C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dolly on Her Gay Fans

You go, Dolly.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Drive: Once In Royal David's City

A favorite of my late husband's, who was a consummate musician; he always played this one Sunday at church during Advent.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Waitin' for the Weekend

Edu Boxer

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November Flame

Crepe myrtle, my back yard, 8 a.m. today - 32 degrees and drizzling:

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: The Apartment

Steve Hayes plays with his turkey while he reviews this classic comedy:
In his Oscar winning Best Picture The Apartment (1960), director Billy Wilder guides Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine through this brilliantly funny satire of the seedier and sexier side of corporate life in the "Big City." Filled with all the style, sex, cynicism and wit that is classic Wilder and that made Some Like It Hot the hottest ticket in town, The Apartment is also one of the great romantic films of the '60's. Along with Lemmon and MacLaine in career defining roles, it also features Fred MacMurray, breaking from his good guy image to play a corporate snake, Edie Adams as his world weary secretary, Jack Kruschen in an Oscar nominated performance as Lemmon's beleaguered neighbor and Ray Walston as one of his many colleagues who uses Lemmon's apartment for his romantic trysts. The Apartment is a smart, sexy and often hilarious example of the right people, in the right roles, with the right director, doing it right.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It Gets Better: This Week's Faves

Not blogging much this week.  Just not in a mood to write.  There've been been several stories from Texas and around the country and the world that in a different mood I might have something to say about - but the holidays are not something I enjoy at this late age, for several good reasons.  And I just don't have the heart right now to blog about the various unhappy or hurtful or hateful things people have said or done.  I reckon you guys are keeping up with all that via the newsy blogs I link to in the side column, if you want to.

Mainly I'm just puttering around the house here, working on one little project or another, nothing worth mentioning.  No turkey day for me this week.  But the ex-roommate and I are going to get together next week for our monthly dinner, and he's a good cook so that will be nice.

Meanwhile, about all I can come up with to post are some well-done or noteworthy videos from the It Gets Better Project.  Times have changed, are changing, will change for the better - eventually.  Not sure how much more change I'll see in my lifetime, but here's my tiny contribution to hope.  All I can do for now.

The Honorable Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States:

The leader of Her Majesty's Government, the Right Honourable David Cameron:

Lance Corporal James Wharton of the British Army:

Specialist Drury, United States Army, Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan:

Scott Zumwalt, of an illustrious American military family:

Boston's FLAG Flag Football League:

Employees of Pixar Animation Studios:

Andy and Jason, from Chicago:

Micah Jesse was bullied starting in preschool:

Students at Princeton University:

Sally Field and friends:

And finally, the Pop Luck Club proves that the impossible is . . . very possible after all:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Drive: There But For Fortune

An old favorite of your Head Trucker's for this Sunday morning.  Rather fitting as we collectively prepare, in name at least, to give thanks this week for all we have.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sexy as Hell

You can keep the Rolls and the Bentley, baby - I want me a Jag.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Waitin' for the Weekend

Kyle Jessup

Hillary Does Not Support Same-sex Marriage

Not that she ever did - remember? - but this serves to remind us of the Democratic Party's lukewarm attitude toward civil rights.  From a chat with Australian students:

Remember what I said the other day, boys - it will be at least 20 years before we see marriage equality in this country, mark my words.

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: The Naked Jungle

Steve Hayes reviews the 1954 adventure film:
Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker battle the heat, the elements and each other in the tropics of South America in THE NAKED JUNGLE directed by Byron Haskin.

Parker plays the mail order bride of a plantation owner played by Heston. He likes everything he owns to be new, including his wife. When he discovers she is a widow, he is as repulsed by her as he is attracted and a war between the sexes begins. Their eventual love for each other, is tested when their lives become threatened by the onslaught of millions of marauding army ants, devouring everything in their path. Shot in glorious color, with great performances and loaded with high drama and romance, THE NAKED JUNGLE is action, adventure and melodrama at its very best.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prince William to Marry Kate Middleton

A statement this morning from Clarence House said:
The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince William to Miss Catherine Middleton.

The wedding will take place in the Spring or Summer of 2011, in London. Further details about the wedding day will be announced in due course.

Prince William and Miss Middleton became engaged in October during a private holiday in Kenya.

Prince William has informed The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince William has also sought the permission of Miss Middleton's father.

Following the marriage, the couple will live in north Wales, where Prince William will continue to serve with the Royal Air Force.

What I Say:  It brought a tear to your Head Trucker's eye to see Diana's engagement ring on Kate's finger.  It was very, very touching to hear William say he wanted to put that ring on Kate's hand so that his mother could in some sense be present to share in their joy.  I well recall getting up at 4:30 in the morning to watch, over pastry and a steaming pot of tea, the live coverage of Diana's wedding, which outwardly was just perfection: all the joy and pageantry and splendid celebration that anyone could wish.

