Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)


"Memories burning bright"

I'm going to preface these remarks with a bit of advice. Anyone reading this who is within reasonable traveling distance of Galesburg, Illinois, should get there by next Saturday (March 6) and go see the shows of Repertory Theatre Term XIII at Knox College.

A bit of explanation is perhaps in order. Rep Term (as it is universally known at Knox) has been a tradition at the college every third year since 1969. The premise is simple: students sign up to take all (or most) of their classes in theatre for the winter term. In the course of a ten-week trimester, the company will mount two full-length plays (one a tragedy or serious in nature, and one a comedy; usually one modern and one "classic" drama). One of the professors will direct each show, and may do one or more of the major designs for either or both shows. Everything else (and I do mean everything else!) is done by the students. They make the costumes, build the sets and decorate them, do the publicity, run the house, hang and focus the lights and light the shows, do the makeup--and everybody acts, too. Everyone gets at least a small part in one play. Typically, a student will get smallish roles in both plays, though students with major crew or other company responsibilities may get only one role, in which case it will normally be one of the larger ones. When they're ready, the shows run in repertory on alternating nights. (This year, both shows will be performed on the last Saturday of the run: the comedy in the afternoon, and the tragedy in the evening.)

Having followed "the road that calls us home" (in the words of the chorus to the Knox alma mater), I caught the tragedy (Euripides' The Trojan Women) last night, and I'm just back to my hotel room after the comedy (Aristophanes' Lysistrata) tonight. It's an amazing thing (especially to this classics major and amateur drama buff) how relevant to what we are pleased to call the "modern world" two 2,500-year-old war plays can be.

Just as amazing to me is how 32 young people can come together and make magic happen every night for two solid weeks, and that after seven weeks or so of organized chaos that usually involves a schedule something like breakfast at 8, class or crew assignment at 9, work until lunch at noon, conservatory (voice and movement training) at 1, class or crew assignment at 3:30, work until dinner at 5:30, rehearsal at 7, stagger home to the dorm around 10 for homework, class prep, and what sleep you can muster, and then get up and do it all over again the next day. That they can do all that, put on a performance, and then show up after the show is over, giddy and full of energy, for notes, comments and criticisms from cast and director, and then switch the set around for the show that's on the next day before even getting out of their makeup, speaks volumes about the drive and the camaraderie that these troupers share.

I know whereof I speak, because I'm a proud alumnus of Rep Term VI (1985). I still vividly recall the afternoon in the autumn of 1984 when I was sitting in my dorm room trying to get through the Upanishads for a course I was taking in eastern religions. I was interrupted by a phone call--for me, as it turned out. A guy I knew from a couple of shows I'd crewed for was calling to invite me to an informational meeting for the next Rep Term.

I told him I was flattered they'd ask me, considering I hadn't done any acting in 10 years, but I just didn't see how I could squeeze it in with all the major requirements (I had a double major in chemistry and classics) I still had to complete if I was to graduate on time at the end of that academic year. Todd kept encouraging me to come, saying there was no commitment implied, but they'd really like to see me there, and so on. I told him I'd think about it, fully intending to do nothing of the kind.

I went back to my room and picked up my book again. After reading the same paragraph probably six times and understanding not a word of it, I resolved to call my adviser. It was late on a Friday afternoon, he probably wouldn't be in his office anyway, but then I could at least tell Todd I'd made a good-faith effort to see about arranging it and hadn't been able to make it happen. Wouldn't you know it? My classics adviser was in his office, and when I told him I had a problem, of course he wanted to see me. "Let's meet over at the Gizmo [the campus snack shop] for a cup of coffee."

"Of course he's going to talk me out of it," I remember thinking as I walked across the quads from my dorm room to the center of campus. "He knows how much course work I still have to go for graduation." Wrong answer, thankyouforplaying!

When I had laid it all out for him, my adviser looked me in the eyes and said, "I think you should do it. I think if you don't do this, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

Damn him. He's supposed to talk me out of this! "Yes," I said, "but what about...?" and listed off all the unfulfilled major requirements I still had on my checklist. "Don't worry about it," he said, and pulled off an order blank to start scribbling notes to himself to make it happen for me. I think he at least bent most of the college's academic regulations, but we managed to squeeze Rep Term VI into my winter term schedule.

And he was right, bless him. It was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world, and one which I would be regretting to this day if I hadn't seized the chance that was offered me to take advantage of it. That may have been the best piece of advice you ever gave me, Steve, and I'm forever in your debt because of it.

Of course things go wrong. It wouldn't be theatre otherwise. My year, our outdated light board fried itself just as we were getting ready to set light cues for the tragedy at the start of Tech Week. Already over-budget, the two professors had to go hat-in-hand to the president of the college and beg for the $3,000 it would cost us to rent a replacement for the three weeks we'd need it. He approved the expense, and we sent in the order. Next day, a new light board arrived--and it had been damaged in transit. Two days out of tech week, gone. Another frantic phone call to the rental company, and another replacement arrived on the next day--and its CRT screen didn't work. At this point, both of the directors and I (as lighting crew chief) were pulling our hair out, and there were ominous rumors going around about doing the shows with just area lighting. ("Over my dead body," I believe were my exact words. "I didn't spend the last six weeks crawling around the flies scratching myself* trying to hang all those instruments only to use a tenth of them.")

*The cords of theatrical lighting instruments are covered in fiberglass. Even if you wear long sleeves (not much fun in cramped spaces that are always hot anyway, and you stumbling around with 40 pounds of very expensive electrical equipment in each hand) it gets on you, and you itch like mad. Even less fun is having to wash anything you wear for light crew work separately, so the fiberglass fibers don't get on all the rest of your clothes.

Fortunately, someone noticed that the board had an auxiliary video output jack, so we called over to A/V and had them send us a television screen that we could plug in, at least until the rental company could send us our third replacement light board. (And this time it had better fucking WORK!)

Hell, yes, we were tired, especially by the time the shows were ready to open. We'd been working our butts off non-stop for six weeks! But we had it to do, we had a responsibility to ourselves and to the rest of the compay, and we did it. We got through it. The shows opened on time, and magic happened each and every night. One example of that magic that sticks with me to this day came on closing night. We closed the run with the comedy, which had four acts. Most of the cast for that show were "extras"--party guests for the ball in Act II, or minor characters with a line or two at most. They had a separate curtain call after the second act, but had to remain backstage, in costume and makeup, to do the scene change from Act III to Act IV, after which, they were told, they could get cleaned up and go start the cast party.

Comes the final blackout and I walk off stage with the rest of the final scene players, expecting to dash back on for our curtain call in a few seconds. Fat chance! Every single member of the company not either coming offstage or still at their posts at the back of the house running lights and sound was waiting for us in the wings. Each of the four or five of us who had just come off stage (and had to go back on again in seconds) was mobbed by three or four people all trying to hug us at once. They were not about to start the party without us, and we barely made it on and found our places before the lights came up for the curtain calls.

And magic it definitely was this year, too. I don't know how the cast managed to hobble off stage at the end of Trojan Women last night. They'd put on a full-out, gut-wrenching, heart-rending performance for nearly two full hours without a break, and at full intensity for most of that time. Snaps to Hecuba in particular for a masterful rendition of a very difficult character. (Not that her supporting cast wasn't just as good.) And then most of those same cast members came on stage tonight to put on a rollicking, provocative, bawdy, rip-roaring comic performance that I'm sure Aristophanes himself would have applauded. As the mother of the actress who portrayed Kalonike remarked to me afterward, "I never thought I'd see the day when my daughter would scream the word 'fucking' onstage and I'd be laughing." And snaps to the costume mistress for Lysistrata as well: those comic phalloi were simply brilliant!

Perhaps the neatest thing about the Rep Term experience is that it isn't limited to theatre majors (obviously, or I wouldn't have been asked). Most of the company this year is made up of theatre majors or minors, but I was happy to see a number listed in the program who weren't. Why should the "professionals" get to have all the fun?

That's actually something I really loved about my time at Knox, and I think it holds true at most smaller schools. If you're interested and have even minimal talents, there's room for you to take part in things you'd otherwise likely never get the chance to try. Look at me: I went from singing in the shower and along with records and the radio to performing and soloing with two choirs throughout my college years. If I hadn't done that, chances are I would never have been asked to be one of the ones providing music for two pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the last five years, one of which also included a week-long stay in Rome. I would have hated to miss those experiences, either.

I had last acted in a junior-high-school production of a play I don't even remember anymore, and hadn't done a lick of crew work, but I could swing a hammer without hurting myself or others and I wasn't afraid of heights, so friends asked me to help out on a couple of plays. If you're asked once and show up, you'll be asked again; with the result that, in my last term of my senior year, I had something to do with a grand total of seven different theatre productions in the course of 10 weeks. I was also taking a directing class. Hell, mostly because of my participation in Rep Term, I had accumulated sufficient points to be inducted into Alpha Psi Omega, the national honors fraternity for theatre. If someone had told me in high school that would happen to me four years later, I'd have thought they were certifiably insane.

