Saturday, August 29, 2015

Mars by 2044?

Can you guess why this was done? Alabama is having budget difficulties and one solution is to close 45 of 49 driver's license bureaus. Yup, by March of next year there will only be four places in the state to get a driver's license – Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham. The other half of the story: Alabama has a voter ID law that requires a driver's license or state ID (and we know where one must go for those). The poor get a double hit. They usually can't afford to take a day off work and don't have the money to travel halfway across the state for an ID. They can't vote and they can't drive a car to a job, confining them to jobs accessible by public transportation.

Commenters suggest a few gov't officials will lose the next election over this mess. The poor may not be able to vote, but even the middle class folks won't want to be so inconvenienced.

Back in 1986 Ron Jones put some serious thought into how humans could become a spacefaring race. He created the Integrated Space Plan, showing the various interlocking milestones required to create a base on the moon and a full scale colony on Mars before 2100. The plan has been updated and is much easier to understand. It also takes into account billionaires who have their own space programs. Hmm, humans on Mars around 2044. I just might live to see that.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that a state law that bans same-sex couples from adopting is unconstitutional.

Over the last six years the GOP has been declaring Obama's policies will end in disaster. But recently the GOP hasn't been saying that very loudly. The reason, as Paul Krugman puts it, Obama is failing to fail. Those disasters just aren't appearing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Terrorism terrifies

This post is number 3000 for this blog! And I wrote that many in less than 8 years (I started the blog in mid November of 2007). Since 2010, when Blogger started keeping statistics for me, there have been over 78,000 page views. I've written about gay marriage/marriage equality in 642 posts, the GOP in 420 posts, personal adventures in 296 posts, and fundamentalism in 271 posts. The top two countries of readership are America and Russia with United Kingdom a distant third.

Alas, this milestone post doesn't come with a celebratory topic. It's … more of the same. Sigh.

Audra Williams in a post for The Soapbox on website The Frisky notes that fat hatred has become so strong that "the most morally pure thing a person can do is lose weight." She shows how that has been true starting with Jared Fogle, the guy in the Subway ads who was arrested on charges of raping children. His foundation to fight childhood obesity put him in a position to have access to lots of kids. But since he had lost so much weight he was seen as a fantastic guy and indiscretions (and crimes) were overlooked. Williams also discusses politicians and celebrities who rose from scandal by losing weight. She reminds us "There is no link between body size and morality, full stop."

The anti-choice movement can't be called pro-life, because the only life they are interested in is that of the fetus. Pro-life? How about working to end war? Perhaps make sure women have great health care so if they don't want kids they won't get pregnant? Maybe even pay attention to the quality of life, including safe neighborhoods and great schools, for all kids beyond the moment of birth? No, they aren't pro-life. Their only purpose is to keep women subservient to men, barefoot and pregnant.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville takes it one more step. The anti-choice movement is domestic terrorism. It has a decades-long campaign of intimidation, threats, multiple assassinations and attempts, kidnappings, and long lists of harassment, assault and battery, vandalism, arson, and bombings. Their latest strategy is to dig up confidential medical records to be able to file complaints against abortion providers. Never mind the women whose information is used without their consent or knowledge.

Why does this still happen? Because the people being targeted are not straight white males. Because the GOP is a state sponsor of this terrorism. Because the supposedly pro-choice party can barely say the word "abortion" and still uses language that stigmatizes. Because too few people are willing to put themselves in the crosshairs. Because terrorism terrifies.

On to the Donald Trump phenomenon. Here is a guy loudly proclaiming his hatred for women and minorities and voters are falling at his feet because he "speaks the truth!" McEwen again has a few things to say. Her army of commenters add a few more.

The first half of the issue is the hateful language from Trump is giving a lot of fellow haters lots of permission for their hate. We don't need more of that.

The second half is many progressive men think Trump's antics are good for a laugh, followed by a dismissive wave. McEwen reminds us these men are not the ones who will be harmed if Trump or anyone else acts on his vile language. Women and people of color don't think Trump as funny at all.

Is The Donald telling the truth? Yes, he is proclaiming his bigotry quite loudly. Why are we cheering that truth? And why are some progressives cheering that poisonous stream even if it might expose GOP faultlines?

A company is coming out with a Caitlin Jenner costume for Halloween. McEwen says such costumes are only about mockery and that one person's identity is not another person's costume. She asked her readers to describe costumes that don't appropriate someone else's identity. The list is long and varied: candy corn, pencil, mime, academic regalia (hmm, a use for my master's robe?), fictional characters, historical figures (Suffragette), tooth fairy, office fairy (crown of paper clips), a princess with a guy dressed in green as the pea, IRS agent ("audit or treat!"), vampires, zombies, ghosts, and my favorite: all white clothes printed with "404 – Costume not found."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Trevor Harper, a member of First United Methodist Church of Austin, Texas was asked to share his faith story with the congregation. Since he and his partner felt so welcome at the church Harper took the opportunity to propose marriage. The congregation stood and cheered.

Lots of commenters to the story noted that though the proposal occurred in the church sanctuary, according to denomination rules, the wedding cannot. Alas, nobody commented that this church is likely to be one of many that disobeys the rules.

Back in 2009 the Maine legislature approved same-sex marriage. Enough signatures were gathered to put the issue on the ballot. The National Organization for Marriage spent heavily and the law was overturned. Another effort in 2012 was successful. NOM was accused of money laundering and not filing the proper campaign forms. The penalty was a $50K fine and release of donor names. It took until 2014 for the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to rule, and they did so unanimously against NOM. The state Supremes weighed in earlier this month and, not surprisingly, NOM lost.

So the names were finally revealed. It is a short list, only six names and only one a Maine resident. So much for the claim that NOM is a grass-roots organization (more like astro-turf). Commenters note that six people deciding the same-sex marriage case in Maine isn't all that different than five people of the Supremes deciding it for the country.

More on the top donor, Sean Fieler, here. He's spending his millions pushing religious conservative causes around the country. He also was behind the funding of the nasty and false anti-gay research by Mark Regnerus that went down in flames during the Michigan same-sex marriage trial.

I drove home from visiting my parents last evening while listening to NPR, arriving at 9:00. But it was the next program that sounded interesting, so I went inside and turned it on. It was the show On Point with Tom Ashbrook and his topic was new science on same-sex attraction.

Ten years ago Neil Swidey did a report on the state of the science on why some people are attracted to members of their own sex. Recently Swidey updated the report. Not a lot has changed, though many earlier ideas are more firm. Sexual orientation is determined by the time of birth. There is no "gay gene." The number of gay people is about 3.5%. The more older brothers a man has the more likely he will be gay, though that tops out at about a 6% chance (I have three older brothers). One guest said this research will help in the acceptance of gay people. Another responded that the acceptance of gay people determines whether the research is believed. The whole show is 48 minutes.