Call Out the Bigots

No BigotsThe high point of yesterday’s hearings was when Elena Kagan read the Congressional justification of the Defense of Marriage Act. “Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality.” Ouch! But Paul Clement was quick on his feet and noted that, yes, it does say that, but that the court really shouldn’t look at that statement because it was just what some minority of congress members thought. Is that true?

Let me put this in three different ways. Of course not! Of course not! Of course not! Is Clement fucking kidding me? All these kinds of anti-gay laws are enacted because those enacting them hate gays. It is as simple as that. And it was repugnant listening to his song and dance about how DOMA was just meant to clarify the law. Look: there are two ways to clarify the law: accept same sex marriage or reject it. DOMA not only rejected it on the state level (red states don’t have to recognize the satanic blue state same sex marriage laws), it rejected it on the federal level. All together now: because they hated gays!

One thing that I most hate about conservatives is how they are never held accountable for their vile policy positions. Jonathan Chait wrote about that this morning, Next Stage for Gay Rights: Conservative Amnesia. His anger in the article is that conservatives are already trying to rewrite their positions on gay rights, even before they’ve changed their positions on gay rights. Rob Portman does not a movement make.

But as the hearing yesterday shows: rewriting is not valid. Republicans have been horrible on issues related to gay rights. As I pointed out yesterday, it’s all about their Christian Intolerance. Of course, much the same thing can be said of Democrats. But all the liberalization of views toward gay rights that we’ve seen over the past decade or so? That’s almost entirely Democrats. Republicans (especially politicians) are not much more evolved on the subject than they were before.

Jonathan Chait wrote a brilliant article last year about how conservatives were trying to rewrite their history of racism, The Conservative Fantasy History of Civil Rights. It is interesting how they’ve attempted to do this. They just pretend that the second half of the twentieth century never happened. Yep: the Democratic Party was very racist in the 19th century! The Republicans ended slavery! Therefore: Democrats are racists today and Republicans are the defenders of minority rights!

E. J. Graff wrote a really good article over at The American Prospect that gets right to the heart of what is going on, Falling Through the Looking Glass. She notes that we are looking at two worlds at once: the past with all its hatred of gays and the future where no one (outside the religious extremists) will care. But here’s the thing: she sees these things in the same people. Because the people against gay rights will no longer admit (in polite company anyway) that they hate the gays. In fact, most of the time, they’re just looking out for them!

Twenty years from now, all politicians will be in favor of gay rights. It won’t be a partisan issue. Even the people who voted for DOMA will claim they were always for gay rights. It is just that they wanted to clarify what marriage meant! But I’m not inclined to let them get away with it. We will never go back. Allowing bigots to save face does not have to be part of the deal.

Opportunity Lost

Three Trillion Dollar WarMatt Yglesias posted something this morning about research by Linda Bilmes that shows that the total cost of of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is up to $6 trillion and that we haven’t even paid for most of it yet. That’s not exactly news: five years ago, Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz wrote The Three Trillion Dollar War about the Iraq War alone. But it got me think about these wars in a slightly different way: what are the opportunity and other hidden costs of these wars?

I don’t think that either of these wars made us safer. Let’s look back on 9/11 itself. Osama bin Laden’s main excuse for going to war with the United States was our military bases in Saudi Arabia. Guess what? Bin Laden won! In 2003, we dismantled our bases and removed all of our troops. That’s something to think about for the frat boys dancing in the streets over bin Laden’s death: a little backwater terrorist group got the United States to make a major policy change.

After 9/11, the only bright spot I could imagine was that all of the worldwide goodwill that we received could have been used to finally force a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. I really think there would have been enough pressure to get that done. Of course, we didn’t even try. And despite what all of the supposed defenders of Israel claim, this conflict makes Israel less safe because it provides a bright example to those who wish to claim that Israel is invalid. I believe if we had solved that problem we would have sent the entire region on a new (and better) trajectory.

So there’s that. I can’t even imagine how many trillions of dollars that would have been worth. But instead of working to make the Middle East better, we did all we could to make it worse. Now our Secretary of State has to fly to Iraq to try to convince them maybe they shouldn’t help Iran ship weapons to the Syrian government. And somehow, I think that we could have avoiding killing bin Laden for ten years without ever going to war in Afghanistan.

So 12 years on, what do we have. Lots of money wasted. Lots of lives wasted. Lots of goodwill trampled into the mud as though it meant nothing to us. But most of all: lost opportunities. Gone forever. And what did we get in return? A bunch of testosterone cases got to feel like real men. For a while.

