Just a tiny figure, rigid and restrained, blue eyes filled with pain…


The decision of the Supreme Court to grant a stay of same-sex marriages in Utah shouldn’t really come as a great surprise, whatever the actual merits of the stay application.

The attorneys from the Utah AG’s office have shown no particular signs of competence. Take, for example this passage from Judge Shelby’s decision denying the State a stay on December 23:

The court had a telephone conversation with counsel from both parties a few hours after it issued its order. The State represented to the court that same-sex couples had already begun marrying in the Salt Lake City County Clerk’s Office and requested to the court to stay its Order of its own accord. The court declined to issue a stay without a written record of the relief the State was requesting, and asked the State when it was planning to file a motion. The State was uncertain about its plans, so the court advised the State that it would immediately consider any written motion as soon as it was filed on the public docket.

Now, that all sounds fairly innocuous but, although I’m not a constitutional lawyer, I’ve been in and out of a few court rooms in my day, and those last two sentences are like a silk-wrapped brick around the ears. When a judge politely asks you exactly when you were planning on actually filing the motion you are seeking, the correct answer is never, ever, “We’re not sure”. My lawyers call that a CLM.

Rachel Maddow blamed it on incompetence,  and I don’t disagree. However, I suspect there may also have been an element of hubris, a misplaced confidence that Shelby (National Guard, Desert Storm, the United States Army Achievement Medal and the National Defense Service Medal; a BA from Utah State and a Juris Doctorate from University of Virginia; a law firm practice in commercial litigation and personal injury; a registered Republican with a wife and two kids, who was endorsed by Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee for his qualifications and his “unwavering commitment to the law” when he was appointed to the District Court, if you believe the wikipedia) wouldn’t do anything so silly as letting the gays get married. Not in Utah, surely.

The AG’s office has spent the last two weeks desperately trying to stick the ferret back in the bag where the ferret don’t want to go. Their stay application to the Supreme Court (which you can find here, along with the couples’ response here) parroted the usual guff – that the same sex marriages occurring in Utah are an “affront” to the rational interest of the State in banning same-sex marriage, because the ban somehow makes straight, married people have more babies, and that the couples seeking to be married are seeking a new right called “same-sex marriage”, rather than the established right of “marriage” which right, they note, the gays are perfectly free to use as long as they marry someone whose genitals revolt them, like in the bible.

Still, on one front they are right – this is a question that the Supreme Court needs to decide and, until they do so, the better position is probably to preserve the pre-decision status quo in Utah, no matter how touching the photos of gay Utahnanians getting hitched, or how entertaining the freakout by the godbotherers about the gays touching marriage and getting dirty fingerprints all over it.

With the stay issue out of the way, one would like to think that we might be able to get back to talking about the substance of Shelby’s decision, at least until that Duck Dynasty guy gets caught cottaging or one of Mitt Romney’s grandkids turns out to be asian. Read the rest of this entry »

Artists in our midst

First a plug for the theHumble ebook Bundle – thirteen books by authors like Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Lauren Beukes, Kelly Link, Randall Munroe and (my favourite) Zach Weiner. Choose your own price and how much goes to the authors and to charity. Only available for two more days. Ad ends.

Second, if you haven’t read the Balloon Juice comment thread in the Artists in the Mist thread, then you’re missing out on a treasure trove of interesting stuff. There are dozens of talented writers, musicians, cat whisperers and artists of all kinds. I particularly liked the beautiful image above by commenter Fuck ALL the chickens! (né Studly Pantload, t.e.u.u.), a delightfully odd poem by Aaron Baker and the lovely ceramics by Peter at Acookblog:

I’m also going to plug this song by Applejinx because he asked so nicely, because he has a sexy voice and because I’m hoping some brony will explain to me what the fuck it is about.

Girls, we do whatever it will take

I’m not writing about the election until the next time Romney opens his mouth and says something stupid (which could be ten minutes from now, so you never know). A book thread (along with physics puzzler), a foodporn thread and a realporn thread are on their way.

How goes it with you all?

Oh, and eye candy for your Friday night:


I’m trying to write something coherent about guns, and a nice shiny new book thread for you, but I’m finding it quite hard.