But that is the wonder and the beauty of a liberal-arts education. It fits you to turn your hand to just about anything. And the wonder of a small school where you are nurtured and made to see hidden within yourself depths and talents that you wouldn't otherwise have noticed, and given the opportunity to try your wings with them and fly to the best of your ability. The classicist in me feels bound to note at this point that the root meaning of the word "education" is "the act or process of drawing out." It's not a pouring-in of facts and theories and procedures, though of course that happens in education, too. Rather, and this is certainly true in the best and finest traditions of education, it involves mining one's very self for the treasures that lie hidden within and bringing them into the light where others can see them.

It was a happy--even a blessed--turn of events that brought me to Knox, some 23 years ago. (And, my holy God, I can't believe it's been that long! It seems only yesterday.) It was a wrench to leave it when my studies were done; an alumna of my acquaintance who graduated 20-odd years before I did described her graduation day as simultaneously the best and the worst of her entire life, and I quite agree with the sentiment.

Yet as I walked up the brick sidewalk toward Old Main from South Street last night, gazing up fondly at the illuminated bell tower atop the graceful Gothic Revival structure with what I'm sure was a silly smile on my face, I suddenly realized that in a very real and important sense, I never truly left. A piece of my heart will forever rest in this place, and I carry a piece of it with me wherever I go. Like Antaeus of old, who had to remain in contact with his mother earth to keep his strength, I am refreshed and revitalized just by stepping onto the campus grounds. A wistful smile invariably graces my face as I tread the paths I trod so many times all those years ago, remembering faces and places, the way the light shone through the glorious foliage in the autumn. I am home. And it is good.

And to my comrades in the theatre in the company of Rep Term XIII, this alumnus of Rep Term VI gives you his thanks for two evenings of magic, and wishes you all possible success in your lives and careers from here forward: Go brightly and with beauty. And in the best traditions of the theatre, I leave you with these parting words: Merde à tous!

Update: Added links and made minor edits.




This Monday, NPR's Morning Edition ran an interview with Bush/Cheney campaign chairman Mark Racicot, in which Racicot claimed that Bush had volunteered to serve in Vietnam. That claim was contradicted by Bush's own enlistment form when he joined the Guard, and by statements Bush himself had made a week previously on Meet the Press.

As you might expect, this blatant lie was quickly pounced upon by many of us in the blogosphere, including me. Many of us (again, myself included) contacted NPR and asked how Juan Williams could possibly have let Racicot get away with such an outright lie without even a feeble "Excuse me...".

I didn't happen to hear it this morning while I was getting ready for work, but Josh Marshall notes that NPR ran "a follow-up fact-check" on Monday's interview in which they correctly pointed out that nothing in Bush's record indicated he had ever volunteered to serve in Vietnam. It's a week late, but better late than never.

Update: I've cross-posted this to Daily Kos. My first-ever diary! :-)

Updated again to close the italic tag from the previous update. Oops!


Gets my vote

Tom, over at TBogg, has gone looking for some alternative campaign slogans for BushCo. He thinks he's found his candidate ("A Jobless Recovery is like Waterless Rain") and asks, "Isn't that breathtakingly brilliant?"

Ayup. Gets my vote.



Sacred sex

Here's the genesis of this post, and I will warn you now that parts of it should probably be rated at least "R," if not "NC-17." You have been warned.

Ezra over at Pandagon was trying to do an exegesis of the biblical texts that the theo-wingnuts often rip bodily out of context and beat people over the head with when trying to explain why gay sex is just so icky that it can't be allowed to happen even in the context of a loving relationship. I'd read it and commented on it, and someone had replied to my comment. I was geting ready to reply to the reply and scanning the other comments on my way to the bottom of the popup window where I could start typing my own.

At that point, I encountered the following screed from IB Bill:

You want me to believe there is some kind of sacramental, pure love-sharing, spirit-filled kind of assfucking. Excuse me. It's lust-driven by nature.

So I tacked another paragraph on to the end of my comment, in which I responded:

Unless you're speaking from experience here, Bill, and I tend to doubt it, you're talking, you should excuse the expression, out your ass.

Apart from wanting to pun on Bill's use of "assfucking," my main point was directed against his assertion that gay sex is all and only driven by lust. Now, I'm not about to deny that there are gay men and lesbians in the world who behave exactly like the cast of Queer as Folk (and even worse). But as the disclaimer they broadcast at the beginning and end of each and every episode of QAF makes quite clear, that show depicts only a segment of gay life, not its sum total. As many of the couples who flocked to San Francisco over the last couple of weeks demonstrated, people who have been together for 10, 20, 40, 50 years, there is quite another side to gay love, and it's just as traditional as its heterosexual counterpart.

Then I got home, still mulling over the exchange in my mind. As I was standing in my kitchen slicing pepperoncini to put on top of the pizza I had waiting to go into the oven, I realized there was more to be said on the topic. Now comes the graphic bits, so if you're sensitive you may want to avert your eyes right about, oh, NOW.

To answer your question, Bill, yes, there really can be "some kind of sacramental, pure love-sharing, spirit-filled kind of assfucking." Conversely, you can ram your dick into all the pussy you can handle without enjoying any kind of sacramental, pure love-sharing, spirit-filled anything for even a single second. Because here's the thing: there's nothing inherently magical in the union of penis and vagina that makes sex sacred. Just as there is nothing inherently evil in the union of penis and mouth, or penis and anus, that makes sex sinful. The important bit isn't which tab fits into whose slot. That's ultimately as irrelevant as the solution of Fermat's Last Theorem is to a man dying of thirst in the desert.

(OK, I think the graphic sex bits are over. For now, anyway.)

What makes sex sacred, life-affirming, unitive, and procreative in any but the most basic biological sense is the joining, not of bodies, but of the minds, hearts, and spirits of the people having it. That deeper level of union can sometimes be achieved by people who are "just" having sex, or at least set out with that intention. But the evidence suggests that it is quite rare to arrive at that deeper union (and that it is almost impossible to sustain it) solely on the basis of physical intercourse.

On the other hand, achieving a fulfilling sexual encounter is considerably easier if the parties thereto already share themselves with one another in ways other than the physical. (That's the major premise in the Catholic Church's argument for why sex should only occur within the context of marriage, by the way.) In fact, when people are in love and share themselves with one another on multiple levels, they can achieve something that is sacramental, pure love-sharing, and spirit-filled not just in sexual intercourse, but simply by being in the same room together. Hell, in some cases they can even achieve it by thinking of their partners even when they're half a world away. But here, again, it isn't the configuration of Tab A and Slot B that makes this ecstatic union possible: it's the love shared between the partners, and that love doesn't care how many people are in the relationship or what relationship, if any, obtains between their respective genitalia.

So unless you've got a better argument somewhere in there than "it's all lust," I'm afraid you and your team have lost this round. Better luck next time. (Oh, and be sure to check the labels of all the pieces of clothing you're now wearing. You wouldn't want to incur the wrath of God by using fabrics woven from two different kinds of materials, would you? And I guess you'd better get down on your knees and beg forgiveness for all the cheeseburgers you've ever eaten.)


Public funding for theology? Thanks, but no thanks.

I've had a couple of very good comments on my previous post on yesterday's Supreme Court opinion in Locke v. Davey.

Andante wrote:

As you say, there is a great need for more men and women to fill pulpits. And the need for educated candidates is critical.

I can understand denying scholarship funds to those who attend the equivalent of madrassas. But for those who take the path of well-rounded scholarship, the money should be made available.

I am leery of contradicting a lady of her obvious charm and talent. (Don't believe me? Check out Collective Sigh, the blog she writes.) Nevertheless, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree. The course she suggests would certainly result in the legislation falling victim to the third prong of the Lemon test. If a government official has to take the time to account for all the varieties of human religion out there, and then make a careful determination as to which of them aren't too wing-nutty to warrant public support, that is obviously "fostering an excessive government entanglement with religion," and therefore (rightly) prohibited. Moreover, again referring to the Lemon test, the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment prohibits not only discrimination by the government in favor of one religion over another, but also discrimination by favoring religion over non-religion. So even assuming we could find an even-handed way of supporting all those faiths and sects that were not intrinsically hateful or harmful (and that's a very BIG assumption), we would still not be able to get the program to pass constitutional muster.

My last point in the previous paragraph addresses something that Quicksauce, of It's In There, also brought up:

Another angle that I think is important: I've never exactly seen the separation of church and state to be an issue of total exclusion, but one of unpreferential inclusion (i.e., you can't deny money to one religious group while dispensing it to another).

