Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Radical Homosexual Agenda

Some of the GOP's favorite fighting phrases this election are "the homosexual agenda", and the "San Francisco liberal" attitude. If the Democrats win, Nancy Pelosi will likely be speaker of the House and all these awful things will come to pass. As a heterosexual resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, with homosexual friends and neighbors, I thought I'd try to give a general idea of what these things might be.

All the homosexuals I know are fully employed, middle-aged, middle-class people: a dentist, an insurance agent, a computer systems manager, a computer technician. Their hobbies as best I can observe them are gardening, singing (one of them sings in the choir of a landmark church), and camping. My neighbors across the street are quiet and reserved, but come over to chat with me, my husband, or the neighboring family with two small children. The computer technician does have a tendency toward unfortunate romantic entanglements, but no worse than some of my college roommates. If any of these people have an agenda, it's to pay the mortgage and retire in comfort. Some of them would certainly be married if it were legal; some of them have been together longer than some married couples I know.

I am completely baffled by the argument that extending the tax and legal benefits of marriage (which is what we're discussing here - the less formal benefits of marriage are already available to homosexuals) to people who are sexually attracted to their own gender, will contribute to the Downfall of the Institution of Marriage. With a 35-50% divorce rate in heterosexual marriages for the last several decades, how much worse can it get? And how does the idea of devoted, committed homosexual couples legally joined in marriage threaten it?

I refuse to discuss the Biblical pronouncements on the subject. Unless the U.S. actually does become a theocracy (I'm cautiously more optimistic that will not happen than I was a couple of years ago), the moral opinions of one or other religious group are their own business and should not be imposed on society at large. I include here Islamic puritans like the Wahhabists as well as Christian evangelists. If you, dear reader, are one of the people who responds with visceral disgust at the idea of gay sex, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

So what about the "liberal San Francisco agenda"? Oooo, terrifying. But it fascinates me that the GOP never actually says what the "liberal San Francisco agenda" is - it's a boogeyman, a frightening shadow in the corner. Shine a light on it, and it turns into:
  • opposition to the Iraq war
  • dismay at a foreign policy reminiscent of Kaiser Wilhelm in 1918 (read The Guns of August if you think I'm kidding)
  • opposition to a skyrocketing budget deficit
  • disgust at a level of corruption that reminds me of the Democrats just before they lost power the last time
  • distress that half the population is without health insurance, coupled with fear that they could lose theirs next
  • shame that people with full-time jobs are unable to afford a home and have to get groceries from the food bank
Maybe I am a San Francisco liberal but none of this sounds especially terrifying to me. The general burden seems to be: Democrats Will Raise Taxes and Spend The People's Money On The Poor. As opposed, I gather, to Republicans, who cut taxes, but spend the people's money anyhow, largely on the rich. If you don't think that thee and me is going to have to pay back that national debt, think again.

I just read an interview with Ben Cohen, formerly of Ben & Jerry's, who now spends his time arguing that we should quit building weapons that were useful against the Soviet Union and devote the money to:
education, health care, world hunger, energy independence and even a little debt reduction
instead of building Cold War holdovers like the F/A-22 fighter jet - really useful against the Taliban, I'm sure you'll all agree. Of course, the real reason we're still building the F/A-22 is all the jobs in all the districts of all the congressmen who vote to keep it going, not to mention all the campaign contributions they get from Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I haven't been posting enough lately; my job is getting in the way; for one thing, it sent me to Dallas for a week. (For that matter, my job is getting in the way of a lot of things, including getting enough sleep.) Blogging takes more effort than I realized - it takes thought and research. Also, rehearsals have started again - the Oakland Symphony Chorus is putting on a pair of Christmas concerts and we're desperately memorizing, which takes time away from the blogging too (not that I'm complaining about that!).

I'm still bemused by the fact that Dick Cheney can, in practically the same breath, insist that "a dunk in water" is a "no-brainer" (that is, waterboarding is acceptable if it saves lives) and still say, "We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in." This just staggers me. Is he actually not listening to what he's saying? Or does he believe that everything he says is true because he says it? - a level of folie de grandeur that would be amazing even in him.

Easterners believe that California has no seasons, but they're wrong; we have more subtle seasons. We're currently enjoying a lovely California autumn: the liquidambars and Chinese pistaches are turning color, the days are warm and windy, the nights are crisp, not too cold, with occasional foggy mornings. (Eat your heart out, Massachusetts!) The sun comes in the south-facing windows of our dining room in the mornings, the way the house was built to do on chilly mornings after the equinox. In 1917 when our house was built, they understood about orienting the house to the climate; we can also open windows and get cross-drafts. Of course, the liquidambars and Chinese pistaches are also dumping leaves on every flat surface, as is every other tree in the neighborhood; but that's part of the ambience, and raking them up is good exercise. For my husband.

Unfortunately, 400 miles south, the bad side of the California autumn is only 5% controlled, and authorities think someone deliberately set the Esperanza fire, an incomprehensible act which is right up there with Dick Cheney's remarks on torture. I've occasionally made the crack that California has two seasons, wet and on fire; the trouble is, I'm not kidding. They're offering half a million dollar reward for the perps, and I hope they have to pay it out.

And thank you, Keith Olbermann at MSNBC, for speaking truth to power. If you haven't been following his remarks on the Bush administration, you're missing some very straight talk.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Civil War in Iraq

Not that I've doubted this for several months now, but today's San Francisco Chronicle reprinted a NY Times article that makes it revoltingly clear what's going on in Iraq, at least in the south around Basra. What's going on is nothing more nor less than the Hatfields and the McCoys.

In one corner, we have Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

In the other corner, we have Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and its private army, the Badr Brigade.

