IT'S OUR FIFTH ANNIVERSARY! CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION. Wednesday, August 31, 2005 DEFUNDING THE LEVEES: Josh Marshall posts the entire Times-Picayune piece about Bush administration cuts to protecting New Orleans' levees last year. Money quote:
"I guess people look around and think there's a complete system in place, that we're just out here trying to put icing on the cake," said Mervin Morehiser, who manages the "Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity" levee project for the Army Corps of Engineers. "And we aren't saying that the sky is falling, but people should know that this is a work in progress, and there's more important work yet to do before there is a complete system in place."
I agree with a commenter on Josh's site: "There's of course no way to know whether this would have made any difference." But it's not a plus for the president right now. - 8:43:00 PM MOVE OVER, FALWELL: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence', New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same. Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," - Michael Marcavage, in a statement from the evangelical Christian group, "Repent America," issued today. - 5:34:00 PM THE COMING STORM: If what this article says is true, the Bush administration has a major political problem on its hands. Money quote:
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."
Yes, some would even blame Bush and the war for a hurricane. But blaming Bush and the war for the poor state of New Orleans' levees is a legitimate argument. And it could be a crushing one. - 4:58:00 PM MALKIN AWARD NOMINEE: "So while children are drowning and others are floating around, dead in the water, the wannabe Yale cowboy struts around the set of his faux town hall meetings, has a bit of cake with John McCain, and takes in some fresh air in Colorado.
Dick? Where is Dick? Anyone?
Condi? Rummy? Any other Iran-Contra Folks?
Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?
So where does that leave us, the citizens of this raped, pillaged, terrorized, demoralized, freedom loving nation?
Floating face down, eyes affixed on a once great New Orleans!" - Larisa Alexandrovna, on HuffPuff. No, it apparently isn't a Gutfeld parody. And there's a lot more. Go read. - 4:49:00 PM LETTER OF THE DAY: "Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I regret to tell you that I am leaving the FDA, and will no longer be serving as the Assistant Commissioner for Women's Health and Director of the FDA Office of Women's Health. The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health. I have spent the last 15 years working to ensure that science informs good health policy decisions. I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled. I therefore have submitted my resignation effective today.
I will greatly miss working with such an outstanding group of scientists, clinicians and support staff. FDA's staff is of the highest caliber and it has been a privilege to work with you all. I hope to have future opportunities to work with you in a different capacity." - Susan F. Wood. - 2:30:00 PM 42 PERCENT: That's how many Americans believe that the earth and all its creatures have always been the same since they were created by God in Genesis. Fully "70 percent of white evangelical Protestants say that life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time." 63 percent of them are "very certain" that this is true. I must say that there are times when one is rendered speechless. No educated intelligent person could possibly look at the evidence of science and say such a thing. And yet we are supposed to have a reasoned debate with these people on the matter. How is that even possible?
130 CHURCHES SOLD: One more effect of the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal in Canada. In one diocese. - 1:28:00 PM KATRINA AND GLOBAL WARMING: Many emailers have harrumphed that there might too be a connection. In the abstract, you could make a case that warmer waters can increase hurricane ferocity. But every major article I have read on the story says that the pattern of hurricanes is independent of such shifts; that there was a lull in the recent past; and that the worst came in the 1930s and 1940s. When the New York Times is debunking the idea, partisan liberals might want to reassess it. Jim Glassman has futher thoughts here. - 1:06:00 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Thanks for your comments about Krepinevich and Rumsfeld today. What has always horrified me about Bush's approach to the war on terrorism, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq in particular, has been that his stated goals and motivations have not been supported -- even contradicted -- by the actions he has chosen to take.
WMD? Why didn't we attempt to prevent weapons from leaving or coming into Iraq, when we were concerned they might get into the hands of terrorists from outside Iraq's borders?
Yellowcake uranium? We didn't even bother to secure the known Al Tuwaitha yellowcake storage site, so it was looted.
Protecting Iraqis from the insurgency? How can they trust that we're serious about that when we did it Rumsfeld's way (on the cheap) and still haven't even stabilized the key areas (including the road near the Baghdad airport) after 2 1/2 years?
Bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqis? Why should anyone believe that -- just because we say we mean well? What do those concepts mean to Iraqis when lawlessness and fear and destruction are still so widespread? Are we just going to pay lip service to the idea of a "constitution" and an "election," declare victory and then "turn it over to the Iraqis" and run like GHW Bush did in 1991?
Why won't Bush reassure Americans and Iraqis with a concrete set of initiatives and steps to achieving them? Apparently, according to Krepinevich, it's because the Bushies still don't HAVE any plan, any strategy, or any serious desire to achieve success. If they think they are serious about achieving a recognizable democracy in the Middle East, then why aren't they doing the things necessary to achieving it? It blows my mind that people like Christopher Hitchens can rip apart a symbolic mom like Cindy Sheehan and not see that the greater threat to the success of the Iraqi invasion comes from the ignorance, ineptitude (and, perhaps, political cowardice) WITHIN the Bush administration itself.
Are they serious? Where's the evidence since March, 2003?" - 12:36:00 PM THE FUNDAMENTALIST TEMPTATION: "For human pride is more powerful than any instruments of which it avails itself. It must be regarded as inevitable that a religion which apprehends the truth about man and God by faith alone should be used as the instrument of human arrogance. This is done whenever the truth which is held by faith, because it is beyond all human attainment, comes to be regarded as a secure possesion. In this form it is no longer a threat to man. It does not mediate judgment upon the false and imperial completions of human life. It becomes, rather, the vehicle of the pretentions that the finiteness and sin of life have been overcome." - Reinhold Niebuhr, "The Nature and Destiny of Man: Vol. 2; Human Destiny." - 12:14:00 PM THE WAPO POLL: Not-so-awful news for the president. He's still unpopular, but not in free-fall. The Congress is less popular: with only 37 percent approval, boding ill for Republicans in 2006, when they are due for a market correction. Democrats are mad at their leaders for not opposing Bush more aggressively. Ditto, oddly enough, independents. But on the crucial issue, there's good news for Bush, it seems to me:
Public attitudes toward the war have not changed significantly since the first of the year, the poll found. Slightly more than four in 10 - 42 percent - approved of the job Bush is doing in Iraq; 57 percent disapproved, unchanged in recent months. Slightly more than half - 53 percent - said the war was not worth it, while 46 percent said it was, identical to the results of a Post-ABC poll two months ago. By a 51 percent to 38 percent ratio, the public said the United States is winning the war, despite mounting casualties and insurgent attacks.
A majority (54 percent) continued to say the United States should keep military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there; 44 percent said U.S. forces should be withdrawn. Six in 10 opposed announcing a timetable for withdrawal. Only about one in eight -- 13 percent -- said U.S. forces should be withdrawn immediately.
I don't think the administration can blame the press or the public for dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Iraq war. the public has been patient and supportive, especially of the troops. The Congressional opposition has been largely meek. Bush has been given a chance to make the war work. And he will and should be held responsible if it is ultimately deemed a failure. - 12:03:00 PM BLOCK THAT ANALOGY: Kos can't help himself:
This is the greatest disaster to hit our nation in most of our lifetimes. Worse than 9-11.
It is indeed devastating. But we do not know how many have died; and we also know that this was an act of nature, not a premeditated attempt to murder innocent people. Do some on the anti-war left have to keep minimizing what happened on 9/11? And then, of course, it's impossible for Kos to mention an awful tragedy without a dig at president Bush. That said, he has a point. The photograph he mentions from yesterday does strike me as completely off-key, and a pretty terrible p.r. posture for a president in the middle of a natural catastrophe. Who on earth signed off on that one? Playing a guitar? It's the kind of image that can truly alter the perception of a president. - 11:54:00 AM QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "The people of Bangaladesh have to live in a river delta because their whole country is one. Americans, by contrast, inhabit a roomy country and do not have to put themselves in the path of catastrophes that are completely predictable except as to date and time in order to make a quick buck in real estate or enjoy the view and a nearby swim for a few or many years. We need to have a serious think about whether it's the duty of the rest of us to subsidize these choices." - Mark Kleiman, asking some perhaps-too-soon questions raised by Katrina. The debate is worth having. But it should not detract from simple human sympathy for those caught in this awful event. CORRECTION: That post on Mark Kleiman's blog was by a guest-blogger, Michael O'Hare of the Goldman School at UC Berkeley. - 11:45:00 AM A BLOGGER'S NIGHTMARE: A law-suit against a reader's comment. - 11:39:00 AM QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "Full blame for the misuse and abuse of the National Guard belongs to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, a testily glib figure of monumental complacence. Unlike many of my fellow members of the Democrat party, I don't hate George Bush or regard him as venal. He is sincere but narrow: most problematic in his presidency is his curious inability to fire those who have given him lousy advice and betrayed their stewardship. Is it some sentimental twist on family loyalty?" - Camille Paglia on misjudgment in the conduct of the war in Iraq. - 11:18:00 AM
Tuesday, August 30, 2005 GLENN TO THE RESCUE: Instapundit has compiled a series of charity links for the victims of Katrina.
GAY ANIMALS: The animated version. - 7:43:00 PM NANNY STATE WATCH: Britain considers banning "violent and abusive" pornography. My response is basically this one. - 4:31:00 PM USING KATRINA: Some Germans start lecturing the U.S. about global warming. As if any serious expert believes this is in any way connected. And while the waters continue to rise in New Orleans. Extra points to the Green Party, of course. - 4:12:00 PM JUST DEVASTATING: I haven't commented on Katrina because there is nothing much to say that isn't being reported by others far more qualified than me. But the devastation is still gut-wrenching and all-the-more disturbing for coming slowly, after the initial storm. The rest of us can pray and pitch in where we can. - 2:38:00 PM QUOTE FOR THE DAY II: "Too many Christians think if they shout loud enough and gain political strength the world will be improved. That is a false doctrine. I have never seen anyone "converted" to a Christian's point of view (and those views are not uniform) through political power. I have frequently seen someone's views changed after they have experienced true conversion and then live by different standards and live for goals beyond which political party controls the government." - Cal Thomas, today. I differ with Thomas on many issues, but he has a long record of being committed to the role for faith that I believe is found in the Gospels, not the broadcasts of politicized televangelists. I wish more political conservatives would speak up in this way - for the sake of politics and Christianity.
GAYS AND LESBIANS: Common goals; very different cultures. - 1:00:00 PM KREPINEVICH AND BUSH: I'm as interested in strategies to win in Iraq as anyone, which is why I linked to Andrew F. Krepinevich's essay on an "oil-spot" strategy. But I didn't emphasize something that some readers have pointed out - and I should have. It's the last paragraph:
Even if successful, this strategy will require at least a decade of commitment and hundreds of billions of dollars and will result in longer U.S. casualty rolls. But this is the price that the United States must pay if it is to achieve its worthy goals in Iraq. Are the American people and American soldiers willing to pay that price? Only by presenting them with a clear strategy for victory and a full understanding of the sacrifices required can the administration find out. And if Americans are not up to the task, Washington should accept that it must settle for a much more modest goal: leveraging its waning influence to outmaneuver the Iranians and the Syrians in creating an ally out of Iraq's next despot.
I've always thought of the Iraq operation on such a scale; which was why I was so shocked by the way in which the campaign was conducted from the very beginning. I could not understand why such a mammoth undertaking with such huge consequences would be conducted on the fly, with too few troops, no real concern for post-war stability, indifference to looting and random violence, and on and on. Incompetence is one answer. Another is Rumsfeld. In Rumsfeld's mind, if there's a contest between a vital American interest and his own pet theories, pet theories will always win. The president has split the difference, speaking grandiloquently about the goal while backing a defense secretary patently unwilling to provide the resources or commitment to make it work. It seems to me that the sure sign that we are actually planning to win in Iraq will be when the president fires his defense secretary.
A REELING CHURCH: This strikes me as an important development: a court has ruled that Catholic parishes facing sex abuse cases can have their property removed in damages, including churches. Wally Olson has the details. - 12:10:00 PM PAUL BERMAN'S NEW BOOK: I'm a bit of a Berman groupie (not that I agree with him most of the time). This looks fascinating to me, about a generation I still don't understand. - 11:50:00 AM QUOTE OF THE DAY: "A great deal of nonsense is being talked in this zone recently. Science is science, and ought to be taught in our public schools conservatively, from the professional consensus, as settled fact. Religion is quite a different thing." - John Derbyshire, talking sense, at NRO. I have to say that, although it happened while I was avoiding the news, president Bush's endorsement of "intelligent design" for teaching in public schools really does strike me as the dumbest idea he has ever expressed. There are two views of Bush-as-evangelical. The first is that he uses the religious right; the second is that he is the religious right. Of course, they're not exlcusive. I think he's around 30 percent cynical on these matters and 70 percent sincere. It's the 70 percent that more thoroughly worries me. - 11:24:00 AM A READER ASKS: It's a good question:
What is a 'typical' citizen to do here? As a typical citizen, I know next to nothing about Iraq, the Middle East, how to conduct a war, the construction of a constitution, and other details pertaining to this matter.
I do know about how difficult it is to change, for me to change, and for others to change. It is extremely difficult to impose lasting change from the outside (although it can happen). Enduring change is best driven, in part, by intrinsic motivation. Since the changes in Iraq have been instigated by outside force and outside pressures are in place in an effort to maintain these changes we can only estimate the amount of intrinsic motivation for democracy that lies within the Iraqi populace. Ultimately, we will learn about the will of the Iraqi's when the extrinsic pressures are reduced and we see the development of their ideology and nation without occupying U.S. forces imposed upon the region.
The experts, our leadership, and pundits are all over the map on Iraq. The information peddled by our government, newspapers, and other media have been false on critical issues from the very beginning. Histrionics, ego, subjectivity, and self-interest appear to prevail in most of what I read about Iraq. However, what I appreciate about your blog is your efforts to think independently on many of these issues.
Pundits, policy makers, politicians, etc. all claim that the nascent democratization of the Middle East is primarily a function of our intervention in Iraq. These individuals claim this with the utmost confidence and express no doubts. Again, as an 'average' citizen, I ask myself, how can folks make this claim with such definitiveness? Who knows where the Middle East would be if we had elected to take another tack other than invading Iraq? Depending on the alternative route taken (and there were probably many alternatives to invading Iraq) and the effectiveness of its execution, we could be in the same, better, or worse position than we are in now in or efforts to deal with terrorism and it's tributaries. Without any kind of 'control' group, how can these so called experts assert that Bush's Iraq policy was the primary driver of democratization in the Middle East.
The bottom line is this - how does the average citizen go about evaluating the decision made by our government to invade Iraq and how do we go about assessing the status of this war? It seems like an impossible task.
I think the answer is that it is very, very difficult, but not impossible to ask the right questions, sift the information we have and try and come up with a provisional judgment of where things are and where they're headed. The key word there is 'provisional.' The important thing to keep in mind is that all human action is conducted in a fog of unknowing, of unforeseen circumstances, of chance and contingency. Even years from now, there will be a debate on the decisions we are now examining. What I have found valuable about the blog as a genre is that it puts this process on display in a way that even columns do not; a blog can expose uncertainty and ask questions and probe for answers or logic. The objective is an open mind; an ability to change it; and a sure sense of one's own values. My values include a love of freedom, a desire to make the world a slightly better place and a suspicion of authority. Those are the rough bases on which I have tried to make sense of the successes and failures of the past three years in a part of the world so alien to so many of us. - 11:15:00 AM
Monday, August 29, 2005 SUV CITY: A fun, animated cartoon satire for all those of you who like to enrich the Saudis and drive tanks to work. Great work-procrastinator. - 4:05:00 PM IT'S ON NOW: Hitch versus Galloway - live in Manhattan on September 14. - 3:46:00 PM THE OIL-SPOT STRATEGY: If it could work in Iraq, why not in education policy in America? That's the question Eduwonk asks. It's a good one. I feel the same way about equality in marriage. Let's leave Massachusetts alone, let's build the case for gay marriage by showing how it works in a handful of places and then work from there. - 3:32:00 PM BUSH AND EGYPT: Bob Kagan senses that the administration doesn't mean what it says about democracy in Mubarak's satrapy. - 2:03:00 PM QUOTE OF THE DAY II: "Because peace comes at a price, and no one knows that better than the leader of the modern peace movement himself, Deepak Chopra! Jeez! I hope he'll talk more about good and evil, and how you can't tell them apart! I love it when he makes peaceful sense of genocide - Like the way he wrote that the Holocaust happened not simply because Hitler was, like, evil - but because, like the present day, "all countries on both sides of the terror divide are enmeshed in the same conflicted mind set. The inability to accept and respect dissimilar views of the world is present. " It's true - we really do hate it when people get gassed. But whether you gas people, or stop people from being gassed - it's all the same! We’re all just gases anyway. We really need to get out of the US vs Them mindset, people. Well, unless you're the U.S. Then "the blame for whatever follows will fall on America's head."" - Greg Gutfeld on Deepak Chopra's $1,095 per person course on bringing about world peace. - 12:28:00 PM QUOTE OF THE DAY: From Wonkette:
SHEPARD SMITH: You’re live on FOX News Channel, what are you doing?
MAN IN NEW ORLEANS: Walking my dogs.
SMITH: Why are you still here? I'm just curious.
MAN: None of your fucking business.
The voice of free country. - 12:22:00 PM PRIDE: Hitch is still proud of deposing Saddam and trying to move Iraq toward a sane and democraric country. Me too. Despite all the errors. - 11:11:00 AM THE KREPINEVICH ESSAY: The one David Brooks referred to. - 10:57:00 AM MORE ON THE PURGE: Benedict XVI's attempt to scapegoat faithful, celibate gay priests and religious for the child abuse protected by the Vatican appears to be gaining momentum. - 10:54:00 AM THE KNOW-NOTHING LEFT: A useful round-up of hysterical far left responses to any legitimate discussion of intelligence and group differences. Far left activist Atrios calls me "a bigot or a fool" in his post. No, Mr Black. Just interested in the truth. He also says that my claim to have published an extract from the Bell Curve before anyone else is untrue. He's wrong. TNR ran the only advance piece by Murray on the subject. And the cover-date for TNR is always a couple of weeks ahead of the actual published date (it keeps its shelf-life on news-stands), which may account for Atrios' error. The magazine was certainly not alone in covering the controversy. But we pioneered it. I have the scars to show for it.
MORE ON PENGUINS: An emailer with another tale of gay parenting:
A good friend of mine worked on "Rock Island" at the Baltimore Zoo for several years after college. Rock Island is the home of the zoo's colony of African (Black-footed) penguins. If memory serves, African penguins mate for life rather than seasonally -- which included the for-life pair of Bob and Dave. Apparently some of the (heterosexual) mating pairs weren't terribly adept at caring for their eggs or young, so when these particular pairs would produce an egg the zoo staff would snatch if from their nest, replace it with a fake, and put the real egg in Bob and Dave's nest because they were very good at caring for an egg. My friend used to say that when Bob and Dave would come back to their nest and find an egg there they'd look at each other in a puzzled way as if to say, "Hmmm... one of us must've had an egg." Then they'd go about the normal business of caring for it as though it were theirs.
That, of course, is roughly what many gay couples now do in human societies, when children, abandoned or mistreated by their heterosexual parents, manage to find foster or adopted homes with gay families. And that care for children is precisely what some on the religious right want to prevent. I don't get it. - 10:49:00 AM THE IRAQ IMPASSE?: Well, it doesn't look to me like an impasse. It looks to me like an inevitable moment of truth in a democratic process. The one minority group that is bound to lose the most from a new, devolved constitution - the Sunni elite - is resisting the complete rearrangement of Iraq's polity on democratic lines. Sure, it would have been much better if legit Sunni leaders had signed onto a solid deal. But they didn't, and now their recalcitrance will be put to a vote. Yes: a vote. What we have here is a remarkable demonstration of a modern Arab and Muslim country working through its own political arrangements in a pre-ordained constitutional process. That itself is something of an achievement. It reveals that although the U.S. is obviously heavily present as a force for ultimate order, the Iraqis themselves are figuring out how to run their country again. This takes time, as president Bush is right to point out, and patience. And it is also a demonstration of the kind of transformation we are aiming for in the Middle East: where people take responsibility for their own polities in a democratic fashion. I don't think the Bush team could have waved a magic wand and made all this difficult bargaining any easier or simpler, and from all that I can tell, they have been doing the best they can. It doesn't seem that obvious to me either that the failure to get the Sunnis to sign off means a more intense insurgency. The violence is being propelled by forces who want no deal at all - and some kind of deal might have emboldened them still further. The job of the U.S. is to do a far better job of providing security. David Brooks' suggestion seems like a no-brainer. John McCain's support for more troops makes sense as well. No real progress will be made militarily without removing Rumsfeld, however. He remains the most intransigent defender of failed policies. He should go; the Iraq process should continue; the goal of reshaping the Muslim Middle East remains our best security aginst future terror. If you're interested, I make a more detailed case for cautious optimism here. UPDATE: Juan Cole counters my cautious optimism.