I keep thinking of those poor people in that cinema, and the terror of their last moments, and the sheer fucking stupidity of it all, none of which is conducive to much besides going back to bed with the dog and a quart of gin. In lieu of those posts for now, then, I offer you some music.

First, the Doves with There Goes the Fear. A few years ago, a young friend of mine died of ovarian cancer. It was horribly quick, and it wasn’t very pleasant for all concerned.

Kathleen was a bright burning spark of a woman, yet she was possessed always of a serenity, a calm inner spirit that soothed anyone who came into contact with her. She had an odd, gentle beauty coupled together with … how shall I put it? … a ribald huskiness and a brazen-cool-50s-brunette languor. She drives me even now to hyperbole.

She loved to dance – usually in dark rooms with bright lights – and it was a moment of joy to catch her eye across a crowded dancefloor as she danced with entirely unconscious grace. At 10am on the morning after the night before, when spirits were starting to flag and someone was on the phone trying to rustle up more drugs, Kath would emerge from the kitchen bearing a tray of breakfast cocktails that would put everyone on their arse smiling like an idiot until the coke turned up.

After her chemotherapy had robbed her of her hair, she strode around the office like Ripley in pursuit of a particularly bothersome facehugger. She fought her cancer every day and cracked jokes all the while. She had many days and moments of pure happiness in that last year, not least at her wedding – a bittersweet day if ever there were one.

And yet she died, as so many do, and I still miss her every day.

This song was played at her funeral, one last smiling “fuck you” to the pain and the terror. It makes me feel a little better on days like this.

Second, The Aikiu with Pieces of Gold. Possibly NSFW for graphically implied sexual content, but it would have made Kath laugh like a drain, and the song is very pretty.

Finally, because Kath would be angry if I didn’t pop this one on on a Friday night, The Return with New Day.

Pinocchio and the capitalists that shall not be named for fear of the spam filter


the Conster points to an article by Anthony Luzzatto Gardner on Bloomberg.

Mitt Romney touts his business acumen and job-creation record as a key qualification for being the next U.S. president.

What’s clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.

What’s less clear is how his skills are relevant to the job of overseeing the U.S. economy, strengthening competitiveness and looking out for the welfare of the general public, especially the middle class.

Gardner mercilessly lays out an increasingly horrifying list of Bain deals.

In 1986, in one of its earliest deals, Bain Capital acquired Accuride Corp., a manufacturer of aluminum truck wheels. The purchase was 97.5 percent financed by debt, a high level of leverage under any circumstances. It was especially burdensome for a company that was exposed to aluminum-price volatility and cyclical automotive production.

Forty-to-one leverage is ca$in0 capitalism that hugely magnifies gains and losses. Bain Capital wisely chose to flip the company fast: After 18 months, it sold Accuride, converting its $2.6 million sliver of equity into a $61 million capital gain. That deal, which yielded a 1,123 percent annualized return, was critical to Bain Capital’s early success and led the firm to keep maximizing the use of leverage.

Go read it.

It’s a fine piece with well stated opinion, references to actual facts and a killer ending that would have Glenn Kessler pooping himself.

[Gaston-Theodore Melingue (1840-1914) – Jean Bart In The Galerie Des Glaces At Versailles.]

Bookmark it libs

Well, my dears, I’m back from my little jaunt over to London for Betty Windsor’s Jubilee.

I haven’t seen that much mindless fawning and avid slobbering over one woman since the time I got stuck in a lift with Megan McArdle and Tina Brown. Mind you, that was only about three weeks ago, so it’s been quite a month for the brown-nosing.

I did enjoy the Jubilee flotilla. I was delighted to be invited onto the Royal Barge (although I was confused for a while because that’s what Phillip always used to call Fergie).

However, after a few glasses of bubbly and half an hour listening to Kate wittering on about how big her castle is, I did consider taking a fire axe to the bottom of the boat and drowning the whole bloody lot of them (except Harry, of course, who is such a dear and who hooked me up with some smashing coke (but then the sweet thing doesn’t have a Saxe-Coburg gene anywhere in his little ginger body)).