Complete and Total Dick™

Representative Charles McBurneyYesterday, The Miami Herald reported, Lawmaker Complains About Getting Out of Speeding Ticket; Trooper Fired. This one is hard for me to take sides on: an entitled legislator and a cop. Let’s discuss, shall we?

Representative Charles McBurney was screaming down Interstate 10 at almost 90 miles per hour with his special legislator license plate. The woman in the car with him was his wife—unusual for a Republican, but these things do happen. According to McBurney there was no way he was going that fast because he had set his cruise control at only 5 miles over the speed limit. Note: this is one of the most common excuses people give when caught speeding. I figure when people notice their cars have cruise control, they think, “Great! Now I can tell cops I was using cruise control when they pull me over!”

Apparently, in Florida, there is an unwritten but faithfully taught rule that cops don’t give tickets out to legislators. But there is an actually written law that says they have to. Regardless, young Trooper Charles Swindle decided to let Representative McBurney off with a warning. He did, however, ding him for a $10 fine for not displaying his insurance information. And that’s where all the trouble started.

McBurney, Complete and Total Dick™ that he is, wrote to the chief of the Highway Patrol, “I am concerned that as Trooper Swindle acted in such fashion to me, that he would do so to any law-abiding citizen of our state.” There are a couple of problems here. Cops are encouraged to use their discretion in giving out tickets. So there is nothing particularly wrong with this. But more disturbing: McBurney’s problem is not that he wasn’t given a ticket; it is that he was given a warning even though he just knows that he couldn’t have been driving that fast because [insert favor lame excuse for speeding here].

Of course, McBurney is wrong to think that Tropper Swindle (Love that name!) would just go around being nice to normal people. McBurney was only the first state legislator who who he let off. Later that same day, he let off Representative Mike Clelland for going (Again!) almost 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. But Clelland is a Democrat and thus didn’t complain like a hurt boy on the grammar school playground.

I’ll admit that Tropper Swindle is kind of a dick—but he dickishness is all institutional. There is no indication that he is otherwise anything but a reasonable guy. McBurney, however, is a great example of Everything That Is Wrong With Our Society™. If there was a coveted Frankly Curious Dick of the Day award, McBurney would get it! But there isn’t, so he gets what you generally deserves: nothing.

Update (28 March 2013 2:56 pm)

Speaking of a Complete and Total Dick™, I just found this Politico article, ‘Rude’ Lawmaker Louie Gohmert Pulls Rank on Cops Over Parking Ticket. Go ahead and read the article. Gohmert really thinks he is above the law. Amazing but not shocking, because, hey, it’s Louie Gohmert.

Way Back to Bartolomeo

Madonna in Glory with Saints - Fra BartolomeoRemember two days ago when I wrote, Just Good Enough: Richard Dawkins? Those were the glory days! March 28 sucks, but let’s get it over with.

Marlin Perkins was people you could count on when the Sunday TV’s rough (when I was a kid). And if you don’t get that reference: Perkins was the host of Animal Kingdom. I read this on Wikipedia: “Because Walt Disney had fabricated footage of a mass suicide of lemmings in its film White Wilderness, then CBC journalist Bob McKeown asked Marlin Perkins if he had done the same. Perkins, then in his seventies, ‘firmly asked for the camera to be turned off, then punched a shocked McKeown in the face.'” That story makes his birthday post worth while.

Mike Newell is 71 today. He’s a pretty good director—having directed the only Harry Potter film I’ve been able to watch the whole way through. Strangely, until this day, I always thought that Mike Newell was Mike Nichols. But they aren’t even born on the same day. Conchata Ferrell is 70. She was in Mystic Pizza and Frankenweenie—I’m not even going to mention that show. Basketball player from my childhood (and having the same name as my colleague at The Reaction) Rick Barry is 69. Ken Howard, lately of 30 Rock, is also 69. Dianne Wiest is 65, so she won’t be making anymore movies. And funnyman Nick Frost is 41.

In order to find a birthday really worth celebrating, I had to go all the way back to 1472, because the great Italian painter Fra Bartolomeo was born on this day back then. Actually, I’m not a huge fan, but I will allow that he is insanely great. The problem is that the pre-perspective paintings were so wild and exciting. Perspective came in and really brought the hammer down on the design elements of art, and it took a good 400 years to fully recover. Look at Madonna in Glory with Saints above: I see nothing so much as constraint, although inside that framework, it is lovely. BTW: I love the inclusion of Saint Sebastian. There’s nothing like a good martyr to spice up a painting!

Happy birthday Fra Bartolomeo! You’ve added more to my life than Marlin Perkins, and that’s saying something!