop to see Dombrowski, who was a bit of a hermit.

"He never went out with women. His mother kept him real close to her. They were just the two of them," Stutz said.

Now that we've established Dombrowski was a selfish homo pervert, we can dispense with the notion that his money is going anywhere good:

He chuckled at the notion of city bureaucrats getting all the money. "The boys are going out and ordering big cigars. Hey, I can just see it," he said.

It must be a thrill to defecate, urinate, and vomit all over the altar of civic virtue while pretending to practice journalism.

*I avoid the word "subject" because that would imply Stingl wanted to understand Dombrowski as a human being, not a carnival curiosity.

12 June 2011

Today I have learned that 'A Gay Girl in Damascus' is neither gay, nor a girl, nor has probably ever set foot in Syria. From the comfort of his heterosexual married life in Edinburgh, Tom McMaster invented a writing persona that suggested he was trying to get as many gold medals as possible in the Oppression Olympics.

In a woefully inadequate apology, McMaster moans:
This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

After we're all done retching, let's remember that gay Muslims don't need spokespeople to explain "their issues" to the world. Everyone who was following this blog should watch A Jihad For Love.
The Economist, in its obituary of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, writes:

Bombastic and arrogant, he would liken himself to Galileo, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. He revelled in opprobrium. He exploited the vulnerable. Yet he also helped people who surely wanted to die, and with reason.

How in God's name did he "exploit" anybody? All of his clients were mentally competent adults who, for reasons we may or may not be able to fathom, wanted to die--and they had enough consideration for others to accomplish their suicides in an orderly, private way.

In its zeal to uphold a perceived standard of "respect for life," the Economist may have fallen into the same trap as the Inquisition did, when it condemned Galileo for heresy. By denying the Ptolemaic world-view (in which 'hell below, heaven above' was literally true), Galileo was, or so the Church thought, putting every Christian soul who heard his theories at risk of eternal torment.

03 June 2011

Quotation of the Day (source here)

What's playing out before my eyes is the classic "it's them" divide and conquer strategy, a strategy that has always failed in this nation's ongoing march towards full equality. "Equal rights" aren't some nebulous province of this class or the other; rather, equal rights are your rights, they are my rights and they are the rights of all mankind.

I am but one individual, an individual who once campaigned for elective office as a proxy for those having no voice- as politicians all so often do. My campaign didn't end in 2008 anymore than did our nation's progress end on the battlefront at Yorktown, the steps of Appomattox Courthouse or the streets of Selma. For until the day when no man, no woman and no child is [not] embraced in the bosom of liberty and justice, there will be equal rights for none.

I am no longer willing to passively bear witness to the ghettoization of LGBT people, the poor, the middle class and the weak. No body and no individual has the rightful dominion to diminish the unalienable rights to to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our United States of America.

24 May 2011

What I would give to have Theda Skocpol as Senate Majority Leader!

That the prime minister of Israel is dissing and lying about the U.S. president is offensive. Whatever hay he makes with Congress today is at the price of American support over the long run. Time is definitely not on the right-wing Israeli government's side.

Congressional Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for joining in the fake "pro-Israel" chest-thumping. Of course negotiations must happen, but it is up to Israel and the Palestinians to do them -- just as the president said. Reid should not undercut the U.S. president.

19 May 2011

I congratulate Don Lemon on his recent coming out.

And to Raynard Jackson, who complains that the public doesn't need to know about Don Lemon's sex life, well, I listened to this long interview with Don, his boyfriend Ben, and radio host Mike Signorile (3 gay men in a room together-I don't know how they kept their clothes on) and still I know less about Don's sex life than I do about Larry Craig's.

18 May 2011

Why are Senate Democrats such wimps?

Harry Reid is already bemoaning the likelihood of Republicans blocking the nomination of Goodwin Liu to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

“Everyone agrees that Goodwin Liu’s nomination is far from the ‘extraordinary circumstance’ that would warrant a filibuster. The only extraordinary things about Liu are his experience, accomplishments and integrity,” Reid said on the floor Tuesday night.

“I think he should be confirmed unanimously. At the very least, he undoubtedly deserves an up-or-down vote. But Senate Republicans have already forgotten the lessons of the nuclear option. Today, they are threatening to block this highly qualified nominee from confirmation,” Reid said.