And yet as we now know, even then the trouble had already begun. By strange coincidence, I spent this past weekend looking - for no particular reason - at videos of Diana, and for the first time watched the famous Panorama interview she gave. I also read Google views of several books about her, including the Morton book based on her own tape recordings.  At this late age, I see and understand much more about the nature of things than I could have when all that was happening.

All of which is very, very sad. I was, in my romantic youth, very fond of the Princess of Wales; and it was very troubling when the fairy tale all crashed into pieces, which happened to coincide with the shattered hopes my first husband and I had. All too hard to bear; so after that I didn't keep up much with what Diana was doing, though I was of course horrified at her death, and I did watch her deeply moving funeral.

One could say a great many things about all of that; but the bottom line is, there were two great problems in that marriage. First, Diana married much too young, before she had a chance to become her own person, know her own mind, discover her own strength.

The second, of course, being that her husband - who, I believe, is a fundamentally very decent man - did not love her in the way she needed to be loved: truly, madly, deeply. Which is not to say he didn't love her, but it was not the kind of love Diana needed. A tragic mismatch of personalities.

And your Head Trucker knows from personal experience that having the form of love but not the substance makes you crazy in a very short time. Just crazy. Not the kind of crazy that gets you locked up in a padded cell - but crazy nonetheless.

Which can go on for years and years. Which nothing heals. Nothing but time and distance and, eventually, a new perspective.

But I think even those of us who, like your Head Trucker, have long since shed their romantic side can be hopeful about this young couple. William, remarkably, seems to have his head on straight. And Kate, I think, though of course still young and inexperienced, is better grounded and better prepared than Diana was. Kate has had time to grow up and know who she is and what she really wants; and like most young women of this generation is more worldly-wise, one might even say shrewd, than Diana was in 1981.

Of course, as we who have fought the wars and lived to tell about it know, these young people, like all others, still have an awful lot to learn. But as they said themselves in an interview this morning - which I hope to post here later - they are trying to learn lessons from the past. And no doubt the same could be said for all the Royal Family.

So let us wish them every happiness, and the best of life and luck. Even an old grouch and confirmed realist like your Head Trucker cannot help smiling at the thought of young love, tender and sincere. God bless them.

Update:  the whole interview isn't available yet, but here's a clip from it that shows the ring:

Update 2:  The full interview is now available here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dover Beach Revisited

A woman wades into the ocean at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, as waves driven from a Southern Hemisphere storm pound the coast, July 21, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Well guys, I've tried to think of something to blog about today, but even though I've found several things that are worth blogging here and here and here - criminy, I just don't feel up to the task.

There are some days, and more and more of them it seems, when all comment seems futile; as if I've got my finger in a dike that is being battered to pieces by a raging ocean on every side.

Not that I've ever believed for a minute that my obscure scribblings could make any more difference to the world than a very small pebble skipped across the surface of a very large lake.  But still, it would be nice to think that one's voice is part of a greater chorus swelling toward a tonic note of peace and harmony - a song worth singing.

Rather than a muffled cry "on a darkling plain, swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night."

When I was a wee lad, in the era of Telstar - amazing thing - all the predictions of the 21st century were of sweetness and light, I well recall.

Even so late as 2008, as all you will recall, there was a sense that things were really, truly, finally going to Change for the better.

Alas, it seems not.  Or not yet, anyway.  Who knows when, as humanity - that strange, obnoxious compound of good and evil - continues its blind, lurching path towards . . . whatever. 

And here I could list a lot of examples to illustrate just what I mean.  But I think you guys know what I mean without the list.  We could each make our own lists, and then what would we have - something to cry over, but what good would that do.

What good does anything do, but time and love? Or time alone - if loves are few.

In the face of the world's senselessness, I am speechless today.  And yet, no matter how bitter the taste of life, we cannot allow the note of goodness in the soul to fall utterly silent, even if words fail.  So I present to you, my truckbuddies, this song without words - and I hope it brings some slim ray of comfort to your hearts today, as it does to mine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Drive: Todrick Hall

Lesbian Honored at Buckingham Palace

Her Majesty's Government is far, far ahead of our own: on advice of the government, a lesbian activist was included in the Queen's Birthday Honours list this year. From PinkPaper (links added by me):
Brighton lesbian Clare Dimyon was presented with an MBE by Prince Charles at an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, last week.

On Friday, 29 October, Clare Dimyon, 45, was honoured for her “services to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Central and Eastern Europe”. The honour is a historic first for Pride.

A party of three lesbians of three generations, from Britain, Poland and Hungary accompanied Clare to Buckingham Palace. One of them, Gaby Charing, a 66 year old lawyer exclaimed: “I never thought I’d live to hear the Lord Chamberlain utter the words 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender' inside Buckingham Palace. I remember his office censoring homosexual plays in the sixties.”