BIG GOVERNMENT CONSERVATISM: The Bush people spend like paleo-liberals; they borrow like paleo-liberals; and they regulate like paleo-liberals. The only thing they don't do is tax like paleo-liberals. But that will come. This president has made the permanent increase of taxation in this country an inevitability. - 10:26:00 AM
Friday, August 26, 2005 CHARLES ON LARRY: A must-read from Charles Murray. One of my proudest moments in journalism was publishing an expanded extract of a chapter from "The Bell Curve" in the New Republic before anyone else dared touch it. I published it along with multiple critiques (hey, I believed magazines were supposed to open rather than close debates) - but the book held up, and still holds up as one of the most insightful and careful of the last decade. The fact of human inequality and the subtle and complex differences between various manifestations of being human - gay, straight, male, female, black, Asian - is a subject worth exploring, period. Liberalism's commitment to political and moral equality for all citizens and human beings is not and should not be threatened by empirical research into human difference and varied inequality. And the fact that so many liberals are determined instead to prevent and stigmatize free research and debate on this subject is evidence ... well, that they have ceased to be liberals in the classic sense. I'm still proud to claim that label - classical liberal. And I'm proud of those with the courage to speak truth to power, as Murray and Herrnstein so painstakingly did. Pity Summers hasn't been able to match their courage. But recalling the tidal wave of intolerance, scorn and ignorance that hit me at the time, I understand why. - 12:52:00 PM THOSE PENGUINS: A reader reminds me of another excellent resource on ubiquitous homosexuality among animal species: "Biological Exuberance," by Bruce Baghemil. 450 separate species show evidence of homosexuality. What was God thinking of? - 12:40:00 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "For what it is worth, when my son was born, I said no to circumcision. The doctor could offer no benefit beyond aesthetics. As my wife said at the time, 'He's perfect as he is, why would I do that to him?' Making him 'look like dad' — my friends' justification every time — seemed about as dumb a reason as anyone could present. (I also have many scars and healed broken bones; does he need those 'badges of dad's life' as well?) If it were routine in this nation to cut up newborn baby girls' bodies for aesthetic reasons, ... well, I can stop right there; there is no way we would still be cutting baby girls' bodies for aesthetic reasons right after birth. People making (still essentially unsupported) arguments about how 'it doesn’t hurt later enjoyment of intimate relations' and 'there might be health benefits' would be properly shouted down by university faculty, social activists, government agencies, leftist groups of every variety, and an army of hysterical (an etymologically dangerous word in this hypo but useful) female 'survivors' of the procedure. But boys? 'Pull out the knife and get to work, doc! Swab a little numbing agent on there ... if you think it is necessary.'"
It is interesting, I think, that this would be a non-issue for baby girls for entirely defensible feminist reasons. No, I'm not talking about female genital mutilation, which is far more drastic and barbaric than male genital mutilation. But any sort of involuntary prettifying of baby girls for purely aesthetic or cultural reasons would be protested and banned. More evidence that there actually is a growing bias against boys in our culture. And it starts at birth. - 12:35:00 PM ZIONIST CONSPIRACY WATCH: They've even contaminated the paper cups in Saudi Arabia.
MEANWHILE: As Iraq's careening journey toward some sort of attempt at democracy continues, Russia and China get chummier and chummier. Funny how al Jazeera noticed, innit?
A DIVORCE AMENDMENT? The theocons are not dumb enough to introduce one, but some are honest enough to concede it's a much bigger problem for marriage than gays' committing to each other. - 12:21:00 PM
Thursday, August 25, 2005 BUSH'S READING LIST: The D.C. Examiner asked a bunch of us to recommend some books for the president to read on vacation. My pick? Winston Churchill's "The River War." More suggestions here. - 7:20:00 PM THE FLYPAPER FALLACY: Greg Djerejian makes the case against. - 6:45:00 PM SEPTEMBER 14: That's the date for Massachusetts' legislature to decide whether to continue with the state constitutional amendment process to convert civil marriages between gay couples into civil unions. After a year in which gay families have strengthened, straight families have seen no change, and everyone wants to move on, the chances of the amendment going forward have dimmed somewhat. - 12:57:00 PM THE INDECENCY OF JUAN COLE: Mark Kleiman removes what's left of Cole's credibility. - 12:53:00 PM HOW TO CHOP OFF PART OF YOUR DICK: Here's an email explaining some of the finer issues of circumcision, and responding to the Slate survey I mentioned Tuesday:
Your survey of men circumcised in adulthood has already been conducted - but first let's correct a misconception:
One perennial error of the circumcision debate is lumping together the modern hospital technique with the traditional techniques used by Jewish mohels (and I presume by Muslims). The traditional Jewish technique is much less invasive, and preserves almost all of the erogenic tissue of the foreskin. Briefly: the foreskin is like the sleeve of a suit jacket, with an outer layer of skin and a freely-sliding inner lining of skin. This inner lining is the erotically responsive bit, and traditional Jewish circumcision preserves it. In contrast, the modern hospital technique used since the 1960s totally ablates both layers of skin. This technique replaced the freehand technique with a specialized clamp or cone that allows unskilled health workers to circumcise newborns. It's possible to tell the difference between the two circumcision styles by visual inspection. In fact here in Israel (where your study has already been conducted) many circumcised Jewish men would not by be "circumcised" by American standards, as their penis heads are partially covered by a cuff of foreskin. Many of the negative effects of circumcision - skin too tight during erection, friction during sex, loss of sensation - are relevant only to the modern medical circumcision technique.
Now for your study: Israel has absorbed over a million Jews from the Soviet Union over the past decade, and most of the men were not circumcised in infancy. Many of these men have undergone (Jewish-style) circumcision in adulthood. An Israeli doctor sent a follow-up questionnaire to several thousand of these men. The results split rather evenly into thirds: One third said "no change." One third said "circumcised sex is better." One third said "circumcised sex is worse." Of course the anti and pro circumcision forces began wrangling over the "no change" group, while the rest of us commonsensically concluded that circumcision (at least, the kinder, gentler, Jewish ritual) had negligible effect on sexual satisfaction.
Because of the international interest generated by the study, a later researcher went back and re-examined the questionnaires. He compared the sexual satisfaction question with the question asking why the subject opted to be circumcised. The result: the overwhelming majority of the "circumcised is worse" group were forced into the procedure by girlfriends or other peer pressure (army service, etc.) - which seems likely to have influenced their perceptions.
I am a rare American Jew who was circumcised in adulthood (Jewish technique), and I would say "no significant change". On the other hand, I have seen some hospital-circumcised guys with whom I would never want to trade equipment - on aesthetic grounds, and projecting what sex must be like for them.
My own view is that circumcision should be a decision made by an adult male on health grounds alone - and the data on HIV should make many men consider it. But the involuntary genital mutilation of newborns remains an outrage. - 12:51:00 PM WHY I MISS TV: Borat hijacks a retriever-chihuahua wedding. - 12:39:00 PM WHY I DON'T MISS TV: Haven't looked at one since June. Here's what I've been lacking. Don't miss the Martha burps. - 12:31:00 PM LOVE AND PENGUINS: Theocon Maggie Gallagher waxes rather eloquently about the devotion of penguin mates in caring for their young. I loved the documentary, "March of the Penguins," as well. But nature can sometimes be more complicated than some theologians posit. Here's a wonderful little children's book about a true story about a pair of penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. They, like other pairs, became inseparable and bonded for life. But they were both males. When other penguins hatched eggs, these two found a pebble and warmed and nursed it. Then a zoo-keeper decided to give them a real egg, which they nursed and brought to birth and childhood like every other heterosexual couple. This alternative penguin family still thrives and you can go see them, if you want. The presence of homosexuality in nature is ubiquitous and clearly part of God's creation. As Maggie writes,
I don't know Jordan Roberts' agenda, religious or otherwise, but it is hard not to see the theological overtones in the movie he remade. Beauty, goodness, love and devotion are all part of nature, built into the DNA of the universe. Even in the harshest place on the Earth (like 21st-century America?), love will not only endure, it will triumph.
It's just a pity that Gallagher is so opposed to such a triumph of love that is happening today - among people whose mutual care and devotion she sadly refuses to cherish - and even wants to stigmatize. - 12:20:00 PM THE SUV DEBATE: My musings have prompted quite a wealth of response over at Instapundit and elsewhere. Some good points. The problem is: Americans tend to blame everyone but themselves for higher gas prices. But when you're actually going backward in fuel efficiency and your government subsidizes that trend, you have a problem. And when you're a president who cozies up to the enemy in Saudi Arabia and then guzzles more gas than anyone else, you might begin to have a p.r. problem. I say: toughen fuel standards, double gas taxes, remove all tax breaks for SUVs and drill in ANWR. It's a start. Oh, and if you live alone as more and more people do, and you live in an urban area, get a bike. - 11:58:00 AM
Wednesday, August 24, 2005 ROCK SNOBS: And how iPods have helped undermine them. Yay! - 3:07:00 PM IRAQ'S WOMEN: What do we owe them? They had much more economic freedom under Saddam than under other Islamist states, even though that freedom was to work at the behest of a vicious dictatorship. I'm worried like many others about the possibility of reversals, especially in domestic law, that are now being considered in the various constitutional drafts for the new Iraq. And I certainly hope the U.S. is doing its utmost to protect women and other vulnerable groups in Iraq. But perfection should not be the enemy of the good. Equal status on Western lines may not be possible, given the deeply sexist nature of Islamic society. But a real and persistent reversal would be a terrible disappointment. Freedom is part of what we fought for, and we should especially try to allow wives and women legal recourse outside theocratic courts. I find Reuel Marc Gerecht's comments on "Meet The Press" unfortunate:
I mean, one hopes that the Iraqis protect women's social rights as much as possible. It certainly seems clear that in protecting the political rights, there's no discussion of women not having the right to vote. I think it's important to remember that in the year 1900, for example, in the United States, it was a democracy then. In 1900, women did not have the right to vote. If Iraqis could develop a democracy that resembled America in the 1900s, I think we'd all be thrilled. I mean, women's social rights are not critical to the evolution of democracy. We hope they're there. I think they will be there. But I think we need to put this into perspective.
Gerecht is not entirely wrong in bringing a little realism to these debates. And we can be sure that the Dowds of this world who opposed every attempt to liberate Iraq's women in the past will now be whining that they do not all have equal access to her suite at the Chateau Marmont. But I do believe that the repression of women's social rights is integral to the pathologies that have bred Islamo-fascism. Sexual repression, misogynist theology, males treating women as property to be fought over or raped, honor killings: all these lead to cultures in which many frustrated young males turn to extreme religious faith or violence. Liberating Muslim women is critical to liberating the Middle East, which in turn is critical to protecting the West from more religious terror. We may not be able to achieve this all at once. But we can try where we can. Iraq is a rare case where we have real leverage for a short period of time. History will not forgive us if we pass this opportunity by. - 2:32:00 PM QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "With unmistakable clarity and an apparent lack of self-consciousness, Robertson simply called for an assassination, presumably to be undertaken by U.S. military forces in violation of U.S. law. In so doing he gave the Venezuelan leader a propaganda gold mine, embarrassed the Bush administration, and left millions of viewers perplexed and troubled. More importantly, he brought shame to the cause of Christ. This is the kind of outrageous statement that makes evangelism all the more difficult. Missing from the entire context is the Christian understanding that violence can never be blessed as a good, but may only be employed under circumstances that would justify the limited use of lethal force in order to prevent even greater violence. Our witness to the Gospel is inevitably and deeply harmed when a recognized Christian leader casually recommends the assassination of a world leader." - Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Good for Mohler.
BUSH AND SUVS: Here's an email that reminds me why this president isn't really that serious about the war on terror:
"I am about as left as you can get and still be considered a mature thinking adult. To my shame, my wife and I (we do have four kids) bought a luxury Lexus SUV last year. We had even put ourselves on the waiting list for a Prius when we were shopping for a new car. What finally put us over the fence is that the Bush tax cuts allowed me, a sole proprietor, if I used the vehicle soley for business (which I do) to deduct the entire cost of the largest size SUV from my taxes in the first year if I bought a vehicle weighting over 6000 lbs. This worked out as a subsidy worth over $17,000 for the purchase of this car. (This has since been modified). No wonder there was such an explosion of luxury SUV's on the road. Curiously, the car we bought weighed in at 6005 lbs and there were a couple of BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, Porsche and other models which were marginally over the threshold as well. (There are also models which are way over the 6000 lb mark but it is obvious the car companies were reading, perhaps writing, the tax law very closely). This perverse tax incentive effectively allowed me to buy this luxury SUV gas guzzler (17MPG) at greater than a 1/3 discount to whatever price I could negotiate. On purely economic terms, it was a no brainer ... we were almost compelled to buy the car."
I guess this is what happens when Dick Cheney is your vice-president. - 2:00:00 PM THE BUMPER STICKERS: My favorites:
"U.S. troops died for your SUV -- Drive it proudly." Graphic of Osama: "LUV your SUV!" "I'm funding terrorists, ask me how." "SUV: Killing Americans at home and abroad"
Or we can stick to the positive: "Support the troops? Buy a hybrid." - 1:57:00 PM IT CAN BE DONE: A reader reminds me of Gregg Easterbrook's pro-Kerry piece last year pointing out how incentives to move away from SUVs and toward hybrids could have a cumulatively important effect on our oil consumption. Money quote (TNR, for reasons beyond me, keeps most of its content behind a subscriber wall):
A simple one-third increase in the mileage of new vehicles would have a remarkably beneficial impact on the United States-Persian Gulf relationship, and quickly. Here's the math. About 17 million new cars and "light trucks" (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) are sold in the United States each year and driven, on average, about 12,000 miles annually. If the fuel efficiency of 17 million vehicles driven 12,000 miles annually rose by one-third, from a real-world 17 MPG to a real-world 23 MPG, that would save about 200 gallons of gasoline annually per vehicle, or about 3.4 billion gallons of gasoline. Since a barrel of petroleum yields 20 gallons of gasoline, about 170 million barrels of oil would be saved. Perhaps you think, Aha! With U.S. petroleum demand at 20 million barrels daily, this MPG initiative has saved just about one week's worth of oil. Yes--in the first year, the MPG increase would have little effect, in much the same way that, in their first year, few investments yield much return. But remember the miracle of compounding! In the second year, with two model-years' worth of vehicles at the higher MPG, 340 million barrels of oil are saved. The next year, the savings is 510 million barrels, the next year 680 million, and so on. In just the fifth year of this initiative, we would need to purchase about 850 million fewer barrels of petroleum--approximately the amount the United States imports each year from the Persian Gulf states.
Of course, John McCain backs this strategy. 9/11 was the obvious opportunity to revolutionize American energy policy to rid ourselves of having to deal with Islamo-fascist cartels. Bush blew it. - 1:48:00 PM SUVS AGAIN: Thanks for the mounds of email. Some points: yes, there are many other reasons for our over-consumption of oil. But transportation is the main one and the massive rise in the use of SUVs has made a difference. Here's a chart of oil usage from 1950 - 2002. Transportation is the biggest drain and is becoming more so. Levitt and Dubner also cast doubt on the efficacy of those cumbersome child seats in the back of cars that make SUVs the size of a 1950s ranch house. Here's their debunking. In general, I favor the market figuring these things out. With any luck, as gas heads toward $3 a gallon, hybrids will see more growth in sales. But shaming SUV-owners is still a good option. SUV-owners and sellers are indirectly weakening the war on terror, by financing the enemy far more than anyone needs to. If young men and women can sacrifice their lives for our security, can others not buy a different kind of car? Or is that too much to ask? - 1:30:00 PM
Tuesday, August 23, 2005 BAINBRIDGE OBJECTS: I'm no paleocon, he insists. He has a point. - 3:31:00 PM A BUMPER-STICKER CONTEST: How's this for an idea: send me your best ideas for anti-SUV bumper stickers. One reader already suggested: "How many soldiers-per-gallon does your SUV get?" Another ofering: "Osama Loves Your SUV." Got a better one? - 3:23:00 PM EMAIL OF THE DAY: "Well, since I am as big a Soccer Mom as anyone, I think I need to chime in here. Yes, my mother didn't have an SUV when she was taking care of us in the 1970s. She used to pack four or five of us kids in the back of her Ford Maverick. You know what? The car seat laws are much stricter now. And the car seats are much bigger. And the kids are required by law to sit in them until they are much older. There is no way you could fit even one of today's car seats in my mother's old Ford Maverick. I wouldn't want to try. Kids are much safer in today's cars, with today's car seats, than they were when I was a kid. You say yesterday's kids thrived? I'll let you check on the car accident statistics, the survival rates, etc., and then you can get back to me on that. In the meantime, I will continue to schlep my kids and my kids' friends around in my Honda Oddysey minivan, with the three huge car seats inside."
Let me know about the child car fatalities if anyone out there can. But why can't we relax the car seat laws and size down the car seats? Jeez. Meanwhile, we're financing Islamist terrorism and hurting the environment for the sake of ... the kids. Groan. The nanny-state and the gas-guzzling state: about as good a description of Bush conservatism as any, I suppose.
P.S. Do I sound like I had a great vacation? - 3:18:00 PM SUVS AND TERRORISM: Fareed Zakaria makes an excellent point today in a column about rising oil prices, and how they are helping to finance the terror masters in Tehran, Saudi Arabi and elsewhere. Some kind of move toward greater energy efficiency is essential in the war on terror. But what I didn't realize is how the curse of the SUV is so damaging. Fareed writes that 54 percent of today's U.S. fleet of cars are made up by these ugly, behemoth tanks that guzzle gas, and make life miserable for everyone not in them. My anti-SUV ire always goes up in the summer, when I see these vast, bloated symbols of excess bulldozing down the narrow streets of Provincetown, pushing every bicyclist, pedestrian or small child out of their way. My only solace is thinking of how many of these SUV owners are pouring money away to keep their mobile homes on the road. Pity that same money goes to finance Islamist terror. And please don't give me all this guff about how I don't have a car (hey, I'm not indirectly donating to al Qaeda), having to take kids here, there and everywhere, with all their stuff and the dogs and suburbs and soccer practices and on and on. All of this took place before SUVs; kids were just packed into back seats and trunks were stuffed full if necessary. Parents coped. Kids thrived. If all else failed, people could even have less stuff. Imagine that: less stuff. As readers know, I'd gladly put a dollar of extra tax on gas, insist on higher fuel standards for cars, make SUVs comply with the fuel standards of other cars and put a tax on SUVs on top pf all that. We are in a war. As far as I'm concerned, those people driving SUVs are aiding and abetting the enemy, and helping to finance the terrorists that want to kill us all. I'm well aware that the notion that the Bush administration has any interest in energy independence or taxing gas or deterring SUVs is about as likely as their demanding subsidies for sex-changes, but I might as well vent. We can always stigmatize these SUV-terror-enablers. How about bumper-stickers for non-SUVs that simply say: my car doesn't subsidize Saudi terror. Would that help? - 1:16:00 PM CHINA AND CENTRAL ASIA: One of the biggest economic stories of our time - finding a way to sustain the Chinese economy - keeps developing. China is now moving in on Central Asia's oil supplies by buying oil-fields, while the U.S. is trying to keep Iraq in one piece. Advantage: Beijing. - 12:48:00 PM THE GREAT DEBATE: Slate weighs in - long after this blog sliced through the debate - on the question of male genital mutilation, also known as circumcision. We now know it can help prevent the transmission of HIV. But at what cost? Slate's inviting readers who have had sex with foreskin and without foreskin to figure out the differences. Stay tuned ... 1.2 million American baby boys are mutilated a year. - 12:42:00 PM FAITH AND TOLERANCE: They are not incompatible. For a Christian, I'd say they are inseparable. - 12:26:00 PM RUMBLINGS ON THE RIGHT: Some crotchety remarks from paleo-con Bainbridge and neocon Frum. Money quote from Bainbridge:
What really annoys me, however, are the domestic implications of all this. The conservative agenda has advanced hardly at all since the Iraq War began. Worse yet, the growing unpopularity of the war threatens to undo all the electoral gains we conservatives have achieved in this decade. Stalwarts like me are not going to vote for Birkenstock wearers no matter how bad things get in Iraq, but what about the proverbial soccer moms? Gerrymandering probably will save the House for us at least through the 2010 redistricting, but what about the Senate and the White House?