Oh my goodness, what can we do? If there was only some way to, I don't know, change the rules of the Senate or something so an embittered minority couldn't block nominees?

In January of this year three senators made a push for filibuster and other rules reform. 50 Democrats, plus Vice President Biden, could have reestablished majority rule. Instead, some Democrats spurned the idea in favor of "some sort of handshake agreement in which the GOP minority would promise to be more cooperative—for instance, by ending voluntarily all secret holds on legislation."

Four months later, secret holds are still being used.

14 May 2011

Gay-rights groups have begun a scorched-earth policy against anybody who opposes their agenda. And the ultimate victim may be democracy itself.

For two years now, I’ve warned that the drive for so-called “gay marriage” was the greatest threat to religious liberty we’ve ever faced. But I think I may have underestimated the threat, because now I fear the democratic process and the rule of law are endangered as well.

Chuck Colson, 2011

It is difficult to understand the arguments of these advocates of social equality of the races. They contend that American democracy demands that the white and Negro races mix and mingle and intermarry. Does it not occur to them that such a condition would destroy the Nation to which they claim to pledge their loyalty? Praise and acknowledgment of the power and greatness of the United States and the contention that whites and Negroes should intermarry according to individual preference are thoroughly inconsistent. Racial intermarriage would destroy the "race of pioneer white freemen" who created this Nation, and it would thus destroy the Nation itself. Who can visualize a future of progress for a Nation of octoroons ? The Negro leaders either ignore this possibility, or have no objection to such a condition, or by their silence they admit that they would welcome such a future.

Theodore Bilbo, 1947

11 May 2011

As the state of New York debates gay marriage again, I worry where the deepest loyalties of legislators lie. Can self-described Catholics (including the governor) break with their church hierarchy, stand up for equal rights, even at the risk of shrill denunciations from the pulpit and the denial of communion?

More and more, I question how anyone can be a good Catholic and a supporter of equal rights for all. So many other churches have reformed their views of homosexuality (just now the Presbyterians did) that clinging to Roman Catholicism seems like a bigoted imus retro, a rejection of all the social progress of the last 40 years.*

* The church has clearly not gotten over what Pius IX said in 1864: "It is an error to believe that the Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile himself to, and agree with, progress, liberalism, and modern civilization."

03 May 2011

We are well on our way to erecting a Jim Crow regime in Wisconsin. The new voter ID bill is being discussed at the Capitol.

Rep. Stone asked hearing participants to use care with the word "disenfranchisement," only applying it to situations in which the bill would make it "impossible" for eligible voters to access the polls.

"I'm very concerned about the use of 'disenfranchisement' when the bill cannot disenfranchise people, because that would be unconstitutional," said Stone...

What part of "Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth" does Mr. Stone not understand? This was what the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 1966 case.

The bill is almost certain to pass. If they value our civil rights at all, Wisconsin poll workers should disobey the law. The New Slave Power* is busy crafting kinder, gentler shackles for the commoners ("much more forgiving!"), and will stop at nothing until their control of all branches of government is assured forever.

* I use this term in reference to the corporations and millionaires who buy politicians and seek to rig every law and social compact in their favor. They are as sinister as the slaveowning aristocracy used to be.

02 May 2011

Russell Arben Fox says:

The moral plane of the universe is not somehow improved by the killing of a man. “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he is overthrown”–the author of Proverbs had it right.

I believe all that….but I still think he deserved it. He deserved it, because he lead and inspired actions whose consequences, in a very real and specific way, not only left nearly 3000 human beings dead, and which gave rise to an occasionally desperate and often mismanaged war which has killed many thousands more (both innocent and guilty), but which have also generated pathologies that have plagued and damaged American politics ever since. He was hardly solely responsible for these results, but neither could he ever escape the blame...

We did that [trashing civil liberties] to ourselves, but Osama gave us the pretext for doing so, and for that, I guess he deserved what he finally, finally, got. If only I could believe that a well-executed firefight could rid us of all the civic and international damage he has left in his wake.

27 April 2011

I don't know how many times I've heard that bankruptcy carries no stigma in America. Apparently this does not apply if you're managing a LGBT newspaper.