These people are all Shiites. Theoretically they believe the same things and support the same things, and they all claim to be patriotic Iraqis (although SCIRI is widely believed to be supported and funded from Iran). What's really going on?
A dynastic rivalry between their two families has existed for decades and has carried over into a personal and political rivalry between the men, and their militias have periodically clashed.

"The split is very old, and it has caused a lot of tragedy," said Abd-Kareem al-Mahamedawy, one of Amara's most prominent political leaders and a moderate Shiite. "It's just a fight for power."
Just as I said: Hatfields and McCoys, but with private armies, which we, I point out, obligingly armed. According to the article, the stability of the current Iraqi government depends on the "truce" between these two factions; and as far as I can tell, they'd all rather duke it out for old times' sake than act together for the good of the country. The current eruption began when a local police official (Badr Brigade; in case you wondered about the rumors that the Shiite militias have infiltrated the police? All true) was killed in a bombing, and the police arrested the brother of the head of the local Mahdi Army unit. The next thing anyone knew, the city of Amara was under siege.

Why are we holding these guys' coats? (Apart from the fact that we started it by removing Saddam Hussein, who didn't take any crap from any of these yo-yos.) This isn't democracy and it never will be, as long as the place is ruled by the 21st century equivalent of the Montagues and the Capulets. The concept of turning a country that still practices the blood feud into a modern democracy is laughable (which goes for Serbia and Kosovo, too, I might add).

I remember thinking when we began this absurd incursion that what we'd end up with, after a "free" election, was a Shiite theocracy, because Shiites were 60% of the country. These developments actually convince me I may have been wrong; a Shiite theocracy would presumably enforce order. What we have here is total anarchy, where only the gun rules. We may have bigger guns; but there are 140,000 of our guys and 26 million Iraqis; and we have yet to see, anywhere, a standing army defeat an armed guerilla force on its own ground.

The sooner we bring our troops home and let the Iraqis fight this out among themselves, the better.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why Not Angelides?

As a California Democrat of long standing (except, years ago, when I registered Republican so I could vote for Pete McCloskey in the primaries), I feel I ought to state publicly why I don't plan to vote for my party's candidate for governor.

Frankly, the main reason I don't want to vote for him is the impression I've gotten from him for the last 3 years. He doesn't want to be governor to fix what's wrong with the state, or to balance the budget, or do any of the things that come up in the campaign ads. He wants to be governor because he thinks it's his turn. He's been a faithful party hack for decades, and he's worked his way up to state office, and now he wants the top state office because he deserves it for all his work. I didn't watch the debate between him and the Gubernator, but I gather Arnold accused him of being part of the Davis machine. Well, he was part of the Davis machine, and Davis had a turn as governor, and now Angelides thinks it's his. I'm sorry, Phil, that's not how the game works. It may be how you think it works.

I have very mixed feelings about Arnold. I still think he's a poseur; but he has managed to produce the only bipartisanship the disgraceful California legislature has displayed in many years. I think he's going to win in a landslide, so I may treat myself to a protest vote for the Green party candidate. But I'm not voting for Angelides.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


My husband divided the gazanias in the front yard yesterday. He planted them about 3 years ago, and if you don't divide them, they get leggy. Gazanias do well in the front yard; they're showy, reliable bloomers that don't mind if you only water them once a month.

We've been in the house for 20 years now, and we've only had gazanias for about 3 years. Why? Because gazanias aren't cold hardy. They die in a hard freeze. During the first 10 years we lived here, we had regular hard freezes - I still remember the time the water in the bird bath froze solid, all the way through; and the time I looked at the back of the East Bay Hills, from my office in Concord, California, and saw them covered with snow (I think down to 1,500 feet). We haven't had a hard freeze since I think 1998.

Can't be global warming. That's just a theory. Or so they say.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Invading Iran

This seems to be the latest hot item on our increasingly reality-deprived administration's agenda. Iran would be a threat if it had nuclear weapons; and it says it wants peaceful nuclear power, but it must be lying; so we have to plan to invade it. To protect freedom. Or something.

Yeah, right. In the first place, the Iranians are correct that they have as much right as any other idiot to peaceful nuclear power. (Not exactly how they say it.) I might even agree that the fact that they lie like rugs about what they're doing at Natanz and Bushehr (and wherever else) gives even rational people pause about what they're up to. But still:

Invade Iran? With what army? The army we have is tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the point that we're pullling people out of South Korea, which must amuse Kim Jong Il no end. No matter what Donald Rumsfeld thinks, if he thinks, you cannot do everything with unmanned drones. We'd have to put boots on the ground.

And there'd be no question of being greeted with flowers by a grateful populace. Weird as it seems, the government of Iran is democratically elected (the last election was at least as free and fair as the 2004 election in Ohio was). We'd be invaders, and every man's hand would be against us, and probably most of the women's. You all know perfectly well that if someone invaded the continental U.S., all those guns that us bleeding-heart liberals worry about would be turned on the enemy. From every rooftop and bush, just like in 1779. What makes the administration think the Iranians are any different from us?

Finally, if we do nuke Iran's nuclear installations (assuming someone in Washington knows where they really are, which I doubt; it's been thirty years since we had "humint," as the spooks call it, in Iran), we would become instant international pariahs. We are already the only people who have ever actually used The Bomb; and then, we were at war. I don't want to see us become the only people who have used The Bomb on a country that wasn't directly threatening them. Let's have NO first strikes.

I'm tired of this. I'm tired of watching a bunch of middle-aged power junkies, who never had the balls to put on a uniform and get shot at for their country's sake when it was their turn, wasting America's resources and ruining America's good name, for the sake of indulging their video-game wet dreams of world conquest. Why are these people not impeachable? Why are we still putting up with them?