Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Fun For the Ears and Eyes

Nathan Gunn is the up-and-comingest young baritone in the country, and quite possibly on the planet. He was a cute chipmunk of a kid back in the late '70s when he was a few years behind me in grammar school; he's grown up quite well and sings like a big deep-voiced angel. Take a listen and a look, and if you're in Chicagoland you can catch him singing Figaro in The Barber of Seville at the Lyric Opera through the end of March.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama's Open Letter

Top!Secret G-woman rides to the rescue again, just as I was slipping into a mean-and-standard-deviation-incurred catatonic state. Maybe this science stuff would be easier if I had a PhD or something. Anyway. Barack Obama wrote an open letter to us LGBT folk. On the whole, not bad. I'm running for President to build an America that lives up to our founding promise of equality for all - a promise that extends to our gay brothers and sisters. It's wrong to have millions of Americans living as second-class citizens in this nation... Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans... As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws.

Well, boy howdy. This is the only bit that keeps me from doing backflips:

I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples -- whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage.

As I and about a million other people have pointed out elsewhere, the label the government ultimately settles on for legally recognized same-sex partnerships is irrelevant so long as they are accorded the full spectrum of rights and responsibilities that come with man-woman marriage. Identical. The problem comes when federal law and policy mandate "married" as the qualifying condition for receiving those rights and responsibilities. Witness the problems civilly unioned same-sex couples have encountered in New Jersey, where state benefits managers have asserted no responsibility to extend coverage because policies require a marriage license for eligibility--despite the fact that the civil unions adopted there were intended to be legally fully equal to marriage.

A bigger problem is what happens when certain states decide that the best way to "pursue equality" is to not pursue equality at all. I would hope that Obama, of all the candidates, would be the most acutely aware that championing "states' rights" has historically been a smokescreen for the abnegation of minority groups's civil rights. The sentiments expressed in this letter are going to scare off the ultra social conservatives anyway, so I don't quite understand the need to throw that particular bone out there.

I hope these quibbles are just that--quibbles about semantics--although that would be easier to hope for with a candidate far less careful about his words than Obama. What the hell. It's a start.

Way to Support the Troops, DOD!

I found this on Americablog, but I'm repeating it here mainly so I'll have it handy the next time my Ranger brother forwards me an e-mail accusing liberals of hating the military (which, based on established patterns, should be sometime in the next forty seconds or so):
Sioux Manufacturing, which makes the Kevlar for helmets, has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company had shortchanged the armor in up to 2.2 million helmets for the military, including helmets used by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Defense, aware of both the problem with Sioux's helmets and the company's efforts to cover it up, awarded another contract to Sioux a mere 12 days before the lawsuit was settled.

Senators Clinton and Kerry, who sit on the Armed Services Committee, have written letters to the DOD demanding, oh, let's call it "quality control." Not a peep yet from other ASC members Skelton, Levin (both Democrats), Hunter, or... what's that other guy's name? Oh yeah. John McCain.

Don't give me that crap line about supporting the troops. The DOD and the freaking Army have been shortchanging the troops in this one from the start.

A Tale of Two Towns.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon strolling around Fourth Avenue and downtown Tucson in an attempt to clear my head of all the work-related crap that had me pondering a career change earlier in the day, starting at Epic Cafe and working down 4th, over on 7th Street across the tracks, to Toole and the train station. 4th Avenue was bustling as usual on a very pleasant, breezy late afternoon that drew people to the sidewalk tables outside Epic, and Magpie's, and Caffe Passe, and the corners outside Che's and Hippie Gypsy. Most of the shops kept their doors propped open for the fresh air and the foot traffic.

Downtown bustled as well, although the bulk of this was made up of people in cars trying to maneuver out of parking lots and dodge construction barricades to get the hell out and go home. Cutting into Downtown via one of those side streets from the north provides a pretty depressing view of how much has been lost there. In a spasm of early 1970s urban-renewal fervor, the city of Tucson obliterated most of its historic core and the surrounding neighborhoods to create a sterile pebbled-cement labyrinth we're still trying to feel our way out of thirty years later. A vacant, five-story block of low-income housing thrown up on Congress Street has been stripped to its concrete and steel skeleton, draped with orange construction fencing, surrounded by a pod of roll-off dumpsters. Viewed from the north, it stands in jarring relief against the backdrop of what remains of historic Downtown, an incongruous hulk looming over the Hotel Congress and Rialto Theater and their two-story strip of tenuously brave brick-faced shopfronts, a stark monument to the failure of a vision of the future that had no room, no time for the past. The blocks to the west on Congress Street are a patchwork of original buildings, once-new construction, and gaps left by the demolition of buildings whose decay outstripped the interest in preservation that didn't surface in force until maybe the 1990s. There are a few bars, a few art galleries, a couple of grills, a lot of vacant real estate.