26 April 2011

Yesterday I watched most of the PBS documentary Stonewall Uprising, according to the instructions of my gay overlord, Dan Savage. This morning the history lesson continues with this interview. One salient point:

What has frustrated you about the move toward gay marriage in the country?

Just that it's taken forever. I don't think we should have taken the state by state approach because it just makes it go on, and then you have to re-sue and defend. Things need to go to the Supreme Court as fast as possible. There were ways it could have gone to the Supreme Court a lot earlier. If we lose at the Supreme Court, which everyone was afraid of, you just come back again.

True that. Too many gays are afraid of losing a high-profile national case on marriage equality. They should remember that the infamous Dred Scott decision (1857), aggressively upholding the system of slavery, was not a death-blow to the abolitionist cause. If anything, it made the election of Abraham Lincoln even more plausible, as Northern opinion reacted with horror to the inhumane reasoning of Chief Justice Taney.

21 April 2011

On the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, a little history:

"He was regarded as a foreigner," says Gordon Campbell, a historian at the University of Leicester in England. "He spoke with a heavy Scottish accent, and one of the things he needed to legitimize himself as head of the Church of England was a Bible dedicated to him."

And we're not talking about a Gordon Brown-like accent, either. James VI's English was about as far from Elizabeth I's as the drug dealers on The Wire are from Barack Obama.

A good example of Scots English from this time is Gavin Douglas' Aeneid:

Laude, honor, prasingis, thankis infynite
To the, and thi dulce ornate fresch endite,
Mast reverend Virgill, of Latyne poetis prince,
Gemme of ingine and fluide of eloquence,
Thow peirles perle, patroun of poetrie,
Rois, register, palme, laurer, and glory,
Chosin cherbukle, cheif flour and cedir tree,
Lanterne, leidsterne, mirrour, and a per se...

19 April 2011

The best hope for Wisconsin's future, after Gov. Walker has sold off all our utilities to Wall Street, the last underfunded public school collapses in a tornado, the last openly gay person has been deported, the last poor woman dies of a botched illegal abortion, is that Minnesota will buy us out. We could then leap from the 17th century to the 21st century in no time.

15 April 2011

Movie Listings for StarPoint 16, April 14, 2021:

John Galt Vs. Judas Iscariot: The Reckoning (PG, 1:00, 1:45, 2:15, 3:00, 4:00)

Live Birth of the Kardashian Girl-Baby (PG-13, at 3:00 only, delays possible)

A YouTube Bigscreen Newsreel. Highlights: Anarchy in London!, Polar Bears Prepare for First Winter in Antarctica, Sex Tourism in Zimbabwe. (R, 2:00, 3:00, 5:00)

Madea Calls AT&T to Complain (R for adult content, 1:30, 3:00, 4:30)

Dutch: the Animated Life of Ronald Reagan, America's Darling (G, every hour on the hour)

13 April 2011

Reading about the "Chinese crackdown":

“Let Ai Weiwei go? But Richard, how can we do that? How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China? How can we humilate ourselves like that?”

On the other side of this mirror:

GREGORY: Mitch McConnell says he is a high-tech terrorist. Others say this is akin to the Pentagon papers. Where do you come from?

BIDEN: I would argue that it's closer to being a high-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers.

But look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world. He has made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends.

For example, in my meetings -- you know I meet with most of these world leaders. There is a desire now to meet with me alone rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome. So it has done damage.

07 April 2011

If your only source of news was the New York Times, you might think that America's greatest scourges today were sexting and class-action lawsuits.

The latter piece is particulary galling, as it clothes the extreme opinions of Justice Scalia in a pseudo-scientific drivel of "rights" and "representation." We are warned that female employees of Wal-Mart "would be bound by the result in the case even though they had not volunteered for it and had no right to opt out and sue on their own." Because, of course, the right to bankrupt yourself challenging the nation's biggest retailer is paramount. Furthermore, one Court of Appeals judge believes "that something more than a 'mechanical computation' was needed to decide who gets how much money should the women win." What is that something? Babylonian entrail divination?

