March 27, 2007

Tony Snow

This really sucks. I hope his doctors get it and kill it dead enough that it can never come back.

He's 51. This really sucks.

I suppose the upside of Snow's and Elizabeth Edwards' experience with cancer is that they are public figures dealing with this publicly, and we all get to learn from their examples. It's a special kind of bravery and generosity that lets a person do that, I think, and I'm grateful to both of them. But it sucks, and I hate it for them and their families.

Good luck Tony. Your politics are awful, but I'm behind you 100% as you enter the ring for round two with this.

March 23, 2007


The bulk of my politics writing will now appear at Cernig's Newshog, a great politics blog hosted by a fooking Scot currently residing in Texas.

Cernig and I have worked together in the past, and he's a really remarkable blogger with a great eye for stories. He'll listen to a routine press conference and catch the one detail that blows the lid off of the latest policy discussion. I'm looking forward to having deadlines and a sounding board, and I think that Cernig is looking forward to having my verging-on-mental-illness faith in the ideals and aptitude of America to broaden the vision at Newshog.

I won't be doing a lot of cross posting, because if you need to read it twice you can always just scroll up and start over. Simianbrain will not be devoid of politics, but will change in ways that I haven't really thought through so well. There's plenty of stuff in my cluttered head, so having multiple places to put it all doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Some of my work will still occasionally, as always, appear at Shakespeare's Sister as well. The incisive wit over there is simply good blogging, and you should definitely read today's entry, from Shakes, "Citizen Asshole".

I am carving out my own little niche as a freelance blogger, which is like being a freelance writer but it pays a lot less. Like, nothing. Which continues the theme I first started when I began writing poetry at the age of 5. At this rate, I'll be among the most published writers in the country, dutifully working my day job to pay the bills.

March 22, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards is simply a hero, and good for the two of them to decide that they'll fight on in all the areas of their lives.

June 2 @ The Masquerade

Sage Francis, Buddy Wakefield, Buck 65, and Alias. (Scroll down to the June 2 show)

I've got a pull-out couch and a spare futon. Who's coming?

March 16, 2007

People not like us

John McCain, today, aboard the Straight Talk Express in Iowa:

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian [Jones, McCain's Press Secretary], would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask [John] Weaver [a senior advisor] to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

In 2007, John McCain, an elected official since 1982, has never gotten into the issues of condoms, HIV transmission, and contraception?

That's just amazing. AIDS ravaged America's cities and towns and John McCain has to have a lieutenant figure out what his position on whether condoms help prevent the spread of HIV oughta be? Give me a freaking break.

I was very excited about the slate of candidates for '08 not too long ago. McCain's dodge on HIV and condoms is right up there with Hillary and Barack having to "clarify" their evasions on whether homosexuality is immoral.

These guys really have to grow spines and speak some truths. We're racing towards the future here, and the last thing America needs right now is a leader whose views are shaped by the narrow special interests who control the current White House. Everyone continues to be afraid of them and their schoolyard bullying. It's shameful.

Where's the candidate who will choose America over James Dobson and Jerry Falwell? We're waiting.

Best Headline of the Day

CNN makes it sound so gay:


Taming Afghanistan

It seems there's been an uptick in discussion about what we're doing in Afghanistan, whether we're winning, and whether we can succeed in establishing an accountable, stable government to lead an equally stable Afghan society. I've seen commentary along the lines of "as long as we're not addressing the opium problem in Afghanistan, we can't shut off funding for the remnant Taliban and al Qaeda elements."

I just want to point to this post from July 2005, where I argued exactly that. At the time, I was part of a group blog called Unpaid Pundits that encompassed viewpoints from the right and left, and at least one of the righties strongly disagreed that there was anything at all wrong in Afghanistan and argued that the drug issue and the money that flows from it was no big deal.

Once again, this is an issue where ideology trumped vision, to the detriment of the United States' goals.

Brownback: "I Hate the Gays, Too!"

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Culture War) stepped forward yesterday as a forceful advocate for the position that homosexuality is immoral. America continued to ignore his budding presidential campaign.

This all stems from Gen. Peter Pace's comments in an interview earlier this week with the Chicago Tribune in which he stated:

"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in a wide-ranging discussion with Tribune editors and reporters in Chicago. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

"As an individual, I would not want [acceptance of gay behavior] to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," Pace said.