There was a lot of potential there, once. The Hotel Congress block is still standing, anchoring the eastern entrance to Downtown with a rejuvenated Rialto. The newly renovated train station has Congress' back, but is woefully empty and awaiting a tenant that will attract profitable traffic. The restaurant on the east end of the building failed despite city rent subsidies and dedicated parking, perhaps done in by the demolition of the 4th Avenue underpass, perhaps by a downtown vibe that still isn't strong enough to draw people in droves. I stuck my head into the restored and historically correct waiting room to see the original wood benches, but was too overwhelmed by the silent crossfire of the bored Amtrak guy and the bored Hertz woman staring blankly into the empty space to stay. Retreating outside, I cut around the fenced-off outdoor patio that would be a nice spot to linger over a coffee or beer, had Central Bistro managed to stick it out, and wandered over through the apron of the train station with its lovely trees and shrubs and historic luggage carts to see the steam locomotive on display. This is the engine that was oddly, if delightfully, planted in front of the Himmel Park pool for years; it's much more in place in its corral between the tracks and the freight house, but lonely. I said hello to the engine and spent a few minutes examining a sign showing the spot where Wyatt Earp gunned down some poor bastard who pissed him off in 1882, and then I walked over to stand next to the bronze statue of Wyatt and Doc and wondered if this was where they were standing when the fatal shot was fired, and if it was as nice a day then as this one was now. Beyond the fence, the tracks started singing faintly, a quiet high shimmering ring that crescendoed and then was eclipsed by the sforzando blast of a Santa Fe freight's horn. I leaned against the steam engine's corral and watched the freight rush by with clacks and squeals, pushing a staccato breeze against my face, until it was gone, echoing down the tracks, and all was quiet again.

It is curious to be in the middle of a city and have an entire space to yourself in silence.

Walking back around the station building to Toole Avenue and its traffic, I wondered how different Tucson might have been if just a little more had been spared the wrecking ball. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered much in the end. Plan after plan for revitalization has been floated and failed. Maybe they should have put the baseball stadium down here. Maybe a brewery would have worked if the Nimbus guy hadn't proved to be such a numbnuts with the finances. Maybe there's still a chance if they put the market in the train station the underpass is completed on time and the streetcar is a big hit with the suburbanites. Maybe.

The rapidly eroding historic character made me think of the little town in Illinois my family's from. It has very little in common with Tucson save for train tracks through the middle of downtown and civic leadership that never met an historic structure it couldn't blow up fast enough. It used to be a charming little place, with a downtown centered on two streets meeting in a T that were flanked by two-story 1800s storefronts with ornate pressed tin facades. Late in the 1960s most of those came down in the name of modernization to be replaced by truly hideous frame-and-shingle facades with no discernible architectural heritage beyond postwar dreck. There were still a few holdouts, although as the years have gone by they declined to the point that it made more sense to demolish than try to preserve. Then the current mayor took office and went on a total fucking rampage--yes, Tom Fehrenbacher, I'm talking to you--taking down every historic structure he could personally buy and convert into a parking lot.

Lot of parking lots in Olney now. Not much to see once you've parked. They had a cool little train station once, much like any other small-town station built in the late 1800s. Would have made a nice coffee and sandwich shop. It's gone now.

What would it take to bring some of the Fourth Avenue bustle to Downtown, to keep it from falling deeper into the abyss that's been gnawing at it for three decades? The two areas are separated only by the tracks and joined by the underpass but might as well be worlds apart. I am drawn there by the bricks and wood and the scraps of sense of place that remain, by the however fragile connection they provide to the old buildings I remember from my childhood half a continent away. Buildings need people in and around them to stay alive. I do what I can and walk back across the tracks toward home.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Okay, The Family Circus had been annoying me even more than usual with this week's "cool friends" theme, whose improbably detailed snowmen have hit levels of Ah Fuck The Cloying Sappiness Is Burning My Eyes that are unprecedented even for the Keane clan. We've been warmed up so far with

praying snowman, bell-ringin' kindergarten teacher snowman, and conductor snowman. Okay. Whatever. Not particularly clever (although the dismayed snowman whose body was melting away as he awaited Al Gore's talk on global warming on Sunday was just ooky enough), not particularly plausible builds given the Keane kids' stubby arms, but whatever.

Then came this morning's paper, and with it the realization that Daddy Keane had been setting us up all along. Mundane, mundane, mundane, and then... this.

Family Circus Cartoon for 02/27/2008

Why is Larry King so sad? Why, because someone has hacked off his arms, leaving him to wander the streets outside his old digs in a drunken haze, wearing only his suspenders, having blacked out round about the time when he was supposed to put on his pants. It's either that or the realization that being tagged as one of Billy and Jeffy's cool friends has ruined his street cred forEVAH. Righteous, Bil!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nader Unsatisfied With Disaster Foisted on Country the First Time Around, Acts to Remedy Situation

Oh, Ralph. You rapscallion. Not content to have gummed up the works to the extent that they spat out George W. as the winner in 2000? It's understandable. I mean, those of us who thought about issues enough to see actual leadership and incisive intelligence behind Gore.2000's facade of dull pedantry were pleased about the Democratic candidate that year, but it's nothing compared to the hope-tinged passion Obama is stirring in 2008 breasts. And the likely Republican nominee is a certified loon with a foul temper who promises wars and wars and wars.