He's right as far as he goes, but he also misses that second prong of the Lemon test. As I noted yesterday, in First Amendment law, one strike is enough for you to be called out and sent back to the dugout to regroup.

Previously in that same comment, QS noted that:

The line between religion and other disciplines on the academic level tends to blur. State money pays for the reading of Fromm, who, though he is put in the psychologist box, has a very religious outlook. Ditto for Freud, even though he disdained religion in theory, he made his own beliefs so dogmatic that they became religious (hence, the excommunicating of Jung and others).

There is a point at which taxes paying for religious activities becomes inevitable. Can we make it illegal for someone on welfare to tithe, for instance?

He's right in the first sentence, but he also shoots down his own point when he uses the phrase "on the academic level." There is no constitutional bar, as I'm pretty sure the opinion of the court and the dissent both made clear yesterday, to a purely academic study of theology. In fact, I would wholeheartedly welcome a publicly funded mandatory theology course in each and every one of our schools and institutions of higher education, so poorly is the average citizen educated or informed on this perennially vexed subject. But I, siding with Chief Justice Rehnquist and the Lemon court before him, draw the line at public funding of actual training for the active ministry. I could live with a student being granted a publicly funded scholarship to study theology as an academic subject and then subsequently, at her own or her denomination's expense, building on that academic training in the course of preparing for the ministry. But I cannot in good conscience find a way in the Constitution for having that last bit of training paid for out of the public coffers.

Nor is there any constitutional bar to having welfare recipients use the funds they receive from our public treasury to support the religion of their choice. Once the money is in their hands, whatever they do with it afterward is out of the government's control and therefore does not fall under the constitutional ban. Though I would have to wonder how on earth they managed to squeeze anything out to drop into the collection plate or its denominational equivalent after accounting for rent, food, and other necessities, given the pittances they are "generously" allotted by our oh-so-godly Rethug leaders, even as the latter, wearing Rolex watches and handmade Italian suits each of which probably costs more than the yearly allowance for a family on welfare, drive ostentatiously in their luxury automobiles to their lavishly appointed mega-churches.

(For why this is a problem, see Matthew 6:1-6, the Gospel passage appointed for yesterday's Ash Wednesday Masses. And if by chance you don't happen to read Greek, here's my translation from the original: "See to it that you do not perform your acts of righteousness in the sight of other people for them to notice you. If you do, you will not receive a reward from your Father in heaven. Indeed, when you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by other people: I assure you, they already have their reward. Rather, when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your deeds of charity may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret may reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who love to stand up in the synagogues and on street corners and pray, that they may be observed by other people. I assure you, they have their reward already. Rather, when you pray, go into your room and close the door and [there] pray to your Father in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.")


Sick and wrong

It seems like the Goopers are on a mission to find new and interesting ways every day of making me physically ill with their antics. From Jesse at Pandagon came this repulsive tidbit:

“The entire format and actual physical setup [of the Gooper national convention in New York this fall] could be radically different,” one GOP insider commented. “They might not even have a podium, or maybe a rotating podium or even a stage that comes up from underground. It would be like a theater in the round, with off-site events that are part of the convention.”

The source, a veteran official of past GOP conventions, said the 50,000 delegates, dignitaries and guests would watch off-site events on giant TV screens. “Now, we’ll go to the deck of the USS Intrepid as the U.S. Marine Corps Band plays the national anthem,” he said, pretending that he was playing the part of the convention chairman.

“Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero,” he added. “It’s clearly a venue they’re considering.”

Let me repeat that last ghastly bit: aWol preznit Poopypants might give his acceptance speech while standing on the gravesite of 3,000 people his carelessness doomed to their deaths.

I've had a love affair with words for more than 35 years. I can at least read six different languages. Yet words fail me as I attempt to describe how despicably, horribly, gruesomely, vilely twisted and wrong this is.

I sure as hell would not want to be standing anywhere near the sick fuck if he does give his acceptance speech from where the World Trade Center used to be, because hubris on that scale used to come at the price of a couple of thunderbolts from Mount Olympus. (Note to the nice man from the NSA monitoring this post: I am not--repeat, NOT--making a threat against that sick fuck you work for. I'm just saying that things like this have in the past been good candidates for divine retribution. You wouldn't want to be around when the earth suddenly yawns open at his feet and sucks him down into hell, would you?)

If the sick fuck really does go to Ground Zero, even if it's just for a side trip during the convention, I will be nightly praying, to quote a Blackadder sketch, "to the God that killed Cain and squashed Samson that he comes out of retirement and gets back into practice" on the sick fuck and all his minions of evil. Or that the bodies of the dead themselves will rise up to accuse him of being asleep at the switch that day, too busy going back home to Texas for vacation to pay attention when people told him there were evil men in the world plotting an evil deed. Let the earth cry out for the blood spilled upon it, and let the people of this formerly great nation rise up in revolt against the disaster this sick fuck is pleased to call his "leadership," and send the sick fuck himself crawling back home to his ranch, never to come out in public and darken our horizons again.

I mean, the arrogance of this sick fuck is simply monumental! How dare he profane the site of one of the most horrific acts this nation has witnessed in its two and a quarter centuries of existence, and do so simply to take political advantage for himself and his merry band of idiots who sat back on their fat bums and let it happen?

Bush/Cheney 2004: Don't change horses in mid-apocalypse.



Yeah, that pretty much says it all

(Thanks to Calpundit for pointing me to it. And God rot the sick fuck in hell for proposing the idea in the first place.)


How did this man get on the Supreme Court?

Following up on my previous posting, I took some time to read the opinion of the court in Locke v. Davey. Then I went on to Scalia's dissenting opinion. (What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment. But it's nevertheless wise to know what one's foes are up to.)

I'm not going to bore you with all the technical details; if you want them, I've provided the links in the preceding paragraph. Suffice it to say that the opinion of the court found that it was unconstitutional to ask the citizens of Washington to pay, through their taxes paid into the state's general fund, for the religious training of candidates for the ministry.

Consequently, imagine my surprise when I came across the following in Scalia's opinion (it's the bottom of page 2 of the PDF file referenced above, and continuing on to the top of page 3):

The Court's reference to historical "popular uprisings against procuring taxpayer funds to support church leaders," ante, at 8, is therefore quite misplaced. That history involved not the inclusion of religious ministers in public benefits programs like the one at issue here, but laws that singled them out for financial aid. For example, the Virginia bill at which Madison's Remonstrance was directed provided: "[F]or the support of Christian teachers . . . [a] sum payable for tax on the property within this Commonwealth, is hereby assessed . . . ." A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion (1784), reprinted in Everson, supra, at 72. Laws supporting the clergy in other States operated in a similar fashion. See S. Cobb, The Rise of Religious Liberty in America 131, 169, 270, 295, 304, 386 (1902). One can concede the Framers' hostility to funding the clergy specifically, but that says nothing about whether the clergy had to be excluded from benefits the State made available to all.

Was Scalia asleep on the bench when the point was made, or did he fail to read the briefs submitted on this case because he was off duck hunting with Big Dick? As the opinion of the court, citing the Washington Administrative Code (bottom of page 1 to top of page 2 of the PDF file cited above) noted quite clearly, the scholarship that was the subject of the case is funded with tax dollars. Or is Scalia contending that training religious leaders is not a form of "support" for them, or that a scholarship to study for the ministry does not amount to "financial aid"?

In either case, it seems fairly clear to me that Scalia is no longer qualified to sit on the highest court in the land. (If, indeed, he ever was.) It was no surprise to me that Scalia and his lap-dog Thomas were the dissenters in this case. But I'm amazed at just how far Scalia had to twist both the facts of the case and the laws of logic to achieve the result he wanted with this dissent.

Nor is it surprising (merely disgusting) that, at the tail end of his dissenting opinion, Scalia took yet another swipe at gay and lesbian citizens. Citing the Romer v. Evans decision (I wonder that he didn't take the opportunity to lambaste Lawrence v. Texas again), Scalia foamed: "In an era when the Court is so quick to come to the aid of other disfavored groups ...its indifference in this case, which involves a form of discrimination to which the Constitution actually speaks, is exceptional."

Actually, Nino, I'll tell you what's exceptional. First, your ability to let your prejudices twist reasoning and facts out of all recognizable shape. Second, your apparent belief that gay and lesbian citizens of this nation are out to destroy all of Western civilization. And lastly, your ability to look at the history of discrimination against those same gay and lesbian citizens you would apparently rather see burnt at the stake, as in the good old days, and opine that the Court on which you undeservedly sit was in any way "quick to come to [their] aid."


Finally, something I can agree with Rehnquist on!

