Thursday, April 24, 2014

Celeste

My former partner Allen’s mom Celeste died today at her home in Longmont, Colorado.  She’d been in failing health for the last year or so and was under hospice care.

Allen called me as I was driving home to tell me, and then called back a little later and asked me to write her obituary.  I told him I would be honored.

Although Allen and I separated 15 years ago, we have remained friends and I stayed in touch with Celeste, calling her on her birthday and holidays.  She always treated me as one of the family and included me in all the family gatherings, and she and the whole family were there when I graduated with my Ph.D. at the University of Colorado.  She and her late husband Walt made me feel as if I was one of theirs.

I last spoke with her on Sunday when I called to wish her a happy Easter.  As always, she asked about my parents, whom she’d met when she came to Albuquerque for Christmas one year.

In the way of Friends, I hold her in the Light.

So Long, Rand Paul

Any chances that Rand Paul had of winning the base of the GOP are basically over.

As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) ponders a presidential bid, he has lately made efforts to wrap himself in the banner of Ronald Reagan. In op-eds and speeches, the libertarian tea partier has increasingly invoked the Republicans’ most holy icon, especially after being attacked by members of his party’s establishment who have accused him of isolationism. Writing in the Washington Post last week, Paul likened his nuanced approach to foreign policy to what he claimed was Reagan’s embrace of “strategic ambiguity.” A few days earlier, at a so-called “Freedom Summit” in New Hampshire, Paul hailed Reagan as the last president who presided over the creation of millions of jobs, asserting that after the Gipper lowered tax rates, 20 million jobs were created and “more revenue came in.” (FactCheck.org concluded that Paul was “falsifying evidence”—and ignoring that more jobs were created during President Bill Clinton’s tenure when tax rates went up.) But Paul hasn’t always cast himself as much of a Reagan fan. In fact, when he stumped for his father in 2008 and again when ran for Senate in 2010, Paul often referred to the grand old man of the GOP with a touch of disappointment and criticism. And he routinely made an assertion that might seem like blasphemy to many Republicans: President Jimmy Carter had a better record on fiscal discipline than Reagan.

Not only is he trashing the reputation of “Ronald Reagan,” he’s saying nice things about Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter.  He might as well have been caught eating off Michelle Obama’s salad bar.

Mr. Paul’s response — short version: It’s the Democrats’ fault St. Ronald signed all those tax increases.

Georgia vs. Florida

Not content to let their neighbor to the south get all the coverage with the Stand Your Ground law that is working so well at keeping peace, the state of Georgia has enacted a law that basically lets anybody pack heat.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation today that would vastly expand where Georgians can legally carry firearms, a proposal that has drawn heaps of praise and scorn from outside groups. “People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” said Deal, adding: “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”

So if you’re tired of letting black kids get away with walking down the street in a hoodie and carrying an unregistered bag of Skittles, let him try it in Atlanta and see what happens.

Gee What A Surprise

I’m shocked, shocked to find out that deadbeat rancher Cliven Bundy is a racist.

Republican politicians began backtracking on their support of Nevada anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy after the New York Times caught Bundy making racially-inflammatory remarks blaming African-Americans for willingly submiting to dependency on federal assistance.

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy was quoted as saying to a group of supporters last Saturday. “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Bundy’s statements about “the Negro,” published on Wednesday, were made during his daily speech to supporters outside Bunkerville, Nevada, where a crowd gathered to support him in defiance of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) during an attempted round up of his cattle. The confrontation was the result of Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees on federally-owned land for more than 20 years, in spite of multiple court rulings against him. Bundy has stated on several occasions that he does not recognize the existence of the federal government.

Let’s see if his good friends over at Fox News now refer to him as “colorful.”

HT to John Cole.

Standing Ovation

For digby for winning the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Heather “Digby” Parton grew up all over the world as the daughter of a peripatetic employee of the vast American Military Industrial complex. After a traditional 1970s-style misspent youth and fitful education, she landed in Hollywood and spent a couple of decades as an executive in the film industry, pushing the usual paper and making the usual deals. Out of a need to vent her frustration with the state of America’s politics, she began writing daily political analysis, punditry, random musings and snark on her website “Hullabaloo” in 2002. It soon turned into a full-time vocation, obsession, and, surprisingly, a new career.

