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Cartoonist and 2014 MacArthur fellow Alison Bechdel may be best known for her eponymous sexism screening tool, but Alyssa Rosenberg believes more people should be familiar with the comic strip that put her on the map:

“Dykes to Watch Out For” dives deep into a fictional lesbian community, considering the impact of transgender politics, marriage and even the death of independent bookstores on her characters. Pop culture as a whole has had an unfortunate tendency, upon telling the stories of white, affluent gay men (and, less often, lipstick lesbians), to consider its task of diversification complete. “Dykes to Watch Out For,” which ran from 1983 to 2008, when Bechdel put it on hiatus, is a testament to just how much material other projects and other media have left on the table.

Her characters were multi-generational, multiracial and in all sorts of relationships, including marriages to gay men and house-sharing arrangements. They also ranged up and down the class spectrum: Mo Testa, the main character, started out as a bookstore clerk and ended up as a reference librarian, Toni Ortiz was a certified public accountant and several other characters were academics.

I always enjoyed the strip – a dykey Doonesbury that also managed to convey the complexity and nuance of lesbian life. Tim Teeman takes the opportunity to revisit a 2012 conversation he had with Bechdel about “Dykes”:

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Whither Now, Ukraine?

Sep 18 2014 @ 4:00pm

Michael Weiss’s overview of the situation in Ukraine today touches on several salient topics—corruption, nationalism, the economy, Russia—and is worth a full read. Here, he addresses the law the Ukrainian parliament passed this week granting a measure of autonomy to the country’s eastern regions:

There are already signs that Ukraine and Russia will interpret it differently. The Russian Foreign Ministry, for instance, said in a statement that the law grants the “development in certain regional districts of cross-border cooperation designed to deepen good-neighborly relations with the Russian Federation’s administrative and territorial units,” which is a pretty way of describing a breakaway autonomous zone removed in all but name from the central authority in Kiev. … For their part, the Ukrainians who elected Poroshenko largely on his campaign promise to ensure the territorial integrity of their country fear that this deal is another kind of sellout: the de facto ceding of the Donbass to Russia, or the perpetuation of an occupation in all but name. This is why protests objecting to the special status law have recently erupted outside the Rada.

“The mood at the ministry, specifically with the new foreign minister and his team, is to get it over with,” a Ukrainian diplomat told me, referring to a then-nascent cease-fire agreement. “There is one fear that we will have a new Transnistria. The other is that [the war] goes on indefinitely. The first is more awful.”

Alexander Motyl, however, argues that a frozen conflict “will actually be to Ukraine’s benefit”:

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Ramesh Ponnuru makes plain how they have and haven’t shifted:

On same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana, public attitudes have, in fact, changed. A majority has gone from opposing to supporting both of them. That doesn’t necessarily mean that opposing them is going to hurt Republicans: It depends on, among other things, whether there’s a large pool of voters who would be open to Republican candidates if only they supported gay marriage. It does, however, mean that Republicans are going to talk less about these issues.

On the other hand, the public has not shifted on abortion, which has been a politically important social issue for much longer than same-sex marriage or legal pot have been. When pollsters for CBS ask people whether abortion should be “generally available,” or Gallup asks whether it should be “legal only under certain circumstances,” the answers look nearly identical to what they were a decade ago. The same is true when Gallup asks whether people consider themselves “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”

Isn’t it obvious why? Marriage equality and legal cannabis cannot plausibly be described as harming anyone. They’re both classically libertarian, live-and-let-live initiatives. But abortion touches on something very different. Many people believe (and I am one of them) that abortion doesn’t just affect another human life, but ends it. The individual liberty argument – so potent with marriage and cannabis – is checked by a legitimate concern for the unborn child. That’s why the younger generation is close to unanimous on cannabis and marriage but still divided over abortion. Kevin Williamson is in agreement:

What conservatives often fail to emphasize, I think, is that abortion is simply in a different category of issues than is gay marriage or marijuana legalization.

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A Lesbian Genius To Watch Out For

Sep 18 2014 @ 3:02pm

After the travesty of Jo Becker’s alleged history of the marriage equality movement, and after Chad Griffin’s PR attempt to portray himself as Rosa Parks, and after Ted Olson and David Boies’ grandiloquent credit-hogging in their recent book, it comes as something of a massive relief to see one of the true architects of marriage equality finally getting her due. Mary Bonauto was fighting for gay marriage rights as a lawyer and organizer when very few others were. She started at the state level – because that’s where civil marriage is rooted in American politics and law. And she critically understood that it was vital to get a foothold somewhere, to prove we were not just fringe weirdos, and she saw Massachusetts and New England as the most favorable terrain.