Atrios, over at Eschaton, declares himself "a bit surprised" that the Supremes ruled today that it was constitutional to deny scholarship funds to those individuals studying for the ministry. The thing that surprises me, as I wrote in my comment on Atrios' post, is that I'm in agreement with Rehnquist. (And believe me, that's an extremely rare event!)

It's not that I don't think studying for the ministry is a worthwhile pursuit. Far from it. I've considered it myself a few times, and many of my friends have urged me to. I have a great respect for a number of men in holy orders (though far from all of them are worthy of that respect, but that's a topic for another time), and I think there's a crying need for more men (and women!) with an authentic calling to ministry to fill the void in our churches and temples and synagogues. I just don't think the Constitution allows the state to pay for that, worthy goal or not. And unlike the Rethugs, I have a very high respect for the Constitution.

Studying for the ministry is not an ideologically neutral activity: you must study in a specific religious tradition, and in at least some cases in a particular denomination within that tradition. That looks, to me, like an activity that would fail on at least the first two prongs of the Lemon test: that legislation, to be considered constitutional under the First Amendment, must have "a secular legislative purpose" and the law's "principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion." I could be persuaded that it would also fail on the third prong, that of not fostering an "excessive government entanglement with religion."

And unlike baseball where it takes three strikes to be called out, in constitutional law on this question, it only takes one. I think the Supremes made the right call, for once in their recent history.



Oh, really?

Maybe I really am out of touch with the so-called "real" world. I mean, I know my spiritual director told me 10 years ago or more that my mission in life was to be an anomaly, but apparently there are a whole lot of things I just don't get.

I found this, uh, "interesting" quote in a follow-up story on the Hate Amendment in today's Chicago Tribune:

Conservatives were delighted Bush had plunged in. "There is no more important issue for our nation than the preservation of the institution of marriage," said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Texas-based Free Market Foundation, a family advocacy group.

Seems to me that one of two things is the case. The first possibility is that I'm completely out of touch with what's really important in the world. (Somehow, I don't think so.) The alternative hypothesis is that Ms. Shackelford has her cranium lodged somewhere in the vicinity of her rectum: and so does everyone else in her crackpot organization. Because here's the thing: without even really trying hard, I can come up with, oh, I don't know, half a dozen issues that are vastly more important for our nation than ensconcing hatred in our Constitution:

  • Fixing the economy
  • Securing peace in the Middle East
  • Finding some way of actually delivering the "freedom and democracy" we've promised to Iraq and its citizens
  • Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels
  • Restoring the civil liberties that the Rethugs have stolen from us and making sure no one else can ever take them away again
  • Fixing Medicare and Social Security
  • Finding some way to provide at least basic health care to every last citizen of these United States, without paying an arm and a leg for it
  • Making sure not one citizen of these United States goes to bed at night without food in her stomach and a roof over her head
  • Making sure that our schools actually teach our students what they need to know, and that everyone who wants to go to college and has the capacity for it can afford to go
  • Taking all reasonable measures for the security of our citizens here at home
  • Ensuring that the men and women who serve in our armed forces are paid a fair wage for their services, and that their families don't have to go on welfare or apply for food stamps to make ends meet

I could go on, but you get the idea. (And that's nearly twice as many as I said I could find.)


Save the Constitution

People for the American Way is organizing a grassroots effort to save the Constitution from the Hate Amendment that the sick fuck is endorsing. Sign their petition, or give a few bucks if you can, host a letter-writing party, call, write, or e-mail your congresspeople. Just don't let the sick fuck and his sick buddies win on this one.


Ah, quelle surprise!

In what can only be described as a non-event, the sick fuck in the White House has endorsed the Hate Amendment (or at least the principle of the Hate Amendment). The fact that anyone bothered to notice this non-event surprises me, since I thought "dog-bites-man" stories were supposed to be too dull to warrant coverage. The surprising thing to me, that would have merited widespread media coverage, would have been if the sick fuck had managed to grow himself a pair and told his hate-filled "base" where they could go and what they could do with their amendment.

According to the Chicago Tribune today, the sick fuck said his action "was needed to stop judges from changing the definition of the 'most enduring human institution.'"

Just goes to show you how little the sick fuck knows about that "most enduring human institution." The one thing that is constant about marriage is how it has changed over time. I hate to rain on the theo-wingnuts' parade, but a thousand years ago there was no such thing as the "sacred institution" of marriage. It wasn't even a sacrament, and weddings were never performed in churches. At most, a couple that had already exchanged their promises (and signed the wedding contracts, which was the important step) would go to the local church, where the priest would come out onto the exterior steps and bless them. Marriage was exclusively a civil institution, and its primary purpose was to control and protect the distribution of property and accumulated capital. Love hardly ever entered into it, and neither did religion.

Of course, married couples were expected to be faithful to one another, and the Church certainly recognized that once they had made their promises, the couple's status had changed. But the Church was never actually a part of bringing that change about. (Of course, at least that far back in history, the clergy also had the option of marrying, though not for much longer.)

According to the sick fuck, "After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their action has created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."

Funny, I've not found any noticeable increase in confusion on the question of marriage since San Francisco started issuing non-gender-specific marriage licenses. What's more, I haven't noticed any confusion since Canada legalized same-gender marriage last year, or Norway close to a decade ago, followed by Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands. I guess that just makes me (and the citizens of other civilized nations like those I've just listed) smarter than the sick fuck and the morons he chooses to surround himself with and on whose sycophantic adoration he depends to keep himself in power for the 300-odd days left before the rest of the voters in the United States make known their burning desire to send the sick fuck back home to oblivion on his Texas "ranch."

I'm also curious as to just what the sick fuck meant by "clarity" when it comes to marriage. In case the sick fuck and the morons who proposed the Hate Amendment hadn't noticed, it's not like there's only one form of marriage in the world. The prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) permits his male followers to marry as many as four wives. Polygamy (or, to be technically correct, polygyny) is not only found in the Bible, it is engaged in by some of the most revered figures found therein (does the name David or Solomon ring any bells?). The Jews say one thing about divorce. The Catholics say another. Doesn't seem to me like there's a whole lot of clarity to be found on this issue: and it's patently obvious to me that the Hate Amendment the sick fuck endorsed today isn't going to provide such clarity, either.

We here in the real world are capable of handling complexity in our lives. Hell, our lives are full of it each and every day, and we cope quite well, thankyouvermuch (or at least when the sick fuck and his flock of chickenhawks aren't actively trying to screw things up). More importantly, we actually rather like living in a world full of diversity. It makes things a whole lot more fun than would be the case if the theo-wingnuts got their way and everybody had to worship the same god and behave in exactly the same fashion.

So get on the horn to your congresspeople, people. It's time to put a bug in their ears about this despicable attempt to enshrine hatred and discrimination in our great Constitution. And while you're at it, you might suggest that if they haven't got anything better to do with their time than sit around and dream up execrations like this, we'd be happy to find a way for them to enjoy all the leisure time they can handle. Let 'em know you'll remember this November, too.


The last full measure of devotion

Jimmy Breslin has done it again. (And thanks to Retrogrouch over at Barefoot and Naked for pointing me to this story.)

Breslin's story puts quite a lot of things in sharp focus:

She looked at a newspaper and saw Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart. How could they dare put something like this in while there are dead soldiers coming in on planes? There were three dead women killed in Iraq and brought through Dover. They went unmentioned. This made her furious. She began to talk to herself. I am a professional. I have worked in disasters. I must stop this.

The story, written from the point of view of a forensic dental technician in the morgue at Dover Air Force Base, describes the technician's reaction to a particular case involving a young man who had, not to put too fine a point on it, had half of his head blown off in Iraq. The technician had to help identify him, and she was having a hard time, as the paragraph I quoted above demonstrates.

I read this story, and a whole host of images came crowding into my head: The scene in Mr. Holland's Opus as the bugler plays Taps over the body of a young man that Richard Dreyfuss' character had taught to play the drum. Half-remembered scenes of flag-draped coffins coming off the planes at Dover AFB by the dozens during the Vietnam War when I was but a wee lad. The likely scenes at my stepfather's and my father's funerals, both veterans, when their turns come. A long, long line of men and women stretching back to the founding of this nation--including an awful lot of my ancestors, right back to the Revolution--who gave what Lincoln called at Gettysburg "the last full measure of devotion" to this nation and the ideals which it espouses.

I choked up. I got a catch in my throat, and I felt tears stinging at the corners of my eyes. And then I got angry. How dare that sick fuck in the White House show his face in public after callously and carelessly sending our boys and girls into harm's way, just so he could look like a leader? Worse, how in the name of all that's holy could that same sick fuck stand up in front of a partisan crowd at the White House--the People's House, to give it its former name--and tell them (and by extension, the nation) that he should be re-Selected because of what he'd done in Iraq? Worst of all, how dare that sick fuck not be at Dover to meet every last single coffin that comes in from the war he's so fucking proud of having started?