Hey, we've exploded the size of government, legitimized an insolvent nanny-state for a generation, guaranteed a huge future tax increase, missed an opportunity for seriously trying to move toward energy independence, and made the biggest intelligence error since Pearl Harbor. Not bad, eh? The emails on Frum's blog are very telling about the mood of the conservative base. My own evolving view of what's happening in Iraq is that there's still a reasonable chance of a pretty depressingly illiberal constitution, folllowed by low-level civil war, policed in part by young Americans. Better than Saddam? You betcha. Better than a crumbling regime under Saddam's sons during an Islamist upswing? Absolutely. But a long way from what many of us had hoped for. - 12:24:00 PM THANKS: A huge bouquet of thanks for my four intrepid guest-bloggers, Judith, Frank, Dan and Walter. They were all unique, and all showed, I think, how intimate and individual blogging can be as a medium. I had one of the best breaks of my life, marred only by my highly enjoyable final weekend. Now back to reality ...
PEACE ON EARTH: Yet another expression of his version of Christianity from Pat Robertson. Recall that Robertson was on the list fo people consulted by the administration on the Supreme Court nomination. He's not an outsider, even though every sane conservative says he is the minute he opens his mouth and says something hateful again. He was once a credible presidential candidate. The test of mainstream Republicans' integrity is if they do not simply denounce this comment but denounce Robertson and his political machine. He is their Michael Moore. Instead, you get mealy-mouthed and exhausted-to-the-bone attempts to blame it on the liberal media. - 11:57:00 AM
Monday, August 22, 2005 APOLOGIES: The wonderful idea of celebrating my last weekend of bloggatical got, well, a little out of hand the last two nights, and I'm a little too hung over today to write anything too coherent. Sorry. I don't know why I leave the big blow-out to the last two days of a vacation but ... there you are. See you in the morning ... fresh as a wilted daisy. - 3:16:00 PM
Friday, August 19, 2005 NAKED SELF-PROMOTION: Andrew said I could do this, so I will, since I live by my pen and I know no other way. My new novel, Mission to America, will be published this October and is available for pre-order on Amazon. It's my best, what can I say, and anyone who can find it in their heart to buy it will be rewarded with at least as much good karma as they received the last time they dropped fifty cents into a tip jar at a hippy coffee shop. A movie of one of my earlier novels, Thumbsucker, will be released in about a month by Sony Classics. It stars Keanu Reeves (playing funny again, thank goodness), Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Benjamin Bratt, and Vincent D'Onofrio (sp?). The novel, reissued, is available now, and both it and the movie are good, though I won't tell you which one is my favorite.
I'm going to post again later to sum up this whole disorienting and wonderful experience of filling in for the beloved Andrew, but the short version is this: I learned a lot, was humbled, challenged, and gratified, and I thank Andrew's fans for bearing with me. I didn't know a thing about this medium before last Monday and now I know a little more. Thanks everyone.
- posted by Walter - 4:50:00 PM SURE I INHALED: This morning on C-SPAN a caller asked me, after I'd told my seeing-Ted-Kennedy-soused tale, if it bothered me that George W. did cocaine once, or has been alleged to, or whatever. And I said it did, to the caller's apparent surprise. It also bothers me that Al Gore could admit to marijuana use the way he did while running for president. My problem has nothing to do with the drugs themselves, though, or the use of them, but by the hypocrisy. How come candidates get to admit to crimes that, when they're elected, they put others in jail for but have not been punished for themselves? The idea of guys who've slipped the noose, and are willing to publically admit it, putting others in the noose -- by the thousands and thousands -- turns my stomach. To my mind, there's no more vivid demonstration that the drug laws are a cruel farce.
The next time a presidential candidate makes his ritual drug confession, I think they should be given a choice: serve out the prison term or pay the fine that applied when they offended or recuse themselves and their administration from enforcing the same laws. Better yet, let them commit to changing the laws that they were fortunate enough not to have been caught breaking. Fair? I think so.
Thursday, August 18, 2005 C-SPAN: For those of you who are interested in seeing the face of Andrew's latest guest blogger, I'll be on C-SPAN tomorrow morning around nine o'clock Eastern Time. It's a tribute to the influence of this forum that Brian Lamb invited me on -- he never has before. I'm flattered.
- posted by Walter - 11:02:00 PM TEARS OF RAGE: Cindy Sheehan screaming about her dead son, the Gaza settlers pleading for their homes, the families of the BTK killer's victims confronting the monster in court -- it's been an emotional past few days on the cable news shows, like a gigantic encounter session, sort of, or an international Oprah Winfrey show with higher than normal stakes. That sounds facetious, and I guess it is, but an overdose of raw emotion tends to wear on the nerves after a point and invite a defensive mental reaction. Gaza, of course, is a story of deep consequence, but when it's mixed up with all the other extreme behavior that the cameras are focussing on right now it loses some of its distinctive impact. Life imitates art, and if the reigning popular art form now is reality TV, then we may be looking forward to a period when the news will be dominated by weeping fits, shouting contests, nervous breakdowns, and other raw displays of feeling, some of them premeditated and staged. Certainly the unprecedented run of this Aruba murder on Fox News doesn't bode well. All hysteria all the time -- is that's what's coming? Looks that way. (Though Sheehan has every right to her emotion, as far as I'm concerned, since a war that can't survive a mourning mother shouldn't be going on at all.)
- posted by Walter - 10:41:00 PM GOOFS: The Randy Weaver incident happened under George Bush Sr., not Bill Clinton, as hawk-eyed readers have pointed out to me. The correct expression is not "I could care less" but "I couldn't care less." That covers the f-ups so far, I think. And thanks to everyone who's shown support for the great state of Montana. Appreciate it. To those who still can't stand the place and can't forgive the fact that the Constitution has given us as many senators as California or New York have, write your congressman, not me. And as for Montana being the recipient of more federal dollars per person than other places, I offer this: since the federal government owns a good part of the state in the form of national forests and parks and since the national highway system needs its roads from Seattle to Minneapolis to run continously, without gigantic gaps, we need a few more dollars, perhaps, than our population warrants. The indian reservations take money, too. Then there are the wheat farmers and cattle ranchers, whose operations are subsidized on the basis of their size, not on on the basis of the number of people who work on them. The ag subsidies are controversial and questionable, of course, but the overall fact that Montana sucks up funds out of proportion to the number of folks here has to do with its size, the needs of our federal landlords, the Forest Service and Park Service, and so on.
- posted by Walter - 4:25:00 PM I'LL HAVE A PETROLEUM DOUBLE LATTE: Is this significant? Pretty much all of my life, with occasional moments of imbalance, a cup of coffee and a gallon of gas have been about the same price. A few years ago, coffee took the lead, but recently gas caught up. Yesterday, gas took the lead, however, and I bet it will stay in the lead at least until Starbucks invents a new gimmick such as blending bee pollen with java and infusing it with ionized oxgygen to create a ten-dollar morning super-drink. In fact, yesterday was the day when gas officially became a luxury item for me, much as coffee did a couple of years ago and water did, too, come to think of it.
Meaning that when I fill my tank I feel like I'm treating myself now instead of paying a necessary bill for an unappreciated commodity. Savor this, I tell myself -- driving is not a right, it's an indulgence. (Luckily, I don't commute to work.) Strangely, this makes me want to buy a car that's completely impractical and ultra-powerful and drive it only every few days or so in the same way I might go white-water rafting or buy a ticket to a new rollercoaster. In other words, I'm estranged from driving now, but pleasantly so. I'll do it less, I suspect, enjoy it more, and become the target of new marketing efforts that promote getting behind the wheel as an exotic entertainment experience. "Burn some rubber, crank some tunes, and enjoy the road less traveled. You deserve it." That will be the new ad from Exxon, perhaps. They might even tout the health benefits of driving, assuming there are any, and I'm sure they'll find some.
But I'm glad this has happened. I really am. I want the Saudi Arabians to know that I can take or leave their major export depending on my mood.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 GEO-BIGOTRY: Reading through some of the letters blasted my way, I've discovered a form of prejudice that I didn't know existed until just now. The mere fact that I live in Montana has drawn, from some, such wild bile and spittle that I'm shocked. And it's hard to be shocked these days. One guy, some nut, said he was tired of being lectured on morality by people from the sticks -- people who think of New York as "Jew York City." What would that be called? Knee-jerk anti-anti semitism? This stupid business of classifying one another according to state-of-residence is exactly what I'm complaining about when I say that political conversation nowadays has gotten awfully tiresome in certain aspects. This red-blue thing isn't real: it's a grid put down on the landscape by lazy pundits in order to foster a conflict that isn't there so the poeple who profit from conflict can work their way with us. It reminds me of the 1990s, when Clinton blew the so-called "Militia Movement" into a threat much larger than it was (turn your guns on Osama, dumbass)and used it as a pretext to set his snipers on hermits in Idaho and religious separationists in Texas.
Here's what Montana's like, if anyone's interested. First, it's one of the most urbanized places in the country, where most of the people cluster up together due to lack of water in the landscape. It's full of back-the-landers from the 70s, populist out-of-work miners in cities like Butte whose ancesotrs bloodily started the union movement, ranchers and farmers who keep the land open for their hay and wheat and cattle instead of just selling out and cashing in so second-home types can build their gated developments (though there are more and more of those), and refugees from places like LA who've taken their equity out of booming housing markets and put it into modest houses so they don't have to work in cubicles 24/7. We've got a vicious drug problem -- crystal meth -- and a lot of other contemporary ills that keep us from being the lazy wooded paradise full of smug evangelicals that others picture us as. We legalized medical marijuana last year and if there's a governing political culture it's live and let live and don't make too many rules, because people just break rules, which means more police, etcetera, and a cycle of hypocrisy by which everyone condemns the neighbors for doing pretty much the same things they're doing themselves. And as state constitutions go, ours is as progressive as they come in terms of civil rights, outdoing the federal constitution.
- posted by Walter - 11:20:00 PM TAKING MY INVENTORY: Psychoanalysis is outdated. If you really want to learn about yourself, take over a popular blog for a few days, scribble away about the odd ideas that no conventional publication would ever let you air, and wait about twenty minutes for the flood of e-mailed corrections, ass-kickings, character judgments, and other miscellaneous reactions that you've so roundly earned in certain cases and in other cases don't deserve.
My half-fanciful conversation-starter notion that it's high time we let terrorism change our way of life has gotten the most mail so far. So as to make ourselves a trickier target and perhaps recivilize our blasted rural landscape I called for (among other things) a decentralization of social power and infrastructure and the repopulation of our small towns and cities. Many of you responded by calling me an idiot, which is accurate enough in general, and some of you sensed an anti-urban bias in what I wrote. Well, I don't have such a bias. Living in Montana hasn't caused me to hate New York but to appreciate it in ways that those who live there day-in and day-out may not be able to. Dwelling in the country sucks sometimes. It gets lonesome and boring and when you make a wave it sloshes around forever in the small tidepool until you can hardly walk downtown without getting glares or snickers. It's also very peaceful, relatively inexpensive, and markedly hassle-free, liberating much personal time and energy. It doesn't take half an hour to mail a letter here or to obtain a driver's license renewal. I like Montana in some ways and don't in others, but we land where we land in life and we make the best of it.
Would spreading out consume more energy, though? A lot of you say that it would, but I'm not sure. The kind of shift I'm talking about is not towards more suburban sprawl but towards a revitalization of real towns that used to have sidewalks and drugstores and movie theaters and were, in fact, dense miniature urban clusters. Until Wal-Mart came along, that is. Living in such places and working in them would be no more wasteful of energy, I'd wager, than our current practice of staging massive two-way daily commutes into major cites.
The next largest stir I've caused so far resulted from my saying that politics bores me. I meant a certain kind of politics, based on media-driven "wedge issues" such as the Ten Commandment business and so on. Such controversies are calculated, I feel, to whip people up into frenzies of contribution-making, petition-signing, and opinion poll-answering that steal away energy from our actual lives to power the professional political establishment. I like to talk about politics myself some, which is why I'm doing this blog, but the politics that interests me arises out of people's real situations and on-the ground-concerns. It doesn't issue from the fax machines of lobbyists and party hacks. We're playing their game when we jump each time they bark at us and maybe it's time to act deaf next time they do and, as I stated, talk about ourselves instead of about what they'd prefer we talked about. Like whether John Bolton is an easy boss.
Finally, a few journalists have written me to say how dare you "impugn" our profession by saying that we sometimes hold back the juiciest stories in order to maintain our close relationships with the people we're reporting on. Well, tough. I've seen it happen. Journalists should be outsiders, period. Let the insiders come to us or be ignored and forgotten. But let's not cater to them, embroiling ourselves in their careers and doing favors in return for other favors. It's not the politician who ought to be covered by term limits, it's the reporters, especially if they can't resist the temptation to be accepted by the folks they ought to be offending consistently.
- posted by Walter - 7:16:00 PM ASK, DON'T TELL: I saw yesterday that Norman Pearlstine, an editorial honcho at Time Inc., just recently told a New York audience that the guarantee of anonymity granted to Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame kerfuffle wasn't justified by the value of the info that Rove disclosed, confirmed, or whatever. He's right, I suppose, but that's not what interests me about this whole affair, whose very presence in the news - and especially on the front pages and magazine covers and at the top of broadcast after broadcast - wasn't justified by the underlying info, as evidenced by the cessation of this coverage before most of the main issues have been resolved.
The story got the play it did, I think, because it cast the journalists involved in a coveted, heroic, old-fashioned role -- as crusading truth tellers, researchers, and promise keepers. They dig for the facts, and as they dig they stand up to the highest powers that be, meanwhile putting their words of honor on the line as a way of reassuring anxious sources. This is a flattering notion in a period when the reality is just the opposite.
What big-time Washington journalists largely do these days, in my experience, is to get as close as possible to power, socially and in every other way, while maintaining the legal fiction that they aren't implicated in its workings. They send their kids to school with power's kids, they marry it, they go to parties with it, they jabber with it on the phone, they watch the game with it from adjoining seats, and, as a natural result, they keep its confidences -- until, that is, some secret leaks out anyway and they have to pretend that they didn't already know it but will get to the bottom of it immediately or that they knew it all along and just weren't telling their audiences because they were bound by some lofty code of ethics that allows them to do the jobs they rarely do. They're profound double-dealers, is what I'm saying, who pay for their access, influence, and by going along and getting along until it's simply too embarrassing not to. They reserve their best stories for one another, publishing them only when they have to and feeling very nervous when they do, because it might screw up the Great Arrangement. And afterwards, once the secrets are on the street, it often comes out that they were common knowledge among the people whose jobs it was to tell them.
Quick story. In the mid 1980s I went to a fancy Fifth Av. party for Senator Ted Kennedy. There were journalists there and lots of other bigwigs. The only time I'd seen Kennedy before was at a campaign stop in 1979 when he'd been seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He might have won, but I realized at the party that it would have been a terrible thing because he was the drunkest human being I had ever encountered in my life, and chances were that it hadn't just started that night. Sure, he already had this reputation, but it was a vague reputation, all myth and gossip, while the intoxicated wreck in front of me was as vivid and specific as a car wreck. How many thousands of times, I wondered, had such behavior as I was witnessing been quietly countenanced by journalists, and how much other wild, scary stuff pertaining to other movers and shakers who had a shot at ruling the free world, say, had they deftly slipped into their back pockets in return for the right to attend such parties as this one?
I was a kid then, in my early twenties, and I couldn't answer that question. Now I'm older, I've seen more, and I can. A certain kind of job in journalism can only be kept if its holder, for the most part, refrains from doing it.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005 TALK ABOUT YOURSELF FOR A CHANGE: It's starting. God help us. On Fox News just now I heard Senator Evan Bayh handicapping his own chances for the presidential nomination and talking about running against Hillary. It reminds me of pro wrestling, this stuff. They get us geared up an eon in advance for a fake fight, the battle of the century, and the ticket-buying mania begins. The rivals plot and posture, working us up even further for a match whose outcome, we're led to think, will have titanic consequences for everyone, and yet when it finally comes, not much changes except that the political establishment has a lot more money in its pockets. The issues are mostly symbolic. As I sit here on my Montana farm, I could care less about the Ten Commandments, the past behavior of Supreme Court nominees, whether Karl Rove outed a non-spy spy, and if John Bolton likes to yell at people.
Other than Jen-and-Brad celebrity gossip and the serial popular novels posing as crime stories such as this Aruba thing, this hyped-up so-called politics is all people have to talk about now, it seems. I remember when people talked about themselves. At thee dinner table and in the diner you heard about that sports car-from-a-kit your neighbor was building, about some lady's kidney tumor, about who was wooing another man's wife, and about the bear that was eating from someone's apple tree. These little stories added up to life. You got a sense of how people were actually managing. Now you hear what they're thinking. What a bore. Most of them can't think, and have never tried, and are just repeating what others think and adding their own misinterpretations and biases. I could care less, frankly. I'd rather hear about what somebody's doing to get rid of the bat infestation in their attic. But no, it's Washington, Washington, Washington, which is thousand of miles away from western Montana but has somehow convinced us it's right next door. Well, it's not. The neighbors are next door. But because they talk only about politics, I have no idea what their lives are like and they don't either for the most part, they don't either. They're trying to join the "national conversation" and meanwhile the bears are eating their apples.
Me, I don't even have a politics -- not in any coherent left-right sense -- and I wonder sometimes where other people get theirs. No one's born a Republican or a Democrat or even and Independent, for Pete's Sake, but in time we all become one or the other. Bowing to expectations, it seems to me, trying to seem grown-up and serious and entitled to join in a "debate" that's about as substantial sometimes as Friday night stadium cage-match. The older I get, the less I'm bothered by low voter turn-out. It's a rational response to an irrational spectacle that mostly just profits its promoters. - 8:51:00 AM
Monday, August 15, 2005 TERROR FROM MONTANA: I'll start with something that's been bugging me but that I haven't had a forum to write about: this idea, almost universally agreed upon, that Americans mustn't let terrorism change our way of life. I disagree. Our way of life had its problems before Osama appeared, and we probably could have stood to change it then, but now that we have the added impetus of being collectively attacked in ways that we never dreamed about in past years, I think it's high time that we did a few thing differently that maybe we should have done already Like, say, spread out a little geographically. I live in Montana, way out in the country, near towns that have been abandoned and depopulated and could use a few resources from the threatened cities that have made themselves sitting ducks for sabotage by building their infrastructures so dense and tall that a pellet gun could knock them over. There's a price for supersaturating small areas with people, wealth, and technology, and now we're paying it by trying to secure in thousands of ways targets that are inviting as they come. This folly of rebuilding the World Trade Center proves that we'd rather be proud and stubborn than safe. Here we go piling up the blocks again just to show how bloodied but unbowed we are instead of learning our lesson and reshaping things. It's not the de-urbanization of the cities that I'm dreaming about here, it's the re-urbanization of the towns -- places where strangers can easily be spotted and people can't be vaporized by the hundreds merely by stuffing a few bombs into some backpacks.