And they were. One aspect of marriage equality in America that is sometimes missed is the role New England played. The gay and lesbian community in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s was remarkably advanced and organized. It was a community I was immensely lucky to grow up in. The self-confidence and self-esteem that this community helped spawn in its members broke through the fear and doubt and squabbling that cursed us elsewhere. It was a gay community big enough to make a splash, but small enough not to splinter. And Mary was a central component of that with her remarkably successful group, Gay And Lesbian Advocates And Defenders.

Let’s be clear: there would be no national surge in support of marriage equality without ten years of civil marriage equality in one state, and then several others. There would be none without Mary Bonauto.

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Busted With An Eggcorn, Ctd

Sep 18 2014 @ 2:40pm

A classic Dish thread continues:

I used to think people were saying they need to “make a piss stop” when going to the restroom at work, instead of pitt stop. One day I earnestly asked a female colleague, “Are they saying ‘piss stop’ or is it ‘pitt stop’??” And so she spit out her water and broke out on laughter, and then, you know how a woman will look at you like you’ve totally lost your mind again. But I really didn’t know.

Another eggcorn:

From a student paper, several years back: “It’s a doggie-dog world.”

Another:

My wife had, for the past 20+ years, always said “connipshit” instead of “conniption.” I finally made her repeat it to me after she said it two-three times in a day and verified she thought the word was “connipshit.” But I can’t say I blame her; people in a conniption are usually in a connipshit as well.

Another:

I recently wrote an email to a client where I said that allowing something to happen would set a “very bad president.” (For the record, it was not a Freudian slip; I’m an Obama supporter.)

That’s actually a malapropism, which many readers are still confusing for an eggcorn (though often the distinction can be tricky). Here’s Wiki again:

The unintentionally incorrect use of similar-sounding words or phrases in speaking is a malapropism. If there is a connection in meaning, it can be called an eggcorn.

Or:

I had a friend in college that swore up and down that it was a “greatfruit”. But in his defense, they are nothing like a grape and they are pretty great.

Another:

My wife likes to tell how when she was younger and watched Star Wars, they said the Jedi used a “Life Saver” instead of a Light Saber. They were trying to save people, after all.

And here’s a “gem of an eggcorn from my father, a reporter at a local newspaper”:

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An ISIS Plot Down Under?

Sep 18 2014 @ 2:20pm

Australian police today arrested 15 people in connection with a terror plot, allegedly ordered by an Australian member of ISIS, to behead random citizens on video in the manner of Foley, Sotloff, and Haines. Some 800 police officers reportedly took part in the raid, the largest anti-terrorist operation in the country’s history:

Mohammad Ali Baryalei, a former Kings Cross bouncer and part-time actor, is understood to have made the instruction to kidnap people in Brisbane and Sydney and have them executed on camera. That video was then to be sent back to IS’s media unit, where it would be publicly released. Omarjan Azari, 22, from the western Sydney suburb of Guildford, was one of 15 people detained during the operation in Sydney and is accused of conspiring with Baryalei and others to act in preparation or plan a terrorist act or acts, court documents show. Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt told Sydney’s Central Local Court the alleged offence was “clearly designed to shock, horrify and terrify the community”.

Ishaan Tharoor puts the news in context:

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A day after Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi ruled out allowing the US to re-station ground forces in his country, Juan Cole observes that the country’s Shiite militias, widely considered proxies of Iran, are also warning against American intervention:

Hamza Mustafa reports from Baghdad that Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Iran-backed Badr Corps, warned that the American plan is to take credit for the victories of the Iraqi armed forces and the popular militias. He called for a rejection of the plan and dependence solely on Iraqi military and paramilitary to defeat ISIL. … The Bloc of the Free (al-Ahrar) led by Shiite cleric Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr called on al-Abadi to reject the US plan. Muqtada al-Sadr warned the US against trying to reoccupy Iraq and threatened, “If you return, we will return.” This was a reference to his Mahdi Army, which had subsided in importance after the US withdrawal. Muqtada boasted that the militia had inflicted heavy casualties on US troops and forced the US out. He also said that if the Mahdi Army “Peace Brigades” discovered an American presence in any province where they were fighting ISIL, they should immediately withdraw from the fight.

His conclusion:

It is difficult to tell how serious these militia leaders’ pronouncements are, since they might be attempting to save face with their followers even as they benefit from the US air cover. On the other hand, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq actually did in the past kidnap US troops, and the Mahdi Army fought them tooth and nail in spring of 2004, inflicting high casualties on them. Since President Obama’s air campaign requires Special Ops forces like Navy Seals or Green Berets to be on the ground with the Iraqi Army, they should apparently watch their backs. The people they are trying to help against ISIL don’t seem to appreciate their being there. And many of them seem to prefer Iran’s help.

So there are indigenous forces against ISIS that are telling us: we’ve got this. And we’re over-ruling them. Eli Lake, on the other hand, interprets these statements as evidence that Iran is working against us, noting that Tehran itself opposes US involvement in the conflict on the ground:

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Back To The Bush Years … ?