I do not question the motives of our troops: they are correctly doing what they have been ordered to do, and they deserve our support. They deserve the best that this nation has to offer. I can and do (and should and must) criticize the motives of the sick fuck who sent them to Iraq for all the wrong reasons, including his own neurotic need to be a war hero after he was too yellow to serve in Vietnam. That the sick fuck is sending out his attack monkeys to claim that he actually did serve, or at least really, really wanted to, despite both documentary proof and public statements from the sick fuck himself that he did no such thing, is just another fleck of spittle on the Constitution that the sick fuck, and the men and women whom the sick fuck sent to their deaths, all swore to "preserve, protect, and defend." That the sick fuck publicly proclaims to all and sundry his undying support for "the troops" while at the same time cutting their pay and veterans' benefits is just one more slap in the face of the men and women that the sick fuck dishonors every time he pretends to have served this nation, and to have served it well.

God be good to that young man in Jimmy Breslin's story, and God be kind to that poor woman, and the other men and women who help her do what she does for our honored dead coming back to receive what the Roman poet Catullus called the tristi munere ad inferias, the "sad duty of the sacrifices for the dead" (Carmina, CI). They will all be in my thoughts and prayers, as I'm sure they are for many others here and elsewhere in the world.

And God rot that sick fuck in hell for his presumption, his hubris, his lies, his corruption, and his greed. But most especially for the blood on his hands whose presence he has not even the decency to acknowledge, and for his disgraceful failure to "dignify" (if that's the word) with his presence the final homecoming of those he bade to shed that blood. For shame!


Power to the zygotes!

From Newsday, via Bark Bark Woof Woof (where Mustang Bobby got it from Kick the Leftist):

WASHINGTON -- Expanding rights for the unborn without limiting mothers' reproductive rights is an issue that confronts lawmakers this week when the House takes up a bill that would make it separate federal crimes to injure or kill both a woman and her fetus.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act is regarded by conservative groups as one of the most important social policy measures that could come before Congress this year.

"It's a step in the right direction, toward recognizing the humanity of the unborn," said Genevieve Wood, spokeswoman for the Family Research Council.

Let me say, first of all, that I think the conservative groups quoted in that second paragraph above may just be right. When I Googled the bill's title to get a link to it, I drilled down through six or seven pages of hits either trumpeting the bill's introduction or viewing it with alarm--and I still hadn't found a link to the actual bill itself. From past experience, that is highly unusual, especially when you use the full title as your search term.

Let me say, secondly, that I am distinctly wary of anything backed by the mis-named "Family" Research Council, which is in truth little more than a front for James Dobson and his not-so-merry band of theocratic wingnuts to spew more hatred and call it love. The FRC only likes one sort of family: stay-at-home mom, dad-as-breadwinner, living in a nice, Republican suburb with their 3.2 kids, an SUV, a dog, and a sprawling house complete with white picket fence. Single-parent families need not apply. Nor need same-gender couples. Nor polyamorous folk. And they really don't much care for you if you haven't accepted Jesus as your personal lord and saviour, and can pronounce each of the five syllables in His name.

What Ms. Wood fails to realize, I suspect, is that there is no doubt or argument that the fetus in the womb is human. No sane person would deny that. What reasonable people can and do reasonably debate is whether or not that fetus is also a person in any meaningful sense of the word. I'm having a heck of a time expressing succinctly, clearly, and concisely what exactly I mean by that word in this context, but I will say that I don't think a baby in the womb meets the standard. Perhaps the best thing I can do in something short enough to post here is to wax Platonic and say that while the baby in the womb is undoubtedly human in being, it is merely becoming a person: it's not all the way there at that point in its life cycle.

Mustang Bobby raises an interesting and novel point in his post:

The Constitution of the United States uses the term "born" quite often to define citizenship and the rights and duties thereof: you are a citizen if you are born in the United States; you achieve the right to vote if you are 18 years old, and so on. So it's pretty clear that the Constitution defines its terms as being based on your date of birth. In order to get a passport you must present proof of citizenship, which is validated by an official Certificate of Birth. I've never heard of anyone waving around a Certificate of Conception - just how to you certify that? So how do the right-to-lifers plan to prove that a fetus - which, until the time of birth, is basically a symbiot - has achieved the basic standing to exercise the rights of citizenship?

Irrespective of the ontological qualms I have about declaring that a fetus is a fully choate person (especially absent anything remotely resembling a scientific or philosophical consensus on the matter), I think Bobby has raised a fatal objection from a legal and constitutional standpoint. Snaps to him! While you're thinking about it, be sure to contact your congresspeople and tell them to vote against this bill.



Not so fast there, bubba!

And the hits just keep on comin'. Josh Marshall has dug up some more dirt about Mark Racicot's bald-faced lie this morning on NPR, on which I commented earlier today.

Says TPM:

This wasn't a slip of the tongue. This was deliberate. Now that the topic has been moved a bit to the back burner, they're trying to get back on the offensive by floating a deliberate and undeniable deception in the hopes that no one will notice. If no one does then the new false story will become the accepted version in the coming campaign debate.

Seems that Racicot, in his urgency to make Bunnypants sound less of a weaselly wimp than he is, not only lied on a major radio network, but in telling that whopper he actually contradicted an admission Bunnypants himself had made to Tim Russert awhile back on Meet the Press. Now it's bad enough that the chairman of BushCo's re-selection campaign apparently can't even lie well enough (or is cynical enough to think that nobody was going to notice) that he could overlook such an obvious, blatant contradiction. What's worse is that Juan Williams let him get away with it! Not even a "Hey, but..." Just silence and on with the scripted statement. My respect for National Public Radio as a trustworthy news-gathering organization is declining pretty doggone rapidly.


Demand accountability at NPR

Like many others in the blogosphere, I howled when I heard Mark Racicot assert (without any foundation in fact, as far as I'm concerned), on NPR's Morning Edition this morning, that Bunnypants' service in the Texas Air National Guard, and John Kerry's service in Vietnam "compare very favorably." I howled even louder when, later in the same sentence, Racicot lied outright and claimed that the Lying Disaster Monkey "volunteered to go to Vietnam."

Reading Josh Marshall's post this morning on this matter, it's fairly easy to demolish Racicot's cavalier evasions largely uncontaminated by facts or substance. But at the end of his piece, Josh asked, "Who's going to call them on this?"

I am, for a start. The following is a copy of an e-mail I sent to NPR's ombudsman and to the folks at Morning Edition. Let me encourage my loyal readers to do likewise. If you feel so inclined, write to the doofi at the RNC, not that it will likely do any good. But we should at least be able to find one source of news that's actually "fair and balanced" and on which we can rely to debunk the lies and evasions that BushCo are going to start spewing in a desperate attempt to hold onto power.

I'm sure my neighbors were wondering what all the shouting was about this morning. I was listening to "Morning Edition" in the shower, as I usually do when getting ready for work, when Juan Williams interview with Mark Racicot came on. I figured it was going to be an attempt by the Republican National Committee to evade the real issues of this campaign, and I wasn't wrong on that count.

But perhaps you could explain to me how Williams let Racicot get away with such a bald-faced lie about Bush's having volunteered to serve in Vietnam? As about umpteen dozen places around the web have noted, Bush's National Guard application was checked "do not volunteer" in response to the question about serving overseas. Leaving aside, for the moment, the dubious question of whether Bush ever in fact met his National Guard obligations, it is patently obvious to everyone not affiliated with the Republican Party that George W. Bush never volunteered to serve in Vietnam. That's why he went into the Guard, and that's why he never checked the box on his application. Thus there is no way on God's green earth to claim that Bush's service was on a par with that of John Kerry (or John McCain, whom the RNC also blasted on the patriotism front when he was running against Bush in 2000).

I expect better coverage from NPR than this, and I hope to hear at least a clarification, if not an on-air apology to your listeners who also expect actually fair and actually balanced coverage from this network. Let the people over at Faux News do the distortions: we rely on you to catch them at it and prove them wrong. So please get on the ball!

Go forth and speechify!


That about sums it up

According to a Reuters report, Kerry gave this preview of the start of what BushCo are calling a "broad defense" of the preznit's "record":

"At a fund-raiser with Republican governors, he will lay out what he calls his vision for America's future. Too bad we've had to wait four years for that vision. One thing we know for sure, we know he can't run on his record," Kerry said.