Thankfully I was distracted by a lustful look from a particularly dishy Gurkha, so a major international diplomatic incident was averted for the time being.

Anyway, I arrived back at Shady Pines to find that the righties at the Corner have been smoking the post-Wisconsin crack pipe and worked themselves up into jittery, pock-marked frenzy and are now wandering the streets muttering Halperin quotes:

“With five months until Election Day, Barack Obama faces a grim new reality: Republicans now believe Mitt Romney can win, and Democrats believe Obama can lose…”

in between trying to cadge subscriptions from the punters so Kathryn Jean can buy her own blow-up Timothy Dolan doll.

Nooners, never one to turn down a passing bandwagon (particularly if it has a Smirnoff logo on the side), is actively crowing about how Obama has lost the election six months out because he doesn’t lie and dissemble like his opponent. I shit you not:

Mr. Obama has become actively bad at politics. Here is an example of how bad. Anyone good at politics does not pick a fight with the Catholic Church during a presidential year. Really, you just don’t. Because there’s about 75 million Catholics in America, and the half of them who go to church will get mad. The other half won’t like it either.

If you’re good at politics, you quietly allow the church what it needs to survive, which actually is no more or less than what’s long been provided by the U.S. Constitution.

If you’re good at politics but ideologically mean, you string the church along throughout the election year, offering “temporary full waivers” or some such idiotic phrase—politicians love to make up idiotic phrases—on conscience, and then revoke all protections in 2013, after you’ve been re-elected, and have the fight then.

Even worse, Obama is apparently a loser because he’s attacking his opponent:

A more important example, and then we’ll move on. The president opened his campaign with a full-fledged assault on his opponent. This is a bad sign in an incumbent! An incumbent should begin his campaign with a full-fledged assertion of the excellence of his administration—the progress that has been made, the trouble that has been avoided, the promise that endures. You’ve got to be able to name these things. Then, once you’ve established the larger meaning of your administration—with wit and humor, and in a tone that assumes fair minded Americans will see it your way—you turn, in late summer, to a happy, spirited assault on the poor, confused, benighted and yet ultimately dangerous man running against you.

All of which means, in the warm haze of Nooners’ post-Wisconsin bender, that

The Obama administration suddenly looks like a house of cards.

The collective Tarantos are also excited. You can almost see the desperation oozing off the page as they try to paint Wisconsin as the penultimate victory in a string of Republican triumphs, which will culminate in the crowning of King Mitt in January.

To be sure, it’s possible that Obama will stage a comeback and defeat Mitt Romney. Only time will tell. But it’s not as if time took a vow of silence in January 2009. The other day Commentary’s John Steele Gordon provided a helpful list of events that “sure looks like a trend to me”: the emergence of the Tea Party in early 2009 and the town-hall confrontations that summer, Republican victories in New Jersey’s and Virginia’s governor races in November 2009, Scott Brown’s upset in January 2010, the Republican landslide in November 2010, and Walker’s vindication Tuesday, along with the approval of ballot measures curtailing public-sector pensions in California’s second- and third-largest cities. …

“If Republican Mitt Romney is inaugurated as president in January, history may look to June as the month in which President Obama’s fate was sealed,” writes National Journal’s Reid Wilson. If so, we would argue history will be wrong. The crucial month was March 2010, when ObamaCare became law. Obama’s determination to push it through despite overwhelming public opposition was the apotheosis of his contemptuous approach to governing. Pundits who took until this week to notice that Obama is out of touch were themselves out of touch.

Now, I know there are no sure things in politics, and the stupidity and self-destructiveness of a major part of the American electorate is never to be underestimated.

Nonetheless, I think Obama is going to win and win handily.

The more the electorate sees Willard, the more they will dislike him (particularly that part of the electorate which is brown or gay or has a vagina and/or something functioning above the level of their brainstem). The debates are going to be more of a disaster for the Republicans than that time when Uncle Cranky McCain wandered around the stage looking for his doggy mid-debate.

My money’s on the smart black guy that most of the country likes, rather than the dull, awkward, unpleasant, unprincipled trull who thinks that cops, firefighters and teachers are parasites holding back the American economy.