Sep 18 2014 @ 1:03pm

Bush Asks Congress For $74.7 Billion In War Aid

My own dismay (even bewilderment) at the current mood in America may well be because I was largely off-grid in August. But it’s still a truly remarkable shift. In a month, the entire political landscape has reverted to Bush-Cheneyism again. I honestly thought that would never happen, that the grisly experience of two failed, endless wars had shifted Americans’ understanding of what is possible in the world, that the panic and terror that flooded our frontal cortexes from 9/12 onward would not be able to come back with such a vengeance. I was clearly wrong. Terrorism does not seem to have lost any of its capacity to promote total panic among Americans. The trauma bin Laden inflicted is still overwhelming rationality. It would be harder to imagine a more stunning success for such a foul mass murder.

The party that was primarily responsible for the years of grinding, bankrupting war, a descent into torture, and an evisceration of many core liberties is now regarded as superior to the man originally tasked with trying to recover from that experience. The political winds unleashed by a few disgusting videos and a blitzkrieg in the desert have swept all before them. And we now hear rhetoric from Democratic party leaders that sounds close to indistinguishable from Bush or Cheney.

Is it merely panic? I doubt it. I think what’s also coursing through the collective psyche is the thought that Obama told us we were finally out of Iraq – and events have shown that assurance to be shaky at best. A core part of his legacy has had the bottom fall out of it. I don’t think most people – outside the Tea Party – really believe that all would be well if we’d just kept more troops in country the last couple of years. But the resurgence of the Sunni insurgency – now tinged with the most fanatical of theocratic barbarisms – is nonetheless blamed on Obama. Maybe it could have been contained without the beheadings. But they touched so many visceral chords that the Jacksonian temperament, always twitching beneath the surface of American life, simply bulldozed away every conceivable objection and doubt.

But will this last? I have my doubts. The Republicans are actually ambivalent about this war – largely because Obama is the president. For a while, they’ll bash him for not being “tough” enough – as if toughness has been shown to be the critical virtue in the fight against Jihadist terrorism. But when and if it actually comes to ground troops, my guess is that they’ll get cold feet. Apart from the unhinged McCain and Butters, few of them are so delusional to think we should re-occupy the place indefinitely. Maybe ISIS can do the neocons a favor and engage in some domestic terrorism to ratchet up the global stakes once again – in which case, we will very much be back where we started, our collective memory erased like those lab rats we covered earlier today.

My point is this: when they actually have to choose to go back to Bush-Cheneyism, and an endless, global civilizational war, Americans will not be as gung-ho as they now appear to be, in the wake of ISIS’ propaganda coups and the Beltway’s hysteria.

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Email Of The Day

Sep 18 2014 @ 12:40pm

Jack09162014

The “newest member of Club Tripod in DC” will cheer you up:

The last few weeks have been so depressing news-wise, I thought I’d pass along something upbeat. Jack came back from Sierra Leone with me two years ago with a limp and arthritis due to an injury that had healed poorly (there’s only one vet in the entire country). When it got worse this summer, I visited an orthopedic surgeon who suggested a range of options, from physical therapy to arthroscopy. She didn’t mention amputation, but when I asked about it, she said that this was the best option, though pet owners tend to react poorly to the suggestion.

It’s been just three weeks since the surgery and she already moves as if her leg were never there. Dogs are amazingly resilient. On our walk this morning, a little boy pointed to her and told his mom to “look at how fast that dog is!”

When people see little Bowie charging like a bullet down the beach after her favorite yellow tennis ball (as seen below), they gawk in wonder:

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Yesterday, the House voted 273-156 to let the president arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels to help fight ISIS:

The administration’s request was an amendment to a must-pass, stopgap measure to keep the government running through mid-December. Although the amendment had the early support of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., a number of lawmakers in both parties began defecting, prompting a last-minute push by party leaders to build support.

New York’s Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said a range of top Democrats worked to the last minute to gather votes for the president’s plan, which would train some 5,000 Syrian rebels in the first year at facilities in Saudi Arabia. … Having secured approval in the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where it may receive a skeptical reception. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry came under intense questioning about the White House’s plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

The idea is as doomed now as it long has been. The US trained the entire Iraqi army in country for years – and they still scarpered. The problem is political; almost certainly unsolvable except in the long run by the parties themselves; and made utterly solvable by US intervention. The Senate is set to vote on the measure today. Weigel notes who voted “aye”:

Everybody in competitive races. Georgia Rep. John Barrow, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, and West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall are among the very last Democrats in districts that voted for the Romney-Ryan ticket in 2012. They went “aye.” So did Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, both Senate candidates in tough races. On the Republican side, Senate candidates Tom Cotton and Steve Daines voted “aye,” as did Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman and Florida Rep. Steve Southerland. They’re the only two Republicans in seats that appear now to be toss-ups, with strong Democratic challengers cutting through the headwind.

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