The stakes are even higher now, Ralph. So who can blame your not being able to resist leaping into the race? You have the chance to cement your name into history. President McCain would totally paint your name on a couple of bomb bomb bombs, just as a classy thank you, and generations--generations!--of draft-age kids would co-opt your name as a verb. Aw, dude. I just fucking got Nadered. Tehran, here I come.

(hat tip, who else? Top!Secret G-woman)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Rundown

Item the first: Muqtada al-Sadr announced this morning he's extending the Mahdi Army cease-fire another six months. This is very good news for our guys in Baghdad--always preferable to minimize the amount of crossfire you're caught in--and good news for the Iraqi government, such as it is, which now has another half year to flail around on life support without having to worry about this particular bug doing it in. If this cements al-Sadr's position as a national leader, well, maybe not so good in the medium- to long-run. But whatever. If it brings more stability the next president can leverage into a ticket home for every pair of boots over there, I'm all over it.

Item the second: Arizona legislator feels state not quite Wild Wild West enough; acts to remedy situation.
A House panel voted Thursday to let people pull out their guns without fear of winding up in jail if they believe they are in danger.

The 5-4 vote came despite questions by several legislators as to whether that language would provide a legal defense for gang members caught waving their weapons, as they could say they were in fear a rival gang had threatened them.

And Bob Ticer, a lieutenant with the state Department of Public Safety, said he feared this kind of law could escalate a simple dispute into an outright gunbattle.

What fair municipality, you ask, might have produced the legislator who proposed this latest bit of gungungun escalation? Amazingly, it's Mesa. Home of Karen "More Guns In Schools" Johnson. Don't worry, though--the guy has a foolproof argument against the other legislators' (and the cop's) concerns:

Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, sponsor of the measure, dismissed their concerns as unrealistic.

Pearce said police officers "sometimes have not used the discretion or the good sense the Lord gave them."

"Some folks are capable of taking care of themselves and other folks are frightened or intimidated very easily," Pearce said. He said individuals should be able to "express their fear in a proper manner."

Um. Let me see if I follow this correctly. Trained police officers sometimes don't use discretion or good sense, and some people frighten very easily, so they should... be allowed to brandish a firearm at every perceived threat? What happens when the perceived threat is another person who frightens easily? Or, god forbid, a cop not exercising discretion that day?

Clearly, there are not enough rivers of blood flowing in Arizona from gun violence. Glad Rep. Pearce is looking out for the rights of gangbangers to wave their Rugers at each other as long as they don't actually point them at someone.

Item the third: The New York Times breaks the news that John McCain may have had an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist. Result? McCain says it's a lie, and the conservative base--which heretofore wouldn't give him the time of day--suddenly rallies to his defense. How would this have played out had the accused candidate been Obama or Clinton? Think "it's not true" would be more than enough for everyone to shrug and write it off as a smear tactic? Uh-uh, I don't either.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I was so fucking stoked for my day this morning, despite waking up probably a dozen times during the night due to various combinations of restless dogs, a sore back, and an unexpectedly cold house--curse the decision to pack up the heavy blankets last weekend--and then I got out of bed and read this in the paper.

Let people of Arizona legally define marriage
Opinion by Cathi Herrod

Cathi Herrod is an attorney and president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative advocacy group based in Phoenix.

Charming. I pounded out my own op-ed response, but as it clocks in at 935 words, the Daily Star won't give it a look. Not that it likely matters much, really. You either believe her crap as gospel or you, well, recognize the crap factor. You use reason or you don't. You appeal to emotion and superstition or you don't. You live and let live or you take every opportunity that is handed to you to beat someone else down, just because you can. One online commenter huffed that since people voted to take away his rights as a smoker in the last election, he's going to vote to take away gay rights in this one. He wouldn't really care either way otherwise, but a man needs to take his revenge where he can get it.

Oh, look. Now we have an hourly update from the Star telling us

A proposed ballot measure to impose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is advancing at the Legislature.

Approvals by House and Senate committees means a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman could be considered by the full chambers as early as next week.

If it passes it would appear on the state's November ballot.

Fucking excellent. Gee, do you think it will pass a legislature dominated not just by Republicans, but by Arizona's own special brand of nutjob Maricopa County "the solution to more school shootings is more guns in schools" Republicans? You think?

I really, really hate this state sometimes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Brief Respite from the Trenches

The past several weeks have been one long cage match with the database. The administrator did install the equivalent of a nifty warp drive button for me yesterday, which will alleviate a lot of the problems, but I'm still left with several complex summary tables to correct, which entails running the same query with minor tweaks over and over and over again. I swear by the end of the day I can feel my cerebral cortex folding in on itself in surrender. And after all that, how many people actually give a rat's ass about how folks organized themselves to manufacture arrowheads on the Mogollon Rim a thousand years ago? Do you? Didn't think so.