Dimyon’s first parade was in London 25 years ago. She was first inspired to take part in Pride parades in Central and Eastern Europe following the events of Riga Pride 2006 and the banned Warsaw Pride of 2005.

Since then she has participated in parades throughout the former Soviet bloc. In 2009, she created the Solidarity Tour, visiting each one in turn, to draw attention to emerging LGBT communities in Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Macedonia, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
A clip of Clare speaking at a rally against anti-gay violence in Trafalgar Square last year; the camera wobbles a bit at the start, but it is steadied by the time Clare begins to talk:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It Gets Better: This Week's Faves

Your Head Trucker shares some of the best videos he found at the It Gets Better Project this week.

Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Party leader and perhaps the next Prime Minister of Canada:

Will grew up near Tallahassee, Florida:

Kevin and William in Chicago:

University of Michigan Law School students:

"A bunch of fun lesbians":

Orthodox Jews:

Barbara Gaines, a producer for the Letterman show:

University of Alabama students:


Staff of the Human Rights Campaign:

The NOH8 Campaign:

The Colorado theater community:

The Yale School of Drama:

And finally, B.D. has something to show you - but you have to be very, very quiet:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Waitin' for the Weekend

First Recorded Sounds

Stumbled across this intriguing website yesterday, about the work of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a French inventor, who in 1857 received a patent for the phonautograph - twenty years before Edison invented the phonograph.  And now, by means of 21st century wizardry, de Martinville's primitive sound tracings on blackened paper enable us to hear the human voice - not very clearly, but recognizably human - out of the long-silent past.

Last year, however, Giovannoni and crew realized that they had been playing the recording too fast; on their website, they offer a revised version which sounds more like a man's voice, probably the inventor's own.  Listen to it and more sounds re-created from de Martinville's phonoautograms here

Unfortunately, de Martinville was merely looking for a way to make a graphic representation of the human voice, with perhaps a view to creating a kind of automatic stenography one day; apparently, it didn't occur to him to pursue sound reproduction, which had to wait until Edison had a stroke of genius in 1877.  Here's a short overview of the phonograph's origin, an invention that amazed the world - a talking machine! 

Edison phonograph, circa 1899

Read more about the Edison phonograph and listen to sample recordings at the American Memory collection of the Library of Congress.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Tombstone of Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, USAF

From Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund:

Tired Old Queen at the Movies: Pride and Prejudice

Steve Hayes reviews one of your Head Trucker's favorites, the 1940 MGM version of Pride and Prejudice, and I agree with everything he says about it.  A real treat, fellas, don't miss it:
Jane Austen gets the MGM glamor treatment in Robert Z. Leonard's version of the classic Pride and Prejudice (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Boasting one of the greatest casts of character actors ever assembled, including Edna May Oliver, Edmund Gwen, Mary Boland, Maureen O'Sullivan, Melville Cooper and Marsha Hunt, this may not be the definitive version of the novel, but it's wildly entertaining. All the high class and expensive gloss that MGM at the height of its glory days could muster makes this a must-see entertainment. A good time will be had by all!

BTW, Johnny is looking sexier than ever - very truckable - and Steve introduces a little gratuitous skin in this review . . . won't spoil it for you, but I like it.

Educate yourself:  The delightful character actress Marsha Hunt, whom Steve talks about in this review, was blacklisted by Hollywood during the Red Scare in the 1950's, bringing a sudden end to her career, though she was never a member of the Communist Party - merely an "articulate liberal," as she puts it.  Read a fascinating interview with her about that time here

And don't think a repressive time like that can't happen again.  Especially with a Teabagger Congress.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joy Behar Interviews Jim Swilley

Via Joe.My.God., a great interview.  That kind of evangelical-pentecostal religion isn't my cup of tea at all, but I admire the hell out of Swilley and his wife for being so totally out and open and honest about the gay thing.  This will, I hope, touch some evangelical hearts and change some minds.  And give some hurting kids hope.

Marriage Research - Volunteers Needed

I did check up on this study, and it does seem to be legitimate.  If you're interested in participating, you can email Cristina here for more information.

Dancing with the Stars, Indian Style

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with India's President Pratibha Patil (2nd L) as Patil's husband Devisingh Shekhawat (L) and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama watch during a state dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi November 8, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)

Okay, I've posted some heavy-duty stuff lately, now it's time for something lighter.  The President and First Lady were a smash hit during their three-day visit to India over the weekend.  This clip of Michelle dancing with some schoolchildren made me smile this morning, big time.  And then her husband gets into the act, to everyone's delight.