Bring it on.

[Image: Hans Makart (1840-1884) – Der Triumph der Ariadne]

Gratuitous plugging on the internet

A cat - by Jen Hill

I confess myself fascinated by the referral statistics to my blog, tiny in number though they may be.

It is partly driven, of course, by a brazen need to find out whether I am being talked about, for good or ill. I even love my trolls. “Let them hate, so long as they talk about me.” (I think it was Seneca who said that. Or Madonna. I can’t remember now.*)

There is also, however, the pleasure of stumbling across a very good writer because both my post and his are linked to in the same thread. A fine example is Paul Bibeau at Goblinbooks who I came across in a Cracked.com forum thread in which I got a plug. Paul is channeling Ayn Rand, and it is good:

Back in the early 1940s I was living in Tenafly, New Jersey with a guy named Ronnie Hubbard. He was hiding out in his brother’s basement so he could avoid the draft, and I was working at a rendering plant. Most nights we’d lie on this cot he’d found on a curb and drink, fuck like weasels, and smoke opium. I’ll be honest: We smoked a shit-ton of opium. Anyway over the course of a few weeks — it’s hard to piece it all together — we started talking about pranks.

I also get the chance to hook up with old friends, such as AsiangrrlMN who, along with her Angry Black Webmistress, is employing her anger quite effectively:

The second bill is the lovely, “Hey, we’re going to do a completely meaningless procedure before you’re allowed to have an abortion and stick something up your vagina at the same time” bill. It passed the House in VA, 63-36.

Susan of Texas gets Ross Douthat in a headlock and administers some well deserved noogies, while Anita at I Read Odd Books is dumping her 4am findings from the depths of the internet, including a delightfully deranged analysis of bestiality and pedophilia in The Simpson’s Movie.

Over at my other home, the ever magnificent Kay does some straight talking about Senator Roy Blunt, who:

suggests that workers who are denied coverage take their claim to a federal court, so that’s helpful, and I appreciate that advice.

Meanwhile, TBogg takes James Poulos out behind the woodshed and administers the statutory fifty whacks with the stupid stick (and makes straight vodka come out my nose (which, I can now tell you, is not at all pleasant)):

Yesterday James Poulos writing for Tucker Carlson’s Chronicle Of A Career Death Foretold penned an gaseous belch of a post called “What Are Women For?” which was, offensive title aside, what you might expect if you were to dump two scoops of over-educated rhetorical flatulence, a half-cup of undercooked thought experiments, a few overly-ripe bon mots, and a soupçon of undeserved self regard into a blender set at ‘blather’. The end result is what Empedocles fondly referred to in his Purifications as a “steaming pile of donkey poop.”

Best of all, though, I love the pleasure of stumbling across a blogger or artist who has shown the ineffable good taste to have inserted me into their blogroll. Not surprisingly, most of them turn out to also be talented, erudite and funny (and sometimes quite sweary and a little bit odd).

I adore, for example, The Perils of Palins, particularly when she is channeling her inner troll (with troll doll pictures and added cat):

You never know if you have one or two trolls being four or five people, three or four trolls being themselves, or perhaps just one dysfunctional person.

A dog - by Jen Hill

Also deserving of a look is the lovely and very talented (and neither sweary, nor odd) Jen Hill, who has a book coming out and who drew the delightful dog and cat doodles in this post and kindly allowed me to show them to you.

Now then, what delights have you found (or, indeed, created) on the internets, my dears?

* Attributed by Seneca to the playwright Lucius Accius, and said to be a favourite saying of Caligula. Apparently.

Feliz Natal e boas festas!

Feliz Natal!

All the very best for Christmas to all my readers, whether you are of the Christian persuasion or not. May this Christmas be a fine one for all of you.

One bright morning when my work is over, man will fly away home…

Image: DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

When you are 93, if you have lived a full life, death can be an old friend, like one of those distant relatives you met as a child and who pops in to visit with somewhat rhythmic regularity throughout your existence. She’s something of a constant – grey haired now, with bifocals, but still wearing that unfortunate green cardigan and that odd air that leads to so many uncomfortable pauses when she stays for tea. She always attends funerals, but occasionally comes at Christmas, clutching a bottle of cheap sparkling red, or sometimes in the dead of night.

