Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today's vocabulary word: essential

essential, adj. convenient to whatever point I'm trying to make: This Bible passage is essential to our faith; those other parts just described the customs and norms of the time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What is going on at The Washington Blade?

I do not miss The Washington Blade of the eighties and nineties, which routinely published anti-gay-male screeds while graciously deigning to take gay men's advertising dollars. Now, however, The Blade often reads like a suburban advertiser newspaper, publishing advertisements disguised as articles for everything from real estate to Botox.

The Blade needs advertising because businesses need revenue sources and because newspapers have lost that money fountain known as the personals section. Nonetheless, the newspaper that calls itself "America's leading gay news source" is taking a big hit to its journalistic credibility by pursuing its present course.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maryland isn't New York.

In the wake of the passage of New York's marriage law, people are calling on Governor O'Malley to follow in the footsteps of Governor Cuomo. The people making that call need to remember one big difference between the political cultures of the two states.

As I noted yesterday, Cuomo managed to gain the support of Republican financial backers because of "their more libertarian views." Where is the libertarian streak in Maryland's political culture, and who is Maryland's Paul Singer, Cliff Asness, or Daniel Loeb? Applying New York's lesson to Maryland will involve more than a simple one-to-one translation.

Religious right or P.C. left? Quote 26

In this series of blog posts, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read each quote and guess, before doing a Web search, whether someone in the religious right or the politically correct left said it.

Things like "objectivity" and "rationality" and "logic". ... the men that want to argue in those terms!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Republican money men and same-sex marriage

From hearing the queer lefties talk, you'd think that moneyed interests spend all day thinking of new ways to expand their Europhallocentric, heteropatriarchal reign of terror. But look at this article in The New York Times:
Would the donors win over the deciding Senate Republicans? It sounded improbable: top Republican moneymen helping a Democratic rival with one of his biggest legislative goals.

But the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.

Within days, the wealthy Republicans sent back word: They were on board. Each of them cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.

* * *

But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.
Things often look different when you take off the politically correct blinders.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Quote of the week

"I believe you can be wiser today than yesterday." — New York State Senator Mark Grisanti, explaining his change of position on same-sex marriage

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writing effective letters to the editor

A letter to the editor of a periodical can easily get one’s message to a wide audience. Nonetheless, many publications have low rates of publication of such letters, e.g., 1.5% for The New York Times. Since my success rate has been considerably higher, I offer the following advice to those who wish to write letters to the editor.

1. Figure out what point you want to make, and focus on it. Having to say something is not the same thing as having something to say, and a focused letter has a higher likelihood of publication than a stream-of-consciousness rant.

2. Do your homework. Even if you do not know the subject well, one of your readers likely will, and speculation about the subject may well set you up for public humiliation. More than once, I have had letters published in response to letters, in which I corrected the previous letter writers’ understanding of the very things that they had sought to defend. For the same reason, once you have the facts, resist the temptation to cherry-pick the facts to misrepresent the subject; a half truth is a whole lie. If you determine that a fair reading of the facts does not support your point, go back to step 1.

3. Make your point, and make it plainly. The more work you require your readers to do to figure out what you are saying, the less likely that your letter will have an impact or will even be published.

4. Write your letter in an appropriate tone. Write as though you were writing a business letter, not a quick e-mail note to a friend. In particular, leave out the content-free rhetorical flourishes that so impress you; they will likely impress no one else. Also, avoid insulting others — your opponents, the author of the article to which you are responding, and, most importantly, your potential readers.

5. Don’t just tell your readers why you believe something; show them why they should agree with you. Appealing to your own emotions, while popular among the politically correct crowd, is an excellent way to get everyone else to ignore you. Instead, use examples and solid, dispassionate reasoning to make your point. In short, show your work.

6. Proofread, and boil down your prose. Check your letter for facts and logic, not just for spelling and grammar. Also, since periodicals typically have limited space for letters to the editor, make every word count, and eliminate those that do not. From my conversations with the people who select letters to the editor, I have learned that they almost never reject letters for being too short.

7. Do not fear constructive criticism. Someone from the periodical may suggest changes to your letter. If that person thought that your letter completely lacked merit, she would not waste her time making those suggestions.

While I cannot guarantee success, I believe from my experience that by following the above points, you will increase the likelihood that your letters are published and read.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Emperor's new argument, or: Oh, so that's why we should all be lefties

In this article on John Edwards, the author explains why we must accept liberalism as a whole:
Because one reason I was eager to back Edwards was there was no conflict in his campaign between the three tiers of modern liberalism, which often do fight each other. I see the three as:

1) Economic justice. This is labor movements, anti-poverty initiatives, fair taxation, health care reform, social services, government that is functional, etc. Anything that helps secure the middle class, bolsters the economy, and lifts people out of poverty.