[...]

Digby has written for mainstream publications such as Salon and New York Magazine among others but maintains the blog as her primary publishing platform, still churning out a half dozen posts a day, sparking debate and riding the political zeitgeist from her beach cottage in Santa Monica, California. She remains a prominent voice of progressive thought and online activism, often linked by others with one simple line: “What Digby said.”

They could not have made a better choice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

250px-ShakespeareToday, according to the best information we have, is the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.

I’m quick to admit that as a theatre scholar, I’m not as steeped in his works as many of my colleagues.  As an actor, I’ve been in exactly one production of his play Othello, and that was forty years ago.  (I had a small part whose name began with “The.”)  Later on, I worked on several productions of his plays backstage (A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems to follow me wherever I go) and I was an assistant director on two productions at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival: The Merchant of Venice in 1987 and Hamlet, which starred Val Kilmer (and he was very good), in 1988.  And of course you know of my annual pilgrimages to Stratford, Ontario, to the Shakespeare festival there.  Those began in 1970, and while I missed a couple of years in the 70′s and 80′s, I went almost every year since.

So even if I can no longer recite whole soliloquies from memory* and wouldn’t dare direct a production, and even though my field of study of theatre is largely based on works and writers who lived 400 years after him, there is no doubt that the works and the characters in his plays represent the standard by which most plays are judged, and his words are among the most discussed, debated, and lauded in the English language.  They infiltrate our language to the point that we quote him without knowing it: phrases such as “vanished into thin air” and “foregone conclusion” came from his pen.  His works have been turned into operas, ballets, films, and canvas, and characters from his plays have shown up in new garb with new names.  In short (probably a Shakespeare-ism), his work is everywhere.

There have been debates over the centuries as to whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote all of the plays credited to him; whether or not he was just a front for someone else who was out of favor with the Court; whether or not he was gay or other such idle speculation.  Scholars far more prominent than me have spent their careers on such subjects and who am I to deride them?  But in the end it really doesn’t matter.  We have the works, we have the characters, and we have the insight to the humanity that speaks to us from those days to now.

*

*When I was in college, I was tapped into the honorary society Alpha Psi Omega.  In order to be accepted, I had to recite a speech from Shakespeare, and the one given to me was from Act V, Scene 1 of The Comedy of Errors.  It remains the only long speech of his that I learned and retained for any length of time.

It’s a good rant by Antipholus of Ephesus, and in order to really make it work, you have to recite it all practically in one breath.

My liege, I am advised what I say,
Neither disturbed with the effect of wine,
Nor heady-rash, provoked with raging ire,
Albeit my wrongs might make one wiser mad.
This woman lock’d me out this day from dinner:
That goldsmith there, were he not pack’d with her,
Could witness it, for he was with me then;
Who parted with me to go fetch a chain,
Promising to bring it to the Porpentine,
Where Balthazar and I did dine together.
Our dinner done, and he not coming thither,
I went to seek him: in the street I met him
And in his company that gentleman.
There did this perjured goldsmith swear me down
That I this day of him received the chain,
Which, God he knows, I saw not: for the which
He did arrest me with an officer.
I did obey, and sent my peasant home
For certain ducats: he with none return’d
Then fairly I bespoke the officer
To go in person with me to my house.
By the way we met
My wife, her sister, and a rabble more
Of vile confederates. Along with them
They brought one Pinch, a hungry lean-faced villain,
A mere anatomy, a mountebank,
A threadbare juggler and a fortune-teller,
A needy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch,
A dead-looking man: this pernicious slave,
Forsooth, took on him as a conjurer,
And, gazing in mine eyes, feeling my pulse,
And with no face, as ’twere, outfacing me,
Cries out, I was possess’d. Then all together
They fell upon me, bound me, bore me thence
And in a dark and dankish vault at home
There left me and my man, both bound together;
Till, gnawing with my teeth my bonds in sunder,
I gain’d my freedom, and immediately
Ran hither to your grace; whom I beseech
To give me ample satisfaction
For these deep shames and great indignities.

Whew.