IDEAS, PLEASE: Maybe I don't sound serious. I am. At least in this respect I am: responding to terrorism with inflexibility isn't going to work, I fear, and unless we start entertaining notions as wild and possibly half-baked as situating our treasure and our people in places where they don't invite assault we're not only daring the bad guys to bring it on, we're forgetting that the beauty of our society is that it can mold itself to new realities rather than march in lockstep like the Redcoats toward all-too-predictable catastrophes. I guess I'm just weary of hearing that beating terrorism means doing what we've always done but a whole lot harder, with more firmly gritted teeth. That's what Iraq's about, it seems to me: fighting the Gulf War over again, but this time with feeling. It's like rebuilding the World Trade Center and calling it The Freedom Tower or whatever. Why not call it the Lack-of-Imagination Tower? And while we're at it, why not call The Energy Bill that does almost nothing to address the fact that our fuel supply is being pumped directly out of our children's veins and arteries while enriching our enemies' war chest The Out-of-New-Ideas Bill? I'm a fiction writer and a book critic, not a professional political journalist, and the behavior of our leaders nowadays reminds me of Captain Ahab or King Lear and doesn't prompt thoughts about issues and philosophies. I think I know megalomania when I see it, in literature and also in life, and I think I know too when when a plot has swerved toward tragedy. It happens when events reveal a flaw in the basic approach of the protagonist and he reacts to the bad news by clinging to that flaw more strenuously. Aside from the Bill of Rights, which protects our very ability to change, let's change what we can as quickly as we can and see what works and what doesn't in this fight instead of going all stiff and stern. That's our advantage, after all: we can revise our doctrines and they can't. Ideas, please, the kookier the better. Mine, as I've said, is scatter, reduce our profile, go to work in our homes as much as possible instead of converging every morning on Wall Street and Times Square, and let them try to hit a moving target. And don't build that foolish Freedom Tower thing. Change doesn't mean the terrorists have won. Not changing does. Ask the Redcoats. Or better yet, ask the Native Americans. They stood tall too, once, here on the very spot where I'm sitting now.
Sunday, August 14, 2005 INTRODUCING WALTER: Dan Savage is inimitable, as you have now discovered. I loved every post, and I certainly hope I'm the exception. What's the point of a blog if you can't offend some readers? For my part, I've been lollygagging around with the DP and the beagle. Life is short. Next week, I'm going to try and write an essay I've been toying with for a year. Meanwhile, one of the best critics and novelists of his generation, Walter Kirn, will be writing in this space for the next and final week of my blogatical. Here's an interview with him. He's the author of "Thumbsucker", "Up In The Air", and "She Needed Me", and has been recently writing some steaming criticism for the New York Times Book Review. I generally share this sentiment. Make him feel at home, will ya?
Saturday, August 13, 2005 PARTING SHOTS: I want to thank Andrew for allowing me to flail around in this space all week.
A few readers wanted to know how the Savage/Sullivan Axis of Evil came together. I’m a lefty, he’s a righty—how could we possibly be pals? Here’s the secret: Andrew, as he proves on this website on an almost daily basis, is not doctrinaire. Neither am I. While we disagree about a whole host of things—I’m for a single-payer health care, Paul Krugman (love that man!), hate crimes legislation, Hillary Clinton—there’s plenty of things on which we do agree. Like Andrew, I’m a supporter of gay marriage, I think recreational drugs should be legalized, and I think that, competently managed, American military power can be a force for good in the world.
So am I fan of Andrew’s writing—his books, his blog—just because we’re friends, as some readers theorized? Ah, no. I don’t admire his work just because he’s my pal. The reverse, actually. I read Andrew for years—in TNR and elsewhere—and admired his writing and great, big brain long before I had the opportunity to meet him. The friendship grew out of my admiration for his writing, not the other way around.
To those who wanted to know when I would start a blog of my own: I’m flattered, but that’s not going to happen. I just don’t have the time. Guest blogging this week just about killed me; I don’t know how Andrew does it. But I do occasionally post in a group blog called SLOG written by the editorial staffers at my paper, The Stranger. Feel free to drop by. If you enjoyed my writing this week, please think about buying my upcoming book, The Commitment.
And finally, I’d like to thank You People. I had a blast writing for you this week, and enjoyed your emails—even when you were trying to tear my head off. I enjoyed those emails most of all, actually.
Friday, August 12, 2005 GET OUT NOW: Okay, I have a half an hour until my stint here as guest-blogger ends and I turn back into pumpkin. I wish I had more time to flesh this out, but I have to leave for the airport in a half an hour so I’m just going to have to blast through this. Forgive the stream of consciousness, the misspellings, and the rambling nature of this post.
Look, I was for this thing. I went out on limb and backed it. I wanted it to succeed. I still do.
But it’s time to declare victory and get the fuck out. Thanks to the incompetence of this administration, we can no longer avoid the “Q” word. It’s a quagmire. Period. Listening to Marketplace while I made dinner tonight, I learned that attacks on military convoys have gone up—doubled or tripled, I didn’t have a pen—in the last 12 months. How’d that happen? How many billions spent and how many Americans and Iraqis dead and yet things just keep going from bad to worse.
It seems that the more corners we’re told we’ve turned, the more walls we run into. And it just keeps coming back to manpower—“just enough troops to lose,” as Andrew says. There were never enough troops on the ground, and since this President never met a fuck-up that he wouldn’t pin a Medal of Freedom on, the same fuck-ups who mismanaged this thing from the start are still grinning at us on TV.
Does anyone in the White House know what the fuck they’re doing? One day it’s the war on terror, the next day it’s got a new name, then it’s back to the war on terror. We’re going to set a date to start reducing troop levels—no, wait, we’re not. Killing Saddam’s sons will change things for the better, no wait. Capturing Saddam will take the wind out of the sails of the insurgency. Now that everyone in Iraq has a purple finger, the insurgents are going to slink away. We clear a town of insurgents, but we don’t have the manpower to hold it, so we pull the troops out and—surprise—the insurgents take the town back. “Dead enders,” “last throes,” “losing stream.”
On and on it goes, and the news doesn’t change, or get any better. If it needs a new name perhaps we should call it the Groundhog’s Day War. Does anyone believe that the Iraqi Constitution—coming on Monday—is going to change a damn thing?
George Bush is good at one thing and one thing only: winning elections and coasting along. Forget the maybe/maybe not criminal outing of a CIA agent—the prosecution of this war is this administration's signature crime. My friends who admonish me for not seeing this coming the run-up to the war are right, it pains me to admit. I have no longer have any faith—none whatever—in Bush, Rummy, Condi, Dick, or the rest of the jackasses running this show. And like all liberals who supported this thing, I'm angier about George Bush's handling of this war than any liberal who opposed it. Liberal hawks wanted to win this more desperately than anyone else. But it’s time to bring down the curtain—why? Not because war I hate Bush so much that I want to see my country lose this war—I love my country—and not because I don’t care about the Iraqi people. I’m one of those liberals who backed the war for humanitarian reasons.
No, we should get out because, with the Bushies running the show for the next three years, we’re simply not going to win. It’s just go to drag on and on. This war, as I see it now, is either going to be nasty, brutal and short or nasty, brutal and long. I prefer nastry, brutal and short, if only because it will mean fewer Americans will die. And fewer Iraqis too, I suspect.
To paraphrase a war hero: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for an incompetent ?
—posted by Dan. - 11:45:00 PM ALL APOLOGIES: I'm sorry I haven't been able to post any additional comments today. There's a lot more I wanted to say about Iraq—like where I'm at now, not three years ago. And there's so much else going on that I wanted to write about. I wanted to write up Iran and the whole "hanging homos" thing. I'm curious to know if anyone is going to ask Bush—or Dobson or Falwell or Roberts or Santorum—what they think about Iran executing gay men. I wanted to write about childhood obesity, and share my observations about the CRAP 99% of parents seem content to feed their kids.
But I've been swamped at work today.
I'm almost reluctant to mention what I spent the afternoon doing, but full disclosure: The Stranger is having an amateur porn contest and I've been sitting in a conference room watching the submissions. Sound like fun? It's not. I'm not a big fan of professional porn, much less amateur porn. There are places where the sun isn’t meant to shine. Here’s an interesting tidbit… we got 43 submissions, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s our first year. (We modeled our event on an amateur porn contest held every year in Boston, and they’ve been at it for six years and get roughly 25 submissions per year. So we’re feeling pretty good about the number of tapes we got it.) Of those, about 35 are from straight couples (and triples and quads). The rest? From lesbians.
None—not one—from gay men. Does that strike anyone else as… odd? Aren’t gay men supposed to be the shameless sexual adventurers? Not gay men in Seattle, it would appear.
—posted by Dan.
ALL APOLOGIES: But it's six here, and I've got to get home and have dinner with my boyfriend and kid. We like to eat as a family, you see. I'm flying to Chicago later tonight—on a midfuckingnight redeye—but if I can slip away after dinner and get to a cafe with WiFi before I have to head to the airport I'll blast out a few last posts. In the meantime, here's one last letter from a reader...
—posted by Dan.
JUST ONE MORE LETTER:
Dan: As a fellow pinko-commie-liberal (though you still have me beat on the Jerry-Fallwell-hate-o-meter since I'm not a homo-pinko-commie-liberal), I am thrilled to see that at least one of my fellow travelers understands the history of the Middle East and the West's duties therein. And I am pleased to agree with you that war is sometimes the answer- you do have to break a few eggs to make an omlette. Sometimes terrorism can even be the answer- it certainly brought an end to a millennium of injustice and genocide for the Irish. And the line you cited from Bob Kerrey (how did we end up with John Kerry again?) is pure gold. However, I feel a bit let down that you missed several key points that forced me to oppose the war.
1) Bush is an idiot and some problems are like your plumbing. It's better to let them stay broken until you find a skilled plumber, than to try to fix it yourself and make it even more broken. You can't trust this man to correctly make soup from a can, much less fix the most broken region on the planet.
2) You said it yourself: Iraq is one of "these pseudo-states could only be ruled by brute force." If a 3-way partition was the plan, I would have probably supported the war. But as early as October 2002 both Bush and Blair soundly rejected any partition and promised a democratic Iraq within its present, wholly fictitious borders. As I told anyone who would listen at the time, that was the moment, 6 months before the first shot was fired, when we lost the war. Iraq, much like Yugoslavia, is a figment of Winston Churchill's imagination (he was the point man in drawing the borders of both nations), and both could only be ruled by a strongman with an Iron Fist.
3) Why Iraq? There are lots of countries in the region (Iran and Saudi Arabia come to mind) that are much more important, more homogenous, more dangerous, and which would create far fewer problems regionally. Specifically here I am referring to the enormous windfall increase in power and prestige both internally and regionally that the hard-line clerics in Iran have reaped through this invasion and overthrow of their neighbor and greatest rival. Oh, and by the time the US Military has extricated itself from Iraq and regrouped enough to do this sort of thing again, Iran will be nuclear (or, as the Boob-In-Chief would say, nucular). Thus, our mutually-agreed upon plan for an Extreme Makeover- Mid-Eastern Edition will be dead In-Utero.
4) Finally, there is a strategy for Western occupation of the Muslim world that would have been far less bloody- instead of turning Iraq into a third-world, crap-hole, anarchic, nominal Democracy, why not look to the Muslim world's large, flourishing Democracies to be our forward guard in this war? Particularly, let's look at Turkey- how can we tell the people of the Middle East to go Western when the already-Western Turkey can't get into the EU, is languishing in economic turmoil, and there seems to be no help in sight from the West? How about we give them some incentive to change here!—Greg M., Dallas, Texas
—posted by Dan. - 4:52:00 PM FROM THE INBOX: The mail is pouring in…
I really, really try to understand how my friends could support George's invasion of Iraq. Afghanistan, I understand and supported. I just wish we would have finished the job before invading a country that was not involved with 9/11. The idea that because of 19 guys with box cutters hijacked some airliners and rammed them into buildings killing 3,000 or so people does not give the USA the right to be stupid. Invading, occupying and imposing our brand of capitalism on a whole region just because we are afraid of guys with boxcutters does not make any sense to me. Are we wimps? Are we not smart and strong enough to deal with fascist Muslims without causing the deaths of tens of thousands and spending $300,000,000,00 and making a mess of the region? Other costs are not easily measured, like our countries esteem, influence, etc. I am an American living in Europe with my German boyfriend, soon to be husband. The low point of me being American was sitting at LHR waiting for a flight, everyone around me reading newspapers plastered with full page color pictures of Abu Ghraib. To quote W, you are either with us or against us. Your support of the war is going to cost us 4 more years of W, no chance in hell of federal civil unions, no same sex immigration, dirtier air and water, no chance of basic useful healthcare for everyone, and on and on. Bush used this war to divide our country. I feel sorry for you regarding the mistake of supporting W's invasion. Larry R., London
As a Seattlelite I have read may of your columns over the years, and since I read Andrew it was fun to see you step in. Your arguments in favor of going into Iraq are full of lefty justifications, but very short on pragmatic reality. Doing what you propose requires a LOT of troops, and a LOT of political commitment. More than we have of either. So it sounds neat, just like doing a crash program to reduce greenhouse emissions sounds neat, but it is not real world-thinking. It ain't gonna happen. Also, it is utopian. Why should we think we could reform entire societies to our liking? That just sounds fantastically unlikely. There is, in fact, no precedent for such a project (no, Japan & Germany are not precedents, they had to lose catastrophic wars they instigated to get the necessary conditions on the ground). How do we deal with Al Qaida & their ilk? Not with your grand plans, but in smaller, less dramatic steps: 1. Overturn state sponsors of terrorism. This means you, Taliban. No Islamo-fascist client states propped up by terrorists. 2. Concentrate hard on containing fissile material. That means deal with N. Korea before they break the UN locks (whoops, too late), pay lots of $ to former USSR states & scientists, etc. Yes, germs and chemicals are bad, but nuclear is the real threat. Fissile material requires a state to produce. It is too difficult for a terrorist group to make. They can only buy or steal it. 3. Reduce dependence on oil. This means CAFE, windmills, nuclear, gas taxes, mass transit. Side benefit: lower greenhouse emissions. 4. Don't base US troops in Muslim dictatorships. Turkey or other reasonable governments are OK. (I know the only other decent Muslim governments are Bangladesh, Jordan, & Malaysia. Tough.) Infidels colluding with corrupt and cruel dictatorships to base Christian troops in the Mid-east just throws fuel on the fire. 5. Collaborate with our erstwhile pals in Europe and elsewhere to track and monitor terrorists. A lot of sustained police work. 6. Be allies with Israel, but don't reflexively take their side over the Palestinians. The Palestinians are really getting the shaft, and we can't forget that even though they choose rotten leaders and support terrorism. We have to be seen as at least slightly independent of Israel. 7. Preach tolerance, and live that way at home. This means you, Dobson. 8. Don't torture people, especially using tactics designed to offend Islam. Duh. I know this is less satisfying in the short run, but it is sustainable and can work. A good President (Gore) following 9/11 would have done a lot of this. He would not have listened to you, by the way. Tom W.
It is also overstating the case that the West made the Middle East what it is today. The winning European Powers of World War I drew those lines with the collusion of those Arabs in power at the time. That they were trying to stack the deck in their favor doesn’t change the fact that they had plenty of help. The point is, time always changes the playing field, and France was once our ally, now they are our adversary. Others who were our enemies are now our allies. We have to make our foreign policy decisions based on what we think is in the long-term favor of America. Not an easy task. President Bush has done a tremendous job in the War on Terrorism; despite the opposition internally and externally. You were right to support the war then and would be in the right to support it now. Darell
Let me see if I have this right. Immediately after the worst attack on our soil, rather than allow the emotions surrounding such an event to unfold you immediately rushed to judgment about “the west” having to invade the Middle East. And this is because the British did plan borders well enough. 100 years ago. And it was those darned leftist liberals, who by and large supported the invasion of Afghanistan (you know, where the terrorists were set up), that just couldn’t understand why Iraq had to be invaded. Because the US has a responsibility to fix the world’s problems. Through violent warfare. And it shouldn’t matter that the justifications for this war have been changed more than my underwear. We should be okay with being lied to. But now you don’t support the war because the current regime is screwing it up. Not that the left was saying this all along or anything – no they were to be ignored because they just don’t have a grasp on reality. But even though we (and indeed, every other imperialist invasion throughout recorded history) have failed in Iraq, we better get behind the idea of bombing the hell out of the Middle East at some point in the future and setting up democracies because, again, the British didn’t plan those damned borders well enough 100 years ago. I suggest that you keep to sex advice columns. Michael M.
Yes, the US has had a range of alliances with nasty ME dictators. That does not make us responsible for what they have done. Alliances are often a matter of choosing among a set of bad options. The US chose to ally with the USSR in World War II. That does not make us responsible for all bad that the USSR did. In short, I don’t see a compelling moral obligation for the US to remake the Middle East. It might (or might not) be a praiseworthy thing to do, but I suspect in practice that it will not be. It is just too complicated and costly a thing for a single state to undertake, even for the sole superpower. The US public is quickly losing interest in and commitment toward the enterprise, which surprises me not at all. Wars of attrition are not the strong suit of democracies.—Matt K.
—posted by Dan. - 4:48:00 PM WHO'S THAT STANDING TO ANN COULTER’S RIGHT? Why it’s me, ranting in The Stranger, a little more than two years ago. Money quote:
As a lifelong lefty of the commie- pinko-faggot variety, I was shocked to wake up one day and find myself just slightly to the left of far-far-right raving psycho superstar Ann Coulter. In a column she wrote for National Review Online two days after the September 11 attacks, Coulter suggested that the United States "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity."
Someone at work handed me a copy of Coulter's infamous 9/11 column after listening to me rant about the attacks and what our response should be. Sitting in front of the television, watching the remains of the World Trade Center burn, I had been telling my fellow lefties that we no longer had a choice: We would have to invade the Middle East, depose absolutely everybody--the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Saudi royals in Saudi Arabia--and start all over again. My position was rooted, I felt, in a lefty analysis of September 11: Our support for tyrants, dictators, and fascist monarchs created the anger and irrationality that led to the attacks. As Bob Kerrey wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "[I]t has been a terrible and tragic mistake for the U.S. to be in favor of freedom every place on earth except in Arab nations."
Unlike Coulter, though, I wasn't in favor of converting "them" to Christianity; replacing one idiotic fairy tale with another doesn't seem like a net gain to me. But I was--and still am--in favor of the West remaking the Middle East--AKA invading their countries and deposing their leaders. Like Ann Coulter, I felt that what we witnessed on September 11 wasn't just about Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and Afghanistan. Islamo-fascism is a regional problem, like European fascism--and the Middle East would have to be remade just as Europe was remade.
What right does the West have to remake the Middle East? Well, the West made the region the mess it is today. At the end of World War I, the British drew lines in the sand around fictions they called "states," lumping together different--and often warring--ethnic, tribal, and religious groups. We know now that these pseudo-states could only be ruled by brute force and that they would ultimately become breeding grounds for a murderous strain of religious fanaticism. (When we redraw the lines--and we will--hopefully this time we'll have the wisdom to draw them around things that actually exist, like Kurdistan.) After creating these pseudo-states, the West made a bad situation worse by creating and arming many of the tyrants who ruled over them. As Christopher Hitchens wrote in the Nation, the fact that we helped tyrants achieve power in the Middle East should not prevent us from removing them from power; instead our history in the region doubles or triples our responsibility to remove them from power. "The sponsorship of the Taliban," Hitchens wrote, "could be redeemed by the demolition of its regime and the liberation of its victims."
The same argument Hitchens applied to the Taliban in Afghanistan applies to Saddam Hussein in Iraq--and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and Saudi royals in Saudi Arabia. That Iraq wasn't in bed with al Qaeda--the supposed trump card of the antiwar protesters--is beside the point. We should remove Saddam from power because we owe it to the people of Iraq, and because we have to start remaking the Middle East somewhere. Why not Iraq? Normandy wasn't Berlin, but that's where we started rolling back the Nazis.
But what right do we have to impose our values on them? About as much right as we had to impose "our" values on them Germans. There's also the small matter of our values being superior--can we lefties get behind that concept? While we often fall short in practice, in theory, the equality of the sexes, religious freedom, the separation of church and state, tolerance, and secularism are superior to religious fascism as practiced in Saudi Arabia and secular fascism as practiced in Iraq. And then there's the small matter of the Islamo-fascists' stated desire to impose their values on us. In November of last year, Osama bin Laden sent a letter to the American people. In case you missed it, here's the gist: "The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.... We call you to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest."
Osama calls on us to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law (stoning adulterers, decapitating homos, etc.), cease separating "religion from policies," and end our "support [for] the liberation of women." If we don't get with the Islamo-fascist program, Osama says we should "expect [him] in New York and Washington."
· · ·
Osama's letter reminded me why I supported the war to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and why I support the coming war on Iraq. Or supported the coming war on Iraq. I'm officially against the war now--or against it for now, I should say--which may or may not please the peaceniks who've bothered to read this far.
Did the people in the streets convince me? No. Yes. Sorta. I believe in the power of people taking to the streets. I lived in West Berlin when demonstrations brought down the East German government; I was in Prague when the demonstrations toppled Czechoslovakia's communist rulers. George W. Bush's dismissal of massive demonstrations all over the world--calling them "focus groups"--only served to prove something we already knew: The man is an idiot.