That and reading far too many comments on the Daily Star's continuing coverage of the upcoming Arizona Constitutional amendment kerfuffle (election coming up? must launch anti-gay marriage bill!) has left me too mentally numbed to post much other than pretty pictures from hiking trips. You know, straight people who insist that hiring a lawyer to draw up a will and a few Power of Attorney documents not only provides the exact same legal protections as civil marriage but is actually superior to civil marriage should be required to forfeit their own $50 trips to the courthouse and re-do it all via the lawyer route. Seriously. They'll need to go shopping for a sturdy messenger bag first, though, which they'll need to cart around their documents wherever they go--not that even a boxful of medical and financial powers of attorney will fly very far in one of the states whose constitutions were recently amended to not only ban same-sex marriage forever and ever world without end amen, but to also explicitly refuse to recognize any relationship designed to approximate marriage or the legal incidents thereof. Get that last little bit there? Your very expensive contracts and PoAs mean exactly jack shit in states like Michigan or Wisconsin, because they attempt to secure for you just a few of the legal incidents extended to straight couples facing emergencies without hesitation or the demand for supporting documentation.

So I'm a tad more surly than usual, and my Thin Mints have still not yet arrived. WTF, Girl Scouts? Step it up!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Round Mound of Sound Expounds

Sir Charles has come a long way from the days when his mom took him to task for supporting President Bush the First; she admonished him that Bush was for the rich, to which he shrugged and replied, "Well, I'm rich." In his retirement from the NBA, Barkley seems to have a much lower tolerance for bullshit than he used to.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend Snowblogging

The Doppler radar on the Weather Channel Friday night showed a slowly rotating giant pink pinwheel perched on the northern edge of the Tucson Basin. By Saturday morning our normally bite-sized mountain range had draped itself in snow to rear up from behind tattered clouds in terrible majesty and splendor. As usual when the snow flies, the highway up was closed at the base, so we contented ourselves with the view from Sabino Canyon.

Boltgirl in peril!

No sign of mountain lions (other than this, well, sign). I did see some javelina and raccoon tracks in the sand on the edge of Sabino Creek, which was churning at a fairly good volume.

Snow-and cloud-crested mountains above the desert.

Snowy slopes from beneath a confused saguaro.

This might be the last good winter storm we get. Stay tuned for a killer wildflower season in the spring... which is due in about a month, I think.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In Which We Are Almost Speechless

Of course, we are never too speechless to say What. The. Flying. Fuck. (via Pharyngula)
Kansas activities officials are investigating a school's refusal to let a female referee call a boys' high school basketball game.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game.

The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

St. Mary's is run by the retro-Catholic Society of St. Pius X, a lovely little schismatic group that believes in rather arcane bits of theology from the totally old-skool Church as well as believing that major purchases should not be made on Sundays, that women shouldn't wear men's clothing and that standards of modest attire should be enforced more rigorously for women than for men, that surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy is never okay until the embryo has died on its own, and, oh yeah, that slavery isn't necessarily always a bad thing. On the plus side, they teach that it's not a sin to serve soft drinks as long as they aren't drunk purely for pleasure or in excess, that you don't necessarily have to cut off all communication with your daughter who is living in sin, and that it is permissible to perform old-time country folk music on TV. But not Gospel music, ever.

Aaaaaannnnnnd where does the SSPX stand on feminism (or "the feministic movement," as they so charmingly refer to it on their website)? Do you really need to ask? Actually, the discussion opens with this howler:

The Church has always been, historically, a great defender of woman.

And kind of goes downhill from there.

The natural order differentiates the two sexes by subordinating the one to the other. In the order of creation the woman comes after man. She is subject to man though not his final end.

There is a subordination which many choose to ignore, a subordination given us by Divine revelation: "The head of every man is Christ; the head of the woman is man; and the head of Christ is God." Feminism refuses the true nature of woman, confuses the natural and supernatural relations between the sexes and embarks upon a deviant path at the end of which the suicide of thought and the death of womanhood is inevitable.

The suicide of thought? Come on now--there's no need for suicide when the Church kills your independent thought processes for you!

Getting back to the point, though, while I find the thought of living under such a stifling philosophy repugnant and am very sad for the women in the SSPX families, it ultimately matters to me not because of my personal emotional reaction to the crap trotted out on their website and likely in their weekly homilies, but because it's a prime example of religious extremism reaching out to gobsmack other people who do not subscribe to their beliefs.

How much cash did the referee miss out on by not working that game? If the Arizona interscholastic association pay scales are any comparison, it was probably in the neighborhood of forty bucks. Not huge in the grand scheme of things. But, as with so many other fights of principle, it's the precedent here that matters more than the specific economic opportunity being denied. In a publicly funded athletic association, denying employment to a certified professional on the basis of gender can't fly. The Kansas association is reviewing the incident and St. Mary's written policies before deciding whether to boot the school.

Beyond the seemingly cut-and-dried issue of whether a religious institution may discriminate while operating under the umbrella of a public association, I find myself shuddering at the kinds of assholes this school is churning out into the greater society when it teaches that an adult woman has no authority over minor boys. God, I hope the first female cop who pulls one of these guys (or their coaches or teachers or priests) over for speeding has a microphone on her dashboard camera. That's going to be just charming.

Women may hold no authority over men. Isn't that one of the facets of religious extremism we cite as a reason to invade other countries, at least as long as they (1) don't have nukes or (2) have leaders who like to go on long walks on the beach with our leader?

Slight update and props to the male referees at the gym who refused to play along with the bullshit and walked off the court with Campbell:

Fred Shockey, who was getting ready to leave the gym after officiating two junior high games, said he was told there had been an emergency and was asked to stay and officiate two more games.