Sen. John Warner, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, promptly stepped forward with a statement saying this: "I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with the chairman's view that homosexuality is immoral."

Compare the grizzled Republican's initial response with that of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both initially sidestepped the question of whether they believe that homosexuality is immoral (a really stupid question, I might add, designed only to divide and fan culture war flames. Classic Republican methodology, in other words.) Both later released statements to "clarify" their earlier evasions. Both have truly annoyed me over this matter.

Super Mega Primary Day

California will hold its 2008 primary election on February 5, and the Washington Post says that some fifteen other states may follow suit. Some of those states: New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey.

This strikes me as an "oh God" moment in American electoral politics. Iowa's caucuses run in late January, and New Hampshire's primary is typically a week later.

Stick a big state mega primary in one week later, leaving approximately a month before the Super Tuesday battle for the South in early March and you've front loaded the increasingly insane money game to a degree never seen before.

Was there ever a time when it was June or July or August or September before we knew who the two major party candidates would be? If it's all sewn up by March and the candidates are hefting around $100 million (or more) a piece, we literally have months to grow to loathe both of them. Months of the kind of hit pieces the right wing noise machine routinely spins out. Months of the kind of fake scandals and gotcha journalism that pass for thoughtful reporting these days. Months of talking points and campaign promises from each side that will simply be turned into water-muddying chatter on the Sunday morning shows, revealing nothing at all.

I have to admit though that a lot of my unease about this is the idea that it might be Hillary. Come on Democrats. Most of us don't want her elected now, but if we nominate her and then have to listen to her for eight or nine months before actually having to vote for her, I don't think we can possibly win.

March 12, 2007

Road Tripping in the Yaris

After 800 city miles, I took the Yaris on its inaugural road trip yesterday, up to Greenville SC. It worked out to about 250 miles round trip, and I believe it was getting something like a billion miles to the gallon!

Okay, probably not. But it was pretty close to 40mpg. Damn good mileage, and the timing for that could not be better.

March 10, 2007

Righteous Violence

Imagining it is really a form of pornography for many on the right.

Worth noting: a great many of us supported the proportional response of invading the country that hosted our attackers (and refused to turn them over to us after we were attacked) and replacing that leadership with a democratically elected, internationally engaged, and publicly accountable government. It didn't stop a lot of hyperpatriots, busy imagining the next attack, from considering our support soft.

When many of us opposed the next response, usually for very sound reasons that have been validated by facts on the ground, we were called all sorts of names by the people who were fantasizing about the next attack. We were marginalized and scapegoated. The public was told that we would leave the door open for those who would bring us the next attack. So our government went forth on a disasterous and preposterous course of retribution for the last great attack.

I don't disagree at all with BRD's assertion that we can lose the war on terror by failing to act with wisdom. I also know that it won't be people like BRD who save from us that fate.

Hat tip: Cernig

March 07, 2007

"So Jim, let’s have that debate"

Yes please, and I'll throw in: The great progressive successes of the late 19th and 20th centuries were successes brought about by people of faith. Christian ethics were applied to the great moral issues of worker safety, civil rights, the autonomy of women, child safety, and a host of other difficult social questions.

So please have this debate. Please let the extraordinary impulses that drive people of faith expand beyond the small, mean confines that politicized Christianity has compelled, and let it be a driver for positive social change in a host of arenas. Our culture is begging for positive change. People of faith should be free to step beyond politics and make their contributions again.

March 06, 2007

Cutting Coulter's Cashflow

CNN says that several companies are dropping Ann Coulter's website as an advertising destination following her speech at CPAC.

What should really be interesting to watch is whether the party faithful on the right have finally tired of her inane stabs at humor and quit booking her for speeches. It should be clear to everyone that she advances no one's cause (except, increasingly, those of her targets) so maybe we can look forward to a Coulter-lite future.

I can't imagine that Sean Hannity will ever be able to say no to Ann, but I think the rest of us can use that as a barometer for seriousness. Serious people don't book Ann Coulter. If you see Ann Coulter on a television program, you know immediately that nothing serious will be discussed, no solutions will be identified, and nothing important to America will be advanced. Period.