Sounds about right to me. I particularly liked it when Bunnypants, in what Reuters described as a "toned-down" preview of tonight's speech (guess he can't find the balls to say what he really thinks unless there's nobody in the audience likely to disagree with him) given this morning to a "bipartisan group of governors," said that he had "erred on the side of caution" in making the decision to go to war in Iraq. Seems to me that "caution," in that context, would mean not going to war, especially on the basis of faulty intelligence (as BushCo claims), or on wishful thinking (as everybody else thinks was the case). But I'm not the preznit.

If this is all you've got, monkey-boy, bring it on. We're ready for your lies this time.


Bush beginning to tank in Illinois

A report in today's Chicago Tribune suggests that Republican hopes of getting their paws all over Illinois' 21 electoral votes come the general election are not well-founded. In two recent statewide polls (one of registered likely voters, and the other of registered voters who said they would likely vote in the Democratic primary on March 16, both with margins of error of ±4 percentage points), Bush would lose in Illinois to either John Kerry (52% Kerry/38% Bush) or John Edwards (45% Edwards/40% Bush).

According to the analysis in the article, there is little wiggle room. Ninety-two percent of Democratic voters support Kerry, and 86 percent of Republican voters support Bush; independents are split about equally between them. (So much for He Who Shall Not Be Named's contention that his maverick candidacy will hurt Bush more than the Democratic nominee.) Somewhat surprisingly (to this observer at any rate), while the Chicago vote is solid behind the eventual Democratic nominee, the normally rock-ribbed Republican collar counties are showing only a slight lead for Bush. The downstate vote is "almost equally divided."

Half of those surveyed disapproved of Bush's handling of the Iraq mess. It's a statistical dead heat on the question of whether BushCo deliberately "misled the public by overstating the risk of Iraq" having weapons of mass destruction: 44% say they did, 47% say they didn't. Another dead heat on the question of who's responsible for the screw up: 43% say it was the Bush régime's fault, 39% say it was the fault of the "intelligence community."

And there's really bad news on the economic front, particularly given the assertions of BushCo campaign manager Mark Racicot this morning on NPR that the pResident's "strong economic leadership" was going to be a big focus of his campaign. Well over half of the voters surveyed in Illinois disapproved of BushCo's handling of the economy (56% disapproval to 35% approval), and disapproved of his "handling of the federal budget and budget deficits" by nearly a three-to-one margin (64% disapprove/23% approve).

It doesn't look like there's much joy here in the Prairie State for BushCo. Please God it's the same everywhere else on 4 November.



Naturalized citizens for president?

A commenter over at Daily Kos has been raking me over the coals for my "overblown," "nationalistic" and "xenophobic" rhetoric in my previous post about Arnold the Gropenführer trying to change the provisions of the Constitution so he could eventually run for president. Personally, I don't see any hint of overblown, nationalistic, or xenophobic rhetoric in anything that I said in my previous post: and if it is there, it was certainly not my intention to come off sounding that way.

One reason why I think Ahnold shouldn't get to be president is that he's not qualified to be governor of California, for crying out loud! Why in God's name would any sane person elect that tyro governor of the fifth largest economy on the planet, much less give him nuclear weapons to play with?

But that should not, in and of itself, constitute a bar to all immigrants from being considered for the presidency. On that front, I simply see no good reason to warrant changing the provision in the Constitution which prohibits it. I know of no other nation in the world that allows immigrants to become heads of government, and with all due respect to Jesse at Pandagon, I don't think I could in good conscience support our becoming the first such nation.

Looked at from one perspective, this is somewhat perverse of me. I am privileged to count among my good friends several who are not even resident in this country. About half of the people I work for are either permanent residents or first-generation U.S. citizens. I'm studying European history, for gossakes, and I'm really a royalist at heart!

Be that as it may, I think there is something to be said for reserving the topmost office in our government for those who had the good fortune to be born in this country. Anything below that is fair game, but not the very top of the tree. Because I suspect that you really do have to have been born here to understand this nation: at least on a visceral level. You can study all you want, and live here for decades, without, I think, achieving quite the same level of understanding as someone who grew up surrounded by and saturated with our very peculiar culture. Not that it is particularly important, except perhaps as an example of how regional differences still play a major role in shaping citizens of these United States, but how likely would someone not born here be to even notice, as Jesse previously did that in some parts of this country people call any carbonated soft drink a "coke," irrespective of the company that made it or the actual flavor of the drink, while others in another part of the country call that same drink a "soda," and still others, in other parts of the country, call it a "pop"?

I also have a concern about xenophobia (though I'm still not convinced it's a failing to which I'm prone), and that is that even if we were to amend the Constitution to allow immigrants to run for president, I'm not sure any immigrant (at least in my lifetime) would ever actually be able to win a presidential election. I'm just past my 40th birthday, and when I was born, the first Roman Catholic ever elected to the presidency was still in office. Slightly more than a generation ago, there were still people who were uncomfortable at the thought of voting for a Catholic presidential candidate because of his perceived allegiance to a foreign power. Never mind that the days when the papacy actually possessed secular power are centuries past, even as late as 1960, people still saw Catholics in those terms: and the United States was a generation closer to its immigrant roots at that time!

Unfortunately, I don't see that the situation has improved since then: quite the opposite, in fact. Just look at all the anti-immigrant legislation that has made its way onto our statute books since then. So would we truly gain anything by opening up the technical possibility of an immigrant's being elected to the presidency, but in the absence of any realistic chance of it actually happening?

I'm still not seeing a good argument for making this change. But feel free to try and change my mind.


Is this all they've got?

Truth in advertising: Jesse over at Pandagon pointed me in the direction of this nugget. The Associated Press is reporting that Shrubby is unveiling a new campaign speech tonight and tomorrow.

According to the report, Duh-bya's campaign manager Ken Mehlman is saying "There will be a very clear choice and it will be a choice between keeping tax relief that is helping move the economy forward versus higher taxes on the American people that will move us backward. In a dangerous world, it's a choice between a policy of strength and confidence versus a policy of uncertainty."

Oh, yeah, I remember when the economy was moving forward. Hint: It wasn't after BushCo put us back into deficit spending by cutting taxes. And while Bush may be very confident in his policies, I don't think I would characterize any of them as being either strong in any meaningful sense of the word, or certain to produce a good outcome, much less one that will make this nation safer than it is now. So perhaps the Rethugs could make another effort at explaining why I'd want to keep Bunnypants and his gang of chickenhawks around for another minute, much less another four years?

The AP report continues, "In the speech, the president talks about how he wants to keep enemies on the run and extend the frontiers of democracy, a Bush campaign spokesman said. He bolsters his own record, saying that his administration has taken on big issues and is ready to lead the nation for another four years."

Oh, yeah, they've taken on tons of big issues. The thing is, they've completely fumbled on all of them:

  • Environment? BushCo tell us that pollution is good for us, and we should violate a pristine wilderness area simply on the chance that there might be some oil up there that might be able to give us a little relief from our dependence on fanatic foreign régimes, in about a decade.
  • Economy? Enron, anyone? Anybody remember when we actually had a surplus? More corporate welfare, major legislation written behind closed doors essentially by the industries it would regulate, and BushCo not only thinks this is a good idea, they don't think anybody should have the right to find out just who the johns were screwing over the American people.
  • "Returning honor and integrity to the White House." Anybody remember Bush using that line in every stump speech in 2000? Anybody heard him use it lately? Didn't think so. Valerie Plame, Enron, aWol.
  • National security. Do you feel safer now than you did four years ago? I sure as hell don't. And we've got a lot fewer friends in the world now, thanks to BushCo's idiotic foreign policy, than we did in 2000, or even 2001.
  • Civil liberties. Two words: John Ashcroft.

So there you have it. We should keep BushCo in office because things are going so well in America right now. Oh, wait, they're not. So why do we want this cretin, again?


Mustang Bobby speaks truth!

Go read his posting on the Lying Disaster Monkey's "Holodeck pResidency."


Der Gropenführer needs to answer the clue phone

In his virgin appearance on Meet the Press this morning (probably the only thing at which he's still a virgin), Der Gropenführer decloaked and revealed his ambitions to be Führer, er, President, some day. I had thought this was just the latest of many demonstrations of exactly how clueless this juiced-up poseur is, given that Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits anyone not a "natural born Citizen" of the United States from being elected president.

But it seems that Orrin Hatch, when he isn't busy cutting country-and-western CDs, had enough spare time to introduce a constitutional amendment to remove that prohibition. After the Hate Amendment for which BushCo are already whoring, Hatch's amendment has to be the stupidest change proposed for our Constitution which I've ever encountered.

I really think the Framers had their heads screwed on correctly when they insisted that only someone who was born here (assuming they hadn't been here at the time the Constitution was adopted) should be able to stand at the head of our republic. We do things quite differently here from the way they're done elsewhere in the world. I'm not saying we do them better (or worse), just differently. I just can't see someone who hasn't been surrounded by our (peculiar) traditions from birth understanding them on the fundamental level that being president of the United States requires, no matter how long they've been in-country.