More photos of the First Couple's tour, and Michelle's "fashion diplomacy," here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

WTF: Pentagon Clueless about Missle Launch off California


I came across this story just an hour ago, and I'm speechless with wonder at the apparent total fucking ineptitude of not merely our government's military surveillance, but also of Washington's public-relations ability as well:

Mystery Missile Launch Seen off Calif. Coast

Pentagon can't explain 'missile' off California

Mystery missile vapor trail stumps Pentagon

Memo to the White House:

Hello?  Is anybody minding the goddamn store?  Somebody launches a big-ass missile 35 miles from downtown L.A., and nobody knows what the fuck it was?  Nobody in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force even noticed it?  Even NORAD has no clue, for chrissake??

Jesus mercy.  It's 24 hours now, and still a mystery.  This is not the way to run the fucking country.  What, are you shitheads partying while the Boss is out of town?  We need some reassurance out here, if not defense.  You guys in the West Wing need to put the bong down and do your fucking job.  Or rightly get your collective asses kicked by the Republicans.

As a commenter on this YouTube video remarked:
We strip-search grandma at the airport and make sure that my shampoo is in an approved container, but our Pentagon can't tell who's firing missiles around our country.

Update:  There's a lot of chatter being spread around now on various news sites and blogs about its being just a jet airliner contrail. And your Head Trucker says bullshit. I've never seen a rocket launch in person, but I've been seeing them on TV ever since John Glenn went into orbit, and I've also seen uncountable jet contrails living here in North Texas, with hundreds of planes flying into or out of DFW every day of the year. None of that makes me any kind of expert, of course, and I don't have a degree in anything relevant to rocket science or optics; but I still say bullshit. That's not a goddamn plane, it's some kind of missile.

If it was merely an airliner, then why the hell hasn't somebody identified it yet for the public? You know the FAA tracks every single plane into and out of L.A., and NORAD tracks everything in the skies over the U.S. If it was a plane, they could easily tell the public exactly which flight it was, judging by the time of day and the direction of travel.

But they aren't doing that, are they? Instead, they are saying they saw nothing at all on their radars in that time and place. Now why would they withhold that very elementary piece of information - unless it wasn't an airliner at all?

Besides, if you look at the video, it seems very clear to me that the object is moving away from the camera, and I think I see the flame of a rocket exhaust, a pinpoint of flickering light. Maybe I'm wrong, sure. But the cameraman who took the video says the object was moving with a spiraling motion.  So it was no plane.

Notice also the photos of a similar phenomenon last Dec. 31 in the same area, and the extended discussion in the comments section there about the plane vs. missile theories. Notice also the links in those same comments to official sources about the U.S. Navy's missile tests on San Nicholas Island, out beyond Catalina.

Using Occam's Razor, then, it seems pretty much a sure thing to your Head Trucker that this was a missile launch for some unknown purpose by our own military. Which if so, that's fine; no doubt there's a good reason for it. But why do this in broad daylight, and then pretend that our own military - which is supposed to be protecting us 24/7 from all enemies foreign and domestic, as the phrase goes - that the military is so inept and so clueless?

Instead of inspiring public confidence, that does just the opposite. A damn piss-poor way to run a country, if you ask me, whoever is in office.

Mission Accomplished: Smelling Like a Rose

"Bush Jesus": 
Notice the halo effect produced by the radar dome behind his head.

The canonization process of St. George of Guantanamo has begun.  Read and weep:

Justice drops inquiry into destruction of torture videos

Miami Herald:  The former director of the CIA's secret operations branch won't be charged with the destruction of 92 videotapes showing the use of waterboarding and other controversial interrogation techniques, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. . . .

In interview, Bush defends Iraq war and waterboarding

Washington Post:  In his first major interview since leaving office, former president George W. Bush defended the most controversial aspects of his tenure - including the use of waterboarding against terrorism suspects and the invasion of Iraq. . . .

George Bush's torture admission is a dismal moment for democracy

The Guardian:  Although it comes as no surprise, George Bush's straight admission that he personally authorised waterboarding – an act of torture and a crime under US and international law – marks a dismal moment for western democracies and the rule of law. When again will the US be able to direct others to meet their human rights standards? Certainly not before it takes steps to bring its own house in order.

Unlike the UK's coalition government, which has announced a judicial inquiry on allegations of British involvement in torture, Barack Obama's administration has apparently ended the practice – but has done nothing to investigate the circumstances in which it was used by the Bush administration.

Bush claims that the use of waterboarding on Abu Zubaydah "saved lives", including British ones. There is not a shred of evidence to support that claim, one that falls into the same category as the bogus intelligence relied on to justify war in Iraq.

Indeed, waterboarding and Iraq appear to be interconnected, as torture-induced information was relied upon to justify the invasion. Torture may produce information, but it doesn't produce reliable information, as every experienced interrogator I have spoken with repeatedly tells me – on both sides of the Atlantic. It produces the information that the subject believes the interrogator wants to hear. . . .

He would do better to take on board those with first-hand experience of what the embrace of torture might mean for Americans abroad, who recognise that its use by the US will justify its use against the US.