2) Social justice. Feminism, anti-racism, gay rights, anti-colonialism, things like that---anything that divides people against each other on the basis of identity hierarchies.

3) Environmentalism and rationalism. Preserving the planet, promoting science, basically using the now to work towards a better tomorrow.

Obviously, a smart person sees how these are interrelated and that you really fail at anti-racism if you don't think about poverty and that you're not a good environmentalist if economic justice isn't part of your worldview, and you're not an effective feminist if you treat science like it's a lark.
In addition to the many proofs by assertion, the author throws in the "Emperor's New Clothes" argument (technically an appeal to personal interest), "Obviously, a smart person sees" that she's right. Try again.

All the nonsense that's unfit to print, or: The silly season at The New York Times

The New York Times has a reputation (heaven help us) as the best in American journalism. Yet The Times has recently engaged in an orgy of reason-bashing. As the latest example, this article quotes handwriting "experts" on clues to Anthony Weiner's personality from his signature. Never mind that graphology has been debunked and is now considered a pseudoscience. As several of the comments ask, can his star chart be far behind?

It's all gay men's fault (chapter 12,709)

Here we go again. Yet another Washington Blade columnist lambastes gay men — and gay men specifically — for what I thought were issues of human beings generally, not gay men.

The author proposes an "extreme makeover" for gay men:
Rather, this makeover is all internal – it’s about how gay men relate to and interact with each other. I call it Extreme Makeover – Pride Edition.
So what have gay men done to need such a makeover?
However, as the community began to break down societal barriers, to make gains and take its place at the table, gay men lost an understanding of another side to the meaning of Pride. Beyond rainbow flags and bumper decals, Pride should also stem from our actions. We forget that sometimes. Having lived from Boston to Austin, Texas to Toronto, I’ve witnessed and experienced how gay men can behave. It isn’t always pretty. In a culture of “A-lists” and attitude, where chiseled bodies set the standards by which we are judged, some gay men have forgotten that real Pride is born from within, and not in a gym.
Okay, so gay men can get carried away with the whole gym thing, but are we the only ones who judge people on the wrong criteria? At least the author referred to "some gay men" instead of making the all too common politically correct generalization to all gay men.

What solutions does the author offer?
Make good on your longstanding intention to volunteer. Donate to a cause that’s dear to you. Say thanks to an LGBT elder for setting in motion the civil rights our community has gained over the past 40 years.

* * *

So go ahead. Next time you’re at a bar or club, put a new spin on attitude. Smile to someone you don’t even know. Yes, really. It’s just a smile. You can do it. It may not feel like an extreme makeover, but you may just be making someone’s day, and changing someone’s else’s attitude at the same time. And that’s something to feel proud about.
Obviously, gay men, and only gay men, should do these things. In particular, it wouldn't do to tell a lesbian to smile.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Today's vocabulary term: quantum mechanics

quantum mechanics, n. phr. a branch of physics used by people who do not understand it to peddle woo to other people who do not understand it

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quote of the week

“They don’t have to get married in a Catholic church, so I don’t think the Catholic church should have any bearing on what they do.” — Paulie Inchierchiera of Staten Island, NY, on same-sex marriage, quoted in The New York Times

Friday, June 17, 2011

Today's vocabulary word: vibrant

vibrant, adj. a content-free term of approval that lazy journalists routinely slap in front of the word "culture"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We need more new thought and less "new" thought.

Reading queer Web sites could easily make one agree with Qoheleth that there is nothing new under the sun. Even on a site with the word "new" prominently featured in its name, many young pups are serving up "radical" "new" ideas that basically amount to warmed-over eighties political correctness. You'd think that someone would have consulted the institutional memory to see just how new the "new" ideas are.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Personal freedom in the blue states

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has released its latest study on freedom in the 50 states. I will concentrate on personal freedom, which is the aspect of freedom at which liberals are supposed to excel, and which cannot be written off as an artifact of federal wealth redistribution. Even on personal freedom, the most "liberal" states do not necessarily do well.

Here are the ten bottom-ranked states for personal freedom:

41. California
42. Ohio
43. Hawaii
44. Delaware
45. New Jersey
46. Rhode Island
47. Massachusetts
48. New York
49. Illinois
50. Maryland
Note the number of heavy-hitting blue states on this part of the list. Maryland, whose residents fancy themselves to be the ne plus ultra of liberalism, ranks dead last. Virginia — surprisingly, in light of this state's dreadful past — scored slightly better than average, at 22.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What's wrong with American political reporting in one sentence

From Beth Reinhard in The National Journal, and you don't have to be a Ron Paul supporter to see my point:
Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has run for president before, did little to shake his image as a fringe candidate by talking too fast and dropping obscure subjects like “Keynesian bubble" and “monetary policy" into the conversation.
Maybe they're not quite so fascinating as Princess Beatrice's hat, but still.