"When I found out what the emergency was, I said there was no way I was going to work those games," said Shockey, who spent 12 years in the Army and became a ref about three years ago. "I have been led by some of the finest women this nation has to offer, and there was no way I was going to go along with that."

Why It Matters

For Valentine's Day, a little trip into reality. Print it out, fold it up, put it in your pocket, and whip it out every time someone tells you to just file a couple of documents down at the county recorder's office and leave straight folks and their sanctified marriages alone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In Which Senate Democrats Forfeit Their Place within Phylum Chordata Yet Again

Proving that breaking the law under this adminstration means never having to say you're sorry, since all you need to do is change the law to say that breaking the law back then doesn't really count any more, the Senate rather resoundingly agreed with President Bush that telecom companies complicit in illegal surveillance of American citizens should be immune from lawsuits brought by any of those citizens who feel their privacy was intolerably invaded.

Follow the link and check out the Democrats who crossed over to vote against the Dodd-Feingold amendment, which sought to remove immunity from the new surveillance bill. Obama voted for the amendment, adding another check mark in my column of very good reasons to support him for the nomination; Clinton was absent. Evan Bayh? Dianne Feinstein? Claire McCaskill? Hello? Why even bother showing up for work if you're simply going to knuckle under to the president as he continues to bully his way free of the constraints of law and constitutional authority?

Oh, and do you need to ask which way McCain voted? At least he was there, for a change; amazingly, Mr. Maverick voted in lockstep with the Bushites. All together now: John McCain is a douchebag.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Of Course You've Seen This

But if you haven't, you need to. And so do all your acquaintances who still think John McCain is a moderate instead of a giant douchebag.

Just in Time for Valentine's Day!

The Arizona state legislators are at it again, or at least the Republicans are.
A proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution, filed Monday by Senate President Tim Bee, seeks to ask voters to spell out in the constitution that "only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state." Bee, R-Tucson, managed to get 15 of the 16 other GOP senators to sign on as sponsors...

The move comes more than a year after voters rejected a more comprehensive constitutional amendment that not only would have banned same-sex marriage but also would have outlawed civil unions and barred state and local governments from offering benefits to the domestic partners of their employees. That measure picked up 48.2 percent of the votes cast. It was the only gay-marriage ballot measure in the country that failed.

n.b. This is the same Tim Bee who's looking to unseat Gabrielle Giffords in the US House next fall, and has enlisted Karl Rove's help toward that end. Anyway. Same-sex marriage is prohibited by statute in Arizona, but the Center for Arizona Policy folks are desperately afraid of some future court ruling that law unconstitutional, or some future legislature having second thoughts, so rather than risk the dreaded activist judges and activist legislators, they're banking on the current population being conservatively activist enough to carve a permanent diminution of the civil rights of a small chunk of the population into the Arizona Constitution.

And since the language of the new ballot initiative has been carefully pared down to eliminate any potential deletrious applications to non-gay couples or contracts, it has a pretty good chance of passing.

In a 2005 statewide survey, 54 percent of those asked said they would support a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to one man and one woman. But when questioned about denying domestic-partner benefits, support dropped to just 33 percent.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat who was one of the leaders of the opposition to the 2006 initiative, all but conceded the point during the campaign, saying that if the measure had been limited to just banning same-sex marriage, it likely would have passed.

Although one Republican refused to sign on as a co-sponsor, citing the actual pressing issues the legislature has to deal with, she acknowledged that she will probably vote for the measure when it comes up, and that sums the reason underlying whatever success the amendment sees in November. People are getting sick of conservatives raising this issue time after time after time, and a whole host of actual issues (say, the economy, immigration, the environment, education) are elbowing Teh Gay out of the forefront of Arizona voters' minds. But, like so many other things, while people probably won't go out of their way to advocate for the amendment, if it (1) does not negatively impact them and (2) does not require any extra effort beyond hefting the Sharpie toward one additional bubble on the ballot in the anonymity of the voting booth, they'll probably vote for it.

Maybe my cynicism is misplaced. Let's wade into the comments posted after the Daily Star article and take a look.

Since I had my right to drink a beer and smoke a cigarette in a bar voted away, I look forward to the chance to vote against someone elses rights.That's the way it is now, isn't it? Support a ban or tax as long as it impacts someone other than myself. Just have to make sure the other group has a small voting bloc.

The economy is bad; we're bogged down in a long-term war, and there are Islamic terrorists that want to kill Americans. So what do the Republicans do? They look for some harmless minority to attack. Gee, that's going to help matters. How very sad.

Leviticus 20:13

If you would wake up you would see that it has a lot to do with the taxes we pay and what they are used for. And I don't want mine spent on Illegals or gays. PERIOD

Barry Goldwater was a conservative. These people who make these initiates, the people who you see post there religious views here everyday are NOT Conservatives. They are Social conservatives or Neo-conservatives. They have nothing in common with real conservativism. Conservatives believe that the right to privacy is written in the constitution. If you do not believe that you are not a conservative.