Incidentally, Howard Kurtz has a column up today that tries to play up the "anti-gay" angle of her remark. Coulter is quoted (from a Hannity appearance, naturally) as saying, "the word I used has nothing to do with sexual preference. It is a schoolyard taunt."

Yes, and yes. The media--everyone really--needs to avoid the trap that this was some kind of assault on gays and focus on what it actually was: a sincerely juvenile bit of name calling at a high profile confab for the national conservative movement. And that movement cheered this bit of schoolyard bullying.

These people--Coulter and those who cheer her--aren't serious. And on the whole, they aren't homophobic, but they're eager to exploit any divisions. What they share is a desire to destroy anyone they consider an ideological enemy. They are poison in the body politic, and that's the angle that deserves focus.

March 05, 2007

Christians and Gay Babies

There's a really interesting and thoughtful piece by Albert Mohler up called "Is Your Baby Gay?" He begins with a number of pre-natal screening tests that are performed, calling them collectively "one of the greatest threats to human dignity in our times" because the results so often prompt parents to choose abortion.

What's interesting about this article is that it is a carefully constructed argument against aborting gay babies (Mohler seems convinced that we'll soon be able to diagnose homosexuality in vitro).

He lays out eight points for Christians to consider on the topic of screening in vitro for homosexuality, but what grabbed me was point 8:

If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin.
The specific treatment he envisions is a hormone patch that would be applied to the mother's abdomen.

But if Christians consider it appropriate to dose a pregnant woman and her unborn child with hormones as a "means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin", what about adolescents? What if a hormone therapy could be developed to delay the onset of puberty until the late teens? Or if we could develop a pill that would simply quash the libido (actually, many drugs do this). Is it Christian to want this sort regimen applied to people in order to "avoid sexual temptation"?

What about other types of sin? To what degree should we seek to medicalize the approach to what some faiths consider sins?

There is a commandment in the Bible that instructs believers not to covet what others have (or, what God has given to others). I wonder if actively working to change the sexual orientation of one's child so it's more like other peoples' children would fall under this heading.

What kind of sin is it to want to rid the world of what God has made?

(Found at Sullivan's place.)

March 03, 2007

Coulter's Incessant Mouthing Off

Updated on Sunday afternoon to reflect e-mailed comments from Jeff Goldstein.

I decided to do a little digging this morning to see how the conservative blogs were responding to Ann Coulter's latest... I don't even know how to phrase what it was. "Gaffe" makes it sound accidental, "transgression" gives it an air of authority well beyond what it was. Let's just call it her latest moment of mouthing off in front of humans.

In case you missed it, here's the brief news item:

Best-selling right-wing author Ann Coulter, speaking to a conservative audience in Washington Friday, called former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., a "faggot."

Coulter was a featured speaker at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Following her prepared remarks, televised on C-Span, Coulter was asked to talk about Edwards.

"It turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm kind of at an impasse -- I can't really talk about Edwards," she said.

I have--as a gay person--a deeply held notion that homophobia is decidedly unfashionable in the world today, and that even moderately educated people who've traveled in any kind of social network in their lives have encountered gay people and can deal with gay people. That doesn't mean that they're flocking to vote for marriage equality or can get their minds around gay relationships, but on the basic human level, most people in most situations will accept another person in the room.

A lot of liberals will point out that this is not an absense of homophobia, and of course I agree, but another piece of being human is that we note difference and it causes us consternation. There is no way that I can look at a world history text and see it otherwise; we are creatures that are fundamentally -ist. As children our brains are as absorbtive as they are invisible while doing it; we live in cultures and are raised by our imperfect families; we learn without even knowing that we're learing.

Anyone who tells you they aren't racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or suspicious of the guy down the street is lying. The best we can hope to become is aware of our own compulsions toward these and make the decision that they will not impede us.