Hundreds leave Bush book-signing in Dallas empty-handed

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  Hundreds of people left the bookstore in North Dallas where former President George W. Bush was autographing copies of his book, Decision Points, without getting a signed book Tuesday. Borders books officials by 10 a.m. had told those in the back of the line that they likely wouldn't be able to see the 43rd president, and get a signed copy of his book, but many stayed just in case.

Tricia Ditmore, 49, of Grand Prairie was among those who left empty-handed. "I wanted to see him and shake his hand," she said, as tears welled up in her eyes. "I wanted to tell him that we supported him - that he was loved and supported. I don't know if he knows. I hope other people told him that."

About 1,000 people were able to meet the former president, and take home signed copies of his book. Among the lucky ones were Terry and Tammy Jones of Justin. They were first in line, having camped out at the store in Preston Royal since about 2 p.m. Monday. After they bought four books autographed by Bush, and briefly met the former president, they couldn't stop smiling. "He shook my hand and he kissed Tammy's hand," Terry Jones said.

Said Tammy Jones: "I waited 18 hours for two seconds and a kiss on my hand. I'm never washing this hand again."

No comment from your Head Trucker.  What can any decent person say?

DADT: Sense and Nonsense

I've not commented recently on the whole DADT thing because it's all such a muddle, and now it's tossed salad between the courts and a lame-duck Congress and a dithering President.  Who knows how or when it will ever get repealed.

I will say, and some of you may disagree, that it seems to me very improper for one District Court judge in California - who is very low on the totem pole, as federal judges go - to resolve the whole big debate by a singlehanded "worldwide" ruling.  The reason being, guys, that the military is a special case for several very good reasons.  And the Constitution makes the President the Commander-in-Chief, while Congress holds the purse strings.  The Supreme Court, it seems to me, is the only body that can possibly have a say in the matter, so for constitutional reasons, I'm glad the appeals are headed that way.

Similarly, my love for my country requires me to sharply disagree with the notion proposed today by Adam Serwer today in the Washington Post blog The Plum Line, in an article entitled "On DADT, it's imperial presidency time," where he argues:
If Republicans continue to block DADT repeal from even coming to a vote, the president should take a page from Truman and end the policy through an executive order advising the military not to enforce the policy and cease defending it from challenges in court. The military's own empirical studies show allowing gays and lesbians to serve does not hurt military effectiveness, and the military's own policy of occasionally delaying DADT investigations of deployed troops confirms that finding. The military in Truman's time was deeply opposed to integration, and if he had waited for a favorable political climate to act desegregation might not have occurred for decades.

During the Bush years, liberals complained about his "imperial presidency," and so the idea that Obama should simply end the policy by fiat would seem hypocritical. But the use of an executive order to end a policy a majority of Americans, including conservatives, want to end, is no more undemocratic than Republicans' use of procedural maneuvers to thwart an up or down vote. Republicans holding the legislative process, and the fundamental rights of gay and lesbian servicemembers, hostage to their own homophobic prejudices, would still be the greater act of tyranny.
This is an extremely short-sighted view, and a very, very dangerous one.  Guys - think about it.  No matter how hurt, disappointed, or outraged we may feel at this moment over the delay in repealing DADT, you really don't want to live in a banana republic where the Congress passes laws that the President of the day simply ignores at will.

Nor do you want government-by-opinion-poll.  Just think about that.  Serwer's proposal would throw the entire Consitutional system of checks and balances into the toilet, and set an incredibly dangerous precedent for future presidents.  Some of whom will be Republican.  Or worse.  We do not want a system where the President just does whatever the hell he pleases, when he pleases.  Do you understand?

The glory of our nation is that we live under the rule of law, not of men.  That rule was already stretched nearly to the breaking point by the last President.  Let's not go backwards, fellas.  You want to make rules for others to live by?  Well then, knucklehead, you have to live by the rules and play by the rules yourself.  Didn't you learn that on the playground in first grade?

Also, you need to understand, as I've blogged about before, that Truman did not wave a magic wand and zap! integrate the military overnight, with everybody loving up on everybody else and saying ain't it wonderful.   It took more than ten years, from the first surveys of troop attitudes during World War II to the removal of all segregated facilities on military bases.  If you want to be truly informed - and therefore, worth listening to on this subject - go read the timeline of military desegregation at the Truman Presidential Library website.

Also, you should understand that when Truman issued his executive order, Congress had never passed a law requiring the armed forces to be segregated; it was merely longstanding policy.  The difference today is that Congress did pass a law, DADT, which makes it a different ballgame.  Yes, the Supreme Court ought to rule that DADT is totally unconstitutional - but we just aren't there yet.