Being Q is a "mental illness" and should be recognized as such. Same sex people being married goes against the laws of "GOD and NATURE". No more "SPECIAL RIGHTS" for them. They allready have enough of them.

It has always amazed me how fundies claim to live by the whole bible, but they like to highlight their "favorite" verses. These are usually verses that they use to point out someone else's (so called) sins. Isn't this the same book that Jesus admonished his followers not to be concerned about the splinter in their brothers eye, when they have a log in their own?

And so on. The comments actually fall about 2-1 against the proposed amendment, but since online boards are notoriously poor predictors of voter behavior, you'll have to forgive me if I retain a pessimistic view until the elections. But--BUT--I will tip my pixels to the best rejoinder I've yet seen to the inevitable sure, and while you're at it, why not make it legal for a dude to marry his dog comment:

Besides a marriage between a man and a dog would never last. Sooner or later he'll discover she's a bitch to live with.

Monday, February 11, 2008


In a predictable bit of political expediency, the upstart who's hanging onto front-runner status by the slenderest of margins wants the superdelegates to echo the popular vote, while the establishment candidate in second place wants them to pony up on patronage obligations.
Obama himself weighed in on Friday, telling reporters that voters should determine whom superdelegates support, even as his campaign actively courted them.

"My strong belief is that if we end up with the most states and the most pledged delegates, and the most voters in the country, then it would be problematic for political insiders to overturn the judgment of the voters," he said. "I think that should be the guiding approach to determining who will be the nominee."

Clinton, speaking to reporters on Saturday, argued that superdelegates should make up their own minds and pointedly noted that Obama has the endorsements of superdelegates John Kerry and Edward Kennedy, both senators from Massachusetts, a state whose primary Clinton won.

"Superdelegates are by design supposed to exercise independent judgment," she said. "If Sen. Obama and his campaign continue to push this position, which is to the contrary of what the definition of superdelegates has historically been, I will look forward to receiving the support of Sen. Kerry and Sen. Kennedy."

Will they stick to their guns if their positions reverse? Stay tuned. At some point over the weekend, the superdelegate I saw interviewed claimed confusion on the issue of exactly which constituency he should echo with his vote--his whole state, or just his congressional district? It feels like a no-brainer to me; if you're a governor or senator, you vote the way your state voted overall, but if you're a representative you follow your district. If you're none of the above and aren't actually an elected official but just a party hack, you follow the nationwide popular vote. Anything else undermines both the process and what the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Random Linkiness

It's Friday and the database has been giving me fits all week. Who knew setting a bajillion filters to get validly comparable sets of artifacts would bring so many inherent problems to light? Who knew control units were such wicked BAD proxies for whole pithouses? And then didn't tell me? Sigh. The artifacts are telling me--screaming in my ear, actually--so I have quite a bit of work to do. Oh, Archaeological Record. You're such a fickle mistress.

Anyway. For a little padding while you sit back and marvel at right-wing talk radioites turning on John McCain (and Fox News labeling him "D-AZ"), we have Maddow on the apparent GOP loathing of their candidates this time around:

Need to say goodbye to Mittens one last time before he fades into the obscurity that only a made-for-TV-movie starring Matthew Fox as the Mittster could possibly dash? Lord knows I do after that lovely stepping-down speech.

In this time I war I have to now stand aside... I'd be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win.. in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror.
Here, let Jon Stewart help you with that.

And, finally, via Pharyngula, a kick-ass video of a Big! Ass! Squid!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bye, Mittens

Romney's out as of today, freeing up McCain and Huckabee to decide whether to make their temporary alliance of convenience a more permanent gig. Let us hope the absence of a common enemy makes them remember that they really don't like each other that much after all.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Superdelegates? Ah Shite

After yesterday's primaries and caucuses, Clinton holds a four-point lead over Obama in the number of delegates each has won... and an 87-point lead in the superdelegates. Arooo? you might rightly ask in your best befuddled Scooby-voice. Superdelegates? Yes. Those would be the additional delegates peculiar to the Democratic Party, composed of all Dem members of Congress, all Dem governors, and assorted party hacks. They get awarded to the candidates just like regular delegates do... but they get to decide which candidate they're going to, rather than being assigned on the basis of votes cast by, you know, the voting public.

Howard Dean gamely explained this all away on Air America last night, serving up a line of bullshit that went like this: You know, these superdelegates are all people who were voted into their positions by the voters, so it's not a subversion of the democratic process in any way. Uh, okay, Howard. The little problem I see with that line of reasoning is that the people serving as superdelegates campaigned for and were voted into specific offices such as representative or senator or governor. No one voted for them for the express purpose of giving them the power to award nomination points to the presidential candidate of their personal choosing, particularly when that choice runs counter to the expressed will of the majority of the people casting votes in the primaries.

The upshot is that either Clinton or Obama could very well win the popular vote but lose the nomination by virtue of superdelegates--the very definition of Party Establishment--aligning themselves with the other candidate. And because most of the elected representatives, senators, and governors in this country, even the Democratic ones, are overwhelmingly white, male, and moneyed, well, where does that leave hopelessly idealistic notions of representative government or even the power of the ballot box? The concept of superdelegates does not square with a party that gives even lip service to populism. It smacks of elitism and is the stuff of a ruling class that doesn't trust the rabble to make decisions. If it comes down to superdelegates being in the position of tipping the nomination to one side or the other, will they have the integrity to follow the votes of the people they claim to represent?