So it was with great joy that I read Captain's Quarters, reporting from CPAC:

At some point, Republicans will need to get over their issues with homosexuality. Regardless of whether one believes it to be a choice or a hardwired response, it has little impact on anyone but the gay or lesbian person. We can argue that homosexuality doesn't require legal protection, but not when we have our front-line activists referring to them as "faggots" or worse. That indicates a disturbing level of animosity rather than a true desire to allow people the same rights and protections regardless of their lifestyles.
I loved the quick summary by Dean Barnett on Hugh Hewitt's blog:
Idiotic. Disgusting. Stupid. Moronic.
Even Michelle Malkin is critical. Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse (which I have to admit reading more and more):
Enough is enough. I am sick to death of this woman leading people to believe that she speaks for conservatives. She doesn’t speak for me. And if you believe that she speaks for you, or if you were one of those mouth breathers who applauded when she used that disgusting epithet deliberately to hurt other people (not just John Edwards), then you are hopelessly beyond the pale yourself and would do well to examine exactly what you believe a conservative is and what is acceptable political discourse.

Anyone who reads this site knows I am not a wallflower when it comes to lashing out at my political foes. But there are limits. And Coulter regularly crosses them – not because she doesn’t know any better but because she deliberately uses hate language to get a rise out of the left and get the rest of us talking about her.

And I want to take this opportunity, while we're on the subject, to mention that I despise online writing that uses churlish spelling to demean political foes. Blog posts and comments with "Bu$h", "pResident", "Repugnicans" and the like have lost me from the get-go. We're political bloggers. If this activity is worth the effort, it must matter. These are issues we're talking about. This is philosophy and freedom. The least you could do when making an argument is avoid intentional misspellings.

Back to the bloggy roundup: Pretty much the only support I see for Coulter's inanity among the bigger right blogs (based on a Technorati search) is on Jeff Goldstein's Protein Wisdom, and even that is just an exercise in attempting to piggy-back his own lame jokes onto hers. [Correction: The linked entry was written by Dan Collins, not Jeff Goldstein. Goldstein e-mailed me to argue that his commenters are pretty harsh on Coulter, which is good to see, but I chose to focus on what the blog authors are discussing, rather than what semi-anonymous posters are saying in comments. Still, for the sake of fairness I'll note that Goldstein considers my characterization of Collins' post as "breaking from the norm" of the other linked blogs as "disingenuous". You can decide for yourself whether that's the case.]

I'd love to tell you that Coulter's day is over, but I'm sure it's not. Our culture loves celebrity for its own sake, and it isn't as though there's no audience for mainstream hate (and it isn't as though there isn't a large Republican core of it, either). In a way, it's advantageous for the public faces of it to be mainstream. When this type of hatred is pushed to the corners, it's harder to monitor.

The young Republicans at the CPAC conference reportedly laughed, after a moment, at Coulter's comment. But when the convention's over, they're going to go home to their families, their dorm rooms, their offices, and their lives, and I guarantee that you in most cases, there's a gay person in there somewhere. They're listening to speeches from Mitt Romney, who has at times supported vast measures to promote equality for gay citizens and couples. They're listening to Rudy Giuliani, who is simply not a homophobe. Many of them are still fans of George Bush and Dick Cheney, who have always been happy to manipulate a hatred of gay people that they themselves do not share. (That's a special kind of evil behavior, but it also appears to have worked itself through the American body politic).

Coulter isn't the future of the Republican Party or of anything else. She's a relic, and the contingent that she may speak for is one that can only dwindle.

March 01, 2007

Looming Tornado

Not just a great name for a band...

I grew up in Alabama, and the words "tornado warning" truly fill me with fear. My home town got hit when I was in 8th or 9th grade and killed 19 people (Wikipedia says 21), flattening a big swath of the city.

Anyway, it looks like we're in for a day and night of gusty fun down here in the southeast. I live just east of Atlanta proper (in unincorporated Decatur, ITP), and the city's heat island effect usually breaks these up enough that the worst of it gets deflected. I think my nerves have to do with being a new homeowner with a lot of tall trees around my single-story dwelling.

Anyway, I hope everybody keeps it safe and follows the tornado rules in the southeast today.


"An odd point of view to say the least."

Typing loudly from Atlanta, GA, since 2003.
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Recent Entries
Tony Snow
Elizabeth Edwards
June 2 @ The Masquerade
People not like us
Best Headline of the Day
Taming Afghanistan
Brownback: "I Hate the Gays, Too!"
Super Mega Primary Day
Road Tripping in the Yaris

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