06 April 2011

Judge Joann Kloppenburg, who is at this writing less than 1,000 votes behind Judge David Prosser, and has not given up yet, puts me in mind of this passage from Mark Twain's autobiography:

No, there is nothing comparable to the endurance of a woman. In military life she would tire out any army of men, either in camp or on the march. I still remember with admiration that woman who got into the overland stage-coach somewhere on the plains, when my brother and I crossed the continent in the summer of 1861, and who sat bolt upright and cheerful, stage after stage, and showed no wear and tear. In those days, the one event of the day in Carson City was the arrival of the overland coach. All the town was usually on hand to enjoy the event. The men would climb down out of the coach doubled up with cramps, hardly able to walk; their bodies worn, their spirits worn, their nerves raw, their tempers at a devilish point; but the women stepped out smiling and apparently unfatigued. [dictated 15 February, 1906]

04 April 2011

A poem for MLK's assassination

HE SPOKE slowly, measuring the words to the occasion,
and the people of that river city listened.

MEN FOUGHT halfway across the world, for a cause
that flagged in their own land;

WE READ of a stuttering prophet, struggling
to perfect his nation in the wilderness.

A BABE in basket of reeds floated past the city
called Enduring and Beautiful.[1]

FEAR GRIPPED this city on the day of plagues--
its native pomp and imperial splendour
bleeding out, to be gone in a week.

STEAMBOATS PUSHED the waters of the city reincarnate,
carrying cotton and slaves.

DREAD GRIPPED the city on the day of disaster--
hundreds consumed in a floating furnace.[2]

MEN MARCHED eleven decades later,
maintaining their dignity.

HE STOOD on a hotel balcony,
happy and relieved.

30 March 2011

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been pondering Tennyson's poetry, and writes:

I'd like to ask some of our gay commenters to weigh in here. On Tennyson particularly, and more broadly on the realm of artists beautifully expressing affection for humans of the same gender,

I hear Tennyson and, for me, there is that long tradition of young black males mourning the death of fallen soldiers, through hip-hop. Mobb Deep made a career out of mugging for the camera, and yet in "Cradle To The Grave," Havoc could confess that at the sight of his dying friend "he felt like crying." And he does this in sub genre which holds strong prohibitions against saying such things about women.

For me, Tennyson was just one of hundreds(?) of British male poets who felt affection for other men, and In Memoriam one link in the centuries-long chain. Considering that "buggery" was a capital crime in England until 1861 (when Tennyson was 52 years old), any homosexual content in his poetry would have had to be thickly veiled.

It is interesting to compare Tennyson with A.E. Housman, who was contemporary to Oscar Wilde and died in 1936. To my gay man's mind, Housman's Shropshire Lad poems are some of the most erotically charged in existence. This is Shropshire Lad 38:

The winds out of the west land blow,
My friends have breathed them there;
Warm with the blood of lads I know
Comes east the sighing air.

It fanned their temples, filled their lungs,
Scattered their forelocks free;
My friends made words of it with tongues
That talk no more to me.

Their voices, dying as they fly,
Loose on the wind are sown;
The names of men blow soundless by,
My fellows' and my own.

Oh lads, at home I heard you plain,
But here your speech is still,
And down the sighing wind in vain
You hollo from the hill.

The wind and I, we both were there,
But neither long abode;
Now through the friendless world we fare
And sigh upon the road.

25 March 2011

Now that the "free world's" attention has been diverted to Libya, state-sponsored violence in Syria will probably get worse:

Security forces opened fire on hundreds of youths in the outskirts of Deraa on Wednesday, witnesses said, after nearly a week of protests in which seven civilians had already died. The main hospital in Deraa, near the Jordanian border, had received the bodies of at least 37 protesters killed on Wednesday, a hospital official said. That brings the number killed to at least 44 in a week of protests.

Deraa was known in the Old Testament as Edrei. See Numbers 22:32-33: "And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there. / And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei."

24 March 2011

I know it's impolite to compare Tea Party politicians to Nazis, but when they start ordering the destruction of paintings they don't like, it's hard to stifle one's urge to make the comparison.

22 March 2011

Andrew Sullivan writes--

Perhaps, as so often, Obama's unsatisfying compromise is the best he can do given the expectations that still attach themselves to the "leader of the free world" (can we retire that hoary old phrase at this point?).