Miami Bids on Democratic Convention 2016

From New Times:

Miami may be the site of the first part of Hillary Clinton’s coronation …or as it’s officially known, the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

After local leaders officially let the DNC know that they would be interested in hosting the shindig, the DNC selected Miami as one of 15 cities that it sent a “request for proposal” late yesterday.

According to CNN, other cities in the running include Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City.Back in March, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, Miami Mayor Tomás P. Regalado, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and tourism bureau head William D. Talbert II all banded together to send DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (whose Broward-based district dips into some northern parts of the county) a letter signaling their interest.

Wasserman Schultz told CNN that in addition to logistical concerns, the committee would also take into account a city’s relationship with organized labor and key constituencies.

[...]

Local leaders have indicated that their plan would call to host the convention at the American Airlines Arena.

That’s about five blocks from my office.  Parking will be a nightmare.

The last time there was a national political convention in the Miami area, it was 1972 and it was a two-fer: both Democrats and Republicans held them at the Miami Beach Convention Center.  From them we got McGovern/Eagleton Shriver and Nixon/Angew redux.  Both ended badly.

Out of Touch

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor didn’t mince words when she dissented from the 6-2 ruling upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions.  She read it from the bench and there’s no doubt that she was directing her words at the Chief Justice.

In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter. [Emphasis added]

The Chief took note:

The dissent states that “[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race.” … But it is not “out of touch with reality” to conclude that racial preferences may themselves have the debilitating effect of reinforcing precisely that doubt, and—if so—that the preferences do more harm than good. To disagree with the dissent’s views on the costs and benefits of racial preferences is not to “wish away, rather than confront” racial inequality. People can disagree in good faith on this issue, but it similarly does more harm than good to question the openness and candor of those on either side of the debate.

A little touchy, are we?

There would be no need in this country for affirmative action if there hadn’t been 300 years of racial discrimination and majority-enforced segregation at nearly every level of government and education.  It wasn’t wiped out by two laws and court rulings fifty years ago; it is still rampant and insidious today.  Just because the white patriarchs who never felt the sting or stigma of racial discrimination think affirmative action isn’t necessary any more doesn’t make it so.

Bundyfest

I heard about this event a couple of days ago but waited to see if it was for real or from The Onion.  Apparently it’s for real.

bundyfest 04-23-14

Come celebrate TOTAL FREEDOM at BUNDYFEST, just across the road from the Cliven Bundy Ranch, in Bunkerville, Nevada! 240 bands, 24 hours a day, for a SOLID ROCKIN’ MONTH!!!!
*NO PERMITS REQUIRED
*CAMP ABSOLUTELY ANYWHERE
*FULL NUDITY NOT A PROBLEM
*GAY-FRIENDLY ATMOSPHERE
*PENIS ERECTION CONTEST: Erect the largest penis in the open desert, win valuable prize! (tbd)

BACKGROUND: For years, we paid permitting fees to hold Burning Man on the beautiful Playa in Northern Nevada. But now, Cliven Bundy has shown us a NEW WAY! ABSOLUTE FREEDOM! Bundy has declared the entire area surrounding Bundy Ranch as a TOTALLY RULES-FREE ZONE! ANYTHING GOES! WOO-HOO!!!

Why should Burning Man end on September 1st? Swing down to Vegas for a few days for some R&R, a few good buffets, and then HEAD ON UP TO BUNDYFEST! All 50,000+ Burning Man participants are invited to attend — and as many more as can make the trip from anywhere in the world! 100,000? 250,000? THE SKY IS THE LIMIT AT BUNDYFEST! The desert surrounding Bundy’s ranch is LIMITLESS!

Sounds like fun.

(PS: BYO outhouse.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rubber The Wrong Way

Cardinal Timothy Dolan on where women can buy contraceptives:

“Is the ability to buy contraceptives, that are now widely available — my Lord, all you have to do is walk into a 7-11 or any shop on any street in America and have access to them — is that right to access those and have them paid for, is that such a towering good that it would suffocate the rights of conscience?” Dolan said in an exchange uploaded by Raw Story. “I don’t think so. I hope the Supreme Court agrees.”

This from a guy who, if he lives up to his vows, never bought a rubber in his life.

Or perhaps this is what he tells his priests when they’re getting ready for choir practice.