Apres Obama, Le Deluge des Uh-Ohs

Hmmmm. Clinton took Arizona, which I wasn't expecting because I didn't pay attention to the rest of the state. I'm pretty sure Obama took Tucson. His end-of-the-night "Our Time Has Come" speech in Chicago was electrifying (two part YouTube presentation below):

Barack Obama. Orator Laureate of the U.S. Is it any wonder all the kids are doing backflips for him? Hell, I'm old and jaded and he's gotten me to believe.

But even before the goosebumps receded, alarm bells were sounding ever so faintly in the back of my head, and most of them were labeled "McCain/Huckabee '08." Those two camps are increasingly looking past their ideological differences to focus on the one thing they can agree on, which is a deep loathing of Mittens Romney. And that would give us a GOP ticket that would allow a lot of people to hold their noses, gaze fixedly at their candidate, and avert their eyes from his running mate.

Think about it. Huckabee brings in the evangelical vote and might be the widget that justifies a vote in the minds of Republicans who don't think McCain's a true conservative (behold the power of a meme completely in contradiction to the man's actual voting record) but are counting on him working himself into a coronary before the first hundred days are up. And GOPers who aren't necessarily enamored with the idea of a Bible-based state but do salivate at the possibility of a new Hundred Years' War can look past the Baptist minister on the ticket, since, after all, he's only the VP. Add to those Republicans the independents who also don't believe McCain's a true conservative but think that's a positive, and are willing to overlook everything Mike Huckabee has ever said except those bits about us needing to be better stewards of the environment, and we might have trouble.

Who fights this combination the best? I gotta think it's Obama. McCain's "maverick" label, despite being a steaming load of bullshit, will be enough for independent and Democratic voters who hate Clinton to convince themselves that it's really not so bad to vote Republican this time around. And Obama has the unassailable moral standing to confront Bomb Bomb on the current war, and the next war he wants to start, and the several lurking beyond that.

Can Clinton pull it off? I am not optimistic. Could Obama really pull it off against a more bombs-more bibles ticket that just might be the ticket away from guilt the not-ready-yet crowd is secretly pining for? I want him to. I want to jump on that hope train and settle back with a drink and watch the country trundle by on the track back to the America he promises. I don't know if I believe in my fellow voters enough to count on it yet.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

Tragedy in a suburb of Chicago Saturday--a guy with a gun walked into a Lane Bryant in Tinley Park, herded six women into a back room, bound them with tape, made "sexual advances" to at least one, and then shot them before disappearing. Five died. One, shot in the neck, survived. Her family's reaction?
Her relatives said they believed divine intervention saved the woman, a devout Christian who grew up in the south suburbs and was studying to become a nurse.

The survivor's family has been active for years at a Will County church. A sister and her husband are missionaries in rural Alaska.

Hey, Nick Kristof, you wonder why people in the reality-based community deride the devoutly religious from time to time? Because of stuff like this. Divine intervention spared your relative? What, was God too hung over from helping Plaxico Burress persevere through injuries, making sure he'd haul in the Super Bowl-winning catch the next day, to extend a helping hand to the five women who ended up dying? Or do you firmly believe that because your relative is a devout Christian and has a missionary sister, she was worthier of divine intervention than the other five?

Great message you're sending to the families of the women who were killed. God likes our relative better than he likes yours. Sorry, sucks to be you. And if that's the kind of god you believe in, who'll let one live while five die under terrifying circumstances for the crime of going shopping, well, your god is a capricious, sadistic bastard.

In Which Nicholas Kristof Misses the Point

Mmmm, generally like Kristof's writing, and he's done a yeoman's job of keeping the atrocities of Darfur and Afghanistan, particularly those committed against women, on the radar screens of American readers. His Sunday column just hit the Daily Star today, and I have a bit of a bone to pick with him.
Scorning people for their faith is intrinsically repugnant, and in this case it also betrays a profound misunderstanding of how far evangelicals have moved over the last decade. Today, conservative Christian churches do superb work on poverty, AIDS, sex trafficking, climate change, prison abuses, malaria and genocide in Darfur.

Bleeding-heart liberals could accomplish far more if they reached out to build common cause with bleeding-heart conservatives. And the Democratic presidential candidate (particularly if it’s Mr. Obama, to whom evangelicals have been startlingly receptive) has a real chance this year of winning large numbers of evangelical voters.

This is a reiteration of the argument that's been simmering among bloggers in the Seed science writers group for the past year-plus, that people in the non-evangelical (well, non-theist, actually) world need to reach out to religious people gently and respectfully when trying to circumvent the imposition of a particular brand of religion on the political and legal umbrella we're all obliged to stand under.

Kristof isn't blind to the warts of fundamentalism, citing "typically conservative views on taxes, health care or Iraq" as well as pointing out that "moralizing blowhards showed more compassion for embryonic stem cells than for the poor or the sick." But he argues that the work of groups like Doctors Without Borders, Catholic aid groups, and innumerable small independent churches are the new face of religious conservatism, which liberals should now welcome rather than regard warily with a jaundiced eye.