Retire the phrase, or use it properly. India is the world's largest democracy. And what did India think of this?

"This resolution calls for far-reaching measures but we never got answers to very basic questions," Indian envoy to UN Hardeep Singh Puri said. "This entire exercise has been based on less than complete information."

21 March 2011

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will be her [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

John Quincy Adams

18 March 2011

I have severe misgivings about today's UN Security Council resolution against Libya. Andrew Sullivan has asked all the right questions; I can't but help thinking of 1588, when Phillip II of Spain was absolutely convinced that Queen Elizabeth had to be removed from power in England. Spanish troops were already heavily committed in the Netherlands, fighting a Protestant insurgency, and the imperial budget had fallen deeply into deficit. But Phillip and his courtiers allowed themselves the belief that God would deliver victory, and a speedy regime change in favor of good Catholic government in England.

This is in no way a defense of Gaddafi's conduct towards his own people recently. (Elizabeth I enjoys an illustrious reputation crafted by English historians, but she would have found 'human rights' a laughable idea, and was quite willing to crush without mercy any rebellions against her.) The best hope for making Libya a better place is not bombing, but a nonviolent resistance movement that is Islamic in character. Millions of Egyptians just showed us how it was done.

Edit: I also find it interesting that Angela Merkel, who grew up in totalitarian East Germany, is the most skeptical among Western leaders about military intervention.

14 March 2011

A sign at Saturday's Capitol Square protest read, "Scott, can you spell 'pyrrhic'?" And since etymology will undoubtedly be sent to the chopping block in Wisconsin's latest cuts to education, here is the origin of the word.

Pyrrhus, a third-century BC king of Epirus (which covers today's Albania and northwestern Greece), wanted to save the Greek colony of Tarentum in southern Italy from being absorbed by the Roman Republic. Presenting himself as a defender of Greek liberty, he invaded Italy with at least 25,000 men.

....near Heraclea a Greek and Roman army met for the first time. The Roman legion was a more flexible weapon than the cumbersome phalanx, but the tactics of Pyrrhus and his elephants won him the victory--but a costly one....During this time the Tarentines had grown weary of the military obligations imposed on them by the king, to whom they had accorded full powers for the duration of the war*.

At length the Carthaginians grew alarmed at Pyrrhus' rampages, and cooperated with the Romans (!) to drive his forces out of Sicily and Southern Italy.

*Jean Hatzfeld, History of Ancient Greece, Chapter 30

05 March 2011

Arizona Republicans want to secede from the United States

This is not an Onion headline, or taken from any satirical website. This is the import of an actual bill being debated in the Arizona state legislature. 150 years after South Carolina rebelled against the national government, some Arizonans are itching to try it again.

01 March 2011

Looks like we have to invade Ireland now: a extreme party with ties to terrorism has won almost 10 percent of the first-preference vote!

20 February 2011

The Borders bookstore on Madison's West Side is about to close. The last book I bought there is Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives.

18 February 2011

More profiles in political courage:

In response to hysterical ranting about abortions from Republican Chris Smith, Democrat Jackie Speier tells her own abortion story in a measured, dare I say manly, way:

A big thank you to Fred Risser, my state senator, for joining today's mass protest for labor rights.

Sometimes liberals bemoan the lack of committed activists 'these days.' 'If only MLK were still alive,' they say. Risser was born two years before MLK and is still fighting for good causes.

16 February 2011

Abe Sauer has written a superb piece on Wisconsin's War on Unions.

It is encouraging to see ordinary people becoming politically active now. Alas, in November last year, there was a decidedly lackluster turnout in Wisconsin.

220,273 votes were cast in Dane County for governor; compare this to

491,357 the county's estimated 2009 population.
-111,047 under age of 18
380,310 adults.

So in our progressive, enlightened county, the Athens of the Midwest, 160,037 adults did not bother to vote. Scott Walker won the governorship by a margin of 124,000. Draw your own conclusions.

08 February 2011

Five things more interesting than the birth of Ronald Reagan that happened in February, 1911

1. The French Chamber of Deputies passed a law reserving the use of the term "champagne" solely for white wine produced by vignerons or sold by négociants in the province of the Marne. The act outraged winemakers in other provinces of France and led to violent strikes.