And so are a lot of the protesters. "Violence never solved anything." Really? Violence solved the Holocaust. "Bombs just make more terrorists." Really? We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we dropped on Europe during World War II. Where are all the Vietnamese terrorists? "Innocent people will die." True enough--but innocent people are dying right now in Iraq. The left's selective empathy is shocking. My lefty pals feel the pain of Iraqi civilians--but only the pain that the U.S. inflicts or might inflict. You don't hear much from the left about the pain that Saddam Hussein inflicts. "War kills the innocent." No, the status quo in the Middle East kills the innocent--and as we've seen in Manhattan and Bali, not just the innocent in the Middle East. War at times is the only hope for an oppressed people--as each Iraqi refugee quickly informs the first Western reporter he can find.
But, whatever, I'm against the war on Iraq now. Why? Because George W. Bush blew it. George W. Bush failed to make the case. George W. Bush wasn't able to convince NATO--NATO!--or the United Nations of the necessity of this necessary war. Now the Bush administration seems set on a course that may destroy NATO and the UN. I don't know about the Bushies, but I think a world without NATO and the UN will be more dangerous in the long run than a world without Saddam Hussein will be in the short run. So I'm against the war. Hey, when's the next peace march?
· · ·
The Middle East is a mess. The West made it a mess. The West is going to have to clean it up. The longer we wait, the greater the odds that New York or London or Paris will disappear under a mushroom cloud. And more attacks will come. The quote at the beginning of this essay ("These are the enemies of God. They will burn in hell") is from a videotape made by a pair of Islamo-fascists casing a public square in advance of a planned terrorist attack. The square was in Strasbourg, a lovely town in France, of all places. The enemies of God were the men, women, and children shopping, eating, and playing in the square. Their crimes? Being Westerners, Christians, French. And to Islamo-fascists, those are crimes.
The Islamo-fascists will succeed where the Bush administration has failed. Colin Powell couldn't bring France, Germany, and Russia to their senses, but the next wave of deadly terrorist attacks no doubt will. So we'll just have to wait until after New York or Paris or Seattle or Strasbourg is wiped off the map to do what must be done. Make no mistake, my fellow lefties: We, the West, will ultimately invade, occupy, and remake the Middle East. Unfortunately for future innocent victims of terrorist attacks, the United States can't do it alone, which means we can't do it now.
Actually, that’s the whole essay.
—posted by Dan.
BAWK, BAWK Did I say the other day that I was the only sex advice columnist who supported the invasion of Iraq? I guess I misspoke—it seems I lost my nerve, chickening out at the last minute in early March, 2003. But in April of 2003 I chickened back in again when it looked like the war was coming to an end. Remember the happy days when it looked like this war would, or could, ever end? By December of 2003, in The Stranger's annual "Regrets" issue, I was basically all over the damn place.
After December of 2003, I decided it might be wise to finally take the advice that Neal Pollack had given me in an essay he wrote for The Stranger before the war began:
Meanwhile, in turncoat land, Dan Savage, generally liberal sex-advice columnist and medium-market weekly newspaper editor, writes pieces in favor of the war so persuasive that Rush Limbaugh reads them on the air. Hooray, Dan! You support the president! Now shut up and go test-drive that three-pronged dildo for your next column. I wouldn't read a sex-advice column by, say, E. J. Dionne, and I don't want to read a political article by you.... Shut up!
That's just what I did. My career as a war pundit was nasty, brutal and short.
—posted by Dan.
This was the closest thing I could find to a three-pronged dildo. Tests showed that it kinda hurts.
—posted by Dan.
SO, HOW’S IT GOING? Like any liberal who supported the invasion of Iraq, I'm frequently asked if I'm pleased with myself now. I get the question all the time—I mean, I edit a big lefty paper in a big lefty city, for crying out loud. And, hey, folks have a right to ask. What irks me, though, is that the folks who ask me if I'm pleased with the state of things in Iraq employ this... tone. It's a tone that implies that I not only thought the invasion might be a good idea, but that I'm also personally responsible for the conduct of the war, as if I were popping in at the White House and the ranch Crawford once in a week and Rummy and Condi and Dick—and George too, let's not forget about the Mountain-Biker-in-Chief—were hanging on my every word. As we all know now, the folks in this administration doesn't listen to members of their own party about the conduct of the war—to say nothing of the brass at the Pentagon or the troops or the mothers of dead soldiers. It's not like the sex advice columnist community is getting much of a hearing.
—posted by Dan.
CINDY SHEEHAN: Oh, regarding Cindy Sheehan...
I’m all for what she's trying to do. Yes, she appears to be—say it ain't so!—slightly partisan. But since when does being slightly partisan disqualify someone from having an opinion? Rightwing bloggers would have us believe that, unless you’re a Republican (and an R who supports the war, no questions asked), you have no right to speak out about the war. Cindy Sheehan, partisan or not, is free to form opinions about this war—a war that she being fought by"her kind of people"—and guess what else? She’s an American. She can have an opinion about the war, and she can 1. express her opinion freely, and 2. "peaceably to assemble [and] petition the government for a redress of grievances." The President is on vacation for five weeks. The First Amendment is not.
—posted by Dan.
BUT WHERE ARE YOU ON IRAQ NOW, DAN? I think I hear my mother calling me.
Seriously, I have to go do some work at The Stranger—you know, the kind of writing that, unlike blogging, actually comes with a paycheck attached to it. I will post more on Iraq later.
—posted by Dan. - 11:47:00 AM MY LAST DAY: And, yes, I intend to finally—finally—get my thoughts about Iraq down in blue-and-white. Even if I hadn’t promised to yack Iraq before my guest-blogger stint was up (how much more fun it is to talk about wayward priests and binki trees!), the sight of Bush, Rumsfeld and Rice grinning like idjits without a care in the world on the cover of this morning’s NYT would have provoked me into saying something.
—posted by Dan.
BUT FIRST… let’s tie up a few loose ends.
Danish parents name/call their kids "Skat"?
Phonetically speaking, “skat” sounds the same as a word we use to describe the singing of gibberish and, uh, something that it’s way too early in the morning to even contemplate, in Danish “skat” means “sweetie,” “darling,” or “honey.” This means, of course, that all Danish mother’s call their kids “skat.”
I'm sure the liberals wouldn't like us littering a park with a bunch of binkies. Those kids having trouble getting the binky monkey off their backs can send theirs to Binky Land. There's a story about some new baby needing a pacifier. You put the binkies in the mail and send them to Binky Land.
I much prefer the Danish approach. While popping a binky in the mail may be easier for parents, there’s a communitarian aspect to the Denmark’s binky trees that we Americas should emulate. There’s a reason we don’t do baptisms by on the web, or get married in secret, or perform graduation ceremonies by mail. We perform these things in public. “This is very important,” the public nature of a baptism or a graduation implies. While giving up a binky isn’t the accomplishment that, say, getting that Ph.D. is, it’s still a major step for a toddler, and deserves an honored place in a public setting.
Here on the University of Minnesota campus there's a tree festooned with old shoes. There's been rumors that undergrads who lose their virginity head over to the Washington Avenue Bridge and toss their sneakers onto the Shoe Tree, I guess for posterity. Anyway, I've included the link to a Minnesota Daily article about the Shoe Tree from 2003. Fact is, no one knows the true origins, but Nerve.com went with the sex angle. (Hmm, I wonder why?) Maybe they should have a tree that dispenses condoms and lubes. You know, for those who decided lose their virginity regularly.
Thursday, August 11, 2005 BOOKS SORTED: Okay, I'm done sorting my longtime personal secretary's books and it’s back to the blogosphere with me. Seriously, I don’t know how Andrew does this everyday. Just keeping up with the email is killing me—don’t get me wrong, You People. I’m enjoying the hell out of this. I’m even enjoying the hate mail—and, I’m sorry haters, but you’ll have to work a bit harder if you want me to lock myself in the bathroom and cry. I get hate mail every day at Savage Love, my syndicated sex advice column, that puts the the pathetic mewlings of Michelle “I Hear Dead People” Malkin’s fans to shame.
—posted by Dan.
I’M INCOMPETENT: Well, it’s official. I’m a big, dumb dope. I got tons of responses to my query about the meaning of the Danish word/term SLUTSPURT, which my longtime personal secretary can be seen standing next to in a photo posted below. The photo was taken in Copenhagen, where we recently spent a few days. A lot of helpful, informed people wrote in to share the definition with me—a lot of different definitions. Apparently SLUTSPURT means different things to different people.
Anyhow, I copied the many definitions of SLUTSPURT that came in, pasted them into a document, deleted the original emails, and then somehow managed to the delete the document too. Whoops. I have just one email left:
I don't know the literal translation for "SLUTSPURT", but in practice it means "BIG SALE!" My other favorite, when I lived in Koebenhavn, was "BADFART", or "BOAT EXCURSION."—Ryan
Thanks for sharing, Ryan, but some of the other definitions were a bit more fun. According to other readers, SLUTSPURT literally means, if I can remember correctly, “big finish,” “final push,” and “end explosion.” In Denmark you only hear the word in stores during the final days of a sale, whereas in America you sometimes here it in, er, slightly more salacious circumstances—and there’s usually a comma after “slut,” an exclamation point after “spurt,” and it sounds rather like an order.
—posted by Dan.
THAT’S NO MULLET: My longtime personal secretary insisted on a clarification: sometimes he sorts my books. We’re versatile. Oh, and he doesn’t have a mullet! He’s wearing a hat and has long hair, and the pixilation makes it look rather mullet-esque, it’s true, but it’s an optical illusion.
—posted by Dan.
I’M INCOMPETENT II: Yesterday I posted a picture of a tree full of pacifiers that my LPS and I stumbled across in Copenhagen. We couldn’t figure out what was up, and none of the Danes we asked had any idea. Since Andrew is always going on about how brainy and resourceful You People are, I tossed the photo on the website and asked for your help.
Well, it turns out it’s not a memorial to Denmark’s murdered children, my LPS’ first guess, nor is it, as many of You People speculated, a memorial to Denmark’s aborted children. And it’s not, as Kurt from Trevose, PA, speculated, a drug culture thing. (“I understand that people into Ecstasy use pacifiers when they're rolling to alleviate the dry mouth,” Kurt wrote. “Perhaps there was a rave in Denmark and what you saw was its aftermath.”) The answer is basically what I suspected—and the answer was literally at my fingertips. As one reader pointed out…
PACIFIER + TREE + DENMARK x GOOGLE = ANSWER!
There’s a nice run-down on Danish “suttetræ,” or pacifier-trees, here. A snip:
Frederiksberg Garden is, like all parks, a favored place for pushing strollers. It is thick with infants and toddlers at any time of year. At some point, some Danish mother must have said to her child, "Skat, you're old enough to stop using your pacifier now, aren't you? Yes, you're all grown up, now! But I don't want you to give it to me. I want you to give it to that tree, and I want you to promise the tree that you'll never use a pacifier again because now you're a big grown up!" Maybe that's not how it started. In any case, that's what happens now, according to the women I spoke to. The babies of Frederiksberg are weaned off their pacifiers by giving them to the tree and promising the tree never to use them again.
Another reader sent me this very sweet letter…
Obviously, you have by now figured out that your longtime personal secretary is wrong about the binki tree in Frederiksberg. The best thing about the existence of this binki tree is that it is—in typical Danish fashion—explained very earnestly in a brochure put out by the government.
In the brochure, the county explains all the best ways for people to help their children kick the nasty binki habit, explaining that a new stuffed animal, emotional support from parents and siblings, or a visit to the binki tree might all be helpful.
Must not be anything terribly rotten in a county where the government can put out brochures about getting rid of pacifiers! I remember hearing about binkie trees growing up in Denmark, but I managed to get rid of mine without visiting the local tree. (Oh, and the sign in the window, it literally means final (slut) sprint (spurt). It would ususally refer to the final round of price markdowns in a big sale.)—Mogens
So how come none of the adult Danes I spoke with—hip young employees at our hotel, young and young-ish gay guys we met at the bars—knew anything about the pacifier trees?
I don't really know how the tradition evolved, but I think it happened within the last 10-15 years. It certainly didn't exist when I was a kid…. I live in the second-largest city, Aarhus, and we have a few here too. Should you visit this corner of the world one day, wanting to witness this bizarre phenomenon, head for "Dyrehaven" in the forests of Moesgaard.—Mikkel
Now everything is illuminated—except why it didn’t occur to ME to go to Google and type in “pacifier” and and “tree” and “Denmark.” Like I said on the first day, I am a Luddite through and through. When something stumps me, my first response is not to jump on Google, but to start asking around.
Still, while I may have exposed myself to be a non-tech-savvy geek, without my idiocy and incompetence I wouldn’t have been treated to so many letters from around the world about Denmark’s suttetræ phenomenon.
My kid is long past the pacifier stage, but I think the pacifier tree tradition is a wonderful idea and should be adopted by American parents. First, I think it would really help get kids to let go of their pacifiers—if the tree communicates anything to little kids it’s that TONS of other kids have already given up their pacifiers. They’re big kids now, don’t you want to be a big kid too? Kids seem to have an instinctive connection with/love for trees—a throwback to the origin of our species, perhaps?—so building this charming ritual around a sprawling, welcoming tree is a stroke of genius. Central Park in Chicago needs a binki tree, Lincoln Park in Chicago needs a binki tree, Volunteer Park in Seattle needs a binki tree. American parents, let’s get this sweet tradition of the ground here.
—posted by Dan. - 11:42:00 PM WHAT WAS ANDREW THINKING? From the inbox…
Andrew: You made a big mistake is letting that fool Dan [Savage] use your web site for his personal vendettas. His vituperative writing and obviously one-sided view of everything is just showing what a left wing crazy he is really is and you’re a fool for giving him the web site. You disappoint with your lack of judgment in this matter. —Sol K.
I must say how great guest blogger Dan Savage is. He is insightful, he makes me laugh out loud, and the self-conscious mutterings, while diminishing, as he gets more comfortable, are funny and human. Thanks for thinking of him. —Anita S.
—posted by Dan - 6:03:00 PM INDECENT EXPOSURE: Msgr. Eugene Clark, the 79 year-old rector at St. Patrick's Cathedral accused of having an adulterous affair with his "longtime personal secretary," a married woman, stepped down today. Newsday reports that the Roman Catholic priest once blamed the Catholic sex-abuse scandal on "the campaign of liberal America against celibacy." Now we know the monsignor himself was a deep-cover, highly-placed operative in the War On Celibacy. Indeed, if the aggrieved husband is right, Msrg. Clark fired a few shots in this war himself.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as my Caholic mom likes to say. It's a sad day for practicing Catholics, St. Pat's, and, of course, for that every-dwindling band Catholic priests who can keep appearances—and their black trousers—up. Still, we did get two great new euphemisms out of this scandal: I’m going to keep referring to my boyfriend as my “longtime personal secretary,” if only to keep the number of posts on this blog that touch on homosexuality to a minimum. That's one.
The other? The cuckolded husband of Msgr. Clark claims that his wife told him she was “sorting books,” when she was, he alleges (and he has video), actually holed up in a hotel room with the Msgr. Eugene “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” Clark. I intend to spend some time “sorting books” with my “longtime personal secretary” this evening.
Right after I shower with my son, of course.
—posted by Dan. - 4:23:00 PM ANOTHER PIC FROM DENMARK: I'm going to post what I’ve learned from You People about Copenhagen's binki (binkie?) tree a little later today, but first I wanted to post this photo. (I just love postin’ photos!) It’s a shop window in Denmark…
Anyone know what SLUTSPURT means? I expect it doesn’t mean the same thing in Danish that it does in English. Oh, and that guy on the right? That’s my longtime personal secretary. I pixilated his face, at his request, since, thanks to a certain someone in New York City, being called a “longtime personal secretary” today is like being called a “White House intern” in 1998.
—posted by Dan. - 4:22:00 PM AT LEAST THE CHILD HAS A FATHER AND A MOTHER : But does his father shower with him? From today’s Seattle Times.
—posted by Dan.
FROM THE INBOX:Readers weigh in…
The idea that Republicans in power have ever favored personal freedoms is a myth. (I say "in power" because libertarians favor personal freedoms, and some of them are Republicans, but none holds, or to my knowledge ever has held, power.) Republicans have always opposed gay rights, pornography, and civil liberties in general; they favor freedom only for big business. There's an old joke that liberals want to regulate big business but not our sex lives, while conservatives want to regulate our sex lives but not big business. In other words, each wants to regulate the other.
RE: “I predict that soon we’re going to have—and need—a straight rights movement in this country." Funny, I think what we need is just a plain rights movement. I thought gay rights were straight rights and vice versa--how can they be separated? Must we be stuck between those on the insufferable left who think there are inalienable rights to an equality of result and to never ever ever be offended and those on the insufferable right who have no concept of the Ninth Amendment which last I checked says just because a right isn't in the constitution doesn't mean it isn't a basic human right? I think the presumption of Liberty is in trouble, though it probably always has been and has always required active defenders. (And having said that, why are the organized Libertarians so insane?)
Remember when Reagan appointed Everett Koop as surgeon general? How it was going to be the end of science in medicine as we knew it? Well, Koop got in a lot of trouble with the Wingnuts by (among other things) refusing to endorse a "study" that "proved" that women who had abortions had a higher instance of breast cancer, and in fact he very publicly endorsed another, real study that showed no correlation could be observed.
RE: “The GOP's commitment to personal freedom, fiscal sanity, well-managed wars, and family values,” When has the modern Republican Party ever actually tried to live up to those commitments? They have been very good at using them as talking points in an attack on liberalism, but whenever they actually gain power, these concepts are tossed out the window. Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II and a series of Republican-controlled Congresses…I don’t recall any of them being true champions of any of the “commitments” you list.
When I saw your post on beer, I thought it read “bears.” As in you had three bears last night. I got very confused when I read that your brother pours three over his breakfast cereal, but Woof!
—posted by Dan. - 3:09:00 PM BATS AND BALLS: James Dobson cites some peculiar advice for parents who don’t want their little boys to grow up to be gay cowboys. The gem below, currently up on Dobson’s website, is from quack anti-gay Dr. Joseph Nicolosi:
Meanwhile, the boy's father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son's maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.
I don’t know whether to file this ridiculous/tragic or tragic/ridiculous. And it’s wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin. I have two older brothers, Bill and Ed. We had the same father, also Bill, and he played the same games with us. I don’t recall ever showering with my dad, but I’m pretty sure Dad didn’t drag my brothers into the shower and waggle his penis in their faces either. So it seems unlikely that my want of face-time with dad’s cock made me gay. And somehow—once again, we had the same Dad—my brothers managed to grow up straight. I have a son, and I don’t shower with him, and I can’t imagine that the Docs Dobson and Nicolosi want me to. My boyfriend, however, does occasionally shower with our son; he takes him swimming at the Y, and you have to shower before you get into the pool. But I kind of doubt that seeing my boyfriend’s penis in the YMCA showers made our son straight. (I’ve been examining my boyfriend’s penis for more than 10 years now—in the shower and other locations—and it hasn’t made me straight.) And I’m convinced our son is straight.
Why? Because the first time he picked up a football he threw a perfect spiral.
—posted by Dan. - 2:19:00 PM SANTORUM AT THE BAT...:...is preferable to santorum on the bat.
Writing about Rick Santorum without mentioning my past association with Senator isn’t easy. But a promise is a promise, and I swore to Andrew that I would keep things relatively clean during my stint here on AndrewSullivan.com. But, like, you know, what’s to stop an enterprising reader who wanted to Google my name and Santorum? Nothing, of course, but it’s not a Google search for the faint of heart.
I can’t resist running this photo, though.
That’s Senator Rick Santorum. At the bat. A inch or two closer and the photographer would have gotten the-substance-that-shall-not-be-named-in-this-space all over his lens.
—posted by Dan. - 1:21:00 PM SANTORUM VS. FREEDOM: Rick Santorum, perhaps my favorite Republican U.S. Senator, opened his fool mouth last Thursday on NPR. As Bush has moved his party away from its longtime commitment to fiscal sanity, balanced budgets, and black ink, Santorum (and the wing of the GOP he represents) has moved the GOP away from its historic position on personal freedom. Basically Santorum’s GOP is all for personal freedom—so long as you freely choose to refrain from smoking pot, pulling feeding tubes out of brain dead loves ones, and doing what you like in your own bedroom (or, in the case of Msrg. Clark, your own hotel room).
This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don't think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want.
