Thursday, August 30, 2007

You Really Ought to Give Iowa a Try

With all the bad news recently (including Larry Craig's reinforcement that homosexuality is shameful) about gay life, finally a positive sign. An Iowa court ruled today that the state cannot bar same-sex couples from obtaining marriage licenses. Money quote from the ruling: "Couples, such as plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 595 by reason of the fact that both persons compromising such a couple are of the same sex." (I'm still looking for a link to the full text of the 63-page ruling.)

The Transcript

Here is the transcript of the arresting officer's interview with (soon to be former) Senator Larry Craig. Denial, denial, denial. But it seems clear the officer has heard it all before.

UPDATE: Here is a link to an audio transcript of the interview. You can really hear the cop's disgust and Craig's mendacity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Schadenfreude & Sympathy

As the Larry Craig debacle continues to play out, I am struck by several emotions.

First, schadenfreude. I have to admit there is part of me that loves seeing this man who has spent a career fighting against equality for gay people being unceremoniously outed by his own actions. This man has a zero rating from every gay rights group, and has been a long time friend of the radical right. He's not only a self-hating gay man, he's on the wrong side of environmental and civil rights issues, as well. He seems to have lived his entire life in the 1950s, where forests were meant for clearcutting and queers are for bashing. He has approached his sexuality in a very 1950s, Roy Cohn sort of way: closet yourself deeply and seize as much power as possible in order to protect yourself and persecute others as a way of reinforcing your own degraded self-worth. The closet is a poisonous place. The air in there is foul and thin, leading many to employ highly-questionable survival techniques.

Which leads me to my second emotion, sympathy. I feel very badly for Larry Craig that he has had to live a secret life in order to achieve his personal goals. He knew when he first felt the pangs of same-sex attraction that they would be inconsistent with a public life -- at least in the early 70s, when he first ran for office. Things have changed over the years, but once Craig got on the married with kids political train, getting off would be very difficult, and most likely career-ending. This is not to excuse his reprehensible behavior in fighting against equal civil rights for gay people, but at least I can understand his desire to hide. Being gay in this country isn't easy. As the religious right and conservatives like Mitt Romney dump Craig overboard faster than you can say "let he who is without sin cast the first stone," the gay community ought to step up and tell Craig, "You are welcome with us -- come and enjoy the rest of your life. Cast off that old shell and remake yourself into a better, more honest, happier person."

The third emotion I'm feeling is anger at the justice system. Exactly what did Craig do wrong? He was cruising for a hook-up. He wasn't engaging in sex. He wasn't even pursuing someone who was rebuffing his advances. Read the police report and you'll see that the arresting officer encouraged Craig in his actions, first by not saying "excuse me" when Craig was peering into the stall where the cop was sitting, and second by tapping back when Craig tapped his foot while in the adjacent stall.

The only crime here is Craig continued dissembling and denying his true nature.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another Republican with a Secret Life, part 2(00+)

Apparently, being Republican makes one incapable of learning from the mistakes of others. Witness the Republican-sponsored debacle in Iraq. Even Cheney knew unseating Saddam would draw us into a "quagmire."

Today's example comes to us from Idaho, that bastion of family values. Larry Craig, a U.S. Senator (one of only 100) from Idaho was arrested in June at the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport for soliciting lewd acts in a men's room. He pleaded guilty, and the arrest report was made widely known only today. Craig says it's all a big misunderstanding -- the reason his foot strayed into the next stall is because the senator has "a wide stance" over the toilet.

Craig was to have been a major campaign leader for Mitt Romney's presidential run. Until today.

PHOTO: Craig is on the right. I suspect his profile on lists him as "straight-acting, straight-appearing."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Life Imitates Art?

Now that Atlanta Falcon Michael Vick is going to plead guilty to dogfighting charges, I'm wondering if we can look forward to a real-life incarnation of "The Longest Yard". Guards vs. inmates -- but this time on ESPN.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Beat Goes On -- but not indefinitely

An interesting story on NPR yesterday, highlighting the work of a scientist from the Santa Fe Institute who has postulated a mathematical formula behind lifespan. The basic question addressed is why some species live longer than others. Why do elephants walk the earth for six or seven decades, while mice (of whom elephants are supposed to be afraid) kak out after only two or three years?

The answer seems to be in heartbeats. Smaller animals tend to have much faster heart rates than do larger mammals. But what's really interesting is that every species (save humans, who -- through medicine and hygiene -- have expanded our life spans) seems to get 1.5 billion heartbeats. The mice, whose hearts beat so much faster, use up their allotment in a few years, while elephants and whales spread their 1.5 billion heartbeat ration over decades.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

All For General Jesus

I still remember when Christianity was about love of one's fellow man, humility and forgiveness. (At least, if one ignores things like the Inquisition and the Crusades.) More and more, it seems to be about xenophobia, violence and warfare. This story from the Washington Post looks at a summer camp where kids live boot camp-style to learn how to be warriors in the battle against Satanic influence. Guess the Lord needs a new generation of intolerance.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Been missing the usual collection of half-baked ideas, strong opinions loosely held and links to the interesting and unusual resources on the Internet? Me too.