2. Seattle Mayor Hiram C. Gill (who encouraged prostitution and other 'vice' businesses) was put out of office by a recall election and replaced by George Dilling. It was the first city election in which women were allowed to participate, and the female vote was believed to have contributed to the recall.

3. In a major turning point in the Mexican Revolution, Francisco I. Madero crossed the Rio Grande from Texas and into Mexico's Chihuahua State to take command of rebel forces. Madero had departed the United States after a warrant was issued for his arrest for violating U.S. neutrality laws.

4. The first air mail flight in history took place in India, when French pilot Henri Pequot carried 6,500 letters from Allahabad a distance of 8 miles, to the Naini junction. The mail was then loaded on a train and taken to Calcutta.

5. In what has been described as "the last massacre of Indians in the United States", a group of Nevada state police fought with "Shoshone Mike", who had killed four ranchers in Washoe County. "It was probably the first time in many years that bows and arrows have figured in any Indian fight", the New York Times noted. One of the white men died, while eight of twelve Shoshones, some of whom were children, were killed in the fight at Rabbit Creek, near Winnemucca.

Thanks to Wikipedia for these facts.

03 February 2011

A National Prayer Breakfast Post-mortem

Where to begin? This event is sponsored, of course, by the Family, an organization which whipped up anti-gay hatred in Uganda to such an extreme pitch that David Kato, civil rights activist and one of the relatively few openly gay men in Uganda, was bludgeoned to death in his own home.

C-Span's coverage of the breakfast begins with Randall Terry, anti-abortion crusader and twice-married Roman Catholic (he claims, like Henry VIII, that "tragic problems" made his first marriage null and void) making a thinly veiled threat of hellfire and brimstone to anyone who will not accept Jesus as Lord on his deathbed.

Then a Republican congressman introduces the President, remarking "it is the genius of our founders, that we have one president at a time." Golden.

President Obama spoke well, but did not even verbally glance at the complicity of this organization in promoting mass murder in Uganda. I think I have reached the turning point today and I will not be able to vote for Barack Obama again; I know I said this at an earlier point, frustrated with him over DADT repeal. He handled that pretty well, it turns out. However, it is the duty of a Christian to confront evil and speak out against it, whether it wears the scowl of John McCain or the evangelical smile of Mike Huckabee.

This is all tied up with Obama's reluctance to make his position on gay marriage clear. I, for one, would be perfectly happy with an ambiguous "evolving" position on the matter--Obama does seem to support civil unions consistently, and that would be enough for me. Evolve for as long as you like, but when you are invited to speak by an organization that goes into a foreign land and demonizes a particular class of people relentlessly, happy Jesus talk is not acceptable.

29 January 2011

If the Egyptian revolution is to have any staying power, I think it will come from industrial workers. 37.9% of Egypt's GDP comes from industry, which is much higher than the United States' proportion--in fact, closer to China.

Dispatches like these will be crucial:

1035 GMT: Suez steel workers are going on strike until President Mubarak resigns.

28 January 2011

A clarion call from John Aravosis:

If the President is going to brag at the State of the Union about how all troops, gay and straight, are now one, thanks to him, then he needs to start acting like it. This is his administration. He has the power to make these court cases against the protesters go away (he has the power to stop defending DADT and DOMA in court as well), and he has the power to stop the Defense Department from trying to force servicemembers discharged under DADT to pays thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars, because they were discharged under DADT.

This is the reason so many of us are constantly perturbed with this White House. It doesn't seem that anyone there fully understands that they're in charge, that they have actual power. We constantly hear how powerless they are, how the president isn't king and isn't God. No, he's not - but he is the president of the United States, which is no small shakes. It's not entirely clear they fully get that fact. If the administration's representatives continue to harass our troops and our civil rights organizers, then it is the White House's fault, because they are not doing nearly enough to stop it.

They have the power to stop it. So stop it.