Listening to Santorum, I found myself wondering what part of “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” he doesn't understand. That’s Amendement IV in the Ye Olde Bill of Rights. Call me ka-razy, but the right to shut the door to your bedroom and not have to worry about a sanctimonious, hypocritical, creepily fey U.S. Senator sneaking in and lifting back your blankets seems implicit.
And make no mistake, hetero readers: Santorum doesn’t just seek to stamp out the kind of relationship I enjoy with my longtime personal secretary. The Santorum wing of the GOP is targeting your privacy, your rights, and your pleasures, too. From porn (just as popular in red states as it is in blue) to divorce (more popular in red states than in blue) to masturbation (equally popular in red and blue states), the Santorums and Scalias and Bauers and Dobsons want to tell you how to live, who to love, and how exactly you should love ‘em. When Santorum made his famous “man on dog” comments he wasn’t just defending anti-gay sodomy laws, but anti-straight sodomy laws too. Santorum doesn’t just believe that the state should have the right to regulate gay sex out of existence, but two out of three most popular straight sex acts too. In his dissent in Lawrence, GOP and Bush/Santorum favorite Antonin Scalia didn't just bemoan the fact that the majority decision could lead to same-sex marriage rights, but that it would prevent the government from passing and/or enforcing laws against masturbation and pre-marital sex. Oh, the horror.
Whatever happened to the party that backed rugged individualism? Of personal freedom? Of autonomy? Remember Newt Gingrich’s stirring speech at the 1996 GOP convention in San Diego, in which he praised the way in which American freedom lead to the creation of beach volleyball? If that’s too painful, remember Dick Cheny saying freedom means freedom for everyone?
Personal freedom is like free speech: Some people are going to exercise their personal freedom and/or freedom of speech in ways that make you uncomfortable. So long as they’re not imposing themselves on you, they should be left alone. And, I’m sorry, Rick, but the haunting fear—or certain knowledge—that someone, somewhere, is enjoying himself in ways that you think are sinful does not qualify as an imposition.
—posted by Dan.
REAGAN REPUBLICANS: You still hear the term “Reagan Democrats” being tossed around. They’re still out there, I guess. (The fact that their wages haven't budged since Reagan conned them into voting for him hasn't brought them, or their kids, around.) But where are the Reagan Republicans, I wonder?
The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: "I’m from the government and I’m here to help."
I wasn’t a fan of Reagan when he was president—and that’s putting it mildly. I loathed Ronald Reagan. I voted for the very first time in 1984 for Walter Mondale, and I was stunned when Reagan not only won, but won by a freakin' landslide. (Full disclosure: Mondale; Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Kerry.) But Reagan managed to outlive my hostility, and when he died I felt same sense of sadness as most other Americans.
These days I’m positively nostalgic for Ronald Reagan. Yeah, yeah: He shrugged off apartheid, he ignored the AIDS epidemic, he saddled us with voodoo economics and Star Wars and all that horrible red White House china and he attempted to trade arms for hostages (and broke the law doing it), but at least he wouldn’t have sent government workers into our bedrooms to announce that they were there to “help” us.
—posted by Dan.
BREAKING THE 11THE COMMANDMENT: Those crazy kids at InTheAgora.com have declared today “Breaking the 11th.” It’s a reference to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” (Is the 11th Commandment still operative? Or is it permissible, as la Bush/Rove in South Carolina, to speak ill of a fellow Republican’s wife and child?) From InTheAgora.com:
With Republican control of the House, Senate, and Presidency, perhaps now more than ever in recent history, it is important for rank-and-file Republicans to loudly proclaim our dissatisfaction with the way our leadership have become heady with unchecked power. Too often these days, we are asked to support the Party as an end rather than a means. And also too often, the policies, positions, and rhetoric of our elected Republicans run contrary to the principles that lead us to identify with the Grand Old Party. And, unfortunately, too often Republicans are complacent or silent in the face of such betrayal.
Like the GOP's commitment to personal freedom, fiscal sanity, well-managed wars, and family values, Breaking the 11th doesn't quite live up to its hype. "Countless weblogs will be taking part in this event," InTheAgora.com claimed, "and you're encouraged to join in too." Can you count to three? That's how many other blogs appear to have signed up. The InTheAgora.com kids asked Andrew to sign up too, but with Andrew away and me guest blogging all week (once again: Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Kerry), I'm afraid AndrewSullivan.com will have to sit out the "Breaking the 11th" festivities. I've never recognized the 11th commandment, you see, so I can’t really break it. Despite the fact that my dad and some of my best friends are Republicans, I speak ill of Rs all the time. Constantly. But I'm happy to watch the “Breaking the 11th” fireworks from the sidelines.
—posted by Dan.
COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER?:
I’m not that inspired by the writing “Breaking the 11th” has generated so far. Joe Carter at TheEvangelicalOutpost.com has this to say about Rick Santorum:
Rick could have been a contender. He probably would have made a decent President. But he's made too many odd statements to be electable. He's said stuff that even makes me uncomfortable—and I'm generally in agreement with him on most issues. We needed someone with his principles but he let his loose tongue sink him. Too bad.
Yeah, it's Santorum’s tongue that's the problem. He has a habit of saying out loud what his wing of the GOP believes: the government should insert itself into your personal life and regulate the sexual conduct of consenting adults.
—posted by Dan.
STRAIGHT RIGHTS: A good example of how the GOP's war on personal freedom and sexual autonomy impacts straight people too, look at the GOP’s maneuvering on EC, or emergency contraception. Go read this, this, and, most appallingly, this. Remember: EC is not an abortifacient. It is birth control—a particularly effective form of birth control that Republicans like Mitt Romney would deny to rape victims.
I predict that soon we’re going to have—and need—a straight rights movement in this country.
Andrew's always bragging on the wisdom, reach, and resourcefulness of his readers, or “you people,” as he likes to calls you. I would like to tap your collective wisdom, if I might.
I took the picture above in Copenhagen last month. My boyf—er, wait. Let’s just call him my “longtime personal secretary.” I was walking down a path in Frederiksberg Park with my longtime personal secretary when we came upon a large tree. Hanging from its branches were hundreds, if not thousands, of pacifiers. There were also notes and pictures attached to some of the baby binkies. We were dumfounded. My longtime personal secretary theorized that it was some sort of memorial tree, each pacifier representing a Danish child who had been murdered.
After a moment’s consideration I rejected my longtime personal secretary’s theory. Thousands and thousands of murdered children? In tiny little Denmark? Unlikely.
I thought it might be some sort of tooth-fairy-esque affair, a way for parents to manipulate their children into giving up their pacifiers. You take a child to a public park, he hangs his binkie in the tree, and then the Binkie Fairy sneaks into his house in the middle of the night and leaves a gift under his pillow.
We asked the Danes working at our hotel, and they had no idea what we were talking about. So I’m turning to you people. Any Danes out there? Any ideas? Anyone know for sure? Murdered children? Ingenious way to manipulate children into giving up their binkies? WTF?
—posted by Dan. - 5:57:00 PM FROM THE INBOX: A reader writes...
Dan: You cited to the Post's quote from wounded soldier Terry Rogers. I have sympathy for Rogers, but I don't agree with his reasoning. He says that the U.S. could pull out of Iraq if we really wanted to do so. That's true. He also says that doing so would reduce the casualty rate of American soldiers. True again. But his conclusion -- that our continued presence in Iraq therefore is somehow driven by President Bush's "ego" and that U.S. soldiers are getting killed there "for no reason" -- certainly does not follow. To the contrary. The very fact that President Bush could reduce U.S. casualties simply by cutting and running in Iraq -- but has chosen not to -- suggests that he views our presence there as important, so important that he's willing to risk all of the criticism and political baggage that he now faces.—Chris W.
posted by Dan. - 5:54:00 PM OH NO SHE DIDN’T: Oh yes she did…
Casey is Cindy's late son, a Marine who died in Iraq.
Now you might normally think that a dead man's mother would know his mind better than some batshitcrazy columnist he never met. But you would be wrong. Everyone in our armed forces backs their Vacationer-in-Chief—except for that Paul Hackett dude, of course. Alive, wounded, or even dead, America’s heroic armed forces are 100% behind our Dear Leader! Just ask Michelle "I See Dead People" Malkin.
—posted by Dan
THIS JUST IN: Today’s Washington Post reports on a badly wounded soldier who refused to see George W. Bush during a recent presidential visit to Walter Reed:
"I don't want anything to do with [Bush]," [Terry Rogers]] explains. "My belief is that his ego is getting people killed and mutilated for no reason -- just his ego and his reputation. If we really wanted to, we could pull out of Iraq. Maybe not completely but enough that we wouldn't be losing people -- at least not at this rate. So I think he himself is responsible for quite a few American deaths.… Rodgers says he also declined to meet Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. This wounded soldier has lost faith in his leaders, and he no longer believes their repeated assurances of victory."
I have some serious ‘splaining to do yet on the whole I-thought-it-might-be-a-good-idea-to-invade-Iraq thing—as you all keep reminding me—and I promise to do just that before the week is out. But I wanted to put this up now. Maybe Michelle Malkin could visit Rogers at Walter Reed and tell him whether the leg he lost in Iraq would approve of such behavior?
—posted by Dan - 2:52:00 PM FROM THE INBOX: A reader writes...
Your thoughts on tolerance/intolerance are right on. No tolerant society should have to suffer intolerance to the extent that the latter is actively attempting to destroy that society, in the same way that a democracy should not have to put on the ballot a group that wants to extinguish democracy. Tolerance is not a euphemism for suicide.
By the way, I'm a straight, Republican, socially-liberal, pro-war, atheist, foreign-born Asian-American attorney in San Francisco. Oh yeah, and I'm married to a white, tree-hugging, flaming liberal, vegetarian, anti-war public interest attorney from Oklahoma. Just goes to show what a little tolerance can do.—Sung C.K.
—posted by Dan. - 1:49:00 PM DOES PETA KNOW? Is the insurgency losing stream? Is in its last throws? Or are there no more cars left in Iraq to blow up? Rumsfeld’s “dead enders”—they’re lingering longer at death’s door than Terri Schiavo did—are now rigging dogs with explosives.
—posted by Dan. - 1:28:00 PM WEST COASTING: I warned you on Monday that my life runs on West Coast Time. It's only 9:15-ish here, so as far as I'm concerned I'm at work bright and early. Unlike the Andrew of old, I can't stay up until 2 AM writing for a whole host of reasons (kid, responsibilities, VH1). So I'm sorry about the noonishness of my first posts today... but, hey, you were warned.
—posted by Dan.
ONLINE COFFEE COMPANIES: I'm coming to you live this AM from Fuel Coffee, a great new independent coffee place in my neighborhood in Seattle. Despite being Starbucks hometown, there's always a new coffee place opening in Seattle—places with character, individuality, and, as in the case of Fuel, real design sense. Like Victrola, where I was working yesterday, Fuel has a website. I find this kind of baffling. Websites for coffeeshops? Why? What's the point? Dunno. But if you're just dying to get a glimpse of the spot where I'm drinking tea RIGHT NOW (black, no sugar), check out Fuel's website.
—posted by Dan.
HEADLINE OF THE DAY: Is our children learning? Not in Kansas:
“Kansas Board Backs Limits on Evolution” —NYT
So that’s what’s the matter with Kansas. I have a policy proposal: Anyone who doesn't believe in evolution shouldn't enjoy the benefits of evolution. No eyes, no walking upright, no opposable thumbs. It's back to the primordial ooze for members of the Kansas Board of Education.
—posted by Dan.
MY SECRET SHAME: A confession: I had three beers last night. For most Irish Catholics this would not be a big deal. My brother Billy pours three beers over his cornflakes in the morning. But I am the freak of the family—not for THAT, that subject that I shall not touch on today. I’m the only lightweight in Savage family. Three beers on Tuesday night means a wicked hangover on Wednesday morning. Oh, and the bar I was drinking in? They have a website too.
—posted by Dan.
THE PERILS OF HETEROSEXUALITY: Whew! It looks like there’s at least one straight Catholic priest out there. From today’s NYT:
A Westchester county man claims… that the rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown has been having an affair with his wife, the rector’s longtime personal secretary…. The man, Philip DeFilippo, says that his wife, Laura DeFilippo, and the rector, Msgr. Eugene V. Clark, have taken many vacations together, spent many weekends at Monsignor Clark’s house on the South Fork of Long Island and exposed the couple’s teenage daughter to their romantic relationship.
Mr. DeFilippo showed reporters a videotape of his wife and the Msgr. Clark “entering and leaving the White Sands Resort Hotel in Amagansett.” Mrs. DeFilippo, according to Mr. DeF, told him that she was sorting books that day at a storage facility 30 miles away.
Msgr. Clark—33 years older than Mrs. DeFilippo—denies everything. But Catholic priests no longer enjoy the benefit of the doubt when it comes to alleged sexual misconduct.
Amusingly enough, Msgr. Clark once gave a homily that pinned the blame for the Catholic sex-abuse scandals on “American immorality.”
If the past is any prologue, Msgr. Clark can expect to be transferred to another post any day now—most likely to a Catholic girls’ school.
—posted by Dan.
ASK FOR THE CELIBACY SUITTE: The White Sands Resort Hotel in Amagansett has a website too.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005 SAY GOOD NIGHT: A reader—at least as gay as I am—gets the last word...
Dan: Too bad you missed “Once Upon a Mattress” in San Francisco last year. They took your casting suggestion and then some. Lea de Laria played the princess. As you know, she is huge, loud, funny, gay, and in my book a far better musical comedy performer than Rosie O’Donnell. With this formidable comic presence at its center, the show—which is pretty slight—turned into something really memorable. If you print this, please give credit to 42nd Street Moon, a mostly-amateur local company that does a great job reviving obscure musicals.
I always enjoy reading your column locally in the SF Weekly, even though I’m almost completely uninterested in the subject matter. You’re a great writer and a principled person, and I’m enjoying your blog very much.
P.S. I just noticed that Microsoft Word spell check does not recognize “blog,” and suggests “bog,” “blob,” and “blow” instead.
—posted by Dan. - 11:11:00 PM MORE GAY STUFFING: Andrew gets it, I get it.
If you’re gay and you write for and edit a newspaper that’s not gay (like I do), or a blog that’s not necessarily devoted to gay issues, anytime you mention gay stuff you get grief. Folks scream that gay stuff is all you (or your paper) ever write/writes about. Folks say this even when the evidence that it’s not true is literally staring them in the face. They’re reading the blog, they have the paper in their hands—how can they say it’s 100% gay?
I’ll admit, however, that my posts during my stint as guest blogger have been, up to now, gayer than Richard Simmons sitting on Tucker Carlson’s lap. But you know what? Our culture is pretty heavy on the gay stuff. (And, I’m sorry, but Rosie O’Donnell going into Fiddler? How could I refrain from commenting on that?) There are really two wars going on right now: The War on Terror (or the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" or "Not So Many Car Bombs as the MSM Would Have You Believe" or "The Mission Accomplished Any Day Now" or whatever it is we’re calling it today) and the War on Gay Stuff. Or maybe I should say the War Over Gay Stuff.
Straight writers have a hard enough time avoiding gay issues, let alone gay writers. And it’s hard to sit on the sidelines, or let some insult or injustice pass, when you feel like you’re being attacked. And trust me… I would adore having the luxury to avoid gay issues for, oh, ten or twenty years. But if straight writers can’t, how can I?
—posted by Dan
JUDGE NOT: Take for instance the latest news about SCOTUS-bound John Roberts. Guess what? A conservative group is yanking its support for Roberts and calling on Bush to withdraw his name. Why? Because Roberts, as everyone by now knows, did a little pro-bono work (sounds dirty) for gay groups in the mid-90s. Pull down the websites, alert Lou Sheldon, off with Robert’s so-recently-lionized head.
I don’t know Jesse J. Holland, the reporter who wrote the story up for the AP, but I’m guessing he’s straight. Most men are. And yet there he is, writing about gay stuff. Why? Because he has no choice, and neither do I. Neither does Andrew. But I’ll bet you no one screams “Enough, Jesse!” when he files his gay stories. Gay issues are big news in America just now and they can’t be avoided. Not by me, not by the AP, not by Judge Roberts, not Lou Sheldon. (Check out Lou's website—there's more gay stuff there than Andrew could ever hope to pack on to his website.)
A lot of people who don’t like gay people—those who don’t approve, or think Jesus hates us more than he hates, say, adulterers or people who support the death penalty (I expect Jesus, if he exists, has a real issue with supporters of the death penalty)—say they’re just sick of hearing about it/us. They just wish we’d shut up and go away. Well, that’s not going to happen. We’re not going to go away, and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever shut up. But want to know how we could cut the number of headlines and AP stories and blog entries written about gays and lesbians by at least 90%? Let us have our rights. There will be a lot less debate after we're fully enfranchised citizens, I promise you. Until that time comes—and it will come—there’s going to be a lot to say about gay stuff, unfortunately.
—posted by Dan
BUT NOT TOMORROW: But tell you what...
As an experiment I will attempt to blog away the day tomorrow without once mentioning gay stuff. Someone wrote in and asked me to write about my "other passions," and that's exactly what I intend to do. Can I do it? Can I rise above, as Ralph Nader once put it, gonadal politics? Tune in tomorrow to find out.
—posted by Dan
ONE PARTING GAY THOUGHT:...and it's a doozie. Sensitive readers, or readers with a low threshold for red-hot gay action, may want to skip this item…
Rosie O'Donnell should have been cast in the 1997 Broadway revival of "Once Upon a Mattress," not Sarah Jessica Parker. This has been eating me up for years. I mean, the lead role was originated by Carol Burnett—it's a big, brassy, bawdy part. Half the joke is just how unprincess-like the princess is. (It's a musical version of "The Princess and the Pea," yo.) Parker is too slight! She’s too tiny! O'Donnell would have been perfect for the part.
Okay, enough with the gay stuff. Tune in tomorrow for so-straight-you'll-be-begging-me-to-go-gay-again blog-a-thon.
Hey being intolerant of intolerance sounds like call for a gay run government witch hunt on bad people. Hey man, think of it Baptist Preachers and Catholic bishops locked up for saying "hateful" things. Gee, wouldn't that be a great. Pass a couple laws and jail everybody you don't like.
Are you smoking something? Setting up a police state to control all thought and speech has been tried in various places and at various times and it never works. It is always a bloody mess.
Better you tell folks you don't like to kiss your ass.
I do tell folks to kiss my ass—all the time. (Hey, Robertson! Kiss my gay ass!) But I did not, and would not, call for a gay–run government. I mean, please. The only people I know who have a harder time living within their means than gay people are, well, Republicans. Two years with a gay-run government and we’d have more red ink—and shoes—than we do now.
The funny thing about your letter, dear reader, is that you accuse me of something religious people are guilty of. It’s a common tactic. Who recruits? Not the gays. It’s always Witnesses and Mormons at my door. It’s never the gays. When I walk through downtown Seattle I’m accosted by Scientologists, not lesbians.
It’s the fundies, many of them, who want to lock up gay people, not the other way around. For the record: I don’t want to lock up anybody. (Well, not anybody who doesn’t want to be locked up—and even then only for a weekend, tops.) I’m happy to live in a world where Pat Robertson is free to think I’m going to hell, and free to preach as much. I reluctantly battle Robertson because he believes the federal government should deprive me, a tax-paying fellow citizen, of my civil rights and responsibilities, even jail me, because of who I am.
Look, I’m all for free speech, I’m all for persuasion. If Pat Robertson can talk me out of being gay then, by God, I’ll give it up tomorrow. If a “Choose Life” billboard convinces a woman not to have an abortion, that’s great. The problem with Pat is that he wants to compel me to give up being gay, or, failing that, he seeks to deprive me of my civil rights because I’m gay. The problem with the anti-choice movement is that they want the law to impose their beliefs about abortion.
Why, I often wonder, can’t the religious right extend gay and lesbian Americans the same courtesy they extend to, say, adulterers? Or shrimp lovers? Yes, the gays are going to hell—it says so right there in the bible somewhere. It says we should be put to death along with the adulterers and shrimp eaters. But the adulterers and shrimp eaters don’t come in for the same degree of persecution. No attempts to strip them of their civil rights or write them out of the U.S. Constitution. And what about the Jews? They’re going to hell, along with Tom Cruise and his Scientologist pals and Lutherans (if you ask the Catholics) and the Catholics (if you ask the Lutherans). So many hell-bound sinners—and everyone else gets a pass. Fundamentalist Christians seem content merely knowing that everyone else will suffer horribly when we’re all left behind after they’ve been—what is it again? Ruptured or something? They may attempt to persuade others to join them, prior to the rupture, but there’s no attempt to actively persecute. Anyone else. Just us.