His Eminence was speaking on TV last Sunday about the Hobby Lobby case — he wants them to win — and getting just about everything wrong.  The case is not about having contraception paid for by Hobby Lobby, nor is it about over-the-counter methods like condoms.  It’s about a person’s right to have access to healthcare without the interference of holier-than-Christ employers.

The more women have access to birth control, the fewer abortions there will be.  I hear the Catholic Church has a view about that.

Failed Drug Test

The Supreme Court isn’t touching Gov. Scott’s attempt to violate the Fourth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s petition to review a ruling that his random drug testing policy for state employees is unconstitutional, the latest in a series of legal battles facing the governor.

Gov. Scott is 0 for 2 on the drug testing front:

Scott faced similar defeat Dec. 31, 2013, when a federal judge struck down a law requiring Florida cash welfare recipients to pass a drug test. It could constitute an illegal search and seizure, a judge said.

If the law applied to everyone who received cash welfare — including corporations — the law would never have seen the light of day in the first place.

Halfway to Nowhere

The half-assed compromise that the Boy Scouts made last year to allow openly gay boys in but ban openly gay leaders made no one happy.  The fundamentalists didn’t like it because scouting is pure and wholesome and no kid under 18 could possibly be gay, and the realists said that it was blindingly stupid to say that a 17-year-old gay Eagle Scout was a paragon of Scouting virtues until his 18th birthday when he suddenly became a predator.

A lot of so-called “traditional” Scout troops chartered by fundamentalist churches threatened to pull out and start their own groups, and some have, with their own odd requirements for membership.  Meanwhile, other scout troops chartered by churches that are inclusive are being told that they can’t have openly gay leaders even if it violates the principles of their faith.

The Boy Scouts of America has revoked the charter of a Seattle troop over its refusal to remove an openly gay troop leader, according to Scouts for Equality.

Geoffrey McGrath, believed to be the first openly gay troop leader, was banned from the Boy Scouts at the beginning of April.

Rainier Beach United Methodist Church’s Troop 98 and Pack 98 defended their Scoutmaster, however, and refused to force him out.

“Based on our religious principles, we will continue to act as an autonomous church that does not discriminate,” the church’s Rev. Monica Corsaro said in a statement to Scouts for Equality. “We will continue to have our Troop meetings here, every Thursday night, with business as usual.”

McGrath said he was “disappointed” with the BSA’s decision.

“Pastor Corsaro specifically sought out someone with my Scouting background to help get these units off the ground, and her church is now being told to violate their religious convictions. It’s unconscionable and irreverent,” he said in a statement to Scouts for Equality.

BSA Communications Director Deron Smith told Time that the Scouts had no choice but to remove the Seattle troop’s charter since it violated BSA policy.

The BSA policy fails because it doesn’t recognize reality.  There have been gay scouts and gay scout leaders as long as there have been scouts.  Let the bigots go off and form their own troops because for every Jesus-shouting chapter that leaves, there will be one that welcomes everyone to take its place.  And if the BSA truly wants to live up to what they say they believe in, they’ll survive in the wilderness for as long as it takes.

Solar Flare

Just in time for Earth Day:

Homeowners and businesses that wish to generate their own cheap, renewable energy now have a force of conservative political might to contend with, and the Koch brothers are leading the charge. The L.A. Times, to its credit, found the positive spin to put on this: Little old solar “has now grown big enough to have enemies.”

The escalating battle centers over two ways traditional utilities have found to counter the rapidly growing solar market: demanding a share of the power generated by renewables and opposing net metering, which allows solar panel users to sell the extra electricity they generate back to the grid — and without which solar might no longer be affordable. The Times reports on the conservative heavyweights making a fossil fuel-powered effort to make those things happen:

The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation’s largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.

…The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.

“State governments are starting to wake up,” Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources.

Rachel Maddow reported last night that the state of Oklahoma, the leader in backwards thinking, has passed a law that charges homeowners for using solar panels.

The reason is obvious: solar and other renewable energy sources are a threat to the oil industry, and in America, oil rules.  If the Koch brothers’ fortune had come from the glass panel business, they’d make it their mission to put solar panels on everything.  That’s the way capitalism works, and that’s why they’re buying up every state legislature with more than 100 sunny days in the calendar year.