As an old friend, she’s not that scary anymore. Your interactions with her are generally quite civil, as most of your gripes with her are in the past, smoothed over and forgotten like the time Aunty Ethel took Mother’s diamond earrings while the old dear was on her deathbed or what Uncle Frank said about Ethel at the funeral afterwards. You know that someday soon she will ring the doorbell, grinning that toothy grin she grins at times like these, and if you are lucky she will be kind and it won’t hurt very much.

But sometimes death is a spiteful bitch, and she shows up one September day at the office or on the plane you caught that morning, or you see her on a bus in London or at a nightclub in Kuta or on a desert battlefield somewhere, or she drops into your daughter’s wedding somewhere in Pakistan or Afghanistan and, as death is wont to do, she wipes out young lives, old lives, lives fraught with promise, with one twitch of her hand, and every life lost a tragedy.

You’d think that, at 93, and as a lover of words, I’d know what to say on days like this. However, it’s about this point in the proceedings that such facility with words as I have deserts me, so I will just point you to the story of one man killed ten years ago today, who seems to me to have had the right idea.

When planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Father Mychal Judge ran into the North Tower alongside the firemen he served. Not long after, he became the first recorded victim of the terrorist attacks.

But 10 years later, his friends and colleagues remember Judge as vividly in death as they knew him in life: a gregarious, irreverent man wholly devoted to God, whom many considered a saint, in large part because of his own personal struggles.

Judge was also a celibate gay man in the priesthood, a fact he revealed only to a select few. Brendan Fay, a gay activist who co-produced The Saint of 9/11, a documentary about Mychal Judge, says the chaplain’s struggles drew people to him.

“Mychal sort of weaved his way in and out of groups that wouldn’t be caught near each other,” Fay says.

Republican Mayor Rudi Giuliani and Democratic Mayor David Dinkins; conservative and liberal Catholics; stock brokers and street people — all claimed him as a friend. One reason, Fay says, is that even in the dark hour, Judge could make life a celebration.

“His mother always reminded him, ‘You can’t go wrong with a song. When you don’t know what to do, sing,'” Fay says.

Judge was famous for his rendition of the murder ballad, “Frankie and Johnny,” which he sang at birthday parties. He once sang “God Bless America” at the funeral of a gay man in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.


Top Image: Jill Colvin, DNAinfo:

Bryant Park’s normally bustling lawn was transformed into a solemn memorial Friday ahead of the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Midtown office workers looking for a place to soak up the sun instead found the lawn lined with 2,753 empty chairs facing south toward the fallen towers — one to honor each person who died in the attacks.

Bottom image: Holy Name Province Franciscans

H/t: Towleroad for both articles.

[Cross posted at Balloon Juice.]

The Sad Long Life of David Brooks

An Arab and his Dogs - Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

Yesterday I posted a link to David Brooks’ most recent magnum vomitus in which he referenced an article by Dudley Clendinen called “The Good Short Life”. Clendinen’s article is a beautiful, brutal, prickly and funny thing, which you should read immediately, if you have not yet had the pleasure. It will be the best thing you read all day.

Then, if you will, come back and I’ll dare to append some of my own poor scribblings. And a bit of ranting about David Brooks. There will be swearing and David Brooks’s writing may even be compared in a very insulting fashion to baked goods.

Off you go.

See what I mean? That’s the sort of extraordinary writing that David Brooks will never succeed in producing – because the Clendinen article is written by a fine, honorable and self-aware human being and David Brooks’ articles are written by … well, by David Brooks.

I have never met Mister Clendinen, and it saddens me that I almost certainly won’t have the chance to know him. I wish him much joy of the time he has left, much dancing and much walking of dogs, and a quiet and happy death.