Is it too much to ask for gays and lesbians to be extended the same courtesy fundamentalist Christians seem so capable of extending to others? It’s called tolerance—the theme for the day. I’ll tolerate Pat Robertson if he’ll tolerate me. We don’t have to like each other, but we do have to share a continent—at least until the rupture.
Blah blah blah—who put a nickel in me? Just getting the gay stuff out before the clock strikes 12.
Does EVERY SINGLE one of your entries have to deal with homosexuality?
Gee, I didn’t know that Cindy Sheehan and Tony Blair were both gay. Does Mrs. Blair know? And, hey, maybe Bush should send Mary Cheney out to meet with Sheehan. And I suppose there’s something intrinsically gay about the Space Shuttle, cell phones, the war in Iraq, Wi-Fi, and coffeehouses, but I can’t quite figure it out for myself. But I’ll work on it.
Of course it goes without saying that The National Review is basically the Out Magazine of right-wing closet cases. But cell phones? I still don't get it...
-posted by Dan. - 5:18:00 PM INTOLERABLE: There’s a brilliant op-ed by Irshad Manji in today’s NYT responding to Tony Blair’s moves to deport Islamo-fascist clerics. She confronts what so many people seem to view as a contradiction at the heart of Western liberalism: Our society, dependent as it is on tolerance (of different religions, political points of view, ethnicities, and, yes, sexualities), doesn’t know how to respond to people whose world views are fundamentally intolerant. The money quote, as Andrew would put it, is this:
[The] ultimate paradox may be that in order to defend our diversity, we’ll need to be less tolerant. Or, at the very least, more vigilant. And this vigilance demands more than new anti-terror laws. It requires asking: What guiding values can most of us live with? Given the panoply of ideologies and faiths out there, what filter will distill almost everybody’s right to free expression? Neither the watery word "tolerance" nor the slippery phrase "mutual respect" will cut it as a guiding value. Why tolerate violent bigotry?
Manji’s op-ed is being praised by the right, as well it should be. It deserves praise from everyone with a brain in her head. But Manji’s call for intolerance to be met with intolerance applies not only to Islamic preachers who preach hate and would compel others to live by the strictures of their faith. It also applies to American preachers who do the same.
When gays and lesbians express disgust or contempt for, say, the Pat Robertsons of this world, we’re accused of being intolerant—and isn’t that hypocritical of us? After all, isn’t tolerance what we’ve been asking for? How can we refuse to tolerate Pat Robertson?
But as Manji points out, being intolerant of intolerance is not the moral equivalent of being intolerant. Violence is always wrong, everyone agrees. But there are times when violence is justified. For instance, violence is justified in self-defense. Well, being intolerant of the intolerant is simply tolerance acting in its own self-defense. It is justifiable intolerance.
-posted by Dan - 3:15:00 PM WE CAN SEE CLEARLY: Manji, incidentally, is a lesbian and, perhaps more controversially, a Canadian. She’s also the author of a brilliant book: "The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith." If you haven’t read it, go buy it . It’s interesting that so many homos—I’m thinking Bruce Bawer, Pym Fortyun, Manji, and, yes, Andrew Sullivan—clearly recognize the threat that the Islamo-fascists represent. (Or thought, in Fortyun’s case.) Too bad so many on the American right just can’t get over their homo hatin’ ways. The freedom gays and lesbians enjoy in our societies is a credit to the west, and the eloquence of people like Manji, Bawer, and Sullivan should be marshaled in defense of our shared values.
-posted by Dan - 3:10:00 PM I'M STILL HERE: Well, it looks like Andrew didn't come to his senses last night and change all of his passwords, so... I'm still here. (That's a musical comedy reference, BTW. I [heart] Sondheim.) I'm blogging to you live from Victrola, a coffee shop on Seattle's Capitol Hill. Victrola made the news a month or two ago when it yanked its wireless service on the weekends. My paper, The Stranger, covered the story; the, ahem, NYT followed up on it a few weeks later.
-posted by Dan.
YACK YACK YACK: Victrola yanked its free wireless service on the weekends because so many people were camping out all day in the cafe, taking up tables, that it prevented people from wandering in, having a cup of coffee and, say, actually making eye contact and chatting with other human beings. It was a smart move; although I'm a frequent Wi-Fi user, I avoided the place on the weekends. But here’s what Victrola—and other cafes—need to target next: Cell phone abusers. It’s one thing to be sitting in a crowded café, checking your email, and quickly take a call. But there are people with laptops and cell phones that treat this café, and all cafes, as extensions of their offices.
Take, for example, the jackass sitting behind me as I type these words. He’s shouting into his cell phone about some work issues, and has been for, oh, 20 minutes now. Then the inevitable came out of his mouth: “Yes, I’ll be on the Microsoft campus later today.” Of course you will, assferbrains. If someone is behaving badly in public in Seattle, it’s almost always one of two local types: The Microsofties who think they own this city (for the record: You people own REDMOND, not Seattle), or a public drunk. I prefer the drunks, frankly. They get tossed out of cafes.
-posted by Dan.
TERROR CELLS: The thought of people being able to use cell phones on airplanes during flight is almost too horrible to contemplate. But I understand why the airlines are considering it: They’ve run out of new ways to make flying unpleasant. Long lines, inexplicable delays, lost baggage, no food, filthy airplanes, unhappy workers (is anyone else worried about planes being flown by despondent pilots who’ve had their pensions stolen from them?)—allowing people to use their cells phones is the only way for the airlines to freshen up the hell they’ve created for us. Once they allow people to use cell phones on airplanes during flight I expect we’ll see a lot more incidents like this.
-posted by Dan. - 11:49:00 AM WELCOME BLACK: I hope no one felt my comments about NASA and the Space Shuttle yesterday were in any way disrespectful. I certainly wasn’t hoping that the Space Shuttle would lose one of its ceramic pot holders, causing it to burn up on re-entry and broast alive everyone on board. I was actually worried about the astropawns on the Shuttle. Making dark comments about the likelihood of an unhappy outcome is the way we Irish Catholics deal with anxiety, dread, and uncertainty. It’s our special pact with God: If we expect the worst, obsess about it, worry about it, drink about it, indulge in black humor, and honestly convince ourselves that something awful is going to happen, then God will step in and prevent said awful thing from happening just to mess with our heads. But you have to sincerely expect the worst, not just go through the motions. It’s when you expect good things to happen or keep happening—when you presume upon God—that bad things happen. Remember what happened when the Irish presumed upon all those potatoes?
So by working myself up into a “they’re all going to die!” frenzy yesterday, I single-handedly saved the lives of everyone on board the Space Shuttle. You don’t have a thank me.
-posted by Dan. - 11:48:00 AM SQUIRRELY MEN: A researcher at Cornell University discovered that men made to feel insecure about their masculinity expressed more support for the war in Iraq, were more willing to purchase an SUV, and expressed more hate for homos. You can read the press release here. (Hat tip to Americablog.)
-posted by Dan. - 11:47:00 AM WHO’S EXPLOITING WHO?: A reader weighs in on Cindy Sheehan, the mother who lost a son in Iraq and is now camped outside Crawford, Texas, demanding to meet with George W. Bush…
In response to the quote from the reader about the mother asking for a meeting with Bush...I remember the State of the Union, when Bush paraded out parents who had just lost their son in Iraq and when he talked about the war, the cameras panning to them crying softly in their seats. Why was there no criticism of Bush using the death of soldiers for his own political purposes? I think that Sheehan has much more right to "use" her own son for this cause that he died for than Bush using the parents during an event like the state of the union. In fact, she is honoring his sacrifice by using it for a greater purpose than just being killed by a roadside bomb. Judy C.
Monday, August 08, 2005 LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:
“...NASA planned to bring the spacecraft down Tuesday in Florida, California or possibly even New Mexico.”— The Washington Post
Here’s hoping that the Space Shuttle doesn’t land in Florida, California AND New Mexico.
—posted by Dan. - 7:45:00 PM JUST ONE MORE: I can't even sign off for the night without screwing things up.
One more story worth linking to this evening... Army Specialist Jeff Howe, 32 years old, served two tours of duty in Iraq. He’s not in the Army anymore, though. An investigation into Howe’s private life—launched after he posted a photo of a vehicle that had blown up by a rocket on a blog (a blog that the Army asked him to create)—uncovered an Internet personal ad that Howe had written. He did not come out willingly. He did not “tell.”
Howe, 32, enlisted in the Army after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, taking a leave of absence from his job in corporate marketing. He was already open with family and friends about his sexuality, but his desire to help his country exceeded his concern about the military's gay ban.
"Going back in the closet was a trade-off I could make briefly," Howe said in an interview with the PlanetOut Network.
Aren’t we having a manpower crisis? Don’t we need all the patriotic soldiers—gay or not, closeted or not—that we can lay our hands on? (Er, pardon the expression.) Howe will be fine; he can return to the job he left in marketing now that he’s been kicked out of the Army. I worry, however, about a nation that seems to hate its gay citizens so much more than it values its own security. Pathetic.
—posted by Dan - 7:15:00 PM MOTHER SUPERIOR: We’ll let a reader have the last word today…
I have boundless sympathy for a mother whose son has been killed in any way, let alone one who has given his life in a war. But I’m sorry, this woman is riding this situation for partisan political ends. Bush HAS met with her in the past; several members of his administration have met with her; she continues to slam Bush, and promote Democratic websites, at every opportunity. I don’t believe Drudge is smearing her; she has injected herself into the political scene, and warrants the same scrutiny as anyone else involved in that game; we can’t just let her use her poor son as an all-purpose shield out of sentimentality. There comes a point when her using this for political point-scoring dishonors her son’s patriotic sacrifice. A reader,
That’s all for today. Unless Andrew comes to his senses and changes the passwords this evening, I’ll be back with you tomorrow.
—posted by Dan - 6:31:00 PM IRAQ AND THE SINGLE SEX ADVICE COLUMNIST: I believe I was—correct me if I'm wrong—the only professional sex advice columnist in the United States, if not the world, to come out in favor of the invasion of Iraq. I have some thoughts on the current state of things over there (and the through-the-looking glass moment when I realized I was to the right of Ann “Batshitcrazy” Coulter on this issue), and I intend to share them... just not this minute. I've been blogging away most of the day, but I've got a paper to edit... so... I promise to sit down late tonight and collect my thoughts on Iraq and post them here.
In the meantime...
The mother of a soldier who died in Iraq wants to meet with Bush so she can ask him to pull the troops out. She wants to meet with Bush so badly that she's—hey, if you're in Andrew's readership you know this already right? She drove to Crawford, where the President of France takes his annual month-long August holiday, to meet with him. She was stopped by the police a few miles from the ranch and is now camped out by the side of the road, insisting that she’s not leaving until she meets with Bush. Cindy Sheehan has now been told that if she’s not gone by Thursday—when Rummy and Condi are scheduled to show up the ranch (perhaps for a little mountain biking)—she will be arrested.
Daily Kos and Americablog are all over it. Drudge, of course, is doing his part, smearing this woman whose son gave his life for his country. You would think Bush could give her ten minutes of his time. Now that Bush doesn't have to face the voters again, you might also think he could risk a giving a little facetime to someone who hasn't signed a loyalty oath. Just, you know, buried her son.
—posted by Dan - 4:47:00 PM SUFFER THE CHILDREN: Mark writes…
But I don't think the quote you cited shows a particular animus to gay adoption. I've done volunteer work for many years with foster kids, a number of whom have been placed for adoption. You're absolutely right, of course, that there aren't enough homes out there for all the available kids. But all else being equal--which it rarely is--I agree that "preference" should be given to married-mom-and-dad if that option is available. I'm divorced and have thought about adoption myself--my own kids are almost grown--but a single person like myself should an alternate choice for a kid, only if a married-mom-and-dad is unavailable. The THIRD choice actually--I think two parents are always better than one so committed gay couples should be considered well before single parents, in my opinion.
The other critical part of the NCfA statement is "consistent with the child's best interests." That's what I'm supposed to do as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate--look out for the child's best interest. To me and I think, most people involved in foster care and adoption, that would mean that if a child had (say) a gay uncle he's always known, and the uncle and his partner wanted to adopt, they would get preference over married-mom-and-dad strangers….
I very much disagreed with that Florida decision, and maybe the NCfA IS against gay adoption. I just don't see it in that quote.
Sorry, Mark, but the context of NCFA’s statement reveals the group’s animus to gay adoption. ("Gay adoption" is such an awkward term! My boyfriend and I didn’t do a "gay adoption," we adopted, just like any straight couple might, and we didn’t adopt a "gay." Our son is seven and we’re pretty sure he’s going to be straight when he grows up.) Go here to read NCFA’s statement about Florida’s ban on gays and lesbians adopting children. The NCFA statement clearly supports the ban. Florida doesn’t give “preference” to heterosexual couples and place kids with gay couples only if no straight parents can be found. Florida refuses to allow gay couples to adopt—period.
Amazingly enough, however, Florida does allow gay couples to serve as foster parents. This has put the state of Florida in the position of refusing to allow gay couples to adopt children they have fostered parented for years, some since infancy. To read about one case, and for lots of good background on gay parents, go here.
By no conceivable measure is this in the “child’s best interests.”
Shame on the NCFA.
—posted by Dan - 4:08:00 PM SKY HIGH TECH: First, I’m hoping—“hope” is what we atheists do, since we can’t pray—that the pawns NASA sent up on the Space Shuttle get safely back to Earth. Second, I can’t be the only one out there who was shocked to learn that the Space Shuttle depends on ceramic pot holders and steel wool tea towels to protect it from burning up on re-entry.
—posted by Dan - 12:35:00 PM BOLDFACE NAMES: Tim Robbins, Justin Timberlake, Kate Hudson, Simon Le Bon, Mel Gibson, Catherine Zeta Jones—Page Six in the New York Post? Nope: Today's posts on National Review's group blog, "The Corner."
—posted by Dan - 12:15:00 PM THAT WAS FAST:Patrick at the Universität Bielefeld has the drop on the NCfA: "The NCfA seems to be against adoption by homosexuals," he writes, "considering its statement on the Surreme Court Ruling on the ban in Florida and its Adoption First Principles, stating that 'Consistent with the child’s best interests, preference in adoption placements should be given to families that offer married mother-and-father parenting.'" The NCfA has its no doubt well-intentioned head up its well-intentioned ass. That’s too bad. If that is their position, then NCfA is actively promoting one the Big Lies tossed around by opponents of same-sex couples adopting children—namely, that for every child waiting to be adopted there's a straight couple out there who wants to adopt. That simply isn’t the case. There are more children waiting to be adopted than there are couples—straight and gay—willing to adopt. Even if someone believes, against all evidence, that gay or lesbian parents are less desirable than straight parents, surely everyone agrees it is better for a child to have parents than not have parents. Only people who hate kids—people like, say, the fine folks in Florida—would choose foster care, the system, and parentless kids over placing kids in qualified, loving homes headed by same-sex couples.
—posted by Dan - 11:08:00 AM WHO AM I? WHY AM I HERE? First, I’d like to thank Andrew for letting me take his blog out for a spin while he knocks back beers on the beach. “Savage Love” readers have been asking me to start a blog of my own for, oh, six or seven years now and I’ve resisted. I’m a Luddite, I confess, one of the ways in which my deeply conservative soul expresses itself. It was only a few years ago that I started accepting email at “Savage Love,” to give you on example of my fear of new technology, and much to my boyfriend’s dismay I’ve insisted on keeping a broken toaster for years (you have to hold that little-black-thing-you-push-down-to-start-the-toasting-process—is there a name for that thing?—which I’m happy to do while I read the paper As far as I’m concerned, better the impaired toaster you know, you know?) Performance anxiety? I’ve got a touch. Maybe that’s why I’m rambling on about toasters, not a usual topic. I usually work in a Q&A format—hell, after almost 15 years of writing an advice column I dream in a Q&A format. So if you’ve got a question for me, feel free to send it in via Andrew’s site, and, if I’m so moved, I’ll answer it. But it’ll have to be clean; I promised Andrew no smut, no lower-case santorum, no discussions of the latest sex toys or scandals. I reserve the right, however, to renege on that agreement if a sex scandal as irresistible as the case of the man who—how to put this delicately?—went home to Jesus after being the passive partner in a romantic interlude with a horse should break. Since horse lovers are right out, as the Brits say, what should you expect from me this week? Well, a few more pop culture references than Andrew might make, a smattering of double- and single- entendres, a little more sneering contempt for politicians and little less devastating political analysis. If you hate Wonkette—and I don’t understand how could anyone hate Wonkette—you’ll probably hate me too. Okay! On to matters with deadly serious political ramifications!
—posted by Dan - 9:20:00 AM TRADITION, TRADITION! Rosie O’Donnell is joining the cast of the Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof." She’ll be playing Golde, the love interest of Harvey Fierstein’s Tevye. This is not, as some would have it, “stunt casting.” Still, wonders the NYT this morning, it’s remarkable that "two openly gay and outspoken actors will play husband and wife in a musical all about the breaking of traditions." Yeah, yeah—gay audiences have endured the casting of straight actors in gay roles for, like, ever. From Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas in "Philadelphia” to the entirely unbelievable Eric McCormack in the entirely unbearable "Will and Grace" to Charlton Heston in "Ben-Hur" (AKA "Get Her"), we’ve always been willing to suspend our disbelief and buy off on straight actors playing gay. Indeed, playing gay, like playing the endearingly retarded, has always been a way for a straight actor to demonstrate his or her chops. Why not the reverse for Rosie? And, hey, Rosie once made the whole country believe she was in love with Tom Cruise. Surely she can convince Broadway audiences that she’s in love with Harvey.
—posted by Dan - 9:19:00 AM THE PARENT CLAPTRAP: Matt Drudge is still hyping the “NYT probes Judge Robert’s Adoptions” story. Apparently—and I’ve only seen this on Drudge, so it could be entirely bogus—a reporter for the NYT asked if Roberts' adoption records would be made available to the press for inspection. I’m glad the right wing thinks that politicizing legal adoptions is outside the pale. Drudge quotes from a statement released by the National Council for Adoption that slams the NYT for questioning "the very private circumstances, motivations, and processes by which" people adopt children. I couldn’t agree more—no one should question the private circumstances, motivations, and processes by which qualified, screened parent-wannabes become parents through adoption. As an adoptive parent myself, I look forward to the right adopting this sensible position and ceasing to harass gay and lesbian adoptive parents.
—posted by Dan
NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR ADOPTION: I'm not sure what this group's position is on gay adoptions. I've been digging around on their website and haven't found anything—which seems odd, since gay adoption is such a hot topic. If anyone can dig up the NCfA's take on gay and lesbian parents, I'd like to see it. If they group is committed to "serving the interests of children through adoption," they ought to be pro-gay adoptions.
—posted by Dan - 9:18:00 AM WEST COAST TIME: Oh, another note about my stint on AndrewSullivan.com: I live in Seattle, Washington, which means my life runs on West Coast time. Ahem.
—posted by Dan - 9:16:00 AM THE LONDON UNDERGROUND: From Saturday’s NYT: “Mr. Blair’s announcement [of plans to toss foreign-born Muslim radicals out of Britain] was immediately condemned by Muslim groups here, who warned that the moves would be seen as discriminatory, driving Muslim radicals underground…” Excuse me? Were the four Muslim radicals who bombed the Tube and a bus in London on July 7, and the four who attempted to pull a repeat on July 21, operating “above ground”? Did they hang a shingle in front of a storefront that said “Ye Olde Muslim Radical Shoppe”? Were they selling nail bombs from lemonade stands on street corners? Why do mainstream Muslim groups insist on making themselves ridiculous? The kind of “radicals” (too nice a word—I prefer “murderers”) who blow up buses and trains and discos in places like London, Madrid, and Bali are already operating “underground.” They don’t carry business cards or maintain office hours, for Christ’s sake. The further “underground” they’re driven the better—the deeper underground you go, the harder it is to plan and stage terror attacks. If I was a sensible British Muslim, or non-Muslim for that matter, I would be furious with Muslim “leaders” who suggested that Blair’s move to “close down mosques and bar or deport clerics deemed to be fostering hatred and violence” was an attack on their civil liberties. As on 9/11, Muslims died on 7/7. Blair’s move will protect everyone in Britain—Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
—posted by Dan - 9:03:00 AM UNCHURCHED: The Catholic Diocese of Oakland is paying out $56.3 million dollars to settle 56 cases of sexual abuse of children. The long, sordid tale of Catholic kids abused by Catholic priests has been picked over here and elsewhere, and I don’t want to dwell on it. (Like Andrew, I was raised Catholic. Unlike Andrew, I’m not practicing—and, no, I wasn’t molested when I was an altar boy. The priests I encountered as a child were, so far as I know, all good guys. Or maybe the fact that my dad was a cop and carried a gun acted as a deterrent?) Like other Catholic dioceses (dioci?), the Catholic Diocese in Oakland plans to sell church-owned land to cover the debt. Settlements in the Church sex-abuse scandal are going to reach into the hundreds of millions, if not the billions, of dollars. Like most adults my age, I’m obsessed with real estate. So with shitloads of real estate being sold off by the Church I can’t help but wonder what kind of an impact all of this property returning to private, secular ownership is going to have on property tax receipts in places like, say, Boston and Oakland and Chicago...