Dr. Gregory Herek, psychology professor at UC-Davis, has an excellent web site with many valuable links pertaining to DADT.  Also, after noting the somewhat reluctant use of black troops from the Revolutionary War to World War I, Herek explains (emphasis mine):
At the beginning of World War II, as in the past, personnel needs dictated that Black recruits be accepted for military service. Once again, Black enlisted personnel were segregated from Whites – usually led by Black officers – and placed in support roles. As the war effort progressed, however, the Navy experimented with integration of enlisted personnel, which was less expensive than maintaining combat-ready segregated units. By the War’s end, more than one million African-Americans served efficiently in various service branches. Inter-racial conflict did not appear to be a problem in combat zones, although some tensions were reported in rear areas. As Stouffer and his colleagues concluded in their social scientific study of the American soldier, events in World War II demonstrated that Blacks were effective fighters and that racial integration in the military would not compromise unit effectiveness.

Nevertheless, racial segregation remained official government policy until President Harry Truman's historic Executive Order 9981, issued a few months before the 1948 election, which "declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." Following this order, the armed forces began to institute a policy of racial desegregation. Desegregation proceeded slowly, however, and met with resistance.

Most civilians and military personnel opposed racial integration. One month before President Truman's Executive Order, a Gallup poll showed that 63% of American adults endorsed the separation of Blacks and Whites in the military; only 26% supported integration. A 1949 survey of white Army personnel revealed that 32% completely opposed racial integration in any form, and 61% opposed integration if it meant that Whites and Blacks would share sleeping quarters and mess halls. However, 68% of white soldiers were willing to have Blacks and Whites work together, provided they didn't share barracks or mess facilities.

As the 1993 RAND report noted,

"Many white Americans (especially Southerners) responded with visceral revulsion to the idea of close physical contact with blacks. Many also perceived racial integration as a profound affront to their sense of social order. Blacks, for their part, often harbored deep mistrust of whites and great sensitivity to any language or actions that might be construed as racial discrimination" (National Defense Research Institute, 1993, p. 160).

As in past wars, the Korean conflict created a shortage of personnel and Black Americans helped to fill this need. Because of troop shortages and the high costs of maintaining racially segregated facilities, integration rapidly became a reality. In 1951, integration of the Army was boosted by the findings from a study of the impact of desegregation on unit effectiveness of troops deployed in Korea. The researchers concluded that racial integration had not impaired task performance or unit effectiveness, that cooperation in integrated units was equal or superior to that of all-White units, and that serving with Blacks appeared to make White soldiers more accepting of integration. By the end of the Korean conflict [1953], the Department of Defense (DOD) had eliminated all racially segregated units and living quarters.
Igor Volsky at the Wonk Room has transcribed some surveys done by the American military from 1942 to 1945, which reveal how widespread and unpopular the idea of racial integration was among enlisted men and officers:
These surveys show that the same attitude pervaded the military: 3/4 Air Force men favored separate training schools, combat, and ground crews and 85% of white soldiers thought it was a good idea to have separate service clubs in army camps . . .

While smaller, these racial polls share some common questions with the DADT survey. In fact, in some instances one can even replace “negro” for “gay” and end up with today’s questionnaire. Both polls ask servicemembers if they objected to working alongside minorities, how they felt serving with minorities, how effective minorities are in combat and if their feelings have changed about the minority after serving with them. (Interestingly, 77% of respondents said they had more favorable opinion).

Truman integrated the forces despite the objections of the troops and it remains to be seen if Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and President Obama (who have to sign off on the DOD study) are willing to do the same for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
The surveys make interesting reading; good stuff to know if you get into a conversation about DADT.  Here's the transcript of what Volsky found:

Final Race Wonk Room

Bottom line:  Fight hard, fight fair, but it's important to play by the rules, and to expect a period of adjustment even after DADT is repealed - which it will be one day, please God.  But nobody and nothing is going to make it all happen peachy-keen overnight. 

And you absolutely do not want a fucking dictatorship where that could happen.  Think it over, guys.  The rule of law, checks and balances, constitutional government:  gay or straight, white or black, male or female, our first allegiance must be to all those those things that make our country what it is, and will in time make it what it should be.

Without them, America would not be worth living in.  Without them, we would be the Evil Empire of the world.  I don't want to go there, do you?

Update:  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones via Andrew Sullivan:
Let's face it: if you pick your jurisdiction right you can probably find a district court judge to rule just about anything unconstitutional. It would be easy, for example, to find a district court judge somewhere to say that the healthcare reform law was unconstitutional. If this happened in 2013 and President Palin decided not to appeal the ruling, thus overturning the law, what would we think of this? Not much, and rightfully so. A district court judgment is just flatly not sufficient reason to overturn an act of Congress.

Monday, November 8, 2010

This Christmas: Save the Elephants

Jenny and Shirley at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee

I hate to bring up the subject of Christmas, because I despise thinking about it this early in the year.  Unfortunately, there are too many silly or greedy people in our society who have turned the whole concept into a circus of display and consumerism.  For myself, I make it a firm rule never to put up any Christmas decorations before the 15th of December, and what few I do put up are very modest.  But the stores are already filling up with Christmas dreck, and every one of you reading this is already making certain plans for the season, I know you are.  So I'm going to put a bug in your ear about all that, as we say down South.