27 January 2011

A "state of the kingdom" address given by Chretien-Francois de Lamoignon* on November 19th, 1787:

[five years from now] His Majesty in the midst of his estates, surrounded by his faithful subjects, confidently presenting to them the comforting picture of order restored to finances, of agriculture and commerce mutually encouraged under the auspices of freedom, of a formidable navy, the army regenerated by a more economical and military constitution, of abuses eliminated......of laws reformed, public education perfected...
from Simon Schama, Citizens, Chapter 7 'Suicides'

*president of the Parlement of Paris. Old regime France had thirteen judicial bodies called parlements, each serving a historic region of the kingdom. They had to ratify every royal decree before it became law, and based their decisions on a nebulous idea of "fundamental law."

24 January 2011

A rebuttal to a silly piece from the New York Times Week in Review

Clearly the United States has learned the lessons of ancient history, and is conducting its diplomacy accordingly, writes David Sanger. How Thucydides would approve of our handling the China problem!

What really unraveled the Athenian empire was not a direct war with Sparta. A refresher:

[Alcibiades'] suggestion was to renew the attempt made in 425 at intervention in Sicily; but this time he had in mind an expedition on the grand scale which should subdue first Syracuse and then the whole of Sicily and southern Italy, whose corn and timber supplies would reassure Athens, anxious as always about her revictualling problem, and no longer able since the loss of Amphipolis to exploit the forests of Mount Pangaeus. Alcibiades perhaps had even longer and larger views, envisaging finally the conquest of Carthage and access to Spain; a reservoir of men and wealth which would have enabled Athens to subdue, once and for all, the Peloponesian Confederation and to become mistress of the whole Mediterranean. (History of Ancient Greece, Jean Hatzfeld, chapter 21)

21 January 2011

Time magazine asks, will the earth have two suns by 2012?

Why, yes, Virginia, our nearest neighbor Alpha Centauri is hurtling towards us at three times the speed of light!

Actually, the article refers to the possible collapse and supernova of Betelgeuse. The scientific illiteracy on display is staggering. Not that we should be surprised to find this in Time.

20 January 2011

More unvarnished truth:

"[Republicans] say it's a government takeover of health care - a big lie, just like Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust..."

From Representative Steve Cohen, who has committed the grievous sin of breaking the Washington code of "civility"--which does not, mind you, prohibit Republicans from calling for "Second Amendment remedies" to eliminate their opponents, but does enjoin Democrats from citing facts that buttress their arguments.

18 January 2011

The Illinois Family Institute announced today:

Homosexualist organizations have one goal that reigns supreme over all others: the eradication of the true moral belief that homosexual acts are profoundly immoral.

Absolutely wrong. I couldn't care less about what you or your grandmother think about anything I might choose to do with my genitalia. All I want is equal protection under the law. For an excellent defense of the right to believe (and say) anything you want about homosexuality, read this post by Peter Tatchell.

Thanks to Joe My God for the link.

17 January 2011

I've been reading Ulysses Grant's Personal Memoirs. This is how he describes the threat of secession in 1861:

It was generally believed that there would be a flurry; that some of the extreme Southern states would go so far as to pass ordinances of secession. But the common impression was that this step was so plainly suicidal for the South, that the movement would not spread over much of the territory and would not last long.

A salutary warning to those who believe Congressional Republicans today would not be stupid enough to bring down the government over the debt ceiling.

15 January 2011

Isthmus celebrates Martin Luther King Day:

There is still racial discrimination practiced in this country, but there is no longer any doubt that equality among individuals is the law of the land.

The poor sap who wrote this should be sent to Mississippi, where a corrections officer was recently fired for being gay. The ACLU has come to his aid, but there is no federal law protecting gay people from employment discrimination. But of course Mr. Cooley should take heart, because "equality among individuals" is sacrosanct in our country!

09 January 2011

Yesterday's bloodbath in Tucson was prefigured, as so much else has been, in the work of Cormac Mccarthy. Here's some of what happened in Tucson in his novel Blood Meridian:

Captain, we're going to have to take whoever's responsible for the death of Mr Owens into custody.
Glanton looked up. Who's Mr Owens? he said.
Mr Owens is the gentleman who ran the eatinghouse down here. He's been shot to death.
Sorry to hear it, said Glanton. Set down.
Couts ignored the invitation. Captain, you dont aim to deny that one of your men shot him do you?
I aim exactly that, said Glanton.
Captain, it wont hold water.
The judge emerged from the darkness. Evening, Lieutenant, he said. Are these men the witnesses?
Couts looked at his corporal. No, he said. They aint witnesses. Hell, Captain. You all were seen to enter the premises and seen to leave after the shot was fired. Are you going to deny that you and your men took your dinner there?
Deny ever goddamned word of it, said Glanton.
Well by god I believe I can prove that you ate there.
Kindly address your remarks to me, Lieutenant, said the judge. I represent Captain Glanton in all legal matters. I think you should know first of all that the captain does not propose to be called a liar and I would think twice before I involved myself with him in an affair of honor. Secondly I have been with him all day and I can assure you that neither he nor any of his men have ever set foot in the premises to which you allude.
The lieutenant seemed stunned at the baldness of these disclaimers. He looked from the judge to Glanton and back again. I will be damned, he said. Then he turned and pushed past the men and quit the place.

08 January 2011

Truth unvarnished:

This is our system of fast-food education laid bare: Children are roaming the halls singing "Sexy Bitch," while their neo-Confederate parents are plotting to chop the penis off Michelangelo's David, and clamoring for Gatsby and Daisy to be reunited.
This is a poem made in response to this contest.


I am a natural wonder.
I pay out 2 production, 3 commerce,
and I am impassable.
They think I am mysterious,
but my ways are set like clockwork.
When a small band of scouts draws near,
staggering o'er the hills,
fearing the next barbarian ambush,
and finds me: O the joy.

05 January 2011

As President Obama approaches two years in office, it may be instructive to compile all the threats of violence made against him. (This list does not include small-fry white supremacists).

"Someone's got to knock some sense into that idiot"--Jacob Volkmann, UFC fighter/chiropractor (http://thinkprogress.org/2011/01/04/ufc-fighter-obama/)

"I think we should all rise up and we should stop this administration from what they're doing because they're destroying this country"--R. Lee Ermey, actor (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgBVrpI-4Ww)

"Yes, I would like to shoot the president then myself."--Michael Stephen Bowden, retired NYPD officer (http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2010/11/26/former-nypd-officer-arrested-for-obama-death-threat/)

"The president needs to be shot."--Josh Mccallum, prisoner in Missouri (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/08/missouri-man-30-months-obama-death-threat/)

Christopher King, Vermont resident (http://www.boston.com/news/local/vermont/articles/2010/10/13/vt_man_indicted_in_alleged_obama_threat/)

John Turnpaugh, Louisiana resident (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/05/11/new-orleans-man-sentenced-making-death-threats-obama/)

Chane Phillip Christenson, Minnesota resident (http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/minnesota/obama-threat-guilty-plea-july1-2010)

Brian Dean Miller, Texas resident (http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/11/01/2594697/dallas-man-sentenced-obama-threat.html)

Gregory Dale Brockman, Pennsylvania prisoner (http://www.wfmz.com/lehighvalleynews/26172085/detail.html)

Perhaps someone would like to draw up a comparable list for George W. Bush's first two years. That shouldn't take too long.

03 January 2011

An adviser to the White House opines:

"If we get to the point where you've damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity," he said.

"We shouldn't even be discussing that. People will get the wrong idea. The United States is not in danger of default. … This would be lumping us in with a series of countries through history that I don't think we would want to be lumped in with."

Like France in the 1780s?

How grave was France's predicament after the American war? It had, it is true, run up an imposing debt, but one that was no worse than comparable debts incurred in fighting the other wars deemed equally essential to sustain the nation's position as a great power. Those quick to condemn the ministers of Louis XVI for their hopeless prodigality might pause to reflect that no state with imperial pretensions has, in fact, ever subordinated what it takes to be irreducible military interests to the considerations of a balanced budget. And like apologists for powerful military force in twentieth-century America and the Soviet Union, advocates of similar 'indispensable' resources in eighteenth-century France pointed to the country's vast demographic and economic reserves and a flourishing economy to sustain the burden. Indeed the prospering of that economy was, they claimed, contingent on such military expenditure, both directly in naval bases like Brest and Toulon, and indirectly in the protection it gave to the most rapidly expanding sector of the economy.

From Simon Schama, Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. This is a book every new U.S. Congressman should read (preferably in lieu of attending Michelle Bachmann's Constitution classes).