Entries from my cat's blog

Mon 13 Jun 2011 0730 EDT
Woe is me. I've never been fed in my entire life.

Mon 13 Jun 2011 0731 EDT
A whole plate of wet food just for me! Yay!

Mon 13 Jun 2011 0735 EDT
Woe is me. I've never been fed in my entire life.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quote of the week

"Permitting couples to marry when they are of the same gender is a step in the direction of equality before the law, but a truly free society would not have government in the business of defining relationships at all." — Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are you a twink? Take this simple quiz and find out.

1. Describe your ideal boyfriend.

A. He has intelligence, integrity, and kindness.
B. He has perfect hair and knows all the latest dance moves.
C. He wears all the same sizes that I do, so I can double my wardrobe on the cheap.

2. When someone says that you look good, how do you respond?

A. "Thank you."
B. "Yes, I know already, duh."
C. "Too bad you don't."

3. What should this country's highest budget priority be?

A. Reducing the debt.
B. Concentration camps for unattractive people.
C. Public affairs ... yawn. Can't we talk about something relevant to our lives, like who wore what to J.R.'s last night?

4. How often do you visit a museum?

A. At least monthly.
B. Like, hello or something. Those places are for geeks.
C. A what?

5. How often do you visit a bar?

A. A what?
B. Every weekend.
C. I qualify for voting residence at J.R.'s.

6. A filthy rich, stunningly gorgeous man wants to take you to his island paradise tonight so you and he can spend the rest of your lives in rapturous love. On the other hand, the dance bar is having a special on those little blue drinks tonight, and all the "kewl doodz" in your apartment building are going. Which do you choose?

A. The man.
B. The drinks.
C. If my favorite TV show is on tonight, then neither.

7. How do you treat people who dance better than you do?

A. I watch their technique and try to learn from them.
B. I comment loudly on their clothes and hair.
C. I try to pick up their boyfriends.

8. How do you treat people who give off more attitude than you do?

A. I avoid them and associate with cheery, positive people instead.
B. I try to pick up their boyfriends.
C. No one gives off more attitude than I do.

9. How do you treat people of an advanced age, e.g., 24?

A. I value them for their maturity and experience.
B. I point and shout, "Ewww! A troll!"
C. I give them the address for the assisted-suicide league.

10. Why are you not concerned about reaching an advanced age, e.g., 24?

A. I have an inner beauty that transcends mere physical youth.
B. I wear baseball caps to hide my thinning, graying hair.
C. Since I can't count that high, I can't even imagine reaching that age.

Scoring: This involves some rather advanced math, so sweet-talk some troll daddy into calculating your score for you. Have him give you no points for each "A" response, one point for each "B" response, and two points for each "C" response. Your total number of points tells you how much of a twink you are.

0-10 points: Troll daddy. Like, duh and stuff—you are totally not a twink. Leave us alone and go back to your boring old grown-up life and your stupid high-paying career.

11-15 points: Twink potential. You are on the right track, but you still have some work to do. Go to the bars more often instead of throwing away your life doing that thing ... what's it called again? ... oh, yeah, reading.

16-20 points: A true twink. All that dancing in front of the mirror at the dance club has led you to true depths of shallowness. Well done! Kewl!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Religious right or P.C. left? Quote 25

In this series of blog posts, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read each quote and guess, before doing a Web search, whether someone in the religious right or the politically correct left said it.

There is no such thing as "spontaneous mutation" into a strain that is resistant to the top eight classes of brand-name antibiotic drugs being sold by Big Pharma today. Such mutations have to be deliberate.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Malta, divorce, and the Catholic Church

The voters of Malta have voted to legalize divorce in that country. The Catholic Church campaigned against legalization of divorce:
"By this vote the citizen will either build or destroy," the letter said.

"A choice in favour of permanent marriage is an act of faith in the family, built upon a bond of love which cannot be severed."

The anti-divorce movement's campaign attempted to capitalise on these traditional Catholic concerns, posting billboards around the country which said, "Jesus Christ - yes; divorce - no".
Here in America, where that particular ship sailed away a long time ago, the Church uses similar arguments against same-sex marriage. You'd almost think that moralizers who used religion as a pretext for social control tailored their immutable and universal moral principles to whatever they thought they could get away with in each time and place. Unsurprisingly, Catholics who oppose marriage equality do not appreciate having such things pointed out to them.