Your Head Trucker would like to send this little suggestion out to the world, for what it's worth:  this Christmas, instead of spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on decorations and parties and expensive crap to give to your friends and relations, who already have too much crap of every kind and color to deal with - why not have a smaller, more modest holiday, and instead get your loved ones to join with you in adopting an elephant?  Elephants are smart, gentle, emotional creatures who are too often vulnerable to cruelty and abuse.  Check out these videos, and see what I mean.

"Spaceless in Seattle" is a short film about the elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo in that city:

More about The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee:

And this video is about the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya:

And here's the Performing Animal Welfare Society in Galt, California - which also makes a home for lions and tigers and bears, I kid you not.  And some primates, too.

Scott Riddle, at his Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary in Greenbrier, Arkansas, explains the global human-elephant conflict:

Now please listen to ol' Russ before you click away.  Whether you are a believer or a non-believer, your Head Trucker asks you to just stop everything for one five minutes, and consider why you go through all your holiday routines in the month of December, by whatever name you call them.  Is it all really to celebrate the warm relationships you have with others in your life?  Or is it possible that you do all that to celebrate - yourself.  Your taste, your wealth, your fabulousness, your one little precious snowflake of a life?

If your religion, or your lack of religion, does not make you a bigger, better, more thoughtful, more compassionate person - then what exactly is the point of all you believe, or disbelieve?

Come to think of it, what is the point of human life, anyway?

What is the point of your life?

Or is there one?

You don't have to tell me, fellas.  But do think it over.  It will do you a world of good.

*          *          *

Of course, there are many other worthy causes in need of your help, and I'll be blogging about some of those in the weeks to come.

But do be aware that you can check the performance of legitimate charities, including the ones above, at such excellent sites as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Barcelona: Gay Kiss-In to Protest Pope

Homosexual couples kiss in the Plaza de la Catedral as the Pope travels in his Popemobile to the Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona, November 7, 2010. They are protesting against Pope Benedict's visit to Spain. Pope Benedict, on a lightning trip to Spain, urged Europe on Saturday to re-discover God and its Christian heritage and also denounced the country's liberal abortion laws. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino (SPAIN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST RELIGION POLITICS)

En route to dedicate Barcelona's famous but unfinished Sagrada Familia church today, Pope Benedict had to pass a crowd of kissing gay couples - 100 to 500, depending on which news report you read - who organized the kiss-in to protest the Pope's denunciation of gay marriage as "intrinsically evil," a theme he alluded to in his homily at the church, while also denouncing Spain's abortion law and its secular, "anticlerical" trend.  Spain was the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2005.

Homosexual couples kiss in the Plaza de la Catedral as the Pope travels in his Popemobile to the Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona, November 7, 2010. They are protesting against Pope Benedict's visit to Spain. Pope Benedict, on a lightning trip to Spain, urged Europe on Saturday to re-discover God and its Christian heritage and also denounced the country's liberal abortion laws. REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino (SPAIN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST RELIGION POLITICS)

Barcelona, from all I've read, is something like the San Francisco of Spain, with a large gay population. Other protestors turned out as well, like this woman whose sign, one news story reported, translates to something like "Condoms save, the Pope damns."

A woman holds a sign as she protests against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Spain in Barcelona, November 7, 2010. Pope Benedict attacked abortion and gay marriage, recently legalised in Spain, in a Mass to consecrate Barcelona's iconic church in another pointed criticism of what he called Spain's aggressive secularism . The sign reads The condom saves. Getting soaked makes you sick . REUTERS/Gustau Nacarino (SPAIN - Tags: RELIGION CIVIL UNREST)

Feminists and others also turned out to protest the Pope's visit. I get the sense of a few phrases on these signs, but can any of my truckbuddies translate?

People protest Pope Benedict's upcoming visit to Barcelona at Sant Jaume square November 4, 2010. The Pope arrives in Spain on November 6 and will visit the Sagrada Familia the following day. REUTERS/Stringer (SPAIN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST RELIGION)

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia greeted the pope, were present in the consecration mass, and bid him farewell at the airport, but Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was conspicuously absent and only met the Catholic patriarch for a private meeting in the airport minutes before he returned to Rome.

Mr. Zapatero decided to visit Spanish troops in Afghanistan throughout most of the pope’s visit and publicly only shook his hand, highlighting the tense relations with one of the Vatican’s closest traditional allies in Europe.

The fallout in relations between the current government and the Vatican, however, is not seen as a real challenge from the state. That would probably not be tolerated by a majority of Spaniards, analysts say.