Naturalized citizens have made tremendous contributions to this country, and I'm sure they will make even more. I just don't think I want to see one of them being sworn in as president: especially not the Gropenführer.

Credit where it's due. Snaps to NTodd over at Dohiyi Mir for bringing this despicable development to my attention.


Hurl...no, Retch....no, Barf....no, Ralph is running

"Social Scientist," in a comment over at Eschaton had a simply fabulous suggestion for a Nader campaign song:

You know you make me wanna Ralph
Kick my heels up & Ralph
Throw my hands up & Ralph
Throw my hands back & Ralph

That sums it up very succinctly, I think.



Here we go again

Courtesy of Orcinus (though I've seen it elsewhere in my wanderings through the blogosphere today), comes the following quote from Mel Gibson's father:

According to a transcript released by the network, Hutton Gibson said, "It's all -- maybe not all fiction -- but most of it is,'' when asked about his views on the Holocaust.

He added: "They claimed that there were 6.2 million (Jews) in Poland before the war and after the war there were 200,000, therefore he (Hitler) must have killed 6 million of them. They simply got up and left. They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney and Los Angeles."

You know, I would have thought that by now the historicity of the Holocaust would be virtually unassailable. I guess I'm just too much of an optimist to account for the incredible human ability to deceive itself, or to fail to see facts which it would prefer to ignore. One of the reasons I study the period of history which I do is because I believe it is fundamentally, vitally, essentially important that we never forget what happened in that dark episode of the 20th century. I'm not going to bother to refute systematically all the ridiculous claims made by Mr. Gibson: anyone with more than five functioning brain cells knows the man is just talking out of his ass. But I do have a few things to say about the general phenomenon of Holocaust denial.

The Holocaust was hardly the only episode of genocide in history. For that matter, it wasn't even the only episode of genocide in the 20th century, which was rife with them. But it was among the most brutal ever recorded, and one that could have been averted or prevented with relative ease, had anyone in what we're pleased to call the "civilized" world troubled to take the effort. And while the Jews were without a doubt the group on which the full rigor of the Nazis fell, they were hardly the only ones: Slavs, Poles, the Roma and Sinti (or Gypsies), Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, intellectuals, trade unionists, Social Democrats, Catholic priests and nuns, all fell victim to the Gestapo and what one scholar has termed the "universe of the camps."

The thing that upsets me the most about Hutton Gibson's remarks is that there are at least a few people in the world who will give credence to what he says, quite irrespective of the facts of the matter, simply because he's Mel Gibson's father. If that isn't the stupidest fucking thing possible, I don't know what is. Same thing with asking a baseball player his opinion of world politics. Sure, he's entitled to his opinion just like anybody else. But the fact that he can hit a ball really well, or that he's some famous actor's father, doesn't mean squat when it comes to evaluating the value or the validity of his beliefs.

I've twice had the privilege of visiting Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, in Jerusalem. I've stood speechless in the Hall of Records, where tall shelves march down a long, narrow room, each shelf filled with thick black books, each page of which records the details of a life snuffed out before its time. I've walked through the simply incredible Children's Memorial, where a myriad of points of light in the darkness wherever one turns bear witness to the 1.5 million children (some of whose names, ages, and nationalities are constantly read out inside the memorial) who perished under the Nazis. I've laid stones on the artwork, and on or near the trees planted along the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations, commemorating those like Oskar Schindler and Corrie ten Boom who did what they could to stop the horrors or alleviate the sufferings of those caught up in them. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind--personally or professionally--that the Holocaust happened. Anyone who says otherwise is either a bald-faced liar or is sadly deceived about the facts of human history.

I shouldn't have to keep saying that. But I will, for as long as I have to, lest it should ever happen again.


Saxby rhymes with "T" which stands for "trouble"

But somehow, I don't think it's quite the trouble that BushCo think it's going to be. The Associated Press is reporting that Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga), speaking for Bunnypants (and on a conference call arranged by Bush's re-selection campaign) "predicted trouble for John Kerry in [Georgia's] primary next month."

According to the wingnuts, the problem is going to be Kerry's record of "voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems." Apparently, they feel the people of Georgia are going to look beyond Kerry's record of service in Vietnam and conclude that he's weak on defense and can't be trusted in charge of the U.S. military. Now, given that the people of Georgia are the ones, two years ago, who voted out Max Cleland (a Vietnam veteran who lost three limbs in a grenade explosion while on active duty) in favor of Saxby Chambliss (a draft-dodger who used a trick knee to get out of active duty), they may have a point. In Georgia.

Everywhere else in the world, however, the sign of trouble that I see is that the Rethug National Committee fails to see the enormous irony (cognitive dissonance, stupidity, call it what you will) in trotting out yet another member of the party who got out of serving in Vietnam to attack the record of a man who actually answered the call to duty.

Yes, absolutely: it is Saxby Chambliss' right to say anything he likes about John Kerry, or anyone else, as long as he is not saying anything slanderous. But I'm sure mine are not the only hackles that rise when people like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Dick Cheney, Ronald Dumsfeld, or our feckless ChickenHawk-in-Chief, start impugning the patriotism of people like John McCain, Al Gore, John Kerry, or Max Cleland, who did serve. Sure, Kerry came home and criticized the war in which he'd just fought, but let's not forget that it's his right to do so. Nor was he the only one. If anyone has the right to criticize an unjust and unjustifiable war, it's the man or woman who has, thanks be to God, survived to come back home, more or less in once piece. And while you might not agree with what they say about the war, or the arguments they put forward in opposition to it, there is simply no way that you can rationally deny that the person making that case has amply fulfilled the criteria for being a patriot.

So whether BushCo just hasn't got anybody else they can send out to do their attack-dog work, or whether they are simply too lost in WingnutFantasyLand to notice the supreme illogicality of having someone who never served in the military criticize the service record of someone who has, I think we have reason to believe that the handwriting is on the wall for the Bunnypants régime. Bring it on, I say. We've got your number, and you've got no game.



Here come the lies!

According to Reuters, Shrubby's peeps are getting ready to start dumping their crap on the airwaves, trying to win Bunnypants his first election. Fair enough. It's a democratic process, and they've got a right to say why they think people should vote for their guy.

But here's the funny thing. According to the report, "Campaign officials said the first ads will be positive looks at Bush's 'steady, principled leadership' during a time of change." I'm dying to know what kind of examples they think they're going to be able to find in BushCo's record that show anything remotely resembling "steady," "principled," or "leadership."


We should heed "the better angels of our nature"

Ever since the mayor of San Francisco courageously told his city clerk to pay no attention to the respective genders of the couples applying for marriage licenses, the blogosphere has been overflowing with opinions. Most of them have been very gratifying, and I've already seen at least one commercial product trying to capitalize on the situation (though I will say that the group selling the poster in question says it will donate all proceeds generated from the sales to an organization that is fighting the Hate Amendment; and thanks to Atrios over at Eschaton for the link).

But amid the welter of cries of congratulation and "it's about bloody time!" there has been mingled a thread of comments that I find disturbing. The essence of these comments is along the lines of "This is a great gesture, but think of the cost!" or "We have to focus all our energy/time/commitment on getting BushCo out of power: we can't let this issue distract us," or, my personal (least-) favorite, "This isn't the right time for this issue."

I have one thing to say to those comments. In fact, I have one word to say, and the word is "Bullshit."

I'm sorry if that offends some of my readers, but I'm hoping it's the rhetorical equivalent of the roshi's slap that awakens her disciple from confusion. (Or, to use a less violent metaphor, I'm hoping it's the ringing of the clue phone, and that my fellow lefties will answer that call.)

The thousands of people who've flocked to San Francisco (and who may start flocking to Chicago and other places, if this trend catches on) want one thing, mostly: to make a radical, permanent, public commitment to the man or woman they love. (And I will note that this is exactly the definition of marriage offered by a theology professor and spiritual adviser of mine.) To say to those newlyweds or newlywed-wannabes, "Well, we think it's great that you want to get married, but couldn't you, you know, wait just a bit until this election is over?" is to relegate them forever to second-class citizenship. Because there will always be another crucial election on the horizon, or some despicable initiative from the right-wingnuts that must be defeated, and we just can't afford to scare the horses (as it were) by plastering photographs across the front pages of male-male and female-female couples kissing at the end of their marriage ceremonies. As at least one of the comments I've read this week on this issue observed, this is tantamount to telling Rosa Parks that she'd best take a seat in the back of the bus just like she's supposed to do: now isn't the time to get the whites riled up about her civil rights.