Not to worry. The Rational Feast will return soon with more of what all 26 of my semi-regular readers have grown to tolerate. But for now, I'm on deadline (and have been for the past week, hence the dearth of posts), and you will have to wait the tiniest bit longer.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yes Surge, No Surge

An interesting piece in Salon about how the Bush Administration has been spinning (mostly successfully) the effects of the surge of US forces in Iraq. Even with no real reduction in violence and the impending collapse of the Maliki government, we are still being told the surge is working.

Money quote: "The reporters and editors who gave U.S. headlines such as "U.S. Death Toll in Iraq in July Expected to Be Lowest in '07" (New York Times) were being assiduously spun. Bush officials were undoubtedly pushing the information that produced these headlines in an attempt to give Republicans in Congress some good news to take back to their constituents during the August recess.

In late July, CNN interviewed Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, war propagandist-in-chief in Baghdad, about the casualty numbers, reporting: "Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commanding general of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, called the development in recent weeks "an initial positive sign." "This is what we thought would happen once we get control of the real key areas that are controlled by these terrorists," Odierno said at a press conference. At the same time, he said, "I need a bit more time to make an assessment of whether it's a true trend or not."

Odierno's performance was unconvincing to anyone who knew the score. He was speaking on July 24, well before the month had ended. By the time all the casualties were counted and reported (not until early August), was giving the July toll as 80, only one less than in March, during the opening stages of the surge.

Worse, comparisons to previous months in the spring don't take into account the searing summer environment. Baghdad in July is one of those torrid colonial locales of which Noel Coward was speaking in his 1923 song when he wrote that only "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun." The dip in casualties is always substantial in July, since guerrillas usually prefer not to operate with heavy explosives when it is 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade.

And as a tally noted on Foreign Policy magazine's blog, the number of U.S. troop deaths in July, compared with previous years of the war, is anything but a turn for the better:

July 2003: 48
July 2004: 54
July 2005: 54
July 2006: 43
July 2007: 80"

Monday, August 06, 2007

Bob Allen Update

According to Florida state representative Bob Allen, it turns out he wasn't looking for a hook up in a public restroom, he was actually afraid of being mugged by a gang of black men. That, and he was afraid of the weather and was seeking shelter in the public loo. We'll see what a jury thinks of those excuses.

Revenge of the Nerds, Part 245,290

Don't miss this article about hackers at the Defcon convention who outed a Dateline NBC reporter trying to gather some undercover footage of the annual hackers/security event.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Don't I Know It

A piece in today's New York Times documenting the growth in sales of reading glasses. As all we boomers reach 50, presbyopia sets in and we need a little something perched on the ends of our noses. I for one don't really mind the grey hair and wrinkles that come with age. Well, maybe I mind a little, but it doesn't piss me off the way functional defecits like losing my ability to read small type or hear conversations clearly do.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Working for a Living

Here's an interesting concept for starving (or in this case, covetous) artists: make a painting of what you want -- an iPhone, spicy buffalo wings, a check for a million dollars -- then sell the painting for the exact cost of that item. So the iPhone painting goes for $649.71, the wings canvas is $12.70, etc. Here is the artist couple's website.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Three Jeers for Barry

I happened past the Giants-Dodgers game on TV last night, hoping to catch a Barry Bonds at-bat. It's not that I really care about baseball that much. Nor do I care if Bonds breaks Henry Aaron's all-time home run record. In fact, I hope he doesn't. I just wanted to see how the crowd was reacting to him.

When a fly ball off a Dodger's bat soared out to left field where Bonds camped itself under it, the crowd at Chavez Ravine erupted in a chorus of boos. When Barry came to bat in the next inning, there were scattered bits of applause, and here and there a cheer or two. Mostly, though, the crowd jeered Barry. (Though they booed in unison when, after a single pitch, the Dodgers decided to walk Bonds with first base open.) They boo him at bat, they taunt him in the field, they despise him in as many ways as they can think of.

So what happens when Barry finally breaks the record? (It does seem a foregone conclusion.) At home, he'll likely get an ovation. (But nothing like what Aaron got.) But on the road? Where he'll be for the next four days? Will the crowd acknowledge the record positively? Or will the Southern California fans break out in a chorus of jeers? And what will that mean for baseball, when its most hallowed record is broken by a man so universally despised that a crowd of strangers can't even summon up a cheer or two on an historic occasion?

Alberto is the Key

Here is an interesting piece from Salon, focusing on the reasons why Alberto Gonzales has not been fired by Bush, even with his mendacity laid bare.

Money quote: "Following the notion of the unitary executive, in which the departments and agencies have no independent existence under the president, the White House has relentlessly politicized them. Callow political appointees dictate to scientists, censoring or altering their conclusions. Career staff professionals are forced to attend indoctrination sessions on the political strategies of the Republican Party in campaigns and elections. And U.S. attorneys, supposedly impartial prosecutors representing the Department of Justice in the states, are purged if they deviate in any way from the White House's political line."