Recent surveys show the number of practicing Catholics is dropping fast, to around 20 percent currently, mirroring a broader European trend, but the vast majority of Spaniards still declare themselves Catholics. And the Catholic Church has great perks here, starting with around $9 billion annually in different forms of direct and indirect government funds from tax revenue to financing of religious schools. The Spanish Church is the second biggest property owner in the country, trailing only the government. . . .

Spain is not officially secular, as most western states are. Rather, it is legally neutral in terms of religion, implying it is a faith-based state. In practice that has translated into huge benefits for the Catholic Church that leaders from other religions, namely Muslims, Protestants, and Jews, say are unconstitutional because they are discriminated against when getting access to government aid and public space.

In Santiago, Benedict XVI met the leader of the main opposition Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, who has promised to turn back secular laws passed by the Zapatero government if elected.
Britain's Sky News has a video report here.

Honk to Heretic Tom at The Gospel According to Hate for the story idea.

Bishop Gene Robinson Announces Retirement

Bishop Robinson and his husband, Mark Andrew

From the Concord [New Hampshire] Monitor:
Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson announced yesterday he will retire in 2013, in part because of the death threats and strain he's endured as the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Church.

Robinson's election seven years ago has divided the 77-million-member Anglican Communion here and overseas. Robinson wore a bulletproof vest at his consecration in Durham in 2003 because of the threats. The controversy has grown more intense as traditionalists formed rival churches.

"The last seven years have taken their toll on me, my family and you," Robinson, 63, told delegates gathered in Concord yesterday for the New Hampshire diocese's annual convention. He was accompanied by his husband, Mark Andrew, whom he married in New Hampshire in 2008. . . .

When Robinson's candidacy was presented to the national church for a ratification vote, several conservative bishops left the room, denouncing the election of a gay man as bishop.

The American church was clearly divided:  62 bishops voted for him, 43 against him, while two abstained. Since then, Episcopal and Anglican traditionalists overseas formed alliances and created the Anglican Church in North America as a conservative rival to the Episcopal church.

And in 2008, Robinson was not invited to the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of the world's Anglican bishops because of pressure from conservative bishops. Instead, Robinson flew privately to England and spoke at local churches while the other Anglican bishops convened.

Upon his election as bishop, Robinson said he wanted to be "the good bishop, not the gay bishop." But in the last seven years, he has worked to be both, tending to his job's duties in the state but also seeking a bigger stage for gay-rights awareness.

He spoke of that yesterday."I will continue my work of evangelizing the unchurched and the 'de-churched,' " he said. He cited news reports of three gay teenagers who committed suicide "because religion tells them they are an abomination before God. I get to tell them a different story," he said, prompting applause.
You can read Bishop Robinson's entire speech here.

Sunday Drive: Ave Maria

This brings me peace this morning.  I hope it does the same for you, my buddies.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pink Elephants

They're on the rise, and damned if I can understand why.  Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post's PostPartisan blog:
Gay men, lesbians and bisexuals who self-identified to exit pollsters made up 3 percent of those casting ballots in House races on Tuesday, and 31 percent of them voted Republican. By itself, that number is amazing, especially when you consider that way too many people think being gay and voting Democratic are one in the same. But that percentage is ominous news for a White House viewed with suspicion by many gay men and lesbians, because that's four percentage points higher than the change election of 2008.

Self-identified gays have been slowly sidling up to the GOP for a while now. In the 2008 presidential race, they made up four percent of the vote and gave 27 percent of their votes to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) against then-Sen. Barack Obama. In the 2006 midterm elections, when the House and Senate flipped to Democratic control, gays made up three percent of the electorate with the Republicans snagging 24 percent of their ballots. And in the 2004 presidential elections, President George W. Bush got 23 percent of the gay vote. They comprised four percent of those polled.
Why do gays vote for the Republican Party?  Come to think of it, why do poor people, unemployed people, old people, single parents, minimum-wage workers, and anybody else who's not a fucking millionaire, vote for the GOP?  The party of Sally Kern, Sarah Palin, and John "Filibuster" McCain, to name but a few. 

The Texas GOP, like that of many other states, actually wants to recriminalize sodomy, among other choice proposals.

Did any Jews vote for Hitler?  Did any blacks vote for George Wallace?  Given that the river of human stupidity is an ever-flowing stream, I sure wonder. 

Sigh.  Kinda makes you feel like just giving up on the human race sometimes, ya know what I mean?  

Your Head Trucker now believes it will be twenty years before we see equality all across the nation:  DADT repealed, and DOMA.  ENDA enacted, and UAFA, and marriage equality in every state.

Twenty years:  remember you heard it from Russ right here.  Mark your calendars, and drop me a postcard when 2030 rolls around.  If the gay Republican kapos will let you have a postage stamp.

Tell me I'm wrong.  Please.

But first ask your friends who they voted for . . . and see if they hesitate to answer.
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