Let's try looking at this from a rational standpoint, shall we? First, cost. Yes, I'm sure that there will be some cost in taking a principled stand for what is right on this issue, simply because it is right. Let's face it: there are some people out in the land of the putatively free and the home of the too-infrequently brave who really don't like gay and lesbian people. That's a fact, and I'm not denying it. But here's another fact that I think a number of people in the "yes, but..." crowd are forgetting: the overwhelming majority of people who feel that viscerally about gay and lesbian people don't vote Democratic. In fact, it would probably take a miracle on the close order of the Transfiguration to get them to the left side of the political spectrum. Since we're not going to get their votes anyway, why should we be concerned about "losing" them?

I certainly agree that Job #1 is to get the Lying Disaster Monkey and his cadre of chickenhawks the hell out of Dodge, er, Washington. But it is far from clear to me that taking a principled stand in favor of letting consenting adults marry whom they please is going to be a distraction from that effort. In fact, I think there's at least some reason to believe it would actually help achieve our desired end. This is a loser of an issue for BushCo when you get right down to it. Yes, it will energize their base, but it doesn't give them any more votes than they would already have gotten from them anyway, simply for being the name at the head of the Rethug ticket. But it will likely cost them a fair number of the voters they really want, the independents: especially if the Democrats frame this issue properly. The more the right-wingnuts scream and rant and froth at the mouth about the moral decay in America and the need to come (back) to Jesus, the more the more rational, at least, among the independent voters are going to run in horror from BushCo and his supporters.

The proper way to frame the issue was demonstrated exceptionally well, I believe, in a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune that ran today and which I posted here earlier:

But it is not the purpose of government, nor of the Constitution, to make things "sacred." Those who believe that marriage is sacred usually choose to be married in a religious ceremony.

Religions have always made their own decisions about whom to marry.

It is astonishing that in a time of unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, threats of terrorism, severe deficits, losses of millions of jobs and other serious matters that our president and legislators propose to use the time, energy and money necessary to amend this nation's Constitution to discriminate against a class of people.

But it's the "this isn't the right time!" crowd that really get my goat. Excuse me? Ignoring for the moment the question of when the right time might be, the issue is already out there! This djinn is out of the bottle, and there's not a chance in hell of getting him to go back inside now. The Rethugs are going to hammer the Democratic nominee on gay rights whether or not that Democratic nominee actually takes a stand on the issue. In fact, as I think a Kossack observed earlier this week, BushCo would go after Kerry or Edwards on the gay rights issue even if the eventual nominee had just introduced legislation mandating the summary execution of every gay or lesbian person in the United States. We're going to get attacked on this issue whether we do anything or not, so why not do the right thing?

And let there be no doubt in anyone's mind: this is the right thing to do. With all due respect to the opinions of Barney Frank and those in the gay and lesbian community who aren't sure about the value of this whole "marriage" thing, if the Supreme Court was right when it said, in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 that "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men," then until and unless we repeal the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution, our government must afford the benefits and incidents of marriage equally to all of its citizens without respect to their respective genders. No, that does not mean that Aunt Meg is going to have to watch a lesbian leather wedding at the Church of the Wealthy Family when she goes for Sunday services, unless the Church of the Wealthy Family was already open to the idea. It is not the business of the federal government to tell the churches what they must believe or how they may administer their sacraments or what beliefs they must espouse. But neither is it the business of the churches to tell the federal government whom it may recognize in a covenanted relationship. If the government is going to continue to recognize and perform marriages (and it is), then it cannot discriminate among its citizens when it does so. If it recognizes the validity of marriages performed by the Roman Catholic Church (which does not perform same-gender unions), it must also recognize the validity of marriages performed by the United Church of Christ (which does). It's that simple: recognize them all, or recognize none of them.

The Rethugs and the right-wingnuts are going to do their best to paint this issue in the most lurid terms possible. They are going to fume and foam and point to all manner of slippery slopes, with the pits of Hell yawning open at the end of those slopes. We can't allow them to monopolize the debate, or to frame it in only their terms. That would be a disaster both politically and morally. But we don't really need to refute their "arguments" (to give them the benefit of a great deal of doubt) so much as to point out the fact that they aren't really arguments at all, or that they have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the question and the nature of our system of government. Then turn the subject to something that the Average Voter is actually concerned about: the economy, the environment, the war on terror, the war in Iraq, the hemorrhaging of jobs under BushCo... All the polls at this point suggest that the question of gay marriage ranks dead last on the list of things people are actually worrying about.

Shorter argument: Though this may not be the best time for the question to come up, it has come up and it's clearly not going away. It may cost Democrats a few votes at the polls, but probably not that many, since most of the people who are most worked up about this issue (as opposed to the real ones facing us) don't vote Democratic anyway. It is indisputably the right thing to do, and since we're going to get hammered whether we do the right thing or not, why not fight on the side of the angels for once?

By way of citing my sources, the quote in the title of this post is from Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address. But I think I'll close with another Lincoln quote, this time from a letter he wrote to his friend Joshua Speed on August 24, 1855:

Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics." When it comes to this, I shall prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty, --to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

"Base alloy of hypocrisy." Yeah, I think that pretty much describes the quality and the content of the Rethugs' position on this issue. Pity they've come so far from the party of Lincoln and what it stood for, isn't it?


Hammer. Nail. On the head.

In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune today, Jeffrey Collord drives a spike through the heart of the premise behind BushCo's support of the Hate Amendment:

But it is not the purpose of government, nor of the Constitution, to make things "sacred." Those who believe that marriage is sacred usually choose to be married in a religious ceremony.

Religions have always made their own decisions about whom to marry.

It is astonishing that in a time of unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, threats of terrorism, severe deficits, losses of millions of jobs and other serious matters that our president and legislators propose to use the time, energy and money necessary to amend this nation's Constitution to discriminate against a class of people.

To which I say, "Right on, brother!"

Update: Seems like most of the letters they got today take a similar stance. (Note: that link may not point to the right place after today; I looked for a permalink but couldn't find one.)



Stick a fork in him, he's done!

Here's an image I want to see on lots of T-shirts and websites. Thanks to Rook for linking to it first.


I'll happily call him "Sir Simon"

Citing a "lifetime of service to humanity," Queen Elizabeth II has made Simon Wiesenthal a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) at age 95. Since he isn't British, Wiesenthal isn't permitted to call himself "Sir Simon," but I wouldn't let that stop me, if I ever got the chance to meet him in person. Couldn't happen to a more deserving recipient.


Not sure what it means, but it looks cool

As I was logging on to HaloScan to check my recent comments, I noticed a news item to the effect that they had implemented trackbacks. I've seen those little links on a lot of the blogs I read, but was never sure quite what they did or why they were important. So I looked at HaloScan's FAQ, and I see it's a nifty way of telling someone else that you've done something they might be interested in, or that might be related to what they've done on their site.

Sounds way cool to me. Still trying to figure out how it all works, but since it's free, and all I had to do to get it was cut-and-paste some code, I figure it's worth a shot. Hey, look at me: one more step into geekdom!


Oooh, I feel safer already!

So our buddies over at the Transportation Security Administration (you know, the ones responsible for the extra hour you need to allow for when you have to catch a flight, and the ones that killed off anything remotely resembling actual food on airplanes?) are getting all serious on us. Apparently they're just worn out and tired of being taken for granted, so they're going to start slapping fines on passengers who show up at the airport with any of several "banned items."

In testimony before Congress last week, an assistant flunky from the TSA announced that the agency had intercepted in excess of 1,000 firearms, 3 million knives, and 57,000 incendiary devices since the new rules went into effect in 2001. Oooh, scary! Especially when you consider that probably 95% of those knives were of the tiny pocketknife variety that I used to have on my keychain until I forgot to put it into my suitcase last summer when I was flying to Las Vegas, and most of those "incendiary devices" were ordinary cigarette lighters.

Can we get serious here for a minute? The pocketknife I surrendered at O'Hare had a blade on it that was maybe 1.5 inches long, and probably a quarter-inch wide at its widest extent. It was useful for slitting the tape on packages I received, opening the occasional envelope, and maybe cutting strings or wires on occasion. Beyond that, it was useless. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I'd ever tried to hijack a plane with that as my only weapon, the flight crew would have laughed themselves into a coma long before I could have done any damage to any of them. In fact, I'm not even sure that blade was strong enough (or long enough, unless I got very lucky and went for an artery near the skin surface) to stab someone with.

Yes, I knew the rules before I went to the airport. Yes, I actually forgot I had the thing on me; it was just another thing on my keychain, which of course I had in my pocket. Did I pose a danger to my fellow passengers? Not because of that knife. Should I be slapped with a $250 fine for forgetting about it? I don't think so! Now if I'd shown up with a six-inch hunting knife, that would be a horse of a different color. But a pocketknife? Give me a break.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?