On the other hand, David Brooks is a person I would move continents to avoid. While I wish him a long life and little pain – because that is the decent thing to wish for anyone, no matter how morally bankrupt and intellectually turnip-like they may be – I don’t say I wouldn’t be happy if he was to suffer a little accident which removed his ability to write, such as it is. To be frank, I’d probably open a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but it’s generally not something I actively wish for. Actually, if I’m brutally honest, I will admit that rereading both articles made me angry, and that there were moments where I allowed myself to imagine graphic acts of violence against Mr Brooks, but that’s as far as it went, I promise. It was something lingering involving two kilos of anchovies in his pants and an hungry petrel, I seem to recall.

Most satisfying. Very Tippi Hedren.

There are a lot of things wrong with Brooks’ article.

However, I can ignore his willful blindness about the root causes of America’s related healthcare and budget crises (Hint: It’s not the fault of the sick people who would just like to not die in a gutter).

I don’t mind his blithe acceptance that the way to fix the system is to keep the broken system we have and reduce costs by encouraging people to die, rather than reforming (or even socializing) that system (Hint: In most countries with a form of socialized medicine, the political debates are about the details of the socialized system, not its existence, because every politician knows that to mention abolishing socialized medicine will lose you every election in a landslide. People like socialized medicine).

I can make my way through the most repellent Brooks prose without having my palms itch or my temperature rise.

Obviously, we are never going to cut off Alzheimer’s patients and leave them out on a hillside. We are never coercively going to give up on the old and ailing. But it is hard to see us reducing health care inflation seriously unless people and their families are willing to do what Clendinen is doing — confront death and their obligations to the living.

I love how he veers from those authoritative pronouncements of what “we” are going to allow, and what it will be hard to see “us” doing, straight into the declaration that “people and their families” (but presumably not “we” and “us” anymore) will have to stand eye to eye with rabid death and pay their dues to their nation.

I can forgive his mangled metaphors, his twee primness (or is it prim tweeness?):

But in large measure it’s about our inability to face death and our willingness as a nation to spend whatever it takes to push it just slightly over the horizon.

and his complete failure to engage with his subject or educate, inform and/or entertain with his prose. I can even forgive this:

There are many ways to think about the finitude of life.

Can’t you just imagine Davey typing “finitude”? Mouthing the word to himself under his breath, his lips pursed into a little moue of satisfaction, perhaps a wry smile at his own cleverness.

I can accept that, although in this article Brooks has veered dangerously close to inserting a valid point, lurking there beneath the layer of smugness that coats his every pronouncement like the royal icing on a particularly loathsome wedding cake, that point rises no higher than:

People might want to raise my taxes to pay for the poor and the dying. As I am fit, healthy and rich, someone else should do something to prevent their problems impacting on me. I like both free enterprise and cheese.

However, none of these egregious sins against good taste, intellectual rigor and human decency made me angry.

What made me mad, what sent me scuttling for my phone to order a batch of muffins for Mr Brooks*, is that, as the lovely Mr Levenson pointed out in the comments, Brooks appropriates Clendinen’s words and twists them:

Clendinen’s article is worth reading for the way he defines what life is. Life is not just breathing and existing as a self-enclosed skin bag. It’s doing the activities with others you were put on earth to do.

But it’s also valuable as a backdrop to the current budget mess. This fiscal crisis is about many things, but one of them is our inability to face death — our willingness to spend our nation into bankruptcy to extend life for a few more sickly months.

Brooks takes Clendinen’s words about friendship and family and joy and struggle and his right to die with dignity, about his choice (as Mr Levenson puts it):

to live the life he thinks worth and worthy of living, and not one moment that is not,

about his decision to say no to the operations and the pain and the blood and shit and piss and the loss of self that disease can bring, about planning his own death as honestly and lovingly as he can, and about how one’s right to die is necessarily also the right to choose to fight on …

David Fucking Brooks takes those wonderful, painful words and uses them in a prim little sermon on how the aged and the infirm and the poor should grit their teeth, think of the Stars and Stripes and just die already.

That is simply unforgivable.

* If you make very good friends with a New York baker, like I did, you can get laxative-laced muffins couriered to people you hate in the most gorgeous baskets you have ever seen, and at very reasonable rates. Nobody can resist a nice, fresh-baked muffin.

[Image – An Arab and his Dogs – Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)]

[Cross posted at Balloon Juice.]