Saturday, August 06, 2005 SAYING GOODBYE: To my beloved niece and nephew. I've been recovering all week, but the DP did most of the heavy lifting. Here they are again, just because I'm a proud uncle:
SAVAGE BLOG: Fasten your laptops. Next week, Dan Savage will be guest-blogging in this space. He's the editor of the Stranger in Seattle, writes a weekly sex advice column that is easily the best on the planet, and has also produced some seriously good books. My favorites: "The Kid," a memoir of being a gay dad, and "Skipping Towards Gomorrah," a cheerful account of trying to commit the seven deadly sins across America. His new book, "The Commitment," is due out in September. Check out his first blogging experience here, live, on Monday.
CHANNELING FALWELL: "One of the things that strikes me more, not less, forcibly as time has passed is the contempt that Muslim extremists feel for us. They despise us for our decadence, and I feel more and more forced to accept the painful truth that they have a point." - Minette Marin, blaming Britain's liberalism for Islamo-fascist murder.
ROBERTS AND ROMER: I don't think there's much here. Roberts helped out on a fascinating Supreme Court case for his firm. It doesn't tell us how he'd rule on, say, Lawrence vs Texas. My guess is that as an educated man of his generation, he's well aware of gay people, doesn't approve of discrimination, but has a very limited idea of what the constitution can do to protect minorities. I learned more from the reaction of people like James Dobson. For Dobson, any hint of sympathy for homosexuals is anathema. Roberts is a better man than that. And from everything I've read, is a superb choice for SCOTUS.
MOMENTUM BUILDS: The latest poll on marriage rights for gays is encouraging news for my side of the debate. For the first time, a national majority (53 percent) support civil unions "permitting gays and lesbians to enter into legal arrangements that would give them many of the same rights as married couples." Marriage still only gets 36 percent support nationally, but I bet in many blue states, the number is higher (and it's back to the levels before the election year Republican campaign to demonize it). Interestingly, the highest levels of support come among Independents, not Democrats or Republicans. Given how new this topic is - it's only been fully in the national discourse for a decade or so - these are striking figures. Support for a constitutional amendment banning all protections for gay couples has sunk from 35 percent to 29 percent in the last year. This last week in Ptown was also family week. Every year, the week has grown. This year it was almost oppressive - kids everywhere, strollers on every sidewalk, bedtime stories at the library, beaches jammed with buckets and shovels. Whatever happens, this social shift is simply reality, part of a bewilderingly rapid change in what can almost no longer be called a single gay culture. I expected some sort of assimilation process. But the speed of it is staggering. The poll also has fascinating data on other social issues. For all their hysteria, the theocons are losing almost every debate. - 3:12:00 PM
Friday, August 05, 2005 WORSE THAN THE FATE OF OSCAR THE GROUCH: Ken Tomlinson, the head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has taken much heat. There’s an argument to be had about his tenure there. And his efforts to inject politics into the institution might even make the case for privatizing public television. But Tomlinson has two jobs. In addition to CPB, he has run the Broadcasting Board of Governors—the board that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Sawa, etc. Sadly, he has treated the BBG with the same well-documented tactics that he deployed at CPB. This is not good. The BBG stations should be critical instruments in the war on terror. For many years, they were run in bipartisan fashion. Under Tomlinson that spirit of cooperation has collapsed. I have just written a piece about this for TNR.
posted by Frank. - 8:54:00 AM WHY NOT, THE RONALD REAGAN MEMORIAL SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT?: First, they came for my airport, and I said nothing. Now, they’re trying to rename my main thoroughfare, 16th Street. The bastards want to make it Ronald Reagan Boulevard. I have much grudging respect for the Gipper. But the District of Columbia was one the few places to thoroughly reject Reagan’s reelection. They won’t let that drop. It’s seems they’ll keep forcing the Great Leader’s name on us until we recant our decision in the 1984 election.
By the way, a big shout out to Tom Davis, for having the sense to stick up for DC on this one.
posted by Frank. - 8:25:00 AM YOU CAN STOP PATTING YOURSELF ON THE BACK: Yes, blogs can create nice communities. (Thanks, by the way, for your hospitality this week.) Yes, blogs can help provide an important check on powerful (and sometimes irresponsible) media. Yes, blogs can help you sell your book on soccer when links to amazon are embedded in superflous sentences. But let’s not get too excited about the blogosphere’s political and social importance just yet. As this study shows, the audience for blogs is comparatively small for now. Therefore, I’m not so ready to say that this medium will revivify American democracy. True, it allows many people to rant, blowing off steam that might otherwise turn into dangerous passions. But, if we're speaking calmly, it seems the blogs greatest contribution is to slightly expand the elite political discussion. For a long time, the circulation of opinion journals like TNR and NR had stagnated. But the biggest political blogs have expanded the readership of opinion to an audience that goes beyond those magazines. What does this mean? For starters, people want political opinion, but aren’t willing to pay for it. (Andrew's gnarled fingers bleed in the production of opinion and you won't pay, ungrateful swine!) Or possibly people have shortened attention spans. They’ll sit for the length of this post (are you still with me?), but they’re too busy and too ADD to sit for a 7,000 word essay in the Atlantic. If blogs lead people further into a world of political ideas, well, color me a booster. If the evidence shows that they come at the expense of other forms of reading, then let’s get hysterical.
Thursday, August 04, 2005 SOURCES CLOSE TO RYAN LIZZA: Make Ryan Lizza a special prosecutor. He has no problem ferreting out the sources of leaks. This is a classic piece demystifying a venerable trope of White House reportage.
posted by Frank. - 1:30:00 PM OUR RURAL CAPITAL: Washingtonians have a unique term of art to describe migrants from the rural South—or possessors of the migrant mindset—who don’t quite get urban living. They are known as “Bamas.” Remarkably, decades after the last major wave of migration, rural ways of life continue to persist in the heart of the city. George Pelacanos, Washington’s great crime novelist, has occasionally evoked this in his vast oeuvre. Characters will travel through a neighborhood and notice chickens in a front yard. A piece in the WaPost's local weekly insert describes how large chunks of the city continue to rely on gardens for fresh vegetables. In part, the explanation is troubling. Supermarkets simply don’t exist in certain poorer sections of the city. Although the piece doesn’t get into the cultural history of the city, it also yields a charming conclusion. People grow their own greens, because old ways die hard.
posted by Frank. - 6:32:00 AM TRUST HIM: Newt Gingrich knows something about the politics of midterm elections. So, chin up Democrats. On the other hand, that impeachment business played out just as he planned it.
posted by Frank. - 6:14:00 AM JACK SHAFER ON DRUGS: Newsweek's cover on the "new drug crisis" hit the stands on Monday. That's when I hit start on the stopwatch and began counting down to the Jack Shafer piece debunking it. Be sure to read all the way down to his riff on "meth mouth." Full point, Mr. Shafer.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005 MY MESSY DIVORCE: I’m a Washingtonian. This is, all in all, a wonderful thing, except that for many years it denied me the pleasure of a home baseball team. As a child, this meant adopting the nearby Baltimore Orioles. And for a time, this relationship served me well. But then, when puberty and political awareness hit, I began to feel less than comfortable with the team. In part, my alienation was cultural. Baltimore plays “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the 7th inning stretch. At that moment, I wasn’t clear on my belief in God, but I was certain about the fact that I’m no country boy. Then, team owner Peter Angelos began to sacrifice the soul of the club. Namely, he bought a goon named Albert Belle to the team. This purchase caused my entire world view to explode. How could I argue the Orioles’ moral superiority when they had Belle? I couldn’t. That year marked the beginning of my long divorce from Baltimore. The pace of our separation has accelerated rapidly with the arrival of the entirely loveable Washington Nationals. To establish our identity as Nats fans, we have had to agressively distance ourselves from our neighboring fans. More to the point, we need to despise them and foment a rivalry with them. Angelos has stirred this pot by conspiring to keep the Nationals off television. (A long story that I won't get into here.)
In other words, I take some pleasure in watching the Rafael Palmero crisis unfold. I hope that it redounds against the Orioles, and I hope that the Nats sweep the Birds next year in interleague play. Amen.
posted by Frank. - 9:48:00 PM TORTURE FETISH II: Marty Lederman shows how the latest revelations of brutal murder by torture of prisoners by U.S. soldiers was clearly authorized by Bush administration policy. Must read posts here and here. Eventually, the denialists will realize what has been authorized from the highest authorities. More reason to back the McCain and Graham amendments to rid the military of this metastasizing cancer of abuse-as-policy.
- posted by Andrew. - 1:57:00 PM TORTURE FETISH: I'd be a bad steward of this blog if I didn't post this chilling story about prisoner abuse.
posted by Frank. - 7:32:00 AM BRIT PRIGS EVERYWHERE: Yesterday, I asked the question: Why do American audiences take such pleasure in reality shows filled with nasty Brits like Ramsay, Cowell, etc. For days, readers had generously suggested how I could enrich myself in African investments and enhance my penis size. Yesterday, the inbox began filling with cultural criticism. I'll post a few compelling theories today. This comes courtesy of Alex Massie:
"To answer your question, however, I'd hazard that for some reason American TV executives are happier with the harsh judgements on success and failure being handed down in a British accent preciesely because failure has, as a concept and fact of life, been largely outlawed in American television (this is, I think, proved by any of the daytime talk shows in which someone else is always responsible for everything bad and miserable in your life). Cowell, Ramsay and the nannies are refreshing, therefore, precisely beacuse they are candid and demand that contestants or struggling parents be responsible for their actions. Their (comfortable yet sufficient) foreignness helps them do this and gives them a patina of authenticity that would denied an American presenter for whom the audience might feel little sympathy if they were seen to be too "judgemental"... A British judge, however, offers just the right mix of familiarity and distance so as to make such nastiness acceptable and, even, mildly thrilling." - 7:19:00 AM AL FROM MUST BE QUAKING:: The Daily Kos, a liberal blogger who has acquired a strange prestige within Washington, has a plan for destroying the DLC. How good is Kos’s plan? So good he won’t reveal it for a whole four weeks. Now, that’s hardball, Kos! Let them sweat for a while before landing the jab.
Before Kos goes nuclear against the DLC, perhaps he might to want to consider a few things. First, he should check out DLC president Bruce Reed’s funny, erudite blog on Slate, chock-full of devastating Bush bashing. Then he should compare it to his own. Do you really trust yourself to do a better job guiding the Democrats than Reed? Is that guy really the enemy within? Next, Kos should consider the modern history of the Democratic Party. Does he really believe that the pre-DLC Mondale-Jackson strategy was working so well? I’m not blindly or wildly pro-DLC, but the answers to the questions seem blindingly obvious to me.
Yes, the DLC had a problem with Howard Dean in the primaries. Their critique had nothing to do with corporate money, and everything to do with a real fear that Dean would get his ass kicked by Bush. Get over it, man.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005 FREIDMAN IS FLATTENED:John Gray is always worth reading, even when his arguments take him to highly idiosyncratic conclusions. When assigning Gray a Thomas Friedman book, as the New York Review did, you know that the hatchet will emerge from the philosopher's desk. His essay, however, isn't just entertaining. It is powerful. The key passage:
Unfortunately the problems of globalization are more intractable than those of corporate life. States cannot be phased out like bankrupt firms, and large shifts in wealth and power tend to be fiercely contested. Globalization is a revolutionary change, but it is also a continuation of the conflicts of the past. In some important respects it is leveling the playing field, as Friedman's Indian interlocutor noted, and to that extent it is a force for human advance. At the same time it is inflaming nationalist and religious passions and triggering a struggle for natural resources. In Friedman's sub-Marxian, neoliberal worldview these conflicts are recognized only as forms of friction —grit in the workings of an unstoppable machine. In truth they are integral to the process itself, whose future course cannot be known. We would be better off accepting this fact, and doing what we can to cope with it.
Although I'm not sure what Isaiah Berlin would make of this passage, his influence is evident in it. I'm sympathetic to Gray. Believe me or not, this is the same point that I made in my book about soccer
posted by Frank. - 9:48:00 AM REMIND ME, HOW DOES INTELLIGENT DESIGN ACCOUNT FOR ANDY CARD?: You sometimes wonder if Bush really believes in religious conservatism. Then he goes out of his way to make a statement like this, and there’s suddenly no doubting where he stands.
posted by Frank. - 8:19:00 AM IRANIAN NUCLEAR SUMMER: The CIA’s reassessment of Iranian nuclear ambitions, reported in today’s Post, took me completely by surprise. When I looked into the matter late last year, there was a broad agreement about the mullah’s intentions and the speed with which they could manufacture a bomb. Everybody—from Ray Takeyh to Reuel Marc Gerecht—said that Iran would obtain nukes in five years, or perhaps sooner. Now, a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate says that it will take Tehran ten years. Given the CIA’s understandable caution in predicting WMD, I’m not sure what to make of this revision.
I hope that this new finding doesn’t prove to be counterproductive. There’s currently a broad consensus that the mullahs must be stopped. Heck, even Chirac has talked about sending the Iranian case to the Security Council. Will John Bolton and the French ever be on the same page again? I fear not, and I fear that this finding will give the Bush administration and the Europeans a chance to revert towards their old state of willful ignorance towards Iran.
From an American policy perspective, this new timeline is a big deal. For the last five years, this administration had muddled its Iran position, refusing to chose either a course of engagement or regime change. Instead, it has sent the mullahs and the Iranian people lots of confusing, mixed messages.
For better or worse, the revised estimate gives the U.S. more time to push for regime change. The logic: If the U.S. had only a few years to prevent the nightmare scenario of a nuclear Iran, it was pointless to promote political revolution as an anti-proliferation strategy. That revolution would be highly unlikely to happen before Iran gets the bomb. But if the country has ten years until it joins the atomic club, the likelihood of nudging Iran into political uprising is much greater. It might make sense to investment more in pursuit of such a policy.
Since the administration has consistantly made a hash of Iranian policy, I'm not optimistic that this respite will improve matters.
Monday, August 01, 2005 POSEUR ALERT: I just re-read my first post from last night and hereby nominate myself. An acceptance speech, with requisite allusions to Habermas and Vico, will be posted tomorrow. Also, apologies for the faulty French accent. Unfortunately, I'm not cosmopolitan enough to go back and fix it. posted by Frank. - 10:45:00 PM FOER IN HELL: I’ve got a massive deadline looming and a five-month old who insists on waking at 4:30 a.m., so I spent tonight doing the only conscionable thing: I watched the finale of Hell’s Kitchen. To be sure, this isn’t that unusual. Reality television, even the non-sweeps stuff, consumes an ungodly amount of my leisure time. Scotsman Gordon Ramsay, the brutal Calvinist head chef who runs Hell’s Kitchen with a studied authoritarianism, is a compelling host. Like any good Great Leader, he inspires fear and respect. (To be sure, the Fox show doesn’t really compare to Ramsey’s far rawer, far more authentic BBC show, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares Revisited.) It goes without saying, but Hell’s Kitchen suffered from an extraordinary number of the genre’s clichés. I wasn’t surprised in the least when the vanquished contestants returned (Apprentice style) to assist the two finalists in their showdown. Nor was I left hanging on my seat when Fox cut to commercial breaks at all the tensest moments. That said, the show has a whiff of meritocracy that makes it rare in the reality genre. Ramsay, unlike, say, Donald Trump, isn’t a poseur. He wanted to reward quality and fairly searched it out. There were no unreasonably good-looking contestants who survived deep into the competition. The winner, Michael, is covered in rather unseemly tattoos. (Do you really wanted those inked up hands working their way through your foie gras?) As far as I could tell, he is an arrogant ass.
The show raises a question that you might help me answer. What is it about the nasty, priggish Brit--here I'm thinking of the Weakest Link bitch, Simon Cowell, and those omnipresent nannies--that makes them such a stock character on American television?
President Bush went to bed at the normal time, roughly 10p.m., on the night the House of Representatives voted on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. But he was awakened by White House staffers to talk to wavering Republicans on the House floor. A cell phone with the president on the line was passed by Bush's chief congressional lobbyist, Candida Wolff, from congressman to congressman. Then Bush watched the vote count on C-SPAN before giving up. The total for CAFTA looked to be stuck at 214, not enough for passage. He went back to bed, only to be called a few moments later by Karl Rove, his political adviser and deputy chief of staff. Three Republicans--Robin Hays of North Carolina, Steve LaTourette of Ohio, Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania--had simultaneously voted for the treaty and it had won. Relieved, Bush went back to bed again. It was after midnight.
With the vote on the line...Bush lunged for his pillow. Naturally, this is evidence of Bush's continued power and vigor.
posted by Frank. - 1:55:00 PM FRANK FOER SUCK UP WATCH, DAY ONE: Yes, Peter Scoblic is my editor at the New Republic. But even if this were not the case, I would direct you to his important piece on the largest failing in Bush’s war against terrorism.
posted by Frank. - 9:14:00 AM REPRESENTATIVE WALRUS PENIS (R-ALASKA): I once wrote an article where I intended to make an enemy of the state of Alaska. The piece argued that Alaska’s senators and congressman have amassed a dangerously large quantity of political power, which they have used to acquire laughably useless public works projects for, well, themselves. (What makes Alaska irksome is that its self-proclaimed libertarians have created a thoroughly socialistic welfare state.) Representative Don Young, who once brandished a walrus penis in a congressional hearing to berate a Clinton administration official, is the largest purveyor of this brand of vanity pork. Last week, according to this piece in the WaPost, he has just left us with a few more masterpieces—including $231 million to be spent on a bridge named Don Young’s Way. Other Alaskan roads created in this new legislation seem next to useless. Experts predict that they’ll be covered in black ice for much of the year. As far as I can remember, my piece failed miserably in my attempt to piss off Alaskans. I got not a single letter or e-mail in response, let alone an irate editorial. So, I resubmit it. Did my piece suck? Or did it just lack the marketing power of andrewsullivan.com?
posted by Frank. - 8:49:00 AM A ROVEIAN THEORY OF TERROR: Why has al-Qaeda hit the U.K. and not the U.S.? And for that matter, why do there seem to be so many more terrorist cells on the continent? Newspapers are finally getting around to pondering these obvious questions. Predictible answers abound: more effective (non-politically correct) policing, a more genuine pluralism, etc. A front page story in the Post this morning inadvertently posits another theory to explain the relative paucity of cells here. The piece is about the growth of exurban mosques in the farthest reaches of the D.C. area. Why is this significant? The articles doesn’t say. But if Karl Rove and David Brooks have described the exurbs correctly, these are places where social interaction is hard to come by. It needs to be sought out. That’s why mega-churches and their insta-communities have had such great success in these areas. For Muslims, there’s a benefit to this geographic dispersion. After all, in Britain, especially Leeds, part of the problem seems to be the classic urban tension that arises when disparate social and ethnic groups get crammed together. Thanks to familiarity, they begin to resent one another with a passion. (White Brits resent the success of Muslim Brit strivers; Muslims, in turn, resent that their hard work hasn’t won them acceptance. And so on.) In the true Fredrick Jackson Turner spirit, the American frontier, or what passes for it today, may help prevent the rise of this kind of social tension. People aren't in each others' faces. (While the Post cites a few instances of anti-Muslim bigotry in the D.C. exurbs, they hardly compare to the race riots and beatings in Yorkshire.) At least, the exurbs may help explain why second-generation American Muslims aren’t nearly as pissed as their European counterparts.