It’s certainly fair to criticize Catholic leaders and other conservative Christians for their hostility toward condoms, a policy that has gravely undermined the fight against AIDS in Africa. But while robust criticism is fair, scorn is not...

We can disagree sharply with their politics, but to mock them underscores our own ignorance and prejudice.

I don't see many--or any, really--liberals mocking or scorning religious aid workers who help the poor and oppressed in this country or abroad by living the gospel's directive to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and comfort the ill and imprisoned. As long as no strings of conversion are attached to that help, hey, go for it and good on you.

Our scorn is reserved for those who use their faith as a convenient excuse to deny civil equality, physical autonomy, economic equity, and intellectual independence to people who do not share their beliefs. For those who find belief and the bible an acceptable substitute for critical thought and hard data. For those who would use religion as a cudgel to bash public policy into a crude semblance of the legalistic passages of their scripture that retains none of the references to humility, service, and love, but conveniently reinforces their self-image as the righteous, sole arbiters of morality and possessors of absolute truth. For those who judge and condemn the specks in other people's eyes while sporting beams in their own big enough to build seven crosses times seven on Calvary.

Those are the people we mock and scorn, Nick. Not those who serve and let live, but those who would compel the whole world to live as they would have us live.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Overdue Natureblogging

Tomorrow, Super Duper Tuesday insanity. Tonight, 5500' of Catalina Mountains serenity from last weekend.

Peak peeking through the oaks.

The sun was just climbing high enough to paint parts of the creekbed with light, but the soaked sand was frozen, making for easy walking. It was cold enough for the spray from innumerable small waterfalls to freeze into icy shoulderpads on the nearby rocks.

Tiny fall, defiant ice.

Still puddles stranded by lowering water levels were skimmed over with delicate crystals.

Thin ice.

I moseyed up the Green Mountain Trail for about an hour and a half, stopping to take pictures and chase the sound of falling water up side drainages. My favorite is a series of half a dozen small pools stair-stepped up the slope near the trailhead; in the sand by the second pool I saw a lion track. The sun hadn't warmed the sand enough for it to have been thawed for long, so I decided against climbing to the top and returned to the main trail, continuing until wondering what was around the next bend was outweighed by sore knees and the need to get down the mountain to tend to real life.

View from Green Mountain Trail down to Thimble Peak.

The Catalinas kick ass.

Super Monday

The day between Super Sunday and Super Duper Tuesday is given over to Super Bowl post-hash and primary pre-hash.

Super Bowl: The game? Eli needs to locate all the guys on the competition committee who voted to do away with the "in the grasp" rule and buy them puppies. The pre-game? Only watched a few minutes of Red!Carpet!Coverage, which was more than enough to confirm that Fox programmers and most of the "fans" in Glendale are idiots.

Ryan Seacrest: Who do you think's going to win today?
John Krasinski: Well, it would be really awkward to say I think the Giants are going to win since I'm wearing this Patriots cap.
Ryan Seacrest: Oh. I guess I'm not tall enough to see that.
Fans: shriek, shriek.

Super Duper Tuesday: Michele Obama is supposed to be in Tucson today, but I haven't heard where or when. Given that it's (1) cold and (2) pouring rain, I hope it's someplace inside on high ground. The streets went into raging river mode right on schedule, so I don't know what her turnout's going to be.

In other primary news, if I had cast an early ballot for John Edwards, I would be mightily pissed off right now. As it is, I am perplexed about the effect early voting might have on the primaries. What happens to the early votes for candidates who drop out before a state's actual primary date? Do they dissipate into the ether? This is a big reason why I wish Edwards had stuck it out the extra week just to see what might happen in states like Illinois and California. I know you take the risk when you go with the early ballot--your candidate might drop a bombshell that would make you withdraw your support, or might drop out altogether--but it seems that something as essential to the well-being of the republic shouldn't be subject to the same kind of risk as, say, going with the early-decision option when you apply to college.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday Free Music Linkage

If you're not, say, an ExxonMobil executive getting a cut of the $1,300 per second your company earned squeezed out of consumers last year, you may be on the lookout for free music streaming. Go get your Big Head Todd and the Monsters on, and groove the rest of Friday away. You earned this one for real.


Oh, thank goodness. I was really worried about the economy for a while there, but this morning CNN has this good news:
Exxon shatters profit records

Oil giant makes corporate history by booking $11.7 billion in quarterly profit; earns $1,300 a second in 2007.

What a relief. The uptick must be just around the corner for the rest of us, no? Or at least just as soon as the Iraqi government untangles its marionette strings and gets down to implementing the changes in law we've been pushing for--you know, the ones that set aside 80% of all oilfield exploration and production for foreign companies for the next 30 years? Yeah, those.

Tucson still has some of the lowest pump prices in the country, around $2.85 this morning. And someday not too far from now we'll be looking back on these days fondly. Meanwhile, StubHub is charging roughly the price of a Prius for scalped 45-yard-line club box seat Super Bowl tickets. Most of us--the ones who have to work pretty hard for a lot longer than one second to earn 1300 clams--can't afford either.